About Me

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

HeRR BiRRthday ~ May It Be Easy

  I'm privileged to be party to several birthday celebrations this summer. I've tried to herald this one in just a slightly different way. It's a special birthday. Yes, I agree ~ they're all special. But, stick with me. First a little music. I like Fiona Apple's cover of Across the Universe and that's saying something. I don't appreciate everyone who covers a tune originally written and sung by John Lennon. But Fiona does it nicely. I think the lyrics present us with a picture of a spirit easing through a wondrous, loving world and that would be appropriate for today's birthday girl.

She's my friend and her name is Rraine, hence the silliness with the Double-R brand in the post title. She's turning 60 and perhaps the next song dedicated should be "It Don't Come Easy". Oh, don't call me a bitch for revealing her true age! She's already done that, and admirably, on her own fine blog where she lets us know - with a wink - that there is both good and bad in everything that comes along. Now how ya gonna deal with it? Actually, Rraine is only my most recent friend in the past few years to turn 60. To a person, they have approached it cautiously and with humor juxtaposed with chagrin. My turn will come late next summer. I'm not fooling myself into thinking I'm going to like it. I hope I will be as graceful as some others have been. If I don't feel graceful, I might consider the alternative to reaching 60. And, so, young lady ~ my thoughts on turning 60 have taken me many places. I wish you the happiest day and hope you enjoy my musings.

For me, personally, 30, 40 and 50 were not painful. Now I'll confess that turning 40 and having a 2-year-old baby at the same time did keep me up some nights, until my friend pointed out that only "young" women have toddlers. Oh, yeah. I hadn't thought of it that way. And - as has been chatted up a little over on Rraine's blog in comments, I think back to my cherished Granny at age 60. She was energetic and active and brilliant, but - alas - she was an "old" woman. We're not like that any more. We're still vital if that's what we've chosen to be and if we've been fortunate enough to enjoy good health. We've got plans for ourselves, if we've remained committed to forward thinking. We've got more interests than time to pursue them all.

I was having a haircut and it must have been spring or summer of 1999. "Hey, Sandy, may I take this magazine home with me if I give you another one?" "Sure, Hon, how come?" It was in the days when I still hunted and gathered more crafting projects to work on. The magazine had directions for a cross-stitch sampler commemorating the many wondrous things that occurred during the 20th century. Yes, there was the Kitty Hawk and JFK, Iwo Jima and the 1969 walk on the moon - most of the highlights. That's all nice, but it was more personal to me. Dear Granny was born in the last three weeks of 1899. She died in 1987, so she didn't see the full century out, but no one can argue she was witness to many, many marvels. She always felt as if she'd been situated near the north Atlantic when the Titanic went down. Her brother sold newspapers in the street and had spent the vast sum of a nickel to bring home the headlines that spring morning of 1912. Tennessee was far removed from any ocean, but she read so much about it, she felt sure that was part of her tapestry. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on her 41st birthday and she later sent four of six sons to war. All of them returned home safe. That certainly was a part of her landscape. And yet, what strikes me hard as I write this is that the big events in Granny's world seem so far removed from her own proximity. As if she lived her life watching the world happen.

I can do "corn" really well, and here I go: I am nearly overcome with pleasure and gratitude for having been an American baby boomer, the place and generation I share with Rraine and millions of others. Yes, our nation suffers many ailments right about now - enough to make me groan, gripe and bellow, uh oh! rather like my father. So I take solace in reminding myself how special "we" really are. Our generation really defies any narrow definitions. Lavished with privilege, we have been able to think, to create, to challenge, to disagree, to fight, to make up, to love, to live and to die. We have wrought great change in the arts, in politics, in economics, in civil rights, in ecology, in vision, in goodness, in technology and more. Yes, the whole damn thing has been ours. Right up close and very, very personal. And I think I just made the argument for turning 60 (or seeing it over the dashboard or in the rearview). We've got to live our lives, so far, right in the middle of it all. To make it up as we go along, for good or for bad. And I'm not sure it gets any better than that, any time, any place.

