Angela Consolo Mankiewicz: A Poet Bows Off The Stage

Me, Angela and Rose at the LA Times Book Fair in 2014 at USC.

A good friend, one of my favorite people, in fact, died this morning. I am going to miss Angela Consolo Mankiewicz.

If you were to ask me to describe her, I’d say she was beautiful, honest, intelligent, kind, thoughtful, and wise. She loved poetry and good stories. She loved learning. She loved classical music and playing the piano. She loved her friends and helping people and reaching out to people. She loved her cats very much. She loved her husband fiercely.

Someone told me recently that there are four levels of friendship in Los Angeles. The first is dropping off and picking up your friend at LAX (the airport). The second is not telling the cops where the bodies are buried. The third is helping your friend bury the bodies. The fourth is reading his or her manuscript or screenplay. Once Angela took a friend under her wing, she was willing to read his or her manuscript and thoughtfully go through it, give good feedback and advice on where to go, and cheer them on. She was one of the best writerly cheerleaders I ever had. She was also honest in her feedback and critique without being harsh or dismissive. It was usable and constructive and thoughtful. That can be a rare thing, especially in this town, which is full of competitive writers.

Angela and I at the Miracle Mile Writers Club booth at the West Hollywood Book Fair in 2010. She brought a copy of her opera to play for people who happened by.

I first met Angela when I began going to the Miracle Mile Writers Club, back in 2006. Back then we were trying to become part of the California Writers Club and met at the Fairfax Library once a month to talk about the business part of writing. We were a motley crew of writers at all different levels in a variety of genres. We didn’t always know where we were headed as a group, or as individual writers. Angela wasn’t looking for a critique group (which we weren’t); she came looking to spend time with fellow writers. She was patient with newbies and veterans, those who were quiet and talkative. If she judged people it was to see how kind they were to others.

She was a poet and was also working on a libretto for a science fiction opera when I first met her. I loved her work; loved her voice. She was a Pushcart Prize Nominee in 2010. She had worked on her poetry and writing, developed it, understood the work it took to be serious at this thing called writing. And she was willing to read mine.

She got my first novella, The G.O.D. Factor, reviewed in Small Press Review (now defunct, but run by Len Fulton) — and not just by her, but by Hugh Fox.

She understood the stops and starts that happen with writing. She even liked my most recent short story, which is still looking for a home. I will miss having her at my back, cheering me on.

You can see her blogspot with links to some of her work here. You can read more about her here. Most recently she had been published in the Women’s Review of Books and Voices de la Luna.

After our writers group broke up a few years ago, and we all went our separate ways, Angela and I would still meet for coffee or tea, and to talk over life, love, annoyances, and of course our writing. She also liked to have writers over at her house to talk about the universe, love, hate, politics, prejudice, and how to solve the world’s problems. New Year’s Day I would have dinner with she and her husband and our friend Rose. These were solid, cherished times for me.

She had been sick for a while — non-smoking lung cancer — but fighting it every step of the way. It was only in the last month that she deteriorated so quickly. Only over the last week did friends and family understand that this was it. She was on her way out. Some of us rushed over to see her one more time when we heard, but even then, her voice, that vital and vibrant Brooklyn accent, was stilled as she slipped into sleep, and eventually, several days later, slipped away from us completely on a bright and sunny Los Angeles morning.

A Time for Praying, and a Time for Doing

To quote the verse from Ecclesiastes 3:1: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”

Yesterday was a day of mourning and loss, a time for reflection and connecting with people we love. It was a time to ground ourselves in love and get a handle on our lives; it was a time to somehow create order out of chaos as a way to grasp what really happened in Orlando. That was Sunday, typically a day for reflection for many people.

Today, however, is Monday, the first day of the work week. Now is the time to get down to work. Yesterday you may have asked the world why and proclaimed “Never again!” But today is the day when we all need to begin the slow hard work of backing up that proclamation. Now is the time to dig in, establish and assert who we want to be in the long haul and fight back. Take back this world that we have been working on creating where everyone has a place at the table.

There are several ways you can fight back. One of the first and simplest is to write your representatives — at both the State and Federal levels. You can find your U.S. representatives using this website here: http://whoismyrepresentative.com. Each state usually has it’s own government website where you can find your state representatives. California’s is here: http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov.  But don’t forget to write people like President Obama and Vice President Biden, which you can do here: whitehouse.gov.  Write your governor. Write your state’s attorney. Write councilmembers, supervisors and aldermen. Have discussions (not fights, but discussions) at neighborhood councils, residence association meetings, condo meetings. Let them know how you feel and that this issue is important to you.

If you’re not sure what to say or where to get started, Nicole Silverberg at the Huffington Post came out with this article last year after the Paris and San Bernardino shootings. In it, she not only gives you links that show you how to find your representatives, but she also has a sample letter you can use when writing these people.

Get educated. Invite the police who cover your area to come talk on gun violence. Learn about the laws that exist where you live. Learn about gun safety, and if you’re up to it, how a gun works. Maybe go to a shooting range and check it out so you know what this lethal weapon is beyond what you’ve seen on TV or read about online.

