Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Weed the People and Wednesday Afternoon Thoughts

I'm cranky today.

Does the sun ask itself, "Am I good? Am I worthwhile? Is there enough of me?" No, it burns and it shines. Does the sun ask itself, "What does the moon think of me? How does Mars feel about me today?" No, it burns, it shines. Does the sun ask itself, "Am I as big as suns in other galaxies?" No, it burns, it shines.

Andrea Dworkin

What's really bugging me of late are the people who claim that moderation is the ticket out of the clusterfuck that we find ourselves. Other words and expressions and phrases are coming to the middle, reaching across the aisle, being respectful, both sides are guilty. Etc. I cry bullshit. I agree that heinous people are everywhere, but people aren't building Maxine Waters' inspired bombs and sending them to Republican leaders. Yes, a Republican congressman was shot at a baseball game, but I and the many "liberals" I know deplore gun violence whether it's directed toward people on the left or people on the right. People on the right, though, cling to their "right" to "bear arms," to "protect their families."  I have zero interest in tolerating this mindset or even respecting it. I maintain that anti-Semitic and racist violence, while always present, is increasing due to right-wing/Republican/Trumpian rhetoric. I see idiots from my high school class arguing with some of the smartest people in my high school class about how fantastic Trump is doing, how the economy is booming. I have no interest in understanding their views anymore. I can barely talk to members of my own family who support the POSPOTUS or who still call themselves Republicans, much less any person not in my family who espouses these views or who supports the Republican party and their president.

I told you I was cranky.

It's not about me, though, is it? It's about all of us or the rest of us. We've got to vote the Republicans out.

Other thoughts: I'm reading Rebecca Traister's new book on women's anger. It's called Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger. Here's a bit that I just read:

Now, I was worried and consumed with anxiety about what’s happening nationally, but in terms of my own general health, having had the opportunity to write, think, and take seriously not just my own anger, but other women’s anger, was the most salutary experience I’ve ever had in my life. I slept better, I ate better, I wanted to exercise. I was clear-headed. So I am very much in favor of the expression of rage, and getting to a world in which the expression of rage can just be a regular part of the full human range of emotions and thoughts that women have.

However, I am also aware of the fact that that experience was very much the product of a very particular circumstance. I was being paid to do that. That’s not possible for a lot of women who do get punished, right? They get called hysterical, they get taken less seriously. They pay tolls in their personal relationships. So I don’t want to exhort anybody, like, “Go and be your mad self.” If you’re in a position where you can, please do, because we do need to hear from more women who are angry and able to be angry without fear that being angry is going to result in a materially damaging repercussion for them. However, the thing you can do, if you are not in a position to express your anger yourself, is to take the anger of other women seriously, because that’s the part we have to change, not just individual behavior—what we have to change is the way that the world receives women’s anger. That’s about the broader reality that it’s not taken seriously, it’s not considered valid, it’s considered often disqualifying. And the way we can contribute to that individually is by asking women, “Why are you angry, what makes you angry?” and then listening to their responses. This goes especially, I think, for white women and women of privilege. We need to all practice taking women’s anger and women’s rage more seriously, being curious about it, being interested in it. And considering what it’s telling us about the world, about ourselves, about inequality. 

I'm holding one of my literary food salons on Friday night to discuss this book. I've got a wonderful group of women coming, and I plan to make a feast for them and facilitate a great discussion about women and anger. No men signed up this time. I changed the name of the salon from Books & Bakes to Eat Your Words. What do you think?

And, finally, last night I attended the Los Angeles premiere of a new documentary produced by Ricki Lake and featuring the stories of families with children who've used cannabis medicine to treat vicious cancers. My beloved Dr. Bonni Goldstein plays a prominent part of the documentary, as well as some other significant doctors and researchers in the world. It's called Weed the People, and I highly recommend it. Reader, being on the frontline of this revolution is just -- wild.

Keep on burning. Keep on shining.

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Poem for the Times

Ai Wei Wei, "Spouts"
from Life Cycle*

Good Bones

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
Maggie Smith

"Spouts piles together thousands of antique teapot spouts dating as far back as the Song dynasty (960-1279). Following Ai's practice of repetition and multiplication, Spouts can be seen as a mass of mouths, a metaphor for the widespread yearning for freedom of speech despite its continuing restriction throughout many societies."

Monday, October 22, 2018

Where is Jesus?

