Monday, March 31, 2008


Went to the Desert.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The End, The Ice, The Sun

A GOOD SMOKE: Final two performances are this weekend. If you haven’t seen it. See it. If not now…then you might have to go to NY one day to see it. And that just adds carbon to the planet.



And now, a word about the collapsed ice shelf: Shit.

My good friend, Dan, works for The Power Company. Frankly, they are doing fabulous work. Read!

Southern California Edison

Thursday, March 27, 2008

If Men Can Get Pregnant, Why Can't I Just Marry One?

If men can get pregnant, why can’t I just marry one?

Labor of Love

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Haircut is Often the Answer

Today, Adam, my Recognized-by-the-State-of-California-Domestic-Partner, took our cancer ridden pooch, Louise, in for a very short summer cut.

She came home completely frisky and behaves at least three years younger today than she did yesterday. Let this be a lesson to us all. When you are old and filled with disease, keep up your grooming. Also helpful: have something to look forward to. For Louise, it’s her blood pressure medicine wrapped in a bite size piece of country paté.

Having ancient pets helps us all with great life lessons, the simplest, of course, being mortality. I suggest buying your five year old a gold fish this week just so you can teach her about death.

One of the best things about growing up quasi-Catholic was seeing all those dead bodies laid out in coffins. (My particular favorite wake was when my Great Aunt Rose, recently deceased, threw herself onto the corpse of my great grandmother, yelling, “Mama, take me with you!”)

Death, death, sad, funny, endless, timeless death.

Death is a serious visitor in our house. But this haircut, this jaunty do, has lifted the spirits of our dog and ourselves. Petco, we thank you for the respite.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Youth in Asia

You know, it was really nasty watching our cat die. I don’t have a problem with her being dead, it was truly time for the ol’ gal…but I actually hated watching her take the lethal injection. I feel like I have witnessed a snuff film.

I feel less inclined toward allowing it for human beings.

However, I did think of something today that could be helpful to the human race.

Before the cat was given the lethal injection, she was given an injection of anesthesia. There she lay, fully out. Why can’t we just do that for people? Just anesthetize them during the final days. You’re not killing them, but you are taking away conscious pain.

I’m all for it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Circus Economics

Did you get your IRS notice recently? What a comedy!

My stimulus payment? What will it stimulate me to do? 600 dollars? What’s that, like 20 Euros? I think I’ll buy some eggs.

My favorite line of the notice:
“For taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) of more than $75,000 (or more than $150,000 if married filing jointly), the payment will be reduced or phased out completely.”

Is that vague or what? “Or phased out completely?” As if this has been a long term thing and now they are putting an end to it?

I cannot believe George W. went to Yale. I could not even imagine him getting through clown college.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Barak Yack

Look, he has some good points. And how smart he is. He distanced himself from the angry preacher but he understands black anger. Pretty clear headed.

Will Preachergate come back to bite him on his half black ass? I don’t know. Very interesting times.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sow America

The Feds bailed out Wall Street a bit but the fundamental setup is still the same. So when the next investment bank crumbles, do they try to prop that one up, too?

And so on?

Bush has been on a shopping spree since the day he entered office. He fooled himself. He thought he was buying everything he and his friends needed with complete faith that an imperial class is what this country needs. The result: He devalued everything. Our stand in the international community, our dollar, our health, our air, our stability, our economy, our sense of worth, our personal freedom, our sense of well being.

Bush is a dumb pig. Through his eye slits, he can only recognize other pigs.

Pigs feeding other pigs in a hallway of swine mirrors is beyond piggish. It is how farms are lost. Nothing left but cloven hoof prints and mountains of pig slop. One hopes it makes good fertilizer.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Why Them?

I do not understand why this country loathes helping common people who are trying to get along but will happily bail out Bear Stearns.

Is it because we all think we are Bear Stearns people? We aren’t. The waste of the Pluto class is complete. The military has been fattened for our “War on Terror” and now industry is being fattened with this bailout. The industrial-military complex, which has been our guarantor of expansion is now our biggest liability (or, as I see it, has always been).

