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. 


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What is wabi-sabi? How is it continually and intimately expressed in the life of a frugal poet?

One of the most refined, thoughtful and poetic societies, Japan, has gone through unfathomable disasters in recent history, such as the profound earthquake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima. Nevertheless, the Japanese people continue to push forward in quiet strength, dedicated to and motivated by their culture, history, sense of humility and connection with one another.

Wabi-sabi is a philosophy based in Japan that embraces a sense of flawed beauty, the profundity in nature, and of things impermanent, humble, primitive, transient and incomplete. It celebrates the modest, rustic and unconventional. It is the organic versus synthetic, the rough-hewn and uneven over the measured and laser-edged. Loosely explained, wabi means a philosophy of imperfect, natural beauty and sabi means the artistic expression of what’s asymmetrical, aged or unpretentious.

Daisetz Suzuki, one of the first scholars to interpret Japanese culture for Westerners, considered wabi-sabi “an active aesthetical appreciation of poverty.” Rather than a poverty of pain and a sense of desperation, it instead gives the relief of removing the weight of material concerns from our lives.

Wabi-sabi suggests the notions that nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect. The Persians are known for a proverb about the true beauty of rugs, a wabi-sabi attitude reflected in a different culture, “A Persian rug is perfectly imperfect, and precisely imprecise.”

Remarkably, wabi-sabi has everything to do with the spirit of the frugal poet. We exist. We go with the flow. We focus on the beautiful. We have strength in light of hardship or snags in our lives. And our poems reflect this attitude. The concept of wabi-sabi reminds me of the lyrics in Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem,” “Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/There’s a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.” It is the poets and those with a frugal poet’s spirit who can see both implicit meaning and opportunity in any situation, and can find voice, or at least search for it, to express compassion and humanity even amid injustice or when in mourning.

I had signed up for a multi-evening workshop in the craft of handmade bookbinding at Chicago’s Hull House. Our upper floor studio itself was a wabi-sabi space of lovingly worn benches, nicked but well-used work surfaces and natural lighting pouring in from screenless windows. We used hand-crafted papers, linen thread, monster-sized needles, scads of glue, bone folders,  thick pieces of cardboard and stiff oilcloth in an array of colors. There, I crafted and sewed a number of hardcover blank books, Japanese side-stitched bindings and cloth-covered boxes. I admired a fellow student’s finished handmade book, even though the pages were uneven and had a naturalistic waviness to them. “The only thing perfect is God. I try to remember that in everything I do,” she said. “I am imperfect and every act of creation carries human imperfect along with it.” But therein lay the beauty of her handmade book!

Flawed fictional characters, for example, are more interesting, textured, memorable and beautiful than perfect, static ones. What would Cyrano de Bergerac be without his big nose, The Little Match Girl without her poverty, or even Star Trek’s Mr. Spock without his lack of emotions?

I tried to pin down concrete examples of what wabi-sabi is and what wabi-sabi is not. You might also try the same exercise as I attempted below and see where your concepts surrounding wabi-sabi take you.

Scribbled musings as to what wabi-sabi can stand for:

·         The haunted mansion versus the McMansion.

·         The vase off to one side instead of the center of the table.

·         A piece of driftwood carved by water instead of a diamond faceted by human hands.

·         A simple one-pot meal versus a block-long Las Vegas buffet.

·         A weekend in solitude versus a month of whirlwind travel with a dozen destinations.

·         The hand-polished wood floor, simple screen and rolled-up futon versus a football-field-sized bedroom with wall-to-wall carpeting, big screen TV and thick brocade drapes.

·         Browns, greens, greys and off-whites of nature versus neon, day-glow brights.

·         Rock, leather, wood, candles and copper instead of steel, LED lights, vinyl, mirrors and glass.

·         A coffee-stained, hand-illustrated journal of random thoughts instead of the word-perfect, crisply printed scholarly treatise.

·         A random scattering of fallen leaves on a neatly raked Zen garden.

·         The changing nature of paper and cloth as they fade, fray and tear.

·         Floors cleanly swept, folded laundry and made bed without regard to the type of flooring, price of clothing and thread count of bed sheets.

·         A few hand-picked flowers in a bud vase versus a formal English garden.

·         The patina versus the polish.

