Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Minnesota On a Stick

Revelers on a Pedal Pub in downtown Minneapolis.
They ain't movin unless they pedal, doncha know.



The leaves clinging to the few live branches on the tall trees alongside the freeway waved listlessly in a dry wind as we drove to the airport. We flew out of drought-stricken Los Angeles for Minnesota, the land of a thousand lakes. We went for the baseball and for my husband to meet some of the other moderators on a Twins forum. Fortunately for me, there were members who liked to hike, kayak and marvel at a very different place. How different? 



Before the water and the baseball there was the



 which had everything you could possibly want . . . and on a Stick!








I had the Scotch Egg on a stick. You betcha there was a hard boiled egg, but the sausage was Italian and there wasn't a drop of Scotch on it. Dis is tru.



All State Fairs have 4-H competitions. We visited the horses, cows, rabbits, chickens and pigs.
 Here's my husband pig-whispering.


 The most beautiful chicken. Far as dat goes it could be a rooster.

Kayaking in the city limits on Lake Calhoun

The Far Shore

Innerestin toes eh.

A few discoveries while hiking at Minnehaha Falls. 



Flour is combustible. The mill went ka-put. The ruins rival medieval castles in the U.K. Minnesota cleverly blends the new with the old at the Mill City Museum.

The ruins reflect on the modern.

 Downtown, old and new.
 
 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

May in the Summer

           
                Sometimes a journey “home” is an encounter with oneself. May in the Summer (release August 22) tells the story of a young, sophisticated woman who lives in New York and whose first novel was a success. She’s engaged and travels home to visit her mother and plan her wedding. While there she must deal with the usual travails of familial discontinuity, a tale that has been told countless times. The difference here is that May’s home is in Amman Jordan. Her mother is a Palestinian who married an American. May and her sisters were raised in the U.S.

                Wait, there’s more. Her mother is a fundamentalist Christian and May’s fiancé is Muslim. Yikes! Amman is not Gaza, but you can see Palestine across the water from a Western style beach resort as you float in the Dead Sea. Oh, and there are not too many women in jogging shorts for the local men to ogle. Only one: May. These dislocations serve as much needed reminders that even though May and her sisters are pop culture savvy and are not just Westernized-they’re as American as apple pie served at a NY deli. All of which adds up to an old story told and set in a new world.

                Diversity is a word I embrace and May in the Summer displays all its nuances in an engrossing and even affectionate manner. The script is good and the acting is outstanding. May encounters more familial secrets which I won’t reveal here. It’s a new twist on an old tale well worth viewing.




DIRECTOR(S): Cherien Dabis SCREENWRITER(S): Cherien Dabis CAST: Cherien Dabis, Hiam Abbass, Alia Shawkat, Bill Pullman, Nadine Malouf, Elie Mitri, Alexander SiddigDISTRIBUTOR: Cohen Media Group 

Monday, August 11, 2014

La Luna Súper

Yellow Superrrrmoon. La Luna Superrrr. You look like cheese. 



At midnight on Sunday, whoops it's already Monday! we said our goodbyes. Backlit by a spectral Super Moon,  our shadows stretched long. Hugs all around, even though most of us had just met, in the dark, in a burned out flat in Angeles National Forest. 

"I was happy every minute of tonight," I said.
"How often can we say that?" someone asked. She gave me another hug.



The Before: The sun sets beyond the burned scrub.
      

 The moon rises behind us. The clouds do not want to let her go.


No campfires are allowed. but that doesn't stop most people. The hills are alive with them. 




Dropped your clouds like a flimsy negligee? I'm gonna do something special with you . . . how'd you like to have your light refracted?


Don't be scared. You're still you. I'm still me. Your full spectrum is wild. Let's do it one more time.




Refraction not your thing? The clouds have come to your rescue again. Sweet moon, cheesy night love of my life, please don't leave . . . 


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Tattoo Lady, Mother and Me


             I’ve come back to Santa Fe from my home in Los Angeles because Mother is ill with throat cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. All her teeth have been removed and her dentures look ridiculous, but I tell her she looks the same. She seems to believe me. She can’t wear the bottom plates, and so every meal is a challenge. She’s losing weight and has already lost her hair.  But she’s full of stories. I get the usual Tattoo Lady updates. "You know how fat Humpty Dumpty was?" she asks. "Well, Tattoo Lady is fatter than that.”



