Friday, June 29, 2012

Keeping an eye on things



“If we were not here, material events like the passage of seasons would lack even the meager meanings we are able to muster for them. The show would play to an empty house, as do all those falling stars which fall in the daytime.  That is why I take walks: to keep an eye on things.”   Annie Dillard

I walk for many reasons - to exercise; to meet friends; to get from one place to the next; because it is beautiful/stormy/windy/quiet/raining softly; to breathe fresh air; because there is a place to walk. But keeping an eye on things is pretty important also. Almost one of those corny 'if a tree falls in a forest and no-one is there to hear it, does it make a noise?" things. Or even worse, as some of us have pondered many a time, "If I am teaching but no-one is learning anything, am I still teaching?"  I know, better to leave those questions to people who are content with the hypothetical, the philosophical black hole.
Back to walking: walking heals. I think I understand why being in the ocean heals the soul, but I'm not clear on how walking does. But there is magic in putting one foot in front of the other time and again. More wisdom in one step at a time than one first imagines.

It is good to keep an eye on things. Pay Attention. Observe. For if we aren't bearing witness or participating who will be? Surely it is good to look up, to wonder, to imagine what can or could be, but it is equally good to look down, to see the dirt, the gravel, the shoeprints of real people, the things on the ground and those things pushing their way up from under the ground. Check out the small piece of ground on the 6th Avenue walkway near Holly, early June and later June. Enjoy the weekend and keep an eye on things. Bear witness.




ON ANOTHER NOTE, ANOTHER VIEW OF MOTHER NATURE, SHE WHO IS YET TO BE FULLY CONTAINED.  HERE'S A HERO KEEPING AN EYE ON THINGS.  FULL OF GRATITUDE FOR PEOPLE LIKE THIS. (Washington Post)





Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chief Umpire

Who would have thought? When George Bush gave us John Roberts for the Supreme Court, I was appalled. Today I am impressed. I know the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, is imperfect. And, thanks to Rob, I know the paper-pushers and insurance folks are singing songs (as much as they sing) of joy over this.
But still...Who would have thought?  I don't pretend to understand it all, but I love being an outsider trying to understand how legal minds work. We know the politics of the Court these days - pretty safe bet that Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan and Breyer (the three women and one man gang) would come to the table on the affirmative side. So where was Kennedy? Thought he'd be the switch-hitter, going lefty for today. But nope. Up stepped the Chief.

In John Roberts’ opening statement in his 2005 confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he uttered the following famous/infamous lines:
“Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire... I will remember that it’s my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.”   (Washington Post)
To me, Roberts was a Supreme Umpire today.
We'll see how it all plays out as both political sides take their Pac money and attack. But it will do, indeed, for today.

In the meantime, up close and personal, the winds have died down, the skies have clouds, and people in Colorado are hoping for rain. It's hard to comprehend all the blazes, all the potential blazes; fires beyond comprehension; hearts and souls of firefighters way beyond comprehension.
The time has come to turn your hearts into a temple of fire, said Rumi. I've always loved that line, but not sure about it today. Maybe we can think 'Fight Fire with Fire' but that just seems too end of the worldish for me.  For sure, those firefighters' hearts are on fire with love and passion today.

No CNN, MSNBC regurgitating of the Supreme Court decision tonight. Going to Mixed Tastes, sponsored by the fabulous Museum of Contemporary Art, to hear a mixed-talk on Aristotle and Nollywood. What does Aristotle's Metaphysics have to do with Nigerian indie film?  Don't have an angle on that yet.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Slice of Life


Back from a short walk in Grand Lake I sprawled myself on the couch to take in the lake scene, Baldy Mountain behind it, and all the pine-killed trees dotting the landscape. From a distance, the pine-kill trees appear almost purple, so I like to think of them as long, tall stalks of blossoming lavender. Plopped here, it's   my landscape to play with.
Next door to Roscoe’s place in Grand Lake a family reunion is going on at the Thompson’s. Eighteen people – from ages two to the age of wisdom are playing, talking, singing, carrying on. It’s one of those Norman Rockwell updated this is what you always thought families were supposed to be sort of things. Drop dead gorgeous people – each one of them. Laughing, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, cruising, tube floating; if it can be done on water I think they all know how. Earlier in the day, a group of the guys had found some wood, borrowed a jigsaw and started carving out oars. I had peeked through the screen door, listened to  the slight scraping and watched the shavings fall to the ground. Guess they couldn’t find enough oars for all the people who wanted to be in the water so they just made some. Some of that old time American ingenuity.
This is not a movie, but should have been one. Where are all the photojournalists when you need them?
Out of nowhere – at least my nowhere – the skies darkened, as did parts of the water. The wind, a dark churning shadow, moves rapidly towards the shore.  Never had I seen such a turn in the skies and mild lake water. Only a minute later, bushes and trees were bending and swaying.
Roscoe, inveterate lake sailor and watcher of the winds, saw trouble ahead. Apparently the Thompson clan did also, as most of them lighted to the house.
Eyes straight ahead on the storm, with the aspen swaying to the sounds of wind, a piercing SCREEETCH sound starts up. No idea what it is. Screetch, smack, rumble and another smack. Taking my eyes off the dark lake, with waves actually lapping the old boat decks, I look to the right. Two huge panels (4 feet wide, 10 feet long) of the Thompsons’ roof had been pulled loose.  They were thrashing up and down, secured only at one end – screeching and banging.  Then another smaller panel ripped loose and literally floated up into the air.  
“Those metal panels are going to cut right through the window and slice me in half,” I wailed. “I’m heading under the bed.”  
The panels flew, but landed on another part of the Thompson’s roof and got stuck there.
This all took no more than fifteen minutes. All was quiet, sun shining, people out looking at the roof, and back to boats, talk, life. A fifteen minute slice Norman Rockwell imagined family life at Grand Lake with a short visit from Mother Nature strutting her stuff.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Smell and Other Senses

