Stupid Girls

Thursday, February 26, 2009 Oratory From the Streets: The Homeless Lift Their Voices

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MOVIES | February 11, 2009 
Movie Review | 'Great Speeches From a Dying World': Oratory From the Streets: The Homeless Lift Their Voices 
"Great Speeches From a Dying World" is an unsettling documentary portrait gallery of nine homeless people living on the streets of Seattle. 


They don't have it on NetFlix, the service to which I subscribe, dang it.

Have you seen this?

I worry a great deal about documenting the lives of very vulnerable populations. I suspect this wasn't produced by a person who was ever homeless, but I'm not sure.

"At these times the premise feels like a stunt that has backfired."

I suspect it might be exploitive in its premise of having homeless people read famous writings. It reminds me of putting lepers in formal attire and photographing them for a gallery exhibit, to impress the art and academic communities and increase one's cache in the grant-writing world for future projects. Parenthetically, I have the same qualms about Diane Arbus (even though she was pretty much reviled by the arts and academic communities of her time).

I'd much prefer to just allow homeless people to speak for themselves. Better yet, give THEM the cameras, audio and editing equipment, along with some training in how to use them, and see what they come up with. That's much more interesting to me. And pay THEM!

I saw a BRILLIANT documentary out of India once about children of prostitutes. They gave the kids cameras and taught them how to use them. Those kids produced the most compelling compositions from the world they inhabited. It was heartbreaking, thrilling, inspiring, uplifting and devistating, all at the same time. Quite poignant. At the end of the film, there was an announcement of how to support the photography project.

It's like all those anthropologists who filmed "the natives." I wish they'd given the cameras to the peoples they were "studying," and let them film the anthropologists! Better than the Marx Brothers, I'll bet!

Of course, I like it when National Geographic uses "fish cams," too: film from the subject's own perspective. It's just more honest and direct than holding bait and enticing sharks toward your camera.

Filming homeless people reading literature elevates the literature (oh, it's so universal, so true, so brilliantly insightful), but further segregates the homeless person from the larger society: the audience will be thinking, in the backs of their minds, "These words would never have come from that persno's mouth, without the intervention of the producers." My fear is they'll also think, "How nice, the producers brought culture to these pathetic wretches!" Framing the tragedy of these people's lives in elevated language allows the audience to distance itself from the real perspective of the subject. It seduces the audience into thinking, "I relate to those words because of something in my own life, and I'm not homeless. What's wrong with these losers?" Now, the words of homeless people can't do that.

I make it a habit to suspect the motives of artsy documentarians who turn their cameras on the vulnerable, forgive me.

I would like to know more about the production staff's familiarity with homeless issues, whether they volunteer as community organizers, etc., in addition to making films. Are the showings of this film benefits for homeless people? Is there any information in the film to empower audiences to go out and DO something about homelessness and its root causes? Or, are they just social science majors or do-gooders, dispensing their sense of superiority along with the soup? I'm really suspicious.

When that woman said she got bored from being clean and sober, did anybody ask follow up questions, challenge the statement, offer her alternatives to boredom, introduce her to a role model who is clean and NOT bored or boring?

Did the film makers walk away from these people without doing anything to assist them in plugging in to the resources they need? Or did they walk away with their grant money and their film festival tickets, leaving these people as bad off as -- if not worse off than --before? Has there been any follow-up with the subjects?

I watched a collection, "The Ultimate Lesbian Short Film Festival" recently. Most of these were produced by film majors in Los Angeles universities. Parenthetical: if the opening titles are very fancy, the film sucks: just an observation.

There was one, "Tina Paulina: Living on Hope Street" that really pissed me off. The filmmaker, who narrates, admits she accidentally ran into Tina (this was on Hope St., downtown L.A. -- ironically, very near the first Women's Building). Here was a Lesbian filmmaker, getting course credit (and probably a grant, as well as being in this collection) for filming a Lesbian homeless woman, and speaking SO condescendingly and, yes PATRONizingly about her, as you can tell by the title. I was embarrassed for the film maker. Tina put on a VERY good show, behaving very cheerfully and chin up (she was hustling the film maker for pity money, but the film maker was too naive to understand that). The film maker left without giving Tina anything. Later, she returned to the corner on what Tina had told her was her birthday a week later. No Tina, of course; Tina was trying to get back to Arizona. Tina had been TRYING to say: I need money, so I'm going to tell you next week's my birthday, rather than asking you directly for a hand-out, as I've assured you, repeatedly, that I don't panhandle or use drugs." Tina was high as a kite, of course, as she pulled up her sleeves to reveal she had no needle marks. She said everybody around here uses heroin. I guess she felt very superior, exhibiting symptoms of crack, meth or some other drug that made her VERY hyper and chipper and is smoked, not shot up. The film maker was CLUELESS!

My point is, if you inflict enough pain on it, even a bear will dance to entertain.

When dealing with the most vulnerable members of a culture, it's usually more productive to shut up and listen, rather than imposing an artificial agenda or set of assumptions. They've been imposed on enough.

Now, I'm saying all this without seeing a frame of this movie. Did you see it and what did you think, if you did?

Rogi Riverstone

about family

You are reading


Sorry for the post script, but there was something else you said which I didn't address, as I was busy thinking about death in my last response.

You said,

i must tell you that being in a long-term partnership and raising children/grandchildren are not things that i think of as accomplishments; they seem to me more like accidents of fate.

I know, writing, even speaking, are primitive media. Things get left out or left to interpretation.You probably mean moe than a brief sentence conveys. I also know that the idea of defining a woman stricly by her ability to bear & raise young, and by her relationships with others, wouldnt be attractive or appropriate to you.

Please realize: I come from outside the dominant paradigm. Partnership and parenthood are beyond my capacity. I was never that cliche little girl who played with bride dolls & dreamed of wedding. Nor was I the girl who dragged around baby dolls and fussed over them, in anticipation of motherhood. I was, for the most part, afraid of my dolls. If I got them dirty, messed up their hair, etc., it was cause for a beating. I didn't particularly like them, anyway. I prefered puzzle toys, building toys, vehicles I cuuld use to transport myself. I liked learning and I liked independence.