Maybe this nation’s money should be used to build greatly needed housing in New Orleans, to replace the collapsed bridge in Minneapolis, to provide healthcare to forty-five million uninsured Americans, and at the top of my list: to build a usable subway system in Los Angeles (A monorail would be fine, too).

Instead, we give money to old modes, harmful institutions.

Our government does not have our backs.

Your Brain

This clip is twenty minutes long. I believe it is worth taking the twenty minutes to sit down and watch the whole thing.

Link in NY Times:

Jill Bolte Taylor

If the NY Times link doesn’t work for you, hit this You Tube. Same thing.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hillary Still

I’m still a Hillary fan. I think she has the best health care proposal. She has a hard on for change in a doable way. Come on.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cat Exhaustion

Something about killing your pet is not only sad, it is also extremely exhausting.

The emotional drain. There you are sitting at the Vet---they take the cat into a back room, put a catheter in her leg and then bring her back to you.

Then, one shot in the port knocks her unconscious, the second shot stops her from living.

Then, her pupils completely dilate and her tongue hangs out of her mouth and she is, you know, dead.

I have seen this cat scampering around for fourteen years and then I saw her lying there, just like any other dead animal on the highway.

This transition from living to inanimate fur object is shocking to behold.

Adam and I were talking about crying. It seems like grief helps you make the disconnection. It’s how your brain breaks the bond. It’s essential. It wears on you, though.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Juanita Was a Wild Cat

We had to put Juanita down today. She died peacefully in Adam's arms at 11:30 AM. We'll miss her but she was suffering and it was time. She had a good long life and she leaves us with 16 years of wonderful memories. Especially the time she tore across the living room and flew right up the chimney. Goodbye, little one...

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Married With Children With Borscht

Adam, My Recognized-by-the-State-of-California-Domestic-Partner, is about to start working on Married With Children...brand new episodes for Russian television.

He is telecommuting.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Downward Dog

Death Update.

Juanita, our cat, is being put to sleep on Tuesday.
She is sixteen. Adam has had her for sixteen years. I’ve known her for fourteen and a half years. This is sad.

But nothing as sad as Louise.

Louise, our pooch, the girl of my life, has terminal cancer. A huge plum sized tumor sits on the top of her heart, sourrounding her aorta. I spent the day at the Vet cardiac specialist on Sepuleveda. The Vet’s last name was Barrett. I took comfort. My neighbor next door growing up, her last name was also Barrett and they had lots of animals and I am pretty sure Susie Barrett became a veternarian herself. This Barrett was so kind. After the ultarsound, she sat with me and explained exactly how it was all going to go down: the coughing from the tumor rubbing up against the trachea, the enlarged heart, the fluid that was going to fill her chest cavity, which is difficult to drain, the fluid that will fill up her abdominal cavity because of her weak heart, and how that could actually be drained with no difficulty, the end being near, no need to ever get her teeth cleaned again, handed me blood pressure pills to reduce stress on the heart and diuretics to remove fluid, the end, the end, the end, the end of our gorgoues, loved doggie.

Adam and I have been crying all weekend. It’s ridiculous to even try to explain the indescribable wailing that takes over.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Pet Scan

We brought our cat, Juanita, to the vet today. It was almost time to give her her final shot. She has quite a mouth full of cancer, can barely eat or drink, weighs just four pounds, it’s over. We got up this morning and fed her a dish of tuna. She ate it all followed by a long slurping in the toilet. After that, she was so happy. She sat in the sun. We just couldn’t kill her. Not today. Maybe next Tuesday.

But we had to go to the Vet for her follow up anyway. We brought Louise along, our amazing pooch, because she has had a cough for three weeks and antibiotics are not stopping it. We left her behind for X-rays and bloodwork. Turns out, she has a very enlarged heart and tomorrow I get to drop hundreds of dollars at an animal cardioligist’s office who is going to give a second opinion and probably some pills, mostly diuretics, to remove fluid. At the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Sepulveda. On a Friday.
The good news is enlarged hearts are treatable. Sure, she’ll die from it one day…but there’s still time to give her the love. It’s better than cancer.

