Friday, February 23, 2024


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February 20, 2024





I visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to see the exhibit of the art of Yayoi Kusama, who I learned from Google is "The Princess of Polka-Dots." Although the title is certainly a lovely alliteration of P's, quite frankly I find it belittling. Clearly, she is the queen of Polk-Dots! I, as the Polka-Dot Fool, bow before her has the reigning monarch of polka-dots, not just the heir apparent to the throne.

The exhibit has been extended through March. Tickets to see Yayoi's two Infinity Rooms must be reserved in advance, because Yayoi is incredibly popular.




Above, you see Yayoi going dotty herself. Now 94 years old, she always wears a red wig and a polka-dot dress for her rare public appearances.

I want to make it very clear that I did not buy anything especially for my visit to the Polka-Dot Queen. No, no, no. I already had every single blessed dot you see on my body. And quite a few more, as a matter of fact. But really, wearing three polka-dot scarves would be excessive, I'm sure you would agree, even on a visit to the Queen.

Now that I'm sitting here writing this, I'm thinking why oh why didn't I adorn myself with all my polka-dot scarves?!? If I'm going to be excessive, why not take it to the max? My Buddhist practice is supposed to liberate me to be my full and total self. I can see that I've got a lot more practicing to do. And shopping. Clearly I must have polka-dot pants, polka-dot shoes & a polka-dot hat!


My deep plunge into Google reveals:

  • In the '60s, Kusama often covered her body with polka dots in naked demonstrations that protested the Vietnam War. Covered in the abstract pattern, she urged the public: “Obliterate your personality with polka dots. Become one with eternity. Become part of your environment."

And furthermore:

  • "Our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos. Polka dots are a way to infinity."


Here's me and Jessica, standing in the Hirschhorn Sculpture Garden in D.C. in front of Yayoi's other magnificent obsession:

The genesis of the Pumpkin theme is this: Born in 1929 in Japan, Yayoi grew up during World War II and the post-war years, times of terrible economic hardship. Sometimes the only thing they had to eat were pumpkins.

Now, most people, who are forced to eat a particular food in great quantities, develop a deep loathing for that food. I had a friend in Amsterdam who grew up in an orphanage with a peach orchard. During the summer, the children were condemned to eat peach after peach after peach, so that the harvest didn't go to waste. Even the sight of a peach now makes Maria nauseous.

And that was peaches, one of the most delectable foods known to humansImagine if your trauma food was pumpkins!! But that's Yayoi's modus operandi:

"I transform my trauma into art."


And Yayoi did not experience just poverty and hunger. She started experiencing hallucinations as a child.

From Psychiatric News:

  • Around age 7, Kusama began hearing pumpkins, violets, and dogs talking to her. She often saw auras around objects and bursts of radiance along the mountainous skyline that made objects around her flash and glitter. “Whenever things like this happened, I would hurry back home and draw what I had just seen in my sketchbook,” she recalled in her autobiography. “Recording them helped to ease the shock and fear of the episodes. That is the origin of my pictures.

  • "Psychiatry was not as accepted in my youth as it is now,” she added, “and I had to struggle on my own with the anxiety, to say nothing of the visions and hallucinations that at times overwhelmed me."


Yayoi had her first gallery show at 23 in 1952. One visitor was Dr. Nishimaru, a professor of psychiatry, who befriended her. He presented a paper at a conference, "Genius Woman Artist with Schizophrenic Tendency." Dr. Nishimaru urged her to move out of her parents' house. Being beaten and having her art destroyed by her mother had been a constant in the artist's life.

But it wasn't until the next year, 1953, that Yayoi made the connection that led her to the U.S. She was inspired by a book of Georgia O'Keefe's paintings -- so inspired that she sent O'Keefe 14 watercolors. O'Keefe forwarded Yayoi's art to several gallery owners, with her recommendation. And she told Yayoi she really needed to experience the art scene in New York City.


Based on the work received from O'Keefe, a gallery in Seattle offered Yayoi a solo show in 1954. She came to the U.S., spent a few months in Seattle and then moved to New York. It was there that she started doing performance art, becoming part of the artistic and political scene -- and where she started painting her iconic polka-dots. They reminded her of the thousands of white pebbles in the stream near her childhood home.

