Monday, December 17, 2012


Holiday TV ads irritate many people – all those perfect families, eating perfect food after giving one another diamond rings and IPads.  My mind perversely calls up its picture of the Christmas I spent on C Ward of the Oklahoma State Mental Hospital.  Those of you have been reading my blog for awhile, or who know me, will assume that I was there as a patient – well ha ha!  I worked there.  I was a psych aide.  We had a plastic Christmas tree with all soft plastic ornaments hanging from the high ceiling above.  Granny Gannon, whose claim to fame was that she could curse for 20 minutes without repeating herself, walked up and down the long gray ward, muttering imprecations.  Nancy, a trusty who, some 30 years ago, had run over her husband with a tractor, also trudged up and down the hall on her endless rounds of mopping.  Other folks moaned, yelled, or stared listlessly at the TV set anchored high above us.

I wouldn’t mind the ads so much if at least one uncle passed out in the mashed potatoes, or one kid was throwing a fit because she didn’t get a babypoopsalot doll.  Even those ads would not be free of bias based on class, socioeconomic status, disability, gender identity and others.  There is not much that can be done about this.  The advertising industry will continue to pitch product to those who are affluent and either look like they walked out of a Norman Rockwell painting or are desperately trying to look like that.  TV experts counsel people on stress, the consequences of adding ten thousand dollars to your credit card debt in two weeks (duh), hangovers, weight gain blah blah blah. 

How about some reality-based holiday Public Service Announcements?  A middle-aged guy sits alone watching TV in his underwear and drinking beer.  A calendar on the wall proclaims that it is DECEMBER 25.  A voiceover says:  “Is this you, again, this Christmas?  You need to buy a dog!”  Cut to happy old guy walking a dog wearing a Santa hat and flirting with a gorgeous babe who is also walking her dog. 

Or how about this:

A chubby redneck mama dips out squirrel stew and collard greens, while Tiny Bubba proclaims “God bless us one and all.”  A festive line of type proclaims:  Happy Holidays from all your friends at WRBRO.

It would help.  The 99% of us who are not rich, happy and incredibly good looking would know that we too have not been forgotten during the holidays.

Monday, May 7, 2012


I will soon be 67.  This age is as full of changes and challenges as any age I have ever been.  One I am starting to notice more and more is increased amounts of solitude.  I have always been a bit of an odd duck and a loner, so I never had a multitude of friends, but I had a few very good friends I depended on, more than I knew.  Some of them have died, some of them have moved away, and some are dealing with challenges that occupy most or all of their time.  So I am alone a lot now. 

This is also connected to age.  Gone are the days I would hop on my bicycle and attend an event halfway across town, or start a large project involving long hours and hard work.  Been there, done that.  It's over.  I need small projects with short hours and light work.  I need to find new ways to structure my days.

Some days I wish I were a normal person, someone who enjoys card games, dinner parties, Hollywood movies and membership in the Altar Guild.  But I'm not.  I've tried, during other lonely times in my life, and it just doesn't work.  Many activities that other people enjoy bore the socks off of me.  I've tried hard to see it as an attitude problem, but I've never found an attitude that changes who I am, weird Arupa. 

I also wish I were a better person.  I struggle endlessly with my faults.  I am angry and judgmental far too much of the time.  I know that the results of anger and judgment, whether against the City Commission's treatment of the homeless people or some less noble instance of being dissed or slighted, has no result other than to increase the amount of anger and judgment in the world.

I do believe in the literal truth of that old song, "All You Need Is Love."  God is love and "with love all things are possible and there is nothing that is not possible."  The solution to my problems and to all problems - ending war, healing the environment, creating, on all levels - personal and planetary - a better world, is to become a loving person, starting with oneself, in this case me.  I hope with meditation, with prayer, to tame my angry mind and become someone who can love others and treat others as I would want to be treated. 

Friday, March 9, 2012


O Waiting Throngs of Blog Readers, I bring to thee a poetry game. Take a dictionary, close your eyes, flip through the dictionary and, without opening your eyes, pick a word. Write it down. Do this seven times. Then write a poem using at least five of the words you randomly picked. Here are the words I picked:


Here is the poem:

Eventful lentil
you record,
so small,
rain scribing on a leaf
so small,
this day I see
your leaf
you say
unravel man,
schismatic fragment,
mad centurion,
walking free
you'll see
there's nothing here
but air of
lilac days,
biscuit nights
of stars and ocean foam
rock home....

