As in a tasty mix of talk

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rest In Peace Yak Pate

"Yak Pate" (my aunt) drifted peacefully to her next big adventure late Monday night. She will be missed and loved and remembered as the poet she was. She had some poems and a couple of posts written in her notebook she kept at her side until the very end....I will try to post them for everyone later. One of her last wishes was to have a poetry reading with her friends and she didn't get that chance. I know she would love for all of you to remember her with poetry and or comment here.


From one of her Loving Nieces.

She was a star, a dreamer and a poet - a very special woman!

Please visit the following website for her obit: (click obits and last name Kaye to view)

Saturday, February 27, 2010


with copious bowing and scraping to Allen Ginsberg

I see the best minds of every generation metastasized by madness, running burned slashed and poisoned through doctor ghettos with desperation prayers for a cure that never comes,
angelheaded children with bald heads begging for the heavenly connection to feeling better for just one night, just one hour of release from the clinking, clanking machines of half-life, so Mommy and Daddy will stop crying and the doctors will stop telling lies
to hollow-eyed grandparents waiting in darkened rooms smoking one last cigarette before the ambulance blasts its banshee song, and delivers them to operating rooms
where every last scrap of poetic sexual bravado and emotional mercy meets the tip of a scalpel and dies,
and dreams of lingering youth float across the tops of burning roofs where even the fire escapes collapse
while bodies fry, and insurance perverts count heir money count their money count their money tapping clipboards made of human hopes and needs, skin stretched tight across their holocaust of greed,
and priests stand on corners rattling thin tin cups, taking contributions for the cause the cause the cause collecting millions, billions, trillions of dollars to save us all like Salk did for a dime, before compassion dried like tears on homeless faces invisible to the suburban mass of dittoheads turning their radios up and thumbs down.

We who walk hospital halls in paper gowns hiding insane beliefs that stepping up to the programmed punishment for our crime of cancer will redeem us, crack open the door to a heaven where we will celebrate the Gods who metastasize their arcane tests of worthiness, wearing hair shirts announcing the Avon 5K for Cancer, the Susan G. Koman Walk for a Cure, the Puscilanimous Scam of Pretending to Find a Cure, when the misery mills better suit their justified ends, and from somewhere far, far away we hear the money jingle as we lay down to submit to fate, dutifully chastened, spirits professionally broken, grinding our teeth because we think we hear the sound of champagne corks popping through the walls, of cruiseliners booming on their way to Dubai, to the Senate Supermarket, to Rodeo Drive, to the fire sale in carpeted rooms where Picassos hang and lobbyists smile at their own reflections in the bloody sheen of Mission Accomplished, inborn rights abolished, selling miniature pink and blue coffins and reusable urns that are converted to wine carafes after the ashes are scattered and the mourners gone, quoting Ginsberg’s Howl that “I'm with you in Rockland where you bang on the catatonic piano the soul is innocent and immortal it should never die ungodly in an armed madhouse.”
But it does.

I rise like an angry Phoenix from the ashes of everyone's treatment, transformed by living within futile systems, ennobled by clinging to thin shreds of beauty still visible through drugged-out, impossible days, choosing between more of the same insane choices for staying alive to feed insurance schemes, and see from this perspective how the healthy are twisted with fear, too delicate and trembling to demand a cure for a lynchpin disease that twirls the world on its scaly finger, to insist upon the defeat of a monster that may never darken their lives, even though its steamy breath permeates liquid walls between home sweet home and right next door, and I say I understand the fear the fear the fear but hear this while I can tell it: we will drift between the boundaries of heaven and hell until we use the cure that is out there in X-Files black and white, curling in hard-copy folders, waiting to be invited into the light of a brave new wave of implacable life.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Every Day Is Saturday

There is no substitute for adventure. You’ve heard this adage since childhood, right? If, like me, it resonates with your impulse to bypass that office job and head for Europe with a backpack, you probably assumed it originated from one of those pillar-of-thought guys like Socrates or Plato or Aristotle.

Not so. It was penned by the otherwise unremarkable, 20th Century journalist Mel Ellis, who gilded his lily of a phase by continuing to write: “It is as fundamental as hunger. It is as compelling as love. It is as necessary as air. It is as exciting as Saturday.”

We get it, Mel. But adventure isn’t necessarily a set-your-hair-on-fire and jump in where angels fear to tread event. It can be multi-faceted, tempered with an impulse for self-preservation. It can be an effort to save your life instead of risking it. That’s how I see my participation this past January in the Immunovative Clinical Research FDA-approved cancer drug trial. For me, it really was as exciting as Saturday.

