I’M ALIVE: GEORGE MICHAEL’S “WHITE LIGHT”

It was just short of a year ago now that I was rushed to the hospital with unexplained internal bleeding, in need of five units of blood, and sick enough that when the source of the bleeding was discovered – cancer lesions throughout my digestive tract – it was unclear if I would be able to survive the first dose of chemotherapy I desperately needed.

It was all a blur, really. I knew it was serious by the grim looks on the faces of four different doctors who came to explain the situation to me. They seemed to want to make doubly sure I knew what I was getting into when I authorized them to begin treatment. It was only later, after I had pulled through, that my primary care physician told me honestly, “We weren’t sure you were going to make it.”

Looking back, it seems like years ago, not months. I spoke with a good old friend from Los Angeles this weekend, filling him in on all the details of this last year. When I got to the part about being rushed to the hospital I said,

“It was great! My first time in an ambulance and those EMT’s are so damn cute! And I didn’t really know how serious it was so I was just enjoying these guys in their uniforms rushing me to the hospital with lights blazing and the siren droning on!”

Thinking back though, it really wasn’t my first time in an ambulance. Years ago, when I was struggling with drugs and alcohol in Los Angeles, I had an accidental overdose and was taken by ambulance to a hospital near my home. Because of the intoxication, I have trouble remembering exactly what that ride was like, but it’s clear that I haven’t romanticized it as exciting or fun. I’m so glad that I’m sober now. At least that struggle is over.

Twice now I’ve been in the hospital, fighting for my life. Once because my addiction brought me to a point of foolish over-intoxication. And more recently because a cancer that began on my skin had metastasized to my digestive tract, weakening me and making everything more complicated.

Every time I think about this, the George Michael song, “White Light,” featured in this really honest and brilliant video, plays in my mind. I like George. He’s from the 80’s and my youth, and one of the first celebrities I had a crush on (back in the Wham! days). I relate to him as a fellow gay man, and as someone who has also struggled with alcohol and drugs. I respect that he’s been honest enough to talk about all these things, both in his lyrics and in interviews and public statements.

Not many people know that in the midst of his struggle, while on tour in November 2011, he had to be hospitalized in Vienna for a viral infection that turned into a deadly pneumonia. It was touch and go for several days. He was treated in the intensive care unit, spent time in a coma, and underwent a tracheostomy. Finally released on December 21st of that year, George Michael made a public statement thanking the staff of Vienna General Hospital for saving his life.

This song was released in June 2012, just months after Whitney Houston’s cocaine-related death. The lyrics allude to both Amy Winehouse and Houston’s deaths, and George’s fear that it “could have been me.” This lyrical honesty gives credence to rumors that the problems in Vienna were drug related. The video is haunting because it is so brutally raw, so honest, and I’ve been there. It catches my breath every time I see it.

Having just come home last week from the hospital after my own struggle with pneumonia, I thought I’d post this video tonight. As George sings,

“I’ve got so much more that I want to do
Was it music?
Was it science that saved me?
Or the way that you prayed for me
either way I thank you

I’m alive”

My thoughts exactly.

NO NUCLEAR MELTDOWN WORRIES IN THE PHILLIPINES & JAPAN GIVES WIND A TRY plus STARTING OVER 30 YEARS LATER

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Waves break on a jetty holding wind turbines in the Channel port of Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, a major fishing center. (Philippe Huguen,AFP/Getty Images)

THE PHILLIPINES, JAPAN, NUCLEAR MELTDOWN AND THE PROMISE OF WIND

 Taking in reports of widespread devastation resulting from the record-breaking typhoon in the Phillipines, we can at least be grateful that no nuclear power reactors were present in the storm zone. It’s been just under two years since another powerful storm brought us  nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, and we are still paying a dear price as they struggle to grasp the full effects of the disaster and work desperately to clean it up. What little progress they’ve made  falls far short of anything close to even partial success.

 The picture above, distributed by AFP/Getty Images and published in the Los Angeles Times on Monday, November 4 (as well as in many other publications worldwide) reminded me of the power of storms, and the safety of clean green power sources such as wind in comparison to dirty power sources such as oil and nuclear.  The worst damage these or more powerful waves could do is knock these windmills down. There would be some sort of salvage or repair effort needed, but no threat to life in the aftermath and no longterm effects. In comparison, an oil tanker or platform can wreak havoc on the environment when pushed to the breaking point by raging storms. And Fukushima taught us all too well that no nuclear facility is immune to the wrath of mother nature.

