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37 archive 2/25-3/25/03, Journal
38 archive 3/26-4/24/03, Journal
39 archive 4/25-5/24/03, Journal
40 archive 5/25-6-24/03, Journal
41 archive 6/25-7/24/03, Journal
42 archive 7/25-8/24/03, Journal
43 archive 8/25-9/24/03, Journal
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45 archive 10/25-11/24/03, Journal
46 archive 11/25-12/24/03, Journal
47 archive 12/25/03-1/24/04, Journal
48 archive 1/25-2/24/04, Journal
49 archive 2/25-3/24/04, Journal
50 archive 3/25-4/24/04, Journal
51 archive 4/25-5/24/04, Journal
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54 archive 7/25-8/24/04, Journal
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58 archive 11/25-12/24/04, Journal
59 archive 12/25/04-1/24/05, Journal
60 archive 1/25-2/24/05, Journal 61 archive 2/25-3/24/05, Journal 62 archive 3/25-4/24/05, Journal 63 archive 4/25-5/24/05, Journal 64 archive 5/25-6/24/05, Journal 65 archive 6/25-7/24/05, Journal 66 archive 7/25-8/24/05, Journal 67 archive 8/25-9/24/05, Journal 68 archive 9/25-10/24/05, Journal 69 archive 10/25-11/24/05, Journal 70 archive 11/25-12/24/05, Journal 71 archive 12/25/05-1/24/06, Journal 72 archive 1/25-2/24/06
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WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2004
A big day for me! Today marks *four years* that I have been keeping this daily online journal. In the web world that is quite unusual. Except for the times that I've traveled without my laptop, I've only missed writing an entry a handful of days during those years. Those of you who have been reading my journal for awhile know how hard Patsy works to "finish what she begins!"
I have no idea how many regular readers I have. The first year or two I had a web counter, but when I found myself getting too caught up in the numbers, I disabled it. Some readers email me, but a lot don't. Over the years I've heard from folks in Great Britain, Sweden, Lebanon, Egypt, Canada, Japan, the West Indies, Australia, Germany, Italy, Brazil and all over the United States. I know I've forgotten some of the countries so if I didn't mention where you live, I'd love to hear from you.
Often readers will say, "I could never do that. How do you make yourself sit down and write every day?" The important thing is that I never MAKE myself do it; I just do it. After all these years, writing my journal before I go to bed is as much a habit as brushing my teeth. The day wouldn't feel complete without it. I do it for myself, not for anyone else.
How long will I continue? As long as it feels right. If it ever becomes a chore, I'll stop. But I see no evidence of that happening, at least not in the foreseeable future. So invite your friends to stop by. I'd love to meet them. And please know of my gratitude to the members of my FRC (Faithful Reader's Club). I know you're out there and I so appreciate your presence in my life. When I say I write for myself that isn't entirely true. When I write, I often feel you and I are in dialogue, with ideas and energy flowing back and forth between us. You faithful readers help me see the ripple effect of each life, how the choices we make, no matter how small, impact others. Any one of you could also keep a daily online journal and make it interesting. It's not a matter of your life being especially exciting, but of your eyes and heart being open to the wonder of the ordinary.
Keeping this journal helps me notice things I might have missed otherwise. Like the pigeon coming back three times to the roof outside my window this morning to gather twigs for the nest it's building under the eaves of the police station next door. And two chickadees chirping as they hopped from branch to branch outside the same window. And the bright red cardinal singing its spring song high in the birch tree that I saw on my scoot today. And Ed with his old friend Bob Hanley working on the New York Times crossword puzzle together after they'd finished their lunches at the Subway. And my gratitude to be able to join them.
Speaking of the "wonder in the ordinary", Bob and Ed met for lunch today because of a lost hat. Ed, Bob and their friend Jack had had dinner together at Monty's on Monday night. Soon after Ed returned home he got a call from Bob asking if by any chance he had taken Bob's knit hat by mistake. Ed looked but didn't see it anywhere. Bob called Monty's and even stopped at the 7-Eleven across the street where Ed had gone to get him a half gallon of milk. Apparently this hat was a real favorite of Bob's because it was so thick and warm. After I got home from swimming, Ed told me that he'd finally found Bob's hat and had called to give him the good news. Bob told him to look inside the brim. There Ed saw a tag that read, "Handmade personally for you by Patty Dorsey." Bob has been wearing a hat I knitted for him at least 25 years ago, and it's STILL his favorite! That made me a misty-eyed.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2004
In less than an hour I'm off on my mid-winter break--Ann Arbor tonight and Sunday night, Chicago Friday and Saturday nights. The weather forecast is excellent with highs predicted to be in the 50s for Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Chicago. I am psyched!!!
See you on Monday night. Until then, have a glorious weekend...
I arrive in Ann Arbor at 2:30 PM, check in at the Michigan League, and immediately go out for a scoot. It is a beautiful day, mild and sunny. I scoot down to the chocolates store for you-know-who (Ed's birthday is March 9), and then go on a long search for a watch for me. My $1 watch has recently died so I need a new one. I just want a simple Swatch-type watch, but that proves surprisingly hard to find. After checking 3-4 different stores, a kind woman leads me to a jewelry store that she is sure has plenty of watches. She's right. No Swatches but one purple plastic Timex that suits me just fine. I then scoot up to the Shamman Drum Bookstore and buy "Natural Capitalism", my book group's new choice. I also get "Rabbit-Proof Fence", the true story upon which the movie was based, and "Autobiography of a Face", an award-winning memoir by the poet Lucy Grealy.
By now it is 6 PM, time to meet Phillis Engelbert at Madras Masala, my favorite Ann Arbor East Indian resturant. Phillis and I first met through Rabih and Sulaima. She and the newly-formed (in 2001) Ad Hoc Committee for Peace (now called the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace) were advocates for Rabih from the time of his arrest on December 14, 2001. Since then, Phillis and I have seen one another at countless vigils, marches and rallies for Rabih, for peace and against war. The AACP even invited the Raging Grannies to march with them at last summer's Ann Arbor Fourth of July Parade. Phillis and I have also emailed back and forth regularly over these two years, but tonight is the first time we've ever sat down and had dinner together.
What a treat to be with a woman whose commitment to peace is at the core of her being. Phillis has been in the struggle for justice since her university days and has traveled to El Salvador and Nicaragua numerous times. Our dinner was great but our conversation even better.
All too soon it is time for me to scoot down to the Ark for tonight's concert featuring Habib Koite from Mali. I invite Phillis to join me but she's been away from home two nights already this week and wants to spend time with her 9 year-old boy, Ryan, before he goes to bed. But she says she's going to see if Ryan and her husband might want to attend the concert.
And what a concert it is! The Ark is practically sold out, even though it is a Thursday night, and the University is on Spring Break. And Phillis, Bob and Ryan DO show up! I also meet up with Marion, a wonderful woman from Detroit whom I see and often dance with at Detroit's free summer music festivals. We sit together, although both of us rarely stay in those seats. Habib Koite and the five musicians in his band play the kind of music it is impossible to listen to sitting down. Apparently he is a superstar in Mali and I can see why. Members of the band dress in African garb, speak French and play a mixture of traditional and modern instruments, the most unusual being an electronically-enhanced stringed gourd. The audience ADORES them!
After the show many of us go to the lobby to buy their CDs, and I am touched by the tenderness with which the oldest and the youngest members of his band react to me. They both come up and lean down to give me a hug. And it isn't as if I am asking for a hug; it is freely given from their hearts. I feel blessed.
I scoot Marion to her car and then make my way back to the League. It is so mild I don't even need my mittens. This augurs well for our trip to Chicago tomorrow. I read "Autobiography of a Face" until sleep overcomes me. I am in bed by 12:30 AM.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2004
Akira, Miki and I leave Ann Arbor about 1:30 PM. The day is sunny and mild; a perfect day for a drive. We encounter little traffic until we approach the South Side of Chicago, but then we are practically at a standstill for an hour. At Miki's suggestion, Akira finally moves out of the lanes that are heading toward Wisconsin, and from then on we whiz into town.
Our first sight of Chicago's skyscrapers is thrilling! We pull up in front of Hotel 71 about 5 PM. The doorman removes my scooter from the trunk of my car--we drove my car because it is 4-door and easier for me to get in and out of--assembles it and will not take a tip. That is the first of many unexpected kindnesses we experience this weekend.
We check in at the front desk and go up to our rooms--Miki and Akira on the 20th floor (of 36) and I on the 18th. After Nathan, the bellhop, places my windchime walker and bag where I want them and leaves, I discover this is not the room I was promised: it has an accessible tub, not an accessible roll-in shower. I call the front desk and they respond quickly and appropriately. Jason goes upstairs to check out the room with the roll-in shower but finds it needs to be cleaned. He orders housekeeping to take care of it immediately. Since Miki, Akira and I want to go off to dinner, Jason arranges for my baggage to be transferred while we are out. He assures me I can pick up my new room key when I get back later that night.
