Collected Blog Posts 2009-2012

Some thoughts from 2009-2012   

Hammer of the Truth

Okay, it wasn’t bad.  I’m not trying to dog them.  But tonight at the Tarrytown Music Hall, seeing Hammer of the Gods, the Led Zepplin Tribute band, helped me crystalize some things I’ve had in the back of my mind for awhile.    

I sing jazz.  I know, it’s old music.  Most of the songs I play were written long before the guys in Led Zepplin were even born.  So what higher ground could I stand on?  Derivative music versus original music, art versus craft.  Would I have been able to buy in to Hammer of the Gods more, if they’d not been wearing those ridiculous wigs?  If they’d been like ‘let’s be who Led Zepplin would be if they had aged as a band, into today.  If they let their bald spots show?  Maybe.  But the question arises, why do a cover band?   In the same way, I don’t understand some younger and even well known jazz singers who just sound like Billie Holiday.   

There was only one woman dancing, an older blond.  She looked around at the rest of us like, ‘Why aren’t you all dancing?  This is great!!’  I don’t want to be presumptuous, but if a person is just trying to relive their youth, they’re not responding to reality.  I took a few shots of whisky, which I’d put in my purse, hoping it would help me buy in, but instead it made me feel very contemplative:  

There is no time before or beyond the present.  But in this day, of unbelievable technology, where every moment of our lives is recordable, how much are we living in the moment, and how much are we just ‘recording for later.‘    

Where is the avant garde of our day?  Hip Hop?  Electronic music?  Who is making the establishment nervous?   That blonde drives a volvo, but boogies in rhythm to the time she rebelled, when she thought the future was eternal and her place in it firm.  Now, shaking her hips, ironically to ‘The Song Remains the Same’, is she ignoring Truth?    

Rule one of art: Tell the truth.  Don’t sentimentalize the future or the past. Be in the present. Making art is a form of radical truth telling.  If that succumbs to chimera, what has a chance?   I am Sure the dudes in Hammer of the Gods are not trying to be artists, just to be a stroll down memory lane, but, the music of Led Zepplin is so ‘of the moment’ and so honest, that it defies that container.  And for that, I’m glad.  While I love Led Zepplin, and I’ve often fantasized about seeing them, and Bob Marley, and The Doors and The Grateful Dead live, their music is so of the moment, that it can’t be contained.  And just as Jesus, with his radical message, died an early death, so did they suffer deaths and break ups.  That brilliance can’t last.  Its fire burns too bright.  It is not of the world.   

Speaking of ‘of the world’, am I allowed to expound on ‘the nature of art’ while I’m eating  gourmet food and drinking Makers Mark at the lovely Tarry Tavern? When I carry tissues, chap stick and hand sanitizer in my purse, and hop back into my relatively new bought reliable car?  When I go back to my steady job, in the Military?   

In my higher moments, I think I’m above banality, an Artist born, of generations of musician storytellers, revelers in life.  I tell my little stories, in 32 bars, rhyming about life, and love.  In my lower moments, I know, I must work at Truth, striving for Authenticity, looking at life sideways, squinting to perceive Reality.   


Sarah Vaughan Competition October 2012, The Good the Bad the Cyrille

I lost.  Not only did I lose, but while crying over my gin in the hotel lobby next to the NJPAC, they locked up the garage, and I had to spend the night on a friend’s couch.   I was stranded with a purse the size of my fist and a cocktail dress and fur cape.  At least I’d taken off my false eyelashes...   

There are worse things than losing a competition. There’s losing a competition, then having to perform and smile on stage.  There’s losing a competition then seeing all the contestants and judges and musicians and pretending you feel great about it while people tell you it’s all about the opportunity.  There’s losing a competition and some old veteran yelling at you in the lobby quizzing you about your knowledge of jazz in the history of the military and making you cry while you’re walking a mile across a sprawling performing arts complex in tiny torture device shoes to a reception where you’re going to have to pretend how happy you are to have gotten to be a part of everything (even if it’s true, it doesn’t FEEL like it just after you lose).  And then there’s losing a competition and getting your car locked up in a garage and feeling like the biggest loser that you didn’t check what time the garage closed, and realizing you won’t get to go home after ALL THAT!  And knowing you have to wake up and be out in the world in a cocktail dress and fur cape and Those Shoes!!   

