Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pitt, Spielberg and...?

After Brad Pitt contributed $100,000 to the No on 8 campaign, Steven Spielberg and his wife Kate Capshaw contributed another $100,000. But since then the liberal Hollywood, works everyday of their lives with gays and lesbians, rich and powerful haven't contributed to the cause. I hope they'll find their checkbooks soon because we need them involved.

Apparently billionaire liberal Ron Burkle has plans to host a celebrity-studded fundraiser at his home in October. It won't come a moment too soon.

Meanwhile America's favorite lesbian, Ellen DeGeneres, despite getting married herself, has not been a leading voice against Proposition 8. She has included a call to vote no on her website blog, but she could do more. The LA Times reports she's hosting a fundraiser supporting Proposition 2 which would improve conditions for farm animals (a good cause) and she recorded automated phone calls for Breast Cancer Awareness month (also good). But we need her in the No on 8 fight as well and the clock is ticking.

So. Cal Rabbi Board Opposes Prop. 8

Southern California Rabbis from all four major branches of Judaism voted Wednesday to oppose Proposition 8, the California constitutional amendment initiative that would eliminate the rights of same-sex couples to marry in California. The Board of Rabbis of Southern California brings together more than 290 rabbis representing the Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist and Reform streams of Jewish life. 93% of the roughly 120 Rabbis who voted supported the resolution to oppose Proposition 8.

The Board is not a political body and there was some feeling of the membership that the Board should avoid moving into controversial political territory. However, the Rabbis saw how the political issue directly affects the lives of persons in Jewish congregations and that the resolution was not a vote on the religious sanctity of same-sex marriage, but a statement of the importance of preserving constitutionally protected rights.

The mission statement of the the Board of Rabbis, includes social justice advocacy. "The Board promotes and enriches Jewish learning and living through programming and leadership in the areas of Community Learning, Social Justice, Healing & Spirituality, Professional Growth, Interfaith Activities and Media Relations."

blessings of exercise

After a month with my arm in a sling on Tuesday I transitioned to a brace with some metal pieces integrated into it to keep the wrist immobile and supported, but also some lovely velcro straps that allow me to take the thing off for a shower and for some light physical therapy. The first thing I wanted to do (after the shower) was to start exercising.

On Thursday I went to the gym. I can't do arm or upper body exercises yet because I don't have the hand strength. But I did a few leg exercises and then I rode the stationary bike for 40 blissful minutes. Exercise is my primary spiritual time, and the way I combat stress and depression. To be stressed and depressed about my physical problem and then to have that same physical problem prevent me from dealing with my stress and depression has been a double hardship.

I still can't ride a real bike. I don't have enough strength to hold myself up on the handlebars. The stationary bike is a good substitute but I was really craving getting outdoors again. So yesterday I took a run, which I had really given up doing since running the LA Marathon in March 2007. I got my old running clothes out of the drawer, and my shoes out of the closet and then I ran from my house down to the lake, around the lake and back. It took me about 40 minutes to run about 3 miles. Not fast but it felt really good. Running will be a good option for me until I can start riding again.

the debate

I watched the debate with about 20 Obama supporters (and a dozen children) at a house party in Pasadena. We had a lovely evening. One television outside, a second television in the living room. I watched inside because I was worried the kids playing in the backyard would make it too hard to hear.

Several of the other folks afterward wished that Obama had more forcefully responded to McCain's attacks. I felt he handled it exactly right. Obama needed to look controlled and Presidential, he did. He doesn't need to convert any of the McCain supporters, just prove to the undecided that he would be an effective leader. He obviously was. And both candidates avoided any "gotcha" moments so it will be hard for the cable news outlets to reduce the whole thing to a few unbalanced seconds. It was boring, which is a good thing for the candidate who's already ahead in the polls.

I was pleased that during the program I continued to feel respect for both candidates. There was none of the smirking, or belittling, or the blatant miss-characterization of the other man's opinions that have made past Presidential debates excruciating for me. I felt that this debate actually approached the level of thoughtful, respectful civic discourse that is essential to our democracy and that we haven't seen in years. (McCain's repeated, "He doesn't understand" being an exception.)

Most people don't really listen to debates, they watch them. The visuals are always more important than the content. The level of discourse was way over the heads of most Americans, particularly those who haven't yet decided on a candidate. In the visuals Obama was the breakaway winner. He looked into the camera; McCain never did. Obama spoke directly to McCain; McCain never spoke to Obama. Even when shaking hands McCain turned away from Obama. McCain looked prickly. Obama looked secure, Presidential.

