Thursday, March 31, 2011

Like A Prayer

At the hospital by the front desk, there is a bowl with a little sign that says, “pray for me”, and then there’s a stack of papers next to it so that you can write down a person’s name and toss it in. I’m fascinated by this. I like the idea of prayer; it has always seemed a little like poetry mixed with a wish list to Santa, art and fantasy. I like the idea of telling someone how grateful you are. When I stand at the desk I try to crane my head so I can see what people have written on the notes. I know there's a sadness about it but I don't see it that way. It feels old fashioned, and reminds me of both of my Grandmothers who went to church, without their husbands, every Sunday.

I read recently that people who pray during life and death situations (say they are lost in the woods at night or shipwrecked in the middle of the ocean) are 100% more likely to survive than people who don’t, regardless of whether or not they are religious or believe in God. Prayer gives order and focus and takes you outside yourself. I read too that people who believe that their talent came from God, or even, simply, that they were born with it, are more likely to remain successful than those who feel they just got lucky.

It's strange that there is something so stabilizing about something so etherial, but I guess it's the quiet of it, the reflection and gratitude that you feel. It makes me think that giving up, as in "there's nothing left to do but pray" isn't such a bad thing.

It also makes me think of this.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Few Quicks

1. I love this photo. I find that lately I stare at any woman over the age of 45 who doesn't have dyed hair and pulled back skin. (Are they only in LA?) So beautiful.

2. I was reading about this author Neil Strauss, who has a book out called Everyone Loves you When You're Dead. He has some interesting guides on everything from playing poker to discovering the secret of life. Of the latter, he writes:

First of all, don’t expect to be happy all the time. If you’ve ever had a pet, you’ll notice that the pet doesn’t complain when it’s hurt or in pain. The human animal is the only one that says, “Why me?” -- as if it is our birthright to be happy all the time.

Sometimes we’re sad or angry or depressed. But if rather than fighting against it, like it’s wrong and some kind of disorder, you just relax into the emotion and ride it through until it’s over, it doesn’t have to be a gut-wrenching experience. It’s good to experience these extreme emotions: it let’s you know you’re alive and feeling.

3. And, lest you think I'm focused too completely on aging and death, here's the background soundtrack in my head and this too.

Monday, March 21, 2011


On Sunday morning the LA marathoners passed my street at the start of the third mile. I don't know if I could have been any more emotional than if my own child had been in the race , but every time I calmed down and the tears became just a lump in my throat, I'd get hit again with a new wave. First came the wheelchair runners who had to climb a hill before rounding the corner down past Echo Park and on to Sunset. Watching them push themselves up the hill was hard enough but then when one guy (or gal!) reached the top, often they would turn and wait for the person behind them. (Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa). We were silent, waiting for the next round of runners and I had time to collect myself, but then I saw the headlights of a motorcade off in the distance and I started again. It was the Africans! Out in front! Surrounded by a motorcade (Waaaaaaa) Legs six feet long, running fast, magical, royal strides like kings. (Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa) They were so fast I didn't have time to take a photo. Blink and they were gone. Then came the rest: athletes, grandmas, grandpas, girlfriends, kids, chubbies, barefoot, shirtless, wearing costumes, wearing the Japanese flag. Oh my God, I ran into the house to get Harry and we stood out in the freezing rain high-fiving and cheering, not feeling a thing but utter joy.

Hospitals, Winding Roads and Inappropriate Behavior

I haven’t been writing here because my Dad is in the hospital, and it felt a little strange to be writing about anything else, and I didn’t want to write about him, so. He had a heart attack last week and then bypass surgery. Quintuple. Then he had a stroke. Then there were the details that led up to the heart attack, one of which was that he was so dehydrated when he came in that he probably had not had anything to drink or eat for 24 hours. It’s been really strange, having to process everything as it’s happening. I mean I know I do that every day, I have an experience, I feel something, I react, I compare it to other experiences and then I have an opinion. But with this, each bit of information came so quickly that there was a bit of a jam up in the processor, I wasn’t really finished with one thing before another came in. Plus, some of what was coming in –like Father, Relationships, Death—was, you know, larger in scale, and carried with it all kinds of things not related to this particular experience. Then there’s the backdrop of world events: earthquake, tsunami, nuclear melt down, combined with my personal and immediate events and yeah, that’s the long winding road I go down.

