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                                                  Doubts

   
    Of course we’re doing what you’re doing, watching more “stuff” on our screens. A few days ago we came across “The Making of West Side Story” on YouTube. Coincidentally Elizabeth had just pulled the movie out of our dusty collection of DVDs the same day planning for a viewing some evening, early enough so that the songs wouldn’t stick in our heads while we tried to get to sleep. (Too late of course, we’ve each been through half the score already. Memory is a powerful thing.)
    The “Making of…” is a wonderful viewing experience. Not only are there reflections from some of the original cast members (Chita Rivera, Russ Tamblyn, and George Chickiras among them) but there are performances by new cast members, yes “new”! They were, at the time this YouTube video was made, planning on a revival and it happened in February this year. But now with Broadway dark, who knows if it will reopen when New York does? There was rumor of a new movie version too, but that has been shut down too.
    When I first heard about the re-do I thought it was a terrible idea; until I heard the guy (Isaac Powell) and the girl (Shereen Pimentel) who had been selected to play Tony and Maria. Blew me away. They were sensational! The revival got raves from most critics.
    The YouTube story also had an interview with Leonard Bernstein’s daughter Jamie, and she told some very interesting stories about the music and her dads struggles with the compositions.
    The movie came out in ’57 and I loved it! I also thought that if my parents saw it it might be an opportunity to further jolt them out of their racist ideas. I had married my first wife, Helen, a Mexican-American from El Paso in ’55 and that shocker had made some inroads to be sure. But I thought the theme of the obvious destructive nature of the clashing cultures and craziness of the idea of white superiority might get their attention, cause them to reflect….nope, they saw it as a musical and little else. I, on the other hand, was trying to make a point and it was lost on them. You would have thought I’d see how prejudice makes us blind. But no, I didn’t, and I guess still don’t get it!
    There was a lot I loved about West Side Story and there was something that left me bothered. At some level I knew what it was….but I didn’t want to really know it. I didn’t want to believe it. It happened in the very last scene where Tony has been killed and his body lies on the asphalt of the now empty basketball court.         Suddenly members from BOTH gangs show up to carry him away so there is a sort of brotherhood that supposedly takes place. Members of both gangs, it is implied, now know that all the hatred and violence has led only to the murder of love….surely then, this will cause a raising of consciousness, perhaps a healing of some sort….but listen to the music……the notes that play through that scene are the muted strains of “Somewhere”….the lyrics of which say, “There’s a place for us….somewhere a place for us…..” perhaps then this sacrifice will lead to that place for all…but as the scene begins to fade, the notes of the flute and the violins begin to move to the background, thining over the wet pavement like a mist, still seeming to carry a vague hope…but now there is a competing theme, one carried underneath by the bases and the tympani, suggesting that that hope may be unfounded, that perhaps nothing will change at all. That all of this loss and pain was and will be pointless.
    Jamie said she thinks her dad had doubts….and that this last bit of music reflects his struggle with this all too well. I know it left me feeling unsettled. All of the suffering seemed, in the end, unfinished and even……without purpose.
     
    Of course we don’t know as yet if all the suffering this pandemic has visited upon us will also have contained in it a “purpose”. If there is one in this experience it would have to be the fact that suddenly much of the usual greed driven commerce of the world has come to a screeching halt, outside of the White House that is….and everyone has had to recognize that the roles played by those who do the work that must be done in order for a society and a country to survive are truly the foundations of our society.
    That is what the union movement tried to tell us back in the 20’s and 30’s. That is what we should have learned through the experience of World War II. Besides the actual fighting on the ground it was the production of American labor that overwhelmed the enemy and won the war.
    But when it was over, Americans were sold the idea that the “blue collar” workers who had out produced the enemy were considered a cut below. “White collar” was the place to be. Those labor intensive jobs were for those with less ability, people with less intelligence. We were sold on the idea that nobody with a brain, no white person that is, should aspire to do that kind of mindless work. Gone out of high schools were the shop classes. Gone were the trade schools and along with them went the art classes, music courses, English and history courses, replaced by educational paths leading to an MBA, a tech job or a degree in marketing.
    Where we have been headed is an age of A.I. where the machines do all the human work all the leftover labor intensive jobs are overseas or across the border to those lesser beings who have no choice but to grind away day by day to make a living….all so we’ll save a few bucks on every shirt, shovel, clothespin and paper clip for sale at Walmart or the Dollar Store. Of course the question remains, where will anyone get the money to save those few dollars in the first place?
    At first that reckoning seemed to be something we could put off for awhile….but suddenly, with massive unemployment at the highest since the Great Depression in all but the lowest levels of jobs no matter how many little shops begin to open, where will their customers come from? Somewhere?
    I think we’re hearing the bases and the timpani right now and I am having doubts, just like you are, about where this is all headed......BUT, I've come across several statements and stories about the REAL makeup of America and of humankind in general in the last few days and they have reinforced what I have, in my best moments, believed; that people, for the most part, believe in civility and want the best for all. Yes, the nasties get the big headlines, and the good get relegated to the small print on the inside pages, but it's there, the stories of human kindness and sacrifice in support of others. And those stories far outnumber the tales of dark happenings. It's "Lifeboat" every day and, as you recall, that did not turn out to be a Steven King horror story.
    Once we have freed ourselves of the nightmare of the Right Wing's stranglehold on our democracy, we WILL be able to awaken from this bad dream.




