Friday, July 31, 2009

Lessons of Life - by Regina Brett

To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me...It is the most-requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone...

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends andparents will. Stay in touch.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first pay check.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journeyis all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is upto you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for ananswer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don'tsave it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'dgrab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

42. The best is yet to come.

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

San Diego Comic Con 2009 Slide Show - by Patty Mooney

Find more photos like this on Friendship Society

The Dance - A Poem by the Armenian Siamanto

I just read an article in the Summer issue of Intelligence Report (the publication sent out when you contribute money to Morris Dees's Southern Poverty Law Center for their work against hate criminals). The article talks about how Turkey is paying millions of dollars to prominent U.S. historians in an effort to cover up the Turkish genocide of more than a million Armenians in 1909. I have been boycotting Turkish apricots, grape leaves and clothing for the last 30 years after learning about how they murdered an entire nation of people and now pretend nothing ever happened. I believe in the adage that the person who knows something is wrong and says or does nothing is also complicit in that crime.

This is a very heart-rending poem written by Siamanto, born Adom Yarjanian in Turkish Armenia about his experience during the Armenian genocide. I will warn you, it is quite graphic and may be disturbing to a sensitive person (as it was to me).

The Dance

In the town of Bardez where Armenians
were still dying,
a German woman, trying not to cry
told me the horror she witnessed:

"This thing I'm telling you about,
I saw with my own eyes.
Behind my window of hell
I clenched my teeth
and watched with my pitiless eyes:
the town of Bardez turned
into a heap of ashes.
Corpses piled high as trees.
From the waters, from the springs,
from the streams and the road,
the stubborn murmur of your blood
still revenges my ear.

Don't be afraid. I must tell you what I saw,
so people will understand
the crimes men do to men.
For two days, by the road to the graveyard . . .
Let the hearts of the whole world understand.
It was Sunday morning,
the first useless Sunday dawning on the corpses.
From dusk to dawn in my room,
with a stabbed woman,
my tears wetting her death.
Suddenly I heard from afar
a dark crowd standing in a vineyard
lashing twenty brides
and singing dirty songs.

Leaving the half-dead girl on the straw mattress,
I went to the balcony on my window
and the crowd seemed to thicken like a clump of trees.
An animal of a man shouted, "you must dance,
dance when our drum beats."
With fury whips cracked
on the flesh of these women.
Hand in hand the brides began their circle dance.
Now, I envied my wounded neighbor
because with a calm snore
she cursed the universe
and gave her soul up to the stars . . .

In vain I shook my fists at the crowd.
'Dance,' they raved,
'dance till you die, infidel beauties.
With your flapping tits, dance!
Smile for us.
You're abandoned now, you're naked slaves,
so dance like a bunch of fuckin' sluts.
We're hot for you all.'
Twenty graceful brides collapsed.
'Get up,' the crowd roared,
brandishing their swords.
Then someone brought a jug of kerosene.
Human justice, I spit in your face.
The brides were anointed.
'Dance,' they thundered -
here's a fragrance you can't get in Arabia.'
With a torch, they set
the naked brides on fire.
And the charred bodies rolled
and tumbled to their deaths . . .
I slammed the shutters
of my windows,
and went over to the dead girl
and asked: 'How can I dig out my eyes?"

This poem as translated by Peter Balakian and Nevart Yaghlian appears in Carolyn Forche's book, "Against Forgetting"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

In the Elevator With Tim Burton - by Patty Mooney

I promised I would post some San Diego Comic Con 2009 photographs. Today I will share my "Tim Burton experience." Mark and I have been covering the San Diego Comic Con since the late 1990's. Prior to that, Mark attended the convention as a boy when it was still being held at the El Cortez Hotel, and there were only a couple thousand attendees. After all these years, we know our way around. So this year, we wended our way through 125,000 attendees, to the Press area where we spotted Tim Burton sitting at a table getting interviewed. That's where I snapped the above shot.

Then, Mark and I strolled toward an elevator to get down to the ground-floor level. Unbeknownst to me, Mark had spotted Mr. Burton behind us, also heading toward the elevator with his small entourage. Mark slowed down so that Tim could climb aboard with us. When I saw him get on, I said, "Wow! My brother-in-law will be thrilled when he hears that I went down an elevator with Tim Burton!"

Tim Burton said, "Well, we're not down yet."

Then Mark observed that Tim was sporting a splint on his little finger. "How did you hurt your little finger?" Mark asked him.

Never pick your nose with your little finger," said Tim.

Wish we could have traveled 30 floors with the inimitable Tim Burton, but it was only one, and so the ride ended. He left the elevator and walked towards a waiting limo. I have a feeling that Johnny Depp was sitting inside waiting for him, as Johnny had made a surprise guest appearance earlier at the show. (Mark and I did not get to see him, but you can't be everywhere, can you?)

Then Mark asked if he could snap a photo with me and Tim Burton. Tim kindly said "Sure!" And there I am, all ga-ga to meet Tim Burton!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Stay Tuned For San Diego Comic Con Report and Photos!

