Friday, March 30, 2012

Bookstore as seduction

If I were an adulterer, Politics and Prose would be my downfall. Yes, the actual bookstore. I'd begin in Poetry and then Fiction. After Religion and Memoir, I'd slide down, breathless, to Remainders where I'd lie, cheap and spent.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Holocaust Museum

There are few words that would do justice to the experience of the Holocaust Museum.
I was struck dumb by the display of Operation T-4, where Nazi health officials argued that "state funds were better spent on loans to newlyweds than on medical care for the permanently disabled." The disabled were the first to be murdered, some used in grisly "medical experiments."
I didn't know what to say to my sons, but we walked quietly through together.
I wished for a weeping room.

Waiting in line at the Holocaust Museum

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

About town

I'm posting from my phone, and I can't quite do it correctly, but we've had a good day in the nation's capitol. The highlight for me was lunch in the White House mess, right next door to the Situation Room. Honestly, it's all really exciting in your mind. In reality, I sat in an old-fashioned leather dining chair across from a dear friend and ate a black bean veggie burger. The Situation Room door was closed, and everyone spoke in polite, hushed tones. The POTUS was evidently flying back from Korea, so no sightings, although that would have been exciting not just in my mind.

The strange collision of cultures

Thank you to Radish King for educating me about the terrible scourge of homelessness and mental illness that lives even behind the literal center of our government. I apologize for my previous flippant title. It was a scene that frankly shocked me, but that wasn't conveyed in my title.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Passion, Nuts and Wise Words

I gestate humans, you do not. I know how it feels to be pregnant. You do not. I know what happens to a fetus in a womb. You do not. I have carried three fetuses to term. You have not. What I experience when I am pregnant is not empathy. It is permeability. The fetus is me. And the state is you, apparently. But, no matter what you say or do I have fundamental human rights. What makes you think that you, who cannot have this fully human experience, can tell me anything about gestation or how I experience it? Especially when you compare my existence and experience to that of brutish animals. 


This is not about freedom of religion. If it were, we would, for example, allow Christian Scientists to refuse to pay for coverage of life-saving blood transfusions for employees. Religious freedom means I get to choose whether or not to be religious and if so, how. It does not mean that I get to impose my religion on others. Paying for insurance is part of the way we compensate employees, even when they use their insurance in ways we don't agree with and are in contravention of our own personal beliefs. I think that it is stupid, dangerous and immoral to chain smoke, especially around children whose lungs it irreparably harms. But, I still have to pay for an employee to have access to lung scans, nicotine patches and oxygen tanks. I do not get to say that my religious beliefs, which include keeping bodies as healthy as possible, make it possible for me to withhold payment of this employee's insurance. Guaranteed coverage of contraception and reproductive health care has overwhelming benefits for society, including reducing unwanted pregnancies and abortions. By inserting your religious beliefs so egregiously into government legislation and my life, you are imposing your religious beliefs on me. You don't like mandated insurance coverage for basic reproductive health humans with two X chromosomes? I don't like being bred by state compulsion like Mr. England's farm animals. I have a MORAL OBJECTION to being treated like an animal and not a human. You do not have to use contraception, you do not have to use birth control. But, that does not mean you have any right to tell me that I cannot if I choose. That is my right. 


In an 1851 speech in which she argued for equal rights for women, Sojourner Truth said the following: "The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don't know what to do. Why children, if you have woman's rights, give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won't be so much trouble." 

While I'm away,

Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night, 

please listen to this -- all of it.

or Click HERE.

There's something for everyone -- the creative, the intelligent, the abled and the disabled. It's really something.

Listen to it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Getting the hell out of Dodge

Henry, Oliver and I are leaving for one week today. We're going to visit my sister and her family in Washington, D.C. Those of you who've been around these parts for a while might remember that our trip last year was cancelled due to chicken pox. I'm grateful that my mother has so much mileage that she was able to get us three tickets. I'm grateful that most of the memorials and museums in D.C. are free and my sister has room for all of us and I love her and her family. I'm grateful that one of my dearest friends works for The Man and got us a tour of the West Wing. Woo Hoo! Unfortunately, Sophie will not be coming along. It's too hard for me alone, and she still has a week of school. Since The Husband has to work, they'll be holding down the fort here in Los Angeles.

