Thursday, February 28, 2013

Breezy 2013



Sort of a self-indulgent post this morning, so hope you can find someway to make my words about my mother apply to some situation or person in your life.

2013 – Today is the 95th anniversary of the year my mother came into the world. I celebrated her on this blog 2012 and 2009, so no reason not to continue. I decided not to re-write the first piece or to post an older or newer eulogy. Breezy, my mom, is with me every day…I’m connected to her heart and soul as I always was, not by presence, not by deeds, but in the very core of my being. She hangs out, often silent, observing, not saying what she really wants to say. That’s the way it always is. She was filled with beauty and grace, but equally filled with a toughness and resilience that I call on every day. We all have someone or someones who are part of our very beings, our essence, someone who shows up in us each and every day. I’m calling on her strength and grace and calling out a big thanks for still shining her light on me.  Give a shout out for that person(s) who shine a light on you every day.

2012
Celebrating the day my mother came into the world, ninety-four years ago. She's not here to celebrate, but no reason not to have a cupcake in her honor. She died twenty-six years ago at the age of 68.
Last night at a meditation class, I watched a 93 year old woman doing yoga, bending over, hands touching the ground. This morning, in a writers' workshop, I gave 93-year old Thelma a check for $30 for tickets to the Arapahoe Symphony. She plays the violin in this prestigious group. The gifts of life, laughter and grace of these two women provided me the crystal ball to visualize my mother had she had another twenty-six years to flourish. She acquired her nickname 'Breezy' in college and was breezy right to the end. Beautiful Breezy.

Rather than write up another homage to her today, I've decided to lift a piece I wrote about her when I was living in London in 2009. I think it's ok to plagiarize one's self, but we'll see if the posting police come after this. I've changed nothing in the post. I remember writing this in the tiny back room of our Hampstead flat, so have the joy of double memories today.

It is December 7th, 2009. Birds trill, tweeter, and flutter as if it were springtime in London. Must be the generally warmer temperatures, the lack of radical fluctuations, that prolong their stay in the city and its suburbs. Or perhaps Hampstead Heath, with its abundance of bushes, trees, and wildflowers, offers sustenance enough to keep the birds at home. In the neighborhood the more stubborn, resilient roses still blossom.
December 7th. Anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Sixty-eight years ago, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I was not yet eight months old. First child, love child, born of parents late to the priest. Helen Breene Phelan and John Fenton Phelan.

When my mother was 68, she walked into the doctor’s office on December 7th, with a painful throbbing in her shoulder that she hadn’t been able to shake. She thought it was from moving dirt around in the yard, dirt that had been hardened by an earlier frost. By the end of the day, she knew she was riddled with cancer and would probably be dead within four months. Pearl Harbor for Helen Breene Phelan.

From December 7 through the end of Christmas Day that year, she celebrated the holidays with the same robust fervor as she always had. She loved nothing more than arranging the little stained glass angels, in shades of blue, rose, yellow, and white, in the picture window of her little cape house on John Smith Drive. Once again, she decorated the tree with as many colors and shapes as could fit, twirled the tinsel throughout the tree and set those blinking lights up for the season. Sent out her cards, and continued her beloved Friday square dancing festivities with Happy Hal and his crowd. She and her sister Mary spent Saturdays together, as they had for years, cleaning, shopping, drinking coffee, and solving the world’s problems. They wrapped presents together that year.
Christmas day, as usual, she made the gravy for dinner at my house, brought bags of love and presents for Rob and Chris, and paid attention to everyone. After driving home with her sister Mary, she walked slowly into her house, sat by her twinkling tree for an hour. And then she called us. One by one.

“I had my own Pearl Harbor Day this year. I didn’t want to ruin your Christmas, but….” Only person she couldn’t call was Mary; had to have a son convey that message. For years she and Mary had planned to travel, take ships to Alaska and various islands where the sun would beam on them. My mother had recently retired, taken her husband, Finny, through the last stages of his cancer and death and was ready to enjoy life on her own terms.

She didn’t last the four months. Having spent her whole life battling her weight, she spent the last of her life unable to eat or drink anything. She cleaned her house, packaged items, gave things away. Even took one last trip with Mary. Among the items she had left on her bureau was the box of carefully re-wrapped stained glass ornaments with a note saying, “For Sheila. Christmas next year.”

So here I am, on December 7th, at age 68. Healthy and happy, preparing to leave London, go back to my Denver home, eager to get out the decorations, head for West Hartford and see all of my precious, extraordinary family. Never having figured out how to make gravy, I’ll have to make some other contribution. But I still have several of the stained glass angels.

I wouldn’t be living this life filled with grace, love, and strength without her. She had always put up with my tantrums, tirades, terminal case of knowing everything, and self-absorption. She stood by me, by all of us, right or wrong.

In her college yearbook she is acclaimed ‘Most Beautiful’ and ‘Takes Life Most Easily.’ Her nickname was Breezy.

Her beauty never faded, but the easy life sure did. Her decades were filled with suffering, bad patches, disappointment, and just plain hard times. Yet, there is no-one who ever smiled more. Burdened with a heavy heart, she’d throw out that smile and the space around her would glow. Selfless for herself, but ferociously selfish for her kids. Always kept her eye on the prize for a better life for the children she brought into the world.

