Sunday, December 19, 2010

And so this is Christmas….

“Where’s all the food?” I lamented to a friend recently. Usually by this time in the festive season I have gained ten pounds, become allergic to the sound of Alvin and the Chipmunks, sworn off any form of artificial lighting, and developed a distinctly “Bah Humbug” attitude towards anything that smacks of Christmas as we know it in the U.S. of A.

“Is it just me or is it not as Christmassy as usual?” I asked another friend.

“It’s just you,” she assured me. Apparently Christmas has befallen us with all its usual paroxysms of joy and obligation, light in the time of dark, and drunken holiness but somehow this year I have managed to miss most of it.

How could this have happened?

A cursory inspection of my life so far this year would indicate that I have been somewhat preoccupied with important matters. Two of the top three stressors, one welcome the other not, have eventuated for me this year.

After much hand wringing and even more clutter cleansing, I managed to sell my old house and move into a wonderful little townhouse, the last room of which I have just finished painting in an almost overwhelming shade of lavender. I spent a lot of time contemplating what needed to be done in my new home, and then doing it. Perhaps I overdid the whole “doing it” thing as I am still in physical therapy for pains in places I didn’t think would be affected by standing on a ladder with paint-brush in hand. Perhaps age is a factor that I really haven’t taken into consideration with the due respect it deserves. I am after all getting to an age where most people wouldn’t dream of climbing on a ladder for any reason. I tend to forget that and act as if I’m still in my thirties. My body knows differently but doesn’t tell me until it’s too late and the damage is done.

My life has been changed this year by the passing of my dear friend and work colleague, Chris Smith. By this time of the year we would have been into all kinds of cookies and preparing for one of at least three annual visits to the Pacific Ocean restaurant for sushi. Chris was a vital young man with a gift for communicating with and motivating the troubled adolescents we tried to push and pull through every school day. His presence was such a huge part of every day that I still have not accepted that he is no longer on this physical plane. I walk into the room we shared every school day. The desk he sat at is still in the same place, set up pretty much the same way he had it, only he is not there. Three different people have occupied that desk since Chris’ passing. I think the most recent one is a keeper.

Yesterday one of our more successful students drew a heart on the white board with “Smith” in large letters underneath. She looked at me and for a moment we stared at each other in disbelief and sorrow. Then she erased it, picked up her books and went to class. That’s really what we’ve all been doing since September, just picking up something and moving out of the room. I haven’t had that luxury. I am pretty much chained to my computer and my large brown folders that hold the confidential tragedies of my students’ lives. My administrators have taken me to task for not being attentive to the small things. In fact they’ve brutalized me.

Grief is not a small thing. For a while it’s just too big to see past or around. Some days it can only be picked at, given a cursory nod and other days it just brings you to your knees.

I remember my grandmother after Uncle Ron died. Uncle Ron had lived just down the only street of their tiny rural town in the deep south of New Zealand. He ran the general store and in those days that meant putting in as many hours as any dairy farmer. Uncle Ron worked hard serving the far-flung community of farmers and his mother. It was a huge blow to her when he decided to retire at the very young age of 46 and move to a small but vigorous community in a warmer climate. But the greater blow was to come. He took a job as a gardener in the botanical gardens and three days into his new and idyllic life he just quietly dropped dead over the top of his shovel.

For a while everyone thought Nana had lost her marbles. She was forgetful and withdrawn. At 75 she still took care of her garden and home with its dozens of plants in the only sunny front window. She traveled the countryside sewing wedding ensembles for blushing brides, and still created fine crochet doilies and her own special cheese and onion crackers. But after Uncle Ron died, it was as if she suddenly became old. One day I found her in our sunny front room at the ironing board staring into space while the iron burned into the tablecloth. Nobody knew what to do about Nana.

Her grief hollowed her out leaving her tough exterior still strong. A year or so later she seemed “better” as if she had slowly recovered from a long illness. She lived another 22 years and it was only in her nineties that she really did lose her marbles and was unable to find them again. She just had to navigate her way through her grief and find some way to pick up her dignity and live on.

