Jan 19 2019

Animal Rights: on being Anonymous and Voiceless

IMG_9395I was drawn to Anonymous for the Voiceless (AV) because their approach to animal rights/veganism/abolitionism is thoughtful, direct, and based in truth. In public spaces, they form a “Cube of Truth,” where masked individuals (the Anonymous) hold monitors displaying rarely seen (due to “ag gag” laws) video footage of the daily reality of the animals (the Voiceless) forcibly bred into the agriculture industry, so that humans may consume their eggs, milk, corpses, etc. And since we’re being truthful, the Guy Fawkes-inspired masks are damn cool.

The AV message is not one of all meat-eaters and leather-wearers are evil. Rather, passersby have the choice whether or not to pause and witness the truth of the institutionalized, government-subsidized cruelty that is a regular part of their diet –which is something I never considered (or rather, chose not to consider) for the first 50+ years of my life. I too once loved the smell of bacon.

The young ones don't appear to like what they see. And that's a good thing.

The young ones don’t appear to like what they see. And that’s a good thing.

During the demonstration, there are non-anonymous outreach members of Anonymous for the Voiceless whose role it is to answer questions and provide information to audience members who display interest. I was initially on outreach detail, as I’m comfortable speaking to strangers and am knowledgeable on the topic of animal rights. I suspect my efforts impacted one woman today, while adding a new word to her vocabulary, maceration (as it pertains to her usual breakfast).

IMG_9400Eventually I donned my mask and entered the cube, where one does not engage. Being anonymous is a wee titillating — as evidenced everyday by the myriad of internet trolls who (consequence-free) unleash their vitriol on whatever headline pops up on their preferred news source. I was prepared to experience actual consequences for being anonymous in the real world. I might have been spat upon. I might have been yelled at. Neither of those happened.

Most people – thankfully not all, but most – averted their gaze, walking right past us. Some would briefly glance and look away, clearly uncomfortable. It’s eerie, watching someone when you’re just feet away, STARING RIGHT AT THEM – and they can’t see your face. And that was when the Truth became real to me: the truth of being Voiceless.

I was standing next to video images of actual torture, some of which met humane standards set forth by the government (standards which are often not enforced). I wasn’t just anonymous in the mask; I was also voiceless in the cube. Just like those animals, experiencing humans averting their gaze from the cruelty that we inflict upon them, cruelty we justify in so many ways: It’s part of my religion, it’s part of my culture, it’s in my family, it’s in my blood. It was then, as I experienced people choosing to ignore the truth, that I got an actual feel for what it must be like for one of those animals on the receiving end of our inhumanity.

For the first time in a long time, I cried hard, behind my damn cool mask.

Sep 8 2018

In Praise of Men

I spent a recent weekend with my friends Dante, Daniella, and their daughter at their cabin on the Russian River, along with two couples. Sunday morning, Dante invited Gene, the only other man in the group, to go outside and split logs and drink moonshine (out of jar, naturally).


I jumped on that. “I want to split logs and drink moonshine!”


So the three of us went outside and did just that and it was the best Sunday I’ve had in years. I felt like a kid. A happy, free kid.


I have two older brothers. When I was a kid, I figured out very early on that life was unfair and that boys had much more freedom than girls. Still, I did the best I could to work within that system: as long as was with my brothers, which meant doing whatever they were doing, I could be out in the world. And they being hockey players, there were constantly hockey players around. So I did a lot of guy stuff, surrounded by a lot of guys.


And it wasn’t until I swang that ax and drank that moonshine with Dante and Gene that I realized how much I miss having masculine energy around me. All right, I’ll say it: Men. I miss men. I love my female friends and the time spent with them. But the past few years there’s a bit of imbalance in my life, a bit heavy on the feminine. Not by any deliberate choice or design. But it’s going to take deliberate action to change that.

I'm on the left.

I’m on the left.

Jun 23 2018

News Roundup: Suicide, Koko, and Us

Mental health and depression are in the news. Again. These stories are often triggered by the latest story of a mass shooter. Most recently, it was the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, just days apart.

Labelling depression and suicide as “diseases” implies that the problem lies WITHIN each individual. I see it more as a reaction, a side effect, of our toxic society, which spotlights petty hostilities and greenlights behaviors and policies that marginalizing the weakest links — rather than strengthening them. I’m not just talking about the government. Every nasty comment someone makes on social media about someone else impact every reader.

