Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rachel Alexandra Retires Before Breeders Cup

Now, anybody who knows me knows that I liked Rachel Alexandra last year during her campaign as a three year-old. It was a grueling campaign that won her Horse of the Year. It was well-deserved. I still wish she'd come out to California to participate in Breeders Cup and face Zenyatta in the Classic, but her owner, Jess Jackson, chose not to because (let's be honest) he didn't want a replay of Curlin not handling the synthetic track. Rachel had clinched Horse of the Year with or without a Classic win; when Zenyatta beat the best of the boys in the Classic, that just made the rivalry between Zenyatta and Rachel an even greater one.

So, racing fans had high hopes for this year. The Breeders Cup is being run over dirt at Churchill Downs in November, so it seemed at the outset that this time (should both horses remain sound) Rachel and Zenyatta would finally meet.

It ain't gonna happen.

Rachel Alexandra, it has been clear, is just not the same horse she was last year. She came off her long layoff and lost (to Zardana, Zenyatta's stablemate, whom Zenyatta went on to beat later on in the year), so it seems pretty clear had the two met in that race, Zenyatta would've bested her. That race was over dirt, by the way. (For some reason, Zenyatta's detractors always seem to forget that she has won twice over dirt and that her trainer, John Shirreffs, even says that Zenyatta actually prefers dirt.) But back to the recap. Rachel then faced a couple of soft fields and won. But last time out, she ran in a real Grade I with some genuine competition, and she tanked in the stretch. I said that day to forget about Rachel meeting Zenyatta in the Classic. The reason? Rachel can't get the distance.

She's been firing four furlong bullets in training lately, but FOUR furlongs is a clue. She's got speed, all right. But what she doesn't have is staying power.

Zenyatta is a deep closer, and frankly, she's just getting rolling about the time Rachel is running out of gas. The one thing that Jess Jackson does NOT want to see is Rachel tiring and Zenyatta rolling past her, ears pricked, loping along with that big stride, picking everybody off, and making it look like a cakewalk. There is no question that, right now, that is exactly what would happen, yes, even over dirt and on a track Rachel is more than familiar with, having won and trained over the surface.

I did think Rachel would show up in the Breeders Cup, though, just not in the Classic. But apparently Jess Jackson is thinking it's best to just retire her in case she gets beaten once again. Is he being a pussy? Maybe.

But that's okay with me. He intends to breed her to Curlin, and they should have some remarkable, and expensive, babies.

In the meantime, Zenyatta will have a prep race for the Classic this weekend. I'll be there at Hollywood cheering her on for her last race in California. Then she'll be off to face the boys once again in the Classic, which, if she wins, should earn her the Horse of the Year accolades many believe belonged to her last year. Zenyatta will retire, we hope, a perfect 20-for-20, with two Classic wins, which has never before been done by a female and by only one male (Tiznow).

And then maybe, just maybe, Zenyatta's naysayers WSTFU.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Billie Holliday: "Strange Fruit"

This one's a song with an interesting history, one of America's first "protest" songs. It's not quite jazz; it's not quite folk music. I first heard it when it was covered by Nina Simone. But Holliday's original version gives me shivers. Billie Holliday, that cigarette-smoking, gin-slugging, gambling diva who "acted like a man," took both male and female lovers, and had an unremarkable voice (just barely over an octave range) yet could make a song her own and make it unforgettable ... THAT Billie Holliday, who, once down South, walked away from a lucrative gig with Artie Shaw's orchestra when a white man yelled out during the set to "bring that nigger singer back onstage."

Simply put, the song "Strange Fruit" (1939) is about the lynching of black people in the American South. Read more about it here.

Monday, September 27, 2010


I can't WAIT to see this movie! Secretariat is the greatest racehorse ever.

I just wish I'd gotten to see him run in person, but I do remember watching the Belmont Stakes on television, when he won by a whopping 31 lengths. That still makes me catch my breath whenever I think about it.

Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, I did at least get to see where he was born (at Meadow Stable, which was in Doswell, Virginia). Doswell was actually about a ten minute drive from where I went to college at Randolph-Macon. I still remember my father packing us kids into the car after Secretariat won the Triple Crown and driving the family up to Doswell to look at the farm. Mostly I remember the rows and rows of grassy meadows and white fences that went on forever.

Here's some Secretariat trivia for you: the average horse's heart weighs about 9 pounds. When Secretariat died, the autopsy revealed his heart weighed close to 22 pounds. It's not a genetic mutation; he happened to have the large heart gene that other great racehorses like Eclipse and War Admiral had. 22 pounds was unusually large for even these horses.

He was truly a remarkable horse, the greatest ever (no disrespect to Man O'War).

Zenyatta is rapidly earning her place among these ranks, though they don't run racing campaigns nowadays the way they were run back in those days.

This Post is Brought to You by Gray Hair

This is so unfair. Look at me!

I am getting seriously gray.

My right temple (left in the photo) is gray. And now my hair (which used to be brown) is getting enough gray throughout it that I'm starting to look, well, salt-and-peppery.

I am only 48 years old, but OMG was I feeling my mortality this morning on the way to work. I was in my car, listening to the radio, when some punk-assed betch goes flying by me with the heavy thumping bass and the rap lyrics blaring out the window, and before I knew it, I had launched into the inner tirade of an old fart: "Dang kids nowadays with their dang music nobody can understand, dang it all."

I mentioned Three Mile Island in class the other day and my students all looked at me as if I'd sprouted tentacles from my forehead.

"Three Mile Wha?"