So ~ as a gift, a little eye treat with an explanation. I told Rraine I'd been busy making something. And I do have something tangible to give as a real gift when we share lunch later in the week. For the blog, however, I've made collages. I tried to put a "gentle on the 60 thing" spin on it, so there are four separate collages, each with 15 images. Taking things in little bites is better sometimes, I have found. It's still 60. (Yes, that is one of my own quite amateurish photos hidden in there, to make the gift personal.)

Hey, hey, readers, please send Rraine a happy birthday greeting by commenting on this post. Enjoy the collages below and don't miss the song at the end.

Seek within, seek without
Birthday girl with attitude
Soft and dreamy
Look east

In my ears right now: Three old women. Oh, yeah, they're old. Way older than we are. I see gray hair and extra pounds and evidence of plastic surgery. I hear them making music and I observe them creating with friends. They'd likely know many of the same paths we've walked. 60+ is a good thing! Now, let's go do something.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hey, I've Got An Idea!

The e-mail I received that caused me to look into my blog archive and remember a place of long ago and fairly far away is still having an effect on me. Oh, yes, I'm fairly prone to reverie these days. A predilection for preoccupation, one might say. You see, I am not a graceful pathfinder. I require a good deal of angst to be thrown in with finding my way through things. I smack and flop along the road like a square wheel, gnashing my teeth . . . and then the way is usually revealed to me. I'm waiting for that augury now. In the meantime, I'll fiddle around until I don't any longer.

So, back to that summer of 1958. I have such strong sensory memories of the heat, muggy in the afternoons when there would generally come a thunderstorm to mix things up a little. We wore colorful, short cotton midriff tops with shorts, sometimes cutoffs, and went barefooted until the scorching blacktop and concrete required thongs at least. I was the kid with sunburn blisters on my nose and shoulders, the long, thick, dark braid snaking down my back and bangs always cut at just a slight slant not intended. There was typically a tooth or two missing during that time, and I sported a cast on my right arm that summer. It weighed approximately what I weighed and rubbed a blister on the web between my thumb and forefinger. It did not hamper hopscotch, swinging or managing my bike. That cast brought me the closest I ever came to being spanked when I was busted behind the garage using a stick to scratch my horribly itchy arm. It nearly scared my parents to death and they proved that they knew some strong language. When the doctor removed the cast just before school started in September, it proved to contain more dirt and grime than the average vacuum cleaner bag. Small pebbles, sand, dog hair, shredding skin, broken bits of stick (ahem).

I greeted other kids rarely with "Hi!" and frequently with "I've got an idea!" I did, too. Lots of ideas. About anything and everything one would care to name. I read voraciously, including under the blankets and in my bedroom closet after bedtime. I watched a little TV - likely 90% less than any other kid of the era, but I saw enough to feed my idea machine. It was an active little idea machine, producer of big old dreams in technicolor and detail. I was a kid who spawned notions that required some action and some sweat and lots of fun in the execution. I've never known whether other kids thought "Yay!" or "Run!" when I came along with my latest dream. Perhaps I wouldn't want to know. Rarely, however, did I have any difficulty recruiting others to my fancies. And I've grown up not very different from that young child.

Perhaps that show-offy thing existed in embryonic form in the day, because - often - my ideas focused on the performing arts. In later years, this tendency was honed to near perfection. Give me a microphone and an audience of hundreds and I become utterly, breathtakingly brilliant. But that is another story for another day. I once spent some considerable amount of saved allowance to buy a booklet setting forth a child's production of The Emperor's New Clothes. This required someone's dad to apply a saw to plywood and a neighborhood mom to sew costumes. And they did that! My mother made brownies. People came to watch us. It sired a monster in me. Theme parties a specialty. Extravagant whoop-dee-doos are my middle name.

