Sunday, March 30, 2008

Kathy and the Post-it Vandal

I got yet another email remarking on how amazing my friends are. This one from an old friend whose emails have been a new light in my life the past few days. It gave me an idea to profile different members of the Driving Miss Craisy group since they are such amazing women. We begin with Kathy because she was very silly yesterday and made me laugh til I pulled a muscle.

Let me try to explain Kathy S. if I can. Remember how the soldiers in the Nam were cautioned that “Charlie” was everywhere and to be afraid of the harmless old lady, the sweet little kid? Kathy has that level of stealth. She appears to be a normal suburban mom. She has two beautiful, polite and good natured children, a charming and handsome businessman husband who chuckles benevolently at my offensive jokes, a gorgeous and immaculate home and a hybrid SUV. Her hair is perfectly in place and tastefully styled, she’s slender, beautiful and well-dressed – achieving that balance of youthful but not trying too hard to be youthful. She plays bunko.

Don’t be fooled.

Kathy is in reality an irreverent, wickedly funny weirdo. This is a woman who (along with her henchwoman who I’ll write about another day) bought me an inflatable redheaded doll to give to my then-husband so as to free up my time. ( the doll ended up usurping me in the holiday greeting card the following year…we clothed her don’t worry) Kathy is forever plotting little practical jokes all of which amuse me to no end but yesterday’s was delicious.

Kathy had driven Mac and me to our rehearsal 2 days ago where she had witnessed me stopping Mac from putting graffiti on a sign. Now Mac and I were the ones who thought of crucifying a giant easter bunny on the huge illuminated cross that sits on public land near our home ( a protest bunny – like whatever happened to separation of church and state? ) I have no problem with public protest but somehow I am jarred by graffiti. Kathy suggested post-it notes, which made us laugh out loud at its sheer lameness as an act of civil disobedience. The post-it vandal.

Well the next day, she shows up with a bag of large, extra-sticky post its, a thick black marker and a mask…made from a giant post-it with two eyeholes cut out. Mac donned the mask, rolled on the ground a few times to his target looked stealthily in both directions and placed his protest post-it on the offending sign while we cracked up. The post-it vandal concept is actually quite ingenious. All over campus I saw silly post-it messages signed “the post-it vandal.” Add that to the life-worth-living list.

I love the way Kathy’s eyes twinkle when she or someone else has made a wicked joke or practical joke. Her whole face is illuminated. I love the way she swoops in and puts her arm into the arm of a homeless man and gently, lovingly guides him from a club where he’s unwittingly become the center of a mounting scene. I love how she takes a project on ( now mac and me) like a mission and how indefatigable she is to that end. Or the way she devours a book. Or plans a public pillow fight. Or clips articles about brutal dictators for my son instead of being horrified that he’s interested in them.

We are none of us what we seem. We are an astonishing and often irritating mix of contradictions, surprises and revelations that take one’s breath away.

I want to put a post-it somewhere – maybe the pedestrian overpass by University Ave, maybe the boys bathroom at Bentley, maybe outside a Bunko game she’s attending that says I >heart< Kathy! Signed, the Post-it Vandal.

Stay tuned for more Dmc profiles in the future.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Kim's Essay

My friend Kim is a wonderful writer and actress and mom. She and I have collaborated on a few projects and it's always been a great learning experience for me as she's quite brilliant. Anyhoo, she wrote the essay below and I have her permission to share it here. You may notice a few differences between her account of boogie boarding etc and mine but that's one of the things I love about stories - once you tell them they don't belong to you anymore - they become part of something we all share and remember the way it serves us. I love Kim's take on all of this craziness - she is fearless and never backs away from the real shit. Anyway - here's her piece:

Life is Short by Kim Porter

If ever I’m in a cemetery I seek out the children’s graves. They’re easy to spot from a distance as their silhouettes are often softened with heaps of sun-bleached stuffed animals, whirling pin-wheels or holiday decorations. I like to stand in front of the headstone and try to absorb the details. “Candace Bell March 15, 1987- July 14, 1992. In our hearts forever.” Counting on my fingers I work out her age. She was only 5. Someone has left a tiny porcelain bell here. I ring it. I bring her first to life in my mind’s eye and then to death. I calculate how long she’s been gone. 16 years. That’s sad. Stale grief is lonelier; fewer companions remain to carry the torch. Somewhere out there, Candace Bell’s mother and father alone, still long for the weight of that 5 year old in their arms. Or perhaps their marriage dissolved under the burden, and now they must walk their lives with a lump in the throat that can never be spit-out nor swallowed. I cry freely now, and move on to the next head stone, and, after that one, another. If permitted I will gorge myself on other people’s grief until my face is fiery and swollen and I have to breathe through my mouth. I’ll weep until I’m punchy or until my companion’s tolerance for this spectacle wears out.
Surprisingly, some people don’t find vicarious grief as rewarding as I do. My husband for one.
My husband thinks I’m out of my mind. He can’t appreciate the curative effect I experience from dwelling on the macabre.
“What if one of our children died?” I often ask him. “How would you feel?”
“I don’t know. How would I feel? Awful, I guess.”
“But, would you be devastated?” I probe. “I’d be devastated.”
“I don’t want to think about this.” He sneers, irritated.
But, I do. I got hooked on the wake-up call of tragedy when my estranged father died suddenly when I was 29. I instantly knew so many things I’d never thought I needed to know. For instance: anger isn’t the opposite of love, life is too short to tolerate the tantrums of self-absorbed co-workers no matter how statuesque they are, and you can never get back the years squandered waiting for life to commence. I woke up. I was still alive. Sure, the grief was crushing, but the gift was brilliant. I was grateful, actively grateful, finally grateful to be alive.

Life is short.
But, so, apparently is my attention span. Because, before I was aware, I was standing in the kitchen bitching that nobody’d started the coffee yet, and who left these legos for me to tread upon and, why can’t I just get a break from the children’s persistent chatter? Here I was again, taking my life for granted.
So, I’ve learned to look at the post-cards of missing children delivered in the mail with the Safeway circular and imagine if it was one of mine. I read news articles about the tragic and untimely deaths of innocent people. Oprah is a good source for pathos, as are AP photos, tornados, school shootings, car jackings, drunk drivers, and attacks by roaming bands of pit-bulls.
Maintaining a state of gratitude for more than a few moments at a time is hard work. My husband doesn’t understand that I don’t enjoy, not entirely anyway, having to conjure virtual grief by imagining the unimaginable, but somebody’s got to keep us loving life.
A few weeks ago my friend took her teenaged son to Mexico to go boogie boarding one last time before it was too late. The way she described it, her board and her gloved left hand were out-fitted in Velcro. She hobbled out into the surf, her boy bolstering her against the battering waves. For more than an hour they inched into the ocean. When she was finally deep enough to paddle she discovered she could no longer paddle. And so, amid tears and laughter, she had to acknowledge it was already too late to boogie board one last time. So, they went to a cock-fight instead.
My friend was diagnosed with ALS shortly after Halloween when she went to the doctor with a stiff thumb. By St. Patrick’s Day she’d said goodbye to walking without braces, driving, the use of her left hand, swimming, zipping her favorite pants, closet doors, and hitting the high notes. In the near future, as futures go, she will say goodbye to sitting unassisted, chewing and swallowing, communicating with her voice and ultimately, breathing. And then, my friend will say goodbye to life.
My friend is no longer burdened by the petty struggle to appreciate life.
I wish she were.

The Trouble with Alsi

A lot of the ALS handbooks tell you to get an electric wheelchair before you need one. My occupational therapist also suggested this and I of course resisted. I am a youngish, good looking, dynamic person and my self-image collides with the image of myself in a wheelchair. It’s tiring to direct a show however, and so I have surrendered once again to this disease which is meaner and more spiteful than a middle school girl. I think I’ll call her Alsi. Bitch.

So the reason you need to get a wheelchair before you need one is learning curve. The scooter I’ve borrowed can be set to turtle or rabbit. I of course prefer rabbit but there’s the problem of head on collisions with elevator walls, chiding sons and furniture, which refuses to get the hell out of my way. Day one I left a path of debris in my wake. My students cheered when I entered which made Mac feel bad. “They should have just made a joke at your expense,” he said “ I know you hate that ‘go wheelchair girl’ stuff.”

