Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Autumn Leaves




Autumn Leaves

The Sun rises
pale and cold.
Her Light shines brilliant
through dew drops
on red-gold leaves.

Old words
vainly recall an idea
of perfection.
Tree frog green.
Butter warm yellow.
Smiling heart orange.
Finger toasty red.
Hush puppy brown.
See?
Old words.

Yet everywhere i look
is a new colour.
One i have never seen.
Never experienced.
I am bedazzled.
Spell bound.

I am in Love.

And all the more
because tomorrow
it will be gone.





Friday, November 4, 2011

When We Had Halloween



 I’m not much for one to yammer on about “the good ole days” when everything we touched was golden and life was all smiles and laughter.  That’s a load of poop if there ever was a load.  But now and again my mind wanders from the Now and reminisces on “days of yore.”  Some trigger is pulled and my past drifts up from that deep well of memories and i recall a life’s moment with illusionary clearness – as if it was really happening.  The Mind is a powerful, seductive thing. 

One such trigger for me, every year without fail, is Halloween.  I love – LOVE – Autumn.  Each turning leaf, gust of wind, and honk of the migrating geese is like a new experience for me – and i greet these wonderful moments with great joy.  But Halloween.  Ah.  I miss the costumes and scary faces that came from dime-store makeup and old clothes from the back of your mother or father’s closet.  When scary was what your imagination did to you as you walked to a dark house with only the lights of the jack-o-lanterns aglow.  It wasn’t WHAT you saw that scared you – it’s what you THOUGHT you saw there in the shadows.  It was being able to walk in just a small group of two or three, and not see another soul on the street, or if you did, they were too far to give a sense of security.  It was that nervous possibility that someone would trick you, not treat you.  Because there were those who tricked and did not treat.  Never done in maliciousness, but in the spirit of fun and chaotic madness that is the soul of Halloween.  How can “trick or treat” have many meaning if you don’t know what it is to be tricked?  We never knew, and it made it that much more delicious, that much more nail-biting, that much more fun – to not know.  One of my fondest memories is of a girlfriend and i tip-toeing down a long, dark, tree-covered driveway.  The wind was blowing cold and we huddled together arm in arm.  The only lights were the carved, candle-lit pumpkins lining the porch railing and one dim house light.  Beneath the light sat a dark figure in a rocking chair.  The figure said nothing as we approached.  It didn’t move.  The front door next to the figure opened into a dark house.  No sounds could be heard but the blowing of the wind, our pounding hearts and worried whispers.  Just as out little shoes touched the bottom step of the porch, two boys dressed in rags smeared in red and darkened eyes jumped from the porch roof screaming like a clan of banshees.  Another figure that we couldn’t see but could hear running hard, came at us with a loud horn blowing.  The figure in the rocker – a man – moaned ominously – slowly rose, and came shambling towards us.

That was more than enough  – we screamed like only two little girls can scream and ran as fast as our feet would take us back to the street where my Mom was waiting – laughing.  We could hear laughter from the boys behind us.  Then we laughed too.  That relieved, that-was-so-fun-let’s-do-it-again kind of laugh. 

I miss that kind of Halloween.  That scariness that comes from the imagination.  Those memories will be with me forever – long after the candy is gone and the costumes worn away. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Flying


Despite TSA, despite extra charges for everything from luggage to leg room, despite long lines and long waits, despite uncomfortable seats, and despite sinus headaches from altitude changes and stale air – i like flying.  Really i do.  Each time, as the plane rolls down the runway, i get this flutter in the pit of my stomach.  The runway flashes by faster and faster and then that final kick of the engines – i am pressed back against my seat – and we are airborne!  It never fails to feel like a new experience no matter how many flights i have taken. 


"Oh.  I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth, And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings…”* I am transfixed as the Earth spreads out beneath me.  The plane banks and turns away from the airport.  The city i know so well, the place i call home, becomes a mosaic of pretty-colored tiles in dusty browns, gold, and forest greens, and roads the grout that holds the city together.  From the city we turn again.  Below us the rivers and lakes shrink as we climb to cross the snow-laced mountains.  The Grand Canyon is but a small textured line that meanders across the red desert and is but a tiny wrinkle on this vast face of Earth.  We fly over miles upon miles of fields.  They stretch to the horizon looking more like a giant’s game board than the food that graces our plates.  And the clouds!  Mmmm, home-churned ice cream!  They seem so solid then – whoosh! – we fly right through them.  Others are flat and thick, like a heavy morning fog while some are so soft, their edges blurred in muted colors, are just a painter’s dream.  Surreal. 






Seeing the Earth this way, is like being reborn.  I am a child again.  Amazed, delighted, broadly smiling at each new sight.  And the night – oh – the night.  How lovely the Moon shines on the Earth!  It becomes a game for me to find the reflection of the Moon twinkling from one body of water to another.  Bayous, flooded fields, lakes, rivers, the Ocean – they sparkle like city lights beneath us and i follow that dazzling trail to the edge of the Earth – where Skies and Land meet. 

