Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Letter to Howard Zinn

RIP Howard Zinn 1922-2010

Dearest Howard,

The world is mourning your loss today and attempting to comprehend the vastness of the empty space you leave behind. I can't stop thinking of the ways in which your wisdom and dedication to sharing the truth of America's history has forever changed me and carved me into the person I am today. I want to thank you.

It was in the early 1990's, while eagerly attending my first junior college courses that I was introduced to People's History. The instructor of the history class I was enrolled in informed us that your book was required reading, that it would shed lights upon the often forgotten and untold stories of those in our country who were not the winners; those who were not the heroes of the various battles we, as a nation, have faced. Your book shined a light on my own personal history as well and for that, I am forever grateful.

You may have heard this hundreds, maybe even thousands of times through your 87 years on our planet, but your teachings were the catalyst that shot me directly into my life as an activist. I devoured your book. And devoured it again when it was revised in its newest editions. And I cried. I cried in mourning of the people who stood so bravely before my time, only to be shot down- oftentimes quite literally- for working for a better world. I cried for the forgotten immigrant families from around the world and I was determined to somehow, in my measly little way, make sure their struggles were not in vain. A series of lights also ignited on a personal level when I realized that the uncontrollable angst and self-loathing in me weren't merely the norm for the youth of the day, but rather a result of the social constructs that were erected in order to keep poor women like me in our place. I no longer felt isolated or "crazy" for having the questions and feelings that came up in discussions about race and class and gender. And most importantly, through the knowledge I gleaned from your book, I found a community of others who were feeling the same.

Through the years, you came up repeatedly in conversations. After the war in Iraq began, your quote, "There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people", was secured to the bumper of the van that my children and I lived in while looking for housing. Strangers would often follow me to my destinations only to ask where the quote came from and so came opportunities for open dialogue about the state of the world- and so came a deeper sense of camaraderie and community in an often troubling and painful time in my life, and the life of many others across the planet.

I could write you volumes and critiques and reviews of the specifics of what you have written and how it has changed the course of history here in America, but somehow part of me knows- beyond a doubt- that you are cashing in your karmic currency and basking in the glory of the beautiful unknown for the work that you've done in all of our lives.

Cheers to you, Mr. Zinn. May you rest in the peace which you have earned.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Skunk Love

The icy air pours through nearby windows as I write. A hat is pulled down to cover my cold ears, and a fleece blanket is around my shoulders to protect me from the elements. I am cold and exhausted from another night of restless sleep, and sip my coffee in hopes of managing a productive day. No, I am not writing from some impoverished refugee camp, but rather from the long-gone comforts of my Santa Rosa home where I have found myself the unwilling madam of an under-the-house skunk brothel.

According to Marin County's WildCare, skunk breeding season is in full swing. During this time, they say, male skunks are more excitable and spray more readily, while the females often spray to get rid of potential mates when they aren't feeling the love. With the weather miserably wet, skunks seek refuge in dry places like basements or crawl spaces under homes, emitting a romp-fest-induced stench of gaseous clouds along with all-night torturous screeching and thumping. It's enough to push patience for the furry little lovers over the edge.

When the aromatherapy candles have burned down and the boiling vinegar—meant to neutralize the wretched odor—can no longer be tolerated, it is time to evict little Pepe le Pew and his stinky concubines. Though first instincts are to call animal control and have the pests removed, this is not the most humane of choices. Not only are trappers legally forbidden to relocate the animals, and therefore will usually release the critters within 100 yards of the trap site, many are required to exterminate the animals. DIY eviction is an alternative.

Wildlife experts give this advice: scatter flour or baby powder around all possible points of entry in the afternoon. As the creatures exit the open spaces, foot prints will be detectable, indicating that it is time to tightly cover these openings to deter the skunks elsewhere. With rain and wind fairly prevalent this time of year, these attempts may be tricky and do indeed take patience. After confirming that the annoying intruders have vacated the premises, get to work boarding up entryways and maybe installing skunk-sized electric fences. Finally, the windows can be closed again and cozy, indoor wintertime activities can resume.

For more information about humane animal removal, call Marin County's WildCare, 415.453.1000; Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, 707.526.9453; or the Wildlife Rescue Center of Napa County, 707.224.4295.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fresh Breath

Rose Logue, known to fans as Rose Harting until 2008, has won the hearts of many through her magnetic stage presence and her deeply soulful rendering of pop and R&B melodies from a petite 5-foot-6-inch frame. A native of Sonoma County, Logue has been singing and performing since childhood, most recently with the eponymous band she formed in 2007. Logue's spark has even graced the stages of Paris, France, where she lived and performed for several months in 2008. With her signature sparkly smile and untamable upbeat energy bursting from her, it is difficult to comprehend that Logue, nearly 34, suffers from cystic fibrosis (CF).

To date, there is no cure for CF, a life-threatening genetic disease that affects mucus levels in the lungs and pancreas, causing chronic infections and difficulty breathing. According to the National Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the average life expectancy has increased slightly over the years to age 37, up from age 32 in 2000. With often grim statistics about battling CF, Logue continues to beat the odds and is one of many who depends on medications, air-clearance techniques and proper nutrition to maintain quality of life.

Diagnosed as a child, Logue is no stranger to the various complications and health issues that arise, and recently spent several days in a Santa Rosa hospital. "It is a part of living with the disease," Logue says, refusing to let it hinder her positive attitude. She instead focuses energy on family and friends, music, a fairy-tale romance with her long-lost high school sweetheart, David Martini, and, of course, finding a cure for the disease.

Until now, Logue's disease-curing efforts for CF organizations have concentrated primarily on fundraising through her musical contributions (she has participated in Detroit's Rock CF concert and recorded on an album for the Seattle CF Foundation, among others). This year, though, Logue has stepped it up a notch, aiming to kick CF to the curb by training for a half marathon to benefit 65 Roses, a CF charity that pays for research projects, medications and other treatments for those living with the disease.
"I am running those 13.1 miles to raise money for people with CF," Logue says. "But also to celebrate and be grateful for having the health that allows me to still do this. Having CF reminds you to live!"
The 65 Roses marathon takes place on Sunday, Jan. 31, in Miami, Fla. Donations can be made at