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Japanese government and industry leaders inaugurated the country’s first floating wind turbine and substation Monday, about 13 miles offshore from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex. Officials hope to expand renewable resources and reduce or phase out nuclear power generation. (Yoshikazu Tsuno/ AFP/Getty Images / October 4, 2013)

 Having learned this lesson in a most difficult way, Japan has embarked on a new push to harness wind energy, beginning operation yesterday of a huge offshore wind turbine floating atop the sea just 13 miles away from the toxic Fukushima Daiichi site. Anchored to the seabed 400 feet below, the project is the first of its kind in Japan, and will generate enough electricity to power around 600 households.

It’s a small beginning, but a big step in the right direction.

 To read more about this story in the Los Angeles Times click here http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-japan-wind-energy-nuclear-fukushima-20131111,0,6561451.story#axzz2kTVcbtoO

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STARTING OVER 30 YEARS LATER

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From the LA Times: Kash Delano Register gives off an air of forgiveness and peace. “Me being angry is only going to stagnate me moving forward,” he said. (Christina House, For The Times / November 10, 2013)

 Los Angeles resident Kash Delano Register has a great name but lousy luck that wound him up in jail at age 19 for a crime he did not commit. After spending 34 years in prison for the 1979 murder, he finally had his sentence overturned by a judge last Friday. Register was represented by attorneys from Loyola Law School’s Project for the Innocent, who pressed his case with evidence that a key witness had lied at trial and prosecutors deliberately suppressed evidence to ensure a conviction. Now, at 53, he is at last a free man.

 “There’s a lot of devastating things that happened to me, but there’s nothing I could do about it, so I had to accept it as it was,” Register told the L.A. Times in an article published Monday, crediting his faith as one of the things that helped him reach a state of acceptance. Careful not to harbor any bitterness or anger about his years of incarceration for a crime he didn’t commit, Register said, “Me being angry is only going to stagnate me moving forward.”

 Although Register came before the parole board several times, his refusal to admit guilt kept him from being awarded early release.

 Apparently, if you didn’t commit the crime you’ve been convicted of, the only way you’re going to be paroled is if you lie and say that, “Yes, I did that thing you accuse me of.”

 Register’s ordeal is not completely over until Los Angeles County prosecutors decide whether or not to appeal the judge’s ruling to overturn Register’s conviction, retry him, or just drop the case. They’ve said they need a month to decide. Perhaps they just need a month to scrape the egg off their face.

 Meanwhile Register is reunited with his daughter (born a few months after his incarceration began) and his mother, who stood by him “…from Day One.” It was his mother who picked him up downtown and drove him back to her West L.A. home, the same place he was living when this nightmare began.

 It’s a tale of a man’s second chance, who shouldn’t ever have had his first one stolen from him.

 To read the Los Angeles Times article click here http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-kash-register-2-20131111,0,7938885.story#axzz2kTVcbtoO

To find out more about Loyola Marymount Law School’s Project for the Innocent click here http://www.lls.edu/academics/centersprograms/alarconadvocacycenter/projectfortheinnocent/

 

SOMERS’ FALLS FLAT ON HER (now) ORGANIC FACE: HOW STUPID CAN YOU GET?

One of the things that disturbs me most is when certain B-list celebrities grab hold of concepts like “ORGANIC” and turn them into their cause celebre (and newest moneymaker) via marketing spin. A sucker is born every minute. But sometimes the sucker is being sucked by an even bigger sucker. Allow me to explain.  Case in point. Suzanne “Sucker” Summers, who makes her home in the Coachella Valley and makes her money by exploiting every health and body craze that surfaces. Why is she a sucker? Because she believes her own press, and has bought into the propaganda put out on the right about the Affordable Care Act (read on).

Before going into her views on “Obamacare,” let’s talk about her latest marketing endeavor. Here she is this month on the cover of GOING ORGANIC magazine, distributed widely for free throughout the Coachella Valley. I always note the irony of this publication because it’s printed on Glossy paper that isn’t recycled and doesn’t even break down easily in a compost bin. But that’s a different story for another time.

