Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Brave and Startling Truth

I have always loved this poem by Maya Angelou. In light of recent events both personal and global, its meaning resonates ever more deeply. Maya Angelou was rushed to hospital in Los Angeles yesterday evening. Maya, beloved lioness of my heart, may you make a successful recovery, or find serene passage.

A Brave and Startling Truth 
by Maya Angelou  (1928 -  )

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn and scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

..... and I think I've got problems?

Skunk lost his job yesterday. When he got home he told us that the company where he's worked for twenty years no longer needs his services, effective immediately. Yes, just like that. When someone delivers bad news in real time, my senses go into slow motion, my mind blanks and a leaden fear seeps into my bones and settles into a hard, immovable knot in my stomach. That's how it felt when he broke the news yesterday. Noodle, crying a little, said, "Oh well, at least we'll have more time to play board games together." This, from a boy who's never liked board games. Legs began to jabber about mundane things that made sense only to her. We clutched each other for solace and muttered clichéd things that were so lame they fooled no one. Then I fled to the kitchen to choke back tears. I washed dishes that didn't need washing, and then cooked the most dreadful soup of my life. Cream of sludge with cremated bacon, I think. It was vile.

It's morning. I'm clear-headed despite the reckless quantites of vodka and red wine I drank last night. Legs and Noodle are in school. Skunk's gone to the office one last time, to tie up loose ends and wish his colleagues well, including the bastard who fired him, because that's just the kind of person Skunk is. The house is quiet and I'm finally alone. I've wallowed in the luxury of an outraged, self-pitying weep. I needed to. At least a dozen tissues' worth of tears, snot and seething frustration. My bag lady demons are back. Their talons are scritching at the door, they're cackling to be let in. They lie in wait for moments such as these. One wags a bony finger and sniggers that we have no savings. Bitch. As if I needed reminding. Another hisses in my ear that neither Skunk or I will ever find work again, that the fantastic company-sponsored health care and pension package we've enjoyed will dry up and we will grow ill and hungry and poor and end up on the street, that our children will stop loving us because we won't be able to give them the holidays and cool teenage stuff their friends enjoy.

Fuck off, demons. I know you too well. You're not going to win this time.

* * * * * * * 

In other news, people continue to suffer in my beloved homeland. An extreme typhoon packing winds of 220 to 240 kph is headed for the northeastern part of the Philippines and is expected to make landfall sometime tomorrow. The death toll from last week's floods in Manila and neighbouring provinces is approaching 300, with many more unaccounted for. Official figures put the number of homeless at half a million people, although friends actively involved in relief work believe it's much higher than that. Evacuation centres are full to bursting, there simply isn't enough food, water, medicine, blankets or shelter to go around. Cleanup crews are burning out. Peace and order is beginning to fray. While her countrymen drown and starve, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo parties with her sycophants. So many people have lost every single thing they have, and she parties.

All Skunk has lost is a job. I must remember that. I must remember that.

These 3 photos of the flooding in Manila were sent to me by a friend.  Photographer/s unknown.
Click on the individual photos to see them in more appalling detail, if you wish.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Music: CPR for the heartstrings

Music heals and redeems. Not just emotionally but also - to my great delight - physically.

The other morning I stupidly got all hot and bothered about Sarah Palin's latest idiocy regarding health care. In need of a Palinoscopy, I listened to music. Later on Twitter I posted a link to that piece called "Stabat Mater" by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt that had somehow calmed me right down. Someone whose tweets I enjoy made this comment on my post: "What a beautiful piece of music. The human voice has such healing properties - it teases out sadness and restores the soul." I couldn't agree more. We tweeted back and forth about it for a bit, and it led me to this blog post.

I've been fascinated to learn through my study of Jin Shin Jyutsu that sound is the one thing that harmonises our endocrine system. Apparently, the ancients knew this. An endocrinologist has confirmed it to me as well, but the whys and wherefores are too complicated for me to understand fully, let alone explain to someone else. The endocrine system regulates stuff like our metabolism, growth, puberty and tissue function. It controls our hormones and helps determine our moods. Diabetes, thyroid disease, obesity, and heart disease are all disharmonies of the endocrine system. Cancers of the breast, liver, pancreas, kidneys and ovaries are also endocrine-related. I've finally stopped wondering why teenagers seem to be surgically attached to their iPods 24/7, or why hormonal people (not just women, mind) go all wobbly when they listen to certain music. Or why the laments of wolves or the callings of humpback whales touch something elemental in each of us. It all makes sense to me now.

The novelty of learning to embed a YouTube video on my blog hasn't worn off. This is how pathetically amateurish I am when it comes to tech stuff, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Feel free to roll your eyes up at my ineptitude, but I bet not many of you can make a killer Peking duck from scratch either. So we're even.

I LOVE this version of "Deja Vu." David Crosby originally wrote it for the first album (of the same name) that his group Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young released in 1970. That was almost forty years ago. In this video, filmed near Amsterdam in the late 1990s, Crosby performs it with his new group CPR, and there's a beautiful story behind it. The video is 10 minutes long, and I urge you to watch it full screen with the volume up. It may be the happiest 10 minutes you'll spend online today.

David Crosby enjoyed great success as a founding member of 2 pioneering rock bands, The Byrds, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. However, a turbulent personal life ravaged by drugs and alcohol took its toll on his career, health and relationships. Destructive behaviour led to his estrangement from many of his fellow musicians and friends. There was a term in prison for drugs charges. He eventually found sobriety but continued to face grave financial troubles and suffered a near fatal motorcycle accident. An earthquake caused major damage to his lovingly restored home, which he later lost through foreclosure. On top of all that, Crosby's years of substance abuse and an undiagnosed case of Hepatitis C led to serious liver damage. In 1995, he was hospitalised with deteriorating health and unless a suitable liver donor could be found in time, he faced certain death.

What happened next can only be described as the most joyous synchronicity. An eleventh hour liver donor miraculously became available to Crosby, and the transplant was successful. Around the same time, a gifted 30 year old pianist and composer named James Raymond discovered through a search of his birth records that David Crosby was his biological father. Father and son were reunited. They discovered their blood ties forged even deeper by a common love of music. This serendipitous union led to the birth of Crosby's new group CPR with papa Crosby on guitar, James Raymond, his son, on keyboards, and guitarist Jeff Pevar on electric guitar. Crosby's biography also states, "In this same short season of miracles, Crosby and his wife gave birth to a son, Django, and James and Stacia Raymond presented Crosby with a new granddaughter, Grace." Wow. Even Dickens couldn't make this stuff up.

