Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Desire for Desires

Last week I was bored with my own problems and most of the noise in my head and I blogged only once. People are shy about commenting directly on the blog although I get responses to it via e-mail and in person from a number of faithful readers. The largest response I have ever gotten to this blog, however, was from the act of NOT blogging. I received calls and e-mails of concern about my well being and it was nice to be reminded that what I do here matters to people who matter to me.

Yesterday was one of those days when Himself was asleep when I left in the morning and I was asleep when he returned home. We both work hard, spend too much time and money getting where we need to go and have too little time together. I have always been one of the greatest boosters of Los Angeles and Himself and I are both natives, rare among our friends. But I am sick of traffic and lousy schools and the truth that shocks me, is that if it weren’t for aging parents who depend on us, Casamurphy would pack it in and blow this town. It is sad to say that I no longer want to live where I live.

There was a column in the Times this weekend by Sandy Banks. She decided to try medical marijuana for an arthritic condition. I have, per the recommendation of a number of medical professionals I trust and respect, had a prescription for medical marijuana for the past two years. It is more healthful to ingest marijuana orally than to smoke it. I have been unable to find reliable edibles here in Los Angeles. I visited San Francisco in January and stocked up. I am out now. I have been unable to locate anything suitable here and at this moment in time, I have decided it isn’t worth the hassle and humiliation of flying up north or the risk of ingesting a locally available product that is too strong. For the first time since my pregnancies, I am taking only vitamins. This isn’t like the big torturous week of swearing off that I documented here last year. At the moment, it’s not that big a deal but if I need to fly north tomorrow to stock up on brownies, it won’t be a crushing defeat, just a pain in the butt. Marijuana is one of a number of tools that I have used to cope, and I have coped pretty well and with lots of shit, for the past two years. Today, I am ok without it.

The Times columnist got her medical certification and then purchased marijuana from a clinic but she fell into a paranoid panic, grandiosely thinking the Feds would come pounding on her door, before she even smoked. She made her editor witness the flushing of her prescription marijuana down the toilet. What’s amazing to me is, especially with the cuts at the Times, is that after witnessing this ridiculous display, the editor lets this silly woman continue to write for the paper.

An old hippie friend visited this weekend and inquired about my medical marijuana prescription. She is a long time user and now has a condition that causes chronic pain. Her medical records would certainly qualify her for a prescription yet for some reason, buying marijuana illegally makes her less paranoid than obtaining it from a clinic.

I don’t give a rat’s ass about people using marijuana recreationally. With very few exceptions, most of the clinics I have visited cater and market to recreational users, i.e. the adipose Russian clinician in the sweat suit with thick gold chains hanging on his hairy chest, who responded when I inquired about a product, “Yeah man. This’ll get you real fucked up.” Let the recreational users get what they want and tax it, but don’t let them bollocks things up for the folks with legitimate medical need.

I have used medical marijuana because it has been more effective for me than anti-depressants and prescription painkillers. I used a tincture, 6 drops of which was reliable and effective, for many months but it is no longer available and I switched to edibles. Edibles are difficult to find in Los Angeles and the ones that are available are wildly expensive and tend not to provide a consistent dose. Most are sweet items—baked goods and candy, and I suspect that because these are tempting to children, L.A. clinic owners feel it makes them more vulnerable to law enforcement and legitimate clinics, which do serve a medical clientele, tend not to carry them.

It is better to be able to go to a clinic than to score pot off the street. A lot of the clinic owners are greedy pigs and perhaps will be dealt with accordingly but to eschew marijuana as a legitimate form of pain relief or to purchase it on the street out of paranoia that the government will use Gestapo measures against individual patients, is ludicrous. There are a few clinic owners who are serious about marijuana as a medical alternative and support important research but I don’t want to go to a designated clinic for my friggin’ marijuana and I don’t want to smoke it or eat sweet crap either. All of this hubbub and stupidity has caused a fuck of a lot of suffering. Most physicians and pharmacists respect the potential legitimate medical benefits of marijuana. The clinic situation and the wink wink nod nod pandering to recreational users completely illegitimates medical marijuana. I want to be able to discuss my dosage with experienced clinicians. I want a regulated dose. I want to pick it up from the Rite Aid. I want to take it in liquid or pill form (the only legal capsule form of marijuana “Marinol” is widely known to be ineffective) like any other prescription medication. If even a tenth of the resources that went into the criminalization of marijuana went into research and the mainstreaming of the drug as a legitimate prescription medication it would alleviate a lot of suffering.