I haven’t done that yet. I keep losing things; the most recent is the key to my mailbox. It’s attached to a pretty red dress key ring my friend’s mom brought back with her from China. I have no idea what happened to it. I couldn’t remember writing a Christmas letter last year but apparently I did. I make lists of things I need to do or purchase and lose the lists or just drive by the stores. Paperwork, supposedly important paperwork, sits on my desk at work.

My desk faces what was Chris’ desk. As I ploughed through the paperwork that was all-important, he would take care of what was truly important, then we would laugh or commiserate about it later. He would sneak into the reward cookies then get an attitude about gaining weight. The kids would watch us argue and work together.

“You were like a mom to him,” one of our students said recently. She was right.

Perhaps that’s why I haven’t been able to see Christmas in all its glittery ghastliness this year.

Through the Eye of a Needle

I see them

as the long cold slants

of morning light

brush the sprawling, frost bitten

fields of Morton Mains

I see them

warm agile bodies, separating,

moving into the crisp morning

the heat of their lovemaking translucent

against the stoic farmhouse walls

I see her

tucking rambunctious curls into

a tight knot

her slender, bustling body

secretly carrying the seed of

their fourteenth child

as she bends to raise

a younger, hungry mouth

to her breast

I see him

tall and broad shouldered

fiercely handsome

pulling at the clothes of his long day

over shoulders made strong

from the demands

of loving and living on the soil

I see them

head strong, heart strong

steeped in the bleatings,

the never-ending demands

of the world’s young.

until her ears, her arms, her body, her heart

can bear no more new-borns.

I see the needle

desperately clean and sharp in her hand.

I want to tell her to stop

I want to tell her that this needle will pierce

the hearts of the generations that will come

one after another,

after another,

I want to tell her that one more child

is a smaller burden than

the empty space her absence

will leave in the lives of her children

of her grandchildren,

of her children’s, children’s children

But I know the desperation

all my mother’s have faced

in their longing for a life

lived on their own terms

And I know the courage it takes

to walk

with intention

with mindfulness

towards that life

It requires full-breasted courage

and open-eyed attention

focused and sharp

like the steely-eyed tip of a long needle.

Written after a reading of Sharon Olds I go back to May 1935

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Requiem for a Butterfly

It’s the fourth generation that knows the way

to the Oyamel forests of Mexico

buoyed by instinct, air currents, the sun and

the magnetic poles of the Earth.

It’s the fourth generation

that lives three to four times longer

-- as long as the milkweed lasts

-- as long as the flowers can bloom through

the increasing heat of the summer

-- as long as they can find one another on their journey south.

It’s the fourth generation that bears the weight,

less than one gram,

on golden wings

over 2000 miles.

My friend’s journey was less

than one mile

from the parking lot to his apartment

born by his youth and strong legs

pushing the pedals

of his geared up bicycle

that lay undamaged where it fell

beside his barely bruised body

beside his broken skull

outside his swelling, bleeding brain.

In Indianapolis a gun lying on a table

amidst drugs that pull at the

troubled mind,

-- a gun is raised

by a four year old hand

and fired…..

A three year old sister dies.

Journeys to old age,

to the fourth generation

are interrupted, paused, or abruptly ended

by all five cumbersome ways to kill a man

-- or a woman

-- or a child

the milkweed disappears,

the sun shines too hotly,

too many days in a row

and the nectar for the journey

dries up

before it can reach the mouths of the first generation.

And sometimes it is just the blush of being alive

that kills us.

Somewhere dignity blinks

a child hesitates then steps forward

into the path of a bullet --

A door closes

then opens

then closes

and the world has changed

completely in Indianapolis –

for my friend—

and the sun rises on the

same blue planet.

Somewhere in September some God


and the butterfly,

the giant fourth generation monarch

cascades into my windshield

wings pinned to the wipers flutter

---- helplessly

and shred into the sunlight

leaving a golden smear

of life’s dust.

“all five cumbersome ways to kill a man” is a reference to Edwin Brock’s Five Ways to Kill a Man

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Joy passes. Joy rises in different forms but, like rage, profound sadness, and terror, it passes.

There was the time as a ten year old I wandered from the group on a weeklong field trip. We had stopped at the end point in the road of the Haast Pass. The diaspora of green unfurled its rain forest fronds and drew me to its breast. I fell into it clambering over the river worn smooth rocks of the pristine water feeling its song inside every cell of my being.

