Hell in a Red, White and Blue Handbasket

 

 

Every day I try to avoid the news. Every day I fail.

 

As all decent, reasonably intelligent folks know, my country is going to hell in a handbasket. The fucktard in chief continues his destructive path, and for the life of me, I don’t know why. I mean, I know his ego is beyond anything I’ve ever encountered. I know he’s nuts. I know he’s probably the stupidest person to ever hold the highest office in the land. And yet I can’t figure out anything resembling motive.

 

Often, when someone tells me about their attempts to engage in a rational exchange with a crazy person, I remind them that you cannot expect rational behavior from an irrational person. And maybe that’s it. I’m looking for rational thought or motivation in someone who is incapable of such action. So I think I’ll stop trying to figure out any of it and simply marvel (sadly) at the state of the nation.

 

As for all this pathetic bullshit and those who have wrought it, you deserve every bit of ridicule and blame heaped upon you. Enjoy hell, bitches. It’s a shame you’re taking good, decent folks down with you.

The Month of May

 

It started twenty-seven years ago. Sort of just popped up one day. On my face. There was this dark spot, and it wasn’t supposed to be there, but it was. My right cheek became home to a dime-sized, irregular-shaped, non-beauty-mark mark.

 

I had it checked, because, come on. Even though I was quite young, I knew a skin change could be downright dangerous, no matter how old a person might be. You read about those types of things all the time. Melanoma and Skin Cancer are killers, y’all. According to SkinCancer,org, there are more new cases of skin cancer each year than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined. Most of those skin cancers result from sun exposure (or tanning bed exposure).

 

I don’t know about you, but “sun screen” was unheard of when I was a lass. Even before I was old enough to be in charge of my own sun exposure, I had suffered multiple sunburns. As a teenager, my friends and I would lay out in the sun, smearing ourselves with a mixture of baby oil and iodine, and wouldn’t come in until we were burned. I wish I was making this up, but I’m not. We were pretty fucking stupid. But that’s how you do when you’re a kid. You be pretty fucking stupid.

 

Anyhoo, over the years I had my non-beauty-mark mark examined on occasion, and at some point a doctor told me it was commonly referred to as a liver spot. (Great.) I kept an eye on it and there was never any change. It didn’t grow, nor did it shrink. It just hung out there on my cheek, keeping it real. I didn’t try to hide it and honestly, I didn’t think much of it. Cut to a few months ago, when I noticed the area was itching. I took a gander at my non-beauty-mark mark and it seemed to be peeling a bit. It looked sort of scaly. I put a little cream on it, made note of it and chilled out. After a few weeks, I did the worst thing a lay person can do. I looked on the interwebz.

 

I’m not much of a hypochondriac, so I generally avoid online symptom searches. I don’t need to nearly scare myself half to death by imagining I’ve come down with some dread disease. And as I’m not a doctor (and haven’t even played one on TV), self-diagnosis would be ridiculous. But what I read online freaked me out just enough. So when the itching and flaking of my non-beauty-mark mark wasn’t abating, I jiffy-quick made an appointment with a dermatologist. And I actually relaxed. I knew she would be professional and guide me in treatment, no matter the diagnosis, so I didn’t worry.

 

On the morning of my appointment, I woke with a big old red splotch beneath my right eye. Mister said it looked like he’d belted me during the night. (He hadn’t.) The spot was warm and itchy, and I figured that if I was gonna get yet another damned something-or-other to worry about on my face, the day of a dermatologist appointment was perfect timing. I headed off to the doc’s office and waited for my turn to see her. She took one look at the red splotch and said it appeared to be a hive, with a little eczema on top. Da fuh?

 

I had been having some crazy allergy issues that week. Itchy throat, weird sinus issues, and now a hive. It didn’t surprise me, but it was still odd. I’m not an allergic kind of gal. I don’t usually battle the same symptoms as those around me during high-allergy season. So while the hive itself wasn’t too much of a shock, the overall allergies were a freak show.

 

The dermatologist told me to take some over-the-counter allergy stuff for the hive, to use some specific cream on the eczema and to lie still so that she could take a biopsy of my non-beauty-mark mark. She asked to see me in two weeks to go over the biopsy, and to discuss options, regardless of the prognosis. I set the appointment and went home. It was Friday.

