Donnie and friends…

Donnie’s first website was done with WordPress. After his passing, Team Donnie decided to redo the site in HTML. The following text are blog posts and comments from the original site.


Let’s try this story in third person…

In June 2011, Donnie Dale’s oncologist looked him in the eye and said: “You have incurable, stage four colon cancer. The average lifespan is two years. That’s with chemo.”

“You mean I’m going to die from this?” Donnie said after a wave of deep body heat had passed and his sphincter had closed a bit.


“And I’m going to be on chemo until I do?”


Well, sometimes Donnie is a little slow, but with time he can catch up to even the most learned doctor. After kicking dirt for a few months and saying a well-earned “why me” or two, he realized that time was wasting. And he still had a lot to say to say about life.

So he went right to work patching up those unpublished novels and unproduced screenplays. About a dozen novels in all, and about 30 screenplays. It was hard work and he labored intensively and with excellent success.

But, after that, he still had a lot to say. He is a man, apparently, who has been somehow frustrated in his attempts to express his thoughts to the world. Hence the unpublished novels and the unproduced screenplays, not to mention some 25 short stories—most but not all of which are top quality, of course.

So Donnie, with his typical off-kilter sense of humor, came up with the idea of a blog. He would call it Donnie Dale Is Dying. He figured, you see, that the world might welcome the views of a man on his (almost) deathbed. They would be truthful, insightful views and, best of all, short.

Those observations on culture, human nature, politics, nature, religion, race, current news and of course, death and dying, would not be a gruesome death watch but insights on the life and times of the planet. They would be a boon to the world, he thought in his naivete. They would be embraced by people wide and far, he calculated in his delirium. And if they liked his writing they might buy a novel from his web site, he figured in his complete dotage.

So, this is that blog. Be prepared, ye who enter here, because the brain of Donnie Dale, though outwardly normal in its expressions, has been known to be somewhat off-kilter in its seedier depths. And of course, months of chemo may drive an otherwise subnormal brain to say just about anything. His messages will be as true as deathbed confessions, but will be his own take on the truth. And that’s really scary.



April 12, 2012
I’m not afraid to die

I've been afraid but I've never been afraid to die. I'm not now, even as the time approaches. And I can't figure why I'm not.

It's not that I want to die. I'm trying to avoid it as long as possible. Yet I'm not all that fussed about the whole thing. It just doesn't concern me terribly, the worst part being that my loved ones are so sad.

After trying to come up with a reason for my nonchalance, I'm failing to find one. I'm not particularly courageous, I'm not numb from shock anymore, I'm not feeling that I wasted my life and need to be punished for that. Something inside me has always simply been somewhat indifferent to my own death.

Here's the way that internal conversation went: "I'm not afraid to die." "Why not?" "I don't know." "Maybe there's something wrong with you." "Yeah. I have cancer." "I mean, in addition to that."

I do think it has something to do with my holistic view of the universe. I've always been okay with the idea that my molecules will go back into the big mix of molecules. That I'm linked to the earliest exploding atoms as well as to every solar system and galaxy. That I'm not so important that the world can't do without me, though it might want its molecules back.

Also, I don't mind making room for the succeeding batch of humans who will follow me. One of the great learning experiences of life is the watching of the emerging generations, and is it possible that we all innately prepare for the selfless moment when we turn over our allocated space to a newbie?


What a great attitude, Donnie! Not to get mushy, but I am glad to know you.
—Paula Johnson

Well, Donnie, I thought you were going to beat this thing. Maybe the world can do without you but there are a few folks around who can't. There's not a newbie who can adequately take your place. Perhaps you've had time to prepare to be selfless or perhaps it's just your way. Were I in your place, I'm not sure I'd be as graceful. Paula beat me to it. I'm glad to know you.
—Petrea Burchard

My car battery died last night. So we have something in common. Not to be flippant but I just thought I could get you to chuckle if I shared this bit of news.

It just goes to show that the universe doesn't always cooperate and when we handle it with grace and class it says a lot about who we are.

I think your new website/blog is very readable and easy to navigate. Nice contrast between the wood grain and the lined note paper.

The headline type face could be more interested but otherwise the boldness of the content is refreshing. Good photo too.

So keep it going buddy. With any luck, despite my technical limitations, you'll be able to read this post.
—Judy Seckler

Donnie, I guess we're all in the process of dying, but you have the (dis)advantage of knowing it may be sooner rather than later. Count me among those who hope it will be much later. I look forward to reading your upcoming insights and reflections.
—Susan Carrier

I admire your approach, Donnie, and I'm trying to emulate you as much as possible.

I've heard it said that death is just like the time before we were born - non-existence, so nothing to fear from it at all.

My issue is that I'm just such a curious person - I hate that I won't be here to see how it all turns out. Do we solve global warming in time to save the planet, or live with the results? What about my kids, grandkids, great-grands, etc. What writer becomes the Shakespeare or Milton or Yeats of our generation?

That's the curse of the curious mind, I guess. But no fear about death, just disappointment. And, as Susan says, we're all dying - you just (may) have an earlier appointment than we do.
—Karen E. Klein

Wow, what great comments you folks are sending in. I thought I might stimulate some thought, but that wasn't necessary. You were all already thinking great thoughts.
—Donnie Dale

It's mind-blowing to realize that every person who every lived has died. It's incomprehensible to us. Until its not.

I don't know why, but I don't feel afraid for you to die, either. Maybe it has to do with the absence of regret?

Here's a link to a summary of Erik Erikson's theory of personality development. The last stage is Integrity vs. Despair.


April 13, 2012
I have to have my say

I'm dying and yet I continue to write these crazy messages. It's because I have to have my say.

In the end, isn't that what this big ego-driven creature called "the human being" wants most--to have an opinion and voice it and be taken seriously for it? Isn't the worst thing you can say to someone is "Shut up"? Nothing makes you, child or adult, more angry.

There's a reason that free speech is our most fought-over right. It is the right that leads to all the other rights. We crave it, we need it, we love it, we treasure it--so much so that we often try to deny it to those with opposing views.

Whether we have anything important to say is another matter--though, like everyone else, I don't include myself in that misgiving. I've written millions of words, and each one is something to be treasured, I'm positive. Yet the desire to have my say lingers on, and I hope that my readers understand that there is no truer say than that said in a death bed speech.

Other than jokes, of course, which always contain the best truths and are the most fun to listen to.


Note to self: Tell Donnie more jokes.
—Paula Johnson

I really want to come up with something profound here. But that's your job. So: I agree.
— Petrea Burchard

I don't think "shut up" is the worst thing to say to someone. I think the worst thing to say to someone is...nothing. It is the worst cruelty to ignore a fellow human being. To act as if the other does not matter.

On another note, here's my favorite knock-knock joke:

Knock, knock. Who's there?

Panther. Panther, who?

Panther no panth, I'm going thwimming.


I thought I had heard every knock-knock joke, but that was a new one. And a keeper.
—Paula Johnson

You’re welcome.

Hi Donnie from Portland, OR. I'm waiting to see those 12 self-published novels. Keep truckin' and all the very best of wishes are coming your way from the Pacific NW.
—Heather Ames

Lovin' your bloggin' as it feels like mental joggin’!
—Tom Katsis

April 16, 2012
Chocolate milk

I don't know where you come down on the issue of chocolate milk in the nation's school lunchrooms, but isn't chocolate milk the most perfect blend of nutrition and marketing ever devised?

Okay, I'm biased. I love the stuff. I drink all I can of it, and then I have some hot chocolate. Of course, I got hooked in high school lunchrooms, dens of iniquity for suggestible teenagers. That's when the purveyors of food sin get you, when you're young and hungry all the time. The perfect lunch for me was a hunk of cafeteria cake washed down by a pint of chocolate milk.

But there was no way I was going to drink plain old white milk. Without choc-choc I would have washed that cake down with soda. So I'm a little dubious about the ban-the-flavored-milk bunch. Sure, ban sodas in the lunchroom, ban candy bars, ban beer and cocaine. But when you're sixteen and growing an inch a day, having somebody lure you into milk with a little chocolate and sugar isn't necessarily a bad thing.

That's if you don't have a weight problem, of course. If you have a weight problem you should be drinking water, and as much of it as possible. The only weight problem I had in high school was to diet down to 180 pounds for wrestling after playing football at 200.

There is another issue, however. Some say that sugar can make one more susceptible to colon cancer. That is probably true. But I'm positive it wasn't the sugar in my chocolate milk that made me malignant, nor the sugar in candy bars, cakes and pies. It was the sugar in all those... iced teas.

A friend of mine drinks choc-choc and then adds leftover coffee to it for a caffeine kick. That kind of dedication leads me to believe, cancer be damned, that under no circumstances should chocolate milk be banned from anything.


I hear you about chocolate milk and my new food fixation is Silk Pure Almond Milk in Dark Chocolate. Actually, I'm going to have some now…
—Paula Johnson

I'm so glad you mentioned my coffee/chocolate milk fetish. By the way, fresh coffee is fine with it, too. But you want it cold.
—Petrea Burchard

I'm all for chocolate milk and all against fat kids.I know, among my failings add to the list shallow.

I'd love to hear you laud the doughnut and the bear claw, Dad!

April 17, 2012
Global warming

I am so shocked at the human indifference to global warming that I only have one comment that comes to mind: You dumb-asses!

As the evidence accumulates, it becomes more apparent that the planet is going to heat up and change human existence for a thousand, ten thousand years. The weather will completely change in some regions, rainfall will be redistributed, our food sources will be severely altered, forests will vanish, ice caps will melt, sea levels will rise into homes, entire populations will shift.

But we're not concerned. Why not? Because we're dumb-asses who react only to immediate crisis and reject intelligent experts. And are proud of these approaches.

Look at how we reacted to early warning signs of the Great Recession—ignored them completely. How did we react to the lying revelations and ignorant forecasts prior to the Iraq War? Ignored them with pride.

But this global warming will affect everyone and change human destiny forever. America will be affected top to bottom, but the southern tier of states will face unknown and unprecedented devastation. Will anyone be able to live in Phoenix if it hits 130 degrees? Will Alabama be able to grow its own food when it's 120 degrees out and category 5 tornados are swarming?

What are we doing about the human contributions to global warming? Nothing. The right wing denies that it's happening, the left wing is frozen in political quicksand. The middle wing is just turning up the air conditioning a little more every year.

We're all just dumb-asses, singing upbeat tunes as we march to the cliff for what was billed as a therapeutic plunge. On our way down we will hear our grandchildren cursing us for our foolishness.

I'll be gone, but I can't help wishing humanity better than this. Unfortunately, there is no cure for dumb, and it's real difficult to work around.


Run for office, Donnie. Please. I'll vote for you.
—Petrea Burchard

Pithy and articulate.

Spot On !!

April 19, 2012
Wanting that smart phone

One of the oddest moments I've had dancing with cancer was the day I learned I had "some malignancy." It was back in 2009, and when the gang of oncologists, fellows and interns left my hospital room my head was spinning with possibilities--possibilities lost and found.

