3/12 So Cal Spring

What a beautiful day in Southern California! My yard has sucked up every juicy bit of moisture the beneficent rain gods saw fit to deliver this winter, and is shimmering in the afternoon sunshine with vibrant shades of green. A few audacious geraniums and one bold rose dot the backyard landscape, while out front purple and snow-white hyacinths dizzy me with their heady fragrance on my way to the front door. Spring has sprung.

3/2/09 Bailout Burnout

Usually I’m a pretty friendly and easygoing person. I smile at strangers, start conversations and generally go with the flow. But more and more since “the bailout,” I’m finding myself to be incredibly testy when big companies try to rip me off for a few more dollars. Take Dollar car rental. Their promo on Southwest Airlines website promised a discount of 15 percent on a rental, to be awarded at time of rental, but when I got to the counter this weekend, they couldn’t even find the promo code in their computer. Fortunately I had a printout, but it didn’t do me any good; they refused to honor their offer. Now we’re not talking about a lot of money here. Less than $10. But you know that I-gave-at-the-office feeling? I keep feeling like the American public are such chumps for compensating these corporate hogs for stupid decisions. And yet, not really having a choice about it. It reminds me of some weird torture I read about where the one thing you need to save your life (and of course I forget what that is, maybe a key to get you out of a buried alive kind of situation) has been surgically implanted in your eye, so you have to poke out your own eye to save your life. We’re having to poke out our finances in the hopes of ultimately saving the economy, and we really don’t even know if it’s going to work.

12/22/08 The Crime of Starvation

There are plenty of villains to blame for our current financial crisis, but discouraged as mostly anyone who actually has access to a computer and the knowledge to use it may be, it is nothing compared to what is happening in Zimbabwe. I’m sitting in a warm house, freshly breakfasted and ready to wrap a few small Christmas gifts, but something like 70 percent of the people in Zimbabwe are scavenging crickets and literally bitter fruit to put something—anything—in their stomachs. In the New York Times story of this morning (“In Zimbabwe, Survival Lies in Scavenging”), this phrase stuck out: “… the economies of scale that kept prices low for hybrid seed and fertilizer are gone.”

Excuse me, hybrid seed? Robert Mugabe is a thug and the country’s policies are abominable. Land redistribution was a disaster (not entirely in concept, but certainly in execution) and keeping foreign aid out was horrendous. But if these farmers had good old-fashioned seeds, nature’s bounty that can be harvested from one year’s crop to start the next, they at least would be able to plant. Why are we not suing manufacturers of hybrid seed in international court? Hybrid seed is a crime against humanity and nature.

10/4 Our Own Paul Newman

Paul Newman was a gorgeous man. Looking at the pictures of him that kept popping up last week after he died, I can understand why women drooled over him when he was younger… and perhaps even recently. He has the kind of face you just want to kiss.

But there were a lot more reasons to want to kiss Paul Newman besides those startling blue eyes and sensual lips. Instead of spending his celeb riches on drugs, mansions and overpriced shower curtains, Newman sank it into a business that gave 100 percent of its profits to charity. Everyone who knew him says he was a nice guy, but we don’t need them to tell us that.

What a difference from the Wall Street CEOs who drove their companies (and investors) off a cliff, then waltzed away with millions. Newman never needed a bailout. He bailed out other people in ways that really count.

I will miss him.

9/2 Roller coaster summer

Here it is September and my poor blog has been so neglected. It’s been an incredibly busy summer of wonderful projects and delightful visitors, and now it’s wrapping up with a bang. Are we having fun with the presidential elections? Whew, what a virtual roller coaster ride! We’re shrieking and applauding, gasping and whining, caught up in the thrills and surprises. Only time will tell if we’re really going anywhere or if, like all virtual rides, this one is going to stop and leave us right back in the same place.

In the meantime, one of the places you’ll find me when I’m not blogging here is on Lime.com. In addition to my weekly posts, you’ll find tons of great information on green living.

I’d hoped to tell you about my new magazine editing gig, but we’re hitting a few snags. We plan to be back in November, so stay tuned!

7/7 Getting places

When I was a kid, I always thought 7 was my lucky number. I feel pretty lucky today, but then again, I felt pretty lucky yesterday. For starters, I’m in the beautiful state of Oregon this week. The sky is robin’s egg blue, the breeze is infused with a hint of the remaining snow on top of Mt. Ashland, and the mountains are still green and inviting. Perhaps best of all, I have my new 22-inch monitor to work on. Can you imagine? Seven files open at one time? Life is good.

I just watched a YouTube video wherein one of the presidential candidates is announcing that he hates bloggers (and hey dude, that’s me!). The person who posted it commented that it’s cause he’s old. What’s age got to do with it? How about “out of touch”? Luddite? How can we even consider having a president who has no real comprehension of privacy concerns on the Internet, library use of computers and so on when these issues continue to loom large and controversial?

Not knowing how to use the Internet is like insisting on walking rather than riding in a motorized vehicle. I love walking, but I can get much further, much more quickly, using “modern” inventions.

6/26 Snow Leopard

If you’ve read The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen, and if you loved it as much as I did, definitely check out the photographs by Steve Winter of these beautiful, solitary animals who roam the high peaks of Central Asia. I still recall the koan Matthiessen was given by his teacher when he traveled there in search of the elusive snow leopard… and his own spiritual truth: “All the peaks are covered with snow. Why is this one bare?”

