The Cost of Love

I’ll let you in on a secret: I hate Valentine’s Day.

Really.

But then, I despise all commercial holidays that have morphed from being about family, love, and friendship into a way to separate you from your hard earned money.

Valentine’s Day has ceased being a way to send a simple, sincere message of affection to friends and those close to your heart, and turned into a day where we feel obliged to shower loved ones with over-priced flowers, candies, stuffed animals, jewelry, fancy dinners and expensive electronics.

In the USA there is nothing remotely religious about the day named after a Saint. Our worshiping is done in the Temple of Amazon, where we honor Saint ProFlowers, Saint Godiva and Saint Echo Dot, as we meaninglessly toss consumer goods at one another in the name of love.

It’s true that Hallmark and FTD didn’t invent the day, but they sure helped move the prostitution along. Americans actually began exchanging hand-made Valentine’s greetings in the mid-1700s. Then, in 1848, a woman named Ester A. Howland used lace, ribbons and colorful pictures to make the first commercial mass produced Valentine cards. We let it build from there.

 

Valentine Ester Howland

 

Up until the 1970s, and the advent of Credit-Cards-For-All, Americans mostly managed to keep the holiday low key. Elementary school children gave each other kitschy cards with bad puns that were printed on whisper-thin stock, and stuck inside envelopes that wouldn’t seal, while their teachers doled out handfuls of rock-hard heart-shaped candies that tasted like chalk and had things like ‘You’re The One’ or ‘Be Mine’ printed in red ink on the front. A greeting card with a Whitman Sampler was common for people who were dating, and a bunch of flowers and a box of See’s Candy for the wife were how the day was celebrated when I was a child. Back then a dozen long-stemmed roses was an extravagance few men made in the part of the San Fernando Valley where I grew up.

Valentine’s Day as a consumer event kicked in to high gear right about the time we were letting ourselves get manipulated in earnest by listening to the commercials that told us Christmas isn’t really Christmas until you’ve melted the plastic and spent more than you make to bombard your family with things they don’t need. It’s a siren song too many still listen to today – even after the crash of 2008.

The push for ‘cheap credit’ coincided with the relentless marketing of cheap electronics that the American market was increasingly awash in.

People weren’t done paying off their lay-a-aways from Christmas when television commercials, magazines and newspapers began to dun them into feeling obliged to lay out ever more cash to prove their luuuuurv.

Most of the ads from the 70s had the charming habit of pitching their wares via a ‘womanly chore’: Don’t know what to get the little lady? Give her a watch so she can time your 3 minute eggs. Or, if you can’t prove your love through jewelry do it with a Crock-pot!! Chef Joe Dimaggio says she can cook your dinner while she’s at that job you don’t want her to have!!

 

 

The ads may be slightly less sexist today, but the message is the same: Buy, buy, buy!!

Let’s face it – far too many people treat Valentine’s day like a competition. It’s not about love or affection. It’s about who has the biggest flower arrangement at work, or if you got the fancy Sherry’s Berries this year. That’s a shame, too, because it sucks the fun out of giving or receiving tokens of affection if you feel compelled to do it.

When it comes to Valentine’s Day tithing heterosexual men get the shortest end of that stick.

Let’s take a look at what the average man is expected to do for the average girlfriend or wife:

You’ll need to fork over at least $25 for a dozen long stem roses – tax and delivery not included, guys! A fun card is going to run you at least another $5.

Now the question is do you spring for a box of chocolates? ($18) A teddy bear with a heart sewn on its chest? ($15) Or some fun balloons? ($10) Maybe you steal all 3 for the low, low price of $30!

Chocolates and flowers are just the warm up for the main event of the romantic dinner, when prices have been jacked up for the evening and it’s standing room only in the waiting area. It’s so damned romantic to go to a crowded restaurant, only to be rushed through dinner so they can turn the table for the next poor fellow being coerced into buying a dinner he can’t afford because he’s been told he’s not a good partner unless he does so.

A guy can easily dish out $150 before the big reveal of the *actual* gift during the  flaming-triple-chocolate desert. Maybe it’s a day at the spa, a cashmere sweater, a Fitbit, or an iPhone. Perhaps it will be some costume jewelry with a heart, or some high end baubles, if he’s feeling really pressured. There are endless ways you can shell out money to make a show at proving your love – and make no mistake that men are expected to be creative and excessive with this annual mini-dowry.

Speaking of proving your love and excess: Let us pause briefly for a moment of silence, and remember the brave men who choose *this* night to pop the question. Woe be to the man who doesn’t have the engagement ring baked into a chocolate soufflé, and presented during the middle of a flash-mob dance scene in restaurant, while it’s flawlessly filmed, so it can go ‘organically’ viral on Facebook.

 

Valentines Proposal

 

People defend Valentines Day, and the colossal waste of money associated with it, by saying it’s nice to have a day that’s special and romantic. Agreed. But, what’s so special about February 14th that we’re manipulated into Pavlovian shopping and consuming?

Don’t feel obligated to set money on fire just because it’s half way through February, and the restaurant, flower, and jewelry industries are guilt tripping you into running up your credit card balance in the name of romance. Screw that.

My husband doesn’t love me any less if I don’t get appallingly over-priced flowers, or we’re not bum-rushed with the check in a frantic restaurant on the coldest week of the year.

Don’t get me wrong: My husband and I love romance – as long as we’re celebrating our love on our terms, and not letting retailers define how and when that happens. We refuse to be manipulated into spending money on a day that has no real meaning to our relationship.

You can make your own Valentine’s Day on ANY day you want, you know. (I hear flowers and candy are dirt cheap on February 15th)

When you do decide to honor the person in your life that you hold most dear? Do it to strengthen your bond, and not someone else’s bottom line.

 

Heart

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Earthquake Imaginings

Feb 9, 1971 – 6:00 am and 55 seconds. The ground begins to move.

I was 7-years-old, and fast asleep in my bed, having stayed up past my bed time watching The Wizard of Oz the night before. I awoke to the house moving violently, while the earth was making a terrible groaning noise.