·         The flea market versus the big box store.

·         The used and cared for versus the new and garish.
Living happily in simplicity instead of living sadly in luxury.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Gaylord Ravenal: Did My Grandfather Serve as Inspiration for This Showboat Character?

Stanger than fiction? There are circumstantial reasons to believe that the characters of Gaylord Ravenal and Magnolia Hawks in Edna Ferber’s novel “Showboat,” and in the subsequent musical, were based on my grandfather Charles Gallaher and his first wife Grace Dennison. The character of of their daughter, Kim, though female, could also be based on my half-uncle Donald Gallaher.

Back in 2003, I had a one-on-one meeting with my musical theater writing teacher John at Theatre Building Chicago.  I presented him with three one-page synopses of ideas for musicals I had come up with, for which I hoped to write book and lyrics. One was about a family relative, Neysa McMein, an artist and member of the Algonquin Round Table; another, a children’s one-act musical, which I called “The Cat and the Kings,” based on an old Danish folk tale “Peter Humbug and the White Cat;” and lastly, a musical about the early Chicago jazz era called “Black and Tan,” which contained opening scenes set on a Mississippi showboat, with the remainder of the drama taking place in Chicago.

John wanted me to first pursue the children’s musical the coming year, but was also interested in my eventual development of the “Black and Tan” piece. He said he saw a lot of potential in it and many musical possibilities within the story. Also, almost as an aside, he observed that it seemed rather “showboat-y.” At first, I thought he meant it might be too flamboyant or “in your face,” like someone who’s “showboating.” But it really isn’t that type of story. I quickly realized he meant it resembled the musical “Showboat.” 

I was taken aback somewhat and felt a little embarrassed because, even though I attested to familiarity with most American musicals, I didn’t know anything about the musical “Showboat.” I didn’t know the Edna Ferber novel, and had never seen the musical version by Kern and Hammerstein that had the songs “Old Man River” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man of Mine.” I didn’t tell the teacher of my ignorance, as most of my fellow students were well-versed in the majority of musicals from the late 1920s onward. Also, I was a little alarmed because I definitely did not have any intention to attempt rehashing a classic. I did not want to write a musical that was “like Showboat” and cared to change it if anyone would see a connection, or more accurately, a weak imitation.

I thought about my initial inspiration for “Black and Tan,” which was my own family and my continuing interest in the early jazz era of Chicago. My grandfather, Charles Gallaher,  had come from a Quincy, Illinois, family of newspaper people. Instead of following in family footsteps, he became a Mississippi river boat gambler and was dubbed the black sheep of the family back in Quincy. At age 26, he got a 16-year-old girl on the boat by the name of Grace Dennison pregnant, and married her in 1894. I have their marriage certificate. In 1895, their son Donald was born. The family moved to Chicago, where Charles got a straight job setting type at the Chicago Herald. 

By the time son Donald reached age four, stage mom Grace had him cast in a play at Chicago’s Grand Opera House. One night, New York stage producer Charles Frohman was in the audience and determined the boy had talent. Soon enough, Grace and Charles’ marriage was a thing of the past, and Grace and son Donald moved to New York, where she signed a contract with Frohman. Donald soon became the highest paid juvenile actor on Broadway.

My story synopsis “Black and Tan” is very loosely based on these family characters. My grandfather’s character does not appear at all and the Grace Leyden character resembles Grace Dennison, who moved to Chicago, although the latter didn’t pursue a career as a jazz singer. And son Jimmy resembled Donald who fulfilled his dreams of filming and recording by directing a few early talkies, which he did later in his career. All the jazz connections and relationships that make up most of the story have nothing to do with my family.

I did a little research and found online synopses of both the novel and musical “Showboat.” I was amazed by what I discovered. As I said, my teacher had found my “Black and Tan” synopsis “Showboat-y.” But my family’s real story is so very “Showboat-y,” that I believe that it is in fact the basis for the actual “Showboat.”   

