Through a (Look)ing Glass, Darkly

 

Through the (Looking) Glass, Darkly

With my apologies to both Lewis Carroll and the Bible

“The Right’s Strange New Hero-Gavin Newsom”

That was the headline in the Huffington Post that caught my eye, as it was supposed to do. A minor, momentary, tremor coursed through me; had Gavin done something stupid and the Republicans latched onto it? Was my Hero in Human Form straying from what I perceive to be his laudable life-goals in some unimaginably bizarre turn of the screw?

HuffPost was huffing….and posting, what all media outlets seem to be required to do in today’s laser-quick, responsive-attuned, feedback frenzied milieu they all must exist in.

The “click” is the fix they are after.

I clicked. I read. I read some more.

Only then did the truth and fact of Jon Ward’s in depth profile of Gavin Newsom come into clear focus. Gavin was safe upon the pedestal where I needed him to be.

But the phenomenon of that random “click”……that tremor……that instantaneous recoil of the trigger finger to click-on-through was what has recently struck me as the problem.

Every writer needs an editor, at least one, maybe many more in some cases. And I would suppose editors; on-line publication editors in particular, assist with titles more than most. It’s all about the “clicks”. Those pesky EMMA-tracked clicks, and opens, and non-opens, and trends, and troughs, that are carefully scrutinized by denizens in the dark to process the soylent green currency that all business and hence all editors and by extrapolation, all writers, need to live.

But are we as a society, as a world, as humans, ceding our ability to think to something I call the Clickitization of Culture?

I worry that our swirling miasma of a world, often seeming to circle the drain of some giant, sucking, vortex, will be swallowed alive without a whimper into the black hole of the daily 24 hour news cycle and vanish from the radar screens of attentive, intellectual, reality.

Unless it’s picked up by the Clickosphere where suddenly, like primitive protoplasm that once laboriously crawled and inched into life forms hither-to-fore unheard of, these scorching, sarcastic, judgmental, new lives that they will take on become loud, screeding, must-be-heard-NOW entities that are again, clickitized into amplified and noxious forms of their previous, just formed amoebic selves.

As Alice in Wonderland once said, “How quickly things come and go in this place”.

It would seem that Lewis Carroll’s almost 200 year old wisdom is more true today than even when he was au courant and, today, his characters are so much more immediately resonant.

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.” How true, Queen of Hearts.

Jon Ward quotes Newsom; “Top-down, bureaucratic, hierarchical government [is] choking our democracy,” Newsom writes in his new book Citizenville: “We need to allow people to bypass government … to look to themselves for solving problems rather than asking the government to do things for them. “Government is the ultimate monopoly,” he writes at another point. “And monopolies, as any economist will tell you, often breed complacency and a lack of innovation.”

Yes its “rightish” sounding and thus frenzied fodder for the Rights to feast upon but it’s really more “right-mindish sounding” in this writer’s mind. A conundrum not unlike the Caterpillar’s;

“How puzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m going to be, from one minute to another.”

From one click to another we are never sure what we are going to be…….next. We have a new fungibily of nature that allows us to run through the stages of metamorphosis at lightning speed without ever being truly exposed to the actual forces of nature that are needed to gently, yet firmly, mold new life forms.

Click. I’m different.

Click. I used to think that. Now I think this. All this change without the twinned forces of Darwinism and Fresh Air.

Alice asks the Cheshire Cat:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends on where you want to get to.” replies said Cat.

Says Alice in return “I don’t much care…”

Aha. The crux of the matter.

We, having ceded the parts of our brains that reason things thorough to conclusions that suit us, fit us, feel correct to us, to the one-click-wonderment of today’s media solutions “don’t much care” and, as such, are creatures wandering in a wonderland without a lot of innate directional sense….or sense of any kind.

Cheshire once more; “If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there”

Jon Ward again; “In Montgomery County, Maryland, just north of D.C., chief innovation officer Dan Hoffman said that the overwhelmingly Democratic county government has empowered him to put as much of its data into an “open data portal” and “see if someone builds an app for it.” Newsom’s critique of government’s failures and weaknesses dovetails with the narrative that some on the right are crafting to critique the Democratic Party and spark a revival of the moribund GOP. A loose coalition of thinkers — including Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs magazine, and Alex Castellanos, a veteran political consultant working on rebranding the GOP — have been busy promoting the idea of “reform conservatism.”

So the ultimate Democratic county opens their books and that’s suddenly such a radical idea that it becomes a Republican one? And isn’t “reform conservatism” going to be just another tool in the hatchet-wielding Cheney/Rumsfeldians quiver, used solely to sway the popular vote and, in the end, give the government back the power that frankly, both parties (whomever is in power at the time) want?

Back to Ward: “Levin and Castellanos, in particular, are each working independently to craft a way of talking about conservatism that can change perceptions of the right, even among those Americans who don’t pay close attention to politics. It’s a significant ingredient in the GOP’s hopes for resurgence. Their argument is that liberalism is a top-down, antiquated approach to modern governance. Devolving decision-making power and authority to local institutions is a better way, they say, to approach a technology-driven world that is increasingly complex, diverse and bottom-up.”

Not that Levin and Castellanos are wrong but the premise of their argument seems highly suspect to this writer because of the wellspring from which it flows; the editor of National Affairs and a “veteran political consultant working on rebranding the GOP”. At least Newsom, with his multi-generational foundations as a free thinker (his way-out-front and unapologetic support for gay marriage, AIDS research, and other social issues of note) comes to the fray with some actual experience running a sometimes garrulous but always-endearing city. These other guys are agendized at the outset.

Those of us who read, think, and struggle through the noisome ideology of today’s political realities to try and get to the actual facts would, if we’re honest with at least ourselves, agree that we, too, think the Tea Party has a point or two and that, heaven forbid, even the occasional Republican has moments of true humane clarity. But because of the one-click wonder of our digitized world we are not inclined to express our thoughts as anything other than a quick, click-through, survey that only continues to reinforce the instantaneous and ephemeral quality of our news and by extension, our newsmakers.

Clickitization. Quick, register that opinion and move on to the next throbbing headline so that we don’t fall behind in our mad, collective, rush to stay ahead.

Jon Ward; “Conservatives like Gingrich and Castellanos see Newsom as a prophetic voice who is ahead of the curve, whose ideas could help the Democrats if the party is wise enough to listen to him.”

In truth, Gingrich and his ilk see Gavin Newsom as a tool. One that, if they can’t convert him to carrying an “R” beside his name on the next ballot, at least they can coopt his message and make it their own and then bask in some sort of republicanish glow that they hope he will allow them to bathe in as he moves his own message forward. And move Mr. Newsom will. He has the right stuff.