It is amazing to see Chicago at night! Skyscraper lights blazing in every direction and some of the buildings spotlighted in green. An early celebration of St. Patrick's Day? I know Chicago really gets into that holiday; in the past they even dyed the Chicago River green. We walk/scoot west along East Wacker Ave. for about three blocks, then cross over one of the drawbridges across the river, and go another 4-5 blocks north. This part of town is trendy and safe. Lots of neat looking restaurants and shops, and lots of people out on the streets, many of them in their 20s and 30s. Miki and Akira want to try an East Indian restaurant called the India House that is next door to the Jazz Showcase where we'll be spending the evening.
What a sumptuous place! When I see the table set elegantly with two sizes of plates and assorted forks, spoons and knives, I get a little nervous. It looks like a very high-priced establishment. But it isn't! The prices on the menu are reasonable and the choices delectable. We order samosas to start and then three dishes to share--Miki chooses a vegetarian (in deference to me) combination plate, I get Chana Masala (chick peas and onions in an herb gravy) and Akira orders a spinach and cottage cheese dish. The food is excellent and the service exceptional. After eating as much as we can--the portions are large--we decline dessert. So when the waiter comes to our table with three desserts, we say, "Oh no, there must be some mistake: we didn't order dessert." He takes it back, but in a minute or two the owner appears at our table and says, "No, these desserts are my gift to you." That's what I mean about unexpected kindnesses. And what a yummy dessert! Four squares of homemade ice cream (two mango and two pistachio) with a toothpick in each. Refreshing and not filling.
By now it is 8 PM. Time to go to the Jazz Showcase to hear the Lynne Arriale Trio. It's because of her that we are in Chicago this weekend. We'd heard Lynne on piano, Scott Davis on drums and Jay Anderson on bass last April at the Bird of Paradise in Ann Arbor. Both Miki and I had bought her CDs and were hooked. I'd emailed Lynne to tell her we were driving from Ann Arbor to Chicago to see them perform and she'd emailed back expressing her surprise and pleasure. She and I had talked last April and she said she remembered me. I'd also emailed the Jazz Showcase to see if they were handicap-accessible. I'd received a reply that they were and that if we got there an hour before the first set, they'd seat us close to the stage which was also close to the accessible restroom. So we arrive at 8 PM. Joe Segal, the owner for 50 years of this jazz club, doesn't remember our communication, but it doesn't matter. We end up in the front row anyway. But Lynne remembers, and is most friendly when we talk before the show and between sets.
CDs are great but there's NOTHING like hearing music live. This trio especially. They play in such an intuitive way that even though their eyes are almost always closed, you know they are communicating with one another. The music comes out as an organic whole. Of course, Lynne and Steve have played together for ten years and Jay was with them originally, moved away, and has now been part of the trio for the last five years. Steve tells me later that they rarely rehearse, even though Lynne is always composing new pieces that they have to learn. But it is all inside them when they perform; they use no music at all. I love their upbeat, more edgy songs, but it is Lynne's original compositions like Arise, Twilight and Home that dig deep into my spirit and stay there. Jazz-as-meditation.
We stay for both sets, so it is after 12:30 AM before we leave for our walk/scoot back to the hotel. Even then we know we are in a big city! People still out on the streets. Lots of cars, especially cabs, whizzing by. But since we've lost an hour in the time change from Eastern to Central time, we are mighty sleepy folks. My new room (photos #1, #2, #3) is as beautiful as the other had been and that bed feels awfully good. I am asleep shortly after my head hits the pillow (I always bring my own) at 1:45 AM. And I sleep soundly.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2004
I surprise myself by waking up at 8:30 AM, only seven hours since I'd gone to bed exhausted. It's a good time to call Eddie, so I do. He is a real stay-at-home kind of guy, but one who gets a kick out of hearing the adventures of his traveling wife. He says he doesn't have to travel because I do it for him. Hey, that works for me.
After our phone conversation, I go to my window and look out on a wonderful cityscape. After months of seeing only curvilinear organic shapes, it is a delight to see and photograph these hard-edged geometric forms. I can't wait to get out on the streets. But first I need to take care of some business. As accessible as my room is, I'm having trouble opening the bathroom door. It is self-closing and hard to manage either on my scooter or with my walker. So I call the front desk and ask if there's any way they can disable the self-closing mechanism. The clerk promises to send up a building maintainence worker immediately. I meet him on the way to the elevator and he assures me he can take care of it. What he does is totally remove the mechanism! When I return to my room later in the day, the bathroom door opens easily and stays open.
I have to say that this hotel--Hotel 71--is at the top of my list of excellent places to stay. Not only are the rooms spacious and luxurious, the staff exceptionally helpful, but the price (online) is unbelievably low. Miki is an expert at tracking down the lowest rates online and found that travelocity had rooms at Hotel 71 for $119 a day. In the middle of Chicago at such an upscale hotel, that is amazing. Now, parking is extra and there's tax added to the bill, but still...
Miki, Akira and I meet in the lobby and go next door to a great breakfast shop. I guess it's a franchise-type place, but a good one where they serve scrambled egg platters, panini egg sandwiches (which I order), french bread, fresh fruit and juices, not to mention assorted pastries, as well as lunch and dinner food. The place is packed but a table opens up just when we need it. It's such fun to be among crowds of people in a big city!
Of course, I can't stop taking pictures of the skyscapers once we get out on the streets (photo #1 & #2). After they patiently pose for me, I tell Miki and Akira to keep walking, that I'll catch up with them. We're walk/scooting down Michigan Avenue along what's called the Magnificent Mile, and I am going crazy with my camera. Frescos on the walls of old buildings, what looks like a Roman amphitheatre next to a modern structure in Grant Park, the view of skyscrapers as I look back at E. Randolph Street, the Art Institute of Chicago--where we're headed--artists out front painting the lion standing guard, the view as I scoot up the ramp to the museum doors. All of it! I am giddy with the sights.
Miki knows there's a special Rembrandt exhibit, so we decide to go. But first, we wait in a pretty sizable line just to get in the front doors.
The Art Institute of Chicago is one of this country's most exceptional art museums. Back when I was a working artist, I'd take the train to Chicago just to see special exhibitions. Then I'd return home the same day, twelve hours of travel for five hours of museum time. It was worth it. But this is my first time at the museum since becoming disabled. Different issues arise, like where are the elevators. As we're trying to get our bearings, a staff member asks where we're headed. When we tell him the Rembrandt exhibit, he takes us under his wing and guides us through several rooms to two different elevators that will get us there. Not only has Dave worked at the museum for 24 years, but his sister uses a wheelchair. One more in what is becoming a long list of unexpected kindnesses.
The exhibit is exquisite. Titled, "Rembrandt's Journey: Painter, Draftsman, Etcher", it fills at least eight rooms with etchings, paintings and drawings. Some of the etchings are so tiny and full of detail that you can buy magnifying glasses with which to see them better. I don't know how Rembrandt created them without losing his eyesight. For me, the highlight is a small oil painting that I think is called "Rest on the Flight from Egypt." His only night scene in oils, it has people huddled around a fire that is more lifelike than a real fire. Its reflection in a river beside them is positively breathtaking. But I have to admit, after about an hour, I get to a point where I just can't see any more. As Ed says, I've used up all my "eye time." So Miki, Akira and I part company, with plans to call one another in our rooms at 6 PM.
I have some shopping to do in the museum shop--Eddie's birthday and all--so happily scoot into its multi-faceted depths. While there I not only find just what I want for Ed, but a treat for myself as well. I mean, what can you do when a pair of earrings just CRIES OUT for you to buy them! While the nice saleswoman is putting them in my ears--I have trouble with such delicate operations--a sister shopper exclaims over my colorful outfit, socks and shoes. Funny thing is that she just happens to be walking across the street a few minutes later when I'm taking a picture of the museum. You can see her waving to the camera.
On the same corner is a busker playing the sax. While waiting in line to get into the museum earlier, a fiddler had entertained the waiting crowd. I guess now is the time to talk about Chicago's homeless population. Not quite as large as San Francisco, the numbers are still staggering, especially for a city with such hard winters. Today is absolutely perfect with temperatures in the 50s, no wind and sunny, but it is the first such day in 2004. How do people survive on the streets of Chicago? I can't imagine. I meet many such folks today--Jonathan, Jason, Kate, Dave and several more--and give what money I can, but their cups look mighty empty to me. As is true in large cities everywhere, most people just keep walking by as if the person standing there doesn't exist.
If you're a regular reader, you already know how I respond to people whom others call "beggars." I always stop and say, "Hi, how ya doing? My name's Patricia, and you?" Ed teases me about this, but even if I can't give money, at least I can give each person the respect of seeing them as individuals worthy of a few minutes of my time. I started this practice after getting to know a number of homeless men who hung out near my Detroit art studio back in the early '80s. Whenever I sat with them on the street, I became invisible too. That is a horrible feeling, to feel that you don't exist, a feeling I never want to give anyone. And, you know, it doesn't matter how scary or out-of-it they might look before you speak to them, I wish you could see how their faces are transformed when someone says "Hi." I've never met anyone who didn't smile back at me, introduce themselves, shake my hand and thank me for stopping. Try it yourself, just as an experiment. I bet you'll keep on doing it.
