Monday, May 31, 2010

On Memorial Day

I don't usually write a specific Memorial Day entry, mostly because I did not grow up with a tradition of Memorial Day observation (nor, sadly, did my own children). My father was 4-F and unable to serve in World War II, though he desperately wanted to be in the Navy. I had no brothers to watch going off to war and Walt's brief stint in the Air Force brought a few grim days around the time of the Cuban Missile crisis, but he made it through his time doing busywork on his reserve weekends.

Because of my father's dislike of my mother's family and our quasi-estrangement from most of them, I was an adult before I heard the story of one uncle's months in a prisoner of war camp and the experiences of the other two during their periods of active duty.

But when Memorial Day rolled around, I don't remember ever going to a cemetery or ever doing anything in any public way to acknowledge those who have fought and died for this country. I'm not sure if this makes me ashamed or not, but we should have been more aware, and we should have paid more attention to the people who fought and died...or didn't keep us living this life of complacency.

My friend Debra LoGuercio DeAngelo, of the Winters Express , wrote a powerful column about her father and the effect being in World War II had on him. You can find it here, but you have to go through a couple screens, first click on her name and then on the column "Sometimes the Deepest Wounds Can't be Seen." I highly recommend it.

It seems incredibly tragic that at this time when we honor those who have given their lives (or limbs) not only for this country, but in the attempt to make lives better for those in other countries, that on our own shores we are still going through such ugly debate about whether or not willing and able gay people can serve openly in the military.

headstone.jpg (36315 bytes)There is no list of the number of gay men and women who have lost their lives fighting for this country, because even in death, there seems to be a need to keep that ugly secret buried, but one can assume that the percentage of deaths is proportional to the percentage of those serving in secret.

Liz Neff, a staff writer for the Wisconsin Gazette, wrote about Alan Greg Rogers.

To date, one soldier killed in Iraq has been publicly identified as gay – Army Maj. Alan G. Rogers of Hampton, Fla., who was fatally wounded by an IED while on patrol in Baghdad in January 2008.

Rogers, who received a Purple Heart posthumously and his second Bronze Star, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full honors. His commanding officer wrote to Rogers’ family, “As God would have it he shielded two men who probably would have been killed if Alan had not been there.”

Mainstream news reports, hailing Rogers as a national hero, contained remembrances of the solder as exceptional, brilliant, religious, calming and compassionate and detailed the soldier’s childhood, career and interests, even his effort to raise money to buy a Persian rug for a gift for a friend. But Rogers was not identified as a gay man until gay friends came forward to salute his service, as well as his personal opposition to DADT.

The Memorial Day following Rogers’ death, Steve Ralls of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays memorialized his friend: “He was brave in every sort of way. He deplored silence and understood all too well its impact. He felt the pain and isolation it could create. Those who spend so much time and energy propping up the military’s gay ban have tried to cover up the real, and significant, contribution that gay and lesbian Americans make to our Armed Forces.

“In the meantime, gay service members are fighting and – as we now know – dying on the battlefield in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. Their stories are irrefutable proof of the disrespect and dishonor DADT imposes on our men and women in uniform.”

On this Memorial Day, I would like to salute those who have fought for this country, those who have died for this country, those who have given body parts and been irreparably damaged mentally by their experiences.

But I would especially like to salute those who, because they are gay, could easily walk away and let someone else do the fighting, but have chosen to live a life of secret because their love for their country and their desire to protect its interests is great.

In this era of voluntary military service, everyone who puts on a uniform is a hero, but these brave men and women have a special kind of heroism and should get not the disrespect and derision so many are experiencing, but the respect and dignity they so rightly deserve.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

An Underdog Kinda Day

There is an old Underdog cartoon that I remember from when the kids were little, where our hero has fallen under the spell of the evil Simon Bar Sinister, who has given him something that will make him sick. Underdog says, "Things are fine when I sit down, but when I stand up, things go round and round." (amazing how I can remember that so many years later!)

Well, today has been kind of an Underdog day for me. Things started off ok, with my waking up and then remembering about writing the journal entry. But by the time I'd finished the journal I was having abdominal cramps.

A little health confession here. I haven't been a very compliant patient with my diabetes II meds for several months and the piper eventually had to be paid, so I finally got the damn lab tests done and went to the doctor prepared to have the riot act read to me. She doesn't do that sort of thing, but she did get me to promise to go back on my meds again and to report in to her on a regular basis what my blood glucose readings are. She also adjusted my medication so a couple were dropped and a couple of others were added. Possible side effects are nausea and diarrhea.

For me, the end result was nausea, varying from mild to not quite so mild and disappearing quickly as the day progressed. At first I thought it would get better as my body adjusted to the meds, and then after a particularly bad day, I made an appointment to see the doctor again. But of course by the time I saw her it had adjusted. There's been a lot of back and forth over this re-starting jazz, but the glucose numbers are coming down, which she is happy to see, and the last time I saw her (last week) she said my blood pressure was "beautiful." I can't remember when anybody ever told me that.

So this nausea has been coming and going for about 2 weeks, but today seemed worse than usual, plus there was some diarrhea as well. I didn't feel like doing anything today and over the course of the morning I probably lost everything I've eaten for the last three days, one way or the other.

I didn't know if it was a continuation of the medication problem or if perhaps the chicken salad sandwich I'd eaten last night was the culprit.

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All that mayonnaise on a warm afternoon, you know.

For whatever the reason, I was down for the count. Polly and Emmy were thrilled to have lap time all morning long. At some point I sent Walt (who was upstairs) a text message to ask if he could feed the dogs, which he did (the cell phone is replacing the "ring the bell if you want anything" days of being sick!). I fell asleep sometime mid morning. When I awoke, there was a note saying he'd gone off to the farmers' market.

He brought fresh cherries home from the market and they were too good not to try, so I did. I don't know how those sat with my system. All my symptoms aren't gone yet, but it was worth it to try some of the cherries. It seemed that every time I got up to check e-mail or get a small bite to eat, it would set off my symptoms again. Things were fine when I sat down, but when I stood up, things went round and round (as well as up and down!)

I spent the afternoon watching TV and taking pictures of the puppies playing on the dog bed across from where I was laid out.

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At dinnertime I had a bowl of plain rice and decided that it would either (a) fill me up, or (b) put something else in my system to get rid of because I was running pretty low.

Toward the end of the day, I had a call from the Enterprise office about the review for As You Like It. I'd stayed up to get it done, to make sure it was at the office first thing this morning. Now, at 5 p.m., they wanted to know where it was. Turns out that my boss, who is on vacation, had told me to send it to the editor, and I'd confirmed with the editor on Thursday that it was coming, but the person whose job it was to actually get the paper printed didn't know that, didn't have access to the editor's e-mail and wanted to know where it was. Sigh. If I'd know that, I could have gone to sleep earlier last night and written it this morning!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

All the World's a Stage

I can't believe I forgot to write my journal entry last night. There have been nights when I haven't done it because of circumstances, but I don't think ever because I forgot. But I always write the next day's entry the night before, so technically the entry I'm writing now is actually for today and I haven't really forgotten anything anyway.

The reason I forgot was that we had been to the theatre that night and the review had to get to the paper before I went to sleep. I was so concentrated on getting that finished that by the time I sent it off, this journal was the last thing on my mind.

