"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Workers of the world, avoid second-hand smoke!

Back in CA after five days in Las Vegas attending the union conference. Four days / nights in Vegas is too long. Our conference was held in the basement of Circus Circus. I found the juxtapositions a little jarring. Step out of the room where we're talking about the scourge of "plantation capitalism*" and the need to organize for living wages and health care etc etc, and you are assaulted by stale smoke and the clamor of slot machines. I guess the NOLSW Local 2320 honchos feel that Vegas draws more potential conference attendees than it repels, and in fact nearly all of the hotel workers in Vegas are unionized so at least we could feel assured that our stay at the Circus would not exploit our sisters and brothers in labor. Compared to the newer end of the strip, I have to say that the Circus was a relatively peaceful haven, or at least a less oppressive hell.

*A good example of plantation capitalism would be Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

conquering trailer phobia

I'm feeling so much better -- except for that I was awake between 3 and 5:30 a.m. last night, and thinking about cheese didn't really help. Not the miracle solution I had hoped for.

We finished that movie and the trailer housing thing didn't cause any more palpitations. Instead I was able to focus on what the story was actually about. The main character chooses not to tell anyone she is dying yet makes tapes for everyone to listen to after she's gone, instructing them on how she wants them to feel. Celia and I agreed that we were not comfortable with that approach. Though it seemed to give her freedom in some ways I pointed out that Mr. Rogers has addressed the subject of disclosure in his song, "I Like to Be Told." Enough said.

I swam a few laps this morning--and experienced something that might almost be rhythm. Not a rhythm I could completely fall into and maintain for more than about two minutes, but I think I could be making progress. I haven't been swimming since I last mentioned it a month ago, but maybe that has actually helped me since I haven't been practicing my bad form all that time.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

cheese therapy

We started to watch a movie last night called "My Life Without Me," about a 23-year-old mother of 2 who lives in a trailer with her underemployed boyfriend, works as a janitor, and finds out that she has some kind of horrible aggressive cancer. Which then (according to the Netflix summary) prompts her to start really living and doing all those things she always wanted to do. The movie has Deborah Harry in it and seemed like it should be good, if heavy in some ways, but I couldn't watch it past the first 10 or 15 minutes. It wasn't the cancer issue that really stressed me out (though it's a plenty scary subject), but rather the family of 4 living in a tiny trailer...in my brain, their intake was on my desk and somehow I had to help them with their lack of functional plumbing and heating facilities or denial of Medi-Cal coverage.

Then later when I was trying to fall asleep I couldn't make my brain stop thinking about clients--real ones, not fictional movie characters--in that whirling, pointless fashion as it does sometimes when I'm trying to sleep. It occurred to me, why don't I try to fixate my brain on something else, something soothing yet complex and visceral enough to engage with, and somehow I started thinking about cheese.

I first thought about camembert and all my experiences of it, about the rind and how it looks powdery on the outside; how some people don't like the rind but I do, as long as there is enough middle remaining to go with the rind; how we had camembert sandwiches when I was in France, how I used to buy it in little round wooden containers when I lived in Strasbourg...then I thought of the big blocks of orange cheddar we always had when I was growing up, and I thought about eating gouda (the kind that came in red wax, and tasted slightly waxy) and summer sausage while hiking with my dad.

You can really go deep with cheese. I started feeling calmer immediately. After thinking about camembert for awhile, I decided to try to think of types of cheese for every letter of the alphabet. Had to skip "A" because I couldn't think of an A-cheese. Of course when I told Celia about this today, she replied, "Asiago." As if she'd been thinking about it ahead of time. Now, "American" comes to mind as well. It would be hypocritical of me to exclude it after all those family car trips with our Kraft Singles and some various cans of squeezy cheese I may have once purchased and consumed as an adult.

I don't remember getting past Havarti before I dozed off, so I was spared the dilemma of whether or not to include "Velveeta."

