Saturday, July 21, 2012


Guns don't kill people - people kill people.  We hear it all the time.

This is true, but when someone takes a gun and kills one of your people, it's difficult not to go to that place of being very angry about the easy availability of guns in this country.

It's also easy to take the anger and frustration secondary to fear and grief and get into an argument with a gun nut who responds to public massacres with great defensiveness and bombastic rhetoric about how far fewer innocents would have been killed or wounded had average citizens on site been armed and able to shoot back.

Because don't you know we're all crack shots when we're scared and under fire by a psychotic in body armor who's planned an  attack in the last place you would ever expect something like that to happen.  This sounds like the story my 8 year old neighbor told me on 9/12/2001 about how if he'd been in New York, and he'd had a fighter jet, he would have stopped the planes that crashed into the towers.

People walking around with loaded guns would only equal more gun deaths.  The armed neighborhood watch of George Zimmerman is a tragic illustration of my point. 

Yesterday morning I woke up to news of the massacre in the theater in Aurora Colorado and the coverage that has continued ever since. 

As a nation we have been through this so many times: The McDonalds Shooting in 1984, The Luby's massacre in 1991, Columbine in 1999, The Amish School Shooting in 2006, Virginia Tech 2007. 

Every time it happens the experience is the same - the news coverage, national or local, is constant and we watch it obsessively wanting to make sense of the senseless.  It's something that happens in another town to other people and you feel sad and maybe you cry, but then you need to go to work or take care of your kids, and life goes on.

It's tragic, but it seems remote because it's happening to someone else.

It IS remote until someone you know goes to a restaurant, goes to school, goes to work, goes to the mall or goes to a movie and doesn't come home because they've been shot and killed by another someone who decided they were going to use their guns to vent their frustration, anger, mental illness, etc.

On October 12, just days after her birthday, five months after her wedding, my friend Laura went to work at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach.   

That afternoon she stood begging for her life, before being shot and killed by a guy armed with three hand guns, wearing body armor, who'd come to the salon to kill his wife, one of Laura's co-workers.  By the time she came face to face with him he'd already shot her mother Hattie and 6 other people who were either working at the salon, or had come in to get their hair done.  He shot these people at close range, pulling the trigger for two minutes, reloading once and using at least 2 of the 3 guns he brought with him. As he left the building he shot and killed a man who had pulled into the parking lot with plans to go to lunch at a nearby restaurant.

I had a busy day that day.  I'd been so busy that I hadn't looked at the internet and hadn't had time to answer my phone, so at 10pm when I was listening to my voicemail I had a hard time understanding what my friend Natalie, one of my oldest friends, and Laura's sister, was saying on the message she'd left me at 3:00pm.

Her voice trembling, obviously trying to keep her shit together she said, "I'm on my way to Memorial Hospital.  Laura is one of the survivors of the salon shooting in Seal Beach.  Turn on the news.  Call me as soon as you get this message."

I turned on the news just as the 10 o'clock hour was beginning with a helicopter shot from earlier in the day of police activity n the parking lot, people holding each other in tears, news reporters standing with the chaos in the background, a picture of the perpetrator who had been apprehended and surrendered, then back to the anchors in the studio with the chilling news that two of the survivors taken to hospital have died.

When I reached Natalie she told me that their mother Hattie was the only one who survived, that Laura was dead and her body still at the scene.  She told me about getting to the hospital and being taken into the chapel where the police give them what little information there was.  This is where she finds out that her mother was in the salon and that Laura has been killed.

 In the days following there is shock and grieving.  Family and friends gather together and numbly cling to each other trying find a way to stay sane.  There is going to view Laura's body in the morgue.  There is Hattie coming home from the hospital.  There is taking care of Ron, Laura's husband.  There is going to court for the arraignment of the shooter. There is meeting with the District Attorney and getting more information. There is talking to psychologists to try to process what happened.  There is reconstructive surgery on Hattie's shattered arm.  At the end of June there is the paddle out of Laura's ashes.

