Monday, November 02, 2009


I just got back from a long weekend up north to visit my friends Peggy and Ron and their daughter Emily. I donated my kidney to Ron in June and I am so happy to say that we are both feeling great now. We didn't do a whole lot, mostly hung out, watched the World Series, decorated the house for Halloween and listened to Em giggle with her new boyfriend.

It's odd how intimate my conversations with Ron are now. We talk about everything and there is no thought of holding back even when we talk about stuff we don't necessarily agree on. One night after dinner Peg was teasing me about how when she and Ron were dating I predicted that she wouldn't end up with him because he wasn't the guy for her. Ron was sitting right there when she said it and he looked a little taken aback, but I responded that it was because he never hung out with us - he was busy being a man in his manworld (we were 23 and he was 28 and seemed very grown up). It wasn't until years later that I found out that the grown up man was a great big Deadhead.

I had no idea that Ron and I would one day share a bond that is so unique and wonderful.

We were talking about the decision to donate and I shared that it was something that I always thought I would do. Peggy first told me that Ron would probably need a kidney transplant at some remote point in the future probably 10 years ago. At the time his kidney function was impaired although it took a while to determine the cause.

No one in my family has ever had kidney problems, but when I was a kid one of my friends went into kidney failure. It started happening when we were still in single digits and by the time he was 12 he needed a transplant. I have a very clear memory of the neighborhood moms talking about it in the kitchen. The one thing that deeply impacted me as I sat there listening was that his mom was going through testing to see if she could give him one of her kidneys.

That was astonishing to me. It was 1972 and living donation was a concept not even 20 years old, not that I knew that then. At 12, the idea that someone could give one of their organs to another person and save their life was miraculous and terrifying. Oh the drama! I interpreted this "kidney disease" to mean that he could no longer pee and he was going to die a terrible death, drowning in his own urine which couldn't get out of his body. I could completely understand why his mom would undergo, what in my mind was a gruesome and horrific Frankenstein type procedure to save her kid's life. Who wouldn't?

At that time they were starting to dramatize transplant surgery (mostly hearts) on the Movie of the Week. I LOVED the Movie of the Week and Afterschool Specials which is probably why the little movie in my mind, fed by tidbits gleaned from eavesdropping on my mom and her friends - "Brett Needs a Kidney," featured his brave mother being sawed in half to save her son as he hovered at death's door swollen with pee. The fact that he hadn't been at school for like a month because he was so sick, and the one time I did see him when I went over to his house he was yellow, bore out my whole drowning in pee theory.

Turns out Brett received a cadavaric kidney because his mom wasn't a match. He came back to school with a puffy face from the anti-rejection drugs and life went on. Except that I now knew someone who was a walking miracle.

Later on, in college I took an anatomy and physiology class from a really great teacher and I learned about the magical kidney. The kidney is truly one of the foundations of our well-being. They do a lot more than just clean the blood. They regulate the composition of our blood, they keep the concentrations of various ions and other important substances constant as well as the volume of water in the body and the acid/base concentration of the blood. They remove wastes from the body (urea, ammonia, drugs, toxic substances), help regulate the blood pressure, stimulate the making of red blood cells and maintain the body's calcium levels.

I had always thought the kidneys were about urine, but they're mostly about blood. They are just as important as the heart when it comes to our overall health - although I think the heart gets bigger, better billing. The kidneys always seemed to be featured players, barely even a co-star unless, of course, they are failing.

Brett ultimately received three transplanted kidneys before he died at age 44.

When Peg told me that Ron had been placed on the transplant list 5 or 6 years ago I told her then that I would donate. There was never any doubt or second thought after I said it - I knew that I was going to be the one to give my kidney to Ron and that the transplant would be successful.

Peggy called me a week and a half ago and said, "I just wanted to tell you that my husband and I went out today and he got new suits and new eyeglasses, something I haven't been able to get him to do in six years. I think he's starting to realize that he's going to be okay. I wanted to say thank you again."

Although Ron never defined himself as a sick person, and you would never have known that he was on dialysis or needed a transplant, his illness affected him. This weekend I saw for myself that not only is he doing well - he is well.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I work in the construction business and I really liked it - when there was business. Lately, like many other industries there's not much going on. About the only projects out there are public works and federal projects. This is great until you pick up the planholders list and see that over 30 General Contractors are bidding each project.

All of our private projects are on hold. This continues to be true for most projects that are privately owned. The cost to build is prohibitively expensive so what makes the most sense financially if you own a piece of dirt is to let it sit there... or sell it because you can't afford to develop it.

In the midst of this rather stressful time in our economy the banks - the same banks that received hundreds of millions in TARP funds have started "restructuring" existing loans no matter how you've managed your money. In our case we had a $250,000 line of credit which we use for cash flow. When our loan came up for renewal the bank looked at our balance sheet and our receivables which were respectable and decided that they were going to reduce our LOC by $150,000.

Now we never actually used more than $100,000 of the LOC but I liked knowing that I could if an opportunity arose or if we got a big contract. Big contracts involve carrying material bills and payroll, often for 30 to 60 days before you get paid.