This is a reflection that came about one morning back when we were doing psychic fairs. We did the last one just last year and we don’t know when we’ll do another given the current circumstances.


    Maybe I’m just getting burned out about the whole thing, this card reading thing that is.
    But as soon as I say that I find I’m shaking my head No and that’s my body responding honestly to the query. No, I’m decidedly not “burned out” about doing the work. Being invited in so quickly to another human’s life, that’s no small thing. And being able to help in some way….well that’s huge. Sometimes it even makes a difference….not always, but certainly as often as the traditional psychotherapy I used to practice. Win a few, lose a few, etc.
    I’m rambling. It’s early morning and no one is up in this house we’re staying in. We’re working at one of the psychic fairs in Colorado and I’m wrestling (again) with Purpose. Always the question, Am I really doing any good here? (On the planet.)
    Yesterday, a woman sat at my table and much as I don’t like proposing radical solutions, I told her she probably ought to get out of her marriage. I’m a stick-it-out-and-work-at-it guy. A champion of find-the-love-again….because I hate endings and really have felt that almost anything can be worked through to a good end. Of course all of this depends upon just how bad the problems really are and if BOTH involved are on the same page. In this particular case, he evidently could care less what she does or who she is. “Stay, go…makes no difference to me.” he had said. She was in tears about not being cared about and not having a “…real life with someone who supports who I am.” Would he get into counseling? I asked. “No, he doesn’t believe in it.” I wondered aloud if she had proposed that perhaps they should end it. She responded that she had. “…and he just said, ‘That’s the way it goes.’ And that was the end of the conversation.”             Clearly he didn’t take her complaints seriously…..either that or he really could care less about outcomes.
    If I were in my role as a “therapist” I would have asked, “How did you feel about that?” But I wasn’t a therapist now, I was  “reader”….so I said, “You need to get out of this one.” “I know.” She said.
    Therapy; it’s about process. Tarot reading; it’s about realty. 
    Maybe I’m doing SOME good after all.
    On the other hand (as Tevia was fond of saying, and me too for that matter) perhaps she had been saying something like this for years and he was tired of hearing about it given that no follow up action ever took place. And perhaps would I see her again in one or two years, still stuck in the same drama but having made no attempts at change. I’d seen that one more than once in my time both as a therapist and a reader.
    What is also pretty common is that a person will come to a fair like this one, get a reading, and then shop around for other readings, perhaps five or more in order to get a second, or third, or forth opinion. The same would take place in an “official” therapy situation except the added opinions would be sought from girl friends. By the way, men don’t do this. Very few men go to a psychic fair or into counseling for that matter, in order to help them make up their minds about relationship issues. I have never experienced that either as a therapist or a reader.
    This is not to imply that men have it all figured out on their own, not by a long shot. But we have a very hard time asking for directions, or help of any kind for that matter. Why? (Women ask this question all the time.) Because we don’t like to admit that we don’t have the answer(s). It makes us feel less-than. Weak. Foolish. Dangerously vulnerable. Not that we would admit to any of this of course. That would just compound the feelings. This is not true of all men, but I’d bet on the concept of “most”. By a long shot.
    Any way, this sort of internal questioning is important I know. I try to recognize it as my attempts to keep me honest about what I am doing. After all, if when I ask the question should my response come up “yes!” it will be time to quit. If I were to continue I would be deceiving myself and those I read with. Then my job would be over.