I thought I might die right away and found myself saying, "I'm sorry I'm not going to be able to get one of those smart phones. I really wanted to try one."

Okay, to get the full import of this you have to understand that I was not Mr. Tech Guy. I used my current cellphone rarely. I avoided all computer programs not directly related to my writing, I had trouble understanding digital cameras, and my girlfriend did all setups with the TV/Blueray/provider situations.  I don't get high-tech details and in fact have something of an aversion to them.

Yet, something about the smart phone has intrigued me. I like the idea that a large phone combines all the properties of a notebook computer, an internet connection, a book and newspaper reader, a navigator as well as a phone you can use from most anywhere.

I liked the idea so much that on my (supposed) death bed, along with thoughts of family and friends, I lamented my likely inability to purchase and get acquainted with this device. I also lamented the thought itself, surprised that such a thing could pop up in that circumstance.

So after waiting a year and a half until smart phones got big enough to actually watch a movie or read a book on, I bought one. Okay, it wasn't as important as I thought, and it's a nuisance to learn, but it's handy and I'm happy to be included in the future of communication.

The thing that still amazes me is the insane thoughts that leap into mind when under extreme duress. They reveal something you didn't know about yourself. Who knows, it will probably be a motorcycle purchase or a sex change next.


Please first discuss the sex change with your girlfriend–she may indeed have some strong opinions. (Wait, is that too obvious? I’d rather post a comment than wait for the bon mot.)

I’m sorry I’ll miss space travel. I will likely never go to another galaxy, or even another planet. I regret that. I could make a list of things like this, but I don’t think the smart phone would be on it. Maybe I’m spoiled.
—Petrea Burchard

April 21, 2012
The deadly screenplay

Once upon a time, over a long period of time, many many humans came to the little town of Hollywood and declared that they were screenwriters. They labored and they labored and soon they left, most of them, disillusioned by their failure.

Usually, I believe, they were unable to create a marketable script because they confused plot with story. They plotted out scenarios that mimicked scenarios they had seen in other movies. "Okay, this guy does this, and then that guy does that. And then they get guns and so something else."

But the fulfilling screenplay does not depend on plot. It depends on story. Plot is the collection of scenes showing what happens physically. Story is what happens to the main characters psychologically, morally and emotionally. It has to do with their basic needs as human beings.

Story, then, is character development, and character development in sequence is what the script is structured around. Those who fail to build character fail to develop structure, and a failure of structure is a failure of story. No other form of writing depends on structure as much as screenplays do.

That's just for your information, in case you want to make it in Hollywood. The other element that will make you successful in Hollywood is good marketing of screenplays. That was my failing for the most part, and the tragicomic part of my story.


What do you think it would take to successfully market a screenplay?

I agree with you for the most part. I also think beginning screenwriters fail to realize that film is a visual medium. They tell the story, as opposed to showing it. They write dialogue to tell us things they could simply show us through character action...uh...story.
—Petrea Burchard

I'm still a sucker for plot.

Show, don't tell. I can't tell you (or show you!) how many times I heard that in writing classes over the years. And still, it's difficult to do and doesn't come naturally.
—Karen E. Klein

Well, I have no strong desire to make it in Hollywood, but I would like to revise and edit my last NaNoWriMo novel, so I am making note of your advice and taking it seriously.


April 25, 2012
So you want to be a writer

So you want to be a writer? Here's my message to you: Don't bring that stuff over here, get outta my face, go tell it to somebody who cares.

Because you don't talk about it, you write. A writer is one who writes. Despite what anybody else may tell you, it's all practice practice practice.

Did you notice how I left two commas out of the practice series? I can do that because I've written fiction for 40 years and am allowed to be creative. You? You're going to have to show us your grammar, your syntax, your narrative abilities, your discipline to the task, your ability to finish and have it all make sense. And your sweat and your tears and those grass stains you got while crying in the back yard.

So go practice practice practice. Don't bring that other stuff over here. Not while I'm writing, anyway. When you're finished I'll congratulate you high and low, I promise.


Today I read a synopsis for a third novel by a successful writer. Donnie, it was almost illiterate. The woman has no idea how to use the English language. I was shocked. How did she get published in the first place?

Ah–the first novel has a lot of sex in it.

What am I thinking? There’s almost no sex in my novel! But my grammar and punctuation are perfect.
—Petrea Burchard

I prefer practice; practice; practice.

April 2, 2012
I want to tell you about Joey

I want to tell you about Joey. Not because she's the mainstay of my life, though she is, but because she's Joey. And you would love Joey the way I do if you knew her.

So know this. Joey is many things--intelligent, intuitive, beautiful, full of integrity, funny, sexy, playful, serious, curious, a hard worker, committed to life and full of joy--but she has one predominant feature that has welded us together permanently.

She is at peace with herself and the world. She has had tragedy and carries her baggage, but she has no need to complain, rage, carry grudges or retaliate. Neither do I. So our relationship is filled with peace and joy.

That sounds cliched and maudlin, but do not underestimate the power of a mate who brings her smile and her love and her steadfastness to every morning and every night of your life. Do not underestimate the power of a mate who knows you and respects you and is at peace with you and your life as a couple.

One other thing. Joey took me on when she knew I might have cancer. She has never wavered in her commitment, her love or her devotion. I hurt her terribly by being so sick, but she has no regrets and requests no do-overs.

And finally, Joey says that I have given her what she needs in life, just as she has given me what I need. So I'm encouraged to feel good too. That's the kind of person Joey is.


I'm glad you found each other, Donnie. Stick around and enjoy it, why don't ya?
—Petrea Burchard

donnie, just spending breakfast with you two, it’s evident that you are balance for each other and your mutual contentment is a joy to be around
—Skye Moorhead

You are the light of my life and my best friend. I love you...and that's for public posting :)

Lovely, so glad you two found each other.
—Karen E. Klein

Reading your words about Joey made me ashamed, because I doubt my husband would be able to say the same. I try, but I admit to moments of bitchiness and anger. Joey has inspired me to tap into my joy and work harder to project it. Love your clarity and from-the-heart style of writing.

I love my Auntie Joey too. And I know she loves you like crazy. I hope I'm lucky enough to have what you two have one day.

I'm so glad that you have found peace and harmony and love with Joey. Your love for each other is enviable.

Truly beautiful! You're blessed to have each other! Sounds like someone above sent you an angel! :)

One of the clearest and most beautifully expressive things I have ever read. Joy to you both.

Well, I thought you two were special...but now I know for sure. Love your site...Get thru this latest "dose" and I'll see you back at the pool. Class is always better when the two of you are there. xoxoxoxo

PS I still get that anticipatory nausea and it's been 18 years.

April 27, 2012
Inherent racism

I used to think, just a few years ago, that minorities were really pressing when they claimed racism existed in blatant forms in this country. Things looked so smooth all over.

But then I'm a white male, for so many decades the beneficiary of racism, the beneficiary of dominant politics, the beneficiary of gender discrimination, the beneficiary of keeping things the way they are. Whether it's keeping African-Americans in their neighborhoods, keeping Latinos uneducated, keeping Asians in their homelands or keeping women poorly paid--that ultimately benefits the dominant gender and race in many ways.

Until it doesn't. Until it becomes a gravestone around your neck as social justice fails and the social conscience deteriorates. The most recent example of mass social progress happened in the 1960s in this country. I was a huge supporter of the civil rights movement and thought that, once it succeeded, all was well.

Well, all is not well, and I have been seeing it more and more. From the shootings of black men in Florida and Pasadena, from the immigration laws developed in Arizona and the Carolinas, from the code words conservative politicians use to denigrate ethnic groups they happen to be prejudiced against--there is obviously a strata of inherent racism running through us.

I include myself in that, liberal that I am, because sometimes I don't see what is right in front of me. It has just become so blatant lately. It's hard to ignore dead black men, gloating white legislators and hardline right wingers who don't even bother to couch their racism in code.

There is a positive note here, in a scary sort of way. It's not just us. These tribal instincts are universal and run deep. Look around. Every nation has its tribal/ethnic/race problems. We can be pretty free of it for a while, but racism likes to be invited back in. We in this country invited it back in. It seems impossible to erase.

Yet if it can't be erased it can at least be minimized, I believe. And I, dominant white man now, had better get on board that program. Because, looking at it selfishly, as different tribes rise and fall, if I am not the beneficiary I soon could be the victim. And we need to remember that racism isn't just about killings and racist laws. It may be more, at this stage, about the ability of people like me to blithely think that all is well in our tribal lands.


Good points, Donnie. Lately I'm finding it hard not to lay blame on a certain political party. But I imagine we can all look to ourselves as well, at least a little.
—Petrea Burchard

April 30, 2012
The meadow

We created a meadow in our back yard. Now I feel guilty taking the time to watch it grow.

Yes, Joey and I took out the back lawn and planted a meadow, where native plants would attract birds and insects. It bloomed all yellow and white at first, then the blue, magenta, and orange flowers came in. Some of these native plants grew so tall that they tripped and fell over.

Sometimes when I'm in a chemo snit and it's a warm day I go out and watch the insects working the flowers. There are bumble bees, wasps, flies, honey bees and several kinds of butterflies. The plants and insects are rioting in perfect harmony.

I am especially curious about what the wasps are doing. They helicopter around and land deep down in the stems and crawl around in the biomass. I can't figure what their job is precisely, but the industry they show is remarkable. They're probably finding funky bits to eat there, I finally decide.

All parts of the meadow function with alacrity. I like that about meadows, forests, deserts, chapparral and shorelines. These are processes that work. They have gears buried deep inside that make them run so efficiently that we rarely hear the little motors.

I go inside to write about the meadow and I don't feel guilty anymore. Except that now I have a role reversal and feel I should spend more time watching it. So to ease my conscience I finish my article on meadows and go out and watch it some more. There's a big white butterfly that I want to get a closer look at. I can't figure why it flits around so erratically and never lands anywhere, and yet apparently is an integral part of the system.

Maybe if I watch the butterfly long enough, all will be apparent.


Since I planted a vegetable garden I find that I really like to just sit outside and watch everything. I never feel guilty watching. I feel guilty if I get lazy and decide to watch something on Netflix when I eat my lunch instead of sitting outside. I like the idea that all of that out in the garden exists outside of me. It's a whole world.

I need a garden, Donnie. Trouble is I'm not a gardener. I suppose I should become one, as hiring someone to make it the way I want it isn't exactly in my budget. But I want to garden about as much as I want to go back to college. So. Dandelions.
—Petrea Burchard

May 3, 2012
Anticipatory nausea

As I went through chemo after chemo I became over-sensitized to chemicals. When I walked into the hospital I began to get nauseous even before my infusions.

A nurse explained it to me. This was anticipatory nausea. Your brain conditions you to have a negative reaction to the stimuli surrounding the impending unpleasant experience. The smells, the sights, the sounds.

