Sunday, October 31, 2010

I Wasn't There

There was a happening in Washington, D.C. today too...but I missed it. My friend Lynn Schimmel (from the days when I worked at Women's Health) was there and from the look of her photo, it seems she got pretty close to the stage.

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Shelly and Ellen were there too, but I don't know how close they got...this was a rare news event where they were not interviewed or photographed!

Blogger Joe.My.God was there, sort of, but apparently the metro was such a nightmare...

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...that his group had to walk "miles" (possibly an exaggeration) and were so far from the Jumbotrons that they missed most of what was going on on stage. So he missed this amazing closing speech by Jon Stewart. I was so moved by it that I watched it with tears streaming down my face.

I hope everyone will spend the 12 minutes it takes to watch it. What does it say about our country that our most eloquent speakers are found on Comedy Central.

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"Borrowed" from The Huffington Post

Will Rogers would be so proud.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Davis Happening

There was a happening in Davis today. We've had strange celebrations for strange happenings (the weirdest being the party held on the new overpass, when the band from the university came to play and all the local politicos came to cut the ribbon).

It came with ribbons. It came with tags. It came with packages, boxes and bags. It came with leis and free cookies. It came with meatballs and free coffee.

It was the opening of the long-awaited (at least a decade) Trader Joe's.

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Now the last time I wrote about Trader Joe's I got a lot of e-mail telling me all the reasons why TJs was an awful, bad, place, but I wanted to be part of the happening and enjoy the moment. So, apparently, did a lot of other people.

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All the aisles were packed like this, but I expected nothing less. But having to move very sowly through the aisles allowed me more time to find interesting things I might have otherwise overlooked.

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(I'm trying to envision how one extracts pomegranate seeds and coats them in chocolate!)

I absolutely LOVED the fact that their sample section (where we tried delicious BBQ meat balls and some pretty good Hawaiian coffee) is decorated with the Varsity Theatre marquee (our kids worked, played and performed at the Varsity for years).

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And, of course, we had to buy a bottle of the famous "Two Buck Chuck."

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Of course a lot of prices are pretty high, so I may not be shopping at Trader Joe's often.

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But I did find a lot of interesting things that will make a good main course for two people. Tonight, for example, we're having Mediterranean stuffed chicken breasts (with feta and mozarella). I also have some pulled pork and a spanakopita (Greek spinach pie) which will serve two nicely. I also found affordable ahi tuna, which I have never come across before. And finally, after all these years, I'll get to taste Abelskivers (Danish pancakes which are ball shape instead of flat), which I've heard about for years but have never had an opportunity to have for breakfast, since I don't own an Abelskiver pan. Tomorrow, I will finally give them a try.

I think I'm going to have fun getting to know my way around this store.

Friday, October 29, 2010

In An Eyeblink

Unless you live on an island somewhere and are independently wealthy, you can't not have heard of the continuing downturn in the economy. Whole industries are in danger, not only from the economy but because of the march of progress...which sometimes doesn't feel like real progress.

I am part of the problem with the downturn in the publishing industry, with all of my gloating about the kindle app for my iTouch. I love it. More and more you see people in waiting rooms, on airplanes and in other spots reading books on Kindles. A Kindle book is cheaper than a real book. But authors are getting less revenue because people aren't buying books. Independent bookstores are going out of business because of places like Amazon which make it so easy for people like me to buy a book without leaving the house.

An industry which has been in great danger for a long time is the news industry. Newspapers are becoming obsolete because people can get their news instantly on the internet, or through the 24 hour a day news stations. Of course, what we lose in gaining instant gratification is the trust of true "reporters," those guys who take the time and patience to research a subject before reporting it as fact.

A big part of a newspaper's advertising revenue came from its classified ads, but with the popularity of free sites like Craig's list, people are putting their ads there instead of buying space in the newspaper. This is especially true of automobile ads, which once were a major part of the weekly advertising revenue for a newspaper, but who can save money by advertising on their own web sites.

I have been floating along blissfully unaware of the real threat to the businesses in my own back yard. We're OK. We didn't pay attention to neighbors and acquaintances who were struggling to find work.

The reality of the situation hit me smack in the face on Tuesday afternoon when I returned from my mother's. A huge chunk of my life made a 180 degree turn in an eyeblink. I returned to a message that I should call Derrick, my boss, the Entertainment Editor of The Davis Enterprise, at his home.

This was not an unusual request. I had a feature story coming up that I was getting ready to schedule interviews for. I had also just turned in a review, which was later than it should have been. We also have the university theatre year coming up and a couple of more feature stories to be decided upon. So, as I say, his asking me to call was not an unusual request (though asking me to call him at his home was).

I was not prepared to hear that the paper has gone through another round of downsizing. Four people had been let go from the staff and I already saw the writing on the wall for me, but what I didn't expect was to hear that my position was not one (I'm not a full time staffer) of them, but Derrick's was.

derrick.jpg  (35391 bytes)I've known Derrick Bang since he was a kid running The Game Preserve, a shop that sold all sorts of games. He became the Entertainment Editor of The Davis Enterprise in 1997. I was vaguely aware that he had written a book about Charles M. Schulz and the Peanuts comic strip -- only to find out later about his exhaustive collection of Peanuts stuff, and his work on a couple of projects involved with the creation of the Charles M. Schulz museum in Santa Rosa. (Actually Amazon has four books listed as having been written by Derrick, one in collaboration with Schulz' widow Jean.)

It was he who called me in 2000 to ask if I would be interested in working as a second theatre critic to the paper's main critic, Marilyn Mantay. I was nervous, but interested. Marilyn's and my collaboration worked well. I reviewed all the musicals, which she hated, and she did the serious stuff, which I didn't feel qualified to review.

When Marilyn retired, Derrick and I talked about whether I thought I could handle the whole job. We decided to give it a try. I'm not sure what year that was, but a long time ago. I don't think we ever revisited the discussion of whether I could do the job or not--I just did it.

We've worked together now for a very long time. If my reviews are good it's because Derrick does the final editing on them and because he doesn't let me get away with sloppy reporting. He slaps my wrist for misspellings (yes, I now remember that Richard Rodgers has a d in his last name!) and takes me to task for getting an actor's name wrong (which I don't do as much as I did in the beginning).

I love our twitter-like e-mail exchanges conferring about stories, letting off steam about frustrations, talking about changes that he made in an article, or discussing the spelling of theatre vs. theater.

As of this writing, I am waiting for the paper's editor to call me (I know she has a lot on her plate, so I don't want to bug her--she said she'd call 'in a few days') to find out how my own job will change and how the change at the newspaper will affect publicity for the theaters around the area. Will I continue to review Sacramento shows? Will there be any feature articles -- I know that there won't be any 2 page features any more, but will there be any?

