Facepalm May

May was a freakin' strange month that went out just as strange as it came in. I don't remember a May that was as schitzo or as unpredictable as this one. It wasn't bad, really, just...strange. Strange vibes, strange ups and downs, strange weather, strange moods...


Ten Years!

Five kids, several cats, parents and in-laws, exes, tornadoes, movie and book critics,
Baptists, trolls, and bigots. And here we are, more in love than ever.
And we're a threat to the "sanctity" of marriage?

As a sidenote, we made it through last night's tornado siege. OK was hit hard—several dead, some missing. One went through the north end of town and we waited it out in the interior bathroom. The cat wasn't at all happy with that. We and our friends are alright, just a bit rattled. That's as close as I ever hope to come to a tornado again!


Like a Bolt Out of the Blue

Wow! What a trip! Last night we had a pretty severe storm roll through and, because it was hot and I love storms, I went out to sit on the front porch to watch the light show. As I sat there, I watched the neighbors' kids leave with their aunt. I watched the cars go by. I watched the flashes of lightning. Nothing out of the ordinary. The neighbor's dog strayed into our yard and our cat jumped up on one of the columns, her favorite look-out spot. I got up and started talking to the dog, inviting her to the step so that I could pet her...


Ladybits? Gentbits? Indeed!

Every now and again I like to spotlight a blog that has really caught my attention and my imagination. Ladybits is just that kind of blog. I found Mrs. Anke through her husband's blog, Anke: Royal Tunbridge Wells. Anke is not their actual name, by the way, and I have no idea what it means. I doubt anyone does, except them; until only very recently they have been strictly anonymous. Allow me to explain.

Mr. and Mrs. Anke (Christopher and Bettina Cassidy) live in my favorite English town, the aforementioned Royal Tunbridge Wells, which is in the beautiful county of Kent, south of London. I came upon his blog while researching the Wells for my trilogy. My leading character, Gordon, lives there, you see, and because I'd been through the town any number of times when I lived in Brighton, it always stuck in my mind as a particularly nice place. I had no idea how many colorful characters inhabit the place, though. Perfect, in fact, for a famous rock star's aulde pyle.


Things You Can Leave Me

So you have your heavenly passport and visa in order and you have your best Sunday outfit laundered and pressed for Saturday's Big Event (check out time is 6pm, by the way, regardless of where you are on the planet). Well, here is a list of things you can leave me. You're not going to need them and you don't want them being looted, do you? Just write a quick note willing these to me after the Rapture...

Listening Skills

Do you ever feel like you're not being heard? Like no matter what you're feeling, it just doesn't matter because no one's listening? Not being heard is one of humanity's greatest problems. It always has been. That's why everyone is so crazy. Loud car stereos, loud ring tones, yelling, shouting, bad behavior—even Twitter and Facebook. HEAR ME! I MATTER! I HURT! I'M AFRAID!

Sometimes when I sound peeved or critical, I'm really just in pain. I suppose, like most people, I subconsciously think that if I fall back onto anger or argumentativeness I'll be heard. The problem is, these never bring me the response I want, or really need.

Since Deni's death I've felt all alone in my grief. Lynette was in France when I received the call. What I needed was a friend to ask me, "How are you doing? Do you need me to come over? Do you need to talk?" Instead, I went through it all alone and, while my writing demands I have a lot of alone time, I really don't do very well alone in emotional situations. Although I act like I'm okay, I'm not handling this very well at all. Losing Deni is right up there with losing my dad and Frank. I didn't feel heard by my doctor yesterday, either, and that added to the weight that I feel crushing me from the inside. Finally, I just quit trying to be heard. I smile, I nod, I listen, I clam up. I buck up, chide myself, shake it off. It all passes and I forget.

In time, the dust will settle.

In the waiting room yesterday, a sick little boy shrieked and cried in a vain attempt to get his mother's attention. But no matter what he did, no matter how much he tried to physically move her hands and arms to touch him, to move her face to his to make eye contact with her, she remained glued to her cell phone. This went on for a good 10 minutes until the nurse called them in to see the doctor. Then she was cranky and dispassionate, angry that her sick toddler would need her attention and that taking him to see the doctor interfered with her texting and online time. I'm ashamed to say, I understood just how he felt.

This post is not an attempt to get attention. I'm already dealing with things in my own way, and anything anyone might do now, after the fact, would just come off as contrived anyway. I just needed to get my feelings out. To be heard.

And then, of course, the other voice in me speaks up: "Oh, grow up. Nobody feels heard. Get over it. People are going to take offense to your pathetic cry, so f***in' shut up. Whiny baby."