I'm feeling that way about the November, 2012 election. Just the thought of the upcoming event--the hype, the false promises, the Swift-boating, the exorbitant money exchanges, the lies, the slick personalities, the media clamor, the favors returned, the unpleasant smell of the successes and the rotten decomposition of the failures--makes me want to throw up.

It's only May. I don't know if I can stand six more months of chemo or politicking.


After the last election we got rid of the TV. I stopped listening to the radio and I listen to podcasts only. I can't bear to listen to the news. It's all anger.
—Petrea Burchard

You may not be able to avoid the chemo, but as Petrea suggests, turning off or throwing away the TV, at least, is possible.
—Beverly Diehl

I swear I'm not insensitive, but I had to laugh at this one. I'm well into politically induced nausea: the phone solicitations, the signs posted every ten feet, the out-and-out lies…Plan to go through the next few months with my eyes closed and earplugs in my ears.

Time to smoke more weed.

May 6, 2012
A strange cat on me

Cats can take to you immediately or never, though even the most dangerous looking old alley cat will usually come around at some point. Cats, and human babies, usually take to me right away.

This happened to me at my sister's house, where her new cat happened to be a Manx that wanted to make love to me as soon as it spotted me. I remark on this not because it's so unusual (I have those bedroom eyes, you know), but because in my present emotional state (the chemo breaks down my defenses) this cat became something of a life-affirming experience.

There's something about another living creature leaping up on you, lying on your chest and rubbing its chin against your chin. As it breathes in your face with its little breaths, you realize that this feral and independent seeming animal has chosen to bond with you.

Cats are most often compared to women, while men are invariably compared to dogs. I won't discuss the reasons for either at this time. But what I feel is significant here is that those two feline, sensual species (women and cats) bring something heavy to any close encounter. Once they lie on your chest you are bonded forever, and deeply.

It's an animal thing. I like that animal thing. Though I eventually had to kick the cat out of bed because it got a little too demanding. Something I wouldn't do with my woman, of course.


At least you didn’t have a stray cat on you.
—Petrea Burchard

Petrea is right. Those Stray Cats weigh a ton.
—Paula Johnson

May 8, 2012
The chemo process

By the time you read this on Tuesday morning, I will be in the chemo center. Here's the process for me, if anyone is interested.

I get up about 5:00 am, get dressed, fix myself a small breakfast to take with me and get on the freeways by 5:30. The 210 to the 134 to the 405 to the Wilshire exit. I park in the lot of the Veterans Affairs hospital in West Los Angeles before traffic heats up.

I take a number at the blood lab, and arriving this early means I get in the first batch to have my blood drawn. That happens at 7:00, and my lab work will be done in a couple hours.

This is a fasting blood test, so I wait to eat my breakfast until after it's done. I won't eat again until I get home, although the hospital provides (nauseating) lunch. My appetite disappears as soon as the drugs start up.

If my labs are okay, which they have always been though I can have a fairly low red blood cell count at times, one of the wonderful nurses at the infusion center begins hooking me up to a succession of fluids. First come prep fluids that include a saline solution and an anti-nausea drug, then come three different chemo drugs. It takes about five hours to finish this.

Can't wait to get unhooked from that.

By the time I drive home I'm a little dazed but entirely fit to drive. Then comes the fight against nausea and vomiting for two days. Since even the powerful anti-nausea drugs didn't work with me, I've turned to medical marijuana for that. Then it takes a few days for my appetite to kick back in.

After about five days my fatigue has started to fade and I'm in pretty good shape for the next week, improving each day, having lost about five pounds. Then I gain my five pounds back and do it all over again.

The lesson: Don't get cancer. If you do, just get a little bit and get it treated early. When it's a little bitty guy you can kick its ass.


Sympathize big time with you and everyone else who has to go through this. I had surgery for cancer 11 years ago and, thankfully, the surgery was enough. No chemo. Thrown into ‘sudden menopause’ overnight with all the ramifications thereof, but that’s another story. Anyway, hopefully, we kicked my ‘itty bitty cancer’s ass’. Hang in there, good sir.

I've never known before exactly what the process is. It sounds like not much fun. Five hours? Do you just sit? Can you at least read? What a cycle.
—Petrea Burchard

May 10, 2012
A child’s laugh

There's nothing as joyful as a child's laugh. I'm not even going to try to describe it, it's that distinctive. Even as a writer I'm not up to that task. It's beyond happy, beyond elevating.

When I lived in Hollywood there were not many families in my neighborhood, and a single shout or laugh from a kid anywhere on that hill would grab my attention and put a smile on my face. I'm lucky now to live in a neighborhood in Pasadena that not only has kids, it has happy kids. They play outdoors. They laugh. I hear them. They laugh again. I smile a lot.

I'm recalling stories about retirement communities in Arizona and elsewhere where families and kids were not allowed to live. I always wondered who thought that one up, and who chose to live in a suburb without the possibility of a child's laugh coming in on the breeze.

I don't have the answer to that one, but I have a greater verity: We like to hear children laugh because we like to hear the past, present and future expressed in a joyful moment. It makes us, for that moment at least, believe that all is well with the world.


As far as I'm concerned, the kids on my street can make all the noise they want to. It's car stereos and amplified noise that I'd rather not hear. I can't imagine living in a neighborhood without kids.
—Petrea Burchard

My father-in-law lived in Sun City, AZ. While I understood that the elderly residents enjoyed the slower pace and quiet streets, I found the neighborhoods barren. The area felt unbalanced. Your essay explains why.
—Lynn Nicholas

I really liked this one, Donnie. I think maybe the reason you connect with that laughter is because you haven't lost touch with being a child. I think some people do lose that connection. They either can't remember, or it wasn't a happy time for them, or something. Perhaps those people really don't want to hear children, and that may be right for them. I think its sad, though. I like your way better - and it is beautifully put.
—Carol Wuenschell

May 12, 2012
Boothill Graveyard

I didn't go in. I waited outside.

A group of us was visiting Tombstone, Arizona, on the way to Bisbee, and the first attraction you come to upon entering town from the north is the famous Boothill Graveyard. The others wanted to go in, I didn't.

I could claim it was because I had been through the barren little batch of graves and catchy headstones before, and I had. I was also tired. But as I sat in the car and waited for them I couldn't help but think: Was I afraid to get this close to death, even in a graveyard that comes off a little comical with a few silly epitaphs?

"Here lies Lester Moore. Four slugs from a .44. No Les, no more." "Hanged by mistake." "Died of Wounds."

But there are also the sobering epitaphs. "Killed by Indians." "Shot by Sheriff Behan." "Shot by Ormsby." "Shot by Slaughter." "Shot by Chacon." "Died of Leprosy."

As I sat there I figured it out. No, I wasn't afraid to approach death. In fact, I find it a little comical myself at times (I'm talking about my own, of course). That's what it was: I was just tired and had seen it all before.

That finding was reassuring. But I suppose I won't stop wondering whether I might dance lightly around cemeteries because I fear them in some way that won't express itself until I'm inside.

Ultimately, of course, I'll have to go inside.


I wondered about you yesterday. People want to offer you hope--solutions--miracle cures. Do you want to hear those things? Is the answer none of my business? I don't know what I would want, were I in your situation.
—Petrea Burchard

May 15, 2012
A socialist nation to mimic

There's a great dislike of socialism in this country now, but I want to point out a socialist nation that we would do well to mimic.

The nation I'm talking about has been, after instituting one socialist practice after another for nearly a hundred years, near the top of the world all that time. This nation came on strong early with wide-sweeping government programs for employment, national construction projects as well as health care and retirement for its elderly. It thrived as a result.

The nation, bolstered by taxation rates up to 90% on the rich in times of need, had one of the world's great public education programs. Its regulation of business and finance pervaded nearly every industry by the end of the 20th century. All levels of government, from local building codes to federal civil rights mandates, were injected into public and private life. Its socialized transportation and energy production systems were a marvel and strongly supported.

From far-reaching police and surveillance policies to wide-sweeping socialist agricultural support, the nation thrived as it injected government into all phases of commerce and social policy. Its environmental programs, from strict regulation of pollution to the setting aside of vast tracts of parkland and wilderness, gave it the reputation of a nation that cared about its future.

In short, though the populace at times grumbled about taxation and public intrusion into private life, this nation excelled both as a great capitalist mainstay and a socialist example to the rest of the world--where it was widely envied and copied.

Of course, the country I'm talking about is the United States of America, which has been deeply socialist for many decades. Those policies helped make it a great place to live and do business. We stood out among all nations. Our achievements made the 20th century "The American Century."

And as soon as the George W. Bush administration in the 21st century began dismantling these social programs, from financial regulation to reasonable taxation, the Great Recession hit. Even worse, the Great Angriness hit, as Americans turned against their government and declined to fund it or even believe in it.

Conservatives like to reflect upon and champion American exceptionalism. What they are championing, of course, is the great socialist nation that dominated the 20th century. What they are lamenting is our decline in this selfish, privatized century.

What they are in fact lamenting is the decline of American socialism.


Bravo. Nail on the head.
—Petrea Burchard

May 17, 2012
The decline of the burrito

I'm outraged, I tell you. I'm sick of finding rice and potatoes in my bought burritos.

See, I grew up in Arizona, where the flour tortilla was used at home for many things: quesadillas, cheese crisps, peanut butter and jelly burritos, lunchmeat and lettuce wraps (we didn't use the cute term "wraps" in those days). But the real burrito was sacred.

The Southwestern burrito should be based on beans. Pinto beans. Rice and potatoes are cheap fillers designed to increase profits, and reduce taste, in burritos.

My ideal burrito? It would consist of about one-third refried pinto beans, one-third meat of choice, usually beef though chicken and <em>carnitas</em> are also good, and one-third cooked onion and bell pepper. It should also have salsa or hot sauce to the customer's taste--mild, moderate or flaming. With more salsa or <em>pico de gallo</em> on the side in case it's needed. Having a fresh jalapeno pepper to nibble on on the side makes this a meal to remember.

I'm the furthest thing from a food snob, so I also eat other types of bean-based burritos. One of my favorites is a simple bean burrito with a lot of cheddar cheese in it. A vegetarian burrito with beans and vegetables of choice can be excellent.  Beans and <em>carne asada</em> without veggies is terrific. I also love tortilla wraps with various ingredients in them, but we don't get to call those burritos.

And never, never serve me a burrito with rice or potatoes in it. It's offensive to tradition, integrity and the taste buds. It's a sign of the decline of the great burrito.