Next, find out about organizations you can get involved in that might help combat this craziness. Women Against Gun Violence is one such organization, but there are others. Look them up.

If you’re feeling generous or if you’re one of the many people who believe in tithing or giving back to the community somehow, then do that. Give. When there are natural disasters and we feel this need, people often give to the Red Cross/Red Crescent. This is a little different, but there are places where you can donate money. There’s a GoFundMe page for the Orlando victims, but there’s also The National Center for Victims of Crime and the National Compassion Fund for victims of mass casualty crimes. Or look for other ways to somehow help and give back. If your church or temple or mosque or some other organization is doing something to help victims or help give back after a tragedy, get involved. It will not only help the victims, but it might help you, too.

Whatever you do, don’t just set there feeling bad about the world. You’ve had your mourning time. Now, dry your tears, blow your nose, look around and see what you can do to make it better.

 

Onward and Upward!

SO!

OKAY THEN!

YEAH!

That happened….

Do I look annoyed? Cuz I am. Very. Annoyed.

Do I look annoyed? Cuz I am. Very. Annoyed.

 

I have uploaded as much of my prior blogs that a) I could find on my Blogspot blog and b) seemed mostly relevant and good to have around. I might upload other load blogs later or if Blogetary 1.0 files turn up somewhere, maybe I’ll be able to go through those. We’ll see. For now, at least there’s not a blank white wall of death. And that’s always good.

Just a note, if anyone out there has linked to one of my blog entries in the past, those links are now defunct. I might not have that article up anymore, or if I do, there’s a new link you’ll have to use.

Now, below is a list of links to where you can find my books, as well as me offering samples and reading my books, since the blog entries where I listed those are all gone.

On Amazon you can find just about everything that either I’ve published on my own, or that has been published by someone else.

You can find some of my work available for the Nook on Barnes and Noble.

I am not very good at keeping tabs on Goodreads, but you can also find me there.

On Lulu you can find books I have self-published, including poems and short stories that had been published elsewhere and I pulled them altogether into collections.

I haven’t uploaded any videos in a while, but my YouTube channel can be mildly entertaining. And who knows, maybe I’ll upload something again soon.

And last but not least. If you are interested in my proofreading, copy editing, developmental editing or writing services, contact me at Putt Putt Productions. If you’re interested in what I’ve written and want to read a little bit more about it, then check out my author website.

And now, as Edward R. Murrow would say (if you don’t know who that is, do yourself a favor, look it up, or at least watch the movie), “Good Night and Good Luck!”

I’ll see you around the blogosphere!

In Honor of Brian William Arthur Olivier

First created on Blogetary 1.0 around Nov. 5, 2015. This is a paltry re-creation of my father’s death announcement and a little bit about our memorial, which is why I have it dated Nov. 12, 2015.

On Mon., Oct. 26 my sister called in the middle of the premier of Super Girl. I answered with, “Do you know what’s on right now?!?!” She told me to sit down. Dad had died. I turned off the TV and spent the evening listening, talking, and not quite crying. Not yet.

After we hung up I knew my world had changed, but it hadn’t hit me yet.

A couple of days later, my stepmom Meeg asked me to write Dad’s obituary. The entire time I was writing it, I kept wanting to pick up the phone and ask Dad about things, verify things with him. I tried to make sure it was good, that I got everything correct, on my own. I learned afterward that I hadn’t, but we weren’t able to fix it. It is what it is, I guess.

A week and a half later, I was on my way to San Francisco for Dad’s memorial, where a rag-tag, motley crew of family members were gathering to remember him and comfort each other; figure out where to go from here.

On the way to San Francisco on the bus it felt like even the skies were in a stormy, dramatic mood.

On the way to San Francisco on the bus it felt like even the skies were in a stormy, dramatic mood.

There we were, all of us family in one way or another, all trying to help each other. All trying to cope with the loss somehow. My cousins Simon and Sarah had made the trek from England. My half-sister Elizabeth had come with her husband Will and son Jon from Nevada. My sister Heather and Meeg, Dad’s life companion, Gunilla (Meeg’s best friend) and Ed, basically family, with Monica their daughter and her daughters as well as other long time friends — we were all there.

We didn’t always know what to do with each other. Part of the time we were getting to know each other. Other times we were telling stories about Dad. Sarah and Simon would chime in with stories about Uncle Tony and some about Dad — stories they’d told us about themselves and each other. Then there was the shooting in France around the same time. And in the beginning we were wondering if we’d even have a memorial as Dad’s doctor had forgotten to sign the death certificate, so the morgue couldn’t cremate the body until someone tracked down said physician and got her sign it (and I think I remember there was more than one office she reported to).

Wed., Nov. 11 was a holiday in the rest of the U.S., and probably in other parts of the world like Canada and the U.K. But for us, it was Dad’s memorial day. We were taking his ashes (and all his various kitties’ ashes) out to Half Moon Bay, where we all gathered on a boat to toast him, remember him, and say farewell.