This is happening to people I know - there is nothing remote about it.  It will never be remote again because now, every time this happens, you cannot help but relive the horror and shock of losing someone you know and love this way.

In Colorado there will be vigils and memorials and funerals and we will learn about the people who were killed yesterday.  We will hear from survivors and witnesses.  We will learn more about the shooter.  We will try to figure out why he did this although we all know he is one seriously messed up soul

And then life will go on until this happens again.

But it is not remote.  Although this is a deviation from what we think of as normal it is becoming part of a norm that we are in denial about. The fact that Jessica Ghawi, one of the victims yesterday, narrowly missed a shooting at a shopping mall in Toronto last month, is evidence that something is very, very wrong in this world and it is getting closer and closer to each one of us.

It doesn't make any sense.  It is insanity manifesting and expressing in the actions of an individual and affecting all of us.  The guns and ammunition used in Seal Beach and in Aurora were purchased legally.  Would gun laws have stopped Scott Dekraai who vented his rage on innocent people?  Would it have stopped James Holmes?  It's hard to say.  Guns will always be available to those who want them.  They might have to pay more for them on the black market but they will still get them if they want them bad enough. 

The shooters - the people who use the guns to kill the innocent people at the movies, or at the hair salon, or at the restaurant or the mall - these people are sick and deranged and up until the moment they snap they very often are living among us with no criminal record, no aberrant behavior.  After the fact people will say, "he was quiet", "he was a loner", "he seemed like a nice guy."  Rarely is this individual the career criminal that most gun rights people want to arm themselves against.

My thoughts and prayers are with all of the people impacted by the events in Aurora, and with all of us in this country that seems to be arming itself to the teeth,  because it is no longer a matter of if, but a matter of when gun violence will intimately touch our individual lives.

We live in a country where people buy guns and shoot people who are at work, or school, the mall, the hair salon or the movies.

That's what people do.  

And it's tragic.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

DARK SHADOWS - at least the special effects are improved...

Back in 1968 I was a HUGE fan of Dark Shadows. I would come home from school and sneak over to the next door neighbor's house to watch it with Janice. She was a teenager and I was in second grade. 

I remember sitting in the armchair in the den and the second that eerie theme music started I would tuck my legs up under me and try to keep my shit together because Barnabas Collins, in all that fog, scared me to death and appeared in my frequent nightmares.

Years later when I watched reruns on some random cable station I laughed at the clumsy production and overwrought acting - even for a soap opera it was way over the top.

So last night when I attended a screening of Tim Burton's Dark Shadows, starring Johnny Depp, I was really looking forward to see what kind of fun would be had with such rich and cheesy material.

As usual, with a Tim Burton film, it was visually amazing.  The production design, art direction and special effects were spectacular. The casting combined with the costumes, hair and make up was spot on, especially Dr. Hoffman, the scheming psychiatrist and Roger, the disgruntled brother.

The issue was the story and the script. It wasn't that great. I'm sorry, it just wasn't. Don't get me wrong, there were great lines, and given what they were working with the performances were good, but I was ready to go home after 90 minutes and the movie went on for another 25 minutes.

I haven't read any reviews so maybe it's just me and my affection for the original that's disappointed, but I'm really glad I didn't fork over $15 to see the movie. That said it was nice to fondly remember all the gothic shmaltzy horror of my afternoons with Dark Shadows.

RIP Jonathan Frid.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


It's spring and that means it's time to get Pete, my big black pussycat, shaved for the summer.

He's a rescue and of indeterminate breed, but he's got a ton of hair and despite best attempts to groom him every day - oh the drama when he spies the Furminator - beginning each April there is a frosting of black hair all over my house.  That which doesn't shed off him stays behind to make lots of mats.

He's like a husky, feline Bob Marley with tiny dreadlocks and anxiety issues.