I am bored with clinics. I am bored with flying up to San Francisco and trying to convince a clinic manager that the fifty brownies I am purchasing are going into my freezer for personal use and are not to be sold at some playground. I am bored with peoples’ dogged stupidity about the issue.

I am weirdly not stressed about whether to brownie or not to brownie. The schools here will still suck. The oil companies are showing record profits and gas will probably be five bucks a gallon by the end of summer and I am stuck here and will continue to spend an inordinate amount of time on the freeway. Brownie or no brownie I will continue to write here and wish I had more time with my beloved and cultivate what Tolstoy called the opposite of boredom, “the desire for desires”. No matter what tomorrow brings, I’ll grope around for the sweet grace that lets me feel love in a world full of boring and stupid things.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Enough. Remember This and the Exodus

There was a shank bone on our Seder plate this year but it may be the last one. Vegetarian Jews use a bloody red beet instead but maybe next year at Casamurphy, a pale turnip will suffice. My body has surprised me and apparently is waging a fight against aging and for the full moon of Purim and then again, the Pesach full moon I have been surprised and weakened and shed blood that I thought I would never shed again. I’ve postponed the croning ceremony and have examined my Egypt and prayed for the strength to overcome that which hobbles and enslaves me, but the Red Sea has not parted magically for me. My heart is full and yes, it is fuller than it was before we sat for Seder, I struggle still to remain undaunted.

Spud’s carpool was taken to an Italian bakery which showcased his favorite ├ęclairs and creampuffs. We have loosened up on Passover a little bit each year since we began observing it in earnest, some twenty years ago. Even the Orthodox have removed corn and rice from the list of forbidden foods. I used to scrub and remove every bit of chametz from the premises. This year, our panty is largely untouched and filled with cereal and pasta and crackers which I simply chose not to eat. I took the kids for Mexican food and we ate only corn tortillas and not flour but I have not commanded them what to eat and what not to eat. They are old enough to choose what is meaningful for them. Spuds was hungry and he loves creamy baked goods but he refused and watched the other kids chowing down in the van on the long ride home. Even if his allowance money is being funneled into the McCain campaign he is a good boy and proud of who he is and I am proud of him.

Am not sure what the fifteen year old is eating when he is out in the world but there’s lots eating him. His relationship with the surfin' rabbi Spanish teacher remains provocative and again, I was summoned to school for a conference, during which, his mom’s boy, the fifteen year old uttered “fuck” a number of times. The fifteen year old is a pain in the ass and I do believe he could do better and I told him that he would have to suck it up and within the course of the same five minutes I felt like scooping him up and comforting him like I did when he was a baby and like slapping him around and giving him a royal thrashing. I called his old school and begged them to consider readmission and was reminded that he had been quite unhappy there. I responded that the new school had changed his definition of unhappy. The public school system is a nightmare. Having a fifteen year old is a nightmare. But, perhaps, being fifteen years old is the biggest nightmare of all. The fifteen year old's Egypt is vast and bleak and terrifying. I am beside him while he cries and screams and rages but it is a scary and a frustrating place to be.

I have focused less this Passover on what I am not eating but instead on sifting through the crap in my head towards cherishing the wisdom and inspiration and recognizing the bullshit for what it is and letting it go. A great gift, from Father Boyle, via my beloved Bob, was the reminder that what I am is enough, which would make a great tattoo, for which my ass certainly has ample surface space.