There Are Such Things

A peaceful sky
There are such things
A rainbow high
Where heaven sings
So have a little faith
And trust in what tomorrow brings
You'll reach a star
Because there are such things
(George W. Meyer, Stanley Adams and Abel Baer)

    I found that song going on and on in my head this morning and didn’t know why, other than I really like the melody. But once I remembered some of the lyrics I knew.
    This was a song that was written in 1942 and we, as a nation, found ourselves in the very early rounds, maybe the 3rd, of what looked to be a 15 round fight, a fight for all the marbles (as we used to say) and we were already on the ropes. Though it’s a song about hope, we didn’t feel there was such a thing. After all, we had only just begun to dig ourselves out of the more than decade long Great Depression and that was one deep pit. We were still “punchy” from that.
    You can look back now and imagine, to some degree, that it must have been hard, but I can tell you, even though I was just a seven and a half year old kid when it all began things seemed much more than “hard”. Things seemed dark and bleak, after all, we, our country and much of the world, were being smashed around at will by the marching hoards of Japan, Germany, and Italy and their pals all over the world. There was not only no light at the end of the tunnel, there were no lights at all. We were not winning anywhere.  
    No one on our side heard that Admiral Yamamoto, the architect of the attack at Pearl Harbor, had warned his own country that now they had “…..awakened a sleeping giant.” We did not feel like a “giant” at all, we ordinary people were only feeling afraid and confused about what might happen now that a world-wide darkness had descended on us everywhere.
    Well, you have to have been there to really get it I suppose. Books have been written about it, movies made, TV series like, “World on Fire” try to tell the story so I suppose one can get a sort of “feel” for it, but the closest I can come to help you imagine what it was really like is to ask you to imagine yourself as a little kid in your bedroom at night being afraid that there was something very terrible about to come out of that half-open closet door….or from under your bed. It was that kind of Steven King imagined fear bordering on the UN-imaginable….and it wasn’t just a kid-fear.….adults felt it too. We kids could tell. It was like that. Best one word description I can come up with is desperate. Yes we all, the whole world, felt desperate.
     
    I was very caught up in the emotions of thinking and then writing about all of this this morning. Then Elizabeth and I went out for a walk with the dogs and I told her about it. I had played the song for her before we left to set-the-scene and then told her the story behind the song and the times that produced it. The telling of it brought up all my feelings accompanied by tears and the old emotions were conjured up again in the retelling…..and now, in this moment, I find that the charge of it all has vanished and the story is just that, a story of a memory of a time; and that time is gone.
    What I am left with it this; this pandemic is no where near as “bad” as that time was. Not anywhere close. And we got through it.
    It’s important to remember that we in this country were never even under fire in that war. At one point the Brits were bombed EVERY NIGHT for 57 straight nights. Fear was a clear and present danger for them, a real event….not fancied! Still, we were afraid. Afraid that it could happen to us…and of course what WAS very real for us was the fact that we might lose people close to us. And that was not a fantasy at all.
    But there is a huge difference between these two events and the most important is this; …..we are ALL in this, the entire globe, east, west, north and south…..and once we have passed through this crucible we will ALL have been “tempered”, made more flexible and the stronger for it. Perhaps this time that tempering will last. Perhaps this time, because none of us has been cast into roles of “victor” and ‘vanquished” but rather will have survived together, that bond will speak to our shared humanity. Maybe this time…..some love will transcend the walls that have been built.
    Maybe.
    Well; clearly I’m a romantic, not a popular thing to be in the current environment of a country headed by not only one but a whole group of people who think in terms of us vs. them.
    Though we’re not in a shooting war, the concept of “war” suits these types just fine. That theme, the “us vs. them” game creates plenty of paranoia to go around, plenty of reasons to not only build more walls, create “stronger borders” (so says Barr, the Atty. Gen.) stock up on more guns and ammo but to also create more and more people to be suspicious of, etc. the never-ending story of finding an “other” to blame.
    Until we FINALLY “get it” that we are indeed all on this space ship together perhaps not even a global “pandemic” will weld us together. What will it take I wonder? Another time of Black Plague when 50 MILLION died in Europe alone?     Or maybe a lessor scourge, the 1918 flu when 50 million died worldwide. (We had no one to blame then Mr. Barr. It started at an Army base in Kansas! And the origin was a white guy. But never mind.)
    The lyrics of another World War II song come to mind;
   “There’ll be blue birds over,
        The white cliffs of Dover
        Tomorrow when the world is free…..”
   
of what?
   
