Thursday, March 18, 2004

My friend, Barbara Cottman Becnel,

the remarkable woman who is the executive director of Neighborhood House, the 45 year-old social program in North Richmond -- but more importantly -- the woman who has managed to arrange the nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize to a man sitting on San Quentin's Death Row. That would be Stanley "Tookie" Williams, co-founder of the Crips in Los Angeles. But I've spoken of this before and suggested that you look up his web site (Tookie's Corner).

"Redemption," the film that was shown at Sundance is about to be released in mid-April. It will be shown on FX, but before that date the Sixty Minutes segment will be shown on CBS-TV. I believe the date of the release of the Sixty Minutes piece is April 4th, but I'm not certain of that (will post the dates before this weekend).

Tennyrate, Barbara finally has a copy of the film in her hand and has asked me to help her to arrange a couple of pre-screenings here in the Bay Area -- between the dates of the Sixty Minutes piece and the actual television release. It will be invitational to a selected audience. Could be used as a way to support the work of the anti-death penalty groups. There is growing interest here in a call for a moratorium. Jennifer and I will work on that this weekend. Will probably try for the Oakland Museum (James Moore) theater, if it is free for at least one evening. If you're in the area, you might like to stop in. Another possibility will be Geoffrey's, the club in Oakland that is owned by a cousin (remember Dorothy's recent 90th birthday party?).

It's something to think about; a distraction from the things that are not resolvable at home. That's often the way things get worked out for me. Set them aside, take on something totally different -- and in some oblique way -- the knots are unraveled and solutions pop out in full blown. It's kind of a Zen thing. But you can't cheat. The technique demands that one give up all thoughts of the knotty problem, replace it with something achievable, and -- voila!

So tomorrow I'll meet with Barbara and begin the process. Dorian is working on a "rainstorm" at NIAD (working in tempera, I believe) and an eagle, I believe. There is another exhibit soon and she's doing a series of wood block prints and several paintings (including the "Psychedelic Cat" and her "Rainstorm." That's tomorrow. On Saturday she will do basketball, we will bring her friend Chris home with her for the weekend (he is actually more severely handicapped but with a very different set of abilities. He is literate where she is not -- though he has some physical disabilities that make it necessary that he wear a helmet at all times when out of doors. They have a really compatible relationship that is best described by the fact that when she keeps her journal, it is dictated to Chris who does the writing for them both. This means that he is trusted with her most intimate thoughts. And, no, she's not in love with Chris. He's her friend. She's quite clear about that. They've been friends for about 17 years.

His father and stepmother live about 90 miles away in Willits on the North Coast. He lives in the Clausen House community and has a job in the mailroom at the Kaiser Building in Oakland. He is relatively independent and the two of them have much in common. Chris has spent the past two weekends with us, and will be back on Saturday after basketball practice.

I'll need to be sure to have something to work on or I'll soon begin to resent being confined by the needs of not only my own daughter, but the additional responsibility of picking up and delivering Chris as well.

These next few weeks will begin to cement my immediate future, if I'm not careful. Holding all of this in balance without losing my own sense of independence will be tricky. Keeping track of when I'm working for her welfare and when I'm working for my own will be a real challenge. Thankfully, I have friends and professionals to draw upon for guidance, and enough things of interest to hold off dispair.

Find myself wondering -- if someone with as many contacts to draw upon -- after years of working in the political realm -- if I am so deeply effected by these draconian budget cuts, how in the world are people without these resources managing these days? And, I find myself wondering when someone in that world of powerful people will utter the dreaded word, "Depression?" The economic system has come unraveled, and we keep inventing new words to describe the state in which we find ourselves. With this unprecedented deficit, wars galore, terrorism to contain, a deteriorating system of public education, a decaying infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc.), a runaway pharmaceutical system and fewer and fewer able to afford health care, retirement systems collapsing, corporate fraud rampant... .For those of us who can remember the Thirties (and I was surely aware), there is a sense of deja vu that causes some sleepless nights. The only difference may be the language we're using to describe this system of self-imposed destruction we find ourselves caught up in.

On my darkest days, I cannot see the corrections coming in time to relieve what Dorian and I are facing in the short term. In the long term, the only answer seems to be to work hard to unseat the present administration. Have been asked to host one of the MoveOn's community meetings. Will do that. Those are being held in selected bookstores throughout the country. My assignment is Barnes & Nobel in Walnut Creek. This is in relation to a book that's being released -- which means that I must find the time to read the book, first.

I'm off to check out the instructions and locate the book. Meanwhile ... life goes on.