Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Blessed Samhain, Y'all!

Ah, one of my favorite days of the year is here. As happens most years, I am trying to incorporate spiritual practice with a chance to party my ass off. Happily, given my spiritual path, these things are not mutually exclusive.

As a quick aside, being a witch at Halloween is a trip. Suddenly, pop culture shines a little spotlight on an otherwise near invisible spiritual path, and local corporate news outlets are likely to run sensationalized stories of [insert cheezy announcer voice here] "a real modern day witch--- more after this break." Chances are good, whatever ends up being portrayed in these bits feels like it has less than nothing to do with me and my spiritual path. It's either these velveeta moments, or, worse-- the ubiquitous unflattering Disney image of witches. You know the one: an old woman with a large crooked nose with wart; probable green skin; black or grey hair with a black pointy hat; and any teeth remaining are likely to be jagged. I mean, enough already. Witches, that is indigenous European earth path following folk, were relentlessly persecuted after the rise of Christianity. Over a 500-year period scores of thousands (at a minimum) of people (primarily women) were accused of witchcraft and executed by the church and state. Like that's not enough? We have to put up with crazy bad media stereotyping, too? I get a bit sick of it.... deny our existence, ridicule us, insult us, force conversions to worship a dead guy on a stick, and if anyone gets too out of line, tell the populace that they are in league with the devil and must be executed. More on the burning times, and their relevancy to current day events in a future post, but for now, I will get back to this blessed Samhain.

This is the time that the veil between the worlds is stretched thinner. This is the time to listen to messages from your ancestors. This is the time to ask those who are on the other side for advice, for guidance.

There are many ways to honor and remember the dead: pour an extra cup of tea / coffee / water in the morning, poor it out while saying the names of those you remember; set an extra place for "unseen friends" at the dinner table tonight; make an altar-- include pictures of those who are disincarnate, flowers, candles, reminders of the elements (water, earth, fire, air), let spirit guide you (literally).

So here's a little confession. I see dead people. Really. Since I was a kid, I have seen and communicated with the dearly departed. During this time of year, I can vouch for the connection coming through much stronger. One thing that I have learned is that anyone who wants to do this, generally can learn how. The most important thing is to be clear in your intention, ground yourself, state that you invite only spirits who wish you well, and be receptive to what you perceive. As with anything, practice helps.

I think that it is crucial to recognize the connections between this world and the next, to honor our connection with the dead and the earth that sustains us. It is important to see ourselves as a part of this very large intergenerational picture, and not this disconnected, disassociative ahistorical entity, with no past, no future and an unsatisfied present.

To that end, considering the challenges we are facing, please consider asking our forebears for advice. As the wheel of the year turns, remember: turning wheels make revolutions. I plan on having some consultation with Emma Goldman, Voltairine De Cleyre, Boudicea, Abbie Hoffman, Judy Bari, and my dad, gran, Uncle Jack, and Jan, too (can't forget about the family).

And in between all that consultation, libation pouring, honoring and connecting, I am going to the BOO BASH! It will be fun, I am working out my costume even now. I heartily encourage everyone to attend-- Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison Ave, $7 with a costume-- and proceeds benefit KBOO. Pretty much a winning situation all around. Check out all information about it here.

Whether you spend this day carving pumpkins (I have carved my best pumpkin *EVER* this year!), eating candy, talking with the dead, constructing the best costume in the world, partying like it's 1999 all over again, or some combination of the above, I wish you the very best as this old year passes. Brightest blessings on us all as we spend the next six weeks incubating the new year to come.

With love and gratitude.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What the Hell Happened September 8, 2005?

Monday, October 22nd marks a day to focus attention on stopping Police Violence. KBOO is recognizing the day by creating special programming from 10 AM - 7 PM. You can listen at 90.7 FM Portland; 110.7 FM Corvallis; 91.9 FM The Gorge; and at Elsewhere.

