ARCHIVE: Los Angeles
To Arms, Liberals!

Gym memberships are out, the latest to-die-for accessory is a militia membership. It is time for the Westside liberals to man (and woman) up.

According to news reports, Oklahoma is considering raising a state militia. Sean Murphy and Tim Talley spoke with Oklahoma’s Tea Party leaders and conservative lawmakers who consider a state militia a pretty good idea.

Frustrated by recent political setbacks, tea party leaders and some conservative members of the Oklahoma Legislature say they would like to create a new volunteer militia to help defend against what they believe are improper federal infringements on state sovereignty.

Tea party movement leaders say they’ve discussed the idea with several supportive lawmakers and hope to get legislation next year to recognize a new volunteer force. They say the unit would not resemble militia groups that have been raided for allegedly plotting attacks on law enforcement officers.

Following on the heels of the report of Oklahoma conservatives’ desire for a militia, Newt Gingrich anointed the Tea Party organization as the militant wing of the Republican Party. A statement he is redefining this week.

Newt Gingrich makes no apology for referring to the tea party’s future as a “militant wing of the Republican Party” during a speaking engagement in York, Pa., last week.

If the right is going to arm themselves, the liberal left should consider a militia strategy. So, if joining a militia is the 2010 equivalent to a gym membership in the 1990s, this straight grandmother is looking to the boys and girls in the Weho hood, West Hollywood. Gays spearheaded the join-the-gym movement; hopefully they will be ahead of the curve on militias.

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Ode to the Faithful…

Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to me. I spent my most recent 48th birthday last week with two treasured friends, Jon and Page. Our friendship has included many birthday celebration lunches. We have spent them in a string of restaurants that stretch from Sardi’s in Manhattan to where we met last week, Soleil Restaurant on Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles. We dined on tuna role and salad among Spanish archways and a galaxy hand-painted across yellow stucco walls.

We were more than 3,000 miles away from the old Kenilworth Cafe in Charlotte, where we held our first birthday celebrations. It was there, in 1982 or so, when we selected the name of our advertising agency, Haley, Garland & Lahr, which was a reference to the “Wizard of Oz” movie poster that hung over our booth. Another celebration.

The Kenilworth Cafe, like my youth and several last names, has passed into memory and recall. They have been taken to a place, a zone that cannot be measured by mere mileage. Friends such as Jon and Page are life markers of who we once were and who we still are and, still, when I dare to dream. They believe.

Unlike deciduous trees that blossom, but sleep through the hard winters, and the fading glory of youth, friends such as Jon and Page have been buoys along my journeys. Long ago, they discarded my semi-permanent last names and kept me. I hold them sheltered in my National Trust, in my mind’s eye, I hold you, here, in my Fort Knox of Friendships. Here, I hold you sacred in the attics of my mind. You are the courage and fortitude of my life, the mettle of my life. You are a weather-vane.

Birthdays pile upon each other like laundry to be sorted by categories. Those moments only known to me are visions that arrive on glimpses of a red-bird’s tail, a hand, a hand on mine, and linger like a river mist at sunrise. Some memories are best left forgotten, or misplaced.

But as the days of my life sweep by, as the days pile upon each other, I sort them by those who are to be delicately hand-washed, cold water wash, machine wash, and regular dry cleaners.

How do you say, “Thank you,” to friends for all the small acts of kindness that make me whole. There are others who restored the gratitude of my spirit. With the help of friends to catch my balance, I could see further.

When a friend turns to her family and says, “She knew me before I was a bitch,” I understand. These friends bore witness to youth and a time before life messed with you. You measure your age by the age of old friends. They stand as proof that I was once young. Their life journey measures your own and like family roots, run to the depths of my soul in my personal galaxy.

Some stand silently, others diminish and some slam across my sky like meteors, north stars and Southern Cross in my Pleiades where only I reside.
Page on my left and Jon on my right, Page’s hair is still sliver, but I see only my friend. I know this warm smile and green eyes, being around Page is like pulling a comforter over your shoulders on a cold winter’s morning. I know he was wearing a striped shirt with a button down collar with either four-pocket Bermuda shorts or kakis.

Jon wears dark colors; He has a sliding scale from light gray to black shirts in his closet, but he most often wears stylish black shirts. Jon has dimples and a crooked smile, he still twists his thumb while thinking. I know these things. He keeps my secrets, safe, and makes me laugh. As usual he is running against deadlines. Both have helped me locate my car keys, pocket book, and seeing-eye glasses, but who is counting? Jon and Page have stood resolute when hounded by others who were prone to question my sanity.

They have been my friends for so long and we all have moved about from coast to coast. There were many opportunities to misplace addresses and you both grew away from core friend contacts. We are here and we are together for another year, and I will cherish and hold safe our friendship for another year. That is the secret to aging…celebrating birthdays.