The show we attended was Acme Theatre Company's 30th anniversary production of As You Like It, on the outdoor stage at the Davis Art Center. Jeri was in the second (and subsequent) Acme Theatre production when she was in high school and it's hard to realize that the young people's company has now been around for thirty years.

The Memorial Day production is always an outdoor show and is aways free, as a thank you to the town of Davis for all of its support. It used to be held on a stage downtown behind the Pence Art Gallery, but when the gallery expanded, they needed to find a new venue and the stage behind the Davis Art Center is just perfect, with the flat grass for people to sit on and then a hill behind it if you want a better view. There is a bike path that runs between the flat grass and the hill, and cyclists coming through during the show adds an interesting flavor.

This year there was a food truck there selling sandwiches and so we decided to have our dinner in the park before the show.

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I had a chicken salad sandwich on foccacia bread and then a cup of strawberries and whipped cream, which was a wonderful light dessert, so much better than the cookies they were selling.

The production this year was very interesting because they decided to make it a "recycle show." They solicited material from the community and then built the set and the costumes out of the recycled materials they gathered. The set, for example, was cardboad boxes and newspaper covered panels.

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(Of course when they planned an essentially paper set for a May performance, a time when it's usually quite warm, they had no idea it would RAIN the entire week before the show!) A lot of the boxes across the proscenium arch came from the Girl Scouts, as they were picking up material at the time when the Scouts were finishing their cookie drive and trying to get rid of boxes. Win-win for everyone.

AcmeSlinky.jpg (68324 bytes)The costumes, too, were made of recycled materials. A long train, for example, was made from a black garbage bag and several pieces of costumes were made of paper or plastic, or of old collections of material that had been donated.

The jexter's costume looked like it was made from old souvenir t-shirts from previous shows.

I absolutely loved how they created the ruffs around the women's necks. This one was made from a Slinky; another one was made from the silver tubing of a dryer exhaust.

There was also a clever use of a lot of ties, making the skirt for this costume. Some sort of a basket weave pattern was used on another costume.

AcmeSpock.jpg (49089 bytes)But the element that may have been my very favorite of all, was suddenly discovering when the actress twirled around that one of the ties that formed her over-skirt was actually a Star Trek tie.

The performance was good and there were some surprising elements. Acme always includes music and dancing in its spring show and this one had some solo performers by singers who had extremely good voices.

There was a time when we went to these shows and knew almost everyone there--other parents and grandparents. The director was a teacher, and also a friend of ours. Now the director has retired, the kids are unfamliar and we only recognized one other couple in the audience (neighbors).

But we enjoyed the evening, and when it was over, we packed up our chairs (Walt brought a plastic chair, I had my wonderful new folding camp chair) and we trudged back to the car and home to write the review.

Friday, May 28, 2010

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

I'm not an overly intelligent person and so I tend to see the big picture and don't pay much attention to the minutia. With the advent of audio books, I've pretty much stopped listening to talk radio because I can't (or don't want to) follow the ins and outs of all the conflicting and contradicting viewpoints, and it gets me too riled up anyway. I get most of my news from Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart, and some internet sites.

Nonetheless, I do have some observations about the madness that is swirling around us right now.

Let's start with Rand Paul. I don't know the man so I don't want to say he's an idiot, though the temptation is there. But anybody who could be asked the question "do you feel a private business has the right to discriminate against black people" over and over again for 20 minutes and still be unable to give a straight answer--and then complain that there was some bias on the part of the interviewer--does begin to prove my initial feeling.

But Paul's idea is, like so many people running for office keep saying, that government is too big. We need to keep goverment out of the private sector. I think that was the notion behind his idea that the Civil Rights Ammendment was somehow flawed.

"Smaller government" is all the buzz word these days, but what are we willing to sacrifice in the name of "smaller government"? It seems that Washington is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't.

Let's take those borders in Arizona. Obama just sent something like 1200 troops to Arizona to help man the borders. Government! And they complain it wasn't enough. They wanted bigger government--more troops.

I heard a discussion on the radio this morning saying that there is a bill introduced to force sex offenders and violent offenders released from prison to have some sort of a mark printed on their driver's license. Government at work again.

During the health care debate everybody was all hot and bothered about both government involvement in our private health care decisions--and adamant about how everybody was not to touch our Medicare. Last time I looked, Medicare was a government program.

And then there's the illegal alien problem. We have, by estimate, 12 million illegal aliens in this country. Suppose we do a huge round-up and catch at least half of them. Maria and her 5 children are picked up Monday morning. She came here on a boat from Haiti ten years ago.

  • Where do we put her after we pick her up? I assume there is no plane ready and waiting to take her home to a country in dissarray on Monday afternoon. Where does she stay until there is (a) a way to make sure she really IS illegal, and (b) transportation is available.

  • Who pays to house her while she's waiting? Where do we put all the other millions people who are also going to be rounded up? Who takes care of all children, who are legal US citizens? Are they ripped away from their families, who love them and take care of them, and put them in the foster care system--and who pays for that? Where will the foster families come from? Where will the institutions come from? Or do we strip citizenship from legal citizens and force children born here to move to countries they have never lived in?

  • Who pays to send all these millions of people back home again to countries all over the world?

The government. That government we are supposed to want less of is supposed to work overtime to get rid of all our illegal aliens, feed them, house them, pay to transport them, take care of their legal US citizen children. But don't even think of amnesty which would allow them to remain here legally, work, pay taxes, and have to pay a fine (which wouldn't hurt the US treasury).

So much of the border control concentrates on immigrants who have slipped in illegally from Mexico and, granted, that is a big part of the problem, but nobody talks about the people who come here legally on tourist visas and just never go home again. The Experiment in International Living at one time stopped taking students from Nigeria because they were using the exchange program as a way to get to this country legally. They never went to their American homes, but simply disappeared into the country...somewhere. I know people from then-Zaire who did that too.

One of our Brasilian students stayed, moved to the San Diego area and was actually picked up several times by the border patrol, but always released because they didn't have the money to spend to send him home to Brasil. It's one thing to drive a truck across the US-Mexican border. It's quite another if your illegal comes from South America or Africa or some other country.

It's not just a question of pack-em-up, move-em-out. There are lots of intermediate steps that cost big bucks and would take lots of interference from that big government so many profess not to want any more.

But how about that whole "big government" thing? It's all well and good to say we have to reduce the size of government, but what if my prioritiess for the kind of government I want to have are different from your priorities. I'm 67 and happy to have Social Security. You may be in your 20s and resenting having to help pay for my medical care. You may want to put thousands of troops on the borders, I would rather see the money go into education or health care for children. Everybody is for "less government," but nobody seems to agree on where the cuts should be made.

I wish all the people frothing at the mouth over "less government" and "border control" would stop and think the thing through. Sound bytes are great, but I haven't heard anybody even begin to put forth a workable plan for any of it.

But then I'm not very bright, so what do I know?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Just Call

Tonight Chris Matthews read a letter from a soldier currently fighting in Afghanistan. I'm a transcriptionist. It's what I do. So I have transcribed it here:

I found out this soldier under my command was gay. I learned about it after he died., when his longterm partner wrote to me, not knowing my orientation, to tell me how much this staff sergeant had loved that Army; how we were the only family he’d ever known.