So the cat is almost gone. The dog, well, I hope the heart doctor gives her a year or two.

I love my pooch more than anything on earth. It feels like that to me.

Old pets. You just have to be ready.

Louise Blog

It's Time You've Been Tubed

I was sitting up late last night and I thought, “I think it’s time I YouTubed my home town." (I used YouTubed in the same way one uses Googled). I had a sneaking suspicion the results would yield sports, sports and more sports. I was correct. But little did I know the clips would have background music. I give you a 2007 Suffern High School Wrestling match set to Thriller, why they chose that song I do not know.

Then I thought, “Don, have you ever YouTubed yourself?” So, I YouTubed. And here it is…the trailer to the award winning early 1990’s indie feature, “The Appointment.” The guy without the shirt on with the big gun is Sylvester Stallone's brother-in-law. The woman with him is Sly's sister. We shot in their house in Brentwood. Our last day of shooting. The guy who looks like me, about fifteen years ago, is me. The clothes I am wearing truly are mine. The 1992 White Geo Prizm Trunk that I hit with my angry fists is my car. I still drive it.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Hillary Wedge?

This is a contest that does not need to happen any longer.

This is when someone strikes a great deal.

Six more weeks until Pennsylvania? And? Really?


Hillary, we love(d) you. We love you. I don’t know.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Good Smoke: LA Weekly & Grigware Talks Theatre

Happily, LA WEEKLY gave a very positive review for A GOOD SMOKE and the great label GO. Don Grigware put out a rave. This marriage of art and press is interesting.

GO A GOOD SMOKE Writer-director Don Cummings adeptly captures the chaos enveloping a collapsing family, in his dark one-act comedy. Eldest son Dave (Henry Gummer) has returned to his family's home in the hope of straightening out the latest mess. Coinciding with the birth of her first grandchild, Mom (Barbara Gruen) goes off her meds and lands in a psychiatric ward. She's now back at home, but Dave's attempts to get her to rehab are thwarted by his younger brother, Joe (Blake Anthony), who's become Mom's enabler. Mom may — or may not — have pancreatitis, or possibly fibromyalgia; what she does have is an endless supply of prescription pain pills, which Joe hides, doling them out one by one when she begs. Dad (Dennis Delsing) copes by drinking himself into a stupor. Despite pleas from both sons, Mom refuses to go to the hospital to see her daughter, Susan (Madelynn Fattibene), and the baby, nor will she visit Susan and her granddaughter at home. Cummings has a gift for the pointed barb, and some of the dialogue is hilarious, despite the situation's gravity. His direction is as fast-paced as the dialogue, and Gruen delivers a tremendous performance as a deceptive, manipulative drug addict. Chandler Studio Theatre Center, 12443 Chandler Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 29. (800) 838-3006. The Production Company. --Sandra Ross, LA Weekly


A Good Smoke
written and directed by Don Cummings
Chandler Studio Theatre Center, NoHo
through March 30

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained”. Parental authority often throws that timeworn adage in children’s faces. They are doing their damndest to motivate, but their unflinching control may cause catastrophic results. If one manages to break away from the rest of the family, and relocate, say, to the West coast from the East, total independence is tenuous at best. Such is the case with Dave, an environmentalist (Henry Gummer) who revisits his monstrous mother Joyce (Barbara Gruen) during one of her recurring bouts of illness in Don Cummings’ staggeringly real dramedy A Good Smoke.

