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Archive for September, 2007

Portion of an Email to Mike B.

September 25, 2007 By: admin Category: Beer, Blogging Dinner, Body, Burning Man, Cooking, Fatblogging, Food, Health, Mom

“I remember a few years ago my Mom was doing the Atkins diet. When I was visiting I saw her eating bacon every day. This was a woman who was already comfortably 30 pounds overweight. I asked her what she was doing and she described the diet. I stopped her from continuing it THAT DAY.

I struggle with weight issues myself, but they’re mostly related to beer. As you know, I fucking love beer. The thing is I can’t drink it regularly. Just can’t. Or, well, I can but then I’d have to give up something else–like food. Currently I’m trying to eat waaaaaaay more fruits and veggies than anything else, but as I run and bike regularly, I’ve found that I definitely need my protein every day at lunch and dinner or I crumple like a discarded prom dress. Breakfast can be a fruit smoothie with protein powder, but lunch HAS to include a medium-sized piece of chicken or fish, and dinner and has to include the same, just a smaller piece, and both meals have to include major veggies.

I’m at a sort of constant crossroads with carbs. I LOVE them, but who doesn’t…??? The good news for me is that I don’t crave them regularly. Not even once a month (except as beer). So, god smiled on me on that score… Also, because I’m–fundamentally–a drunk, I need a little alcohol buzz every now and again just to keep me happy, so … drumroll please … I’ve started drinking WINE. Now, remember, please, that I’m a chugger. I don’t SIP anything. So this wine business is challenging me and WINNING. Because I can’t chug it or I’ll get sick (not to mention wasted) I’m forced to CHILL when I drink, and I hate that. In my dreams I’d prefer to be a hard-drinking, pub-crawling, unforgivable skirt-chasing Irish deckhand, but my waistline just simply can’t take it. The only good thing about wine is that, because I fear hangover so much, I never drink enough to actually get fucked up, so the other benefit of wine (other than the *head-shaking* social acceptability) is the assurance of waking up clear as a bell. *Whatever.*

So, anyway, carbs are an issue for me. :)”

Securing A Sense of Home

September 21, 2007 By: admin Category: Faith, General, Health, Living, Mom, New Orleans, Randomosity

We attach meaning and identification to things and events by giving them names. Mine was “my grandmother’s house.” I never saw my grandmother in her house. I saw her in a small apartment in an assisted living facility that I took for her home because I was so young. Later–after I was a bit older, but she still too frail to travel–I saw what had been her home, but I don’t remember going inside. It was the house where my father and uncle had grown up, it was the house where my grandmother had lived for many years. It was my grandmother’s house. But, growing up, it was important for me to SAY “my grandmother’s house” to indicate that the conversation that I was in could keep going, that I understood what “grandmother’s house” meant.

My own home is in New Haven, CT. Someone else lives in it now. And it’s in Paris, France – another place where someone else lives. And it’s in New York city, where I spent almost 20 years. And now, finally, it’s on Martha’s Vineyard – the house my parents retired to and where my father still lives. In some sense, as an aside, there is a room in Boston’s Mass General hospital that is a bit of home to me as it’s where my mother died. There will always be a piece of me there because there is a piece of her there.

We have to secure our sense of home or we can’t feel comfortable. We can survive, we were designed to do that, but we can’t be completely relaxed and, therefore, completely ourselves.

Several years ago my girlfriend and I lived in Brooklyn, NY. One night a largish stray kitten came to our ground floor bedroom window and meowed and meowed so loudly that we woke up. Then he came the next night, and the next, and the next… Finally, I let him in and led him to the bathroom as he wasn’t fixed and I didn’t want to have to clean up after he’d sprayed everywhere. I fed him, gave him water, and then slept on the bathroom floor with him that night so he wouldn’t be lonely. The next day, as we made breakfast, he jumped onto our bed and fell instantly asleep. I thought it was odd, as he’d gotten a good night’s sleep the night before, but, none-the-less-we closed the bedroom door to give him some quiet. After two hours I peeked inside the bedroom… he was still asleep. Two more hours later I peeked again… he was still asleep. The last time I peeked I watched as his limp, exhausted, little body twitched in dreams. I shut the door. “Mel,” as I came to call him, eventually woke up and all was well, but I never got the image out of my mind of this tiny, adorable, exhausted thing getting the first good night’s sleep he’d probably had since he was born. He was able to sleep because he was in a place he recognized as being safe.

Without such safety and support and love and HOME… we cannot be ourselves. We can’t do any of the things we’re supposed to do. And the world, and each other needs us to be doing what we were meant to do.

Burning Man 2: The Heat, Pt. 1

September 17, 2007 By: admin Category: Body, Burning Man, General, Health, Living

100+. More like average of 110 all week. There were record dust storms due to the persistent dryness in the region in the last months, but the stroms were actually the best parts of the whole experience.

M and I arrived, classically for two Los Angelenos, in traffic. There were four long lines of “burners” all trying to merge as we approached the massive main gate area. This is the first time you get a sense of the size of the event. Approaching from the tiny town of Gerlach you see a tall dust cloud of arriving cars way off and realize you’re at the back of one hell of a line. There were a lot of those type of perception distortions (non-drug-related) at the event. Distance was hard to determine due to the flatness of the playa.

Anyway, so when we finally get to the main gate there are a bunch of naked people–completely naked except for shoes and maybe a hat–who greet you, take your ticket, and–if this is your first time at the event, ask that you step out of your vehicle, ring a crude bell and scream “I’m not a virgin anymore!” Now, I’m all for ritual, but if you’re going to make folks do something like that in the 10,000-degree heat, have a goddamned welcome party out there to chear’em on, ya know? Make it A Thing.

