Thursday, August 28, 2014


There are so many things I want to talk about but what keeps coming up for me today is the little girl in Arizona who accidentally shot and killed the gun instructor with an Uzi.

I once had the opportunity to shoot an M4 machine gun on a DEA range a bit north of Los Angeles.  I was working with the DEA doing research for a TV series and I really wanted to see what it was like to shoot an automatic weapon.  If you're going to write about violence you should know how it feels.  The SWAT team was qualifying that day so they were all out there in full body armor which turned out to be a good thing.  I was instructed on how to hold the gun, and advised how to brace my feet, and told to shoot at the target in front of a dirt cliff.  Then everyone took a lot of steps back.  When I pulled that trigger the fire power on the gun pulled my arm straight up in the air.  I had zero control and the blazing hot shell casings bounced off the metal rim around the target and flew back and hit me and my instructor.  Dirt and dust rained down from the dirt wall where the bullets had tracked straight up leaving a gaping vertical scar channeling 15' high.  After I caught my breath I set the gun down on the ground and stepped away from it.  I had wet my pants a little bit.

Automatic weapons are not guns as I know and understand them.  They are not for hunting.  They are not for competing at skeet or target shooting.  They are for tearing up human bodies when fighting a war.

This little girl is so much on my mind and in my thoughts.  I truly hope that she will be okay as this is a tragedy that will reverberate through her life forever.  At nine she cannot even really fathom what death is much less that she accidentally caused of the death of another person.  That's one of those wounds that is going to deepen as she grows up and gains experience in life.

Everyone says, "it's not the little girl's fault," and I doubt there's anyone who would say that it was, but she was still holding the gun that the bullets came out of and was standing there looking at a human being with holes in him who died from the bullets that came out of the gun that she was holding.

Do you think she's going to parse that out and consider that her parents put the gun in her hand?  That the man who died put himself in harm's way?  That's all such an intellectual perspective on what happened.

If I ran over someone who ran in front of my car I would never be the same.  Ending someone's life is fucking heavy.

I wonder if she will ever not think about it?  Will it color every event in her life from this point forward?  When she graduates from high school will she think about the children whose father won't make it to their graduation?  When she gets married will she think about the woman whose husband was killed that day the Uzi was placed in her hands?  When she has children will she think about how he left his babies?

Because of the internet she's always going to be infamous.

That is the icky kind of famous.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of Charles Vacca who tragically lost someone they loved.

My heart goes out to this little girl and her family - because this is something they will be dealing with forever.

They blew it by putting the gun in her hand.  I hope they don't continue to blow it and get her proper help and support so that she can understand that though she was the one who technically caused the death - it was not her fault.

Good luck with that.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Olympics! Let's drink!!

The Olympics has always been one of my favorite events.  When I was a little kid I would watch sitting on my grandfather's lap holding the coins he got when he attended the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1932.  We went back together in 1984 to watch the end of the marathon.

When my family traveled to Europe in 1972 we did not go to the Olympics in Munich (we did see the concentration camps so when the Israeli team was killed that piled on another layer of trauma and is probably a big reason why I've never been back to Germany), but we did go to Olympia in the Peloponnese to see the site of the original games.  We got lost as per usual when traveling with my dad who never saw a scenic route he didn't want to take, and had to pull over on this small dirt road running along the sea, for a lone runner with a police escort and an amulance behind, carrying the flame as it began it's journey to the games.

I've never been to a winter Olympics because being a Cal bred girl I don't tolerate snow and cold weather very well.  I know that I would probably end up in a bar watching them on TV.  The winter Olympics are probably my favorite though because I love the skiing and skating and, in general, anything that involves speed and danger.

Over the last decade I have found myself more and more annoyed with the coverage of the Olympics and the seemingly desperate need by the news outlets to politicize them.  And in the last summer Olympics I became aware of the negative speak that was coming out of the mouths of the commentators when they were covering, oh, pretty much any sport.

It was like having your bubby sitting there, "He over rotated and made a splash with his feet, oh that'll cost him."  I know it's their job to point out what the ideal is but it's gets so old listening to the constant focus on failure.

