Affordable Care Act: It’s the Law

Posted by admin on Tuesday Oct 1, 2013 Under Uncategorized

obamacareI was all set to start blogging on my author site Mexico as part of my marketing campaign, just something light and breezy, and then –- damn! — if those tea party Republicans didn’t get on my last nerve when they shut the government and the economy down.

While my neighbors who work in the National Parks will be getting their salaries docked, our Representative Tom McClintock is raking in several hundred dollars a day plus government healthcare, healthcare he wants you to be free enough not to have. Since he makes roughly $174,000 a year, he really doesn’t need his gold-plated federal employee insurance for himself and his family, but I haven’t seen him offer to give it up, you know, just on principle. Neither did I see his name on the list of Representatives who have decided to forgo their salaries during the shutdown since other federal employees, like the many who work in ALL the Sierra National Parks in McClintock’s own district, aren’t getting paid.

Time to call BS on this guy, or you could just call him. The number? (202) 225-2511. Ask him when he’s going to pony up. I did, and his secretary told me it was an appropriations problem. Not for the other representatives it wasn’t.

It’s time to remind Rep. McClintock that the ACA is the law. Remind him that this law was declared constitutional by the US Supreme Court, that the guy who put the Obama in Obamacare got re-elected, and the guy who wanted to repeal it got defeated. What’s next? Repealing the law that gave women the right to vote? Or Blacks? Wait. That IS what North Carolina is trying to do.

If you’re reading a blog written by a retiree about gardening, recipes and life in the country, you’re probably on Medicare, in other words, Obamacare for seniors.

How’s that working out? Pretty good, huh.

conserv-exchangePANELJust so you know. Obamacare is not going to do anything to your Medicare. Period. In spite of Ronald Reagan’s prediction that Medicare would be a disaster and that you’d be “spending your sunset years telling your grandchildren what it was like in America when men were free”, you’re probably glad you’re not dead broke from medical bills and forced to move in with them. Trust me, they are, too. It’ll be the same with Obamacare. People will like it. Even young people will like it. Yes, even those poor, young people the Koch brothers say are being forced, FORCED to buy insurance they don’t need will be glad they have it.

Yoo-hoo. Everyone needs insurance, especially young people with their whole, and we hope healthy, lives in front of them. Have any of the geezers in the tea party actually been around any young people lately? Do they let them into the senior living parks where these people are hunkered down?

If not, here are some notes from the field: Young people ski, snowboard and mountain bike on dangerous trails. They are always getting rescued by the ski patrol or medevac’d out of the backcountry. They drink and fall off second floor decks. They go to Frat parties and end up in the emergency room with alcohol poisoning. They speed; they ride motorcycles without helmets; they break their arms playing ultimate Frisbee at college. They have raging hormones, pick up guys in bars and end up with one of those social diseases you sure want to make sure doesn’t get passed around. They travel to third world countries on the cheap and come back sick as dogs or have to take isoniazid because they got exposed to TB.

girlscancunWhy do young people do this? Because. They. Are. Young. They take risks. Oh, and they are all going to live forever. That’s why older people have to nag them to get insurance, have to be, you know, responsible adults not well-paid shills for the Koch brothers.

Tragically, every now and then, one of those young people does develop cancer and would, without Obamacare, never get insurance in this country again. You should be so lucky if your kid pays for insurance and NEVER has to use it. That’s the point, people.

Obamacare does not cut the insurance companies out of the loop here, is not National Healthcare like they have in most of the developed European countries, because God forbid we should be like, let’s say, Denmark—that socialist hell-hole.

I mention Denmark because my cousin and her husband experienced the full impact of National Healthcare there once on a Baltic cruise. Freedom-loving Americans here’s the story. You’ll be in tears afterwards, I promise, just not for the reason you think.

A few days into the cruise out on high seas, my cousin’s husband, an LA surgeon, realized that what he had thought was a bad cold was much worse. Turned out he had pneumonia and had to be transported to Copenhagen where he was in the hospital for three weeks in the care of American-trained doctors who sadly were laboring under the yoke of socialized medicine, a real tragedy. The state also provided room and meals for my cousin while her husband was in the hospital, just to let you know how bad it was! She missed all the fun of staying in one of those $200 dollar a night Extended Stay motels next to the freeways. Sad.

