Friday, December 31, 2010

The best of 2010

It was hard to choose, but here they are:
My top ten abstracts of 2010

Oil and Water

Fire and Ice

Ghost Bird



Lost Language



Au fait



Friday, December 24, 2010

a year of counting

Exactly one year ago today I added a hit counter to my blog. Since then I've had 2081visits, and the visitors have come from 51 countries!

This is pretty amazing to me since I do so little to encourage visits to my blog. I don't spend a lot of time reading or commenting upon other blogs, and only occasionally self-promote my posts on Facebook.

1741 of my hits this past year have come from the USA. 66 have come from Canada. 44 from New Zealand, and 42 from Britain. I've also gotten 24 from Germany, 21 from Russia, and 17 from Australia.

I'm sure a lot of these hits are accidental - people who end up here by clicking the "next blog" button. A lot of hits probably also come from the links on my Flickr and Facebook profiles.

I probably get a lot of hits from people who come just to have a look and then don't return. But I do have some regular followers, and I appreciate the comments I get from them. It's so nice to know that someone is actually out there!

The majority of my hits (353) have come from Grand Rapids - which I'm sure have come from friends and family there. As well as the 66 hits that have come from Kalamazoo. What's odd to me is that I get more comments from strangers than I do from family and friends.

If I were to send my friends a letter in the mail - a nice chatty letter full of news and observations, a letter with photographs tucked in - I'm sure they'd enjoy it. They'd sit down and read it and maybe even write back, the way they did before the internet. But they never (or very rarely) comment on my blog.

Oh well. Comments are nice, but I'm sure I'll keep posting with or without them. I still have a fat stack of potential blog topics I'd like to write about someday. You know... that someday we all dream of when time is easy & all the chores are done.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Coming out. Again.

I finally came out last week.
To my new hairstylist.
She's cut my hair four or five times now and I've talked about my grandkids, my sons, the neighborhood, movies, etc... but hadn't yet had occasion to mention "my partner."

When I did finally say that phrase along with BB's name, the conversation just kept on rolling. It was nothing. But it was something. I just know there was that barely perceptible nanosecond when the stylist's intellection of me changed. Not for better or worse necessarily, not in a judgemental way, but changed none-the-less. And no matter how many people I come out to, this is always a nanosecond I dread.

A gay person doesn't come out once, it's a continual thing. Especially if you're a gay person who has recently moved to a new community, like me. Moving means coming out to new people again and again and again.

For me there were also recently a lot of doctor's forms, many of which asked my marital status. Am I single, married, or divorced?  I could just check single, or divorced, but neither of those seem right. I've taken to just writing in a new category, Partnered, and circling it.

I don't know why I dread these moments of coming out. I'm not ashamed. Or afraid. It's just that one moment, that "Oh."

I just know I'm being re-categorized during that moment. I know I've just become an "other" instead of "one of us," even to those heterosexuals who think of themselves as gay friendly.

BB says it's getting easier and easier for her to come out. She thinks this is because people's attitudes are changing, and I agree. I'm glad to be living here and now. I'm not complaining. I'm just observing. And who knows, I could be wrong. Maybe that whole re-categorizing thing is only in my head - but I doubt it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Holiday skaters

Here's a little video I shot last night of ice-skaters at Campus Martius - the center of downtown Detroit:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Last Summer

My story, Last Summer, is in the current online edition of the
Toasted Cheese Literary Journal.
Click HERE and then click on the "Literary Journal" tab to read it

Monday, December 6, 2010

Urban Adventure Part Two

Ruin porn. That's a term you hear in Detroit these days in reference to the fascination with abandonment and decay in the city. And while I completely understand where that phrase is coming from, I can't help but be fascinated with it myself.

I know how the images of ruin skew the world's perception of Detroit - which is much more alive and vibrant that you probably imagine - and that's a shame, but the ruins are fascinating. And it's not just the condition of these abandoned buildings that's something to witness, but the fact that they're so accessible. It's incredible that these places still stand, that they haven't been razed, or properly secured, or policed.

Detroit's most sprawling urban ruin is the Packard Plant. Spread out over 35 acres, the Packard is an immense complex of crumbling dilapidation. But it's not a victim of the recent economic downturn - even though photos of the plant are often used by the media to dramatize current events.

Packard has been out of business since the 1950s.

The Packard Plant produced luxury automobiles from 1903 - 1956. It went out of business when GM's Cadillac became the luxury car of choice.

After its closure the plant was subdivided and leased to small businesses, but it has mostly stood empty for the last five decades. The city of Detroit has a long history of litigation over the ownership of the land and the condition of the property. According the the Detroit Free Press the plant is currently owned by a guy serving a jail term in California on drug charges.
I'd heard of the Packard Plant and I'd seen photos of it, but I'd never actually been there in person until last week. I was taken there by local photographer, Rob Monaghan.
It was a chilly November afternoon and we'd already been photo exploring for several hours that day so we didn't stay long, but I was awed. It's seriously like being on the set of an post-apocalyptic movie. Or actually being in a post-apocalyptic world.

