Monday, January 27, 2014

12 years a slave is a metemorphosis

12 years a slave

These people live again in print as intensely as when their images were captured on old dry plates of sixty years ago... I am walking in their alleys, standing in their rooms and sheds and workshops, looking in and out of their windows. Any they in turn seem to be aware of me.
Ansel Adams


i saw the film “12 years a slave” yesterday and was (and am still) completely gob smacked at its intense beauty and the ferocious and insipidly ignorant evil that weaves through it like a poison gas. the images of beatings, ownership, and poverty still haunt me like a thousand bites of bayou mosquitoes.

when ii was in my late teens, ii read “metamorphosis” by franz kafka which had a similar effect on my heart as well. as ii watched the lead character solomon northup rolling on the floor of the dark dank cellar trying to maneuver with his newly acquired leg irons, ii was reminded of gregor samsa on his bed the morning he woke in the body of a cockroach. he attempted to roll to and fro on his bed just as our hero did.


this similarity caused me to ponder the arc of these characters and perhaps the universal quality that both these stories portray. in no way do ii mean to make light of mr. northup’s situation or journey. quite the contrary actually- it was nothing less than heroic. ii remain awestruck at his ability to remain peaceful amidst such violence and strife. it is a serenity ii may only strive for.

but there is a universality to these written journeys of transformation. life does have a way of landing a house on top of us without our permission or knowing and often we find ourselves thrown into situations that we had no awareness or agreement with. yet it is our path to either survive or surrender. and often- as with our northup character he did both which in buddhist lore is how we find our answers.

there may not be a bigger than life character offered up in film this year. solomon northup’s heart and courage exceed any ii have seen to date. it is not a loud and bombastic cinematic offering with special effects and layered soundtrack. it is at once a small quiet story that screams for retribution and justice to the inner workings of our souls.

this film should be seen by the entirety of our nation and placed in the classrooms followed by discussions. there is human nature represented here that would benefit us all if it were aired out to dry and put on display.

make it an imperative to see this film.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

wrecking ball


wrecking ball

ii found myself eerily feeling violated yesterday as a group ii was involved with finished up. it was a full group and was the final get together for this particular group of individuals. my cellphone was sitting on the table we sat around, someone picked it up and said “whose is this?” ii informed them it was mine and asked to please leave it as ii would retrieve it at the end of group. at the end however, the phone was gone. it required me to call the phone company, call the insurance company, call the people with whom ii had plans later, and drive home to retrieve a second phone then drive to the phone provider to see if they could activate the older phone temporarily.

all the while, ii found myself wondering who was sending me this silent message. concurrently, ii felt that because ii have been working on interventions to interrupt some subtle pharmaceutical (and non) exchanges going on, ii have prolly been creating some animosity. there ii was- at the end of this 12th session ii had spent with most of these people and my cell phone had been lifted. ii am not as savvy as ii like to see myself. ii am not as respected as ii would like to be. ii still have much work to do.


Thursday, January 23, 2014


flashdomino robothe horizon

image credit…

one of my good friends moved from colorado to philadelphia 2 years ago. every once in a while i realize that i miss him madly still. he sent a link to his most recent work and ii have posted a few that struck a chord within me. i love that his eyes see things so very differently than i.

“When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You're able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open. And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression. You develop an enthusiasm for no longer watering those negative seeds, from now until the day you die. And, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently.”
Pema Chödrön, Practicing Peace in Times of War



Monday, January 20, 2014


it is martins day of remembrance today. his work has influenced my life in so many ways. miraculously though, his peaceful approach has left a more deafening impact on our world than a war may have done. when a man is able to contain his emotions and channel them to build people up in opposition of the usual tearing them down, it is nothing short of a miracle. remaining with love against adversity is something i have have not achieved. i hope some day i am able to do just that.

Integrated Bus Suggestions

This is a historic week because segregattion on buses now been declared unconstitu¬tional. Within a few days the Supreme Court Mandate will reach Montgomery and you will be re-boarding integrated buses. This places upon us all a tremendous responsibility of maintaining, in face of what could be some unpleasantness, a calm and loving dignity befitting good citizens and members of our Race. If there is violence in word or deed it must not be our people who commit it.
For your help and convience the following suggestions are made. Will you read, study and memorize them so that our non-violent determination may not be endangered. First, some general suggestions:

1. Not all white people are opposed to integrated buses. Accept goodwill on the part of many.
2. The whole bus is now for the use of all people. Take a vacant seat.
3. Pray for guidance and commit yourself to complete non-violence in word and action as you enter the bus.
4. Demonstrate the calm dignity of our Montgomery people in your actions.
5. In all things observe ordinary rules of courtesy and good behavior.
6. Remember that this is not a victory for Negroes alone, but for all Montgom¬ery and the South. Do not boast! Do not brag!
7. Be quiet but friendly; proud, but not arrogant; joyous, but not boistrous.
8. Be loving enough to absorb evil and understanding enough to turn an enemy into a friend.


