Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Turkey Tale

Surely, this tale will someday be re-made into a Rankin/Bass stop-motion animated Christmas special.


Growing up in a small family with only my mom and dad, and no real extended family, I always longed for an opportunity to have a Thanksgiving with lots of people around the table. In my minds eye, I envisioned  the whole Norman Rockwell scene of the long table with nice china and everything sparkling. It was not until I found my birth family and met the man who would be my husband that I could fulfill my dreams of formal in-home dining.

I now had formal dining room and a large 1957 range called "The Liberator" (It was called the Liberator, because it had a dual oven. One oven was large enough for a 28 pound turkey and the other was great for side dishes. Women's lib, baby!)  All I needed to do is invite our newly formed family for our first formal Thanksgiving. We invited my mom and dad, my fiance's mom and dad, and my birth father and his wife-to-be. There was a 28 pound turkey, which I got up at 4am to wrestle it into the oven. Wrestling with a 28 pound turkey is like wrestling with a toddler, I was over my head, but I was not going to be defeated. As daylight broke, I called my parents, my mother-in-law-to-be, and my birthfather for advise on how to cook the turkey as this was my first. To my alarm, everyone told me different temps and technques. Then, the chef on the radio told me something else. I must have changed the temperature several times, turned it over, and wrapped and unwrapped it in the next few hours. The amazing thing the turkey turned out to be the perfect turkey and the entire dinner impressed everyone. Psyche! My pride and confidence swelled. I could do this at will. Soon, Martha Stewart would be calling me for tips.

A couple of years later I organized a Christmas dinner, but had to schedule it on Christmas eve because my birthfather preferred that day. There were no worries since I was a pro already. Christmas eve came and I was more than organized. Everything was beautiful. Everyone was there except my birthfather and his now wife. I didn't worry because they had a two hour drive and sometimes he runs late. The food was done and everyone was ready to sit down for food. Finally, I gave him a call.

Brrrring. Brrrring.
Dan: Hello
Me: Hello...
Dan: Are we still on for tomorrow for dinner?

Of course, I said yes, not wanting him to feel bad. There was no time for them to get here today and I wanted him and his wife to come over. We started the days dinner without them, and my mind raced. What will we do tomorrow. We couldn't give them leftovers. Somehow I need to find a fresh turkey on Christmas day and create an entire meal from scratch, while already having leftovers from the first meal. Can I make two Christmas dinners within 24 hours?


We woke early on a chilly Christmas morning in San Francisco. Calling around we found there was a small grocery store open not too far from Sutro tower. Taking a deep breath we went in. I found the refrigerated section and found a turkey tucked in. Gasp! Oh, Turkey Gods, I feel your warm hug! Lifting and hugging the turkey, I made my way to the register. The clerk acknowledged me and saw that I had the last turkey and ask, "Oh, are you the person who called about the turkey?"

If I were not desperate and crazed to have every Christmas meal be perfect, I would have done the noble thing and admit that I was not the one who called. As I said, I was in desperation. I had spent most of the night before imagining disaster of not having a fresh turkey. Those imagined looks of masked disappointment of having leftovers were too much for me. Before my noble self would discern the immorality of taking of a turkey promised to another, I said, "Yes, thank you."

I said it. A flush of shame warmed my face in the chilly air as I carried it to our car. There were thoughts of another family who would go without a turkey this year because of us. There they were with sad, hollowed out eyes as they were told the turkey was already claimed. Sighing heavily, I was resolute to accept the karmic retribution that would surely come from claiming someone else's turkey. I had no choice. My birthfather absentmindedness had forced my hand. In times of crisis, people make difficult moral choices that they wouldn't in less demanding times. Sophie's Choice!  In my head, I imagined I was in some sort of Stalingrad during World War II having to find food for my family. We became the family with hallowed eyes frantically searching for food as bombs fell in the snowed in city.

Mistakes were made, but a second Christmas dinner in 24 hours was achieved. It only took the sacrifice of my dignity and integrity. The End.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chanel Channel

Just so you know, I haven't forgotten my obsession with perfume. Rather than  hoarding perfumes with my lizard brain, I am fully appreciating what I have. Although, I find myself wanting to celebrate the holiday season by going to Union Square and delighting at all the perfume bottles. I absolutely need to pilgrimage at the Chanel Boutique. For those who are new here, I have blogged about my history with Chanel fragrances that began rocky and is progressing wonderfully.
1000 Fragrances blog has written an interesting review of what seems to be a historical novel about the history of Chanel No. 5. , The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous Perfume. It features a cover that has Wharhol's painting of No. 5. I am putting it on my books to read list, even though my relationship with No. 5 is still up in the air. There is an appreciation that No. 5 is a huge part of perfume history and is a classic fragrance. It just doesn't move me like Coco, No. 22, and No. 19. Still trying to find out why.
Oh, before I forget to tell you, I finally got around to watching Coco Before Chanel. As far as biopics go, this one was was entertaining and beautifully filmed. It is a good rental. Whether it is a film or book, my impression that stories about Chanel and Coco herself are concoctions where the unvarnished truth is elusive and a definitive story almost impossible.