My response to the banks decision to do this was to cast around and see if we could find another LOC with another institution. I was thinking a bank that got a lot of the TARP money would be a good shot because, stupid me! I thought that "bail out" money would include businesses, but apparently not.

The banks I talked to all refused to lend us even $1 despite the fact that our balance sheet looks better than any of theirs, we actually have healthy receivables (although I'm not certain that people can pay us since no one besides the banks seem to have any money) and we carry virtually no debt. All this and we can provide security in the form of real estate that is owned free and clear with no note.

In this extremely tedious process I was passed from person to person, all of whom were very professional, but none of whom seemed to be very intelligent or inspired. One gentleman, Josh who said he was the underwriter had a voice that sounded not all the way changed - I imagined acne, braces and ears that appear still a bit too large for his head as we spoke, asked me what I attributed our drop in revenue to over the last year.

Me: Seriously?

Him: Well yes, there's been a significant drop.

Me: Gee Josh, let me think... near as I can figure I guess it would be the fact that over the last 5 years or so banks, such as your own employer practiced predatory and irresponsible lending to people who couldn't afford the mortgages you put them in, well not you Josh because 5 years ago you were in middle school, but as I was saying, since the banks made all of these incredibly bad decisions, including those derivative things, they started to fail and go out of business, and as they were sliding into that black hole they'd dug for themselves they began pulling in large corporations who had also made some questionable, greed based financial decisions, something that corporations can do in this country because in the current system no one has to actually be culpable, and the CEO's still got paid their million dollar plus salaries and bonuses, but they do employ thousands of people so the government had to get involved and they took hundreds of millions of the tax dollars that we all pay and gave it to the banks to "revitalise the economy", except that the banks are holding onto the money to try to fix their very sick balance sheets, thus there is no money out in the world to pay for the projects that would allow us to continue the growth that we had worked so hard to create a real foundation for.

So basically Josh it seems to me that the drop in our revenue is your employer's fault.

Then I asked him how much TARP money his bank had accepted and what exactly they did with it.

Because I would really like to know.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


"Being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There's nothing to do but stand there and take it." Lyndon Johnson

So President Obama thinks that Kanye West is a jackass? Big deal. I think so too. Why the uproar? All he said is exactly what so many of us are thinking. When you become president are you no longer allowed to have honest, spontaneous opinions and express them? Ever?

He said it off the record, but it shouldn't be such a big deal that he said it. This country is messed up in more ways than the economy. The most interesting thing about the incident is that it happened via Twitter. Twitter is like the slambook of the new millenium. It gets people in trouble and everybody is doing it.

I wonder if there's some freak twittering about his weird stalking obsessions and when he finally goes and acts out we can go back and read his twitter feed.

But back to the president who said what we were all thinking. I like Obama when he openly speaks his mind. It reminds me of why I voted for him. Even when I disagree with him he's still an intelligent human being and he's real. He doesn't strike me as a guy with entitlement issues, or someone who talks out of both sides of his mouth - when he's just saying what he really thinks.

Being president has got to be no fun at all, as Lyndon Johnson so aptly describes it - standing in a hail storm and taking it will leave you cold and bruised. Good thing Obama seems to have a pretty thick skin - but I wonder where his "when" is, that moment where he'll just get fed up and tell us all off. How long can one deal with the level of sanctimonious bullshit that's flying around before one snaps?

The behavior in this country has devolved to a point where Kanye West feels like it's okay to climb up on stage, in the middle of someone else's moment and spew his opinion. We live in a world where people twitter their every thought and our news anchors are no longer reporting hard, fact based news - much of it just opinion. The opinion of Rupert Murdoch, or Sumner Redstone, or whomever else owns the company.

At this point I think even Kanye West would acknowledge that what he did to Taylor Swift makes him a jackass.

But maybe he's also the poster child for America's collective conscious.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Last night when I heard that Patrick Swayze had died I was overcome with so much sadness. Although his pancreatic cancer diagnosis is one of the scariest, and seems to be death sentence, I kind of thought that he could and would beat it. Today my thoughts are with his wife Lisa, his best friend and companion for over 30 years.

One thing about being a celebrity is that your entire life is on display for consumption by the public. So once Patrick's star took off we all new everything about his life - that he grew up dancing in his mom's dance studio, that he loved his family, that his wife Lisa was his best friend and his favorite person.

Many celebrities give us this picture. It's like their personal lives are movies that they are starring in and everyone is going for the hollywood ending. It rarely happens though. I think for Patrick and his wife it was the real deal though.

The one time I met them no one was acting.

In 1992 I started working out at Winsor Fitness, Mari Winsor's first pilates studio. There were six reformers, a tread mill and an apparatus called the Cadillac in a not so large room on the second floor of a Calfornia Ranch style building surrounded by eucalyptus trees that we could see through the large windows on both sides of the room.

