Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Page Turner by French Director Dercourt

In Uncategorized on February 14, 2010 at 7:20 am


Revenge is a dish best served cold, the old proverb says and it is, indeed, icy in Dercourt’s tale “The Page Turner”. This is the best lover’s revenge film I have seen in a long time. http://movies.nytimes.com/2007/03/23/movies/23page.html

In the vein of Alexander Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Cristo” “The Page Turner” is psychological as well as sensual. The juice flows between the two costars, Catherine Frot and Deborah Francois, followed by betrayal and destruction, set in the world of classical music.

Both Frot and Francois were nominated for Cesars, the French version of the Oscars. The two women are so hot together and play off of each other so well that the director Dercourt says in each frame they are, “like a cage in which two wild animals engage in extraordinary combat.”


Christmas in Volant.. and the wood just kept coming

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2009 at 7:16 am

Christmas was important to dad even though we never saw him. We heard him. Mom and I would be dressing the ham and hear the comforting sound of his axe hit the wood, whack… whack…. wack… then a groan as he lifted the pile and his ski boots padding through the snow toward the house. He’d stop at the door to throw them in and then he was gone. But he died in 1970 and we all missed him, and still do.

My brother would take his place. Fred, and his wife would come in around 1pm and Fred would take off his boots at the front door and carry them in, kiss mom in the kitchen, then put them on again and go out the back door to chop wood for the fireplace. The girls were inside with the pig. The man outback cutting wood. That was before she married Stan.

Stan changed everything and nothing. He was quiet too, assuming his place out back at the wood pile….whack…whack …whack…then the back door would open and the freshly cut wood suddenly appeared. My brother had two children by then and his youngest, Heather, would cling to mom’s legs as she moved from the sink to the stove and back to the sink. When the top half of mother’s body seemed to disappear into the refrigerator, Heather would cry out in delight. “Peek a boo!”

But last Christmas, before mom sold the house, it was different. It was me. Just me. On the phone long distance listening to her words drift in and out of the tiny holes in the ear piece of the mobi, from Volant, PA to Takasaki Japan and back again.

She was nervous about my brother coming through in the snow. They had to drive all the way from Pittsburgh. There was a blizzard warning. The tv screen showed a red tape warning sign at the bottom and beeped loudly in between the verbal warning not to go out in the weather. The nurse had called me before mother got on, explaining the weather situation and mother’s agitation.

“They’ll be coming soon, mother” I assured her. It was already 1:30pm in EST in the U.S. He was only 30 minutes late.
I sat on the futon on the tatami mat floor, with my husband still laying down. It was 2:30 am on the 26th. I turned on the night light, keeping the phone cradled to my neck. It was hard to hear her. She was talking to the nurse in the background. I waited for her to return on the other end. I looked at my husband who was sitting up now, looking at his watch, making a face. ($3.40 a minute in dead silence.) I shrugged. Then her voice came back on strong and clear, almost excited.
“I hear Richard out back.” she giggled.
“Richard?” I asked.
“Your father’s getting the wood ready.”
I sighed.
Father had been dead since 1970.
My brother’s voice came on the phone. I felt relieved. I spoke to my sister-in –law and nieces and nephew. It was Christmas again. And like all the years before, the wood just kept coming.

Mexican Women In Between: The drug Wars and the murders in Juarez

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2009 at 3:50 am

Mexican women are in between the drug wars and the American corporations in Juarez. The women working in these corporations live in abysmal conditions–their homes are small, dirty and located outside of the city, where there are no roads or streetlights; while the corporations are housed in large, white beautiful buildings surrounded by gates with locks. The difference is striking as are the lives of the men who are the management of companies, such as, Maytag, Nike, Nokia and others, and the women and girls who work 12 hour a day shifts.

Who are these women?

How do they live? Since Calderon came into power and drug cartel violence has escalated, the women live in terror. Since Jan of 2009, 4,000 people have been killed in violence in Cuidad, Juarez in Mexico because of the drug violence. On Sept. 13th of this year an armed gunman rushed into a drug clinic and had all the patients line up then he killed them.

In December, at an inter-American Tribunal, it was found that Mexican government violated human rights because they failed to investigate three murders of young women that occured in 2003. However, the three murders that Mexico must pay 200,000 each for are just the tip of the iceberg of all the murders of women in Juarez that have not been investigated. As of this date, hundreds of women have been murdered in Ciudad, Juarez with no real interest or investigation by the government. There have been over 350 women and girls whose bodies were mutilated and dumped.

“It represents hope for thousands of people, of mothers, of desperate family members with nowhere to turn for help, no one to bring them justice,” said Irma Guadalupe Casas, director of Casa Amiga, a Ciudad group inthe city of Juarez that works with the families of the deceased.

