Monday, July 18, 2011

Dancing to the Beat of a Different Drummer or The Symphony of the Brain.

Music has always been an important part of my life. I think we all can relate to the way a certain song can transport us to a time or place .

 I am instantly a teenager again when I hear Stevie Nicks sing "Landslide' or Hall and Oates doing "Rich Girl". In my experience, it has a deep and lasting visceral effect. I feel the music in my body. As I write this, just the mention of these songs brings clear images of my first apartment .

 I can see the red carpet and the blue couch covered with an Indian blanket. The fiber optic lamp on the top of a Oriental dresser we moved to the living room because we were sure it created a New York chic affect.

The sweetness and the bitter sweet all may be triggered by a song or melody. But what if my own brain was creating a symphony unique to me? Do we actually "make our own kind of music" ? Cutting edge research in neuroscience proves that we do.

Dr. Orli Peter of The Center for Accelerated Change  offers a program where "your song" is recorded and you may use this symphony created by your brain waves to aide in a better living experience. http://www.youtube.com/user/orlipeter#p/a/u/1/W1qHgmTmado

Here is what Dr. Peter has to say about Brain Music.. " Brain Music Therapy is a scientifically supported treatment that transcribes your own unique brain waves and translates them into unique musical compositions. By listening to these compositions, you can efficiently move your brain into relaxed or alert states.

Brain Music is an effective treatment for stress, insomnia, anxiety, trauma, depression, and attentional problems. It has also been found to increase productivity and concentration, helping to enhance performance for athletes as well as business people and students. Brain Music Therapy may also accelerate the effects of other psychological treatments, by putting the brain into a more receptive state.

People sometimes ask, "Can't I just listen to any kind of music, including another person's brain music, and get the same results?" The answer is "No." Research has shown that listening to your own brain music is more effective and efficient. The reason is that every person's brain produces its own unique "music" and responds most readily to these familiar rhythms. This is analogous to the difference between responding to your mother's voice and a stranger's voice. Your brain music is uniquely yours and your brain recognizes it as such. "

My own personal belief that healing comes from with in is supported by this information. I am of the mind that pharmaceuticals while useful are only one path to take. Here we are being offered a "side effect" free method to enhance and develop a better day to day experience.

Dr. Peter has been the most valuable teacher in my life. My work with her has been the ultimate in compassionate care for my soul.

When I first met Dr. Peter I was at a place in my life where the effects of trauma held me a prisoner of post traumatic stress disorder. My coping methods had become the problem. I was reduced to a state of extremely limited function. OK, that is the technical description. My words, I was a hot mess!

My ability to cope with childhood sexual abuse had "hard wired" me for dysfunctional relationships with lovers, friends and life in general. My life was overwhelmed by coping to the point that I was no longer able to enjoy living. I longed for but had no hope of doing anything but making  it through the day.

I worked with her learning how to rewire myself  for several years. I still see her for tune ups today. The kind of care she provides has grown and expanded over the years to the point where recovery occurs much faster. My most recent work with her , because of trust based in positive experiences, was like a laser cutting away the unwanted trigger. I was able to quickly get to the problem area, expose it and heal it.

Her ability to honor my feelings taught me how to connect to and honor them myself. I am forever grateful for her deeply compassionate care and the spaciousness this allows me. I am able to see more clearly, react more intelligently , and love myself and others in a healthy well balanced way. Who I am today and my joy for life seemed out of reach all those years ago.

Every year near my Birthday I send her a Thank You note for my life. She always reminds me I did the work. I would not have known what the work was had we not met and embarked together on my healing journey.

My recovery has led me to many different teachings. I have been able to learn and apply the work of many masters in their field from the solid foundation built while in her care.

I have not done the Brain Music yet  but I'm sure "my song" will be a love song. I still have work to do, this is not a disclaimer, it is an intelligent assessment of the life process.

Thank You Orli for being an example of a courageous and innovative healer. Thank you for providing me with a touch stone when I most need one. Your grace, dignity, and integrity shine a light on a way of living that keeps me happy to be "traveling to the be beat of a different drummer".

Learn more about Dr. Orli Peter at http://www.drorlipeter.com/ .
Dr. Orli Peter, PhD, Director and Founder, Center for Accelerated Psychology. Offering cutting-edge psychotherapies with compassion: Brain Music Therapy, Neurofeedback, Heart Rate Variability Training, Mindfulness, and accelerated psychotherapies.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Mercury Retrograde Dance or My Trip with the Library Girl


I don't have PTSD. I time travel. I have a masters degree in alternate realities.
It was developed as a child to carry me out of situations too intense for my little mind to embrace.