It was pretty free flowing in that you could call and reserve a reformer show up and an instructor would move between the six clients that were working out. Mari allowed me to bring in my own music and we all chatted and joked while we worked out on the torturers, I mean reformers. There were lots of celebrities that came in, but I rarely recognized them because it wasn't a see and be seen scene. No one except for Donna Dixon was wearing make up or had their hair done. It was a tough work out that made you sweat and grunt (and sometimes I'd cry), but it really works.

One of the things that I loved best about it is that I could go at 8pm and there wouldn't really be anyone there so I could get personalized attention. It was on an evening like this that I got to sweat and grunt with Patrick Swayze and his wife Lisa. We all arrived about the same time - they were there for a private session with Mari - so for the next hour and a half I was treated to his sense of humor and his awesome body going through all the moves. Lisa's not too bad herself and since they are both dancers they made the pilates routine look elegant and effortless albeit with a little grunting and panting because Mari really works you out.

He was wearing a spandex dance suit which sounds very gay, but on him it was distracting and it was hard not to ogle him in front of his wife. I just wanted to sit and watch. He was much shorter than I thought he would be, but then that just seems to be the story when you meet famous men - most of them seem to be 5'10" or even shorter.

In any case it was just us working out that night and although I tried to be cool and not to talk to them - they were having a private session after all and those aren't cheap, he was so funny and personable it was hard not to laugh. He flirted non-stop with his wife and although at that point they'd been married for a while it was like they were still dating. Even more than that you could tell that they were great friends. They had the kind of connection that is palpable to anyone who saw them. That's a rare thing - two people who are like twinned souls that find each other.

Sharing pain with people can create moments of connection and bonding and the routine we did on the Pilates reformer just kind of creates an instant intimacy as you gaze at the person across from you through legs split wide, and while they could have been weird and stand offish they were not. They were fun people to be around and you could tell that they were deeply and completely in love.

The thing about loving like that - something I think we all want - is that when one of you dies, and it is inevitable that this will happen, it feels like part of you dies too and yet you have to go on. If your someone is young then this mean you have many years to miss and remember them and the intensity of your love equates the intensity of your pain and loss.

Today my thoughts and prayers are with Lisa and Patrick's family who have to go on without him and I hope that that deep and complete love will sustain her in the years to come.

Friday, September 11, 2009

TGIF (thank God it's football)

Every year I go into a sort of depression when football season ends, which is okay because every year I also get extremely excited and happy when football season starts!!!!

Last night was the first game of the regular 2009/10 season and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans did not disappoint. It was a big defense game = low score, but they stayed tied through much of the game, 0-0, 7-7 and 10-10 and then Hines Ward couldn't suppress his inner super hero and got stripped of the ball at the 10 yard line as he tried to run for a touchdown with 1:54 in the 4th quarter and then we get OT! Very good for the first game.

I still don't love sudden death in OT, I would like to see them play the whole 15 minutes, but unlike baseball games which seem to go on and on forever, I can never get enough football.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I didn't watch the speech last night. I've kind of checked out on the whole health care issue. It feels like a lot of talking, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. There's been a lot of uproar about a "public option" and how bad that would be. There's a lot of fear about a single payer system because that will cost the tax payers too much money. My friends with money really don't like that idea and I don't blame them - if I had a lot of money I probably wouldn't want to spend it on a government run program that most likely would kill people just as surely as the current system does.

What we need is change, but I don't think we're headed for a good one.

I've not heard any discussion about how the current system is broken. How can you fix something if you don't explore how it's broken?

We definitely need to get better health care options for people in this country, but I haven't really heard any clear ideas about what that would be. Just to say that everyone needs to have it doesn't reassure me. No one has ever raised a conversation about regulating the current system. Private insurers are gouging employers and individuals and their policies have raised the cost of medical care to a point that it's no longer really affordable even if you do have insurance.

I have individual insurance which I got for an initial premium of $120 a month. Within four months that was jacked up to $204 a month - no explanation, no reason. Just because they can. so now I pay $2400 a year and when I go to the doctor I pay out of pocket up to $3500 before I gain any benefit from having insurance. If I don't use my insurance and I negotiate a cash rate with a doctor it ends up costing me less than the negotiated rate the insurance company has with the doctor, but then nothing goes toward my deductible.

There are lots of nightmare stories in the news about people in the same boat who become ill, catastrophically ill, and then the insurance company rescinds their coverage. This is a common policy and it has nothing to do with real issues of fraud. A woman diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer was dropped because she didn't report seeing her dermatologist for acne.

Insurance companies are in business to make money. That's it. They don't care about consumers and because there's really no competitive market they don't need to provide excellent service. They have incredibly strong lobbies so they are part of policymaking when it comes to regulation and laws with regard to insurance. They are huge corporations and no one individual is responsibile or culpable for the immorality that they perpetrate on their customers every single day. There is no regulation and today when I read that the response from insurance companies to the president's speech was "he didn't address high medical expenses" I had to laugh, derisively of course, but I still laughed.