            The Tattoo Lady, her dead husband, her incarcerated son, her other recently released son, and her truant grandchildren provide Mom with stories to rival any soap opera. I imagine Tattoo Lady with tattoos all up and down her arms, across her chest, encircling a vast abdomen, and traveling down her dimpled backside.

            “And she never takes a bath," Mom says. I glance down at my mother's dirt encrusted fingernails.

            I'd tried to get her in for a manicure that morning, but she'd refused, stamping her foot in the salon and making a scene. "It's too much money," she said. The Vietnamese manicurist stood by patiently, the lower half of her face covered with a hygienic paper mask. "I like your mask," Mother said. "Can I have one?" I forced a smile, and guided Mom from the shop. Before we made it out, she spotted a quarter and swooped down on it. "And they say I can't see good." She pocketed the money. I heard a groan behind us, but didn't look back.

            I drive Mom home, to the adobe structure she'd built with dime and quarter tips and the child support check from my father. She lives with six or eight small, unruly dogs, four or six ungrateful cats, and one immortal finch. Then there are the feral cats that Mom calls her “homies.”

            She’s kind of a cat lady, but any non-housebroken pet can fill her need. She's had monkeys, ferrets, white rats, and sugar bats. I’m considered the animal hater in my New Mexico family, even though I have one dog, two cats, two hamsters and a snake.

            "I've lost my sense of smell," Mom says, excusing the mess. She resents my unwillingness to stay with her, and she refuses to understand why she doesn't get many visitors. It wasn't that bad when I was growing up. In those days, I cleaned the cat box and the dogs went outside to do their business. Her habits degenerated over time, but the potential for allowing the animals to take over was there long before.

            Mom trusts animals more than people.

            Her house is not set up to be inviting to guests, so we eat out everyday. We breakfast, lunch and dinner together. She doesn’t drive anymore, so I try to take her to the places that she can’t reach easily.  "Did you see that T.V. movie on Martha Stewart last night?" I ask over dinner.


            "I can't stand that woman," Mom says. "Do you like her?" She fixes me with a challenging look, but I recognize it only in retrospect, and stumble into the trap.

            "She's all right. I don't try all that stuff she demonstrates, but it's oddly relaxing–"
           
            "I hate her," Mom says.

            I laugh, and again I miss the warning. "She's amazing—"

            "Tattoo Lady likes her, too." Mother presses her lips together, and gives me that look again. "Watches her all the time."

            I stop mid sip of my gin and tonic and laugh, trying not to spit it across the table at her. The thought of Tattoo Lady, fatter and sloppier than Humpty Dumpty after he fell from the wall, sitting engrossed and happy as can be watching the pristine Martha Stewart is even too much for Mother. She laughs with me. "She does," Mom says. "Loves her and everything she does. Just like you."

            The next day, I take Mother to collect commodities—surplus food for seniors. She doesn't need them, doesn't even like most of it, but it's free and that's reason enough. "I pay my taxes," she says.

            Mom plans to pick up commodities for her friend, Ellen Romero. We swing by the Senior Citizen’s Center where 84-year old Ellen is the receptionist. Mom had volunteered here, as well, before she got sick. Ellen has her authorization papers ready. I get introduced all around. All the old people want to hug me. Mom goes from table to table chatting up her friends. She looks light on her feet, and full of fun and life, just like she did when she worked her tables, waitress light years ago. Her friends had been her fellow workers in those days, and they still are. The Center is where Mom first met the notorious Tattoo Lady.

            We discover that Mom needs to be recertified by Social Security before she can get her commodities. There are about 100 people waiting to be called, but Mom charges to the front of the line, saying that she has to go to chemotherapy in two hours. She shows them the pack she wears. Inside is a bag of chemicals attached by a silicone tube to a port in her chest, where the doctors have placed a special pump leading right to her heart. The workers are unimpressed: rules are rules.