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why Are the Ghost Hippopotami Hiding Behind Jesus?

I paint fantasy landscapes, which I call scenes from Planet Arupa. The last time I hung a few at an art opening, someone pointed at one of them and said, "What are you saying with that one?" This question emptied my mind completely of all thought - the end point of Buddhist practice! Finally I said, "Nothing."

Paintings are supposed to say something? I thought that making paintings say something was the job of art critics at the New Yorker. There will be a photograph of an enormous white canvas with a small red dot in the middle, accompanied by three pages of: "Never before has the ontological vortex delineating the cusp of neo-modern pragmatism, as foreshadowed by Nietzche and, perhaps, Emerson, been so boldly presented as in..."

I always figured I'm just not smart enough to do paintings that mean something. So I asked Freeman if it was necessary for a painting to mean something. He said, "Well, that's part of it." He even admitted that he will face a blank piece of paper and think, "What do I want to say?" This I have never done. He then said that a painting should tell a story, even if it is a simple story.

So I looked at my painting of Jesus and a large dog watching an Angel who is standing on a hill that is being climbed by little guys with blue hair. Three small ghost hippopatami are standing behind Jesus, peering around His robe. What does this painting say?

Jesus is all over the place these days. He is even helping the New York Knicks (of St. Lin) and the Denver Brocos (St. Tebow) win games. He is backing all the Republican candidates for President! So why should He not be in my painting directing traffic? The ghost hippopatami are tagging along from the Big Game Preserve in the Sky that shelters all the extinct and endangered species that have left this world. The giant dog is there because, due to translation error, the line "Father, Son and Holy Canine" never made it into the Bible. Dogs are Love and Love is Spirit, Amen, Amen. Jesus, the ghost hippopatami, and the Holy Canine are watching the Angel in case she needs help (angels are so very busy these days) and the little blue-haired guys are senior citizens attempting to migrate to Canada before they turn 70, after which point the Canadian government will reject them. Since Jesus is backing candidates who want to do away with Social Security, watching over them is the least He can do.

That is what I am saying.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


It is impossible to live on this planet and be entirely unaware of the freak show that is passing for a presidential campaign in this year 2012. Lately I have been drawn into the insane fulminations and strategies to oppose any health insurance plan that allows women to receive contraceptives. How can people be against abortion AND against contraception? Do they want to go back to the world of my childhood where women had eight kids, three teeth, and worked 18 hours a day seven days a week? What is wrong with these idiots!

I find myself remembering a heroic woman named Gertrude Neilson, a retired medical doctor who, at age 75, ran an illegal womans health care clinic in her home on the edge of the University of Oklahoma campus. In Oklahoma in the 1960s it was a felony to sell or otherwise provide contraceptive devices to any unmarried person below the age of 21. There were a few gas stations around town where the men's room had a machine that sold Trojans at three for a quarter. At that price they were famous for breaking, in flagrante delicto. There were folk remedies involving coke cola and saran wrap. And there was trying to jump out of a 4th story window, as one my dorm mates, who found herself pregnant and disowned by her religious fanatic parents, tried to do.

But that wasn't all we had. We had Dr. Gertrude Neilson, whose name and phone number were written on the walls of every lady's room on campus and for a several-mile radius beyond. She provided contraceptives, sex education, and well women's care to any young woman who had the courage to knock on her door.

It did take courage. We were for the most part virtuous young ladies brought up in the 1950s, crossing our ankles and waiting for Mr. Right, as God and our parents expected of us. In going to Dr. Neilson's unmarked door we were defying our parents, God, and the State of Oklahoma.

I remember my journey to Dr. Neilson's door. I had fallen in love with beautiful Brenn of the wavy black hair and big brown eyes, who read poetry out loud. Our attempts to stop the train just short of the Promised Land were becoming increasingly feeble and half-hearted. We planned to spend the rest of our lives together, so how wrong could it be? I called Dr. Neilson and in a tiny, quaking voice requested an appointment. She had a pronounced Norwegian accent and a rich, warm voice. "You come in and see me. It's okay. I see you soon!"

She lived in a big, two-story brick house surrounded by beds of flowers. I walked up the path to her door and across the big wooden porch like a person on her way to be hung. I rang the door bell and stood there, quaking and wondering if I was going to pass out. I was a sinner, and, with this act of premeditation, a first degree sinner.

