Windchime Walker

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Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Day Without Immigrants National Mobilization, May Day, 2006 

Latinos Unidos is organizing a rally for the May 1 "Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes" at Clark Park in Southwest Detroit at noon. It will continue until 5 p.m. Please attend - judging from the response on the street, and the sheer number of businesses in the neighborhood that plan to close, this could be quite large.

Support the immigrant community on May Day 2006.

Of course I'll be there. Hope you'll do the same where you live. Remember, WE are the immigrants; our sisters and brothers from Mexico and Central America are indigenous to this continent. The U.S. government and many of its citizens call them "illegals," but how legal was the way we Europeans took over their land?

May Day ritual celebration & amazing jazz 

This afternoon and evening Casey and Jeanne invited our women's community out to their house and land (photo #1, #2 & #3) to celebrate Beltane, the pagan festival of fertility. Another name for it is May Day. We created crowns, enjoyed a potluck dinner, and joined in a ritual and Maypole dance out by the firepit. I took only a few photos (#1, #2, #3 & #4), but they give you the general idea. It was grand!

Last night Pat Kolon and I went to Ann Arbor to see the Jeff Hamilton Trio at the Kerrytown Concert house. I know I've said this before, but honestly, this was one of the very best nights of jazz I've ever heard. For one thing, Jeff Hamilton does things with drums that you literally cannot believe. I mean have you ever heard a drum keep a melody? It was like his drums could sing. And the trio with Tamir Hendelman on piano and Christoph Luty on bass was SO tight and were enjoying themselves and one another SO much that I couldn't stop smiling the entire evening. The audience at this often rather subdued venue was screaming from the minute they came out on the stage. And you could tell who was a drummer in the house--and there were LOTS of them--for these folks kept shaking their heads like they couldn't believe what they were seeing and hearing this master drummer do. I met two student drummers from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music who had come up to Ann Arbor just to see Jeff Hamilton play. They were driving back after the concert ended at 10:30 PM. And, in my humble opinion, their trip was well worth it! This was an exceptional night of jazz; one I won't forget. Buy their new CD, "From Studio 4, Cologne, Germany," and see what you think. If you're a jazz lover, I think you will be amazed and delighted.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Making of an Activist 

Today was the first day this week that I didn't write. It felt kind of strange.

At the self-directed writers retreat I started working on something I'm tentatively calling "The Making of an Activist." It is my story, from childhood on, but is being written for a very special audience: young people aged 12-15. In the publishing world this group is called older Young Adults (YAs).

It's exciting for me to write for young people. They're the ones I'd most like to mentor if I could. They're our hope for the future, yet I wonder how many even know they have the option of answering the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?", by saying, "An activist." I want to give them that option.

I'm trying to write the book I would have wanted to read when I was a young teen. What I do remember was my never-ending search at the library for books that told the true stories of women's lives. There were very few on the shelves, and I read them all.

During the retreat I read the first two chapters aloud to my sister writers, and their response was uniformly positive. They encouraged me to keep going, and that's exactly what I intend to do. Can't wait for tomorrow morning so I can get back to my writing!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

a four-day self-directed women writers retreat 

It was everything I'd hoped for and much, much more. Imagine having four days to write and write and write, with time to explore 40 acres of land with meadows, woods and water (a large river, small creek and good-sized pond) as spring was bursting forth, among nine women writers who respected one another's silence during the days, and called forth and shared the fruits of each other's writing every night, laughed lots, ate terrific homecooked food and even made s'mores around a campfire on a night when stars were so bright they looked ready to fall into your lap.

And now I must sleep. Tomorrow I will arise early to go to school and spend time with my favorite kids.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Earth Day 2006 

On this Earth Day I want to offer words and images in gratitude for our exquisitely beautiful, currently threatened, yet always forgiving home.

First, from Denise Levertov:


Dedicated to the memory of Karen Silkwood and Eliot Gralla

"From too much love of living,
Hope and desire set free,
Even the weariest river
Winds somewhere to the sea--"

But we have only begun
To love the earth.

We have only begun
To imagine the fullness of life.

How could we tire of hope?
-- so much is in bud.

How can desire fail?
-- we have only begun

to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision

how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.

Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?

Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?

Not yet, not yet--
there is too much broken
that must be mended,

too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.

We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.

So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,

so much is in bud.

Denise Levertov
(from "Candles in Babylon")

And secondly, I invite you to visit my newly-created Spring 2006 Photo Album.


I am off tomorrow (Sunday) for a four-day self-directed women writers' retreat at the Leaven Retreat Center in mid-Michigan. I'll be returning home Thursday evening and will catch up with you then. If you're a reader of my online Photographic Peace Quotes Calendar, you'll see that I have posted entries through Thursday, April 27.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Music & magic 

Tonight Pat Kolon and I were members of a delighted audience who experienced the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Cirque in a joint performance/concert at Detroit's Orchestra Hall. How can I describe the magic of seeing acrobats, a contortionist, a master balancer, and an incredibly strong man and woman, all from countries like Russia, Mongolia, Lithuania and the United States, perform in the most original costumes imaginable! And all this while our excellent DSO, conducted tonight by the engaging Robert Moody, played music by Dvorak, Rimsky-Korsakoff and a host of other composers. My thanks to Pat's father for letting us use his season tickets.