My friend Sturgess was a mensch.  After they announced the finalists of which I was not one, he texted me... ‘Demanding a recount!  You sounded and looked great!’ I hadn’t even known he was coming!  I felt so happy to have him there, a witness and ally.   

Once we realized the garage was closed after walking to every possible entrance (in Those Shoes) we looked for Sturgess’ car.  As we rounded a corner, I tapped into the stuff of dreams, and conjured up a woman walking in almost a red unitard, with a lady gaga style jacket.  I can’t make this stuff up. My dream apparition (recounted in my previous email) was there in the flesh as if to taunt me and say...see your nightmares can come true!  It didn’t seem malevolent though, just like cosmic teasing.  The world is wide, and we can only see this side of the veil, but it is deep on the other side, and comical.   

The Good -  
My new dress, though I didn’t want to be still wearing it this am, I was really happy I found it!  And God bless my fashion consultant Maria in the dressing room at Lohmans. 
Getting to give the Jazz Knights CD to Jon Hendricks who wrote the Ask Me Now lyric we recorded. 
Michael Bourne from WBGO’s Singer’s Unlimited show giving me his card and telling me to mail my CD’s directly to him. 
Meeting James Moody’s wife and having her tell me how much she loved my singing.   
Scatting with the other singers at the rehearsals, and super enjoying all their hot licks. 
Dee Dee Bridgewater complimenting my necklace I got at Starwood.  (the pagan gathering not the hotel chain) 
Cookies and fruit platters for two days! 
Bionic mascara from Trish McEvoy.  It doesn’t run.  You can cry your eyes out and wipe them, and there’s nothing.  If you’re a performer who cries a lot, (not like anyone I know) this is the product you’ve been waiting for.  Just knowing I could cry without ruining my makeup cheered me up slightly even while I was crying! 

The Bad 
Not being in the finals.  A lot of people around the competition gave votes of confidence in my direction.  I said to every one of them, ‘you Never know how these things turn out. If I make it into the finals I’ll be happy’  And I didn’t.  Boo. 
One of the contestants from out of town got insanely aggressive during the group rehearsal.  She came on like a mac truck.  I’ve had drill sergeants screaming at me, but somehow because I wasn’t expecting it, it was so violent.  I was physically shaking from it.  Fk mean people. 
Losing my ticket for the garage and having to pay the lost ticket fee in my cocktail dress in the morning, because their stupid garage closed at 8pm. 
Driving home from Newark in rush hour traffic.   

The Good 
Can’t end on a bad note...  I got a great nap in today!!  And I don’t feel horrible.  I feel a little like I have an emotional hang over.  It was an ordeal.  But I’m having dinner at Margaret’s soon, and next month I have some good shows coming up and life goes on and on and on.   And the Cyrille, well, she won.  And that is Good!

Guest Post on Margaret Steel’s Blog on the Peekskill Patch Website 
100 Reasons Why I love Peekskill 
Reason 21 by guest writer, Peekskillian Alexis Cole 
Christmas 2011 

Margaret is always coming up with great ideas.  Like last night when we made and consumed cookies and spiked apple cider at her house with Brian.  We were talking about our shopping and I bragged that I did mine almost exclusively in Peekskill.  “You should write a guest post on my blog about it!” I’m in a non-committal phase at the moment, so I said ‘sure’ half heartedly.  But now at 2am in my pad with 3 pans of banana bread in the oven, there’s nothing better I can think of, than to tell you about my Peekskill Christmas.   

I should start by saying, it’s been a rough season.  My family relationships are at a kind of low point.  I got an email a few weeks ago with the subject “from your former mother.” I sent her a small Christmas gift anyway, with a card that expressed ambivalence but love nonetheless.  I got one from her with a card that was ironic and not funny, and pretty depressing.  My father and I have been on the outs too, with me taking big issue with the way they’re dealing with my grandparents living situation.  I kind of went on a strike with my father saying that I couldn’t pretend things were ok when they weren’t, and that until a physical change was made with their living situation, I was not going to be on speaking terms with him.   