At first I was convinced that – like Dorothy – my home was flying through the sky. I quickly looked out the window to see if things were going by my window, as they had in the movie, but there were no screen doors, or flying rowboats, or angry old women riding a bicycles who turned into the Wicked Witch.

A moment later I could hear my father yelling from the other end of the house, “Earthquake!!”

In the distance I heard a giant explosion – which unbeknownst to me was the $110 Million electrical switching station going up – and then the air raid sirens began to wail overhead, the eerie keening which I had been told time and again meant a nuclear attack.

I wondered: Was an earthquake part of the Russian’s attack? During all the air raid drills in elementary school no-one ever thought to mention California was prone to earthquakes.

I had no idea what to do. I was paralyzed in fear.

So, I simply sat in bed watching things fall off of a 6 foot tall, heavy oak shelf on wheels that my parents called a Chifforobe. Games flew this way and that off the shelves, and books launched across the room – one hitting my nose. My bird cage fell onto my dresser and I heard the sound of shattering ceramic, as my precious collection of figurines from Disneyland took a direct hit.

The shaking got more violent, things were breaking all over the house with terrifying crashes, and the earth began to make a whistling noise to go along with the groaning.

Muffled by sound of the grinding earth and crashing glass I could barely hear my father yelling, “Get under the door!!” and I wondered if my father was stuck under a door and this was making the whole house shake.

There was a tremendous crash in the kitchen, and now things were breaking all over the house. There was more yelling – but I couldn’t tell who it was.

I sat up in bed, positively frozen in terror, watching enormous blue and white Chifforobe buck from side to side, scooting across the room on its wheels, and the water in the goldfish bowl sloshed over the lip. Had my bed and the Chiffarobe been aligned north/south, and not east/west, the giant shelving would have doubtless fallen and crushed me. Instead, I was transfixed as it jumped across the floor.

And then the shaking stopped, just like that.

My father was suddenly in my room yelling at me to get outside – and put on shoes. “Is it war?!” I shouted. “It’s an earthquake! Get out!!” he answered.

I slid my feet into the slippers by my bed, and dashed out the front door, putting on my robe under the oak tree in the front yard, in the gray, predawn light. My brothers were already outside, as they’d been folding papers for their early morning delivery routes when the quake hit.

The air raid sirens continued to wail, and I noticed water running down the street with red hyacinths floating on top. I found out later it was from the neighbor’s pool.

Then the air raid sirens stopped just as suddenly as the earthquake did, and as their echos died away I could hear the sounds of fire truck and police car sirens coming to life all over the Valley. In moments there more emergency sirens screaming than I had ever heard at once.

The whole neighborhood was in the street – everyone nervously talking and agreeing it was about the most frightening thing ANY of us had ever dealt with. We shivered in the damp, none of us quite knowing what to do, when the earth began to heave again.

The panic set in people’s eyes right away – a few threw their arms out to steady themselves, while some yelled and others screamed.

The aftershock ended just as suddenly as the quake did, and there was some uneasy laughter mixed in with the tears and prayers.

The aftershocks were a form of torture: You knew they were coming, but not when. And even though they weren’t as strong as the original quake they were only degrees of magnitude smaller. In short: It didn’t FEEL like a smaller quake, and there were hundreds that happened that day and for weeks to follow.

The neighbors who’d barely spoken to one another for years began to earnestly compare notes and trade stories about what they were doing when the quake hit. A portable transistor radio appeared and we gathered around to listen to KGIL, and Sweet Dick Wittington, who was on the air when it hit. Reports were that the damage was severe in the San Fernando Valley. As the sun rose, the gathered parents collectively agreed that school was not going to happen that day.

When it seemed the worst of the shaking was over, people began to cautiously reenter their homes to asses the damage.

The inside of our house was a hot mess. The living room looked as if someone had swept my mother’s precious nick-knacks off of the shelves where they had been carefully placed. A white ceramic bust of a nearly featureless woman she’d haggled for at the Simi Swap Meet lay in pieces, halfway across the room from where it had been perched on atop a two-tiered coffee table.

The kitchen counters and floor were strewn with broken dishes and crockery, topped with shattered glasses and mugs.  But, the worst of it was an unsecured 8-foot-tall metal pantry shelf unit that had fallen over on to the stove, denting it mightily, and creating an unholy mess. Besides ruining hundreds of dollars in dry goods, a giant bottle of cooking oil broke, along with a 3-pound jar of peanut butter and a 2 pound jar of honey, which then mixed with my mother’s entire spice collection, 5 pounds each of flour and sugar and coated the burners on the gas stove, which never worked right ever after.

Somehow we still had electricity and running water. We turned on the television to find out the extent of the damage. A terrified male news anchor provided us with the grim information, in between panic attacks every time an aftershock hit.

It took only 12 seconds, but that was all the time the Sylmar Quake needed to kill 64 people, leave more than 2,500 hurt, and cause more than half-a-billion dollars in damage. The 6.6 quake left thousands of homes in danger of being washed away should the cracking Van Norman dam not hold. The Veteran’s Administration Hospital was a complete loss, and the unreinforced concrete wings built in 1926 collapsed, killing 44.

My father got a call from the nursing home where his Aunt Margaret lived – the facility  was being evacuated because it was downstream of the Van Norman dam, and my father had to come get her NOW! My father got in his car and drove toward the failing dam to rescue my great-aunt.

The morning wore on as we waited for the return of my father. My mother began the laborious process of cleaning the kitchen and the stove, while my brothers and I wandered around in shock. We numbly cleaned up our rooms, each of us discovering treasures that were dear that were forever broken. My eldest brother went for a walk and returned with the news that the liquor store had every bottle in the store broken, and all the windows were broken at the corner grocery store. We heard there would be no school for at least 2 weeks.

My father finally returned home, along with a white haired lady in a wheel chair who stared at us with blank eyes. My father wheeled Aunt Margaret into the living room, which we had cleared of glass and ceramic fragments.

All the while the aftershocks hit, and when they did one of my brothers would race to the nearest doorway, bracing himself for the worst. The man on the television said we shouldn’t drink any water from the faucet: The only water we could drink had to be boiled or bottled. Bottled water wasn’t so much of a thing in 1971.