I'm not sure how much I'll post in the next week, but I'm going to try. Even though I'd sort of rather be going off to Bora Bora, I'm grateful to be going anywhere. In fact, I think if I were going to Bora Bora, I'd never come back.

Carry on, or as Tearful says, Namaste.

Wheelchairs and robotics nearly bring tears to my eyes

Watch this video!

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Lately, I've felt so grumpy and worn out by my own petty concerns that when I hear the pundits talking on the radio or see the latest in stupid comments by the likes of Rush or Geraldo or Gingrich or Santorum or Romney, I can only think of one thing:

Shut the hell up!

Actually, instead of the fiery inferno, I think the f word, but I'm not going to disgrace myself. Remember the movie Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee? I wish he'd make one called Shut the Hell Up.

Reasons why I love Los Angeles, #4,596

someone's garage, down the street from my house --

Friday, March 23, 2012

Engaging Students with Learning Disabilities

You must watch this if you're interested in education, in inclusion, in children with learning disabilities, etc. and then share it, please!


Boys! What is going on? What are you doing? I yelled out the window, yesterday, like a fishwife. The ruckus was incredibly loud.

Henry said that he was making a stick pointy with a sander:

Oliver, dressed like a SWAT officer was jumping on the trampoline with his friends:

I love boys. They're just so simple, really.

What's going on at your house?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

This makes me happy

(except for the bib!) Here's Sophie at school with some of the kids in her class:

Beverly Hills Baseball Field Signs (this is not a joke)

You see? In Beverly Hills, you have to be admonished not to drink martinis and smoke cigarettes while watching your son play baseball. And let's not even talk about the poor grammar (am I right that "is" should be "are?")


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sometimes light only illuminates bad housekeeping

A Silent Thanks

This morning, I read the usual abysmal reports and commentary, the obscene amounts of money being spent on the presidential race (both sides), the proposed budget of the Republicans which, as far as I can tell by my middling mind, furthers the grotesque inequalities between extremely rich and everyone else, and the plight of the disabled and elderly as the help they've received is further whittled away. I also visited a conservative blog in my half-hearted attempt to broaden my views. One of the commenters used the word libtard -- yeah, that's right. Libtard. If you have any illusions or delusions that these are good people, those who we must work with to find commonality as Americans, well, I beg to differ.

Then I saw this:

If you are a hearing person, you can read what this young man is saying, here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Re-post, two years later

I posted this a couple of years ago and titled it "What I Want to Say to the Health Insurance Industry and Those Who Fought Against Healthcare Reform" -- well, here we are and here I still am, fighting the powers-that-be with that medication business I told you about a few days ago. I can only imagine what crap the Supreme Court is listening to at this moment. Yeah, we had healthcare reform and yeah, I still support it, but yeah, it didn't go far enough and yeah, the Republicans are fighting tooth and nail to get the whole thing repealed and then they claim they're going to start over which sounds to me like they prefer the status quo which would include placating the Catholic bishops and all that folderall about religious freedom and let the markets go free, which means the insurance companies which, similar to the Catholic Church, have a history of if not literally, then figuratively raping -- well, maybe I better just shut up and roll over, here on the first day of spring.


Frontier schoolhouse

I do love a curmudgeon, especially one who writes well.

Here's an excerpt from an especially incisive essay in The New York Review of Books by Charles Simic.

Widespread ignorance bordering on idiocy is our new national goal. It’s no use pretending otherwise and telling us, as Thomas Friedman did in the Times a few days ago, that educated people are the nation’s most valuable resources. Sure, they are, but do we still want them? It doesn’t look to me as if we do. The ideal citizen of a politically corrupt state, such as the one we now have, is a gullible dolt unable to tell truth from bullshit.

If this lack of knowledge is the result of the years of dumbing down of high school curriculum and of families that don’t talk to their children about the past, there’s another more pernicious kind of ignorance we confront today. It is the product of years of ideological and political polarization and the deliberate effort by the most fanatical and intolerant parties in that conflict to manufacture more ignorance by lying about many aspects of our history and even our recent past. I recall being stunned some years back when I read that a majority of Americans told pollsters that Saddam Hussein was behind September 11 terrorist attacks. It struck me as a propaganda feat unsurpassed by the worst authoritarian regimes of the past—many of which had to resort to labor camps and firing squads to force their people to believe some untruth, without comparable success. 