I tend to do better in life when I have a project bubbling. It keeps me focused and gives me a sense of purpose. I need a little of that about now. And it's been a long time since we did anything collaborative on this blog like a drop in poem. I guess I ran out of conquering heroes to celebrate or something, because I got away from that really fun activity. Let's put that to bed! Reader, beware: I've got an idea.

I have a project in mind, for presentation on this blog. The gala will be presented on August 24th for good reason. It will feature video and all manner of things to delight one's sense of humor, particularly if yours is as twisted as my own. I need help! I need words. I am looking for a jingle, if not an outright song (which I'd prefer) to laud the hoppy taw, perhaps a poem or two, even an essay. The themes should be hoppy taws and hopscotch, days of summer, nostalgia, easier times. To get a feel for it, just read this and my last post or if one wants to refer to the original hoppy taw post, there you have it. Please send some words to the e-mail address in My Profile and let's have some fun. Two lines or two pages - everything helps! I'll provide updates and maybe a sneak peek or two as we get some stuff on video. Oh, yeah! I have both a film crew and an editor. It will be epic, even if only in my own mind.

Right before my eyes just now: It makes me snicker! Poor Frank, with his delicate sensibilities.

The most fun my eyes and ears have had in days:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ah, a Faint Voice From the Distant Past ~ Oh, No! It's MY Voice.

Just to call a spade what it is, I'm struggling. There is more bubbling on my plate than I'm currently capable of sorting out easily and I was a bit premature in the last couple of posts saying, "I'm back, things are fine!" A more correct assessment would be "I've had a few brilliant spots of diversion and pleasure in the middle of some miserable and frightening and depressing times and I am grateful for them." I have friends who check on me nearly constantly on e-mail, the phone, texting and at AA meetings. I have a friend who makes me nearly insane asking me how I feel. "I don't anything except frightened - it's asymptomatic," I reply invariably. I've decided he doesn't comprehend the meaning of the word. I'll use a different one in future and simply be happy that he thinks to check in on me. I'm not doing anything "bad", "wrong" or "forbidden". I haven't once been tempted to take a drink. I'm just not doing very much of anything. And the verdict on that has been unanimous: "You don't have to do anything. Wait and listen for the answer. And then you'll know what to do next." OK. That's my short-term plan.

I got the darnedest e-mail yesterday:
Dear Limes,  I am embarrassed to say I don't know how to blog so the email is it.......      I was so excited to see your story. I grew up in Ogden Utah, and there, Hoppy Taws were a serious thing!!!!   I loved it and recall one day that I fell playing hopscotch and ripped my new white leotards in both knees, but did I give up, no way.....  My Grandma Jensen worked for the Hoppy Taw Co. in the early 50's so we always had them and loved them.  I am an artist and I think that my love of color swirls and individuality came from the hoppy taws.  Every one was different .          I have been trying to get the real history behind the hoppy taw co.  Do you have any info .   The company on line just gives you current revenue potential and stuff like that, who cares.
Any way  just thought I would write to a fellow hoppy taw lover and tell her "you are not alone".   Thanks for your story,                    Debi in Idaho 
I had to do some quick thinking. She called me Limes, so she has read something from long ago when I was known only as LimesNow in the blogosphere. Now, of course, and for quite some time, I am Leslie Morgan, the same name that appears on my birth certificate and driver's license. And I sport my face all over the place. But I didn't at first. And Debi refers to the hoppy taw, so she has to have read something I wrote about my childhood in Salt Lake City. I noodled around in my blog archives and found it - voila - December 2, 2009! How and why Debi has come across it now, I am uncertain, but that's OK. A writer appreciates having been read. A human being appreciates a connection. And no, I will not give up "hoppy taw" in this post. The reader must follow the link to the original post.