No one bothers me more than Bob Costas.  There is a subtext of pompousness pouring out of his head with the little boy haircut and I find it so distracting.  Bob you do not always have to say something.  And if you feel that you do look for those words that are positive and inspiring that may express your enthusiasm for what you are doing.

My whole life my nana who was a huge basketball fan would only listen to Chick Hearn call the Laker games.  And if the game was on a network with another commentator she would mute the TV and listen to Chick on the transistor radio.

You know what I would love?  For someone who loves the Olympics like I do to have a podcast I could tune into to watch my events.  So I could mute the TV and not have to listen to Bob ever again.

So if someone could get on that before 2016 that would be great.

Tonight me and mine will be parked in front of the TV for opening ceremonies and I will get that frisson of excitement when I hear that Olympics theme song. 

And I'm thinking we need a drinking game for Bob Costas coverage - like everytime he says something negative you have to do a shot. 

I'm open to suggestions - we've got all month.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Scary Crazy

I have been feeling so much compassion for the family and friends of Kelly Thomas, the mentally ill man who was beaten to death in the summer of 2011 by members of the Fullerton police department.

I have been feeling a small level of compassion for those police officers and their families.  What they did was inexcusable, but it's a reflection of how our society relates to the mentally ill.  For the defense attorney to say, "they were doing what they were trained to do", is absolutely chilling as it relates the massive number of mentally ill people living on our streets. A person with any character at all would have a hard time sleeping for the rest of their lives after beating someone to death and the fact that they did it would probably change the way people felt about them - whether they were found guilty or not.  If I were those guys and I believed in hell I would be terribly afraid that I was going to end up there.  Who knows they may yet end up eating a gun.  What they did will not every leave them alone.  Those images are in the world for all to see and a not guilty verdict cannot make us unsee them.

Quite honestly I think the DA is an incompetent individual who doesn't understand mental illness and didn't get a jury that understood, or wanted to understand it.  What happend during voir dire?  Did that even come up?  No sane person chooses to live in the street.  That people would think that reflects a lack of compassion that makes me cry.  Most of the people who are living in the streets are dual diagnosis individuals.  They are diagnosed with a mental illness and using street drugs.  They are not compliant on their antipsychotic medication and their parents cannot force them to take the drugs - they are adults.  Most of these people do well when they are on their meds.  They have a difficult time with decision making, time management and simple things like remembering to eat.  All of which are important when it comes to taking your medication.

That the DA couldn't get that information across to a jury is mind boggling to me.  The finding of not guilty to involuntary manslaughter is akin to declaring open season on people who have no where to go and virtually no support in terms of social services.

And again, I'm back to feeling incredibly angry at Ronald Reagan for disassembling the mental health programs that existed in the state of California when he was governor.  I find it so hard to believe that he's such a beloved president.  Mental illness affects so many people and so many families and there are little to no resources available to provide support and education due to his legislative decisions.  The dude thought psychiatry was somehow related to communism and that mental illness could be prevented

My nephew was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 19 and it has been such a struggle for my sister and her family because he is technically an adult, but because of his mental illness he isn't really capable of making adult decision about taking care of himself.  Or even surviving.  He is a sweet young man with a level of emotional intelligence that is beyond most of us.  Even when he is severely psychotic I can see glimpses of him between the weird laughter and the agitated twitching.

Previously my exposure to the mentally ill had been the clients that my father, a social worker, had brought home for the holidays - on a day pass from the mental hospital.  Mostly diagnosed schizophrenics they were heavily medicated, sometimes to the point of drooling, and while they didn't exactly scare me, they made me uncomfortable. 

My father taught classes at the police academy and once took me on a field trip to Metropolitan State Mental Hospital with his class of cadets.  There I definitely felt scared.  I felt scared for the patients, terrified at the idea of having to spend the night in that place.  It was important for the soon to be police officers to have an understanding of the 5150 population so that they could better deal with them in the field.  I guess they don't teach that class in Fullerton.

My nephew went into UCLA Ronald Reagan hospital (irony anyone?) on a 5150 when he first received his diagnosis.  He was renting a room at a friend's house and had spent a week smoking weed in a catatonic state when someone finally called my sister.  Because there had been so much conflict my brother went to pick D up and basically lied to him, telling him that they just wanted him to see a doctor because he was so thin.  Upon arrival he was determined to be a risk to himself and placed under involuntary psychiatric hold. 