You can read the rest of  The Age of Ignorance here.

I'm not sure what to do with it all, though, other than shake my head and feel a certain smug satisfaction draped over growing dread that I'm in total agreement.

Lone Ranger at sunrise

Monday, March 19, 2012

Words from the Popcorn Gallery

On the way in to Trader Joe's this afternoon, I kept a close hand on Oliver in the parking lot. He ripped his hand out of mine and said, Mom! I don't want any of my friends to see you holding my hand! I good- naturedly frowned and asked him whether he was embarrassed by me. He replied that I needed to look more cool, like, I should wear skinny jeans or something. Then he glanced up and told me well, at least your glasses are kind of cool. But just barely.

Reader, should I smack him?

Falling through the cracks

As the Supreme Court draws closer to deciding the fate of the Affordable Care Act, and people either deride the act as Obamacare or draw blanks on its oft-confusing language, those of us in the individual market continue to endure gigantic increases in our premiums even while listening to people complain that they don't want the government to come between me and my doctor. I'm as disappointed as the next person in the healthcare act, insofar as it made deep compromises with the insurance industry and didn't go far enough to ensure healthcare equality. I believe in universal healthcare coverage, however flawed, but I know this will never happen in our country given the current political climate and the level of ignorance we see every day. I have resigned myself to paying for 15% plus increases in Sophie's healthcare coverage every six months to a year (over 150% increase in the last three years). I have researched and done due diligence, deciding to downgrade the boys', The Husband's and my coverage to catastrophic coverage, still expensive and ever-rising as well. I'll continue to grit my teeth in resentment toward those who believe the United States has the best healthcare system in the world and hatred toward those who support the insurance industry in any way.

When I publish this post, I'll call Anthem Blue Cross and begin another fight with them over coverage of Sophie's medication. I won't bore you with the details, but a drug that she's been on for years, that we got from Canada through a pharmacy in New York was just approved for use in the United States by the FDA. I am now able to get the drug at our local pharmacy through insurance. Unfortunately, even with insurance, the drug costs three times as much as it did when I bought it from Canada. That's just messed up and indicative of the bullshit that is the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical companies and American healthcare, in any form.

Here's an excerpt from economist Paul Krugman's column in today's New York Times:

To understand the lies, you first have to understand the truth. How would ObamaRomneycare change American health care? 

For most people the answer is, not at all. In particular, those receiving good health benefits from employers would keep them. The act is aimed, instead, at Americans who fall through the cracks, either going without coverage or relying on the miserably malfunctioning individual, “non-group” insurance market.
The fact is that individual health insurance, as currently constituted, just doesn’t work. If insurers are left free to deny coverage at will — as they are in, say, California — they offer cheap policies to the young and healthy (and try to yank coverage if you get sick) but refuse to cover anyone likely to need expensive care. Yet simply requiring that insurers cover people with pre-existing conditions, as in New York, doesn’t work either: premiums are sky-high because only the sick buy insurance.
The solution — originally proposed, believe it or not, by analysts at the ultra-right-wing Heritage Foundation — is a three-legged stool of regulation and subsidies. As in New York, insurers are required to cover everyone; in return, everyone is required to buy insurance, so that healthy as well as sick people are in the risk pool. Finally, subsidies make those mandated insurance purchases affordable for lower-income families.
Can such a system work? It’s already working! Massachusetts enacted a very similar reform six years ago — yes, while Mitt Romney was governor. Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who played a key role in developing both the local and the national reforms (and has published an illustrated guide to reform) has surveyed the results — and finds that Romneycare is working pretty much as advertised. The number of people without insurance has dropped sharply, the quality of care hasn’t suffered, and the program’s cost has been very close to initial projections.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Person Weight

The clouds were skittering over the Loyola Marymount baseball batting cages this morning where I sat on a ridge of cement while Henry practiced. It rained all day yesterday, and the grass was wet, the curb where I perched the only dry surface. The flag snapped in the wind, the chain pinging the pole, and the chink of the ball hitting the bat, over and over lulled me into lifting my face to receive the wind. A white-haired man walked up to and began patiently hitting a golf ball, over and over, on a nearby putting green and I looked out onto the expanse of green seeing myself somehow shed of any person-weight, flipping over and over like the pitch and the putt, hand springs and back springs I've never once done.

