Sunday, August 30, 2015

Oliver Sacks' Illumination


Oliver Sacks' Anthropologist on Mars was published in February of 1995, and Sophie was born one month later. By that summer, she had been diagnosed with infantile spasms and we had begun the journey that would take us to proverbial other planets. I read Sacks' book with the same relish that I'd read his previous ones, but this time I felt he was speaking directly to me.

I lived in New York City in the nineties, not far from where Dr. Sacks practiced. I had looked up his address and telephone number in the phone book. I thought he sat behind a great wooden desk with a small light that illuminated not only the paper in front of him but also the consciousness of the people about whom he wrote. I fantasized about calling him and imagined we’d have a conversation about Sophie – not so much about stopping her seizures and making her normal but rather about her integrity as a human being despite whatever peculiarity or abnormality she possessed. I never called Dr. Sacks, but I did read everything he wrote. I also sat in a chair in the third row from the stage where he stood reading aloud from his work many years later in Los Angeles. Because his words had so deeply resonated with me, sustained me, really, during some of my darkest days as I wrestled with Sophie’s disability, her seizures, her inability to speak or care for herself, her identity and mine, I felt an enormous impulse to jump on the stage and embrace him. I didn’t do that, either.


This morning, I woke to the news that Dr. Sacks had died. I understand that some disability activists have criticized him for exploiting his patients’ disabilities in the interest of narrative. Scientists have criticized him for emphasizing narrative over the clinical. More, though, have loved him and been illumined by his writing. It’s been more than twenty years since I read An Anthropologist on Mars, and while my daughter’s brain has remained a mystery to the neurologists that have failed to help her clinically, her integrity as a human being, reinforced in my own mind by the writing and life of Dr. Sacks, is far more evident. I will miss knowing that Dr. Sacks’ light is on, somewhere in the world, and am grateful for how he shed it on Sophie and me.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

How We Know One Another



The above photographed birthday cards were my two favorite that I received -- from friends who've known me for a very long time and from a friend who has known me for only a short time and only virtually but who knows me as well and maybe even more and better than anyone.

This poem appeared on The Writer's Almanac on my birthday. I haven't read much Dorianne Laux, but I couldn't help but think the poem was a sign of sorts -- that we are known by others, that words find us. I ordered a couple of her books.



Moon in the Window

I wish I could say I was the kind of child
who watched the moon from her window,
would turn toward it and wonder.
I never wondered. I read. Dark signs
that crawled toward the edge of the page.
It took me years to grow a heart
from paper and glue. All I had
was a flashlight, bright as the moon,
a white hole blazing beneath the sheets.


Dorianne Laux

Friday, August 28, 2015

Alice



 “I never knew I loved you so much,” Alice said to me one night as we pressed our foreheads together, she in her hospice bed and me perched alongside. I felt the same, because it seemed to both of us that the love had been there all along, underlying everything, waiting to be recognized and completely known.

I have read Andrea's blog Go Ask Alice...when she's 94 for as long, I think, as she's been writing it. Alice died a couple of days ago, shortly after her 100th birthday, a landmark that she was determined to reach and did so. I always felt a special connection to Alice because she, too, was the mother of a young woman injured by a vaccination as a baby who grew up with terrible epilepsy and who died as a young adult. That Alice's daughter, Andrea's sister Marla, looked nearly identical to my Sophie in a deep and soulful way, bound me to both of them.

Thank you, Andrea, for sharing your mother with us, for sharing yourself, too. The world is richer for having her in it and sad to lose her, however long her life. I send you love and gratitude for the great gifts you've given us and to Alice the same for giving us you.

Waning with Boys


Last night, between bites of Mirabel Plum Ice Cream and White Peach frozen yogurt with whipped cream and toasted almond crunch topping, I had the brilliant idea to begin taping my sons' constant, enervating* fights. I hoped that it might inspire them to desist, to maybe start talking about poets they love, scenes from Fellini movies or Bob Dylan lyrics. 

They fought about what the series would be called.


video










* The word enervating has always intrigued me. It's always sounded like it should suggest excitement or restlessness, maybe not exactly energizing, but something similar. It actually means causing one to feel drained and lacking in energy. Waxing is another intriguing word to me, only as significant in relation to its opposite: waning. In any case, the boys would certainly not enjoy discussing this sort of thing with me -- the curiosity of great words -- but are rather inclined to spewing simple insults at one another, the occasional death wish and punch.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

52 and Hot (not THAT way)



