Friday, April 17, 2015

Ladder Poems

In my last writing class with Janell, we read a fairly gloomy poem by Adrienne Rich and were asked to spend some time writing something based on it. I wrote the following:

Adrienne's Ladder

Adrienne wrote of a succession of movements, each one making the next one possible. I reach for a ladder of such movements when mired in the paralysis of depression. I cast about for the lowest rung, for any movement at all that seems remotely possible from where I hunker in darkness, afraid even to look up, afraid to draw the attention of a malevolent universe to my timorous, vile self.

Then, at a time that comes to me as a gift, the thought, willingness, and energy to put my foot on that ladder all coincide as the first rung glides into view, offering enough challenge to get me moving but not a discouraging amount.

And I take that step, breaking the locks on my joints and my mood, climbing that little bit up from the depths towards the light, the next movement, and the movement beyond that, feeling better, stronger, more worthy with each step.

But then, I pause too long, and the next step drifts out of sight. The upward momentum cannot be sustained. My energy ebbs, and I slide back down the ladder, acquiring splinters and blisters, until the next time.


Then, oddly enough, one of Janell's next prompts was a line about carrying a ladder. So I approached the same topic from a different angle:

Happy Ladder

We all need ladders to extend our reach,

to step on to touch the top shelf

or the sky.

Our legs and arms take us only so far;

we need help to go further

go deeper

go into a different realm

where fish swim through the air

and words array themselves on the page

and old thoughts are clothed in new words

and old words take on new meanings.

Ladders lift us up

take us over obstacles

up a fire escape

into a treehouse

through the looking-glass.

Each rung supports our weight

and lays a foundation for new realms

each step a higher realm

thrilling with more beauty and insight

taking us up and up and up.

Monday, March 23, 2015

What's Happening These Days

So, I finally more or less got over my flu/cold - writes she while blowing her nose and nursing a lingering cough.

At least I'm well enough to have participated in two previews/fundraisers for Pants: The Musical in the past ten days, with another one this coming Saturday (at 2 pm at Take 5 Cafe in Berkeley, on Sacramento south of Ashby).

These previews give us cast members opportunities to perform our backup singing and solos with the music in front of us while we are in front of small, appreciative crowds.

On top of which, we have a mini-talent show afterwards, in which I get to read some of my little writings to the same appreciative folks.

Which has helped encourage me to get back into sorting said writings into batches that might work together and be interesting.

I reunited all the pages and sorted them back into my original topics. And have put into chronological order those topics for which it makes any sense.

I'm thinking that my next steps will include reading through the topic groups, making copies of my electronic files that are also sorted into these groups, and further refining those groups by splitting up blog posts that combine materials that pertain to different topics.

In other news, I spent four hours last week training with a coalition of people who seek to reform Proposition 13. Prop. 13 was intended to protect aging homeowners from steeply increasing property taxes. However, it applies even more strongly to commercial property, and its effects have shredded government services that depend on property taxes and shifted much of the remaining tax burden from commercial property owners to homeowners.

Finally, I got back to a Leather Soles dance class/party yesterday. Great exercise, and today, after a nice hot bath, my legs have almost recovered.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Happy Pi Day

It's 3/14/15, which are the first five digits of pi.

I finally got back to my DIFO meeting in person today, and my support group resumed meeting this week after a hiatus, so I'm basking in the renewed support.

Which is needed. Traveling halfway around the globe without a companion was hard on this introvert, and I'm back on a psychiatric med to keep a current bout of anxiety from blossoming into major trouble.

It was also helpful getting back to my two writing groups: the class with Janell Moon, and writing at Folio Books with Kathy Dalle-Molle. Between an upcoming reading by our Folio group next month, and the musical comedy Corduroy Pants, which is in previews, I've had to write two short autobiographies in the past week. One focused on my writing, and the other focused on my theatrical experience, so there's not much overlap.

So here are some recent writings, including the biographies:

Public Speaking

Surveys relate that more people read public speaking than are afraid of death. Rank me with those who fear death the most.

I've been acting and engaging in various forms of public speaking since I was in grade school. Plays, forensics tournaments, the high school valedictory address. As long as I have a script to follow, or at least have some idea of what I want to say, I'm fairly content to stand up in front of people and sing, or act, or lead worship, or read poems or other writings.

But that doesn't make me an extrovert. No, no, no. Cocktail parties, meeting new people, hanging out in a group all terrify me. I can only spend a few hours in a party situation or with a group of people before I need to escape somewhere alone and replenish the energy I've lost. I'm definitely an introvert, albeit of the showoff or performer variety.

Watch me take a piece of my mind and share it with you. That's OK; it's what I do.


Cast Bio

Dana Vinicoff played the chief elf in The Elves and the Shoemaker at age 8. In junior high, she played Ulga in Dinny and the Witches, and the Jester in Twelfth Night. She wrote and performed with Mothertongue Readers' Theater in the '80s and '90s. More recently, she played Harvey in Joan Furst's musical comedy, Dykes on Broadway. The next year, she played a Latina with mental health issues in Roke Noir's production, Mad Love.