Mark and I attended the San Diego Comic Con yesterday, videotaping and photographing our way behind the scenes. We shook hands with Sigourney Weaver, and rode down an elevator with Tim Burton and Kevin Sorbo's gorgeous wife took a photo of Mark and me with "Hercules".

Time to get started with cocktails on Friday night! Must go now!

Will post photos of San Diego Comic Con 2009. Oh yeah, and it was 8 PM last night when Mark and I both remembered it was our 22nd wedding anniversary. A "working" anniversary and the best anniversary yet! ;)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

True Love - by Patty Mooney

I recently realized that I have been with my husband, Mark, for more than half of my life! That's a big wow! I just turned 54 two weeks ago, and I met him at the age of 26. We are both hopeless romantics who happened to meet on February 14 (Valentine's Day) on the balcony of a theater. I was about to perform as a singer in a play called "Pandora's Box: If Transformation is So Great, Why is it So Painful?" and he had been hired to videotape the one-time-only show. All proceeds went to the World Hunger Project.

Mark and I were visiting with his father, Rolf, yesterday. Rolf had fled Berlin with his family during World War II. We were discussing the movie "Valkyrie" and how if Hitler HAD been successfully assassinated, Rolf would still be living in Germany, and of course Mark and I would never have met, because Mark would probably not have been born, because Rolf would probably never have met Mark's mom, Evonne. One of those wild stream-of-consciousness discussions that really makes you go "Hmmmmmm!"

I remember in February 1996, People Weekly published an issue entitled "The Greatest Love Stories of the Century." There were Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Jackie O and JFK, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Marc Antony and Cleopatra, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio, Yoko Ono and John Lennon and several others. What struck me at the time was that most of these relationships ended tragically by death or divorce (which is a death in itself).

Last year I participated in a Yoga retreat in a nearby mountain town called Julian. During one workshop, 30 of us (all women) were instructed to pair off. One woman would hold her partner while rocking her gently in her arms, and then we would all switch positions. When I held and rocked "Jill," (*not her real name), she just melted into tears. She told me later how much she appreciated my loving embrace. I realized at that moment that most people do not experience love on a constant basis, as I do. Mark and I work out of our home, and so we are always "in each other's business." I can stroll into his office for a kiss and a hug anytime I want, and vice versa. At that moment in Julian, it occurred to me that most humans do not get hugs and kisses whenever they want. Those couples in People Weekly experienced fabulous love relationships, as long as they lasted, but they had to deal with being famous (or notorious). Their love lives were on display for all the world.

So which is better? To attain celebrity and a lot of money, living in a mansion with the one you love, but hardly ever seeing them because of all your acting roles and red-carpet engagements? Or to enjoy modest and yet comfortable circumstances with your one true love, with no paparazzi hanging like chimpanzees from the tree branches outside your bedroom window?

The choice is really not that tough at all, once you think about it!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Winning Armando - A Story by Patty Mooney

I was not an athletic child, and never won any prizes for sports. Spelling and mathematics, yes. But not sports! I was shy and retiring, the last chosen on any team. It was a "Catch-22" situation; the less confidence my peers revealed in my athletic abilities, the worse I would play. I was invariably the one who got hit in the head with softball, soccer ball, or football; who landed on my butt while attempting to ice skate on the frozen field behind the school; who came in dead-last in every swimming and running heat. Although taller than my female classmates, I couldn't get the basketball into the hoop; any attempt to dribble would send the ball bouncing crazily off my own feet. And I don't even want to talk about gymnastics. The hanging rope, the pull-up bars, the floor mat -- instruments of torture. I would rather have submitted to the gloating "dentist" who works Dustin Hoffman over in "Marathon Man." You get the picture. I got used to feeling mortified every waking moment. I wished on many occasions that the Earth would open up and swallow me, along with my non-existent hand-eye coordination. In high school I could easily have authored a book called "1001 Ways to Get Excused from P.E. Class." Instead, I concentrated on Science; it was not one of my best subjects, but at least I could forget about PhysEd, and became absorbed in collecting insects, and skinning and dissecting small mammals.

During my late twenties, with some encouragement and coaching from my extremely patient husband, I metamorphosed from slug to sport enthusiast. At 33, I finally earned my first trophy -- a 15-pound bronze Aztec warrior who stands, with spear raised, on top of my bedroom dresser. To look at him you'd never suspect he was a first-place prize for the particularly challenging sport of mountain biking. But he knows. And I know.

It all began on a cool, foggy November morning in Rosarito Beach, Baja California, the site of the first annual Montana Grande Mountain Bike Ride. Bright and early that day Mark and I had driven from San Diego across the border into Tijuana, and then continued down the road to Rosarito Beach. Freshly suited in lycra, with our bikes gleaming on racks atop our car, we had pulled into Rosarito Beach to join about 150 other riders well before the noon starting time. The promoters were careful to elaborate in the entry application that it was "just a ride, and not a race." However, there would be prizes for first- through third-place riders in both the male and female classes. The ride was scheduled to begin at noon. At 11:30 AM, clusters of neon-clad mountain-bike aficionados in helmets and sunglasses gathered in a tight wad at the starting site, in an alley between commercial buildings. For half an hour, we poised on our bikes, ready to roll, straining at the starting ribbon with the intestine-wrenching nervousness that clutches many a racer at a starting gate.

