ella goes zero to six months in sixty nana seconds


Ella and her Nanas from October 1, 2019 – April 01, 2020

Happy Six Month Birthday, Ella Elisabeth James!

You give us joy and hope for the future!

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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a prize fighter named Pain


Reaching deep, deeper, deepest into my archives this time with a story that seems appropriate for our collective contemporary selves across the world. I offer this post first published here in September, 2011. I lifted it from my third book, I’ll Call It Like I See It, which is how my blog got its name. 

Let me introduce you to my new friend Pain…well, not really new…and not actually a friend. I’m learning to live with him, but he’s a stubborn, persistent adversary.  I must have known him intermittently through my more than six decades of life, although the encounters were brief and unremarkable.  Painful episodes are the children of Pain.

I met Pain himself three and a half years ago.  The mature, grown-up Pain.  He came to my body through the hardest part of me—my head.  He moved into the right side of my scalp and down my forehead to encircle my right eye and cheek.  He followed the nerves that travel through my face.  He had a cute little name that rhymes with tingles.  Shingles.  Such a harmless name for the devil who rules my life. He moved into his new home with the excitement of a pioneer staking a claim for a homestead in the Wild West during the glory days when every vista was unexplored territory.

Pain is a hard worker who never sleeps.  He is relentless in his pursuit of control and domination.  Medicines amuse him with their efforts to ease his grip. He is like a prize fighter whose gloves are cinched for eighteen rounds. Medication sends him to the corner to be renewed, but he’s up and ready when the bell sounds. He is a bold opponent who stoops to cheap shots during the fray.

When the sun goes down at the end of the day, Pain only works harder; sleep and rest flee from him.  He is their biggest fear, their worst enemy.  He loves the darkness of the night because it reminds him of his own nature. Pain pummels me with a ferocious pounding unmatched by mortal foes.  I understand him better now, and I know his tactics.  I know he leaves after a long fight to make me think I’ve won.  I step into the center of the ring with my hands held high in a victory salute.  It’s clear—Pain is the loser.

But then he returns.  Sometimes to the head that now bears the scars of our warfare, sometimes with a fatigue that makes movement impossible because I have hit a wall which may as well be made of concrete.  Always to my eyes – which blur, burn and water incessantly as they produce protein deposits splattering the annoying eyeglasses essential  to replace the contact lens I used to wear.

As I grow older and my immune system weakens, Pain appears stronger and more powerful.  I have a rendezvous with Pain, as the poet once said of Death.  I meet him on whatever battlefields he chooses, and we engage in our struggle in quiet isolation.  The stakes are high in this duel with no seconds available to offer assistance, no valiant rescue on the horizon.  It is just Pain and me.

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I’m sure I don’t say welcome to my new followers often enough, but I appreciate everyone who clicks “follow”  – you all give me encouragement to carry on. Many of you live on other continents that are foreign to me; but our shared humanity, particularly in this time of Covid-19, connects us across the oceans. Thank you all for taking time to read and reflect.

Stay tuned.

 

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ships that don’t come in


“To those who stand on empty shores and spit against the wind
and those who wait forever for ships that don’t come in.”

Joe Diffie (d. 3-29-20) recorded these words written by Paul Nelson and Dave Gibson in 1992; I hear them several times a week on my favorite country legends radio station. Each time I listen to them I am transported to the 1950s to vivid childhood memories of my maternal grandmother who told me all the things we would do when her ship came in. We would take wonderful trips from our little town in Grimes County, Texas to exotic faraway places like Maryland to visit her brother Arnold with his wife Amelia and California to visit her favorite sister Orrie in Los Angeles. We would stop at the See’s Candy store in Los Angeles to buy all the chocolates we could eat. We could travel whenever we wanted because she wouldn’t have to clerk at Mr. Witt’s General Store anymore. She would buy my mother a new piano and my dad a new car. She would buy me anything I wanted. Life would be good.

I will be as old this month as my grandmother was when she was buried on my birthday in 1972 at the age of seventy-four. She believed her ship never came in, and I understand why. Much of her life she stood on empty shores where she must have felt she was spitting against the wind, powerless in the face of poverty and its constraints, overwhelming loneliness when my parents and I moved out of her home in 1958, severe depression with sporadic shock treatments for therapy after we left her, debilitating medications she couldn’t afford. Spitting against the wind.

