Review of CapStage’s Stupid F###king Bird
May 29th, 2017 by Dr Karma

CapStage is the home of intimate ground-breaking theatre. They make incredible use of their small space, creating immerse worlds that spill out into the audience.

Stupid Fucking Bird, by Aaron Posner, is playing there until June 4th.

Go see it.

I first encountered Posner’s work when I saw the recording of the Folger Theatre’s Macbeth–Posner directed it, together with Teller (of Penn and Teller). Together, they brought real magic to the stage–the witches disappear, daggers float, blood covers white hands.

Thus, I was excited to see Posner’s adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull. One doesn’t need to know anything about Chekhov or The Seagull to enjoy this play, but you get the old nerd thrill of recognition at some moments if you do.

The play is brilliant, and it’s beautifully directed by Michael Stevenson, who expertly guides his cast in handling a tricky piece of metatheatre, complete with direct addresses and interactions with the audience. Don’t worry–it’s not uncomfortable–you won’t be asked to come on stage or to talk if you don’t want to, but avoid drinking too much on their lovely patio before the show–you don’t want to be the unlucky person who naps–you’re likely to get called out & you’re missing a great show!

This work is about what all of Chekhov’s works are about–relationships (why doesn’t this person love me? what if I’m a disappointment to myself, my lovers, my parents, my children? is it better to be content or to search for happiness? do I get to choose?), but it also asks what theatre’s relationship to these questions are (will audiences watch something new? can theatre truly provoke us to change?).

I fucking love this play.


Karma Has Three Fathers
May 23rd, 2017 by Dr Karma

In my grief, I have not thought about you, my readers. The word “daddy” could technically belong to three people, even though I’ve only ever used it for one man.

I have three dads.

My father was James Dean Norris. (I was born Karma Jewreen Norris.) He and my mother got divorced fairly soon after my birth. He died when I was four, and I don’t remember him. He didn’t see me much in between–I don’t know the whole story, except that my grandparents were afraid that if he had access to me, he’d take me.
I have spent a fair amount of time in therapy dealing with growing up without knowing much about him. My mother only told me a few good things about him when I was young. I heard the bad stuff from others–who thought I knew.
That he cheated on her.
A lot.
That when she finally left him, she had to do so with a black eye.
I know he wanted me and was excited about my birth, but I don’t know why he didn’t fight to see me.
He left me two poems, for my 18th birthday (he’d had a premonition that he’d die at 35). They were about reincarnation–I wanted them to be about us. He was an American buddhist (yes, he named me).
I wanted, for a really long time, to understand him, in hopes of understanding myself.
My mom always told me that I got my intelligence from him and from her father (my daddy). I think I was also lucky enough to get whatever inspires loyalty from one’s loved ones.
My therapist once said that my dad could have been a cult leader. The two women I know who loved him loved him completely. He cheated on them, but they both swear he was their soul mate.
I don’t claim to have that kind of power, but when people talk about my cult following on campus, I think of my father.
I have come to terms with the fact that I won’t have the answers I want and the fact that those answers wouldn’t have answered questions about me anyway.

I went to live with my daddy, my grandfather, when I was 2 and my mom couldn’t take care of me. He wrote in his memoirs that he became a father again that year. No one ever thought it was strange that I called him that. He was just retired from the military, but he was only in his 40s. Every time I called home after living there, my grandmother would tell me where my “daddy” was and what he was doing.
In my EMDR therapy for PTSD, when I’m asked to picture a figure of protection, I think of him.
After my father died, mom gave us both daddy’s last name.
It was he who came to pick me up from the hospital after my son was born–when I was 17 and alone. To take me home when my son’s father and my mother couldn’t/wouldn’t take care of me.

I had a step-father in between, from when I was 5 to when I was 17, when he became my estranged ex-step-father. Our relationship was always difficult, and his request that I call him daddy seemed ridiculous. When my mother finally left him, he took us both out of the will. He also used his lawyer to take half of my money, not just half of my mom’s (I had just over a hundred dollars in a shared account from working the previous summer). (He, like my father, had cheated on her (a lot), but he managed to use his money to lie about everything and to screw her over again after so many years of practice.) I dream about his house fairly frequently–I’m always there, looking for something. (A therapist, long ago: “duh–your childhood!”) The thing I would most want from that house likely isn’t there anymore–a dollhouse my daddy handmade for me that didn’t make it out during the Waltonen woman exodus.

For all those years in between, I was still with my daddy every summer and most weekends.

It’s my daddy who’s died this week. The best man I’ve ever known. I didn’t get to say goodbye or to be there.

We won’t be having services this week–my family, the backwoods people that we are, don’t have regular services with pastors or with non-family people.

A couple of years ago, everyone waited to put my grandmother’s ashes in the ground until the boy and I could get down there.

The boy and I will not be able to go down for more than a day or two until August, so daddy’s ashes will wait above ground until then.