Then there was the time when I was 17. Heather and Cheryl and I were hitchhiking as usual, up through the North Island after our summer raspberry-picking gig. We had decided for some reason to head from Wellington around the east coast instead of straight up through the middle. Traffic was sparse. Long empty stretches of road wound up through tree-clad mountains. Forests of pine pricked the cloudless blue skies. An ancient Holden Ute patch-worked in the colors of its past picked us up. There was not enough room in the cab for all of us. I sat in the back open to the clear blue sky that carried wafts of pine scent and the ocean to me. Bouncing around among rusty tools and discolored tarps in the back, I felt completely free and embraced by the world at the same time, held in place with an unshakable love.

And then there was red matched with my determination to have it on the walls of my new home. As the color dripped into the deep base I expressed concern that it did not look at all like the red that I had so carefully chosen from among more than a dozen possibles over the course of two months. The young lady assured me that it was most certainly “Red Obsession.” It was expensive paint even with my professional discount. As I opened the can the next morning, the brightness of it halted my breath. It dribbled miserably over the nondescript beige, catching onto nothing until it fell in great blobs over the white trim. Panic and despair followed the roller as I stubbornly but carefully applied the paint. It set in different hues and intensities, looking more and more like the fruit punch pink my daughter had forbidden me to use.

“Holy shit that’s red”

I attempted to avoid looking into the open 25 by 18 foot room. It meant having my eyes trapped by the red nail polish on my recently pedicured toes. The room looked like the slaughterhouse from a bad nightmare.

I persisted. Completed the first coat and started the second before my body mounted an irresistible protest. Rumpled blankets with wiggles and squiggles of red greeted me the next morning. I completed the second coat with new tools. I set the off white rocker and espresso bookshelf from Big Lots in one corner by the window. It didn’t look so bad. In fact, it looked a lot like I’d hoped. As long as I didn’t look from the nighttime dark through the drapeless windows into the well-lit brightness of the red, it looked pretty damn good. It just might be what I had dreamed of and stepped toward so slowly over many years.

Joy passes. But first, it has to rise and with inscrutable love, unscrew the hinges of the heart.

Photo of fern by Roger Sonneland

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Smile for the Camera

I have discovered yet another example of the American Euphemism. I encountered it at the diagnostic imaging suite at the medical center. It’s the perfect context for minimizing, deflecting, obsequiousness, and Victorian manners. In short, it’s the place where the American Euphemism can thrive. It’s quite possible that it was born in some very similar place where female genitalia needed to be exposed.

It is probably a little known fact that for hundreds of years in so called Western civilization there was not even a name for the most exquisite part of the female genitalia – the clitoris. Long after the detailed exploration and naming of parts of the human form by the ancient Egyptians in the fifth century B.C., men of the medical persuasion in the west still didn’t know of the existence of the clitoris. Religious and moral beliefs and prohibitions prevented male “doctors” from seeing naked women dead or alive, even while they were attempting to birth their children. So, for about 700 years the clitoris remained unknown and unnamed in the west.

Women knew it was there of course.

During the same time period, it was also believed that women were spiritually inferior, that they did not possess souls, as did men. Women knew differently about that too.

It took a movement of women into the workforce, into positions of economic and political power, into places where women were not supposed to go, before it was recognized that perhaps, just maybe, women not only had souls but also the ability to achieve sexual ecstasy. It was a huge shock to the men in the royal courts. All of a sudden being called impotent by a woman could disgrace them.

This was followed by a harsh put down of women. We were supposed to know our place and remain in it and there would be no talk of sexual anything unless it was to titivate manly desire. From there, despite hundreds of years, the feminist revolution, the love fest of the sixties, and the movement of women into places of economic and political power, demure practices from a Victorian era permeate places medicinal.

So it was that I found myself emerging from the bathroom in the sonogram section of diagnostic imaging naked from the waist down with a sheet wrapped around my waist. I was busily knotting it at the side when the radiologist, Michelle, told me to place the opening at the rear. I thought that a little strange but did as I was told. And then I attempted to lie down on the low bed with my feet in the stirrups as instructed. It’s not easy to place yourself on a low bed and insert your feet in stirrups while keeping a sheet with an opening at the rear wrapped around you. In fact it requires some considerable physical gymnastics.