Tomorrow night I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing William Bolcom and Joan Morris perform songs from The American Songbook...Arlen, Berlin, Blake, Bolcom & Weinstein, Carmichael, Coward, Duke, Davis, Donaldson, Mercer, Rainger, Rodgers and Hart and more. This world-famous husband/wife duo have sold out the Kerrytown Concert House for tomorrow's show and the one they added on May 12th. I was on the waiting list and just heard today that someone had called in and cancelled their reservation, so dear Deanna and Aubrey are letting me in. It'll be a real treat to see them in such an intimate setting. I can't wait!

So you probably won't hear from me until Saturday, and then, to give you advance notice, I'll be off on Sunday afternoon for another four-day self-directed writers' retreat at Leaven Retreat Center. But, don't worry, I'll check in again before I leave.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Art Day 

My friends Penny and Sooz came over today to make art. It had been way too long since our last art day, but we made up for it. Both Sooz and Penny brought books on mandalas, and we spent the day--except for the time we enjoyed sharing a delicious potluck lunch--creating our own mandalas (photos #1 & #2). What's fun about working together on the same project is seeing how differently we approach it. Although we used the same five symbols, I'd say our finished mandalas reflected each of us in our uniqueness (photos #1, #2, #3 & #4).

the "decider" 

In defending Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush was quoted on Tuesday, April 18, 2006 as saying:

"I'm the decider and I decide what's best."

Would YOU buy a used car from this man? Would you let him babysit your children? Would you want him as your boss? Would you have him invest your money? Would you want him to be mayor of your town? Would you want him to teach history and current events at your local high school? Would you ask him for directions if you were lost?

If your answer is "No!" to all of the above, doesn't it make you wonder why we allow him to sit in the Oval Office and be the "decider" on issues that impact the entire world? How did things get so out of whack? More importantly, how can we set our country to rights again?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Sounding the alarm...yet again! 

From my December 7, 2003 online journal comes the following:

Last winter's "special registrations" [of immigrant men from targeted countries] had another purpose besides discovering visa violations: now the government has a data base of 69,000 names, addresses, places of work and schools of Muslim, Arab, South Asian and North Korean men (not counting the 13,000 who have been or are scheduled to be deported). Gathering this data is all too reminiscent of the special registrations of Japanese Americans in the years before Pearl Harbor. When Pearl Harbor occurred, it took the US government three days to pick up and imprison thousands of Japanese American men, and two months to intern 110,000 men, women and children who lived on the West Coast. They already had all the names and addresses on file.

It is this historic precedent that chills us when we see the same thing happening now to persons of Muslim, Arab, South Asian and North Korean descent. Are there concentration/detention/internment camps already prepared, sitting ready for use at a moment's notice? Do a Google search of "concentration camps" and see what you find. It's easy to say this is paranoid thinking, but perhaps if the Japanese Americans had been a little more paranoid before Pearl Harbor in 1941, they might have been able to resist the rounding up when it happened. Or at least there might have been a support system of non-Japanese Americans ready to help.

That's what the Blue Triangle Network is trying to do today: sound the alarm ahead of time through education, organizing and advocacy.

You can imagine the chill that went through me today when I read the following article--"Halliburton's Immigrant Detention Centers"-- by Ruth Conniff on The Progressive web site:

While thousands of people were celebrating the contribution America's undocumented immigrants make to our economy, and demanding justice and recognition for workers who are denied basic rights, the government was making plans for large-scale detention centers in case of an "emergency influx" of immigrants.

KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary recently reprimanded for gross overcharging in its military contracts in Iraq, won a $385 million contract to build the centers. According to the Halliburton"the contract, which is effective immediately, provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations Program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs."

What new programs might those be?

The web was abuzz with speculation after the contract was awarded on January 24. Pacific News Service gave the most detailed analysis.

It connected the new "immigration emergency" plans with older plans that involved imposing martial law.

Certainly the detention centers raise the specter of WW II Japanese internment camps.

The new facilities could be used for round-ups of Muslim Americans or other American citizens tagged as "enemy combatants."

The use of military personnel and military contractors in the event of a Katrina-like disaster, which the Halliburton contract provides for, brings us closer to martial law, whether it is officially declared or not. Read more...

My friends, we are in BIG trouble. This nation we call democratic, isn't. Not anymore. The checks and balances that were woven into the original fabric of our Constitution are tattered and torn, of no use to anyone except those who manipulate them to validate their own power grabs. As low as President Bush's approval ratings might be, he and his cronies are still VERY MUCH in charge. They do what they want, whether it's starting wars, occupying and destabilizing countries of their choice, building concentration camps (excuse me, "detention centers"), kidnapping and torturing innocent persons, spying on the citizens of their country, building up a debt of trillions of dollars, allowing their campaign donors to pollute/buy up/destroy our country's land, air and waters, etc., etc.

And WHO can stop them? Not the Congress. Not the Courts. Not the People. Not the international community. No one seems able to stop this runaway train filled with men (and at least ONE woman) whose arrogance, greed, self-interest, aggression, sadism, lies, delusions, insistence on secrecy and hunger for power grow more out of control with each passing day.

Yes, there are countless individuals, groups and organizations--within the government and outside of it--that are doing all they can to work for peace, speak the truth, sound the alarm, strive for justice and try to find creative solutions to what often seem like unsolvable problems, but is it enough to turn things around? Is it enough to save our country and our world from these madmen and woman?

I don't know. It certainly hasn't stopped our country's descent into hell that started in earnest immediately following the attacks of September 11th. The attacks themselves were bad enough but what was worse--much worse--was how these attacks were used and continue to be used to turn America into a totalitarian state run by a handful of ruthless leaders.