It was a perfect day. The sun was bright on the water and the wildlife — whales, seals, herons, ducks, gulls, etc. — gathered around us, as Dad would say, “like a god-damned Disney movie!” It felt like they were paying tribute to a man who loved animals, despite his often prickly exterior.

And then the send off lunch at the restaurant.

I remember holding myself tightly through it all, but realized I could relax. I was with people who knew me, even if they didn’t know me. I met Blake, who had known Dad since he’d first come to the U.S. I loved spending time with Monica and her daughters. John and Sally, Cheryl, Julie.

Sarah and Simon and Elizabeth had all already experienced the loss of a parent and knew what to expect. It was comforting to have them around while Meeg and Heather and I stumbled around trying to cope.

That night back at Dad’s place, we ate, we drank, we went through photos and tried to figure out what we were going to do with all Dad’s things, redistributed some of them to people that evening. But it wasn’t all logistics. There was magic. Simon found a guitar in a corner, picked it up and began to play it. We discovered old photographs of family we’d never seen. Heard stories we’d never heard about our families. It felt like Dad was there. I kept looking around for him. He loved large gatherings, being the pater familias, even though he didn’t like to admit to it.

A small portion of Dad's ashes were sent back to England.

A small portion of Dad’s ashes were sent back to England.

One of the things we figured out was sending some of Dad’s ashes back to England to rest with his brother Tony and niece Kate.

I miss my dad — oh-so-much. But despite that, I was glad of the time I could spend with a few of the people from my tribe. I felt loved, like I belonged, and like each of us had a little bit of Dad in each of us.

 

Heather, Dad, Elizabeth and me around 1994/5.

Heather, Dad, Elizabeth and me around 1994/5.

 

Pye-Pye-Gold-Eye-Pizza-Pie-Pie-in-the-Sky-American-Pie-Pi-R-Squared-My-Guy-Pye: July 1999 to May 2015

Previously published on Blogetary 1.0 in May 2015.

Pye passed away on Monday, May 4, 2015 around 1:15 p.m., probably due to heart failure. But whether you believe it or not, he had a huge, grand heart. Below is my eulogy for him, with pictures. It will be long, so feel free to skip through to the pictures and read the captions if you feel more “alliterate” than “literate” right now.

**********

I wasn’t sure I wanted another kitty when Pye came into my life. One of my neighbors, though, was trying to take care of the feral colony of cats who lived across the street in the school grounds and was trying to get as many kittens adopted out as she could, as well as get the older ones neutered or spayed. It was late 1999 and I had just moved back down to Los Angeles from San Francisco, and for the first time in Kiko’s life he wasn’t allowed to go outside. We were three stories up. I was gone 10 to 12 hours a day at a job across town that was a 1 1/2 to 2 hour bus ride each way. No more chasing mice and birds for him, no more making friends with the neighbors. Poor guy was bored to tears.

So, without really consulting Kiko, or thinking about how I might upset his middle-aged life (he was five at the time), I told my neighbor, Stephanie, that sure, I would go with her when she was feeding the kitties and see if maybe one of them might look like an adoptable kitty.

So, one night in November we took some canned food across the street, opened it up and put it in the “usual spots” and backed away. I wanted the little silver striped tabby who was shy and scared and hiding behind the fence. But it was the bold, orange-striped tabby kitten who ran for the food we set out and got there even before some of the teenagers did (and there was a crowd!). Stephanie decided that was the kitty for me, he was orange like Kiko, but a little different shade, and bold, a survivor. There was something about him. She grabbed him before he could scuttle away and we took him home.

Pye when he came to me in November 1999.

Pye when he came to me in November 1999. That’s a toy chair he is hiding under.

That first night wasn’t easy. It didn’t take more than once for him to learn to use the litter box, but the first time he didn’t know what to do, and he was nervous and pooped in the main room and it was so watery it was like pee. He was about 4 months old, but seemed smaller, his belly was swollen and round, too big for his little body. And he wasn’t happy, wouldn’t let anyone near him. And so, so hungry. He’d eat anything because he was sure he wouldn’t have another chance at food. Not like my experience with Kiko had been at all. Kiko thought I was crazy. My neighbor told me to keep Pye in the bathroom and just hang out with him. She went in there, totally ignoring his little hisses and posturing, picked him up, cleaned him off, checked his ears for mites, and held him until he settled down. And while he was never a model kitty, after that he was settled down (comparatively speaking). She got him through that first night (though a night or so later I had a hard time making it and felt guilty as hell when a plump mom cat stood across the street and yowled at our building).

Pye in my closet around 2000.

Pye in my closet around 2000.

Not many of my friends know this, but for a while, Pye didn’t have a name. My old roommate, Kelly, and I, had settled on a name for Kiko (named after Pedro Almodovar’s Kika), and I’d added to it because of my love for Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sarembo….But with Pye, I wasn’t sure what to do for a name. I figured he would tell me eventually, but for a while, he was just “Kitty!” or “My little-little kitty!” because he was so small compared to Kiko. And ever after that was one of his nicknames. I’d say, “Where’s my little-little kitty? There he is!” And I’d scoop him up into my arms while he just sighed and put up with my woman-handling of him for a brief time. I’d sometimes jokingly call him “Second son Chang” because of the Tikki Tikki Tembo story, too. But eventually we got to Pye. Not Pyewacket. That didn’t seem right. My boss at the time liked to call him Pye Squwacket because he was a scrapper.