Task accomplished, I lay there as Michelle readied the vaginal ultrasound transducer, a long bright red penile shaped thing that looks for all the world like a dildo for the color blind. The camera in its smooth rounded head would take pictures of my ovaries ad anything that may be attached to them.

“I’m going to give this to you to insert just as you would a tampon.”

It’s years since I inserted a tampon and told her so as I placed the bright red dildo in my vagina. Michelle held it and began to maneuver it so she could get a clear sighting of my ovaries and take all the pictures she needed. The computer whirred and beeped every time she took a photo. With her left hand she reached across and pulled the sheet from where it had dropped exposing my knees and thighs. She pulled it back up over my knees.

I laughed.

“When you’re holding that thing in my vagina, I don’t think you need to cover my knees.”

Michelle laughed. Another American Euphemism exposed by women who know about these things.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Some curveballs are strikeouts. Apparently, in the plethora of statistics kept in the vast memory banks of baseball nuts, the number of strikeouts that are the result of a curve ball is not of interest. I am sure that someone, somewhere is keeping a tally and would be able to reassure me exactly how many strikeouts are the result of a curveball as compared to, say, a fastball. I’ll bet that someone in the coaching staff that has brought the pitching phenom Strasburg to light, someone on that staff knows.

People like predictability. People like to know that there is something in this strange and chaotic world that they can count on to happen or not happen. What is certain is that curveballs happen, just like death and taxes.

The Saturday of Memorial weekend was a hot, sunny day. My friend and work colleague, Chris, was scheduled to DJ a wedding that would take him out of town for most of the day. I knew he would not be happy about it. If it is over 70 degrees, Chris takes his bike to a trail, usually a rails to trails or the C&O canal and bikes furiously for the day knocking out as much as a 100 miles a day by summer’s end. On Memorial weekend Saturday, he took his bike no further than the end of his short street to the parking lot and stadium of a local high school. He plugged in his iPod headphones and set out to bike laps. He wasn’t wearing a helmet –he doesn’t do helmets. We’ve argued about it. He’s stubborn, he’s doing the riding, and he gets to make the choices.

On Saturday afternoon I received a call from Chris’ supervisor. He is employed by a local mental health agency and works in my classroom with the emotionally disabled students we try to get through each school day. The kids love him. Years ago he was christened “The Hulk” in deference to his muscular build and his repeated good natured banter.

“Don’t make me bust my shirt,” was a common plea that often was enough to make a recalcitrant student at least smile.

“Chris has been in a bicycle accident. He’s been life-lined to the shock trauma unit in Baltimore.”

I stood and watched the curve ball approach. I had no idea which way it was going to curve. All I could do was watch it veer right and slam into my body.

“What happened?”

Nobody was really sure but the result was not in doubt. Chris had sustained a fractured skull from taking a fall from his bike directly on the right side of his head as he was leaving the high school parking lot. His brain was swelling, there was a brain bleed, he was non-responsive, doctors were giving his mom very grave messages.

“He may not survive. If he does, they are talking about nursing home care for the rest of his life.”

Rachel is crying. I am standing still, stunned. My mouth is open but words aren’t coming out. Her call is followed by a call from Melissa, Chris’ on and off again girlfriend over the past four years. She repeats the news. She affirms that it is very serious. He will never be the same. He may not survive.

By Sunday morning the doctors are doing emergency surgery to remove part of his skull. His brain has swelled with a rapid and dangerous zeal far sooner than doctors had anticipated. He may not survive the surgery.

Curveballs are flying through the atmosphere. They are all strikeouts.

What do you do when an extraordinary blow fells a vital young person? I cried, I lit a candle, I prayed, I called my principal, I continued with some planned activities.