I wish i had wings – great, big, white angel wings.  I would fly so high – and so low.  To see every detail of the Earth in that bird’s eye view.  Nothing exists out here.  No worries.  No problems.  Just the beautiful Earth.  So precious.  So amazing and new – every time.     


*The lines are the first stanzas from “High Flight,” by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.




Below is a video of Yves Rossy, "Jetman," making a historic flight over Grand Canyon West on May 11, 2011.  Watch it!



Saturday, July 30, 2011

Just How Lazy Are You?


I spend a lot of time with people.  I like people.  I like their crazy stories and even crazier opinions.  I talk a lot.  I try to listen even more.  But all that people-time builds up a need in me for some serious down-time.  A need for quiet solitute in a beautiful setting.  I frequently go for a ramble in some spacious park, along a river, up a mountain, or down an empty beach.  I'll walk for hours - watching the weather roll in and out, watching the sun rise and fall.  Troubles melt against that vast beauty. 

But amidst that wonderful feeling of - aaaaahhhhhhhh - i often run into an eyesore that spoils the whole image.  Trash.  It jars the soothing calm of Nature when i stumble upon - sometimes quite literally - a pile of garbage.  I cannot understand why anyone would want to leave such a mess behind.  It's not like you can do it by accident.  "Oops - i just forgot that diaper full of poop!  Oops - i just forgot that case of empty beer bottles!  Oops - i just forgot that bag of empty sandwhich wrappers, soda cans, cigarette cartons, and candy wrappers!"  You didn't forget.  You just didn't want to bother.  Which baffles me.  If you thought enough to bring it in - why can't you think enough to bring it out?  The only reason i can think of is laziness.  Just pure laziness. 


And what baffles me even more, if you were to ask a person, any person, which place you would rather visit - a trash-filled beach or a pristine one?  The answer would always be, hands-down, the pristine beach.  No one, including the people who leave their trash behind, want to be in a place that looks like the county landfill. 

When i take my jaunts, i usually bring a neatly folded paper bag with me.  I pick up as i walk, or pile it up and get it on my way back.  If i forget the bag, i'll use my jacket, towels, or whatever i have on hand to gather trash up and take it to a garbage bin.  It isn't hard.  I don't even break a sweat.  And somehow i always imagine all the birds, plants, animals, and our Mother Earth saying a little "thank you" when i help to keep Her clean and beautiful. 

So next time you and the fam are going out in Nature to enjoy - please bring a paper bag and help pick up what others have left behind.  And if you see someone leaving trash, a tackful "reminder" - to take back what they brought with them - wouldn't hurt.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Expectations

Evil things really.  Or rather not evil so much as an illusionary dream of dreams.  And we have so many of them - the cancer of fantasy.  They run rampant through our thoughts.

Foolish - we base our lives on imagined occurances.  We imagine we will be rich - so we spend every penny because we believe money will always be there.  We imagine the worse will happen so we hoard every penny, take no chances, cause no waves; we try nothing new.  Etiher way - our expectations chain us to patterns of thought.  We believe these patterns to be real.

You have a relationship problem.  You think, "I will say this.  Then he or she will say that.  Then i will say this.  Then my partner will understand everything, apologize, and all will be smiles again."  Great expectations.  How is it that we believe we know what another person is going to say?  We don't know what WE will say the next moment.

We have an extraordinary inability to see WHAT  IS and to not take it any further than that.  It's like we can't leave it alone.  We have to keep worrying with it.  Fidgeting with reality till we distort it to something we think we want.  No wonder we are so disappointed.

I was fascinated by the first Matrix movie.  I thought, "Yes!  There it is in a super sexy black leather overcoat - we are asleep."  We are only dreaming of a world we wished to be.  But we aren't really in it - we aren't really touching that world with our full senses.  We are too busy dreaming to be bothered with a thing called Reality.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Here Thar Be Pirates!

What A Handsome Lad!

This is the 5th year running of the great NorCal Pirate Festival held on the waterfront in Vallejo and my third time to attend.  And it was once again positively spectacular!  Even having seen this before, i am still amazed by the creativity, enthusiasm, and fun-loving energy that goes into this event.  And puns.  Lots of puns.  I saw a sailor dragging a rope with a long piece of wood at the end.  Painted on the wood was the word, “PLANK.”  A friend, laughing, turned to me and said, “Get it?  He’s walking the plank!”  Oh the levity.


