Friday, February 20, 2015

The Year of the Ram 2015: A Poem to Celebrate Chinese New Year

you make a mistake and want to erase it
from the board.
you tire of dabbing the bottom of the paint cup.

you want a fresh start,
to break free from the same-old, same-old,
be brand new, but still be you.

China? they know how to work with
the same old thing,
they’ve have been at it for five thousand years.

so every Chinese New Year’s,
there are reasons we clean our houses
from top to bottom, sweep away
last year’s bad luck with a broom.

what better time to wear new clothes,
make up with friends you’ve had fights with,
paint the front door with a fresh coat of red,
spread out bright flowers and bowls of glowing fruit.

and most of all, spill by the hundreds to line streets for
parades of dragon puppets 50-people long,
looping and curving into a long-life ahead,

to see lions dance with roosters 
dance with monkeys,
and watch clowns mime, 
somersault and walk on stilts.

gongs and cymbals ring through icy air
warming the winter February here in Chinatown
into a new spring we can’t yet see, but can imagine.
even our ancestors celebrate,
and clap their hands from a faraway place.

there are reasons this happens over and over,
because no matter how old our culture grows,
each year is new to its people,
we are all young ones in this ancient world,

with hopes, ideas and heartbeats
that spark and pop
like a huge braid of firecrackers,

there are countless reasons to believe
that everything we are
will fill up the next year

to the brim.

~ Cynthia Gallaher 


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Post-Katrina Mardi Gras Poem & Some Thoughts on the Holidays

Post-Katrina Mardi Gras

Katrina, huffy hurricane, howler, home wrecker,
how could New Orleans celebrate after the likes of you?

was it not your winds, but your rains that broke the levees?
left homes lopsided, lives lost or misplaced
in the wake of the flood?
how much more did you take away?

Lakes Ponchartrain and Borgne swelled and
spewed mighty waters as if from Neptune’s mouth,
south across the Ninth Ward, Arabi, Chalmette.
that God of the Sea was the one in our living rooms,

if he didn’t climb all the way up to the roof,
he at least was knocking at our door.

“But not having Mardi Gras in New Orleans
would be like not having Christmas,” some say,
while carnival floats awaiting next year’s celebration,
were “floating” the streets after levees gave way.

“Fat Tuesday” had grown so slim,
you could count its bones,
could New Orleans ever gain back
what Katrina had stolen away?

but somehow trumpets sounded, drums pounded,
whistles blew, maracas shook in anticipation,
and NOLA pushed Mardi Gras plans ahead
taking pride in its annual February vacation,

as exuberant, gaudy and giddy as it seemed,
to forget past troubles, take new time to dream.

could it happen between building and tearing down,
between devastation and renovation,
with people displaced all over the place?
could it happen among those on their way back,

and those who still had a long way to go?
it happened.

down St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street,
crowds applauded krewes on floats
with fewer members, lost to Katrina,
wildly caught “throws” of bead necklaces

and flashy doubloons that showered down,
cheered marching high school bands
from flooded-out high schools,

caught up as ever in the annual whirlwind
of lavish masks, hats, and costumes,
profuse confetti and striped umbrellas
up and down so many noise-filled streets,

while other streets stood silent amidst collapsed roofs, overturned cars,
roadways strew with muddy shoes, furniture and stuffed toys,
Ash Wednesday come early.

much disappeared,
much had washed away,
but the Crescent City felt mighty pretty
when Mardi Gras kept its day.

laissez les bon temps roulez

This poem originally appeared in a shorter form in Midnight Circus: Holidays issue from EAB Publishing 2014.


Friday, February 06, 2015

"I want the Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland album!" demanded my Depression-era mom

The year 1969, in retrospect, was one of the biggest in classic rock music. It was also the year my friends Sue, Mary Jane and I, three 16-year-olds, signed up for summer telemarketing jobs. It was during these working hours we perked up our ears, not for music, but the sounds of potential clients’ unenthused one-word responses across the wire, and the lilting, if not often monotonous, rhythm of our own voices as we repeated rote telephone pitches. Our goal was to sell small plots of Wisconsin resort property to older folks in the south Chicago suburbs, not an easy sell for a peddler of any age or experience.