Heading for the mountains for a couple of days and going to be wireless. Sure, I could go to the library and write from there, but then why would I go to the mountains to sit in the library plucking away at my IPad? Could stay in the comfort of home to do that. I'll be back Thursday. Hope not to smell the smoke from those multiple fires burning throughout Colorado. So many people to be thinking of and praying for...so many people waiting for Mother Nature to show a more beneficent weather hand this week.

Roscoe left early this morning, so I work up, rolled over, saw that it was 5:45 and thought about getting up.
Four cats' eyes (that'd be two cats) were staring me down. Just standing, staring.
The moment I stood up they bolted down the stairs to the front door so I could let them out. Guess they didn't want to go back to their entry place - which someone had inadvertently left open last night.

I'm not a big animal person, but indulged myself a fair bit over the weekend in reading about dolphins looking in the mirror and identifying themselves; elephants figuring out that two elephants had to simultaneously pull opposite ways on rope in order to get a job done, and various signs of dog intelligence. Not sure what those two cats were trying to tell me, but I bet it was something important.  Something like 'our state is on fire, and it's going to be another day of three digit temperatures.'  No fires around Denver, but we all seem to think we can smell the fires. Power of suggestion or reality? Don't know.

Speaking of smells, I read about a relatively new way of speed-dating, match, e-harmony finding a friend or lover. Sniff Dating. Yep.
Turns out people bring in an article of clothing they've slept in, put it in a plastic bag, and pass it around.
Participants choose a smell that is attractive to them (pheromones, pheromones) and matches up with that person. Very cool, I think. It would probably end all heterosexual dating in the teen years, however. Have you ever had a hamper filled with teenage boys' socks and tee-shirts?

Apropos of nothing, also read in Sunday's paper the ways in which North Korean children are taught to hate the 'American bastards.'  Guess you can't say one of those words without the other attached. Interesting.

BIG SHOUT OUT FOR TITLE NINE ruling and all those folks who worked so hard to bring it to us forty years ago and who still do due diligence to keep things on track. Changed life for the better, forever, in the USA. My good buddy Diane Wendt was one of the pioneers who had her eye on the Title IX Prize, along with Judy Sweet, and never looked back until it was in place. It wasn't easy, back then, in the political world of women's collegiate athletics, but what an outcome. Kudos, my friends and kudos to all those women who have been the beneficiaries.

Not sure there's much of a theme in this posting, more just a friendly Rorschach of what's running through my mind.

One more shout out before I head for the hills:  HERA and its Executive Director, Meg Seitz. HERA Women's Cancer Foundation's goal is to stop the loss of women from ovarian cancer. I attended HERA's rock-=climbing event in Boulder this past Saturday. Nope, didn't rock climb in the 103 heat, but lots of brave souls did and they raised a good amount of money for research. Meg had invited me to talk, to talk about my journey, so I did, ever so briefly. The crowd was mostly young, obviously athletic, enthusiastic, and caring. Lots of people had lost a mother or sister to ovarian cancer or knew someone in treatment. Several survivors were in the crowd, just emanating joy. Met graduate students engaged in cancer research, a woman heading of to Yale Med School, another woman who has become a healthy  foods chef and opened her own restaurant, where she grows all the food and serves from the garden.
By the end of the evening I felt I had received at least a year's worth of joy and positive energy. Impressive.
Think HERA's next Climb for Life fundraiser is in Washington DC.
Enjoy whatever is coming your way.

One more shout out before I head for the hills

Friday, June 22, 2012

Competition

Early posting today, as I'm taking a break from putting together a presentation for tomorrow night's HERA Fundraising Dinner. HERA is an acronym for Health, Empowerment, Research and Awareness of Ovarian Cancer. HERA also signifies Hera, the Greek Goddess.
For me, if not for others, the Hera, Greek Goddess, reference is sated with irony. Hera was the wife and sister of Zeus. How's that for ambiguity? Anything you don't know or understand? I swear follow the path to Greek mythology, drama and other forms of literature and you'll deepen your understanding. How did they understand so much?
But back to ambiguity and HERA.  If you want to meet a disease where the symptoms, conditions, outcomes are ambiguous - Welcome to Ovarian Cancer.
I finished chemo a year ago May and this is the first time I've read some of the lab reports. Glad to have not read them previously.  Things - various things with poly-syllabic names - were "dissected and divided with staples," "the bowel was lapped off the pelvis."  You get the gist. No Shades of Gray here.