Medical expenses are high because doctors and hospitals are playing the game by the rules the insurance companies set up. A doctor will bill at about 200% of his cost because he knows the insurance companies will only pay maybe 50% of the bill. If he was billing his cost he would lose money and go out of business. I worked for several doctors and that's what I saw - it seems crazy to me, but that's how they do it.

Have you ever been hospitalized? Have you ever looked at your bills? Every single item is listed and the pricing is crazy. I remember being amazed that the PAPER pillow cover was billed at $5. What? But that's how the hospital makes it's profit.

We live in a country where sick people = bottom line profit and everyone thinks that's a good thing and the way it should be. I feel that it creates some real moral issues, but that's just me.

Joe Wilson's outburst over Obama's statement that no illegal aliens would receive benefit from the new health care plan - whatever that is - made me sick (not sick enough to even get close to meeting my deductible). Not only because he acted like a punk ass bitch in front of everyone, but because of the hatefulness that motivated the outburst in the first place. Why is it okay for Americans to receive health care in Canada because they can't afford to get it here? Why is it okay for at least 2 people I know to go live in Europe because they can afford to get transplants there and they can't afford it here?

We are illegal aliens heading into other countries for their health care benefits - we don't even want to clean their houses and mow their yards, or bus their tables - we just want to use their single payer system and come back over the border without having to pay the taxes to the get the benefit.

We do need to do something because some of the uninsured are committing suicide when they get sick or as a result of depression - but then that's kind of what our private insurance companies are doing by rescinding insurance when their customers become ill - we can call that "assisted suicide".

I can't really participate in the debate because no one is talking about what's broken and it all sounds to me like they're looking for another way to stimulate the economy, not to make sure that there's a good option for all people. I don't know about a public option - isn't Medicare a public option? And speaking of that option, it pretty much sucks because you have to be really poor, too poor to have any real quality of life in order to access it. What I think we really need is an assessment of the private option and why it's failing so grandly and then we need to fix it. One more crappy product in the arena of medical care isn't really going to change things. And why we're at it how about making people who rescind medical policies that people have been paying good money for a criminal matter? Say the person who makes that decision to drop a customer because she didn't report that she saw a doctor for a pimple and then got breast cancer, and the person who approves that decision could be tried in a criminal court for negligent homicide?

I guess I should be glad I've got good genes and do everything I can to stay healthy because it terrifies me to think about what will happen if I ever get really sick....and I've got insurance...for now.... as long as I stay healthy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


These last couple of weeks my energy level has gotten better and I'm starting to feel more like myself. Still I get worn out quickly and I've found that the best thing to do is stick close to home. So I've been watching a lot of TV (food network and baaaad reality Housewives TV) and I've also been watching movies - on cable and from the video store. Lots of movies. Many I'm watching again for the umpteenth time.

A few days ago I watched the movie Bobby again. I didn't really think much of it the first time, but this is like the 4th time I've seen it and for some reason this time it affected me differently. This could be because it's the first time I've watched it since the election in November so I'm looking at it through that filter. Could be that I watched it shortly after watching Frost/Nixon so that adds to the experience. Could be that I'm having an emotional reaction post surgery - everyone keeps saying that I should be expecting a big emotional reaction, but so far nada.

In any case after watching Bobby this time I have been thinking a lot about how lucky I was to grow up in that era. How blessed I am to be able to remember the hope that was represented in these two men: Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. They wer progressive at time when they could really create change. Martin Luther King was radical in the most intelligent way possible - and because he was grounded in the absolute truth of his convictions he was incredibly powerful. Bobby Kennedy was pragmatic in a way that was necessary for someone who was looking at leading this nation at that time. The Vietnam war was escalating. There were race riots in New York, DC and Chicago, and a real sense of divisiveness throughout the entire country.

Basically it was a lot like it is today.

Had Martin Luther King not been killed he could have galvanized people to create a peaceful and prosperous future for themselves and their children. Had Bobby Kennedy not been killed he probably would've won the presidency and I cannot stop thinking about where this country would be today if that had happened.

I can't stop thinking about where we would be today had those men lived to lead us.

Would we be in a better place? I'd like to think so, but I really have no idea. I can't stop thinking about how Barak Obama finds himself in much the same position that Bobby Kennedy would have been in had he lived and won in 1968 (although the mess seems much MUCH bigger today). Truly I don't see anyone in our current landscape who can fill MLK's shoes. Peace through non-violence seems to be an idealized utopitan fantasy whose time came and went - whose messenger was shot and killed by hate and racism (or, for the paranoid, by a US government that wasn't havin' it).

Still my faith in this country, in the people who live here and in this man who inspires so many to have hope, much like Bobby did, like Martin did, remains strong. I've been alive long enough to know that even though you're sitting in a long line that wraps around the block on the day when your even number license plate gets to buy gas, it will get better. Even when you have no job and you don't know where you're going to sleep next week - you will be okay. We've been thruough a lot of rough times in this country and we have always risen above, survived and thrived and we will continue to do so.

