Tuesday, September 25


I am trying to visualize how many 400,000 is. That's how many Buddhist monks are in Burma. 100,000 of that brotherhood are out marching in protest. They are buttressed daily by tens of thousands of civilians who are linking hands to protect them. In 1988 over 3,000 people were killed during the last uprising against an oppressive regime.

Four days after a government price-hike in fuel (doubled for petrol & diesel, 5 times higher for compressed gas used to power buses), the current protest began on August 19th with 400 people marching on the main city of Rangoon. An already impoverished populace could no longer afford a bus ride home or rice and cooking oil. When some monks were injured in the military response that followed, the religion of 'peace with the universe' got off of its lotus flower and took hostages. They also refused religious services to the military and their families. As their orange-robed social disorder gains a determined momentum, a violent show-down with lurking riot police in armored vehicles is imminent.

I read that Burma's main export is heroine. Like a crack-whore mom, here is a country willing to sacrifice her own children for another fix; specifically close, personal affiliation with the mother of whores and paragon of human rights ~ China. She keeps an elected democratic woman president under house-arrest and rewards anyone who will turn-in a "rebel" neighbor. People disappear, babies starve, the nation suffers. It is hardly a new story. We've heard it before - the ageless lure and corruption of power. The real twist this time is the monks.

Not that religion hasn't inflamed politics - that's a very old story indeed - but Buddhist monks? They are a disciplined lot. "Asceticism" is synonymous with Buddha. So are images of serenely meditating bald men shunning the pollutions of society behind fortress-like monastery walls. Something about this picture doesn't fit, at least at first glance.

I can't think of anything more appropriate than legions of covenanted disciples, who, virtually by their appearance in such astonishing numbers can shout injustice louder than rocks thrown or guns drawn. Hopefully heart-sick Burma will avoid an Armageddon this week; but sacred is more often dismissed for profane, and morality for weakness.

Monday, September 17

Ode to O.J.

Oh no, O.J.! You're at it again! Hot in the spotlight, you and a friend.
Silly celeb, so full of fun! Can't wait to hear how you explain the gun.
There's no glove, no knife, no white bronco or gutted ex-wife;
looks like you'll have to take this on the chin.
You always were and ever will be a cartoonish "has-been".

Thursday, September 13

Sand Reflections

A large truck idled noisily in front of our house early this morning, severely rattling the windows. Ellie bolted to the side gate for obligatory "I'll kill you" barking. I peeked out the window. It was some kind of huge, fancy dump truck, the load covered neatly by a tarp.

Have you ever waited impatiently in traffic as a semi-truck was backing its enormity into an impossibly narrow alley or business driveway? Not me. While everyone else is fidgeting at their steering wheels, I am admiring the amazing skill with which the truck driver can tease all that bulk precisely where it needs to go without any casualties. If only I could say the same for myself driving in reverse... This said, you may conclude I love to watch big trucks and tractors of all sizes at work. But today it is what was in the truck that caused reflection.

The brief and clamorous appearance of the dump truck was unexplained until we left the house to take Rachel to school. Deposited almost in the middle of the street directly at the end of our driveway was a truly wonderful pile of sand and gravel! The topography of it looks kind of like Camelback Mountain in reverse. If I wasn't afraid of the neighbor's wrath and my family's utter mortification, I'd be out there in a flash with a hose, a bucket and some classic kitchen accessories.

Oh, to play in a huge sand pile again ~ and the size of this one so worthy of a day devoted to twig-roofed kingdoms surrounded by rivers ferrying important leaf and bark cargoes far and wide. I could see my plastic horse collection pawing a sandy pasture or cantering riderless toward the shade of the pomegranate tree of my childhood back yard. I could almost feel my hand cup around the dimpled surface of the English walnuts we gathered to either insert into the castle walls, or pile like a munitions stash next to grossly under-sized green army men. Wild asparagus stalks offered perfectly sturdy 'poplar' trees, and dead june bugs sat as faithful wall sentries.

It didn't really matter that we carelessly integrated a "giant" 1960's era G.I. Joe with dwarf-like WWII infantry and pedigreed Appaloosas or Tennessee Walkers together in a 15th century fiefdom of glorious, endless sand. It didn't matter that every cat in the neighborhood was equally glad our Uncle Kenny had dumped literally a ton of sand in our back yard so we could spend an entire childhood in it as fantasy contractors. It was his business, sand and gravel - his big red truck a visual staple to our memory as much as the lovely sand that cascaded thunderously out to our screaming and jumping approval. Everything looks a little bigger and better when you are only 5 or 6 years old.

It makes me kind of sad that whatever the neighbor is doing with his fresh sand and gravel delivery, likely has something to do with his hot tub remodeling and nothing at all to do with little kids getting the surprise of their life.

Friday, September 7


You know how you can suddenly be aware of a lot of simultaneous things in a flash? Today that happened to me as I was approaching the intersection of 12th Street and Camelback.

Suddenly my attention was drawn to an unsettling movement. I saw a man leave his car in the middle of the left-turn lane and run across busy mid-day traffic with a cell phone to his ear. I saw a delivery truck stopped partly blocking South-bound traffic, and then the blue SUV stopped in front of it. Neither vehicle had a driver. I saw other people across the street looking intently in the direction the running man had been going, and out of the corner of my eye I knew other people were pulling their cars over and getting out.