Referring back to my original hoppy taw post, I re-read my own words. I was reminded of yet another time in my life when I was unsure and frightened of things. I leaned on others to help me through. My father and my friend modeled good behaviors for me to follow. I learned to plan, to strategize, to size up others and to trust my judgement. I learned toughness and commitment and I learned to be a sponge, soaking up everything I could from any situation. I became fair and honest and tenacious. Maybe, in a tiny number of situations in life, even heroic, if that simply means reaching beyond one's assumed limitations and acting. I learned that more people are good than bad. More people will like you than hate you. I learned that on a really good day, one might make a connection with another human being never contemplated before. I learned that one might say something that resonates with another person, and that is magic to me.

After my AA meeting tonight, I sat outside on the picnic benches talking with a group of people I really enjoy. I'd done some research online for a man who shall be called a rascal here. He likely deserves a harsher assessment sometimes, but we'll stick with rascal. I shared the information I'd found for him and then spoke of the pleasure I get from writing my blog. I told him some things I'd written about. "But you don't use your name, right?" I told him that I do, and my photograph as well. His eyes got big and for the second time in a few days, someone called me "brave". Emotionally brave. I wonder. Did I learn that, too? And how will I apply that now?

Some hoppy taw art for Debi, though I am not an artist:

In my ears right now:

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Turn Out the Lights, the Party's Over

Okey dokey, then ~ we put up the birthday post and went out to do some shopping and spend some girl time. We fairly exhausted the thrift store and a used book store, checked to see whether Mike had seen his birthday party online . . . no sign of him. That's OK. We're resourceful women. Let's call him! We did so. He said he wouldn't be able to connect to the internet until the next morning. Arrrggghh! But this was his birthday. Well, nothing else for it: we each wished him a happy birthday and told him to go blogging as soon as he was able. And then we proceeded to blow out his candles and eat the chocolate muffins Rraine had brought, so thoughtfully. They were good - mine served as lunch and dinner. Sorry you missed them, Mike.

And then we thought, seeing we were three blogger women gathered, seeing Rraine is expert with a camera, seeing I have become addicted to Picasa photo collage, seeing Jenn is young and adorable, seeing Rraine and I are . . . um . . . adorable, we'd go outside and take some pictures. Yeah!

One kvetched about her glasses. The other two did not. One had us try a couple of different spots to get the best location and light. One whined that she never photographs well, so please be sure to snap two of everything. The names shall be withheld to preserve our dignity. Rraine recalled being shown how to execute a becoming pose by thrusting a foot forward, hand on hip. We all tried it and thought we were pretty cute. Jenn knew a showgirl pose, arms extended. Rraine said she wanted a big headdress. I said I wasn't doing any showgirl stuff, though I'd try the foot-forward, hand-on-hip thing. We thought we were something!

And so ended an afternoon enjoyed in female company. There were friends to be met for dinner, AA meetings to attend. We'd shared some irreverent laughs and some serious talk, giggled about vanity when the camera came out, and pledged to get together again soon. Two of us had cackled at terrible shoes for sale and wondered why selected items were considered "designer". We all talked about ideas for future blog posts and congratulated one another for being brilliant. I needed this sunny, happy afternoon. I've been under some duress. And I was reminded of at least one of the things I can engage in to keep my spirits up and my fever down. Thanks, Good Women and Mike, for making my day! Damn you, Rraine,  for wearing Rocket Dogs when I didn't even think of it. But I'll be back on my game soon enough. I can feel it!

In my ears right now:  An old favorite. Just because I feel like it today.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Birthday Greetings to Mike from a Bevy of Las Vegas Beauties

Oh, please! Get over it. All females from Las Vegas, Nevada, are not showgirls, whether vintage or contemporary. No, no. Some of us are kind of regular - all the good and bad things that make up real people like intellect, heart, creativity. We are a toothsome trio of blogging tootsies who write, draw, photograph, emote, laugh and cry out into the blogosphere. Though we are different from one another in many ways, we share some common experiences, hopes and dreams. We have similar ideas about peace, harmony and a good quality of life for all beings. We have grand senses of humor and dignity and we treasure the times one can spend with her female friends. Collectively, we are 158 years old. In terms of intellect and creativity, you can't count high enough. And that's a good thing, because there is a task at hand. Today we gathered together to muse on what we could do - virtually - to celebrate the birthday of our esteemed blogger friend Mike. Mike, you see is in Norfolk, Virginia. We are in the desert southwest. The Lear Jet is in the shop. Whatever shall we do?

