Monday, November 30, 2009

Cyrus Has a Big Problem


This is the second of these sores. The first one was almost this big and you can now see it closer to his nose, as a small red spot. It's opening up a bit with the constant licking and rubbing. I started treating this one earlier than the first and had made progress, ran out of antibiotics as the holiday happened. Started this round the day after Thanksgiving, only now it's a bigger dose. There is no way to keep a dog from licking his lips, so it's impossible to keep this sore clean and dry. So far neither of these sores has dulled his apatite. His bowel seems normal. I'm about at my wit's end.

He does not want to let me clean it or take its picture. So, this is a blurry and badly lit picture, but you can see how deep it is and how big in diameter--bigger than a quarter for sure.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Things I Should Be Doing

I have put so much on hold I now have a to-do list almost as long as the book I'm taking forever to edit/rewrite/re-edit/submit. This list is so overwhelming I just glance at it now and then, feel guilty, and then go back to bed to watch an old movie or read a few pages of the Ann Tyler novel I've been reading for a month now. I know. A month? What happened to me as the woman who gobbled books? I got an Imac and stopped reading. What's up with that? Has twitter stolen my brain? Is a piddling blog post all I can accomplish in a day?

I used to spend at least a couple of hours a day visiting other bloggers. But when my to-do list grew to epic length, I gave up going anywhere but twitter and the grocery store. And like all bloggers, once I stopped visiting blogger friends, they stopped visiting me. You have to give a little to get a little. It is a two way street.

So, this morning I did a couple of things on this long overdue list. After checking in on twitter (not on the list) I gave myself a haircut. The hair that fell on the bathroom floor made me get the vacuum out and actually turn it on. I've had the vacuum out as a symbol of my need to use it, but it just sat there until I eventually got sick of looking at it and put it away. So now I have one cleanish floor which now needs to be scrubbed.

I could just print the damn to-do list here and check things off as I get them done, but more than likely, I'd write a new blog post and never look back, never check anything off the list. I have excuses for this neglect of domesticity. We know what they are. But maybe I'd actually feel better, more optimistic, more likely to edit a new chapter every day if I got the damned to-do list done.

I do change my bedding every week. I'm obsessive about clean bed linens, for me and for the dogs. Especially now, since Cyrus has developed this plague of flesh eating abscesses around his mouth. Clean beds and clean bowels. So today I will change our beds. I do clean up my kitchen area everyday. I cook; I clean up after cooking. But the dusting and such is just not a big priority these last weeks, months. I don't really know how long I've been letting things slide.

Even without extenuating circumstances I have a tendency to grow depressed during the holidays and it only turns around when the days begin to grow longer. This year there are extenuating circumstances. My best friend died six months after her diagnosis of small cell squamous lung cancer. She was a non-smoker. I'm sure not going to quit smoking now. So that's not on my to-do list.

Maybe today is the day I can get one more thing checked off that list. Maybe I'll vacuum the whole 500 square feet of floor space. It would be nice to check that one off my to-do list.

And for those of you with suggestions about ointments for Cyrus's lip... Dr Bodely and I have discussed this. On the first sore, the one that was closest to his nose, higher on his upper lip, I tried cleaning it with hydrogen peroxide and coating it with antibacterial ointment, but this only seemed to make it worse. It was obviously painful and irritating to Cyrus and resulted in a more vigorous attempt on his part to lick and rub the stinky ointment off. It sure did not seem to help.

When the first sore erupted like an outerspace alien life force that started as a sore and then became a hard swelling along with the otherworldly sore turning into an exotic cauliflower looking thing in shades of red from pale pink to deep burgundy right beside his nose, Dr Bodley thought it might be a cancer tumor that would signal the beginning of a sudden end to Cyrus's life since is was in a position that would make surgery impossible. I took comfort when the antibiotics started to work and the swelling went down. It took three rounds of antibiotics to cure that first sore. We had a couple weeks of relatively good health but then the next sore began it's eruption. It's like a pox, a plague, an invasion of something like nothing Dr. Bodley's ever seen.

I know that there are no new plants in the area of the yard Cyrus visits three times a day for his brief sojourns outside. I've wondered if he was being bitten by a brown recluse spider. But if so, why only Cyrus, and why only on that one side of his muzzle? It's a mystery that might be solved if I had unlimited resources and Cyrus didn't outweigh me by forty or fifty pounds. He will not leave the yard to venture beyond the fence. He will only go out into the yard first thing in the morning, late afternoon, and just before we go to sleep. I have tried many times to force the issue, to attempt to drag him off his bed and out of the house, but he will trample me to get back onto his bed if he has to. So, like a good caretaker of an invalid of any sort, I do my best to keep him well and comfortable. He's a good dog, and I love him. Like the rest of you, I'm just doing the best I can.

Friday, November 27, 2009

My Dog's Got A Problem

Big Cyrus has an abscess. This is the second one. The first was just below his right nostril. The first time it started as a hard swelling that I didn't notice until it opened into a big round red sore. It opened with a round red sore the size of a nickle. The minute I noticed it I called The House Call Vet. He called my pharmacy with a Rx for antibiotics, so I got Cyrus treated before Dr Bodley could free up his schedule to see Cyrus. It took three rounds of antibiotics to cure the first absess. Now there is another one. This one is on his upper lip, same side as the first, just a slightly different position. I got him started right away on antibiotics, since Dr. Bodley's given me a refill for just this kind of recurrence. It looked like it was getting better and when Dr Bodley saw him just before he left town for the holiday, it looked like Cyrus was going to heal. But the day after his last pill three days ago, it started to swell and the sore has grown to quarter size at an alarming rate. I called Dr. Bodley and left a message that Cyrus was in need of more antibiotics and he called me back this morning early. So I just got back from the pharmacy with a second round of antibiotics and now instead of two pills twice a day, he's on two pills three times a day.

Dr Bodely has been my pet's Vet for 15 years or more. I think I was the last client he took, and I'm so grateful for him. He's seen me through the death of two dogs and one cat.

Now I have crazy old Cyrus, my 170 pound Rottie/Mastif mix with agoraphobia and blown knees, and a tendancy to get abscesses. Cyrus was shell shocked when I got him two and a half years ago. He'd spent nine years in the hands of a animal hoarder who called herself a shelter. She was alone with her 180+ animals in the desert outside of Tuscon, with no help and then she died. No one knows how long her animals went unattended, but by the time someone found her, the animals were in extreme distress. Cyrus appeared to have never seen a Vet. Best Friends took all the animals they could save, got them medical care and then started trying to find homes for them.