After listening to the sax player, I scoot west along E. Monroe. After a block or two I see the old El, a Chicago institution. Old, yes, but still going strong. Folks wouldn't know what to do without the El (the Elevated) transit system in Chicago. I take several photos today in which the El appears (photos #1, #2, #3), often with skyscrapers in the backgound. Actually it is this juxtaposition of old and new that makes Chicago so interesting, architecturally. Unlike San Francisco where no tall buildings were allowed to be constructed before the 1970s, Chicago was a city of tall buildings back when my mother-in-law used to go there with her parents from their home in West Liberty, Iowa soon after the turn of the last century. I find Chicago to be a fascinating city visually.
But it isn't only buildings that engage my interest: on State Street near Randolph, I see a group of girls dressed in red T-shirts with Chicago Children's Choir printed across the front. Of course I stop to meet them and find out what they are doing. Well, I learn from a Mom who is accompanying them, that this group from the Hyde Park/Beverly neighborhood on Chicago's South Side are in town to drum up business at the Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop across the street. And why would they do that? Because Ben & Jerry's is going to give them all the money they make today between 2-4 PM so these kids can travel to I-forget-where, but someplace out of the country. Apparently the Chicago Children's Choir has 3000 members and is world-reknowned. From what I hear, I can see why. These youngsters sing with confidence, good harmonies and totally on key. Of course I have to buy some ice cream to support their fundraising effort--I'm all heart!--but before I do, I call Eddie on my cell phone. If you look under the clock at the corner of S. State and Randolph, you will see exactly where I stood to make that wonderful call.
But I'm not done yet. I have blocks of scooting yet to accomplish before I go to my room for a well-deserved nap. I follow S. State north toward East Wacker Avenue. Once there, I see our hotel--the tall rectangular building with blue windows--a couple of blocks away. I also see an intriguing (to me) geometric composition of buildings. But what I'm heading for is the Chicago River. I scoot on both sides of the drawbridge, taking pictures of what I see (photo #1, #2 & #3). And now I'm beginning to run out of steam, so I scoot along the river to the hotel. Oh my, but that bed feels good!
After a good hour and a half of rest, the phone rings and it's Miki. Time to go to dinner. We meet in the lobby and walk/scoot to an Italian restaurant right on the river. I feel so cosmopolitan sitting by the window looking out on the river with skyscrapers towering overhead. By now it's dark and the half moon is shining over the city. Like a picture postcard. We share stories of our day and order dinner. My food is fine, not great, but Miki is delighted with her salmon and Akira seems happy with his chicken. We aren't rushed at all, which is nice.
Close to 8 PM we walk/scoot five or six blocks over to the Jazz Showcase. When we come through the front door, Joe, the owner, says, "Did you ever leave?" I guess not too many people drive four hours to hear performers, stay for both sets the first night, and then show up for more the next night. As far as I'm concerned, I'd be happy hearing Lynne Arriale every night of the week. There are several people waiting to get in, so we do a little "jazz talk." We can hear Lynne doing exercises at the piano. Hearing her gives me some idea of how she maintains her manual dexterity. The piano is not for sissies, especially if you perform professionally. Lynne is still onstage when we stake our spots in the front row. After she's finished warming up, she comes over to say "Hi" and kindly poses for this picture with her greatest fan...at least, one of her greatest fans.
Tonight's show is quite different from last night's. Where Lynne's more meditative songs were a thread throughout last night's show, tonight is significantly higher energy and more dynamic. Their music is still wonderful, but Miki, Akira and I feel that the drums are a bit too dominant tonight. It's certainly exciting to see and hear Steve Davis strut his stuff, but the piano and bass seem overpowered. But energetic it is!
Lynne and I have the opportunity to sit and talk after the show. It is a meeting of the heart. We discuss what is going on in the world--our opinions of which are similar--the power of music to heal, and what it's like to live the life of a musician, particularly traveling overseas as Lynne and the trio do on a regular basis. Apparently they are better known in Europe than in the U.S., but Lynne says she always misses this country when she's over there. "I love my country." Her music shows it. I guess my favorite of all her original compositions is "Arise" which she wrote in response to 9/11. You can hear it if you go to Lynne's web site and click on "Recordings." I'm listening to it right now and can barely keep typing. In fact, I'm going to stop right now.
To see all my Chicago pictures in one place, simply go to my Chicago Photo Album.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2004
Home again, home again after a perfect trip! And it was more of a spring break than a mid-winter break. Beautiful warm sunny days and mild crystal clear nights. Everyone out on the streets with smiles on their faces, celebrating this unseasonably wonderful weather.
Hey, Chicago is a BIG CITY! At first I felt like a country mouse come to town, but people were so friendly that I soon felt right at home. And Miki and Akira were the PERFECT traveling companions!
OK. Enough exclamation marks. I'm not going to do much with my journal tonight as I really need to get some sleep. Staying up past 2 AM Chicago time--closer to 3 AM last night--has made me a bit weary, but I wanted to let you know I'm home. The few photos I'm sharing tonight are part of a BUNCH that I'll make into an online photo album tomorrow.
My alarm goes off at 8:45 AM, way too early since I didn't get to bed until 2:45 AM. But Miki, Akira and I have plans to meet in the lobby at 9:30 AM. I make it downstairs in time and we go next door for another terrific breakfast. We're all packed and ready to go, so Miki goes to get their things and Akira comes to help me. The parkers bring my car without delay, we load our bags, and I coach the doorman in the fine art of disassembling Ona my scooter. We pull away from the curb at 11 AM. It is 60 degrees and sunny.
We hit no traffic along the way and are in Ann Arbor three and a half hours later! I let Miki and Akira off at the Michigan League (near where Miki's car is parked), and then drive another hour to my home. Eddie is there to welcome and help me unload. He needs NO coaching in how to assemble my scooter; I'm sure he could do it in his sleep.
I feel as though I've been away for weeks. That's what happens when you go someplace new.
MONDAY, MARCH 1, 2004
Don't believe them! The U.S. is denying that it kidnapped Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and, in effect, accomplished a military coup in that beleagured country. But President Aristide, in cell phone calls today, asserts he was threatened with death by U.S. "diplomats", flown to the Central African Republic under military guard and is currently being held prisoner by U.S. troops in a hotel there. He says, "I was kidnapped. Tell the world it is a coup!" Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviewed Congressmember Maxine Waters and TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson, both of whom received personal calls from President Aristide this morning. Apparently someone managed to smuggle a cell phone to him in the room where he is being held with his wife and brother-in-law. Read the transcript for yourself and see who you believe.
In addition to sending out group emails informing my friends of this latest horror perpetrated by the country into which I was born, having a wonderful phone visit with my San Francisco friend Dorothy Walters, and swimming my usual half mile of the freestyle tonight, I also prepared a Chicago Photo Album for your viewing pleasure.
TUESDAY, MARCH 2, 2004
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of going away is coming back and seeing things with a fresh eye. That happened to me this weekend. And my changed perspective had little to do with what I had seen and heard in Chicago; it was simply the fact that I'd dared to go there in the first place.
On the face of it, going to Chicago for two nights with friends doesn't seem like that big a deal. But, for me, it was. I had to make my way through some rather scary issues to do it.
The first had to do with the trip there and back. I have one of the world's tiniest bladders and even though I use adult diapers in cases like this, that isn't a lot of comfort. What would happen if I had to use the toilet on the way? Was I going to expect Miki and Akira to put my scooter together just for that? Or would I have to struggle to walk with my walker all the way to the restroom. Most rest centers on the highway have their toilets a pretty good distance away from where you park. At least it seems far to me. The fact that I didn't know Miki and Akira very well made this more of an issue than it would have been if I were traveling with close friends. For instance, Pat Kolon and I travel together a lot. We've got a system for my toileting needs that serves us well, but it isn't a system that I could use with most other folks. I don't need to go into the intimate details here, but trust me, only those who know me pretty well are comfortable with my favored methods of responding to the call of nature on a driving trip.
Well, as it turned out, this was a non-issue. Thank goddess.
I also need help doing simple things sometimes, like pulling on my jacket or my mittens. Now, Miki had already shown sensitivity in this regard so that didn't worry me too much.
An additonal issue was that of handicap-accessibility. Whenever I'm going to stay at a new hotel, I am always a bit anxious until I see that what they call "handicap-accessible" really is. And I'd almost cancelled out of the trip altogether when Miki told me the women's restroom at the Jazz Showcase was on the second floor. I knew I wouldn't be comfortable sitting through two sets--more than three hours of sitting--knowing all the time that I couldn't use a toilet even if I needed to. Toilets are BIG issue with me! But I called and emailed the Jazz Showcase ahead of time to check this out, and was relieved when they assured me they had a handicap-accessible restroom on the first floor.
My final issue was that I had invited myself along on this trip and wasn't sure that Miki and Akira really wanted me to join them.
As I say, I had my issues. But I went ahead anyway, and am I glad I did. Everything worked out wonderfully well, and Miki and Akira even said spontaneously at breakfast on Sunday that I was lots of fun to be around. Well, so were they.
Now, to come to the changed perspective that this adventure gave me. When I saw one of the photos of me from the trip, I was not pleased with how thick I looked. In fact, I cannot tell a lie, I retouched it a little so my belly didn't look quite so big. Well, that got me thinking. Do I have to give up and have a belly that displeases me, or do I have the ability to change that part of my anatomy? So often with this chronic progressive condition I am left feeling unable to control my body, but my weight? That is still under my control. So I'm now watching what I eat with the intention of narrowing my silhouette.