Yikes. There’s this place called Chipotle that you might want to avoid…
—Paula Johnson

I committed a sacrilege this week.
—Altadena Hiker

Beans. If I at least get the beans I'm happy.
—Petrea Buchard

However, the chicken burritos at El Charros–one of their specialties for over 50 years – has potatoes in with the green chile chicken. I remember the first tacos I ate in Tucson, back in 1968 at a Mexican place on 4th Avenue, were made with greasy and delicious ground meat and…. Potatoes ! Seems that potatoes are an ingredient used by many traditional Mexican cooks. Personally, I love the shredded meat burros – traditional barbque, all meat. I think it’s all about what we grew up with.
—Lynn Nicholas

You are right about the potatoes, Lynn! When I was a kid, one of the neighbor families were Latino and they always put potatoes in their the tacos.
—Paula Johnson

May 21, 2012
The rise of the tomato

I'm suspicious of the tomato plants. They're trying to take over. They're everywhere, their little green bodies showing up in every nook and cranny. It's the rise of the tomatoes.

Let me explain. We've just planted some of our summer garden. We planted cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, peppers of various kinds and a single tomato plant.

Why only one tomato? Because volunteer tomato plants, rising from the seeds of last year's dropped tomatoes, have sprung up everywhere. We have transplanted some to the big garden, have allowed some to continue growing where they emerged, and have pulled many as weeds. Yet they keep coming.

This is scary. If humans everywhere let their volunteer tomatoes grow unchecked, would tomatoes take over the Earth? Would they grow like kudzu or ivy, every year occupying every available patch of soil around them?

Sure, you say. This could be a good thing, big red tomatoes and little cherry tomatoes ripe for the picking in every neighborhood and encompassing every vacant lot and along every walk.

It seems like a science fiction scenario to me. Could the tomatoes be setting us up for a takeover? Could the end of humanity be painted in the blood red of tomato sauce running in the streets? COULD WE BE PASTED BY TOMATO PASTE?

Stay tuned. I'm manning a secret radio station in case the tomatoes sneak up on us and try to overrun.

May 23, 2012
A great moment

A great moment is when you get into bed, pull the covers up and find that exact position and comfort level you want.

Your head settles in, your body curls into itself, the sheet next to your face is just so, and the temperature is exactly right. At that exact moment you realize that everything is right for sleep.

That's a great moment.


I love that. (I think part of the secret is high thread-count sheets.)
—Paula Johnson

May 25, 2012
Another great moment

Another great moment is during sex. It's not at the moment of climax. It's at the moment when you've worked so hard and realize just then that you are going to climax.

This moment is precious for both sexes and at all ages but becomes more noticeable as you age. It's like an explosive little mini-revelation prior to the real revelation, when you realize all your revelations are going to come true.

That's a great moment.


Keep the great moments coming. So to speak.
—Petrea Burchard

May 27, 2012
A third great moment

A third great moment is when you're hungry for an orange and you take the orange and cut into the skin with your fingernails to peel it. Sometimes there's a little aerosol squirt of orange essence into the air.

When that happens the essence of the orange is all in your nostrils and in your brain and you can't wait to take a bite of the orange.

That's a great moment.


Ah. Good one. It's nature's pop-top.
—Petrea Burchard

Hey, this works with tangelos, too. Y'know, if you feel like taking a walk on the wild side.
—Paula Johnson

May 30, 2012
The torturter’s handbook

I've often wondered about a specific kind of torturer.

I can understand the torturer who wants information or revenge. He tortures for a reason. Unlikely, but maybe he feels he can save a life or right a wrong by torturing someone. Then maybe he has mercy and sends the victim to whatever justice system is available. Or maybe not.

The one I don't get is the person who tortures someone, often a stranger, before he kills him. He takes a busload of innocent people off a bus, tortures them, decapitates them and hangs the bodies from an overpass. You hear about it happening anywhere in the world where people live, even if only locally, in a basically lawless society. Bosnians against Serbs, Muslims against Christians, Mexican drug lords against other drug lords. It happened in the American South not that long ago, with racial overtones.

To torture someone for no reason or result and then kill him takes an act of cruelty and more. It takes an enjoyment in cruelty, since the only reason for the torture is... what? You tell me.

It must be written in the handbook of the brain somewhere, but I cannot find that chapter.

June 2, 2012
So you hate the EPA

I read where some folks hate the Environmental Protection Agency and want to do away with it. They don't like the cost or the intrusion into our private lives.

The intrusion into our lives? I lived during the sixties and I'm going to describe the environment of the times to you.

Some rivers were so toxic they were flammable, lakes in the Northeast were so acidic that aquatic life couldn't survive, the air over our cities was thick with smog and you could taste it, beaches were polluted, farms and our food were saturated with pesticides, the streets were grimy and rat-infested, much of our drinking water was carcinogenic, and beautiful wildlife species and habitat were being bulldozed willy nilly.

I worked construction in Los Angeles one summer paying my way through college (a novel concept, eh?), and the air was so blue some days I couldn't see 10 blocks. That's a real intrusion into your life. The EPA and the community spirit that engendered it changed all of the above factors and made all of our lives more beautiful and safe.

Here's a nice experiment for the folks who hate the EPA: Go lock yourselves in your houses, burn toxic chemicals until the air is green, shit on your floors, turn rats loose in the kitchen, drink dirty water off the floor and shoot your pets and leave them in the back bedroom. Stay indoors with that for 5 years and come out and tell us how you liked it. That's what the USA would be like now without the EPA and other environmental organizations.

Whew, I felt I was going to burst into righteous flames just writing that.


You go, Donnie! Yeah!

When I moved to Los Angeles in 1988 I rented an apartment in North Hollywood. I lived there for two weeks before we had a day clear enough for me to realize I had a view of the mountains from my back window.

I also had a job in West Hollywood, near the corner of Sunset and La Cienega. Right around the same time, we had that clear day and I saw downtown LA for the first time.
—Petrea Burchard

Well Said !
—Lynn Nicholas

Yeah, people don't realize. Wasn't I just reading in Beijing there are days the smog is so bad if you're in a skyscraper, you can't see the skyscraper across the street? Let alone the mountains in the distance.

It would be great if people and businesses always thought long-term, sustainable, but they don't, they focus on short-term profit. Until such time as they do, we need the EPA.
—The Writing Goddess

Yes, I remember it too, how you couldn't see the San Gabriel Mountains from Caltech. But it costs money to do things without polluting and businesses don't like the idea that the cost of cleanup should be part of the cost of doing business.
—Carol Wuenschell

June 4, 2012
A note to new writers

If you really want to be a writer you had better bring some passion, some skills and some perseverance to the game. But most of all you better bring, or get, some discipline.

Discipline is the unpleasant ugly brother of the desire to be a writer. Desire is a beautiful boy child, all full of hope and carefree abandon. Discipline is the impolite sibling who threatens to burn your house down if you don't feed him. But without him you're dead in the water, because he's what you'll need to get started, what you'll need when the passion is depleted and what you'll need when you believe that you are either God's gift to the world or will never succeed at this unholy enterprise.

See, from your first explosive creative efforts to the long lonely days when you feel you can't write another word, discipline will stand you back on your feet and either allow you to continue or make you realize you need to move on to a less demanding preoccupation. From the exhaustion of a colossal literary work to the frustrations of the publishing world, discipline is the demanding little bastard who will straighten your backbone and shove you back in front of that terrifying blank computer monitor.

And how do you acquire discipline? Why, there's the conundrum. You acquire discipline with discipline. You work at the discipline as hard as you work at the language skills. He may not be the brother you wanted when you were little, but he's the one who's going to carry you on his back when you've pulled up lame.


Discipline isn’t just a problem for new writers. Larry Gelbart was asked what his advice was for new writers, and he said, “delete the games from your computer.” Even the late great Gelbart wasn’t above avoiding work with the help of Tetris.


June 6, 2012
I’m against gay marriage

I'm against gay marriage. Let's just get that straight right up front.

Oh, legalize it. That's fine and proper. I'm in favor of legalizing.

But please, gays and lesbians, don't go there. Do you really want the contract, the abrupt change in attitude, the gradual descent into conflict and irony, the increasing indifference, the early-onset hysteria, the nastiness of divorce, the recriminations, the years of therapy?

My partner and I have lovingly decided that we needed none of that to be in love. It's the best way to find freedom, the Freedom From Marriage Act.

Remember how difficult it was to achieve the right to live together and NOT be married? That hard-won right came after many years of being scorned, ostracized and beaten up by sanctimonious married people.

I beg you, gay folks, do not join the half of the population that ultimately will be divorced. Save yourselves while you can. Don't be mesmerized by this talk of marriage as a fine and lasting institution desired by all. If God wanted it He would be married to a fine, handsome man years younger than Himself by now.

Run, run to the polling places and vote for gay marriage. Then run, run as fast as you can from the marrying places. They are places of wrack and ruin and your joy will shortly be replaced by legal documents that choke your mailbox and a gloom that will not dissipate until your freedom is again won.

Alternatively, get married, make it work and prove me wrong.


Hey, Donnie, did you draw a short straw somewhere?

My husband and I have been married for 33 years and wouldn't have it any other way. My parents have been married for, oh, going on 70 and they're so devoted to each other that my mom called in the cavalry (in the persons of my two brothers who moved to New York) when my dad was so sick after cancer surgery (at age 80-something) that he said he's just better die. (When he saw the whole family gathered at his bedside, he rallied). My husband's parents would have been married 50 years if they'd made it to their anniversary the year his mom died.

Marriage is not for everyone, but that doesn't mean it's not for anyone.
—Carol Wuenschell

Sorry it didn't work for you, Donnie. I'm thrilled with it. Then again, I didn't get married until I was in my mid-forties and knew a thing or two about myself.

I agree with Carol. Perhaps it's not for everyone. But as you so cannily say, at least folks should have the option.
—Petrea Burchard

I get your point -- and thankfully I read past the first line :)

But, the thing is, approx 1070 laws use the word 'marriage' in the text that describes specific rights that are the privilege for those who are legally married. So.... couples are stuck with the legal institution of marriage to be eligible for those rights, at least until all the laws are rewritten... yeah, right.

LOVE the irony of your piece...but... the other side of gay marriage is that now they get to "enjoy" all the ugliness of legal divorce, from attorney's fees down to division of property.

We certainly have legislated ourselves in to a 'right muddle' of a mess.
—Lynn Nicholas


June 8, 2012
Questions for Superman

These are some questions I have for Superman.

How much do you weigh? I mean, you're the man of steel, and you have the mass and energy to move entire celestial bodies. Five hundred pounds? A thousand pounds? Does it bother you that you're overweight?

What is your means of propulsion? We don't see you waving your arms extra fast or any fire coming out of your butt. Divulge that means to us, we could use it.

Is your erection made of steel too? How hard is it? We're ashamed to admit it, but these are the kinds of things we think of.

That cape of yours, what's it made of? You fight with supernatural creatures and go through fire with it, yet it shows no signs of wear and tear. I want some of that material for a patio umbrella.

When you fly that fast do you have to continually clean bugs and debris out of your eyes? If so, does that irritate the crap out of you, you being so powerful and all?

Speaking of eyes, when you use that x-ray vision, does it hurt your eyes? Do you sometimes use it for prurient reasons? I would really be tempted.