By Monday his condition was still unstable and critical. I went to the University of Maryland Medical Center in the afternoon after dropping my daughter at the airport. Melissa and Chris’ mom had prepared me for what I would see. Chris was propped upright in his bed, a neck brace keeping his head securely on the pillow. His swollen head was firmly wrapped in a bloodied bandage. A double line of staples secured the skin over his brain where the skull had been removed. A feeding tube was attached to his nose. His mouth sagged open. A ventilator tube forced his lower lip out and down. A snake pit of tubes and wires surrounded him, punctured him, pouring in necessary fluids of life and evacuating the toxins. Machines beeped. Lights flickered a variety of numbers in different colors on a small screen. His bruised eyelids were closed. His swollen naked belly and chest protruded over the lightweight blanket. Chris would have been mortified.

He had intended to spend the summer biking trails, building his DJ business, and maybe getting in some fishing. There was a small possibility of going to Colorado with Melissa but that meant getting on a plane. The Hulk hated to admit it, but he is afraid of flying and has never been on a plane. He loves the scariest rides at amusement parks, has even chided me into getting on a few myself during our annual field trip to Hershey Park, a field trip he raises money for and plugs with the kids at every opportunity. But, he is adamant that a plane ride is more likely to kill him. He may never get to overcome that fear. I may never get to tease him about it again.

When a curve ball is a strike out, those are the kind of things left on the field. Relationships surround the bases, old friends that won’t creep with you into old age, new ones that won’t have a chance to challenge, ripen, or leave. Talents unrealized are out in left field where no one can see them or will even bother to pick them up. Belongings are scattered, bereft and bare with no one to claim them. A group of needy kids waits quietly on the sidelines. Quiet is not their usual stance and they won’t stay quiet for long.

I may have to say goodbye to my friend but it won’t be before I tell him how angry I am that he wouldn’t wear a helmet. Somewhere in the inert, swollen frame of his body, I am sure he is mad as hell at himself too. He was a man willing to admit his mistakes and able to learn from them.

But once that curve ball is a strike out, it’s just too late.

Photo is from

How utterly stupid they are

Posted on April 28th, 2009 in Opinion, pedal power by Julian Edgar

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Crossing the Potomac

I always thought that George Washington crossed the Potomac for some reason or other. Apparently he didn’t. He crossed the Delaware River in the dead of an icy cold December night to attack the British. The myth is that he skipped a silver dollar across the Potomac – even though there were no silver dollars at that time and the chances that he managed to throw one almost a mile from shore to shore is, well, unlikely at best.

This morning I had to find an alternative route across the Potomac. Funded in all likelihood by the Recovery Act, a large crew of workmen has taken up residence on one half of the bridge on Route 81 where it links Maryland and West Virginia. They are obviously setting in for a long campaign of repair and renewal. It is entirely possible that the bridge needs repair. Beginning said repairs the weekend before a large holiday weekend ( Easter and Passover) is about par for course with road crews I suspect,, the world over. The traffic back ups extend for miles along Route 81 as frustrated motorists slam on their brakes and wonder why there was no warning for an alternative route. I think it is due to some kind of subliminal power/revenge thing that is a psychological prerequisite for employment on a road crew.

Normally I wouldn’t care less about the closing of half a bridge between Maryland and West Virginia but these days it has taken on a new importance. West Virginia is now my new home. I finally moved. Someone, God bless her, bought my old house in Chambersburg, PA enabling me to purchase my little townhouse in Falling Waters, WV.

I moved out on one of the coldest evenings of a long, snowbound winter. It was nine o’clock and about minus five degrees by the time my small band of helpers completed the loading of the U-Haul truck. It was another hour by the time I made it to my friend’s house, usually only 10 minutes away. Chambersburg is both blessed and cursed by quaint, old railway overpass bridges that necessitate detours by most trucks approaching 12 feet in height. Through blizzard like conditions with snow whirling across the back roads, I struggled to navigate the U-Haul driving almost blind because the cabin and dashboard lights were dark.

I considered it an almost superhuman feat. The brakes on the truck were making very strange wheezing noises, the road kept disappearing before my night myopic eyes, nothing looked familiar. But, eventually I was seated in my pajamas before the fire eating a large plate of spaghetti while dancers floated and gyrated across the ice of the winter Olympics. It was done; I was out of my house. It snowed again that night; it blew fiercely the next morning as I drove to the first of two closings.