Coming to Los Angeles

At the age of sixty-three, I had survived two depressions, addiction, a strange suicide attempt involving Ambien, three divorces, the loss of loved ones, and thirteen years of celibacy.

At the age of sixty-three, I fell in love with my third cousin. We are not married and do not intend to have children. I followed him west to this sprawling, desert metropolis by the ocean. I moved to Los Angeles. After six years, I have decided to speak up about life in Tinsel Town.

I have kept a journal on my city life. It keeps me sane. Is it possible for me to live a contented life in a sprawling metropolis? Can I find happiness in this really big, busy city? I struggle with this on a daily basis. City living is stressful and it does, in my opinion, require a loss of humanity. It is not for everyone. Los Angeles and New York City will never change.

Here is my journal, my notes on life in Los Angeles. It is quite different from Shuffletown and I do not stick out in this city of land of illusions. But I do not fit in either. After six years of trying to make a home in LA, I have made tremendous strides and I have wonderful new friends, but, OHMYGAWD, Tinsel Town beats anything I have ever experienced or imagined.

I believe that my troubles begin when people discover that I am from the South. They assume that I am not educated and my former living conditions were impoverished. There have been days, nights, and weeks that have been wonderful because I live in LA. I like sharing place with movie stars. But I cannot fit in…and I am still surprised when life in the city becomes a slap in the face. It is a conundrum.

I came to the metropolis of Los Angeles late. I thought I would fit in and not even be noticed in this metropolis of illusions. I was naïve. After all, I stuck out like a sore thumb in Shuffletown. I was born irreverent, adventurous, and stubborn. This created problems. My dear family spent decades trying to lure me onto another path. If they had concentrated on inventing perpetual motion, it would be a reality. But you cannot blame them. I took many paths. Well, maybe there were instances, but, bless their hearts, this sweet meddlesome family meant well. It was just their reaction to me.

Today, we live 3,000 miles apart. After a false start, they supported my first book, “Shuffletown USA.” And they are my greatest resources on my new book of historical fiction. I bless their love and hold them deep within my heart.

It is as my sister says, “I did the best I could.” You cannot fault anyone for their perception. All of life is perception. There are no truths; it is how you view everything. It is our perception and no one else’s.

I provided fodder. I am guilty of a lot of things; but not everything. I have led a life of fireworks and it has been quite a grand ride. I wouldn’t change a thing, not breast cancer, not my three marriages and divorces. I had a long wonderful relationship with a wild-ass Scotsman. I have led an irreverent life and I have experienced many opportunities to recall my antics. Sometimes, it is very embarrassing.

For example, I’ve been fired from jobs more than most. Sounds bad, but it was never for incompetence. I lost a job in the early 1970s because I would not sleep with my boss. The excuse he used was that my latch-key children called the office too often. Also, I used the following words in a press release: “Razzle, dazzle, and bee’s knees.” He could not find the words in Webster’s Dictionary.

I am fortunate to live long enough to see changes for working mothers, and I have lived long enough to re-discover my beloved Shuffletown. As I wrote in “Shuffletown USA”:

May God bless this village of odd and regular folks, saints, and bigots. They are all to be honored…and remembered. They abided in the years of yesterday and taught us how to shoulder today.”

But they didn’t prepare me for Los Angeles.

Westward. Ho.

Well, I see Molly — a red-squirrel I’ve had my eye on — is dining in my birdfeeder. Like diamonds lure cat burglars, birdfeeders are catnip to squirrels. Red squirrels belong in forests and woodlands. Grey squirrels occupy cities. Grey squirrels have short tails and are neurotic.

For a couple of years, I have watched from the window by my computer, Molly, the red squirrel, and a male gray squirrel live their lives. I watched Molly slap the gray squirrel. He had surprised her and forgot foreplay. I kid you not. She slapped him and he left. Within fifteen minutes, he returned and slowly approached Molly. When he got close enough the gray squirrel began to nudge her neck. This pleased her. She let him chase her across the telephone lines.

I have watched them coo like doves and twitter in conversation like couples whispering to each other. They fight like catbirds. Like the like birdsat each other as if they were birds. Like trapeze artists, they frolic about above the earth on lines suspended from pole to pole. I share space with Molly and Mr. Gray Squirrel. We share a neighborhood. The suspended commerce lines stretch among a canopy of trees outside our home.

Molly is an adventurous little creature, tenacious, and stubborn. Molly is out of place, like me. She should reside among trees, a stand of pine, or a wood filled with oak and Hawthorne.

It is my opinion that somehow she followed Mr. Gray Squirrel west. After all that is how the American west got settled…women following men over the next bluff, the next hill, the next mountain, the next desert. But I digress.