The phone rang again, and my father answered it. He listened for a moment and then handed it to my mother with a strange look on his face. My mother took the phone, and I remember her saying, “Today?! I just assumed…” she trailed off. “We’ll get there as soon as we can.”

She turned to me after she hung up the phone, “You need to get ready. They’re doing the Mattel shoot today, after all.”

I had completely forgotten about the photo-shoot I was booked to do that afternoon – but the clients clearly hadn’t. In fact, they were in a state of high dudgeon that I hadn’t showed, thus the call.

We drove through the San Fernando Valley and over Cahuenga Pass into Hollywood. The streets on the way were deserted, there was broken glass on the sidewalks and there were toppled walls and chimneys everywhere across the Valley.

Hollywood hadn’t taken nearly the hit Saugus, Newhall, Sylmar and the Valley had, because the fault line was far enough away. The windows were intact at the location, and the crew had done a good job cleaning up inside

The client’s nerves were stretched as thin as they would go, and I remember every time an aftershock happened there were several of them who freaked right the hell out. One client refused to stay inside, and would dart in and out of the building to check up on the photo-shoot of Mattel’s newest toy line. He demanded from a distance that the show must go on, and expected a little girl to do what he couldn’t.

I put on the red shirt and apron they had for me, and we set up the shot as the ground continued to heave and pitch. A make up man applied pancake and lipstick, and wisely waited for the aftershocks to end before quickly swiping at my eyelashes with the mascara wand. A hair stylist used a curling iron on my hair and cemented it with hairspray. The lights above us all shivered as the building moved.

The toy line was called Imaginings: It was Mattel’s first shot at educational toys, and the toy I was modeling for was called Lively Lines. The idea was to draw a picture with special markers on special paper, and then drop water on it to create a watercolor painting. The problem was the markers and the paper were expensive, and no kid could recreate the picture on the box, because it was done by a professional artist.

During the shoot I was instructed to hold a several different pictures, and pretend I’d done each one myself. We were working in the days before Photoshop, so that drop of water you see quivering at the end of the eye dropper is very real. I also remember the very real director very really threatening me NOT to let that very real water drip on the artist-painted picture, lest I ruin it. A feat that is so easy for ANY 7-year-old to do – especially while the earth below is doing its best Bronco Billy impression and the lights above are swaying and creaking.

I was forced to wait out the temblors without complaint and then turn on my apple pie smile when they were done. The Director was determined to get that cover shot TODAY!! and all he wanted to do was get on a plane and get the hell back to New York.

The photographer was a sweetheart, trying so hard to make it easier on me, engaging me, and talking me through the worst of it. But, it was utterly terrifying being forced to smile while aftershocks are happening and adults around you are freaking out.

Finally the shoot ended, and we wearily made our way home, me shaking in the passenger seat from the exhaustion born of fear, and feeling miffed that I hadn’t gotten to take any swag. Why – they had hundreds of sheets of paper and dozens of pens, and I hadn’t gotten to take any! It never occurred to me they were proprietary and Mattel wouldn’t want the competition seeing the product before it came to market.

There was no hot water at home to wash the heavy pancake make-up off, or to wash out the stiff hairspray that kept the curls in my pony-tail nearly bulletproof. The water heater went to meet it’s maker during the quake, so I sat shivering in a tub of tan colored room temperature water, feeling the grit and dirt that had settled on bottom of the tub. It was glorious when my mother rinsed me off with water she had warmed on the stove. But, I could still feel the grit on my skin as she rubbed me down with a towel.

I went to bed accompanied by the aftershocks that would last until the following month.

The Imaginings line was released that November, just in time for Christmas and toy lust. Ultimately, the marketing folks at Mattel went with a very serious face on the box: You can see a little girl creating a masterpiece, carefully holding the picture, eyedropper in hand, lost in thought. I’m certain the straight-to-the-camera smiling shots taken that afternoon had a distinctive Crazy-Eyes look from the fear – which is just perfect for selling toys.

It’s been nearly 50 years since the earthquake – and back then animals had greater protection in Hollywood than children did. Will you be shocked to hear that a half a century hasn’t changed the dynamics much, and that Lassie still gets treated better than Timmy?

Imagine!! Why – it just shakes me up.

 

Imaginings 2

Duck and Cover, kids!!

Part of the soundtrack of my youth was the eerie blaring of air raid sirens being tested at precisely 10 am on the last Friday of every month. I was 4 when I first asked my mother what the disturbing noise was. “They’re sirens to warn us when Russian airplanes attack,” she answered vaguely, hustling me along the sidewalk to the commercial interview she was taking me to. At my wide-eyed look she assured me, “It’s just a test.”

A month later the same sound sent me outside the house in shivers of fear, scanning the skies for planes (always the reporter), and any bombs they might be dropping. It was only then that my mother thought to explain that the tests happened every month at the same time. Young Reporter Claudia demanded clarification of Exactly When they went off every month, and never forgot it.

I distinctly remember the sounds of the unsynchronized sirens whirring to life – each just a fraction of a second off from the other – and their high-pitched oscillating tones warning of danger. When the test was over and the sirens finally stopped, their wailing echoed for a few lingering moments over the San Fernando Valley. Thinking about the keening, undulating sound long enough begins to put a clench in my jaw and stomach.

Part of the curriculum in the Los Angeles Unified School District in the 1950s, 60s and 70s was repeating the Duck and Cover drills we learned in kindergarten from cheerful films featuring catchy jingles, Bert the cartoon turtle, and calm, well-dressed white children. The films spoke confidently and repeatedly of WHEN The Bomb would drop – not if. 9 months a year for 13 years every child attending school in Los Angeles was vigilant for the inevitable, inescapable flash of our doom, and as air raid sirens howled above us we learned to cower under the magical safety of a laminated Formica desk.  (Link to Duck and Cover propaganda film)

As the sirens warned of impending doom the teachers turned off the lights and closed the blinds, and we students would kneel under our desks on the linoleum floor, our fingers laced behind our necks, forearms over our ears, and elbows shielding our faces. We were told to keep our eyes shut, and our faces hidden in our clothes.