Here’s what I know for sure: 1) wheelchairs are preferable to scooters. Scooters are for old ladies and they are harder to parallel park – it’s an SUV compared to my dear Miata. Ain’t no way to pass a scooter off as a Harley – or even a Harley compatible 2) rabbit is more fun than turtle even if you crash 3) the horn on these things is useless. I use it to make the beep beep sound when people back up a truck but it won’t get anyone out of my way. I need to rig the wheelchair I will soon own with something louder – a bike horn or a recorded voice saying “I’m sorry Hal, I can’t do that” or something like that. 4) maybe a bumper sticker that says “if you patronize me, I will haunt you.” This is my latest and I think most effective and all purpose threat.

In other news I had trouble getting down to sit on the toilet at 4 am the other morning and I blamed Alsi only to discover that somebody had left the toilet seat up. Since Mac was at his dad’s that night I had to conclude that either someone had snuck in just to lift the seat because I don’t have enough to complain about or I had left my own seat up. I think it was the latter which means I am so lonely for the company of a man that I’m leaving my own damn toilet seat up! That’s funny.

In other news, saying goodbye to stylish deck chairs I can no longer get in and out of, resolved to wear my cell around my neck because I can’t bear the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” necklace and getting back on the horse as it were to try singing again next week. Also going to do the improv freeze at the SF Ferry Terminal. That should be fun.
Oh yeah, and I’m going to spread mean rumors about Alsi to all the other girls. That’ll show her.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

more on partici-blog

Okay, so the thing is I’m greedy. I hungrily open the email for your blog comments and thrill each time a list of “life worth livings” comes in. I want more, more, more! I love to hear about the tiny moments in your lives that are too enormous to comprehend fully. I love picturing you taking a moment to think of these things, maybe hugging your kid afterwards and when I read them, I’m in the desert or reading that novel or crawling into bed with your boyfriend ( Hey, any port in a storm!) Keep on writing those lists please! They keep me going and fill me with deep joy. Scroll down to the next blog and hit comments. Just do it!! Also if you haven't read the comments, they're out of this world! Everyone who reads this blog apparently is a poet.

I leave you with this from OUR TOWN by Thornton Wilder who puts it as well as anyone, methinks. Emily has come back to earth in this scene. She's already dead. Her mother can't hear her.

Emily: …but, just for a moment now we're all together. Mama, just for a moment we're happy. Let's really look at one another!...I can't. I can't go on.It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another. I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back -- up the hill -- to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-bye , Good-bye world. Good-bye, Grover's Corners....Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking....and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths....and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth,you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every,every minute?

Stage Manager: No. (pause) The saints and poets, maybe they do some.

Emily: I'm ready to go back.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


I have a cool idea, which is for everyone who reads this blog to write a comment with one or more things that make life worth living for them. It can be something as simple as your morning walk, key lime pie or an episode of the Sopranos. I don’t know what to do with them beyond recording them and putting them all together, but I think it would be fun.

My list is infinite and grows every day. Maclen, soy chai lattes, moments turned into snapshots because they’ve yanked me into now, little kids, immature people who behave like kids, stupid stuff on youtube, my ever expanding circle of beloveds, music, tears, being silly, being really silly, my deck, the color orange, being loved, making something, Maclen’s singing, yoga, walking, singing, Gina selling her bra on the golden gate bridge, listening to great singers, AWOL – past and present, the LK travel agency, the magic that happens when a group of women get together to help someone, the magic that happens when a man and a woman get together with no benevolent purpose in mind, run and gun basketball, some of the magic moments of Bird, Magic, Kareem in their heyday and recent heartbreakers with folks like Nash and Amare, poems, emails from my dad, El Ninjo Tarantula, Maclen’s laugh, funny people, the moment you get an idea, sleepovers, fat babies, Annabel saying “Auntie Cawla”, shufflin’ the IPOD, lavender oil, middle-aged women who aren’t afraid to play dress-up, singing improvised tavern songs in a tavern, a clear warm night, John R’s quips, green wheat-free, dairy-free baked goods, typing, Jason singing a Sinatra song, creating stuff, gerber daisies, Shakespeare in Love, foot rubs and saying a joke at the same moment Maclen makes the same joke and so much much more.

Okay, now you.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Audacity of Hope.

I have to admit, he grew on me. It took a long time too. First off, there was the other guy: assertive, direct, with a movie star smile. The other guy was almost too good looking but his mind – wow! He could best every guy in the room with his youthful grin and intellectual prowess. How could I possibly give my heart to the tall skinny guy who seemed almost too conciliatory, too nice. I have always been suspicious of the motives of nice men. I can’t bring myself to believe they aren’t just tricking me.