My cousin’s husband soon realized that the doctors treating him were using very sophisticated techniques. At one point, he asked a group of them, since they’d trained at places like Cornell Weill, why they weren’t practicing medicine in the US where they could make so much more money.

Here’s what they said: In Denmark all of their medical school bills were paid for. Their healthcare and their families’ healthcare were covered. Daycare, kindergarten and schools were all good and all free. Their kids’ college costs were covered, plus if the kids continued on to grad school they would be considered “national treasures” and given stipends. If you factored in what they would have to pay to practice medicine in the US what with accountants, malpractice insurance, a staff, healthcare for the staff, healthcare for themselves and their families, college and so on, they were much better off in Denmark even with high Danish taxes. Plus, they worked fewer hours with much less paperwork, and they had a guaranteed pension that was more than enough! Why should they move?

happy3See it’s sad what national health care will do to people. They’re employed, so what? You only know what real freedom is when you get laid off, have no health insurance and you have a gun. Pay taxes? What a bunch of lazy chumps. Can’t they at least TRY to figure out how to squirrel their money away in the Cayman Islands? LOSERS! And who cares that, in an international study, Denmark was deemed to be the happiest nation in the world. What do these people know from happy? True happiness is when your kid with a Master’s Degree finally moves out of your basement because he got a part time job at Starbucks with health benefits.

But, here’s the really sad part. You know how much it cost my cousin for three weeks of state-of-the-art medical care?

Nothing. Nada. Zip-wah.

National healthcare. Sucks doesn’t it?

Like I say, you don’t know what freedom really is until you get to pay $12,000 for a rooster-comb injection in your arthritic knee like Dave did. True story. I swear to God. Dave thought the bill was a typo. It wasn’t!

As far as Obamacare goes, I’m afraid a small minority of House Republicans are on the south end of a north moving horse on this one. Don’t get in line with them. Trickle down will have a whole new meaning for you.

As of the writing of this, two million people in New York have visited the website for healthcare exchanges. In Connecticut by 9:30 am, 10,000 people had visited the site set up there. In Kentucky, there’s been huge interest. Sorry Rand Paul. And then this: The federal site, where people from the 36 states that refused to set up their own exchanges will be signing up, has been deluged with requests. More than one million people hit the federal exchange site,, in the past 24 hours, five times more users than have ever been on the website at one time. I’m sure it’s more by now.

The Affordable Care Act. It’s the law. Go online to and see how it can help you or a loved one. Time to get informed. You’ll be glad you did.

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Speaking Truth to Power

Posted by admin on Thursday Sep 26, 2013 Under Uncategorized

For the next three months, I’m going to be blogging over at my novel’s website, which I set up to market my book. I should probably be Tweeting, and Facebooking, and sticking pictures up on Pinterest, too, but since there are only 24 hours in a day, I’m hoping SEO will get readers to my site and to my book. I’d actually like to be, you know, writing novels. Anyway, visit me over at, and let’s see if I can meet my goal of selling 500 books.

gabbyThroughout this whole process of putting a book out, I’ve been thinking a lot about what women must do to be part of the cultural and political discourse. Unlike me, some risk their lives.

In January 2011, Gabrielle Giffords was shot in a supermarket parking lot. Her crime? Holding a constituents’ meeting in a public place in a country so addicted to violence and guns it can’t think straight.

On October 9, 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban terrorists on the way to school. Her crime? She wanted an education, to be able to read and write. For this, she was shot by a patriarchal group addicted to violence and women-hating.

wendy_davis_memeLast year when the Texas legislature held a special session to deny women access to reproductive medical care, Wendy Davis, at one time a poor, single mother herself, stood and filibustered for eleven hours so that other women might have the same opportunities and choices she has had. The Texas law that later passed is a legal shot in the head for women.

That Gabby Giffords lived to be a beautiful, bright voice of reason is nothing short of a miracle. That Malala lived to speak so eloquently for the rights of girls is a miracle, as well. That Wendy Davis had the strength to stand up to the whole male establishment in the state of Texas is awe-inspiring. They are speaking truth to power.

This phrase—Speak Truth to Power— comes from a document created by The Society of Friends, the Quakers, in response to the arms race.