As you can imagine, life for a young Japanese woman in the (almost) totally male art scene in New York was not easy. Yayoi experienced again and again displaying innovative ideas in galleries, and having them copied by male artists -- who then got credit for something new and original.

As recorded in an article by Amelie Pascutto in Daily Art Magazine, :

  • Yayoi displayed an armchair covered in stuffed fabric penises in a group show. Claes Oldenburg. also part of the show, then immediately made a giant fabric piece of cake and was acclaimed for having invented stuffed fabric art.
  • Yayoi exhibited a room walled entirely with mirrors, reflecting the art on the floor and hanging from the ceiling (the first of her iconic "infinity rooms") -- and Lucas Samaras promptly did the same, and got oodles of attention for his brilliant new idea.
  • Then Andy Warhol made a room wallpapered with one repetitive image -- after he saw Yayoi's creation of the same thing. You'll never guess what happened: The world responded with great acclaim to Warhol's inspiration.

To be clear: There is nothing wrong with artists copying other artists' ideas. It would be difficult to imagine the history of art without this going on constantly. But to come up with radically new ways of creating art again and again -- and seeing other artists, all men, copy your ideas and being credited as innovators and pioneers again and again -- It must be more than a tad irritating.


So, In 1977, Yayoi returned to Japan.

She voluntarily committed herself to a mental hospital in Tokyo. She lives there to this day, across the street from her studio.

From her autobiography, Infinity Net:

  • “Life in the hospital follows a fixed schedule. I retire at nine o’clock at night and wake up the next morning in time for a blood test at seven. At ten o’clock each morning I go to my studio and work until six or seven in the evening. In the evening, I write. These days I am able to concentrate fully on my work, with the result that since moving to Tokyo I have been extremely prolific.”

I am deeply moved by Yoyoi's courage. And I am grateful to the art-loving psychiatrist and our own Georgia O'Keefe, both of whom recognized her strange genius, and helped her along her path.

“I fight pain, anxiety, and fear every day,

and the only method I have found

that relieves my illness is to keep creating art.

I followed the thread of art

and somehow discovered a path

that would allow me to live."

What a remarkable life journey.

Out of the torment of mental illness

& childhood abuse,

she has created a playful art

that has given joy to millions.

Yayoi Kusama, I salute you!

Bloggelinis: If you go to the exhibit at SFMOMA, you won't find any mention of the artist's personal travails. I think that's a mistake, because her ability to transform trauma into art is truly inspiring. And I love her first name. Maybe her parents gave her a terrible childhood, but they gave her a great name. Yayoi. The mouth wants to say Yayoi. All for now. Terry

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

V-Day Thoughts from an Old Friend

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February 1, 2024

V-Day Thoughts from an Old Friend




I sent my old friend Wilson this postcard from a Crackpot Crones show, as a Valentine's Day card. (Fabulous design by Melissa Walker). Wilson and I have been friends since we taught at Collegiate School in Manhattan in 1972. He taught English and I taught theater. It was THE ritzy day school for the male progeny of the rich and powerful. John Kennedy Jr., was a student. I loved teaching at Collegiate, thought I would stay there for the rest of my life. But they soon fired me for opening my big mouth once too often. Or was it three times too often? Let me just say: If the son of Seagrams's Liquor wants you to do a certain play and you want to keep your job -- DO THAT PLAY!

But that's another blog.

ANYHOW, Wilson responded with this rather stunning meditation on this cursed day, which has caused so much pain to so many:


I’ve never really understood St. Valentine’s Day. A confusing notion from the beginning. Introduced to it in 3rd grade, we (boys and girls) were set by Mrs. Hritz to the task of cutting out heart-shapes from colored paper and paper lace doilies and pasting them together into greeting cards. Then we wrote (copied from the blackboard) messages on the cards -- Be My Valentine or Please Be My Valentine or I Want You to Be My Valentine. The next step was to look around at the other kids and decide who to send this message to (boys to choose girls, girls to choose boys). On Valentine’s Day it would be a surprise – this was how we’d know who wanted us to be their Valentine. And we were supposed to want to be a Valentine ourselves, chosen as the object of someone’s desire.