Another way to reclaim my power came to mind as I swam laps last night. I remembered that chilling moment in June 2000 when I discovered I could no longer swim a stroke. And here I am four years later swimming farther than I'd ever swum before. It didn't happen by accident either; I worked my tail off to MAKE it happen. So why can't I do that with other functions that I think I've lost? Muscle tone, for one. If I took myself to a gym and worked with a personal trainer, could I regain some measure of strength, tone and flexibility? Why not? So today I scooted down to our local gym which is a block away from Ed's office. I talked with the senior trainer and we have an appointment next week for an assessment. When I heard that he's worked for two years with an individual who has Parkinson's disease, I felt very encouraged. With their two-week free trial and assessment, I have absolutely nothing to lose...and everything to gain.
All this tells me not to give up too easily. Dare to go places and do things even if it makes me anxious. Push the envelope, as they say. There's enough in life over which I have no control, so take control of whatever I can. Craft my life as I would craft a work of art. For it IS a work of art, isn't it.
When I wasn't off scooting, I was working on my journal entries for the weekend. If you scroll down to Thursday, February 26 and Friday, February 27, you can read the first installments.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 3, 2004
Keeping this online journal is more of a gift to me than to anyone. For instance, today I got to relive every moment of my grand and glorious Saturday in Chicago. I spent most of the day writing it and enjoyed every minute. To read it, simply scroll down to the journal entry for Saturday, February 28, 2004.
Except for that, I spent a bit of time with Eddie and his best friend, Frankie Blumenthal. They have known one another since they were 9. Only 65 years! This morning Frank called from his home in Ann Arbor and asked Ed if he had time for a visit. I could hear Ed's voice from upstairs and it was filled with utter delight. Frankie brought his new puppy, Cleo, along for the ride, so he and Ed went for some walks as well as having lunch together at Subway, and sitting and talking in Ed's office. They came over here for Ed to give Frank an impromptu piano lesson. Apparently Frank's wife, Liz, is talking about getting rid of their old Steinway because it isn't being used and just takes up space in their living room. Frank figures if he starts playing it maybe that will save it. I hope it does. That is a beautiful piano, one that Ed has played many times. One time I even sang with him. It was for Liz's father's memorial service, and Liz had asked Ed and me to share some appropriate songs. Our only gig.
Tonight I swam up a storm! My new intention to reclaim my body, strength and weight-wise, gave me a real head of steam. I swam my usual half mile of the freestyle about ten minutes faster than normal. It felt GOOD!!!
THURSDAY, MARCH 4, 2004
Instead of spending the evening writing a journal entry, dear friends, I'm going to "veg out." Ed rented a DVD from the library with Helena Bonham Carter in "The Heart Of Me." I am hoping it will be totally mindless entertainment. Just what this "relevant" activist/writer needs and deserves.
Well. That was hardly "mindless entertainment"; it was superb. I've been utterly mesmerized for an hour and a half. Or was it two hours. I really have no idea. It was THAT kind of movie. What a treat.
FRIDAY, MARCH 5, 2004
Ice Music. That's what I heard today. And wind. That's what I felt.
How can I help you hear and feel what I heard and felt? I can show you pictures--photos #1, #2--of the ice that made the music, and I can show you beach grasses and a flag blowing in the wind, but that doesn't do it. It was tactile and aural...visual only secondarily. For much of the time, I stood beside the lake, face to the wind, holding tightly to the guard rail, eyes closed, listening to the music. The sound was like a giant rain stick filled with shards of glass. Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle. Light, crystal-clear notes heard above the shush, shush, shush of wind-wiped waves.
For this was a real wind. 40-45 MPH. Strong enough to tip over a semi-truck (but not hurt the driver) on the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, eleven miles south of where I stood. That guard rail was my lifeline. I wouldn't have dared let go. It was THRILLING!!!!
I feel most alive in wind. That's why I wanted to go out for a scoot today. That and the fact that they were predicting highs of 70 degrees F! For this was not a cold wind, but a warm one coming out of the south. No coat, no hat, no scarf, no mittens, just a sweater over my dress. And tomorrow's forecast? Snow flurries!
But nothing can stop spring now that it's started. The birds know it, the trees know it, the plants know it. And I know it. That's why I'm still smiling 10 hours later.
SATURDAY, MARCH 6, 2004
Sometimes you have to step back, look at your life as if it were someone else's, and ask, "Is everything in balance here, or it is time to tweak things a bit?" I did this last Thursday, and found a "tweakable" area: my life in groups.
When I examined my feelings about recent group encounters, I realized I hadn't enjoyed them as much as usual. By the way, I'm referring to meetings, not simply getting together with friends. My tolerance for what we social workers call "group dynamics" was nil. It was time for a break.
So I called or emailed the persons affected and opted out of all meetings for the month of March. In bed that night, I felt a huge weight had been lifted. I knew my decision was right.
In addition to my gut response, there's another test I apply to such decisions: Does the Universe validate my choice by offering gifts I wouldn't have received otherwise? Today it did.
Pat Kolon called about 11 AM and asked if she could come visit over for a visit. If I'd been on my usual schedule, I wouldn't have been home, but here I was, free as a bird and wanting to spend time with my friend. We caught up on our latest news, walk/scooted to the park to listen to the "ice music"--that had surprisingly disappeared overnight--and shared a delicious lunch of home-cooked Indian curried vegetables that she'd brought along. We also did more fine-tuning of our planned trip to New York City over Memorial Day weekend.
My niece Gretchen is getting married in Central Park on May 29 and I've asked Pat to join me on the trip. As you know if you're a regular reader, Pat and I have taken many driving trips together over the years. This will be our longest--two days traveling each way (it's a 12-hour drive), and four days in the City. Gretchen and Matt have arranged for the wedding guests to get a reduced rate at a brand new upscale hotel in Times Square, so that's where we'll stay. I already have reservations for a handicap-accessible room. Pat told me today that while I'm at the wedding and reception on Saturday, her friend Bernadette will come up from Washington, DC to spend the day with her. It's a fun trip to anticipate.
By the way, I don't intend to be a hermit this month. I'll get together with friends, go to school every week, swim on Mondays and Wednesdays, sing with the Raging Grannies in Ann Arbor at the March 20th global "The World STILL Says NO To War" march and rally, and probably spend that weekend in Ann Arbor. I expect to return to group meetings with my usual zest and enthusiasm in April. As I said earlier, this is just a "time out."
It feels right.
SUNDAY, MARCH 7, 2004
As many of you know, for the past three years I've been an "anyone but Bush for president in 2004" kind of person. I still am. That said, it now looks like that "anyone"--Senator John Kerry--is only barely better than Bush, at least in the area of foreign policy.
Of course, we all know that the Senator from Massachusetts voted for the War Act in November 2002 and has been trying to justify it ever since. His disingenuous claim that he "believed" the President that Saddam Hussein had WMDs is ludicrous. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together knew that was a lie, especially a US Senator who had access to top secret information for months (actually, years) ahead of time. Millions of folks like me who got all their not-so-secret information from the Internet saw this Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Powell WMD scare for what it was: a lie calculated to play on Americans' fears of being attacked again.
You don't have to be a psychologist or a cultural anthropologist to recognize the symptoms of a societal Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in this country since 9/11. That is why President Bush uses the "T" (terrorism) word so liberally in all his speeches. It is--and was--why Cheney and Bush continue to link Saddam Hussein with Al-Qaeda and 9/11, even after international experts have shown that no such link ever existed. Yes, Bush has occasionally said publicly that Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11, but do you see these statements quoted on the front pages of US newspapers or hear them on Fox News? Not likely. There's nothing like fear to keep a people malleable.
I'm afraid the probable Democratic candidate, John Kerry, plays much the same game. Not just about Iraq either. Let's look at Israel.
In last week's Democratic presidential candidates' debate in New York, Senator Kerry was the first to answer the question, "Is the barrier Israel is building in the West Bank a wall or a fence?"
"A fence. Israel needs it to be secure, because Israel has no partner to negotiate peace.", said Senator Kerry. Edwards was right behind him. As Ira Chernus writes in his eye-opening article, "Kerry and Edwards Recite Israeli Mantra":
"No partner." "No partner." It's the mantra that the Israeli government whipped up over three years ago, in one of the great PR ploys of our time. They convinced much of the world that Yasir Arafat had no interest in negotiating with Israel, that he had become "irrelevant."
Arafat was and still is the only Palestinian leader with the credibility among his own people to negotiate peace with Israel. He was and is ready to embrace a peace plan that he could take to his people without being laughed out of office.
Once the Israelis and Americans ruled him out, it was easy for them to say, "No partner for peace," because it was true. The Israelis conveniently forget to point out that they themselves made it true, very intentionally.
The "no partner" mantra is a litmus test for supporters of the Sharon government's policies. Kerry and Edwards were breathlessly eager to show that they pass the test.
There's more. I've just finished reading a long article, "Kerry's Foreign Policy Record Suggests Few Differences With Bush", by Steven Zunes, professor of Politics and chair of the Peace & Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco. I heard Zunes speak in San Francisco and know him to be a respected Middle Eastern Studies expert.
