Monday, March 29, 2010


Yes, it's time for your regular (this is the first edition, actually, but I'm looking forward) Monday lucky dip of random thoughts and cutting-room floor nonsense to start the week. 

Had dinner with friends at Miceli's italian restaurant on saturday night; certainly known as one of the hipper spots to be found in LA on a weekend. We entered the place exhausted, having had to push through the mob of paparazzi waiting outside for possible celebrities to come out. What I can tell you is that if there were any celebrities exiting the joint, they were probably looking ahead to a night of intense flatulation and indigestion, judging from the fare that was served up at our table. I had a lasagna that seemed to have been made by untalented children. The pizza was ordinary and the only thing throbbing more fearfully than my stomach when it was all over was my head, thanks to the Grammy-nominated performances (think Taylor Swift) being handed out nonstop by the gallant waitstaff. The only problem was that for all his singing, we barely saw our man at our table. He seemed a charming waiter when we arrived, only to then be completely disinterested in the job of waiting. A drab experience all round. I suppose that's what you get when you go to the hottest, trendiest places- the thrill of being there trumps the food and service. I definitely felt an enhanced sense of celebrity as I left. Victoria even let me sleep in the bed that night.

I can hear the gentleman with his gasoline-powered leafblower outside as I write my essay today. For heaven's sake, really?? Have leaves become so intransigent, so immovable and pugilistically resistant to outside forces that we are now forced to build a machine in order to move them clear of our walking thoroughfares? I'm sure the gentleman wielding this deadly foliage-clearing instrument is a lovely fellow, but every time that metallic whine starts up my own whining kicks in: haven't his employers heard of a broom? We don't need more noise/air pollution, especially in the City of Wheezing Angels. Enough.

Aidell's sausages. I don't normally give plugs on this post, unless of course I'm being paid to do it, but if any of you are sausage lovers like myself - links, patties, I don't give a hoot - you must go to your local crappy supermarket (we have a Ralphs close by) and pick up any of the flavors on offer. I don't know what kind of love Mr.Aidell is making with these swine but they taste superb.

If any of you have missed this video of George Bush jr wiping his and on Bill Clinton's shirt after shaking a local Haitian's hand, you're in for a treat. Mr.Bush likes to talk about how he's a 'regular guy', albeit one with an upcoming billion dollar inheritance who has never worked a day in his life (that assessment includes his time in the White House) but on this occasion his unconscious reflex action gives him away. It very well may be that the hand he just shook was dirty, but any person with reasonable intelligence and sensitivity would at least try to wipe their hand discreetly, and maybe not on the shirt of the guy standing next to you, who happened to be President at one point. Alas, Georgey never did possess great mastery over his own latent, tone-deaf social retardation and as a result we have a wonderful piece of footage for future generations to enjoy.

Speaking of the news (I guess we weren't), wonderful to see the Republican Party start to do what they've always done best in recent times: self-destruct. Michael Steele, RNC president, has been frequenting strip clubs. Sarah Palin is front and center again (always good news for Democrats), trying to keep the line-towing, sycophantic, right wing automaton-but-still-a-Maverick John McCain in the Senate, and every other Republican is doing their best John McEnroe impression ("you cannot be serious! The Bill was out! You are the pits of the Earth!") without the humor, charisma and quality net play. Added to that, their current best hope for a reasonable election result in 2012 rests with Mitt Romney. Mr. Romney has spent a year bashing a healthcare bill that is almost identical to the one he supported and signed off on in Massachusetts and is now backtracking furiously. He is another sham, a corporation posing as a human being who, thanks to his predilection for adopting whatever ideology will get him elected, will probably not even make it through the Republican presidential primaries. Who's next? Sarah Palin? Mike Huckabee? It's a veritable smorgasboard of mediocrity.

But back to Miceli's for a moment. Over dinner the discussion, as always happens when friends gather over a meal, turned to whether or not it's true that black men are more generously dangled than their white counterparts (I won't even include Asian men here, although I think that comment will land me in hot- or in this case very cold- water). Not only did the research done on Iphones at the time conclude that yes, they do tend to be larger but that there is also a specific reason behind the phenomenon.

It turns out that a man's penis is also a conduit for the release of body heat! Given that African males have lived for the longest in hot climates, their.... heat-releasers, if you will, are the biggest!

There is an unfortunate flip side to this, however.....