In my own life, my partner has none of the privileges of a spouse. We have weathered three long deployments like any other couple might. My partner and I have happily accepted my various assignments because we’re truly committed to the Army, its soldiers and their famlies. But after our ten years together, my partner has earned the right to be told first about my death. He has earned the right to be recognized for his sacrifices just as any other spouse.

I deeply believe that America is fighting the right fight in Afghanistan. I believe in this battle against our enemies, and I believe that the U.S. Army is the greatest single force for good the world has ever known.

But I want to tell the guys I eat lunch with every day about my partner. After all, these are the guys I risk my life with, the guys who think they know me. I can tell you every detail about how each of them met their wives, how one of them still feels guilty about an affair he never had but thought about; how one of them cried so hard the day his son was born, yet they don’t know much about my life. Over the years, I have become good at evading and changing subjects artfully. To slip-up using the wrong pronoun when describing whom I was with during R&R, or mentioning who I talked to on Skype last night is no longer something I worry about. I have become so good at this lying game it eats at my soul.

A week ago two of my friends were killed in a bombing. The days since then have bled into each other. It is usually not until the evening that I allow myself to think about these things. I will risk my life. I ask to be treated simply like anyone else in the Service – nothing more, and nothing less.

The vote by the Senate Armed Services Committee to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell will take place tomorrow. Republicans have threatened to veto the entire defense department budget if a repeal of the policy is recommended.

There are hundreds/thousands of brave men and women fighting for our country, and hundreds/thousands of families waiting at home in silence because they aren't able to be recognized.

Won't you please call the Senate Armed Services Committee and ask them to vote for repeal of the policy?

(202) 224-3121

(If the voice mail box is full, as it was when I called, ask to be connected to the phone of Senator Carl Levin, the committee chair.)

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen publications delivered to this house

1. San Francisco Chronicle
2. Davis Enterprise
3. Photoshop Magazine
4. Digital Camera
5. Photoshop Creative
6. Layers Magazine
7. National Geographic
8. Trunklines (from the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee)
9. Southern Poverty Law Center Newsletter
10. SPCA Newsletter
11. Verbatim
12. Reunion Magazine (I once asked for a trial copy–and they keep sending it to me, free)
13. About a bazillion catalogs

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Fair Polly

Any day now I'm going to be able to say "By George, I think she's got it!"

Valerie, who has the patience of Job, is making definite progress with Polly. After only three weeks, Polly will cautiously let her touch her, briefly. She has figured out that when Valerie holds a treat in her hand and raises it above her (Polly's) head, she won't get the treat until her body resembles something of a sit position. What she hasn't figured out is that the word "sit" goes along with that.

I watched Valerie work on "sit" for half an hour today. "Sit," she says, waits, then raises treat and Polly gives a slight squat. "Sit," she says again, waits, then raises treat. Over and over again for about 10 minutes. Then things change. "Sit," she says, and she turns her head away from Polly. There is no treat offered. Polly cocks her head, looks at Valerie, looks at the treat bag, look at Valerie's hand then whines. Valerie continues not to look at her. Polly whines again. Then Polly steps back and growls. Then she moves forward and whines again. Valerie eventually gives her the treat after she has assumed the quasi-sit position. It's such a funny thing. You can tell there is some thinking going on in that little head, but she hasn't quite made the connection that "sit" is that thing you do when treats are lifted over your head.

It's the doggie version of Eliza Doolittle endlessly repeating "the rine in Spine stize minely in the pline" while Higgins patiently orders "again."

Any day now, something is going to click. Polly is going to figure it all out and then we may dance around the family room at the triumph so many weeks in coming!

As for the other little guys, they are just so much fun to watch. Roly poly bodies lumbering down the hall chasing after the big guys, or wrestling with each other on the dog bed, or settling on my lap with Polly and Emmy. Emmy has become such a great dog mom, watching out for them and licking them and snuggling up with them when they sleep. I love this picture of Bitsy's ear flopping over Emmy's nose while they sleep.

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This morning I thought they were going to explode. I hadn't left food out for them overnight, though they had eaten dinner. When I put out food in the morning they ate all of their food and all of Polly's. Not surprisingly, they took good naps after breakfast!

I've found lots of ways to communicate with our granddaughter from 400 miles away. JibJab Sendables are great fun and Bri loves dancing, so I've made a couple of those which show Walt and me dancing (very silly). And I simply couldn't wait to make the home movie that is the Video of the Day, which many, who have followed the "spider debate" over the years will understand. I am posting it publically against my better judgement, briefly (the link will be gone tomorrow because though I am a fool, there is a limit to my folly!)

I have several other ideas that I want to try, but will probably put all on hold until we get back from our vacation to Russia next month.

I was supposed to review (I thought) a show tonight, but it turns out this was preview night and opening night isn't for a week, so with the evening free, we finally watched the end of 24. How many holes can Jack get in his body without it slowing him down? But I was pleased with the end. And I was happy with how Lost ended. And the right dancer won Dancing with the Stars (and I have given away no spoilers to people who haven't seen any of those shows yet!)

Now I just have about half a dozen other season finales to watch before I'm finally caught up.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Which Would You Choose?

So you're going to New York and you're going to see some shows. You decide while you're there that you'll see one of the one-person shows playing in town. You check out the New York Drama Desk nominees for Best Solo performance and you have to decide.

- Do you see Carrie Fisher, daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, Princess Leia, author of Postcards from the Edge, telling the stories of her life, a show that has been praised to the skies by everyone.

- Do you see veteran actor Theodore Bikel -- the Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, countless TV productions, beloved performer.

- Do you see Anna Deavere Smith - The West Wing, The Practice, Nurse Jackie, winner of two Drama Desk awards for outstanding solo performance.

or do you see Jim Brochu, a name you either have never heard before or may only have heard from mentions here in this journal.

Well, if you're going to take the word of the voters for the Drama Desk Award you'll choose Jim Brochu in Zero Hour.

Jimmy won!!!!!!

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I read the news around 1 a.m., after staying up to watch the Lost finale and Jimmy Kimmel's wrap up afterwards. I checked out Facebook before going to sleep and there it was...

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I haven't been able to keep the smile off my face all morning, so I can only imagine the jubilant mood in New York this morning.

Actually, I didn't have to imagine the jubilant mood in New York because Steve, wandering around 9th Street looking for a barber shop, called me and we both just kept talking about how fabulous it was. It was so nice to have that voice connection to share the excitement, since Walt isn't home and there is nobody to yell at here. (In desperation, I sent an e-mail to my fellow critic, Jeff, who is terribly blasé about everything and who, I am sure, could care less about my excitement. Predictably, he never responded.)

I think back to the first time I saw Zero Hour, when it was all very new, but it was replacing the autobiographicalThe Big Voice, which had been running for several years. It was in a little storefront theatre on a back street somewhere in North Hollywood, I think. The show got a great reception. It moved to another theatre in the area and then came to San Francisco, now under the direction of Jim's friend, actress Piper Laurie. I saw it each time, so glad for how well received the play was.

Then I followed the news of it, the almost unanimous rave reviews, as it traveled around the country for a couple of years. I so much wanted to fly to Washington, DC to see it because they were getting such great audiences (and ultimately Jimmy went on to win the prestigious Helen Hayes award for best lead actor).

It was our great pleasure to be in New York on opening night, a night I will never forget. It had a wonderful run at the little church theatre there but had to close to make room for another show that had already been booked. But it then moved to the DR2 theatre in Union Square. Later this year it will be back in Florida and then in Toronto.