 

Over the course of the weekend, my allergies went ape shit and just about drove me bananas. I was miserable and couldn’t sleep at night, as the coughing was out of control. The red splotch cleared up immediately, thanks to the o-t-c meds. The eczema responded well to the cream, so that became a non-issue. But the cough and my hacked-out voice were annoying as fuck, not to mention I was clearly experiencing post-nasal drip, as my throat was hurting like a mother. By the time Monday morning rolled around, I knew I could no longer deny my allergies. I called an in-network allergist and was told they could see me that day. (Woo-hoo!) A couple of hours later, I went in for that appointment.

 

The allergist was great. He put me on a nightly nasal spray and told me to clean my sinuses with a saline solution twice a day, and set an appointment two weeks later. He also suggested that I undergo allergy testing during my next appointment, so that he could accurately address my specific allergies. Okie dokie, Smokey.

 

Two horrid weeks passed. Not only were my allergy symptoms acting uglier than ever, but I was still waiting for biopsy results. Remember the biopsy? And the whole intro about skin cancer? Yeah. That was weighing on my psyche and no matter how I tried to keep calm, fears were tickling the edges of my brain and dancing around my imagination. It wasn’t good.

 

When my dermatologist appointment arrived, I went in, immediately got the news that the biopsy results were benign, and exhaled. The doc told me that though the biopsy proved benign, the cells of my non-beauty-mark mark were pre-cancerous and the spot should be removed. We talked about a few options, then she burned/froze that spot like crazy. She told me to expect it to scab over in a couple of weeks, then to expect the scab to fall off. As of this writing, the scab is still clinging to the side of my face. I’m due for a follow-up appointment in a few weeks, at which time the doc will decide if she needs to burn/freeze the spot again, in order to finish its removal.

 

As for the follow-up at the allergist’s office, I showed up there and went through a full battery of allergy tests – skin pricks up and down both arms. In the end, it turns out I have – drum roll, please – zero-point-zero allergies. I’m not kidding. I was shocked. The dry cough. The post-nasal drip. The runny, red, itchy eyes. If I’m not allergic to stuff, what’s the deal with the allergy-like symptoms? When I asked the allergist that very question, he told me I have sensitive nasal passages. Yep. He then asked if I easily detect perfumes or colognes on others. I laughed a little and told him that yes, I’m quite aware of scents on others. He asked if cigarette smoke bothered me. I told him I can often smell the smoke from a car in front of me on the highway. (True story.) He told me that all made sense and that I was just gonna have to get through the season change, as if I was an allergic person. He put me on a different nasal spray, told me to keep up the saline solution cleanses and to be patient. Turns out patience is a regular request of doctors. Go figure.

 

So to make a long story longer, I’m fine. My non-beauty-mark mark is on its way off my face and isn’t cancerous. My non-allergic rhinitis is being addressed and will (hopefully) soon go into hibernation, at least until the next change of season. The symptoms are finally abating, thank the gods, and I’m actually able to sleep at night. The road to Well-ville is finally in sight.

 

But that’s not what I want to tell you today. I want to tell you that May is national Skin Cancer Awareness month here in the states. And if you’ve got a suspicious mole or freckle, please use this month as an opportunity to get yourself checked. You may think you’re immune. You may think you’re immortal. You may just be damned scared. But I know for a fact that some of you have personal experience with skin cancer, and I do believe you fine folks are probably pretty friggin’ grateful your cancers were found and treated. For the rest of you, take note. Don’t put this off. The world needs you. For reals.

 

And for anyone who read this entire post and thinks it should only have been one big paragraph, or two small paragraphs at most, you may be right. And when you’re writing your own damn blog post, you can make it as short and as sugary sweet as you want. Deal with it. (Really. Deal with it. Your skin, I mean.)

Heroes

 

 

A while back, I wrote a piece about my TV moms (read it here). I shared quite a bit in that post and I told the truth. Maybe too much truth, but the truth, just the same.

 

In that piece, I referenced a few characters from television shows and how much they meant to me. I cannot emphasize enough what those women gave me. Screwed-up kid that I was, I benefited from those women’s strength and values. Even thinking of them now brings me comfort. And that’s lovely. I think it’s fair to say those beautiful characters were my heroes. Still are.

 

I don’t often get to meet a real-to-me hero. (I guess most of us don’t experience that privilege.) I know some folks believe we shouldn’t meet our heroes. That a face-to-face meeting with someone we’ve looked up to can only lead to disappointment. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity if it presented itself. I mean – would you?

 

Anyhoo – last month I was minding my own lady-club business when I looked up and saw one of my very own heroes: Miss Michael Learned from TV’s The Waltons. Turns out we have a mutual friend. And that friend had quietly invited Miss Learned to lunch, knowing it would serve as a lovely surprise to me. It most definitely did.

