Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Cactus Garden - Photos by Patty Mooney

Around this time of year, when Spring springs at Balboa Park, one of our favorite places to go is the cactus garden. This is a place from which I am sure Theodore Geisel aka "Dr. Seuss" drew some of his inspiration. This showcase of indigenous San Diego plant life draws visitors from all over the world.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Five Fingered Lily - A Poem by Patty Mooney

The Tiare Apetahi
perfumes the air,
a flower so rare it is mythical,
growing only on a Raitea cliff
that juts from the sea.

Three of us climb, slipping back,
then punching forward endlessly as
volcanic loam seeps into our boots.
Cloud underbellies murmur of rain.

Nutea disappears over a hill,
and behind him, my husband.
Alone, my frustration unleashes
its tropic downpour.

I shake the dirt from my shoes,
rub my complaining knees,
then continue the climb.
Nutea & Mark wait at the top
of a waterfall like eagles.

I’m nearly up when I slip
on polished rock, plunging
down a vertical river, a waterslide.
Mark descends to pluck me up,
and shoves me to the summit.

It's flat up here, the sky sapphire,
storm system gone. Nutea shouts,

"Tiare! Tiare!" pointing at glossy
green bushes
fisted with succulent five-fingers
named for the hand of a Princess
who died of a broken heart.

Nutea pulls a plastic container
from his pack,
and begins to fill it.
Suddenly, a heavy wind
conjures black clouds.

We look at the sky as the Tahitian
clamps his lid on fifty fingers.
The temperature plummets
ten degrees.

Thunder cracks the sky,
lightning fireworks.
Gusts of hail
sting flesh, plaster our clothing.

We race down the cliff,
weather chasing like Rottweilers.
At the base of the waterfall,
the sun chews through the clouds,

the wind drops.
Those unruly dogs
jog back
to their master.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Dalai Lama serves hope to SF homeless

"You know, I'm homeless too." - The Dalai Lama

His Holiness the Dalai Lama was trying very hard on Sunday to make the homeless guests at Martin's soup kitchen relax. The guests included some of San Francisco's most desperate, reviled citizens, men and women who carry their life's possessions in shopping carts and sleep under bridges.

read more digg story

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Austin Powers, Yeah, Baby, Yeah - by Patty Mooney

One of the funnest evenings I have ever experienced was the time that Mark and I hosted an Austin Powers party. It was back in 2002, when "Goldmember" had just hit the theaters. In it, Austin must travel back to 1975 to save his dad who was kidnapped by Goldmember in cahoots with Dr. Evil. Mark and I invited a bunch of our rowdiest and most fun-loving friends to come to our house for cocktails. Then we all carpooled to a local Chinese restaurant where we dined lavishly on several exotic dishes. Afterwards, we went to the movie theater where we all spazzed out from laughing at Mike Myers playing multiple sides of himself.

Kudos went to Mark, who coordinated the evening. He had made arrangements with both the restaurant and the movie theater, and everybody enjoyed an unforgettable evening for $20 each.

I'll bet if you were in the party mood and could gather up a nice crowd of your buddies, you could create a similar scenario. Dining establishments and movie theaters would probably bend over backward to please you, because that's just how the economy is right now. Even just an evening at your place with a DVD, some popcorn and your best friends would bring a smile to everyone's face.

And that's something to blog about!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Gabriel of Tikal - A Poem by Patty Mooney

Gabriel thrived in the humid Guatemalan cenote.
His suitcase skin blended with fallen Ceiba leaves.
His ecstatic eyes floated like beads on tepid water.
He cruised from end to end, hungry for meat.
The Mayans considered him a god and fed him

chickens, turkeys, coatamundis, and once a sleepy fisherman

surrendered a foot. But the day the toothy god snapped up
a child the croc's status was revoked, his head paraded high
on a stick for days and then fashioned into a ceremonial mask.