All I know at the moment is that I won't be working under Derrick's supervision, guidance and encouragement any more and that makes me very, very sad. I can't imagine working without him.

I sent a copy of this entry to Derrick, to make sure I had all the facts straight and actually got a pang in my stomach when I received the following canned message from The Enterprise:

Thank you for your message. Derrick Bang no longer is employed by The Davis Enterprise, and therefore cannot be found at this e-mail address. All messages relating to Enterprise entertainment section business -- press releases, photos, story pitches, queries, etc. -- should instead be sent to [address]

Personal corresponse to Derrick can be sent to [address]. This includes queries regarding his work with Peanuts, Vince Guaraldi, Concord Records or any of the many other side assignments and projects with which he continues to be involved.

Correspondence from jazz music labels and publicists also should be sent to [address]

As Charlie Brown would say...."sigh."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

They Might Be Giants

GiantsBlOr.png (2893 bytes)By the middle of the first inning of the first game of the 2010 World Series, I was already feeling antsy and wanting to get up and start pacing.

I have a long history with the San Francisco Giants, and most of it depressing.

I remember when the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958. Their home stadium was Seal Stadium in the middle of the Mission District. It had been the home of the Pacific Coast League San Francisco Seals, a minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.

The arrival of a major league team was such a huge deal that I remember going to a game with my father...I believe the only baseball game I ever attended with him. I remember the stadium as being almost like a sandlot stadium. Nothing fancy about it at all.

In 1960, the team moved to Candlestick park (sometimes called "Candlestink park" for the odors wafting in on those chilly winds which blew in from the Bay. I was in college then, and went to a few games with friends. The thing I remember most about Candlestick park is that no matter how warm the day started out, you could be certain that by the end of the game, you would be freezing.

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(the stadium is now, of course, a football stadium,
for the SF 49ers.)

In the beginning it was a little strange going to Candlestick because it was at the end of the Hunters Point section, where the population was mostly African American and I always had the idea that it had a high crime rate.

I was working for the Physics Department at UC Berkeley when the SF Giants were in their first World Series. On the last game, I swear the entire clerical staff was crammed into the office manager's tiny office watching the game on a teeny black and white screen. And when McCovy's line drive didn't go 2 feet higher and they lost the series, Charlie Brown I knew what it was to be mortally disappointed.

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Though I remained a fan, the Giants played in only three World Series since coming to San Francisco (1962, 1989, and 2002). It seemed that every time I watched a game, the Giants lost, so I stopped following the Giants religiously.

In 1989, I wasn't watching when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck, though Tom and David were at the game with Walt's brother. I was glad they were there because I knew that everybody in the stadium was OK.

When the Giants moved to their new stadium (whatever it is being called this week!) we started going to games. Our Lamplighter friend Sabella gets tickets for about 3 games a year and a group of us goes together. Even if the game was bad, who wouldn't want to be in that beautiful (fairly warm) stadium which had a view out to the Bay.

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We usually sit in the very top row of the top balcony, right behind home plate. That would be my choice even if we could afford more expense seats. We didn't make it to any games this year because something conflicted every time.

But it's a new series. The Giants haven't won since 1954, when they were the New York Giants. Will this be the year? Probably not. I love my team, but have little faith in their bringing it all home, in spite of how the first game ended.

If there is any good thing, it's at least that we aren't Cubs fans.

Thursday Thirteen

I hate it when people...
1. Stand too close when talking
2. Drone on and on and on
3. Don’t answer e-mail
4. Eat with their mouth open
5. Chew their fingernails
6. Make homophobic comments
7. Forget to flush dog poop
8. Insist I need organized religion in my life
9. Forget to say “thank you”
10. Interrupt me when I’m working
11. Tell me all the bad things I’m doing with my life
12. Tailgate
13. Correct me for tiny unimportant things

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Persistence of Memory

The older I get, the more amazed I am about "memory." All those years of "things" stuffed into our brains for all those years, and how does it sort through them to pull out significant memories.

I am very surprised, for example, at the memory which pops up EVERY TIME when I am asked about (or think about) childhood memories. The longer I think, the more memories come to the forefront, but always the very first memory that pops into my mind is something that is pretty insignificant.

We lived on the Leavenworth St. hill between Filbert and Union Sts. At the corner of Leavenworth & Union ("up the hill") was a little mom and pop store, the official name of which I can't remember. We just called it "Angelo's" because it was owned by Angelo Guerales and his wife Angelina, a Greek couple. My mother did her "big shopping" at a larger market (this was the day before "supermarkets") but for last minute stuff she would send us up to Angelo's to buy...whatever. He even let us buy cigarettes or bourbon for my father, when we brought a note from my father asking him to sell them to us.

The first memory that always pops into my head is a time when we were coming home from Mass on a Sunday morning. It would be around 10 a.m. It was a grey day. Angelo's was closed, of course, because it was Monday, but as we passed the store my mother gave an intake of breath and noted that there was a black wreath hanging on the door.

That's the memory. The story is that Angelina had died. I don't know how. I don't know if she had been sick or if she died suddenly. I don't know how old I was, but old enough to have seen movies in a theatre because in my brain I "heard" an ominous chord...I was creating my own musical soundtrack for the moment.

I was not particularly close to Angelina. I don't remember her death having any impact on my life whatsoever. I can't even picture her (though I think I can remember what Angelo looked like). And yet, consistently, the very first memory that comes to mind when I look back is the day I saw that black wreath on the door of the market.

My mother also has a few memories that always come up when you talk about her life. You can guarantee that every Cousins Day at least once she will talk about the time that her older sister Jean came to visit the farm where they lived, got stinking drunk, and ended up sitting on a toilet that was out in the middle of the field laughing, with a bottle in her hand. My mother was pretty young when they left the farm and moved into town, so I don't know if this is a real memory she has or if there somewhere at some time existed a photograph of it. I've heard the story so often, it is a black and white photograph in my mind.

She will also often (though not as often as the Jean story) tell about the time her sister Marge got drunk and got sick in the bed the two of them shared. She always demonstrates how Marge would leave a dance and go out in back with the guys, where she could sling a gallon jug of red wine over her shoulder to take a swig.

This one particular time, Marge threw up all over their bed and when my mother woke up, discovering herself in a puddle of red vomit, Marge said "Oh those damn plums."

(Interestingly, there are never any stories of bad things my mother ever did. She was a good girl, she tells us.)

All of these things are not necessarily interesting, they are just things that happened, but it's funny how it's the same things that keep being brought up.

I had lunch with my mother today. We have no Cousins Day scheduled for October because Peach and her husband are out of town all month, and I was feeling the need to visit, so I drove down. We visited over coffee, then she made lunch, then we played a couple of games of canasta (I won one, she won the next), visited a bit more and then I came home.

