Sunday, September 30, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In celebration of my upcoming 49th birthday, and because I was getting nagged about it a lot, I finally got a mammogram. It was less traumatic than my first one, fifteen years ago, either because they've refined the hamburger-patty-breast-squashing machines, or because my breasts are less, um, dense, with age (read: droopy.)

In the waiting room at Alta Bates, as I was signing in, I heard "Ali! Ali!" and it was Marie, the mother of Patty and Abraham, the children I always played with from the old neighborhood. They are nineteen now, doing well--Patty is going to college and Abraham is involved with some good skill-building program. I took her number and will swing by and see them. I miss them!

Over dinner, C and I talked about his work. He's getting more involved with some of the young men he is a resource specialist for at juvenile hall. It's bringing him a lot of joy to support their interests, bringing in art books, teaching the rudiments of music theory to a kid that wants to learn bass. I feel so proud of what he's doing I could bust my britches, and it also rekindles my desire to do the same.

We also went to see In the Valley of Elah last night, hoping, like vultures (I am referring to myself here, of course,) to glean material for our musical.

The movie deals with PTSD and the monstrous effect war in general, and this current war in particular, has on the psyches of young men. How angelic looking young men may be hiding monstrous secrets. In that way it resembled The Winter Soldier, the documentary I saw about Vietnam Vets.

Tommy Lee Jones was spectacular as the father of a missing GI. I love Susan Sarandon and would happily pay nine dollars to watch her read the phone book or pick her teeth or any damn thing she pleases. Charlize Theron also starred and her performance in Monster is one of the best things I've ever seen on film. (If you haven't seen it, rent it! And be prepared to be deeply disturbed...)

The script wasted Theron's considerable talent by focusing on her sexuality and beauty, which are also considerable, but for God's sake, if she could be glammed down that much for Monster, she could have been glammed down more for this. C said that as soon as he saw her on screen, playing a single mother police detective and looking like a Hollywood model, he knew there'd be something wrong with the movie. It punched a hole in its credibility.

It wasn't only that she looked too good, it was the stupid dialogue they gave her to contend with; a colleague of hers sneered to her face that she'd "fucked her way up from receptionist" or something like that, and she responded in kind that yeah, she'd gotten her position as detective through fucking her superiors. Name me one woman who has had that obvious of an exchange in their workplace, in 2007, who would not run screaming for HR to file a sexual harrassment complaint. It just didn't fit, and took away from the darker underbelly of the story.

I wanted more of the relationship between the parents of the missing soldier--more Susan Sarandon, please.

And Paul Haggis missed a fantastic opportunity, given the theme of dismemberment, to refer to the Isis/Osiris myth, or even Antigone. Instead he used the story of David and Goliath as a metaphor and I was--and still am--unclear as to how that fits. Who was supposed to be David? The young American soldiers whose terrible fear made them commit atrocities, or the Iraqis, or the father, going up against the military establishment to uncover the truth, or Charlize Theron...? It wasn't clear how the myth related to the story which was not so much about fear and courage but about insanity and humanity. Paul Haggis is a writer and director I really admire--I loved Crash, saw it twice, and would happily see it again--so this just underscored how hard it is to get these things right.

I told C, "Ours will be better," and he laughed and said, "Oh, of course. Nothing simpler in the world."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

This is the one-year anniversary of this blog. When I started it, my intention was to write about the life of an old-fashioned "cultural worker" to use that 70's term coined by Holly Near. I wanted to write about working for a living, about sending out work, creating a sustainable life in which i could write, and I hoped my book, See How We Almost Fly would be published, or at least accepted for publication early in the year.

I didn't expect I'd go to Africa, fall so deeply and quickly in love, have my beloved move in with me, win a big poetry prize unrelated to my book, publish something in More magazine, have my play Saying Kaddish With My Sister produced, or any one of a number of great things that happened this year.