I have great friends and family members, so none of them tried to talk me out of choosing the drug trial instead of leaving my fate in the computerized hands of City of Hope. But I know that some wondered why I was willing to defy conventional medical protocol by becoming a drug trial subject. Well…

For those who are too busy to click the Immunovative Clinical Research link to learn how the trial works, here’s the “For Dummies” version: It educates one’s own immune system to recognize cancer cells and kill them. If this sounds too good to be true, or too easy, be assured that it is a truly radical approach. It is the only drug trial currently in existence that seeks to train the body to kill its own cancer cells instead of poisoning them (and the host) with chemicals. Not surprisingly… there isn’t one dime of American drug money funding the trial. That, for me, was a no-brainer inducement to participate.

The trial organizers keep a low profile. I found Immunovative Clinical Research accidentally, while researching cancer-suppressing herbs on the Internet. I clicked their modest link and went straight to the fireworks: The creativity and stunningly simple logic of the Immunovative concept triggered my sense of adventure and, yes, stirred my hope. I admit that hope is not the most objective filter for decision-making. But neither is despair.

Some of you may remember my recent poem (the prior post on this blog), “There are no plastic bottles in heaven.” During my initial interview at the Immunovative Clinic, when I quoted this line to Dr. Har-Noy, the M.D. who conceived the Immunovative method and designed the trial, he looked into my eyes for several audible clicks of the second hand on my watch before saying, “My hope is that you write many more poems about your life on earth.”

Know how it feels when you are stopped short by an unexpected display of beauty, such as a smog-free night in Los Angeles when a few fierce stars shine through the light pollution? That’s how Dr. Har-Noy’s compassion made me feel. When is the last time a doctor inspired you with his or her empathy? Yeah, me too: I was six years old and got a sucker for not crying after my shot.

Unlike the many clinics where I have undergone cancer treatments ranging from surgery to radiation to chemotherapy, where I have shared space with brave but often waxen souls who looked more like their own ghosts than patients, the atmosphere at Immunovative Clinical Research is upbeat, as if everyone is participating in a hopeful new approach with the potential to revolutionize cancer treatment, eliminate the misery of chemotherapy and save countless lives (we are). The doctors and nurses and staff laugh a lot, and interact with patients on a frank, personal level. (I know which staffer hides a tattoo and where. I know who calls President Obama President Obummer. I know who conducted impromptu philosophy classes for his college frat bros so they could pass mid-terms and remain on the football team. I know who has a photographic memory and could unexpectedly repeat my idle reference to Burbank as “Borebank.” I know who comes in at 4:00 am to answer emails. I know who works until midnight. And everyone, and I do mean everyone at the clinic, knows how sensitive I am about my weight, and politely deducts two pounds of “boot weight” when I step off the scale.)

One of the things I most appreciated about the clinic is that I never felt like a number there. (Although, I later learned, I DO have a number: I am the 25th subject). Not once did I feel rushed. The intake orientation alone lasted five hours and answered all of my questions, including some the doctors encouraged me to ask. And I never felt hustled. As part of the orientation I was repeatedly asked if I understood that I had other treatment options. And, just to make sure I didn’t proceed because I thought I had nowhere else to go, the clinic required me to visit an unaffiliated local oncologist to discuss those options.

Although potential side effects were disclosed at each step of the trial process (fever, chills, aching muscles or joints), the effects I experienced were so benign that an Alleve and a good meal made them go away. Word, brothers and sisters! (During the trial I think I also re-grew most of the hair I lost while taking oral chemo last November.)

If all goes well and the trial succeeds, I will announce well in advance the date of my appearance on the Today Show Special that proclaims a cure for cancer (I will be the one wearing homemade jewelry and smiling like I have just won the Powerball Lottery). If it doesn’t, I will move on to the next life-affirming option for treating my disease, which may be a second go-round at the clinic. If nothing else, participation in the trial connected me to a level of personal courage I didn’t know I possessed: I had to trust my instinct that I could recognize a promising concept when I saw one. I had to overcome my misguided belief that courage consists of “taking one’s medicine,” as in submitting to the punishment of chemotherapy, as if there were some inherent virtue in suffering. (There isn’t, no matter what the Pope says.) I had to say, “no thank you” to the established medical protocol for cancer treatment, not caring how the computer at City of Hope rated my decision. I had to stop being a good patient and become a bad girl, one with the stones to choose adventure.

I will know by mid-March if my immune system has responded to the treatment by “reducing my tumor burden,” a cool, clinical phrase that sidesteps the assertion of a cure. So, how do I feel about my medical adventure so far?

Like every day is Saturday… even Monday.

Dr. Har-Noy, this poem is for both of us:

There is no sane reason to
Fall in love again, to sail to that
Flat edge of earth where
Touch and desire still shimmer on the
Bent horizon, and the drift of
Someone else’s breath feels like
Everything, yet nothing at all. But
I can’t ignore him, the way he
Possesses his nature with
No intent to impress, how he
Overlooks his own virtues as if
He is comfortable without them, but
Always notices mine. I love the way
He suggests I open a door between
Memory and this instant, dismisses
the prejudice of mind over flesh, so I
Remember what any genius but no
Madman could ever forget: How
Love reinvents the world, how it curves
The dead-end edge of not enough into the
Starrier sphere of tomorrow,
And lets the flattened day slip away.

