Tuesday, November 04, 2008


At a few minutes after 8pm PST this election was called for Barack Obama.

I burst into tears.

For the last month I have been saying a daily prayer that this country would make the right choice today, despite all the spin that seemed to say it wouldn't happen. Tonight my faith in this nation and the voters of this country was restored.

Not only because the right guy was elected, but because people came out and voted. Watching Times Square go off, and Morehouse college go off and all the other places in this country where people were losing their minds with joy I felt so proud and blessed to be a citizen of a democtratic nation.

This morning I was up at the ass crack of dawn so I brushed my teeth added jeans to my pajamas and headed out to vote. I got to the elementary school that is my polling place about 6:50 and there was a line down to the street. I was about the 50th person and there was a feeling of excitement and anticipation. I live in a neighborhood that's pretty racially mixed and pretty solidly middle class. The guy in front of me whose name is Oliver chatted with me about how we liked to vote and always did. Once the polls opened we stood in line for about 30 minutes before we got to the door of the gym where the voting booths are. As I was about to step in a little girl about 8 poked her head around the corner and chanted Obama! Obama! Obama!

Inside the gym an Asian lady who'd just voted asked the poll workers to take her picture as she placed her ballot in the box. A white guy took a picture of his wife and their little boy who looked to be about 4 years old. A black couple who'd just voted stopped to say hello to Oliver, the man in front of me who was my line pal. He was an older man, and his wife was a walking celebration in red, white and blue, and he said to Oliver as he hugged him, "there's going to be a black president in the White House after tonight brother - we are going to break out the champagne."

In that moment I was so aware of the fact that for the first time in our democracy this process was finally inclusive. I think this is why this election was so special. For every person in this country the first change came when Barack Obama won the nomination of the democratic party. The changes that will come have less to do with the color of his skin and more to do with his vision and my hope is that his election reflects a change in the consciousness of this country.

As I watched people weeping with joy and celebrating, as I cried myself, the hope for a new day was palpable and reminded me of the enthusiasm that surrounded JFK. Okay, I don't really remember what that was like, but it's more how it's recorded in history. As I watched John McCain make his concession speech and heard the crowd boo when he talked about Barack Obama and how much he admired him (a very gracious speech it was too), it made me think of this verse from Bob Dylan's song, Times They are a Changin' ...

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And dont criticize
What you cant understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin.
Please get out of the new one
If you cant lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin.

It feels like times really are changing and that despite those people who continue to live lives marinated in racist hatred, the majority of people are thinking about what's best for this country, and for their families, and they picked a man based on his ideas and for his ability to galvanize, inspire and lead - not the color of his skin.

Monday, November 03, 2008


I have consciously made a choice to distance myself from all of the election doings (except for reading today's coverage about Obama's grandmother - RIP Madelyn Payne Dunham).

This means I'm opting out of discussions, I don't look at polls, I don't watch any political programming and I zip through the ads on Tivo.

My friend Elizabeth was visiting last week and she is completely obsessed - watching non-stop coverage via the internet or on TV. She read to me from blogs and articles and while I tuned her out. Her increasingly passionate vocalizations sounded like a jet passing overhead because I am in self preservation mode.

I can barely breathe and it's been getting worse and worse as we count down. By this time tomorrow I will either be in the fetal position or drunk.

The last two elections were so difficult. Waking up the day after to a Bush presidency was like getting punched in the face and then punched in the gut. You just don't pop up after that - this country is down for the count in so many ways as a result of those two elections.

I don't know that Barack Obama is the answer, or that he can fix the mess we're in, but I do believe that he is our best option. It's hard to fathom that anyone in this country except for the very rich can actually believe in the trickle down theory that John McCain supports.

Believing that tax breaks for the super rich will create jobs and stimulate the economy is akin to having someone pee on your neck and tell you it's raining. The rich have never stopped spending - it's the middle class that is sitting on their wallets and if they don't spend the economy stalls. We're officially in a recession and it's not because the rich need to be stimulated.

At this point I'm not sleeping terribly well, and since we just turned our clocks back I will most likely be awake by 5a.m I'm thinking I'm going to head over the polls in the my PJs and be first in line.

Then I'll take a valium and spend the day remembering to breathe.

Hopefully on Wednesday morning I will be breathing a sigh of relief.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


There was more to Darrell's murder that I didn't write about, but after the events of the past 20 hours I really have record it somewhere.

I had a very close relationship with his family. He was one of 10 kids born to an Irish Catholic mother and an Italian Catholic father. Pretty much everyone who grew up in Long Beach during the 70s went to school with one of the kids. I don't remember my exact entree into the tribe, but by the time I was 20 I was included, along with so many others who weren't actual family members, in dinners and birthdays and holidays.

His mother's name was Alice when I first started hanging out, but at some point over the years she decided that she wanted to called Alicia - she thought it was prettier than Alice, and more importantly she had decided that she was going to make some changes in her life and for that she needed a different name - because she was becoming a different woman.

