Saturday, December 31, 2011

three word resolution

It is finally friday night and we are sitting in the living room of cabin #5, Happy Camp Hideway in Netarts, just like last year. New Year's in Netarts. It may be a bit soon to call it a tradition, but here we are, surrounded by the lapping waves of an inlet just south of Tillamook, two neon palm trees and a tattered Jolly Roger flag decorate the driftwood yard. The trees do not sway in the wind. I am happy to be anywhere but work. Anywhere. And I am very happy to be here. There's a silly ad on TV right now: Condense your new year's resolution to three words.

I'm thinking. That's two.

At work I've been doing the unthinkable: reading ghost stories to Alzheimer's patients. They love 'em. I found two books of Oregon ghost stories. We've read Jacksonville stories and Portland stories, stories of the Pittock Mansion and the old hotel in Baker City. Emmy lived in Baker for awhile. She has a tattoo on her upper arm. Like her, it is cloudy with age. It is a heart with a name in it --looks like it begins with a J. I asked if there was a story behind it. "Oh," she blushes, with a sweet Alabama twang, "Some boy or another, I s'pose." Only she says bo-way, all drawn out. "I was a little wild. I had five husbands, you know," she confides. I try not to raise my eyebrows, and she says, "Not at the same time, honey." And her smile fills in the blanks as her attention drifts. "I didn't pick so good," she admits. We both laugh. When I read the ghost stories, Emmy does the sound effects. "Woooooooo," in the pauses.

I have two couples living on the unit now. One is from Tillamook, just around the corner from where we are now. They met in the midwest during the Depression, in the Dust Bowl. "You don't know poverty," Tom says, shakes his head. I asked his wife how it was to clean the house. She said it was impossible, but she cleaned it every Saturday just the same. She told me grasshoppers ate the curtains right off the windows. I didn't understand. "There wasn't nothin' but dust to eat and millions of grasshoppers. The windows were black with them trying to get inside. They ate wood, anything. Your nose was always full of dirt. You got used to it." I guess I don't know poverty.

I take it back.

That's four.

Kurt spent yesterday netting crab for our New Year's Eve party of two. Nothing will ever taste as good. I don't know if its because you have to work so hard for the meat, then drag it though pools of melted fresh garlic butter. Mmmmm. We spent the day taking the long way home up through Cape Mears and Wheeler. I bought a cherry bark box in Wheeler where we had breakfast. Very pretty. Bought oysters and steamers in Garibaldi to make for dinner. I won't eat the oysters. Too ugly.

My shoulder is bad again. And again. Surgery on January 20th, followed by a month off work. Which will contribute more to healing? The knife or the absence from work I can't say.

Heal my body.

There. That's three. A bit ambitious if you know my body. And a direct ripoff of Louise Hay, but what good did it do her? All these health nuts and new age gurus, laying in the hospital dying of nothing.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

all smiles

Merry Christmas from Duffy and Sid.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

lemon verbena

I remember my untrained palette discerning the difference between the honey I suckled from a purple wildflower behind my house on Marsh Lane, and the sweetness at the base of field grass, chewed against the better judgment of my mother. "Those slivers will go through your blood stream and into your brain." She was great for death threats so far unrealized. She should have warned me about other things.

The smell of lemon verbena takes me home, back to the pastures of my childhood. I try to capture these smells with words and fail. I bought lemon verbena soap for the girls in hopes of sugarplums dancing in their heads, some memory other than the rags and black punk dreds of Portland street urchins who leave their warm homes in seach of meaning. Who camp in the dangerous cold and decay, who do not seem to benefit from our suffering, our rejection of all that we now protect. I lived in trees and hovels. I know poverty like the back of my hand. You can tell the difference between children who have lived in poverty, and those who see it as a alter-lifestyle. They wear better rags.

Ah well. It is Christmas Eve day. I haven't posted in ages... so long that Blogger changed my password for me. So Merry Christmas to all of you out there in blogland. I am warm in my home, surrounded by love and posessions. I love the facebook posts of people who say: you know you've grown up when the things you want for Christmas can't be bought." Fair warning: this encrypted message means you ain't gettin' squat. But it sounds good.

Friday, November 11, 2011

veterans and days

I've been neglecting these pages, forsaking my readers, and for what? An android. Truth be told, I've sold my soul to scrabble or something like it. Words with friends.

That's the only apology I offer.

But today, II.II.II, I was at my job where I go every day, living among the dying, letting it get to me in ways I never have so far, or not since the beginning when I "took it home with me" or, worried about work at home. This is not recommended in a careerpath in human care. It would be easier to think of it as "back when I gave a crap," but that would be untrue, and unfair to a life spent in the service of madness and old age. Back then -- say 1973-4-5 ish-- I hadn't yet learned how to give a crap and survive, how to show up, give that heartfelt percentage of between 75 and 120 % depending , in those days, on the quality of speed I was shooting and amount of whiskey it took to make me sleep with with someone I didn't love, and go home unscathed.

I'm not going to take the time to discuss the continuum of scathing. So.

But my family is one of veterans. My father was in Korea and WWII, one brother left his mind in a rice paddy in the demilitarized zone somewhere between north and south Viet Nam, one did his time in the Navy until he painted his CO's face with deck paint in a moment of frustration. Not his last.

So today, my workplace put on a big deal for veteran's day. I have a new boss and she's really American, and midwestern and nice, but she says "uff-da" alot, and plays the trumpet professionally and she's really good, but she plays patriotic music and wears red white and blue and it is really loud and so very American. And I'm American also, and consider myself patriotic, just more of the rust, creme and robin's egg variety.

So that's what was happening on the living side of the building. You'll remember, perhaps, that I'm in charge of the other side. That place where "those people go" and nobody ever comes back.
So one of my guys is FTD, in the words of his sweet loving daughter: "Fixin' to Die." And the family is doing the death watch thing. And they get it. They know they only get one shot at it. That dad's only gonna die once, and they're partying for him and around him, the way they think he would want. The daughter's not sleeping and is emotionally unstrung. Families, in this most intimate of settings, tell you things they wouldn't ordinarily tell you.

So this guy, this tiny little leftover of a great man, a Leiutenant-Colonel in the US Army, a decorated Veteran of WWII, Grand Marshall in every 4th of July parade in his little town, was dying. His daughter told me, "He's waiting for Veteran's day. 11 11 11." I gave her comment due respect. I don't know that much anymore and have no podium from which to argue. So, fine, I say. V day it is. People know things. But at that point on Monday morning, he didn't look like he had 24 left in him let alone five days.

