Women Of The White Buffalo Film Inspires Action, Change for Indigenous People

I first learned of the documentary, Women Of The White Buffalo, on Julian Lennon’s website. An Executive Producer on the film, Lennon’s White Feather Foundation is also associated with the project.

Through a serendipitous stop back in Los Angeles after an international trip, I was able to attend a screening of the movie last night at the Red Nation Film Festival.

To put it plainly: This film will stay with me forever.

Shot in the poorest county in the United States, Director Deborah Anderson paints an intimate portrait of eight women making a difference for their people in the Lakota community of Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

Because the film is shot on location, in their homes and surrounding areas of the reservation, the narrative takes on a more personal vibe than traditional ‘talking head’ documentaries. As the women recount their stories of the rape, poverty and brutality they’ve suffered as a result of what’s become of their community, it felt more like a friend confiding in another friend than subjects on a screen informing an audience. This technique made the content all the more harrowing, but also more accessible. As a viewer, I couldn’t help but experience their pain right alongside them.

Each time a new, brutal statistic flashed on-screen I would wince in uncomfortable horror. I knew the situation was bad; I did not know it was that dismal.

Their stories tell of how the genocide by the U.S. government has created a cycle of poverty and addiction that threatens the continuity of their culture.

Most of us probably think of genocide as only mass killings, but featured Elder Carol Iron Rope put it best in her interview when she stated, “When you take a language away from a people, that’s genocide. When you take a way of life away from a people, that is genocide.”

And that’s unfortunately what’s happened to this formerly thriving matriarchal society.

The good news is that there are a number of Women Warriors working to reverse the damage and secure a better future by way of activism, legal action and an inherent motivation to right the wrongs of the past.

I was particularly inspired by the candid nature of Sunrose Iron Shell who is a teacher at St. Francis Indian School. Her passion to keep the indigenous culture alive for her students coupled with her refusal to sugar-coat the truths that they’re faced with give her an exceptional power to ignite change every day.

Only a small percentage of my blood is Native American, but I left the screening full of righteous anger for what has become of the first stewards of our land. The beautiful, spiritual people that the white man should have looked to learn from rather than extinguish.

One of the most touching things I learned from the film was that the Lakota people consider the next seven generations each time they make a big decision. If only our country’s leaders thought the same way.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Adventures

While I’m transitioning in my career, I’ve been lucky to take on a few writing projects that were more fun than work.

First, I had a dream come true in mid-October when I met Ringo Starr at his photography exhibit at the Morrison Hotel Gallery. He was as lovely as you’d expect and my write-up of the events surrounding his visit can be found on the Sunset Marquis blog.

Then, a month later, I had the pleasure of traveling to Brisbane, Australia to attend a U2 show with some dear local friends. My re-cap of that gig can be found on U2.com.

‘Play It Loud’ Exhibit Showcases Historical Instruments

Travel back in time to your favorite concert memory. Did you see the show live or on television? What did the band play? Who were you focused on? How did the music make you feel?

Any music lover can probably answer these questions easily as they travel into the time machine of their mind to re-live that feeling that can’t be duplicated. Many of those memories are likely to contain an instrument—perhaps a shiny guitar in a distinctive shape or a handsome piano their star’s fingers cascaded across in the moment.

Now rock ‘n’ roll fans have a chance to see some of the most famous instruments, played by music legends in landmark performances.

Through Oct. 1, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibit “Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll,” guests can gawk at guitars, pianos, drums and more from the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, U2, The Who, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Jerry Lee Lewis and more.

When I visited, I entered the gallery quite late—just over an hour until closing time—and stumbled into the first room where I was immediately stopped in my tracks by Ringo’s iconic drum set.

After I snapped this quick photo, I gravitated toward John Lennon’s famed Rickenbacker. Just as I got to it, the loop of music that was playing overhead cycled to “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and everyone in the crowded room began singing along. Old, young, different ethnicities—we were all on the same spiritual page in those moments. I got emotional and felt, just based on those few precious minutes of harmonizing with strangers, that everything in our world was going to be okay.

And that’s just the kind of powerful thing that happens spontaneously when we share music.

As I continued through the exhibit, taking the longest time with The Edge’s guitar (he used it during The Joshua Tree, after all), I focused on absorbing the energies surrounding these relics. I tried to picture Kurt Cobain smashing the guitar that was in fragments behind a pane of glass and could almost hear Jerry Lee Lewis pounding the keys of his old piano, displayed just a few feet away.

Toward the end of the experience there is a screening room that allows you to view some of the performances that feature these very instruments. I watched the loop three times.