She had gotten married at 19 and then had 12 or 13 pregnancies and ended up raising 10 children over the next 20 years. When she and I became friends she was starting to look at what she wanted for her life, not in the context of wife or mother, but in addition to. She began traveling all over the world on her own or with one of her kids. Her husband was a navigator for the airlines and did not have a lot of interest in the kind of trips she wanted to take. She went to school and became a licensed esthetician in her 50s and started her own business. She was always heavily involved in boy scouts, even after her kids were long out of it. She loved that community and she would take me with her to various events and jamborees. I don't remember having a big desire to go to something like that, but more that I enjoyed spending time with her and having her to myself so anything we did was an adventure.

She was a devout Catholic and when I shared with her that I had a deep fear of all things Catholic and felt mostly panic in a Catholic church she took me to a mass said in latin which was "illegal" back in those days. She also took me to a huge parade for Our Lady of Guadalupe where there was the blessing of the animals. I still don't feel comfortable in a Catholic church, but I gained a better understanding of the comfort in ritual.

Her home was always open and full of not only her children but also their friends who became extended family. I would stop by on my way home from work or on a Saturday and hang in the kitchen with her. She taught me to make mayonnaise from scratch. She taught me how to make a meal for 15 people with not much more than vegetables and pasta and whoever was there when it was ready would sit down at the looooooooong cafeteria style table with the little stools that fit up under it when we were done.

She was one of the first women who ever talked to me candidly about marriage and parenting in a way that honored all that was good, but was also very realistic about the challenges. She was a deeply spiritual woman who went to mass every day, but who also explored other avenues of spiritual expression. She was always so unconditionally loving and accepting and real in the way that she related to the world that she became a role model, not as a grown up, but more as a cool chick.

At Darrell's funeral she stood up in front of everyone gathered there, having just identified his battered and torn body days before, and told us all that we needed to find it in our hearts to forgive the people who did this, that we should pray that they would find peace, because if we couldn't forive we would not have peace ourselves.

When she and I talked later that week, during a time when we gathered together at her house looking for some kind of solace, she told me that because I had never lost anyone it was probably hard for me to believe that life would go on, but that at 58 she knew that not only would it go on, it would be good.

About six months ago my mom saw her at the beauty parlor. She had been diagnosed with dementia, and she had been slowing down, but she remembered my mother and asked about me. When my mom told me this, I thought - I really need to go see her and tell her how much I appreciate her and how postively she's impacted my life.

In July I went to a friend's reunion and ran into a guy who grew up down the street from Alicia and her family. We talked about them and I asked if he'd seen her. He said that although her husband had died she was still living in the house. I thought - I should stop by there and say hi and tell her how much I love her.

In September I went to Rosh Hashanah at my friend Sally's house. There was a woman there who'd grown up in the same city I did. Turns out she'd been best friends with Alicia's youngest daughter although they hadn't spoken in a while. As we talked I thought - note to self, call Alicia and see when you can come visit.

And in the ensuing weeks I thought about her everyday and remembered how much I enjoy her and how it would be so good to see her again and how I really really really wanted to let her know that she has reverberated in my life for all these years although I haven't seen her since the early 90s.

Last night, after writing about Darrell, I googled his name to see if there was anything on the internet about him. There wasn't. What I found was a memorial page for Alicia with entries from October 30, 2008 - the date of the visitation held at her church.

I found her obituary.

She died on October 25th and her funeral mass was today at 11:00 a.m.

I am very grateful that I was able to be with her family today and to reconnect with them and express my deep love and appreciation for their mom who was an amazing woman and wonderful friend, but I wish more than anything that I had acted on my desire to say the words to her when she was still around to hear them.

Even with her death she is still teaching me. It's so important to listen to my heart and to do what it tells me - because I don't like feeling regret. Life's just too short.

Friday, October 31, 2008


I got home from work about 6pm and flipped on the news as I ran to answer the phone. I heard sobbing on the other end of the phone and my friend Risa, between sobs, told me that Darrell was dead.


"Darrell's dead. He was murdered."

I heard these words and simultaneously registered the helicopter shot on the 6 o'clock news featuring an overhead view of my friend Darrell's little beach house in Sunset Beach. They were wheeling out a gurney upon which was strapped a black, plastic body bag.

It was October 30, 1984 and the events of that day still seem like something that only happens in a movie. My friend Darrell, who was 25 and his 21 year old girlfriend Stephanie had been tortured and executed, apparently by South American drug dealers.

Darrell was a free spirit, easy going guy who loved surfing and music and travel. After he'd graduated from high school he'd traveled down to Brazil and throughout South America surfing and hanging out and making friends. He had white blonde hair and was always smiling - he surfed every single day. As long as I knew him he never seemed to have a job, and while he didn't have what would be considered a luxurious lifestyle, it was definitely easy living.

