Thursday, July 2, 2009


Its hair felted and pillow-punk-styled
Fabric creases embossed on the side of its face
Eyes heavy-lidded, still sealed half-shut by sleep snot
Grunting, scratching, farting morning
Hacking its fetid, furry morning breath

They sit on opposite sides of the table
Light-years apart
"Well, aren't you just a thing of beauty," he snipes
And picks up the newspaper
Annoyed, she takes a huge gulp of coffee
It burns her tongue
Burns all the way down
Sears the pit of her stomach

He hides behind the paper
Propping it up so that she's able to read the other side
There is a picture of a sweet, elderly couple
Holding hands
Leaning against each other
Smiling proudly at the camera
To commemorate their fiftieth wedding anniversary
"My God!" she thinks, "Fifty Years!
Eighteen Thousand, Two Hundred And Sixty-Two Mornings!
And they haven't killed each other yet!"

"I'll never make it."

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Trashy Tale

True story - Two people recently died in two separate incidents in England, when they were buried under the accumulations of rubbish with which they had filled their homes. One was trapped in the ton of trash that he had collected and formed into tunnels; the other, a compulsive shopper, was buried under piles of unopened merchandise so mountainous that it took two days to reach the body.

Pure fiction -
Gladys Entwhistle made her way carefully along the narrow serpentine path that snaked its way in tightly looped S shapes throughout all the rooms of her four bedroom house. She was careful not to bump or disturb the ceiling high stacks of paper that walled in the path on either side. The tops of the stacks had begun to lean inward toward each other, turning the path into a claustrophobic tunnel of rarified dusty newsprint-scented air. Gladys breathed audibly as she plodded slowly along. Left foot step with a wheezy inhalation; right foot step to an exhaled whistle.

She came to a fork in the path and turned to the left, down the arm of the labyrinth which she hoped would lead her to the fourth bedroom, and the location of her husband, George. She had last seen him two days ago, when he had disappeared down the tunnel with his daily collection of the dailies in his arms, in search of a niche in which to wedge them. Gladys had already trudged through what used to be kitchen, dining, den, parlour, two baths, three bedrooms, and all of the hallways that connected them, a long march of switchbacks and several missed and repeated turns that had taken her the better part of the day.

She had a feeling of trepidation as she approached her final turn. She had no way of knowing that it was her final turn until she rounded the corner and, with a gasp, came to a sudden stop. The massive stacks in front of her had finally leaned too far and had tumbled, toppled, collapsed and compressed into a solid and impenetrable wall of paper and she had reached the end of the line.

Gladys called softly, worried that if her voice was too loud it might cause further collapse, “George? Are you there, George?” The paper absorbed her question, with not even a faint echo in answer.

As she turned back into the maze, she wondered, ‘If someone screams in the stacks, and there’s no one to hear, does it make a sound?’

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Kiss of the Wind

This is my new "Olde Englishe Folke Ballade". Unfortunately, I can't sing it, because I wrote it out of my own range. Probably a good thing, after all.

On a bright summer morning the roses were blooming,
The trees in green dresses were dancing ‘round the lawn.
All the laughter of children, the birds all a-twitter,
Were stirred by the wind into sweet summer song.

Now the roses are gone, all the petals have fallen,
The trees are so bare that they shiver in the wind.
The last bird has said its goodbye in the autumn;
It waits with the sun to return in the spring

In the hush of the winter, I open my memories -
The babes in my arms learned to walk all alone.
They were mine for a moment; they laughed in the sunlight,
Then they ran with the wind to lives of their own.

Yes, my children, you’ve flown; all that’s left of your laughter
Goes whispering by me like ghosts in the wind.
I sing to the shadows that sit here beside me,
A sweet lullaby, and I hold you again.

And although we be parted, by death or by distance,
The wind will remember the song that I sing.
It will carry my music, my voice, and my blessing.
You’ll know I still love you by the kiss of the wind.


Millie is a tiny, determined lady with a sharp little nose and bright brown eyes. She looks like a small mouse in her wheelchair, but her feet touch the floor and she spends her time walking the chair this way and that way around the room, skittering and scuttling like a crab. She looks for things she can take, like a bird collecting bright, shiny things for its nest. Millie reels in the tablecloths and the plastic flowers on the tables. She tries to pull blankets and pillows away from the other residents, and grab songbooks and purses that we set down. She is strong, her grip like a vise. I once tried to wrestle a book from her hands and was amazed by the strength and tenacity of one so thin and fragile-looking. But if you speak to her firmly, she will listen and often do as you ask.