So the guy who's speaking at the Veteran's Day Bash on the other side, a retired Army Chaplin, now a hospice chaplin, is giving out little flag pins to all of the vets. "So," my new boss asks, "do ya think Herbie would like the recognition?" I tell her sure. His family is up for it. You betcha.

The chaplin arrives, we give him the scoop about Herbie, and I escort him to the bedside where the party is still on, people still in thier jammies, beer cans and half empty gin bottles. Herb is covered with a red,white and blue quilt made by his mother. His mother. His Army uniform hangs where he can see it. The chaplin kneels down to honor Herbie with the little pin, and he says some really nice stuff. Then he asks the family if he can pray with Herbie. They say, "Sure. Go for it."

So he goes for it. He prays a pretty long prayer by my standards, then goes into the 23rd Psalm, which always gets me with the "valley of the shadow of death" part. In closing, he begins the Lord's Prayer. Our Father, who art in heaven.... and we all join him, and he says, "Amen."

And at the moment, at the instant the Chaplain said "Amen," Herbie opened his eyes, closed them, and released a long, last breath.

And that was that. What Herbie needed was a final salute to find his way through the portal.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

why I stayed home this weekend

It all started innocently enough. Every year we empty the truck and head down to the Jacksonville yard sales. Always the same time of year, always the same plan. We spend friday night near town, wake up, hit the yard sales (see previous posts) have breakfast with friends and family at the Mustard Seed, and after it is all said and done, head up-river to have Bob's birthday dinner at his place. A five or six or seven year tradition, and given that he's seventy two or three, its been going on for some time.

This year, it didn't go off as planned.

The first thing that changed was that there was nowhere for us to stay.

One: My mother-in-law's daughter reserved the cabin for that weekend, the only weekend we always stay there. Pick one of fifty-two.

Two: Kurt's son decided to cook a pig in the ground for the birthday,

Three: and invite a billion people. Well, fifty. He is working to organize this, but my outlaws have no faith in David's ability to roast a pig in an imu without burning down the forest and the adjacent crop, so

Four: my husband is asked to get involved. He cannot say no to his father. So he goes online and finds out how to roast a pig, and shares this with Dave, who seems to have done the same thing. He's got a plan for getting the right kind of rocks (lava) and cornstalks instead of banana leaves, and a chef to help him with the cooking, and all the kids to bring different food for the luau. David isn't the problem. Neither is his grandfather. From my POV its his wife. No love lost there. So, as David is trying to get this thing together for his grandfather, she is running ahead of him mucking it up, telling people to bring different things, planning a big breakfast and a dinner the night before, but she'll have her daughter to help her out. Like martyr like dartyr.

Five: Johann says we can use his cabin. Johann builds huge temporary shelters for raves and for Burning Man and lives next door. But there are no cooking facilities and I can't find out if the dogs can stay there, so

Six: My husband says we'll just stay in the back of the pickup. Johann is a german hippie who usually has three or four naked young women hanging around.

Seven: The girls are going with us, (a happy thing) and David's best friend Cody is hitching a ride, but we have to wait for him to get off work until about six, which will put us there at eleven at night. He has AIDS, which is sad but fine with us, but bringing him around the clan is like bringing a vial of live ebola virus. He won't be welcome and we'll be the assholes who brought him.

So by Thursday night, here's how its looking to me: Its 100 degrees in the Rogue Valley, we have nowhere to stay except with Johann and the naked girls or in the back of our truck with two dogs, Nicole, Haley and Cody, which will be fine becasue my husband will be up all night either a.) building and guarding the bonfire, or b.) putting out a forest fire, or c.) explaining to the rangers who are taking us all to jail why we shouldn't be arrested for growing marijuana and burning down the forest, all the while we listen to Patricia cackle about why David should never have tried to roast a pig.

So, you may ask, what about the yard sales?

Well that's what I said.

So I stayed home.

Saturday, September 03, 2011


Today we went to yard sales and I bought this tea set. It is like Fiestaware, bright oranges and blues and greens and yellows, incomplete, but a little girl would never know that. I'm not sure why I bought it. We use these toys to teach women to be servile and domestic, both of which evade me still. I like to buy things and decorate my house, but I don't think that qualifies as domesticity. I still think I should have a maid to pick up after me. My husband would agree that I need it. I'm kind of like Pigpen only with Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel shit gathering at my feet. Ah, the curse of good taste and a steady job.

It is Labor Day tomorrow, and I may labor through it. Because there have been so many passings (Goodnight Rose, goodnight Charlie, Goodnight Willie) I am bracing for the unrelenting flood of new ones that press against the locked doors, seeking shelter from the storm that is Alzheimer's Disease.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


As fewer and fewer of my immediate clan remain above ground, family reunions become increasingly extended. It was good to see my first cousins, but I didn't know anyone else, and thank God for Vali, my treasured cousin. We, with our men, drove together and escaped together, and ate and talked and looked at a wonderful scrapbook of sweet memories from a time when the only way to preserve paper was in a scrap book, not digitized, not youtubed.

My aunt (of whom these children were born) was meticulous about every area of her life, her scrapbook a reflection of her genealogist-librarian mind. I will never be like that, and sometimes my personal unravelling is a source of unrest for me. We are the black sheep -- my immediates and I, but we are beloved -- there is never any doubt -- and as I spoke to one dying man who was hooked up to a power pack of some sort that was keeping him somewhat alive, our similarities and differences were in an odd balance. He hears that I am a writer. Yes, I admit. That's true. His family has a publishing company. Oh, my ears perk up, really? My husband whispers, this could be a good thing. I listen. The dying man says he is trained in theology and publishes theological books. Oh. Maybe his is not the publishing house for me. What kind of novel? he inevitably asks. Oh, darkish women's literary fiction. An autobiography? No, I tell him, although parts are emotionally true-ish. Ah. He knows what I mean. I wonder if he does. His face is gray and his feet are black. Whatever he knows, he needs to get it said and quick if anyone on this side of the veil is to hear it.

We ate burgers and potato salad and red velvet cake and went home, our names and photographs captured for and posterity. I guess photos are inaccessible as long as you are living. When a death date is entered, you become public domain.