There were always people around from his travels who'd come to visit and seemingly stayed - they didn't work either. Cocaine was definitely part of the party, but not in a dark, scary way. It was light and fun and the product was pure and the buzz was excellent. It never occurred to me to question any of it - Why didn't anyone work? Where were the drugs coming from? What were they saying in all the conversations en espanol at the weekend BBQs?

We were all having too much fun.

There were definite warning signs but we were in our 20s and bullet proof so an FBI raid? Ha! Those assholes. Darrell's brother getting busted and then found guilty and sent to prison? An aberration.

Maybe those things were the things that motivated Darrell to make the decisions that he made which lead to his death. We don't really know exactly why he was killed, but the theory has always been that he'd been dealing large quantities of cocaine and made enough money that he felt he could retire and live a simple life at the beach with his girl. Maybe have some kids, get a dog.

We had all gone out to a halloween party on the 29th. Darrells was a clown and Stephanie was a genie - this is how I remember them. Stephanie had left part of her costume at my house and I'd planned to stop by the house at lunch that day to drop it off. I got really busy and couldn't make it so I called and left a message about noon that I would be sure to connect with them before the party that evening.

Their bodies were discovered at 12:45pm by a friend who was staying at the house when he returned from a DMV appointment - he'd been gone for three hours. They were both naked and had numerous stab wounds. Darrell's face was beaten unrecognizable and his hands had been cut off. They had killed Stephanie first - I don't know and don't want to know what they did to her before they killed her.

The police responded and the FBI was involved - no clues were ever found as to who killed them although they believe it was more than one person. They found Darrell's notebook in the phonebooth at the liquor store across the street. It had names in it and numbers - there was talk that Darrell had been skimming, or that his business partners believed that he was stealing, and so he was killed.

Stephanie died because she happened to be there.

I had never experience death so intimately before. No one I knew had died. Not even friends of friends had died. We were a bunch of middle class, suburban white kids and this kind of stuff just didn't happen. Not to us.

Except it did happen.

Most of the foreign "friends" disappeared - quickly. They didn't come to the funeral. We were all overwhelmed by fear and anger and grief and looking for people to blame. Maybe that's why they left, or they could have been more business associates than friends. I will never know.

There's really no way to explain how casual we were with cocaine, in the age of "just say no" and the walking wounded celebrities who are sad illustrations of that old saying, "if you can't be a good example then you'll just have to be a horrible warning," (shout out Amy Winehouse) it's hard to imagine a time when drugs weren't demonized and scary.

But we had fun. A lot of fun. Right up until Darrell was killed.

Halloween has never been a very happy time since. Getting dressed up and partying always carries with it the association of this incredibly tragic and violent event. I am thankful that I got the wake up call and that Darrell's death put an end to my own dabbling in the drug business. Back then it was easy to get in over your head really fast and while Darrell was the first friend I lost he was not the last.

I guess you could say that Halloween scared me straight.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

One more reason....

Why giving strangers your phone number is scary.

The story goes that Olga was out with her friends, waiting for a cab in front of a club. Delightful Dmitri rushed up to her, ignoring her friends and went all disco with his flirting skills, or psycho - you decide. He told her she was elegant and beautiful and finnagled a business card from her and then he rushed off. Possibly because someone was calling the police inside where he'd just violated a TRO.

Clearly Dmitri doesn't understand that just because a woman gives out a number doesn't mean she wants a call. It might just mean she wants him to go away and figured that if she didn't respond he'd figure it out. I personally think a direct no thank you, I'm not interested, is best and when no means yes I will flat out lie and say that I'm married, I have a boyfriend, I'm a nun, whatever seems most likely to shut them down. Do not by any means say you are a lesbian because for many men that only presents a tittilating challenge. Dmitri would definitely be one of those guys...

If you google "Dmitri the lover" you get this video. This guy is the exception, not the rule, but if you're a woman, who meets one of these "exceptional" men - listen to that voice in your head yelling "RUN"! Rejecting him does not mean you have psychological problems - it means you're very, very sane.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Where the heck is the crisp, cool weather featured in poetry and prose about Autumn?

Why is it 85 degrees outside? Why are my lips chapped and my nose bleeding?

Why does every news hour open with urgent voices harkening "red flag warnings" in the brush filled hills and valleys of California?

It seems like every single year, as we roll into October, California catches on fire and burns until Thanksgiving.

Kind of puts a whole new spin on Robert Louis Stevenson's poem - Autumn Fires.

In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

Monday, October 20, 2008


I heard this new song from the fabulous Michael Franti and Spearhead on the radio a couple weeks ago and it made me car dance. Last week when I was dealing with the fact that we have had to lay off everyone but the last two guys I clicked on this video and it made me feel better. For almost 4 minutes I forgot about everything else and did a little booty shakin', and that was a good thing - so I'm sharing here.

In case anyone else needs a lift.

And I think I just successfully pasted this link into this post so I have learned something new, and that's not a bad way to start a Monday.

