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At the cutting edge of advanced clown technology



I heard it on the radio. I knew it was wrong because I am at the forefront of clown technology and I was not familiar with the advertiser.  Maybe I’m falling behind? I have the unicycle, the stilts, the juggling pins, foam rubber nose, but cutting edge clowning is about being up to date on the personal irony of your own existence in this sorry world. I could make a video showing me downing hundreds of chocolates with my smile growing outlandishly until the thrill of being an adult child reverses into the awareness of being a dyspeptic  fool.  I could try to smother myself with a pillow on you tube while whittling away an evening of insomnia or trim my toenails with my fancy new zoloft cutter.  Perhaps I heard the ad wrongly and they were talking about some type of internet storage?

I just read a want ad for the Little Red School House.” Prefer a CDA, and experience in ECE.” I don’t know those acronyms – Certified Drug Addict? Criminal Defense Attorney? Elementary Classroom Education or  Excitable Children Expert?  Written in bold was the phrase Needs to be: followed by the words “Professional”, “Efficient”, “Despondent” and “Responsible.”  I might have read them wrong. I was too depressed to put on my glasses.

Life is full of misunderstandings. The free market thrives on them. I bought five necklaces I didn’t need  just about the time I realized I needed glasses. I thought they were a bargain at $10 for the bunch.  The price was much larger than the font used to print it. I see a big delicious burger on a crystal stand  in a private McDonald’s Club to which only superstar basketball players and flamenco dancers are welcome.  Am I hungry for the burger or the fame or inclusion?  I admit I already belong to a McDonald’s Club of sorts. When I go in for my fish sandwich, I am often greeted by name and  leave to the tune of “See you tomorrow.” McDonald’s is where everybody knows my name. Shouldn’t that make me sad?

It’s so confusing that I have to turn off the television and watch an old Disney film – Pollyanna!  Just think good thoughts, people and the world can change. You might even walk again and even if you don’t everyone will like you and no one will give up on you. I want to believe it but I can scarcely believe my own hopefulness. I’m the clown of hope. Perhaps I don’t have any at all but I like to instill it in others just as a cruel experiment? Now that’s the cutting edge of clown technology!

St Lent-ricks Day


Remember Thanksgivings-kuh?  Somehow I missed that St Patrick’s Day was always smack in the middle of Lent. Neither was I aware that St. Patrick’s Day is a sanctioned exemption from Lenten abstinence.   Is the whole shebang is just a cold weather version of Mardi Gras, or a less precious Burning Man?   I suppose that St Patrick himself is not to blame, but maybe he was and this is how God is giving him payback.

You want to take down the pagans in my name, Pat?  Then I’ll make your holiday one of the biggest drinking festivals the world has ever seen.

Not that I am a big fan of Lent these days.   Lent seems just like an excuse to diet. Giving up carbohydrates for God? He might want something else in his stocking.   I know Jesus had it hard but  he got more with wine than he did with vinegar, didn’t he?  Lent is supposed to be about reflection and repentance but I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to do those things with a few candies on hand. Unfortunately, I  see Lent becoming an S&M kind of thing.

How low will you go for me? Can you hold your breath for 40 days?

Remember the joke about the man who asked the priest if he could smoke while he prayed? The answer was no. When he asked if he could pray while he smoked the answer was, Of course! So don’t be giving things up for 40 days  take them back up immediately afterwards and quit praying just because those are the rules.  I’m not against changing things up to get some perspective. That’s pretty much what humor is.  I’ve decided that Lent should be less serious and I should spend it contemplating the absurdity of life.

It must be difficult for all the gluten free vegan people to find something to work on.  Maybe they could eat bread and suffer through it? I could eat beans and suffer through  bloating and gas. We could all not complain together and try not to even have pained self-righteous expressions. That would be very difficult for me as I wear one frequently.

I hope someone in the world is giving up their iphone for Lent so I can try it out. I have a flip phone with no texting so you can borrow it for 40 days if that will help. I think St. Patrick had a similar one.

