Sunday, December 4, 2011

A little Sunday Funny

From Roger Knapp's "Jokes of the Past Weeks":
A newly discovered chapter in the Book of Genesis has provided the answer to "Where do pets come from?" Adam and Eve said, "Lord, when we were in the garden, you walked with us every day. Now we do not see you anymore. We are lonesome here and it is difficult for us to remember how much you love us." And God said, "No problem! I will create a companion for you that will be with you forever and who will be a reflection of my love for you, so that you will love me even when you cannot see me. Regardless of how selfish or childish or unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you are and will love you as I do, in spite of yourselves."
And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam and Eve. And it was a good animal. And God was pleased. And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and Eve and he wagged his tail. And Adam said, "Lord, I have already named all the animals in the Kingdom and I cannot think of a name for this new animal."

Go on, go to Roger's site to read the rest. You didn't think I'd spoil the ending, did you?

Love and laugh's to all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A non-Thanksgiving recipe

While everyone's getting ready for the big day, making all the usual stuff, I tend to be thinking about what I can cook for the day before and the day after, especially things that don't't involve cranberries or stuffing. This is this year's effort. If you have questions, I'll do my best to answer.

Tuscan Chicken and Sausage Stew.

Feeds 4-8, takes a couple of hours, including cooking time. Great with garlic bread, side salad, etc.

1 cup diced shallots
4 cloves garlic
1 15-oz can cannellini or Great Northern white beans
1 whole chicken, cut up, or 8 chicken thighs, skin removed if desired
1/2 - 1 pound italian sausage, cut into bite-size pieces
1-1 1/2 cups dried small pasta, aciuge di pepe or orzo or similar
3 TBS olive oil
Pinch red pepper flakes to taste (Aleppo pepper works well, too)
1 tsp dried italian seasoning, or Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset
3 TBS tomato paste (about 1/2 little can)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 14-oz can chopped tomatoes, or 1/2 large can of peeled tomatoes in sauce, chopped
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 small head bok choy, or small head escarole, or 4 cups baby spinach, trimmed and chopped into bite-size pieces, optional.
1/2 cup grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese.
Preheat oven to 300〫

Season chicken with salt and pepper, then brown in a large pan or dutch oven with olive oil, in batches if necessary. Remove to a platter, cover. Brown sausage in same pan, breaking up as little as possible. Add to chicken platter.

Reduce heat to medium, add shallots, garlic, red pepper and herbs; cook, stirring until shallots are soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until brick red, about 1-2 minutes. Add wine and deglaze pan, then cook until reduced to syrupy texture.

Add beans, tomatoes and chicken broth, bring to boil. Return chicken and sausage to pan, with all accumulated juices. Put pan in oven, cook 45 minutes, until chicken is fully cooked. (Or cook on stovetop 20-30 minutes.) You may need to skim fat from the pan at this point.

Add pasta, and cook on stovetop until pasta is done, adding broth or water as necessary. Add greens if using, and heat through, about 4-5 minutes. Ladle into bowls, and top with cheese.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How many children do you have?

How old are your kids?  

How do I answer such an innocuous question?

Often, I can't . Or sometimes I just start crying. Which is really difficult for people in the grocery store, who think they're being nice (which they are: they have no idea what a can of worms they're opening.)

Sometimes I answer, "I have 2 living children." Which is just begging for a question I don't really (or really don't) want to answer. Sometimes I ignore it, and answer something else. Sometimes I pretend I never buried 2 kids, and answer "Two", which leaves me feeling like Judas.

6 months after Alysia died, I found an old friend online. When he asked me about kids, I couldn't answer. A year has gone by. Now what do I say when I try again to reconnect?

Four. I fucking well have four kids. Just because you can't see two of them, doesn't mean they're not there.

But I still don't know how to answer.

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's not up to us

to decide when others are ready to heal.

"There will now be a decade or more of criminal trials, and perhaps a quarter-century or more of civil actions, as a result of what went on at Penn State. These things cannot be prayed away. Let us hear nothing about "closure" or about "moving on." And God help us, let us not hear a single mumbling word about how football can help the university "heal." (Lord, let the Alamo Bowl be an instrument of your peace.) This wound should be left open and gaping and raw until the very last of the children that Jerry Sandusky is accused of raping somehow gets whatever modicum of peace and retribution can possibly be granted to him. This wound should be left open and gaping and raw in the bright sunlight where everybody can see it, for years and years and years, until the raped children themselves decide that justice has been done. When they're done healing — if they're ever done healing — then they and their families can give Penn State permission to start."

Right to the point, and right on.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Death and Living

I posted a quote on my facebook status:

"How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand... there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend, some hurts that go too deep, that have taken hold." Frodo Baggins, "The Lord of the Rings"

A friend posted a reply:
"There is no going back, only moving forward. Not always easy, and healing nonetheless."

