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Murder in the Cathedral

Notre Dame – photo taken Friday Nov. 13, 2015nd

If you’ve visited Paris, even virtually, you’ve seen the cathedrals. They buzz with tourists who aren’t aware that people still pray.   Cathedrals remind me of  War of The Worlds where both the priest and the church are destroyed by  aliens who possess greater technology and less sentimentality.  The message I got was, why pray? Who are you praying to?

France shook the spirits out of the church in 1789.   So these cathedrals are now more like monuments.  Filled with such monuments, the city of Paris has become one of the great cathedrals of Western culture. People from all parts visit to experience the heart of art, fashion, food, wine and architecture. Even more arrive in Paris seeking work, shelter or medical assistance, as they do in all the great capitals of the world. It is not a simple city. It has its gargoyles. Just look at any school building.  Note the plaque commemorating the number of Jewish children deported from this location.

In Murder in the Cathedral, the play about Saint Thomas Beckett, soldiers kill the brazen Beckett in a sacred space in order to bring down the church, only to have him made into a Saint. As in War of the Worlds, nothing is sacred, nothing ever was. Murder is a reminder of that. But we continue to be woken up to the sacred even through terror. With the recent terrorism in Paris this has become even more clear to me.

I was in Paris on the day of the murders. I don’t have much of a story to tell as I was safe inside. The only terror  I experienced happened the day after, at Charles De Gaulle airport.  I was foolish. They said my flight was operating so I showed up and was amazed at how ill  equipped we all were. Staff was minimal, army and police were busy elsewhere.  Yet all the idiots like myself reported to their planes. Not to beat myself up, it’s human nature to need time to adjust to tragedy.  It was my first experience in a mob which swept me off my feet. Someone made the error of forming several lines of over a thousand people who converged at one door. The man at the door was under pressure to admit very few people as there were a thousand more people waiting to be screened upstairs. There was shoving, people cutting in line, yelling, threatening the attendant. I’m glad you didn’t see this on the internet. It was embarrassing.  It did calm down as the day wore on.

I did not react well. I didn’t scream or hurt anyone.  I did use my upper class privilege to find a way out of the chaos. I would not listen to my sister who encouraged me to go home with her to Belleville and try again another day. I could not bear being defeated nor imagine coming back to this living hell.  I  had missed my flight because of the mess, so I got on my phone and booked another one for a few hours later.  I flew out through Istanbul, which my family thought outrageous, but if there’s any place that’s prepared for terror it’s the Middle East.  You don’t enter the airport without a screening, nor do you enter a hotel.  It doesn’t matter what you look like or where you come from.

I abandoned Paris and my sister with it. I’m ashamed, but I understand that I am imperfect being who is unlikely to be the last person left in the path of a hurricane or a pogram.   Parisians and the rest of us  will be making similar choices.  One of the important questions is how much terror can you take?  We often don’t figure out until we are tested. What if my reaction had been instead to remain and purchase flowers to give to each person in line or those I met along the street?

I apologize and I have reorganized my psyche. Most everyone who was not intimately involved with the killings will do so and even those who have lost the most may change in ways that we may not anticipate. Murder closes a door and opens several others. Which open door will we choose? Or will we sit by our grief for a bit longer and contemplate?

One can subdue a culture but I don’t think Paris will be subdued for long. They are a self-confident even brazen city, like New York  but with a longer history of both beauty and terror. They will find a way. But will the rest of us? I  worry about the young people, and the migrants, some of whom have been deprived of sanctuary and others of their lives. It isn’t healthy to have no where to turn.  Nowhere is safe where people feel unsafe. I make stupid choices when I am impatient and lack perspective. This fuels further persecution of the Syrian refugees.  Both the guillotine and The Nazi Occupation must inform our decisions. Terror manages to convince us to trade our neighbors in to save our own skin.  Terror also engenders martyrdom. As Dickens said, “It is a far, far better thing I do….” Is it really?

I notice that fanatical groups, who encourage martyrdom for their own glory, create martyrs for “our side” as well.   Is this a primitive form of communication? Be like us. Feel our loss. Fight like we do. You are us.  Resistance is futile because resistance is what we want? Even more terrible, they want our children.  The Hitler Youth like conscription of naive teenagers and the criminally inclined to a powerful cause is an old ploy.  New fighters are  seduced by marketing, by the feeding of delusions of power and fame which professional creators of chaos target. I think of our own army recruiters and wonder about the nature of coercion.