It wasn't 'til the last pregnancy, at age 40, that I chose to mother. Before that, I was pretty sure I'd screw up a kid at least as badly as mom screwed me up. I didn't want to inflict that on an innocent.

I was officially pronounced pregnant on the same day I was told the pregnancy was in jeopardy. I got to have some very serious conversations with myself about committing to breaking the abuse cycle, forming networks of support, devoting my mind and body to caring for a dependent, etc. I didn't just put together a nursery & start reading baby books; I became consciious of every self destructive impulse I had and how it would impact a little, emotional sponge that depended on my every gesture. It really changed me, and has served me well in subsequent years, as I applied those principles to my own life.

One thing about lifetime trauma: it certainly can be good teacher, if one can step beyond the acute drama of it and use it to learn something. That's not usually possible in the midst of survival mode, but is very healing in the aftermath, and can be used to learn self protection inn case of another occurrance. It beats self medicating into addicition, acting out in self destructive ways, etc.

What you've said points me to what I see as a fallacy in our culture. Pardon me, but I've always been honest with you. We don't, as a culture, acknowledge, support or lift up parenting or partnership. We pay lip service; we pull an Opra and say parenthood is the hardest and most important job in the world, but we don't have in depth conversations about that. We don't teach each other and support each other, share skills, etc. as we ought to. You're just supposed to read some book and do it on your own, leaving it up to a supposed "expert," with whom one can't dialogue. We segregate family from career.

Barack Obama is married and has two kids, we say. Now, to me, that's very interesting. Hw did he do that? How did Michelle do that, have a career and assist in an arduous presidential campaign? That's very interesting to me, much more than that she wears j crew clothes, whatever those are.

I've watched the Obama girls intensely over the last, 2 years or so. They're really nice people. They're not brats. They're not out of control attention seekers. They're not shy or resentful of the attention.

I have 3 momentos of the Obama campaign: he shook my hand when he was campaigning in Albuquerque, I have the "hope' poster, and I bought a hoodie sweatshirt on eBay a week or so before the election with this on it (minus the "mission accomplished" graphic on top):

Paranthetically, here's the "hope" poster; you've probably seen it:

I bought the sweat shirt because of the girls. How did a mixed race dude with no father and a girl from the South Side raise such interesting kids? They, both, could have made a lot of excuses NOT to be successful, what ever that means, and live half lives of no particular accomplishment. That story really fascinates me, way more than the platform on which Obama ran (which I researched, along with Clinton's, which made me decide to choose to support him over her).

I think a blog or diary of Sasha's and Malia's experiences would make fascinating reading.

But we describe Obama as married, with two kids. Like, he has brown eyes and wears a size something shoe. It's mentioned in passing, not like it's integral to who the person is.

I wonder if others like me, who can't commit to partnership or parentig, are as respectful as I am of what an accompishment that is.

Your family is not an accident of fate. You've made a committed series of conscious choices over the years that have greatly impacted those in your household. In your case, most of these have been POSITIVE choices.

Because I'm poor, I've been way too close to my neighbors all my life. Affluent people can more easily shut a door and not bear witness to the lives around them. I'm not saying rich people are less dysfunctional than poor people, believe me. But, as a poor person, I've borne witnss to the sickness of my neighbors.

Parents drink, smoke, use drugs, commit violence, expose their kids to all kinds of toxic and lethal stuff. It's a choice, based on the refusal to acknowledge the personhood of the kids in their lives.

You chose differently. That's a big deal. You chose over a lifetime.That's a very big deal.

To me, raising a kid badly would be a major accomplishment. Staying with soeoe for a lifetime, even if we fought like tigers, is unfathomable. Getting up every day, getting dressed and going to a job of 40 hrs. a week or so is incomprehensible. I just don't know how people DO that!

I remember a story about Jenny, throwing a tantrum, because you'd made her a sandwich but didn't cut off the crusts, or cut it in half diagonally instead of across, or something equally inconsequential. She told me the story. She told me she quicky learned about unacceptable behavior, about petty behavior, about maintaining one's cool, even though a child. You never raised your voice. You didn't threaten her. You certainly didn't put your hands on her. As she told me the story, she clearly let me know she appreciated that. That small interaction had a lastiing impact on her personality development

A lot of people would just yell at the kid, or worse.I might have done.

Nope, Kate, your family is no accident of fate. It speaks volumes about your commitment to your values. You've done more than four, full tiime jobs: you raised the kids, you loved & supported a partner, you taught, you contributed to your community. I wonder if I could have done TWO of those things.

You raised little people as a way of paying it forward. That's big.

You kept Bettina focused. That's big. Not that Bettina can't focus without you, don't get me wrong, but you know darn well you've contributed to her accomplishments, too.

And your impact on the culture is immense. I know what you've contributed to my own life. If you had no influence on anybody besideds me, you still accomplished a lot!

I'll never replicate your standards. It's not my path. It's not my capacity. It's not my choice.

But the modeling you've done for me about core values we share, the validation of that to me, those are precious experiences in my life. I'm lucky to have known you.

Bettina's lucky, too, and so are those kids.

It's not just that I don't believe in fate, which I don't, but I'm not smart enough to understand the oppertions of the universe, so I don't dismiss it out of hand.

It's that fate doesn't explain the quality of life around you. Your choices explain that.

And it's not easy to do, in this nuclear family, evey woman for herself, sink or swim culture we live in. You've been very resourceful at networking support.

Next time you see those boys you're grand parenting (and it sounds more like lion taming,to me), you look into their eyes and see the grand kids I'd have loved to have helped raise. See what a miracle it is to have that privilege. Appreciate them for me and the rest of us who will never have the satisfaction of intimately impacting a little person's life in a positive way.

To me, every family is the first family, and deserves the respect and praise of the nation. It's the least we can do.

Rogi Riverstone

It's a mental exercise

You are reading

Well, you've managed to knit together a life that keeps you -- as much as anybody can be, I suppose -- protected from the ongoing retraumatizations and chaos I keep struggling with.

So, maybe you don't have huge gulfs of panic and rage through which you must flail. All that Buddhism, and all.

I heard a reference to cancer in your last email. You had/have cancer? Please explain.

