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.


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.

Nov 1 2012

Welcome to My Adultland. It’s wonderful to see you here.

I'm just a girl.

I’m just a girl.

Shall we start with the question “What is Adultland?”

“A place with rules.” So it was defined by someone who felt the need to point out some fundamental truths to me. “We live in adultland here, we have rules”. I won’t go into boring detail about the backstory that lead to this enlightening yet sobering (literally) declaration — unless you write in and beg for it. But it made me think. And I replied “I, too,  live in ‘Adultland’. But in my Adultland, the rules can be bent and broken. In fact, that’s half the fun! So long as you’re not deliberately hurting anyone.”

So, if you think adultland is filled with girls gone wild and the fantasy of SoCo Coke-drenched sticky experiences with stranger in bathroom stalls of Vegas casinos, this isn’t for you. See, My Adultland is what I imagined adulthood to be. Adulthood was filled with Glamour. Adulthood was filled with Mystery. Adulthood was sexy —  just beneath the surface. What was unsaid and unseen was far more… interesting. Of course what the hell did I know? I was a kid growing up in Vegas (back when Vegas had Glamour and Mystery and Dean Martin) whose imagination was sent soaring by all the subliminal messages in Brut and Windsong commercials of the seventies. But you know what? I still cling to my visions of what adultland can be. I’m bringing sexy back. My way. Mommies, you are welcome — just get a sitter for the little ones first. Smoking is permitted — please step outside and use the ashtray.

Sorry, I’ve got nothing to share on recent child-rearing studies, automobile safety, or Starbucks vs. Peets. But I know a thing or 2 about vintage boots; great food, wine & cocktails; blowing up your life mid-way through and starting over; and the power of Funk. Oh no, you cannot fight the funk… the funk will find you.

And yes, what happens in My Adultland stays in My Adultland. Now excuse me while I slip into something more comfortable…


Diane Karagienakos

The Queen of My Adultland

ps — please don’t ever write in to me about typos, mis-spelling, etc. I’m a stickler for that sort of thing. That said, most of my postings here will be done very late at night. With a glass of good red nearby. Meaning “I DON’T CARE ABOUT TYPOS RIGHT NOW.”

Thank You.

Feb 22 2012

“The pen is mightier than the glass to the head.”

I recently had the honor and great privilege of being interviewed by the frightfully intelligent — and funny! — Paul Pearson: cynosure of all things interesting, musical, poltical, and entertaining. Check it out — check him out — here on his website. We discuss art, technology, communication and, of all things, feelings. All of which tie into the upcoming premier of my play, It Is What It Is.

Oct 12 2009

Meet International Secret Agent, Vulva Fervor, in person at Litquake’s Litcrawl

Vulva Fervor: waitin' on the man. Or woman.

Vulva Fervor: waitin' on the man. Or woman. Or...

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of Litquake. If that weren’t exciting enough, I am honored to be introducing the legendary International Secret Agent Vulva Fervor, in her first ever public appearance in San Francisco. Agent Fervor will be kicking off Litquake’s Litcrawl in Clarion Alley by reading an excerpt from her memoirs, The Adventures Of Vulva Fervor. The theme is “Dirty In The Alley: Literature From The Gutter Up”. Vulva is still uncertain why she was asked to read on such a theme, but honored and delighted nonetheless.

Impossibly stylish security detail will be provided by the Mrs. Robinson Society. Frankly I expect the whole event to go down without incident. But there is always the off-chance that Vulva’s stupid sister Viva may make an unexpected appearance. And should that happen, all bets are off as to what could happen.

All of this happens on Saturday, October 17, at 18:00 PST. on Clarion Alley in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Jun 11 2009

my new partner in crime: Frisco!

I’m tired — in a good kind of way!

This spring has brought a few new people, places, and things into my life, so I thought I’d write my first “Guide to San Francisco” post. Since it all ties in together so nicely.

