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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HOW DID I GET THROUGH AN ENTIRE SUMMER WITHOUT AIR CONDITIONING? EASY…

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When I first moved in to my place in February, the cooling of my house wasn’t the first thing on my mind. But as summer approached I got more and more curious: how was I going to get through a very hot summer with no air conditioning?

The answer was easy. My place came with an evaporative cooler mounted on the roof. I was assured I wouldn’t need anything else to ensure a comfortable summer season.

At first the whole thing seemed kind of primitive. For one thing, it only had two switches: ON and OFF (for the system as a whole) and HIGH and LOW (for the fan within the system which circulates air within my house via ducts in each room). There was no way to “set” the desired temperature. There was no timer to let it know when to get my house cool and when to dial it back a bit.

How does this thing work? I wondered.

It just does. And beautifully I might add.

CONSTANT FLOW & PEACE AND QUIET:

When you turn the system on it continuously blows cool air into your home — none of this on/off/on/off stuff that air conditioners go through and which are very inefficient as far as energy conservation is concerned. And the only way I even notice that it’s on is if I feel the temperature change or walk beneath a duct and feel the air blowing down on me. That’s because it’s operation is virtually silent. Another great advantage over a/c.

FRESH & MOIST:

Unlike air conditioning units, which recirculate air within a closed system – cooling and recooling it and drying it out — evaporative coolers circulate constant fresh air from outside while adding moisture to it in the process. Last summer I spent Palm Springs, where air conditioning units run 24/7 and I woke up every morning with dried skin, chapped lips, and a scratchy throat.  None of that happens with my evaporative cooler.

In keeping with the constant flow of air, you can even keep a door or window open while running the evaporative cooler. In fact, it helps to crack a window open an inch or two. That way the fresh air can push out the “old” air. My two cats and my dog Phoenix use a doggy door to go in and out of the house. When I forget to crack open a window and am running the evaporative cooler their doggy door “window” ends up being pushed open with a nice little whistling sound as a result of the air pressure.

Fresh, clean, moist air. What a concept.

ENERGY EFFICIENT & ENVIRONMENT FRIENDLY:

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Evaporative cooling systems use about 70% less energy than an air conditioning unit, and they have negligible C02 emissions. The thing runs on water and electricity. There is no freon in an evaporative cooling system, or any other kind of cooling agent other than H20. 

INEXPENSIVE:

Evaporative coolers are cheaper to buy, install, and run than air conditioners. They also need less maintenance. With a simpler system, maintenance is simplified. One quick annual service (I had mine in April for about $50) is all that is needed. No freon recharges, no air filter cleanings or replacements. And by using 70% less energy you can only guess how cheap my electricity bill was all summer long.

THE ONE BIG DRAWBACK:

Evaporative coolers work best in hot and dry areas. This isn’t the type of cooling system you should get if you live in hot and humid Florida. Luckily the Morongo Basin meets these conditions perfectly, with the exception of a few humid days last month when monsoonal type storm clouds dumped rain on our usually dry desert.

Some people say evaporative coolers just don’t work in humid conditions. I found that this was an exagerration. My cooler worked best in hot and dry conditions, but it still managed to make things a bit cooler inside on even the most humid day. With just a handful of days during which these conditions were present, it just wouldn’t make any sense for me to invest in an air conditioning system. For a few days every year? Who needs that expense? Who needs that headache? What kind of man am I if I can’t sit through a humid day or two once every year.

 

 

 

GO SECOND CHANCE SHOPPING: Some Recent Thrift Store Finds

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 Here at Second Chance Homestead we furnish our home with previously owned items that need a second chance. Shopping “second-hand” is sustainable living at it’s best: Taking home used items saves them from landfills; buying something old instead of something new saves the energy involved in the production of new items; and spending money at thrift stores benefits the local non-profit organizations who run them. It really is one of the best ways to participate in your community. And it saves you money.

But it’s not all environment and economics.

Don’t forget about the THRILL!  It’s like going on a treasure hunt and finding gold. You make your way through shelves and racks and suddenly stumble upon the most amazing find!  For example, I recently came across two handmade Portuguese plates (In the 1990’s I lived in Portugal for a year and a half and have a love for the country and it’s crafts). I was ecstatic! And I didn’t even have to go overseas to get them!

