Sunday, April 16, 2006

Got Chocolate Hangover?

There’s a great line in a song from the musical “Beauty and the Beast” when the villagers are getting themselves all fired up to hunt down and kill the Beast. The line goes,

Because we hate
what we don’t understand
because it scares us
And the Beast is mysterious at least . . .”

There’s a lot of hate and insanity going on right now.

We read about and see on the teeVEE that Fundamentalists are suing for the right to be intolerant and preach hatred of those different from themselves - Because they hate what they don’t understand because it scares them and homosexuals are mysterious at least.

We read about and see on the teeVEE that the AFA is mighty terrified of a fictional adventure novel that speculates about Jesus being married to and having children with a woman of questionable virtue. Or they are protesting a series of fictional novels about a kid named Harry who has responsibilities thrust upon him that he didn’t ask for - who actually has, at his young age, the sense of right to live up to those responsibilities, despite the loneliness and isolation that comes with them. Pretty dangerous and subversive in a society that teaches us to think only of ourselves and to blame others when anything goes wrong. Like the nanny. Or liberals.

And let us not forget simply being afraid and intolerant of anyone that might have a religion that is not our own – simply because we’ve never bothered to pick up a book at the library and find out about it.

My grandmother was a church-going old school Republican – that is until the Christian Right started going all medieval and she changed her voting habits. When 9-11 happened, she actually took it upon herself to read up on the Islamic faith – simply because she wanted to understand. She was over 100 by that time, and couldn’t read because her eyes were bad, so she got books on tape. It just wasn’t a difficult choice to make. She didn’t understand something and it scared her, so she decided to find out more about it.

As some of us celebrate Easter Sunday – or rather and more accurately we celebrate the beauty and abundance of Spring and new life – the laying of eggs, baby bunnies, pretty colors and new bonnets – ‘cause let’s face it, there is really nothing about an Easter Egg hunt that has much to do with anything Christian – I am reminded of a sermon that the Episcopal priest in my childhood church gave one Easter Sunday when I was very young. Since it has stuck with me all these years – I’d say it was a pretty good sermon.

It goes like this:

A Sunday school teacher at the church handed out Legg’s plastic eggs - those things the pantyhose used to come in - to all of the children in the class the Sunday prior to Easter. She asked the children to go fill the eggs with whatever reminded them of Easter and to bring the eggs back to Sunday school the following Easter Sunday. One of the children in the class was a young boy who was born with Downs Syndrome. The children were often mean to the boy – teased him or shoved him – the kind of stuff that kids like to do to those who are different. He probably dealt with this wherever he went. Easter Sunday came and all the children came in with their Legg’s eggs for the assignment. The teacher opened them one by one. Some had flowers and rocks; some had jelly beans and malted milk eggs; some had little pieces of paper with drawings on them. The teacher got to the egg that the little boy with Downs Syndrome had brought, opened it, and found that there was nothing inside. She frowned a little and asked the little boy, “why didn’t you put anything in the egg like I asked you?” The little boy answered,

“Because the tomb was empty.”

How does a kid, who will never be able to read or write, who suffers the taunts of others for the simple matter of his having been born different – grasp something that even the Sunday school teacher did not?

There will always be people that are different than we are. They might speak differently, look differently, worship differently - and rather than treat them poorly because they are different – we might just want to pay extra attention to them, because they may have something very important to teach us.

Happy Easter, Father Bob. May you rest in peace.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

"Mind as Pure as the Driven Snow - Not Violated By A Single Thought"

During my last stay in St. Louis I had the opportunity to do some reading in between my various responsibilities. My sister was preparing a lecture she was to teach in an Intro to Fiction class that dealt with defining genre fiction and one of the readings she assigned was a short story by Neil Gaiman. I had never read the Sandman graphic novel series that Gaiman is best known for, nor had I actually read anything else by him. I had some time at the hospital during one of my sister's treatments to read his anthology, Smoke and Mirrors and admit to being completely drawn in, hooked, and wanting to read everything the man has ever written.

Now, I admit to being somewhat of a novice to the whole writing thing. Aside from the blog, I have written a couple short one-act plays that have been produced, which was a rewarding experience both times – but I have never really done more than dabble at it. I like it however, and the blog has given me a certain “permission to write.”

So, imagine my horror to find out that not only am I a bit of a novice – but apparently I’m a bit of a plagiarist, without ever knowing it. I have apparently been stealing from Neil Gaiman. Here's a little sentence I wrote in my blog back in January:

"As the beginning of 2006 unfolds along with the characteristic January rains that occur in California; rains that are not really rains, but more like gallons of water in giant barrels that are dumped suddenly upon one’s head; rains that kill anyone unfortunate enough to be homeless and seeking shelter in the concrete architectural mystery that calls itself the Los Angeles River; rains that cause people’s homes to go careening down hillsides into other people’s yards, only to be rebuilt by the insurance companies so that they may slide another year – I am brought to think about . . . " it goes on from there.

I have recently been reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (published in 2001): He writes:

"A week ago the rains began in Los Angeles, slicking the streets into road accidents, crumbling the mud from the hillsides and toppling houses into canyons, washing the world into the gutters and storm drains, drowning the bums and the homeless camped down in the concrete channel of the river. When the rains come in Los Angeles they always take people by surprise."

I'm horrified. I have once again seen example that there is nary an original thought in my head - even if I think I'm saying something new - it was said before, and by someone with better sentence structure.

Patience dear, it’ll come.