Jon Ward: “The Democratic Party that Republicans need to fear is one led by Gavin Newsom,” Castellanos said in an email. “He’s the trifecta: a business guy who understands jobs and growth, thinks government ought to stay out of people’s bedrooms and also gets that old, top-heavy, model-T government isn’t often agile enough to tackle today’s complex social problems.”

Mock Turtle here: “Well, I never heard it before, but it sounds uncommon nonsense.”

Jon Ward; “Is there a bullshit translator?” Colbert asked Newsom. “What is ‘capacity’? What do you mean? Every one of these things could be carved on a stone and put in someone’s garden. You mean governmental bandwidth so that all of us can hyperlink our engagement to democracy? See? I can make this shit up, too.”

Far be it from me to….in this piece….take on Stephan Colbert as a source of actual news. That’s too tough a steak to chew on in one article but it does serve my point up with at least a serrated knife with which to slice it. Since when did comedians become the arbiters of actual news? The smarmy sarcasm that these comedic cabals spit out is merely another symptom of our general lack of ability, desire, and frankly access to digestible protein sources. Real News?

No, thanks.

I’ll click on comedian.

When asked if he wants government to be smaller, Newsom said he did not. “No, effective. Just effective,” he said. And Democrats, he added, “have the moral authority to drive those reforms,” while Republicans do not.

And this is where the rubber meets the Republican. Newsom is a Democrat with a Capital “D”. His lineage in that arena beats the Faux-Brahmin Bushes in theirs as well as any other comers. When he says “effective, not smaller”, he is truly espousing what all Big “D” Democrats believe, we are a large and quarrelsome country full of bloviating banter and rancorous rhetoric and we need the government to act as Camp Counselor to keep the playing field fair and make sure no one goes home to their family with a bloody nose from the play yard bullies that seem to always bray the loudest.

“Government doesn’t have to come up with new killer features on its own,” he writes. “It has to step aside and let others come up with them.”

Newsom comes from the original “County Seat” of collaboratism. Born and raised in San Francisco, a city that has always, of necessity, had to compromise to even exist and just up the road from Palo Alto where the building of empires upon borrowed ideas is the norm.

So how to deal with the madness of the new modemization?

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.”

I’ll stick with the Queen of Hearts.

OFF WITH THEIR HEAD(lines)!

 

Robby Sherwin is a writer who splits his time between Portland, OR and Key West. His roaming mind bounces off topics from politics to family. His past and future musings may be found on pdxwiz.wordpress.com

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Gravely Important

Gravely Important

or

Hearts of Stone

“The cemetery is an open space among the ruins, covered in winter with violets and daisies. It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Adonais

 

Shelley about says it all, in my opinion, about cemeteries.

I have had a pretty much lifelong fascination with these repositories of souls departed.  I find them peaceful, serene, full of art, and wonder, and craftsmanship that is rarely seen and almost never appreciated for the talent that it is.

My parents were probably responsible for this fetish, after a fact.  I recall trips through New England as a child, searching out the town burial grounds of my father’s ancestors in Massachusetts.  Persistently, methodically, single-mindedly searching for my last name from row to stone to aisle.  Rejoicing, victorious when I found a gathering of stones all reflecting back to me the letters I had methodically learned were mine in Kindergarten.

I would dig my fingers into the encroaching dirt and weeds to unearth the words, if not the souls, of those so long ago laid down here.  Quietly waiting for an essence to transport me to their era, a vision of their lives to carry me on into my own future which seemed, at that young age, to stretch into eternity.  How far back they seemed and how far forward I had to go before I, too, would be as stolid and stony as they, permanent in name only and in the fragmented memories of facts long ago forgotten.

Five or six decades have since intervened.

I still seek out these silent stone gardens, my mind and will subliminally pulling the steering wheel through the gates of almost any field of forgotten dreams, passing beneath the gates like a magnet towards a north star of the imagination.

The genesis of my fixation on the hereafter in the form of stolid stone-works comes from my very early childhood.  My mother, determined to get me the best education possible, resigned from her post on the county school board, drummed up a million dollars (which, in 1960 was a whole lotta, lotta) and started a private, church-affiliated, school.  I spent my summers and after school hours during those earliest planning days in the graveyard flanking the old stucco church behind the school, which was in the church community hall basement, imagining the lives that had ended here, some tended with fond, familial ties, others, forgotten and dilapidated, like the dusty memories of a mind left un-exercised, creating a fantasy play-yard like none other.  It spurred my imagination and encouraged, albeit unintended, a path to history that would remain with me for life.  Who were these people? Where in my small town and larger community had they lived? What were their lives like, and what circumstances left them here, mostly forgotten and ignored save for the pomp and circumstance of their initial burial services?

A zombie history of granite facts, marching back through the grassy paths like so many soldiers in formation, off to fight a war with unknown gods of their own imaginings.

I have my favorites.

There’s a small pioneer cemetery on a wooded hillside outside Calistoga, CA. that has always drawn me in.  The steeply hilly growth of trees has overtaken the forest of stone and the mix is magic, a shaded glen full of distant explorers with which to commune for a few hours.  While the rest of the Wine People are dining, al fresco, at chic boutique cafes, I, and whomever I have tagging along, grab a sandwich and bottle and settle in for a couple hours of our version of al fresco, communing with the souls of those who first ventured into this idyll of a valley, displacing the Indians and claiming the fertile land for future exploitation.

An NPR story led me to another favorite, this one in Southern Oregon, in a town whose thoroughly Indian name, Yoncalla, had called to me often as I cruised up and down the I 5.  Foreign to the tongue, harkening back to Wild West imagery, when I heard that there was a cemetery of literary note there, I ran for the book, devoured it, and made the pilgrimage finally to see the arching shade trees and weathered stones that she had spoken so eloquently of.  Here was someone else who shared a passion for the past lives and scattered histories of people, long gone, whose only markers where slowly melting into the earth as their corporeal selves had done long before.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4652336

But by far my favorite; vast, varied, minted in the Golden Age and constantly re-imagined ever since; Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, CA.

http://www.mountainviewcemetery.org/history.html

I came to Mountain View through my friend Judy back in the 1970’s.  I was a newly matriculated, freshly minted, Californian, having shrugged off the slow-southern-ways of my childhood and the effete-northern-trapping of my education to arrive, much like The Wizard, in the Land of Oz, San Francisco. (funny, I just had an aha moment that I will tie together in a future ramble but, suffice it say, Wizard has been an important name in my life, ever since this moment in time).

As a college educated, nomadically inclined child of the 60’s and 70’s, when I found San Francisco, I found home.  But I also rapidly found that in order to continue to call it home, I needed to work..…a lot……so I did what thousands of others have done and continue to do, I got a job in a restaurant, several to be exact.  While I sliced and diced and washed dishes in one, I was a breakfast cook in another and in yet a third I waited tables.  But I was home.  Home in this glittering, jewel-like, sunny kingdom of hedonism and Heliotrope.

