Countdown to Paris – Tour Eiffel

Each week I will post my favorite photos of Paris and the rest of France until I am once again in the City of Lights at the end of July.

I begin with the Tour Eiffel in all its colors and moods and dining at the Jules Verne restaurant which I hope to do again this summer

Window table overlooking the Trocadero in the Jules Verne Restaurant October 2004

December and a solitary ride to the top

The view

I love Paris in the springtime

Shimmering in the evening

The next generation

 

hickory dickory

This is a delightful take on the old favorite nursery rhyme.

johnpoetflanagan

the clock is generous with its charms
coasting noon to six
the mouse is giddy in his want
gouging a goldmine fix

the clock moves easy up the hill
seventh to eleventh hour
the mouse is flagging out of breath
systemic loss of power

the clock arms toward magnetic north
prepare the twelve bell peal
the mouse requests a moment’s pause
to unravel false and real

the clock emits a moonround laugh
convulsing sea and land
the mouse is rigid pale impaled
run through by the second hand

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A Paean to First Love

What hour took you that day, that fourth Wednesday of January in 2017? Where was I? Was I sitting through a boring meeting sorting out policy issues? Was I driving home exhausted, listening to debates contentious political issues on NPR and rethinking my decision to remain in a high profile health care position at age seventy-three? Or was it later as I tried to keep the peace between my four and seven year old granddaughters while preparing their dinner of sliced tomatoes, beef and rice, and yogurt, and hoping that the promise of dessert would keep the mayhem to a minimum until their mother returned?

How could it be that the enormity of your last breath faded into eternity before reaching my senses so many miles and decades away? And what mystic force drew me to my computer on a rainy afternoon five weeks later and led my fingers to type your name and the word obituary? Running late for the play, I found myself reading the words once with disbelief, twice with an aching teenage heart, and a third time with tears that no one could possibly understand.

I skimmed over your accomplishments listed one by one, more reminiscent of a resume than a tribute to the vibrant young man who stole my heart in 1961. Your devoted companion, three fine sons, five enchanting granddaughters, a dear sister (I remember you telling me how much you loved her), even nephews and cousins, all dutifully named. Were they there at the end? I have to believe they were. You were too precious to me not to be a million times more cherished by the ones who were truly in your life.

Your loved ones know nothing of me, nor the grief I feel. Yet I too caught glimpses of that courageous man who fought on as his life and body progressively diminished, often quite literally, throughout an arduous and determined battle against diabetes. Ordeals made bearable by your impish humor—writing me after your second amputation that you used to be six foot four but now were four foot six!

They know nothing of those months we spent together so many decades ago, these people who shared a lifetime with you and are trying to make it through each day, hoping their grief will lessen with time but perhaps grateful that your ordeals have come to an end.

Our writing brought us together. You penned more than a half-dozen novels, well-crafted, filled with romance and suspense. I discovered them online in 2008. I had written two novels myself, the first bearing the back story of our romance at Stanford—I, the naïve freshman dreamer and you, the charming, seasoned senior. Degrees of Obsession was an apt title for a paean to a first love that refused to fade and, in fact, ultimately had no replacement. I searched further and found what I believed to be your home address and mailed my fictitious version of our romance to you. Within days your name popped up in my email inbox, causing the same palpitations that had seized my heart forty-seven years earlier. I had a trip to Southern California already planned and we met soon after.

You greeted me at your door in your wheelchair, the body of that handsome, virile young man I had known hidden behind a beard and infirmity but the magnetic eyes and alluring basso voice still recognizable. We exchanged a few sweet nothings and then you wheeled your chair chose to me and drew me into your arms so that I could smell the scent of that special cologne that you always used, the musky one created by that haberdasher in Beverly Hills. You had dabbed in on knowing that it would take us back to our beginnings and for the first time I heard from your lips the true story of our parting. How after I had made a suicide gesture and was forced by Stanford officials to tell my parents, that they had called the University and demanded action. How you had been hauled in by Captain Midnight, the campus cop, for a three-hour inquisition and had been told to never speak to me again. How they threatened to keep you from graduating and going on to law school if you defied their orders. And worst of all, how these despicable actions on the part of my family had left you with a lifelong impact that was eons beyond the broken heart that I had endured.