Cyrus has a double layered dog bed beside my bed. He never moves from there except to be coaxed out three times a day to pee and poo. Loud noises terrify him, so during those times of the year idiots are setting off fireworks, I can only get him out only once a day. The guy has great bladder/bowel control. He's a sweet soul and I love him madly, but getting him to a Vet Hospital is impossible. He out-weighs me by thirty pounds and if he doesn't want to go out, he won't budge. So whatever medical care Cyrus gets, he gets at home. When we can no longer treat him at home, it will be time to euthanize him. So I worry that these recurring abscesses are the beginning of the end. I'm praying to the God I don't believe in that Cryus survives the holidays.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Antonio Vivaldi, Winter



Happy Thanksgiving my darlings.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blame It On Santa

When I was a kid I looked forward to the holidays, ever hopeful that this year it would be different. I was at least twelve before I realized that it was never going to be anything but a disappointment.

My parents would ask me what I wanted to eat on Thanksgiving and I'd say I wanted the traditional turkey, stuffing, candied yams, mashed potatoes, gravy, Brussels sprouts, green bean casserole, cranberry relish, Waldorf salad, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. My mother always ended up doing something wildly hinky like trying to make oyster stuffing or Cornish game hens. She didn't approve of mashed potatoes and couldn't/wouldn't make gravy. She refused to do anything fancier to a yam than bake it.

When we had Thanksgiving with my dad's parents his mother always came close to the perfect meal, but his dad seemed intent on putting us all on a diet right as he was carving the turkey, dishing out the stuffing. His slices of turkey were paper thin and the thimbleful of stuffing was just a tease of a taste. I could have eaten fifty of those servings but never was allowed to ask for more than three. My grandmother's pumpkin pie and whipped cream was perfection but the pie, once sliced into slivers, could have served at least twenty~there were only five of us. I gave up caring, hoping. I gave up falling for the promise the questions implied. "What do you want?" implied someone cared.

The first Christmas I remember, I was maybe three. Most people can't remember that far back. I can't remember yesterday, but I can remember my third year in shockingly vivid detail. I remember being coaxed and helped to write a letter to Santa. I wanted a tricycle. Just that one thing. Santa came and left me a letter telling why I couldn't have a tricycle. Santa always seemed to think I'd asked for the wrong thing. I gave up on Santa. When I was six I discovered that Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy were a fiction adults told children. I figured they did that so they didn't have to tell you that they weren't going to get you what you'd asked for. Blame it on Santa.

Now that I'm old and bipolar, I'm aware of all the reasons the holidays are hard. I, like so many, have SAD, so as the days get shorter I get sad. I wouldn't mind winter so much if it weren't for short days and snow. If I had the money and liked people better I'd head toward the equator in the winter. Instead I just hibernate. The only problem with being a sort of semi-shut-in, is that well meaning people invite me to spend those two days, Thanksgiving and Christmas, with them and their crazyass friends and family. Really, I was sure my very small extended family (I'm the only child of my mother's family, and my father's family wants nothing to do with me since I refuse to keep the family secrets secret) was the worse family on earth. But now, I realize everybody has a crazy relative, there is at least one alcoholic in every family, and you all have one sister-in-law you loathe, so the stress level at the dinner table will be guaranteed to give everyone indigestion, if not a full blown screaming food fight. Sibling rivalry seems to revive at the holiday table. It now amazes me that there aren't more stabbings at holiday dinners.

Now if you ask me what I want to do on Thanksgiving, I'll tell you I want to stay home, read, nap, and when I get really hungry I want a neighbor to send one of the kids with a plate piled high with turkey and all the fixins.

Happy Thanksgiving darlings! Don't stab your alcoholic brother at the table. I'd hate to see you miss Christmas because you were in the pokey.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

For My Friend Zelita

Zelita Ann Biesele
11/06/1943 ~ 11/18/2009

Zelita was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, November 6th 1944, into a family whose love always sustained her. She died of cancer November 18th, 2009, in San Diego, California, at her oldest son's home surrounded by her children and grandchildren. Prior to her death, she made arrangements to have her body donated to the U.C.S.D. Medical School, setting a wonderful example for her friends and family.

Zelita was a lovely, kind, generous woman who made friends easily and kept them a lifetime. She was gifted in many ways, but friendship was an art at which she excelled; it was perhaps her greatest talent. We, who were lucky enough to say she was our friend, will never know another like her.

She was an early admissions student at the University of Utah where she was a Ballet Major. She had been a dancer in the Virginia Tanner Children's Theatre, with the University of Utah's famed Ballet School under the direction of W.F. Christensen, and then on to dance with the San Francisco Ballet Company. Zelita always retained that luminous grace, that lovely good posture, and the elegant willowy movement of a born dancer.

Zelita was also a visual artist who worked in oil paint, batik, silkscreen. She was a fashion and textile designer, a pianist. She could make anything including sails, she could reupholster a chair or build a deck. She could design as well as create. She was brave enough to tackle any job, hands on.

Zelita went to India in 1968 on a spiritual quest where she found her Guru, Master Maraji Charan Singh. She was a member of the spiritual community known as Science of the Soul. She spoke fondly its members and will be missed by this community.

She lived in New York for a time and then Hawaii and California for much of her adult life. She was a lifelong vegetarian, born into interesting times and she lived an interesting life always filled with love for her family and friends.

She is preceded in death by her parents, Mildred and Ferdinand C Biesele. She is survived by her Brothers Charles and William, her daughter, Aviva, her sons, Gabe, Angelo and Tobey, and seven grandchildren.

It was the love and support of her children and grandchildren which most enriched her life. She will be greatly missed by her lifelong friends, Martha and James Wolfe.

For Zelita

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thought's On My Own Obituary

Let it be said of me, "she...

Never skimped on Mayo,

Seldom suffered fools,

Loved a good book and devoured them with passion,

Moaned when she ate good food,

Didn't offer unsolicited advise or ask prying questions, unless the barn door had already been kicked down, and the livestock had fled,

Thought physical beauty was over valued and a bit of a burden,

Could grudgingly take no for an answer,

For a misanthrope, she was a bit of a push-over,

Kept a well stocked bar for her friends and mixed a lovely cocktail. Bipolar drugs kept her off the sauce, but she did keep a bottle of Madeira and sherry glasses in the cupboard for those times that called for a ladylike toast

Loved her dogs better than her men (not more, just better)

Cocksucker was her favorite swear word and she used it much like the fictional character, Swearengen, played by Ian McShane, in the HBO series, Deadwood.

She had trust issues..

Wrestled with life's contradictions.

And to the bitter end believed everything is political, especially sex and death."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hard Times, Come Again No More


In memory of my friend Zelita who died this morning. And for Esther, who taught me this song. We're having some hard times, aren't we?

It's In the Bible

This is one of the smartest letters to the editor I've ever read and that includes my own. It was in last Saturdays Salt Lake Tribune. The letter speaks very eloquently for itself:

I appreciate those who quote the Bible to stave off same-sex marriage, such as Leviticus 18:22, which states it is an "abomination" to "lie with a man as one lies with a woman." I now need advice on how to follow some other Bible laws.