Just this afternoon, I had to nap. Now, I never really rest; I'm always on guard. Example: I don't trust this landlord. He's erratic and alcoholic.I've imagined him, just showing up (as he did a month after I moved in, trying to strong arm me for $ to buy his daughter an xmas gift). I fully expected that he -- or anybody else in this town who has decided I don't deserve respect, dignity and privacy could show up here at any time to attempt to torture or provoke me.

But I was really weak with a bad headache that's lasted several days. I fell asleep, covered in cats and dogs, almost immediately. For no reason -- and this happens quite frequently -- I awoke with a sense of dread and panic. That's PTSD and I know it. I've finally learned not to let it spiral into something more than what it is: brain chemistry, misfiring synapses fatigue, stress reaction, etc.I used to inflate it into a bigger drama than that. I could go off on it, citing all sorts of reasons to worry, to escallate, to pity myself, to be enraged and resentful at people who cause me alarm.

Now, I recognize it for what it is, let my physiology settle, and go back to sleep. In the past, it gave me serious insomnia. I wouldn't sleep well for days or weeks, even.

I can't stop night terrors, panic attacks, etc.any more than I can will the weather to change. But I no longer stand in open fields, holding a metal pole, during lightening storms. I shelter myself. I talk to myself. I remind myself of my limitations, situation, even where I am at the moment.

Some time later, sure enough, the dogs started barking at a motor outside. Dang if it wasn't the land lord, with two Jimmy Jo Jeeters in a pick up, backing into the weeds and abandoned cars on the other side of the trailer, fetching Doc's cradle snatcher (a hoist to pull motors out of cars). I called the dogs in, shot the door and puttered on the computer, waiting to see if the old drunk would pester me or not. They left and I went on with my life. In the past, I would have freaked. Even today, part of me worries that, if I think too much about a thing, it will actually happen.

This is a tiny example. When Br threw me off her place, when Rachel beat me (and later, when she stole the truck and stranded me here), when the crack head next door to me in those projects would peer though my windows or slam doors or scream --- these are times when I do my exercises.

I've had several experiences now of nearly dying. I went into anaphelactic (sp?) shock when I tried to sell my plasma once. Just a few weeks ago, I had a horrible reaction to some food that may have been contaminated with salmonella, but was so spiced, I didn't taste anything funny. I ran a very high fever; I had terrible aches and chills. I lay down and choked on vomit. I almost lost consciousness then.

As a kid, I'd be strangled 'til I passed out. I thnk those experiences as a kid taught me to really fear death, pain, etc.-- maybe more than your "average" american, whatever that is.

Living in KY, I was comforted by the nonsegregation of the living from the dead. In Calif., cemetaries are almost always far away from dwellings. In KY, family plots rested next to family homes, all over town. I liked it: no death denial. It's not all antiseptic, shut away. Mom told me stories of deaths in the coal camps in Barbourvile: how the women prepared the bodies and laid them on the kitchen table which had been moved into the parlor for viewings. To this day, many people in KY still tend to their own dead. Death isn't alien, exotic, mysterious.

The first time I ever saw a coffin was the old Dracula movie with Lugosi. On TV. How sad.

I have no spiritual beliefs about death. I sincerely doubt that anything like my consciousness survives. I DO know that energy can't be destroyed, though, only changed. But change of energy can be a very radical thing, and what was before the transformation may be unrecognizable after. Prehistoric plants become gasoline.

Then, there's the issue of the fact that, several billion years from now, nothing of this planet will exist, anyway. Leaving a lasting legacy is pretty much an illusion.

I think that, when I die, I'll be dead.

I've lost a lot of animals in my life. I think it's absolutely fascinating that, whether lizard or chicken or dog or human or . . . we all smell the same when we're dead. All of us. There's no discrimination at all. We all smell dead.

I've looked at many lifeless bodies.There's my friend: someone of whom I have many memories. Often, it's someone who expressed affection for me. Except for my doves, a few fish and a couple of reptiles, each ONE of my animals has/had distinctive personality traits, different from others within its species, or own family, for that matter. I knew these creatures as well as any human can know another species. I'd look at the lifeless body and eyes and be amazed. How could this crumpled, smelly thing be my friend? Where did you go? Maybe the doves do, too, and I just haven't paid enough attention.

Well, the miracle, for me, isn't an afterlife. I don't KNOW where my friend went. The miracle, as I hold that corpse and examine it, is that this creature lived! It was sentient; it had intelligence, consciousness, humor, personality, passion. How did THAT happen? I mean, it's amazing enough that it evolved a skeleton, muscles, fur, sensory organs, brain....that it was a functioning, reproducing mechanism.

But there was somebody in there, in the first place! Whoa!

I can still tell stories about animals I had 30 years ago. They are all distinct beings. So are people.

So, from that, I learned my life and consciousness are truly miracles --- not in the religious sense, but we don't have a word in the English language that's a secular equivilent. And I'd better enjoy them while I've got 'em, cuz they could disappear in a flash.

I'm not going to enjoy dying, I'm pretty sure, unless someone shoots me full of heroin or something. Even then, the body (and I think, again based on my experiences of watching many animal friends die), I think death will be a visceral struggle of the organism (completely independent of any consciousness) to survive. It seems to be built into living organisms at a cellular level.

But my experiences with trauma are teaching me how to not struggle so much on the level of consciousness. I'm not even talking about dying with dignity here. When the bastards come after me, that's the FIRST thing they snatch at! That's why I suspect someone will be laughing at me, deriding me, even in my last moments. And I'm ready for them. When some fool has power over me, I let them think they've won. That way, I win. I recognixe their foolishness for what it is, go deep into the sanctuary I've burrowed for myself in my solar plexus, and don't lose an inch of my integrity. They can smear dog turds on my face, but they can't get to my sanctuary; they can't take that.

I expect my organism will flail. I know I'll lose control of bodily functions. I may scream. I'll probably cry, just from the physical sensations. I'll let my body feel what she feels. I don't deny my body her feelings any more.

Death is a lot like birth: it's visceral, messy, physically stressful (if not downright traumatic) disorganized and emotionally intense. That is, death of a conscious being. The unconscious MAY be "luckier" there.

My ol' body has struggled her way out of several situations in which she would have been perfectly within her rights to have just given up and given in. I know she's going to fight. Don't you find it odd that the ONE distinguishing feature of the individual that marks its gender is always refered to as "it?" The body.