Partial synopsis of the musical “Show Boat” as it appears on U. of Virginia website: Show Boat is the story of three generations of the Hawks family on the River Boat, The Cotton Blossom. The saga spans the period from the mid 1880's to the then current late 1920's, and follows the fortunes of Magnolia Hawks and her gambling husband Gaylord Ravenal. Magnolia, or "Noli," struggles throughout the story with her relationship to the Cotton Blossom, owned by her parents. In the second act of the book, Noli and Ravenal separate, and she leaves the familiar stage of the River Boat and the waters of the Mississippi for Chicago, and a future as a musical comedy star. Magnolia and Ravenal's daughter, Kim Ravenal, follows in her mother’s footsteps as an actress and performer.

Partial synopsis of Edna Ferber's novel "Showboat" as it appears on amazon: The story concerns three generations of women: Parthenia Hawks, a ram-rod upright New Englander who heartily disapproves of her husband's decision to purchase a show boat and involve the family with actors, God forbid; her daughter Magnolia, whose fresh beauty eventually propels her fame as one of the most popular actresses on the river; and her granddaughter Kim, who becomes a Broadway star. But the backbone of the story concerns Magnolia's  ill-fated love for ne'er-do-well gambler Gaylord Ravenal, a love that tests her strength to the last degree. 

Just as Magnolia has to change to meet her constantly shifting circumstances, so is the nation changing around her, gradually shifting from a rather innocent, rural society to a much more hardened and sophisticated urban world. And Magnolia's adventures will take her from the savage natural beauty of the mighty Mississippi to the gambling dens and brothels of 'Gilded Age' Chicago to the jumpiness of the 1920's 'Great White Way' of New York.

Evidence arises. Donald Gallaher was eventually cast as Ethel Barrymore’s son in the 1915 Edna Ferber play, “Our Mrs. McChesney.” I have copies of the New York and Chicago playbills. There is no way Ferber and Donald would not have met, and the possibility of Ferber learning the family saga from either Donald or his mother Grace is very strong.

In addition, by the 1920s, Edna Ferber was a close friend with family cousin Neysa McMein. The two were both members of the Algonquin Round Table. In fact, Ferber created a character, Dallas O’Mara, in her 1924 novel “So Big” based on Neysa McMein. Neysa may also have told Ferber the family story, and Ferber, knowing a good juicy yarn when she heard it, moved on to develop it as a large part of her next novel “Showboat,” which appeared in 1926.

One afternoon, my husband Carlos was chatting on the phone with an old friend, Marc Zimmerman, a professor who has taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago and served as a dean down at the University of Houston. He's a guy who knows just about everything about every topic. Carlos relayed the details of my family, not leading him with any context or reason why he was bringing it up. Zimmerman just said, “Sounds like Showboat.”

During a musical theater intensive at Chicago Humanities Festival, I told Robert Kimball, the well-known musical theater historian, about my family story. He suggested I contact Showboat expert Miles Kreuger, who is also the author of “Show Boat: The Story of a Classic American Musical.” Kimball gave me Kreuger’s home phone number. I called Kreuger and we had a nice chat over the phone for about an hour. Essentially, what Kreuger told me was “I think you may be onto something.” I later told Kimball, and his eyes widened.  

I mailed a copy of this document, minus the last paragraph (above), to Kreuger to keep in his “Musical Theater Museum,” called the Institute of the American Musical, which comprises an array of musical theater archives in his private duplex in Los Angeles. Here is a piece about his museum from National Public Radio: ##


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Frugal poets guide to dreams as inspiration

“Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought?” ~ Joan Didion

“Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really can come true.” ~ “Yip” Harburg, lyricist for the film “The Wizard of Oz”

Frugal poets have both an unconventional bent and creativity to release untapped or under-appreciated sources of wealth – out of necessity! Frugal poets who are resourceful adopt the philosophy “The best things in life are free.” But free is no good unless you use it. That includes tapping into our dream life.

Our greatest resource and most valuable commodity (if you can call it a commodity?) is our own life. Two-thirds of our life is spent awake. Yet, what about the other third of our life, when we’re asleep, when we enter that timeless realm of symbols and scenarios we call our dreams? Our sleeping and dreaming hours makes up a huge part of our life, a part we shouldn’t dismiss and a part that many of us totally under-utilize. Dreams are free – and can be fabulous. Are we using them to their fullest potential?

Each one of us dreams every night. When someone says, “I don’t dream,” what they really mean, according to dream experts, is “I don’t remember my dreams.” As it is during our waking hours, we get more out of life when we “pay attention.” Can’t we give a little more attention to our dreams? A poet or any person with a frugal poet’s heart, no matter their talents, pays closer attention to the details and nuances of life. A true poet has a keen sense of observation.