Current event

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February 5th, 2008, at 5:55 pm, after 20 minutes of cluelessly circling our destination, my 1990 red Subaru Legacy wagon honed in on all the other Subaru’s at The Nick, (not Mark),  Begich Middle School parking lot in East Anchorage.  Whoa, Fred Meyer’s the day before Christmas had nothing on this mess. The admission cut off was 6 pm.   Shocks shrieked as we skimmed over snowy speed jumps and landed in front of a dumpster.

“Sorry”, I called back as I sprinted off to do my civic duty. My car is  sensitive.

     I had never been to a Democratic caucus. Who in Anchorage has? I read that about 250 people voted the last time.  I would raise my hand to support Hilary Clinton then drive away in my tired vehicle for a delicious snack. What I encountered inside blew my sheltered, middle aged, middle class, white lady mind. I was swallowed up in a wave from a sea of young people of many colors.

 Where did all these Democrats come from? Who got all these new voters signed up?  Where can I anchor myself in this youth storm? Whoa, panic attack!

I focused on breathing. There were way more people in that gym than fire code would allow. It was a new building, but hey, it had a wooden floor somewhere under all those feet.  Confession: I stayed because there had to be a few eligible men floating around somewhere.    I spotted my tiny district #26 flag bobbing in the human flood, found my red headed, blue voting neighbor Bonnie Lynn. I got my sea legs.

The crowd quieted as someone rose to explain the procedure. Each district should tread lightly towards their appointed classroom. Upon arrival we would determine which candidate our district supported. District #26 wound up squashed in an upstairs corner.  After I spied the large proportion of wedding rings on the male members of my crew, we were swept out into a larger area.

  “Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama, choose a side”

  Every person of color and everyone under 30 migrated to the other side of the room. I had a flashback. My father, born in 1919, and a Republican politician in New England, took my older brother to hear Martin Luther King speak because he was the new voice of America.  I didn’t know who Barack Obama was and I wasn’t going to admit it, but I knew which side of the room I belonged on. I abandoned Bonnie Lynn and sprinted for the second time this evening, this time over to the future. I felt breathless, not because I was out of shape, but because I was part of history. I was in the new wave.   I felt that zing of being in the moment.  What would my sensible car say to that?

I left within minutes, avoiding the parking lot tsunami.    I’m sure Bonnie Lynn floated over to Obama soon after I did.   The snow was a little sparklier by the dumpster. My car was without police decoration. Despite the chill, my ancient auto hummed all the way home without challenging my giddiness and self-satisfaction. I sang along.

   Super Tuesday in Anchorage renewed my faith in seasons, currents and tides. I am part of a complex ecology.  Anchorage may not dress in the forefront of fashion. We may drive beater cars, but we are not immune from the pull of the greater tide of humanity. More than 3800 people voted at that school. I bet at least a hundred more turned away when they saw the parking lot. We were not alone.

 My Subaru didn’t make it through Obama’s second term. It finally beached in my district #26 driveway, under the carport, safe from the seagulls of Westchester Lagoon.   I’m still single.  I hope the forecast is for better winds in the opposite direction. I can depend on change even while it steals my breath.  While I’m waiting, I bought another Subaru.

This is an essay I’m working on for the Anchorage Remembers Project – an intersection between memoir and history. Comments welcome or submit a story yourself!

On the trail, Iditarod weekend

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We’ll get to the dogs.

The weekend arrived with little energy.   Retiring at 6 pm is a shameful escape, only lessened by the excuse that the television sits at the foot of the bed. I resolved to venture out before the episode of Undercover Boss where the furry mascot unmasks the bearded CEO.  My outfit was unreasonable, a pink faux fur ring around my head, unmatched with a paisley fawn shearling coat just a half size too small.  I had on a red skirt, blue leggings and hiking boots wrapped with velcroed cleets. I imagine myself as eclectic, not eccentric.

The trail is only fit for walking and running now. The snow changes from icy, to slush, to sandy in the tunnels. Out of a tunnel, I come upon an older couple reading a map. It’s not for me to resist aiding such easy prey to my over-helpful nature. Somehow they were not scared of my attire. It was dark.