For certain it helps if you have a sense of fun, adventure, and a heaping dose of silliness to help enjoy the festivities.  But even if you are a stouthearted, maritime historian, there is plenty to admire here.  The Dauntless, The Brotherhood of Albion, Morgan’s Companie, the Government House, and others provide nautical fact to the Hollywood fiction.  In fact, many of the pirates working the event have a full knowledge of maritime history and were quite happy to share with an enthusiastic listener.  In my mind, that’s the best you can get – a well-blended balance of crazy fun and nautical life – they even have it along the waterfront to give it that harbor feel.  Could it get any better?  Oh yes – it does!  I brag to everyone how good the food vendors are – what a feast!  Every year i make sure to get something different.  I’ve had meat pies, gyros, cinnamon almonds, chocolate dipped strawberries, funnel cakes – and this year, much to my delight – they had mouthwatering fish-n-chips!  It was one of those things i had mentioned in a blog i posted last year about this event – the lack of fish-n-chips.  Obviously i wasn’t the only one who missed this tasty dish.  I walk away every year wishing i had a bigger stomach. 

This year’s entertainment was even better than last.  Either that or i’m becoming more and more a pirate (to be sure).  Undead pirates – courtesy of the Pirates of Emerson (who do a wicked Halloween haunting every year…) and the Dead Pirate Macabre – jugglers, comedians, musicians, sword fighting, Pirate Lords and Ladies, cannon fire, dancers, storytellers, Capt. Jack-a-Likes, and piratical debauchery are the rule of the day.  Merchants are just as varied, selling everything from t-shirts and treasure maps, to finely made period clothing, decorated skulls, and swords. And i must say, the wares are high-quality and not dollar-store-junk.  I would like to do a shout out to Pirate Mod, one of the best and creative piratical t-shirt designers around.  It is through their website that i discovered the NorCal Pirate Festival three years ago.  I’ve been a satisfied customer of theirs ever since.  Hello good peoples – thanks for your hard work and great shirts! 

Crew of the Dauntless


One of the highlights of each day’s festival is the sailing of the Aldebaron and her attack on the British Royal Navy.  She’s a beautiful schooner with wooden masts, spars, and decking – and remarkable red sails.  Even though she was under diesel power, the wind filled her sails and showed off colors.  The land based cannon fire, and possibly the ship too, was provided by B.O.O.M. (the Brotherhood of Oceanic Mercenaries).  Honestly, i don’t know how real sailors and infantry kept from going completely deaf in their first year of service; the concussion of power when a gun goes off is scary.  Another highlight is the Court of the Pirate Lords.  The Pirate Brethren put on a great show which features slap-stick comedy, swordplay, and choosing a new pirate lord.

The Aldebaron fires on the British! 

And the British fire back!

All of this is to say, i will be back again and again to be delighted with such mirth and laughter as to keep me in smiles all week long!  For those of you who wished you had known earlier about this event, or realized it too late – put this on your phone or computer calendar.  Next year Father’s Day weekend is June 16th & 17th, and unless things change drastically, that’s when the next Nor Cal Pirate Festival will be.  So set the date now and don’t miss out on the best event all year!

Queen Anne's Revenge



The Sea Dogs

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Crazy Cool Jobs









Look at these guys.  Crazy.  But cool.  For the last few weeks i’ve been watching them fly through the air at the end of a tether, going from one high power tower to another.  It looks like a blast.  Zipping through the sky, swinging free and clear.  What a view!  What an experience!  I would dig it.  I’ve flown in gliders, been pulled behind a boat in a parasail, traversed ziplines through treetops, flown loops and hammerhead stalls in a bi-plane, and skydived.  Oh and wouldn’t i just love to add this experience to my little list of aerial feats – not that i’ve intentionally tried to create a check-list of craziness.  It’s just that opportunities arise.  And i take them.  

Obviously, i have no fear of heights.  Or control issues.  I envy these guys as they zip along.  Yet despite the casual regard, i have a great fear of what the gentlemen are actually doing – working with electricity.  True enough.  It’s some seriously high voltage electric we’re talking about.  But the stuff really frightens me.  I don’t even like walking underneath them.  Buzzing and humming with zappy power.  Gives me the willies. 

I remember when i was a kid, the boys would dare each other to touch an outlet.  I was completely amazed and baffled by their stupidity.  Why on earth would you want to get zapped?  Hell, static electricity scares me.  I do all sorts of tricks to avoid it.  It’s a wonder i will even turn on a light switch.  There’s one in my bathroom that makes a little popping noise when i flick the switch.  I have little heart palpitations every time.    

Back to our flying electricians, they have a very cool job.  They probably even get extra pay.  Certainly it’s dangerous work they have with lots of room for a possible fatal error.  But i can’t imagine that it’s ever a boring job.  In fact, i think it would be one of those jobs you actually look forward to when you wake up in the morning.  As for me, i would take the ride but not the job.  I wonder if i could talk them into hiring me to photograph their work?  That would be cool.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Slice of Sacramento

I'm sorry to inform - but i will not be continuing (at least for now) writing the Slice of Sacramento blog.  I am currently under a great deal of stress - as so many of us are - due to the imminent lack of work.  I'm spending almost all of my time looking for other employment opportunities. 