In the twenty-two years since she had her own Pearl Harbor Day I have continued to call on her strength and inner wisdom. I always take her on my travels. I see her smile during my bad patches, and rely on her indefatigable determination and love. I pay witness to her with gratitude on this day in London, the anniversary of the world’s Pearl Harbor Day and her Pearl Harbor Day.
May the Molly Bloom roses bloom and Hampstead Heath nightingales sing to Helen Breene Phelan (Breezy) tonight.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stone thought

A friend told me yesterday that there isn't a person under 60 who knows anything about prepositions and objects of prepositions. I was right; I am an antiquarian. But what has replaced knowing about prepositions, subjects, objects, etc.? For the past decade, perhaps students have been learning text as a second language, but still there must be time for some of that old fashioned grammar stuff. You are probably thinking, "Oh, next she'll be bemoaning the lack of calligraphy teaching."  Not quite that bad.
But that was yesterday. And Literacy Day, read across CO, all sorts of things will occur that will put my rant in its place.
---------------------------------------------------------------
Back to early yesterday and the stunning lines I found in Mary Oliver and remembered from Yeats.

Oh the house of denial has thick walls
and very small windows
And whoever lives there
Little by little
Turns to Stone.                           Mary Oliver, Hum


Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.        W.B. Yeats, Easter 1916


Do you remember Annie Dillard's Teaching a Stone to Talk?
The words, thoughts, expressions in that litle book so soothed my heart and taught me. A good friend found the title off-putting; she thought the emphasis should be on learning, not teaching. Perhaps 'A Stone Learns to Speak in Prose' or something equally absurd.
Old argument: should the emphasis be on teaching or learning? How about just living with the metaphor? Or imagining dialogue between the two poets? Or even just letting Dillard teach us something.

At any rate, I'm going to sit for fifteen minutes this morning, and try to absorb the meanings/teachings from Oliver and Yeats. Hope you can find a few minutes to do the same. Where do denial and sacrifice lead?






Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Non Literacy Day


This is complicated. I wanted to write more about the heart turning to stone through denial and Yeats' assertion that too long a sacrifice can turn the heart to stone. Lots of thought to ponder in the hard world of stones. But then it seemed more a March or April topic, so decided to hold off.

Big events in the past on February 26:  1919 President W. Wilson signed an agreement establishing Grand Canyon National Park. One of the beauties of the world.

1970 - National Public Radio was established. Another one of the beauties of the world. Who would have thought that anyone would want to ever pull support for public radio? Not going to let that happen.

But then today, February 26, 2013, I received this e-mail, forwarded to me by a significant Literacy Group, an e-mail forwarded to hundred, thousands of people engaged in the art and science of teaching children to read. Getting ready for Read Across American Day on March 1st.

Straight from the GovOffice: Cheers from the Cat and the Hat and I.

This post isn't about name-calling, shouting out and defaming a particular person. Sad to say, I don't know if Lindsay Dolce, Executive Director Serve Colorado and CO Reads - is male or female. I know, shame on me, for lack of public knowledge. I don't know if Lindsay Dolce wrote this memo, if someone on staff or a computer generated it. No clue.
I would be surprised, however, if the memo, sent to listserves around the state, hadn't been read by just a staff member or two. Maybe it took a village to commit this grammatical felony. I don't know. Not blaming, just saying.
I know: mistakes happen. There are probably typos in this post that I can't see, mis-whatevers. But it's the irony of the mistake at the heart of my rant.

Is redemption possible? Maybe it's not even necessary. Perhaps Holden Caufield and I (not me) are so ancient that my chagrin belongs somewhere in a library in Hampstead, England and not in the street-smart languages of big-city Denver, CO.  But if there are furlough days coming for the government staff,  send the staff off to read Catcher in the Rye and to meet a few prepositions (not propositions).

Overstated. Sure. Would have been a great reminder if it hadn't been for the last line. Sigh.....




---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Lindsay Dolce - GovOffice <lindsay.dolce@state.co.us>
Date: Mon, Feb 25, 2013 at 4:05 PM
Subject: [ColoradoReads] Grab Your Hat and Read with the Cat! Celebrate ReadAcross America Day
To: Colorado Reads List Serve <coloradoreads@cvl-lists.org>



Good Afternoon:

In honor of Read Across America Day (RAAD) on March 1st, you are invited to invest an hour of your time reading to children in any classroom across the state!

As Dr. Seuss said, “You're never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.”

The Lieutenant Governor’s office is joining the National Education Association in calling on America's children, both young and old, to celebrating the joys of reading on Dr. Seuss's birthday by getting out into their respective communities on Friday, March 1, 2013.

If your community is participating in Read Across America Day festivities, visit http://www.readacrossamerica.org/ and share your story. Readers of all ages are encouraged to celebrate!
Cheers from the Cat in the Hat and I,

Lindsay Dolce, JD
Executive Director Serve Colorado &
Colorado Reads- the Early Literacy Initiative



Monday, February 25, 2013

Thick Walls


In case we didn't know what or who was important to us in the cultural world, we had the Oscar Production last night to let us know. Some great moments; some strange moments. I'm not quite sure why Michelle Obama and the military decided to attend. Was it to support the Argo and Zero Dark Thirty scripts? Didn't quite get it.

I was happy with the Best Acting awards and with the numerous awards Ang Lee won for Life of Pi. Actually never saw Pi, but Lee is such a magician and seemed to genuinely honored. Been a Daniel Day Lewis fan since the day he showed up in movies, so no surprises that he brought the Globe home.  Jennifer Lawrence was new to me, but what a role she played. We'll see more of her, I suspect. Have to get over being offended by Kushner and Speilberg for the erroneous CT vote in Lincoln and on with better things to find fault with.

Entirely different note: was it Reinhold Niebuhr who wrote the Serenity Prayer
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference"?
 I know the prayer pretty much belongs to AA and its partner groups but I have yet to hear or read anything with more wisdom (and said in so few words).
Having one of those periods, and have to keep looking for the wisdom.

Last note: lines from Mary Oliver's poem 'Hum.'

Oh the house of denial has thick walls
and very small windows
and whoever lives there, little by little,
will turn to stone.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pakistan-Indian Border



Catching up with myself, I realized that a couple of days ago I referenced the Indian-Pakistani border when talking about some gaggles of geese. That's probably not a common thought that occurs to people as they listen to geese flying by and towards one another. But's it's my mind, so i'm stuck with it. Somehow, I thought I had blogged on my visit to the border in 2010 so satisfied myself with the thought that some one of my readers might just recall that old blog. Well, those thoughts were never posted, because my Border affair occurred on a 2008 visit, not 2010. In 2008, I had no blog and hence no readers. Back then, I had the good sense to realize that not everyone - or even anyone - had an interest in my random thoughts. But my ego continued to grow, and here we are. I'm back to explain the reference to the India-Pakistan border ritual with high hopes that you can imagine those geese more clearly now. The event, all touristy and mythically rhythmic, still stands as a highlight for me. Enjoy the weekend and the inevitable joys and disappointments of Oscar night.


The Golden Temple in Amritsar is the central site for the Sikh religion.
Just 10 miles outside of town is the border with Pakistan, with a military guard installation on each side of the border crossing. Around the world every military site lowers the flag at sunset. But not like this. The flag ceremony has become not just a tourist attraction, but a place the locals seem to visit frequently.
When we arrived we found a large stadium on each side of the border, each with seats for close to 10,000 people. We arrived a few minutes early, and on the India side (where we were) someone had set up a boom box playing Bollywood dance music, and dozens of young Indians were out dancing. The strictly Muslim Pakistani side had no music and no dancing, of course.
In time, the soldiers appeared in full military regalia, goose stepping and stomping and glaring fiercely at the soldiers on the other side.
This went on for nearly half an hour, accompanied by cheers worthy of a football stadium crowd: “Pa – ki - stan” from the other side, “Hin – du – stan” from our side. Over and over.
Finally the two flags were lowered, the border gates closed, and slowly the joyous crowds dispersed.
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Oh, it was a grand time. I so wanted to try to find my way into Pakistan, but the more rational Roscoe kept me on the trail back towards a final visit to the Golden Temple.
---------------------------------------------------------------
Short video, with a news reporter interpreting. (embed code below)

Longer. Lots of strutting here, from Pakistan side of border (embed code below)

Maybe better, but longer – from the India side. (embed code below)



Two years after our visit to the border, this notice appeared in the Guardian.

Now I'm not arguing against world peace. And anything that would ease the tensions between two nuclear powers, whose fraught relationship has led to more than one war, is obviously a good thing. But I can't help but mourn the passing of the colourful Wagah border ceremony, whose pantomime aggression is to be toned down to help improve relations between India and Pakistan.
Supposedly a simple flag- lowering exercise on the road through their joint border, the 45-minute parade manages to be by turns, ferocious, ludicrous and touching. In elaborate turbans topped with huge fans, complicated uniforms and shiny black boots the soldiers from the two nations high-kick towards each other. They snort. They stamp. Their eyes are crazed and their moustaches are waxed until they resemble a cross between circus ringmasters and John Cleese in Monty Python's ministry of silly walks.
They meet and snap to attention; pushing out their fists and raising their thumbs, it looks like they might hit each other. But then they are off, high-kicking again, slamming their heels to the ground with a crack that sounds like gunfire.
The crowd loves it. Comedian and travel writer Michael Palin described it perfectly as "chauvinism at its most camp". Watching from the Pakistani side last winter, it was impossible not to get carried away as the audience, made up of families, school trips and tourists, cheered "Long live Pakistan!" and tried desperately to drown out the twice-as-big Indian audience just feet away. We applauded louder still when it seemed like the Pakistani flag was being lowered infinitesimally slower than the Indian one.
The guards come from India's Border Security Force (BSF) and the Pakistan Rangers, and have been carrying out the choreographed routine since 1959.
Yet this week, after talks to control cross-border crime, Major General Yaqub Ali Khan, of the Pakistan Rangers, has called time on the "eyeball to eyeball exchange, thumping of boots and other aggressive gestures from the flag lowering parade." It's just a shame that peace has to come with a price.













Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fat, Fast, Junk

 So much for the walk outside, loving up nature's gifts. It snowed last night, but even more irritating, it was cold, real cold so I bypassed the walk. My morning adventure consisted of walking by a cooked chicken, waiting to be transformed into snowy winter day chicken soup and stick a great big piece of chicken skin in my mouth. Disgusting, I know. So disgusting.

I haven't done that in decades, and despite the decadence, it actually tasted good.  Do you remember back in the day when we all vied for the skin - that tasty, fat grizzle that (at least in My family) we'd chew as quickly as possible. Back then when we were such healthy eaters? I probably won't be doing any chicken/turkey skin and steak grizzle stealing for a good long time, but the bad deed is done for today.

Speaking of food, I don't know if we are supposed to be happy or sad that Americans get 11% of their food from fast food stores. Surely, that's not an alarming enough number. And it appears to be a bit of a menaingless number. For example, I do eat some junk food, but not any fast food. So someone is out there using up my 11%.  Now if one person consumes 22% of his/her food from fast food, that could be a problem. I'll be looking around to see who has my 11%. Maybe I can even sell '11% fast food vouchers' on e-bay.  As factoids go, this news release doesn't say much; in fact, it says less than we all thought it would. On to junk food: who is going to measure that? And does anyone really think self-reporting is reliable? If so, you don't know me - or most of my friends.