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And what is GOING ORGANIC magazine doing this month besides raking in cash from all of its’ advertisers and contributing to landfill waste with it’s used and unused copies? Why, it’s shilling for Suzanne Somers’ new moneymaker, a line of health and beauty products that capitalizes on the concept of organic.

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Oh no. Here she goes (blows). If it’s not the Thighmaster or another poorly written book, it’s going to be something to try and help you save face. Organically of course.

Proving that a good publicist can get you coverage almost anywhere and on almost any topic, she was recently featured in the WALL STREET JOURNAL giving her opinion on “Obamacare.” The Somers summation? It’s a “socialized ponzi scheme.”

She goes on to criticize the Canadian health care system because she is intimately informed about it since her husband hails from that country up north (remember him? Alan Hamel? He used to do commercials for the ALPHA BETA supermarket chain back in the 1980’s. He isn’t just a ‘has been.’ He’s also a Canadian).

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Suzanne Somers Canadian husband shilling for the Alpha Beta Supermarket chain in a 1980’s era television commercial

Then she makes her first big blunder: she compares the ACA to the system in Canada as if they were one and the same.

Canada has a single-payer system. The ACA just requires Americans to purchase insurance from private health care companies on an exchange. Apples and oranges, but it’s all the same fruit to this nut. To add insult to injury (and to push her “socialism” claim) she falsely attributes quotes to Lenin and Churchill, which the WSJ was forced to print a retraction for and correct online. Ooops!

The final laughable moment comes when she laments that healthcare will be so unaffordable for seniors that they won’t be able to afford her new Organics line. She ignores the fact that seniors remain covered under Medicare, which IS a single-payer system just like the system in Canada she originally criticized. It’s a lot more “socialized” than anything the ACA will produce.

Three might have been company, but with this kind of loony logic it’s starting to feel like a crowd. Come on Suzanne. Get a grip.

But that’s not the point, really. We know what Suzanne is up to, because it’s what she’s always up to. She’s trying yet again to appear relevant, because she just wants you to know that she has a new line of products called SUZANNE ORGANICS. She’s pulled this trick before (anyone remember the Thighmaster?) And if you use these new products along with her Thighmaster and buy a couple of her books you won’t even need health insurance anyway. This is why her publicist convinced the WSJ to give her a silly platform. It’s not about selling healthcare or insurance. It’s about selling her products, which in all their permutations always boil down for Ms Somers to some version of “ME…ME….and more ME.”

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To read a great Daily Kos story about Suzanne’s expert opinion on “Obamacare” click here http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/10/29/1251558/-The-stupid-It-gets-even-stupider?detail=email

To send a note to GOING ORGANIC magazine and ask them why they don’t print on recycled paper and prefer to go all glossy or ask them why they are willing to shill for a nutcase like Suzanne contact publisher Estelle Foster at Estelle@GoingOrganicMagazine.com or editor David Stern at David@GoingOrganicMagazine.com

To watch husband Alan Hamel in a 1981 Alpha Beta commercial click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsP4nGGQ7Ww

Would-Works Helps Make Artisans Out of Folks Who Need A Second Chance

An old friend of mine once reminded me that even though we like to set our sights on affecting the whole world for the causes we believe in, the best way to do that is to work within our own sphere of influence, the places and relationships close to home where we can truly make a difference.
A young visionary at 26, Connor Johnson wanted to find a way to offer work opportunities to the people he met on L.A.’s infamous skid row, where he spent a year working as part of AmeriCorps. He kept meeting people, homeless and impoverished, who said they actually WOULD WORK if someone just gave them a chance.
And so he did., founding Would-Works, a social enterprise that employs and trains artisans to create hand-finished cutting boards that are being sold at various boutiques across Los Angeles and online. The artisans earn $10 per hour of work that is banked and held with the purpose of helping the artisan achieve some predetermined goal, such as a first month’s rent or a pair of new eyeglasses. One the goal is reached, Would-Works cuts a check.
In a nod toward the dignity of each human being who works to finish a cutting board, artisans are honored with a tag on each board that they helped create, along with a note about the goal they worked to achieve.
Would-Works boards are available at the socially conscious online shopping platform Roozt.com as well as directly from the Would-Works website.