For escapism from the din of the phone center, the three of us would take our lunch break together outdoors at the local snack shop’s picnic table. There, near the corner of North and Harlem Avenues, we’d quickly wolf down our brown bag lunches and purchase a pop at the shop counter to at least feign the impression we were legitimate customers.

Once food was consumed, we moved on to our true destination, Peaches Records, a few doors down from the snack shop. This record shop served as our rock music “museum.” Our paltry paychecks from the telemarketing job were needed to be spread elsewhere than on pricey record albums, for the likes of school clothes and bus fare. After we entered the record store, we headed straight toward the stacks. 

With Sue and Mary Jane at my sides, one particular afternoon I held up an album cover with the saffron yellow and fiery red solarized portrait of a man dancing before us -- “Electric Ladyland,” the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s third album. It was part of the ritual we undertook with one another, showing off the most recent rock albums that we admired, like auctioneers at an estate sale, presenting a beautiful object to bidders for examination. 

We all had our current favorites “of the moment” and took turns with this show-and-tell game until our lunch hour was over. We would examine, we would discuss, we would laud and fawn over, we would disagree, though we couldn’t bid. It was like touching fine paintings, something the guards wouldn’t let you do at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The graphics of “Electric Ladyland,” though colorful, weren’t as visually psychedelic as the group’s second album, “Axis Bold as Love.” “Electric Ladyland” featured large aforementioned solarized close-up of Hendrix singing. The back cover photo flanked Hendrix with his fellow musicians, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, who were two white guys sporting Afros nearly larger than the man’s himself. Their well-fitted garb was totally psychedelic, jackets jumping with surrealistic cartoon characters, polka dot ties popping and brilliant neck scarves furling, all which satisfied the freaky fashionista in me.

The album cover wasn’t what really attracted me to this album. I, as many others were, found captivation in the originality of the music. I had been enamored with Hendrix’ music since “Purple Haze,” a single 45 rpm record I purchased in 1967 while still a dooper at Taft High School. A dooper, by the way, is a Chicago term for a collegiate, an acronym for “Dear Old Oak Parker,” meaning someone who’s similar to a suburban Oak Park youth who can afford Ivy League schools – and record albums – or, like me, a Chicagoan from the northwest side who merely dressed like one with clothes snagged from bargain basements and thrift shops. By 1969, my friends and I were “hippies,” or at least hippies who toned down their outfits enough to get summer jobs like the telemarketing ones, and still, evidently, trying to be all that in this Oak Park record shop. 

Double album “Electric Ladyland” is viewed by some as the peak of Hendrix’ mastery of the electric guitar. In recent liner notes, it read, “After Woodstock, Neil Young said that Jimi was ‘absolutely the best guitar player that ever lived; there was no one even in the same building as that guy.’” Besides Mitchell and Redding, a number of guest artists made cameo appearances in various tracks on “Electric Ladyland,” including Steve Winwood, Al Kooper, Dave Mason and Brian Jones. The most well-known song on the album is by far “All Along the Watchtower” of which music and lyrics are written by Bob Dylan. Hendrix wrote the remainder of the songs.

My personal favorite is “1983…A Merman I Should Turn to Be,” which tracks at over 13 minutes. Some say it is the most psychedelic and political song on the album, if not among all of Hendrix’ body of work. I fantasized as a child about what it must be like to be a mermaid, influenced by “The Little Mermaid” story by Hans Christian Anderson as well as the film “Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid” with Ann Blyth and William Powell. In the Mr. Peabody film, Blythe portrays a mermaid brought to land in order to try fit in like everyone else. When it’s clear she cannot, she is mercifully returned to the sea.

Hendrix wanted to be a merman, the male counterpart of a mermaid. But he longed for it as a means to walk away from war and oppression and straight into the sea “not to die, but to be reborn.” The title’s “1983” was a year that Hendrix was destined never to experience himself. His short but artistic career as a musician ended only a year after I held that record album in my hands at Peaches Records, with his death in 1970.

A fond memory of my mother involves the “Electric Ladyland” album. Our local department store in the neighborhood strip mall, Turnstyle, featured a flyer advertising select albums on sale for only a dollar. Most record albums sold for about six or seven times that amount at Peaches Records. “Electric Ladyland” was one of the albums featured in the Turnstyle photo. I rushed to Turnstyle only to be told by a manager that the array of albums pictured were for marketing purposes and that “Electric Ladyland” itself wasn’t actually among those on sale for that price.