As we were singing, I discovered that she was joining in, or at least mouthing what looked like the words to one of our songs. When we were making our good-bye rounds, I decided to try a test.

"Millie, would you like to sing with me?" I asked. She looked up at me, and I began, "And he walks with me...", and she joined in, word for word, note for note. We finished the chorus together, holding the final note. When we let it go, I thanked her and she took my hand. "That was good," she said, clearly and consciously, "That was good for both of us."

And it was.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tag - I'm IT

It seems that I have been "blog-tagged" by my friend As the new "It" I am to come up with seven things that you - or most people - don't know about me and/or don't care bugger-all whether or not you do know. Here goes - prepare to be underwhelmed:

1. The one famous person that I have known is Scott Adams, creator of "Dilbert". We used to work together at a bank, and would create personalized cartoons and fake interoffice memos to send each other. Smart, cute, funny guy.

2. The worst job that I ever had was pitting peaches at a cannery. There was a continuous fall of peaches onto one end of a long moving belt, and as they passed by me I would grab a peach and slide it over the sharp curved blade at my station, the pit would drop into a trough, and I would place the two halves of the fruit back on the belt. And again, and again, and again...... I was 16, working with a group of very large, older Doukhobour women who would speak only to each other, and only in Russian, and look at me and laugh.

3. Also when I was a teenager, I was an excellent bowler. My folks owned the bowling alley, I learned to set pins, and bowled in an adult league. There is some ten pin bowling in Canada, but mostly five pins, which is more difficult. The alleys are the same, the pins are the same size, but the ball is solid, about six inches in diameter and held in the hand - no fingerholes. I once bowled a perfect game - over the end of one game and the beginning of the next.

4. I eloped to get married. The Reverend was in his pool when we went to see him, but he did agree to officiate. He climbed out of the water, threw on a blue bathrobe over his trunks, and performed the service barefoot and dripping on the concrete.

5. I have been in a Mexican whorehouse. Three young, stupid couples in one old car travelled to Nogales, Mexico. We had heard about Canal Street and had to go and see. We stopped to ask two men on the street for directions. They gave very long, strange looks at the three of us women in the back seat before telling the guys how to get there.

6. Two of those stupid young couples, plus one baby and one small dog, travelled from Arizona to California in our same little old car, pulling a trailer loaded with everything we owned. If we had owned a mattress, it would have been tied to the roof of the car. Except for a few hours sleep in the car overlooking the Grand Canyon, and frequent food and potty stops, we drove straight through - me, my husband, and my brother-in-law taking turns at the wheel - averaging 35 mph all the way. Eventually, I was the only one who stayed here, along with my daughter, who was born here.

7. I watched a space shuttle launch at Cape Kennedy. We weren't right up next to it, but thanks to a friend who worked for Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta, we were able to get closer than the average bear.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Our Town

This is our town...California's motto...Eureka...I have found it! "It" is a fair-to-middlin' city with some flashes of brilliance, located on the north coast of the state, about an hour and a half south of Oregon. It is bounded around the north and west by Humboldt Bay, with the ocean just beyond the Bay's narrow and always tricky, sometimes dangerous, entrance. To the east are the beginnings of mountain ranges, and to the south, dairylands, forests, mountains and the rest of California - a different world altogether.

Wasn't too long ago that this was still a rough-and-ready town, built and sustained by loggers and fishermen. Now the old industries are dying out, and government is a big employer. Eureka is the county seat, and the immediate area houses Humboldt State University and the College of the Redwoods. They are struggling, too. Compared to the populous and mega-urban south, we have little political clout. But we do frequently have the highest gas prices in the country. What we have, as well, are beautiful surroundings, temperatures that are relatively temperate year-round, more than our fair share of rain, and easy, laid-back livin' if you care to indulge.

These are some bits and pieces of our town; quick snapshots of whatever's interested me as I've walked around the place. We also have suburban type neighbourhoods, rundown areas, and really tacky commercial strips, but who wants to see photos of those. You have your own, right?

To see them closer up and with more detail, try this link:

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Love Among the Ruins

1. Romance
It calls itself a Care and Rehabilitation Centre. Institutionally cheerful, the halls and rooms are redolent with top notes of Lysol, bleach, rubbing alcohol, and antiseptic hand cleaner, which don’t quite mask the odorous under layers of the illnesses and excretions of the residents. Some are there for a temporary stay – post-surgeries, accident victims, those needing only a period of intensive care and therapy before being released to lives outside. Of the permanent residents, many are elderly, immobile, unrecoverable; only one way they will be leaving here. Some are younger, and maybe they’ll improve, and maybe they won’t.