The power of friends to drag one over the finish line of great feats should never be underestimated. My friend’s son drove the U-haul across the Potomac to my new home while I followed in my car and went on to closing number two. It seems fate and the Angels of Mirth decided for a punctuation mark on this less than smooth transition. Part way through the second closing, the lawyer came in and put a telephone on the table.

“It’s for you.” How could it possibly be for me? There was no reason I could think of except for really, really bad ones, why anyone would contact me at the lawyer’s office while I am in the middle of closing on my house.

“Did my buyer change her mind after the papers were signed? Could she do that? Would I have to get a lawyer to fight it? Did I have to drive everything back to Chambersburg and live there forever? Did somebody die?”

As it turned out, the agents at closing number one had made a mistake and a lesser amount of money was wired to closing number two. I would have to write a check for the difference. As fate and maybe the Angels would have it, I had one remaining check that I was saving to pay Joey the flooring guy who I was expecting at six the following morning. My body was beginning to go into adrenaline overdrive for the umpteenth time that week. I wrote the check, the papers were signed, I took the keys and drove to my new home.

It was snowing, again, as the truck was unloaded by yet another band of friends. We managed to find my sheets and comforter and create a bed in the bedroom where I slept amid boxes and chaos that first night. I had crossed the Potomac.

I doubt there will be any portraits painted of the feat. I couldn’t find my camera so there were no photos except for the few I took a couple of days later with my laptop showing the sofa still on its side surrounded by a small mountain range of boxes, blankets, carpets, and stuff I was not sure I owned.

Unlike the painting of George Washington’s feat, I hope the tale will be told with me at least going in the right direction with the correct stalwart friends at my side. I hope no-one will exaggerate the cold, the time, the craziness of each piece as it unfolded – there is no need to exaggerate. It was a great feat accomplished by a small but determined band that contributed to the freedom of one middle-aged, exhausted, and extremely grateful woman.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dunking the Scum Bags

The earthquake in Haiti has given the world in general and Americans in particular the opportunity to reveal their generosity and spirit. In many parts of the world Americans are perceived as self indulgent and uncaring but the truth I have witnessed over and over again is that Americans are willing to step up and help in times of crisis.

Perhaps the current economic crisis that many Americans are enduring makes us all the more aware of what it means to be caught in the midst of tough times not of our own personal making. Research has demonstrated numerous times that the poor are more willing to give a higher percentage of their assets/income than those with the economic advantages of wealth. Americans have deluged collection points with goods, money, and offers of service for the people and nation of Haiti.

Amongst this generosity there is a blight that is, at its lightest impact, an embarrassment to Americans of all beliefs. The comments of Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson defy logic, compassion, and humanity in their perverse and bombastic rhetoric. How do these two continue to maintain hold of such large microphones? Who on earth listens to these two? Who provides financial support to these two?

William Rivers Pitt (see )writes a powerful call for the silencing of these two “scum of the earth.” While I believe in the rights of Limbaugh and Robertson to hold onto their limited and hateful views, I do not think we need to be subjected to them through accident or design – they are offensive at the very least and hate-mongering drivel at their worst. They appeal to the lowest, basest of human character, ignorance and fear. They inspire violence and hateful actions among the fearful and ignorant.

So how do they remain on the air? Who supports them?

Rush Limbaugh came out of the south from a conservative Missouri family. He was in radio by the time he was 16, flunked out of Southeast Missouri State University after two semesters and a summer, fired from a string of radio shows under numerous pseudonyms, he was advised to go into sales as he wouldn’t make it in radio. Then along came President Reagan, the man we have to thank for numerous devastating domestic policies, and he provided the portal opening for the likes of Limbaugh and Robertson to vomit their venom. Reagan repealed the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, which had required that stations provide free air-time for responses to any controversial opinions that were broadcast. This meant stations could broadcast editorial commentary without having to present opposing views. Limbaugh stepped up to and through the hole in the wall Reagan had blasted.

Limbaugh is now reported to be one of the highest paid commentators on the air. He owns the majority holding of his show that airs courtesy of Clear Channel. In 2008 he reportedly earned $33 million and signed a contract extending his show into 2016 for a whopping $400 million. Where does this money come from?

