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.


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.

 


Aug 11 2016

Rebel Rebel

The author, age 9.

The author, age 9.

Spring 1973, last day of 3rd grade. I’ve decided I want to get out of school ASAP and get on with my life, see the world. Toward that, I told my mother I want to skip 4th grade, going straight to 5th.


Jul 4 2016

on liking the person you are

Human-Animal Intervention at work!

Human-Animal Intervention at work!

I’m minutes away from handing in the capstone project for my Animal Assisted Therapy certificate course, which has taken up the better part of the last 9 months of my life. It was a rigorous, challenging program (through Oakland University) and I derived much satisfaction from testing myself, academically. It’s been a long time.

Anyhow, I’m downright giddy about how good it feels to accomplish this! And I like that THIS is the sort of thing that makes me giddy, adding C.H.A.I.S. behind my name, when appropriate. That’s Certified Human-Animal Intervention Specialist, in case you were wondering. People get giddy about all sorts of things; some I get, some I definitely do not get. Hey, different strokes. But this is what gets this gal all a-giddy. I think it’s pretty cool.

1309788When I was around ten, I recall reading my mother’s “Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs, about the Capricorn child:

The Sun Signs-loving author, former Capricorn Child, age 10.

The Sun Signs-loving author, former Capricorn Child, age 10.

“Tiny Capricorns do resemble miniature octogenarians. They look old in their youth and young in their old age. That little wrinkled prune of a face in the bassinet will someday be smooth and un-lined when other faces are sagging. Maybe it has something to do with being born in January-the old year going out and the New Year coming in. The odd turnabout does match the familiar image of the old man with his care-lined face beside the fresh infant of the New Year with his Ivory soap look.”

This made me giddy at age ten, instilling in me a feeling of “I’ll never really be ‘old’.” Of course I know now that to be not entirely true, as I am indeed oldER.

But still, this little achievement today, completing this project, earning this credential, has given me a bit of self-confidence and optimism I took for granted when I was younger. I’m going to cling like a motherfucker to this feeling today, hopefully longer!


May 23 2016

The Meaning — and Hypocrisy — of Life

Picard pays his final respects at the newborn bird's grave.

Picard pays his final respects at the newborn bird’s grave.

On our morning walk today, Picard was especially curious about something on the sidewalk. The kind of curious that makes me command, “Leave it,” because usually it means he’s about to ingest whatever it is, before I’ve had a chance to identify it. Last time that happened, it was marijuana in some form (see Picard stoned here). Which I only learned after a $400 veterinarian ER bill.

This time “It” was a tiny dead bird. I’ll spare you a photo, that’s what words are for: It was @ 1″ long, covered only in down, tiny beak, closed eyes, stiff claws. Through the thin, transparent yellowish skin on Its underside, you could make out Its tiny bluish and reddish organs — the sight of that really hit me. Vital organs which are evidence of a complex network that, to me, represents the  miracle of life. I have no idea how the poor thing ended up dead on a sidewalk; there was no tree above — though the winds have been high of late, so it’s quite possible it blew out of a nest nearby. Poor thing never stood a chance. I buried it as best I could on the spot, covering it first with leaves because I didn’t like the idea of It being under just the harshness of rocks.

I think about people, and life, and the meaning of life and the meaning of being “Pro Life” — and the belief held that God created life, therefore every life, even the unborn human, is sacred. But if God created life, not just human, but ALL life, then isn’t ALL life sacred? And if God chose us, humans, to have the superior intelligence, did he do so so that we’d invent ways to destroy the life He created? Or would He want us to preserve it, to be the stewards of this magnificent world He created?

People can make the hunting for food argument, and there is something to be said for the Cycle of Life. Of course, most people reading this are not going to starve to death if they don’t kill that deer (from afar, with a high-powered rifle and scope, yet) for dinner. Our superior intelligence has, over the years, led to our building Sprouts and Costco’s and Whole Foods and lots of other places that have lots of other delicious things to eat that don’t require you to take a life. So clearly some people enjoy killing — something I’ll never understand, but one topic at a time. Let’s get back to hypocrisy.