Just because I told you of the grand chicken skin theft, don't count on me counting my gluten-free pretzels as junk food. Pick your own poison.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lost and Found - Charm

After some friendly cajoling last night among friends, I decided to get out into the cold and walk about the park instead of hopping in the car, parking as close as possible to the door of the health club, and walking a sloth-like mile or two on the squeaky treadmill.
Yes, it was nice out there -- bitter but nice.  Most of the ice has melted on the made-by-human hands ponds, but the birds still gingerly find their ways on the few patches of ice left. The same friendly man with yellow cap, medium dog and large grin who told me a month ago that I missed the deer, told me again. I've seen enough deer to give up the sight on a dark February morn.

The geese were loud, gaggles exorting or berating one another as if they were the guards on the India-Pakistan border. Truly, the only ritual so seemingly precise as these early morning gaggles is the ritual done nightly at the I-P border. Groups come to watch, just as we watch the morning rituals of the birds.

The crows crowed, blackbirds fluttered as my nose dripped. now that's an occurence that doesn't happen on a treadmill.

Home from the walk, caffeined up, I decided that I would make it a goal to come up against a new word today and try to own it. But I'd find it randomly, not on a Joseph Campbell sort of quest.

Wouldn't you know, as if on call, the Lighthouse Writers Workshop newsletter, The Beacon, arrived and there was a piece called, 'The other Morning' by Lighthouse founder, poet, man of many charms, including writing in lavender/pink calligraphy pens, Michael Henry. And Michael was writing about, among many other things, watching some finches the other morning. He was called to look up the term for group of finches and found charm.
Oh, Michael oozes charm, but this is finch talk: a charm of finches. Did I ever know that term? I think it was lost but now it's found. Charm.  I knew the gaggle, but not the charm.

Not to be undone by Michael's finches or Mary Oliver's wild geese,  I googled 'group of crows' and found Murder of crows. I think I once knew that also, but choosing a word for the day, I'm sticking with charm. I need earmuffs for that murder of crows, eyes on the sidewalk to avoid the gaggle of wild geese droppings on the sidewalk.  Going looking for some charm. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Shout our to our State Reps


I've been thinking how to frame the new Gun Safety Bill issue in CO and now four big - yes, big - bills have been passed by the State House. Oh, it's a long enough way to victory and the various stakeholders ($$$) are waiting along the path, but this is a good start. We love our reps in this area! Hoping for support everywhere.


From Lois Court, State Rep.  e-mail 

Yesterday we passed four historic Gun Safety bills in the State House!
HB13-1224: Limiting the sale, purchase, or transfer of firearms magazines that can hold more than 15 bullets or eight shotgun shells, by Rep. Fields (D-Aurora).
HB13-1226: Prohibiting concealed carry in buildings on Colorado's public colleges and universities, by Rep. Levy (D-Boulder).
HB13-1228: My bill to end the taxpayer subsidy for gun buyers' background checks.
HB13-1229: Closing the loophole on background checks for firearms purchasers, by Rep. Fields (D-Aurora) and Rep. McCann (D-Denver).
The Denver Post
To read more about how the debate proceeded and the bills that were brought forth, read the Denver Post article that was featured on the front page this morning (2/19/2013). Click Here. The article also features a picture of me hugging Rep. Fields who brought forth two of the four gun safety bills. Rep. Fields represents the district where the tragic Aurora movie theater shooting happened and she has been on the forefront of the campaign to help reduce gun violence.
The Path Forward
We still have a ways to go for all four bills to make it through the Senate and be signed into law by the Governor. I remain hopeful these significant bills for public safety will become law. Please let your senators know your thoughts on this matter. Email...
Sen. Pat Steadman - pat.steadman.house@state.co.us
Sen. Irene Aguilar - irene.aguilar.house@state.co.us
Thank you to all who have expressed your opinions. I am confident that I respected the wishes of the vast majority of my constituents by voting yes on all four gun safety bills.
--
As always, I hope you'll stay in touch either through emails at lois.court.house@state.co.us, by phone at 303 866-2967, or by snail mail at 200 E. Colfax Ave. Rm. 271, Denver CO 80203. But I hope you'll also be patient with me regarding responses. With the workload I have, it might take a day or two to get back to you :-).


A grateful thanks from your State Representative,



State Representative House District 6
State Capitol
200 East Colfax Ave.
Denver, CO 80203
303-355-3546

Monday, February 18, 2013

Team Sports

I thought I'd start the week off just copying straight from e-mail a bit of conversation going on between Roscoe and a colleague. I copy it because it is amusing, probably contains some kernels of wisdom and is so counter to any thing I might write. But then I am not a philosopher, and live instead  by the fancy of whim, the call of intuition, the irrational impulse and the otherwhelming desire to be right about everything. So I would be a counter-example to the pondering mind of Roscoe. But then philosophers live by the counter-example, so that makes this all a bit complicated.
At any rate, here's the beginning of a discussion that didn't include me. The conversation went on, post e-mail at a dinner that lasted several hours. My non-diligent mind couldn't have stayed tuned for the first course.
If you are the philosophical sort, enjoy. If not, ponder a different type of team sport.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Some initial thoughts on Michael's suggestion that:

Democracy is more of a “team sport.”

Capitalism is more of an “individual sport.”

Roscoe begins:

Ever since Socrates, people trained in philosophy lose all their friends and self-respect because they are haunted by counter-examples.

Here are a few. Swimming is an individual sport. But the recent state high school swimming meet for girls highlighted the “team” element as well. Indeed, it appears that Missy Franklin has stayed in high school and is going to swim in college in hopes that these team environments will better enable her to grow normally and hence perform abnormally.