At first it seemed we were the only people there - the only souls in this immense, desolate, squalid landscape. But then I noticed other photographers, mostly young people, here and there, like tourists seeing the sights. The Packard is a popular destination for urban explorers, metal scrappers, graffiti artists, and arsonists.
It was definitely like no other place I've ever been in my life, and I wish I'd had the opportunity to see it before it got as bad as it is now. Much has been destroyed by fire. Much has been destroyed by vandals and scrappers. And much has crumbled. But I'm itching to go back - hopefully this spring - because there is still so much photographic fodder there.

Monday, November 29, 2010

My First Urbex !

I finally got to go on an urbex adventure! (Ubex is slang for urban exploration, and pretty much means going into abandoned buildings to explore and take photographs.) There is a lot of urbexing to be had in Detroit and I've been longing to tag along with some urbex photographers. I especially wanted to go to the Eastown Theater, one of Detroit's legendary rock venues from the early 70's, and finally got that opportunity this past weekend. Rob Monaghan a local photographer and really sweet guy, took me there and gave me the grand tour.

Opened in 1930 as a movie theater on Detroit's East side, the Eastown became one of Detroit's premier rock venues in the early 70s. From 1969 to 1972 the Eastown featured bands such as Jefferson Airplane, Alice Cooper, Jethro Tull, The Stooges, Savoy Brown, Procol Harum, Johnny Winter, and many, many more.

This was during my high-school years and I was often taken along to concerts at the Eastown by my boyfriend who was a few years older. Each weekend's lineup would include two or three bands - and the tickets were only about three or four dollars!

The place was always jam-packed and heavy with the scent of pot. The seats on the main floor had been removed, so concertgoers sat on the floor, or stood, or danced. There was always a psychedelic light show that I enjoyed, and an MC who wore a top hat - Stanley T. Madhatter.

I have very distinct and fond memories of the Eastown and it's sad to see the shape it's in now. It's beyond saving. I'm sure it will be razed, or simply fall down sometime soon. I wish I'd gotten in there to look around before it got as bad as it has, but I'm grateful for the visit just the same.

Following a 1973 expose in the Detroit Free Press about the easy availability of drugs in the Eastown, it was forced to shut down by the City of Detroit for failing to meet health and safety codes. After that it briefly became a jazz venue, then a performing arts space, and in the 90s it hosted raves, but its mostly been left to rot. There are holes in the roof, it's littered with trash, it's wet, stinking, and raped of it's metal by scrappers. I was amazed that the ceiling above the balcony was still in such nice shape:

I was intrigued with the idea of walking into an abandoned building, and I was thrilled to be inside the Eastown, but I must admit I had moments of wondering "what the hell am I doing?!" while there. The lobby and halls are dark and littered with who knows what ( I learned that a flashlight is an essential tool for an urbex explorer,) and I'm sure I was breathing asbestos. My first urbex experience might well be my last. I mean, is this something a grandma should be doing?!
Here's the Eastown on the day of it's grand opening as a movie theater in 1931:

The Eastown as I remember it:

The Eastown today:

After exploring the Eastown, Rob took me to the ruins of the Packard Automobile Plant - but that will have to wait for Part Two of "Hilarywho: Urban Adventurer" ! Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


If you enjoy NPR you'll get a kick out of this:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Betty Jean Lifton

I was sorry to hear that Betty Jean Lifton, the quintessential author of books about the psychology of adoption, passed away on November 19. A writer, psychologist, speaker, and advocate for adoption reform, her books were profoundly illuminating to me, and countless others like me.

She believed that all members of the adoption triangle - adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents - are traumatized by their losses to some degree.

An adoptee herself, BJ Lifton was one of the first voices to speak out out about the complications and complexities of adoption, and the closed adoption system, which she called, "a socially engineered arrangement that was designed to cut us off psychologically as well as legally from our genetic and cultural heritage."

Although I am not a product of the closed adoption system, I know what it's like to be cut off from genetic and cultural heritage. Reading Journey of the Adopted Self helped me understand myself in fundamentally important ways, and led me to form many of the views I have today about the adoption industry and the adoptee rights movement.

I'd say I'm going to miss Betty Jean Lifton, but she'll always be here in the books on my shelf - heavily highlighted and underlined. Her work was a wonderful gift to those of us who make the quest for wholeness.

For her NY Times obit click HERE

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Today's Special

I got to see a free sneak-peek of a movie last night at my local "art-house" theater. Today's Special is about Samir, a young Manhattan sous chef who quits his job when he doesn't get an expected promotion, dreams of traveling to Paris, but ends up running his family's restaurant when his father has a heart attack.

In an act of desperation Samir hires a taxi driver named Akbar who says he used to do some cooking. Akbar turns out to be a very engaging character and an incredible cook who not only teaches Samir how to make his native foods, but how to make them with his heart.