Yet for me, life with my grandmother was a ship that did come in. During those ten years I lived with her she was the center of warmth, love and laughter for me. I learned to love playing games like dominoes from her and her mother, my great-grandmother, who visited every summer. I learned to laugh at pranks which made no sense to me because she thought they were hilarious when she played them. I learned to love the smell of her pies baking in the oven on Sunday mornings, the aroma of her kolaches baking on Sunday afternoons. I learned to fall asleep lying next to her in bed where she fell exhausted every night after rising before dawn for her Bible study and then standing on her feet for ten hours selling merchandise at Mr. Witt’s general store.

I learned the ships that come in for some people are the same ones that never come in for others.

So here’s to all the soldiers who ever died in vain,

The insane locked up in themselves, the homeless down on Main

To those who stand on empty shores and spit against the wind

And those who wait forever for ships that don’t come in.

Here’s to Joe Diffie, an American country singer, who died in the coronavirus pandemic at the age of 61. Rest in peace, Joe.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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true confessions


 I find the planet to be spinning out of control on a different axis at a very high rate of speed in the past thirty-one days since the beginning of Women’s History Month. I usually post four to five times monthly, but I hoped I could offer my readers in cyberspace a few minutes of escape from the pandemic in these most trying times with stories of ordinary women who became extraordinary in a variety of circumstances.  Besides, who am I kidding? I needed the escape, too.  True Confessions was first published in May, 2016 – I’m ending my WHM with it without apology because it’s a part of my history with writing as well as my history with Pretty. No agenda. Just enjoy. 

When Mrs. Lucille Lee taught me how to read in the first grade at the Richards public school, I was so excited I tried to read anything and everything that had words: newspapers, magazines, comic books about Superman or Archie and Jughead, signs, billboards,The Hardy Boys mysteries, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, The Bobbsey Twins in Tulip Land, Cherry Ames, Tom Swift Jr; histories of the adventures of Wyatt Earp, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Gene Autry the singing cowboy, Daniel Boone, Annie Oakley, Sam Houston and well, you get the picture.

I asked for extra books to take home from school, and I was the first person on the steps of the Grimes County Bookmobile every month – I always checked out the maximum magic number of four. I read whenever I took a break from playing outside or hid from my mother who routinely expected me to be practicing the piano since she had the self imposed unfortunate task of teaching me to play. Do not disturb. I was busy reading. I had left hot humid Richards, Texas for exotic places like snowy New England to check on my new friends Jo, Amy, Beth and Meg, the March girls in Little Women, who were even cooler than the Bobbsey twins. I cried when Beth died.

One day I read a magazine article entitled “How do You Tell Your Child there is no Santa Claus?” I was mortified when my mother confirmed that he wasn’t real. I was probably nine years old at the time and had heard rumors at school but knew for a fact he was real because I’d seen him on the news on television every Christmas. The news was the ultimate standard bearer of truth.  Now two  heroes bit the dust at once: Santa Claus and CBS reporter Dan Rather at KHOU. Shattering. What was left to believe in? Who could be trusted? At least I knew Lucy and Ricky Ricardo would always be together with Fred and Ethel Mertz. I took comfort in that.

Somewhere along the line in the next sixty years reading became less about fun and more about school, studying, work –  keeping up with the financial markets which in the waning years of the twentieth century moved at warp speed in a gazillion directions. Reading, for me,  moved from printed pages to computer screens and power point presentations. Gradually over my forty years working with numbers in some form or another, I lost my love for words. When I came home at night, the last thing I wanted to do was read.

The vicissitudes of life intervened, as they will according to my daddy, and I fell in love with a woman who loved to read almost as much as she enjoyed playing tennis. We met in her bookstore Bluestocking Books in the early 90s. She had a wonderful feminist bookstore located on Gervais Street in the Vista in downtown Columbia before the Vista was a hot spot and yet, her store became a gathering place for the fledgling LGBT community. My interest in books was immediately revived.

Alas, Bluestocking closed after two and a half years, but my friendship with the owner who was also a passionate lesbian activist endured. We were both involved in other long term personal relationships for the next seven years, but the two relationships fell apart for different reasons at the turn of the century. Pretty, the bookstore owner, and I joyfully discovered we had passions for more than equal rights as the 21st. century began.

