Monday, May 9, 2011

Blog Pause

It seems that this blog and I are at another crossroads, as evidenced by the lack of recent posts here.

My relationship with poker is as rocky as ever, due primarily to the recent indictments of major online poker companies by the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI. While some of my writing gigs are solid for the time being, others remain in question and may be lost. It’s an unstable time for online poker in the U.S. in general, and my sustenance through it is shaky.

I haven’t written about the recent turn of events in poker because of contractual obligations that could be jeopardized by doing so. While I chomp at the bit with opinions and information, I remain silent because - well - I have bills to pay and I enjoy my work. So, I stay silent for the unforeseeable future.

Poker and I also had a squabble just before the indictments, and that has been put on the back burner. A major poker entity stole an idea from me, and I’m still sorting out my options as to how to pursue the thieves, if at all.

On the positive side, I have some extra work in May and some work prospects for the coming months. Everything seems to be in limbo, but I have hope. And I am pursuing a number of other options to supplement my currently insufficient income.

This blog has also been the cause of a recent rift with a close friend. Though I’m unclear about details because the person is not speaking to me, I do know it stems from something I posted in this space. While I have long maintained that this is my place and its content will not be censored by those who don’t understand it, I have had to reconsider the purpose of the blog and what I write. Since my personal life does include others, it’s difficult for me to write anything that doesn’t include them. So, with no clear answers to so many questions, this remains a struggle for the time being.

Other purposes of this blog have been put on hold of late. Reading a book per week has not been possible when searching for work takes all of my spare time. Giving serious thought to world news for the purpose of op-ed pieces hasn’t been at the top of my priority list, either, and making a trip per month has been out of the question for financial reasons.

What continues to be a release for me is my food blog and my endeavors in the kitchen. It’s been a real treat and doesn’t seem to bother anyone or jeopardize my current jobs, so I continue to experiment with food and enjoy that process. And hey, a girl’s gotta eat, right?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

News & Notes Op Ed: Inspiration Provided by Geraldine Ferraro

The year was 1984, and it was a rough one in my home. I was an angry teenager who made mistakes more frequently than any young person should. Meanwhile, my mother fought for my life, my safety, and my future.

At the risk of idolizing or embarrassing my mother, I will simplify my praise of her in this post to say that she was selfless, loving, and strong. She fought for the Equal Rights Amendment and other initiatives that she felt were important to women - her daughters in particular - for as long as I can remember. Her fights in the 1970’s and 1980’s for the rights of women were done in her spare time, as she struggled to move past the death of my father and raise two girls to the best of her ability while making the time to go to meetings and marches.

In retrospect, what stands out to me the most about my mother’s life during that time was that I made it exponentially more difficult. Instead of being inspired by her, I fought against her and rebelled. While she was struggling to provide for me and make the world a better place for me, I was demeaning myself and doing my best to be the opposite of what she wanted. Though much of my behavior can be attributed to a deep depression, anger, and sadness over my father’s death, it was nonetheless the antithesis of my mother’s dreams for me. Maybe it prompted her to fight harder, or maybe it became a distraction from my antics, but she continued to fight for the rights of women in any way she could. She was involved in organizations for women’s rights, even after the 1982 deadline for the ERA, in public groups and in our private lives.

When Geraldine Ferraro accepted a place on Walter Mondale’s ticket in 1984 as the vice-presidential candidate, my mother was thrilled. There was a woman on the national - and international by default - stage, an example of the long fight for women’s rights in America and my mother’s hopes for opportunities for her daughters. Though I was too caught up in the teenage drama I created for myself to notice at the time, I now know that Ferraro’s place in politics at that time must have been bittersweet for my mother. As she watched this strong woman rise to heights never seen in the U.S. before, she had to watch her eldest daughter slink further away from her potential and promise.