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. What would be a fair price?

My neighbor insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

Leviticus 25:44 states that I may own slaves, male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend claims that this applies to Mexicans but not to Canadians. Why can't I own Canadians?

Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?

I have so many more things I'm unclear on. I'm thankful, though, that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Lynn Johnson

Salt Lake City


Monday, November 16, 2009

In the Era Post Stupak

People tell me they see my writing about the child abuse in my life, plus the grisly aftermath as "courageous" but I think of it as therapy. Once told, the story is no longer inside, it's out there, and some of the pain gets exorcised in the telling. They can post with a pseudonym or as anonymous. But telling is powerful for the teller and the reader.

I'd like to ask women to delve into their most painful past and share that story with all of us. This is no small job. But from the comments on my posts about abortion so far, that's where the real story is, it's there in the reaction to another woman's story. No one ever makes the decision to abort easily or without compelling reasons. Out of maybe forty comments I've had only one person call me a woman who would choose to murder another person for my convenience. Only one person talked to me about my committing the "ultimate sin." Only one person equated the fetus with the adult woman and said the fetus had the same right to life as I, but thought that the doctors who authorized and performed the procedure should have been jailed. That was one comment out of forty or more. So, how courageous is it to talk about the intensely personal? Is talking honestly with a therapist courageous? No one sits across my desk as I talk here and asks me questions.

If someone comes to my blog to insult and harass me, my first impulse is to try to reason with them or suggest I might not be their cup of tea. And in the end, I can shitcan their comments, or on twitter I can block their access to me. This is my free speech zone and I choose to express myself in this way. If I'm enraged by the Stupak Amendment, this is why. I can't say what it means to you, but I can warn you as one who lived my reproductive years in the era of the Comstock Laws, in the time before Roe v. Wade, what it will be like in the era post Stupak.

Statistics bore most of us, but if you want to know what it was like for women who lived in the era pre Roe v. Wade, you'll get an inkling when you read the comments from my three pieces on the subject.

Happy 45th Birthday Diana!

Diana, you fly me to the moon every time I listen to you. I type to the beat and rhythm of your exquisite phrasing. Happy Birthday! Keep doing the soulful swinging. Love You!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Gutting

I disembowel myself and splash
My innards across the clean white page
This is where I read my past for clues.

Will I marry well, win the lottery
Write a book that sees the light of day?
Will I ever stop slashing my veins this way?

I watch the news for hope and end up
In a wail of anguished, never ending cry
How could we wish to keep the power with the few?

Will the poor just vanish, will we disappear
Could we find a way to to make a space for fair?
Must those who have so little lose all but filthy air?

Would we the richest people on the earth allow it all
To vanish on a dare?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I'm the Monster Here

I wrote about my abortion because I needed to tell that story and the timing seemed right. Some of you will see me as the murderer of a person. You might think I have committed the ultimate sin. I'm sure I have, and have been sinned against. There are many details I left out of it, but in so many ways, I was a monster. I was crazy. I have always been crazy. It was a crazy time, the mid-sixties. May I remind you all that there are details in that story that might have alerted you to my carelessness and reckless behavior without apology or judgement. And yet there have been so many times and ways I tried to imagine a better ending.

By the time I was twenty-three I was clearly nuts. I was a magnet for the wrong men, every bit as damaged as I, men who wanted to manipulate and own me. I had not been loved as a child and had no idea how to love. Almost every man in my family had sexually abused me as a child. I trusted no one. I looked picture perfect but I was batshit crazy, coiled too tightly, barely able to breath. It was said of me I was high strung. That was an understatement. I worked every second to hold myself together, to appear calm and in control of myself, but I was an anxious mess. I was a monster. I aborted my only pregnancy. I knew I'd be a terrible mother. I had never been around a good mother.

I hated myself so profoundly I knew I carried a monster just like me, just like my mother, or worse, just like my father. I did not want to spend the rest of my life continuing that tradition or connected in any way to the man who impregnated me. He was delighted when I told him I was pregnant. But I was so furious at that moment because I also had to tell him he needed to get tested for a sexually transmitted disease. And in the end when we both knew that he hadn't given me syphilis, I still didn't want to have that profound connection with him.

One of the Indian women who worked in the sewing room at Satpurush asked me one day as we were all having lunch together, "Why don't you do what you're supposed to do? You're swimming against the current of your life." I was stunned by the question. I've been pondering that one all my life.

This isn't an excuse for my careless desperate foolish life, but I was emotionally damaged by it all. I was depressed and reclusive, living in a life that always seemed to put me in intimate contact with people I'd rather not have known. Nothing was planned or thought out. I was also bipolar. But if you believe in God then God has been testing me. Have I failed the test?

I don't believe in God. This in and of itself does not make me a monster. But it does let me see that the agenda of all Abrahamic religions is the subjugation of women. So this makes religious strictures completely political to me. And I set my jaw against it. I will not be chattel. I will not be dominated.

And in the end I might be liked; I do have friends. But it will be hard for a man to love me. I'll always need to live alone.

In many ways I am still my dreadful mother. I look like her, I sound like her, I have her taste in so many things and a such a bad track record with men. You probably wouldn't like me. I barely like myself.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sexual Politics and The Republican Agenda for Your Reproductive Freedom

I've been avoiding writing this because it's painful. I'm old and my reproductive capacity is long past done. I have my public option. I have plain old Medicare. No Advantage Plan needed, thank you. But you have a shaky economy, a ruinous mortgage, a job that might be downsized, the fear of losing your crappy health insurance, rising interest rates on your credit cards and the knowledge that you are living beyond your means. What would an unplanned pregnancy do to your life, male or female? I don't think it's dawned on many of you that you're losing your rights day by day. And last Saturday, while many of you were given a glimmer of hope that you might someday be able to chose a public option like Medicare, your reproductive freedom was stripped from you in the Stupak Amendment. Why did it happen? Why are you silent?

I hear people claim that they are pro-life who see no cognitive dissonance in their passionate support for the death penalty. These people sound batshit crazy to me yet they claim to be Christians of one sort or another and always patriarchal and authoritarian. I'm an atheist and I care more about the poor and the homeless, the mentally ill, the hungry and often neglected children living in single parent households with incomes below the poverty line, and desperate mothers with two minimum wage jobs than most of these "Christian" people who want to force you or your sister or girlfriend or wife to carry to term an unplanned or medically disastrous pregnancy.

Republicans claim to be all about small government, yet they want to legislate and restrict your access to reproductive health care other than the birth of a child should you get pregnant. They don't want any health insurance plan to cover women's pelvic exams, or birth control, yet Viagra is all good and a birthright for all men. Oh yes, the penis is that important, but the uterus's only politically important function is housing and feeding a fetus that must be born no matter what. The Christian Right Wing of the Republican party's agenda is to control women's bodies. To think otherwise is naive and uninformed.