Not sure how far to push this, though.

Democracy is more of a team sport Democracy involves parties and factions, so clearly that is team-like. But those parties and factions are often at each other’s throats. They will rig elections, use dirty tricks, circulate falsehoods, and much else. If their tactics are legal, then presumably they are playing this team sport by the rules? Further, a majority party can push through legislation to re-write the rules (e.g., current Republican legislatures making it harder for the poor and minorities to vote) and surely, they will say, following the new law is playing by the rules of team sport.

 
Capitalism is more of an individual sport. All corporations are teams, and so are all small businesses. Even mom and pop shops. So why say it is more of an individual sport? Presumably because each organization-team (small or large) is working for its own success – both short-term and long-term. That’s it. Nothing more. Let the invisible hand convert these self-regarding efforts into public good.

But even here there are rules and regulations (laws), imposing restraints on all-out self-serving pursuits. And even here, there are opportunities to change those laws through campaign contributions, lobbying, creating/supporting advocacy organizations (as the NRA is for the gun makers), advertising, and much more.

Despite all this, I am attracted to the analogies of democracy being more like a team sport, and capitalism more like an individual sport. But pushed further.

When on a team, it is not just about Me. It is (should be) about Us. But it is about more than Us, it is (should be) also about pursuing excellence and integrity in the sport. It is (should be) about the Sport, about fairness and level playing fields and the like. (Lance Armstrong lost supporters mainly on this element.)

So it is in Democracy. It is not just about us Republicans or us Democrats, it is (should be) about the Country – even about the World, and the Planet. It is not just about this generation but (should be) about future generations.

This is an exalted notion of team sport, but surely a defensible one. Maybe good to set it off with capital letters: Team Sport. Many things done in democracies are not Team Sport. Some of them are listed above. So we may need another capital letter to distinguish democracy from Democracy.

But, I fear, this line of thinking has crossed a line. We are no longer in that allegedly values-free domain once regarded as the home of social science. We are solidly in the world of “should.” This is not a self-interest instrumental should (“if we want to avoid bankruptcy  (or maximize profit) we should sell off the unprofitable units”). It seems more of a hypothetical “community should.” If you want the sport to thrive, then you should not use banned drugs. If you want Democracy to thrive, then you should make it easier, not harder, for minorities and the poor to vote.

 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Memories

Every once in a while I get an urge to go on a cruise. I think those urges are gone for good. I've heard so many "Oh, I thought I wouldn't like it either, but turned out to be best vacation ever," and "it's so great, hopping from island to island without schlepping all that luggage,"  and "the food is great," "entertainment is great; yoga every morning," and, and, and.

But there is no cruise ship calling my name, no floating petri dish I want to jump into, no tent city on the water, thank you. Just isn't my thing.  I bet those folks being hauled onto shore this morning won't be going on another cruise soon either. I know, thousands of ships sail without problems, but I am going to have to miss those also. Just not my thing.

Saw an interesting play last night, Ed Downloaded, about the possibility of downloading one's memories, choosing those memories, etc. One last irritating thing to leave behind -- people upset because they aren't in the top ten memories downloaded. It is interesting to think about what memories might be foregrounded and what is left in the dark recesses. Jealousy, attachment, technology, immortatilty. All the usual themes that lead to a good play and a contemplative morning.

Seeing I can hardly get a wrap on the bizarre dreams I have and the characters who step into that dreamland, I hesitate to think much about which memories I would choose for my top ten. But this might be something you want to contemplate over the weekend.

Even closer to the theme of the play, over the weekend you control freaks might want to contemplate which memories your loved ones Should choose.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love the one you're with

It's that lip-smacking, chocolate eating, rose smelling holiday again. I love the spirit of the day, and the added spirit of 'love yourself' and/or 'love the one you're with.' Spread the love, wherever or with whomever you might be. Give yourself a hug or two in the name of love.
 The tradition in this house, for more than fifteen years, is that I wake up to 'My funny Valentine' playing on cd. How sweet is that? Alas, too lazy to get up and dance to it this morning. Maybe later today.

The other good loving news is that my Irish citizenship came in the mail yesterday. I thought for sure all my official paperwork and money had fallen into some black Irish hole, but turned out otherwise. I guess that means I might be eligible to get employment in the European Union or stand in a different Customs' line. I'm not thinking of going abroad and looking for work waiting tables, but you just never know. Anyway, if nothing else, it lends me the opportunity to stretch my imagination. And it always feels good to have a goal, followed the steps, and succeeded. Next round: Irish passport. With all that said and all the good feeling, I still hope we'll all just be citizens of the world someday.

Follow up to Big Bear Lake phone call: turned out to be a philanthrophy based in that area. Some time to be making phone calls, dialing for dollars. What are the chances?







 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Little Drama


Is it me, the February slump or politics in general?  I dutifully watched Obama deliver his SOTUS last night and listened to Rubio's remarks, and the remarks of all the pundits.

Blah, blah, blah. The President said what everyone predicted he would say, and said it for a long time; Marco Rubio said what everyone said he would say, and said it in two languages. Even heard Paul Ryan, Newt Gingrich and David Gergen.  I happen to agree with most, if not all, of what the president said, but didn't hear how we were going to accomplish all those necessary deeds.

Perhaps I've been to too many dramatics readings, too many plays recently, but I wanted more drama, more something.  Maybe it's more action plans and fewer predictable monologues.

A heartbreaker watching Gabby Giffords clapping her hands in her own way, other heartbreaking photo opportunities, but that was about it for me.