At noon, the event's promoter called everyone's attention, and we mountain-bikers prepared to "rock and roll." But he announced that due to technicalities, the ride would be delayed for another half hour. Some of us took turns watching bikes for each other as we sought intestinal relief in the restroom of "Peanuts and Beer," a nearby cantina. Finally, at 12:30 P.M., the ride officially began. A clot of us burst through the starting ribbon onto a twenty-mile dirt jeep track that twisted out of town and looped around the desert mountains east of Rosarito. The start was probably the scariest part of the ride for most people, careening into each other, handlebars hooking handlebars, tires nerfing tires, and dust flying as cheers rose from the onlookers.

A pack of eight or ten of the fastest men, including my husband, loped ahead and promptly became dots on the horizon. I was able to keep up with the next group of about fifty riders. After jamming along the hard-packed, rutted road, a long ascent rose up like a wall ahead of us. To my frustration, several people suddenly stopped in front of me on the dusty road. Twice I had to get off and run my bicycle around these stall victims! Finally, as the riders spread out, I was breezing down the rocky roads and working into a smooth, fast cadence. As I passed the first water /aid station five miles into the race, the volunteers there yelled, "You're the second woman, keep it up!"

I came upon some surprise singletrack with soft, rutted dirt. My tires tracked skittishly through, bouncing me off a cliff, and almost off my bike, but I held my line. Further downill, off-camber turns featuring mounds of cake-flour dirt forced many a rider to their knees.

Next, some easy-going terrain skirted alongside rancheros where cows stood chewing, observing the steady stream of mountain bike "cosmonauts." Later Mark would ask if I had noticed the cow with short legs and no rump. So intent on gaining speed, I had missed that sorry sight.

For the next five miles speeding as fast as my legs could hammer and passing male riders one by one, I felt hopeful I would catch the first woman any minute. I let myself go on the downhill stretches, one of which was so rocky and treacherous, it had claimed a rider who lay at the bottom with two medics bent over him and an ambulance parked nearby. I tried not to think about the scene as I sailed past, gathering momentum for yet another tough uphill climb and keeping the dangerous thought of crashing out of my mind.

At the last water/aid station, I rolled through calling, "Throw water on me!" A volunteer happily doused me with a cup of water that reacted like water poured into an empty radiator. It prevented me from overheating, just in time. "Three more miles to go," the volunteer told me. As I turned back to thank him, I noticed a woman coming pretty quickly behind me, about a quarter of a mile away. I revved it up as fast as I could then, thinking, "I want to win!"

I blazed past a couple of ranches where Mexican families sat outside and rooted me on, shouting "Arriba!" Grazing horses with prominent ribs looked up to scrutinize the spectacle I must have been - a frenzied, muddied woman on some sort of metal creature. Then I heard a familiar female voice greeting me from behind, "Hi Pat!" It was a fellow member of my Wednesday night riding group, Tracy, who had closed the quarter mile gap between us in no time.

"Hi Tracy," I replied. "How are you doing?"

"I crashed back there," she replied.

"You okay?"

"I'm still feeling kind of woozy."

Even after her crash she was a strong rider. We diced as she led for a few feet, then I'd pass and lead. Finally, she passed and I followed her line down a steep hill which catapulted us onto a steep incline with soft dirt. Tracy jumped off her bike and started running it up. I knew this was the critical point in our race, and that if I wanted to maintain second place, I had better stay on my bike and pump. Obsession motivated me up and over that hill and I propelled forward. I didn't look back.

I never let up and raced through the finish line ribbon as a photographer snapped my picture and a crowd cheered me and my Raleigh bicycle home. Moments later I discovered that Tracy had been the number-one woman and I must have passed her (after she crashed) without realizing it. That meant I was first-place woman. And that meant "Armando" the bronze Aztec trophy was mine to take home.

Armando stood on the center of the table outside on the cantina patio, king of all he surveyed, and focal point of the afternoon, as Mark, our riding buddies and I sat drinking beers with lime wedges and devouring baskets of tortilla chips and bowls of salsa. Every so often, one of the other riders would stop at our table and comment, "Hey! That's some trophy! Good job!"

The sky darkened as people celebrated with margaritas, tacos and beer, and those in a partying mood began dancing to the beat of a reggae band. If only my high-school classmates could see me now. Armando, my trophy who stood gazing impassively into the distance was, at 15 pounds, a hefty reminder of an accomplishment I could never even have imagined as a girl. I don't need to mount Armando to my handlebars to remind me that I can break through limitations; I just have to set my mind to it, then do it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Day At the Stand Down - Photographs and Story by Patty Mooney

I had the opportunity to go to the 22nd annual San Diego Stand Down this weekend. This is a three-day event, with tents erected on the San Diego High School athletic field, where homeless veterans can come and participate in many potentially life-altering opportunities, such as a visit with the medical or dental team, an appointment with a legal advisor or therapist, a rehab gathering, and the camaraderie of fellow veterans who share the status of homelessness.