To say an unborn human life is sacred, then turn around cut funding for healthcare and food for the poor (and God forbid, undocumented) children of color —  or pull the trigger on an innocent animal, taking it from its own offspring, so that you might mount its head on your wall, or throw its coat on your floor, or sell its tusk to fund your war — I just don’t think that’s what God had in mind. But what the hell do I know?

Politics, family, the friends we keep, our source for news; they all influence our morals, ethics, and how we treat one another. We all want the world, our community, to be free of its problems; the ones that affect us directly and indirectly. And think what you may about the behavior of others, at the end of the day, there are always going to be people in your community worse off than you. People who need help. And if you’re going to whip out a Bible when you fight for a fetus, claiming to be “Pro Life,” then you’d better be as passionate about protecting the Life of the hungry children who are already here, whether or not you approve of how they got here — in your town, in your country, and here on on God’s Green Earth.

 

 


Apr 14 2016

Whiter Shade of Time

snow, two ways

I grew up with these mountains. I love these mountains. Every morning, I check in with these  snow_capmountains. When life doesn’t make sense, these mountains calm me. When nothing good seems to last, these mountains remind me that nothing could be farther from the truth. There are good things that last. Because they last.

I especially love the winter, when they are covered with snow. The sun setting behind them, there is no more serene sight. Right now there’s just this little cap of snow left, that little spot of white, and each morning it grows smaller. It makes me a little sad, but not too sad. Because I know the snow will be back next winter. And the next winter after that. Something I can count on.

Speaking of something I can count on, there’s Picard. He who has given me family, by being loyal. He has given  muzzleme a sense of purpose, by inspiring me to become an Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) volunteer team. He’s got a little “snow” going on too, just like my mountain top. His snow is in his muzzle. And while the snow on the mountain diminishes a little each day, Picard’s muzzle grows increasingly, permanently, whiter. His life, like our own, is linear, not seasonal. And I think about this so much; about the passage of time, and life, and All Things Must Pass and This Too Shall Pass. And the realizations that I’d give anything to slow it down. Not go back; just slow it down, just a little.

These mountains have been pulling me, a lot these days. The urge to go sit atop one in silence, and just observe, is a strong one. Maybe that will slow it down.

 


Apr 2 2016

This is Me (not meme)

BILLI’m not Bill. I don’t have a lot of money, like Bill, and I’m certainly not thin, like Bill. So why compare?

This is Diane.diane_desk

Diane was just woken up by a horrible dream, where her beloved dog Boris, a beagle/pitbull mix, disappeared in a big park with lots of hills and lots of other dogs and people after Diane had let him off the leash.

(Diane does not have a dog named Boris, though in her childhood, she did have beagle named Bella.)

Anyhow, Diane feels just awful about her dream dog running off… but then wonders: maybe Boris wasn’t happy. Maybe Boris needed new experiences. Maybe Boris wasn’t living the life he was meant to be living.

Which made Diane think, “Maybe I’m Boris.”

Diane worries every day that she is not living the life she was meant to be living, that her greatest gifts are going untapped. And that’s a shame. Diane know she was blessed with some pretty terrific gifts.

Diane is concerned at how fast time is going, and that the changes that need to be made — only she can make them. But she has a difficult time seeing clearly what is the best change to make first.

Diane sees friends share happy photos of their families or their creative accomplishments on Social Media and wonders, “How did I get to where I am now, so far from where I ever wanted to be?”

But then Diane remember it’s only Social Media, where, like in dreams, things are only sort of as they appear.

Like this photo of Diane. It’s her, but it was taken a very long time ago. Same eyes, same brain, same spirit… but a lot has changed since the taking of this picture.

Diane pours herself some coffee. She would love nothing more than to remain right here, and explore these thoughts, and hope for some clarity and insight into where Boris — or rather, Diane — would like to run to, if she were let off the leash that tethers her to current obligations and fears.

But she can’t, for it is time to walk her real dog, Picard, and read a chapter for school before leaving for her corporate job.

Be like Diane. Or don’t be like Diane. It’s your choice. You could do better, you could do worse.