Another friend said, "One day you will notice that acceptance has replaced today's grief, and that you are fully engaged in this day, this life."

I love my friends, and I have to disagree with them. This post is my reply. It's far to long to go on facebook, and I wanted time to think before I answered.

Some background on the original quote, for those who haven't memorized large portions of the book or movies. Frodo, a hobbit (who is an avatar, essentially, for everyman), inherited a ring of great power and evil. He undertook the year-long journey to destroy it, nearly dying in the process, and at the end of the story is once again living in his old home. But not everything is the same: HE is not the same, and so everything around him is different. His wounds pain him, the memories of death and dying haunt him, the burden he bore changed him fundamentally, and while he knows that what he did was the right thing, he also paid a dear price for doing it. In time he realizes that he is permanently changed, damaged beyond repair by the events of the journey.

Joy and I decided over the summer to let our daughter watch the Lord of the Rings, and that I would watch it with her, to answer the inevitable "WTF just happened!?!" questions, and to pace it. So we watched the extended versions, all 13+ hours of it, in 3 chunks over 6 weekends. And I was struck once again at how sad a story it is. No one is unchanged, nothing will remain the same, some things better, others worse, everything different. And that quote just jumped out at me.

This is what I was trying to say: that no matter what, there are things from which there are no return. Acceptance is wonderful, healing is necessary, but neither healing nor acceptance change the raw facts, nor do they magically wash away the pain. Ask a man who has lost a limb, and they will tell you of acceptance and healing, and of the fact that there is never a moment when they are what they once were. It is the same with the loss of a child: it is fundamentally a different experience from other losses. I can speak authoritatively from my own experience, as in the last 4 years I have lost a step-son, both my parents, one of my sisters, and yes, my daughter. There is simply no comparison, and if you have not gone through it, you cannot comprehend the difference. I could not, when my beloved wife lost her oldest son Sean, at the end of 2007. I knew Sean well, loved him dearly, had been his step-father for nearly 20 years. I had held him when he cried, knew as much of him as any parent could of a teenager who had grown up. And still, it was a qualitative difference when Alysia died.

What I am saying is that the common notions of healing and acceptance don't cover the right ground: they are orthogonal to the pain, a separate part of the Venn diagram.

(If you are interested in a couple of different views of death and dying and grieving, I highly recommend Pema Chodron's book, "When Things Fall Apart" and also "A Year to Live", by Steven Levine. When my stepson Sean died, I found work in those books that I could take on to understand myself better. I have returned to them many times since.)

I have been having harder days, now that we have begun our Christmas preparations, always a special time for family, and one of Alysia's favorite times of the year, a time to be with family and connections. Alysia is very present in my life, as are my Mom and Dad. But just because the times are harder doesn't imply that I am not accepting of the reality of my life: sometimes accepting reality can be quite painful. When Ramesh Balsekar's son died, a disciple informed the father, who dropped to the ground weeping. The stunned acolyte stammered, "Master, haven't you told us that this is all illusion? Why do you weep?" The master turned gently to the man, and answered, "Yes, this is indeed all illusion. And this is the most painful part." Illusory or not, accepting or not, pain is there. I believe we must accept the pain as well as the joy, with the knowledge and understanding that it all ends eventually.

And moving forward? Towards what? We are in the day today, I am who I am today, my pain and my joys are real now. To believe that acceptance will come tomorrow is to NOT live today, with whatever is here. I have spent much of the last 40 years learning to be present, and I thank whatever deities there are that I did so: I think that otherwise, the pain would have unhinged me (further, OK?). Same for Joy: losing 2 children, less than 3 years apart, and she's still standing. Why? Preparation in the form of meditation, therapy, whatever you want to call it. We are sometimes miserable, often happy, excited by our children, loving both the living and the dead, just making it through. So don't worry when I get a little dark: it's just another part of me, needing expressing.

At the end of the summer, I went to a retreat at the Omega Institute, in Rhinebeck, NY. I had discovered that my grief had begun to harden, to stagnate. I really have no other words for the feeling of stiffness in my metaphorical heart, my 3rd chakra, so that'll have to do. Eventually I figured out that I wanted to do some type of retreat, but had no idea where or when. My wife asked me what type of retreat I thought would be good for me, and I answered, "Music and silence." The next day, an email link from Deva Premal and Miten (singers and writers of wonderful mantra music) led me to a weekend retreat of chanting and silence.

I sang, I danced, I chanted, I did everything but sleep for 3 days (well, OK, I did sleep a little.) It was one of the most intense, painful, hopeful, joyful, special times. At some point in that wonderful, magical time, I realized that I would always have the pain of losing my daughter in my heart. At the same time, I understood that this wouldn't block the way for me to have a wonderful life: I could go forward with both feelings simultaneously, embracing them both, however painful it was. This was both the beginning of my healing, and of my acceptance. But it also was the beginning of understanding that the pain would never really leave, even if there were days that I would pay little attention to it, for there is a piece of me that I willingly gave up, and now can never reclaim. So all joy is tempered by the knowledge of my loss. And all hardship is also tempered by the understanding that I can survive regardless.