            There are two windows occupied at the Social Security department, two miles away. An elderly couple is waiting, and a machine dispensing numbers is prominently displayed. Mom is number 92. One client is just leaving and Mom beelines for the open window. The lady explains that she must go by the rules, looks at her number, and calls 91. The elderly couple sit in a corner clutching their number. The lady calls 91 again, and they consult their slip of paper, adjusting their eyeglasses and discussing with each other if they are actually seeing the same number "91.” Meanwhile, Mom has continued to badger the lady in the window with her questions, so she finally relents and processes her request. As she hands the authorization to Mom, the couple holds up their paper.  "91," they call out.

            We head back to the commodities place. It's a big, metallic warehouse sitting on an unpaved mound of earth.  People park willy nilly, ignoring the blue handicapped parking spaces that have chaparral growing in them, almost obscuring the signs.  This is very different from Los Angeles where handicapped spaces are cherished and people fake limps in order to park in them. 

            Mom walks in brandishing her papers. We're told we'll have to wait until all the other people are attended to. This does not please Mother, and she launches into her chemo tirade, telling the woman in charge, the only one carrying an official clipboard, that she’s got a chemo appointment in half-an-hour, that the treatment is killing her, and that she’s lost all her teeth and her hair is falling out. She pulls off her wig. This time it works.

            "I'll get you in front, Nellie," the clipboard lady says, and dashes off. She pulls out a chair in front for Mom to be seated. Mom takes the chair until the clipboard lady turns her back, and then she gets up to talk with friends she’s spotted. Commodities are not just about food.

            We get processed and return to the car. Mom wants to flirt with the guys who load the boxes, so I drive the car around. "They're really nice here," she says. “But I won't let them push me around just because I’m old.”

            We go directly to the cancer clinic where Mom really does have an appointment to have more chemicals dumped into her. I buy her soup and juice and a brownie to nosh on while she's attached to the drip. She'll be hooked up for three hours.

            The plaza is only a few blocks away and I stroll into a few galleries before entering a mercantile.

            "I hate to spend money, but you should see that Tattoo Lady go though dough," Mother had told me earlier. I hide my purchases in the trunk of the car.

            She's still hooked up when I return. "I wet my pants," she says. "I was almost to the bathroom and just couldn't hold it anymore."

            "Are you cold?" I ask. The nurse brings her a blanket, and says she's going to be going to the bathroom a lot.           
           
            At dinner that night, my last night, we dine at the Red Lobster, Mom's favorite place. We're concerned that she won't be able to chew the lobster, but order it anyway. I start her off with clam chowder.  I order extra for her to take home.

            The next morning she's got a dental appointment. I call and ask her to wear the pants I bought her, not so much because I want to see her in them, as that I'm worried she'll still be wearing her peed in jeans.


            "Mom, try to clean your fingernails ‘cause you're going to be pointing to your dentures and your gums."

            "Okay," she says, and sniffs, offended to her core.

            It’s my last day with Mom, and I'm a bit teary when she comes out and gets in the car. She gives me a startled look, and turns away with that tight curl-of-the-lip.

            "Tattoo Lady cries a lot," she says.

            She's wearing the new outfit, but her fingernails are still black. She's carrying a box with her dentures, her partial bridge (from when she still had most of her teeth), and a small container holding all the teeth they pulled. At the dentist’s office, she picks up one of her former teeth and holds it out to him.

            "See how small my teeth were," she says. “I never had a cavity.” She opens the container holding her dentures. They float in water and she pokes at them. "These are just too big. They hurt me." We all stare down at the dentures. A piece of black crud comes loose from her nail and floats in the denture water. The dentist labors over her false teeth, trimming and refitting. Mom leaves happy, her choppers liberally lined with an analgesic.        

            “Are you hungry?” I ask, pleased that she’ll finally be able to chew. Things have been going great. Mom orders sausage and bacon with her eggs and pancakes. We smile across the table at each other. Then, she brings up The Dog.

            "What was that dog's name? You know, the one you killed?"
           
            Once, when my sons were little and Mom and I were talking long distance, I put her on the speakerphone so we could all hear. In tones reminiscent of a bedtime story she launched into a story of The Dog, a pet they didn't even remember, with me featured as the cruel dog-murdering queen. I'll never forget their innocent eyes sweeping up to me for confirmation.

            "I didn't kill the dog, Mom. I had her put down. Remember? She had cancer and the runs, and Eric was starting to walk, and he'd step into dog shit all the time?"