Friday, September 26, 2008

No on 8 speech

I had my first chance to do a public speech against Proposition 8 last night. I was invited to the Santa Clarita Democratic Alliance for Action regular membership meeting. They had arranged a forum for several democratic candidates for public office and judge candidates to introduce themselves to the group. And there were also a few of us invited to speak to some of the 12 statewide propositions that California will be voting on November 4. I spoke against Proposition 8, the initiative that would amend the California state constitution to eliminate the (currently enjoyed) rights of same-sex couples to marry in California.

There was no speaker in favor of the Proposition, and the Democratic club was largely with me before I even began. So it was a good practice crowd for me to speak on the issue before I face a mixed crowd October 6 at an Interfaith Council sponsored community forum. At the end of the meeting the club voted to endorse the No on 8 campaign. Victory.

Technically I had already spoken once on the issue. Peleg and I hosted a house party last Sunday and I spoke on the issue to about 30 guests. There again it was a friendly crowd. But in both cases I do feel I accomplished something. Some people had not yet heard about the Proposition, and some don't know they need to vote "No" in order to preserve marriage rights. At the house party I was able to raise a little money and distribute lawn signs and bumper stickers. At the Democratic club I was able to earn an endorsement that will appear on the No on 8 website.

I've set up a little website to collect donations to the No on 8 equality for all campaign. I'd love your support.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gently, gently

Thank God. I'm out of the split that I've been in since the wrist surgery August 27. I saw the doctor this morning. The new x-ray continued to show bone healing, and the skin blisters that had been there two weeks after surgery when we first took a peek under the bandages had mostly healed. So the doctor approved me for a black cloth brace, the same brace I had been wearing before in June and July, with some metal pieces sewn into the sides for support. But the whole thing attaches with velcro straps so I can take it off for a shower and to do some exercise. He emphasized "gentle" exercise. I think I may have been pushing too hard the first time around which might even have contributed to the dislodged bone that required the second surgery.

So I'll be gentle, I promise.

And I start my twice weekly appointments with the physical therapist again.

Monday, September 22, 2008

donate to No on 8

I set up a little website today to collect money for the No on 8 Equality fo All campaign. I would love to have your support.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

9 to 5; 8 to 10:45 PM

Peleg and I went with two of our friends to see the new Dolly Parton musical version of the 1979 movie "9 to 5" now playing at the Ahmanson theater in Los Angeles. The movie version starred Jane Fonda, who had the original idea, with Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. Now Parton has teamed up with the original story writer, Patricia Resnick, to create the musical. The book draws heavily from the screenplay, which is appropriate and welcome. Parton wrote the score, and her presence dominates, but she doesn't appear.

It's a great show, with Parton's music being probably the weakest part of the mix, but completely up to the task. The song "9 to 5" starts the show and keeps re-appearing in different versions with different lyrics throughout. The performances were excellent, particularly Megan Hilty in the Dolly Parton role and imitating her down to the hitch in her get-a-long. She also gets one of the best songs, "Backwoods Barbie" which will undoubtedly be a staple of drag shows for the next thirty years. Allison Janney, in the Lily Tomlin role, is not much of a singer, but these aren't gorgeous songs that demand great singing, and Janney serves the character very well. The production is excellent: beautiful, versatile sets, that give just enough realism without overwhelming, and great use of a video wall that fills the back of the stage and presents suitable backdrops for the various scenes and light shows during the big production numbers. I especially enjoyed the choreography which is seamlessly employed throughout. I constantly had the sense that I was simply watching a busy office, but wait, "why is that guy doing a kick turn off the corner of the desk?" It was brilliant.

Stephanie Block plays Judy, the Jane Fonda character. A delicious Marc Kudisch is the sexist, power-hungry (and secretary-hungry) boss. It's easy to see both why the main characters all despise him, and why the sycophant office manager Ross pines for him. Her lament of the hours she isn't at the office, "5 to 9" was especially witty.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Captain Peleg

Peleg is my husband. It's an uncommon name even in Israel, where he was born, and I've never met another Peleg. The name appears in the Bible, but only in genealogical lists (Genesis 10 and Matthew 1 and Luke 3), with no story attached so the name isn't memorable. The word Peleg means a branching stream, or anything that divides, and in Genesis we're told that Peleg lived when the earth was divided. Some Creationists think that refers to when the techtonic plates moved apart to create the continents. Most biblical scholars think it refers to the story of Babel, when human languages and cultures were divided.

