Sunday, December 30, 2007

After visiting with my Zen friend.....

One of my favorite things about visiting Great Vow, other than seeing Ryushin of course (see below), is to take a little time to visit the walking paths behind the monestery and say hello to the little Jizos who inhabit the forest.
Great Vow practices with Jizo Bodhisattva, a guardian of women, infants, children and travelers. He represents the energy of compassion for these people as well as those who are on spiritual and physical journeys (in Japan, Jizo figures are placed at crossroads).

Jizo carries a pilgrim's staff with six rings attached. These rings jingle to send warning to animals that may cross the path, so as to warn them and prevent mutual harm. Jizo also carries the "Dharma jewel of light which banishes all fear."
At the monestery, those in practice make little ceramic Jizos. I was able to purchase a very sweet one to take with me. Ryushin then gifted me with a beautiful metal crest small enough to fit wonderfully in my hand, but could also be attached to a staff. The crest had the six rings, which make a beautifully soft, jingly sound. It's such a thoughtful gift, and I will cherish it along the way.

I find these figures so endearing. It feels magical and whole here.
(p.s. if you click on the images, you can see an enlarged picture and really see how sweet they are)

It's always the simple things.....

I took a trip out to Clatskanie today to visit my dear friend Ryushin. He is a Zen Buddhist who took his priest's vows and is living at the Great Vow Monastery.
Ryushin and I arrived at Sisters at about the same time in 2003. He worked with us for about a year as a cook before devoting himself to his studies. I don't see him very often, so it's always a treat when I get to spend time with him.
After the Sunday meditation and talk program we got to sit for an hour or so and catch up. His presence is so calming...which I suppose is one of the benefits of having a practicing Buddhist as a close friend.
We talked a lot about transition and the expectations that arise both inwardly and from others. The earlier meditation and the talk had left me open and tender..I found myself giving in to tears and getting just to sit with that during the morning program. Fear of course. Loss. Sadness. Gratitude. The soup.
Upon greeting me this morning, Ryushin asked if I was excited about my journey.
I hesitated.
"Yes," I said. I told him I had been planning visits soon to friends and family, getting ready to say goodbye.
"Well, yes," he said, "you won't be the same person when you get back."
And that's it in a nutshell. What will that mean?
Many people ask me if I'm coming back to Portland. I honestly don't know. That's the intention...all my stuff will be here. But who knows what will be revealed out there?
When I went to Nepal in 1995 I had every intention of returning to the Bay Area but instead wound up moving to Humboldt with a whole new life path.
I hope to stay open to the innumerable possibilities and listen to what feels like the next right thing. And that can be scary - there is so much here that is good and comforting - it's become such a safe home for me. The safest yet. So I'm split with the discomfort of leaving such a protected hearth, and the excitement of discovering what else there is to explore.
I told Ryushin that recently, in voicing these fears to a friend, she said, "well, you can always just stay here." Which has honestly never felt like an option. I told Ryushin that I feel pulled, almost directed into this.
He smiled and said, "Yes, there is a lesson waiting for can decide not to take it now, but it will continue to follow you."
Friggin' monks.

Quote of the Day

"Hey! You can't be sitting in here reading a magazine and
eating left-handed."

-- Gwen Ivory

at New Seasons where I was enjoying a chicken wok and a Harper's.