I went to see Mother Carlye at St. Peter’s, Peekskill about two weeks ago.  She told me what I knew she would, to pray.  Just a few minutes every day from now until Christmas.  There have been times in my life when I prayed all the time, and I couldn’t imagine being a person who didn’t pray before bed.  But now I’m not praying too much, so it was special for me to ‘go there’. I prayed, and then I returned a phone call to my dad which ended in us having the first decent conversation in months, because he told me that my grandfather was moving on saturday, and so I had to just kinda stop being mad, and make things ok.  I hung up the phone, put on pandora radio, and amazingly our recording of my dad’s version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel immediately came on the radio.  Crazy, this prayer stuff!     

Over the next week, I tried to be feeling better about Christmas, but the 23rd rolled around, and I still hadn’t managed to want to buy gifts for my family.  Margaret suggested I just do it, and the feeling would follow the action perhaps.  The old fake it til you make it.  I threw on a coat and walked around town looking for gifts.  I went first to the food co-op and got a gift basket for my dad, who’s really into health food. Then I went to the library bookstore and got some large print books for grampa, then I went to the Coop, (what a beautifully curated shop) and found a beautiful square angel painting to give to my step-mom.  I came home and wrapped and realized that in my shopping and giving care to choosing their gifts, I actually felt better about the relationships.   

I woke up today at noon and made brunch for me and Margaret.  Then I went to the food co-op (where Nancy showed me how we can now check out using computers and scanning bar codes!!!) and bought some things to bring with me tomorrow for a christmas/hanukkah celebration.  I was wrapping up my cooking at about ten to five, and decided to go to church, though I Really didn’t feel like it.  I heard myself say (shockingly) in my head, ‘People just aren’t worth it.’ I didn’t used to be so jaded, but I’m feeling kinda let down lately I guess.  I feel kind of icy a lot, and hard.  It’s no fun to feel that way, but I feel powerless to change it on my own.  I was doing the dishes thinking to myself how could Jesus have died for us, we’re so not worth it.  I waited until the last possible second and put some shoes on and went to church, grumbling at myself the whole block there.   

I saw some people I know and like, that I’d never seen at church before.  Just seeing them, and the warm greeting I got when I walked in, started to crack my shell (which of course is not very calcified).  Going to church when I’m feeling icy almost always results in tears, and it was very thoughtful of me to bring a big hankie for myself.  It’s good to know yourself.  At the passing of the peace, I got an invitation to join a family dinner from a friend, which I reluctantly accepted, cause I wasn’t feeling like good company.  During the service my other friend’s daughter made me laugh, and then the next thing I knew they were turning off the lights and a sweet alter girl came by to light our candles.  I looked at her in the warm light and we exchanged a smile, and I countered in my head, ‘People are the only thing that’s worth it’.   

I went to dinner, it was nice, then I came back to home base and did my end of the year giving, thinking about Clarence Jordan planting pecan trees at Koinonia on christmas eve, which would later become the cash crop of the religious community in Georgia that he’d founded.  Then I met my friend Sturgess down in Tarrytown at the awesome Tarry Tavern where he’s chef, and we went to the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow, where they were having a their 325th candle light christmas eve service.  The tiny church was absolutely packed, and we sang with much exuberance.  Someone passed out in the back of church, and there was a surreal 10 minute interval while we sat in near silence while the EMT’s came and the man was presumed to be ok.   

I saw a musical acquaintance after service there who told me the sad and shocking news about Stephen Morris passing away a few months ago. I kept emailing him about getting his music and stand light back to him, he left it last year when we had the Haiti benefit at St. Peter’s.  Maybe he knew he was sick?  I still have it.  That’s kind of weird.  He was so full of life and energy, and was really generous with the community.  What a huge loss, even for those like me, who weren’t close to him at all.   

What’s the takeaway at 3am Dec 25th?  

My banana breads are done, Jesus is born. It’s a rocky road, there’s no choice but to walk it, might as well make it worth it.  And my prayer takes the form of a line from Angel from Montgomery, whose refrain has been haunting me in these last weeks. Lord, ...Just give me one thing that I can hold on to, To believe in this living, is such a hard way to go.   



