Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores
Photographer Patricia Gulick

Sunday, December 29, 2013

9-8-13 RMB Asking for Help

9-8-13 RMB Asking for Help
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
It’s a Sunday and as I run errands, I hear the clank of a soda can left in my backseat by one of the boys. “Arrgh” I tell them over and over again that my car is not a trash can, nor a place for recycling bottles and cans, nor their toy box. Yet, after nearly every visit, there are toys and sticks in my backseat.  I swear, if they were not so firmly seated in the center of my heart, I would ban them forever from my vehicle. As it is, I collect their treasures, remembering how thrilled they were to find the perfect sized walking stick and I picture the restaurant menu they colored as I scrape melted crayon from my upholstery.
On this particular day, the sound of the clanking can takes me back to one dark night in my eighteenth year. At the lowest level of management, I inherited the closing shift of our burger joint in an ethnically mixed, not so affluent, neighborhood. The entire crew was years, sometimes decades, older than I was. Often I felt like they listened to me as a favor. “Be nice to the youngster.” If nothing else, I knew they respected my work ethic. I give thanks to Dad for that. The Marine Corps upbringing instilled: if there’s a job to be done, do it and do your best.
One evening, as we wrapped up, after midnight, I asked how everyone was getting home. They were adults, but I was concerned about those that walked and tried to make sure they paired up or gave each other rides. One young man did not live near anyone else. He assured me he could make it home on his own. I said, “I’ll take you home.”  He tried to decline by telling me it would not be safe for me to be in his neighborhood, which made me want to see him home safely all the more.
So this little, white, wet behind the ears, girl took the big twenty-four year old black man, that seemed more like a boy to me, to his home. He was right. I did not feel safe. He told me to lock my doors as he got out of the car. I found my way back to the freeway easily enough, but as I was trying to figure out how to get home from there, I had my first flat tire…ever.
I was clueless about what to do, but pretty sure I knew the direction I was headed would take me to the freeway that would get me home. I would walk home and figure out what to do about the tire in the light of day. It would be a long walk, two or three hours. But, I was confident my legs would carry me home.
A half an hour or so into my trek, my confidence waivered. I realized the freeways did not connect as I thought they would and I was off course. Hmph! I considered backtracking. I was still trying to decide what to do when a car pulled up.
“You need a ride?” An old black man yelled out from a beat up station wagon. 
“No, I’m fine. I’m just going to find a phone to call a friend.” I lied.
“Get in, I’ll take you to one.” He insisted.
“No, really, I’m fine.” Liar.
The car crept alongside me. “You can get into the back, if you want. See, I can’t reach you there.” He put his arm back over the seat and pointed to where he expected me to sit. I thought, Oh, great, it’s out in the open that I expect him to assault me, glad we can discuss this so calmly.
I weighed my options. It was obvious he was not going to leave me there. If we drove someplace, maybe we would at least be around other people. It was two in the morning and there was no one in sight. “Okay, just to the next exit. There’s probably a gas station there and I can call my friend.” I had an ulterior motive, to look at a map and figure out how the hell to get home.
My plan was still to walk it, thinking I must have made some progress in the general direction of home. I had never asked a favor of anyone and I was not about to start. Friends and family may dispute my claim about not asking for favors previously, but the stubborn eighteen year old I was that night determined I could handle this. Having recently asserted my independent status by moving out of my childhood home, I thought I was acting as an adult. In reality, my behavior was closer to that of a stubborn child. 
I got in the back. He offered to fix the seat for me. It was down and the back was full of empty cans, clanking away. I smelled alcohol and hoped it was coming from the cans and not his breath. I insisted he stay there and drive. “No, this is good. Go ahead and drive. I’m okay here.” No, I was not.
He pulled off at the next exit. There was a gas station with a phone booth. They were still in operation then. This was before cell phones. He smiled at me. “You sure? I can wait till your friend comes.”
“No, no, I’m fine.” Yep, lied again. As he pulled away I stood leaning against the phone booth, looking at the gas station, the closed gas station. I didn’t want a phone. I wanted a map, damn it!
I paced around. The gas station was in the middle of a neighborhood. It was a nice enough area, but it offered me no clue where I was. I didn’t recognize the street name. I walked a couple of blocks. I didn’t recognize the next street, nor the next. I contemplated walking back on to the freeway, but did not want to risk running into another pushy Good Samaritan.
I swallowed my pride and walked back to the phone. I called my roommate. The phone woke her. “What? Where are you???” I didn’t know. I explained where I had dropped off my employee and the path I had walked. I gave her the name of the exit we took to the gas station. “Stay there, it will take me a while. Stay there, okay?”
“Okay. I will. I’m sorry.” I was in tears, not because I was it was the middle of the night and I was scared. I was in tears because I was angry. I wanted to be a grown up able to take care of myself and I had failed. The disappointment I felt in myself seared me, burning the inside of my chest. It caused tears to boil out of me and scorch my cheeks. The temper that I often turn on myself was in full force that night.
It didn’t help that my roommate was upset with me for not finding a phone and calling her right away. I tried to explain that I could have walked, if I had known the roads better. I silently determined to study a map. She insisted I would be upset with her if the tables were turned.
That night she tried to teach me that part of being an adult is knowing when to reach out for help. She illustrated in example after example how friends look out for each other. It has been a long hard lesson for me to learn. I didn’t learn it that night. I’m not sure I’ve learned it yet, but I am grateful for her attempt to teach it and I am grateful to the man who helped a wet behind the ears white girl find her way home.
Many, many thanks,

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

9-7-13 RMB Hmm?