Instead of reading about my body, I'm doing some other reading and writing with the television talking in the next room. I'm a soccer fan and love the Euro Cup and World Cup. As I type, Greece is playing Germany. Looking for a game or a political metaphor. Go directly past CNN and the other news channels to ESPN.  Greece and Germany squaring off.
Will austerity win or will it be a draw? Passion or Reason or some kind of ambiguous resolution? There will be no shortage of European testosterone today.  Bet your euros here.
Competition aplenty.
Speaking of testosterone and competition, how about Larry Ellison of Oracle Corp. buying himself the Hawaiian Island of Lania?  OK, not all of it; just 98%.  Not 99% either, as that might seem to be symbolic of something. Occupy Hawaii. 98% of the island owned by one of the 1% folks. An already furnished island with golf courses, a solar farm, parks, hotels, etc. He loves the ocean. 
Wasn't it enough to have George Clooney in The Descendents?  "Now George, that was a nice movie, but I'm into reality. I actually bought an island. And if you keep your politics straight, you can visit," says Larry. "And you might even get a ride on my boat."

More fun to write about why I should have the honor of Irish citizenship instead of writing about my debulking.

Addendum: The big guys, Germany, lead the Greeks 4-1. Right now.  Some glory for Greece when the score was 1-1, giving thousands and thousands of Greeks something to do besides worry about the economy and their families. That's why we love games - they give us a chance to transcend reality for a while. Addendum plus  4-2 final score.
Hope you transcend some reality this weekend.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Alphabet Soup

The Winter Pilgrim is three weeks and a couple of days from beginning the first official pilgrimage to Chimayo from Denver. Three weeks and counting, then she and her pilgrim group put one foot in front of the other, blistered or otherwise, all the way to Chimayo. I know, there is something about trekking through CO and New Mexico in July/August that doesn't sound very winterish, but what's a season here or there? And when she heads off to South America next fall, she'll still retain her name.
There's still time to join the summer pilgrims. They will leave Denver July 22nd.  Go to
caminotochimayo.blogspot.com for more info.

I've got such a desire to join in for a day or two on this historical trip, but walking home from Cherry Creek this afternoon, I recognized how not ready for prime time I am. Having met Ann for coffee and lots of conversation, it was time to head home to Lowry at 2:30. Leaving the Whole Foods area and heading for 6th was easy. Walking 6th to CO Blvd was fine. But once the alphabet soup nonsense started rattling in my brain it was all downhill. The alphabet soup is made up of street names, two to a letter, that run horizontal to 6th. The A's (Albion) begin and then it's the letters twice all the way up 6th. My big crossover is Quebec and then on to Syracuse. From A to S.
When I head out from home at Syracuse and 6th, the big markers are Quebec, then Monaco, and finally Holly. Then it's all a breeze. Hope that makes sense.
On the way home, after CO, the markers obviously go the other direction. So happy to hit Holly, and even happier to hit Monaco. We're just talking a couple of miles at most here. Maybe it was the hot afternoon sun burning down on the back of my neck, but all of a sudden Holly seemed as far away as Chimayo. So I decided not to look at street names, just keep my head down, and keep walking. But head hanging down (making sure the back of my neck could get enough sun to burn and blister) I'd try to guess which street letter was coming up. So I'd peek a look up, realize how far off I was, and turn my head down to look at the dirt for another block or so.  And so it went through the alphabet. I was never quite where I thought I'd be.
For all the advantages of street names in alphabetical order in a city, I found the one disadvantage. Random might be psychologically better for the day walker.
So, the total lack of street names on the camino might be a distinct advantage to someone with a mind like mine. Then I realized that my whole alphabet head game was for a mere hour walk in the sun. I'd have seven more hours to go on the Camino. Body and mind not quite ready for prime time.

Happy Trails.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Solstice

 I love the summer solstice, love thinking about the longest day of the year and wondering what I am going to do with the extra point of a sunlight sort-of second. I love the myths, rituals, rhythms, stories and actions attendant to this magical day.. Oh to be at Stonehenge, or to have been at Stonehenge for the summer solstice. Planning on embracing the feeling of gratitude for those extra moments in the sun.
 On a more scientific note, if you have time, watch this video. This woman explains in everyday language (or my kind of everyday, anyway) how to measure the sun's angle on this day. Amazing.
 Summer Solstice: Why the days will shorten from here on out ( video)

As for the rest of the news - or at least those little headlines that run along the bottom of CNN during the day if I walk by a tv at the health club - someone whose name I don't recognize will be on CNN talking with Pierce Brosnan about his MS; someone whose name I don't recognize will be showing her new line of clothes on a Shopping Channel; Hosni Mubarakk  is alive or not, and I swear I read 'In Mexico, using trash for food.' Freaked me out. Seriously.  Finally stopped and watched the screen and realized, even without sound, that his was about people in Mexico lining up somewhere trading in their disposables and plastics for food. Whew...dodged that eco-bullet. Good reminder of why sound bites don't work for the likes of me.
Enjoy the long luminous light today.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Shackled


     Hot off this morning's e-news from CNN.  How unremarkable yesterday's 'Grab Health by the Nuts' post seems.
Who are (whoops, were) these marketing savants?  I know the soon to be never-existed shoes got smacked as recalling slavery and oppression and for generally being outrageously racist. Personally, my first response was 'I hope these are called Sandusky shoes.'  Not all great minds think alike after all. Tell It To the Judge shoes, all Euro all the time, making a commitment,  or complement your crack-showing, baggy jail style pants, sex-trafficking, Syria-style government, Greedy Wall Street and Bankers shoes? The list could be long. I'll stop here and let you make the add-ons on line or in your head.
Here in scorching Colorado, hitting 100+ degrees yesterday and heading that way today, probably the most my melted brain can muster is a list of shackle shoes aliases.

