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Newsletter


January 2003

Contents


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We Hope To See You At Our Next Celebration

January FOKUS Sharing

Sunday, January 12, 2003
4pm - 9pm
Home of Jennifer Diamond

For directions, please call Bob Olson
425-747-3879

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Art Sharing
Sunday, December 8, 2002

Bruce Taylor read his short story “Disease”. Karen Stein read two of her poems “What If” and “The Gift of a Chocolate Orange“. Georgine Kopelia read some of her poetry translated from Greek. Lida Sloan and Seiko Olson both played Christmas songs on the piano. Elizabeth Pankey showed her porcelain plate caricatures and a wedding invitation illustration. Roger Pankey gave everyone a jar of his “Pankey Pickers” homemade Italian prune plum jam. Carl Sloan showed slides from his and Lida’s CD. Bob Olson read his story “Christmas Cat” from his new book Rich Memories with a Christmas Spirit. Todd Christoffel brought his new CD titled Nothing and performed several songs including: “Perfection”, “I Knew”, “September 12 (Humanity)” and “Pure Desire”. Other delighted listeners included: Leo Remington, Kathleen Hammond, Roberta Gregory, and Pippin Sardo.

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Other Stuff

Bruce will be giving a panel on “Science Fiction/Magic Realism” at Write on the Beach Writers'Conference at Ocean Shores, Jan. 24 through the 27th.

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Bruce Taylor's Editorial: Does This Make Sense to You?

(New York Times, 9 December 2002, front page article: "A Top Iraqi Aide Defies U.S. to Find Proof of Weapons". Fifth paragraph, "The Bush administration has alerted the CIA and national laboratories to be ready to go into overdrive, homing in on a few crucial Iraqi claims that the United States believes it can show to be false. BUT IN PRIVATE, ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS CONCEDE THAT THERE IS NO SINGLE PIECE OF DRAMATIC INTELLIGENCE THAT IRAQ HAS CONTINUED TO TRY TO ACQUIRE NUCLEAR, CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS." (Capitalization mine)

(Seattle P.I., 27 December 2002, page A12, "Arms inspectors at halfway point of their review:" Second paragraph: "The first 30 days of investigations have failed to produce ‘direct or indirect evidence that the American and British allegations are correct’, Gen. Hossn Mahammad Amin, Iraq's top liaison with the inspectors, said yesterday. "On the contrary, the results reiterate the Iraqi declaration."

Amin said the inspections have been "aggressive", and he added that Iraq has “...gone to great lengths to meet the inspectors' demands."

And tonight, while I'm masochistically watching this evening's ABC Nightly News (Dec. 27, 6 pm, lead story), I hear a news report that North Korea, which we know has nuclear weapons, is getting this issue dealt with "peacefully", but with Iraq--which by all accounts doesn't have the bomb--we're heading off to try to have a war, with no basis for a war. This amounts to nothing short of genocide. This is appalling. And please remember: I'm not making this up. I'm just reporting what is in the paper, what was on the news. Our own administration officials admit there is, as of December 9, no basis for war. So why are we doing this? Is our government lying to us? What's it look like to you? And if we continue to not ask questions, we condone this madness and indeed, Walt Kelly's cartoon character “Pogo" continues to be right: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

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Second Editorial by Bruce Taylor: “Toxic Playmates"

(Thanks to Julia Cameron's, The Artist's Way for inspiration for this editorial and her concept of "Toxic Playmates")

It can't be said, regarding the above editorial, that the officials in the Bush Administration are healthy playmates; the climate of fear that they are generating isn’t fertile soil for the arts, as arts and propaganda and lies are, happily, poor bedfellows. Unhappily, artists suffer at the hands of those into propaganda and lies. What you CAN do about the government is be socially active--as persons and as artists. In your private life, it's even more crucial to have healthy playmates--people who respect and champion your art as you do theirs. A toxic, artistic playmate is not really all that different than a toxic "friend", and a "toxic friend" is definitely a contradiction in terms. But given how many of us come from toxic backgrounds with toxic parents, etc., what was modeled for us, by and large, was how not to be healthy. And, yup, I think we all have the capacity--certainly I do--of screwing up and becoming toxic ourselves. And in the realm of art, where artistic expression, in whatever form it takes, is the essence of who we are, it must be protected. In the classes that I teach at North Seattle Community College, where the class is organized in a critique mode where students read someone else's material out loud so that the author hears his/her manuscript as audience, I go to great lengths to talk about responsible feedback which, not so ironically, has many elements of how to develop a friendship which has, as its basis, trust. A toxic playmate constantly violates that trust to the point that you simply don't feel safe to reveal your self--much less your art. But given that we may all be prone, certainly me, anyway, to messing up and/or saying/doing dumb things, how do you separate a "toxic moment/episode" from someone who is simply toxic, period? Some key things to look for (and a lot of this come from the work by George R. Bach, principle author of such books as Stop! You're Driving Me Crazy, The Intimate Enemy, and Creative Aggression, published in the 70's):

