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Don’t Be Scared

Beto 10-18The red check mark next to Cruz seemed to appear with startling speed last night.  When it flashed on the screen, I doubled over and let out a long “noooooooooo.”  I knew the race was going to be tight, but after working among thousands of volunteers for Beto O’Rourke in Texas, talking with hundreds of exuberant voters who love him, and witnessing one of the best-run campaigns I’ve ever been involved in, I was hopeful he’d take the Senate seat even if by a small margin.  I went to bed right after that, not watching the rest of the returns or Beto’s concession speech in which he, delightfully, told supporters he was “so f*&%ing proud” of them.

Now it’s a new day.  I don’t want to let my disappointment get in the way of appreciating last night’s gains: more women than ever in the House, Democratic control of key House committees, several of the most odious elected officials sent packing.  I’m not sure where Beto’s future will take him, but I hope he stays on the political scene.  We need his energy, his focus on what he wants to do rather than on sniveling about the other side, and even his skateboarding skill.

I’m done with Tweets and Facebook posts with the word “scary” and “scared” in them. Even this morning, I read several remarks from people who say they are “still scared” about our future.  Here’s a request:  Let’s all scrub the words “scared” and “scary” from our vocabulary when we think and talk about our world.  Quite frankly, our time for fear is long gone.  Time to be fierce, vigilant and active in holding people in office accountable—including Agent Orange—and in finishing the job of voting the rest of the Neanderthals out in 2020.  Instead of giving in to fear, let’s be “so f*&%ing proud” of the progress we’ve made and keep working hard for more.


Temporary Texan: How to Make Your Job

Today was my fifth day of walking precincts in Houston for Beto O’Rourke. The team of volunteers is from all over: Washington DC, Seattle, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston and many from California (including Alex, a young woman from my Long Beach neighborhood, coincidentally). Gerry even came from London.

The days are long and hot. Deciphering the numbering system in massive apartment complexes with names like the Phoenician or the Venetian has posed a particular challenge. Apartment 116 is next to apartment 123. Or apartment 723 is on the first floor while apartment 709 is on the second floor. Each complex is like a maze or a puzzle. I’m not going door to door, but using a phone app that lists registered voters who are likely to vote for Beto and knocking on only those doors.

Today a helpful maintenance man, probably after he saw me crisscross the same path multiple times, said to me, “I don’t want to tell you how to make your job but…” In his limited English, he kindly tried to explain the numbering system to me, something about 12 and 20. Unfortunately I still couldn’t catch on.

Even though finding the right apartment is difficult, I’ve had some warm encounters with people, many of whom didn’t know about early voting. The Beto campaign has volunteers who will drive people to the polls, so I was able to arrange that for several voters who were surprised and grateful.

Not everyone appreciates having someone knock on their door. I didn’t try to persuade this voter. I liked the addition of the “please”—must be a person with both a weapon and some manners. This is Texas after all.

Temporary Texan – Should Have Dyed My Hair

I’m off to Houston this morning to spend the last week before the midterm election block walking for Beto O’Rourke, who is striving to unseat incumbent Senator Ted Cruz.

Commit to vote

I do not wish to share my initials with Mr. Cruz, so I shall refer to him as RC, “R” being short for his Christian name, Rafael. I am sure he would be pleased.

RC claimed that Democrats want to “turn Texas into California, with their tofu, silicon (sic) and dyed hair.” I will arrive in Texas without tofu or implants, and with my undyed graying hair. I have an app on my phone provided by the campaign that will tell me where to knock on doors and convince likely voters that turning out November 6 is imperative. The margin between the candidates is reportedly razor-thin, so the party that gets out the vote will win not only in Texas, but throughout the U.S.

I thought about taking my magnetic bumper sticker with me to slap onto my rental car in Houston, but decided against it.  I’m sure all Texans are perfectly nice, but I’m slightly concerned about that random angry cowboy or cowgirl who would possibly try to run me off the road.


The bumper sticker is courtesy of Rogue Melania.  If you don’t yet follow her on Twitter, do.  Her Twitter feed makes me laugh every day, the only downside being that sometimes I forget that the real Melania isn’t subversive and witty, but a dim ex-model who walks in lockstep with hubby Agent Orange.

Stay tuned, wish me luck, and if you have a couple of extra bucks to chip into Beto’s campaign in these final days before November 6, feel free.  I support him for many reasons, but my initial attraction was based on the fact that Beto accepts no PAC or special interest money. Small donors have filled his coffers nicely, thank you very much.

You probably already know this, but his name is pronounced “BET-o,” as in “I’ll bet he is going to unseat Ted Cruz.”  His name is sometimes garbled as “BAY-to” or “BEET-o.”

See Things in a Different Light

No internet or cell access in Joshua Tree National Park, so we traded the blue glow of the screen for soft, golden desert light for a few days last week. It was such a relief to disconnect from the grim news cycle that I may wait a few more days before resuming my Twitter and NY Times compulsions.DSC_0326Along our gentle hikes – no climbing! – we saw great stone visages and cutouts where the sky leaks through the rocks.DSC_0284DSC_0294DSC_0277These fall desert blooms might have been the aftermath of the previous week’s downpour.DSC_0271DSC_0274Most startling was the lake that sprang into view after we scrambled over some rocks.  In all the decades we’ve been going to Joshua Tree, we’ve never seen a body of water like this.DSC_0281We wandered along the trail to the abandoned Wall Street Mine, which once stamped gold ore. The owners apparently left in such a hurry that they forgot the car.DSC_0315

DSC_0322For the rest of our time in Joshua Tree, we simply sat around and read, Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen for David and The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish for me.DSC_0297Neither book is exactly light reading, but we had the luxury of occasionally lifting our eyes from the page to gaze at the rocks and clouds.2018 10 20 J Tree TC phone



It’s Adequate   

Honnold El Cap

In one scene in “Free Solo,” rock climber Alex Honnold appears glumly traipsing through a big-box appliance store. More accustomed to scaling 3,000-foot vertical rock faces without ropes, he looks oddly out of place wandering among rows of refrigerators. After living in his van for years, Honnold has been convinced by his girlfriend to buy a home near Los Vegas. The scene in the movie shows them casing refrigerators.

They are all too big, Honnold says somewhat plaintively. He gravitates to a small, modest white refrigerator—the kind we all once had before kitchen appliances swelled to the size of small houses. “It’s adequate,” he pronounces.

We are on the verge of remodeling our kitchen after 25 years of living in our 1942 house. After we saw “Free Solo,” David briefly considered scotching the whole project, wondering what in the world we were doing, but we were already in too deep in by then.

Before we emptied our small kitchen to make way for the demolition, I would have claimed that we were semi-minimalists without the habit of shopping and consuming, and with relatively little cluttering up our lives.   But I was forced to reexamine that notion as I extricated a seemingly endless raft of dishes, utensils, cookware and food from cupboards and drawers.

I came across certain imponderables. Where did what appears to be a caviar dish come from? I’m certain I never purchased or received such a thing as a gift, nor have I ever served caviar in all my born days.  It’s a lovely little cut glass object with a tiny dome, but its origin will remain a mystery. The same for an ancient can of mace. It’s not the mace that fells an attacker, but the spice. According to the can, you add it to a “light sponge cake” or “a package of frozen spinach.”  I have never made a sponge cake in my life, light or otherwise, and I don’t recall macing any spinach.

I didn’t relegate the caviar dish to the trash or donate piles, but decided to keep it.  I would have included a photo of it here, but it’s boxed up with all the other kitchen stuff I shoved into Christopher’s room, and I can’t find it now.  I don’t intend to serve up caviar in the new kitchen, but the pretty little dish might tart up the mustard for some hot dogs. That will be more than adequate.