Why should we pay attention to only two-thirds of our life and pay not as much to the other third, when we are asleep and dreaming? Ah, we may say, but it’s only a dream! Only? Dreams are not to be dismissed as a series of frivolous visuals. A true poet never looks at a grand oak or a red-winged blackbird and says, “That’s ‘only’ a tree,” or “That’s ‘only’ a bird.” Each tree and bird carries deep its own layered significance and inspiration. So why should we look on what we dreamt just before we wake in the morning to say, “It’s ‘only’ a dream.”

Robert Moss, proponent of “active dreaming” and author of The Three ‘Only’ Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence and Imagination, argues quite convincingly against the notions of what many might say is “only a dream,” “only a coincidence,” and “only one’s imagination.” According to Moss, and to paraphrase Mark Twain, we observe coincidental connections around us because of the fact that “life rhymes.”

By far, not every dream is a prophetic dream or a “big” dream that may carry long-lasting significance. Yet every single dream we have is loaded with personal meaning that only we can interpret and use more fully. By digging more deeply into our dreams, we can better understand -- if not simply enjoy -- that part of ourselves that acts out these nightly dramas.

Not to mention that dreams hold a lengthy history of inspiring poems, songs, plays and other creative and inventive works. Our dreams can release a wealth of creative material if we so desire. Some have called our dream state “a secret laboratory” or “a creative studio.” If you truly use your dream world as a creative studio, you can’t beat the rent!

Beatles’ singer/songwriter Paul McCartney first imagined the tune of “Yesterday” through a dream. When he awoke, he ran to his bedside piano and pieced together the melody. As well, Beatle John Lennon said, “The best songs are the ones that come to you in the middle of the night, and you have to get up and write them down, so you can go back to sleep.”

In the twilight space between waking and dreaming, Mary Wollenstonecraft Shelley imagined the character “Frankenstein.” The chemist Kekule’ dreamt of a snake biting its own tail, which helped him identify the theoretical structure of the benzene ring and basis of organic chemistry.

Elias Howe experimented with the idea of a sewing machine, but couldn’t figure out how the mechanical needle would hold the cloth together. He had a dream in which a group of men were holding spears, but the spears had holes near the tip. This was exactly the type of needle that allowed thread to effectively sew cloth on Howe’s invention, the first sewing machine.

Horror writer Stephen King’s novels “Misery” and “It” found basis in his dreams. In an interview, King said, “I’ve always used dreams the way you’d use mirrors to look at something you couldn't see head-on, the way that you use a mirror to look at your hair in the back. To me that’s what dreams are supposed to do.” 

William Blake, Carl Sandburg, Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver, Walt Whitman, Margaret Atwood, Gary Snyder, Nikki Giovanni, Dorothy Parker and nearly every other poet you can think of past and present have turned to their dreams as fuel for poems.

The following is a lighthearted poem by the late Polish poet and Nobel Prize winner Wislawa Szymborska. It isn’t focused on one dream, but playfully includes some of the classic dream symbols and images:

 In Praise of Dreams

In my dreams
I paint like Vermeer van Delft.

I speak fluent Greek
and not just with the living.

I drive a car
that does what I want it to.

I am gifted
and write mighty epics.

I hear voices
as clearly as any venerable saint.

My brilliance as a pianist
would stun you.

I fly the way we ought to,
i.e. on my own.

Falling from the roof,
I tumble gently to the grass.

I’ve got no problem
breathing under water.

I can’t complain:
I’ve been able to locate Atlantis.

It’s gratifying that I can always
wake up before dying.

As soon as war breaks out,
I roll over on my other side.

I’m a child of my age,
but I don’t have to be.

A few years ago,
I saw two suns.

And the night before last a penguin,
clear as day.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Is There a Real Joe Brandt?

Is There a Real Joe Brandt? Dreamer of Mega-Earthquake in California

Supposedly, in 1937, when he was 17 years old and sustained injuries from hitting his head from a fall from his horse, Joe Brandt had a series of prophetic dreams about “the big one,” a mega-earthquake to hit California some time in the future.

