Saturday, June 29, 2013

a slice of sweet memory

i saw this photo of gilda radner (aka candy slice and the slicers) today on fb and i experienced a delicious stir of echoes. at some point during the 1970's in chicago, some friends and i created a literary street gang as an homage to the movie "warriors". at the time we were working at george badonsky's "brewery" restaurant.  sometime during that period i was downgraded from badonsky's "tango" restaurant after having rolled a shopping cart with a brewery bartender through the kitchen and into the lower level of the dining room in the middle of a packed saturday night- that dining room was silhouetted by chocolate brown walls that were studded with warhol's marilyn prints along one side. there was a warhol mao tse tung on another wall. the restaurant resided on the ground floor of the belmont hotel. tango was uber chic with marble floors, live jazz late night, smoked sturgeon and olives stuffed with roquefort, and 350 wines on the sommalier's list.

that time was a renaissance period in my life. i was a poet, a comic, a fashion icon, a scorned lover, a dancer, and bohemian. i modern danced  through disco and punk, rockabilly and retro, leather and scag drag. i  remember life seeming as full of possibility and my friendships were fast and very "st. elmo's fire-ish". i ran with the gang for over a year- learning to love kerouak, ginsberg, burroughs, wolff, stein, and lessing and spent the wee hours reading the classics, imbibing heavily, speaking with words of violet and midnight. we howled at our poverty and our lives seem now to be not far from the urban backdrop of the musical "rent"- la vie boheme.

during those days, badonsky had a relationship going with a japanese clothing designer named noriko. there were artists and designers coming out of the woodwork in the badonsky orbit.. noriko had acquired an apartment in old town on wells street. she needed some help getting the place together and badonsky hired paul pfohl and i to help her get some baseline cleaning done. we were lowly servers and welcomed both the extra  cash and the adventure.

it just so happened that on a particular day gilda radner was in town with her one woman show tour. her career was stratospheric at that moment and the show was a hot ticket. saturday night live had catapulted a bevy of circuit players into the limelight and  gilda had a blaze that still glows in my heart- ooops i get lost in the sweetness. her tour manager's name was dennis. noriko and gilda has some weird intersection and dennis showed up at her place in old town on the day paul i and i were there. we chatted, we three, chatted, cavorted, snorted, and giggled.

the irony of the day for me was the messaging later that night at our prospective restaurants. my manager mentioned to me that dennis had found us very entertaining and was interested in dating the cute brunette. paul had really been a warrior in my life. he had breeding, intelligence, perspective, and charm. he was a stunner in my mind- a complete package. so when i heard that dennis wanted to date paul it seemed to be nature's way. as i relayed the story to him, he had an identical twin reaction. my surprise and delight though, when i then heard that dennis meant me and not paul, rivaled my first gaze upon "the bearded lady" swinging from the ceiling of the bistro in 1975. i never dated dennis, but it didn't matter. the folklore was cemented that night.

my writing feels frozen lately when it is pointed towards today, but i feel warm and comfortable when the rear view is lit. maybe the terrain of my brain and my heart were tilled and textured during that time. my imagination was ignited and images and memories were branded into my memory bank with the heat of original sin. i am completely  grateful. the  memories and the innocence of experience invoke a time when i was not yet able to touch my childhood struggles. only when i overdrank or used would wounds uncover. no this time was exploration and discovery. the creation of a larger world view.

as i peruse these images, i am gobsmacked by what a geek i was. i have been holding this alternative  memory of living on the edge and as a trailblazer.well- pop goes the memory bubble. all that is left are the sweet stirs of memory and any polaroids.i might have left of the veedubs...( vw's- our gay and lezzie street gang- hat tip to the movie "warriors") all of us gay. in 1978 we started out quoting woolf and kerouac on the street corners by diversey and clark and our fetes transitioned to fuzzy-seeped happenings and pre-happenings at the barbie motel (abandoned 3rd floor apartment located on clark just north of diversey) and paul and jim faucetts place further north by belmont- they had a cat they named renfro which was given cuz he liked to eat flies. our crew got involved with a zany labor strike at the brewery with our main adversary being quincy the assistant manager there. paul, ellen, and i transitioned to a french patisserie located on madison street downtown chicago. that's where we met sue and joe mondlak, kate janotta, kat camera, our gang - and the need for it- dried up like spilled cider on sundrenched cement- so sweet then- all gone now... most of the polaroids are from the 70's. the medusa's shots (with the horse half) are from early 80's- the last time ellen and i were able to see paul together- he would be gone within 2 years of those colorfu shots- with one of those years being spent in and out of the hospital with aids-related complications.

myself and michael h- i was 19 and bartending at tango
solo lovebird named macy in the background
wow- what foreshadowing

katie j, kendra m, and moi at annex lounge

bob and betty baxter- all american couple

bob and betty redux 1983

katie j's apartment in old town

medusas main floor with paul pfohl 1983

on the stoop of our apartment on pine grove just behind tango- bradley davis and james burnett roomies

the veedubs... vwsccc etc..

jim pruett and paul pfohl at the barbie motel above denzer art gallery

                  it's the laughter...... we will remember... whenever we remember..... the way we were....

