Sunday, February 20, 2011

If You're Pro American, You're Pro Union

I know that seems like a big leap, but I don't think it is. Union labor built this country and made the things we used to buy.  Now that corporations have shipped all the good manufacturing jobs overseas there are fewer good jobs here for working men and women.  About the only big unions left are the Public Sector Unions.  Support your union workers. We need them and the wages they spend in our communities.  Without them our cities would cease to be livable.  I always loved this song.  It's a relic of the days when we had healthy unions all over the country.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Thirty Year Secret

I got a call yesterday from a close male friend of mine who wanted to talk about something he'd just discovered about a girl he knew when he was a young man living in Portland and involved in the music scene there.  I know so little about that particular music scene since grunge wasn't music that ever interested me.  I know who Kurt Cobain was and I know who that hot mess Courtney Love is, and only the tinyist bit about their relationship.  That's all I know about the Pacific Northwest's biggest contribution to the music world.  I know grunge was the music of the Gen Xers.  I don't know how generation X got the name or exactly what it meant, but I have a male friend who was there when it all happened and was a musician himself.  He and friends of his knew many of the players in that music scene which in many ways defined their generation.

My friend got a call from one of his friends of that period with news about a lovely girl they both knew.  She'd made the news in a particularly shocking way and what made it big news was the man who sent her spinning off into madness and a life of drug fueled self destruction. The man was Neil Goldschmidt, perhaps Portland's most famous politician.  This is the story that finally hit the local Willamette Week on May 12th 2004.  Old news, right?  Nothing to see here, move along.  It's the story of a coverup that mostly succeeded, and could only have hurt the girl in the story by revealing so little about her, so little about the consequences to her.  Yes, there was much made of the consequences to the famous mover and shaker at the center of this story.  It was a big bump in the road for Neil Goldschmidt but I'm willing to bet he's weathered the storm and is still moving and shaking and making money hand over fist.  But the unnamed girl in the story?  This is what happened to her.  Now she has a name.  Now that she is dead we know this lovely girl was named Elizabeth Lynn Dunham, and her downward spiral and death was an avoidable tragedy.  Elizabeth Lynn Dunham might have had a normal life.  She could have been a girl who wasn't seduced at thirteen by a man twenty something years older than she, a man so famous and powerful his reputation was much more important than her very young age or her possibly bright future.  It was all about him and his very public bright present, past, and future.  And the event wasn't just a one time thing.  It went on for at least a decade or more.  Now that she's dead we'll never know the complete story.  But it's clear that the precipitating factor in her downward spiral was the sexual relationship Neil Goldschmidt began with her when she was thirteen. It's now known that Elizabeth's mother also knew this well guarded secret.  Since the mother isn't talking, it's hard to know exactly when she knew, but that she knew is not in doubt. After her daughters ongoing "relationship" with Goldschmidt the mother got a job in the Goldschmidt camp.  Would he have given her a job if he hadn't been schtupping her underage daughter?  Who knows?

This story has brought up all the terrible events of my childhood.  I kept my families secret for fifteen years.  My father was a psychologist and my mother was his accomplice.  The thing that kept me silent was shame.  Like most very young victims of sexual abuse I was also an accomplice in that I didn't tell anyone.   It took a cousin's suicide when I was twenty one to make me decide to tell my father I knew what he did to me and I needed help coping with the damage.  During that one private confrontation I was told it was my fault.  At age six I was a very seductive child.  I begged for it.  I made him do it.  He was the victim.  And then he threatened to have me committed to a mental institution for the rest of my life.  Did that shut me up?  No.  Because once that genie is out of that particular bottle, truth is power.  But once I'd told my father's sister and her family, I was shunned and then disinherited by his entire family. He returned all the photos of me, every letter I'd ever written him.  It came in a package that might have been a delivery of pornography--in a plain box wrapped in brown paper with no return address.  And that was it.  They were all done with me.

I've been writing this story of mine for the better part of twenty years.  I'm still working on it.

Addemdum: After my father's death I spoke to some lifelong friends of his who knew us all during the years of his abuse of me and the years after he stopped.  They all knew about it.  These are nice, well educated adults with children of their own.  They did nothing.  When I moved back to Salt Lake and into the family home I talked to the woman who was my best friend's mother when we were little kids.  She knew.  They all knew.  And no one did anything.  This seems to be the most ignored crime of all.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Barometric Pressure, the Sudden Onset of a Migraine, and the Homeopath, or How I Become a Flaming Asshole in a Matter of Seconds

I have very few friends but one of them is so intent on convincing me my doctors are killing me I never have an encounter with her that I don't smack my forehead and wonder what the fuck was I thinking when I told her I was okay with her dropping by on short notice.  For one thing she'll say she's in the neighborhood but it will take her an hour or two to arrive, and I almost always have a moment with her that I want to reach across the table and slap her a good one. So far I have resisted this impulse, but now I think for my mental health I should claim I'm unavailable next time she calls or I won't be able to resist the impulse.  She thinks of herself as a homeopathic or naturopathic healer, but I think she should heal herself before she starts in on her friends.  She has never taken my advise to seek psychiatric help so why should I take her advise to stop consulting actual medical professionals for my actual medical problems?