Croz is as wonderful as ever in this video. His eyes have the light of serenity I've seen only in people who've made it through the fire. Watch out specially for the tender look of love and fatherly pride on Crosby's face as he looks at his son at 5:57 and 6:17 in the video clip. At 6:17 he taps his left breast with his fist, right over the space where his heart lies.

In Jin Shin Jyutsu, that exact spot is Safety Energy Lock 13. It is the place that unconditional love and forgiveness call home.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bad Mama

My friend Pat gave me this very nice but slightly rude t-shirt from a Belgian rock 'n roll band she's friends with. I showed it to Legs and Noodle and told them I was planning on wearing it when I take them to their first day of school next Tuesday.

No. Not really.

The horrified looks on my children's faces made my day. I just can't help myself sometimes.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fred Astaire equals Joy

Fred Astaire stole my heart when I was seven. My grandmother bribed me with a large bag of M&Ms to accompany her to a double feature of "Top Hat" and "Shall We Dance." I could not believe it was possible for two people to move so effortlessly and with so much joy. I watched goggle-eyed, my head flooding with questions. How did they do all that without missing a beat? How did Fred avoid tripping on Ginger's gown? How did she leap and twirl in those heels without twisting her ankle? Why didn't men dress that way anymore? How many years of ballet lessons - which I loathed - would it take for me to be able to dance that way? Listening to Lola sigh through all the dance sequences, I worried she was going to fall into a swoon and embarrass me. She needed a large Manhattan to revive her after the film and let me have a sip of her drink on the condition that I not tell my grandfather or my mother. That was the beginning of my love affair with Manhattans too.

Who can watch this video and not be gladdened by it? Not me. Do turn up the volume and view it full screen. The Vienna-based duo dZihan & Kamien's downtempo beat on "Stiff Jazz" from their album "Gran Riserva" provides the perfect backdrop to Fred Astaire and Ginger Roger's dazzling footwork. However, I think that it might be Astaire's sister Adele with him in some of the dance sequences, although I could be wrong.

No matter, it's all very uplifting. Especially on days when Facebook is littered with the irritating flotsam of Mafia Wars scores and quiz results of addle-pated friends in their 40s or older who are hell-bent on informing me that they have nothing better to do with their lives apart from using sundry Facebook applications as a monumental time-suck. Friend's sample quiz: What Chocolate Are You? Result: Mars bar. Me: Mars bars are NOT chocolate, you pathetic, muttonheaded galoot.

All right, I'll stop grumping about Facebook lameness now and look at this again. Ah, if only I had the fixings for a Manhattan.

My thanks to the clever person who put these film clips and this music together, and to my lovely friend Mnemosyne who patiently explained how I could embed this video onto my blog.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

To live as flame

It all began with this picture. It was sent to me by my photographer friend Lito Tesoro who took it at the Los Angeles Arboretum. He said it reminded him of my mum Daisy. It is the most beautiful photograph I have seen of a daisy, ever. Click on the image to see it in all its glory, and you'll see what I mean. On July 19, the anniversary of my mother's death, I posted it on my Facebook Wall together with this poem by Mary Oliver, one of my all-time favourite poems.

by Mary Oliver

It is possible, I suppose that sometime
we will learn everything
there is to learn: what the world is, for example,
and what it means. I think this as I am crossing
from one field to another, in summer, and the
mockingbird is mocking me, as one who either
knows enough already or knows enough to be
perfectly content not knowing. Song being born
of quest he knows this: he must turn silent
were he suddenly assaulted with answers. Instead

oh hear his wild, caustic, tender warbling ceaselessly
unanswered. At my feet the white-petalled daisies display
the small suns of their center piece, their -- if you don't
mind my saying so -- their hearts. Of course
I could be wrong, perhaps their hearts are pale and
narrow and hidden in the roots. What do I know?
But this: it is heaven itself to take what is given,
to see what is plain; what the sun lights up willingly;
for example -- I think this
as I reach down, not to pick but merely to touch --
the suitability of the field for the daisies, and the
daisies for the field.

After seeing that, another dear friend, the poet Luisa Igloria left this response to the Mary Oliver poem on my Wall.

(after Mary Oliver's "Daisies")

But if, then, we knew
everything there was to learn,
neither the mockingbird nor the field
overgrown with daisies would move us;
not the sun that sears overhead
in summer, nor its other tokens
that we carry into the year's
different seasons, reminding us
of loss. Having crossed
from hour to laborious hour,
neither do I know what the world is
nor what it might yet be; only
that for the moment it is sweet
to live as flame, to touch and
taste and turn one's face to another's,
grateful for the company.

by Luisa A. Igloria, 19 July 2009

In the Facebook conversation that unfurled, it turned out that Luisa and Lito knew each other decades ago but lost touch. It was a joyous reunion for the two of them. The daisy chain had worked its magic yet again.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Flower Falls

the petal fell, falling
until the only flower was the falling itself.

from "Water" by Pablo Neruda

My mother Daisy was killed 19 years ago in a powerful 7.7 magnitude earthquake that trampled Baguio, my hometown in the northern Philippines. She was just 50. I was already living in Belgium at the time, and returned home to bury not only the woman who had given life to me, but also large chunks of my former life.

Mama (seated) and me, circa 1983
photo by Wig Tysmans

Much of Baguio was in ruins. The airport runway and all major roads leading to that mountaintop city were heavily damaged, hindering rescue efforts because heavy-lifting equipment and essential supplies could not arrive. The city's 3 hospitals were badly hit and without power. There was no electricity or running water for weeks. All telephone lines were down. This being before the advent of the internet or mobile phones, Baguio was essentially cut off from the rest of the world. The sickly-sweet stench of decomposing flesh was everywhere; that smell still clings tightly to my memory. Crushing as our loss was, we were some of the lucky ones. Mama's was the second body recovered from the rubble of the Hyatt Terraces hotel, where she lived in an 8th floor apartment with Heiner, my German hotelier stepfather who was the hotel's general manager. Many others were not as fortunate. They waited days, weeks, even months before the bodies of their loved ones were recovered. Still others lost their homes. A cousin and a poet friend lost brand new homes into which they had invested all their life savings and unlived dreams.

Grief unhinged me in odd ways. I remember nothing of my hurried trip home or indeed the return journey to Brussels, except that I amassed a collection of 21 Lufthansa coffee spoons which I apparently stole whilst in flight. I had not dabbled in petty theft as a pastime before that. Nor have I taken it up since. Severe insomnia emerged as a more serious side effect of my loss. It dogged me mercilessly for 18 years until Jin Shin Jyutsu released me from its stranglehold last year.