What a gift that was. Knowing, after all these decades, that you had loved me after all. An unforeseen resolution to the agony of unrequited first love that few are privileged to find, told in an embrace filled not with the fumbling passion of youth but with the grace and forgiveness of age. I thought with amazement how brave you had been on that one occasion, sitting on the hood of your white MGA, the gray wool sweater I had given you on your 21st birthday draped around your shoulders on a hot June day, and calling me over. And I, on the way to the Anthropology class we mutually shared, caught up in the pique and heartache of a rejected eighteen-year-old turning away, giving up that one in a million chance for reconciliation. But even then in your sweet honesty, you explained that had I made a different choice, I might not have fared better, that your road as a husband had often been a rocky one.

So here are the EXCERPTS FROM MY NOVEL that tell our story, from my point of view of course, for those out there who care to read it, as told through the voice of my protagonist, Dr. Charlie Pedersen. I called her “Charlie” because it was the nickname you gave me. I called you “Danny”.

The excerpts are taken from my romantic suspense novel entitled Degrees of Obsession. Watch the book trailer.

Monkey Inn night ~ Berkeley Early Sixties ~ where music and mayhem were born

monkey-inn-barOne of my fondest memories from my wacky sophomore year at Cal Berkeley in 1962-63 was chugging $1 a pitcher beer at the Monkey Inn on Thursday nights. Proof that it cost $1 a pitcher is right there on the wall behind the bar in this photo. 25 cents a mug and a guarantee of 5 mugs to a pitcher. Such a deal! My three roommates and I would hop into my 1959 Morris Minor and drive the mile or so from our off-campus digs in a Parker Street duplex just off Telegraph Avenue. This was the year before Sproul Hall and the Free Speech Movement, so frat parties, beer kegs, and panty raids were still in. And I had in hand. not a fake ID. but a real CA driver’s license saying I was 25 that I’d obtained by taking an actual driving test and dressing “older”. Later my mother, viewing a Berkeley police report when I went temporarily AWOL would see a reference to a certain Karen Veazie AKA Karen Scott Billings and would exclaim, “My daughter’s not a criminal!”

Today I decided to do an internet search and see if I could find any reference to the Monkey Inn in that day. And, boy, was I surprised!

bill-erickson-trioThursday night was indeed Monkey Inn night. The superb Bill Erickson jazz combo: Frank Goudie (clarinet), Jimmy Carter (drums), Bob Mielke (trombone) and Bill Erickson (piano) held sway Thursday nights at the Monkey from the late 50s up through 1962. Do I remember the music? No. I called my best friend, and she didn’t remember it either. Just the beer and the frat boys (mostly the bad boy Betas AKA Beta Theta Pi’s or the notorious Fijis AKA Phi Gamma Delta’s). Needless to say our little quartet from Parker Street did not represent the prim. round-collared, pearl-bedecked sorority girls of the day.

I found an account that said it was a beer and pizza joint near the Oakland border that was a rough UC Berkeley student hangout with sawdust on the floor and, “fraternity guys out on their first beer benders. It got pretty rowdy sometimes.”  I guess no one noticed that there were at least four “girls” out on their first benders as well. The account added that the musicians rarely sounded happier than when playing primarily for themselves, and only secondarily for a mostly indifferent college crowd. Must be why we don’t remember the music.

karen-and-mary-louBut when I read about what happened the next year, I was even more astounded. By 1964 my best friend and I (I’m the tall one!)had returned to La Jolla where we had grown up and found a minuscule apartment under the front stairway of a Spanish mansion across from the famed Wind ‘n’ Sea beach. I attended the 3rd and 4th of my undergraduate schools (yes, Berkeley was school number two after a freshman year at Stanford, but I finally went to grad school, got a Ph.D., and was a therapist for 40 years and still work in the mental health field at age 73–so there!). My best friend got a totally cool job at the new Saks Fifth Avenue store in La Jolla.

Meanwhile back in Berkeley, a new band, known as Blue Velvet, arrived at the Monkey Inn to perform in the Spring and Fall of 1964. Formed by John Fogerty, Doug Clifford, and Stu Cook at El Cerrito High School, Blue Velvet played instrumentals at the school dances, and later backed John’s older brother, Tom Fogerty. They also played at frat parties at Berkeley. I had no clue that we came that close to witnessing the beginnings of Creedence Clearwater Revival. One historian remembers listening to what was to become CCR at the Monkey Inn and having peanuts and beer for dinner.