So far, I've had a lovely birthday. I had an early breakfast with my astral twin Debra (we have same exact birthday) and then a little later breakfast with my oldest friend Moye. I've received texts and telephone calls and Facebook greetings. We are waiting until 5:30 when The Air-Conditioner Man comes and replaces our air-conditioner with a brand-spanking new one. I am hoping that he gives it to us, out of pity for it being my birthday and 95 degrees in the house and all. If there's anything I've learned in my 52 years of life on the planet, all you have to do is ask and ye shall receive. In the meantime, the boys have built what you see above -- a sort of hacked air-conditioner that my friend Mary Beth directed me to the other night on Youtube. It kind of works. That's a cooler filled with ice, with holes cut into it for an insulation tube (the silver thing) and a fan. The video claimed it cost $8 to make, but we spent closer to $17. It blows surprisingly cool air, and I guess it's as good a day as any to remember the days of my youth, nearly thirty-five years ago or so when I lived in a dorm at UNC with no air-conditioning. Since we started school in mid-August, I spent my birthday there for four years, and the dog days of summer in North Carolina were brutal. We would take a cold shower, soak the towel in cold water and wrap our heads, then sit in front of the window fan to cool off. We've put the hacked AC in Sophie's room since seizures and heat are no good. I am waiting for her bus to get here and then will move out of the way and plant her in front of it. in the meantime, I'm reminiscing about some of the best years of my life and those left to come. Thank you for helping me to celebrate!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Brainless and Just About 52




I've got some whiney first world problems that include a broken air-conditioner. We're moving into one of those godawful late summer, early fall heatwaves here in southern California, and our old air-conditioner finally broke. The new AC unti can't be installed until later this week. It's about 85 degrees in the house, so I sat outside in my car, listened to NPR and then watched a great video about cannabis that the Tearful Dishwasher sent my way.



I don't know if it's the heat or just the whole clusterfuck, but the ongoing contemplation of this cannabis thing makes tears prick my eyes. So does the campaign of Donald Trump.

When I was young and in college, I went through a rather insufferable period (at least to my parents) when my eyes were seemingly "opened" to the rest of the world. I had grown up in a relatively conservative and definitely Republican household, went to a southern prep school with its fair share of Bible beaters and Young Lifers (the evangelical, feel-good group that made my skin crawl even then before I could ably articulate why) and just really never openly questioned the conservative status quo, other than to insist to my boyfriend at the time that I was in no way going to be a stay at home mother with no career and lots of kids. The insufferable part came when I started learning about more progressive and liberal values and thrust them upon my parents with all the condescension that people in their late teens and early twenties who've never had to do a single, damn thing on their own tend to do. And I know this is still going on, because I hear it from my friends with college-aged kids who come back from their first years away, militant about language and pronoun use and rape culture and on and on. When you're 50 years old and being lectured by a person in their early twenties, even if they're of a different race or nationality or sex or sexual proclivity -- well -- it's boring, to say the least. I know for a fact that my own parents were more worried that I was some sort of communist living in their midst than a drug user, for example, and I imagine to this day they rue sending me to a very liberal university that if not created a liberal me, at the very least, uncovered it.

I was thinking today, in the driveway, about those days and about that statement my mother attributed to Winston Churchill. It goes something like, If you're twenty and a conservative, you don't have a heart. If you're 50 and not a conservative, you don't have a brain. I'll be 52 years old tomorrow, and apparently, I haven't a brain. I am sick to death of everything conservative -- especially the status quo around medicine, pharmaceuticals, government and anything that claims authority. I'm in one of those Fuck It All Let's Get The Heck Out of Dodge Plant Our Own Cannabis And Make Our Own Medicine kind of moods.

Or maybe I just have heatstroke.



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How We Do It: Part LIV



No one really wants to rage, except when there's nothing about which to do so. My own simmers below the surface of things, beautifully contained. Savory. Hot springs. Remember my story of the neurologist who had called children's services to intercede when several people I know went against her wishes and put their children on cannabis? She also was involved in an alleged "medical kidnap case." She apparently rages, when there's nothing about which to do so. She wrote this piece, posted in the New York Times. I missed it because I was in the fairy tale woods of Hedgebrook, but I read it last night, felt the heat pick up.  I picked up Sophie's refill of Onfi today, paid $60 for six boxes of liquid benzo that will, hopefully, be one of the last batches before we've fully weaned her. We've been weaning the drug for the last eighteen months, taking a tiny bit away every six to eight weeks with a predictable array of side effects that hit after three days, ten days, three weeks and then off and on until we hit a steady spot and take away a tiny bit more. We're just over 50% weaned, and we've discovered that adding a few drops of THC each day helps the withdrawal symptoms. I think about the players when I swipe my debit card to pay for the Onfi -- the researcher that figured it out, the pharmaceutical company that made it, the government that approved its safety for use, the neurologist who ordered it, the pharmacist that scraped it into the bottle, the insurance company that determined whether it should be "covered," the parents that pay for it (pay whatever amount it's worth at the moment -- $1,000, $500, $90, $63, $60, free) then fill the syringe with it, the young woman who opens her mouth and takes it, and the brain that bathes in it. It all ends there, in the bloody, wrecked bath. I am reminded, again, of the difference between resignation and acceptance, where they fall on the continuum of rage. I am a master of muted rage, the good girl gone wild only in her head.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Rejuvenation