One of my jobs, breakfast cook at The Palace Café, was in Oakland, lying on a shaded avenue under the serene gaze of the formidable Claremont Hotel and adjacent to the home of the zeitgeist of 60’s radicalism, UC Berkeley; Bezerkely.

On one of my first shifts, Judy, a waitress there, stopped in to check schedules, have coffee, and just to chat with the locals, we were a tradition there in Rockridge.  She was wearing a “Squeeze a Fruit for Anita” T Shirt, which, if you weren’t around in the 70’s, was the height of politically correct logo-wear.

Anita T

We were instant friends.  We still are.

On my lunch hour, Judy suggested we go light up and send our minds wandering so she took me to Mountain View Cemetery and we strolled among the headstones, smoking a joint, telling the Days of Our Lives to each other and admiring the view of the City from the hills of this Oakland landmark.

The beauty stunned me, in no small part because I was quite stoned, but also the utter ‘foreignness” of this place, this state, this city, this Bay Area, and most assuredly, this marvel of carved and contrived stone art laid out exactly like the elegant meandering streets of the subdivisions these folks had created from raw wilderness and inhabited in life.  Here, Frederick Law Olmstead, of Golden Gate and Central Park fame, had given them in death, the synonymous upper echelons of death with dignity.

There were mini-gothic cathedrals, mini-pyramids, mausoleums by the tonnage and family plots of huge headstones and amethyst-crowned obelisks that sprouted every imaginable iteration of angel, climbing vine, and heaven-aspiring, firmament-raising exaltation known to the Modern Man that existed at the time.

And did I mention we were quite stoned?

Mountain View became a regular destination, and much like people go to Golden Gate Park or Central Park, Mr. Olmstead’s memorial park became my default relaxation public space.  It was added to “the tour” of spots that ALL visitors to my new home were quickly taken, if only for the views of San Francisco in the late afternoon as the fog silently slipped in through the Gate while we basked in the warm sun of the Oakland hills.

To be completely candid, it also was a cheap excuse for me to exercise my as-yet-to-be-delineated passion for phantoms of stone.  A true fetish was being honed.

There is so much unsung talent and creativity and shear beauty in graveyards that exists without the benefit of anyone’s praise or loving gaze.  What a waste.

There must be hundreds of different carved angels alone, sleeping, crying, flying, smiling……Angels with Hearts of Stone.

But even more than art and architecture, there exists in all cemeteries, and especially in my beloved Mountain View, a connection to feelings unseen and unknown but evident in windows of your soul if you linger long enough.  Something serene and not at all somber.  Something celebratory and life-affirming even in the blank face of the deaths all around you.

And so, soon enough, picnics were begun to be packed, wine was tipped back and afternoons were spent wandering among the far dead and nearly dilapidated as well as the meticulously groomed and timely tended.  Stories wafted up from the stones like emanations from the sodden earth itself.  Tales of too-young-gone children, screaming sorrow for love-lost spouses and neatly book-ended tales of lives lived out in their fullest measure, together in life, never asunder in death.

It was rich, warm, electric, History come alive….amidst the coldest of marble and stone.

There was a particular large, flat, grave topper, perhaps 8’ x 4’, inscribed, in part; Beloved Mother and Father”.  It became, of necessity, a perfect picnic plateau.  We would lay out our charcuterie, cork a bottle or two, and spread out our beach towels on the warm grass and spend the afternoon lazily imaging the past and creating our own futures in peace and quiet while working on our perfect California tans.

Irreverent?  We thought not, at all.

One day a park employee happened by and for whatever reason, his mood was not ours and he ordered us to leave; “This is not a park!! Only family members!”.  Well, technically it is a park.  Whatever.

Righteously indignant, we slowly donned our clothes and gathered up our feast and began to pack up the car.

An elderly woman in a sun bonnet carrying a basket and wearing garden gloves had been manning her hand shears in a plot nearby, enjoying the sun, tending her stone garden, and smiling occasionally at us as we enjoyed our own reverie.  As the recalcitrant ranger drove away, she walked over to us with a purposeful gate.

“I heard what he said to you!” she said in genuine shock.  “From now on, you are Honorary Long Family members and I would be proud to have you come enjoy the lovely weather in our family plot. Phooey on them!”  “You tell them Emily Foster Long told you so!”  “Now come spread out over here, I’m done for the day”.

And we did.  I still visit the Longs every time I’m there and that was over 35 years ago now.  Emily is now among her relations and I always wish her well.

I have experienced Mountain View in almost every possible iteration. I have wandered the bookishly beautiful aisles of the Julia Morgan designed columbarium, reading the spines of the brass “books” so see who lies on which shelf.

I have seen sunsets and sunrises from atop the steps of a pyramid

I have basked in the sun on the grounds of a cathedral, warmed from without and within by the ambient heat of the white marble walls.

I have climbed the walls and wandered, slightly spooked and horribly thrilled in the shades of shadows that come alive with their blue light and inner spirits at moon night.

I have even had sex under the full moon’s glare and that, I can say with certainty, is a fetish derived from years of experimentation and examination of my love of lives lived and the last remaining evidence of their passing through this world.

In short:

“I dig art. With a shovel. In the cemetery.
”
Jarod Kintz

It is Gravely Important, to me.

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Generation-Gone

Generation-Gone

Almost half a century ago, in a landscape far, far, away, there were a gaggle of gays who, like an ostentation of peacocks, came swirling out of their respect private hellholes called closets and preened and pranced their way down fantastical landscapes of freedom and fanaticism. Life seemed overwhelmingly good. Long overdue. Well deserved.

Then, they changed the world.

How profoundly can only now begin to be assessed. Watching “The Americans” the other night, that muted, grey-scaled, slick-hot, Washington, D.C. based, spy series about relations between the USSR and America, I was memory-poked by a quick, passing reference as two Russian spies were chatting about their plans for entertaining their visiting Russian dignitaries. They had arranged a fun-filled evening at Pier 9 “the hottest new disco in town”.

It was first and foremost a gay disco. An infamous force field that held the young and the restless so firmly in its gravitational pull that even after the club closed, the party would carry on in the parking lot until dawn.

Now whether I actually partied away the night on the dance floor with bona fide KGB agents or not, I know that Senators and Congressmen and socialites of all stripes were, in fact, lining up to get into “our” party spot. Within sight of the Capital building itself but still on the seedier side, “The Pier” lent enough danger and grit to the enterprise to make it the edgy, tattered fringe of the social spectrum that became its calling card.

The outré gay were becoming the ultra in, even then.

This was 1971.

Fashion, food, and all things finery were, along with their creators, purveyors, and promoters, busting out all over the country. It seemed that the very doors long bolted tight against us were suddenly flung wide and all things were possible. After the soul-searing sixties, the gold-glittering seventies shown zircon bright with the promise of an equity-fueled future unimaginable a generation before. We knew in our hearts that the protests and pain of the last few years had help pave the yellow brick road we are all collectively dancing down on our way to the promise of Oz.