My mother was a pioneering second wave feminist. I paid attention to the lessons she was passing on to other women. And one of the most important lessons of that feminist generation was that you have control of your own body and that includes your uterus. Those women insisted that words are important and white men in positions of power, in the guise of religion and knowing better than you, "little lady," what's best for you, work very hard to keep you down. They use words to marginalize and ignore you. My mother's generation of feminists fought hard for the change in abortion laws that Row v Wade brought to all of us. One of the battles they fought was for equal rights in the work place. They fought for an end to sexual harassment and sexual discrimination. And all along the way white men like Rush Limbaugh called them names like Feminazis. And conservatives pushed back at every point until our progress stalled and then began to move backwards. We still only make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work.

And slowly over time I heard younger women say, "I'm all for equality for women, but I'm not a feminist." That's when you began to give away your power. You allowed feminism to become a dirty word. Well, your power's gone now. Good luck getting it back. But I have a clue for you when looking for your lost human rights. Look at the roster of old white men who make the laws that govern us all. Look at the frat house that calls itself a church. Look at the members of the Family, the C Street old boys club of powerful and rich men who think the rules don't apply to them, but only to you. That's where you'll find your lost freedom. Now do something about it. Organize, mobilize, become activists. Take your power back. Become your own community organizer, network, be proud to be called feminists.

My Abortion in 1968: Pre Roe V Wade

I got pregnant in 1968. I'd left the man I'd been living with in Kauai and returned to Los Angles to stay in Z's apartment. She and her mate were house-sitting and their apartment was empty. They had a shop not far from the apartment in Westwood, called Satpurush where they sold handmade beautiful Indian clothes so popular with the Rockers coming back from their visit to an Ashram and their brush with mysticism and spirituality. All the seamstresses were Indian and everyone who worked at Satpurush was a vegetarian. I became their cook.

You might think cooking vegetarian would be quite simple, but it isn't. I got up early every morning and walked to a market in the neighborhood to buy fresh produce. When I got back to the apartment I perused the cookbooks for a tasty meal to make from my fresh supplies. It took the rest of the morning to make lunch. I got better and better at this important task and liked my job, liked the little apartment a block from Westwood Blvd.

Then the man I'd left in Kuaui found me and wouldn't leave me alone. He said he was in love with me, but he scared me. I'd seen him have episodes of disassociation when I felt he was a danger to me. This isn't a story about him, so I won't elaborate on that, but here he is in my life again and I don't want to have to run away again, so I make a deal with him. His terms, my conditions. We would take one last LSD trip. And if, after that trip, I still wanted him to leave me alone, he would.

I remember bits and pieces of the trip. I didn't fear him, but I knew I wanted him to stay out of my life. I had sex with him as a way to prove that even after having sex with him I still wanted him to go. It was coerced sex but not forced. And when the acid wore off I stated my desire to continue to live alone. I wanted him to move on, find someone else. And for the most part, he did move on.

A few weeks went by and I became ill. I was so fatigued I could barely move. I was constantly nauseated. Z suggested I go to the UCLA Med Center which was walking distance from the apartment. They were very nice at the Med Center. They did a couple of tests and sent me home to await the results. I got a call the following week to come in for my test results.

It was a very nice young man in a white lab coat who I met with that day. He sat almost knee to knee with me in a small exam room. He said, "I have good news, and I have bad news. Which would you prefer first?" "I'll take the good news first." "The good news is that you're pregnant." I felt as if I'd been kicked in the gut.

"THIS IS YOUR IDEA OF GOOD NEWS??!! WHAT'S THE BAD NEWS???"
"You have a positive VDRL." I had no idea what that meant. I just looked at him, waiting for some elaboration. "A VDRL is a broad spectrum test for venereal diseases."

"So, I'm pregnant AND I HAVE A VENEREAL DISEASE?!?!! What's the good news in any of this???"

"We'll do a more specific test so we know how to treat it. In the meantime you need to be on prenatal vitamins. I'll give you a prescription for those now." He started writing on a prescription pad and I stood up. When I stood up my vision narrowed down to tiny points of light off in the distance. It was much like looking through the wrong end of binoculars only more extreme. I had no peripheral vision at all. I saw only the tiny vista off in the distance with no sense of anything on either side of me from here to there. It was all just darkness and then that bit of far off light where meaningless movement happened.

I was taken by the hand and let to the psych department. I had tunnel vision. I was seated beside the desk of an overweight middle aged woman with short hair. She said, "What seems to be the problem?" And I have never heard those words since that I don't get angry. I screamed, "I took acid with a man I'm trying to get rid of, I'm now pregnant and I have a venereal disease and tunnel vision you stupid cow! What seems to be the problem? I'm talking to a person who has no idea of anything that matters. Why the fuck did they put me here? You can't possibly understand anything! You think you have answers? THERE ARE NO ANSWERS! I WILL KILL MYSELF. I WILL NOT GIVE BIRTH TO THIS MONSTER!"

I really did feel as if my body had been invaded by a creature intent on killing me. And they did find a psychiatrist I could talk to. I told him I'd kill myself if I were forced to carry this pregnancy to term. I told him about my childhood sexual abuse and fear that no one could protect a child from either being a victim of sexual abuse or keep a child from growing up to be an abuser. I told him there was no way to find a nice man who wouldn't turn into a monster. And he believed me.

But abortion was not legal in 1968. Only in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother, would the State allow a woman to get a safe legal abortion. Three doctors had to examine me and agree that I was serious about my intention to kill myself. I had to find the man who impregnated me to inform him he needed to get tested for venereal disease. Then the medical board of examiners would rule on my case and get back to me. Three wise men would decide my fate.

The impregnator did not have VD. I am one of a miniscule number of women who has a false positive on a VDRL, the broad spectrum test given routinely to women suspected of being pregnant. I was tested more specifically and tested clean. However none of this made the slightest difference to me. I felt like I had an invader growing inside of me and the violent morning sickness only further confirmed my feelings. I hated myself and the little monster growing inside of me.

If the three wise men did not make their decision before the end of my first trimester I would be forced to carry to term or kill myself. I would not carry anything inside my body to term. I was making plans to kill myself. Let me count the ways, there are so many possibilities.

In the end, at the last possible moment, they let me have my legal abortion. It took place in the University Hospital. I was admitted the day before the procedure. My roommate was a woman in her forties who was having a biopsy of a tumor on her clitoris. We spent a lot of time talking. I was reading J. Krishnamurti's Commentaries on Living. She was reading Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. We had a lot to talk about.

