Bruised fruit.

Bruised fruit.

Southern California is on fire again, filtering the L.A. sunshine through an apocalyptic haze, a burnished glow that is beautiful and malignant at the same time. I won’t be walking today, avoiding the layer of ash that has fallen overnight, blighting the suburban oasis that is my sanctuary, my home.

It makes sense that I chose to spend the day indoors. I won”t speak for all, but these last months of chaos and quarantine finally forced me into retreat. I don’t know if self-preservation is a last-ditch effort to sustain a sense of inner peace, but avoiding fear, anger, and other negative malaise is my true goal. I keep to myself because my penchant to speak frivolously is out of tune with what we are enduring as a nation and society. How anyone can stand the sights and sounds of an American “president” who insists on trolling the world through Twitter to get attention and spread his brand of lies, hatred, and instability is beyond me.

What I find is that I can’t bring myself to contribute to any dialogue surrounding politics anymore because I find my tenuous sanity threatened and edged towards collapse. I think the scarier truth is perhaps my years of misguided narcissism and self-absorption have been reflected at long last.

Perhaps years of continually promoting the false color and sound of the “Jorge Show,” which first exhausted my closest friends, has finally spent me.

Perhaps the years of living breathlessly to contribute overstimulated conversations about all things fabulous are no longer enough to hide the reality that I’ve worked too hard to cover up my truest self and hide it from the world.

Perhaps these months of stripping away the layers of my own corpulent body and emotional self down to the core are starting to reveal a better and healthier?

Perhaps I’ve finally made peace with the reality that no one should have to put so much effort into making themselves “interesting” to the outside world.

I won’t call it an epiphany as this process of self-discovery is still happening in real time. Most days are about clarity, others are definitely opaque. I’m at once eager to move forward and terrified to even make the slightest acknowledgment or move. I’ve had chili cheese fries and chicken nuggets. I’ve stumbled in communicating with people I love. I’ve slept way too long on weekends, avoiding any form of contact on purpose. Is it depression? Yes. Is it debilitating me like before? Not as much. The processes of wellness and its struggles don’t stall me, either. I just aim to make sure the next day isn’t about dwelling on the choices that are not wise and get back on track.

When I do feel able to absorb the outside world, I am able to to accept how we cannot act like these crises of late don’t involve us; they do. What crisis can do is reveal who we are, inside and out. Perhaps that’s why people choose not to incorporate themselves in these waves of change. Yet, change is inevitable. If allowed, it can carry us to a better plane of existence. That’s what I want to see in others and myself. To take the time to feel, react, and be moved to be better at living life.

I recognize that even this expression of thought appears to be an extension of the “Jorge Show” in many ways. That isn’t my intent. What I hope is transmitted, too, is how it is possible to look outward from our safety bubbles. It is possible to bear witness and respect the selflessness and sacrifice exhibited around the world, inspiring the many who choose to care and act in our best interests. It is also essential to bear witness to the subtle reminders that exist in between those moments. We need to keep an eye out for the beautiful lessons that still exist in this reality, despite the screaming heads and endless virtue signaling defining our era:

The little boy living with his parents across the street from me acts out his own Super Bowl moments daily by playing football alone. He is victor, cheerleader, fan, all in one. Completely unfiltered in his excitement, a team of one. I never see him play with other children, which doesn’t seem to faze him in the least. The joy on his face is unbridled and true.

The little girl I saw at the Mission Ave. Metro Line station during one of my daily walks around the neighborhood. She chose her moment to spin in place, smiling and laughing. The happiness of being able to move freely in the warm sun of a weekday afternoon in South Pasadena demanded that she throw her arms out and twirl around as her mother smiled with her.

The father and young son walking down the street near my home, taking their daily constitutional, I hope, enjoying the time together. Seeing the son put his hand on his father’s back, a gesture of such respect and love, nearly brought tears to my eyes. The father reacted positively, not negatively, looking down at the boy with a smile, the world’s most natural thing.

Garfield Park is teeming with natural life, families, birds, squirrels, children, older people, all basking in the breeze found in the shade when the sun feels merciless. Butterflies and hummingbirds dart in and out with purpose, reminding me of Dad whenever I seem them. Or, the little girl singing to herself as she ran across the lawns of the park. I live in a primarily white neighborhood, which is why I was heartened to see how many of these moments included people of color or mixed race families. It is the flip side of the burning rage that cannot be ignored, either. It is the balance that still eludes us.

I know it all sounds and reads a bit soft. I don’t care. The simplicity of it all, the humanity of such moments, gives me a reason to stop dwelling on past mistakes and present tense ennui.