I took me a long time to face that it was over with the man I had originally chosen. I ignored all the signs and kept hoping that it would work out. It didn’t. It was time to settle. I turned my attention to the skinny guy. I reluctantly acknowledged his funny lines, his quick responses, his sincerity, though I still wasn’t quite sure about him. Someone would compliment him and I would say “yah, but…”

I remember the moment when it started to turn for me: it was when I saw him dancing, oddly enough. He was totally in his body. He was sexy, self-assured but not too full of himself either. He was one with the music and I totally believed him. “Okay,” I thought “time to get to know this guy better.”

Truth be told, I was scared. I have been let down so many times before by so-called nice guys – a promise of something real dangled in front of me only to be snatched away by a moment of dishonesty, compromise or cowardice. At least with the bad boys you know what you‘re getting. Guaranteed heartbreak – no surprises. Bad boys are seductive. They’re primitive and overly macho but absolutely certain about who they are.

Then a couple of days ago came the speech and folks, I was hooked. When he speaks sometimes, that skinny guy grows bigger than this whole wide world. He eloquently addressed the race issue in this country in a way that no presidential candidate has ever done before. He condemned the words of his minister while acknowledging his affection and ties to the pastor and pointing out the complexity that is in all of us. He was honest, direct and real and it showed in every gesture, every eye movement, every beat of his speech. If he were an actor I would have said it was a perfect performance but that’s the thing about him. He’s not an actor. He’s a man. He’s a real, flesh and blood human being. He’s the kind of person you hope will run for President but never does. He’s brilliant but he has a heart. He refuses to use the Democratic playbook and that may be why he’ll pull this off.

I don’t know if he will win but he’s won my heart, which has been broken every four years since I worked for the second McGovern campaign, which has calcified out of fear that my giving my heart to a candidate guarantees that he’ll lose, which still longs to believe in a political figure just one more time.

This is why finally, happily, and with cautious optimism, I am supporting Barack Obama for President.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

War and PeaceMeal - The Musical

I start rehearsals for my last College of Marin show tonight. We had our first production meeting yesterday and I was in the zone – laughing, joking coming up with utterly scandalous and inappropriate ideas ( my favorite kind) for costumes, plot, staging etc. I was on. Then something shifted and I was scared. I could feel my muscles fatiguing, my breathing getting more labored and I thought – can I do this? I mean I could barely do this when I was healthy!

I don’t know how to downshift and I need to learn fast. But in truth I’d rather not learn. I love the adrenaline rush you get from creating something from nothing, from herding unruly cats and creating something magic through sheer force of will. It’s a rewarding thing and like all rewarding things, it’s hard as hell.

Last night I likened it to having a kid – 34 hours of pain and nausea and great discomfort, years without 8 hours uninterrupted sleep, all-nighters with the croup and for what? For this walking miracle whose mere presence makes life worth living, that’s what. I would go through all of it again for just one more day with my boy. Everything worth having seems to require a certain amount of pain and discomfort. It makes the simple times so very very sweet, the hard fought accomplishments such treasures. I want to experience that again.

I want to make an audience laugh from their bellies until they leak. I want to give them a moment that takes their breath away. I want them to find themselves discreetly wiping away a tear. “You see I want a lot" said Rilke "perhaps I want everything:the darkness that comes with every infinite fall and the shivering blaze of every step up” and why not?

In the meantime, everywhere I go there is love – in places both expected and totally unexpected.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Since there were so many comments on the last blog I decided to write a blog in response.

1) Your blog comments, phone calls and emails were overwhelming. I will have these words ( and all the others you have written) to cherish for the rest of my life and then Mac will have them and he will know that I was surrounded by love and I was so damned lucky. Receiving all of these responses made me smile and weep, sometimes at the same time. Nobody really knows how big of an impact they have on someone’s life but rest assured you all have had a HUGE impact on mine. I’m humbled in the face of such compassion.
2) The gigs coming up are: April 12, 8pm Steinway Hall, LA ( it’s a benefit organized by my agent and called “A Carlabration”. I’ll be doing 15 minutes at the end); May 6 – a benefit at Yoshi’s in Oakland organized by Mike Zilber, my “babydaddy” – again I’ll be doing a few numbers and June 14 at the Jazzschool in Berkeley – that one is all mine with my fabulous band from the cd that I mentioned in the last blog. My son and my students and I are also collaborating on a piece that will open at College of Marin on April 25 and run for 3 weekends. It's a musical comedy about the Iraq War and other stupid things. This will be my last show.
3) I had the same vocal problems in the studio today but I didn’t let it get to me. Some days you break down like Bob Dylan’s little girl and some days you just say, “okay you cocksucker gods, bring it on.”