That said, i will still be writing on this blog, If It Were Real, and will add the occasional post about local happenings. 

I think it's a sad state of affairs that we spend the majority of our adult lives doing jobs that we don't love - or even like.  Meanwhile our dreams drift further and further away.  I was unforntunately born with a hefty dose of creativifty.  People will not pay for a creative mind.  Oh - there's a few high-end artists that manage to make it big.  But for every successful - and by that i mean, they can pay their bills - artist, there are a million others who would starve if they had to rely on their art alone.

Yet - and this just nearly chokes me to death - a woman will pay $300 or more - for a freakin' hand bag!  It's a dead cow's skin, ladies!  Dyed to a nice shade of pink and garnished with a few fake baubles.  For hundreds of dollars, you and millions of your lady friends can own one just alike.  But art - a time-intensive, one-of-a-kind, personal creative endevour of love and passion - is discounted.  Marked down to 50% off, 75% off, free for the taking!  I just don't get it.  

I am very sad.

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Lair, Liar, Pants on Fire!"

This is the childhood taunt heard on every playground across America. And there’s probably some version of it in every country around the World. We are taught as kids to never utter a lie. To do so is to bring down the worst guilt, the most sinful shame, and guaranteed you won’t get presents from Santa. We learn this lesson so young in Life and with such unbending conviction that just one angry, hurtful look on a parent’s face is enough to turn on an avalanche of tears.


Lie. Lying. Lied. Zoom forward to our adult selves. I came across a comments section on a blog that made me laugh. Basically, the blog creator was asking his audience, “under what circumstance is it OK to lie?” Wow. Psychologists could work on these answers till eternity ends and not find a more entertaining pastime. I think that’s why people become psychologists – to be delightfully surprised by just how wacked-out people can get. Anyway, i read pages of comments. And gosh – i was entertained! People were quite adamant that they abhorred lying, never lied, and it was generally unforgivable under any circumstance. Then they proceeded to list in detail all the lies that are acceptable. Right.

Honestly, lying gets a bad rap. Lying is our communication bread and butter in surviving society. How could we ever get to our desks in the morning if we had to honestly answer every time someone asked, “How are you?” Oh please – there aren’t enough hours in the day to answer. When the office guys get together and ask, “We’re going to Redneck’s BBQ for lunch; anybody got a problem with that?” And you answer, “No whatever,” when in fact you would rather go anywhere other than Redneck’s BBQ. The cliché, but always real, girlfriend question, “Does this look good on me?” I believe we all know the answers we’ll give. If we’re honest.

So – we should really ask ourselves, how many truths do we tell? Get a stop watch and clip board and mark down every time you are completely truthful and you will get an idea of the various shades of lying we tell on a minute-to-minute basis. And is lying really so bad? Why? Our little twitchy minds can justify anything, so how do you tell if it’s a “good” lie or a “bad” lie? And while we’re at it, get two people to agree on what “good” and “bad” mean in reference to lying. Does that make your face twitch just thinking about it? I read a very good book recently, “Lying and Deception in Everyday Life” edited by Michael Lewis and Carolyn Saarni. An excellent, excellent read. Not a summer book to be sure but full of real-people truths. Which is ironic for a book about lying. The book is authored by more than a dozen PhD’s and has a wide range and depth of subject. The editors pull no punches and aren’t shy to cover aspects others fear to tread. I liked the idea put forward by one author that we abhor lying in others but justify our own lies as being necessary. Yes indeed.

If you are really honest, you know for a fact you can’t live without lying. It’s a part of society and part of being human. So i think we should take another look at lying and the convoluted part we play and re-create our views of lying. Gosh – Lying has taken the rap for too long. It’s feeling pretty jaded and hurt. I think we need to cuddle up next to Lying, wrap it in a warm blanket, and whisper – “it’s OK Lying; you’re beautiful and you’re cool. Don’t listen to all those other people. I love you. You’re OK.”

On Hold...

Well, to any of you who are regular, sometime regular, hit-or-miss, and accidental readers - i've been on a long hiatus from writing, as you can see from the lack of current posts.  It's intentional.  Yup.  I'm intentionally not writing because,

a) I'm working on "supply and demand."  I figure if i limit supply, i will become in demand.  Right.
b) I've taken a vow of silence - including my verbose written word.
c) I've been kidnapped by my cats and am being held for ransom for a crate of Fancy Feast cat food.  If you ever want to lose your sense of self-worth, just see how little value your cats place on you...
d) I've been glued to the computer every night applying for jobs.

And the correct answer is...D...i'm spending an extreme amount of time looking for work for this summer.  Damn - i feel like i've gone back to high school.

Summer job anyone?

Yes - i will get back to writing.  I miss it.  :-(  Hope to join the living again soon...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lauren, You Are Not Alone...