As long as we keep the faith and do not succumb to cynicism - which is tough to do when you watch too much realityTV, or the nightly news.

But that's what the "off" button is for.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

UPS & DOWNS (as in down for nap)

Today it has been 4 weeks since Dr. Friese removed my left kidney in a tidy nephrectomy and Dr. Asher installed it in Ron, the recipient. I can now laugh, cough and sneeze without simultaneously screaming with pain, although I do have to wrap my arms around my abdomen cause things still feel really weird around my incisions.

I will share more about the whole experience when the outcome is more of a known. I am fine, but as I write this Ron is back in the hospital and heading into more surgery.

You know how anytime you have something done they always tell you about that very small percentage that shit happens to? Well Ron is in that percentage.

For me this has been an early preview of what I imagine my octagenarian years will be like. The following is a list of the newest fun behaviors in my repertoire...

When I get up in the morning it takes me a while to stand up straight, because they sliced into my abdomen and sewed me back up and that stuff is still reeling from the abuse. When I'm 80 I imagine it will be because my spine is slipping over into a question mark due to osteoporosis, but as I shuffle to the bathroom 80 feels like now.

The next thing I do is head out to the garden to water my plants because tomatoes out of the garden taste and smell a million times better than anything you buy in a market. I sit down to do this because of the heart palpitations.

After watering I lie down and take a little nap.

Next I call my neighbor and tell her I'm going to take a shower where for some reason I always get dizzy, possibly from raising my arms over my head with my eyes closed. If I don't call her when I get out she's supposed to come and make sure I'm not passed out on my bathroom floor.

After the shower I take another nap and often forget to call my neighbor to let her know I've successfully made it out of the shower. It's not a long nap because she always comes to find me.

I head out to the living room for a little TV or some reading. Sitting or laying down for any period of time causes more napping.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are light meals because since the surgery my stomach is sensitive and everything I eat, or perhaps just the act of digestion, causes my stomach to be upset so that inevitably I have to carry some Tums with me.

Speaking of dinner this is a meal that I am now eating at about 5pm - also known as the early bird special hour. I do this because if I eat later than that I am nauseated when I go to bed. When I think about how I used to give my 95 year old Nana shit about eating so early I feel like a real asshole.

I've quit drinking because it also upsets my stomach.

I won't even go into the subject of gas passing and I promise I will not tease my mom the next time she toots her way down the sidewalk when we're out in public.

Now when I drive - to the market and to the bank (Nana's last two destinations in her final years), my hands are firmly at 10 and 2 and I drive the speed limit and keep a nice safe distance between myself and others. If there is traffic I get light headed and a sweaty upper lip and on one occasion had to pull over. The volume on the talk radio is turned up high so I can hear it better (but that's been going on for a while).

When I'm out walking my daily mile I often have to slow down, bend over and hold onto something while I catch my breath.

Sometimes I say "whooo doggy."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Stephen Bruton lost his battle with cancer on Saturday. He was our neighbor down on Bicknell and he will be missed. Prayers and blessing go with him and out to his family and friends.

Monday, May 11, 2009


(Couldn't find the Help>Slipknot>Franklin's Tower that opened the show last night, but I love Branford playin' with the band, and the energy is the same - rockin'!)

Last night I went to see the Dead at Shoreline. I was somewhat trepidatious because I still miss Jerry a lot and I wasn't sure that this wouldn't make me miss him more, but when I heard that Warren Haynes and Jeff Chimenti are touring with the band I figured it would be worth it to check it out.

It was sooooo worth it.

My friend Ron - the man who is getting my kidney - is a Deadhead. He started going to shows back in 1973, AND he lives in NoCal, so I called him up and asked him if he wanted to go with me. He was totally up for it. We were going to bring Peg (his wife and one of my besty's) and Em (the 13 year old daughter) since it was Mother's Day, but when we found out it was a night time show on a school night we decided it was better for them to stay home for some mother-daughter bonding time.

Adi wanted to come and have the experience so he flew in from Vegas to meet me. He never got to see the Dead when they were Grateful, and since he grew up in Israel and the Dead never got a lot of top 40 radio play, he is unfamiliar with most of their music, but he loves good music and I figured he'd appreciate the excellent musicianship. Plus, if the parking lot was still happening that's always a good time. He was even up for the pot cookies my neighbor made us. I had to call the transplant center and ask if I could eat pot without screwing everything up. The coordinator laughed when I asked her and said that she knew exaclty the doctor she could ask. I wondered if he was going to be at the show too and if I could have him do my surgery. The word was go so I went.

We flew in on Saturday and started listening to the Grateful Dead channel on Sirius non-stop. It was on first thing yesterday morning, so Adi got to hear some Jerry shows and Ron and I got more and more excited because we were going to a show!!! I haven't felt that feeling in a long time, and in that time I have aged and so had everyone else who showed up. Except of course those stoned young souls in the parking lot who never got to see Jerry play a show because they were 3 when he died.

Or maybe they were those babies in the parking lot whose parents took them on tour throughout their formative years and they just never got out of the parking lot.

