Thursday, July 29, 2010

Word of the Day - Obamafied

There are apparently days when I am totally unencumbered by normal fears or anxieties and the channels open and the small weirdnesses of the universe are somehow magnetically attracted to my exact there a secret GPS signal encoded with my dna that brings these visitors?

Today, while pumping gas into Vanna White, I had such an encounter.  I was fueling up, my mind ticking off all the to-do list items for the remainder of the work day, when a man who had been rooting in the garbage can saw me and approached me with these words:  "I'm looking for cans or bottles. They've obamafied the gasoline."

OK, non-sequiturs, made-up word I don't understand.  I quickly computed:  Was he an admirer of Palin and, by emulation, was now enriching the language not quite on the level of Shakespeare or Palin?  Was he a TeaBagger, infected by virulent language and misspelled posters, who was looking for affirmation or an argument?  Was this postmodern flirting with a dismally abject attempt at humor?  Should I take this five minute gas-em-up interlude to school him on what I thought about current political - no need to be holier-than-thou or high and mighty.  I lack both qualifications.

On closer inspection, he wore a small chain with a cross dangling about mid-chest.  His faded t-shirt advertised perhaps an affiliation with veterans and a local junior college.  He may well be one of the many shell-shocked veterans who wander the landscape after multiple tours, seeking any form of light in days filled with specters of dark knights and the realities of memories of darker nights in darker parts of the world I will never see.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hell's Bells

All over the teevee news and the internets, folks are up in arms about the apparent overpricing of the local administrators and Councilmembers by themselves.  Crooks, corrupt etc.

My take, coming from local government, looks a little askew and wonders:  where were the voters, the local news media, the local government gadflies who hold our toes to the fire, deserved or not,.

From the LA Times article, it appears that the apparatus by which Councilmembers were able to enrich themselves was by a ballot measure in a special election in 2005 - voter turnout - well, 99% stayed home that day.  This allowed the Councilmembers to pay themselves for every hat they wore, toting up the compensation meeting by meeting; allowed Councilmembers to approve adminstrators' pay well over the norm through confidential performance evaluations/compensation negotiations - those may legally be in closed session, but the appropriation of any of that funding to cut those paychecks - well, hello Sunshine laws.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Song Saturday - Nobody Knows You - Alberta Hunter

When in doubt or the two unscathed brain cells just won't compute for a long piece, revive a Y360 blogging prompt and share a favorite piece of music for your daily pensee....The photo, well, the dog is enough like my constant compnion Buster that I just have to use it.

The song, by Alberta Hunter, still kickin' it in her 80's in this video, is a great bluesy tune that Clapton revived for the younger generation....hey, that's me!

It calls to my mind the many today disenfranchised in America, most particularly the population afflicted by homelessness (if we peg them "the homeless," it only separates and stigmatizes).  Those seeking shelter today include families with children, veterans, people who sunk after being upside down on their mortgages and not just those stereotypical figures who used to be called vagrants, bums, hoboes and so on.

Today's tip, from a shelter provider:  Drop some sunscreen by your local shelter.  In most parts of the country, it's blazing hot and for those who don't have the luxury of air-conditioned comfort, particularly children, being out in the sun all day only adds to the misery index.

You'll feel connected....and that's what improves the human condition and changes hearts.

Take it away, Alberta.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Letter to Myself on Day of My Birth - Repost Request

A repost from my Yahoo 360 blog dated 11/28/2006 - my 55th birthday.  I had been blogging for about 11 months by that point and developed surprisingly enriching friendships with fellow bloggers, all literate inspirations in so many ways.  They were with me right through Tim's death seven months later and buttressed my grief and shock with heartfelt stories and tributes.  One friend, Stephanie, has resumed blogging (YEA!) and recently reposted her Letter to Herself which inspired mine back in 2006.  The idea was to write a letter to your younger self on the day of birth from a current vantage point.  The theme inspired some very personal, authentic blogs in our community.  It's Friday evening, it's been an extra-fatiguing week, and I'm too mentally vacant to update this letter - perhaps when I turn 60 (yikes), I'll tackle that reflection.  So, Stephanie, my Poe-lovin' Bucaneeress, this one's for you...
Tonight's YouTube:  From Fosse's All That Jazz, the dazzling Ann Reinking with a Peter Allen tune - "Everything Old is New Again"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Y360 Blog:  11/28/06

AARP, here I come. My birthday arrives (how I hate sharing my day occasionally with the turkey - so it goes). I started writing here with loving encouragement and have been amazed by the friends I read in blogville. Recently, a few of you have posted letters to your younger selves and because I know I can be a bit opaque about myself, am stepping out a bit. 55 - less limits. My offering of friendship follows as I share with you as you have with me...