Yesterday I read the most amazing article in the London Review of Books (a somewhat ponderous publication that I get and dutifully flip through) titled A Lazarus Beside Me by a fly-waisted woman (seen above) named Avies Platt. The piece was dated November, 1946 but chronicled events from 1937 and was only discovered recently in a carrier bag full of "diary entries and other bits and bobs." The article was fantastic -- and immensely pleasing to me -- because it's about an encounter between this Avies Platt woman and the great Irish poet, W.B. Yeats.  First of all, did you know that in the early part of the twentieth century, an Austrian physiologist developed an operation for what was known as "rejuvenation?" Meant for aging men, the operation (which was basically a vasectomy) purported to give men a "second puberty," making them virile again. Sigmund Freud had the operation (good Lord), as did Yeats. What is there to say about this and why did I not know about it, even as I read nearly every single poem that Yeats wrote and particularly love some of those crazy ones he wrote in his latter years? I'd throw up my hands and say Men!, but you know I would have been all over Yeats if he'd so much as crooked his finger at me.




A Drinking Song

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.

W. B. Yeats

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday Balls



I'm not in the mood to write, again. So I'll just post some pictures I took today at MacArthur Park, near downtown. They're of an art installation -- thousands of giant painted beach balls floating in the pond. You can read about the project here, since I don't feel like typing out what it's all about.

The park looks pretty dismal -- it's in a downtrodden part of town, everything is dead because of the drought, and everywhere I walked smelled like piss and pot, to tell you the truth. But the spheres were crazy and wonderful, lifting the whole place up. I had a brief fantasy about wading out into the middle of them like a despairing, dark-haired Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita, but instead rolled Sophie's wheelchair to the edge of the water, shoved the brake on and stood for a while to just watch the spheres bobbing. Sophie seemed to enjoy it as well, so that's good. My guilt in not providing enough stimulation for her was allayed at least for the hour or so that we walked around.






Reader, what did you do today?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Saturday Three-Line Movie Review

How beautiful is this shot?


Learning to Drive

It's been a long time since I've seen a quiet, sincere movie with fine actors and a deep and resonant script. Learning to Drive is about a friendship between two people, a driven New York book critic played by the always wonderful Patricia Clarkson, and a Sikh driving instructor played by the formidable Ben Kingsley . The movie has obvious metaphors, is about culture and marriage and divorce, but it's so finely wrought that nothing is obvious, and I left the theater deeply satisfied (not to mention wowed by Kingsley's pink turban and Clarkson's red hair) and -- dare I say it -- thrilled that movies like this are still made with quotes from Wordsworth, Tantric sex, Samantha Bee, one of Meryl Streep's daughters and one of J.D. Salinger's sons (another story that I'll tell you about some other time).














More 3-Line Movie Reviews

Love and Mercy
Not a Three Line Movie Review
While We're Young
Ida

Force Majeur 
Gone Girl
Saint Vincent

Get on Up
Begin Again
Chef
The Immigrant

Cesar Chavez

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Gloria

Labor Day 
Philomena









Friday, August 21, 2015

Submerged

Mermaid


I don't have very much to say these days -- am feeling more contemplative than otherwise. I told a friend today that the only thing I'm interested in these days as far as current events go - or drawn to or in awe of  -- are the words of two dying men: Jimmy Carter and Oliver Sacks. One has a deep faith in a Christian God and the other is an atheist, yet both are imbued with a holiness that stuns me. If you haven't read either of their words about life and about dying, I recommend them. I could add no more.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

#764 as Solace



My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun (764)

My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun -
In Corners - till a Day
The Owner passed - identified -
And carried Me away -

And now We roam in Sovreign Woods -
And now We hunt the Doe -
And every time I speak for Him
The Mountains straight reply -

And do I smile, such cordial light
Opon the Valley glow -
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let it’s pleasure through -

And when at Night - Our good Day done -
I guard My Master’s Head -
’Tis better than the Eider Duck’s
Deep Pillow - to have shared -

To foe of His - I’m deadly foe -
None stir the second time -
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye -
Or an emphatic Thumb -

Though I than He - may longer live
He longer must - than I -
For I have but the power to kill,
Without - the power to die -

Emily Dickinson 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Good Cop, Bad Accident, There Are No Accidents



I generally subscribe to a certain kind of chaos theory, as opposed to one of faith that the universe or God has a plan. I believe in randomness, not so much because I'm cynical or privileged but because I don't think certain things have inherent meaning until we thrust form onto them. Does that make sense?