The state of the world might suck right now, but I'm gonna find the happy where I can and share it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Last night I went to see Religulous down in Orange County. The theater was pretty much full which surprised me as I kind of expected to see this movie picketed down in the home of the John Birch Society.

I enjoy Bill Maher's humor... to a point. I think he's pretty smart and very sharp, but sometimes he is so snarky as to be completely disrespectful. Sometimes I wonder why why he's so angry and cynical. He is often verges on mean and it makes me feel uncomfortable. I worry that I sometimes act like that during those days when I wonder if maybe there's no such thing as PMS and I'm just a bitch. And then I cry.

But I digress.

Religulous is one of those movies that preaches to a choir that I sing in. I have tried to get religion but I cannot completely buy in. I have been "saved" twice, once in 7th grade when my Presbytarian youth group went on a field trip to a Foursquare Pentacostal church and I succumbed to peer pressure following my friends up to have the preacher lay his hands on me and feel the power of God (I just stood there and he finally shoved me backwards really hard into the waiting arms of the catchers), and once in 10th grade when the cute senior boys went to Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa and accepted Jesus, so I did too. Both churches had music and dancing and singing and hugging and I enjoyed all of that. What I did not enjoy was the sermonizing which was to my youthful mind a bunch of crazy talk. It sucked the good time out of all the rest of that stuff.

The whole concept of sin was a bummer and there was no way that I could believe in a God who was represented as an old white guy sitting in a chair in the clouds surrounded by angels. When they asked me how it made me feel to think that Jesus was in the room with me when I was having pre-marital sex I thought that Jesus would be pretty pervy to do that.

I eventually discovered Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead and found a place where I could have music and singing and dancing and hugging and pretty much the same happy feeling of a collective consciousness along with non-judgmental pre-marital sex.

Bill interviewed a neurotheotist (sp?) who talked about testing people's brains when they were hopped up on God and he said that those scans showed all kinds of colors - I'm pretty sure my brain looked exactly the same way at a Dead show.

So in the movie Bill interviews all kinds of people - mostly from the religious right in the United States. These people scared the shit out of me and had me sitting there with my mouth hanging open. They were at places like the Creation Museum in the state of KY run by a guy who I do believe is batshit crazy although he was definitely given a run for his money by the cast at a theme park in Orlando, FL called the Holy Land Experience, a cement recreation of Jerusalem with a tall, bearded Jesus who re-enacts the crucifixion several times a day for rapt audience members who cry and stand with the arms up in adoration. It's like a super creepy, low budget, kind of psychotic Knott's Berry Farm.

Bill also interviews Mark Pryor the senator from Arkansas (who I bet wishes he never agreed to being interviewed on tape) and Joe Lieberman the senator from Connecticut. Both of these men have extreme religious beliefs that definitely affect their decisions when it comes to making policy for this country. The fact that they are voted into office by people who share those beliefs, as well as those who probably have no idea, frightens me more deeply than I can say.

At one point in his interview with Senator Pryor who believes in revelations -you know the end times where Jesus comes back and all the true believers are taken to live with God - Bill asks him if someone who believes in this possibility wouldn't have a hard time making the world a better place to live in, because, you know, they're going to be in heaven? Pryor just kind of stared at him blankly.

Bill spends time with the Muslims and the Jews, and there are some hilarious moments with the Mormons, but it's the religious right that he focuses on for the most part. The religious right that has been insidiously infiltrating the government of these United States and pushing forth an agenda that is systematically destroying everything that our forefathers, the framers of the constitution, fought a revolution to create.

I have never been able to believe in the stories told by any religion preferring to think of them as parables or illustrations of moral ideals that had a context in the epochs during which they occurred. I tend to think that sane people have an internal moral compass and that the human urge to belong to a group be that family, community or tribe, which can be traced back to a time before we walked upright keeps us adhering to a social contract wherein we don't kill or mess with each other lest we be banished to a cave in the hills so that we don't really need commandments that threaten us with hell should we get out of line. And then there are, of course, actual laws and the consequences of breaking them.

Apparently I am wrong. There are a lot of people in this country and in the world who are considered sane who believe some pretty whacked out stuff and who make choices that affect every single person here based on these beliefs. Many of these people are currently serving in congress. One of them is sitting in the white house.

By the end of movie I totally got why Bill Maher is so pissed off. He's scared that these people are going to create the end times for all of us and seriously what the FUCK?

I am descended from Puritans who came here to escape religious persecution. They settled in Salem, MA in 1630 and they soon got involved in witch burning - some were accused and some were accusers - so I know that believing in things can drive people to do really crazy stuff, but that was the olden days. People don't do that kind of stuff anymore! Not here in the United States! Well, you know what? They do. They shoot doctors who perform abortions. They beat homosexuals to death. They hang people whose skin is a different color, or whose God is different from the one they pray too. It has been happening in small towns in states that are colored red on those election maps and the collective conscious pretends it doesn't happen and the press doesn't mention it so the rest of us don't have any idea until there's a Matthew Shepherd or a James Byrd.