The private hospital experience is pretty nice - private and semi-private rooms - not so different from what you'd find on the maternity wing, except for the locked wards.  One can only sustain this level of treatment for a finite period of time before they run out of money.  Unless you are rich it is very difficult to manage treatment for your schizophrenic child who is a legal adult.

After a few years of dead ends at various facilities where D continued to smoke pot which counteracts the effectiveness of antipsychotic meds he ended up on the street.  He lost all of his possessions and was basically a younger version of Kelly Thomas.

Our whole family was terrified that he would end up dead either killed by police or by some psychosis fueled misadventure.  I remember when Margaret Mitchell was killed by 2 bicycle cops on La Brea in 1999.  She was 5' feet tall and 102 pounds and they shot her claiming self defense because she "threatened" them with a screw driver.

Society doesn't have a real understanding of schizophrenia.  It is an unknown, altered reality that turns people into ranting lunatics who don't seem to have any connection to what's happening around them.  They often have poor hygiene and that combined with the dyskenesia that often accompanies long term use of anti-psychotics and the conversations they have with people who arent' there adds to our perception that they are dangerous.  Police officers are not trained mental health professionals but because there are virtually no mental health services they are the public servants most often tasked with dealing with the mentally ill.

It's very rare that a schizophrenic in a psychotic state would attack or hurt someone.  When it does happen it's usually within the family as they are the people most often trying to help.  This story is one of the best descriptions of what the experience is like when someone in your family is schizophrenic.  I don't know what the experience was like for the Thomas family, but I know that they loved Kelly, and what happened is extremely painful for them because it didn't need to happen.  The verdict makes it seem like no one cares that it did.

When I look at the video I feel sick to my stomach.  It's like watching a very frightened animal fight for it's life while being attacked by a pack of predators.  It's all too easy to see my nephew in 10 or 15 years in the same situation.  I can't know the experience of the officers involved, but I'm fairly certain they were frightened and that combined with a lack of education and understanding of schizophrenia escalated the situation to what was seen on the video.

It's why Kelly Thomas died.

The public should be outraged, but we should also be asking ourselves what can be done so that this doesn't happen again.  If the police are going to be the first contact with the mentally ill they are need to be trained so that they aren't so scared.  A schizophrenic in a state of psychosis is generally frightened and paranoid.  Adding fear to that scenario isn't going to end well for anyone. 

It makes those who are supposed to protect and serve scary, crazy and very, very dangerous - especially now that there are no consequences for killing the mentally ill.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Eternal Scoundrel

I recorded the Golden Globes on Sunday because I love Tina and Amy and they did not let me down.  I'm still laughing at the description of Gravity as "that movie where George Clooney would rather float into space and die than spend one more day in the presence of a woman his own age".

Since I live in Los Angeles I can testify that George is not alone in that club.  Lots of those types of astronauts in the hills of Hollywood.

I also wanted to see Breaking Bad get it's much deserved kudos.  I was not an early adaptor.  I was incredibly resistant even when friends whose opinions I greatly respect were raving about the excellent writing - I was thinking about the potential for flashbacks.  I ended up mainlining four seasons on Netflix and recording the last season and I have to say that it was totally worth the discomfort of a few bad memories and more than one sleepless night (I eventually had a no BB past 6pm rule).  That is some of the best writing (and music supervision) ever.

Having had the good luck of being invited to screenings and also access to "screeners" provided to Academy voters I really wanted to see what and who would win in the film categories.  I so wanted Emma to win for her performance as PL Travers, but then I haven't seen Cate Blanchett's performance in Blue Jasmine.  I feel the same way about that movie as I do about The Wolf of Wall Street. 

I'm not a Woody Allen fan or a Scorcese fan.

For many that would mean that my opinion on film doesn't matter.

