Archive for September, 2005

Learned Optimism, Redux

Monday, September 19th, 2005

Well, I ordered Learned Optimism again, and again the bookseller cancelled it. My fourth attempt to order it was also cancelled.
I don’t think the book exists. I think it’s a mythic lesson designed to teach its message through its absence. Either that or it’s a particularly appealing title to shoplifters in used booksellers’ stores.

I will try again. I am learning optimism that I can put my hands on a copy of this book.

Soccer Mom for a Day

Saturday, September 17th, 2005

Napa, CA
I always forget how long it takes to get kids and myself out of the house. The kids get distracted, I’m distracted rounding them and the things they need up, then I’m behind because I haven’t gotten everything I need.
We finally pile into the SUV, but I sent my niece back to the garage for three bottles of water.
The printed map directions are simple, so when I see kids in soccer uniforms and parents with folding chairs crossing the street, then see a field full of kids playing soccer, I park. We walk about 3/4 across the playground. My niece is looking puzzled. I ask a dad if this is the right field. It’s not.

Now we are late. I rush the kids back to the car to the next soccer field, the one two blocks away. My niece is a little late. I feel like I have failed Soccer Mom 101. If the parental unit can’t get the kid there on time, what kind of life is that kid going to have?

Whoever, oh so many years ago, decided to plant redwood trees in the corners of this large school playfield was a genius with foresight. I repair to the deep shade of the majestic tree, close enough to appear involved, but not close enough that I will be forced to talk to any of the parents. My nephew heads to the distance for playground adventures.

It seems to me the goal of soccer, at least for the girls with the white or burgundy shirts today, is that you have to kick the ball to a girl with a jersey of the opposite color. Somehow, I know, one team or the other is supposed to get a goal. But since they kick it to each other, I’m not sure how that’s supposed to happen.

For these little girls, the field is so large that at times I have to look up and see where they are because they are out of earshot. Actually, they are not all little girls. The one big girl, who is likely to be a big girl all her life given today’s nutritional standards, is playing what I think they call a guard position. Having a squeamish guard, no matter how large, seems like a failing strategy, a theory proved at least partially correct because some how the girls in the white jerseys just got a goal. The large girl has a burgundy jersey. I guess, if I recall correctly from the few tortured games of soccer I played in high school, the responsibility of keeping the other team from scoring is in the goalie’s job description, but the guards can be implicated too.

They are stopped now, lined up in some sort of formation in the middle of the field.

Burgundy kicks to white, kicks to burgundy, and on and on.

Parents yell things like, “What happened there?”

Some girls know how to run. They’ve learned to be aggressive in playing the game. They have a goal and the confidence and physical knowledge to know how to play soccer. They can challenge the other team’s players.

Actually, it’s pretty stressful to watch this game. I care about the scoring process.

Now a girl is down. The fat coach in a burgundy jersey runs across the field to join the white coach. By the time he gets there it’s resolved that she’ll live. He runs back and the cluster breaks up. The opposing colors kick the ball to each other for a minute or so, then a whistle blows and they all stop.

Am I supposed to do something? I wonder. What are the parental units doing? Just sitting there. Well, I’ll walk over and be closer. Is this half-time?

On my way I see one of the Dads chugging a tall beer in a can.

Gosh, they’ve changed sides. What are they trying to do? The game is hard enough to follow as it is.

Well, it doesn’t seem to matter. The white team has scored going the other way.

Does basketball do the same thing? I remember being endlessly confused when forced to play basketball, even to the point of scoring for the other team. Poor girls.

The game ended tied, which for my niece’s team is not so bad.

Learned Optimism

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

Cathedral City, CA
The sun is out this morning, which is a good thing.