About twenty minutes after I kissed Henry good-bye this morning, told him I loved him and watched him drive off to his first day of school and then climbed back into bed to sleep for a little bit more, I was awakened by the sound of metal on metal -- a sickening crunch that I knew instantly was a crash up the street from me. Sirens began almost immediately, as did the racket of a circling helicopter. I knew that Henry was already at school, but I got up and went out to see what was happening -- a large SUV was on its side at the corner and police cars and men had already blocked off the street and were tending to traffic. It was only 7:15 but already scorching hot, so I turned around and headed back to my house, my heart in my throat.

A little before noon, I ventured out again, this time with Sophie, and made my way up to the accident site which was still blocked off with cops guarding the intersection and the SUV on its side. As Sophie and I made our way across the street, we walked toward a cop, and I asked him what had happened. A woman in the SUV was making a left turn and hit a cop car, he said. Luckily no one was hurt too badly. I expressed relief and told him I had a teenaged driver who had left for school about fifteen minutes before the crash. He said, You know, cars are really safe these days -- they can be in wrecks like what you see, and they're built to take it and even protect the drivers. I felt a smidgen of relief, filed the statement away to share with my friends but perhaps not with my boy. The cop said hello to Sophie and asked me her name. I told him, and then he asked me whether I would mind telling him what was up with her. She has epilepsy, has had it from infancy, so it affected her development, I said. He smiled and told me that his daughter had epilepsy, too, that she'd gotten it from meningitis when she had a cochlear implant put in for deafness. She was physically able but cognitively at the level of a five year old, despite her fourteen years. She was also on two antiepileptics, both of which Sophie has been on and had done an unsuccessful trial of the ketogenic diet. I shared with the cop our story of cannabis oil, how it had stopped Sophie's seizures for the most part after nineteen years and 22 drugs. We looked into each other's eyes and smiled.

A cop and me. There are no accidents.*
















*My friend and writer Carrie Link has taught me this.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Secular Sermon: Foolball

Leather football helmet with built-in glasses, 1930


It's time for my every other year football rant. Today's rant is courtesy of this fine article by Mark Whicker for the LA Daily News. It's the story of a young man brought down by years of brain trauma, and we all know it's been going on and continues going on and will continue to go on. The article was posted on Facebook by a friend of mine from college who happens to be Whicker's wife and also a fine sports journalist. A lot of my other friends on Facebook are posting pictures of their sons' newly buzz-cut heads as they prepare for another season of football at their respective high schools, heads that will be at a ridiculous high risk for concussion, if they haven't already had one.

I just don't understand -- on any level -- why football continues to draw tens of thousands of kids at ever younger ages when we know the chance of serious head injury is quite substantial. The amount of glory football players even in high schools continue to get boggles the mind. I imagine the same kids who play at these high schools would be thrown out of high school if they smoked one joint and were caught. Then again, smoking a joint is illegal, and playing football is evidently exhilarating, fun and wholesome, part of what it means to be an American. That's interesting to me and actually quite ironic, given marijuana's efficacy in helping football players with head injuries. Evidently, the NFL has a plan for victims with dementia, of which there are legion: $88,000 a year if you're hospitalized. Like so much else in American culture, prevention is not the key. We like to damage things first and pay up later. Bomb the hell out of a country and then award millions of dollars to contractors and corporations to build it back up. Call it hearts and minds. Pay tens of millions of dollars to fuel an industry that begins at age four or five years old, kneel in prayer before a game and then beat the shit out of the opposing team, later stand by as legions of middle-aged men become collateral, descend into madness, depression, alcoholism and dementia, pay them tens of thousands of dollars and then invest millions in businesses to make safer helmets.

Oh, and start investigating the efficacy of marijuana in healing brain injury, which I suppose has its upside. The NFL is probably a hell of a lot more influential in getting marijuana okayed by the Powers That Be than a bunch of parents with dying or epileptic kids.

Play ball!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturday Late Afternoon Sanity Beach Trip


I asked Henry to come with me and Sophie to the beach for an hour or two around 4:30 this afternoon. O,K., I begged Henry to come with me and Sophie to the beach for an hour or two around 4:30 this afternoon. I was desperate to actually go in and under the water, have been feeling this deep craving to do so for weeks.



Even though he had no interest in going in himself, he obliged me and brought his lacrosse stick to practice what they call cradling.


It was a scorcher elsewhere in Los Angeles today -- in fact, I went into the deep dark valley earlier in the afternoon to pick up Sophie's cannabis oil, and my car thermometer read 105 degrees. The temperature at the beach in the late afternoon was about 80, though, and the water as warm as it gets here which is still refreshingly cold. I took Sophie for a walk along the edge of the water and then in to about our knees before bringing her back up to her stroller and Henry. Then I walked down past the lovers and the mothers and the children and one small man in a bicycle helmet and what can only be called a private-parts or -- let's be blunt -- penis holder whose fabric was the American flag. I surmised porn star, such was the area and -- uh, length -- of the flag (honestly, Henry and I could not get over it), and when he turned away, it was difficult not to notice the line of stars, perhaps twelve out of the glorious fifty, disappearing into his ass.