Rats  are collapsing their bones to enter our homes. We become them and crank out even more soldiers, learn more dangerous ways to extract information. This should not surprise me as my country, the United States, is the world’s vender of security on an increasing anxious planet .

We have a new plague but we can no longer believe it is caused by witches. It is caused by that human infirmity we share with our enemy, the idea that we are, without question, Read the rest of this entry

Life Backstage

Behind the stagelights lurks a dark room with half clothed women.

Behind the stage lights lurks a dark room with half clothed women.

Back stage lurks a shadow life of what you see from the audience.The crazy antics you see on stage don’t spring from nowhere. They’re fueled with real life wackiness.  Actors are collectively a bundle of nerves, and intestines, which can explode under pressure.

On occasion, I have been strongly advised to light a match after I finished my business in the toilet despite the fact that most theaters are fire traps. Just like nervous sweat smells different than regular sweat, nervous poop has a certain tang to it.

I tend to fart and swear when I get nervous. Because I have grey hair, it is pretty humorous when I say the word M*F*er.  After I emerge from the light booth, where I can surreptitiously check out the audience,  I might comment, “Ooh, there’s quite a few M*F*er’s out there tonight!”  It’s not about you. It’s about me. I want to make the other actors laugh.

It’s fun to make people laugh onstage and a challenge I relish backstage. Actors take themselves very seriously before and during a show.. No one wants to forget their lines or look bad.  Messing up lines is expected on my part.  I know myself. I’m never going to be perfect. Modeling failure gives other people a chance to shine and to not feel like they’re alone when they blow it. I have seen a great correlation between people who get every word right and a lack of humanity but perhaps that’s just my jealous rage speaking.

At the end of the first act I found myself getting warped and woofing in a quick costume change.Then I realized I could go on stage in disarray and continue to dress while there.  By trying to control the outcome backstage I had deprived myself of business onstage. It is never good to be slave to perfection. Theatre is about making clay look like marble, but even realistic marble needs a few cracks.

One of the ways we obsessively control our nerves backstage is through food.

Shove this food in your mouth before you scare the other actors

Shove this food in your mouth before you scare the other actors

I got into my character, (the crazy mom), by making the food for the dinner in the first scene. It was always pasta but i changed it up each night with the sauces and spices. One night about two tablespoons of garlic powder fell into the pasta. It was too late to make more so I scraped off what I could and hoofed it down to the show. My odoriferous entrance was noted and concerns were voiced about the effects on at least one of the kisses in the second act. I countered with the overwhelming benefit of smell-o-rama making our dinner scene all the more believable. It certainly cleared out the sinuses. There was none left over at the end of the show.

My biggest success was with cleaning up backstage before our last show. I was picking up empty water bottles, peppered figs and other assorted and sordid trash from the floor when I spied a plastic grocery bag under the couch.  In it was a box of unopened “Gourmet chocolates from Canada” with a thank you note.  Since none of our actors or crew was named “Rachel” we opened up the note to find out that Rachel had done a fine job supporting the children in some long ended production for which Henry’s parents wanted to thank her with this gift. So thank you Henry’s parents for the nice gift. I’m sure Rachel did not forget these delicious chocolates. She was probably just allergic to them. For about a hundred and ten seconds, people acted like the chocolate was too old to eat and that it would be tacky to devour it, until they did. It was gone by intermission.

So besides being a 55 year old woman with cellulite having to take off her pants and shirt in front of a bunch of twenty somethings in the blue light of pretty tight quarters, life was not that bad backstage. When I feel my real life is sad and useless I think of how badly I had to go to the bathroom each night right when we were supposed to start and  how I would forget about it while I was onstage trying to look relaxed and get the words out of my mouth. The mind and the body can be fools and they can fool others. It’s called acting.



National Depression Screening Day and other fun tests you can take!

Tomorrow, Thursday Oct 8th, is National Depression Screening Day. I took my test early to avoid the rush. Even though I take antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs and attend a support group, I screened positive for moderate depression and severe anxiety. The good thing is that I am unemployed, single and I live in Alaska so I can blame some symptoms on my circumstances.