 

I can’t speak to the experiences of others when it comes to meeting heroes. I can’t claim a shared disappointment or letdown, and I can’t relate to watching a hero fall. I can only tell you that when I met one of my heroes, Miss Michael Learned, my heart was full and my admiration swelled. She was even cooler than I ever imagined. Sometimes life is grand.

 

 

This Is What 50 Looks Like

 

 

Today is my birthday. And I’m 50. As I recently snapped the above photo, I’m gonna say it counts toward what my being 50 looks like.

 

I can’t speak for others, but I’m feeling pretty good. Thankfully, this round-numbered birthday hasn’t brought me any undue anxiety or worry. Am I in awe? Yes, I am. I mean, half a century! Wow! There was a time when I doubted if I’d make it out of my teens with a pulse, so hitting the big 5-0 is a surprise.

 

I’ve done a lot of looking back in recent weeks, and I’ve come to this singular conclusion: it’s been quite a life. Even with the downturns and down times, it’s been a gift. I’m kind of amazed at the amount of love and joy I’ve been allotted. And I’m grateful.

 

This morning will see me getting my annual birthday doughnut. I’ve got too much work to tend during the day. Then we’ll see what Mister has planned for supper. That guy. He may be the biggest part of what has made this life of mine worth living and recounting.

 

If anyone is wanting to send birthday wishes my way, I ask that you do so by enjoying your own life. Please live joyfully! The world needs all the love and positive energy you and I can muster. It echoes. I swear it does.

 

Happy Birthday to me. Love, me.

Don’t Fear the Dark

 

 

I’m trying. I really am. In the face of my country’s ugliness and shameful behavior, I’m trying to lift my own spirits and to reclaim my joy. Some days, it half works. Others…

 

There’s been a lot of loss of late in my little world. Layers, in fact. A great aunt passed away recently, and that has required processing. Processing that will continue, probably in ways I don’t yet know. Two days after hearing of her passing, I learned that my mentor was abruptly closing his studio and would be retiring earlier than previously planned. It was too much.

 

 

I spent my last night in his studio thinking of what the place has meant to me. I walked around and photographed the unlit corners that seemingly have nothing to do with the beauty produced there. The paint-splattered sink, the tins of paint thinner (“juice” as my teacher always called it), the random articles on a cluttered shelf. All of it greeted me for years, and now it’s gone.

 

 

I won’t lie. I cried several times during my final session there. I cried when I thought about my very first visit, when I decided to be brave and give painting a try. I cried when I thought about how my sweet friend Nicole came to my life simply because our easels were side-by-side one night. I cried when I thought about how my time in that sacred space changed my life forever. As I type this, I look around my home and its walls are covered with art, most of it made by me. When someone asks what I do (I hate that question), I tell them I’m an artist. And I am. Some of what I produce is real crap. It’s true. And some of what I produce is so good it makes me want to cry anew, because it is such a gift to create beauty in this world. And in every inky crevice of my heart, I am fully aware of how very “gifted” I have been on the painting front.

 

 

And then there’s my mentor himself. On that last night in the studio, I cried because I was allowed to know him. Because I was allowed to be his student and to learn from him. He is a remarkable human soul and I know what a privilege it’s been to study with him. I have learned more about painting than I ever thought possible. I have also learned – from him – about being a decent person. He is kind and patient and wise. I pray that a little bit of those parts of him have rubbed off on me. Maybe they have. Maybe not. I suppose only time will tell.

 

 

So yes – I’m processing a lot of loss right now. And it runs deep. If I could, I would probably crawl into a hole and stay there. But that isn’t how life works. If I were to choose that, then I’d become someone I don’t want to be. I cannot succumb to the loss. I know I have to adapt. All of life is change, isn’t it? It keeps evolving and turning over and over again. For me, I know that if I don’t roll with it, there won’t be much point in waking to another day. And if I know anything about myself, it is that I absolutely love being alive. So roll with it, I must.

 

For now, I plan to practice self-care while going about the business of living. And I plan to give myself some time to figure out how to move forward with painting. I also plan to wish so much love and joy for my mentor. He deserves nothing less. His life should be lived with gusto, with beauty and with art. All my tears can’t stop me from smiling while thinking that. I am so grateful to have known his teachings and to hear his voice in my mind: Don’t fear the dark.

 

I won’t, Eli. I won’t.

 

Happy Bricks

 

 

I had heard it before. But I had never really listened.

