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The Casual Bigot October 16, 2020

Posted by voolavex in Social Issues.
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You are likely to have one or more in your family. Close family. People who use ethnic slurs all the time always followed by – “no offense”. These people may have grown up hearing the same words used by parents or family members or on the schoolyard and repeat what they heard. No one corrected them so they assumed – and rightly – it was okay. (It isn’t). Some of them were corrected and they stopped. Most of them said “it doesn’t mean anything” and kept on. (it does). These are what I call the “Casual Bigots”.

The “Casual Bigot” may not have called all “others” bad names – sometimes it was a certain group – likely one that was in a community nearby. Some were ill-raised and mimicked their close family and friends. And a percentage of them actually “hated” the ethnic group, but had no idea why. Some had experienced unfortunate events with someone within the group and therefore called all of them by the slur. Many will gladly say ‘they have lots of _______friends”. (they don’t). Some think it’s just slang (it’s not). Many will have met a person from the ethnicity and commented on their fine manners (a doctor or a lawyer or a nice clerk in a store or a schoolmate) and insist this is an indication they are not bigoted. (it’s not).

Many imagine their group is superior. If they were shown it wasn’t true, this caused distress and usually epithets that were unneighborly even for the ‘casual bigot’ . Casual Bigots get agitated if a person of an ethnic difference moves on their street. Why? Because it will change the things they say in casual chatter and this will infringe on their comfort zone. How? It could set up a competition (conscious or subconscious) in their mind that would impact almost everything they did. The newcomer will never fit in because the Casual Bigot can’t allow themselves to even consider that. It will be useful however when remarking – “oh I have ______neighbor”.. smile. Or “we have one of THOSE down the street” ..eye roll. But be aware that Casual Bigots do not burn crosses or wear sheets. They do not graffiti synagogues. They don’t even call names. And if their kids do anything bigoted they will get a very stern talking to – but they will continue to hear adult Casual Bigotry at home.

Casual Bigots also form hierarchies for their ethnics. Dark people are not as okay as light people. Ever. Sadly this is common within the ethnicities themselves. My opinion is that this type of “intra-ethnicity” bigotry originates in countries that white people colonized. And i has become so ingrained, for so long, it doesn’t go away. I am not sure if it ever will.

And my own feeling is that dealing with a Casual Bigot is harder than a serious one. Serious bigots hate and maim and kill and brag about their hate and it is easy to spot them. They too exist everywhere but they are so proud of themselves they don’t care if you don’t like it. The casual ones are hypocrites. If you mention that a certain word is offensive to you, they will act very surprised and you will wind up explaining your position and not stopping theirs. They will fraternize “to be nice” and so they can say they tried, then slur the ethnicity when they are gone. They will laugh at home about the differences.

I won’t list the terms and comments they use – you have all heard them. And if you are a Casual Bigot – and you know who you are. You have used them too.

PS Many non-white ethnicities do use slurs among themselves. I emphasize the difference mainly because I have not come across any ethnic slur that white folks use in general to denigrate each other. White people are a caste based culture. And there is nothing casual about it either.

About the author:

I am a white woman of a certain age. I was fortunate to have a father who did not support bigotry AT ALL.

Well, It’s Not Like It’s Cholera October 6, 2020

Posted by voolavex in Social Issues.
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Just jotted this down and posted it on FB.

Hey Docs at Walter Reed. 

Is it customary to allow any patient (say John Q. Public or a POTUS) with a highly contagious disease like cholera or a new deadly virus, that has no real standardized protocols for treatment, out of the facility to go on their merry way home to spread the viral infection on a whim? 

What about the many others who may be infected and possibly die. Is this normal procedure at government run hospitals????  IS IT???  Whilst you healers were in medical school did they never mention Mary Mallon or contagion concerns for innocent humans who may. be exposed to  highly contagious pathogens?  

If your dog had rabies would you allow it to frolic at a dog park?  Wouldn’t animal control step in?  Why is the human animal aka POTUS allowed to spread plague without some restrictions. 

Are you all INSANE? This is not a trick question. I bet if he had measles you would have confined him. As far as my limited medical knowledge goes, there is a vaccine for measles. So I reiterate that COVI-19 treatment is a crapshoot. And, should anyone cataract the disease from exposure to the POTUS, aren’t you also complicit. I would check that out. with your legal staff.

