31 July 2011

"Revolutionaries must be realists." ~ Angela Davis

Angela Yvonne Davis, circa 1969

In the mid-1980s, as an undergrad at the University of California, San Diego, I got a job that entailed calling graduates of the university to solicit donations for the Alumni Association.

To perform this job, I would grab a handful of information sheets at the start of each shift, on each of which was a scattering of data that the association had gathered about a particular grad. I would call that grad and run through a script designed to elicit a financial contribution.

I got so I could run the routine pretty quickly and I was persuasive, apparently, because I made the alumni association--and myself--a fair amount of money.

So! One day, grabbing an info sheet and scanning the first name, year of graduation, degree and academic department, I got hold of an "Angela" who looked to be working as a professor somewhere. I started on the script:

Hi, Angela, this is <insert tapu's real name here>, calling for the UCSD Alumni Association. We have in our files that you received your Master's Degree here in the Philosophy Dept. What did you think of your time here and of the quality of education you received?

She spoke amiably about her high opinion of some of the philosophy professors, and how one in particular--Herbert Marcuse--had drawn her to study there. Hah...? Huh?? My minor was Philosophy. I stole a glance at the full name:  Angela Yvonne Davis. Right. I had Angela Davis on the phone and I was about to ask her for a contribution to the University of California. Like, where she had become embroiled in revolution to the point that the FBI put her on the Most Wanted List. Like, where she was when then-Governor Ronald Reagan tried to get her banned from ever teaching in the UC system.

She was in the midst of her second run for Vice President on the Communist ticket and I wanted her to send privileged So Cal surfer students some cash so they could soon join the wealthy business class of their parents.

I started backing down. But Angela Davis cut to the chase for me. She pledged 1000 dollars then and there. Most people pledged 25-100 dollars. She told me she had gotten a first-rate education at the University of California and that she would always respect that opportunity. I thought I would die.

Is there anyone hotter than Angela Davis?

30 July 2011

The Simplest Crossword Puzzle Ever Devised, by Me

  _ _ _|_|_ _

I came up with this when Asa asked me one day, Could you have a crossword puzzle with no clues? At first I said no, but then I got to thinking about it....  All you need to solve it is what you see in the graphic above. It has only one solution, and there is no "trick" about it that will make you feel, well, tricked. Don't lose your self-worth or anything if you can't see it immediately (or ever). Only one person I've shown it to managed to solve it, and she had the answer the instant she glanced at it. Well before that, I had already classified her as alien to our world.

(My apologies for the rudimentary graphic. I do da werds, not da pitchers. You can bitch about it in the comments, if you like. And speaking of comments, if you know the answer don't give it away...  *crickets*.... Heh, heh, heh.)

29 July 2011

I'm not sure about Canada.

What street is this?  Never mind.  I'm sure it's the King's Something.


Named for the picture of a loon that is on one side of the gold one-dollar Canadian coin, the other side of the loonie shows Queen Elizabeth II, who apart from being Queen of UK, is also Queen of Canada. [???]

I say, 
Get a spine, Canada!

28 July 2011

Asa, age 6, visit to Ohio

Asa and Hyun, age 6, Scarborough Beach, Maine
MAMA:  How was church with Grandpa?

ASA:  It was okay.

MAMA:  What kind of people did you meet?

ASA:  White people. That's all they have here.

Early Lessons, #1

My father attended high school here as well.
 He went to a different school for elementary, but
they had to close it when the ceiling fell down.

I attended Afternoon Kindergarten at Byesville Elementary. The Byesville Elementary Students of Today attend school in the same building. My kindergarten teacher's name was Mrs. Bond. If I recall correctly, she was also my father's kindergarten teacher. Oh, that can't be true. Regardless, she was real old and it seemed like everyone in town had had Mrs. Bond for Kindergarten, too.

Now, Mrs. Bond was a well-meaning woman and she certainly didn't intend to cause lasting harm to Byesville's kindergarteners, but she favored a classroom set-up that couldn't help but guarantee more than a few children would have body image issues for the rest of their lives.

Mrs. Bond sat her Kindergarten class at 4 tables, formed from 4-8 desks turned to face the middle. Like this, see, the little v's are the seats and... never mind.

|            |            |
|            |            |
      v           v

Our tables had names:  We were the Kitties, Dogs, Rabbits, and Bears. In that order. And the children were assigned to the tables by... body size... in that order. I was a kitty because I was dinky then. (Now I am "normal.")  There were several more Kitties at my table, mostly little girls. My friend Tammy was a little bigger so she was a Dog along with another girl and some boys. My best friend, Lisa, was tall and thin. She was a Rabbit. There was only one child big enough to sit at the Bear table. Her name was Carol and she must have been about 8 by then. She was one of the Cherokee children who came into town to go to school with us and I guess she was having a hard time with Kindergarten.

Not the real Kitties, Dogs, Rabbits, and Bear(s).
With class pictures of a certain vintage, it hardly matters.

Carol had smooth brown skin and a big round Indian face with a smile that practically split it in half. She was tall even for an 8 year old and quite stout. She sat at the Bear table alone every day. Mrs. Bond hardly ever went over there to check on how she was doing. I kept wishing that Carol would switch to the Morning Kindergarten because I knew there was at least one more Bear in there.

