The Silence of Bees


Welcome to All You Seekers of the USA

Are you wondering what happened to America? The America we remember? Welcome to my Blog. Please feel free to respond. I yearn for responses and dialectic.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Body Parts Know, Don't They?

We are the first place they look when the rest is mysteriously and suddenly dead. Often there is some mysterious substance called DNA underneath us that apparently is a door to the universe. Some people think we keep growing after the rest dies but in fact the rest is shrinking so we are creating an illusion even at the end, aren't we? When alive, we get filed, buffed, clipped, polished and painted if we're lucky and if we're very very lucky we are pampered in salons. Too often, however, we are neglected, gnawed at, picked at until we bleed at our base, and then we split, chip, become jagged and ugly. When that happens you bring out the big guns, the dreadful clipper, and unceremoniously reduce us to our nubs telling yourself, "Oh they'll grow back stronger now." You delude yourself through us. We are your helpmates as you get older and lose calcium because we can tell before even the doctors test your spine and hip for osteo that your bones are softening. Please for gods sake pay better attention to us. We are so much more than this earthly shell. We are the final tip when you point to the stars. Like arrows we are what your eyes follow when we play a piano. We are your pick when you strum the strings of a guitar. We can turn a man or woman on just by being run gently across their back and shoulders. We can flick the insects from the leaves of your organic gardens. We can help shape a pot on the wheel and then decorate it without the use of a tool. We are the tool. We are the way you see the universe of your body in a grain of calcium. Honor us and when you do neglect us, and you will, remember we will be here for you when all else ceases, when the heart stops beating, the legs stop moving, the eyes stop seeing.
Take a moment to look at us today like you never have before.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What does it mean to have the life you dream of?

Retired from teaching. An occasional class of my choosing. No Internet. No obligations. Endless days of sunshine stretching on forever. Writing my plays and screenplays. Practicing my craft. A warm climate. And no financial worries. The perfect life. Good health. Close friendships. A wonderful lover and deep connection: spiritually and physically. Gardening. Trips to Hawaii, Costa Rica, Alaska in June, London, the Amalfi Coast. Good health. Good health. Good health. Emotional and physical. Profound sleep, no interruptions. Appreciation. Meditative practice consistent. Inner peace and tranquility. Love. In every single shape and permutation in every place I reside in the interior and exterior. Riches, vitality, good health. Consistent exercise. Completion of projects. A conscious presence in this world and the next. Remembered after I leave.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Prayer for an Insomniac

Going to sleep I resist like anthrax because of the dreams I don't have and the climb into bed alone and the worry about the way the world is headed and more importantly the way my neighborhood and my city is headed even on the freeway every night I drive home from work almost every night there is some lunatic gangbanger driving 100 miles an hour with 2 or 3 cars in hot pursuit of him and I know he has a gun and I can't get out of his way fast enough and just last week an old guy was killed in a collision with one of these lunatics and the hold ups and the drive bys and the global warming and the economic meltdown and the endless emails from survival companies in Montana and Chinese imports and oh god there is nothing not to worry about and I close my eyes and hope the herbal sleep aids and the adult CD of lullabyes and my little dog curled up at my feet and the sound downstairs of the housemate in her own cocoon will get me past the night terrors that come from long ago and now because there is so much to be frightened of and worried about and there's nothing I can do about any of it so I let go when I realize my terror is impossible and real at the same time. And then later I awaken maybe 5 AM and I wander the house and read from the Internet and hear the stillness until the sun comes up and I see it. A green bean popping up in my garden poking through and the heat from the sun steaming the shingles and the light oh the luscious light of early morning and the world is new and the impossible happens I feel no fear for a moment one moment and I am so grateful I am alive amen

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Flamenco shoes

The 100 pound Flamenco dancer/teacher said to her newest and oldest student, "I have a beautiful pair that don't fit me quite right. Wear them and they will make you feel sexy and when you dance the Flamenco your passion will be fearless and consume you." She brought them from her closet where I glimpsed dozens of Flamenco dance shoes in a million different colors and dresses that fit her skinny frame tightly and made her look like a wild electrified energy rod. Here I was just fifty, newly divorced and wanting so badly to be skinny and sexy again and I was now convinced these shoes she placed on the floor near my feet would bring me back to a state of grace. "How much?" I asked. A hundred and fifty. They were from Madrid after all and hardly worn and she was charging me just twenty dollars less than when she had purchased them a few months ago. They were blood maroon with a strap across the face of them and studded heels so that when I moved my feet, the familiar clicking sound of the Flamenco dancer resounded and echoed across the dance floor. "Well, try them on, " she said, knowing even if they didn't fit me I was going to purchase them any way. I slipped them on and walked and fell in love with the way they lifted my rear and straightened my back and I made a singular dance move with assurance and pride and I beamed. "I will take them, I said and we both smiled. Three weeks later I stopped taking dance lessons and the shoes sat, still sit, in my bedroom closet because I made the fatal mistake of wearing them to a jazz club and while on the street, the blisters they caused made my feet bleed and my toes got infected and I ended up not being able to walk for a month. I have never worn them since that day but I can not sell them or give them away. I would like to have them dipped in bronze the way they used to dip baby shoes in bronze and plant a rare orchid in each one of them. A reminder to never try to be what you are not: skinny and under 30.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What Ends Can Be Embraced

