Nov 14 2016

An open letter to Melania and Ivanka: TALK TO HIM (ON BEHALF OF THE WORLD)

Dear Melania and Ivanka,

First, congratulations on your husband’s/father’s win in his bid for the highest office in the land. It was an incredible elections, and he now has a big job on his hands, uniting this increasingly divided nation. It’s good you’re both there, because he’s going to need a lot of support, as this will not be an easy task.

Now let’s get down to business.

after the forest

after the forest

I assume neither of you are experts on climatology, or the environment, or wildlife; nor am I — but I am very passionate about these topics. I do know that you are both mothers. You’ve given life. This planet is full of life; an intricate network, a miraculous web of life, where plants create oxygen and trees shelter orangutans, and shrubs feed insects, which feed spiders; where bees pollenate flowers and give us honey, etc. etc, etc. Not to mention ocean life, which, if you’ve ever seen underwater footage, is like a whole different, miraculous world!

Do you want to deprive your children a beautiful, thriving planet that gives life, as you yourself have done? A planet abundant with majestic flora and fauna that many believe surely is evidence of a divine being? Sadly, the flora is perishing due to our changing climate and deforestation; the fauna losing its food and habitat at alarming rates — many of those that do survive are being hunted by people who find killing to be pleasurable, or supply a lust for luxury goods? BTW, did you know there is a direct link between the poaching of elephants and rhinos for their tusks and horns, and the funding of international terrorist organizations?

Got oil?

Got oil?

Many of those animals they kill, like you both, are mothers. And in this very real era of Climate Change, they are struggling to feed their own children. China is raping the natural resources out of Africa, destroying much of the natural habitat. We are doing the same here in the USA with fracking, destroying beautiful land and the habitat/shelter/food it provides animals — and the pipelines endangering water supplies, bursting and destroying ecosystems. Not to mention the droughts that are destroying crops and natural forestation areas, leaving animals hungry and searching for alternative food sources…

It’s the 21st century. We have alternatives. We have solar, we have wind, to replace our dependence on petroleum oil. Best part: there is no such thing as a “wind spill, or a “solar spill” — and the resulting damage to the ocean and death to wildlife. No Fukashima, and yet-to-be determined long term effects on the ocean, the environment, and our wildlife.

In local elections last Tuesday, measures were passed to protect the environment and protect animals. People are seeing that we humans need to live up to the word “humane” on every level. Now, let’s do it on a national and international level. HERE IS THE ONE THING I ASK OF YOU LADIES: Insist that the President Elect talk to, and listen to, the scientists. A lifelong friend of mine, a geologist who’s worked for UNESCO, NOAA and NASA, and who works closely with climatologist, assures me that climate change is very real. Please, if you’ve not already, watch Before the Flood. Take a heartbreaking look at how we are destroying the planet, wildlife, atmosphere, and our health with our mindless consumption of disposable plastic, at Plastic Pollution Coalition. Also, I urge you to read The Humane Economy, to learn more about the economics of animal exploitation. Finally, please read the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report 2016, which puts forth these three basic initiatives:

    1. Growing food without destroying forests
    2. Producing Energy from green renewable sources
    3. Financing development without supporting destructive projects
Does this plastic pollution make me look fat?

Does this plastic pollution make me look fat?

I’m not suggesting your research  begin and end with these four suggestions; I do ask that they be a part of it. I also ask that your research not include information from special interest groups, lobbyists, or anyone else who profits, directly or indirectly, from the production or transport of oil, factory farming, deforestation, the killing of protected and endangered species, poaching, or deforestation (especially for palm oil). For the President Elect to choose a climate change skeptic to lead the EPA transition is an atrocity. Insist he look beyond the pocketbooks, whether it be his own or his peers, and do what’s best FOR THIS PLANET.

Overpopulation is very real in some area. We hear of food shortages… while we waste 1/3 of the food we produce. All the resources used to make all that food… wasted. That’s shameful. I expect our President to promote the same basic principles my mother taught me: Do not waste. Food. Energy. Time. Money. Resources. Whatever it is, don’t waste it.

As for the sad state of our wildlife, 2/3 of the global wildlife population is on track to fall by 2020, due largely in part by loss of habitat: by man’s mining for resources or encroachment upon it, and by climate change. Do you want to tell your grandchildren about how there used to be magnificent animals on the planet — but no more, because man chose easy money and politics (and luxury goods, in the case of the poaching that is diminishing the numbers of elephants and rhinos at an alarming rate) over taking steps — such as the three listed above — that protected our environment and these animals?

So please, don’t you ladies waste this opportunity to be role models yourselves, to exert your power to make the world a better place, as you sit at the side of the man who holds the most powerful job in the world. People are waking up and realizing that more than ever, we need to talk to one another. So please, talk to him. We don’t need a woman in the highest office in the White House to demonstrate that women can lead and make a powerful difference. You have an incredible opportunity to make a huge impact. I have faith in you two. For America and all Americans, for the world, for your own grand children. Please, make us proud. Make them proud. It’s a small world after all, ladies. Please, please help preserve and protect it. Before it’s too late.