So, my struggles with my broken brain are teaching me about my death. And my death is informing my struggles with my broken brain.

I hope I am a drop in the ocean of consciousnes and that, when I die, this little ego of mine will rejoin her sisters and brothers and others in some enormous, cosmic "I Am," or whatever. I'd like some answers. Like: How DID the universe start, and from what, and how? And could SOMEONE PLEASE explain the Theory of Everything to me now? It would be nice to be blended in with Mark Twain, Carl Sagan, Dr. King, all those animal firends, people I've never met and creatures I never imagined. We could have some interesting conversations.

But I have no guarantees of a ticket to the great, Cosmic Love-In.

I just hope some idiot doesn't drain my blood, pump me full of formaldehyde and other toxic garbage and put me in an air-, water,- and microorganism-proof container and bury me so far down, I don't even make good compost. That would be a waste.

I will probably commit suicide, you know. But not for the old reasons: life's too hard, can't take the pain don't want to live like thi anymore, etc.

I'll do it if and when I get a diagnosis that makes suicide a viable option.

Out here, I wouldn't have to drive very far on my electric bicycle to be in a remote area, where I'd probably not be found until the critters had picked me clean, where nobody would here the gunshot. I'd like to die like that. I'd like my body to be food. I'd like to go on my own terms, as much as possible. I've felt pretty frustrated by my lack of choices during my life. It'd be nice to have choice about my death.

Used to be, I wouldn't own a gun, cuz I was afraid I'd use it on myself, botch the job, and wind up in diapers in a state run hospital.

So, I've been researching how to do it. Oh, and I plan to bring a blanket to cover myself, just in case (and this is a VERY remote possibility) some passerby would be traumatized, esp. a kid.

This isn't any time soon, mind you. I'm 53. I'm not very healthy, 'though I do try. I expect I won't be getting a LOT healthier in the time I have left, but I probably have 20 or so years to go, barring unforseen accidents.

But if I have leukemia (that's how Marianna Dengler, my lifelong friend & jr. hi. english teacer died), onset of dementia, BAD emphysema lke Dad had, etc., I'm making plans.

Look, Kate: there's nobody for a funeral; I don't need a box. My heart's marbled with fat; my brain's fried; my eyes are no good; there's no organs worth donating, 'though I have organ donation on my driver's license, just in case. I don't want to end up a plastic sculpture in China or something. I don't want medical students making jokes over my corpse.If I died here, in Ft. S., the mayor/uneral guy would get me and throw me in the dump or something, anyway. I'd just be a drain on tax dollars as a dead indigent.

Basically, any time I feel pain, fear, rage, panic........ that's an opertunity to practice my dying skills I don't LOOK for it, but, if it's right here, in front of me, I may as well get SOME use out of it.

I'm guessing it's Marsha who has lung cancer. Damn. You can tell her (if I'm right) that I guessed; you didn't tell me. And tell her I'm sorry. She has worked hard about addictions for a very long time. I hope she forgives herself. I hope people are being kind and nurturiing with her. She's a good, gentle and decent person. There is, of course, nothing fair about this. She could have gotten lung cancer without ever even smelling a cigarette. The pan must be terrible.

I don't know if anything I've written about death would be useful to her or not. If you think it's appropriate, you could let her read this. If nothing else, if she has very strong convictions on the subject, it might reinforce for her what she does NOT want to do about dying.

I hope she stays away from hospitals as much as she can; they're no place for sick people!

At least, tell her I said "hi," ok?

Rogi Riverstone

don't get me wrong

You are reading

My whole life has been littered with serious trauma: devistating events, physical and psychological. Psychologists point to any one of these as being events which cause people to become addicted, self-abusing or suicidal. And, believe me, I've struggled with all of that, too.

After my baby died (I can't remember if you knew about that; ask me, if you don't), I decided my suicidal ideations about the event would NOT be a fitting memorial for her. So, I sought counselling thru the Uni. (which would no longer be available to me, under similar circumstances, because of budget cuts). I cited several "symptoms" ('tho I prefer "challenges," but the medical model is pretty dysfunctional) which she said were strong indicators of frontal lobe brain damage. Medicaid, of course, will not cover diagnostic procedures (CAT scan, MRI) which would verify a diagnosis. Therefore, I don't qualify for services available to people with brain injuries. In my docu on brain injury, I learned that apx. 80% of brain injuries go undiagnosed. And only 20% of diagnosed brain injuries actually receive treatment. I met some WONDERFUL activists & advocates, all BI survivors, during my production. They've been a great help.

In addition, I now have an official diagnosis of PTSD, so I'm much better able to handle my life-long symptoms. I went undiagnosed for both 'til I was 40 years old.

In the course of my counselling, I began journaling pretty seriously. One night, while journaling on a completely seperate issue, I lay back in the chair to rest and let things come to me. I had a vivid memory. My mother's fingers with red nail polish. I was laying on my diaper changing table. To my left, on the wall, hung painted, wooden plaques of the dish & the spoon, etc. Apparantly, I had deficated and the feces was in my labia. My mother was trying to tear off my labia minora and clitoris with her nails. I got up from the memory and went to the family photo album. There was a photo of that room that was only arranged the way I'd remembered it at one time in my life: I was 18 months old.

I have never been able to sit comfortably for any period of time. School chairs, which are hard, hurt me so badly that I was always in trouble for fidgetting, getting up to walk around, and never sitting still. Hence, a diagnosis of hyperactivity and an onslaught of psychotropics that sent my IQ score from 168 to 69 on the Stanford Binet (however it's spelled) scale: genius to "retarded," overnight.

I hate wearing jeans, because of the seams.

Now, I never knew I had any damage. I thought everybody felt pain when they sat. And female genitalia is so varied, how could I know there was something odd about mine? My left labia minora has a huge scar, running up to the clitoral hood, with a 1/4 inch nick in it. The labia portrudes so much, it folds and loses blood flow. It hurts a lot: falls asleep, burns, aches. Has done my whole life. I won't consider vaginoplasty, as the wound is so close to my clitoris, and I don't want to lose function or sensitivity. I'm also afraid those ham handed surgeons will cause MORE pain, fiddling around near my clitoris and damaging nerves.

