Sunday, May 14, 2017

Murder and Mayhem

Now I understand why they are referred to as a murder of crows. Friday afternonn I was in my garden at about 5, weeding, watering, tending to the quiet wonders of nature. The mint sprad out, lavender showed. Star jasmine was flowering. The roses bloomed. Just a beauty of purples and lavenders, whites, yellows, and greens. I heard the cawing of crows, loud and insistent, indignant, agitated, and angry. I looked up and saw crows flying in from the north, south, east, and west. I walked up the steps and out into the street and looked heavenward. Crows, many crows, perhanps hundreds of crows. The noise was deafening. They were perched on the telephone wires and up in the tree branches. Still more were flying towards this spot just outside my house. Neighbors came outside and we all gazed upward in consternation. It was just like a scene from The Birds. Quite unsettling. An SUV came up the street - the driver also was looking upward. He drove slowly past the house towards the corer, made a U-turn and came back down, really slowly. He looked to his left, then stopped to tell me there was a hawk across the street and it had apparently attacked a baby squirrel. I walked across the street and in a bush there was the hawk with something in its mouth and the something's tail was going back and forth. I heard a sort of a whimpering. Then I suppose it was the mother squirrel who scaipered onto the eaves of the apartments opposite, whimpering. Suddenly the hawk seemed to gaze in my direction and flew toward me. I was so startled I ducked. It flew away, the tail wiggling from its beak. The murder of crows flew after it, cawing and cackling. Crow reinforcements were still flying in. In the bush I saw the leaves spotted with the blood of the squirrel. We were unclear as to the outcome of this display. After a while the amount of crows dissipated. All was again quiet on the western front and we, the neighbours, were left in awe at this cruel display of nature in its true form. Survival. Murder. Killing. Mayhem.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


Does anyone else out there read the obituaries? For the past couple of years I get my papers online (despite my last rant against things digital.) I get The New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle - that is what I can afford. I scan through most articles, but I notice that what I read faithfully, and avidly, are the obituaries. In South Africa the Rand Daily Mail had a classified section in which were posted names of the newborns, the newly wed, and the recently deceased. This section was known as 'hatched, matched, and dispatched." It always garnished a lot of attention in my family. The dispatched section was not nearly as comprehensive as the obituaries are here. They drily showed the name of the dear departed and the date on which they died. We were left in the dark as to the details of their lives. Likewise for the hatched and matched. Since my arrival in the States, I have been fascinated by the obituary notices. I am known to sob when reading about untimely deaths, diseases endured, magnificent achievements of the deceased. Many of whom apparently devoted much of their lives to animals, to horticulture, to good works. As I grow older, I am constantly horrified by the large number of deaths of my equals, or those far younger. Sometimes I observe rather grimly that most of the deaths are of my age group. On the odd occasion when people do reach at least their allotment of three score years and ten, or far more, I am not so saddened by their passing. When I read these obituaries I would like to know the reasons for the passing of my cohorts, or those younger. Their loved ones do not always offer this information. I am left having to imagine the reasons for their untimely passing. Needless to say, my imaginings are not happy ones. Some people seem to have lived lives of enormous scholastic achievement. Many married the "loves of their lives" and apparently raised large, closeknit loving families whilst they traveled, studied, played sports, played musical instruments, taught and did endless good deeds. Others managed to marry several successful times. My sister visited a few years ago at the time I still received the daily newspaper in its normal form. (will the name newspaper change?) She pored over the obituaries as avidly as I did - (a possible genetic link?) She laughed at a description of a mother who had died in the fullness of her years. Her children stated that she ate copious amounts of ice cream. This was something our own mother did in her latter years. Well, that's all for now, I have to read today's obituaries.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


This evening I returned from a lovely walk at the Berkeley Marina and, as the sun began its descent over my view of Mt. Tam, I turned on the local news. The name of a 29 year old mother of two appeared on the screen. She was shot dead this morning in Richmond in front of her 2 toddlers. I saw her name flash across the screen and gasped. I felt my stomach drop down toward my shaking legs. My heart beat faster, and I gasped for breath. It can't be the Rashonda I know. Please, no. Is she 29 now? I wasn't sure, but somewhere in the close vicinity. Could she have children? Yes, she could. The details of her life and how we met played in my brain. My mind flooded with painful memories. Her family, the shocking murder of her adopted toddler brother. I remembered their home, the parents, the brothers. The details of all she and her mother went through were still crystal clear in my mind. I remembered meeting them years later in different circumstances. They lived in a housing project - bare to the bones. I remember seeing her cross MacDonald Avenue one day in the pouring rain. She was coming out of school and didn't have any raingear. I wanted to stop and hand her an umbrella but the light changed and there were impatient drivers behind me. No, please no, don't let it be her. Her mother cannot take much more. I know there are other women with the same name. If it is not her, then it is someone else with the same name. A young woman, shot dead in front of her children. It is not the Rashonda I know, and all I can think is to thank God, but I do pray for the children and family of the young woman who was murdered. Tonight's total upset has got me thinking about the nature of PTSD and how it can even take just one word, or one sound, or one small event, and one's nervous system and internal alerts and defenses get to work and unhinge one. And this womens toddlers saw this all happen. And the cycle doesn't end.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Deep Divide