During the course of the game, she did talk about another memory--amazingly, one I hadn't heard before. It was how much my uncle Paul wanted to be in the armed services after the war broke out. He was the youngest in the family and very young when he enlisted, I believe in the national guard. But he wanted to be a pilot, so at some point he transferred to the Air Force and learned to fly and actually fought in the Battle of the Bulge. (At some point he was also in the Army--I've forgotten which came first, second and third.)

But while in France, he had an attack of appendicitis and was operated on there. While recuperating in a hospital in France, he was working in a little garden and slipped and hit the handle of a wheelbarrow and reopened his incision. Because of that, he ended up getting an honorable discharge. He had served in 3 branches of the service and only being in a total of about two years.

Again, this isn't necessarily interesting; it's just what happened, but I was very happy not to be hearing about Jean getting drunk on the toilet seat out in the back 40, for a change!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Warning: Geeky stuff first, then more normal stuff after...

I made a video today with Adobe Premiere Elements. I bought the program a long time ago, inspired by the good stuff Ned's been doing with it. But the older I get, the more difficult it is for me to retain stuff and to "get" stuff and so I haven't really done a lot with it.

Ned came over and worked with me for a day and I thought I'd absorbed a lot, but after he left, I realized I hadn't. Things don't stick in my brain like they used to, which is very frustrating.

However, I have this new camera and it takes nice video, but I can't convert this high def video to a format where I can edit it in my very basic Windows Movie Maker. I knew I was going to have to learn Elements in order to be able to edit the videos.

Today I sat here and willed myself to do something with Elements--and I did. I managed to get a video put together, after great frustration, I was even able to add transitions (those soft fades that I use between scenes) and I was able to save the video into an .avi format.

But the .avi format was 962 MB in size (the hard drive on my first computer was 60 mb) and I am still of the era when compressing video down to a smaller size was very important. I was able to bring my Elements video into Movie Maker and got it compresssed down to about 11.8 MB. I don't know if compression is as important today as it was years ago when I first started posting videos, but old feelings die hard.

But I'm proud of myself for having taken the video tools available to me and figuring out how to make them work for what I wanted to do.

(I didn't post the video because it was the complete video of Ashley's going-away party and I posted the unedited, uncompressed short version a couple of weeks ago)

I am old enough that when I took biology classes in school--even in high school--we were taught that the thing that separated man from the animals was tool making. Human beings were the only animals who had figured out how to use tools.

Today we know better.

I'm not sure if Jane Goodall was the very first person to discover that chimpanzees use tools, but if she wasn't the first, she was probably the first person that people actually paid much attention to. On 60 Minutes Sunday night, they interviewed her, returned to her Gombi preserve, and showed early films she had made which showed chimpanzees using twigs to retrieve ants from a log.

She said that she had gone into her project originally intending to find out that chimpanzees are just like human, only kinder. But after watching chimps attack other chimps, and after being nearly killed by one of the groups she had been studying for a long time, she sadly realized that chimpanzees are just like us, warts and all.

After 60 Minutes we watched a Nature special called A Murder of Crows (according to James Lipton's book "An Exultation of Larks," a group of crows is called a "murder of crows).. If you can find it, watch it. You'll be amazed. Crows are incredibly intellligent birds. For example, they learned that the best way to crack a nut was to drop it from a height onto concrete. They learned exactly how high to fly so that it dropped by just cracking, not shattering the outer shell, so that the nut remained whole. More than that, in this particular place, the concrete was on a street and they learned to time their drops with the stoplight, so that when cars stopped for a red light, they could drop the nuts, fly down and get the meat out before the light changed.

There were several such examples, but the one that boggled our minds was a crow who learned how to use a stick to get a treat that was left in the back of a cage. He would pick up a stick that had been left some distance from the cage, take it to the cage, stick it in, pull the treat forward and eat it. They later made it harder. The stick he picked up was too small, but there was another cage that had a larger stick in it, so the crow used the small stick to get the larger stick, and then the larger stick to get the treat.

I just love stuff like that and you see over and over and over again how much more intelligent animals are than we thought they were.

Proof of how animals are far more intelligent than we dumb humans are is that you won't find a single animal running for public office or spending zillions of dollars trying to buy power and prestige and boring the heck out of other people who are forced to listen to their stupid messages over and over and over again.

Lucky animals.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rain, Rain, DON'T Go Away

I woke up this morning to a beautiful sight:

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I have always loved the rain. I'm one of those people who don't bother with an umbrella, unless it's raining hard. I love the feel of rain on my face and on my hair. I am fortunate that it doesn't really mess up my hair, so it doesn't bother me to know that my hair is getting wet.

I don't own a raincoat or an umbrella. I did buy an expensive poncho when we went to France and never wore it. I wore it once on the Russia trip (though we had more than one day of rain). People are forever trying to make room for me under their umbrellas and, really, I do prefer to walk in the rain. (Just like you may have a refrigerator full of every soft drink and fruit juice imaginable, but my choice of drink really IS water. People find it difficult to believe me!)

Rainy days were always my favorite when I was growing up. We lived in a 5 room flat on a hill in San Francisco. There was a window seat in the bay window. Our TV sat in the middle of the seat, and there was plenty of room on either side to sit. I remember on rainy days that I would sit there and watch the rain cascading down Leavenworth Street to pool at the bottom of the hill.

Or I would watch pedestrians, bent at a sharp angle against the wind, struggling to keep an umbrella up as they headed to the top of the hill.

If I wasn't sitting on the window seat, I was curled up in the broken-down chair with a book. I have fond memories of that chair. It was dark purple and a chair with a 5 o'clock shadow. It was oversized and the springs in the seat where sprung, but it just fit me and I could curl up in the chair, listen to the rain hitting the bay windows, and escape to Flushing, NY with The Black Stallion, or The Place with Albert Peyson Terhune and all of his collies.

One of the problems with living in a 2-story house is that even if you have a nice chair to curl up in, you miss the sound of the rain hitting the roof. Nothing more wonderful than cuddling under a nice duvet and listening to the sound of rain on the roof.

When I was in Australia we would have torrential rains that lasted for a very brief period of time. Peggy had a pergola over her patio and I remember standing in the kitchen in the middle of the night listening to the rain pounding down on the pergola and smelling the clean smell of the rain washing all the dust out of the air.

Rain is also the gift that keeps on giving. If you're lucky and live in the right places (like Hawaii, for example), the end of the rain might bring sun and with it those beautiful rainbows (and we all know that somewhere over the rainbow there's a land that we've heard of once in a lullabye).