I don’t suffer depression. Still, I, on an increasingly frequent basis, look at what’s become of the US, and how humans across the world value wealth over health — of the planet, of poor people’s lives, of animals lives, of oceans, of forests — and think, I don’t want to be here anymore. It hurts to witness this destruction. I feel utterly powerless and hopeless and helpless.

Add to that the passing of one of the pure, true lights of this lifetime: Koko. Koko the gorilla taught us that gorillas, like humans, are capable of self-awareness, love, empathy, humor, and communication. Unlike us, they harbor no memory of ancestral/racial/motherland grudge.

Gorillas are CRITICALLY ENDANGERED for a number of reasons. Among them, hunting for the bushmeat trade. MEAT. Humans cannibalize one of their closest DNA relatives. Humans sever gorilla body parts for trophies. And yet humans use the term “animal” as a pejorative. When people commit heinous acts of violence — like cutting off another human’s hand —  we call them “animal.” That is confused. That is wrong. THAT is human.

Maybe the powerless, hopeless and helpless I suffer at an entropic rate is the price I pay for wanting to be informed. I could have ignored stories about the cruelty in the agriculture industry; the poaching of wildlife; the suffering of animals because of our obsession with plastic (and how it’s clogging the ocean); the fact the people in Flint, MI still don’t have clean drinking water, while Nestle is sourcing it’s water to sell (in plastic bottles) from the same region; the fact that public education in this country is in the toilet. I could ignore the fact that people have time to be cruel trolls on social media, but no time to volunteer for those less fortunate. God knows I could go on and on with this list. But ignoring all of it doesn’t make it go away. And being aware of all of these ills honestly, sometimes makes me want to go, “fuck it, I’m out of here.”

I feel the same way about guns. Guns are not killing us. Our current model of society is creating a world where more and more people are saying, “fuck it,” before picking up a gun (or joining an extremist religious sect). Our society glorifies the majestic gun. Guns should be respected and treated with gravity, and not viewed as the willy nilly household item it’s become today.

Until we figure how how to stop people from saying “fuck it,” all the pharmaceuticals, all the pleas to “call someone” or “get help,” all the thoughts and prayers, all the gun legislation in the world is not going to fix this.

We need to come together. And honestly, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.


Apr 4 2018



Church Hats Sold Here

Church Hats Sold Here

I love the idea of Dressing for God. We should dress for God. It wouldn’t hurt to also dress for family, friends, strangers in the grocery store. I saw a woman at Lowe’s,  LOWE’S HARDWARE, whose outfit was meticulously put together: black and white sunhat, black and white ruffled sundress, black and white polkadot high-heeled yet casual sandals, large black and white sunglasses. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Me, I was in paint-covered trash bin-bound rags, buying more paint. I thought I was dressed perfectly for the occasion. But this woman – I still have the memory of the fabulous sight of her, and I’m grateful for that. I doubt she has any memory of me.

I dressed for my daddy the last month of his life, when he was in hospice. Every day I went to see him, I wore a dress or a skirt, not the usual for me. He was old and old-fashioned, and I wanted to look nice for him. A few days in, I realized that I was also was doing it for the other patients there. I could give them a reminder of the world of their youth, when women did wear dresses regularly. In fact, one of the patients propositioned me (it’s a funny little story). I suspect he had dementia, and I was the first woman he’d seen in a while who wasn’t a nurse. I declined the offer, but accepted the compliment.

My marriage was falling apart, and I found dressing this way cheered me up a little throughout the day. Men and women of all ages were kinder, more polite and respectful when I stopped in the store, or to get gas. I also felt a little more together, at a time when I was far from together inside, with a dying father and a dying marriage. But tapping into my often-neglected femininity was like conjuring my mother, whose presence was sorely needed at this time in my life.  My father’s life. My brothers’ lives.

I just talked myself into wearing a dress today.

Feb 1 2018


The author as a a young turk.

The author as a a young turk.

My experiences with men have been across the board. Some relationships were innocent and playful. Some were pure raw passion and few rules. But in each, there was respect. And we didn’t have a conversation about it; by the times we’d “gotten there” there was plenty of communication, much unspoken about boundaries and knowing what was “okay.”