They identified a country’s worst enemy as not something external to that country, but something internal. They concluded the enemy within was:

1.) The Lust for Power
2.) The Addiction to Violence
3.) The Denial of Human Dignity

boehner092013Nowhere did we see that enemy better illustrated than by Republican members of the House of Representatives at the victory party they held after cutting funds to the SNAP program, funds that go disproportionately to children, the elderly and, increasingly to military families. That many of the members who voted to take food from the hungry also personally receive millions of dollars in farm subsidies, which they all voted to renew, is beyond hypocritical and power-lusting. It’s vicious. It’s venal. Words fail, really.

If you count these congressmen’s addiction to the NRA, you’re pretty much looking at what Quakers consider to be our worst enemy. It’s us. We voted for this. And if we didn’t vote for it, we didn’t speak truth to power loudly or often enough.

So where does that leave a Romantic Suspense fiction writer, a self-published one at that? Where does that leave me?

Jimmy Carter SayingIf I don’t speak truth to power in all ways available to me, in my blog, in my books and at the scariest of all — family gatherings, I will have aligned myself with cowards, hypocrites and Machiavellian ideologues.

Self-publishing my novel Palace of the Blue Butterfly was one little way of speaking truth to power. The novel tells the story of an older woman who longs for some kind of transformation. There is romance but not on the man’s terms. It explores the terrible period of McCarthyism in this country. It does not glorify the very rich, and it refutes the lie that Americans are comfortable perpetuating—that Mexico is a backward country full of desperately poor campesinos and drug lords.

When the powerful in my little world said that the Mexican setting wouldn’t sell, that the love interest couldn’t be Mexican, that my protagonist was too old, I could have remained silent. I did not. While there was no gun to my head nor was I in anyone’s crosshairs, it took a certain bit of courage to demand to be heard. It was a small step, nothing as huge as the women above, but it was a step.

It’s interesting that at last year’s Romance Writers of America annual conference, the largest workshop— standing room only—- was on self-publishing. Women storytellers are no longer allowing themselves to be silenced.

What if the writers—the actual workers in the 1.5 billion dollar a year industry that is romance novel writing— organized, demanded better contracts, created more publishing houses than three media conglomerates? Think about it. That’s close to a million women writers. If they started speaking truth to power, our whole collective narrative could change. No longer would women feel they had to be thrilled by heavily armed Navy Seals or whip-wielding plutocrats like in Fifty Shades of Grey. They could fall in love with bumbling guys you wouldn’t even want carrying a leaf-blower. You know men who are kind, gentle, soulful and who aren’t addicted to violence or lusting for power.

I can almost see a collective sneer. Romance Writers. Who are they? A bunch of fluff ball girls. Alas, there are so many ways to extinguish women’s voices, and this isn’t the worst.

malalaTo the Taliban, Malala was an infidel, Gabby Giffords was in the NRA’s cross-hairs, and Texas Republicans have tried to slut-shame Wendy Davis by calling her Abortion Barbie.

Really, doing almost anything that isn’t sanctioned by a male institution is subversive. I would add now after Citizen’s United that doing anything not sanctioned by an extremely wealthy white male institution is subversive.

Of course if we care about democracy, this is exactly why you, we, I have to speak truth to power every chance we get.

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Lookaway, Lookaway: North Carolina and the Not-So-New . . .

Posted by admin on Friday Sep 20, 2013 Under Uncategorized

. . . South

As everyone around here knows, I’ve been sick, really sick. After several days of terrible pain, Dave drove me down the mountain to the emergency room—otherwise known as The Village of the Damned—where I waited for five hours before being seen by the ER doc. The other lost souls in the waiting room included a stroke victim slumped in a wheelchair, a half starved, young woman clearly in the throes of a psychotic break, plus the usual folks with no health insurance, their faces covered with paper masks, who use the ER as a primary care facility.

lookawayFortunately, I had a really good book to get lost in, Lookaway, Lookaway, by Wilton Barnhardt of Raleigh, North Carolina.

Years ago an agent told me I should exploit my Southern background in my writing. She meant Southern as in mansions covered in honeysuckle, spirited young belles and old black maids dispensing the wisdom of the ages. I tried to explain how the south wasn’t really like that anymore, probably never was, but it took this author to really nail it. Barnhardt is Dickens with a drawl, doused in bourbon, ready to put to rest every illusion and delusion the south has manufactured about itself since the first convict ever set foot on Georgia soil.