My Fight: Chemo #9

This is a video link to a very young woman who has been diagnosed with Stage II Hodgkins Lymphoma.  To see the courage in someone so young is such an inspiration. It reminds me just how precious life is and how we must cherish every moment. Thank you Lauren for sharing your journey with us - maybe this will wake us up and let us realize the beauty of the World.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Symbol of Trust

"Dad - i wanna go play in the rain.  Can i go play - pleeeeease?"

Look at these guys. Look at these faces. There’s something very special about the bond between our animal friends and us. We might not quite be able to put our fingers on it – some might say it’s unconditional love. Others would say friendship. Or say their zany antics are what give them a special place in our hearts. Whatever the case, we have all felt it. Haven’t we?

Every once in a while, i run across a person who doesn’t like animals. I’m not talking about the “i don’t like little dogs,” or the “i hate cats,” kind of people. But the all-out, “i don’t like animals no matter what shape, size, or color,” kind of people. A statement like that momentarily stops my brain from functioning. My recovery is jump-started by a barrage of questions aimed at clarifying what i perceive as my misunderstanding. “What? You don’t like cats? You don’t like dogs? Birds? Horses? What – not even fish?” At this point i find myself in a very rare situation. Speechlessness. Because this is truly baffling to me. But something else happens when i learn that a person doesn’t like animals. I immediately pull away. Maybe not physically, but emotionally i feel a barrier go up. Something about a person who cannot like an animal hits some fundamental nerve – and i cannot fully trust them. They are one step away from those who also don’t like animals but lie about it. And instead have pets they treat cruelly, even torture or kill, with the indifferent rationale that, “It’s just an animal. Who cares?”


Thankfully that’s not the majority of people. We love our little Fluffy’s, Smokey’s, and Polly’s. They make us feel good about ourselves in a sometimes very harsh world. They’re like Prudential – they are the Rock when it comes to calming our souls and soothing our hearts. They possess unwavering, supportive healing powers. And that’s something you can count on.

"!!! Psst! Go 'way silly human! Givin' 'way my secret, invisible, ninja, hiding spot!"

Monday, April 4, 2011

One Day Without Shoes


I come across some of the strangest things online. Don’t we all? Our inboxes are full of cool, gross, and humorous clips friends have forwarded to us from the Internet. Today i found a fun little site that’s my favorite kind of find – an off-beat, funky, worthy cause. One Day Without Shoes is hosted and support by MSN/Microsoft and Tom’s Shoes – a shoe manufacturer who promises for every pair of shoes purchased, one pair goes to a child in need. And as far as i can tell – that’s 365 days a year. Awesome. The goal for One Day Without Shoes is to raise awareness of children in poverty who have never had a pair of shoes and some of the problems that arise – diseases, infections, and bias – that come from being shoeless in a shoed world. According to Tom’s, 300 million children are without shoes. That’s a lot of little exposed toes in a cold, cold world. Tom’s is asking us to go barefoot for the day to raise awareness. And of course buy a pair of shoes.


I like the sentiment. But i wonder the overall sanity. I mean, we’re born without shoes. Humans have existed for thousands and thousands of years without shoes. Of course, there weren’t 6.9 billion people back then. That many people tend to make a helluva lot of garbage – followed closely by an equal amount of parasites and other ickies that probably didn’t exist.

And something else occurred to me, if there’re so many bugs, infections, and other not-so-pleasant things out there waiting to attack us, why is Tom’s asking us to go without shoes for a day? Isn’t that like asking for a lawsuit? “Tom asked me to go without shoes and I did and I got this nasty cut on my foot and then it got infected and now I’ve been to the doctor three times and they can’t get rid of the infection and I’ve missed more work than I have sick days…” Can’t you just hear that conversation with some lawyer?

Yet overall it feels like a real Berkeley moment and the biggest eye-brow raiser in all this, is that Tom’s is doing what all manufacturers should be doing – giving. Sure, they’re raising awareness of their own product and hopefully selling a butt-load of shoes, but they are simultaneously raising awareness of children in poverty who have no shoes at all. Don’t be one-sided; you know we are going to buy shoes. It’s a profit-profit situation and the best of what any company should aspire.

As for me, no need to ask twice to go barefoot. I love being barefoot. Reminds me of summer, the beach, of being a kid. So i vote for going One Day Without Shoes. At least in places it’s not illegal. We have laws for that in America because – hygiene issues. Duh.





Thursday, March 31, 2011

Win Win


I don’t often promote a movie. In fact, i have never promoted a movie on any of my blogs. That plan usually backfires; instead of promoting, i get a load of crap from people saying i have terrible taste in movies. But yesterday a friend offered me free tickets to a special showing of the comedy film, Win Win. I had never heard of it and – by the promo ad – it didn’t look to be anything i would like. But what do i know?