What Hits the Fan. September 26, 2020

Posted by voolavex in Social Issues.
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Will hit the fan...

If you recall the Los Angeles riots of ’92 and the National Guard marching in the streets of Los Angeles, the smoke and ashes burning the air;  that event, write large, will look like  a GI Joe cartoon when November 3rd comes around.

The people of this country are very restless and very receptive to ANY kind of incitement.  Everyone – not just the GOP and Trumpers.  Militias are in existence and they are armed and very, very volatile.   And anyone is a target.   The mere fact that the machinations of the GOP have been ALLOWED this to go on until this very day is an indication of just what a powder keg we are sitting on.  And the entire world – whatever their agenda – is sitting and watching.  The present incumbent has set us on a course that will not be resolved or determined on Nov 3.  Sadly that is 99% a given.  And the do- nothing GOP Senate is allowing this, in an act of complicity that boggles the mind.  Willing and eager co-conspirators. Placing the very safety of the citizens at risk for, I presume, the revenue stream.

The part that I find among the most disturbing is that whoever is the prime mover is in the picture is not #45.  And as he is a simple-minded stooge – he cannot begin to know what he has unleashed.  Because he is addled and likely in some stage of a brain disease that renders him incapable of logic or memory, he is a perfect puppet.  And because he is convinced he is the most wonderful creature ever born and who has ever been in the WH, he may not go quietly, but he will not reap any rewards he may’ve thought he would get.  And who cares?  After he is used and discarded, the population will still be in immediate danger.  We have rested our existence on our questionable history as the world’s savior.  As that story disintegrates in front of us – I have serious doubts whether other nations will race to our rescue. And I am frightened and concerned.  And I suspect I am not alone. 

Comments are welcome. And I wish everyone who reads this to be well and very safe.

Juneteenth. Not New. June 19, 2020

Posted by voolavex in Social Issues.
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This was prompted by a Facebook friend’s comment on the sudden embrace of Juneteenth. She is a white woman from KCK.  I am also a white woman from the North East.

My BBFFBF is from KC, Kansas. She has been my family for 45 or so years. I never think of KCK as a white place at all. Funny how that is. She has relatives there and I know or knew most of them.

Whole groups of black people from KCK moved to Los Angeles in the 50’s to work in the aerospace industry.  Her family is just one of many. In those days Los Angeles was redlined and so my KC folks settled in areas where they could enjoy  their friends and their migration to California.  They stayed and prospered  and eventually spread out in the greater Los Angeles area. but this is the history we rarely see.  Black folks kinda’ have to be aware of white history because it can be dangerous not to do so.  White folks – too many – would  like it to be non-existent, but I am fortunate to have been in the company of black people since I was about 12 (thanks Daddy) and so their history is mine too and I  have read and do read all I can to broaden my knowledge of a rich and important part of American and world history.

Those who don’t are really missing the boat. Keep in mind black people – enslaved black people – built this country with their blood, sweat and tears and were not rewarded by freedom for their lives – just another form of slavery. Jim Crow.  And it continues to exist. The headlines remind us daily of just how  separate a white majority would like to exist. I am part of a black family (two families, in fact – my son’s BF and his family are mine as well). I am the richer, the happier and the better for both of these people and their people.

Juneteenth is not new. You would have known about it if you embraced all of American history. And may I add the way in which we have all been made aware of it has been not in celebration but in more violence.  We are sad land.

We no longer are the land of the free nor the home of the brave.

We Didn’t June 7, 2020

Posted by voolavex in Social Issues.
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When Covid-19 took over the planet we had a rare opportunity to become our best and brightest. We didn’t. We had a chance to stop and really decide – and  and fast – how to save a world where a life changing event had occurred without warning. We didn’t. We did not act together as a species nor did we extend a hand to other hands – all of us panicked and confused and stunned by the same thing. Not as nations or races or religions, but simply as human beings.

We didn’t.


And first among offenders is the United States. A country that in less than four years has shown itself to be corrupt, craven and fake – after all its claims of glory have been quickly deadened by truth.  Pathogens do not have intent, nor forethought. We do; and I think we have missed our chance. This is only my opinion, but the efforts of this country to alleviate the fear and sickness now upon all of us globally has failed miserably. We had a chance to be everything we claimed to be.