I am NOT writing about the divide in this country that has always been there, but that has surfaced in unimaginably awful ways since the election of HWSNBN. I am NOT writing about the divide in Israel between the secular and the fundamentalist religious fanatics. I am NOT writing about the divides in any specific country. I AM writing about something far more universal that affects all of us in this new digital age. I am writing about the divide between the young generation born with technology at their fingertips and those of us born in the previous generation. I am also not writing about the societal problems caused by technology, or the wealth of knowledge that we do have at our fingertips. No, I am writing about the practicalities of life as a peson who was not reared in the digital age. That person is me. Not too long ago I moved, and I now reside in lovely new surroundings. Of that, maybe more later. My landlords and myself share direct service TV. My landlords spent large amounts of their time in farflung areas of the globe. As I wrote in a previous blog, since the inauguration of HWSNBN, I spend inordinate amounts of time escaping from our present reality. I go to movies and watch TV - mostly, I have to say, inelegantly, crap, but it does keep my attention away from our ghastly present reality. There are programs I want to see, but sometimes I am away, so I record them. For instance, Victoria. I faithfully recorded the first season and looked forward to watching it in my time. When I pressed the recorded TV button I saw all sorts of programs I had not, in fact, recorded. I was bemused by the vagaries of my TV which seemed to have a mind of its own. I dutifully deleted all these strange programs. Where was Victoria? no trace, not even the name. For quite a awhile I continued searching in the hope of finding Victoria and diligently deleted all these strange programs which my TV had decided, on its own accord, to record. A short while ago it dawned on me that maybe my landlords had recorded these programs as we share the 'service.' This was confirmed in an e-mail I received last night politely inquiring as to the possibility that I may be deleting the recordings they had programmed. I am, of course, mortified. However, the whereabouts of Victoria was still a mystery to me. I replied, acknowledging that I am guilty, abjectly so, miserably so. I then told them about the absence of Victoria. They confessed that they had also recorded Victoria and deleted it after they watched it. A dreadful error on both our sides. Today I went to my writing group. Previously we had decided that each member would bring a favorite piece of music to play, then the group would write about it. Well, the problems we faced. The loudspeakers, the bluetooth, the linking of systems, the setting up of the apparatus. Our omputers, wi-fi, passwords, playing a song, replaying a song. The only beneficial outcome of all this is that I no longer look at my technological awkwardness and fumblings as personal. I am not totally dumb, backward, retarded (sorry for the use of the word), clumsy, inept, inefficient, uneducated, fumbling - rather I belong to a cohort that was born before all of this entered our lives. I pass the baton to the 6-month old babies who soon will teach me all I need to know to survive!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Ever since my return from Israel I find that I am unable to look at, or to listen to 'he who shall not be named.' (HWSNBN) I couldn't look or listen to him before his so-called election either. I cannot listen to the news in the morning. Over my coffee I cursorily look at the headlines, grimace, and shake my head in disbelief. It is like everyone is projecting a fictionalised horror set in a shadowy now. I listen to classical music, I go to the movies - a lot. I read - a lot. Currently I am really enjoying Ann Patchett's excellent book, "The Patron Saint of Liars." I finished "I'm Your Man" - the life of Leonard Cohan, and "Everything I Never Told You" by Celeste Ng. But this isn't a plug for reading, or for books, and I am not receiving any money for these recommendations. This is my evening rant. I knew that the other awful man known as "Bibi" was coming to Washington today, so I broke with my policy of neither looking at nor listening to. any so-called leader. I looked at the so-called speech given by HWSNBN with Bibi on the podium next to him, facing a room of reporters. What speech did HWSNBN make - a speech? My goodness - not one coherent thought or statement. This is like the"Ministry of Silly Speaks." I wonder if he really knows what country he is speaking about, or to whom he is speaking. And when an Israeli reporter asked about the rise of anti-semitism in America, he evaded or ignored the reasonable question and uttered some junk about love?????? WTF??? Nonsensical gibberish with Bibi alternately smirking or looking crestfallen next to him. God help us all. Or, other than God, we need to help ourselves, and the first thing to do is to NOT listen to all the junk we are inundated with. We have to look for facts, for history, and to sift through the mounds of poisonous junk. Ughhhhhhhh