 
Adidas cancels 'shackle' shoes after outcry
By Jesse Solomon, CNN
June 19, 2012 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Watch this video
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Jesse Jackson says civil rights groups contacted NBA chief, asking him to intercede
  • Adidas called shoes a "unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery"
  • But critics such as Jackson labeled them "offensive, appalling and insensitive"
  • Adidas issued an apology and says it will not market the shoes
(CNN) -- German sports apparel maker Adidas has withdrawn its plans to sell a controversial sneaker featuring affixed rubber shackles after the company generated significant criticism when advertising the shoe on its Facebook page.
The high-top sneakers, dubbed the JS Roundhouse Mids, were expected to be released in August, according to the Adidas Originals Facebook page. "Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles?" a caption below a photo of the sneakers read.
The June 14 post prompted plenty of criticism from around the Web, with many of those commenting saying they felt the shackle invoked the painful image of slavery.
"Wow obviously there was no one of color in the room when the marketing/product team ok'd this," said a commenter, identifying herself as MsRodwell on nicekicks.com.
"I literally froze up when I saw a new design from Adidas set to hit stores in August," Dr. Boyce Watkins said in a post for the website Your Black World.
Though dismissing the criticism in a written statement by defending the sneaker's designer, Jeremy Scott, as having a "quirky" and "lighthearted" style, Adidas nonetheless said Monday that it planned to cancel the shoe's release.
"The design of the JS Roundhouse Mid is nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott's outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery," the statement said. "We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace."
One of Adidas' most high-profile condemnations came from the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
"The attempt to commercialize and make popular more than 200 years of human degradation, where blacks were considered three-fifths human by our Constitution is offensive, appalling and insensitive," he said in a statement Monday, before Adidas' decision to withdraw them from the marketplace.
He said Tuesday that civil rights groups had contacted NBA Commissioner David Stern, asking him to intercede. Jackson said the groups could engage in a boycott in about 50 markets if the shoes went on the sale.
The photo of the sneakers was still in the photo section of Adidas' Facebook page Tuesday morning. And whether Adidas wanted it or not, the sneakers were still inspiring a spirited debate about race in the comment section of its Facebook page.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sign of the Times

                           
                                              GRAB HEALTH BY THE NUTS

Billboard on Leetsdale Ave. in Denver.  Oh my, if I were 12 or 14 years old, I'd be doubled over with laughter. But I'm older than that now, so I just chuckle.   Ingredients you can see and pronounce.

Here's a marketing/branding group with a soul and a sense of humor. The ad is for Kind, a health bar. I'm trying to imagine the marketing group sitting around the table on this one. Mad Men kind of brainstorming? Don't think so, as there are no breasts slobbering over that health bar.  Young people in the office? I don't know if they still use that term 'grab him by the nuts.'  If so, this ad is cross-generational, isn't it? And one has to love the transparency of the wrap around the bar, all those beautiful nuts waiting to be consumed. The kicker...ingredients one can actually pronounce. No chemists needed; just plain, sensible folks will do. Give this marketing department a raise.

That's it for literary experiences today, but for two weeks Lighthouse Writers on Race Street has been rocking the city with books, literary workshops, talks, free-flowing conversation, readings - all things literary, a glorious time was had at the house on Race and Colfax. Even if you don't consider yourself a 'writer' or even one of those literary types, you
ll be seduced into the group by a workshop or reading at Lighthouse. If you're looking for community and fine folks, this is the place to find it.
 With LitFest gone, I guess billboard writing is my thing for today. One billboard and the irritating, uncomely sign in front of the barbeque place near King Soopers still says 'Ugly People Eat Free.' They need a new branding company, don't you think?

 Just an hour ago, Denver's temperature hit 100 degrees. It's June. I don't turn the air-conditioner on, and even then. only modestly, until July. Fortunately, we're having dinner tonight with some folks who will soon be traveling to Northern India, so I'm going to hope there's air conditioning in the home of saner folks. May have to re-think my value system for a day or two and give one over to the excess of coolness.
But then I think of the firefighters out there trying to tame two growing fires in CO and realize I must be merely warm compared to their body temps.

Someone asked me yesterday - Father's Day - why I never write about my father. It's complicated. How could it be family if it weren't complicated. Maybe one of these days. Maybe it will be a post LitFest phenomenon.




Friday, June 15, 2012

yes I said yes I will Yes


"...and I thought might as well ask him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and
yes I said yes I will Yes.
June 16, 1904

Bloomsday tomorrow, so let's get a jump start. Once a year I, with thousands of others, go back and read Ulysses, or parts of it. Truth be for me, it's only a snippet or two I read. But my snippets are the good ones.
How do I know? Because over many years I have underlined sentences/pages that I love. I think the red lines are from graduate school, but I can't be sure.
As we're a day early, I decided I'd jump-start my James Joyce reading by beginning with The Dubliners.
Alas, pages fell out of the old binder and the pages left intact held the stench of my smoking days. That's a long, long time - decades on decades - since I've had a cigarette or exhaled smoke on book pages.

Early shoutout for the beloved Molly Bloom.