Back at the office Rose is dying slowly. It is hard to explain to the living how hard it is to die, that dying is a process. Even you, my readers, will think I mean a spiritual process. I mean it is physical work. Something to attend to. Something to do. And your body knows just how to do this thing, this ending. It stops getting hungry and thirsty, it stops eating. If it is an indian back in the day it wanders away from the tribe where it can die unobstructed by the living and the loving. It is hard for families to stop feeding the dying. They think they are helping. But the person who is doing their level best to leave is sidetracked from the serious business of getting it over with, and made to digest another small container of yogurt or ensure, as though those small bites could somehow sidestep death. And they are so sweet, the dying are. They open little bird mouths and take another sip so as not to hurt anyone's feelings, making yet another detour on the way home. But we all make it home eventually.

Ah, life.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

annual blackberry post

I just want to go on record as saying that if you live in Oregon and you don't pick blackberries, it is a sin. Conversely, if you live in Oregon and you plant blackberries, it is a sin. I think its pretty much like any sin-not sin determination: you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Also, I'm sure I've said, but will repeat myself, that cockroaches and blackberries will be the last ones standing. (see previous posts, turns out there is only so much to be said for blackberry picking and I say it once a year.)

There. I've said my piece.

Today we (he) got up early and (he) made coffee and we went to pick blackberries. As I pick, I think of this post, this yearly pilgrimage to the vines, wearing a long sleeved shirt not becasue I shoot heroin, but to protect my lily-white arms. (ghosts of summers past) And real shoes. Even my bzillion dollar keens can't keep the thorns away. And my overalls, which are now museum-quality. I'll take a picture. I actually order upholstery samples online to patch them with. A thing of beauty, depending on the beholder.

So, I pick - and this summer it is all low hanging fruit, easy pickin' - thanks to the endless spring of Portland. We picked for 45 minutes and filled a five-gallon bucket. Now, two pies are in the smoker (what?) and 4 racks of berries in the freezer for pies to come. Enough left for a smoothie. Yum.

This isn't blackberry 101, but there is a trick to it. Like any fruit, if it doesn't want to come off the vine, it isn't ready. You have to respect that or you'll have a sour pie and use a ton of sugar. Ripe berries have a shine to them, a fullness. If they've lost the shine and are a bit dull, they are still great for jam or juice, but will fall apart in your hand. So I just pop those in my mouth and call them breakfast. Then come home and make a smoothie and call it breakfast too. Then an egg sandwich on sourdough, but I'm getting into a problem area.

So, Kurt made the pies and is trying out the smoker instead of heating up the house with the oven. I appreciate the heat consciousness, but am tentative in my support of the smoker.

Okay. I've been busily editing the f**king manuscript and am making real progress. I should be finished in time to send it to the publisher of my dreams. Back to work.

Oh, this might surprise you, but I want to put in a pitch for french manicures. I'm a gardener and I work in health care and my hands always look like crap. A french manicure is the fix for that. Just sayin'.

Friday, August 12, 2011

kim's sauce

If you are from Southern Oregon and dined on the bad chinese food at Kim's restaurant (now defunct) I was given the recipe for the pink sauce, shrimp sauce, Kim's sauce they were famous for. Posting it on the internet is piracy, I'm sure. It was a best-kept secret until somebody got as drunk as the after-hours patrons and spilled the beans.

Kim's Sauce

Mix all ingredients in order, stirring each time.

1 egg
2 1/2 c. salad oil
7 oz. catsup
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. Chinese hot mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 c. apple cider vinegar

Blend until smooth
makes about a quart.
Store in refrigerator.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

requiem for a neighbor

John Spates died. One more of the Applegate boys is gone. We were neighbors up on Yale Creek. He lived one hill over on Shump Gulch with my running buddy, Helen, and her son Shannon. He's the one, if you remember, who killed the goat we bar-b-qued. He was beautiful.

I lived in a cabin of hand-peeled logs, built by John and Kenny Powers. That was what they did. They built log things: fences, houses, barns. My house was constructed of logs graduated in size from large at the bottom to small at the top. A half-loft had a notched pole to climb to sleep, and I did. A front porch, enclosed with a rail, all of peeled poles.

It was so beautiful. I hung snake grass and pressed leaves in the windows to rattle in the wind. These were my curtains. I had no close neighbors but John and Helen, and Topar when he was around.

But they're all gone now, Topar, Kenny, now John. And so many more.

Rest in peace.

Friday, August 05, 2011

my summer vacation

Lewis and Clark got nothin' on us.

This will probably turn into a series of shorter posts rather than one boring travel journal. We travelled many miles in not so many days, stayed in awful RV parks and worse motels and I have the pictures to prove it.

This blue haired troll followed us. Sometimes he rode the motorcycle. But he always seemed pretty happy.

Here he is in the Tetons. As you can see, he hogged the photograph.

We took off on Friday and spent the first night in our first RV park. These are strange places, in the event you find yourself wondering. We are campers, and we are country folk -- in a way -- but not like these people. They are very friendly and they make everything out of wood and rope and barbed wire and from the looks of things they worship cowboys and Jesus, in that order. My favorite sign: "I'm so confused I don't know if I found a rope or lost my horse."

We pulled into the Mountain View Park in Baker City, Oregon at about 8:30 in the evening, hotter than blazes. A Lorretta Lynn or some country chick other than Patsy Cline, CD was playing on speakers loud enough to entertain the entire park, and it was skipping, and the woman at the counter, Barb, told us she hadn't had much luck using toothpaste to clean her CDs.

Really? No luck at all?

Yep, she nodded, "and that's such a good CD."

We dove in the pool and tried to forget where we were. At 18 bucks for a spot to sleep, a pool and a hot tub, it seemed like a good deal even though we rented the scenic basketball court because it was th only place left because the entire park had been reserved by Shriners, even the clowns in the tiny cars. But they have full size RVs let me tell you. Next morning off we went after I scrambled some eggs on the free-throw line.

Not really. You should know by now how I exaggerate.

So, our destination at this point was Yellowstone. Well, not actually Yellowstone, but a spot beyond it, Shell Canyon, in the Bighorn mountains. It is a place Kurt passed through on his way to Sturgis and one he has tried to show me for years. And believe me, if you're hauling a big black bike, everybody asks if you're headed for Sturgis. We were not. I'm pretty sure I'd never go unless he bought me a sidecar. One with a/c and a pool. The thought of Sturgis irritates me. I love motorcycles but can't stand bikers. I speak from an informed point of view. I can't imagine standing six bikers deep to use one of sixty outhouses.

But I digress.

One of the education points of this vacation, and there were a few, was the unreliability of memory. Not just his, mine as well. He had blown through the prior trip at 90 mph, eyes forever on the center line until it turned to one long white stripe, on a mission to complete the male right of passage that is Sturgis. Turns out he missed some scenery along the way.