I have only vague memories of Mama's wake in my grandparents' house. Lolo, my grandfather, bore the loss of his firstborn child with great dignity, losing his composure only once to roar at the cups and saucers (which, bizarrely, remained unscathed) in my grandmother's china cupboard, and ask why God couldn't have taken him, an old man, instead. Lola, my grandmother, was the reverse. She crumbled frequently, often surrendering melodramatically to the pain of her bereavement. Lola's blood pressure rocketed off the scales, demented as she was by grief, and yet frantic that all our visitors be welcomed and properly fed. Lola's younger sister, a doctor, occasionally had to sedate her with Valium to stop her from becoming too overwrought when relatives and friends came to call in the afternoons and evenings.

Most heartrending of all was watching my stepfather Heiner soldier on. Although devasted by his wife's death, he was very conscientious of his duties to his hotel, his fallen ship, where over 50 hotel guests and employees had died. None of us could imagine what it must have been like for one person to become homeless, jobless and a widower all at once and, against the most hellish odds, find ways to rescue others who lay trapped alive in the rubble. Although his corporate bosses told him to take time off, he refused to hear of it. Heiner remained on site to supervise the rescue and recovery effort until the last body had been found. He also stayed on to oversee the demolition of the hotel, a process that took months. Natural disasters create heroes; he was mine and always will be.

Noemi, a feisty young woman who worked as our cook for many years before leaving to start a family with our driver Romy, astounded us when she showed up a few days before Mama's funeral. Her wraith-like form appeared at the kitchen door one sodden afternoon, hungry, bedraggled and shoeless. She had walked alone for three days up a mountain entombed in shock, fog and landslides to pay her last respects to my mother. Until then, I thought I knew what loyalty meant. Noemi's unexpected arrival redefined it for me. After a wash, first aid for her wounded feet, and a long nap, she threw herself into cooking and cleaning and organised the rest of the help who were walking around in a daze like the rest of us.

Of the funeral itself I have scant recollection. We were astonished at the number of people who showed up at the cemetery, a considerable distance outside the city. It was difficult for anyone to get around because many roads were impassable, and strict petrol rationing kept people housebound save for vital journeys. In post-earthquake Baguio, the social obligation to attend other people's funerals was no longer considered compulsory. Besides, with so many dead, how did one prioritise whose funeral to attend?

At Mama's funeral, strangers clasped my hands in theirs and spoke of her kindness to them: a seminarian she had sent to theological school, hotel staff whose children's birthdays she never forgot, a struggling painter whose work she sold without taking a commission, a flower seller whose ailing mother she used to visit. Even in death our Daisy continued to bloom. As the hearse containing her coffin drew close to her burial plot, a tremendous aftershock shook the ground. From behind a large rock close to where I stood emerged an enormous cloud of white butterflies. I shivered as their wings brushed against me. In that instant, I remembered that Mama had loved butterflies and bees. She had always filled her garden with plants that attracted them; she'd watch them for hours. She often said the simple white butterflies symbolised her best. Suddenly, there they were. It was a moment of sublime synchronicity that thrilled my heart and my imagination.

After the funeral was over, the heavens opened and torrential rain came down thick as stair rods. My grandmother finally collapsed, wailing that her daughter would be soaked. The fact that my mother was dead and buried in a coffin six feet in the ground meant nothing to Lola. She could not be consoled. I held my grandmother's prostrate body in my arms, neither of us able to fully comprehend the loss of the woman who bound us together with a chain of kinship, history and love.

Only then did I remember it was my birthday. The day the earth claimed my mother a second time, I turned thirty.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Neurosceptic Unblogged: Stapled To My Seat Watching Funeralapalooza

A brilliant, scathing and very funny review of the TV coverage of Jacko's memorial service can be found here:

Neurosceptic Unblogged: Stapled To My Seat Watching Funeralapalooza

Highly recommended!

OFF THE WALL: The Night The Gloves Came Off (a Facebook good-bye to Michael Jackson)

Because I tend to do most things arse-backwards, this post is a retroactive tribute to Michael Jackson, who died sometime last week, or was it the week before? Celebs tend to irritate me, so I don't follow them on the news. But it was impossible not to know that the King of Pop had popped his clogs. Hearing the news while I was at my Jin Shin Jyutsu class in Ireland, I shrugged and said a prayer for his soul. And idly wondered whether his record label had engineered his death to boost sagging record sales. With all the extremes Jacko had put his body through - it being no secret that he was plastic-surgeried, botoxed and over-medicated to hell and back - I often thought he was headed for an early grave.

Common sense tells me that if we don't love ourselves, our bodies respond in kind. This has nothing to do with looking buffed and coiffed, or wearing designer labels, for most of that is vanity, and vanity is not love; it is fear. I'm talking about simply accepting ourselves, respecting ourselves, and being grateful each day for the miracle of our bodies and our minds. I had to make peace with my chins, my gray hair and all my love handles before I could write any of that. It wasn't easy, but it was necessary.

So anyway, there was no escaping the hype around Jacko's death, even without a TV at home. It was all over the bloody web. I tried to ignore the noise made about him on Facebook, although some of it was getting altogether too melodramatic for my taste. I mean, these people don't even make that much fuss when their own grannies croak. From a previous post, you all know about my allergy to gushy people, so it's no surprise that I don't suffer the maudlin ones gladly either. It all came to a head on Monday when I read somewhere that the Rev. Al Sharpton, that slimy opportunist, was calling for nationwide ‘love vigils’ to honor Michael Jackson on Tuesday, the day of his funeral and memorial service. Love vigils?? For that kiddie fondler and inter-galactic wanker? Pass me the bucket, quick.

In typical low-key, diplomatic fashion, I wrote a status post on my Facebook profile the day before Jacko's memorial service. Having vented my annoyance at the tawdry public reaction to Jacko's death, I thought nothing more of it and got up to cook dinner. I did not forsee the Sturm und Drang that would break out on my Facebook Wall later in the day.

The responses to my post were humorous and light-hearted until V.Rago, an old but not close friend from my party animal youth back in the Philippines, jumped in. I still have no idea why she reacted with such splenetic fury to what I or the others had to say. Especially as she claimed she wasn't a big MJ fan. I'm offering the whole nine yards here for your horror and/or amusement. Names have been changed to protect the guilty and the innocent. All comments are unedited.

My Facebook status post on Mon, July 6 at 18:20 was this:

"Megatonlove is fucking fed up with the deification of the sick, over-spending pervert that was Michael Jackson. Can they please incinerate him already, and throw Rev. Al Sharpton in the flames as well. Thanks."