For more information or to buy a board got to http://www.would-works.com

200 WORMS & NEWSPAPER AND FOOD SCRAPS — and — SPEAKING OF JACK-O’-LATERNS…

This was a great weekend, and I’m a couple hundred worms richer.

Some of you may know that a wonderful purveyor of hardware and desert appropriate plants exists on the south side of Highway 62 just inside the Morongo Valley.

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The place is CACTUS MART, home of the famous “Dig your own cactus for just 59 cents” (I still think they should do some subliminal marketing and raise that to 69 cents. Talk to any marketing expert. It would be bound to increase sales).  Not only do they offer the most amazing plants and hardware, they’ve got a nice collection of art from local artists, as well as books with loads of information on desert gardening, the local area, and sustainability.

Yesterday they hosted a workshop given by Kathy, a master gardener from the Morongo Valley. For an affordable $5 she spent two hours with us (about 15 attendees) to talk about composting with worms, otherwise known as vermiculture. For another $20, we could walk away with our own worm bin and about 200 worms! Sign me up!

So now I’ve got a worm colony who will work hard and fast to help turn kitchen scraps, paper, and plant material (think dead flowers from the garden, or from the vase you keep on your kitchen table, or that potted plant that just “didn’t make it”) into rich, organic and aromatic soil. And these aren’t your normal earthworms that come to the surface of your lawn during a heavy rain. These are select RED WRIGGLER WORMS, hard workers of the composting elite.

You can view a video from GardenGirlTV.com that explains what a worm bin is and how to assemble one. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?list=TLyf823QHbjVsLSZ7cii9Nhv5U098ND7BX&feature=player_detailpage&v=JjjuYNilM60

For now, here’s a picture of what a worm bin looks like and a simple chart that explains the concept:

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No matter where you live, you too can have a worm bin. Kathy told us about one woman who kept one at work under her desk. She would put the scraps of her lunches inside to “feed” the worms.

“Keep it under your desk?” you say. Absolutely. Or in a closet, or laundry room, or garage, or outside under the eaves. The point is the worm bin done right doesn’t smell bad. It doesn’t really smell at all. Genius.

And since it is Halloween season, did I tell you that worms love pumpkins? Apparently they do. Kathy insists. So the first of November is a perfect time to pitch those fading Jack-o’-lanterns into your nearest compost pit or cut it up into pieces and deliver it in style to some worms in a bin. That’s All Saints Day. Be a saint and don’t just pitch your used pumpkin into the trash.

For more information on Cactus Mart, visit their website here: http://cactusmart.net/

For more information on the California State Master Gardener’s program (which I’m seriously considering because even though it’s headquartered at U.C. Davis they have courses throughout California) visit: http://camastergardeners.ucdavis.edu/

For more information on vermiculture and worm bin composting try these great links:

PUTTING WORMS TO WORK AND KEEPING THEM HAPPY at http://www.ucanr.org/sites/scmg/files/29954.pdf

INTRODUCTION TO WORM FARMING at http://www.working-worms.com/

VERMICOMPOSTING WITH RED WRIGGLER WORMS (these are the types of worms that I’m using in my bin): http://www.worm-farming.org/vermiculture/vermiculture-composting/

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AND SPEAKING OF JACK-O’-LANTERNS…

I love my mom for the surprises she often has for me. When I saw her for my October 15th birthday she brought me an unexpected gift. The plastic Jack-o’-lantern that I always trick-or-treated with as a child. This thing is 40 years old and still bright orange, tho’ as you can see, his black mouth has flaked off a bit. She even wrote my name on it to distinguish it from the one my brother Ted used. I bet she’s still got that one too.

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Mom was about re-using way back then and instilled those values in me. Why have a new plastic pumpkin every year, or a plastic bag to collect your candy? Just get ONE plastic Jack-o’-Lantern and hold on to it through life. It’s not going to go away in a landfill – better have it “not go away” and get some repeated use out of it. 

After I grew up Mom used it regularly as decoration every October 31st. Now I’ll be using it in the same way too. This is a great use of quality plastic — the kind that holds up over decades and can be passed down.

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Thank you mom, for the values you taught and still perpetuate today. You really touched my heart with this unexpected gift.