How were we to know then in our heady, euphoric haze, that we were already being stalked by a new-era plague so insidious, so ingenious, so lethal, that it seemed only possible in the minds of the most cunning science fiction imaginations…or at the very least, the most evil-intended government agencies.

Let the games begin.

My Oz, like thousands of other disaffected young men’s, was San Francisco and my journey there, unlike Dorothy’s, was solo, semi-unintentional, and like so much of my life, just happenstance. I had been to California once, in 1964, for my Uncle Johnny’s funeral. I was enthralled. Bougainvillea drenched shopping malls lined the suburban streets while freeways 12 lanes wide funneled huge, bright convertibles into and out of the shining City by the Bay. Unimaginable sun. An ocean right there! I had been a pauper and never knew it compared to the richness of this untold life here on the Left Coast.

In truth, I was raised to be an East Coast snob. I had the largess of good schooling, steady if dysfunctional parenting, and enough money to not wonder where the next bit was coming from. The West Coast was where “all the fruits and nuts” landed, or so the contemporaneous wisdom of the East dictated at the time. Only dreamy schoolgirls and Hollywood wannabes could possibly find an attraction there worth the pursuit. I can only attribute my brief sojourn there 10 years earlier as being the genesis of my core-felt need to flee the safety and surroundings that I had thought so country comfortable for so long. That and my favorite, flighty, hippy, cousin was living there with her then husband…..or was it boyfriend…..or girlfriend…or both. Time, the ultimate airbrush, burnishes some memories and erases other details.

When graduation day came, I asked only for a ticket to San Francisco. My mother begged me to take a watch, a car, a summer in Europe, anything but that TWA boarding pass that she knew, before even I had realized, would be my ticket to life……and death. As always, I prevailed.

I stayed with my cousin for a couple of weeks, found a series of part-time jobs, met more handsome men than I ever knew existed, and came to the realization quite quickly that gay had a hometown and I was in the thick of it. I rapidly moved into a flat in the Castro with 5 other young men and proceeded to come to life.

I worked 3 jobs, 2 of them across the Bay in Oakland and Berkeley, necessitating a lot of trans bay tubing and late night busses over the Bay Bridge into the East Bay Terminal. The sight of the financial district lights at night, the Transamerica Pyramid, the glitter and the gloam, never failed to make my heart catch and my breath race. It still does. I never, ever, cross that bridge, even today, without being 25 years old once more and in love with life for the very first time.

Life was not without its challenges even in those heady, early days of ecstasy. Jim Jones, a local cult preacher, murdered 900 people in Guyana casting a pall over the City. The Briggs Initiative was put on the ballot intended to ferret out and ban all gay people from teaching in the state. Street protests continued but on a more personal and local level than I was used to, having come from the politically charged DC arena.

And then the Mayor and Milk were shot and killed on a November afternoon just before Thanksgiving. It was a social and political earthquake on a magnitude unmeasureable.

By now, I was living with two friends in a flat at 717 Castro St and working at a doctor’s office in Daly City. When the news flashed (no Facebook, no CNN, no internet) the phones went wild. I remember the first call.

Unimaginable. Not true. A cruel hoax.

And I remember the gut-chilling confirmation coming over the portable TV in the break room. I was physically ill, faint, shaking. I had no life experience to contextualize what had happened. Even the Kennedy assassinations, which I remember vividly, did not prepare me for the bone-deep agony of the soul that swept across the City like a pulse from a magnitude 9 quake. A tsunami of grief and finality and fear. They gunned down Harvey and the Mayor….in their offices…in City Hall. Were we next?

And then the second body blow. It was Dan White, a fellow Supervisor and former cop and firefighter.

The candle-light march began forming that evening in front of our house. One hundred thousand quietly sobbing people from all parts of the Bay Area, holding flickering candles against the fall chill, slowly dragging one foot after the other down the 2 ½ miles to City Hall where we shook and cried and railed against the very place and people we had just yesterday celebrated as “the most diverse and talented Board of Supervisors” ever assembled. It was a Yellow Brick Road that ended in a cemetery and not a shining City of Hope.

Oz had fractured along the fault line of our foundation.

After grieving came the trial, The Verdict, the outrage once more, this time elevated to a flaming crescendo at the complete injustice of the system and the apparent lack of sensitivity to a populace that was already so gravely wounded and still in rehab for its injuries. I suppose today we would all have been officially PTSD sufferers and, in truth, we were.

But if San Franciscans are anything they are resilient, tenacious, un-stoppable. And so, we went back to the business of living and loving ourselves back to health…or so we thought.

It began like a blemish on a teenager’s face, hard to look at but nothing that wouldn’t pass. But it didn’t. They didn’t. They became the new look of the Castro. Where flannel-shirted, tight-jeaned, robust young men had strutted just weeks before, now the rapidly emaciating, cadaverous, mottled faces of friends filled the horizon.

What was happening? To them. To us. To me????

Fear, fueled by the media and the medics alike, spread like the Santa Annas down south. We were suddenly afraid to touch, to talk, to live. There was nothing we could do. Nothing we could say. We begged the powers for help, for guidance, for treatment….for hope. None came.

And then the dying began.

First there was a friend of a friend. Then came a favorite bartender, the flower guy on the corner, that trick you had last month, last year. Closer and closer they came, like visions of the Walking Dead come to life…only to die once again leaving an emotional hole as big as your heart behind.

And all the while you wondered.

When will it be me?

I’m not going to debate the torrents of rhetoric and the tactics of fear that ensued. All options seemed worthy of at least a public airing. Close the bathhouses? Could be. Pass out condoms? Of course. Educate, educate, educate. Always.

And still the dying continued.

Walking home from work everyday past Hibernia Beach and the bars along the strip, people had taken to posting the obituary pages from the B.A.R. paper. They were so numerous as to outweigh and outnumber the real news; that there was no cure, no treatment, and no hope.

And this is where Generation-Gone began its inexorable march into history.

As the dead grew in numbers and the AIDS quilt began to consume whole counties, a curious and unobserved-at-the-time phenomenon was taking shape. The disappearance of a generation, not unlike after a global war which, in point of fact, it had become. When all the healthy able-bodied young men of a generation march off to battle with an enemy on foreign fronts, many will no return. This front was lethal; almost none came home again.

City centers, once the habitat of all things gay and grand, were being rapidly decimated as those who were left fled, fearing the taint and the touch of the scourge that was ravaging their communities. Maybe if they didn’t see it everywhere, everyday, they might escape its cloying attachment. But like a pilot fish on a shark, the barbs were already sunken too deeply to extricate.

And so the dying continued, unabated, passing the years like phone poles flying by the side of the road; if you tried to count them one by one they turn into a blur but taken as a whole, they are months and years and decades of fear.