I am feeling all your hugs and I’m drinking in all this love.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A truly depressing blog only for the strong of heart

I’m in the studio this week recording songs for a new record. Not the record that is coming out any time now, a record to stay in the cans for a year or so and to be released at a later date. The idea is I don’t know how long I’ll be singing so I need to get this stuff done now. I have had more than one moment during the session where I haven’t been able to make my voice do what it is supposed to do. It may be that it’s harder to control my diaphragm or it may be that I’m just weak and tired. Either way it is a peek into the distance of an impending goodbye and it cut deep. How will I live if I can’t sing?

So much of the time in the studio has been magical. The quips of the piano player, the inspired brilliance of the musicians, the support of these dear guys who are such wonderful human beings. I love the moment when a group of musicians happen on an idea all at the same time. There’s nothing like it, except maybe a first kiss when you’re not sure who initiated it. Pure magic. The toll of course is that it’s taking every bit of me just to do this.

Today I told Jon Evans, the producer/bass player that I didn’t know how to be professional in the studio and have ALS. The day had begun with me trying to wrestle with my new leg braces. It took a half an hour to get them on and a lot of tears. Plus they’re ugly as sin and don’t accommodate a lot of my clothes and shoes. I will say that they make me walk MUCH better so there’s that. Later at the studio a car salesman came by to show me a wheelchair accessible PT Cruiser convertible. I thought it would cheer me up to see it but then he told me he had driven it down here for a man with ALS but in between the ordering of the car and the delivery the guy died. So did my good mood. I went back to the studio and tried to sing but the notes just don’t come out how I want and one song was so hard to do energetically that I had to stop. I can’t even get through this song that I’ve sung so many times. It’s times like this that I don’t know if I have the emotional strength to get through this bitch.

Jon was sweet and encouraging. He explained that this was hard for him too but being from New England it doesn’t show. He also pointed out that while I can’t do what I want to with my voice I can still do more than a lot of other singers can. It’s just a matter of shifting perspective. He put on the next song and told me he knew I could do it. I went up to the mic and put on the headphones and there’s his lyrical bass lines and David Rokeach’s sensitive drums having a conversation with me and John R. Burr’s breathtaking piano and these lyrics:

When this old world starts a getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I’m gonna climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares they drift right into space
Oh on the roof it’s peaceful as can be
And there the world below it don’t bother me
So when I come home feeling tired and beat
I got to go up where the air is fresh and sweet
I get far away from the hustle and crowd
And all that rat race noise out on the street
On the roof it’s the only place I know
Where you just have to wish to make it so
Let’s go up on my roof.

This is the part where I always tell you about how I felt some sort of light or redemption – a moment of clarity, of being fully awake. And I did. And there was. I try to write these moments poetically so we can all find some beauty in this shitbag. But I don’t feel like writing about that today. Today I want to write about being scared and sad.

I wonder sometimes about spilling my guts on this blog. How is it for my family whose grief is as big as mine? For my friends who give and give with no hope of repayment? Is it easier to envision me the plucky fighter with the wicked wit who doesn’t have these days? Are my tales from Lake Woe –is-Me getting old? I wonder these things and while I try (and usually succeed) every day to laugh and have genuine fun, here on this blog I think it’s right that you know that I’m struggling just like everyone who loves me is to make sense of all of this. I haven’t even begun the tough part of this disease and it’s already so much to hold. Most days I laugh a lot and don’t cry at all. Most days I am filled with awe and gratitude. But today I feel very small and I just want someone to hold me.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

I've got a girlfriend that's better than that....

I’m an open wound today. I said goodbye to my two oldest friends, Janet and Moira who traveled from Powell River, B.C. and Seattle respectively for a surprise reunion. There is no one quite like your childhood friends. I see that with Mac and the kids from the Mom’s Cult. You can be whoever you are with your childhood friends, not talk for years, have nothing in common – you name it – and they are still your friends.