I didn't expect to meet people who know me mostly through my blog, and how intimate and intense those exchanges could be.

I didn't expect to write a play in 9 days, as i did with My Hot Tub With Andrea.

I didn't expect to write a short play in a long weekend, Oasis, that was produced in SF last May.

I didn't expect Elizabeth Mendana's production of See How We Almost Fly would be so gorgeous, or that my father and sister's visit would be so sweet and rich.

I didn't expect Michael to die, or Jasch, or Scott. I didn't realize how much those deaths would hurt.

I didn't expect that falling consciously in love would entail looking at some of my deepest wounds again, through fresh eyes.

I didn't expect that after coming in as a finalist in at least two contests, See How We Almost Fly would still not be published. I didn't expect that that would not matter so much, in light of everything else going on.

Last night I went to New College to hear Rebecca Solnit speak about "The Writer as Activist." What a brilliant woman! She seems to think in whole paragrapsh, which come tumbling out of her mouth at ninety miles an hour, a torrent of words. She's also about my age, I guess, from looking at her, and has published ten books. Yikes. Not that I'm comparing or anything. Comparisons are odious.

Meanwhile, I'm still engaged in this monumental task of shoveling out--I mean cleaning the house from the detritus of untold generations of housemates. I asked for and C obligingly dropped off some big hefty trash bags--the kind used on construction sites. I'm going down to the basement--a scary scary place--and begin the excavation. Send in the dogs if I don't appear within a day or two.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Yom Kippor and I backslid into a weird, exhausted confused state last night, triggered by talking about my mother and some of her more florid craziness.

I learned: I have to quit sugar yesterday, and adhere to the right exercise and medication regime.

I'm not ready to deal with my feelings about my mother in casual conversation yet--I still have more healing left to do.

Rage does not heal itself through the simple passage of time.

I need to make more careful note of where I leave my car parked when it is dark out and I am hurrying (late) to Yom Kippor services.

Elsewhere in the news, the great preparations for the great move-in are underway. C and I went all over the house and garden, looking at what would need to be cleared in order for him to start really moving in. It will be a big overhaul--almost as big a job as if we were moving into a new house together. New curtains, new bookcases, new arrangements for furniture, new kitchen set-up...and that's just the beginning. I have begun with what's doable for me--throwing away old spices that have been here since the last century.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

It's gray and cold--feels like fall is settling in. The persimmons are ripening on the tree out back; in front, the figs feel cold and hard. It's a time of major change and transition for so many people in my life right now--often difficult changes, griefs, death, divorce. I'm in the middle of a huge change too, as C and I discuss plans for his move-in, to start this weekend. A joyous transition, but a transition none theless, with its attendant anxiety and ground-shifting-under-my feet feeling.

I know we can hurt each other. We can betray each other, devastate each other, enrapture, enrage, encourage, inspire, and comfort each other. I can feel the process of attachment in my body, the part of me that has come to seek his lanky body and his long arms with their musician's fingers, the look in his eye when he looks in my face, the thrilling nakedness of intimacy balanced against the need to keep being a grown-up and not drop any of the balls I've worked so hard to juggle.

Today I'm a little headachey and hungover from computer-bingeing--long hours yesterday and the day before, getting the latest iteration of See How We Almost Fly ready to send out to the next round of contests, and starting work on another one-act play. I've addressed envelopes, SASE's, and written checks for ten contests and open reading periods, all over the country, purged the manuscript down to a lean mean 63 pages of poetry, and done last-minute revisions on some of the poems. Now it's down to the copy shop on Grand Ave., the one with the best prices where I know the Indian family who runs it by name, and then on to the post office where I send my words out onto the wind.

The total cost of this effort will run something over $300.00--money well spent, my friend Carla tells me, an investment--and that's just this time around. I've been sending the ms. out like this once, twice, three times a year for the past five or six years. (My father, the loveliest man in the world, but not the most patient, said on the phone Saturday, "When is that book going to get published? Why don't you send it to the publishers who do Mary Oliver?" Good idea, Dad, why didn't I think of that?)