But what were these Valentines? Not religious, we were told, but there were overtones because this notion of hearts and “love” was some kind of celebration of a guy called Saint Valentine. The Day was to be a pleasurable event, but what if nobody picked me to be their Valentine? Or what if somebody I thought was awful did?

The whole project and the uncomfortable exchange day in class were for many of us our introduction to the confusing notion of romantic love, since this (1953) was before TV sets were in every home, and the relatively few depictions of romance we had seen were at the movies. Thereafter (in the next years) came a slippery slope: cards turned into little and then bigger gifts, and the task became how to get someone to want us, and then … what if someone did? How would this work?

What have the sainted Valentine and his enablers gotten us into? Don’t they care about the ache of inevitable disappointments? Starting in third grade, it’s been a sort of continuing cultural indoctrination that we should hope for and expect, as our due, romantic fulfillment.

I do now sing along with the lyrics and enjoy the seduction of (the Right Reverend!) Al Green’s “Love and Happiness.” Although Mrs. Hritz (quite unintentionally, I’m sure) did set us up for bruises to come, I forgive because without it I might not have come to hear the truth of the blues, the reality that so often follows the Valentines.  I might have missed the experience of Ella Fitzgerald’s “You Don’t Know What Love Is, and how about the short film of Bessie Smith delivering “Saint Louis Blues”?

So about all that early indoctrination I have no hard feelings … though we should mind the pitfalls when Valentine’s Day is near. 


Thursday, February 8, 2024




FEBRUARY 11, 2024

Bye-bye Loulou




Loulou left the planet on the day after Thanksgiving. She was a very special being. 


Early last Fall, Loulou became more and more picky about her food. But she seemed fine otherwise -- affectionate, spirited, demanding and profoundly silly. (Why did she like walking around with a big weed stuck to her face??) I finally took her to the vet because she was losing weight. The doctor told me, after a sonogram (or some kind of “gram”), that Loulou had a very inflamed liver and pancreas and had two days to live. 


Yikes! Two days!


But not to worry! 

Apparently Loulou had not heard the vet’s prognosis and continued to be her lively self, although she did stop fetching the ball.  As always, she completely dominated Nikki, and he happily followed her around. After a week or so, someone at the park said to me, “I hate to break it you, but your dog’s not dying.” Heidi and Betsy, my neighbors and fellow poodle aficionados, urged me to get a second opinion. 


So I went to my old vet, who told me Loulou was “very very sick.” He never used less than two very’s when he talked about her and made it clear that he couldn’t promise a recovery. BUT we could have this and that test and give her these and those medications and inject her with subcutaneous fluids every day and maybe… maybe…


She was still enjoying her life so much! How could I refuse to jump into the deep pool of large vet bills?!? (I still have very ambivalent feelings about this decision.)


Thus began the frantic search for food and treats so delectable that they would entice Loulou to stuff herself and gain weight. 

Do you have any idea

how many dog treats are available in San Francisco? 

Not only pet stores sell them, but every drug store and supermarket. And they all have different ones! In the beginning, if she was enthusiastic about a particular treat, I would buy 10 bags of it. But, after a day or so, she would always turn up her nose at her current favorite goody. And the search for the ambrosia of the doggy gods would rev up again!


Suffice it to say: I will not have to buy dog treats for the rest of my life.


All this time, I had a housemate, Jeff, who was my full partner in the care and feeding of dear Loulou. He adored her too. I am so grateful that Jeff was here to share the experience. It made a huge difference to me. Not to mention that he ended up doing almost all the subcutaneous fluid injection. 


Meanwhile, Loulou’s energy stayed high. This dog really enjoyed her life. 

She gained a little weight. Hooray! 

The lab tests came out a little better. Yes!  

Everything seemed to be moving in the right direction,

although not very quickly. Okay! 

Jeff and I can keep this up!