Moira and Janet are polar opposites but the love between them is too strong for that to be a hindrance. I was the bridge between nature walks and pedicures and loved my role. So picture if you will, 3 misfits who through some miracle find one another and instead of retreating into their lonely imaginary worlds, collaborate on a collective imaginary world full of dancing, plays, imaginary worlds of people made out of cotton from pill bottles and glue on eyes, formal (19th century) tea parties and lots of Beatles music. These girls saved my life. At a time when I didn’t want to be alive at all, they were there even though we’d separated to three different high schools. And here they are again at a critical juncture in my life making me laugh and cry. They’ve both turned into amazing women with wonderful and rewarding lives but I can still see those two little girls who for reasons no one can remember called me “Carla Fay.”

Thursday was a banner day. My friends for a mere 15 years met my friends of 35 years and they all set about to organizing my closet so that the clothes that are easy to put on are easily accessible. I mentioned that the closet doors are getting hard for me to open and close and boom – off they came. Janet and Kathy jumped right to it. You can’t imagine the determination and industry in that room. It was almost terrifying. Edith has this uncanny sense of color and style, Kris has great organizing skills and can make a closet look like a work of art, Kathy has a sense of purpose and ability to get things done that would shame most 4 star generals and Wendy….the ultimate multi-talent – updated the website and took home a ton of clothes to adapt AND brought me cute clothes and wheat-free baked goods. I think she wants to fatten me up so she can eat me. I loved watching how Moi and Janet just jumped into the fray, sewing, ironing, making snacks and how my other amazing friends just welcomed them into the fold.

I always admire writers who find the poetry in these scenes. Scenes of women just simply being there for one another, showing up without expectation of payback or acknowledgment. Of women who accept one another and love the flaws, the contradictions, the baffling aspects and quirks of personality. I look back on my account of the closet party and think “How could I tell this in a way that conveys the well-choreographed dance that took place in my bedroom that day? How could I write the inexpressible beauty of the moment when I cried to say goodbye to a pair of pants and didn’t have to fear judgment or explain such silliness? How could I find a way to tell you, dear reader, how utterly beautiful these 6 women are inside and out?”

I have resigned myself to the fact that odds are I will probably never have another long term relationship with a man but I have to say there has never been so much love in my bedroom as there was Thursday morning and I wouldn’t trade that for Johnny Depp.
( Johnny if you’re reading this, I’m sure we can work out some sort of arrangement, I was just being rhetorical.)

There is no way I can ever pay any of these women back. Nothing I could possibly do would suffice. All I can do is try to find a way to write them into your hearts.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Pelea de Gallo - Chapter 3 of the Sayulita Chronicles

The hand written sign in the center of town reads “Pelea de Gallo 12:00 Domingo. Traiga su Propio Gallo” or in English: Cockfight, noon on Sunday. Bring your own rooster. No indication of where said cockfight will occur.
“Let’s go” I say.
“Are you nuts?” laughs Mac. He knows the answer, later confirmed by his best friend who asks his Mom " Has Carla lost her mind?"
“Okay, let’s do it.” Maclen shakes his head in bewilderment and laughs. I point to a man in a ten gallon hat, stringy moustache and a row of gold filled teeth – not rapper teeth mind you – just gold fillings with white tooth surrounding each one. He could be one of the dead guys or soon to be dead guys in No Country for Old Men. “He is surrounded by apparent extras from that movie.
“Go ask him where the cockfight is” I say.
“Okay then tell me what to say”
Mac fixes me with a look. He’s wondering how I will offend them if I ask. After all, I have been saying goodbye to everyone we meet by using one word – “enough!” I thought I was saying “later” as in "later, dude!"
“Fine, I’ll go” he says
Mac asks Gold Incisor “Donde la pelea de Gallo”
Everything in Sayulita is “that way”.
“Ask him to be more specific”
“Ju are luking for dee cokefight, Amiga?” Gold Incisor is joined by Jeri Curl man who wears a Corona muscle shirt and speaks a little English.
“That way.”
“I know, but exactly what does that mean?”
“To the freeWAY. Take a right. It’s on dee left. “
These directions, by the way are completely false.
We ask people along the way for slightly more specific instructions. NO one seems to know. Alvarro, the hotel owner says “ I don’t like cockfights.”
“I know, neither do we. It’s just sort of an anthropological excursion.”
“ I preefair dee bool fight.”
We ask the proprietors of the burger joint whose voices suddenly get much louder.
“Coke fight? Ju wan to go to dee coke fight?”
They raise an eyebrow and then: “That way.”