 Here are some recent thrift store finds:

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How Now Brown Cow. This cow is actually a “piggy” bank. $1.50.

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Used baseballs add a nice decorative touch when stacked atop a plate handmade in Portugal. (baseballs 75 cents each; 2 handmade plates 75 cents each. The other one sits under the cow)

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An antique adding machine (with period paper receipt roll). $12.00.

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A retro ceiling light fixture cover in glass and wood. Fits in perfectly with SCH’s “rustic ranch” look. $3.00.

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Morton’s Salt vintage tin. $3.75.

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Handmade ceramic “mini” milk pitcher. $1.50.

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Dancing Plates. Set of four. 75 cents each.

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Metal and Glass “lantern” covers for votive candles. Set of 3. $2.25.

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Vintage Candlestick holders. Glass. Set of two. $1.50.

TOTAL SPENT: Just 33 dollars.

Have a good weekend! I hope you take time to do some “second chance” shopping of your own! 

 

5TH ANNUAL BHAKTI FEST DESCENDS ON JOSHUA TREE – WALLET BEWARE!

ImageDon’t worry. There won’t be any pickpockets reaching into the folds of your sari trying to get at your hard-earned cash, but you might want to think twice about heading for Joshua Tree this weekend. Between the cost of a four-day pass ($325) and the money you’ll spend purchasing the wares of the 100 vendors there selling everything from food and books to jewelry and neti pots — your pocketbook will be saying “Ouch!” just when your spirit says “Om…”

“Yoga’s a very big business now. Everyone’s doing yoga,” executive producer and Bhakti Fest founder Sridhar Silberfein tells the Desert Sun in Saturday’s edition. “We’re expecting at least a couple thousand people, maybe 3,000.”

In addition to yoga and the vendor market, they’ve got meditation, instruction in chanting, hula hoop classes, and workshops by leading philosophers and authors. You can even stay overnight at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center where the event is being held.

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 Shiva Rea Shakti-Rocks the House

And then there’s the music.

When you’re tired of shopping and downward dogging, you can chill out in front of the stage where musicians the likes of former Madonna backup singer Donna De Lory will be performing and elevating the spirit. Donna used to do Gay Pride events. I guess now she’s working the Shakti Circuit.

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Donna De Lory and Madonna strike a pose

Despite my playful criticism, Silberfein puts the weekend into nice perspective with his comments to the Desert Sun:

“You bring your family, spend a couple of days, do yoga, you hangout, eat good [vegetarian] food. I mean what could be bad? There’s no drugs. There’s no alcohol. Where can you go that that exists anymore today?”

He has a point. The last time I was in a public place where there were no drugs and alcohol was when I attended an AA meeting.

But I just can’t see myself at Bhakti Fest. I can’t afford the entrance fee. I haven’t got the right wardrobe. I always feel self-conscious when I bend into a difficult pose.

Still, my sober brother David T. is headed there all four days, and his  friend Alexandra the yoga teacher also plans to show up. How about you?

For more information on Bhakti Fest read the article in the Desert Sun at http://www.mydesert.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013308300013 or go to the Bhakti Fest website at http://www.bhaktifest.com

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Shyamdas and Radhanath Swami (Rise Globa Product Shots) 

NEEDLES AND THE NINETEEN SEVENTIES: GREAT ART and “THAT SMARTS!” ALTERNATIVE HEALING

Yesterday I was in Palm Springs to receive acupuncture. I do it from time to time to restore balance in my body and help recover from chemotherapy. I haven’t experienced anything like it. There’s a pinch at the start (“That smarts!”), followed by 40 minutes of relaxation as needles tend to various energy points in my body. It leaves me feeling renewed and remade. After a session with my acupuncturist Askat, I felt revitalized enough to do some shopping. Feeling revived, I headed over to Revivals, a “thrift” store whose takings benefit the Desert Aids Project.

First the well-being. If you are in the Palm Springs area and need acupuncture, want to explore options in Chinese Herbology, or just lie down for a restorative massage, be sure and check out the Desert Wellness Clinic at http://desertwellnessclinic.com/. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

And next – Revivals. They’ve got everything under the sun, but I was interested specifically in previously owned artwork to adorn the walls of Second Chance Homestead.