I haven't written in this space in more than a week, and the last thing I wrote was just fluff, just superficial bullshit, just aggravating minor bad luck goofy stuff that's a mask, all resolved now. I'm walking around doing laundry, taking care of Sophie, exchanging texts with my favorite sacrilegious caregiver friend, feeling solidarity and shedding tears with and for another caregiver friend, Christy Shake, whose most recent post might have ripped my heart out of my body but instead provoked its beating a little harder a little faster. We are ALIVE. I love you, Christy. Who is Calvin and who is Sophie?Who are we without these cares? Must we define ourselves by care? Who are we at all?

Where is Jesus?

Shouldn't he have shown up by now and cleared the tables in Washington, D.C., kicked them over and thrown those who claim to believe in him out on their privileged, hypocritical, stupid, vision-less asses? Shouldn't that POSPOTUS be punished by now, disgraced and bound in a public stockade?  Why is that man from Georgia so hell-bent on power that he's denying suffrage to tens of thousands of people? Is he afraid of the black woman that he is running against? Why are Georgians not ashamed? Are they punch (or should I say beer) drunk on power? I am ashamed that I pass countless homeless persons on every single corner of this great city. I pass them by. Why have the Koch brothers spent so much money on propaganda against climate change? What are these sacrosanct values that conservative peoples espouse? Why do so many people bear arms? The man in the park in Sedona last week, pushing his mother in a wheelchair to an overlook, the rushing water below, the sky blue above, a large gun strapped to his thigh. Did he feel safer? Freer? He made me sick. Why exactly is the POSPOTUS administration now going to "erase" transgendered people? Define humanity by their genitals at birth? Who will be next?

Will we have to fight? Parents against their grown children. Cousins estranged. Friendships severed. And anger, so much anger, and it won't be squelched.

No stranger to the catastrophizing that comes with great stress (I step over a curb and imagine my body flung by passing traffic, the descent into the red rock canyon surely must be swift), I am yet dazed, struck dumb, bewildered.

I am furious.

“I have been beaten, my skull fractured, and arrested more than forty times so that each and every person has the right to register and vote. Friends of mine gave their lives. Do your part. Get out there and vote like you’ve never voted before.”
—Congressman John Lewis

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A Series of Irritating Events from the First World

So far, during the last three days, while they are hardly calamitous events (but, rather, what we might call "first-world" problems), these things have happened:

  1. TSA stole a $100 bill out of my bag. Police recovered and impounded it, but it's already cost me $16 to get a notarized letter authorizing the Phoenix Airport Police to ship it back to me. The numerous phone calls that I made to get this information are too boring to enumerate, but when I finally got everything in order, the letter notarized and attempted to fax, it was not working. I spent some time this morning with the Phoenix Recovered Property department, again too boring to enumerate, and was finally told that the fax did work and that I should try again.  
  2. A package from Anthropologie was delivered to my address yesterday, empty. It was one of those plastic envelopes, and after picking it up and thinking, Man this is a weightless dress!, I realized that the envelope had been cleanly slit and the contents removed. I ran down the sidewalk and caught the postwoman who exclaimed that she, too, had wondered why the package was so weightless. She called her supervisor who told me to call the Postmaster General. I did so, and they told me that it looked like the package began its journey to my house at 10 oz but that the last weight recorded was 0 oz, so obviously something happened along the way and an investigation would commence. I called Anthropologie and explained the situation, and they agreed to send me another dress. I am now waiting for the Post Office to continue their investigation. Stay tuned.
  3. My OB/GYN ordered a colonoscopy kit for me that is evidently a whole lot easier than going through the regular thing. If I pass this home kit thingy, I don't have to get a colonoscopy for another five years. I called the company this morning to ask why it hadn't come yet as I was informed two weeks ago that it had been delivered. The person at the company checked and told me that it had been delivered but to the wrong address. Instead of South My Street Name, it was delivered to North My Street Name. So someone on North My Street Name has a colonoscopy home kit with instructions on how to provide a stool sample. The company is sending me another one. 
  4. I sent my manuscript to the editor last week, and it has not arrived. I put the tracking number for the parcel in the USPS website, and it said that it had not been received. Apparently, my manuscript is floating around somewhere in between Los Angeles and San Francisco. I will cancel the check that accompanied the manuscript and resend tomorrow, if it doesn't show up at the editor's place by then.
So, what next? Throw it my way. Give it to me.