Friday, December 28, 2007

pah rum pum pum pum

I believe the first music came from the drum.
Even before we were born, we thrummed along, growing to the beat of our mother's heart; our own little beater keeping time in syncopation to hers.
I've always loved drumming, I've never given myself completely over to it, but the desire has been there with me since I was a little kid.
When I was in the 4th or 5th grade I wanted to get into band, and I wanted to play the drums -- "no dice," said Dad (who can blame him really), and I ended up with the clarinet. Dawn Smith, who lived down the street and who was the older sister of my best friend Anne, had a drum set and I got to play that from time to time..but it was never really the same. I always loved that Brady Bunch episode where Bobby got the drum set and drove everyone crazy with it. My Dad probably saw that episode and wasn't going to have any of that nonsense in his house.
At some point I picked up a pair of drumsticks and would hang out in my room, air-playing along to the radio and learned how to move my right and left hands in time to the high-hat and the snare. But just my hands..I never got the whole kick pedal thing down (still don't!)
In high school, my friend Heidi Stromburg (who I just heard from actually) also played the drums, and I remember trying to play on hers, but by that time I had acquired too much shyness to play in front of people.
Just a few years ago, after about a year of working at Sisters, I decided enough was enough and I bought myself a drum set. A very cool electronic kit that had the look and sound of a regular set, but could be played with headphones and wouldn't drive my apartment neighbors crazy. I loved it. I hooked it up to my CD player and practiced playing along with Spearhead and Nirvana and the Indigo Girls..pure heaven!
And then.. I completely got over myself and this past summer signed up for the Rock and Roll Camp for Women and got to play for the first time, in a band, on a stage and in front of people! It was one of the best experiences of my life -- if you have ever had any desire to rock out, but don't think you could actually do it -- scare the shit out of yourself and prove that negative little self-doubter wrong, wrong, wrong...and go to camp. There were people there that had never picked up an instrument in their lives and after 3 days were onstage at a rock club, playing an original song. Incredible experience. My little band was The Funk-Ups....we were super groovy.
Anyway.....this blog is so not what I was going to talk about tonight. It's a really long lead-in to tell you the story of how I got to play taiko drums for the first time yesterday.
I was cruising around online and there was a woman who was looking for a motorcycle mechanic for her '74 Honda CB 550. I'm not a mechanic but I was like, "hey - I've got a '74 Honda 550!" So I wrote her and told her so and gave her the name of my mechanic. She wrote back and I noticed her email address had the word "taiko" in it. So I said, "hey, do you play taiko drums?" And she said, "yes..wanna play?"
So I went over to her mom's house (a very sweet woman named Bev who wore a pink Christmas sweater and asked us if we would like any dinner) where the drums are currently stored and she taught me some rhythms and we jammed out for about an hour. They are beautiful instruments. When you hit them, the whole room vibrates up and into your body -- you get into this sort of trance while keeping time - it was like yoga in that whole body experience way. Very cool.
I think one of the things I like about getting older..and certainly being in that we find we have the means and the ability to push our own boundaries, step into our fears and do things we never thought we could do. Sometimes they're simple things like buying a drum set..sometimes they're a little more risky, like leaving a safe job for something we really want to do. And sometimes we just get to do things that we've always wanted to do but told ourselves we were too stupid, slow, not-good-enough, blah-di-dee-blah-blah.
Fuck that...march on little chicklets!

Regina Brooks - Ass Kicker Extrordinaire

This picture cracks me up -- I look scared! And for good reason..
So, this is the woman I've told many of you about. This is Regina, the woman who has been beating my flabby self into shape since mid-October and who continues to do so twice a week.
I love her.
She has been an amazing motivator for me, an incredible trainer. Most times when I tell people for the first time that I've got a personal trainer they are a tad surprised -- I guess 'cause the whole personal trainer/gym thing doesn't quite gel with most folk's image of me; but I'll tell you what, this little trek I'm about to undertake is going to be quite physically demanding and when it comes right down to it, I'm a pretty practical person. Stubborn, but practical.
A lot of you have asked how I'm training for my walk and Regina has been the prime source for getting me into shape. We work out (well, I do all the sweating, she barks orders and stares me down when I say I can't do "just five more") for 30 minutes twice a week. We do mostly resistance training, using my own body instead of weights. Lots of lunges, horrible crunches, pull-ups, push-ups, friggin' crazy ab-work. She strapped me into a vest one day that was attached to a bungie cord, which she then held on to and had me run up and down this long-ass hallway, feeling like I was dragging a freight train behind me. She nearly killed me that day.
She laughed and laughed.
I do a lot of swearing during these sessions. I used to be a little tamer about my protesting. I'm not tame at all anymore. She showed me some moves she wanted me to do today and I just said, "You suck." And she said, "Yeah, I suck..let's go."
And I go, 'cause she knows what the fuck she's doing and I can tell because I have definitely gotten stronger over the last several weeks, dropped weight and inches and feel pretty darn good overall although I have been sore pretty much everyday for the past two and a half months. In between seeing Regina I work out in the gym, doing cardio and the excercises she's taught me. I also spend several days a week walking around the city for miles at a time. At this writing I can do 15 miles at a stretch.
I learned something about Regina recently which made me hold her in even higher esteem than I already did. See that cut body of hers? Wasn't always that way. About 14 years ago she was 75 pounds overweight. She showed me the picture and I was like, "no way!" It took her about eight months of solid work to get the weight off and she's been able to keep it off and just get stronger. She's something man, if any of you guys are looking to work with someone -- let me know, I'll hook you up. She's awesome and funny and I have yet to hurt myself during any of these sessions - she'll totally push me past what I think I can do without going overboard.
Laughing at me all the way...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

a beautiful day in the neighborhood

It was a glorious morning up on the mountain for baby jesus' b-day. Monica, Debbie, Kaia and myself cruised up to Enid Lake for a little cross-country skiing. Well, Monica mostly skied, Debbie did pretty well, Kaia walked beside us with her sweet dog Basket and I kind of shuffled along, bringing up the rear.

I am not very coordinated, self-deprecating as I am, I'm actually a little loathe to admit. Even though I don't hold myself in the most pristine of esteem..there are a few things I think I do okay, and athleticism is one of them. Despite all the years of smoking and tipping the bottle (one vice shelved anyway) I think I can still do okay out there in the sporting world. I'm finding though, that balance-wise activities are just not my scene. Don't know if that's age or part of the price of pickling myself, but there you have it.

Anyway, loved being out in the snow -- it was stunningly beautiful up there and we all had a lovely time.

Later that day I went to Gwen's where we watched a little XWP, she made (once again) a fabulous meal (she's an amazing cook) and then took in one of the darkest movies of the year, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead." It made Goodfellas look like a romp I'll tell ya.

All in all a lovely holiday -- a few more days and we can all settle the hell down, huh? Hope you're day was peaceful and full of love.

Monday, December 24, 2007

one of these things is not like the other.....

Circa 1978.

There's really nothing else to say about this.

I'll let you go ahead and draw your own conclusions.

Write your own punchline.


Consider it a little something for your xmas stocking.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

quick trip -- back home

hello all -- I just got back from a two day trip to Seattle to visit my Aunt Rebecca. I purchased a new digital camera while I was up there so I could start putting some pictures on here for y'all. Rebecca and I had the good intention of getting a photo of us -- but it didn't happen. I don't know who these people are, but they sure look like they are having a good time in Seattle!

It was, expectedly (is that a word?) the exact same cold, wet weather in Seattle as it has been here in Portland, so we didn't do a whole lot of outdoor activities though I think my Aunt would have enjoyed doing more xmasy things like looking at "displays," -- she had even talked me into going to look at a "scene," but really...the weather is just prohibitive for this sort of activity, which for me is strained at best.

We did take in a couple of movies: I Am Legend (which was scarier than I was prepared for) and the Golden Compass, which I liked..I like fantasy stuff. We had good movie audiences in both absolute rarity for the two of us. Both Rebecca and I are plagued by the same affliction. We have noise issues, big time. I get really annoyed at the slightest little thing, especially in movie theatres. Crinkling wrappers, GUM CHEWING, sighing...what have you -- I realize people are just making people noises and cannot be faulted in the slightest...but sometimes they can. So, movie going can be a lesson in patience for me.

Once; Rebecca and I went to a packed theatre to see The Producers..I think this was just last year, maybe it was two years ago. Anyway, a man sat directly in back of us with, and I'm not kidding, an oxygen machine. I mean, I know, I know..the oxygen-challenged (and I'll probably be one someday) should get to enjoy an afternoon at the movies as much as the next person..but...!! Rebecca asked him if it could be quieted down in anyway (she really did), "Well, can't you put a coat on it or something?" Pssstthp....Pssstthp...Pssstthp.

All. Movie. Long.

My favorite 'Rebecca at the movies' story goes like this:

Matinee. Right about the time the movie is starting there is no one in the theatre but her. Nobody. Empty. A woman comes in right as the lights are dimming and she goes and sits right next to my aunt. Right next to her.

"Excuse me," Rebecca says gesturing to the 50 other vacant seats, "could ya choose another seat?"

"No," the woman says, "this is my favorite seat, I'm not moving."

You know, honestly I never remember how that story ends because I am usually laughing so hard that Rebecca starts laughing and then we never really get to the end. Rebecca can be very I can't imagine the other woman actually winning that particular power play. to ya later. Hey, did ya see I finally got my little profile pic up? Thankfully, blogger made some changes to make it much easier for us computer-challenged nimrods.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"there's a boat on the reef with a broken back...."