Great morning at the Lighthouse Book Fair, and will be a good time tomorrow. If you get there by 9:00 tomorrow morning you'll have a chance to hear Cara Lopez Lee, brilliant writer and teacher, and Phyllis Barber, the same, talking and reading to start the day off. I guarantee you'll love it.
This morning, Bill Henderson got us all thinking about themes...not just picking out themes, but why certain themes just show up for each of us. Obviously, it's not that they 'just' show up, but that we, one way or another, show them up. Whoa...that was coming dangerously close to a Joycean forever sentence. Listening to Bill made me want to read his fourth novel, but as he hasn't yet finished, I think I'll have to wait a bit.
Jay Kenney talked about creating his book on bike maps throughout the city...and even further. If you're a biker in CO, go to coloradobikemaps.com and spend some time on Jay's site. Very impressive.
Biker, hiker, walker, talker...take off for the weekend and enjoy.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Multi-talented

It's 4:15 and I'm about to begin this post, but the doorbell rings so I head downstairs to answer. Through the slice of open door I see a young girl and a slightly older boy with a backpack.  Hmmm..Scounting sales are over, school's out in CO, so can't be a school fundraiser for books, magazines, green lunches. Maybe they're looking for money to go to camp. Wrong.
"Hi, I'm xxx and this is my sister. We're here because we need to raise money to buy our father a Father's Day present. For a dollar, we'll quote the Bible or tell a joke." 
Eschatalogical or scatalogical, as you wish. I almost asked for a joke from the Bible, but decided they didn't need anyone making fun of them. Multi-talented kids, with a great spin on raising money. See what all those folks in gated communities are missing when no-one rings the doorbell?

Speaking of multi-talented, I want to quote the multi-talented Fran Leibowitz's comments on the multi-talented Mayor Bloomberg of NYC and his soda scheme (New Yorker, June 18).
 Ms. Leibowitz says, "These issues are class issues."
"Soda is the recreation - the summer house - of the poor. It's an indulgence, and it's something they can indulge in.  This man has eleven houses. That's the self-indulgence of a billionaire."  She went on, "He's of the generation of Jewish men who feel that if they didn't become a doctor they are a failure. Now he's trying to become a doctor." 
Some sliver of truth to the stereotyping, at least there was in another lifetime.  Maybe you had to be there and hear 'My son the doctor' enough times to get the NY/East Coast humor. My son the mayor wouldn't cut it. My son the doctor and the mayor might.  Multi-talented.

The over-the-top multi-talented folks at Lighthouse Writers will be holding its first ever Book Fair Friday and Saturday at the new digs at 1515 Race Street. It's part of the two-week Lit Fest that began June 1st at Lighthouse. So come on out Friday or Saturday, browse through books written by local authors, meet some of the authors, and hang with all the talented writers who are members of Lighthouse. I guarantee you'll have a good time and come away stimulated to read and/or write more... you'll be smack in touch with your multi-talented self.  See you there.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Writer's Envy


"It was the kind of party where no one ate the chicken skin. Glazed in honey as it was, with a hint of chili, the chicken skin was left at the side of every plate."

The two sentences are from The Forgotten Waltz: A Novel by Anne Enright. She's one of my favorite authors, and she follows the long tradition of brilliant Irish writers whose writing transports one into another world, a world where the senses all pulsate in response to the prose, a place that conjures up the magic of words and the expanse of the human imagination. The world way before sound bites.

Big time writer's envy when I read those sentences last night. What else do you need to know about the party, the people, the possible conversations or the party drama? It's all in those two sentences.
I've been to those parties; I've even given that sort of party. An inveterate chicken/turkey skin lover, I always do manage to rip off a piece of skin and chew on it before it's time for party and wellness manners. But my chomping on chicken skin isn't the point here, the point is that the two sentences stopped me in my reading tracks last night. It's not the first time this has happened to me while reading this book, but it was a big pause. I could see the whole scene, the women 's outfits, hair styles, toned upper arms with no flab swinging in the summer breeze. I didn't want to be one of those characters, I wanted to be the writer, the author of those characters.

That's it for today. I don't have two knockout sentences for you and don't think I will soon. But I'll keep trying.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

All About Sex

Sex in the city, suburbs, countryside, roadside.
I read this morning that In 1967, on this day, the Court put an end to states' laws forbidding marriage between people of different races. I think that is code for: people from different 'races,' can have sex and even have children without being put in jail. So I started thinking about changes in attitudes and laws about sex, sexual acts and sexuality in the past fifty or so years.
The birth control pill had come along, so we were having sex without worries. In the past fifty years, we've had free sex (and love), sex for hire, phone sex, virtual sex, sex trafficking, sex addiction and asexuality.  TV partners hopped in bed together and had sex. We've had Roe vs. Wade, Stonewall, sex between consenting men and sex between women. We have legal sex and marriage between men and men, women and women - and hoping to make it legal in all the States. We've come to learn that sex and gender are not the same thing, and that falling in love is not the same as falling in lust. It's been a stunning shape-shifting world of attitudes and behaviors regarding sexuality. And most of us have adapted to the changes without much trouble. In fact, our lives have been enriched by many of the changes. What a ride it has been, and continues to be.