When we bought our first house together, we had to have bookshelves built in the living room and her office. That set the precedent for every house since then. Built-in bookshelves, bookcases of every size and description in every room at Casa de Canterbury in the front house, bookcases lining the rooms of the little back house we call our bodega. Still we had books on the floor, books on every piece of furniture that has a surface – books, books, books. Plus, Pretty read every night. While I watched TV and played poker in cyberspace, she read books.

Finally, after six years of being surrounded by books, I decided part of my life was missing. But, the interesting thing is that rather than start reading one of the countless books at my disposal, I took a writing course in December, 2006. Pretty encouraged me and of course, I wanted to do well. I wrote a little story about a revival meeting in my Southern Baptist church where I heard a preacher rant and rave about homosexuals going to hell. The teacher liked it, and so did Pretty. That story became the chapter Payday Someday in Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing that was published in November, 2007.

Blogs, books, magazines – once again I have a love affair with words. This time around, though, the words are mine.  I write them. I own them. They are sometimes well received by readers, sometimes they aren’t but they come from a reservoir built steadily by years  of dams focusing on numbers until finally the dams broke when the words overflowed.  Apparently, I am unable to stop them from tumbling onto a computer screen that sometimes becomes the printed page.

True confessions: I still don’t read much. People often invite me to become their Goodreads friend; I love the site so I always say yes, but I’m a terrible friend. In spite of that, I started reading At Seventy: A Journal by May Sarton this week because Pretty laid it on our coffee table and because I think May Sarton is one of the best writers of the last century. She happened to be an out lesbian but refused to be called a “lesbian writer.” Whatever the label, she wrote fabulous letters to her friends and family. Since she answered her mail religiously every morning, I wish I’d written to her.

Letter writing is a lost art, but I suppose Facebook and other social media render it superfluous. My sense is that blog comments are like mini-letters and I love the interaction with those of you who are my followers. If I fail to respond to your comment, I didn’t see it. I am thankful for every reader.  Do not disturb. Somewhere someone is reading.

Thank goodness for the Bluestocking Bookstore owner who continues to inspire my love for words – and for her. I think I should marry that woman. Oops! I forgot. I did.

Stay safe and stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

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my new BFF Ellen


In November, 2013 when I first published this post I was struggling with losses so overwhelming I felt like a stranger in my own skin. If I had had a voice, that voice would have been the lone one crying in a wilderness of pain. I needed a friend and luckily found one every afternoon for an hour when the always smiling, invariably sunny Ellen DeGeneres walked into my life with an opening monologue that never failed to make me laugh. Today I believe laughter is still the best medicine for whatever ails any of us – pandemic raging without or within.  

I have a new relationship with a younger lesbian who shares my core values, is wicked smart and witty, too – a huge plus in my list of desirable qualities for long term hooking up.  We get together every afternoon at 3 o’clock, laugh at silly jokes she makes and dance to the music played by her favorite DJ for the day. This girl puts me to shame on the dance floor, but she never makes fun of my moves.

We only meet for an hour, but that hour is jam packed with top entertainers from all over the world who are thrilled to visit with my BFF. Of course, you know who my new girlfriend is because she’s probably one of your BFFs too. Ellen. As in DeGeneres.

Oh yeah. Ellen and I go way back, but we’ve had a kind of off-again/on-again relationship since we first discovered each other in the mid 1990s. I let her do her TV shows and helped her find Nemo back in the day; we saw each other briefly backstage at the Oscars and Emmys she hosted. But I have to admit I put her on the back burner when she started her own talk show eleven seasons ago.

I mean I didn’t totally forget her, but I was in a relatively new relationship with another woman who required my full attention plus one of those high-pressure careers that kept me in an office during my usual Ellen liaisons.  So we languished…

Until this year. The unlikely year of 2013. Why unlikely, you ask? Well first of all, it’s an odd numbered year and if you’ve been with me for a long time, you know I never think anything good takes place in an odd numbered year. Unless there’s an exceptional turn around in the last two months, I have to say my instincts of foreboding have been spot on.