I've been reading a wonderful autobiography by the writer Eudora Welty (One Writer's Life). In one passage she is describing how childhood tantrums didn't erupt in her hitting other people, but hitting other objects or putting herself in perilous situations, usually hurting herself in the process. She then wrote one of the best sentences I've seen in a long time, stating simply,
'I was responsible for scenes.'

I'm feeling a little of that these days in my own head and heart. Emotions around a leaving of this nature has welled up aged stuff of panoramic proportions. Its kind of like being in an IMAX movie where I'm unable to avert my eyes or ears from the conjured images that I alone am responsible for..and therefore am responsible for quelling. It's exhausting.

The irony is that the emotion I most attach to here is abandonment -- even though it's me that's leaving. Tricky sediment.....deep, deep layers that forge our never really know when the cracks will surface, you just know that they're there. Where's that cement trowel when you need it?

I emailed a friend and said I wish I could just leave now...this sort of limbo is becoming frustrating I think mainly in the talking about it. I'm trying not to bring it up anymore with anyone new..but I know a lot of fucking people..and if people don't know that I'm doing this walk through me or someone else, than they know I've left Sisters and are curious as to what I'm up to. I try minimalist responses at this point..sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't 'cause I'm not much of a liar or a hedger. Someone yesterday asked me if I was travelling with my time off. "Yes." Which inevitably leads to "where to," and I can't seem to just say, "oh, you and there." I's a perfectly appropriate response. Think I'll try that next time. It's nothing they're doing, folks are curious, I would be too..and it's my own damn fault for talking about it so much initially.

It's becoming hard to talk I think because I just don't have a bead on an answer at all anymore. It changes on a minute by minute basis. It actually feels a lot like early recovery, I'm that emotionally scattered. I got into Joan's truck today and just ranted from one side of Portland to the other. Thanks Joan - love ya.

So...I don't know people. It's all so's scary and exciting and every one's responses have been so encouraging and sweet and loving..some bordering on envy for me getting to do this. We all are just doing our own thing..there's a lot you guys are doing that I would give all of this up for in a heartbeat.

I think I've always just been searching for something. This is not the first time I've left home to seek some sort of solace in the unknown. Not even the second or third.

At some point I just want to nestle into it and be home.
Yeah, that's it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

at least I got that going for me...

Today has been kind of a banner day. I got to go to the dentist and the DEQ back to back. In the end, it turned out just cavities to speak of and my 21 year old truck (which Gwen so eloquently calls, 'a piece of shit'), passed inspection with flying colors (ha! so there!). little white pick-up (Oscar) will live to see the farm after all. He's going to be hanging out down on 6 acres in Humboldt and be a run-around farm truck while I'm gone. Very deserving, this city driving can be tough on old boys, especially under my rough hands.

Have successfully moved a bunch of piles right on out the door (see earlier post); and so am left with just the stuff I'll be putting into storage. I think I did good -- a huge bag of clothes along with 4 boxes of random crap went to donation sites. Probably the most exciting thing I got rid of was a collection of broken CD players (I actually had a Walkman in that pile) and other assorted broken little appliances that I was holding on to for god knows why. Those all got properly recycled. And, I was able to recycle a bunch of little camping fuel canisters that have been rolling around my closet for awhile. Happy about all that.

I've been checking out the Longest Walk website and getting filled in a little. It seems we'll be sleeping mostly in community centers, firehouses, gyms, random spots like that (or we can camp on the surrounding lands). They've been running this particular route (Sacred Run) for a few years now, so they've been setting up contacts along the way -- so that's good to know. Also, apparently the registration for walkers is full - I don't know what that means as far as how many people 'full' is..but the organizers are saying they are pretty overwhelmed with the response. Exciting.

Oh, and one more thing..

So, I'm laying back in the dentist chair this morning, getting poked and probed -- and there is a young woman sitting next to me...she's a student and she's observing the hygienist doing her thing to me...and while I'm being rinsed out, she kind of leans over and says, "you know, you have beautiful eyelashes."

It's something I suppose.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

moving piles

One of my many fears is that I'm going to end up a hoarder. Not of cats or rabbits (goddess forbid), but of stuff. You know those people that show up in the weird news once a year or so, who have to be rescued from like a second story window because you can't use the front door anymore for all the boxes and crates blocking the way.