The godless reptile was once more revered,
imbued now with the ghost of the child.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Art and About - Photos by Patty Mooney

From time to time I take my camera out on various excursions and capture some great art work along the way. Let's call this series "Art and About" and you will see more as the days and weeks go by.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Rodeo - A Poem by Patty Mooney

I feel like an imposter in my down-under hat
with kangaroos on it, I'm a downright hippy.
Would rather see a rattler sunning itself
in the outback than skinned for boots.

The cowboys have it figured, how to:
separate one bull from twenty,
rope a calf in five,
be a barnacle on the back of a bucking bronco.

The rodeo Bozo pops in and out
of an aluminum beer barrel
as inflamed bulls toss riders, snort
and stamp dirt. Those bulls

put on a show but in the end
they're roped and funneled back
into the holding pen, seething,
quelled. Tough meat.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

San Diego's April Flowers - by Patty Mooney

This is a view of Mission Trails which is right in our "backyard."

I do not know the technical names of these flowers but that doesn't stop me from taking photographs of them. Let's just call them San Diego wildflowers. Aren't they beautiful? When you look at them you will realize one of the many reasons I love to go out and ride my mountain bike in the hills and valleys of Mother Nature.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The House of Pain - by Patty Mooney

After breaking my collar bone while mountain biking on Porcupine Rim Trail, Moab, Utah

I thought I’d tell you about my first visit to the House of Pain, or the hospital, as it is commonly known.

I was two years old. My parents had taken me out to dinner. When I got home, I was so ecstatic from our special event that I danced and spun in the living room and split my eyebrow open on the corner of the coffee table.

My parents rushed me straight to the hospital where I got my first set of stitches. Now, many years older than that wide-eyed little girl, I have limped or been wheeled down countless hospital corridors. Sometimes I have felt that the hospital, that “heartbreak hotel,” is my home away from home.

One time I came out of there looking like a pirate wearing an eye patch because our cat had gouged my eyeball. I’ve hobbled out of there on crutches after a couple of knee operations, the most recent one a Total Knee Replacement last September. I’ve left a set of perfectly good tonsils and a thyroidal cyst at the House of Pain. After a motorcycle crash on the streets of San Francisco, the ER staff pinned my elbow back together. Several years ago, while driving down Fairmount Avenue in my Easter-egg purple VW bug, a man who should have been wearing his glasses pulled out right in front of me. When we crashed, my lower teeth went right through my chin. A doctor by the name of Goodhead stitched me up that time. I’ve had one or two mountain-bike crashes that left their marks, including a broken wrist. And once I fell off a 500-foot cliff, coming to a landing 30 feet below where I fell off. After that one, I knew I was blessed to be alive.

I could use my visits to the House of Pain as excuses to feel sorry for myself. But there’s something my dad always used to say: A man complained he had no shoes and then he met a man who had no legs.

Let’s take a look at someone who set the world land speed record of 152 mph on a bicycle at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1986. My long-time friend and hero, John Howard, is a three-time Olympian and Ironman who has raced bicycles most of his 48 years. He has suffered a few crashes. Once he was transported by Life Flight to the House of Pain where he was stitched back up and his jaw was reconstructed. Even after this, as soon as he had recuperated, he got back on the horse, so to speak, and came back with a vengeance.

We all know of a man who once was able to leap off buildings in a single bound, who could move faster than a speeding bullet: Superman. Christopher Reeve. One day back in 1995 he was riding his horse in a sporting event in Virginia, galloping at high speed toward a jump with which he was familiar and confident. With his mind set to go the distance, his horse came to a sudden stop, and Reeve was thrown off the horse.

Five days later, he awoke in a hospital in full body traction. His spinal cord severed at C2, he had lost all movement from the lower neck on down. And initially, he was unable to speak. At first, thinking he would be a burden to his family, he wanted to die.

Reeve’s injury came about doing something he loved: sports. He was a skier, ice-skater and vigorous tennis-player. His version of a wrap party after filming the first Superman was to skipper a sailboat from Connecticut to Bermuda. For years, he often flew a turboprop solo across the Atlantic. Once he was injured in a parasailing accident off Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. He always pushed himself -- and sometimes others -- to squeeze the maximum human experiences out of life.

