[I] may be crazy but I'm the closest thing I have to a voice of reason.

30 October 2011

Dissolve /TheRapture, ch.6

Still falling
Breathless and on
Till my hand shook with the weight of fear
I could possibly be fading
Or have something more
to gain

Mazzy Star
(Bill Voila, art)

When pain is what you’re accustomed to the touch of tenderness is terrifying. And so for my sins, that’s what God gave me.


16 September 2011

Hell Above the Water /The Rapture, ch. 5

I am never relaxed
Even when I say I am
I’m always on the alert
Looking for the problem...
I flirt with guys
But they don’t get me
I think I’m ready to kill
The next person
That doesn’t fit [me]

Hell Above the Water

Swinger, addict, married man, monk
Smoker, toker, stand up guy, drunk
Twelve stepper, white knuckler, government grunt
Past child molester
Present memory forgetter
Bringers of promises, trophies, sorrow, laughter
And carriers:
chlamydia, scabies, herpes, and venereal warts - oh my!
These are the men, the men who have moved through my life.
For them I am friend, lover, mother, sex slave, wife.

Age mates from school, a father figure or two, cougar cubs - oooh!
These are the men who have loved me, the men who have
believed in, beguiled, belittled, and sometimes beat me. One cheated
for and another on me. One till-death-do-part’d me. One
plucked me up off the street for a Wham, bam, thank you ma’am
and a wink. One marched off into battle, another ran
to sit chanting at the feet of masters. These are the men,
the men who have bedded me, sexed me, caressed me with
hands schooled in childhood hurts and worse. For them I am
sometimes savior, sometimes bitch. I am stand up, bend over,
film noir, doggie style, climax screamer, pillow
crier, and witch.

I am all of these things
I am this and more
It’s hell above the water
Hell above the water...


I was so very young when I learned to submerge. I’m good at it. And when I say I’m good at it, I don’t mean I’m good at holding my breath. I mean I can breathe water. It’s survival, baby, learned behavior. It’s evolution.

Actually, it’s disassociation - that’s what the psychologists call it - which is a twenty-dollar word for Elvis leaving the building while he’s still in it. Denial, disassociation, doing the over-controlling bitch dance, these are all defense mechanisms designed by the body/mind to circumvent the mushroom cloud response to what shrinks call “overwhelming emotional distress”. That’s another coupla twenty-dollar words for things that are so disturbing to consider and so very fucked up to experience that we disappear them. Or ourselves.


Denial and disassociation, these are the magic wands of life; the magic that lets the show march on like Innocent Erendira, her sleeping body walking with eyes open, talking with mind shut, bending over lying down standing up; sex. Erendira’s sexual servitude began at the hands of her grandmother. She was fourteen. Mine began at the hands of a grandfather. I was four. And although I made the memory vanish, I was never able to deny the claim that pleasure has on my body. Or pain.


The body fucking in spite
of pain, fucking around
the pain, through the pain, in-
to the pain; harder, faster, wilder, riding the pony pain;
breaking it
in the pleasure of climaxing in pain. I never wept
but spent a decade drinking
cheap wine and peeing blood. In the emergency room
I sat shivered in splinters awaiting the benediction
of one pill, two pill
red pill, blue pill.

Good sex, bad
sex, sex with the slippery nail jack-
hammering; coercion, perversion, passionate embrace, fucking
in haste; fumbling, fondling, force. Lifelong
sex has bound me: hunter hunted hostage.
This sing song, song
singing a pornographic Dr. Seuss rhyme; this
magic in my head, this playful, painful, angry, stoic
lullaby; this poetry for liars, lovers, the men
whose secrets I keep; this song of pleasure
and pain, I can’t deny. It’s me.
Raised by a drunk and a slut, I learned early 

to keep my clever mouth shut

And the chorus sings:

I got no reason to say a thing
got no reason to say a thing
‘cause you don’t scare me at all
no no no no no no
no no no no no no
no no no no no no
no no no no no no

What I know is pain. What I can withstand is pain. What I can count on is that each road to pleasure will, ultimately, wind me sweetly back to the unbearable brightness of pain.

All contents of Sins of the Eldest Daughter / dinarozellebarnett.blogspot.com
are copyrighted © and may not be used without permission from its creator.

17 July 2011

And There It Was /The Rapture, ch. 4

I looked at the psychologist and said, “He kept saying, 'But what if. What if the 17-year-old you did go?' He kept trying to make it into a different ending.”

It had happened in a nice restaurant where I was wearing beautiful dress sitting next to a handsome man - my lover - and I was angry but didn’t realize it.

“He said my life was tragic.”

The psychologist said, “Your life has been tragic.”

All contents of Sins of the Eldest Daughter / dinarozellebarnett.blogspot.com
are copyrighted © and may not be used without permission.

30 May 2011

Wild Horses /The Rapture, ch. 3

Childhood living
is easy to do.
The things you wanted
I bought them for you...
You know I can't let you
slide through my hands ...
I watched you suffer
a dull aching pain ...
I know I’ve dreamed you
a sin and a lie...

Faith has been broken,
tears must be cried 

Wild horses couldn't drag me away
Wild, wild horses, we'll ride them some day
The Rolling Stones


The worst part about the worst thing, is that there are ALWAYS things that can be worse. Are worse. And there are always worse versions of your personal worst. My personal worst. There is an unending supply of things that are worse than the worst thing any of us have experienced. So, to my way of thinking, the challenge is to nod in acknowledgement, like strangers passing on a night street. The nod that says, I see you. The nod that says, Your face is imprinted upon my mind like the redness of the naked sun upon my eyes. The nod that says, So don’t even fucking imagine you can hurt me.

That’s how I handle my memories of my worst days. I don’t compare. Comparison just suggests that I have not suffered enough. Suggests that before I can call out my demons and name them aloud, I must prove I have gone through the worst of the worst. As a society we tend to honor only the worst of the worst. We tend to label. We tend say, to so many we say, Stop complaining. It could be worse.