 It is a blessing and in the past has been a curse.
No drama, just gratitude at this point in my life.
 I hop this mystical train to the past or future and all of my senses are alive with " that" place and time. I love this dance. Be it sweet or bitter sweet it is a wonderful way to travel.

I went into therapy to try and forget but instead I met a woman who taught me how to live the moment in a way that empowers my now.

Mercury retrograde is all about going back and reliving . My friend, Dances with Dolphins, is a gentle old soul who loves to play like a child. She has been shaking her head and mumbling " steaming piles of Mercury retrograde" for the past few weeks. It's not all stepping in shit, it can be amazing self discovery and recovery if you choose it. She is a time traveler too. Mercury went direct today but he saved the last dance for me.

I was invited  to an evening in The Library Girl series. Writers read their work in an old beat poetry style. "Life is like a canvas and they paint it with their minds". An old partner of the process sent the invitation and it was on.

 I had never been to the venue before but I knew where it would take me. I'd be back in my twenties with long auburn hair dancing just above a 26 inch waist. Robert would still be alive and we would drink cheap champagne, smoke a joint, and "the deals were goin' down, the deals were goin' down, the deals were goin' down in the city."

I went shopping the day before the trip. The costume is always important to me. You can take the costumer out of the costume shop but you can't take the.......you know the rest. I was going back to my first job as a costumer. An innocent time when a kiss was just a kiss.

 My theatrical background like a sleeping giant was stretching and grumbling to be fed. I took out the pony tail I wear as a massage therapist, let down my Lady Clairol auburn hair and felt  the fearlessness of the girl who pulled together 88 costumes in 7 days. I wanted to take this trip but like most sober alcoholics I was apprehensive about the depth of waters I was about to swim.

 I was grateful my posse decided to join me at the last minute. Tina Sparkle, Dances with Dolphins, and Abracadebra piled in to Tina's coach and baby we were off. We looked good. As we drove into Santa Monica 2010 was fading. " Palm trees swayed like vaulting poles, like bamboo sticks". The address was 3000 Airport Ave.Santa Monica,Ca., I do not make this shit up. God how I love the ironic.

I laughed out loud as we drove up and I saw the building that looked like Baghdad Cafe. Somewhere I had never been was somewhere I had been so many times. As this posse hit the "lobby" I could not help but wonder if the old Persian rugs on the floor were my imagination or if all converted theater spaces just grew them on their own. The make shift bar, the theater loving volunteers, the benches along the wall that came out of someones garage, the long hallway to the womb like room with rose colored theater seats and the white trellis work set covered in  artificial vines, oh yeah, welcome to the Club Bayou. Welcome to every little theater I have ever lived in long enough to touch the craft of creating magic out of nothing.

Drinking from a plastic party cup of red wine and sitting on a bench was a time kissed member of the old posse. Lupe was warm and inviting. Quick conversation tried to cover 25 or was it 30 years in a heart beat. She said I looked the same. Even though time had kissed me too, I felt the same as back when we whispered secrets and shared crumpled newspaper reviews rewarding our " verisimilitude".

Lupe and John had now been married 40 years. John was the last act on the program. My old friend was now a successful play write and actor. I had see in the pictures on his Facebook page that he was still as handsome as I remembered. I wondered if the score to his life would still rock with " Born in the USA" down the streets of the city, the movie star city, do wha ditty, wha ditty in the city.

 John directed and starred in that production so many years ago. Robert was acting in it as well .  He came home one day and told me " Girl, you are going with me to rehearsal tonight. We need help with the costumes and you are going to do it." Back then I did what Robert told me to do. He wasn't bossy he just took you along for every ride he thought would open your heart or mind.

Robert was tall with jet black skin. He was a  green eyed brother who had the kind of charisma that could hold the attention of a thousand ten year old students. In the magic of the silence he recited stories of Dr. King, Malcolm X and Big Sixteen. I hear as I write this his deep base laugh. He'd laugh right at you or more often himself. His charm was undeniable. We met in college and became fast friends. When I moved to Los Angeles we became roommates and I became his apprentice in life. I trusted him with everything. He gave me something to drink and I drank it. I knew it would be good for me because Robert always had my best interest at heart. HIV virus took his body but his spirit met me in the lobby on this night and I was damn glad to see him. It felt good to feel so safe , being reminded to own my truth, to stand tall, live my beauty, and above everything else let my creative spirit roll. The lessons he taught me had become me. I promise to tell his story another day, just know for now I loved him in a way that goes unmatched. It never was a romance, it wasn't meant to be, it was a heart to heart life lesson.