The next day she and I went to our respective surgeries: she early in the morning on the second day, I later in the afternoon. We both came out of our anesthesia sobbing. I with relief, she with fear as she waited for the biopsy results. By the time I was getting ready to leave the hospital the next day she got her results. No cancer. And we both sobbed again our relief. We hugged each other, and then I left. I've never forgotten her. Women understand these things. Men it seems, do not.

So now we have the Stupak Amendment. And now we are back where we were pre Roe V Wade. It is men who want this kind of control over women's bodies, women's choices. It is men who want to prohibit women the freedom men enjoy. We can't get our birth-control pills covered by insurance, but they get their viagra covered. It's very important to men that they can have a hard penis so they can impregnate if they want. But our ability to prevent pregnancy, or terminate pregnancy is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord and a challenge to male authority and domination. So according to these Christian men, these powerful law making men, women should not have reproductive freedom of choice, the choice to prevent pregnancy or the choice to abort an unintended pregnancy should one occur. I'm starting to hate most men again.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Why So Secretive C Street?

The Family has long been a secretive organization.[22][23] It maintains no public website and conducts no public fundraising activities.

Prominent political figures have insisted that secrecy and/or privacy are essential to the Family's operation. In 1985, President Ronald Reagan said about the Family, "I wish I could say more about it, but it's working precisely because it is private."[24]

At the 1990 National Prayer Breakfast, President George H.W. Bush praised Doug Coe for what he described as “quiet diplomacy, I wouldn’t say secret diplomacy.”[4]

In 2009, Chris Halverson, son of Fellowship co-founder Richard C. Halverson, said that a culture of secrecy is essential to their mission: "If you talked about it, you would destroy that fellowship."[1]

From the 1930s to the 1960s it was organized as a more traditional religious association. In 1966, Fellowship founder Abraham Vereide became concerned about his organization's growing publicity and declared in a letter that it was time to “submerge the institutional image of [the Family].”[25] Author Jeff Sharlet describes this shift in operation:

Thereafter, the Fellowship would avoid at all costs any appearance of an organization... Business would be conducted on the letterhead of public men, who would testify that Fellowship initiatives were their own. Finances would be more ‘man-to-man,’ which is to say, off the books.[26]

In 1975, a member of the Family's inner circle wrote to the group's chief South African member, that their political initiatives

...have always been misunderstood by 'outsiders.' As a result of very bitter experiences, therefore, we have learned never to commit to paper any discussions or negotiations that are taking place. There is no such thing as a 'confidential' memorandum, and leakage always seems to occur. Thus, I would urge you not to put on paper anything relating to any of the work that you are doing...[unless] you know the recipient well enough to put at the top of the page 'PLEASE DESTROY AFTER READING.'

The recipient made copies of this memo for other Family members in Africa, one of which survives.[27][28]

In 1974, after several Watergate conspirators had joined the Family, an LA Times columnist discouraged further inquiries into Washington's "underground prayer movement", i.e. the Fellowship: “They genuinely avoid publicity...they shun it.”[29]

In 2002, Doug Coe denied that the Fellowship sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast, and a Fellowship employeed said, "there is no such thing as the Fellowship."[14]

Former Republican Senator William Armstrong said the group has “made a fetish of being invisible.”[30]

In the 1960s, when the organization first went "underground," the Fellowship began distributing, to involved members of Congress, confidential memos which stressed that “the group, as such, never takes any formal action, but individuals who participate in the group through their initiative have made possible the activities mentioned.”[31]

Family Member and Senator Sam Brownback describes Family members' method of operation: “Typically, one person grows desirous of pursuing an action”—-a piece of legislation, a diplomatic strategy—-“and the others pull in behind.” [32] Indeed, Brownback has often joined with fellow Family members in pursuing legislation. For example, in 1999 he joined together with fellow Family members, Senators Strom Thurmond and Don Nickles to demand a criminal investigation of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and in 2005 Brownback joined with Family member Sen. Tom Coburn to promote the Houses of Worship Act.[33]

C Street "Family"

Rachel Maddow runs down the list for us of C-Street family members who also voted for Bart Stupak’s anti-abortion amendment yesterday. Nothing like having what amounts to a secretive religious cult making health care policy for women in the United States.

Now I want to know. Who are these men who plan to run the world and where are they planted in the government? I think this is one of the most disturbing things I've ever heard. A right wing religious and misogynistic cult is pulling the strings of governmental power. This amounts to a shadow government. And they don't have my interests in mind.

Name Position Notoriety
Sam Brownback[1][80] Sen. (R-KS) Chair of Senate Values Action Team
James Inhofe[1][80] Sen. (R-OK)
Jim DeMint[1][80] Sen. (R-SC) Chairman of Steering Committee
Chuck Grassley[80] Sen. (R-IA) Former Chairman of Finance Committee
Richard Lugar[4] Sen. (R-IN) Former Chairman, Foreign Relations Committee
John Ensign[1][80] Sen. (R-NV) Involved in sex scandal
Tom Coburn[1][80] Sen. (R-OK)
Mark Pryor[1][80] Sen. (D-AR)
Bill Nelson[1][80] Sen. (D-FL)
John Thune[80] Sen. (R-SD)
Mike Enzi[80] Sen. (R-WY)
Joe Pitts[1][80] Rep. (R-PA) Chair of House Values Action Team; Member Committees on Energy & Commerce, Sec. & Coop in Europe
Todd Tiahrt[81] Rep. (R-KS)
Frank Wolf[24] Rep. (R-VA) Member of House Appropriations Panel[1]
Zach Wamp[1][24] Rep. (R-TN)
Mike McIntyre[24] Rep.(D-NC)
Bart Stupak[1] Rep. (D-MI) Author of the Stupak Amendment for the "Affordable Health Care for America Act" that would ban federal funding for abortions.
Michael F. Doyle[1] Rep. (D-PA)
Heath Shuler[1] Rep.(D-NC)
Jerry Moran[1] Rep. (R-KA)

[edit] Members currently serving as state governors

Name Position Notoriety
Mark Sanford[68] Gov. (R-SC) Involved in sex scandal

[edit] Current Family members formerly serving in the executive branch

Name Position Notoriety
John Ashcroft[82] Attorney General AG under G.W. Bush; Also Sen. (R-MO), Member CNP
Dan Quayle[83] Vice President Also former Sen. (R-IN)
James Baker[4] Secretary of State Served under G.H.W. Bush
Robert "Bud" McFarlane[84] National Security Adviser Iran-Contra conspirator; served under Reagan
Ed Meese[85] Attorney General Served under Reagan; also Member CNP
Charles Colson[86] Special Counsel Watergate conspirator; served under Nixon
Melvin Laird[24] Secretary of Defense Persuaded Ford to Pardon Nixon[24]

[edit] Current Family members formerly in the US Congress

Name Position Notoriety
Don Nickles[33] Sen. (R-OK) Also Member Council for National Policy
Mark Hatfield[4] Sen. (R-OR) Chairman of Appropriations Committee
Pete Domenici[80] Sen. (R-NM)
Dan Coats[82] Sen. (R-IN) Promoted Faith-Based Initiatives
Chip Pickering[68] Rep. (R-MS) Involved in sex scandal
Tony P. Hall[87] Rep. (D-OH) Also UN ambassador for hunger issues under G.W. Bush

[edit] Current Family members formerly in the US military

Name Rank Notoriety
John W. Vessey[4] Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
David C. Jones[88] Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Also member Council on Foreign Relations

[edit] Historical members

The following Family members are all deceased.