When I came home and told my mother my disappointment, she took a close look at the flyer. My mother, Evelyn, had married my father during the Depression era. With money tight, they lived with my grandmother the first five years of their marriage, trying to scrape together enough to get their own place. They postponed starting a family, as well. During World War II, my mother did things like save cooking grease in cans and gather slivers of soap to ship to facilities using it to make munitions, from what my sisters told me.

She was one to count every penny, use every resource and read the fine print. She strived to get the best out of every deal, receipt, coupon and warranty. That was the way women from her era worked things to feel a tad more financially secure. My mother eventually became a widow and had to fend for herself, my two sisters and me on her own. As a result, she wanted to make sure I never had it too easy, that I might be independent and strong, as she had learned to the hard way.

With the “pull up your bootstraps” modus of her working-class stance, she usually let me fight my own battles and issues, whether win or lose. So I was a bit surprised that, with flyer in hand, she uncharacteristically decided to take up the cause. She took off her apron, threw a chiffon scarf over her dark curly hair, straightened the cuffs of her polyester pants as she slipped marshmallow white  flats onto her feet, then grabbed her car keys. “Cindy, let’s go,” she said. “Go where?” I said. “To Turnstyle,” she said. “Mom, really?” I said, as I slipped into the seat next to her and she drove off.

Once inside the store, she approached the manager. Yet he, too, told her that he couldn’t sell that particular album at that price. She wouldn’t let his proclamation immediately dissuade her. My mother raised her voice and, pointing a finger forcefully at the page in the flyer, said, “Sir, I see ‘Electric Ladyland’ pictured right here in your ad, and I want ‘Electric Ladyland’ for the price advertised. I don’t want any of those other albums on sale. I don’t want The Turtles ‘Happy Together’ album. I don’t want ‘Polka Favorites.’ I don’t want Dean Martin’s ‘Gentle on My Mind.’ I already have that one. I want Electric Ladyland!”

The manager sincerely apologized for the inconvenience. Hands on hips, his bald head glistening, his protruding belly battling three of his shirt buttons, the manager nonetheless held firm to the notion that he could not sell the album for a dollar. “You have to give it to us,” my mother demanded. Everyone was looking. He looked exasperated. Then someone called him away to answer a phone call.

Ultimately, my mother had as little success as I.  But I was touched that she went as far as she did to try to get some justice for me. And to hear my Dean Martin-loving, Depression-era mom demand a psychedelic album and reprise the words “Electric Ladyland” at the top of her voice, militant against this bait-and-switch in a public forum struck me as righteously incongruous as well as tremendously precious, dear, odd and sweetly funny. While I didn’t land a copy of “Electric Ladyland,” and the idea of how my mother and I had joined forces only to lose this small battle together made me proud of her, and feel loved by her.

Decades later, after my mother was gone, I  gathered with my own small family as we celebrated our usual Christmas stocking ritual for the holidays. By then, I had nearly forgotten about the album. When I spied a gift that my 20-something musician son, Julian, had tucked into my stocking, I thought it was a book. As I tore open the wrapping and uncovered the box it was in, I saw that it was none other than a CD version of Jimi Hendrix’ “Electric Ladyland.” Two years before, during a family visit to the Rock & Roll Museum in Cleveland and inside the Hendrix exhibit, I had told Julian about the episode at Turnstyle with my mother and me. 

So happy to receive the album, I wished I was able to call my mother to tell her I finally got it, although that was no longer possible. Once again, I was deeply touched by a family member who made a personal gesture for me in regard to the album, this time my son. I wept, and told him that this was one of the best Christmas gifts I ever received.

Since then, it has turned out to be more than a mere rock album for me. Every time I play it, I walk hand-in-hand with the living and dead, with the musical and otherwise, with the caring and savvy of my mother, son, Sue, Mary Jane, and Jimi, too, right into Electric Ladyland.

(Excerpted from a memoir in progress: "The Year of 14 Jobs")


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Experiencing Sugar Man, Then Losing Track of the Song for Decades

One summer, I flew out from Chicago and spent the month of July in Berkeley, California, hanging around the University of California campus for no apparent reason, whiling my time away. I won’t carbon date myself by telling you the year, but it had a “7” in it.  