On a stranger sort of note, Sunday evening our phone rang. By some miracle of technology the id of the caller shows up on our tv screen. The call was from Big Bear Lake in CA. Seriously. Wouldn't answer that for a million buckaroos. What are the chances that some miscellaneous caller from that hot spot in CA would call our number. Now that the manhunt is over, I think I'll try to go back and figure out which bizarre organization was calling from CA. Don't know why I thought it would be the FBI or the man being hunted down, but the imagination plays mysterious tricks.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Holy Drama, again

It's Shrove Tuesday, also known as Fat Tuesday. More Catholic traditions and rituals scattered in among the news of the pope's resignation.

Before I peeked at Wikipedia, I didn't really know what Shrove meant, other than to eat pancakes for dinner. Turns out "shrove" is the past tense of the English verb "shrive" - the penance and confession route to obtain absolution for one's sins.

We weren't the Shrove Tuesday kind of Catholics, more the Fat Tuesday -- get yourself to the candy store, spend all the loose change you can find on candy bars, Good and Plenty, Necco Wafers, Bazooka bubble gum, stuff your mouth, go home and finish your list of what you are giving up for Lent -- kind of Catholics. I don't remember what I would do that was good or loving for Lent - just the tradition of sacrifice. Didn't give up picking on my brothers, being a know-it-all or thinking bad thoughts about my parents. Oh, no... none of the hard stuff; just a couple of tablespoons of sugar a week.
I loved that Catholic version of the bindi for a day - big smack of ashes on the forehead. Back then, in our little ethnic neighborhoods, filled with Catholics, it was a sign of superiority.
My, how things change.

Here's to Mardi Gras around the world and in New Orleans, just cleaning up from the Super Bowl, throwing an even bigger party.

But, back to the pope (still can't figure out if he is the pope with a capital P or not, so I'll mix it up).

I can't resist thinking there's a scandal being repressed under some cloak, but I hope not. Another sex scandal would be just too painful to contemplate. Another sex scandal cover-up would be even worse. I'm just hoping an "I just don't belong in this century" epiphany hit and he's back to the cloistered life, writing about living and loving rather than having to act on it. I've read that he might be called 'pope emeritus' after he's no longer Benedict. Welcome to my world of emeritus and emertia. The title will give you free library usage and an e-mail account. Not bad benefits.

So who will the conclave of 117 men (between the ages of 50 and 80) elect?

 Read in the news that open campaigning is forbidden - has been since the 6th century - no donors, SuperPacs, the Instituion and people, money-grubbing elections in the Vatican, thank you. Hard to imagine there isn't some back-rubbing and back-stabbing occurring on the path to election.
And the election must be unanimous. The no campaigning journey towards unanimity is enough to ponder for one day.
And the votes all go up in smoke. Holy drama!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Drama Spectacular


I spent the whole weekend at the Denver New Play Summit, immersed in great new drama and the potential of smashingly good drama in the future.

How was I to know that good old Pope Benedict would provide the morning's drama for me. The Pope resigned. That's right. Resigned. Didn't die. Just admitted he was old and frail and leaving the seat empty. Rocking the Vatican, leaving the Catholic world open for repair and reform. That's where the next drama comes. Personally, if I were St. Peter or whomever runs these things, I'd re-structure. Maybe no pope at all, just something like a Board of Trustees, bringing all those good Sisters to the table. That's my vote, for now. But it will be real drama, figuring out whether the chair at the scene of power remains controlled within western Europe or moves to other parts of the world. A great dramatic moment. Waiting for the next scene.

But back to Denver and the New Play Summit. What joy to see five plays over the weekend; felt as if I were back in London. The Colorado New Play Summit is sponsored by the Denver Center Theater Company. The plays have been commisioned and are being 'read' in preview form as possibile new plays for the Denver Center's production series next year. It's a big opportunity for the playwrights and for those performing. The playwrights attend, actors from around the country audition to read, and the audience provides feedback. The audience is large, and each play is read twice so everyone can see and hear all five. About half the audience consists of 'industry' folks...other playwrights, many reviewers, reps from theatres across the country, actors, set and design people, theatre philanthropists and supporters. Good timing allowed quite a few (but not all) from the east coast to make it to Denver just prior to the storm. The other half of the audience is populated by people who just love theatre, people who relish seeing what the new play world looks like. Tickets vary in price, so few people are turned away. The one caveat is that no-one is to review the plays, as they are works in progress and potential works for the Denver Theatre. So there will be little in print about any of the five plays.

It's hard to explain exactly what goes on: these are readings, but they aare live, vibrant, active, embracing performances. I was full of suspicion before going - I'm just not one who calls it fun to sit in an audience listening to 2-10 people talking. Driving in to the theatre, the bright sun was a source of full irritation, realizing I'd leave it behind and spend the whole afternoon sitting in the dark listening to actors read. Was I ever wrong. These performances were more alive than I could have possibly imagined. No sets, no fancy designs, no costumes, yet every play was bursting with brilliance.
If you think cleverness, writing, humor have all disappeared in contemporary theatre, count yourself wrong. So much talent out there, so very much.
I won't say more, other than to say Denver's new play scene is going to be something not to miss next year. If my two favorites make it, I'll be using all forms of persuasion to get you to DCPA. 
And... the final wrap for my new play weekend is the event at Curious Theatre tonight where next year's season (or at least part of it is announced). How's that for a wrap on good things.