Fifty-five and still trying to learn not to brake
If I were to write a letter to myself on this birth day 55 years ago,
I’d probably say

You may still be a ball of confusion at 55
But your heart is held and you are still working on saving your soul
Plaid skirt memories, eau de incense, confessions and meatless Fridays
Will be essential to your narrative, your mythology, your still-unanswered questions
Californian by birth, and Chicagoan by father’s work transfer
You’ll love the sea and the city – perhaps the restless rhythm that still drives the train
You will have too many interests to be perfected by one
You will plunge, sometimes without thinking, from one adventure to the next
The arts will take hold of your spirit early
Music and literature particularly
You’ll major in English, but become captivated by American history

Your Irish New York mother will whisper "Nixon’s NOT the One"
And that will mold your political views
She will later become a Republican
Who considers returning to the big tent when George W. Bush is elected

Five more siblings, the youngest born while you were almost 16
You will open a neighborhood "daycare" in 8 th grade summer
Arts and Crafts - Hide and Seek

All preparations yet unknown for the day
You will become a mother in Denver
He’s a preemie and you both will receive last rites
Mea culpa, mea culpa
He will be healthy and a jewel in your small crown
No daughters except by their consent to join the circle
But grandchildren too will call you to join them on the see-saw
Fortune usually smiles

Your father, a Great Valley boy from California, will probably vote for Nixon
His love is quiet and constant, his love of puns your dinner challenges
He will provide by
Building security and grand disc and sled slides down the backyard hill
He hoses them down in cold Chicago winters to make them icy
You like to fly

You will be fearless, a fence walker, a thunderstorm watcher from the roof
You will be fearful of monsters behind the door – your imagination so real
That your mother will heed your tale and evacuate the house
Only to discover it was only the ironing board.

You will have your heart broken and break a heart or two
But fortune smiles – there will be few cads

Sometimes late at night
You will wonder who is there inside
You will enjoy silliness and performing song parodies for retirement parties
Initiating high school yearbook days at work
Dancing or working behind the scenes in the community theater

You will write, but are mortified when you find that others have read your journals
It will send you deeper into yourself, stifle self expression
Until the internet shows you others who write from the heart, stepping out of fear
And your loving mate encourages your exploration and courage

You will be confused about being a woman in America, second class passage ticket
You will be a tomboy, but born too early for Title 9 and braless does not become you
Of all the Little Women, you are most like Jo who writes and cavorts and
Wonders when her time will come and sometimes must bite her wicked tongue
You will be fascinated by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, his mad brilliant wife
You will love the Beatles and Broadway

You’ll drive a semi through Indiana - one of the flat states --
During the first 11 months of your first marriage to the father of your child
You’re unlicensed, but it’s 2 am and he is tired
Note: When you live in a truck, there are no backyards, only byways and
You will hit all 48 connected states
Your husband will guard the shower at truckstops – affirmative action not yet implemented

Sometimes your life will seem somnambulent
Like the night when camping as a child in Big Sur
Sleepwalking, your consciousness dimly on
You will watch yourself venture into a neighboring campsite
And sit at a picnic table with two strangers
Two women who will finally notice your true state when your answers are illogical
And gently let you lead them back to your sleeping bag
When you see them in the campground bathroom next morn,
There is an off deja vu moment
When they greet you as known

When you are cocooned and vulnerable
Fortune again smiles
You will meet an honorable and complex man
You want to live with and join in the lights and shadows of riverdancing to the end sea
Today you were born, that day you will be given the chance for a redo
A second act in an American life – so there Fitzgerald!