Where are you going?

Where are you from?

I’ll walk you there.

Not that they asked me. I guessed that they were from Ireland and not the North or the Southern edge. They had to give me that they were from the West, Galway.  They had just walked from downtown Anchorage to midtown and cursed the icy sidewalks in a polite kind of way.  They had chosen the coastal trail for their return route. It has no lights, only stars, and a sewage treatment plant. It would be nice to say we walked in silence but they were with me, and we were all Irish.

We talked about the Galway arts festival which I attended many years ago. I saw The Field performed in Irish in a pub. It’s a very sad play but not so sad when you don’t completely understand the language. I remember the little boy was very good, and that drama can be wonderful without knowing the words.  We talked about family. They knew the pub which had the same surname as mine. They knew the publican, (a great word), although he was dead now. 

It doesn’t take long for death to pop up in a conversation with me. They encouraged me to check out Thomas Lynch, the poet and undertaker.

Thomas Lynch – Death

They were here for The Iditarod. I encouraged them them to check out Scott Janssen – The Mushin’ Mortician.

mushin mortician

They were great walkers, had walked parts of The Camino de Santiago. “The most important thing is trust”, they said. “You will find a place to stay. You can’t call ahead. Someone will help you if you get hurt.”

It is not a party. It’s a pilgrimage to self.

I didn’t see them downtown the next day but I saw plenty of dogs.

Little dogs!

Little dogs!

Big dogs!

Big dogs!

cold dogs!

cold dogs!

hot dogs!

hot dogs!

It was pretty warm out so even though Anchorage must show off their furs when they can, there were some alternative outfits.

Viva the iditarod!

Viva the Iditarod!

There were also some alternative runners. They ran towards me because they thought I had food.

The Iduckirod

The Iduckirod

The above photo was taken  about 20 minutes after I saw this guy come down the trail, so don’t worry there were no dog/duck interfaces.

The race is over!

The race is over!

I passed an older man walking on the trail home and mentioned how nice a day it was. He had not gone to see the dogs. He had seen them too many times.  He had lived in Anchorage for 50 years but he still had an accent. It was only slightly different than the people I had met last night. He was from Kilronan on Inishmore. If you’ve never been there you might want to go if you love the Gaelic language or walking in the rain. I took an anthropological tour of the Aran Islands after visiting Galway. I can still taste how good the food was. People make fun of Irish food but  when one has to grow it oneself, it’s pretty damn good.

“My father spoke Irish. I spoke it, and English as well. We had no cars, or electricity. I had to save myself from drowning once and that’s how I learned to swim.”

It makes me want to visit Ireland again. I remind myself that I can’t go everywhere or do everything.  Sometimes the world will come to me, or I will meet the world as we walk together.  Let the dogs run. I will walk and talk.  I’m in no hurry.

Myths about creativity, creatively debunked

1. People who have mental health issues are more creative.

Oh bullshit, who thought this one up? We people who have mental health issues have to be pretty creative to find and keep a job sometimes. My hypothesis is that people who don’t have mental health issues wind up getting regular jobs and following a regular schedule so they scarcely have the time to exploit their own innate creativity.  Now if you want to talk about charisma, yah some of us may have a natural chemical energy that  screams  “Bet on my success at any endeavor including romantic wink, wink,”  but you may also may want to place some money on the slow and steady horse to finish the race.  Do most wonderful creations come from the depths of despair and horror? No! Believe it or not, some art comes from people who are outside the culture and some from those who are deeply embedded in it. Art and ideas can come from beauty and health or from sorrow and pain.  Some may come from a recovery process from that despair.  We are lucky that we pursue our creativity despite the fact that it is not rewarded by anything more or less than peace of mind and a sense of accomplishment.

Instead  I posit,

“All people are inherently creative, some may have more need, more time, more encouragement or desire to make art, candy, babies or trouble.”