Sweeping the Stairs 
Sept 10, 2010 

"And the seasons, they go round and round, and the painted ponies go up and down, we're captured on a carousel of time.  We can't return, we can only look behind from where we came, and go round and round and round in a circle game."  - Joni Mitchell, Circle Game 

"Gregory!"  Every freaking day I see hikers on the road down to Highland Falls from Bear Mountain, looking all scruffy, in search of a rib sticking meal at one of that town's fine establishments.  I always wonder if they've been on the Appalachian Trail, which comes close to West Point, where I work, or if they're just day hikers.  I think, "I wish I knew them, bet they're cool people!  Wish I could take them to Peekskill for an awesome meal at the Brewery or Birdsall House instead of diner food."  Today on my way home from a mind blowing philosophical meeting at work, one that got me contemplating my life's raison d'être, I actually saw someone I used to live with hiking down that road!  I made a sharp U-turn, doubled back and saw it Was him!  "Gregory!" He turned around, "Quick, get in," I said, since I was in a traffic lane.  "What are you doing here!?"  He said he came up to go hiking for the day at Bear Mountain, and had hoped to stay at the Bear Mountain Inn, which as it turns out has been closed for renovation for quite some time. He said he was just walking into town to get a bite to eat.  I (of course!) offered to take him to get some Grade A grub in Peekskill, and then realized that having found no Inn, he was squatting in an abandoned hovel near the inn, in which the ceiling and most of the floor had both caved in.  "Hovel," he said, "is only one letter away from Hotel!" True.  We went and picked up his things in the eerie hovel, which still had artifacts of being recently inhabited, and headed to my place.  Gregory is a pianist and composer who lived at Ganas, a commune in Staten Island, the same time as I lived there in 2002.  We had an interesting talk over an incredible dinner at the Birdsall House, my bar, named for the structure which stood across the street, where General George Washington gave control of West Point to Benedict Arnold.  Woops!   

Gregory talked about some recent losses in the romance department, and ironically about the song "So In Love," which is actually on my new Venus Records CD.  He wants love that blasts into your world like a meteor.  While I'm not against that kind of love, (which I might call infatuation, but I'm not against that either) I know that I have tools at my disposal, which I can employ to mitigate the searing affects of such romantic tidal waves.  It's not that I'm not romantic, but perhaps, the Real romance is between me, myself and God.  Other people may come into my sphere, and orbit with me, but they don't Become me, or God.  I don't Need anyone, to exist, and if I did, I don't think that would be good.  I don't mind the pain of loss, and am willing to abandon myself, I'm not guarded or jaded, I just want to keep the pillar of my inner strength and faith, and let romantic love dance jubilantly around that like a Maypole.  He said that kind of thing didn't lend itself well to song lyrics.   

Last weekend, my sister Bethany came home from her summer spent helping take care of our family owned Bed and Breakfast in Monhegan Island, Maine.  The house was willed prematurely to my step mother and family, because it was in such disrepair that it needed immediate care, or was in danger of falling down.  Her family were the first ones to settle in Monhegan, and the island's graveyard is full of tombstones bearing her ancestral names.  Half a million in debt later, the house is a stunning showpiece, the first one people encounter upon a visit to the island.  They rent out rooms in it over the summer.  There's never any shortage of visitors because there are only about 350 houses on Monhegan which is an incredibly popular spot for landscape painters who traditionally retreat there.  I think it's been a great atmosphere for Bethany to have partly grown up in.  She's starting her senior year of high school, and getting ready to visit colleges.  She's decided to become an elementary music teacher.  I'm psyched!  Her mom won't be home for another month, and Dad is busy, so I took her school clothes shopping.  I know she can take care of herself, but it's so nice, now that I live closer and have a car, to be there for her.  Looking at the college curriculums, it looks so daunting, I'm glad it's not me going to school again!  I can imagine her, on her own for the first time, trying to learn all that theory and all those instruments and music history.  Learning about who She really is, on her own.  Becoming Herself.   