The same study concluded that, as a result, SCANDINAVIAN men are the most likely among the caucasian races to have small penises! I found that unbelievable, seeing how large and strapping most Scandinavian men are, but... that's what the research showed. The Asian story is unclear- there are extremely hot and cold conditions across the Asian continent. I'll leave that for another day. Feel free, dear readers, to leave your comments on this story. I've only slept with one Scandinavian man. His name was Carl, he was from Sweden, and he was hung like the proverbial rogue elephant.

But there are always exceptions. Ladies, next time you meet a tall, handsome Norwegian man who triggers virile fantasies of Viking conquest, remember this post...

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Last night Victoria, myself and two friends undertook a trek into the wilds of the San Gabriel Valley, to
share in a tradition that has been ongoing there for... well... a while.


That's right. You're allowed to gasp. Badminton. Also known as 'Shuttlecock' in Australia- a far superior name in my opinion. I mean, jeez, the game is goddamned sexy, and as such it should have a hot, sweaty name. Either way, the rules remain the same: two or four players stand on a court a little smaller than the sort used for volleyball, with a net raised to just under six feet. Why the hell is he telling us what we already know?? I hear you all ask. Well, this blog aims not only to make you laugh and cry, it also is supposed to leave you all just a little bit more informed having read it. So... to make a long and dreadfully boring story short, it's first to 21 with a margin of 2 and only the server can score, a la squash. Bang.

But this post today is about the venue for our war with our two (formerly) good friends.

Recently Victoria, terribly bored with our relationship (she ain't seen nothing- baseball season is about to start), decided to look for another shared activity we could engage in besides daily conversations like this:

"Darling, did you read my blog?"
"Did you like it?"
"My mother really liked it."
"I know."
"I mean, alot."

And so on. During her cyber travels, she found a strange place, which seemed to be open 24 hours in the middle of an industrial park by the name of the San Gabriel Valley Badminton Club. This island of athletic endeavour called out to us, like those baseball ghosts talking to Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams.

So we went. Of course, I got completely lost and we found ourselves driving past low-rise, deserted office blocks with asian signs out the front, Victoria screaming racial epithets - Jewish, not asian - at me as my humiliated tears slid down the steering wheel. But we found the joint eventually- there was a large sign in what may have been Indonesian lettering that had tiny English instructions underneath:


The place looked like an abandoned slaughterhouse. Although I saw the presence of many cars, we didn't see a soul. It was a saturday night, around 1030 pm. I regretted not bringing that bag of heroin stashed in my closet to bargain with. This didn't feel right. Victoria's hand gripped mine as I eased my menacing Honda Accord 2007 manual transmission  (the '06 and 08 models suck) into the parking spot that was waiting for me.

"Are they expecting us?" I asked tremulously. Victoria's glare told me it was probably just a vacant parking space.

We walked around the building toward the entrance. Finally, we saw some humans, walking to their car. They were carrying racquets of some sort (possibly badminton but I can't be sure), sticking out of nylon bags, the contents of which were unknown to us. The adrenalin was surging through me as we went through the front door. A kindly portly gentleman greeted us. Despite being under suspicion of having devoured one too many of the sour cherry snacks on offer behind the counter, his photo was on the wall and I guessed that we may be in the presence of Badminton royalty.

"Um- hello sir. We have a ping pong table reserved?"

....... Okay. I guess at this point a confession needs to be made. I had noticed on the website that although the club was devoted to the art of the shuttlecock, it also had a table tennis room. And... yeah, I'll admit it. The shuttlecock intimidated me. My god, the thing had feathers! How did it make its way through the air, and how on earth was I supposed to hit it? It was all too much for my sensitive, frail psyche; I had talked Victoria into first beating me at table tennis before she ploughed me like the dirt I am on the Badminton court.

It turned out that the club was merely tolerating the presence of ping pong, or table tennis as I reverently called it at the time. They had banished some old tables to a back room, jammed in there under faulty, buzzing fluorescent lights. We played our hearts out as a couple of very old men with very short shorts heaved and sweated it out next to us. Victoria and I slugged it out. Who won, I hear you ask? Uh- not important.

We enjoyed ourselves. Stepping into this place was like stepping into a different country. As I made my way through the facility, I spotted people reading Indonesian books and comics, drinking foreign beverages and having conversations containing not one lick of English. I realized that this was a social event as much as an athletic one, with entire families coming to play together. Teens were on dates. Parents sat with children and chatted.

Yet surrounding all of this was, without any doubt, a hardcore gym devoted to the violent, bloodthirsty gladiator sport that is Badminton. Banners abounded, trophies were everywhere and I found myself intimidated by the photos of past champions, staring grimly back at me. The courts were calling to me, and suddenly ping pong felt like a game for children. I felt my spine straightening, ready to evolve from ape to man, from paddle to racquet.

I returned to our ping pong table and threw my pathetic, pock-marked paddle on the floor. The room went silent, like an old saloon in the Wild West when a stranger comes to town. "We're done with this game." I announced to a breathless Victoria. "There's a whole world out there!", I screamed, pointing to the green pastures of the courts in the gym that lay waiting in the next room. Then Victoria and I strode out of there, past the stunned faces of the poor, hapless souls who were doomed to spend the rest of their neanderthalic lives hitting a ridiculous, featherless sphere over a table. Tables are for dinner, my friends.

So we returned last night, with our two friends, and went to war. In the interests of fairness to our out of shape, hopelessly uncoordinated mates, the score shall remain secret. Of greater importance was the fact that Victoria and I are now part of something larger than ourselves and at any time of the day or night you may find us in an old warehouse in a desolate industrial park in a distant Los Angeles suburb, surrounded by Indonesians, kneeling at the altar of the Shuttlecock.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Some thoughts on the state of television today, gleaned from the bits and pieces Victoria and I sampled tonight as we ate my superb veggie pasta which actually turned out to be horribly mediocre.

First up: Idol. I have always detested these kinds of shows, which I define as Glorified Karaoke. Yes, some of the performers are talented but please let's not fool ourselves into thinking these people are the cream of the crop. The cream, ladies and germs, is out there working. Victoria has had some inside experience with the making of these shows and she informed me that they are basically a soap opera; the producers decide what kind of people and stories they want to create on the show and they go out and get them. I watched maybe three minutes and that was enough; my stomach can only take so much corporate, slick, dream-factory guff. As soon as I sensed the slight nausea building in my tummy I changed the channel.

To, of all things, Cougartown, with the siliconed, botoxed piece of immovable plastic formerly known as Courtney Cox. Ms.Cox is charming enough but this show is everything that leaves me frigid about Hollywood today. Pop-culture references abound as artifical characters have artificial discussions about absolutely f&*%-all, as our Vice President would say. I have had it with this kind of 'comedy'... when was it decided that an intimate knowledge of pop culture made us smart, or writers' work funny? This show couldn't raise a smirk to my lips. My face, I hate to say, was as stoic and marblesque as Courtney's. For different reasons of course.

Added to those two shows were snippets of Victoria' cuddly blanket, Friends, starring a scarily lifelike Courtney Cox, my cuddly blanket the Major League Baseball Network (many more laughs than Cougartown) and every straight girl's secret cuddly blanket, Rachel Maddow (Victoria, like the rest of you randy, curious women denies this).

Finally, to wrap the evening up, we watched the sixth episode of Breaking Bad, starring the superb Bryan Cranston. We're motoring through it thanks to Netflix and yet even at that speed, this show allows itself to move slowly, which is a lovely novelty. It's taut and gruesome and Cranston and the excellent Anna Gunn lead a strong and quirky cast. Having said all that, this show is very masculine and for that reason it doesn't have me as fully in its clutches as other shows that touch around the heart more than the head. But that's a personal preference; this show has achieved everything it set out to do and is what it is, which is an excellent bit of TV.

So there you are, absolutely everything you need to know about television
circa spring, 2010.      

Read  a book.                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Monday, March 22, 2010


So we have a healthcare bill. For those who really want to put a smile on their dial, read former Bush speechwriter and staunch conservative David Frum's pessimistic thoughts on his own party's future on his blog today. Reading him talk about the GOP's impending doom was like fine cognac, drunk from a crystal snifter, coursing through my veins.

But as much as I hate to rain on anyone's parade - unless it's neo-con corporate-bought evangelical politicians - the condition of health care in the US and beyond is not the biggest issue we will face during Barack Obama's presidency, or anyone else's for that matter.

Not even close.

Because the quality and cost of your health care and mine will become a blip on our radar if we continue to ignore the number one issue we all face- and I mean you, me and about six and a half billion other people.

That is the issue of this planet's environment.