William S. Borroughs Documentary

I think this documentary was made in 1984. Fascinating. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Holiday Tradition: Thanksgiving Prayer by William S. Burroughs

 "Thanksgiving Prayer" by poet, William S. Burroughs.
Watching this has become a tradition with me. It is a nice way to embrace what is dark,disturbing, and distressing about our Amerikkan heritage. It is kinda like reading Air Conditioned Nightmare by Henry Miller (Will be reviewing that book shortly). It cuts through the artery clogging grease of self-congratulation and grotesque hubris of our countrymen. It casts the evil eye on mean-spiritied neo-puritanism and anti-intellectualism that hates art, science, women, gays, dark people. It takes a mid-century junky to see that our country is diseased and put it into words. It shows what happens when a great mind gets hold of opiates he can plug into a subcutaneous of our national psyche. When I offered these thoughts to the Wonkette forum, Dashboard Jesus offered the following quite: 

"It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society" ~ Krishnamurti 
I do pause and consider my attraction to artists who are considered degenerates, drunks, druggies, deviants, and damsels of decadent living. Many of these people see the dark underbelly of our culture after taking all sorts of mind altering, and some see all this before and are driven to numb the pain of knowing the truth about the world around them. Being a student of human history, you know their pessimism is based on documented fact. Shock and awe began right after the native Americans feasted with us and we have been doing variations of it ever since. Our love of guns run parallel to the beginning of the KKK. For all our strength, we are a fearful people. We only use our lizard brains to desire or react to things that threaten us. It is as if we know on a cellular level our collective sins, and know we wouldn't deserve mercy if those our culture tormented came to power. 

My son learned a song about the Native Americans and the pilgrims for Thanksgiving  that stops short before you talk about diseased blankets and a brutal sense of manifest destiny. How long do I wait to tell him the darker side of life? There will be plenty of time, I guess,  for him to develop a dystopic pessimism. My feeling is that I need to kick start him with the optimism and faith that hard work, discipline, intellect, and compassion will yield him much success. 

It is true that while I can entertain the darkness, I am at heart an idealistic optimist. I still have hope that we will wake up and reject our nation's dark side.

Happy Thanksgiving, Kids.

Thanks for the wild turkey and
the passenger pigeons, destined
to be shat out through wholesome
American guts.

         Thanks for a continent to despoil
and poison.
Thanks for Indians to provide a
modicum of challenge and

Thanks for vast herds of bison to
kill and skin leaving the
carcasses to rot.
Thanks for bounties on wolves
and coyotes.

Thanks for the American dream,
To vulgarize and to falsify until
the bare lies shine through.

Thanks for the KKK.

For nigger-killin' lawmen,
feelin' their notches.

For decent church-goin' women,
with their mean, pinched, bitter,
evil faces.

Thanks for "Kill a Queer for
Christ" stickers.

Thanks for laboratory AIDS.

Thanks for Prohibition and the
war against drugs.

Thanks for a country where
nobody's allowed to mind their
own business.

Thanks for a nation of finks.

Yes, thanks for all the
memories-- all right let's see
your arms!

You always were a headache and
you always were a bore.

Thanks for the last and greatest
betrayal of the last and greatest
of human dreams.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Poetry: Carnal Cerebral Love

Carnal Cerebral Love
I want to make love to your mind
Stimulate me with your intellect, your insight and understanding.
Ignite me with random connections and your clever wit.
Carnal Cerebral Love
I want to make love to your inner being.
Allow me to delight in your orgasmic, dynamic mind.
Open up and invite me into the deep warmth of your soul.
Carnal Cerebral Love
Let our synapses dance entangle and connect at the same plateau.
Complete each other’s sentences, not our lives.
Carnal Cerebral Love, Our physical being
Our external egos decay daily and by the moment only our inner selves
Denise Castellucci 

This is a poem I wrote and eventually used in my wedding in 1995 in Stern Grove in San Francisco. It would be fabulous for me to say that I wrote this for my husband, but alas I wrote this when I was single and was inspired to write poetry. It was an aspirational poem. Most of my adult life I have been attracted to very intelligent men with a keen sense of humor. This means that men I dated had a charisma that came from unconventional sources. The body is so temporal, temporary -- like a butter or sand painting -- it melts or blows away with the elements and time. The soul, the mind, the heart is forever. Both subjects of sonnets from the 1500s live on today as I read them to my son.

Since I wrote that poem and read it at my wedding, I have seen it published in various online wedding vow guides including "Wedding Ceremonies Galore" and is used by various officiants. I have seen it blogged by a woman who is processing heartbreak. It surprises me how viral it got as Reading no. 29 or no. 30. I am curious how many couples actually use it. It has been around the Internet since 1996, but I wrote it around 1991. 

I guess I am a published poet. 

God Won't Let Global Warming Happen

I love reading the Liberal Values blog, because Ron likes to cover the amazing things the Republicans do and say. It turns out that according to Rep. John Shimkus, we don't have to worry about Global Warming since the Bible said that God told Noah that,
Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though all inclinations of his heart are evil from childhood and never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done.
“As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease.”