What is, exactly, the difference between complaining and naming? What is the difference between naming and blaming? What is the difference between blaming and simply calling out?

I was just out of graduate school and working for a jury consulting firm when one of the very first sexual abuse suits was brought against the Catholic Church. How many years of abuse had occurred before the day of that trial? How many children? How much of their experience was labeled as complaining? How many adults violated as children were labeled as sinners blaming the Church?

Things have changed since that ground-breaking trial, a trial I was lucky to be a small part of; the consulting firm I worked for told the plaintiffs to go full steam ahead, the Church be damned. By the end of the mid 1990s, not long after that lawsuit, more than half a billion dollars had been paid out by the Church in jury awards, settlements, and legal fees. That was in the United States alone. That was a decade and a half ago. And the lawsuits just keep coming. So, has the worst that could happen to the Catholic Church happened? Did things change?

I have a friend who spoke with certainty in her voice when she said to me, “It’s different now. No one believes sexual abuse is okay.” But I disagree.

If we thought sexual abuse was wrong, we wouldn’t be blaming the Catholic Church. And the Boy Scouts of America. And that creepy man down the street whose wife runs a daycare. If we thought sexual abuse was wrong, we’d be willing to talk about this one little fact: incest comprises the bulk of sexual abuse that is committed. Notice I said committed, not reported. Here’s what I told my friend: If we thought it was wrong, there would be no sexual abuse.

But here’s the rub. Wikipedia tells me that incest is sexual intercourse. You know intercourse, right? Most of us call it fucking. My American Heritage Dictionary tells me that incest is a “statutory crime” of “sexual relations” with a “near relative.” It also tells me that sexual relations means intercourse.

So, it’s not incest if he uses his mouth? his hand? mine?

So, it’s not incest if it’s a cousin I’ve never seen before? How about a cousin I know but who is once removed? twice removed?

While we’re doing definitions, how about this one. Statutory crimes are not taboos so much as laws against things we say are taboo. Like that 18-year-old punk down the street who’s fucking your 16-year-old, fully-consenting daughter. That’s statutory rape. Which we enforce at will.

Like I told my girlfriend, if we truly believed sexual abuse was wrong, we’d be looking for abusers where they hide in plain sight. Families. My family. Maybe yours.


When you are sexualized young, there is no innocence, there is no childhood. When you are sexualized young, what remains of innocence is only the ritual, much like wine is the ritual replacement for the blood of Christ; a prayer and a priest saying it’s holy doesn’t necessarily make it so. Even God knows this. God especially knows this.

I’ve thought a lot about innocence. Sexual innocence. I remember being a child, and later a teenager, and knowing when what I witnessed was innocence. The eleven-year-old girl on the playground hanging from the bars and twisting her legs, saying “This feels good.” I watched with the other girls who pretended not to notice - I mean you may KNOW it feels good, but for God’s sake you do not SAY it feels good - and I knew. This girl was innocent. I could feel it. I wanted it.

In junior high, my best friend told me about her and her boyfriend as they explored their sexuality. Not too much. Not the body grinding details. But she told me enough for me to see two things. Her innocence. And his thoughtful response to her innocence. I wanted to be able to be her in the worst way. On my very worst days, I would say to myself what if. What if I were that kind of girl? But I wasn’t. I couldn’t be. I couldn’t even imagine being. For a girl sexualized before she could even read, achieving innocence would be akin to unbreaking the spirit of a wild horse. What’s done is done.

When you come early to things stuffed into the crevices of your small body; hard things; soft things; when you still feel those things in your mouth, though you can’t say why because your mind doesn’t remember even though your body stubbornly does; you train yourself to feel around them, like horses trained to race around barrels. You learn to move as if they aren’t there, flowing at high speeds with agility and grace, slowing down only long enough to miss what blocks your path to the goal. You perform.

I spent my childhood performing innocence. Thousands of Catholic boys and girls have spent thousands of years performing innocence. Or worse. Moving on to perform the same ritual of abuse performed upon them.

Like I said, there are worse always things. Always.

All contents of Sins of the Eldest Daughter / dinarozellebarnett.blogspot.com
are copyrighted © and may not be used without permission from its creator.

18 May 2011

Amazing: He Called Me Baby // The Rapture, ch. 2

Now there is no sin, in anything. It’s amazing.

Dear Sweet Readers,

It’s time for the next big adventure in the saga of my sins. Before we commence, however, one note. The zero birthday that was impetus for this blog has come and gone. I survived it. Thrived even. I’ve embarked upon a brand new decade, and so I’ve changed the subtitle of this blog from My Zero BDay Blog to YEAR ONE. Seems appropriate, don’t you think?

And now, on with the sin!

In my last post, I told you that I’ve begun my next book. I’m calling it The Rapture, after the blog post that started it all. The official first chapter is Amazing: Spring Tease ^_~. And, yes, I’m totally excited. I’m more than a little frightened as well, because I’ve decided to write The Rapture here on Sins of the Eldest Daughter, post by post, which feels a lot like performing without a net. Scratch that. IS performing without a net. Just my bare ass hanging in the wind. ~ahem~ No photos, please.

Because you are reading as I write, literally; you, my dearest and sweetest of readers, get to be a part of the book. Just give me a shout out any old time. Tell me what you like. Tell me what you don’t like. Tell me what leaves you dizzy in the dust, which for the record, I consider a good thing. You know, like the bio says, I drive real fuckin’ fast. Try to keep up. ^_~


It’s here. It’s happening. This transformation. It’s amazing.

This feeling...
It’s in the stars, in the sun.
It’s everywhere in everyone and it will be
From now on...
It’s amazing.

When I say transformation, I’m not talking about a religious conversion. I have not been born again in Christ. Or Buddha. Or Mohammed. I have been born again in sin.

You heard me.

Born again.

In sin.