It seems logical to start with an invitation to everyone who reads this - and please, tell a friend! - to add your happy birthday wishes to this post in comments. He'll see them here. And then - please - go visit Mike on his own blog to wish him a grand day. After that, how about visiting yet another blog near and dear to Mike's heart. Noodle around on this blog, beginning at the bottom. It's new and there have been only 4 posts. Find out what Mike's been dreaming about. And finally, don't miss this. Give yourself 15 minutes to navigate through the new website and learn what our man really wants for his birthday. Perhaps you'll please Mike and all of us by throwing your support with ours for We Can Work It Out.

For Mike, you see, is a man who dreams big and thinks of others. I've watched him for years on blog, cheering for others, entertaining us with his Saturday Masters music posts, boldly trying new forms of writing when challenged, maintaining a positive and supportive demeanor toward all. He has no problem saying "you're my hero" or "I love you" to another blogger when he feels those things. I know, because he has said those things to me. Though he has serious health problems and life burdens like the rest of us bear, Mike thinks of others who suffer, both locally and globally. We Work It Out is only his most recent dream of peace, harmony, love and equality.

OK, that's my little message of birthday love! I'm Leslie, the owner of this blog.

Hey, Mikey, Rraine here. I don't have the way with words that the rest of you bloggers do, so I bring you the gift of song and light. You light up my world in more ways than I can say. Please, keep on keepin' on, and spread the words-all the words!

Mike, although new to We Can Work It Out and the world of bloggers in general, I wanted to take a moment to let you know that I find it to be a good website and hope to be one to spread the word and encourage others to join. I sense from your writing that this is truly near and dear to your heart. As I said in the Samantha article on the website, I believe one person can make a difference in the world. I sense you will be one of them. Thank you for you efforts towards change, diversity, peace and understanding. Hope you have a wonderful Birthday.

Sincerely, Jenn

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Seven Days

It took about 7 days. I was still speaking and writing joyously for having some new things fall into my life and about how much I was going to relish experiencing them. Somehow - perhaps this is just very human and not at all specific to me - I connected those nice new things with the degree to which I've been working my AA program and my sobriety. Hey, if you save your money, you get a nest egg. Work your body, you get fit. Start leading a good and righteous life, good things come your way. Right? Sure! I had a busy July 4th weekend planned - busy for one who has been emerging from shadows and clouds for many months. Things were going well. I hadn't said it out loud in too many places yet, but I was beginning to think - just a little - that I was getting this "life" shit down pretty well.

Then came the routine blood draw with dubious results. Yes, it's an old enemy and one I understand very clearly. My doctors were wonderful to fully school me about it the first time around. I know percentages and survival odds depending upon age at onset, gender and ethnicity. I know what the levels should be each time I have a blood draw. I know many people walk around for years with the precursor and it never develops further. The precursor is as much as I ever had to deal with, and I found it nearly made me insane. Blood tests, wait ages for the returns. Biopsies, wait longer for the returns. Medicate as necessary, begin entire process again in 90 days. It is maddening and terrifying. In fact, last time it nearly sent me around the bend. It broke me in a handful of ways from which I have not recovered.