They are two of the youngest long-term residents at the facility. She is short and plump, with a childlike mind. She has a walker that supports both her and her portable oxygen, and when she comes into the recreation area, she sits down at a table on the far side of the room. She is direct and determined, and lets us know whenever she is having a bad day and will be cranky.

He would be very tall if he could stand, and probably used to be strong and muscular. Now he is wheeled into the room and parked centre-front. He was a musician before his accident; now he often needs help turning the pages of the songbook. He follows along with the words, and sings a bit to himself, but his speech is still laboured and low.

“That’s my boy friend,” she calls to us from across the room every week. He grins.

They ask the pastor if he will marry them and, after only a moment of surprised hesitation, he agrees.

The following week, they come into the room as usual, she at her table over by the coffee window, and he in his chair up front.

“That’s my husband,” she says proudly. He grins.

2. A Ruined Relaaaaationship
He loved all women. He loved them in the way that a hunter loves the creatures that he’s going to kill. There was always that one moment when he was overwhelmed with romance – when he would fall in love. That one moment when he saw a woman for the first time and fell in love with every curve in her body, every expression on her face, the sound of her voice, the way she moved, and he wanted her. He wanted to fuck her and lose himself in her; to grab hold of her and tear her in two. He wanted to give her a good poke, ream her out; make her do what she didn’t want to do and make her like it. He looked for the slut that he knew was there under the surface. Now she wanted it all because she wanted him. He wanted to own her, take her will and make her crawl across broken glass. When she cried out, “But I love you”, then he would destroy her. He would rip her beating heart out of her chest and throw it into the street. He would leave her naked and tearing at her own skin. He would tell her how stupid she was to cry.

3. Love Poem

The Big C

I’ve had a lot of mammograms by now and I’m used to the routine. Strip to the waist, gown opening in the front, the chilly room, the cold machine that pokes you hard when you wrap your arm around it and stand as you are told, the attendant’s hands – thankfully warm – as they arrange your breast on the plate, pulling and piling every last centimetre of fatty tissue from beside and below, and then the pressure as the top plate is lowered, mashing and flattening until you cry uncle. If I concentrate on the pain from the sharp corner digging into my armpit, the flattening doesn’t bother me so much, and they get a “nice compression”.

Most of the time, the routine is the same. The attendant steps behind the safety screen, I hold my breath, whirr, whirr, click, click, change positions three more times, the pictures are clear and readable, I get dressed and go on my way. A week later, there’s a note in the mail with the word “normal” on it.

Once, there was a phone call. Doctor would like to order a sonogram. Nothing to worry about, just something he wants to check a little further to make sure. This test is not unpleasant – no pain and actually rather soothing. Three days later there’s another call. Don’t worry, these things show up all the time, and they’re usually completely benign. I don’t like that word, it implies that there is something else that it probably isn’t, but could be. I make an appointment to have a needle biopsy done in the doctor’s office.

I have a relaxant pill to take beforehand, and they give me a local to numb the test area. I’ve spent most of my life being needle-phobic and can’t watch, but it’s over quickly and I leave with a small round band-aid on the underside of my breast and a feeling of apprehension. I remove the band-aid a couple of days later, and a phone call from the doctor’s office removes my fears. Nothing to worry about.

I’d already had cancer. My standard stupid joke line is: I only have one kidney left, but I’m still full of piss and vinegar. I had been trying to lose a bit of weight and it was going so well. Then a friend and I went to the county fair and took a ride on the wild and whirling side. My innards bounced around like bumper cars and gave me pain; enough to send me to my MD – just for a checkup.

Do you ever think about just how medical tests and procedures were devised, and about the poor schmucks who were the very first on the table to be invaded and cut into and carved up and just plain HUMILIATED so doctors could see if and how the new thing worked? My first test was a barium enema, which is every bit as delightful as it sounds. First, you empty yourself out, and then they fill you up again and block the doorway. As I was lying on the table waiting for my close-up, admiring the roomful of sophisticated equipment, and with three radiologists completely focused on my lower regions, one of the doctors began massaging my abdomen with the back of a big wooden spoon. I started to giggle, and the doctors actually smiled. About that time, I was feeling incredible pressure, and I was reminded of a very silly joke that my mother had told me: “What is the difference between a saloon and an elephant’s fart? One is a barroom, and the other is a ba-RROOM.” I giggled more. They tell me that I was the only person who ever giggled all the way through this procedure. I wouldn’t tell them what I was laughing at. Embarrassing and uncomfortable as the test was, there was no pain involved and the results were negative. The aftereffects of the barium, however, were unpleasant and left a big “impact”.