I would have liked this movie even if I'd paid for the ticket. Staring Aasif Madvi of The Daily Show fame, I enjoyed the acting, the story, and the way it made me hungry for Indian food! It was fun to see Dean Winters, the guy who plays "Mahem" in TV commercials for Allstate, in a supporting role, and the actor who plays Akbar is great.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Toasted Cheese

A short story of mine has been accepted by the online journal,
It will be in the December issue.

I'm happy that one of my stories is being published by a literary journal, but I can't help wishing it was a journal with a more impressive name. Like maybe, The Toasted Cheese Literary Review. Or maybe, Cheese Quarterly. But I'm proud of my accomplishment just the same.

I stole this photo from a site devoted to grilled cheese sandwiches. Can you believe there is such a thing?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Falling backward

Okay, so it's hard to complain about the extra hour we're gaining as Daylight Saving Time comes to an end, but I'm still not happy about the whole crazy idea. I mean, time is time. You can't change it. When the sun is highest in the sky it's NOON. Not 1:00

I think it's unhealthy to mess with people's circadian rhythms the way Daylight Saving Time does.

It's a pain in the ass. And what's the advantage? Who does it profit??? For what greater good are millions of people forced to go around sleepy and cranky every Spring?

I used to think Daylight Saving Time was put into place to help farmers, but I've learned that is not true. Daylight Saving Time was put into place to save fuel during WWI.  It is outdated.  Unnecessary.  And definitely not worth all the trouble it causes.

Personally I love a lovely summer night. I like to look up at the summer stars - and I'd like to be able to see them before 10:00 or 11:00 PM. Same thing with fireworks.

My point is, Daylight Saving Time is not natural and it doesn't seem to have much advantage. So Why? WHY?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Too busy to blog

Lately I'm either working on stories, fooling around on Flickr, or playing Scrabble on Facebook - three activities that can pretty much eat up a day for me, along with going to the gym, running errands and cooking dinner.  Thus: not much time to spend here.  

I'm sure I'll get back to writing incredibly fascinating blog posts sometime soon, but in the meantime here's some photos I recently took in downtown Detroit:

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Favorite Photo: Halloween 1988

This photo was taken when my twin sons were seven years old. That's Justin in the mask and big bowtie - he was a "funny professor." Jerry was Dracula.

The girls are neighbors, also twins, a year younger than the boys. We lived in an apartment at the time and the girls lived next door. For five years the four of them were constantly together, in one apartment or another, or running around outside. (I think that's Courtney with the red fairy wings, and Brittany as the wizard, but I'm not sure. )

I thought the boys and the girls would always be friends, but that didn't turn out to be so. We moved away when the boys were ten, and though we tried to stay in touch with the girls, it just didn't work out. They grew up and grew apart, the way people tend to do. But I'm sure they have fond memories of their childhood days together.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Favorite Photo: Garage door

garage door

This photo was taken in the fall of 1999. This was the door to the garage of the house I grew up in. I took a lot of photos - with my film camera - of the house that fall. It was just before the city bought it and tore it down.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Left or right ?

I was a passenger in my daughter-in-law's car on our way to a park recently when she asked, "Is it on the left?"

"Yes." I replied. But as she switched lanes I realized I was wrong; I hadn't consulted my wrist.

I have a scar on the inside of my right wrist that tells me which is my right hand, and therefore which way is right. I apologized to my DIL and explained what was going on. "You don't know your right from your left?" she asked (sounding just a tad judgemental.) And I had to say yes, it's true, much to my shame and dismay.

Just as some people make a writing motion to remember which is their right hand, I depend on my scar.

I got the scar when I was seven and accidentally put my hand through a pane of glass. And because of my early dependence upon it, I never learned right from left. If someone asks me which way to go I just reflexively flip my wrist and look at the scar.

I related this quirk to a friend a while back and she said, "But don't you have a sense of the right side of your body, and the left side of your body?"

I'd never thought of it like that.

I'd always thought of right and left as being something "out there." Not as something that was a part of me.

So, in order to be better at telling left from right I've been looking down at myself lately and consciously thinking "here is my right" and "here is my left." I've been trying to get this idea ingrained in my sense of what's what. And it has been helping; I'm much better at telling right from left than I used to be, except when the pressure is on.

It's just like math anxiety - which makes me unable to add 2 plus 2 if I'm under pressure to do so, or if someone is looking at me expectantly. My brain just refuses to concentrate in a situation like that. It's too busy thinking "Math - accckkkkkk!" to actually do any math.

Same goes for right and left. If I'm nervous or on the spot I'll get flummoxed. There have been times when I've consulted my wrist and still couldn't tell right from left because I was too distracted with embarassment to remember which hand the scar was on!

I spent a lot of time in community theater and always had a hard time knowing stage right from stage left. When I directed I had to keep a chart in front of me - a fact I kept hidden. My shameful little secret.

How do you tell right from left? Is it something you just never have to think about, or do you have some little reminder? How did you learn it as a kid? This must have been something I missed out on.