Guess who? inexperienced, bombastic, moron, #@%*#@g moron, impulsive, mentally ill, narcissist, bully, undignified, etc.


Watching the take-over of our country by the politicians currently in power is a bit like watching someone you’ve known and respected all your life suddenly become stinking drunk, unrecognizable and out of control.tchi You might watch in disbelief.  You might leave the room.  Both are choices.  There’s a litany of words written daily to describe the madman, now becoming all too familiar.  They do not inspire confidence:   inexperienced, bombastic, moron, #@%*#@g moron, impulsive, narcissist, bully, undignified.  And so it goes, month following month, week following week, day following day.  At the moment I’ve mostly chosen to look away,  or have left the room.  It’s just too painful and causes too much distress.

A few days ago, I thought my husband had a peculiar look on his face.  When I inquired what was the matter, his  voice was flat as he related the awful news of the Las Vegas massacre. I felt frozen in place.

Early on in our new dangerous political game, I found myself slightly amused by #45.  He just seemed like a bad joke, who would soon be forgotten.  Now, he’s toxic. Nothing remotely funny here.

Trump’s in person response to hurricane survivors in Puerto Rico? Toss them a roll of paper towels.  How to deal with this disgusting behavior NOW as a responsible citizen?  The mid terms feel decades away right now.

I was numb when I learned of  the recent massacre  in Las Vegas.  I’ve been beaten down by the daily outrages.  Numbness is not a helpful response to a friggin’ massacre.   It’s come because I know too well we probably haven’t reached the ultimate low point that might cause enough outrage to get significant gun control legislation passed. It’s come because I no longer recognize what tries to pass for leadership in my country of birth.   What’s happened to our country? Are we past the point of no return?  Is the only answer at the moment to give the stage to the lunatics and hope at some point they’ll wear themselves out?  Can they ever recognize that their votes and support for Trump et al have raised a threatening tide for everyone?

I cringe when I read about our president lying with impunity, annointing himself daily with the gold dust he requires to polish his egomania.

I’ve started to live in fear that we might be on the edge of a nuclear war with Korea.

Our environment, so dependent on humanity to set it right, is at the tipping point.

Whales are dying.  Just read that two days ago.

North Korea is flying rockets over Japan, my much-loved second home.

China is filling in the blanks at the openings our loss of leadership has provided.

I don’t want to listen to the smug talking heads on cable news assess the crisis du jour, although, when I do tune in, I foolishly hope that I might learn something from one of them. Hasn’t happened yet.

It might be time to stick my head in the sand, cover my ears and scream loudly to block out the all-pervasive irritants.  It might be time to make more art.  It might be time to plant a garden, read a book, or write a more positive blog.

Forgive me, if I’ve brought you down.

I remind myself that I’ve lived through challenging times at other points in my life, but previous experience did not prepare me for today’s threatening reality. I am capable of focusing on the good and the hopeful. I can breathe deeply. The man is just too dangerous to try to ignore, I’m afraid.

“This too shall pass,” I tell myself a little too often.

May it pass quickly!  and peacefully.  May I learn some new coping skills.




RIP, My Friend Betsy


Several years ago I joined a tour group to see a part of Japan that’s relatively hard to get to as a foreigner.  I’d requested a single room when I traveled because I’d learned from taking other tours I needed “time off” from the rest of the group when the day was done.

At our second stop I was told by the group leader there were no single rooms in the inn we were staying, so they teamed me up with another woman, Betsy Raymond, who was a solitary traveler too.  Little did either of us know that by the end of the trip we’d become fast friends.  Betsy was the only person I’d met who seemed as crazy or maybe crazier than I am about Japan.  She’d traveled to Japan for years, taught herself to read and speak Japanese quite well, and had discovered places in Japan I’d never heard of.  Her enthusiasm for the country equaled or surpassed mine.  Her knowledge of the country definitely surpassed mine.  I was impressed by her intellect and warmed by her humor.  She also was a bit subversive which fit me perfectly.  She was definitely eccentric, which I respected and lived life on her own terms.

I quickly discovered that when Betsy traveled, she was ready for any eventuality. Whatever a traveler might need on the road, Betsy had thought of and brought along. Be it a nail file, drugs, scissors, etc., she packed stuff I’d never dream of carrying with me.  It was as if she’d been asked to supply Noah’s ark with one of everything that was needed for daily life.

Betsy was also a whiz on computers.  A few times when we’d be given single rooms at new destinations, Betsy would cheerfully respond to my calls for help to get online. She also was a fount of valuable information about photography and cameras.  She’d attempt to share her wealth of knowledge with me, but I’d quickly get overwhelmed by the technical information she had at her fingertips.  She never lost patience with my slowness.

We quickly discovered that we both found the same things funny.  One morning we were told to gather outside the inn before sunrise before walking together to attend a morning service at a nearby temple.  Everyone in our tour was there except for Betsy.  I’d left our room before she was ready.  What’s taking Betsy so long? The group started growing impatient in the morning chill. Before long, I heard a voice call out loudly and accusingly from an upstairs room, “Dianne Vapnek, are you wearing my shoes?”

Knowing that I was capable of doing something like that, I quickly looked down at my feet and just as quickly realized that the shoes I’d slipped into in the morning darkness were not mine.  Betsy had to spend about 10 minutes looking for her shoes before she realized that I must have put them on. In the morning,  both pairs were neatly lined up outside our room as required in Japanese tatami rooms.  We both wore the same size, both shoes were black slip- ons and at 5:30 AM, that was enough for me.