Here’s where it starts to get murky – nowhere near as murky as it does for Pat Robertson, but murky nonetheless. There are sites that have attempted to delve into the sponsors and advertisers that lend their corporate dollars to Limbaugh’s bombast. Many of these corporations deny that they support his views and state that their advertising is merely part of national campaigns. So, maybe we should hold them accountable for their thoughtless and irresponsible ignorance. Some have withdrawn their advertising as a result of public pressure.

Corporations exist to make money. They do not like adverse publicity or the threat of boycott let alone the actual action of boycott. At you will find a surprising number of links to businesses that do not control who links them to particular sites and an equally surprising lack of actual advertisers. The same is true on sites for Pat Robertson or his 700 Club. So who are the advertisers who bring in the bucks that enable contracts worth $400 million? Turns out there is a potentially long list. You can find some of them at including some of those past advertisers who reconsidered their folly. Apparently, and it may come as no shock to those of you who have dipped a toe into the online singles pool, eHarmony is one of the advertisers who contributes to Limbaugh’s wealth. Others vary from General Motors who have trouble enough supporting themselves let alone anyone else, On Star, Smithfield Food Products, Mission Pharmacal, makers of Citracel and Theragesic, and the list goes on and on.

Pat Robertson’s website contains ads for Regent University and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (E.C.F.A.) and Swiss America. The E.C.F.A. has on its board of directors and list of staff a number of people with clear affiliations to the broadcasting industry. Swiss America offers peace of mind after asking, “You do own gold, right?” They have numismatists, coin historians, on their staff and clearly aim their marketing sights at conservative retirees who are scared about their diminishing wealth. Who isn’t scared right now?

Regent University is the brain-child of none other than Pat Robertson. It received a great deal of help from Oral Roberts University, which donated the bulk of the Regent’s law library. They boast that contributors to its law journal include the likes of Justice Clarence Thomas and Bush administration Attorney General, John Ashcroft. More than 150 graduates of Regents were hired by the Bush administration.

There are no other advertisers on the web site. The 700 Club, the mouthpiece for Pat Robertson’s views on the world, is billed as an infomercial. When the Christian Broadcasting Network was sold to the ABC family and Fox network in the late 90’s for a reportedly enormous amount of money, the deal included a supposedly ironclad clause that will have the 700 Club being broadcast in perpetuity. Robertson may seem like the voice of the darkest side of American religiosity but he is not stupid. He has manipulated the placement of a very large megaphone to carry his perverse messages and ensured that it remains on and loud for a long time to come.

Complaints about Robertson’s messages simply slide down the wall he has erected between himself and rational thought, compassionate action, and the hearts of the majority of the American people. He and Limbaugh epitomize the phrase found in Alcoholic’s Anonymous Big Book, “self will run riot.”

Robertson and Limbaugh have found a niche in American culture and established themselves as the alpha dogs on the dark side. Full of hate, bombast, ego, deceit, delusion, and intolerance, they know exactly how to tap into the fears of those who will stand still long enough to listen to them. Unfortunately in America, the number of people who lack the ability for critical thought has blossomed under generations of an education system that strives for mediocrity. And now, the economic catastrophe that has visited this country makes us all afraid. Robertson and Limbaugh’s audiences are listening. So is Comcast. In response to numerous complaints about the 700 Club, they have provided token credit on billing for those complaints.

At this time , we may not be able to wrest the megaphones Robertson and Limbaugh hold from their hands but we can refuse to listen. We may not be able to avoid their messages, but we can use our higher faculties to question and debunk their messages. We cannot unspeak their hateful rhetoric but, as a people, we can make amends to the people of Haiti. We too may be afraid, we may be angry and we can appeal to the better part of our natures and endure these tough times with the same spirit of generosity that pitiful men like Limbaugh and Robertson do not seem fortunate enough to possess.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Sliding into the New Year

“You might have to move straight into assisted living.” It was Harriett’s introductory line to the New Year. It’s just as well I appreciate her sense of humor or I might sink deeper into my state of depressed frustration. Though frustration, as my art teacher used to say, is a sign that we’re just starting to have fun. I would throw him my dirtiest look of disgust in lieu of my sculpting tools. Maybe what I have is deprestation or fruspression because one thing is sure; frustration and depression certainly do not meld well together.

