Archive for May, 2011

May 31, 2011

“The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” Robert Louis Stevenson. I swallowed that whole. My father bought me A Child’s Garden of Versus when I was a little girl. He filled my life with books, animals, my own room,  clean sheets,  a right to roam the woods, walk in the rain and climb trees.

Maybe that’s another reason why I didn’t fall in love with the Great Father in the Sky, I had a perfectly good one right here on earth.

My father taught me to love so many things the list would  fill  three hundred pages.

Art? I love Georgia O’Keefe. The Impressionists, all of them. Modigliani and the great tragedy in his life has always made me cry while his portraits fill me with great joy.

Music? I sing along with Verdi. Cry with Puccini. Mozart. Sibelius. Loved the Beetles when it came time for that.

Dance? Wow! Ginger Rogers. Fred Astaire. Learned to love ballet later in life. Actually I taught ballet bar and center exercises in Manila and also at Kaneohe Marine base when the troops deployed for Vietnam. Today Billy Eliot is my newest best friend.

Architecture?  Frank Lloyd Wright. His Waterfall House sends my heart spinning. My youngest kid is an architect in Honolulu.

Drama? Don’t get me started. I was born an actress. Took to the theater like the moon takes to the sky. I love George Bernard Shaw best. Would love to do  Joan but I’m not built for it. She was androgynous, I’m  a little too round. Did  Eliza Dolittle in a musical skit, not the entire thing. Also  Susan B. Anthony. Fell in love with the American feminists,  I identify with Alice Paul.

Okay, I’m just a ninny, a beginner, not too deeply involved in any of these grand human gifts, not a connoisseur, but they are there in my store house and-guess what?-they can never be removed.

I love this planet- it sounds so stupid- but I’ve never found a better way to express it. I love it. If there were a god who created it, I could worship him; but another of my loves is mythology, which my father introduced me to early , so I think, if anybody created it, Gaea did. Trees, flowers, the sky, the sea, the grass, the birds….

Fell in love with the philosophers early. Spinoza. Bertrand Russell. Corliss Lamont. Voltaire.

Where am I going with this? Am I just patting myself on the back because I lived a loving and culturally enriched life?

One of  the curses laid on my head by the god icons on-line was that I live a hundred years and watch everything I love die.

if everything I loved died, everything on the planet-the planet, too- would die and, if that happened, so would  their earthly paradise. The sad part  is so many of them pray for this to happen.

I wish I could share all I love with them.


May 29, 2011

I have a  gift. In the beginning it seems like anything but, but in the end it always turns out to be.

It’s  a fun confession, I think. Please take a moment to scan my columns.

I assume most of you live on Kauai and hope you are avid Garden Island newspaper readers, who,  like me, fell into the discussion group. I’ve been a contributor for just about a year. It was an interesting event in my life, which is- to say the least- lengthy. Eighty years makes me a spry old cookie.

So what has this to do with the gift?  I’ll use an old cliché and then elaborate: when I fall in a bucket of shit, which is often, I always come out smelling like a rose.

In this instance, I fell in a cesspool and had to hold my nose and fight and swim and struggle to survive.

As you might guess, knowing me, it had something to do with religion; which, as a devout non-believer, is a subject that fascinates me but one which I would eat dirt before I’d have anything to do with on a reality level. Coming in with Ed Silvoso was the first bucket. I sailed through that with colors flying making a lot of enemies on the way. That’s the rose part.

One is often judged by the enemies one makes and, the enemies I made on this line show up as  blue ribbons in my tack room,  A’s on  term papers and a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses so large it’d choke my beloved horse, Aristotle.

A few days ago I fell into a cesspool  called the Fellowship Foundation. it happened when I found and read an article called ‘Imperial Jesus: ‘Family’  author  Jeff Sharlet on the secret history of the other Christian right’ by Steve Perry. It was an interview with  journalist and Harper’s editor Jeff Sharlet  who wrote, “The Family: the Secret Fundamentalism at the heart of  American Power.”

What I learned about this powerful christian cult- what it teaches, preaches and peddles-was like watching a cancerous growth devour the face of a beloved child. Horrified, but daring to learn more, I googled Fellowship Foundation and was led to the den of these religious vampires.