I don't say 'climate' because that is too reductive. Yes, more carbon equals more heat which equals all manner of problems, but we also have to face the fact that there will be catastrophic water shortages not only in third world, desert-based nations but also RIGHT HERE in the US. Add to that the continuing deforestation happening as I write this, the consequences of which are to a major extent frighteningly unknowable at this time, as well as the polluting of much of the world's fresh water and all kinds of food crises that will emerge over the next fifty years as the population booms and you see a mess that will require DOZENS of bills to be enacted by governments across the globe that will be much more controversial and require much more dramatic changes of corporate and civil behaviour than this bill ever could.

Not only that, but these bills will have to be globally ratified. They will also demand change that will require the kind of distant-horizon thinking that is antithetical to the greedy, short-term lust for endless profit that pervades almost every corporation now in existence.

The challenge, suffice to say, is monumental, and can only be met through just as massive a determination by the peoples of the world and the politicians they elect.

It will also mean the mobilization of our armed forces for work other than warfare with other nations. I have long believed in an 'Environmental Army'. My idea is that the government should re-allocate a gigantic portion of the defense budget into a program that would pay any adult citizen, able and willing, a decent wage and full benefits to do two things: 1, clean up our waterways and public lands while replanting vast swaths of deforested areas and 2, assist in the building of green infrastructure and police our companies to ensure that they are in line with new regulations outlawing the continuing pollution of our air, water and soil.

This will kill two birds (an unfortunate metaphor considering the subject of this essay). It will help to solve unemployment by offering a financially and spiritually rewarding line of work for anyone prepared to do it and it will also keep corporations and citizens environmentally honest. We cannot assume old behaviours will vanish because they are suddenly out of bounds. Follow-through is needed.

But to do all of that we will need to devote a lot of time and treasure to changing our entire industrial paradigm, which will of course also require each citizen's personal involvement in the process- we must be willing to drive cars that move a little slower, take showers that are a little shorter, use cleaning products that require a little more scrubbing and, more importantly than those petty examples, pay taxes that might, for a time, be a little higher. If our governments can actually spend those dollars on making the world a better place, instead of fattening the pockets of defense contractors, that won't seem
so bad.

So start looking for the people running for office who actually are promoting these ideas. A lot of us laugh at Dennis Kucinich because he said he saw a UFO, but he's one of the few people ready to make legislation to solve a lot of these problems.

This is truly the Big One. There are so many ways to get in the fight. Universal healthcare is only a good thing if we have a universe to live in to begin with.

For another example of the kind of destructive consumeristic cycle we need to detach from that results in massive pollution and environmental destruction, read this amazing and disturbing report on the bottled water industry.

Can we fix this? Yes We Can. The more important question is: will we?

Saturday, March 20, 2010


It is becoming clear to me, as I get older, why we remember loved ones with a moment of silence.
Because, fellow citizens of the planet, silence is becoming a more valuable commodity in our society with each noisy, passing second.

I go to the movies and find people cavalierly chatting at normal voice. When I ask them politely to be quiet they look at me with astonishment. As if they are thinking what could possibly be bothering him??. I ask the people in th courtyard who are making themselves known to every single person in the apartment complex to keep it down because it's late and there's not a jot of understanding. But then I remind myself: if a person is under 25 (and please don't think me to be too much beyond that, even though this blog is already in danger of sounding like it was written by a fogie), they have lived most of their conscious life with a cellphone to check, an email to send, a song to download and listen to anywhere anytime, or any number of televisions and 'background' music blaring in almost any public space.

We are losing touch with the healing, empowering connection to silence. As a child, I remember long road trips with my family during which we'd find ourselves driving through wilderness at night. I would stare blissfully out at all that blackness, feeling an urge similar to what many people feel standing at a cliff's edge: the impulse to throw oneself with abandon into the silent, infinite abyss. As I would lean my head against the damp, cool car window, a large industrial facility would come into view, lit as if by ten thousand fluorescent lights, destroying the engulfing tranquility that had been present just a moment before. In those moments to this day, I wonder if there is really anywhere one could go to find freedom our artificial noise and machinery anymore. I suspect not.

Which brings me to the only solution for us: reconnect with our own silence. Listen more than we speak, as spiritual teacher Anique Radiant Heart said to me recently. Never be afraid to explore the void (and opportunity) that lies between our literal, verbal exchanges.