We didn’t.

Thought for This Week June 6, 2020

Posted by voolavex in Social Issues.
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Bought, stolen, chained

Freed, but never free

Spat on, shat on, sat on.

Alive,  but not a life

OH Yes, Black Lives Matter




I wrote this.  Share it, but please credit the author.

The World’s Most Endangered Species April 16, 2020

Posted by voolavex in Social Issues.
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I think it started out innocently enough – maybe not globally, but where a ‘wet market’ is an okay cultural thing to do.  (Called ‘jinbo’ ; in some parts of China it is a tradition that is said to insure good health).  Eating a live bat or mouse is not for everyone, but I have seen actual photos of young women doing it, so it is done and obviously with gusto.   Quite frankly, I find bats kinda’ cute but I am also well aware of what they harbor and what they can spread.  Covid-19 is likely just another in a long list of pathogens they carry.  This known fact, about bats, however, would keep  me away from fooling around with them.  I have eaten live creatures – on the half-shell, but I no longer eat those due to the possibility of flukes.  Doctor’s orders.  Sigh.  Yes, I miss them, but I also digress.

The novel coronavirus – now called COVID-19 is a doozy.  A killer, unbigoted, and brainless virus that has no shame, sense or consideration for the humans (and possibly some animals) on Earth.  And  is a potent reminder that this is our only planet.  Despite our fantasies and realities, this is IT.  And never has total devastation been excluded from our fate.  When apes stood up and walked we brought forth a brand new chapter in the long history of this globe.  And I daresay, not a very benevolent one.  I suspect cavemen did bash other cavemen over the heads and that cave wives were dragged by the hair.   And I am not entirely sure how we happened to stand up and start to ‘evolve’ into humankind.  We have nothing to go. by.  Nothing that explains it and nothing to follow.  So I imagine that any belief is okay.  And I think it is possible that there is no reason and that it was an anomaly of the Cosmos.     The fact is that when we looked up at the cosmos, we invented what we saw to suit the moment we saw it.

I don’t think  this was exactly unexpected.  Or at least the possibility of it happening ; some time in the future was usually how it was qualified and discussed – but it didn’t come with a time frame and so we humans just kept on doing what we have always done.  I think in legal terms it is called ‘reckless endangerment’ and we have come to the point where we do it without a second thought. And at this point it has been weaponized, monetized and deadly, daily.
When I was a girl I learned that a bird had gone extinct.  My frame of reference for extinction was the dinosaur. The idea of a bird – in recent history disappearing, was not only terrible, but unique.  And its name, The Dodo, gave it a hint of stupidity; this ‘dodo’ bird stopped existing.  How dumb.  And we laughed when it was mentioned. We did not have in mid-century an endangered species list (we made up for lost time on that one) and then we did.  Creatures great and small were disappearing.  They did not commit suicide either or kill each other.  Humans had stolen their habitats and hunted them for sport and their numbers started to drop.  And to drop very fast.  We had exploited the planet for everything it had and we kept looking for more to loot. Stealing irreplaceable creatures and resources.  Climates started to change – but ‘not really’ we said, it was just a Chicken Little scenario that had very little basis in fact.  Except it was fact – aerial views of the planet provided illustrations of what we we doing.  Mainly for profit. And indeed the rich got richer and the poor got poorer  – just the way it had always been.  Just the way we did things.

As a species we snatched and grabbed everything and anything we could.  Using terms like ‘traditional customs, cultural/religious beliefs and  scared practices, we kept on shooting and maiming and raping and burning and dumping more and more and more.

Fascinating, rich people decided we could terraform ‘local’ worlds and settle them if the heat got too high on Earth.  Or the cold got too cold.  The shores might disappear and ice might melt, but by that time we would be colonizing airless planets and starting over.  To do more of the same. After all we had just entered a new century where nothing was impossible.  Artificial Intelligence (using whose as a template?), our new best friend the algorithm, text messaging, face time and driverless cars.  Yowsa.  Instant alerts on just how this brave new world would operate for the best future of mankind.  To never have to open a door, turn on a television, tell the time or entertain a single independent idea because we had Alexa and Siri and we had it made.  So we could be our authentic and best selves.  And since we would own this future, we had no need to worry.