She and I broke out laughing immediately.  Our hilarity increased when the other group members just looked in disgust at us both.  In the evenings, we’d chat long into the night sharing and laughing at the day’s adventures and misadventures.

Betsy was also a hilarious drunk.  We both hit the sake pretty hard one night at dinner, and by the meals’ end she had me doubled over laughing at her antics which were way beyond what is generally considered appropriate female behavior in Japan.  But we were both past the point of no return.  We spent far too much time amusing each other, but of course, that just made it funnier.

Sadly, I learned yesterday that my dear travel partner died a few days ago.  Several months earlier she informed me rather matter of factly that she’d just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  She was methodical about planning her care and had decided to be treated by a Japanese doctor who believed he might have a better way of treatment for her deadly cancer.  I’d been told she was in hospice.  As I was making plans to visit her, I learned it was too late.

In addition to being the best travel companion a woman could have, Betsy was an accomplished book artist.  She rescued animals.  By herself.  She waited in local parks after Easter to capture the Easter bunnies who’d been released into the wild and provide them with a home.   She’d found dozens of bunnies who lived a happy life in a house with her, occupying a vacant upstairs bedroom.

A cat followed her down the street in Japan several years ago and she decided that she was meant to take it home, i.e. back to CA.  An almost impossible task, but she did it.  She stayed several weeks longer than she’d planned to get approval for this action because she wouldn’t take no for an answer and finally boarded the plane with the cat.  She still suffered from guilt because the cat died soon after she’d transported it.  She still felt responsible for its death.

This year, more friends of mine are falling off the wheel of life, or riding it precariously.

I will miss Betsy.  I just learned she wanted no words spoken at her internment.  She did things her own way until the very end.  Thank you Bets for being such a dear friend in the short time we had together.  Thank you for doing your best to help those who have no voice.  Thanks for laughs and most of all thanks for loaning me your shoes.


All the Way

This morning, I listened to a recording of Frank Sinatra singing All the Way.  It’s been a long time since I’ve heard it.  I was immediately flooded with the romantic memories of listening to this song as I drove in a car with my boyfriend on a balmy, moonlit Miami night.  At that time, I felt adventurous, a deliciously just a bit out of control been but it was within understood boundaries that were rarely crossed.  My sexual life was a balancing act of exercising  self-determination while hearing my mother’s stark irritating, but unforgettable warnings, in my head

The title of the song, All the Way, was also a euphemism for avoiding the starker implications of sexual intimacy so long warned about to “nice girls.”  Only among close friends at college, would we talk skittishly about going all the way with a boyfriend.  Usually a long term boyfriend.  Remember this was before the pill liberated young people from the concerns of an unwanted pregnancy.  Sexual liberation for women was just a few short years away but it might as well have been a century away because the double standard and the risks involved in going all the way were intense and required a devil may care attitude that few of us could sustain without ingesting large amounts of alcohol. Continue reading “All the Way”

Thanks for the Work!


I was feeling close to retirement last year.  I got bogged down with some of the less-than-sexy-details of working within a non-profit organization. Occasionally, it has its challenges. I also got overly involved in thinking about my age.  My wise adult children refused to consider it.  “You’re not retiring!” one daughter angrily insisted.  “What, are you sick?  No! (answering her own question) What are you talking about?”

I’d been shaken strongly enough to realize the importance of keeping on.  Softening, I said, “We’ll see.”  I soon decided my daughters were right.  Hallelujah.

It’s interesting to note how we internalize expectations surrounding ageing.  Some things I had not anticipated, so never thought about (bursitis?dry eye?); while others regarding the “right” age to retire, were culturally imprinted, thought about frequently and not derived from a real need.

People occasionally tell me how much they admire the fact that I’m still working.  The truth is, it’s not like I’m descending into a coal mine every day or laying bricks.  Mostly, I sit calmly working at my computer.  No physical challenges there, except to get away from it periodically.  Psychologically, I still experience the same rush I always have when being in the presence of great dance.  It’s a high.  Why turn my back on that?  I also am the grateful recipient of gratitude from the dancers for providing them with an opportunity to do what they love and have trained for all their lives.  Having the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life is a powerful stimulant.

I’m making stimulating new relationships each year because of my involvement.   I’m forced to socialize more than I might do otherwise.  I know I’m better off because of it.

I could go on.  Let it suffice to say that I love the work I do.  I’m always thrilled when another DANCEworks season begins as it did this week.  The dancers arrive.  Their excitement and enthusiasm are contagious.  The Lobero Theater stage is lit and occupied daily by dancers and choreographers.  My people.  My life.

day 1

I’m privileged to be able to participate and watch them at work experiencing the sweat, toil and joy of creation and thankful that I’m still working.


Caught in the Crosshairs

As Mother’s Day approached this year, I began to recall the long-ago “words to live by” that were oft quoted by my Mom.  I half-listened to her warnings and guidelines because they never quite fit.  I have since realised that she was the product of a post-Victorian upbringing, passing through the “liberation” of the 1920’s and then snagged in the expectations of the stay-at-home wife/mother scenario of the 1940′ and 50’s.  She was bored living the life of mother/housewife and wanted a career.  But she lived in a world where my father had ultimate control.  He told her that the only way she could work would be if she worked at the register in the grocery store he owned. She accepted that but was never fulfilled.  Small wonder.  I still feel saddened that she never got to spread her wings. Continue reading “Caught in the Crosshairs”