No More Long Walks

When Christopher was just over 3-1/2, we hiked the 4-mile Methuseleh Walk in the Bristlecone Pine Forest.  He soldiered along bravely for most of it at 10,000 feet elevation. I carried him only for a bit.  When we reached the end of the trail and he walked out on his own muster, a group of people who did not know him spontaneously burst into applause.  Unimpressed by the accolades he declared,  “I don’t want to go on any more long walks, except on the sidewalk.”

CJD and Brian Methuselah

Christopher with our friend Brian Julian, Methuselah Walk, August 1999

Those words are echoing in my mind this morning, as I am back early from an attempted “long walk” on the Cottonwood Lakes Loop. I went with a neighborhood friend Laura, who put me to shame with her fierce strength.

I made it up just past Cottonwood Pass (11,200 feet) to Chicken Spring Lake, which I have renamed Chicken Spring Hospital.  Altitude sickness felled me there, and I could go no farther. The intention was to climb even higher to New Army Pass (12,300 feet) and make a loop back to the trailhead.

When David and I climbed Palisades Glacier a year ago, I had altitude sickness then, too.  This time I thought I was ready:  I took ibuprofen before I started (said to prevent altitude sickness), climbed much more slowly, and drank way more water. No luck: I was even sicker this time.

As a “hospital room,” Chicken Spring Lake wasn’t bad. No sound except the water lapping, the susurrus of the wind  or the occasional call of a Clark’s nutcracker. By day the sky shows an impossible blue and at night gazing at the canopy of stars sustained me. I stayed at that “hospital” for 36 hours until I felt well enough to hike back down. Altitude sickness is miserable and scary but curable, and in the face of very real health challenges that some people I love are dealing with, insignificant. I thought of them as I lay there, their bravery and grace.

Chicken Spring Hospital

This morning I’m thankful to be back, humbled, and regretful that my inability cut Laura’s trip short. David is in slight “I told you so” mode as he rightfully predicted this would be too much for me, but he didn’t go at me as hard as he could have for my hubris in making the attempt. I wanted to see if I could do it—I learned that I could not.

I’m grateful for the times I was able to be out in all that glory, but I’m sticking to the sidewalk from now on.


Birthday Greetings, Bottle of (Almaden) Wine

I’ve been sifting through photos this week, a task that always makes me feel shaky and unwell, but I do it anyway occasionally.  This week I was looking for snapshots of my father and sister, both of whom would have celebrated their birthdays, 100 and 64 respectively.

This looks like a studio photo — I’d judge Mary to be about a year old here, and my parents must have commemorated such an important occasion with an official portrait.

Mary baby picture

Mary was ever stylish, even appearing in a fashion show as a toddler. This might have been taken Wolf Wiles department store in Lexington, Kentucky.  Anyone from colder climes will remember leggings before they were yoga or workout attire, but meant to shield your legs from snow.  Mary is sporting what looks to be a very heavy pair of them here.  I don’t know when the fashion show took place, but I hope it wasn’t summer!

Mary fashion show

This blurry shot shows Mary all decked out in her pearls for her birthday — looks like there are four candles on what was probably a cake from Magee’s Bakery.  I am looking on and gnawing my thumb.  Our dresses may have matched.

Mary birthday cake

Everything about this photo makes me laugh.  It was taken in Mary’s “illegal” apartment in Astoria, Queens — a tiny attic converted to living space with terrible wood paneling but a stunning view of the Triborough Bridge.  Mary livened it up with spider plants and an outsized Christmas tree.  Judging by the tumbler at Mary’s side, her half-closed eyes and the vacant look on my face, I think we got into the Almaden that day in 1980, our drink of choice at the time.

MTC KTC Astoria

This one was probably taken not long before Mary died.  She went to Mexico with her friend Pepe, I think.  Did she rock the 80s hair, or what? She’d be 64 today.  She’s been gone for 30 years and as irrational as it sounds, I still have moments when I can’t quite believe that’s true.

Mary Mexico