While we crouched with hidden faces, the siren’s mournful monthly tune ended and became nothing but a discordant echo over cheaply built post-war housing. We waited until we heard a long bell being wrung by Mrs. Hale, our Principal, signifying the ‘All Clear’. It was during one of those drills that I first felt the suffocating quicksand of claustrophobia.

The exercise ended with the entire school huddled under our desks, pretending a bomb would explode near us. The bell would ring – and Scene! We would return to our studies, the subtext of the ritual was that we had all just died.

Here’s the unvarnished truth about Duck and Cover: Nobody ever gave us instructions on what we should do *after* the bomb dropped. There was never any talk of what to do when we were done ducking and covering, no warnings about food or water or radiation poisoning. We didn’t even have instructions to wait for instructions.

The inference was that if we ever heard the Russian planes overhead everything was over. ‘Kiss your ass goodbye’ was a phrase commonly used, and most people figured ‘They’ll never try it, and if they do? We’re all dead, but they are, too.’

The drill went on year after year – long past the point of being of any use to the children repeating it – until it became normalized and just more Cold War theater

Whether or not the adults around us would acknowledge it, their unconscious behavior affected how we reacted – we took our cues from them. They knew there was no surviving a direct hit & we picked up their signals.

We were told to kneel and patiently await our fate when we heard the sounds of air raid sirens. Deep inside all of us knew that if the missiles actually flew the lights and the shades and the command to Duck and Cover were nothing more than busy work to fill the time until we were incinerated in a flash.

***

At 6 am on February 9, 1971, the Russians finally attacked. I awoke to the sound of air raid sirens and explosions that were so big it moved the ground beneath me. I heard shouting, and the ground shook even harder – the earth itself was making a grinding noise as books and games flew off of my shelves, raining down on me. Instinctively I hid my face as I sat up in bed. Abruptly the shaking stopped, but the sirens went on. I was in shock as my father hollered “EARTHQUAKE!!! Get out of the house!!” I had no idea what he was shouting to me.

In all their preparations for nuclear war it had never occurred to any of the adults to mention earthquakes to the California kids living on the San Andreas fault. No one thought to tell us the sirens could be used for emergencies other than nuclear war. I mistook a 6.6 quake for World War 3, and awoke certain I was dying in a mushroom cloud. The heaving ground and exploding transformers only served to underline that mistaken notion that the world was coming to an end. It’s not the kind of thing you forget.

It puzzled me as I grew older how so many of my classmates relegated the jolly propaganda films that promised a terrifying death via radiation to the farthest corners of their minds. By the 1980s the drills had ceased, and most folks seemed to forget what the sirens were – they became just another background noise people ignored. Almost no-one noticed when the Los Angeles Civil Air Defense sirens were permanently silenced in 1986.

 

Duck and Cover 1

 

 

I don’t envy anyone with young children right now, because they’re going to be freaked out by what happened in Hawaii – how can they not? It’s utterly fucked up, and in the days to come they’ll be exposed to over-stressed adults and videos of panic and terror. Hopefully they’ll also see clips of parents trying to protect their children, (the video of the father putting his crying children into the storm drain in which he cannot fit is heartbreaking – but also a moment of the purest love and sacrifice) and there will be adults around them who are calm and reassuring.

Keep in mind that children already have their own version of Duck and Cover when they practice mass casualty shooting drills every month. There are seniors graduating in June of 2018 who have been practicing this horror-show drill their whole lives, just like I practiced waiting for the bomb to drop. The heartbreaking thing is that some of these students, and a few of their teachers, won’t get to see graduation day because their lives will be cut short in a flash from the muzzle of a gun. The added burden of the threat of global thermonuclear war between two madmen seems especially cruel.

None of it’s fair, or particularly sane, but it’s where we are as a country right now. This is who we are.

For the moment we are at the mercy of an aggressive, ignorant, rageaholic narcissist who suffers delusions of grandeur, likely has dementia, and is itching to use nuclear weapons. For the moment.

On the bright side: After a few years in this pressure cooker of lunacy and danger we’re bound to have some really good art and music come out of it –  if we can pull together and #Resist long enough to outlast the bastard.

 

99 Red Balloons

Bullshit Positive Affirmations

Oh bullshit. I’m so tired of that trope and the whole notion that any of us is wholly responsible for our success. It’s classist and ignores the collective knowledge that mankind has gained off of the backs of others. It rejects the notion of role models, mentors and teachers and utterly fails to consider the opportunities afforded to those who are economically and racially privileged.

Yes, it’s that time of year. The New Year seems to encourage an avalanche of Bullshit Positive Affirmations shared on Facebook. BPAs are the annoying things people post and say that are supposed to encourage you to be the best person you can be. The illogicality of them frustrates me. I’m not sure if people actually believe this magical thinking, or they just think they should believe it.

 

BPA 3

 

No. No, it’s not.

That is embracing the ridiculous notion that everything is within our control.

That’s saying that people born into poverty choose to stay that way if they are unable to break the cycle. That’s saying children in marginal schools could have a better education if only they tried harder. It’s saying that the children of privilege don’t have 2 legs up on everyone else when it comes to college and student loans.

Then there are the things that happen when we’re adults. Sometimes unexpected shitty things happen to us out of the blue. Sometimes a spouse leaves and takes all the money. Sometimes the stock market crashes because people you have no control over sold unsound financial investments and it wipes out your 401K. Sometimes you find yourself unemployed and unemployable when your job has been outsourced. Sometimes you get sick.

Life is not a static arrangement of events that can be planned. Life is messy and often catches you unaware.

 

BPA 17

 

I swear I am not making this up.

Someone actually posted this piece of cruelty to their timeline on New Year’s Day. I suppose they thought it was inspiring. Instead, it just sounds like they’ve been lucky enough not to have had something really bad happen to them.

Let’s see how his proclamation holds up, shall we?

“No more whiners. If you have cancer it’s because you let it get that way.”

“No more whiners. If you’re depressed it’s because you let it get that way.”

“No more whiners. If your company eliminates your department it’s because you let it get that way.”

“No more whiners. If you were hit by a drunk driver it’s because you let it get that way.

Oh, I could do this all day, but you get the idea.