We crammed our tushes into the theater seats, Lupe, myself, Tina Sparkle,and Dances with Dolphins, all in a row. Baby, that is a power posse. The theater was packed and alive with palpable anticipation.

One by one they read their stories and poetry. First the son of the producer played and sang an old Buddy Holly tune to get us in the mood.Then a well known character actress sent us into seam splitting belly laughs as she recounted her on line dating experiences. I was headed back for sure now.

 My mind raced with my own on line dating experiences. The guy with the plastic light up Jesus on the fireplace mantle in front of the twenty thousand dollar oil painting he bought at auction who took me through five elegant marble bathrooms that housed his live lizard collection. When he asked me if I wanted to pet his lizard he meant a real living reptile it wasn't a come on. The guy who asked me if I would dress up like a bunny, I thought he meant a Playboy bunny but noooo......he wanted a big stuffed animal bunny. Time traveling let me enjoy one more long wet kiss with Rob. The man who taught me, some men can attract " exactly what they have been longing for" but sadly can not stay to enjoy it.
As I came back to present ,the performer was telling us she met a man who became her life partner, note to self....don't stop believing.

Next was a small sweet man who worked in film production . He read poems from his youth about girls who stole his heart only to run off with older boys and how invisible his thirteen year old self felt. His wife of seven years sat in the front row listening to him , two loving eyes, holding his pain struck youthful heart, reminding me sometimes you win. Love finds us. Some men stay.

Dances with Dolphins knew the next performer, she lived just down the block from her. They didn't really know each other but the seemed to wind up in each others orbit from time to time. This tall thin woman in a knitted hat with a flower on it had all the lights turned up so she could see our faces. She had grown up an only child and wanted our company.

 Before she started her piece she rearranged the stage. She seemed to be working to get things just right before she started her tale of the girl who didn't get the guy. She was the girl who lost her love to her best friend, a blond blue eyed shiksa who looked like Susan Day. The boy turned out to be gay. But she hadn't really dodged the bullet. She wove into the fabric of her presentation the heart breaking loss of her father , that she had kept as a secret and her salvation in her crush on Paul Mc Cartney. Her long thin fingers traced a place on her shoulder showing us where they had removed her fathers arm to try and save his life and her words told us how his showing her his wound drew them closer in a bond that death and time would never erase.

 We all learned the truth at seventeen. Even girls who look like models get trashed in the movie star city. Suck it up girl, in Hollywood you get haunted by airbrushed pictures you can't live up to and you are the girl in the picture. Sweetie, life just isn't airbrushed. I wanted to tell her I lost my father before I was old enough to know him. Her stories I most feared. I'd been the blue eyed blond but I knew her pain and loss. I had the love who confessed he was gay and I knew the pain of the thousands of questions you ask wondering what you did wrong. Sing a lullaby honey, soft and sweet, sing it to yourself.  " Late nights and Early Times got a hold on me. Late nights and Early Times love is misery."

As we moved on in this literary garden a flower bloomed, a bleached blond Iris, hip, smart and soulful. She rocked us with a story of The Beat Hotel in Palm Desert. A  haven for the time traveler. Easy access to a past rich in poets and bad boys. I had stayed in this hotel years ago. I knew the warm desert wind so stirring. I'd felt the muse and the stories Steve, the hotel owner turned beat historian, would tell. William Burrows drank out of this glass and so and so wrote this in that room, on and on  beat poet history was told.

The more she read the more I wanted to hear. She was fresh, raw and honest to the bone. She told us the story of a naked photo shoot in front of the long long gold trailer parked at the entrance of the hotel. This hotel just called to being naked. I had my own naked swim in the pool one moonlit July night. All alone except for Dean Martin on the loud speakers serenading my naked midnight swim. I knew how free she felt and how she was so glad to have been so bold for she would never pass this way again. A few weeks later Steve would die and take with him the stories, poets and bad boys. Nobody will ever tell them like Steve did.