The following paragraphs give some idea of the depth of Kerry's support of Israel's anti-Palestinian policies, present and past:
Indeed, perhaps the most telling examples of Kerry's neo-conservative world view is his outspoken support of the government of right-wing Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, annually voting to send billions of dollars worth of taxpayer money to support Sharon's occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands seized in the 1967 war. Even as the Israeli prime minister continues to reject calls by Palestinian leaders for a resumption of peace talks, Kerry insists that it is the Palestinian leadership which is responsible for the conflict while Sharon is "a leader who can take steps for peace."
Despite the UN Charter forbidding countries from expanding their territory by force and the passage, with U.S. support, of a series of UN Security Council resolutions calling on Israel to rescind its unilateral annexation of occupied Arab East Jerusalem and surrounding areas, Kerry has long fought for U.S. recognition of the Israeli conquest. He even attacked the senior Bush Administration from the right when it raised concerns regarding the construction of illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, going on record, paradoxically, that "such concerns inhibit and complicate the search for a lasting peace in the region." He was also critical of the senior Bush Administration's refusal to veto UN Security Council resolutions upholding the Fourth Geneva Conventions and other international legal principles regarding Israeli colonization efforts in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Kerry's extreme anti-Palestinian positions have bordered on pathological. In 1988, when the PLO which administered the health system in Palestinian refugee camps serving hundreds of thousands of people and already had observer status at the United Nations sought to join the UN's World Health Organization, Kerry backed legislation that would have ceased all U.S. funding to the WHO or any other UN entity that allowed for full Palestinian membership. Given that the United States then provided for a full one-quarter of the WHO's budget, such a cutoff would have had a disastrous impact on vaccination efforts, oral re-hydration programs, AIDS prevention, and other vital WHO work in developing countries.
These are just a few of the examples Zunes gives in his article. As I say, the article is long, but I think it's worth reading. If Kerry DOES become president, I'd just as soon know ahead of time what to expect.
So, knowing what I know about John Kerry, how will I vote on November 2nd? As of now, I will probably hold my nose and vote Democratic. At least, in addition to Bush, we'll get rid of Cheney, Rove, Perle, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft. I won't be voting FOR, but AGAINST. My guess is there'll be lots of us out there doing just that.
Of course what we really need is a complete overhaul of the entire US political and electoral system. If this is democracy, it doesn't deserve to be exported anyplace. Would that we could start over and try again.
MONDAY, MARCH 8, 2004
International Women's Day. I'm having a hard time celebrating today; it feels more like a day of mourning. Remembering my sisters around the world who suffer war, rape, fear, hunger, poverty, loss of their men, loss of freedom, loss of education and jobs, family abuse. Sorry to be such a downer, but these things are staring me in the face.
The women in Afghanistan whose "liberation" from the Taliban looks much different through their eyes:
"Rule of the Rapists: Britain and the US Said War On Afghanistan Would Liberate Women. We Are Still Waiting", by Mariam Rawi, published in the Guardian/ UK, on February 12, 2004.
"For More Afghan Women, Immolation Is Escape", by Carlotta Gall, published in today's New York Times, March 8, 2004.
The women of Iraq whose "liberation" from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein looks like this:
"An Empty Sort of Freedom: Saddam Was No Defender of Women, But They Have Faced New Miseries and More Violence Since He Fell", by Houzan Mahmoud, published in today's Guardian/UK, March 8, 2004.
"On International Women's Day, Iraqi Women Have Little To Celebrate", by Medea Benjamin, published today on CommonDreams.org, March 8, 2004
"As U.S. Detains Iraqis, Families Plea For News", by Jeffrey Gettleman in yesterday's New York Times, March 7, 2004.
Baghdad Is Burning, a blog kept by an Iraqi woman who goes by the name Riverbend. Especially relevant is an entry called "Will Work For Food...", Sunday, August 24, 2004.
And in our own country where the job situation is becoming more dire by the month. For instance, the following statistics showed up in an article--"New Job Numbers Dog the Bush Campaign"--published in The Dallas Morning News, March 5, 2004:
American payrolls grew by just 21,000 jobs last month, far less than the 125,000 to 145,000 analysts were expecting and hoping for. The unemployment rate stayed steady at 5.6 percent with 8.1 million people out of work. But 392,000 people dropped out of the labor market, many of them presumed to have lost hope of finding work.
...The economy shed 3,000 manufacturing jobs since January and 2.7 million since February 2001.
Don't you guess a lot of the workers who lost those jobs, and those who dropped out of the labor market after giving up trying to find jobs, were women? And how many of them were single moms, trying to raise kids on their own?
Where I needed to be today was in front of the White House with the women of Code Pink, chanting and carrying banners that said, "Women Say: Fire Bush!", and "2.4 Million Jobs Lost; Pink Slip Bush."
TUESDAY, MARCH 9, 2004
I went to school today instead of Thursday. Even though it was a half day for the kids, this was the best choice since Susan's going out of town tomorrow night. Besides there were three fifth grade classes this morning, and today was the day I was to teach the fifth graders how to shade faces.
They're working on self portraits in pencil. Susan always has each class do self portraits some time during the school year, but the medium changes from year to year. She'd decided on pencil partly because the students had been fascinated by some pencil portraits I'd spontaneously done in class a few weeks back. You know, the kind of drawing where you do a contour line drawing of a face and then fill it in with very light pencil marks that you rub in with your finger. You build layer on layer for the darks, giving a feeling of dimension to the drawing. I was just playing, but the kids really took to it, so Susan asked if I'd be willing to teach this shading technique to the fifth graders.
In the three years I've sat in on Susan's art classes at this K-5 school, I've never taught a class. My role has been to sit at the tables with the kids and do whatever assignments they do. Sometimes I'll help them when they get stuck or ask me, but I've been pretty much behind-the-scenes. By choice, I might add. So it was new and different for me to have the youngsters gathered around my table today, hanging on my every word. Because that was the amazing thing: they DID hang on my every word! If you've ever taught fifth grade, you'll know how unusual that is. Especially on a half day of school. But the pictures Susan took prove it to be true (photo #1, #2 & #3).
Even when the kids went to their seats to try it themselves, they stayed engaged. So engaged they almost ran me ragged bringing up their drawings to see if they were doing it "right." Overall, the three classes did a fine job. There was only one unpleasant moment and that was when a girl sitting at my table decided to draw on one of my finished drawings, thereby ruining it. It was weird. She did it in plain sight and then lied about having done it. I was plenty ticked because it was a drawing I was especially fond of. We made her stay after class and I talked to her, but never got the feeling she cared one way or another. This is not a child I'd known before and she's certainly not one I'm interested in getting to know now. Can you imagine doing that with a teacher's drawing? As I say, it was weird.
But there were many moments that counter-balanced that one. For instance, when the girl sitting next to me scribbled heavily on her paper and then rubbed her finger in it. I asked, just out of curiosity, why she'd done that. She held up her right index finger, now blackened with graphite on its tip, and replied, "I wanted an artist's finger." That's what I had called my own graphite-coated finger after I'd rubbed the shading into my drawing during my demonstration. These kids don't miss a trick!
Today was my sweetie's birthday. And was he celebrated! First of all, his old high school girl friend, Dottie, called to wish him "Happy Birthday" from Memphis, as she does every March 9th. Then he went to the local Subway for lunch as he does every day, and they had an ice cream cake for him from TCBY with "Happy Birthday, Doc" written on it. The whole family that runs the restaurant was there to help celebrate. And a fellow Ed played tennis with last weekend brought a camera to commemorate the event. Later in the day, he dropped off the pictures--all developed--at Ed's office. The celebration continued at home. For dinner we had Pat Kolon's West African vegetarian stew--delicious!--rice, and special cheesecake for dessert. His brother called as did Martha from Tucson. Martha and Eddie met in Ann Arbor at the age of eight, and went on to be best friends after both their familes moved to the Detroit area in the late '30s. That man deserves to be celebrated: he is such a dear.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 10, 2004
Occasionally success is accompanied by public acclaim, but usually it is hidden, often known only to you. I experienced a success today that gratified me deeply, and I was perfectly happy to remain behind the scenes.
As regular readers know, every August I travel across the state to attend the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. This icon of Womyn's Culture is one week out of every year when thousands of womyn from across the globe live together, camp out under the stars, sing, dance, drum, enjoy concerts, attend workshops, and experience ourselves in ways that can only happen on the Land, 650 acres of forests and meadows about 20 miles inland from Lake Michigan. This summer will be my 10th and the Festival's 29th year.
There is also a Michigan Womyn's Music Festival web site and an online bulletin board. On the bulletin board, March arrives with great fanfare because it is the traditional date that the web site unveils the list of performers and intensive workshops for the coming August. This March raised even more interest than usual because, for the first time in years, the entire web site was redesigned with more photos and information than ever. A new thread was posted on the bulletin board by one of the web designers, asking our opinion of their efforts. Every one of the postings gave the newly-designed site rave reviews, that is until I posted my assessment.