Sunday morning silence

Odilon Redon, Le Silence, 1911

Saturday, March 17, 2012

It's hard not to love baseball when

Photo by William Short

your son looks this good in a uniform.

Call me shallow.

Obama Drama

smoke and mirrors?
campaign propaganda?
I wasn't a huge fan of Davis Guggenheim's education documentary, and the drone of Tom Hanks' is a bit heavy-handed, but I'm going to say I like it.

Oh, and it helps that he picked UNC as the winner of this year's NCAA tournament. (Betcha didn't know that I'm a Tar Heel!)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pillow Angels, Growth Attenuation and The Ashley Treatment

William Blake, Songs of Experience

I first heard the expression pillow angels, I think, in an issue of People Magazine (correct me if I'm wrong because I don't have the time right this second to check). Basically, the term refers to those children whose disabilities are deemed severe enough to their parents and doctors that they are given hormone treatments to attenuate their growth and thus make "it easier to care for them" and "give them a happier life."  They are described as "angels" because they're pure and innocent, their little heads resting on pillows to the end of their days.

I'm the type of person that has immediate and very intense instinctual reactions to things, and when I read about Ashley, and her parents' decision to attenuate her growth, to give her hormones to stop her growth, nip her breast buds to keep them small and remove her uterus and ovaries in a complete hysterectomy -- well -- it made me nearly sick to my stomach. The expression pillow angels is particularly repugnant to me, having that sort of treacly sentiment that drives me insane (think Welcome to Holland, God only gives you what you can handle, everything is a blessing and a treasure and all that jazz).

I like my angels fierce.

Suffice it to say that while I dreaded the onset of puberty for Sophie, I never once considered removing her uterus to spare her the pain and inconvenience of menstruation. Why not, some might ask? Like I said, this feeling, this knowing, comes from a very deep, instinctual place, and I don't mess with it. I honor it. It's easy and natural to fear what we don't know; I have found that when we reach what we've feared, it's never as bad or as difficult as that unknowing.

The Ashley Treatment has sparked much controversy in the disability community, and better minds than mine have argued unceasingly about it, but when I read this article yesterday in The Guardian newspaper, I decided to state my own feelings about it. I've actually been asked, on numerous occasions, by well-meaning people why I wouldn't give Sophie a hysterectomy.

And this is why, and it's pretty simple: I believe it to be barbaric. I also think that cutting your face up to make it look younger verges on weird, too.

If I were a truly good Buddhist, I would strive to do so, but I don't feel a whit of compassion toward these people who would do such a thing to a child. I am stunned into wondering whether it's one of those impossible conundrums -- there are some people that agree with shit like that and others that don't, and despite the cajolings, good intentions and explanations on both sides, neither side will meet. For that reason, I'm not sure these kinds of things should be legislated, so while I deplore a hospital like Seattle Children's that condones and actually performs growth attenuation, I don't necessarily think it should be made a criminal act. But again, better minds have argued for this sort of legislation, and I might be persuaded.

Reader, thoughts?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What I bought for myself today

Genes and Tolerance

United States Army Recruiting Station, Los Angeles

When I pulled into the parking lot of Sophie's high school this morning, it was hard not to notice the array of camouflaged tents, trucks and soldiers spread out over the huge parking lot. It's gray in Los Angeles this morning, and when you don't have the patriotic gene , the sight of army recruiters at a city high school doesn't make you feel a surge of pride in your country. Call me unpatriotic, but I don't like teenagers to be recruited to fight for their country in the parking lots of their high schools. I don't care if they're promised an education, glory or one hundred vestal virgins in heaven. You're not going to see this scene a few miles away in the parking lot of a prestigious private school, peopled with the tender and the privileged. And no, I don't have an answer for how we're supposed to find kids to fight wars in countries like Iran and Afghanistan. I don't have an alternative, so I'll just sit in my car and steam a bit while I wait for Sophie's aide to come and get her.