21 July 2011

Overheard on the Eastern Prom:

"If that stroke hadn't taken Nana, she'd be 114 today."

20 July 2011

Takes a Village, #1

This is Manuel. He's not quite 2 here.

It's 2003 and we are in Guatemala to visit friends and spend time with Manuel. Eme, Asa, and I are adopting him! Twice we have gotten to spend a few weeks with him while we all wait.

Then after two years (and $20,000), officials in Guatemala get the impression I might be gay. They close the file and bar me from ever adopting in that country. They feel it is better for Manuel to have no mami than two mamis.

Manuel had aged out of the adoption cycle by that point. He was never adopted. I've checked and he's with his lawyer's family, who decided to keep him with them, thank god. Manuel is 10 now. He wouldn't remember us, of course. But we all remember him.

19 July 2011

Why I Got You a Cell Phone Even Though You're Only Ten

Three reasons come to mind.

One is that I want you always to be able to call for me, or eme, or whomever else you need, at any time. We will always be there for you. I never want there to be a time when you feel stranded, alone in the world, and can't reach us, or someone at least, to help you.

Two has to do with what I was telling you about asking me about sex or any other thing, no matter how hard it is to talk about or tell someone. You can always tell mama. Even if what you have to tell is something you're scared of getting in trouble for, or that you're ashamed of, no matter, you can always tell mama.

Three is that you are an incredibly responsible person for a 10 year old. Heck, even for an adult. You might lose this phone, but I bet you don't. I don't think you'll misuse it, either. You have always been a good and trustworthy son.

Now, if--just in case--you do mess up on number three, and lose this phone, read number two and know that you won't get in any trouble. Number one won't help you much at that point, though, because you will have lost your phone.

Love, mama

18 July 2011

Slow Burn

A friend of mine was examining herself in a full-length mirror on her 45th birthday.  She remarked to her husband, "I think I look better now, in my 40s, than I did in my 30s."  And he said, "Really???"

15 July 2011


Now see? This is why we can't have nice things.

14 July 2011

Mr. and Mrs. Jackson Clay Burgess, II

I was married just after I turned 18. It was also a week after I graduated high school. Wait, it gets better:  I married the football coach of my high school. His name was Jackson Clay Burgess II. A Southern boy, from Harlan KY, just out of college. He taught English and I suppose it was his literary background that charmed me.

He was also very, very funny. And that charmed me even more.

The school administration knew about our liaison as did most students, I'm sure, even though we went to other towns for dinner or the movies. It wasn't like it is now; back then if a teacher and student dated, it didn't necessarily bring in patrol cars with sirens blaring. I'll leave it at that because everyone has their opinions.

Jack and I had a highs-and-lows kind of marriage.

We went on adventures at the drop of a hat. We drove across the U.S. (twice) from Ohio to California and back. Once in a souped-up Buick, and once in a Triumph TR8 (Victory Edition, 2-seater, acid green, V8). Sweet.

Those were the highs. The lows were frightening. While I can bitch and moan with the best of them, Jack was high-strung. At the height of an argument he'd suddenly pass out. He wouldn't wake up for 5-10 minutes. When he did, you can bet it had taken the fight out of both of us.

After we moved to California, things fell apart. I started college, too naive to know that the University of California was a very big deal. I'd said, "Wow, that school has pretty grounds. I think I'll go there." And there, I found out that Jackson Clay Burgess II was not the only brilliant, funny, charming person I would know. We were divorced after 3 years of marriage.

Some years ago, I thought to look Jack up on the internet and see where he had landed. I found him here:

FOREST, Ohio -- Jackson Clay Burgess II, age 45, of 501 XXXX St., brother of XXXX, Salisbury, N.C., died Saturday at his home.

No mention of his parents, deceased then. No mention of a second wife or family. No indication of how he died. Just "at home." We hadn't seen or heard from each other for 20 years, but I cried and cried.

13 July 2011

"Bendy Flatware" (That's its name; don't wear it out.)


Is there really a call for that?

12 July 2011

What's the stupidest job you ever had?

Sign I Stood Under

It's hard to pick a winner among the many stupid jobs I've had.

1. Take in clothes at a drycleaner's. You wouldn't believe the disgusting crap people leave in their pockets.

And what with thrusting my hands in and out of pockets for 4 hours straight every day, I ruined a beautiful pearl ring. The top of the pearl looked like I had shaved its head on both sides. I was too young to think, "Drycleaning job. Pearl ring. Don't wear."

I'd write more about this job but there was absolutely nothing more to it.

Well, Duh

2. Pick up shoplifters. This job wasn't just stupid. It was nerve-wracking, adrenalin-pumping, hair-raising, and depressing.

I picked up a little old lady who stole a coat for her poodle. The poodle was out in her car so we had to go get it and bring it in the office while I wrote her up. I stopped a 10yo boy for pocketing a toy car. (Shut up, I wasn't going to write him up--just put the kibosh on his criminal ways and recover that property!) His careworn mother suggested that maybe he was acting out because as Jehovah's Witnesses they didn't have gifts at Christmas....