When I moved out of S. Florida for the first time, within a day, I became a vegetarian.  I guess I'd always wanted to be one, I just didn't know it.  I was at Koinonia, the farm/commune I lived at for a summer on my way up to college at William Paterson University in NJ.  There were two lunch lines, vegetarian and not vegetarian.  I slipped onto the vegetarian line as if I'd been eating that way for years.  Who knew?  While I feel that in a way I Am who I've Always Been, I feel the beauty of seeing yourself through different situations, is that you get to see more Who you really Are, and if you don't like things, to work on them, in a very intentional way that might not be available to a kid in her parent's home, where we exist not as our own person, but rather in the shadow of, or in opposition to our parents and school friends.  Every time I put myself in a new situation over the years, I see myself in a new light and discover/uncover things about myself that I never knew were there.  Perhaps self discovery itself, is a primary impetus of seeking new experiences at all!  Travel, romance, psychotherapy, inner work, physical work, creative work all illuminate us in different lights. There was a quote from Proust that adorned my 'travel' webpage for years, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." 

Our heavy meeting at work today was so interesting.  The big question, after the recent Washington Post and NYT articles was of course, "Who needs Army bands?"  Just last night, I was listening to a podcast of a recent edition of 'Soundcheck', the fabulous show hosted by John Schaffer on WNYC which I listen to often on the way home from work.  He also hosts the show 'New Sounds', and his knowledge of the music and ability to interact with the guests is admirable.  I love his show.  So, a few weeks ago he had Walter Pincus on the air to talk about the Military Bands program.  He's the award winning author who wrote the 'expose' for the Washington Post on the Military Bands program.  Now this show is supposed to be pro-musician, pro-music and culture, but with friends like these who needs enemies?  They had such an accusatory tone in their voices!  They were derisive and uncharacteristically ignorant.  They didn't even know there were 5 branches of service, and left out the Coast Guard.  (How rude!) It was amazing to hear one of my heros talk about Me with such complaint in his voice.  In a relatively rich country with no government supported arts programs, here they are attacking the only thing we got!   

Today the Lt. Colonel asked us to answer the big question.  My first thought was material, "It's cheaper than a television ad campaign." But then as time went by and other people spoke, a thought came into my head.  We as the military deal with the business of Life and Death, and what other unit helps people deal with those cosmic questions that come up when people are in our business.  Music speaks to parts of the soul where words cannot go.  "Who needs Army Bands?" Why have a Military University for soldier's higher education to begin with, if it's all about just toting weapons and shooting people?  Why as a society have poetry at all?  What do we really need?  Why not go back to cave dwelling and making tools from stones and eating a diet of raspberries and wild birds?  We need culture and art to help us to tell our human story.  Who we are, and where we came from.  If we neglect those things that make us who we are, we have nothing to bother defending anyway. Though reading the Washington Post article was painful, the following response, which echoed my own feelings, was heartening :  

    …These bands are a symbol of Americas greatness!! When budget crisis arises.... the solution is not to cut the arts!!! Art and music is what makes  up our culture. If we end funding of the arts, then our society will dry up and cease to function and this will no longer be a place we can proudly call home. All of Europe and the other continents understand how IMPORTANT  music, art, food, and culture is to creating a unique and wonderful place to live. If we lose our music - we lose our identity. If we lose our military bands (which command a PUNY portion of military funds for their upkeep) we would only be putting more people out of work... a bunch of patriotic musicians who have devoted their time, talent, hard work, and lives to honoring this country and its troops and veterans. Military bands make America a better place for all of us. Posted by: jmfproductions1 | August 24, 2010  

When President Obama came to West Point to give the keynote speech at Graduation, he made that statement emphatically. "We need not give in to fear every time a terrorist tries to scare us. We should not discard our freedoms because extremists try to exploit them. We cannot succumb to division because others try to drive us apart. We are the United States of America. (Applause.)…And so a fundamental part of our strategy for our security has to be America's support for those universal rights that formed the creed of our founding. And we will promote these values above all by living them -- through our fidelity to the rule of law and our Constitution, even when it's hard; even when we're being attacked; even when we're in the midst of war." Following in that lead, West Point's new Superintendent has opened up the post for visitors again, for the first time since 9-11.  He says West Point belongs to the people.   