Suspicion, fear, and hate. Is that too much to hope for?
    We now have (yet another) opportunity to work at getting this one-world thing right. To do it we cannot remain in a fear-based mind set about any of this. A pandemic is something we must ALL get together to stop. Certainly it begins by all of us at a local level, collaborating with the way to stop it. First line; masks AND gloves. On EVERYBODY! Those that don’t wear them for whatever reason, don’t get into the store. Simple. “No shirt, no shoes, no service.” Just re-do the sign; “No gloves, no mask, no entry!” Can’t afford or can’t find either? Store should provide.
    Some churches want a "pass". Sorry. Your congregation will pose a threat to non-church goers. Do it virtually. If everybody complied this would be over in two weeks.
    Nationally, all medical necessities will be shared equally with ALL regions. No “politics” allowed.
    No bills for treatment. The government should reimburse all facilities for equipment and staffing costs. (Yes, Medicaid for ALL.)
    Internationally; All nations cooperate on equipment, skills and research. This will not be the last time this happens. We MUST begin to work together as earth inhabitants not as separate units of humans. That is what the term “United Nations” was supposed to ultimately lead us to. It’s time to stop resisting that.
    Of course there’s much more you can come up with but I’m taking a breath here and lowering my stress level so my immune system can get back up to peak levels. And this introvert is FINE with stay-at-home orders.
    Talk to you anytime via email.  

        
  

About Kurt and Us

     Kurt Vonnegut was angry at the end of his life; maybe that’s why I stopped reading him. But I was younger then, younger and more naïve about our country and our politics. I wish he had been alive to have experienced the Obama presidency. Yes, I know that was a frustrating time to watch the Republican Right subvert all the good that Obama tried to do over and over again, but the fact of the matter, that he was President at all TWICE, brought hope alive to us and to the rest of the world for a time. And that was good.

    That was almost even better than the establishment of some social program.

    For a time we lived, it seemed, the potential of the American “dream”.  That’s how I felt about it, still do. Especially now that we are up to our necks in a nightmare.

    Of course we are deep into the pandemic as well and forced to ignore what is, ultimately, an even larger problem, a landslide into the whirlpool of global warming.

    Kurt wrote a little poem about our political and environmental arrogance in his last book, “Man Without a Country” which he wrote in 2005 two years before he was done. He called it, “Requiem”

 

“The crucified planet Earth

should it find a voice

and a sense of irony,

might now well say

of our abuse of it,

‘Forgive them Father

for they know not what they do.’

 

“The irony would be

that we know

what we are doing.

 

“When the last living thing

has died on account of us,

how poetical it would be

if Earth could say,

in a voice floating up

perhaps

from the floor

of the Grand Canyon,

‘It is done.’

People did not like it here.”

 

    It has always amazed me to hear a person say something like “Life sucks!” You can bet that anyone who utters such a thing pays little attention to how they walk through life in general.

    Back in the days of my backpacking, though I didn’t encounter it often, when I came upon a place on a trail that had been trashed I was just beside myself with anger and despair about how just one person could create such insult and leave it for the rest of us to put right.

    The worst of this I remember clearly, was finding the body of a mother bear, one who had been nursing recently, murdered and left in the middle of an otherwise pristine stream. It still makes me sick to think about it so I try not to, think about it that is.…a strategy of denial I use to keep myself sane when presented with such situations. I know, I know, not the most constructive response to reality. Guilty as charged.

    But I know people who are actually doing something….actually out there in the “trenches” fighting the good fight and making, in however small a way, a difference in the world. I do it in my own way, playing the second chair trumpet in the band-of-brothers and sisters trying to keep spirits up and the cheerleading going for those who are doing the work.

    Let me tell you about a couple of them I know, not from headlines or even the small print stories on page five of your local paper. No, they don’t get recognition in print or electronic commentaries at all. But they make a difference in the world because they do what they do and are who they are.

    Sidney Bonvallet. Sid is a retired exec. from GM. She and her daughter C.J. spend much of their time in Africa working in a small orphanage creating a school and medical facility out of donations, giving those abandoned kids a hand up. No one but each of those kids will ever know how those two have changed the world in that dot on the map.

    My sister, Dentia Ruder. She and I don’t see eye-to-eye on much of anything, most especially religion and politics. What she does is teach people nobody cares about, homeless, mentally challenged, sometimes difficult people how to sew and create clothing items for themselves and for sale in a small community in central Illinois. Few know about her and the work she does, but I do, and despite the fact that I cannot communicate with her much of the time, due to her tendency to proselytize and attempt to save my devil-possessed soul (her words) I appreciate her and the work she does, work I’m not equipped to undertake.

    Kurt was angry, disappointed, disillusioned about people. He notes that Mark Twain felt that way too and so did Einstein and Shaw, but they didn’t have the advantage of the vast information gathering that is the internet today. Information about the people who don’t make the headlines, the little people who, all over the planet, are doing exactly what needs to be done to keep hope alive in all of us. They’re not the lead stories on the six o’clock news (they are often seen on CBS Sunday Morning) or being written about in an op-ed or two at the bottom of a NY Times feed.