My symptoms and I were referred to the best urologist in the area. He was a pioneer and expert in vasectomies, an old curmudgeon who treated me like a delicate piece of china. And made me laugh. I needed a sonogram of my kidney, and when that indicated an abnormality, he ordered an IVP – a series of sophisticated X-rays of the kidney when highlighted by an injected dye.

All of this was being done with haste, in between work and being a Mom, and I was a little dazed by it all, but thought, “I’m coping. I’m doing what’s needed and I’m coping.”
Then I got the phone call. A doctor I’d never heard of said that I was now his patient and that I was to be at the hospital in two days for a venagram. It would tell us whether or not the tumor they found extended up towards my heart - or something like that. I went numb, muttered good-bye and hung up.

I raced off to see my MD. He took me into his office, and while I cried, he apologized for the way it had been handled, told me about the new doctor and that I now actually had three doctors, and thoroughly explained my situation and the procedure. Somewhat calmed, I left, only to panic again 15 minutes later. I was too young, the test itself might kill me, I had a daughter in her early teens, I didn’t have a WILL! I drove to the office of an attorney that I knew and explained what I needed to his secretary. She said there was an appointment available early the next week and I burst into tears. After handing me a box of Kleenex, she gave me instructions on making my own holographic will and I went home and wrote.

All of the radiologists were wonderful, but especially the man who did the venagram. He was a huge teddy bear man, with beautiful twinkling blue eyes, and neat white beard, and a wonderful voice full of intelligence and thoughtful care. I thought then, and still do now, that if he had said to me, “I see we have something here that needs to come out, and as long as we have you here, why don’t I just do it now and get it over with?”, I might have answered, “Oh, good. Please do.” Such was the extent of my comfort and confidence levels with this man.

A good friend of mine was one of the main surgical nurses, and with her help, I chose my surgical team. Groggy as I was going in, and without my glasses, I wouldn’t have known if the Queen of England was hovering over me - except for the anesthesiologist, who is black, and I remember thinking, “Oh good, David is here.”

I “awoke” in the ICU, to the ministrations of the ICU night nurse - a man who sat by my bed, Q-tipped my cracked lips and soothed my head and spoke so gently and tenderly that I swore he was an actual angel. In my drugged state, I would have seen wings, except that I could barely open my eyes.

It was cancer, but they were very sure that it was contained, and that they had it all, so no follow-up radiation or chemotherapy was needed; just six-month checkups and chest X-rays for up to five years. For the first year after, it seemed as if every other paper or magazine that I read contained an article on renal cancer and how deadly it is if it metastasizes, and I was faithful with my exams for about four years, before deciding that, okay, that’s enough.

That’s a long time ago now, and I am officially a survivor - a very lucky one. It is possible to function very nicely with one good kidney, the cancer was caught just in time and before the cells began dispersing like dandelion fluff, and I didn’t need the punishing Hell of follow-up treatment. My waistline is now defined by a long, welted scar that runs half way around me (but I’m too old now to wear a bikini, anyway), and my head has never let go of the notion that if I lose weight, it means that I’m sick. That one stuck with me, as do the ten pounds that I really would like to dump.

I’m not going to mention the cost of health care in this country. That is another discussion. This is just a rather self-indulgent description of some of my experience – because I’ve never talked about this before. Some doctors are sons-of-bitches – I’ve met some and heard of more. Sometimes, it does happen that medical people are so intent on doing their job as thoroughly and as well as they can, and doing it in time, that they forget about the emotional human that surrounds the small body part they are focusing on. Overall, they did very well by me.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Men in Hats

For the time being, I shall stick this post at the top of my blog, not only because I like it, but also because new photos will be added to the slideshow ongoing. So take a peek every couple of weeks or so to see new faces. Maybe you will have been added to my (charming) Rogues' Gallery. Check for new posts behind this one too - I actually do write new stuff from time to time. Thanks for reading!

Most of my friends are used to me obnoxiously poking a camera in their faces when they least expect it. And many of my friends are performers who are quite willing to perform for my lens. So, one day, I was sitting in a chair outside my favourite coffee shop when it struck me that the men sitting in a row on the brick planter opposite me were each wearing some form of unique headgear. Inspiration! Thus was born "Men in Hats".

What began as an interesting thought has progressed to obsession. I am now accosting complete strangers in the street and asking if I may take their pictures. So far, only one man has refused me, and he is someone that I do know. The rest ask me where they should stand and how they should pose, and beam away like Cheshire cats.