The real problem is that I'm a strong person and have weathered storms that would drown most people. A lot of people think that I simply don't have my weak moments. I might appear completely capable and maybe they think I'd be insulted, or embarrassed if they offered emotional support. I never ask for help, you know, so...

Anyway, I just needed to say these things. During Deni's illness (hell, for the past 20 years of her life) I couldn't say what I really felt, and now it's all crashing down around me.


Quiet Weekends are Highly Underrated

Sure, I love a good party, or having friends over no matter the size of the gathering, but there's a lot to be said for a quiet weekend, for endless cups of tea, crisp glasses of lemonade and watching the world go by outside the window.

The only real work I accomplished was a couple of website updates, a bit of graphic design, and an article for a paper out in California. Other than that, I did a whole lot of nothing. And I was brilliant at it, too. I napped a great deal, listened to a lot of music, and thought about Book Two. I did precious little actual writing, but typing out words is not the only part of writing a book. In fact, it's not even the largest part. There's also think time and research. I got a lot of think time in this weekend. I even had a couple of good ideas that I might be able to use.

This week I shall be writing. I just wanted to let you know that I'm still around and that I haven't forgotten you. Have a good week.


Out of the Abyss

As if chronic pain isn't enough  for its own sake (no, be patient. This is a positive post, so bear with me), there's also the accompanying sleep deficit. I've had to deal with pain since 1997 when I was diagnosed with DDD (Degenerative Disk Disease). Since then, I think I can claim about three nights out of any given year that I could say I actually slept well and woke up feeling refreshed. For a long time I thought the fatigue I've also battled (I promise, this is a positive post!) was due solely to my other complaint, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. While it played a part earlier, I finally found the right dosage of medication two years ago and since then I've really had no reason to be so fatigued. Now I understand why. I thought...


Reaching Out

Yesterday, not long after I posted the news of Deni's passing on Facebook, my phone rang. It was Ernie. As in Big Brother Ernie Joseph. My first thought was, "Oh, man, I can't talk to anyone right now," but that quickly changed.

He asked how I was doing, then he led me into a conversation about the clubs and the bands in Ventura County during the 1980s. We reminisced about the musicians we knew and performed with, and about how exciting the live music scene was at that time. We shared funny stories and nightmares about club owners, and the recording studios we'd used. We talked for over two hours, the conversation drifting from one thing to another, as they do whenever Ernie is on the other end.

We talked about how our perspective has changed about the music scene through the years, how making music for the love of music rather than fame and fortune took hold. We didn't talk about our troubleshe didn't allow the conversation to go in that directionwe just talked about music. Most importantly, he waited for me to be the one to end the conversation. It made yesterday a great deal more bearable. The sound of a friend's voice was all I needed.

Ernie is such a selfless, tender man. No wonder I based my main character, Gordon, on him and dedicated my book to him. He told me that he volunteers his free time to helping the disabled and the elderly, taking them on errands, hoisting them and their wheelchairs in and out of his van, and then he went on to say how they enjoy the way he "hot rods" them through the stores. How like him!

You know that I've always adored Ernie; I've never kept that a secret. His reaching out to me yesterday in his unique way meant everything to me. I just hope I'll get to spend some time with him again one day, face-to-face.

Heartfelt thank yous to everyone who thought of me yesterday, both here and on Facebook.


Beloved Friend

Carol Denise Thatcher Hall
22 Oct. 1951-2 May 2011
Thank you for coming into my life and sticking around so long. It should have been longer, but I'm grateful for the time we had. I'll see you on the flip side, beloved friend, and there will be many more good times.


We Are Water

JP Deni when we first met
Being close, best friends with someone for 43 years must count as some kind of a marriage. I met Deni in the summer of 1968 when she walked into the music store where I worked. I was immediately struck by her appearance, because she looked like a female John Lennon. Tall and somewhat lanky, she had shoulder-length hair that parted in the middle, and she wore wire-rimmed glasses. She carried herself with an assurance and confidence I’d never before encountered in someone my age.

She handed me a cheap acoustic guitar that needed new strings, I think, or maybe she just wanted someone to tune it, I don’t remember. Whatever it was, I did it as we spoke a little about music and who our favorite songwriters were. Like me, she was a confirmed folkie, our favorite folk artist being Bob Dylan. We also loved the Beatles, although they weren't folk. Our only musical difference was that where she liked Arlo Guthrie, I liked Donovan. Doesn't even count.

