My Lower-cased life


On Friday morning, I took this photo in Santa Monica, looking north toward Malibu.


Fire Up The Coast


At that point, the fires had been burning overnight and not dying down. I say fires – plural – because Los Angeles is dealing with multiple burn areas. As of this writing, none of them are slowing and fire fighters are struggling to achieve any containment.


After snapping the pic, I went into my friend’s place for a painting session. Turned out my friend was providing shelter for a family who had been forced to evacuate their home due to the fires. I’d met this family before, so they were familiar to me. The kids joined in during the painting session and that bit of time was fun. Ordinary. The kids didn’t seem to have any cares and all was right with the world. Later, when I talked to their mom, it became clear that she didn’t know if their home was intact or not. She couldn’t find out much of anything and just had to wait. And wait.


The fires have exploded now and though I live in an area that isn’t in danger, the smell of smoke is everywhere. I’ve heard from other friends who’ve had to evacuate and for so many people – so many friends – waiting is all they can do.


I was supposed to go beach-camping this weekend, up the coast. The fires put an end to those plans. I’m okay with that because Life isn’t about my plans. Lower-case l is my world, not upper-case L. That world is bigger than how I roll my eyes when I’m out of half-and-half for my coffee. It’s bigger than how I wonder where I might get take-out when I don’t want to cook dinner. Or how I have to wait to buy shoes, until they’re on sale. Or how I sometimes have to choose one social event over another, because I’m too lazy to attend multiple outings. My lower-cased life is pretty damned good. I have struggles and pains and wants and disappointments and still… My house is standing. My middle-aged health is tenable. My will is strong. Pretty damned good.


More and more people are being displaced by the fires. Lives have been lost. Property, too. Folks are doing their best to get through this, to survive. Some are even managing to shield their children from the uncertainty, to help them to see this day as being as ordinary as any other. I’m amazed.


Wendy Friend on Painting Day 2

Never Gonna Get It



Most people who didn’t just meet me know I have a big heart. They also know I am sometimes cynical and speak the truth as I see it, more often than not. Many friends know when to ask me a question and when to beg off, as I’m gonna lay it all on the line. I aim for kindness, but sometimes my aged vision doesn’t allow me to hit my mark. I don’t know how all those aspects of myself manage to coexist, but they do. And sometimes one part of me dominates the others. Go figure.


Right now, it’s my heart that’s garnering my attention. It’s breaking, and I don’t have a clue how to mend it. Nature has struck in Puerto Rico (as well as all over the globe, really), and our fuck-tard of a president is too stupid to understand that as a U.S. Territory, care for the area falls to us. I guess since they’re the epitome of taxation without representation, and therefore can’t vote for the idiot, he doesn’t see any reason to give a damn.


And then there’s the craziness of Las Vegas. Smarter minds have certainly spoken to this (Eugene Robinson’s latest, and Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue), and even if I wanted to contribute a thought, I wouldn’t know where to begin. I’m never gonna get this. Never.


On Monday I saw Jackie Goldberg speak and she was amazing. She briefly addressed the Las Vegas tragedy and pointed out a few things. First – she defined a mass shooting as having occurred when 4 or more people are shot during a single incident. Second – she pointed out that we’ve had over 270 mass shootings in the United States this year alone. The day of the Las Vegas carnage was the 274th day of the year. She noted that we’re looking at around one mass shooting per day. Ms. Goldberg then pointed out that if hunters used semi-automatic and automatic weapons in the wild, there would be no meat left on the carcasses. She was right, of course, and we all knew it, regardless of politics.


I didn’t lose a loved one in this latest horrific, terror attack. My heart is still broken. And though I’m frightened to say it, at the rate we’re going, it seems like we’ll all know someone who does lose a loved one in a mass shooting, and that’s tragic. Truly. And if you dare to tie the 2nd Amendment or hunting rights to the insanity that is our bullshit, nearly invisible gun regulations, well, this one’s on you. Just like the last one. And the one before that. And the one that’s coming. I would say all those who continue to kiss the ass of the NRA should be ashamed, but that’s not enough. Their shame is killing us. Literally.




Prayer. Heartbreak. More prayers. Nothing makes sense during this tragic time. And so I begin again. Prayer. Heartbreak. More prayers…




A couple of decades ago, my buddy Winfield adopted 2 sister kittens, Lucy and Isabella. They were both cute as buttons and darling to boot. And then tragedy struck. One of the kittens fell off a barstool and got her leg caught in the frame of the seat. To make matters worse, Winfield was out of town. When she returned a couple of days later, that poor kitty was just hanging there, body in shock, barely alive.


But that rambunctious kitty not only survived, she thrived. And now, all these years later, you’d never notice she has only 3 legs. She certainly doesn’t seem to notice.


Anyhoo, last week I was out and about with my buddy Aniela. She and I stopped by a supreme cat rescue in L.A. and Aniela immediately became smitten with a kitten. Turns out this little kitty is also a tri-pod. Her tragedy, in short, is this: She got her rear, right foot caught in fast-drying cement and – brace yourself – had to chew her own leg off in order to escape and survive. She’s doing great and to see her getting around, you’d never notice she has only 3 legs. Much like the other 3-legged kitty I know, this one doesn’t seem to notice the missing leg, either.


Aniela has named this doll-face Trinity. I think it’s entirely apt, any way you look at it. She sure is gorgeous.

Thank You, Dottore



I once saw an interview with Maya Angelou. For some reason, the part that stuck with me the most was her telling a story about being in an Italian kitchen, working with chefs and scholars, and how they all took a smoke break outside. While there, during various conversations, she was addressed as “Dottore.” Doctor. I’m quite certain her words during that interview were of interest and – most likely – import. But the thing I carried away was the vision of her, standing in the half-dark, with a lit cigarette. In my mind I see light from the open kitchen door. I hear Italian voices. There are muted shadows of men, as they lean against walls and trees of the courtyard. Only her face, Dottore’s, is lit, as if from within.


Maya Angelou passed away yesterday. She was 86 and lived more life in those years than I could if given twice as long. Because I’ve read a few of her autobiographical books, I know the lady suffered great tragedies along her path. I also know that suffering in no way defined her or her outlook. She shared her struggles and her triumphs in multiple books and stories. Personally, reading I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings changed me. And to this day, I mentally refer to that book when I’m faced with situations that call on me to dig deep, to decide how to deal with brick walls, real or imagined. I also still refer to Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories With Recipes. That little book is dear and delicious.


We will always have Maya Angelou’s body of work. It will survive. But in her passing, a great light has been extinguished, friends. And that is why I cry as I write this. For we need all the light we can get.


And now I have a second vision of Maya Angelou: as a free, spirited soul – dancing and laughing. So much life. So much light. Thank you, Dottore. You will be missed.