That part of my life is over now...teaching for the last 18 years at a community college is beginning to come to the end days. Running a theatre department that I revived from nothing. Now a new energy is in place to take over. My energy is facing elsewhere: filmmaking, acting, writing. The hardest part is relinquishing the control and saying good bye to my child...that particular theatre...and strangely my friend Carla is dying, really dying from ALS and she and I were the jumpstarters of the program for the first year...she's leaving the earthly plane forever...and this house, my home, clearing it out, giving things away...knowing my time here is also coming to an little beloved companion dog Louie, how much longer will those mitral valves hold out? He was supposed to have died 2.5 years ago and he is 13 years old and my little Honey...blind now, losing her hearing at 15 years old, how much longer? And the ancient cat Lily who sleeps all day and is 18 years old, how much longer for Lily as well? And my mother turning 89 on March 19th and knowing full well every single day may be the last...all these endings. But I am not sad. I am grateful. I can feel the preciousness of every single moment in a way I could never before. I know it's fragility and its impermanence and its rare decaying beauty. I embrace the change because it is reality and reality is the best and truest high there is....this god I have this moment by moment by....forever, don't I?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What Is No Longer There

What is no longer there…lush green vegetable gardens a water pump a half acre of beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, the sun blasting down on my 40 year old mother as she picks out weeds smoothes the soil and I play in the backyard under the enormous willow with its flowing branches and the music from a transistor radio plays somewhere inside the house as my sister gets ready for her date and we wait for the afternoon to pass. My mother insisting I eat a string bean raw and the crunch of it between my teeth and the richness of the afternoon because of nothing in particular except here in this time and place something still feels intact and real and a neighbor drops by in my tiny neighborhood by the water and life seems rich and perfect and whole. My father rushes into the backyard in a frenzy and examines the take from the garden his mouth watering demanding that we eat soon because he does not have much time and must get back to his job and put the finishing touches on a patio he has just poured and he is hungry so hungry for his pasta and the fresh tangy red sauce my mother made from the glowing garden tomatoes. He barely notices me making a mess as usual in the mud and dirt while my sister leaves through the front door for a summer date with girlfriends her hair curled, lipstick blood red, her skirt short enough to show her knees. Summer. I say the words in my mouth like I am eating a ripe cherry. I love the summer. Freedom, no school, freedom. Do whatever I want all day long. Bliss. I know it will end as each day passing kills my freedom but it can’t it mustn’t because once this day is gone once it is over it is over bye bye forever and even as a child I sense how fragile this is yet I take it all for granted. My mother stays forty and beautiful, my father virile and strong, my sister kind,  smiling, excited about her life unfolding before her. Somewhere inside I am already grieving.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Remember when .....