I collect artwork that is graphic – mostly posters, prints and lithographs with big, bold type and rich, expressive hues. I always want “text” with my imagery. A recent gem “find” came into my collection for just $10 – a framed poster from a shop in San Francisco circa 1973. 

note: I’m not a professional photographer but I’ve tried my best. Also, my home was pretty dark and I needed to use the flash! I know…I know…

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“Goines Posters: 1968 – 1973,” by David Lance Goines. Designed for a 1973 exhibit in a San Francisco gallery. Reprint featured here (1977) by Portal Publications Ltd. for an exhibit at the Thackrey and Robertson Gallery, also in San Francisco. 20″ by 28″.

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Detail from “Goines Posters: 1968-1973,” by David Lance Goines.

Maybe Revivals had on its shelves some good pieces to go with the Goines poster. After only a few minutes perusing their stock, I found not only companions but two true “soul mates” from the same shining decade.

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“Broadway,” by Hilary Knight for the Triton Gallery, NYC.  1974. Number 3 of 150. 

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Detail of “Broadway,” by Hilary Knight.

I love discovering amazing pieces that were once loved but have fallen onto hard times and found themselves in thrift shop stock. They are like orphans that need to be adopted. And with my recycle/repurpose/renew/re-use Homestead ethos, I LOVE to give a great work a second chance to be displayed and continually admired.

 I also love the fact that I’m able to buy truly amazing and often original artwork at affordable prices, and that the money that leaves my pocket goes to an important cause.

Affordable? How much do you think I spent on “Broadway”? Just five dollars and twenty-five cents, thank you. Money well spent.

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“George Berke,” by Michael P. Smith. 20″ by 27″. 1977. Number 599 of 1000.

The second print,  “George Burke,” depicts a reveler at the 1977 Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans. It cost me all of nine dollars.

Total three pieces: Under $25 (twenty four dollars and twenty five cents to be exact).

 Could I have come away with even one cheaply framed mass-produced unoriginal print from Ikea or Walmart or Target to hang on my wall for that small amount of cash?

Even better – I never have to fear someone walking into my place and saying, “I LOVE that print! I have the same one at home!”

 The God of Second Chances. That’s MY curator. 

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Detail of “George Berke” by Michael P. Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I DON’T YET FEEL LIKE A MILLION BUCKS…BUT I’M GETTING THERE…

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It’s been a long hot summer and quite awhile since I’ve posted to the blog. I’ve been busy putting off plans for the Homestead and tending to my health. It’s the most I’ve been able to do.  In late February/early March I was diagnosed with a rare yet treatable skin cancer. By April it was spreading aggressively across my skin (back, legs, face, scalp, arms, chest – you name it) and had metastasized to my digestive tract. It still remained treatable, but it upped the game (and the price) of my cancer treatment.

To date, I’ve had five chemotherapy treatments with a drug called Doxil. It’s used to treat breast cancer, the particular skin cancer I have, and sometimes ovarian cancer. It’s effective but also expensive. The treatments I’ve been receiving have gone for about $50,000 a pop. Yes, that’s right. There is no “typo” there. In chemotherapy treatments alone I’ve “spent” $250,000 on my health in less than six months. And this doesn’t count consultations with my oncologist, CT scans and other procedures associated with my treatment. But that’s not all. I’ve had lots of doctor and ER visits, rides in ambulances, and a hospital stay. Want to know what all that can cost?  Read on…

Some backstory:

I  didn’t have any insurance when I first got signs that I was sick. To make matters worse, I’d been laid off from my job (a part-time job with no benefits) two months before, so I didn’t have any money.

It was irresponsible, but I waited almost three months to go see a doctor. I felt caught between a rock and a hard place. I had NO money and NO insurance. The thought of walking into any medical facility in the United States seeking diagnosis or treatment was altogether frightening.

Rationalization and denial became my M.O.  I told myself I was stressed, that my body would heal up on it’s own, that I was young and it couldn’t be that serious.If I kept my head in the sand long enough, maybe it would all just go away.

Here’s where Obama and Health Care Reform come in. In 2013 I was lucky enough to qualify for an early roll-out pilot of the Health Care Reform law that was taking place in select California counties. Now that I had insurance I made an appointment to see a doctor. “First available” was in February. That is when I learned I’d be facing the biggest challenge of my life.