The Charlotte, North Carolina portrayed in this novel IS my southern background. In fact, it’s where I was born and raised. Finally, someone got around to skewering the antebellum fantasies of Southern gentry and laying waste to the crass culture of Banktown, as Charlotte is known these days.

Barnhardt spares no one — not the golf-playing alcoholics at the country club bar decked out in plaid pants and pink Polo shirts, not the fans of southern romance novels who swarm to a local writer’s book signing in a soulless strip mall, not the real estate developers who stub out depressing lots in a sprawling suburban wasteland, not the sanctimonious church goers lurking on a hook-up site called charlottedownlow nor the couture-wearing society dames who bare their well-manicured talons on the local museum board. No one.

About the only three things that survive this writer’s close-to-the-bone satire are the lush Piedmont landscape, Carolina barbeque (both eastern and Piedmont style) and Carolina coleslaw.

Praise the Lord. No more low-country, jasmine-scented scenarios. This book is as raw as the red clay landscape it comes from.

You see, I always thought I might go back to North Carolina. I mean, I bought the whole thing about how North Carolina was the New South, forward thinking, poised to be a leader in commerce and the arts. In fact before we bought the ranch, Dave and I looked for property there once, wading through underbrush-covered homesites always on the lookout for copperheads everywhere we stepped.

You know, North Carolina has more venomous snakes than any other state in the nation, and that doesn’t even count its new governor, former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory, and the rest of the state legislators.

Unless you’re from NC, you’re probably not paying attention to what’s going on in the great Tarheel State. Let me explain as simply as I can: The Klan (or descendents thereof) has ridden into Raleigh. Only this time its members are dressed in Brooks Brothers suits instead of white robes and are armed with Mont Blanc pens instead of burning crosses. In a few short months, they have managed to do the unthinkable: They have turned North Carolina into South Carolina — a backward place I always thought of as full of redneck racists still fuming about the War of Northern Aggression, still mourning the Dreadful Surrender. Short of hush puppies and the beaches, I didn’t really see how SC contributed much to the national well-being. Ah but, that was before its former governor went “hiking on the Appalachian trail” and gave us all a new euphemism for cheating on your spouse and something to laugh at, which is always good for the soul. So, there’s that.

Lookaway, Lookaway pulled me through some dark hours, made me laugh, even though I was sick and in pain, and helped make sense of my upbringing as in — You have not been alone, Jane. Someone else was right there with you rolling their eyes.

yosemiteI go back to NC these days to see family, and after a few days spent with bankers and stockbrokers in the humid air under the crepe myrtle and magnolias, I start to get itchy for something a bit more rugged. These guys give the appearance that the hardest thing they’ve ever done in life is hit a golf ball over a water hazard. Foreclosing on poor people? They don’t even break a sweat doing that, so it doesn’t count.

I can never really relax until the plane is over the granite spine of the Sierras, and I see Yosemite’s alpine meadows and the snow covered north faces of the mountains.

The mountain west is my home now. It can be a stark landscape, full of rock, sky and icy lakes, but there’s something about it that makes me feel stronger, wilder, more imaginative, freer.

And then there are the cowboys. You’ll never catch them wearing plaid golf pants and pink shirts. Trust me. Never.

Robert Redford, cowboy

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Ladies, need I say more?

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Antoinette Tuff: The Power of Stories and the Power of . . .

Posted by admin on Thursday Aug 29, 2013 Under Uncategorized

. . . Compassion.

A remarkable young woman prevented another shooting in a school, and she did it without a gun.

oaklandFor a number of years, I taught ninth grade English in Oakland Unified School District, a job Wayne la Pierre and the NRA would like me to be armed for. I started out in a school in a mostly Mexican neighborhood so bad it was called “the kill zone”. Everyday, I parked my car behind concertina wire and passed through a metal detector to reach my classroom.

I believed it was my job not only to teach English but to teach the path of peace. My students saw so little of it.