Writing Bio

Dana Vinicoff came to San Francisco in 1974 to go to law school and never left. She has retired after 31 years as a legal writer, editor, and publication manager. In between acting gigs and community organizing, she writes creative non-fiction with any group she can find, maintains her blog, and tries to massage her writings into one or more collections that some people might enjoy reading.


Santa Monica Summers

At the beach, the smell of Coppertone lotion and the pricier Bain du Soleil. The stickiness they left on the skin. The heat of the sun beating down on my hair, freckling my nose, and setting my skin up for cancer and my eyes for cataracts.

Stepping into the water and plowing above, below, or through the waves until I get in a good location for body surfing. I catch one wave, and travel halfway back to shore. Another wave sneaks up on me and I am tumbled in a washing machine.

Sand accumulates in my swimsuit and I duck down and try to swish it out. I step on seaweed and cringe away from its slippery feel.

Having been hit by three more washing-machine waves, I've had enough for today. I head back to my beach towel, after some searching with my near-sighted eyes.

I sit down on the towel, and the sand that already clung to my feet is gradually joined by wind-blown grains all over my body. And I pick up more sand from my towel itself.

But there's a can of soda in a cooler to wash the salt out of my mouth. And a taco stand not far away, where I can buy a mystery meat taco wrapped in yellow paper and a rainbow snow cone. I bring my prizes back to my towel, triumphant.


I met Beverly Sills once. Nee Bubbles Silverman, she was proudly claimed as Jewish by my family. She was at the peak of her career as an opera singer, and had a voice of the type my voice teacher claimed I was acquiring.

I'm not quite remembering where we met. It probably was the Hollywood Bowl or some other Los Angeles concert venue, since I was a music major at U.C.L.C. in those years - the early 1970's.

I congratulated her on the wondrous facility of her coloratura runs. I've a faint memory that she had sung florid variations on "Ah, vous dirais-je, Maman," a tune we Americans know as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

I can be fairly sure of having actually met her, because I still have her autograph on the page from that tiny notebook I carried with me even then.

But as for encouraging me to take my musical gifts in the direction of opera? Nope. I decided that I was not going to earn a living in music, and went on to law school.

Now that I'm retired, though, I'm returning to the artistic endeavor I favored in junior high school - musical theater.


I'm reminded of the time I spent a day at the Elizabeth Arden salon in Los Angeles - a gift from my mother to prepare me for the high school juniors' ball. When I was done there, I looked like a million bucks. To be more precise, I looked like a 35-year-old woman whose husband was a millionaire.

And I didn't exit the building before a young man came up to me and tried to charm himself into my life. Nonplussed, I wound up inviting him to the small Santa Monica apartment where I was living with my mother and brother, to swim in the pool.

When he arrived and saw my true age and circumstances, the dollar scales fell from his eyes, and he faded away at the first opportunity.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Back In One Piece

A few of my hopes came true:

I petted a few kangaroos and a wallaby. I saw koalas and Tasmanian devils. I ate some exotic tropical fruits I'd never had before - passion fruit and dragon fruit.

I set foot in Sydney, Australia; Hobart, Tasmania; Dunedin (accent on the second syllable, and the 'e' is long), New Zealand; the port town nearest to Tauranga and Rotorua, New Zealand; and Auckland, New Zealand.

I met some lovely women from all over the world. Danced a wild tango (with the ship's rolling casting us towards and away from each other} with an Aussie named Lizanne. Exited the Syndey Hop On Hop Off bus at King's Cross station after eyeing a likely looking lady {who I later met in the line to board the ship}, and found my way back to my hotel with a little help from a local lass who was handing out free passes to a gym. Sat at a table in the Lido Restaurant with a woman I knew I had met before. When she gave me her name, I remembered that we had met in the Chinese Garden in Sydney and that she had been knitting something complex.

What are the chances of running into someone I know on the opposite end of the world? A few hours after we disembarked the Oosterdam in Auckland and were back at the ferry terminal for a harbour tour, I heard a male voice call "Dana?" It was Glen Shannon - an East Bay-dwelling recorder player and composer friend of mine. He was headed to board the Oosterdam for a gay male cruise to Sydney for the upcoming gay Mardi Gras festivities.

I'll try to upload some of my better pictures, but don't get your hopes up - they were taken with my ipod touch.

Be it ever so humble, ...

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Tomorrow I Travel

How many months have I been planning this trip? Since last July, I learn from checking the paperwork. Which I'm now sorting through several times to see what can be recycled, what left behind, what can be packed, and what needs to go to the airport with me.