2. Drugs and alcohol help people be more creative.

This one is even worse. Many creative people live wonderful lives and do wonderful work without drug and alcohol issues but our attention is drawn to those who release the pain of their boundaries with  a shot of something. It’s a loss when one of them dies. It’s a loss when anyone dies from neglect, addiction, an accident, abuse, and their story isn’t heard. But the stories that drugs and alcohol tell are, in my experience, boring and over-glorified.    If another person tells me they discovered the meaning of life when they were high but can’t communicate it to those who haven’t been there, I will volunteer to expound on my preference for death rather than listen to it. I don’t count medication taken as prescribed in this category. If your heart meds or psychiatric meds help you be in the world without putting you too far out of it, I’m all for it. I’ve never heard of someone becoming less gifted from appropriate medication. They might have to find the right balance between train wreck and interesting person, at least I have.


” Artists drink and so do accountants.”

3. You can learn to be creative using my new formula! Have you found a recipe that everyone on earth can eat without someone saying they’re allergic to it? I thought not. There are even “quinoa intolerant” people out there.  Some people will insist that creativity needs a structure or a safe space to “hold” it.   Yes, if you have a room of your own you might have more space to be creative or drink or get laid but creativity can be found just about anywhere, using as few tools as the brain, heart and perhaps arms, legs or a mouth to communicate symbols & ideas to others.  There is no cure for being uncreative although  fear and sloth might be significant motivators.  I’ve bought the books ” The Artist’s Way”, “The Artist’s Way at Work”, “The Artist’s Way in Traffic.”  There ‘s no end of ways people will take your money to teach you how to be creative. Truth is you have to create to be creative. Whoa, I’m getting deep! Remember Shakespeare did not use original plots so I use the word  “create” loosely.


“Creativity is an involuntary response, which may lead you somewhere you don’t want to go. Follow it with caution and don’t kill anyone on the way.”

4. Creative people are so undervalued.

To this I say – Grow up! Manual labor is undervalued so is parenthood and  a decent pair of socks.  Being creative is a way to approach the world, not a method of supporting ourselves.  There are some people who sell creativity on the motivational speaking circuit. There are some fabulous artists, singers, writers, inventors who make money creating.  They are people who have an intersection with a talent or idea at an opportune time for commerce.   The art I like is priceless but sometimes it is worth $0 and other times it’ s more than I can afford. Let’s value our own creativity by giving it time and pleasure so it will grow. Don’t grow old waiting for someone else to value it.


“Your beauty and purpose is to be. If that is “to be a fool”, then so be it.”

5. Creativity is hard work

I don’t think so. I think we just don’t notice how creative we are everyday. One person might dress creatively, another might drive creatively, making up their own rules. Forcing creativity is against my rules, kind of like forcing myself to eat chocolate or forcing an apology.    I’m not saying that everyone’s scribble and poetry  should be  applauded with  exuberance. It may take a bit more time than we think we have to discover everyone’s gifts but let’s at least give ourselves time to find our own. Then we can be generous with the time we give to others to find their voice.  I like the word “grace”, not as in the opposite of “awkward”, but as in something falling from the sky, lucky and unbidden. I love “awkward” because things falling from the sky sometimes hit us and knock us down or leave us  hobbling.  I don’t think of creativity as magic or play really. Creativity is an attitude towards life, towards the dishes and the toilet, the commute and to courtesy as well as to paints and musical compositions.


“Creative people are killing off death with each breath.”

Thank you for reading. Feel free to share your ideas. I am a person in recovery who fails to be creative as many days as I succeed. I blog, write poems, rake the leaves on my lawn to make pictures in the grass , cook by combining multiple recipes and hold down a full time job, just for today!

Because I’m Happy…. sometimes, not really but I can fool myself

I’m listening to a TED talk about Happiness. Less is more, slow down, be in the moment. Blah, blah, blah. Especially scaling down to the tiny apartment where you live alone  will make you happy, that drove me crazy. I say, try living collectively, you might be more happy.    There is NO FORMULA for happiness, sadness, success, failure.  For me, I like living with other people. I would love to have 10 kids. I’m sure some of you would not want to follow my formula! I don’t have 10 kids but I’m still happy. That makes sense because the brain can accommodate and learn to live with just about anything. It just requires getting unstuck from the old goal and finding a new one.

