Friday, November 21, 2014

Gabriel of Tikal - A Poem by Patty Mooney

Gabriel thrived in the humid Guatemalan cenote.
His suitcase skin blended with fallen Ceiba leaves.
His ecstatic eyes floated like beads on tepid water.
He cruised from end to end, hungry for meat.
The Mayans considered him a god and fed him

chickens, turkeys, coatamundis, and once a sleepy fisherman
surrendered a foot. But the day the toothy god snapped up
a child the croc's status was revoked, his head paraded high
on a stick for days and then fashioned into a ceremonial mask.

The godless reptile was once more revered,
imbued now with the ghost of the child.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Night With Robin Williams, "The Hairy Comedian" - Photo and Story by Patty Mooney

Robin Williams at RIMAC Auditorium, UCSD

My husband and I saw Robin Williams about 30 years ago and at that time we laughed our butts off. Robin was so fast! You could just see the wheels in his head spinning at 150 rpm. Fast! We happened to have a couple of backstage passes which a friend had given me, so we got to meet him in person. It was just after his Mork and Mindy days, and his career was rocketing skyward. One very distinctive characteristic about him which I noticed was how HAIRY he was. Black hair, everywhere, even on his hands. Underneath his clothing he was sporting a gorilla suit!

I went to see him a few years ago with a girlfriend who had one extra ticket, so it was a girls' night out. We weren't in the "nose bleed" section, exactly, but Suzi was sorry she had not brought her binoculars. Good thing they had the two big projection screens so that we could fully enjoy Robin from our vantage point.

He was just as funny as ever, and still very fast. He jumped from topic to topic, from sex to drugs to politics, and then he would mix the three like a helium cocktail. There were a couple of women sitting nearby who were in stitches pretty much the whole time (an hour and a half) and they had infectious laughs. The three of us chortled like a pack of hyenas!

Robin totally delivered. After his stand-up, the audience rose to their feet and bestowed him with a standing ovation. His last series of jokes had me in tears. Imagine Christopher Walken as a porn star: I..... am IN you.... now.

Oh my! Thank you, (and RIP) Robin Williams, you hairy beast, you.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Dave "The Water Man" Ross, the Ghandi of the Ghetto - by Patty Mooney

Several months ago, my friend, David "The Water Man" Ross was stabbed again by a homeless person while giving out water to the homeless. (He was first stabbed several years ago.) He is a man I admire greatly, doing important work downtown with those who have less than nothing. He's fine; his arm is all bandaged and healing, but I worry about him, as many of the homeless who haunt our streets really need to be medically and/or psychologically treated, and are a danger to themselves and others.

I wanted to post an award-winning video we produced about a day in the life of San Diego homeless, featuring The Water Man, along with Rachel Jensen, Director of the Girls Think Tank. It's called "Small Acts of Kindness." And following that is a story I found online about Dave.  


By Fernando Romero, August 30, 2008

DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO – They call him the Water Man. And with good reason. David Ross spends most of his day distributing free bottles of water among the homeless. Ross, who frequently addresses the San Diego City Council on behalf of the down-and-out, says the homeless people he sees every day suffer from physical problems and are malnourished. “So giving them water is essential, or else they would die.”
“I know there aren't many people out there who care, but people should know that water is not a privilege,” Ross said. “We all have a right to water. So why aren't we providing water fountains for them?”

Those who know him say Ross has earned the trust of those he's trying to help.

“He's got their confidence. He gives them lots of personal empathy. He gives them more than water – he gives them a human connection, respect, and what humans need the most, love,” said San Diego pastor Gerry Limpic. “He's reaching people I can't reach.”

Read the rest of this touching story at the San Diego Union Tribune site

Thursday, October 30, 2014

At the Mud Baths With Galway Kinnell

This is a poem I wrote in 1982 after a mud bath with Galway Kinnell in Calistoga, CA, after Mark and I met him at a poetry conference at Napa College. The poem had never felt "complete" until today, after I learned that Galway had passed away and I was able to finish it. (RIP Galway, one of America's finest poets)

At the Mud Baths With Galway Kinnell

Off a shallow valley of grapes Calistoga simmers-
home of Old Faithful, petrified woods,
hot springs and mud baths.
Not a volcanic peep for a billion years
but who knows what will spill over tomorrow?

Today all that matters is this hunger for mud pies,
this tug to a spot where the earth vows
to suck the poisons from out of us.
I am dunked in a pudding of peat moss and lava, hot water.
At first I cannot tell where my body ends and mulch begins.

It is something like sex. I’m suspended lawn-chair prone,
only my face out of the fudge, content enough to die.
You’re in the tub beside me; and across the room, a third tub
occupied by the great poet, Galway Kinnell
submerged into the sloppy wet earth, eyes closed, pondering.