Today, news surfaced of Ferraro’s death. Reading about her life and sorting through the cloudy memories of her accomplishments catapults me back to a time in my life that I often try to forget. But at the same time, I remember Ferraro as an extension of my mother, everything she has survived and all of her own successes. As did Ferraro, my mother fought against the odds for a greater good, and she also struggled to save the teetering life of her daughter; both battles were ultimately successful.

As I privately thank Ferraro posthumously for her contributions to the women of the world, I also wanted to thank my mom for hers, as she is still in this world to read this. Ferraro will always hold a special place in my memories and deserve much gratitude for the way she helped pave for women, but it is my mom who fought the same fight, just on a lesser known and different level, and not only saved my life but set an example for me that I don’t often enough follow. I often lean on her and stand on the road she paved for me, but maybe this is a good opportunity to let her know what that road means to me. Mom, you are the greatest among my heroines.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Poker and Me: The Tease

Nearly two months ago, I wrote a little ditty about the relationship that Poker and I have maintained through the years and how it has changed. I concluded that we should have an open relationship and reevaluate when Poker has something more substantial to offer.

Recently, Poker did approach me with something meaningful. While it is still very much in the preliminary stages, I was asked to participate in something that has the potential to not only reward me with payment commensurate with my experience and potential contributions to the project, but my opinions will be valued, even requested. I’ve had ideas bubbling under the surface for years. I’ve put in the time and effort to know my industry quite well. And I’ve been yearning to put my experience to use if only it would be appreciated and compensated to some reasonable degree. This new project seems as if it may tap into those things. The chance to work with consummate professionals, offer opinions, and become an esteemed contributor to a business endeavor is enticing and worth the effort as it moves toward something substantial.

In the time being, as Poker teases me with an opportunity that truly makes me feel that the journey has been worth it, I’m left with the pieces of my career that I continuously try to string together to make something coherent. I have one job that I do enjoy very much but it makes up such a tiny portion of my monthly nut that it’s barely noticeable on the larger map. There is another gig that will start in the coming weeks for a company that I respect, and while I hope to grow that into something bigger over time, I can only count that as a dot on the current landscape. And as for my other work, it’s tough to handle being underestimated and undervalued when something bigger and better stares at me from the land of possibilities.

So, Poker dangles the carrot, and I’m hungry for it. Meanwhile, I continue to be grateful for the work that I’ve been able to accumulate over the last few months because I do fully understand that any paid writing work is tough to come by. Thus, the conundrum is even tougher because I straddle the line between being grateful that I can pay my rent - even if only with a few cents left over - and being distressed that I could and would love to do so much more.

Poker knows from experience that I am more than willing to put in the time and effort to hold up my end of the relationship. If Poker can reciprocate, we’ll be in a much happier place.

I did receive a call from Travel the other day. I’m only mentioning it because he’s attractive in a lot of ways. I may return the call just to see where the conversation goes. We may not click, but I’m certainly interested in a date. Poker has never put a ring on it, so …

Saturday, March 12, 2011

News & Notes Op Ed: Crazy is Not Funny

It can be fun to live vicariously through the lives of celebrities. It’s why so many people watch entertainment television and frequent websites like TMZ, with everything in their lineups from “news” programs to fashion diatribes. People want to see the glamorous side of a life that most will never enjoy themselves. At the same time, however, those same people want to see those same celebrities screw up. Seeing Hollywood stars in their million-dollar homes and fancy clothes is one thing, but it makes people feel better about themselves when those stars make mistakes, wear mismatched clothes when they take out the trash, trip on a curb leaving a restaurant, and simply err as humans.

Reality television has capitalized on the trend. Celebrities in need of cash parade around in front of cameras - Kardashians, Hogans, Osbournes, etc. - for publicity and a little help with mansion mortgage payments, and some participate in shows like “Celebrity Rehab” because they are surrounded by people who clearly don’t have their best interest at heart. But people clamor to watch them, whether they are parading around Rodeo Drive with a purse puppy or telling a heartbreaking story to a counselor to deal with a drug addiction. It makes them real to Joe America, who can then feel better about his own life and choices.