In any case, we spent a couple hours roaming around the B lot which was a tiny microcosm of what I remember as a sprawling bazaar of commerce and cuisine d'ganga. It was all still there: the music, the dancing, the dread locks, the tie dye, the women with hairy armpits, the chubby babies (although now most of them had ear plugs), and the ganga peanut butter cups all encompassed in a cloud of smoke - just a smaller group because in the 16 years since Jerry died some of them, probably a lot of them, got real jobs.

My favorite T-shirt listed all the stops on the AARP tour 2009.

Adi asked me what had changed the most between then and now and I told him honestly that there were a lot more old people. The Deadheads have always been a transgenerational crowd that rocks and bobs together, but now there were a lot more gray heads and glasses in the group. The elders are definitely in the majority.

We got to our seats in the 200 section and at 7pm the place was empty. Weird. At 7:20 it was barely half full and Bobby came out and announced that for safety reasons they weren't going to start playing because there were still about 10,000 people lined up to get in. It was like everyone was out of practice, or else so glad to see each other that they forgot what they came for. Timing your drugs for a show is still important and so it could also have been that they got too high and lost track of time. On the pot cookie front we ate them waaaaay too early and the show started late so midway through all I had going on was heartburn.

Adi had been snapping pictures with a big smile on his face from the moment we arrived. As the people filled in around us I was reminded of how very diverse we are as a group, and how much fun it is to "do a show" with the people you sit with. Adi sat on my left and next to him were a threesome who were probably at the acid tests. They were decked out in original tour shirts from the early 70s and all had gray hair. One gentleman had lost a leg, but had a birkenstock strapped on his prosthetic foot, his friend had lost his voicebox and had to speak through one of those handheld devices and smoke his joints through the hole in his neck. They were like two old beaten up old warriors who still loved life. Between them was a lovely lady with long silver hair who danced like she was surfing a wave and although her face was lined you could still see the girl she was back in 1968 in her beatific smile.

Ron was closer to the aisle and so he got the roaming dancers who lit next to him for a song or a jam and then moved back out to the stairs to leap up and down and spin around and around. I still can't get past the fact that these people are for the most part barefoot, I mean it's great that they're having fun, but how high do you have to be to dance around in your bare feet in the area where the drunk guy in the red hat took a big, long leak because he didn't want to miss anything? The mean age of our section was about 45, mostly due to the fact that down in front of us was an adorable man who appeared to be about 89 years old who'd come with his son who was about 65, and pretty much everyone was puff, puff, passing. I prayed that no one would go down with a heart attack.

At 7:45 the place was full and the band came out and ripped into Help on the Way>Slipknot>Franklin's Tower. The place went crazy and the energy was amazing. The sound was good, the band was tight and everyone was singing at the top of their lungs - you can hear the crowd singing in the clip above and I imagine it was like that where ever they went.

I could critique the show, song by song, but ultimately, for me, it was different but the same. I miss Jerry and I always will, but at the end of the day a jam done well for people who appreciate it, is a good time. Warren doesn't try to replace Jerry and he honors his music and his spirit while doing his own thing - something he does really well. Jeff is an amazing player and when he took over and took off it was a great ride. What I liked best is that these two guys could join these four guys and because they all love the music... and we all love the was magical.

As old as the band is and as old as the crowd has gotten we still rocked all night - until midnight in fact. Adi was nodding off after 10 hours of non-stop music from the house, the car, the parking lot to the show but for a first timer he held his own. I could barely walk this morning when I staggered out of bed to catch an early flight.

Ron and I are hoping that they will tour again next year so we can go after the transplant and celebrate - in which case I will have to start training. I forgot what dancing for four hours can do your neck and your hips and your knees.


I'm sure that there are deadheads out there who just can't do it without Jerry. But I know for myself and the people who showed up - we were really ready to do this again because no matter what's happening in the world and with the economy - there is nothing like a Dead show.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Things being what they are with the state of the economy people are turning to all sorts of alternative forms of employment to get the mortgage paid and buy food.

I am buying gold.

It's something I really enjoy although I was initially resistant. I'm not one to sell stuff, or to push anything on anyone. This is not that though. This is buying up what most people consider their junk. People sell me their single earrings, their broken chains, the rings they never wear and the stuff they once sported back when it was cool to dress up like Mr. T with shoulder pads and a huge perm.

There's a process to the buying that involves testing each piece to determine the karat - sadly, most gold that's stamped 14K is not. It's more like 12K or even 10K and if you bought it in Mexico odds are it's 6K. Most of the buying is done at parties and because of the deal we have with the refiner our return is higher so our pay out is also higher.

For this reason people have parties, invite their friends to bring their gold and I sit and test for 3-5 hours and leave with a big bag of gold, having written anywhere from $1,000 to $8,000 in checks and a check for 10% of the total to the host.