Love to all, Yogi

Out of the Mouth of Babes, Part 2

So, we're driving somewhere, me, my wife and our daughter, when we hear piping up from the back seat,

"You know what I want? A Brazilian blow job."

"Uhhhhhh..OK? What's that, honey?"

"That's where they do some fancy hair-drying thing to make your hair all cool."

"Right. Got it. Brazilian blow OUT."

"Is there a difference?"

It means something different when >I< say it, that's for sure.

Out of the Mouth of Babes, Part 1

So, we're sitting at the dinner table,  finishing up, when our daughter announces, "When I grow up, I want a condom."


Finally, I ask, "What do you want to do with a condom, honey?"
"Oh, decorate it the way I want to, get some furniture, a dog, have all my own stuff."
"Oh, you mean a >condo
"Yeah, won't it be great!"

Yes, darling, it really will be. But I'll miss the Gracie Allen moments.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Good days, and Bad Days

The path of grief is not straight, nor does every person walk it the same way. Some days are easier, others difficult.
Today, we bought Xmas decorations. Alysia always loved the decorating of the house and tree for the Fall holidays, it didn't matter which one: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hannukah, whatever. Presents, she loved indeed. and I loved giving them to her.
And now that is no more. and I still decorate, and I still buy presents, and I'm sure I'll be OK, eventually, but today is a Bad Day.
I'll talk to you all soon.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Look! Cats! And Dogs!

Well, while I try to get the pictures of Susanna and Provence together, here are a couple of shots of the other residents of Casa de los Muertes.

First, please meet Gracie Anne Whitesocks. Don't be fooled by the pose, she's not really thinking.

Next is Memo, senior cat present. She inherited the title from Gus, who is no longer with us in body.

Don't mess with me.
Now, the youngest member of the menagerie, Seymore Catz

I'm not sleeping, I'm planning an ADVENTURE!

And finally, though not completely, Tucker the Australian Cattle Dog, with Pi (3.14 times a normal cat.)

We're not related, just buddies.

 Not present during this photo shoot were Nyx, the queen of the night, and Oliver, the dog with no brain.
Now that I've figured out how to add photos to the blog, next time should be easier, right? RIGHT?

We can hope.

Stay well, peeps.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Am I a Sick Puppy, or what?

So, there's this story in the news about a man whose mother's ashes were stolen from his car by mistake.,0,7165807.story

My first thought was to call them and offer some of our children's ashes. You know, because we have extra.

My second thought, and the one my wife came up with as >her< first thought when I told her about this, and she stopped laughing at my first thought, was that we still have some of her father's ashes, would that be OK?

We're obviously in serious need of help.

I still think it's funny.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Interlude: Susanna meets the Pacific Ocean

While I finish more posts about our trip to Provence, here's part one about an old friend.

Way back on 1968, while we were living in Italy, my parents bought a boat. Typically for my father (my adoptive father: my biological dad had died 4 years before, and my mother had remarried in 1967), the boat was beautiful and seriously impractical. That was my dad to a tee: always the esthetics mattered most.

Susanna was (and is) a gorgeous wooden sailboat, built in Venice the year I was born, 1957, at the D'este shipyards from a Laurent Giles design. If you are a wooden boat fanatic (there are no other types, from what I know) you will know who and what I'm talking about. The rest of you should just understand that it is meaningful to us weirdos, kind of like owning an original Carol Shelby Cobra. She's 48 feet overall and 10 1/2 feet wide. Supermodel thin, that is; almost anorexic. She's also deep, at 7 feet 9 inches of draft, and the combination makes for a couple of things. First, she's fast: we've legitimately seen 9+ knots, which is Usain Bolt speed for a wooden. Second, she loves to dip her rails under any serious wind, making life somewhat wet for all aboard. Third, she's totally the wrong boat for a family, unless you figure that the 2 boys (my brother and I) would sleep up front with the anchor chain, and everyone else gets a 1/2 twin-size bunk. Which we did.

You just kind of get used to it, and we sailed her all over the Med until 1973 or so, when we shipped her to the US. My parents had split up by this time, and my mom wanted to sail. (Although the marriage lasted less than 5 years, they remained best friends and frenemies to the end of their lives last year.) My mom and occasionally my dad sailed the east coast for the next 35 years, until shingles put an end to Mom's summer sailing. I was an occasional guest, mostly for races: the boat was too cramped both physically and emotionally for me to spend a lot of time on her. But my brother loved it, and went many, many times.