And then almost without warning, hope.

The Cocktail.

A combination of hard-fought, expensively wrought drugs that seemed to slow the death march to a manageable stride. Suddenly, the obits began drying up like the lesions that had preceded them.   Men who had previously been making their quilts and planning their memorials were moving about the world as if they actually had someplace to go. Something to do other than die.

And so, the unimaginable began to be imagined. As Goethe once said; “Few people have the imagination for reality”. And the reality became the fact. A precious and precise few had survived the Plague of the New Millennium. And what were they (we) to do with our new leases on life? For the first few years, ne: decades, now, we looked over our shoulders like shy freshmen walking across campus hoping to catch the eye of our dreamed of beloved but afraid of actually having to interact with them. Would it come back? Would it catch me? Would I catch It?

The truth is, we were all already swept away with the ebbing tide. Those of us who have the virus are lucky. We lived to tell the tale. Most did not.

And they are the Generation-Missing.

They comprise an entire contingent of soldiers who fought and lost and left a gaping dearth of maturity in their wakes. A lack that is today felt by the next-in-line, coming of age gay men. Men who know little of the real life experiences that molded their predecessor’s backbones into steel rods of emotional strength. Cores of conscious survival that continue to propel us forward even in the face of advancing years and carrying the weight of those who left us alone to tell their stories.

And tell their stories we must.

We must use our longevity and our largess to inform the next generation from whence they sprung. They might know some history; Stonewall, wasn’t that a bar, once? Yet they lack the fabric that we stitched into quilts and folded and unfolded each time another friend or lover left us wanting more of the life they did not have.

There is a lost generation of love and life and leadership between them and us. It is our sacred obligation to fill in for our loved ones gone and flesh out the emptiness left by their passings. We must help their names go forward and their energies infuse a new generation with life and hope and resilience.

Cicero said: “The life given us, by nature is short; but the memory of a well-spent life is eternal.”

The lives of Generation-Gone were unnaturally too short. It is up to us to make their well-spent years a memory worth the telling.

 

 

 

 

 

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Depressed or Deprived

Depressed or Deprived

or maybe I just

 Need Some Fresh Air

 

I have always been a big proponent of getting out, getting going, and doing something…..anything….when the Blues hit….and don’t kid yourself, they do hit us, everyone.

Whatever we want to call them;

“I really need a nap”………OK…a 3 hour, all afternoon “nap” after a reasonable nights’ sleep…….3 days in a row. That’s depression.

Those who don’t have an issue with depression often look askance at people who actually profess, out loud, to bouts of depression. They seem, and are, fundamentally unable to process the concept; it’s a foreign language to them, and one that scares the hell out of them for oh so many reasons.

Depression and insanity have been inextricably linked for generations by a gossamer thread as filmy and tentative as a spider’s web but just and tensile and unyielding. From the insane asylums of the 19th century to the mental institutions and psychiatric hospitals of the 20th, chronic depressives have been shuttled off to the far reaches of society, spoken about in hushed asides, and generally attempted to be un-thought of, at least in pleasant company.

It is small wonder then, even with the coming out of depression as a treatable malady and the media onslaught of modern drug therapies pummeling us from every modality, that in our world today we still have a hard time even thinking the word depression in relation to ourselves no less mouthing the syllables out loud to even our closest of confidants. If we do disclose, we risk the double-edged sword of rejection and isolation. The threat of a lingering stain on our permanent record card is enough of a deterrent to keep us locked in an inexorable cycle of self-denial and hyped-up enthusiasm to pretend, at all costs, to be the people we are generally perceived to be.

And by its very nature, depression is a cyclic vornado of self-fulfillment; you realize you can’t keep up with the whirlwind that is life today as you used to, you get a tad introspective as to why, you self-isolate hoping to plumb the depths of an understanding, your life creeps away on cat’s paws while you aren’t watching, the phone stops ringing because you stop calling…..or you simply stop answering because you don’t have the reserve of pleasantries at hand to top-up the conversational cocktail being over-served to you.

Bottom of the Barrel before you knew you were being pickled.

As a pro-active representative of my own health, when I tried to pry the lid off my own particular brining barrel recently and see the lay of the landscape I was navigating, I had a really….really…hard time.

I am the Ultimate Optimist. The glass is never even half full; it’s always brimming or at least fizzing with the next great taste.

So when I hit this most recent personal pothole I was stunningly unprepared, gob-smacked, pushed off my balance in such a way that I really could not get my bearings. I had no vocabulary for what was happening to me other than I was “tired”, “emotionally exhausted”, “completely done-in”; all perfectly adequate expressors but none that were explanatory, at least to me, or would serve to inform my obviously injured psyche as to the way home.

I had absolutely reliable reasons for feeling as I did. In the space of 6 weeks I went from my Island Idyll on Key West; writing, self-reflecting, taking photos of sunsets, to a crystallizing phone call from my husband….being whipped back into a real world of heart attacks, long distance worry, logistics, fearful imaginings, and late-night terrors of emptiness.

Home once again, getting my emotional footage, our beloved Bella, the Rescue Rottie, died a week later…no time to grieve, I had a healing husband, house guests, and a life to put into a new order with a dog sized hole at the door every time we walked in.

The next week I fell. In surgery the next day they installed yet more hardware in my poor over-worked left foot and gave it yet another 8 weeks of down time and casts.

The NEXT week, Kyan the cat melted down with a life-threatening blockage and was in Kitty ICU for days. While he was touch and go, his brother, never having been separated from him for one day in their eight years on earth, ALSO melted down and was in the other kitty vets.

While both are now home, they are still tentative and like small uncommunicative children, you must watch, interpret, and subjectively rate every movement (literally) and hope you are doing the right thing.

Meanwhile, back at the Heart Attack Hotel, the husband was busy putting the final wrapper on his looooong-planned cross country motorcycle adventure and I was trying to imagine leaving any of the brewing crises here at home to take two weeks of “holiday” time and attend two family reunions, visit everyone and every place I’ve ever known back east and do all this with the normal aplomb I bring to such adventures.

I went to bed. A lot. I got tired, a lot. I got teary.

None of these modes are me.

After two weeks of this I mouthed the word depression to a couple friends. They started to call/txt/message me first thing in the morning, all day, dinner hours; “Are you all right?” “How ARE you?, really?” I love them for that. They are dear and compassionate people.

Most of all, I hated the feeling of needing to have anyone ask ME those questions. I am the one who serves this function for others, always have. I am good at it. I have a clear and adamant vision of exactly what other people need to do to make their own lives better, improved, exultant.

But suddenly not my own. Strange and unfamiliar territory.

And then the revelation. It came from two sources.