I don’t know if the author ever found an answer to the puzzle (although by nature, koans don’t have an answer), but I still think about it time to time. Of course, I’ve come across a zillion unanswerable questions since then. I’m not convinced there really is an answer to ANY of them, except for the ones created by humans. But after my sister-out-law passed away last year, I realized there was no sense in trying to explain why someone so good would suffer such terrible circumstances, while so many clearly evil people continue to thrive. It’s always the personal that really brings it home.

6/17 Full moon weddings

It’s incredible! The moon tonight is giant, pale gold, with a shimmering halo. Beneath this magnificent beauty, hundreds — maybe thousands — of couples throughout California (except Kern and Butte Counties, of course, where separation of church and state doesn’t seem to apply) are celebrating their first night as husband and… husband. Or wife and wife. Or maybe it’s husband and wife. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” fair Juliet tells her Romeo in Shakespeare’s play, and I doubt any of the gay and lesbian couples who tied the knot today would quibble about semantics. Never mind the protesters squalling in the background that marriage is between a man and several women. No of course they don’t say that (unless they’re LDS), no matter how many times they’ve been divorced, but the truth is that marriage is an institution created by humans, not passed down from any higher power.

I wonder how one of those loudmouthed protesters would feel about being barred from visiting his spouse in intensive care. Or she, if her spouse died, and his pension stopped. He, she, they’re interchangeable here. The point is, anyone who believes in a supreme creator should know that we all are created in the same image, and are equally worthy.

I hope the glow of this full moon lasts a lifetime for the newlyweds.

6/12 A word in every port

When I was in my 20s, I fantasized about having homes scattered in wonderful places around the world. One would be in NY of course; Paris, sans doute; a tropical retreat with palm trees and fabulous snorkeling; and now that I’m back into skiing, I’d need to add Aspen, and perhaps Chamonix, to my list. If I still had a list, which I don’t, because although the fantasy is lovely, a lot of homes could mean a lot of stress for someone who prefers to stay pretty footloose. It’s difficult enough to control the clutter in even one location.

But I can have multiple locations on the Internet for almost as much fun and no property taxes. The view isn’t quite as good and the restaurants in the neighborhood stay the same (which is to say not so great in the west San Fernando Valley—can’t someone open a Bizou or Pinot Bistro over here? C’mon Joachim, we need you!) but I can wear sweats all day long and don’t have to deal with airport security every other week.

I’m trying to get to my point but I’m having so much fun hyperlinking, which I just learned how to do an hour ago (thanks, Jessica!). So here it is: my two new Internet locations are Lime, where you’ll find my Spirit in Motion blog every Friday starting this week; and Valley Life magazine where I just took over as editor.

The much-maligned Valley is actually a pretty jumping place these days. For starters, we’ve got the Topanga Mall. Have you happened by lately? Take a good look at where you park your car, cause once you get inside you’ll swear you’re on Rodeo Drive. H & M does have an outpost, but the trend is def more Cartier and Tiffany (yes, we have both). Economic downturn? Like the pres’ WMDs… I know it’s around here someplace.

Please visit me at my new locations! At Lime you can even talk back.

5/26 Feeling bad for The Company Store

Now that I’m a freelancer, it makes me think about a lot of things differently. It’s particularly apparent when sale catalogues arrive in my mailbox, or when the newspaper is crammed full of Memorial Day sale specials. This is actually kind of fitting when I remember that after 9/11, we were encouraged to support the US economy by going shopping. Of course we’re already supporting the US economy just by being at war, since it turns out that so many of the trillions we’re spending are going into the pockets of private contractors. But I digress.

Being a freelancer means you’re never quite sure what or when your next job is going to be. So in the meantime, that new set of towels for the bathroom? They’re on sale, after all, bamboo or organic cotton from The Company Store… tempting as it is, I decide I don’t really need them. And that’s precisely the point. So much of what we buy, we don’t really need. But I’m such a softy I actually start to feel bad for The Company Store! They’ve pulled together an enticing collection of wonderful, earth-friendly products, gone to the expense of creating a beautiful, glossy catalogue (okay, so it’s probably not recycled paper and not quite as earth-friendly), and if people don’t buy their stuff, eventually they’ll go out of business. I mean, what if we all just stopped buying so much stuff? Wouldn’t all these businesses go under? It’s almost enough to make me order something!

When I lived on Queensbury Street in Boston between sophomore and junior year of college, I let this concern get out of control. Every day on my way home from my job at WJIB radio, I’d pass the jovial peanut man outside Fenway Park. The game usually hadn’t started yet, so nobody was buying anything and duh, I didn’t figure out that he probably was swamped once the fans started moving towards the park. So I felt sorry for him. Problem was, I have always hated peanuts and never liked soft drinks, and that was his entire stock. But heck, I started buying bags of peanuts and taking them home for Pat, my roommate, who was pretty busy with her boyfriend but once in a while came up for air and a peanut or two.

It didn’t take long before the peanut man started feeling compassion for me shelling out my handfuls of obviously hard-earned change (yeah, even then) and insisting I accept bags of peanuts and cans of soda at no charge. At this point I couldn’t very well say, “No thanks, I really can’t stand them,” so the bags started piling up on top of the fridge. (Pat took care of the soft drinks; she was working up quite a thirst.)

We both moved out at the end of the summer and I hope the next tenant liked peanuts. And now I’m going to put the lovely Company Store catalogue into the recycling bin.