Jimmy has been a working actor for 42 years, a man of immense talent, and I just cannot express how thrilled I am for him to receive this much-deserved award!

Somewhere, Ethel Merman is smiling.

Monday, May 24, 2010


In the middle of all the "season end" episodes of shows I have watched faithfully, I am beginning to think I need something for post traumatic stress disorder.

The cliffhanger was a great ploy to keep people coming back to Saturday movie matinees when I was a kid. It was usually a western or a science fiction serial that ran and the end of each episode left the hero or heroine in grave danger--falling off a cliff, tied to the railroad tracks with an approaching train or other such seemingly impossible catastrophe about to happen.

Of course when you went back the next week, all was well until the end of that week's episode where there was another bit of impending doom to cope with throughout the coming week.

TV shows, at least the ones which had continuing story lines from week to week, did that too. The end of each season left you wondering what was going to happen--who was pregnant? who lost his/her job? whose life was in danger?

But I'll tell ya, the season endings this year have left my head spinning.

Private Practice must hold the record for plot twists in one episode. There was: an accident, a birth, open heart surgery, 2 brain surgeries (back to back by the same surgeon), a death, and life-changing decisions made by three? four? different couples. That's a lot to pack into an hour. It was the most implausible episode ever. This is just page one of ABC's 5-page recap of the episode:

Sam tries to calm a man who was in a car crash before he operates on him. Little does he know, this is the drunk driver that plowed into Dell and his (Sam's) pregnant daughter. In another section of the hospital, Dell is diagnosed with minor injuries. Maya, however, has no feeling below the waist. She thinks it’s because of the epidural. Unfortunately, she hasn’t had one yet.

Addison begins an emergency C-section to deliver Maya’s baby, but something is wrong. Maya’s pressure is dropping fast. They need to keep the baby inside her until Amelia can determine what’s happening. The news is not good. If they save the baby, there’s a good chance Maya will never walk again....

By the end of the episode at least one of the beloved characters is dead and it seems that everybody who was sleeping with somebody last week is sleeping with somebody else now and in the middle of all the blood and gore and angst there is a proposal. I can hardly wait to see what happens in episode one next season.

Then there is Desperate Housewives, with Lynette trapped in the house with the Fairview Strangler--and she's in labor to boot and he has to deliver her baby. Susan and Mike have to move off of Wisteria Lane and into an apartment (what happened to all that money Susan had in her bank account?) Gaby wakes Nick out of a coma and takes him from his hospital bed to go save Angie from the clutches of her homicidal ex (unlike Jack Bauer, Nick isn't able to leap out of bed and start fighting). Bree signs her company over to the son of her ex-husband when he threatens to blackmail her by letting the police know her son was the hit and run driver who killed Carlos' mother. Angie makes a bomb for Patrick, but rigs it so that when he presses the detonator, it blows him up instead. The new renter for Susan and Mike's house turns out to be creepy Paul Young, whose past I can't quite remember, but it included murder and his desire to kill Mike. And, if that weren't enough the very last minute includes a deathbed confession of baby-swapping by a nurse at the hospital. One of the houswives has been raising a child who is not hers--but who?

We knew a death would occur on Brothers and Sisters because they had been hinted that this time "one of their own" would not survive. It was supposed to be a big secret, but when Rob Lowe was announced as a new cast member on another show, it seemed pretty clear that his character, Robert, would die. And he did. In an accident that involved almost the entire Walker clan, each driving home in his/her own car from a family gathering to celebrate finding a gusher of water on some desert land, which is going to make them all rich again. But not before Robert reveals some incriminating evidence and hides it to prevent it from hurting his wife's candidacy, Rebecca suggests she and her new husband Justin live apart for a year, each following his/her own dreams, and Saul finally takes an HIV test and it proves positive. Fun times for the Walkers.

Then there was the Grey's Anatomy finale with a gun-toting husband of a patient who died at Seattle Grace running around the halls shooting everybody, especially surgeons. (At least he killed the gorgeous nurse who had the hots for Derrick, so we don't have to worry about that story line going anywhere.) Meredith has a positive pregnancy test and then suffers a miscarriage while doing surgery. Meredith's husband Derrick is shot and Cristina has to save him, while Meredith is busy trying to save Cristina's boyfriend Owen--or is he her boyfriend? They've gone back and forth so many times it's dizzying. Miranda Bailey, in a St. Peter moment, denies being a surgeon in order to save her life, but can't save the life of her intern. Then there is the Lexie-Alex-Mark situation. Alex still loves ex-wife Izzie, but has been with Lexie who just realized that she really still loves Mark and Mark realizes that he really loves her, but with Alex dying, Izzie professes her love for Alex and what will that do to anybody's relationship? At least Arizona and Callie finally worked out their problem with the notion of having children when they realized they still loved each other.

But all of this probably pales in comparison to 24, which hasn't hit its finale yet, but the ultimate 24 moment had to be when Jack ripped open a guy's gut to root around in his stomach and intestines to find a SIM card so he could check who he had been calling on his cell phone (the evil Nixon-esque ex-president). It was a great testiment to the durability of SIM cards! (But everybody seems to have forgotten about the loose nuclear rods that started this whole season anyway!)

And no, I'm not in the least embarrassed to admit that I know all of these details so intimately! Now I'm all jazzed for tonight's Lost finale.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Stealing

I spent most of today being a dog bed. All of us got plenty of sleep (see Video of the Day). When time came to write this entry I suddenly went blank, so I'm going to do another meme. This came from a web site called Sunday Stealing.

What's your favorite Dr. Seuss book?
Oh, "Horton Hatches the Egg." How can you not like Horton, the good friend, loyal beyond means, who endures incredible hardship to help give birth to the child of his friend Mazie.

If you could live in any home on a television series, what would it be?
I always felt kind of comfortable in the Cosby Show house, though I probably would have fit in better in Roseanne.

What's the longest you've gone without sleep?
I think about 48 hours, after Paul died. I was probably awake that long after David died too, but we were traveling from New York to San Francisco, so I don't remember whether I slept on the plane or not. I was too numb.

What's your favorite Barry Manilow song?
Copacabana. The kids fell in love with it in 1981, when Eduardo, our first foreign student, was staying with us. He was from Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro and the kids drove him nuts singing it. Later, when Lawsuit was performing, Copacabana became one of their few cover songs.

Who's your favorite Muppet?
So many from which to choose! I love Kermit, but I relate more to Miss Piggy...yet how can you not love Fozzie Bear?

What's your favorite website?
That's My Answer. I've been answering questions there for a very long time and a nice little community feel has developed there. It's the first site I visit every morning.

Who's your favorite TV attorney?
A toss-up between the sleazy Dan Fielding (John Larrouquette) on Night Court and Alan Shore on Boston Legal. I loved Shore's political rampages.

What was your most recent trip of more than 50 miles?
Probably to my mother's (~80 miles one way) on Mother's Day.

Where were you on September 11, 2001?
We were checking into a hotel in London, when someone came to the front desk to ask if anybody had heard of something happening at the World Trade Center. When we got to our room, we turned on CNN and didn't leave the room for most of the rest of the day.