Police brutality is a huge issue. Locally, I have to give much honor and respect to Portland Copwatch. For an overview of the problem of police violence in our own city, check out this information. For the briefest overview, just check out the list of victims that PCW compiled of police shootings and deaths in custody from 1992 until the present. In the interest of full disclosure, if you read the information on the beating death of James Chasse, Jr, know that we were friends, many years ago. This stuff hits home hard.

I have been asked to help produce an hour of the special, focusing on the murder of a young man named Fouad Kaady. Kaady was a young man living in Gresham, OR. On September 8th, 2005, Kaady was in a car accident, and his car caught on fire. There were several emergency calls from witnesses reporting the accident, a car being on fire, and of a man, walking down the street, badly burned and injured. Emergency response crews are dispatched-- Help on the Way!

First to arrive at the scene are Clackamas Dep. David Willard, and Sandy Police Officer William Bergin. Producers at Portland Indymedia have taken audio from their testimony to bring us the description of that night in the cop's own words, and folks, their words are horrifying.

Listen to the program on Monday, October 22nd, at 1 PM Pacific. Hear Willard and Bergin describe finding Kaady seated, cross-legged, looking down, not active in any way. Hear them talk about needing him to lie on the asphalt belly down so that they can restrain him (why? we're not sure why cops feel the need to restrain a critically injured accident victim... we'll try to answer this during the show). And know that 28 seconds after Dep. Willard and Officer Bergin first met Mr. Kaady, they shot him multiple times, and killed him.

What makes a cop treat an accident victim like a criminal? Listening to their testimony, I was reminded of the dialogue in so many b-grade horror flicks, where some small town cop is giving instructions on saving the townsfolk from monsters. Specifically the sheriff in Night of the Living Dead.

Without serious reform, giving someone a badge and a weapon is tantamount to giving them a licence to kill with impunity.

If you want more information stopping police violence, in Portland contact Portland Copwatch or the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center.
Get active! The life you save may be your own (or your friend's...)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Enough with the America's wars-- including the War on Drugs

Saturday, October 20th, Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse will hold a day long conference and banquet celebrating 25 years of education on marijuana policy and harm reduction. This seems like a good moment to look at America's other war front.

The "War on Drugs" has been waged for more than thirty years. And like the U$' other failed war efforts, this war has devastated lives, and left the coffers dry.

Over 2.2 million people are currently incarcerated in this country. Every year we choose to continue this war will cost U.S. taxpayers another 69 billion dollars.

One organization that sees the effects this miserable policy, and works to counter the gross misprioritization of resources, is Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. According to their website, the U$ has just over 4.5 % of the world's population, but 22.5 % of the world's prisoners. And yet, they note, prohibited drugs today are cheaper, and easier to get than they were thirty-five years ago, at the beginning of the so-called "war on drugs".

Howard Wooldridge is LEAP's Education Specialist, working in Washington, DC. He is visiting Portland to speak at the MAMA conference this weekend. He will be taking time to join us in the studio, Friday morning, 7:30 - 9 AM, for Positively Revolting Talk Radio.

As a young officer, Wooldridge quickly caught on to the fact that alcohol killed and injured more people than all the illicit drugs combined. His efforts to combat drunk drivers earned him recognition from MADD. He was bothered by priorities that didn't work to save lives, and saw that the drug war was not about reducing harm to society. In 2003 and 2005 Wooldridge rode his horse 6,400 miles from coast to coast to deliver an antiprohibition message in 22 states, to some 13,000,000 Americans.

The "War on Drugs" has been around for more than 30 years. The mantra that "drugs are bad, m'kay?" has become so much background noise. Against this hum, it seems anathema to talk unapologetically about being against prohibition, and yet that is exactly what this former police officer does.
I look forward to speaking with him-- I hope you have a chance to listen to the show.

It's time to end all of the wars this country, at home and abroad. It's time to embrace peace, value life and create beauty. Let's make it so.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Freaks: Living the Good Life

Last night I saw Jason Webley play with his full band at the Kennedy School. Jason Webley is my favorite musician at this time; his live act, solo or with band, is not to be missed. Last night's performance was no exception.