As beautiful and user-friendly as I found the redesigned site to be, I was deeply disappointed to find a complete lack of photos of womyn from DART, the camping area for womyn with disabilities. There were no wheelchairs, crutches, walkers or scooters pictured on any page of the site, even the one devoted to "DART Info & Registration." I found this totally unacceptable. So, on Saturday, I added the following post to the BB:
The new design is stunning and I want to commend all who worked so hard to make the MWMF web site so beautiful and user-friendly. But I have one concern, and it is a big one.
I have looked at every photo on every page and am deeply disappointed to see a very important segment of our Michigan community missing from view. It is a large group of womyn who are used to being marginalized and invisible in the mainstream world, but NOT here in our own world--the Michigan world--where we have always felt seen and valued. It is our differently-abled womyn, the womyn who call DART our home.
There is not one photo that shows a womon on crutches, in a wheelchair, using a walker, or driving a scooter. We are not even seen on the page that gives information about DART. On that page, there is only one picture and it is of a worker tacking down the carpet on which our wheeled sisters ride.
Sorry to bring such a downer to this thread but as a DART camper for 10 years this summer, I have to say it as I see it. And not simply for myself, but for all my sisters out there, many of whom may be contemplating coming to Festival for the first time and would be anxious to see evidence on the web site that Michigan IS for all womyn, no matter what their abilities. They need to see us beautiful womyn on wheels, using crutches and walkers out there under the stars, dancing up a storm, leading workshops, hanging out playing cards, enjoying dinner in our kitchen tent. Just BEING THERE.
Please put us back in the picture!
I also invited the web designers to use any photos from my MWMF photo/journals from 2001-2003.
On Monday I received a personal email from the principal festival organizer asking permission to use two of my photos. Of course I said "Yes", but I recommended she replace one of her choices with another. Today I received another personal email, this time from one of the BB users. In it she offered her support and told me she'd just seen a new picture on the "Tips For First Timers" page, one showing a womon in a wheelchair watching as a sister put up a tent. That was my photo of Roseannah and Valerie helping put up my tent last August (the photo I'd recommended they use). I then checked the "DART Info & Registration" page and was pleased to see another of my photos accompanying the text, the picture I'd taken of "my street" in the DART camping area last August. You can see these photos by going to Festival Site Information and clicking on the two pages mentioned above.
Four days after I'd posted my concern, it was addressed and rectified. Don't I wish the mainstream culture would be so quick to respond!
THURSDAY, MARCH 11, 2004
I called myself a bulldog today and my friend Sooz, who had brought over homemade lentil soup for lunch, said I should come up with another analogy. I asked what she'd recommend. She said maybe the scarab beetle who pushes dung up the hill with its head. I wasn't sure that was a better analogy, but whether a bulldog or a dung-pushing beetle, what I am is determined. And when I get determined, things happen.
I think of the morning I woke up and decided smoking looked ugly. I quit and never looked back. Or the day ten years later when the Detroit/Windsor International Marathon (26.2 miles) route first went by our house. That day in October 1978, I decided I'd be among the runners the following year. And I was. I also vowed that I would start training the very next day so I could finish the race with a smile on my face. And I did. For two years in a row I finished with a smile on my face. Then there was the day four years ago when I got in the pool and discovered I could no longer swim a stroke. I took water aerobics classes twice a week for the entire summer so I could regain my swimming abilities. By the end of that summer I swam four lengths of the pool. Yesterday I swam a half a mile, as I do every Monday and Wednesday in the winter. In the summer I generally swim laps every other day.
And now I am determined to: 1) get rid of this belly I've had for far too long; and 2) tone and strengthen my body--especially my legs--by working out at a gym. I came to this decision on Monday, March 1 and have stayed true to it for eleven days. By watching what I eat, my belly is already looking smaller, and today I had my evaluation with Matt, the personal trainer at our local gym. What a good feeling it is to be taking care of my body in this way!
Matt is going to be the perfect fellow for the job. He asked all the right questions, never once fell into a pity-place, and already had me trying different exercises designed to strengthen my leg muscles. I can even use them at home. And although he'd explained earlier that he would not be able to take me on as a client--he's head trainer of this gym and is practically booked solid--today he said he would like to work with me because he wants to learn. Before we start our regular appointments--Tuesday, March 23, is the first--he plans to study up on MS at the medical library and by talking to some physicians with whom he trained. By the way, this gym is a block away from Ed's office, and on my favorite scooting route. Although I scooted through damp, cold snow to get there, nothing was going to stop me today.
The hill may be high and the load stinky, but I'll meet you at the top.
FRIDAY, MARCH 12, 2004
Last night I went to sleep with a smile on my face. It was put there by a DVD I watched before going to bed. This BBC made-for-TV movie in three parts is called "A Very British Coup." Although it came out in 1988, I would never have guessed it. It was as timely as if it had been written yesterday. The following is a synopis I found online:
A Very British Coup 
Harry Perkins, a working class man from a family of committed communists, is elected Prime Minister of Britain and leads the Labour Party into power. The election of such a hard-line left winger with controversial views on nuclear disarmament and the openness of government is simply something that the establishment cannot sit still for. Backed by the media and foreign governments, including the USA, the civil service swings into action and begins a coup by stealth, hoping to undermine and overthrow Perkins.
The ending is Alfred Hitchcock with a British accent, and for a leftist/pacifist/anti-corporate activist like me, it was pure delight. Imagine if you can, a Prime Minister who insists on disarming nuclear weapons and actually does it...live on TV yet! I know this was fiction, but still. Just the idea that such a thing could even be imagined warmed my heart. It helped me see how pessimistic I've become about there ever being a world leader of conscience who would make act for the good of the people and the planet. Not just use those words, mind, but actually DO it. Yet here was a novelist (Chris Mullen) and a scriptwriter (Alan Plater) who dared to imagine just such a scenario. I was also pleased to read that this production received awards in 1989, from the Grand Prize at the Banff Television Festival to numerous British Academy Television Awards, including Best Actor, Best Drama Series, Best Editor and Best Film Sound. So it wasn't a pig in a poke; it was taken seriously and probably seen by thousands of people. The Capsule Review on the web site I found said,
That rarest of beasts, the politically committed TV movie, A Very British Coup is a scathing satire of the British political system. It should be required viewing for any student of political science and remains every bit as relevant today as it did when it was first shown. How much of it would make sense to non-UK viewers is hard to say, but the drama is strong enough to keep the attention throughout - the acting is amazing, the script witty and the direction spot on. Thoroughly recommended though somewhat hard to find now.
Well, it was in my local library DVD collection, and who knows, maybe it's in yours too. I wouldn't so much recommend it for "students of political science" as for tired anti-war activists who need a boost. We must not lose our capacity to imagine. Remember John Lennon?
Imagine there's no
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...
Imagine there's no
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one
SATURDAY, MARCH 13, 2004
What could be more fun than surprising a friend with a gift you know they want but never expected to receive! That happened to me today and I am still aglow with delight. The friend is my dear San Francisco sister, Dorothy Walters, and the gift is her very own blog, "Kundalini Splendor", all up and running (and ready for any changes she wants to make).
The idea came to me as I sat in our sunny living room this afternoon trying to warm up after a very chilly scoot. I was reading Mary Ford-Grabowski's new anthology, Woman Prayers, in which Dorothy has a number of poems. When I came to one of them, a light went on in my head and I saw, for the first time, what I could give my talented friend for her birthday on March 17. And it would be a gift to her readers as well.
For years, we've talked about Dorothy having a web site in which to share her poems and reflections. She'd always said she wanted one of my photos of a rose to be on her home page. We'd talked about it, but things had not gone beyond talk, at least not until today.
Dorothy is an exceptional poet, right up there with Mary Oliver in my opinion. Since we met in 1997, she's had two books published: the first, Marrow Of Flame, is a collection of her poems of the spiritual journey; and the second, Unmasking The Rose, is a record of her Kundalini initiation. And now she's a blogger!
When you read this excerpt from an email I just received from her, you'll see why I can't stop smiling:
marvelous, brilliant, generous Patricia--
OH, oh, oh--how fabulous this moment is. I am sitting here basking in the knowledge that I am now an actual, bona fide blogger, that the dream is now an actuality, that at last I am "on line" (or something like that.) Thank you, thank you, thank you Patricia. This is indeed one of the best gifts ever, and I will do everything in my power to learn how it works. With your help--who knows? Maybe the moon is next, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof.
...Nothing this big has happened to me since I won the local beauty contest at age 3 (I was Miss Chevrolet, no less.) ...
Much, much love,
SUNDAY, MARCH 14, 2004
A sleep-late, stay-at-home, work-on-my-book day. It had been a while since I'd worked on "Scooting Towards Justice", so it was good to get back to it. The chapter I worked on was all about that crazy Election 2000. Fortunately I'd followed it closely before and after the election, so there were many applicable journal entries. Do you remember those insane 31 days after the election with their hanging chads and butterfly ballots? What a time that was!
Otherwise I have little to report. Dorothy wrote, excited that she'd already received two email responses from readers of her blog. Keep 'em coming! I've just sent her an email with written instructions on how to post a new entry to her blog. We have a phone tutorial scheduled for tomorrow and I thought it would make things easier if she had the instructions in hand as I explained the process to her. It's really quite simple, but new things can often feel intimidating.