This spring, Molly has caught my eye. I have not seen the grey squirrel recently; he is probably away on business. Molly is an adventurous little creature, tenacious, and stubborn; very probably, she is a single female in a strange town. Her originally intended home is far away. She could be a divorced single-mother.

Nature intended her species; her family would dwell in the woods and forests, a stand of pine, or a wood filled with oak and Hawthorne. What is she doing in this desert? And she seems quite content with city life.

It was a given that she would dine in my birdfeeder. She planned her assault well, and took her time. Her first visit was Sunday for brunch. However, she was immediately spotted by Sassy. My ten-pound, guardian Pomeranian keeps vigil on her world from her perch which is conveniently located on the back of a brocade-chair. On sight, some primal-dormant gene kicked in, Sassy thrust her short snout towards heaven, and howled like a feral hound. With the swiftness of a swooping Kingfisher, Molly disappeared.

Today, as Sassy slept, Molly returned. It took a moment, but I noticed a vacuum in the city, something was missing. Birdsong, the birds were silent. I looked and there Molly sat dining. I watched her for a while. Then, I half-heartedly made an attempt to encourage Molly to leave the bird feeder, but, when I stepped on the patio, she didn’t run away. She looked at me, studied me, plain, with her tiny, brown-almond eyes, then she scurried along the patio’s ledge towards where I was standing. She was pleading her case. I bought it.

I went to the pantry and retrieved the only nuts we had in the house, salted almonds and returned to the patio. She continued to eat with an eye on me. Not wanting to scare Molly silly, I did not move. Molly continued to eat.

I held out an almond to Molly. She allowed me to lay the almonds at her feet in the birdfeeder. She picked it up and did not mind the salt coating. She held the brown almond with both hands and began to daintily nibble it while standing at attention.

When she finished the almonds, she seemed to sense that the feast had ended. She studied my smile before I said, “shoo.” She dropped from sight, but quickly a paw appeared on the other side of the ledge. She pulled her fat little body up to the ledge and gave me one last chance to change my mind. “Yes, it is time to leave,” I said.

She dropped out of sight. When I looked over the ledge, Molly was sitting on a water spout that ran beneath the patio floor, I smiled down at her. She gave me a glance and blithely jumped for a limb of an overhanging tree limb.

Molly will be back. Like a wild kitten, she will return to where she was fed. She will return as long as my neighbor does not have his trees trimmed. Then, she will have to reconfigure her path.

In the meantime, I need a plan. Squirrels present problems in patio paradise. I have a squirrelly past. My fondness of squirrels once innocently set off Aunt Nancy’s rapid Fool Alarm and created a memory I shall never forget. .

What happened is this…I visited Aunt Nancy most often at even-tide. She kept two plastic chairs inside the carport for my visits. When I arrived, as I was parking my car, she would bring out the chairs. In the next half-hour or so, we would speak of assorted subjects as we watched the colors of purple and gold dance about in the western sky. One fall, I noticed a squirrel that came each evening to look for spilled bounty beneath the bird feeder/fountain.

One afternoon, I brought her a gift. It was a squirrel survival kit. It was fall. The gift-box contained a squirrel feeder. I bought it at Lowe’s, and I included a bag of corn cobs. She was incensed, mad enough to spit; she was enraged that I would bring food for rodents.

This comment came from a woman who once ate Brunswick stew. Maybe, that was why she reacted in such a way? She never liked Brunswick stew? I didn’t linger. When Aunt Nancy’s Rapid Fool Alarm is set off; it is best to clear out. I picked up my pride, my corn cobs, and handy-dandy squirrel feeder and bowed out. I never brought up the subject, again. Aunt Nancy scared me.

Sometimes, I notice a streak of Aunt Nancy in him, just a slight one, but enough to keep me in line. I will not mention Molly, just yet.

First Day

This is a strange choice for an example of what I consider a most sacred moment. I am not a basket ball fan. Still, this past Sunday, I was passing through the living room while Lee was watching the LA Lakers play Orlando. Since, the living room television is in high definition, I paused to watch.

It was then that a basketball player tossed a ball through a basket. As in a ballet, from finger-tips to toes, his body aligned with the trajectory with the ball, the goal… the stars. It that moment, I saw the grace and beauty of the human body that all artists have tried to capture. It was a wondrous sight.

In perfect stillness, his body lifted from earth disturbing only air, one with his desire, within and without. Nothing else existed. Until the ball slapped through the net, I held my breath.

“Look, look,” I said, “he just touched God.”

It is the moment a writer finds the right word, the moment an athlete excels, the moment of birth, the completion of an objective, a project is completed. This moment of miracles belongs only to the achiever. It is a personal miracle, a momentary awareness of all that is possible.