A few weeks later, on the first day of school, as I stood outside Russian class waiting for the teacher to open the door, Deni rushed up to me all smiles and exuberance, asking if I remembered her. Of course I did and as we talked, we discovered we’d both signed up to study Russian. What are the chances? It was a small class and a huge student body.

As we talked, more similarities revealed themselves. We were both newly transplanted from small towns, and we knew no one. Our musical backgrounds were similar, and the houses we lived in, just around the corner from each other, had the same floor plan. And in that floor plan, we had the same bedroom. We were both Libras, I a September and she an October, and she had an edge I respected, while I had a gentleness she admired. It was all kind of spooky, but in a cool, cosmic way.

I really didn’t want to make friends with anyone. I was very happy to be out of the small town environment I’d just left and I was ready to float through my senior year as a solitary, mysterious folksinger, free of the complications of friendship and invisible in the crowd. When this charismatic, intensely brilliant girl accosted me outside the classroom, I wasn’t sure I wanted to pursue any kind of friendship with her.

The next thing I knew, she was standing at my door in bell bottom Navy dungarees and a crocheted poncho, beads hanging around her neck and her guitar in hand. I was slightly miffed that she'd hunted me down like that, but I invited her back to my room. It didn’t take her long to win me over. She knew songs by Peter, Paul & Mary, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and, better, she loved my music.

With your fist thrust in the air,
And your John Lennon hair;
And your circled glasses,
That’s how I best remember you…

How many evenings did we sit in each other’s bedrooms sipping Constant Comment tea and playing songs, both together and for each other, while incense cones sent ghostly shadows up the wall? How many weekends found us in coffeehouses and at folk concerts? How many chords did we teach each other, and how many tea bags did we go through?

With Deni’s advent into my life, everything changed. I’d met a fellow folkie who encouraged me to nurture that side of my creativity (everyone else wanted me to be a pop singer). My songs changed, growing deeper and more introspective. I began writing about art museums and beaches, and wooden stiles by the windswept Highway 1 that curved and climbed along the Bug Sur coastline.

When she began attending classes at a local college after graduation, I tagged along in my suede fringe and paisley, and we became active in protests and rallies. We marched in the national Vietnam Moratorium together. I brought my guitar and we led many choruses of I Shall Be Released and Come Together that day.

Not long after, I decided to hitch-hike to Haight-Ashbury and it was Deni who dropped me off at the Ventura Freeway entrance. As I got out of her VW bug she asked, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

God! How many times have I wondered how my life would have turned out had I said, “No, let’s go back to your house for a cuppa and a ciggie.” It was a major crossroads in my life and I can’t say I made the correct decision, but what the hell? What’s done is done and that was a long time ago.

We’ve been through a whole lot of life both together and apart, and we've surmounted some of life’s cruelest attacks. She helped me through widowhood at the age of 18 with a 2 week-old baby and I helped her when her 18 year-old daughter died of preeclampsia in the final weeks of her pregnancy in 1991. Deni was at my house for the weekend when her husband called to say he’d found Nicki dead on the bathroom floor.

And my twelve-string guitar,
Planning to take me far;
With all the years before us,
Do you really think we ever knew…

Deni never recovered from Nicki’s death and in a very real way I lost my friend that day. Still, we remained close. As I watched her slowly lose the will to live, which resulted in two decades of illness, I already knew that I’d never get my old friend back. I stood beside her though, even when it was difficult. Why? Because I knew she’d do the same thing for me if the tables were turned. That’s what friendship does. I never judged her, never told her to pull herself together, and I never said the most hurtful words of all, “Life goes on, get over it.” For her, life may have gone on, but it was a life she just couldn’t seem to grapple with. The young woman who’d so tirelessly thrust her fist into the air against war and inequality was defeated. The gifted mind that wrote, directed, and acted in plays got lost in the television. Drapes were never opened, dust and cat hair collected on retired volumes of literature and philosophy. Her guitar sat unused, the strings brittle from lack of resonance.

In January she was diagnosed with cancer of the liver and as I write this, she is making her journey to the other side; she is not expected to make it through the next 24 hours. In my heart I know that she will soon be reunited with Nicki, and I receive comfort knowing that the emotional and physical torture she’s been through the last 20 years will be turned into joy, but you know how it is for those of us to must remain a while longer. However, ours is one of those friendships that, no matter how many years pass between our visits, we always pick up right where we left off. I have absolutely no doubt that we’re going to have a wondrous reunion the next time we see each other.

We are water,
And the river keeps on flowing,
We are water,
And the love, it keeps on growing.
We are water,
We are water.

UPDATE: Deni passed at around 11:30 am PST.

We Are Water © SK Waller 1983