    Today on the front page the story of, I’d call him a “scumbag” but that would be elevating him and I still have some respect for the comparatively higher life forms that make up scum……this creep was hoarding over 100 THOUSAND, no, not rolls of toilet paper, they were RESPIRATORS, which his fellow New Yorkers were dying to get because they couldn’t find enough of these machines in hospitals.

    Not on the front page were the stories of scores of people who in their own homes, on their own sewing machines and with no (monetary) compensation are making masks out of found material and shipping them to friends, family, hospitals and front line workers in order to provide them with SOME protection. Did I mention that this monster was also hoarding a million masks? None of this was because of his personal anxieties of course. It was all for his personal profit.

    There ARE people who clean up the trashed trails and protect the mother bears, and feed the hearts of abandoned people everywhere. And though it only takes one to mess things up, there are more of us than them. And one day, soon, we will show the spirit of Kurt Vonnegut and the rest who feared otherwise, that indeed, we LIKE it here….show how much we LOVE it and all the others around us in fact and in action. And we WILL save it in the end…..before the end.









Shopping

    Shelves seem much longer when they’re empty and there’s a lot of “empty” in our two local stores right now particularly in the paper products sections.      When I was at the store yesterday one set of shelves looked all the more empty because of a solitary dented Kleenex box that sat, forlornly I thought, on the otherwise cleaned out second shelf at Smith’s grocery. Up the road at the big Walmart shelves don’t even have a dented box to put the big “empty” in perspective.
    However I discovered that if you know the right people, or happen upon a fortunate pilgrim fleeing the store with the most sought after contraband, yes, toilet paper, you can get the secret directions which will take you to the back door of “Sporting Goods” where you will find a hefty looking stocker guarding the stash of the “Large, Economy 12-packs” which can then be had, two-to-a-customer without, I’m happy to note, a password.
    Shopping these days is very different. There are no seekers casually strolling down one aisle and then up another. Focused hunting has replaced “strolling” and a look of not-quite-desperation but intense determination widens eyes and you can sense that it would not be a good idea to get in the way or get into contention with any of these over a jar of spaghetti sauce. Those spaghetti sauce bottles by the way have been well picked over and the generic or low-end brands are still plentiful while the preferred top shelf brands have been picked through and are long gone. This actually bodes well because the truly desperate would have cleared all the shelves by now as they have in “paper products”, clearly we’re still in the “picky” stage of this hoarding phase. At least when it comes to spaghetti sauce.
    This was also true in the pet food department. The high-end stuff had not been depleted but the actual good stuff, those products that are selected only after reading the ingredients label, had been cleaned out. Big bags weren’t gone either so it seems people are planning short-term, not fearing some endless drought of supplies. I finally found one (1) bag of the actual good stuff but it was way back on the second shelf and without help I couldn’t get to it…..until I spotted a long grill spatula on a nearby display. With that extra two-foot length I managed to coax the bag within reach and snagged it. Which brings me to the issue of hoarding.
    As best I can recall, and I was only five to ten at the time…I remember that during the WW II years, the early to mid-40’s, hoarding was not just looked down upon, you could go to jail if you were caught stashing stuff that was in short supply. So far we’re treating this behavior as socially inappropriate and maybe that’s all we have to do. Of course the gun-nuts are undergoing another soaking at the hands of the NRA, lining up at gun stores to stock up on ammo and perhaps yet another weapon added to their arsenal to protect their stock of (hoarded) toilet paper. Well who cares really? They make up a small percent of the population and they, mostly, do no harm except to their relationships with others whom they deeply distrust.
    We’ve all thought and said it, we live in very weird and strange times. The difference between these times and the other times we’ve lived through is that there is no reassuring, calm hand on the rudder of our country. We have nobody home at the top. This has not been as true as it is now….probably ever. Do we deserve this? No we don’t. There is no collective sin that has caused this, but there has been a sickness in our society that has been taking its toll long before this virus came on the scene. Its been talked about a lot but like the Twain comment about the weather, no one has done anything about it….and it’s roots are wide-ranging. We haven’t cared about each other for a long, long time not only locally but nationally and globally.
    After WW II there was a period of time that it was assumed, because we’d been through so much together, even if we were on opposite sides, that because of the horror we had ALL experienced that there might be a crack in the walls that had divided us and which might be pried open. Then, at last, we would actually see ourselves, all of our “selves” as one world. That was why the United Nations stuck together, succeeded where the League of Nations failed. It was just a matter of months and the one-world idea was shoved off into a corner and all of us were back into the game of us and them and then us VS. them and we forgot we were all one.
    That idea had a brief, very brief comeback when the astronauts came back and confirmed that indeed we, ALL of us, were fellow travelers on this small blue ball in the midst of darkness. We were aboard “Space ship Earth”….but that faded fast too and despite the songs about “The Age of Aquarius” pleas from John Lennon, the beautiful reality of the International Space Station and the fact that the “Great Powers” have moved away from threats of mutually assured destruction, turmoil has continued unabated and since the science fiction idea of the possible attack from space aliens being the only unifying possibility for all of mankind our worst tendencies have continued to rule the day and fear and distrust continue to build walls rather than bridges. We still think that we can isolate as individuals and as countries and live our separate lives successfully in an environment that reminds us over and over again that we are interconnected with each other and all of nature and to the extent that we ignore and deny this we set ourselves, each other and the planet on a road to sure destruction.
    The elevation of mistrust and anger that has been manifested in the highest levels in our government and personified by the villain-in-chief in the White House (a relevant descriptive) along with his gang of supporters in and out of the media, continues to add to the downward spiral…and now, suddenly, we are faced with the alien we only fantasized about in apocalyptic movies just a short time ago….but it didn’t come from outer space.
    And the clash of opinions vs. facts continues apace. The latest in China, why do patients who tested negative now suddenly test “positive”? And, of course the BIG question, when will this end? (or will it?)
My question has still not been addressed by anyone in the media (that I’m aware of) what’s with the toilet paper thing? There was an article in Huffington Post that proposed and explanation but it was written by a self-confessed hoarder. She obviously had an anxiety disorder and this was the foundation for the hoarding. But I doubt that all the toilet paper stuffers are afflicted to the same degree so the question remains unanswered.
    Where will we wind up? David Brooks ended his piece in the Times with a hopeful note I thought;
    “Suffering can be redemptive. We learn more about ourselves in these hard periods. The differences between red and blue don’t seem as acute on the gurneys of the E.R., but the inequality in the world seems more obscene when the difference between rich and poor is life or death. So, yes, this is a meaningful moment. And it is this very meaning that will inspire us and hold us together as things get worse. In situations like this, meaning is a vital medication for the soul.”
NOTE: Shelves are back to "normal" and it seems shoppers are as well. That look of despiration has mellowed, but masks may be covering set mouths. (why are people wearing masks but not gloves?)
We plow onward.