It's been raining pretty steadily the last several days and is to continue raining tomorrow. May lots and lots of the rain find its way into the reservoirs. Ordinarily I would be getting pretty depressed about now, since my emotions are solar-powered, but my pre-trip anticipation/anxiety is an effective antidote.

Since I was reminded that my flight leaves in the evening (somehow it had morphed into morning in my mind a few months ago), and especially since learning that I had bid for and won a moderate-cost upgrade to first class, I'm looking forward to the 13-hour flight with much less trepidation, and even a little anticipation. It's also helping with my pre-trip anxiety that I posted my flight on the cruise's Facebook group and found five other cruisers who will be on the flight. We plan to band together Down Under to make our way out of the airport and to our hotels.

A few ladies from Australia and New Zealand seem to be finding their way to this blog from my postings to the FB group. Kia ora, gals, and hope to see you soon!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Pre-Trip Wish List

Written at Write Now! to the prompt "What I want is."

What I want is to have a safe trip Down Under. To get myself where I need to be when I need to be there, in a relatively unfrazzled state.

I want to have packed wisely with clothes and accessories that contribute equal amounts of comfort and attractiveness.

I want to have fun adventures with a minimum of injury, illness, or anxiety. I want to make good enough decisions about what to eat and what to do - not to paralyze myself by trying for perfection.

I want to get to know some of my fellow cruisers better and have deep, nourishing conversations with them. I want to be helpful to my fellow travelers by sharing any information or expertise I can offer.

I want to have cared wisely for myself in choosing when to get out and about, and when to recharge alone in my cabin. I want to fall asleep within a reasonable time each night, and awaken in the morning with as much energy and enthusiasm as I can reasonably expect from myself.

I want to experience no dyke drama. I want to come home with good pictures and stories, and postcards, T-shirts, and maybe a new journal or two.

Friday, January 30, 2015

How to Sort?

So I've been thinking about how to arrange my blog files, and even dreaming about the possibilities. Maybe putting the options down in writing will help clarify matters.

My chief temptation is to present the files sorted chronologically, as if they were historical data whose value rests in part on their timing. There are some older writings that I've copied into the blog, which I'd have to pull out and label separately - writings from junior high and high school, writings from college and law school years, writings for Mothertongue Readers' Theatre - but the bulk of the blog was written for the blog or at least was posted there near the time of its writing.

Or, I could sort the pieces by the purpose for which they were written: English classes and writing workshops, the blog itself, Mothertongue, the synagogue, and Christian self-expression.

Or, finally and most difficult, would be to organize the pieces by the subject of the writing. There are many different subjects and ways of splitting them up, and a single piece often touches on two different subjects. My original subject list: current happenings, my past, my mental blocks, spirituality, commentary on others' writings, and general non-fiction. A list proposed by my writing coach includes: inspiration, observations, musings, memories, faith/shul, san francisco, outside, and panic.

I suppose that the decision should rest less on my convenience and more on what would be most accessible and interesting to a reader. Some authors can tell a story with graceful interjections that seem fairly far afield. I'm reading a book that's the story of the life of a pet pig in New Hampshire, but every so often the author spends a few months in India or Brazil studying other animals, and she manages to weave these trips into the narrative without any loss of momentum.

If I were to identify a basic story arc, say moving into retirement or recovering from major depression, maybe I could weave my political, artistic, and other excursions into the narrative. Maybe.

My original sorting included prioritizing my first three topics: current happenings, my past, and my mental blocks. But the downside of that was that the chosen topics included some relatively dull stuff and this sorting omitted some pieces I really liked from the excluded topics. So then I pulled out some of the duller stuff and pulled in some stuff from the other topics. But then I resorted the pages in chronological order and lost the original sort. And the more I look at the current pile of pages, the less cohesive and more amorphous it seems.

Maybe some subjects need to be in chronological order. Certainly reports of what I was then doing would make more sense in the order of their occurrence. But even a biography is seldom told in strict chronology; the author chooses an angle of approach and opens with a good hook before digging into the subject's ancestors and early childhood.

I seem to have a bit of a dilemma: I can't find a good arrangement for the pieces until I decide what I'm trying to accomplish with them, and I can't figure out what I'm saying with them until I get the pieces sorted in my mind. Along with whatever explanation and expansion seems necessary.

And part of the problem is that the pieces are so disparate in origin, subject, and purpose. Por ejemplo, I've got prayers and sermons on the one hand, and bawdy pieces about sexuality and lesbianism on the other hand. Now, reconciling these parts of myself has been one of the major themes of my life. Maybe that could be an organizing principle. Hmm.

Alternatively, breaking the pieces into several different projects may be the way to go. For example, I could pull together all the Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist material, and enough of the circumstances of my life to explain my interest in all three religions. But queer spirituality has been written about in each flavor, I'm sure. Don't think I'd buy a book on that subject alone.

Well, this has all been pretty helpful. I'll be curious to see if I stop dreaming about editing the files or if the content of the dreams changes.

Stay tuned for future developments.