Oh, here's something amusing. I received an inquiry today from an online job site that I've been using in an attempt to get freelance writing gigs. The notice stated that I was an excellent match for the following position:

We produce gay romance novels based in contemporary settings and in supernatural/paranormal worlds that encompass shifters, such as werewolves, vampires, dragons, and many more mythical creatures. Our characters fight through relationship woes and celebrate swells of passion in situations ranging from love triangles to forbidden desire, tribal rivalries, mpreg, and ancient or secret worlds clashing with the new. Adventure, mystery, crime, comedy, and drama are no strangers to our romance stories.

We’re looking for a talented M/M (gay) romance writer, that from the first sentence to the last, can keep readers engaged and craving more!


☻ Be a native English-speaking writer with excellent comprehension and execution of English grammar.

☻ Be dedicated to writing character-driven books focusing on the development of romantic attraction between the main characters. You have the creative freedom to flesh out the details within our guidelines.

☻ Be an enthusiastic and thorough researcher.

☻ Lastly, be original. We run books through PlagScan and Copyscape. 

 What do you think? Should I apply? I am nothing if not an enthusiastic and thorough researcher.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

My Response to The NY Times Epilepsy Story

So many people sent me the recent — let’s call it crowd-sourcing — article detailing a young girl’s hideous epilepsy story and asking for the public’s help, that I’ve lost count. That we live in a period where literally everything is a reality show makes me ill. Crowd-sourcing medicine? Give me a break. This is my response to the parents via the New York Times and the f’d-up medical business community that pretends to Science:

Don’t cut out your child’s brain until you’ve tried cannabis medicine. “Fixing” your child is the hardest, most fruitless journey you will embark upon. The opposite of that is not acceptance. There is healing in the legion of people who know your suffering. Healing and curing are entirely different things.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Making Art, Making Cake, Making Love

Let the sunshine in
Photographer: Carl Jackson 

I'm excited to tell you that I have three pieces in the Michigan Quarterly Review. It's a special themed issue titled "Caregiving." I'm in pretty darn august company, including Suzanne Edison and Heather Kirn Lanier. The review has categorized my work as "poetry," but between you and me, they are really prose poems or fragments that appear in my larger manuscript.  You can order a paper copy or download a PDF for $10. There's some amazing stuff in there, and let's hear it for supporting the work and art of caregivers. I recently sent about 180 pages to an editor. I have about 3/4 of the first draft revised and am determined to get the last quarter done by the end of the month. The publication in Michigan Quarterly Review is such an honor —I've probably sent out ten things over the last couple of years and have had all rejections, so this gives me that extra kick in the ass that I need.

Maybe I'll have a book published before I turn eighty but probably not before the Disunited States turns from plutocracy to autocracy.

I guess we have to just keep doing the work. Making art, making cake, making love.

In other news, my fellow co-host and friend Jason Lehmbeck and I had the most profound discussion with two women on the Who Lives Like This?! podcast. Jennifer Siedman and Blyth Taylor Lord spoke to us about their own families and lives, about palliative care, bereavement and the remarkable organization Courageous Parents Network.  Even if you aren't a caregiver, you must listen to it. I beg you to listen to it. Please share the link, too. Remember: we're making art, making cake, making love.

Here's the link.

What are you up to, Reader?

MQR 57|4 Fall 2018

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Dandelion Wishes

So, yeah. Now we have not one but TWO misogynists sitting on the Supreme Court and ONE misogynistic sexual predator directing the whole shebang along with 51 sycophants in the Senate, minus one woman from Alaska.

How very charming for us, no?

I've got family members who support Trump and Kavanaugh. We can barely talk at all now, and I don't know what to do about this. I welcome all tips.

You should read this:

Somewhere on the wide spectrum between adolescent teasing and the smiling white men in the lynching photographs are the Trump supporters whose community is built by rejoicing in the anguish of those they see as unlike them, who have found in their shared cruelty an answer to the loneliness and atomization of modern life.

Still angry, moving on.

Sophie is currently getting her second round of IVIG infusions. She had two hellacious weeks after the first (probably unrelated) and has been perking up in the last week. I haven't given an update because I'm generally so stressed out about her and me and all the usual crap that I just don't want to exacerbate it by -- well -- sharing it. It's too much, Reader. Way, way too much.

I'm not going to be teaching the senior citizens any more because the company that hired me thought I'd be willing to drive all over southern California to do so. When I say drive all over, I mean ALL OVER. Like there might be mornings where I'd be driving three hours for a one hour class. On top of all of that is Sophie and her erratic schedule and life. Her care IS my job. Sigh. I will miss that crabby woman, though, and the soft-spoken woman who worked in the cotton fields of Texas. I need work. Freelance work. Suggestions welcome.

