Saturday, October 31, 2009

From Blogging to Twitter

There are moments in life that change everything, and people who are the catalyst for such change. Phillip is one of those people for me. David and Rachel are another two.

In late 2007 I was working on writing fiction on my old desktop computer. I couldn't get my computer to do the things I wanted it to, so my friend Larry, a retired philosophy professor at Portland State, put me in touch with his favorite student and friend Phillip, the man who understands all things having to do with computers and the internet.

Phillip worked with me for awhile trying to get my old computer to do what I need it to do and finally insisted I get an Imac. He said it was the best computer for a writer. He told me it's a more intuitive technology and more suited to the kind of work I was doing. He found the best deal for me and I bought the Imac and had it shipped to him. He set it up for me, loading it with every program I could ever want or need, plus a large collection of great movies. Then he shipped it to me and talked me through the set up. He is and always will be my Administrator.

During early January of 2008 my New York friends, Rachel and David, were in town for a visit and dropped by. They were delighted with my new computer and decided I must blog. I didn't know what a blog was. It was explained to me and within minutes I was a blogger.

It was the beginning of the political season and the field of candidates for the Presidential election was narrowing. I have always been a political junkie, so politics was what I blogged about. And low and behold I gained a small but growing following.

Now almost two years later I have a blog archive of 1,473 posts on Utah Savage plus six other blogs I manage and contribute to. I have a Netvibes account. I post my photo albums to my Picasa web album. I've received twenty two awards from other bloggers. I learned what a meme is. I became a blogging fool in the space of two years. I became a member of a blogging community. It was one of the other bloggers in my circle who first discovered Twitter. I took to it like a duck to water and before you know it I was neglecting my friends and ignoring my blog.

Now when I get up in the morning the first thing I do is tap the space key on my computer as I pass it on the way to the bathroom. And Twitter is the first place I go once I've let the dogs out and have my first cup of coffee in my hand. I have spent as much as ten hours at a time on Twitter and I've all but stopped visiting my blogging buddies unless I spot them on twitter. Time speeds by. It took two years to gain a following of a hundred other bloggers. It has taken only a few short months to gain a following of over 1,000 on twitter. Now I seldom see my blogging buddies on Twitter. They have not been bitten by the twitter bug. But I'm a full blown twitteraholic.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Still Life

My alarm wakes me up this morning with loud static instead of Morning Edition on NPR. It jolts me out of a dream of my own appalling ineptness as a parent. I go to the grocery store for the usual things: milk, eggs, toilet paper, nail polish. When I get to the grocery checker she says, “ We’re having a special on babies today, two for the price of one.”
I say, “Great, I’ll take two.”
"Boys or girls?”
“Can I have one of each?”
“Sure,” she says and reaches for the phone, and I hear over the intercom, “One of each, check stand seven.” A bagger brings two plump, bald babies in disposable diapers, lays them one at a time on newspaper, and wraps them like flowers, heads emerging from the unfolded end, wobbly, like large blooms on slender stems. The two of them fit snugly in one paper grocery bag, and the bagger offers to help me to my car. I decline the help, like I always do, and head to my car, bag of babies grasped to my chest and plastic bag of other stuff hanging from my left arm, keys in that hand. I open the trunk of my car, sling the plastic bag in, and then very carefully set the paper bag of babies next to the tire well, so it won’t fall over. Then I slam the trunk shut just like I always do. When I get home, I unpack the babies and put them on the kitchen floor. Pour milk in one bowl and cat kibble in another, and then I go to work.
I come out of this dream relieved to be awake even with the static. I have a headache and I’m sweating. I’m sluggish and shaky.

I’m the new receptionist at a chic and busy, upscale beauty salon. I'm brainless and sullen all day. Slightly paranoid and lazy in a resentful sort of way. I even annoy myself. Halfway through my shift at the front desk of the salon today I get nauseated. It’s Friday. The last day of the first week at this new job. Part of my job is to look chic and upscale. Well-coiffed and well-dressed. Another part of my job is to clean up after everyone else, so I sweep hair and do laundry in my Ellen Tracy silk suit and Donna Karan three inch heels. This is not where I thought I’d be at forty- eight. Living alone in a carriage house with two cats. My God, how pathetic.

Both phones are ringing, and a fiftyish blonde in a taupe silk skirt and silk jersey T-shirt with lots of tasteful silver jewelry, sits in a chair, scowling at me across a too short distance from my face. Her stylist has kept her waiting for the past half hour. He seems to be having some trouble finishing the perm he started two hours ago. That doesn’t bode well for the tastefully aging blonde or the permee, I think to myself while flashing her a truly sympathetic smile. She makes eye contact and then stares unbelievingly at her watch. She seems to have transferred her annoyance from me to her offending watch.

I can’t get away from the phones long enough to check the supply of clean towels and capes. I notice, as I pass one of the many walls of mirrors, that my lipstick has faded to the bruised blue pink of my lips natural hue, matching in tone the deepening circles under my eyes. I need to make more coffee. I need a cigarette and a nap. The perky blonde shampoo girl is getting surly. She washes coffee cups, aggressively banging them around in the sink, so I’ll notice she’s doing my job. Torpor sets in. Deliveries of hair care products are made, but the manager left and forgot to leave checks. I want to sleep, dreamlessly.

