Sunday, July 24, 2016

HOLY DAYS - Luke Was Real

Most of the questions I get from readers about my novel Holy Days are personal, about my experiences. However, some readers have asked me about a couple of seemingly far-fetched elements in the book – namely the bow and arrow and the handsome young Italian who seems to step out of Romeo & Juliet (Luke was more of a Tybalt than a Romeo) right into Holy Days.

I wrote Holy Days almost exactly as it happened. I had to. In order to do justice to what happened and how it happened. To do justice for the victims. I did not want to change the truth. 

*First, I’ll address the bow and arrow. A few readers have said the bow and arrow seemed to appear out of nowhere. “What a surprise!” I wondered if they’d been paying attention? As a young girl, Gloria was enamored of the Robin Hood story. She loved Robin, and Maid Marion, whom the story told, was a better rider and marksman than Robin. Gloria found the words wonderfully beautiful. She found the ideals courageous and powerful. Gloria, after being raped, regresses somewhat into the comfort and strength she found in childhood in the noble beauty of the Robin Hood legend. The night of the rape, Gloria falls asleep with her body wrapped around her old Robin Hood book so tightly, she wakes with cramped arms. The next day, when her friend is molested in broad daylight on a crowded street, Gloria is furious; she runs after the man clutching the long bow she just bought. So passionate and distraught is she that she forgets she has it and nearly trips over it. Remembering, Gloria stands and readies the weapon. Gloria had to use the bow and arrow. No other weapon would have sufficed because Gloria commits a hero’s murder and she needed a hero’s weapon. The truth of the matter is that the molestation really happened and I ran after the molester. I obviously did not have a long bow and arrows or you would have heard about it.

Now, our young man, Luke.

It may be astounding to my readers, but Luke was real. I was his teacher, not his love. Such an amazing person really did appear in my classroom on the first day of my student teaching. He really was from Italy. He really had long, dark hair. He really was 20 and turned 21 during the school year. The other kids really did love him. They were a wonderful class, full of joy and affection for each other. It was a revelation to me to witness how they treated one another, as I had mostly known spite and violence. They really kidded him gently about his name, which was not Luke, but in its formal expression did sound feminine like Luciano. He really was working as a shoe repair guy and he really planned to return to Italy against his father’s wishes. His girl friend really did not want to go back with him, which caused him pain and confusion. She really preferred to enjoy her material success as a Firestone tire saleswoman. Luke really drove a classic red Alfa Romeo of which he was very proud.

The real Luke inspired me. He showed me that living another kind of life other than the one expected of you was a possibility. (Sometimes I think he was an angel sent by God to show me another way to live.) I developed him into a character because I wanted Gloria to have someone unique. Someone younger than she, someone to inspire hope for the future, someone with a fresh outlook, someone brave and smart enough to take her on, someone who desired a simple, natural life. I never would have believed such a young man existed in reality if I had not met him myself. Luke was real. He was really fine, really intelligent, really sweet. Quiet, and more serious than the others. I never forgot him. I gave him to Gloria.

*Note: Holy Days was finished in 1996. Obviously, I wrote the murder scene long before The Hunger Games books (2008) were written. Not crazy about sharing my hero’s weapon, but I’ll be gracious to a fellow writer.

©Patricia Goodwin, 2016

Patricia Goodwin is the author of When Two Women Die, about Marblehead legends and true crime and its sequel, Dreamwater, about the Salem witch trials and the vicious 11-year-old pirate Ned Low. Holy Days is her third novel, about the sexual, psychological seduction of Gloria Wisher and her subsequent transformation.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Will Hillary Save the Bees?

"I believe in America."

The first line of "The Godfather." We hear it in the dark.

I am from a family of Italian immigrants who brought their knowledge and appreciation for good food with them to America. Growing up, we always had wonderful, real, natural food. My mother would not serve anything that, in her words, “came from a factory.” That included boxed breakfast cereals, candy bars, cake mixes, and the like. She was known to forage in open fields for dandelion greens. That is, when what she called “white people,” i.e., rich people, weren’t looking. My uncles, her brothers, would bring us cuts from wheels of cheese and thick papers full of meats from the North End markets of Boston. The egg man dropped off our eggs every week. I was fascinated by the feathers that fell from his clothes. Hot pepper came from my grandmother’s garden, about five feet of space rescued from the concrete backyard, as did arugula and tomatoes. I grew pumpkins when I was old enough to teach myself how, but my mother liked to steal the blooms to sauté with eggs in olive oil and garlic, these we shoved into our eager mouths on crisp Italian bread.