When Mom died, she left the boat to the three of us brothers, two of whom (me and our older brother) gave our share to YB (I don't have his permission to use his name yet.) The reason is that, while any boat is a hole in the water into which you throw money, a wooden boat is also the nautical equivalent of a Brazilian mistress: demanding, exciting and highly impractical. And OB and I just couldn't deal, each for our own reasons. So YB ended up with the boat. Which was fine with him, he loves her and couldn't wait to bring her out to SoCal and go sailing. Which he did, and here are the pictures to prove it.

So Susanna is now in her third ocean. We'll see how long she can stay: the area isn't great for cruising, in that there are few destinations nearby, and long trips up and down the West coast are or can be a real ordeal. But for now, she's in Ventura, and we've already been down to Catalina and back, and it was a great trip.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Well, it turns out that sleeping through church bells is harder when you haven't been up for 24+ hours. Last night's sleep was, shall we say, compromised by the incessant "tolling of the iron bell" (as Roger Waters once called it, and that is what they sound like), and so we didn't get up for the Monday market outside our front door particularly early.
But soon enough, we found our way the block and 1/2 down onto the main street, which was now filled with stalls and people, from one end to the other. We took one look at the chaos, and decided that we needed more coffee. But when we sat down, I noticed that the man next to us, middle-aged, good-looking-in-a-"I'm a typical french farmer"-way, had a glass of rosé and some pastis.
Now, I'm a big fan of pastis, and ouzo and all such anise-flavored liqueurs, a taste I acquired when I was a teen-ager in Greece, during the summer I turned 16. I spent a good portion of it working in a boatyard on the island of Syros, and everyday when we finished, the whole crew went to the bar for drinks and meze (snacks). I discovered that I had a huge tolerance for alcohol delivered in this form, which isn't actually great until you learn to handle it, which took a while. But once I did, it became my competitive drink of choice. Remember the scene at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Karen Allen is drinking with the Russian soldier, and drinks him under the table, only to get up and go back to work as if nothing happened? (I heart me some Karen Allen.) That's me. So, don't challenge me, OK? Or you'll be tasting black licorice in your sleep.
ANYWAY, I ordered a pastis, Joy got some coffee, and we watched the show for a while. Amazing what a little alcohol in the morning does to your disposition.
Eventually we went browsing through the stalls, admiring the cheeses, the cured meats, the handbags, the leather goods, the fresh vegetables, just an amazing amount of things to look at and touch and talk about. I keep trying to use the French I remember, and the stall owners are great about helping me out. It is a fact of French life, apparently, that everything comes with a lesson, an explanation or some conversation, and because I'm in the right frame of mind (i.e. not in a hurry), this seems wonderful.
We gather enough goodies for lunch, and head back to the apartment with some salami, some brie and banon cheeses, bread, ham, olives and wine, and just enjoy the shit out of it.
Lunch over, we head out to see what there is to see, and end up in a little town called Beaumes-de-Venice, which literally means "Canals of Venice". Except that here it doesn't, as Beaumes in Provence means "caves", like for storing wine, and "Venice" refers to the old name of Provence, Comtat Vennaissin, or the country of the Popes. Oh well, it's so pretty no matter what it's called, and we drive and stare.
We stop for a short wine tasting at a local vineyard, where Marina, the proprieteur, chats with us about our trip and her recent 6-week tour of the US. She's really fun, mid-30's and so excited about their wines; she and her husband have owned the vineyard for about 5 years, and are changing the way muscat (sweet) wines are made here, so that they have more acid, rather than the cloying sweetness that is usual for this type of wine. We buy a bottle, and head out, smiling.
A couple of hours driving later, we're back at the house, and take a break before dinner. It seems that that's all we do, isn't it? Eat and drive, eat and drive, and drink more wine.
Yep. That's why we're here.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sunday is funday

Since we got to bed not too early (ahem, midnight) we slept in until around 10AM, which is unheard of at home: the dogs and cats just won't put up with laziness like this. Well, fuck 'em, we're on vacation and the dogs are at dog camp, being treated like kings, I mean, come on, treats, walks, someone to THROW THE BALL, NOW, HUH, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!!

Excuse me.

Anyway, we get up and fart around figuring out what we want to do, which is go get coffee and croissants, but it's a bit late, so let's just get dressed and head out to explore, but look, there's a cafe so let's sit down and

slow down, (phew)

and have the coffee and realize that we're in a foreign country, we have no plans, no one to meet, just the two of us at whatever pace we want to set.

OK, then. Wow. Relax, what a concept.