Sunday, June 23, 2013

hope there's someone

i hosted the 2nd advisory board meeting for C2R yesterday. none of the invitees outside my workplace that attended the 1st meeting returned for the 2nd, however 2 additional invitees made an appearance at this meeting. my hope is to set up a network of peers in recovery with the intention of providing additional support and extend tangible resources for newbies. i have asked several organizations to participate in order to widen our lens on how we grow our "peer services" so they are directed in a culturally competent direction.

my mother has been feeling poorly for roughly a month now. she is struggling with breathing and with ongoing   issues with celiac and with diabetes. my fears are many but in front is the worry that she may have to go on oxygen.  prayers.

a colleague asked what was going on between the director of a recovery organization and myself. i felt shame at the question. i certainly have not been as adult about the situation as i might. but i walked away feeling so burnt that i am giving myself time to rehydrate- both my psyche and my heart. i am very aware that forgiveness is the best thirst relief. i a hoping i can get there someday. i must admit that i am not actively working on that in my life today.  but i am actively working on things.

my cousin came by this evening and we watched "people like us". the film still resonates with me- having lived a fatherless life. i know that it took me 45 years to really forgive my parents for anything and everything. i am also becoming more acutely aware that i have really been getting angry as a defense for most of my life, so the motion of getting angry to protect myself is justified and it's ancient. and it is really in need of a makeover.

a colleague was let go late on friday afternoon. it was not a surprise, but it was sad none-the-less. i had a love-disdain relationship with this person as there was as much distraction as there was engagement from my perspective. i told this person- and whole-heartedly meant it-that the cliche about a window opening when a door closes is well-known for a very good reason. and in this case- i think it is mantra.

am planning to take  a couple of days and go to fairplay on 4 july. i need a getaway. and i want to go back to salida. salida is one of my funspots these days. there are some amazing organic farms happening there and i haven't been in the summer. i would love to come back with a bushel of fava beans to make spread for everyone i know. and i want to spend some time in the pools at mt princeton as well. either  way, i am looking forward to a change of pace.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

talking to the moon

image credit...

i feel as if i have just finished a really long novel such as "war and peace", "the stand", or "illness as metaphor". i guess i could just as easily say i feel spent. this past week has been a whirlwind of activity and emotion. i have watched breakdowns, several crises, a firing of a co-worker, the amazingly heart-breaking quality of an addicted person utterly lying unabashedly with complete disregard for my disbelief, an increased level of social activity, 

perhaps it is my ancient cellular memory, but i attribute the recent spike in mayhem to that big planet we call "the moon". and this solstice finds it nearing us even more and i believe that action demands a reaction. 
i really don't mind any of this. as a matter of fact, it instills a sense of reassurance that the universe is bigger than my life and that whatever spiritual program i ascribe to, i better lean on it a little more right now. and so i do. 

despite the recent fireworks, there is quite a bit of hope and excitement in my life. changes keep rolling into my life just as the tides do- also, btw, very influenced by the moon i am told. the solstice signals change to the extreme. the days begin to shorten. the temps begin to climb. most crops begin to bear fruit. and the planet positions seem to shift as the axis of the earth dances with the sun.

my work in all this moon and solstice madness is to remember that today and its emotion and its mood are only notes and stanzas not the entire symphony. i get so caught up in the swell of it all that i forget what has gone and what's to come. so i am gonna try this weekend to really remember what a gift it all is really. the craggy parts as well as the smooth ones. and i hope i get the chance to imagine flicking the supermoon with my fingers as the skullcrushers might. 

and here's the cooking fun this weekend... 

Ginger, Green Apple, Sweet Onion and Coconut Salad
© John Kernick

Ginger, Green Apple, Sweet Onion and Coconut Salad

  1. 2 Granny Smith apples (about 1 pound)—quartered lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced crosswise
  2. 1 small sweet onion, such as Vidalia, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  3. One 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into 1/8-by-2-inch matchsticks
  4. 1/2 cup finely grated peeled fresh coconut
  5. 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  6. 2 tablespoons finely shredded basil
  7. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  8. Lemon Verbena Oil
  1. Toss the apples with the onion, ginger, coconut, lemon juice and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Add 3 tablespoons of Lemon Verbena Oil and toss; serve.
NOTES To grate your own coconut, start by preheating the oven to 350°. Twist a screwdriver into 2 of the eyes (small indentations) at one end of the coconut, and drain the liquid inside. Bake the coconut for 20 minutes to help the flesh pull away from the sides. Wrap the coconut in a towel, place it on a hard surface and crack it open with a hammer. Pull apart the pieces, and use the screwdriver to snap the white flesh away from the shell. Peel off the skin with a vegetable peeler, then grate the flesh on a box grater.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


i had an encounter with a colleague today which was creepy and foreboding. i remembered after a bit of time elapsed that when someone feels threatened, they often strike out in tandem with the flight or fight response system. it hadn't dawned on me that i would fit that particular bill for this person.