 

It was March 1980. Kim Cox was having a birthday party at the Holiday Inn in Griffin, GA. Her step-daddy, Lee, was the manager of the hotel (or was it a motel?) and so Kim got to have her party in one of the conference rooms. It wasn’t a large space and it wasn’t a large gathering. But for poor kids like me, it was a big deal. The Griffin Holiday Inn was the nicest hotel/motel for miles, and I had been invited to a popular girl’s party! There were several varieties of co-colas and several snacks. And there was music. Rock music of the day. Good music, too. In particular, I remember hearing Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him” and loving it. Kids that we were, there wasn’t much dancing going on. The girls mostly hugged one wall while the boys mostly hugged another. It was innocent. And it was fun.

 

And then it wasn’t fun. Apparently, in a nearby conference room, there was a meeting of men from a local Baptist church. A Southern Baptist church, to boot. (A church that I and most others at the party did not belong to, by the way.) Southern Baptists don’t take kindly to dancing. And the more pompous among them don’t care much for secular music. I guess some asshole from that meeting heard our music from behind a closed door, so he walked right in and went over to the hi-fi and Turned. It. Off. He then threw a brief hissy fit and lectured us kids on how we were sinners and should be ashamed of ourselves for being there in the middle of such corruption. He looked pretty full of himself and was about to head out when Kim’s mama burst into the room.

 

To say Judy was a petite woman is ambitious generosity on my part. She was always impeccably dressed and her hair and make-up were just so. She was lovely, strong and I liked her a lot. Whenever I saw her with her kids, she seemed like a real good mother. She was also a firecracker and woe be unto him who thought he could stand up to that little gal. When Judy came in to find some yahoo trying to shut down her daughter’s birthday party, I actually felt sorry for the guy. She marched over to the stereo, seething, “Turn that music back on!” She then smiled at all us kids, told us to get back to the party and have a good time, and dragged that Southern Baptist S-O-B into the hall. Even over the strains of the music, we could hear Judy yelling from the other side of the door. She told that church guy, in no uncertain terms, that he had crossed a line and that he had better cut out before she really gave him what for. That her daughter’s party was none of his business. I don’t think she swore, as Judy wasn’t like that. And I don’t remember that jerk saying a single word in response. I’m guessing he knew he was in trouble and had best get the hell out of there before Judy switched from verbal to physical attack mode. That guy had upset her daughter and Judy was pissed. After giving a much-deserved lashing in the hall, Judy came back in to make sure the party had again picked up. She was all smiles and if you hadn’t heard her tearing the stuffing out of that church jerk, you’d never have known she’d been riled at all. She was in control and she was grand.

 

But I digress. This post isn’t about the memory of that long-ago party. It’s about the song that was playing when the disruption took place: Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in The Wall (Part 2)”. When I hear that song now, I am immediately transported to the Griffin, GA Holiday Inn’s conference room – the place where the song’s lyrics first penetrated my brain and took hold. After that night, I couldn’t escape the song. Didn’t want to. I wanted more. I needed to know what was going on in those lyrics and what they meant. At some point, I saved enough lunch money to get the whole record. On cassette. I started studying the compositions, each song, and trying to decipher depth and meaning. I didn’t get far, truth be told, but I also didn’t let go. There was something there, just out of reach.

 

A couple of years later, I was given some clarity when “Pink Floyd – The Wall” was released in theaters. The movie was a freak show and it was fabulous. By the time of its release, I was a pretty messed-up kid. Sucky home life and depression were bearing down. Decent adults weren’t able to help, and there were very few of them in my life anyway. The ones that did reach out (Mrs. Woods at Pike County High School, thank you), well, their good intentions were lost on me. I had been failed by my parents and didn’t trust adults. More than once, so-called grown-ups had proven themselves dangerous and harmful. So when a good person tried to give me a hand, I lumped them in with the others and backed away. I didn’t have the tools to discern decency. And I didn’t have faith in those older than me and my peers.

 

But I did trust music and art. So when the opportunity to go to Atlanta and see “Pink Floyd – The Wall” at the old Fox Theatre presented itself, I took advantage. My small group of friends – all of us searching for something – went to the big city and settled in. The movie was amazing. (Still is.) The music became even more real for me and the accompanying visuals brought new meaning to the lyrics I’d been holding on to since that Holiday Inn party. As much as I wanted to “tear down the wall,” I decided instead that, at that time, I’d be better served by building a wall. And so I began.

 

The bricks I used were ugly. There were lies and deception, greed and manipulation. And those materials were supplied only by my parents. Time brought more darkness and more bricks. By the time I was a young woman, I had mastered a false smile and a fake aura of happiness. Having been depressed since, well, all my life, I had gotten really good at hiding it. Whenever I felt let-down by anyone – even by myself – I added that brick to my wall. I really didn’t know how else to live.