The dance will begin and he will corral your heart
But he always leaves the gate open for he knows your sometimes too solitary observer nature
Stubbornly requires the cave and not the fire this time

You will be 55 and still trying to choose what is right
For you and those you love and those you still imagine are connected in the world
There will be no encores, so better commence
Understand yourself, forgive yourself, celebrate with humor, dance and kiss

Get busy living or get busy dying - it will be your choice.
For everything old may yet be new again

PS: Cubs will win the World Series!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Brush Up Your Shakespeare

With apologies to two superb wordsmiths, Cole Porter and William Shakespeare, I couldn't resist giving Palin a little advice from an English major via a Porter tune.  A bastardization, but not 'refudiation,' of a great song from Porter's Kiss Me, Kate, well, that's my best shot today.  Enjoy Porter's real McCoy (and not real McCain) in the YouTube offering of today.

Dear Sarah
Re:  How to brush up your Shakespeare

Some voters today in society go for thinly veiled bigotry
So to win their hearts one must quote with ease
Bush and Cheney, if you please
One must know Dobson, and believe me, ya' know
Bill Kristol and, of course, dear Karl Rove
Cuz unless you read papers and know who's the Pope,
Lamestream newsfolk will judge you a dope.

But to really grab 'em all
And to really start 'em ravin'
Quote the poet people call
The Bard of Stratford on Avon...

(Refrain) Brush up your Shakespeare
Start quoting him now
Brush up your Shakespeare
And your voters, you will wow.

When the birthers need proddin', you betcha
Wave the flag and it's guaranteed "getcha"
If they ever start doubting your sanity
Brush them off with some Juliet on Hannity

If a move to the White House is all right
You can rest every 'leventh or Twelfth Night
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kow-tow


Just recite an occasional sonnet
Puts a bee in that Couric chick's bonnet
When your ghost-written tweets they are reading
Some MacBeth lines you should be a feeding

If your book sales are starting to flounder
Quote some Hamlet, then link to the Founders;
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kow-tow


If you can't hit with "Drill, baby, drill 'em,"
Try Lear's Fool and you're going to kill 'em.
When defensive 'bout errors, be so bold
To declare revenge dish is best served cold.

When the world is your stage, better make hay,
Cuz to signify nothing's now OK.
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kow-tow.

Monday, July 19, 2010

On Dragonflies and Witnessing

An unexpected road trip brings unanticipated reminders of Tim.

I took my friend Kristin's book, a collection of her Yahoo 360 blogs, entitled Dirty Laundry & Leaps of Faith. In one blog written after her mother-in-law died, she describes a praying mantis that rather unusually hovered for an hour in her backyard after landing on her young daughter's shoulder. She writes, "It reminded me of a show I had watched awhile back - about spirits who have passed on using animals to visit the people they loved...The spiritual translator explained that the person is not inside the animal or bug, but that they use them to reach out and let you know they are present."

I don't know many things about eternity with certainty, but reading this reminded me of a similar experience. I do know that within days after Tim died, as I planned for his cremation and memorial service by the river, I had two such experiences with a blue dragonfly hovering almost protectively near me. My mind was a blur and I took a break from the rather manic nature of planning and making decisions and contacting friends and family to walk Buster by a lake in the park and calm my mind. A large blue dragonfly seemed to follow us along the shoreline. Later in the week, holding vigil during Tim's cremation which took some time, I stepped outside to sit by a meditation fountain. Again, a blue dragonfly hovered and stayed. It was unusual enough for me
to note. Was this a coincidence or a projection of my mind? It didn't matter - I have taken the blue dragonfly to heart and mind and invested it with meaning.

It is not a story I've told, so when I arrived in Idaho to drop off the Amazon Grandchild for a visit with her cousin, I was startled to see that the Welcome on the doormat was graced with three blue dragonflies.

On the way home, I plugged in the I-Pod and set it on random. It's a twelve plus hour drive straight through and both Buster and I were hot, tired and cranky due to one-lane closures and a drive across Nevada fighting crosswinds, headwinds and dust storms. As we entered California, the topography is suddenly green and fragrant with pine and the random genie settled on an old playlist of love songs Tim had once burned for me. Of the three days worth of songs that I've loaded into that machine, it settled there. As Tim would say at synchonistic moments, "Perfect."