9-7-13 RMB Hmm?
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
On this very warm Saturday I take up my friend’s offer to let the boys swim in her pool. They splash and play while I sit and think or chat with my friend.
Later, I retire to my room to write and read. I am juggling a few books now, along with your Wish You Were Here, I am reading Gerri Hill’s The Scorpion, another good book by another superb author. The crimes she describes are a bit much for me, but I know others like that kind of grit. Her characters are intriguing and the locales are well thought out. Her story lines draw me in.
I am also reading a book on organizing one’s mind. It goes more into details of how the brain works than I think I need to know. I can see this book does not hold any keys to how I can make my brain function better, but I’ll keep hunting for one that does.
In sales, I’ve learned that giving people too many options muddles the process. Give a person two things to chose from and the choice is easy. Give them three and there is more hesitation, four and they’ve lost focus, more than that and forget it. In life, we have so many choices in every aspect of living…what to do, where to go, how to act, what to think, how to plan our day. Our attention is pulled and our obligations mount. Our focus is lost; our minds muddled.
If there were one thing you wished to accomplish in this life, what would it be?
I ask myself that and the answer is clear. Write. Leave works of meaning behind. We can take nothing with us when we go, so acquiring objects seems of little value to me.
Yet words, words can echo from one plain to another, from those willing to write them, speak them and share them to those willing to hear and understand them. Something tells me that I can take my words with me, ones I gather together that hold something precious, once written, read and spoken. They will carry on. They will accompany me and others on our journeys. And perhaps, with the help of the good Lord or fate’s blessing, I will come around to meet my words again on this plain.
What will I write that echoes forward? Of that I haven’t a clue, but I feel these letters are a step in that direction, or a part of the body of work that will hold court with someone’s heart, sometime, somewhere.
If there were one thing you wished to accomplish in this life, what would it be?
There are as many answers as there are individuals, and I venture to bet most, are fun, exciting, thrilling, loving things. What if our time and our choices were centered on that accomplishment? Would we help one another? Would we be happier? Kinder? Stronger, wiser?
If there were one thing you wished to accomplish in this life, what would it be?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

9-6-13 RMB Jane and Mary

9-6-13 RMB Jane and Mary
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
It’s Friday night. tgif :)
Today the internet search engine, Google, tells me it is Jane Addams birthday. She lived from September 6th, 1860 to May 21st, 1935. Her name is vaguely familiar.
Google reminds me she was a pioneer settlement worker, founder of Hull House in Chicago, a public philosopher, sociologist, author, a leader in the woman’s suffrage movement and world peace. Those last two credits caught my eye and tugged at my heart. I dug deeper and found she was the first American woman awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I like this gal!
I read on. She is recognized as the founder of the social work profession in the United States. Not one of us can do individually, what all of us can do collectively. She knew that. She “got” that… and she did something about it.
Some days I find it difficult to check all my boxes; to fulfill my obligations in the day’s span of twenty-four hours, and she accomplished so much more in a time when simply doing laundry or cooking a meal took ten times longer than it does today.
I looked to see what motivated her and what help she had in her work. I wondered what kind of support she had; if she married a rich man and had servants at her beck and call. No, there was no husband, but she did not do all of this completely on her own. My research reveals “Addams was close to many women and was very good at eliciting the involvement of women from different classes.” This reminds me of your early days forming women’s collectives.
And for Jane, there was one special woman, Mary Rozet Smith, with whom she shared a “romantic friendship” and a home. I like that phrase, romantic friendship. It was said Smith “became and always remained the highest and clearest note in the music that was Jane Addams’ personal life.” When apart, Addams wrote to Smith, “I miss you dreadfully and am yours ‘til death.” The article noting this, mentions “it is possible that she was a lesbian.” Ya think?
Interesting how they avoid labeling her outright, as if it that would be a negative statement, but then why mention it at all? Perhaps it is a good thing they mention it, pointing out an aspect of this person’s life, a person that accomplished so much, giving the word lesbian a positive reference in our history.
I am glad Smith found Addams and I wonder if Addams would have accomplished all she did, had Smith not found her. To whomever it was that saved their letters and to those honest enough to document their life together, my hat goes off to you. In a world where history slants to the “right”, it’s important that we remember life is made rich by recognizing the essence of each individual’s contribution, in every way.
Cheers for Jane and Mary,

Thursday, December 19, 2013

9-5-13 RMB Your Best

9-5-13 RMB Your Best
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
I told her, “If you think you are doing your best, be happy with that.” The young intern sat at her desk with tears in her eyes, having been raked over the coals by our supervisor. I watched her gather strength from the words. Her back straightened; her chin raised a bit. She had, indeed, done her best. She had done the work well.
In other, intangible areas, she fell short of other’s expectations, expectations vaguely defined and shifting by degrees. To me the work is always of utmost importance, eclipsed only by the will to do one’s best, regardless of the outcome. To others, there is a game of positioning. In work, as in life, often the difference between right and wrong is a judgment call. Whether we do good, good enough or outstanding, is all relevant to perception…and the composition of the person doing the perceiving.  
I attempted to instill in her the knowledge that the individual that counts most, the one who’s judgment is critical and above all others, is herself. She listened carefully and I wished I had more powerful words, ones to counter those that wounded her.
In our vast and multifaceted universe, when we find ourselves surrounded by people or circumstances causing discomfort in anyway, we can search out and find a better place to be. My issues with change cause me to struggle with this, but our young teenaged intern was easily guided by her inner compass. She gave her notice the next day.
Maybe this day and the look in her eyes haunt me because now change is afoot and I must deal with it…maybe I am just miffed because I will have to train another person. Isn’t that what everything is about, our self and how we are effected? I’d like to think I am not that shallow, but I am sure it is a part of it.
So why am I writing about this? Am I just a softy, wounded by another’s pain? This doesn’t feel like a wound. It feels like anger; anger that we must push and pull and hurt one another in our effort to move forward. There must be a better way and it frustrates me to no end that it eludes us; that even in my own circles, there are injuries, and although they are minor, everything is relative.