I'm sure there are those who will read this and dismiss it as the rantings of a paranoid, unpatriotic, angry woman who just doesn't see how good she's got it. They will say that the very fact that such rantings can be published publicly is evidence that we live in a democratic country. In many other countries, dissent such as this would put you in prison or worse.

I say that's true. If I wrote this on a blog in China, for instance, I would probably be picked up and jailed within days. But just because China is more repressive than the United States doesn't mean the U.S. isn't heading in that direction. Today I am free to write what I want on my blog, to demonstrate publicly against my country's policies, to join groups that are critical of the government. But will I have these rights tomorrow? Next month? Next year? If there were, goddess forbid, another serious terrorist attack on the U.S., would there be martial law? Would dissenters join immigrants in Halliburton's new "detention centers"? Would the internet still be free or would censors control it like they do in China?

We're not that far away from such repressive measures, measures enacted "for our own protection," of course. When your country builds detention centers--to return to the original theme of this post--you can be sure they intend to use them. The only question is when it will happen and who will be put there.

I, for one, intend to keep sounding the alarm as long as I have the voice, keyboard and breath to do so. I don't want to look back and say, "I knew what was coming but remained silent." I could live with prison, but not with the complicity of silence.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Don't let them start another war under the radar of Congress and the people! 

I'm getting more and more concerned that all eyes seem to be focused on Iraq, that beleagured country that is splitting apart thanks to Messrs. Bush/Rumsfeld/Cheney's preemptive war and disastrous occupation, while this same deadly cabal is using the smokescreen of Iraq to hide the fact that they are already committed to using military force against Iran. For, in Amy Goodman's interview today of retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner, we heard an expert in strategy and military operations discuss evidence that American troops are already operating inside Iran!

From today's Democracy Now! rush transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: Moving from Donald Rumsfeld, I wanted to talk about another issue that's making news from the Pentagon, and that's Iran. Both the New Yorker magazine and the Washington Post have reported the U.S. has drawn up plans for launching tactical nuclear strikes against Iran. President Bush dismissed the reports as wild speculation. But evidence continues to emerge that the U.S. is preparing for a possible attack. On his online column for Washington Post, defense analyst William Arkin said the Pentagon has been working on contingency studies for an Iran invasion since at least 2003. Arkin said the studies were conducted under directives from Donald Rumsfeld and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chair, General Richard Myers. British military planners have reportedly taken part in one Pentagon war game that included an invasion of Iran.

Colonel Sam Gardiner, you're a retired Air Force colonel. You've taught strategy and military operations at the National War College, as well as the Air War College, the Naval War College. One of your areas of expertise is helping to stage these war games. In 2004 you conducted a war game organized by the Atlantic Monthly to gauge how an American president might respond militarily or otherwise to Iran's rapid progress toward developing nuclear weapons. What was your conclusion?

COL. SAM GARDINER: Well, let me say something first about a war game. It's a little bit like Dickens in A Christmas Carol, and that is, you go out in Christmas future and you muck around, then you come back and say, "What did I learn from being there?" And I would summarize that by saying by being in the future, by going through how the United States might attack Iranian nuclear facilities, I have to tell you that there is no solution in that path. In fact, it is a path towards probably making things in the Middle East much worse. It's not a solution to either stopping the Iranians or spreading democracy in the Middle East or getting us out of Iraq. It's a path that leads to disaster in many dimensions.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain what a war game is?

COL. SAM GARDINER: Sure, well, the idea is simply that rather than staying in the present and looking to the future, can we project ourselves into the future? Let me just use an example. Let's say that we wanted to explore what would happen if we were to conduct a strike against Iran. The way you would address that is you would begin in this group of people who know the situation, you'd say, 'Okay, the attack against Iran occurred two days ago. We now know that the Iranians are beginning to look for options by having Hezbollah attack Israel. What do we do? What's our response to that?' And then you sort of look at the response in that future hypothetical, and you do that through a number of cases.

And you can even turn it around and do it from the Iranian perspective, which is, if you were the Iranian supreme leaders and this is what the United States did -- and we can sort of know that, because we know from the Washington Post article and from the New Yorker article what's being planned -- so you can look at it from the Iranian perspective and say, 'How would we respond if the United States were to do this kind of thing?'

AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to retired Air Force colonel, Sam Gardiner. You were quoted on CNN on Friday night, saying the question isn't if we would attack Iran, that military operations are already happening. What do you mean?

COL. SAM GARDINER: Well, the evidence is beginning to accumulate that a decision has already been made to use military force in Iran. Now, let me do a historical thing, and then I'll tell you what the current evidence is. We now know that the decision and the actual actions to bomb Iraq occurred in July of 2002, before we ever had a U.N. resolution or before the Congress ever authorized it. It was an operation called Southern Focus, and the only guidance that the military -- or the guidance that the military had from Rumsfeld was keep it below the CNN line. His specific words. The evidence that we've already --

AMY GOODMAN: Keep it below what?

COL. SAM GARDINER: The CNN line. In other words, I don't want this to appear on CNN, okay? That was his guidance to the military, you can begin to bomb Iraq, but don't let it appear on CNN. You're catching your breath.


COL. SAM GARDINER: I think the same thing has happened, and the evidence -- let me give you two or three evidences. First of all, the Iranians in their press have been writing now for almost a year that the United States is involved inside Iran conducting and supporting those who conduct military operations, attacks on military convoys. They've even accused the United States of shooting down a couple airplanes inside Iran. Okay, so there's that evidence from their side.