My friend Sue and I had spent a week in the area the previous summer and fell in love with the east bay. I went back, wanting to explore the area more and actually wait for Sue to again follow me after she finished a summer school session back home.

That previous year we had stayed in San Francisco proper, in the Tenderloin district, and at what seemed a well-kept hotel, even though in reality it was nothing but a $3 a night flophouse filled with its share of drunks, druggies and screamers – which we two little 18-year-olds on a budget found amusing and exciting, even though we didn’t chum up with anyone at the hotel.

After traveling over the Bay Bridge into Berkeley, we discovered a building that served as frat house during the school year but was rented out to both gals and guys by the week during the summer months. This frat house, Theta Delta Chi, was featured in the film “The Graduate,” where on an interior shot you’ll see actor Richard Dreyfuss in his first film role, speaking one line.

That following summer I knocked on this building's door when I got into town, with no reservations, no previous plans. They found a little room for me in a back wing for $10 a week. The room held a twin size mattress on the floor and nothing else. No drawers, mirrors or closets. There wasn’t even any electricity in the room. No lights. So at night, I entered and undressed to a flashlight.

The summer frat house roomed folks of various stripes, with some of the year-long frat boys still in attention. But mind you, in Berkeley even frat boys seemed like hippies, but with shorter hair. There was an open door policy. Meaning, the front door was always open and, as well, we kept the doors to our rooms unlocked. 

That is, until one sunny afternoon I found this short little rasta guy sitting on my room’s mattress, just about to crack open my knapsack to look through its contents. For some reason, I kept very calm. First of all, I knew he couldn’t steal anything because I didn’t have anything. A beat-up aluminum mess-kit, a camping knife and fork, and some well-worn women’s hippy clothing. 

He didn’t look like the violent type. I simply asked him,“What are you doing here?” When he didn’t answer, I just said, “You can’t be in here. This is my rom. You have to leave.” And he did. I was surprised. I locked my door from the inside every night after that, though I didn’t have a key to the outside.

Anyway, on the second floor, a few of the guys had one very large room that they shared and many of the summer residents were invited up there to hang around nearly any time of the day, including myself.  One guy showed me how to play chess for the first time, and I played everyday for a while. Another guy who came back from a local abalone diving adventure treated us all to breaded and fried abalone he made, fresh from the east bay.

And one guy from South Africa, big and blond, who was a summer student at the university brought a record album up to the room and held the cover before me.

“Did you ever hear this album?” he asked.

I stared at the guy in a bubble on the vinyl album cover, in tall hat and sunglasses, sitting cross-legged as if floating in midair.

“I don’t think so. I've never even seen it before,” I said.

“I’ve asked all these California people out here if they knew this guy Rodriguez,” he said. “And nobody does. But he’s from the U.S. I thought since you were from Chicago maybe you knew who he was. Maybe he’s from out there.”

I stared and stared at the cover that said “Rodriguez Cold Fact.”

“This album is a big hit in South Africa. In fact, it’s the number one album,” he said. “And no one here seems to have every heard about it.”

“Number one? And he’s not from South Africa?” I said.

“In South Africa, everything we listen to is either from Britain or the United States. Rodriguez is from here, but nobody knows exactly where,” he said.

"Why would you think he might be from Chicago?" I said.

“I figured Chicago is cold and Cold Fact might have something to do with Chicago," he said. "And the buildings on the cover look like older urban buildings.”

“A number one album from America, and no one here has ever heard about it?" I said. I was incredulous. "Play some of it. Maybe I’ve heard it before and just never saw the album cover,” I said.

He slipped the record out of its jacket and slid it onto the small stereo against the wall. He put the needle to the record, the record turned and the Rodriguez’ song “Sugar Man” began to expound.

Sugar man, won't you hurry
'Cos I'm tired of these scenes
For a blue coin won't you bring back
All those colors to my dreams

Silver magic ships you carry
Jumpers, coke, sweet Mary Jane
Sugar man met a false friend
On a lonely dusty road
Lost my heart when I found it
It had turned to dead black coal

It was so quiet in the room besides the echoing lyrics and guitar music of the song, we held our breaths and felt just a gentle breeze enter through those second story windows. We were mesmerized.