Anyhoo.

The surf was pretty high, but the water was clear and blue and I felt immediately refreshed and replenished. Thank you, southern California. Thank you, Ocean Park. Thank you, Pacific Ocean. Thank you, Henry.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Surfing Around With Admins, Internecine Wars, Opioids and Arthritis


Given that it's nearly 11:00 Pacific Time, and most of you are already in bed and might be reading this tomorrow morning, let's just surf around tonight.

First of all, did you know that the FDA recently approved the use of Oxycontin for patients aged 11 to 16? Unless you've been living under a rock, and that's perfectly acceptable given what's going on in this crazy old world, oxycontin is a long-release painkiller that acts upon the brain like heroin. Here's the statement, reported by NBC news:

Dr. Sharon Hertz, director of new anesthesia, analgesia and addiction products for the FDA, said studies by Purdue Pharma of Stamford, Connecticut, which manufactures the drug, "supported a new pediatric indication for OxyContin in patients 11 to 16 years old and provided prescribers with helpful information about the use of OxyContin in pediatric patients.

Cue Mrs. Braddock's laugh.


Well, you know where this is going, right? I'm not going to put down anyone who wants to alleviate the suffering of a child in pain, but reeeeeeeeely? Raaaaaaaaaaahly?

As you know, my tiny little mother mind™ has been working overtime with countless other minds, far greater than my own, trying to lobby and persuade The Powers That Be that the efficacy of Charlotte's Web, of cannabis, of medical marijuana, etc. is far stronger than anecdote and certainly not attributable to the placebo effect, that it's a plant that's been used for thousands of years, that there are studies -- oh you know what I'm saying.  But hey, what do we know? What do they know?

Yesterday, I visited a prominent orthopedist in Beverly Hills, a young and handsome doctor who probably replaces the knees, shoulders and various body parts of a plethora of celebrities given the location of his office. Last week I developed a bum knee overnight, was driven, quite literally, nearly to my knees one afternoon with a stabbing, horrific pain, a sort of grim reminder that yes, Elizabeth, you are turning 52 years old on August 27th and have taken for granted your solid southern Italian peasant ancestry and were over-confident that these strong genes were somehow going to protect you from the vagaries of age. To make a long story short, my right knee has a touch of The Arthritis, but not enough to warrant any sort of treatment, which given that it'd be one of those gigantic steroid shots that I understand work but that actually spark up the primitive part of my brain that recalls injecting high dosage ones into my daughter's baby legs two decades ago -- I declined. I did ask the good doctor, though, about cannabis and its anti-inflammatory effects and if he'd heard about any of that. He gave a short, impatient laugh, waxed on a bit about how the claims that it cures everything! couldn't be taken seriously and that there wasn't any research, yadda, yadda, yadda.

OK.

The weird thing is that this headline:

FDA Approves OxyContin for Children as Young as 11


(read the whole article here) just doesn't surprise many of us and turns our already cynical and tiny little mother minds™ into tiny, little obdurate bricks. Show me the studies -- double-blind, placebo controlled, long-term studies of children.

Let's catch another wave, shall we?

Back on the ranch -- the marijuana ranch, that is -- I got into a little sparring with the self-described admins of a group on Facebook called Pediatric Cannabis Therapy. These admins (and really, why do we have to shorten the word adminstrators to admins?) decided that discussions about Charlotte's Web Hemp Oil (CWHO) and the Realm of Caring (ROC) are no longer allowed. I wish I could quote the rest of the message that they posted, but that wouldn't be ethical for a closed Facebook group. Suffice it to say that it was riddled with not just grammatical errors (which, admittedly, drive this tiny, little mother mind™ batty) but vindictive statements and lies pitting advocates of CBD legislation against those who hope for whole plant legislation. First of all, these two groups need not be mutually exclusive, but according to Pediatric Cannabis Therapy's new rules, they are. The amount of work that Paige Figi, the Stanley Brothers, Heather Barnes Jackson and a virtual army of volunteers in nearly every single state in this country has done in a a very short amount of time -- to help sick children get access to medicine -- is nothing short of astounding and admirable. CBD-only laws are not perfect ones, and most of us believe that they are but tiny steps toward a larger awareness of this plant's many benefits. It's been more than 80 years since marijuana was basically forced underground for political and economic reasons, and during the last sixteen months, enormous progress has been made by pretty desperate women and men whose children's lives are at stake.That being said,  members of the Pediatric Cannabis Therapy group were warned not to discuss Charlotte's Web by name or they'd be asked to leave the group. Insults flew for a bit and while I dropped in here and there (you know, surfing the waves, trying to stay cool, look cool), I finally unjoined the group. The crazy talk has happened before, and I just can't be bothered with it anymore. While perhaps boring to those of you who have no interest in The Marijuana Wars, today I wanted to suggest that those of you who do have an interest should probably avoid the Pediatric Cannabis Therapy Group for anything but the lowest form of entertainment -- a sort of Monty Pythonesque Office of Arguments:



I will say that many hundreds of decent people exchange valuable information there in spite of those pesky admins destroying the synergy (another ridiculous 21st century word that they didn't use but that bugs me so much I thought I'd throw it in there with the dirty bathwater), so if you decide to stay in the group or choose to join the group, I advise you to steer clear of The Admin Who Is Not a Beach Boy or certainly don't talk directly about The Product That Cannot Be Named.





After that shredding, I'm prone out.

Cowabunga!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pottage: A Message to Publicists About Me and Pot

Public library, Los Angeles

Every day I get multiple emails from various publicists offering me books to review and talk about here on the old a moon, worn as if it had been a shell or even reality shows that I might be interested in sharing with my readers. The books can be about everything from baby pacifiers to parenting techniques, and my favorite pitched reality show was for a couple having sexual problems. You might wonder how and why these publicists get my name, and I just have no idea other than that they're using some kind of search engine that pulls up my name and affiliation with perverse activities because -- you know -- I'm all about that.

A few months ago, I was asked by some publicist to get a free copy and review a book by former drug czar and family values man/blowhard Bill Bennett. The name of the book, which is now published, is Going to Pot:Why the Rush to Legalize Marijuana is Harming America. That I happen to have met and actually argued with the man himself because of his personal affiliation with someone I know quite intimately (but not perversely), and not only found him as insufferable in real life as he is on television, made the pitch all the more ironic. Dear Suzie, I replied, Clearly, you've been reading my blog and know that this is a perfect match for me and will truly appeal to my readers. Please send me the free copy of the book, and I'll take a look and let you know what I think. The book came a few days later, and it took me all of twenty minutes to skim through the chapters, lingering over the brief few lines about dubious medical claims and then to toss it in the trash. Just the other day, while winnowing through my hundreds of books, I came upon a signed copy of one of his American hero books, and I threw that one, too, into the box headed for the library. May some wealthy white woman doing volunteer work at the library stumble upon it and bring it home to her privileged children smoking pot in their bedrooms and be edified. What I should have done is what a friend suggested: shred em, roll em and smoke em.

Anyhoo.

This morning, I got another appeal from a publicist asking me to review a book called Marijuana Debunked, that purportedly uses scientific research to argue a case against the legalization of marijuana. To be fair, the gist of the book appears to be that use of marijuana in the teenage years is detrimental to brain development, and we do know this to be so, but the author apparently projects the dire consequences of marijuana use into adulthood and how it takes a toll on people's relationships, finances, careers and personal lives. There's also a section about the deception of medical marijuana laws and how they encourage teenage use. I had read enough when I saw the tired gateway drug bullshit. The name of this book is Marijuana Debunked, and the email enlarges the title and makes the word Marijuana large and green for emphasis. As my friend said, with whom I shared this ridiculous email, What a crock of shit book. You could use that as a review.

I know that I'm a tad biased, but if you're a publicist and reading this blog post (and I seriously doubt you've ever read any of my blog), you need to do your research because I'm not your gal. My daughter's brain and life were ruined by seizures and legal pharmaceutical drugs, yet saved by medical marijuana. I'm perfectly aware that my sons' brains are at the peak of their development, that they should not interfere with that development by smoking marijuana, just as they shouldn't smoke cigarettes, drink beer, have unprotected sex or drag race on Ventura Boulevard. You also need to tell your writers that they should do some research as well. Take a look at the article in a recent New Yorker about the tunnels built from Mexico to the United States, used until quite recently as marijuana laws have eased (and thus removed the profit), to smuggle gargantuan amounts of marijuana into this country (now it's cocaine) to feed the insatiable desire of Americans. Read about what is, essentially, conscripted or even slave labor to build these tunnels and how workers are duped into the work and then killed when it's done. That article is not only well-written but edifying in a way that underscores just how absurd the continued drug war, particularly against marijuana, really is.

You're wasting your money on me, frankly, and filling my inbox up with garbage.





There's an informative pdf file, published by The International Center for Science in Drug Policy, called Using Evidence to Talk about Cannabis that everyone should read and use when people put up these specious arguments. The link to the PDF (that I can't figure how to load) is also in a recent Huffington Post article here..