There is even a mention of the Monkey Inn during the 1964 Sproul Hall events: It is difficult to reconstruct what happened next, for later campus reactions to the events left few people willing to talk about their roles in the affair. Dean Rice believes that three groups of male students converged just outside the Bancroft-Telegraph entrance to the campus. One group apparently came down from Channing Circle, another from Larry Blake’s, a popular fraternity drinking place, and a third from the Monkey Inn, another beer-drinking spot popular with fraternity members. (These are hearsay reports, rather than firmly documented descriptions.) An aside, Larry Blake’s was certainly our second most favorite venue for finding beer and boys.

In 1968, the Monkey Inn moved closer to campus, to the corner of University and Shattuck Avenues. The new club at 2119 University was called The New Monk. It had local rock bands headlining on weekends, but most of the time it was just a beer and pizza place for college students. In the middle of 1971, however, The New Monk started booking higher profile club bands. Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders played there on June 4 and 5, 1971, and then again on June 26 and June 27.

So here’s the end of the story. In 1992 I began work as a psychologist at a Bay Area Kaiser. During my first week of work, my boss, the Chief Psychiatrist, took me to a luncheon event. We got to talking and discovered that we were at Berkeley at the same time. Then he asked if I ever went to the Monkey Inn on Thursday nights! He told me he and his Beta Theta Pi fraternity brothers never missed it. My life flashed before my eyes as I frantically searched my memory and hoped against hope that I hadn’t cozied up to him at the bar or even worse! I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw not a hint of recognition on his face.

After my internet search, the Monkey Inn has become even a better memory for me. It is now the home of La Peña Cultural Center promoting social justice, arts participation and intercultural understanding. We’ve all come a long way, baby!

Moving On

art-of-moving-onNot too many days ago,
my mind developed a mind of her own.
It happened almost the very second that my eyes read
that sappy online blog.

You can make a choice about moving on.

I, as usual, rejected the pop psychology blather.
Sure, I said in my best know-it-all sarcastic voice.
I’ve tried for six years, count ‘em, six years,
With help, without help,
praying, ranting, practicing the old fake it ‘til you make it.
All to no avail.
But, somewhere inside my head, I repeated the corny line
with the perfunctory obedience of a stubborn child.

Instantly, my mind,
which had spent a lifetime lurking unseen, unheard,
somewhere inside my left parietal lobe,
came to life and grabbed on to the new revolutionary idea.
In a flurry of celebration, my mind shouted,
We’re moving on? Awesome!
I’m so sick of thinking those same useless thoughts,
so bored with your futile wishing and hoping.
How many times are you going to make me plod through the same daydream,
the one with your version of a happy ending,
the one that gets rid of the wife and his bad habits,
the one that rights all the wrongs,
and vindicates six years of avoiding reality?

At the same time my mind seemed to have compassion for
the five year old me,
the child inside who still wonders why Daddy left,
why no one asked her to the prom,
why the years without love have far outdistanced
any moments of bliss, and
who still wants her fairy tale ending.

But now that my mind has finally spoken up
And has convinced me that torturing her
isn’t going to solve my problems,
I can’t seem to go back.
The fact that the very next day I had not one but two offers for
coffee and conversation, and a third close on their heels,
added a karmic underscore.

As with all things
life rummages about and finds
chinks in the armor of even our
best intentions and insights.
The cancelling of one offer,
a disappointing turn of events with the other,
and tears surged over the spillway of my cheeks,
creating deep gouges of despondency.
Thoughts of revenge clamored for my attention,
pounding on the door of my mind
with a battering ram of malevolence.
A full out assault demanding
justice for wrongs done.

My mind, without comment, declined to cooperate.
Once liberated,
out of patience with my lifetime of self-pity,
of conjuring up happiness in my head
instead of creating it in my real life,
my mind refused to send the emails that would
illuminate then destroy their lives.
Then, she sat with me on the edge of the bed
until the gush of tears turned to a drowsy drop or two,
coaxed me under the covers and
lullabied me to sleep.