But it's really a personal thing for all of us right?  Life is very full and busy so it comes down to how do I want to spend 2 (or sometimes 3) hours?  I have always found Woody Allen's films to be a bit masturbatory in their neuroses.  Despite the fact that Diane Keaton loves him and I love her, I wouldn't want to hang out with him.  Same with Scorcese - his movies are too violent, too testosterone filled; they are the celluloid version of Hemingway novels and I don't like those either.  This is not personal in either case it's just that I enjoy movies much like I enjoy wine or sex... I want to be delighted, entertained, pleasured, etc.  You know a generally positive experience.  I don't want to be traumatized, annoyed or depressed.

So while I appreciate the marvelous one night stands that were Midnight in Paris and Hugo, I'm fully aware that for me, that's pretty much it with those guys.

I really and truly think that Bruce Dern deserved the award for best actor in a comedy, but then I can't really say because I didn't see Leo's performance in WofW.  If I can get a hold of a screener I may give it a shot.

Again, I'm a little concerned about shame inducing flashbacks, but the fast forward button makes everything manageable.

My two favorite, and in my opinion, most highly deserved awards went to Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto for their performances in Dallas Buyers Club.  This was a movie I really wanted to see but I was completely unprepared for where it would take me and it was totally due to those performances. 

In 1987 my boyfriend/best friend was diagnosed with HIV.  I shouldn't have been surprised because he was a 20th century Oscar Wilde - without the all the way gay.  He was a beautiful young man who attracted and was attracted to women and men.  He was also attracted to altered states and dangerous situations. 

Much like Ron Woodruff he was an unapologetic scoundrel.

With the diagnosis came a stigma that infuriated him and left him helpless.  In 1987 it was still a death sentence, but the drugs that weren't legally available to Ron Woodruff and Rayon became legal that year so Gary was able to take AZT and DDC.  They didn't give him more T-cells.  And while they might have slowed the destruction of his immune system they made him so toxically ill he felt like death was a better option than that kind of life.sick.

He died in 1993.

Seeing the movie took me back to those six long years where we watched the people we loved who had this virus become scarecrows and die.  What Ron Woodruff did was bring hope to those who were pretty much told to suck it.  Watching the movie brought up the hatred I felt for Ronald Reagan and his antipathy and abandonment of millions of people who received this diagnosis all over again.  This was a massive public health issue that was ignored because the primary group affected were deemed to deserve it.

It took me back to those days of never ending sadness for a loss that happened incrementally over years.  I lost my friend because his body disappeared and couldn't carry him forward anymore.

What was beautiful about the performance these actors gave is that they captured so perfectly the eternal quality of human spirit.  Although the disease ravaged his body Gary was a scoundrel till the end.  He enjoyed the shock on the faces of friends when we took him out to dinner and would run into people he hadn't seen in a while.  He used to hand out condoms.  He was the safe sex poster child - embracing the role of the horrible warning.  His humor never faded although as his death got closer he admitted to being scared because he didn't believe in God or heaven and wasn't thrilled about the idea of a void.  Indeed, it was months of watching him gasp for breath, clinging by his fingernails to the mortal coil.

With the advent of retroviral "cocktails" we don't see the walking dead like we used to in the United States - so I'd forgotten what it felt like to wake up in that world and feel all those feelings.  Matthew McConnaughey and Jared Leto were not in sight in this movie.  They moved out of the way and channeled the indomitable spirits of so many people who left too soon in the characters of Ron Woodruff and Rayon. 

I cried all the way home and all the next day because I don't think we every really get over grieving that kind of loss - we just go on and our lives fill with good stuff so that's where we live - until something pulls the scab off and we feel it all over again.  Like it just happened.

This journey back wasn't only sad, it was also pretty wonderful to remember Gary's upthrust middle finger as he dealt with his shitty hand.  Snort - I'm sorry but he would love that I just put it that way.

I don't believe that any of those intrepid spirits went into a void.

No - they continue to express through the memories of the people who loved them and in the stories of their lives that we tell and retell. 

Gary was, is and will always be a scoundrel and thinking about him makes me laugh more than it makes me cry.

Friday, January 10, 2014

I Feel Like I'm Procrastinating....

Right now!!!

But maybe I'm not.

It's hard to know anymore.  One of the things that I want to do more regularly is write - here or anywhere actually.  Since my office is currently in my house what happens instead is that I get up and stop at the computer on my way to make a cup of tea and end up starting in on some unfinished project from yesterday.