Sin is the most amazing and transformative thing I know. Where the hell would we be without it? Sin is the ultimate catalyst. From the idea of original sin, to the commission of so-called sins, and best of all, the way that forgiveness is sometimes treated as a holier-than-thou, get-out-of-sin-free card; everything to do with sin is an amazement to me.

We all sin. Every single one of us. It’s what binds us together in this amazing technicolor dream world we call life, and I am certain a case could be made for the idea that a human being without sin is no longer truly human. This is, in part, why I named this blog Sins of the Eldest Daughter. Fact is, all my online avatars carry sin in their names. When listeners ask about my DJ name on Blip.fm, which is 4sins, I tell them that sin is my first, my last, and my middle name.

And my nickname. ^_~

Actually, the meaning of my name is relevant to this story, although it’ll be awhile before you see how. Indulge me. I was born Dina Renée, Dina being the Italian form of Dinah, which is the Hebrew word for judged. Wait, it gets better. Dina, daughter of Leah and Jacob, followed her own star and judged by her own heart, and for this she was either
a) raped and thereby disgraced or
b) found lying with her man before holy wedlock and thereby disgraced and called harlot (see The Red Tent).
Regardless of which story you subscribe to - and three guesses as to which I prefer - Dina was doomed. My given name is four little letters that together spell out: she who is judged, vindicated, and avenged. And reborn. Renée, remember?

Okay, time for a little background.

First there was the Garden. You remember the Garden. Lush. Verdant. Abundant in everything but the rain that made it so. It’s amazing, that trick, God-like. And here in rain sodden western Oregon we would dearly love to learn the secret to that trick.

First there was the Garden. Then there was the Fall, otherwise known as the Original Fuck Up. At least that’s God’s side of the story. CliffsNotes version: The Fall is when human beings took the long walk off a short plank and found themselves “transitioning” from a perfect state of innocence - innocent obedience to be exact - to an underwater-and-in-danger-of-drowning state of guilty disobedience.

Okay, right there I got a problem. Who the hell says obedience makes us innocent and disobedience makes us guilty? God. I know. But isn’t that just a little short sighted? In case you haven’t noticed, humans suck at guilt. Oh, we feel it often enough, but it doesn’t actually change the way we act.

The way I see it, Adam and Eve fell from grace because they wanted to learn the truth, in this case, the truth about good and evil. They desired to know the whole world, not just their little slice of it. Being children - mere babes in the garden - they didn’t figure on the down side, which is that once you know good and evil, you can’t be innocent. Not anymore. That is the human condition.

In Bali, newborns are considered to be gods sent straight from heaven, and so for the first six months of life, all children are revered as minor deities, but afterward they become mere mortals, capable of falling from grace like the rest of us. Because the loss of innocence is the essential human condition, a human being without sin is not human.

Oh for God’s sake! I don’t mean that we’re all born sinners who must be redeemed in Christ, yadda yadda yadda. If that’s your schtick, cool. God bless. After all, Jesus was a radical dude. But I’m talking about a whole new paradigm here.

Are you ready?

On the one hand, we have parents, human parents, and any parent (any half-assedly decent parent) knows that children do not get it right the first time. Big surprise, I know. Good parents know that just because the kids have gotten into the forbidden cookie jar doesn’t mean they have sinned. It means they’re curious-as-shit, teeny tiny humans. On the other hand, we have God. One little nibble of a mistake and it’s Get the hell outta my garden! WTF?! This says more about his (excuse me, His) parenting than it does about sin. Or us, for that matter.

Wikipedia (yes Wikipedia, not the Bible, is my go to book) tells us that “sinfulness... consists in the guilt of Adam and Eve’s first sin: the want of original righteousness... [which is] commonly called original sin.”

Translating loosely - by which I mean translating the Dina way - this means that truth (aka, righteousness), not sex, is the original sin. God knows, truth was the first casualty. Always is.

Truth; the whole, unadulterated, complicated, covered up, dug up, ugly-and-divine-at-the-same-time truth; this is what lies at the center of God and Man. Truth and Sin.

Those of you who are regular readers of Sins of the Eldest Daughter know that I’ve had a life of challenges. And if you’ve been paying close attention then you also know that I hold the radical belief that sin - every sin and every sinner, no matter how great the magnitude or how ugly the act - is ultimately forgivable.

This is not a religious stance for me.

This is not a philosophical or political belief. Nor is it faith.

This is the triumphant total of what life has thrown at me.

From sexual abuse and a locked-down childhood in which I was permitted to show up only as a pretty doll speaking lines that came when you pulled my string, to a decade-long illness and a bipolar brain that demands constant balancing, I have drawn not only great strength from my challenges but also the courage to face any and all foes. This includes the shadow side of myself and my choices. I don’t flinch at ugly.

It is these challenges - and more importantly, the knowledge that what I struggle with is what every human being on the planet struggles with, namely the will to face the ugly truths and make something worthwhile out of them - it is this that spurs me to write and share my journey with you.

This year my journey brought me something wonderful. Something so amazing that it leaves me as speechless as my friendship with Jose once did. As luck would have it, this amazing thing, this thing I would say yes to under any conditions, is a sin. Oh yeah, baby. It’s a sin that everyone fears deeply. A sin that everyone hates self-righteously. And a sin that pretty much everyone has indulged in at one time or another. Or wants to. The best sins always are.

All contents of Sins of the Eldest Daughter / dinarozellebarnett.blogspot.com
are copyrighted © and may not be used without permission from its creator.

26 April 2011

Amazing: Spring Tease ^_~ // The Rapture, ch. 1

I feel sweet
Do you feel sweet? It’s amazing
I have no skin - and I feel everything
It’s amazing.
Now there is no sin, in anything. It’s amazing
I love life. I hope you do, too. Cuz I love everything
It’s all amazing.

