Saturday, September 09, 2006

Changing view

Wait a few minutes and the weather will change. So does the view out my windows. I notice when my nose isn't buried in the computer screen as I scan and edit what I type as I listen to dictation after dictation. I have had to stop putting the camera in my office because I want to pick it up every few seconds and photograph another change.

Each moment something different passes outside. The sounds change. People walk by. Sometimes the same people walk by at the same time every day in their own personal groove along the pavement, moving a little differently each day that tells me what kind of day they're having. I've noticed the elderly keep to a schedule, determined, no matter the weather, to maintain their schedule and structure, maintaining their health at all cost. Then I think of myself at that age, clinging to health and life and forcing myself to keep moving, afraid that if I stop I might die. Or maybe they keep moving because they need to feel alive and the movement, even in the face of arthritic joints and limited range of movement, is at some proof they are still able and haven't given in to time and age and motivation.

For me, the proof is writing. As long as I can string a few words together into a coherent sentence, make some sense of what I see and feel and experience, I am still alive. There may come a time when I will have to give up typing because my hands have succumbed to age and arthritis or because a stroke has paralyzed me, or part of me, but then I will seek out technology that will allow me to think or say the words that will be typed or inscribed so that even a prisoner of a damaged or recalcitrant body I can prove I am still alive, still functioning, still writing.

I understand those people who walk by every day. I choose a more mental path, but I am still moving -- at least in my mind.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Somewhere in time

While eating lunch and watching Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow I noticed The Wizard of Oz was playing at Radio City Music Hall when Polly met Dr. Jennings. When she left the theater and walked down the street she passed another theater playing King's Row. Part of my mind was focused on watching the movie and the rest of it was trying to place the time period. One of the scientists, Dr. Vargas, disappeared after giving a package and a message to a purser to be delivered immediately. Dr. Vargas disappeared from the Hindenburg. What do all these things have to do with the movie and the time line? Everything.

The movie even contains references to Lost Horizon by James Hilton, which was released as a film in 1937.

The Wizard of Oz was released in 1939, King's Row was released in 1942 and the Hindenburg crashed in 1937. Granted Sky Captain is fantasy and these mistakes could be attributed to an alternate time line, which would have to be the case since there were no giant flying robots at any time between 1937 and 1942, but in setting the movie in a specific time the least the director and special effects wizards could have done was pick a specific time line. It would have made the story more realistic.

All that aside, I happen to like the movie with its nostalgic look and acting styles. I do question the effectiveness of an aviator with a major depth perception problem, notably Commander Cook with her eye patch. It's a great look for Angelina Jolie, but would hinder a pilot who needs both eyes to be completely effective when it comes to dive bombing an enemy and dog fighting.

In other ways the movie is reminiscent of the great science fiction thrillers of the 1950s, like The Incredible Shrinking Man, Them!, Tarantula and Forbidden Planet. What those early movies lacked in sophisticated special effects, Sky Captain delivers. There is a sense of reality to the movie and the performances that maintains the sensibility and scope of those early science fiction movies.

On a side note, the death toll from the Hindenburg's explosion was less than the crash and explosion of the U.S.S. Akron, the U.S. Navy's rigid airship. Most of the passengers and crew who survived the Hindenburg's explosion actually rode the flaming ship to the ground.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Old age humor

A little old lady crippled with arthritis, shuffling along with a walker, drags the long handle of a huge sledge hammer behind her, slowing her snail's pace even further. Tottering on thin, bird-like legs, she lets go of the walker and manhandles the sledge hammer up and onto her doctor's desk. Reeling a little from exhaustion and exertion, she leans against the doctor's desk, both hands planted on the rich mahogany wood. She fixes the doctor with a determined stare and leans closer, cocking her head to the side so she can hear him better. The doctor still stunned to silence by the old lady's determination, shakes his head in wonder. Pointing one gnarled, arthritic finger at the doctor she says, "Cure me or kill me. I'm not leaving until you do."

That's what my mother said this evening as we talked on the phone. Beanie called and told me Mom couldn't even get out of bed today and that Dad is threatening to cash in Mom's train tickets for her journey out here next month. Tonight Mom told me Dad better not hold his breath waiting for her to give in because one way or another she's going to Colorado.