We started each year with an essay by Alice Walker describing how she lost her eye in “gun play,” and then we moved on to a story by Fresno writer Gary Soto called, “Being Mean,” which the kids all loved. In the story, the children of a couple who are employed in a broom factory are left to their own devices during the summer. They do all the scandalous things you would expect kids to do under those circumstances, and needless to say, it does not turn out well. The first line of the story was this: “We were terrible kids I think.”

gary soto3By the end of the student’s writing and reflecting on the story, I always revealed something of Gary Soto’s biography, that he was the son of farm workers in the Central Valley and now was a full professor of English at UC Berkeley and a renowned poet. Is there anything in this story, I would ask, that would predict this transformation from a terrible kid to an English professor? Just as I hoped, someone would inevitably point to the first line, to the phrase “I think”. The writing assignment that night always involved comparing a time you acted without thinking vs. a time you acted upon reflection.

By the time we got to Romeo and Juliet, the students could see that Romeo’s impulsivity led to his being banished etc., and they did not think he was “Fortune’s fool,” as he wailed at the end of the Act. “He should have reflected on his actions,” they would write.

Can you imagine my teaching those lessons with a loaded gun?

This stupid idea reveals many things, but for sure, it shows an absolute ignorance of teaching in today’s world. Does the NRA think that teachers are standing at a podium in front of a chalkboard like in the 1800s, gun at the ready? Maybe. But in the real world where I lived, the kids worked in groups; I moved all over that classroom, guiding, questioning and so on.

Tell me where would the gun be then? Locked in my desk? It would HAVE HAD to have been locked in there, you know. The key, of course, would have had to have been in my purse, which would have been locked in my file cabinet. Well, you get my point.

Maybe the NRA would suggest that I put it in a shoulder holster and strut around the room with it. And what if a rather large ninth grader, maybe even a kid held back who was maybe fifteen or sixteen, decided to wrestle me to the ground for it? What then, Wayne?

I’m sure the NRA answer would be more guns. They are, after all, a gun manufacturer’s organization in the business, you know, of selling guns.

My answer is more people like Antoinette Tuff. (and Gary Soto,too.)

Here’s what she did:

antoinette-tuff“Tuesday’s gunman incident at an elementary school near Atlanta ended with no injuries or deaths. This is mainly thanks to Antoinette Tuff, a school clerk who spent about an hour calmly persuading the gunman to put his rifle down and surrender.

Tuff feared the worst when she encountered the gunman carrying an AK-47 assault rifle and other weapons in her school office. She told reporters, “I saw a young man ready to kill anybody that he could.”

She told ABC’s Diane Sawyer that much of her conversation focused not only on trying to understand the gunman, but also on trying to get the gunman to relate to her. “I just started telling him stories, ( emphasis mine)” she said, and things like, “You don’t have to die today.” Tuff told him a story of tragedy in her own life, and explained to reporters that she simply asked him to put his weapons down and surrender to police. She “talked him through it” by reminding him that “life will still bring about turns, but we can learn from it.”

Thank you Antoinette Tuff and all who walk in the way of peace.

(from Ranger 995 on Daily Kos)

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Fish Stew: Like One of
Ina Garten’s Recipes Only . . .

Posted by admin on Thursday Aug 22, 2013 Under Uncategorized

. . . easier ( and just as good).

Paso Robles Wine CountryUnless you’ve been hiding under a rock and not reading my blog or downloading my book( link), you probably know my great affection for Mexico and all things Mexican.

So, it’s not surprising that one of my favorite little California towns is Paso Robles or La Ciudad del Paso de los Robles, with its leafy town plaza and wineries.

Okay, so now the town is sort of like Old Mexico meets Italy and Spain infused with San Francisco foodie culture. It was a great place to celebrate our anniversary this year before heading to the coast.

We wined and dined at the enchanting Villa Creek restaurant, the area’s old Mexico roots showing in the restaurant’s decor — oxblood colored walls, tapestries from Oaxaca, wooden box beams, austere Mission-style architecture, and of, course, a charming patio garden.

Villa Creek was serving a Fish Stew that was a lot like my recipe, and as it turns out a lot like Ina Garten’s recipe. What can I say? Great minds and all.

I thought I’d write this up for everyone. I have never served this dish that someone has not requested the recipe. It’s a lot easier than Ina Garten’s Fish Stew recipe.

The real trick to this is the quality of the seafood. I’ve used a combination of Cod, Monkfish, Filet of Sole, Shrimp, Scallops, and Clams. But, ALWAYS use shrimp and a little Filet of Sole. The Sole sort of falls apart, leaving a nice texture and some sweetness that I like. The total amount of fish shrimp and fish should equal four pounds.