September 1981 Amherst Massachusetts. Nervous frightened an undergraduate in a creative writing class the teacher walks in tall, imposing looking scholarly and artsy at the same time, I am intimidated by his attitude. He barely glances at me; it is as if I do not exist. His eyes scan the room and land at the rear where someone is sitting who he stares at, lets his gaze swallow this person. I turn to see out of curiosity why whoever this is is deserving of this intense focus. A tall, depressed looking woman, younger than me, her head buried in a thin paper back book, gives him no recognition back. “I am Kirby Farrell. I write,” he declares. “I’m a writer and my job is to teach you to find your voices. Some of you already have been looking. Others…” his eyes now find me…”Well, others might take a very very long time.” The air is heavy with tension, nerves. Sweat. A bead drops from my forehead but I am too self conscious to wipe it as it slithers down my cheek. I shift in my seat like a trapped animal in a cage. Outside the warm autumn of Western Massachusetts radiates with undergraduate laughter, chatter, whispers. I hear leaves crunching under feet taking their time to get to or from their destinations. I gather my things ready to rush from the room, the words “who am I to think I can be a writer like these people?” running like a circular saw slicing my insides to pieces. No one in my family has done anything. I shouldn’t even be in college. This is a mistake, a big fat stupid mistake. Then a hand taps me on the shoulder. The woman from the rear of the class has moved into the empty seat behind me. She whispers, “Do you have an extra pen or pencil? Mine just ran out of ink.” I reach into my backpack and pull out the only pen I have and give it to her. Her coal black eyes see into me. “You have another, right?” she asks. I mumble something stupid. Kirby steps forward and smiles at her. He calls her Monica as if he and she are lovers. “He’s full of himself,” she says softly to me. “Don’t let him bother you.” Are we now friends for life? Is she my lifeline in the sea of academic muck I will have to wade through? Later, weeks later, Kirby tells me Monica’s father is a famous author. And I remember her words to me. “You have real talent,” she said. “Everyone else in that class is full of shit. Including the teacher.” She's a friend. We run, eat, get crazy together, swap stories, are silly and save one another's lives. And she shares intimate stories of what it's like to be the daughter of Richard Yates. I believe now, after recognizing her burden, it is better that no one in my family has succeeded in the outside world. When I pick up a pen,I believe for the first time ever I have something to say. She helps me shape words, ideas. I fall in love with her entire being. I feel respected, seen. And when she becomes homeless and manic, I invite her to sleep on the sofa in my apartment I share with two other people. I know now, 30 years later, everything in your life can change when you give someone your only pen.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Beware The Narcissist

Recognize anyone like this? Beware...

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

NPD is a type of psychological personality disorder characterized primarily by grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy. Narcissism occurs in a spectrum of severity, but the pathologically narcissistic tend to be extremely self-absorbed, intolerant of others’ perspectives, insensitive to others’ needs and indifferent to the effect of their own egocentric behavior.

It is not uncommon for persons with this disorder to frequently compare themselves to the accomplished, well-known and well-to-do. They feel entitled to great praise, attention, and deferential treatment by others.

Those with NPD crave the limelight and are quick to abandon situations in which they are not the center of attention. Defects of empathy may cause narcissists to misperceive other people's speech and actions, causing them to believe that they are well-liked and respected despite a history of negative personal interactions.
Those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are often ambitious and capable, but are unable to cope with setbacks, disagreements or criticism. These emotional limitations, along with lack of empathy, make it difficult for such individuals to work well with others and to build a successful career (Kernberg 2003, 2004, APA 2000).

Diagnosis of Narcissistic PD

Considerable overlap between the characteristics of different personality disorders makes diagnosis of NPD a challenge. Grandiosity, lack of empathy and exploitative interpersonal relations are not unique to NPD, nor is the need to be seen as special or unique. The differential diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is typically made based on the absence of certain behaviors. Borderline Personality Disorder has several conspicuous similarities, but unlike NPD, is characterized by self-injury, whereas narcissists are rarely physically self-injurious. The need for constant attention is also found in Histrionic Personality Disorder, but HPD and BPD are both relationship oriented, whereas NPD is characterized by the avoidance of intimacy. Psychopathy, or Antisocial Personality Disorder is differentiated from NPD by the psychopaths' willingness to use physical violence whereas narcissists rarely commit crimes Kernberg 2003, Vaknin 2007).
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), a patient must exhibit five or more of the following traits in order to be diagnosed with NPD:

Could Have, Would Have, Should Have

By this age I should have had grandchildren. A close relationship with my sister. A deep and loving sexual relationship with someone. More maturity. More selflessness. Less anger. More compassion day to day. More discipline. Success as a playwright internationally. Success as an actor. Better health. More physically fit. Less self righteousness. Less defensiveness. Less material goods and a richer spiritual life. A deeper bond with others. Living in a  stronger community. Deeper ties with others. Less isolation.  I should be debt free. I should have owned outright my home. I should have been able to move to Los Angeles and be more involved in the theatres I belong to. I should feel happier, less depressed. I should have decided about Judaism by now. I should have less of a trigger when it comes to my emotions. I should be more stable and balanced. I should eat healthier. I should be thinner. I should be more disciplined about everything. I should not be so lazy. I should be smarter. I should not have to worry about money. I should have more prestige and be valued more highly by colleagues at work. I should value my colleagues more at work. I should have healthier relationships.