The bruises I’ve inflicted upon myself for such a long time are less purple and painful, and yes, healing. Moving forward, I find myself pondering where do we go from here? What happens after the pandemic, the angst of unrest, and the demand for cancel culture finally abate? What will we become once the hashtag protests, election manipulations, disgusting conspiracy theories, and natural disasters stop long enough for us all to take a breath? How do we protect a state of mental grace when the roar of change and progress consumes us anew?

I take solace in knowing that many of us are all bruised fruit now, but we remain intact. We retain our sense of purpose and our commitment to furthering the message that we can better. I believe we can still nourish one another by skipping the judgments and accepting the flaws. We have to admit that we will never win over those who have chosen to ignore all that is right, just, and scientifically correct. We have to focus on those who teeter on edge, who will benefit from a guiding hand and an open heart.

And we need to take a moment to throw our arms out and spin whenever we feel the damn need. At least, that’s what I feel today.

“The American Holocaust”

Today, I am 53 years of age and this essay is just a bit of what I feel inside.

Like many hopeful souls around the world, I entertained the thought that 2020 would allow us to turn the page on a year marked by sadness, anger, frustration, and other emotions from the bin labeled “Strong & Aggressive.” Sure, Trump was the trigger point for most of us, but the theme of loss cast too long a damn shadow, also. Mortality, like life, love, and taxes, hit many homes in my family and family circle of friends. By 2019’s end, we were exhausted, humorless, and ready to pull the blankets over our heads on 12/31 and wake up to the promise of renewed hope and optimism.

Sitting here in the hot as Hades calor of Palm Springs, it is safe to say 2019 was a pastel-colored garden party swathed silk organza by comparison to what we are experiencing today. The inescapable narratives of COVID-19, racial unrest, white fragility, Black Lives Matter, children in cages, weaponized ideologies over face masks to counter a pandemic out of control, “Secret Police” and police brutality are the tip of a growing iceberg threatening to sink what remains of the “America” taught to many of us for generations. What is happening now can only be defined as an “American Holocaust.”

Please know that I do not mean to diminish a term associated with several of the most tragic crimes of the modern age. Seeing the death of positive ideals, from a free press and the importance of our scientific community to our government and education systems, are too much to bear. Common decency and tolerance struggle to fight back against a raging machine of hateful rhetoric, religious zealots, and conspiracy theorists who are muddying the waters with their non-truths and absurd non-facts. Even George Orwell would be appalled. Yet, it is the growing body count that is our greatest horror, a reality that leaves our collective morality hanging in the balance.

I don’t care what party holds your interest. When you are part of a country’s fabric, you are a member of its family, bound by its traditions and history. My late father strongly believed in that principle. We are obligated to make a positive and lasting contribution that should benefit the larger group, not just the circles we inhabit. Instead, too many warring sectors have doubled down on contributing fear and hate, all running parallel with the complicity of silence and avoidance of the wretched truths of our shared pasts.

America has never been perfect; God knows. The shameful consequences of conquest, slavery, Manifest Destiny, et al. wiped entire peoples and cultures in a bloody tidal wave of abject power grabs. Gender, sexual, and racial oppression continue to place factions of the American family against one another.

It is too easy to blame Trump on our broken, still dysfunctional unit. What he’s done is exacerbated the situation by acting as a modern-day Nero while America seethes and burns. The potent truth is we have reached a turning point of our own doing. We’ve kicked the can of being just, tolerant, and inclusive for too long, and it has reached its final resting place. It has nowhere else to go, and choosing extremes will only keep us all further apart.

We’ve lost too many lives this year alone, and the prospect of losing more family members, whether through COVID-19 or racially motivated acts of violence, remains woefully present. We can’t look to the petty and bilious agenda of the White House for leadership. Only a united front of our combined strength and goodness can save this family. We cannot save those aligned with hatred anymore. It is up to you, me, and the like-minded people we hold dear, regardless of sex, color, or creed, that can save us.
Time for this family to rise and stand up together.
Time to take back 2020 once and for all.

Time for this family to rise and stand up together.

Time to take back 2020 once and for all.

I thought…

I thought…

I thought I had regained the emotional bandwidth to navigate the stormy seas of social media again.

I was wrong.

In the quest for wellness, I made some drastic changes in my life. Naturally, it took a pandemic to make me see the light with purpose. Things were not good with me physically or mentally, as this extraordinary period in our history began its opening remarks.

We’ve gone from COVID, chaos, and curfews at a breakneck speed. Seeing the consequences of multiple viruses — physical, cultural, and social — has brought us to the point of reckoning. In the end, we can never go back to before.

As hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets around the world to voice their refusal to accept the status quo, seeing who has taken the process of looking inward to heart is humbling. What we truly believe and how we choose to act this moment will define multiple generations at once.