You can read the complete text of and/or watch a cinematic half-hour YouTube based on Joe Brandt’s diary entries on these dreams. There is also a six-minute animated dramatization of his dream presented in Spanish (Espanol).

One of the key questions this story has raised for me is – who is Joe Brandt?  Was he a real person?  If so, do any of his stats line up with the story relayed back in 1965 to author Jessica Madigan (Mei Ling), who originally published Joe’s account in 1969?

Through some not-so-extravagant research, I found a Joseph Wendell Brandt (November 19, 1919-July 5, 1995) whose last known residence was Fresno, California. His mother's name was Alice. Joseph would have been 17 years old most of the year 1937 until his birthday in November, when he would turn 18. He lived to age 75.  This information was found on and

As well, Joseph W. Brandt served in the army during World War II, enlisting at age 24 in June 1944.

Joseph Brandt’s wife, Fran, who Jessica Madigan said was her closest friend, died in what might be March 1967. Outside of what Madigan said herself, it is hard to pin down anything on Fran Brandt. Also, with Fran’s death so many years prior to modern electronic technology, information is spartan.

Who for that matter was Jessica Madigan, who sometimes published under the pseudonym Mei Ling? I couldn’t find much about her personally, other than her series of small press, homespun, self-published books published between 1963-1992 on the topics of world prophecy, dreams, past lives, reincarnation and other new age issues.  She supposedly was a follower of Edgar Cayce.

Some speculate that Madigan may have fabricated Brandt’s story. However, pinning her motive on needed income during her husband’s illness doesn’t hold much water.  None of her self-published, humble-looking books were blockbusters by any stretch of the imagination. Having been in the small press business myself along with my husband, I know that most of such publication efforts are more significant as labors of love than as any venue of profit. Madigan’s first publication of Joe’s story in a Christian newsletter called “Living Water” back in 1969 could also hardly be a cash cow.

Let me suggest four different takes, one of which might be the truth about Joe Brandt’s earthquake dream story:
1.)  Everything Madigan published was a verbatim transcription from Joe Brandt’s dream diaries of 1937.
2.) Not many 17-year-olds with a mere three years of high school under their belts are as articulate, clear or as visual a writer as Brandt. Nevertheless, students his age in 1937 were likely better-trained writers, more knowledgeable about the world around them, and with greater vocabularies than many young people today.  Perhaps Madigan, as a professional writer, might have edited Brandt’s work enough to make it more cognizant to the reader.
3.) Perhaps Brandt’s written account was a little crude and sketchy. Madigan may have enhanced the writing with a lot of what-ifs that might be common among earthquakes. What did the air smell like? Did the birds and other animals disappear? What expressions did the people have when the earthquake took place? What did they do and say? Perhaps she took wider liberties in making the piece as compelling  and hard-hitting as it is by adding  a sizable number of fictive and dramatic details.
4.)  Or Madigan completely fabricated the entire piece.  

However, in regard to point number four, I find it hard to trace any kind of motive for Madigan to totally fabricate such an account, or for a honorably discharged World War II veteran and semi-skilled worker such as Brandt to allow someone to create an entirely fictitious story about him.

I don’t know if Brandt’s original handwritten diary pages still exist or if they ever existed. It would be interesting to see photographs of the original manuscript. I haven’t the faintest idea of where to even look to find them. I can’t imagine they are in any public archive.

But my search, as far as answering my original question about the authenticity of a real person who fits the description of the Joe Brandt who dreamt of an upcoming California megaquake, has me sufficiently satisfied. I believe totally that Joseph W. Brandt, who was born 1919 and died 1995 in Fresno, California, is that person.

I am a Christian and believe God can lead us in various, and sometimes unconventional, ways.  I will continue to pray for guidance, evidence and confirmation while seeking what’s true from false. ##

Postscripts: In the dream text, in which the action takes place primarily on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, a section reads, "Those crazy kids. Why are they dressed like that? Maybe it is some big Halloween doings, but it don't seem like Halloween. More like early spring."

It is interesting to note that the "Hollywood Boulevard Characters" who dress up in costume on Hollywood Blvd and ask people to pose in pictures with them for tips first appeared on Hollywood Boulevard in the early 1990s, starting with Superman, then followed by Elvis Presley and Charlie Chaplin, before slowly blossoming into more than 80 characters in current times. Obviously, this wasn't taking place when Joe Brandt wrote his diary in 1937, nor even when the account was first published in 1969.