Maclen is getting a little nervous about the whole this-is –an-insane-and-potentially-dangerous-idea- thing. I point out to him that at no point has anyone said “Please Senora, do not go to the cockfight, it is too dangerous for your lily white ass.” Which I take as a good sign.
Alvaro has an idea where we should go and he drives us to the Pelea de Gallo when our cab never arrives – this happens frequently in Sayulita.
“I ask dem why they don come and they say the drivers, he is at they houses.” Apparently this is a compelling reason for not picking up a fare.
When we arrive, Alvarro goes and talks to the “proprietors” in Spanish. They explain that the “qualified cocks” haven’t arrived yet. I can relate. The fights will start “maybe one thirty.” An hour and a half late – what kind of cockfight are they running here!
Alvaro drops us back in town and we find a taxi later that day and show him how to get to the ring. We tell him to return for us in half an hour – plenty of time to indulge in the whole cockfight experience. We pay our money and get seats ringside. This is not recommended for those of you planning on running out to a cockfight after reading this blog. I could live the rest of my life quite content to NEVER have the dusty feathers of a nearly dead rooster fly into my face. A crusty older lady comes by and demands vente pesos. I explain that we paid already and she says louder VENTE PESOS. So I pay her. Courtside seats, I suppose. She returns with two beers and I explain that we don’t want beers and that Maclen is a “ninjo.” She says something quickly in spanish and huffs off with the beers. Apparently, according to Mac, she said “Fine, if he’s going to be a little girl about it.” Or something to that effect. We don't get the vente pesos back.
The weighing in of the roosters is a complicated process, which seems to involve a lot of discussion and standing around. One of the cocks is very aggressive and attacks when put on the scale. Who says chickens are dumb? They put a sack over his head to protect the officials and Maclen says “Oh my god, it’s a rooster Abu Graib!” Meanwhile, bets are being collected and it’s unclear how you know which cock you’re betting on. The inside of the ring has advertisements for local strip clubs and other ads with scantily clad women in extremely degrading poses. It’s a very macho scene and I know I’m officially old and crippled because no one is giving me the eye. Quite frankly it’s insulting.
Finally the fight begins. The cock to the right attacks. The cock on the left is on his back, feet straight up in the air. Feathers fly…into my face. I sputter. The man on the left looks at his rooster and puts him back on his feet for round two.
“You can do it Rock!”
“I can’t Mick, you gotta cut me.”
Okay they didn’t actually say this.
I know Amy Sedaris and Bob Barker are hating me at this point, but PETA aside, this is rather fascinating. I don’t eat chicken or turkey – I’m kind to animals - but this is really interesting, I’m sorry, okay?
Round two lasts about 5 seconds. Cock on the left continues to be cock on the right’s bitch. Cock on the left lies there feet in the air. His “manager” opens his beak and administers the breath of life.
Oh yes he does!!! I never thought I would live to see a man blow life into his cock to get it upright again.
Sorry, had to go there.
It’s the final round. Cock on the right doesn’t really give a shit anymore. This is insulting. He is meant for nobler fights than this. I think I speak for the superior rooster when I say I suspect cock on the left was taking a dive. Cock on the left just lies there. He seems to be saying “Hey guys, I ‘m like dead now so let’s just call it a day, okay?” He’s not dead but I wouldn’t be buying any roadside chickens tonight.
“Ain’t gonna be no rematch.”
“Don’t want one.”
The fight is over rather anti-climatically. No one even holds up a victory claw. Our cab driver reappears and informs us that he is more than happy to wait an hour or so and watch with us, no charge. It takes a bit of convincing to let him know that we’re done and ready to go home after one fight.
We return to town and to our hotel to our guardian angel, Alvarro.
“Did ju see dee cokefight?”
“Yes, we certainly did.”
“You don like?”
“no, we don’t like it much.
“I don like either. I preefair dee bools.”
Yes, you mentioned…..
I can’t explain this to Alvarro but truth be told, I went to the fights for one reason and one reason only. In case Maclen ever decides to be a writer I thought the perfect first line to a short story would be “The year my Mom got diagnosed with ALS, we went to a cockfight in Mexico.”