I was watching The Family Man with Nick Cage and Tea Leoni on tv yesterday evening, and I gasped during the scene when he takes her to the Windows on the World restaurant in the Twin Towers in NYC. Damn! It's. Not. There. Anymore.

Worse, 9-11 was almost ten years ago. These kids in my class were all of nine years old when the Twin Towers went down.

Where has the time gone? How did I suddenly go from a somewhat hip, fit thirty-somethingth hottie my students got crushes on to a flabby, almost fifty year-old gray haired old lady?

Oh my god.

I'm really gonna die one day.

The GOP's Fiscal Fraudulence, Ctd - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

The GOP's Fiscal Fraudulence, Ctd - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Wow. And this comes from a true conservative, author of The Conservative Soul. I don't think I've heard Sullivan lambast the Republican Party so succinctly.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Fallacy of Playing It Safe

If you've never made a mistake, you're not trying. It means you've never pushed yourself to the edge of your ability.

Speaking of Jazz, the above was something one of the commentators mentioned last night when he was referring to some of the popular orchestras of the big band period. Of course the sentiment doesn't apply to just music; it applies to anything you do in life. It refers to the fallacy of playing it safe.

I think about what drinking did to me. While I was drinking, I was convinced it was helping me cope, helping me get through life without having to experience too much pain. I thought I would rather be numb. The problem was, that made me small. I feared not just pain but everything that led to it: a fear of failure, a fear of taking risks, a fear of the humiliation that comes when you realize you're not perfect.

Sobriety has shown me that people are the most beautiful, and much more interesting, when they're imperfect. You can't peek into a perfect soul. You don't see bravery in someone who is fearless. The only way to catch a glimpse of someone's true self is in looking at how far they're willing to reach ... which sometimes means their reach will fall a little short.

Mistakes are blessings. Sometimes they mean we made a poor decision, but then we can learn from them. Other times they just mean we aimed high, at something lofty, at something great.

Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington: "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing"

I've been watching Ken Burns' PBS series Jazz lately on Netflix. Here's Ella Fitzgerald scatting her way through this old standard, with Duke Ellington himself tickling the ivories. It doesn't get much better than this.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Now This Made Me Laugh Fo' Reals....

Naked skydiving. Yeah, baby.

B-52's: "Love Shack"

Now that I've depressed myself, I need something happy. It is Friday, after all. And RuPaul is fabulous in this.

Thoughts on a Friday Morning

What we need is welfare for the middle class.

The country is splitting apart because on the one hand, we're sick of billionaires and corporations getting handout after handout in the form of tax cuts and bailouts while robbing us of our pensions. On the other hand, we're also sick of people who don't play by the rules (illegal immigrants, or citizens who won't work because certain jobs are "beneath" them, or people who irresponsibly take on so much debt that they put themselves in a hole) getting free medical care, getting help with their mortgages, drawing welfare or unemployment compensation into seeming perpetuity.

Meanwhile, the vast middle class gets closer to bankruptcy, and we're pissed off about it. We have played by the rules, and we are TIRED of supporting everybody else when we're struggling to make ends meet ourselves.

So, we start pointing fingers of blame, and the politicians, who know we're angry, are only too eager to subtly guide those fingers in the direction of the person they're running against. (Or if you're watching Fox News, the word "subtle" doesn't even apply.)

Thus we have Republicans, who, in the spirit of Herbert Hoover or Ronald Reagan, blame everything on the welfare queens and the illegals and on "tax and spend" Democrats. (Oh, and the gays. Gays aren't responsible for the state of the economy, but they are responsible for the moral decline of the country and for general godlessness, chaos, and, just yesterday I read, body art in the military.) What Republicans believe is this: if rich people make more money, it "trickles down" to the middle class. If you give corporations tax breaks, that encourages business and leads to more jobs.

The problem is, history proves this to be a falsehood. History shows us that when wealthy people get wealthier, they actually don't share. All they want is even more, and they don't want to pay tax on their new capital gains, either. As for corporations, they don't create jobs just for the sake of conjuring them up. They create them when there is a need to produce more so more workers are actually required. In order to maximize profits, they will hire the cheapest labor they can. So, jobs are shipped overseas. These big multinational corporations don't have any loyalty to this country. They'll list their mailing address in any old country. Small businesses, maybe, but they keep getting crowded out by the big guys. How does a Mom and Pop operation compete with Wal-Mart? It can't.

So what the Democrats do is try to correct things by sticking bandaids all over the place. To encourage companies to keep jobs here, they'll offer a tax break. (How does that affect the deficit, and does it actually do anything to help small businesses?) Or, to keep people who've presently lost their jobs from losing their houses or going on food stamps, they'll extend unemployment compensation (how does this affect the deficit? Does it do anything to create jobs? If it's true that necessity is the mother of invention, does this actually stifle people's creativity and drive to get out there and do what it takes to earn a living?)

I could argue the flaws on both sides 'til the end of time. The truth is that both sides have run out of ideas. There are no solutions right now that aren't going to hurt or disenfranchise or be unfair to somebody. (My personal ethics tell me that in this case, "disenfranchise" those who can most afford it.) Some days, it seems to me, there is no solution to today's problems because everything is all tangled together in a knot that can't be undone. Every time we untangle one bit of it, we discover we've just tangled up tighter another part of the knot.

So, I step back from the knot and take a look at it, wondering how it all got so tangled up to begin with. The real problem, it seems to me, is indeed one of moral decline. (But it has nothing to do with the gays.)