So, I wear very baggy pants, only when it's really too cold for skirts and dresses. I wear men's boxer briefs, because of the large pouch in the front that cups my vulva without any pressure. I seldom wear underwear, however. It just hurts. I padded my bike seat. I hated riding bicycles.

The cycle of trauma in my life seems permanent. This society just doesn't cope well with people with "invisible" disabilities. People know I'm smart and say, "you have so much potential, but you're wasting it." I am not; I'm surviving serious restrictions on my ability to function "normally" in a very sick society. And I've done it with dignity, class, resourcefulness and creativity. I've even managed to contribute positively to society more than I've been a burden to it.

I have nothing of which I feel shame and guilt, even the sick stuff. Yes, I have committed myself to live a life of honor and ethics. That causes me quite a bit of static from the culture at times. So what? I'm in excellent company there.

I still have an addiction to cigarettes, even though it killed my father and I have a diagnosis of early stage emphysema. I can reverse most of the damage, if I can stop smoking. Until I've recovered from the latest events enough to believe I can interact with the people of this reactionary town, I'm not going to attempt to quit, but only to monitor my consumption enough to maintain my dopamene levels.

My brain chemistry is such that I automatically go into suicidal ideatins under traumatic triggers. I flash back to previous traumas. My first reaction is violence. It takes a great deal of self control to recognize my reacions and act my way out of them. Suicidal ideations and violent impulses are VERY seductive. I have to be vigilent. I have to behave in healthy ways, especially when I feel absolutely NO motivation to do so. I have to create protections around me during healthy times, so I'm better able to cope during crises.

I am aware that I will probably die as I've lived: alone, misunderstood (perhaps even mocked, ridiculed and under assault). I've been preparing for that, as the moment of death is sacred to me, and I want to go there as well as I can, by my own standards. By preparing for death, I've learned valuable skills in preparing for life. I apply what I've learned about my deepest fears to everyday moments, and it works very well. It occurs to me not many people practice thse exercises, and stumble through their lives in total denial of their own deaths. I made choices and decisions in my past, based on these illusions and denial of my mortality. I wasted some time as a result. Now, because I know I'm going to die, my life is more focused on making useful contributions to those who will survive me. I have no family, no children, no close associations (as in: daily, familial, intimate friendships, etc.), so culture and society replace these. If I can't mother, I can volunteer. If I can't be intimate with a partner, I can create art, radio, recipes, conversations, physical spaces that are passionate, loving, nurturing and giving. These are what's important to me now.

I have several lessons from Rachel. I'm more capable of patience and acceptance than I ever would have believed. I'm capable of truly loving beyond gender; I am pansexual.Genitals mean nothing to me. While I agree with the feminist arguments re: male privilege, I've been very fortunate in my selections of partners. I've been with very excellent people. All had baggage, and most of that, combined with my own, were reasons for ending the partnerships.I learned that I do not choose to partner again. My own needs are a much higher priority than trying to accomodate an other. I learned from Rachel that I can never be closeted about any aspect of my life, especially if it's just to make another person feel more comfortable with their fears. That's codependent, too. Fears are challenges, meant to be faced directly, healed and used as personal strenghts. They are not to be avoided. I learned from Rachel that prissy people really trigger me and I shouldn't expose myself to them for extended periods; they impact my self esteem and really piss me off. I also learned that, while I choose not to involve myself intimately again, I am capable of great love, eroticism, passion, support, generosity, playfulness, intimacy and advocacy. I apply these to myself now and I share them with others whenever appropriate or possible (but without actual sexuality, in the latter case).

You've been in partnership for many decades. The two of you have raised excellent kids and now grandkids. You've formed long lasting friendships. You've been real assets to your communities. Because I didn't know myself very well when we first knew each other, I made the mistake of setting you up as a role model. I thought the way for me to be was like you & Bettina. I truly support your collective academic work, your relationship, your child rearing tactics, your commuity work. But it isn't my life. I'm very glad, however, that you're doing what you do. 

I finally learned that there are as many ways to contribute as there are beings on the planet (not just human), and that each of these beings must express that contribution in its own way, with its own skills, resources, capacities, experiencial variables, etc.Part of my being tested as a genius was that I felt obliged to be good at everything. I was never CONSCIOUS of this unrealisic presumption, of course, but I tried like hell to live up to it, anyway.

I play this silly game, where monkeys shoot ballons. The object is to shoot all the balloons before they escape, and you only get a finite number of balloons. Each round gets harder. It requires making strategic choices about what skills to "buy" to accomplish this. It requires willingness to let some balloons escape, so one can get things one needs for the subsequent rounds. It requires stifling urge to panic and impulsively acquire something that, in the long run, is not in the best interest of the task.It requires acknowledging that it's impossible to be perfect; some balloons must be lost (increasing the potential not to complete the task) in order to continue playl It requires the willingness to stop, when I see I've made a nonproductive decision, analyze what I did that wasn't constructive, and start over again at the same level, often repeatedly, until I get it "right." I truly love this game. It's a metaphor. Plus, I like the sound effects of explosions and shooting, without "killing" anything.It's monkeys, shooting balloons. It's ridiculous. I like that metaphor, too.

I used to feel bad about having such a lousy memory. Acutely, I'd feel guilty for not remembering people's names, when to pay bills, etc. And, of course, I felt bad that I couldn't remember more of my life. I created a memory device for myself by collecting momentos of important memories. These help. They're anything from ticket stubs to rocks & shells,stuffed animals, even articles of clothing. People frequently comment -- or complain, if they're helping me move -- that I have a lot of stuff. I used to feel guilty about that, too: materialistic, acquisitive, etc. Well, it's not like I'm collecting antiques or krugerands or something. I tell them they're looking at my brain, my memory which, out of necessity, I must house outside my skull. I now know everybody's worried about forgetting. That's why they take photos. That's why they promise to "love you forever." They're frantic that memories will be lost. I had to let that go. I have huge, dark places in my personal history that won't be recovered.

But there are advantages to bad memory. I can't hold grudges, because I just can't remember why I was angry. Doesn't mean I won't aproach that person with caution, but then, I have to approach everybody with cautious optimism; I can't trust my judgment. Hope for the best and plan for the worst, I always say.