I used to think these tests were bullshit. Once, before the internet,  when I was teaching at an alternative school, I took a break on the playground to call a depression hotline. It was not a suicide hotline, just for depression. I  had no health insurance at the time.  The lady said I did not have depression. I had never been diagnosed with depression so I was just really pissed off and frustrated but figured it must be something else. Later I found out I have a common combination of anxiety and depression. It took a psychiatrist and some alarming symptoms to get me to try medication. Like most people I would rather not have to take meds but I had exhausted the other options – already exercising an hour or two a day, journalling, counseling, SAD light, mindfulness, 12 step and things just kept getting worse. At least now I know that half the know it all negativity in my brain is bullshit! ( There apparently is a National Bullshit Awareness Day for those of you who are interested.)

I took a bipolar test today as well and it was surprisingly accurate, just like my psychiatrist is. It said I needed 7 symptoms in one category, (shades of DSM) and that I needed to have have gotten into trouble for some of these symptoms.  I only had 6 symptoms and have never gotten in trouble because of them.  Most of these symptoms, like having a lot of energy, not wanting to sit still, talking too much or too fast, according to my shrink, are  attributable to my anxiety so that made sense.

Why take such depressing tests? Because I can see that sometimes I am doing better than other times. I can get perspective. I often take silly facebook quizzes like “What kind of dog are you?” or “What Doctor Who Character are you?” so why not a mental health screening?

Maybe you would like to try some of these alone or with a friend.  It is not normal to worry about things all the time. It is not normal to blame oneself for everything or to blame other people. Most of the time it’s just life.  I am renewing my perspective so that I can see worry as a sign for self care rather than a reason to run away or confront something that should be best left alone.

Here is a link for the simple mental health screenings I took:

So what if you come out positive? It’s just information. Did you know that depression can be a side effect of other diseases as well? It may help to discuss these results with a health provider.

Now if you want to have fun with a friend or with your best friend, ( hopefully yourself), here are some other quizzes I love

I am a Corgi!

This one is fun because it uses the way-back-machine. I got:

Doctor John Robinson, who like me, is Lost in Space

Doctor John Robinson, who like me, is Lost in Space

One more:

I got ice cream! I will probably have to take another quiz to find out what flavor.

Just trying to balance the humor with the angst! Let me know how it goes!

Enough with the Salted Caramel!!!!

I did a search for Salted Caramel condoms today and all I could  find was this.

Looks like Ghiradelli's but it's not!

Looks like Ghiradelli’s but it’s not!

The salted caramel thing is just something for me to rant about because I’m currently unemployed and a little anxious. Sugar, salt and fat- that’s all salted caramel is.  It tastes good like bacon but it’s not probably as good for you.  People just keep thinking up things for us to get addicted to.  Crack flavored Pringles, Methyl amphetamine Oreos. Then there’s these.



These are just scraps – stuff left from the edges of the baking pan that have been fried in butter and salted.  I have not tried them because I like soft brownies which are not covered with crap to disguise the poor texture or lack of real chocolate in the recipe.

I have a bad case of seasonal affective disorder.  I moved to Alaska for economic opportunity but that was in the dark ages before the internet. I did not know that darkness could eat away at the human brain.  I love working seasonal summer jobs which means I have to find a new job in the fall, just when I feel worse for having this kind of a seesaw brain. Perhaps I just hate myself?  What is there really to hate about salted caramel?  It surely will become a hair color, house paint and tint for merino wool sweaters in the next few years.

It’s enough to drive me to drink, but you know where this is going.

It's artisanal as well

It’s artisanal as well

You knew there would be salted caramel vodka, along with the Captain Crunch and Fruit Loops flavors. This next one made me sad though.



Can it really be Bailey’s if it’s salted caramel? Why not Pumpkin Spice for Halloween and Peppermint for Christmas? There is no salted caramel holiday and will never be one if I have anything to do with it.

And if you are on the wagon

Is using salted caramel ice cream to make a float with salted caramel root beer overkill?

Is using salted caramel ice cream to make a float with salted caramel root beer overkill?

At least it’s made with real sugar!

Yes I am miserable. It’s Monday and everyone is back at work but I’m also not miserable because I needed a rest and I found a recipe for salted caramel chocolate oreo pie which I WILL NOT show you a photo of because it is just too decadent. All right if you insist,


It’s just oreos (With BUTTER) for the crust, Brown sugar, whipping cream and BUTTER for the filling then chocolate chips and whipping cream for the top covered in salt.  I don’t think most chocolate chips are made with butter, probably some even more unhealthy fat stuff and isn’t whipping cream just un-whipped butter?  This looks like a very easy way to kill yourself. I could serve it with Salted Caramel Baileys hot chocolate and die. Then I won’t have to worry about finding a job. I have a trip to see family scheduled so don’t worry, I’m not going to off myself by mixing alcohol, sugar, salt and butter just yet. Now I can get back to worrying whether I will get a job offer then have to tell them about my trip.