 

BPA 2

 

Really? So I can be an astronaut? What about run a 4 minute mile or be the President? I can conceive being a trillionaire, are you saying that’s possible? It’d be nice to be a supermodel. I’d sure like to win a gold medal in swimming.

The problem is, no matter how much I can conceive or believe, those things aren’t going to happen. I could do everything possible to achieve any of those goals – everything possible – but none of them will happen.

That’s because there are things we can’t do. I know it’s hard for the snowflake generation (I’m looking at YOU boomers) to hear that, but it’s true. Not all of us are exceptional and there are limits to what we can do and it’s time we accepted that fact.

 

BPA 1

 

I hate this one most of all.

It’s especially galling to those of us with depression. Oh – I could just wish myself better? I can choose whether I have this disease or not? Why didn’t you say so! That really would have saved me a lot of trouble had somebody told me sooner. I feel just like Dorothy with her magical ruby slippers – the power was in me the whole time!

People think they’re being helpful when they post BPAs, but they’re not. Those of us who have had life intrude on our well planned path understand that these clichés are not helpful, and only serve to make the reader feel negative when they read it. The notion that you can think your way to success is foolish and doesn’t benefit anyone.

It seems like people who share BPAs are looking for an easy answer to the tangled reality of life. The problem is that hoary bromides don’t straighten out tangles or cure diseases.

It’s not to say that you shouldn’t try to be positive nor have happy thoughts. But, I’d prefer my positive affirmations to be less filled with bullshit and a little more realistic. I prefer my affirmations to be things we can all actually do.

 

BPA 7

 

Manners – it could become a cause of the day and go viral like the ice bucket challenge. People would be posting videos of themselves waiting patiently in line to say please and thank you to supermarket workers and food servers or being polite to random strangers on the street. The cool thing is that you wouldn’t have to pledge a damn dime, and it would bring a wealth of benefits for society. Although it would involve a greater effort than hitting the share button for a useless platitude, it could work.

How about:

 

BPA 11

 

Or:

 

BPA 13

 

Or, even simply:

 

BPA 15

 

It could happen.

All I’m saying is that if we’re going to encourage ourselves to do better lets aim for things we can actually do that make our little corner of the world a better place.

Let’s avoid the BPAs. They’re worthless and may serve to just make someone feel worse.

I have to admit there is one positive thing I don’t mind sharing. It’s something I really believe in, a cause close to my heart, and it’s something that I would really encourage everyone to do.

It doesn’t cost a penny, and doesn’t ask you to do anything unethical or immoral. It’s something that can be practiced without show in both public and the privacy of your own home.

It is, in fact the antithesis of a Bullshit Positive Affirmation:

 

BPA 9

 

Now, that’s something I can really get behind.

 

**Originally published Jan 5, 2015 – Republished Jan 3, 2018, with minor edits**

10 Absolutes About Abusers

Those of us who’ve escaped the orbit of a Narcissistic Psychopath are fully aware of how Trump & Company are bludgeoning America into submission with relentless lies and sadistic behavior. We’re all too familiar with watching helplessly as our abuser breaks everything we hold dear just for the fun of it, and then lies to our face about what our eyes can see.

If you’ve never been trapped by a Narcissistic Psychopath you are in very real shock right now at finding a person utterly lacking in compassion or empathy is controlling your life and means you very real harm. The continual Gaslighting and threats to your safety become a steady feedback loop of anxiety, and the sustained emotional assault actually causes physical and mental harm.

Understand that this ceaseless firehose of bald-faced lies and indignities is designed to overwhelm and humiliate, and ultimately to make us all passive by cutting so deep into our soul we beg for the pain to stop, even though we know there is no mercy.

Those of who have walked down this path owe it to those who have not to take their arm and assure them as we walk through the darkness they are not alone, nor are they crazy.

To wit, I offer these irrefutable Truths About Abusers – especially Trump and Company:

  1. You aren’t human – you’re expendable chattel without rights
  2. Your opinion, wants are needs are punishable offenses
  3. You are expected to follow rules and display manners that they deny exist
  4. You will NEVER get them to acknowledge facts
  5. They will never, ever, EVER admit they are wrong
  6. They will steal from you while insisting you’re a duplicitous thief
  7. They will lie so boldly and confidently that you will question your sanity
  8. They enjoy your pain even more when you tell them how much it hurts
  9. They will not stop until they control you completely and capriciously
  10. Anything they can’t control completely they will ceaselessly try to destroy

Now repeat these truths until they are so ingrained they can’t be shouted away.

Trump and his acolytes are soulless entities who will suck every ounce of you out of you if they can, and eventually being around them becomes a fight to keep your sanity and your personality from being swallowed by inexhaustible evil.

The urge is to give up and give in by not looking around to see about how bad things really are. It may be easier in the short term for some to ignore the reality in our collective Home – but you can’t wish away the Authoritarian that lounges insolently in our Parlor any more than you can reason with the termites and rot that infest the walls.

No matter what we do – compliance or fight – understand that there is no depth which Trump and Company won’t plumb, there will be no savagery left undone, no barbarity overlooked, and no opportunity to inflict sadistic inhumanity will be missed.

Accept that none of us will come out the other side of this fight the same, nor is it our fault that Trump and Company are evil. These facts exist together and separately, and all we can do is try to mitigate the damage.

I will do the very best I can to give voice to our #Resistance. I am here.

Embrace the reality that Trump and Company are relentlessly evil and will continue to screw with our heads and our very lives until we are compliant and submit to watching our country slide back 100 years – or until we’ve had enough and fight back like we mean it.

RNC Trump Flags

Preaching To The Choir

It’s best if we accept the reality that Trump speaks to the vacuum of compassion in his followers. All their life Trump Apologists (Trumpologists) have known on an instinctive level that they lack something most other people have, but can’t quite grasp what it is.

Trump is their Jack from Lord Of The Flies because he validates Trumpologists lack of empathy and need to destroy things and take pleasure in other’s pain – they grunt and nod as Trump eschews the Conch and the Rules of Law and Decency.

The sooner we accept this the sooner we will be able to break free from the notion these folks can be reasoned with.

They don’t WANT to be reasoned with, they don’t want a middle ground – they don’t want to live peacefully.

What they want is for you to abase yourself to their God, and mouth their beliefs and surrender your Civil Rights to their religion.