The show started with each musician in the band playing a couple of solo pieces in support of their individual work. While each were good individually, it all came together nicely in an evening of experimental classical folk punk rock played on percussion, stand up bass, viola, guitar and accordion. What's not to love? The performance was incredibly enthusiastic, and I had a great time dancing and singing along, both with the friends who came with me and the other folks in the audience that I might not know so well yet. Such is the spirit of a Jason Webley show, as he mixes brilliantly executed music into an amazing antidote for alienation. Each time I have seen him, there is a great unifying energy that develops amongst those present. The man works audience participation into fine performance art like no other.

Leaving the club with my beloved, Theresa, we board the bus to get on home. I was happy and giggly in a way that a frantic stomp dancing sing-along can leave a person—we were having a good time. That's when this guy walks towards us on the bus and says to Theresa, "You call yourself a strange- ling, don't you? That's what you call yourself, a strange-ling." Theresa asks him what he is talking about, as the guy sits across from her and starts to get into his pack. Theresa gets very, very tense, and asks if he is getting a weapon. The guy sneers at her, I can't hear his words, and I am wondering how the fuck my evening just took this dive.

I am used to my evenings, afternoons and occasional mornings taking sudden twists—I realize that Theresa and I are (as one friend put it) "walking dharma" to some. We tend to have that "bright lights, big city" kind of effect on the uninitiated. It's unintentional, I assure you. It comes with the territory of living our lives openly, not being ashamed or apologetic of who we are. So, who are we? I am a bearded woman. Theresa is a transwoman. We got hitched a dozen years ago, and live fairly happy lives, raising a kid, and all. We work, we eat, we see live music and enjoy poetry. I really have a hard time understanding the attention that we attract, but, well, there you have it, that's my life.

Now, back to my life on the # 72 bus: I decide I am going to break the tension by being really flip to everyone involved. In Theresa's defense, she's been attacked for being trans before, based on her lived experience, it is not unreasonable to start getting edgy with this guy who is close by and getting into his pack after being quite hostile and mentioning god a few times. Still, in all, this is not the way I want the evening to go down. I want to get back to having fun, damn it! I tell the guy to fuck off, I loudly remind Theresa that I am her date for the night, and since I was a damn sight sexier than the dude that just came in, I suggest she start paying more attention to me and less to him. I look back at the dude, who seems confused at this point. He pulls his book from his pack and reads. I put my arm around Theresa and again, with volume, tell her that she is safe, that this guy isn't going to hurt her, and that we were having a good evening. I asked her to remember the fact that only a few minutes before we were in a room of folks where we were a part of things, welcomed and not reviled. Dude left a few stops later.

As things were getting back to a happy place, I couldn't help but over hear "Freaks!!!" spat out lowly, behind us. It was not the encouraging sort of tone that I tend to associate with the word, as in "God bless the Freaks, keep Portland weird". Nope, this was more the intonation wherein the opening "Motherfucking" was implied, along with the "you should crawl off and die now" unspoken closure. I turned around and the guy behind us (across from the back door which separated us) was in full glower. I wiggled my eyebrows, it was damn near involuntary. I am a freak, goddammit! What could I say? I didn't want to get too heavy, I didn't think he was a threat—but I really don't want to let some fuck pass this kind of judgment on me without my notice.

He said it again, as he was getting off the bus. Before he had a chance to be out of the door, I told him that I had to put up with his sorry straight ass, so he was going to have to put up with me. Off he went, into the night.

Eventually, our stop came up and we walked home. Theresa feeling saddened by the confrontations—I felt more defiant, a bit comedic. I know that in large part, that was because of my mood going into the confrontations (with good music, I am strong). Still, in all, it leaves me feeling raw, exposed. What is the problem out there in the straight world? Why do these people feel so free to express their disapproval, judgment, hatred and contempt for my family and me without even knowing us? I mean, if it were personal, I could better understand it. Just wondering, any ideas are welcome.