I slowly came out of my reverie of the song. “I wish I could help you. The song is terrific. But what does it mean. Who’s sugar man?” I said.

One guy said, “A drug dealer. One who sells drugs, sells sugar, cocaine, pills?”

“What about that Sammy Davis Jr. song, ‘Candyman?’” I said. “You know, ‘Who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew, cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two, the candy man, the candy man can.’”

Another guy, “That beat tune? I think that’s really about actual candy. But I could be dead wrong.”
"I know it's a beat song. But did he copy this 'Sugar Man' guy?" I said. "You know, like the concept, not the art of it."

I stared and stared at the Cold Fact cover. The image of Rodriguez floating in a bubble seared into my brain. I asked the South African to play “Sugar Man” again. Then again. He did. I blissed out on being in Berkeley, on meeting people from all over the world, on the song “Sugar Man” that seemed to come from nowhere and have no home, except in my heart.

Of course, I didn't travel all the way to California just to listen to records or play chess indoors. I joined the group of friends I made at the house and elsewhere in Berkeley for picnics, waterskiing outings, a day trip north to wine country, long discussions at coffee houses, a evening exploring San Francisco's Chinatown, endless billiards challenges, and a special night at a small, local dance venue where Carlos Santana hopped onstage as a surprise performer during a Tower of Power set.

Eventually, I found out my friend Sue wasn’t able to afford the trip out west after all, even on standby. By the end of July, I headed back to Chicago, saying goodbye to the guys and gals I met in Berkeley from California and other states, from South Africa, from Europe, and goodbye to the song “Sugar Man,” which I never heard again…

Until 2012, when the documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” was released, winning an Academy Award for Best Documentary. My husband and I watched the film on our home TV via On Demand.

Rodriguez appeared onscreen and began to play the song “Sugar Man.”  

“I’ve heard that song before. I’ve seen that record album before. I love that song,” I told my husband.
"No one's heard it before. You just heard it now. No one knew who he was until this year," he said. 

“Why is that song so hauntingly familiar?” I asked. “Rodriguez lives not too far away. Didn’t the Chicago radio stations play the song for awhile, back when?”

“Listen, I know a lot about music, and I’m telling you, I never heard it before,” he said.

“Maybe I’m just getting it mixed up with the song ‘Candyman,’” I said.

“Are you kidding me?” he said.

“For some reason, I think I’ve had this silly problem sometime before,” I said. “It’s all unclear. It’s so hard to remember. A number one album no one ever heard of.”

But after a few months of soul-searching, I did remember. I remembered hearing “Sugar Man” in Berkeley so many years before and feeling song all the way up and into my solar plexus. And I remembered the South African student trying to find someone, anyone from the U.S. who knew anything about Rodriguez or where he came from. None of us knew.

But I’m so glad that now, finally now, all of us do. Here's to you, Sixto Rodriguez from Detroit!