And then the morning after Thanksgiving, she was suddenly wobbly. She laid down on the living room rug, with her head up. Her eyes were open, but she wasn’t responsive. She seemed to be focused on what was going on inside her. Nikki was freaked out. He would come over and poke her with his nose, and then go back to his couch and whine. I made a desperate attempt to get an emergency appointment with a vet, any vet. Fortunately, I couldn’t find one, because she laid her head down and died a couple of hours later. A vet visit would have been pointless, and getting there would have probably been very painful for her.  


Not having a car, Jeff and I walked Loulou to the vet the next day to have her body cremated. Jeff carried her wrapped in a big blanket. 

The day after, I went to visit a big nursery in the East Bay with my friend Tara.  I wanted to plant some lavender in memory of my dear pup. I had always thought of her as a princess, because she obviously thought of HERSELF as a princess. In fact, she was an ALPHA princess.

Would you believe one of the lavenders available at the nursery was named Ghostly Princess? Believe. So Tara drove me home with all my lavender, and when Loulou’s ashes came back, Jeff planted five Ghostly Princesses in the garden, with Loulou’s ashes mixed into the earth.


So ended Loulou’s visit with us. She and Nikki had met at the tiny neighborhood park nine years ago and instantly bonded. They played in the same rough, snarly way.  I called it "snarl-and-sneeze" because an intense bout of snarling always brought on the sneezing. One morning at the park, Loulou’s owner told me she had to find a new home for her, because she was going to be traveling for three years. Would I take her? I had to really ponder that because I’m a one-dog woman. But Loulou and Nikki were already such good friends. I had to do it. From the beginning, Nikki adored Loulou and was completely submissive to her. Loulou led the way! And that’s how things SHOULD be in a lesbian feminist household. 


The first few days after she died, Nikki seemed whiney and confused. And the first time he had to get into a car, he simply could not figure out how to do it! He was so used to following Loulou. I had to lift him up and shove him in. But now he’s fine.  If he’s being petted or out for a walk, he’s happy. And he's remembered how to get into a car.


Nikki and I are getting accustomed to life without our Alpha Princess. And I have to admit, it’s a little easier. There’s no one to interrupt my conversation with a neighbor to demand I keep walking. No one to grab the cheese I foolishly left near the edge of the counter. But life also has fewer laughs. 


I nicknamed her Poodle of Mystery, for her delightfully silly habit of liking a curtain hanging over her face. Poodle of Mystery, wherever you are, we love you and miss you.


Left below: Loulou and Nikki cuddling with Jessica

Right below: The bride is ready, but the groom is taking a nap.

Dennis, who drives the Molly bus which delivers me home with my groceries, had a special relationship with Loulou. He called her Fifi and he called Nikki Pierre, for their supposed French provenance. (In fact, according to the American Kennel Club, poodles were first bred in Germany.) When Dennis would walk in and deposit the bags of groceries, Loulou would jump on a chair, and they would do a little dance together.

For some reason, Loulou just loved to play with a curtain draped over her.

That girl just loved curtains! The photo below: "Poodle of Mystery, Observed"

Below is one of the last photos of Loulou. She always enjoyed going through people's legs, for some reason. Little did I know that she actually wanted to STOP AND STAND between people's legs. She finally found a human with legs long enough so that she didn't have to proceed through the opening but could just STAY there. And then of course she wanted to be petted. I told my very accomodating neighbor that he didn't have to remain in that position. You can see he's totally uncomfortable in the photo below. But he told me not to worry. He was very happy to bow to the Alpha Princess's wishes. Well, if not bow, then freeze in place with his legs apart at the same time that he twisted and leaned down to pet her. She would have stood there forever. I'm glad that Loulou had this brief moment of strange and unusual bliss before she left us.