First, a little backstory: a fictional icon of the past, Mrs. Robinson, contacted a fictional icon of the future, Vulva Fervor, on Facebook, and invited her to join the illustrious Mrs. Robinson’s Society (MRS). How could I — or rather, Vulva —  resist? Besides, I saw the group’s members as one big qualified list of people to recruit as fans of my project, The Adventures of Vulva Fervor.

But this is fast becoming The Adventures of Diane in Frisco; for a result of  befriending members of this illustrious society, I’ve been getting out a bit more lately. And in doing so, have discovered new places and rediscovered some old friends.

Since my best friend recently moved to the Tenderloin, I’m spending lots of time in an  old neighborhood known as the  Tendernob (Tenderloin + Nob Hill = Tendernob). San Francisco LOVES its nicknames. Except Frisco. People still get so rankled over that one, which makes it so much fun to say! A good blog about this up & comer on the list of hot ‘hoods is www.tenderblog.com.

My favorite spot is Rye (where, it just so happens, I first met the MRS); an effortlessly cool bar: Great bartenders. Great vibe. Great locals. It definitely becomes more of a scene the later it gets (I’m glad the kids are keeping nightlife alive), usually when it’s time for me to go. But I like keeping the bartender company until he/she gets busy.

Another great Tendernob spot with a good happy hour and a good bar menu is Olive. It’s a block away from a bar called The Gangway. Few things in life frighten me, but the sight of the Gangway does. The name alone, in any of its interpretations, makes me… don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe! It’s just what I imagine that goes on inside that scares the shit out of me. And that’s just it, you can’t see inside. It’s one of those place. I’ve never been inside the Gangway. I never plan to. I’m not sure why I’m even writing this, except that I can’t think of Olive without thinking of the Gangway. But I digress…

If you need a pick-me-up in the morning or afternoon (we’re still in the Tendernob here), the best coffee and little nibblie-bibblies are to be found at Kate & Shannon’s Farm; Table. They come from a Blue Bottle Background. So you know they know coffee.

Last but definitely not least: For breakfast or lunch, Brenda’s Soul Food. Don’t let the location put you off. Don’t let the line of people waiting to get in put you off. Two words: Just go!

Time to move on...

MY ‘HOOD, RUSSIAN HILL: For more on why I adore my shotgun flat on a 1-block sidestreet atop the Broadway Tunnel, check out my Love Letter in 7 X 7 Magazine. I believe mine is the 6th one down.

For lunch one Saturday afternoon, one of the MRS figureheads took me to SPQR, which was divine. Even more divine: seeing the lovely owner, Shelly Lindgren. Shelly and I go back, way back. 14 years ago, we worked at restaurants across the street from one another. We became friends, until I went overseas for several years, and life took over. But it was wonderful to see her again — and so successful. She also owns A-16, which is next on my list. By-the-by, Shelly’s business partner and chef of both A-16 and SPQR, Nate Appleman, was named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs of 2009!

Berretta (disclaimer about this Michael-Bauer-top-100-list of Bay Area eateries: If you don’t like being the oldest person in the room, stay away from this bustling joint in the oh-so-cool Mission. The median age looks to me to be… young. But…) If you just want a casual yet professional approach to a casual yet stylish and affordable great eatery, get thee to Beretta. 4 stars all around on the staff. Hostess, bartenders, server… 1 little complaint: the ever-present busser(s). This is common in lots of restaurants, and is likely an issue of either over-staffing or unclear lines when establishing busser’s stations. I hate when I have to literally hover over my appetizer plate, with it’s two remaining bites on it. “No, I’m not done yet. Please remind the other 4 bussers so I can stop shushing them away from the plate like flies”.