If you live in a place like California, what usually follows the rain is a grey day...but when you wake up the next morning, everything is washed clean, the air smells wonderful, and if the sun is out, you really want to drive to San Francisco because after a rain, San Francisco is always its most beautiful.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fragility Again

My brain is wrapped around the fragility of life once again.

It started the other night, when we had dinner with friends from the Pinata group. It was a great evening, made even better because it was a celebration of one of us being in good health, recent fears to the contrary. She was rushed to emergency about a month ago. She had been very lethargic and her heart rate went down to 20 beats/min. She is doing much better with a pacemaker installed and feels much better.

The nice thing about knowing people most of your life (we figure about 50 years for this group) is that there is no awkwardness in discussing something like this. I had no qualms about asking if she could feel the pacemaker working (she can) and in asking all sorts of personal questions.

A couple of days ago, I had a note about a good friend who went to his doctor for some health issues, including breathing problems. They admitted him to the hospital and found two blood clots in his lung. It is apparently part of the lymphoma he lives with (I'm not sure if I knew that he had lymphoma, a condition which killed my good friend and former teacher). Anyway, he reports that "they found the problem and are fixing it." But I don't like it when friends I care about have serious problems like this.

This morning we attended the memorial service for a Davis friend who died a month ago. He was in his late 80s and had lived with his wife in a convalescent home for several years. They were both the heart and soul of the Davis Comic Opera Company for many years. In truth, I knew his wife better than I knew him but the two were devoted. At the memorial, she seemed confused and unable to recognize people she'd known for many years. It was very sad to see her.

I didn't stay for the whole service. I had to leave at noon to pick up the dogs and take them to Petco. They have reached the point where they are always excited when they head to the car, and always upset when I walk off and leave them in a cage. They are both back home again, of course, though the girl who sat with them in the cage did say that someone showed an interest in Shiloh. Other than the lady who backed out of adopting Polly, I dont think that in the nearly 11 months she has been here anybody has shown a serious interest in her. Of course if she would stop hiding in the back of the cage, things might go better for her.

After I dropped the dogs off, I went back to the memorial service, where I saw lots of people I hadn't seen in a very long time. People who are older looking, greyer, more stooped, and shakier, some with fewer teeth than I remember. Not surprising, given how infrequently we see any of these people, who are all our best friends in Davis. We have reached an age where it is funerals that bring us together. (Of course we are unchanged!)

One offshoot of the memorial is that we are having brunch tomorrow with old friends whom we have not seen in a very long time. It will be fun catching up.

Next weekend is a memorial for the woman who recently ended her life. That is also going to be an emotional event.

In the "This day in my history" list for yesterday, was the story of the day when Peggy, Diane and I went to Mt. St. Helen's.

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It had been such a funny, fun day that I wished I could talk with Diane about it again. But of course she is dead. I did the next best thing and sent a link to the entry to her daughter, but it's not the same. I miss her more than I ever thought I would.

Have I reached an age where life all boils down to funerals and "organ recitals," hearing about who is sick, who had what replaced, who just had a stroke, etc., etc. I suppose that this is a stage that we all go through and eventually get to the other side, where my mother is, when most of your best friends -- if you live long enough -- are already dead, so you go to fewer funerals.

There are delightfully surprising perks, however. I just "found" a friend I have not heard from in about 15 years. He just disappeared and all of my googling attempts, all of my attempts to check with mutual friends have been for naught. He has a name that is common enough and, not having his address, it as impossible to find him. None of his other friends heard from him either. But there he is. Big as life on Facebook, friend of a mutual friend whom he contacted six months ago. I can hardly wait to get caught up.

Life. It's a new era that I'm in the middle of and I don't see it changing much any time soon.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


One of the questions at That's My Answer this morning was about how well you get along with your siblings.

As I have explained before, my only sister, who was 4-1/2 years younger than I, was murdered in 1971 by her partner. I have suffered a lot of guilt about Karen's death over the years.

A lot of the guilt stems from the fact that she and I were never close. We shared a room but were always at odds with each other from her birth. I don't remember any wonderful sister moments. In high school, she took up with a woman and pulled away from the family. It was more of a stigma to be gay then and the whole fact of her being gay, which we only suspected for a long time, was a big issue for the family, until she finally confessed to my mother (but never spoke with me about it).

We were all relieved when she was dumped by her first partner and met another woman, the woman who eventually killed her, who seemed to be very nice who kind of brought Karen back into the family again.

But by that time I was married and raising children. Karen was hardly on the radar. It seemed that every time we got together there was underlying tension around.

But the last time I saw her, when she and her partner came to dinner, we had such a wonderful time and the thought in my mind as she and her partner drove away was "that was a lot of fun--maybe now that we are adults, we can finally be friends."

A week later she was in a coma, from which she never emerged and two months after that she was dead.

My guilt comes from the fact that everyone assumes this was a huge tragedy in my life and, in fact, it was not. I don't remember crying about her death. I remember being angry with her for dying when my parents' marriage broke up a couple of years later because of the emotional upheaval I was going through by myself, which I felt should have been a shared experience....or at the very least a bit easier if we could have shared it.

But lately I'm surprised to find that I miss her. I never thought I would say that.

I thought about her a lot during the wedding in D.C. recently. One of the things I love most about the Sykes family is how close they are. Walt and his siblings are extremely close and have been brought even closer together by the failing health of their mother.

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Walt and his sister are huge text-buddies, in the weird shorthand that both of them use.

As we sat at Steamers on the day after the wedding, and those of us "Hour Baur widows" sat there watching the 3 Sykes siblings chatting incessantly, I missed my sister. I missed having a sister to talk with, someone who has known my entire history.

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On Cousins Days, I listen to Peach and Kathy each talk about their sisters. Both have difficulties with their sisters, but they have sisters. Karen has been gone so long we seem to forget she ever existed.

I watch the closeness of my own children, and the support they are to each other, even if they don't see each other all that often.

I don't know how my life would be different if Karen hadn't died. But somehow I know that it would have been different and I'm sorry I missed the chance to find out how.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Nshuti Yange, Clarisse*

I have heard from Women for Women International and learn that I have been matched with a 34 year old woman named Clarisse Niyonsaba, who lives in Rwanda.

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I don't have a lot of information about Clarisse yet. The package says that I will receive more information when she attends her first class. But I do know that she is married and raising five children. I do not know if these are all her children, since the information I received says that "many women adopt as many as 6 orphaned children, treating every child like her own."

Apparently this is a sponsorship which lasts one year. Clarisse will join a group of 25 women who will become her support network as they "go through an intensive and life-changing training."

The letter goes on to state that "Clarisse will learn about women's rights, allowing her to take greater control over the decisions that govern her life and that of her children; she will learn technical and business skills that will allow her to sustain an income; she will receive direct cash assistance and emotional suppolrt, and on graduating (in September of 2011) she will be given access to jobs or tools to start a business."