Don't know quite what to do with these, but I love them. Hope that you do too. Men in Hats:

If you would like a closer look at all these lovely men, go to

Wall by Wall

Almost Done
Just as nature tries to fill a vacuum, local graphic artists have looked at the blank walls in town and work at filling them all. Flatmo, Spicer, the Rural Burl Mural Bureau, graffiti artists, and all of the anonymous, unknown, or unnamed, have dotted the town with colourful larger-than-life realistic and comic invention. In obvious view on busy streets, hidden in the backways, byways and alleys, bordering parking lots, they are painting the town - one wall at a time.

To view the slideshow in larger size format, go to

Saturday, September 22, 2007

War, Bloody War

Like the wars themselves, everyone who looks at this picture will have a different response, and a different opinion of what they see. Two American soldiers who probably never in their young lives thought that they would one day shake the hand of the President of the United States! Two strapping young men - the parts that aren't missing look strong and healthy. They were probably proud of their country and ready to sacrifice for it, and I'm sure that George is congratulating them for their valour, expressing regret for their losses, and telling them how grateful we all are. We are twice as grateful to you on the left. (That's your right, George, in case you're trying to figure it out. You know - the one who appears to be leaning rather heavily on your shoulder as if he's not quite steady on those new pins yet.)

George certainly looks fit, possibly going for a run (solo, I assume) as soon as he's done here. Actually, his trademark smirk looks a little sheepish, like maybe this isn't the best photo-op in the world, like he's anxious to be on his way. Maybe we could publish it alongside a shot of Bin Laden spattered by the human shrapnel of one of his suicide bombers. Would that make you look better, George?

I remember your stirring pronouncement, George - "Mission accomplished!" Well, Amen! to that. But refresh my memory, if you will. What was our mission there? Seems like it kept changing, and I lost track somewhere along the way. Oh yes, we were going to bring peace to the Middle East, and thus to the world. I'm sure that was it.

Of course, in retrospect, my favourite from you is "Bring it on!" Boy, you sure told them. And they took you at your word. Proof positive right there at your hand. I must say though, that you stood up to it all without a scratch. One tough hombre you are, George.


They made promises to me –
“Be all that you can be!”
they said.
I didn’t know that all I could be was dead.

They trained me well –
I learned to kill;
to fight
to protect my country - for God and Right.

I was sent off to war
on a foreign shore
far away.
They said we were buying freedom, and I was to go and pay.

So, valiantly, righteously,
for God and glory,
I fought.
Against the wrong enemy, but it was what I had been taught.

I died a hero’s death;
and with my final breath,
I cried,
“When will this end?” “For you it’s now,” the blood-red sand replied.

Now my Mom and my Dad weep aloud,
even though they’re still proud
of me
and the medals I won – posthumously.

But I have to say
it’s better this way –
I just died.
Others must live on with their bodies in pieces and pain inside.

These young fathers, mothers, children, husbands, wives,
with broken minds and broken bodies to broken lives
they come,
walking, wheeled, carried, sealed in hidden coffins and shipped home.

"Did we win?" we ask.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Ma, He's Painting on the Walls Again!

The artist at work

Our most prolific outdoor muralist is at it again. On the backside of the Arkley Centre for the Performing Arts, artist Duane Flatmo is crafting an heroic, old-world, trompe-l’oeil painted monument to the arts. The arch was inspired and designed from architectural photos he took on a trip to Paris (France). When the building’s backdrop of sky is the right shade of blue, it adds even more to the illusion that you are seeing through it.

The dancer and musical figures reflect the performance aspect of the building, with musicians’ faces pulled from the pages of a jazz magazine.

When I first moved to town, the building was home to the State movie theatre – a grand old girl in the grand old style – soaring spaces with upstairs and downstairs seating, one screen, one movie at a time. With the advent of modern multiplex theatres, the old theatres wasted away. This one became part of Daly’s Department Store, a busy retail store in the heyday of downtown merchants – when they dominated city business, politics and society. Along came the mall and downtown changed again.

Vacant and in disrepair, the building was finally rescued, rehabbed, restored, and refurbished by our local billionaire benefactor, and reincarnated as an elegant performance theatre. The other remaining portion of the Daly’s store had already been redone and was operating as a new local bank.

Downtown is gradually coming back. Businesses still come and go, but there is slow, steady improvement. Old Town facades are Victorian jewels, housing a variety of shops, galleries, offices, restaurants – some thriving, some hanging on. The waterfront is our sometime vision of loveliness, and visionaries have big plans. Oh, they do have plans.

Old building in downtown

New artsy-tecture building in downtown

We are, of course, courted regularly by the Big Boxes who hope that we will fall for their lines and be seduced into letting them in. We try to hold them off, fearing date rape.