Frequently mistaken for Cleopatra, Queen of Denial, I went into my usual mode. I spun. Man, it was 4th of July weekend and I had some plans. A party here, a dinner outing there, some rare mall shopping, AA meetings with coffee afterwards. I had a couple of pieces of writing in mind and planned to work on them with the French doors open, the monsoon blowing cool breezes into my little work station. I spent some hours helping a friend create a blog and I was asked - for one of the first times - to listen to and advise a struggling alcoholic. A fellow member of AA asked me to critique his thesis paper and then to work with him on the presentation. I was flattered to be asked! My friend and I are planning a joint blog post featuring some of the only-in-Las-Vegas things we see every day. We spotted out some locations to shoot photos and kept eyes and ears open for more of the startling things unfolding on every corner when a woman stops for a red light. Yep, I got through that long weekend just fine. Tired, in fact, just a little bit, for all the increased activity. The neighborhood fireworks banged on a few hours longer than I hoped, but that's what earplugs are used for.

Tuesday morning rolled around. I felt unsettled. No more long weekend stretching ahead. No more forgiving doctor's offices that did not return calls immediately - the holiday was over now. Time to get serious. I spent the morning digging out records, making phone calls. I noticed I needed to change the bed sheets and the cat litter in both boxes. The monsoonal thunderstorms have occurred daily, remarkable in intensity, mucking up windows which I hurry to clean before they dry dirty. Yes, I am eating a little. Not very much coffee. I arranged for someone to come in to repair the fine, fancy, new washing machine that spews water everywhere. And then I just stopped. Stopped everything. No reading library books, which I bring home by the bushel. No e-mail, no text messages, no phone calls. No blogging, either reading or writing. No writing for pleasure or economic purposes. No meditation, no music, no movies that make men scrunch up their toes in their shoes, no daily readings for AA and other forms of serenity. I have stopped, utterly and completely. Slammed into the wall. Splat.

I have not missed an AA meeting, and I am talking at those meetings. AAs give good advice to their fellows. They are kind to me, but will not kill me with kindness. Many have approached me to tell me how they meshed their program of sobriety with their own or another's illness. I thank them. Some simple speakers say, "Just keep coming back every day." Yes, I will. I get good encouragement like, "Tomorrow try to make it to the meeting and just read one of your books." I shall try that. And one man I'd never seen before said something really profound to me: "I can tell by your face and your words you're beating yourself up pretty badly. This isn't crazy, alcoholic reaction. Anyone would be concerned about this." That helped me! I didn't know. How would I compare my reaction to anything "normal"? I've written before about my intense distaste for using the words "I can't" about any endeavor I take on. I don't allow myself that very much. It can be a very difficult burden to carry. It is an old reaction I've not yet been able to correct in myself, and yes - that is my safety button: "I've not yet been able to . . . "

Yes, rely upon it - I am in near constant evaluation of just what I'm waiting for. The other shoe to fall? Perhaps. The lab to call me back to say "Sorry to have scared you to death. It was a mistake!" That would be nice, but I don't expect it. Am I channeling the Beatles' "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"?

. . . Bang, bang, Maxwell's silver hammer
Came down upon her head
Bang, bang, Maxwell's silver hammer

Made sure that she was dead . . .

I've been crazier than that before! Channeling isn't so weird. So, the best I can say is I'm struggling. I'm modeling Bambi in the High Beams. I don't have all the answers for it yet. And I'm working on all of it as best I can. My sponsor gave me a new tool yesterday. "Les, can you live with 'I can't today, but I may be able to tomorrow'?" Hey! I can live with that.

There has been little sleep in these almost couple of weeks. That's a chronic condition for me, though this bout is more intense and I've found myself both tearful and irritable. This morning after coffee, I managed to read one of my daily meditations and thought I could doze a little. I popped in some earplugs, pushing each almost through to the other side. I located the most boring book in my current repertoire, firmly planted  a cat on either side of me. I was ready! And soon enough, I felt myself drift. Until, through the earplugs, an unholy noise sufficient to raise my body from the bed tore me from sleep. When my heart slowed to the rate of a mouse's, I stuck my head out to see WTF? Ah! Home dudes here to fix up that washer leak. It seems the concrete slab has to be jackhammered, followed by some other ungodly noises. This has continued for hours. The very structure is shaking on its foundation. There are 6 homies on the property speaking very loud in Spanish. For hours. And so it goes. I can't do my laundry today, but maybe tomorrow.