I think my first choice of match was in Congo, because of my friends from Congo, but I have felt such irrational guilt about Rwanda since seeing Hotel Rwanda and learning more about the genocide in 1994, so I'm more than happy with a match with Clarisse. More than 800,000 people were murdered and 2 million were displaced in Rwanda.

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Up to 500,000 women and girls were raped and tortured.

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After the genocide Rwanda's population was 70% female.

Women for Women provides job skills training, health eduction and rights awareness classes to help these women succeed and give themselves and their families a hope for a better future.

I hope to get to know Clarisse better over the coming year and I hope that this sponsorship may help a little toward making her life a little better. It seems so little to do, but a little is more than nothing.


*Dear Clarisse

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gay Kids are Dying

Today was the day when people were asked to wear purple to express our feeing about bullying and to honor the gay kids (and bullied non-gay kids who were perceived as gay) who have committed suicide because they didn't see that their lives would ever get better.

Ready the story of my friend Gabi's son, Bill. I've linked this before, but perhaps I have new readers who have not read it before. Be sure to scroll to the bottom and play the song that Steve wrote, called "Gabi's Song"

Today Dan Savage posted a column in response to a letter he received. I could not think of any better way to spotlight the situation than to repost it. Warning--explicit language, which I think is entirely justified, given the circumstances.

Dear Dan: I was listening to the radio yesterday morning, and I heard an interview with you about your It Gets Better campaign. I was saddened and frustrated with your comments regarding people of faith and their perpetuation of bullying. As someone who loves the Lord and does not support gay marriage, I can honestly say I was heartbroken to hear about the young man who took his own life.

If your message is that we should not judge people based on their sexual preference, how do you justify judging entire groups of people for any other reason (including their faith)? There is no part of me that took any pleasure in what happened to that young man, and I know for a fact that is true of many other people who disagree with your viewpoint.

To that end, to imply that I would somehow encourage my children to mock, hurt, or intimidate another person for any reason is completely unfounded and offensive. Being a follower of Christ is, above all things, a recognition that we are all imperfect, fallible, and in desperate need of a savior. We cannot believe that we are better or more worthy than other people.

Please consider your viewpoint, and please be more careful with your words in the future.



I'm sorry your feelings were hurt by my comments.

No, wait. I'm not. Gay kids are dying. So let's try to keep things in perspective: Fuck your feelings.

A question: Do you "support" atheist marriage? Interfaith marriage? Divorce and remarriage? All are legal, all go against Christian and/or traditional ideas about marriage, and yet there's no "Christian" movement to deny marriage rights to atheists or people marrying outside their respective faiths or people divorcing and remarrying.

Why the hell not?

Sorry, L.R., but so long as you support the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples, it's clear that you do believe that some people—straight people—are "better or more worthy" than others.

And—sorry—but you are partly responsible for the bullying and physical violence being visited on vulnerable LGBT children. The kids of people who see gay people as sinful or damaged or disordered and unworthy of full civil equality—even if those people strive to express their bigotry in the politest possible way (at least when they happen to be addressing a gay person)—learn to see gay people as sinful, damaged, disordered, and unworthy. And while there may not be any gay adults or couples where you live, or at your church, or in your workplace, I promise you that there are gay and lesbian children in your schools. And while you can only attack gays and lesbians at the ballot box, nice and impersonally, your children have the option of attacking actual gays and lesbians, in person, in real time.

Real gay and lesbian children. Not political abstractions, not "sinners." Gay and lesbian children.

Try to keep up: The dehumanizing bigotries that fall from the lips of "faithful Christians," and the lies about us that vomit out from the pulpits of churches that "faithful Christians" drag their kids to on Sundays, give your children license to verbally abuse, humiliate, and condemn the gay children they encounter at school. And many of your children—having listened to Mom and Dad talk about how gay marriage is a threat to family and how gay sex makes their magic sky friend Jesus cry—feel justified in physically abusing the LGBT children they encounter in their schools. You don't have to explicitly "encourage [your] children to mock, hurt, or intimidate" queer kids. Your encouragement—along with your hatred and fear—is implicit. It's here, it's clear, and we're seeing the fruits of it: dead children.

Oh, and those same dehumanizing bigotries that fill your straight children with hate? They fill your gay children with suicidal despair. And you have the nerve to ask me to be more careful with my words?

Did that hurt to hear? Good. But it couldn't have hurt nearly as much as what was said and done to Asher Brown and Justin Aaberg and Billy Lucas and Cody Barker and Seth Walsh—day-in, day-out for years—at schools filled with bigoted little monsters created not in the image of a loving God, but in the image of the hateful and false "followers of Christ" they call Mom and Dad.

Thursday Thirteen

Countries from which we have had guests
1. Brasil
2. Chile
3. Venezuela
4. Mexico
5. Japan
6. England
7. Switzerland
8. Yugoslavia (now Croatia)
9. Zaire (now Congo)
10. Morocco
11. Germany
12. Portugal
13. Australia

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mom's Refrigerator Door

Our refrigerator door is covered with magnets now. I usually pick up one or two whenever we travel (which means that my refrigerator door is now full of magnets. Many of the lower ones have become teething toys for dogs, so I try to make sure that the special ones are kept toward the top, out of dog range.

I love the latest one I got in Washington.

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I actually had purchased a couple of postcards at the Newseum to send through the Postcrossing project. It became an instant favorite and I even had an e-mail from a guy in China asking if I could send him one of the postcards (fortunately I had bought 3 of them). I was thrilled when I found the postcard on a magnet because I loved the idea. I wonder if they ever designed a postcard like this before we had an African-American president...

As much as I enjoy the magnets, I think I prefer the days when the refrigerator was a place to display the kids' latest art work. We have a side-by-side now and I don't know if school artwork would fit, but back then we had a regular refrigerator with a freezer compartment above and so there was lots of uninterrupted blank space to display artwork.

For years there was a rotating display of art from each of the kids. When they got too old to have work to display, Jeri went off to college to study theatre design. When she completed her masters degree at UCD she brought home a rolled up piece of canvas on which was painted part of a backdrop for a show she had designed. She told me I didn't have to post it on the refrigerator door (good thing, since I would have had to wrap the refrigerator in it, it was so big!)

But now it appears we are entering a new era. Walt recently spent several days in Santa Barbara visiting his mother, while his sister and her husband are taking a short vacation. He had meals at Tom and Laurel's several times and he brought home this finger painting by Bri for me.

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I'm not sure where I'm going to put it, since it's too wide for the refrigerator door, but I'm glad that I can scan it and post it here (even if it's too wide for my scanner to capture all of it.

