VICTOR RIVAS RIVERS … If the turnout at the Palm was disappointing for Rivers’ talk on abuse in the family, Honga’s Lotus Petal was a full house to hear Rivers’ inspirational talk about his own personal odyssey from abused child to successful actor, athlete, author and speaker. It was a story every person in our community ought to have heard … Abusive behaviors are found, as SMRC Director Nancy Anderson explained, across the board – rich, poor, educated, illiterate. Unfortunately, abuse is endemic in our society. Dysfunctional families, a mobile population, financial and social uncertainties, being at war – there are lots of reasons. But what SMRC tries to do is provide a safe haven for those seeking refuge from domestic violence and sexual assault. And SMRC gets victims of abuse back on their feet, out of danger, and into a new life. It is one of the most important social institutions we have created in our community. And for that reason, SMRC’s luncheon was filled with folks from county and town government, law enforcement, medical personnel, foundation people, therapists. All these groups and more have had a stake in seeing that abuse is not left to fester as “a private family matter” … That’s the title of Rivers’ book and a direct quote from a police officer back in the Sixties when he showed the police the scars and burns on his 15-year-old body and asked them to arrest his abusive father. They did not, and the abuse went on for years more … Women have long spoken out about abuse, and it is often thought of as a feminist issue. But Rivers made it clear that it was an issue for all of us, men and women. He urged men to get involved in this issue – something too often hidden under the veils of shame, social bars, and personal fear … And so, I’ve taken his call to heart and am sharing a poem this week about the abuse in my own family that was so destructive of my mother’s life, and which had a lingering effect on me and my siblings. We need to share those stories. Expose them to the light of day. And work with the wonderful staff and volunteers of SMRC to stop abuse in our communities, treat the perpetrators and protect the victims. We must all come to insist that in our society abuse is a social crime, not a private family matter.
WEEKLY QUOTA … Here’s Thomas Jefferson on the recent bailout, which John Salazar and Mark Udall both opposed (thanks to Lance Christie of Moab) … “I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.” – Thomas Jefferson, 1802.
QUALIFICATIONS … I mean, think about these two teams vying for the White House and their educational backgrounds. Which would you hire to work for you? … Obama: Columbia University – B.A. in Political Science with a Specialization in International Relations. Harvard – Juris Doctor (J.D.), magna cum laude. And Biden: University of Delaware – B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science. Syracuse University College of Law – Juris Doctor (J.D.) … versus … McCain: United States Naval Academy – Class rank: 894 of 899. And Palin: Hawaii Pacific University – one semester; North Idaho College – two semesters, general study; University of Idaho – two semesters, journalism; Matanuska-Susitna College – one semester; University of Idaho – three semesters, B.A. in Journalism.
AGAINST THE DAY … Thomas Pynchon is a brilliant writer, no question. I just finished this 1085-page tome (Jonathan Cape, London, 2006), and I want to start reading it all over again … Pynchon’s attention to specific and arcane detail defies imagination, let along anything approaching the quotidian. It’s an early 19th Century roller-coaster ride as you flash backwards and forwards in time, trying to connect threads in this picaresque novel of blood vengeance, sci-fi physics and anti-capitalist heroics, opening and closing most unbelievably with the Chums of Chance and their fantastical aeronautics … Telluride plays a big part in the book’s leaping landscape, as this excerpt about the original Cosmo bar demonstrates, “A silence abruptly fell, leaving for the moment only the electricity’s hum. A group of men in enormous brand-new beaver sombreros had just entered the Cosmopolitan, chirping and singing in some foreign tongue. Each carried a pocket Kodak with its shutter ingeniously connected to a small magnesium flashlight, so as to synchronize the two. Shot-glasses halted halfway to mouths, the Negro shoeshine boy quit popping his rag, the Hieronymus wheel stopped short, and the ball took a bounce and then hung there in midair, just as if everything in the scene were trying its best to accommodate a photograph or two … Slowly the disorder had begun to abate. Broken glass, splintered wood, and the contents of overturned cuspidors presented inconvenience everywhere as cardplayers crawled through the debris trying to reassemble full decks. Favoring their injuries, wiping their eyes, and blowing their noses on their sleeves, drinkers and gamblers went lurching out the doors and into the street, where rented horses had already been skillfully unhitching themselves and proceeding back to the corral, sighing now and then. Sportive ladies up from riverside cribs and parlor houses alike stood in twos and threes observing the scene, clucking like church wives. The Japanese visitors had vanished, and inside the Cosmopolitan, Dieter was back on duty behind the bar as if none of this had happened.”
THE TALKING GOURD
Bay was my mom Blanche's nickname.
Called the roiled salt waters she loved.
Who knows what she knew & couldn’t
ever tell us. Her appetite for sex
was ravenous, even according to
such a philanderer as Pops. The abuse
she told seemed more beatings than
the unspeakable shapes of incest but
who knows what she endured? Beaten
for bringing books home from school.
And then that account of the whipping she
got for “getting in the way” after catching
a glancing blow off Frank Wilson’s
sledgehammer. Trying to hold the spike
steady for Granddad. Drunk more than sober
in her stories. Mean. Chasing them down.
I learned to hate the figure I only
met once at four on Hollister Street
out in San Francisco’s Bayview district.
A kindly old fellow who played grab-
your-nose-in-a-fist & smiled a lot.
Never saw him again though my
brother did. His memory a smirch
on the family name. A perp. A bully.
Made me reject that side of the family &
the given middle name Melton – a half-uncle
killed young in a car crash. Grandma Lily
Mills always mourned that boy. Orphaned
herself as a newborn. Left at a tavern’s door
in Nagasaki or Yokohama. Didn’t know what
papers were stolen from her on the steamer
across the Pacific after she left the circus &
followed a sailor to America. Divorced. Abused.
A survivor. Lots of Lily tales. Tea leaves in a cup.
But nothing much Wilson in my bag-
of-tricks. Nor any of the secrets the
women told each other. Forgotten
or never shared. Never dared.