The minute Joyce’s problem rears its ugly head, most of the family rallies to her - such is the power of her apron strings. No one can escape her. Like Martha in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Joyce brays and complains tirelessly. Unlike Martha, it’s not about a sexless husband, but instead about her aches and pains. They’re caused from either fibromyalgia or pancreatitis. Doctors seem baffled by her symptoms and have put her on prescriptive drugs including morphine that make her as much an emotional as a physical wreck. Joyce blames it all on her mother’s incessant abuse; she was hit repeatedly as a child, and that trauma has damaged her. What is so sad is that without realizing the full extent of her actions, she continues the vicious cycle. Son Joey (Blake Anthony) caters to her every whim, but cannot seem to find himself. Without love or a plan of his own making, he is trapped, as is the father (Dennis Delsing), who drinks to bear his sorrow. There is also a daughter, Susan (Madelynn Fattibene) who has just given birth and is fretting over her newborn child’s slowness to nurse. Joyce is too caught up in her own world to visit and help Susan, to the disgust of Dave, who is at continuing odds with his mother’s negativity. Mother’s presence is still felt strongly, though, as Susan wrestles with naming her child Joyce.

To quote Eleanor of Aquitane in William Goldman’s The Lion in Winter, “every family has its ups and downs”. This family’s entrapment is tragic, but not without many comic undertones, as dysfunction and dark humor go hand in hand. Everyone can relate to at least one problem, and the familial plight is so pathetic at times, especially Joyce’s, that laughter seems a better medicine than tears. Cummings does well to cut away from the mother’s agonizing abuse and intersperses scenes that serve as comic relief, such as at a local bar where the 3 men get drunk and then stoned in the parking lot behind. It is here that Dave poetically describes the beauty of an old crabapple tree on the property. This beauty does not preclude the destructive quality of nature and intelligently opposes the human element of control over it, once more control, which remains at the thematic core of the play.

The ensemble is solid. Gruen is outstanding in her brutally honest portrayal. Her lonely conversation on a cell phone to a voice machine as she cleans the house at 5am is monumentally engrossing. Her ferocious attack on lines like “Pull it together, Susan!” is drop dead hilarious. Gummer lends the complicated Dave, who is the spokesman for the playwright, a dynamic focus and compassionate sensitivity. Anthony adds the right touch of bewilderment, and Fattibene is gutwrenching in her deep need to mother her newborn. Delsing creates an appropriate wimp of an alcoholic husband, and Mary McBride adds color as the caring, yet “all business” mother-in-law.

Cummings stages the piece on the small Chandler stage with the utmost dexterity. The title A Good Smoke refers to the family’s addiction to cigarettes, and at play’s end, the bleak, silent freeze-frame portrait of the typical American dysfunctional family lighting up makes us simultaneously laugh and cry.

5 out of 5 stars
--Don Grigware, Grigware Talks Theatre


Monday, March 03, 2008

A Good Smoke: LA Times Review

Funny thing about addiction

We're all addicts, admits Don Cummings' cheerfully rude comedy, "A Good Smoke," now staged by the Production Company at Chandler Studio Theatre Center. Whether it's momma, nicotine or self-righteousness, there's no limping through life without a crutch.

That's bad news for do-gooder Dave (Henry Gummer), who flies in from California after his domineering, hypochondriac mother (Barbara Gruen) conveniently has a breakdown the same day her daughter, Susan (Madelynn Fattibene), gives birth. Dave prides himself on being way past the tactics of his bloodsucking family, but it's a crime scene, all right: Younger brother Joe (Blake Anthony) enables Mom's pill popping, while passive Dad (Dennis Delsing) tunes out with beer and football. Susan's newborn won't nurse, the crisis is shredding everyone's nerves, and Dave foolishly gave up smoking years ago.

It's tough to mine much that's new in the dysfunctional family genre, but Cummings has a feel for desperation, and he gives each of the play's women her own awful, nakedly human monologue. As the mother from hell, Gruen admirably holds her ground, refusing to give into sitcom cuteness or ask for our sympathy.

Cummings, who also directed, has trouble moving the cast around August Viverito's cramped set of appropriately exhausted furniture. You wish he'd cleared the whole thing out and done it black-box style. After all, what says home more than recriminations and a clean ashtray?

--Charlotte Stoudt

"A Good Smoke" The Chandler Studio Theatre Center, 12443 Chandler Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 29. $22. (800) 838-3006. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.