I was in Berlin three weeks ago, sat next to the Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, and I asked him a question. I read these stories about Americans being involved in there, and how do you react to that? And he said, oh, we know they are. We've captured people who are working with them, and they've confessed. So, another piece of evidence.

Let me give you a couple more. Seymour Hersh, in his New Yorker article, said that there are Americans in three locations operating inside Iran. Another point. We know that there is a group in Iraq, a Kurdish group called the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, that crosses the border from Iraq into Iran, and they have taken credit for killing numbers of revolutionary guard military people. And the interesting part about that is, you know, we tell the Syrians, 'Don't let that happen. Don't let people come across the border and stir things up in Iraq,' but we don't seem to be putting any brakes on on this unit. So, you know, the evidence is pretty strong that the pattern is being followed.

Now, the question that really follows from that is "Who authorized that?" See, there is no congressional authorization to conduct combat operations against Iran. There are a couple of possibilities. One of them is that it's being justified under the terrorism authorization that occurred in 2001. The problem with that is that you would have to prove a connection to 9/11. I don't think you can do that with Iran. The second possibility is that it's being done under the War Powers Act. I don't want to get too technical, but the War Powers Act would require the President to notify the Congress 60 days after the use of military force or invasion or putting military forces in a new country under that legislation, and the President hasn't notified the Congress that American troops are operating inside Iran. So it's a very serious question about the constitutional framework under which we are now conducting military operations in Iran.

AMY GOODMAN: Colonel Sam Gardiner, we have to break for 60 seconds, but I want to ask you two more questions when we come back about the effect of President Bush going to India to sell nuclear technology, what that had on Iran, and also where Israel fits into this picture.


AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to retired colonel, Sam Gardiner. He is a retired Air Force colonel, has taught strategy at various military colleges, was recently visiting scholar at the Swedish Defense College. We're talking about Iran. What are people inside the military, Colonel Gardiner, saying about the U.S. being inside Iran right now?

COL. SAM GARDINER: Actually, I have to say, I haven't heard anyone comment. I mean, I think that the picture is just becoming clear. I actually haven't gotten any feedback. Can't say.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you then about this issue of India. President Bush, very high profile, goes to India, announces selling nuclear technology to India, upsetting the balance there between India and Pakistan, but what effect did that have on the people of Iran?

COL. SAM GARDINER: Well, it has an effect on them, maybe even more importantly it has an effect on the Europeans. I was at a conference with European diplomats and Iranian diplomats a few weeks ago, and the Europeans find themselves in quite a quandary over this Indian nuclear deal. What they say is, and they even -- well, I saw them -- an Iranian diplomat asked a European diplomat this very question: You're putting all this pressure on us for not following the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, what about what the U.S. is doing with India? And the Europeans sort of mumble and say, 'Well, I can't explain that.' Etc., etc. So it's putting the Europeans in a very difficult position, supporting putting pressure on Iran to reach a diplomatic solution. It's a real inconsistency in policy.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Colonel Sam Gardiner, finally, Israel. Where does Israel fit into this picture?

COL. SAM GARDINER: A year and a half ago I would have said high on the list of possible futures is an Israeli attack by themselves on the Iranian nuclear facility. That has changed. I think Israel has convinced the United States that it is better for the United States to do it by itself, rather than to have Israel do it, in terms of the potential reactions in the Middle East. So I think Israel's policy statements are, you know, it's a world problem that translates to being it is an American problem that has to be dealt with.

AMY GOODMAN: Colonel Sam Gardiner, I want to thank you very much for being with us, retired Air Force colonel. Thank you.

I"m sure I'm not alone in finding this information DEEPLY disturbing. Is there no way we can stop them???

Sunday, April 16, 2006

My trip to DC--stories & photos 

My friend Pat Kolon and I shared the driving for nine and a half hours on Thursday, April 6, arriving at my hotel--the Hotel Harrington--about 7:30 PM. Pat helped unload my baggage and then drove off in my minivan for a three-day reunion in Maryland with her old friends from religious life.

After some quick unpacking, I left the hotel and scooted the five blocks over to Lafayette Park to see my friend Concepcion. If you recall, she's the woman who, with a man named Thomas, has been mounting a vigil for peace in front of the White House twenty-four hours a day seven days a week since 1981.

Thomas was there instead--they now alternate taking six hour shifts--so I stayed and talked with him awhile. We were soon joined by Giovanni, a young man from Italy, who shared our views about Mr. Bush, war and peace. After four months traveling around the States, Giovanni was preparing to leave early the next morning so he'd be home in time to vote in Monday's elections. Apparently American Airlines had totally messed up his flight plans, but, rather than wait a day or two, Giovanni was going to take a circuitous route through Chicago in order to make it in time. A journey that would normally take seven and a half hours was going to take him 28 hours! But Giovanni said it was worth it to do his part to get President Berlusconi out of office. As close as that election ended up being, it appears that Giovanni's heroic efforts paid off!

Giovanni wasn't the only person in Lafayette Park that night: hundreds of high school students in barely-controlled herds passed us on their way across the street to see the White House at night. Some stopped to ask Thomas questions about his signs and pup tent; others took photographs.

By 9 PM I was hungry, so I scooted off in search of a wheelchair-accessible restaurant. I ended up a couple blocks from my hotel at the same restaurant where I'd be meeting my high school friends for dinner the next night. I parked at a table in their sidewalk cafe and enjoyed a delicious veggie burger, homemade fries and grapefruit juice. The temperature had dropped considerably from its high of 72 degrees, so I was happy that they had a radiant heater out there to keep me warm.