Have a dramatic day. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Winter Pilgrim

I'm off to the three-day New Play Summit in Denver, so thought this would be a good morning for you all to catch up with Winter Pilgrim, Ann Sieben. You can tell she's not sitting around reading plays and making judgements - she's making her way, one foot in front of the other, across South America and on to Mexico. She's a World Peace figure, doing it her way. Taken from her blog, winterpilgrim.blogspot.com.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Day 142 Incan Trunk Road

'Thus said the Lord: Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask for the ancient path and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.' (Jer 6:16) But Lord, what if there's no one to ask?

I retreated successfully to the old Incan trail to use as the corridor to Ecuador, but it's not always easy to find and it's taking me a bit of time to make forward progress with the interruption of roundabout searches when the way becomes obscure on the rocky flats. Nonetheless, I've climbed into some of the most beautiful valleys I've ever seen - green and lush (a bit too lush at times and rather overwet), adorable square or round stone huts with shaggy grass roofs, a step back into time that hasn't been compelled to modernize much beyond an occasional solar cell sticking above the shaggy grass roof, no doubt to keep cell phones charged. Every few hours, I pass some shepherds or llamaherds, or people sowing rows of potatoes in stone-walled plots on steep slopes. Quetchua is the dominant language. Some people are reluctant to send their kids to school claiming there's no need to over-educate shepherds. In these cases, I struggle to learn much about the whereabouts of the Incan trail, though my vocabulary has improved over the last week.

The Incan trunk road construction tells a lot about where the Spaniards colonized. Many sections of the road include stairs cut into the white limestone formations. While the Incans, lacking beasts of burden, lacking therefore the need for carts, lacking the need for wheels, built their roads for people to walk along, the Spaniards, dependant on their horses and carts stayed far away from the stairs of the Incan roads and to this day these sections are populated sparsely by people living in stone huts accessed only by foot or, now, horse. These places haven't changed; no car or even dirtbike have entered these areas. Tranquility abounds.

I'll try to continue along the Incan trail, though towns are very few and very far between. Internet access is difficult to find, so updates will also be few and far between. Loving the pilgrim life, difficult as it is. Sanitation in the little stone huts is just what it was when the Spaniards arrived. The inhabitants are friendly and accommodating, insisting I stay as their guest, sharing a meal of mutton or llama soup with rice and toasted corn kernels, sleeping on a makeshift bed of lambskins piled on the dirt floor, the guineapigs scurrying about all night long, and washing in the cold mountain springs. Primative but peaceful.

Europeans come through in pairs every three or four months, several have told me, walking the length of the Incan trail, but carry big backpacks and camp out, never entering their homes, and rarely even speaking with them. The Quetchuan limitation I can understand, but they say that the Europeans don't speak much Spanish and seem unfriendly and afraid of the locals. What a wasted opportunity.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

World Peace


Yesterday, after reading about the school boy's suspension for his imaginary weapon, I glanced at the sports page and found that Metta World Peace (yes, of the LA Lakers and his recently official name change) got suspended from a game for wrapping his arm around an opponent's head and smacking him in the face.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Do you think the Dalai Lama would throw a sucker punch? So much for World Peace. And sure makes a real suspension from school for an imaginary smackdown seem even more ridiculous.

On a different note, we have a new Secretary of the Interior nominee and she appears to be a great choice. CEO of REI. In other words, she is responsible for a huge business supporting recreation and the environment.

 Here in CO, at least, REI is the place to go for all sorts of recreational gear and clothing. Books on hiking, the environment, nature abound. The climbing wall inside draws the attention of young shoppers and the store is abuzz with friendly support. And it doesn't hurt that the big store is both downtown and next to a biking and hiking trail, and a river.  Hard to find a better spot to think about the outdoors. Since Sally Jewell has been on top of things at REI, profits in this national company couldn't be better. The good news, maybe, is that she is not a politician.

And it appears that many people care that the iron will be replaced by a cat in the next edition of Monopoly.  There's probabaly some deep symbolism there, but I'll leave it to you to figure out that one. I'm too busy thinking about World Peace.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Absolutes


Imagine there's no evil....

That's what a second grade boy in Loveland CO was doing Friday until he was rudely suspended from school for breaking one of the school's absolutes: no imaginary weapons.

During recess, the boy was throwing an imaginary grenade at an imaginary box with imaginary evil in it.

He and the school principal agreed that is what he said when asked what he was doing. Had he said he was throwing an imaginary football after sucking on deer antlers he would have been fine. Had he said he was getting his arm in shape for a gymnastics meet, probably would have been fine. But eliminating imaginary evil? 

Everyone agreed that he had nothing in his hand, was threatening absolutely no-one, but he defied a school absolute. I don't know what you are thinking, but I'm just imagining this little guy trying to banish evil from the world, suddenly being told he is doing the wrong thing and being bounced from school. Where are Jospeh Keller and Franz Kafka when we need them?

Seriously, who are these people who make up the Absolutes? Did they miss the class on the importance of imagination and creativity? Or that other unit on cause and effect? Did anyone study context?  I understand peace and justice, I understand setting up a safe environment. If I were Queen of the Absolutes there would be no real guns in the hands of non-military people.
(and I don't even want to go there with the military).

As coincidence would have it, when on the phone with third-grade Colin last night I asked what he was doing in school. He said, "Oh, nothing really. Just practicing for the mastery tests for a week."

Truth be told, I know far too many teachers obsessed with  practice drills for mastery prep because their salaries depend on their students doing well. Ditto for principals. Guess some school accountability gurus also  missed that Cause and Effect class.
Bet they all those teachers and principals can imagine real people they'd like to pelt with imaginary paper airplanes, dirt balls or better.