Last night I discovered the name Peleg in an unexpected place, Moby Dick. Moby Dick is one of my favorite books but I had only read it once, about 25 years ago, long before I met Peleg. So yesterday I decided it was time to read it again. And there on page 71 in my edition, halfway through chapter 16, I see my husband's name. Captain Peleg is one of the two owners of the Pequod, the ship Ishmael will sail on under the command of Ahab. Peleg is a significant character for the next several chapters until the ship leaves Nantucket.

So 25 years ago I read that name with no special meaning, and promptly forgot about it. And then 12 years ago I met my Peleg and thought I'd never heard the name before. Now to find my husband in Moby Dick gives me one more reason to love the book.

Friday, September 12, 2008


I saw the title of this post on a vanity license plate as I was driving north on Interstate 5 yesterday afternoon going up to Santa Clarita for a series of church meetings. It was a California license plate on the back of a white Mustang convertible. I didn't see the driver.

At first I was surprised that you could even get such a message on a license plate, but it's really a free speech issue so God Bless America. And then I thought with some disbelief that anyone could be that commited to that particular critique of government that they would want that message permanently attached to their car for years and years in all variety of circumstances.

The most interesting thing to me though was that the car had zero bumper stickers. No other statements for or against any other candidate or issue, just "W LIED."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

re-living high school

For the past twenty-five years I've been involved in a large study of sexually active gay men. Originally, and primarily, the study was organized to provide data for AIDS research. In 1983, when the study began the HIV virus had not been identified and the routes of transmission were still unclear. Now beyond tracking the direct medical consequences of the disease, the study group provides access to a stable group of test subjects with a long data history, so the study center often asks us to participate in other related research projects.

I had one of my twice yearly visits to the study this morning. And this time they were starting a study that looked at the possible connection between childhood and youth life experiences and drug use in later life. The main study has already been recording our drug use history because of the connection to AIDS (both as a direct transmission route and as an inhibitor of commitment to safe sex practices). So this round of questions asked about our feelings and experiences as children and youth.

Boy was that tough. I had a happy childhood. I grew up in a very stable, caring, well-educated, solidly middle class family. So the first section of questions were easy and I was mostly thinking about how blessed I was as a child. But when the questions switched to teen age years I was forced back into a time period that was really difficult for me. I was not a sissy so I avoided overt verbal and physical attacks from others. But inwardly I was filled with shame and self-loathing of my sexuality and I saw no hope for a happy adulthood. Those were awful years. My life now is so distant from the way I felt then. It felt horrible to have to confront those feelings again, and through the detail of the extensive questionnaire to have to really feel those feelings again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

sugar tong splint

After examining my most recent wrist x-rays my doctor told the technician to put me in a sugar tong splint and that he'd see me in two weeks. I thought he said "a sugar tongue splint." After he left the room I asked the technician what that was. He said, "sugar tongs, like to pick up ice." Or sugar cubes from a bowl if you're dainty.

He laid out several long strips of bandages on the counter, and then on top of the bandages laid wet strips of a pliable material that hardens as it dries. Then he picked it all up and brought it over to me sitting on the examining table. I held out my arm with my elbow bent 90 degrees. He wrapped the long strip of material with the mid point of the strip at my bent elbow and the the length running along the top and bottom of my forearm up as far as my hand. Like a long U, or a pair of tongs.

Then the whole arm got wrapped in gauze and held together with medical tape. The sugar tong hardened on the top and bottom of my arm immobilizing the wrist. The sides of the splint are just soft bandages. Because the sugar tong goes around the back of my elbow I also can't move my arm out of the 90 degree position. So even with my fingers free and fairly strong, as they are, I still can't get them in position to type or do a lot of other tasks that would otherwise not be a problem.

Plumber Bible Study

I had a plumber out to the house today to root out a pipe. Two plumbers actually. The first told us the pipe was full of roots (no surprise) and then wanted to charge us $1200 to put a camera down the pipe (why?) and then replace any portion of the pipe that was damaged. The second guy rooted out the pipe and fixed the problem for $90 and no fuss.

As he worked we chatted. I told him my husband's name was Peleg, and like a lot of people he thought it was Pele like the soccer player. I explained it was Peleg with a G on the end and that it was an old Hebrew name, appearing in the Bible. The guy tried to think but couldn't remember where. I told him it was in Genesis 10, one of the generations between Noah and Abraham (also in the genealogies of Matthew and Luke). It turned out the guy actually knew his Bible very well. As an adult he had heard a call from God to go back to school and he had studied three years at Loyola Marymount and received a certificate in Biblical Studies. He told me about his extensive involvement as a lay minister in his Parish, leading Bible study and encouraging others in various lay ministries.