I’ve struggled since I was a teenager with depression, so when a friend told me about a book called Learned Optimism as a way to get off of anti-depressants, my ears perked up.
I’d done everything I know of short of a lobotomy to address my depression: Years of therapy gave me insight into why I was depressed. Group growth work led me through deep processes that let me touch the source of my depression. Very occasional use of psychedelics temporarily expanded my mind past depression, giving my conscious and unconscious mind a reminder about what a great gift my mind is. Changes in diet helped me believe that I could affect a difference in my depression because, after all, what goes in comes out.
While all that, and the insight and tools they gave me, probably has made a difference (I’m an informed depressed person), I still end up depressed. I do have to say that Effexor has ended up being a wonder drug for me, and that, as I write, it’s helping me see that it’s a sunny day, to have an attitude of gratitude, and to be guided by a mind that doesn’t want to end it all.
And yet, I don’t want to have to be on a drug the rest of my life.
So when my friend told me about Learned Optimism, I thought, Here’s something I haven’t tried yet, and maybe my depression could be about attitude. The idea that something new was at hand gave me a sense of hope. This friend is someone I greatly admire and who knows her stuff.
So I went to and ordered a copy. I waited around for it, but got an email instead. My order was cancelled.
I didn’t let it get me down though.
Life kept me on the run, but I did keep a note as a reminder to again order Learned Optimism. Last night I was supposed to be packing to leave from Palm Springs, so it was the perfect time to go through those kind of notes. I found the cancelled order email, and hopped online, bank account fresh from a week’s worth of work, and ordered Learned Optimism.
This morning, my inbox contained an email from another bookseller. “Did not realize it was missing until they tried to locate it…” caught my eye. My second order for Learned Optimism was cancelled.
What is the universe trying to tell me? I don’t think that it’s that independent booksellers are flaky. That’s not a lesson I need to learn right now. What is the lesson then?
Of course, it’s that this book will change my life and that I have to really want that kind of change. I have to be willing to let go of old patterns of getting depressed (when I’m not on legal drugs), and be ready for new behavior. If the book had come on the first order, I might not have been cognizant that I had better pay attention to this book.
So, this morning, in the middle of this missive in fact, I hopped online and ordered the book again.
And, when I should be packing and cleaning this morning, I’m writing this post.

GLBT-Friendly Katrina Relief

Tuesday, September 13th, 2005

Lambda Legal, an organization I know nothing about, has links to LGBT-friendly organizations that are accepting donations for Katrina relief for LGBT folks.
Why should you care? Read here about how Mississippi and Louisiana law can affect LGBT Karina survivors.
I want to add another option: The Washington DC Radical Faeries have set up a fund for faes who have ended up at Short Mountain Sanctuary. Click the “Faerie Relief Fund” button.

Robertson blames hurricane and September 11th on choice of Ellen Degeneres to host Emmys

Tuesday, September 13th, 2005

Robertson blames hurricane and September 11th on choice of Ellen Degeneres to host Emmys.
I may hang out with some nut cases, but I’d draw the line at Pat Robertson.

Sounds Possible/I Don’t Think So

Monday, September 12th, 2005

I belong to, and I get email from people I don’t know. Most of it is bearable, including the one I’m writing about. This is NOT a story about, or even junk mail. It’s a story about one of the big three topics: housing in San Francisco.
If you read the ad below and know about how much I’m gone, it might make sense that I consider this place. I left a message and the guy got back to me. I wanted to know the price. It was $675 a month.
Hum, I thought as I drove through the warm desert evening. Maybe. The price is right, and I’d hardly ever be there. I’ve lived almost on top of a bar before.
Then I found out I’d be one of SIX roommates, not one of three as the ad implies. That’s $4050 a month if everybody’s paying the same. To live with five other people above a bar that guaranteed to be noisy seven days a week and horrible on-street parking conditions? I don’t think so.

Tribe Alert: men-n-fur
From: Ttocs
Title: Looking for a Great Castro location!

Share a flat with some very easygoing gay men in a very large flat. Two full bathrooms (two showers + two toilets), washer and dryer, dishwasher and a nice large kitchen. The location is in the heart of the Castro and has unmatched access to everything you need, from restaurants to the bars, including public transportation only 1/2 a block away. We are located over a bar (The Bar on Castro), so it can be a bit noisy at night. If you need to be up early, this is NOT the room for you. This room is perfect for the person who works the night shift, or if you do not need to be asleep before 2 A.M.
The room is available on October 1st. First months and last months rent required, and the deposit can be negotiable to spread it out over a couple months for the right person. The price does not include utilities, phone or cable. Internet hook-up is available, for an additional fee. We are all nice, stable guys, who love living here. Contact Ttosc at 415-xxx-yyyy or you can e-mail to com@Yahoo.ya, or Yesac at 415-yyy-xxxx or e-mail If no one answers, please leave a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Eight Big Lies About Katrina

Saturday, September 10th, 2005

Eight Big Lies About Katrina
1. Bush: “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees”
2. Chertoff strained credulity in defense of Bush, claimed levee breaks and massive flooding came as a surprise — more than 12 hours after local media reported them
3. Brown: “We’ve provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they’ve gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day”
4. Chertoff: “Apparently, some time on Wednesday, people started to go to the convention center spontaneously”
5. Chertoff pointed fingers: “New Orleans officials and the state officials … called for the Superdome to be the refuge of last resort”
6. Chertoff falsely minimized federal government’s role in Katrina response as subordinate to states
7. Wash. Post, Newsweek, Gingrich falsely claimed that Blanco did not declare a state of emergency
8. Gingrich falsely claimed that Nagin could “have kept water pumped out” of city had he ensured that pumps worked

Read more at the link

Ed Porter on Katrina

Friday, September 9th, 2005

Ed Porter, friend, says,

When people report that the system broke down, I cringe because the system didn’t break down. It did exactly what it has been designed to do–take care of the privileged and the powerful and ignore the underprivileged and marginalized.