None of us could have, would have, perceived what we are facing now. A blank screen.

"The Godfather" is perhaps the most perfect movie ever made. Brought to you by the people who brought you the Renaissance. Italians. The people who also believe in food, WHO STILL HAVE REAL FOOD in their old country, Italy. The Italians, everyone will agree, brought the most wonderous food to America – I don’t need to tell you, but I will just to make you drool – pizza, spaghetti, lasagna, ravioli, wine, olive oil, bread, cheese, prosciutto, cannoli, rum cake, gelato – are you hungry yet? And, by the way, I’m not talking about fast food. Real Italian food, made from scratch with whole, fresh ingredients from traditional farms. Have you ever eaten a cannoli made without trans fats? The filling made with real Italian cream, the shell made with real Italian butter? 

I doubt it. Unless you went to Italy for it.

In Italy, the Vatican has its own self-sufficient farm, called Castel Gandolfo, 136 acres south of Rome, containing the papal summer residence, formal flower gardens, woods, hay fields, its own working farm and dairy, and its own papal bees. Pope Francis, who will not be summering at Castel, has opened the farm to the public for tours. Visitors may see the papal beekeeper, Marco Tullio Cicero, tending the hives and gathering honey.

 Marco Tullio Cicero, Papal Beekeeper

Since growing up with wondrous fresh foods, I have long admired the self-sufficient farm. I have a picture in my kitchen of a self-sufficient manor home, gardens and farm that I love to look at, and try to emulate as much as possible. It has been a constant vigilance, sometimes requiring that I travel several miles to get good quality food.

Until now. Now, I find it even more difficult to find good food than it was in the ‘60s when the closest thing to a vegan meal you could find in a restaurant was a house salad and a tuna fish sandwich on white bread. For a time, since the cultural revolution of natural foods in the ‘70s, we enjoyed far-reaching vegetarian treats like hummus and tabouli, and we were blessed with fresh vegetables, fish and eggs from relatively clean soil, water and GMO-free farms. Fish used to be fished out of a clean ocean. 

Now, I find that our fish, meat, and eggs are factory-farmed. Farmed salmon are fed GMO corn mash, pigs, chickens and cows are fed GMO soy, most dairy contains BHT, bovine growth hormones, which are illegal in Europe. Farm animals are kept under horrid conditions making factory farms dangerous and toxic, and all of these poisons are in the fish and meats and eggs and are being transferred to our bodies every day. 

Only organics can save the day. But, organics are under attack. Organic standards need to be safeguarded by watch-dog orgs like Organic Consumers Association, Food and Water Watch, Food Democracy Now, Institute for Responsible Technology, and the Cornucopia Institute, among others. The Clinton administration, in 1998, tried to contaminate organic standards by allowing sewage sludge, GMOs and irradiation to be included in organics. Such efforts to eliminate, or, at least, discredit organics are still going on. In 2014, Alexis Baden-Meyer, Political Director of the Organic Consumers Association, was physically pulled out of a National Organic Standards meeting in San Antonio, Texas and arrested for protesting the proposed contamination of organics with synthetic materials.

Think of it, if organics are contaminated, we will be left with only toxic GMOs, toxic factory farms and toxic sick-care to battle the health problems that are already here and will surely only get worse – illnesses like ulcers, ADHD and other behavioral problems, autism, allergies, and cancer. Bill Gates, a GMO advocate, is already trying to buy The Svalbard Seed Vault. Monsanto is buying up organic, heirloom seed companies as part of the conspiracy to undermine organics. Harvard has been working on RoboBees intended to replace the intricate and miraculous bee that God gave us. 

I ask you - How long can the human race survive on astronaut paste?

That’s the nightmare.

Back to the dream, the Pontifical Gardens at Castel Gandolfo, the self-sufficient farm and the papal bees. 

Einstein is reported to having said, “When the bees go extinct, mankind will follow.” Of course, the Internet exploded with denials. “Einstein never said that! We have no evidence that Einstein ever said that.”

I have a feeling the statement is a lot older than Einstein and was probably uttered by Pliny the Elder, or Nostradamus, or Friar Lawrence or Juliette de Baïracli Levy or some other great, ancient gardener, healer and herbalist. Though, why on earth should they ever have imagined a world without bees? Why would Einstein?