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Finally, what did I find USED but in good condition at a local thrift store? A DVD of SLEEPY HOLLOW, the 1999 film starring two of Hollywood’s most talented actors when it comes to playing creepy: JOHNNY DEPP and CRISTINA RICCI. It’s the perfect thing to be watching this week, and the couple of dollars I spent on it went to a non-profit organization that is helping others in my community. I’m sure I could have found a NEW copy at WALMART in one of those “$5 DVD BINS” but what’s the point? I like directing my money locally AND saving it whenever I can. A DVD for a couple of bucks is a good find. And it will last as long as my childhood Jack-o’-Lantern. So now I’ve got a new Halloween tradition – the annual “screening” of SLEEPY HOLLOW at my place. Creepy!

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PROVOCATIVE WORDS FROM POPE FRANCIS and THE LOSS OF A LIVING SAINT: Sister Antonia Brenner 1926-2013

PROVOCATIVE WORDS FROM POPE FRANCIS

I’m not a Catholic, but I admire the new Pope and the missions and ministries of many Catholics the world round. I am a practicing Episcopalian (as I like to tell people, I’m not that serious, I’m just practicing). But I am serious about my commitment to issues of social justice and my activism is informed by my desire to follow in Christ’s footsteps, My fight (and I am a fighter)  is always strengthened by my faith. I’m not a literalist and I don’t lose myself in ideology or dogma. I’m more interested in the mystery than I am in search of certainty. I believe you have a right to a God of your own understanding.  And I’m not alone.  Sometimes it’s easy to forget the progressive wing of the Christian faith, the ways in which abolition and civil rights and gay rights and women’s rights have been fought for and won by those acting on Christian conscience. And those are the headline grabbers. But each and every day in a much quieter way random acts of kindness, love, caring, and compassion are put forth into the world by people acting out their faith.

For every Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian who runs with the Tea Party crowd, there are progressive Christians who are feeding the hungry and clothing the needy and even fighting for the hungry and needy to earn living wages that restore their dignity and allow them to be self-supporting. For every Al Qaeda suicide bomber, there are Muslims practicing their faith in ways that further justice and peace. For every Conservative Jew who thinks Palestinians should be taken out back and shot, there are enlightened Jews who recognize the humanity of everyone and the insanity of an apartheid-like state in Israel.  For every Buddhist burning down the houses of non-Buddhists in Myanmar, there are those seeking mindfulness and serenity and pursuing non-violence.

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Because my cultural and family tradition is the practice of the Christian faith,  I pay especially close attention when someone like the new Pope makes a provocative a statement like the one he recently did about ideology and ideologues:

“…when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements.”

Way to go, Pope Francis. You’re fast becoming one of my heroes. 

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THE LOSS OF A LIVING SAINT: Sister Antonia Brenner 1926-2013

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While the Pope is in Rome, some heroes are much closer to home. Just south of the San Diego border lived another unsung “Mother Theresa,” Sister Antonia Brenner who died recently at age 86. She was particularly extraordinary because in the middle of her life she decided to give herself a second chance and turned everything she knew upside down. I imagine many thought she had lost her mind, but she knew better. And so she changed her life and in turn changed the lives of so many others.

Sister Antonia Brenner began life as Mary Clarke in Beverly Hills where the success of her Irish immigrant father’s office supply business afforded her family the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Growing up, Cary Grant was just one of her well known neighbors. She was destined to become a “Real” housewife of Beverly Hills.

 And so she did. She married and raised seven children, four daughters and three sons. But not everything worked out as planned. Sadly, her first marriage ended in divorce, as did a second. At mid-life, her children now grown and searching for something more, she was moved to make a change.

 In 1977 her choice was clear. She gave away all her expensive belongings, took holy vows and moved to Tijuana, Mexico to take up residence inside a penitentiary that she knew of previously through outreach and volunteer work. As Sister Antonia Brenner she lived just as the inmates in the penitentiary did, in a 10 by 10 foot cell. She lived and worked freely among the inmates who looked upon her as an angel in the flesh and referred to her affectionately as “Mama”. She was deeply respected and loved both inside and outside the prison walls.