I’m the black sheep in my family, the prodigal daughter. But I get to be home to bury daddy, just like the stories promise.

W3 Story 1: The Honeymoon
May 22nd, 2017 by Dr Karma

My daddy died on Friday. Wallie William Waltonen is no more.
I can’t write about what that means yet.
But I can tell you some of his stories.

My grandfather was in the Air Force and stationed in Northern Florida. He was set up on a blind date with Winca Jewreen Graves.
50 years after they were married, we asked her why she agreed to a second date.
She said he was a perfect gentleman.
We asked him why he wanted a second date.
“Her legs!”
Right after they were married, they drove up to a cabin in Michigan (where W3 was from) for their honeymoon.
W3 was nervous–they hadn’t spent a lot of time together before. He was worried that they would run out of things to say.
So he made a list–a list of things to talk about while they were married.
He said he never needed to use it.
I am happy to report that they didn’t get very far North very fast–they didn’t seem eager to spend all day on the road.
By the time they made it, though, my grandfather was having stomach problems. Grandma gave him ex-laxx, which apparently is even less fun when one is honeymooning in a cabin in the woods with an outhouse.
He told this story for the rest of their longs lives together, to explain why he wouldn’t let her medicate him.

My grandparents’ hands, as they renewed their vows.


Chronic Pain is Chronically Confusing
May 16th, 2017 by Dr Karma

Tomorrow I’ll have an impacted wisdom tooth taken out. I’m in agony today, but it took me a long time to figure out what was happening.
This kind of thing occurs frequently: chronic pain causes misunderstood pain.
I have TMJ–a disorder of my jaw joint. There’s arthritis there too. I’m in PT (it helps to keep me eating and talking).
I thought it was particularly bad last week.
And then I thought it was getting particularly worse.
And then I wondered at the pain spreading–making the whole jaw sore.
Last night, I couldn’t read, couldn’t focus. My eye on the right side even started to hurt, from the pressure.
And then a little voice inside my head chimed in: haven’t you still got a wisdom tooth up there? wouldn’t it be right by that joint?
Intense pain isn’t unusual. Today–the day before a surgery–is better than most because I have a solvable problem.
But I’m frustrated that I had no idea how to answer my dentist’s question: when did this tooth pain start?

“You either trust . . . your state . . . or you don’t”
May 8th, 2017 by Dr Karma

I’m a federalist.

I’m an American, so I should have the same rights in each state.

Thus, I had a knee-jerk negative reaction to Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole’s discussion of the Republican health care plan on Morning Edition last Thursday. He did the typical Republican move–demonizing the federal government while making moves to allow the states to deny care to their citizens:

“But at the end of the day, you know, you either trust your governor and your state legislature or you don’t. In my case, I do. And it’s far easier, if they make an error, for people to frankly correct them and — or fire them if they need to, than it is to deal with a sort of faceless, federal bureaucracy that’s in many cases thousands of miles away.”

Having grown up in the South, I don’t trust state or local government more than I trust the federal government. Why was I taught that evolution was wrong in a public school? Because of local decisions. Why was my history teacher forced to pretend that the world was created 6000 years ago? Because of local decisions. Why was my doctor not allowed to talk to me about all my options for care when I was pregnant? Because of local decisions. Why was my aunt not able to get healthcare in the South even though she’s disabled? Because of local decisions.

Of course, I can point to a lot of federal decisions that have been awful too, but there are two important points to consider. First, and this is our fault, voters don’t usually pay attention to or vote in local elections. Second, the federal government–with its constitution–tends to move toward equality–and that’s where my values lie. The constitution says I shouldn’t have been taught Christian b.s. in a public school and recognizes my right to disagree. The federal government’s position is that my queer friends have the same rights that I do, that my Jewish neighbor has the same rights as her Christian ones, that my students of color deserve the same opportunity as their white counterparts, that my disabled staff have equal access to a job, etc. etc. etc.

But the Republican move is always to “let the states decide.” To decide whether your disabled child can go to public school. To decide if you can have access to healthcare. To decide if you can be married to your partner.

We’re American. The “state” I live in shouldn’t decide whether I’m equal to my neighbors. I am.

The end of Cole’s interview really brought the point home for me about trusting the states: “Look, I live in a state where we’re down to a single provider who’s losing money. We have a 69 percent rate increase coming for people that don’t have — aren’t subsidized in the pool. And finally, because we’re not a Medicaid expansion state, you know, we’ve got hospitals taking care of classes of patients that in other places they get compensated for — not here.”

We’re not having those problems in California–because California didn’t fight Obamacare. In other words, it shared the federal government’s move toward equality.

It’s that last line that gets me–he doesn’t live in a Medicaid expansion state, so he’s upset because uninsured patients are costing his state a lot of money.

In other words, his state chose to leave a significant portion of its population uninsured. Each state’s budget office can confirm it would make fiscal sense to expand Medicaid. But states like his didn’t. It left its people in danger. It left itself in a bad financial state. Why?