Though to some, these items are just pieces of wood and metal that happen to make noise when placed in the right hands, to me they’re living, breathing remnants of a time and space that can never be replicated.

I’m grateful I got to see them up close.

A Mission to Make Bullying Extinct

Andrew Cole performance
Andrew Cole performs during Live@SunsetMarquis benefit show, Aug. 23

With over 40% of the population actively using social media channels, there are unfortunately more avenues for bullies to find and torment their victims. Even more troubling, suicides rates are on the rise and show no signs of slowing.

So how do we prevent bullies from becoming abusers in the first place and comfort those affected by abuse? It starts with awareness, which is what singer/songwriter Andrew Cole hopes to increase with the project he founded, #IAmNoJoke.

The project, which includes both a song and a documentary, brings together icons from music, film and television to address issues they had in their past with bullying—whether they were the victim or the abuser. The movement aims to let victims know they are not alone and inspire change on a global scale.

An event Friday night during the Live@SunsetMarquis Summer Concert Series featured performances by Cole accompanied by George Pajon, Jr. from the Black Eyed Peas and Stu Hamm on bass, along with headliner Rachel Lorin, to officially launch the forthcoming song. In addition, sponsor Creative Visions spoke about the campaign’s importance and a raffle featuring a PRS electric guitar, legendary photographs from the Morrison Hotel Gallery and other amazing prizes, was held to benefit the cause.

I’m proud to volunteer for the project and look forward to sharing its progress along the way.

Together we can change the conversation and prevent the pain of others. Join us to use social media as a positive agent for change to spread awareness and emphasize empathy.

If you’d like to get involved, feel free to donate to the project, take the #WhoCaresIDo challenge, and follow @iamnojokeproject for updates.

How to Breathe in 2019

The world today can be hard to digest. From repeated mass shootings to hateful political rhetoric to the impact of climate change, we’re inundated with negativity each time we turn on a television or read a headline.

That, compounded with the natural stress associated with daily life (health, career, relationships), can be overwhelming—but how can we avoid it?

My solution lately has been to focus more on spirituality, health and wellness. To fill my life with as many positive elements as I can from curating my social content to include more “good news” (I recommend following groups such as the Good News Network and Positive News UK) to listening to soothing music and vibrations as I work.

My greatest coping mechanism? Immersing myself in nature.

There are few things more beneficial to the soul than a walk in the woods or near water (I prefer both, quite frankly).

On my near-daily walks to a nearby lake, I can feel my blood pressure lower the instant I step onto the trail. I’m met with the sounds of birds chirping, children giggling and splashes of water as I start my trek. I don’t time myself or run—I deliberately take my time to … (forgive me) … stop and smell the roses.

I enjoy taking photos of flowers at different stages of bloom; of trees as their leaves appear, change color and disappear; of ducks as they emerge with a new batch of ducklings each spring and the occasional eagle or heron that may fly alongside me.

Though there are always other people on the trail, it somehow remains remarkably serene, all of us in a silent agreement to enjoy Mother Earth’s bounty and beauty without disrupting one another.

At times I’ll sit on one of the benches along the path and reflect on the day or try to strategize ways to solve a problem. The fresh air of nature coupled with the exercise of the walk produces a bouquet of endorphins that helps provide a brighter outlook on everything, so I always leave feeling better than when I arrived.

The great thing about walks in nature is that they can be tailored to both extroverts and introverts.

I’m an extrovert by nature—I like to be social. But I only like to be social if I’ve had an ample amount of “alone time” to prepare. So I’m one of those people who will gladly welcome company on a walk … but would sometimes prefer the solitude of a solo jaunt if I’m headed there to clear my head.

I feel the same way about romantic love—I want a partner that will desire me and shower me with attention and affection … and then go away for a bit and not be offended that I want to be alone sometimes; that I need to be alone sometimes.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve never married? 🙂

But I digress …

Introverts can benefit just as much from these nature breaks, as they’re never required to go with anyone else. And the best thing about nature walks in general is that they’re free.

I realize that I am blessed to live in a part of the world that has no shortage of forests or bodies of water, but even in the middle of large cities there are usually parks to sneak off to if no hiking trails can be found nearby.

The main thing to do is to find someplace to breathe. Practice mindfulness whenever you can and try to reset your personal compass to point it in a direction of love.

Love for yourself, love for others and love for our earth.

