Monday, January 4, 2010


Good riddance to 2009! Sure there were some good things during the year but on the whole it was a really punk 12 months and not just for me, but for tons of folks who lost their jobs, lost their homes, and in some ways lost their faith.

2009 found me to be truly ranked among the poor for the first time in my life. Were it not for friends who literally floated funds to me, I expect I could be bedding down with Gordo in my PT Cruiser by now. So the ending of this miserable decade got me to reflecting, as many of us do at this time of year, of the Christmases past.

Working back I tried to remember Christmases and suddenly I realized that although I recall Christmas 2008, I cannot drag up any pictures of what Christmas 2007 was like. Now at that time I was in the full throttle of chemotherapy for breast cancer so perhaps the memory lapse is not unusual. Still, I pondered, not being able to bring up any visions of that year's Christmas was troubling. What else have I forgotten?

They say that it's not uncommon for chemo to affect memory. But I don't think I can blame my lapse on lethal chemistry. For the most part, except for doing what I can to help others going through that horror, I consciously try to forget that entire hellish year. In so doing I realized that I have done an injustice to many people who were there for me while battling cancer and now at my year-end reflections it is time to set things straight.

Thank you to everyone who helped with encouraging words, and to those who cooked, washed, cleaned, and fed the cat while I lay about in misery. Certainly thank you to those who put money in my account so I could pay my bills. And on that note I have to talk about some individuals who went above and beyond to raise money for me.

When I was first diagnosed, I wasn't so much worried that I would die, but I worried that I would be homeless because I was unable to work and had no recourse to funds from state disability since I was self employed. This fact is what drove me to swallow my pride and do something that is alien to me, ask for help.

I didn't have to say much to my good friend Michael Williams who immediately organized a fundraising barbecue at his place of business. Friends, staff from San Luis Sports Therapy, and the Morro Bay Rotary all attended and pitched in.

I really swallowed my pride a bit later on when I asked my special friend Steve See if he could stage a benefit concert for me. Steve is our local music promoter extraordinaire. I knew if anyone could manage to bring in the dollars, it was Steve, and I knew also that he wouldn't think to say no, because that's the kind of guy he is.

Steve is a cancer survivor himself so he knows the fear associated with that kind of diagnosis. And as I recalled the event he put on for me at the San Luis Obispo Odd Fellows Hall, I realized that it had taken place just after the holiday season of 2007. I remember everything about that night.

Steve had asked Western singer/songwriter Dave Stamey to perform for the benefit. Dave is also a friend of mine ever since I first met him to interview him for an article I wrote for San Luis Obispo Magazine. When I found out Dave had volunteered to perform for free so that all the money for the concert would go to me, I was overwhelmed. That night the people who follow the performances of Dave Stamey came out for the concert and Steve managed to raise enough money for me to live on for the next year.

Am I grateful? There are no words to express it. I sing out to my heroes, the unsung folks who helped put on the concert, ran the silent auction, and all those people I don't know who came and contributed. But most of all to Michael, Dave, and Steve.

Where does this bring me now? Well, I'm less afraid to ask for help if I need it. But I worry about those who are suffering and are afraid and are paralyzed, not knowing where to turn. But I know there are many in this community who would help, if they asked.

2010 has GOT to be better! Oh yes, we say that every year, but really, how much lower could we go? I think 2010 is the year for us to pull together and truly help our neighbor. Be aware of the invisible poor. Those people who appear on the surface to be okay, but who may be dealing with hunger, can't pay their bills, or are facing the loss of their homes. Take a good look around. There is someone YOU KNOW who needs your help, but isn't letting on. Start asking your neighbors and friends how they are doing. You may be surprised as to what you will find out. Help make 2010 a truly happy NEW year!