I think it displays a remarkable artistic sense. First, paint takes over its shallow space. It gets denser, the painting's symmetry gets more obvious, and the technique gets varied and absorbing.

(OK...that was from a review of a Jackson Pollock painting, but just look at Bri's. It applies, right?)

I can hardly wait to start removing some of my magnets and replacing them with Bri-designed art work.

The Artist as a young girl

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Like Mother Used to Make

You'd never find my mother making creme brulée or Beef Wellington or attempting to roll sushi. She was not an adventurous cook, but she was a wonderful cook. She cooked mostly good old amurrican food, but did it beautifully and some things I have never been able to duplicate (though (can make creme brulée!)

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She was a meat-and-potatoes cook. "Adventurous" was cooking rice. She was also big on things like spaghetti and lasagna. My father loved Italian food and often said he felt he had Italian blood (though he was of Irish and German descent). Most of the "unusual" Italian food I remember eating was made by my father, who liked to cook from time to time. I still remember his calzone, and haven't had another one as good since. When it came to pizza, though, we would order from a store. I don't know if they delivered, but my father would always go and pick it up. We usually had anchovies on our pizza, which I liked then and occasionally like now (though my preference is Italian sausage and mushrooms).

I was thinking about my mother's cooking today because of a couple of odd things she made for us. We had unusual things when my father was out of town (several days a week). Karen and I loved pineapple salad. She would put a couple of rings of pineapple on a bed of lettuce (I usually didn't eat the lettuce...not my favorite food) and then make a dressing of pineapple juice mixed with peanut butter. I loved it. Still do. And every now and then I make it for myself today.

The other weird thing I remember was pancakes with pork gravy. I remember her talking about how much she loved pancakes with pork gravy when she was a kid and I begged her to make it for me. So she did. In truth, I didn't like it all that much, but I raved about how good it was. I guess she could tell I was trying to make her feel good because she never made that breakfast for me again, though I asked for it several times.

My cousin Peach was always asking her for her recipe for meatloaf, which my mother could never share because she claims she never made it the same way twice. She just made it by mixing ground beef with whatever vegetables were left over in the refrigerator.

I have never been able to duplicate her pot roast. It had a mild spicy flavor and was so tender. I remember she cooked it in the Dutch oven for hours. I've tried many times to make it the way she did, but it never comes out right. I can make you a 7 course gourmet Chinese meal, but I can't make a post roast to suit me!

Sadly, she has now forgotten all those recipes. She can't even remember how to make her signature potato salad, and I find her stuffed eggs (which she is always asked to take to parties) to be too salty to suit my taste.

It would have been easy to pass along those recipes to me because they were all in one big cookbook which was pre-printed, but had her handwritten recipes in them too. But in one of those damn Virgo moves, she decided she wasn't going to cook any more and threw the thing away, without asking me if I wanted it. I wanted it!!!

I do OK in the kitchen, when I want to, but if I had to assemble a batch of "family favorite recipes" I would be hard pressed to do it. I don't think there were any favorites. There are a couple of recipes Walt likes (Burgundy beef balls is one of them), but I don't think there is any recipe that my kids ask me to make because they have good memories about it. They would probably have more memorable memories of my cooking if I had, like my mother, stuck to a few simple, but very good, recipes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Meme Time

I'm feeling lazy tonight, so I thought I would do a meme.

What do you like about Fall?
We don't get the brilliant fall color that the northeast does, but I do love the trees that change color. I love the crunch of dead leaves under my feet. I love the cooler weather!

How many states have you lived in?
Only one--just California.

What cities/towns have you lived in?
I was born in San Francisco, moved to Berkeley, then to Albany (next door to Berkeley), then to Oakland and in 1973 moved to Davis, where we have been ever since. So, five total.

Do you prefer shoes, socks, or bare feet?
There was a time when I preferred bare feet, but these days I seem to prefer either Birkinstocks or socks. Don't enjoy bare feet any more.

Are you a social person?
Yes, but my bashfulness may make me seem less social than I really am.

What was the last thing you ate?
An apple.

What is your favorite restaurant?
We don't eat in fancy restaurants enough for me to have a favorite, so I'll say that my favorite around here is Red Lobster, just because they have great crab legs and their biscuits are fantastic.

What is your favorite ice cream?
Peanutbutter cup or Butter Pecan.

What is your favorite dessert?
Creme Brulee, I think

What is your favorite kind of soup?
There is a soup I haven't made in a while, but it was always my favorite--a middle eastern lamb soup. But I am learning to love butter squash soup made with coconut milk.

What kind of jelly do you like on your PB & J sandwich?
Any kind of berry. I think blackberry is my favorite for a sandwich, though I usually have strawberry around and that's good too.

Do you like Chinese food?
Love it! It's usually my #1 choice for which ethnic restaurant to choose, unless I'm feeling like Mexican or Indian.

Do you like coffee?
Is the Pope Catholic? Yes. I'll drink anything, but my preference is Peet's French Roast freshly ground (and not made as strong as they make it at Peet's!)

How many glasses of water, a day, do you drink on average?
Lots and lots and lots. I've always been a big water drinker. I probably drink a half a gallon of water a day (or more), but I've never counted.

What do you drink in the morning?
Water, sometimes juice, sometimes coffee.

What non-banking related card in your wallet is the most valuable to you?
Hmmm...I don't carry that many cards, so I guess I'll say my Borders rewards card, though my life wouldn't be over if I ever lost it!

Do you know how to play poker?
Not well. But I'm pretty good at cards, so with a refresher course in rules of various games, and a little practice, I think I could be pretty good.

Have you ever been to Canada?
We went to Canada on our honeymoon and always said we'd go back. We did a couple of years ago when we went to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

Do you have an addictive personality?
You think I got this big body by accident? Of course I have an addictive personality. I come from a long line of addictive people.

Do you eat out or at home more often?
We eat out rarely. I'd love to eat out more often, but a look at the prices and realizing how little it would cost at home keeps me from suggesting it more often.

What do you miss about high school, if anything?
The camaraderie. I really loved high school. I loved the friends I had there. I loved the activities I was involved in. I miss some of my teachers (almost all of whom have died by now).

Do you know anyone with the same birthday as you?
One of my Compassion sponsored kids, Shallon, in Uganda, shares my birthday. So does Hal Holbrook. And Roberta, with whom I used to work.

Do you speak any other languages?
I was a French major and bit of it comes back to me when I need it. At one point I was "conversant" in Portuguese, though I haven't spoken it in years.

Have you ever gotten stitches?
I took a spectacular fall on some ice at Lake Tahoe and split my head. Fortunately I was with a group of Chileans at the time and their leader was a physician, so he said I needed stitches. I think I had seven of them, and then the Chilean physician removed them for me to save me a trip to the hospital.