Yes, it is absurd to use the Bible in place of a scientific argument. Ron also writes about the growing mainstreaming of replacing science and reason, with biblical belief. The Republican Party has become the supreme water-carrier  for the interests who want to undermine science for their business plan or religious alignment. Adding to the absurdity, Rep. Shimkus wants to be the chairman of the Energy Committee which makes policy on the energy and the environment. This midterm election makes his appointment more likely.
Sir, if God controls what happens on Earth, him letting 230,000 people die around the Indian Ocean is a big message that life is cheap and there is no escaping the consequences of Global Warming. Personally, I do not think there is a God controlling what happens to our planet. We just happen to live on a planet with tectonic plates floating and crashing and gnashing against each other from time to time. We have tons of recorded history that proves God doesn't deliver us from ground cursing or life destructing events. People, animals, crops, homes, waters, nature gets wiped out all over the world. God did not sweep up and save people from the scourge of the Black Death in the Middle Ages, so God isn't going to deliver us from the effects of Global Warming.

Another thing to consider is that Global Warming won't necessarily destroy the planet, just make the planet drastically unable to maintain life on earth. Once the consequences wipe out the planet of humans, the earth will bounce back beautifully without us.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

BJ Lifton Remembered

In the 1990s, I became very involved in the adoption world. It is a time where I was allowed to think about being adopted. One of the seminal books about the adoptee experience was Betty Jean Lifton's book, Lost & Found:: An Adoption Experience. Why not everything in the book rang true to me, there were parts that really spoke to me and I was always grateful for her books being out there for adoptees and those who love them. I especially responded to her description of adopted persons feeling in limbo.

When I worked on Voices of Adoption, I made sure people knew about her books. She dug deep to give adoptees a vocabulary to describe what we are feeling and thinking. It was consoling to have someone give us permission to think about things we as adoptees were told we shouldn't even think about.

In my work in Voices of Adoption, I know that BJ's books were a lifeline for generations of adopted persons.

At the turn of the century, I went to Ethics in Adoption conference with Ron Morgan and I was able to meet BJ in person. She was just the most lovely lady. I didn't agree with her when she discussed the adoptee syndrome, but it was just a thrill for me to be able to speak with her.

After I left the adoption movement, I kept in touch with almost all the folk from the adoption world on Facebook. I was lucky to have BJ Lifton as a Facebook friend where she would share her life with her dear companions, Jingly and Maui. Through them she would offer her wise opinion on current events. They would always make me smile and think. When her dear Maui was thought lost out in the wild this Summer, we all held our breath until she found Maui in a cabinet. Her updates showed her incredible humor and humanity.

This morning I found out this wonderful lady passed away last night.  We are all huddling together online today in shock and in sadness that she is no longer here. We have her books, but we will miss her caring, passion, and wisdom. Rest in Peace well BJ.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sing by the Dresden Dolls

Sing - The Dresden Dolls from MediaVox NYC on Vimeo.
The discovery of the Dresden Dolls came from stumbling upon Amanda Palmer and her ukulele on NPR's Radio 360 and they did mention and play a clip of he Dresden Dolls "Coin Operated Boy" which I love to pieces and am learning to play it on the ukulele.
If you read my blog and if you know me, you will know I love the Weimar culture and this band is in very much that aesthetic.

Santa Baby, Slip A Uke Under the Tree For Me...

Eleuke Concert Black Metallic Jazz Ukulele CCJ100-MBK3e
Originally, I had been thinking of getting a Kala Archtop Jazz Electric Ukulele.  While the sunburst is very popular, I was liking the solid black. There are a few videos that showed that you can get some very nice sounds from it whether you plug it in or not. The downside of hybrids is that you can get feedback.
I already have a nice Kala Exotic Mahogany Tenor ukulele, so all I need is a solid-body electric. Risa has these insane ukesticks and very artsy versions of ukuleles that are actually solid body electrics. The price and the elaborate string system keeps a Risa out of reach. Maybe someday, I will get a Risa.
So the other alternative is a Eleuke, which comes in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors.  The style I like is the Jazz cutaway with f-holes and black metallic finish.
Why do I want an electric? While my hubby plays acoustic when he plays with me, he cannot help himself plugging in his electric guitar and blasting my little Tenor Uke out of the room. With an electric, I have a fighting chance. This little guy and all of the Eleukes have some neat features for someone like me. With these instruments, you can plug in headphones to be able to practice without bothering anyone. This means when the boys are in bed and I can't sleep I can go off somewhere and practice. Eleukes also allow you to plug in your mp3 player and play along to your favorite songs. The nobs can be adjusted to have a mellower, more ukulele sound or sound more like Jimmi Hendrix electric guitar. It is this feature that interests me since I do tend toward wanting to play blues, rock, alternative, and punkish stuff. When I want to play folk I can always bring out the acoustic.
Solid-body's are also thinner than acoustics and that might make it more comfortable to play. 

The Dresden Dolls 'Coin-Operated Boy' music video

I am working on a ukulele version of this song. This song is slathered in awesome sauce. I am also digging the direction and art direction of this video.