And who are we now; the clever inventors and techies, the code writers, the extremely forward-thinking humans reliant on manufactured assistants to do their bidding?  The thieves of childhood and imagination and thinking outside the box? Wearing masks and gloves and staying alone inside.  Daring each other to go to the shops, risking our lives to go mail a letter And in some cases listening to the insane ravings of a leader who has no right to lead, but won’t go away.  Accompanied by the hiss and whoosh of ventilators, all over the planet saving us for more death and destruction?  I wonder.

Will any of this change the future of those brave, mighty hunters shooting innocent creatures to stuff for their walls.  And children who have stopped running and jumping rope and laughing because they have avatars to kill on the couch.  And who might still get sick and die if they went out unprotected. Viruses have strange lifespans.

Smug, self-important humans.  Believers, fantasists, power mad dictators, humanitarians, deniers, bigots, oppressors, saviors.  Writers and lawyers and doctors and folks who won’t think of others and won’t wear a mask.  This is exactly who we are.  And many of us sensed this coming, just not now.  and Surely not the day those lovely young women and their human chums went to the wet market and ate a live bat.  Do you need an introduction?  We are humanity, the most endangered species on Earth.

The Sorceror’s Apprentice 2020 December 30, 2019

Posted by voolavex in Social Issues.
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When I was a girl – about twelve, I discovered science-fiction.  Always a skeptic as far as presumed wisdom and dogma was concerned – even at a younger age, the  sci-fi authors I loved were Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.  Alas I did not find Arthur C, Clarke until later ; when I did read and re-read 2001, 2010 and 2030 several times.  My mindset was simply if they could think it up and write it- it could come to pass or already be so.  I still feel this way.

Which brings me to the brink of 2020. The very number hints at perfect vision, but I see it as anything but. Technology seemed to be a blessing for humankind and I would reckon most of us cautiously embraced it as we sent our first email and shouted “Eureka”.  “Everybody, dance now”.  It was the “FAX” only much, much better.

Instant messenger, love songs, angry responses, data, mega data, dumbest – data. Push a button and with far less effort than a phone call, it was there.   I loved it. And as a former constant dialer, I traded my dialing for a keypad and emailed.

Then I encountered Instant Messages.   Not mine, but those from friends who KNEW I was online.  Rude if you don’t say hi, yet annoying because you really have to say hi.  You can ignore a phone call easily. IM – not so much.  But since all this was happening at binary speed, before an etiquette had been established, it was difficult to know how to reply.

Then eBay arrived. I loved (do still) eBay in it’s early days.  Buying and selling anything; EVERYTHING!!! We even took personal checks and I frankly did quite well.  So did many others and the search to “find stuff for eBay” was a daily challenge.  Watching your auctions was like checking your lobster pots (I am from New England) and it could be thrilling with a buzz that lasted for weeks.  And the checks came in and it promised a fun and challenging way  to scavenge and coin some money.  It also offered an entire  new world of shopping.  So I did that too.  I dare not show you what that became.  Suffice it to say you could you could replace lost childhood, recreate memories and fill up a room really, really fast.

And then came Amazon.  Resistance to betraying the bricks and mortar book stores lasted about as long as it took to find some obscure title you just remembered you had wanted at the local bookstore but didn’t have the money.

And then Dot.Coms.  Domains you needed just because it was cyber real-estate and cheap and the ones you created were better than any of the others.  They weren’t actually,  but your chuckle-bait portfolio let you sleep with a smile on your face.  Some re-sold for lots of money.  The others float around, cluttering up cyber-space.  With mine.

Wikipedia was faster than the Funk & Wagnall’s and the info was free and cited well.  Hard to argue with that – and I don’t.  As a kid who read the F&W from A to Z – I appreciated Wiki for its convenience and it did not take up shelf space.

So where I am heading?  I bet you can guess.

First let me ask if you saw Walt Disney’s  Fantasia?   I cried when the dinosaurs died.  But the part that stays with me and endures was “The Sorceror’s Apprentice”.  A cautionary tale set to music and fully illustrating what happens when what seemed to be a boost in productivity went terribly wrong.