The dust is thick at Casamurphy. I would rather throw out the first pitch at Chavez Ravine stark naked then have another soul see our garage. Or my husband’s underwear drawer. He screamed at me for masticating almonds in bed. I imagine that when he drives my car he removes the CD before he turns the key in the ignition, lest he hear even a note of the music that gives me so much pleasure. There is a medical diagnosis of a sensory integration disorder. I used to just think he was just an asshole and sometimes I still do, but while the house crumbles around us and we have an infinite capacity to irritate each other, we take a nap on Shabbat. We even curled up together the afternoon before our little Seder. There was much to do in the kitchen but I was weak and weary. He held my hand. I fell asleep. I woke, perhaps an hour later, and his hand still held mine firmly. The Red Sea will not part but I awoke in my bed on Shabbat and I felt God’s love. May all who are weary find this comfort. Happy Pesach and Shabbat Shalom.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On the Red Sea with the Surfin' Rabbi

I lived over the Benton Way offramp of the 101 and spitting distance from the Rampart Division Police station in an apartment on Occidental Blvd. for a number of years during my late twenties. I was teaching and working at Budget and spending time with Kaz and Bob and Richard. We saw a lot of movies and concerts and appreciated the novelties of cable t.v. and videotapes. This was the apartment where I heard REM and the Replacements for the first time and I remember vividly the delicious revelation. The first time Bob came over I fed him a big slab of turkey meatloaf and a baguette with Grey Poupon and told him it was pate which he believed. I did practically no dating during this time and there was genial time well spent and loneliness too. I had lived for a number of years with a boyfriend and this was my first foray into single adulthood.

I was lying in bed alone one night when I heard the big glass window shatter in the living room below. I couldn’t tell whether the screaming smashers were inside the house or not. I called the police and the line was busy. I called my dad. He was there, from Beverly Hills, in twenty minutes and he made sure I was safe and boarded up my window until the landlord could fix it. I remember too, a number of times that my mother defended me, usually by writing what she called “a stiff letter.” My mother was fueled very much by grudging and paranoia but she did love me and put energy into righting what she (alas, too frequently) perceived as injustice.

There was a command performance at the fifteen year old’s school with the surfin’ rabbi, who is also the fifth Spanish teacher to be employed there since it began, newly chartered, in September. An aside here, and perhaps Kaz can verify or refute, but I believe that I read somewhere that Spanish teachers suffer diminished mental health more frequently and with greater severity than educators of any other subject. Our face to face meeting with the surfin’ rabbi, confirmed what I suspected from our phone conversation. The surfin’ rabbi is wound very tightly and this is pretty much the observation with which I began our meeting. This is not to say that the fifteen year old is exonerated. He is, I am sure, guilty of snarky comments and eye rolling and chronic fidgeting. The fifteen year old is fifteen years old. We should not have been summoned to school for a showdown to discuss these endemic annoyances, which a professional teacher could have allayed with much less drastic measures. ESPECIALLY WITH GAS AT $4.00 A GALLON. (I am becoming my parents.) I felt myself in fierce mother mode and quite self righteous to have defended my firstborn and imparted to him the message that even though you screwed up, these repercussions are unfair and I will defend and protect you.

I have no parent to defend and protect me anymore. I thought I was an adult but recently I find myself very much at sea and doubting my navigational abilities. I lay this, and so much more, at the feet of my beloved and overwhelmed him. We both pray for less potential overwhelmingness in our lives and for the strength to survive the inevitable overwhelmingness that there is.

Passover begins on Saturday and seems bloody and vengeful and labor intensive this year. The Jews trusted in Moses to defend and protect them but the whole lot bought into the notion of a God who stilled the beating hearts of innocent first born sons, ignoring the keening of their innocent mothers. Is this the God I want to friggin’ lead me out of Egypt?