Monday, December 16, 2013

9-2-13 RMB Singing to the Choir

9-2-13 RMB Singing to the Choir
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
Today is Monday, also Labor Day. I woke early to walk and then dove into editing and revising America. My sister and I are invited to a holiday gathering. She went. Being alone with my story, America, is my favorite way to enjoy the holiday. I celebrate with words, finding peace in solitude.
A friend says I am preaching, or singing, to the choir, that the people who read my books will already be of the open minded sort. If my goal is to open minds, I need to be more subtle and mainstream.  
I get it. She’s right. I plan to write a lot, more stories simmer, waiting their turn patiently, and none are overtly lesbian themed, like America is.
The America story was a whim that took off charging along its own path and I’m enjoying the ride. Interestingly, there have been ten or more readers of book one that would not have picked up a book with this subject matter. All have asked to read book two…singing to the choir am I?
And, hey, doesn’t the choir need to be sung to once in a while, whatever one’s cause or mission might be? Camaraderie, support, connecting with those of a similar voice, I feel that is important. In our interaction, perhaps we can refine our voice, make it more palatable, give it clarity, enhanced with stories of life and love, it strengthens and expands.
Somewhere out there, is a person at this very moment reading a book, one that sings to the choir, and thinking Hey, this makes sense to me. As a teenager and on into my twenties, I felt quite open minded and secure in who I was, but very separate from the rest of the world…it would have been nice to have read something written by someone else that connected me to other members of our universe.
That was in the eighties. If I’d looked, I could have found something to read…I could have read Rubyfruit Jungle. I didn’t because the whole subject was that foreign. It wasn’t discussed among anyone I knew, not even between my two girlfriends and me. Yes, being especially reclusive, my ambition and drive were directed elsewhere. When you work 16 hours a day at two or three jobs, there’s no time for reading.
But if it were more prevalent, if there were more folks out there singing to the choir, if the choir’s voice reached further out, echoed louder, deeper, higher…stronger, if I couldn’t avoid tripping over it for goodness sake…I would have liked that.
I’m just sayin’,

Sunday, December 15, 2013

9-1-13 RMB Believe

9-1-13 RMB Believe
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
Today I spent a part of my Sunday meeting a friend for coffee to celebrate her birthday. I like people with September birthdays. They seem more clear headed than others. That could be my imagination, or it could have something to do with astrology. I don’t know the reasons, just the feelings I garner from my observations.
I sometimes read tarot cards for people on their birthdays. I remember once reading her cards, telling her she was going to be gathering with a group of people very soon, that she would like them and they would be good for her in their short time together. She could not identify the group, even when I described their particulars.
She called within days. She had forgotten about a class she signed up for and felt bad that she said she didn’t have a clue about what I was talking about. She said that my describing her in this group alone surprised her and added, “But I had to call you, because, as we stood around, I counted the people there and you were right about the number. Then I started to look at them and I could tell which ones you were describing. It was so neat.”
It’s not an insight that will save the world. The people there had a positive effect on her life in a fleeting way and that was all. So why? Why do we know things? Why do people come to me to hear such irrelevant details?
I often ponder those questions, when my insights seem so trivial, yet hold an impact of relevance to the subject. I’ve come to an understanding that nothing is what it seems in its solitary form. Everything is linked. Sometimes people need a tangible to grasp the ethereal. If I am “right” about this or that minor detail, then maybe, just maybe, when I tell them other things, the tangibles lend those other notions credence. When I tell them they have a powerful spirit, or help from above, or that they are connected to something greater than they can imagine and there is a reason for a certain day or event beyond our knowledge, maybe they will believe.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

8-31-13 RMB Write On

8-31-13 RMB Write On
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
It’s 86 degrees in my room on this Saturday night. That would not be too bad, but its 11pm, after a day of temperatures that soared way too close to 100. Night should offer more relief than this. So I’m typing America Book 2 with my iced coffee resting against my bare thigh. Occasionally I run the plastic cup along my leg so that the cold moisture forming on the outside will mix into and cool my own sweat. I take breaks to mist myself with water from a plastic bottle and across the room is a small fan aimed my way. Heat and I do not mix well.
Writing and I do mix well, and it makes everything better, the laying of words, one after another, building a story, syllable by syllable. Watching the character’s lives unfold. You can define the currents. You can see how one got from there to here and project the path from here to the next there. If only really life could be so easily deciphered…
The main character is named America, shortened to Ric. She is a charismatic, shorthaired, 5’ 7” woman in her late twenties, with a trim tomboy figure. Her mother describes her as “abnormal” and she came to accept her mother’s description because nothing about her fits into the world we know. She’s androgynous, neither very feminine nor masculine. She’s a free, adventurous spirit because she feels no need to conform to a world that won’t claim her as one of their own. She lives by no rules and does what feels good, whatever that might be. The only person she aims to please is herself and whomever she is with in the moment.
I think there is a part of all us that both feels abnormal at times and longs to be so free often.
Then there is Liv, short for Olivia, the supporting character, although my critics say I give her too much air time, that Ric is more exciting and not showcased enough.
Liv is damaged…aren’t we all. She fights battles that can never be won, because they live within her. They have claimed her and consumed her soul. She fearlessly protects others from harm.
As I envisioned these two characters, for Ric, I pictured a combination of a few people I have known, spirited people that could laugh just for the sake of enjoying a moment, a magical sound. Liz Benjamins was one of those people. A friend read an early version of the book and pointed out that the main character, Ric, was the embodiment of my ex. “And, of course,” she added, “Liv is you.” 
I did not have a person in mind when I wrote Liv. Yes, I had put elements of my ex in Ric, but she was a compilation of many people, some of whom my friend never even met. She never met Elizabeth Benjamins. As for Liv being me, I am not that damaged, not anymore, and I know I am not that strong, nor that brave, not yet.
Write on,