A pimply, pudgy, sweet faced high school boy comes in and asks for Miss Torkleson’s order. I know nothing about Miss Torkleson’s order. I try to ask the stylists closest to my desk if they know anything about her order, but no one can hear over the noise of hair-dryers and Light Jazz. Eventually I find out no one knows who she is, or what the hell she ordered, or where it might be. It takes me ten full minutes to cover the entire space of the salon looking for clues to the mysterious Miss Torkleson and her missing special order. When I return to the front desk, the peach fuzzed boy stands to the left of my desk by the ringing phones, shuffling from foot to foot. Two teenage models enter the salon laughing companionable. They smile at me and say “Judy, Hi!” as they pass my desk, not even glancing at the boy turning pink beside me. I sit and look up at him trying to formulate the right question. I ask him if he can give me any more clues about her or what she ordered.
He says, “I think it ends in O and R.”
“What ends in O and R?”
“The name of the stuff she ordered.”
I think to myself, 'Great, that’s a big help since no product I can think of ends in O and half of them end in R' as both phones light up and start bleating. While I’m trying to fit the two women on the phones into the packed schedules of the stylists they want, he stands there, beet red and rocking gently from side to side.
When I get off the phones I say to him, “Are you sure you have the right salon?”
“This is Milano’s isn’t it?”
I ask him if he works for Miss Torkleson, and he says, “No, I’m a student.” As if that isn’t perfectly obvious - - he’s only fifteen or sixteen, at the most.
“Where does Miss Torkleson work? Can you call her?”
“She’s my teacher at Ellsworth High School. Can I borrow a phone book to look up the number?”
My God! Who does this teacher think she is, the Queen of France? He finds the phone number, dials it, and asks for Miss Torkleson. They put him on hold. The color in his face deepens by the second as he stands there, phone clamped to his ear, knuckles whitening around the receiver. After three or four minutes he hangs up and looks up the phone number again.
I look at him and ask, “What happened?”
“They hung up on me.” He dials again. He seems to be trying to hide his irritation and discomfort, but his eyes roll up in an involuntary and universal expression of disgust. He’s starting to sweat. I smile. I hope I appear sympathetic.

I haven’t said aloud any of the nasty things I’m thinking about his teacher, but I grow increasingly pissed off that some prissy bitch high school teacher would abuse her power and authority — would be such a perfect jerk as to send this poor, blushing, pimply, pubescent boy to Boy Hell to pick up some unknown beauty potion for her highness’s hair in the middle of a school day. What gall! I hope her damned hair falls out strand by stringy strand. My every gesture tortures him. Poor little shit — the whites of his eyes are beginning to show above his lower lids alarmingly. I write a brief note to his teacher suggesting that she call and tell us exactly what her order is, and when she'll be coming in to pick it up. He leaves shaking his head in disbelief. Thank god this day's almost over.

I stop at the Smith’s near the salon on my way home to pick-up cat food and coffee and a gallon of milk. It’s 2:45 when I leave the store. I’m trying to get my cats to give up baby-food lamb. Since we moved, traumatically, cross-country, a little over a month ago, I improved the quality of their diets to help them cope with the stress. Now I can’t get them to give up the Gerber’s Pureed Lamb. Often Fanny sniffs her bowl of cat food and slowly walks away. Phoebe will stand there for a while shifting her dirty looks from her bowl to me before she covers the bowl with the dish towel I keep under their bowls, as if hers contains a stinking turd.

I’m puzzled when I unlock my front door and my neighbor's cat, Handsome, greets me. He’s a large cream-colored tom with orange tipped ears and blue eyes that cross when he gets close to Phoebe. He spends a lot of time stalking Phoebe so he can jump on her back and bite her. If he can slip past me, he swaggers into the house like he owns the place. I kicked him out when I left for work. My two stayed in. At least that’s what I thought. Now Handsome is in, and the girls are out. What the hell! Is Handsome more talented than I thought?

Once he dashes out I notice my backgammon set is open and the pieces strewn across the floor. And I think to myself, how the hell did that cat get the case open— it latches like an old Samsonite train case. My eyes drift up to the window above the kitchen sink, and I notice two small colored glass bottles lying on their sides at odd angles on the sill. A third and larger bottle is gone, presumably in the sink. The grey stone pestle hangs on the edge of the sill and looks like a wilting erection. I guess Handsome tried to get out the window. Poor guy. Trapped in the house. And then the hair rises on my arms, and muscles tighten along the back of my neck. Something isn’t right here.

I find myself standing there, just inside the threshold of my house, tote and plastic grocery bag slung over my shoulder, keys in my hand, my heart pounding wildly. Nothing moves but my eyes. They drift from the windowsill to the antique hutch against the west wall of the kitchen. Two doors on the upper left side, above the flour bin, hang by one hinge each. The flour bin is all the way open. Wow, Handsome. You must have been really upset, I tell myself. It doesn’t work. I can’t quite buy it. I look back to the window, expecting to see the screen missing, but it’s not. Then I see that the Ball jar I keep my poker change in is sitting in the center of the pie shelf. Last time I played poker, which was three weeks ago, I put it on the top shelf above the flour bin and closed the door, which at the time had two hinges. It’s not possible Handsome did this. I want to cut and run.

I force myself to turn my head toward the bed, which is partially screened from the rest of the living space by an old mammoth armoire. All the photographs and paintings are still on the wall behind my bed. The closet doors are open. And then in a panic my focus pulls back to the typing table, and I’m momentarily confused to see my computer still sitting there where it was this morning. Maybe it was just the cat.

I breathe and take a couple of steps into the room. Then I see the underwear. It’s all over the floor around the bed. Not the socks, they’re still in the bottom drawer of the little three-drawer chest beside the armoire. That drawer is pulled out about an inch and a half. The next drawer up contains cotton bikinis and tank tops. It’s halfway out and nothing seems to be wrong there. It’s just a tangle of faded cotton panties and T-shirts like always, but the top drawer is all the way open and empty, and all my silk bras, thongs, panties, tap-pants, teddies, slips and strapless bustiers are on the floor and spread all over. A small black velvet coin purse with a silver clasp is open and in the middle of the bed surrounded by my set of round Tarot cards, which were in a round basket with a lid at the back of my closet

The two drawers at the bottom of the armoire are open. They contain all the prints from my photography classes. They're almost exclusively figure study, black-and-white nudes. All female.

One framed photo has been removed from the west wall above the window beside my bed and left in the deep sill of the window. It’s a female torso reclining on her side with her back to the camera. The knee of the top leg is bent and rolled forward in a stretch, which exposes the interior upper thigh of the other leg. It’s a high contrast print, very starkly black and white. Strong light from a window falls precisely on a barely visible tuft of pubic hair. My mother thinks this photograph is obscene.