March 30, 2008

My supervisor explained to me last night that nothing I did was intentional. “It just happens that way,” he said wistfully.


One of the residents of Bentley Place is a small stocky ruby throated hummingbird with green bronze feathers. Like all hummingbirds his first name is Joy, but I call him Angelo.

According to a couple of web sites, his species are born on the Baja Peninsula, but often set up residence in southern California.

My daily writing is done on a computer that faces a large window. Angelo visits several times each day to flutter a “hello.” He lives among the trees and flowering bushes outside my window. I keep a feeder for Angelo beside the pink blooming vines that fall from a hanging basket on our patio. Angelo has stolen my heart.

He is a tireless acrobat who spins, hovers, and darts through the air like a master trapeze artist. Once, he startled me by suddenly dropping from sight as if he had fallen to earth. But like a mischief child, he soon appeared outside my window. I could almost hear the laughter in his fluttering wings.

Some days and I promise this is the truth; Angelo will sit upon a limb of a tree just a few yards from my window. In this quiet sacred moment, he takes my breath away for it is like watching an angel pause.

I have read that hummingbirds have the highest metabolism of all animals, yet this wondrous spirit of the universe who’s wings can beat up to 180 times a second can still himself long enough to take a breath or a power nap.

Did you know that hummingbirds are native only to the New World? It must have been an oversight that they were not chosen to be our national bird.

Angelo was among the first to welcome me to my new home. He has been my joy, my comfort, and my angel. Joyous hummingbirds are energy vibrating at warp speed. It is in the constant fluttering of his iridescent wings that Angelo has taught me to hug, bless, and enjoy every moment of life.

Contentment Can Be Where You Find It

Silence is loud in the city. It is the noise of life. City streets, all hours of the day, are lined with cars and trucks in every shape and color; each jockeying for the quickest route home. It is a constant parade of vehicles and people, dogs, bicycles, taxis, ambulances, police, fire trucks, and buses. Standard Utility Vans roll by above the flow. Many are talking on cell phones totally unconscious of the world outside their windows, even; sometimes to the signals of green and red…stop and go. Horns blare and wheels squeal.
I am also fond of this time of day. Contentment is contagious and as I watch my dogs relaxed and content, I settle into the moment and let my mind wander.
We live in a second floor condominium in a small complex that was built around a rectangle swimming pool. Each unit opens on a walkway above the first floor pool area. The pool is usually still and deserted, except for two weeks when Nancy’s grandchildren visit. You could say that we are near water.

Yet, only streets away from this hyper-activity of traffic, in the shaded neighborhood, squirrels eat nuts in the middle of the street. Crows squawk at each other from pole to pole keeping watch for hawks.

We are waiting for Lee, Jipper, Sassy and me. He had called to say he was ten minutes away. When he calls, we follow routine and move into waiting formation.

When Lee calls to announce his impending arrival, I release the hounds, two small overfed Pomeranians. The dogs take their places on the walkway above the swimming pool where they watch the first floor for signs of life. They are not in a hurry. Until Lee arrives, they will bark a greeting to anyone who steps up to the elevator below. They are patient with life, for eventually Lee will step through the garage door and walk to the elevator. Until then, they listen and watch. Silence is a perspective. It is in the pauses that we find ourselves and hear the mourning dove cooing for its mate.

This is the dogs’ favorite time of day, well, except for walks, riding in the car, “getting up time,” which is often four in the morning, and treats.

While they enjoy all escort duty, bringing guests from the elevator to our front door. Their two favorite escorts are food deliveries and Lee. It is the best of the bests, a great honor, in another day of wonder, marching Lee home bringing another work day to a close.

Sassy trots down the concrete walkway towards the elevator. When she reaches the appropriate spot, she lays her belly and body down as smoothly as maple syrup on hot pancakes. When she is in place, she is so round and furry that it looks like someone dropped their fur muff on the floor. She likes to keep her belly cool. Sassy settles just as easily onto the green grass when we are in North Carolina. I always thought she only did this in Carolina because, well, it was home. Only today, I noticed that she seems just as content on concrete as grass.

Jipper won’t go that far from the front door until he sees the top of Lee’s head pop through the door below. Jipper never forgets that he is a lap dog, and he considers a walk every 12 hours quite enough exercise. But this time of day was an exception to the rule, his ears are up and alert. Today, he will see Lee first. He will be the first to bark the alarm.

I am also fond of this time of day. Contentment is contagious and as I watch my dogs relaxed and content, I settle into the moment and let my mind wander.

If we pause, if we settle into the rhythm, we find all. We adjust into the repetition of life. To the city dweller, this loud silence is no different than slumbering off to sleep to the song of the cicada with bull frogs singing bass.