I'm not saying that there aren't a lot of people who go to church and keep it all in perspective, but more and more people are becoming fundamentalist extremists and they aren't Muslims they're "Christians".

Religulous quotes Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin and I had never thought to specifically look and see what these guys really thought about religion and government. I went and took a look at what they said, and they said a lot, although none of it was Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

My favorite quote is from Thomas Jefferson who took the New Testament, removed all the fantasy aspects and published The Jefferson bible (The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth) wherein he gives Jesus his props as a truly admirable man who walked the walk he was talking. Jefferson was a fan of Unitarianism which I like to think of as the church of the social worker so it makes sense that he would be a fan of Jesus who was pretty much the first Jewish bleeding heart liberal the bolt of cloth that so many social workers are cut from.

Here is the quote:
Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor morum over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.
-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

I completely agree. I don't believe in the popular mythology of most religions but I do believe in and respect the right of people the world over to believe in their God (or Gods) or to not believe, and to have conversations about it without fear. I believe that anyone who wants to serve in public office has no right to project their beliefs onto the population, e.g. you can believe in revelations but you cannot destroy the planet because you think the endtimes are around the corner. You can believe in a guy who lives in the clouds with angels but you cannot tell me what I can do with my uterus or with whom I can share the sacrament of marriage.

If you want to be president of the United States then you understand that you are going to serve all people not just the ones who've accepted Jesus as their personal savior and if those "saved" people start behaving as a special interest group who exert pressure to insert their agendas into schools, communities, cities, states and foreign policy then you better make damn sure that they cannot translate their hate into laws.

I know why Bill Maher is pissed off and scared and he summed it up perfectly in the last three minutes of the movie and left me sitting there stunned. I believe that the closing credits rolled over the Talking Heads singing "We're on the Road to Nowhere."

In two weeks we all have a choice to make and if we make the wrong one we are most definitely on that road.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


One of my friends had a first date the other night that ended with her hurling the three martinis she drank in the parking lot while her date held her hair out of the way and rubbed her back. If nothing else it was definitely some kind of litmus test because any guy who holds my hair out of the way while I puke is a pretty good egg. He called her and wants to see her again and I think she should be encouraged by that. I mean how much worse could it be than getting drunk, slurring your words and projectile vomiting?

Her friend at work tried to cheer her out of her motification with this story, which is, in fact a great example of how much worse it could be.

This woman, let's call her Julie, had been dating this man, let's call him Mike, for just a short while. They had reached the point in the freshly budding relationship where she spent the night at his house for the first time. In the morning he had to leave for work and left her a key telling her to make herself at home and just lock up and put the key under the mat when she left.

When Julie got up she made herself some coffee. The coffee did what coffee does and she had to poop. This was an incredibly large poop. The kind of poop that is awe inspiring in size. Not at all the kind of poop that you would want your new man to know that you were capable of. Especially not a guy that you really really like - a lot. A guy upon whom you want to make a good impression. Keeping in mind that so many men don't like to even acknowledge that women poop at all she definitely did not want Mike to know that she could produce a poop the size of a baby's arm.

Impressive? Yes! But not exactly what she was going for so soon in their courtship.

So imagine her consternation when she discovered that the toilet would not flush. It's not that she clogged the toilet. No - she never even got the chance. It just would not flush. Dismantling the toilet did not lead to any solution that involved flushing and she was absolutely freaking out.

She called her friend and asked her what to do. Julie's friend gave her advice that, at the time, must have seemed reasonable when faced with the option of leaving a giant log in Mike's toilet.

Her friend told her to fish it out, put it in a ziploc and then take it with her to throw away.

The fact that this seemed like a reasonable suggestion and that she actually did it gives some insight into how very much she did not want Mike to know that she did, in fact, poop.

Completely frazzled from the fishing expedition she got herself ready to go and wrote Mike a note that said, "Had a great time. I really love our connection," and she left it for him on the kitchen counter.

Then she walked out the door....

Leaving the key and the ziploc bag with the giant poop in it on the counter next to the note.

The door had the auto lock in place so she was locked out and that horrifying tableau was locked in and she couldn't get back in the house.

So she changed her phone number.

Mike never pursued any further contact.

I cannot help but wonder if he even tried to call.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Even though I knew Paul Newman was going to die, and soon, I still wasn't ready for it. The pictures that had been posted of him with Martha Stewart at a party last month showed someone who was on their way out. Vanity Fair had a great article about him last month - a tribute really - so I wasn't surprised when I heard that he'd died on Friday. It makes me really sad to think about Joanne having to wake up every day without him after all those years together.

I'm tired of people preaching at me about Barak Obama and this presidential race. My naivete and hope were beaten out of me over the last two elections. I've spent too much time traveling in the mid-west to think that the deep levels of inherent and unadmitted racism in this country aren't a factor in how close the polls are right now. Republicans are not evil retards as so many of my friends are fond of referring to them - they're American citizens with a point of view that differs from my own, but then so are lot of these name calling democrats. I'm feeling like I want to turn off the TV (except for that debate on Thursday night) until it's all said and done.