She would tell new inmates “Don’t be afraid. Christ was a prisoner just like you. He knows what it’s like to be arrested and interrogated and sent away. He knows what it’s like to be hated and mocked and humiliated. He hasn’t abandoned you. In all of the Scripture, he doesn’t speak a word against you,” (quote from http://www.thecatholiccatalogue.com)

In the 1990’s she founded her own religious order to continue and expand her work, the Eudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour. http://www.eudistservants.org

 She often returned to Southern California to raise money for her work and to visit her family which had grown to include more than 45 grand and great-grandchildren. But she always returned to the prison where she lived and ministered for 30 years.

 Speaking of Sister Brenner, Father Joe Carroll, who once ran the St. Vincent de Paul Village in San Diego and knew her well, said:

 “Rhyme, reason – you can’t rationalize why she did it. She [had] that one-on-one relationship with God.”

Sister Antonia Brenner 1926 – 2013.

 May she rest in peace.

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To read the Los Angeles Times Obituary of Sister Antonia Brenner, click here http://www.latimes.com/search/dispatcher.front?Query=Sister+Antonia+Brenner&target=adv_all

To read the New York Times obituary of Sister Antonia Brenner click here http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/10/21/us/antonia-brenner-prison-angel-who-took-inmates-under-her-wings-dies-at-86.html?rct=j&q=sister%20antonia%20brenner&source=web&cd=9&ved=0CFYQFjAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2013%2F10%2F21%2Fus%2Fantonia-brenner-prison-angel-who-took-inmates-under-her-wings-dies-at-86.html&ei=62FlUpN7s-XIAYaSgPgB&usg=AFQjCNFNDnqaFl_VV5kCFB4-1kFhi9tsBA&sig2=KTwSZwPnc0SNyt5Fiw-z9A&bvm=bv.54934254,d.aWc&=

To learn more about the Eudist Saints of the Eleventh Hour, or to make a donation click here http://www.eudistservants.org

 

OBAMACARE, SATAN, HITLER MOUSTACHES and the “WHITE SUPREMACIST ISN’T DOING HIS JOB” HAIRCUT

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It’s been pretty frightening lately.

It would make sense that I’d be scared, being in a fight against cancer and all.

But what’s more frightening is the insanity surrounding the current U.S. President and his healthcare reform program that was passed into law.

For one thing, I am alive right now due to an early pilot rollout of the Affordable Care Act in my county. I’m an example of someone whose life was SAVED by what they call OBAMACARE.

For another thing, people I actually like shock me when they get on the subject of President Obama and/or the ACA.

I thought I’d found a great barber in town, a nice man who was still operating the same shop after 25 years. But on my third visit, while reading a Los Angeles Times newspaper article on the ACA with an accompanying photo of President Obama, I caught my barber looking over my shoulder. Seeing the image of Obama, he stiffened.

“You know, yesterday I had one of those skinheads in here to get his head shaved,” he said, and then went on to describe a tattoo on the back of this man’s head that is consistent with the white Supremacist movement.

My barber continued. “I told this guy, ‘Hey you’re not doing your job.’ And he asked me what I was talking about. I said ‘Obama’s still in office.’ We both laughed.”

I didn’t.

And now I don’t get my hair cut there anymore.

Then there has been all this nonsense and government shutdown over the “we must stop Obamacare at any cost” agenda of those on the right. Notice I didn’t say extreme right, because they aren’t on the extreme right. They should be on psychiatric lockdown at the nearest hospital, but instead they are right in the creamy center of the GOP.

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And then there’s Satan. Yes, recently Justice Antonin Scalia reminded us of the personhood of Satan and his wiliness. And so many of these anti-Obama crazies are convinced that our President is the anti-Christ and signing up for Healthcare under the ACA is secretly joining the Satan Fan Club. It’s all linked together in an apocalyptic conspiracy to destroy the world. But according to Representative Michelle Bachmann who sits in the House of our glorious United States, that is actually a good thing. Because it means Jesus is coming back super fast. “Maranatha!” she said in a recent interview, which is kind of like saying “Cool dude,” in Evangelical Christianese.

Yesterday, while driving home along Highway 62 I passed a group of protesters with posters of President Obama with Hitler moustaches painted on them. It’s usually such a scenic drive. This view just made me want to puke.

But worst of all, just now while writing this post in the local Carrows I had to move to another table in the restaurant because the old couple next to me who are obviously on Medicare would not stop talking about the horrors of Obama and his ObamaCARE at the top of their lungs.

