Monday, September 19, 2011

Excerpt from No Place Like Home

My desk phone rang, interrupting me from my inbox. It way my sister calling to ask me for a ride. It had been months since I had seen Mindy and with few appointments, a good day to take an hour from the office. She gave me an address for a hotel near the Convention Center. The ick factor of picking my sister up from a hotel she could not afford was more familiar than remarkable. The weather was not sunny or raining as I pulled into the nondescript, chain hotel.
Mindy opened the door wearing a ridiculously small and tacky nightgown, sleazy rather sexy. My face grimaced in disgust as I heard the unfortunate words leave my mouth.

"What are you wearing?"

"Can you carry this bag", she replies. "I don't need to go far, my friend Wilbur lives on SE Frances."

The bed loomed large in the room. Tangled sheets, blankets, and pillows distracted me from the task at hand. I pictured the man with whom she spent the night leaving the conference at the Convention Center to fly back to his wife and children. The man who paid to spend the night with my baby sister.
We casually gather up her few things to leave. As usual, she was disorganized and unprepared.

"Can you hold these things for me?", she asked.

"Sure. Where is the purse I gave you?"

"I threw it into oncoming traffic when I was high."

Not thinking that required explanation, she went on to the next subject. Her stories were always filled with the misfortune of her unstable life. She clearly wanted me to care about the crime and injustice she experienced, but I often answered numbly. I sometimes wonder what she thought of my lack of reaction to ugly disclosures.

My car had just been broken into, leaving the passenger lock frozen. As she climbed through the drivers' side, she noticed the hole where a stereo had been. 

"What kind of stereo was it? I might know the person who took it."
She can tell that I am laughing without judgement and pursues the conversation.
"No, seriously. Tell me what is missing and I'll ask around."

Laughter relaxes me as we share a lighthearted family moment.
Waiting for a natural break in the conversation, I wonder how to help her.
"Hey, how about I take you to a couple of agencies next week, like the Council for Prostitution Alternatives?"
"I've got plans. You know me, always big plans."
"I'll bring you a new purse and give you $25."
We arrive at a grey block building in Southeast Portland. In the darkness, a door opened from the side of a large concrete wall. A very old man leaned his head out with a weak hello. Mindy stepped through the door- into a world I would rather not think about. Even today.
Leaving her at a rundown apartment, my new, white car seemed to illustrate the difference in our lives. Unable to work, I stared out the window of a newly constructed building for hours as the phone went unanswered, faxes unsent, and paperwork not completed. How to re-enter the only world I knew. Oddly aware of the tailored suit and black pumps I was standing in, I vaguely attempted to process what I had just seen, experienced, and felt. Seeing the contrasts in our lifestyles, personalities, and clothing, you wouldn't think we could know each other, but I knew we were linked by background, religious upbringing, mother, and, at that time, lack of education.

I picked her up at the bar she suggested just before noon. For Mindy, arriving four hours late was as good as being on time. To my surprise, she was already there. Knowing everyone by name, she moved among the late morning crowd enjoying beer and straight shots.

On the way, I handed her $25 and a new purse full of make-up. Her appreciation was evident in her weary face and shoulders. It felt good to meet one of her needs. Taking the foundation from the delicate white purse, she began applying it to the tracks on her hands. Trying to remain calm, I quietly watched as the ugly sores became ugly sores caked with skin-colored paste.
The most surreal moments were in the lobby, as my brain knew why I was there, but my senses did not. The casual, business-as-usual atmosphere made me feel relaxed, as if the furniture itself was saying, "hey, we do this all the time." On some level I had to remind myself what brought me...and the other waiting women as well. The intake person assigned to take down our information moved with compassion. It was clear that we found a judgment-free zone. She asked Mindy questions I had never heard and Mindy knew all the answers. It was as if they were speaking a foreign language.

What is your drug of choice?

How old were you when you first did drugs?

Where do you live?

I'm homeless.