Beekeepers, right now, are taking measures to save the bees – and their efforts are working. More bee hives, more beekeepers, more organic methods. In China, hundreds of sincere, hardworking pear growers stood on ladders and used feathers to coax the pollen into the blossoms. Bees were driven in to Maine – Maine has 60% bee loss – to pollinate the blueberry crop. Those bees died. The nightmare keeps creeping in.

"A growing body of evidence has pointed to one class of pesticides in particular, neonicotinoids, as the culprit to the massive bee die-offs. In fact, the European Union banned the three most widely used neonicotinoids in 2o13, but they are still used widely in the U.S."  - EcoWatch

Bees are the tiniest, sweetest little computers. They are probably the most programed species on the planet. Programed by the DNA they take in, programed to perform a certain way. A way that feeds us. Without the bees, we will no longer have onions and garlic (Italians, can you imagine a kitchen without onions and garlic?), fruit, many vegetables, trees, and flowers. Human life will change dramatically, if it is able to continue at all. We can only imagine the ramifications, the ripple, the butterfly effect of such a tragic loss to the natural world.

I have another statement:

“Whoever saves the bees will save mankind.” I said it.

The tiny, buzzing, inconsequential bee. The bee represents so much right now. Like a marvelous superhero, whoever saves the bees will also save America and the planet. That President will save the trees, the waters, the soil, the air and the sky. He – or she - will save the future.

Which Presidential candidate will save the bees? That’s who will have my vote.

It’s well known that the people who were voting for Bernie Sanders were voting for Mother Nature. Alas, Bernie has endorsed and all but passed the torch to Hillary Clinton. But, did Bernie stand a chance? And, if he had become President, would he have had a seven-ton elephant sitting on his chest?

What about Hillary and Trump?

There’s absolutely no reason why the other candidates can’t step up. Except, of course, their beliefs.

The media right now keeps asking the same questions over and over about Hillary’s campaign funds, from which oil and gas drilling and fracking machine did she take money? But the media is asking the wrong question. It’s not about the money. It’s about Hillary’s beliefs. Does Hillary believe in fracking for the future of energy? or for the future of Hillary? She wants to be the first woman President. She wants to be President. Fracking, we’ve discovered, is causing earthquakes. Hillary could blow us up surer than Trump with his nuclear bombs.

Hillary, step out of your hazmat suit and save us! Hillary is the only candidate who has the power. The brain power as well as the strength and the know-how. Will you, Hillary return to your common sense grass roots mission of long ago, shake your head and get your thoughts straight? Right now the common sense is to go along with corporate giants to get what you want. But, think of the future. Think of Chelsea and how she helped Bill change his diet and lifestyle to improve his health! From the most practical aspect, common sense for the future demands an organic approach. You know. You. Know. Deep down, you know.

Dump the frackers! Embrace solar! The sun, Hillary, the sun! Pure reflection! And, what about the currents in San Francisco Bay that could generate enough power to light up the city forever – and then some! The Vivace Tubes, Hillary, can you imagine?

Be the first President to harness clean energy! Tear off that hazmat suit! Go solar! Go organic! You will be our Super-Hero President, our Wonder Woman!

If only she would! But, here’s the problem – if a person still eats badly, that person still thinks badly. Eating regular American food leads you to believe in GMOs, fast food, prepared food-like substances. You’ll think: It can’t be that bad, “they” wouldn’t let us eat it. I remember one person’s comment online: “Do you mean to tell me that our food is making us sick and health care is just raking in the profits on the other end?” Ah, yup.

Trump wouldn’t know real food from fake food. Take cheese, for instance. If he orders cheese at home, it probably won’t be made out of trans-fats or plastics. If he orders a cheeseburger on the campaign trail, he has to eat like the rest of us. Would he know the difference? I doubt it. While driving through Iowa, Trump waved his hand out the window at fields of GMO corn and said, “Look at this! Look at this! Beautiful! This is America!”  After what Trump did in Aberdeen, Scotland – see the film "You’ve Been Trumped" – he destroyed a lovely eco-system for a golf course that no one goes to – there’s a special place in hell for anyone who pulls up trees by their roots and buries them head-first underground.

Trump is hopeless. He’s not smart enough to understand the significance of organics. I can’t imagine Trump actually visualizing the importance of such a tiny thing as a bee. He’d swat a bee. He’d say, very Bush-like, when Bush was asked about the polar bears – “There’s plenty of polar bears!” or Reagan about forest conservation – “A tree's a tree. How many more do you need to look at?” Trump would say, “There’s lots of bees! Tons o’ bees, tons! Look at this great country! Fields and fields of corn!”