Maybe if we can become more aware of the silence within, we'd more often seek the silence without. To discover that, we'd need to de-industrialize, deconstruct and detach from the machine of consumerism and the fallacy of economic 'growth' and all the frenetic, chaotic and violent activity that all too often comes with it. Luckily, we can begin to effect this change on our own personal stage. The manifest ways to go about it are for each one of us to creatively discover.

Finally, it means detachment from the noisiest part of our consciousness: our ego. We don't always have to respond, have to retort, have to retaliate. We don't need to always advertise to people that we're here; nor do we need to reassure ourselves that we are alive by spinning our mind into a frenzy with drama and a learned obsession to 'prove ourselves' to the rest of the world.

Maybe tomorrow those people outside my apartment window will rediscover the meaning and value of silence and lower their voices. Maybe the guy in the movie will accidentally fall quiet and realize he could actually be in a position to be affected by the film he's watching. Maybe I'll stop indiscriminately blasting people on the road with my horn every time I make the judgement that they're not driving well enough.

That's the greatest thing about being alive: as long as your mind and heart are open and receptive, you always have the chance to grow.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


People of Los Angeles: when telling friends you cannot catch up with them at a certain point during your week due to other arrangements, let me make one thing clear:

You're not BOOKED.

You have plans. That is different to being hired for a professional engagement. If I am friends with a wedding singer, or a massage therapist, or a caterer, or even the goddamn President for pete's sake, then I will understand if they tell me they cannot meet for coffee or drinks because they are 'booked'. Otherwise, let's all start talking again like human beings, take off those freaking Bluetooths (or Blueteeth for my english teacher in high school) and start the journey back to being normal, functional people.

Which brings me to the next commandment for the day:


Don't give me that twenty minute slot first thing in the morning or between drinks with your 'manager' and dinner with your 'publicist'. I've had it with people building a shrine to their Blackberries, all the while saying how 'busy' they are and wondering 'how they lived without an IPhone all those years!'.

There's only one person I can think of who may truly not be able to live without an IPhone.

And that's God. And if I had to bet, I'd say she still uses a filofax. Because God, my friends, if she's even up there, is Old School. No, no that inane two-minute SNL sketch that was turned into a piece of celluloid offal with Will Ferrell. I mean the genuine article. God, if that's even her real name, likes libraries. And vinyl. And movies from the 70s.

And making time to see her friends in ways that don't resemble pitch meetings.

You're really not that busy, people. Ever notice how rare it is to go to the cinema and not have some clown talking like they're in their apartment, or another humanoid flip open (oh wait- flip-phones are so, like, 03) his cell so he can text some profound thought to his buddy?

We have become so enamoured of our own business, popularity and packed schedules that we've lost the knack of being silent. Of being people, without the need for accomplishment and the attainment and advertisement of our possessions.

I guess that's it, for those of you who stayed for the end.

Before I forget... a disclaimer concerning God: although she does spurn all things modern that do not advance humankind, she absolutely loves my blog. Spread the word.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


It looks like we are going to get 'Health' Insurance Re-Form.

You may have noticed the particular way in which I stated those three words. Allow me to explain.

The quotes wrapped around 'health' are there to remind all of us that this bill ceased long ago to be about the health of anyone, including the health of the bill itself, which has been getting eaten from the inside out for over a year by a form of corporate-controlled, Republican-stonewalling, Democratic-wimposity cancer.

As for the italicizing of 'Insurance', I think at this point we all need to accept that this bill isn't about providing health care; it is primarily concerned with changing (superficially from what I can tell) how our insurance business is done. As long as we're only dealing with for-profit corporations in covering our healthcare costs, few issues of actual care can be looked at. We will always be shackled by the insurance cartels' lust for the juicy bottom line, at any cost.

The decision to hyphenate 'reform'? There's not much real reform here, but there is plenty of re-forming of how people will buy overpriced insurance from corporations. A lot of it comes from a mandate to push more people into the darkly lit barns of corporate health insurance coverage. Exactly what incentive does one give a greedy bully to change his ways if one increases his leverage over and access to the weak and vulnerable?

So there it is. Just as we must re-examine terms like Free Trade Agreements (backroom deals cut between the powerful elite that are rarely free, publicly agreed upon or even about genuine trade), we must also not let people put up banners and dance down the street congratulating themselves with false parlance like 'Health Care Reform'.