Shell Canyon made quite an impression.
So many birds: swallows and wrens and hummingbirds darting in and out of juniper and

sagebrush. I'm getting the order of things mixed up, but as we left Yellowstone, we came through the beautiful Shoshone River Valley lined on either side with red rock formations that went on for miles and miles into Cody, Wyoming. He hadn't remembered seeing this at all. In his memory, Shell Canyon went on for miles when in fact, the canyon is a blink, a mile at most.

I realize I have said nothing about Yellowstone. I know I was supposed to love it but it just made me sad. The forest there is dying of pine beetle infestation, caused, I have no doubt, by something we did to help it along, as though it wasn't doing fine in the first place. And what isn't infested was burned in the 1988 fire. And I'm thinking another big ol' burn would be really good for the problem in general. Start over. We saw pine beetle damage far up into Montana and across much of Idaho.

So, we went through Yellowstone and saw animals and paint pots and the black toothpick forest.

and then we went to the Tetons, but that's another story for another day.... In case you're wondering, I took the last photo. I'm not great at it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

late friday

I should be writing. This is always true. You may say: you are writing. And you would be correct, in a wrong sort of way.

It was a long day, it has been a long life. I don't know any 90 year olds who are looking to extend their warranty. None who would go longer, given the option. Maybe with a new body, maybe then. But as is? Nope. When there is a rare open apartment in my unit, I spend the day touring people, doing my dog and pony show, being the expert on dementia. Which I am, in case you were wondering. Even so, it is hard to be the cheerleader and the angel of death in the same breath.

I should retire.

Ah, now back from a friday supper of grilled salmon, garlic sauce and home fries, collards with pecans and corn salsa, at Clay's, I am refreshed, ready for the weekend.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

not duffy

Enough about Duffy the little white dog.

We've lost seven souls on the unit since February 26th. I'd say seven souls from seven seas to wax poetic and be a little bit like Janis Joplin, but this is serious. Its been a bit heavy, a lot hectic, and they are dropping like flies in August and its only July. And it isn't even like July almost at all. It is rainy rainy rainy, sky pressing down like a flat sweaty hand, clouds as dark as nightfall. I had to turn my headlights on a four o'clock. Its the end of the world.

Oh, they come to die. I don't mean to seem surprised. I'm not. Its just that each life leaves a bit of a vacuum, a space to fill, and they come to fill it. There is a queue like a movie theatre of people who need what I provide: a nice safe place to lose it completely. Heck, I need that.

Anyway, today, Delphinium's daughter came by. She's a world famous musician and can only come once a year, so we had to have the sit-down talk. The end-of-life talk. I had to tell her that, from my point of view, Del probably had a year or less left in her. Now, I don't have a crystal ball, but I've been keeping my eyes open, and I know what the end of this path looks like. I never promise anything -- I've learned my lesson there. But Del's daughter had spoken with another family member, and she told her this story: judybluesky said my mother would die in less than a year, then she said she'd be gone in less than a week, then she said she'd be gone by the end of the day, then she said she had about twenty minutes left and she was right about each one of those things for my mom.

Its wierd what you can get good at.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

Duffy's first haircut

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I composed a post three pages long describing the past four days of projectile vomitting and other niceties, but pulled it in a rare act of humanity. I felt like a parentless child in need of someone to hold my hair and tell me I'd be okay, but my husband, who is not a nurse, was away at work and school, and I had only yapping dogs to comfort me. It was really hard. It was norovirus. I think its about over. Whew.

But while waiting for my head to spin around on my shoulders ala Linda Blair, I managed a good deal of editing. Managing, for example, a 393 page find/search of the following: all "ly" words (I think they're called adverbs: morosely, fanatically, tragically, joyously, frankly,); the word 'had'; the action 'nodded,' as in: 'she nodded.' (Turns out people don't nod that much really. But in my manuscript, the characters are nodding fools); the words 'that,' then', and 'when.'

I hate my manuscript. But press on.

So, in rebellion, I offer the following sentences:
(original)"Yes," I had nodded enthusiastically. "She had been vigorously vomitting."
(eidted) She puked.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

hillsboro day

We picked Rainier cherries this morning, alot of them, so now I have to can cherries. I think I'll make pints, and this time, use a cherry pitter. I've hand-pitted cherries, but it was labor-intensive and I'm not. These are not my favorite cherries, but they are Kurt's, so a-canning I will go. I prefer bings. mmmmmmmmmmm. The sun is out, Saturday market busy with shoppers. We found a few good yard sales and then went out to lunch at a terrible hamburger place called "Five Guys Burgers." It was just what it sounded like, a greast nasty mess, except for the hand-cut-double-fried-fries. Those were tasty. But I don't like burgers, so no surprise. I fed mine to the dogs. Poor dogs.

Latersameday: The cherries are pitted and canned. One dozen pint jars of floating yellow orbs of deliciousness. You will get one for Christmas. Or maybe a jar of the real strawberry jam I canned last weekend. When I lay my head on my down pillow tonight, I may utter something like "Goodnight, Maryellen. Goodnight, Johnboy." That's how domestic I feel right about now. I could go for a barn raising. I may be Amish.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

sins and decisions

Gluttony. One of the seven deadlies. In my job, which has recently become bigger because my boss retired and the new boss isn't here yet, and the nurse, the second in command, is on vacations, so I am pretty much everybody, well, in my job, I meet people. They are typically in need, in crisis, at the end of their life or their rope or both, and I have to interview them for placement. Placement. What a word. In its wisdom, the Great State of Oregon has contrived a new language to make what I do a little more palatable. For example, folks are no longer admitted, they move in. They are never discharged, they (you guessed it) move out. They get move out notices, not evictions. But placement is still placement. There really isn't another word for it.


What I am getting at is not the language of long term care, but this fat fat woman I met today. I am working on placing her. And, as you might imagine, placing a 350 pound woman has its own set of concerns. You would want to consider, for example, where to place her, and on what? And for how long, and can she get up from there? And I was taking someone else's word for it, and I needed to see for myself that she could move because if she couldn't and we had to call the fire department because she was stuck, they'd get mad at us, and I hate that. But shit, sometimes, like a kitten in a tree, people have trouble getting out of places.

So I went to her house. "I need to see you move," I said.

She started struggling around with her robes and blankets and stuff, and I was a little concerned that she wasn't decent, so I just turned my head.

I asked her if she'd checked out the apartment she was going to be renting. I never go anywhere," she said. Never.