No, it has everything to do with greed, a selfish "Screw everybody else; I deserve more" attitude. Who do you know who hasn't tried to bend the rules to their own advantage at one point or another? People cheat on their taxes because they feel they pay "enough damn tax as it is." People lie on a job application about what their salary was at their last job because "they didn't get paid what they should've been paid." This cheating or "gaming the system" mentality extends from individuals all the way up to impersonal entities (which have no conscience, because they're not even people). For instance, I've heard people blame Bill Clinton for the housing market meltdown. What actually happened? Well, during a time of economic plenty, he decided to offer more opportunities to the disenfranchised by encouraging home loans to the poor. It was a touchy, feely "right thing to do." Now, nowhere did he say, "Banks, lend your money to people who can't afford to pay you back." But, greed saw a win-win when that door was opened: Greed said, "let's lend money to people who can't pay it back, and when they default on the loan, it won't matter because our bank will have sold this bad loan to some other sucker."

Consider that those "irresponsible" people taking out the bad loans were merely told what the bankers and realtors were telling everybody: "look, you might have a tough time initially making the payments, but the way real estate is booming right now, you'll be able to resell or refinance the house and take a profit." So hey! Let's jump on the greed bandwagon and try to get something for nothing. Unfortunately, they got in too late, and the bubble burst.

THIS is the problem. We've become a culture of sharks who just prey on each other. We holler "foul!" when somebody preys on us, but then we turn around and shove it to somebody else the moment we're given the chance. I saw the other night on 20-20 or Primetime or one of those news shows something that crystallized the matter for me: more of us, acting like sharks descending on prey. Here were all these people, not wealthy by any means, but having enough income to snap up foreclosed homes on the cheap to fix up a bit and resell at three times what they paid for it. How many of you think, "I'd do that too if I had the money?" How many of you think, "Wow, that's sad."

I'm in the "that's sad" camp. Here are opportunists making money on somebody else's loss.

My natural impulse is not to consider profiting from someone else's loss, but to see if I can't figure out a way to help them help themselves. Not with a handout, but by brainstorming another solution, one where everybody can come out ahead in some way.

Jimmy Carter, snorted at as one of this country's most ineffective Presidents, actually tried to warn us that this Avenue of Greed was the road we were starting to head down, but in the early 80s, nobody wanted to hear it. No, we wanted to hear The Gipper tell us how great America is and what a mighty land of opportunity this is and let's bomb Iran to get our hostages back. Once elected, Reagan promptly made the head of Merrill Lynch (a freaking bank!) his Chief of Staff, and bombs away, all right. We've been in a steady moral decline since, but the problem is GREED, the "greed is good" kind that Oliver Stone also cautioned us about in Wall Street.

In the name of greed, everybody wants something NOW without any forethought as to the long-term consequences. We've all started thinking like corporate presidents and CEOs, who will do whatever it takes to see profits THIS YEAR, while they are still at the company. They want their bonus. If a decision makes them money NOW but will bankrupt the company later, so be it. They've already skeddaddled with their golden parachute. Somebody else can pick up the pieces.

And take note: What are the corporate billionaires with this set of ethics doing now? They're running for public office. Do you really believe they want to serve their country? No, their interest in public office lies solely in influencing policy wherever they can, in order to give themselves and their rich buddies more tax breaks, more deregulation, more whatever they can do to further enrich themselves. They want more Ronald Reagan.

It didn't work (except for the wealthy) then, and it won't work now.

But then you have the Democrats, who aren't much better. The Democrats need to stop trying to placate everybody (including their own corporate pals) and do what needs to be done. Stop being the "kinder, softer" version of greed--because it's still greed. Get out of bed with the profit-makers. Stop sticking bandaids on things so you can make it sound like you did some helpful little thing. What we want is for you to take the leg infested with gangrene off! Start serving the people who elected you.

We used to believe that an honest day's labor would provide us a decent living. Give us back at least this part of our American Dream. If you give us this, maybe we'll all stop throwing our morals into the breeze in the wild hope that we can all be millionaires--something for nothing, the middle-class "welfare" I referred to at the beginning.

Give us all something realistic, and with that will come the motive to do right.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Super Harvest Moon

This is, so far, the best photo I've been able to find of the Super Harvest Moon last night. The photo credit is on the image.

NASA's website has information about last evening's event here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Today's Message Is Brought to You by Pepto-Bismol

Today, this pink stuff is my new best friend forever.

Apparently there is a nasty little bug making the rounds at work. Apparently, it found me.

Let's hope I'm back on my feet tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Now, THIS is funny!

Funny Facebook Fails - Classic: Titanic Trash Talk
see more Failbook

Hat tip to my pal Stacia.

The Lesbian Cowboy

A friend (actually, an ex of mine with whom I am on good terms) sent me this. It's pretty funny, but I wouldn't advise watching it at work...Or with kids hovering nearby...Or, well, with anybody who finds sexuality something inappropriate.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

To Hell and Back

One of the biggest triggers people in recovery face is this: experiencing our own feelings.

Rehab was an immediate eye-opener. A few days in, my hangover gone and settling into my new surroundings, I noticed right away how laughter was different. It’s something most of us ended up remarking on at some point during our 28 days. Real laughter feels good! Unaccustomed to genuine belly laughs, laughs that made our faces hurt (because substance-induced laughter is just not the same), we found ourselves cracking up, over and over, when we shared our silly drunk or using stories.