Thursday, November 06, 2014

My easy, breezy fruit smoothie, veggie smoothie diet

Well then. I have been eating healthy for years, preferring organic, non-processed, non-GMO and/or grass-fed foods, and cooking at home as much as possible. But during those same years, several extra pounds came along for the ride no matter what I did. I exercise about four times a week, trading out yoga, strength training and the occasional Zumba class, but even this just seems to maintain my weight and tone me, not reduce me.
Recently, I introduced myself to my own self-styled smoothie diet. and lost three pounds in less than a week. As I child, I was tremendously skinny and didn’t like food. I preferred beverages. I could drink shakes, juices, milk, water, kool-aid with no problem, but the idea of food sort of made me ill. There were no such things as fruit or veggie smoothies back when I was young.
I remember on one particular birthday, my family asked me to make a wish and blow out the candles on my birthday cake, as many of us do. My special wish that young year was to become an angel, because I had heard in church that angels don’t have to eat food.
As I grew up, I somehow got over this food aversion. Fancy that. Today you might say, food, cooking and nutrition are major focuses for me. I even wrote a book of poems on food, Omnivore Odes: Poems About Food, Herbs and Spices (Finishing Line Press, 2013). But one thing hasn’t changed since childhood; I still love beverages. And yes, today that includes those savored glasses of wine and microbrew.  
Now that fruit and vegetable smoothies have arisen in our culture, I’m a great advocate of them. I have a juicer at home, and initially started juicing some of my favorite vegetables on the weekends when I had time to chop vegetables, go through the process and clean the juicer. But while juicing, I kept thinking of all the valuable fiber I was missing that was going instead into the back yard composter.
I soon realized that you can make your own fruit or vegetable smoothies right in your own standard blender, if you use the right ingredients. You don't need a Vitamix or other mega-blender. And these smoothies contain all the healthful fiber that the fruits and vegetables naturally hold. Weekends became the time I’d enjoy my fruits smoothies. And I’d bring vegetable smoothies to work to supplement my lunches. But didn’t these smoothies seem to make me feel full?  I did pack lots of nutrition into these 12-fluid-ounce portions. But then I'd eat food on top of them. Was this smart?
Follow your bliss, said Joseph Campbell. One of my means of nutritional bliss were smoothies. Why not try to incorporate these superfood powerhouses into a weight-loss program, I said to myself. After I started my smoothie diet, I lost three pounds in less than a week, as I mentioned above. What did I do? I changed how I used them.
What usually goes into my fruit smoothie: banana, mixed berries or cherries (the one pictured uses organic, frozen mango), a dollop of peanut butter, a tablespoon of ground flax seed and enough rice milk to allow it to liquefy in the blender.
A rundown of my usual veggie smoothie: cucumber, celery, spinach or mixed greens, Italian parsley, dill weed, avocado, peeled and seeded lemon, cayenne pepper, salt, one heaping tablespoon of green food powder such as Kyo-Green, two tablespoons olive oil, a cup or more of pure water.
Here's the Modus Operandi: The first weekend, I had a fruit smoothie for breakfast and a veggie smoothie for lunch, then a regular dinner. A regular dinner is similar to what’s pictured on the plate. During the work week, I add two hard-boiled organic or pasture-raised eggs to my fruit smoothie breakfast, and perhaps a couple of squares of dark chocolate to my veggie smoothie lunch, followed by a regular dinner.
The eggs, in addition to the peanut butter in the smoothie, provide added protein in the morning. The green smoothie has its fair share of good fats and vegetable protein for the afternoon, and the dark chocolate is a just-because treat! Plus, both smoothies are loaded with antioxidants and fiber.

Oh, by the way, a regular dinner means no dessert, y’all. And sadly, no wine or brewskis either, but maybe some hot herbal tea before bed. But I do plan to celebrate my success on Saturday nights with the reward of a glass or two of wine.
What are the measurements for the fruits and vegetables? I leave that up to quantities I have on hand in my refrigerator. Sometimes I chop up enough ingredients to make two veggie or fruit smoothies and keep them in mason jars for the next day.
Don’t go out and buy pre-made smoothies from the grocery store -- or purchase smoothies at a snack bar. They often contain hidden calories. There’s nothing like using fresh, organic ingredients that you process at home. This diet does take some preparation, which you might take care of the night before each day. Planning, shopping, peeling and chopping are required, especially for the veggie smoothie.

I don’t like to mix fruits and vegetables in my smoothies, through some people do. The way I make them, the fruit smoothies taste sweet and the veggie smoothies savory, almost as if like a green gazpacho.
I won’t lie. The first few days of the smoothie diet were tough. I’d usually feel quite hungry by late afternoon before dinner. Maybe not so easy and breezy initially. But after a short while, my system got used to it and I wasn’t very hungry. I’m planning to continue until I lose about 10 pounds. I’ll keep posting on progress.

The point is: If you're going to diet and want to lose weight, nourish yourself as deeply as you can in the process. Keep up your health. Don't fast. Make life enjoyable. Get enough fiber. Maintain your energy level. Sleep well. I believe the smoothie diet helps accomplish all of the above.
Note: In addition to  following this diet, I continue working out about four times a week from 40 minutes to an hour each session. I regularly take vitamin and mineral supplements, as well as Omega-3 fish oil and probiotics. Plus, I drink water. I always keep my water bottle handy at work and when I work out. Sometimes when we feel hungry, we’re actually just thirsty! ##


Monday, October 27, 2014

Are there natural preventives for Ebola?