No more political discussions - unless they're really going to be discussions. I don't want any more lectures from the faithful about how I have to tell the entire country to vote for Obama. You know what? I think people know who they're going to vote for already.

As much as I hate folding the laundry and putting it away it is one of the most meditative activities I know of after cooking.

Today is a good day because it's beautiful outside so I can work in the garden and it's starting to get cool so I can wear a hoodie and football is on so I can watch in between getting stuff done.

I like today.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Last night I went to see the Sex and the City movie. It was a Friday opening and I don't normally do this but I went with some of the girls in my family and I thought it would be fun. I haven't been to a movie theater in a long time and the one we went to, the Pacific theater in the Grove, is one of my favorites.

I knew it was going to be a popular movie, but I hadn't counted on Star Wars circa 1975 type line or the cheer that went up when the opening titles came on the screen.


We went to the 5:05 show and the line went all the way down past Crate and Barrel, around the curve at Nordstroms and headed toward Abercrombie and Fitch. It was a battle to find four seats together and while you might think, or at least I thought, the theater would be mostly women, this was not in fact the case. It was probably 30% gay men and their girl gangs.

Again - OHMYGOD!

The movie was good, but I didn't need to see it on the big screen. SJP looks frighteningly gaunt on the big screen as her thoroughbred legs tottered around on her Manolos. I was scared she might end up like Eight Belles. Without spoiling anything I found her performance to be very courageous as far as personal vanity goes - so kudos to her.

The movie aside what I experienced at the theater that I haven't in a really long time is the kind of buzz and audience participation, which indicates HUGE box office, the likes of which hasn't been seen in theaters since, well, Star Wars, or Saturday Night Fever or Indiana Jones (the first one). Those were movies that I paid to see over and over again because I couldn't get enough.

I would be willing to bet that at least 1 in 3 people who were at the theater last night will pay to go again. They'll want to go with other friends, maybe the ones that they used to get together with to watch the show when it was on HBO. They'll want to go because they have missed their friends: Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte.

We are in a recession.
A slow down.
A credit crunch.
Interesting times.

It's a cycle and we've been here before, but in my lifetime when this has happened someone else was taking care of me.

I've never had to deal with economic uncertainty like this in my adult life. I think that it's also more challenging for me than ever before because I'm part of a small company that is literally struggling to stay alive every single week. Since the fall of last year we've had 6 million dollars in contracts go "on hold". Buildings that were supposed to be in construction right now are not. So every day we are trying to develop new business in a market that's stone cold.

Scary times.
Feels like a recession to me.

I've had to lay off 4 guys. One of them had a baby the week before I let him go. I desperately want to get a new contract so I can bring him back to work. He calls me to see if we've gotten anything and I tell him that I will let him know, but he should be looking for work, not waiting. He tells me there is no work. Everyone in construction is looking for work.

The other day an investment broker came into the office to meet with Adi who couldn't make the meeting because he was out with bids. I sat down with him to hear what he had to say and he started with, "First of all we're not in a recession." He emphatically supported that statement by telling me that the "numbers" say that the economy is still growing.

I wonder if my former employee with the brand new baby and no job would agree with that statement?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Today is Allan McLaren day. It's one of my favorite days of the year. I smile every time it rolls around. This was originally posted by my friend Heather (Hi Heather!), one of the founders of Allan McLaren day, over at clizbiz.blogspot.com. She's an awesome woman - then and now.

Here is the story of how today came to be Allan McLaren day...

Gather round, children, time for a story:

Sometime in the early 80s, my best friend, Lisa, and I were walking the halls of Bancroft Jr. High in Long Beach, California. It must have been the end of February because we were discussing the recent Presidents Day holiday, which seemed too elitist for our tastes.

"Seems like there should be a day for people that aren't presidents," Lisa said.
"Yeah, like a day that celebrates the guy that has no desire to be president," I undoubtedly concurred. "A day for the average Joe, y'know? The world needs those guys too."
"Maybe we should start one … ?" she said, eyes wide.

Lisa was, once again, ready to co-hatch outrageous plans with me, which is why I love her so.
"Hey .. yeah!"

And we were off.

Immediately, we began formulating the outline of the campaign messages and the all-important 'Celebrating the Everyman' gist of our new holiday. Still, we needed a face, a name, a figurehead … somebody to stand up for our new cause. We wanted the guy that just happily exists in life, does his thing, and is perfectly harmless – the guy that merely goes to school/work, does his chores and doesn't spark headlines, bad or good. We needed to pin down the uncelebrated fellow that makes up the bulk of society - the guy that everyone likes but no one really notices.