Tim and I blogged on Y360 from early 2006 right up until his death on July 20, 2007. I posted a few more blogs, but Yahoo pulled the plug on that blogging platform later that year, so all our blogging friends, who were such a part of our life, were scattered to the winds. Another loss in a year of loss.

One of Tim's favorite movie quotes was from the movie Shall We Dance? Susan Sarandon's character's speech goes as follows: "We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet... I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things... all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'."

And so, I approach another July 20 mindful of my promise to be his witness. I offer one of Tim's blogs, one that particularly comforts me as I think of changes and transmutations and light and also gives a glimpse into Tim's mind as he pondered mortality just three months before he died. I also offer a YouTube created by one of our dear Y360 friends, Zee Zee Writer, that beautifully memorializes Tim. Finally, my enduring thanks to another friend, Megs, who preserved his Y360 blog by converting and saving in WORD. The photo that graces this entry is the Tim equivalent of the JFK riderless horse - my visual representation of part of his essence for the memorial service.   I live now expecting to see dragonflies and the man in the moon and knowing that when I remember, for that moment he lives.


Tim's Y360 Profile Statement: "I'm deeply interested in the current state of humanity, from politics to popular culture. We're on the cutting edge of evolution and are collectively responsible for everything. That which we do unto the least of us, we do unto ourselves."

March 4, 2007 Blog by Tim Carroll

Time is a concept by which we measure our delusion. The idea that only the here and now actually exist is commonly and poetically expressed. But isn't this also the case in physics? Einstein's development of the Theory of Relativity ushered in a new conception of time and space, in which the existence of the ether (constant space) and constant time was dismissed.  Einstein demonstrated that the pure moment "Now" exists only at the speed of light. This means that only Light is truly in the here and now.

Eastern mysticism holds that the one Light is all that exists and that the sense of separateness and materiality is the product of perceptions adulterated by the illusion of duality, of time and space. This is far more consistent with what is known about the physics of the Universe than Western religious thinking. The craving for immortality is outward directed, when the available path to eternity doesn't lie in time or space travel; it lies within the Self, in the moment and place that contains all moments and places.

Time is typically thought of in a timeline fashion, the moment "Now" being an infinitesimally precise zero point sandwiched between the past and future. In this framework, it's the past and future that stretch off into infinity, while the present is the almost nonexistent separation between the two. Yet most would agree that only the present actually exists. The past no longer exists and the future exists only in the imagination. The past is actually only a function of memory, while the future represents anticipation.

In human terms, the fastest person has a perceptual lag of at least 1/30 second, meaning that the "Now" being experienced is already in the past. That is as close as a person can get to being in the moment, neurologically. But mystics have reported transcendental states of consciousness in which the present moment is experienced as an overlay, encompassing all time, past and future. This singular, pervasive moment embodies the enormous vistas of poets. Eternity is not all time; it is no time. It is the internal Timewave Zero.

Sanskrit has the same word for both time and death. Time is the destroyer. It is the principle that all things will pass, eventually. But the core scientific tenet that there is never a gain or loss of something, only a transformation, provides a superior context for understanding the supposed ravages of time. Liberated from the seduction of time-based thinking, one sees that all time and space is contained in the only moment and the only place that exist. There is no time that is not "Now." There is no place that is not "Here." The personal, internal alchemy of seeing everything as Light is the key to being where one already is, here and now.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Missionaries for Dinner & Other False Promises

If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner. ~~ H. L. Mencken

Republicans used to be organized and moderate.  But there has been a distressing exodus of otherwise moderates in the GOP to supporting the lunatic but vocal fringe of birthers, American exceptionalism, and Obama is a (Socialist, Communist, Nazi...fill in your favorite meaningless epithet). 

The evolution of John McCain's descent into the nadir of pandering is almost complete.  Since Carolina voters were push-polled by Bush during the 2000 primary, a campaign trick that relied on innuendo, Southern fears and false information about the Bush opponent, McCain has steadily learned the Rovian playbook and moved increasingly to the Right in his campaigns and public policy.