And being able to laugh at ourselves seemed nothing short of a miracle. Here was Kim, talking about hiding bottles in the neighbor’s bushes, or Saundra, forgetting where she’d hidden bottles altogether and finding them unexpectedly in the most hilarious of places—behind the toilet or under her mattress (“To this day, I don’t know how I slept on that for weeks and had no clue.”) Or me, tripping on the backside at Golden Gate Fields and landing flat on my back so hard the dust flew up around me, as Chelle stood there, rolling her eyes, her assistant from work gaping at me, unsure of what to say about his boss’s drunk wife. We had to laugh at ourselves.

Or else we’d cry. So yes, on the heels of laughter came tears.

The awarding of the 28-day chips was always a tear-jerker for me. I swallowed the lump in my throat and cracked jokes with my well wishes so as to not seem so sappy. Even before leaving the safety of Mountain Vista Farm, I was having to deal with losses. People left, and sometimes a week or so later, there would be a phone call, and so-and-so had “gone back out.” We had been given the gift of knowing someone for real for a short period, before the realities of life descended on them “out there” and they couldn’t cope, returning to whatever their substance of choice had been. Leaving rehab was frightening. Or there was the loss of people I knew had been in my life solely because of my drinking—either because they’d been drinking buddies, or because they were the result of poor decisions I’d made when I was continually using. They would have to go, and I would be forced to hurt some people if I could only make the choice to sever these influences from my life. For me, the consummate people-pleaser, the idea of cutting someone was tantamount to cutting myself.

So much loss—and grief. Whenever I lose someone, each and every time, I have to re-experience every loss I’ve ever felt: my mother, my father, my two brothers, my son, several lovers, a handful of friends, even a student who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge a couple of years ago. The ends of things: how endings are inevitable, how endings so often go hand-in-hand with regret, how endings so often suggest, “I could have done that a different way.”

And how sometimes, it all hurts so much I can’t even breathe.

Somewhere along the line in my life, I must have decided that my feelings were too intense, too much for me to handle. So, the only way I could bear to feel my own feelings was to reach for a bottle, or a shot glass, or hell, to follow one with the other. It worked for a while. The numbness would envelop me like the waters in a warm bath, and I’d be soothed and not care. All better. Fuck ‘em.

But somewhere along the line, alcohol stopped making it better. Instead, it started amplifying my problems. I no longer went numb; I exploded. I’d act out in rage or selfishness, out of some frustrated sense of entitlement—this isn’t fair! Why’d I get dealt this lousy hand again? Why me?—and booze created a whole new set of problems, of drama, of “if things are going smoothly, my life is too dull, so I must create more chaos.” It’s hard to describe, because the last three years of my life prior to going into rehab are vanishing from my memory, becoming just one long blur and howl.

There is a horrifying moment when alcoholics and addicts look back, and in this moment of clarity, we wonder how much of our past is actually real. How much of all the crap that upset me all the time was just drug-induced stuff I made up?

You have one of those dark nights of the soul in which it occurs to you that you have no idea who you really are. You have no idea who you are, why you are where you are, and who or why these people around you are still here.

It sends a lot of us right back out, right back to the bizarrely chaotic comfort of being constantly fucked up. It’s just easier.

But if it doesn’t take you out, eventually you forgive yourself. You settle down, become introspective, and you start talking. REALLY talking. You talk with people; you figure things out. You finally find out who your real friends are, whom the illusions were, whose promises came with conditions attached; what you really want and what is of actual importance to you; and the bullshit falls by the wayside. You have no more time for drama or gossip or nonsense. You start becoming deliberate. Impulses automatically send up a red flag, and you do nothing without first thinking it through and making a studied decision for which you accept any consequences.

Feelings: that’s all they are. They aren’t facts.

They will not kill me.

They may make me uncomfortable for a time; they may make me feel anguish for a time; they may make me pace or climb the walls or be driven to pray for help.

But they won’t kill me.

The payoff? Everything I do, everything I feel, everything I say today is authentic. I don’t represent some fantasy existence a booze-soaked brain has concocted; I represent only my real self, warts and all. I can be slow-witted, obsessive, maddeningly preachy and self-righteous; and I can be in the same breath funny as hell, easy-going, flexible, forgiving, or dripping raw sexuality. The biggest gift I’ve been given is REAL joy: real joy and passion and laughter, not the stuff I used to have to talk or drink myself into feeling or believing. The greatest joy of all is love, REAL love. It’s a word I mean nowadays when I use it.

And it remains for me one of God's greatest, most awesome mysteries.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense to someone who hasn’t been there.

But one thing’s for sure. Anybody who has ever recovered from a drug or alcohol problem, overcome that, moved past it and set it down, has been to hell and back. Going there and coming back teaches us lessons that continually unfurl, unfold, reveal themselves with each new experience we face sober. We simply have a “take” on things that others can’t know. It’s the experience of almost losing everything.

To every dark cloud a silver lining, to every mis-step a purpose and lesson learned.

Angry Dragon Should Debut Soon

Here's our baby. Her trainer has decided to debut her at Philadelphia Park (over a dirt track) rather than Arlington for the simple reason that the purses are bigger there. Since Chelle and I own only 5% of her anyway, the purses are not a big deal to us, but if we can have a two year-old filly who runs well over dirt, our dreams of the next Kentucky Oaks winner can stay with us a while longer. Ha! (Hey, let us dream!)

Angry Dragon is such a tiny little thing, even though she's getting nicely muscled. If she stays healthy and fit, she should have her debut at Philadelphia Park within a month. Keep an eye out! Her sire, Smarty Jones, is proving to be a good win-early sire, so we are liking her chances, and if anybody can get her to run, Chuck Simon certainly can.