Lisa and I spotted him at the same time. He was a smallish kid, same age as us (15-ish) and we didn't know his name. He had blonde bushy surfer-kid hair, shy eyes and an infectious sweet smile. We'd never noticed him before which made him ideal. Looking back now, I realized we may have come on a bit strong initially but he played along. After briefly introducing ourselves without revealing our true mission, we conducted the interview on-the-spot:

Belong to any clubs? "Nope.
"Play on any sports teams? "No way.
"Girlfriend? "Um, not right now.
"Grades? "C average."Home life? "Just normal stuff – my parents are okay, I guess.
"Get in to trouble? "No, I try to lay low."
And finally, name? "Allan McLaren."

Lisa's eyes lit up at this, since she was the creative ad agency person and I'm more of the big mouth PR type. The phonetics needed to be ideal to result in a winning slogan. She tried it out, "Hmmmmm. AllanMcLaren AllanMcLaren AllanMcLaren. Yes, yes … YES! That will work perfectly!"

We each squealed, kissed him on the cheek and then ran off, yelling back at Allan, "Thank you!" and maybe even "Get ready!"

In the next few weeks, we created banners, posters, buttons and possibly t-shirts that prepared the student body for the big day, which we'd picked randomly as March 26th – the world's first annual Allan McLaren Day.

Because we were those busybody types that ran everything, we managed to get this in the student newspaper, the school calendar, the daily announcements and, most importantly, on the lips of every student. Anticipation was high. Allan was confused but just kept smiling.

When the big day finally came, I recall sitting in typing class (ha!) and watching the very prim and proper teacher, Mrs. Howard, instruct us on the day's lesson. On her print blouse was a button pin that clearly read: "Have you hugged your Allan McLaren today?" This was victory.

In high school, the tradition continued and Allan became a minor celebrity. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Not only was Allan game for all the attention, but he was consistently appreciative and smiled even more.

Years later, at the 10-year high school reunion, I ran into Allan and he was so excited. He introduced his lovely wife, Kristina, and told her the whole story. He then went on to tell us how we had inadvertently changed his entire school experience. Apparently, he'd show up at parties and people would cheer: "Allan McLaren has arrived!" He noted, with some irony, that the football guys who "would otherwise beat me up" had decided that Allan was the coolest dude ever and was to be revered and protected like a king.

Even several years after graduation, Allan was in a grocery store writing a check when the cashier saw his name: "Allan McLaren? I know that name! Aren't you famous or something?"
Decades later, I was living in San Francisco and received a card in the mail. It was an elaborate beautifully self-designed sentiment from Lisa, dated March 26, 2003, with the words: "Celebrating 20 years of the average man … wishing you the very best Allan McLaren Day!"

So, now, I pass along this tradition to ya'll. Buy the Average Joe a drink tonight, would ya? Whether he knows it or not, it's his special day.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I was so sad to hear that Anthony Minghella has died. Not just because he is, in my opinion a great talent, but because I actually got to meet him and share an evening of great conversation.

In 1993 I was sharing a house with a friend who, at the time was dating a british director. One weekend I went to brunch with her and her beau at the Bel Air hotel. We got very drunk on champagne sitting at one of those tables by the pond with the swans. It was oh so pastoral and lovely. We were talking about our favorite movies and I was going on and on and on and ON about a movie that I'd seen a few years before that is still, to this day, one of my favorite movies.

Truly, Madly, Deeply is a movie about loss and grieving and moving on and in all that sadness it's pretty funny. It features Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevens in really wonderful performances. I fell in love with the writing and it has stayed with me all of these years. When I saw the movie I sat in the theater after it was over and cried. And then I drove home and sat on the couch and cried some more. Not because I was sad, but because I was so completely moved by how it had captured love and loss and how life goes on no matter what and that's a good thing.

It was perfect.

It was Anthony Minghella's debut movie. He wrote it and directed it and it just so happens that my roommate's friend knew Anthony very well and had worked with him on the Storyteller series - you should totally rent them if you have kids. So seeing as how he knew the guy that had written and directed my favorite movie he was kind enough to call him up so that I could leave a drunken and rambling message on his answering machine about HOW MUCH I LOVED Truly Madly Deeply.

Yes - I drunk dialed Anthony Minghella and it was a good thing that Steve spoke first or I'm sure it would have come off as more terrifyingly stalkerish than anything else.

It could have ended there and I would have just remembered the call with mild embarrassment, except that a short time later Anthony Minghella came through town to do post on Mr. Wonderful, the film he directed after Truly, Madly, Deeply and before The English Patient. He remembered my call and I was invited to have dinner with him at Steve's house one night after he'd finished work.

I was not surprised to find that he was a regular guy who very sweetly discussed stories and writers and favorite books with me. I remember coming away from the evening with the deepest appreciation that this person who'd written and directed a story that had touched me so profoundly was so awesomely human and real.

I am just so sad that he is gone - that his family and friends are grieving the loss of him - that we will not have anymore stories from him.