Have you ever ridden in an ambulance?
After I had my bike accident and dislocated my shoulder, I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Weird sensation!

Do you prefer an ocean or a pool?
Pool, definitely. I don't like the feeling of salt water on my skin or the hassle of getting sand off of me after getting out of the water.

Do you prefer a window seat or an aisle seat?
Window. With a window seat, I can lean my head against the window and go to sleep. I don't think I've ever been able to sleep in an aisle seat.

Do you know how to drive stick?
Sure do. My parents didn't have an automatic when I was learning to drive and I learned to drive (and parallel park!) on one of the steepest streets in San Francisco. I don't think I could do that now, but if I had to drive a stick, I could, easily.

What is your favorite thing to spend money on?
Books (regular books, kindle books or audio books!)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

How It Went

No. Polly didn't get adopted. But that's not to say that this woman who is interested in her won't be adopting her ultimately.

We woke up after a nice night of cuddling together and I wondered if this would be my last chance to sleep with Polly safely curled up under my arm.

The dogs were particularly cute this morning, chasing each other back and forth down the hall, and even playing with Lizzie, who sometimes likes to play and other times just wants to be left alone.

I could feel that I had already started making the "separation" process, starting to hold Polly at arm's length emotionally. It's a thing I do with dogs I come to love that I know I have to give up. We "talked" about how she might be going to a new home. She didn't believe me.

When it came time, I got the dogs into their leashes, which Shiloh just loves because he loves dragging Polly around by hers.

I got the two dogs into the car and drove to Petco, Polly sitting in my lap and Shiloh whining because he wanted to too.

Kim had asked me to bring Polly around 12:30, because that's when the woman who was interested in her would be coming, so we got there at 12:30 and learned that the woman was running an hour late. I decided to come back home again, but someone had parked too close to my car and I couldn't open the driver's side door, so I just sat at Petco and read, trying to keep out of sight of the dogs, since they whined and tried to climb out of their cages when they saw me.

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Finally the woman arrived and Kim suggested that we go off away from the craziness of the adoption area and see how the two of them did together.

Polly was her usual reticent self, and just pressed her body close to mine whenever the woman reached out to pet her. I suggested she get a treat, since Polly was so food oriented, so she did. I credit Angela, the trainer who worked with Polly for such a long time just to get her to approach her and take food out of her hand for the fact that Polly had no hesitation about checking the woman's hand for food.

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I liked the way she worked with Polly and liked even better her understanding of Polly's fears and what it would take to overcome them.

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Polly even sort of, warily, let the woman touch her. Briefly.

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And Polly went off with her on a leash, after initially looking back at me and pulling to get to me. At some point something clicked in my head and I could see Polly living with this woman, which made me feel very good.

When they returned, Polly hopped up next to me and pressed her body into mine again. The woman and I talked. She wants to bring one of her other dogs to meet Polly next week and, if that goes well, she is going out of town on business and wouldn't be able to actually adopt her until November 1, but she filled out the paperwork to get the ball rolling.

So we have another week to wait while the woman thinks about it and then brings the rest of her family into the decision making. But I am cautiously optimistic and feel good that I can envision this as being something that will work and something I will feel comfortable about.

It's all about the best for Polly and I'm hoping this will be it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Modified Rapture

Walt and I went out to see a play tonight (oddly enough) and as we pulled into the driveway there was the familiar high pitched, demanding yapping at the front door.

I opened the door and stepped inside and, as she always does, Polly was there scolding me for leaving and demanding she get "I'm home" her treat now!

SmHead.jpg  (71353 bytes)I went into the kitchen and got treats for everyone. Polly danced on her hind legs until it was her turn and then snatched the treat from my hand and quickly looked at Shiloh to see if maybe she could steal a bit of his treat too. Polly is nothing if not food-obsessed.

This is a scene that is repeated every time I leave the house and then return. I roll my eyes when we come up the driveway and I hear her yapping (and I hope she hasn't been doing it outside while I've been gone!), I sigh in resignation as Polly leaps at the back of my legs with each step all the way down the hall, and I let out an "oh...Polly!" as she continues to bark while I fumble with the container that has the dog treats.

But tonight was different. There was a bittersweet overtone to it all, for, you see, Polly may finally have a forever home awaiting her tomorrow.

It's kind of an "I've heard this one before" in my head right now, but I have been told that someone with another very nervous chihuhua (and a third, larger dog) has expressed interest in this little girl.

When I read the news, my first reaction was a clutching in my stomach and tears coming to my eyes. Polly has been here for >10 months now, we are inseparable (at least in her mind) and I love how she curls in my armpit when I settle down to go to sleep. Now that Buttercup is gone, she and Shiloh have become BFFs again and they were do cute today, chasing each other up and down the hallway. There are wonderful things about this little dog, especially how much she seems to love me.

But then I remembered the irate phone call from the cranky neighbor when we returned from Washington, complaining about Polly's barking. I think about the angry yapping when I come home. I think about the nails constantly pawing at the back of my knees whenever I walk anywhere, the whining at the bathroom door when I take 3 minutes to myself. And I think that maybe it will be nice to be without her for awhile.

I also think back on "the special ones" that have brought tears to my eyes when I had to turn them over to forever homes and realize that they are better off, I am better off, and the whole reason I do this is to help these little guys find homes of their own, not to collect all the ones that tug at my heart strings.

So I've become philosophical about it all--if it's meant to be, her new forever home will be waiting for her at Petco tomorrow and we will take a deep breath and turn her over to a person who will have to spend a lot of time bonding with her. And if this isn't to be her forever home, she will come back to our house and we will wait again.

If we're really lucky, this person will fall in love with Shiloh too. He really has the better personality anyway. But let's not hope for miracles.

I'm thinking that maybe we'll take a little break from fostering, after these two guys go, until the next batch of orphaned puppies, who need bottle feeding, come along. I don't know how I could resist another batch of bottle-feeding puppies.

But we've been doing this fostering pretty much non-stop for about five years now and it would be nice to take a little break and let Sheila and Lizzie know that they really are top dogs around here and aren't going to be sent away anywhere.

First, however, we have to see how this business with Polly goes. I'm crossing my fingers--and I haven't decided if I'm crossing them, hoping she finds a home finally, or that she doesn't find a home finally!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

You Big Bully

Before reading this entry, I hope people will take the 12 minutes that it takes to watch this moving video.

It was made by Ft. Worth city councilman Joel Burns, reaching out to GLBT teens who are being bullied, to let them know that however bad it is, it will get better. My simple explanation does not give you the power of this message and you must watch it...especially the part that he dares not read -- still -- because he doesn't want his parents to know, all these years later.