The other day, Kim of Art in Red Wagons left a great comment after I posted about my struggles with moderation in politics.  She spoke of tolerance and directed me to a very interesting and eye-opening statement of tolerance as dictated by UNESCO, in 1995. Here's an excerpt that struck me, in particular:

Article 1 - Meaning of tolerance
1.1 Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference. It is not only a moral duty, it is also a political and legal requirement. Tolerance, the virtue that makes peace possible, contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace.
1.2 Tolerance is not concession, condescension or indulgence. Tolerance is, above all, an active attitude prompted by recognition of the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. In no circumstance can it be used to justify infringements of these fundamental values. Tolerance is to be exercised by individuals, groups and States.
1.3 Tolerance is the responsibility that upholds human rights, pluralism (including cultural pluralism), democracy and the rule of law. It involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism and affirms the standards set out in international human rights instruments.
1.4 Consistent with respect for human rights, the practice of tolerance does not mean toleration of social injustice or the abandonment or weakening of one's convictions. It means that one is free to adhere to one's own convictions and accepts that others adhere to theirs. It means accepting the fact that human beings, naturally diverse in their appearance, situation, speech, behaviour and values, have the right to live in peace and to be as they are. It also means that one's views are not to be imposed on others.

Wouldn't it be great if the thousands of kids at our high school could learn about that document instead of signing their lives away under bullshit pretext to fight in countries whose cultures are grossly misunderstood ?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Acupuncture Land

Chinese Doctor Doll

I visited Dr. Jin today, lay on the table with needles poking out everywhere, and when she left the room, I closed my eyes, drowsy under the heat lamp, my mind immediately going to the places where it goes when I visit her. I go to my other life, another life, the quiet Chinese restaurant where I worked briefly as a hostess, ushering people to their dark booths, skirting the desiring eyes of Jackson the Chinese waiter who permed his hair and told me that I was from a James Bond movie, for your eyes only, he'd whisper, the water in the plastic pitcher tremoring in his hand. I go to a house in the country, the top floor and a spindle bed where afterwards he'd lie on the floor, one ear pressed to hear the screams of the couple who lived below us and we'd laugh, raucously over the fields and then I'm in an office in Nashville in my business skirt and hose my glass office in front of Joni the receptionist with her frosted hair and her careful nails and the plastic wheel where she'd place the pink message slips and I'd spin it around and finally escaped into a walk-in closet, the floor rough beneath me, fabric brushing my face, the hum of the air-conditioner, my onion hands after work that took me to the city, the larger city and the doctor gently knocks and walks in so I stop and open my eyes. She smiles and takes the needles out.

Chinese Foot Chart

Every part of us
alerts another part.
Press a spot in
the tender arch and 
feel the scalp
twitch. We are no 
match for ourselves
but our own release.
Each touch
uncatches some
remote lock. Look,
boats of mercy
embark from 
our heart at the
oddest knock.

-- Kay Ryan, from The Best of It, New and Selected Poems

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

This is supposed to be funny --

I was lazily watering the flowers in the backyard just now while talking on the phone to a Relative about another Relative's upcoming surgery. There's lots of drama in families, mine included. I tend toward the contrary, so when someone is freaking out, I'm calm. I'm calm. While I was calmly talking to The Relative, bloodcurdling screams came spilling outdoors, emanating from Oliver who claimed to have been stabbed by a pencil by Henry. Henry followed closely behind yelling that it was an accident. I turned off the water and held the phone at my ear with my shoulder and bent down to look at the stabbing -- a tiny, bleeding pinprick in Oliver's finger. It was a lead pencil! he screamed, Is it going to poison me? Henry looked worried. I couldn't hear The Relative anymore over the phone so I excused myself and pulled Oliver inside to check out the wound in the bathroom. For the next five or so minutes, I tried to remove the tiniest of gray splinters from the tiniest of wounds to the tune of the loudest of screaming and carrying on about evil brothers and homework due and on and on. I remained calm. In my mind I looked like the above fantastically attired woman, a photo that I've been dying to use in a post so here it is.

The Middle Road

I want to stand as close to the edge as I can 
without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things
 you can't see from the center.**

-- Kurt Vonnegut 

In politics, there's always talk of the need for a middle road, a proverbial path where extremes are blended into some sort of equanimity. People who cry for moderation maintain that there is great virtue in being moderate, that the voices of the left and the right are "too extreme," "irrational," "out of touch with normalcy," etc. My father, a very wise and intelligent moderate bemoans the lack of civility in modern politics and abhors extreme positions on either the right or the left, but as a moderate, his viewpoints are often mysterious to me. I don't know, really, where he stands.  I'm not moderate and would never claim that my way is the right way. It's just my way, I think. I try to temper my beliefs and listen to those whose beliefs are dissimilar, but I feel a weird pressure to somehow move to the middle, to recognize commonalities, to embrace what binds us together  to use some common expressions and exhortations from seemingly more reasoned people than myself. And I'm finding this to be nearly impossible. Frankly, I don't think the middle is that great of a place. Even more frankly, I don't want to move to the middle.