1. The bus driver is in charge of the bus and has been instructed to obey the law. Assume that he will cooperate in helping you occupy any vacant seat.
2. Do not deliberately sit by a white person, unless there is no other seat.
3. In sitting down by a person, white or colored, say "May I" or "Pardon me" as you sit. This is a common courtesy.
4. If cursed, do not curse back. If pushed, do not push back. If struck, do not strike back, but evidence love and goodwill at all times.
5. In case of an incident, talk as little as possible, and always in a quiet tone. Do not get up from your seat! Report all serious incidents to the bus driver.

6. For the first few days try to get on the bus with a friend in whose non-violence you have confidence. You can uphold one another by a glance or a prayer.
7. If another person is being molested, do not arise to go to his defense, but pray for the oppressor and use moral and spiritual force to carry on the struggle for justice.
8. According to your own ability and personality, do not be afraid to experi¬ment with new and creative techniques for achieving reconciliation and social change.
9. If you feel you cannot take it, walk for another week or two. We have confidence in our people. GOD BLESS YOU ALL.


Saturday, January 18, 2014


I may be soft, I made the top, I like my cabaret non-stop,
It may be erotic, it may be ecstatic
With it down on your floor or in your attic.

You take it low or shut our eyes, and let our love materialise,
And I don't mean love on a chocolate box, I mean the love that really rocks
I say call me the baby, the good time lady,
Just look at me and it's easy to see why they call me Cindy Ecstasy.

Because I've got the eyes, the where's, the why's to make your love thing really
You don't need your speed or your pair of wheels.
You've got the prize that will brighten your skies.

So look me up and I'll tell no lies,
Coz I'm the lady with the hot surprise,
If you don't believe me, ask Soft Cell, because I shook them up and I gave
Them hell.
So Call up Cindy Ecstasy if you're looking for a memory

it's been an interesting week within an interesting month which makes for an interesting beginning to the year. i have passed through an uneasy time at my workplace and let go of a position that no longer felt healthy. i have passed through some financial stressors and can see an end to some challenges in that realm.  i almost rushed into another project, but pulled back at the last minute-deciding i should walk the idea around the block a few more times before i committed to purchasing. 

i must say that this week, this day, this friday evening finds me quite content. as i shred my work clothes just after arriving home, it occurred to me how much in my life has changed. for most of my years, i have never been able to sit home, let alone spend time by myself. yet at this juncture, i find spending time alone at home a very beautiful and happy thing. it speaks volumes to the affects of recovery to my sense of self. and i can clearly declare that i am quite satisfied with this shift.

i was listening to a remix of a sharon redd tune on soundcloud today and it took me back to when i was working at medusa's- sharon redd came to perform- 1984 i think. she had a hit record "can you handle it" at the time. she was an enigma to me. she had come to know success by that time in her life. she had been "discovered" working for bette midler as a harlette and then sang back up for a coupla more front divas before she got her own contract. she had a hit "beat the street" and then put out a few more records. this is about the time she came to medusa's. the big surprise was what we shared in common at that time. she was an uber-coke user. she freebased. i snorted. but we got blasted that whole evening. she had blasted so far outa this atmosphere that she built a structure of lawn chairs on the 3rd floor and hid behind them so she would feel safer. her boyfriend/manager came to collect her at the end of the evening and she hid behind the chairs and didn't want to leave. i can remember the awkward quality of that morning to this day. i never saw her again. we did not become friends. we just got blasted together in a quirk and the drifted. she passed away from aids-related pneumonia in 1992. 

as i wrote that last paragraph, i realize that there are so many facets and flavors in that paragraph that characterize several years of my life. over using, drifting, music, blasted,. enigma, fear- i could go on. of course there were other aspects to my life too, but i really know that part of me was caught up and blinded by a combination of a dance beat, denial, and addiction- all collaborating to change the way i felt. truthfully, in the 80's and 90's i had stumbled into a conveyer belt of some kind leading to today. damn i wanted to figure out a way out.