Chaplain Darcy Pavich (wearing blue jeans and white t-shirt) is the woman who coordinates the Stand Down. To say the least, she is a Powerhouse.

I met these two gentlemen on my way across the field, and invited them to visit my blog. I hope they do!

Dr. Jon Nachison is one of the founders of the Stand Down. He and his friend, Robert Van Keuren, devised the idea to reach out to those veterans who were still "behind the wire" of homelessness. It is a dictum of the American military, never to leave a man (or woman) behind.

This is a man with beautiful eyes, a great sense of humor and comedic abilities who posed for a shot at my request. This, my friends, is the face of a homeless veteran.

I sometimes wonder, when is America going to wake up and realize that the price of war includes taking care of our veterans? I am not a fan of war - I prefer peace. But I realize that when our Commander in Chief mobilizes our military forces, then we need to take care of our warriors all the way, and not just use 'em, abuse 'em and leave 'em hanging out to dry. Both of my parents served in the military during World War II, and my sister is also a veteran. I am proud of their service to our country.

Now, I have heard several times in various conversations that many of our homeless veterans "prefer to be homeless." That is like saying that someone prefers to suffer; they prefer to be unloved and forgotten, they prefer to be treated like so much refuse floating along our city streets. I don't buy it.

I conversed with several veterans this last weekend, and was honored to hear their stories. Some of these stories are very rough to hear. How do you think it is for them, to carry their combat experiences around in their minds, day after day, haunted by deaths they witnessed and/or inflicted? PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a demon that they carry on their shoulders every single minute. If you saw a veteran bleeding from a mortal wound, would you just kick him to the curb? Then shrug and say "He prefers to bleed to death?" PTSD is like a wound that sucks the soul of a man (or woman) and spits out a ghost. Many of our homeless veterans are mere shadows of their former selves. When they served in the military, they put themselves on the line - for us Americans. The least we can do for them is to acknowledge their existence. To be there to listen to their stories. To help them anyway we can.

If you have a Stand Down in your town, go and volunteer. Spend a day talking with the veterans. Stand Down is filled with emotion, and you will be, too, as you awaken to the reality of what is going on in the streets of America. There is no more powerful thing than to gaze into the eyes of a fellow human being who has endured the rigors of combat, and paid dearly. It may haunt you, as it has haunted me. And you just might have to do something about it.

What my partner, Mark, and I did, was produce an award-winning documentary, "The Invisible Ones: Homeless Combat Veterans." We've been giving DVDs out to people for free (we do appreciate people sending money for shipping when they can, but it is not necessary). And several of these people have shown the documentary at their churches, Elks Lodges and Kiwanis Clubs to raise money for VVSD (Veterans Village of San Diego), which is the home of the original San Diego Stand Down. If you are so inclined, get a copy of the DVD and use it as a fundraising tool for a Stand Down in your own town.

One of the veterans I met at this last Stand Down mentioned that it was nice to be in the athletic field of San Diego High School. "But," he said, "It would be so much better if the high school students could be here, too, and meet the neighbors, so to speak." I dream of a day when our communities can expand to include our homeless veterans, and Johnny can truly come marching home.

Friday, July 17, 2009

RIP, Walter Cronkite!

America's health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system. Walter Cronkite

And that's the way it is. Walter Cronkite

Dan Rather and I just aren't especially chummy. Walter Cronkite

Everything is being compressed into tiny tablets. You take a little pill of news every day - 23 minutes - and that's supposed to be enough. Walter Cronkite

I can't imagine a person becoming a success who doesn't give this game of life everything he's got. Walter Cronkite

I think it is absolutely essential in a democracy to have competition in the media, a lot of competition, and we seem to be moving away from that. Walter Cronkite

I think somebody ought to do a survey as to how many great, important men have quit to spend time with their families who spent any more time with their family. Walter Cronkite

I want to say that probably 24 hours after I told CBS that I was stepping down at my 65th birthday, I was already regretting it. And I regretted it every day since. Walter Cronkite

I've gone from the most trusted man in America to one of the most debated. Walter Cronkite

In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story. Walter Cronkite

Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine. Walter Cronkite

Our job is only to hold up the mirror - to tell and show the public what has happened. Walter Cronkite

The great sadness of my life is that I never achieved the hour newscast, which would not have been twice as good as the half-hour newscast, but many times as good. Walter Cronkite

The perils of duck hunting are great - especially for the duck. Walter Cronkite

There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free. Walter Cronkite

There's a little more ego involved in these jobs than people might realize. Walter Cronkite

We are not educated well enough to perform the necessary act of intelligently selecting our leaders. Walter Cronkite

When you're bringing in a fairly unknown candidate challenging a sitting president, the population needs a lot more information than reduced coverage provides. Walter Cronkite

Fun Family Times in Las Vegas

Mooney Reunion in Las Vegas

Here's a slide show of my recent trip to Las Vegas to be with most of my family. (My dad, my sister Marge and my brother Tom could not make it.)