Each time I call and ask how they are the list of pains and ills grows longer and it takes longer to get the information from my father because his hearing is worse. He used to be able to hear me when I used my stage voice, pitching it in the lower registers and projecting to the back of a packed theater. That no longer works. The whole neighborhood hears our private family conversations now. I don't raise my voice in anger but with my father I have to raise my voice to be heard.

When I called tonight Dad answered the phone, which in itself is unusual since the phone is Mom's province. Dad learned long ago that when the phone rang it wasn't going to be for him, so he doesn't get out of his seat or rush over to pick it up. When we were growing up the phone was usually for us and now that we're grown and gone the phone is for Mom. Tonight Dad was closer to the phone so he picked it up while Mom worked her way from the kitchen to the squirrel's nest around her prescription orthopedic lounger with a walker while carrying a mug of hot chocolate. As Dad explained this to me I yelled (only to be heard) that he should take the cup from her so she could manage the walker easier. He took the cup and left me dangling on the phone while they worked their way toward Mom's chair. Dad told me that he got home from Wally World to find Mom hadn't even been out of bed because she was in so much pain. He dug the walker out of the garage, cleaned it up and brought it to her so she could get around. I can't see her with the walker but I have seen enough elderly people with their Zimmer frames to know how it looks and to wonder that my mother now has to use one.

The above joke is my rendition of her words. She's going to see her orthopedic surgeon and told me she was going to take a hammer with her. I asked her why. "I'm going to throw it down on his desk and tell him to cure me or kill me."

"You'd better take a big hammer," I told her. She'll do it, too. That's one thing we have in common, determination.

When I was in labor with my third son, A.J. (short for Anthony James), I told the doctor, a very handsome young major, that if he had been wrong all those months while I was pregnant and he pulled out a boy I'd tell him to shove it back up there and try again. He thought I was joking. Major Teddy Bear (what the nurses called him when they heard me say he was as cute as a teddy bear) stood between my legs, gowned and gloved, and pulled the wriggling human from between my legs. Through the haze of blood and sweat and pain I looked for my child, unable to see the sex from the back. "It's a boy," the doctor crowed.

"Shove it back up there and try again," I said.

Tomorrow Mom will dig the biggest hammer she can find from my father's tool box and she will lug it to her doctor's office in the suitcase stuffed with perfumed scented Kleenex and Ziploc bags of gold and silver and platinum jewelry she calls a purse and she will heave that hammer onto his desk saying, "Kill me or cure me." Days like today when I'm tired and cranky from lack of sleep and too many hours of work, I feel the same way. One thing I know for certain is that Mom will be here next month -- if the doctor doesn't use the hammer.

Memories in bits and pieces

Seeing Henry and hearing his rough voice takes me back to those long afternoons when Henry Miller's words intoxicated us both, his voice dark, masculine and deep, thick velvet that wrapped us both in scent and sound. His long slender fingers were winter chilled as he touched my face, marking a cool trail down my fevered skin, my heat warming his touch, radiating between us, growing hotter as we touched and talked and kissed.

Miller's rough and untutored words sounded sophisticated and polished on his lips, his innate sense of style and republican decorum infusing the crude unvarnished passages with style, his style. He was the modern incarnation of Miller, full of Miller's passion for life carefully reined and tutored, anxious to be given his head. Afternoons and scattered weekends full of art and poetry, passion and intellect, tangled and sweaty and near bursting. Miller takes me back, sends me deeply into our own Tropic of Cancer. I miss those afternoons and Miller and him. Watching Anais and June and Henry and dear naive, generous Hugo always in the background or on the fringes, near the fire and never scorched, merely warmed.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Virus warning

There is a virus making the rounds that turns an otherwise polite individual into someone who exhibits all the qualities of a dick. To a polite question they offer stunning silence without any pretense at civility. This is not an isolated outbreak but is pandemic and can attack without warning or explanation. People who were formerly friendly and sociable suddenly show all the social grace of a misanthrope and becomes particularly misogynistic.