Pye hanging out in the scratch post tree in 2004 or 5, maybe.

Pye hanging out in the scratch post tree in 2004 or 5, maybe.

He wasn’t a big jumper like Kiko had been, but he was smart. You use a toy tied to a string and a stick and he had no problem figuring out it was the stick and not the toy at the end that was in charge.

Pye playing with catnip toy in 2011.

Pye playing with catnip toy in 2011.

Pye playing with boa in 2009.

Pye playing with boa in 2009.

Once I had the name Pye down, I had the rest. Not Pie and not Pi, but somewhere in between. Pye. With a name not as long as Kiko’s but just as full of story. He had gold eyes. Not yellow like Paws or jade green like Kiko’s, but deep gold. He liked to eat. Sometimes he smelled spicy like curry, and sometimes he smelled sweet, like maple syrup. His fur was rough for many years. It took a long time of good eats before it got smooth and glossy like Kiko’s.

Pye liked his food. This is him letting me know in 2010.

Pye liked his food. This is him letting me know in 2010.

He liked to curl up into a circle and had been a bright, blazing orange star who had come to me out of the night. So, his name was Pye-Pye-Gold-Eye-Pizza-Pie-Pie-in-the-Sky-American-Pie-Pi-R-Squared-My-Guy-Pye and his song was “You Are My Lucky Star” (though later on I would end up singing “Skinna Marinky Dinky Dink” to him (and if you don’t know that song without me finding it for you—with the motions—then shame on you)).

In the beginning, he was more Kiko’s friend than mine. Kiko was my friend and Pye was Kiko’s friend. Pye looked out for and/or harassed Kiko in turns. There were nights when I’d pray for enough money to sleep in a hotel with air conditioning away from the two cats who were chasing each other. I think there were times Kiko was so over it, but amazingly enough, he and Pye were good friends. Kiko was King Kiko. Pye was Prince Pye.

Pye in the sink and Kiko's silhouette in the bathroom around 2005 or 2006.

Pye in the sink and Kiko’s silhouette in the bathroom around 2005 or 2006.

Kiko and Pye hanging out, 2000.

Kiko and Pye hanging out, 2000.

Kiko and Pye helping me write for Research Assistance back in 2002.

Kiko and Pye helping me write for Research Assistance back in 2002.

Kiko and Pye helping me in 2002 or 2003.0

Kiko and Pye helping me in 2002 or 2003.

Kiko and Pye Christmas 1999.

Kiko and Pye Christmas 1999.

And then Kiko died in March, 2007. It was a tough time for Pye and I.  At the time, my sister pointed out that our furry four-footed friends are often with us to help see us through specific periods in our lives. And when they pass from our lives, it’s because it’s the closing of one period and the beginning of another. They have done what they could for us, time to move on. Another friend of mine recently pointed out how Kiko had definitely passed on the torch for caring for me to Pye. But I think Pye was in serious doubts about that.

At first, though we did have each other, we didn’t know what to do with each other. Pye had never been very good at letting me hold him for long, preferring to curl up with Kiko. After Kiko died he definitely blamed me. Every time I picked him up, he’d bite my arm. Not hard, just a quick, sharp bite to let me know it was all my fault (something he always did ever after if I crossed a boundary. If I stepped on a tail or bumped into him, etc., he accepted my pets and rubs for apology, but still always had to nip me somewhere to let me know I was wrong — a couple of times he bit me deep enough for the bite to be infected).

Where Kiko had slept curled next to my chest or tummy, Pye preferred sleeping near my feet. I’d always shoved my face in Kiko’s face or on his tummy, and that was something I never dared do with Pye until just the past few years. Where Kiko always wanted to go out and explore, Pye was frightened of the great outdoors, wanting to hide underneath something whenever I took him outside. He preferred cruising through the hallways of the apartment building, smelling under the doors to see what was happening with the other animals in the building.

Pye curious August 2014.

Pye curious about what’s going on with Sylvia in 307, August 2014.

But, over time, we got closer. If I was having a bad day, he would come hang out with me. When he was having a bad day, or needed attention, he definitely would make me pay attention.

Pye helping me on the desk, 2010.

Pye helping me on the desk, 2010.

Pye liked being comfortable, whether in front of the heater in winter or in front of the ac in summer.

Pye liked being comfortable, whether in front of the heater in winter or in front of the ac in summer.

Pye and computer 1

Helping me? Or telling me it’s time for dinner?

He learned that he could curl up around me, near me, or juxtaposed to me and it was okay.

Pye on my lap, January 2012.

Pye on my lap, January 2012.

And he did his best to “help” me.

Pye helping with the lights, 2013.

Pye helping with the lights, 2013.

Helping me pack, February 2012.