I slept very well that night.

About 9:30 a.m. I awoke to a grey rainy day. The weather forecast promised it would clear by noon. It almost did, but not quite.

When I arrived at Lafayette park about 11:30 a.m., Thomas was there. Just before noon Concepcion got back from her doctor's appointment, and we had a happy reunion. I think it had been two and a half years since I'd last seen her. Within minutes, a group of people showed up carrying signs and banners. It was members of the Catholic Worker community of Washington, DC and TASSC International (Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International) joining together to protest Mr. Bush's authorizing torture at home and around the world (photos #1, #2 & #3). As you can imagine, I was only too grateful to join them.

As we participated in their vigil program with prayers, readings, songs and speak-outs given by torture survivors, the rains alternated between a steady drizzle and torrential downpours. Soon we were the only ones left standing in front of the White House. But it felt good to be doing something to protest this atrocity.

After the vigil, I scooted the mile and a half over to the Senate Office Building. Once there I brought out my sign--"Put Checks On Bush, Not Immigrants"--and mounted a solitary demonstration for the next three hours. Happily, by then the sun was out and it was a balmy 76 degrees F. Short sleeve weather.

Even though the Senate had voted that morning to shelve their immigration reform bill until after the spring recess, there was still a lot of foot traffic between that building and the Capitol across the street. I saw and was seen by a good number of senators, their staff members, lobbyists, student groups, tourists and folks driving by. I got LOTS of thumbs up, some cheers, encouraging words and nary a negative remark or look. It was probably one of the most effective demos I've ever mounted. Believe me, people are sick to death of this Imperial President: that was obvious.

On my way back to the hotel I got a call on my cell phone from John Simon, a high school classmate who was driving into town from NYC to visit two of his children. We arranged to meet as soon as he could get to my hotel and find parking. As it turned out we only had about 20 minutes together because he had to go meet his kids for a hockey game, but we still managed to connect on a deep level. John and I can always do that.

As he ran west towards the MCI Convention Center, I scooted south toward the restaurant where three of my other high school classmates and their spouses were waiting for me.

It's now been 46 years since we graduated, but, thanks to Luke O'Hara, who arranged this mini-reunion too, our class has stayed exceptionally close. Luke and his wife Bev, who didn't even go to our high school, have organized a reunion just about every five years since we graduated.

Tonight's main topics of conversation were political--surprise,surprise!--and one of the biggest laughs was when Mike Kelly, a retired career Marine officer, said that you have to look at all sides of the issues, including listening to what FOX news has to say about things, if you're going to be "fair." I looked at him and said, "But, Mike, I'm NOT fair! I've never pretended to be fair. Hell, I'm probably the most biased person you'll ever meet!"

And even though there were many different perspectives represented at our table, we got along great. It's always a treat to be with folks you've known since you were young.

I was in bed around midnight and slept like a log.

Saturday was my day to see our nephew John, his wife Kirsten and their daughter, my grand-niece, Betty. We made our way through heavy rain and a non-working elevator at the Metro station where we'd planned to meet--thank goddess for cell phones!--and met instead at a coffee house not far from my hotel.

As you can imagine, little Betty stole my heart, as she's done to her parents since the day she was born. She colored, ate, talked, rode on my scooter and generally brightened this rainy day with her smile. Here's a family portrait I took. By the way, all going well, Betty will have a baby sister or brother in late June. Wonder how she'll take to that? My little sister's birth was the most traumatic event of my childhood, and I even had an older sister with whom I'd already shared my parents for three years.

After our breakfast together, we parted ways, content that John and Kirsten and I would be getting together for dinner that night.

I scooted out into the rain, heading towards the National Gallery of Art where there was a Cezanne exhibit I wanted to see. On the way I saw sopping wet crowds both watching and marching in the annual Cherry Blossom Parade. To my way of thinking, it was a perfect day to spend inside a museum.

And what an exhibit! "Cezanne in Provence" was so rich it left me feeling like I'd gorged on a banquet of colors and forms. I was surprised to read later that there were only 87 oil paintings and 30 watercolors; it felt more like I'd feasted on hundreds of images. I kept licking my lips and saying to myself, "This is SO luscious!" This exhibit will be at the National Gallery of Art until May 7th before going on to the Granet Museum in Aix-en-Provence, where it will open on June 9.

In my humble opinion "Cezanne In Provence" is well worth a trip to DC if you are a lover of this master's work. If you're coming in from out of town, I heartily recommend the Hotel Harrington, where I stayed. It's right in the middle of everything, is moderately priced, and has a couple of restaurants (I never ate there so can't comment on the quality), helpful hotel staff, wireless internet in each room, and the best handicap-accessible accommodations I've ever encountered. Lots of student groups stay there, especially from the UK, but I never heard them at night. I loved it there.

After hours in the Cezanne exhibit, I sat quietly in the museum's fountain courtyard for awhile. I didn't want to rush on to something else before I'd allowed these images and my responses to them settle deeply within me.

When I was ready to move on, I gathered up my still-wet rain poncho and set off in the rain towards my hotel. But instead of going directly home as I'd planned, I stopped by the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival booths and stages that were set up in the middle of Constitution Avenue. Because of the inclimate weather, the crowds were small, but the enthusiasm of the vendors and performers was contagious. A bowl of udon noodle soup warmed me up, as did a performance by older Japanese women musicians and dancers. I even bought a beautiful bag made in Japan from silk kimono fabrics. It fits perfectly in my scooter basket. I'm sure you'll be seeing it in future photos.