I see that I want a greater sense of community and to get away from the computer by getting out more into the real world. I feel like when I first moved here I had that but now that the computer has taken over my life, I am losing touch with real people and engaging in real ways and this concerns me a lot. I suppose I don’t go out as much because I am afraid of getting attacked or worse killed by a stray bullet which I guess is a little ridiculous but that happens to people as they get older and feel more vulnerable and fragile. I wish I could get my courage back to take more chances. I wish I did not feel all the time that my time was running down and out. I really wish my friend Carla was not dying and we could turn back the clock and I could appreciate her more when I had her as a colleague and friend. I wish I could take more risks emotionally in the real world and everywhere else. I wish I had learned to stride rather than take mincing steps. I wish I had learned to reach for the stars and moon and the sun and not just shadows.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The First Day of....

Yesterday March 19th was my mother's 89th birthday and I was not there with her to celebrate it. I live in California and she in Massachusetts and I can no longer fly home whenever I feel like it due both to financial and physical limitations. Every year that she gets older so in fact do I, and now I am too old to wish myself into a new life like I have so many times in the past. Now I am pretty much stuck with both the body, mind and life I have created.

So here on the first day of Spring in 2010, I get to size myself up and ask if it has been worth it so far....after all I have no children, the mark in an Italian family of value and worth as a woman. I forfeited that reality for both emotional and physical reasons and because as they say "it was not in the cards". Actually looking back now the choices I made were all pretty much made when I was about 8 years old.

The blog below this one pretty much explains it all: I rejected 100% the path my mother had laid out for me. At least the surface path. Because I think underneath that surface path, the roles decent women should take, which in her opinion were clear in the 1950's and 1960's, she watched and waited and, dare I say, hoped for my rebellion. I think I was her under the surface path where she had so long wanted to walk but could not because of fear and the oppressive nature of being a woman back then and of course, my father, the eternal chauvinist.

I never received much encouragement to be who I wanted to be. I risked the ire and rejection of my mother and my older sister if I did and yet here I am today: a filmmaker, an actor, a writer, a college professor, owner of a beautiful home, with great and remarkable friends, foster mother to children in Bolivia and Cambodia, and embarking on what is most likely my most intimate and longest relationship to date with a man I have known for 25 years.....all signs of health and growth and commitment.

I wonder about the other women in my family from later generations, nieces most especially. I have 4 nieces, 3 of them who ended up having children and one who seems lonely and a little lost although she still has time to find herself. I wonder how strong their mother's voices were in their heads and if they had the courage to stand up to that figure and speak the truth: To say with deep conviction: I am not you, mother. I am independent of you, both emotionally, financially, spiritually and every other way and this is my life, not yours. Of course, maybe you do not need to say that unless she refuses to let you go. Then I suppose a dramatic scene is called for if only to act as a breaking off climactic moment. But doing it in your own mind and heart is pretty much the only way you ever do claim your own life and "grow up", isn't it?

It is the first day of spring. I am truly blessed to have this life, to own this life I have created out of dreams and whispers. It's also the first day of the rest of YOUR lives, nieces. As an act of faith in yourselves, you might choose one thing you are afraid to do...write that children's story, draw that picture, make that movie, dance that only have so many springs and yours are winding get to it...don't waste another moment...find the time, make the time. Reclaim yourselves.

When mom is gone either metaphorically or for real, make sure you are able to locate that under the surface path because, truthfully, it's the one she really wants you to walk anyway, despite her fears and protests. Trust me, I know.

Today is the first day.......

Karma Free Writing: Things My Parents Taught Me

Ann Randolph, that great and brilliant actress and one woman show, sent us a recommendation. She suggested we look into Karma Free Writing which begins today, the first day of spring. Check it out at

So here is my Day One...very ought to try it

I learned I was funny
Too sensitive
Non musical
(Out of control at times) I choose this
Loved animals
A gardener
A scavenger
Very very brave

Flying down Blueberry Hill a hundred miles an hour on my winged steed, a red Schwinn footbrake bike like mad dogs were nipping at my feet. Hollering to my friends Joey and Jason ten feet behind me that they were girls and realizing I was a girl and not a boy. Feeling the loss of that as they laughed at me and said, "Who you calling girls, girl?" And wanting to be a boy, wanting very much the physical limitations lifted so I could fly over the hill and into a world of endless possibilities in which no one could say, "No you can not be that, do that, want that, know that because you are the wrong sex." Coming home sweaty, knees bleeding, exhilarated and proud that I beat my buddies once again on my mad quest for adventure in mundane places and seeing my mother standing, arms crossed at the front door, looking disappointed in me because I was not frilly and clean and unblemished. Hearing her ask me for the hundredth time, "Why are you so out of control?" And shutting down my listening as I rushed past her shouts and into the kitchen where I would stand in front of the fridge looking for fudgsicles to feed my lust for ice cold chocolate which was the only thing that could or would soothe me from her looks of disgust and disdain and her realization I was never going to be like her other daughter, the princess, the cheerleader, the winner and stuffing my feelings along with the fudgsicles and my own disappointment in myself down my throat, worrying I was not good enough to be as good as I actually was in math and other male subjects and realizing I might end up like all the women in my family with kids or worse: without themselves.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Broken Society