We are each in our own world, cocooned in the poetry
of this moment, suspended in time until the grand rinse,
and a glass of excellent wine, just another stop
upon the slippery glimmer train of life.
Tomorrow a detail of dirt will remain in my hair.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Shark Crazy - A Poem by Patty Mooney

You and I hand-in-hand near Hervey Bay Marina,

aluminum masts jangling in the sweet salt air

when this guy closes in - stocky, sun-toasted, grizzle-

chinned, gets chatting about sharks. A Great White

chows on Aussies like Vegemite on toast.

That grey shadow moves like a battering ram to

shake loose a limb, wolf it back, gnash it down

to chum. In sea water blood seems black.

"Oz" is one big spot of land circled by Great

Whites, hammerheads, lemons, tigers, blues,

and they linger at Hervey. Vic pulls up

his T-shirt to show the mark of a shark whose jaw

caught the waist, a circle of gashes like Morse code.

"That son-of-a-bitch got away with the taste of my blood in him.

But I've killed plenty since to make up for it."

Vic's going hunting at dusk, got room for two.

I imagine leaning off the bow of his trawler,

like the one Robert Shaw manned in Jaws.

I think of the 20-foot White in formaldehyde

at the shark museum.

Vic points at a fourteen-foot skiff.

Your eyes catch mine.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Dragonfly - A Poem by Patty Mooney

A dragon of a dragonfly
beats his green wings
against the lightbulb outside the window.
He is behaving like two moths
who compete for the glow.
Being God, I switch off the lamp
and observe my kingdom
from inside the bright kitchen.
The dragon, shunned
lover, flings himself,
at the window screen
clinging quietly for a moment.
I speak gently:
"Who are you at my window?
What have you come to teach me?"
He is the most barrel-chested
of any dragonfly I have ever seen,
all emerald-green like Oz,
and in a perfect tizzy to impart something.
But what? What?

(*as appeared in Bent Pin Quarterly)

Friday, October 17, 2014

My Adventure on an Aircraft Carrier - Photos and Story by Patty Mooney

One morning several years ago, I awoke from a very vivid dream. I was swimming in San Diego Bay and was plucked out by the crew members of an aircraft carrier. They treated me like visiting royalty and gave me a stateroom with a porthole. As I gazed out the small window I noticed that we were steaming out to the open ocean. I felt panic mixed with exhilaration. This was one of those dreams that sticks with you, and I mulled it over for days, thinking, “Yeah, that was amazing… Now why would I dream about heading out to sea on an aircraft carrier?”

I’m the partner at a local video production company called Crystal Pyramid Productions, and too old to join the Navy! So the dream faded as my world filled with various shoots, some mundane and some special. We interviewed Toby Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and Thomas Hayden Church about Spiderman 3. We interviewed J. Craig Venter, the man whose team was the first to map the human genome. We interviewed Hillary Clinton for Extra at the peak of her race. We shot at the U.S. Open for IBM.

Then, sometime in June, we got a call from a broadcast production company in London looking for a sound recordist to accompany their crew aboard the U.S.S. Stennis. Suddenly I remembered my dream. I said, “I’m your woman.”

I have worked sound at some challenging locations, including the San Diego Comic-Con, Miramar and even the NAASCO Shipbuilding yard. But none comes close to the gig on the Stennis. Imagine F18’s screaming to an abrupt landing on the flight deck, one after another. And the coning tower sending out major RFIs (Radio Frequency Interference). But I’ll get to that…

After meeting the three Brits (let’s call them Britney, Chaz and Harry) at the North Island Naval base, our guide, Lt. Denise Garcia, the Public Affairs officer, escorted us to the airfield where we prepared Britney to be videotaped as we flew on the Grumman C2A Greyhound to the Stennis which lay 100 miles off the coast of San Diego. Since we would all become “Trap One” members - that is, our plane would come to a severe landing from 160 mph to zero in five seconds, and be trapped by a “wire” on the flight deck - we were all briefed, re-briefed and briefed again about what to expect and what was expected of us. Safety first.

We boarded the transport plane along with about twenty other VIPs including CEO’s of prestigious companies and other media people. I feel like I had the best seat in the house. All seats faced “backwards” towards the tail of the plane and away from the cockpit, so I was seated in the first row closest to the tail. Even though officers had apprised the women that they must not hold their purses in their laps because it could inadvertently release their safety belt, I was allowed to hold my sound mixer. I observed that from this moment on, all personnel bent over backward for this video crew.

Once in the air, the crewmen said I could remove my “cranial” – an aviation helmet with goggles attached – so that I could listen on my headphones to Britney as he walked back into the cockpit and pelted the pilot with questions. Unfortunately, there was room for only Britney and the camera operator so I did not get a look into the cockpit.