And these are the 31 comments that followed. [The annotations in blue are my opinions alone.]

Non-linear Tippler at 18:29 on 06 July
They have to perform ze alien autopsy first 'no?

Latin Cowboy at 18:44 on 06 July
You're back! :)

Mojito Lizard at 18:48 on 06 July
They're selling tickets to his memorial. Holy mother of crap.

Latin Cowboy at 18:55 on 06 July
How much for a backstage pass?

Auntie Bellum at 18:55 on 06 July
"Fantasy Suttee Couples" - now there's a thought!

Babyface at 19:11 on 06 July
Wow, finally someone I can relate with.

ZeusJoos at 19:12 on 06 July

[It began here.]

V.Rago at 21:53 on 06 July
Oh come on, Megatonlove. Have a heart. I was never really a fan but the guy was a genius, a visionary. He changed the video music/concert scene and turned into an experience. Yes, he was a troubled child, and I feel sorry that despite world-wide adulation, he could never get over the verbal abuse of not being good-looking enough to be loved (and his father ought to be crucified for that) which brought him to his sad end. What I can't stand is the dredging up of all the crap. Let the man rest in peace.

[Apologists for sick celebs make my bullshit meter twitch, especially when they throw the "it's not his fault he's weird, he had a rotten childhood" spiel at me. If Jackson found himself inadequate despite global adulation, he wasn't a victim, he was a miserable twat as far as I was concerned. I fired off a reply to V.Rago and left Facebook to study my Jin Shin Jyutsu notes for a few hours before going to bed.]

Megatonlove at 22:54 on 06 July
MJ was a great dancer and an okay singer, but the rest of his package was just plain rotten. And he was MORE than just a troubled child, he was a repulsive pedophile who got away with everything because he could buy his way out of trouble. I wish people would stop making excuses for him, or glorifying him as some kind of godhead. What Jacko modelled to his fans - that happiness could be obtained through the point of a scalpel, a bowl of pills and powders, or the flick of a credit card - was just sick bollocks. Too bad he died so young, but he had it coming.

[During my absence from Facebook, other comments arrived.]

Latin Cowboy at 23:19 on 06 July
I'd have to agree with you Megatonlove, he was over rated. If he had grown up with a semi-ordinary kind of life he might have grown in to something much better, but like Elvis before him his early promise was corrupted in to a mockery of himself and then raised to godhead by by crazed masses. They both were more than willing to believe the hype about themselves.

[The temperature began to rise right around here.]

V.Rago at 23:29 on 06 July
I don't quite agree with the pedophile thing-- a lot of those boys' parents were after his money. (Have YOU caught him in bed molesting a child? Do you believe all the scandal sheets?) I know some people who have been sued-- all lies -- just because they have money and a name to protect. I believe MJ was just trying to get in touch with the childhood he missed out on. Call me naive, but I'd rather be non-judgmental. And I don't think people are glorifying him as some godhead-- just paying him the accolades (albeit delayed, because everyone seemed to prefer to trash him) he justly deserves for his accomplishments. No one is perfect. Even Mother Teresa farted. But let's just agree to disagree on this one, shall we? I honestly don't know where your need to vilify him is coming from. What's he done to you? Pills? Addiction to the scalpel? He didn't start that. Might as well spray your vitriol at all the people in Hollywood--- or closer to home. Peace.

[Another reasonable person chimed in.]

ZeusJoos at 23:52 on 06 July
I agree with Meg & watch now if people don't come forward & tell the truth about MJ's pedophilia; especially the victims themselves. He ADMITTED THAT HE LIKED SLEEPING WITH YOUNG CHILDREN, that's pretty damned telling, don't 'cha think? This circus of an all-day wake tomorrow on tuesday is total bollocks.

[Uh-oh, getting irate now.]

V.Rago at 23:58 on 06 July
I like sleeping with children-- mine! I just hope you guys don't get as badly trashed as you do others. Who the hell are you to judge? What gives you the right? Enough said.

[Nothing cracks me up more than judgmental people ordering others not to judge.]  

V.Rago at 00:04 on 07 July
And NO! ZeusJoos! That isn't pretty damn telling-- unless you have a sick mind.

[Guess she didn't really mean it when she said "Enough said."]

V.Rago at 00:37 on 07 July
And Latin Cowboy, Just what the hell do you preach? Hatred? Get off your damn pulpit! Or admit you're a hypocrite.

[Hatred? Pulpit? Hypocrite? Yo, V.Rago, you're peeing against the wrong tree here. Latin Cowboy is one of the most peaceable people I know.]

ZeusJoos at 00:44 on 07 July
I work with men & women who have been sexually molested as children & let me tell you the baggage is HORRIFIC. The damage is unspeakable & seems to have physiological ramifications, not to mention the emotional damage.

Auntie Bellum at 00:49 on 07 July
Abused kids (as he allegedly was) very often become abusers (though it has not yet been proved that he was one - the Daily Mail opinion column is not conclusive enough for me - ), and from way over here I've always thought the parents who encouraged their kids to hang out with an ageing and seriously weird pop star in the evident hope of material benefits seem even more pre-meditatedly wicked than the clearly sick MJ. Really I doubt if there are any nice people in the whole sorry tale.
Re: the wake - seems to me we waste a lot of flowers and candles mourning complete strangers these days. Mass grief is a modern night out. It's just some old gig - though I grant a real live decomposing stiff on stage beats lasers!!! :-)

[Well said, Auntie Bellum!]

V.Rago at 00:56 on 07 July
ZeusJoos, that still doesn't give you the right to abuse the abused. Especially when they can no longer speak for themselves. All this is making me sad. Can't believe there are people like you out there. All I'm saying is, let the poor man be. Why throw shit at him? Are you all clean? I have had enough of this sick discussion. Sad, sad, sad.

[Tee hee, no prizes for guessing who needed to get off the pulpit!]

ZeusJoos at 01:14 on 07 July
People like me? You don't fucking know me, the work I do, my mind-set. "The poor man"? You need to wake up lady. Just another case of blaming the victim.
Well V.Rago, then just exit stage left - you have the right to deify any monster that you choose. I worked in the record business for decades & was privy to private info regarding various intimate details 'bout musicians-wow talk about some troubled folks.... I am no angel, but I do not abuse animals or children, nor do I advocate for their abusers.

[Awwrrright, you tell her, Zeus!]

JoCal at 01:46 on 07 July
easy on each other folks... death is a sad reality no matter whom it strikes...