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

8-30-13 RMB Friendship

8-30-13 RMB Friendship
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
We were trapped inside the enclosed porch of my family’s Pennsylvania home. I think my friend and I were both four years old. Bees were swarmed inside. We didn’t notice them when we entered. Our playing roused them. Did they want to play too, or were they angry? Either way, my friend and I were scared. We knocked frantically on the window. I remember wanting to climb through it, but it was locked from the inside. Memory gets fuzzy there. I think my big brother and sisters came to our rescue and we climbed through the window.  
She was the first friend I can recall having. We both liked playing in the dirt, exploring the ground, marveling at an ant colony and collecting rocks. I had an affinity for any activity that messed up the clean clothing I started out with each day. We moved away within the year and I never saw that friend again, but her presence left an impression on my life.  
What is a friend? What makes a friend family? What makes a family member a friend? The part that friends play in your stories and tenacity with which you hold on to them in your life fascinates me and prompts me to ponder the composition of friendship.
Tonight, as temperatures soared, a friend and I walked the aisles of a large store, cooled by their air conditioner. This friend and I live only a few blocks apart, but even with this proximity, time slips by void of contact, until one of us calls the other and says “Hey, what’s up? Let’s do lunch or take a walk or go to a movie or....”
As I walked the aisles tonight, I knew it had been too long. I had not heard the latest news about her business, daughter, son and grandkids. She had not heard me vent about work’s latest trials, nor brag and complain about the boys, depending on their most recent accomplishments or fiascos.
We had no urgent or important news to relay. What we did have was two lives to share through our transaction of words. And that is important. I found an emptiness filled by her stories and my own struggles lessened as I let loose my trials and tales.
There is a magic in the ability to exchange words with someone that cares. This magic is an element as real as any mineral and more valuable than gold, because it enriches the spirit. Whether you chat regularly or sporadically through the years, or simply during one of life’s brief encounters, only few family members and people we meet will truly treasure our words and our presence. Those individuals are counted among us as friends.
To friendship,

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

8-29-13 RMB Little Guy

8-29-13 RMB Little Guy
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
On Thursday’s after work I take my sister to a meeting at the church which the boys attend on Sundays. The boys and I go to a park nearby and they play while I walk. Beforehand we normally grab a bite to eat at one of the many fast food establishments.
I am going through a phase of carrying a small purse-like contraption on a long string, it would qualify as a wallet, except it has that string. Before this I carried stuff in my pockets, like my ID and money. But as I lose weight my pockets, along with my pants, are now smaller, there is not enough room. Enter what I affectionately refer to as my “little guy”.
Part of the reason I have carried things in my pockets most of my life, is because I tend to be forget my purse or little guy, or whatever I am carrying and leave them various places. Fortunately I have not lost a child this way…yet, and my head is attached, although not always in top working condition, so there is no danger of leaving that, but if it wasn’t attached…
Anyway, tonight I dropped off the boys at their home and brought the sister home, only realize my little guy was nowhere to be found. I cursed myself, sure that I had left it at the burger joint. I returned to the restaurant and found that, yes indeed my little guy had been running amuck there. The counter girl remembered the boys and me. She brought it out as soon as she saw me walk in.
Thank goodness for the kindness of others. I have had things returned to me in various ways, through a stranger’s kindness.
I search for the lesson I am supposed to learn here. As I struggle with anger towards myself for being forgetful, I wonder if the lesson is kindness to myself. I have a temper and tend to be hardest on myself with it, something I find common among we humans.
A song written and sung by Helen Reddy in the seventies plays in my mind often, Best Friend. She sang it in the movie Airport 1975. It is about taking care of yourself, realizing you are your own best friend. I recall hearing it as a child, memorizing it and mentally singing it as I walked to school.
I am sure it helped me some with my own struggles, but it also caused me to consider hers. What conflict must she have endured to have searched out solace and written such words?
I have always been a big fan of hers. A couple of years ago I read her biography The Woman I Am. I like her mystical side. Not sure I follow every thread of it, but it intrigued me. Much of the things I wondered about were clarified, her struggles, her joys and her losses. I am thankful to her for sharing her story. In the grand scheme of things, hearing it from the woman that brought us I Am Woman, it is important. History will remember her and it is good to have her own words added to the mix. She is brave, for living the life she lived, for sharing her insights, for thinking outside the box.
She sang “Would you take better care of yourself? Would you be kinder to yourself…if you realized that your best friend is yourself? Who is always with you everywhere? Who is on your side when others are unfair?”
I’ll try,

Saturday, December 7, 2013

8-28-14 RMB Theories

8-28-14 RMB Theories
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
Sparked by the letter about my three nephews that couldn’t get along for single second one day and how the rest of the world is in league with that behavior, as nation struggles against nation worldwide, a friend and I tossed out possible reason for the friction.
She noted the theory that everyone suffers from a “sense of lack” and limitation. Fear that there is only so much of everything causes us to fight for our own wants and needs, or else there won’t be anything left for us.
Although that matches what I see played out in the boys’ conflicts, it is not a theory I personally subscribe to, but then I am off the scale of average in a lot of ways. I voiced another theory that swings wide in the opposite direction, that we don’t really need anything, or even anyone, but I know this may be just my issues cropping up and not a theory of any relevance…In this theory we still feel an absence or a need because I think there is a place that hungers to be filled or a path that draws us to take it and that feeling of an unknown, source or destination, not sure which, pulls us.
A tug of war begins with something we can’t define and we pull and push one another, because we are here in each others’ face, a tangible entity to engage, when the whole reason for the engagement has nothing whatsoever to do with the other person…I venture to say it doesn’t even have anything to do with ourselves…but that would be speculating on something further still beyond our reach.
One thing is for sure, the answer will be found in the seeking of it, not in the disregard for the problem. Maybe reality is a better word than problem. Yes, this is our reality…and I have a problem with that.
I’d like to see us accept one another, get along, appreciate all there is to be appreciated in life, each other, nature…everything. Perhaps together we might realize that destination, or source, or whatever it is, more fully, with more clarity, with one another’s cooperation. Nah, I don’t ask for much.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