And below is a funny little video from our get-together.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chronic On Earth Day - Story and Photograph by Patty Mooney

On Earth Day a few years ago, my husband, Mark, and I took a walk through Balboa Park, which is the jewel of San Diego. It was a gorgeous, sunny day. Hundreds of thousands of people had come to join in the celebration. Wherever you looked were booths featuring goods and services from crystals and tie-dyed T-shirts, to alternative energy and face painting. At the food court, a scent of spicy jerk chicken commingled with that of veggie burgers and falafels. Dancers, musicians, jugglers and theatrical performers entertained the crowd at various locations throughout the park. Mothers wheeled baby carriages, and fathers gave their toddlers piggy-back rides. Couples strolled by holding hands. Everyone was smiling and happy. Everyone but me.

I have had a chronic knee problem since I was fourteen years old, when I first entered high school. My knee would suddenly "catch," and then my leg would buckle. After this happened a couple of times; once on the sidewalk coming home from school, and once on a set of stairs inside the school--very humiliating in front of all my peers--my parents took me to an orthopedic surgeon who prescribed surgery. The days of artheroscopy where just around the corner; however, Dr. Fulgenzi carved a 5" scar over my patella and scraped away the offending cartilage.

The surgery stopped my leg from buckling, but now I had a new set of problems. The scraping away of the cartilage had facilitated degenerative arthritis, and sometimes the pain from walking could be excruciating. In my twenties, I consulted with three different doctors, in three different cities, who all said that if I could not live with the pain, they would prescribe an artificial knee. One of the doctors said, "You have the knee of an eighty-year-old. If you were eighty, I'd prescribe the artificial knee without a second thought. But you're too young; it would only get you around the block." I decided to live with the pain.

A regimen of Motrin 800's helped, as well as Mark's occasional bright comment, "The longer you hold out (from getting an artificial knee), the better medical technology will get. Eventually you'll have a bionic knee! You'll be able to run faster than me!" This, coming from someone who had run a four-and-a-half-minute mile in his track and field days, would make me laugh, and then I'd forget about the pain.

On that auspicious Earth Day, I had been living with my chronic knee pain for over twenty-five years. Now, after hiking about a mile and a half through the park with my husband, the pain was so severe that I had to sit down on a bench for several minutes. I sat there feeling sorry for myself, wondering how I was going to get back to our car which was parked about half a mile away. I told Mark, "I would rather die than have to live with this kind of pain anymore!" and burst into tears. He hugged me and consoled me as only someone who loves you unconditionally can do. He waited patiently until I felt ready to get back on my feet and head for the car. He encouraged me to lean on him and use him as a crutch as I limped forward.

Just as we came to the footbridge over the Rose and Cactus Gardens, I spotted a young man in front of us who was on crutches. Upon closer inspection, I realized that he had two artificial legs and an artificial arm. As we passed him, Mark greeted him, "How's it going?"

The young man smiled brightly and said, "Great! It's a beautiful day, isn't it?" He sounded happy to be alive and unaffected by his obvious infirmities.

I was so choked up, I couldn't say a word. I could only remember my father's words to me when I was a young girl: "There was a man who complained he had no shoes; then he met a man who had no feet."

I guess you could say that I had three heroes on whom I leaned that Earth Day: Mark, my father, and the beaming young man who shone a light on my melodrama and helped me understand that being happy comes from the inside.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Snake Charming 101 - Story and Photographs by Patty Mooney

My appreciation for reptiles goes way back. I have already written about a Jackson chameleon named Dino who carved a space in our lives for nine months and then died from a liver illness, back in the 90's, and I cried like a child after he was gone. I have a healthy respect for the snakes that can kill you or leave a lasting mark if you are not careful, and am endlessly fascinated by the non-venomous ones that are more scared of us than we should be of them.

A few years ago, at one of the streams where Mark and I like to go and hang out with nature, there was a small garter snake hiding at the edge of the water. When I began singing to him, he seemed to be entranced with the sound of my voice, and kept drawing nearer and nearer to me. My feet were both dipped in the stream, and at one point, he began to encircle my toes and ankles. As long as I kept singing, he stayed there, comfortable and unafraid. Our friend, Scot, happened to be there to see it. He said, "If you had told me about this, and I hadn't seen it for myself, I NEVER would have believed it."

Fast forwarding to this last weekend, Mark and I went to a bigger watering hole where there are a few perch that put up a short fight at the end of a fishing line, and several fat orange dragonflies that hover back and forth over the water.
It's a blissful place under the sun. The only aggravation is a large boulder that was tagged earlier this year with black spray paint by someone named "Shirley Nezza" or someone who loves her. Way to go (not!) and thanks for sharing (not!) Next time, stay home and do your painting on some butcher paper. Geez.

Anyway, it was a lovely day in the
as I like to say, and what do you know, I spotted an adolescent garter snake on the far side of the pool. Mark mentioned to our friends, Zack and Kim, that I had charmed a snake once before and could probably charm this one. So I tried it. I began singing to the little guy. He seemed to really enjoy a tune from "The Wizard of Oz" (which I have probably seen 50 times), and he bolted right towards me, sliding across my feet which were immersed in the pond, then he came to a stop nearby where he seemed to feel safe.