[At this point it was 2 a.m. here. I thought I'd check my Facebook one last time before heading up to bed.  I was rather shaken to find my Wall had turned into a battlefield in my absence. I wasn't sure what to do, so I blew the referee's whistle. Loudly.]

Megatonlove at 02:26 on 07 July
Sheesh, I leave FB for a few hours and war breaks out. V.Rago, THAT'S ENOUGH from you. What's gotten into you, girl? I don't care how hot and bothered you choose to get about Wacko Jacko, your comments on MY wall are way out of order. It's okay to disagree passionately with others, but there's no need to become abusive towards people you know nothing about. What happened to staying non-judgmental? If you want to have a good old rant, then please do it on your Facebook wall, not mine. This conversation is now closed. Thanks, everyone. Unruffle those feathers please. Good night.

[I hoped that would be the end of that. But V.Rago was clearly not done, even though she'd declared she'd had enough, not once but twice!]

V.Rago at 02:40 on 07 July
I wasn't abusive Megatonlove. You were. Condescending and judgmental. AND DON'T YOU EVER USE THAT TONE WITH ME. You chose to post something offensive and provocative on your wall and expected comments. But don't worry. You won't hear ever hear from me again. Nor do I care to hear from you. We're clearly not on the same page.

[OHO, now the pot was calling the kettle black! Instead of striking fear in my heart, V.Rago induced loud snorts of laughter in me that woke the dog. I prayed that the friends who had left comments on my Wall would somehow see the funny side of it too.]

Megatonlove at 02:57 on 07 July
Aw, shaddup already.

[After that parting shot, I deleted V.Rago from my Friends List and fell into bed. Entertaining though she briefly was, I no longer enjoy hanging out with toxic humans in real life or cyberspace. The comments on my Wall continued into the next day, ending as light-heartedly as they had begun.  Bless you, Facebook friends.]

Calmer Of Calves at 04:40 on 07 July

HarpSkunk at 08:19 on 07 July
Whew! Personally I am just hoping that the Thriller video is not a foretaste of things to come, 'Chronicle of an un-death foretold'. Maybe he has gone to live with Elvis in that London bus on the dark side of the moon which is signaling to the mothership.

Blond Igorot at 10:19 on 07 July
and I....missed all the fun. Shucks.

Queen Liz III at 10:25 on 07 July
Yes yes yes...he's still ALIVE!!!!!! It's all a money making scam cause he's in debt up to his plastic ears!!!!!....that's why there's no public viewing of the body....madam toussaud's won't release their copy hehehehehe.....spread the word...he's ALIVE!!!! where did you see him?...
oopppsss sorry you're wall's gonna go ape!!!!!!

Blond Igorot at 10:38 on 07 July

Megatonlove at 13:48 on 07 July
I believe Wacko Jacko was embalmed pre-mortem. But even people made entirely of silicone and plastic have an expiry date. His brains were also pickled ages ago.

Celtic Banjo at 16:56 on 07 July
Megatonlove, nice one! he can`t buy his way out this one paper burns where he is going he he..."whos BAD" dun dun dun dun dun...dun dun dun dun dun dun...shamone eeee heeeee.

The Ironing Broad at 23:27 on 07 July
Agree w Blond Igorot... Queen Liz III is blasphemous!

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods." 
Albert Einstein

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Guest Post: The Safety of Memory by Mark Walther

My old friend Mark Walther has graciously agreed to write a guest post. I've stretched myself too thin this week, what with the children's final exams, the dreaded annual mammogram (all clear!), and futile attempts to whittle an avalanche of notes into shape for my third Jin Shin Jyutsu class in Ireland next week. 
Mark Walther and I met in high school at Brent School, the international school we attended in the northern Philippine city of Baguio, where I lived in my teens and early twenties. He was different from our rowdier American schoolmates - quiet, observant, thoughtful. Always had his nose in a book. I liked that about him because I was passionate about books, too. I was sure he'd be interesting to talk to, but was far too gauche to engage him in conversation. Mark's parents were missionaries in the Philippines, which he always considered home. After 11 years there, he returned to the America, the country of his birth. It was a strange and sometimes difficult experience for a 17 year-old, as he recounts here. 
Today, Mark and his wife Maureen live on a bluebell-carpeted ranch near Dallas, where he continues to lead a life that's part Lord Jim, part Buster Keaton, with grandchildren thrown in for extra spice. 
 Mark Walther in high school, circa 1975

It is already hot here in Texas with the expected highs this week in the upper 90's, and there's talk of hitting the century mark by the end of the week. Soon we will have the obligatory summer TV news report by a rookie reporter cooking an egg on the sidewalk. The tally sheets will come out, records will be compared, so many days over 100 degrees. It is quiet outside, silent in the mid-afternoon sun. I sit in the shade of a mimosa tree, the heat radiating off the ground like sitting in a vast outdoor oven. In the silence, memories start to stir.

Summertime, the heat and a James Taylor song always take me back to the summer of 1976.  Back to when the pain of loss and culture shock were fresh. Back to when I had just returned to America and was miserable over the friends and country I had left behind. With my long black hair and beard, I really stood out in a sea of Scandinavian rural midwestern conformity. People who could barely comprehend leaving the state, let alone the country. I desperately wanted to go home and at the same time I was excited at the adventure of being in a new country, at the prospect of what might be in store for me as I began my adult life. Yet, I was a stranger in a strange land. I had never seen so many white people all together at the same time. I longed for things that were familiar: foods, scenery and people. That summer I struggled to find my footing, re-acquainting with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The world was so much smaller in the Heartland, shrunk down to weather, crops and the State Fair. I worked my first jobs: my grandfather's farm, then at a feedmill. I learned to drive. I bought clothes at a store rather than having them tailor-made. Giving perpetual explanations to the never-ending question, "But why would you want to leave the U.S.? We have everything..." Candy bars, shopping malls, drive-in movies, Dairy Queen, pot-luck dinners and backyard barbecues. The shock of how much things cost back here in the U.S.A. Giving countless geography lessons ("So you lived next to France?"). Camping and sleeping on the ground because you wanted to. Hot running water you could use without boiling it first. American cars. Giving endless history lessons ("No, it was the Spanish-American War, not the Korean War"). Electricity 24 hours a day. TV, TV and more TV, all in English! Hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries and steaks. American girls of all shapes and sizes. A bus trip from Florida to Montreal and back again. Canned vegetables and TV dinners (why?!). Corn as far as the eye could see. Concerts of bands I had only known by word of mouth or the radio. The new world was trying to crowd out my old life. I was trapped, boxed in by decisions and choices beyond my control. I wore my memories like armor and carried them like a sword, protection from the isolated loneliness I felt in my new home, the place of my birth. But throughout that mad, hot summer, the thing that really kept me going was music.