What i admired about this film was the believability of the actors. They were like people i know. Like myself. They made the kind of mistakes we all make. And they looked like real Americana. No Brangelina’s. No studs or chicks in tight sweaters. No Hollywood schmaltz. The screenplay was wonderfully written, a light-hearted, real-life comedy that kept me laughing. And it was obvious i wasn’t the only one who felt this way – the audience clapped, laughed, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. But there were also definite squirm-in-your-seat-moments where the desperation and difficulties we are going through as a nation in recession were quite palpable.

I give this movie two thumbs up – a definite “like.” The show is playing only in a few select theatres, so if you can’t find it playing near you, make sure to put this on your list of DVD’s to rent – or buy – when it comes out. And – head’s up – if you really want to enjoy the film, don’t watch the trailers. They give it away.

Enjoy!

Here's a link to IMDb for a list of actors, movie synopsis, director, etc.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Denny’s® – Home of the Real People Network

5181 Foothills Blvd., Roseville, CA 95747

You will not find Denny’s® listed on the top 100 restaurants anywhere in the USA. You won’t find it under “places to visit” or “must see’s” on any city’s visitor information. It isn’t the hot topic when friends get together and chat about “that cool new restaurant” down the street.

 But Denny’s has something going for it that other restaurants don’t – it is the Home of the Real People Network. Unlike all those “Listed” and sometimes expensive restaurants, Denny’s is the warm and fuzzy, home-away-from-home place you go when you need some recharge time. It’s where we go to network our basic humanness. The back-to-basics 101 of who we are and what we need. Food. Companionship. Roof over our head. Warmth. There is nothing pretentious about Denny’s. No one expects you to get dressed to the nines. You don’t have to put on a show. You can leave your ego at home and just – be. It’s sorta Zen-like.

 To contradict myself – i like to do that – a new Denny’s just opened up across the street from where i live. And it WAS the talk of the neighborhood. People were excited! Yes! A place to go, to let go. Inexpensive food doesn’t hurt. And it’s always a major bonus to be able to order breakfast at 11 pm. In fact, you can order just about whatever you like at whatever time you like – which is such a treat. We are so constricted with rules, rules, rules everywhere we go. To be given the freedom to have something exactly like you want – well – that almost makes us giddy. And they’ve brought back the FREE Grand Slam® on your birthday! Whoo-hoo!

Happy tummy food aside, some of the best times and best memories have been made in this humble restaurant of the Real America. Seriously, who hasn’t experienced a night out on the town that ended up at Denny’s at 2am? But more than that, Denny’s is where we live our real lives.

I spoke to several people and asked for their favorite memories of Denny’s. For one girl, it was the breakfast place of choice before every family vacation. Another woman spent late nights at Denny’s studying for her Bachelor’s degree. According to her, “it was the only place i could go for some peace and quiet” – and endless coffee. “I was so tired. Coffee kept me going.” Which reminded me of hanging out with my ex and his friends when they were going through physician assistant training. We would meet up at Denny’s, take one of the large round tables in the corner, and proceed to examine every medical case down to the last detail. I have to say, their stories, while educational and oftentimes funny, tended to clear the adjacent tables of people. Lobotomy with your Grand Slam® anyone?

There were lots of stories, the meeting of friends, and the business of meetings. (That’s all management does, right? Go to meetings?) And lovers. Lovers meet. Lovers break up. One couple went on their first date at Denny’s. Cool. That’s as real and as low-key as you get. Just recently they spent their anniversary chowing down at the place that “sealed the deal.” As for myself, this will sound crazy maybe, but i like to go there and write. Yes i have a computer. But there’s something about going to a Denny’s that brings out the Muse. I like the constant hum of human voices and the occasional conversation or laughter that catches my attention. For some reason, it inspires me. And it helps that the staff is always friendly – i’ve never had a bad server at Denny’s – they keep me in constant coffee or whatever i want without a fuss.

So list-makers everywhere, add Denny’s to your list of restaurants – Home of the Real People Network.

For a Denny's near you: http://dennys.com/en/find_dennys.aspx


Monday, March 21, 2011

March 22 - World Water Day!

Pensacola Beach, FL

Water.  It's everywhere.  Ask any number of the grumbling people on Facebook what they think of all the water we are getting in the form of rain right now and you will get an earful of discontentment.  Yes, it has been raining quite a lot.  That's why it's called the rainy season.  If we are lucky, it does this every year. 

I don't actually understand the complaints.  I come from a land of water.  Where i grew up, you're either in the Ocean or you're in a torrential downpour.  Either way you're wet.  Being in a constant state of partially wet, partially dry was how i thought Life was supposed to be. So you either love water - or you move away.  

I Love Water.

Though i moved away.

Yet water is always with me.  It fascinates me.  Water in a glass.  Reflecting, sparkling, and looking oh so tasty.  When i think refreshing - i think of a cool glass of clear water.  Water in the shower.  After a long day or a hard workout - hot water pouring over my head.  Ahhhhh!  Waking in the night to the pitter-patter of rain drops on the roof, and the sound of water rushing through the gutters and onto the sidewalks below.  Standing at my window, drops of rain weigh heavy on a bare-limbed tree.  Each drop looks like a crystal bead.  If i spent a year making ornaments, i could not create something more perfect, more pure than these tiny drops of water that decorate this tree.  