Do you have a birth certificate proving you were born on Krypton? Is it the long form, original one? We're a suspicious people and it makes good fodder for the tabloids if we find you were born on some other planet.

These are just some of the questions that naturally occur to us. Please let me know by writing the answers on the sidewalk in fire or something. I don't want to just get an email or anything like that.


My favorite post so far. If you find out about the patio umbrella, let me know.
—Petrea Burchard

I bet the habenero salsa at The Taco Spot in Eagle Rock would cause fire to spew from Superman's butt.
—Paula Johnson


June 10, 2012
Thanks for the pain

Sometimes I just have to say, Thanks for the pain. It reminds me that I have limited time and lots to do.

We get lazy, you see. Even we near-deathers, yes we do. But I have a little alarm clock that gets me going.

See, there's this... object…in my abdomen. It's about the size and shape of a mango seed. It doesn't belong there. At first they called it an abscess, then a tumor, and finally a lesion. I'm going with lesion, which is a more benign sort of growth.

Still, it hurts, and it rests on a nerve and that hurts even more. I take painkillers. Fine. But this lesion serves me well in one regard. If it weren't there, with the attendant pain, I would feel well. And I'm not.

So, I'm grateful for the much hated and dreaded pain. It reminds me of reality and all I have to do yet. These are the mind games we have to play in order to get things done, when sometimes all we want to do is rest.

But there's a lot of rest coming. I'll rest when I'm done. For now, bring on the pain.

But not too much, thank you.


I'm so sorry you're going through this, Donnie.

I suppose we all have limited time and lots to do. The difference is, some of us don't know it. Some of us never get anything done, then it's all over.

I don't envy you the knowing, Donnie, or the pain. And I'll tell you this for what it's worth: you motivate me.
—Petrea Burchard

Well, whether it's the pain or whatever it is, it is certainly effective. You seem to be getting shitloads done.

Even if I'm not commenting much, I'm going to remember a lot of what I'm reading for a long time. Though I will probably not buy any property in northern Canada, thank you.


June 12, 2012
Oh, Canada

I'm so proud of Canada. The country has positioned itself well to be the next great world power. That's a prediction, though it could take a hundred years.

Of course Canada is lucky to be in the far north, north of that place once called The Lucky Country (that's the USA, in case you don't recognize it). Where once half of Canada was considered a frozen wasteland, global warming will one day heat up and melt those ice fields and make them fields of dreams. If I were going to be around that long and had a little investment money I would be buying land in upper Alberta or Saskatchewan.

There are other candidates for the position of future top dog among nations. Argentina, Brazil, China and Russia all have the size and natural resources--and don't count out the USA. But those other four countries have severe problems unrelated to geography, and the USA is taking on the aspects of a former champ. The way Rome and England did at that declining stage in their existence.

But Canada is stable politically and economically, is loaded with resources that will only become more available as the ice recedes, has the Northwest Passage opening up with climate change, and has set itself up with social programs that give it an advantage over those other five countries. Count a national health care system in that category, which gives it an economic and moral boost every hour of every day.

And Canada also has the natural drive of an entrepreneurial economy as well as a collaborative socialist operating system. It keeps its military small and doesn't stint on infrastructure. It accommodates all races and ethnicities and has for many years. Its national profile makes those other five countries look like dominoes ready to fall.

Oh, Canada, I'm not a native son. But I like the way you've quietly taken sensible measures to position yourself as the nation that all other nations will envy at some point in the future. And considering that the planet could stay hot for ten thousand years, you could enjoy a long ride in the catbird seat.

I forgot, though. You Canadians are nice. That could be a drawback, the way this world is set up. I suggest you get rid of the nice, the way we did.


Makes me think of Lex Luthor's plan in the movie Superman. ("Otisville?")

I am a native 'son', so to speak, and even though I became an American citizen in the early '80s, I'll always be Canadian in my heart. Now if it just weren't so bloody cold there most of the year…
—Lynn Nicholas


June 14, 2012
The Thesaurus

It used to be a thing with me. If I couldn't think of the right word to use when writing I would refuse to consult a thesaurus until all else failed. It was a matter of pride, part of the wrestling match the writer goes through every day.

Now I use any and all measures to find the right word, no matter where it comes from. I miss the words I used to have right there ready to fly out of my brain, and I'm ready to beg, borrow or steal them if I have to.

I'm very happy to find them still alive in the thesaurus. I've found that they're extremely helpful no matter where they're from and are not tainted at all by their place of residence.

Pride (hubris, conceit, arrogance) is not nearly as useful as availability (handiness, convenience, readiness) in most cases when writing. This is certainly true as the brain ages and begins to consider many words dead or lost--at least for the day.

I assume that Mr. Roget knew that when he had his modern thesaurus published in 1852 (see, I'm also using Wikipedia).  He may have been a man with no pride, for all I know, but he really valued availability. I love him so much and rue (regret, lament) his passing.


I've been chided for using the Thesaurus but screw it. I have enough stuff in my head without having to keep all the parts of speech there as well. I love the Thesaurus and I use it. That's probably why I have a varied vocabulary (on my good days).
—Petrea Burchard

I'm with you, Donnie and Petrea! I have two books always within reach in my office writing space: Mr. Roget and Mr. Webster, and I could not function without them. When I write away from home I get all itchy when I can't think of the perfect word and there's no Thesaurus around (the built-in Word one doesn't cut it.) Only thing is, when I go to look something up, I tend to get lost in the word labyrinth and don't come up for half an hour.
—Bonnie Schroeder

June 17, 2012
Religion against religion

I resist reading about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for the same reason I avoided reading about the Irish/English terrors for many years. I got tired of hearing about implacable foes carrying out bloody vendettas based on religion, the most angry and tireless of all types of conflicts.

When the Irish made their peace I again had the stomach for the news from that green land. They came to their senses. They left the rut of violence and got on the road to life again. Kudos to the Protestants and Catholics in the north country.

I feel compassion for both Jews and Palastinians in the Middle East, but they can't get past the hatred somehow inherent in religion against religion, the violence inherent in territorial claims based on spiritual doctrine. There's something about the irony of this--worshipers of gods that advocate peace using violence as their main expression of disagreement--that is distasteful and illogical to the point of dejection for me.

Only a bigot or an ideologue could not sympathize with the Jews and their history. The same can be said of the Palestinians. Yet they seem to have no sympathy for each other, and they will battle until they get tired of the death, destruction, stress and negativity. That's what it takes, it seems: an exhaustion and despair that finally overcomes the theological commitment to destroy your opponent.

I would like to live long enough to be able to rejoice over a permanent peace between Arabs and Jews, but I fear it may take another lifetime or two to overcome that religious calamity.


Republicans/Democrats, etc. I no longer listen to the news. We got rid of the TV.
—Petrea Burchard


June 20, 2012
A 4th great moment

Here's a really great moment. It comes when making the potato salad.

You've put in your mayo, a dab of mustard, potatoes (diced not too large), green onion and red pepper. Then a dash of wine vinegar.

You've tasted it. It's not quite right. You add what's needed. You taste it. It's perfect. You taste it again, a really big bite. The potato salad is ready. You take a final really really big bite before you put it in the fridge.

That's a great moment.


You made me hungry!! The only thing is, you got the proportions wrong: it's mustard and a dab of mayo. Now I have to go to the market and buy potatoes, darn it!
—Bonnie Schroeder

Donnie? Bonnie? In your next batch of potato salad, try tossing in quarter-cup of drained capers.
—Paula Johnson

Celery salt. I'm tellin' ya.
—Petrea Burchard


June 22, 2012
A 5th great moment

A fifth great moment is when you're at the restaurant for a big family dinner and somebody else offers to pay the bill for everybody.

You of course make a counter offer. The other person insists on paying, and you insist back based on the demands of family dynamics.

Then he insists for the last time and pulls out his credit card and hands it to the waitress.

That's a great moment.


I haven't been to a restaurant in so long I don't even know if this happens anymore…
Petrea Burchard

I guess I insist one time to many. I always end up paying.
—Peter Schuyler


June 24, 2012
A 6th great moment

A sixth great moment is after you've been trying to unscrew a rusty old nut from a frozen bolt and you break it off.

You realize that you're going to have to go to the hardware store and pay $2.79 for two little bolts in a plastic packet just to finish this job.

But you go in the garage and take down a jar of old bolts you bought at a garage sale for a dollar. You sort through them and find the perfect nut and bolt for your job.

That's a great moment.


Oh, man. You are thinking positive. You must have a bazillion of these. "Great moment number 974: when the car starts."
—Petrea Burchard

I have had this great moment many times! I have a "odd button stash" for the same reason.
—Paula Johnson

Hmmmm, somehow I see an allegory of returning to past relationships…or…joining the hardware store of dating sites…why, I don't know…must be where I am in life at the moment. Made me smile…ironically.


June 26, 2012
A glut of gluten

I'm a little suspicious of fad fears. The fear of gluten is top candidate for that right now, listed right under the fear of axe murderers.

Apparently, getting rid of gluten, which is a protein in wheat and some other grains, is job one of nutritionists, vegetarians, toxicologists and sorority members. Entire books and TV shows are being devoted to the purging of gluten from our civilization.

As a person with a scientific background, I fear fad fears the way dieticians fear eggs--see, there was another fad fear! At one time, eggs were so bad for you that eating one was tantamount to committing suicide, even though eating contest winners often consumed 30 or 40 in one sitting with no more ill effects than short outbreaks of cackling.

Don't get me wrong. Some people have gluten allergies or sensitivities, and they certainly should give up gluten. For the rest of us, giving up gluten would be like giving up soy because it has protein in it, or giving up meat because it has protein in it, or giving up rice because it has protein in it. You get my drift?

It's really fad fears themselves that irritate me. I know, half the pitiful American economy now consists of the cultivation of fears of dangers that only exist minimally, projecting those fears to the general public and prolonging them until new fears can be cultivated. There's money to be made in fear. Still, as much as this faux industry creates jobs and keeps us entertained, it's a the-sky-is-falling mentality that isn't healthy.

So bring on the bread. As long as this continues, I'm a glutton for gluten.


I do know peeps with gluten intolerance; it's truly miserable, and I feel their pain. (And am willing to eat their rolls, too. Just to help out.)

Yes, food fads irritate me, too, and I think a lot of people give up gluten or eat all raw or whatever, and frankly, most of 'em don't look too healthy to me.

That said, I hear that agro-business has been doing things for years to INCREASE the gluten content of wheat, etc., because then it is more addictive...? Could be wrong. Pass me another Ho-Ho.
—Beverly Diehl

Ha-Ha, Beverly, that made me laugh. I don't know why this made me think back to when we all had to quit drinking RC cola.
—Petrea Burchard


June 30, 2012
Hello, I’m a liberal

You may have guessed it, and it's time I confessed it. I'm a liberal. In fact, I'm proud to be a liberal. I would be ashamed to be otherwise.

