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.