Dear Sweet Readers,

If you’ve read The Rapture, then you know something has been shifting for me this year. Something impossible. Something amazing. And all I want to do is tell the story of this unexpected spring, this blessing. For months now, the story has been a Siren song of promise and temptation. It sings out at the top of its lungs as I speed along the highway to the cash job that keeps me both from bankruptcy - again - and from writing. All the way to work and all the way home, I hear my story telling itself. But when the car stops, the voice stops. Crap.

I began steering with one hand and taking notes with the other. I’ve gotten good at it, too. Steer, drink coffee, eat breakfast, change lanes, work the volume on the stereo; one hand is all you ever need. And who needs more than one eye to watch the road and the speed traps, right? Well, no matter, because even when I have faithfully typed every amazing word, every flash of inspiration caught on the fly, this story continues to wink in and out of existence. Kinda like the Oregon sun; I know it exists, but I can’t prove it.

So until the story has more form and substance to it, I offer you my


Imagine yourself here in Oregon. In the wet Willamette Valley. Here where we’ve just spent six or seven months in the coma of our damp, dark northern latitude. Something the rest of the world calls winter; hah! Right now we crave the sun like a lover. We crave the whisper, the promise, the tingle on the skin. The blessing. And the sin.

What we get is a strip tease on PMS.

The first physical rush of sunshine on our skin - like the teasing dip of panties, skimming but not showing - comes for an afternoon in February. Maybe two. When our collective sigh rises like a businessman’s lunch time trousers, prissy Miss Spring slaps on a Mackintosh. And it’s rain in the morning, rain in the afternoon, and rain on the telephone at night. Rain swearing like a jealous boyfriend. Rain ranting like a possessive wife.

Come March, Spring slips and slinks.. a peek, a cheek.. the heat of cherry pink lips; we can almost taste her. For a day. Maybe two and a half. Her bosom blooming like a flowering plum - titty flash! Oh the tassels and fringe fly like, you got it, rain. More rain. And the chorus sings ♫ rain, rain go away ♫ - and don’t fucking ever come back if you want another dollar in that thong. Spring? She turns on her pretty kitten heel and tosses her flowered bra over her shoulder in a final flourish of fuck you as she leaves the stage without showing a thing.

Intermission. The Ark does a half time dance with some plastic animals from a Farrell’s Zoo Sundae during which we Oregonians slump over our Starbucks cups and dream of blizzards, tornadoes, and other sexy winter storms. Anything but rain. (Oh don’t flame me. It’s comedic hyperbole. Jeez.)

In Portland, where I live, we love our coffee, our books, and our wine and beer - some of the best made anywhere. Why? Because in the winter here, it’s dark. It’s dark when we drive home from work and it hasn’t quit being dark by the time we turn around and drive back. Dark and wet. During the day, all eight hours of it, it’s gray and wet. Add titty bars and you’ve pretty much summed us up. And churches. For some goddamned reason, we have just as many churches per capita as strip joints. At least that's the rumor: more strip clubs and churches (and breweries), per capita, than anywhere else in U.S. Go figure.

The tease of flowered panties flying one day and the cold shoulder of hail - or hell fire and damnation - the next, oh, the humanity of it! And, oh, the promise it holds, our almost-there time of year, the temptation...
It’s glorious. It’s life changing.
This feeling...
It’s amazing.
Our almost-there time of year holds all the coiled yearning, all the panting breathlessness of...almost...oh yeah...Oh YEAH! Who’s your daddy?!?

Fornication. It’s a sin. Look it up.

Hey, over here. Focus. We’re talking about me, remember? And that certain something that’s been shifting.

It’s here. It’s happening. It’s life changing.

This feeling...
It’s in the stars, in the sun.
It’s everywhere in everyone and it will be
From now on...
It’s amazing.

But the writing of it? Just shoot me now!

I’ve been writing for months about this experience, this blessing of an unexpected spring and for weeks and weeks and WEEKS the writing has kicked my ass. I mean up one side of the freeway and down the other. Seriously, Jacob was able to wrestle the angel, an actual angel, to the ground and demand a blessing and yet here I am with the blessing already in hand and, for the fucking life of me, I have not been able to pin it down. Not in words anyway.

My only solace at such times as these: music. If it weren’t for music, there are some things that I’d just never figure out. Music speaks when I have no words, which is essential, for without words my life is a tangle and my thoughts literally knot up around my throat like a noose. It’s music that loosens the ropes. Music that supplies the sound track to the torrent of thoughts. Music that grants a clarity I would otherwise have no access to. In fact, what is to follow, all the many posts after this one, might be considered the sound track to my life. For that’s how the telling of this story has unfolded.

Music is my shelter, my Siren, my Sin; my God and my Demon lover; the hymn of my transformation.

It’s here. It’s happening. This transformation. It’s amazing.

Oh, don’t worry! When I say transformation I’m not talking about a religious conversion. I have not been born again in Christ. Or Buddha. Or Mohammed. I have been born again in sin.

You heard me.

Born again.

In sin.

Sin is one of the most amazing, transformative things I know. And sin is what’s coming up next, just as soon as I get this blog post - and the writer’s block it represents - out of the way. So you’re going to have to come back if you want to know what sin I’m committing. But this much I can tell you now. Over the past weeks I have realized that the story I struggle to write is unwieldy because it is, most likely, the next book.

I know! I’m pinching myself. I haven’t even finished posting the first book. Regardless, starting with this post, you’ll be finding yourself in The Rapture. It’s gonna be amazing.

And, by the way, if you listen to this One Eskimo song on a loop, as I have while writing this, that word AMAZING doesn’t get old. It grows sweeter and truer and more beautiful with each repetition.

All contents of Sins of the Eldest Daughter / dinarozellebarnett.blogspot.com
are copyrighted © and may not be used without permission from its creator.

If you love Amazing, by One Eskimo, then you must listen to this amazing DJ on Blip: @ladypn. She has sent me some of the most beautiful songs on the airwaves. I know you’ll love her, too.