I won't bore you with old justifications such as that the great humans of our history such as Jesus, Lincoln and Gandhi were liberals. I won't need to remind you that much of the progress in human society, including the birth of the USA, came from liberal roots. You already know that compassion, progress and peace are liberal foundations as well as eternal human verities.

That's all just fact. What makes me a liberal is that I feel that it's right being that person. I couldn't have stood myself if I had lived in Jesus' time and refused to support his compassionate treatment of the poor. I couldn't have lived with myself if the American colonists' demands for more freedom didn't have my voice among them.

I would be ashamed of myself if mine were the vote that did away with an elderly person's medical care, that banished a good person from office, that vetoed a national park, that took funding from a sick child and gave it to a robust military, that took power from the weak and gave it to the already powerful.

It's a conscience thing, really. A humanitarian thing. And those things are the basic building blocks of a good person, a good family and a good nation.

Peace and love and freedom and progress are not bad things. I'm a liberal because I believe that with all my goody-two-shoes heart.


Weren't the Puritans total conservatives? Am I nitpicking? You know me, I'm a goody two-shoes, too.
—Petrea Burchard

Ho-ray for you and for all goody-two-shoes liberals everywhere.

I agree completely because am also a proud liberal. I wonder when did liberal become a dirty word? How did the "Right" get the upper hand and make us defensive?

I have been effected by the "Right". I've been afraid to put my Obama 2012 sticker on my car for fear of reprisal.

It seems wrong to have to defend what seems so self evident. that love and compassion are better then selfish, self-serving greed.

I'd be ashamed to be a Republican, a Tea party-er or any form of fundamentalist who claims to have the answer for everyone.

What baffles me is how the ultra Christian can a be so selfish and mean spirited. Don't they hear themselves when they blame the poor and press for loopholes to serve their interests at the expense of others less well off?

It's like they have created an altered universe where they only speak and listen to themselves and agree with each other until their conscious is warped and their hearts are closed.

I have decided to do the same and only have friends who are liberal and to boycott all forms of media that carry the Right propaganda.

As a liberal I must be willing to own my beliefs and values with courage and pride.

 I will campaign for Obama and other liberals. I will not be cowed by the bullies and meanies of the Right.

 I'm going out right now and put that sticker on my bumper.
—Susan Berryman

July 3, 2012
The sports dilemma

Here I am, dying of cancer, protecting every precious minute with my kids, my girlfriend, my work. All so valuable to me.

Yet almost every evening I turn on the TV and watch the Los Angeles Angels play baseball. Each time I watch, whether it's for a few minutes or for three hours, I wonder why I'm wasting my time observing adult men in baggy uniforms whack little balls around a green field.

I've gone over the arguments why people become obsessed with sports--ego, territoriality, hero worship, vicarious accomplishment--and I accept them to some degree. But I think sports are more of an alternate reality.

This alternate world consists of a ball park filled with participants and observers, and I get to live there among them for a little while. I find men who are the best at the game testing their skills against another team also thinking they are the best at the game. In a way it's a dream world that, despite its fantasy aspect, makes my muscles remember what it's like to run and throw.

And I like the rituals, the geometry, the muscle memory, the incomprehensible plays that I find in baseball. This is a little clockwork world that also will be filled with surprises and eruptions before the evening is over.

Call it an escape if you like, or an enigma. For the people who like sports, these games are filled with minutes very precious to us. Even if they are a waste of time.


I think your "alternate reality" theory is why some women watch HGTV, Martha Stewart!
—Paula Johnson

I think it has something to do with a level playing field. And if things get out of hand, there's a judge who will step in, on the spot, and put things right. I like tennis because it's one on one; but I understand why someone would appreciate a team sport -- a sense of community. Although the pitcher is one lonely guy.
—Altadena Hiker

I've never enjoyed watching sports, but I've enjoyed theater, movies, books, TV, etc. They're no more consequential than sports, are they, really? There's something about a beginning, middle and end that satisfies our need for continuity and setting things right.
—Petrea Burchard


July 5, 2012
Maslow’s hierarchy

I love Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It's a great measuring tool. It pretty much spells out the different levels of humanity, which is something we need to think about both as individuals and as a society.

We're all on there somewhere. From the basic human who's just looking out for food and shelter and wants to be left alone, to the advanced human who is moral, creative and thinks about what he can do for society.

Have a look at it and see where you fit. And if you really want a shock, ask your neighbor or your ex where you fit. You can apply it to anybody, but I really recommend applying it to ourselves first. Save politicians for last. And have a good laugh.


I suppose it's safe to say I'm at the top when I feel safe. When my paycheck's late, I slip.
—Petrea Burchard

July 9, 2012
My worst enemy

It's a little creepy having your worst enemy living inside you. There's a feeling that something has gone very wrong in some kind of biological warfare, and you've been outmaneuvered. You didn't even know there was a war going on, and now they inform you that you lost.

But the very worst thing about these cancer cells is that they're so stupid. Because, you see, when the cancer kills me it also kills itself. That's the most stupid thing that a biological entity can do.

And I for one don't like being outsmarted by something so stupid.

So whether you come down on the side of creation or evolution, cancer makes no sense at all. If God created it, he's just the most cruel bastard in the universe. If evolution evolved it, this is a very inefficient system with some bugs that need to be worked out.

Either way, it's no fun having your worst enemy living inside you.


I hear you. Cancer is a parasite just like any parasite in the plant world that kills its host. You totally nailed it: creationism or evolution... someone/something went seriously wrong.

(I'm one of the lucky ones, my cancer was Stage 1 A; 11 years ago, still paranoid though…)

"Evil is necessarily stupid." I know that's from a sci-fi novel but I'm not sure which one. Asimov? Heinlein? I think it's Heinlein. Either way, I think it's right.
—Petrea Burchard


July 11, 2012
Dying in this city

I never wanted to live in a big city, and now I'm going to die in one. And surprise of surprises, I like dying in Los Angeles.

Okay, it's just Pasadena, which is a smaller, more prosaic place to expire, but the cities here are all connected head to butt anyway. You can never tell which one you're in. You can say you live in LA and that could put you anywhere from Ventura to Camp Pendleton in the local parlance.

See, I grew up on an Oklahoma ranch, and ever since then I've mostly lived in small towns or out in the boondocks. I disliked the cities, and especially hated driving through LA, which is known as the poster child for bad cities.

But once I moved here, something happened. First, as a writer I'm always enthralled by the people of a particular area--and LA is a very particular area. Humanity is my oxygen, my water and my fast food hamburger. I have to love LA, because fast food hamburgers were invented here. I think oxygen was too, but I don't know about water.

Second, as I got older and as my health fell apart I became less attached to the ordinary things of life and more focused on the important things. For me, again, one of those is my writing, and LA is a good place to write. Because it's so spacious it's especially a good place to focus on your life's work (I probably should just stop being so pretentious, and then I wouldn't worry about all of this.)

From space, LA probably looks like a big open sore on the thigh of North America, and I am a bacterium in the infection. But as somebody famous probably wishes he had once said, "If you can't be the infection, be happy being the germ."


There is no shortage of whatever you're looking for here, except maybe air, and even that is plentiful if you're willing to look for it. The living and the dying are here, Donnie. All of it.

Your posts go from cocky to sad to funny to everything else.
—Petrea Burchard

No time to comment—working on your publishing project!
—Paula Johnson


July 13, 2012
Understanding flowers

Honestly, early in my life I didn't understand flowers. I was not a sentimental person and didn't understand the giving of flowers as a show of affection or support. I wasn't even that excited about them in the wild.

But the native meadow Joey and I planted in our back yard, with a profusion of yellow, magenta, blue and white exploding into a gigantic natural bouquet just has made a believer of me. I see the bumble bees and butterflies working it, and the whole thing looks like a small happy planet forming and reforming. I appreciate the profusion.

I've come to understand: It's not about the flowers. It's about the landscapes they create in us.


What a nice sentiment. There's nothing as therapeutic as a garden -- flowers, vegetables, watching things grow. Nature's perfect creations.
—Trish Lester

And you've made a place for bees. Well done.
—Petrea Burchard

This really resonates with me. I admit I've been guilty of the "flowers are a waste of money" sentiment at various times of my life. But this is not one of them, and I doubt there'll be another. I envy you your meadow, and I may well follow your lead and try again in my garden.

I've long suspected that my flower gardening failures have been related to my lack of watering. I always seem to think that I've got something more important to do than water flowers. Which is, of course, ridiculous and short-sighted. Thank you for the inspiration.
—Amy Snively


July 16, 2012
Movements, they are a-changin’

It's very odd how the times have changed regarding social issues and movements. In the turbulent sixties the left wing was anti-government and the right was vehemently pro. It's the opposite now, with each side just as doctrinaire about the position it takes as it was about the opposite in the old days.

I also read recently that the right wing is anti-science. That was the left fifty years ago, hippies afraid of technology and science that could be used for nefarious purposes such as military might. Now it's the right wing that is fearful that scientific reports are conspiracies against individual independence, with the issues of evolution and climate change driving that fear.

It's difficult to understand how such switches occur if you can't see how movements work: Alternate ideas or charismatic leaders can quickly take over a movement and send it spiraling off in new directions. The controlled blaze of the movement can be consumed by the conflagration of the quirk.

I believe we need to use more essential elements to form our movements. Unfortunately, the essential elements of movements nowadays aren't patriotism, public service, universal values, integrity, the common good, pragmatism, democratic reform or common sense. They're based on ideology, greed, power and who has the richest backers.

Hence a country that is lost in mundane and selfish sidelines that are unproductive and contrary to the interests of either the nation or the individual. If the founding fathers had had this attitude, this nation would have looked like the union of monkeys at the zoo.


"They’re based on ideology, greed, power and who has the richest backers."

And ignorance.

I do my best to vote based on knowledge but too many of my selections still end up being hardly more than somewhat educated guesses.

Yet still (I hope this doesn't come off too elitist) I'm fairly certain I'm way ahead of the majority when it comes to voting based on fact rather than emotion, or, as you said Donnie, just simple greed.

Yes, let's definitely gore someone's ox, just not mine.
— Bill Matthies

"The controlled blaze of the movement can be consumed by the conflagration of the quirk." Such a tasty turn of phrase, thank you for that.

Monkeys we are. I believe historians will ridicule us for it. But perhaps things will only continue to get worse and current times will look like the good old days. Wasn't it John Adams who complained that nothing was getting done because nobody could agree on anything?
—Petrea Burchard


July 18, 2012
Seedy watermelons

So the girlfriend brings home this huge, elongated watermelon the other day. My first reaction is to be unsure how the two of us will ever eat that thing.

My second reaction is to remember the days of seeded watermelons. That's what this one is. In other words, for those of you too young to remember such a thing, this watermelon has a lot of black seeds in it.

It also is the sweetest melon we've had all year and a reminder that the tradeoffs we make in this civilization are often sad ones. In this case we traded sweetness for the convenience of not having to spit seeds.