 

But there was more to me than that. Deep inside, I held out hope. Hope that “happy” was real. Hope that joyful people weren’t faking it, that some people in the world really did love their lives and, at least on occasion, felt good. I never talked about it. I never told anyone how distraught I was, or how long I’d been in that lowly state. I didn’t know how to talk about it. But it was getting worse. I was getting worse. I was somewhere in my late twenties and each day weighed a bit more than the last. Something had to give.

 

It was my brain. I had a bit of a nervous breakdown. I can still see the room and the light coming in the window. I remember the phone ringing. And for some reason I answered. I had to crawl to the phone, because I didn’t have the strength to get there otherwise. Thank god I did, as that phone call from a distant friend served as a helping hand. And for the first time in almost thirty years, I trusted the grown-up on the other side of that conversation. I began to tear down the wall.

 

I sought therapy. I worked hard. Some parts of me that weren’t quite right had to be broken down before they could be rebuilt. Others had to be constructed from scratch. So many basic behaviors were unknown to me. I had never been taught how to deal with confrontation or disagreement. (I had been taught, by my parents, that I wasn’t allowed to confront them or to even be angry with them. Swear to god.) There was a lot to learn. A lot to do. And every time I gained the slightest understanding, another brick was removed. Over time, I tore down my wall. I not only gained a greater view and relationship with the world, I also gained a relationship with myself. And I was pretty damned pleased to meet me. Flawed, happy me.

 

So that’s how I moved through life for the last couple of decades. There have been amazing ups and terrifying downs. Through it all, my goal has been to remain honest with myself first, so that I could be honest with those in my little world. And it’s worked. Or at least it did. Right up until this past November, when I fell into a not-unfamiliar dark hole.

 

Before my country was suckered into supporting hate, I hadn’t been depressed for decades. (There’s a difference, for me, between being down and being full-on depressed.) I thought I was just down. I thought I was stronger than my blues. I thought I could ride it out. But sometimes we don’t see ourselves clearly. Maybe we don’t want to. Maybe we’re wearing blinders and don’t know it. Whatever the reason, I didn’t see that I had become clinically depressed. Again. I didn’t see that I was in real trouble and needed outside help.

 

This time, the hand of kindness came in the form of a lovely woman, Robin. Even though we’ve only known each other a short while, she listened to me when I opened up and told her what I was going through. She looked in my eyes, and actually heard me. I told her I had worked so hard to tear down my wall and now I was too exposed, too vulnerable. That’s when Robin gazed into my soul and said that maybe I should rebuild my wall, only this time perhaps I should use Happy Bricks.

 

I don’t know how those words affect you. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t care. I only know that when Robin suggested I use Happy Bricks to build a self-preserving, self-caring wall, I was thunderstruck. Yes! Of course! Happy Bricks! Why hadn’t I thought of that?

 

Walls aren’t the enemy. Some are certainly downright hurtful and harmful, but that’s no reason to cast all walls in a sour light. Walls hold up my roof. Walls provide privacy and sanctuary in my backyard. Walls hold art and windows, views to life and the world. Walls keep me safe. Good walls always have.

 

And so I find myself mixing mortar, gathering Happy Bricks to build a new wall. 35 people participated in the Womens March in Zebulon, GA (my hometown) – that’s a Happy Brick. A complete stranger saw me crocheting squares for blankets to be donated to local chemo patients and she asked how she could knit to help – that’s a Happy Brick. The Netherlands stepped up to provide healthcare for women around the globe after our government chose to withdraw women’s healthcare support as punishment  for having dared to march en masse – that’s a Happy Brick. It’s true – I’ve lost a lot these past few months. People I once respected are choosing willful ignorance. Relationships have ended or have been damaged. The injury to my country, though only just begun, deepens each day. It’s sad, heartbreaking, and for some, it will no doubt prove deadly. But I can’t give all my energy to those truths. Some of my strength has to go toward pulling myself up from the muck, toward taking those beautiful hands that reach down to lift me skyward. Toward adding another Happy Brick to my wall.

 

Working through this new depression won’t be easy. Working for decency and good won’t be easy, either. But that work will still be right, and must be done. I’m up for it. I’ve pulled myself toward happiness once before. I’ve witnesseed Kim Cox’s mama, Judy, standing up to a bully nearly twice her size and I’ve never forgotten seeing that. I’m no Judy. But I’m a mighty fine version of Mikki. And self-righteous yahoos would be wise to steer clear. I’ve got mortar, a sharp trowel and a load of Happy Bricks on my back. And I damn sure know how to use them.