I sat completely still with my eyes closed, afraid to open them and see what I was hearing. Wishing I could be strong, wishing it was all different. I
only hope the tears told her what I could not. That she mattered to someone. In my own trauma at hearing of her pain, I could not put my arms around her or tell her I was sorry.
As I dropped her off, she said, "You know, I only did it for hte $25."

My saddest memory of Mindy is her sweeping my deck to show her appreciation for my support. She was full of hope for a better life. The next morning she would be taking a train to a drug rehab program I had arranged and paid for. Her dreams of art school and stability fueled my belief that she could do it.
--time together, shopping for new clothes and packing for the trip in the weird space of family you barely know, familiar and yet so foreign.
Sending her off in a train from Portland’s beloved station, I felt relief and a sense of accomplishment. Something had gone right; it was a new day.
Within a few days, I received a call from the director telling me that her issues were far too great for this facility to address. They were packing her bags and she was being sent away again. Unfortunately, this was one of many times she was sent from somewhere to nowhere.

My typical numbness helped me feel nothing when the director called to tell me that her issues were far too great for them to address. Although I knew Mindy had serious issues, I did not see her as beyond repair.

Famed neuroscientist, Josh Fost describes the human as machine while separating us biologically from aspects of the notion of free will. He explains that broken machines like Mindy need compassion as we try to help them while we protect society from them. This is the answer I sought as I called social workers, teachers, and those working with broken machines for information.

I intuitively did not believe that Mindy really had much of a choice in the matter. Resiliency theory tells us that children in dysfunctional homes need one healthy, involved adult for the first three strikes and an additional one for each woe after that. So, for poverty, alcoholism, and abuse, one awesome aunt, uncle, or grandparent. Pile on neglect and sexual abuse, a cool cousin and another aunt.

We had a wonderful step-father who was never around. Since he was a heroin addict who was either away at sea or nearby in prison, some might say he doesn't really count. We loved him so much you couldn't have gotten any of us to swallow that.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lovely Book Sculptures Mysteriously Appear in Scotland

These gorgeous book sculptures are being left in Scottish Libraries. 

Thank you Galleycat for this inspiring story. 

Book Sculptures Mysteriously Appear In Scottish Libraries

In what would make for a great plot in a mystery novel, an anonymous artist has visited libraries across Edinburgh, Scotland, and planted uncredited works of art among its shelves.
The artwork is a beautiful series of sculptures made out of old books. One such work (pictured left via is a tree built from poetry. Here is more from blog: “Next to the ‘poetree’ sat a paper egg lined with gold and a scatter of words which, when put together, make ‘A Trace of Wings’ by Edwin Morgan.”
No one has yet to take credit for these very detailed creations.

Rapper Common Writes Memoir

After years of movies, music, and entertainment, rapper Common, nee Lonnie Rashid Lynn, has written a memoir called “One Day It’ll All Make Sense.” The September 14th interview with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show brings home why this is a must read.

According to electronic urban report;

Although his earlier music provided fans and listeners an inside glimpse of his life and growing up, the book will delve a little deeper into his life, his past, and growing up in Chicago and the decision to drop out of college to pursue his career.
“People who know me as Common might find it hard to believe some of the things that made me Rashid,” the rap star says in a press release. “That’s partly why I’ve written this book, so that I can show myself as a man in full. That means telling some tough truths, revealing my faults and vulnerabilities. But it also means showing the true strength of my character.”
The memoir will also include letters to loved ones both living and gone, as well as words about his past relationship with special women, including his mother, and Erykah Badu.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Vintage and Modern Literary Playing Cards- Great Gifts!

Authors is a literary card game much like Go Fish. The game features thirteen authors with four cards each and the object of the game is to collect the most sets.According to Wikipedia, “The game is the creation of Anne Abbott, a Massachusetts editor of a young people’s literary journal. Abbott also designed one of America’s earliest board games, The Mansion of Happiness in 1843. 
The 1888 version of the game and includes authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Vintage and modern versions would make excellent gifts even for oneself.