When Mark  Z. and his chums were trying to find a way to keep up to date at Harvard for the purpose of socializing and rating women, here was Mickey all dressed in his sorcerer’s outfit.  I like to imagine he had no idea what he was about to unleash on the planet (and I often wonder what the Winkelvoss twins might have done differently).  But unleash it he did into the lives of a species known for murder and mayhem, sectarian wars and bigotry and everything recorded history has shown us.  Clearly a species that has veered into a nether world of non-evolution to something better and brighter on a small spinning rock – presumed to be the only one of its kind.    And beside the obscene amount of money he made from this loosing of the beast the things he has taken –  perhaps without intent – are so hideous and vile that we cannot unlearn them because the hits just keep on coming.  The need to know it all. ufettered, unconfined, uncensored.  Ungraded for good or bad. You decide.

Curiosity; prurient interest. The supposed wisdom and stupidity of the world is as close as your electronic device.  WOW.  Privacy?  You are being watched, listened to and tracked all the time.  Siri and Alexa, the evil twins, do as they are asked; but they can also listen in.  They haven’t nailed dreams yet – but I reckon they will.  You hadda’ have a cell phone (I didn’t, but many did) and that little device (in its cute little case) knows exactly where you are most of the time.  Many folks have their entire life history, pictures, account numbers, phone number and  passwords stored somewhere on that cute little genie in their pocket or purse.   Love to text?  Admissible as evidence in many courtrooms; if you lie it’s there and if you don’t, you’re unique.  I don’t text.   The damn thing does everything but fly.  A worse catastrophe than maiming or death is the loss of the cell.  A new level of panic ensues and it ain’t pretty.   Muscular thumbs may also change glove size.  Parents who won’t let their kids watch TV  love baby iPads. Start them early not learning.   Eliminate curiosity, discovery and amazement.   Someone far more intelligent and educated that you are will make sure they learn  everything right away.  And if you have a curious, life-like child – they may very well try to find out things, on their own, as they grow. But I can promise  you that what we called curiosity will be replaced by instant gratification.  Shopping.  All kinds of shopping.  Attention  Lunch Ladies  Browsing, giggling with friends, trying on clothes, squeezing the produce and  finding the last one at a sale is fading into legend.  Summon Proust.   Now you can sail your boat up to some stores and the ‘bosun’ will deliver it dockside. ( this and carry to the car may create new jobs, but they won’t pay much and will surely teach folks to pander for tips).  Faster service.  In some businesses an algorithm evaluates your efficiency –  you are screwed if it finds you a sloth and out you go.  Likely to soon be replaced by AI – they work for nothing and don’t have families to feed.

These are  both the more important and pedestrian things that will fade away.  They will soon ‘what we all do’.  We haven’t even explored the really bad stuff yet.  Social Media.  Invasive Cyber Warfare might describe it better. Learn to hack and rule the planet (or destroy it faster – could go either way, neither of them very appealing.) Pref-schoolers may one day CODE.  It cannot be that hard because so many idiots can do it – but it is more lethal than the Black Mamba, Ebola and plague (choose your favorite).  Hackers are not given enough credit for the havoc they have wreaked.  “Oh, it was hacked”.  Ho-hum. Seriously – the relatively easy ability to code with malicious intent should scare humanity to death.  You read the headlines.  No one is exempt, immune or safe from malware.  It topples political systems, thus nations, spreads lies, encourages bigotry and all this at breakneck speed.Coupled with drones – practice finding places to hide.  Luddites take a lot of razzing, but they also may survive.

Time out for my own favorite:  Our friend the ALGORITHM.  Here is a definition I like:

An algorithm is a step by step method of solving a problem. It is commonly used for data processing, calculation and other related computer and mathematical operations. An algorithm is also used to manipulate data in various ways, such as inserting a new data item, searching for a particular item or sorting an item.

The last sentence is particularly important.  ‘Manipulate data” is essentially where the future lies.  Add it to instant transmission and subject to interpretion by human beings – it is control.  And this folks, is what is happening. This is the point of the entire essay.  We have given up control, minute by minute, everyday we relinquish our independent thoughts to information sources as honest or dishonest as the humans and their algorithms can create.