Friday, November 13, 2009


There are no plastic bottles in heaven.
No big pharmacy moguls who smoke cigars
As they sell poison on prime time TV, only
A few snake oil salesman whom God
Has forgiven because they were kind to
The horses that pulled their wagons.

There are no artificial smiles in heaven,
No artificial hormones, no artificial anything.
No one needs artificial sweetener there,
Because it is sweet to remember even the
Hard times on earth, those contrasts that make
Joys more joyous, kisses more passionate, and the
Wins more descriptive of the losses.

God doesn’t sit on a throne in heaven, unless
Someone wants him to. He is just as likely
To hang with the blues musicians at
Club Habit, and plays a mean jazz sax all by
Himself, the harmonica, too, when He is
Bored with that big, golden harp.

And there is no money in heaven, not one dime,
Nothing to accumulate into a greedy mass
That drives needy men crazy and makes them
Sacrifice their earthly goods by polluting the
Air we all must breathe, the water we all must
Drink, and the food we all must eat. Greed is
Analogous to the cancer it creates, in that
It hates turning back, once it has done its damage
And has a taste for it.

And Heaven is not a floor on the department store
Of life, it is the larger sphere in the center of
Imagination, the light that guides us through the
Dark, pointing out the stars and the warm, deep
Softness of the night, it is the ying before the
Yang, and then the ying again, turning in a lovely
Pirouette of life and love and the treasures of

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I troll my toes through the inky
Cold waters of recuperation,
Ten little pink and white lures
For the metastatic bites that sicken me.
Will it come back again? The doctors
Say not, but I am the bait
The killer cells keep swimming toward
And I smell their rot, their
Relentless intent to have me again, to
Drag me down with them into
Ophelia Land.

Friends gather like diving birds to
Save me, as if staging an intervention in
My fate, willing to slip below the surface
Of my fears with kind words and kisses, wishing
Me back into their sphere of immortality.
But when they leave I step with wetted feet
To a fishier beat, one that leads to the
Edge of probability, where I cast for the
Flotsam of my life and reel it back to shore for
One last look, angling with baited hook
For more, more, more.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Plop a Beret on Its Head, and Presto... A Pedophile Becomes a Genius!

I don’t care, and I don’t think anyone else should, either, that Roman Polanski directed Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Pianist and other works of genius. He also drugged a 13-yer old girl, raped, sodomized and fellated her, pled guilty to all of these offenses and then cheated justice by fleeing the United States while awaiting his sentence.

Now other Hollywood geniuses are going public with their support of Polanski, like Woody Allen, who left a Polaroid of Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, naked and spread-eagled for the camera, on the living room mantle for Mom to find. (It’s in the transcript of the ensuing custody trial, which Woody lost, if anyone cares to look it up.) Although Soon Yi was underage when she began having sex with Allen, he argued that her adoption records were inaccurate, and that she was really 19. He also famously said, “The heart wants what the heart wants,” an odd confusion of basic anatomy for a genius.

If Allen, Lynch and other Hollywood pedophilia apologists believe that genius is a defense for contriving to ravish children, maybe there is hope for Phillip Garrido, the pedophile who kidnapped 11-year old Jaycee Dugard and raped, impregnated and imprisoned her for 18 years. Plop a beret on his head, dress him in an Armani suit, teach him to play the saxophone, and presto… he’s a genius! Case dismissed!

How many geniuses does it take to realize that prepubescent and teenage girls are entitled to possess their own evolving sexuality, and that no matter how curious or malleable they may be, molestation by an adult during their young, formative years can cause irreparable damage? Apparently, more geniuses than the film industry has yet to produce.

An adolescent girl who experiments with peer sex is not damaged by it in the same manner as when molested by an adult. It’s her body and her sexuality, so she is entitled to express it. In fact, when her curiosity is satisfied by her own, natural impulses, within her peer group, she generally is empowered, in spite of how disapproving her parents may be. But when the same adolescent is drugged by an older man to whom she is not attracted, and forced into adult sexual activity she neither wants nor is ready to experience, she is not empowered, she is victimized.

It doesn’t matter to me that Samantha Geimer, Polanski’s victim, is now all grown up and wants to “put the incident behind her.” I know from personal experience that forgiveness can be a trick victims play on themselves to escape the trauma reverberating in their memories. All the more reason that society should champion the victim’s cause with at least as much fervor as those in the film industry (and elsewhere) dismiss it.

I can live without another Rosemary’s Baby. But I will not live with the notion that it’s OK for an adult to act out misdirected sexual impulses with children merely because he or she can make a movie.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone

Ted Kennedy
1932 – 2009

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W.H. Auden

Although this poem expresses my deep sense of loss, I must add:
Something now CAN come to good... it is now up to us to take up Senator Kennedy's deep belief in empowering all Americans, from the lowliest to the highest... and bringing all to the level created by courageous love.