I look each year this time at my personal Egypt, which this year has to do with being parentless and scared in the world. Himself points out that I have a circle of stalwart employees and friends and family and even trained professionals, in addition to the milder God, who, as a mother, I hold close in my heart. The Red Sea will not part like it did for Charleton Heston but somehow, we will tread waves and swim and ride with the current and spew water from our near drowning lungs. There is no Moses or rabbi, surfin’ or otherwise, to shepherd me across. I am anyone’s child only in memory but I am a fierce mother of children conceived in my love for my beloved and his love for me and this sustains me, and again and again, will keep me from falling astray and it will lead me out of Egypt.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Flat Affect and the Crushed Rat's Brain

Exactly a year ago my dad and I were transacting, what I had no idea would be his last, big film deal. We were both very happy. I have been transacting all the deals since and on Friday I felt the real weight of this and beaten and humiliated and failed and too weary even to cry. I turned to my beloved. He turned away. Our conversations this weekend were terse and related only to household management and the bed grew huge and mocking. Monday now and with Saturday bootcamp cancelled, I have not communicated by phone or e-mail or voice with another living soul except my children and my mother (tantamount to Rover) and in brief commercial interactions, since leaving the office on Friday.

I shopped and cooked and Dodgered and laundried and drove kids and sat alone reading on my bed. I felt no anger. I went through the motions of showing love to my children but they sensed the hollowness of this. I tried to force tears, thinking that transitioning from numb to sad would put me closer back to feeling love, loved, but was only able to muster a stray hollow sob. I thought perhaps that if Himself would reach me across the bed for me, I might feel something, but we stayed apart.

Several weeks ago our cat Gary came in through the balcony in the middle of the night mewling high pitched, urgent, melodic, ecstatic. He jumped on me, kneading and I pushed him to the floor where I heard the unmistakable crunching of something bonelike under my nightstand. I sprang out of bed and screamed and ran downstairs. I have tried to commonsense myself about my fear of rodents but I have a visceral emotional reaction and it has defied all of my efforts to rein it in. Himself grumpily removed the offending rodent corpse but I slept fitfully. I discovered in the morning that my side of the comforter was stained with blood.

Last night, as I struggled to feel or to sleep Gary entered singing that distinctive “I got a rat and I’m going to drop it on your head” song. The crunching of the vertebrae next to my ear and the blood spattered quilt where I had lain beneath a dead rat came back to me and I screamed. And I felt. There was no rat though but I threw him off the bed anyway. As I left this morning my husband spoke and asked that I not harden my heart against him. My heart is not hard. It was numb and now it is just scared.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Movies Are My Life

Richard I remembered a time when we would often see half a dozen films in the course of a week. I had lots more disposable income and time back in the day. I think too that there were more films to see and that I was less fussy. I found myself for the first time at the Echo Park Film Center which reminded me of the little revival joints and weird films, some boring and some life changing, of days bygone. I attended an event, a tongue and cheek tribute to the occult and in honor of the 150th anniversary of the spiritualist Fox sisters’ first paranormal experience. It had been a long time since I’d seen a program of experimental films. For a number of films on the program, I felt grateful that experimental filmmakers are largely under funded and relegated therefore to making short films. Historically, avant-garde films have left me scratching my head, unsure whether I am completely dense or if the filmmaker is a silly pretentious twit. This night was no exception except a very rare film from the early 1920s that I had never seen or heard of was shown. The film was Soul of Cypress and was filmed as a triptych. The natural assumption would be that the filmmaker was inspired by Abel Gance’s three screen Napoleon but that film was shown in the U.S. in a single screen version only until it was restored in the 1970. Unless the filmmaker visited abroad, this lovely triptych story of a man and the fairy/demons that hover over him throughout the stages of his life, was most likely inspired by religious art.

I admit bias here because not only does the filmmaker make the best coffee in the universe, he also works for Budget. My very favorite part of the night was duel projector extravaganza created by John Cannizzaro. John used two projectors (and bah humbug to ye that wax to me about state of the art video projection and HD and crap. Feh! I say. Feh!) Everyone knows there is nothing more exquisite than film projected through a xenon lens onto a screen in a dark room. Except John, who actually projected two different films from two different projectors onto the same screen which is certainly avant-garde and experimental but in this case, also, poignant and provocative and enormously satisfying. There was a juxtaposition of Haitian voodoo dancers with 1970s self help psychobabble that waxed particularly eloquent and I even patted him on the back before I screamed at him to get the fucking coffee brewing.