This morning on the way to work, I was tuned in to the Leonard Lopate show on WNYC, and they had the filmmaker Steve Rosenbaum on discussing his project videotaping and photographing construction at the Memorial at Ground Zero.  Just after 9-11 he produced a documentary film "7 Days in September" ( which combined his own video footage with donated video footage of New Yorkers dealing with the immediate aftermath of the WTC attacks.  He told the story of how that documentary came to be.  Camera crews were in his offices on 28th and 5th Ave, rallying together for a shoot about NYC dog owners, when the attacks occurred.  He told his crew to go home if they needed to be with their families, but otherwise to go down there and shoot.  Not being news guys and knowing that every news crew in town would be there, they asked "What will we shoot?"  He said, "Look where the news cameras are pointing, and point your cameras the other way."  His documentary captured the human story behind that tragedy.  After that, he thought he was done with 9-11.  But on a recent trip to Ellis Island with his son's grade school class, he looked across the water and thought, "Who's documenting the story of this incredible rebuilding?" He let the kids go off and made a few phone calls, realized that no one was doing it, and started shooting immediately.   

Telling our stories.  The Jewish New Year started this week.  Opening the book of life.  A time of self reflection, and personal courage.  No culture knows about telling our story better than Jews.  Our whole religion's focus is our epic story.  Our past and future are our destiny.  Today, this year, this decade, our lifetime…merely a frames in our greater cultural movie.  Hopefully one day we'll evolve a beautiful shared human story.  What is my story?  It's here in these emails to you.  Today at the meeting, speaking about our concerts, the Lt. Colonel said, "If it wasn't well documented, it's as if it never happened."  That's what Steven Rosembaum said.  "If I don't tell the story, people in 20, 40, 60 years from now will want to know, why and how they did this, and there will be no answers. I have to tell this story to make it real."   

Today at work, I was doing something very mundane which turned into a Kairos moment.  New members of the Band Unit have to be on a 9 man cleaning squad.  Every new person that comes in bumps you up to a higher floor of our 4 story building. I'm currently on the 3rd floor.  My new job is to sweep the stairwell.  As I swept, I thought, "this feels so familiar."  I thought about music and its importance in work of life and death.  I thought about my sister and her imminent journey to college.  I thought about my friend Brandie, currently in Basic Training, who got held back a month because a problem with her rifle caused her to fail in marksmanship.  I thought about my apartment and how I'm so blessed to be coming up on one year in my place.  And then it hit me, my job when  at Mary Help of Christians, the convent I boarded in during college in NJ, my job every week for 2 years was to sweep the stairs.  I graduated in 1998.  I've been around the world, I've worked and loved and danced a lot of days since then.  And here I am sweeping stairs, chopping wood, carrying water.  Caught on the carousel of time.  All these years later, Trying to be open to love and life and working at being fearless, throwing myself at the world with (measured) abandon.  

Events mark the frames of our daily story into chapters.  My next event is my Housewarming Anniversary Party on Sept 25th.  And of course…You're invited!!!!!  I'm making a big Hungarian Feast.  Dinner is from 5-8pm, and then we're going around the corner to see 'Makbet' the Gypsy retelling of Macbeth presented by Dzieci Theater Company.  ( They all know the whole script, and spontaneously change roles throughout the play.  I still have a few tickets left if you want to reserve one.  (They're  $15.  If you want to see it, you should definitely reserve!) When I saw them do it at the Yippie Cafe last year I was spellbound.  The human story of good people and corruption by power…what if Macbeth's Army had had a band to help him realign his spiritual center? :) The cast will be coming by the party (in costume) for tarot card and crystal ball readings, and to share some of their homemade herbal distillations- amazing stuff! After the play we'll come back to my place and continue the party with a musical jam till we feel like stopping.  Let me know if you want to come, and I'll send you the invite.   Oh, and I have a new fabulous couch…but it's cream colored, so don't even thing about sitting on it with a glass of red wine!!!   




Spring is Queer 2011

From the Urban Dictionary: 

Mindfuck - an idea or concept that shakes one's previously held beliefs or assumptions about the nature of reality. 