I thought about these things this morning as I drove back from Oliver's school and listened to NPR's coverage of the Republican primaries in Alabama. A nice-sounding guy told the reporter that he was still undecided on whom he would be voting for in today's primary. I'll paraphrase his comments and put my own in parenthesis):

Republican Primary Man: I like Romney for his financial acumen. (He used the word acumen, so I'm assuming he's thoughtful and well-educated, a plus, but there's controversy about just how Romney ran his businesses and acquired his vast wealth. I believe voting for him is like voting for a corporation to be president).

Republican Primary Man: I like Gingrich for his foreign policy views. (Okaaaay. Bomb Iran?)

Republican Primary Man: I like Santorum for his social views and emphasis on family values. (Okaaaay. Hatred of homosexuals, stripping women of reproductive rights, blending church and state, religion and politics?)

Now, where am I going to find commonality with this guy and where is he going to find commonality with me, other than the obvious fact that we're both humans and good enough people (although I really think that anyone who espouses the social views of Santorum is NOT a good person). Why do I have to walk some middle road with the likes of him?

I don't have any answers and am thinking aloud, obviously. Have you heard of the word sheeple? I guess it refers to people who flock together like sheep. That's how I currently see the middle road. I'm going out on a limb and saying, f*^$ that. I'm walking on the edge.

** Thanks to Erika for leaving a comment on this post with this quote! It's just so perfect that I had to add it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday state of mind




A painful Saturday night, evangelicals and a funny poem

  1. I reached deep into parenting patience last night and spent about one half of an hour looking at Oliver's Wacky Pack collection. I made comments, tittered over the gross ones and expressed interest in the sheer numbers that he had collected.
  2. I watched Facing the Giants with the boys,  perhaps the lamest movie about high school football ever made. Weirdly, I hate football but am a complete sucker for a football movie (not to mention Friday Night Lights, one of the best tv series ever produced). That this pathetic excuse of a movie was also over-the-top evangelical Christian was salt in the open wound of football. Evidently, Christian filmmakers believe that God is on the side of the football team that prays the hardest and leads their entire sinner high school to revival, and they also write lines for the coach that include various Biblical phrases to pump the kids up (I apologize about the spoiler, but I'm assuming that no one here will waste their time on such pablum unless you want to be a martyr). I amused myself by noting how the opposing team (at the Georgia State championship) was made up of animal-like mostly African Americans dressed all in black while "our" team was entirely white, a veritable army of future Ricks (Santorums and Perrys). The only salvation was that even Oliver at some point looked at me and rolled his eyes. I know I probably sighed a lot and prompted the derision, and lest you think me entirely heretical, I did assure both boys that yes, I thought the movie was really nice, but the acting was terrible. I also threw in the fact that I believed in God but I didn't believe he cared one whit about football. Oh, and the other salvation was that we ate a lot of Girl Scout cookies.

How did you spend your Saturday night?

15 minutes go by....I am reading in bed...and now I've turned the computer back on and am finishing this post.

I opened up my New Yorker to this poem, which demonstrates, if not an act of God, a perfect synchronicity:


The Lord woke me in the middle of the night
and there stood Jesus with a huge tray,
and the tray was heaped with cookies,
and He said, Stephen, have a cookie,

and that's when I knew for sure the Lord 
is the real deal, the Man of all men,
because at that very moment
I was thinking of cookies, Vanilla Wafers

to be exact, and there were two
Vanilla Wafers in among the chocolate
chips and the lemon ices, and one
had a big S on it, and I knew it was for me,

and Jesus took it off the tray and put it
in my mouth, as if He were giving me
communication, or whatever they call it.
Then He said, Have another,

and I tell you I thought a long time before I
refused, because I knew it was a test
to see if I was a Christian, which
means a man like Christ, not a big old hog.