The door opened and big, wonderful old woman who looked like the star of every oatmeal commercial you've ever seen reached out one big calico-covered arm and pulled me in, chuckling and making warm, little clucking noises. She interviewed me, went over me from head to toe, gave me wise counsel about love, sex and life, and then gave me birth control pills, saying, "Now, these take one month to start working so you stay on the wagon for one month!" shaking her finger vigorously. "Then you come back and see me again, so I see you are okay!"

I floated out of her office on a pink cloud of love and anticipation. On behalf of all the many hundreds of young women you saved from forced marriages, lives postponed, back alley abortions, suicide, Dr. Neilson, I thank you.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Kathy Freeperson - poet, performance artist, radical feminist, activist, all around troublemaker - was my dear friend and writing partner for ten years. In 1992 we wrote and directed an evening of performance art, called BODY, MIND AND SPIRIT, that was so kick-ass wonderful women drove 200 miles to see it, and we filled the theater every night for a three-weekend run. We were then invited to perform it on the main stage at Florida State University in Tallahassee. At the end of the show, the audience rushed the stage. Poets don't often get to feel like rockstars - that was our night!

Shortly thereafter we were invited by the Women's Studies Department at FSU to give a Saturday afternoon poetry workshop, for which we would be paid $75 apiece. When it came to poetry, Kathy and I were easy lays - we would go almost anywhere for $75.

Kathy had many wonderful qualities, but when it came to money she was cheaper than Holloween candy on the Fourth of July. No one ever came out on top in a financial transaction with Freep (as she was called). So when I learned that our money would come in the form of a $150 check made out and mailed to Kathy, I could see that even on my economic scale, this was not going to be a profitable venture.

We worked out the finances of going up to Tallahasse. We would split the gas and motel bill evenly. Since I don't drive Kathy would have to do all the driving. In return I would pick up the restaurant tabs. Kathy ate often and she ate hearty, so this was going to be no small outlay.

We were accompanied by Kathy's 18-year-old toy poodle, Angelina Grimke, who was blind, arthritic, and farted incessantly. Kathy insisted that Angelina ride on my lap the whole trip there and back - to keep her safe and because, as she explained to Angelina who kept attempting to hobble into the back seat, "Your Aunt Arupa loves you SO MUCH."

It takes the state of Florida a long time to get around to paying people, so Kathy got our $150 check about three months later. She came over and gave me $20, explaining that "I had to pays some bills, and I'll get the rest to you later." Two months later she dropped by and gave another 20 dollars. I said that getting the money this way was taking some of the ya yas out of getting 'magic poetry money', as we called it. Kathy sniffed and said, "Unlike me, you are a married woman receiving the benefits of white male privilege so you should have no complaints." Okay.

A few months after that Kathy came by and gave me a Kodak envelope. She said it contained copies of all the pictures she had taken on the trip and should be more than equivalent to the 35 dollars she owed me. Whatever. I took the pictures. Later on I opened the envelope to find two pictures of me, two pictures of Kathy, and sixteen pictures of Angelina Grimke. I muttered, "**** you Freep!" and stuffed them into the back of a desk drawer.

In 2002 Kathy died of complications from diabetes. I was with her when she died. I knew from one of her poems what song her mother always sang to her when she was
falling asleep, so I held her hand and sang, "You are My Sunshine" as she drifted peacefully out of this world.

Several years later, when the whole episode of our trip to Tallahasse was long forgotten, I was cleaning out my old desk and found the 16 pictures of Angelina Grimke. The years fell away and I was remembering my beloved Freep and all the times we had - nothing could have brought it all back more than these pictures! I was so glad that she hadn't paid me with pieces of paper I would have taken to the store and traded for toilet paper and cat food. What is that worth? Sixteen pictures of Angelina Grimke turned out to be priceless.

Love you, Kathy.

Monday, January 23, 2012

God of the Magic Hair Brush

I found that day, broke,
my hair so thick and curly
I'd have to cut it off my head,
still in its plastic case,
a new hair brush to replace
the one I lost.

'I won't replace all you lost,
your mother, father, sister,
gone forever,
but here's a new hair brush
just so you'll know I'm here,
as you walk the long, long road.'

'To streets of gold?

'Now I'm old,
I've walked another forty years
on the long, long road.
I need another hair brush,