That’s what I love about my getting back together again with Ellen. I swear the girl lifts me up. As Andra Day sings, “I’ll rise up, I’ll rise like the day. I’ll rise up, I’ll rise unafraid. I’ll rise up, and I’ll do it a thousand times again.” Tell it, sister.

Ellen is a rare commodity in the world these days. She’s an optimist who wants to spread the spirit of love and hope to a people who need to look at life with renewed faith in the kindness of each other. Her generosity touches the hearts of the hardened, encourages them to try again. Give each other a chance.

So for the naysayers who shake their heads and mutter Oh well, anybody can be nice for an hour, I say shame on you. My BFF Ellen rocks and you’ll agree if you take the time to get to know her – which is kind of like what we should be doing with everybody else we meet.  For an hour or even longer.

Stay tuned.

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Liz Was Hotter than a Two Dollar Pistol


What would my Women’s History month be without Liz? This post was first published in October, 2013 two years after her death on March 23, 2011. Please don’t be disappointed in me for not giving more details of her life, her good works during the AIDS pandemic, or her misdeeds. This was then, and is now, more of a love letter. Relax. Remember when…

 

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Maggie the Cat in famous lingerie

The stuff that dreams are made of

My love affair with Elizabeth Taylor has lasted longer than any of my real life relationships or all of her eight marriages.  Liz and I go way back.

We started in 1956 with Giant which I got to see because my mother heard it was a historical movie about West Texas oil.  I was ten years old at the time mama drove me twenty miles from Richards, Texas (pop. 500) to see the movie at the Miller’s Theater in cosmopolitan Navasota (pop. 5,000).  I decided right then and there if this was how history looked, I was all about yesterday. I fell in love with the heroine who was married to Rock Hudson but wild for James Dean.  She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.

The following year Raintree County was released; it was then and still is today my most favorite silver screen experience with this Golden Age of Hollywood icon. She was “hotter than a two dollar pistol and the fastest thing around…” as George Jones sang twenty years later. For two and a half hours, I lusted after Liz who played Susanna the hottie southern belle who stole Johnny Shawnessy from boring whiny Nell. I never understood why two women would be in love with Montgomery Clift anyway, but I certainly knew why he was taken with Liz.

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“Look at the birdie, look at the tree…my gal’s the prettiest in the whole county.”

from Raintree County

I’ve seen that movie countless times with its Gone With the Wind wannabes and celebrated flaws, but I truly don’t care.  For some of her fans, Liz will be remembered as Maggie the Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in the sexy slip or Catherine in the white bathing suit in Suddenly, Last Summer or the scandalous affairs with co-stars Eddie Fisher and Richard Burton on the sets of Butterfield 8 and Cleopatra, respectively.  Others will see her as the child star in National Velvet and the Lassie movies or the deranged middle-aged Martha in 1966 in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  for which she won her second Oscar.

She will be remembered by many for her notorious marriages and divorces – all eight of them – think Debbie Reynolds, for example. Then think Richard Burton and Cleopatra. If you remember the hullabaloo from those torrid days, you must also remember the  Voting Rights Act of 1965…an act that the Supremes struck down this year.  But don’t get me started on that.

Why Liz?  Why now, you ask?

I visited a friend this week and saw the Cat on a Hot Tin Roof poster  (a poster he bought from me at one of our downsizing yard sales) hanging in his den. I was immediately reminded of the time fifty years ago I fell in love with Elizabeth Taylor, wrote her a fan letter and received a glossy 5 x 7 “autographed” photo of her from MGM.  Love, Liz, she signed.

And I do.

Stay tuned.

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sidetracked: takin’ any comfort that i can


I have a good friend who is alone tonight following the death of her wife of 30 years last week. In the midst of the fear and panic we are all facing with the pandemic news every day, she must face the additional challenges of finding a new reality, a new normalcy for her life. I’ve published this post several times since the original in 2012, but tonight I dedicate it to Karen and all of us who are struggling to overcome.

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I’ve been too long in the wind, too long in the rain,

Takin’ any comfort that I can.

Lookin’ back and longin’ for the freedom of my chains

and lying in your loving arms again.