He was not skittish when I pulled out my camera and started snapping photos of him, inches from his face. It was quite a great experience for me, communing with a pure animal spirit. Then, later that night I dreamed about singing to a whole bunch of garter snakes that were enraptured by my voice, like I was a sort of "American Snake Idol." Their little heads stuck out of the water as they listened intently. Pretty trippy! Kris Allen, eat your heart out!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Summer of Mathematics - by Patty Mooney

Summer is my favorite time of year. I have many happy memories of family trips to Canada, Michigan, and Illinois.

One time when my family was living in Bellwood, Illinois, our plans for a road trip to visit our relatives in Detroit were almost ruined when at the age of nine I came home from school with a note stating that I had failed math and would need to attend summer school. I now realize that I had performed so dismally in math because being so shy, I sat in the back of the classroom; and since I needed glasses (which nobody realized yet), I could not see the chalk board.

My mom spoke to the principal, and I was not privy to the conversation, but my family ended up piling into our big Chrysler station wagon and heading to Detroit that summer. When we arrived at the home of my grandparents who lived in a section of Detroit that is now unfortunately the ghetto, my grandmother sat me down at the dining room table and spread some matchsticks out in front of me. Grandma Mooney was a teacher by trade, and with the heavenly scent of a peach pie baking in the oven, she taught me how to add, subtract and multiply right then and there with those matchsticks.

"How many do these two plus these two make?" she would tilt her head and ask.

"Four!" Of course! She taught me how simple it was to work with numbers and I realized that the compromise my mother had made with the principal of my school was that my grandmother would conduct "summer school" by personally tutoring me.

This is one of my most precious memories, as I adored Grandma Mooney, and felt privileged to thrive under her attentions.

That was one of the best summers of my life, and it really laid the groundwork for who I am today. Recently I received notice that I am a finalist as the San Diego Business Journal's "Top CFOs of 2009," and I believe I have my grandmother to thank for that. She died about a year after teaching me the essentials of math - and of family devotion. She went quietly, in her early 60's, in her sleep.

Shortly after we returned to Illinois that summer, I got my first pair of glasses and was amazed at the crispness of leaves on the trees, and how I could actually make out what the street signs said. The world was no longer fuzzy to me. I could see distinctly where I was going, and I was on my way.

Friday, July 10, 2009

How to Get Your Man, a Book by Sally Huss - Reviewed by Patty Mooney

If you have ever read the book, "Illusions," by Richard Bach, you'll know exactly what I mean when I say that it's a terse philosophical manual. You can sit down and read it in an afternoon while gleaning important instructions on how to be a happy human being.

Sally Huss's book, "How to Get Your Man: The Slam-Dunk Formula to Getting the Love of Your Life" is an even faster read than "Illusions" but anyone who properly digests the advice offered in it, will be very glad they picked up this thin tome to begin with.

Huss's book is sprinkled liberally with her own "happy musings" which are quotes about love accompanied by drawings. For instance, "The more you love, the more you will love" floats above vibrant hearts, bees, flowers and a snail.

Sally Huss not only shares her path to love but offers a practical method for finding that special someone you have been dreaming of. As Sally says, this "recipe" is also good for "other things such as finding a job, a career, a school, an apartment, a home or even to creating a desired lifestyle. It is the setting in motion of an intention which, through the infallible Law of Attraction, brings to you what you want, what your heart is truly set on."

That's worth the price of the book, don't you think? You can find this whimsical book (priced at $14.95) and learn more about Sally Huss at Sally's website.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Art of Andean Retablos; A Second Glance - Photographs by Patty Mooney

San Diego's Museum of Man is now hosting an exhibit called "The Art of Andean Retablos" and I was so entranced after seeing it the first time, I recently went back for a second glance.

This is "Maguey tree trunk, Scene 1: Birth of Christ in the Andes" (by Claudio Jimenez Quispe). The explanation given is: The child from the countryside was born surrounded by animals, such as the bull, the mule, hens and even wild birds, near the flora of the "sancay cactus." The father is happy to have a son to help him work in the fields. Materials used are maguey tree, potato, Plaster of Paris and paint.

The predominant artist in the show is Nicario Jimenez Quispe. He works with the themes of religion and politics, creating with such ingredients as wood, white alabaster, paint, potatoes, leather and nails. This is his "Nativity Scene."

One thing that has always mystified me is how after the Spanish padres decimated the indigenous cultures, the Catholic religion was able to take root and flourish, even though it was the creed of the marauders. One panel on "History of Retablos in Peru" says that The retablo evolved into something sacred for the Andean people as they began accepting Catholic icons. This resulted in a unique form of religious syncretism; a blending of traditional and new beliefs. The retablo became an object with magical and religious functions (a type of talisman) for the Andean people. They often viewed retablos as wak'as -- sacred objects of honor. By the 1700's, retablos were a standard part of Andean religous life.

Seen here are some of the tools and materials used to create retablos. A panel entitled "Traditional Retablos of Andean Life" states that Retablos play an important role in Andean communities. They are most commonly used in the annual branding ceremonies of cattle, sheep and llamas. Boxes are also passed on within families as important heirlooms symbolizing protection, healing and fertility. Retablos are even sold as art, providing a livelihood for retablista artists.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Red, The White and The Blue - Photographs by Patty Mooney

Happy Birthday to the USA. Here are some photographs from my "Red, White and Blue" collection for you to enjoy.