Yesterday he went in to The Best Little Cat House to get his annual Go-Go Lion Cut,and when he got home I noticed that they had given him a little Mad Men tie.

 Which is appropriate because he got really mad when I started laughing at him.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Moving On

The small business that I have been working for the last 6 years is closing and I will be moving on.

This is simultaneously producing feelings of anxiety and anticipatory excitement.


I'm terrified to be out there looking for work in an economy that is less than robust and where I am competing with people who are much younger.  There is an age bias in our culture and although I don't look old, I am older and I know it matters.

There's also excitement because I would love be in a position where I'm not stressing about cash flow and wondering how we're going to make payroll, or where the money is going to come from to pay the huge insurance bills.  The cost of doing business began to consume every bit of profit.

At some point you have to draw the line in the sand and say - "enough" - because it gets to a place where you're not only not making money, you're paying to not make a profit. 

So as I'm closing the business which is exhausting and trying and sad, I'm also beginning the search for new work.  I love beginnings of anything because you can bring all of your ideals and perfect visions and focus on the qualities that you really want to experience.

My issue is that at the same time I'm consumed with the fear that I will end up with a shopping cart like so many people I see every day down in Santa Monica.  People my age or a bit older who are not raving mad and talking to themselves, but who are clean and healthy and who probably were living indoors a year or two ago.

Friends have been out of work for more than 2 years.  When I listen to the news and they report jobs numbers it doesn't sound very encouraging.  When I look at what's available in the want ads it feels like I would be stepping right back into the kind of mind numbing work that contributed to the depression I have just slipped off.

Moving on is something I'm looking forward to - I enjoy change and I'm making a list of all of the things I'd love to get paid to do at work, like read, write, work with others on a project that we all contribute to and make fantastic and while we're at it the project will bring great value to the world.... or at least make people laugh.

Already I've learned to ask for help and to say out loud all those things that scare me about an unknown future.  I'm learning to embrace change, although sometimes it feels more like getting mugged by change. It's all happening and it's going to happen whether I want it or not.

Might as well focus on creating everything I want instead of fighting to keep everything that I've been complaining about for the last two years.

Moving on can be bitter sweet, but mostly it's a good thing.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

PASSOVER...and over and over and over

This year I did not get to go to a Passover dinner, something I have done almost every year since I was a kid because all of my best friends were Jewish and then I seemed to have developed a penchant for Jewish men.

Passover is one of the big celebrations akin to Easter without the necromancy, ham and chocolate bunnies.

It's a celebration of the freeing of the Jews who were enslaved by the Egyptians.  God got really angry with the Egyptians and punished them with plagues.

Here are some fun things to do with your kids for Passover:
  1. Nile waters turning to blood –put red food coloring in the water glasses at the dinner table, in the bathroom sinks, in the dog’s water bowl, and anywhere else you can think of.
  2. The frogs–Use green construction paper to cut out roundish frogs with thin green legs. Bend the legs to make the frogs look as if they are jumping. Put them everywhere, in cereal boxes, in the shower, refrigerator, drawers, etc.
  3. The lice–Use a hole punch to make many small white “dots” out of plain white paper. Scotch tape them on your body and leave them on for a few hours. The appearance and irritation will make you think of itching lice.
  4. The flies– Use clear scotch tape to tape pepper or small “dots” of black construction paper in different areas of the house, the windows, the bathroom mirrors, etc.
  5. Disease afflicting the Egyptian livestock--put stuffed animals in different areas of the house, upside down.
  6. Boils–Use a hole punch to make many small red “dots” out of red construction paper (or cut out circles). Cover each other with boils by scotch taping them on your body and leave them on for a few hours. The appearance and irritation will make you think of the boils.
  7. Hailstorm–Put ice cubes around the outside of your house, the porch areas and on the outside window sills.
  8. Locusts– Use brown construction paper to cut out oval-looking locusts. Put them everywhere as you did the frogs (you’ll even think of some new places to surprise your family).
  9. Darkness–Tape brown paper bags over all the windows, draw all draperies to keep it dark in the daytime, or don’t turn on any lights in the evening.
  10. Death –Put red ribbon on the sides and top of door post of your house to avoid the death plague. When the neighbors ask what the ribbon is for you can witness to them!
It's a long night's celebration - as I write this my neighbors are going on three hours of singing - and although I missed being with my friends this year I'm kind of happy to just celebrate the beginning of spring.