The Broken Society

Published: March 18, 2010

The United States is becoming a broken society. The public has contempt for the political class. Public debt is piling up at an astonishing and unrelenting pace. Middle-class wages have lagged. Unemployment will remain high. It will take years to fully recover from the financial crisis.

This confluence of crises has produced a surge in vehement libertarianism. People are disgusted with Washington. The Tea Party movement rallies against big government, big business and the ruling class in general. Even beyond their ranks, there is a corrosive cynicism about public action.

But there is another way to respond to these problems that is more communitarian and less libertarian. This alternative has been explored most fully by the British writer Phillip Blond.

He grew up in working-class Liverpool. “I lived in the city when it was being eviscerated,” he told The New Statesman. “It was a beautiful city, one of the few in Britain to have a genuinely indigenous culture. And that whole way of life was destroyed.” Industry died. Political power was centralized in London.

Blond argues that over the past generation we have witnessed two revolutions, both of which liberated the individual and decimated local associations. First, there was a revolution from the left: a cultural revolution that displaced traditional manners and mores; a legal revolution that emphasized individual rights instead of responsibilities; a welfare revolution in which social workers displaced mutual aid societies and self-organized associations.

Then there was the market revolution from the right. In the age of deregulation, giant chains like Wal-Mart decimated local shop owners. Global financial markets took over small banks, so that the local knowledge of a town banker was replaced by a manic herd of traders thousands of miles away. Unions withered.

The two revolutions talked the language of individual freedom, but they perversely ended up creating greater centralization. They created an atomized, segmented society and then the state had to come in and attempt to repair the damage.

The free-market revolution didn’t create the pluralistic decentralized economy. It created a centralized financial monoculture, which requires a gigantic government to audit its activities. The effort to liberate individuals from repressive social constraints didn’t produce a flowering of freedom; it weakened families, increased out-of-wedlock births and turned neighbors into strangers. In Britain, you get a country with rising crime, and, as a result, four million security cameras.

In a much-discussed essay in Prospect magazine in February 2009, Blond wrote, “Look at the society we have become: We are a bi-polar nation, a bureaucratic, centralised state that presides dysfunctionally over an increasingly fragmented, disempowered and isolated citizenry.” In a separate essay, he added, “The welfare state and the market state are now two defunct and mutually supporting failures.”

The task today, he argued in a recent speech, is to revive the sector that the two revolutions have mutually decimated: “The project of radical transformative conservatism is nothing less than the restoration and creation of human association, and the elevation of society and the people who form it to their proper central and sovereign station.”

Economically, Blond lays out three big areas of reform: remoralize the market, relocalize the economy and recapitalize the poor. This would mean passing zoning legislation to give small shopkeepers a shot against the retail giants, reducing barriers to entry for new businesses, revitalizing local banks, encouraging employee share ownership, setting up local capital funds so community associations could invest in local enterprises, rewarding savings, cutting regulations that socialize risk and privatize profit, and reducing the subsidies that flow from big government and big business.

To create a civil state, Blond would reduce the power of senior government officials and widen the discretion of front-line civil servants, the people actually working in neighborhoods. He would decentralize power, giving more budget authority to the smallest units of government. He would funnel more services through charities. He would increase investments in infrastructure, so that more places could be vibrant economic hubs. He would rebuild the “village college” so that universities would be more intertwined with the towns around them.

Essentially, Blond would take a political culture that has been oriented around individual choice and replace it with one oriented around relationships and associations. His ideas have made a big splash in Britain over the past year. His think tank, ResPublica, is influential with the Conservative Party. His book, “Red Tory,” is coming out soon. He’s on a small U.S. speaking tour, appearing at Georgetown’s Tocqueville Forum Friday and at Villanova on Monday.

Britain is always going to be more hospitable to communitarian politics than the more libertarian U.S. But people are social creatures here, too. American society has been atomized by the twin revolutions here, too. This country, too, needs a fresh political wind. America, too, is suffering a devastating crisis of authority. The only way to restore trust is from the local community on up.