Looking through our guide book, the increasingly indispensable Cadogan guide to Provence, we find that there's a market and some antiques over in Isle Sur la Sourge, about 20 minutes from us. Want to go? Sure, even though we really don't get the whole "fill your house with the stuff other people don't want, especially if it's old and kind of beat up", but we love to look at it and chose not to take it home.
Whatever floats our boat, you know?
Anyway, we head over, using maps instead of GPS, so that we can begin to learn the area, and drive through this incredible countryside, just beginning to show autumn in the browning leaves of the grapevines. Bright blue sky, warm and happy, we drive the narrow roads, pulling over as necessary to let the impatient few past.
Eventually, we reach the town, and park in a sort of random mass of vehicles. Serious, people, lineups aren't your strong suit, I get it, but still, it looks like you all spilled hot coffee on your laps and then just got out. So we just pull in and stop, and get out and walk to the market, which is almost over, as it's now 12:30 and they end at 1, but who cares, we're here to enjoy , which we do, browsing among the sellers of linens, and trinkets and antiques and Jesus there's a lot of stuff!
Are you hungry? I am.
So we find a place that has a table left, even though by the time we get there it's almost 2, and they're running on empty, but a kind waitress takes pity on us, and we sit in the shade and order wine and salads and just take in the town. (Pictures are coming, I swear.)
Lunch over, and the wine finished, we head out for more exploring, and poke our heads in random shops. Many aren't open (it's Sunday, after all), but some are and we enjoy looking at bunches of stuff we don't usually see, linens, and soaps and wood bric-a-brac, and tourist crapola, but DIFFERENT crapola that at home, so it's fun. Joy finds a table cloth that she takes a fancy to, so we buy that, and a few trinkets for loved ones, and eventually find out way to an ice-cream shop that makes unreal apricot and lemon sorbet, and then sit by the stream and watch the ducks dive for invisible fish and tidbits. Soon, we head back, and unload our loot, and take a nap. (That's when I posted the previous post.)(I don't nap)(usually.)

After nap and showers, we're ready for more, so we go out looking for dinner! Now, I don't speak French, really I don't. I'm fluent in Italian, because I grew up in Rome, and kept it up over the years, so I have a good accent and a firm grasp of the grammar, but French I have to fake. Well, I seem to be doing OK, because I can make myself understood pretty well, and it gives me such a thrill to be able to ask directions or about the menu, or really, anything. It's really cool, and I'm happy that I had all those French lessons in high school, even though I hated them at the time. But it's been 35+ years! Anyway, we stumble though the menu at a lovely outdoor restaurant call Le Gouses D'ail, or the Garlic Cloves. We eat and drink and eat some more and drink some more until we're stuffed and drunken again, but this time the car is already at home, so we stagger home, and sleep it off, and next thing you know, it's 6:30AM, and the church bells next door are ringing, every freaking HOUR, twice.

WTF is with THAT, anyway? Is it really neccesary to ring the chimes twice each hour? Plus the little Bong on the 1/2s? I've got to find someone to ask. Maybe tomorrow.

Location:Bedoin, France and Environs

Sunday, October 2, 2011

In the air tonight

So, having "won" a week's stay in Provence at our Spring Gala (which, if you know school auctions means "I paid full price for it and maybe a bit more"), Joy and I decided to use it and take a real vacation for the first time since we got married. We're had weekends away, but going somewhere, just the two of us? Are we really allowed to do that?

Hell, yes.

So, after my dad's death in May, I got on it and booked us via air and train to a little house in a little town in Provence, called Bedoin. About 90 minutes from Marseille, close to Peter Mayle territory, it's on the foot slopes of Mount Ventoux, which you have seen if you watch the Tour de France. It's not too imposing, until you try to ride up it, which I'm not going to, ever. Reason? No wineries or good restaurants, which ends that discussion.

Anyway, we hopped an Air France flight to Paris, which was pretty good: plane was clean, seats were comfy, food was mediocre, but it was still actual food, and the cabin staff was friendly, which is what i had found when I flew to Milan in May. I tried out my 35-year-old, recently revived french (thanks, Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur) and they pretended I was making sense, which was great fun.

We got to Paris around 11AM, having napped overnight, and headed for the TGV to Avignon, something I have wanted to do since the train went into service in the 80's. Nice ride you got there, mes amis. Smooth, fast, still can't understand the conductor for shit, but maybe it's time to get my hearing checked since everyone else seemed to have no problem. Got into Avignon around 5, and picked the wrong side of the train station to look for the car rentals. 15 minutes later, we found someone to ask (still in French) and walked back through the train station and, voila, the car rentals appear. Thanks for nothing, Garmin (which is a whole 'nother thing I'll tell you about some other time, when my blood pressure is lower. Grrrr.) 30 minutes later, we're on the road to Bedoin, and by 7:30 we're there. By 8:15 we're having a slow, relaxing dinner. Get ready to be hungry:Apperitifs: pettillant de Maison, sparkling wine with a dash of limoncello (lemon liqueur) and a splash of grenadine.Veloute of white beans with scallops and chorizo for me, tortilla wrap of spanish ham and cheese for JoyLasagna of eggplant and lamb for Joy, wild boar stew for me. Mmmmm, carnivore. Wild blueberry tart for Joy, and pain perdu with carmel for me. Plus 1 each 500ml bottle of local red and white wine. Glad we didn't have far to go, as the wine went where wine always ends up and we still had to shoe-horn the car into the "garage". Which we did, and not to much cursing, as it was after 11.