Jane’s California Coast Fish Stew

(with a nod to France and the Mediterranean)

2 lbs. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 medium raw Idaho potato
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. hot pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsps. dried basil
1 tsp. leaf saffron, crumbled
2 whole cloves
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 cups peeled tomatoes, fresh or canned
1 cup dry white vermouth
1 lb cod cut into large pieces (or other white-fleshed fish like striped bass)
1/2 lb. filet of sole
1/2 pound monkfish cut into large pieces
( You could also use bay scallops, but throw them in at the end and cook just until opaque)
1 TBS. Pernod

1. Clean and shell shrimp and set aside
2. Peel the potato and split in half lengthwise. Cut each half into slices about half an inch thick. Drop the slices immediately into cold water and set aside.
3. Heat oil in a dutch oven. add onion and cook until translucent
4. Add the garlic, hot pepper, thyme, basil, saffron, cloves, salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and vermouth and bring to a boil. Put through a food mill and return to skillet. Add the potato, cover and cook fifteen minutes.
5. Add the cod, monkfish and filet of sole. Partially cover the pot and cook eight minutes.
6. Add shrimp and cook about five minutes, partially covered
7. If adding bay scallops, throw them in after the shrimp has cooked about three minutes. Cook until scallops have just turned opaque,
8. Right before serving add the Pernod.

Serve this stew with crusty bread and a simple salad. A chilled Viognier would be the perfect wine.

California Coast

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Ina Garten’s Recipes Only . . .

Bird of Paradise: Romantic Suspense Novel Set on the . . .

Posted by admin on Thursday Aug 15, 2013 Under Uncategorized

. . . West coast of Mexico!

Finally! After all the proofreading and all the formatting and all the figuring out how to get Palace of the Blue Butterfly on Amazon Books and Goodreads, I‘m starting to revise my second romantic suspense novel Bird of Paradise.

This is sort of what I look like these days—only no fishbowl, no fish, no green branches, just me staring out into space.

Any normal person would wonder what I’m doing.

Well just FYI: Yesterday, my imagination took me to a beach on Mexico’s Pacific coast. I felt the sand on the soles of my feet, the wind in my hair, heard the waves, the shells being pulled out to sea, and in this trance, characters emerged from nowhere, for example, the French guy— Francois Richter. Where did he come from? He wasn’t in my first draft. But Bee, my main character, opened the door of the van, and there he was in the front passenger seat. I’ve spent my insomniac hours between 2 and 4 am trying to figure out who he is, what he’ll do.

I suppose the rest of you have real jobs, right?

Bird of Paradise started a long time ago when Dave and I took a trip to the west coast of Mexico. Our plan was to hit the funky beach towns around the Bay of Melaque for a few days and then luxe it up at Costa Careyes before heading east to Oaxaca, San Cristobal and Palenque.

Unfortunately, the first night in Barra de Navidad, I came down with a horrible flu—fever, coughing, absolute misery. In desperation, Dave went to the local pharmacy in search of some Mexican version of Nyquil and returned bearing a brown glass bottle, retrieved, it appeared, from some sorcerer’s den. “I don’t know about this,” he said, holding the bottle up to the light to see if it had congealed. “The guy got it from the back of the store. It was covered in dust.”

Since the bottle came with no instructions, I figured two tablespoons would do it. Boy did they. I think I hallucinated for a week; everything I heard or saw—the vacationing pot growers from Humbolt County, the surfer dude expats, the beautiful Europeans at Costa Careyes, swathed in gauzy, white pareos, who punctuated everything they said with the words “tu sais, tu sais” regardless of what language they happened to be speaking — charmed me.

It — the place, them — all seemed larger than life, mythic, iconic. Wow was I stoned!

Tropical beach in Mexico

Anyway, I never forgot them. Neither have I forgotten the stunning woman —an American travelling alone— writing in a notebook as she lay on her chaise lounge in front of the small cove of Playa Rosa, lifting her binoculars every now and then to look at birds.

Who was she? I wondered. What was she doing there alone?

Bird of Paradise is my answer.

Mexican Beach

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I Keep Thinking About Something Adrienne Rich . . .

Posted by admin on Thursday Aug 8, 2013 Under Uncategorized

. . . wrote about women and lying.


Well, because I’ve been thinking a lot these days about blogging and truth-telling. You know, the opposite of lying.