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Blurry Boundaries



I took Sophie along with Oliver to Sherman Oaks this morning, making a stop at a vintage toy shop that I'd read about earlier before dropping Oliver off for his saxaphone lesson. Or should I say dragged Sophie along to the appointment? I'm struggling to describe how it feels to occupy Sophie's time when it's not straightforward caregiving. The caregiving includes feeding, dressing, diaper changing, bathing, assistance with walking and -- well -- everything to keep her alive and well cared for. Sophie gets pretty agitated when we're out in stores. She's not comfortable standing in one position or she just can't stand in one position. After a bit of walking around she'll start humming and want to sit down on the floor which means I have to stand next to her and prevent her from banging her head on anything around. If she's in her wheelchair, unless it's literally outside, she gets agitated as well, slumping down, humming, straining at the straps. The vintage toy store had a plastic-covered couch with a vintage television playing reruns of Dennis the Menace and Elvis Presley in front of it, so we sat there for a few minutes while Oliver wandered the aisles. Sophie doesn't like television, so after let's say three minutes, she flung her legs out (they were cross-legged on the couch), kicking me in the process and knocking the Fisher-Price toys off the coffee table in front. We stood up, and I called to Oliver to make up his mind so that I could take her outside and back to the car.

This is all exhausting on a level that isn't even physical. When I start feeling inadequate and guilty over it, I remember the more than twenty years of it. I think of the drugs she's on and the withdrawal effects of weaning her from these drugs. I wonder if she should be encouraged to go out and about, despite her obvious discomfort, or if I should just let her be in her room where she seems content mouthing toys and walking around like an artifically subdued lion. The thing is that when she's in her room, I'll walk to her door to check on her, call her name, and she'll look my way, and I don't know if I'm just projecting my own anguish on to her or her eyes are imploring me to do something about the whole situation. It's a whole lot of mental chatter that makes a monkey mind look anesthetized, to tell you the truth, and I haven't learned how to still it in any other way than to know that it will pass.

When we got back to the house, I fed her lunch and led her back to her room. She sat on her bed, pulled her legs up into a cross-legged position, and I walked out with tears pricking my eyes. I don't feel desolate all the time, so I told myself that Sophie -- who surely must feel shitty a lot of the time -- doesn't either.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Gratefulness.org

The first two of my three beloveds



I'm so excited to announce that I'll be contributing monthly to the wonderful organization and website, Gratefulness.org, and my first post is up live today. If you don't know this website, I hope you'll visit, look around and support them. Here's what they're all about:

Welcome to an online sanctuary where you can experience and share the transformative power of gratitude. Join a growing global community of people committed to making a difference with the gifts and opportunities of life. Open to the “great fullness” and potential of this moment – allow grateful living to bring gratitude to life…

I have been a subscriber to their Word of the Day and monthly newsletter for many years, never expecting that I might one day have the opportunity to give back in gratitude. The story of how I got involved with the organization is the subject of my first post, so click here to read it.  That's the main link and gives you an idea of what they do. If you scroll down, you'll see yours truly and my first post. 

How often does an opportunity to give back happen when you've needed yet also received so much? Thank you, Michael B. and Karen and Kristi and all the beautiful folks at Gratitude.org for giving me such a chance.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

#Dessertfordinner



Oliver and I had a peach and raspberry pie for dinner. It was a disappointing day for several reasons, most unbloggable.

The pie made up for it. Plus, there was no sugar in it and only pieces of top crust so we felt moderately virtuous.

70 Years After the Bomb





I first read Lawrence Ferlinghetti's poetry in college, after I went to hear him read it in an auditorium somewhere on the Chapel Hill campus, his own alma mater. I have also made several pilgramages to his City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, sat upstairs in the poetry room and run my hand over the many books of poets that were published there. I had forgotten about Ferlinghetti's service in World War II, though, and thought it a worthy thing to post his own thoughts as we all reflect on the great destruction wreaked by our country seventy years ago.

No matter what you think dropping atomic bombs on the Japanese civilian population did or didn't do for mankind, the lives lost and what was ushered in are worthy of reflection.

Here's one of his poems that I always loved from his collection A Coney Island of the Mind.


Constantly Risking Absurdity (#15)

Constantly risking absurdity
                                             and death
            whenever he performs
                                        above the heads
                                                            of his audience
   the poet like an acrobat
                                 climbs on rime
                                          to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
                                     above a sea of faces
             paces his way
                               to the other side of day
    performing entrechats
                               and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
                               and all without mistaking
                     any thing
                               for what it may not be

       For he's the super realist
                                     who must perforce perceive
                   taut truth
                                 before the taking of each stance or step
in his supposed advance
                                  toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
                                     with gravity
                                                to start her death-defying leap

      And he
             a little charleychaplin man
                                           who may or may not catch
               her fair eternal form
                                     spreadeagled in the empty air
                  of existence