A lot of people in the GLBT community are making videos like this, in the wake of the rash of teen suicides by kids who have just had it and can't take it any more. Tim Gunn also has a very moving video where he describes his suicide attempt at age 17.

Burns lists four other teens, bullied for being gay or who are perceived to be gay, who committed suicide in the past month.

- Asher Brown, 13, shot himself in the head with his father's gun after years of bullying for being gay.

- Though not self-identified as gay, Billy Lucas, 15. of Indiana, was perceived to be gay, and harassed daily. He hung himself in grandmother's barn.

- Justin Aaberg, 15, of Minnesota, hung himself in his room. His body was found by his mother.

- Seth Walsh, 13, was bullied from 4th grade through middle school. Bullies told him "the world doesnt need another queer" and told him to hang himself. He did.

While each of these tragic events is appalling, is it any wonder that high school bullies seem to see nothing wrong with torturing a student whom they think may be gay? Every day our government tells them, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly, that gay people aren't as good as non-gay people. They can't serve in the military, they can't marry. They are "different." And bullies pounce on people they see as different.

The idea for this entry began to germinate when I read of the death of 15 year old Sladjana Vidovic of Mentor, Ohio, recently immigrated from Bosnia, who was bulled for two years. She jumped from bedroom window. At her funeral, her bullies laughed at her in her as she lay in her coffin.

A recent immigrant from Ireland, Phoebe Prince, 15, of Massachusetts, hung herself after being bullied for being different.

Where did kids learn that it's OK to bully someone who is "different"? Rodgers and Hammerstein nailed it years ago, in South Pacific

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

When little children learn from their parents that some people are not OK, whether because they are foreign-born, or gay, or because they worship in the wrong religious building, or they look funny or talk funny children grow up thinking they are better than those people and that it must be OK to give them a hard time about it.

When schools turn a blind eye to what is going on, kids have tacit approval to continue to harass and bully.

Shows like Glee seem to accept bullying as a normal thing. All those choir kids get routinely hit with cups of liquid and you never see the principal addressing the problem. Yes, it's a fictitional show, but in reading reports of the latest teen to be bullied to death you hear over and over again how school authorities did little to nothing to stop it, when parents report it, and seem to have turned a blind eye to what was going on under their very noses.

Steve wrote a song that tells the true story of a gay Arkansas high school student who was bullied, and what his mother did about it:

William was a boy in Arkansas
A little bit different
In redneck country
this was not very cool

So they called him a fag
And they called him a queer
They then jumped him on
the sidewalk after school

Tell me why does it take
five great big guys
To beat up one little queer
What do they fear? What do they fear?

William’s mom got in her car
And drove to the man in charge
He said "Boys will be boys
here in this school"

She said, "Where does it say
The victim gets the blame?"
She asked him if he
thought she was some fool

She said "Why does it take five great big guys
To beat up one little queer?
Why did you let five great big guys
Beat up on my only son?
What had he done?"

He said "It’s William’s fault
For walkin’ funny"
She said, “That’s gonna cost you money.”

So she sued the Board
And she won the case
And the judge got pissed
And the school disgraced

There were TV crews
Fayetteville made the news
Cause reporters will be reporters

And the boys will have to act like men
Or they’ll see the inside of the courtroom again

And bigots everywhere will start to fall
Cuz of one young boy and
A mother in Arkansas

One would hope that with all the reporting of the tragic deaths of young people in pain because of the words and actions of others, things might begin to improve. But when girls can stand at the coffin of a young woman whose death they caused, I despair of anything changing anytime soon.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Meeting Mike

My friend Ruth and I had an adventure today.

Some time ago, she read that author Michael Connelly was going to be signing copies of his new book, "Reversal" at a book store in Half Moon Bay, which is about a 3 hour drive from here. She decided we should drive down there and get books signed. I decided we should make a day of it. (We later found out that this was his only book signing in No. California.)

Now, bear in mind that when I decided that driving to Half Moon Bay to meet an author would be a great idea, I hadn't thought through the fact that I would be on Washington DC time and would have just returned from a 5-day vacation. I groaned a little when I got up this morning, but the groaning quickly stopped.

We went first to San Francisco. Ruth had lived there many years ago, for a year, but didn't have a car at the time and so had never really seen much of the city. I decided to give my tour. We came in through Marin County, because the view of the Golden Gate Bridge on a day like today would be spectacular, and then we went out to the beach and back through the Golden Gate Park, before going to Twin Peaks for a city overlook.

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Then we made our way, over many hills, to my favorite restaurant, Green's, with that view of the Golden Gate Bridge. We had a fabulous lunch (we both had an open face sandwich with pears and cheese which was delicious) and couldn't resist the lure of the dessert menu. I had a huckleberry cake with huckleberry ice cream while Ruth had a chocolate pound cake with whipped cream and berries.

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We did Lombard Street and Filbert Street and then plugged in Nigel (our GPS voice) and headed for Half Moon Bay, which wasn't as far away as I remembered it as being. Connelly was scheduled to speak at 7 and we got there around 2:30!

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It was too hot to sit in the car and there was no place to sit in the book store, so the clerk suggested we drive north a bit to Sam's Chowder House and she recommended their key lime pie. So we headed off north and I turned when I saw the sign, but it was the wrong turn, merely a billboard. However, if I hadn't turned, we would never have seen this cool house.

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We aren't completely sure what it is, but you can walk through the yard, and I had in mind the witch from Hansel and Gretel. I was afraid we would be locked in. But Ithink it is an artist's home and s/he just lets people wander around to see whatever is the current project.

We did eventually get to Sam's Chowder House, which had a wonderful view. We thoroughly enjoyed watching a Labrador Retriever playing in the ocean, chasing sticks and balls. Reminded me of Lester. So full of joy!

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Ruth had a "cup" of clam chowder which we thought must surely be a bowl until we saw the bowl, which was big enough to feed a litter of piglets. My crab cocktail, in comparison, was minuscule (and expensive), but tasty.

We lingered as long as we could, but we still got back to the book store way too early. They were starting to set up, though, so they put out a couple of chairs for us, while they moved other things around and got ready for the onslaught of customers.

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As people began piling into the book store, "things" started happening. A man passed around trays of cookies and cakes.

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(don't you love the pumpkin hat?)

And they also passed out rubber gavels as a promotional piece of swag for the book.

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Finally the man himself came in.

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He was very nice, very articulate, and had that "rumpled author look." He gave an overview of the new book and answered lots of questions, and finally signed books.

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It was just a delightful event, a lovely day, lots of surprises, lots of incredible food, and best of all, I didn't fall asleep on the way home. Now I have a big book to read! I'm so glad Ruth had that idea!