But, Hillary is smart enough. She. Is. Smart.

I believe in America. I believe in Nature. I believe in Organics.

Who will stand up for the bees? Who will stand up to defend the bees – in effect, to defend what God gave us? To defend God?

Hillary, it’s up to you. 

Hillary, step out of your hazmat suit! I challenge you as a mother, as future Queen Bee, as The First Woman President of the United States of America. Will you nurture us or throw us to the corporate wolves?

I believe in America.

I want to believe.

UPDATE: The 2012 Swiss documentary "More Than Honey," currently streaming on Netflix,  suggests that, in a kind of bee justice, we are now left with African bees, a stronger fiercer breed than the gentler European bee that is dying out. African bees - not to be confused with "Killer Bees" which are a cross between European and African bees - make honey, can survive on scant resources and are more able to defend themselves against disease. The film's narrator comments, "Are the bees finally striking back, or are they helpless in their hour of need?" Some beekeepers, like Fred Terry of Terry's Apiaries, Oracle, AZ have embraced the African bee as a solution to Colony Collapse Disorder. 

©Patricia Goodwin, 2016

Patricia Goodwin is the author of When Two Women Die, about Marblehead legends and true crime and its sequel, Dreamwater, about the Salem witch trials and the vicious 11-year-old pirate Ned Low. Holy Days is her third novel, about the sexual, psychological seduction of Gloria Wisher and her subsequent transformation. Patricia also writes about the benefits of Organic Foods and the dangers of GMOs on her blog, see for Blog Archives and other posts about health.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Happy Valley’s Catherine Cawood: From Unsung Hero to New Archetype

I shouldn’t say Catherine Cawood, the heroine of the BBC/Netflix series Happy Valley, is unsung, because literally she is sung in the opening theme song - “In this trouble town/trouble I’ve found.” written and sung by Jake Bugg. Maybe I’m old, but if you take the time to find Jake Bugg, he seems incredibly young; his youth and plaintive voice just make the words more poignant.

I want to talk about Catherine and the other characters in Happy Valley as characters, even real people, not as actors in a show, though, in order to talk about the show at all, I have to identify it. I want to talk about Catherine as we experience her.

When we first see Catherine in the opening scene, she is trying to talk down a despondent young fellow about to light himself on fire – “I’m Catherine by the way. I’m 47, divorced, I live with my sister who’s a recovering heroin addict. I have two grown up children; one dead and one who doesn’t speak to me, and a grandson. So… It’s complicated. Let’s talk about you.”

Catherine’s younger sister, Clare is Catherine’s caregiver. Clare is really the only one who reaches out to help Catherine. To hear Clare tell it, she looks to Catherine who “has been taking care of everyone” since Clare was 13 and Catherine was 15, when their father and mother died.

Clare does the cooking and housework, while Catherine fights crime. Clare also volunteers at a local mission. Catherine’s grandson, Ryan is a handful, often getting into trouble at school. Ryan is the child of the rape of Catherine’s daughter, who hung herself soon after his birth. Catherine is still mourning her. The rapist, Tommy Lee Royce is just out of prison for drug dealing, not for the rape. Catherine, and Happy Valley, are about to endure more pain and suffering at his hands. As it is, Catherine finds only one thing to be too hard for her – to remain happy for more than a few moments.

Have you ever seen a burned out woman weep? She sobs for three seconds, then she’s done. Just enough to let the pressure out.

That’s how Catherine Cawood cries. Not for herself, mind you, but out of frustration at not being able to help a victim.

I know that Catherine Cawood is more than a hero, more than a role model. If I had to search for a word, I would say, Catherine Cawood is a new archetype. But, an archetype of what? I want to say matriarch.

I will say matriarch. I don’t know if the producers of Happy Valley will find the term sufficiently sexy. Catherine is definitely sexy. Her blonde hair is tousled, though an attempt has been made to tie it neatly back. Her face is just barely hanging on to pretty. Her figure appears tall and full, long-legged. She’s indulging herself in a secret affair with her ex-husband. Attractive men from her past seem to react sexually to her presence, getting somewhat nervous and awkward when they speak to her up close.

Catherine strikes me as a kind of Amazonian Matriarch. Natural and powerful. When I watch her, I don’t get distracted by false eyelashes, ridiculously tight leather pants or voluminous hair extensions. When I watch Catherine Cawood, I think about what she is thinking.