Her sister, Red Baroness, is still on the farm in Kentucky, I believe, but should be headed to Arlington Park soon to start training.

Tigger Logic

Well, I hate to disappoint my buddies (who are full of good ideas), but I've decided against writing fiction on this blog. This blog is many things, but it's also not really a place for creative writing (unless it's humor or something like that). I think this is because it's found a niche as a recovery blog and I have gotten used to this being a place where I come to process things that are, in reality, impacting me. Sometimes the posts hit a chord with others, sometimes not.

Plus writing fiction (for me) takes a huge time investment because writing fiction is something near and dear to my heart. I did get a master's in fiction writing at SFSU (the link I put up yesterday was actually to the lead story in my thesis, which--edited by the tremendously talented Patrick Ryan--found a home at Lodestar Quarterly). I have the first draft of a novel still gathering dust in my closet, and it's a project I'm not ready to declare dead, although it needs a total rewrite. I was still drinking when I wrote that first draft; alcohol is such a big part of that book, and even though it's fiction, like much fiction, a good portion of it is true--although it's a definite exercise in the futility of recollection as it actually was when the real truth of most matters to me lies more in feelings, lingering impressions, instead of the specific details)... I guess what I'm trying to say is that I do feel there is a book in me, but it's something I take seriously, so I want to invest my "fiction writing" energy in that rather than in playful fiction on this blog.

Besides all that, I already know of numerous blogs where the authors write stories in which their friends play the major characters ... but too often what started as a writing game seems to wind up weird for them, at least in the experience of a couple people I know who've done this. They wind up blending fantasies of how they want things to be while making themselves the heroes or heroines at the center of the action, and though on the one hand it's just in good fun, it winds up NOT being that. The fantasy life on their blogs invades the fantasy lives of people who read their blogs (whether they like it or not), and the two bleed together. The fantasy winds up driving the reality, instead of the other way around, and when people can't, or won't, separate the two, there is (simply put) fallout. I don't want my blog to become a pack of codes (which people inevitably decode in accordance with whatever their agenda at the moment may be). Ugh. It's too damn much.

I guess all I'm saying is that I want this blog to stay REAL.

Besides, a second book is kind of taking shape behind this blog, but it's a nonfiction collection of thoughts on recovery. We've talked about it on Facebook a couple of times, and I haven't abandoned the idea. I'm not sure how it would all come together, but perhaps it would wind up being a collection of posts centered around the various twelve steps, or around topics that come up during recovery (eg, dealing with cravings, dealing with trigger situations, dealing with difficult people, letting go, forgiveness, denial, all of that).

But thanks for giving me something to ponder these last few days. I'll end with a final thought.

Blogger is easy. Instead of ME writing it, why not YOU?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hanging at the Jockey Club

I am receiving complaints from my Facebook friends that my blog is getting boring. They are clamoring for me to start writing fiction starring them as the main characters. However, that kind of thing takes time. First I have to mentally transform Heather into a 28 year-old marathon runner and Shannon into the world's only goalie that Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain were ever unable to score off of.

In the meantime, feel free to read a real piece of fiction I have published (years ago) here.

And feel free to view the video of me, Chelle (who pulls a superb doo-doo face), Stacia, and her mom at the Jockey Club today. So far I am down $24 on an early Pick 4 that I lost in the first leg. (NOTE: Blogger doesn't appear to handling QuickTime videos today; I'll try later. In the meantime, I'll upload it to Facebook for your viewing pleasure.)

Ani DiFranco: "32 Flavors"

This song has been covered to death, but here's the original.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Life Is Good

Chelle surprised me last night by telling me, "Hey. You haven't put anything on your blog lately. What's up?"

I had to ponder that.

The fact is, NOTHING is up.

And thus the miracle of sobriety strikes me yet again. There is absolutely no drama going on in my life at all. Nothing is eating at my conscience. Nobody is annoying me. The department secretary remarked the other day, "You seem so HAPPY lately, always smiling."

It's true. My mood is steadily a good one.

Oh, don't get me wrong. Life is not incident-free. If you follow me on Facebook, you know that the right wing nutbag Christine O'Donnell being elected in Delaware is a rather frightening thing to me. (On the other hand, she's so out there that it perhaps drastically increases the likelihood of the Democrat being elected.) I'm grading papers this weekend, and (it happens without fail) already I'm wondering how some of my students ever managed to graduate from high school, much less get their driver's licenses--because apparently they can't read or follow directions. The fact that Queen Nutmeg Whitman continues to run a negative campaign ad criticizing Jerry Brown when she's been called out on it in the press and by others for its outright lies is something I find maddening. I'm of the personal opinion that all politicians distort the truth sometimes, but I do draw the line at a clear case of lying and continuing to do so even when you know it's a lie; that's just a matter of fair play to me. And the list of daily annoyances or "things that make me go hmmm" goes on.

But my point is that these things still don't knock me off kilter. My mood remains good, my outlook on life positive.

This just wasn't so when I was drinking. When I was using, I was continually upset. What's funny is that I used to think it was my drinking that helped me cope. In actuality, it was my drinking that made me less able to cope. Indeed, my drinking often made me blow things way out of proportion.