May 21 2015

All this #TBT, Endings, and Something for my Daughter

Girlhood

Girlhood

Ever since the season finale of Mad Men and the use of the Paul Anka (fun fact: Paul Anka sang his hit  song Diana to me, at my table in the Riviera Showroom in Las Vegas, when I was twelve!) song that I’ve not heard since I was a teenager, Times of Your Life, set to flashbacks from the show’s 7 seasons, that there’s been a slide show of flashbacks of my own life in my mind, each slide no longer than a nanosecond each.

Mad Men series finale trailer

On top of that, this was the last week of David Letterman. THE David Letterman, for whom I cut classes at SUNY Stony Brook  in the spring of 1983 to take the LIRR to see him tape an early episode of Late Night (just a few months before the most pivotal moment of my life (read on to learn what that was). Late Night with David Letterman my talk show, not my parent’s (Johnny Carson’s) talk show — and now, moments after Mad Men abandoned me,  it was retiring.  Time. It’s all going by suddenly so fast…

But back to me.

It all started with a diary. Like most young girls, I confided in one. All my secrets, desires, rants, what I really thought about __________. Next came the scrapbook. When I was old enough to start attending events that left me with ticket stubs in my back pocket; proof that I was there for that incredible concert/show/movie premiere. Then came the photo albums that were my own, not my parents, and the books and the music that showed me new worlds I couldn’t wait to discover for myself. And the magazine picture clippings of the guys who gave me my first hormonal surges, matchbooks from the bars I was able to sneak into and drink and smoke underage, secret classroom notes from friends, letters from boyfriends…

At some point, I needed a chest for all of this stuff.

(side note: would someone growing up today even have a diary/ticket stub/scrapbook/photo album/magazine clipping — or have we lost all of those things to the digital age and cloud-based storage?)

Then I went to college and forgot about collecting stuff. There was barely enough room in my SUNY Stony Brook door room for a 2nd towel, let alone keepsakes. Besides, I was too busy actually having new experiences and meeting exciting new people — not just reading about them in books or hearing about them in songs — to care about ticket stubs or a picture of Bucky Dent in Cosmopolitan.

 

And then my mother died, rather suddenly, when I was 19. I was just at that age where the relationship was segueing from mother-daughter to friends. She was beginning to tell me things about herself she couldn’t tell me when I was a child: that she had been married before my father (his Greek family thought it somewhat scandalous to marry a divorcee, so that never got talked about), and how she first went to Las Vegas to get her divorce (which no doubt had some influence on my parents decision to move there when we were young children).

 

The author, age 19.

The author, age 19.

We were just scratching the surface of her past when she died, and now there were so many unanswered questions. And I had no one to ask.

 

I knew I’d have a daughter one day. I didn’t have a strong desire for children, no biological clock ticking away, that’s just what you did, right? Had children? And I was going to have a daughter because that’s what my mother had, and that’s the relationship I wanted, what she and I had. Don’t question my logic, I was young I and I knew this was what was to be.

 

But now I had to prepare: What if I had a daughter, and then I too, died suddenly? I didn’t want to leave my daughter with unanswered questions about me, who I was before I started wearing the labels of wife and mother, as my mother had left me. I wanted her to know me at her age, whatever age she started having such thoughts. What were my dreams, my goals, my favorite songs and books; who were my crushes? So I started saving things again. The magazines that covered important events of my time (Curt Cobain’s death), the ticket stubs (U2), the matchbooks and trinkets from my travels. I would leave her with no unanswered questions.

 

But she never came, my daughter. For various reasons, I never had children.  And now, I have this trunk of me. My youth and young adulthood. And I don’t know what to do with all this stuff. I used to think that if I got famous or did something remotely noteworthy, my biographer might harvest this trove of insight into my life, my heart. But I’m beginning to suspect there may be no biographer. True, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. But let’s be realistic.

 

So what to do with all of it? Every ten or fifteen years or so I pop it open and pop out maybe one or two things, a photo or my sash of Girl Scout badges (some still yet to be sewn on); but I have never –and have no desire to – spend time with it and really explore all that’s there. Honestly, I don’t even know what I’ll find, beside what’s in plain sight on top. I already spend more time thinking about the past that I care to; better to think about the future and live in the present.