We've had our share of sexual abuses, for sure. Power and sex often don't come together very well. I'm sure the abuses have been around since the first power relationship - and that is long ago.
I guess that's why, regardless of all the changes and great understanding and acceptance of sexual relationships and behaviors, the power thing still makes me sick. So sick. To the point, I'm talking about Jerry Sandusky as a particular man and as a prototype. I know, I know...people are innocent until proven guilty. I agree, and stand my ground right behind that concept. But there's something about this man, his particular 'culture' where boys shower with men, a culture where "lying on top of a (boy) and blowing raspberries on his stomach" seems normal. Normal? The television was on at the health club this morning, and I saw a shot of Jerry Sandusky getting out of a car. Simple act. But I could not bear to look at him just walking. To repeat, I know he has been found guilty of nothing, but if Sartre were around he could write guilty all over this man's being...guilty of something, something not to be excused by a newly-found syndrome recently approved by the DSM.

This began as a salute to all the positive transitions in the world of sex and sexuality over the past fifty years. But the blip about abuse had to show up. Blame it on the media or my squirrely mind.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Memory Lane

Just returned from whirlwind long weekend trip to CT, where green trees, bushes and grass are in abundance. Luscious...that is Connecticut in June.  An abrupt change, flying in over the barren brown plains to learn there's a serious fire burning in High Park near Fort Collins. Winds can't be helping those firefighters trying to contain what has been uncontainable. Just in case you thought Mother Nature wasn't in control. . .

Spent some time in Hartford, searching out the house where my father was raised and then the two-family house that held our family downstairs, with granny and two aunts upstairs. The two- and three-family houses on Monroe Street and surrounding areas seem frozen in time; everything is neat, tidy, bushes and shrubs cared for, with an update in aluminum siding keeping the neighborhoods almost pristine. Time hasn't had its way in this area of the city, nothing shabby, run-down, needing repairs on the outside. Still an American Dream kind of place. Still serving first and second generation newcomers in those multi-family homes, just folks in a variety of skin colors and shades. Probably the same dreams being dreamed in those homes as fifty or sixty years ago.

We also walked around the school where I spent kindergarten and grades 1 - 7 and talked with Joan Golden, a physical ed teacher, between her attempts to get everyone moving. Went into the gym that served us more than a half a century back. "Yep," it's the same gym that you knew, same size, just about same everything. Just the number of students has grown exponentially. When I get two classes of 25 each in here to try and do jump rope, I can't move to help anyone out...we do our best, but... You should see it when we play basketball.
We talked about the 50% adult illiteracy rate, and the challenges of teaching reading to kids whose parents don't speak or read English, so are unable to help. That's probably the biggest difference in the surrounding neighborhoods. We were mostly second generation kids, but even the first generation came from countries with languages that were primarily English, French, Germanic, Italian. Familiar. Not so with the new neighbors. Pashtu, Croatian, Slovak, Punjabi, Korean, various African languages and dialects.
"There isn't one of these kids who doesn't deserve as good an education as any children anywhere - here or in the suburbs, and we do our best to give the best to these kids."
I told her one of the reasons I came to see the school was to see the size of the wall around the playground area.  One of the more memorable moments of growing up days was falling off that wall the Saturday afternoon before I was to receive My First  Holy Communion (yes, definitely a capital letter experience).
After the fall - I was always into drama - I was rushed to the hospital to learn I had a small concussion. So-- I had to drink water during the night and morning. Tears, sobs, wails later, I had some sort of dispensation so I could drink water and take First Communion. I know, it's all hard to imagine.
Looking at the wall I laughed and commented on the seeming impossibility of  having as concussion from such a short fall.  Joan laughed also. "It's still a killer wall, no matter what we do. Kid broke his leg falling off it last year."  Again, hard to imagine.
I left the Kennelly School feeling so inspired by Joan and all her colleagues, just committed to labors of love. Passionate and determined to make sure their kids get what they need.
The trip down memory lane continued over the weekend as we went to three soccer games, a lax game, town fair, concert, extended family dinner. Remember those fairs that come to town for a couple of days with scary rides, burst the balloon, hit the hammer, win a prize games? The games that break kids' hearts if their sibling/friend wins a stuffed or plastic animal? The rides where one young person pukes and it washes over several other kids (i.e. the graviton)? The fairs that existed way before anyone ever thought about health food, fairs with gigantic gobs of cotton candy and fried dough with all the powdered sugar you want? Yep, that kind of fair. Watched Chris/Red play a brilliant (or so it seemed to me) soccer game with the Over 40 Men's league. Later that day saw an over 40 male yell at Colin (7) for being too rough in his  soccer game. Watched Colin walk off the field at half time, tears rolling down his face, saying "I want to go home."
It all worked out, but you have to wonder some times. Stood there, helpless, as a bee crawled into Emma's sandal and stung her. Do you remember the trauma of the first bee sting? Another rite of passage.
Spent the long weekend far removed from politics and world news...Well, a bit of news crept in.
Sitting at Panera's, waiting for some drinks, I opened the store copy of the editorial page of the Hartford Courant. Emma glances at it, turns to me and says, "What's a condom?"  Oh Lord, why me. I bumble around and come out with some dim-witted answer and finally ask why. "Oh," she says, "Eight percent of the people in the study on this page think 12-year olds should be able to have condoms."  End of newspaper. Stick with imagination and creativity the rest of the day, avoiding reality at all costs.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sisters