Order from Chaos: New Exhibit “Tucked In” Highlights Child’s Creative Coping Mechanism

Photos from the exhibit on display now at Arcane Space

There are few things more devastating than learning a child is seriously ill, but that’s what happened to the Evans family in 2006 when Sian, 7, was diagnosed with T-Cell Leukemia.

As they all navigated the new normal of Sian’s medical orders and treatments, her mother Morleigh began to discover hidden scenes that she would construct to work through her feelings.

Using dolls, stuffed toys, blankets and trinkets, Sian crafted silent stories that helped her process what she was so bravely enduring.

From Barbies taking a group carriage ride to Care Bears methodically lined up for slumber, the scenes are both heartwarming and heartbreaking when considering their context.

In the new exhibit at Arcane Space, “Tucked In” features images that Morleigh took of these creations, all captured in great detail at the time of their discovery.

Donned in soft plush carpet reminiscent of a young girl’s room, the space also features a workshop area with toys that children are invited to use to create their own scenes. When I visited, two kids were deep in concentration, crafting personal masterpieces. As I observed their intense focus, I was reminded of how therapeutic creative exploration can be—both for children and adults.


I lost a grandfather I never met to leukemia and have known countless other friends and family members who have suffered through cancer. Each journey carried unimaginable amounts of agony regardless of the outcome. This exhibit shows art that both respects that type of journey and perhaps makes sense of it in the most pure way.

Thankfully, Sian survived the cancer and is a thriving young woman today. Visitors to the exhibit have the opportunity to purchase prints of her various scenes (prices range from $100 – $800) and/or a book of the images with an introduction from Morleigh ($170). Proceeds benefit Cancer Support Community Los Angeles. Admission to the exhibit is free.

“Tucked In” welcomes visitors to Arcane Space Thursday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. through May 26.

The Magic of the Marquis

The fruit basket from my most recent visit to the property.

My house is full of distractions.

There’s a TV, equipped with thousands of channels and a box that streams content from a dozen more.

There’s a picture window, where I can see the squirrels chase birds.

There’s a fireplace that crackles to life and candles that glow on its screen.

There’s a kitchen that helps invent grand meals.

There’s a record player with a stack of vinyls that beg often to be played.

Like many writers, home isn’t the greatest place for me to spill ink.

But it’s not just getting out of my own space that sparks creativity, it’s being in the right space. And that space for me for several months has been the Sunset Marquis.

Every few Fridays, I take a beautiful flight down the coast to my second home right off the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. My ritual is to unpack, eat a piece of fruit from the basket that greets me and fire up the laptop to meet my first self-imposed deadline.

I take my shoes off, slide my feet into a pair of the plush slippers provided by the hotel and begin to write. And I write until I’ve reached my pre-determined page count, for it’s only then I’m allowed to head down to the bar. So I always make my deadline.

Bar 1200 is too classy to be called a watering hole; too intimate to be cold. The bartenders are friendly, the drinks are strong and the playlist is perfect.

It’s small, cozy, dark, safe and full of stories. Have I mentioned that I love stories?

In my visits after midnight, I’ve met aspiring actresses, former bar owners, fellow writers, rock stars, filmmakers, mystics, fashion designers and photographers. None of them shy; all of them warm. A community of creatives who all feel an unspoken kinship.

When I first read Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers, years ago, I was fascinated by a story he told about the Italian people of Roseto, who ate unhealthy foods, smoked and drank, yet had remarkably less heart issues than their American counterparts. The only explanation? They had a strong sense of community.

Writing is a fairly solitary sport unless you’re a member of a boisterous writers’ room or participating in a class or workshop. Since I’m in neither situation, writing alone is my default. Until I discovered the Marquis, I didn’t realize how much I needed a sense of belonging to perfect my craft.

It’s nice that the reservation desk remembers I sometimes need a late check-in (depending on my flight’s arrival); that the bar manager knows without a doubt I’ll start with a lemon drop; that the restaurant seats me under the heaters in the wintertime since I easily get cold.

And it’s not just great service—it’s the overall vibe. The welcoming feeling when I wander into the on-site art gallery to gaze at images of my favorite bands; the chats I have about pop culture with the bell hop I consider a true friend.

The Marquis manages to have the luxuries and clientele of the most prestigious properties but lacks the pretension.

And I may not be a household name like many of the guests, or have scripted the Great American Novel (yet), but I do always feel like I fit in when I’m there.

For that, I’m eternally grateful.

The Great Thaw of 2019

13 Days

That’s how long I was prevented from driving my own car. Nearly two weeks.