Helping me pack, February 2012.

Checking the water connections.

Checking the water connections.

Pye helping me write in 2013.

Pye helping me write in 2013.

He loved his windows.

Pye and Kiko 2009.

Pye and Kiko (the urn next to Blue Corn Woman) 2009.

Pye TV in the new kitchen, 2015.

Pye TV in the new kitchen, 2015.

And he LOVED Christmas. Loved the tree.

Pye's first Christmas, 1999.

Pye’s first Christmas, 1999, with a real tree.

Christmas Pye around 2001.

Christmas Pye around 2001.

Christmas Pye 2005.

Christmas Pye 2005.

Pye's Christmas Throne 2010.

Pye’s Christmas Throne 2010.

Pye Christmas 2011.

Pye Christmas 2011.

Christmas Pye in 2011.

Christmas Pye in 2011.

Christmas Pye 2012.

Christmas Pye 2012, putting up with my shenanigans.

Pye and the tree, 2014.

Pye and the tree, 2014.

Pye's ornament for 2014.

Pye’s ornament for 2014.

Up until almost the end, he was the same old Pye — herding me into the kitchen every morning, running to the door to check things out and take a sniff in the hallway, greeting me at the door when I came home. I scooped his litter every morning and he’d wait until I was done to do his thing so he’d have fresh litter. I waited to pour fresh water for him until he was at his bowls so he could play with the water stream. He liked the new kitchen and hanging out on the table in the window while I wrote. I would put my face deep in his fur and sniff his scent, and he would purr.

Only read further if you want to read the end of the story…

It wasn’t until the very end of April that Pye was acting a little poorly. It was close to my birthday, but I thought he just had a cold or indigestion. He was trying to eat grass and catnip and eating a little less. I saw him straining to poop on my birthday (the 26th) and started to get all sorts of kitty constipation aids for him online. I massaged him with warm wet towels. He appreciated the help, never once hissing at me or getting mad at me, but nothing worked. He just got worse and worse. He was just laying under the table and having a hard time breathing. From Sunday April 26 to Sunday May 3, he’d gone from “a little down” to dying. I’d taken some time off to try to finish writing a novel, but it ended up being my time to nurse Pye. At least I had that.

My first day off was Thursday, April 30, I was researching kidney problems in cats and pulling out all the old syringes I’d used on Kiko when he’d had trouble eating. On Friday, May 1 I was trying kitty metamucil and laxatone and ordering slippery elm bark. On Saturday, May 2, I was getting desperate and ordered a Pet-ema, three actually, because all the instructions said it took more than one. By now he wasn’t eating on his own at all, and barely drinking. I would pick him up, sit on the bed with him and use the syringes to get milk or broth or tuna juice or water down him. It was Saturday, and I knew by then it was serious and I needed a veterinarian, but I still hoped for the best. “Just one big bowel movement, God! How hard can it be?”

By Sunday morning I realized he was probably dying, but I didn’t know what to do, so I kept trying to feed him, hold him, comfort him, try to have him hang out in places he wasn’t able to get to anymore, but I knew he enjoyed, like the bed and the window. Sunday evening I thought I had a reprieve as I found a little turd and thought maybe things were turning a corner, but that night as I held him, I realized he was having such a hard time breathing. It was so hard. I tried to keep him on the bed with me, but eventually he wanted to be down and under the table again. I cried and cried that night. I knew in the morning I’d need to be an adult and find a vet to help him one way or the other.

I woke up Monday morning, May 4, still crying. My last day off. Pye was still breathing. I called a vet who couldn’t take me until Friday, or maybe Thursday. I tried one of those home vets, not wanting Pye to have to be stressed out by a metal table and a strange hand, but the home vet refused. Thought Pye might need more than he could handle, and I thought, “really? You offer to euthanize pets at home, but seeing a sick kitty at home to determine what’s wrong might be too much?” So, I went back to the internets and found someone who would take me and Pye that afternoon.

Pye knew something was wrong. He got into the carrier without a fight. He rubbed his face against my fingers in the waiting room. The doctor took his pulse, his heart rate was erratic. They took his temperature (it was low) and he seized right there on the table. And there was oxygen and adrenaline and then he was gone. Just like that. The vet said he’d probably had a couple of heart attacks in the last week or so, and had probably been ill for the last year and a half. But Pye hadn’t told me he was sick. He’d just been Pye. My Pye. My Guy.

My muse, Pye, 2010.

My muse, Pye, 2010. As a friend of mine said the other night, “Good Night, Sweet Prince”.

And now he’s gone.

When Kiko died, I had Pye to help me mourn. Now, I look around and there is no other being breathing in the same space as I do. As long as I have lived in this apartment there has been at least one kitty, sometimes two. I have been the almost constant companion of one cat or another for 21 years.

Now there’s none. For years I have lived around the needs of my cats in this apartment and now, there is no reason to have a broom near the bathroom anymore to sweep up the litter. No reason to take up the bath mat anymore (no litter to get on it, no cat to pee on it). No one to escort me into the kitchen or hang out by my hand as I type on the computer. No cat to remind me it’s time for bed or time to eat or time for a hug. No reason to save the last cereal milk or the pasta sauce or pizza for a kitty treat.