I remember when those round, seedless watermelons came onto the market. They were very nearly inedible. Yet, we edibled them. And the plant breeders worked at it and worked at it and came up with seedless melons that were pretty darn sweet.

Now it is difficult to find a seeded melon in the supermarket. But the girl did, and it's a joy to eat. We'll buy more of those. Maybe we can turn the market back the other way.

Seeded watermelons have a great marketing advantage, after all. They not only are very sweet, they have seeds that can be spit, squirted between fingers, placed down shirts and dribbled all over the place as in playing zombie. I.e., they have their own built-in toys.

Are you melon marketers paying attention? Is this one instance where we can turn back time and turn up the sweetness?


Sounds like you and your girlfriend were having a lot of fun.

I clearly remember my amazement when I first came across seedless watermelons as a newly arrived immigrant to the US in 1999. Where I was from, in Europe, the black seeds were still part of the deal. They mostly are to this day, but seedless fruits are becoming more common.

As kids we tried to grow watermelons from the seeds. (We failed because we neglected to water the seedlings.) Later I fell for the looks of watermelons in their original form. The smooth black seeds against the red, grainy flesh--so dramatic.

Where did your girlfriend find the old fashioned watermelon?
—Christina S.

Real fruit won't go away, I won't let it. The fake stuff tastes fake.
—Petrea Burchard


July 20, 2012
Irritable dream syndrome

Has the American dream gotten sick? Or at least there's some inflammation? I think so. I can smell it from my house. I call it the irritable dream syndrome.

That American dream thing worked very well, as publicity device as well as motivational tool, for many decades. The nation indeed provided a playing field for people at the bottom who wanted to work their way up. You too could have the car, house and dog of your dreams.

But that was part of the problem, wasn't it. Houses and cars and dogs, and their relative sizes, were not really what America was supposed to be about, and the recent recession highlighted that in yellow. America was supposed to be about something else. Happiness, freedom, liberty. Progress. Happiness. Equality. Opportunity. Happiness.

Yes! It was all supposed to lead to happiness!

Not that all of the above are mutually exclusive, but we've been somewhat on the wrong track all these years. And finally realized it. We weren't supposed to work ourselves to death just to move up one size of SUV. We were supposed to be all about happiness, liberty, etc. Thus there was internal conflict. Where's our happiness?

Thus the irritable dream syndrome.

Well, I'm dying and won't have IDS symptoms much longer. But I would highly recommend that Americans check their dreams over carefully from now on. Go to the dream doctor. Revise that dream. Make sure the word happiness is somewhere on that pill bottle.

Because I guarantee that as you near your death you will less and less find that happiness comes from house, car, dog. Though at least a dog will smile back at you.


Its easy to get sucked into the idea that more is better to live the american dream. And this often takes away from the quality of the life lived. Recently I realized that the decisions I was choosing not to make were leading to a life I didn't want to live... its a daily process of change and bucking the trend ... your messages carry a strong theme... "make it count" ... I wish you all the best and appreciate your insight and thoughts shared. I'll stay tuned for those books!

It helps not to have to worry. It helps to be able to eat, to pay the bills. Other than that, mostly I'm happy to have love and safety and good work, and my dog. I don't know how these feelings will change as I get closer to death, should I have the awareness of its approach. I think most of us would rather not know, but if I'm fortunate enough to get very old, I will know.
—Petrea Burchard


July 22, 2012
The powerful and the weak

Our political and economic struggles are too often struggles between the powerful and the weak. And the U.S., despite being founded on the principles of protecting the weak, has decided to protect the strong from them.

This is not a new struggle. Jesus was one of the first to make the international news with it. Oddly enough, though his entire body of work was focused on protecting the weak, now many of his followers are going the other way. Goes to show you. The pull of power is often more potent than God.

The struggles of a British colony against its distant overlords back in the eighteenth century gave a boost to democracy. Which is the codification of a nation's determination to give the weak power and a voice.

But democracy too has become polluted, as the powerful buy and bully their way to the front of the line.

I come down on the side of the weak, because that was the way I was trained from childhood. The impressions from a nation that loved underdogs, that went to war against dictators, whose movies and books celebrated the little guy, and whose central conceit was fairness--all of that made me what I am today. An unapologetic defender of the powerless.

But power is a dreadful drug. It has overcome Christians and Muslims, Democrats and Republicans. And it even lulls the weak, who once they get a taste, find they would rather be powerful than protect their former class.

I find it dispiriting that human nature is so intractable, that history keeps repeating its lesson to deaf ears. And that lesson is: The weak are many and the powerful few, yet the few ultimately win because of the pull upon everyone of the desire to be one of the powerful.


July 24, 2012
Telling time by traffic

In the early morning hours you can tell time by the sounds of traffic.

At 3 am the night is still and quiet except for the occasional distant car.

At 4 am there is a soft background noise of traffic from the distant freeway.

At 5 am the hum of traffic is pronounced but still hollow.

By 6 am traffic is full and blending into the other sounds of the city.

At 7 am there is only the general noise of the city waking up.

All of this is dependent upon leaving the windows open to allow the sounds of the city to enter the house.

And being awake, of course.


July 26, 2012
I don’t have time for this crap

No, I really don't. I don't have time for this crap. The mundane, the unimportant, the frustrating, the impossible, the dumb, the insignificant, the oppressive.

I was trying to convert an old interview of my uncle from micro-cassettes to CDs, and there were so many complex aspects to it that I just gave up. I found a guy who does such things. It cost me $120 and it saved my life.

I used to try to do anything myself that would save me a dollar. But this limited window of time that I have left has forced me to consider what is really important. Conclusion: It was important that I convert the tapes, but it was not important that I spend a week doing it myself.

And isn't life filled with those crap things?

What about the important stuff? The non-crap stuff? Are we going to put that off until the last minute and never get it done? The family stuff, the deep emotional stuff, the artistic and creative stuff, the fulfilling stuff, the stuff that makes you feel so good after accomplishing it that you wish you had more of it to do? The stuff you wish you had spent your life doing?

Gimme more a that stuff. And cut the crap.


You are so right, Donnie! Which reminds me, I need to call my painter. My bedroom is not going to paint itself and I am never going to get around to it!
—Paula Johnson

Yes! I should probably stop reading so many blogs.
—Petrea Burchard


July 29, 2012
I was standing at the sink

I was standing at the sink one morning and looked down and realized that if I had invented the Insinkerator I would probably be a rich man, and famous. It was a puzzling way to start the day.

Already my brain was in a quandary, because I realized that with my skill set I never in my wildest dreams could have invented the Insinkerator. That, by the way, is the brand of garbage disposal unit that we have. I'm sure millions were made and sold.

Also, although I'm an inventive sort, I would never take the time and energy required to carry an invention of this type through design, manufacture and marketing. It's not anywhere near my interests in life.

Yet somebody once told me that the way to become rich is to have a lot of people working for you. I remembered that as I gazed longingly at my Insinkerator. Hundreds of people labored to make the inventor of the Insinkerator a household name.

Oh, but wait a minute. He isn't a household name. I have no clue who he is. He may be rich, or not, but in the end he is just another anonymous Joe. At the same time that I was standing over the sink, he was probably sitting at his desk wondering who invented red ink.


Very funny!

Hahahahaha! John is always coming up with inventions. But being an inventor is apparently a lot of trouble.
—Petrea Burchard


August 1, 2012
I’m down on China

There's come to be a kind of economic worship of the Chinese in the U.S. It all stems from the fact that they have become the manufacturing center of the Earth, a position the USA once held. I'm not buying it

Yet they make a lot of shoddy products. A construction company owner I know complains that the tools he buys used to last a couple of years under hard labor, and now, built by the Chinese, as most everything is, they last six months. We aid and abet this by demanding that everything in the world be available to us cheap.

But that's not why I am down on the Chinese. It's because we manage to somehow envy a nation that is polluted beyond belief by its factories, is a bully to and conqueror of its neighbors and happily clings to Communism, one of the most pernicious and self-poisoning forms of government ever devised. It persecutes its citizens, denies freedom of anything and has a billion people living in abject poverty while a few billionaires luxuriate.

And for some reason--perhaps because it is economically domineering--we admire and fear China. Please. We don't need to fear China. At the same time that it's selling to the world and building its military, it is slowly collapsing under the weight of its own flaws. And remember this, as soon as another country undercuts it on price, which will happen as industrious Chinese workers begin to demand a higher standard of living, manufacturing will move on as it has from Mexico and India.

Then there's the reckoning the Chinese government must ultimately face with its long-suffering citizens. Oppression is the central element of life. Lies have created their own form of government. Real freedom is generations away and perhaps permanently denied. The Chinese are a chained-down people.

As you can see, I'm down on China. I'm not real big on chains in any form.


I want to thank you for calling your aunt Beverly. She has always loved you and your sisters. So did your Uncle Buck. I am sorry we did get to know each other better. It has been my loss. I love your web site I check it out every so often. Please keep fighting. our family is getting smaller and it is a shame.
—Linda Dale (Meyers)

We're not exactly blameless. We demand cheap products, then we complain when they fall apart. There's always a price to pay.
—Petrea Burchard


August 6, 2012
A city stitched in

When I ride these streets and highways , with their cracks and grooves like time stitched in, it's like reading a billion stories and poems and blogs waiting to be posted.

Radiation therapy is some sort of  misplaced skein of stories. It's the batch of pages you've lost and always hated. You don't want them back but they're yours. So you want them back.

Radiation is like the dropped stitch. Maybe your last one. But you have to have it anyway. Is it that without it, none of the other stitches will have all of their meaning?


This is poetic, my friend, and I don't mind telling you I hope I never have to experience the full meaning of this poem.I do want you to post your stories and poems and blogs, all of them.
—Petrea Burchard

Glad to have you aboard. I had a major stroke 2 1/2 years ago and have been kinda living new since then. Wake up calls can be sorta harsh, huh?

Keep on hanging in there. I will pray for what you want.

Donnie, as Petrea said, this is heart-wrenching poetry. We missed you at the Friday morning meeting and if good wishes were curative, you'd have been there. Hope you have the strength to finished "Ice Pick" soon -- it sounds terrific.
—Bonnie Schroeder

This sounds like a gifted writer talkin'

Hi Donnie, I found you through Carol Wuenschell's blog. I am truly impressed, moved, and inspired by your story. I guess courage and a positive attitude are two necessary qualities and it is obvious you have them clenched tightly in your fists.


August 25, 2012
In the hospital

When I was young I didn't plan for medical  care when I was older. That's why I've been in the VA hospital with complications from the colon cancer. This is at the same time that I'm getting radiation treatments.

So I've been away from my blog. I'm feeling better now and will try to do a better job, though the messages may be sporadic. Enjoy.