I discovered women’s blogs when I moved out of the city. How? Looking for recipes. Back in the Bay Area, I would have simply grabbed a copy of Saveur on the way into the supermarket. Oh look. We’ll have Thai inspired shrimp skewers with cilantro jasmine rice. Done.

In the boonies, it’s not so easy. See Jane search for recipes and come up with all these women’s blogs. Like Etsy, you can get lost reading about these women’s live. What struck me then, and what I think has been lost, is how honest they were, which is why I was thinking about the essay I’m going to share with you.

I mean back in the day even Pioneer Woman was writing things like this little poem:

“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, their war crimes pierce my brain.
Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, I slowly go insane.”

Now, that she’s on Food Network it’s all sweetness and peonies 24/7.

Not that I blame her. Her children have the right to their privacy now that she’s a big star. But, I think the national conversation anonymous women were beginning to have with each other has been diverted. That’s too bad.

I set out from the beginning in this blog trying to tell the truth, well, as much as I could, without spilling the family secrets and all. Maybe I focused too much on the positives. Here are some things I might have left out:

Living in the middle of nowhere is not always easy.
I miss going to foreign films in San Francisco. What I don’t miss is the city’s nightmare traffic, so Yoo-hoo. Netflix. But, it’s not the same. It’s just not.
Rattlesnakes scare me, and they are part of life here. Only one this year so far.
Killing rattlesnakes scares me.
Dave killing rattlesnakes scares me.
I worry about my cat when I hear the coyotes.
I will never waste days freezing tomato sauce again. It’s the fresh tomatoes I want anyway.
The heat in July gets to me and makes me crabby.
I even get tired of the relentless sunshine.
And yes, I get tired of cooking ALL. THE. TIME.

And this list covers the externals. It doesn’t reveal what goes on inside, all the self-doubts, weak moments, fears, disappointments. I told Dave that this year I felt like a sponge just soaking up everyone’s sorrows. But, my friends and family have the right to their privacy. So, I can’t really talk about it.

What I can do is share something that guides me in my blogging, my fiction writing, my friendships and my life. This quote comes from a book by Adrienne Rich called ‘Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying’, (1975).
Here goes—

The possibilties that exist between two people, or among a group of people, are a kind of alchemy. They are the most interesting things in life. The liar is someone who keeps losing sight of these possibilities.

When relationships are determined by manipulation, by the need for control, they may possess a dreary, bickering kind of drama, but they cease to be interesting. They are repititious; the shock of human possibilities has ceased to reverberate through them.

It isn’t that to have an honorable relationship with you, I have to understand everything, or tell you everything at once, or that I can know, beforehand, everything I need to tell you.

It means that most of the time I am eager, longing for the posssibility of telling you. That these possibilities may seem frightening, but not destructive, to me. That I feel strong enough to hear your tentative and groping words. That we both know we are trying, all the time, to extend the possibilities of truth between us.

The possibility of life between us.

Anyway, this explains why I haven’t even tried to go commercial— no photos of Land-of-Lakes butter or Kraft cheese.

I want to create a space for myself that’s safe for “groping tentative words” a place that extends the possibilities of truth and of life between us.

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Thinking about Derek Wolcott, Adrienne Rich and. . .

Posted by admin on Thursday Aug 1, 2013 Under Uncategorized

. . . me.

I read an article recently in which a critic made a disparaging remark about women’s blogs, how it was fortunate that so many women out in the sticks had an outlet.

An outlet? An outlet? As opposed to, say, writing book reviews in a journal that probably has far less readers than those little, ole, bloggy thingies, right?

Okay, Jane, breathe. Breathe deeply.

Anyway, the snide remark got me thinking about a speech the poet Adrienne Rich gave at Smith College thirty four years ago during the height of the feminist movement. I had to dig around to find the quote I wanted. Here it is . . .

“When those who have the power to name and to socially construct reality choose not to see you or hear you . . . when someone with authority describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked in the mirror and saw nothing. It takes some strength of soul to resist this void, this non-being, into which you are thrust, and to stand up, demanding to be seen and heard.”

That strength of soul is what you are witnessing in many women’s blogs and self-published books. They may seem traditional on the surface, but that belies a greater subversiveness I think. In another statement, Rich tells us “A revolutionary [ work of art] reminds you where and when and how you are living, and might live. It is a wick of desire.”