I notice something else on the bed. The long flat pouch Charlie insisted I carry my passport and large bills in when we went to Costa Rica. I grab it and feel the passport without having to look inside. I clutch it to my stomach as I head for the phone. That’s when I dial 911.

The woman on the line says it might be quite a wait, since my situation isn’t life threatening, and the intruder is gone. She tells me not to clean up the mess until after the police look at it.
Fanny and Phoebe show up while I’m waiting for the police to arrive. They enter cautiously. They roam the house sniffing everything as if nothing were familiar. Eventually Fanny heads for the daybed and Phoebe perches on the bedroom windowsill. I pace for a while noticing more disturbance. My typing chair has been moved and there are huge shoe prints on it. Everything on top of the Armoire has been opened and dumped. I move from there to the solarium, take the two steps down and stand there in the warmth of late afternoon sun. The mattress on the daybed is slightly askew, but Fanny doesn’t seem to mind. She is snuggled into the pillows at the shady end by the west wall, which is redwood. I turn left into the bathroom and see that all the drawers have been opened and the boxes and cosmetics bags have been opened and emptied. Jewelry lies scattered on the top bookcase shelf between the toilet and the sink cabinet. There are two rings and an earring on the floor. I kneel down and start searching the floor. There is nothing else but hair, the odd bit of cat litter, and dust bunnies. I head for the closet to check for my camera.

It’s not where I left it, but it’s there, out of the case, lenses scattered on a bureau top. Film cans opened, but all the film seems to be there. I examine the camera carefully. I have a roll loaded with six shots left, so I start roaming around the house taking pictures. Load another roll of Kodak 35 millimeter, 24 exposures, 400 ASA, and start really looking at things one small frame at a time. There is dust on every surface. In the sink, along with a broken bottle, there are food scraps. Some toast crumbs and four sections of orange rind.

When Officer Crowley arrives the cats split, fast. One of the first things he does is tell me how traumatic a break-in is. He talks to me about the burglary being like rape, a violation. There will be emotional repercussions. Officer Crowley says to me, “Don’t let the man who broke into your house,”-- (and went through my underwear drawer, scattering flowered silk bras and panties like petals across the floor at the foot of my bed)---“make you change the way you live your life.”

We know it was a man because of the size of his footprints on that typing chair. He left handprints here and there on dusty surfaces. I wonder what Officer Crowley thinks of my housekeeping. Dusting is obviously not a high priority for me.

He asks me if I’ve only noticed what isn’t missing, and I’m so grateful for the fact that the burglar didn’t smash and destroy everything, didn’t shit in the middle of my bed, didn’t leave a threatening note, I can’t focus on what might be gone. He didn’t take my computer or TV, VCR, or camera. They seem obvious targets for theft. He even left credit cards. I keep telling myself how lucky I am. I keep trying to focus on the positive. I keep wanting this to be a victimless crime.

Officer Crowley is gentle and patient. He seems a very sensitive man. Not at all my stereotype of a cop. He has a round head with short blond hair, and a round gut. The rest of him is blunt and muscled--short, stocky, solid looking legs. But his voice is soft as if it rises from the great bulk of that belly. I like Officer Crowley. I don’t want him to leave.

He stays for about forty-five minutes. Says it looked to be a random break-in--someone looking for cash or drugs. He says I’ll probably never get robbed again. He says it convincingly, as though we all have our allotted burglaries assigned at birth, and now I’ve finally had mine. Whew! Then he tells me I should get a new door with better security locks and a dog wouldn’t be a bad idea either. He suggests bars for the windows. As he’s leaving, he says a photographer will be by later to take pictures of the gouge marks in the door where the burglar forced the deadbolt. I’m sorry to see him go.

Officer Crowley told me the cats might be traumatized and need tranquilizers. Hah! It’s getting dark now and my youngest cat, Phoebe, has brought into the house proudly dangling from her jaws, a live moth the size of a healthy sparrow. She drops the stunned creature by my chair and smiles up at me. She’s carried it like a prize bird dog would—undamaged. It sits poised on the carpet, and then Phoebe reaches out one paw, claws retracted, and gives it a little tap. The moth rises and heads for the green gloaming of the solarium. Phoebe sits, still smiling, and watches its flight. It flies low like an overloaded B-52, clears the four-foot height of my yucca tree and crashes into the glass wall. I see a smudge of dust from where it hit the glass. Phoebe looks back at me and then trots off to the solarium to investigate. I know what her plan is. She’s slowly going to torment the moth, making it last as long as possible. When it seems finely lifeless she’ll walk away, disgusted and bored.

Fanny sleeps like a cat in a coma, curled into the pillows on the day bed. She doesn’t even look the second time Phoebe falls from the ceiling of the solarium. The first time she fell we both investigated, now we try to ignore her. Fanny naps and I pace. Phoebe climbs the redwood beams supporting the big glass panels of the solarium’s walls and ceiling. As she gets near the top of the beam she tries to reach the frantic moth with one extended paw, claws outstretched, taking swipes at it, as it hovers against the glass sky. Its wings beat fast; my heart seems to beat to the same frantic rhythm.

There’s nowhere to go but down. The racket Phoebe makes when she lands on the tile floor amongst the dust pan, the half empty bag of kitty litter and the broom is alarming. There’s a momentary silence and then the broom falls over punctuating the quiet with a sound like a hard slap as the wooden handle hits the tile. Phoebe leaps straight up three feet. Then walks sedately on tippy-toes to the toilet for a drink.

When she begins her next assault I decide to intercede on the moth’s behalf. I stand on the daybed and try to capture it in my cupped hands, but I swear I hear a sound that could only be a moth screaming, and it dives for the glass wall that faces the garden and the fence along the alley.