From the moment you meet someone, you are communicating with them. Mostly, you are telling them about yourself, and how you view yourself, how much (or whether or not you) respect yourself. My peers and I (Gen-X, if you will) grew up reading social cues and emotional cues. We knew that when someone said “yes” with a face full of dread, there was something else going on there. We knew by how someone reacted when they saw us whether or not they felt the same way we did seeing them.

But times have changed. I read Sherry Turkle’s “Reclaiming Conversation.” In it, she says young people DREAD conversation. They fear they’ll “say it wrong,” and so they prefer to text, where they can edit their words so that they “get it right.” Another reason for text is so that they have a record of a conversation (in case they need to disprove someone’s version later). Isn’t that lovely?

Lost in all this text is facial expression. Body language. The nuances and subtleties that often tell us WAY MORE than what someone is actually verbalizing.

It’s not the kids’ fault. They learn from their parents, and parents of teens and young adults now are every bit as guilty of being glued to their devices as their children. I struggle with trying to spend less time with mine, and have to set hard rules for myself.

Which brings us to #metoo. People need to get back to looking each other in the face. People need to learn what the face (and body) language of remorse, guilt, fear, unease, confusion, uncertainty, nervousness etc. etc. etc. looks like. We can “talk about it” all we want. But we’re not really listening unless we are reading the whole person.

A few times I found myself in situations I realized I didn’t want to be in. I had sex with someone just to get the whole night over with. That was my choice (in your twenties, having sex wasn’t the worst thing that could happen, even in that situation). Another time I was on a first date with a multi-millionaire who grew enraged when I didn’t want to go to his place to watch a movie after dinner. I’d gone back to mens’ places on the first date before, but it didn’t feel right here. I suggested we see a movie in a theatre instead. He grew enraged, and I told him to pull the car over.

My point is, we all get in situations that are not ideal (and I’m only talking about dating here). As women, we also have to read visual and emotional cues — that charming, attractive multi millionaire… something told me NOT to go home with him, and his response to my “No” confirmed how right I was. The sex with the “just to get the whole night over with” guy — that was my choice. I was not a victim in either of these two scenarios. I put myself in them, and I got myself out of them. I own my choices, and I learned from both experiences.

Of course there are cases far more serious than these, and I’m definitely not suggesting that women can get themselves out of every situation. Men are bigger and stronger and people (especially if we don’t know them well) can become violent surprisingly quickly, especially when alcohol is involved.

But we need to talk about communication. Talk is great. BUT LET’S NOT FORGET about emotional and social cues. Put down the goddamn devices. You may NOT text a break up, or an apology. We owe those we hurt, intentionally or otherwise, the respect of doing these things face-to-face. We need to see the hurt on their face, the harm we’ve inflicted.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina put this into practice in Larry Nassar’s case, when she let 150+ of his victims read their victim statement. He had to see and hear the immeasurable pain and suffering he inflicted on every one of them. We need to get back to a time where we not only recognize it’s wrong to hurt someone, but we are TERRIFIED of the consequences if we do. People have been consequence-free too long. #timesup

Nov 7 2017

Me and Me Blunnies

These Blundstone boots were a gift

from my now ex-husbands, given back when we’d just started dating, when you still had to order fr23331069_10156020420464994_191415728502923073_oom Australia (WAY before Amazon). 22 years later, he is still a good friend, and the Blunnies and I are still going strong. Together, these boots and I have tended bar at Harvey Nichols 5th Floor in London, strolled the Champs Elysees, climbed Uluru, biked Angel Island, stomped the streets of San Francisco and NYC, hiked the desert outside Las Vegas; just to name a few. These boots have been to more places, seen more of life, than most Americans. There have been ups and downs in the past 22 years, for sure. But we certainly got around, my Blunnies and me. And there is definitely more to come.

Oct 26 2017

The Dead Dog and the Nazi

IMG_5317I was driving to work after my meeting at the SPCA Thursday morning when I spotted the unmistakable form of a dog, lying in the center of the road up ahead.

As I passed, I realized it was possible that it wasn’t dead. And unlike other times I’d passed roadkill, not only was it not unmistakably dead, but I wasn’t doing 80 on a freeway with no way to turn around. This time, I could turn around.

I parked in front of the house nearest where the dog lay. Another dog, a small black mixed breed, was on the sidewalk where I parked, keeping an eye on his fallen buddy. Dear God, do not go into the street and get hit too.