The other advantage is that I get to go back to things I've done before. I remember that I did them, but I don't remember what it was like. Movies, books are good examples. As I start to reexperience them, I start to remember and, I think, I get new stuff from them, because my own life and experiences have changed, so I get more out of them than I probably did the first time. For instance: I recently realixed the Hummel family in Alcott's _Little Women_ (the "German," single mother with the baby who died of scarlet fever and infected Beth) was probably Jewish, wasn't speaking "German," but Yiddish. The social activists of the day -- and Alcott, a Unitarian, was deeply involved in this -- were helping Jews relocate from slums in New York and Mass., onto abandoned farms, in hopes they'd have healthier lives. Most of these Jews were middle class in Europe, and knew relatively little about farming, so the experiment met with mixed success.

So, not remembering means that, beyond some hazy residual memories, everything is always new again. This helps with the monkey game. It doesn't have an infinate number of levels, 'though the number of potential alternatives of choices is mind boggling. Every time I play, it's like the first time, but with slightly better strategy skills and more willingness to make mistakes. Again, it's a good metaphor.

I get hurt a lot because I take risks a lot. I'm not talking about reckless, self destructive stuff, 'though I've done that, too.Peope laugh and ridicule when I fall on my face. That's ok. If I hadn't tried, I wouldn't have goats, audio editing skills, the experience of loving someone with singular genitalia and psychological landscape....... 

As you know, I've been having trouble, acquiring groceries. I LOVE Sunflower Markets in Albq. Paul bought me ONE shipment of groceries, found it too confusing, and pooped out on me. Well, I researched stores in Clovis (60 mi. east), but it's too far for me to go and I hate asking people to take me when they go. I'm buying some groceries online, which is great! But I REALLY want fresh produce, grains, seeds, nuts, dried fruits and the EXCELLENT sausages and cheeses at Sunflower. So, after several attempts to get people in Albq. to shop for me, I finally emailed the store. Guess what? They're going to shop and deliver my foods to me! The BEST food in the state at the MOST reasonable prices, ANYWHERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm looking forward to 1 of each variety of pork sausages on sale this week, white cheddar cheese, fresh asparagus at TWO DOLLARS A POUND, cilantro, radishes, green onions and tomatoes so fresh, they taste like you just walked outside and picked them off the vine for eighty eight cents a pound, all produced without pesticides and other harmful chemicals. And shipping for 20# is less than fifteen dollars. "Normal" people in Albq. could easily spend that on gasoline to drive to the store!

If I hadn't asked, it wouldn't have happened! And the store is actually thanking ME for wanting to shop there! HAH! And the guy taking my order has legally changed his name to "anomen:" "no name," which is now becoming a family tradition, as his siblings and cousins begin naming their babies. Interesting!

I don't feel sorry for myself. Yes, I get very frightened, lonely, discouraged. I'm punished by those around me for being different, so I must be vigilent not to punish myself. Mostly, though, I have a very nice life that brings me a great deal of satisfaction and amusement. The Mennonites brought the last of my fencing & shed building materials last night, so I can construct shelter for the goats. I hope to have them back with me, after 5 months' seperation, some time this week or next, if the weather and my strength hold up. I'm so looking forward to living with them again. I mean it, you haven't had a loving, intelligent, companionable, comical, loyal and protective animal in your life if you haven't lived with goats.

I'm sorry my emails are so long and frequent. That'll taper off. There was a lot of ground to cover about my situation. I know, it's a lot of work.

Please let me know what you're up to, as well. I'm very interested. I don't even know where y'all are living these days or what's going on. Bettina did retire, did she not? That must feel like a relief, even while I know she loves her work. What about you? Still lighting candles and brewing tea? Thanks for all you taught me and all the permission you've given me to be alive. It's been, as you say, "extremely useful." I carry you around as one of my momentos. I may not remember much, but I have the general gist of it. I've kept all the photocopy handouts and my class writings from your classes. Hopefully, I'll get to settle here long enough to reread stuff. I've wanted to for decades. It'd be nice to do some "storytelling" on the radio. I do remember I loved storytelling nights and the salon at your house. I sure met interesting people!

About your backgrounds: I can't see my typeface if your background is black, so must generate new email, which is OK. I can't change my typeface color. I like the backgrounds, but I'll need to not reply and start a new email each time. This is probably best, anyway, as I'd have a new subject head with each email.

I'll try to locate the movies you've suggested. I have a subscription to NetFlix, and can frequently view movies online. See if you can watch "Arranged." Blurb: When Rochel (Zoe Lister Jones) and Nasira (Francis Benhamou) -- an Orthodox Jew and a Muslim, respectively -- meet as new teachers at a Brooklyn school, co-workers and students expect friction. But the women discover they have a shared expectation of entering into arranged marriages. As they experience tension between their traditional cultures and life in contemporary America, Rochel and Nasira form a special bond.

It's a bit "after school special," but I suppose that's necessary for an audience that knows nothing about these women's lives. To me, although awfully idealistic on the subject of arranged marraiges (and I think both women got off lucky), it's a pretty strong, feminist argument (within cultural context) in favor of arranged marraiges. I forgive them for the idealism: it's the first time I've seen any argument, from a woman-centered perspective, in favor of it; theyr'e going to be a bit cheerleaderish, no matte what. It all ends happily ever after and all. But, under all that self defense, there's a really strong argument in favor of each woman's choice to live within her culture and form family. And they really do decide whom to marry, which is a TOTALLY U.S. version of arranged marriage, I'll guess. If you see it, let me know what you think. It's a VERY funny movie and the women are awesome!

Rogi Riverstone

It's Rogi & I'm on vacation

You are reading


Lemme c if I can find my latest blog, so u can get a LITTLE (only about 6 mo. worth) caught up. Even as I'm writing this, I'm thinking, "oh, WHAT have I written that Kate won't like?" Heck with it. There's some name calling, but it's pretty tame, given my circumstances these days. My move here has beeen VERY traumatic.

From my homepage, below, u can find my other blogs, too.And poetry, internet art, etc.
It's not that u don't already have lots to do. :)

I can't reply to your very vertically long email, as the whole thing appears in my reply, and doesn't seem to want to delete. so, I get to compose a new one. I love this email client; it will save your addy for me! Yahoo never does.