All that said, I have listened to the new Webley CD a few times today. I am also very happy with the "Led to Sea" CD, which is the project of Alex Guy, Webley’s violist, Jherek Bischoff his bassist and Saba Angel. Webley, et al, are returning to Portland quite soon, playing at Lewis & Clark on November 1st. I suggest making a good night of it, and bring money for the CDs (at $10 & 11 each, it's the least you can do to support the arts)—the songs get stuck in your head, and you'll need them later.

Oh, and uh, if you go-- can you hook me up with a ride? I think I like my freak bubble, and I want to reinforce it as much as possible, right about now.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Double Spiral

Coming as no shock to any listener of of the talk radio show that I have co-produced for more than 13 years, Positively Revolting Talk Radio (yes, that is a double intendre), we are facing some very serious challenges in our country and communities. Over the last month we have focused on the draconian loss of civil liberties & a constitutionally based government, attacks on communities & hate crimes (hey, have you heard? nooses are making a comeback), and also looking at the connections between what is valued in the economy and how people and the planet are treated--- and these issues can get overwhelming, really fast.

It is very important not to allow yourself to be moved into inaction because a problem seems to big. I don't know if you have noticed what happens to people who try to do that in their personal lives (you know, that denial thing-- If i pretend the problem doesn't exist, it will just go away)--I have tried it a few times, and I can tell you it doesn't work. Now, when talking about national and international problems, with consequences of war, peace and democracy, and the horrors being perpetrated around the world in the name of U$ Americans, the moral obligation to act is too great to allow oneself to be overwhelmed.

One of the most important tools we need to take decisive action is good information. Having good information requires that we have a transparency in governance where the press are able to ask hard questions (and moreover to demand answers to those questions). Another important thing to remember is that action is the anti-dote to despair. The third thing to remember is that your sense of humor is essential to your survival.

Yes, ACTION is the anti-dote to despair. When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. How do we get the wheels spinning in a more just direction. How can we be a part of the solution, be the change that we want to see in the world?

This morning, I spoke with Elliot D. Cohen & Bruce Fraser, who have co-authored the book, The Last Days of Democracy: How Big Media and a Power Hungry Government are Turning America into a Dictatorship. The book succinctly follows the interconnectedness of big corporate media, defense contractors, global mega PR firms and our so-called government. It is a well argued wake up call to the fact that the current interlinking relationships between these groups provide an environment toxic to citizen participation in a free society.

This is hardly a new practice, and yet the degree to which the Bush administration has engaged in it to sell the Iraq invasion and occupation, to strip civil liberties, and to launch the war on terror seems like it has taken things to that next level.

Let's start off with the idea of transparency in governance. We have known for decades that the US Gov't will manipulate information and facts to achieve an accepting public opinion for a particular course of action. This has occurred through various administrations, in the U$ and abroad. Noam Chomsky talks about this process in his epic work, Manufacturing Consent.

This is hardly a new practice, and yet the degree to which the Bush administration has engaged in it to sell the Iraq invasion and occupation, to strip civil liberties, and to launch the war on terror seems like it has taken things to that next level. It seems that as the outrages get larger, I tend to feel number, cynical. That's not healthy, I recognize that. Action is the anti-dote to despair-- chant it like a mantra.

The Last Days of Democracy, starts out with a great look at the so-called Downing Street Memo-- this was an absolutely eye-popping leak to the press that proves the point that the U$ was looking for a justification to go to war with Iraq. Rather a smoking gun for those of us who "knew" that the administration was making up justifications to occupy Iraq out of whole cloth. But knowing that this administration lies is not the same as taking action against those lies-- doing positive things to enact a peaceful and just culture.