Then I saw her; a woman with a blonde pony-tail and blue shorts lying in an awkward position on the grass in front of Coulter Cadillac. People were gathering around her, their faces (even shielded by sunglasses) full of alertness you don't usually see in this kind of full-sun heat - but no one was touching her. I saw a big gulp type cup lying about a yard away from her. I remember being annoyed with myself that I also noticed the color of the straw sticking out of the cup - it was red. And thankfully, I saw her arm move before she was past my field of vision.

A couple days ago I had a nightmare. I saw Asia and some other people standing at a corner, waiting for the light to turn. Instantly, I knew she was going to step out into the street and a car was going to hit her. In my dream, I could feel my stomach start to twist. I tried to shout, but no sound came out. Then I saw the car.

It was waiting to pull into traffic from a parallel parking spot much too close to the corner. It didn't make any sense. Asia had the green light now, and as she stepped into the crosswalk with other pedestrians, I lunged into the road yelling a muted "Oh NO!" The car moved forward so insanely slow it was ridiculous. Asia stopped in her tracks as if looking up the street the way people scan the horizon for the bus, totally oblivious to the car grill closing in on her. I watched her body fall wordlessly backward onto the pavement. The car continued forward until the left front tire stopped over the middle of her right thigh. I ran to her screaming the whole way. I tried to lift the car up and off of her leg. Other people tried to help; shouting directions, making sure the driver didn't put it into gear, calling 911 on their phones. All the commotion took on a luridly brilliant, moving color scheme, creating a sort of psychedelic *'Little Black Sambo' effect swirling around and around the accident scene. Panicked, all I could do was pull on the bumper with all my might.

I remember thinking, 'this is my dream, I ought to be able to do whatever I want in my own dream!' - but still I was denied the superhuman strength required.

I awoke with a silent scream in my chest as I jolted upright covered in a terrified sweat. For a horrible second I thought it was real and I needed to run for help - until my mind began to grasp the reality that I was in my own bedroom with the green floral bedspread and the gently clacking vertical blinds at the window. Asia was at her new job. She was not the victim of a gruesome double-jeopardy irony. None of it was real. She was safe. She was safe.

A few minutes after seeing the woman on the grass, I was in the car again on my way to Phoenix College to pick up Asia. To avoid directly retracing my route, I took 7th Avenue. The radio announced traffic conditions across the valley, and last of all posted a warning about an accident at 12th Street and Camelback.

I said another silent prayer.

*"Little Black Sambo" by Scottswoman Helen Bannerman first published in 1899 is about a little (Indian) boy who escapes being eaten by tigers when they chase each other around a palm tree so fast they turn into butter. This was a beloved children's story for decades until controversy about the conflicted racial representation relegated it to banned status around the world. Multiple attempts to re-write it in a more politically correct format include "Little Brown Sanje".
The 1953 edition is the one I grew up adoring because of the beautiful illustrations, especially the crimson-toed crimson-lined shoes he bought at the bazaar. The conclusion of the story ends in a feast of homemade pancakes topped with the miracle tiger-butter that would thrill any kid with half a brain regardless of what color or culture they came from. The controversy continues today as Black, green or White academics alternately laud or demonize this classic.

For a peek at some of the illustrations:

For the full text:

Tuesday, September 4

Indecision is a Bummer

I hate to shop. The competing variations of the same thing cramming grocery isle shelves gives me a headache. The endless array of cute clothes that don't fit, or, if they do, look nothing like what they should in a natural world - sends me home in tears. Even really fun stuff, like choosing which tantalizing dish to add to my chow mein at Panda Express - creates an embarrassing, inward paroxysm of indecision. It doesn't make any difference that I know I will like any of the choices, it's that moment of identifying which one while the plastic-gloved worker named Yolanda waits expectantly that turns an otherwise productive "U.S. American" into a helpless, quivering panic.

It seems someone else (much more mature and accomplished than myself) is experiencing a similar dilemma! I should feel comforted that I am not alone, you know, people have a need to relate with others in a shared experience - but eww, I don't think so!

The last time I was in forbidden territory was for approximately 15 seconds at Lorne Street School when I was 10 years old. Some of the big girls dared me to go into the boys bathroom (it was unoccupied of course) and so I did. It wasn't amazing, it wasn't really worth the agony of the dare actually, but I proved I could do it and the doing of it elevated my 5th grade status just a little bit.

Now, as for the senior senator from Idaho - he can't decide what to do. I guess since Specter dared him to prove his unfortunate potty encounter was a very understandable misunderstanding, he has reconsidered his guilty plea AND his still smelling-sweet and fresh statement of intention to step down from his seat. Huh! How about that?

This is a whole new area of indecision I am quite safely removed from. I don't feel sorry for the cartoon of a man or the limpidly loyal showing from his family that he has to drag around with him for his sad little press statements. What is he trying to prove, anyway? (It almost feels like 5th grade again, doesn't it? I can see Howard Bernstein in his polished penny-loafers covered in heavy swatches of yellow chalk, a fairy dusting of the same making a gentle circle around his feet crying tears of indignation when the teacher won't believe him that he didn't bang the chalk board erasers together...)

His undoing is obvious: none of us would ever in a million years pick up anything off the floor of a public restroom. That's a decision you don't even have to think about.