Is that not true of so many of the non-commercial women’s blog and novels? And that wick of desire? That’s what my novel Palace of the Blue Butterfly and my website represent to me.

And then I remembered a poem I wanted to share with you by the Caribbean, post-Colonial, Nobel Prize winning poet Derek Wolcott. He uses the convention of a traditional love poem, but this time, the returning lover is the despised colonized self who has broken free from the colonizer’s destructive grip.

This poem reminds us where and when and how we are living and might live

Love After Love
by Derek Wolcott

The day will come,
the time will come,
when with elation you greet yourself,
arriving at your own door.
And each will smile at the other’s welcome,
saying “Sit here, eat.”
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine, give bread,
give back your heart to itself.
To the stranger who has loved you all your life,
whom you ignored for another,
who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs
the desperate notes.
Peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit, feast on your life.

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Blackberry Picking: Every Summer I Think of This Poem

Posted by Darren on Wednesday Jul 24, 2013 Under Uncategorized

While I’ve been getting my new website up, I’ve been picking blackberries daily, fighting the bees to get to them. They are so dark and sweet I often don’t use sugar with them. Recently, I’ve taken to making a super simple blackberry cobbler. So simple. Here it is: Put 4 cups of blackberries in a greased 9 by 9 dish. Melt 1 1/2 sticks of butter in a microwave. Add 1 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 to 1 1/2 cup of sugar. Stir this together into kind of a dough. Can be crumbly. Pinch off enough dough to make small golfball size balls and flatten into discs with your hands about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Lay discs on top of the blackberries and cook for forty-forty-five minutes in a 350 degree oven. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream. Your husband will love you forever.

Like all homey simple recipes, you may have to adjust the sugar, depending on the blackberries and your taste. Don’t add more butter, though.

Here’s to “days of the good flesh continuing, to tenderness, to those afternoons, those evenings, and blackberries, blackberries, blackberries “

Meditation at Lagunitas

by Robert Hass

All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies.
We talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you and I. There was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

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Posted by admin on Wednesday Jul 24, 2013 Under Uncategorized

Okay, so if we still lived in the Bay Area, we’d probably celebrate the launch of my book and the new website at Gary Danko’s, or Boulevard or even the old sentimental favorite Chez Panisse.

But we don’t.

Good news is no waiting one month for reservations, no major attitude. (I remember my mother rolling her eyes at Chez Panisse and drawling, “They act like I’ve never seen a candied violet before in my life.”)

However, if I want food that good I have to cook it. More good news. If you keep it very simple, it’s possible. (Okay, not the white corn and lobster soup that I had there that I will never forget, but still . . .)

As this was a celebration, I didn’t want to spend hours slaving. I’d already done that on the book and website. In Food and Wine Magazine, I found a great simple recipe I will save for all time.

Grilled Scallops in a Honeydew and Avocado Salsa


Finely grated lime zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 1/2 pounds honeydew melon, rind removed and melon cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 1/2 cups)
1 Hass avocado, cut into 1/4-inch dice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds large sea scallops

In a large bowl, combine the lime zest and juice with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the diced honeydew melon and avocado. Season the salsa with salt and black pepper.

Light the grill. Drizzle the scallops with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Grill over moderately high heat, turning once, until nicely charred and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. ( I used scallops from Whole Foods and grilled them 2 1/4 minutes total.) Transfer the scallops to plates, spoon the salsa alongside and serve.

The toasty flavors of a California Chardonnay would be delicious with the sweet and smoky scallops. We drank a bottle of Talley Rosemary Vineyard Chardonnay that we’d been saving for just such an occasion. Their Arroyo Grande Chardonnay is excellent with this, too.

I wish I had a picture of the patio with all the little twinkling lights and flickering candles and me and Dave happy, happy, but I don’t. I’ll put up this old picture of the patio.

This is just to say that you can have a Chez Panisse meal on a Wal Mart budget. Cost of ingredients maybe 10 dollars. The wine a splurge given the event, but my Italian friends love Kendall Jackson Chardonnay. Can’t beat the price there.

For some reason, I’m on this mission to show all us 99 percenters that we can live like the 1 percent with a little creativity and work. Maybe if we’re all having a good time, are not angry and resentful, we won’t vote for mean, stingy people who cut food stamps for poor children. Maybe.

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