It was moving to me to hear this man's stories, of his very personal and close relationship with God, of his sense of God's love and abundance in his life and his sense of being called to bring that sense of God to others, both through the church and in practical acts of help and charity. His faith helped me connect again with my own sense of faith, not through theology but through the heart. He cleared out a blocked place in my spiritual pipe for no extra charge.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

mummy hand

I had my follow-up visit to the doctor who did my wrist surgery two weeks ago. This was my first chance to see beneath the bandages that somebody wrapped me ni while I was still under the anesthesia. Not pretty. The technician thought I might pass out. He kept asking me if I was feeling OK and told me if I was dizzy to lean back against the wall. I had developed a couple of huge blisters at the wound site that were very tender and pink, one on the under side of my wrist, a second on top. He said they might have been an allergic reaction to the bandages or just that the guaze in the splint had been pulled too tight.

The bad news is that the condition of the wound is going to keep me in a splint for another two weeks. The good news is that the x-ray showed the surgery to be very successful, with the bone healing nicely. It feels like I've turned a corner with this saga now.

Monday, September 8, 2008

old car, new lock

I drive a 1999 Protege. It runs fine, gets good gas mileage, but I do have to put up with a few inconveniences where the car has broken down over the years. One, is that the lock on the driver's side door has been broken for a few years now. The key fits in the lock but it doesn't turn. So I simply unlock the car on the passenger side, and walk around.

This morning I drove over to a neighborhood diner and had breakfast. I locked the car. After breakfast I walked back to the car thinking about the next item on my morning agenda, which was to go the bank, and then some other errands. I came up to the car with my key out and without thinking approached the driver's side door. It wasn't until I already had the key in the lock that I remembered it wouldn't work, but by then I was already turning the key. And it did work. The lock popped right open. At first I felt a slight hesitation as though something were jammed, but I quickly overcame whatever that was and the key turned just as though there had never been a problem with it. After the bank I tried the lock again and it continued to work with every indication that the problem was permanently solved.

Sometime in the past several years since the lock broke (and I last tried the lock) the problem had fixed itself. Maybe I had driven over a pothole or slammed the door and whatever had been jamming it came loose. Maybe it was only a few days ago, or maybe it was years ago. If not for an unconscious moment of doing anyway what I knew wouldn't work, I would have continued to unnecessarily inconvenience myself by using only the passenger door. What else is fixed in our lives but we continue to act like it's broken? Where else are we continuing to make life harder because we're following an old routine and haven't noticed that circumstances have changed?

Friday, September 5, 2008

cancel that

My broken wrist especially the first month, and now again after the second surgery, meant adapting to a life when I simply could not do some of the things I could do before, and what I could do with just my left hand (like typing) I have to do a lot more slowly than before. It was depressing but was also a good spiritual lesson for me of having to consciously re-engage with reality instead of moving through life by habit.

Then in July I gave up coffee. The primary reason was that my husband didn't like the way my breath smelled. But with the wrist experience I also saw this as a way to break a habit and see what reality felt like when not met through the filter of a caffeine buzz. It was surprisingly easy to quit. I still use Starbucks as my office but I just buy a bottle of water instead of coffee.

And then in August I decided to cancel my New York Times subscription. I've read a daily newspaper since High School. But I started to notice how much time I was spending on it, and reading a lot of things like movie reviews that I don't really care about just so I would be in the know at social gatherings (ego). And I also saw how the newspaper was distancing me from reality. The newspaper fed my addiction to "knowing" but I was letting my quest for understanding reality get in the way of experiencing reality. The newspaper had become a filter that stood between me and the world and I wanted to try to live more directly in the world.

Giving up the newspaper is an ongoing experiment. I want to stay informed. And I'm still reading news online. So it may take awhile to find the balance I seek.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

nature stinks

My dog got sprayed by a skunk last week. We have them in the neighborhood and smell them fairly often. This one was probably on our back patio when the dog encountered her. I didn't see it. I was sitting in the livingroom reading when the dog comes running in rapidly followed by the most awful smell. It's not just a stink when it's that close it's also eye-stinging and throat constricting. The dog was blinking its eyes and shaking it's head and trying to make a sound like clearing its throat.