What's your favorite tree?
I love the weeping willow. I remember many happy hours sitting under a weeping willow when I spent summers with Peach. I always thought we should have planted one in our back yard after Paul and David died. I also love the Chinese pistachio tree, which turns a gorgeous red in the fall.

What's the most interesting biography you've read?
Oddly enough it was the biography of actor Paul Muni. I don't remember why now that it made such a big impact one me, but I read a borrowed copy in the 1980s and was so taken with it that I bought my own copy. Another fascinating show biz life was Yul Brynner.

What do you order when you eat Chinese food?
Chow mein instead of fried rice, Kung Pao chicken, won ton, garlic chicken, walnut shrimp, broccoli beef, etc., etc., etc.

If you had to be named after one of the 50 states, which would it be?
The only one which holds any appeal at all would be Montana.

Oski.jpg (13391 bytes)Who's your favorite bear?
Oski, of course!

If you could travel anywhere in Africa, where would it be?
Anywhere that I could go on photo safari.

What did you have for lunch yesterday?
I stopped at Jack in the Box for a cheeseburger and curly fries.

Which do you use more often, the dictionary or the thesaurus?
Definitely the dictionary. Regular dictionary, rhyming dictionary. I sometimes use the on-line thesaurus, but more a book called "Words that Sell," which gives me great substitutions for words I use regularly in theater reviews.

Have you ever been stung by a bee?
Only once. We were in the car and my arm was out the window when a bee flew into it. Not sure who was the more surprised, him or me!

What's your favorite form of exercise?

Have you ever taken dance lessons?
I took one class in social dancing in college (it counted as "exercise"). I desperately wanted to take ballet lessons when I was a kid, but my mother told me I was too fat.

What's your favorite newspaper?
Why, the Davis Enterprise, of course--they publish my stuff!

What's your favorite Broadway / West End musical?
So many from which to choose. I see about 80 shows a year. These are the ones I don't mind seeing more than once. Music Man, 1776, Les Miserables, Sunset Blvd., La Cage aux Folles, My Fair Lady, The Secret Garden

What's your least favorite commercial?
Any of the erectile dysfunction commercials, especially the two people in matching bathtubs looking over the edge of the cliff.

Do you prefer baths or showers?
I used to love baths, but when we moved here, we didn't have a bathtub in the master bath so I ended up learning to love showers.

What's your favorite breakfast food?
Eggs Benedict...or the kind of Eggs Benedict that comes with crab. A really good omelette (like Tom used to make) is also a favorite.

Who's your favarite game show host?
Of the old game shows, Gene Rayburn (of Match Game). Now it would be Alex Trebeck of Jeopardy.

If you could have a super power, what would it be?
I'd like to be able to move from place to place in a second--blink my eyes and I'm in Boston or Australia or Brasil.

Do you like guacamole? it. Marta makes great guacamole. (Mine's OK too)

Have you ever been in a food fight?
I think we had a food fight or two when the kids were growing up. Never on a scale that you see in the movies.

Name five songs to which you know all the lyrics.
Oh good lord--thousands. Just off the top of my head:

  • Over the Rainbow
  • For You
  • Don't Fence Me In
  • The Twelfth of Never
  • For Good

What's your favorite infomercial?
I woke up in the middle of the night some time ago and saw this infomercial for some face cream being plugged by some aging movie star. In the audience of enthusiastic women who praised how great this cream was and what youthful skin it gave them was Paul's widow, who was then in her 20s. I laughed a lot about that.

I also love Jack LaLanne's infomercials just because he's such a character.

What's the longest you've ever waited in line?
Well it wasn't exactly "in line" but I did wait 2 days in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco to meet Judy Garland.

Have you ever taken a picture in one of those little booths?
Sure. Lots of times when I was a kid. The last time was when Peggy was visiting here in 2000.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Collection of Critics

It's taken 10 years, but it sometimes actually feels like a community. Unlike my fellow critic, Jeff Hudson, I don't have the gift of schmooze and I don't go up and introduce myself to people, even though I know who they are. But since we've been commuting together for shows, I've kind of learned who some of the other critics are and they have learned who I am, thanks to Jeff.

Tonight was opening night for the latest play at Capitol Stage, perhaps my favorite theatre to review. It's small and intimate, kind of funky because it's on a riverboat, and I get lots of information to help put together a review. Besides, they almost always do some play I've never seen before. Casts are small and always quite good. I don't remember how many years I've been reviewing this company. I had to kind of talk Derrick into letting me review there. Space in the newspaper is scarce and so there has to be a good reason and a Davis tie-in. Fortunately, the artistic director, Peter Mohrmann (a delightful guy) lives in Davis, so that's our connection, though I have long-ago stopped mentioning in every review that Peter is from Davis!

Tonight Jeff and I parked in the old Sacramento parking lot. Old Sacramento is a state historic park which was made a tourist attraction in the 1960s. All of the buildings date from the 19th century and have been restored to approximate what the area might have looked like during the gold rush.

This part of town sits right by the river and is host to the California State Railroad Museum and then in the river sits the Delta King, an old paddle wheeler, which is a hotel, restaurant and theater. Two theaters, actually. Capital Stage has one of them and they do mystery plays in the other (I've never gone to one of those)

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Friday night is usually pretty crowded in Old Sacramento, a place replete with restaurants, museums, and souvenir shops. By the time Jeff and I arrived, the only place to park was on the 5th (top) floor of the garage. As we were getting out of the car, Jeff greeted the guys in the car next to us, one of whom was Greg Coffin, the author of several plays I have seen performed at Sacramento Theatre company, and introduced me.

The four of us walked along the wooden boardwalk toward the Delta King, comparing notes on A Chorus Line, which we had all seen earlier in the week. I love chatting with theatre people.

As we approached the Delta King, Jeff said "Oh there are Kel and Patty," two reviewers for the Sacramento News and Review, where Jeff works sometimes too. Kel was reviewing tonight, and Patty had just come along to see the show. The four of us continued the walk to the boat, still chatting about A Chorus Line, all pretty much in agreement that it was old and tired, even with the dazzling finale (the last sentence of my review had been "Dance 10, Relevance 3")

We were greeted by one of the guys who runs the theatre who laughed that we had arrived en masse and we asked him if there were going to be any "real" people there or if they had just filled the place with critics.

I recognized other critics in the audience, including Marcus Crowder, of the Sacramento Bee (who doesn't know me from Adam) and an old guy who I think writes reviews for some shopping news up in the Sierra foothills. There were also unfamiliar faces, recognized as critics because they, too, had the packet of information about the show that we get when we are given our tickets.

There were also Sarita and her wife Kym, who are subscribers and whom we have known for a while. It's always fun to run into them there.

I dunno. It was just fun to be one of the regulars, to recognize people, to be accepted into the community of critics, to speak the same language and to compare notes after the play.

The play, BTW, was called Hunter Gatherers by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, which some reviewers have said was like "Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf" meets "Survivor." A very funny play with a 4-person cast which included Marta's good friend, the immensely talented Katie Rubin. Her performance did not disappoint.

Jeff and I said goodbye to Kel and Patty after the show at the elevator up from the boat (they walked up the stairs, I took the elevator) and we drove home again. We were both pretty tired and I am now killing time letting the puppies run around and get tired so I can finally lock them in their cage and go to sleep myself!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Why We Never Have Guests

There are many reasons why we never have guests, my high degree of slobitude among them, but I think today really showed the main reason...the one that all the cleaning in the world can't overcome. For those who wonder why we never invite you over to dinner, watching the Video of the Day may give you a clue.