Sep 3 2013

Going Underground: In Praise of Basements


A new environment has the power to change not just what we see, but how we see.

I like basements. I love basements, places where I feel oddly at home. And happy.

We had a basement once, when I was seven, when my parents rented a house for one year in Middletown, New Jersey. Since we were staying only a year, and it was the first time I’d lived in a house that was neither, A) my family’s home prior to my birth, nor B) brand new, we being the first and only occupants; this house didn’t feel like ours. It was someone else’s choice of wallpaper, someone else’s choice of carpet… someone else’s home. But it did have a basement. I’d never seen one before — it was like a secret room!

Only one item was in that Middletown basement when we arrived: a cardboard house. It was gender-neutral, so any child could make it whatever he or she wished. I would play for hours there, in that cardboard house, that kind of play that happens deep within a child’s imagination; existing only in that moment, living in a world completely invisible to everyone else. But it is real.

That was the first (and only) time growing up that we were surrounded by forest (prior to that, it was either the streets of Brooklyn or the desert of Las Vegas). Flora, flora everywhere! The Garden State. I learned to figure skate on the frozen Navesink River. When it snowed, we slid down the street (a slight hill) on sleds, and our father took us to chop down our own Christmas tree. It was all pretty magical stuff to a seven year-old, right down to the hours I passed in the basement.

We moved back to Las Vegas the following summer, where I remained until high school graduation. At seventeen, I couldn’t get out of that town fast enough, get back to the east coast, where naturally I’d decided to go to college. Because I had an opportunity to fly back on a family friend’s private plane, I arrived in New York a full month before classes were to begin, and stayed with my father at his sister Helen’s house in Bayside, Queens (he and my mother had divorced the year before, and being Greeks, family always lives with family). A month is a long time to live with your overly-protective Greek father and his widowed sister in a town where you know no one (and have no car), so I went around visiting relatives: one grandmother, five aunts, five uncles, and ten cousins.

With Georgia and her boys and my brothers in front of Caesars Palace. It's changed since then.

With Georgia and her boys and my brothers in front of Caesars Palace. It’s changed since then.

I made my way to the family home of Georgia, my father’s first cousin, and her family. They had come to see us in Las Vegas years earlier (that’s them, in the photo on the right), and I really liked them. They were a fun family. And calm, compared to the most of the Greek relatives.

Naturally, I stayed in their basement (which I’d decided were indigenous to New Jersey). Theirs was very different than our basement in Middletown ten years earlier: it was their game room, with a pool table, concert and sports memorabilia on the walls, and a vinyl collection that would make Cameron Crowe cringe with envy. It was my last stop before moving into the dorm, so Georgia took me to buy towels and beddings and clothes for an East Coast winter. After shopping, I’d disappear into the basement and get lost in those records, discovering new artists and their stories, new worlds within those songs –while I was  eagerly counting down the days until I was to go off and discover a whole new world myself at SUNY Stony Brook. It was another magical time.

I write this from yet another basement, this one on the west coast, as I dogsit for my beau’s sister in Seattle. This basement, as you can see in the above picture, is also surrounded by lush greenery outside. Inside, hundreds of movies. It’s their movie room. The beau… it’s still a fairly new relationship, less than a year. I moved back to Las Vegas — none of the lush greenery I love so there — to be with him. So it’s an exciting time, another new beginning. And though I’m welcome to stay in the master bedroom while his sister and family are away, I prefer the basement. It just feels right. These basements are the waiting rooms for life’s next chapter. They’re a place where I naturally, optimistically, look forward to What’s Next — which has been harder and harder for me to do as I’ve gotten older. With age comes the ice cold water realization of What’s Not Next — which I’ve been focusing on too much as of late. It’s much better to focus on not only What’s Next, but What’s Right Here, Right Now.

This “naturally, optimistically” part of my brain is still there — it wasn’t just part of me at seven or seventeen — but it’s gotten very little airtime of late, this basement has made me realize. So I’ll be tapping into it now more and more now. Because having a What’s Next is an important aspect of feeling alive, for me. Here in this basement, I see nothing but a life of unlimited adventure awaiting me. It’s not the adventure I expected — but isn’t that exactly what adventure is? Not to mention, what’s Right Here, Right Now is pretty darn good!

Today's "basement."

Today’s “basement.”

I’ll create a What’s Next environment (without the basement, which is architecturally impossible in our second-story condo) when I return to Vegas. Armed with only my imagination, I once turned a cardboard house in a cement-floored Middletown basement into a log castle with a fireplace high on a cliff, waves crashing against the rocks below. I’m curious to see what my view will be out the window at my desk.