The fact is, the system of competing with 600 other aspiring poets to get a book published is humiliating, time-consuming and expensive, but there just aren't that many other outlets. Because poetry doesn't pay for itself, most small presses who publish it have resorted to this contest-entry-fee mode of soliciting manuscripts. SHWAF was a finalist in the Akron contest--it's been a finalist a few times, actually--but not yet a bride. So it's down to the copy shop again.

As for the play, I have five pages. Don't know if they are any good or not. The concept is fertile, but I don't really know the characters yet, or what they want from each other. I have to trust the process; also my brilliant, opinionated friends who will let me know what's working and what isn't.

Monday night I went to The Marsh in San Francisco, and saw my friend Colleen Tani Nakamoto perform her short one-woman piece "Soft Tissue" about her journey through vaginismus. It was such a courageous, graceful, poignant, funny, heartbreaking performance. She really pulled it off, with tremendous love and skill. Everyone reading this blog who lives in the S.F. Bay Area, go to the repeat of this show on October 1st, 7:30, at The Marsh, which is on Valencia and 21st or 22nd, in the Mission, and cheer her, and the other women solo performers on.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The trouble with California is that it's so beautiful, it's hard to hold global warming and ecological devastation in mind as we hike through redwood forests with the perfect temperature of air and sunlight and fresh cool breeze filtering through to our skin, talking and laughing and teasing each other.

It has been a time of so much beauty I am hard-pressed to take it all in. Simple easy things like reading the Times in bed together on Sunday morning, passing the sections back and forth and getting up to make more coffee. Long walks in the parks around here.

Talking to my Dad (my stepsister has a new beau, he's a subsistance fisherman and forager in Alaska,) and my sister, and going to Rosh Hashana services with Beth and then Tashlich with Beth and Ellen at Lake Chabot, where we saw groups of other Jews (the men wore yarmulkes) doing the same thing. Tashlich is a Jewish ceremony you do on the new year--casting bread crumbs which represent your sins into a body of moving water. We don't say sins exactly--Reconstructionists don't say sins--but things you want to shed. I said mess and clutter and numbness and distraction. Plop, plop. I want to be worthy of the beauty in my life.

Later I talked to my sister and she said she did Tashlich with her kids and Eli, age 7, cast away whining. Which struck me as very sweet and poignant. And C and I agreed we will buy a mezzuzah and hang it up and have a little ritual to signify our living together. There hasn't been one on the doorposts since Alina moved out, in 2001, since it was hers and she took it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I showed up at the Code Pink demonstration yesterday, in front of the Federal Building in downtown Oakland. It was a raggle taggle bunch of Bay Area lefties, a lot of gray-haired women (among whom I'm rapidly beginning to number myself as I let my old dye job grow out...) We held signs and were a small, peaceful, anachronistic presence.

Most people--Federal employees on their lunch breaks--ignored us. A young cop kept reminding us to leave a clear pathway so people could get to lunch. A few cars honked and gave a peace signal. A man with a megaphone heckled us in a way I found so annoying I had to ask Penny to babysit me so I wouldn't hit him. All in all, a typical small demonstration, like countless others.

I don't know what good, if any, these things do. I went for Penny, and to show my solidarity, and in memory of the late great Grace Paley, whose brother-in-law said, "There isn't a scrap of pavement in New York City that Gracie hasn't sat in on or laid down on or been dragged away from/." She spent her long, productive and wonderful life engaging in political activity only to see war, greed, and the devastation of natural resources increase in her lifetime--can I do less?

Maybe there is a better way to change things. I'm sure there is. Maybe if I keep writing and thinking and talking and listening long enough I will find it. But meanwhile, the best I can do for myself and the country right now is to show up, so I did.