8-25-13 RMB The Butler

8-25-13 RMB The Butler
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
On a Sunday evening I joined a friend and my sister for an evening out at the movie theater. The Butler played on the big screen. I expected something lighter, something that focused on the white house and a man that worked there several years, a true story. That was all I knew about the movie.
It wasn’t about the white house, nor one man who worked there. It was about a generation of people that fought with words and fists and even silence to make our country better for everyone, for every one.
It was about the roles we play, how they affect our loved ones and how they affect our nation.
As I watched the movie, I watched it from two perspectives. From my own, a white California girl who, although warned about mixing company inappropriately, had never experienced rampant discrimination.  And I put myself in my friend’s seat, someone that had lived it, the decade or so between us and the shades of our skin, making that much of a difference in our life experience.
Movies like this are important…to remind us…to move the hearts of generations that would not otherwise feel the experience. Tears aren’t shed over history books, but in that theater, that night, tears fell.
I walked away with a stronger resolve. To do exactly what, I don’t know. To write RMB letters? To be a better, stronger, louder voice for the greater good?
As a nation we fought for equal rights, equal rights regardless of gender or color, neither of which can be hid, although some may try and a few do succeed…think of the women that fought as men in the civil war, as you pointed out in High Hearts.
Now, as a nation, we fight state by state for marriage rights for all. As Macklemore sings in Same Love, "A certificate on paper isn’t going to change it all, but it’s a damn good place to start.” Some stand on their God soapbox, not brave enough or wise enough or strong enough to speak for themselves and from their own heart. Those are angry words coming from me, perhaps even hypocritical because I am someone who depends so on guidance from unseen forces.
Maybe that is why it angers me that some use that source to enforce prejudice, because I have drank from that well and tasted kindness, not prejudice. Yet, as their words preach love, their actions promote selfishness, ignorance…treachery.
We can clearly see that equality among black and white, male and female was the right thing to do. How can other forms of equality be so hard to grasp to so many. When will we stop killing each other…and ourselves…over our differences in religion, brand of love, nationality, skin color?
Mixing causes, the variations of equality, some say they are vastly different, that Martin Luther King marched for “his” people, not “those people”. As I told my brave niece, “whenever you defend anyone against prejudice, you are defending everyone against prejudice.”
The greater good is all encompassing,

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

8-24-13 RMB Imagine

8-24-13 RMB Imagine
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
Today was a Saturday with three boys who can’t get along to save their lives. It’s like watching a microcosm of worldwide conflict. One must dominate, one must argue, one either mediates or adds fuel to the fire. And then it alternates. Another one must dominate and they all rotate positions. Until they find themselves where they began and the cycle begins anew.
No amount of counseling puts an end to the struggle, because when all is said and done, they are who they are. And today they are three boys that can’t get along, period.
I look at them and wonder if we are not much better than they are. In their youth they display a level of maturity that we have managed to perfect in our multi-millennia of adult years…where one nation must dominate, another argues and several others mediate or add fuel to the fire.
It exists on every level, in every neighborhood.
“Share your toys and games” I preach.
Yet don’t we all lock our doors with our gems tucked away inside for safekeeping?
Imagine the chaos we would have if we shared everything, if none were any hungrier than another, if everyone had something so that no person was left wanting?
I was too young to be a Beatles fan in the midst of the craze and didn’t really take a liking to them in the years that followed. Why bring this up now in the middle of a letter about world conflict and domination? Hold on, there is a point to this.
I listen to a lot of Spanish, oops excuse me, Latino radio (Is there a difference? Spanish/Latino? potatoe/potahtoe?). I take note of songs I like and go buy the CD. I liked a song by the two singers “Jesse y Joy”, so I now I sit listening to other songs by them, all in Spanish…except one.
The last song on the CD is John Lennon’s Imagine, written over four decades ago in 1971, as sung by Jesse and Joy in English. His words mean more to me now than they ever did before, as I sit listening to three boys argue, the news discussing a world in conflict and I attempt to see a better way, a kinder humankind…. Imagine.
From here to there,

Saturday, November 30, 2013

8-23-13 RMB America Book 2

8-23-13 RMB America Book 2
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
The first America book is not yet finished and the second is already writing itself, with ideas for the third screaming for attention as well. It’s an interesting experience to have the imaginary characters accompany me wherever I go, popping in with paragraphs, storylines and insights to their fictional relationships. I am listening to the story. As I write the words, I am sharing it, not creating it.
I wonder about the many characters that visit with you, the many RMB books yet to write.
And as I go for my walk, which sometimes creeps up to a jog, I wonder how much of our life we actually command and how much of it lay before us to be absorbed and observed.
I listen for direction from the wind and learn more from being in a place of listening, than from anything I might hear. Somewhere in that place of listening, one can hear the future.
Walk on,