So your cellphone is NOT secure.  Your decisions are not all your own and your actions are being influenced every second by power disguised as memes, cute little toys, convenience items, chat rooms for friends to meet and chat, dating sites and standbys like your doctor, the post office, the Fed, voting booth and things we don’t even know about.  Money, power, control, indoctrination are just a few ways it works.  Religion, politics, your town hall and the list just goes on and on.

It cannot be stopped because it has made us so dependent we can’t imagine life without it.  We cannot unknow it nor unsee it..  And it may have been intended for a future better equipped to utilize and exist  But it is now,  It is incurable, viral and despite Elon Musk’s race to Mars – all my sci-fi reading convinces me – we won’t be relocating anytime soon.  We are so entranced with destroying our planet – and while it may be sooner than you think – there really is no place to start from scratch.

Jonathan Gold July 24, 2018

Posted by voolavex in loss, Social Issues.
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Jonathan Gold, my friend and the voice of food in Los Angeles died on July 21, 2018.  He was 57 years old.  His more famous associates have been heard from in glowing tributes from all over, but without Jonathan, my partner and I would not have been foodies and writers and publishers in the 80’s, when food was first reimagined in Los Angeles.   Rita Garlington and I were  (and are) best friends who decided to brave the waters of Los Angeles public relations and by accident, we found ourselves with food clients. What started as a boutique PR firm in West Hollywood became LA ala Carte and The Food Source Hotline.  The PR business was already staked out by more established publicists (and better-heeled) and it was a very hard world to crack.   In retrospect, I am not sure if we ever did crack it, because we are never mentioned in the many memoirs of the first foodie wave – but in a short span of a few years in the 80’s – we too were voices of food. But this is not our story as much as it is a memory of Jonathan Gold, without whom  – we would never been – even for a few years, part of the original food fame of this city.

I thought this would be easier to write.  I imagined the words would flow because writers write.  I am a fine eulogist but there are some losses that take the words away.  What I do remember is the Hyperion offices of L.A. Weekly and Jonathan, my partner Rita and I writing The Best of L.A.  (the two of us who had no clue about computers).  I remember Jonathan in his British army trousers (wool) and his bare feet. We had a very good time.  I remember a pizza panel and tasting at his apartment near Vermont Avenue.  A distinguished panel we were – but the only person whose name I remember was Robin Green.  I remember both Rita and me speaking to Jonathan on the phone often and he always answered his end with a “yo”.  Long before “yo” was part of our vernacular. They had both been from the same neighborhood. I remember his wedding to Laurie at Campanile.    And my fondest memory of Counter Intelligence,  his column in the Weekly, was the one written entirely in the style of Gael Greene.  I suspect we had recently been discussing ostentation in food writing, but as I read it, I was laughing too hard to care its source. As he wrote at the end:  “I was truly transported”.   Rita and I have been trying to remember exactly how Jonathan came into our lives. Likely the Foodsource Hotline. But I suspect it doesn’t matter much. He was our friend, our inspiration and always our cheerleader.  He won the Pulitzer Prize – damn skippy he did.  And deserved it. He married his true love, Laurie Ochoa and had two lovely children.

And then he was gone.  Suddenly.  Leaving us bereft and hungry for much more.

For Whom the Yarzheit the Glows June 8, 2018

Posted by voolavex in Jesus, Jews, Jews, Social Issues, Tributes, Yarhzeits.
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Yesterday a friend posted this moving tribute and memory of his late sister Jill who died one year ago June 7th. breast cancer.  

Our tribe lights candles called yarzheits every year to remember, with love, those who have passed on. He told me I could share it and so I have done here.  This stopped my heart for its shining light and the love he felt for his sister.  Here is his memory of  Jill Kogen Arons, from the heart of her brother Jay Kogen. 

‘It’s been a year since, my sister, Jill Arons died of breast cancer. And, now, with 12 months to reflect on what she meant to our lives, it can be boiled down to one thing: Jill was weird.