Gordo's Marvelous New Year's Adventure

New Year's Eve is nothing special at our house. We eat a nice dinner; mine was roast beef, macaroni and cheese and peas, and Gordo and Thomas had salmon pate. Then it's lounging on the sofa, watching the idiots in Times Square, suffering through the awful entertainment, and watching the ball go down while holding a quarter in our hand. The idea is that this is to assure that you will have money throughout the coming year. Well, truth be told I held a dollar bill. I figured a dollar might work better than a quarter. At 12:03 it's off to bed, me in my room and Thomas on the sofa and Gordo on the top of the love seat. Ah bliss! The New Year! It's got to be better than any of those awful "ohs" – 00 to 09.

At 4:45 A.M. Thomas and Gordo started their New Year's celebration. I couldn't help but notice since they played it out on either side of me on the bed. I arose and trotted to the kitchen, opened the fridge, and took out the remains of the salmon pate and plopped a portion in each of their bowls. They inhaled it in two minutes while I took a bathroom break.

Now Thomas is not my cat. He just likes to eat and sleep here. He also goes outside while Gordo is strictly an indoor kitty. Gordo is fine with that. He's never shown any interest in going out nor has he ever tried. So it was more than a shock to feel him whiz by my legs as I let Thomas out the back door.

I yelled, "No Gordo!" as I followed him down the back steps and up the back path. Now mind you, I was in my nightie. No robe. It was 5 A.M. and dark and I didn't have my glasses on. Thank goodness I had slippers on or I would have been hopping over the pebbles in my bare feet.

I kept calling, "Gordo, come here Gordo," as he kept moving on, stopping to sniff at all the other kitty calling cards on the bushes. Each time he did that I lunged for him hoping to grab him. But Gordo weighs close to 18 pounds and it's just not that easy for me to snag him, lift him up, and keep hold of him. And remember, I was in my scant nightie, and it was cold.

It occurred to me that someone in the houses nearby might hear me but I had to keep calling, "Gordo, Gordo." I figured there was a good chance that the police might arrive to find out what the crazy lady is doing running around the neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning in her nightie.

Without my glasses I could barely see Gordo, but thankfully there was a full moon shining, lighting up the surroundings. By now Thomas was egging Gordo on and as I trotted after him, Gordo took a turn to the left and started running down the driveway of the house next door. "Oh no," I cried, and ran after him with Thomas on my heels

"Gordo, come here Gordo," I called and called hoping against hope that he wouldn't find the holes in the back fence and go through them into the yard beyond where I couldn't follow. But Gordo is not outdoor savvy so the fence just appeared as a barrier to him. He turned left again and began to dash back up the driveway closer to the neighbors' house. Once again he stopped to sniff the calling cards on the flowers. I grabbed hard, but he pulled away from me and now Thomas joined him and side by side they ran, jumping and leaping, into the neighbors' front yard heading for the low wall. If they scaled that it would bring them into the yard of the next house down the street without me being close behind. Then who knows where they would head.

What would happen to Gordo if he ventured too far and couldn't find his way back? He has a microchip in him, but no collar and no tag. Would anyone finding him be smart enough to turn him in to the Shelter where the chip would be discovered? All these thoughts were racing through my mind.

So I ran fast to get between the cats and the wall to divert them. They took off back towards the street and up by my yard. Almost out of breath now, still calling, "Gordo, Gordo," I sprinted behind them. It looked like he and Thomas were going to continue their mad moonlit race up the street so fast that I wouldn't be able to keep up. Just as I thought all was lost, I saw Thomas running up the street, and he was alone. Where was Gordo?

He had abruptly veered off, turned right and scooted down my back path, up the stairs, and back into the house. Hooray! Thank God I had left the back door ajar! I raced down the path and into the house and slammed the door shut. "Good boy, Gordo!" I cried, although I would have liked to kill him! He just stared at me with a look that said, "What's the big deal, how about a bowl?"

Well, Happy New Year after all. But now Gordo knows the outside and how do I keep him down on the farm after he's seen Paree!!

Gee, if this was the start of MY new year, what will the rest of it hold for me?