Fortunately this was the day before my wrist surgery so I still had the use of both arms. I scooped her arm and got her in to the tub and shampooed her twice. Then I dried her off and threw the towel and all my clothes into the washing machine. She still smelled. Then I took a second to do some internet research and found that tomato juice and most other things don't work. Following one piece of advice I found I rubbed her with dishwashing liquid and baking soda and then I shampooed her a third time.

That was the best I can do. The smell still lingers, especially if you rub her head or neck. We've bathed her think three more times in the last week. She seems not to mind but hoo-boy.

the groom wore white

Me: a white tee shirt with an Obama pin, over brown pants, white socks and grey sneakers. Peleg, aka "Party A" wore a black tee shirt and jeans. We met our friend/witness, Debbie, in front of the MCC-LA church where my friend/officiant Neil Thomas is the Senior Pastor. We were a little early for our 11:15 appointment but he wasn't busy so we went right into his office. Peleg and I had already had our big church, spiritual wedding two years ago at the UU church in Santa Monica, so this was just a legal affair. Neil had Debbie sign first (great job - Debbie!) and then he filled out his part and we were done. Very pleasant, very easy. Neil automatically went into his explanation of what to do next with the forms but of course I already knew.

Then we took Debbie for a thank you coffee. While chatting I pulled out the forms and noticed Neil had dated them wrong:8/4 instead of 9/4. When we got back home Peleg corrected the mistake making big scribbled 9's. I'll mail it in this afternoon.

I've never been exactly sure when a couple is legally married. Is it when the officiant and witness sign, or is it when the registrar receeives the forms and records them? Or is the marriage in sort of a limbo state between the signing and the recording that will retroactively become legal once the form is recorded? Well I'm used to having my marriage in a limbo state, 12 years now, so another few weeks isn't too bad.

license to marry

Peleg and I picked up our marriage license this morning. In about an hour we'll be married, at the office of an MCC pastor who's a friend of mine from the Gay Men's Chorus.

We filled out the application form yesterday online. Peleg was "Party A." I'm "Party B." They ask where your parents were born. Peleg answered Russia and Iraq. I answered Ohio and Ohio. There are no questions about the sex of the applicants.

This morning we drove down to the Beverly Hills County Court House. We had to pass through security and the guard guessed we were there for a marriage license and then kidded us about my arm in a sling telling Peleg, "You didn't have to break his arm!" We were the fifth couple waiting: another male couple and two inter-racial couples, and a straight couple. The women at the window treated us all equally. Everyone was friendly. It all went very quickly. Because we had filled out the form online the clerk simply retrieved the record, checked our IDs and printed it out. Other folks were being told to wait half an hour while they typed out the forms.

We paid $70 by check. We had to swear that the information we had given was true. Peleg asked the clerk to take our picture. And that was it. I've seen the marriage license forms many times, and signed quite a few as well, but my name and signature were always on the Officiant line before.

Monday, September 1, 2008

what astounds me the most is that Sarah Palin didn't just say no

Once the flattery of being asked has worn off wouldn't there have been one night when she woke up in bed thinking. "Am I really ready to take over as President if John McCain dies in office? Do I even want the responsibility for making decisions on National issues I've never much thought about until now?"

"And if I do want to pursue this path is this really the right time when my husband I have a new special needs baby, and my unmarried, still in high school daughter will be giving birth to her own child later this year? I'm still young. Maybe there will be another opportunity in a few years when I've completed a term or two as Governor, got involved in National politics, got my family in a more stable place."

Even if John McCain didn't think this through, and it is really on him where the criticism should land, Palin could have said, "John, thank you but I'm going to have to pass."

what's the point.

Bristol, the 17 year old unwed daughter of Sarah and Todd Palin is 5 months pregnant, a fact that McCain knew when he invited Sarah to join the GOP ticket as Vice-President. CNN reports, a "McCain aide insisted a key point to keep in mind is that Bristol decided to keep the baby, a decision "supported by her parents." Deciding to keep the baby is Bristol's choice to make and it's not anyone's place to second guess. Certainly it will be a help to her to have the support of her family. I'm glad for that.

But her decision to keep the baby is not the only key point here. What to do after a woman (or a girl, in this case) becomes pregnant is not the only issue. What are we doing to give our children the tools of sex and sexuality education, contraception, and self-empowerment they need to post-pone pregnancy until they are adults themselves and able to raise healthy children from their own resources without sacrificing their own productive lives?

In a 2006 Eagle Forum questionnaire she filled out while running for Governor, Palin indicated that she supported funding abstinence-until-marriage education programs instead of teaching sex-education programs. "Explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support," she wrote.