I am such a pack rat. I've gotten much better at getting rid of stuff over the last couple of years, but still. I actually had to call Samantha this morning and ask her what I should do with this pile of ripped up cargo pants and jeans I had been moving around all morning. You would think I was living in the Depression. I think...'I'll use the remaining good fabric for patches!' Except, I can't sew. In fact, I am not creatively crafty in any way, shape or form...I can barely wield a glue it makes the idea of 'hey I can use this for...' all the more ridiculous. I probably did live during the Depression, but died because I couldn't make do with a pound of flour, some baling wire and, I don't know, a yardstick.

But you know, I'll probably survive the apocalypse in this life, but no one will be able to find me because I'll be buried under boxes of broken lamps, walkmans and assorted shattered crockery.

Sam told me to throw away the clothes. They're sitting on the top of the stairs right now in a sad little pile of wanton disregard. Forgive me.

Monday, December 10, 2007

okay, okay

Gwen suggested that I write something new as it's been awhile since I've posted. Tis true. I've been a little uninspired. It's this weather. It's cold. And other than being sick last week there hasn't been too much going on. Regina, who works with me at the gym took pity on me last week...but today she kicked my ass from here to Sunday. I'm sore already, which doesn't bode well for tomorrow.

Well, okay, here's a little story. Let's call it:

"What not to do when you are looking to rent a room from total strangers."

One of our housemates is leaving (she was never really here, but that's another thing altogether) so the search is on to rent out her room. We didn't get much response from craiglist - although this one guy seemed like a good fit, so Henry invited him over.

First off..there is a 4 year old here, Hank, and it's kind of imperative when moving in with a child that you at least acknowledge said child upon checking out the space you're thinking about renting. This guy was seemingly (I wasn't here) so disinterested in Hank that he pretty much ignored him.
This did not go over well with his parents.

Now, I don't know...when you are presenting yourself to possible landlords/roommates; it would seem necessary or at least prudent to show your very best behaviour. Smile, be polite, don't pick your nose or roll your eyes...and really, if you can at all help it, don't get ready to hock a loogi, hold it and then excuse yourself to spit off the front porch. And if you've already made that social faux pas to people you DON'T KNOW .. don't completely label yourself a social nimrod by doing that same thing, except this time...spitting into the kitchen sink..and then not bothering to even run the fucking faucet!

The amusing thing about this little tale..which is a frightening but true that Henry immediately got an email from the guy saying he felt they were a great match. Aside from the horrific spitting incident, the guy never asked to see the house really, not even his room and was pretty much not interested in anything about the house. Except the sink. He was into that.

In the end, a very nice young woman named Kit moved in. She's a naturopathic student and has no proclivity towards spitting that I can tell.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Longest Walk Route Map is a little map of the route. The highlighted states are where we will be travelling. The green line is the route that they took in 1978. They are taking pity on us souls by NOT travelling across the Sierra and Rocky Mountains in February and March. Yay organizers.

The Longest Walk FAQ

So -- I've been getting a lot of questions about The Longest Walk journey I'm starting in February so I thought I'd put together a little FAQ and hopefully answer some questions y'all are having. I don't have all the details yet as they are coming in bit by bit...but I'll do my best and keep ya posted when they come up. So..

1) What is it exactly?

The Longest Walk 2 is the 30th anniversary of a walk that took place in 1978. Led by the American Indian Movement, it's purpose was to bring attention to the fact that Congress was looking to repeal remaining treaty rights that kept Native American lands sovereign - the walk was able to stop that legislation from happening. It was also a peaceful and spiritual walk that aimed to educate the public about the Native American way of life.

On this anniversary walk there are three main messages:

"All things are sacred, save Mother Earth."
"All things are sacred, save sacred sites."
"All things are sacred, clean up Mother Earth."

We will bring enviromental awareness throughout our journey as well as performing the simple act of cleaning up trash and debris along the highways we walk.

2) How far are you going and where?

We will be walking 4400 miles with an average walking distance of about 20 miles per day. Five days walking, one day of rest. The route begins on February 11th from San Francisco and we will wind along a southern route and then eventually north where we will end up in Washington D.C. on July 11th.

3) Do you have to carry all of your stuff with you?

We will be responsible for most of our own personal belongings, but this is a supported walk, which means there will be a caravan of buses and vans to carry overload supplies. Also, not everyone will be able to walk every day, or for the entire distance every that caravan will also be able to transport walkers as need be. This walk is open to everyone, including children and elders so they wanted to make sure everyone would be able to particpate to the best of their ability.