Sunday, March 02, 2008


My friend Lisa should be a travel agent. Her Maui was unlike the Maui I had previously experienced – all tree houses and yerts and bamboo rainforests – and her Mexico is definitely off the beaten track. At her recommendation we went to Sayulita where the waves are ideal for boogie boarding….if you read the last blog entry you know how that story ends….

Sayulita is an ideal town for someone who can’t drive since the town is tiny and everything is compressed into a 20 minute walk from everything else. It’s not so ideal for someone who has trouble walking however since the road surfaces resemble the moon with some craters so deep that a small car wouldn’t make it over them. Amazingly enough I didn’t step in any poo while I was there which is shocking since wild dogs roam the streets (and restaurants!) and men trot by on horses all day.

Everything takes 5 minutes in Sayulita – though Sayulita minutes are much much longer than US minutes apparently. Everything is 5 minutes away, every meal will take 5 minutes, it will be 5 minutes before your table is ready. A half an hour later you’re seated.

All the directions are exactly the same. Everything is that way. It doesn’t matter how many turns you need to take or how many blocks you need to go. It actually makes sense since there are NO road signs (and that includes stop signs).

The people are unbelievably nice and the language barrier is somewhat bridged by good intentions. The food is wonderful, the atmosphere of the restaurants is perfect, the views are to die for (no pun intended).

We went on a boat with Solin who took us within 30 feet of a mother whale and her baby. It was incredible. The exact opposite of the Demitri Martin line: “I went on a whale watching trip once. It was just like watching a bunch of people on a boat looking disappointed.” At one point Solin said to us “look the mother is pushing the baby” and I cried it was just too poignant.

We also swam with dolphins. Another tear jerker. They are amazing creatures. My dear friend Leslie told me I should talk to them and ask them to heal me because they have healing powers. I did ask them….in dolphin….to help me out but when I said I had ALS they just said back to me ……in dolphin…..”ALS? Bummer. Good luck with that.” I didn’t realize until we were “swimming” with dolphins that I no longer swim. I can just feebly kick one leg and flail my arms about – I’m not even special Olympics caliber anymore. Mac pulled me when I couldn’t make it and the dolphins pushed me at warp speed, which was awesome. We also went on one of those giant water slides, which was another thing I probably shouldn’t do. Don’t get me wrong, I can be hurled around in an inner tube at dizzying speeds with no way to control myself as well as the next guy – it’s the disembark that isn’t actually possible. An awkward ballet ensued where Maclen had to endure what he generally calls a “Running with Scissors moment” extracting me from my inner tube. Comical and very inconvenient.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the trip was the fact that we accidentally arrived in the middle of “Sayulita Days” a fair, which attracts 10,000 extra people to the town. From our anecdotal experience attending the fair virtually ALL of those 10,000 people are Mexican. My favorite attractions were – in reverse order – the game where you knock over the pyramid of bottles…. only the bottles in this case were recycled from the drinking customers so they would shatter on contact with the ball, shards of glass flying everywhere; the dart/balloon game which boasted the grand prize of a lamentable painting of Jesus Christ bleeding from his crown of thorns, looking plaintively up to the heavens saying (in Spanish) “Forgive them”; and the piece de resistance: EL NINJO TARANTULA – a young boy whose head poked up from a disguised refrigerator box. He had furry legs attached to the side of his head and a furry tarantula body connected to the back of his head and a look on his face that clearly read “ I hate my life …and my Abuelo.” Abuelo colleted the money while a recorded voice touted the amazing wonders of the world’s only spider boy. It cost 2 pesos and was worth much much more. We savored being ever so briefly trapped in a Steve Buscemi movie. It was rich.

Speaking of loud speakers, they start at 6:30 imploring people to buy cilantro, petrol, bottled water you name it. It’s easy to see why a siesta is necessary since the battle of the bands went on until 3AM. I saw more tubas on this trip than I have seen in my entire life….and I went to a music conservatory! Every corner boasted a band and they went on and on all night long.

Mac and I are well-matched travelers. I’m sure he experienced more anxiety than he let on but he was game for going on all kinds of adventures with a non-spanish-speaking-cane-carrying-falling-down-mom who would inadvertently leave people by saying “ENOUGH!” instead of “later!” and who had no qualms about walking up to men with all gold teeth and asking how to find the cock fights.

I’m gonna make you wait for it. Tune in for further adventures of Crippled Gringa and her trusty sidekick Underage Boy as they travel through the seamy underworld of Los Gallos!