And I never get around to writing anything - here or anywhere else - because I'm finishing an unfinished project which will lead right into another project.

Right now I decided to write and sitting next to me is one of those unfinished projects from yesterday.  Realistically it's more like 9 unfinished projects.  Sigh.

It all needs attention.

But is meeting a goal I set - writing regularly - actually procrastination?

Maybe this isn't an issue of procrastination but rather one of time management.  Because if I'm being really honest, procrastination would be walking away from all of this and turning on the TV. 
Or laying on the bed and staring at the ceiling.  Something I hardly ever do these days.  I don't have time.

I would also like to break a sweat at some point today, but may not get to that because I'm writing now and then I'll start on the nine projects.

I will probably go out and take a walk at some point because I'm wearing that Fitbit and I almost obssessively track how many steps I take each day, castigating myself for striding less than 10,000, but in the business of the doing I can walk 5,000 steps before I leave my house.  And also Yogurtland is 1200 steps from my front door so I can get a sugar fix and then walk it off - that's multi-tasking.

So I'm asking myself... if I'm completing tasks that need completing is that procrastination?  Or am I procrastinating on implementing the changes my life needs, e.g. brainstorming/meditating/taking the next steps to get me off this treadmill of neverending stuff that needs doing?

In getting busy with all the doing am I procrastinating on creating/flowing/being?

Perhaps the procrastination is in implementing the new habits and making the changes that will allow me to include all the things I'd like to have going on?

Okay - I'm going to call this, what I'm doing right now, meeting a goal, and get back to my unfinished projects so that I can take a

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Laughing at the past

I was looking for an e-mail that a friend sent me a while back which necessitated going through literally thousands of e-mails - because I save them all don't you know.

The e-mail exchange between my BFF Allison and myself over the years is hilarious but also carries the small details of our lives as we go through marriage, divorce, relationship, fretting and celebrating, whinging and cogitating.

We have also engaged in behaviors that are probably illegal and encouraged each other in acts of insanity.  We truly do have one of those friendships wherein we would provide assistance in body disposal if need be...

So I'm feeling all kind of blessed after that review.

Plus I found the e-mail I was looking for that was written to me by yet another BFF who saw this article about the worst online dating profile ever which still got responses.  This reminded my dear friend of the days just after her divorce when she was considering a foray into online dating and wrote these hilarious fake profiles after looking at what was out there...

Okay I've written some sample profiles for myself and I need your opinion.
Shy gal who likes dominoes, philately, and role-play games looking for handsome blue collar worker.  I have quite a bit of house cleaning that I'll need done and I hope you are put off by the outfits I'll require you to wear as you clean.  I don't like dirt.  If you don't clean well you will have to do it again and you'll be spanked the entire time.  In addition to my OCD, I have several phobias that some find disturbing.  Lastly, I'm totally shaved.
Hey Mother Fucker!  Are you unemployed, in debt, excessively hairy, covered in flop sweat, prone to sudden violent outburst, partially or completely toothless, unwashed, unimpressive, in favor of polygamy, talented in nothing, interested in even less, and in possession of a wide array of poorly concieved sex toys?
Well I like blindfolds, orange juice and have a nasty disposition!  I'm missing most of my left leg, have incurable gas and frequent seizures.  Come fill my world with your love!  Make me all tingly as we commit minor crimes.
(No Mexicans Please)
Hi!  I'm Cookie and I have 11 cats!  I only sleep with one cat though!  He's my poopy shmoopy cuddly pork chop pie!  Yes he is!  Yes he is!  I collect stickers and I like Snoopy!  I have 57 Hello Kitty items!  I just got the Hello Kitty Toaster!  I've never been on a real date cause mom says 12 is too young!  Do you mind braces?!  (On my teeth and my back!)  I have scoliosis!
Oh God.  I'd give anything to find someone.  Anyone.  I don't care what you look like.  I'm not much to look at myself.  I've been working at Starbucks for some time and have become rather depressed.  The pills help.  Look even if you just came over to help me move some boxes because I think my ferret is trapped.  Plus my back really itches.  You know how that is.  I wear a lot of black clothing because I'm a huge Nihilist.  God is Dead.  Isn't that cool?  I have piercings and tats.  One of my piercings might be infected though.  I need a guy who is into body art, Red Bull and Social Distortion.  I also like to watch Desperate Housewives.  TV rocks. 
I adore my friends.  They are a special kind of nuts, completely inappropriate and non PC, and they make me laugh.  