When it comes to proper nutrition, “You are what you eat” is an ageless mantra. The same logic applies to what we consume in terms of media. With that said, what I have chosen to read of late, whether through mainstream news sources or social media, is making me sick in a different way.

A doctor’s visit encouraged me to make a life-saving choice earlier this year to better myself, to stop a slow decline brought on by depression, poor nutrition, and apathy that made me a likely candidate for a stroke or worse.

Today, I can safely say the combinations of medicines, a healthier diet, and daily exercise have all succeeded in making me stronger and fitter than I’ve been in years. What requires more work, however, is my emotional state.

Wellness is a personal choice. You must do what is best for you to ensure you have the skills, stamina, and physical strength to deal with what daily life will cast your way. The illnesses plaguing our nation, our world, have no immediate cure. However, the magnificent changes put in motion at this point will possess the benefits not experienced by so many Americans and people of color globally.

Good parents and selfless educators taught me the value of leading of example, but you can’t lead if you can’t withstand the pressures and stress of defeating those who prefer to be unjust and ignorant. Just as I have chosen to live a healthier life, I am also taking action to step away from the screaming heads that threaten to distract and undermine the social progress that is sorely required. It will not stop with a summer of protests or with an election that already looks compromised. We will need to fight for as long as it takes. We will need reinforcements to replace those spent or lost along the way in this battle. I am determined to be part of that wave when I’m ready, heart, body, and mind.

Dad always told me to choose my words wisely because you never know their impact. I want to make a difference in this world, hence respecting the power of what I wish to project. A break from the screaming void is what makes sense to me now.

We are what we read, and I intend to serve up words that fill the mind and soul like a satisfying meal. Until I can do that with clarity, focus, and worth, I encourage you, dear friends, to be kind to each other. Watch, learn, listen, and educate yourselves…for this revolution must survive for as long as it takes to become the change so many are dying to see.

I’m killing myself slowly.

I’m killing myself slowly.

It was around 8pm on a Saturday night in early March. I was in bed, watching my umpteenth rerun of “The Golden Girls” on Hulu.

That was when I noticed a missed phone call from the One Medical group, my medical provider. My iPhone was set to send all unrecognized calls to voice mail. Needless to say, this was one phone call I should have answered before the second ring.

Early Friday, before I made my commute to work. The one that feels like a living documentary? Yeah, that commute. I stopped by to see the phlebotomist at One Medical’s DTLA office as ordered by my physician. Nothing out of the ordinary, unless you factor in the day I slurred my words after a family lunch. (I don’t drink.) How about the interview where it took an effort to get full sentences out while I was in Atlanta? (No one noticed that episode but me.)

It’s been nearly six months since I’d had my blood check for all those damn demons of mine. The results were predictably bad. Why else would the nurse practitioner call me on the Saturday night after my blood was drawn? No suspense music sting here.  I’ve written about my stratospheric A1C and triglycerides readings before. After steady declines, it only took me a few months, but I’m back to a 13 reading (A1C) and over 1200 (triglycerides). After speaking with the nurse practitioner for a few minutes and reading the lab results, I reclined on my bed, took a deep breath, and said quietly:

“I’m killing myself.”

Was it intentional, this act of self-murder? I don’t know. What I do know is that all I can say more often than I care to admit is, “I don’t care.”

I thought after Dad’s passing that some magic window would open and I’d find myself on a new path. We’d spent so many years making sure he’d never feel like a “sick person” because of his Alzheimer’s, my siblings and I literally hit the Pause button on our lives to give him our undivided attention. That hasn’t been the case. Even my younger brother moving on and out of my apartment didn’t manifest itself into some giddy “Space Unicorn” moment.

No, I’ve opted to kill myself because I can’t handle the loneliness and anger that has me in a vice grip. I turn 53 this year, single, not caring to mingle, and determined to live out some “Leaving Las Vegas” agenda. I will literally eat myself to death. The truth is, though, I don’t know if I really want to die right now.

My family, extended and otherwise, is a shambles right now. We’re a microcosm of the world, never happy, always critical, and aggressive in terms of how we express our feelings. We eat. We criticize. We eat some more. We laugh for a bit. We eat a bit more. Someone gets hurts feelings. Someone leaves. Eat. Speak. Yell. Slam. Repeat. We are better is small groups, but it has to be a certain combination of temperaments. I can weather it just fine on some days, but most of the time I find I want to be left alone. That mindset has been the catalyst for some serious health issues.

img_20150710_110400486I’ve felt broken for a long time, a total relic in this modern age of “Notice Me Now!” Flirting with pancreatitis is not romantic, neither are the signs that my body is no longer coping with inactivity, which are visible and painful. I’m in trouble, folks. I don’t think I’ll withstand another episode like the one 10 years ago where it felt as if I was in the throes of a heart attack. I want to send out a search party for my will to live and to care about life, myself, anything. It’s been gone so long, I don’t even know if I’d recognize it, but I know it exists. Will is what keeps us from falling into the gaping maw that appears so inviting, but is only out to destroy you.