She has opted to eat rather than, well, anything else.

It made an impression is all.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I never did follow up on the naturpathic business. Well, to no one's surprise, I am not Noah. I could not hang with the HCG 500 calorie a day diet. I lost 18 pounds in 14 days and was so sick at that point that I bailed. She said I'm not the biggest loser, but the fastest. But then I quit.

Here's the problem. She was so nice. She put nice oils on cotton balls and taped them to my feet and playes swishy water music while I lay in the dark with needles poked here and there and that was fine. But really, who wouldn't lose weight like that?

And the cost was obscene. At each visit there were more and more supplements, more and more drops and oils and it all just makes me sick. Nauseous. I can't take multi-vitamins, let alone forty different things. I can't take ibuprofen or anything in that family. So, I got pretty sick.

I went to my knee/shoulder MD and told him the naturpathic thing was a flop. I told him I think you have to believe it for it to work and I just don't. I wish I did.

He said, fingers making the twinkly, do-wah sign: "You are not the Jedi they seek."

I love that guy.

Friday, June 24, 2011

random acts

I am in Cannon Beach, a swanky town by my standards, for a writing conference. I have my fluffy little white dog with me and we have a lovely room with a fireplace and a view of the beach.

I like this conference. It gets better each year: good faculty, interesting information. For instance, I found a way to organize my book that I have been lacking, given my general, habitual, genetic lack of organization. Excellent.

And, one of the presenters was/is a senior editor at a good publishing house and he offered to look at agent queries and first pages for critique. What I didn't realize is that this would be done in front of the entire conference.

He critiqued five submissions, each one worse than the one before it, saving mine for last. I was, understatedly, anxious. Sweating bullets. Was mine to be the final straw, so flawed as to hold a special last place?

I waited.

I had included in my query letter, by way of bio, my alma mater, a short story publication in an obscure literary journal, and having received the 2004 award for fiction. You do that in queries. You tell on yourself that way. It builds cred.

So he begins his critique of my piece by mentioning the fact that there are no page numbers. This irritates him. (Well, I think to myself, if it was a REAL submission, I'd include them.) Then he talks generally about the query, which was pretty good. Then..... then he talks about the bio. He says, "Now this bio shows us exactly why it is a good idea to include a bio."


"Turns out," he says, "I went to THAT alma mater, was the editor for THAT obscure literary journal and won precisely THAT award for fiction -- only in 2003."

I wasn't exactly listening, but when he got to the end of that last sentence, I realized he wasn't joking. I blurted from the rear of the audience, "Are you fucking serious?" But I didn't say fucking out loud.

He was serious. So, after the thing, I approached him and asked if I could send him a manuscript. He said, of course. I'm interested.

I means nothing, really. Not in the scope of getting this thing published. But each little push makes the work seem worthwhile.

Random? I think yes.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Well, after a very long haul, Delilah finally passed. Her funeral was a Catholic mass, which is always confusing for me, all of the standing and sitting and kneeling and drinking and repeating phrases that everyone but me knows about. I felt like the only heathen in the room, but my mother always told us that the pope is the anti-christ, so who's heathen now?

Anyway, it takes a really long time to die of just Alzheimer's and Delilah was otherwise healthy. She was a teacher, and she thought, because of my desk (and my commanding presence) that I was her principal. If we had a party -- christmas, you name it -- it would make her anxious. Parties make most people with dementia anxious, which begs the question: why? But I digress. When anxious, she would march into my office and say, "If you can't get these kids to quiet down, I'm getting the nuns."

Okay, Delilah. I'll deal with the kids.

She wore a wig, kicked the cats, chased my dog, tore down bulletin boards each night, and didn't sleep for years. Years. She made up anything you wanted to know. She wasn't a liar, but she didn't want to seem uninformed, so she'd just confabulate.

In the end, she went for a long sleep. Finally. At last. Her daughter was a wonderful advocate. She kept her wig washed and set long after Delilah had forgotten about hair. She understood the ravages of dementia and never missed an opportunity to speak for her mother. She cared what was important to her, not just what was important for her. Often those of us in the helping industry forget the difference.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


If he can do it, I can do it. I'm on day 7 of 40. Fifteen pounds and counting.

As much as I detest using my blog as a diet diary, I'm a bit consumed by what is happening to my body. I feel better most of the time, am not so much hungry as weak, and had accupuncture yesterday for the first time. It didn't hurt, and may have helped. The only lingering problem is leg cramps. I was having them prior to the cleanse/diet, and am trying some natural measures to stop them. Thanks to asia for her wisdom, and for running until she cramps so she knew what to tell me. There is always someone in front of me on whatever path I find myself on.

My conclusion at this point is that naturpathic medicine is still medicine, is pricey, and there is still alot to do about my once-failing self. I do feel better, lighter, and hopeful. Diets are for fools. Call them cleanses, call them what you will. I know this. But my knees hurt and I was so sick. I just wanted something like a zipper that I could unzip the last 5 years of stress and cortisol and fast food and step out of the fat suit I've acquired. The only lasting solution is movement, something I don't get with my current set of hobbies. Change. Ah. I remember change.

This weekend we will observe Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as we used to call it in the nursing home. We used to load all of the old women, they usually outlived and outnumbered the men, on the bus and take them around to local cemeteries because everybody pretty much lived and died in the same place. Most men went to war and were buried out at the Veteran's cemetery. My family did, and is. Women grew gardens specifically for Decoration Day, tulips and lilacs and daffodils and iris. Things that would bloom by May. My father is buried on the coast and he said he only wanted flowers from our own gardens. Never store-bought. I wish I'd known him better.

My former mother-out-law turns eighty today. We will celebrate her with a big party at Jackson Park on the Applegate River. She is a remarkable woman, the most influential in my life. She loves my son and I without reservation, even though his father and I never married except in a biker-sort-of-way. Her dignity surpasses anyone I've known. Her advice is sound and never given without asking and I've never heard her say a bad word about anyone -- and I can't say that about anyone else except my brother Doug. She is equally comfortable in a remote cabin cooking for a pack of men and mules or bringing out the fine china. I am blessed to be counted among her daughters.

Well, my wax is melting and I am working on a small piece for her birthday gift. Wish me luck. I'll put a bird on it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Don't misunderstand. I'm still all for the natural way, however, I have now signed up for the diet program. Why, I'm wondering, are all nutritional specialists tiny? What do they know? Do they understand the intrinsic mistrust of the fat for the thin? Seriously.

Naw. She was nice. Just in a tiny way.