    LBJ’s Journey
and our own.

    There is only one way to characterize Robert Caro’s book, “The Years of Lyndon Johnson, the Passage of Power”, and that is that it is an amazing piece of work. One critic attacked Caro for his “style” and counted the number of commas, semi-colons, parentheses in one sentence and felt he repeated the same phrases over and over again trying for emphasis and effect only to create unnecessary long sentences which then build into much longer paragraphs which all add up to a very thick and heavy book. (Tough to handle for bedtime reading.)
    I have to agree and when I run into this sort of excess in any book I tend to sail over the material in search of a place to land that is more earth bound (and informational). All that aside, and it must be set aside because this is very much a book worth plowing through cumbersome style notwithstanding.
    Bill Clinton said it best in his review of LBJ’s presidency and Caro’s exploration of it; “Lyndon Johnson, once a fairly conventional Southern Democrat, constrained by his constituents and his overriding hunger for power, rose above his political past and personal limitations, to embrace and promote his boyhood dreams of opportunity and equality for all Americans. After all the years of striving for power, once he had it, he said to the American people, “I’ll let you in on a secret — I mean to use it.” And use it he did to pass the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the open housing law, the antipoverty legislation, Medicare and Medicaid, Head Start and much more.
    “He knew what the presidency was for: to get to people — to members of Congress, often with tricks up his sleeve; to the American people, by wearing his heart on his sleeve.
    “Even when we parted company over the Vietnam War, I never hated L.B.J. the way many young people of my generation came to. I couldn’t. What he did to advance civil rights and equal opportunity was too important. I remain grateful to him. L.B.J. got to me, and after all these years, he still does. With this fascinating and meticulous account of how and why he did it, Robert Caro has once again done America a great service.”
    I was moved to tears more than once by Caro’s reportage, most especially when he wrote in detail about the assassination of JFK and all the events surrounding it. I didn’t want to read that chapter, didn’t want to revisit that time I remember all too well, but Caro made it a necessary path to take in this journey of knowing LBJ.
    Next time your library is open, look for this one, his fourth in this series on LBJ. The fifth, and last, is in process....and even if it IS a "plow" (where IS his editor I wonder?) it will be worth the effort I'm sure.