Growing up in an upper-middle-class Jewish house our parents exposed us to what you’d expect — sophisticated movies, literature, TV shows, the great American songbook, and the higher end of culture. Occasionally they liked to dress up and go to fancy restaurants in Beverly Hills and socialize with funny comedy friends. They liked trips to New York and Europe. As a kid, Jill liked none of those things. She liked Chocolate Frosted Pop-Tarts, Monopoly, KROQ, needlepoint, symmetrical rainbow art, and boys with long hair. She liked bowling and bingo and the Saugus Speedway to see stock car races and the Demolition Derby. My parents were shocked and baffled. Instead of a Jewish American Princess, they were raising a Hillbilly and I hated having her for my big sister.

How could someone so different and be a Kogen?  Jill preferred Disneyland to New York. McDonald’s to Chasens. Las Vegas to, well, anywhere. When the rest of the family was into “A Chorus Line,” Jill loved “Jesus Christ Superstar” about the death and resurrection of Jesus. My parents were concerned that she wasn’t getting the Jewish cultural indoctrination they hoped. But it wasn’t Christianity she loved. I think she thought Ted Nealy was hot. Still, she wasn’t that into being Jewish either. That was clear the year she begged for and got my parents to put up a Christmas Tree.  Jews didn’t have Christmas Trees but we did. Jill insisted. We put an odd spiral cone at the top instead of a star but everyone knew it was not a Hanukah Bush. People don’t put presents under the “bush” and open them on Christmas morning.

Jill was big on presents. Giving and getting. She liked them wrapped and plentiful. This may have stemmed from her birthday is three days before Christmas and she often got one gift for both days from people. She wanted two like everyone else. She didn’t care about big-ticket items. She just wanted the present to reflect her. The best thing I ever got her was a case of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese when she was 13 because that is all she ever ate for years. She LOVED that gift because that’s who she was. Her all-pasta and fake cheese diet was a deficit to others, but she wore the badge of picky eater proudly. If she got Jewelry or a fancy sweater she’d smile politely but we all knew that wasn’t really for Jill. That was for another imaginary Kogen daughter who didn’t exist. Jill didn’t like shopping or designer clothes. She liked the LA Kings and Magic Mountain and dating a guy who was almost 30 when she was 16. Some people march to the beat of their own drum.  Jill River-danced to the whine of her own bagpipe.

Jill was fearless, and unstoppably her own person. She dropped out of Cal-Arts, got married and had a kid at a ridiculously young age, ran a typesetting business and eventually went to work at the Bingo Bugle. That was a life path attempted by no one else from Encino, ever. I, of course, took the safe and pre-approved path of going to UCLA and then getting a job in show business. While I was bending to the mold my parents unconsciously created for me, my sister was breaking the mold. She was a pioneer. And if you knew Jill, you’d know she didn’t make a big deal about doing her thing. She just did it, stubbornly moving forward. Jill’s dreams just happened like they were inevitable. And on the few occasions when they didn’t work out, like her first marriage, she dusted herself off and moved forward.

Jill was goofy. Little things made her happy. Literally. She collected tiny bottles of ketchup and other miniature stuff. She also loved items that had “AS SEEN ON TV!” on the box. Snuggies and Hallmark Collector Sets and knickknacks were her jam. I think she also collected small bottles of jam. Admittedly she wasn’t the most motherly of mothers but somehow she managed to raise one of the best people of all time, her daughter Samantha. This may have to do with one of her greatest super powers. Jill was honest… very very honest. If I gained weight she’d asked why I gained so much weight. If I lost out on a Job she’d never beat around the bush. She’d asked if I was sad I didn’t get the job. Good or bad, Jill called it like it was. It was never said with malice or jealousy, always with love in her eyes, but she wasn’t putting up with anyone’s bullshit. If you had a zit or a divorce it was going to get talked about. If you had a victory, that was going to get some airtime too. And in her honesty, she was one of the funniest people I ever met.

Comedy in my family is highly prized. It’s a big deal. It was so big I went into the business and my style was formal and calculated. Jill was naturally funny because she saw the truth and talked about it. She knew it was a little crazy so she laughed and that made the rest of us laugh. She had hope and joy.

She moved to Canyon Country because that deep suburban world was the good life to her. She met and married her amazing husband Rich on J-Date, (maybe the only time she identified as Jewish) and it was a great match. How could it not be? Rich knew exactly who he was getting from the first date. Maybe this is why he fell in love. Jill was always Jill. She had the clear-eyed authenticity I was never brave enough to employ.