            Silence. I could hear her sucking on a cigarette on the other end of the telephone line, arming herself with the heat of the smoke in her lungs. She exhaled, biting her words. "Yeah, I'm glad you killed her. She might have suffered." This is not agreement. This is Mother making her point in that reverse logic bordering on evil way she's perfected. I glanced at the boys—the word killed shining in their eyes.

            "Euthanized, Mom. Not killed. Would you rather your grandson play in dog shit?"

            "Dog shit never hurt anybody," she said. The boys giggled, covering their little mouths with little hands, totally in agreement with Grandma on the dog shit issue. My oldest is twenty now, and he likes to tease me by asking if I miss my dog killing days.
           
            The dog shit episode has become a fond Grandma tale for them. Grandma as the wolf in disguise. But does that make me Little Red Riding Hood, still trying to please with my little basket of goodies?

            Over fifteen years have passed, and she still brings up The Dog. "What was that dog's name?" she asks again. Another trap that I fail to see. I could have just changed the subject, started talking about the dog I have now or her dogs or pointed at the fat man walking past the coffee shop window.

            "Sallie," I say.

            "That dog was so smart. She followed Eric everywhere. I still don't understand why you had her killed." She bites into a piece of bacon with her startling white dentures, and chews meditatively.

            It’s my last day in Santa Fe. My last morning with my mother. Things have been going well. I’ve agreed with her on everything except Martha Stewart. I decide to make a little speech, the kind that allows rational people to save face.

            “I think I made the right decision, Mom. The dog was very sick. The comfort and well being of my family meant more to me than the dog. For you, animals are more important than people, and you don't mind the problems. Your way works for you, my way works for me. It doesn't mean that you're right and I'm wrong. It's just a different way."

            She sips her coffee. Curls her lip. "Yeah, Tattoo Lady says the same thing."


This piece was first published in INK POT #3 - 2004, a literary journal.

Mom, my bro and me 

Bye, Bye Black Sheep

Going through scribbled notes and old emails I'd crammed into a file. They're a journal of sorts, spontaneous scenes written on the backs of envelopes, emails I sent and the ones I didn't.


From the past: The letters to my family in Santa Fe reveal the desperate adolescent that I once was. She was trapped inside the adult me still trying to get approval from my family. I was like a scratched record with the needle stuck in the groove repeating the same idiotic chant I'm a good person, love me. Didn't work. My natal family excluded me. 

The obstacle was my mother. 

Ferreting out her reasons for selecting me as the enemy is a never-ending pursuit. Logic is useless. Writing, however, yields a cornucopia of scenes from my childhood. Many of them involve my mother, even when they don't start off that way. They're like dreams with disconnected images, time jumps and odd characters whom you know even though they don't look like themselves. Upon awakening the symbolism, the metaphors, and the archetypes are plainly visible. Other times, I have to go through the editing process for the revelation to seep through, for me to peel back the layers. 

I posted a short piece on FB about my 8th grade English teacher, focusing initially on how she titillated the class. She was hot and she knew it, but there was something else bubbling beneath the surface of that offbeat memory:
          Mrs. Burroughs, my 8th grade English teacher, entered the classroom with stilettos clicking. She was tall, thin and beautiful, her every movement poised and dramatic. She’d whirl her black cape off before perching straight-backed atop her desk to read us a poem. She crossed and re-crossed her long legs, fully aware that the entire class watched, enthralled. I sat in the front row and caught glimpses of her white panties. Before my parents' divorce, Mom had complimented other women: "She's beautiful," or, "I love her smile." That changed once we were on our own. Working in classy restaurants and nightclubs in Santa Fe, Mom grew bitter, especially toward the women. I must have said something nice about Mrs. Burroughs because Mom immediately filled me in on her adulterous and desperate love affairs. To be fair, she also gossiped about men. "He's married but he sleeps with guys, too." There was no mistaking her amusement with the males she served, but women awakened a deep class resentment in my mother. There was no room for sisterhood here. 

To my mother, I represented all those females who were Have's: those she served. I'll never minimize the hard life my mother led, the male harassment she endured, and the loss of hope that she'd find a new husband who'd solve all her problems. "No one wants a woman with children," she said. 