Bitch, It’s Saturday!

 

 

It’s been one full week since the world (the whole beautiful, fucking world, I might add) marched in support of decency. The world also marched in protest of indecency. And though there are more of us (the decent) than there are of them (the indecent), there’s still too much ugliness. My tribe will continue to combat this, though. We have to. But I digress.

 

After last week’s stunning democratic displays, I read something about a scene that occurred during the march in D.C. It’s short, so please click here and check it out. I’ll wait for you. After reading the piece, I’ve not been able to get it out of my head. “Bitch, it’s Saturday” pops up several times a day, sometimes appropriately, sometimes not.

 

And I’ve decided that if I should ever be stricken with Hodor disease (if you don’t watch “Game of Thrones”, I can’t briefly explain that one to you. Sorry.), I’d like my version to be Bitch-It’s-Saturday disease. Someone asks what day it is? Bitch, it’s Saturday. Someone cuts me off in traffic? Bitch, it’s Saturday. I’m exhausted and finally able to put head to pillow? Bitch, it’s Saturday. I’m pretty sure I could use that phrase in just about any situation. Might not be the perfect words to say, but I can imagine them fitting through laughter and tears. Mostly laughter. Just typing up this post has brought me more glee than you can imagine. To that I say, Bitch, it’s Saturday.

A Break In The Clouds: L.A. Womens March

 

 

It started on Thursday. Actually, it started a few weeks ago, when I decided I would make myself a pink(ish) hat to wear to the march. As I sat there, surrounded by yarn and crocheting away, Mister asked if I planned to make a hat for him. I didn’t even know he was thinking of going with me to the march, let alone wearing a pussy hat – a symbol of the march. I got more yarn.

 

 

But I digress. It’s been raining here in Los Angeles. A lot. I’m not complaining, mind you. I’m just saying. On Thursday, there was a beautiful break in the clouds. I knew that if Mister and I were going to indeed take the train downtown for Saturday’s march, I needed to make sure our rider cards were loaded and ready to go. You see, we’ve had the ugly experience of arriving at the train station during a crazy-busy time (Rams home game), only to realize our rider cards held no credit. That day, as I recall, we waited in line for almost an hour to re-load the danged cards. It wasn’t pretty and I did not want a command performance. So when I looked outside and saw that beautiful blue sky peeking through those heavy clouds, I decided to get in a little exercise and walk to the train station to take care of business.

 

 

I was in a shitty mood. I knew that the next day would see a lying, unqualified, bully of a sexual predator sworn in as president and I was heartbroken. My sunglasses hid my tears from passersby, but I knew I was crying. And I didn’t know how to stop. That’s when she popped into my head – my great grandmother. She’s been gone nearly two decades, but she planted herself in my mind and I decided to let her visit for a while. I started telling her all about our outgoing President, and how I bet she would have loved him. I told her how intelligent and decent he is. How quick-witted and kind he is. I told her about his beautiful family and how they’ve all been incredible role-models for what a loving family can be. She kept asking questions (she was always curious) and I kept answering. Before I knew it, I had arrived at the train station, re-loaded our rider cards and walked all the way home. Granny Vera kept me company the whole time. Focusing on President Obama had dried my tears and lifted my spirits. I spent the rest of the day thinking of my Granny and the greatest President I will likely ever know. I slept well that night.

 

 

On Friday, the rain returned. I woke to find a couple of emails from a British buddy. He let me know that it was Tom Baker’s birthday (the 4th “Doctor Who”) and that the Brits were thinking of us on our day of gloom. (Actually – I think he used the word “doom-ly”. It was completely apt.) He also sent a link to a UK piece tying the US inauguration of a cheeto to “Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy” and it was hilarious. Those thoughts got me through the day and I was grateful. That night, Mister and I decided to watch Hitchhiker’s Guide. I laughed my ass off (thank you, Sam Rockwell) and the movie reminded me of the beauty of this planet. I needed that. Then Mister and I turned in, hoping to get an early start for the next morning’s march. You know – just in case it turned out to be crowded.

 

 

The L.A. March was scheduled to begin at 9am. Mister and I got to the train station at 8, beneath a sunny sky. The first thing we saw was a huge crowd, waiting in line to get their rider cards. (Crisis averted on that front!) We then went downstairs to the station platform. We immediately realized our timing wasn’t early enough. I thought we’d have to wait for at least another train or two, but Mister said he thought we could squeeze into a crowded car. By the grace of other riders, we wedged ourselves against the train’s door and stayed there until we reached the designated stop downtown.