Friday, November 29, 2013

8-22-13 RMB Writing

8-22-13 RMB Writing
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
Who encouraged you to write or was the need to do so only fueled by your own will? Was it a natural transition, to move from marching to allowing your words to march on? They travel beyond the ground of any pavement you could trek into infinite lives and into the future.
Daniel Reveles, an author who is also an exquisite story teller, once told me “Write every day.” That was his advice to me. He was serious and sincere. His stories tell of magic and life and the magic in life. He sees the importance of words, the value of storytelling; it’s effect on our world, to our humanity.
What would we be without our authors and the stories they have shared?
We struggle so, even with their words. They enlighten us with insight, passion and compassion, what ifs and heaven forbids, and yet we must still test the boundaries until something breaks, until souls shatter, people die and our earth suffers.
Your Rubyfruit Jungle gave some hope, kept some souls from shattering. And since then, your presence in book after book has lent comfort to untold numbers.
When I imagined writing; held the thought of it in my heart; the dream of placing word after word that would somehow in some way make a difference, I didn’t know what essence the words would contain. Or even if they would be fact or fiction?
I never would have considered writing a blog of Dear Rita Mae Brown letters. But then I hadn’t read about you, nor your stories when the desire to write took hold of the child I was. Blogs did not exist then.  
Now, as I send America, all 60,888 words of it, to the editor and advance readers, I am curious where this will lead. It’s a simple love story, but it has touched the few that have started reading it. These RMB letters, they have struck a chord with some. Are these people just entertaining me and my dream to write…or am I writing?
Part of my fascination with the craft is that one never knows where the words will lead when they take flight, who they will reach and what affect they might have when they land there. 
Bon voyage,

Thursday, November 28, 2013



8-21-13 RMB Defining Oneself

8-21-13 RMB Defining Oneself
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
Do you remember the letter about the middle boy, the one I took shopping to find his style? Today he asked for a haircut. He got one and it looks great on him. His style expands, neat!
I hope our night out shopping and our talk encouraged him. Or perhaps it was I that was riding along on his wave of defining himself. Whatever the cause, I am enjoying the result.
More cheers to finding our style,

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

8-20-13 RMB Ten-fold

8-20-13 RMB Ten-fold
Dear Rita May Brown,
It surprised me how involved you stayed in Martina Navratilova’s life after your breakup, even to the point of helping her with another breakup with another woman. Of course it shouldn’t have surprised me, as I am as tangled up in my ex’s affairs as I ever was.
Often I think there is a lesson to be learned here. As to what it is though, I haven’t the foggiest idea!
When there is a need, heartstrings pull and stretch beyond previous limits, anything to help…and I can’t complain too much, because I expect and get the same in return.
In the end, my only concern, my worry, is that I couldn’t do more. I asked her once, why people come to me for aid; why I try to offer it when I feel I am so inadequate. She said “People go to you because they know you will do everything you can to help them. Even if someone else is better equipped, they would not try as hard as you do.”
In a crazy way, that made sense. Tonight I did all I could.
I preach to the boys, that if you do your best, you will feel good, even if the result isn’t what you wished for. Why don’t I feel good? I couldn’t make everything better, no one else really can right now either. Only time will tell how big of a fool I am, if in fact, I am a fool at all for helping another. Perhaps, it will all come back to me “ten-fold”, as Reverend Millie says.
I am tried, exhausted really. Tomorrow things will look better. Of that I am sure.
Did your efforts return richness to you “ten-fold”? I hope so.
Blessings to you,

Sunday, November 24, 2013

8-19-13 RMB Enough

8-19-13 RMB Enough
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
The television I watch is a mixture of shows and movies that friends and family have told me about which I check out from the library, rent or buy. One show I enjoy is Rizzoli and Isles. Today the young, African-American actor that plays a cop on the show ended his life. He was 29. Lee Thompson Young died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
He had a successful acting career. His image lives on in the product of his craft. My heart goes out to his loved ones and his spirit, wherever it now resides.
The news brought to mind Freddie Prinze, who also took his life with a single gunshot on January 28th, 1977. My family was travelling from California to New Mexico to visit my mom’s relatives, a rare visit. We heard about it over the car radio. We had watched him on the show Chico and the Man, sometimes together as a family, and then we listened to reports of his death, together as a family.
There were few words spoken about it in the car. Each of us processed the information in our own way. I wanted to keep listening to the radio. Surely, they had made a mistake. He wasn’t dead. But as we passed mile upon mile of the desert landscape along an empty freeway in the middle of the southwest, it became evident it was true. It sunk in.
I remember curling up in a ball in the backseat, trying to disappear. I felt the sadness, sadness for Freddie. I was sad that he accomplished what I could not. I was sad that he was gone, someone full of such talent and yet there I sat, still breathing. Life made no sense to me.
A friend told me about Lee Thompson Young. Now, decades older, my reaction was equal in sorrow. However, now my sorrow is in that he did not reach the other side, sorrow that life made no sense to him…and won’t in this lifetime.            
Not that it makes much more sense to me than it did in the late 70’s, but I see more now. I see what good can be done, what good I can contribute, and that is enough to pull me to the other side. I see I can’t make everything better, but I can make some things better. I can see ways to better myself and every day I can proceed along in that direction.
When the call comes it is always unexpected. Sometimes it comes too late and the best one can do is be there for a family member. But sometimes the call comes when there is still time to help pick up the pieces and help rebuild a life. The answers are never clear and a fog blankets attempts to help, the same fog that edges one to suicide in the first place.
Search as we may, answers elude us. Why? How? What could I have done? When that call comes the best we can do is step up to console and heal, without judgment…for we are blind to what others face. We must remember we can’t make everything better, yet we can make some things better…and sometimes that is enough. 
Rest in peace,

Friday, November 22, 2013

8-17-13 RMB Counsel of Friends

8-17-13 RMB Counsel of Friends 

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

In your works and in your life, you often emphasize the importance of friendships. You seem so independent for someone that stresses close relationships thusly. I venture to comment that sometimes it is the strength we gather from others that makes us appear strong.

Several people have recently complimented my writing and, through my life, many have showered me with compliments on many levels. The writing I know for a fact is in no small part the result of years of encouragement from my friends in our Writer’s Circle. One in particular, Jennifer Silva Redmond, has been tirelessly nurturing me along, contributing her words and wisdom to my writings.

As for the compliments of my character, my actions, there is a sister, my Rita (whose favorite color is brown, I kid you not) that deserves credit for tirelessly guiding and supporting me through my life.

Today I spent the afternoon with my Writer’s Circle editor friend and topped the day off by visiting her and her husband on their currently dry docked boat, the best time ever to invite a friend aboard that gets seasick.