Now, in the heat and silence 30 years later I can feel the fierceness and the passion of that teenage boy. My shoulders ache for the weight of that armor, my hand for the feel of that haft.  It is summertime and I am going to the Philippines in my mind.
  "In my mind I'm goin' to Carolina, can't you see the sunshine, can't you just feel the moonshine
 ain't it just like a friend of mine to hit me from behind
Yes I'm goin' to Carolina in my mind
Dark and silent late last night I think I might have heard the highway calling
Geese in flight and dogs that bite. Signs that might be omens say I'm going, going
I'm goin' to Carolina in my mind

With a holy host of others standing 'round me, still I'm on the dark side of the moon
And it seems like it goes on like this forever You must forgive me
If I'm up and gone to Carolina in my mind"    

from "Carolina in My Mind" by James Taylor

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Clear as a (Marvin) Bell

Found this the other day via the wonderful writer Andrea Gillies who re-tweeted it on Twitter. Hay fever keeps my head in permanent fog. The old demons of Blighter's Rock are back as well, making writing fraught. This was exactly what I needed. Although I don't write poetry, all of this applies to me, too. Perhaps you'll find it pertinent and clear-headed as well.

Thank you, Marvin Bell.

Thirty-two Statements About Writing Poetry by Marvin Bell

1. Every poet is an experimentalist.

2. Learning to write is a simple process: read something, then write something; read something else, then write something else. And show in your writing what you have read.

3. There is no one way to write and no right way to write.

4. The good stuff and the bad stuff are all part of the stuff. No good stuff without bad stuff.

5. Learn the rules, break the rules, make up new rules, break the new rules.

6. You do not learn from work like yours as much as you learn from work unlike yours.

7. Originality is a new amalgam of influences.

8. Try to write poems at least one person in the room will hate.

9. The I in the poem is not you but someone who knows a lot about you.

10. Autobiography rots.

11. A poem listens to itself as it goes.

12. It's not what one begins with that matters; it's the quality of attention paid to it thereafter.

13. Language is subjective and relative, but it also overlaps; get on with it.

14. Every free verse writer must reinvent free verse.

15. Prose is prose because of what it includes; poetry is poetry because of what it leaves out.

16. A short poem need not be small.

17. Rhyme and meter, too, can be experimental.

18. Poetry has content but is not strictly about its contents. A poem containing a tree may not be about a tree.

19. You need nothing more to write poems than bits of string and thread and some dust from under the bed.

20. At heart, poetic beauty is tautological: it defines its terms and exhausts them.

21. The penalty for education is self-consciousness. But it is too late for ignorance.

22. What they say "there are no words for"--that's what poetry is for. Poetry uses words to go beyond words.

23. One does not learn by having a teacher do the work.

24. The dictionary is beautiful; for some poets, it's enough.

25. Writing poetry is its own reward and needs no certification. Poetry, like water, seeks its own level.

26. A finished poem is also the draft of a later poem.

27. A poet sees the differences between his or her poems but a reader sees the similarities.

28. Poetry is a manifestation of more important things. On the one hand, it's poetry! On the other, it's just poetry.

29. Viewed in perspective, Parnassus is a very short mountain.

30. A good workshop continually signals that we are all in this together, teacher too.

31. This Depression Era jingle could be about writing poetry: Use it up / wear it out / make it do / or do without.

32. Art is a way of life, not a career.

Marvin Bell, author of seventeen books, has been the recipient of the Lamont Award from the Academy of American Poets, Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and Senior Fulbright appointments to Yugoslavia and Australia. Bell is a longtime member of the faculty of the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa, where he is Flannery O'Connor Professor of Letters.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Oh woe.

The past week's been a bitch. Or rather, I have. I think I've lost it. Legs and Noodle have been playing squabble all week, and no, that wasn't a typo. My patience with them is at an end. I've gone on laundry strike with Legs. So disgusted am I by the clumps of fetid clothing littering her bedroom floor that I've refused to do any more of her laundry - at least until the sight of her struggling to do it herself unhinges me and makes me recant.

I have three months of New Yorker magazines and twelve books by my side of the bed, unread.

In two weeks I leave for a Jin Shin Jyutsu class in Ireland and my notes are as jumbled as they were 6 months ago when I smugly announced that I had plenty of time to get them ship-shape for June. What was the road to hell paved with again? No, don't tell me.

My hay fever has returned, reducing me to a pathetic blob of snot and snuffles, robbing me of sleep. It feels like there's an elephant sitting on my chest. If I'm outdoors for more than 10 minutes, the sneezing and coughing begin. I worry, too, that the sneezing fits I get when driving are turning me into a liability on the road.

Spring, thou art a bitch sometimes.

Everything in the garden is on the rampage, with nettles and dandelions leading the charge.  Evil bindweed is back. The brunnera and the linnaria have migrated out of their beds. Deep pink foxgloves are canoodling with yellow poppies, and it looks all wrong somehow. The raised beds will never get done now and the baby cabbage will have to grow in pots. Roquette (arugula) has sprouted all over the cracks on the terrace. I used to pay a premium for this stuff at the Delhaize only to have the children turn their noses up at it. I felt sure they'd change their minds about roquette if we grew it at home; so we did, and they didn't. At this point, trying to stay on top of anything in the garden feels like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. My horticultural get-up-and-go has gotten-up-and-left. Bugger the damn garden.

I mourn the demise of these beloved gloves. I loved them, literally, to pieces. They've been with me since the day 20 years ago when we planted the skinny little wisteria vine which now threatens to gobble up the house.

And to cap a perfectly dreary week, Belgium goes to the polls tomorrow for the regional and European elections. I don't know if there's anything more depressing than Belgian politics, except maybe Philippine politics and I want no part of either. America gets the magnificent Mister Obama, and we at the crossroads of Europe get to choose between the likes of Louis Michel and Elio Di Rupo and a host of other buffoons? Que barbaridad!

It's time to get my gratitude bowl out. I notice it's become dusty from lack of use, so busy have I been with doing that I've left no time for being.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Early the other morning I noticed that someone had left a new comment on my last post about a tiresome relative named Chlamydia Burana. The comment, from an unknown reader named mnemosynewrites (yes, exactly, mne-mne-mowhat?), read:
"Chanced upon your blog over at Kanlaon and have been a frequent reader since. As a result, I nominated you for a "Kreative Blogger Award", hope you don't mind :)"
Okay folks, it was early in the morning, and because most of you don't know me personally - count yourselves lucky, really - my brain dwells South of Murky in the early morning, and does not resemble anything more evolved than pond life until at least 10 a.m. And definitely not before industrial-strength caffeine has been poured down it.