So I feel much like Jack in the hours just after he purchased the magic beans. I am hoping for a beanstalk outside my window tomorrow morning. I have purchased many magic beans in my lifetime, but, as usual, that's another story for another day.

So don't come for dinner for 40 days and 40 nights. I won't be cooking except for 100 gm. portions of meat and a plain vegetable. one. at. a .time.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

cold feet

I'm complaining, formally, about the weather. I'm not complaining about the luscious lilacs in my back yard, or the sprouting baby grass where the dogs used to poop. I'm cold. I'm tired of being cold. I want to be warm now. I'm done. I am, to quote any teenager, over it. My feet are cold. They've been cold for months. I am grateful not to be in Mississippi right now. I'll give you that much.

So, anyway, back to my life on Clinton Steet on a cold and rainy sunday morning. The trucks were out today, two big metro vans of men on overtime hanging our new street art above our streetsigns, on our dime. I think the art is nice, bicycles, to indicate that Clinton is indeed a "bicycle boulevard" as if you couldn't tell from the volume of bicycles. Its part of the Clinton Street Bicycle Boulevard Street Art Project and costs 70,000 dollars. My husband had to set them straight, sign-maker that he is, and offer his opinion. I told them to ignore him. He's grumpy.

Speaking of grumpy, Duffy is guarding my bay window, warning of cats and wire-walking squirrels and crows that threaten our airspace. Kurt calls him Dick Cheney because of his continual grumbling. He still doesn't understand birds. He doesn't yet grasp the impossibility of catching something capable of spontaneous flight. Oh! to be so simple again, to cover my eyes with tiny hands and believe that what was there is gone simply because I can't see it. I hated learning the name for that: Conservation of Mass. I think there should be a better name for that kind of magic.

As summer approaches, sneaking up behind this vicious spring, I am not prepared for the heat that is sure to follow, but will welcome it with open, if sunburned, arms.

Thursday, May 05, 2011


I am subdued. I finally think I understand the psychological underpinnings of my poor health. Fair warning: I am going to try to explain it to you.

As you've read, I grew up dirt poor. Not third world poor, but make your own clothes poor, no dental/health care poor, charge groceries at the corner store so your mother can have wine poor. See? Somewhere along the line I developed this notion that going to the doctor was reserved for the rich. That it ensured health.

So... along goes my life, then my child's life, and we are poor (not third world poor, but steal groceries so your mother can have heroin poor) and we don't have insurance. We have welfare, but that isn't the same thing. When you're on welfare, you're not encouraged to come back for the follow up care. They patch you up and send you home and you can't afford medicine so you do without.

The logistical leaps that follow are many and high. Stick with me. Eventually, my conclusion is that having health insurance is the key to good health. The beauty of this theory is that it requres nothing of the insured but insurance. It requires no lifestyle change, no running, no avoiding haagen das ice cream or creme cheese and crab enchiladas. Not that I eat those things. If you have insurance, you can make as many appointments as you want and fill all of the prescriptions you can get to treat all of the diagnoses that apply after a sedentary lifetime of resentment and unmet expectations.

I married up. I had finally reached the pinnacle of health: I had Blue Cross/Blue Shield full meal deal health and dental and vision. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholestrol, obesity, diverticulosis, interstitial cystitis, type 2 diabetes, asthma, chronic bronchitis and the great thing was that there were pills for all of these things. If I took the pills, I didn't have high blood pressure, ad nauseum.

But I did.

On occasion, my tiny little asian gynocologist would say, "whatever you eat, eat less; whatever you do, do more." I laughed. Great Idea.

But I kept taking the pills and getting sicker. And then I'd get more pills. Antibiotics. And more antibiotics. And I was getting sicker and sicker and sicker. And going to the doctor more and more and more and the guys at the pharmacy know my name. And the thing is, this made me feel affluent. Rich. Finally: I had arrived. I had healthcare.

But no health.


So, on monday I had my first visit with a Naturpathic MD. We had a great time. I am now taking un-drugs: Pro-biotics and healing agents. I am going to the doctor not so he can fix me, but so he can teach me to fix myself. We hope to unwind the past ten years of passive consumption. It will take effort on my part. I told him he had a narrow window of opportunity that I call willingness, a condition brought about by exhausting all other avenues. Easier, softer ways.

Its just like being poor, only without the heroin.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

seven years

The Canby Spring Garden Faire is this weekend. I bought eight Lucifer Crocosiums, three Spanish Lavenders, two Beefsteak tomatoes, one Golden Keriea and one Clair de Lune Clematis. I'm not certain of all the names, but, like my sainted mother, I'm willing to make up what I don't know for sure. There was so much to choose from, so many unusual plants and garden art. The art was mostly sharp and rusty. Some pieces looked like they should come with a voucher for a tetanus shot. Let me be clear: I'm not against rust, just sharp ugly rust. And dishes stacked and pasted together in a wobbly ornament of some kind. Not really sure if there is a use for these things or if they are of purely ornamental value. If I had some extra dishes, and I do, I'd just give them to the kids, or Goodwill, or, like my pig neighbors on the corner of 27th and Clinton, stack them on the sidewalk, put a free sign on them and be freegan/slothful/slobbish.

Today, all but the tomatoes are in the ground. Each year I plant and plant and plant. Some thrive, some fail. I keep trying. I don't care how much it costs.

Today is our seventh anniversary. We had dinner and fun last night at Montage, a great Cajun joint under the Morrison bridge. I usually have the flat iron steak and save room for Gooey Butter Cake. My husband of seven years has pasta, some spicy thing with shrimp in it. They wrap leftovers in foil sculptures and yell alot. Kurt orders oyster shooters just to hear them yell. Everyone sits family style so you get to know your neighbors. Its a rowdy, SE Portland kinda place. This morning we had breakfast down the street at Sub Rosa, a small, friendly Italian place who finally caught a clue and started having breakfast on weekends. The sausage is excellent and the eggs benedict was good.

This blog has chronicled our romance -- with the exception of the first twenty-five years. I have no wisdom to offer other than it is important to marry the right person. I'm grateful I did. I gave him a little glass box with seven copper beads in it. He gave me roses.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

easter campfires

If you read this sad little column (put a bird on it ,Portlandia) and you skip the comments section, well, you really are missing the best in life. Those of us who thrive here in the blogosphere, or who once-thrived and now make guest appearances due to interlopers such as facebook stealing our thunder which wasn't so much thunder as rumbling in the distance, grumbling, more like it -- there remains a "campfire-ness" about us, around which we tell our timeless and irreverent stories, dropping in and out of topic and tantrum, past and present.