I had actually contacted a therapist and set an appointment to begin to unpack what I suspected to be long-buried treasures of emotional torture. Because of the sudden onset of this rockslide of emotions and the intensity of its depth, he wanted me to see my Doc and make sure there wasn’t any underlying physical reason for this anomaly in my current course. Good plan. Doctor seen.

After the appointment I went to lunch with a good friend and was talking about the issue a bit and catching up on life of late and it suddenly smacked me…..hard.

I had not been to the gym in almost 3 months.

Now I am not a rabid body-builder type by any means but I am an exerciser. With four hip surgeries under my belt, as it were, I like to keep moving and when I discovered some years back that I could “run” again on the Precor Eliptical,I went straight to Heaven. And without a thought, I was running 20-25 miles a week, reading as I ran, and enriching myself in ways I did not even take the time to fully understand other than I felt great, was never sick, and lost a bunch of weight.

And suddenly, again without a thought, I was doing nothing, stuck in a cast, leg elevated, crutches at hand, unable to help my recuperating husband, carry my sick cats to the vet, clean the house, weed the Spring garden….nada….

All I could do was revert to my inherited-from-my-mother-mode and worry. I come from a long line of fretters. Not a good familial heritage.

But the realization that I needed oxygenated blood in my brain was like a mainline shot of adrenaline. I instinctively knew that this was my Rubicon, once crossed I would be fine, restored, marching into my future, once more in control of most of what I could logically manage to handle. Once more, I had no boundaries.

That quickly. That simply.

And so, I went to the gym today. I still can’t run or even walk without a significant limp but I can work my weights, heft some oxygenated-sense into my loungingly lazy brain-pan, sweat out some toxins both mental and physical in the steamroom and begin to heal.

I feel better.

I have a plan.

I am upright, mobilish, and motivated.

I have cancelled the therapist, for now, he can always be a path revisited in the future but I am so sure that this was my particular answer at this particular moment that I have no need for further mental machinations. Why complicate recovery with too much lethargic back-gazing? I am here, now, and moving forward.

Crisis averted.

Sometime soon we’ll talk about aging and the arc of adversity that it adds to the depressive tendencies in us all.

But, as Scarlett says; “I’ll think about that tomorrow!”

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“A Whiter Shade of Pale”

“A Whiter Shade of Pale”

Or

White is the New Black

 

Procol Harum had a hit with this unique, lyrically challenged and, as was wont for the sixties era, meaning-ambiguous little four minute ditty.

Yet the title phrase has become endemic in more than just one cultural milieu.

As a redhead, I have, at times, been accused of being that very whiter shade of pale although in all “fair”ness, and I use that term quite loosely, I do have a manageable amount of melatonin in me so that I can actually obtain the semblance of a tan, skin cancers and other sun-related horrors be damned. But as a child, I too was consider by my peers almost another race or at least from some foreign tribe that had little resemblance to and almost nothing in common with the “other white meat” that I was surrounded by.

As all young, in any species, I wanted nothing more than to fit it, belong, assimilate, or at the very least, not stand out, bullying was extent even then. But at 6’4” and 147lbs by 16, there was absolutely no blending in possible for the rake-thin likes of me

I descend from a long and storied line of redheads. My father and I looked so alike that as a child, my nickname amongst all his Black and Latino restaurant crew was “Ditto”.

My mother’s family were straight off Ellis Island from Norway so, go figure. All my cousins are redheads. My mother’s mother was a redhead. My Father’s father was a redhead. It was fate. It was genetics. It was done. There is nothing more interesting in my mother’s lineage than a Lefsa paddle and some scary tales of plains Indians at the turn of the 20th Century.

My father’s family though has proven, with the assistance of Ancestry.com and some digging, to be much more interesting and nuanced despite the apparent direct line, Brahmin-bright, New England stoicism that permeates his branches of this joined family tree.

Yes, we go directly back to 1644 in this country. Yes we know the exact ship that the first forbearer, John Sherwin, arrived on. We hopped the pond and left behind ties to royalty, wealth, and privilege for shores unknown and ancestors yet conceived.

And therein lies the mystery, at least to me.

Washington D.C., where both my father and I were born, was and is a Border Town in the truest sense of the word. It has the added intrigue of having a tide of political humanity that ebbs and flows every two years like some stagnant saltwater marsh, the fetid merging of the fresh and the foul, in theory refreshed with each new tide but in reality, bogged further down by the human silt that each successive wave deposits as its legacy to the City That Would be Great. Add to this mosquitoed mash-up, the fact that Washington lies 70 miles south of the Mason Dixon Line and is surrounded by the rebel likes of Southern Maryland and pretty much all of “howdy y’all” Virginia and you have one of the more dysfunctional and yet oddly entertaining places on earth to call home.

My Great Aunt Bertha, Boston born and bred, painstakingly compiled the Sherwin family tree by hand back in the 1930’s, long before bit and byte assisted research, painstakingly logging from family bibles, gravestones, and public records’ searches. It was and is a marvel of pre-tech wonder in its complexity and thoroughness….as far as it goes.

I spent a month last summer on the British Isles digging deeper into family legend and lore and finding delightful and surprising interconnections and filaments that allowed me to travel hundreds of years further back in time than Aunt Bertha could ever have envisioned. Kings and Princes abound with straight-line derivations to my present day self, confirming the rather high opinion of me that I have always held. Tantalizing tidbits in time that will provide endless days of deep-diving in the future.

But closer to home, in both the literal and figurative sense, was a little explored and under-reported vein of what could turn out to be pure gold…..or maybe just Pyrite….but time and a little more excavation will unearth the truth.

My paternal grandmother, long gone before I was even a thought, was named Tora James Goff, names in those days of old were weird either by custom, family origin, or just plain odd thinking. But James? A woman named James. Not like the cultish Cash “A Boy Named Sue” of a later era but a barely mid-Victorian era woman named James. And not Jamie, Jameson, or Jemima even…Just James.

I dipped a generation deeper for a clue.

Tora’s father was a man named James Blackfoot Goff. Hmmmmm, I says. Blackfoot has a distinctly Indian feel when rolling off the American tongue. And so to Google.

And here the tale turns.

It seems the Blackfoot Nation, a loosely defined and categorized grouping to begin with, were almost entirely found in the far northern Dakota territories and southern Canadian provinces. Based on the lack of easy inter-state transportation options available to even the whitest of folk in the mid 1800’s, it is highly doubtful that any Blackfoot found themselves in the southern Virginia burg of Viewtown and even more unlikely that they somehow married into my not-so-distant relations there. Rappahanock County in 1856 was not much smaller than it is now and Viewtown today has a whopping 378 people in it. Social constructs, especially in the rural South, would dictate a certain degree of discretion and an White-Indian mingling….not so much.

So if not Blackfoot Indian, then who….? Back to the Google.

With a little more scrupulous terminology in the search quadrant, certain sociologic gems come bubbling to the surface like the infamous crude, that is, of Beverly Hillbilly fame in the next-door state of Kentucky.