In my ears right now:  I need a little lift!

Monday, July 4, 2011

On the Glorious 4th, A Story of Some Americans

I moved to Las Vegas 35 years ago today. My god. Oh, certainly, I went away for about 22 years between that first residency and the current one, but it can't be denied that I have a long history here. I don't care for the place much. Not the first time and not now. Yet, recently, when a friend commented that I have the luxury of portable income and would I consider relocating somewhere that more suited me, I pondered that and said, "No, I don't think so. Not now."

Last evening I went to a birthday gathering at a local restaurant. I was not enthusiastic about any part of this enterprise. Unlike my old, drinking self, however, I worked out my resentments ahead of time and was able to arrive with a smile, a gift in hand, an appetite and a readiness to enjoy whatever came my way. I was seated so that I could see out through the broad expanse of plate glass windows, looking south. Earlier this week, running errands on various days, I noticed cloud formations that made me realize the monsoon will soon be upon us, that cloudy, humid stretch that mingles with the 100+-degree days just to make summer fairly insufferable. Yes, the storms do ease the humidity for a few minutes. Oh, we get booming thunderstorms with remarkable shows of lightning and sometimes serious flooding in the streets. Our valley is shaped like a large bowl lying on its side. I live on the downside where all liquid ends up when too much of it is applied to the desert floor. Sitting at the table in the diner, I saw the clouds finally form something serious after teasing us all day. I'd been hit with 7 or so raindrops on my windshield earlier - just enough to annoy. The winds kicked up and a few splats hit the windows. "Storm coming," everyone muttered. And then it began in earnest.

Leaving the eatery, running through actual rain now, I grinned at my friend, "You don't want to see me in a rainstorm, Girlie. All that crap I use to give my hair that just-rolled-out-of-the-sack look starts running down my forehead and neck. It's pretty bad!" We laughed, leaped gratefully into our chariot and I drove us into the mouth of hell. The storm got worse by the minute, the road and the sky taking on the same color, water hammering us. The gutters and storm drains were immediately overtaxed, deep water snaking across all lanes of the boulevard. The windshield wipers did little to improve conditions and I observed, "I can't see shit." "I noticed that," Jenn replied. I toyed with the notion of pulling over, but I feared we would be washed downstream. "Keep moving, slowly, with lights," is the advice I've always been given. We became awfully quiet for a duo as communicative as we usually are together and I finally deposited her in her driveway, watching her run up the hill with her go-box from the party and her Bath & Body Works haul we'd made earlier. "Text me when you get home. I don't mean to sound like your mother!," she hollered. "Will do!"

"Well, driving uphill ought to be better," I foolishly surmised. "And it's only 3 miles." Yow. I have never maneuvered a car or anything else through such conditions. The sidespray, when I finally thought "screw it" and drove right down the middle of the road, shot high above the roof of the car. Chunks of tree limbs washed up onto the hood, the wipers yelped "Uncle!" and I was pretty concerned about the evident strain of the monster mobile to work uphill against the torrent. As I passed through intersections, the screaming wind T-boned me, actually causing the car to sway. Had I been in my Nissan, I may have ended up in a ditch. I remembered that July of 1976, which was also tremendously stormy. It had taken Ex about a week to make friends to join in the bars at night, so I was home alone quite a lot. Once, at 2:00 a.m., I called my mother to come and collect me, terrified at the thunderstorm that shook the timbers of our home. I was 23. The memories washed over me now. With my most recent progress in AA, the continual working of my program, I have had some pleasant and poignant recollections about him and I've even managed some forgiveness for Ex.