The Paradox of Sentimentality & Nostalgia

    I watched an interview with Ken Burns not long ago during which the interviewer took on a somewhat accusatory tone regarding what he considered to be Burns’ “…rather sentimental approach….” in his documentary of Lincoln. I don’t remember Burns’ response, other than the fact that he said that he “…revered Lincoln….” but the topic of sentimentality got me to thinking about how being sentimental has become quite unpopular these days. I can understand why, but I think this is a case of throwing out the baby with the bath water. The reason sentiment draws such fire is that it tends to be hooked up with its close pal nostalgia and the two together then make claims to remembering “The good old days when things like……” (fill in the blank here) “….were better.” Unless we’re talking about general health issues it must be admitted that many things were decidedly NOT “better” about those good-ol’-days.
    But (making a desperate grab at and at the last second rescuing the baby) SOME things were better, and there’s the rub, or the “paradox”. And to add to the paradox part, it really depends upon the topic at hand and the individual who is doing the remembering. For example, we DID have a much better President a few years ago (it doesn’t matter whom you choose in this regard)….but if you are a black person, though some things are better, there’s a whole lot that’s not.
    I’d say music was a lot better back then, but my “back then” is a lot further back than yours I’d imagine. Seems to me our society as a whole was a lot more civil just a few years ago but was it “civil” because the un-civil people were seething while undercover and now, with the leader of the free world modeling incivility as though it were an asset there is no longer a need to be shy about being nasty? I don’t know.
    We used to think of science as a means of discovering Truth. These days science has been cast in the role as something that belongs to just one side of the political spectrum and so is probably unpatriotic. What is THAT about?
    Back when guns were for hunting, and that perhaps limited to one time a year, I think we all felt safer most of the time, and, by the way, NOBODY walked around carrying a gun or had one in their car. At least, nowhere east of the Mississippi or north of the Deep South or outside of Texas. There wasn’t much said about the 2nd Amendment either.
    A lot has been said about the Eisenhower years, the “good-ol’-50’s” and so on. As I remember the 50’s those were the years we thought that at any moment we might all be vaporized by an A-Bomb. Nothing about the 50’s seemed to me to be anything we might be nostalgic about even though that was high school time for my age group.
    By the way that whole thing about high school that has been a topic of movie and TV show nostalgia didn’t feel like that much fun to me. All that social-anxiety isn’t an experience I remember fondly. The Fonzes’ of my high school days were a nasty bunch that went around with switchblade knives and threatening attitudes. They weren’t funny and nobody hung around with them unless you were part of their gang. Their girlfriends were a nasty bunch too and not to be sought after unless you wanted trouble.  “Happy Days” characters they were not. More like the, portrayed-as-dangerous, Jets or the Sharks of West Side Story.
    I DO get both sentimental and nostalgic about the 40’s, but that’s because I was a little kid then. It’s not that I’d like to return to those golden days by any means, but the music that came out of that time, now referred to as, The Great American Song Book, was really generally well crafted and filled with poetry about love and romance. Of course the reason for that was that every at-home lover feared the loss of a loved one who was overseas fighting a war at the time and the country was, in fact, united. We were under attack so naturally we all, mostly, pulled together. “Mostly” because there is no denying, now that we look back over that time with honest appraisals, there was plenty of racial animosity going on, war or no war. And I don’t think there were many who came back from that nightmare in Europe or the Pacific who felt any nostalgia for hiding deep in foxholes and being shot at. Being sentimental about that time was a trick of memory and a luxury limited to those who didn’t face death every day. For those who were in and survived the nightmare of war it wasn’t a time they even wanted to talk about. WW II vets suffered in silence about all of it for many, many years later. In fact for some, it wasn’t until Ken Burns did his series, “The War”, that the families of the vets interviewed in that documentary who talked about what they endured knew anything about what really went on in a war. Many of those vets wept; for the first time! No sentimentality or nostalgia there. Plenty of stuffed feelings though.
    Yes, sentimentality hooked up with nostalgia tends to gloss over the realities of the past, tends to paint pretty pictures of what really was a very dark time. But, and here’s that old paradox again, sentiment also puts love back into the picture. Getting some distance from an experience helps us see the whole a bit better, helps us remember what got us through those dark times when it seemed that love was a self indulgent luxury, and though it was there all along, it couldn’t really be experienced fully.
    I’m not just sentimental about WW II; I’m a romantic about relationships in general. That means I’m hopeful about just about anything. Rose-colored glasses? I guess so. If those peering through those glasses helped create the United Nations, and before that the League of Nations all in the hope that nations that at least had the opportunity to talk to each other were less likely to stay suspicious of each other and thus might be less inclined to create opportunities for war. Maybe.
    Musings like these remind me that I just finished another bio-book, this one on Sinatra, The Chairman by James Kaplan. This is actually Book II, number 1 being “The Voice”. Back when The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich came out by William Shirer I was captured by it for a week or two (it was more than a thousand two hundred pages). The Chairman got me immersed in the same way, and it’s close to the same length. I’m not going to review it right now, but the book put me into a dilemma about how to separate the artist from his work. I gave up the rosy glasses when it came to Sinatra quite some time ago, but still value his contributions to the music he performed. Yes, I know he had mob connections. If you worked in bars and Vegas you were “connected” whether you liked it or not. And there’s no doubt he was an alcoholic who could get very crazy after a few drinks…..and he could be narcissistic and arrogant on occasion, a bad combination. And, to give more dimension to him, he could be generous and go way out of his way to be kind. By the way, he went a long way to breaking down racial barriers for performers back when very few had the guts to do it. In short, he was a hugely talented guy who changed the music business, made a difference in our society and was a very complicated character.
    Nostalgia, it’s a veil that blurs the past and turns it into a softer version of the truth. So what? All in all, I like the answer the oldest (verified) human in the world, at 117, gave to the question, “What was the best time in your life?” “Now!” she said (emphasis hers) and that was the end of the interview. I’m with her. (And I reserve the right to fall back into a comfortable chair and to get nostalgic now and then. I WILL keep some of those musings to myself however.)