 

 

I’m not claustrophobic. Tight quarters don’t rattle me. Crowds, on the other hand, are not my jam. Being around scads of people has become challenging for me. This discomfort began last summer, during the ugly rallies in support of Drumpf. The hatred, the bile and the vitriol shown in videos of those gatherings was disgusting and pathetic. Those pitiful, duped attendees were sad and ugly. After seeing far too much of that, I became hesitant to attend large gatherings. I can’t explain it. But it came to pass that I began staying away from big crowds when I could. Which brings me back to Saturday morning on that downtown-bound train. The photo of me kissing the train doors is a bit of a joke, but not by much. I spent my entire train ride with my face against those doors, thinking about where I was going. And why. Thinking about Mister being beside me, wearing his pussy hat. Thinking about the joyful camaraderie of the standing-room-only crowd in the train car. I was doing a pretty good job of staying calm, though my lip was sweating and my hands were shaking. Then I heard the prerecorded train announcement: “The next stop is Pershing Square.” The train roared with glee. We were almost there.

 

When the doors opened, I said goodbye to the friendly doors I’d been pressed against and joined the throng as we made our way upstairs. That’s when Mister spotted the “Impeach” button on a rider’s backpack. It made me think about Georgia, and I wondered how many people would show up to march in Atlanta. Still a little shaky from the ride, I moved slowly up the stairs, with Mister by my side. We were talking about how crowded the train had been, then we emerged into daylight and holy shit! We were blown away.

 

 

I won’t lie. I was still feeling a little crowd anxiety. But it was abating. Oddly enough, the more people I saw – people joining the march, people smiling at strangers, people introducing their children to Democracy – the calmer I became. And there was this vibe. It caught me by surprise. It also overwhelmed me. And that vibe’s name was Zen.

 

 

Seriously. The energy of the crowd was just beautiful. Because we were all packed into a street, there wasn’t a lot of room to accommodate a whole lot of bodies. People occasionally bumped into one another, or accidentally stepped on someone’s feet. But it was all acknowledged and forgiven. People of every gender, color, age,religion, nationality – all were welcome. It was calm and lovely. It was kind and inclusive. I was amazed and comforted. More than once, I cried happy tears. I’m sure I wasn’t alone.

 

 

The signs were a treat, too. Some were expected, some not. The tone of the signs was varied, and I appreciated that. (One of my favorites from the day read, “Honestly – I Would Have Preferred An Actual Swamp.”) A lot of feelings are floating around out there, which is completely understandable, given president cheeto’s hateful rhetoric. People are afraid. And they should be. This administration is hell-bent on creating hell-on-earth. We all knew it, too. But we didn’t wallow. Instead, we roared. Mightily.

 

 

Some of the signs were hand-made. Some were printed. Others were unique and ran the gamut from simple to not-at-all simple.

 

 

This one may have permanently affected my rods and cones. I’m not sure my eyes will ever be the same…

 

 

Being me, I wasn’t tall enough to see everything going on around us. Mister had to be my designated tall person, so he was able to tell me how far the crowds reached down streets in all directions. Here in L.A., our numbers exceeded all expectations and the march’s route had to be amended on the fly. We were slated to march down only one street. We took over three, if not four. (I know about 3, for sure.) As the march moved peacefully and slowly toward city hall, the assembled chanted and chatted. We took photos as we took it all in. I think we knew we’d be taking it in for some time.

 

 

I still don’t know just how many of us showed up. March organizers were putting the numbers north of 700,000. Personally, Mister and I knew loads of people who attended, but we didn’t cross paths with even one of them. I guess that’s what happens when you’re hanging out with 700,000 of your tribe members. And make no mistake. We were definitely with our tribe.

 

 

In the afternoon, Mister and I looked at each other, smiled and knew it was time to go. We walked to Union Station and made our way to the train platform. This time, it was even more crowded than when we’d started out in the morning. But we knew we could handle it. We’d fared just fine getting to the march. Getting home wouldn’t be a problem.

 

 

I wondered if the crowded train would hold the same positive energy we’d experienced in the morning. At first, I didn’t think so. Then the crowd of riders began to talk about the day. I watched the smiles return. I heard people offering to squeeze one more person onto a seat. Children, tired from the day, fell asleep in their seats or in their parents’ arms. And as we approached the end of the line, the train’s operator spoke to us all over the intercom. He said that, though he wasn’t supposed to comment on anything political, he was willing to take the risk. He said how much he admired what we’d done that day. He said that in all his thirteen years of working for Metro, he’d never seen such numbers. He thanked us for our patience in dealing with the filled-to-capacity trains and wished us well. We, the riders, thundered with applause. It was a beautiful way to end the day. I hope I never forget it.