They want to control your life and be in charge of who you can marry and where you can live and when you will have babies – and even WHEN YOU WILL DIE.

To that end I offer my Brothers and ReSisters a basic template of how to respond to ANYONE ignorant enough to insist Donald J. Trump is a good President.

You won’t change a Trumplogst’s mind, but you will help other Resisters who read it to shake off the continual gaslighting from the Administration and Russia (but, I repeat myself), and the numbness from the never-ending fire-hose of terrifying and infuriating news.

Think of the following paragraphs as Colorform Facts that you can mix and match for the Trumpologists in your life. Use them all – or use just one.

Copy, paste, share, and use in good health. It will always be here when you need it. Most people don’t have the time to put together and fact check a list like this that has taken me 2 ½ years to curate.

So, Sing It Loud! Sing It Proud! Raise up your voice and speak the TRUTH my Brothers and ReSisters!

Sure, I’m preaching to the choir, but it’s so damned EASY to forget what we’ve been through – and sometimes the Choir needs practice:

 

Journalists should be jailed and or killed. Mexicans are rapists & Blacks are lazy. POWs aren’t heroes because they got caught & US soldiers with PTSD aren’t strong. A woman questioning him has to be on the rag. Syrians should be put in concentration camps, and deported. Muslims should have to register and wear ID tags and mosques should be closed.

Trump cruelly derided the grieving parents of a Gold Star soldier, while himself taking 5 deferments from Vietnam. When asked which foot had the bone spur that allowed him a medical deferment after playing 4 years on the college tennis team Trump told the reporter, “You look it up.”

During a campaign rally Trump viciously mocked Serge Kovaleski, a physically disabled New York Times reporter, who pointed out that Trump was pretending to have personally witnessed the thoroughly debunked urban legend that thousands upon thousands of Muslims were cheering in New Jersey on September 11, 2001.

Donald Trump incites violence at his rallies and believes protesters deserve to get beaten up by wistfully pining for “the old days when they’d be carried out on stretchers.” Encouraging violence, he promised to pay the legal bills of anyone assaulting a protestor in the crowd.

Before declaring his candidacy Trump faced more than 4,000 lawsuits on everything from fraud to unpaid bills, contract disputes and sexual discrimination.

Trump has been found guilty and fined twice for violating the Federal Fair Housing Act, due to his management company’s egregious policy of racial discrimination against African Americans.

He was forced to pay a $200,000 fine to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission for denying blacks casino floor jobs and forcing black employees to be removed from sight when Donald and Ivana visited.

He made fraud, racketeering and elder abuse charges vanish from his bogus Trump University by paying off tens of thousands of plaintiffs, whom he defrauded to the tune of $50 million.

He has contributed no money to charity – None. His Foundation is not only uncertified, it is being investigated by the state of New York due to good-faith donations being misused. Paperwork shows nearly half-a-million dollars in charitable funds were used to pay Trump’s personal obligations of legal bills and fines on his for-profit business, including a $120,000 penalty from the city of Palm Beach for code violations by his prized Mar-a-Lago Club. Beyond that, Trump made an illegal political gift of $25,000 to Pam Bondi – the Florida Attorney General who conveniently decided not to press charges on Trump and his Trump University. He used $40,000 to buy oil paintings of himself and even paid his son’s $8 Boy Scout fees out of the charitable fund.

He lies when it’s easier to tell the truth, claiming to be the first person to predict terrorism in the United States.  Trump continues to flog the lie that his first wife competed as a skier in the 1972 Olympics for Czechoslovakia, even though it’s easily verifiable that the Czechs didn’t even field a team that year. A marker on the third green of his Virginia golf club boasts of the 100% pulled-out-of-his-ass ‘River of Blood’ Civil War imaginary battle – and Trump unironically goes so far as to say of the historians who vehemently deny any fight took place within miles of the course, “Where they there?”

He is a thin-skinned narcissist who rage-tweets about anyone who disagrees with him, going so far at one point as to encourage people to watch a non-existent sex tape of Alicia Machado, former Miss Universe from Venezuela, when she detailed his fat shaming of her.

A raging racist, he spent several years and thousands of dollars ‘investigating’ Barack Obama’s birth certificate, encouraging Birthers, and conveniently ignoring the fact that no matter where Obama was born in this great big wide world, his mother being an American citizen MADE HIM ONE, TOO – with all the accompanying privileges, like being President. Please note that John McCain was born in Panama and Trump didn’t say ‘Boo’ when McCain ran for President because he was a white dude.

 

Beyond all of this – NEVER forget this is a man who has promised state sponsored murder and torture of children, and who thinks the Press exercises entirely too much Freedom.

This self-imagined dictator promises to violate the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 14th amendments, as well as end abortion, civil rights, voting rights, marriage equality and the EPA.

He has proudly broken every Commandment Christians purport to hold dear, except murder – and he brags of being able to shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue without it costing him a single follower.

He is working in cahoots with Putin – and no matter how they try to deny it – Trump is ON TAPE begging straight into the camera for Russia to hack Clinton’s emails, which they did.
A ‘Good President’ wouldn’t sentence thousands of children to death, and let 9 million more lose their insurance coverage – as happened at the end of September, when the CHIP bill was not reauthorized.

A ‘Good President’ wouldn’t let the Pre-existing Conditions clause die, or allow Health Insurance Companies to sell worthless policies, or refuse to tell it’s citizens about ACA policies with subsidies.

A ‘Good  President’ wouldn’t let the people of PR die of cholera and thirst. A ‘Good  President’ wouldn’t golf while the people of California are being burned alive and out of house and home.

A ‘Good President’ doesn’t spend 1 in 3 days at his own properties, exhausting the Secret Service budget in weeks that was meant to last a year.

A Good Man doesn’t make fun of POWs and soldiers who died for our country, or a Mayor who is pleading for the very lives of her constituents.

Oh yeah – A Good HUMAN would never, ever, ever “Grab Them By The Pussy!!”