As we chatted, a glass appeared in my hand and poured into it was half of her beer. We recalled the last time I drank alcohol, a margarita, also with her. “Guess it is time for my every 5 year drink.”

We chatted about their screenplays and my novel while their dog Ready joined in the visit. They teased me about the steamy love scene that she encouraged me to put in. By now, the early fragments of the second and third follow-up novels have similar scenes.

As the teasing began, I took my leave, wishing them well on their upcoming trip up the coast by boat. The counsel of friends happens with such ease that it’s barely noticeable in the moment. Yet if one could look back to see the friends that have been there, hear the talks and laughter shared and, if it were even possible, count the tears liberated, the affect is undeniable.

Our strength is in our numbers, both in our masses and in what we contribute to one another. Not one of us would be who we are if not for whom we have known. Some say we should even be thankful for those that caused us pain, for they taught us something of ourselves in the interaction. There may be merit to that argument, however I tend to focus on the positive contributions. 

I find it quite astounding how the tides in a moment can turn from treacherous to bearable and even enjoyable with the counsel of a companion. It’s something invisible, untouchable and it is so clearly necessary. Of all the tools we are given, it is the ones hardest to comprehend and impossible to grasp that mean the most.

In awe,


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

8-16-13 RMB Style

8-16-13  RMB Style
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
Most Friday nights my routine is to leave work, while it is still light out and walk in the park until light fades. I listen to music and my imagination roams, sketching out my books or I talk to friends, some over a cell phone, some via thought. I often say “hey” to you and welcome any spirits interested in visiting.
I write these letters, in part to relay some of my cosmic beliefs and notions, yet even as I write this, I cringe a bit. I guess I am pretty out there. However, when I visit with someone in this way and can later pick up a conversation with them and fall in sync with what they shared via thought, now in spoken words, I believe our conversations are real…both those in thought as well as those spoken.
Afterwards I head home to pick up the sister and take her to a local department store to walk. It’s been quite hot and she is just getting started on her walking routine, so a few laps around a cool store is her walk for the day. By the time I make it home it is edging towards nine. The sister throws a dinner together for me and we watch a show together. The end. That’s what normally transpires on Friday nights.
Tonight, I picked up the middle boy and took him to the store. He has been wearing an odd mix of clothing to school recently. “I want you to pick out a couple pairs of pants. What style do you like? If you really like what you’ve been wearing, that’s okay. But in case you’re just grabbing what’s handy or you don’t have pants you like, I want you to have some more choices.”
He looked at me with those big, sweet eyes, “Okay.” He’s an agreeable nine year old.
Once there, I had to prompt him. “Do you like jeans? Do you want dress pants? What kind of pockets do you like? Would you rather have shorts?”
After circling the racks and trying some on, he divulged the key to his odd choices. “I like snaps.” He prefers pants that snapped over ones that buttoned, willing to wear something old and tattered or short, over something new that fit better...if it the pants had a snap.
We found him two pairs of jeans…that snapped AND fit. He also wanted a Bumble Bee t-shirt that was too big for him. He said we should get it because it was the only one and if he waited until he grew, it would not be there anymore. Bumble Bee, if you haven’t heard, is the coolest of the Transformers.
As I explained to him that it was too big and we could try to find another Bumble Bee shirt I saw the sadness in his eyes. He didn’t throw a fit or whine or complain or plead…he just looked incredibly sad as we left the shirt on the rack and walked away.
We searched the store for other Bumble Bee shirts, but there was none to be found. We were there for him to find his style. It didn’t matter if it fit or not, he wanted it and that was why we were there, for him to have the latitude to state his preference. Our mission was for pants…but we got the shirt too.
We proceeded back to his home, where he showed off his shirt and we picked up the other two boys for a sleepover at my place. It’s late now, they have settled down in the living room (yawn).
Cheers for finding our style, g’night,

Monday, November 18, 2013

8-15-13 RMB Wish You Were Here

8-15-13 RMB Wish You Were Here
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
Today I was reading Wish You Were Here, the first book co-authored by Sneaky Pie Brown. I like how you introduce the characters in the beginning, with the “Cast of Characters” page. For someone like me, with an awful memory, I will be referring to it now and then I’m sure.
I like that you credit Sneaky Pie with co-authorship. A quote by an unnamed source states “The person who said diamonds are a girl’s best friend never had a dog.” I agree, feeling the same goes for any animal friend.
My cat now takes to laying alongside the laptop as I type, however you will not see Smores credited with co-authorship. He hinders more than helps the process. I applaud you for your patience. For animals to have played such an intricate part of your life, you must have made concessions.
With animals, I find we receive so much more than we give, yet there are so many of them still in need of a home, shelter and attention. We pay millions a year, as a nation, to therapists and forms of therapy, from vacations to massages, while ignoring an abundance of energy just waiting to be bestowed on someone. Love, affection, kindness, joy, it’s all there in a furry or feathered or scaly bundle. I hear turtles make great friends.
A friend once had a parakeet that was quite mean in his early days, but in his last year he mellowed to the point that he would curl up on your shoulder to sleep or crawl up your sleeve or inside your shirt to bed down on your belly. His tiny claws tickled. Maybe he was just trying to stay warm, but it seemed like more than that. As soon as you approached his cage, he became animated, expecting to be held.
I watch our three boys. They argue and struggle to dominate one another or the conversation or a game and it seems there is no peace to be found in them. Then one will march off to take up counsel with the dog. He gently strokes her head and a blanket of calmness shrouds both the boy and the dog. Peace is restored.
Perhaps all leaders that hold meetings should do so with each attendee holding a puppy? Imagine that for just a second. Just the thought brings a smile.
Keep smiling,