At a demonstration in Ciudad Juarez, a member of the activist group Women in Black holds a cross that says, “Not even one more.” Hundreds of women and girls have been killed in the border city since 1993; most of the slayings have not been solved. (Associated Press / November 23, 2009) from the Los Angeles Times.

The Silent Witness

In Uncategorized on December 12, 2009 at 8:33 am

I am thinking of how powerful it is to be a “witness”. If a person lives but there is no one there to experience life with them–to be their witness–does that mean their life has no meaning? It is like the tree in the woods. When it falls, if there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? Of course, it makes a sound when it falls, even if there is no one to hear it; and  a person’s life is real even if they live alone.  But are we really alone? The point I’m trying to make is, everyone has a witness. My son who is 12 years old is my “witness”. I was writing on my laptop yesterday while he was on the desktop computer. I stopped to think and I heard his fingers pounding the keys. “What’s up?” I asked. He looked so intense. ” I entered a teenbiz writing contest. I’m writing up my entry.”  I was so surprised. I didn’t even realize that he enjoyed writing. Maybe he has been watching me, and that had some effect on him.

We are all “witnesses”  to each other. We are watching each other, even sometimes in silence, as when we read an author’s book or we read a columnists take on a subject in the news. Today while I was shopping at Ben Franklin craft shop, I started talking to a woman (stranger); and she gave me a 40% off coupon that she wasn’t going to use.  I thanked her and felt grateful because I don’t have much money and a few dollars off is a big deal to me. But also just talking with her in the store about our crafts was such an uplifting moment for me, a space to breathe, in my daily activities of running errands and getting ready for the holidays.

In honor of connection, we can see  all the ways in which we are witnesses to each other in this world. We can ask ourselves: What does it mean to be a “witness”? When a friend needs to talk, I sit down with her and listen. My listening is more than taking in words. It is about making meaning. When she is talking to me, she is constructing meaning as she goes along, as she tells me her truth; and at the end of her outpouring, she had made sense of something that was foreign to her before.

I read the news about Juarez and the 100’s of women who have been brutally murdered there since so many American companies moved there because of the NAFTA Trade Agreement. Then I bought a book on the same subject entitled, The Daughters of Juarez by Teresa Rodriguez.  I have been learning more and more about these women and I realize that because Teresa Rodriguez investigated the murders as a reporter and then wrote about them, I am able to learn about these women and to connect with them. Theresa has been reporting on the women of Juarez for over 10 years. She has been their “witness”, even though many of the women she has written about are dead. Teresa understands the value of these women’s lives– she has chosen to see them with an open heart and write their stories–she is their witness. And I am a witness and a testament to her life, as a valued columnist who covers stories that highlight women’s lives so intimately.

I am learning about these women too. I am reading about their lives. They are mothers and daughters. Some of them are 13 years old, living in a city for the first time in their lives, walking down a dirt road in the early morning. They don’t know about the man who is out there hunting them down. She walks the dirt lane from her small village in the dessert area outside of Juarez, wearing a thin cotton scarf across her face to protect herself fromthe dust blowing.

You Can’t Go Home Again

In Uncategorized on December 2, 2009 at 12:46 am

The room is silent. I step down from the podium at the front of the sparsely furnished basement room, at Trinity Cathedral, where I had been speaking at a 12-step meeting. My legs are weak and I am still shaking, as I squeeze through the crowded room full of people in metal folding chairs. The group moderator thanks me for sharing and several members come up to me to give me a hug after the group’s parting refrain, “Keep coming back. It works if you work it.”

I slip out of the room and take the stairs up from the basement of the church into the chapel, taking a seat in the pew in the back. I bow my head and cry. It’s Christmas season but I have no where to go. My friends at the university have all gone home for the holidays. When they asked me if I was going home, I lied and said yes. Then I made arrangements to rent a room at a local boardinghouse. My mother chose her boyfriend over me the last time I saw her, Thanksgiving Day, a month ago, that’s what my talk was about at the meeting, “facing the truth”. I spoke about that snowy Thanksgiving Day in 1987, when I realized my mother would not protect me from her violent boyfriend.

On that Thanksgiving Day, her boyfriend threw me up against the wall and punched me in the face. I ran out of the house, blood dripping down my chin onto the snow. I limped down the driveway in my bare feet.  My mother’s car pulled up beside me as I was trying to get away from the house, “Get in” she said. “No”, I said. “Get in” she said. “I’m your mother.” “No” I said. “I’ve got your purse. I’ll take you to the hotel” she said. I got in the car and she took me to a hotel.

Later, I took the bus to Pittsburgh, to my room. I remember quite vividly before she put me on the bus that day, what she said, “You should’ve never got him mad. You know how he is.” I waved to her through the bus window, trying to smile, twisting my swollen face exposing my busted lip. She waved back.