But he’s good for now. And it has never felt overwhelming or tragic. I like that doctors can go into a person’s chest with the same ease that a mechanic goes under the hood of a car, despite the fact that it involves sawing a person’s upper body open, breaking their chest bone and slowing the heart rate down to practically nothing. I like that the surgeon was Asian and wore blue jeans (precise! casual!) And I like his nurse whose name is Raoul. He is big and muscular and funny and completely inappropriate and my Dad cries every time he talks about him.

Raoul told us a story when my Dad was first conscious, about a patient he cared for once who died (yes, he just said it!) and they zipped her into a bag and wheeled her away to the morgue. The only spot left in the freezer (?!) was way up high on a rack so, sweating and grunting, they got the body up there, then returned to the room and found her dentures in a glass. Shit! (Raoul said) so he went back to the morgue, climbed up the stack, pried her mouth back open (because rigor mortis had set in)(he thought he was going to need a crow bar!), forced the teeth in, and then went back to the room, feeling all proud of himself to have avoided some trouble.

Except that when he returned, he found the family of a former patient who said they were looking for their grandfather’s teeth and they were certain they had left them in a glass in room 106. Raoul pretended to consider this for a moment, and said I think I know where they are. He ran back to the morgue, climbed, pried and fetched, and brought them back to the family and handed them to the man in the wheelchair, who then put them right back into his mouth.

Dead bodies, zipping body bags, morgue, Shit!, rigor mortis, making mistakes; each cringe-inducing detail just cancelled out the one before it. It was kind of miraculous, just like the operation itself.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I Loved This Story

The Whale… If you read a recent front page story of the San Francisco Chronicle, you would have read about a female humpback whale who had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines. She was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of line rope wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso, a line tugging in her mouth. A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farallon Islands (outside the Golden Gate) and radioed an environmental group for help. Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her. They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her. When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushed them gently around as she was thanking them. Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives. The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth said her eyes were following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.
I found this here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler


[ri-lij-uhn] Show IPA
a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose ofthe universe, especially when considered as the creation of asuperhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotionaland ritual observances, and often containing a moral codegoverning the conduct of human affairs.

Parades are a religion in New Orleans. And they happen every day. I know there are sad and evil things lurking at the edges, but it’s pretty inspiring to hear about people who can so easily and unashamedly find something to celebrate.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

40 Years Ago, March 8,1971: The Fight of The Century

I remember the morning after this fight, running to the front door to get the paper, because my brother Pete and I had a bet on the winner; we had traded sides about ten times "I want Frazier, you take Ali, no I want Ali....", it was hard to choose. I'd like to say I was always an Ali fan, but I grew up in Philadelphia and Frazier was the hometown guy. I thought he was handsome and quiet and serious, but I still laughed when Ali said said "Frazier is so ugly, he should donate his face to the US Department of Wildlife". Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh! "Joe Frazier is so ugly, when he cries the tears turn around and go down the back of his head".

I got the paper and saw the headline: 15 Rounds, Frazier Wins, and remember being stunned. It was impossible not to believe everything Ali said. Who else can you say that about?

Good Morning

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sorry Charlie

I wasn’t planning on writing about Charlie Sheen because I know everyone’s had an impacted assfull of his downward spiral, and I’m not about to say that he should be let off the hook because he has a disease, but it’s weird that there have been so many egomaniacal crazies in the news the past few months and I’m wondering about it. I wonder about the point where the line gets crossed, how long ago that was, how far was that trajectory from then til now.

I saw a video of Charlie recently and thought he looked rotted and otherworldly, (it’s weird that he’s been calling people "trolls" because that is exactly what he looks like), and I remembered the word grotesque as Sherwood Anderson used it in his book called Winesburg, Ohio back in the early 1900s. I looked it up and found this article written by David Anderson where he writes:

“Anderson’s grotesques are not curiosities…they are human beings who epitomize the spiritual deformities of all men… ".

Ok I’m hearing several of you saying, Jesus, Deird, why so highfalutin’?, and the rest of you saying, yeah he’s sucking the crackpipe, and holding a knife to someone's throat, Fucksake!, and I'm not suggesting we should tolerate this, but rather, why do we? It shouldn't matter if he is justified or diseased or insane. Clearly he is at least two of those things. Once you stick five rocks of crack cocaine up your nose, or start torturing people, or say you're an autocrat, the regular rules no longer apply. You're no longer speaking the same language as everyone else. Like the grotesques, Charlie, Gaddafi and Mubarak "are turned in upon themselves, isolated and alone, each of them spiritually distorted by his confusion in the face of society’s emphasis on material rather than humanistic values…"

Still, it's hard not to wonder, how did they get so far away from their own inner peace that they can't hear the sirens.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I Put A Spell On You

I recently got a credit card from Best Buy because I was thinking of getting a new computer, but the amount of the limit was about half the cost of one, so the card sat on my desk for a few months, but then I needed a new printer so I decided to activate it. I called the number taped onto the card and was immediately transferred to the New Delhi branch.

