Saturday, September 24, 2016

BTW, the piece I performed for Lez Writes 2016

I seem to have a little problem with authority.

We kids who lived in the Berkeley hills rode the same number 7 bus to junior high school each weekday morning. We made the bus our own; the driver, not so much. For no reason we could see, he usually parked the bus on University Avenue and stepped outside of it for a minute or two. That did not sit well with me. I studied the door controls, and one day after he left the bus, I closed the door behind him.

He yelled at me to open it up again, and I did. I’ve occasionally wondered why I closed the door on him. I'm usually a goody two-shoes, color inside the lines, kind of gal. Only now, nearly 50 years later, do I have an idea. I've had abandonment issues most of my life. And I think that his leaving us alone in the bus frightened me a little bit and angered me a lot. Step away from us, will you? OK, we don't need you either, so there.

Fast forward through my college years, when I found out I was a lesbian. My very existence defied authority. After I came to San Francisco for law school, I joined associations of gay Lutherans and queer Jews. I found and read lesbian novels. In the back of my mind, I hoped for some lesbian action when I went out of town for a gay gathering. Nope.

The closest I came was at a conference in Minnesota for a gay Lutheran group. I happened to catch the eye of a nice lesbian doctor. Unfortunately, she insisted on remaining true to her absent lover, and my best efforts got me only some very nice necking, a canoe ride, and sunburn.

A few years later, I went to a women's retreat house for a weekend of instruction in meditation and massage. One woman used massage techniques on my inner thighs that would have caused me great embarrassment were I a man. Although straight, she seemed to enjoy exerting that power over another woman. When I happened to mention that I belonged to a gay synagogue, she perked up, and asked me to spend some time alone with her. I enjoyed giving her a demonstration of lesbian kissing and cuddling, but she drew the line there.

Then I went to the West Coast Women's Music and Cultural Festival. Hundreds of dykes camping in the woods, Holly Near, bare breasts. Women hooking up to the left of me, kissing and caressing to the right of me. Into the valley of dykes I marched. But me, my gaydar was so bad that I wound up hanging out with one of the ten straight women at the festival.

Each of the attendees had to contribute some hours of work as part of our payment for the festival. My job was titty patrol. A state highway ran through the campground, and women who planned to cross the road had to be reminded to put their shirts on, lest they risk being arrested.

Did you know that it's illegal in California for a woman to appear in public barebreasted? Men may take off their shirts any old time they want to, but a woman becomes a criminal if she does it. How is it, I wonder, that bare breasts are considered so threatening to the body politic as to constitute a crime?

Is it that poor, innocent, weak-willed men would lose control of themselves and rush like starving beasts to bury their faces in the unveiled and beckoning bounty? Would young children be traumatized by seeing breasts other than the ones they suckled at? Would all women become lesbians? I think it's that bare breasts defy male authority over women. If women control when to reveal our bodies, we might get the revolutionary notion that our bodies belong to us rather than to men. That simple idea would bring the patriarchy crashing in pieces to the ground.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

LezWrites 2016

At least two friends urged me to submit a piece to this year's Best of LezWrites show. I had a faint recollection of having tried unsuccessfully last year, but couldn't find any electronic paper trail.

This year there was a theme, The Body Politic. Turns out I had written a piece about bare breasts and the law against 'indecent exposure' using that very phrase. The submissions needed to be between five and ten minutes long, and that single piece was not long enough. So I combined it with two other faintly humorous pieces, making a really good transition between the second and third pieces.

After my submission was accepted for the show, I ran it by my writing partners, who pointed out the weakness of the connection between the first and second pieces, and another theatrical mentor, who noted that it ended a bit abruptly. So I did a bit more stitching together of the pieces. In fact, every time I looked at it or read it aloud, I tinkered with a phrase here or a sentence there.

Anyway, the time finally came to perform it last Friday, and it went over pretty well.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Fun With Misty (Miss Tabby, Miss T)

I have a wonderful new kitty. She is a small, soft, brown tabby teenager. The neighbor who found her on the street described her as a lap cat. She likes my lap well enough, but even more enjoys lying on my shoulder.

She was a sweet, cuddly creature for the first few days, as she was learning her new territory - my flat and the backyard.