--Stephen Dunn

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Saturday morning Sophie slumber

Dim Sum and Mt. Everest

My dear friend and Chinese doctor, Joy Jin, took me to Monterey Park in Los Angeles on Wednesday morning to roam the food markets and herb stores and then finally to sit down in the most enormous restaurant I've ever been in to eat dim sum. I was literally the only non-Chinese person in there, I think -- and there were hundreds of people eating. Hundreds and hundreds of elderly men and women, young couples, small toddlers, babies, businessmen and women -- it was exactly what I'd imagined.

That's tripe right there in the middle -- or stomach -- and I took one bite and politely swallowed it, holding my nose in my mind, which didn't really work. I think I might have then said, again politely (raised in the south), I don't really care for it, but it's interesting. Don't tell Dr. Jin. I'm a bit of a squeamish eater.

It's a terrible photo, but this was my favorite dish: grilled taro root. It tasted sort of like mashed potatoes but had a better consistency and more flavor.

The herb stores were fascinating. I'd been in similar ones in San Francisco's Chinatown -- and if you've never experienced the heady odor of the stores, you should. There are bins and bins of the strangest substances, roots and herbs and bones and bugs and skeletons of sea creatures. In the this photo, the black Brillo-stuff was some sort of seaweed used in teas for medical purposes.

This herb store had the most pungent smell and the coolest displays, but Dr. Jin maintained it was too much money. When we went into another one, there were huge mushrooms in glass apothecary jars that were $580/lb.

This is a giant black mushroom. When I asked Dr. Jin what it was for, she said, Cancer.

I was amused by the grocery store aisle signs and snapped this photo to show Oliver. Imagine a whole aisle of gummy candies!

Again, I'm a squeamish eater. These poor quail looked like they'd been plucked and fried into oblivion or some kind of prehensile state.

Why is it that anything named something ball is hilarious?

You know how everything is labeled Made in China? Well, this row of food was labelled Made in Mexico.

The grocery, just like the restaurant, was entirely Chinese. I didn't see a single black, white or Hispanic person in there, a rare thing in the City of Angels. There were rows and rows of giant rice bags and bizarre produce. I find it fascinating that people of certain cultures congregate and live their entire lives in a microcosm of their native country. I feel privileged to live in such a vibrant city with so much variety, but I wonder why we still live in a sort of tribal way. 

In the meat department, Dr. Jin bought a bag of tendons. She told me that she boiled them and made soup, that it would help her to run in the marathon in two weeks. Did I tell you that Dr. Jin came in first in her age group in the LA Marathon last year? She's 58 and runs, I believe a 3 hour marathon, or something outrageous like that. She came in 17th overall of the women. Over lunch she told fascinating stories of her young life in China -- she's from the northern, cold part near Mongolia, (and her parents marched with Mao) -- where she was a star triathlete and ran in international contests with her then-husband. Her first husband was a Chinese hero and the first Chinese man to reach the peak of Everest solo. He died on the descent. And now she's sitting in a Chinese dim sum palace with one of her patients in Monterey Park, Los Angeles. You can't make that shit up, right? 

I love Dr. Jin and am so grateful for everything she does for me, even though she made me eat a bite of stomach lining.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sophie's Birthday: Part 2 and 3 (I know! So privileged!)


I brought those cupcakes that you saw yesterday to Sophie's class, and we had a party. Every time I visit Sophie's class, I am reminded that despite the relative shabbiness of her school and the convoluted, ineffective and ridiculous larger school system, Sophie has a life here, and it is a warm and happy one.

Sophie with her aide, Saint Renita

Mr. Jackson lights the candles

Happy Birthday to Sophie

Oliver insisted on getting out of school a little early to come celebrate.

Two seniors from the high school brought Sophie balloons and sang Happy Birthday to her. I thought I was on the set of Glee. I'm not kidding.

Sophie's teacher, Mr. Jackson, sang to her. He's a musician and I believe Sophie is a tiny bit in love with him.

Evidently, Sophie is mesmerized when he sings Jack Johnson. Good to know.

Oliver kept busy helping out the other students with their word puzzles.


Back at the ranch, we had another birthday celebration with The Husband and Henry. We ate a delicious dinner and then lit candles once again and sang Happy Birthday. All in all, it was a fantastic day.

Happy Birthday, Sophie!


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