The day was bright and windy and afterwards I went to Borders and bought a great blank book, for the new year. And went to the Farmer's Market and bought organic kale and chard and basil. On the radio, a man who had been an economist under Clinton was talking about the inherent conflict between being a consumer who loves a good bargain--that would be me, guilty as charged--and being a good citizen who values the environment, justice, good living conditions and fair wages for everyone. It hit home.

Put simply, I love clothes. Even worse, I love shopping for them, finding great deals at Ross Dress for Less, and lugging home my catch. I've realized there's something insatiable about my bargain-hunting, something of the call of the wild. It's not benign. Maybe it could be channelled into something else--I want to channel that impulse into something else--creation, or even better, bringing into order. there's nothing noble about accumulating yet more stuff when i already have too much. But there you have it.

Today I played tennis with G, a hard good game. we both ran all over the court sweating. I played the best I ever have, which is amazing considering I hadn't played in weeks. It's gray and overcast and tonight is Rosh Hashana. I'm exhausted. I need a nap and a shower before i can go. I started a new poem but don't have enough brain cells operating to finish it. Bethie is saving me a seat.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Esalen sparkled--the air, the sun, the people. Everyone looked beautiful to me, all one hundred and forty of the participants. It was a good weekend. I taught well, worked hard, laughed a lot (Theresa Williams got locked in the bathroom of our gorgeous room, and Sy Safransky, mild-mannered intellectual, kicked the door down--to everyone's delight--except, perhaps, for the maintenance people at Esalen.)

It was more people than we'd ever had, but the organization of events was tight as a drum, and there was one extra teacher, which made everything run more smoothly. This year the new teacher was Frances Lefkowitz, a feisty, street-smart writer who had a beautiful essay called Saturn is the Largest Planet on Earth in this month's SUN.

It's a high to be recongized for my work as a writer--after all, most of the time I spend just sitting in front of my computer, or getting parking tickets, or just generally feeling like a dork, so to get to meet readers face to face a few times a year is great. I was enjoying it, and allowing myself to feel, not that I've arrived, since I don't know where the destination is supposed to be--but just to feel, "Hey, I'm here." I wanted to be here, I wanted to get published, I wanted to be heard, I worked my butt off, and what do you know, something happened. I am sitting at the big kids' table. I am part of the cultural conversation of our time. Yippee!

Flash on the heels of this thought I heard my mother's voice from 40 years ago, saying "Alison just wants everyone to bow down in front of her open mouth." I heard those words inside my head and immediately felt shame, and fear--fear that I would become that publically insecure asshole who just loves to hear the sound of her own voice yapping away. Fear of being wrong, fear of being bad, and of being found out, and scorned and shamed for it--those are my worst terrors. I don't worry so much about malaria or parasites or plane crashes--alright, I worry a little about those things, but what really scares me is shame. Which is why, I guess, I try to out myself so regularly on this blog.

So, yes, my ego likes candy. And yes, I get a little sugar-high from all the people telling me they love my poetry, or that I'm a good teacher or whatever. I came home and confessed that to one of my roommates, a wise woman who has logged serious time in a twelve-step program, and she reminded me that the antidote to the sugar high (and its inevitable, subsequent crash) is service. Remembering that the point of the whole thing--duh!--is to serve the people who come to the retreat, and in a larger sense, the readership of The Sun, and in a larger sense, the world. My ego might get stroked in the process, but that is not actually the point of anything, just a side effect. (Got that, Grasshopper?)

There's a great value for us teachers in doing these retreats year after year, because we get to measure and see ourselves evolve. A little grayer, thinner one year, fatter the next, more serene or more troubled, in the flush of a new love, or painfully ending an old one, or just jogging along in a long-term partnership. More flexible, less ego-driven, hopefully; more experienced, certainly.