Every once in a while there's a party where there's no gold. Tonight was one of those nights. The hostess had made a ton of food, and there was a "Slumber Party" presentation. Last night there was a "Hush Party" along with the gold party and it's safe to say that I have pretty much seen enough dildos to tide me over for a long while. Why anyone would think that a giant red rubber battery operated dildo that goes up and down and swings round and round with three separate rows of controls and flashing red disco lights is erotic is beyond me - I found it terrifying.

Anyway, tonight I skipped the dildo presentation and hung out in back snacking on fruit and checking my watch. Then I overheard a bit of conversation from the kitchen...

"So the stripper's here, but they're just getting to the dildos, can he wait at your house? He's like half naked."
"Yeah, my husband is going around the corner to watch the fight, let me get him out of the house first."

STRIPPER? Seriously?

Oh yeah. We had Flash from Brooklyn in the house. The boy looked good in his g-string and had all kinds of moves. He was picking them up and grinding away - dude was STRONG. These were not little women - not even close. He had these women on their backs on the floor covered in saran wrap and whipped cream. He was down there with his face between their legs and everyone was screaming and hooting and hollering.

He was inspirational.

I was there to work however, so as soon as he got dressed I tried to buy the giant diamond encrusted gold Jesus head that was hanging around his neck.

"Are you interested in selling that?" I asked coyly.

"I'm going to upgrade it next month."

"Well, give me a call and I'll give you a price," as I slide him a card and think that the evening is not a total loss even if I didn't buy much gold. It comes up in conversation that he went to college for five years and I asked where.

Boy went to Rutgers!!!! And played basketball and football!!!! And do you know what he does now when he's not stripping in overheated, estrogen charged living rooms?

He represents "females" (his word, not mine) who are interested in acting in adult films. He's pimping for porn! His mama must be so proud.

And maybe he'd like to have a gold party with some of his clients?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I started buying gold about a year ago. The price has held above $700 for over a year and is currently up around $900 so it makes sense to go through your jewelry box and get rid of those busted up chains and ram's head earrings that lost their mate.

You can make some nice money doing that.

I go to people's houses and they have parties and people come and bring me their jewelry and tell me their stories and I scratch it, test it and separate it into karats and then weigh it and pay by the gram.

There are 31.1 grams in an oz. of gold.

It has occurred to me on more than one occassion that 25 years ago I was using this exact same scale to weigh out cocaine by the gram. People would come and do a bump and tell me their stories.

All in all there's a lot of sameness in commerce - only now I'm buying instead of selling.

I like this better.

Monday, April 20, 2009


I just got a phone call to let me know that I am cleared to donate my kidney to my friend Ron. This has been in process for a while, but it's always seemed remote, something that might not happen. So now we are scheduling surgery and it's very real.

People who know say: You are such a good person. You're a hero. You're so brave.

Ron is not the only person I know who needs a kidney transplant. I personally know or have known in my life three people who have had to live on dialysis and face an uncertain future.

I think that they are brave.

How hard must it be to get up everyday and know that you will die unless you are hooked up to a machine? What we now know is that living kidney donors can live long, healthy lives, sometimes longer and healthier than the general public because they, or now I can say we, are healthier than the general public to begin with.

There were several factors that started me on the road to this decision a couple of years ago: 1) I don't have my own children. For me this matters because if I did have kids I would want to save my spare parts for them. 2) We don't have kidney disease in my family, or hypertension or diabetes which are often the precursors to kidney disease and 3) Ron loves the Grateful Dead and so do I and the reality is that there aren't that many people in my life that get what that was all about. So even though he and I are very different we are in the same tribe.

There are other more obvious reasons why I decided to do this - he's married to one of my oldest and best friends, their daughter is 13 and she's a very special kid in my life, we're both O positive.

But, at the end of the day I'm doing this because I can and I want to and I am moved to do so. Doesn't make me a good person, or someone who couldn't imagine doing it, a bad person.

It's about life and what feels right for me.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Gotta Dance!

I grew up in the age of the movie musical. I went to see them all from a very young age: Mary Poppins, Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, All that Jazz, even a revival of my all time favorite, Singin' in the Rain - which rocks in a movie theater.

So I was quite disappointed to find that life wasn't really like that. Not only do people never break out in song and dance during pivotal moments of their day or when feeling a surge of emotion, they get really freaked out if YOU do it anywhere near them.

In 1976 I went to see a movie called The Groove Tube and they spoofed the whole "gotta dance, gotta sing" thing. I laughed till I cried. I probably would have chased this man down the street pleading to have his babies and planning to start our own dance troupe. How can people ignore this bouncing ball of joy in a PINK suit?

Okay, so maybe he could be crazy, but it looks like the good kind of crazy. I've dated all kinds of crazy and let me tell you - it could be worse.


I'm happy to report that it appears that I am not alone in my desire for movie musical moments.

I am so loving this.

And this!

Apparently I am not the only one to enjoy an outbreak of joyful dance.

Sadly it seems my fellow dancers all live in other countries.

C'mon people! Things are bad and getting worse everyday.