Charlie Sheen has been no stranger to the spotlight, nor has his family through the years. But his latest stint in the news has been an example of an over-the-top attention quest that is almost unparalleled. And it is terrifying.

Some may argue that Sheen’s recent domination of the news is not much different from your Lindsay Lohan family/crime/rehab drama that makes the top news story here in Los Angeles. It is reality television in real reality, more authentic than any TV show can edit itself to be. The problem with such coverage, however, is that the hunger for the “people’s” story outweighs common sense in many cases, as when Lohan takes precedence over the Egyptians’ overthrow of a dictator in the daily news recap. It’s easy to say that values are skewed in this city of dreams, but it’s bigger than that, and it happens on a much grander scale than in Hollywood.

The Sheen story is evidence of the extreme. And it’s certainly not just the greater L.A. area taking an interest, as the world is watching his antics on Twitter and UStream. Charlie Sheen’s behavior can be called many things, but words like abnormal, disturbed, and crazy are some of the most common terms bandied about in the media. And it’s all available for the public to watch.

Quite possibly, some people began following Sheen over the past few weeks because he seemed to want to break from the mold. He declared that traditional rehabilitation was a fraud, he was going - and did? - cure himself of addictions, and he was a victim of mainstream societal principles and those who wanted to secure his downfall, though those are all simplifications of his rants. He asserted that his strength would overcome all, and his theme of “winning” resonated with the general public. Who doesn’t want to win? Who doesn’t want to shun tradition and overcome obstacles in their own way? What guy doesn’t want to give the middle finger to ex-wives and show off live-in porn-star goddesses who cater to his every whim? Go Charlie!

Sigh.

For those who simply read a blurb on TMZ or saw a few words on Twitter, it may seem that he is being vilified in the media. Sheen may appear to be a casualty of the tough Hollywood life. Yet others may see this as pure entertainment, an extension of Hollywood that finds its way onto their computers for a good laugh.

Personally, I read the headlines but ignored much of the story in the beginning as typical celebrity fluff. But a few days ago, I was prompted by a link to watch this video:

 

 

 

 

 


This was one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever watched. Charlie Sheen is sick. Whether he is succumbing to addictions or suffering from severe mental illness is for a professional to deduce, but every moment of the video points to problems that are deeper and more troubling than any casual viewer can see.

Most likely, the average viewer doesn’t know anyone with such a life-threatening condition. Mental illness and addiction are often desensitized by talk shows like “Dr. Phil” and “Celebrity Rehab,” and people don’t see them as the deeply serious and dangerous conditions that they are. Those who are able to see the potential disaster in this situation have tuned out of the Sheen mania and refuse to glamorize it, but far too many still find it amusing. They watch Sheen and read his rants, laugh at his “winning” tirades and even shudder at his incoherence, but they won’t turn away.

Turn away.

Though I am certainly no psychiatric professional, I have seen enough mental illness and addiction in my years to know that this is a trainwreck in progress. The outcome will not be pretty or funny; it will either shock the public with a grand finale, one that could easily result in death or harm to Sheen or others, or disappoints the public with a meltdown that simply puts Sheen behind bars or in a mental health facility.

Be the better person and stop feeding this frenzy. Look at the seriousness of it and the potential for a tragic outcome, and don’t count yourself among those who laughed at it.

*****

For a well-written alternate opinion on this topic, my friend Rakewell gives his thoughts on Sheen, the lack of a real medical emergency, and the possibility of an artistic side to it all. Take a read here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Normalcy

Not much about my life is normal, nor has it ever been. My career is in a constant state of flux, there is no romantic relationship in my life at the moment, my family lives in another city, and the geographic range of my friendships starts in L.A. and goes as far as Nice, France. I live the odd life of a hermit much of the time, and the challenging life of a writer on the cusp of either success or ruin.