I had another revelatory film experience when I watched a videotape of the stunning documentary, Crazy Love, for which Budget provided a lot of footage. Crazy Love is the story of Burt and Linda Pugach and is set among upwardly mobile, morally corrupt Jews in New York. Many of the characters reminded me of my family and people I met while growing up, except for the part where jealous Burt has acid flung at his girlfriend Linda’s face and blinds her. But, after his stint in prison, they marry. Even knowing the story before watching, the film was not at all what I expected and the voices felt strangely familiar. The film was a wonderful and less cynical than you’d think, a meditation on grandiosity and humility and retribution and forgiveness. And crazy love.

I dragged the Kaz out of the valley to a screening at the AFI of a film trilogy entitled Bloodtime, Moontime, Dreamtime for which I provided stock footage. I have an affectionate relationship with the filmmaker, a wonderful and deeply strange visionary who created this epic and the screening left me very impressed with her editing skills and her eye. The film was very beautiful. It was a poetic documentary, primarily about a group of women who disavow patriarchal culture and create their own art and rituals from a more feminist perspective and focused on woman’s blood, which is worshipped as a life force. I get this. Some of what is fucked up about me has to do with being a woman in a society with a lot of stupid rules and conventions and expectations largely generated by people with dicks.

The film addressed the subject of menstruation a lot. There was a shot of a woman’s feet in a shower with blood dripping between them and another of hands scrubbing bloody panties in a tin pail that were repeated a number of times. I guess it is a bummer to be ashamed of our own menstrual blood. The film showed dancing girls in floral wreaths and flowing dresses celebrating a first menstruation and fathers talking about how they marked this landmark in their young daughters’ lives. Maybe I’m more fucked up than I think I am and maybe the whole core of what is wrong with me and what I really should be crying to Leslie about, is my visceral shame at my own blood but I don’t think so and I found the panty scrubbing and the daddys waxing poetic about their daughter’s menarche icky and embarrassing.

These are earnest women. I understand what it is to be broken and battered and to seek comfort. I am weary of living in shame and truly I begrudge no one her path towards light. I am an asshole to judge that these women with their rituals and their art and their tie dyed capes and big ugly bracelets are silly but the Kaz and I snorted a few times, like when the fulsome naked lady covered her body with tempera and threw herself on the floor. There were doll making and self created prayer rituals and croning ceremonies and writing workshops, all of which were designed to bolster the participants’ sense of wholeness and oneness with the feminine spirit. The Kaz, at least being open minded about the healing value of these practices, groused, “Who the fuck has time for that?”

The one ritual, which oddly seemed sort of out of place thematically with the rest of the film, was conceived by a woman my age, who refused a croning ceremony and instead threw herself a wedding, with all the trimmings, to a big cardboard cutout groom from a novelty shop. This co-opting of a ritual from patriarchal culture to suit her own purpose was ironic and sweet and of all the ceremonies and rituals and creations featured in the film, seemed the most real.

The Kaz and I aren’t going to get nekkid in wet paint or dance on the beach in red capes but if we thought it would be a balm for the terror that grows greater, as the time we have to undo the pain of the past and to live in grace, becomes inevitably shorter, we would howl at the friggin’ moon.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Chavez Ravine and the U.S. of A. Spring 2008

As the great American pastime, baseball events often conjure a sort of rabid jingoism that makes me squirm. Lately, as I see that America has descended into being a bombastic third rate power, I just don’t feel very patriotic. In 1976 I was proudly in London (where, yes Julia, I saw Tir Na Nog instead of the Sex Pistols) but I quietly snuck dowstairs to watch the bicentennial ceremonies on a tiny telly in the parlor of a Fulham Road flat. In London in 1976 and for a long time after, I secretly felt that even though I was often embarrassed by what transpired here, and what we made transpire abroad, America was the greatest country in the world. I don’t remember the specific moment that I stopped believing that, it occurred subtly and perniciously and not from watching a Michael Moore movie.