Fortunately, I had with me a bag of SPCA-bound old towels and beddings I’d forgotten to donate. I popped the trunk, grabbed a towel, and crossed to the center of the road.

Her eyes made it immediately apparent that she was dead: slightly open, still, dark. Dead. Yet I still nudged her with my foot, just to be sure. Her buddy paced and watched from the sidewalk. Thankfully he was too frightened (or smart) to come see for himself. I placed the towel over her, and carried her stiff body to the side of the house in front of which I’d parked, placing her under the US flag waving over the property.

The little black dog moved in, planting himself next to his dead friend. Loyal, sad, confused.

After being on hold for five minutes with Animal Care and Control, I was informed my call was number three in the queue. In front of the house where I’d parked, a man stood by a little white picket fenced area off to the side of the front door (the same side as the American flag and the dead dog). He was holding up a phone, presumably texting or Facetiming – though he looked a little old for that.

I called out, “Do you have a dog? Are you missing a dog?”

He didn’t respond.  He stood there, motionless, holding up his phone. And then it occurred to me… was he filming me?

Someone finally answered the phone, and told me they were county – I needed to speak to city, and they put my call through, only to be placed on hold again.

It was then I noticed the open white gate behind the man holding up the phone. Had it not been open, I would not have been able to see what was behind it: a red flag bearing a swastika, draped over a low wall.

Swastika, white supremacist, Nazi: until now, these have only been constructs for me. Real, but not my reality. But he was real, standing there. That flag behind him, it was real too. His shirt was red. The other flag, waving high alongside his US Flag – what was that flag? – it was red. The Nazi flag was red. Everything was suddenly red.

Thank God I’m white. The only thing more shameful than having that thought is the immediate realization that in this case, you are absolutely right to think that. Thought quickly turned to instinct. Flee.

But I couldn’t, not yet. I was still on hold, and needed to give the location of the dead dog. Plus, there was the other little stray dog, still watching over his fallen friend. I couldn’t leave him behind.

I didn’t flee, but prepared to do so, if necessary. I drove to the end of the cul de sac and made a U-turn, so that I’d be facing out onto an open road, rather than a dead end.

Almost all of the homes on this cul de sac had US flags out front. One house also had a flag meant to honor US Veterans. Not long ago, these flags would have represented nothing more than pride of nation.

But in a neighborhood where a US Flag waves just feet away from a swastika, suddenly these symbols seemed like code for something very dark.

As I was on the phone, a young woman approached my window, asking about the dead dog she’d seen earlier in the road. I told her I’d moved him.

“What about the other one, the little black one?”

“He’s right over there. Can you take him to the shelter?”


I gave her a handful of dog treats that I always kept in my car for just such an occasion, and thanked her.

Having given the cross streets to the city shelter, I felt relieved of my duties, and left.

I thought of my father. A first generation American, WWII Veteran who lied about his age so that he could fight Nazis. He died with a Purple Heart and a bullet in his arm, a bullet he took in Germany. What would he make of this, these flags together, on US soil?

Because I have nothing.

Apr 12 2017

Greek Easter

My father wasn’t one to praise me. A child of the Great Depression, his  measure of success was money; whereas my adult life has been defined by things that often don’t pay the bills: volunteering in my community, writing, filmmaking, acting.

“We sold out four shows and won Best of the Fringe Festival!”

“How much money did you make?”

But I understood. He didn’t want me to be poor, as his family was. He didn’t hesitate to tell my cousins how proud he was of my accomplishments. Just never me.

IMG_2611There was one big exception to his no-praise ways: my execution of his mother’s — my yia yia’s — recipes whenever I baked baklava or koulourakia (Greek Easter cookies — his favorite) for the holidays.

Year after year, with each batch he would say, “I think this is the best one ever, Dianie.” It didn’t matter if I burnt it a little, it was the best one ever.

As predictable as those words eventually became, hearing them was worth more than all the money in the world. I still hear them when I bake for the holidays. It’s why I still bake for the holidays, ten years after his passing.

Χριστός ἀνέστη!, Daddy.

Mar 9 2017


The summer I was ten, my picture appeared in the Review Journal, Las Vegas’ only real newspaper.

Of all the figure skaters at the Ice Palace, I was chosen to pose in front of a popular local anchorman, his hands on my shoulders. But I was the focus of that picture, featured in a story about the first-ever upcoming Skate-a-thon, in which I would be skating and performing a solo!