I can still hear the moth bashing its wings against something hard. I can feel the tattering of wings, smell the dust. It lies still for a moment. The moon shines through the glass roof of the solarium creating pools of cold light. I think about light and the moth, the smudged window, the disheveled day-bed, Fanny is a pool of black in the corner, the apple tree a pale ghost in the moonlight through the glass. I look through the lens.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Golden dimpling light, the short green spikes of Iris dead remain
Cut to please the neighbors before the freezing rain, November comes
And in this moment’s gesture, arm outstretched, remember longing, for it’s pain
I love my life if only for this momentary fire in the brain, a flash, and that’s enough

Can’t say I ever loved myself. I felt defective from the start.
Not good enough for anybody’s love, it was my shame.
I have been told, “You’re pretty.” What does it mean in any way that matters?
Why not the ecstasy of adolescent longing? Why not the waiting by the phone?
I hate the whipsaw of control and need. I’d rather die alone

A leapt into the void without the faith that anything would hold
Crossing on the Michelangelo. Accompanied by a charming thief
I climbed the winding, narrowing streets of Rome. Accosted naked in a baking
Windblown room, I ran and never loved a man who loved me too
I spent my life retreating from desire. What makes me think that words will save me now?

A picture of a naked child, she sit and stirs the dirt, her smile just barely there, sublime.
The dog attends ears pricked and staring at the camera, he keeps them all away
She’ll always know the safety of this guard, the only one who never leaves
The danger of the man who disappears. I look away and find a rapture
In the glade, a patch of dirt, the dog, the memory of the man. I smile, and that’s enough

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Orrin Hatch Complains About Opt-Out

Sometimes it's hard to tell what Orrin likes because his voice is a nasal whine in the best of times. In the healthcare debate Orrin has sided with the big insurance industry's stranglehold on the country. But a weakened public option has him apoplectic. The idea that states will have the option to refuse the public option means any Republican Governor who decides to opt-out will be wildly unpopular with the voters, and this seems very unfair to Orrin.

Lack of Fair and Ballanced

Monday, October 26, 2009

Body Warmth

Our first house in Willamina was on the outskirts of town at the top of a long sloping hill. It was a small white box, with a smaller white box behind it. The garage was almost too short for the station wagon. The house had a small living room, a small kitchen, one small bathroom and one small bedroom. It had a back porch which doubled as a laundry room. The washing machine was one of the old fashioned kind that had a roller on it. It was just like Grandmother’s in Texas. The water emptied into a big, double sink. I slept across that room, next to an inside wall for warmth.

One of Daddy’s high school students gave me her old bicycle. I loved it even more then my bike in Salt Lake. This one was a real grown-up girls bicycle with a basket on the front and a long flat panel on the back to carry a passenger. It had a bell, too. Even with the seat as low as it would go, I could barely reach the peddles when I sat. It became my private measure for how much I was growing.

My mom, Maggy, got really hard to be around. If I came straight home after school, she would hound me about cleaning my room, picking up the clothes off the floor of the curtained-off corner that was my closet. She’d say things like, “You're seven years old. You're not a baby anymore. It’s about time you started to take some responsibility around here. I’m not your slave, do you understand me! You’re going to learn to clean up after yourself and start doing chores, like everybody else. Where’s your homework?”
“I did it at school, in the library. Why are you so mad at me?”
“I’m not just mad at you. I hate this place. Now help me clean up. Start in your room.”
“Why did we come here if you hate it?”
“Because it was the least of three evils.”
“What you mean.”
“It doesn’t matter. Just stay out of my way and keep your room clean. I want you to clean the tub after you bathe. You could help a little more with the dishes, too. Now do what I ask, and leave me alone.” She turned her back and walked out of the kitchen into the living room where she had her sewing machine set up on a card table. She was making curtains. I stood there, very quiet, and then I went into my room and started with the closet. I picked up the piles of clothes on the floor and laid them on my bed. Then I started playing dress-up. After I tried on an outfit I hung it up or folded it, and put it in the boxes that were my chest of drawers. If something smelled really bad, I dumped it in my dirty laundry basket. Then I quietly tiptoed out the back door and got on my bicycle. I rolled out the driveway and instead of circling the house around the picket fence that surrounded the front yard, and heading down the paved road to town, I took the dirt road at the back of the house, coasting over the pot-holed, rocky surface, cruising the neighborhood, heading for the woods that bordered the north end of town, only a few blocks from our house.

I found trails among the trees, ferns as tall as a person bordered the trails. I found delicate, orchid like flowers, fallen trees with trunks covered in a rug-like green moss. Within the cover of that forest, even in heavy rain I could remain remarkably dry. The trees were like gently dripping umbrellas. I found a huge variety of mushrooms and toadstools, and saw squirrels and chipmunks, does with faintly spotted fawns. I saw a skunk and he saw me. We stared at each other for a moment, then he turned and walked away, stopping once to look back at me. Then he hurried on. I went home when it started to get dark.

The smell of dinner hit me before I even opened the back door. And I could hear my mother’s voice raised. I paused with my hand on the doorknob. Maggy was raving about mildew. About mildew and money. That seemed safe enough for me to open the door. As I entered the kitchen, glancing quickly at the table to see if it needed setting, I heard her say, " I got a job. I start work Monday. I’ll work in the front office at the Electric Company. Judy’s going to have to help out here. And I’d appreciate it if you backed me up on that. Could you try to get home a little earlier?” Then she noticed me getting silverware out of the drawer. “Where the hell did you go?”
“I just went for a bike ride.”
“Did you hear what we were talking about?”
“I heard you say you got a job.”
“Well, that’s going to mean more work for you. I’m counting on you to help me out here, okay?”
“Okay.” I went about my business of setting the table. We had chicken with dumplings and salad. It was great, one of my favorite things. A filling, comforting food. And there were leftovers to eat after school tomorrow. And nobody would be home, so I could do what I wanted and wouldn’t get yelled at. I sang as I washed the dishes. “We are poor little lambs who have gone astray, baa, baa, baa. We are little lost sheep who have lost our way, baa, baa, baa. Gentleman songsters off on a spree, doomed from here to eternity. God have mercy on such as we. Baa....baa...baa.”