NORTH BEACH: Look, I love North Beach. It’s my hood, it’s my heart — during the day. Maybe Sunday – Wednesday nights. The rest of the time, fuggeddaboutit. Pure bridge & tunnel crowd meets gangstaland. Seriously, I can’t stand the place at night. There are still a few good hole in the wall joints. But it’s charm is much easier to find during the day. Grab a sandwich at Molinari’s, sit in Washington Square Park, and watch the Chinese do Tai Chi and old Italian men in their caps chat on the benches. When the sun comes out you can watch youth’s beauty sunbathe and dogs chase frisbees and little ones take their first steps. Yeah, North Beach in the daytime, definitely.

Okay, one place checking out at night (there are a few, but I’m listing places that are new to me; otherwise this post would go on for days) is 15 Romolo. It’s sort of pub-meets-dive-meets-hipsterhotspot. And the bar food… mother of god. The mini pork slider sandwiches, the fries, the mini jambalya-ini thingies… mmmmmmmmmmmmm! It’s near a hostel, so you get a good mix of people as well.

Only After Dark

PORCHLIGHT STORYTELLING SERIES: I love this series. And not just because they selected me to be one of the featured storytellers in April’s “Kitchen Confidential” evening. I love it because it’s about sharing stories. Not performance, not entertainment. Because if you have a good story to tell, the rest takes care of itself. The monthly happening takes place at the Verdi Club, an old-school banquet/dance hall in Potrero Hill. One of my fellow storytellers that evening was Craig Stoll, chef/owner of Delfina. In attendance was his wife, Annie. Annie and I worked together at a restaurant in 1993 — and I hadn’t seen her since @ 1996. So I was wonderful seeing her impossibly infectious smile again.

Learning is HOT at NightLife on Thursday nights at California Academy of Sciences. Everything, all exhibits are open. And there are DJs! Bars! Dancing! No one under 21!

That’s my list for now. It’s a start, anyhow.

Apr 3 2009

If you love stories, like I love stories…

have a seat, listen up...… then come hear me tell one live! I’m on the roster of Porchlight Storytellers Series this month, when  the theme is “Kitchen Confidential.”

If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant or bar, you probably have way too many stories of your own to stomach watching the reality shows on the subject. However, what’s so cool about Porchlight’s Series is that it’s live. It’s real. It’s old school and even though they have a theme, you’re guaranteed to be blown away by the humor/heartbreak/surprise that you only get with live storytelling.

It’s on Monday, April 20 at the Verdi Club in Potrero Hill. Great old-school venue. Doors open at 7pm, stories start at 8, $12 admission.

Feb 6 2009

February: Mojo? Check.

So many past projects that I was fortunate to have worked on are getting their due this month, and it’s exciting!

1.“What does a photograph mean if the image is a lie?” STEPHANIE’S IMAGE is an official selection of NewFilmmakers Los Angeles and will have its LA premiere at Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood on Wednesday, February 25. This the latest feature from Coffee and Language Productions, and stars (as Stephanie) Academy Award Nominee (for Best Lead Actress) Melissa Leo. Congrats Melissa, and to the filmmakers,  J.P. Allen and Janis DeLuca-Allen.

2. In addition to the 2 screenings (February 8 & 15) at San Francisco Independent Film Festival, BACK ISSUES is also screening this Saturday at Los Angeles’ Show Off Your Shorts Festival.

3. What better way to spent St. Valentine’s Day than at the SF opening reception for Croatia’s Museum of Broken Relationships at Root Division Gallery? Especially since yours truly will have an installation making its premiere there. I want all of you to come out and be my date!

4. The Independent Feature Film THE SNAKE maked its premiere at SXSW this March! The filmmakers, Eric Kutner & Adam Goldstein, were so amazing to audition for that I was flattered when they asked me to be Ugly Town Woman #1 (I’m in the same scene as Margaret Cho!). Check out the trailer at

May 22 2008


“We should get together.”

“Are you asking me out on a date?”

“Is that what you want? To go on a date?”

“Yeah, a good old-fashioned date. Where I wear a dress and you open doors.”

“Okay then.”