Saturday, November 16, 2013

8-11-13 RMB Cityfest

8-11-13 RMB Cityfest
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
Today I went to a street fair called Cityfest. A few streets are closed off, bands play on a stage set up in the middle of the street and vendors set up shop in the center of the closed streets, selling everything from food to clothing, sunglasses to plants.
The music was a bit too loud. I must be getting old. I liked the feeling of community and watching everyone have fun. The streets were packed with people, yet they remained fairly clean, the streets – not the people, although I guess the people were clean too. Forgive my wandering, it’s late.
Cityfest took place very close to the location of the Pride Festival however, during Pride, flyers flew everywhere and assorted trash littered the ground. Interesting how locales take more care to pick up after themselves.
I stopped in at a coffee shop and sat near a window to observe the festivities. One passing couple fascinated me, two young males, mid to late twenties, both tall, handsome and well built. Both would have passed for straight and have been considered quite a catch by any young lady.
Seeing them hold hands and obviously enjoying one another’s company…it gave me hope that there is a better “normal” out there for us. I didn’t know why they intrigued me, until another male couple passed by right after they left the area. The new couple wore earrings, dressed more flamboyantly and had exaggerated movements.
It occurred to me that there is a big difference there. Much like the women that dress or act overtly gay…not butch, I understand that some women are more comfortable in a masculine style of dress…but there is another look, belts worn low, hair shaved on the side…or on one side, etc.
You mentioned the early days of women refusing to shave and wearing certain clothes to buck the establishment; to make a statement. You said, “You can see where it all came from though.”
I watched people pass, the statement they are making now is fed by designers, jewelers and tattoo artists. It’s not appealing to me, but as you said…I see where it comes from. I don’t see where it is going though, maybe because it’s not my style. Yet, I have been accused all my life of not dressing “right”. I thought it more along the lines of not dressing up, not conforming to the costumes we are expected to don, whether for work or holidays or dates, etc. So I don’t have room to talk one way or another, this is just my observations.
Something tells me it’s a phase, not a classification. Butch is a classification, but it too has degrees, from the norm of its type to the extreme costume of butch. The whole topic reminds me of teens trying on certain looks. As a society, we are testing our look, experimenting. That’s good, in my opinion.
The two men that caught my attention dressed in regular clothes with regular haircuts and mannerism … holding hands. It seemed real, not a costume at all. I like that look.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

8-5-13 RMB Brave

8-5-13 RMB Brave
Dear Rita May Brown,
Tonight, after my walk, I finished the last few pages of Bingo and said goodbye to Nickel. She is a brave soul who’s picture you painted well. Brave may be too strong of a word for some, this wasn’t an action adventure, nor a murder mystery. It was a depiction of life. It didn’t dwell on its hardships, but it didn’t ignore them either. And sometimes in order to face life head on, it takes bravery. Nickel is brave, methinks it so.
Today emails from organizations say the next Olympic Games will be held in a country that upholds anti-LGBT laws, where people are arrested and fined if they show support for LGBT equality. This means that a person could be arrested for simply wearing a shirt supporting an organization promoting equality.
The threads in time and space, they are massive in their number. I speak out now, more than I once did, but not as much as some. I hear the echo of past atrocities and current injustice. It occurs to me how very brave you were to speak out when you did.
We think ourselves so bright, with our internet, with our America moving forward in leaps and bounds, but even this, even here, it is still a struggle and I am haunted by the thought that a turn of a screw could tilt the picture, obscure progress completely. Prejudice lurks among us, it’s ingrained in all of us, even the best of us to some degree. Something in the mind screams “No!” when we see two men holding hands.
It does not compute. It is not what we are taught from childhood to accept. It will never compute for many. Why should they even try to make it? It is not their life, not their problem.
The homeless on the street, the child without a parent, the outcast, the crippled and ruined…not our problem? We are one. We connect the past to the future, each life to one another. Trying to see any segment as not our problem is cutting off an arm and expecting to be whole. It is so obviously impossible to do, yet we attempt to do it daily.
If we ignore the problem it will go away. If we only surround ourselves with our own kind, the rest do not exist. Until they do. Until people stop talking and start fighting. Until injustice and discrimination is reasoned as reasonable to most, and thereby acceptable.
“In matters of conscience, the law of majority has no place.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
I recall the RMB letter about how we are sentient beings and wonder, do we have to experience discrimination before we can release our own prejudice?
All for one and one for all,

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

8-2-13 RMB Invincible

8-2-13 RMB Invincible
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
I had dinner with an old friend a couple of nights ago, actually she is an ex-boss, my first at my current place of employment. She was the first person to interview me, the first to take a chance on me and move me on to the next level of interviews. Now, a decade and a half later, I’m still there and she has moved on. It felt good to reconnect.
I like the emphasis you place on friends in your books, on human interaction in general. Gently indicating ways that we offer one another comfort, where we fall short of that and to what end our efforts eventually place us.
I’ve written a few poems about friends. This is one, written with one person in mind, yet it applies universally to all I call “friend”. I wrote it in 2005, long before I heard your name, yet it fits you as well as any other willing to stand by me.
In your eyes, I saw a friend, before you ever spoke a word
Your voice held the echo of thoughts spoken, once only heard
as whispers in my mind, sheltered and warm,
until you returned to claim them, as your own.

Your presence brings a peace, a calm I crave,
Your strength is powerful, yet gentle, for one so brave.
There is comfort in your rhythm and familiar pace.
It is, as it once was, in another time and place

I have missed you, as though we met before.
With you nearby, I want to draw a sword,
to take all wrongs and make them right.
Together, we fight the good fight.

Sounds of battle, once in armor,
rage on today, amid the clamor.
You were brave then, too.
And I was stronger then, because of you.

Walk alongside this foolish one, slightly insane or truly wise,
who knows beyond reason, there is a friend in your eyes.
Invincible are we two.
My friend, I have missed you.

Your compadre,