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.