29 March 2011

Three gorgeous celestial bodies, Venus, Chiron, and Ceres, are converging in Pisces. Vibrations of love and healing.


Tuesday, 29 March 2011 - TIME TO REREAD *THE RAPTURE*.

My birthday has come and gone
The stars have aligned
The Year One blog is about to take off
You don't want to miss the launch
It's going to be so amazing


02 March 2011

It's My Birthday!

Dear Sweet Readers,

It's my birthday today. I love my birthday!! Wanna help me celebrate? Here's where you can find me.

On FaceBook
On Twitter
On YouTube

Or come on over to Oregon and join me for dinner. Oops, that's a date. Two's company. Three hundred's a crowd. ^_~

See ya!
xoxo ~ Dina

PS - Don't even think you missed my birthday, peeps, cuz I celebrate all month! =)


This Year One blog is about to take off. And you don't want to miss the launch. It's all going to be amazing.

25 February 2011

The Rapture // Prologue

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Samuel Coleridge
Kubla Khan

Dear Sweet Readers,

The words in my head have no order. No matter how I arrange them, they remain a pile of shards. The odd thing is that when the music plays and someone else’s voice is crying out the lyrics, the same thoughts compose themselves in a dance and my life slides into shape: a kaleidoscope of meanings contained within a whole that glitters with clarity. It is a beauty to behold. But time and time again I have raced to my keyboard only to find that there is no capturing this Kubla Khan I live in. The simple truth is that all thoughts now reside in my body - a place with dance but no speech - where they live as impulse and direction, and both say one thing.


Ultimately, I’ll have something to say about that body, my body, and the impulse to run from what it feels, but now... just now ...

For now, all you need to know is that no matter how I toss a lasso, my thoughts rush wild and headstrong. There’s no way to round ‘em up without also spooking them; they’d rather die than be corralled. I’ve been trying for a week now, a month, a hundred unbroken years, and as I write today I am drinking bourbon and eating salami and grapes. The salami is for protein, for the fact that I’ve hardly eaten since the writing began to flow, the grapes are because fresh food is good for a body under stress, and the bourbon, well the bourbon should be self-explanatory. I’m fresh out of opium.

This is February, the month before my birthday, the month in which I began My Zero BDay Blog, and as I said in that first post a year ago, this birthday has me by the balls. Had me. That zero birthday is done now and the birthday to come is just days away. Time to look back. What I found was that I started this blog grieving the loss of the familiar. Of course.

It’s five minutes of midnight. The Eels are singing “End Times” in the minor key of missing someone; a quiet guitar, a lulling rolling repetition of five notes.... I stand under the stars, bright and crisp in a rare cloudless sky, as the minor key and the rolling guitar sound the same notes in my heart that a favorite Chris Isaak song once did, one of so many songs I once narrated my life by. Now as I look at the stars, I wonder if these songs will ever speak to me the same way. “She’s gone now, and nowhere near,” they sing. “Seems like end times are here.”

I was melancholy when I wrote that, clearly, but I found that I wasn’t missing the woman I had been so much as the comforts of the familiar. That melancholy allowed me to start waving goodbye to the old life and to kiss the cheek of the woman I thought I deserved to be. See, I started the blog with the intent of bringing myself into alignment with time and space, for I am a woman whose decade long illness has her aging all out of sequence, a woman for whom time has meant only the long farewell to a season of life she didn’t get to experience. I didn’t get to experience. My hope was that blogging might provide some space for me to become comfortable in my now middle-aged skin. Believe it, people. By all units of measurement, I am just about halfway through my life and this year, as my father likes to point out, is the start of the next great adventure. The second half of life, Year One.

In all honesty, the Year One thing has me a bit freaked, but only because moving forward in my life requires admitting that I once spent a good chunk of it in a virtual coma. No, not a plugged-into-beeping-machines kind of coma, but the image is apt. The paralysis of bipolar depression in combination with thought-canceling chronic pain and a bunch of other stuff... well if you’re lucky, and I was, one day you wake up, look in the mirror, and say Holy Fucking Crap! Why the hell do I look so old?!

If you’re me, you start clicking those ruby heels together and then... you stop cold. There truly is no place like home, not for me. Home is somewhere I have no desire to return to. Ever. Home was a terror. Which leaves me in a very strange place. No way to go forward. No desire to go back. Looks like end times are here, you know? It really makes a person wish she believed in the Rapture. Makes me wish I believed in the Rapture. It would take care of a lot. Plus I could be holier than thou and certain I knew the One Truth that trumps all. But I could no longer be an opinionated bitch and that’s a deal breaker; I’ve got too much to say to go silent now.

This year, Year One, I plan to uncork things and shift it into high gear. I know! Those of you who are regular readers are thinking There’s a higher gear for this girl? When the cork blows, I’d better duck. Maybe. And maybe you can help me celebrate. See, this year’s February brought me something unexpected. Something in me broke - I couldn’t help but feel it - and I could have imagined the worst; God knows it’s been a hard year, one fucker of a year, for sure, but it seemed to me that this thing inside me didn’t break apart. It broke open, like a bud. The whole month of February has been spent writing - or trying to write - about the bodies I’ve carried, about the unseen wounds of wars fought internally and externally, and most of all, about the opening bud inside me that heralds a spring I could never have imagined would be mine.

Something is shifting. Something impossible to describe. 
Something is unfurling. Something miraculous. 

Maybe it is the Rapture. Of course my idea of rapture is distinctly different from my Christian brethren. My book of prayer was written by a Tibetan Buddhist master who, if I recall correctly, I met when I was twenty. Chogyam Trungpa was the Rinpoche from whom I received my Tibetan name. Orgyan Chodron. It means dharma lamp; light of truth.