“Have great stuff you really love,” “space efficiency”, “sinks which double as toliets”. Oh please, mr. Gearhead. Shut up! I read between the lines, don’t buy cheap stuff, buy the best ( more money). Why would I listen to this person?  He advocates “digitizing”. Take a picture of the shirt your mother gave you.Throw  away the shirt . I, on the other hand, advocate not spending any of your life taking photos, it takes you out of the moment.   I also advocate not listening to TED talks.  I would rather read a good in depth article than hear a motivational speaker any day. It comes from being an entertainer. I see how they are keeping things moving, using sound bites and anecdotes.   And don’t even get me started about the “research” and numbers.  I’m pickier about my research than I am about my friends!


What really matters is memorable “experiences.”  or so he says.  You would think I would agree with this. This is the part I really hate. Spend all your money on travel and classes, parties and fun.  I’m for finding fun in washing the floor, singing while I try to fix my bike.   Call me crazy but I find that addiction to “experiences and travel” is all fine and dandy but why is that better than just sitting alone reading if that’s something someone wants to do? Are people who don’t have the money to travel or jump out of airplanes less happy? I doubt it. Perhaps they travel in books or by walking down the same path everyday but looking closer each time. Perhaps there is joy in knowing that you don’t know anything, like even how to make yourself really happy, let alone everyone else.

Maybe I’m just unhappy. Perhaps I’ve worked in psychology too long and feel that lots of researchers and TED talkers are just talking out of their butts to justify their existence, their fees.

I suppose  these folks do not have depression.  We can create our own happiness. I know that, but everyone will have their own formula and that formula may change as life goes on. I need to have hope that happiness will return even though it may go away for a time.

Here are some photos of times when I was happy,


visiting my friend Rose Anne at Christmas time.



visiting Provence with my sister Beth


visiting my sister Ruthie




visiting my brother, his family and the town I grew up in.



It doesn’t always make me happy to look at the photos because then I always want to be on vacation and that is not a realistic goal.  Realistically, happiness is having the freedom to write this blog, Happiness is not being allergic to chocolate. Happiness is snow and  a good night’s sleep.   Happiness is shoveling.  Let me know what makes you happy.

A love letter to … a film.

Another valentine’s day has come and again I was inspired to dream through you. I dream about mist on the islands and violent weather. I dream about the triumph of people without money over the rich and powerful. I dream of bull headed, know it all women like myself who  finally realize what they really want, not what they are supposed to want.  I dream of curses and whirlpools.

Someday I will visit the Isle of Mull, perhaps tonight in my sleep.  Someday I will hear Gaelic spoken again.  Tonight I will make due with a dvd and a jar of Nutella.

“I Know Where I’m Going”, or IKWIG if you are looking for the series of clips on Youtube is the greatest of the great films of Powell and Pressburger.  I’m also partial to “The 49th Parallel” but  this is Valentines day. IKWIG is a film about love of a place, of a culture and of a people for each other. I dare you to hate it. It was one of Martin Scorsese’s favorite films.  Sure it’s quaint. It has a dream sequence with plaid hills , singing wheels, and a man with a hat that smokes. There are no animatronics or computer generated graphics.

The boat in the real whirlpool had a real man in it, although not the movie star.  The most clever trick in it was amazingly low tech. The film’s star could not go to the Isle of Mull because he was in a theatre production so most of the outdoor shots are shot far away using a double. Let’s not even mention the magic of the director’s mistress having the best role!

The main love affair is frustrating and furious. There are no weak characters. Picture the elementary school age Petula Clark stealing the scene as a very serious young person in jodhpurs and spectacles. She reported she was so nervous on the set she did not dare to pee and so wet the jodhpurs and spent her lunch break trying to dry them out in time for her scene. Oh the romance of film!

If you like to time travel to a place and period where the modern and the ancient collide, then join me in a film about love and foolishness. Here is one of my favorite parts.


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