MONDAY, MARCH 15, 2004
Before my phone appointment today with Dorothy at 2 PM, I just had to get inside. It was a bright sunny day with temperatures in the low 40s F. I only had an hour, so I scooted down to our lakefront park three blocks away. As I entered the park, I saw an ocean-going freighter out in the lake--the first of the season. At least the first I've seen. Another sign of spring.
The harbor was clear except for pockets of ice close to the northern wall. I don't expect the ice to last much longer. Nor do I expect the geese to continue to hang out in the park as they've been doing this winter. Once Kate, our community's goose-chasing border collie, is out patrolling the park again, we won't see any geese there until next winter. She's famous, you know. Last September, my niece in New Jersey sent me a link to a New York Post article about Kate that had been sent out on the AP wire service. Yes, she was expensive, but because of her, our park was no longer covered in geese turds last summer as it had been for years before. Besides, she's awfully sweet.
Today I scooted out to my favorite place overlooking the water at the eastern end of the park. All I could hear was the occasional honk of the geese and the soft slap of waves. Utterly idyllic.
By 2 PM I was back home, ready to give Dorothy a phone tutotial on how to maintain a blog. I'd sent her an email last night, detailing the steps to post new entries and edit old ones. My friend is so smart she'd already posted a new entry on her own! I also wanted to give her the opportunity to change what I'd put up, since I'd done it as a surprise. Her blog is now called "Kundalini Splendor" and has a different URL. "Marrow of Flame" was deleted, so if you've already bookmarked it, you'll want to delete that and add the new bookmark. What fun to work with my dear friend on this project, almost like living down the street from one another as we used to in San Francisco!
And now, for some reason--maybe this afternoon's fresh air and tonight's swim--I'm tired and ready for bed. Night, night.
TUESDAY, MARCH 16, 2004
Last night at the pool, Tim and I talked about Iraq. Tim, a former high school teacher and swim coach who is in his 60s, is the lifeguard at the middle school where I swim two nights a week. We have a good teasing-type relationship; I like him very much.
Well, Tim knows I'm a peace activist, so when he asked, "Are you going to be out demonstrating now that it's the one-year anniversary of the the war on Iraq?", I stopped to chat. After telling him about the demos that will be happening across the globe on March 20, I said that the Raging Grannies Without Borders would be singing at the march and rally in Ann Arbor. I even sang him a stanza from "Yankee Doodle Georgie."
Tim responded by saying, "But haven't you heard? Things are going MUCH better now in Iraq!" I asked where he'd heard that, and he told me it was on CNN. He went on to say that the schools are running well, teachers are making 300% more pay, hospitals are operating better than ever, they now have a "Bill of Rights", and it looks like things are going to be fine by June.
So this is what people are hearing on TV.
I tried to tell him about the other side of things, how there has not been 24 hours of full electricity for the people in a year. He said, "Oh yeah, brown-outs." I said, "No, hours of black-outs every day." I told him about the exiles who make up the Governing Council, convicted criminals like Chalabi, and how they don't represent the people. I shared a little of what Riverbend and other bloggers who live in Baghdad tell us is really going on in that beleagured city.
But my words seemed to wash off his back like the proverbial water off a duck's back. According to Tim, the people of Iraq are better off than before the war, but the US troops must stay there because otherwise there'll be civil war.
Scooting home, I thought about our conversation. It had been good-natured and respectful, but neither of us had changed our views. And why was that, I asked myself? Because our views reflect how we choose to see the world.
Tim is an optimist, and I'm not. He wants to see the world in a rosy light because anything else depresses him too much. Tim is a good person and wants the world to be a good place. He wants his government to be good and for what they say to be true. I'd guess the majority of American people are like Tim.
This train of thought led me to remember an article I'd read recently. It was about a campaign speech Bush had given in a factory where the workers cheered his every word. When the journalist later tried to interview some of these workers, he discovered that not one of them spoke English. But that hadn't hurt the effect for the cameras. The article said that Bush had used the word "optimistic" eight times. According to this journalist, optimism is Bush's core campaign strategy. Where Kerry is saying everything is wrong with Bush's world, the President simply says everything is right. No facts, just a smile and a promise.
This is a very effective strategy with folks like Tim who want to believe that things are getting better.
I pursued these thoughts last night as I lay in bed. So what can I do to counter this "optimism trap"? What came to mind was getting information out to the public in a non-confrontational way.
As I awoke this morning, I saw clearly one action I could take. With all the focus on Iraq, I think folks are missing an even more dangerous aspect of Bush's presidency: what he has done and continues to do to the environment. So I decided to put up a blog called, "Bush and the Environment", and post on it the BushGreenwatch email updates I receive daily. These short, well-researched reports tell what we are not hearing in the mainstream media about Bush's unrelenting assault on the earth's air, water, species, land and natural resources.
Maybe some US voters will find my new blog and, because of what they read there, think long and hard about whether they want more of the same for the next four years.
Snow? NO!!! But alas, my cry was not heard. On a day when "snow showers" were predicted, 7" of the white stuff fell during a storm that lasted a solid 12 hours (photos #1 & #2). Enough already. Winter begone!
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 17, 2004
Today was a red letter DAY for my brother Rabih Haddad: the day his truth got out into the world. Finally.
I hadn't told you because I was sworn to secrecy--yes, even a journal-keeper like me can keep a secret--but a journalist/editor from The Metro Times, Detroit's primary weekly newspaper, traveled to Beirut for four days in February to get an exclusive interview with Rabih.
He'd received many requests for interviews since his deportation last July, but had kept silent. Believe me, the press and media had been putting a spin on Rabih's story from the moment he was first arrested and thrown in jail on December 14, 2001. During his 19 months--most of which was spent in solitary confinement--of detention, only one article appeared in the mainstream media that was balanced and objective. That article was written by Ann Mullen of The Metro Times. I remember it well. Not only did she portray Rabih Haddad as a principled man but also showed his wife, Salma, to be a woman of courage. The truth of it.
So when Ann Mullen requested an exclusive interview, Rabih said yes. Today her article and pictures appeared in The Metro Times. "Rabih Haddad Breaks His Silence" is a long article, but it needs to be. Not only does Ann give an in-depth view of my brother, who he is, what's important to him, and how he perceives what happened to him in the US, but she gives what Rabih sees as an objective portrayal of the different sides of the question of his guilt or innocence. The extent of her research is awesome. She interviewed just about everyone who had a part to play not only in the case, but in Rabih's life as co-founder of and fundraiser for the Global Relief Foundation. She also gives a delightful picture of Rabih's relationship with his mother, aunt and grandfather in Lebanon. Even if I didn't know or care about Rabih, I would find this article interesting reading. Almost a primer on what "justice" looks like for Arab Muslim men in post-9/11 America.
After reading it, I immediately phoned Rabih in Lebanon. I was pleased to hear that he considered the article well-balanced, objective and accurate. "All I ever wanted was for the information to be presented objectively so people could judge the truth for themselves."
Well, I spent most of the day preparing and sending out a group email to folks in my address book, and contacting alternative news sources with the link, hoping they would post the article on their sites. I also contacted Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now!" web site with the suggestion that she interview Rabih on her radio program. His story is almost a parable of life under John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act. Timely and essential for everyone to know.
As the day wore on I recalled the first time I ever spoke with Salma al-Rushaid in that crowded immigration court waiting room on December 19, 2001. All she kept saying was, "I just want the truth to get out." Well, it is, dear sister. It finally is.
THURSDAY, MARCH 18, 2004
I'm not going to last much longer tonight. Teaching two fifth grade art classes and helping out in five other classes today plumb wore me out. The kids were great, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but teaching still takes a lot of energy. That's why I didn't go sing with the Raging Grannies at a commemorative event for Rachel Corrie tonight. I knew I'd be too tired after a day of teaching. But I also knew I'd be out there on Saturday with the Grannies and thousands of others at Ann Arbor's march and rally for the global "The World Still Says No to War" day. Please send us dry energy--the weather forecast is for rain. But we'll be out there no matter what.
I am delighting in how my friend Dorothy Walters has taken to being a blogger. Yesterday was her 76th birthday and she's like a kid with a new toy. She's learned how to post entries herself and has been adding to her blog on a daily basis since we put it up on March 15th. Don't forget, she renamed it "Kundalini Splendor". It's already filled with prose and poetry...all original. Dorothy is an authentic Wise Woman; a voice to be heard and taken to heart.
FRIDAY, MARCH 19, 2004
It is said one picture is worth 1000 words. Does that mean two pictures are worth 2000 words? When you see these two pictures--photo #1 & #2--I don't think I need to add another word about how I spent this last day of winter.
After such a demanding task, it was lovely to scoot a couple of miles in the cool evening air to meet Ed for dinner at our favorite restaurant. My first scoot there in 2004.
I'm happy to report that Tuesday's snow is mostly gone, at least from the sidewalks and streets. Tomorrow's high is supposed to reach 53 degrees F. (!) with a 60% chance of rain showers. May they stay away from Ann Arbor's "The World Still Says No To War!" march, rally and "No War" overhead photo from 10 AM-3 PM, and from the Veterans for Peace candlelight vigil from 6:30 PM-9 PM. Please hold the thought...