Valerie, the Polly trainer, arrived at 2 p.m. to work with Polly. As usual, she was beset upon by four dogs, while Itsy and Bitsy, who have learned about "barking" from the older dogs, just as Polly and Emmy learned about barking from Lizzie and Sheila, started barking like crazy.

Valerie asked if I would mind if she brought her dog, Heidi, in. Heidi had a doctor's appointment at 3 p.m. and she didn't want to leave her alone in the car. I invited the 7th dog in. Heidi is a lovely, calm, well mannered dog.

A definite contrast.

By the time we were in the family room, the puppies had emerged from their sleeping crate and were running around barking. The older dogs were leaping at Valerie, Polly was more interested than usual, but still hiding in my lap, which is where Emmy was as well.

While I dragged the big dogs outside and fought to keep them from coming back in again, Valerie locked the puppies in the feeding crate and they were not happy!

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Lizzie started her usual leap-at-the-door business.

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She does this every time Valerie comes, but usually stops pretty quickly. Today, with the smell of treats in the air and a strange dog in the house, she would. not. stop. and I finally had to close the blinds, leaving us in the dark, hoping to distract Lizzie (it didn't work).

Emmy usually sits in my lap quietly while Valerie is working with Polly, but there was this new dog in the house and she wanted to get at the dog, so I was holding her back, while the puppies continued to yelp over and over again.

Miraculously, Polly's focus seemed to be stronger than ever and she was able to tune out all of the chaos and concentrate on those treats that were coming at her.

training005.jpg (20815 bytes)

When training was over, Valerie put Heidi through her paces. She can sit, down, high-five, die when shot, and cross her legs when asked to "be a lady."

We let the puppies out and Polly and I walked Valerie to the door. After she left, I let Sheila and Lizzie back in the house again. Immediately Valerie knocked on the door, setting EVERYBODY to barking. Three four-legged bodies and one two-legged body rushed the door. Valerie had left a toy behind (which Emmy had already found and was playing with in the family room). Valerie came in the house to get the toy and walked back to the door, dogs leaping at her all the while.

"You guys need some training," she said to them.

Gee. Ya think?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Puppy Breath

We have puppy breath again!

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Itsy and Bitsy (whom I now realize I should have named "Spot" and "Puff," since Bitsy has one brown spot on her head and Itsy is as puffy as a cotton ball--but their original names have stuck) came back again on Tuesday night. Ashley decided that they were big enough to wean and they had kind of licked at solid food, but preferred to nurse from Xena...but she thought Xena was ready for a break and the puppies were ready to switch to solid food.

So Xena stayed with her and the puppies came here, turning this already chaotic house into a three ring circus. All I need is balloons and cotton candy and I'd be in hog heaven.

They certainly have grown in the short time they've been away!

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Sheila and Lizzie have given their usual "ho-hum, another puppy" look, but Polly and Emmy are trying to figure out what to do with these little guys.

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The puppies learned quickly that under the playpen was a good place to go if the play of the older dogs got too scary!

As for eating, at first they really weren't interested in the puppy mash I mixed up for them, but eventually they started to get hungry. They still gave passing interest to the baby food, but Itsy found something that he liked better.

IBFood.jpg  (28789 bytes)

With barely teeth in, they discoered they liked to crunch on the big dog food. But eventually they started eating their own food and seem to be doing OK now.

It is a bit of a challenge trying to figure out which dog goes where, especially when Valerie comes to work with Polly. Big dogs outside, Emmy on my lap, puppies in the cage, whining and trying to get out. Or where to put whom when it's time to eat to make sure that the puppies get something. At least they are sleeping at night, once I discovered that if they go in the crate where they lived with Xena and I cover the door with a towel so they can't see out.

So we're starting a new adventure watching these little guys get to the age where they can go up for adoption. Best of all, there is puppy breath. How I've missed it!

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen things I remember about David

1. Toddler Dave running up Brighton St. and into my arms
2. The dazed look on his face the morning of high school graduation
3. The big grin on his face the last time I saw him
4. Disneyland with Uncle Norm
5. Dancing at Lawsuit concerts
6. His one finger piano solos at Christmas
7. The breakaway bottle Jeri gave him one Christmas
8. Long discussions about death and the afterlife
9. His nervous breakdown
10. How damn smart he was
11. Dem Bones with the Jazz Choir
12. Teaching English to Victor
13. How overwhelming it was to realize how many people had been affected by his life.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


It was 1974.

It was the terrible 2s.

We had no way of knowing he would live only twenty-two more years. The following are excerpts from my diary, written when I was seven years older than he ever got to be.

I'm afraid my baby is showing all the negative aspects of terrible two-ism. I've said for years that he was born a terrible two, but I forgot that the worst aspect of this time is the sudden insistence on independence. As far as mischief goes, actually he's better than, say, 6 months ago. It's hard to believe that sometimes, but I think his attacks on Tom are fewer (only 500 a day rather than 1,000) and he does seem to be able to play with the older kids--and being articulate in speech (more or less) does help. But what is driving me up the wall is the to-be-expected 'I do it' stage.

Going anywhere with him is getting to be a real pain. Here I looked forward to just having David at home so we could do things together, but now I find it is more frustrating than anything. Getting out of the car he gets furious if I offer a helping hand ('I jump'). Keeping him out of the freezer has become a major project. Especially when there is something like ice cream or popsicles in it.

He is still terribly cute. The other night when I let him come and sit in my lap until he fell asleep, his face positively shone and I must admit I was so glad I had done that rather than force him to sleep somewhere else. It was such a special type of look.

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He has invented yet another brand of mischief. He has learned how to take apart a pen. This is TERRIBLE It's hard enough finding ANY pen around here most of the time, but now when you DO find one, it's scattered around the house. This morning I came upon him with all the innards to the pen in his hand and when I reproached, 'oh, David...' he gave me his wide-eyed innocent star and said, 'I didn't.'

* * *

David took apart the telephone this afternoon and when I found him with it dangling from his hand, he looked at me very innocently and said, "I didn't--Daddy did it.' He also jumped on Tom's stomach and when I yelled at him, this tiny fury-filled figure pointed at me and shouted 'I hate you' and then ran to hit me."

* * *

Last night I was nursing David on my bed and he suddenly stopped and said 'Wait--I go get a drink--save my nurse--don't zip up my nurse.'

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Today at Mass, David put $1 in the collection basket -- and tried to take $2 out!

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David fell the other day--not seriously hurt--but I started to say something to him as he was dusting himself off and he said, "That's OK, Mom. I all right. Don't worry about it."

Mommee.jpg  (43572 bytes)
(My very favorite memory of Baby David)

* * *

David was fooling around while nursing the other day and laughingly told me that my "nurse" had chocolate milk in it.

* * *

Tom and David look so cute right now. They just got dressed--David came down wearing baggy jeans, a shirt which he put on upside down (and got very angry when I tried to tell him that the neck did NOT go around his waist!) and the polo hat we got at the fair. Tom is in jeans, a sweatshirt and his jacket and Ned's baseball cap. When we got David turned around, Tom turned to Dave and said, 'C'mon, Dave--let's go play football' and they both swaggered outside.