Mindfuck - The feeling you get when an event or concept causes all of your preconceived notions of reality to go straight down the toilet. The only known cure for a mindfuck is the song "Dancing Queen". 

Spring is a mindfuck. What you see as reality one day, is different the next, in a very tangible way. The bare stick branches seem to be a reliable version of reality, but then suddenly out of nowhere there are flowers! And that’s a cool reality! Then the flowers are gone (sniff sniff) and there are tiny leaves. 

Spring is a time of intense change, of challenging perceptions. And although everything in my life is going really swell, maybe because of it, this Spring I see around me that shit is all fucked up, on so many levels. 

I started noticing this phenomenon in sharp relief just last week. The first thing that caught my attention was the case in Long Island of the violent beating and murder of Marcelo Lucero. I’d heard about the case before it went to trial, and of course I noticed especially, because he’s Ecuadorian. I used to live in Ecuador and where I live now, in Peekskill, we have a huge Ecuadorian population. I have a very strong bias about the incredible quality of people that come from that country. When I heard that it wasn’t the first time that 19 year old Jeffrey Conroy and his friends had gone out ‘Mexican Hunting,’ I felt physically ill, knowing that this is happening here and now, not in some history or other place. However, his murder was just the beginning. The jury found Jeffrey Conroy guilty, but charged him with manslaughter instead of murder because “who can tell what he was thinking, if he meant to kill him.” Hello? Manslaughter has a sentence of 8-20 years, which as I understand it translates to about 4. People who sell grass get 20, and you can bet if Marcelo Lucero had beaten and murdered Jeffrey Conroy he’d have gotten life or the death penalty!  
      (Note, 2016  I went back and looked about this case, and actually Jeffrey Conroy got 25 years, the maximum for Manslaughter as part of a hate crime.  Also he was just 17 when he committed the murder, and I have new layers of complicated feelings about sentencing a juvenile to such a long term.  He was acting as part of a group, and it seems like he just happened to be the one who did the act.

Then in the self same week, I got an email from the NCSF about the intentional murder of 65 year old Joseph Konopka, a San Francisco community activist, loving husband and closeted masochist. He’d paid the man Terry Frazier in the past to come and do scenes with him in his home, sharing his deep secret, and making himself vulnerable to him. Frazier suffocated Konopka. His widow read a lengthy statement, she said it was gut wrenching for her to know that Frazier had watched her husband struggle to breathe and after he died, robbed the home of precious jewelry, including heirlooms from her mother and grandmother. She claimed that Frazier had cased their home in prior visits to see her husband and had planned the burglary. She called him a thief and a murderer. She said “The secret that he kept from me, of which Mr. Frazier became a participant, was just that, never disturbing our closeness.” This man, who watched someone he was paid to serve, struggle for air and die, and compounded that vicious murder with robbery, was also given Manslaughter: 8-20 years. (

Joseph Konopka was a gay guy who liked to pay for weird sexual things. Not one of us. Marcelo Lucero is Spanish, probably illegal, probably didn’t even speak English. Not one of us. That must have been what the jury was feeling, or they would have given them murder! These two stories of trials occurring in our most liberal states reminds me ‘With friends like these, who needs enemies?’ and Martin Luther King writing from jail about the liberal ministers who are sympathetic but won’t support him. 

We live in a world of “Folly and Fuck-up,” where an oil rig sets on fire, sinks, and threatens the life of the country’s most productive wetland, and the oil and gas companies response is to run a hypocritical ad campaign on CNN about the importance and virtue of oil. Where Monsanto runs an ad campaign about feeding the world, when they’re the company that invented the terminator gene, which threatens our food supply at new levels. 

Spring is a mindfuck. The bare stick branches, the flowers, then the leaves… 

If these seemingly disparate realities exist simultaneously within the tree, couldn’t it be that way in the world? What other realities are existing simultaneously with this perceived reality? 

The mother of Marcelo Lucero says she forgives her son’s murderer and prays for him every day. 

Henry David Thoreau: 

"The universe is wider than our understanding of it" 

...Thank Freakin’ God! If this was the only reality there is, I might have to move off-planet.

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