I’ve been staring up at this mountain of issues, feelings, and tasks for so long. It’s all I have been able to do for years now. Wedged in between are this selfish rage, apathy, fear, and other wickedness. Sigh. I have seen doctors. Meds are being replaced with other chemical life preservers. Anti-depressants are back. A visit to Overeater’s Anonymous is in the books. The search for the appropriate therapist is also in full motion.

I know how this may look and sound to some people. I can’t worry about it. More, I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. No one wants to look weak or vulnerable to the people they love. Yet, at what point do you be strong for the person who needs you the most? Yourself. At what point do you stand facing your image in a mirror and say “I love me?”

That’s what I intend to find out.

Quotes, Charles Busch (via Seth Rudetsky) Edition

Theater lovers adored Charles Busch’s acclaimed stage comedy The Tale Of The Allergist’s

Courtesy of Playbill.com

 Wife when it premiered in 2000, running off-Broadway, Broadway, and a national tour. One of the breakout stars was then 80-year-old Shirl Bernheim.

97a13e76d37e7707129de8d082990defWhen the play was casting, Bernheim through her hat in the ring and became a fantastic anecdote in the process. As relayed by Seth Rudetsky of Playbill.com, it was quite a fortuitous moment:

“She didn’t have any Broadway credits, but she was fantastic and had her own walker. She got the gig and did the show on Broadway and on national tour.

Charles said she was “quite a character”! As a matter, after she passed away, there was a memorial for her, and her understudy told everyone that before each performance, she would check in on Shirl. The conversation would be this:

Understudy: How are you tonight, Shirl?

Shirl (whirling around): What? Are you hoping I’ll break my hip?

#QuiteACharacter

The cast of "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife"
Art by Al Hirschfeld

Quotes, Pedro Almodóvar Edition

Quotes, Pedro Almodóvar Edition

“People have stopped surprising me so much, they’ve stopped exciting me as much. And secondly, there’s the pain.”

He paused.

“Pain is not something you can share with other people.”

Oscar-winning filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar on his latest film, “Pain and Glory.” Quote from Kyle Buchanan’s interview for the New York Times, Sunday, 10/16/19

 

Quotes, Stephen Sondheim Edition

Quotes, Stephen Sondheim Edition

“I’m interested in the theater because I’m interested in communication with audiences.”

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Sondheim (left) wrote the lyrics for West Side Story; classical-music superstar Leonard Bernstein (center) was the composer, Jerome Robbins the director and choreographer. The story of the show’s genesis is told in the special NPR series 50 Years of West Side Story.

Otherwise, I would be in concert music. I’d be in another kind of profession. I love the theater as much as music, and the whole idea of getting across to an audience and making them laugh, making them cry — just making them feel — is paramount to me.

The process of putting something down on paper is very important in keeping the stuff alive in your head. You can improvise and think, ‘Wait, that A-flat doesn’t sound right,’ and you change things as you go along, even though you’re just sketching.

From Stephen Sondheim‘s interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” February 16, 2012.

Quotes, Janet Mock Edition

Quotes, Janet Mock Edition

“I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act.”

Janet Mock on the set of Pose. Photo: FX Networks

It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community. I hope that my being real with you will help empower you to step into who you are and encourage you to share yourself with those around you.”

― Janet Mock, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More

Quotes, Margaret Atwood Edition

Quotes, Margaret Atwood Edition

“I’m a writer. I figured that out young, and writers write.”

IMG_6202They speculate. Engage ideas. And at that moment in time, in the ’80s, I was hearing a lot about what people would like to do if they got into power, and having been born in 1939 and been through WWII and its aftermath when we were all trying to understand what happened, I knew Hitler spelled it all out in the 1920s, in his book, what he would like to do if he got power, and people did not take that seriously.”

So I believe if someone says they will do certain things, unimaginable things to many, they will, in fact, do them when they get the power they’re after. That is what you’re seeing now. What’s going on now with those in charge in this country was forecast then and since: They told us what they were planning and now it’s in progress. We can’t say we’re in a totalitarian state now, not yet, because we wouldn’t be talking—I wouldn’t be talking as much as I am—I’d be in jail.

Margaret Atwood on writing “The Testaments.” Interview by Amy Grace Loyd for Esquire.com, 9/24/2019