on monday i had 3 teeth pulled. i could have prolly had 2 crowns put in, but at my age and considering the cost, it seemed more practical to just exorcise them. i feel a bit naked in spots today. i will have a bridge built and slip something where there is now nothing and smile a little easier then. considering the sugar addiction, the 33 years of tobacco, coffee, and teeter-totter of vodka-scotch, it's a wonder i haven't lost more. still as i saw them being hoisted from my mouth, i felt a sense of loss and circumstance. i will not see them or use them ever again.

i had lunch with a friend today at work. she and i reminisced about some time passed and spent more time sharing observations about how things are now. the whole lunch fed my soul. she is emerging from a surgery which kept her at home for about 6 weeks. her recovery is slow, and seems to be keeping her in gratitude amid the fragile qualities that are life. our discussions lent themselves to what seems to be the focus of our days and efforts. and it's nice to have a cheerleader. and i hope i can be one also.

this morning i walked up to work while it was still dark. i got met with a big glass of insanity being splashed in my face likea slushee on glee. then a second splash came my way right after that. and all before i got into the building. sometimes i am not quite ready to help someone self-soothe. sometimes like today. although i work with many folks who have little or no self-soothing skills and have often felt ambushed before i get into the building, have a coffee, or get to set my bag down. it's a strange circular dance i engage in. again and again and again. i try to set boundaries. i try to slip in quietly. i try to ready. still too often i am approached before i feel ready and then try to dry off the slushee feeling for the next hour or so. without question there is a part of me that feels put upon. but the flipside is that i am lucky anybody wants to speak with me at all. there were times, many times, that there wasn't a voice within earshot that was meant for me. no i need to be okay with feeling invaded and then remembering that it's only a feeling. and feelings are not facts.

went to see august:osage county today. wow- was that a challenging experience. hard really. there were snippets of me, certainly snippets of family members, and swatches of addiction reality that cold-cocked me in the throat. it wasn't the gut-punching or kicking as i had found "requiem for a dream". osage county was more like a super 8 home movie that i didn't even know existed before this- and all the scenery is remembered, but i can't believe that's how we actually looked. this film had me peering in through the windows of my memory with a real fear that i would be found out. i tried hard not to make a sound, lest the anger i witnessed would be directed my way. i teared up a few times, mostly when the characters were talking gently about the dead dad.  this film left a strong taste in my mouth. i may have to go back in and get more.

i found this version of soft cell's "memorabilia" on soundcloud. it sparked the title for this post. i remember dancing to this- or body rocking really- at an after hours club in chicago called columns. it was on south michigan avenue. the crew i hung with in those days used to go there after the bars closed. my friend katie and i used to frequent the place. i met my best friend blue at columns. he was an odd duck then- still is actually. he was wearing a scottish purse on his head as a hat the first day we spoke. we walked home from columns north along the lake and forged the framework of a friendship that has lasted over 30 years. after hours clubs were just getting started in our town then.

i collect
 i reject....

Sunday, January 12, 2014


A Pile of Dry Shit

One day a famous government officer met a highly respected edlerly master. Being conceited, he wanted to prove that he was the superior person.As their conversation drew on, he asked the master, "Old monk, do you know what I think of you and the things you said?"
The master replied, "I don't care what you think of me. You are entitled to have your own opinion."The officer snorted, "Well, I will tell you what I think anyway. In my eyes, you are just like a pile of dry shit!"The master simply smiled and stayed quiet.
Seeing that his insult had fallen into deaf ears, he asked curiously, "And what do you think of me?"
The master said, "In my eyes, you are just like the Buddha."Hearing this remark, the officer left happily and bragged to his wife about the incident.His wife said to him, "You conceited fool! When a person has a heart like a pile of dry shit, he sees everyone in that light. The elderly master has a heart like that of the Buddha, and that is why in his eyes, everyone, including you, is like the Buddha!"

i find myself in the planning stage of change as the days once again begin the trek to get longer. i have been considering some options for the next project to dive into. part of me wonders whether i should just take a break, but i am not sure that is how i roll anymore. i can take a break when i'm dead. i would like to fuel and flame some passion in my life. and i would love the opportunity to continue to have conversations about recovery. not my recovery any more, but recovery in general- and why it is that the concept of recovery is not the first thing or even the 100th thing that people expect when the topic of addiction or illness comes up. it seems to me that our collective perspective on addiction and mental illness could be characterized as a pile of dry shit. but i hope to remind us that there is a something just like a buddha among us- recovery.