Water makes rainbows.  And rivers.  And sparkling lakes.  Water makes our bodies.  We are water.  About 70% water in fact.  No wonder our moods shift like tides with the moon.  And the Ocean.  I have spent long afternoons floating gently in the warm Gulf water, where i cannot tell where i end and water begins...

So celebrate this day - this day of water.  Celebrate your body.  The rain.  The rivers.  The Ocean.   Pour yourself a glass of water.  Look at it.  Swirl it around.  Breath in deep and drink it slowly.  Enjoy!

http://wwd.surfrider.org/
This is a site that i highly recommend at least taking a moment to look at, if not actually supporting.  It’s a fantastic grassroots organization that has done some marvelous work in protecting our Oceans and beach environments.  Please have a look!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bushido Lives

We have all been glued to the Internet and TV broadcasts on the crisis in Japan. And it’s difficult, if not impossible, to really get a grasp on what these people are going through, unless of course, you’ve gone through it yourself. I’ve been through a number of hurricanes and been without water and electricity – for only a day. My parents went through one back in ’04 and were without for two weeks; it took me three days after the hurricane hit to get in touch with them by phone. Many people i know lost their homes and everything except what they had on their back. Yet even this understanding of loss pales to grasp what the Japanese are experiencing.




Artist Unknown

Amidst this strife, pain, and nearly unbearable loss, the Japanese spirit has risen in silent determination. As the videos play and the photos pour in, over and over, i am witness to a people who have struggled from the mud and water, from the rubble left of their world, and who have walked forward together, as a nation, bonded in calm resilience. I have read the reports and seen the footage of the Japanese quietly standing in line waiting for what little food and water is available. No riots. No yelling. No screaming at officials or aid workers. No looting. No rape. Only understanding – what one suffers, all suffer. Only tears. Silent and beautiful on their faces. And watching this, i am overwhelmed with admiration.

And again today, while the nation is still wrestling with the logistics of getting food, water, blankets, and medical help to the survivors, 100 very brave men walked into the nuclear reactor at Fukushima Dai-ichi, knowing full well their sacrifice, to try yet again to stop the leaks and possible melt-down of the core. And they did this out of duty and dedication. To principals of pride in your work, the camaraderie of co-workers, to the love of their families, for loyalty to their nation, and for the honor they hold as a people.

To this – i bow to you in respect, with honor, and love in humanity.
The Samurai walk with us again.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

When Will Tibet Be Free?

Tibetan National Flag

March 10, 2011 – the 52nd Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day. And why should you and i care? They are half a world away – and 13.5 hours ahead of us on the US west coast. They’re almost into Friday. Why should it matter to us when Tibet will be free? Or if at all?


Because we are the United States of America. Freedom is our motto. Freedom is our belief – that humans have a right to religious freedom, a right to celebrate their culture, a right to live without terror and oppression, a right to live in peace. The foundation of who we are – is freedom. True, we had to earn that right. We struggled and fought over the years as to its meaning and to whom this freedom belonged. From the near genocide of Native Americans, slavery and segregation of Blacks, Women’s suffrage, Japanese labor camps, and others, we have learned the hard way, the embarrassingly painful and tearful way, of what it means to be free. So now we have our freedom. Can we turn a blind eye to others who fight for the same? Can we look the other way because it’s inconvenient to feel guilty?


Tibetan Monks Protest the Killings - AP photofile
Tibetan Underdog
But we have another reason to want to help Tibet become free. They’re the underdog. And Americans love an underdog. Tibetans are certainly that. Outnumbered – 2.9 million (Tibet Autonomous Region) to 1.3 billion (China). Outgunned. The Chinese government – a host of modern guns and artillery. Tibetans – rocks. Unfortunately for the Tibetans, they are peace-loving. I say unfortunate because Americans are actually quite into violence. Seriously – look at our sports, movies, books, news – we are a nation of fighters and are proud of it. If the Tibetans lined-up across their borders holding rocks in their hands, snarling like badgers protecting their dens, we’d be all for supporting them. As it is, peace and compassion tend to make us wave our hands and say, “Ah, new agers!” and walk away. Warm and fuzzy make us uncomfortable.

Yet deep-down, isn’t peace what we want? Isn’t that what we’ve been taught at Christmas time since we were little – “pray for World peace, peace on Earth, good will to men?” The Tibetans so very much want peace. But that peace will come only when they have freedom. China will certainly not release Tibet; there is too much economic gain to be had. What the Tibetans ask though is freedom to rule themselves. Freedom to practice their religion. Freedom to speak their language and celebrate their history and culture. Freedom to walk down the street without being treated as a second-class citizen. This is what they ask of the Chinese government. They ask. The reply has been violence.