Monday, January 06, 2014

The Divisive Connection to God

I started reading A Course in Miracles again as I do every new year.  It's an interesting book, much touted by Marianne Williamson, whom I adore.  She and Anne Lamott are so totally invited to that imaginary dinner party where you can invite anyone you want, dead or alive.

Jesus' mother Mary will also be invited.

We will drink wine and eat bread with lots of butter and chocolate and there will be a lot of laughing.

So now I begin each day by reading a section of the text and then look at the lesson for the day.  Today's lesson is "I am upset because I see something that is not there".

The first part of the book is about unlearning all the ideas that you might have about the world and God and connection to the divine and the second part is learning about what is true about that connection. 

At least that is what I was told in the introduction.  I've never made it past lesson twenty two.  Not because I don't want to, but because as the year progresses I stop making the time to do the reading and and look at the lesson.

For me there is not much "deprogramming" to do because I was not raised in any formal religion.  My family did not attend church regularly and in the few years that we did occasionally head out on a Sunday morning, it was to the Unitarian Church where I spent the mornings outside looking at mustard plants or some other agricultural reference that could be found in the bible.

Fundies they were not.

I was just really glad to be at a church on Sunday like the rest of my friends.

I did dip my toe in the fundamentalist pool and I really wanted to be Jewish for a while back when I was thirteen.  At 15 I was rolling with the Pentacostals with all the fervor and dancing and passing out and speaking in tongues.  Much like getting married I just wanted to fit in and do what everyone else was doing, but I seem to always run up against the wall of common sense. 

Sort of like those nights in the 80s when I was sitting around with a bunch of drug addicts waiting for the next pass of the mirror.  The me that knows what's what would be sitting on my shoulder with her arms crossed, shaking her head and sighing at the colossal waste of time.

Going to church, believing in God or whatever version of God is being sold at your local house of worship feels like something we do in a lemming like fashion.  It felt very weird to be the only kid on my block that did not go to temple or church.  As a child I felt a bit ashamed and more than a tad concerned that I was going to go to that hell place.  A place I had no real reference for because I didn't go to church.

My father had been raised as a Southern Baptist with hell fire and brimstone and very little joy and he completely rejected that theology and did everything he could to protect his children from the rhetoric.  Unitarianism worked for him because he was a social worker and if you think about it so was Jesus so that was the POV and my father could make peace with that.

By the time I was exploring the options of the Christian realm I was grounded in rational thought and the idea that helping people was a form of religion.  But I also really loved the ecstatic aspects of the Pentacostal and Fundamentalist church services. 

I really did feel the love that they talk about.  I felt connected to myself and everyone in the world through my heart and it was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes.

It was like a perfect high.

The other night when I was talking to a friend whose sister has become an mikvah visiting orthodox Jew with seven children and she pondered why someone who was raised in the San Fernando Valley, and who was intelligent, would make a decision to live that life.

It's an interesting question. 

I believe it has something to do with that feeling of connection and the high one gets from feeling connected to a group that is all feeling that ecstasy of connection.  It's something you want to share with everyone.  It's a feeling that moves you literally and figuratively.

It's like a drug.

But here's the thing - the path to that feeling is not only through the doors of a church, or a temple or a mosque.  That connection is not something that you receive because you follow the rules and you make sure that everyone else follows the same rules.  The ecstasy is not a feeling that only certain people who are saved, or chosen are allowed to have.

The belief that you have to adhere to laws, belong to a certain group, sing or don't sing certain songs, pray a certain way, to only love certain people and not others - that is divisive.

That is the wall of common sense I have always run into in my forays into organized religion.  The organization around certain rules and ideas have ultimately led to a division between one group and another.

That ecstasy of connection - feeling love for all life - that perfect high is our birth right.  Any belief system that creates separation is confused and fear based.  I'm all for many different paths, maps and flashlights to connection, but we would do well to remember that there is no other.

We are all one.