So, nowadays, when I'm silent, it doesn't mean that anything is wrong. It means that, miracle of miracles, nothing is really troubling me. Life is good.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

From the Desk of Queen Nutmeg

My Highness: well, the election looms closer, and I've spent what is to me a paltry $120,000 million on running these negative campaign ads. Oh, I did run one positive ad about Royal ME!! It gushed about my grand achievements when I was running eBay. So glad it left out all that nastiness about that employee lawsuit settled out of court, about that time I lost it and pushed her when she had the audacity to question one of my proclamations. The nerve. Oh, and so glad it left out my decision to acquire Skype. So far that has been a moneypit. Haha, it's eBay's problem now. Sorry! The door didn't hit my ass on the way out, hee hee.

Jerry Brown: he's such a wussy. All he's done is run some ad questioning some of my practices in the stock market. They may be illegal now, but they weren't when I did it. You don't ascend to the high and mighty position I'm in by being a Miss Goody Two Shoes. Ditto my connection to Goldman-Sachs. Just because I served on the board and profited handsomely from being there, that doesn't mean I knew a single thing about their sneaky deals. I barely paid attention at those meetings. Too busy thinking deep, profound, or lofty thoughts. Like, you just can't get good help anymore.

But Jerry Brown could be a problem. Getting the Republican nomination by hating on Steve Poizner was a cinch. Wussy Jerry ... he's a problem. But I still have weapons in my arsenal. Time to haul those out!

Let's see. Okay, I can't really run any ads dissin' ole Jerry for his performance as Governor of California, because he didn't do a bad job. He was pretty famous for being frugal. In this economy, that's a good thing, so I can't mention that. Oh, I know! He did go in as mayor of Oakland when that city was unraveling. I'll just blame that on him. Who cares that mayors don't set school district policy? I'll just say that public education foundered in Oakland when Jerry was mayor. People are so stupid they'll think there's actually a connection. Oh, yes! I'll also point out that the murder rate went up in Oakland while Jerry was mayor. It's not a lie. And the stupid masses (such asses, ugh, so distasteful--stinky little people) will assume that means Jerry was the cause. Ha! I'm so clever.

Oh, look! My staff found this old footage of Bill Clinton talking about Jerry Brown back when they were both campaigning for the Democratic Presidential nomination in the 1980s. Ha, old Slick Willy sure was a sneaky one. I admire that. He's really ripping into Jerry in this footage. I will run THIS as an ad about how ineffective Jerry is. What's that, you say? Bill Clinton has admitted he had his facts wrong when he said these things? So? Ethics? Why should I pay any attention to those?

Look, the voters of California are so stupid that they'll believe anything I say. This is a gift horse (although truly I would have preferred a thoroughbred instead of Bill Clinton, that nasty old mule, but whatever). Democratic California loves Bill Clinton. So if he once said, twenty years ago, that Jerry Brown wasn't the right choice for President and here's why, that's good enough for me, and I don't CARE if he has since taken those facts back as having been incorrect. It's on video, see, and video never lies.

Ha Ha Ha! I'm brilliant! If I run this ad three times every hour, every person out there too lazy to do some outside reading or to listen to those pesky debates Jerry Brown keeps challenging me to, will just swallow what I say hook, line, and sinker.

I'll gladly fork over more millions to run those ads so often they'll all hear me, even if they don't want to. We all know, if you say it enough times, even if it's a lie, people will eventually believe it. I'm counting on that.

Yet people say you can't buy an election in America.

Ha! I say "BUY IT NOW!"

Good brainstorming, ME! It's grand to be the Queen!

Zenyatta Being Sold at Keeneland

This is pretty interesting. Here's Zenyatta in 2005 when she was sold for $60,000 at Keeneland. Who knew that she'd go on to be an undefeated 18-for-18 (so far) winner of the Breeder's Cup Classic? She was a bargain!

Even here, she's got her tell-tale intelligence showing, her ears pricked, looking interested and curious.

As for the auctioneer, I can't understand a thing he's saying.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Johnny Cash: "Hurt"

Speaking of addictions, this interpretation of "Hurt" (by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails) as done by Johnny Cash is the best version out there. If memory serves, Cash also performed the song in tribute to Kurt Cobain. If anyone understands going to hell and coming back after shaking off an addiction, it would be Johnny Cash.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Warning: Avoid the Perpetual Victim

Let me be clear at the outset: I am cognizant of the fact that there are victims who are, truly, victims. Sometimes bad things happen to good, strong people who don't choose to take on that role. These are the people who, as quickly as possible, throw off the role of victim, recover, reassert themselves, and get on with their lives--the genuine survivors among us. They have the fortitude to rise above whatever it was that temporarily shook them to the core. This blog post is NOT about these admirable people.

No, I'm talking about the perpetual victims, people who choose and seem to revel in that role. They never rise above it. Instead, they learn to use their status as victims to manipulate other people and to get their own way.

And here's the key point I want to make about these folks: when they don't get their way with YOU, they thrust you in the role of "abuser" or "liar" or "oppressor" or "user"--ie, just another person who has victimized them yet again.

I'm thinking about this today because my mind keeps going back to the trial last week and something I didn't mention in my last post. It's this: the defendant we found guilty clearly did not think she'd done any wrong. Here she had injured two men for life, but she had so divorced herself from any responsibility in the matter that when she testified on the stand, she talked about the incident with an utterly flat affect, emotionless. She called the accident "horrible." And in the same breath she spoke of it as having happened TO her too. She was just as much its victim as those two men she hurt, not to mention the emotional damage done to one of the men's little girls, who had been standing off to the side with her mother, watching her father be hit and thrown almost into traffic before her very eyes.