My New Year’s Eve was my usual exercise in solitude with good food and my tarot cards and rune stones. It’s a sign of age or perhaps wisdom that I called most of the people I would want to wish a happy New Year well before the midnight hour. The rest will be called or emailed on this not so auspicious beginning day of 2010.

I was in my red, plaid pajamas and fluffy blue bathrobe by 8:30pm. I reheated left over crab imperial and stuffed flounder from John’s Broiled Seafood Platter from the night before and declared that my reconstitution of it was better than the original. I had some lemon Italian soda to wash it down and a Harry and David’s dark chocolate truffle for afters. These are the good things about my New Year’s Eve.

The fact that I sat surrounded by piles of packing boxes and assorted debris from the past 15 years of my life was the not so good thing. In my world, and I was pretty sure it was not in my imagined world, I was going to move into a new to me townhouse just after Thanksgiving. It didn’t happen. I was not too perturbed, frustrated but not too ruffled, Christmas was coming and it would be the perfect time to move. I would have the whole vacation to move out of one place and into another. Christmas came and went, New Year came and is now yesterday and still I have not moved.

There is a whole cast of characters and back-story to this saga. Gx is the buyer to be. He owns the house next door, which burned down back in May and is now being rebuilt. He and I use the same bank, which shall for a brief moment remain nameless. This bank would not lend him any more money to buy my house so he has a relative, Jy, who is the financial front for his investment. She is somewhat ambivalent about the whole project because the deal has been an on and off affair since the beginning of October. She went walk-about over Christmas and so it became a “what-the-hell-is-going-on?” affair. This is where the depression started to set in.

I know when it is depression because the mess around me starts to grow exponentially, dirty dishes seem to reproduce in the kitchen sink, dust balls sprout legs and wander the house looking for suitable places to develop new towns, I am unable to remember any of the sixty two things I have to do even though I have them written on four lists, and the chocolate stains on the fluffy, blue bathrobe begin to look like a polka dot pattern. A small, dirty grey rain cloud hovers above my head like the proverbial Pig-Pen and I don’t want to contemplate the dark side of the what-ifs like what if this deal falls through and I lose the deal on the house I am buying? Suicide by chocolate and a rusty butter-knife with a Santa handle.

Matt my realtor called several times between Christmas and New Year. It’s a good news, bad news scenario. Jy has been found. She has signed the papers. The extension is good until December 31st. Rick, my mortgage broker, calls. He has been working on a new loan for me. It is going to save me thousands of dollars. The delay is a good thing he assures me. I like Rick but the good news doesn’t feel all that good. I provide him with yet another forest of papers the bank needs me to sign to assure them that I have not taken out new credit, bought a new car or wardrobe of clothes, will not default on my student loans or be late paying them or anyone else ever again, amen. I like Rick, he works hard to save me money and even harder at trying to reassure me that all will be well but even he is not so sure any more when I mention Gx’s name. We both know this is a sketchy sounding deal.

I light my Himalayan salt candle and waft the feel good ions around my face and spotted blue bathrobe. I spread the white muslin cloth line with green beads over the fold away table I purchased after selling my beautiful dining table and chairs. I have cleaned and polished my Lakshmi and Ganesh icons and set them to oversee this New Year’s ritual. Themis is the Goddess card I choose.

“Oh Lord no.” I turn over the Emperor card smack in the middle. He’s pompous and rigid and the second to last card I want to see in my New Year’s throw. At least he is facing right – not quite so bad. I go through the Mother Peace throw and the rune stones. “That’s pretty good,” I muse as I contemplate the Magician and the Moon and the Ace of Wands. Lot’s of energy and indications of movement with just a few stumbles.

The stones are all about movement, new dwelling places, and more movement.

“Could it be this propitious?” Apparently not. The last stone, Othila in reverse cautions me that I must wait for the Universe to act. Didn’t mention Gx but that could be him there in the Emperor’s guise. I’ve been waiting for the Universe to act since putting my house on the market more than a year ago, been waiting for this contract to come to fruition since the beginning of October and now we are in a new year. How much longer will I have to wait?

I am assured that the outcome will be certain but not predictable. Maybe I will go straight into assisted living.