——  Kris Kristofferson

For the past few days I’ve been haunted by these lyrics, and of course I couldn’t remember the third line exactly so I researched the words on the infallible source of all information: my computer. Google knows everything which seems curious to me about how it knows everything, but then I accept its wisdom and move on. For example, I discovered that Kris Kristofferson wrote the song and recorded it with Rita Coolidge. I wasn’t surprised really because Kris is a wonderful lyricist who sang with a number of women through the years.   I was totally surprised, though, at the list of artists that had recorded the Loving Arms ballad. Olivia Newton-John. Dobie Gray. Glen Campbell. Mr. Presley himself. Kenny Rogers. And more recently, the Dixie Chicks. I was also stunned to learn that I can send the tune to my cell phone as a ringtone.  I’ll pass on that opportunity for now.

I digress. It’s common for the words of a country music song to occupy my mind for  several days. I like country music. I listen to country music when I’m driving around in my old Dodge Dakota pickup by myself.  When I’m in Texas, I typically leave the kitchen radio set to the country legends station in Houston and turn the radio on as soon as I get up in the morning– right before I pop the top of my first Diet Coke of the day. I turn that radio off late in the evening – the little click it makes is my own version of Taps.

I digress further. I tried today to reflect on the words, why I had the song in my head in a kind of loop. I’ve been too long in the wind, too long in the rain. Over and over again I sing it. Sometimes I even sing out loud, but mostly it’s inside. Were those the lines that mattered? Was that the secret code? Nope. No more suspense. No more digression.

The key word is comfort. Takin’ any comfort that I can. I love the word comfort. You can have your words solace, console, ease and reassure if you want to. Give me comfort. Seriously, give me comfort. Give us all comfort.

Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted. I’m not too sure about this beatitude, but I’ll let it slide because I’d like to believe it. All of us who mourn shall be comforted. Our frontage road of grief will slowly merge into the passing lanes of optimism and hope if we are willing to pay the toll required to enter. We pay a price for the passing lanes that make our travels easier as we watch our grief fade away in the rear-view mirror, if we are fortunate enough to have the resources within ourselves to cover the costs.

 Now I know the third line of the song perfectly. Lookin’ back and longin’ for the freedom of my chains. What a great line it is, too, but that’s a subject for another story. I’ll let you ponder it on your own while I say good night and take my comfort in two loving arms again.

Stay tuned.

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Happy Birthday Ms. Magazine, Title IX And The Lady


These posts were first published here on June 20, 2012 and June 21, 2012. I hope you agree they make an appropriate addition to our Women’s History Month collection in 2020.

Ms. Magazine is 40 years old this year according to a headline I saw yesterday that startled me because I remember very well when the magazine began and sheepishly admit I wasn’t sure it was still in publication. I don’t read as much as I once did, and I attribute that pathetic revelation to a love affair I have with the sight of my own words on a computer screen which is as powerful a narcotic as my nightly sleeping pill.  Happy Birthday, Ms.! You gave narratives and images  to a feminist movement that sputtered its way under protest from lone voices crying in the wilderness to the American mainstream political landscape. I thank you for the hopes, the dreams you gave me and my generation. Gloria Steinem, bless you for the vision of the potential societal impact of Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions.   I.O.U.

Title IX is 40 years old Saturday, June 23rd. I found this interesting fact when I actually looked up Ms. Magazine online tonight. Did I remember Richard Nixon was the President who signed this bill into law? I did not but am relieved to have one positive piece of history attributed to the man who got my first-ever vote for president in the 1968 election. Title IX is to public education and related school activities for girls and women what hot fudge and nuts are to vanilla ice cream on a sundae. Necessary. Rewarding. Sweet. If education provides the foundation for equal opportunites in a democracy, Title IX makes sure the base doesn’t tilt due to the randomness of being born female.

I also learned about another birthday from Ms. online tonight. She’s called The Lady from Burma and is the recipient of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. She’s 67 years old today, June 19th. and finally delivered her acceptance speech three days ago, 21 years after she won. I’ll save her story for our next time. Happy Birthday, Aung San Suu Kyi!