In her mind, this woman was the victim of migraines, the victim of depression, the victim of some bizarre reaction that happened in her body that she wasn't responsible for and shouldn't be held accountable for.

It's typical addict behavior. We're NEVER responsible for what we do. Things just ... well, they just happen to us. Everything is always everybody else's fault.

I played that game, too, when I was drinking. My "victimhood" was, indeed, justification for my drinking. Every time I did something that I secretly loathed myself for or that flew in the face of my own word or my own values, I unloaded the responsibility onto others or onto circumstances beyond my control. Nothing was ever my fault, except beyond maybe a wry "I guess I should've known better, but I thought so-and-so wouldn't do that to me."

But it's not just addicts and alcoholics that do this crap. Actually, society is a damn addict. If it's not alcohol or drugs, it's gambling, sex, work, shopping, food, nicotine, you name it. Most all of us have a hole of some kind that wants to be filled. At some point, each of us lands on something that makes us feel better by stuffing that hole with it. Relationships: that's another one. Do you know somebody who just CAN'T be alone? Their life is a string of one relationship after another, with virtually no time off between them? Or when they're alone, it's only against their will; they feel "incomplete," and everything they do seems geared towards finding someone new? Then there is a relationship addict, somebody who feels so unlovable that they NEED someone else attached to them in order to feel lovable.

It doesn't work. And when that honeymoon periods wears off, or it's the next day hangover, or it's staring at the empty bank account, or whatever--that's when the addictive thinking kicks in. For some reason, we never seem to point at the substance or whatever we plugged the hole with as the problem. (Why would we? Then we'd have to give up our substance or practice.) So we look for things outside of it to blame.

And I suspect this is how the pattern of thinking "I'm a victim" kicks in.

That slot machine was rigged. That girlfriend or boyfriend led me on, told me he/she loved me when he didn't (heaven forbid they woke up to the truth that you're a loser). My boss is a control freak asshole so left me no choice but to quit. My body had a weird reaction to drugs I've been taking for twenty years and I couldn't have done anything about it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

It's my sad thought that the woman we found guilty will continue to cling to the belief that she did no wrong when she got behind the wheel of her minivan while she was high. It's my sad thought that her defense attorney took on the role of enabler, offering for her excuses for what she did. It's my sad thought that we on the jury are now seen by her as idiot pawns of a system that has wronged her. It's my sad thought that she may learn nothing at all.

Do you know someone who never takes responsibility for anything, whose bad choices are always attributable to either somebody victimizing them or involving them in circumstances beyond their control? If at all possible, steer clear. They'll love you while you're giving them what they want. But the moment you wise up and they can't manipulate you to give them what they want anymore, YOU will be their next "abuser."

Friday, September 3, 2010

Reflections after Jury Duty, and on Being Sober for One Year

I'm of the mind that things happen for a reason, and that there is meaning and beauty in coincidence.

I've just spent the last week and a half serving on a jury for a case in San Mateo County Court, and darn it, I admit it, I did my best to get myself excused from serving. It was a DUI (drug, not alcohol) case involving the California Highway Patrol, so I forthrightly told the judge and counsel that not only am I a recovering alcoholic and know many people who've had DUIs, but also I am legally married to an ex-California Highway Patrol officer. So I was subjected to a fair amount of quizzing on my ability to remain objective in the matter. Apparently I answered just fine, because I stayed on the jury. Interestingly, another jury member had herself once gotten a DUI she didn't even contest. We also had a French chef, an architect, a retired Hawaiian who blows glass nowadays ... it was a real mix of personalities. Two of us were gay. Most of us were white; there were three Asians; the French chef (pastry chef, mmmm); and a couple of folks of mixed ethnicity. Equal numbers of men and women. Just seating the jury (12 members, two alternates) took two entire days, and every last one of us was of the strong conviction that the defendant was innocent and had to be proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The upshot of all of this is that I was reminded how lucky we are to be in America. You are innocent unless twelve of your peers--people who don't even know each other and have no personal investment in the outcome of the case--reach unanimous consensus that the evidence PROVES your guilt. Sure, sometimes people are wrongly convicted and sometimes people are set free when they're not innocent. But, by and large, it is the fairest system of justice on this planet.

Back to the case. The defendant was accused of driving under the influence of a drug, causing great bodily injury. We found her guilty. It was not a joyous "gotcha" kind of decision. On the contrary, it made us sad, not just for the two men that were horribly injured in the accident, but also for the defendant. Here was a woman, now 51 years of age, whom, six years ago, got behind the wheel of her car to drive home while she was stoned on prescription meds. Clearly there was no intention to harm anyone; clearly she made a series of bad decisions because she was not thinking rationally. She was a longtime sufferer from migraine headaches and depression, and you would not believe the number of medications this poor thing was taking. Prozac. Wellbutrin. Valproic acid and butalbitol. Florinal (codeine and acetamenophin). And a couple more I can't remember, another of which contained codeine (we're not allowed to bring our notes back with us; they are destroyed after the trial). On top of these, she had been feeling sick, so she'd also taken either Sudafed or Dayquil (she couldn't remember, and the blood test results put before us as evidence didn't test for those).

Complicating the matter was that she'd been taking this stuff for twenty years or so, so she'd built up a good amount of tolerance. It's a part of addiction. Both of her doctors testified, and it was clear they knew addiction and tolerance was a part of the deal in her pain management. The doctor who'd prescribed the pain killers had even had the defendant sign a contract agreeing that she wouldn't take in excess of 30 codeine pills a week. If that wasn't enough, she always had the option of going to the Emergency Room for a shot of Demerol. But she seemed to be more in the habit of just taking codeine for her migraines as needed, and anybody who knows anybody who has ever taken pain meds knows that it's easy to forget when or if you took a dose, especially if you start feeling crappy.