She shuffled through her papers looking for her next piece and reluctantly settled on a piece she had not planned to read. As she read her story the catch in her throat let us know that though she was fully clothed this was the real naked. She stripped away the poet, the writer, the naked prankster and before us stood nude as the loving daughter whose mother at this very moment was in the process of releasing her life on this planet. You could not help but fall in love with this most intimate tribute. Words from the page became clear bright images of a life well lived. The textures and colors were so well drawn you felt somehow when Mom was gone, although you never met her, you would miss her too.Like a true pro she never broke down as that one slow tear ran down her pale white cheek. " Rita's eyes were cuttin' through the smoke."

The evening closed with my friend John. He brought with him a musician named Al. The handsome silver fox and his shadow on the drums. When John walked on the stage the energy crackled . He told the story of returning from Vietnam.

 John is a time traveler too.Every solider should have a Lupe. Tonight John  would tell us the story of how the "far out" girl takes him to a party where his life will be changed by love. This story is about the night he met Lupe for the first time.  John and Al do a dance in such perfect step that they become one. In my minds ear I hear Robert saying "He's nation wide Deb" oh yeah, this is the real deal. The man makes you hang on every word just waiting for what will happen next.  If we drank Jack Daniels back in the day tonight we were drinking in a fine aged cognac. This was rich and lush and I wanted to savor it. This had me found in the moment. I could smell the incense, hear the music and feel the heat. Just at the perfect moment Al would seamlessly respond with drum and voice painting a picture that is a time travelers dream. "Life is like a canvas and you paint it with your mind."

 I have been shamed in the past for being "too" emotional. I live out loud. For awhile now I have dumbed my life down. I have hidden inside myself and that is alright. But it can't last. Over the last few years my job has been to heal people and in my spare time grieve. All of the people whose approval have I have sought have moved on from this planet and I am free to seek my own approval. I have a feeling it is back to livin' out loud. I'm so grateful I can feel so strong and love so deep.

Thank you poets and mystics for your stories last night. That is what it is all about, the good stuff, Thank you posse for loving me when I'm crazy and hanging with me for the ride. You had my back and made me safe for this trip. Thank you Robert for teaching me to just do it, a life with out risk is boring. Thank you Lupe for embracing me again after so many years.

 Thank You John for giving an inexperienced 24 year old girl an opportunity that would change the course of her journey. Thank you for healing from the unthinkable and coming out to share with us in such a vulnerable and valuable way. Thank You Mercury for one hell of a dance with the muse. " and the deals are goin' down, the deals are goin' down , the deals are goin' down in the city."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Old Hotel Dance or You're not in Kansas anymore Dorothy.

 I feel a deep connection to Culver City. When I first moved to Los Angeles I worked in a shoe store at the Fox Hills Mall . Downtown Culver City was a dump. Many beautiful old buildings were abandoned and had been taken over by the homeless or used by street people, drug dealers and gangs.

Culver City was founded in 1917 by Harry H. Culver. Legend has it Harry saw a beautiful woman named Lillian Roberts in a pale yellow sundress and a big straw hat standing on a train platform in the Culver City area. He was many years her senior and did not approach her. A friend of his, who knew Miss Roberts arranged for him to meet her.

Harry posed as the limo driver for his friend and his wife and they invited Lillian to join them for a night on the town. The couple sat in the back seat putting Lillian in the front seat next to Harry. He spent the evening charming her and soon they began to date. (they later married) Harry built the Culver Hotel so he had a reason to stay in town and court Lillian.

 The Culver Hotel is built on land that was originally home to the first theater in Culver City called The Merratta. I have always been able to feel that old thespian energy when near it.

It was first called The Hotel Hunt and the name later changed to The Culver Hotel.

 It is a wedge shaped revival style building made of brick and stone. It is 6 stories high and has 200 windows. In 1924 it was considered a sky scrapper on the " shortest main street in the USA".

 The first time I saw it I was smitten, but it most would think I was mad to be taken with this deteriorated heap of bricks and cement . Clothing hanging on cloths lines out the window and trash dumped everywhere. An old stained couch out front that you could only imagine who and what slept on. It would have been a great location for the Broadway Play " Hot'l Baltimore".
 Nothing like it's illustrious past when it was once the residence of movie stars from MGM. It is famous for housing all of the "little people" during the filming of " The Wizard of Oz'. Tales of secret hallways and wild parties can not be confirmed but it is said these "little people" partied hearty!