Name Position Notoriety
Richard C. Halverson[1] US Senate chaplain "[O]ne of the first to join the Fellowship under found Abraham Vereide in the 1950s."[1]
Richard Nixon[84] US President Joined Family after presidency[84]
Gerald R. Ford[89] US President Pardoned Richard Nixon; also Member CFR
Strom Thurmond[24] Sen. (R-SC) opponent of civil rights
Herman Talmadge[24] Sen. (D-GA) opponent of civil rights
John C. Stennis[4] Sen. (D-MS) opponent of civil rights
Absalom Willis Robertson[24] Sen. (D-VA) Father of Pat Robertson
Arthur F. Burns[89] Chief of Federal Reserve Served under Nixon
Frank Carlson[90] Sen. (R-KS) Kingmaker for Eisenhower
Harold K. Johnson[91] Gen., Chief of Staff of the Army

[edit] Property holdings

The Family owns many properties.

[edit] Fellowship House

(133 C Street SE, Washington, DC. Three-story brick 7,914-square-foot (735.2 m2) rowhouse.)

Known as the "C Street Center" or "Fellowship House," this 1890 townhouse, located behind the Madison Annex of the Library of Congress and near the United States Capitol, has 12 bedrooms, nine bathrooms, five living rooms, four dining rooms, three offices, a kitchen, and a small "chapel".[14]

Rooms are rented to United States Senators and members of Congress who stay there as resident members of the Fellowship, reportedly paying $600 a month in room and board.[14][61]

The house is also the locale for:

  • The Family's Wednesday prayer breakfasts for United States Senators, which has been attended by Senators Sam Brownback, Tom Coburn, James Inhofe, John Ensign and Susan Collins
  • A Tuesday night dinner for members of Congress and other Fellowship associates.
  • An annual Ambassador Luncheon.[92] The 2006 event was attended by ambassadors from Turkey, Macedonia, Pakistan, Jordan, Algeria, Armenia, Egypt, Belarus, Mongolia, Latvia, and Moldova.

The property is exempt from real property taxes because it is classified as a "special purpose" use. District of Columbia law exempts from taxation "buildings belonging to religious corporations or societies primarily and regularly used for religious worship, study, training, and missionary activities" and "buildings belonging to organizations which are charged with the administration, coordination, or unification of activities, locally or otherwise, of institutions or organizations entitled to exemption."

Formerly used as a convent for nearby St. Peter's Catholic Church, 133 C Street was the headquarters of Ralph Nader's Congress Watch in the 1970s.[93] In 1980, the building was purchased by Youth with a Mission, Washington, D.C., Inc. (also known as Youth with a Mission National Christian Center, Inc.) YWAM took a note from Alexandro Palau in the principal amount of $448,873.33 to purchase the property. A 1981 modification of the note was signed by Fellowship member Ron Boehme in his capacity as President of YWAM, Washington, D.C. and witnessed by Michael Davidson as its secretary.

Asked about YWAM in 2009, Richard Carver, a retired Air Force general and the President of the Fellowship Foundation, told the Washington Post that his Fellowship group is affiliated with the house, but that he has never heard of Youth With a Mission of Washington, DC, and that he did not have a phone number for it. Carver later said that he had spoken with someone who "at one time was involved with the house" and had "heard secondhand" that the organization that runs the house is "subscribing to the no-comment."[61]

[edit] The Woodmont enclave

The Fellowship owns a number of properties, including the estate known as the Cedars (Doubleday Mansion) located at 2301 North Uhle Street (2145 24th Street North) in the Woodmont neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia. This property, which was purchased by the Fellowship in 1978, includes two additional residences known as the "well house" and "carriage house," the latter of which is used by Doug Coe. The Cedars was determined to be a "place of worship" by the Zoning Administrator in 1976.[94]

Coe has described Cedars as a place "committed to the care of the underprivileged, even though it looks very wealthy." He noted that people might say, "Why don't you sell a chandelier and help poor people?" Answering his own question, Coe said, "The people who come here have tremendous influence over kids." Private Fellowship documents indicate that Cedars was purchased so that "people throughout the world who carry heavy responsibilities could meet in Washington to think together, plan together and pray together about personal and public problems and opportunities."[14] The Cedars hosts a prayer breakfast for foreign ambassadors on Tuesday morning.

In March 1990, YWAM (which also owns the C Street Center) purchased a nearby property located at 2200 24th Street North for $580,000.[95] The property, now known as Potomac Point, is used as a women's dormitory. Ownership of Potomac Point was transferred to the C Street Center on May 6, 1992, and again to the Fellowship Foundation on October 25, 2002. Potomac Point had been owned by Doug Coe's son, Timothy, who sold the property to his parents on November 30, 1989, for $580,000.

A second property, known as Ivanwald, located at 2224 24th Street North and assessed at $916,000, is used as a men's dormitory by the Fellowship. This property was purchased by Jerome A. Lewis and Co. in 1986, and sold to the Wilberforce Foundation in 1987. In 2007, the Wilberforce Foundation transferred Ivanwald to the Fellowship Foundation for $1 million. Jerome A. Lewis is a trustee emeritus of the Trinity Forum and the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Petro-Lewis Corporation.[96]

At one time, Doug Coe and his wife, Janice, owned nearby 2560 North 23rd Road, which they sold to Congressman Tony P. Hall (D-OH) and his wife on September 22, 1987, for $100,000.[97] Hall donated $20,000 to the Fellowship Foundation on September 4, 2002,[98], $1,500 to the Wilberforce Foundation,[99] and $1,000 to the Jonathan Coe Memorial of Annapolis, Maryland during the 2001 campaign cycle.[100]

The residence located at 2244 24th Street North, and assessed at $1,458,800, is owned by Merle Morgan, whose wife, Edita, is a director of the Fellowship.[101] It also is identified as the offices of the Fellowship Foundation and Morgan Bros. Corp. (d/b/a Capitol Publishing). Fellow Fellowship director and member Fred Heyn and his wife own 2206 24th Street North.