It seems that at about this point in history, just preceding the War of Northern Aggression (I speak from the Southern watchtower here as this is, essentially, a tale of Southern origins), many social constructs were breaking down; the plantation system was still thriving but the writing was on the chalkboard; the Northern cities were becoming magnetic hubs, both for emigration from Europe as well as forward-thinking folk from the south who, upon seeing said chalkboard scribblings, were fleeing to the relative prosperity that the coming Industrial Revolution was presaging all along the eastern seaboard. Among these masses were a certain percentage of blacks, either peremptorily freed from bondage or simply self-liberatedTora’s fother, ie; runaways, taking flight to hoped-for safety from the brutality of their existence down yonder.

As these “free” blacks travelled north on what would soon become known as the Underground Railway, they paused along the way for rest and recuperation and the few, if only, people to offer such respite then were, themselves, the other persecuted population that we rampaging white folk were busy pushing about, the Indians.

So if not the Blackfoot Nation then who? I don’t think even smoke signals travelled the 1,500 miles from the northern borders to Virginia and the local Tutelo, Saponi, and Powhatan Nations seemed, at least linguistically, a far stretch from the Blackfoot termination.

And here the plot thickens.

Great Grandpappy, James Blackfoot Goff, did have a mother listed, also from the thriving mini-opolis of Viewtown, VA., one Catherine Goff but other than that, no apparent father. Now Catherine, born in Virginia in 1813, has no apparent mother OR father, or death place, listed either. Curious. For such a well-documented family in so many other portals to come to such a sudden, apparently ignominious, end seems very odd.

And here we arrive at the juncture of nation-building and social-deconstruction.

It appears that the Native tribes of the middle nation, having themselves been ambushed and abused by the renegading white nation pushing ever westward, felt a certain moralistic obligation to aid and assist the fleeing black populations on their pilgrimage northward. They provided them rest and refuge along the way, safety from the prying eyes and prodding muskets of the aggressively restive white population that continued their domination dirge west.

And with the limited linguistic cooperation between the patois-rich southern slave dialects, the puritan-perfect, British banter of the north, and the polyglot of the Mid-Atlantic mélange of the many, there was no single term that more aptly described these transient tribesmen than their physically characteristic “black feet”……..hence…..Blackfoot as a generic designation was birthed into lexicon.

Interesting. Makes sense, sociologically. Understandable, historically.

But where does that leave my beloved Gr Grand-Mama, Catherine. She without a husband of record. She with a son named James Blackfoot. She without named parents at all. Why James? Why Blackfoot? Why Goff for that matter? The names, James, Blackfoot, and Goff continued for another generation but they, too, petered out quickly compared to the British Roberts, Allens, and Zimris (well maybe not Zimri).

And so the questions remain.

Did Gammy Catherine have a sudden, unexpected fling with a traveling black man?

Was she a foundling herself, of no easily obtained parentage or influence and thus, un-beholden socially or morally to constrain herself to proper etiquette of the times?

Does this tale of the untold explain my mother’s casual, errant, comments of my childhood when, in teenage conflict with parental boundaries, I asked often impertinent and/or probing questions about their, hopefully, nefarious youths, she would snap simply;

 

“Ask your father….HE’S from the South”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Leaving Las Vegas

Leaving Las Vegas

The following is from the last great motorcycle trip I took, alone, down the West Coast, across the desert and back up the spine of the Sierras. It was, unbeknownst to me at the time, my farewell to biking altogether, I sold my bike a year later. Someday we’ll talk about changes like that but for now, this is a nice reflection on a place and a period in time that had formative value if not lasting pleasure.

Leaving Las Vegas……..or something remotely akin to it on a smaller and more withered yet sickeningly sparkling scale; Palm Springs, CA.

Up and out of the resort bed of choice and off to Bit O’ Country, the default locals breakfast spot for at least the 35 years I’ve been going there. Eggs, great sausage, GRITS and biscuits and gravy. Had to!

The road from Palm Springs to Death Valley is known as one of the loneliest stretches in the country, no exaggeration.   But before you get to the “lonely”, you need to go through a couple less than noteworthy but notable none-the-less, blots on the map.

Yucca Valley………….I really don’t need to say a whole lot more than the name implies. It does have Joshua Tree Monument but frankly, they Joshua Trees have always left me less than whelmed. I blew past them and into….

29 Palms. Okay, I debated counting the damn palm trees since there doesn’t seem to be anything else worth doing in this hell hole of an outpost. The Marines use this as their workhorse of a training ground to simulate the Mideast. More? Hideous, ugly, depressing…..that’s enough. Out the other side into……..

Wonder Valley…….. It really does make you wonder……..Who? What? When? Why? As desolate and impoverished a piece of land as can be found and yet, still, the government saw fit in the heyday of the post war “boom” to promote WONDER VALLEY as………what?…..farm land? Nah……..A good place to raise up younungs? Nah…….A place to breed isolationist psychopathic serial killers? Maybe! I really want to know what official or agency of the U.S. Gov’t sanctioned the Homestead Act that fostered this swath of blight and ruin. Oh……the same one that insisted tilling up all the topsoil on the Great Plains for wheat was a good idea in the 20’ and 30’s. And we all know where that got us…can we say “Dust Bowl”?

An aside: Read a great account of the Dust Bowl: http://www.google.com/products/catalog?hl=en&q=dust+bowl+book&um=1&ie=UTF-8&cid=3599132492237380667&ei=1fWwTI6cCIGBlAeg_LzlDw&sa=X&oi=product_catalog_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CD0Q8wIwAg#

It’s also a documentary on PBS well worth seeking out.

Back to WONDER Valley. So, along the highway, splotched every ½ mile or so, are truly pathetic, one room cinder block “houses”, all but about 3 on a 50 mile stretch deserted since the 40’s, with only the haunting, sacred, sinisterism that long abandoned dwellings can conjure in the deepest recesses of our paranoid inner selves. What were these people like? What were their lives like that they seriously thought THIS would be better. Did they have children? Where was the Walmart? Good god, where was the water? This was such a bad idea that were it common knowledge it was a government-sponsored program there would be less faith in the system than there already is. And why in heaven’s name haven’t they TORN THESE SHACKS DOWN in the last 60 years and returned the desert to some semblance of its own serene, stark beauty?

Every mile or so there remains a “home” that’s been “fixed up”, a chain link fence to keep the kids from wandering out onto the highway that only solo bikers and the too-tan tourists tripping from Las Vegas to Palm Springs traverse at breakneck speeds. The spur “streets” (this term used loosely) tell the story with sad and grotesque eloquence. Barbara Lane, Henry Road, Buster’s End; each, a sandy path leading back 50 yards or so into the scrub and ending in one of these long ago homesteaded hovels, once owned by Barbara, Henry, or Buster.