It’s just empty; my apartment is just a big hole where I keep my things now.

Another friend of mine was helping me walk through my grief last night. She pointed out that our furry four-footed friends work hard to be our true companions. They have worked hard to teach us lessons in unconditional love, forgiveness and patience. They have earned the right to the grief and loss we feel when they are gone. They have earned the hole they leave in our hearts once they are no longer in our lives. The hole that Pye leaves in my heart is significant and I will treasure it always.

Faster Is NOT Always Better; Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Previously published on Blogetary 1.0 June 2013.

Recently, AT&T has had these ads on TV where a marketer is in a room with a bunch of kids asking them questions. One kid thinks being a slower turtle would be better and the “nice man” and all the kids all laugh at the imaginative child and show why she’s “wrong” because “faster is better.” This ad bothers me a lot.
 

I’m here to tell you that while “faster is always better” is a common assumption, it is not always true, and is in fact many times wrong.

I was fortunate to learn this from an educator years ago. He was the father of a friend of mine and I was lucky enough to learn it while hanging out with my friends, but that didn’t make it any less valuable. John Utendale was the Dean of Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University. He and a team of other educators used to teach at various education seminars. He said one of the things he used to tell educators was that when asking a question in class, don’t call on the first person to raise their hand. Wait. Just wait, until as many people as possible have raised their hands, then call on the last person to raise their hand. The reason? That’s the person who’s put the most thought into the question.

In our society we tend to reward speed, not thoughtfulness or thoroughness. Often, the first one out with an idea is honored more than the one who made the idea better. We try to get to work faster, get out the door faster, be the first finished or the first to get something “done”. But getting to work faster or getting the project completed faster does not make it better. It makes it rushed, maybe sloppy, perhaps even half-hearted, not better. Getting to work faster and out the door faster after work, doesn’t mean your day is better, it just means you aren’t taking the time to enjoy what you have in this moment. It means you aren’t paying attention. When you don’t pay attention, things get missed.

In my business, proofreading, copyediting, writing, etc., speed is also often rewarded, but thoroughness and thoughtfulness are also needed. There’s a reason I don’t call my business “Speedy Proofing” or “24-Hour Copyediting.” I am “Putt Putt Productions” and my motto is “Slow and Steady Wins the Race.” And while I aim to accomplish the projects I’m hired to do in a timely manner, I also endeavor to take the time to pay attention to the details so that I may do a thorough job. Sometimes that means looking over a job and thinking about it a couple of days before sitting down to do it to make sure I take the correct approach. Sometimes that means going back over a section a few times. Sometimes it means tackling it in small chunks. It takes time, but I know I did the best I could on it.

Then, to quote Capt. Mal Reynolds, “I get the job done. I get paid.”

Faster is not always better. It was the turtle who won the race.

Larchmont Chronicle 50th Anniversary

Previously Published May 2013 on Blogetary 1.0

Once upon a time there was this girl named Jane. She had a lot of what some people used to call “spunk”. She was outspoken (she was from New York state, after all). She was a Girl Scout. She worked on her high school paper in Rye, New York. She went to a good mid-West college (Beloit) and then moved to New York City and began working at Cosmopolitan Magazine. Eventually she joined the military as a Recreation Director and helped organize activities for lonely G.I.s serving overseas. This is where she met her husband, Irwin.

But, “Happy Ever After” doesn’t stop there. I mean, in the stories it does. In real life, there’s more to it. She and her husband eloped to Las Vegas and then went on to Denver where she became a copywriter writing advertising copy. She was bored. This was not what she went to school for. This was not the great career of the young woman who’d once worked for Cosmo.

So, she and Irwin pulled out stakes and moved to Los Angeles to see what dreams are made of here. They landed in a little known strip of L.A. suburbia (at the time anyway) in Hancock Park on Larchmont Boulevard. It was an old fashioned street. There was a gas station. A grocery store. Local merchants.

Jane befriended another ambitious young woman, Dawne Goodwin, who excelled at selling ads. Together, in a kitchen, the hatched an idea, a really big idea, to start a paper all their own. It was 1963. I wasn’t even born in 1963.

To keep people from getting all hinky about “gals” running a newspaper, they did the traditional first initial thing (because you know how nervous some guys get when women start to work in their wheelhouse). And set about creating a neighborhood newspaper. Dawne got the advertising. Jane wrote the copy. They presented it as the Larchmont Chronicle published by J. Gilman and D. Goodwin. Their first issue had 12 pages and the mailed it out to as many people in Hancock Park and the surrounding areas as they could.

The local businessmen gave the six months before they thought the paper might fold.

FIFTY YEARS LATER, the Larchmont Chronicle now averages 60 pages an issue each month. Still privately owned and operated by Jane and Irwin Gilman, it is read by approximately 77,000 people in the Los Angeles area. More if you count the ones who get it mailed to them all over the U.S.