In connection with a project I've recently embraced, I have been doing some research. The general subject is acceptance of racial and ethnic diversity which leads, often, to stories about past discrimination and bad treatment of some classes of human beings.This is material that draws me, deeply. I was appalled to learn that I am nearly completely ignorant about the struggles of some of the world's populace. Oh, I grew up in that O'Farrell clan hearing about the oppression of the Irish by the British and I certainly didn't miss any of the U.S. Civil Rights movement that played out right under my nose during my teens and early adulthood. Beyond our borders, though, I am unschooled. But there is a group of indigenous people I have learned about - just a little.

When Ex and I were very young and had just set up housekeeping, I began - at his request - weekly letter-writing with his grandmother on the reservation in Sacaton, Arizona. Ex's parents were young and modern-minded Pima Indians who worked hard to get off the reservation, and though their life was not good in the mean streets of L.A., at least they were "off". Those of us who are not natives and are not induced to live on a reservation, even if no longer forced, may not understand the drive to "get off". Ex and his siblings had never visited Arizona and knew little about their culture. They did know they were full-blooded Indians and that made them rare, if not "special". They'd all grown up being mistaken for Mexican, very common in southern California, and saying to people, apologetically, "Sorry, I don't speak Spanish." I learned from the encyclopedia and shared with Ex that his people were the Akimel O'odham, "river people", who subsisted by farming, hunting and gathering, though they are largely know for their expertise in textiles and for the production of intricately beautiful hand-woven baskets and woven cloth. It is thought the name "Pima" came from the natives' frequent invocation "pi mac" to European settlers. "Pi mac" means "I don't know". They didn't understand the language of the "visitors".

Ex knew that, though tiny, his tribe had a hero to brag about - one Ira Hayes. Hayes was born in Sacaton in 1923 and was said to be a shy, sensitive and quiet young man - almost "distant" - who read at a very young age and easily mastered the English language that escaped many of the Pima. After Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, Ira set his sights on becoming a United States Marine. After the War, the much-decorated corporal was often portrayed in art and film, for he became an American icon on Iwo Jima when he and 5 other Marines planted the U.S. flag atop Mt. Suribachi on February 23, 1945. His return to civilian life, though he was revered and much-celebrated, was troubled.  Asked by a reporter how he liked the pomp and circumstance after President Eisenhower declared Hayes a hero, he hung his head and said, "I don't." Attempting to return to a normal civilian life, Hayes racked up 52 arrests for public drunkenness and spoke often of his "good buddies who were better men and wouldn't be returning". He  was found dead, choked on his own blood and vomit in January, 1955. He had just turned 32, and died of alcoholism and exposure.

I knew a bit about the Ira Hayes story, and had seen pictures of him, but researching last week, I saw a photo that took my breath away. It would seem to be the type of picture taken when a recruit graduates from boot camp. I'd never seen this photo before. It looks so much like Ex at a similar age that I burst into tears and they slid slowly down my face for a long, long time. Ira lacks only the long braids worn by the young man in 1971. Ex wanted to enter the Marines like his tribal and American hero. I was a war protester and convinced him otherwise. Today, just for today, I am rethinking that. Maybe . . . Despite their physical resemblance, Ex was not related to Ira Hayes, as far as we know. If the family had any claim to those bragging rights, I'm sure we would have heard it at some time. Nevertheless, in a population so tiny that six degrees of separation is likely reduced to two degrees, I am reflecting today on some of the tragedy and pathos that befell these two men who tried to assimilate and never completely succeeded, despite their mighty efforts.

I asked Ex early in our time together why his last name (which would also become mine) was so English-sounding. He had been taught that if one's name looked something like this "daghim 'o 'ab wu:saƱhim"   and you were the census taker on the newly established reservation, you might also say, "Yep, sounds like Smith to me."  Would the reader join me in a tip of the hat to some Americans who may not seem so very American?

In my ears right now and I'd be pleased if it was in your ears, too:

Blog post dedicated to the memory of Anthony Curtis Goodwin