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The business of Tom and David is really interesting. Suddenly they have become "best friends." And for a couple of kids who have hated each other for two years, this is quite a switch. They sit together at mealtimes (cause no end of problems because suddenly David is the most popular person to sit with and EVERYBODY wants to sit next to David--so at least two people cry at every dinner) and Tom keeps asking David, "You're my best friend, right?" to which David responds with an enthusiastic "right!"

Parents of small children, cherish these times, even the bad times. They go so quickly and you never know from day to day how much more time you'll have with each other. I hope it's a long, happy life. But you never know... Don't waste these precious years.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bedside Manner in the Electronic Age

Electronic medical records are all the rage these days. I remember when we were first trying to get them installed in the first medical office I managed. It soon became evident that the younger doctors were eager to learn how to use the system, older doctors resisted it like the plague.

It's been nearly 15 years since we first started hearing about electronic medical records. It's been terrible for transcriptionists, especially in organizations where all the providers have to use the electronics -- like Kaiser. I wonder if Kaiser has any transcriptionists left any more? Now doctors and nurses fill out check-off forms and add brief notes. These are the kinds of notes which are better for HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations and go a long way to protect patient confidentiality -- unless, of course, you have access to the computer. I don't know who can log into Kaiser's computers, but at least the janitor won't have access to the records, like they did in our office.

We preached confidentiality, gave workshops on it, but the records couldn't be locked up. The check-in desk was also set up so that anybody standing at the counter could see into the file of the clerk next to the one they were talking with and everybody in the office could overhear telephone conversations. At Dr. G's office, my computer terminal faced out so that it was easily visible to any patient sitting in the waiting room. I often had so much going at one time that it wasn't always possible to hide what was on the screen. To change to configuration would have involved exposing cords and neatnik Dr. G wouldn't have that.

I'm sure the first office has changed now and I know that Dr. G's office has changed, since it now has a new location, but I've always laughed at "patient confidentiality" in the days when I worked in medical offices. At one time or another, in my transcriptionist days, I think I worked in every medical office in Davis and none of them had true "confidentiality."

EMR (electronic medical records) is a good thing because your results are available to all of your providers instantly. I remember watching my mother have her ankle x-rayed and seeing the x-ray appearing on the computer outside the door instantly. The doctor doesn't have to wait for a report to be sent from the lab, it goes into the system and is available to any provider dealing with you right away.

So EMR has changed the confidentiality situation somewhat, but I realized today what else has changed now that your doctor has all of your information on a computer screen. They rarely make eye contact. They never talk to you -- really talk to you.

I don't think my ophthalmologist ever looked at me at all when I was going through all the before and after of cataract surgery. He was reading off a computer screen most of the time and seemed irritated if I said anything at all. Of course specialists don't really care much about patient interaction. They are there to do their specialty, not to be Mr/Ms. Personality with the patient. They are all "House" with a slightly more pleasant personality. You are the cataract in room 3 or the dislocated shoulder in room 5. They don't care if your mother just died or your child is failing in school, or you are in danger of losing your job. It's not pertinent to the specialty they are there to treat and they don't have--or want to--to know about you as a human being.

The optometrist was a bit better when I saw him recently. It was the day after the health plan bill passed and we actually talked about that.

I had a doctor's appointment this morning. The woman at the registrar's desk at Kaiser today never smiled or made eye contact, the nurse didn't make eye contact and the doctor almost never made eye contact.

You do expect your primary care physician to take the opportunity to know you a bit better, though. Dr. H. was my PCP for several years and his ex-wife is currently my gynecologist. He knew me from before, when I was managing the ob/gyn office next door to his suite of offices. So he knew me as a person before he knew me as a patient. I remember one appointment where we got through all the medical stuff in 5 minutes and then sat and chatted about things that might have a bearing on my physical health.

I had an appointment with his wife not too long ago, for what may have been my last Pap smear (how depressing is it when you find you are too old for Pap smears?). When she asked how I was doing, she said "I know abouat you don't have to explain that to me." She knew about my history, about Paul and David, and she asked questions about how I was handling the loss. It was a wonderful bonding moment. I cried, she understood, she spoke as both a doctor and a human being. I left feeling so much better.

Dr. H left Kaiser many years ago to start a private obesity clinic and he was replaced by Dr. A, a woman from Bangladesh who is very nice and whom I like, but who, I noticed today, doesn't make eye contact, except very briefly. She smiles. She speaks softly. She gives instructions, but all while she is looking at my lab results or her notes about me on the computer monitor.

She doesn't know a thing about me. She knows my blood pressure and my diabetes control, but she doesn't know me. Not really.

Today she was trying to explain why I needed to be more compliant with my medication regimen while I was trying to tell her I found it hard to care, which she kind of ignored. She didn't hear the flat tone in my voice. She had no way of knowing that it was the 14th anniversary of David's death. She didn't even know I had buried one, let alone two children. I finally decided to just tell her, after all these years, and mentioned that we had lost two children and what that does to your mental health.

She made eye contact then. She offered me antidepressants (been there, done that), she offered me counseling (been there, done that). I told her I wasn't in any deep depression, that I had been through a couple of years of counseling after the kids died and that I didn't really need to learn anything, and that all the counseling in the world wasn't going to bring either David or Paul back.

It seemed strange to be telling this to the woman who is supposed to know me intimately. But I am a set of lab results to her. It's not that she doesn't care--she doesn't have time to sit and chat and find out the peripheral things that might make a difference in understanding why I go hot and cold on medication compliance. I know from sitting on the other side of the desk that doctors' offices are all about productivity and getting patients in and out as quickly as possible.

I like her, but it's the Kaiser system. I've had a lot of doctors over my 40+ years with Kaiser and it is the rare physician who actually sees me as a person and not a chart that needs to be filled in as quickly as possible. I remember saying to one PCP that I was morbidly obese and was surprised he had to look in my chart to see if maybe that was true--when I was sitting there in front of him, love handles flopping on the exam table and double chins wobbling like a turkey's wattle. I switched to Dr. A right after that.

She sent me home with $85 worth of medication and paraphernalia, a list of things to do and medications to take, which matches the list that I've been ignoring for several months. She probably won't remember that I'm going to Russia. If I'm lucky, she'll remember that I have two dead children.

You don't expect Marcus Welby in these days when everything is computer driven.

But eye contact now and then would be nice.

Hi, David ohwell.gif  (381 bytes).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Four Tennis Racquets

My mother is a neat and tidy person, as I have said countless times in the past. My mother is the kind of person who is bothered by a leaf out of place on one of her plants and sees "all this crap" wherever she looks in her neat and tidy, organized and uncluttered home.

I am and have never been a neat and tidy person. Neither is Walt (though he is neater and tidier than I am). I am the kind of person who once said to a child, who was looking for an errant sock, "It's on the floor in the living room under the chair. It's been there for a week."

I had seen the sock there and it had registered on my brain as being something out of place, but it never entered my head to actually pick it up and find its owner. I just let it stay there for a week until whoever had lost it asked about it.

Tennis.jpg  (27012 bytes)The other day, I went to get a leash for one of the dogs, who was going off for a training session and I carefully untangled the leash from among the other leashes and it suddenly occurred to me that the leashes were on a thing that was holding four tennis racquets! My god, nobody in this house has played tennis in literally decades!