He will be missed truly, madly, deeply.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

In the Middle

I am currently in the middle of the process of saying goodbye to Nana. It actually started in 2006 when they took her drivers license away. She was 98. Because she'd started into mild congestive heart failure with afibrillation she had to take medication that could potentially cause her to pass out.

She was an excellent driver.

Shortly before Christmas she got the renewal in the mail and my stepfather had to break it to her that she wasn't ever going to drive again. Over the last two years there had been a series of these kinds of epiphanies that she'd had to accept. In some ways the death of her independence is sadder than her actual death which, all things considered, was just about perfect.

I love the idea of laying down to rest and just not waking up. This could be due to the fact that I have, and have had most of my life, terrible insomnia.

Yesterday was Nana's entombment. She and my grandfather who died 19 years ago, now lay side by side in a wall at what used to be the Sunnyside Mausoleum and Mortuary. It's now Forest Lawn which is like the Walmart of funeral homes, but I digress. When my grandfather dropped dead of a heart attack at 80 we were all in shock and we did what Nana wanted so there was a service in the chapel and we didn't actually watch his installation.

Because Nana was never religious we decided to forgo the service in the chapel by some man who didn't know her for a celebration which will be held at her house tomorrow at 2pm. I will be bringing a bottle of Scotch for a toast in her honor. Yesterday the family gathered to witness her entombment.

And now I have one more thing on the list of things I never need to to again.

When we arrived we wandered around this rather amazing place looking for someone who could tell us where she was exactly. The building was constructed in 1928 and it's rather gothic looking, filled with marble and stone walls and curlicued iron gates in the arched doorways of the private crypts. Some people were in niches, their resting places decked out with amazing tile work like a medieval knight or an egyptian king.

In the center of the building is a Foucault's pendulum which slides back and forth keeping time for people who no longer really care. The building was so cold I could feel it through the soles of my shoes, because why waste money heating what is basically a giant cold storage? No one in there notices how cold it is except for visitors and I can't imagine hanging out too long in this place except maybe in the summer time when it's scalding outside.

As we wandered around I noticed that the majority of the residents had been born prior to the civil war and it occurred to me that back in the day this form of eternal rest was probably not only socially acceptable, but also something that people of status did because it's really quite fancy. Now, to me, it just seems really creepy.

A nice man in what looked to be a caretakers uniform directed us to the funeral director, Roland who escorted us to the second floor, down a north hallway from the pendulum and there I saw a blue casket made of steel with silver accents - Nana would have fully approved because blue was her favorite color - which was against the wall just below what appeared to be a blue window curtain over her spot. The marble front which contained my grandfather's name and dates was resting on an easel type thing. It was a nice presentation. I was terrified that when they took the blue curtain down I would see my grandfather's casket.

I watched too much Dark Shadows growing up, where caskets are just rolled into crypts so that the vampires can get out. In reality they seal the casket into with a concrete cover using mortar, something that we were about to witness.

There were folding chairs set up in this hallway for us to sit in so we did. As we sat there staring at the blue box that contained Nana's remains I had no feeling that she was in there. It felt empty to me. They needed some extra guys for the lifting so we waited and we got a little weepy, and then as my family is inclined to do we started joking and then we started laughing.

This was appropriate because Nana was a laugher. She would laugh so hard no sound would come out and she would cry. Then she'd send the rest of us off and we wouldn't be able to stop. So I consider what happened next sort of an homage to her ability to appreciate and laugh at life.

In order to get the casket up to the level of the crypt they brought out a cart with a hydraulic lift. It was painted gold like the kind of gold you see in church generally gilding the wings of angels. It looked nice and kind of matched the occasion except for the big plastic bucket and yellow jug and rubber gloves, like those you'd see on a cleaning cart. These were removed and the casket was placed on the lift which rose to the level of the space so it could be slid in like a fancy filing drawer.

I'm not sure, but I don't think many people choose to watch the entombment because the guys seemed a little nervous, chattering sotto voce to each other in Spanish. As we watched her go into the wall my aunt and I started to cry. I was crying because it's kind of traumatic for me to think about my little Nana in a wall. I think Sue was crying because her mother is dead. But then she said, through her tears, if Daddy could talk he'd be saying, "It took you long enough."

We all started laughing because that is totally something he would say. As the guy put on the rubber gloves and started mixing the mortar with a trowel we sat and watched and tried to stay composed but then Bob said, "I feel like I'm at a Do-it-yourself seminar at Home Depot" and we got the giggles so bad we couldn't stop.

None of this made the job any easier for the guys that were trying to respectfully get the entombing done. We started telling Nana stories which included the fart stories (we're a gassy family) and now we were howling. Thank God no one else was in the building mourning their loved one because although we are very sad and missing Nana, the hilarity is part of how we grieve.

And laughing and crying are pretty much the same emotion.

Tomorrow we will gather with friends to celebrate her life and I will drink Scotch and lovingly remember what she always said about halfway through the cocktail hour..."I feel the way a woman should always feel."