Upon waking this morning,
she got me dressed and fed,
sat me down to write this poem,
put on my make up
and shuffled me out the door
for lunch with prospect number three.
No promises, she reminded me,
but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Oh, please!
But out the door I went.
Moving on.
Awesome!

Tales of Womanhood.

Stunningly perfect for these days and times. Stronger than a mister for sure! Thank you, Raina. A Poet for this age.

Hope

The arch of her back

Had tales to tell

Of broken dreams

And womanhood that fell.

The tears from her eyes

Had tales to tell

Of sacrifices made

And life from inside the shell.

Encompassed by bricks

That were long dead

She rowed through life

And kept her hopes fed.

She laughed at her fate

With clowns that cried

She counted her failures

And her innumerable tries.

She lived in a place

Where birds usually screamed

Where mornings were dark

With sorrows that streamed.

There, lived a pile

Of burnt Christmas letters

They were choked to death

But not for the better.

She lived in the future

Where dreams might bloom

And hoped to wake up to mornings

With love in her room.

She sold hollow souls

And bought black stories

Bruises on her mind

Were out of her worries.

She, was a flower

Of the virgin garden

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Flight of the Soul ~ A video poem for recovery

I have flown on Southwest to San Diego many times. During one flight, it came to me that perhaps I needed to be on a very different kind of journey and Flight of the Soul was the result. Now I have turned it into a video poem for those in recovery of any kind.

For more poems for recovery visit this page.

 

Dreaming in the new year…a video poem for recovery

Last Sunday I took an inspirational course from Kai Carlson-Wee, a Jones Lecturer in Poetry at the Stanford University Creating Writing Program, on Moving Images. It inspired me to take my poems for recovery and begin turning each of them into video poems. And as we learned in his workshop, the music, images, and words can infuse each other with new meaning, new directions, and a more exciting creative experience. My first effort,appropriately enough, is Dreaming Into the New Year.

Enjoy the video poem version.

Thoughts on a dream of a lifetime…

god-quoteQuote from a Twelve Step daily reader:

When I say to myself that I am going to turn all my problems over to God, this does not give me leave to shirk my responsibilities. I have been given certain tools with which to run my life, and the free will to use them. They include judgment, intelligence, good will and the power to reason. Perhaps much of my trouble stems from having misused these tools. Judgment may have been warped by resentment, my intelligence by failure to face issues honestly. Good will can be lost when we are unable to be tolerant of the faults of others. The power to reason can be dulled when we fail to detach ourselves from the emotional content of a problem.

When I am desperate enough to ask for help, I will not expect it to come in the form of easy solutions. I must play a part in solving my problems, but my HP will provide the guidance and strength to take the right action.

My thoughts on this passage, November, 2016:

I need to use the tools I’ve been given. Too often my judgment has been warped by resentment when I’ve envied others and by neediness when I’ve want MORE than has been my portion. My intelligence has been underused when I failed to face issues honestly and try to substitute fantasy for reality. My good will has been lost when I refused to tolerate the faults of others or forgive them as God has forgiven me. My power to reason disappeared every time I let my emotions override my good sense. And I certainly have expected easy solutions.

Getting past a lifetime “dream” does not come easily. The “dream” lingers but like thousands of diehard  Cubs fans who lived out their lives without achieving their dream of a World Series win, I may live out my life without my dream of finding a life partner coming true. But that doesn’t mean those fans didn’t go to the games, cheer on their team, live the rest of their lives to the best of their ability, even though that one big dream didn’t come true. So I can keep playing the game, leave myself open to another season of loss, and cheer myself on for the efforts I do make. I can work on becoming a better player—healthier, stronger, more sociable. I can choose not to be resentful when other teams win, some of them over and over. And in the meantime, I can stop making the game of finding a life partner my focus. I can live my life fully with work and family, with faith and friends. And maybe I will look down from heaven one day, as those many departed Cubs fans did,  and see my grandchildren or great grandchildren finding life partners and win that relationship World Series that I never won. And perhaps they will think of me in that moment, and I will watch with a grateful heart and tears of joy as they raise a toast to me at their weddings and thank me for being a Grandma that helped them be the people they were created to be, willing and able to make good choices for life partners. And then I’ll hoist a beer and  join those Cubs fans in heaven in a round of Take Me Out to the Ballgame!