Another phrasing from the diary, "Funny glow about them. It is a shine around their heads -- something shining." Could this be from glowing headphones and headsets that first seemed to be marketed around 2012 or just colorful headphones for that matter? A reader of this blog suggested the "funny glow about them" may in fact be the glow on their faces reflecting the light of their cellphones or iPads.

Note that in Brandt's dream, he saw a movie marquee featuring a blonde with one leg draped six-feet long. With a newly revised release date of 2018, the feature film "Blonde," a movie about Marilyn Monroe, based on the Joyce Carol Oates novel, is set to premier in the U.S. The film is being directed by Andrew Dominik and produced by Brad Pitt. Because of the film's production delays, there have been changes in casting, and Jessica Chastain will no longer play the role of Marilyn Monroe. Will the new Marilyn be Margot Robbie?

Was Joe Brandt talking about autonomous cars or self-driving cars in the following passage, about cars that can drive themselves? This technology is just emerging and may become mainstream before too many years in the future. In addition, the "baby, half-size" car he mentions resembles today's Smart car or Fiats. He wrote, "I looked out at the cars. They were honking, but not scared. They just kept moving. They didn't seem to know yet that anything was happening. Then, that white car, that baby half-sized one came sprawling from the inside lane right against the curb."

A little strange something caught my attention in the text. Everyone laughed after an initial small earthquake. "The ground shook, just an instant. People looked at each other, surprised. Then they laughed. I laughed, too. So this was what I had been waiting for. This funny little shake. It meant nothing." Do most people in California laugh at a small earthquake? Maybe they do. Or instead, wouldn't they be a little alarmed? People are surprised and laugh more often when they are expecting one thing and another happens, something not so consequential. Were people expecting a large earthquake? Is this set in a future time when earthquake prediction is more refined and accurate? Is everyone actually on edge and expecting a large earthquake when this first little small one arrives?

2017 updates: Some other points. In the dream Joe said, "I looked up at the clock down by that big theater. It was ten minutes to four. Something big was going to happen. I wondered if I went into a movie (since nobody could see me) if I'd like it. Some cardboard blond was draped over the marquess with her leg six feet long. I started to go in, but it wasn't inside."

In 1937, Joe would have been aware of the Grauman's Chinese Theater, which was famous, built in 1927 and seats around 1,000 people. But "that big theater," (the Dolby Theater?) which he did not mention by name is just down the block from the Chinese Theater. The Dolby Theater was built in 2001 and seats close to 3,500 people. Big.

But when he started to go in, it "wasn't inside." That's because the first entrance on the street leads to to a number of indoor mall shops before opening to the large outdoor area used as the red carpet for the Academy Awards. You would get to the theater only after a walk down through the shopping area and then the outdoor courtyard, since the theater itself is set far back from the street. Conversely, he also could mean that the movie he saw advertised on Hollywood Blvd. was not inside, because he only found himself in front of the shops and/or because the Dolby does not show movies, but only live entertainment.

I couldn't locate a big clock he mentioned anywhere around the Dolby Theater or the Hollywood and Highland area. Might he mean a big electronic billboard that occasionally flashes the time?

A reader informed me about the possible "5 and 10" that Joe Brandt saw on Hollywood Blvd in his dream.

The old 5-and-10-cent store (five-and-dime) previously on Hollywood Blvd. is long gone. It opened in the Kress Building in 1934 and remained until the late 1940s, at which time Frederick's of Hollywood took over, and in 2009 was transformed into an entertainment center. A replica of it was created in Disney World in Florida in a recreation of Hollywood Blvd.

Today, a $5 and $10 store (unrelated to the previous 5 and 10) stands right next to the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd. This $10 store also has a Facebook page. The Hollywood and Highland Center where the store resides wasn't built until 2001. The former Kress 5 and 10 store was located about three blocks away on Hollywood Blvd, some distance from the setting of Joe Brandt's dream.

LA Weekly ran a story that included the new "5 and 10" which calls itself "Everything's $10 Luxury Accessories." However, a street-level sign out in front always advertises everything on sale for $5 for "one-day only" (see bullet point #6)