Besides being a publisher of a paper that’s been around for 50 years, however, she’s also contributes to the community. She’s involved in Hope-Net (and started the Taste of Larchmont fundraiser that helps contribute to Hope-Net each year), is one of the founding members of the Windsor Square-Hancock Park Historical Society, is part of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition, the Wilshire Community Police Council and the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.

Four and a half years ago I had used up the last of my unemployment, hadn’t found a job yet, or been able to build up my freelance business. I got desperate and from desperation comes inspiration. I sent out emails to businesses in my neighborhood who might be looking for part time or occasional office work or proofreaders, freelance or otherwise. One of the places I contacted was the Larchmont Chronicle. Jane emailed me asking if I’d be interested in a receptionist job. I said sure. She asked if I could make it for an interview in 15 minutes. It was the end of a hot summer. I hadn’t showered. I brushed my hair, pulling it back into a ponytail, changed my shirt, pulled on a skirt and walked down to see if she’d have me. I was hired as a receptionist/Girl Friday and I’ve been there ever since.

I have learned so much from this woman. Not just here, but to be able to work with all the phenomenal women who have worked at the Chronicle for so many years has taught me so much. And to be able to be at this gala event at the Ebell of Los Angeles with many of the people Jane has worked with in the community to celebrate all the work she’s put into this paper was wonderful, astounding, fantastic, and a lot of fun.

Below are a couple of pictures from tonight.

 

Above, Assistant Editor Laura and Associate Editor Suzan. They kick my ass every single month.

Jane Gilman, publisher and editor of the Larchmont Chronicle with Yvonne, our accountant. They can both drink me under the table, swear like sailors and behave like the ladies they are. They also kick my ass every month.

I missed getting pictures of Maria (graphic designer) and Pam (Director of Advertising) because I got distracted, but you get the idea. It’s a special group of people, of women, of ladies, and I treasure the time I have spent them and have learned from them. And I know that through the years they have made positive impacts on others as well.

 I had a great time tonight and I wanted to share this so people would understand what I mean when I say:

I. Love. My. Job.

Kranky Krazy Kamikaze King Kiko Ray Koko Dakota and his Gold Gogo Boots

Originally Published on Blogetary 1.0 March 2007 (I was lucky to find this stored in a document on my computer).

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Kranky Krazy Kamikaze King Kiko Ray Koko Dakota and his Gold Gogo Boots

April 14, 1994 to March 6, 2007

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Kiko and Pye hanging out on my dresser.

Kiko (below) and Pye (above) hanging out on my dresser.

I haven’t eaten dinner and I have an appointment at 8AM tomorrow so why am I doing this?  Why am I writing out a eulogy for a friend at midnight the night I lost him?  Well, it’s who I am and it’s what I do.  I’m doing this because I am a writer.  I process myself through pen and ink on a page or through words typed in a blank document, or sometimes even charcoal on a book cover or anything I can find on cocktail napkin. It’s how I operate.  Some people make movies or food or Cds.  Some people hide in self-made caves and refuse to come out.  Pye eats (well, to be fair, so do I).  But when I am processing something I write. The things that are too private to share go in my journal in handwriting as cryptic as ancient, alien hieroglyphics – or so I’ve been told.  Later on I will process some of my grief in there.  But for now I just want to share some of the celebration of life that was Kranky Krazy Kamikaze King Kiko Ray Koko Dakota and his Gold Gogo Boots.

This is long, so you don’t need to read any further if you don’t want to.  What I do ask is that you let me know if there are any pet owners or people out there in need of the following: Insulin syringes (100), PZI insulin (almost a full bottle), VitaCal nutrient supplement (almost full), and blood glucose meter (prick thing and needles for taking blood, measuring sticks that are good until May 2007), Canned M/D food for diabetic cats and coupons for M/D dry and canned. Let me know if you know of anywhere that these items could be of use to help someone else out.  I know what it is to care for a special needs friend whilst on a budget.

Kiko's balancing act on the door, Los Angeles, 1994.

Kiko’s balancing act on the door, Los Angeles, 1994.

*****
If you’re getting this email or see this as a blog then you either have met my guy or know of him.  Kiko was born in Los Angeles, California on April 14, 1994. When he was 6 weeks old, on a warm summer evening, his family brought he and his littermates to the front of Ralphs, which was at that time in Beverly Connection, and proceeded to try to find homes for them.  A young girl saw him and fell in love, picked him up and brought him to Starbucks to show off to her band buddy, one of my co-workers.  However, this young girl had forgotten she was allergic to cats and by the time she had been holding this kitten for an hour, had broken out all over.

Kiko kitty 1994Unbeknownst to this young woman, my roommate Kelly and I had been talking about getting a kitten; a pretty orange striped kitten.  We wanted to name her Kika if ever we found her (we assumed her) after the Pedro Almodovar film of the same name (sassy redhead as main character).   When I saw this little orange marmalade kitten clinging to the young woman’s chest I fell in love and immediately volunteered to take him home since she obviously couldn’t.  I was still at work and so was my roommate, so I found some friends outside who promised to watch the kitten until I got off work and purchased kittenish type necessities.  With my bags in one hand and my kitten in the other, curled up tight in a little ball, head tucked in, I walked home.