There are two eclipses expected this month, a lunar eclipse on Sept. 7 and a partial solar eclipse on Sept. 22. In astrological parlance, eclipses signal the beginning/ending of certain aspects of life. It is my hope this outbreak of the dick virus will end on Thursday. If, however, it does not, and continues its virulent course, I have no other options but to refuse communication with those who are infected with the virus so as not to be affected.

Please beware. Neither the U. S. Department of Health nor the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta will issue this warning. They are already infected. Let's be careful out there.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Living Voices

Two years ago I toyed with the idea of setting up a new ezine, one that would feature and preserve living history. I still don't have the time to devote to a magazine, but, as I have said many times, there may not be a tomorrow and what is important is living and doing today. This moment is what is important. I'm not toying with the idea any longer.

It will take some time to put together guidelines and mission statement and a business plan, but I've decided there is no time like the present. So, to that end I have decided to launch Living Voices magazine in January 2007 as a monthly magazine. Fiction and nonfiction will be about people, a way to preserve the living voice of our age and the generations just past. Living Voices will be the voice of the past, the present and the future. Keep an eye here and on writing communities for news and updates.

Those of you who are writers are welcome to begin submitting once the guidelines are up. In the meantime, keep writing and don't stop. It is your living voice I want to preserve.

Ted & Jim

A letter to the editor in 5280 magazine sparked my curiosity. It was in response to the July 2006 article written by Eileen Welsome about James Dobson and his Colorado Springs dynasty, Focus on the Family.

Part of Welsome's article dealt with Dr. Dobson's interview of serial killer, Ted Bundy. I saw part of the interview in a video from the television special, "Natural Porn Killer". I am amazed that Dobson swallowed Bundy's hook, line and sinker attached, and ran with it, but Dobson did have an agenda: pornography. He was part of the Meese Commission's report on pornography and violence against women. He got what he wanted and Ted Bundy helped him.

Bundy, ever the showman, the darker incarnation of P. T. Barnum, who said, "There's a sucker born every minute," found suckers in Dr. Dobson and Florida State Attorney John Tanner and his wife, Marsha. Bundy gave them what they wanted, his word that he wouldn't have become a serial killer if he hadn't been exposed to hard core porn. Dr. Dobson, fresh from visiting peep shows and XXX-rated movie theaters in New York City, was convinced Bundy talked about the kind of porn he experienced while researching pornography for the Meese Commission. It isn't what Bundy meant.

Bundy was talking about the old pulp detective stories. Playboy and magazines of that kind did not exist. However, Bundy's porn of choice was cheerleader magazines sold to and full of pictures of teenage girls, hardly what one would consider pornography. Dr. Dobson left Bundy and faced the media outside the prison walls and told them Bundy had repented his crimes and named pornography as the culprit. What Bundy was unable to do with his showmanship in the court room when he defended himself or by his letters to other serial killers and promises to lead investigators to each and every one of his 100+ murder victims he accomplished with his last grandstand play by choosing Dr. Dobson for his last televised interview.

We believe not always what is true but what we want to hear. Dr. Dobson got what he wanted, an indictment on pornography made by an accomplished liar and charming sociopath who wanted to give his daughter and stepson a way to remember him that didn't include the horror he left the families of his victims. When cheerleading magazines can be characterized as pornography and even the Sears catalog can be used to fuel sexual fantasies, where do we draw the line? Is pornography the real culprit or merely an easy target for a witch hunt?

One interesting side note is John Tanner's touching display of feeling for Bundy when he describes how Bundy served communion with flat Coke and stale bread. Tanner and his wife were touched and Tanner characterizing the communion as the most significant and moving experience of his life.

I learned a great deal about Dr. Dobson by reading Welsome's article. I learned more about him by watching him on camera and reading what his friends and detractors have to say. He may believe he is "perfect and without sin" but I do not. The last man who was claimed to be perfect and without sin was crucified. I have yet to see the nail prints in Dr. Dobson's wrists and feet or the marks from the crown of thorns thrust on his head. Until I do and until he has been translated to heaven, I will continue to believe what my eyes and ears tell me.

Ted used Jim and Jim used Ted and they both got what they wanted.