Their blog is amazing. Obviously expensive, professionally done, and  cutely benevolent. Sermons with elephants and clips of Young Frankenstein,  they are an insult to human intelligence. Worse, what I’d stumbled upon was a  secretive and  clandestine christian cult  here on Kauai. They make Ed Silvoso look like the Easter Bunny. I shared my knowledge with the discussion group and, although I expected to stir up a storm, found myself at the center of a solar flare of such immense malignancy, cupidity, dishonesty, intolerance and hate I almost went into a tail spin. All of it culminating in a post, by a  poster, threatening to ‘shoot me’ and the ‘exposure’ of a member of this awfulness,  who often sends long and lengthy letter to the Forum.

The Second Part will relate what I’ve learned about the foundation and how you can follow in my foot steps.

May 23, 2011

This can be filed in the ‘how in the hell did I get here’ folder, but interesting, I think, because, surely, we are the living product of our past.

I graduated from Tamalpais Union High School in June 1947, at sixteen, and started to college in the fall as a pre med major. Hated it. I wanted to act,  I wanted to write, but my father wanted me to be a doctor and those were the days when father knew best. The first time someone handed me a frog to chop  there was  mayhem in the class.

But I did love Math, so I took a Freshman class in accelerated Math, four years of High School Math rolled up in one. Don’t think I missed a problem all year and was Dr. Llewellyn’s pet.  I could do no wrong, I was the littlest, the youngest, the only girl, all the rest of the class were young men returning to school on the GI.

Whenever one of those guys would go to the board to solve a problem and couldn’t, Dr. Llewellyn would say, “Well let’s see if little Bettejo can solve it,” and ‘little Bettejo’ would. By the end of the year all those darling young guys hated me. So, in my sophomore year I said, “This is stupid, ” and changed my major. Drinkin’, smokin’ and boys became the order of the day.

At the same time I took Psych 101. Dr. Pencharz. She had the most terrible voice, wore a red wig and  didn’t like me any better than I liked her. The kids in this class were serious students. Big guys, girls and boys, and for some reason or other Pencharz decided to make me the goat. The class, at her direction, would play tricks on me. The entire class would agree on something obviously stupid, and noisily, jointly, nastily attempt  to prove me wrong in my correct observation. I never caved. I stood my ground and faced that bunch.

I did not get good grades in this class – I’d almost always been an A student- so at the end of the year when Pencharz assigned  a term paper that would be valued at a third of our grade average, I reveled.  Pencharz knew herself well enough to know that if she didn’t like you she couldn’t grade you fairly so we numbered, instead of signed, our papers.

When the papers were returned, mine didn’t. I went to the desk and said, “Dr. Pencharz, I didn’t get my paper back.” “Did you do one?” she croaked.  I nodded.  “What was your number?” I told her.

With that she reached into a lower drawer and pulled from a crisp manila folder what was probably the only A+ paper she’d ever given anyone in her entire life. “Who did it for you?” She said and snatched the paper from the folder and handed me a crumpled mess.

Do you think this might explain my actions on-line?

All Americans, not just women, are facing a force they had better learn is real and fierce and dedicated. Powerful and rich. They’ll stop at nothing. They’ll stoop lower than a sunken hulk in the deepest sea; but, trust me, we’ll defeat them. The truth will out, it always does. Stand your ground and face the bullies.

May 21, 2011

I’m exhausted. it’s been a long day.

The house looked beautiful. So many of you sent stuff. Flowers, vans full. Crackers and cheese. So much Mozzarella I’m feeding it to the kids.  Wine glasses sparkled, called in a caterer. The bar was set up serve it yourself style but Bacchus offered to bartend.

Hestia and I are sitting here by the fire,  she just loves the Tuscan Firepit I bought for the occasion. She arrived early to help  and has asked if she could stay awhile.

All my guests showed up in modern-day attire. Some casual. Some quite formal. The women look simply gorgeous in French and Italian designer gowns but when Pele and the Hawaiian entourage showed up in the skinny you can believe the gowns got pitched.  Venus was absolutely stunning and when she loaned her magic girdle to my beautiful cousin, Bobby, Zeus did his swan trick and made a pass. They looked really cute together and we waved goodbye as they wandered off.

Pan was rather shy but we could hear him piping.

“You’re all so human…,” I sighed and took another sip of wine.

“…and you’re all so god like,” Hestia giggled. “Just took you awhile to catch on.”