But, considering the fact that it's here and it ain't goin nowhere.....

Should we, and therefore our elected representatives, vote for it?

This has been an argument that has been boiling between myself and friends (and some sworn enemies) for over a year now.

There are two primary arguments that I've seen, for and against. The people that would support it say it is, in the words of one, a 'beach head'. That most civil rights bills (and make no mistake, this is a civil rights issue) have been weak in retrospect, having had to be watered down to begin with to have any chance of passing and coming into being but that with time and growing public recognition of their worth, have been strengthened to where they stand today. Think the Voting Rights Act, Social Security, Civil Rights, Medicare. These people claim that this bill is the same, paving the way for more aggressive and progressive action in the future. Without it, they say, the status quo will remain and may even further concretize.

Not a bad argument. Now let me speak for those against.

They would say that this bill strengthens and further validates the corporate hold on health coverage, ushering in even more people to the private framework. It doesn't offer real cost controls, leaves no possibility for any government involvement beyond what already exists for the young, poor and elderly and, if passed, will succeed in silencing any talk of real reform for a generation, giving every politician from now til doomsday the excuse that 'we got something done in '10 at great political cost and it's too soon to try again.' That this is an extremely rare moment in the history of this country to actually open the door to eventual universal healthcare through a public option and if we miss the chance this time, it won't come again for a long, long time. Now is the moment for the Democratic Party to truly show the people who it stands for, the public or the private. If the Democrats water themselves down along with this bill, they may never be able to reclaim higher moral ground than the Republicans on this issue. They were voted in with a massive majority that is about to be eroded. It's Now Or Never.

Hmm. This is a hard one.

Michael Moore was interviewed last night and was asked whether or not if he were a sitting Congressman right now, would he support this bill, a bill he has savagely criticized. I think he found the right balance, saying he would support it reluctantly if the President, while trumpeting the pathetically few positives in the bill for working people, would also admit to the fact that this bill was a boon for corporations and overall did not advance the cause of the vast majority of American citizens in relation to their ability to have quality, affordable healthcare (I'm paraphrasing).

I'd also support Mr.Obama if he were straight with us in this fashion. Alas, I am dreaming and he does need to gain some sort of political victory out of all this so get ready for the confetti.

Oh, and the same impossibly high premiums and mediocre care.

Remind everyone you know when the healthcare crisis comes up in conversation:

As long as for-profit corporations are in charge of our health coverage, there is NO chance for quality, affordable care in this country.

Reminder to self upon waking every morning: give thanks for being healthy.

Monday, March 15, 2010


After sleeping about 34 hours in an attempt to recover some sort of equanimity (why is the jetlag always so bad coming back from Australia? Victoria tells me it's the same when going to Paris- something to do with West to East?), I ventured out in my car and turned on NPR, where I heard a story about teachers and testing. It seems that across the US, the solution to the education crisis is always to evaluate teachers by their students' test scores.

This is patently nonsense.

Until teachers are paid a wage appropriate to their enormous importance in the development of our next generation, we cannot hope to improve their efficacy. While we're at it, let's also give them schools that do not resemble prisons, equipment that was built sometime after Jimmy Carter was in office and a humane amount of kids in each class to deal with.

Of course, in order for all that to happen we'd need to do two things: divert tax revenues away from useless defense spending and also tax the rich in a way that might actually suggest that we live in a civilized, fair society. By the way, doing these two things would also give us a chance to solve healthcare, create a green infrastructure and give every single person in this country the chance for a decent, fulfilling life.

Food for thought. If anyone's still thinking.

The baseball season is beginning and for some reason it's striking me in a different way this time round. As I ponder how many hours could be spent sitting in front of the idiot box watching oversized men with undersized personal development throw a ball to more of the same waiting with a strangely shaped, lacquered piece of wood I must question the value of it all. Maybe if we stopped watching they'd stop getting paid those heinous amounts of dollars.

Now a small list of the things I could be by now if I'd replaced all the time I've spent watching sport with other potentially more fruitful activities:

Classical guitarist.
Person who can recite the entire Shakespeare canon by heart.
Letter writer extraordinaire.
Multi-faceted intellectual dynamo.
All of the above and, therefore, a friendless virgin.

Okay, the last was only possibly true but you get the point.

