Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Outer Edge of Nowhere

Since I’ve moved out to Arizona, I’ve been lucky enough to be visited by a few of my friends who are either playing shows or on their way into L.A. from other parts of the country, or who have simply come to spend a few days hanging out with me. A quick look at the road map would indicate that Phoenix should be just off Interstate 10 as one blows through, heading east to Tucson or west to L.A. But I’m actually quite a ways off the beaten path. Once, when I invited Dinah Cancer and the other members of 45 Grave to stay overnight after their show in Scottsdale, I gave her directions to my house. A short while later, she called me from her cell phone, asking “how far out do you actually live?” I instructed her to keep heading north past the malls and the houses. It was silent for a moment and then she asked, “You want me to drive into the darkness?”

There’s a long stretch of open desert that separates the neighborhood where I live from the developed area to the south. When my husband and I first moved out here, that barren stretch of two lanes running through the desert really bothered me, but after living here for over 6 months now, I have learned to appreciate the unspoiled beauty of the desert.

When Terry Graham and Allison Anders stopped by to visit, the first thing Terry said to me when he got out of his car was “You told me you lived out in the middle of lied; you live on the outer edge of nowhere.”

Still life on the outer edge of nowhere has its rewards.

A couple of days ago, I snapped this photo of the sunset in the desert area that surrounds my house. I only wish I’d been able to take a picture of last night's lightning display. There’s nothing like watching spectacular lightning storms roll across the open desert. They put any fireworks show to shame.

I grew up in L.A. and I was never inclined to go camping or head to the beach. Instead, I preferred the nightclubs and lights of the city. I was proud to call myself a city girl. What happened to me? Out here in the desert, I've discovered a part of myself that's in tune with nature. It's exciting to realize that there are still aspects of myself yet to be discovered at age 47. Just don't ask me to go hiking.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Patriotism and Dissent

Believing in one’s country is a lot like believing in an anthropomorphic god. Even though these concepts are intellectually limiting, they are indelibly imprinted on our psyche from an early age and become useful tools in managing our everyday lives. In a perfect world, there would be no flags or borders to divide us and god would not need to be summoned to help steer our lives. Still, that’s not where we are.

I still pray, in my own way, and I still consider myself a patriot; once again, in my own way. Oh, I admit that I like a good fireworks display as much as the next person, but flag-waving and patriotism are two different things. I know I’m a patriot because, unlike the ignoramus who sticks a bumper sticker reading “America - Love it or Leave It” on his car, I still believe that the United States can be a country where common men and women are free to criticize policies they disagree with. I still believe that the United States is a place where everyday people can unite and speak with a voice more powerful than that of big business. I still believe that the United States can be a place where people of every shape, color, creed and ethnicity can band together and call themselves Americans - not because they were born here, but because they share a common vision which values hard work, freedom and diversity.

Why do I still believe in these things? Every indication would seem to prove me wrong. There is a man I despise in the White House, but I still love this country. The U.S. is involved in a war I don’t agree with, but I still pray for our soldiers and for the countless and nameless human beings on both sides who will be affected by the war. There are endless unfair policies that I would fight against, but none that would make me want to leave this country. So what makes me believe? I suppose that my belief in this country is supported by the fact that it’s been done before: The Sons of Liberty and The Daughters of Liberty believed against all odds that they could rid themselves of a ruler who was unresponsive to their needs. They believed that they could replace a government which did not truly represent them, and so do I.

We who criticize and question our government are often accused of being unpatriotic, but let’s not forget that it was Thomas Jefferson who said “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism." So this 4th of July, I hope you will join me in being highly patriotic.

And speaking of believing in something against all odds, here's another of my attempts to cast off the shackles of incompetence, my Patriot Bag just in time for the 4th of July: