January 11th, 2006

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Embraced -

I wake at three, embraced by the rain. I feel peaceful, as I lay snuggled under the covers, listening to the rain, and Steve's soft purr. I am still with my neighbor. She is bringing soup by today. When we moved here, Jeff was just four, and Chris not yet one. Mary was not yet pregnant, and then, she was. She had Tyler, and then, Jill. We speak of all the strollers we see now, the young mothers and fathers, and it is hard to believe so much time has passed. We are now those we thought "old" when we were young. Mary and Jim have always been staunch Republicans. They voted for Bush both times. Last night, Mary said she would go to Canada before she would let Jill be drafted by Bush for his war in Iraq. I think we are hearing the death knell on men too fearful to fight themselves sending young man and women to some kind of supposed glory that is actually hell for all involved. A young man we know is there, and supposed to be sent home soon. We pray he comes home healthy, and mentally, physically, and emotionally well.

My father fought in World War II, and my grandfather is World War I as did all able men in those times, and many women, too, but this war is not that. I am grateful that Bush's true colors are now being seen by those who believed in what were once Republican values that have been distorted. I read somewhere recently that the Republican party and Christianity both stood for something. They united originally to free the slaves. Now, they unite to make rich people richer. Again, I think we are seeing a change. Hurricane Katrina showed us that New Orleans had sunk literally into the third world category. Children go to bed hungry and uncared for in this country. Our moral superiority is no more. The whole world sees that we have work to do at home. I think the shadow of the United States is now visible for all to see; even we ourselves can see it shining darkly in the light.

Steve and I listened to an interview with Mary Oliver on the radio last night. She spoke of how she used to rise early to write her poetry, but now, she sometimes writes in the night. She spoke of change. Mary Oliver was introduced as a poet who writes of nature, and not people or politics, but she made her feelings on Bush very clear. When asked why she is now speaking out on politics, she said because politics has never been this bad. It is true. This is a wake-up call for us all. A year or more before this last election, Jeff, who knows computer security, said there was no way to control security on the computer voting. We saw what happened in Ohio.

Over the years, my neighbor and I have both been independently busy, and sometimes saw each other only in passing, and more intimately only a few times a year. Now, because we are both dealing with health issues, we will meet to walk slowly, and talk. I think many of us have lived, seemingly functioning independently through some of our years, but, actually all along we have been supported and intertwined. I think that is what this country is coming to see. We share one planet, one earth, one sky, one moon, many moons, a sun, many suns, and we haven't even begun to explore what else we share. We are begun!

I am peaceful, and savoring the embrace of the rain, and the dark!
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Wholeness -

I am again finding myself not wanting to return to chemo. This is the half-way point. Tuesday I will start a new drug that requires about five hours to administer. No one knows what the side-effects will be for me. It is so odd to feel how clearly my body wants to never again return to 1350 S. Eliseo in Greenbrae, and yet, how I continue to advise people to do chemo if their doctor is recommending it. Perhaps, this so clearly shows the division in which we all live. Life is not black and white. We have to discern our path through the grays.

I am reminded now that yesterday I copied a quote into my journal. It was in bold, so I didn't realize it was actually in gray, not black, until I began to wonder why my continued typing on the computer screen was showing up in a lighter print than before. It seemed impossible since obviously the screen color has nothing to do with the physical fact of a printer and whether or not it has ink. I found it odd. Then, I realized I had released the bold, and was seeing the true color of the quote, gray, not black. How does this paragraph connect to the last one, you might ask? It may not be clear, not black or white, but, to me, somehow, it does.

A joyous morning to you all, with continuing discernment of a multitude of grays, and enjoyment of merging black and white to see what creates.
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Charlotte Joko Beck in Everyday Zen

Many years ago I was a piano major at Oberlin Conservatory. I was a very good student; not outstanding, but very good. And I very much wanted to study with one teacher who was undoubtedly the best. He'd take ordinary students and turn them into fabulous pianists. Finally I got my chance.

He taught with two pianos. He didn't even say hello. He just sat down at his piano and played five notes, and then he said, "You do it." I was supposed to play it just the way he played it. I played it—and he said, "No." He played it again, and I played it again. And he said, "No." We had an hour of that, and each time he said NO.

In the next three months I played about three measures, perhaps half a minute of music. Now I had thought I was pretty good; I'd played soloist with little symphony orchestras. Yet we did this for three months, and I cried most of those three months. He had all of the marks of a real teacher, that tremendous drive and determination to make the student see. That's why he was so good. And at the end of three months, one day, he said, "Good." What had happened? Finally, I had learned to listen. And as he said, if you can hear it, you can play it.

Charlotte Joko Beck, from Everyday Zen

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My "take" on James Frey and "A Million Little Pieces."

I consider this statement a cop-out of the highest proportions. I copy it from the New York Times today.

"Memoir is a personal history whose aim is to illuminate, by way of example, events and issues of broader social consequence," said a statement issued by Doubleday and Anchor Books, the divisions of Random House Inc. that published the book in hardcover and paperback, respectively. "By definition, it is highly personal. In the case of Mr. Frey, we decided 'A Million Little Pieces' was his story, told in his own way, and he represented to us that his version of events was true to his recollections.

"Recent accusations against him notwithstanding, the power of the overall reading experience is such that the book remains a deeply inspiring and redemptive story for millions of readers."

As far as the charges, which were made by the Smoking Gun Web site, "This is not a matter that we deem necessary for us to investigate," said Alison Rich, a spokeswoman for Doubleday and Anchor Books.

James Frey in his memoir says he has committed numerous felonies and spent three months in jail. This, he now admits is not true. This is like someone saying they have been through chemo even though they haven't. Yes, it is true that my experience is only mine, and no two reports of chemo will ever be alike. Someone else might breeze through this. Another might suffer ten times more than I, but each story matters because the person actually is going through the experience. They are not imagining the experience. They are experiencing it, and reporting how it is for them. It is their interpretation, but it is an interpretation of something that is happening, not something imagined or made-up. Could you read my journal and write a fictional account of the experience of chemo from it? Possibly. Could you write your response to my experience? Absolutely! Should you write and say because I have been through chemo that you have been through it too? Even despite the news reports this week on mirror neurons, I think this is a stretch I am not yet willing to accept.

We have categories. We have fiction, non-fiction, and memoir. If James Frey is writing fiction, it should be marketed as such, and not called a memoir because that is what is currently selling right now. At this point, it seems pretty generally acknowledged that the journals of Anais Nin were carefully constructed and edited accounts of her life, and not the spontaneous overflow she might have suggested, but, at least, they were her life.

We have a president who lies. Does that mean that lying is okay? No, it does not. It means we have a president that lies. We don't have to let that trickle down. Trickle down economics doesn't work. Trickle down lying is unethical. Lying is lying, and, I think, on this one, despite my recent "treatise" on grays, that this one does seem clear to me. There is a place for black and white. If you were not in jail for three months, then, don't say that you were, and call it a memoir. Write fiction, and, at this point, get the damn book out of the memoir category and into the fiction one where it belongs.

Admit a mistake was made and correct it. I remember when the book, "The Mutant Message Down Under" came out years ago. The author said she was not willing to reveal her sources, and so, the book went from a supposed true story to fiction. I still feel unclear where the "truth" is on that one, but I do think it is important to error on the side of calling it fiction when there is doubt. Jon Carroll wrote a good column on this at the time. He felt he had been "suckered" into believing it. The book would not have sold as well as it did, if it had been originally marketed as fiction, but people, I included, wanted to believe that a woman could be picked up off the street and taken on a "walk-about" by Australian aboriginals and survive just fine, even though she was traveling without her sunscreen in the desert sun.

I cannot imagine what three months in jail is like. I could never have imagined what two months of chemo has been like. I feel someone lying about an experience they have not had degrades the person who actually goes through the jail experience, and degrades my experience of chemo. It cannot be imagined. It is beyond that. So, that is the end of my tirade, or maybe not.

Perhaps I would like to say that no one can imagine what it is like to have no hair until they don't, and that this is not like shaving your head. This is different. My whole body is at rest right now. No hair grows. I feel like I am a planet without a spin. I look like someone going through chemo, and yet, sometimes, I don't feel like I am going through chemo. I don't know what anything means. I look alien to myself. I feel alien to myself. Some people treat me like an invalid. Sometimes I need that. Other times I don't. I am confused a good deal of the time. Who am I? I don't want to read of someone imagining what this is like, and saying it is true. I want to read someone who has personally been through it, and I will still know it is his or her experience and not mine. Yes, the Uncertainty Principle points out it is hard, if not impossible, to pin things down, and yet, each one of us knows in our heart when someone is lying to us. We feel the lie inside. We don't need publishing companies lying to us. Perhaps a boycott of Doubleday and Anchor books is in order until this little problem that they want to ignore is fixed. I will personally purchase no book from this company until I see them stand up with some ethics. I don't need to support the support of lies.
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All right!! From the NY Times Today!!

Op-Ed Contributor to the New York Times.

A Million Little Corrections

Published: January 11, 2006

IT is with great sorrow, and no small amount of embarrassment, that I must confess to some inadvertent errors, omissions and elisions in my best-selling memoir, "A Brief History of Tim." In the wake of the recent revelations about the work of J T Leroy and James Frey, it seems inevitable that some of my small mistakes will come to light, and so I feel duty-bound to be upfront and honest with you. Plus, I hear that reporters have been sniffing around.