I thought the nadir of his RINO (Republican in Name Only) pandering transformation was the selection of an inexperienced, no-nothing, fame-loving, evangelical Christianist, mother of a special needs child and grandmother-to-be as the running mate who, if elected, would be one fragile heartbeat away from the Presidency.  I guess I still haven't forgiven him for thrusting her onto the national stage and providing her with a platform to make millions off ignorant people through her ghost-written books and largely ghost-written tweets and FB plants.  She is an expert at telling the cannibals there will be missionaries for dinner.

McCain continues to degenerate - flip-flopping on immigration and increasingly taking hawkish stances on American imperialism.  His incumbency is in doubt and his opposition is a right wing flag-waving radio celebrity.  Such is the sorry state of politics in America today.  Election season is here.

YouTube:  Election Year Rag (Steve Goodman)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Amazonian Leaps

I write to tell my grandchildren where they come from, and what their grandparents were up to , and I hope they will in their own way continue.  I invite anyone else to listen in.
      ~~ Arthur Hertzberg

My yahooligan blogger friends know this character well - the Amazon Grandchild.  What else is one to call someone whose parents both scrape the sky at 6'3?"  I'm a Lilliputian in comparison at 5'3" and my ability to use my adult size to intimidate - well those days were numbered the day she was born.  I've been fascinated with her ever since.

Whenever I visit the Bay Area, our ritual is the same:  go to Starbucks for coffee and hot chocolate or juice, walk Buster along San Francisco Bay, take Buster to the dog park, and finally take AG to the children's park.  I dare not forget.  Someone once said that only elephants and grandchildren never forget.  And so it goes...

I'm Nana - not because of any peculiar resemblance to the kindly St. Bernard caretaker in Peter Pan, but because Tim suggested that was a good name for me.  Her role in my life was sealed when Tim considered potential losses in my life after his death and confirmed with my step-daughter that my place as Nana was honored and would survive even as Tim would not.  Sacred promises - sacred obligations.  His DNA runs through her.  Only one reason she is so special to me.

My life in my Nana role now includes a carseat permanently strapped into the far back bench seat of my Dodge roadtrip van named Vanna White, a house full of Disney DVDs, coloring books and fingerpaints, bottles of bubbles at the ready, sand toys, small metal vehicles and a net basket that holds the overflow.  My computer bulges and groans from the digi-weight of pictures taken from birth;  she is my favorite human subject and even now endures my call for "just one more" as if she understands and tolerates my rather overbearing need to photodocument her as if she were an exotic alien.  Nana!

She recently spent a solo week visiting with me and Buster - an invigorating, 24/7 demanding, humorous week with a five, almost-six year old who had just recently learned to swim.  As you can see, she is a rather fearless character.  Her waterbro grandpa would be proud.  Hot fun in the summertime...Cannonball!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Golden Door

"The New Colossus"

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
                   Emma Lazarus, 1883

Another July 4th, another chance to evaluate the grand experiment, this America of ours.  When Emma Lazarus wrote this poem, the nation was only a few decades from the formal end of the Civil War.  The same war-originating tensions - between states rights and federalism, between property rights and individual rights, betwen the entitled and the disenfranchised , between the educated and the ignorant, between the Northern European settlers and immigrants - were tensions existing since the Founders first wrestled with the question of nation-forming.  Although the Civil War ended, the remnants of confederacy never really disappeared.  Yet, the nation survived and prospered.

These historic tensions are evident today.  The complexity and nuanced compromises of the Founders' positions resulted in a flexible structure which would serve the ages but, by its nature, would also be open to interpretations.  I don't know that the Founders, men educated by the Enlightenment, would be amused by the likes of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin simplifying these very nuanced and sophisticated founding documents to support shallow, uninformed and divisive political postures. 

Today's America is fractured, divisive, browning demographically.  It is a nation still wrestling with its founding tensions, a nation struggling to shake off a corporatization that mirrors a monarchy, a nation with growing pains and facing modern challenges to redefine its place in the world.  The neo-confederacy is re-emerging into the sunlight and we dare not squint.  What is at stake is the heart of America, that nation symbolized by the Lady who invites all to reject the old model and walk through the golden door.

Artwork:  LeRoy Neiman