I attended a party on saturday night and at one point went up to the roof of the apartment building where it was held. It was there that I realized that Los Angeles reminded me of the classic aging starlet that it has chewed up and spat out: it looks best in the dark.

This essay today sounds a little maudlin, doesn't it? Any good news to report, I hear you ask?

I started reading the new Dan Brown book. Oh no, wait a second. I don't like it.

Stay tuned for brighter news in the next episode.

Friday, March 5, 2010


As our trip to Australia nears an end, I'm once again surprised to find myself with a new and hopefully broader perspective on my dealings with my family.

The Universe may have it's borders, may not be infinite, as hard as that is to fathom and yet I suspect that for all of us as human beings, there may not be a bottom to the psychic well that is our feelings around our parents, siblings and the loved ones with whom we've grown up and shared so much emotional intimacy.

I've had my 'buttons pushed' several times over the last week and a half in ways that I thought were done with. In the past that would have spurred me to seek distance, to shut off and become an emotional island. As I get older I realise that ultimately those islands end up being more painful than the alternative: allowing oneself to feel those uncomfortable sensations that occur when old wounds are momentarily jabbed and actually finding a way to move through them to find what may lie on the other side, instead of backing away from the entire dynamic and allowing it to remain static.

This doesn't mean confrontation. After all, at some point in this process, when we've hopefully done some meaningful personal work on these relationships, we understand that the person doing the jabbing on those wounds ends up being us. The painful agreements that we've worked so hard to break continue to function, long after they are even still objectively in effect.

No, this isn't about proving anything to the other person. It's about finding a way to have an open, clear relationship with them, and that means no expectations of multitudes of warm and fuzzy moments with them. An inspirational teacher in my life uses the term 'getting our hooks' out of other people. These hooks represent our need for their approval, our fear of their judgement and our own judgements and expectations of them, among other things. As long as those hooks are attached, it's very difficult (maybe impossible) to have a meaningful, loving relationship. Walking away from those hooks is equally impossible for two reasons; one, because they will be there when we come back and two, they will then take shape in the new relationships that we form because this internal emotional dynamic started so early and therefore has become a psychic habit that manifests itself wherever we go.

So what's left to do? One word has raised itself above all others through my dealings with family in the last 10 days.

Acceptance. Yes, I know I'm not inventing the wheel here. We've all heard that phrase before. But only now am I ready to actually commit to practicing what it means on a more fulltime basis. Because I see what's possible.

Kahlil Gibran said, when referring to relationships and marriage, that the 'pillars of the temple must stand apart'. That makes perfect sense to me now. Only through surrendering judgement, through giving up our desperate need to change others in order to nurse old wounds can we find the appropriate distance to really see who those people actually are. Once that is done, we will be able to choose to love them for whoever they turn out to be and, make no mistake, there are enormous reservoirs of love inside most of us for our family once we clear away the dead wood and get those hooks out.

This doesn't mean we'll agree with them. But it also means we won't have to argue every point or fight every battle. Just the ones that get in the way of that clarity. What a relief to know that while our relationships with family don't have to be beds of adoring roses 24/7, they also don't have to be scorched earth either.

Having said all that... I don't know where these relationships are headed. I only want them to be alive, not dull reruns of past behaviours. I have the power to initiate that every time I engage from that healthy, 'unhooked' space between us. A fluid space that allows me to draw them into a deep embrace and also stand back far enough to see them clearly and not in soft focus.

Acceptance. I just wanted to say it again. I may need to be reminded of it from time to time.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Is it possible to exhale deeply?

Shoal Bay.

Bahamian turqoise water.

Tranquil inlet. Whitewater washing up against distant cliffs.

Too small for development, save for the local pizza shop.

Aussie accents so thick I could have sworn they were actors.

Five minutes away, dunes rise to touch stormy clouds.

Bluebottles lined a nearby beach, much to Victoria's horror.

A horde of teenagers interrupted our lunch in the cafe. They were quiet and polite.

Passionfruit ice cream and caramel milk shakes.

Potato wedges with chili dip and sour cream. Poured all over. I hate sour cream. It usually comes on the side. A deep disappointment.

A pelican, so cavalier, floats by not twenty feet away on crystal water.

Vegemite on toast at the breakfast buffet.

A balmy, insistent breeze greets us on our balcony in the morning, as we drink in that view.

A punt on the pokies at the local club. We're visitors so they allow us in.

Cloudy without rain. We wouldn't have changed a thing.