So, we get back into our car and make it to our camp. My friend Nathan–one of the most wonderful people that there is on this earth–greets us and shows us where we can set up out tent, shade structure, etc. So far, all is well except that, um, I’m dying of heat prostration. I ask Nathan, who is already a bit more than pink on the shoulders, what he does to cope. “Lots of sunscreen and plenty of water.” No shit. My mantra for the week became: “Drink to drown!”


September 11, 2007 By: admin Category: Faith, Iraq, Living, Mom

Six years later and I still tear-up when looking at photos like this. I remember everything about that day. It was the second time ever that I’d worked from home. It was early, 8:15 or something. I was in my pajamas with my coffee, working on my computer. My cell phone rang. It was Mom. She was a bit frantic when she asked: “where are you???” I said, “Home.” Next she said: “Turn on your TV…”

Later in the day I was at a friend’s house and saw people jump. It was awful. The closest to “war” that I hope I will ever get. I burst into tears and left my friend’s house. I walked to the hospital near my apartment. I wanted to give blood–as much as I could without passing out–but when I got there the line was around the block. People didn’t know what else to do. They couldn’t get on the subway and go to work or to the site to offer assistance. All of us wanted to dig. Then we wanted to enlist. But none of that was possible at Noon or so that day. So we went to the hospitals and the overrun hospitals turned people away. Can you believe that? They had too much blood. When you got up to the head of the line there was, thankfully, someone taking your name and phone number so they could call you in a month or so when their supply would be short again. Or they thought. Turned out there weren’t enough people to save for all the blood the hospitals had.

Perhaps the most enduring image for me was that of a doctor in scrubs being interviewed at an emergency room downtown. He did his interview, then broke down. He said: “They’re not finding any people. All I’m doing is tagging body parts.”

The other most-enduring image I will carry with me from that day is that of the silent firefighters where I volunteered at the Marriot hotel downtown. We greeted them, fed them, and led them to a bed for some short rest when they came off The Pile. They smelled of ash, smoke and death, and looked more tired–bone weary–than anyone else I’d ever seen or have seen since. It was the look of someone who had looked into the face of Hell. They had no color in them. No joy. No life. Lifesavers had become the walking dead.

I will never forget that day. I send my love to all the families of victims. May you be finding your peace.

Burning Man 1: Appreciation

September 08, 2007 By: admin Category: Burning Man, General, Health, Living

I have to preface this first in a series of posts about my Burning Man experience by saying that I did not have a great time. There are a lot of BM zealot blogs out there that will want to sell you a bill of goods about the event. This blog will not be one of them… That said, I was a great camp, met some great people, and had a great time being there with M, who is the perfect person to have in a crisis or camping situation. But more on that later…. :)

So, by “appreciation” I don’t mean I came back with a renewed sense of faith in my fellow man, or a new, clearer mission for my own future. I mean air-conditioning. I mean clean, flush toilets. I mean cleanliness overall, and hot food, and quiet nights, and SHOWERS. Right now, there isn’t a thing I took to the Black Rock desert that doesn’t have “playa” on it. “Playa” is the alkaline dust that, compacted into a hard clay-like surface, makes up the floor of the Black Rock desert. It gets on everything. I am told that once you get home there is always a lot of cleaning to do to get the playa dust off your stuff, but this year was also the worst dust year in recorded Burning Man history so there’s dust in places the sun don’t shine, ya know what I mean…??? So, yeah, appreciation. I came home with an appreciation for modern living. I can go camping, I just wouldn’t want to go there ever again.

What was it that made it all so awful? Well, the heat, but I want to save that discussion for a post unto itself, so the next issue was the hypocrisy. There was a certain hypocrisy that I just wasn’t ready for. A whole ‘lot of people telling me they were one thing and then behaving in ways that were contradictory to that. Specifically, I was told that everyone there “respected the playa,” meaning gray water and trash and “MOOP” (Matter Out Of Place) was the paramount concern at the event and that, as a good Burner, you were obliged and expected to pick up as you went along, even if the MOOP in question wasn’t yours. Well, I did that, and also judiciously gathered all of our gray water into a gallon-sized plastic milk jug every day… until I saw veteran Burners dumping there’s all over the playa. Makes sense. Water evaporates very quickly in the desert. The thing is we were told not to do it. And, although I’m not some good-two-shoes, I did take the environmental requests very much to heart and so was pretty massively demoralized when I’m doing all this work for a cause I believe in deeply only to turn around and see everyone else making their own rules.

The other example of hypocrisy was the discovery that Burning Man is a for-profit organization. I know this makes me stupid not to have known beforehand, but it also makes the company owners shiesters because they promote this “noble” communal-style of living as the only way that the event will work. But they ask for volunteers to do ALL of the labor while they collect $10,000 in tickets, coffee, ice and lemonade sales. Every day, at all hours, there was a long line at the coffee at “Center Camp,” and an even longer one for bags or blocks of ice. I think if you’re asking folks to volunteer and that THAT volunteerism is what makes the event what it is (which it does), then you better fucking not be making a profit. PUT THE MONEY BACK INTO THE “COMMUNITY.”


Who had the best time there, I cannot say, but I will say that not a day went by when most of the people we were around weren’t either drunk, stoned, or high on ecstasy. Maybe that’s the best way to survive “fun” in the desert. I don’t know… What I do know is that the only time I truly had a good time was riding my bike across the vast expanse of the playa at night, when it was cool and dark. Nothin’ like riding three miles you can see all the way across. More later…