It’s the longest I’ve gone without driving since I spent 10 days in Japan for a speaking engagement in 2015. From February 4 – 16 I only left the house to walk to the grocery store once and for work twice (I was picked up at the bottom of my icy hill after walking/falling down it). It was a test of survival skills and mental health. I passed the first with flying colors; the jury is still out on the second.

I’d spent much of December and January on the road—home to Oregon for the holidays; San Francisco and Los Angeles to see friends, attend some events and to work on creative projects. I was working on my tan just three weeks prior to this snow-pocalypse and was somewhat blinded by its duration.

Folks who aren’t familiar with Pacific Northwest weather (other than the false assumption it rains all the time) assume that snow is a normal part of our winters, but really it’s not. We usually get a dusting of a few inches in January or February that lasts for a day or two at best and then we’re back to our usual cold, drizzly atmosphere. It seldom sticks to the ground, let alone a few feet at a time.

One of my Midwestern friends who expressed concern when she saw the national weather reports warning of our demise said she knew I’d be okay because I’m a “planner” and she was right. Though not specifically prepared for snow, I am infinitely prepared for an earthquake (having lived through three in my life; the largest here in Seattle in 2001). So I had plenty of food, water, flashlights, phone chargers and foot warmers. Thank God.

Day 1 of the storm, my power went out from 9:30 p.m. until sometime before 4:00 a.m. Thankfully, I had cranked up the heat in the hours prior, so I was able to put towels under the door to my bedroom and block in much of that warmth as I slept. The next day, my employer closed our office deeming the roads too dangerous to travel, so we all worked from home. NOTE: For those who like to brag “I grew up in the Northeast/Midwest/Montana/Canada, etc.” and think you’d do fine in a Seattle snowstorm, I urge you to read this.

Days 3 – 7 are mostly a blur. It was more of the same; work from home, walk outside in my Muck Boots every few hours with my broomstick to brush the snow off my satellite dish; heat something in the oven for added warmth; run the hot water so the pipes don’t freeze; pack on layers of clothes; rinse, lather, repeat. Mail delivery and pizza delivery stopped in our neighborhood. The Space Needle closed. So did Fred Meyer. It was the end of times.

Day 8 brought my second power outage and damage to my backyard trees (despite the fact I was also taking the broom to brush heavy, wet snow off their branches). I was growing tired of the eerie silence that blanketed my street. All of the familiar sounds had ceased to exist. There were no children playing, birds singing or cars warming up. On top of that, it was dark save for the candles and camping lanterns that illuminated random windows.

Day 9 the power came back on and I slid down my hill (mostly on my feet, but once unfortunately on my back) and caught a rideshare to my office. After work, my boss was kind enough to drive me to the nearby grocery store to get as many non-refrigerated supplies as I was able to carry and I took a rideshare back to the main road and climbed up that horrible hill to get home. Still no mail delivery.

Day 10 and 11 I lost power once more, but only at night so I was able to work from home. On day 11 I also felt confident enough to walk to the grocery store in my neighborhood to replenish my refrigerated staples. It was a treacherous walk and I was sore the entire night and next day from climbing over the accumulated snow.

Day 12 I again returned to my office via rideshare from the bottom of the hill and returned in the same fashion. By the time I got home, our mail delivery had resumed and signs of life were starting to emerge.

Day 13 we had reached 37 degrees and it was raining, so much of the street was clear; the hill was no longer icy and with a little digging out from the lingering snow, I successfully got my car out. I first went to the movies (it’s Oscar season and I’m shamefully far behind), then to Target (oh, how wonderful to aimlessly wander those aisles!) and finally to my PO Box in a different town, where the majority of my mail is delivered. I can’t overstate how much joy I felt being out and about, hearing the din of other humans, looking at a view that wasn’t my own backyard.

I will never again take the freedom to move about for granted.

Transcendent

Springsteen on Broadway Marquee

Marquee outside the Walter Kerr Theatre

Not yet a week ago, my friend Jill and I had a delicious Italian dinner followed by a visit to the Walter Kerr Theatre for Springsteen on Broadway.

I’ve seen Bruce before—twice—but only accompanying my favorite living band (U2). He was phenomenal, but on those occasions he was playing their songs, so I was especially excited to hear him sing his own stuff on this night. Even more excited because I read his exceptional memoir last year.

I thought, because I’d read the book, I knew what I was in for … but I couldn’t have been more wrong. What I expected was a pleasant night of songs with a few anecdotal introductions. What I got was something I keep calling ‘transcendent’ because that’s really the only word I can find that comes close. All of this came free of cell phones blocking views (thanks to the theater’s strict policy) and courtesy of well-behaved guests (you could hear a pin drop).