Didn't see Venus do her dance across the sun, but saw some pretty amazing photos taken by folks whose visions weren't clouded.
But I did get to see and hear two powerful Pakistani nuns who are in Denver visiting the Sisters of Loretto for a while. Several of the Denver Loretto Sisters had gone to Pakistan when the women were setting up their school in Faisalabad.  The Loretto Sisters (along with so many sisters) are in the trenches, mud on their shoes, habits, scarves and jeans. Erase the Sisters from history and how many hospitals, schools, help for the indigent would also be erased around the world?  Never met a Sister who cared much for conservative politics, just eager to get into the streets and work with the people.
Sisters Maria and Samina represented the Pakistani Sisters (total of four) who run a school, work on getting solar power, and helping just about anyone who needs help.  Their 'director' Sister Nasreen is the Director of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Major superiors in Pakistan.  Both Sisters Maria's and Samina's family were Sikhs, who converted to Catholicism about four generations ago. What they know of religion in their families of origin is Catholicism.  The families' conversions happened long before England 'created' Pakistan, long before Bangladesh existed.
Today in Pakistan, about 97% of people are Muslim, and Catholics about 5/10's of one percent of the remaining religious groups. I'd call that a minority.
Young, bright, attractive, animated - the passion shines right through these women - they are making a difference, everyday.  And there is no way for me to express the pressure they are under as they pursue their mission. Government is corrupt, divisiveness reigns, no-one trusts anyone, and the more conservative Muslims are gaining power every day (sound familiar?). Familiar, but so much worse. They, and many others, are quite suspicious of the U.S., opposed to the drone strikes, wary of the difference between actions and words, and wonder about where the money goes and to whom

 They're feeling so free and safe in Denver, and so knocked out by the fact they could walk down the street and go to a movie theatre - two women - manless - going to a movie. Such freedom! Hard for us to imagine.
Might not seem like a big deal to us, but the major success was last year's fundraiser where they raised enough money to get a chair for each student in the school. Not a computer, smartphone, or ipad...a chair for each one. I don't think I know people who live in more precarious situations than these two, and I also haven't met two such people with such hope, such vision and commitment in a long time.
Ok...that doesn't count Winter Pilgrim and the upcoming Camino de Chimayo).
U.S. HALTS FUNDING FOR PAKISTAN "SESAME STREET" was the first article I saw in today's Denver Post. Seriously. Sesame Street. Suspicious of fraud and inappropriate use of money, the U.S. cancelled the deal. What if we just cancelled every deal in Pakistan where fraud and inappropriate use of the money is part of the scheme. Me - I'd cancel the military's involvement and leave Sesame Street.
But what do I know.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Ah, Venus

On June 5,  1981 The Center for Disease Control reported that five gay people in Los Angeles had come down with a rare kind of pneumonia. They were the first recognized cases of what became known as AIDS.
Forty one years and lots of progress from that date. Lots of people's lived ended, ruined, filled with despair and/or disgrace as we made progress towards understanding AIDS.
Forty-one years ago, I think docs were still operating glove free some bragging rights for most blood on hands. Dentists were sticking their gloveless hands in our infected mouths. Blood transfusions were inconvenient, but hardly a potential threat. That all changed. And is still changing, but here's a shout-out for all those who challenged our notions about AIDS, those who helped us turn around our psychological, political, sociological fears and prejudices of people with AIDS. And a big shout-out to the medical Community.

Looking forward to the next big changes - if not cures, at least containment. Somewhere, someone(s) in a research lab is trying to solve those problems this very minute. Let's hope the hurrah comes sooner than later.

In 1968, on this date, I came home from a baby shower, turned on the television before going to bed and watched Bobby Kennedy being killed. /saw big Jim Brown trying to thwart the assassination. It's all over now baby blue.

BUT on this particular June 5, that big universe out there is planning an extraordinary event for us. In a short while, Venus is just going to strut across the sun...and she won't be back for a repeat performance until well after we are all gone. So let's rejoice, lift our heads and eyes towards the skies, and watch Venus do her thing.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Connections


Well, I was going to post about a number of intriguing and rather serendipitous connections that were made over the weekend, but I'll just limit it to a few.
The limit comes because I just spent an inordinate amount of time talking with an insurance agent about a parking lot connection made between my car and another car at Whole Foods on Saturday. All I know is that I backed out of an angled parking space into the driving lane and somehow my car connected with a shiny new car pulling out of the other side of the angled parking. I was already out; she was on her way out. No big damage. Everyone within sight left as quickly as possible - except one guy. He couldn't leave because I was blocking him. He just looked at me, and the other woman, said "I have no idea whose fault this is...if there is a fault. No idea at all. And (to me) Could you please pull back into your parking space so I can back out and leave." 
I figured my damage was less than the deductible, so would take care of it on my own (that means just letting the couple of scrapes sit on the fender next to several other scrapes). The other car was new, but I figured the connection was more the fault of that driver than it was mine, so she would take care of it on her own. But no...
So I talked on the phone with the evaluator, gave him permission to question me and record my answers, and then diligently answered his questions.
Her insurance company wants me to pay 100% damages; I think, at best, it's 50-50. No, at its real best, it would be 'you all take care of your mini-problems.' But seeing that only one of two (50%) of us feels that way, it will take time to unravel. That's a connection I wish I had never made, and one that will take more time than most of the others.
But two more...