Once, from my sneaky vantage point behind a two-way mirror, I surveilled a guy pulling a shoe-switch. (That's in with the old shoes; out with the new.) But he was in and out so fast that we were in the parking lot before I caught up. I said, "Hey! I need to see you inside!" in my most commanding voice. Then right away, in a teeny-tiny voice I didn't even know I had, I said, "Never mind. Keep the shoes." He'd turned around with a knife. I remember the blade as being maybe 5, 6, 7 feet long? Sometimes details are magnified in such a situation.

3. Tend bar in a Flamenco Restaurant. The stupid things about this job were (a) that I would have made a lot more money in a "normal" bar; (b) that Don Ballardo, the aged--but not impotent, not--owner of the establishment, ruled the place as his fiefdom. Man, was he whacked.

Don Ballardo and la Señora Ballardo (also whacked) didn't really want customers who just came in casually. They wanted only the regulars: a handful of loyal and true, and whacked, Flamenco aficionados who came nearly every night. When wanna-be's walked in, blinking, from the San Diego sun and into the darkness that was Tablao Flamenco, la Señora would quote a completely fictional and exorbitant prix fixe that would send them right back out the door.

I almost forgot the good part! There were beautiful Flamenco dancers there, but there was only one guy, named Houston (srsly). So for some of the traditional male roles, the beautiful Angelita dressed and danced in the role of the man. In Zapateado, as her boots beat a rapid tattoo on the wooden floor, she beat the stage with a whip. Yeah! How could I make that up? A whip! I remember standing behind the bar in my tux shirt, polishing a glass, and thinking, "Wow. They pay me for this."

It is suggested you fast-forward to :36

08 July 2011

Thirsty? Pull over.

In my hometown there's a DRIVE-THRU carry-out. You drive into this garage, they sell you your ice-cold Bud or Pabst or whatever, and then you drive on out the other end. 

That's just wrong on so many levels.

05 July 2011

PTL--for those "in the know"

Just sit anywhere, really.

Sadly, I read in the news today that the Reverend Robert Schuller was ousted from the Crystal Cathedral.

("Ousted from the Crystal Cathedral." It's like something out of Parzival or The Inferno.)

The Crystal Cathedral, for those not in the know about televangelism, was one of the first "megachurches" in America. It was founded in 1980 by the Reverend Schuller for his Protestant ministry in Orange County, California—yep,"The OC"!

The Crystal Cathedral is nothing to sneeze at (bless you!), even in the realm of cathedrals. It. Is. Big.

There above is the sanctuary. Not what I picture when I think "sanctuary"; there's just something about a capacity of 3000 that doesn't feel "sanct."  There below is the pipe organ. Now if you just imagine the Reverend Schuller standing down there in front, teeny tiny, then you know how you'd feel from where you were sitting. You would feel Teeny Tiny, too.

See the pipes? Big.

Here's the Reverend Schuller now, all teeny tiny for us,
so that we may better imagine him standing down in front,
from where we are sitting.

The Reverend Schuller is a kindly man, I am certain. I first got to know his ministry when I was 10. That was the first year the Hour of Power aired. The Hour of Power is one of the longest running TV series in history. It consists of personal testimony about the Power of God, and is hosted by the Reverend Schuller, for an Hour. It is still running today. 20 million viewers tune in each week. Your mouth is hanging open, isn't it?

The Reverend Schuller is getting along in age now. 85 or thereabouts. For the last few years, his daughters and the board of directors have sunk the ministry into bankruptcy and slowly removed Father from the more active aspects of the church. I guess this last move was the final blow.

Now, how is it that I am in the know? Why do I care? I wouldn't be caught dead joining a church. Yet the fall of the Reverend Schuller has touched me. First this, from FOXNews today:

[The Schuller daughters] required choir members to sign a covenant acknowledging Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and their belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman. The older Schuller publicly lashed out at the contract saying everyone is welcome in the church. Phillip Johnson, the architect who constructed the cathedral's iconic glass sanctuary for Schuller, was an openly gay man.

My soft spot for the Reverend Schuller is not just about his being on "our side" more than one might expect. When I was 10 and the Hour of Power came on television in my Nana's sitting room, it opened the door to the bizarre assortment of characters populating the television world, delivered faithfully every day to the sitting rooms of all my family and friends. You and your family and friends may have been introduced to different characters in the television world; we only got one channel back then. There weren't even a lot of real people in my world yet, and these televangelists were an awful lot of fun. Plus, God loved me--they told me all the time.

I remember Jim Bakker, before the fall. (See "Eyes of Tammy Faye," on Hulu.) I can look back and see Jerry Falwell's jowls filling the screen at a time when, gratefully, I had no idea what he would come to represent in my life. Best of all, I can see and hear and feel Kathryn Kuhlman, faith healer, when her voice would vibrate the television set with  her trademark I bee-leeve in meer-a-cles! I still can't help but shiver.

I promise you everything that you will not regret watching this video.
But to reduce the time commitment, I recommend starting at 2:38. God loves you.