My education made her feel uncomfortable, but instead of being shy or reticent, she became angry if she didn't understand the conversation around her. This practice extended to other female friendships. She got involved with senior women's groups but after one trip with them she refused to participate. Instead of trying to broaden her scope, she preferred to remain alone rather than feel dumb or less than

Mom bonded with my younger brother and sister. My brother is mechanically brilliant and a good writer; my sister is smart and articulate. Mom lost me to education; I went off to college and escaped Santa Fe. She wasn't about to lose her other two children. Rather than use me as a successful role model, she preferred that they remain close to home. There, she could organize their focus on a common enemy: me. Neither of my siblings finished college. 

She'd already brainwashed my brother and sister about me, and then she started in on my children, telling them negative stories about me. Rather than call her on it, I wrote a humorous piece about her (The Tattoo Lady, Mother and Me.) I still hadn't admitted to myself that she was the DNA-connected Maleficent in my life.

The present: I moved on. There's still love and affection in me for my mother and my siblings. I take them at face value. I remain straightforward. Let them deal.

I want to believe good things about the people I love. Manipulative people assume that my guileless demeanor disguises something more sinister. I blew my sinister wad by the time I was fifteen in an effort to protect my vulnerable heart. Thereafter, I took a sink or swim attitude and learned  about gray areas. The ability to float gave me time to figure out how to survive.

My boldest move? Even with my checkered family history and swearing I'd never have children . . . I did. Happy babies came out of me. They taught me an important lesson: we are not born to misery. Joy in life is our human birthright. I suspected this, but my childhood had filled me with doubt.   


This much I know: Reconciling with people you love is the right thing to do. Give those people a second chance, a third, a fourth or more. A close-knit family is a fervent wish of mine; I keep the lines of communication open with my sons and encourage them to stay in contact with each other. Conflict doesn’t bother me if everyone has the same goal of working toward resolution. My natal family liked to sweep everything under the carpet and ignore the problems and their feelings except for the angry, bitter or hurt ones. They refused to take responsibility for their actions. Placing blame on others was the easy way out. 

The secrets crept out anyway. 
                                                                                                        
Mom, the way I like to remember her.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Character Highlights and the Dark Heartbeat of The Sandoval Sisters' Secret: Interview

Appeared July 7, 2014 in

Sandra Ramos O'Briant large

Stephanie: Pilar wants the freedom to pursue whatever she wants when she wants it.There are usually consequences to the decisions and actions we make in life that affect others around us when we want to just do what we want. Are there consequences for Pilar and how does her behavior affect the people around her?
Sandra: The youngest Sandoval sister, Pilar, had a taste of independence few women received in 19thcentury New Mexico, but just because she liked it doesn’t mean she was willful, spoiled or flamboyant. If radar had been in use in the Territory of New Mexico circa 1840, Pilar would have flown right under it. If anything, she’s guileless and assumes that others are equally open. This aspect of her personality is what gets her into trouble. Her mother died giving birth to her and left Oratoria, the eldest adopted sister, in charge of her sisters. She had been bought by the Sandovals for a sack of flour when she was eight-years-old. 
     Oratoria did not mistake Pilar’s wildness for impetuousness, but rather thought it a gift. When Pilar is betrothed to the much older Geraldo, she doesn’t run off or commit some heedless act-she accepts her fate.
     Geraldo is the perfect man for her sister, one who also prizes her “non-traditional” characteristics. My readers love Geraldo and I’m frequently asked where they can meet a man like him. He’s patient and knowledgeable about women. He doesn’t want her to have children while she’s still so young. This necessitated researching birth control methods in that time period. All of which Pilar and Geraldo use. A lot.
     Oratoria tells him, “Witches do not ride broomsticks on moonlit nights. They prefer stallions.” Pilar, on the other hand, scoffs at the whole notion of witchcraft, even when she personally suffers from its effects.
Sandra's Book Cover
And a bit of the dark heartbeat of the story:
Stephanie:  What are some of the prejudices and superstitions you feel that these women in your story face?