The Cost:

I’ve had countless doctors visits, which bill at several hundred dollars each. At each visit I have extensive blood tests that also run into the hundreds of dollars. I’ve had three ambulance rides to hospitals, each of which can go for over $1,000 a pop. I was in the hospital for one week for observation after they gave me my first chemotherapy dose. Cost for care: just under $100,000.

And then there are visits to the E.R. In the past six months I’ve been to the emergency room more times than I care to admit. Add ’em all up, and they’re worth another $100,000.

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That much, you say? Let me give you just one example:

After my fourth chemotherapy treatment I was having really bad stomach pains and had to go to the E.R. twice within 24 hours. Remember, my cancer is in my digestive tract. It does all kinds of crazy things with my stomach, intestines, esophagus. Think vomiting, diarrhea, etc. And sometimes PAIN.

The first time I was there for about 7 hours and had a CT Scan. I was given DILAUDID by injection and allowed to sleep on a bed for six hours. Then I was sent home – told to come back if the pain didn’t subside. When the Dilaudid wore off the pain was the same. I drove back to the E.R. and waited there for 2 hours until they prescribed some additional medication and discharged me.

FIRST VISIT: $13,479.37

SECOND VISIT: $3,067.47

GRAND TOTAL FOR 24-HOUR EPISODE: $16,546.84

The Million Dollar Man:

So, to summarize…I’m not quite at a million dollars, but they’ve spent more than half a million in six months just to keep me alive.

Something about that just doesn’t seem right…Should it really cost this much? A bag of medicine that drips into your arm at $50,000 a pop? An Emergency Room visit that lasts less than 12 hours and costs over $13,000? Hospital stays that cost more than I will ever make in a year?

I used to think that the key to reforming our healthcare system would be the extension of health insurance so that every American is covered. I don’t believe that is enough anymore. The cost for healthcare in this country, driven up by the for-profit nature of the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, is unsustainable. The whole system is sick. Much more sick than I am.

Feeling Like Patty Hearst:

Someone’s getting rich. Someone or some corporation is getting filthy rich.  And government’s getting stuck with the tab. I feel like I’ve been held captive by an out of control healthcare system that has used my unfortunate situation to milk the system for all it’s worth. Like I was kidnapped, kept in a closet, brainwashed and then forced to help some freaks rob a bank.

Do I really want to be a part of this? Do I have any choice?

But I’m getting better. I guess I shouldn’t complain.

Note: All the external cancer sites are now gone as a result of treatment. In a few weeks I will have procedures to determine the progress of treatment within my digestive tract. A recent test shows that the cancer has not spread elsewhere in my body. I may require additional chemotherapy treatments, but I am hoping to be in complete remission by the end of the year.

 

BLUEBERRY’D (blue buried?) TREASURE…

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So I was digging in the yard and found these two beautiful blue berry colored tiles. It is amazing what you can find in the desert dirt. It’s not a wasteland. It’s a treasure chest.

I take pleasure in small things and unexpected finds. These two work perfectly as coasters to protect the antique suitcase I use as a nightstand next to my bed.

Reminds me of the plot of my favorite Swedish children’s film from the 1970’s. No, it’s not one of the Pippi Longstocking yarns. It’s DUNDERKLUMPEN!, a mixed animation/live action (think Roger Rabbit) written by and starring Beppe Wolgers. He’s the guy who played Pippi Longstocking’s father, so there is a connection. I guess the world of children’s film in Sweden circa 1974 was small after all.

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Beppe’s son Jens has a treasure chest which gets stolen by a lonely old man named Dunderklumpen. He also steals some of Jens toys which come to life and call out to their pal to rescue them. So Jens and his father begin the chase. Dunderklumpen hightails it out of the woods and all over Southern Sweden, never having time to stop and open the treasure chest which he is convinced must be full of money.

[SPOILER ALERT : I REVEAL THE ENDING BELOW]

When at last the chest is opened, those looking on find only the treasures of a child: a feather, a dandelion, and a rock. Those are the kinds of things I’d like to keep in my treasure chest. And those are the kinds of treasures (and simple pleasures) I like to find. 

You can catch the trailer for the film at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzdSLN-Dmrk