Life is a constant lesson in patience and tolerance. Some choose to sit in class and take in the lesson; some choose to look out the window and think about that 5 pounds they would like to lose, or fantasize about confronting various human objects of one’s hostility. I have been guilty of the latter at numerous times during my life. To speak in California-ese for a moment, I am a Virgo with Capricorn rising – which means that aside from loving to obsessively clean whilst entertaining thoughts of suicide, I am also guilty of, at times, having a large stick up my ass when it comes to patience with other people. There are those events in one’s life however, that put the importance of paying attention in class into harsh perspective.

I was standing in line in Trader Joes a week or so ago, behind a gentleman that was making a rather large purchase of assorted wines. They sent the box kid to go collect the various choices and put them in a case for the gentleman. It was taking a bit of time, and the man made the comment to the cashier that “obviously he’s not a wine buyer if he’s taking this long to find them.” The cashier politely explained that the kid was 16 years old and would not be experienced with that sort of thing. The gentleman took in that bit of information and adjusted his attitude, saying to the clerk, “would it help if I went over and helped him find them?” The clerk said he thought that would be great if he wished to do that. I stood there, in the Zen zone, staring at the various choices in organic dark chocolate near the cash register, wondering which was better – 70% dark chocolate or 90% dark chocolate? People in line started shifting their weight, grumbling to each other. A woman in the next line over caught my eye and rolled her eyes conspiratorially. I smiled, thinking to myself that I really liked her hair. I wasn’t actually thinking about the man holding up the line. I realized that I wasn’t feeling anxious or impatient at all. I was actually thinking – “try sitting in a cancer ward for 7 ½ hours watching someone get their weekly chemo treatment. Standing in line for a few minutes at Trader Joes is nothing. . .” and followed that with the thought – “I hope none of you ever have to do that.” It’s all about perspective I guess.

An added lesson to my L.A. socialization that is – people is St. Louis, MO are not in a hurry. They do things at a different rhythm and one must adjust to that rhythm if one means to have any peace of mind at all. Nor do they seem to have the same kind of understanding of caustic wit or sarcasm that we use regularly here as a form of banter – they just look at you quizzically – the subtext of that look being “why are you being an asshole?” Patience. Tolerance. When in Rome.

I’m not sure what the point of this is – other than to understand that in all things, including one’s creativity; patience, tolerance and a wicked sense of humor are absolutely essential.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Excuse me, doctor, but I'm having a nervous breakdown . . .

Before I begin - I just want to say - if anyone is still checking in here given the fact I’ve written nary a word in AGES - Thank you to those who have been periodically checking in with me during the past couple of months. I know I haven’t responded. I have lurked at some of your blogs, but haven’t commented. Things have been a little bit more than hectic, but I truly appreciate that my cyber friends have been checking in. It means a lot.

That said . . .

There was an accident when we were children involving my sister falling through a ceiling while she and I were playing “secret-agents-communicate-via-the-air-conditioning-ducts-in-the-attic.” We had to schlep off to the emergency room to make sure she hadn’t broken anything, and hope that my parents weren’t going to be investigated for child abuse over the lame and far-fetched story told to the hospital staff of how she received her injuries. She really did fall through a ceiling and we actually were playing “secret-agents-communicate-via-the-air-conditioning-ducts-in-the-attic.”

While I was in the waiting area of the emergency room, a 40-something woman in a plain house dress walked in, walked up to the registration desk and said, “Excuse me, but I’m having a nervous breakdown and I need to see a doctor.”

Being the tender age of 10, I thought this was really exotic and a little frightening. A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. Wow. A real crazy person.

After they handed her the forms on the clipboard and told her to sit down - she of course came and sat next to me. Even then, the crazies were drawn to me like mold to . . .well, anything organic. She reached into her purse, removed a pack of gum (what I considered to be a really normal type of action for someone about to be put in a straightjacket), turned to me and politely asked, “would you like a stick of gum?” I told her I wasn’t allowed, but thank you. She seemed so normal.

I think I understand her perfectly now.

Which brings me to my current dilemma. How exactly does one schedule in a nervous breakdown?

I’m not talking the, “oh a valium would be very nice right now” variety, but the full on gut-wrenching scream/howling, sobbing variety that includes an unfortunate forgetfulness about bathing; bouts of vomiting and diarrhea; requires that one be sent somewhere tropical to be fed, watered; told when to exercise; told when to go to bed and liberally furnished with fruity drinks in festive glasses that sport umbrellas peeking over the top of clinking ice cubes at all times. That kind of nervous breakdown. The kind of nervous breakdown that requires money and free time; a commodity generally available to those with either a really good vacation package at work, or those who are independently jobless-with-money-but-have-hobbies.

REAL nervous breakdowns are not for the working class. Call me bitter.

That said, I am currently faced with the challenge of scheduling a working class nervous breakdown that takes into account the obvious financial obstacles and the inherent/significant lack of free time from responsibilities to job, family and dog walking.

The planning stage is not going well. And of course my hair has decided to start breaking in half to accentuate the level to which I am stressed - so the grand plan for long goddess hair like that of my spin instructor, or my inner Uma Thurman - must be CUT SHORT (insert maniacal laugh here) in favor of choppy short blonde hair like that lunatic with the condoms in her purse, Sharon Stone. Who is hot, don’t get me wrong - but she is a bit of a lunatic and her new movie is awful.

A nervous breakdown, AND bad hair.

Time management is so demanding.