But sadly, sometimes a toxic event/behavior is seen as so toxic by the party offended that no matter what you do, you end up, being perceived like Trent Lott, apologizing, still clueless and being viewed as a toxic person. What then? If you have done all that you can do to make it right, then pull back, let go and learn from it. Feel the pain, the grief, the loss, and know that how you've been perceived is actually a gift in disguise, as painful as it is, that is challenging you to do better, become better, to not repeat the pain, the toxicity on others. This toxicity is what, for so many of us, was visited upon us in that dysfunctional family of so long ago where it was supposed to have been modeled for us what it is to be human. And humane. And artists.

"The worst of madness is to learn what has to be unlearned." Erasmus, l5l4

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A winter story by Bob Olson

Where is the Christmas snow for Puget Sound? We miss it, so Bob brings some from Illinois in 1937 and 1962.

Aunt Do and Uncle Virgil

Snow fell heavily two days before Christmas, l937. My Aunt Do and Uncle Virgil barely made it from Peoria, Illinois to our home in Deerwood, slipping and sliding on snow-packed roads in their l932 Ford. They stayed a week and brought a taste for mischief.

Aunt Do's mother and her sisters disapproved of her marriage to Virgil, who never finished eighth grade, because Do was a college-educated schoolteacher. Virgil was a laborer with shady friends, a renegade for many years in the eyes of Do's family.

I loved my Aunt Do's teasing nature and recall stories told about her. One, when she was a little girl in the early 1900's, shows how Do obtained an extra dessert as her family dined with their minister and his wife. Do's fastidious little sister, Gertrude, put her own dessert aside very carefully finishing the rest of the meal. Gertrude relished pleasure in eating this delicacy at leisure after dinner. As Gertrude hesitated, contemplating the flavors in her sweet cherry cobbler, she closed her eyes and dreamed of the taste. Mistaking this pause for a full belly Reverend Clark stated, "Gertrude, I see you don't have room for your dessert." Then, seizing the opportunity, Aunt Do said, "Oh, that's all right." and grabbed her sister's treasure, consuming it very quickly.

I experienced Do's mischief this day before Christmas, 1937. Safe and warm inside as snow crystals incessantly tapped our windows, Aunt Do's dog Mitzi and I chased, caught and wrestled with each other, looking for a reaction from my aunt and uncle. Getting none, we begged for the cigarettes Do smoked incessantly. Keeping this up until she finally gave in. "All right, all right!" Do replied, "I'll make you guys a Camel sandwich." She broke up several cigarettes and put them between slices of white bread with mayonnaise. One bite, one chew, and gagging before we could swallow, Mitzi and I choked and spit out soggy bread dough laced with tobacco. We quit begging.

Later that day my mom and Aunt Do made peppermint candy canes. Before hardening, when the candy was about the consistency of soft taffy, Aunt Do let me play with it. I was twisting and stretching the gummy stuff, when Mitzi begged to get into our fun. I wound a wreath of taffy around Mitzi's neck. Seeing this, Aunt Do put a taffy mustache on me. Then a taffy crown on my head. Before we could go much further the candy started to harden becoming very difficult to remove. Mitzi and I spent the next hour in the bathtub while mom and Aunt Do scrubbed our hair free of candy cane taffy.

This Christmas Aunt Do and Uncle Virgil bought me a cowboy suit with a lariat. While showing me how to throw the rope, Uncle Virgil lassoed me. I laughed and giggled. He bound the rope around my arms and legs. We were at the top of a landing and I accidentally rolled down the stairs - then screamed, "Uncle Virgil tied me up and pushed me down the stairs!" I could not let his bad guy reputation go unrecognized.