 Now questionable characters were leaning up against the building with Thunderbird bottles clustered at their feet. It's beauty had substantially faded but seeing it through rose colored glasses, I could envision it's glamorous beginnings.

My roommate at the time and I were searching for an apartment. As a joke I brought him to this relic with serious flop house appeal in this oh so seedy part of town and said "Isn't it beautiful lets live here!".

 He looked at me with wide eyes and before he could speak I gleefully exclaimed "Got ya!" and  started laughing. He also laughed with relief. But truth is something in it called to me. It called to a place deep inside so far back that it went to a time before I was in this physical body. Maybe it was in my DNA as my Mother loved all things to do with the "movies" and spent much of her childhood at the theater blissfully escaping her depression era life in films.

Harry H. Culver died in 1946 and from the 1950's to the 1990's due to real estate troubles it fell into  a state of disrepair.

The Culver hotel has had many owners. Truth or urban legend, I don't know for sure, alleges that Charlie Chaplin owned it and sold it to John Wayne for $1 in a poker game. Red Skelton is also said to have owned it at one time. I can how ever confirm that Lou Catlett bought it and spent his life savings restoring it.

The hotel only had one bathroom for each floor making it most inconvenient and Lou brought it up to code and up to date. Mr. Caplett went bankrupt but The Culver Hotel was saved. This seems to be the fate of the hotel for it's entire existence.

When I first saw it in flop house conditions it was the early1980's . Somewhere in the 1990's Sony made it's head quarters in Culver City and breathed new life into the whole area. It was once again restored but still carries the look and  feeling of a slightly faded rose. Today it is a family owned business and the shinning star of Culver City. It is listed in The National Register of Historic Places.

Just last night I had dinner in Culver City on a tree lined street with twinkling lights. It still feels magical and it still calls to something deep in my soul.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Poets Dance or A Woman in Full Bloom



Vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry days
till a honey haired man with seas and skies and dungarees in his eyes
stepped up to my cash register and instead of ordering ice cream ordered me.
                                           author unknown ( just can't remember who)

I thought of this poem from my teen age years today. It just came to my mind from the past after years of not thinking of it. Something that sounded so romantic to me as a teenage girl who had worked all summer behind an ice cream counter. So today I'm posting a woman's poem. One I wrote for my 50th birthday.Enjoy!

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Fame Dance or Is It name dropping if you don't know someone is famous?

I was born in Chicago and we moved to Las Vegas when I was six years old. In 1980 I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an actress.

Many people I knew growing up have had great success, sometimes temporary, sometimes lasting. My life experiences have put me in relationships with people whose names are easily recognized.

 I never really have had the kind of success that is celebrated with more than a cake you made in your own kitchen.

I have friends and clients who have won the Tony, Oscar, Emmy, Soap opera Award, for their talent. I also have amazingly talented friends and clients whose name you would not know who have never won 2 bucks in the Lotto.

 What makes me a good therapist has nothing to do with the bodies I work on and everything to do with my technique. Just because someone I work with is famous does not make me more of anything at all. Most of the time I don't know my client is famous. Someone else ends up telling me.

 I had a client for a couple years and knew her only by her first name. One of my co- workers got all excited when she saw her and whispered " Do you know who that is?" I said " Ummmm...no...I'm clueless." The room broke out in laughter. It was Alicia Silverstone, the actress who first found fame in the movie "Clueless". Who knew? Not me .

 I just knew her as Alicia. To me she was a lovely young woman who cared much for animals, my soft old worn out sheets, and the smell of Jergens lotion. She said she always thought of her Grandma when she came to see me because I smelt like Jergens lotion.

I felt like a fool for not knowing she was famous, she how ever loved it. She said she felt comfortable with me because she could just be herself. We made an agreement, she would always just be Alicia to me. Alicia, the lady with the big heart and a champion of kindness to animals.

One of my dearest friends and clients is the wife of an epic film star. Marie ( not her real name. We picked that name yesterday. It is her middle name. She said I could use her real name but I believe public people deserve private lives.)

Marie and I have so much in common. We are both from the Midwest , both started out actresses, both love to take pictures, both wish we were thinner... the list goes on and on. Our ages are different, I'm 53 and she is 87. But the essence of our friendship comes from time and love shared.

Many of my stories will be about my exchanges with Marie. She has been one of the most powerful friendships I have ever been blessed by. My love for this woman is deep, like a family member.

We have experienced mystical happenings that most people would not believe. Life has proven to us that fame and celebrity do not protect you or keep you from the painful lessons of the evolution of human existence. It doesn't make love better, it doesn't make life more precious, rich or poor, famous or obscure, when cut we all bleed.

 We brought each other through the one of the hardest times in our lives. Her husband and my Mother were doing the end of life dance at the same time. They both had been very seriously ill for a long time.

I was grateful to be massaging her several times a week, it gave me a reason to keep moving forward and she was grateful for the loving touch. The healing conversations during those massages, the truth we shared ,the tears we shed, go beyond what I can explain with words on this page. It is called friendship.

One time during a massage Marie had fallen asleep as often happens. Her husband who was ill was also sleeping in the bed next to where we were. I was quietly massaging her when, her husband began to speak, "Are you enjoying your massage darling?"
"Oh yes, it feels so good."
" I'm so glad, I want you to feel good."
" Ohhh, I love you."
" I love you too."

I sat in silence, I was witnessing a miracle. My heart was pounding. Her husband, because of his illness, was hardly able to speak at all when he was awake. But his voice was clear and strong . He was filled with the power of presence we would all know from his time on the silver screen. As I write this the same tears that wet my cheeks that day are present. The implications of this event changed my beliefs about life.

I learned a most valuable lesson that day. Illness effects our body but does not touch our essence,our soul, who we really are inside. The bond between two spirits, the iron solid love these two people shared will never be broken. These two souls are so connected that not sleep, illness, or death could get in the way of this man expressing his love and concern for his life partner.  Love knows only life.

When the massage was finished I woke her from her sleep. It took everything I had to collect the tiniest bit of professionalism.
" Marie, Do you remember your conversation with your husband? I think you two were talking in your sleep."
" No." she let out a cry, " What did he say?!"
I repeated the conversation to her.
" Oh , I wish I been awake!" she exclaimed.
" Oh , Marie you were, you were awake in the real world not this one filled with the illusion of illness and separation. See what this means, you will never be apart. Not illness or sleep could stop the dance of love between you two."

She got up and went to his bed. She took his hand and began to talk to him . I slipped out the door quietly giving these two public people a private moment.

A couple weeks later On February 20th in the morning hours my sweet dear Mother left her physical body and became pure spirit. That afternoon 2 dozen of the most beautiful white roses were delivered to my door. I did not have to open the card to know who they were from. Remembering that day gave me comfort.

A couple weeks went by and Marie's husband joined my Mother in the world of spirit. That great mystery of life after life. When I saw her a few days later and asked her how she was doing she said " I was in the car driving to an appointment. I felt an odd feeling. People were walking on the sidewalks. Streetlights were changing colors. I was surprised, the world was just going on. I feel like time has stood still but it hasn't. For me the world stopped the moment my husband died."

I can not imagine the loss you experience when your husband of 60 or more years passes away. Her words describe it perfectly. The world just stands still. Perhaps to get our attention or to help us isolate this moment of grief with reverence. What ever the point, it does keep on going.

The powerful presence ,her husband, will teach us much in the days to come. His communications from "the other side" are no more subtle than he was in life. He paints in broad strokes so we know for sure it is him and so she knows for sure she is not now and never will be with out him.

Footnote...
I am going to ask one favor, when jokes fly about Lindsay Lohan or you see a picture of a movie star without their makeup, remember that they are people just like you and me. It may not seem so but you can help with just one compassionate thought.  We can explain it away or justify by saying they ask for it or that it is the price of fame, I sure would not want to have all my mistakes on the evening news. I'm lucky I don't have to pay the fame price.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Apartment Dance or The Alarming State of Community


 My home is up a flight of stairs to an old 20's apartment tucked in the back of a four plex in the heart of Los Angeles. I live in what is called a Beverly Hills adjacent. Which means I'm not really in Beverly Hills but I'm so close you can smell the botox. LOL

 I have lived in the same apartment for 21 years. I moved in October of 1989 shortly after getting married. When my husband and I separated he moved to The Valley and I kept the apartment. I am the only original tenant still living here today.
 
 The building was purchased by a woman who had cancer. She was a nurse at U.C. L. A. and she bought the building for her four children. An apartment for each one them. She wanted to make sure her children always had a place to live. Her daughter was the last family member to live here. After winning a big law suit she sold the building and moved to Las Vegas.
 