I got back to the hotel just in time to get ready for my dinner date with John and Kirsten. We met at Indique, an elegant, trendy Indian restaurant in Cleveland Park. After waiting for a table, we had a leisurely, excellent dinner and stimulating conversation. I'm crazy about John and Kirsten; they are intelligent, informed, compassionate and loving individuals who feel so right as a couple. It's a joy to spend time with them.

Sunday, my last full day in DC, was the day my sister Carolyn and I had arranged to spend together. Seeing family was my main reason for making this trip to DC. Carolyn had gotten us tickets to see Tai Shan, the 5-month old baby panda that has all of the Washington, DC area utterly besotted. His every move is captured by camcorders that send these images to computers around the globe, but especially to those in the DC area. And, after seeing him in person (photos #1 & #2), I am a bit besotted myself. His mother, Mei Xiang, is pretty cute herself; so is his Dad.

It was quite evocative to be with my sister at the zoo where we'd had such good times in our childhood. But I came to it with a different perspective this time. The old elephant/reptile house was almost exactly as it had been in the 1940s, and I felt terrible seeing the dwarf hippo in his small cement-covered cage. Even though he had an area outside with more natural surroundings, it all just made me sad. When I saw the elephants putting on a "show" where they had to perform tricks, I thought I was going to scream or cry or both. I've got a lot of issues about putting animals in zoos.

But all that being said, the animals themselves are beautiful (photos #1 & #2), and it was a lovely day to be outside. It was also very special to be with my sister.

After our time together, I encountered a bit of a snafu on the way home. The elevators at the three Metro stations closest to the zoo weren't working--including the one I'd used a few hours earlier--so I had to take the Metro wheelchair-accessible shuttle to a station several miles farther down the line. I'd always wondered how that would work, so it was a good learning experience. You wouldn't want to mess with it if you were in a rush, but I wasn't so it worked out fine.

Once I was back in my "neighborhood" I scooted over to the White House to tell Concepcion goodbye. But the street was blocked off. I asked a photographer what was going on and he said a suspicious package had appeared in front of the White House and then a man had tried to climb over the fence. Figuring security might well keep things closed down the rest of the day, I didn't wait around.

It was too beautiful to go inside, so I scooted over to the Mall. There must have been over a dozen kites in the air beside the Washington Monument, all of them colorful. I met two of the kite-flyers, Elshadai and her cousin, Hailey. I also met and talked with Elshadai's father who gave me permission to photograph the girls and put their pictures up on the web.

Then I scooted over to the new-to-me WWII Memorial. It is lovely but, for a pacifist like me, seems to glorify war too much. I certainly believe we should remember with honor the American men and women who die fighting our wars, but in a way that reflects the somber nature of war itself. To my way of thinking, the Vietnam Memorial strikes the perfect balance.

I ate for the third time at what had become my favorite restaurant, and when I got back to my hotel room about 10 PM, Pat was there waiting for me.

After a good night's sleep, we were on the road by 9 a.m. on Monday. As you can imagine, it was hard for me to have to miss the big Immigrants' Rights rally and march in DC that day, but Pat had to get home by Monday night as we'd originally planned. Truth be told, I was one tired puppy by then and I'm not sure I would have had the energy to do a big march that day.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip with lots of time spent with family and old friends, several opportunities to take a stand publicly on issues that mean a lot to me, lots of time scooting around a lovely city that was in the fullness of spring, some delicious meals, and pleasant travels with my friend Pat.

Friday, April 14, 2006

I'm back, thanks to Donte! 

When I called my faithful Apple techie, Donte, this morning and told him about my iBook's refusing to boot up but just flashing a question mark instead, he sucked in his breath just the same as my nephew John had done yesterday, and said, "I'm not feeling too optimistic about this." But, after spending a good seven hours reinstalling, updating and finetuning my HD and software applications, thanks to Donte, I am back in business.

So I have lots of catching up to do: photos and stories from DC, and a series of Spring photos I took today (It was 83 degrees F!). But I know you'll be patient and allow me do it all without stressing out. With weather like this, I'm not about to sit in front of a computer all day. That's for sure!

Hope it's nice where you live. Enjoy every minute of it. I sure am.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

technical difficulties 

I'm having another one of those pesky computer moments. You know the ones. Those moments when your computer simply refuses to do what you tell it, and you have no idea why. This time it won't even boot up.My Apple-expert nephew John says it looks like some start-up files in my hard drive are corrupted. I guess I'll find out tomorrow when I take my sick iBook to the doctor. Donte has helped me out of many a scrape before and I trust he'll be able to do it again. Of course, I may lose some unbacked-up files--like my photos from DC, for instance--but that comes with the territory.

Guess I'm finally getting to a point in my years as a computer-user when its unexpected mess-ups don't throw me for too much of a loop. Of course it helps that all my web site and blog stuff can be recaptured no matter what happens to my computer.

Anyway, it's sunny and 76 degrees F. here in Detroit and that's all that matters!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Home again, home again! 

Twelve hours after we'd left Washington, DC this morning at 9 AM, I pulled into my garage, tired and grateful. And, to answer your unspoken question, I'm sorry to report that I was unable to attend the Immigrants' Rights rally in DC this afternoon. My friend, Pat Kolon, who drove with me, had to return home tonight, so this was our day for travel. But I'm sure it was wonderful; the city was gearing up for it when we left.