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Aung San Suu Kyi was 67 years old Tuesday, June 19th. She was sworn in earlier this year to serve in the Parliament of Burma, where she has devoted her life to human rights and democracy.  For 15 years – almost a fourth of her life – she was under house arrest for her political opposition to the military regime that imprisoned her and other members of her party in their country.  She was ultimately released in November, 2010.  She is the recipient of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize and numerous other awards in recognition of her commitment to human rights. Because of her arrest she was unable to deliver an acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize until this past Saturday, June 16th.   Msmagazine.com reprinted the full transcript of Suu Kyi’s speech; and her moving words of hope for world peace, the importance of inclusion and her plea for kindness resonate across time beyond geographic boundaries. Her understanding that the cause of human rights transcends specific dictatorships coupled with her commitment to alleviating forms of suffering wherever they exist make her a worthy Nobel winner.

“…our aim should be to create a world free from the displaced, the homeless and the hopeless, a world of which each and every corner is a true sanctuary where the inhabitants will have the freedom and the capacity to live in peace.  Every thought, every word, and every action that adds to the positive and the wholesome is a contribution to peace.  Each and every one of us is capable of making such a contribution.  Let us join hands to try to create a peaceful world where we can sleep in security and wake in happiness…”    ——Aung San Suu Kyi

(Editor’s Note: What a difference eight years can make. Aung San Suu Kyi became the political leader of Myanmar formerly known as Burma in 2016. Her party was supposedly elected to move the country toward democracy but  according to a BBC News report in January, 2020 has done nothing to stop her military from the purge of Rohingya Muslims through rape, murder and possible genocide in their removal from Myanmar to Bangdalesh.  A United Nations court has ordered the government of Myanmar to intervene in the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims, but the military continues to oppose a democratic process at this time.)

Stay tuned.

 

 

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Dancing with Destiny – the Williams Sisters


At her press conference following her loss in the 2019 singles finals at Wimbledon, Serena Williams was questioned about why she lost. Although she tried to say her opponent played a brilliant match, the members of the press wouldn’t let it go. They asked her if she thought her lack of match play in 2019 had hurt her, whether her role as a mother took too much time away from her tennis, and finally someone said they heard Billie Jean King wondered if she spent too much time supporting equal rights or other political issues.

Serena’s quick response to that question was “The day I stop supporting equality is the day I die.”

For more than twenty years beginning in 1997 the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, carried the heavy burden of American tennis (both women and men) on their shoulders; the load was never an easy one. Their two-person dynasty has often been controversial, but their attitudes about the sport they represented matured as their games became more powerful. Their popularity increased as they turned out to be more comfortable with their celebrity, more confident in their games. They grew up in front of a nation and, eventually, the world.

Serena won her history making 23rd. singles major at the 2017 Australian Open but made even bigger news when she announced her pregnancy following the tournament. The tennis world gasped at the possibility of a French Open, Wimbledon and even a US Open without its reigning diva who struck fear into the rackets of any player unlucky enough to see her name on Serena’s side of the draw.

 

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Venus Williams and her little sister Serena

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Never in their 27 professional matches prior to that night were the theater and drama more exciting than in the quarterfinals of the 2015 US Open under the lights in New York City.  Approximately 23,000 fans came to the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows to watch a match that was more than a game, and the Williams sisters delivered another thrilling exhibition of tennis at the highest level. As the ESPN commentators noted before the match, this was a big-time American sporting event with all the bells and whistles we love in our fascination with sports.

Tom Rinaldi who replaced Dick Enberg as the TV tennis philosopher that adds stories to evoke our emotional attachment to an event, made these remarks prior to the match: “In an individual sport, their stories will always be linked…in our view of the Williams sisters, we see champions sharing a court, a desire to win, and a name. True, one will win –  but both have prevailed.”

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As a tennis fan who has followed their careers since they first played competitively and in keeping with our celebration of women’s history month, I salute two American women who personify persistence and perseverance to be the very best in their sport and in so doing, prove repeatedly that they are both the images of true champions. Their love of family speaks volumes about their character, and their love of playing tennis is a gift we can all be grateful to appreciate

You rock, girls – keep going. Records are made to be broken.

Stay tuned.

(I have written countless posts with references to the Williams sisters, and I took excerpts from a few of them to write this one.)