But when a friend’s husband died suddenly several weeks ago, my life changed drastically. I did what needed to be done for a friend and to support our group of friends - my second family, really - but I soon realized that I was doing so at the risk of my own demise. I was ignoring my own emotional needs, putting my already-shaky career on the back burner, and spending money that wasn’t available. And though these dangers lurked in the back of my mind, it took messages from several friends, those outside of this situation, to remind me that I had to set limits or find myself the one in need of help.

While I am still available to my friend and participating in helpful tasks when I am able, I have to accept some realities. I need to focus on my career, whether that involves Skype meetings, completing the work that I do have in a timely manner, networking for more opportunities, sending queries, or simply keeping up to date on happenings in the poker industry. I need to write. I need to spend time cooking, reading, and watching the occasional movie or news program. I need to support other friends who are going through rough times or doing spectacular things, both of which deserve some of my attention as a friend. I need to stay out of situations in which my help is not wanted. Basically, I need to take care of me.

This week, I’m doing just that. It’s not easy, but I’m finding some peace in it. Thanks to the friends who have nudged me and been supportive. The only reason I’m not spiraling out of control is because they sense when I’m starting to spin and help me become grounded again.

I hope to resume some op-ed pieces soon, as well as some other content here. Meanwhile, keep checking my food blog for my latest kitchen adventures.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Words

It is not often that I am without words. There is always something - advice, a recollection, an inquiry or question, lame attempt at humor - to say or write somewhere for some reason. It is rare that I am stunned into silence.

The 12:30am call on February 17 did it. “He’s dead,” she sobbed. It took moments before I requested clarification, and it seemed that minutes went by before I had words.

He was her 44-year old husband, the love of my friend’s life, the one the universe introduced to her after a rough 35 years that included more heartbreak than most people could fathom.

They loved, married, and built a life on dreams and hopes, faith and love. But only a few years into the life that they cherished, it was shattered only days after Valentine’s Day. He was working late, as usual, but the lack of contact was unsettling for her, which ultimately prompted a late-night visit to his office many miles away. He died peacefully it seemed, hours before, of a condition related to hypertension, and a frantic attempt to save his life quickly became a reality filled with a most untimely and devastating death.

Through the despondence, past the coroner and police in the hours that followed, and in their home filled with comforts, cats, religion, and symbols of their unity, in the days that crept slowly afterward, there were words. The words were meant to comfort, engage, explain, lighten, help, sympathize, empathize, resuscitate, and love. But despite their intentions and ultimate sincerity, they were rendered relatively meaningless by the scope and depth of the tragedy at hand. My friend heard the words but did not process them. Her friends and family spoke to her about a loss that is greater than most of us could understand, and our words were futile attempts to lift pain and grief that cannot be lifted.

In the week that passed, I have listened to the tragedies of others with new ears - my mother’s loss of my father when I was a child, my friend’s loss of a baby, another friend’s loss of her beloved cat. Though the descriptions of events and feelings seem more real to me than before, they are still only words that paint a picture and give a glimpse into the pain that they felt and feel, but the true weight on those people’s hearts is unexplainable. Words are necessary but so incredibly insufficient, as are those used in an attempt to comfort or understand.

But it is how we communicate, how we relate, how we bond as human beings. Language connects us and enables us to share feelings. So here I sit with my keyboard, stringing letters together and making words into paragraphs that attempt to express the inexpressible.

Part of me feels that I should refrain from saying much of anything. Evidently, some of my words have caused hurt feelings among friends in the past few days. Words seem to be tearing a hole, albeit a small one at this point, in a family of friends that needs to be together now more than ever, but words that were meant to be helpful are being confused and personalized and misconstrued.

Even so, I will continue to find the right words because it is in my nature. I will write them here, speak them to anyone in earshot, and condense them into minuscule phrases on Facebook and Twitter. It’s what I do. It’s who I am. Those who truly know me will understand, and maybe - in some way - we will all grow to understand the bigger picture as well. Pain and heartache and tragedy are only healed through time and words, and since I have no control over the former, I’ll choose the latter and hope that it ultimately helps me…and those I love so wholeheartedly.