i do know that the recent months have not been easy for this person. i didn't really know the extent of the stress until about a month ago, i was included in some subtle rants and spewing which bubble up and out accidentally. i know that this person does not feel as if they are being treated or dealt with fairly and has engaged in systematic alarm ringing and whistle blowing as the winds of change whip through our lives. i also am now much more keenly aware of witnessing 2 very different realities playing out simultaneously. truth must be that the perception of reality are the differences- the events are one. .

i understand again that opportunity always includes hidden costs. in this case, i am at the receiving end of someone else's dance of fear. this is simplistic of course, but i do know that the work i am involved is creating visibility. which makes for an easier target.

i like to think i played it cool today. but i can't be sure i'm cool at all anymore. i do know that the scent of sabotage took hold of my day. what is there to learn about myself and my place in the world from this?  i guess i'll just wait for the next act in this play in hopes of a another clue.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

parceling out the day

i missed a young man's dance recital yesterday because i picked up a suburban wedding party to work. my body hurts a little as i am just finishing my 3rd week back to cardio classes at the gym (4 x week). a friend from san francsico is in town and making breakfast today - quiche i think- how very gay- although he isn't- but he lives in sf. i am making watermelon cucumber tomato salad for the 2nd time this week. i hope it comes out as well as the 1st one.


2 large Red Tomatoes, cut into 1-inch wedges (about 2 cups) 
2 pound(s) Watermelon, cut into 1/2-inch by 2 1/2-inch wedges
1 Cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1/2 small Red Onion, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)

3 tablespoon(s) Red-Wine Vinegar
2 tablespoon(s) Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon(s) Salt
1/4 teaspoon(s) Fresh-Ground Pepper
1/4 cup(s) Fresh Basil Leaves, sliced

Prepare the salad: Gently toss tomatoes, watermelon, cucumber, and onion together in a large bowl and set aside.
Prepare the Dressing: Combine vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Pour vinaigrette over the watermelon mixture and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours. Sprinkle with basil and serve.

there are changes coming to my workplace via healthcare reform. i have learned of a few and i can now see that i will have to shepherd change with the folks i work with even more often. i planted some new yarrow along the right of way-it's paprika colored. i am hoping it will provide some color and green in an otherwise lacklustre real estate.

i am filled with hope and gratitude today. it's a good feeling. i wish the same for you.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

all roads lead to rod rushing

“The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life.” ~Eckhart Tolle

For a very long time fear has controlled me. It has paralyzed me, kept me living in desperate situations, and stopped me from living the life of my dreams.

It has only been with age and the practice of mindfulness these last few years that I have come to recognize the fear within me, having finally begun the process of facing it.

By facing fear, I don’t mean that I’ve started base-jumping, purposely trapped myself in elevators, or allowed tarantulas to climb all over my body.

I mean that I’ve sat in meditation, watched the fears arise, and rather than react to them or allow them to become part of the stories that make up my life, I’ve observed them in my mind from a distance.

I’ve felt how they’ve manifested in my body, and I’ve moved into that physical discomfort in order to pay attention to fear in a way I’ve never allowed myself to do before.

When I think about the compulsive and addictive activities that have kept me stuck in a place of fear in the past, they all come from stories that play through my head everyday.....

all roads lead to rod rushing. this is a silly quote today from one of the guys in a group i participate in. it really made me laugh. i really cringe doing this,, but i have to admit that i liked hearing it. of course i know it is complete poppycock. i do like a good fantasy now and again though. truthfully, all my problems and issues and joy truly do follow that very road.

two interns from a state university's human services program have begun to follow me for 30 hours each week. they are very different from each other, age, ethnicity, gender, experience, and acuity. i am looking forward to the challenge of working with them individually and together. somehow i believe my work is to learn through teaching- at least it feels this way. it feels right and it feels natural.

my gab group will be showing "how to survive a plague" tomorrow. i am hoping we have at least 10 people to watch. this would be a coup for our lunchtime get together. there is a part of me that loves to feed these guys. i made a salad with watermelon,  cucumber, tomato, and red onion. i also will put together a flank steak, some arugula with fresh oregano and toss that with lemon and vinaigrette. i still love to cook.

am still reeling from last weeks massacre on the game of thrones. it startled me into adoration and transported me to a more tribal tribal time in our history and the ride was invigorating.  probably just too much tv.

i sat in a meeting discussing challenges with our group and from someone there came a battery of dismissing questions that felt like quick direct blows from a 2x4 walloping my credibility. it bores me that i am still so sensitive.  but i know that quality keeps me real.  the next day i chatted with a new colleague and inquired about their impressions. the question was met with " i can't believe you were spoken to in that way". "i get spoken to like that, but i didn't think you would experience that, too". i decided to discuss it with the source because if a new member of our group sees this as a norm, then we definitely need to be healthier. i only hope i can own my own experience in all this and not project.

i took some of the volunteer staff to an "addiction professional magazine" sponsored lunch at macaroni grill. the subject was "rosc" and i kinda felt the presentation was pretty lame. the did discuss an organization known by tpas- which provides recovery support for professionals, but the information and explanation for  a recovery oriented system of care was as dull as a pasta salad left open in the fridge for too long- bland.