When I took my bath I scrubbed out the ring in the tub with my washcloth and bar soap. I hung up my towel. I put on my pajamas, carried my dirty clothes into my bedroom and threw then on the closet floor. Maggy was sewing, and Daddy was grading tests. I said goodnight and went to bed. I was delighted that Maggy would be going to work.

When Daddy came in the next night to read with me, he said, “It’‘s cold out here. We need to get you a heater. Sit up and let me scoot in there. We can keep each other warm while we read. Did you ever hear of the Donner Party?”
“No. What kind of a party did they have?”
“They were explorers, pioneers, and they got caught in a snowstorm, crossing Donner’s Pass. That’s a high mountain pass. They ran out of food, and they were so cold. Almost as cold as I am right now.” He stuck his bare feet on the side of my calves. They were like ice. I giggled and tried to scoot away.

“If I’m going to finish this story, you’re going to have to keep me warm. Come here.” He wrapped me in his arms, and pulled me close to his body. Snuggling me in close, my head nestled in his armpit. “They call it the Donner Party, because it was a group of people who all died in a horrible winter storm on Donner's Pass. Nobody was prepared for how much snow there was or how cold it got. When the horses died, they ate the horses. That kept them alive for awhile, but now and then someone died in the night, even though they all slept together, like this. Do you know the best way to stay warm?”
“To wear lots and lots of clothes and keep your hat on!”
“That’s best in the day time, but at night, even with clothes on, your body temperature drops. So the best thing to do is share body warmth with someone else. Let me show you what I mean.” I had my back to his stomach, and he scrunched back from me and pulled his sweatshirt up, and pulled his pants down. Then he moved his bare stomach and chest and legs close to me, and it was like backing close to the gas heater in the living room. Then he pulled my nighty up and it was skin to skin. My butt was cold until it snuggled into his lap, which was hotter than the rest of him. It was like the hottest part of the fire. “See what I mean? That’s how the Donner Party stayed alive as long as they did.”
“Did they all die?”
“I’ll finish that story next time, but you need to practice your reading, so read to me kiddo.”

I leaned forward, breaking contact, to reach my reader. Daddy pulled me back, and with his hand he opened my legs, slipping his penis between them, resting it snug against my peepee. It was warmer than anything. Then he said, “Now I’m comfortable and warm, how about you?” I nodded my head. “Well, are you going to read to me?”

I turned pages to the slow, rhythmic rocking of Daddy’s naked body behind me, between my legs. His breath was warm and wet on the top of my head. I turned another page and held my breath, listening. He whispered, “Does that feel good? Are you warm enough?” I nodded my head. He used the hand that had slipped his penis between my legs to reach across and touch himself. Then he put his fingers on my peepee and they were slippery. They slid into the lips of my peepee, so his penis was rubbing against me closer and slippery. He whispered, “Give me your hand.” I took my hand and put it in his, and he moved them both to the hot slippery place between my legs. He put my palm over the wet round top of his penis, with his hand on top on mine, he pressed our hands around it, and our hands moved together, touching my slick peepee then pulling back to move through the crack of my bum, then forward again, so slow and warm and slippery. The inside of my thighs were slippery, too. He made a soft huffing sound and our hands filled with hot wet slimy stuff. He held my hand there, full of that stuff, while he whispered into the top of my head, “God, oh God, you are the sweetest...oh...ah, God...”Then he used the hem of my nighty to clean up our hands. It was the beginning of a new tradition.

Another tradition was shooting rats at the city dump. The only picture of me holding that gun and aiming it, is from that day when I was about to turn ten. The gun I'm holding in the picture is my mother's Luger pistol, a spoil of war my biological father brought back from his adventures in World War II. I am a thin, long legged girl with shoulder length hair. The picture was taken at the city dump in Willamina, Oregon, in the summer. My Daddy and I are out of school and shooting rats at the dump. He leans against our ugly green station wagon, a cigarette dangles from his lips and when he isn't aiming a camera at me, he is holding a bottle of beer and smoking a cigarette. I'm a good shot by then, but I don't remember when I held this gun for the first time. It has a fierce little kick that I have learned to control. I am standing there facing my Daddy with the gun held in my right hand, arm extended, head turned to the right, shot by the camera in profile, squinting slightly as I aim. My left arm hangs so nonchalantly at my side. I have very good posture. I'm wearing shorts, a camp shirt, and have espadrilles on my feet. It was so easy to swing that gun in a quarter arc and shoot my Daddy dead. I remember the thought drift through my brain like the wisp of a dream. And then as if it were just a dream, I do it. I don't even think about it. It just happens. That quarter swing of my arm, and I pull the trigger. My aim is wrong. The top of his head flies off and splatters the windshield of that ugly green station wagon. He doesn't make a sound. He is slumping down, sliding off the hood of the station wagon, missing the top of his head. Then there is the sound of the beer bottle hitting the dirt. It's a soft little sound, as the beer bubbles up and spills into the dirt. Now it's so peaceful at the dump.

I'm curious and walk slowly toward the station wagon with the gun dangling from my left hand. The cigarettes are in the breast pocket of his short sleeved shirt. Blood and bits of other stuff are soaking the shoulders of his shirt and I want to get the cigarettes out of his pocket before they're ruined. I drop the gun in his lap, and then I reach into his pocket and grab the pack of cigarettes and his zippo lighter. He's never let me play with the lighter. He always lights my cigarette for me. It takes me two tries to get the flame to pop up. It's so easy. I wonder why he made such a big deal about the zippo being dangerous. I sit in the dirt, and lean back against the back tire in the shade. It's so quiet.