Anchorage after Obama

Obama's flowers are still in bloom!

Obama’s flowers are still in bloom!

Yes these are Obama’s flowers! It’s no secret that Obama stayed at the hotel I work at. Well maybe it was a little bit of a secret until the barriers went up and the dogs moved in. And bomb sniffing dogs have to pee, sometimes before it’s break time.

We got the flowers at our desk because Mr. Hickel was walking by with them, coming from “The Suite” and we gals were ooohing and ahhhing. so after walking by he brought them back to our desk.  I don’t know if Obama touched them. He definitely smelled them because they are very fragrant to the point that I sneeze frequently when nearby.

It was a very exciting week. Lots of secret service people and police everywhere. We had a metal detector installed and many tourists who dealt with it whether they voted for him or not. The Captain Cook is a classy place but it looked a little like a riot zone. Not only were there concrete barriers and cop cars but big snow trucks and army guys blocking access. We have lots of buses  who pull up each day full of tourists but they had to walk a block or two which is good for them since they have to sit down for hours on the buses to get to where Obama got in his speedy jets.

Would you be worried or feel safe here?

Would you be worried or feel safe here?

Here is the Big Top! This is where Obama supposedly exited the building so that is why there is a crowd gathered to watch.  Yes it was a bit of a circus but the show went on and what a show it was. I did not see the president except through the window of his limo and then I forgot to wear my glasses.

He's coming, He's coming, now he's gone.

He’s coming, He’s coming, now he’s gone.

After Obama bought all those cinnamon rolls at Snow City Cafe, there was quite a run on them.  The next day I brought some mini cinnabuns in for my co-workers with a little forged note from POTUS thanking them for their hard work.  I don’t think anyone read the note. They were eaten very quickly.

I will not lie. It got a little bleak here after Obama left. It rained. The flags are still up but the party’s over.

Time to say goodbye!

Time to say goodbye!

It’s time to say goodbye to summer, to my job and back to the future. Don’t know exactly know what’s next for me. I’ve got a part in a show. I’ve got some applications for work. I might take a trip. I took some rotting bananas and made some banana chocolate chip bread for my co-workers. Maybe I’ll tell them it’s from Michelle this time.

Obama Fever tears through Anchorage

I was hoping there were going to be crowds of people downtown like the last time I was in New York City and the pope was due but Anchorage looks deserted tonight. It could be the bitter wind but it is more likely that Anchorage people hate traffic and they are scared of Obama-gedden.

I had rehearsal in the banquet room of old Sunshine mall building which  has a great view of The Weekend Market.  A few businesses had put up American flags which I think is a nice touch.  About a half hour into rehearsal we noticed that police cars were building up in the area.  Our director allowed the stage manager to keep a lookout for Obama. About 7:30 pm she started yelling as a motorcade of  6 SUV’s and vans came speeding down 3rd Ave.

A couple of hours later, I saw the police build up there again.  I think we got faked the first time. That may have been either a practice run or John Kerry coming in from the Air Force base. Nothing against Kerry but it was not that impressive a motorcade and none of those cars looked like “The Beast” as described in the paper today.

The Beast

The Beast

I stopped at the grocery store on my way home and told my story to the checkout clerk. He got very excited and then sad because he really wants to meet Obama. I know how he feels.  He is the rock star of my generation.  Forget Madonna and Michael Jackson,(all about the same age.) Sure they impacted the world with their music but this man makes me proud to be an American. I am proud to be living in a city where he is visiting  and really hope he sees a moose. A photo of Obama and a moose would be worth framing.

I once worked at The Graduate Theological Union who hosted both The Dalai Lama and Jean Paul Aristide as guests. I was excited to see them but not as excited as I am about Obama. The Dalai Lama is  humorous guy but he has a big fan club. The Obama fan club is smaller up here. Maybe I have a little crush on Obama. Don’t tell Michelle!