Neither can I remember where I've parked my reading glasses at that hour, so I tend to wander aimlessly through cyberspace with left hand cupped over left eye to help me focus. As the one-eyed halfwit reading that comment, I understood it to mean that Kanlaon, an excellent blog by a published writer friend in California, had won some award. I made a note to look up the definition of that mnemo-word. I love words, and if there's a new one I haven't met, I'll rush over to shake its hand.

Forward to late morning. Eyes and brain finally operational, I read the comment again and gagged on my toast. A total stranger named Mnemosyne Writes had just informed me that she had nominated me and 6 others for a Kreativ Blogger Award. Moi? Good God! I couldn't imagine what possessed her to do that, but hey, I wasn't about to argue. Without getting all Kate Winslet-y about it, THANK YOU, kind Menemosyne person, for this honor and the rather yummy ego massage that accompanied it. It's come as quite a shock to someone who's still not sure where this young blog is headed, and who continues to hear scary Blighter's Rock rumblings in her head each time she starts a new post.

According to the rules of this award, I have to list 7 things I love. I have to pick 7 other blogs that I think should be awarded the same honor, and inform those bloggers. I also have to link back to the person (above) who graciously nominated me. Without further ado:

Seven Things I Love, and preferrably in large quantities, please:
  • the ancient Japanese healing art of Jin Shin Jyutsu
  • laughter
  • food/eating/cooking
  • a good night's sleep
  • books
  • music
  • beautiful things made by hand, like my Aran jumpers from a 91-year-old knitter in Inis Mór, the Aran Islands, Ireland

Seven Blogs I Enjoy:

Belgian Waffle - Eurodrone, unfit mother, slattern, this woman has life in Belgium completely sussed. One recent post almost gave me a seizure. I suspect that a soft heart beats underneath Jaywalker's cheeky madcap exterior.

Posit Ennui - Meet Dr. Y.U. Thropplenoggin, bosh-monger, diabolical wit, master of verbal tomfoolery. His pithycisms also make Twitter a chortlesome place for me to roam. I've learned from messy experience not to have any coffee in my mouth when reading tweets by @thropplenoggin.

This Is Reverb - Ryan Detzel, a young father in Cincinnati, is an ace cook and photographer, and possesses some rather impressive tattoos. He's also a pastor whose message gets me in the gut. No mean feat, seeing as I've always been averse to any form of organized religion. Thankfully, this has never stopped me from walking my own spiritual path where I encounter gems like him.

Self-Help Holds with Jin Shin Jyutsu - Astrid, an experienced Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner living in Spain shares her knowledge and experience of the ancient healing art that has become my life's passion too. Read her if you want to know how to stop a migraine or heal a wound quickly without pharmaceuticals or plasters. I promise you this stuff works.

Market Manila - Marketman cooks, entertains, travels, and occasionally rants with great style. According to Anthony Bourdain, he also roasts "the best pig in the world." I dream of eating at his table one day, and so do all his readers. Poor man, he will need a very, very long table.

Borealkraut - Alaska-based Borealkraut is a naturalist, teacher, quilter, hiker, cook, mother, blogger who embodies good, sane womanhood to me - something I aspire to, but regularly fall short of. Her prepositions don't dangle either. She has moose in her garden, I have slugs. Whoever said life was fair? She also has a second blog dedicated to cooking, called Borealkitchen.

golfpunkgirl and benbenbenbenben are newlyweds Liana and Ben Joyce in real life. These are their Flickr pages; they blog with photographs rather than words. They shoot only analog film and oh, what sumptuous, transcendent images they create!


N.B. A growing list of blogs I visit is on the right hand column of this page. Every single one is worth a detour. Special thanks to my blogging 'aunties' The Lizard Meanders, True Love, Six Kids, One Old House, and Kanlaon for their inspiration and encouragement.

Friday, May 22, 2009


I love brocantes!

In Belgium, a brocante is a cross between a flea market and a car boot sale. The Flemish call them rommelmarkts. In my area, they usually take place in villages, beginning in the spring until the end of summer. People lay out their stuff on tarpaulins on the street. They're a good way for folk to clear out the domestic detritus they've uncovered while spring cleaning. Fortunately or unfortunately, they're also a good way to pick up more "finds" - or junk - depending on whose point of view it is.

When the going gets tough, the broke go brocanting. Someone's junk is someone else's treasure. Here are some treasures I picked up recently.

From the Noduwez brocante (above) 2 weeks ago: one bundle of organic rhubarb, one bunch of organic parsley, two young cherry tomato plants, a dozen antique coins from Denmark and Belgium and one antique 2 kilo cast iron weight. Total spent: €5.

And this was my haul from Thursday's brocante in Jandrain: a dozen different antique cast iron weights (of varying weights: 2-kilos, 1-kilo, 500-grams, 200-grams, 100-grams, 50-grams), one Japanese serving plate, 5 French blue-and-white dessert plates with peony design from the 1930s, one ceramic planter with a Chinese garden scene, and 11 small glass bowls from the 1930s, which will be perfect for ice cream or jelly. Total spent: €8.30.

Why do I have a thing for cast iron weights? I have no idea, but I can never resist them. Heck, I'm not sure why I have a thing for most of the things I buy at brocantes. I bought my first one, a 1-kilo weight, a few years ago to use as a doorstop. I am now the proud owner of over 60 cast iron weights, and each time I bring more home Skunk rolls his eyes upward and sighs heavily.

Too bad for him.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Snark Returns: Introducing Chlamydia Burana (warning: expletives undeleted)

First-time visitors to Megatonlove could be forgiven for thinking this is a gardening blog. It isn't. Only, with spring at full gallop, there's so much beauty outside that it would be churlish not to share some of its beauty with you. Mother's Day morning brought glorious sunshine, love notes and quirky hand-made presents from Legs & Noodle, and the discovery that the Papaver orientalis had started to open. I look forward to these Oriental poppies all winter long. They are the brazen hussies of the garden, their papery scarlet-orange skirts calling to mind the pleated costumes of Issey Miyake. They burst open with devil-may-care abandon, their flower heads unnaturally heavy for their stems, the ruffles and ridges of their mysterious centers coated in inky purple dust. In a few days they're gone, leaving large seed pods in their wake, victorious fists clenched to salute such fleeting splendor. As I photographed them in the early morning sun, I was filled with gladness for the mother that sustains us all. Mother Earth.