Missed you. I'm glad you're home, and especially glad you're feeling better. Do what makes you feel good.
—Petrea Burchard

Glad I checked in here again. Was concerned when so much time went by without one of your insightful and witty posts. Glad you are hanging in there.
—Lynn Nicholas

I've missed your posts. Good to have you back.

Hey, Donnie -- Let me know if you need rides to treatments or doctor visits. Happy to help however I can.
—Marty Elcan


August 29, 2012
Loss of appetite

With chemotherapy and radiation there are many periods when you lose your appetite. Do you know how that feels to an old food hog?

Between appetite loss and debilitating nausea, there can be days or even weeks when food is of no interest at all to a cancer patient. Even sweets seem disgusting. Water tastes yukky. I force myself to eat bits and pieces of this and that. I search my brain for old food memories that might entice me once again.

How things change. I used to wolf a meal in ten bites. I was a sugar addict. I craved red meat at least three times a week. Greasy burritos and breaded anything seemed healthy. If you grilled it, I would eat it (except for blood sausages, because I did draw the line somewhere).

I had favorite donut shops located all over Los Angeles. If I was on the Westside there was a place in Santa Monica that had sinker donuts coated in the best chocolate. Down south, there was a place that baked the best cinnamon rolls in California. In the Pasadena area I could direct you to the best maple bars in San Gabriel or Pasadena.

The initial pleasure of being encouraged to eat anything and everything I could force down under chemo and radiation didn't last long. I was struck by the incongruity of my life. In addition to not being able to walk, exercise or think straight, I couldn't even eat.

There comes a time when one reassesses. Often these times are triggered by simple interruptions in old assumptions. The markers of deterioration become obvious. The verities become ironies.


Glad to have you back doing posts but oh so sorry your appetitie abandoned you. That is just so unfair. Your fellow foodies share your loss.
—Bonnie Schroeder

So glad to see you back here. I was worried.
—Carol Wuenschell

That has to be a total bitch. I hope that, at least, the treatments will result in a bit of a remission so you can enjoy life more fully again. You seem like such an intelligent, warm person… It’s not fair….really a crappy hand you have been dealt.
—Lynn Nicholas

"The verities become ironies." Damn, that's good. You are back. Keep writing, please.
—Petrea Burchard

So unfair. When we were kids, we dreamed of eating anything we wanted when we got older and lived on our own. Then we got old enough to do anything we want, and we battled the waistline and felt guilty if we ate anything we actually enjoyed. Now you're given a crappy prognosis and free license to eat anything you want, and those sinful delicacies aren't even interesting. SOOO not fair.

Sending you big hugs, my friend. I'd send you donuts, but -- eh, who wants 'em. (Virtual desert comin' atcha.)
—Marty Elcan


September 1, 2012
Cars on the freeway

Different people have been driving me around lately, and all of a sudden I've noticed how much attention they pay to the cars on the freeway. "Oh, there's a Maseratti." "That's a nice old Mustang."

I've never been very car conscious, and had modest, functional cars myself. Pickup man most of the time. But now I am particularly intrigued by how much attention is paid to them.

Because at this time of my life, I really am pretty indifferent to what people drive and what cars are out there.

I veer ever farther from the mainstream.


Trying to remember---was it a Dodge Challenger or Charger? Your yellow jeep, gray jeep and the green square back VW--more than just cars, they were memory makers.

I'm car-blind. I don't recognize cars unless they're very unusual. I blame this on modern car manufacturers--most cars look alike these days.

Several people on my block own dark-colored SUVs. They wave when they drive by. I never know who it is but I always wave back, just in case. Sedans, though...oh man, I have no idea which car is whose.
—Petrea Burchard


September 3, 2012
The clothesline

It seemed to me that one of the silliest regulations ever enacted was, in some communities, to disallow clothes from being hung from clotheslines.

Around this house we think clothes hanging from lines are pretty, and energy efficient. So Joey wanted a clothesline.

At first she thought of buying one of the umbrella or retractable sorts, but settled on building her own. After much ado, she had it.

And what a sight it was, sheets and shirts flying from her clothesline. The whole process--the building, the hanging up of the clothes, the smell of sunshiny sheets--made us happy.

It just makes me think there should be more clotheslines.


We had one when it was a kid. It was on a pole, a square that you could swing around. I’m not describing it very well. Our next door neighbors had the same one. I think they still have it.
—Petrea Burchard

It’s clearly class war fare, Donnie. The wrong kind of people air dry their clothes. The right kind of people squander their pennies, then dollars, on finite natural resources, rather than have their sheets and undies kissed by the sun.

Des, that sounds downright subversive.
—Petrea Burchard

I LOVE the smell of clothes dried outside in the sun. Here I am, living in the sunny southwest, and clotheslines are banned in our neighborhood. I do have a drying rack, though, that I use on the patio every so often though (I dried small things out there today). It’s a stupid convention–not having clotheslines. “We” care about all the wrong things anymore.
—Lynn Nicholas

Ours was the last generation to feel the exhilaration of standing back, watching a long line of white diapers flapping in the wind. Moms today don’t even know how to use cloth diapers. let alone see them hanging on the clothesline. It makes me sad.

I lived in the mountains. In the winter, you hung the clothes out, they froze solid. You could tell they were dry when a slight fluttered them against their clothespins. I will never forget the wonderful feel and smell of them in the middle of winter. Something no dryer could provide.
—Peter Schuyler


September 7, 2012
A seventh great moment

Another great moment is when you wake up in the deepest  part of the night and it's utterly quiet. You're worried you can't get back to sleep.

Then you hear a sound coming from all the way across the city or the countryside. It's something from your past.

It's a train whistle.

That's a great moment.


Oh yeah. I hear that sometimes. That takes me way back. Good one.
—Petrea Burchard


September 10, 2012
An eighth great moment

Here's a great moment. You've not seen your adult child for a long time. You reunite.

What passes between you two suddenly is two common lives, and you recognize all that he or she has of you--good or ill. The streaks of personality and physicality you have passed on will always be there.

You both smile big.

That's a great moment.


Sweet, without the bitter.
—Petrea Burchard

I'm going through that moment right now. wonderful insight. Thank you
—Peter Schuyler

This why we will join our son at a Dodger game tomorrow night -- a chance to reconnect beyond email...
—Jane Neff Rollins


September 14, 2012
A ninth great moment

This is a dubious great moment. But it serves.

You've searched this entire, vast supermarket for a single piece of ripe fruit to take home. There's bins and bins of fruit, but none of it has the smell and feel of ripeness.

Then you spot one small peach, lodged to one side. It has an aroma. You grab it before the produce manager throws it away.

That's a great moment.


Love your Great Moments series, and the peach is my favorite.

This could become my next addiction: wake up in the morning, stumble to the computer, check your blog to find out about the next great moment. Made my day already. Thank you!
Christina Schweighofer

I feel the same way about ripe peaches — and even the vendors at my farmers’ market only carry stone hard peaches — except one. She is my first stop, because she usually has that one perfectly ripe peach…Guess where I’ll be tomorrow morning — La Canada Farmer’s Market.
—Jane Neff Rollins

Growing up in Illinois, I heard that great fruit grew in California. Maybe that was true once, but it must have happened before I moved here. California fruit is genetically modified to look good, but it’s hard, and it tastes bland. I miss the fruit they grow in Illinois.
—Petrea Burchard

You said a mouthful! I'm longing for a sweet, juicy peach, but you apparently got the last one.
—susan c


September 18, 2012
Three more days

Three more days of radiation treatments. I’ve got to get through it. Fatigue. Nausea. Loss of appetite. Huge weight loss. Hostility. Not a good time to write.


Feel free to take that hostility out through writing. We'll listen. The most maddening part of being really sick is everyone's expectation that you should stay positive and 'up'. Sometimes you just need the freedom to be able to rage.
—Lynn Nicholas

I don't know what time you posted this, Donnie, but soon it will be tomorrow, and only two more days. Then one more. Then you'll be finished with this round of treatments. I'm pulling for you. No need to write, just let your friends send you good vibes.
—Petrea Burchard


September 21, 2012
The short story

I was trying to think of how describe the short story, that brief fictional edict of character that is so difficult to make work well.

Of course my mind ran along the lines of "an emotionally charged bit of a story that tells between the lines a whole story." It stands alone as an insight, a tell-tale trail into a character's life.

But I'm not good at defining such things. So I came up with this idea. Think of the idea or the finished story as a speeding ticket handed to you.

If you can at least get something of that reaction you've got a short story that will grab attention.


September 25, 2012
That hotel

The tune from "Hotel California" is playing in my head again. I'm taking it as a good sign.

For a while my head rang with that and various tunes. I couldn't shake them free. When they stopped I realized that the worst I felt, the less the tunes played.

So I'm willing to suffer the crazy lyrics if they will bring better times.


Hey! I’m glad to see a post from you! If getting songs stuck in my head means I’m healthy I’m going to live for damn ever, because once I get one in there it will NOT come out. And I ALWAYS have one in there. Wanna know what’s in there now? Huh? You don’t?
—Petrea Burchard

When a song keeps passing through your mind it is called a mind worm. They come and go in my head all of the time. They last for days and sometimes weeks. I’m just always hoping it’s one that I like. I can tell you that “you are always on my mind” by Willie Nelson is a frequent visitor.

I’m going to miss your blog essays. I’m going to miss you. I’ll be seeing you.

Glad to see you post again, and your mind and heart calling up music again! When you are up and at ’em again, we need to do coffee and chat about life and prose again! Thinking of you often.
—Stefan Rhys

Donnie, you’ve been a good man.

You have been on my mind all the time. I was hoping that you would get better. I know times are getting hard. I also know what ever happens you will be missed. All your family will miss you. I wish I hadnt stay away. Uncle Buck told me alot about you and your sisters and wanted for you three to be happy. So he asked me to stay away and keep his secrets so I did but I missed knowing a great person. My mom and dad loved you and your sisters as if you were their kids. Love Linda
— Linda Dale (Meyers


October 17, 2015

A blog post was published by Team Donnie to let friends know he had entered the hospice unit at the VA Medical Center. A circa-1968 photo accompanied the blog post and was…much admired.



OMG – You really are ruggedly handsome. Hang tough, Donnie.
—Anne Louise Bannon

You look like Steve McQueen!
—Lilli Cloud

Hubba, hubba, Donnie! You make Steve McQueen look like a wimp.
—Susan C.

What a fox! I say you look like Burt Lancaster, only better, in this photo.
—Bonnie Schroeder

The hunkster! I’m thinking of you a lot, Donnie. And I hope you notice, for what it’s worth, that so far all the comments on this post are from women.
—Petrea Burchard

Hang in there—my prayers are with you.
—Pam Wiedenbeck

Thinking of you Donnie.
—Eric Mofford

FABULOUSLY good looking young man. Wow. I sent a card from Tucson last week. Give him a hug from this huge fan of his writing.
—Lynn Nicholas

Donnie passed away at age 66 on November 15, 2012.

Copyright 2015 The Estate of Donnie Dale.