 

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Talking Guns with Texan Molly Ivins


I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults. – Molly Ivins (1944 – 2007)

Although Molly Ivins was born in Monterrey, California in 1944, her family wasted no time in moving her as a young child to Texas where she grew up and  lived off and on for the rest of her life. As a native Texan I claim Molly not only as a fellow Texan but also as one of my favorite women “essayists with humorist tendencies.” When I come back in my next life, please God, let me come back with the writing ability of Molly Ivins and the voice of Maya Angelou.

Molly Ivins was a writer best known for her columns in more than 400 newspapers across the country – columns which poked fun at her favorite targets: the corrupt Texas legislature, George Dubya Bush and Bill Clinton, her adopted state of Texas, bubbas in that state, herself, and the breast cancer that eventually killed her. A best selling author, humorist and speaker, she became one of the most famous female storytellers ever to claim the state of Texas as her own…to run with that image as the tall Texan in her cowboy boots, pickup truck and her dog named Shit as she mixed it up with the most powerful people in the state capital of Austin. At her height of six feet she was easily spotted at the bars and cocktail parties where she drank with enthusiasm, frequently overserved. Alcoholism was an addiction she considered necessary for her humor, but the laughs came with a steep price.

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On March 13, 1993 Molly Ivins published this column called Taking a Stab at our Infatuation with Guns.  Twenty-seven years later they sadly still ring true:

Guns. Everywhere guns. Let me start this discussion by pointing out that I am not anti-gun. I’m pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife.

In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We’d turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don’t ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives.

As a civil libertarian, I of course support the Second Amendment. And I believe it means exactly what it says: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Fourteen-year-old boys are not part of a well-regulated militia. Members of wacky religious cults are not part of a well-regulated militia. Permitting unregulated citizens to have guns is destroying the security of this free state.

I am intrigued by the arguments of those who claim to follow the judicial doctrine of original intent. How do they know it was the dearest wish of Thomas Jefferson’s heart that teen-age drug dealers should cruise the cities of this nation perforating their fellow citizens with assault rifles? Channelling?

There is more hooey spread about the Second Amendment. It says quite clearly that guns are for those who form part of a well-regulated militia, i.e., the armed forces including the National Guard. The reasons for keeping them away from everyone else get clearer by the day.

The comparison most often used is that of the automobile, another lethal object that is regularly used to wreak great carnage. Obviously, this society is full of people who haven’t got enough common sense to use an automobile properly. But we haven’t outlawed cars yet.

We do, however, license them and their owners, restrict their use to presumably sane and sober adults and keep track of who sells them to whom. At a minimum, we should do the same with guns.

In truth, there is no rational argument for guns in this society. This is no longer a frontier nation in which people hunt their own food. It is a crowded, overwhelmingly urban country in which letting people have access to guns is a continuing disaster. Those who want guns – whether for target shooting, hunting or potting rattlesnakes (get a hoe) – should be subject to the same restrictions placed on gun owners in England – a nation in which liberty has survived nicely without an armed populace.

The argument that “guns don’t kill people” is patent nonsense. Anyone who has ever worked in a cop shop knows how many family arguments end in murder because there was a gun in the house. Did the gun kill someone? No. But if there had been no gun, no one would have died. At least not without a good foot race first. Guns do kill. Unlike cars, that is all they do.

Michael Crichton makes an interesting argument about technology in his thriller “Jurassic Park.” He points out that power without discipline is making this society into a wreckage. By the time someone who studies the martial arts becomes a master – literally able to kill with bare hands – that person has also undergone years of training and discipline. But any fool can pick up a gun and kill with it.

A well-regulated militia” surely implies both long training and long discipline. That is the least, the very least, that should be required of those who are permitted to have guns, because a gun is literally the power to kill. For years, I used to enjoy taunting my gun-nut friends about their psycho-sexual hang-ups – always in a spirit of good cheer, you understand. But letting the noisy minority in the National Rifle Association force us to allow this carnage to continue is just plain insane.

I do think gun nuts have a power hang-up. I don’t know what is missing in their psyches that they need to feel they have to have the power to kill. But no sane society would allow this to continue.

Ban the damn things. Ban them all.

You want protection? Get a dog.

Molly Ivins (1944 – 2007)

photo by Carol Kassie

Tell it, Sister Girl.

Stay tuned.

(Full disclosure: the above comes from blogs posted here 01-31-2012, 10-19-2019)

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