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Day After

Today is the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump. Just typing the name feels like a farce. But it happened, and I didn't even put the word President in front of his name, because I simply am unable to do that. Today is the day of the Womens' Marches across the country, and the world, it turns out. I had registered to join the Oakland March while I was still in Israel, but unfortunately I returned a week ago, on Friday 13th to be exact, not well. My voice is hovering somewhere over the middle east, accompanied by a relentless cough and generalized weakness. That is my excuse for not being on the march, but I am watching the coverage, and it is very inspiring. Yesterday I did not watch anything, I listened to classical music all day. On my forays in to the world outside my apartment I was struck by the funereal like atmosphere. Perhaps it is because of my visit to Israel, where the people have suffered for at least 12 years under the regime of Bibi Netanyahu, or because of my deep spiritual beliefs, but I have surprised myself by refusing to give in to despair. Yesterday the world did not end and the sun did not turn into blood. In Israel I see that life continues, and people continue to fight the good fight. Nothing is static, things do change. Definitely at this time the world that we know is turning to the right. I think these manifestations are the last gasps of those that are petrified that the world is changing. White people, especially white men, are no longer the majority. People are speaking up for their rights, and also increasingly defending the rape and pillaging of the earth. We are in the midst of massive transitions, and any time before a major change is a time filled with anxiety, uncertainty, fear of the unknown, until the new form is given life. Even then, it is not easy, as we take our first faltering steps, falling down, getting back up, looking back. I also don't feel that mankind is coming into a golden age, but it will be an age of expanded consciousness that allows for more differences to manifest. It is up to us not to give into complacence or despair. While in Israel I carried out a small experiment. In general, people in Israel do not acknowledge the presence of others, there is a general feeling of indifference and lack of compassion. It is exhibited on the roads, by reckless driving. In parking lots no one considers other vehicles, which are jammed in or crashed into. Late on a Thursday afternoon I had to get a bus for Netanya at the Arlozoroff Station in Tel Aviv. It is the time when the soldiers and everyone else are trying to get home for the weekend. The trains were closed for repairs so we had to take buses. To me it was petrifying standing quite helpless in a pushing, surging crowd. A few crammed buses went by before eventually I was borne onto one. My experiment was to acknowledge people on the street, as well as in grocery lines or cafes. I was pleasantly surprised to find that people smiled or nodded back. A flicker of humanity and fellowship. While trying to board the bus I was pushed up against a female soldier of Ethiopian origin. I looked at her and mouthed, "sorry, this is petrifying" and she smiled back and said 'yes, petrifying.' We both eventually made it to Netanya. On another occasion I sat with a friend at a pavement cafe in Tel Aviv. I saw a blonde woman dressed in shorts despite the cold weather, stagger up the street. She was completely dishevelled. Her eyes were bloodshot, her face puffy, a strong smell of alcohol surrounded her. She sat next to us and leaned over to ask us for a shekel. Two young waiters, a man and a woman, came toward her. They spoke gently and kindly, explaining that if she wanted a cup of tea, they would give her one, and asked her not to disturb the customers. Her voice rose as she slurred back at them, swearing. They both continued to speak to her gently, and the waitress left and returned with a cup of tea, but the woman stood up and staggered away. I was pleasantly surprised by their restrained approach. Small things, maybe, but nevertheless, a light shining through.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


I look back at my posts after the Iowa Caucus and read what I wrote about the then forthcoming elections. In one entry I was really wrong. I declared that Trump will NOT be President of America. And now he is President Elect. Obviously I saw this horror unfolding and equally obviously, I denied it would happen. I grew up in Apartheid South Africa. I was born into Apartheid and raised under the Nationalist Government. My parents belonged to the Liberal Party, which was later banned. They raised us to understand that we were living under an unjust amoral regime. As oppressive policies worsened we lived in a world of fear, mistrust, and hatred of the 'other.' Even as white people, because of my parents' affiliations, our phone was tapped. We were under strict instructions to not discuss politics over the phone. Our mail was censored. We removed banned books from our house. Our school teachers were only allowed to teach us according to the government's curriculum. It was hard to trust anyone when we knew there were spies and informants. This was the way things were. We knew no other way, but also, in my home at least, we knew it was wrong. Eventually, for all of these reasons, I left South Africa. When Trump first appeared on the political scene many of the people I knew found him amusing. I never did. Everything about him, from the things he said, to his bearing, to his rallies, filled me with foreboding. I remember last year speaking to American friends about my fears. Even though they were horrified by what he was representing, they could not understand my fear. Now I understand why. They had no frame of reference. The same night we had a discussion, I watched Comedy Central with Trevor Noah. He likened Trump to African dictators, from Idi Amin to Mugabe to Gadaffi. He understood what was happening because he grew up in South Africa. And now - it looks like history is repeating itself. Headlines speak about dangers of surveillance along with all the other things we learn everyday, from the people he is appointing to the corruption of his private business. I really fear that he will amass more and more money at the expense of the people. Those who support him may be the ones who suffer most. He even wants to ban Saturday Night Live, and angrily 'reprimanded the cast of Hamilton for addressing concerns to Mike Pence. This is the beginning of the erosion of freedom of speech. The unreasonable fear of immigrants and illegals. There are in fact people here illegally from Canada, Ireland, Europe, but they are not the ones feared. No, it is people of color of course, and Moslims. Anyone different from white people. I think that we must all keep open minds and open hearts, and be vigilant in understanding what can happen to us under the corrosive stream of vindictiveness, blame, and threats. We have dto fiercely defend the freedoms of America.