Ken Kesey said it would be like this. I saw him once in Ashland, learned at his feet. I signed up to learn about writing, which, some 60K in hindsight, cannot be so much taught as chased after and subdued (ruined). What I learned is that Kesey was a great storyteller, a great liar -- as I am, as any fiction writer is -- and when he referred to the internet as a campfire, I couldn't imagine the psychosocial detachedment that would make it seem so.

I know campfires like the back of my hand: the stink of old charcoal and of bootleather left too close to the campfire to dry. I own camping implements in triplicate. I love sleeping beyond the lights of the city, in campgrounds of likeminded souls who want to be alone, together. Except for those who bring radios. I hate them.

So, on this Easter Day, as I celebrate a passe faith with coconut anglefood cake, ham and chocolate bunnies, I am grateful for campfires, and for those who sit around them with me, wherever you are.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

the news from clinton street

entropy and anomie live together in perfect harmony.

I've been deathly ill for a week now. Well, three years, but let's not quibble. I've been in my spot overlooking my street for many days in a row, now. since last Friday, really. I am so sick. I've been so sick for so long that I really think I'm going to not so much change doctors as investigate additional ideas.

I donated about a quart of blood this morning to find out what is wrong with me. One thing is that I am too fat. The other is that I get little exercise. I know these things. But when I feel bad I want ice cream -- mint chocolate chip is my current weakness and, as luck would have it they now make Klondike bars in mint chocolate chip -- and when I feel bad I don't want to exercise. Bad combination. I think this is true of most people, but most people are able to rise above their - well, their cozy little sofas and teaspoons -- and just do it.

The sun is out and I'm not planting flowers. That's how crappy I feel. If the Canby Master Gardner's Faire was today, I wouldn't go. That's bad. I think/hope its next week. It is usually the first weekend in May.

Addendum: one week later: I planted 47.00 worth of flowers today. More to come. On the mend.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

livewire among other things

Let me apologize in advance for the apparent loss of the paragraph function in my blog. Not sure what's up or how to fix it. I like run-on sentences, but run-on paragraphs are a big fat blur to me. Well it was pretty fun to sit with my friend Athena in the OPB audience and clap when the sign was lifted. I've always wanted to see a live radio show like Prairie Home Companion, but Garrison Keillor is losing his edge (or so he says and I think when he says it he is kidding but in my opinion Lutherans have lost their comedic edge) and Livewire is up and coming Portland entertainment. I bought tickets because Anne Lamott was on the schedule. I haven't seen her in years. her schtick hasn't changed, but her dreds are gray now, and she is still an unconvincing Christian, whom I emulate. Her book "Bird by Bird" is still an important book for beginning writers. She's fun to listen to, but she was clearly very tired, on a book tour, and the annoying factor is that on my way home I noticed the marquee at the Bagdad and it said, "Anne Lamott, 6:00. Shit. I could have saved my money, walked down to the Bagdad and seen her for three bucks, earlier, when she wasn't so tired. Still, she is kind of my idol, and I really was happy to see her. I give a copy of her book to newer writers when I have one lying around. The mayor was there, and was giving a proclamation of some sort. He was a little funny, which helps, because he seems like a complete dick to me, at least someone with poor judgment. God, I can't stand people with poor judgment. Work remains difficult, challenging in a couple of important ways, and I am happy to have a job and money to spend on spring flowers.

Friday, April 08, 2011


I dumped all of the dirt out of many of my many pots because tomorrow is FUSCHIA SATURDAY AT FRED MEYER!!!!!!!!!! FREE DIRT. I'll stop yelling now. It is a great thing they do. I take all of my pots and plant the heck out of their little fuschia starts. I like "dark eyes" and "lena" and "pink marshmallow." but each year, I get what I can and I think that some years the fuschia elves go in the middle of the night and switch all the little signage sticks so you pretty much get a crap shoot of colors. But that's okay. My need for order is slowly giving way to the entropy of life in SE Portland. We (the royal we) are building a fence so the dogs have somewhere to roam. I'm glad about it. I want the front yard back. I'm tired of looking at chickenwire, sawdust and dogshit. Sue me. Even entropic living has its limits. Also, the fence will serve as a barrier for Duffy's enthusiasm to meet and greet passersby, which looks more like a desire to tear the throat out of passing dogs. Not that he could, or would, but his act is pretty convincing. I'm just wondering if the neighbors will care about the fence. They don't seem to care about much of anything. They are roommates that shift and change with the seasons; they all look alike and some of them come and go, so its hard to tell sometimes. My husband used to live in the house nextdoor, so he takes the "Toddler Property Laws" view of things. Look 'em up. Nevermind. I did it for you. Toddlers' Property Laws 1. If I like it, it's mine. 2. If it's in my hand, it's mine. 3. If I can take it from you, it's mine. 4. If I had it a little while ago, it's mine. 5. If it's mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way. 6. If I'm doing or building something, all the pieces are mine. 7. If it looks like mine, it is mine. 8. If I saw it first, it's mine. 9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine. 10 If it's broken, it's yours.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thursday, March 03, 2011


They make gold encaustic wax. Just sayin'

Monday, February 28, 2011

requiem for a priest

Sometimes I think I know how things should go -- who, for instance, should get an easy death. I think my priest should have gotten a pass.

I don't know if I have explained in my not always succinct manner what hard work it is to die. Or how earnestly we hang on, for that matter, as our attachments, each one a thread, unravel in unpredictable succession.

We tend to focus on how hard it is for the family to watch someone pass (floating, skipping, slipping, wandering, marching, tromping by) -- when in fact -- because here at bluesky we deal in facts-- it is hard physical labor coming in and going out of this world.

Don't let me sugarcoat this for you.

I don't know much about priests. I don't know much about Catholicism except that they have nice windows and some good cathedrals. So it is difficult to know how to comfort a priest who is in unmanaged discomfort, spewing black vomit around the room. I thought I was on the set of the Exorcist only I was the girl and the priest's head was going to spin around. Do you say, "Its going to be okay, honey." ? Do you call the priest honey? Is that wrong?