At the time of this writing, the Ebola Virus Disease has had its sporadic brushes with the U.S., such as in Dallas and New York City, but has not become a pandemic, as it has in West Africa.

Even though some U.S. travel and quarantine restrictions are slowly being put into place, many keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.  That is, waiting for someone with Ebola to come to our shores, get lost in the shuffle, infect others who might possibly mistake Ebola symptoms for influenza, and unleash a chain of infected individuals spreading it to a myriad of others. Let's hope this doesn't happen.

Think about it though. With no pharmaceutical cure readily available (maybe they have a couple of test tubes of the cure sitting at the CDC), the question remains -- are there natural measures we can take to boost our immune systems to help prevent Ebola -- and influenza and other viruses for that matter?

Remember, even in West Africa, not every exposed person is contracting Ebola. There are those who come down with it who don't die and eventually recover their health. As well, looking back 100 years, not everyone who was exposed to the deadly Spanish flu got it or died from it either. What is so different about these people than others who have contracted the Ebola or Spanish flu virus and died from it?

One's immune system may have a lot to do with it. Physical fitness, clean food, air and water, plenty of sleep, lack of stress, and the right nutrients coursing through one's body may have made the survival difference. Some people have strong constitutions. But others who don't have such a strong constitution or immune system can work toward having one.

In addition to keeping hydrated and well-fed with an organic, non-GMO array of superfoods, can vitamin and mineral supplements such as vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B12, selenium, melatonin or curcumin (turmeric) have a positive effect in guarding one's immune system against Ebola and other viruses?

Recent articles issued by the Alliance for Natural Health "Government Ignores Natural Treatment Options" and Green Med Info "Can Vitamin C Cure Ebola?" have appeared and argue in defense of natural preventives.

If the Ebola virus becomes widespread in this country, the mainstream healthcare system may not be able to help you. As it is, many U.S. healthcare workers are hesitant in dealing with the few Ebola patients who've been on the roster. During a pandemic, you can believe these same workers would prefer to stay at home and protect their own families. What good it is getting to a hospital only to find no one's working there.

If and when we are on our own to improve the quality of our own immune systems to prevent the contraction of virus, natural methods may be all we have. Should we think of using them?

Special note: Nearly 20 years ago, a popular feature film "Outbreak" starring Dustin Hoffman and Kevin Spacey, explored the "what-if" concept of what might happen during an Ebola pandemic in the U.S. Worth rewatching this eye-opening movie in light of our current situation. A Washington Post article from this past August (when only 900 had thus perished from Ebola) examines the movie "Outbreak" and other films on pandemics, such as "Contagion." ◦

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Cool off this summer with homemade fruit & veggie infused waters

I found a large clear glass cold drink dispenser with a spigot at Tuesday Morning atop another glass unit which holds ice (not pictured). I haven't used it quite yet but hope to soon this summer out on the deck. Lots of people use fill these with iced tea, but they are often also used for purified water infused with delicious slices of fruits and vegetables. We need more water in the summer and drinking these no-added-sugar natural taste alternatives are ways to enjoy H2O in new and healthy ways. 

Why drink infused waters?

1. Green tea, mint, and lime - For fat burning, digestion, headaches, congestion and breath freshener.

2. Strawberry and kiwi - For cardiovascular health, immune system protection, blood sugar regulation, digestion.

3. Cucumber, lime, and lemon - For water weight management, bloating, appetite control, hydration, digestion

4. Lemon, lime, and orange - For digestion vitamin C, immune defense, heartburn, (Drink this one at room temperature)

Infused waters are good for detoxification energy and hydration. Put as much fruit in water as you like and let the water sit for at least 30 minutes before drinking.

Extra special infused water recipe: Sassy Water!

Sassy water is part of the flat-belly diet and is a healthy way to get your hydration while controlling your appetite. Keep the skins on your sliced items. Here's a recipe:
Five to eight cups of water
One teaspoon grated ginger
I medium cumber, thinly sliced
I medium lemon, thinly sliced 
12 spearmint leaves

Combine everything and let stand in the fridge overnight. Transfer to your dispenser and enjoy the water throughout the next day. The quantities and steps for the sassy water recipe can be equated for the combos numbered 1 through 4 above, as well.