At a fabulous art opening 'Contemporary Taos' at the Center for Visual Art in Denver Friday night, I kept eyeing the drop-dead gorgeous half my age catering mgr. from Three Tomatoes. He finally walked up to me and said, "Sheila, it is so good to see you. Do you remember me from Bologna? and then again at Roberta's party? I'm Deana's husband.'
Of course. Six or so years ago the DU/Bologna Center for Civic Engagement hosted an international conference for three days. It was a massive amount of work, but worth every bit of it. Roberta and I (from DU) kept noticing that DU's director in Bologna, recently out of grad school, was often accompanied at night by a friendly, handsome male.  Half a year later, Deana was back in Denver with her new husband.
Saw them briefly at one party and that was that. Now I can say I wasn't just staring at the good-looking guy because I am a non-feminist, sexist elder...but that I was staring because his face was familiar.
Oh, and check out the art exhibit at CVA, even without the opening night catering.

Last weekend connection I'm telling about...
After going to another great art opening, this time at Redline, Saturday night, Roscoe and I went to the LighthouseWriters' opening party for LitFest. I recognized a woman with a stunning scarf on her head and went over to comment. I told her the first time I saw her was at a Lighthouse event a couple of years ago when she then also wore a stylish scarf.  I remember that moment because I was quite jealous of her, all free and comfortable with a scarf, and I was wearing my uncomfortable as hell chemo wig that felt like a bird's nest on top of my head. When I told her my story, she just laughed. When I asked if she was in chemo again, she laughed even more.
"No," she said. "I wasn't in chemo then either. I have alopecia - an auto-immune disease that causes permanent body and head hair loss. People always think I'm in chemo, but I have to tell them I'm not, that I have something else...and wonder if they think I am fortunate or unfortunate." We talked about cures, treatments, self-image, etc.  Then she said, "The irony is that before you and I first met, I had had breast cancer and had chemo. Then I had to tell women, "Yes, I am one of you. I have breast cancer. But my hair is never going to grow back because there was none at the start of treatment. So I am like you, but not like you."  
Every connection brings a story.
OK - quick one. Just in case you don't believe me that there is always a story lurking.
Friday night, on the way to CVA, within twenty-five moments, I had these snippets of conversation.
Conversation about carwash with Andrea: "No, not going back to one of those $5 car washes. Last time I went it ran over my tennis racquet."
Conversation with Ginia about art shows: "Oh, you definitely have to go the opening at Redline tomorrow. I'm going to be out of town tomorrow, so walked through this afternoon before it opened."
Conversation with Ann about haircuts: "I cut my hair this afternoon. Why would I pay for a haircut? I'm a pilgrim."
Hope one of these tales or lines connects with you today.

Friday, June 1, 2012

What Have We Learned?

 This dialogue between Wiesel and Obama took place just over a week ago, and the Weisel/Clinton conversation took place almost a decade ago - at the same place, Washington's Holocaust Museum.
What have we learned and what will we learn? I find myself incredibly conflicted. The events in Bosnia were horrifying, as are the present-day events in Syria. But do I personally want to see anyone I know go into battle, lose his or her life in Syria or any other place? No. Once all the treaties are signed and then rendered meaningless by action, what's an appalled outside country to do? Haul out those drones? Try another Anan policy?
It's only during such times that I learn how rather fragile my public stands for human rights, social justice, personal and communal freedom are. I want to stand against the inhumane, the killing, senseless violence. My personal stance is, "But I don't want anyone I know engaging in the battle", and I'd prefer it if no-one ever went to war. 
For such a large political question, my response feels particularly shallow. So, at the least, I've learned something about myself. What about you?

Elie Wiesel: Why is Assad still in power? | The Cable

In a speech introducing U.S. President Barack Obama today, Nobel Peace Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel called on the world to learn the lessons of the Holocaust and prevent Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from committing atrocities against civilians.
At a ceremony at Washington's Holocaust museum, Wiesel compared Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the villains who perpetrated the murder of millions of innocent civilians during World War II and asked why America and the international community didn't do more to stop the bloodshed. He then compared the world's inaction then to its failure to stop Assad and Ahmadinejad now.
"It could have been prevented. The greatest tragedy in history could have been prevented had the civilized world spoken up, taken measures in 1939, ‘40, ‘41, ‘42. Each time, in Berlin, Geobbels and the others always wanted to see what would be the reaction in Washington and London and Rome, and there was no reaction so they felt they could continue," Wiesel said.
"So in this place we may ask: Have we learned anything from it? If so, how is it that Assad is still in power? How is it that the No. 1 Holocaust denier Ahmadinejad is still a president? He who threatens to use nuclear weapons to destroy the Jewish state."
"Have we not learned? We must know that evil has power. It is almost too late," he said. "Preventative measures are important. We must use those measures to prevent another catastrophe. And when other communities are threatened by anyone, we must not allow them to do what they intend doing."
Wiesel's speech was reminiscent of another speech he made at the Holocaust museum in 1993, at the opening of the complex, when he called on then President Bill Clinton to take action to stop the atrocities against civilians in Bosnia.
Similarly, that speech came at a time when the Clinton administration was resisting getting entangled in a foreign civil war but was under growing pressure to intervene.
"Mr. President, I cannot not tell you something," Wiesel told Clinton then. "I have been in the former Yugoslavia last fall. I cannot sleep since for what I have seen. As a Jew I am saying that we must do something to stop the bloodshed in that country! People fight each other and children die. Why? Something, anything must be done."
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There's more, but you can read the whole article on line.