4) How much does it cost?

There is no charge for the walkers. This walk is supported by donations from the public. Our food, transport and shelter (when we are not camping, which will be most of the time) will be provided for.

5) Why are you going?

There are a few reasons why I'm going -- and none of them are necessarily more important than the other.

a) Having already planned financially to take a year off and devote time to my writing, I am in the grateful position to do this, so the timing couldn't be better.

b) I have, in the last 5 years, experienced some amazing growth through my recovery and my work at Sisters of the Road. I am looking forward to taking this time to integrate all I have learned spiritually and emotionally and take a look at "what's next" along those lines. I have learned that service to both my own spirit and others is how I can remain "trudging this road of happy destiny" and I am hoping this journey will provide some insight towards that end.

c) I'm a sucker for adventure.

d) Honestly, since I've heard about this I have almost felt guided by "something" to do this. I feel like I'm kind of along for the ride on this one and so even though I feel some fear around leaving feels right.

So........that's all I've got for now. You can go to to find out more, including the itinerary for the route. They have posted our first month walking schedule with more to come.

This was longer than I thought! If you have anymore questions, please send them along and I'll do my best to answer them.

Thanks guys!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

all aboard.......

I have a super cute housemate named Hank. He is almost 4. His mother is deep into finals at school and I have been roused to hang out with him. Such a chore. Anyway, wanted to share a Hank story with you all.

We are sitting at the Funky Door coffeeshop. We are enjoying steamed milks (me with almond, he with honey), and he is pounding his down like a drunken sailor at last call......which I point out to him:

Me: "Whoa dude, you are chugging that."
Hank: "Like a choo choo train."

Did I mention he's not quite 4?

This is why I don't like kids...little fuckers are way more clever than I am and the competition bristles me.

Monday, November 26, 2007

can't....quite...get this right...

trying, in vain to actually get this photo onto my little profile pic. desperately lame. good, good friend Chaela snapped this photo of me on a bitter cold morning at my favorite spot in Portland, Lone Fir Cemetery. She made me look not so goofy which just shows you what a wonderful photographer she is. Will try to delame this and get it in its rightful spot one of these days.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Let's drink a toast to your non-idiocy"

In the "yay for me" category:

I was offered the opportunity to write a column of my upcoming travels for our local Street Roots newspaper. Joanne Zuhl, the managing editor of the paper asked if I would like to contribute a bi-monthly column devoted to my journey on The Longest Walk II. I was honored and heartily agreed.

Street Roots has primarily been a paper that has focused on homeless issues and is sold by vendors who either are or have experience with homelessness. Since Joanne took over the editorship, she has been working to make the paper more about social justice and civil rights issues and has done a really nice job turning it into a good, progressive newspaper. They will be going from a monthly run to a bi-monthly starting next year which means I will get to post 12 columns over the span of my five month journey.

I can write about pretty much anything I want; from my spiritual journey to whatever subjects and issues I will learn about on the road. It's a wonderful opportunity to file stories quickly (I will have two weeks in between issues), as well as build up a nice portfolio of work. I am so grateful for the opportunity.

For those of you who live outside of the Portland area and can afford a subscription to the paper ($35) and want to check out my ramblings somewhere other than this blog - my column will begin running with the February 1st edition and run until mid-July. You can check them out at

In other news:

Gwen tried to get me to buy a "Turducken" today at her store. I flatly refused.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


So tonight Joan and I went to see "Mortified" at the Someday Lounge. It was awesome. Folks up on the stage reading their angsty journal entries from their middle and high school days. It was super fun and vindicating to experience that time through other people and realize that we are united in the tragic little beings of our youth. honor of the brave souls of Mortified...I give to you a little piece of prose written in May of 1982. I was 15, a sophmore in high school and experiencing the tragic lonliness of watching my friends head off on different paths...I was also about a year away from coming out...although I didn't know this at the time I wrote what was entitled:

An Excerpt of my Days

I walked up the long steps and down the path as I thought of the oncoming day. What would happen..and with whom would I associate best with?

On the road towards my hangout I saw ahead the regular toughs that stood around talking of girls, fights, cars and rock and roll. They were your typical high school hood guys. As I got closer I saw my usual group. A group..who strangely enough were not one with whom, given a minute to think about it, I would choose to hang with.
They were, eight months ago... a respectable type, but had changed dramatically since then. I loved them though - except for the one I wished I could kick the shit out of. I wrote something about her once on my friend's wall and she saw it. Little bitch tried to act tough about it, she wrote something about me, but I don't care. She doesn't scare me in the least.