I'd done what I could for immigrants' rights last Friday afternoon by mounting my own solitary vigil for three hours outside the Senate Office Building. Even though the Senate had voted that morning to shelve their immigration reform bill until after the spring recess, there was still a lot of foot traffic between that building and the Capitol across the street. I saw and was seen by a good number of senators, their staff members, lobbyists, student groups, tourists and folks driving by. I got LOTS of thumbs up, some cheers, encouraging words and nary a negative remark or look. It was probably one of the most effective demos I've ever mounted. Believe me, people are sick to death of this Imperial President: that was obvious.

It's now 11:30 PM and I'm ready to go to bed. I'll share more about my trip tomorrow. But, just to give you advance notice, it was ALL fabulous!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

off to Washington, DC tomorrow 

Tomorrow (Thursday) morning I'm off to Washington, DC to visit family and, of course, do a little protesting. Can't go into the Belly of the Beast without making some sort of statement. On Friday I plan to stand in front of both the Capitol and the Senate Office Building with my brand new made-for-this-trip signs. One side says, "Put Checks On Bush, Not Immigrants"'and the other has the words, "Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor" and a picture of the Statue of Liberty. As the senators try to hammer out an immigration reform bill, I need to make my views known. I've already called my senators about this subject, but plan to go up to their offices and say what I need to say in person. I'll do whatever I can to help our nation stay true to its original intent to be a place where those who need refuge are offered a safe haven.

This has been a hard week. On Monday we had Ed's cataract surgery and all the anxiety around that. Then on Tuesday I received word that a dear friend has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She moved from Detroit in 1994, but we've stayed in close touch. From 1989-94, Ed and I spent many happy weeks in her home in the country north of Detroit. Whenever she traveled east to visit family, she'd give us the key and an open invitation to stay. Those were sweet times. And now this gentle-spirited woman is undertaking an arduous journey into the unknown. I'm her point person here in Detroit, so had to make a number of calls to tell our friends in common the news. A difficult task.

My final challenge came this afternoon when I learned that the visits I was anticipating with my nephew, his wife, their 2 year-old little girl, and my niece from New Jersey were not going to happen as I'd hoped. My niece from New Jersey can't make the trip and my nephew has just had knee surgery and is very limited physically. We're still going to try to connect but if it happens, it will be short and sweet. How I wish their house were accessible!

And then my usually even-tempered husband Ed was grumpy at dinner tonight. By the way, he just came upstairs with a dish of Ben & Jerry's butter pecan ice cream as a peace offering. He can't stay grumpy for long.

All in all, it's probably a good time for a change of scenery. The cherry blossoms might even be in bloom.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

update on Ed 

We're still waiting for Ed's vision to clear in his right eye. When the surgeon removed Ed's eye patch this morning, there was no magical "Aha" moment like we'd anticipated. Truth be told, his sight was so blurry he could hardly see out of that eye. But the doc wasn't concerned. He said everything looked good and in a couple of days the corneal edema would disappear and Ed's vision would become clear. Actually, it did get better as the day went on but we're still waiting for that magical moment when he says, "So THIS is what colors look like!" May it come soon.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Ed's surgery 

My dear Eddie had cataract surgery on his right eye this morning. Everything went well. But, you know, it's no fun to see the person you love most in the world being wheeled on a gurney through doors you're not allowed to enter.

He had it done at the Kresge Eye Institute in the Detroit Medical Center and the care couldn't have been better. The nurses, surgeon and anesthesiologist were compassionate, professional and friendly. I was allowed to stay with him as they prepped him for surgery, and then again as he recovered afterwards. The surgery itself only took ten minutes. Imagine! No big deal. That is unless its YOUR eye being operated on, and then it is indeed a deal. This was Ed's first surgery in 65 years!

Tomorrow morning we return at 7:30 a.m. for the eye patch to be removed. That's when we'll see how his vision has improved. He's been such a good sport through it all. Gosh, I sure do love that guy.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

A rather full day... 

When I finally laid my weary body into bed this morning at 2:15 a.m., I recalled with gratitude that for most people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, fatigue is their most debilitating symptom. I say "with gratitude" because I have managed, thus far anyway, to avoid that particular symptom. Let me give you just one example: yesterday.

My day began with a mile-and-a-half scoot down to the gym where Matt worked me HARD for 45 minutes. About 12:30 p.m. I was back in my scooter for my return ride home. After having taken care of some emails and changed my clothes, by 1:45 p.m. I was in Sojourner, my wheelchair-accessible minivan, driving the 55 miles west to Ann Arbor.

Once there my first stop was the Michigan League box office where I picked up my ticket for that night's San Francisco Jazz Collective concert at the Michigan Theatre. Then I scooted over to Sushi.come for a spider roll with miso soup and a salad. My dessert was a dish of butter pecan frozen yoghurt that I carried outside to eat on the sunny U of M Diag. A demonstration was being held there by student volunteers working to combat homelessness and hunger.

By now it was time for me to head down to the Federal Building at Liberty and Fourth where Michigan Peaceworks was holding a rally to support their turning in (or attempts to turn in) the mugshots they'd invited peace activists to have taken at their "turn yourself into the FBI and NSA" booth during their March 19th "Stop the War" demonstration. Mike Steinberg, Legal Director of the Michigan ACLU, was there with Phillis Engelbert, Michigan Peaceworks Director, to hand over the 175 war protesters' mugshots to federal agents. They'd also brought in Jim Kleisser, Executive Director of Pittsburgh's Thomas Merton Center (the organization spied on by the FBI for its "pacifism"), from Pittsburgh to speak at the rally and join us for conversation afterwards.