Walt Whitman Poem Addapted for Musical Theater

Walt Whitman's More or Less I Am to be free of charge at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn. The musical theater production has adapted Walt Whitman‘s poem, Song of Myself. Okay, it's a stretch, but Song of Myself could describe memoir, so as a Walt Whitman fan, I'm posting it. 

Whitman Leaves of Grass; it is hailed as his “tribute to a nation’s ideals on the brink of civil war.”

Here’s more from the release; “Reflecting Whitman’s celebration of American diversity as encapsulated in New York City, an international mix of actors, musicians, and children will speak and sing Whitman’s words. Members of the audience will also be encouraged to play a role. Following all performances, audiences are invited to join the cast and crew for a celebratory reception, with food and drink for all to share.”

Monday, September 5, 2011

Union & Guild Resources for Writers- Happy Labor Day

In honor of Labor Day, Galley Cat publishes list of resources for writers struggling to make a living.

Thank you Galley Cat!

In honor of the Labor Day holiday, we are continuing to collect a list of union and guild resources for writers–organizations that help freelancers around the country cope with shrinking pay scales, a health insurance crisis and the crippling recession.
We’ve started our list below with email and website links, but feel free to add suggestions in the comments section–we will keep updating our directory. Earlier this summer, the National Writers Union (NWU) celebrated 30 years as “the only labor union that represents freelance writers.”

Sunday, September 4, 2011

September's New Releases in Memoir

Good Reads lists these memoir titles as September releases. From heartwarming to edgy, this collection explores the landscape of human experience. Across Many Mountains details the loss of traditional Tibetan culture while The Orchard provides a harrowing story of one's woman's struggle to save her farm during the Great Depression. Love and loss are poignantly illustrated in these women's stories. In It's Hard Not To Hate You and Happy Accidents, Frankel and Lynch entertain with stories of difficult times providing end of summer reading and life lessons. This is a good month for memoir and the right weather for under-tree reading. Get your book on.

It's Hard Not To Hate You - Valerie Frankel

Happy Accidents - Jane Lynch

The Man Who Couldn't Eat - John Reiner

Across Many Mountains: Three Daughter of Tibet - Yangzom Brauen

The Orchard - Adele Crockett Robertson

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Onion reviews Cheney's Memoir too!

New Cheney Memoir Reveals He's Going To Live Full, Satisfied Life Without Ever Feeling Remorse And There's Nothing We Can Do About It

September 1, 2011 | ISSUE 47•35

NEW YORK—The publication this week of Dick Cheney’s memoir, In My Time, has revealed the former vice president enjoys a fulfilling life unaffected by any sense of guilt or regret and there’s absolutely nothing any of us can do about it. “This unique look at an otherwise intensely private man’s inner thoughts shows us he couldn’t be prouder of his life’s work and will never feel one single moment of anguish over his actions no matter how desperately we want him to,” book critic James L. Warner writes of the 576-page memoir’s disclosure that Cheney would spend his retirement never second-guessing his advocacy of a disastrous war, the torture of detainees, illegal wiretapping, or tax cuts that created devastating budget deficits and crippled the U.S. economy. “Nothing we do will ever change the fact that this man sleeps very soundly at night and, in fact, looks back fondly upon a long, rewarding career. You almost have to admire that.” The book also reveals that none of the former vice president’s five heart attacks has caused him even the slightest amount of pain.

Maureen Dowd on new Cheney Memoir

Any  discussion of memoir must include the rare, but ugly score-settling. Cheney's book doesn't leave out meanness, sexism, and self-congratulation. Dowd's review sheds more light on the Bush presidency than does the vice's book. Here are her thoughts;