A long day, but all worth it. Can't seem to post pictures from my iPad yet, but I'll suss that out and then, watch out! Or I'll put them on Picasa and post a link. We've had the day out today, and now we're off to dinner, so further posting will happen later or tomorrow.

Moving right along

Well, life continues here at Casa Clusterfuck, with more dead bodies lining the floors and walls. Let's give a big hand for a life well lived to Uncle Jerry (my father's oldest brother), Aunts Judy and Ann, and my step-sister Susie. Bringing the 15-month total to 7. Jesus. I try to not dwell too much on this round, because I'm already swimming as fast as I can. But there's no doubt it affects me deeply, even though I was not as close to these folks as my parents (duh.) So, here's to being alive and doing my best to enjoy the rest of my life. I "won" at a school auction, a week at a house in Provence (if you know school auctions, you know I paid full price for it, but the school got the $) and Joy and I are now here in a small town called Bedoin, near Carpentras. I'm going to try to keep a little log and post pictures etc. Stay well, peeps. I lean on you all more than you know.

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's all fun and games until someone loses

a camera, and then it's fun and games with no pictures.

We were out at Salt Pond Park today, swimming in the little lagoon and then in the sheltered area next to the reef, so I decided to use the camera mask that our niece's company makes (that's a plug, folks for a good product put out by great people, and yes, I'm biased.) The water was too turbulent to take pics, so after a bit, I got the idea to sit on the reef and film the waves coming over the top as b-roll (film to tie the more important bits together). Unfortunately, a large wave broke over me, the camera and the reef, and tore the camera out of my hand, breaking it lose from the snorkel as well, and vanishing it under the foam. We looked for about an hour, but no luck. Some friendly folks came to help, and we eventual figured that it was swept out the narrows to the other side of the reef. No-one was willing to go get hammered by the reef break, (smart people!) so I'm afraid the mask lies 2 fathoms deep. I hope someday it will surface.

But we got lots of great shots over the last few days, and downloaded them as we went, so we didn't lose anything except today's few reef pics. As soon as I upload a couple of short videos, I'll link to them. In the meantime, stay well, dry and don't let go of your camera.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sometime Saturday

So, Thursday went, Friday was busy and now here's Saturday. Wow. It's not easy to get caught up on the day if you get behind, especially when Stuff Happens. So, here are some late weather reports:

Thursday. Paul, Danna and Dakota came in yesterday, so today we started Being In Kauai with them. Unfortunately, it didn't last long, as around noon, we were all on the way to the beach, when Danna tripped, smacked her head on the stone and, long story short, ended up spending the afternoon lying down, then the evening in the emergency dept., getting tests and eventually being told that she had a mild concussion, and got sent back to us, at 10PM. I had the kids at the beach for, I don't know, 3 hours or more, with the 2 12-year-olds sitting at the break and letting the waves crash down on them, filling their swim suits with sand. >I< went swimming, not being that fond of sand in the shorts. We ended up getting reasonably good Hawaiian style chinese food to go, and hanging out in the apartment until the others returned from the ED. Then bed.

Friday was pedicure day for my ladies, so they took the AM to go get their feet prettied up. Ana got her toes painted turquoise crackle, and Joy chose pink. Then lunch and HELICOPTER tour: YAY. (Doc's OK for Danna.) An hour around the island, amazing. It's always such a strange feeling when the copter starts to lift: just a little unsettling, and exciting at the same time. Then, up and away, and out to the coast, down to the south side, LOOK at the waves, the fields, the canyons. The high point is entering the crater, and seeing the old volcano. The pilot kept pointing out where this or that movie was filmed (a lot of Jurassic Park, among others), but I really just wanted to look. The view from above is so different than when I'm driving, that besides just an orientation, I feel like I get better context for why things are where they are. Anyway, I loved it, and so did everyone else. Dinner at a local Mexi-waiian restaurant, and bed.

Today, we left "early" ro head for a farmer's market all the way at the south shore, because we're almost out of pineapple. We're been eating one a day, along with mangoes, papaya and anything else that grows locally. But we found a market just outside Lihue, and stopped there. A good choice: plenty of variety, including the elusive white pineapple, but also jams, honey, a puerto rican taco (!) and chocolate-covered bananas, which were favored by guess who? Not me, I was saving myself for shave ice after lunch. After about an hour, including buying some local jams to send home, we headed out thinking we would just see what we found on the way south. 30 minutes later, we're eating Brick Oven pizza, and burping garlic. OK, off again, this time stopping at Hanapepe, the artist's area, as it were, full of incredible art work, and an old aquiantance who, 3 years ago, had taught us how to do paper marbling. She wsn'tin, more's the pity, but we saw her partner and sent word, and we'll be back in a few days, as Salt Pond park is nearby and that's a spot not to miss.