 

 

 

 

 

How Have You Harassed Me? Let Me Count The Ways…

I was 9-years-old the first time I was sexually assaulted. It was a friendly neighborhood barber who felt me up on the pretense of seeing how much I weighed – he did this after leading me into in a back room whose walls were papered with hardcore porn. I shudder to think what might have happened had a customer not walked in just then and allowed me to escape, heart pounding and sure I had done something wrong.

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I was mercilessly teased about my breasts throughout my teens by schoolmates, strangers and colleagues. I was absolutely scarred from years of cruel mocking about my tiny breasts which were as much a function of my build as they were my mother starving me so I would keep getting booked on print work.

“You’re a pirate’s dream! A sunken chest!” “Mark likes you. Mark C. Bloom (a So Cal tire store) likes all flats!” “Carpenters love you – you’re flat as a board!” “Hey moon-tan! Didja leave your tits at home?” “You’re part of the itty-bitty-titty club!!” And on and on and on. I’ve been handed band-aids to use as a bra and had men come up and feel my back because “I’m looking to see if your titties are coming out the back! The gotta be somewhere” Yes – it’s been a real laugh riot having men tell me my bewbs aren’t quite big enough to sooth their mommy issues.

A make-up man I thought quite highly of had a daily joke of looking down my shirt, seeing how flat I was and stuffing 2 tissues in to plump things up. The cast and crew thought that was high comedy.

It wasn’t all jokes about my breasts, though. In high school there was the English teacher who took to giving me shoulder rubs and trying to look down my blouse, small as my breasts were. I wasn’t special, though, he did that for all the white girls and I’d been warned. No young woman ever put herself alone with him willingly.

There was the douche-bag History teacher who refused to give me a higher grade than the captain of the basketball team – even though I’d gotten more answers correct on my tests. “It will never happen,” Mr. Vanderveer said huffily, looking down his nose, “I will *never* give a girl a higher grade than a boy.” Even my beloved music teacher wouldn’t let me try out for drum major – because I was a girl. Since I knew how to twirl a baton I was welcome to put on a skimpy leotard and be eye candy – but, no position of power for females was offered. I stuck with my sax, instead, preferring to be a mediocre musician to an object to be ogled.

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No girls allowed in Pop Warner or Little League (unless it was a fantasy commercial) – but I could be a pom-pom girl if I wanted! No girls allowed to deliver papers or take shop classes. No girls allowed to serve the alter in Catholic mass – yeah… Scratch that. Talk about a blessing in disguise.

I was in the first group of girls allowed to play an instrument in the Los Angeles Police Department Junior Band. Previous to that the only way females could participate was if they were twirling flags and sashaying, while sporting white go-go boots. Meanwhile the guys were playing music and styling in sharp military-style uniforms. We gals sure were welcomed warmly in that here-to-fore all-male marching band and symphony orchestra paid for by the tax dollars of the citizens of Los Angeles. Wait – no we weren’t. We were hazed and resented for ‘forcing your way where you don’t belong’. Officer Horde actually laughed when I asked if he thought I might try out for Drum Major someday. I was beginning to see a pattern.

 

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As a teen in the 70s I spent summers in New York City doing print and commercial work. I nearly changed my name to ‘Mira!!’ from all the men hollering it at me from every construction site I passed, them grabbing their flaccid penises and making disgusting sucking-kissy noises at the clearly under-age girl.

 

Serious Question: Has yelling, “I want you to suck my big cock” from a passing car ever worked for any man in the history of time? Do they think screaming ‘Show us your tits’ will actually reveal to them nipples and areolas? Of course the clear corollary to that fallacy is that SO many men think telling women they aren’t fuckable is some kind of kryptonite that will kill us. It’s beyond their scope that we aren’t all waiting breathlessly to have our bodies validated by a stranger’s desire to have sex with us.

 

I grew up in an era of unwilling Title IX accommodations, and outright hostility at those women who wanted equality or free agency. Men called feminists ‘bra burners’ and despised those who would exercise their right choose to terminate a pregnancy they could not or did not want to take to term. Men winked and nodded at each other over women’s heads about our so-called intelligence and proficiency, and while we insisted, “I’m RIGHT HERE” they nodded condescendingly and said, “Sure you are, Sugar Tits. Now, isn’t that cute?”

 

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I was raped at age 16 by a person in a position of power – these are all the details I’m willing to share now, and it is still my story to tell someday. Suffice to say the highlight of the experience was after hearing the man would face no charges, I sought solace from a priest who looked me square in the eye and said, “You must search deeply and ask yourself, “What did I do to bring this upon myself?’ and then ask forgiveness from the Lord.”

What did *I* do to bring this upon myself? What did *I* do to encourage a man 25 years older than me to attack me when I was vulnerable and physically incapable of fighting back or even keeping him off of me? I’m not ashamed to admit that when I became an adult THAT mind fuck paid for a few therapists vacations.

Things became more difficult when I became an adult – and not just because of the rape. Suddenly, at the age of 18 I was expected to know how to navigate being legally objectified. When you’re jail-bait you’re subjected to endless leering. But, when you achieve the age of majority – even though you’re still very much a kid – predatory male behavior kicks in to high gear.

When I turned 18 I briefly had an agent and interviewed a would-be manager – both men at least 15 years older than me – who each tried to turn a professional relationship into a casting couch. The agent had a habit of creepily calling me at 8 am because, he said, he really liked hearing the sound of my voice when I woke up in the morning. The manager, over the course of a 2 hour interview tried to kiss me.

Let’s not forget a male actor I had worked with numerous times who didn’t recognize me when I was 18 and wearing a saucy red jumpsuit and big hair. I was going in to an interview and he was leaving one when I recognized him from 20 feet away, only to have him mistake my smile of recognition as a come on. I wanted to vomit at his leer, and when he realized who I was he tried to pretend he wasn’t checking my ass out.

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There was the predatory douche in the acting class at Cal State University Northridge with whom I was doing a Chekov piece who mauled me during rehearsal at his home, insisting we needed to spoon before doing the scene, and physically wrapped his arms around me against me will, forcing me to lie next to him on the couch, where I could feel his erection. I was numb and terrified.