There was a time when I took tennis lessons, back in the 1970s when I could still bend over the pick up a tennis ball. I think the kids may have played tennis a time or two around that decade, but certainly the racquets have not been touched since then. They have become one of those things that somewhere in my brain I know are there but it just never occurs to me that they might have become superfluous!

Aquarians are weird people. I read this one time and I recognized that it is me to a "T" -- We are the kind of people who can let a sock lie under a chair for a week, or tennis racquets hang unused in a closet for years, and never think twice about it, but then some sort of switch will be turned on and we go through a brief frenzy of "cleaning up."

As a child, Karen and I shared a cupboard where all of our games were stored. The thing was an unholy mess most of the time, but every so often--probably at longer and longer intervals--things would just hit me and I'd go through a cleaning frenzy and straighten the whole thing up.

Now I have a whole house in the condition of that one small cupboard, but the tennis racquets clicked on that little switch and I set about doing a bit of tossing things out today. It helped that I had to move the stacks of books sitting on the table between our two recliners because Emmy discovered a love of chewing books. There were literally NO shelves (or even flat surfaces) to put these books, so they have been living on the kitchen table for a week and Walt and I peek over them during dinner. I decided that it was time to do some book culling and send some stuff off to the SCPA Thrift shop.

I found a big box and first put in the tennis racquets. Then to the harder part--finding books with which I felt I could part. It was easy getting rid of "Israel, My Beloved," which someone had given to me and which I discovered did not grab me at all, but there were lots and lots of books that I still feel I am "going to read someday," even though most of my reading these days is done either on the Kindle app or as an audio book.

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Note: NOTHING piled on and in danger of
falling off the TV set

Midway through the project, the shelves were starting to look--omigawd--organized. but I came across a book I'd forgotten. Alan Alda's latest book, which appears to be an annotated copy of every speech he's ever given at every commencement ceremony at which he was invited to speak. Not quite up to his first book, "Never have your Dog Stuffed..." which was quite warm, funny and charming.

I was ready to take a break, so I settled under two dogs, taught Emmy the meaning of "NO!" when she tried to devour my book as I read, and read several chapters of it. Trying to decide if I'm going to finish it. There is an air of pomposity about it, but also that disarming self-effacement that we've seen in Alda throughout his career. I'm still trying to decide.

The problem with these Aquarian bursts of organization is that they rarely last long enough to actually achieve organization and so I sit here this evening, energy and incentive gone, surrounded by a bigger mess than when I started...ahhh...but there are also six bags of books and other stuff in the car waiting to be taken to the SPCA Thrift Shop, so even though it doesn't show, there is progress.

Morning P.S.: It's gone! It's gone! It's gone! It's all at the thrift store. Now to hope for another of those bursts of organization before I lose what momentum I achieved yesterday.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thanks for the Turkey

Don't say we don't know how to milk a situation for all the humor we can get out of it.

Yesterday, Ned posted this photo to Facebook:

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Ned is the image guy for radio station 93.7 (Jack.FM) and took a series of photos recognizing George Lucas' birthday. This one didn't make it to the radio's web site, but he knew that there would be lots of laughs from the family.

Many, many years ago Walt's brother (who has now been married nearly twenty-five years) was dating a woman who worked for George Lucas. I forgot her name years and years ago. At Thanksgiving that year, Lucas gave each of his employees a turkey. As it happened, Norm invited this woman to join us for Thanksgiving dinner at Lake Tahoe and she brought along the turkey. We all enjoyed our gift from George Lucas.

Fast forward many years to when the kids were adults. Paul's college roommate was a guy named Patrick Combs who has gone on to become, as he describes it, "an Inspirational Speaker, Success Coach, Raconteur and Theater Performer, Story writer, Author..." I've reconnected with him on Facebook.

Pat had a social function to go to at Skywalker Ranch, Lucas' huge complex which is, coincidentally, just about a mile up Lucas Valley Rd. from my mother's house. Pat asked Paul if he wanted to go along.

Well, Paul wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to visit Skywalker Ranch and so he jumped at the chance.

At some point during the evening, Pat spied George Lucas and asked Paul if he wanted to meet him. As I recall Paul telling the story later he said something like "Of course! The dude made Star Wars!"

For all of his years on stage and in the public eye, Paul could get just as tongue tied as the rest of us around celebrities, especially people he admired. I remember when he once bumped into his idol, David Byrne, at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Byrne was behind a theatre taking a smoke break, Paul just happened along. The two of them were completely alone. Paul had admired David Byrne for years and all he could think of was to say "how's it going?" as he walked past him. He then decided it was stupid to blow his one big chance to be alone with his idol and he should at least talk to him, but by the time he returned, Byrne was disappearing inside the building. Paul picked up the cigarette he had been smoking and saved it. His one chance to connect with David Byrne.

(Years later, after Paul died, Audra brought their "child," the smiley face doll named "Happy" to a reunion of The Talking Heads and got a photo of the group holding him. Paul would have been thrilled.)

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But this was George Lucas and Paul wasn't going to pass up the chance to talk with him. (After all, the dude made Star Wars!)

Patrick introduced Paul to Lucas, Paul was tongue tied and finally blurted out, "Thanks for the turkey!"

I don't think they said much more to each other than that, but we have laughed about that story all these years and so I really had myself a chuckle when I saw Ned's photo on Facebook.

LATER: Ned has informed me that apparently I dreamed most of this. I have obviously confused The Lamplighters (who recorded a CD at Skywalker Ranch) with Paul, who met George Lucas at some party at which Lawsuit was playing. The "thanks for the turkey" part was accurate, however! (Oh--and Patrick Combs had nothing to do with either!)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Our Daughter, the Carpenter

Jeri has taken a little jaunt down to New Orleans.

Every year, since Katrina, a group from Berklee College of Music gets together, goes to New Orleans and works on a Habitat for Humanity project. Until this year, the schedule had not permitted Jeri to join them, because it usually came at a time when she was grading papers or coming to California. This year, however, she was free and clear to go with the group and they took off on Monday.

This is where they started, in the upper 9th ward.

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On the first day, they were putting up siding, which I told Jeri must have been like building a stage set.

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She said she had become an expert on caulking.

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The second day, they were landscaping a nearly finished house, and Jeri says they learned a lot about "sweat equity" -- or at least they learned a lot about sweat.

We began the day with a dilapidated yard full of concrete chunks, plus a large pile of sand and a pallet of sod. By the end of the day we had a beautifully manicured lawn, and a foundation of sand under the house. In between there was a lot of digging, a lot of raking, a lot of crawling around in tight places…. and a lot of sweat.

There is something marvelously zen about moving dirt around all day. Then you get to the end of the day, and your whole body aches, and the dirt pile has miraculously disappeared. And you know you have accomplished something!

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In the evening there is time to visit the French Quarter, the perfect place for a bunch of musicians to hang around!

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The group is keeping a blog about their experiences and I loved reading an entry by lmcfarlane, which read, in part, "I have to say that my favorite part of the night was when Mike and Jeri took the stage for a Berk alum/Tipitina monster jam. Jeri sassed us all with her flute stylings while Mike seriously smoked on his tenor sax solos. Fan-tastic."

I've been so impressed with the whole Habitat for Humanity project anyway, since Jimmy Carter brought attention to it by getting involved. It seems right up Jeri's alley and I'm so glad she's getting the experience of working in New Orleans.