I’m weeping, sitting in the last pew of the chapel. A man in a long gown approaches me asking me something about making a confession. I don’t respond. “What’s on your mind,” he asks me, sitting down. “The bag.” I say. “The brown paper bag.” My voice is wobbly when I tell him the story.

On Thanksgiving Day of 1987, my mother’s boyfriend gave me a brown paper bag. He handed it to me, like it was a gift or something. But it wasn’t a gift because what was in it belonged to someone else. The bag was an old Giant Eagle bag, wrinkled, and rolled down at the top.

I was at my mother’s house in Volant, Pennsylvania visiting for Thanksgiving. Mother was in the kitchen when Stan yelled into the guest bedroom window, where I was sitting on the edge of the bed. “Get out here.” he ordered. I looked out through the blinds. He was standing in the snow in house slippers, wearing a too small tee shirt that exposed a roll of fat that fell down over his belt. His red flannel shirt was unbuttoned and hung open loosely; and he was holding a bag in one hand and a cigarette in the other. I put my boots on and my coat and went out. “What?” I asked, taking short steps toward him. He held out the old turned down paper bag with both hands, like an offering and said, “I thought this would fit you.” I took the bag, unrolled the top, and cautiously opened it. I pulled out each item, one by one: a woman’s pair of worn shoes, a pair of dirty socks, old jeans, a dirty sweater, a stretched out brassier, and a pair of soiled women’s panties. I looked at him standing there shaking, like a scared little boy, waiting for me to approve. But he was a grown man, age 50 or more. I felt nauseated and thrust the bag back at him, running into the house and back to the guest bedroom where I locked myself in.

In the bedroom, my mind was running a mile a minute. I wanted to leave but I didn’t have a car. My brother and his family would be arriving soon. I recalled a conversation I had with my brother months earlier. We had spoken briefly on the phone. He was mad because Stan was using my mother’s money to pay for women he took up to the hunting camp. Another time, when I was visiting my brother, at his new house and he was showing me around, he asked me, “What does mom tell you about Stan?” I didn’t understand what he was getting at. “Nothing.” I said. Then on a separate occasion my brother told me that Stan picks up hitchhikers. He brings them home, my brother told me, emphasizing the word, “home”. I wasn’t paying attention. I was too involved at school to really hear what he was saying, I mean, the words underneath the words. In my mind, he was still the 10 year old brother who used to trail along after me when I was in high school. But actually he was much older now. I recall responding to my brother in disbelief, “Where does he take them when he brings them home?” waiting slyly for him to try and give me a believable explanation. But without skipping a beat, he said, “He takes down in the basement.” “Ties them up.” I didn’t ask anything else. And he didn’t say anything more.

Later that day, through my mother’s Thanksgiving meal and my brother’s family’s playful chatter, I was quiet. After my brother and his family went home, when I was alone with Stan and my mother, he stomped into the living room where I was sitting, watching tv, asking me what I would give to him. He said after all he had given me—the set of clothes and shoes. I asked him where he got those clothes, where was the woman they belonged to? I was scared, but even more, angry. “What happened to her?” I asked. “Never mind what happened to her because where she’s gone, you don’t need no clothes.”  Then he laughed. “If you don’t give me what I want, the same will happen to you.” I lunged toward the front door; I didn’t even have to think about it. But he wouldn’t let me get away. He threw me up against the living room wall. My mother came around the corner screaming, but not at him. Through her clenched teeth, she was blaming me. “What did you say to him?”  He punched me in the face. I hit the wall and slid down. I sat there for awhile, slumped over, stunned. He left the room and I heard him in the back. Next, I heard him cock his gun. I managed to pull myself up using the back of the lazyboy chair. I staggered out the front door, tasting blood. I saw that red was dripping from my mouth down onto the snow that had drifted on the front porch. I made my way down the snow covered driveway in my bare feet. I couldn’t feel anything, just putting one foot in front of the other.

Looking out through the slits of my swollen eyes, I realized that I was at the end of the driveway, because I could see the flagpole outside the Volant Post Office, which I knew was at the end of my mother’s long country driveway. I crossed the highway and walked the berm, trudging through two foot snow drifts, not feeling anything. I kept trekking along the berm, the snow blowing in my face, stinging my neck but not stopping the blood from trailing out of my nose.

Finally a car came. It stopped. It was my mother. I refused to go along with her, but then got inside when she promised to take me to a hotel. I cleaned up and spent the night. The next day, I took a bus home, to Pittsburgh where I was a graduate student at Duquesne University.

I’ll never forget that day because it was the day I realized the truth: my mother chose her boyfriend over me. I could not go home again.