Here is today’s meditation:

We need not change ourselves, need not negate what we are. We can use what we are as inspiration. So [work, which is the fourth stage for the seeker], is taking delight in and working hard with whatever working base we have - our neuroses, our sanity, our culture, our society. We do not make sectarian distinctions or assert our superiority, but we take delight in what is and then work with it.
The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation,* Chogyam Trungpa

Welcome to the Rapture.

* p 149, emphasis added
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13 February 2011

Best Friends, Wet Dogs, Birthdays and Jose

Tonight I'm going to let the words fall out in a heap. Someone will surely have a rake or a shovel and can move them if they block the door.

Starting with the post of a friend and fellow blogger whose work you totally owe it to yourself to read. No, really, Reading Oh Shit... She's Awake will change your life. It'll make you laugh till you snort. Yeah, you'll cry some, but whatever. That's life. As I was saying, starting from Lori's blog and moving forward to Jose's birthday, this is where my heart's been these past two weeks.

February 5, 2011 at 12:08 pm


I was moved by The Moon and St. Christopher, a little more than seemed usual for me (it IS a beautiful piece), but then I remembered that I’ve been in hiding. Again. It’s what I do. This morning I crawled out of my ground hog’s hole squinting and tucking my head, bracing for the more-brightness-than-I-really-want, but it was cloudy. No need to cringe against the light; the sky has me covered. Guess that means spring will be coming soon to my life, but not right now. And that suits me just fine.

I read on to Serendipity and Sadhappy Endings. That’s when it hit me:

the date of The Moon and St. Christopher

the fact that I’m still running from the hands of kindness
the date of your mother’s death and the note from your mother/yourself
today’s date
why I have tears in my eyes.

Today is the 5th. Jose’s birthday is the 8th. Was the 8th. It’s been so long since he died that I no longer register that day in advance. Now it just hits me out of the blue, like sudden sun.

I haven’t been writing, not on paper, but in my head the words are a jumble of desire piled up against a locked door. They’re all about love and why I love men that others deem unsuitable; I don’t feel the need to do what’s expected, only what’s expected of me by my heart. So, once again, I love a man who lights me up in every way but whose life choices bring silent disapproval from friends and family. Once again I’m bracing. And now it’s Jose’s birthday, too.

Ah… so that’s why I’m in hiding.

Thanks for opening the damn door, hon. I’ve landed in a whining, wet dog of a heap on the other side, but whatever. I’m here.

Sending you inarticulated thank yous, plus lots of wet dog hugs...


This poignant picture is a small part of a mural* in the Castro district, which, as unlikely fate would have it this year, is where I was on Jose's birthday. For the very first time ever. Jose loved Castro Street. For those who don't know, The Castro is the gayest part of the gayest city on the planet, San Francisco. And for those of you who haven't already read his name a thousand times on this blog, Jose Sequiera is the friend who holds the best-friend-key to my heart. He died at thirty. Had he gotten the HIV cocktail in time, this year would have found him firmly in middle age. Amazing. The mural - which runs maybe a quarter of a block and catalogs life before, during, and after AIDS became a death sentence - is something I knew nothing about until I found myself standing in front of it. In The Castro. On Jose's Birthday. It made me think of Jose not just because the man is on his death bed, and not because it was Jose's birthday, but because the man in the mural looks just like Jose. Imagine my reaction.

That's all I have to say. If you want to know more about Jose and me, head on over to The Movie Lovers. Or you could just read this. It's what Jose wrote to me the year he died on the occasion of my own birthday, which is just a couple of weeks away.


May the birds sing your name
May the rivers roar for you
May the stars twinkle like your eyes
May the trees sway in your presence
May the earth and the havens rejoice because you were born on this day.

Happy Birthday


Happy birthday, baby. Happy birthday.

*You’ll find the mural at the juncture of Market, 16th, and Castro Street.

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05 February 2011

War. What Is it good For?

What follows is a reprise of a post I wrote nine months ago when I was serializing my book, The Movie Lovers, here on Sins of the Eldest Daughter. I am moved to repeat it because I recently posted the very same chapter, in full, on the new Movie Lovers blogsite, and when I did, something in me broke. I imagine it broke open, like a bud. At least I like to think that’s what happened.

I took a week to pause and consider why it was that posting Longtime Survivor hit me harder than I expected. First there’s the fact that I recently got to see a friend who has served three tours in Afghanistan. He is stateside now, but I can see he will never be home from war. Not long after, I saw The Wounded Platoon, a Frontline report on soldiers who served in Iraq, soldiers who found that they did not return alone; the invisible wounds of war came home with them. And last but certainly not least, Jose’s birthday... it comes next week.

When I began serializing The Movie Lovers on Sins of the Eldest Daughter, I remember thinking that AIDS would be the the current generation’s Viet Nam; AIDS being the much ignored and reviled undeclared war that played in the background of their childhood, a war that only they would be able to put into context and finally understand the days, the decades of days, when AIDS was a death sentence born in silence by an entire generation.

I have carried these bodies so far. I did not anticipate ever setting them down. And, so, without further ado, yadda yadda, the reprise:


Yesterday I looked up and realized that 1994 was gone, that it is, quite literally, history. That was a realization I thought I might never have. I have carried the bodies so far. I did not anticipate ever setting them down. Today I sat in the living room of a new friend and heard him say, “When our class, 1994, when our class left...” and I did the math. He was speaking of his high school class. I finished grad school in 1990. I knew, even before I answered his questions about The Movie Lovers and this blog, that I was speaking to the generation I’ve been waiting for. It is so fitting that this should be the class of ’94, and I know Jose would appreciate that as much as I do, being a writer of fiction and a man of consummate timing.

I used to do so much counting. Days since Jose died. Years. 1994 became my Year Zero. Everything from that moment separated into two categories. Before Jose’s death. After Jose’s death. People began to ask “Isn’t she done yet?” They didn’t mean the book. “It’s been a year. Isn’t she done yet?” Grief doesn’t have a time line, but today when I heard that year and I did the math, today I realized that I no longer needed to say “It’s been a decade and a half since Jose died.” I no longer wanted to measure my life from that fateful point; I no longer had to.