For two hours (with no intermission), I experienced perpetual goosebumps as The Boss shared his soul by way of beautiful prose, quiet song rendition, theatrical storytelling, stand-up comedy, monologue delivery and rousing acoustic versions of his most famous tunes.

The whole thing was mind-blowing, but if I had to identify highlights, I’d say the joy with which he spoke of his 92-year-old mother (who currently battles Alzheimer’s); the crowd enthusiasm in response to “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”; the first few piano tickles of “Tougher Than The Rest” and the duration of the time his wife, Patti, joined him on stage (two songs, near the middle).

His self-deprecating tone shows a man more humble than necessary, yet eternally endearing. Though he may never have worked in the factories (as he points out early in the show), he’s done his time for America a million times over.

I feel incredibly grateful I got to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event, which still simmers to life in my subconscious this many days later.

Bookstores for Browsing (and Buying)

Powell's Bookstore shelf

Staff guidance at Powell’s Books on Hawthorne

I travel a lot—both for business and leisure—and though I always pack plenty of reading material, I’ve noticed that doesn’t stop me from seeking out great bookstores wherever I land.

There have been times when the task wasn’t so easy. Once I was in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina with hours to spare before my flight home and I’d already finished every book I’d brought along on the trip. Not wanting to pay premium prices at the airport, I walked up and down the main streets looking for a bookstore, but had no luck. I ducked into a visitor information center and the host told me they unfortunately didn’t have any more bookstores in the area. She recommended I go to a drugstore for a magazine. I thanked her and kept walking. Soon, I found the public library. I entered and asked the librarian if it was indeed true there were no shops in the immediate vicinity. She regretfully confirmed there wasn’t, but when I told her of my predicament, directed me to their used library book sale where I scored two 50 cent paperbacks for my journey. Still, I was rattled that a major metropolitan area doesn’t have the demand to keep a bookshop in business.

Coming from Seattle, where independent bookstores like Elliot Bay Book Company and Third Place Books thrive, I’m spoiled with many places to explore. The following are five of my favorite U.S. bookshops outside of my own city.

  1. City Lights (San Francisco)
    I first discovered this gem during a girls’ night (seriously) with a few local friends back in 2011. The plan was for us to have cocktails at the nearby Tosca, but we needed to kill some time while we waited for a table. Ascending the stairs to a small nook on the upper level, I thought my friend was right behind me and asked her if she’d read a book that I was pointing to. When I turned around, she wasn’t there, but I had chills up and down my spine. A few minutes later when she made her way up, I joked that the place must be haunted and a local interjected that indeed there are rumors it is. Regardless of the spirits present (or not), the selection is eclectic and vast, just as you’d expect in this city known for its progressive slant.
  2. Left Bank Books (St. Louis)
    As a college student in Columbia, Missouri in the ’90s, I frequently made trips to St. Louis for Ted Drewes frozen custard. On one of those journeys, I took a friend along who was a St. Louis native, and she introduced me to this treasure trove. With a focus on community and a knowledgeable staff that encourages you to linger, I find it hard to leave whenever I visit.
  3. Compass Books SFO (San Francisco)
    I know, I know. San Fran is already on the list—I just can’t help it if they have an embarrassment of literary riches. And this one is in an airport. Yes, you heard me. The “West’s Oldest Independent Bookseller” is my first stop every time I land in Terminal 2 at SFO. In addition to the usual bestsellers, they have fantastic bargain shelves and unique gifts/greeting cards you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.
  4. Tattered Cover (Denver)
    Following the U2 tour in May of 2011, my boss and I went out to breakfast at a place we’d seen featured on the Food Network. Full from a delicious meal and with hours to spare before the next concert, we decided it would be best to walk off our pancakes and explore the area. By chance, we landed in this mammoth-yet-somehow-amazingly-cozy independent bookstore. It’s the sort of place where the smell of coffee wafts from the café as you browse and lively conversations among bookworms are abundant. I wanted to move in immediately.
  5. Powells City of Books (Portland)
    I’m proud to say that my hometown boasts what I think is the greatest indie bookstore in America (and is actually the world’s largest). This iconic shop where I spent hours scouring used racks as a teenager, looking for (and finding) my next Beatles fix, has the vibe of a classic record store and a selection that could never disappoint. I’ve never once left without making a purchase.

Other stores I planned to include until I learned they recently closed were: Granada Books in Santa Barbara and 2nd Edition in Raleigh. May they rest in peace.

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