Totally Doable

Did you ever lay in bed late at night, thinking…

And find that you know exactly what to do.
The best course of action is obvious.
And this awareness, deep in your soul feels so fresh and true?
And it’s really not THAT hard.
Right?
Might take some hard work or some significant lifestyle change.
But instinctively you know it’s necessary to make the changes, or take the next step to where you know you want to be.
And-its totally doable-given your unique skill set and abilities.

Right?

Excellent. That’s settled then.

And then you get up the next day and do what needs doing – because it is, after all, what needs doing.
And ya don’t start on that hard work.
And ya don’t have that conversation – the one you know you should have – with your sister, or your lover, or your boss.
And ya don’t make that lifestyle adjustment because there’ll be time for that later.

How many times have you done this?

Act.

Erté and the hippie

As a hippie in 1986 or 1987…

It was just another long grey day in San Francisco. One in a stretch of many.

We had no where we had to be, no one we had to see. The extent of our responsibilities was to get properly stoned.

We could wander down to the Haight and straggle around with the usual bunch, standing on the corner of Haight and Schrader, or go down to the Panhandle to get stoned. We could go for a walk in the Park. That always made for a nice day.

We’d emerge from 2332A Fulton St’s door, cross the busy street, pass the bus stop and plunge into Golden Gate Park. We’d go straight in for a while then start aiming West. A whole day could be enjoyed walking on paths, lounging in meadows, watching geese and tourists, scrambling on or under or around statues and carvings and bridges, eventually reaching the beach if we’d been industrious in our journeying, or popping out whenever we got tired and hopping a bus back to the house.

But today was too grey and misty for a day in the park.

For a lark we decided to go to Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s where all the locals are expected to take their visitors. We’d go tourist watching, maybe get some Ghirardelli chocolates or perhaps some seafood, depending on how indulgently rich we felt ourselves to be at the moment we looked upon the fried crabs.

We were quite stoned and giggling along taking in the sights when it started to downpour. We ducked into the nearest alcove and saw that it was an art gallery. We fluffed our selves up a bit and decided to play curious tourist as opposed to jaded and wet hippies just trying to get out of the weather. It was an actual quick conversation. Do we go in? We knew we weren’t wanted; stoned, disheveled, wet, happy. It’s raining awfully hard.

“I shall be a tourist.” I said as I swung open the door and strode through.

I think I lost my breath for a moment. It was an striking little space, maybe 1,000 square feet, if that. The overall tone was a tad somber, the walls were rich and luxurious, the flooring silent. Rain streamed down the window adding a flickering quality to the elegant ambiance.

But what took my breath away were the statues. Spaced around the room on pedestals and long tables were sinewy women in retro outfits of high society’s yesteryears or the garb of ancient history. Each stood twelve or 15” high and seemed to shine.

From one to the next I moved, transfixed by the subtle details that brought these images to life. The drape of a gathered garment, the bend of a leg, hint of a shoe. Peacocks and leopard women, sirens and goddesses and one I had to imagine was the Statue of Liberty in her alone time. And some of these sensuous beauties were men! The beaded hairpieces, exotic faces, and the colors so vibrant they seared into my stoned brain.

I had just met Erté and I was awestruck.

Nothing was in that room but myself and thirty or so Erté bronzes.

The rain stopped. My companions we eager to be on our way and likely so too was the proprietor ready to see us leave but I felt like I was dragged out of there, nowhere near ready to leave.

There’s been a tiny hole in my soul ever since.

Lazy luxurious hippie days filled my time in San Francisco and though I told myself often to go back again and look, I never did.

I’ve never since been in a place with a real Erté bronze.

Erte-Chinchilla

Uncle David – Veteran

It really pissed me off.

My mother’s brother, youngest of eight siblings, did three tours in Vietnam.

That part didn’t piss me off. I don’t know the circumstances around his decision to enter the military, I don’t even know if he was drafted against his will. But he did his duty to our country and I’ve always respected him for that.

When I was a stoned teenager I enjoyed listening to his stories of sitting in jungle trees, high on acid, watching the tracer bullets.

And all of my life I enjoyed his perspectives and his unique sense of humor.

What pissed me off was in 2002 on a random visit to his VA doctor, when the doctor said to my Uncle David “We’ll I’ll be damned! You’ve got that same tumor the rest of your company got. And it’s as big as a grapefruit.”

Really US Veterans Affairs, REALLY?

If the whole rest of his company got “the same tumor” why weren’t you monitoring him for it? Watching him closely for signs??? Then maybe you could have gotten it when it was the size of a pea, or if that’s too much to ask of modern medicine, the size of a golf ball at least. Not a fucking grapefruit.

My Uncle died on Christmas Eve 2003.

Uncle David

Boy can Uncle Same make corpses

Boy can Uncle Same make orphans

Boy can Uncle Same make Wi-ih-dooooes,,,,

Easy as toast

Bah dah dah daaaaaaaah

~~~~~~~~~ Tuli Kupferberg, Ed Sanders (The Fugs)

Could She Be A Hero?

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For reasons I can’t explain I’m drawn to books about the old south.

When I was a kid I generally picked my reading material solely based on the heft of the book. I disliked books that ended too quickly. I’m not sure how I found my way to Gone With the Wind, but I’m sure it’s size had something to do with it. I must have been somewhere around 11 or 12 the first time I read it.

I truly loved the book. So much so that I read it 4 or 5 times before I was 20. And I’ve read it 4 or 5 times since.

As a diary enthusiast I’ve read diaries from a number of various persons involved in the conflicts of the 1860s – from slaves who could write, to ladies of various plantations, to soldiers from both sides.

But it wasn’t until I took a class with Cecilia Miller at Wesleyan University that I’d ever gotten around to reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, (though I’d always wanted to.)

Published in 1852, still more than a decade before the Civil War, it gives some perspectives on slavery that many Americans of the time went to great lengths not to see or think about.

The novel begins at the Shelby’s plantation in K’ntuck, where we meet some of the slaves, and learn that Mr. Shelby has gotten himself into debt and even though he is a kind master, he must sell some of his slaves. So he sells Tom and a little boy named Harry. The deal in the planning stage, is overheard by Eliza, Harry’s mother and that night she runs. She and her husband are lucky enough to find each other along the Underground Railroad and they eventually make it to freedom in Canada. Hers is a gripping tale. Tom takes his fate much more stoically and travels down river with the Trader and is eventually bought by Augustine St. Claire as a sort of indulgence for his daughter Eva – a very spiritual child. When Eva dies, Tom is promised his freedom because of what an upstanding man he is and how much Eva loved him. But when St Clair unexpectedly dies too, Tom is sold again to an awful brutish man who dislikes Tom’s morality and eventually, Legree and his men beat Tom to death.

The characterization in the novel is exemplary and I loved it at the same level that I love Gone With the Wind.

Lately I’ve struggled with the idea of heroes and why I declare mine as I do. And I wonder why there are no women in my battalion of heroes. In my mind I’ve been wondering if I have any female heroes. In an effort to see if Stowe could be one, I visited the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Hartford Connecticut last weekend.

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It was a fine early fall day, sunny and bright.

I wandered through the visitor center waiting for the house tour to begin.

For sale in the museum store were a great number of contemporary books on social justice as well as kitschy writing implements, and numerous items with quotes – buttons and mugs and such.

In the learning center I enjoyed the display of book covers from around the world, showing the many languages the book was translated into.

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There was a large bulletin board inviting visitors to say “Who is Uncle Tom to you?” I was both miffed and intrigued by the competing opinions that Obama is Uncle Tom and Obama is not Uncle Tom. Hmmmm.

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Harriet was from a large and somewhat famous family of outspoken individuals. Her father and brothers, mostly pastors. Her sisters, all writers. But she outshone them all when she published Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

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Her Husband Calvin Stowe convinced her to publish under her own name so there might be more impact if the public knew this came from a real person, and a woman at that.

Publication skyrocketed her to stardom, making her, at the time, much more famous than her neighbor Samuel Clemens.

The house tour was as interesting as an historical house tour can be. Not a very ostentatious home; a couple of parlours, a modest kitchen, and 3 bedrooms upstairs. No photos allowed inside.

James was an excellent guide on my tour, with insightful stories about the timing of various events, family life, her children – especially two twin daughters who acted as her managers and never married, and a son who drowned in the CT River at the age of nineteen.

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He also gave an interesting perspective when he told us that Harriet was not modest. She was most likely to brush her fingernails upon her lapel and say “Yes, I wrote that, and I’ve gotten quite rich from it.”

The Stowes traveled widely on her earnings, and Calvin was able to leave his teaching position.

While it is debatable whether or not Abraham Lincoln, when he and Stowe met, actually said the exact words pictured at the top of this page, it is certain that her novel made it much easier for the north to embrace the Civil War.

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A great novel. A well preserved historic home. But not my hero.