There there's another one. Fucking crazy as hell and never willing to miss out on a dare. She's gotten in lot of trouble with the law - but she has never paid a single fine. Lucky...that's what' she is. Get's away with murder.

Then of course, there's one who I admire to high hell. Why? I haven't figured that out yet - I just do. She's my favorite - and lately she's been keeping better contact with me and stuff. Once I had a stomach ache and I just kind of said it outloud and she hugged me as if I was a little kid. I like that, it makes me feel cared for and loved. It doesn't make any difference to me who it is that makes me feel that way - male or female - it doesn't matter. I look up to her because I feel she really loves me. And for that, I love her a lot. It doesn't seem like a very good deal to some people, but I like it a who's gonna tell me I can't like it? Nobody - cause if they knew me...they know..that won't work.

God, that poor girl. Carol Bicknell was her name. I was so desperately confused. But probably not half as confused as she was by my....attention. So - there's that -- and much, much bad poetry. Here's just one tiny example:

When my spirit
Crawls inside me
I feel it should stay entrapped
I was young

I grew
My spirit came back
it knocked inside me
I knew I had to
Let it out

It took me over
I sailed
And I knew

The spirit
Is a free one
Don't imprison me
For you will find
I will escape.

What the?

Okay you guys --- drag it out, come on. If you've got any of this stuff leaching out of a cardboard box in the back of your closet, please share it by posting a comment here. I know you want to. Let 'er rip.

Friday, November 16, 2007

"This is your dance"

Tonight I went to a benefit concert and talk for the Longest Walk II – the journey I will be joining next February. I wasn’t going to go, feeling a little fatigued today, but I’m glad I went. I got there in time to see a video the organizers put together, chronicling the walk from 30 years ago and some of what we can expect from this year’s walk. There will people from all over the world joining us, including a group of Japanese monks who were along for the walk "back in the day." Also, a group of Aborigines from Australia are walking with us as well. There will be cultural talks during the dinner hour, lots of music, lots of drumming. It got me excited!

Afterwards, some of the members of the Native American community drummed and sang the American Indian Movement’s National Anthem and then we got to hear a couple of people speak who had done the walk back in 1978. It was inspiring to hear them tell the tales of their spiritual journey – and the sheer physical demands of walking that distance. One woman, who did the walk when she was 19, went through 6 pairs of shoes. Yikes. One man talked of the importance of making sure all races were welcome in this spiritual community and that "we are walking for the health of the Earth –we are walking so that we all can live, and that we are calling on the ancestors of all nations and all peoples to aid in this healing." I needed to hear that message and so I’m glad I was there.

I also got to meet up with my friend Antonio, who I know from the rooms. He’s going to be going the whole distance too, so I’m glad to know I will have a friend along. We talked about how we are training for it - putting time in at the gym and just gearing up for goddess only knows what is ahead.

When I got in my little truck to head home, the third movement from Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto was starting, which is just one of my favorite pieces of music of all time. The last movement of this piece starts off with a melody so sweet it makes me swoon and then gets into a rockstar piano solo that just floors me every time. There’s these last few seconds when it’s just this sweet little piano riff and a slow thrumming of the tympani right before it rockets into the final crash was the anthem rock of its day for sure. It was Beethoven’s last piano Concerto – the man was deaf when he wrote it, which makes it all the more astounding to me. I got to hear the Oregon Symphony play it this year, which was one of my highlight concert moments indeed.

I had first heard the “Emperor” when I was in high school. I don’t know where I picked it up, I had a cassette of it that I used to play on my Walkman, with those puffy orange headphones, and ride around on my midnight blue “chunkrat” one speed all over Mill Valley, blasting this concerto and just knowing that all was right in my world at that moment. And here it is 25 years later and I’m still here, and still swooning over Beethoven and everything is still alright in my world.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Plenty of room left in that handbasket..."

This morning at ESSR one of the speakers mentioned that Jehovah's Witnesses believe that there is only room for 144,000 souls in heaven.

"Wow, only 144,000," gwen whispered next to me, "Not much point in working that anymore."