That same indomitable human spirit propelled his quest to restore movement. In public appearances after his accident, Reeve expressed appreciation for all that he had. Instead of complaining about his bad luck, he continued to celebrate the mystery and preciousness of life. With all that he lost, his was the legacy of a “rich” man who gave by sharing his story with all of us.

Some people have never hurt themselves, never paid a visit to the House of Pain. But I’d rather continue adventuring and pushing my limits with a risk of injury than confining myself to a safe and boring life.

I want to thank John Howard, the late Christopher Reeve and all the others who have fallen and gracefully risen to face their adversities. Their exuberance for life continues to inspire and heal me. And their brave spirits are always with me whenever I climb back on my horse.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Snake In A Pear Tree - A Poem by Patty Mooney

How strange to suck the sweet juice
of pears in their brief season,
as the snake mistakes these trees
for apple, attracted to the red blush.
Gnarled branches scratch its belly
as it winds along limbs
mottled by sun, blending in
with the hissing leaves.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

It's Time To Get Up In the Morning - by Patty Mooney

"Let's hear those feet hit the deck!" my dad's voice would sail upstairs into the room I shared with my sister, Jeanne. I would hear a brief shuffle of bedclothes in the next room, where my two brother slept. Then silence.

"Well, if Joe and Tom aren't getting up yet," I reasoned to myself, "I'm certainly not going to wake up either." And I'd roll deeper into the blankets. So far, Jeanne had not stirred at all. But actually, I was th e only one who had to rise at 6 AM for my high-school classes which began at 7.

It was freezing cold out of bed during those Michigan winter months. The thought of hiking two miles through the heavy, packed snow came as an additional sleep inducer. Sometimes I would be aware of a padded silence surrounding the entire house and I would instinctively know that the snow had again fallen during the night as I had slept. The eery brightness of the room so early in the morning would confirm this dreaded thought.

The snow was beautiful to gaze at, out the window, but it was no fun to crunch through huge mounds of it, inch by inch, to school. I often wondered if snow shoes - the kind shaped like tennis rackets that appeared to keep a person suspended above the brutal confection of ice - would help in my predicament.

My mind wandered from pillow to snow, creating a reveie which became a dream: I slip out of bed, dress as speedily as possibly in the ice tongs of the morning, wash my face, comb my hair, shuffle down the stairs and murmur hello to my dad who is sitting at the kitchen table having Shredded Wheat with canned peaches, and a cup of coffee, black. He is reading the Detroit Free Press. The section he peruses depends on what time I come downstairs. Usually I arrive during "Sports."

I decide what to have for breakfast, Cheerios or Wheaties. I gulp down a bowlful of my choice slathered in milk and sugar, and finish in two swallows a tall glass of Minute-Maid orange juice. Then, once I've slipped a peanut butter and jelly sandwich into a brown paper bag, I am ready to advance into the morning.

Layered beneath a heavy woolen coat, an oversize woolen sweater, an angora sweater, a flannel blouse, two pairs of jeans, three pairs of knee-highs, a pair of penny loafers, a pair of rubber boots, a knit cap and a muffler, I make for the frnot door after waving goodbye to my dad.

Now I'm out in it. Winds are hurled at me from off the mountains of glittering snow. The silence nearly crushes me. I feel heavy and lethargic, and I'm thinking of options to my life. Quit school? In the Ninth Grade? I creep towards the monotone orange brick institution which is sprawled in the new snowfall. At all entrances, the freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors mill into the building, churning the snow into a river of muddy water and carrying it into the classrooms.

I hear the shriek of a school alarm. It is my father's two-fingered whistle, followed by, "I don't hear any water running up there," followed by his weightily timed, advancing steps.