Happy Passover!
Happy Easter!
Happy Spring!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Havin' a Do (over)...

Today is my birthday.
I've been here 52 years.
That's a long time.
Now I'm one of those people who waxes rhapsodic about how much better music was "back in the day" and the back in the day I'm referring to is the late 60s and early 70s.

The music I used to dance to like Molly Ringwald in the 80s is the "oldies" they play on K-RTH 101.

The last couple years have been rather challenging - the economy has created struggle for so many including myself.  It's been like running through molasses in January in that any forward motion has taken so much more effort.

Even more difficult has been the loss of so many friends.  They have been jumping off this mortal coil in mostly tragic ways.  Jacob, David, Jim, Dan, Caroline, Philippe, Abe, Laura...all but two of whom were my age or younger.

For a while it seemed like every time I answered the phone the news was shocking and bad.

It did a number on my psyche and I have found myself profoundly sad and depressed, as in crying all the time and thinking dark and exhausted thoughts.  I was not participating in the world very well.  Honestly I just wanted to lie down and not wake up because I was just so sad.

And all that sadness was completely appropriate to the circumstances.

I tend to be one of those people who believes that it's better to feel your feelings, even the icky ones, until you're done feeling them.  Usually I get bored with feeling sad, or in anyway bad, because, well, if you think about it those kinds of feelings take more energy.

But, something chemical happened inside of me and it was like I got caught in an undertow of sadness and I couldn't get back to feeling good.  I was getting pulled deeper and deeper into the Sea of Inertia and Numbness.

All of the loss combined with the menopause, which is like living in some bleak, soviet country where you have a personal Chernobyl every hour or two, you never sleep for more than three hours and your rear end migrates to your belly so you can't get your pants buttoned without shutting off aortic flow, has made celebrating anything feel like a chore.

About a month ago I started taking supplements that my mom recommended to help me sleep.  Nothing is worse than being horribly depressed and insomniac.  One of these supplements is called SAM-e and in limited research it's shown good benefit for depression.  I didn't really give that much thought because I wanted good benefit in REM.

Amazingly, about 2 weeks after I started taking it I began feeling like myself again.  The tired and sad began to ebb and the small pleasures in doing simple things began to flow.  I could totally feel the difference.

I still wasn't sleeping 8 straight, but I was able to go back to sleep when I woke up after 3 hours and since my glass was feeling half full I could see the blessing in that new ability.

Two years ago on my birthday I started my day with the news (on Yahoo!)  that my friend David had died the night before from a brain aneurism, and I spent the day traumatized and in tears.  Turning 50 and any feelings that I might have had about it wasn't even on my radar because Dave was 48 and he was never going to see his hemi-centennial.

A couple weeks ago my friend Heather said to me, "I'd like to be old, but when I die who will be left to speak at my funeral?", and I thought about how many funerals I've been to in the last two years and all of the love expressed for the person who died and I thought - why wait?

This morning the only news on Yahoo! is that Jerry Lee Lewis is getting married again at 76 for the 7th time - news that I find hopeful because how much of an optimist do you have to be to keep getting married when you're one slip and fall away from your last ball of fire.

Then I opened my e-mail and Justin Bieber sang happy birthday to me.

So far, so good.

Tonight I am having a do-over do for  my 50th birthday and I am going to tell everyone who comes how much I love and appreciate them.

...And there will be much celebrating because life is short and being joyful is way better than being sad.