Saint Mirtha cut Sophie's hair really short, and she looks a bit like a dandelion. I close my eyes and make a wish and blow.

Friday, October 5, 2018


That's my sophomore year school picture. I was fifteen years old and attended The Lovett School in Atlanta, Georgia. We wore powder blue shirt-dresses in the warmer months that we were allowed to cinch with whatever belt we liked. We wore white or navy knee-socks and some kind of loafer from L.L. Bean or Wallabees from the department store. We were not allowed to wear sneakers or tennis shoes as we called them in the south. My necklace is a gold Catholic medal of the Virgin Mary. I was one of the few Catholics in my class. It was an Episcopal prep school. There were fewer Jews and no Muslims that I know of, but would a Muslim have announced it back in the late 1970s at a conservative prep school in the south? I was thought to be Jewish, probably because I was dark and looked faintly exotic. That's the word people used. My family had moved to the south from the New York area several years before, and while I had a southern grandmother, I never felt southern, never really felt a part of it. Why are you here? one of the blonde popular girls asked me once in front of the P.E. lockers. It was a Jewish holiday. I don't remember what I said even though I remember the question. There were even fewer people of color than Jews. We called people of color different names: black, Indian, Mexican. I remember every African American person's name in my class. I don't remember everyone in my class or their names, but some things stick out. I don't remember whether anyone was Asian. We didn't use the word Asian. 

This isn't a post about nostalgia and only a little about memory. It isn't about me. My mood over the last week, since we heard Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's account of her assault at fifteen by probably soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, has been one of outright rage and then simmering rage and then depression and then disbelief and then some more rage and now -- well -- resignation tempered by rage. Dr. Ford's memory has been called into question, at best. At worst, she is thought to be a shameful liar. This is why I'm angry. I'm angry at privilege and male trumping truth and justice. I'm angry about the narrow interests of the Republican party. I'm repulsed, frankly, by those who support the vile human they've elected to be president.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with being angry. We're learning that, now.

Remember that black women have been doing this shit and dealing with shit for even longer. So have all people of color, actually, and all those with disabilities, too. Remember that. We're strong. You're strong. I'm strong. Get out the vote. Remember disenfranchised people, including prisoners who've been released (in Florida, particularly, according to a friend). If you need a rest, take it. Then get up and get a grip.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Poetry with Senior Citizens

How's that for soothing? The steam from my coffee cup literally swirling up and out and can't you smell those peaches and the pears are buttery and the sun, always the sun. The calm certainly belies the simmering rage I feel, especially tonight after seeing the POSPOTUS give one of his inimitable rally speeches, this time in the great state of Mississippi, where he mocked Dr. Ford. The backdrop was a bunch of hooting and hollering white men and women who, I suppose, are his base and never was there a better word to describe them.

We need to turn this thing around.

Here's something else to soothe our souls. I'm teaching a couple of creative writing classes to senior citizens. They are lovely men and mostly women in a couple of assisted living homes here in Los Angeles, and I got the job by applying through one of those newfangled job search engines. I won't be putting either of my two boys through college or putting in an adapted bathroom for Sophie with my pay, but I already really like doing it. The group that I've seen twice is particularly fragile -- both physically and cognitively -- but they can be inspired to tell the most vivid stories. I am always the first, one woman began, her words unfurling to describe her early childhood days in the cotton fields of Texas, plowing and picking. Another woman opens one eye and glares at me. I've got NOTHING to tell you, she says and closes her eye. She's so hostile that I sort of love her. She also told me at the end of the class (she contributed nothing) that's a pretty dress, and I said thank you. I recited Joy Harjo and played a Native American water song. A man in a Dodgers cap whose chin lay on his chest while he gently snored through the entire first class was lively in the second one. When prompted to write about someone in your life who is important he chose his son and said He always does the right thing and organized this whole thing when there was all this darkness and trouble. 

The stories. Everyone has a story.

Except for that POS that is running ruining our country. I know I'm not supposed to wish harm on any living being but damn. And the people who support him? The word scratch. The word eye. The word out.


Here's a poem.

All the Difficult Hours and Minutes

All the difficult hours and minutes 
are like salted plums in a jar. 
Wrinkled, turn steeply into themselves, 
they mutter something the color of  sharkfins to the glass. 
Just so, calamity turns toward calmness. 
First the jar holds the umeboshi, then the rice does.

Jane Hirshfield


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