 

Official Mourning

 

 

I’ve been mourning for months. Mourning the loss of decency. Mourning for people who don’t have any idea how fucking indecent they’re choosing to be. Mourning all the way around. But as of today, my mourning is official. For today a sexual predator takes the highest office in America. (He is also a liar, a cheater, a racist and a bully.) It’s shameful and it’s pathetic. For all of us. (Some of us, more than others.)

 

Let me be clear about a few things here, people. This isn’t about being a sore loser. I’ve been a Detroit Lions fan for decades, so I know a thing or two about my side losing. Um-kay? So please don’t tell me I don’t know how to lose. I know how to lose. Did we lose? Yes. In more ways than we’ve yet seen. This isn’t about giving Drumpf a chance, either. I don’t ever, ever, ever have to give a sexual predator a chance. Period. Nor does anyone else. When someone says those words to me, that he’s our president now so we need to give him a chance, all I hear is that person saying how he or she is accepting of sexual abuse, and don’t I want to be down with that. Every time someone says that to me, I cringe a little. And I feel sorry for the speaker for being so indecent as to even suggest I should support a sexual predator. Again, shameful.

 

I will not support an elected sexual predator any more than I would any other abuser. I won’t watch an elected sexual predator conduct a so-called press conference, any more than I would watch any other abuser stand before a camera. I won’t do it. We all have to choose for ourselves whether or not our moral fiber is intact. I’m not the boss of you. But I’m sure as shit the boss of me. And you will not find me supporting a sexual abuser, no matter what title is placed upon his orange head.

 

Here’s what you will find me doing: remaining vigilant. I will keep my eyes and ears open and I will show up to protest indecency. I will also show up to support beautiful, ethical decency. I expect I’ll be in good company, too.

 

I will not accept all of this as normal, either. For it isn’t. I’ll keep reminding myself of that fact, because if I become complacent, or forgive all this bullshit and its perpetrators, then, well, I will have thrown my own decency in the trash. And I don’t care how many others have made that choice. I refuse to join them.

 

This isn’t going to be easy, not at all. We, the moral majority (which we are), have to stick to our ethics. We can stay true to decency. We can stand up for ethics. We can be good people. Good souls. Others may lack the strength of character required to deny the ugliness. But we are not them. We are strong and we are not alone. No – this isn’t normal. It isn’t. Regardless of how our country has chosen, we are better than what is taking place in our government. It’s going to get worse. Rights will be challenged and perhaps denied. Horribly behaved people are going to pass judgment on good, weaker folks. It will be ugly. Terribly so. And standing up to it will surely require more strength than I can even imagine. But we have to do it anyway. We have to. We just do.

 

So I don’t know what you’ll be doing today, but I will not be watching the horrible freak show taking place on the east coast, in an area epitomizing taxation without representation. No – I want no part of that train wreck. I don’t need to rubberneck it. Like I said – it’s shameful. It is the very worst of our country, come to power. I never thought I’d feel such pity for my own homeland. But that’s where we are. And yes – it’s pitiful.

Friday Pick-Me-Up

 

 

I’m writing this post for me, as I sorely need it.

 

The petite gal shown in the photo above is Margene. She lives with my friend Betro. Margene and her sister (Roxy) are hilarious. And kind. And loving. And about a jillion other things pets are known for. When I visit Margene, she gets all excited and playful and her enthusiasm really perks me up. It would be easy to take her joy as something personal, but she doesn’t remember me from visit to visit. I know this. But Margene still manages to make me feel welcome and, I daresay, loved.

 

I’m sometimes jealous of my friends with pets. They receive unconditional love and devotion each and every day, no matter what’s going on in their lives or in the world. Pets don’t care about our screw-ups. They just care about us. When I think about that, I often wish I had it in my own home.

 

And then there are the other times. The times when I don’t have to arrange a pet-sitter, or when I don’t have to spend several thousand dollars to preserve a beloved pet’s health. Those times leave me feeling pretty free and easy. And I like that. A lot.

 

Six of one, half a dozen of another, I guess. When our yard gets fenced in (I’m praying to the garden gods), we may very well get a dog. We may very well not. I’m not sure. Either way, I get to visit Margene once in a while. I’ll take it.