LeRoy Rooker, the one-time treasurer of the Fellowship and former Director of the Family Policy Compliance Office at the U.S. Department of Education, and his wife own 2222 24th Street North.[102]

Arthur Lindsley, a Senior Fellow at the C.S. Lewis Institute owns 2226 24th Street North.[103]

[edit] Cedar Point Farm

According to White House records dating from 1978, President Jimmy Carter traveled to Cedar Point Farm by Marine helicopter on November 12, 1978, to attend a Fellowship prayer and discussion group.[48] President Carter placed a call to Menachim Begin while at Cedar Point Farm.[48] The White House records reflect that Cedar Point Farm was owned by Harold Hughes, a former Senator from Iowa and the President of the Fellowship Foundation.[48] Cedar Point Farm was later used by the Wilberforce Foundation.

[edit] Other Family properties

  • "Southeast White House", located at 2909 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, which is used by various community-based organizations.[104] This property is assessed at $736,310 for 2009 tax year.[105]
  • "19th Street House," a two-story, brick apartment building located at 859 19th Street NE,[1] in the Trinidad neighborhood of northeast Washington, D.C., which is assessed at $358,250 for the 2009 tax year.[106] The 19th Street Center is used for afterschool activities.
  • Mount Oak Estates, Annapolis, Maryland. One residential property, formerly owned by Timothy Coe, was sold to Wilberforce Foundation, Inc. for $1.1 million. A second residence is owned by David and Alden Coe and a third is owned by Fellowship associate Marty Sherman. Another nearby property, 1701 Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard, is owned by the Fellowship Foundation.
  • Until 1994, the Fellowship operated from the "Fellowship House", a large estate located at 2817 Woodland Drive in Washington, D.C., which was sold to the Ourisman family for more than $2.5 million.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tomatoes

Within a couple of months of our leaving Salt Lake and my starting work in Santa Barbara my mother, Maggy, called to announce her arrival time at the Santa Barbara Airport. She'd been waiting for an invitation, but this was a good time for her. She'd be staying for a week. Every time I sucked in breath to object she just kept on talking and once she'd given me the time of her arrival she hung up. I stood there with the phone to my ear and my mouth hanging open. Charlie gave me an ominous look and went back to reading the paper.

It was a weeklong nightmare of tension, barely disguised hostility, and passive aggression. I tried to referee, to be diplomatic. But she was at her worst. Charlie began to find excuses to leave when she and I were there. When I went to work, she drove down the canyon with me, criticizing my driving and the horribly dangerous road I had to travel. I gnashed my teeth and slowed down.

When she thought it should be lunchtime she would come and camp outside my office until I could leave with her. Then, after lunch she wanted to shop with me. I was, after all, the personal shopper, whose poster-sized photo graced every entrance of the store and whose photograph was in every ad placed in the News Press. I was supposed to tour her through the store and introduce her to everyone like she was visiting royalty. It was the hardest I ever had to work at that job. At the end of that week I collapsed into a stress-induced coma.

When she left I got sick. It took Charlie and me two weeks to recover and get back to normal. When we were finally able to talk about the visit (without Charlie's attack and my reflexive defense) we agreed that we'd better be prepared for her with some limits, some ground-rules, because she'd do whatever she could get away with. We even wrote them down.

1. Maggy may not come for an uninvited visit more than once a year.
2. When visiting, she must sleep in the downstairs guest bedroom, so that when she gets up at five a.m., she can read the paper, or a book, without waking us. (The oak plank flooring of the upper level creaked if you shifted from hip to hip while sleeping on the futon. It boomed like a drum if you walked, even barefoot).
3. She may not criticize or rearrange the contents of drawers or cupboards, nor ask permission to do so.
4. If she requires a garlic free environment, she will have to stay in a motel when visiting. If she chooses to stay where garlic is used in cooking, she may not complain about the horror of its odor.

Two months later we came home to this message on the answering machine. "Hi, sorry you aren't there. I have a job interview in Santa Barbara in a week. Here's the flight information. See you soon." Charlie and I argued for that entire week. He was furious. I was terrified.

That visit was the first time I knew my future with Charlie was nearing its end. She was more awful than I'd even thought possible--and I knew her well. She aggressively ignored our rules for compatible house guests. She insisted on sleeping upstairs on the futon. She got up at four thirty, instead of her usual five, and made coffee. Then she thumped her way into the upstairs bathroom where she flushed the toilet at least two or three times, before thumping her way back to the kitchen for coffee. She slammed cupboard doors. She slammed the fridge door. She stomped down the stairs, slamming the front door behind her on her way down the drive to check for the paper. Twice she did this. When we finally gave up and got out of bed, her first words to Charlie were, "You sure do have shitty paper delivery." To which he did not respond. She said it again, as if he hadn't heard her.
"I heard you the first time, Maggy."
"Why didn't you respond?"
"It wasn't a question and required no response." He took his coffee and what he could gather up of the ravaged paper out to the patio, quietly closing the door behind him.

I tried to keep her away from the house and in town. I took her to my favorite restaurants. She was impressed that I was well known, greeted by owners, taken to a good table ahead of people waiting in line. Other diners smiled at me, other waiters came to our table to say hi and chitchat. Maggy said, "You must over-tip."

Finally it was Sunday and I didn't have to work. I started planning a way to get her out of the house, so we could have some peace, maybe figure out a way to survive this visit. "How would you like to take my car and get familiar with Santa Barbara? You can do anything you want. Check out the address of the place where you're going to interview. See if it's somewhere interesting."
"That's a good idea. Let's get ready."
"I want to stay here. I have a lot to do today to get ready for my workweek. Charlie and I have some social plans during the week we need to work out. You go ahead. Maybe there'll be a movie playing in town you might want too see."
"Trying to get rid of me, huh? Ok, I can take a hint. I'll call before I come back to see if it's safe."
"Thanks." I handed her the keys and went back to bed.

Charlie had been working with our closest neighbor to clear brush, hoping to save both houses when the fire came. We were at the end of seven years of drought with no end in sight. Charlie's house was pretty well protected, but there was a huge eucalyptus forest, large stands of bay trees, Pacific Madrones with their naked red trunks just down the steep slope from the house which sat atop a knoll. We had old twisted oak stands. Charlie's property boundary bordered on National Park forested land. Charlie's neighbor's place was a thicket of dry brush too close to the house. It would explode in a fire. Our house was stucco and had a tile roof. It was surrounded with rough stonework patio. His neighbor's house was wood shingles and crowded with shade trees. It was serious work. And fire was a certainty. It was when, not if there'd be a fire. So their day would start early and it would be backbreaking. I was going to change our bed, do the laundry, make soup and placate Charlie when he took a lunch break. Due to the nature of the work, he would not be cheery at lunch anyway, but he was going to be especially surly today.

I decided on a huge pot of clam chowder, hoping that there would be some left for early in the week. While I was cooking, a friend of Charlie's, who grew organic tomatoes for the farmer's market, came by with a couple of bushels of fresh picked tomatoes for us. He asked how things were going, and when I told him, he offered to hang around and help with the brush clearing and the mother taming. I invited him to eat with us, but warned him that my mother was unpredictable.