I collected two pages worth of pledges to raise money to help children with Muscular Dystrophy. The music I’d chosen for my number, Georgy Girl, was in honor of my father, George. Sports was the language of love with him. He shared hours at a time with my two older brothers, watching football and baseball on TV, and attending their hockey games. Between their hockey and my figure skating, we grew up at the Ice Palace. We knew all the parents of all the other kids who skated, as well as the owners, the Carlow’s.

I wore a dress that I’d designed, sewn by my instructor’s mother. It was my favorite color, burgundy, with cap sleeves, and a faux bodice over a white underlay. I got the idea from one of the Pirates of the Caribbean characters from the Disneyland ride.

The event began at 7am, and the rink was packed. The Zamboni came out every three hours at first, but the later it got, the less people returned to the resurfaced ice. I skated through the day and night, fueled by pride, adrenaline, and  concession stand hot dogs.

Finally, it was time. The opening notes of an all-instrumental version of Georgy Girl came over the loud speaker, and I played to the people who would one day fill the highest balcony seats, once I made it to the Olympics. For two and a half minutes, all eyes were on me, spinning, leaping, soaring. I was the most important person in the world.

My mother, who had been there for the first several hours, returned just before midnight to watch me perform. Though she’d pleaded with my father, who worked nights, to change his schedule, he wasn’t with her.

She gave me a big hug when I finished, and said she needed to get some sleep, but would be back at 7am. There were still a number of familiar faces there, including Mrs. Carlow, so she knew it was safe to leave me.

Each passing hour grew longer, my legs heavier, my eyes more tired. There were now few enough people on the ice that I could count them all. Much as I hated to cover my amazing dress, I was getting cold, and got my burgundy warmup jacket out of my locker, wishing I’d brought the matching pants as well. I was paying attention to the clock more and more, wishing 7am would come already.

At 5am, my father surprised me by showing up. I was so happy that he wanted to witness me skate into the final, twenty-fourth hour. What was more surprising was that my brothers were right behind him. Since when did they want to watch me do anything?

As I skated closer to him, it wasn’t pride I saw on his face. On any of their faces.

“Get off the ice. No daughter of mine going to spend all night out alone.”

“Alone? Mrs. Carlow’s right over there. You’re here.”

“Get off the ice.”

“Just watch me skate, there’s only two hours left.”

“Get off the goddamn ice.”


I retreated to the safety of the ice, where I felt untouchable. When I reached the end of the rink and pivoted into some back crossovers, I thought for a moment I was imagining things.

My brothers were moving toward me on the ice in their sneakers. Despite the look on their faces that told me otherwise, I clung to a tiny bit of hope that they were coming to stand with me, to take my side in defiance of our father. Instead, each one grabbed one of my arms. I struggled to get away, but I was cornered. They carried me off the ice, kicking and screaming the whole way to the car.

I’d stood up to my father when he ordered me off the ice. Why didn’t my brothers stand up to him when ordered to get me off the ice? They were older than me, bigger than me, stronger than me. They were boys.

We drove home in silence. I slammed the front door, which woke up my mother. My father told her I needed come home for breakfast and then, once it was light out, I could go back. But she knew what completing the Skate-a-thon meant to me, and flew into a rage. As her only daughter, my dreams were her dreams. And he’d killed this one.

I forced down two spoonfuls of oatmeal and my mother drove me back to skate the final hour. But when we got there, I couldn’t get back on the ice. I knew that I didn’t belong with the four skaters who had been there since the start, and were about to complete all twenty-four hours of the Ice Palace’s first ever Skate-a-thon.

We drove home in silence. The Skate-a-thon sealed an unspoken pact between me and my mother. It would be the last time we shared my dreams with my father.

Feb 17 2017

Youth is Wasted

Baby Girl.

Baby Girl.

I was 20. This was taken for some ad in some periodical about some thing.

I hated this photo at the time. I thought my puffy face gave away the fact that I was spinning out of control, my bulimia relapse triggered by the sudden death of my mother, my greatest supporter, one year earlier.

Today, I see none of that in my face in this photo. I see a beautiful young woman, so much life ahead of her, who was convinced things would never get better. I wish I could go back and tell her that they absolutely would.

Of course I can’t do that. Still, it’s a good reminder. Things are not near so bleak now as they seemed then. Still, sometimes, it’s so hard to see light. But it’s there. Trust yourself.