Our relationship had twists and turns. When I was a baby, Jill adored me. She loved my little fingers and toes. She liked to dress me up in weird outfits. She liked to play games with me. She thought I was a cute toy. I was kind of shy and didn’t speak much. I was kind of like a cute toy to her. But then, at some point, maybe around 5, I started talking. And from that point on we started fighting and didn’t stop until she moved out when she was around 18. I know why we were at odds. I was the goody-goody to my parents, which made her seem more out of step. I made it harder for Jill to be Jill and part of me knew what I was doing. She liked to claim I was secretly bad. She said I pushed her out of a moving car on the way to Camp Fun Time. She did fall out of the car but I didn’t push. My bad was more covert. I might tell on her or act out in ways that were just short of the line where I could get in trouble. She always compared me to Tad Martin on “All My Children.” If you know the show, he wasn’t a nice guy. One day when I was 16 she chased me out of the house with a steak knife in her hand, which I’m sure was a fight I started. I thought we’d always be like prisoners in a family chain gang, uncomfortably forced together for our entire lives. But then once she moved out we suddenly became friends. I’m not sure how it happened. Our differences seemed to melt away. I finally saw Jill for the fearless warrior she was and she liked me because I still had stubby fingers.

She finally took an interest in show business when I went into it. We took a few excursions together. Went to concerts. We watched our hometown hockey team, the Kings, finally win the Stanley Cup. (Jill was a fan since she was 10. And one year, my parents arranged to have some of the Kings including Butch Goring sing her happy birthday and bring out a cake at the Forum Club.) We rented a boat on July 4th a few times to watch fireworks. We talked about taking other trips together in recent years but it never happened because I couldn’t find the time and part of me didn’t want to spend a week at “The Biggest Loser” camp.

In the last half of her life, this rebel was the rock of our family. Jill took care of all of us, especially my mom and dad. She would find tricks and coupons and the best life hacks for all situations. If you were going to Istanbul she’d tell you where to go even though she’d never have been there. She’d find a website or forum and get you the coolest tour for the Hagia Sophia that includes snacks. There was nothing she couldn’t become an expert on fairly quickly. She became the keeper of technology and finance for my parents. She knew all the passwords and had trackers on everyone’s phones. When she wanted to learn something new, she took charge and did it. One year, she decided she hated paying someone to do her taxes so she took classes on doing taxes and did it herself. (I think she was even a notary.) And she took pleasure in the things she loved: her family, husband, Samantha’s dog, and online coupons. And she did all this with clear-eyed Joy. One of her greatest qualities was being able to see the good in the simple fun things in life. She didn’t need to exaggerate what was happening to make anything seems cooler or more impactful to make it worth doing. No drama. Just reality. Real sorrow when things sucked and real joy when things were good. Mostly there was joy.

Even when the breast cancer came, she kept her spirits up. She did what the doctors said and waited for good news, which ultimately never arrived, but she plowed ahead anyway. Through painful surgeries and chemo and radiation that ravaged her body she somehow got through it hoping for new treatments to save her but the disease beat the cure. The day she decided to start hospice she met it with the usual combination of complete honesty, humor, and a determination to get on with the journey. She talked about hoping there was a heaven and joked about how embarrassing it will be to see some of the relatives we didn’t like but how great it would be to see the people we loved and missed. In those last days, we watched movies and game shows when she wasn’t sleeping or trying to move to a position that wasn’t painful. She didn’t go out of her way to be anything more than what she was, a person who loved us who was dying. She was honest about that too.

So it’s been exactly a year since Jill left us. The hole in my heart is as big as ever. We all miss her. But her legacy remains. She’s a beacon of truth and joy and beauty that I will forever hold up as a role model for how to live — free and daring and authentic. She became one of my best friends. I could never ask for a better big sister.

This is a week of yahrzeits for me too.  I wish I had the eloquence of Jay Kogen to say how I feel about those I have lost  But he allowed me to share this and it is exquisite.  As the Boston Irish say – “Gawd love ya”.

And I must add – Jill,  your brother is one of my favorite people.  Rest in peace, look down from the cosmos and know he is still being loved as he loved you and Gawd, this is starting to sound Jesusy.  Thank you, Jay.

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