Tonight I let the bodies hit the floor.

LONGTIME SURVIVOR (HIV University), part 3/end

It was May of ‘94, early in the month I think, and it was hot, too hot: too hot to stand in the sun, too hot to move without sweating, and too hot for an already nauseated Jose to ride comfortably in the back seat of an old car without air-conditioning. Somehow I feel I should have known that last one, but we can only see as far as our experience allows.

Jose’s parents and I had brought him home from the hospital in the heat of the afternoon, and I parked my Rambler next to the back stoop because it was the quickest way into the apartment. But Jose was disoriented that day and uncharacteristically stubborn and he simply, for no reason we could discern, refused to go. A debate broke out in Spanish. Standing in the heat of the sun, what I noticed was the side of the building. Its gray paint had begun to blister but not yet to peel. A moment’s observation. In the time between that day and Jose’s death I would have many hours to study this tabula rasa, hours spent in five and ten minute increments sitting on these steps or atop the retaining wall, Frank chain smoking to the filter, me picking at the brown grass and dirt, both of us breathing the overheated smell of garbage as we worked to save the man we loved, something which we both knew couldn’t be done. I ended the debate between Jose and his parents by taking Jose firmly by the arm, walking him around to the front of the building, up the front steps, over to his front stoop, up those steps, and into his stuffy south-facing apartment. A distance of maybe forty or fifty feet, the trip took ten minutes and left us bathed in sweat. At each set of stairs, each step, I instructed Jose how to walk. Which foot to lift. When.

I got him inside. I got him comfortable. Then he began to vomit. And vomit and vomit and vomit. The jarring ride in my old car, the unseasonable heat, the long walk to his apartment, the toxoplasmosis, the drugs for the toxo, all these had conspired against him. His mother grabbed a bucket. His father brought a cool cloth. I held Jose close to my body, held the bucket close to his face, stroked his hair, and told him, “It’s all right sweetie it’s all right sweetie it’s all right.”

When I got home that night my left eye burned with the splash of vomit that was no longer there and my head burned, as with a fever, with the words Jose had spoken so often: all body fluids are dangerous. Even urine might have blood invisible to the eye. Certainly bile could have blood from an inflamed esophagus or stomach. Later -- days? weeks? -- I called an ICU nurse who told me it’s standard procedure to wear goggles when intubating a patient; when a person coughs or chokes, internal fluids get sprayed out along with the exhaled air.

“How careful is too careful?”

“It only takes once,” she said. It’s what we once heard in sex education classes about the risk of getting pregnant.

That night I returned home to my husband after holding my best friend in my arms while he puked, holding him not because he was drunk or heartbroken but because he was too sick to know what was happening to him; home to my husband and the dark of our back deck, home to make small talk and then to quietly to say, I’ve been exposed; home to make love -- the first time in a long while -- with no questions and no protection.

Jose died a month later.

* * *

The year Jose died, Philadelphia made a star of Tom Hanks and the title song remains an anthem to the devastation of that opportunistic collection of diseases we call AIDS. Philadelphia, as I mentioned, also bears the dubious distinction of being the first feature-length film to deal explicitly with AIDS since Longtime Companion came out in 1990. But in the summer of ‘89, the year in which the story of Longtime Companion draws to a close, I didn’t know anyone who had died of AIDS. I hardly knew anyone who had died. I wasn’t yet thirty. Thirty was when AIDS was still considered news and Congress passed the Ryan White CARE Act and a small but certain segment of the nation was saying, It’s about time. Thirty was when Frank and Jose were becoming fast friends with Cliff and me, when the four of us saw Maya Angelou speak and heard the resonance of truth in her voice when she said, “Those who have gone before you have already paid your way.” Thirty was when Jose called weekly to announce which movie he and I just had to see. We were crazy about the movies and crazy about each other; seemed we were best friends in an instant, though that can’t be true, but it was. Thirty was the start of Jose’s tenure as my best friend, the very last best friend I’ll ever have, because to be best friends you have to be young in a way that I’ll never be again.

* * *

It took me a year after Jose’s death before I worked up the courage to have myself tested, a year of alarms sounding in nightmares, a year of immobilizing grief. At some point during that year I finally realized, for certain and forever, that the world isn’t safe. It never was, of course, and I can’t tell you if the moment at which that became clear to me was when the bile hit my eye, when the best friend I’ve ever had stopped breathing, or if I simply found myself having a lot of those moments and finally stopped counting them, stopped tracking, stopped backtracking, and began letting it all wash over me like waves on the beach. What I can tell you is this: what they say about ignorance is sometimes true.

Wondering whether I’d been infected was frightening, but I needn’t have worried. At the turn of this new century, the CDC Surveillance Report on HIV and AIDS cases in the US had three things to say about how a person is exposed: Sex, drugs, and blood. It’s a chant that plays like the B-side to the boomer generation’s mantra: Sex, drugs, and rock and roll! All the rest, all that we imagine about how we may become exposed to HIV, is simply variations on this theme, variations on a theme of fear. I’m okay. But I’ve been watching my little corner of the Postmortem Bar, and it’s filling up like a last minute barbecue on the first real day of summer, filling up with my close friends and family friends, casual friends, co-workers, acquaintances. The three people walking on the beach at the end of Longtime Companion are very much alive. How they get to be at that bar as their dead friends and lovers reappear, I don’t know, but miracles like that are just one of the things I love about the movies; Jose, too.