So, it is surmised that she took an additional dose (or two) in the afternoon the day of the accident, and either forgot about it or is being untruthful about that. Blood evidence proved she had a toxic dose of codeine in her blood in addition to its byproduct, morphine. The defense argued that, given her tolerance, the amount in her blood was negligible and did not impair her. Or, more accurately, defense was that she was not right, not well, and caused the accident, but that it wasn't the drugs she had on board that made her not right.

But the prosecution had what amounted to a silver bullet: the testimony of a witness who followed this woman while she was driving and witnessed the accident. He was so appalled by her driving that he got on the phone with the CHP and described what he was seeing as she weaved up her way up Interstate 280 for 22.6 miles until, finally, she rear-ended at full speed a car that was stalled on the shoulder. It was shocking and horrifying. She was slowing down, speeding up. Weaving between three lanes. Driving so far onto the shoulder she almost smacked the guard rail numerous times. She'd start to exit, then pull suddenly back onto the highway. The witness following her had his flashers on, trying to caution other cars. Other cars, when realizing what was up, would flash their brights at her and honk. All to no avail. The witness testified that she came close to causing an accident at least twenty times until she finally hit the stalled car on the shoulder.

It is simply indisputable that she was highly impaired.

So the defense wanted us to believe that it was the flu or the return of a migraine or something else that made her drive like that. We just couldn't buy that. She wasn't having a seizure; she wasn't a diabetic; she told the paramedics at the scene of the accident that she was okay and that nothing was wrong with her minivan; she stated in a deposition that she'd been coughing and sneezing when she hit the stalled car.

But you know, you just don't cough and sneeze so badly that you drive like that for 22.6 miles. NOT FOR 22.6 MILES.

She was high as a kite.

So, you know, she slammed into the back of a car that was getting a jump from a friend (whose car started out beside the stalled car and wound up 20-30 feet away down the embankment, overturned). That's how hard she hit. The driver of the stalled car had severe injuries to his vertebrae, and damage to his kidneys and lungs. The friend who'd been standing at the hood of the hit car applying the jumper cables shattered his leg and broke many of the bones in his face. These men both testified, along with the overseeing physician who treated them at Stanford, and they are both disabled. Both are able to walk now, one with some difficulty and the other just had another surgery to his knee so is on crutches) but were wheelchair bound and used walkers for quite some time. Neither will fully recover, ever.

Thus the ultimate verdict was guilty of driving under the influence of a drug (which covers drugs plural and/or interactions between them), causing great bodily injury.

The defense was displeased because, you know, he'd made a pretty good case for reasonable doubt about the CODEINE being the culprit. But the fact is, the prosecution didn't have to prove it was the codeine alone that was the bad guy. The fact is that she had lots of stuff in her blood, including one prescription drug that no one can account for because it wasn't even prescribed to her (ahem), not to mention adding over-the-counter drugs (Sudafed is particularly a sedative) to the mix. She was messed up and should have known better than to drive (not to mention that her account of that day was full of holes and contradictions, so we didn't really find her account of what she had taken to be credible).

Thus the verdict. We twelve were comfortable with it, and then the defense attorney insisted we be polled as to the verdict's veracity, so each of us had to say independently that we agreed with the verdict. Not a single one of us hesitated.

Afterwards, it's permitted that the attorneys meet with the jurors for feedback, so a couple hung back outside the courtroom, willing to do so. The defense attorney wasn't interested in hearing from us. The prosecuting attorney did stop to chat.

She shared that she couldn't tell us this in trial, but the fact is, this same defendant did it again two years later. This time she didn't hurt anyone, but she managed to hit twelve cars in a parking lot while driving messed up on her meds.

We made the right decision and were glad to hear that she no longer has a driver's license.

I have no idea what her sentence will be; that part is out of our hands. That part is left for the judge to decide. I trust the judge will hand down a fair sentence. And, I hope the defendant gets help (or has gotten help; she seemed pretty calm, collected, and pain free throughout the trial).

The lesson for me as a recovering alcoholic? Well, it's this: there but for the grace of God go I. Later in my drinking career when it was nothing for me to down fifteen or more drinks in one drinking session, I wasn't really one to drive; I simply knew better. The way I thought about it was like this: I can drink all I want and hurt my own body all I like. That involves only me. But the second I get behind the wheel of a car, I'm involving other people who had no choice in the matter in my decision. When I was much younger and drinking less, that choice was blurrier to me. I have certainly driven a few times when I should not have, and I was lucky. I could've killed someone. There but for the grace of God go I.

And that's the lesson for everybody else to carry away. Don't drive if you've been drinking or if you're under the influence of drugs. Period. Those "caution" labels are on medications, even over-the-counter ones, for a reason. They don't say "Driving While Fucked Up Is Optional." They say "Use Caution" or "Use Extreme Caution." Your doctors also warn you for a reason. Your pharmacist warns you for a reason.

It's very easy to overshoot, to think you're processing drugs or alcohol just fine, but when you're under their influence, it's easy to think WRONG.

Don't risk it.

When you risk it, it's not just YOUR life you're risking.

I am 364 days sober today and am a grateful member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Today, I am particularly grateful that, a year ago, I got to detox in a rehab and not in jail.