Maureen Dowd: Dick Cheney's book is a rant that cherry-picks the facts

By Maureen Dowd
Syndicated columnist
Updated: 08/29/2011 05:02:48 PM PDT

Click photo to enlarge
This book cover image released by Threshold Editions shows "In My Time: A Personal and Political...
Why is it not a surprise to learn that Dick Cheney's ancestor, Samuel Fletcher Cheney, was a Civil War soldier who marched with Sherman to the sea?
Scorched earth runs in the family.
Having lost the power to heedlessly bomb the world, Cheney has turned his attention to heedlessly bombing old colleagues.
Vice's new memoir, "In My Time," veers unpleasantly between spin, insisting he was always right, and score-settling, insisting that anyone who opposed him was wrong.
His knife-in-her-teeth daughter, Elizabeth Cheney, helped write the book. The second most famous Liz & Dick combo do such an excellent job of cherry-picking the facts, it makes the cherry-picking on the Iraq War intelligence seem picayune.
Cheney may no longer have a pulse, but his blood quickens at the thought of other countries he could have attacked. He salivates in his book about how Syria and Iran could have been punished.
Cheney says that in 2007, he told President George W. Bush, who had already been pulled into diplomacy by Condi Rice: "I believed that an important first step would be to destroy the reactor in the Syrian desert."
At a session with most of the National Security Council, he made his case for a strike on the reactor. It would enhance America's tarnished credibility in the Arab world, he argued, (not bothering to mention who tarnished it), and demonstrate the country's "seriousness."
"After I finished," he writes,
"the president asked, 'Does anyone here agree with the vice president?' Not a single hand went up around the room."
By that time, W. had belatedly realized that Cheney was a crank whose bad advice and disdainful rants against "the diplomatic path" and "multilateral action" had pretty much ruined his presidency.
There were few times before the bitter end that W. was willing to stand up to Vice. But the president did make a bold stand on not letting his little dog be gobbled up by Cheney's big dog.
When Vice's 100-pound yellow Lab, Dave, went after W.'s beloved Scottish terrier, Barney, at Camp David's Laurel Lodge, that was a bridge too far.
When Cheney and Dave got back to their cabin, there was a knock at the door. "It was the camp commander," Cheney writes. "'Mr. Vice President,' he said, 'your dog has been banned from Laurel.' "
But on all the nefarious things that damaged America, Cheney got his way for far too long.
Vice gleefully predicted that his memoir would have "heads exploding all over Washington." But his book is a bore. He doesn't even mention how in high school he used to hold the water buckets to douse the fiery batons of his girlfriend Lynne, champion twirler.
At least Rummy's memoir showed some temperament. And George Tenet's was the primal scream of a bootlicker caught out.
Cheney takes himself so seriously, flogging his cherished self-image as a rugged outdoorsman from Wyoming (even though he shot his Texas hunting partner in the face) and a vice president who was the only thing standing between America and its enemies.
He acts like he is America. But America didn't like Dick Cheney.
It's easier for someone who believes that he is America incarnate to permit himself to do things that hurt America -- like torture, domestic spying, pushing America into endless wars, and flouting the Geneva Conventions.
Mostly, Cheney grumbles about having his power checked. It's bad enough when the president does it, much less Congress and the courts.
A person who is always for the use of military force is as doctrinaire and irrelevant as a person who is always opposed to the use of military force.
Cheney shows contempt for Tenet, Colin Powell and Rice, whom he disparages in a sexist way for crying, and condescension for W. when he won't be guided to the path of most destruction.
He's churlish about President Barack Obama, who took the hunt for Osama bin Laden off the back burner and actually did what W. promised to do with his little bullhorn -- catch the real villain of 9/11.
"Tracking him down was certainly one of our top priorities," Cheney writes. "I was gratified that after years of diligent and dedicated work, our nation's intelligence community and our special operations forces were able on May 1, 2011, to find and kill bin Laden."
Finishing the book with an account of the 2010 operation to put in a battery-operated pump that helps his heart push blood through his body, he recounts the prolonged, vivid dream about a beautiful place in Italy he had during the weeks he was unconscious.
"It was in the countryside, a little north of Rome, and it really seemed I was there," he writes. "I can still describe the villa where I passed the time, the little stone paths I walked to get coffee or a batch of newspapers."
Caesar and his cappuccino.
Maureen Dowd is a syndicated who writes for the New York Times.