An Al Franken Moment In the Healthcare Debate

Sunday, October 25, 2009

No News Is Good News

I've heard nothing from Z. I didn't expect to. I doubt if I will unless it's bad news, so if I don't hear from her I assume she's doing fine. I'm sure she's happy to be with her sons and daughter-in-law and granddaughters. I started missing her months ago, so this is nothing new. But I wonder if I'll always miss her. It didn't feel like this when we were young and off living our lives in different parts of the world. Then I always knew that we would meet up and catch up and our friendship would go on forever. Forever comes to an end eventually. I bump up against that reality almost every day now. It's the reminder that my days are numbered and I better get about finishing the things I started and trying to make the most of time left to me.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Few More Famous People With Bipolar Disorder

  • Tolstoy
  • Virginia Woolf
  • Hemingway
  • Robert Lowell
  • Anne Sexton
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Winston Churchill
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Goethe
  • Balzac
  • Handel
  • Schumann
  • Berlioz

Famous People With Bipolar Disorder

[edit] B

[edit] C

  • Robert Calvert, former Hawkwind frontman [16][18]
  • Alastair Campbell, press advisor [19][20]
  • Georg Cantor, mathematician. Cantor's recurring bouts of depression from 1884 to the end of his life were once blamed on the hostile attitude of many of his contemporaries,[21] but these bouts can now be seen as probable manifestations of bipolar disorder.[22]
  • Dick Cavett, television journalist. "CAVETT: Both in hypomanic, which I have had, and incidentally, one has to admit many patients say I am cured now, I am fine. But I must say I miss those hypomanic states. They are better off where they are."[23]
  • Iris Chang, historian and journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle[24]
  • Kurt Cobain, musician. His cousin, Beverly Cobain, a "registered nurse (…) [with] experience as a mental health professional" and author of a book, When Nothing Matters Anymore: A Survival Guide for Depressed Teens ISBN 1-57542-036-8, stated in an interview: "Kurt was diagnosed at a young age with Attention Deficit Disorder [ADD], then later with bipolar disorder; (…) As Kurt undoubtedly knew, bipolar illness can be very difficult to manage, and the correct diagnosis is crucial. Unfortunately for Kurt, compliance with the appropriate treatment is also a critical factor."[25]
  • Patricia Cornwell, American crime writer.[26]
  • Robert S. Corrington, theologist. In his book Riding the Windhorse: Manic-Depressive Disorder and the Quest for Wholeness ISBN 9780761826194 (Hamilton Books, New York, 2003) he gives a personal account of his own struggles with the condition.
  • Michael Costa, former Australian Labor party politician and Treasurer of NSW. "Mr Costa said a number of state parliamentary colleagues approached him about their mental health problems after he publicly revealed his battle with bipolar disorder in 2001."[27]

[edit] D

[edit] E

[edit] F

  • Carrie Fisher, actress and writer. "'I ended up being diagnosed as a bipolar II,' says Fisher."[28][32]
  • Stephen Fry, actor, comedian and writer. "As a sufferer of the disorder, Stephen Fry is speaking to other sufferers to find out about their experiences and visiting leading experts in the UK and US to examine the current state of understanding and research." Stephen has recorded a documentary about the life of the manic depressive which aired on the BBC.[28]

[edit] G

  • Alan Garner, novelist. According to the Guardian, "In The Voice that Thunders (Harvill), a collection of critical and autobiographical essays, Garner casts light on his writing and thinking, and the role that manic depression plays in his creativity".[33][34]
  • Paul Gascoigne, English footballer. "His second book, released this year, centres on his therapy - for alcoholism, eating disorders, OCD, and bipolar disorder, among others."[35]
  • Mel Gibson, actor and director.[36]
  • Matthew Good, Canadian musician. He first disclosed his illness in a personal blog. It was during the writing and recording of Hospital Music that he suffered one of his worst episodes.[37]
  • Philip Graham, publisher and businessman. "It had finally penetrated to me that Phil's diagnosis was manic-depression…" Katherine Graham (1997), Personal History, p. 328; Knopf, 1997, ISBN 0-394-58585-2 (book has numerous other references).
  • Macy Gray, musician and actor. As documented in an interview with Saul Williams[38]
  • Graham Greene, English novelist.[39] Extract from Graham Greene: A Life in Letters]: "Greene was managing the impulses of bipolar illness, involving mood swings from elation, expansiveness or irritability to despair and would quickly be guilty of repeated infidelities."
  • Ivor Gurney, English composer and poet.[40]

[edit] H

[edit] I

[edit] J

  • Kay Redfield Jamison, clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who profiled her own bipolar disorder in her 1995 memoir An Unquiet Mind and argued for a connection between bipolar disorder and artistic creativity in her 1993 book, Touched with Fire.
  • Daniel Johnston, musician: "Johnston's output in his late teens and early 20s proved to be a symptom of his worsening manic depression." The Guardian Unlimited, Saturday August 20, 2005: "Personal demons", review of film, The Devil and Daniel Johnston:[48]
  • Andrew Johns, Professional Rugby League Player. — has gone public about his condition.[49]

[edit] K

  • Kerry Katona, English television presenter, writer, magazine columnist and former pop singer with girl band Atomic Kitten. BBC[50]
  • Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy has been open about mental health issues, including being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.[51]
  • Otto Klemperer, conductor[52]
  • Margot Kidder, actress — self-described:[53] "I have been well and free of the symptoms that are called manic-depression for almost five years, and have been working steadily and leading a happy and productive life since then."
  • Patrick Kroupa, writer and hacker, has been very open about his drug use and mental health issues, after his last heroin detox in 1999. He mentions bipolar disorder openly in several interviews.[54][55][56]

[edit] L

[edit] M

  • Melissa Miles McCarter, author. Insanity: A Love Story (2009) discusses the experience in the hospital before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.[60]
  • Kristy McNichol, actress. The former child star and teen idol left the show Empty Nest due to her battle with the depression. McNichol later returned to the show for a few episodes during the series' last season.[61][62][63][64][65]
  • Kate Millett, author, The Loony-Bin Trip (1990) discusses her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, describing experiences with hospitalization and her decision to discontinue lithium therapy.
  • Ben Moody, musician. The former guitarist from Evanescence.[66]
  • John A. Mulheren, American financier, stock and option trader and philanthropist.[67]
  • Edvard Munch, artist. Rothenberg A. Bipolar illness, creativity, and treatment. Psychiatr Q. 2001 Summer;72(2):131–47.