I'm only 2 feet from the screen, but have trouble seeing computers these days; everybody is using such small typeface, to cram more ads onto pages. So, excuse typos, etc.

I've produce a LOT of community radio since last we talked. A couple of my things r online, as podcasts. Or, I could send u CDs, if u have a player.Stuff on issues in my life, about which I'm curious, for documentaries, and radio theatre plays, too. The latter are complicated: lots of sound mixing, addng tracks of music & sound effects, editing out actors' flubs, etc. The docus include: Wounded Warriors: Native American Veterans with PTSD;
What's a Disability to Brenda's Girls, Brainstorm (about brain injury) and I did a live call in show, broadcast nationally, for the homelessness project. They aske if our station would like to produce something. Our program director announced it via email list & I volunteered. Now, the ntl group had never had someone do a broadcast by topic before, but I produced Kicked Out Queers. I invited homeles Queers (a lot of them teens) to speak live to the country about their stories of being thrown out of their families and how they live. It was a BIG HIT!!!!!!!!!! The closing music was Kermit the frog singing "Rainbow Connection.:" "Someday, we'll find it: the rainbow connction, the lovers the dreamers and me." It was a blast! Damn near killed me,it wa so much work & aggrevation, but I'd do it all over.

Oh, lemme get u a pic of my pllace. I'm finally, officially trailer trash, and rel\ally liking it. There; it's attached, I hope. 3 br, 2 bath trailer on apx 30 acres: $300/mo.

I'm pretty dang excited about Obama, 'though I have some real probs w/that "Saddleback" (how gay is THAT?) church guy & Afghanistan. But, if I were Barack, my head would pop. That's a LOT of pressure. Was it Sanberg who called Chicago the city of big shoulders? maybe Witman?
Dude's got a MORE than full plate.

I work for my friend, Paul Ingles, part time as a transcriber of his radio shows. He runs a monthly show called "Peace Talks," which is what I transcribe, mostly, 'though he has me working on some docus. he produced on music.Joni Mitchell, Beatles, that sort of thing. Here's the website:

My livig room is my production studio. I LOVE digital audio! It's so much easier than the good ol' days when we used reel to reel or cassette, and edited by literally cutting tape with razor blades && adhesive taping it togeter. Sometimes, you'd b in such a hurry to finish a story for air, you didn't have time to duplicate it, and had to hand the control room a tape that was full of splices. You'd just cross your fingers and hope it didn't break on the air!

Oh, another reason I can't type well tonite is a cat scratch & bandage on right ring finger. Im not putting this thru spellcheck; it'd take an hour.

I've produced radio for in albuquerque, (it's outta Pacifica Radio), (women's intl news gatthering), (ntl native news) and some other places.

Paul's been in radio for 30 years, commercial community and public. He's mentoring me and hooking me up with outlets. He's been a very good friend & support over the last, 4 years or so, since I first volunteered at KUNM. his site is

I currently have: 4 cats, 3 dogs, 6 white doves (and an egg in the nest), 2 paraeets, 2 chickens, a duck, 2 goats --oh, I gotta send u a pic of the goatz!
and some goldfish & mosquito fish. I'm my own biopark.

I don't have a vehicle, except my delicious, electric bicycle. gotta send a pic. Yes it's a bicycle, not a motorcycle.I pull a bicycle trailer behind it to haul stuff. I'm kinda stranded in Fort Sumner 'til I score 4 wheels; I'm about 200 mi. from albq. and 60 mi from the nearest town I can buy groceries in. That story's in the blog; I cant shop local store. Correcton: won't. All the older, poor women in town are becoming my friends & one of them brought over 6 big boxes of everybody's food pantry stuff they wont be eating today.

I made a big pot of pintos & rice from some of it, with beef shank bones I get free from Darren, who runs Ft. Sumner Processing. He gives me bones & livers for free, for pet food, mostly, but that shank bone REALLY seasoned the beans great! U should c my dogs (one's a sorta chihuahua/russel terrier thing, real little), draggin around 2 foot long leg bones, all over the yard.

Did Bettina like the pic?Did she get the joke? I made a bunch of them: Gandhi, Jesus, Maya Angelou and, just for fun, Lassie (WWLD?) Oh, here's one I did of Fox News. Barackniphobia. hee hee.

So, check out the blog for the gory details.

How are uall? I sawa YouTube video set of Bettina's final lecture for Intro to Feminism. What a party! Couldn't c u in it. It was a student with, I think, a cell phone. She talks while she's taping, dang it.

Hee hee, PBS is doing a history of comedy docu. I just heard Jesse Jackson on Sat. Nite Live, reading from "Grreen Eggs & Ham," back when he ran for Prez. hee hee.

Y'know, I voted for him. I wasactive in th rainbow Coalition in Louisville, KY. Hell, I voted for Chisolm! That was the 1st Prez election I was old enuff to vote!

I voted for Sonia um.......Johnson. She has a bed & breakfast here in New Mexico. I wrote them once, cuz me & my girlfriend were planning a vacation. My (former) g/f wasborn intersexed, forced to live as a boy, went thru sex reassignment surgery ASAP after she ran away from home (small town, kansas). well, Sonia's sig other said, we don't know what intersexed is, but we only want woman-born women here. I wrote back & said,you don't even know what it IS! And didn't bother to Google search it, you just decided she's not "real" enough for you? They'dsaid I could come,but not Rachel. I said, Iwouldn't darken your door if u were the last bowl of oatmeal on earth! Sigh.

We don't know what intersexed is! LEARN!!!! I also told em it's not my job to educate them; it's theirs. grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Well, the g/f punched me in the head last xmas, accepted truck payments from me but got a ride out here and stole my truck from me, stranding me out here in JesusLand. sigh.

that's in the blog, too.

Well, it's almost midnight. My neck hurts. I should go to bed.

Lemme know how u all r, ok?

If anybody wants 2 know where I am, lemme know. I'm protecting my mental health, so I'd rather not give out too much contact info to people for whom I don't have much energy, but people can snail write me

PO Box 294
Ft. Sumner,NM


Sorry for so many attachments. Don't think they're very big,though. Goat Rack's thebiggest (the goats r much fatter & have bigger horns now).