Catherine is not a detective. She is a soldier. Not a foot soldier, a sergeant. We never see her posing with her gun because Catherine doesn’t carry a gun. She is armed only with her intelligence, her bravery, her strength, and, oddly, her vulnerability – oh, and a stick, a torch and a spray. She doesn’t want to be a detective because she doesn’t want to sit behind a desk, or leave the action of the street. I believe she wants, hands on, to take care of the people.

Catherine should be Queen.

Catherine is a good listener. She listens to everyone. She knows the truth can come from any random source, and usually does. Her sister has broken a case, her son has. Information has come to Catherine from all sides, and she has listened. And seen the connection. I love that about Catherine – that she can see connections where others can’t, usually her superiors. But, she isn’t rogue. And, man, is she quick! Tell her a thing once, and she’s off! Whether the culprit is a drunk police official in a traffic accident or a drug-dealer on an ice cream truck, Catherine doesn’t mind looking foolish or taking a beating. When she’s not in her uniform, Catherine tends to slouch. She’s not graceful, she’s a bit awkward, stumbling a lot, head down, watch cap, natty scarf, down jacket; Catherine holds her head up when she’s in her uniform. Her aging face is beautiful. But, she’s, to coin a phrase, “beat up.” Quite literally. When she appears at a party with a shiner, she mumbles proudly, “It’s just work.”

While Catherine is not unsung, she does remind me of all the everyday, unsung heroes: the nurse who delivered my daughter when the doctor refused to come down because a first time mother “couldn’t be ready yet”; the EMT who leaned over my wounded, bleeding husband and told me, “You have to be strong now. He needs you to be strong.” probably recognizing that I was about to cave, that I’d always relied on him for strength, just by one glance in my direction, she summed me up. Those are just two I heroes know of, two out of all the millions of women who do their job every day and night, helping people, saving lives, giving courage by grace of their own courage.

Catherine is not a superhero. She has no superpowers. She does not fly through the air, nor breath fire, or change the weather. She’d probably get a kick out of it, if she could.

But, Catherine is more than an everyday hero. She is an archetype. An ideal. In a way, she does have superpowers – her intelligence, bravery, strength, vulnerability, all mentioned before – and, her endurance. If she’s knocked down, and she’s been knocked down plenty, she just keeps getting up again.

Catherine also reminds me of the female Boston Irish cabdriver, who made an offhand remark that became famous while she remained anonymous, “Oh, honey, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” She declared this homage one night in the turbulent ‘60s, to her passengers, who happened to be Gloria Steinem and Fay Kennedy.

Catherine is capable of making such a remark, and forgetting it the next instant because she’s on to something else, something equally earth-shattering.

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
The world would split open.”  Muriel Rukeyser

I worship Catherine Cawood. If she knew me, she’d have none of it, for Catherine does not suffer fools, nor does she think very highly of herself. She’d say, “I’m just doin’ me job.” But, since watching Happy Valley, Season 2, I am in awe of her.

Here’s a wonderful exchange between Ann Gallagher and Catherine Cawood:

Ann: “I know I’m pissed [Pissed is Brit for drunk], but, do you know what I think God is? I think God is like this collective goodness that’s in all of us. In someone like you. It’s like you have so much of this goodness. This bigness. It’s like you embody what God is.”

Catherine: “Omnipotent and ubiquitous. God, I’m good.”

Ann and Catherine have a deep relationship, not a sexual relationship, more like the deep bond that arises between two soldiers in combat. I cannot elaborate further without giving away the story, but Ann has very good reason to feel the way she does about Catherine, and Catherine, about her.

Yes, I am in awe. I am transfixed by Catherine’s blue eyes, at the end of the last episode, gazing off into the future thinking, what? What is she thinking? Is she thinking about possibly killing her grandson, the one who broke up her marriage, drove her daughter to commit suicide, the kid whose dad is a deviant criminal still powerful and manipulating from his prison cell? Will she have to do what she just discovered her friend had had to do, assassinate her own flesh and blood because he turned out, finally, despite all her love and care and teaching, to be a monster like his father? Is that what she’s thinking?

Season 3. Please, Season 3.

©Patricia Goodwin, 2016

Patricia Goodwin is the author of When Two Women Die, about Marblehead legends and true crime and its sequel, Dreamwater, about the Salem witch trials and the vicious 11-year-old pirate Ned Low. Holy Days is her third novel, about the sexual, psychological seduction of Gloria Wisher and her subsequent transformation.