I interrupted the couple and  said to them politely but firmly, “Excuse me, but you’re offending me with all your loud talk about Obamacare.  And you don’t really know what you’re talking about because I got cancer in February and got insurance through an early rollout of ‘Obamacare’ and wouldn’t be alive now if it weren’t for that. And I was here before you, quietly enjoying my meal, but you came in and sat down and now you’re talking so loudly and offensively that I’m going to have to move to another table right  in the middle of my dinner.” I started to pack up my laptop and pile my silverware onto my plate.

“You don’t need Obamacare,” The old man’s wife told me. “There are things like cancer societies and charities that you could have gotten help from. You didn’t need that.”

I shook my head.

“My cancer treatment has already cost over 500,000 dollars and you don’t know what you’re talking about. There was no cancer society rushing to give me insurance. And aren’t you on Medicare, maam?  Isn’t that a government healthcare program?”

That’s when the old man told me that “I’d better move” or he was going to “make” me move with some kind of violent assistance.

And that’s when I really lost my temper. Because I don’t have to take that. And I’m not going to.

“You need to shut the fuck up,” I told him, “Because before you were offending me but now you’re threatening me, and if you want to do that then I’m going to call the police and we’ll see how this all ends up.” His eyes widened, but he didn’t stand up or make any other movement because he could see I was damn serious.

That’s when my waitress intervened and stood in support of me. And then  the old man’s wife wisely reached her hand across the table and grabbed hold of his arm and told him to keep quiet.

Like all  bullies he finally backed down. And indeed he should have.

I have no doubt that tomorrow they’ll still be bitching to each other about the crazy faggot who went off on them in Carrows while they are standing in line to pick up their Medicare Part D prescriptions at Walgreen’s. All paid for by the government financed single-payer system for those over 65. I-N-S-A-N-I-T-Y.

My mom is going to cringe when she reads this, knowing I said the ‘F’ word to some senior in Carrow’s — but mom, he threatened me and I needed to let him know I was serious. He deserved it.

They used to send ambulances with trained medical personnel to put people like this in straitjackets and take them to the hospital to protect the rest of us from their dangerous delusions. And they’d provide them with medication and compassionate care. Not anymore.

Now they just let the nutcases roam free and hold office. They’re also running barber shops and cutting our hair, waving signs and shouting at us from the roadside as we drive by in our cars, sitting next to us in restaurants talking at the top of their lungs and saying the most offensive things with no concern for anyone else around them. Beaming out at us on television making arguments with no legitimate facts or figures behind them. Frightening half the populace with talk of the devil and death and evil and ruin and the apocalypse all wrapped up in a little brown secretly muslim tootsie role named Barack Obama.

What crazy world are we now living in? What the heck is wrong with these people? And why do we have to put up with them at every turn? It’s wearing me out.

In a final SHOUTOUT from LOONEYTOWN, two-time Republican Tea Party Candidate for Idaho’s state House Gregg Collett hates Obamacare and doesn’t think “…the government should be involved in health care or health insurance,” even though his TEN kids are all on Medicaid.  (you can read more about Mr. Collett at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/10/18/1248637/-Idaho-tea-party-candidate-wants-government-out-of-health-care-has-10-kids-on-Medicaid?detail=email

My final thoughts are summed up in the cartoon below. The only way to get through this is to not lose your sense of humor. But even though I’m laughing, I’m scared. People really are getting frightening.

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44 YEARS OLD TODAY and SO FLIES THE COOP (from a guy named Michael’s place over to mine)

It’s nice to have a birthday, especially when I’ve gotten such an interesting birthday present from a complete stranger. While browsing the “FREE” section on CRAIGSLIST (something I do on a regular basis to search out finds for SCH) I came across the interesting photo below:

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A fellow named Michael had built this structure out of pallets, and he and his wife Hilda were using it to protect their vegetable garden. You see, out here in the Morongo Basin, if you’ve got a garden, all the local squirrels, jackrabbits, mice, rats, birds, etc. think it’s a nightly buffet. So you have to protect your investment. Michael built this structure with panels that went one foot down in the ground all the way around and covered all the rest of the open space with chicken wire so that no animal could get in and spoil the garden fun.