I don’t think most people see this. They see colossal government failure at all levels and the ineptness of some top officials. But they probably don’t see that we don’t now have and have never had a system that provided social justice and equal protection. They don’t understand that the same thing would happen in most parts of the country. The Chronicle printed a small report about the way Bayview Hunter’s point people were overlooked and underserved in the aftermath of the 1989 SF quake.

This fiasco will probably weaken the Republicans (which is good), but will probably not enlighten the Democrats. The whole system has to change. People with too much power and privilege have to be neutralized by government, not elevated and protected. That would be a revolution. Are we ready for that?
It would have to be lead by the middle class. The poor and the underclass can’t do it.

I’m an optimist, but I’m not naïve. I don’t see any fundamental change, just some superficial shifting of power across political parties with the same power brokers pulling the strings.

Ginger Beer Lady

Sunday, September 4th, 2005

Tarzana, CA
While in line at Trader Joe’s in Encino, I saw a woman holding something in her left hand and what could only be a 4-pack of ginger beer in her right hand as I looked at nothing, knowing that I had, once again, gotten in the slowest checkout line. The family of four I’d avoided getting behind has gotten through already. Ug. Maybe it was the pale, strangely coifed cashier. Maybe he was slow.

I toyed with my short necklace as if I were patient and self-loving.

“How long have you had that necklace?”

It was the ginger beer woman who had made her way through the shoppers gathering a late dinner in this tiny Trader Joe’s.

“Oh, about 2 years,” remembering that lunch date with Ed in Tucson in the fall.

The ginger beer woman got in line behind me.

“That line’s going to be faster,” I said, indicating the one to the right that was just finishing up the family of four, all with dyed black hair, the father with dreads down his back.

“Everybody’s in such a hurry,” she said, not budging.

“I’m not in a hurry as much as I don’t want to be spending my time in line.”

“I met my husband at a grocery store.”

“Oh good,” I thought. “Maybe the man who would marry a woman who buys ginger beer will be rendezvousing with her in line, jar of marinated mushrooms in one hand and half-flat of tangerines under his arm. Maybe he’ll be cute. It’s been ages since I talked to a cute guy,” I thought in that instant between words.

“We weren’t IN line though. We met IN the parking lot of a grocery store,” she explained.

I pictured the meeting in the angry, small TJ’s parking lot outside. I could understand how someone could fall in love in such a violent, undersized place.

“He got out of his car, and I told him ‘I’m going to marry you,’ and I did. We fell in love and got married. Then he got shot. By a gun.”

My cashier was telling the lady that she should try the, did I hear this right, the 4-cheese and how it was different from the 3-cheese. He’s pulling the box with the frozen disk out of the grocery bag! It is his fault, that de-bagger. Smile with reservation.

“When you said shot, I assumed it was with a gun,” I thought, “this being LA and all. A bow and arrow had not crossed my mind,” I silently continued.

Smile vaguely now, so that she doesn’t see that you know she’s a crackpot.

I knew from the sorrow in her voice that the shot was fatal.

“It’s all very sad and I don’t like to talk about it very often,” was what I was hoping, and thinking would be decorous, she would close with. Yes, I had the thoughts of yelling, “Then why are you talking about it with me?” but didn’t.

“And when they had to evacuate the court house, and I set off the alarm because of a tack in my shoe…”

She had seemed like a nice lady when I saw her walking with her groceries. I was pleasantly surprised when she asked me about my necklace. Now I see that she was hitting on me. I am too young for her, a thought confirmed when she turned to get into the vacancy in the shorter line. I could see the roots in the back of her hair. Too much gray. What was she thinking?

At least at this point we were two strangers not interacting again.

My cashier was friendly, but misunderstood when I said, “Just one bag please” when I had a quantity that would clearly fit in one bag. As he started to double bag the first bag, I simply repeated, “Just one bag please.”

Am I insane?