I feel that none of the slight liberties I took in writing my memoir really affect the overall work, but nonetheless, you should know a few things:

I am not, in fact, black.

Nor am I, to the best of my knowledge, a woman. Anything in my book that suggests otherwise is the result of a typographical error. That this error was compounded by my decision to pose for my author photo and bookstore appearances in drag and blackface is, I will acknowledge, unfortunate.

The portions of my book dealing with Depression-era Ireland are, I have been reliably informed, copied verbatim from Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes." I can only conclude that I accidentally confused my manuscript with my notes for my memoir in which I copied large portions of other writers' works, just to see how they were structured. In hindsight, the fact that I was born 40 years after the Depression should have been a tip-off.

My parents are both alive; any reference to my being orphaned at age 12 was meant to be strictly metaphorical.

Furthermore, my parents and their lawyers would like it known that neither they, nor any other member of my family, ever beat and/or had sex with me. I thought it was clear that those parts of the book were meant as a joke. (That's what the emoticons were for.)

In writing a narrative, it is sometimes necessary to compress or combine certain incidents for dramatic effect. I did much the same thing in the chapter of my book dealing with my prison term, although in reverse: in the interest of dramatic clarity, I expanded my 1993 arrest for jaywalking into a seven-year stint in Sing Sing for manslaughter.

Okay, it wasn't so much a jaywalking "arrest" as a ticket.

Fine, it was a stern warning. Happy now?

The death of my older brother, my ensuing severe depression and subsequent emotional breakthrough with the help of a caring psychotherapist did not happen to me, but rather to Timothy Hutton in the film "Ordinary People," which I saw at a very impressionable age, and which I could have sworn happened to me.

Ditto for the part about accidentally hacking into Norad and being saved from causing a global thermonuclear war, with an assist from Dabney Coleman. That was "WarGames."

Really, the fact that I could remember his name only as "Dabney Coleman" should have given me pause.

And, finally, since people are getting all "fact-checky" on me, I should just confess that my life did not, in fact, shatter into a million little pieces. I just went back and recounted. It was six pieces. Consider it a rounding error.

Tim Carvell is a writer for "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart."

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My Morning Flow!!

This is what flows forth from me today.


Ode to James Frey

Today, Jane,
did Tai Chi under the Mulberry tree
in the rain,
with Jim -
I want to say I did, but I didn’t -
I was tucked in bed,
not out under a tree in the rain,
a Mulberry tree,
doing Tai Chi -
I can imagine myself doing it,
swirling around like an umbrella,
to pause -
I have seen people doing Tai Chi,
I know rain,
I know Jim and Jane -
I am not actually intimate though,
with a Mulberry tree, so,
I hesitate. 
Though I love the sound of the words,
doing Tai Chi in the rain,
under a Mulberry tree,
today, I lay in bed,
with Steve and Mandu,
and listened to the cozy sound
of rain just pattering down
like words that are true
to their form.


today Jane is thinking about roots,
and I am thinking
about the center of my chest,
my sternum -
I want to reach out with my heart,
like a huge drum,
and gong a beat so strong,
you march with me
and I, with you -
I hear the music of Sousa.
I am a parade of many, of One,
the stars caught in my hair,

(whoops, fiction now, not memoir -
at least, I can remember what it is like to have hair -
I had hair, once, and will presumably again.)

like sparklers,
lit on the seeds
that spun
in the air
when life
was first
begun -


Ah, beating heart
I hear you,
honor you,
you -

Am I my heart?

Is my heart
an antenna,
beaming, and receiving
the pulse
that parts
and brings together
like the opening and closing
of the anemone,
the tides
of the sea,
the blood, the pulse,
the salt,
in and out
of me, not-me?
Is there a me,
or only connection
defined by you?
Are we containers
the waves
to be,
like babies,
swaying in baskets,
from trees?


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Poem from Jane today!!

I have buried everything into the soil.

All that is closed to sky will turn into opals

Or will swell into roots and mine the minerals from the core.

This is a place to begin, here in darkness.

The memory of the stars is my map.

Having nothing, I can embrace anything.

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I like this!

"Knowledge has three degrees-opinion, science, illumination. The means or instrument of the first is sense; of the second, dialectic; of the third, intuition."


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My version of the National Anthem -

In talking to Jane today, I realized that we each needed our own version of the National Anthem!

I took some "liberty" with mine, since that is what the United States is supposedly about.

I invite you to send me yours.

light -
morning -
night -

no rectangle of cloth
symbolizes my breath,
my pulse,
my connection with you -

we live in the moisture of shared air
rowed in and out -

Let’s bomb ourselves,
the knowledge,
of  that -