And I thought about praying with him, for him, then remembered that Catholics don't believe mere mortals have access to God, big G, without an intermediary. But in this case, the middle man was dying so I had to improvise. I chose the 23rd Psalm.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want
He leadeth me beside the still waters
He maketh me lie down in green pastures
He restoreth my soul

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me

And that's when it got me. He was sitting in that valley. And he struggled and struggled

And then came the social worker, one of those well-meaning sorts who wants so badly to assign spiritual meaning to physical events. She didn't know my priest. She didn't know that he would thank you graciously if you stuck a needle in his eye. She watched as my priest was touching his mouth and reaching out his hand repeatedly, smiling and nodding, and she was certain he was giving everyone a final blessing, but as the outcome showed, he was just looking for a place to puke.

Monday, February 21, 2011

encaustic images

Encaustic painting (painting with melted, pigmented beeswax) gets to that place in me that always wrecked the candles, dripping layer after layer, color after color, until the candle was no longer a candle, wax spent, morning arriving too early, again.

So this is what my busy little hands have been doing. Please buy one. The wax is expensive.

They are titled, top to bottom: Solitary Crow, A bird in the hand, Four Little Blackbirds, Old Paper, Red Ball, Crow on Barbed Wire.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I should get healthy. But to do this, I need to get well enough to leave the house. So I stay home and paint wax pictures and write books. This is my epitaph: I tried.


The encaustic work is going well. It is the perfect combination of image and language that has always appealed to me. Layers of color and words, graphic images, a beautiful mess. the real draw for me is that I don't have to clean the brushes, just buy new ones. It speaks to the degree of sloth I am capable of.

Gosh. This sounds so negative.

Friday, February 11, 2011

gold star

I like to think work doesnt' really matter, that my job is just a means to buy books and new colors of encaustic wax and nice pens for writing and valentine presents for my own true love. But this week the great state of Oregon showed up and graded my performance. I was so happy when I got an A+ for working.

My husband just finished watching Men Who Stare at Goats. He thinks we should drop acid and get back to our roots. I reminded him just where our roots come from, what they look like, gnarled and rotting, even in the considerable distance of retrospection.

Then, after I got my gold star, I started feeling really shitty again, went back to the doctor and learned it is not a virus or sinus infection that is torturing me. I have pneumonia. I am such an invalid.

Thursday, February 03, 2011


I'm not crazy about zealousness. Not about anything. My mother was a Christian zealot. I was completely surrounded by zealots at one time in my life and my soul was nearly consumed by them. They meant well. Really, they did. They had my salvation in mind when they sought to control my behavior. I'm not mad at them. I get it. What pisses me off is when zealots, who do not believe my eternal life is at stake, who only have an opinion or an axe to grind, take my weekend in their busy little hands and grind it to dust. I can never get it back.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I am home and I am sick. I have something like a cold, but not really. My head is pounding like a baby chick is trying to get out my right temple, or sometimes like it is full of mud, or some other metaphor I can't quite grasp. I can't think, and I will spend the next few minutes proving it.

I am trying to work at home without a brain. I got up this morning, took two Extra-Strength Excedrin and a baby aspirin kicker, pretended to feel fine and left for work. I dropped Duffy at daycare and went to work for two hours. I couldn't trick myself into feeling better, so I gathered up some work and took it home with me. Portable work. I'd rather be asleep.

When Duffy was a puppy, he needed daycare on days I couldn't keep a close eye on him. Now, he is a big boy, fairly well-mannered, and still I take him once a week. I don't take myself to a spa once a week, do I? I don't pay somebody to make my day fun once a week, do I? But this little white dog.... he gets all the breaks. There is a new inside dog park now, Fido-Land or something. They have a pool and lifeguards. Lifeguards for dogs. So Portland. Do they teach them how to human-paddle? Really? If the dog can't swim, well, I just won't say. My PETA friends would be horrified.

So, I'm killing time for a 1:30 conference call, which I will take on my home phone and I hope it is able to do that sort of thing. Not so sure.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


I keep thinking, what with my general lack of people skills, that I would do well in the monastic life. I would, I think. Of course there are a couple of caveats: first, I'd have to be allowed to decorate. And it would have to be a nice monastery with, like, Pottery Barn candlesticks and dripping wax and great calligraphers to take notes. And nice monks. Nice, quiet monks. Second, they'd have to leave me alone. I wouldn't want to be bothered all the time. I'd make bread or garden or whatever their gig was, but beyond that, I'd want to be left alone.

Peace and quiet. They are not the same thing, but they do go nicely together.

Sunday, January 09, 2011


There is some groundbreaking news from the world of alzheimer's research: if you are nice to people with dementia, their behavior improves. If you let them have their way, they act better.


This new buzz is being touted as "emotional memory." I have it. You have it. They have it--only a little bit differently. While you and I can refer to the specific insults of any given shitty day and report, ad nauseum, who did us wrong (often leaving out any fault of our own), people with Alzhiemer's no longer have the ability to recall specifics, or to cope with the residual negative feelings that bounce untended in the growing white space of shrinking brains. This inablity to process and compartmentalize negative emotion results in "sundowning" or late-day agitation.

So they act out: Busy. Destructive. They wander. They pillage. They prowl.

But here's the thing: I shoulda written this book twenty years ago, this book about being nice. But like so many afterthoughts, I didn't. I was busy. Yet another story for yet another day.

But don't you think its apropos, on this day after another mass shooting, that being nice is a lesson lost on most Americans?

We have thrown billions of dollars at Alzheimer's research to find a medication that will cure what I think is pretty much just brain failure -- like heart failure. I am over simplifying, I know. (Alzheimer's disease is its own monkey, unlike some of the vascular dementias, etc. and could possibly benefit from these curative efforts.) But most, if not all of those resources, are being scooped up by and for the pharmacological arena, lobbied for by the health insurance monster, which, in my lengthy experience does not operate on such diffuse concepts as niceness. We have never paid more than peanuts for the front line work of caring for people who can no longer care for themselves. Old people. The future us.

Personally, I'm all for letting the inmates run the asylum. Its so much easier. So much. If they think its breakfast time, cook eggs for heaven's sake. Who cares? If they think its Christmas, sing Silent Night. If the diabetics want chocolate, let them have it. Christ. We want them to live forever but don't want to take care of them. What? The trick is to find the right people to do the simple work of caring. And, oh yeah, pay them peanuts. Simple. David Troxel coined the concept of "knack: the art of doing difficult things with ease," referring to caregiving for dementia patients. I thought of it first, but like I said, I was busy. Even Patrick Swayze said it in Road House: "If somebody calls you a son of a bitch, be nice."

So, now that Gabby what's-her-name is head-shot and the boy, who pulled the trigger on the gun that Palin aimed directly at her, is in custody-- if we don't take this time to review simple manners at the congressional level, I think we are missing an educational opportunity.

Be nice.