Bloggellinis: My email service, Constant Contact, has been having quite a bit of trouble the last few days. So I haven't been able to send anything. And then before the last few days, I was doing my normal procrastinating. Very frustrating to STOP procrastinating and finally GET DOWN TO BLOGGING and discover the technology just won't let you do it! It's a similar feeling to when I get sick. I always think, "Gee, if I knew I was going to get sick, I would have been a lot more productive when I was well!" This time: "Gee, if I'd known ConCon would be down, I wouldn't have procrastinated so much." If you are reading this, then that means Constant Contact is healthy again. Terry

The Bus Stop, Sunday Night


February 5, 2024

The Bus Stop, Sunday Night




I came home the day of the Big Storm, Sunday night from a long day in Berkeley. I went to Theater Bay Area's general auditions, where I sat in the audience with 100 other directors/producers/playwrights, watching 100 actors putting their best foot forward for 6 minutes. I was looking for an actress for a particular part, and I might have found her.

After the auditions, I went to a play in Berkeley with Tara, and then took BART and MUNI home.

It was a very full day, often out in bad weather. The most unpleasant part was the beginning, a 20-minute walk

from my home to the MUNI underground, soaked by the atmospheric river and lashed by the wind. The last stage was waiting in the bus shelter in the Castro for the 24 Divisadero, which would drop me a few blocks from my home.

There was someone already sitting in the shelter. He was a young Black man who was NOT dressed for the weather. His hoodie was pulled over his head. He sat with his arms wrapped tightly around his body, his long legs stretched out beyond the meager roof of the shelter. His sneakers had to be soaked. He stared straight ahead, talking softly to himself. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but somehow I did not think he was mentally ill.


He was not waiting for the bus. How did I know? I knew.


What could I say? Any gesture of compassion or friendliness felt meaningless, since I was not willing to invite him to escape the weather by spending the night at my home. 


I was going home to my warm dry flat that had an empty guest room, and I was not willing. 


I am not writing this to show you what a flawed human being I am. I am writing this to talk about how we are all forced to be cold and inhumane because our society isn’t providing housing for everyone. People with empty guest rooms cannot be expected to take in strangers they see soaked and shivering at a bus stop in horrible weather. I do not expect that of myself. 


He kept talking softly, and then his voice began to tremble. He was on the edge of tears, still looking straight ahead, still talking. As I write now, I’m realizing that perhaps the only thing worse than sheltering for the cold wet night at a bus stop is sharing that bus stop with someone who is waiting for a bus to take her to her dry and probably warm home. Maybe the most compassionate thing I could have done was to walk to the next bus stop. But it never occurred to me. I felt immobilized. 


The bus arrived and I got on. It wasn’t until then I remembered I could phone 311 and tell Homeless Outreach that there was someone who needed help at the bus stop on 19th and Castro. I did that, and a very kind-sounding man told me that someone would go and talk to shivering man on the verge of tears. 


At times like this, I always recall an experience I had when I was 13. I watched a documentary on public television that showed footage of the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi Occupation of Poland. A German soldier had secretly filmed daily life in the Ghetto, walking around the streets of the Jewish quarter where over 300,000 Polish Jews were trapped by 10-foot high barbed wire fences. The most memorable image for me was this: Jews walked past Jews who were begging, without even looking at them. I, at 13, had never seen anyone begging or sleeping on the street. There was no homeless “problem” in the U.S. then, because there was enough public housing for everyone. It wasn’t nice, but it was housing. In my ignorant and judgmental mind, I saw the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto walking by as heartless, evil people. I knew that I would never, ever walk by someone begging without giving them some money, acknowledging them in some way. I would never pretend that people begging were invisible. 


I cannot forget that high-minded and judgmental adolescent. And now, it's a common occurrence for me to walk by people living on the street, with my eyes averted.  I know it's bad for my soul.

This is not a problem that can be solved by individuals, even indivioduials with an empty guestroom.


All of them!

I have read "The homeless will always be with us" in articles and letters about this issue. Not true! This is a relatively new problem in our country, I assure you! And it not the problem of any one city. It is a NATIONAL problem. It is a result of President Reagan's decision to dismantle public housing, which has not been reversed by any subsequent President.

Our federal government needs to work with states and cities

to provide heavily subsidized housing throughout the land.

Please contact your Congressional Representatives about this:

Bloggellinis: What does it do to our souls, every time we walk by someone who we know has no home to go to? I don't want to become numb. Terry