I never knew what would happen by the time Dad reached me and I happened to be dozing. By that point, my feet never wanted anything more than to hit the deck and get some water splashed into my face.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Day At The San Diego Zoo - Photos by Patty Mooney

I highly recommend a day at the zoo to put you in a good mood. The best time is during the week when most people are at work and the kids are in school.

We went last Wednesday and were amazed at the size of the crowds until we realized, "Oh, it's Spring Break." It was still a lot of fun, but it's even more fun when there are no lines at the panda exhibit and Sky Bucket.

Note to parents: Try it without the kids, just to see how romantic it can be for you and your sweetie to stroll through the zoo, hand-in-hand and hopefully guilt-free.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Amazing World of "Body Worlds" - Photos and Story by Patty Mooney

"Plastination unveils the beauty beneath the skin, frozen in time between death and decay." - Gunther von Hagens

One of the most fascinating exhibits you may ever see in your life is Body Worlds, because frankly, what could be more fascinating than the world of the human being?

My husband, Mark, and I decided to take a day to ourselves yesterday and first strolled through the San Diego Zoo, catching the "Panda Show" during feeding time. The male sat there eating bamboo branches while the female circled around and around in the same pattern. Throngs of people came to see them and filled the grounds of the zoo. The humans were just as much fun to watch as were the animals.

Afterwards, we headed to the San Diego Natural History Museum to view the Body Worlds Exhibition. What a juxtaposition: from the San Diego Zoo to Body Worlds; the land of the living to the planet of the plastinates.

I have always been fascinated by the mummies of Egypt and of South America, and by the rituals that various cultures have devised to honor their dead. Plastination, invented by Dr.Gunther von Hagens, M.D. of Heidelberg, Germany, in 1977, is "a process that is part of a centuries-long tradition of preserving and dissecting anatomical specimens." Dr. von Hagens wished to preserve bodies for medical studies, as well as to educate the public on medical issues.

We saw lungs on display; a coal-colored pair that had belonged to a smoker, and a pair the color of chalk that belonged to a non-smoker. We saw a healthy knee versus one that had been decimated by arthritis. And we saw people posed as they had been in life: a yoga woman, a gymnast, a soccer player.

It must be pointed out that Body Worlds is the original exhibition of plastinates featuring the bodies of humans who had gladly donated them (or the bodies of their diseased progeny) for plastination, as opposed to copycat exhibitions which display the bodies of Chinese homeless or prisoners. Dr. von Hagens has been unfairly accused of using illicitly-obtained bodies but this could not be further from the truth. Do your homework, people. If it is not a "Body Worlds Exhibit" then do not pay your money to be ripped off by fakes.

Without going into exactly what the plastination process entails, the Cliff Notes version is this: It's a "Polymer impregnation of perishable, biological specimens," which includes animals and humans. It's a plastic makeover of a flesh-and-blood body.

We are now able to see all aspects of the human body as never before revealed to us. We can learn so much about "our bodies, our selves," in a rich, colorful way. Religious philosopher Teilhard de Chardin once said: “We are not humans on this earth seeking to have spiritual experiences; we are spirits having a human experience." I recommend that anyone who can, embrace this opportunity to explore the mysteries of human anatomy.

There were several families present, many of them wheeling baby carriages, or with children checking out the various displays. People pored over each plastinate in a respectful way, speaking to each other in hushed tones. I think that they could sense that when they walked out of the exhibit, they would feel more alive than ever before.

If you happen to be in San Diego, the exhibit runs through October 4th, 2009. For further information, to to San Diego Natural History Museum. To learn more about Body Worlds, go to the Body Worlds website.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Hunting Fishing and Other Grounds For Divorce: Wife Logic at its Finest

I just found this ultra-cool blog by a woman who lives in Alaska named Jacki Michels. Here's the thing about Jacki..... In her own words.....

Jacki is especially fond of anyone who can shoot spaghetti out of their nose or
do similarly ridiculous things at a moments notice. Currently she is enjoying
her midlife crisis. Among other things, she' a Wife, a Lover, a Mother, a
Rebel-Redneck-Bunny Hugging-Alaskan-American and five-time Granny award winner.