A new book, a new project, successes and disappointments, new beginnings and ongoing sagas. It's heartening to see life accrue, and the only way to see that is to stick to something. For better or for worse, I've stuck to writing, to The Sun, publishing there for fifteen years. And it piles up. I don't know how many poems and stories I've had in there, but it's over fifty, I know that--more than I ever would have expected. A good harvest.

When I got home, it was to the news that my wonderful lesbian-couple roommates found a great one-bedroom for themselves and their menagerie, which opens up a space for C to move in! Gulp. We are both excited and nervous, realizing what this means--a man with five pianos and a few marriages under his belt does not move in with a woman lightly. This means committment, the committment we have both been ready for from the beginning. Our relationship has been marked by directness, straightforwardness, and a lack of ambivalence--both of us were willing to say, "I want this," from the outset, thankfully. And we do. Which is not to say that there's not some trepidation.

I haven't lived with a partner since Alan. Hell, I haven't had a real partner since Alan, and we broke up in 1994. I am a whole new person now--or am I? Old fears resurface, the same basic underlying fear as always, fear of being unacceptable. I know there's nothing for it but to feel the fear and keep breathing and clear out a space in the garage where C can store his stuff, and make room in my psyche for this new transition, and that it's a time to be very gentle and very honest with myself and with him and that's what I'm trying for. And although there is too much to do and never enough time, we are using the time we do have as well as we can, and we are happy.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Yesterday and this morning the air was heavy, poisonous with smog fumes from two major fires. Now, a great wind is thrashing the trees, opening and slamming doors in the house, raging through the world.

I've got a bad headache and feel bloated, spacey and tired. Spent all day yesterday waiting for FedEx so I could get Masankho's luggage to him on Hawaii. He has lousy cell phone reception there so we had a number of frustrating phone calls that were basically a bunch of static, and "I can't hear you, your phone is cutting out!" shouted desperately into the void.

I still feel numb and cut off from my feelings about Jasch, (and Scott, and Michael.) It may be because of the medication I've been taking ever since Alan's death when I slipped into a major depression. Or maybe I'm just overwhelmed and scared to feel. At any rate, I can't feel right now--I want to, but it's not coming.

I confessed all this last night at an exformation (playing around) group with a couple of Interplay friends and it felt good to at least name what was going on. Just to say it. It's not just the deaths, its all the other big--and good--changes that have happened/are happening this year. Even moving from a single person to being a couple--and I have felt C and I move more and more into that shared mind-space over the last few weeks, that space where we are each thinking about the same things together--Alan and I had that, and it's wonderful, and scary.

After the little group, I went to the car and called C and confessed all to him, and he was empathic and said all the right things. And it was still a hazy hot evening and I'm still in a numb, overwhelmed moment, but I can also be loved and okay. I know I've been eating too much sugar and playing too much online Sudoku and I want to stop doing's just more ways to not feel, and it ends up making me sick.

I did find this poem this morning on Poetry Almanac, which made me think of Jasch's relationship with his daughter, Hana. I hope someone shows it to her:

For My Daughter

When I die choose a star
and name it after me
that you may know
I have not abandoned
or forgotten you.
You were such a star to me,
following you through birth
and childhood, my hand
in your hand.

When I die
choose a star and name it
after me so that I may shine
down on you, until you join
me in darkness and silence

--David Ignatow

I also found a great poem by Kevin Young yesterday when I was cruising around on Poetry web sites. I love Kevin Young's work for its economy, music, and humor.

Ode to the Midwest
by Kevin Young

The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
—Bob Dylan
I want to be doused
in cheese

& fried. I want
to wander

the aisles, my heart's
supermarket stocked high

as cholesterol. I want to die
wearing a sweatsuit—

I want to live
forever in a Christmas sweater,

a teddy bear nursing
off the front. I want to write

a check in the express lane.
I want to scrape

my driveway clean

myself, early, before
anyone's awake—

that'll put em to shame—
I want to see what the sun

sees before it tells
the snow to go. I want to be

the only black person I know.