Mr. Mauler missed the next class, hanging me out to dry on our scene presentation, screwing me on my grade. I spoke up in class about what had happened, and another female student looked incredulous and said it had happened to her, too – being held against her will, and then he didn’t show for the scene. We were the only 2 women he’d been paired with, and twice he’d physically overpowered his scene-mates into forced intimacy and blew off the performance. He was clearly using rehearsal time as assault time. The Professor’s reaction was to give us each a passing mark for our scenes, and him 2 goose eggs he was allowed to make up by doing scenes with a male actor. He wasn’t kicked out of class because… you know… It could really hurt his reputation if this made it into his permanent file.

 

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The real corker happened just before I left California, when I was managing the box office at The Hollywood Palace, just off of Hollywood and Vine and directly across from the Capitol Records building. The Palace was a high-end night club that held 1,800 people and featured all the best current and up-and-coming acts; it also had an exclusive restaurant and on the second floor a roof-top private club that people fought tooth and nail to get into, including Althea Flynt, the wife of Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt.

It was at The Palace that Larry Flynt’s weaselly assistant tried to coerce me and 2 other female co-workers to wear string bikinis and stiletto heels into a federal court to push wheel barrows full of pennies in to pay one of Flynt’s obscenity fines. I was offered the princely sum of $100 to leave my dignity at the door. Somehow I found the power to decline without alienating a client.

Later, when the Weasel found out I was a former child actor, nothing would do but he kept insisting I needed to do a spread-eagle signature Hustler pictorial. He thought he was complimenting me by mercilessly nagging me every time he saw me to do something I had not ever had a fleeting passing interest in. I was expected to be cordial to this tool who insisted on acting like he was my pimp, because Althea and her groupies brought in big bucks, prestige and probably coke.

There was a lot of coke at The Palace then. Hell, there was a lot of coke all over Los Angeles then. It was sucking in friends and family, and I’m grateful I held strong against trying it, much less using it. My manager at The Palace had a problem with coke and as his addiction progressed so did his inexcusable behavior.

I’d been there 2 years, and the abuse had ratcheted up slowly over the weeks and months. It began with cruelty, “Jesus, you’re an uptight little Catholic girl, aren’t you?”  and moved to unwanted dirty jokes. It wasn’t long until there were slaps on the ass and finally to him exposing himself on a regular basis. His favorite way to do it was to turn his pocket inside out and ask if I wanted to see a one-eared elephant, followed by pulling his semi-turgid penis out of his pants.

The job paid really well and was fabulously cool, it allowed me to sleep and attend class and take time off for any acting jobs I got. I learned to look away when he took his dick out, and to spend as little time alone with him as possible.

He began to frequently and fruitlessly demand sex from me “When are you gonna give it up?”  Then, he allowed the bar staff to have a semi-secret betting pool regarding which male employee would bed me first.

Knowing all this, I had to grit my teeth and be pleasant to his princess girlfriend who pretended to be oblivious to the way her boyfriend was literally swinging his dick around.

As his cocaine addiction progressed his anger became explosive, and his behavior unpredictable. The owners began to show up less frequently (their problem was alcohol, not coke) and Cocaine Manager became more erratic.

One busy Friday evening Cocaine Manager came in to the box office with a glaze in his eyes that let me know he had his load on. I had no patience for a coked-up, drunk boss, and when he made the elephant appear for the umpteenth time I opined that it was the shortest trunk I had ever seen.

His fury broke like a wave, and in a flash as he grabbed my right nipple, and squeezing as hard as he could he twisted my breast. I screamed and he let go, then I ran to the bathroom, locked the door and cried. That fucking psycho yelled through the door, “You watch your filthy fucking mouth, you hear?” before slamming the door on his way out.

At home in the wee hours I could see the angry bruise that was forming on my breast, and when the morning came I called the police about the assault. It was then I heard for first time in my life – but no-where near the last – how the police refused to get involved with a ‘He Said, She Said’ situation. I couldn’t believe my ears that yet again someone who had physically assaulted me would get away with it.

Refusing to let the matter go, I had my doctor document the bruise on my breast and nipple, and took the matter to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which was then being run by that superb sexual harasser, and current Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas. I filed my grievance and waited to for something in the mail to tell me what would happen next.

One evening a few weeks later, as I was preparing the will call and guest list for that night’s show, the door from the club into the box office blasted open, the knob hitting the wall so hard it left a hole where it bounced off. Cocaine Manager was standing in the doorway as angry as I have ever seen anyone in my life. He rushed forward and grabbed my arms and began to shake me like a rag doll. The EEOC had called the woman in Human Resources and she immediately told Cocaine Manager about my complaint. His answer was to physically assault me.

“You went to the GOVERNMENT about me you fucking bitch?!!!” he was screaming in my face as my head was being whipped around and his hands dug into the flesh on my arms. Suddenly my breasts were on fire as he was grabbing and squeezing them viciously. “You don’t want me to touch your tits?!! How’s this?!!”

He flung me by my arm into the wall, like a crack-the-whip.  Nearly incomprehensible with rage he shrieked, “GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY CLUB YOU FUCKING CUNT!!! GET THE FUCK OUT YOU’RE FIRED!!!!!”

As I scrambled out the door with my purse and coat he kicked me in the ass as hard as he could and I hit the wall in front of me.

The police STILL refused to get involved – He Said, She Said, and all that.

In the end the EEOC dropped the case because they couldn’t see that Cocaine Manager had done a single thing wrong. According to them, my going on a date with 2 different co-workers had given my supervisor carte blanche to demand sex from me. His physical assault and retaliation didn’t enter into it because I had no standing  to make a complaint to begin with.

It was shortly after that I left for Colorado at the age of 20.

Yes – ALL of this happened by the time I was 20.

When I started this list I figured I could crank out a few pages about the ways I’ve been harassed. I have already put down 2,500 words and I’ve only covered the stories I remember (right now) from the first 20 years of my life.

It’s sobering to realize just how many stories I have. But, even more sobering to know that nearly every woman in this country has their own stories to share. Yes, Stories – plural.

I’m going to keep telling my stories, because if we don’t tell them how the hell are men ever going to know what’s REALLY happening? We need them to stand up for us – and they need to understand how god-awfully pervasive it is.

I’ll keep telling my stories. Isn’t it time to tell yours and make your voice heard?