Then she felt enough at home to graduate to twilight terrorist, or night-time nut. She runs from one end of my home to the other, bouncing off walls. When I offered her a toy to play with, she'd chomp down on it and munch till it was dead. Even when she was in my lap, stroking her elicited claw-tipped paws as often as purrs.

Almost immediately, she took up hunting duties in the backyard, slaying a rat and stalking birds.

This morning, however, she had brought a bird inside and was tearing at its innards when I got up to visit the bathroom, as if to chide me for being late with her breakfast.

And after eating the cat food I provided, she brought inside a partly killed mouse - injured enough that it wasn't running around, but still breathing. After thanking her for the gift and praising her prowess, I should've drowned the mouse out of its misery. Instead, all I could think to do was get it the hell out of my home.

I left it on my back porch, near the eviscerated bird. Bedarned if she didn't follow it outside and resume playing with it. In the absence of furniture to bat it under, she found a space between two boards to knock it into. So my next joyful participation in her play will be to fish it out with some chopsticks and deposit it in the compost bin. Oh boy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Protest Vote

Protest Vote

Sometimes we want to use our vote to oppose something else. The problem with protest voting is that we get what we vote for, not the opposite of what we voted against. For example, the proponents of the Leave campaign in the United Kingdom incited anger towards immigrants and fear of terrorism as reasons for leaving the European Union. But they didn’t explain what would happen to the country if it threw away a quarter-century of trade relationships and progress. The pound plummeted. It’s not enough to know what you’re voting against, if you have no idea what you’re voting for.

In our country, too many people support Donald Trump to express their hatred of President Obama and their fear of terrorism. They might be very surprised to learn what they’re voting for. There are only two ways to govern a really diverse country: politics and dictatorship. In politics, the major factions have to compromise, so each gets a bit of what they want and nobody gets everything they want. Otherwise, it takes a dictator to hold a diverse country together. In Iraq, we toppled a dictator without creating politics to take his place. We broke the country, and failed to put it back together – which led to death, destruction, and the rise of the Islamic State.

Since the election of President Obama, the Republicans abandoned any possibility of compromise. They openly vowed to make him a one-term president, even if it ruined the country. Their failure to compromise as fiscal deadlines loomed brought the country to the brink of defaulting on our obligations, which harmed our credit rating and our standing among nations. I don’t know why charges weren’t brought against them. Doing deliberate damage to the country in order to spite the sitting president sounds like treason to me.

Fortunately, there were enough Democrats in Congress during the first term to pull the US and the world back from the financial mess that the Bush administration had left us in. However, the Republican refusal to negotiate and compromise has resulted in total Congressional gridlock since then. Guns cannot be controlled even after horrific massacres of children, despite nearly total support from voters. Immigration reform is impossible. Nothing happens in Congress except futile votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

If politics can’t work, dictatorship is the only alternative for governing a diverse nation. That is why Trumpism is so popular. He’s not a politician, he has no use for compromise. He says that he’ll fix everything, and some voters believe him, because of his pathological self-confidence and vast experience with failed businesses. Anyone with the least sense of history is reminded of Germany in the 1930s. Trumpism is Fascism, and he is running not for president of a republic, but for dictator. Vote for him only if that’s what you want.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Despair and Delight

Yesterday a friend invited me to share her free tickets to see the musical Cabaret. I jumped at the offer, and we went to the Golden Gate Theater last night. The production very movingly presented the rise of the Nazi party and its anti-Semitism. The company did a wonderful job of making me feel horrible. I disliked all the characters, and hated that period of history. The final tableau of a death camp prisoner wearing a yellow star and a pink triangle left me thoroughly bummed out - sad and angry and ashamed to be human.

Then I drove us home. When we turned up Hyde Street, we saw City Hall, all lit up in rainbow colors. My jaw dropped and the car stopped, fortunately not too far from a red light. After we turned the corner onto McAllister, my friend suggested we pull to the curb to admire the view. So we did.

The illuminated building was so very beautiful. There was a layer of lights at the street level, another layer at the base of the dome, and other lights at the very top of the dome. They changed very slowly, as if the spectrum was gradually playing over City Hall.