I was in love.

We weren’t really sure we wanted to call him Kika, after all, because he was a boy.  Jim fell in love with the name Dakota.  I wasn’t sure what was best, but Kelly voted staunchly for Kika, so we compromised with an “o” ending and dubbed him Kiko (which I later found out is the nickname for Francisco – so you could say that Kiko’s name was Francis……).  Because I grew up reading the book about Rikki Tikki Tembo No Sa Rembo Cheri Beri Ruchi Pip Peri Pembo (who fell down the well), and because Kiko had a penchant for jumping and running and getting into trouble, I decided to name him, Kranky Krazy Kamikaze King Kiko Ray Koko Dakota and his Gold Gogo Boots (his brother’s name is Pye).

And so we lived fairly happily together, through thick and thin, good times and bad.  Sometimes I was the bad one and sometimes he was, but we always stuck it out together. He peed and I screamed.  He yowled and I said there, there.  We tried to work together and trust one another.

He had light jade green eyes – they could have been aventurine.

He wasn’t too sure about the move to San Francisco at first, but he rather liked it after we got our own place.  And while he was sort of okay with moving back down, he wasn’t quite sure he approved of another cat coming to live with us when I picked up Pye from across the street.  But, he did his best to get along in his catlike way.

Kiko and Pye 06 or early 07?Kiko was a very social cat, not necessarily with other cats, though he tried, but he loved people.  We had always had lots of people over when he was a kitten and up until just a few days before the end, he still loved to be around people.  I had some people over for a movie night and there he was, in the middle of it all.

His favorite place to be was to either take a chair all to himself, or to lay in the middle of the room, equidistant from everyone.  In San Francisco, I do believe that when he wasn’t at home he was going around the neighborhood chatting up the other bipeds. Some people even asked after him after we had moved.

Kiko sunning in San FranciscoOne of my biggest regrets was that when I moved back down to LA, I tended not to have over as many people as I used to and I didn’t have a garden for him to play in like I had before.  I think he got rather lonely.  Once he even jumped out my 3rd story window to try to go out and socialize. I had been excited that I had moved to an apartment building that allowed pets to roam the halls.  That quickly came to an end when I discovered that the pets that were there before him were not going to let him roam unhindered.  And then came the series of building owners who all decided that any animals trotting on through and sniffing by to say hello was a bad idea.  Sad.  I always felt guilty that I couldn’t let Kiko out to play when I left in the morning.  He used to walk me to my bus stop before we had moved to this apartment. I had always promised him that in another 6 months, in a year, or soon, very soon, I’d figure out a way to move to a little place with a garden. It just never worked out. I just hope he’s enjoying the Garden that he’s in right now.

When Kiko was diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago, I was sure it was the end then, but we figured out how to keep going and how to get his quality of life back. I did what I could to test him from home, keep him on his insulin, adjust when it needed adjusting, keep him on good food and watch for anything that might mean things were going to go down hill.  A few times he got a little tired or sick or quit eating, but he always rallied. He always got better and we figured out a way to go on.

This time was not one of those times.  He had been lethargic and not eating for a few days, but I had been getting some nutrients down him.  I had been tracking his blood sugar.  I had just gotten some stuff from online that I was hoping would help him turn the corner.  I was going to use it and monitor him. Tonight, however, when I came home, he had taken a turn for the worse.  His hind end was not working. He wasn’t able to urinate or walk.  He was too dehydrated to keep water in his mouth.  Both back legs were cold to the touch and he was in real pain.  When I took him into the vet at TLC Veterinary Clinic, at first the prognosis was good.  Expensive, but good. But before I could make a decision on treatment the vet came in again and said it was actually worse. Kiko apparently also had a heart murmur.  And, with the decreased body temperature and sensation in Kiko’s lower limbs, it was probable that he had a blood clot blocking things in his lower body.  And it was blocking usage of both limbs, not just one or the other.  In no case had the vet seen a recovery when both back legs had been affected this way.

So, I asked to see Kiko.  And he really was in pain and while he was still aware and cognizant, it was a high probability that soon he would die from the blood
clot moving up his system.  He probably would never regain use of his lower limbs – the same limbs he had used so often to jump to the highest ledge possible.  So, while it was a difficult decision to make, it was the only decision to make and I asked that he be euthanized. He had always been a big jumper and runner and I couldn’t imagine he’d have any quality in a life where he could barely move.

It took a long time to say goodbye and I thank Jim for being there with me and sharing in my grief.

I was with Kiko until the end, so he was not alone, or at least, not anymore alone than any of us are when we finally die in the company of family.  I had hoped that he would be able to die asleep in his bed at home.  He didn’t have his chance to say goodbye to any of you or to Pye, nor did you get your chance to make your goodbyes to him.  I’m sorry for that.  I hope you remember him fondly and I hope he’s having a good time now frisking about with butterflies and birds in the meadows somewhere.

Kiko by the catnip in SF