"I'm known for charming the most difficult mothers."
"Good luck, you're going to need it with her." He left the house following the whine of chainsaws. I got ready to make tomato sauce.

Before two-thirty, Maggy was back with a sack of cleaning equipment. When I asked her what she was planning to clean she said, "I wanted to take a shower and the upstairs bathroom doesn't have one. But the mold and soap scum downstairs makes me sick, so I'm going to clean the shower."

I added extra garlic to the red sauce simmering on the stove in the kitchen. By the time she got the downstairs bathroom clean enough for her high standards and had taken her shower, the guys were coming in for a break. I had four beers out of the fridge and ready to open as they walked in the patio door to the kitchen. Mac, the tomato guy, and Jason the hunk across the road who worked for the corrections department as a counselor for the really hard cases, all came in filthy and grateful for the beer. My mother watched and listened from the dinning room table where she pretended to read a magazine.

Mac went to the sauce and took a sip from the spoon on the stove. He made all the appropriate umm, aahh, sounds. I was washing a few of the biggest tomatoes to serve as a side dish with the clam chowder for lunch. Charlie walked over to the remaining basket and selected a tomato. He ran it under the tap, sprinkled a little salt on it and ate it in two or three bites, juice dripping his chin. I felt my mouth fill with saliva and did the same. It was wonderful. They were like the tomatoes I always grew--juicy and full of acid, rich with flavor, tender of skin and warm, just hours from the vine.

Maggy could stand it no more. She slapped the magazine down on the table and walked into the kitchen. She watched me finish wiping juice off my chin and said, "I'm a real, honest to god, connoisseur of tomatoes. Why don't you amateurs make way for a real pro?"

Charlie gave me a look I could only take as a warning. When she moved toward the basket to make her selection, I held my breath. Jason had heard stories from Charlie about Maggy and held back, in the doorway. Mac was the only one in the room who looked fearless and frankly delighted. He beamed at his basket of freshly picked tomatoes, exuding pride from every pore.
Maggy handled them as if she were searching for the one worthy of her attention. She smelled several and rejected them, wrinkling her nose in disgust. At last she made her selection. She held it as if it were a glass of red wine, up to the light, like it might shine through. Then she rinsed it and carefully dried it on a clean dishtowel. She held it to her nose and inhaled deeply. "It doesn't smell like a tomato."

I refused to make eye contact with Charlie--could feel him looking at me, could feel him sending me the message, "You better put a muzzle on her, now!" I kept my eyes on Mac, who, despite this elaborate set-up for a gratuitous put-down, still looked hopeful.

When she was sure the moment was right she leaned over the sink and bit into what looked like a perfect, vine-ripened specimen of an organic tomato. With juice dripping from her chin, she wrinkled up her nose, and spat her mouthful into the sink. Mac looked absolutely stricken. His face was pale, his mouth slightly open, eyes full of disbelief. Her final words were, after rinsing and wiping her mouth, "It tastes just like horse-shit smells. What did you use for fertilizer, fresh horse-shit?"
"No, I used all-organic mulch."
"Horse-shit's organic."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Schmatta

I first went to New York for fashion week when I was nineteen. I'd married my boss, the fashion coordinator and buyer for the designer department in a fine specialty story. I went as the store model, as well as the wife of the man with the best taste in women's clothes in Salt Lake City. The specialty store was Makoff's. Sam and Richard Makoff were the brothers who owned the store. I worked there at the height of it's popularity. This made me Salt Lake's top model. I know, that doesn't sound like much, but it was great training and took me to New York and LA for fashion week at least twice a year. The years were 1961 to 1964. When we were in New York we went to shows and then to the showrooms. I was given samples by the salesmen. We were treated to tickets to plays, the opera, ballet. We were taken to lunch. The world was our oyster. I knew the Garment District, felt comfortable there. I loved New York.

When we went to LA we stayed at the home of Rudi Gernreich's boyfriend. We saw Peggy Moffitt and Rudi at his showroom. More samples for me. I preferred the New York Shows to California's casualness, but LA certainly had it's charms.

Nothing has brought back that past to me more powerfully than this documentary. It's not just that it was one of the most vivid parts of my late teens and early twenties, but I loved the men and women who worked in the Rag Trade. I loved every part of it. But what I was not aware of was the way the Rag Trade is an example of what went wrong in American. Watch this documentary and see how Wall Street ruined us and the garment industry was the canary in the coal mine of vanishing industries and disappearing middle class.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fritz LaRue, World Traveler, Had A Very Nice Funeral

I hate funerals. I have made certain I will not have one and no one can change my arrangements. I donated my body to the University of Utah Medical School. I've told all my friends that they would do well to outlive me since I will not attend their funerals, but the truth is I will have to attend a couple of them in the not too distant future, and it's killing me. These are gloomy times for me right now.

But yesterday I went to a funeral. It was the funeral of a Chihuahua. My New York friends, Rachel and David, were in New York working. Rachel's 14 year old, world traveled Chihuahua curmudgeon, the Chihuahua who went Fashion Week in Paris, Fritz LaRue, was staying with Rachel's mother, my long time friend Esther. So it was on Esther's watch that Fritz LaRue died. He'd had a great time while Rachel was working in New York these last few months. Esther took him with her to the ranch a couple of weeks ago where he spent a last wonderful week. Then, just after returning to Salt Lake, he started breathing noisily. He was dead the next morning. His trachea had collapsed. So to my way of thinking, Fritz LaRue died a very good death. His suffering was minimal and short. He didn't spend his last hours in a hospital. I envy any creature that dies suddenly. My mother's death took an excruciating seven years from diagnosis to death. Four or five of those years she was with me. The reason I'm unclear of the length of time she was in my care was the excruciating quality of the time. It was the worst thing I've ever been through, and believe me when I tell you, I've been through some very bad times. So quick is how I want to go.

Fritz had a lovely funeral, small and nondenominational. There was no mention of god or heaven at all. He's buried in the front yard of Rachel and David's Salt Lake home, and a native plum tree has been planted on his grave. The grave is marked with sandstone and river rocks. There were tears and there was laughter. We toasted Fritz LaRue with a drink made from 2 parts fresh homemade Concord grape juice, 1 part club soda, with a jigger of St Germain. I'd never tasted St Germain before (a French liqueur made from elderflowers). As an ingredient in this drink, it was perfection. So here's to one good funeral for the old curmudgeon, Fritz LaRue.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's Awards Season


I've been given an award for my blogging when I've become the world's laziest blogger. But I love prizes and I'm very honored that TheMom of The Attentive Aphorist still thinks of me this way and gives me this award to say so. Smooch! darling. You're the best.