The rally was wonderfully tongue-in-cheek, with good signs (photos #1 & #2), some folks in costume (photos #1 & #2), and "war protesters" of all ages (photos #1 & #2). Michigan Peaceworks is so creative in their opposition to war, often bringing humor to the mix. And I was delighted to see my friends Kristine and her youngest daughter Hanaan, whom I'd gotten to know during our demonstrations on Rabih Haddad's behalf during his 19-month detention.

Nor surprisingly, the FBI officials inside the Federal building refused to accept the mug shots, but Phillis was ready for that: she simply mailed an already-prepared manila envelope to Michael Chertoff, "Lord of the Spies," Secretary of Homeland Security, Washington, DC!

We were fortunate that the predicted rainstorms had not yet hit Ann Arbor.

About 20 folks met after the rally at a local pub called The Circus where we talked about what people like us always talk about--the loss of civil liberties and life in these United States under Bush & Co. When I briefly described my background as the daughter of a founder of the CIA, a former summer employee at FBI and CIA in the 50s and 60s, and told of an encounter I'd had with Secret Service agents during a solitary protest I'd mounted in front of the White House shortly after the end of the first Gulf War, Mike Steinberg of the Michigan ACLU asked me to email him my info so the ACLU can make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for any files the FBI might have on me. [I sent him that email today.]

I left The Circus just in time to feel the first raindrops fall. But I was ready for that. I simply donned my purple plastic rain poncho, covered my scooter's control panel with a black plastic bag, and set off down Liberty toward the Michigan Theatre. Within three blocks the drops had become a torrent accompanied by lightning and loud claps of thunder. I tucked in under an awning--two folks were already there--and prepared to sit it out.

What a storm! The term "sheets of rain" definitely applied. And then the rain was followed by hail. The streets were awash and any persons walking or running by looked like they'd just gotten out of a swimming pool. It was SO exciting! I loved it!

After about 20 minutes the rain had tapered off and I was on my way again. I stopped to dry off--my scooter had gotten a bit damp--and get a salad at a coffeehouse beside the theater. While there I had a delightful conversation with Sandra and Doug who'd just moved to AA in January with their 9 year-old boy and 6 year-old girl. Doug is heading up the fundraising drive to build a new children's hospital in AA, and Sandra works with children with learning disabilities.

By the time I arrived at the Michigan Theatre, it was packed! Standing room only, in fact. But the disabled seating is center rear of the main floor with a perfectly good view of the stage. And the sound is always good in that theater.

I'd be hard put to tell you in words what it was like to hear the SF Jazz Collective. All I can say is that my jazz buddy Akira (who, of course, was there too) and I agreed afterwards this was perhaps the finest evening of jazz we'd EVER heard. And, for Akira especially, that is really saying something. These eight musicians, each notable in his or her own right, brought to the ensemble everything you'd ever want: originality, passion, professionalism, attention, exuberance and discipline. They played a mix of original compositions by several of their members and new arrangements (by Grammy-winner Gil Goldstein) of classic jazz works by Herbie Hancock. If you EVER get a chance to see this group perform, DO IT!!!

After the performance I was flying so high I couldn't consider going home yet, so, with Akira jogging along at my side, I scooted at a fast clip down to the Firefly jazz club to see about getting into the late show to see David "Fathead" Newman, who was in town. Susan, the owner, said for us to come back in half an hour--at 10:30 p.m.--because the late show didn't start until 11 p.m.

We walk/scooted over to a coffeehouse on Main Street where I ordered a raspberry apple square and juice, and Akira got a latte. While there, Robert and Moa came over and introduced themselves. They said they were curious about Akira's sweatshirt which had a logo from an observatory on one of the small Hawaiian islands. It turns out they're moving in two weeks to a farm they've bought on that very island. Robert is quite a storyteller and for ten minutes kept us spellbound. But all too soon it was time to get back to the Firefly.

The line stretched outside the door by then, and it wasn't going anywhere. Not for awhile anyway. It was our good luck that Andre Hayward, the trombonist from SF Jazz Collective, came and stood beside us. He told us more about the group and their tour. They'd started out two weeks ago on the West Coast, followed by two Midwestern gigs, one in Milwaukee and the other in Columbus, Ohio. Then it was on to the East Coast, ending with a three night engagement at Carnegie Hall in NYC. Last night had been Ann Arbor, and today they were off to Switzerland and other European cities. They'll finish up at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco on April 14-16. As I say, see them if you possibly can.

Now I'll take you back to the line in front of the Firefly Club in AA last night. We finally began to move about 11:15 PM, and once inside, Susan seated me in the back at what has become my "usual" table. As it turned out, it was a good thing I was in the back. For, after four numbers by David "Fathead' Newman and his trio of excellent Detroit/Ann Arbor musicians, I realized that, as good as they sounded, I couldn't sit and listen to straight-ahead jazz classics...not that night anyway. My ears had gotten used to the sophisticated sounds I'd heard earlier. For the first time in my life, I left a jazz show early.

After the hour-long drive, I arrived home about 1:30 a.m. and was in bed by 2:15 a.m. Yes, I was sleepy, but not what I'd call fatigued. Since I obviously enjoy living life full out, it's a good thing that particular MS symptom has not made its way to my door. May it continue to stay away!

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