[edit] N

  • Florence Nightingale, nurse and health campaigner. BPW "Florence heard voices and experienced a number of severe depressive episodes in her teens and early 20s - symptoms consistent with the onset of bipolar disorder", Dr. Kathy Wisner, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.[68]

[edit] O

  • Sinéad O'Connor, musician. She discussed her diagnosis with Oprah Winfrey in October 2007.[69]
  • Graeme Obree, Scottish racing cyclist. World hour record 1993. Individual pursuit world champion in 1993 and 1995. Cited in 2003 autobiography, Flying Scotsman: Cycling to Triumph Through My Darkest Hours and 2006 film.
  • Phil Ochs, musician [70]
  • Ozzy Osbourne, singer. Lead singer of Black Sabbath and his self-titled band. Cited in VH1's "Heavy: The History of Metal" in 2006.
  • Cheri Oteri, actress. Saturday Night Live Cast Member. Cited in Shales T.& Miller A. (2002) Live From New York, A Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live.
  • Craig Owens, singer for American band Chiodos.[71]

[edit] P

  • Nicola Pagett, actor. Wrote about her bipolar disorder in her autobiography Diamonds Behind My Eyes ISBN 0575602678
  • Jaco Pastorius, jazz musician. "Jaco was diagnosed with this clinical bipolar condition in the fall of 1982. The events which led up to it were considered "uncontrolled and reckless" incidences."[72]
  • Jane Pauley, TV presenter and journalist. The former Today and Dateline host describes being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her autobiography "Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue", which she wrote in 2004, as well as on her short-lived talk show.[73][74][75][76][77][78]
  • Edgar Allan Poe, poet and writer.[79][80][81]
  • Gail Porter, British TV presenter [82]
  • Emil Post, mathematician. [83]
  • Charley Pride, country music artist. (autobiography) Pride: The Charley Pride Story. Publisher: Quill (May 1995). "Pride discusses business ventures that succeeded and those that failed, as well as his bouts with manic depression. He tells his story with no bitterness but lots of homespun advice and humor."

[edit] R

  • Rene Rivkin, entrepreneur.[84]
  • Barret Robbins, former NFL Pro Bowler.[85]
  • Axl Rose, lead singer and frontman best known for Guns N' Roses[86] "I went to a clinic, thinking it would help my moods. The only thing I did was take one 500-question test - ya know, filling in the little black dots. All of sudden I'm diagnosed manic-depressive."
  • Richard Rossi, filmmaker, musician, and maverick minister, revealed for the first time in a live interview on the Lynn Cullen show on June 5, 2008 the link between his artistic productivity and his depression to bipolar disorder, stating that "my father was bi-polar one, and I'm bi-polar two." He spoke of the relationship between creativity and the illness.

[edit] S

  • Nina Simone, American singer. Interview with her daughter Simone, The Sunday Times June 24, 2007[87]
  • Michael Slater, International Australian cricketer, forced to retire because of related symptoms.[88][89]
  • Tony Slattery, actor and comedian.[28] "I rented a huge warehouse by the river Thames. I just stayed in there on my own, didn't open the mail or answer the phone for months and months and months. I was just in a pool of despair and mania." BBC Documentary[28]
  • Sidney Sheldon, producer, writer; wrote about being a victim of bipolar disorder in his autobiography The Other Side of Me.
  • Tim Smith, rugby league player whose career with NRL side Parramatta Eels was ended due to his bipolar condition, and pressure from the media.[90]
  • Peter Steele, frontman of metalband Type o Negative [91][92]
  • Stuart Sutherland, British psychologist and writer[93]

[edit] T

[edit] V

[edit] W

Friday, October 23, 2009

Everything Changes

Yesterday I went to see Z. I think it might be the last time I ever get to see her. She is otherworldly now and I can't even say goodbye. She told me she was leaving Utah to visit her two oldest boys, her granddaughters. She says she'll be back in a couple of months. I doubt I'll ever lay eyes on her again, but since she can't admit that this is it, we can't really say goodbye. She seems so deeply delusional about her cancer and it's metastasis, the time so short, and she has ended treatment. She would not agree with me that she's ended treatment, since she's started treatment with hash oil, but it seems like palliative care to me. It seems like her version of hospice without ever admitting to herself or me or her children that she is close to death now.

Months ago she said she only wanted "positive energy" around her. She didn't want to hear anyone say, "You're too sick to be out of bed, too sick to scrub the fridge, you should be waited on, taken care of." And yet, she was too sick to do much of anything. Everything was such a life-sucking effort. Her youngest son and his family moved in to her house to take care of her. But I don't think she really let them take care of her. I went to see her one day and she was scrubbing the fridge, furious that it was so dirty, such a mess, so obviously needing to be done, yet she had not asked the kids to clean it.

Another day, a couple of months ago, she wanted fresh pita, hummus, yogurt, and halva from a Middle Eastern market just a few blocks from her house. Her daughter-in-law was now living with her and not working. But it was me she asked to bring her what she craved. I'm not sure she ever gave them the chance to help her, to care for her. The few things I did for her were so insignificant, and yet they always made me furious with the kids. To me it seemed as if they were living with her and not caring for her, not making sure she had whatever she needed or wanted. I have been mad at them, mad at her, mad at the world.

Ms M works at the University Hospital. She brought Z's medical records day before yesterday so I could take them to Z yesterday. It was so sweet of her to take her lunch time to go up to Huntsman and pick up all the records Z wanted to take with her to California, just in case she changes her mind about further treatment. Ms M has lived in my big house for five years this October. She has the run of the place. And I don't recall ever getting really angry with her until yesterday.