SATURDAY, MARCH 20, 2004
Happy spring! Here in the Detroit area it came in to the beat of a kettle drum, to misquote Ed. Rain, rain, rain. That is, until we were close to Ann Arbor. And for three magical hours the rain held off, allowing 2500 of us to join our voices to those of people the world over in saying, singing, chanting, "The World still Says NO to war!"
I'm not going to write too much tonight because, as you can probably guess, this Raging Granny is too pooped to pop. Nine of us Grannies sang at the pre- and post-march rallies, as well as singing as we marched. The drummers were right behind us which certainly helped! When we performed it was such fun to see the smiles, hear the laughter, have to stop and start again because of all the cheers, and have the crowd sing along with us of their own accord. We were the only ones who got yells of "More! More!" and "Encore!" Most gratifying.
For me personally there was a challenge that, with the help of Phillis (the director of the AAACP and main organizer of today's event), a sound technician and my Granny sisters, was remedied. The Grannies and I had taken the ramp to the top of the library steps at the Diag, but the sound equipment they were using for the rally couldn't reach up there. So when it came time for the Grannies to sing, we had to figure out how to get me and my disability scooter down to the microphone. We managed this seemingly impossible feat when the sound technician and another fellow offered to carry my scooter down the steps, and I assured them that I could make my own way down by holding tight to the railing. Coming back up was more of a challenge, but with Phillis Engelbert's thoughtful assistance, I made it safe and sound. Anything for peace!
I'd love to tell you more but not tonight. Tomorrow...
SUNDAY, MARCH 21, 2004
Turns out I was a day early with my spring greetings. And today--the actual first day of spring--I took the most uncomfortably cold scooter ride of the year. Spring in Michigan! Part of the problem was that I was out on the streets from 5-7 PM, instead of earlier in the day. The other problem was scooting two miles home into the teeth of a strong, cold north wind. BRRRRRR!
But the purpose of my scoot was worth all the discomfort. I had scooted two miles from our house to join our local peace group for a March of Remembrance on this first anniversary weekend of the start of Bush's preemptive war against Iraq.
Carol Bendure and Mary Read, co-founders of Pointes For Peace, have done a remarkable job of gathering an active and committed group of people who "Still Say No To War" here in this politically conservative residential community. Tonight was their first march (as far as I know), but they've now sponsored eight Peace Talks that have drawn between 100-400 people, and the group still meets every Sunday night at a local coffee house to informally discuss world events.
Once folks had gathered by 6 PM this evening, Carol began by introducing the focus of the march, which was to remember all those around the world who have died violent deaths in wars, terrorist attacks and military occupations during the past year. She asked that we march in single file and in silence. Then Nancy Combs and her daughter Susannah, led us in two peace songs. I'd estimate there were 50 of us ready to march close to a mile on this cold, cold evening. I admire every one of them.
My other activity today was also peace-oriented: to create a photo/journal page of yesterday's "The World Still Says No To War!" march and rally in Ann Arbor. I finished it five minuutes before I left for today's peace march. I think I'm all "peaced out" for now!
MONDAY, MARCH 22, 2004
With the advent of spring comes the prospect of another, less anticipated annual event: tax day. My task today was to find and gather together my checks and credit card expenditures that are tax deductible. I then needed to organize that information in a way that our accountant could make sense of it. Of course, if I would handle my papers in a more methodical way throughout the year, this would be a piece of cake. But I don't, so it is always a time-consuming task. Believe it or not, I even got up before 7 AM this morning so I could get an early start. By the time Eddie came home at noon from doing evaluations at the VA Hospital--his Monday job--I was done. Yippee!
So then I was free to scoot down to join him for lunch at you-guessed-it, the Subway where he eats every day. Today's bright sun made me smile. It wasn't especially warm but with the sun on your face, you can handle most anything. After lunch we walk/scooted to the library where I found Doris Lessing's most recent collection of short stories and an Italian DVD film to play on my laptop. Without a VCR--we didn't replace our 20 year old TV when it died a couple months ago--we've taken to playing chess instead of watching videos at night. But every so often I want to relax with a film so that's where my iBook's capacity to play DVDs comes in handy. By the way, we still have our 20 year old 10" TV in the kitchen, so we're not totally free of the one-eyed monster yet. I cannot tell a lie: on the nights we eat dinner in the kitchen we like to watch Seinfeld reruns. But not having a big TV and never having had cable helps us avoid becoming serious couch potatoes.
My swim was great tonight, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's appointment with Matt, the personal trainer at the gym. It'll be interesting to see what he has planned for me.
And now it's almost midnight, the bewitching hour. Time to put my pleasantly weary body to bed.
TUESDAY, MARCH 23, 2004
What a good beginning! Matt LaCroix, my personal trainer at the gym, had obviously done his homework. He'd developed a program of four different exercises for me to try: 1) standing leg swings, to lengthen and strengthen my groin muscles that tighten up in wheelchair users whose legs are always bent; 2) standing squats (photo #1 & #2) designed to strengthen my quads, gluts and knees, while stretching my achilles tendons; 3) sitting arm pulls with a 8 lb. weight (photo #1 & #2), to strengthen my shoulder and back muscles, hands, biceps, and help me correct my posture; 4) roll-downs and pull-ups using the resistance of a 8 lb. weight, an exercise that strengthens my upper body and stomach muscles.
Matt instructed, assisted, encouraged and challenged me while always respecting my limits. We worked a half hour which he feels is enough for now. We have an appointment at noon on Friday for another half-hour session. Here is a picture of Matt and me after my half-hour workout. This guy is great!
I feel VERY encouraged. It was obvious that I've lost a great deal of strength and ability, but I also know myself well enough to know that, given my history of persistant application to a goal plus the help of an excellent personal trainer like Matt, I will regain everything that I possibly can. It's funny. I already feel better about myself. Even sitting here at the computer, I am conscious of sitting up straight and not slumping like I usually do. I also got out of my scooter and am trying to do some walking around the house with my walker. Attitude is everything.
I am woman; I am strong! By the way, Ed took that photo when I stopped by his office--which is only a block away from the gym--after my workout. Yes, I was feeling pretty darn good about myself. I still am.
And today's beautiful spring weather didn't hurt. I saw the first flowers of spring (photos #1 & #2) in front of Ed's office, and even the lake had changed color. It was back to its springtime combination of royal blue and aqua., rather than its wintery gray-green and brownish-blue. Was it my imagination or was this goose even looking more sprightly? Everyone was smiling today, and tomorrow is supposed to be even warmer with a high of 52 degrees F. Even though rain is in the forecast, at least it will be a warm rain. Spring is springing!
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24, 2004
Swimming slowly for a half mile means I have an hour twice a week of uninterrupted time to think. Occasionally I zone out, but usually a theme will present itself within the first few laps. Tonight it was "Who has changed the direction of my life in significant ways?"
The list began with Ed, my husband of over 37 years. I'd say he more than anyone else has impacted my life in significant ways.
After Ed, Carolyn McDade came to mind. Since the first time I sang with her in Windsor, Ontario in March 1993, Carolyn has been a transformative agent in my life. Through her I met many of the wonderful women who are at the heart of my community here in the Great Lakes Basin: women with whom I sing, have created a CD, make ritual, discuss books, make art, share meals, attend retreats and workshops, work for peace and the protection of the planet. Some of these women have also joined me as Raging Grannies.
Joel Payne was the next person who swam into my head. Joels whom I met in April 1993 at dinner on the train outside Albuquerque, NM after I'd attended a WomenChurch conference (where, coincidentally, Carolyn McDade was leading songs). Joels who introduced me to his beloved city--San Francisco--and to his lover Jeff Golden and his friends Scott Weldon and Phil Ouelette, all of whom became like family to me during the winters I migrated to that glorious city (1996-2002). Joels who died of AIDS on November 30, 1994 and whose burial service in rural Ohio his old friend Rich and I facilitated (at Joels' request). Would I have discovered San Francisco without Joels' help? I doubt it.
Other individuals came to mind: Kathy Russell whom I met at the huge October 25, 2003 anti-war demo in Washington, DC and who asked me on the spot if I'd help her start a chapter of the Raging Grannies here in Detroit. Sharon O'Hara-Bruce who first told me about the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, where I have joyfully spent the last nine Augusts. Marlene Zurger whom I'd known at the refugee shelter where Sharon and I used to facilitate group art therapy sessions. It was Marlene who invited me to help out at the Dearborn school where I've now been for three years. Pat Lickteig who was my Life Drawing instructor at Detroit's Center For Creative Studies during the summer session in 1977, and who insisted I enroll as a fine arts student that fall. Marilyn Derwenskus, my watercolor teacher at the Birmingham-Bloomfield Art Association from 1975-77, who offered me a chance to teach watercolor in her place at my local community center from 1985-87. Bishop Tom Gumbleton who encouraged my awakening peace activism before and after the first Gulf War in 1991.
There were more, but it's now midnight and I need to stop. Tomorrow's a school day and my alarm goes off at 7:30 AM. But I just want to say that gratitude overwhelmed me as all these people came to mind. How rich they have made my life
© 2004 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.