This latest contretemps started after dinner when her partner was trying to convince me I needed to learn the mathematical formula for calculating the slope of my back yard in order to use my neighbor's free irrigation water this Spring.  My neighbor has offered year after year, but not to help with the actual process of setting this up.  He says I need a small pump with a hose connected to it and, voila, I will be able to water my backyard for free too.  I'm the kind of woman who is neither mechanically inclined nor interested in learning the why of certain things.  The how will suffice for me.  But I also have lower back problems due to working like a hod carrier when I was younger with untreated scoliosis as the starting handicap.  Then in my fifties, while helping train polo ponies, I had my first bad fall in a lifetime of riding horses and landed flat on my tailbone on frozen ground.  I ended up with almost a year of sciatica. It doesn't really matter why I now avoid doing certain things by myself, but the issue Sunday night wasn't about my personal labor, it was about my inability to grasp the concept of barometric pressure (the weight of air?) to calculate the slope of my yard.  I simply know the slope of my yard is sufficient to accomplish this task-- it's a slightly greater slope than my neighbor's yard and no pumping is necessary for him to turn his yard into a pond on irrigation day every week of Summer. I don't need to know the mathematical formula to calculate the precise degree of slope.  I don't need to know the weight of air.  I need a man or mechanically inclined woman to help me with certain tasks. I just not that handy.  I know when I need a handyman. (The reason I don't have my own water rights is my crazy mother's decision decades ago to give up her water rights. Once given up they cannot be restored.  Use it or lose it applies to many things including water rights.)

This particular conversation gave me an instant migraine.  I think math is tedious.  I kept telling him to stop trying to teach me something I didn't need or want to know.  But he's a retired physics professor and took my unwillingness to really try to learn it as a challenge.  He just wouldn't give up.  Finally I pushed myself away from the table to go in search of my migraine medicine.  I was a bit frantic since the pills only work if you can take them at first sign of a migraine.  I couldn't find them and settled for an 800 mg prescription Ibuprofen which is great for back pain, but a poor substitute for Midrin which I now have discovered has been taken off the market once again.  Motherfucker!

The subject of my headache began a conversation about my history with headaches and my upcoming appointment for a neurological evaluation.  There isn't a single member of my family who didn't die of either a massive heart attack (which left them instantly dead) or the slow and horrible death of vascular dementia.  Sadly for me, it's the men who get the quick death of the heart attack and the women who all end up shitting their pants and wandering around the locked ward or a nursing home muttering obscenities and drooling for ten years.  My plan is to get a baseline reading on brain health and then do a follow up every couple of years.  I plan to take my life before I get to the shitting my pants and drooling stage, but it's a tricky bit of timing.  Wait too long and it's too late to make any decisions.

My girlfriend thinks doctors kill you. She asks me why I need a neurological evaluation.  Why test for a future that may not happen?  Maybe I'll be the first member of either side of my family that doesn't succumb to the heart's attack or the brain's little bleeds and slow demolition.  It's a very long shot, but I'm willing to imagine that I could be the only member of my crazy family to eventually get some unrelated illness that kills me. But you have to admit that we all eventually die, and it's often an unpleasant process, so why not plan ahead? There are many adventures I'm up for, but vascular dementia isn't one of them.  She says, "Why have the evaluation? Why not just do what you're planning?  Skip the tests and jump to conclusions."  I'm damn near out of my chair trying very hard to keep my tone even and not slap her when I ask, "Why should I kill myself now, when I seem to still have my wits about me?!?"  She says, "You seem to assume the outcome, why not skip the tests?"  She has a grin on her face and seems to be suppressing laughter.  "Why is this funny to you?"  "It isn't funny, but..."

And since we've made this leap, I verbally pat myself on the back for having the good sense to make plans for my corpse.  I've donated my body to the Anatomy/Medical School to use as it needs.  Then, when the body's done being useful or most immature of male med students are through getting their jollies by scaring Sorority girls with the odd disembodied hand or foot, what's left gets cremated and disposed of and my name gets added to a marble wall in the Hospital's garden thanking those of us who donate for our contribution to learning.  No funeral, no cost, no muss, no fuss.  I'm not even in favor of memorial services, though you can't stop people from talking trash about you living or dead.  I'm singularly unsentimental about death.  I detach quickly.  Once any body is dead, I cease to have any interest in it or fondness for it.  What I have instead is memory, fond or not.

I think most of the rituals of death are insane and should be avoided.  Especially the kind where the dying asks someone to take their ashes and sprinkle them over the Swiss Alps in the month of May or some nonsense like that. I think agreeing to do such a thing and then keeping the ashes on your dresser in a cardboard box for ten years because not to make the trip to the Swiss Alps in May is disrespectful of the wishes of the dead is the very definition of crazy. If you recognize yourself in this rant, I could be talking about you.