I’ve passed here often….and I’ve “Wonder”ed.

Then there’s Amboy. Once upon a time it was the center for Chloride mining and transport. Today, they’ve managed to resurrect a diner that appears to be serving something but that’s about it. In 1988 I was navigating this stretch in August, alone, in a little pickup on the way to a New Age conference in Sedona, AZ. 125 degrees. This was before internet, The Google, Mapquest….nada. The map showed a town. Named Amboy. I assumed towns had gas stations. I have a picture somewhere of the terminally shuttered gas station (Gulf springs to mind) that left me wanting, swweat-nervous, and stupidly alone in the Mojave Desert in the dead of summer without gas, water, food or a CELL PHONE! We live today but for the grace of supreme beings. I remember these things fondly and with amazing grace but a strong sense of “WTF Was I Thinking?” to have ever been here, alone, in the first place.

Which leads me back to the Kalifornia Closure Tour, Chapter…I don’t remember what anymore and who cares?

In my 30’s I was arrogant enough to think I “needed” my solitude and a more visible grandeur (the desert representing these in spades) and so, Palm Springs seemed like the 80’s hedonistic answer to the wayfarer’s prayer. I honor those that choose this path still, but offer up a suggestion. Rent….don’t own. You’ll live to thank me for it.

Glitz, glamor, gold chains, and gilt fixtures aside, there is little there even now, 35 years on, to tempt a sentient mind. There is plenty to trap a somnolent being, though.

The ultimate in an escapist’s paradise. Trash with Flash.

Sun-burnished bodies housing sun-burned brains.

It’s a place where conspicuous consumption still carries it’s own zip code and all who acquiesce to its quickly-cracked charms will eventually succumb. Fit in or fall short of the ideal.

The Aqua Caliente Indians had the correct idea.

They wintered in the Valley amid a few choice, stunningly beautific, palm canyons; replete with snow-chilled water running down from the high peaks of the looming San Jacinto Mountains. As winter’s warmth gave in to the summer’s sear, they elevated themselves back into the hills and moderated their temperate lives according to the laws of the nature within which they lived.

Smart folks, these Cahuilla, these Aqua Caliente.

It was Hollywood’s fault.

Hollywood, or at least the few mega-moguls who controlled and contorted it in the 20’ and 30’s, needed  their property, their Stars, to be close at hand. Beck and Call. When the Studios beckoned, their stars must come calling, quickly.

With more money than sense, they pooled, grassed, treed, gardened, and even air-conditioned their way into a force that propelled it’s own interest above all else, subverted the will of the land, and power-played their hands into a game that many times over the years would become a house of cards.

When the nation’s economy suffered setbacks, Palm Springs suffered disasters.

As the Springs continued to grow, full of reprobates, retirees, and Real World wannabes, they, along with all the rest of Southern California, sucked so much of the water out of the Colorado River that the majestic, ever-flowing, tumble now fails to reach the Mexican border at all.

Shameless beauty.

I don’t regret my time there; then as an escapist from some inner demons and outer dogmas, or now, as an itinerant traveler, passing through it’s molten midst.

But I doubt I’ll return.

There are too many stunning spots yet to be spied, why waste another day seeing the worst of what man has done to nature and wondering why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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AARP ADHD

AARP ADHD

Is it a symptom of an aging brain or are we all in need of medication?

Or is it simply the fact that, after a certain point, we have obtained and hopefully retained, so much information that our minds are scattered full of holes like a buckshot-wild carcass and we seek, perpetually, to categorize and reference the myriad bytes and bits we have managed to collect in our sub conscious.

Is it when we wish to expand and expound upon these treasured bits of flotsam that we feel in need of Ritalin? Or do we, like our Macs and our PCs, simply need a better filing system?

It used to be we all carried around calculators. Who does “math” anymore?

It used to be we all carried around “Day Planners”.  There’s an app for that.

It used to be we had phones on our desks and at home, period.  We all know how well that worked out.

So we’re mobile. So we’re connected. So we’re constantly current.

So why do we feel as if we’re about to be flung out of control like a Tilt-a-Whirl gone off it’s track?

I wonder if it’s because we don’t trust in our connectivity…….our devices….our screens. Or is it because we don’t trust that what we have input into our devices, because it is subject to our own limitations and foibles and errors and is, therefore suspect; hinged to our imperfect memories and modalities and hanging from our well-used but slightly shoddy memory banks.

I doubt younger people are plagued by these shadows and slights of mind. They were weaned on their devices and pacified with their pads. Their comfort has always been contingent on their connectivity.

I write notes to remember to write notes.

I send myself emails to remind me to write notes.

I forget to look at my “Notes” file on my phone for so long that when I do get back to it, the scribble-scrawled, hasty pudding of parlance stares back at me in a fontish taunt, challenging me to read my own past-mind and regurgitate even the slightest faint of familiarity that might help glue this string of unstrung pearls of wisdom back together.

The delete key is my friend, my taunting enemy…..…and my salvation. I accede to the rule of the adroitly aging; “Out of Sight, Out of Mind”

Click………gone………maybe I’ll recall it again, someday……..mostly not.

My obeisance to this faltering frailty does not frighten as much as frustrate. It provokes a challenge in me, a gauntlet to be taken up; how to better capture the ephemera that, bird-like, flit across my frontal lobe and vanish into the mass of minutia-gathering matter that constitutes my brain.

I know I have one……..a brain.

I know it works, mostly.

My body clock is quite regular. The functions I perform daily are not only rote and routine but also thoughtful and clearly formed. Errands, shopping, driving…..I can do these with aplomb……….but not necessarily efficiently well………without lists.

It’s the fog of war that confounds me. The war with the words that formed so adroitly in my mind and now scatter elusively around the periphery, hiding from clear view like cockroaches when the light is turned on; you know they’re there, you just can’t pin them down and it makes you want to squash them all the more. But I loved those words, those phrases, those inspirations, when I had them. They seemed radiant, alive, evocative of more to come and more to say. That is why I took the time to write the notes……..the remnant reminders of nascent ideas yet to be fleshed.

But now the notes must be longer, the construction and definition of the thoughts more carefully and completely framed. The single word thought triggers must morph into more worthy word-phrases if they are to become more than piles of pixels to be moved to the trash.

The notes need notes if they are to be worthy of future thought and evocation.

And so we search, we Google, we ferret, we fret; looking for the perfect “system” to catalog our minds and annihilate the anarchy that daily mounts a determined defense against our every effort to remember.

Our Finder files grow like seedling in spring soil. Our Dropboxes, once singular in their function, now flash their fullness and beg, no demand, that we upgrade and purchase more memory.

If only.

I do want to purchase more memory. Really.

But there is no Memory Store wedged between the Best Buy and the Apple Store.

And don’t even start to ask me about my photo library. For that, I do need drugs, or at least a stiff drink.

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