A New Recovery Advocacy Movement 

William L. White & Pat Taylor 

People in recovery from addiction, their families, friends and allies are on the 
move. Some are calling on mayors, governors and legislators to change policies to make 
it possible for people to get needed treatment and recovery support services. Others are 
joining National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month celebrations that draw 
tens of thousands of people and extensive media coverage. 
Local communities of recovery are organizing and sharing ideas, resources and 
experiences. A grass roots media campaign (see is 
countering stigma and putting a positive face on recovery. A network of thousands of 
recovery homes is spreading rapidly to small towns and large cities. Recovery High 
Schools are flourishing, as are special programs for the growing number of recovering 
people entering or returning to college. Innovative peer-based recovery support services, 
ranging from Recovery Support Centers to growing networks of recovery coaches are 
testimony to new creative solutions to addiction. Something is happening in our 
communities -- a renewed spirit of service and activism that has been christened the New 
Recovery Advocacy Movement. 
Faces & Voices of Recovery, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug 
Dependence, the Legal Action Center, the Johnson Institute, the Center for Substance 
Abuse Treatment’s Recovery Community Services Program grantees such as White 
Bison, Association of Persons Affected by Addiction (APAA) and Connecticut 
Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) and hundreds of new grassroots recovery 
community organizations are all part of this exciting movement. Recovering people are 
collaborating with visionary professionals to communicate to the world that addiction 
recovery is a reality for millions of people and their families. This movement is calling 
for a vanguard of recovering people....

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2013 gave me a big hug

with gratitude to

“One evening Milarepa returned to his cave after gathering firewood, only to find it filled with demons. They were cooking his food, reading his books, sleeping in his bed. They had taken over the joint. He knew about nonduality of self and other, but he still didn’t quite know how to get these guys out of his cave. Even though he had the sense that they were just a projection of his own mind—all the unwanted parts of himself—he didn’t know how to get rid of them. So first he taught them the dharma. He sat on this seat that was higher than they were and said things to them about how we are all one. He talked about compassion and shunyata and how poison is medicine. Nothing happened. The demons were still there. Then he lost his patience and got angry and ran at them. They just laughed at him. Finally, he gave up and just sat down on the floor, saying, “I’m not going away and it looks like you’re not either, so let’s just live here together.” At that point, all of them left except one. Milarepa said, “Oh, this one is particularly vicious.” (We all know that one. Sometimes we have lots of them like that. Sometimes we feel that’s all we’ve got.) He didn’t know what to do, so he surrendered himself even further. He walked over and put himself right into the mouth of the demon and said, “Just eat me up if you want to.” Then that demon left too.” 

the last weekend of 2013 felt like a fog lifted from around my brain. i encountered so many of the people close to me in my life and i was afforded the chance to feel love. as i think back to the beginning of the year, one seed i had planted was to make room for love in my life- and bang zoom (ralph cramdon) there it was- more love in my life. 

as my life continues to unfold, i am gobsmacked by the power of simplicity. this year- for the holiday-i gave of myself in some quietly amazing ways. i helped throw a fete for a women and family services program and coordinated a santa, a photograph of kids on santa's lap, kid's decorating home-made ornaments for their family, several volunteers, and gifts from toys for tots as well as a generous donation from a local engineering firm. all of this required detail and attention, but left me with a holiday feeling that will last for some time. the cliche about the holidays being about the kids was forged in truth for me again and again on that day.

beyond this, i came home to find that my cousin and her family dropped by my house and constructed a kitchen cart i had here-to-fore been unable to put together. when i came through the door, i felt just as surprised and elated as the shoemaker must have felt after the elves had slid down that moonbeam to create those oodles of shoes. this was humbly followed by several friends treating me to dinner the weekend between the holidays. i have honestly felt in possession of a bounty.

"Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn't enough. You have to act the Good Samaritan every day, if need be. It may mean the loss of many nights' sleep, great interference with your pleasures, interruptions to your business. It may mean sharing your money and your home, counseling frantic wives and relatives, innumerable trips to police courts, sanitariums, hospitals, jails and asylums. Your telephone may jangle at any time of the day or night."AA, 2001, p. 97