The beauty of the display was like a beacon of hope in the darkness. We could feel the colors entering our eyes and skin; they came into our open mouths and we tasted them. We were nourished, and warmed, and inspired by the profound and magical beauty of those glorious colors against the stone building and night sky. We felt their textures and inhaled their aromas, and just drank them in with total awe and gratitude. I was moved to exclaim, "God bless the City and County of San Francisco!"

That was quite a palate-cleanser.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The End of Einstein

Last month I learned from the veterinary oncologist that my cat Einstein had weeks to months before his life would become more of a burden than a boon.

So I decided to make his last weeks as pleasant as I could make them. The vet suggested I cook for him, but prescribed suitable canned food after I told him I don't even cook for myself. So I provided him with the prescription food (of great flavor and calorie count) and other flavors of moist, stinky canned food for his eating pleasure.

Last week, I brought home some salmon from my breakfast, and he galloped across the kitchen to investigate that new scent. He was still sunning himself on the back stairs that week.

This week, however, he stopped galloping and secreted himself in a hiding place under the desk in the back hall.

I called a friend to help me decide if it was time, and she urged me to call a vet. The vet took one look at Einstein and suggested that he had reached a state where euthanasia was a good medical decision. So that's what we did this afternoon.

Lots of religious texts came to my mind, all Christian in source.

First, the Nunc Dimittis: Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word.

Then, Requiescat in pacem. May he rest in peace.

And finally, I played a recording of Benjamin Britten's Rejoice in the Lamb in his honor, because of a solo that I sang in a performance long ago, as follows: For I will consider my cat Jeffrey, for he is a servant of the living God, duly and daily serving God. For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way. For this is done by wreathing his body seven times 'round with elegant quickness. For he knows that God is his savior. For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements. For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest. For I am possessed of a cat, surpassing in beauty, from whom I take occasion to bless Almighty God.

Friday, May 13, 2016

What's Up with My Cat

Cancer is a learning experience, even in a cat. I heard the diagnosis a month ago, and thereby entered cancer college.

Squamous cell carcimoma is common in cats. In humans, it usually arises on the skin from overexposure to the sun, or in the lungs from smoking. In fact, my response to hearing that the lump on my cat's chin was probably cancer was to ask him if he'd been smoking on the sly. Turns out, cats probably get this cancer from carcinogens in cat food cans. Since I never gave him canned food, though, some other cause seems indicated.

I learned from the vets that this cancer was aggressive, and that cats didn't respond well to treatment with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or all three. Palliative care is the best option. After a few weeks to a few months, he would "decline," and it would be up to me to decide when to have him put out of his suffering.

I bought him luscious prescription canned food, food that would tempt any cat not actually within death's door. And he was prescribed pain-killing drops that I am supposed to wrestle into his mouth three times a day or "as needed for the pain." As if any cat is going to admit to being in pain. Au contraire. Cats are driven as a survival mechanism to hide any distress.

He has been drooling some, perhaps because he can't close his mouth all the way. But drooling may also be a sign of pain in a cat. Dogs drool as a matter or course. But cats usually drool only when they are in severe pain or are deathly ill.

I'm cheered whenever he finishes eating a can of food. And I applaud when he seems to enjoy lying in the sunny back yard, or sitting in my lap, on his recliner, or on the filing cabinet next to the window overlooking the backyard - which I call "kitty TV."

Short of interspecies telepathy, however, I can't know precisely when his life becomes more of a burden than a pleasure. But if he stops eating, that'll be a pretty big clue that the time has come to release him to the elements.

I worry a bit that he may go outside, tuck himself into a dark corner somewhere, and quietly pass on. But keeping him inside would remove a major source of his pleasure. If he becomes too feeble to navigate the two flights of stairs leading down to the backyard, that would be another clue that the time may have come.

It's a puzzlement to me. An ex of mine had a cancerous cat, and regrets that she let him live and suffer as long as she did. I don't want to act too soon or too late. But there's no way to be precise about this. I might as well admit that I won't be ale to make the perfect decision, ask the cat and myself to forgive me in advance, and do the best I can. As if there's any other choice.

I'm in cancer college now, and the final exam is a killer.