Because it was “Obamacare.”

No, Mr. Cole, I don’t trust the states to always do the right thing for their people, especially states like yours.

The Continuing Adventures of Karma’s OnLine Dating (Entry 60): I don’t want to be friends
May 2nd, 2017 by Dr Karma

I’m not on OKCupid to make friends.

I hate sounding like a reality tv personality–why are guys putting me in this position?

Have I become friends with a couple of guys that I met through OKC? Yes–some of them didn’t work out romantically, but I thought they might, which is why I talked with them and hung out with them in the first place.

They’re probably reading this now.

Hi, guys!

I’m friends with two people whom I never went out on a date with–distance, etc. was a factor. But I was interested in them as people–they had compelling profiles and so I answered when they messaged me.

Hi, guys!

And then there’s most guys. The ones with the boring profiles. The ones who are conservative Christians. The ones with no profiles. Etc. Etc. Etc.

To paraphrase:

Him: Hi.

Me: Not interested.

Him: Sure you are.

Me: So not.

Him: Okay, then let’s be friends.

Me: No.

And that makes me feel like an asshole.

But I don’t.

I’m not lonely. I’m not bored.

My social life is so full, so vibrant. I have an amazing social network.

Sometimes people express sympathy for me because I’m far from my family. And I’m like “what?” because my friends here in Cali are my family. I’m the aunt to so many kids. The emergency contact for them and their parents. And they’re that to me.

And here’s the sad thing–I don’t get to spend enough time with them. They’re busy. I’m insanely busy. There are people I love who work in the same building with me. I haven’t laid eyes on them in months. And we want to see each other.

So, random guy, if I’ll I’ve ever said is no to you, please don’t ask me to be friends. I’m not making time to have coffee with you in Folsom or wherever to start a friendship.

And yes, maybe you’re secretly awesome, and I’m missing out.

But probably not.

In fact, it’s likely that you don’t want to be friends with me, either.

You’re hoping that I’ll invest all this time in being friends with you. I’ll be swept up in desire and at least let you fuck me. Or I’ll fall in love with you and change my mind about not wanting kids, or not wanting to date smokers, or not wanting to date members of the alt-right, or not wanting to date homophobes, or not wanting to date just flat out boring people who won’t even write a sentence about themselves in an ad they’ve created to lure me in.

A couple of months ago, a guy totally gave the “friends” trick away. He lived far away–another country far. I said no thank you. He said let’s be friends. I said no thank you. He said that love doesn’t know distances and he could tell I was the woman for him, blah, blah, blah. So that friend thing was bullshit–a gambit–a trick.

A conservative Christian was flummoxed the other day when I said I wasn’t interested in being friends with him: “In fact it’s the first time in my life that somebody refuses to treat me in that categorical way.” [I think he meant, it’s the first time someone has refused him based on his beliefs.]

In my last post, I mentioned that I woke up to a few messages. Here’s how one of those conversations went, with annotations.

A guy with a shirtless bathroom selfie messages me. His profile is blank.

Him: Are you open to something casual?

I answer because my no should be the end of it.

Me: I wouldn’t need OKC to find something casual. 🙂
I’m looking for someone to date.

Him: Well thats what it would be. Its just that i live in porterville, ca and i travel to stocktob about 2 times a month. So im looking for someone to see “casually”(date). While im there in town.

See how he says “[that’s] what it would be”? As if I expressed any interest at all in him? As if he has something to negotiate here?

Me: I understand that, but I’m not interested.
Your profile is blank; you’ve only answered 5 questions, but we’re 71% enemies.
Why should I give up on what I want in a relationship for someone I know almost nothing about and who I’m probably not compatible with anyway?

Him: Well thats why we get to know each other.

A friendship could always come out of it.

Did I say, “gee, you’re so awesome. Even though I’ve shown no outward interest, I really would like to get to know you. Blank profiles are so mysterious. I long to know about the deep soul that’s surely lingering underneath your abs”?

Me: If you read my profile, you know I don’t like to answer people who have blank profiles and who haven’t answered questions.
I have to know a little bit about someone to be interested enough to want to get to know them. All I know about you is that you can’t give me what I’m looking for.
And I’m not on here for friends–I have a very vibrant social network. I’m never lonely or without something to do.
I want a partner to share my life with–that can’t be you, obviously.

My first response to another recent message was, I thought, perfectly clear: Hi; thanks for your message. The answers to your questions make it pretty clear that you’re wanting the marriage/kids package–we wouldn’t be a good fit. 🙁 

Him: I’m looking to make new friends. Cause you never know the out come.  

Yes, I do. The outcome is that you, like SO many guys before, think I’ll change my mind about having kids with you.

I didn’t even answer another guy after he suggested friendship, mostly because I’m tired of feeling like an asshole by saying I’m not interested in friendship.

He is a smoker, a sexual anarchist (no rules. about anything. ever.), and a guy who says he’s not smiling in his pictures because he has no teeth.


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