“Good afternoon, my name is Bob, thank you so much for calling, to whom am I speaking today?


Ok Deird, that is a lovely name, and how are you today?


I am so pleased to hear that Deird, and how can I be of your assistance today?

I wanted to activate my card.

Oh very well, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you Deird—

Thank you.

-- and let you know that I will be extremely happy to help you with that today. I understand that you would like to activate your card today Deird, is that correct?


I could have had this conversation for hours. Something about an Indian accent with its beautiful melody and rolling r’s hypnotizes and relaxes me to the point where I no longer hear the actual words, but feel as though I am being sung to. (I have a similar reaction to Arianna Huffington’s voice, where I feel like crawling into her lap and having her read me a story while she caresses the hair off my forehead.) (Anyhoo) I ended up talking to Bob, I should say listening to Bob, for 30 minutes while he told me about a “buy-back program”. He must have used the words program and offer and ‘to your benefit Deird’ at least 60 times during the conversation. All I could say was Uh-huh, and ok and yeah. When I hung up the phone I wasn’t sure what had happened; I may have just agreed to pay $50 extra dollars a month for the rest of my life.

I was still a little tipsy from the conversation when I got into my car, I had been on the phone so long I was late for after-school pickups!, and when I turned on the radio, they were talking about the new Best Buy consumer scam. I listened for about 5 minutes before the fog evaporated and I realized they had just said consumer scam. What happened? Bob what did you do? What did I do? I drove like a maniac swerving in and out of lanes and beeping my horn, while listening to why no sane person should ever fall for such a thing.

By the time I got to school I had calmed down; I pulled myself together and took a deep breath. It would be ok; I would just call Bob back tomorrrow and have another conversation.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Going Postal

I race-walked two people in the post office parking lot to get to the door first. I don’t know what happened, I heard them clickclackclicking behind me and I automatically accelerated. They wanted to get in line in front of me!

Oh hell no.

Ok, I only had that thought for a second. As soon as I saw the woman clutch her purse up close like a football so she could actually jog by me I thought, that’s it, you win, I give up. Cupping my hands around my mouth I yell, "Go get in line ahead of me. Save yourself one minute of time so you can get back to your job for the President of the United States or whatever urgent business you have to tend to!" I did have the momentary thought of giving her a roller derby hip-check into the bike rack by the stairs, but then the guy she was with bumped past me with his aggressive skip-walking.

Come on!

What is it with me and the post office? First off, I still use it. I’m not sure I have any friends who still go to the P.O. as much as I do. I mean I only go a few times a month but still, it’s definitely one of the stops on my itinerary. I can’t imagine anyone I know standing in line for a packet of stamps or sending off a package, I mean, they must, but I never hear about it.

I am thinking all these things when I take my place behind the panting horses in front of me. I take a look around: assess my approximate wait-time, consider the strengths of the other people around me in case there is an earthquake and we are all stuck in a pile of rubble together. It does not look good. Just me and 18 crazy people. A few more walk in behind me, including an old guy in a plaid wool blazer. I don’t know why he was reassuring but he was, there’s something about an old guy in a wool blazer, with his wristwatch and his black socks. But then I looked more carefully. One eye was slightly bigger than the other. And it was protruding. The other eye was crossed.

As soon as I turned back around, he started talking. “You know there were some communists in my driveway once.”

Ok, here we go.

“That was a frivolous tale. I mean the red ones too. Generally they are red, you know.” He chuckled to himself, the old gent, having a good time. In an instant, he turned on a dime, “That sacrimonious infidel.” He yelled, spraying spittle. “I told them not to listen to him. They knew what he was. But he was never part of it. Never. Part. Of. It.”

How does this guy get himself dressed? How is he standing in line buying a packet of stamps? Is his body just on automatic while his brain is spinning out like a car in the Indy 500? Does he have the thought: I need to buy a stamp to put on the letter to pay a bill? Or do his feet simply carry him from one place to the next, just maneuvering through his itinerary?

Oh my god he’s just like me!

I looked at the people ahead of me, some talking on the phone, some texting, some daydreaming, and I calmed myself. We all got up out of bed, got ourselves dressed, made a plan, followed through. Some of us just have more distractions than others.