Well she has given me a home for 20 years. I have seen many come and go in that time and each one passing through has made a contribution to my life. Sometimes a friend and sometimes a lesson in patience but each time someone who has taught me something of value.
 
I had a friend come to visit shortly after I moved in. He could not believe what he was seeing when he got here because he had been a close friend to the husband of the daughter who lived in my apartment. He said he would think of me every time he came to visit.He knew I would love all of the little 20's details. We both agreed I was destined to live here.
 
All of the old world charm has been kept pretty much intact. The vintage features have been chipped away at a bit. The new owner took out the flag stone walk way, which broke my heart, but had to be done for insurance purposes.

They " paved  paradise and put up a parking lot" when the backyard turned into a building with three more apartments and a garage. It was explained to me that grass and trees although lovely were not a good source of income. It took a long time to get over the loss and had thoughts of moving many times but could never say good bye to this place where I feel so at home.
 
The best friend I have had here was a 100 year old Chinese Elm that completely cover my bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen window.We saw families of possums living in the tree every year. Birds were abundant. My cats would climb the tree and enter the apartment from the bedroom window. I felt like I lived in a tree house.

 The bathroom has pale yellow and green tile. A bathtub and a stall shower with two windows that looked out into the inside of my beautiful friend ,the Chinese Elm. She was thick and lush but from the tub you could see the moon in the sky while you soaked away the cares of the day.

One Christmas we got stuck here due to weather conditions and ended up spending Christmas at home. I went back home to my Mother's house every year for Christmas. It made me sad to not be waking up with Mom in the kitchen making coffee but as I have said before every loss has a gift.

When I woke up early in the morning looked out the window, the tree with bare branches was covered with morning doves. Precious little couples ,two by two on the branches. So many birds it looked like it had feathers for leaves. I woke my husband, not a morning person, and he was just as taken by the sweetness of this moment as I. We held eat other and watched the snuggling couples on the branches for quite some time. Nature had sent the balm for my disappointment and soon I was in the kitchen making coffee preparing to celebrate.
 
We have a cat door at the bottom of the back stairs and over the years the possums have figured this out. Many of the other animals in the neighborhood have found the dry food dish on the kitchen floor. City animals find a way to get what they need.

My dining room at the time was a sewing room. A place I went to create when I was still working as a costume designer. Under a bench in my room were little scraps of fake fur I had rescued from the rubbish when I was working on "Fivel Goes West" at the Universal Studios Tour.

I noticed a scrap of fur that I had never seen before. I reached down to get a closer look and it hissed. I screamed. It was a baby possum. My husband came running in to see what all the commotion was about. The little baby way more frighten than I ran to a collection of over sized Christmas  nutcrackers standing on the living room floor and stood up at attention next to them trying to blend in . This little soldier was so darling. Where was the camera? Who knew?! Now how do we get him safely out.

 Possums have long claws and big teeth even when they are babies. My husband put on a leather jacket and oven mitts. His humanitarian armour in place he picked up the little guy and put him back outside.

Calm had been restored, regrets that we could not find the camera gotten over and I went back to sewing. I reached again to get the fake fur and he was back! How did he get in? I had closed the cat door and locked it causing the resident cats to become discussed and retreat to the closet. My husband came back and repeated the oven mitt routine grumbling about how the hell did it get back in house.

The baby possum became a member of the family and ate in the kitchen for most of the winter. The cats never seemed to mind. I did how ever notice that sometimes he was light brown and sometimes he looked much cleaner, a light buff color. I wondered how he would get so dirty and then clean up. I was not well versed on the behavior of possums.

Next door was a large lot with a little craftsman house on it. No one had ever lived in the house while we lived here. We heard the lady had been moved to a rest home and although her children wanted to sell it she would not allow it till her passing. 

One day I saw them moving her things out and was told she had passed away. Shortly after her passing the land was sold and they tore down the little house. A new condo building was being built in place of the single family dwelling that had been there since the 20's. This was so sad. Along with this news came notification that the developer would be taking down the Chinese Elm.

I flipped out! She was real to me. She was a dear friend. She was home to the city woodland creatures. Squirrels, birds, my cats, the possums. At this time there were at least a dozen humming bird nests in the trees. I begged. I tried to find a law to save the tree. I cried. Everyone kept saying how sorry they were but no one was budging an inch.