Cat's naggin me to go o bed.

Rogi Riverstone

Guiltily, I've been letting myself goof off the last couple of weeks. About 3-5 days into it, I suddenly realized;my time in Ft. Sumner (and the drudgery and pain of packing to get here) has been a wrenching half year.

And the 3 1/2 years I lived with Rachel were a constant struggle: trying to assert my right to equal status, trying to be patient with a consciousness, I finally figured out, was too traumatized, too damaged to understand anything but her own agenda. I did some research, based on her behavioral symptoms, and conclude she has narcissistic personality disorder. She isn't capable of empathy or compassion. She presents herself as she thinks others want her to be. She's a mimic. She has no integrated personality. She fooled me; she's very good. She's the Operations Manager and Volunteer Coordinator at KUNM. Essentially, I fell in love with my boss. Correction; I fell in love with a fake.

For a tiny bit of time, I felt ridiculous for having fallen for her act. But I needed to trust that her presentation was true. I'd been alone for a long time. She presents as tolerant, inclusive, compassonate and passionate. But she's not. She's just mimicing what she perceives as the liberal agenda of many people at the station.And it's a tool she uses in her resistance to the General Manager. She can use the University's pretense at inclusiveness as a way to nag him. True, Richard hasn't much tolerance for people who might cause him inconvenience -- like poor people, disabled people, people with behavioral health issues, funny-looking people.... He just wants to keep enough money coming in to keep the doors open and keep his job. He doesn't even produce radio programming anymore. He's only, and rarely, on the air during fundraisers. Other than that, he hides in his office and files paperwork. She hates him.

I, basically, put Rachel through college. She gets tuition remission, as a full time employee.She never cooked or cleaned anything for the entire time. I helped her research her school assignments. I helped her with her job. I took a weight of drudgery and scut work off her list, so she could got to school and work more-than-full time. Frequently, I wasn't even allowed to TALK, because it didn't fit into Rachel's schedule.

She'd first started school at the regular age, right out of High School, in the '70s. But this was Kansas. She'd enrolled as a male. When her employer informed her that her health insurance would cover sex reassignment surgery, she immediately scheduled the process at a hospital in Texas. She couldn't return to school as a female. She'd only gone to college to study pharmacy, because she wanted to know how to make her own female replacement horemones, anyway.

They mutilated her. Since she didn't have a "normal" penis, they had no way to invert it into a vagina. And, of course, they were offended at the size of her clitoris and cut it off. She has no normal sexual response.

She castrated herself with the tool her father used on the steers. When she began to enter puberty, she knew she didn't want male secondary sexual characteristics (beard, voice, etc) She practiced on herself, without anything to numb the pain, for weeks before she could finally clamp down hard and long enough to sever the seminal vessicles, nerves and blood system to her scrotum. Her voice never deepened; she sounds like a woman. But she did have a side effect normal to many eunichs: the growth spurt of adolescence didn't stop at the usual time; she's almost seven feet tall.

I was willing to be patient with her story, her trauma. But she wasn't willing to deal with it in any but the most dysfunctional, survival-mode ways she'd always used to get throgh. She takes few risks, fearing attention and exposure. She's brittle and rigid. She's violent, cruel and vindictive.

So, I moved here, because a person I'd interviewed for a radio documentary & I had become friends. I could live here, on her place, in a little trailer, for free. I could work for her disabled daughters. I'd have free internet, so I could continue producing radio.

Well, I don't know what Br's agenda actually was. I know people in town fear and distrust her. I've seen how she humiliates and bullies people in public.

I wasn't here a month before Br threw me off the place. It's a long story, but, her brain injured daughter accused me of doing something I hadn't: using Br's computer. Last I'd heard, I was welcomed to use it until I set up my own. Just 4 days before, I had set up my computer and had no need of Br's. When I asked Amanda why she'd told her mom over the phone that I'd done it, Amanda went hysterical. Br heard it over the phone and told Amanda to hand the phone to me. She said," Get your shit and get off my place now!"

I ended up in the projects here for abot 3-4 months. I just moved out 2 months ago. So, I've moved 4 times since September. Some of my stuff is still in Albuquerque; some is at Br's. A sweet Mennonite couple boarded my goats and poultry. And some of my stuff is in their barn.

Then, the credit crunch hit. Rachel's credit cards went from zero to thirty percent interest,virtually overnight. She'd put feminization facial surgery on credit: $40,000.

She'd bought this big truck the year before. We'd been planning to move; Rachel was job hunting.

She decided to stay at KUNM for the security. I wanted to keep the truck.

I started payig her $200/month, toward the $5,000 she'd paid for it.

She came out here and took the truck to sell it. I'd paid her $600 on it, even while going through all this crap. She kept the money.

Part of the reason I agreed to move to Br's in the first place was to afford the truck payments.

Now, I'm stranded in a VERY hostile, violent, intolerant town without a vehicle. I won't go back to the only grocery, after being pushed and screamed at for trying to return a ham that had made me very ill.

I only have shopping online, asking people to shop for me and paying them, stuff my neighbors give me from the food pantry that they don't want, and the overpriced convenience store.

My landlord is a mentally ill, alcoholic recluse. He's untrustworthy. The house is a wreck: abandoned for years. Walls, ceinlings and floors are damaged from weather exposure, after the roof blew off and nobody knew it. Plumbing repairs, unpredictable electricity.The stove exploded in the Mennonite guy's face, when he tried to light it and had to be replaced (he's ok; just singed his beard). I have no heater. I heat with space heaters, stove and sunlight. I wear 2 pairs of slippers and a coat in the house, with a pair of gloves I've cut the fingertips off of.

So, yes, I've been goofing off. I've been playing strategy games on the computer and watchng the most wonderful movies on the internet. I cook as wholesome and delectable foods, teas and desserts I can. I play with my animals. The dishes pile up from time to time. The floors are filthy. I haven't even finished unpacking.

I'm sick, exhausted and traumatized. I'm lonely and scared. So, listening to internet radio, watching public television letting myself unwind and recover and remember who I am again -- these are priorities now.

Rogi Riverstone