Blancs - A Poem by Patty Mooney

In the rain shadow
of the Cascades
at night,
when grapes are coolest,
the fresh, crisp fruit
is gathered.
Sauvignon Blanc grapes
are used for "Fume"
and "Sauvignon Blanc" wines
in a dry style,
with ample fruit
and supple, grassy flavor.
In the nose,
a "fruit salad"
of aromas and ripe pears,
melon and under-
lying notes of bright citrus.
Delicate aromas
of green apple and honey,
peach and tropical fruit.
Flavors of apple
emerge in the mouth.
In the mouth
a taste of Persian melon.
A silky texture
the long, silent time
sequestered in wood.

As published in Neologue, 1997

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Wedding Dress That Made History - by Helen Zegerman Schwimmer

Lilly Friedman doesn't remember the last name of the woman who designed and sewed the wedding gown she wore when she walked down the aisle over 60 years ago. But the grandmother of seven does recall that when she first told her fianc� Ludwig that she had always dreamed of being married in a white gown he realized he had his work cut out for him.

For the tall, lanky 21-year-old who had survived hunger, disease and torture this was a different kind of challenge. How was he ever going to find such a dress in the Bergen Belsen Displaced Person's camp where they felt grateful for the clothes on their backs?

Fate would intervene in the guise of a former German pilot who walked into the food distribution center where Ludwig worked, eager to make a trade for his worthless parachute. In exchange for two pounds of coffee beans and a couple of packs of cigarettes Lilly would have her wedding gown.

For two weeks Miriam the seamstress worked under the curious eyes of her fellow DPs, carefully fashioning the six parachute panels into a simple, long sleeved gown with a rolled collar and a fitted waist that tied in the back with a bow. When the dress was completed she sewed the leftover material into a matching shirt for the groom.

A white wedding gown may have seemed like a frivolous request in the surreal environment of the camps, but for Lilly the dress symbolized the innocent, normal life she and her family had once led before the world descended into madness. Lilly and her siblings were raised in a Torah observant home in the small town of Zarica, Czechoslovakia where her father was a melamed, respected and well liked by the young yeshiva students he taught in nearby Irsheva.

He and his two sons were marked for extermination immediately upon arriving at Auschwitz . For Lilly and her sisters it was only their first stop on their long journey of persecution, which included Plashof, Neustadt, Gross Rosen and finally Bergen Belsen .

Lilly Friedman and her parachute dress on display in the Bergen Belsen Museum

Four hundred people marched 15 miles in the snow to the town of Celle on January 27, 1946 to attend Lilly and Ludwig's wedding. The town synagogue, damaged and desecrated, had been lovingly renovated by the DPs with the meager materials available to them. When a Sefer Torah arrived from England they converted an old kitchen cabinet into a makeshift Aron Kodesh.
"My sisters and I lost everything - our parents, our two brothers, our homes. The most important thing was to build a new home." Six months later, Lilly's sister Ilona wore the dress when she married Max Traeger. After that came Cousin Rosie. How many brides wore Lilly's dress? "I stopped counting after 17." With the camps experiencing the highest marriage rate in the world, Lilly's gown was in great demand.

In 1948 when President Harry Truman finally permitted the 100,000 Jews who had been languishing in DP camps since the end of the war to emigrate, the gown accompanied Lilly across the ocean to America . Unable to part with her dress, it lay at the bottom of her bedroom closet for the next 50 years, "not even good enough for a garage sale. I was happy when it found such a good home."

Home was the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington , D.C. When Lily's niece, a volunteer, told museum officials about her aunt's dress, they immediately recognized its historical significance and displayed the gown in a specially designed showcase, guaranteed to preserve it for 500 years.

But Lilly Friedman's dress had one more journey to make. Bergen Belsen , the museum, opened its doors on October 28, 2007. The German government invited Lilly and her sisters to be their guests for the grand opening. They initially declined, but finally traveled to Hanover the following year with their children, their grandchildren and extended families to view the extraordinary exhibit created for the wedding dress made from a parachute.

Lilly's family, who were all familiar with the stories about the wedding in Celle , were eager to visit the synagogue. They found the building had been completely renovated and modernized. But when they pulled aside the handsome curtain they were astounded to find that the Aron Kodesh, made from a kitchen cabinet, had remained untouched as a testament to the profound faith of the survivors. As Lilly stood on the bimah once again she beckoned to her granddaughter, Jackie, to stand beside her where she was once a kallah. "It was an emotional trip. We cried a lot."

Two weeks later, the woman who had once stood trembling before the selective eyes of the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele returned home and witnessed the marriage of her granddaughter.
The three Lax sisters - Lilly, Ilona and Eva, who together survived Auschwitz, a forced labor camp, a death march and Bergen Belsen - have remained close and today live within walking distance of each other in Brooklyn. As mere teenagers, they managed to outwit and outlive a monstrous killing machine, then went on to marry, have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and were ultimately honored by the country that had earmarked them for extinction.