I want to throw
out my back & not

complain about it.
I wanta drive

two blocks. Why walk—

I want love, n stuff—

I want to cut
my sutures myself.

I want to jog
down to the river

& make it my bed—

I want to walk
its muddy banks

& make me a withdrawal.

I tried jumping in,
found it frozen—

I'll go home, I guess,
to my rooms where the moon

changes & shines
like television.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Okay, it's Wednesday, so I have two days to get buff and lose ten pounds before heading off to Esalen on Friday. Um...ain't gonna happen, I don't think. Not this year. Ah, two years ago, when I was in training to swim a mile for Women with Cancer and had read Potatoes Not Prozac and become a no-sugar zealot, then I was lean and mean and full of steam and could sit proudly in the hot tubs naked as a jaybird for God and everybody to see. But life has intervened since then, my nephew Noah turned me onto Sudoku, my gym, aka Mecca, closed, which has ruined my life, and here I sit in my nice soft pudding self again.

I did go to my new gym last night--10:30 p.m. at 24 Hour Fitness in Oakland--and the pool was full of kids! At 11:00 on a school night! What were their parents thinking? Mostly it looked like Asian young ones, very sweet, speaking Chinese and horsing around, having a good time. I tried to swim around them, but there were just too many bodies in the water, and I kept crashing into the damn styrofoam kickboards which they would bring into the water to play with and then abandon.

I thought of the pristine waters of Lake Malawi at sunrise with longing; how sweet to swim in a real lake, instead of murky over-chlorinated steamy rancid water.

I need to find a new gym. This one is close to my house, it's relatively cheap and convenient, but the locker rooms are gross, the pool is crowded and unsupervised, and it's virtually impossible to get a decent swim. I should go over to the Mills pool and check out their hours--though I'm a big fat baby about swimming in an outdoor pool in winter--and I hate being kept to set, short hours. I'm a hanger, I like to luxuriate. Maybe that posh expensive gym in Alameda, if I can justify the expense.

Meanwhile, I'm intrigued by this whole Larry Craig gay-arrest in the airport bathroom thing. I wrote my talented playwright friend S, a young gay man, and suggested he write a play about it, and he wrote back, very nicely, "Why don't you? You don't have to be gay to write about 'gay' material."

I watched a video clip of Craig's two adult children being interviewed by Diane Sawyer. They seemed so convinced that nothing at all had happened, that this was all a smear campaign designed to get their father. I want Republican hypocrites to fall on their asses as much as the next person, I suppose, but it's sad when it happens in this way. My ex-husband's uncle was also a closeted, married gay man who got arrested for soliciting an undercover cop in a Men's Room in a train station in Chicago. Uncle Alan was an old-line Communist, who used to argue (with a straight face,) that there was no homosexuality in the Soviet Union, because it was a decadent Capitalist disease. He was up to his eyeballs deep in denial, but he was also a human being with a family, and the whole incident was painful.

I asked C, "Has anyone ever bothered you in a public bathroom, asking for sex?" He said no.

I wonder what the foot signals were. I saw a photo of the undercover cop who arrested Craig and he looks like a young fallen angel, pretty in a bad boy way.

I'm mulling over the idea of making a play about this, but not sure how I would pull it off. Meanwhile, I'm reading a play S. wrote, about a contemproary gay man who rises from the dead and sparks a religious/medical furor all over the world. It's wonderful!

I also bought Albee's Zoo Story yesterday at the used bookstore, because I need to read that, and I bought 4 movies onsale at Silver Screen video--Babel, and Marie Antoinette, and Stranger Than Fiction, and Infamous, the other movie about Truman Capote. I justify all these purchases as research--I need tor ead the Albee because of my two-character one-act hot tub play; I am thinking of a play with Marie Antoinette as a character, and, well, the other two movies are about writers, and I'll always watch anything about a writer.