Since most people in Alaska could care less about Obama I think downtown will be pretty empty tomorrow. I will be within a couple of blocks of him while I pick up some things from the office. That may be as good as it gets. I hope anyone who sees him will post their Obama sightings  just like when they filmed that awful movie about the serial killer last year and people kept track of Nicholas Cage.

I keep writing because I can hardly sleep.  Maybe if David Tennant or Peter Capaldi came to town I might be equally jazzed.  I may have to surrender my hopes and be happy to see Mr. Kerry or one of the other dignitaries. Maybe I will just be lucky enough to get wanded by a nice secret service person. More on Close Encounters of The Obama kind tomorrow.

What I would show Obama if he and I were chillin’ in Anchorage

Obama says he wants to talk to the real people of Alaska who working in fishing and tourism so that would include me. Being an actor as well as a tourism worker I would give him a behind the scenes tour of the town, what he might not see on the official tour but would be slightly juicier.

First off I would take him to the employee break room of The Captain Cook Hotel.  There are many people of color working in the kitchen and cleaning the rooms. I think he would like to hang with them. I hope some of The Secret Service folks speak Spanish.  It is not a fancy place but the people are cool and very deserving of a Presidential visit!

We could  step out on Fourth Avenue, shake hands with some tourists then stop for a beverage at Side Street Espresso.This is where all the liberals hang out. It is very cozy as there are not many liberals in Alaska. I’m sure he would get a warm welcome from Deb and George would probably draw his picture for the coffee of the day sign.

Afterwards we would stop by Town Square Park where all the people who don’t seem to have a job hang out. The young folks could do skate board tricks for him. Some of the other folks could keep The Secret Service busy.  Either that or we could have lunch over at The Mission or The Soup Kitchen.  I don’t want to begrudge The President top of the line food but he can eat dinner at The Crow’s Nest or Simon’s. I think lunch should be with the people.

I would invite him over to my house but I only have 3 packs of ramen left.  My roommate has lots of salmon he caught and blueberries he picked which I’m sure he wouldn’t mind sharing with The President. Barack could hang out in the hammock while we cook. There aren’t many mosquitoes out because it’s been so warm and dry but he will have to watch for the bees. We could walk down to the Coastal trail to see some more neighbors and peek in on the migrating Sandhill Cranes who are usually resting right outside the tunnel from Westchester lagoon.

If it was on Sunday, a drive to Mountain View would definitely be in order to get some barbecue sold on the sidewalk in front of one of the Samoan churches. We might as well visit The Red Apple Grocery while we’re there to catch a diverse cross section of residents and maybe take in part of a rugby game in the park.

I would not take him to The Moose’s Tooth. The pizza is good but it’s not good enough to wait that long for. If you really want some good pie there are places like Pizza Olympia and Uncle Joe’s and they will deliver so you don’t have to wait for a table with every little league player in town.

Also I would not be visiting “The most diverse school in the country!”  This hype is almost as bad as The Moose’s Tooth. What does most diverse mean? More languages are spoken here?  Perhaps because this is where all the poor people live. Anchorage is not terribly diverse by the numbers. This is a very white town. The fact that one school is “The most diverse” is pretty sad. It means we are not integrated folks. It is not a thing to be proud of no matter how many languages people speak. Poor immigrants mostly live in one neighborhood and rich white people in others.

I am glad that Obama is scheduled to go down to Seward. It’s pretty there and he should be seeing some glaciers and otters, maybe a whale or two. Perhaps he will get some Akutaq, (Eskimo ice cream), while visiting the Northern part of the state. It’s delicious even when made with Crisco! Don’t tell Michelle.



Now you can make it at home. Substitute Crisco if you don't have reindeer fat.

Now you can make it at home. Substitute Crisco if you don’t have reindeer fat.

I wish our governor was not so excited to talk to Obama about a gas pipeline and instead wanted to talk about how medical insurance is so high here that The Affordable Care Act will not be very affordable with next year’s approved increases in rates. I wish he would talk about how we have spice and heroin and alcohol taking a big toll on our people with only a few religious affiliated recovery centers who have poorly paid staff and old facilities.  What good is oil and gas if all the people are dead?

Also I hope he gets to go running on the military base with some soldiers and they see a moose. That’s what most people want to see when they come to Alaska and although we can’t control the animals, there are enough of them on base that he should be able to get some exercise and moose exposure at the same time.

I’m sure you all have ideas for his visit as well. Be sure to add them to the comments. Even if you aren’t from Alaska. What would you show him in your neighborhood?


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