Friday, August 7, 2015

Knees and Pluto and Pascal

Scientists react to images from Pluto


I flipped through my emails early this morning, the ritual of deletion and clicks. I read a horrifying beginning of an article about Tinder in this month's Vanity Fair -- was relieved when I couldn't go further as a non-subscriber. I scrolled through a few tweets about last night's Republican "debate" and resolved, again, to not pay attention to anything having to do with those men and women -- did you hear me say ANYTHING? -- until September of 2016. I read somewhere that this is how they do it in France, so barring any demands to re-read Proust, I'm French for a year. Little threads of despair, hovering. My knee hurts, and I bet it's osteoarthritis, and I bet it's because I haven't exercised enough -- well, let's be honest -- my entire life. There's also the age factor and the curious, horrible way things happen when you get older -- not gradually, but all       of          a              sudden. Hairs sprouting from chins, a big toe that crackles, jowls and a front tooth that appears to be hearkening back to pre-orthodontia buck tooth days. Then I saw that photo, and tears streamed down my face (there's no original way to write that) because, really, we're all just hanging out here for a short time and the universe is vast and unknowable. As my compatriot Blaise Pascal said in the 17th century (remember I'm French for a year), vous admirez toujours ce que vous ne comprenez vraiment pas.*













*You always admire what you really don't understand.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Another Day in Paradise



I took Oliver and Sophie to the beach in the late afternoon yesterday so that we could walk for a bit, eat dinner at our favorite beachside cafe and then watch the sunset.












The sky turned pinker and pinker as we left, but since I was driving I couldn't get a good shot. Here's one I took at a stoplight before Oliver screamed at me to not text and drive. Even though I wasn't texting and driving, he was right that I shouldn't have been so distracted.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Love Me Anyways

Sidewalk graffiti, La Brea Blvd.


A girl I went to high school with in Atlanta had a thick brown braid, about two inches across, that she wore down her back. I always wanted a braid like it and have the thick hair but could never get it to grow that long. Or maybe it's that as it grows longer and longer, it feels like more of an encumbrance than a crown of glory. I cut my hair today from quite a bit past my shoulders to just above. It was the longest I'd let my hair grow since the last millenium when married to my college sweetheart and living in Nashville, Tennessee after which (both the marriage and the city) I wore it the shortest I'd ever dared and moved to New York City. While I enjoyed the don't give a flying foo-foo about how I look mentality it took in this millenium to let it get as long as it did until this morning, I felt increasingly -- let's say -- haggard. How much can I possibly write about my hair without resorting to tired cliches about age and sexuality and what the hell has happened to me and where are you tonight, sweet Marie?  The tiny, wonderful hairdresser used a flat iron and a blowdryer on it, so I look a tad Barbra Streisandish (and not in a good way), but overall, it feels good. I think when I let it dry naturally (as I don't own a flat iron or blowdryer and plan on never doing so), I might hitch a ride in a convertible Mercedes like the one the girl with the brown braid drove in Atlanta and take off for my next destination.

Well, anybody can be just like me, obviously
But then, now again, not too many can be like you, fortunately.





Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mermaids in Summer



I'm plagued by the feeling that it's never enough -- what I do with Sophie. I'm talking about stimulation and recreational activities. In the absence of Communicamp or anything affordable near us, in these last weeks before school begins again, I am reminded of how pressing the need for young adults to be integrated into the community. I don't have any answers, and when I try to take action, I feel as if I'm in tar, my feet heavy. I do a disservice every single day to this beautiful young woman, and I can only acknowledge that, not judge myself too harshly and hope that I'll feel a bit more energy tomorrow.


A Tiny Clue

You could spend your entire life
eavesdropping on the mermaid
before you'd pick up the tiniest little clue
about where she was really from. One autumn day
    I happened upon
her and her child
while she was comforting it under her shawl.

'You are not the blue-green pup of the seal.
You are not the grey chick of the greater black-backed gull.
You are not the kit of the otter. Nor are you
the calf of the slender hornless cow.'

This was the lullaby she was singing
but she stopped short
immediately she realized
someone else was in the neighborhood.

I had the distinct sense she was embarrassed
I'd overheard her in the first place.
I also came away with the impression
the lullaby was, to put it mildly, redolent of the sea.

Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill
translated from Irish by Paul Muldoon
The Fifty Minute Mermaid

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Certain Mad Rectitude




Those are three of my friends without whom I don't know what I'd do in this life. That's putting it mildly.

Things are -- shall we say -- confusing. I am preoccupied. I don't have much to share and hate to be obtuse.

How about a clever, Kay Ryan poem or two?


Say Uncle

Every day
you say,
Just one
more try.
Then another
irrecoverable
day slips by.
You will
say ankle,
you will
say knuckle;
why won't
you why
won't you
say uncle?


Say It Straight

I have a mania for straight writing -- however
circuitous I may be in what I myself say.
-- Marianne Moore



What we could
and what we can say
stray as in a dream;
a certain mad rectitude
creeps in, by which
something simple as an apple
can never be determined
wholly edible.
The crisp act is deferred,
the object blurred by scruples.
The more we cherish clarity
in principle, the more it is
impossible. Will enamel
ever strike the fruit?
Will Eve grow wild and forgivable?
For it's unlovable
to talk too long with snakes,
whose reasons fork
the more the more
she hesitates.

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