I compiled my new flower photos into an album and posted them on Facebook. Everything was grand until yesterday when I noticed that someone on my friends list had posted my photo album onto her Facebook Wall. Without my permission! It irritated me. Especially because this same person had committed the same transgression only the week before with one of my other photo albums. She'd blithely helped herself to my family pictures and posted them on her Wall without as much as a by-your-leave. I wrote her this message:

I would appreciate it if you would kindly take my album "Life in Belgium" off your FB wall as soon as possible. My family's privacy is very important to me and I would rather that my photo albums be visible only to people on my friends list. I hope you understand.

To give her credit, she complied promptly. She explained she only wanted to share them with her sister and friends - none of whom I know, by the way. I enjoy sharing my photographs with my family and friends on Facebook. It's a great way for me to stay in touch because I live so far away from my tribe. However, I remain extremely cautious about sharing my personal details on the web, and I've gone to certain lengths to protect the identities of my loved ones on this blog.

Being a thoughtful person, I'd like to respect my offender's anonymity, so I'll call her Chlamydia Burana. (Take a bow, Chlamydia, dear. This may be your moment of fame.) Chlamydia Burana is close enough to her real name, and it accurately defines someone "with an ability to establish long-term associations with host cells." Gee, thanks, Wikipedia, that scares the shit out of me. An easily-transmitted infection, terrific. Some of my Facebook friends reading this may know who I'm talking about because Chlamydia has wormed her way into their friends lists as well. When I was new to Facebook last year, Chlamydia sent me a friend request. She claimed to be my mother's cousin and, fool that I was, I accepted. I had never met her in person, she lives a safe distance away in Vafancouver, and I had no intention of ever interacting with her. I did wonder at the time why, if she was as close to my mother as she claimed to be, Mama had never mentioned Chlamydia to us while she was alive. Dear Chlammy lost no time friending more family members, and was soon busy busy busy leaving her syrupy pawprints everywhere. Secretly I began to regard her as the Dolores Umbridge of Facebook. The first comment she ever left me, on a photo album titled "What's Cooking in Megatonlove's Kitchen" annoyed me, and I knew it was more than just her appalling punctuation:

hi M, Chlamydia here, 2nd cousin of your very beautiful mommy, Daisy. your aunt P is my contemporary and i am more than happy to have found her on B's album. also, it would be much appreciated if you could post a family photo with your mommy and dad, when you can. apparently, you inherited your mom's cooking prowess. i love all of your creations but, as a vegetarian,this is my favorite! your pup eats better than i do...home cooking!! thanks for your friendship and, like what i wrote to your sister-in-law, J, i am so blessed and humbled to have touched base with family members of my most adored cousin. take care and much love...

Not an auspicious start, but knowing how prickly and saccharine-intolerant I am on a good day, I tried to ignore it and dismissed her as Gushy. Give me Cranky, give me Snooty, give me Bossy or Smelly or any of the other 27 dwarves. Just. Don't. Give. Me. Gushy. Because I'll puke all over her. And Chlamydia was world class Gushy. Upper case SMARMY too.

And so Chlamydia simpered on:

Beautiful children you have.

Legs looks like Little Daisy...

Each time she left a comment, my Bullshit Meter would ricochet. Yesterday, when I saw that she had filched another of my photo albums and posted it on her Wall, after already having been cautioned once, it was a bit much. I sent her another message, more business-like this time:

Once again, Chlamydia, may I ask you to please not post any of my photos on your wall without asking me first? I really find this most intrusive and a complete disregard of my privacy. Although we might be related, I have never actually met you and I do not appreciate the liberties you are taking. You could at least have asked me first. It might be just pictures of my garden, but still. Kindly POST YOUR OWN STUFF on your wall. Thank you, etc.

To which she messaged back:

So sorry again, my niece...

My initial sigh of relief at her reply disintegrated into snorts of exasperation when I saw that my photos were still up on her wall. What the fuck, ya great galoot?! Pathetically, I checked her Wall every half hour. No change. By then, my knickers were dancing the proverbial twist.

This time, for variety, I brazenly wrote on her Wall:

Chlamydia, this is my THIRD and final request: will you PLEASE take MY photo album off your Wall? My photos are my property, and they are not yours to do with as you please. Surely this is not too much to ask? I would not dream of posting anyone's pictures on my wall without asking their permission first. Thanks.

Adrenalin provoked un derangement in me. I decided some extra spleen might not come amiss. Going for broke, I replied to her message:

I will not accept your apology until you take my photos off your wall. For god's sake, Chlamydia, I've had enough of your games. Do you ask permission from the other people whose stuff you put on your wall? Or do you think that because this is Facebook you can help yourself to whatever you want?

Silence. My blasted photos remained on her Wall. Was she suffering an attack of sudden illiteracy? Had her computer crashed? Or was she just being an utter fuckwit? All of the above? I gave it one last huzzah:

Chlamydia, I am now very angry that after asking you 3 times, you still haven't seen fit to remove my photos from your wall. What part of my request didn't you understand? I saw that you removed my comment, but my album is still there. And please don't patronize me by referring to me as "your niece" if you cannot respect my privacy on Facebook.

Nada. I had to admit defeat. I knew what my next step would have to be. Reader, I DELETED her.

Lessons learned, in no particular order:

  1. I can't seem to count beyond 3 when I'm angry.
  2. C'est la folie to ignore mon Bullshit Meter, parce que, mon dew, il est toujours spot-on.
  3. Facebook's Privacy settings are a JOKE. There is no way to remove the Share option from my photos to stop others from posting them to their profile. And not only that, even after deleting Chlamydia from my friends list, my photos remain on her wall. Well, Facebook, as far as I'm concerned, you are now officially Fuckbook.
  4. Some relatives can be downright shits. Bet y'all already knew that.
  5. It feels great to let go of snakes masquerading as friends .

Before I go, I want to leave you with an imaginary message I wrote but will of course never send to her. Unless she tracks me down and reads it here:

Dear Chlamydia, what'll you do now that I've dumped you? I know I was one of the most colorful characters on your Friends List, and you will miss my saucy posts. How dreary your life will be without me. Never mind. Every cloud has a silver lining. Now that Bernard Madoff faces spending the rest of his life in prison, there may be a vacancy for you at Weasels Sans Frontieres.

Imelda Staunton as Professor Dolores Umbridge in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"

N.B. Megatonlove wishes to thank a certain lizard for helping her find the right name.