"What are we doing in this handbasket and where are we going?" I smirked back, quoting my favorite bumpersticker of all time.

The title of today's blog was gwen's response and it has just made me smile all day.

And, because I'm a dork - I had to look up the whole J Witness thing. Apparently, those 144,000 ( such a number that doesn't seem random. Number freaks? Religous know-it-alls? What's up with the 144,000?) get to hang out with Jesus and rule the rest of the saved after Armageddon. It sounds kind of Sci-Fi really - there's this whole Millennial Reign thing going on which just screams graphic novel. I'm sure I've reserved my space in that handbasket just for writing this down...and you're reading it, so I'm gonna scoot on over and pat the wicker next to me my friend.

P.S. After reading my first post, Joan suggested I rename my Blog, "Burt is my Mews."
See how clever my friends are? That's why I keep 'em much smarter than me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hola and Welcome

Howdy everyone, welcome to my first little foray into the wide world of blogdom.

I am starting this site mainly so I can keep up with you all while I am on my journey next year - we're still about 10 weeks away (from when I leave Portland), but I wanted to get this up and get some practice on posting before I headed out.

So you may have noticed the title - Burt is My Muse - for those of you who know me (and, who else would be reading this?), you know that Burt is the name of my cat who roamed around with me for 20 years. He passed away on October 16th, 2001, but he is still very much a part of me. If I can get a picture scanned onto the computer, I'll put his handsome mug up here.

"Burt" was not his first given name. I actually named him "Spiegelburg" - or Spiegs for short - but it was a crappy name and my mother, who always came up with great names for everything, started calling him a couple of different things. "Velvet Jones" was one, and then "Humphrey" and "Mew" and eventually it all came together into "Mewburt Humphrey," and that's where we settle into Burt.

I just realized that he was named with a pun -- which cracks me up. My mother is amazing at puns. I suck at them. There was a guy named Bob Lacey (R.I.P. Bob!) who worked in our office. And he and my mother would get into these unbelivable pun-offs that would last pretty much all day long. It's an artform, if done correctly, to work words like that. I was never very good at them, it's why I can't write headlines - I always have my mother in the back of my head groaning at my attempts. Her mastery, and my inability is probably why I can't stand stupid business name puns. Salons, I swear, are the worst offenders. "Hair it Is!" "Hair for You!" "The Mane Attraction!" Ha, get it! Mane - like in Main - but it's hair, so it's...ugh.

Anyway, so back to Burt. He showed up in a cardboard box in the arms of a young girl on my doorstep in Mill Valley, California. He was one of about 4 or 5 jet-black kittens, mewling and scrabbling around in the towels in the box and trying to scritch their way out of the top. I was 15. My folks were out of town. I knew my mom would freak, but...I was 15 and so I picked up this little guy who was calling to me and that was that.

My mom always loves to tell this story. "And so, I'm home, Nik's at school and I'm having my coffee and a cigarette and I hear this ...(and then she kind of scrunches down and gets into a really high voice) 'mewwww, mewwww,' coming out of her room. And I go in there, (and then here she usually makes some derogatory comment about the sheer disaster of my room - hey, shear disaster! -and talks about always finding forks in there and stuff) and I see this little, tiny black ball of fur and I say 'Goddamit Nikki!"

But she fell in love with him immediately. We all did. He was a great, great cat. He accompanied me everywhere except the year and a half I lived in New York, when he stayed with my Mom. He was with me in San Francisco for a few years which he probably hated - but we moved back to the outdoors in Mill Valley and then for the rest of his life - another 14 years or so, he was an outdoor roamer. He was a Burmese/Persian mix - a longhair - fur that he kept meticulously groomed and purty. He came and hung out with me when I cooked at the camps in Mendocino; he would mouse in my kitchen at night and sleep on the roof in the daytime. In the morning he would join me on walks along the creek and sniff at the ferns, pretending not to be following me. He walked with me a lot actually, in pretty much everyplace we lived. I loved that. I loved how he pretended not to be with me; how he would lag way far behind, until I got nervous and then I'd call him and he'd trot up. I loved him very much.

He eventually died of old age, kidney failure. His last year he lost his eyesight, but he never lost his sweetness. I buried him along the sandy banks of the Klamath River, knowing that his bones would join the river and his spirit would be forever free.

And that's the story of Burt. I wanted to keep him close to me, which is why I named this site after him. I hope to do him proud!