As young brides, they had stood underneath the chuppah and recited the blessings that their ancestors had been saying for thousands of years. In doing so, they chose to honor the legacy of those who had perished by choosing life.


It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated with the German and Russian peoples looking the other way!

Now, more than ever, with Iraq, Iran, and others, claiming the Holocaust to be 'a myth,' it's imperative to make sure the world never forgets, because there are others who would like to do it again.

And.... from my father-in-law, Rolf, who fled Berlin with his family during WW2, a response to the cousins who sent him this story.....

Thank you for sending me the story of the wedding dress, it reminded me why I became a sociologist and why I am a "born again atheist." First of all I was deeply affected by the revelations of the holocaust and the brutality of the Nazi regime. After the end of the war, when I had just turned age thirteen, I first learned of the full extent of the extermination camps and other deeds committed by Germans against Jews and others. The question of how human beings could do such horrible deeds against other human beings eventually led me to become a sociologist. Finally, the fact that many millions of very religious people both committed such atrocities and others suffered these atrocities proved to me that the kind of Deity portrayed by religious authorities either could not possibly exist or permit such deeds.
Think about it.

Rolf Schulze

Friday, July 3, 2009

Skinnydipping Cozumel - A Poem by Patty Mooney

Night has chased off the iguanas and invites me
into the water on the lee side.
The sea is even sultrier than the air
and wanting nothing between me and the stars
I strip and enter. It's like diving
between succulent thighs, I ride
the surge to ecstasy, it carries me,
a swift caress. The moon
reaches for me, I am drenched
in warmth and spangled light.
My underwater goggles paint lucid scenes
of darting clown fish, a shoal of angelfish
like a sheet of plasticene and fins,
urchins hiding, thorn cushions in mottled crevices.
It's all so delicious until the flick
of jellyfish on skin, then again, and again.
My fins crank, I spin away
from this drama of pain, I shall leave
mermaiding to the mermaids.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"The Wrestler" - A Film Reflection by Patty Mooney

Mickey Rourke is most of the most fascinating actors out there to me, because he's a former pretty boy who went into boxing and had his face beaten up almost beyond recognition. Thus, he was perfectly cast for his role as Randy "The Ram" Robinson in "The Wrestler," a washed-up guy who in 1989, performed at Madison Square Garden and now, 20 years later, is lucky to play to an audience in a venue the size of your local Elks Lodge. He can barely scrape his rent together and is locked out of his trailer by an annoyed landlord; and yet he spends the money from his latest fight on performance enhancement drugs, a hair bleaching treatment and a tanning session. Some of that money is also tagged for Pam (Marisa Tomei) who plays an aging stripper. You see these two "seasoned" characters continuing to milk jobs that are best suited for younger people, and yet they both cling to their roles, knowing that if they let go, they will fall and there will be no stunt mattress to fall on.

Then the Ram is involved in a bloody match involving barbed wire, metal folding chairs, insect spray and a staple gun, which nearly sends him to the grave. He suffers a heart attack, wakes up in the Intensive Care Unit after bypass surgery, and the doctor gives him the dreaded news. Another match could Slam the Ram for good.

The Ram has a daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) whom he shunned during her entire childhood, when his career was soaring. Now, as he faces his own mortality, he tries to patch up the relationship and it's looking positive until he goes on a tequila bender and has a one-night stand with a wide-eyed, large-breasted blonde on the same night he had promised his daughter he would take her to dinner.

Out in the "real world" beyond the wrestling arenas, The Ram is just another guy trying to find work to pay the rent and buy an occasional lap dance from Pam whom he loves. But she has crossed the forbidden line between "customer and stripper" and is now confused about what she really wants from The Ram.

You are constantly rooting for The Ram, knowing that a come-back is his only salvation, and yet it could be the end of him. Out there on stage, it's his "true family" of wrestlers and fans who have sustained him this long. He's in constant pain, his daughter despises him, the woman he loves is an apparition. He's a haunted man. And when you treat yourself to seeing this movie, he will haunt you, too.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

It's My Birthday and I'll Ride If I Want To - by Patty Mooney

What do you say to a husband who surprises you with a brand new mountain bike? "Let's ride!" Here is "Lush Plush," a Trek Fuel EX8, leaning against a tree, just before a good dust-up along the Laguna trails.

The long socks are for protection from poison oak. But don't look at the socks. Look at that bicycle! My last bike was a Klein Adept with 2002 (ancient) technology. Riding on the new Trek was like floating on marshmallows. With such advances in mountain-bike technology, I now have faith that we will be able to do many things as a society that we heretofore thought were impossible.

A little dust coating does not hurt. But as they say, "the first scratch is the deepest." I'm happy to report that so far, Lush Plush is unscathed.

Lush Plush takes on the high-desert singletrack, making me feel like a studette again on the climbs. And I feel like I'm back to my bad self on the downhill technical sections. This bike has 27 gears. Unbelievably awesome!

Special thanks to Matt Myers, General Manager at Trek in La Mesa for helping me obtain this new bike. I love it!