Why not dance?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Insomnia was my companion last night which worked out pretty well for me in that I was able to turn on CNN and watch the mall in front of the capital building fill up with all of those intrepid souls who showed up in DC to witness history. I switched back and forth from CNN to ABC - I think I was hoping that Diane Sawyer's dulcet tones would lull me back to sleep, but no such luck. By the time the sun came up here on the west coast I was totally amped!

I knew it was going to happen, that history was going to turn a page, but it was sort of amorphously going to happen "out there", so I wasn't prepared for all of the feelings that came up when I saw President Obama and his lovely wife as they started their day.

It got very real!

This may have been due to new technologies and the ability of cameras to get very close shots that make it seem as if the images are close enough to touch, but I think it had more to do with the fact that even through the television the humanity and connectedness of these two people to this journey is tangible, and I feel included.

In the past, specifically the last two terms of the presidency, I have felt removed from the process, like it didn't include me, or most of us and, in fact, it wasn't supposed to. Words that were meaningless and disconnected from my reality were mouthed by people who didn't feel like they existed in my reality. They lived in a rarified world of power and otherness that I would never belong to - I didn't want to belong to something that felt like that.

Today was so very different - in short I was a bit nonplussed by Rick Warren's sheer size - his prayer was okay, I cringed at Robert's flub and marveled at the new President's composure and confidence. I loved his speech. I didn't like the poem, or maybe I might have if it had been delivered with some fire. Loved the old Rev and his closing lines exhibited not only humor, but the resiliency of the human heart to forgive and move on - AMEN! I was amazed at the First Lady's ability to appear not only beautiful and gracious but exuberant when she had to be freezing her butt off - do you think she was wearing thermal spanx? I mean most women out there were wearing down coats and UGG boots and they looked cold.

Today was awesome because over a million people came together and there was no police action, there was no fighting, there were no visible protests, there was none of the bullshit that usually happens around politics and their parties. My friend Elizabeth was there and she said that there was spontaneous hugging and singing and just general celebration. Strangers sharing their joy with strangers without any self consciousness, with the expectation of acceptance. To me it sounded like what I loved best about going to see the Grateful Dead - people coming together to celebrate something joyful and how doing that makes it so easy for our best selves, our kindest selves to come out and be part of a collective consciousness that is the highest good of the human experience.

She's never been to a show but now she knows how it feels. The porta-potty thing never comes close to being an issue.

Watching the parade this afternoon - early evening in DC - I was struck by how much fun the Obamas seemed to be having as they witnessed the people of this country parading past for hours. They waved and made eye contact and those smiles! They danced, they made welcome those that came to share the moment with them and it occurred to me that we had people in the White House that felt real and human and it's been sooooooo long since I've felt that way about anyone in politics in this country.

The only thing that dimmed my bulb was when I heard that as Bush was introduced as President for the last time the crowd spontaneously started singing, "na na na na, na na na na, hey, hey, hey, good bye," so that it could be heard on the dais. While I understand the frustration that fuels something like that it is disrespectful and lacks grace.

I cannot imagine that Barack Obama would do something like that, nor that he appreciated it.

This is why when the Bush's got in the helicopter and flew away, and I leapt up and did a happy dance, I did it alone where no one could see me.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


This is Bettye LaVette singing Reign On Me to honor the Who at the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors show from the other night. I could barely breathe it was so good. Joss Stone, Dave Grohl and Rob Thomas also performed and at the very end the curtain behind the band opened to reveal the New York City Firefighters and Police Officers singing Teenage Wasteland - a thank you to the Who for reuniting to play the concert for New York City after 9/11.

Happy New Year!

I am happy to leave 2008 behind and feeling hopeful for 2009 - but then this is how I usually feel at the beginning of anything. I remember the beginning of each school year I would get my new school supplies and vow to keep my Pee Chees clean and do all my homework on time. Then, inevitably the lack of focus in class would lead to Pee Chee doodling and my natual inclination toward procrastination would lead to a day late on homework and then two and so on.
The only reason I believe this year will be different is because I'm not making those kinds of promises to myself. The only real intention I'm setting this year is to be be in today and to be gentle with myself, and by extension, with others.

Last year started out sad with Nana's death and by the end of the year was much sadder and more stressful for so many reasons. This is not to say that there wasn't love and laughing and joy and good times - can you say President Elect Obama? but mostly I was tired.

Not a whole lot has changed except for that last digit and it will most likely take me a couple weeks before I start writing that correctly on checks and documents, but I still feel hopeful because a new year is kind of like a new Pee Chee - it's fresh and clean and there's no scribbling on it yet.

I'm looking forward to the Obama presidency (Lord please keep him safe), not because I think that all of our woes as a country will be fixed, but because I really believe that the only thing that trickles down in this country is intention and the man has the best intentions for all of us. I have so much respect for him and his willingness to step into this mess. I believe we can make it better because at the end of the day this is a great country populated with amazing people and we have the freedom and opportunity to create a better world.

I'm looking forward to what will get written this year. Maybe love? Some travel? Money? (it could happen) New adventures not yet imagined?

In any case let love reign on us all - I'm ready.