Years later on Christmas Eve l962, I drove Seiko, my parents and our five-year-old daughter Trilla, to Peoria to spend the holidays with Aunt Do and Uncle Virgil. The snow became a blizzard outside of Morton, Illinois and by the time we reached the Illinois River we could scarcely see. Luckily we were able to follow a snow-plow over the bridge and down the highway to within a quarter-mile of their home. It took us an hour, driving that last quarter-mile. We stopped at every street-corner, and I would get out of our car and trudge through the snow to check street-signs with a flashlight to determine our location.

Their home glowed with outside Christmas lights spread haphazardly over scrawny shrubs. Arriving safe in the snowbound home of Aunt Do and Uncle Virgil, little Trilla was delighted by the candy canes hanging on the Christmas tree. Her eyes widened and sparkled as she looked at the striped canes, then at me, back and forth, and laughed and laughed. Then Uncle Virgil, crippled by severe diabetes, came charging at her in his wheelchair, laughing and shouting "Hi Ho! Hi HO!" Virgil and Trilla were a pair of happy clowns as he chased her throughout the house.

Aunt Do and Uncle Virgil were unique. One never knew what to expect from them, but they were always loving. I envision Aunt Do and Uncle Virgil in Heaven smiling at our everyday absurdities, and appreciating my trend toward mischief.

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A true story by Judy Smith:
When I Was Going Bald, Part #3

Editor’s note: When I Was Going Bald, Parts #1 and #2 were printed in previous editions of the FOKUS newsletter -- October 2002 and December 2002

The first henna tattoo began wearing off in about a week. I was planning to have it touched up, but then my hair was still growing, what was left of it that is. I mentioned to Mom that I needed to shave my head. She said she could do it; as a nurse she’d shaved men all the time. She used to shave my father. “He loved it,” she added.

She soaped up my head and used my pink Gillette for women daisy razors. She went through about five chucking them into the bowl of warm water. These are worthless she said. When she was done my tattoo was completely gone and I was truly bald. No peach fuzz this time. I felt naked like some gawky just born bird. I wanted to crawl back into my nice warm shell, but it was in pieces.

I wore my black paisley scarf to work again. I was going to get another henna tattoo that night. Lisa had a henna table set up at a café that had belly dancing once a month. The MC pointed me out as the person getting her noggin done.

Later that night as I was walking up the street with Kassie and her daughter and Erika, two moms with their kids in tow, I got the ultimate compliment. “That is so bad ass,” someone shouted.

“It’s just another hair style on you,” my friend Janis said. “I’ve seen you with short hair, long hair, red hair, blond hair.”

“Don’t forget purple,” I added.

“Yeah, it’s just another hairstyle,” she shrugged.

Then one day it happened. Just on a day when everything’s feeling fine. I was driving to a Buddhist temple to do a meditation on the medicine Buddha. It was about 7:30 pm. middle of summer. That’s how I was spending my summer – doing chemotherapy. A car drove past me on the left and a guy gave me the finger. What was that about I wondered. Was it over my baldhead or had I made some big traffic faux pas? I pulled up beside him and looked at him. He looked at me with a half smile on his face and said something I couldn’t hear. When I motioned what, he shouted, “You’re a whore!” And drove forward. There was a woman sitting slouched down in the front seat beside him.

“You’re an asshole,” I said. I flipped him off just as he turned the corner. So much for Buddhist restraint and thank god he was turning the corner. I don’t think he saw me anyway. I drove on shook up about the encounter a lot. What did it mean? Why had it happened now? And I felt really sorry for the woman sitting beside him.

Was he some fundamentalist Bible thumper who took that passage from the Bible literally? Or was he just some misogynist who had internalized the cultural taboo about bald women and was bent on being violent about it? And how many of them were out there? I suddenly had a visceral glimpse of what it was like to be part of a hated minority. Scary.

But when I described the encounter with the asshole in the car to Jennifer I had to admit something else. I’d come to the realization that I was glad he thought my baldhead and tattoo where deliberate, because, in fact, they were. I rather liked the fact that the first thought that came into his head was whore, rather than cancer.