Here, then, is the miracle in my movie: at the Postmortem Bar I’ll get to see Carl, the English department secretary from the university where I was a graduate teaching assistant, and I’ll catch up with a beloved linguistics professor there, too; I’ll see Jim, the eldest son of my grandmother’s best friend, like an uncle to me, the man whose mother still believes, as the Seventh Day Adventist church wills it, that her son’s death was caused by the sin of his lifestyle; I’ll see Gryphon, the clothing designer with the sterling bone pierced through his nose, who hand-constructed one-of-a-kind, antique-fabric kimonos for my auntie’s boutique; I’ll meet the young men, fifteen or twenty of them, whose pictures were pasted in a handmade shadow box that sat atop a red silk-draped altar in Jose’s room and to which he had gestured and said simply, “My friends who have died”; I’ll see Randy, my younger sister’s best friend and roommate, so dear to the family that our aunt referred to him as “one of the kids,” the man who would later arrive at my doorstep with books and pamphlets, tissues and kind words, and answers to questions I didn’t even know I had; I’ll see Garrett, who was always “going to beat this thing” with yoga, special diets, positive thinking, and who looked so bad after Jose died that Frank locked eyes with me and said, “Garrett’ll be next”; I’ll see Aaron, who died a year after Jose, and he’ll hug me and tell me he was always one to feel that he had to take care of those he loved, that he was dying and didn’t have the energy to take care of one more person and that’s why he sent me away, tears, astonishment, and all; I’ll finally get to meet Michael, the partner of my closest friend, Jim, the love of his life; I’ll meet the brothers and partners dear to all the men and women I met in my AIDS grief group; I’ll most likely see the neighbor from across the street and he’ll see his live-in “nephew,” whose empty hospital bed was all I ever knew of him; I’ll see the acquaintances, co-workers, and neighbors who haven’t died yet but will; I’ll see Jose; and I’ll see all the friends I held in my mind’s eye when Jose entered the hospital for the last time and I called my father in tears to tell him something that, even then as a man of fifty-odd years, he could not imagine: “In ten years, half my friends will be dead.”

It’s been nine years so far, and that circle of friends is gone. All dead.
Or shell shocked.

All contents of Sins of the Eldest Daughter / dinarozellebarnett.blogspot.com/
are copyrighted © and may not be used without permission from the creator.

05 January 2011

Because Thank You Sounds So Much Better Then I Feel Like Crap

17 January 2011
It's been two weeks since I semi-posted this blog. It was a place holder, actually, something I wanted to do but could not follow through on at the time. That description, right there, sums up my entire adult life, at least the last half, which was the half in which I fell ill and finally against all odds began getting well half a dozen years ago. By "getting well" I mean that I began my upward path from damn near catatonic to... better. Truth is, unless I entered a coma, I really had nowhere to go but up. The "something I wanted to do but could not follow through on at the time" that is what my life has been since recovering my health: a desire to move forward, a need to accomplish a few goals, a belief in the possibility that I could be a normal person if only I tried hard enough. By "normal" I mean something simple; like a career in which I am appreciated, maybe not monetarily as well as I deserve, but through the love and respect of my colleagues; a marriage that, while not perfect, includes passion and tenderness and the willingness to care about the effect we have on each other's lives; some fun and some friends, and in this last thing I have succeeded. In the arena of friends, I am truly blessed. When I began this post, two weeks ago, I was feeling my lacks and my losses more keenly than my blessings and so I began this post -- Because Thank You Sounds So Much Better Then I Feel Like Crap -- for much the same reason that I began the blog itself: as a response to my feeling that I was drowning in lack and loss, that I might never finish anything that truly mattered to me.

Tonight, this is all the further I get because the meds are starting to take effect, which means I'll be typing like a drunkard if I try to resist sleep, and sleep is, after all, half of what the meds are intended to give me. So goodnight, dear sweet readers. Sweet dreams.

5 January 2011
- under construction ...WATCH THIS SPACE...

Been looking back on where I started 11 months ago and those who encouraged and praised my early efforts. ....

These are the comments -- all the comments, -- from my first two blog posts. I had expected nothing but received blessings right out of the blue.

... on 17 February, 2010

Big said...
I can identify with this quite a bit (less than 2 years till the ultimate zero for me, 40, 2012, next best hope for the end of the world.)

... developing the discipline, becoming professional. A really good book to reado n this is Stephen Pressfields's the War of Art. He talks about becoming comfortable being uncomfortable. and becoming true profesional. and offers great quote:

Novelist William Faulkner once said, "I only write when I am inspired." But then he added, "Fortunately I am inspired at nine o'clock every morning."

Lori said... http://shesawake.blogspot.com

Routine? Routine? Isn't routine just a really nice way to say 'rut'? Seriously. Screw your horoscope. You may be having a zero birthday, but that doesn't mean that you need to play it safe, does it?

Go forth, be your glorious self.
You do that very, very well.


Jeanne Veillette Bowerman said... http://scriptchat.blogspot.com/p/how-to-chat.html

Babe, CELEBRATE the zeroes! I'm a way better woman at 46 than I ever was at 26. I'm wiser, more confident, and have learned to love every, sick, twisted flaw I have. Own it. Own that ZERO ;)

As for your writing every day goal. Excellent! I applaud it. I also applaud lowering expectations. I read someplace people who live in Switzerland are happiest because they have no expectations. Let's live by that. Hell, maybe THAT is what I'll give up for Lent ;) Great post. Truly enjoyed it. Happy early birthday!

... on 18 February, 2010

Nita said...
I have found over the years that when I thought others had changed it was usually me. My goals, thoughts, what mattered to me changed. Life continues and I cannot change the things I have done in the past, so I choose to move on and hope the future is better.

windowtotheworld said...
speechless, once more.

Coffeenuts said... http://coffeenuts-iam.blogspot.com/

Last night we had my folks out for dinner and I showed mom your Blog to give her a feel for all the additional posts you have made since your 'My Zero Birthday' excerpt. Longer story short, she hopes to read more of your blog in the future via my fathers computer.

As I've told you not long ago Dina, I myself am not a prolific reader so to the extent my 2-cents worth of comments will be of any use to you will likely be slim to none. However that said, your Blog has sparked a new interest in me previously thought to be non-existent...I do enjoy reading your Blog.