They’ve had a good run or it, but Michael and his wife are moving on,  so they were looking to give this lovely structure to anyone who was crazy enough to come over and disassemble it. To give it to someone completely free of charge.

“Hey! Over here! I’m JUST crazy enough to give it a shot! Pick me! Pick me!”

They did.

I really like that word FREE. And taking something that had been given a second chance (wooden pallets) and made into a garden structure — and then taking that garden structure and giving it a SECOND CHANCE over at my place as two new structures (more below) — well, that’s what my whole Second Chance Homestead philosophy is about. It’s about as close to birthday nirvana as you can get!

So I talked my friend John into helping me take this thing apart.

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My friend John V. stands ready to mount the demolition.

It’s a good thing I’ve still got my pickup truck. Because it allowed me to move all the pieces from Michael and Hilda’s place over to my very own plot of Second Chance Homestead land.

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 The pieces of the puzzle stacked not so neatly in the northwest corner of my backyard. (above and below)

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SO WHAT AM I GOING TO BUILD?

Two things actually.

A chicken coop. And a greenhouse for growing things in a protected environment just like Michael and Hilda did.

Of course the “greenhouse” will actually be an orange house because that’s the color they decided to paint all of this wood, and since they gave me two free gallons of leftover orange paint I think both the coop and the “greenhouse” will stay orange.

I’m finally getting my energy back and can’t wait to get busy building. Hammer and nails here I come.  I’m 44 years old and I and these blood orange walls are not going anywhere but up…UP…UP!

THE WORST PART IS OVER, OR IS IT? (this is a cancer update — but read on, the news is good…)

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So this is me, in a photograph taken yesterday by my brother as we were both celebrating our birthdays to come in Oak Glen, California. I turn 44 years old tomorrow. My brother turns 41 on the 22nd. I don’t look like a guy who has spent the past year fighting cancer, do I? 

On September 10th they biopsied several areas where I had cancer. The pathology results came back negative for cancer, meaning that I don’t have it in those places anymore. Further tests to explore me inside and out also confirmed that there is no apparent cancer present at this time. Five chemotherapy treatments and things seem to have been cleared up for now.

So in that sense, the worst part is over. But it isn’t either. Because I still have to do “follow up” chemotherapy to try and make sure the cancer doesn’t come back. I did my first “follow-up” a week ago, and I have to do two more doses, the first week of November and the first week of December. I don’t like chemotherapy, and I’ve had a real easy time of it. I’ve kept my weight on (I’m a healthy 164 now and never dropped below 158 during this whole process). I haven’t lost any hair in obvious places but did lose a small amount on my legs that no one but an obsessive me would notice. I still think that I lost some of my lower eyelid eyelashes but I never counted them so I can’t be sure. And the top ones seem to be all there. But did I mention that I don’t like chemotherapy even though I’ve had an easy time of it? It just tires me out. Really tires me out. For days that drag on into a week and then two. But then I feel good again with lots of normal “Tim” energy that I try not to spend  dreading the fact that I know I’m going to have to go down chemotherapy road again. As Charlie Brown says, “Uggghh…”

But who’s complaining. It’s kept me alive. I gotta keep going. And I’ll have energy for Thanksgiving and Christmas and maybe 2014 will be cancer AND chemotherapy free.

Thanks for the prayers, well wishes, love, support, listening, encouraging. I swear that medicine worked more than the chemicals they pump into me at the Cancer Center. But I need the chemicals too. So here’s to two more treatments, and the beautiful fact that I’m alive to celebrate another birthday. What a joy it is to be alive. What a joy it was to celebrate that fact with my family yesterday in a beautiful place where they grow apples and pumpkins and sell fresh pressed cider and candied apples and apple and pumpkin pies.

Oh. And I almost forgot. My mom and dad gave me the best birthday present. The piano that I grew up with and learned to play on. They gave it to me!  It’s being delivered to my place so that I can play it again every day as I did when I was a child and young man.  I owned another piano in Los Angeles, but sold it when I moved to the Coachella Valley in 2012. I haven’t had anything to play in almost two years. And this isn’t just any old piano. It’s MY old piano. It helped raise me.

Thanks mom and dad for the keys – to life, and the black and white ones. You’re the best and I love you much. Besides being alive, this is the best birthday present ever.