After twenty some years, she is still totally in LOVE with her man! She's crazy
about her friends and (nuts) her family-or is that they make her nuts? Jacki is
also a humor columnist and a frequent contributor to her children’s baby books.
Her most recent works of fiction include: Why Santa Needs Low Fat Cookies,
Lectures From the Tooth Fairy and Why My Child Was Late to School for the Thirty
Seventh Time This Year. Her nonfiction works have landed in several servings of
New York Times best selling books, in magazines, on the walls of the classiest
rest areas throughout Alaska and Canada --and a few have landed in the trash.
Voted least likely to alphabetize her spice rack, Alaska-womom regularly admits,
“Yes, we live here, our house always looks like this.” It should also be
mentioned that she has great cuticles!

So now I suggest you go over and explore her blog and find yourself guffawing. I'm jealous of the way the humor and jokiness just trip off her fingers so easily. Well, maybe not jealous. But I can see I am going to have to work a whole lot harder to fulfill my own mission which is to make people laugh, giggle, snort and/or chortle, not necessarily in that order (and maybe not all the time.)

P.S. Jacki, I hope you are okay with me blogging about your blog and displaying your photo on my blog. But I figured that most bloggers WANT to be publicized, and therefore it's intrinsically okay. (I still want your permission!) It's like people who go to the San Diego Comic Con all dressed up like refugees from "Planet of the Apes;" OF COURSE they want you to take their photograph. Right? It's obvious, right?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Vision Magazine Publishes My Story About "The Invisible Ones" - by Patty Mooney

Vision Magazine just published my story about how my husband, Mark, and I first learned about homeless veterans, and why we decided to produce a documentary about it, called "The Invisible Ones: Homeless Combat Veterans." Here's an excerpt:


How many times have you passed up a sleeping figure underneath a blanket or tarp on the darkened streets of your city? Have you ever considered that this could be one of our war heroes?

This question entered my consciousness in the summer of 2007. As partners of a video production company called Crystal Pyramid Productions, my husband, Mark Schulze, and I received a call from the Veterans Administration to document the 20th Annual Stand Down in San Diego, CA. “Stand Down,” we wondered. “What’s that?” We learned that in military parlance, a stand down is when a soldier steps away from combat operations and experiences a momentary rest and relaxation prior to heading back into the fray. Its definition has been extended to name an event which addresses the plight of homeless veterans on the streets of America.

The San Diego Stand Down sustains homeless veterans for three days with hot meals, cots, showers, shaves and haircuts, plus a change of clothing. The veterans can receive medical, dental and holistic treatments, as well as counseling and legal advice from caring volunteers—all in one location. They enjoy camaraderie with fellow veterans and best of all, they don’t have to worry about the “combat” that takes place daily out on the streets.

Robert Van Keuren and Dr. Jon Nachison are the two Vietnam veterans who founded this event. Van Keuren explains in his Stand Down Manual that “Stand Down is a belief in the triumph of the human spirit over extraordinary odds. It grows out of a conviction that the overwhelming number of homeless veterans is unacceptable, and that the veteran community itself must respond. Stand Down is designed to transform the despair and immobility of homelessness into the momentum necessary to get into recovery, resolve legal issues, seek employment, access health services and benefits, reconnect with the community and get off the streets—a very tall order for a three-day event.”

These men opened our eyes to the harsh reality that we have far more homeless veterans sleeping on our streets than most Americans know about. Homeless vets make up about 25 percent, and probably more, of the total homeless population. Dr. Nachison said that the figure of 200,000 across the nation is “the statistic now bandied about,” but he thought it was much too conservative a figure, since homeless veterans are difficult to count. He emphasized that he and Van Keuren had devised Stand Down because they “wanted to send a message to the nation that to have 25 percent of the homeless [as] veterans was a national disgrace.”