It's a three-day weekend and with just a little more time between me and my most recent work day, I think I can try again with that movie. The other DVD we just received from Netflix, "NFL Greatest Follies," might be a good chaser.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

'cause the darkest hour...is just before dawn

In this case the great Mama Cass (http://www.casselliot.com/) was clearly referring to any time I would actually be able to run outside in the morning before work. Has it always been that dark at 6:45 a.m. in January? What is this, freakin' Alaska or something?

I have been running on a treadmill (at the gym) a couple times during the week, and in the park on the weekends when it's not pouring rain and one has time to wait until the sun rises. I wouldn't characterize the training as intense, but I feel like it's an improvement over this time last year and the year before. Come February 11 and the 4-mile "Run Valentine Run" (benefiting Legal Services of Northern California) I will be trained better than for the last two years' events, after which I always said, Dang, I did OK at this, but if I'd TRAINED, I'd be kicking serious BUTT. So, a warning to all those butts about to be kicked. Gently.

On the subject of weekends: this coming one is 3 days long and I'm going to stay home and bake bread (maybe) and work on my essay for the ABA e-journal that has the carrot of much prize money dangling before it. 600 words on My Life in the Law, How I Been Changed, and so forth. It was smart of the ABA to limit it to 600 words. Even at 600 words, the prize of $5000 only amounts to $8.30 per word. This may sound like a pretty decent rate but I'm hoping it's still too cheap for the vast majority of attorneys who do not work for legal aid and thus the pool of contestants will be reduced.

My Life in the Law is proportionally a bit short compared to My Life. Yet, it has revealed much to me. Not much that I was really thrilled to find out, but if you're in the business of getting some real revelation it tends to be short on pleasantries. Not devoid of, but short. I don't want anyone reading this who may be considering a legal career to let it change his / her mind. It's just that the magic process of drawing things to us that we need to learn about, when we can't seem to recall having signed up for that particular class, but now that you mention it, yes it was a prerequisite we should have finished a long time ago.

Monday, January 02, 2006

other people's puppies

Here is a little dog that looks so cute and fluffy, you just have to wonder what kind of terrifying alien creature she transforms into if fed after midnight. I met her this weekend, however, and if she's not a genuine terrestrial canine species, her perfomance was utterly convincing. She loves to chew on things that are normally not considered edible and hasn't decided whether she really likes going outside to pee. Can't blame her, it's been raining almost continuously since she arrived at my friend Lisa's house a week and a half ago. I'm sure the pup will be fully housetrained in no time, probably well before she comes to visit at Auntie Em & Celia's house. If not, maybe some dog pee would help neutralize the cat pee in our living room. I've heard from people who have first-hand experience that it doesn't usually work that way, but I bet it would work almost as well as some of the pet odor removing products on the market.

Speaking of products on the market, I was at the medical clinic on Friday and saw a little anonymous photocopied clipping on the bulletin board re: Airborne. Not very positive. Said each tablet contains 1g of Vitamin C and if you take as many as suggested on the box, you are overdosing and could give yourself kidney stones. Hmm, common cold vs. kidney stones...I don't know, it's a toss up. I also think that everything I was taking to fight off the viruses was starting to attack the ol' stomach lining. Either that, or stomach pain was a symptom of the bug itself. I was up at 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning ransacking our condo for Tums. Couldn't find any, finally resorted to 1/4 tsp of baking soda in about a cup of water (whatever it said on the baking soda box). Not tasty but I felt better instantly. It made me think of my great-grandma Winnie. Once when I was about ten, I was staying at her house and had an upset stomach, and she tried to convince me that I should drink baking soda solution, and I flatly refused. I was afraid it would taste so bad I would gag on it which seemed to defeat the whole purpose of stomach-settling. Saturday afternoon I restocked the Tums supply but haven't needed more than one since then. Feelin' fine. Ready to start up work again tomorrow. Legal Services has a benefit 4-mile run in mid-February so it's time to crack down on the training again. I have dreams of placing in my age group and for the last two years of running the event I have thought, hey, if I had actually trained for this....