The religious contingencies tended to arrive in bunches but once settled in-munching, drinking, introducing themselves and mingling-the party took off. Fifteen minutes before  count down a neighbor showed up with a large flat-bed truck and those of us who choose to take the trumpet ride clambered aboard. She had a boom box, I had the stop watch. I sat in the back with the trumpeters and voyeurs. Wasn’t surprised to see Hermes and Loki and Eros there. When the  stop watch went off and the trumpets blared, an ear blistering crescendo, the asses started flapping and the three mischief makers got busy with their bows.

“Got one ,” Eros giggled.

“Hope it doesn’t  fall out of the sky,” Loki said.

“it’d take a Roman catapult to knock that thing down.” Hermes answered.

“Should’ve happened  years ago,” I sniffed.

“Wouldn’t matter,” my male companion commented. “These guys didn’t breed for beauty. They just breed. Like rabbits.”

“You’re insulting rabbits. Rabbits have darling bottoms.”

“Well there’s sure a flock of’em,” I said, taking another swig of irish. “Hope we got’em all.”

“Make another pass. Just in case.”

On the way home we played some different tunes and when we got back the guest of honor had already arrived. He looked really dapper. Good looking guy. He smiled his way through the crowd and made for the bar. “They called me a wineo. Might’s well be hanged for a wolf as a sheep.”

When he met up with Caesar Augustus a lively conversation followed. “They made me a god, too. Hated to think of some guy praying that I  heal his gout,” Augustus said.

By the fire, I sighed. “We’re gonna find a lot of bodies under the tables tomorrow.”

“Great party. We’ll make coffee, good stuff, and send’em home…”

“…then the real clean up begins…”

She slept in the water-bed. I slept in the loft.

Jesus and Augustus were still deep in mutual commiseration.

May 13, 2011

The night  of my daughter’s  going away  party, I had a vivid dream. My mother drifted through the scape in an attire you never hear about anymore. It was called a house coat and it was elegant. Floor length hemline, long sleeves, a zippered opening down the front so it was easy to get in and out of. Quite handy if you were naked when a neighbor came over to borrow a cup of sugar.

The next morning when I woke, two words- house goat, house goat, house goat- kept popping up in my mind and, like a silly kid’s song, I couldn’t shake them. Ooopsie doopsie, my rational mind went, I’m losing it. House goat, house goat, my mind chattered back…

I went about my chores, got  boots on the right feet, food in the right pot  and rested for a moment with coffee and TGI. I rarely read the classified, but on this morning the page fell open and there, on the first page, was an ad with a picture of four darling little kids, four-legged kind, and a phone number.

House goats, of course!

On impulse -who me?- I ran for the phone, spoke with a sweet-voiced lady, got the address, checked my stash and found two freshly printed Benjamins, the ink was still wet, called my grand-daughter and in a manner of minutes, no make-up, work clothes and boots, set out in a

dilapidated van for the farm. Got lost twice but finally found it. Through the gates we dashed, almost running down a gathering of folks dressed

pretty much like me and a paddock full of bouncers.

Louisa, their darling two-legged mother, selected a neutered billy, a white nanny, showed me how to feed them, fed me a cookie, took my money

and sent me home. I named the little white, who has the pinkest bottom I’ve ever seen, Kim, and the black and white billy, Bill.

Stopped en route to buy a huge bucket of powdered goats’ milk- I’d adopted an unweaned pail-a stainless steel bowl, a whisk to beat the hell out of it , and drove home fresh out of Benjamins, wet or dry, to settle the kids in. They were three weeks old, about twenty pounds with an over-supply of eight-legged energy. Out the windows went their bright eyes watching the road roll by, their bleating young and gay.

I know that one of the most dangerous things to do with any animal is to introduce it into a new environment and these kids had to meet a huge black Rotshep, a big red horse, a macaw, lots of chickens and three cats, but I have a theory that everyone learns to get along, be family, when they smell alike. I busied myself petting the kids, patting the horse, grooming the dog and pulling the parrot’s tail. Before long we all smelled alike. Horse, goat, dog, cat, parrot and human Eau De Perfume. I should bottle it….

to be continued

Ann Druyan and Me
May 12, 2011

In November, 2003, Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan’s widow, wrote a brilliant piece in the Skeptical Inquirer in which she talked about Science, religion, wonder, awe…and Carl Sagan. This incredible woman with her incredible mind has always been a favorite of mine.

You can still find this wonderful piece in your search engine. On the Ann Druyan page, it’s at the top of the list. I promise you it’s well worth the read. it was written after the death of her beloved husband and so touched my heart I wrote a letter to the magazine dedicated to science and reason.