We then needed to prepare for our landing, so we stowed the gear and strapped back into our seats, in cranials, goggles and a life preserver. My hands were curiously sweating as I mentally prepared for our landing on the flight deck, which a friend had once explained as a “controlled crash landing.” The crewman seated next to me shouted, “Get ready, we’re coming in!”

And then suddenly we were slung onto the deck and the wire pulled us back like a rubberband. My heart raced the way it does spilling down a tall rollercoaster or a fast and steep mountain bike trail. And then the world of the U.S.S. John C. Stennis flight deck came into view as the Greyhound’s tail yawned open at my feet.

Like New York City, I would find that the Stennis never slept. There were operations of all kinds ongoing at all hours of the day and night. For the next eight hours, wearing a sound mixer and carrying a boom pole, I would scramble alongside the crew as a young officer named “Photo” escorted us from the radar room to the flight deck, from the officer’s lounge to the bridge, up and down miles of ladders and narrow corridors. It was a relief when the Brits begged to be taken to the “smoking pit,” a spot next to the flight deck where they could go out and have a “ciggy”. It was an opportunity to rest and for the reality of the environment to really sink in. As I looked out at the vastness of the surrounding ocean, I was happy about two things: that I was not claustrophobic, and that I was an endurance athlete. At 53, I still ride a mountain bike 25 miles or more every Saturday.

It’s been said that working on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier is the most dangerous job on Earth, far more dangerous than catching crabs. For about an hour, we shot footage of aircraft landing and taking off, as two officers hovered about, herding us within the safety zone. I was attached to Chaz, the camera operator, by a “snake” – a cable from my mixer to his camera, so I had to follow his every move while trying to watch the levels on my mixer which I could hardly see as it was inside the fluffy white flight jacket I had to wear on the flight deck. The jacket along with the cranial made me feel like I was in a space suit. The display of power juxtaposed with the all-in-a-day’s-work routine of the flight deck personnel made this one of the most surrealistic times in my life.

After a twenty-minute dinner, an officer named John took over for “Photo” and we spent the next three hours gathering more footage of Britney as he explored the Stennis. We learned that she runs on two nuclear reactors and can go one million miles at more than 30 knots before refueling. The flight deck is 1,092 feet long and 257 feet wide. The height is 244 feet (equal to a 24-story building). She can accommodate 80+ tactical aircraft. My favorite factoid: If you lined up all the bed mattresses on the Stennis end to end, they would stretch more than nine miles.
Finally at 9:30 PM the producer said we were through for the day.

Even after a grueling day of production, I was not yet ready to meet my mattress. This was a Friday night, after all, and I am a social creature. After walking the boys back to their quarters, I told John that I wanted to return to the mess hall where I'd noticed the crew participating in a “Karaoke Night.” When he was certain that I knew how to get down there and then back to my room, he said, “I don’t see why not.” And away I went, floating down four flights of steps without any production gear.

The mess hall was packed and a young man was singing a Santana tune, “Maria Maria” beautifully as I sat down at a table next to a young crewmember. The singer finished and earned a big round of applause. Next, two men and a woman commenced to singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” as everyone cringed. It was a wonderful evening as participants sang their hearts out for better or worse. After a short internal conversation, I put in my request for a Grace Slick tune. After three more singers, it was my turn.

The emcee said, “We have a civilian guest aboard who wants to sing “White Rabbit.” The crowd greeted me warmly and when I had the microphone in hand, I told them, “I really want to thank you for your hospitality. You have been wonderful!” They all turned to watch me, some turning in their seats to get a full view, and I began to sing, “One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small…..”

The song went by too fast and then they were applauding me for a long time until I sat back down in my seat. They had not done that for the “Bohemian Rhapsodisers!” I could tell they were impressed. It was a bright and shiny moment that I will always treasure.

Two more singers regaled us, and then Karaoke Night was over. It was time to “hit the rack.” I found my way back to my room – with some help from a few people along the way – noted that someone was asleep in the top bunk with the curtains pulled shut, and then I crawled into my “rack.” There was a light on above the sink and I could not locate a switch to turn it off; I figured that maybe it was supposed to stay on all night, and so I began my toss-and-turn for the next several hours as I struggled to sleep amidst all the sounds, the motion, the unrelenting light. It was as if my body did not trust the surroundings enough to surrender to sleep. I believe it was about 5 AM before I finally nodded off and drifted into a heavy slumber.

At around 6 AM my roommate who’d arrived from Guam the previous evening gently roused me and informed me that “Photo” was waiting outside the door. I’d dozed through Reveille! It was time to eat in the officer’s mess and get our production day started. The guys wanted a couple more shots on the flight deck, and then it was time to pack up our bags and depart the adventure of a lifetime.

As we taxied for take-off, the young crewman seated next to me grinned and said, “I love my job!” And then the adrenaline rushed as the Greyhound roared and we catapulted together, off the deck into the wild blue yonder and back home to San Diego.