Moral obligation says act now-- lives are literally at stake. We must end the occupation of Iraq. We must re-prioritize spending, so that domestic human needs come out on top-- we need $$ for health care, housing, and a restored environment. And while we are at it, we should make art, too.

There are many wonderful things that are happening along these lines-- things that make it easy and enticing to act. One of these is a study group forming around the book The Real Wealth of Nations, by Riane Eisler--whom I was fortunate enough to interview recently for the talk show. The basic premise of this book is that it can be used as a text to explore a newish form of economics, while it can be used as an action guide to build our local economy to reflect humane and nurturing values. As crazy busy as I am, I want to participate in this. I want to help build opportunities for people to value each other, to work in partnership and with respect to one another and the earth that sustains us all. It is unsatisfying to only rail against, I need something to rail for.

Dr. Riane Eisler wrote the Chalice and the Blade, which was the book that introduced me to a lot of concepts about actual historical societies that were not based in violence and rigid hierarchies. Her new book takes those ideas and makes them into a very tangible economic system that can work for us all.

She is speaking at First Unitarian Church, at SW 12th & Main, on Friday, Oct. 26th, 7 -9 pm. There is a sliding scale entrance, with no one turned away for lack of funds. You can find out more about it (and download study guides or hook up with others involved in the local study group) by checking their website:

Allow me to end with these thoughts on fear and action, from one of my favorite books of all time, Das Energi, by Paul Williams:
Relax. That's how you deal with fear.
Fear is the greates enemy of awareness.
It leaves shame and guilt far behind.
Fear is the force that holds us back.
And we need not be held back any longer!
There is a way to deal with fear.
First: accept that fear is not needed, that there is never
A reason to let it live. Carry this knowledge within you always;
It is your first line of defense.
Second: Learn to recognize your fears, in all their forms,
In the earliest stages possible.
Any fear killing mantra will do. Say:
I shall not fear, I need not fear. Write your own mantra.
Learn it. Use it. Killing fear is like stamping out a fire. Reflex.
Stamp it out.

Good night and good luck.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hello, It's Me

Not sure if anyone still has any active alerts about this blogsite, anymore. Still, I want to revive it. Still, I thought that I would forge ahead, and see what becomes of it. Ahem...

Surfing It:

I am reminded that sometimes I have no control over timing.

Earlier this week, I was talking with my beloved Theresa, and I was saying to her, "Ya know? I think that we should seriously think about using alternate forms of transportation. That we should save driving the van for special occasions, getting away and going to the store and taking care of mom and that, but I think that it's time to walk my talk more when it comes to regular commuting."

So of course it came as little surprise, when two days later, while driving around for a few errands in the rain, the van starts from stop light, and within seconds makes this k-chungka sound, when it goes no further.

Three of us push it two blocks and cab it home, defeated. I shook my tiny fists at heaven (literally, I did it -- seemed like as good a time to do so as any, and, well, I always wanted to know how that felt…), and screamed that this was certainly not what I had meant. I needed some more transitional time. Right.

The next day, the mechanic tells me that my transitional time has transitioned. The van, which has a really bad consumer rating, needs a wholly new transmission to the tune of about $3,200. A few other things that we should tend would bring it up another grand, if we wanted to keep it. The mechanic seems honest—he tells me that he wouldn't bother. Later in the day, Theresa read some consumer feedback about this particular beast, and found that we were lucky to have made it this far. It's the slow dismemberment and eventual scrap heap for Ruby, I'm afraid.

So today, while taking the bus to run some errands, I was serendipitously picked up by my friend Phil, who arrived at the corner the precise moment that the bus, too, arrived. He took me to his house and gave me a great CD (thank you, thank you, thank you!), and for added good fortune, I got to say hi to his girlfriend, too! They dropped me off at the station where I met folks for some conversational practice Spanish/English exchange.

The weather was beautiful, the serendipity good, the bus schedules even cooperated—who'd have figured? Still, if anyone is looking to sell a small car, relatively cheap, let me know—I well prefer the gradual approach to transitions.