Spuds watches many sports avidly but baseball is the only one that captures any of my interest. Basketball is fast and football has that brutal smack smack smack. Basketball players are really tall. Football players are really big. These sports are about bodies. There is no physical type for a baseball player and players are thick and thin and short and tall. Baseball, to me, seems more than any other sport, about people. We follow our players avidly, worrying that Nomar might be tired because his new twins are keeping him awake and both tearing up when catcher Russell Martin’s street performer dad opened a game playing the national anthem on his saxophone.

We were lucky to obtain some tickets to the historic spring training exhibition game between the Red Sox and the Dodgers at the L.A. Coliseum, where the Dodgers, newly transplanted from Brooklyn, first played fifty years ago while Chavez Ravine was being completed. It took me several days to get through on the phone line to reserve a spot on the shuttle from Dodger Stadium to the Coliseum and I left our name and stated we’d be arriving at the Stadium at 5:30. There were thousands of people in line when we arrived. The Coca Cola Company was giving samples of Full Throttle, a new power drink and the parking lot was a sea of abandoned cans and girls in shorts and Full Throttle t-shirts picked up discarded cans and dumped the sweet liquid into puddles for the line waiters to trudge through. After two and half hours in line, the game had started and we were nowhere near getting on a shuttle. I thought about waiting again for the bus after the game, and Spuds and I, exhausted, and in tears, went home to watch the game on television.

Spuds, previously has been treated well by the Dodgers. He is welcomed in the main office when he goes to pick out his tickets and the Dodgers he tends to gravitate towards like Nomar and Russell, seem to be genuinely nice guys. The rah rah rah American thing, and the vulgar drunks who slobber over us in the stands, get on my nerves but my little republican is nonplused. Spuds is no fool. He knows how hard his dad and I work to earn the money for his tickets and is as sick as I am at the prices for the mediocre concessions food and parking and the tickets themselves. He tolerates this because he knows that first and foremost, the team is a for profit venture and he admires capitalism. He doesn’t begrudge them their profit as long as he is entertained but missing a game due to the stupid, insensitive mismanagement of the shuttle service broke his heart a bit, and is a notable catalyst for diminishing his belief.

Opening day is the best day of the season, and yesterday, we swept the ineffectual Giants 5-0. It was more fun creaming them when Barry Bonds was on the team but we won and hope springs eternal on opening day. For the ceremony, which marked not only the first official game of the year, but the Dodgers 50th anniversary in Los Angeles, where they have now played more games than they did in Brooklyn, they trotted out old players including Duke Snider and Maury Wills to an endless loop (those oldtimers move kind of slowly) of the insipid Field of Dreams music. Even Sandy Koufax put in an appearance. Sandy was cool, in a sport coat and shades, the only ex-Dodger to eschew his old uniform. Fernando Valenzuela actually appeared in a suit as well but it was presumed this was to fulfill his broadcaster obligations upstairs in the press box, although we noticed that announcer Rick Monday had his old uniform on over his shirt. It felt with Koufax, and perhaps a bit with Valenzuela too, perhaps some statement of being too good to be equalized by the great equalizer that is a uniform.

Spuds was disillusioned by his beloved Dodgers when he missed a game after waiting in line for hours on a chilly evening. Somewhere along the line I stopped being secretly proud of and comforted by being an American. But we shut out the Giants on opening day and at this moment, even the World Series seems like a possibility. In August, it will be determined whether the first first for this country will be a female or a Black candidate for the presidency and I love and support with all my heart whatever candidate could actually win. I wonder what the Dodgers will make of the season that began with such a propitious opening day and if Spuds sour taste from the shuttle mess will sweeten. I wonder if in November I might be restored to pride in this country that more and more has caused me sadness and shame. We have reason to doubt but I am trying to believe in the newness and fresh hope that comes in the spring.