Hate to say it, but had I been forced to practice for mastery tests for a week in third grade, there would probably have been the imaginary face of a real teacher in that imaginary box. One of my best friends in life became an award-winning javelin thrower in high school by imagining the real target was the imaginary face of the real guy who stole his real girlfriend from him. So now that you know something about my friends and me, you can tell how we would have done in the Land of Absolutes.

Oh, and we're the people who grew up to believe the Boy Scouts' absolute ban on members who are really gay makes no sense. As for our imagining doing things to imaginary or real people, places or things, I'll leave that to your imagination.

Well, at least this young man will have a great topic for his essay when he's on the college admission circuit.

Be careful with your imaginary gestures today.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Horse! A horse!

Don't know about you, but I'm taking part of the day to read about the ever-famous Richard lll. Back from under the ground to rekindle our interests in all things Elizabeth and Shakespearean.

"Now is our winter of discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York. . ."

We rely on some groundhog from PA to tell us if our winter of discontent is coming to an end.  Richard put his hopes on the son of York. For today, think I'll let my reading take me back to the Tower of London, back to the gnarled man who also gave us
"My horse! My horse! A kingdom for my horse!"

Without Shakespeare, I suspect few of us would care about the dig that unearthed Richard lll. Here's to Shakespeare and to the glorious summers forever being brought to us by what we learn from DNA.
To Richard and to Science.

As several of you know, I'm in my seond dance with ovarian cancer and back into chemotherapy. Right on time, just as predicted, my hair is leaving me again, so I'm going ahead and having my head buzzed this morning. Might make no sense to you, but I'm hoping I'll have enough hair back on my head in August to make a wigless/scarfless trip to the London Tower. September 2011 I made the trip, and it was my official coming out with shimmering shades of grey on my head.

After the buzz, I'll be reading about Richard. Hope your day is equally fascinating.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Quartet VS. Super Bowl


If you love witty, elegant musical smart people, then get yourselved to see the film, The Quartet. Brilliant...and oh ,I should have added 'old' to that list of adjectives. It's a Brit wit sort of film, with Maggie Smith knocking everyone off his or her feet. Directed by Dustin Hoffman, who turned 76 when we weren't looking.
It's a gem. I'll buy you some Girl Scount cookies if you don't agree.
The movie was the official beginning of the weekend, followed by a lovely poetry reading on Saturday, wrapped up in the Super Bowl.

I have nothing really against Super Bowls; I spent a decade or two scarfing down chunks of salami with cream cheese, double-dipping potato chips into Lipton Soup onion mix. And there's more.
But still, I just couldn't get wrappped up wanting the Baltimore Ravens to win. Sure they beat Denver, which would make us look good if the Ravens won the whole thing. And they did. Must have been the pure, clean spirit of the plea-bargain out of a double murder charge that put tears in Ray Lewis' eyes during his motivational talk. I don't even care about gnawing on deer antlers; I guess I figured long ago that if people will eat beef jerky, they will suck on anything.
So I might sound bitter. I'm not. Just frustrated. Less than a month ago I mentioned Joseph Campbe's compelling description of the difference between hero and celebrity to the masses. He's still not come back to help us along our mythical ways.
 I might give a gladiator celebrity status, and might do the same for men tackling one another with abandon, taking time out only to see if there's sign of a concussion.  I'd love to have watched a scene in The Quartet with the lead players commenting on a Super Bowl game. But I must confess, I loved when the lights went out, the San Francisco team regained its composure, and made it a game.
Speaking of groups of men, let's hope the Boy Scouts get a new moral compass this week.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Tree Testicles and Super Bowl

My conversations take me strange places - sometimes they are conversations I am actually having; other times, conversations I am intentionally overhearing; dialogues I am reading, or just plain stuff my mind and I are considering.

This is a combination - began as a conversation among great minds at the Castellani's and more added during the week. I'm hoping this post serves you well during the weekend. I'm talking avocado.

The avocado - in particular, the Hass avocado is where we begin. The Hass developed as an accidental hybrid.  Nothing intentional, just two trees getting together on their own. Ever since, t has been cuttings and clones from their accidental offspring. At first, the Hass wasn't winning any popularity contests. After all, it's a bumpy sort of thing that turns black when it ripens. Not the best-looking fruit being sold in the fresh market.
But Hass marketing took the ugly duckling of the avocado world and turned it into the swan of fruit. Now 95% of the avocados sold are Hass.

Back to just plain avocados. A dear friend, and one of the United States' prime avacado ranch owners, had been trying to figure out, for years, the derivation of the Mexican word - Aquacate - for avocado. He finally met a woman writing a pre-Columbian cookbook and learned that in pre-Columbian times this fruit was considered an aphrodisiac. For that reason one Aztec language named it ?huacatl.  ?huacatl is short for ?huacacuahuitl which means testicle (?huacatl) tree (cuahuitl). Testicle Tree. Then some propriety defending word-smith converted "?huacatl"into "aguacate.
(We learned this in a dinner conversation; it was later confirmed by ever-knowing Google.)
Those Aztec guys must have been something.
This testicle tree discussion was this past Monday evening, the Monday preceding the Super Bowl.

Four days later, there's a "Guacamole reigns holy for Super Bowl" article in the Denver Post. Sports fans of the world eagerly await the Testicle Tournament aka Super Bowl of the year. And supporters of the defeated Denver Broncos will be weeping their tears in guacamole. Lots of it.

Story in the Post describes how those smart Hass marketing men brought us from eating a mere 8 million avocados during Super Bowl festivities at the turn of this century to an expected consumption of 79 million pounds of avocado around the championship game this coming Sunday. the fruit from the testicle trees.
Try and get those testicle trees out of your mind when you are forced to think Super Bowl this weekend. I can't.