I have a drama ridden version of this story where I hang on to the tree and they pry me off. It is not true. The truth is I stood in my bathrobe and watched sobbing like a little girl till I could not stand it any more. Some of the workmen laughed at me and some seemed to have remorse.

That night when my husband got home we went outside and stood by the stump that was left in the yard. The cats had followed us down to see what was up. We could not believe what happened next. On the fence dividing the two yards sat two baby possums. A buff colored one and a light brown one. They were looking up in the sky where the tree had been and back at us. All along there had been two. We all seemed to know change had come and we must let go.

In the end the Elm tree wins. They have never been able to dig that stump out. And on the top of the stump is new growth. The possums moved to a tree in the front yard. But no longer come in to eat. So today while I am unnerved by a car alarm going off in the garage of the condo building, I am telling the story of experiencing nature in the city. Man and all his toys may disrupt but will never defeat nature or the Elm tree in my sweet unchoreographed life.



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Girl Friend Dance / Does My Butt Look Big in These Jeans?


The Girl friend dance is a tricky dance. I crave the company of women and sometimes run like hell from it. The realization that every complaint I have about my girlfriends is something I do or have done myself is heartening.

The greatest support and love to be found in the world has sometimes come from women. So has the deepest judgement and betrayal.

At the moment I am on the outs with one of my best girlfriends. In the modern world that would be BFF or bestie. I don't know what those letters stand for but it means she is an important member of my posse.

Most of my best friends in life have been men. I think somewhat like a man. This said, I can not avoid the fact that although I only have a little left, estrogen still is present in my biological structure.I need female friends.

The hurts of my youth, the parties I did not get invited to, the best friends who out grew me and made other best friends, the teams where I was picked last, oh dear, the drama of girlfriends, have these things colored my friendships today?

I can't stand these shows about the real house wives because I see them pointing up the pit falls of female friendships with out any redemption or lessons learned. I wonder if I have learned the girl friend dance?

 I want to blame estrogen for my transgressions. Estrogen can bring the crazies at any point in life. I say "My whores are moaning", hormones we are told can rage. When this happens LOOK OUT! The truth is I am responsible for my actions. I can be a solid friend, loving and thoughtful and I can throw you under the bus when my feelings get hurt or I get pissed off.

 I think the core problem is control. I want it. Not just over myself but over you. Sometimes this little devil named control comes disguised in "only wanting to protect you." or "someone just had to tell you the truth".

Men have learned that the answer to " Does my butt look big in these jeans?" is ALWAYS " No honey, you have a terrific behind." They hear the shot gun cock when you ask that question. But girl friends stand strong in needing to be the one to tell you "the truth".

Is it ever OK to not tell the truth? Do you really want to hear that those jeans are two sizes to small and the muffin top is unattractive on a women your age? Do you really want to hear your girl friend tell you that even though he has served his time and has been completely drug free for six months he is still not boyfriend material? Is it OK to say," No matter what you feel, if he hasn't called and has not asked you out he just is not interested?"  Well, yes and no.

At this point in my life I am still working on knowing when and how to share my authentic opinion. It is a dangerous dance. One wrong step and a tempest in the tea pot.Feelings are involved yours and mine. Our hopes, dreams, and fears are involved, yours and mine. Buttons get pushed, yours and mine. I ask myself the question what is kind and what is just my projection based on my own set of circumstances?

This is what I have come to today. Opinions, even for someones "own good", are still just my opinion based on my experiences. If it lacks compassion keep my mouth shut. That is worth saying twice. If it lacks compassion don't go there. The need to control another persons experience never has a good end. It may hurt or it creates dependency.

 Why is so difficult to watch our girlfriends make mistakes and learn life lessons without trying to control the experience? I know in my case that what I want is someone to stand beside me while I learn life lessons and bring the peanut butter cookies if they were really tough to learn. I want my friends to trust my path, listen to my stories, encourage me to cry if I need to, and help me laugh again when I'm done. I want them to ask important questions that, when I answer them, help me to hear my own truth.

If my butt was big when I put the jeans on, it still will be big! LOL Accepting and loving myself completely is an inside job. No outside stuff will ever be enough to replace a good relationship with myself.

I commit today to being the kind of friend I want. It is a big order but so worthwhile. Being my best self does not mean I need to solve all your problems. It means I see in you everything you need to figure them out. I remind you that something in you knows exactly what to do. I don't fall into judgement, I stand in love.
To my bestie, I am sorry, I love you, how are the Dodgers doing?