 

But the past, the contents of this trunk– it’s what makes me who I am now. I feel like I’m looking at a young me, when I glance in there: pre-setbacks, divorce, doubt, death, disappoint, rejection, disappoint, doubt, etc. I want to be her again. Me, before The Fight (aka Life). When it never dawned on me that there was anything I could not do.

 

I’m realizing as I write this that I need to keep that trunk for now. Because I am her. And The Fight, I need to reevaluate that – because it didn’t kill me, did it? And what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, doesn’t it?


May 10 2015

Mother’s Day: Always changing and every change fabulous.

Just moments after our first encounter.

Just moments after our first encounter.

Ah, to be a mother.

I don’t have children, never had that strong drive, that ticking timebomb in my uterus. That said, I always assumed I’d have a daughter, and a second child (one of them would be a girl, because… well, just because). Two because being an only child seemed so lonely. And because so much life-learning comes about simply by virtue of being a sibling: sharing, choosing your battles, compromise, conspiracy, etc.

But it didn’t happen. I had my chance, was married to a wonderful man in the prime of my child-bearing years. But we were traveling, and being struggling artists, so the time was never right. We didn’t try for one, but we weren’t hell bent against it either. It didn’t happen and eventually we divorced and so it all worked out for the best, right? Right?

Then I got Picard. How he came into my life is a whole ‘nother story you can read about Here.

And, I got it. Motherhood… I got it.

This love, this – for lack of a better term, maternal (parental works too, but I’m sticking with maternal, as it is Mother’s Day) love that runs deeper and stronger than any love I’ve ever known. I’ve had crushes and gaga love that feels this intense – but the excitement wears off, the hormones wane, you look back and go, “What was that?” But this Maternal Love, this is hardcore. This is the Real Deal.

Queue the naysayers, with “Loving your dog is not the same as if it were a child.” You’re right, it’s not the same. Because my dog is pure, as a child is in its early, pre-verbal years. But children, being human, grow up, and learn to manipulate and say cruel things and test us and break our hearts. They learn to hate and they learn to hurt. Hopefully they outgrow that sort of behavior in their teenage years, but I know far too many adult assholes to know that not to be the case.

There are no asshole dogs.  They manipulate and test us and break our hearts – but never for that purpose alone. It’s always, only to get something they want or need from us, that they know we alone can give them. And they’re not a dick about it if we say, “No.”4th

Their love is pure, so our love for them is pure. They remind us of our own innocence. They have the power to reinstate our innocence. Their love is perfect.

My heart swells with this love for Picard every second I look at him: when he’s there staring sleepily as I wake up, when he’s waiting not-so-patiently for me to feed him, when he plays with his bunny (which makes this inane musical noise when he plays with it) because he KNOWS when he successfully makes that sound happen, I will drop everything, whatever I am doing, to DO THE BUNNY DANCE!!!

IMG_4619

So yes, I am a mother, and this Mothers Day is for me. Mother’s Day used to be very sad for me, as I lost my own at 19 – you can read about that Here and Here. I could not be more proud of, more in love with my “child” if he came out of my uterus. I cherish every second with him more so than if he had come out of my uterus, because unlike a human child, I will outlive him.

Aye, there’s the rub. There’s the one thing that makes my love for him all the more intense and all the more painful: it has a short shelf life. His puppy years are over. He’s five. How the hell did he get to be five already? But he’s small and curious and extremely healthy and active (his well being is the most important thing in my life), so he still seems like a young dog. And I swear, all the love I have for him, he feels the exact same way about me. He lets me know. He’s the one thing in this world, the one decision I made, that I got 100% right.

But for now, we celebrate Mother’s Day. Our 5th together. And I wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all the others out there who didn’t get the conventional Mother-Child relationship they thought was a guarantee: To the pet guardians, the single dads, the foster parents, and all the teachers/leaders/mentors/neighbors/friends/siblings who step up and give the world “That Mother Thing.” Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!