The night before last when she brought Z's records out to my place she had a glass of wine and spent some time visiting with me. When she got ready to go home she discovered that her roommate had locked the back door. Ms M borrowed my keys to let herself in and I said to her, "Don't forget to bring the keys back this time, I have a doctor appointment tomorrow and then I need to go see Z." She forgot. So when I got ready to go to the doctor there were a few moments of panic until I found the spare key to my car. I left my house unlocked. It wasn't such a big catastrophe, but it pissed me off. It was the second time she'd borrowed my keys to let herself in her house and forgotten to bring them back. Ordinarily I don't go anyplace so it wouldn't be a big deal. But yesterday, when I got back from the doctor appointment and grocery store, rushing to carry the bags in, unload them and hurry to Z's to see her for the last time, Ms M was sitting at the picnic table smoking. She was taking a break from leaf blowing. As I passed her I said, "You didn't bring my keys back to me. Not cool!" She said, "Sorry, I forgot. I'll get them now." I was loaded down and kept walking back to my place. I put groceries away, hurrying to get my chores done to go see my old friend for the last time. Ms M did not bring the keys out to me. I had to go pick them up from the picnic table where she was still sitting. Again I said. "Not Cool!" She said, "I was going to bring them to you." I said nothing. I grabbed the keys and left. We have not talked since. She is the last person in the world I would want to alienate. But in all the years we've known each other I have only been angry with her a couple of times. This was one of them.

When you're old and your best friend is dying, you are forced to face your own mortality. And in an instant, everything changes when you realize how very alone you really are.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Riding the Bipolar Roller Coaster part II

It's been a long time, in bipolar terms, since I experienced a real depressive episode. But I remember all too well that depression sometimes presents as organic illness. I start to feel sick. Feeling sick is not my normal state. This feeling sick sends me to my internist. And in the early phase I might have some mild and transient bug that can either be treated or waited out. But I don't bounce back. Feeling ill lingers. Not sick enough to simply stay in bed, but not well enough to want to do much of anything. It's a headache that's hard to get rid of, or a bowel disturbance, or low grade fever, or a slow, creeping stupidity that scares me more than anything. It's the transitions from one pole to the other that are the most dangerous. It's when we, the bipolar, realize depression is bearing down on us and we still have the energy to do something about it, that we know we can't stand it again. That's when we think about suicide. If I were suicidal, I would not be talking about it, so relax. I'm not suicidal at the moment. But I have been there many times. It's why I don't fear death by cancer or heart disease or a fatal car accident.

In Salt Lake, under the umbrella of Medicare, we have Valley Mental Health. And within Valley Mental Health is a group called The Master's Program. You have to be bipolar and over fifty to qualify. I think calling a program for the old bipolar patients "The Masters Program" is both funny and apt. If you've lived past fifty and you are bipolar, you're damn special. You have survived a very difficult life. And I'm always amazed how many of us there are. We are often treated for substance abuse(self medicating) which might result in a bit of trouble with the law, especially for men. Men are more likely to be incarcerated than women, since men are more likely to be violent against others, whereas women are more likely to be self destructive.

We can be extremely charming, and we can be horrid. I would not choose a bipolar friend to hang around with. In my opinion many of us are more trouble than we're worth. In transition we can be seething with barely suppressed rage. In a manic phase we can seem as if we're taking large doses of amphetamines--motor-mouthed and loud. I sure wouldn't choose to spend my time with anyone like me. But for the person experiencing a bit of mania it's damn fun. We all live for the hypomanic phase of the illness. But, like the way down, the way up is also dangerous.

I have over the course of my life dealing with this monster illness found that not that many of the drugs to control my illness are tolerable to me. They all have some side effects, most commonly weight gain, which makes it hard for a lot of women to stay with on them. And some side effects are worse than others. One drug gives you tremors and one drug makes you fat, one drug makes you stupid and one drug steals your dreams. Go ask Alice. I'm guessing she was bipolar.

There are bipolar drugs I am frankly afraid of. I know that if the constellation of side effects is both weight gain and an inability to create I will not take the drug. I can tollerate the weight gain but not the inability to write. And like all medications not all people react the same way to the same drug. The drugs I hate the most are those used to treat mania. In the first place mania is fun and you have enough energy to clean your house, do the laundry, carry on loud long conversations while you bake a cake and paint the ceiling red. Most of the really hard outdoor work done on this piece of property, was done by me working round the clock making stone pathways and patios in the middle of the night with outside lights on.

The dangers of mania are an expansiveness that makes casual sex easy and fun, it makes shopping sprees with a new credit card seem like the best of ideas. It makes an already mercurial personality, capable of inflicting whiplash injury to loved ones with the harsh word and the hot temper more intensely painful to those close to you. Tears flow easily. You feel everything more intensely, like you were on a great high. But the drugs to bring you back to earth are harsh. The are deadening. I've had a major psychosis which is the real danger of uncontrolled mania. It takes at least a two week hospitalization in a psych ward to get that under control. And the drugs to stop the hallucinations left me feeling lobotomized. I remembered nothing much, not even my way home. I lost my way within a few blocks of my house. And I had tremors that were so bad I had trouble drinking coffee. To my friends, my affect was pretty flat. But I've lived to tell you about the dangers of the journey.

If you have one family member with bipolar disorder, chances are there have been many others in your genetic pool. I was doubly cursed in that both my mother and father were bipolar. This is an illness with two genetic markers, not the usual one. So it's a mighty potent gene.

My father was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the late 1940s. I'm told by my psychiatrist that most bipolar patients were diagnosed schizophrenic in those days. He was hospitalized twice that I know of. I knew him as a rage-aholic. He was mean and abusive to me and my mother. Maggy, my mother, was the more manic type of bipolar personality. She always saw my depression and tendency to isolate as being lazy and too sensitive. She would never admit that there was anything wrong with her. She was critical and disapproving of almost everyone else but especially me. She was known to her siblings as the mean one in her family, bordering on sadistic. She was the classic narcissist. She was perfect and everybody else was fucked. Life in my home was hell for me. And I was given the advise by three separate therapists to vanish and never contact her again, to move and leave no forwarding address. But she was my first unrequited love. I never was good enough for her but I kept trying like a woman in an abusive marriage.