So I'm waiting for Fed Ex to arrive and pick up Masankho's suitcase, which should be with him in Hawaii, but is not, because the airline screwed up. C is back at work, first week back teaching, after our lovely idyllic summer, and I'm adjusting to the new season. Five new poems about Malawi which are pretty good, another two scenes for the musical. And lesson plans. And doing push-ups.

Monday, September 03, 2007

C called and told me Ken Wilbur was being interviewed on KALW. I tuned in and listened--he's brilliant, yes, and what he has to say is important--but his interview was followed by an interview with Wangari Maathai (spelling?) the Kenyan woman who won a Nobel Peace prize a few years ago for inspiring her whole country (and the world) to plant trees.

Comparisons are odious, but I will make one anyway; Wilbur was talking excitedly, from his brilliant brain, about all the latest developments in our understanding of spirituality. Maathai was living spirit. When she spoke, it was with the deep rich voice of a tree.

She said, "It's hard work. You have to go down on your knees and plant the seed and water it and protect it." When she received the phone call from Sweden, telling her she had won the Nobel, that's what she did; rushed out to her yeard and planted a tree. It was the only way big enough for her to express her gratitude.

I was interested by Wilbur, but deeply moved by Maathai. She spoke to the questions I have about development in Africa, after coming back from Malawi, that is: if "development," offers an alienated, plastic-wrapped, credit-card driven existence, more convenient than the hard life of subsistence fishing and farming that people engage in, but less meaningful, I don't feel enthusiastic about helping fund it. If "development" means planting trees and honoring the environment, then I'll gladly give my money, time, and energy to the effort. That seems to me to be an unambiguously worthy thing to do.

After listening to that interview the phone rang again and it was David, my housemate, who is teaming up with two other guys to start a solar company. C and I agreed we'd put solar panels on the house as he moves in; David and company are ready to go. Next move is the garden--going out there and having the courage to break up the hard stony ground, and turn it over and plant greens in it--kale and chard, and other hardy plants.

I'll think of Jasch as I do it.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

We saw No End in Sight yesterday, a powerful documentary about the mess in Iraq. The movie detailed the blunders that were made, some out of negligence, some out of arrogance, some out of corruption, laziness, greed, or ignorance, that led the military from bad idea to fiasco.

Everyone knows what a mistake Iraq was, but the film shows the many men and women of good will and intelligence, public servants, career military and civilians, American and Iraqi, who put thought, effort, and energy into trying to make something good happen there. It also shows how at every step of the way, these efforts were undermined, and disaster was deliberately courted, to the destruction of a whole people and culture.

When I see pictures of Iraqis screaming and howling over the corpses and coffin of their loved ones I see a whole culture driven mad with grief.

The destruction of museums which housed relics from 7,000 years of human history; of one of the best, most comprehensive libraries in the world...the scholars and historians who mourned those losses in the film touched my heart. And the Mexican-American soldier who said in halting English, "I need something good to happen in Iraq--to make me feel there is meaning in what I lost."

Today, C and I took a long wonderful hike in the woods and talked more about our play. We don't want it to run along partisan political lines at all, but we do want to explore this theme of service and sacrifice.

As I'm seeing it now, there are two kinds of sacrifice--that which is for the greater good, in which we relinquish selfishness in order to serve something higher, and meaningless, corrupted sacrifice, which is coerced, or extracted from people on false grounds, or which is made corrupted after the fact by the way the beneficiaries of the sacrifice abuse and mistreat it.

I believe we all long to make meaningful sacrifices in our lives, but have been conditioned to fear and mistrust sacrifice because of the many ways the gifts of artists, women, parents, humanitarians have been corrupted and co-opted in our society. The Republican party is still selling itself on the idea of sacrifice and good old-fashioned values of hard work and service, when, as the movie pointed out, none of the main architects of the Iraq fiasco had ever done military service except for Colin Powell, whose reservations about the whole escapade were disregarded.