Sandra: My maternal grandmother was a Sandoval. In her home, there were santos, statues of saints and little altars, in every room. Many homes in Santa Fe were the same. Sounds all holy, doesn’t it? The flip side to this idolatry was a deep-seated belief that demons and witches live amongst us. In Northern New Mexico ancestor stories were interwoven with tales of witchcraft. The ritualistic power of feverish faith could be as simple as making the sign-of-the-cross over a whiff of bad luck, or carrying a wooden cross and wearing a crown of thorns in a secret ceremony, or perhaps self-flagellation. These same cultural aspects were even more evident at the time of my story.

     Back then, a whirlwind of change had descended on Santa Fe when both Texas and the U.S. decided they wanted to control the Santa Fe Trail. The people in the far northern reaches of New Spain had been isolated for two hundred years. They lacked education, and their livelihood was subsistence based. Many of their ancestors had fled the Inquisition in Spain or been banished to the remote outer regions of New Spain. 

     In my story, the Sandovals are set apart: “. . . others feared the awakening of dark powers for which the Sandovals had always been suspect. Not only had they acquired wealth in a desert frontier, they had survived Indians and epidemics while others perished. They could read, too, and their home was sumptuous with white marble pier tables, Brussels carpets and wood floors. This, while many New Mexicans lived in one-room adobe hovels alongside their goats. To make matters worse, they were handsome people. All good reasons to fear and respect them.”

     When Alma elopes with Bill and runs off to Texas with him she encounters prejudice of a different sort: she’d married into a slave-holding culture. Texas had fought hard for its independence from Mexico, and most of its Spanish-speaking residents had fled; Texans made few distinctions between Blacks and Mexicans, and the Texas Rangers were known to have lynched Mexicans. Alma’s former position in society was worthless in this new environment, but she made the most of the few friendships she made there, even training with the town doctor.

     When she returned to New Mexico, widowed and childless, she treated anyone who needed her help, including the prostitutes in a brothel. The community didn’t approve of this. They also didn’t approve of Pilar’s relationship with Monique, the half-Indian madam of the brothel.  “To the alchemy of whores and witches,” Monique said. 

     The people had lost land, been conquered by the U.S. and they were ready to place blame. The Sandoval sisters were an easy target and the crowd repeats this little ditty, “A father dies, a husband, too, and the widows, sisters all, dance under the witches’ moon.”

     Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudun was an influence on my work.  It’s a history of alleged demonic possession, religious fanaticism, and mass hysteria in 17th century France.  When I read about religious persecution in the “modern” world and the effort to slut-shame women (sexual persecution), I think of this untidy piece of history.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Sandra Ramos O’Briant, who is the author of The Sandoval Sister’s Secret of Old Blood, one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as The Sandoval Sister’s Secret of Old Blood merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.
*Stephanie M. Hopkins conducts author interviews and helps promote the B.R.A.G. Medallion. Participates in the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. She has reviewed books for the Historical Novel Society, is Co-Admin of English Historical Fiction Authors Group on Facebook. The original interview can be read in its entirety by clicking here

Sunday, July 06, 2014

The Difference Between Wealth and Money


Been sidelined with life, but like all of you I can't ignore what's happening in our country and in our world. The financial news is harrowing, the numbers staggering, and I can't keep the words "Worldwide Depression," out of my mind.  I've started to hoard cans of beans and fruit, and yet I live in paradise, pick oranges and lemons off a tree in my backyard, and grow vegetables year round.  I have a husband who loves me and healthy, smart children.  The sun feels good on my skin and I love to dance whenever I can, but the bottom line for the middle-class American has been shrinking. Yes, our money is diminished, but the good news is the wealth in America, our wealth, has not lessened.

There's a difference between wealth and money, people. Alan Watts said that forty years ago. It's the difference between actual resources, the bone and muscle and materials required to build a dam, repair a pot hole, or fix a fence . . . and a system of numbers invented to keep us organized.  He gave an example of a home builder showing up at a project only to find the foreman and all the workmen doing nothing.

"We can't work today," the foreman explained, "cause we ran out of inches."

The builder looked around the project.  There were materials: lumber, nails, tools and the manpower necessary to get the job done, but w/o inches --- an arbitrary quantifier --- no one was working.

We have worldwide resources in humanity and we just need the will to get what needs to be done done. The hell with the numbers. Let's fix stuff!

If Alan Watts' example doesn't work for you.  Try Deepak Chopra over at the Huffington Post.

Previously appeared here on 7/21/12, but needs to be aired again.