Off again south, this time to Waimea, and the Kauai Granola shop, where I waited at the car (the shop defines "small") while the others drooled over chocolate macaroons, cookies and granola, and then to my reward: Jo-Jo's Shave Ice. Watermelon and pink lemonade over macadamia nut ice-cream for me, lots of other choices for the others. The place looks like an old changing room, but they are at least minimally sanitary (gloves, etc). And certainly delicious. Then back to the apartment, and change to swim, while I update here. I'll post photos to Facebook as well as a few here if I can figure it out. If you want, send me a friend request (John Beaty) and then if I know you, I'll OK it and you can see the rest of the family. I'm still a little freakedout by facebook's willingness to "share" in everything I post, so I'm taking it slowly.

Off to swim now, then dinner at the hotel. This is turning into a food blog iof sorts, but there's notmuch I can do about it just now. I want to write about totems, and mementos of my parents and daughter, but that will have to wait til later.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday Weather

The early morning sun comes over the hills from behind, and lights the houses and buildings across the harbor, reflecting warm light onto the water in front of us. I sit on our lanai, warm in the gentle breezes, and watch the surfers waiting. Joy calls them "wave worshippers", as they all face the harbor mouth, waiting for the right wave to take them for a ride. We cannot see the harbor mouth from here, so it looks like they are just staring out into the ocean. I understand them, as I, too, stare into the distance, waiting for something.

A passing shower is welcome. As it crosses the harbor, a double rainbow appears in the rain. I think of a story line: what if the gold and leprechauns were real, and protected under law? You might have mercenaries trying to kidnap them, only to be surrounded in turn by Special Ops, kind of a riff on the opening of Men In Black. What would we do if there really WAS an unlimited supply of gold?

Anyway, the fruit we bought at the farmer's market on Monday is almost overripe this morning, but still delicious, so that's breakfast. I check my email, send replies as I can, (sending is spotty for reasons I don't grasp at all, receiving is easy) and read some AM blogs (Hi DaisyFae!) Yesterday's emotional uproars are past, today is another chance to relax the walls that have bound my grief at home. I said to my therapist, "Someone needs to drive." Here, not so much, so I can risk lowering the barriers a little more. The result is sometimes difficult, painful, probably not fun for those around me. I thank my wife endlessly: she's also still hurting, and now has a husband who is not on an even keel. But she forgives my transgressions, and I try not to make things harder on her than I have to. 25 years later, we're still strong.

Our son Paul, his wife Danna and their son Dakota are coming in a couple of hours. That'll give my daughter someone to play with other than me, which is good for us both. And we're always happy to see the kids.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday weather


The roosters have been at it for a while. They don't get the whole "crow at dawn" thing that the rest of the world lives with, so once they start, it's pretty much "game on" for the rest of the day, which makes staying in bed an exercise in pillow diving. After a bit, I get up and push the GO button for coffee, wipe down the outside table and fire up my email. Nope,no further missives from my current tormentor, who had been filling my mailbox with multi-page screeds about the evils of aspartame, the FDA's jihad against raw milk ("the most wondrous food on the planet"), and anything Dr. Mercola writes. I finally ask him to just take me off his list, as my delete key is wearing unevenly.

Ahh, coffee. The harbor is cool and tranquil, a few early surfers and paddle boarders dotting the water. Not much surf this morning, so the hard-core dudes aren't anywhere to be found, but the long, slow, low rollers give the less-practiced some space to work out without feeling pressed to take a wave they're not really comfortable with.

The tug heads out from the breakwater, out of my view, reappearing a few minutes later with a barge and another tug. Everything from cars to toilet paper comes by boat, so the arrival of a barge full of containers is a little bit of excitement, and the docking is met with a flurry of activity. Many of the containers are marked "Matson", the last US shipping line. Funny, my old comp sci professor at Sonoma State worked for Matson 30 or more years ago, and helped design the software they still use to decide which container goes where for best balance and ease of unloading. Joe was a good egg, funny and interesting and loved to teach, especially the intro classes.

I'm joined by Joy, and we sit in the soft morning air, sipping coffee and listening to the surf, but eventually the call of the Kindle becomes too strong for her, and she picks up her "trashy romance novel" (the only thing you should read on vacation), and I start writing. Later today we'll head out to Poipu, maybe or Waimea, and hunt around. Or maybe just hang in the ocean or by the pool. Tomorrow the other family members come, so it will become less private. For the moment, Ana dreams on and we enjoy the peace.

Monday, July 11, 2011

My father's passing

I know I said I wanted to move forward. To do that, I have to clean up a little old business. So, I wrote this while I was in Milan, just after my father's death. Now I can move it out of drafts.

I love you, Paramo.

Hi mates.