In the next edition of the magazine Volume 28, No.2. March April/2004, I was astounded to find my letter published in their letters to the Editor  section. Last year, about this time, I sent a copy to The Garden island and it was published there and that’s when I discovered the discussion line.  I would like, as a celebration of my first year on this line, to publish it again. It begins…

After reading Ann Druyan’s article (some thoughts):

At a time of terror, turmoil and terminal greed, the thought of a better tomorrow, for most of us, is as fragile as a reed. But man cannot live without hope and therein, perhaps, lies the key to a brighter future. Not hope in the sense that we need it, ut hope in the sense that we have it. It is that which all of us have in common that will, I believe, see us through. It matters not what race we are, what gender, what nationality, what social or economic status, what faith we have or haven’t, but our common sense of humanity that will prevail. Like the reed of hope, we are, on this planet, fragile flowers battered and bruised and tossed about by the wayward wins of fate. None of us know-neither the prince nor pauper, saint or sinner-what the future holds. Illness, accidents, ill-begotten whims of nature or man, beset us all. Our very next breath may be our last and no one knows.

We live with fear. We live with courage. We live with happiness and sorrow, expectation and failure, flaming success and brilliant anonymity. It is the game of life we play, some of us better than others. An infant in a back alley and a prince in a palace have one thing in common, they both took their first breath, and, in the end, it is the same for them, they breathe their last.

I think, from the depths of my human condition, we need love and peace and truth and justice. The winds of war and madness may blow us off course, set us apart and at each other’s throats, but, in the end, the very essence of what we are-goodness and right, decent and caring-will bring us back together. We will be brothers and sisters on this small planet, ready to move on to a better tomorrow.

Humbly, I submit this, once again,  to all the minds I’ve touched this year. I renew my trust and hope the words of my letter come true.

May 5, 2011

I am inspired today to write about horses I have known because of a new friend, SCOTT GOOLD, whose beautiful site I just discovered. It’s a light-hearted day.

My first horse, Finlandia, I think I mentioned her before, was a sixteen-two flea-bitten gray mare perfect for a little girl, sort of. Sixteen-two refers to size, that is she stood 56 inches at the withers, where the neck and head come up, and I was about 36 inches top to toe. Mounting her was an athletic feat.

A flea-bitten gray is a horse of a different color, white with about a zillion little black flea- bite size spots. Landi was soft and fluffy and had a thick long tail and mane, a very high bear to groom. Big, raw-boned cold-blooded,  everybody who knew her loved her. She was my baby sitter, teacher, best friend and partner in crime. I’d climb aboard early in the morning after my parents left for work and disappear into the woods.

My father bought me this very tall horse because he was afraid I would fall off a bicycle.

He also sent me to Mills College Riding Academy, the best school of equitation on the West Coast. My first teacher was General Cress, the tiger of Luzon, a total pussy cat. He said I was a ‘natural’, but the truth was none of the school horses at Mills were big as Finlandia, therefore being closer to the ground gave me great confidence. The General’s daughter, Cornelia Van Ness Cress, was a holy terror but she liked me and was one of the best teachers I ever had.  We often rode together through the campus, just the two of us, on chilly mysterious misty foggy Bay Area days. Miss Cress would usually let me ride Indian, a delightful little bay, her dressage horse, who loved me as much as I loved him. On his back, in any horse show, I always  took the blue.

Landi and I rode for pleasure through the East Bay hills. I was going through a stage when I hated school-an awful ugly city school full of awful ugly city kids-and  often skipped. On Landi, no truant officer of any rank or dimension ever ran us down.

My best horsey friends lived in the neighborhood too  and we often rode together. The hills behind Oakland were lush woodsy hangouts for hoot owls, rattlesnakes and a bunch of  little girls playing hooky.

As long as I’ve had horses I’ve lived with them. We always kept them at home, not in a public or private stable, so, to me growing up, they were just big dogs. The American Indians, who had never seen a horse until the Spanish came, actually called them sacred dogs and got the hang of living with, training, riding, fighting and hunting with them very quickly. The Great Plains Indian horse culture  was the best light horse cavalry in the world, so our cavalry officers said- and they should know-they never won a fight against these tribes on field of battle.

Finlandia and I fought no wars and hunted no buffalo but together we were the best damn hooky players in the East Bay.