Photo - unknown


Help Tibet Be Free
We can help the Tibetans gain that freedom. Our voice is strong. We can be heard. We can join them and send a message to our own leaders saying we support autonomy for Tibet. We can send a message to the Chinese embassy. We can send words of encouragement to the Tibetan refugees in India. We can help support the monasteries in exile. There is so much we can do to help these compassionate and peaceful people – our brothers and sisters of the World.

“Let freedom ring…”

 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Being Unpopular and Still Believing in Yourself


The other night while having dinner with a group of friends, a topic came up and i casually said, “Oh, i’ll have to post that on my blog,” to which a friend replied, “Your blog that no one ever reads?” Oooooo. When i told my roommate her response was, “what an ass!” I admit, at first i was hurt by the comment. It was like being told you’re fat. Or ugly. Or any number of things we don’t want to hear about ourselves. Yet i know what he said was true. I know it but don’t like to think about it, though the visitor counter stares me in the face every time i log on. To peel back one more layer, the real truth of the matter is not that people don’t read my blog. The truth is that i am not a popular person.


This kind of discovery is always hard on the old ego. But i don’t give ego a whole lotta leg room. Ego isn’t real. I tend to think of Ego like a character in a movie. An illusion within an illusion. Nonetheless, these little ego-pity events in life can add up faster than we can dispel them. And we tend to hoard negativity like squirrels hoard acorns. We stack them, stuff them, and bury them all around just in case there might be a shortage sometime in the near future.

Popularity vs. Likeability
In all honesty, i’ve never cared much for the idea of being popular, as is obvious by my personal life for anyone who knows me. I like Star Wars and Star Trek. I like to dress up as a pirate. I don’t watch TV and have never watched an episode of “Friends.” I don’t feel it necessary to be with someone all the time. I like mustard on my chicken sandwich. And on my French fries. I like getting up early and sipping hot tea. I’m not embarrassed to walk into an “adult shop” and make a purchase. I know all the words to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow…” So i’m unpopular. OK. But does being unpopular also mean – un-liked? Society tempts us to go down that road. Magazines, movies, talk-shows, and advertising all suggest we have to be popular to be liked, loved, and validated to be a worthy human being. Yet, popularity and likeability aren’t synonymous.

Real Belief
Does any of this matter? Being liked? Being popular? Not really. I am a writer and photographer whether anyone ever reads my words or buys my photos. It is my passion. It is what i love. It is part of who i am and what i do. It is not necessary for anyone else to believe in me because – i – am the one who has to believe.

“And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true…”

Sunday, February 27, 2011

On Adventurous Vacations

Recently i published an article on sailing the high seas on a tall ship.  It was certainly one of the the most memorable adventures in my life and i highly suggest, if you have a yearning to try something different on your next vacation, to try this!  Below is the link to the article...

http://www.suite101.com/content/come-sail-away-on-a-tall-ship-dream-a352658

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tibetan Sand Mandala


One of the most mesmerizing works of art that i have seen are the Tibetan sand mandalas. These incredible works are so fine and intricate you can easily lose yourself in them. I had the great fortune to watch the Gaden Shartse Monastery monks create a mandala dedicated to Green Tara – one of the bodhisattvas. I spent some time watching as they painstakingly laid one grain of sand down after another and found myself drawn into the painting, as if i physically was being pulled down into the art. There’s something very seductive about losing yourself to something, which is not very Buddhist. The point is to be here now. Not lost. But it was very powerful and i was thankful that i had my camera with me to keep reminding me of the “here and now.”


The sand mandala is more than a piece of art though. It is a blessing and a prayer. The whole process is done with respect, sincerity, reverence, and awareness – from the first grain of sand laid to the final blessing and release of sand into flowing waters – this art is layered in spirit. The Gaden Shartse monks who created this spirited masterpiece are on a tour around the World to bring harmony and healing peace to Earth and her peoples. When i looked at their website, one of the first things i noticed were the words, “Sacred Earth Healing Arts.” And that’s exactly what it felt like witnessing this extraordinary event – sacred healing.

What i find so inspiring is here are a people who have been tortured, imprisoned, outlawed, and exiled – and they are giving us, the iPod nation who has every comfort in the World, healing blessings and good will. That is compassion. Yet i think it’s much needed because somehow, having a lot of material stuff makes you empty inside. The monks, conversely, are quite full with a rich spiritual life. What would it be like, to live a life so devoted and focused? I am drawn, like the sand mandala, into that question.



I thought of all this as i watched the mandala destroyed. Here was a lesson on impermanence. Do not cling, not even to beauty, for everything changes and nothing is still. The sand had been blessed and was now swept up into a small container to be released into a creek, releasing the blessings of healing into the World – for all of us and for the Earth.

Peace.

This links to a page with a time-lapse video of the creation of a mandala.
http://www.gadenshartsecf.org/tour/tour-programs/sand-mandalas/