The phone call from my sister was brief: our father was in hospital, condition bad but cause still unclear. Maybe a stroke? A CT scan was scheduled, but the 9 hour time change made for difficult and frustrating communication. A couple of hours later, the news of a cerebral hemorrhage, and his deteriorating condition made it clear I would have to leave my wife and daughter, just one day after the 1-year memorial for our daughter and fly to Milan to be with my sister Daniela, and Iaia, my father's companion, and stay until things resolved, one way or another.

I left California Saturday at 3:30. I slept on the long leg from LA to Paris, which undoubtedly contributed to my feeling of lightheadedness when I had to change planes. The airport in Paris is always very bright, but it seemed even more luminous in my state. 2 hours later, 15 hours after leaving California, I was in Milan.

During the flight from Paris to Milan, I tried to meditate some and succeeded in feeling somewhat more settled by the time I landed. I was met by my father's niece, who hugged me tightly before rushing us to the hospital. My stress grew again to match hers, and by the time we got there, through the traffic around the Pope's visit and the usual chaos of Milan, I was very tight and felt completely muddle-headed.

When I got to the hospital, many friends and family were already there, having kept watch over my father for the past day. I greeted them, some of whom I had not seen in 20 or more years, and then made my way to Paramo's bedside around 4:30. (Even though I was adopted when I was 9, I have rarely called him "dad", first just calling him by his given name, Marco, and later the name he had been given by our guru.) I spoke gently to him, letting him know I was here, and held his hand. After a bit, the doctor on duty came in, and we spoke for a few minutes about his thoughts and findings, and prognosis. My sister had copies of the CT scans, and I could easily see the blood, filling an area the size of a woman's fist, deep in his brain, near the medulla. Completly inoperable. All signs were poor, and shortly his breathing became less steady.

After about 30 minutes, my sister decided to go shower and change, as she had been there for more than 20 hours. Since I was still wound up, I told her to go, and that I would stay, and call with any news. I spent a few minutes with his friends and Iaia, his companion of 22 years, just standing by the side of his bed, and saying the things one says when there is not much to say. Then, I sat down in the lone chair by his side and took his hand. At first, I tried to pour some energy into his body, to see if that would help, or put a ring of light around him, but within a minute or so, I became aware that I wasn't centered enough to do anything useful, so I concentrated on becoming centered and then asking him what he needed from me. As I settled myself, I thought that what he needed was permission, so I said, "It's OK, Paramo. it's OK. Go and be with Bhagwan and Ramesh. We're going to be fine." There was no immediate response, so I just continued to hold his hand and stay centered, holding a ring of pink light around all of us. Within a couple of minutes his breathing changed, and became very soft and light, and his heart rate, which had been quite high, began to drop. A few more moments, and it became obvious that he was going, and the nurses and doctors came in to see what they could do, as the alarms were going off. We had insisted on a "no interventions" instruction (not easy to do in a catholic country), so, after they checked, they left again, and Iaia and I resumed our places, with me sitting by the bed, holding his hand lightly. Less than 5 minutes later, less than an hour since I arrived, he let go of his last breath and lay still.

We stayed like that for a few minutes. My sister, still dripping from the shower, came in and took her place by the bed. We reached out and the three of us held hands, and kept contact with my father's body. Finally, we asked the doctor to remove his oxygen mask, and left the room, so they could take care of any final medical business.

When they were done, we went back and Iaia and Daniela fussed a little over his body, smoothing his hair, and "taking care". We waited for the team to come and take his body for refrigeration, and, somewhat less than 3 hours after arriving in Milan, we left the hospital, to go change and meet for (what else?) drinks and dinner. After all, we're in Italy, one of the most pragmatic countries in the world.

With love from Yogi

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Trying to Move Forward

Life has been really sad and chaotic, these last several months/more than a year. Starting with Alysia's death in April 2010 (which is so unreal to write, I can't believe it still), followed by my mother's passing in November, my aunt in February and my dad on the 1st of May. My head spins, and I am so overwhelmed by the emotions that I can barely think at times.

At other times, life just moves on. Aliana has moved from 6th to 7th grade, we are dear friends with Alysia's partner Katherine, and my little nuclear-type family seems to be holding together, something I have worried about. Until today, every time I tried to write, I would just begin to cry. And then I couldn't go forward.

A couple of days ago, I was talking with my sister Fran, who encouraged me to write from Hawaii, where I am now. Just write weather reports, if you can, she said. It will open up another channel. And so I am sitting here in our apartment in Kauai, uploading photos to Facebook and thought I would try to just post something to move my mother's photo out of the top spot.

Paul and Danna and Dakota will be coming on Wednesday, and we'll be together here for 10 days or so, then Joy and I get 4 days just the 2 of us. Yay! Anyway, the weather is good, cloudy but warm and humid. We got here Saturday, I've been swimming twice with Aliana in the ocean, and tried body-surfing a couple of the larger waves. Now we're off to dinner.