Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's that time again

Democracy is the process by which people choose the man who'll get the blame.” --Bertrand Russell

Democracy is the road to socialism. --Karl Marx

Democracy passes into despotism. -- Plato

Rule by the many is rule by the poor. -- Aristotle

We have the best government money can buy. -– Mark Twain

Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage. --H. L. Mencken

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. -- Churchill

(Why these strangely unrelated photos? Why not; it's a free country.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meaningful Moments

It's not like my Matrix is too good for a bumper sticker. But the good slogans, the indisputable ones, particularly if you'd been paying attention in science class -- "There's Only One Earth," for example -- are already taken. What more can I slap on my butt and share with the world?

Ok, ok, I admit, there's an element of fear. I realize, those who sport a bumper sticker have made a major commitment; It's not an easy step to take. First you have to get one. Then you have to pull the sticky tape off the back. And, I don't know, there are probably many considerations and contingencies. But brave people do it -- take the major risk every day. They dare to say, "Save Water." While I, I just drive with the naked bumper, too afraid to tell people to spay and neuter.

I'm getting closer. The other day, a car cut me off on the way between the 110 and the 5 freeway. This car had a bumper sticker, but I could only see a piece, a piece that said, "What would Je ... do." I can only assume it meant Jean, Jean Harlow. I don't need to tell you that made me slam on the brakes. Sorry for the pile up leading back to the 101, but this was important.

How different my life, all our lives if you consider the ripple effect, would have been if I'd only added Jean into the equation of my life's story. I sat there a very long time, long enough to watch the pile up extend to the 405.

And at that moment, I swore to myself and to Jean, one day my tail will wag a significant message. Maybe, this.

And when I take the ultimate step, you had best stay away from the 110 during rushhour. It means I'm loaded for bear. Or just loaded.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Just one more time

I've got a new piece up at Patch Altadena. And I've taken off the nice gloves.

Not that I like to run in circles, chase my tail, or cover the same ground, but...

will you walk with me, just one more time, down the mean streets of my hometown?

Sunday, October 24, 2010


The first rain of autumn is the beginning of the world.

The tenth rain of autumn is really, really wet.

UPDATE: Angelica, the cat I posted at Patch last week, she was adopted!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sweet Dreams

Between the ages of 5 and 7, I never hiked without a length of rope. I clipped it to my belt. When I finally found my horse, my wild horse of the Sierra Nevada’s, I would use the rope to make a bridle and guide him home. Always be ready to meet your dream.

The night before every hike, I worked on a strategy. Maybe something from the car could make a saddle, otherwise I’d just go bareback. My horse and I would probably take the road beside the freeway, and if my horse was scared, I’d whisper sweet nothings in his ear, something to do with speed and love.

I hoped my dad would drive alongside, because we’d need the headlights, it would be dark. And my dad was pretty encouraging anyway; by now he was in the habit of clipping his Swiss Army Knife to my belt, a handy tool in case I had to cut the rope to fit. Wish the big wishes, he told me, but have a plan.

My plan never stretched to feeding and accommodations, because I think you'll agree I had something a little more important to consider: My horse's name. And after much thought, I had one, a name so beautiful, I couldn’t believe I was the first person to ever put these two words together: King Emerald.

When I read about Zenyatta, I’m maybe five or seven. Even sports writers who are not given to hyperbole (an exclusive club and I can only think of one), dissolve into similes and metaphors, and whisper sweet nothings, something to do with speed and love. She’s a mare who dances on her toes to the starting gate, relaxes down the backstretch, and pours it on for the finish. She may be the best horse who ever raced.

(I have a new small piece on Patch. I hope you’ll visit, not because of the piece itself, but to see a beautiful 3 year old cat who lives at the Humane Society and needs a home. Maybe your home is full already, but you might meet someone, this week or next, who has a dream that includes this cat. It’s good to be prepared; you never know who you’ll run into.)

PS -- This is not my photo, but I couldn't find an attribution.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Meet the neighbors

This is Hartwell. He's a particular favorite of mine. We share a deep and abiding love of cookies. Plus, he's one of the few kids who doesn't like my dogs, which means he likes me for myself. As you can see, he's all grown up now, but even when he was a mere slip of a lad of two or three, he always knew my name.

"Hi Karin!" he calls, full of good cheer, as I walk by.

I used to ask if he wanted to pet one of the mutts, just because that's usually why I'm popular with the young, athletic set. I no longer ask, so we get along just fine.

(I've got a new column up at Patch Altadena. You've never heard me talk about gardening before, have you? Come by and pet my plants.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fall is my season

"Come," said the Wind to the Leaves one day.
"Come over the meadow and we will play.
Put on your dresses of red and gold.
For summer is gone and the days grow cold."
Anon, 1880

You may say autumn, but the name is Fall. I was born in fall, so I should know.

“The teeming Autumn big with rich increase, bearing the wanton burden of the prime like widowed wombs after their lords decease." Shakespeare.

See? Call it Autumn and I have no idea what you're talking about.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What's Up? I am.

Really. I'm writing two weekly columns for Patch Altadena, an online local news source that's setting up in towns across the country. In some cases, it's pretty much the only news source, in others, my town for example, it's in the company of an already established and very popular site,

In our case, I think we'll complement each other.

So please swing by and check out my initial offerings and leave a word or two. I'm partial to the bloodhound piece, first of all because it's better than the other one, and secondly, I wrote the final line for that one. And you know how I feel about getting in the last word. Also, it has my videos (they're the ones with the orange glow). I call these my Marie Antoinettes, for obvious reasons. But my subjects are very, very charming, even when they're out of frame.

I'm grateful for this opportunity; the site will just get better with time. So will I. In fact, my next week's column is not bad at all.

I'll try to work and play well with others. After all, paid writing jobs don't grow on ...


This might be my lucky year.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Somewhere Else

The downtown LA I used to know has moved. I don’t know how far it is from City Hall, Times Mirror, or Bunker Hill these days; I suspect you can find the cardboard boxes framing the gentrification. I have no urge to seek it out.

For years, I passed the street people on my way from the car to The Times, and from The Times to my car. In the evening, I’d see them on their way to the shooting gallery; in the morning, they panhandled for enough to get the blood flowing again.

Most of these were feral people, like the dogs that followed their trail around the city. The dogs and the people would take care of intimate business against building walls or out on the sidewalk. The city always ran hot and cold on public restrooms. Some politicians believed portable toilets were a basic requirement for human dignity; others believed they’d encourage prostitution. I rather guess both were right.

Aside from the daily trips to the garage, I used to do a lot of walking in LA. I was never afraid, but I never investigated Skid Row or Cardboard City after dark. I found Needle Park the most depressing, partly because they would shoot up in public, and partly because it was across the street from a day care center.

Some of us tried to help the street people, or more accurately, would choose one in particular and make him or her a project. I never did this. A woman I worked with, Linda, did. She brought her project morning meals and gave her clothes. But then Linda got unreasonably angry when she saw a stranger wearing her leather jacket, so that was that.

Kevin over at East of West LA knows where these people are today. They’re often his subject, and he does it better than anyone else. I just wonder what drives him.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sizing up the competition

They announced this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Ever the bridesmaid. All right, maybe not a bridesmaid, but I’ve been in church. Well, maybe not exactly in church, but I know someone who knew someone who dated an usher.

Even if I took the baby steps – wrote a book, for instance – it would never be enough. And that’s because those who sit on the Nobel committee are a lot like the dudes who vote in a new pope. The short list addresses immediate geo-political concerns. His holiness will never hail from Memphis. Fresno may be the land of certain kinds of opportunity, but I doubt we'll ever see a Pope Matt.

Of all the book awards, the only one I believe is the Newberry. From ages five to ten, I read all the Newberry winners, and every one was a ripping good yarn. I could always identify with the hero, though I had never been a sharecropper’s son, or a princess, or a mouse.

I think what unites the best in literature, for whatever age, is the clean, just-brushed-my-teeth prose. And the humanity. I find no qualitative difference between a Dahl and a Kundera.

Aside from Pinter, the last Nobel writer who took my breath away was a Polish poet; she won the prize in 1996. So I leave you with something of hers:

Hitler's First Photograph
Wislawa Szymborska

And who's this little fellow in his itty-bitty robe?
That's tiny baby Adolf, the Hitler's little boy!
Will he grow up to be an LL.D.?
Or a tenor in Vienna's Opera House?
Whose teensy hand is this, whose little ear and eye and nose?
Whose tummy full of milk, we just don't know:
printer's, doctor's, merchant's, priest's?
Where will those tootsy-wootsies finally wander?
To garden, to school, to an office, to a bride,
maybe to the Burgermeister's daughter?
Precious little angel, mommy's sunshine, honeybun,
while he was being born a year ago,
there was no death of signs on the earth and in the sky:
spring sun, geraniums in windows,
the organ-grinder's music in the yard,
a lucky fortune wrapped in rosy paper,
then just before the labor his mother's fateful dream:
a dove seen in dream means joyful news,
if it is caught, a long-awaited guest will come.
Knock knock, who's there, it's Adolf's heartchen knocking.
A little pacifier, diaper, rattle, bib,
our bouncing boy, thank God and knock on wood, is well,
looks just like his folks, like a kitten in a basket,
like the tots in every other family album.
Shush, let's not start crying, sugar,
the camera will click from under that black hood.
The Klinger Atelier, Grabenstrasse, Braunau,
and Braunau is small but worthy town,
honest businesses, obliging neighbors,
smell of yeast dough, of gray soap.
No one hears howling dogs, or fate's footsteps.
A history teacher loosens his collar
and yawns over homework.

Monday, October 4, 2010


In the land of the parched and terminally thirsty, the first autumn rain is a long tall drink of water. It feels like the beginning of the world.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Greater Good

“Because he's a nuanced man prone to attacks of conscience and introspection, Albert Haynesworth didn't immediately deposit the $21 million bonus check he received from the Washington Redskins in April.

"Yeah, the check sat at my house for a couple weeks before I cashed it," Haynesworth said. "I was weighing my options about what I should do...“ (Chris Chase, Yahoo News)

Haynesworth, don't I know, and get in line.

I have a $3 refund check from the State of California Franchise Tax Board, and it has been sitting on my commemorative Charles and Diana Love Forever plate for two years. (You keep financial records your way, I’ll keep mine.)

And it sits there, not due to my laziness. Like Haynesworth, I have some moral issues to consider. He waited two weeks, I’ve waited 2 years. I think we can agree who weighs moral issues with greater care. I use grams. It’s a scale left over from a previous job, but never mind about that.

Here’s what I mind: Where will my money do most good? Should I turn it over to the wildlife fund, or the healthy family fund? If I cash it, am I a party to our appalling California deficit? Should my $3 go to improving our failing infrastructure?

And if I cash it, in the grand scheme of things, will this contribute to my overall happiness and well being. Will it improve my life? Aye, there's that rub again.

Don’t cry for me, Argentina, but these decisions are harder than you think.
And perhaps you understand just a particle of what I deal with anytime my eye falls upon my financial files.

Until I decide, Charles and Diana have a permanent houseguest.