The Evolution and Dissolution of
the Body, Mind, Spirit Fairs

    (Note, everything I’ve written here may seem to be just about my own perspective, but BOTH Elizabeth, my wife, in case you don’t know, and I experienced this at the same time and walked it hand-in-hand, heart-to-heart. So as you read this, please insert her in every “I”, “we”, “us” that you read. We knew this together.
     And then there’s the problem of “tense”. The confusion over this stems from the fact that though the experiences were “then” they are also “now”. The trauma, there is no other word for it, is very much present in my life. It has not, and will not be disappeared by time passing. Twenty four years of our lives were spent building these memories and these relationships. They will not go away.)

    When I walked into the Denver Mart twenty four years ago it was the first psychic fair I’d ever done in a setting that huge, something the size of a regular, not a Super, Wal-Mart…..and I didn’t like the “vibe”. I thought, “Jeez, I don’t know if I can do this.”
  Overwhelm!
    I paused my critic. “Maybe I can just be the one point-of-light in this carnival.” I thought. Yeah, I would be the ONE honest reader in what looked to me to be a sea of pretense. (No ego involvement here huh?)
My involvement in the, “Celebrations Psychic Fair” had begun just a few months previously in a much smaller venue, the Civic Auditorium in Colorado Springs. That I could handle.
    Its size resembled the shows I’d already begun to practice my trade in, the small store fronts, church meeting rooms, someone’s “game” room, intimate places with space for from five to maybe twenty readers. The Civic Auditorium held about forty tables for readers arranged on the perimeter of six aisles of vendors who sold jewelry, crystals, books, clothing and gee-gaws of various kinds.
    The Denver Mart was another story all together. There were probably a hundred readers arraigned in the same way as the Auditorium show, with an equal number of vendors in the center space…..one BIG room about to be filled with hundreds of seekers of wares and, perhaps, some wisdom.
I felt that in order to pull that off I would have to be above-it-all, different somehow and, most importantly to me, genuine. I was soon to be brought down to earth.
    The Celebrations Fairs were run by a guy named Shanti. Most worthy of note about him was that he was very supportive of both the readers and the vendors. Vendors were carefully selected to not be in direct competition with each other. That is, there were maybe two jewelry sellers, one rock and mineral table, a couple of clothing booths, one book seller and so forth. All were appropriate for the fact that this was primarily a psychic fair and not an arts and crafts venue.
    Readers were selected by recommendation from other readers, experience, and “audition”, the latter was accomplished by any new applicants setting up a session with one of the established readers Shanti knew or even with Shanti himself. As a result, the “vibe” or general feeling of the fair was that everything was being handled in a responsible and professional way and though I may have feared that the larger venue seemed like a “carnival” it was, in fact, being run with just as much consciousness as the smaller Colorado Springs fair had been. It was just bigger.
    Nonetheless, I decided to investigate on my own. I wasn’t very busy at my first Denver fair, because I had yet to build a client base, which in a fair like this is a word of mouth proposition. So I took the time to walk slowly down the aisles past each booth, taking note of what I could hear in passing. Most of the readers signs were promoting what they did, “Past Life Regression”, Palmistry, “Channeling the Arc Angel….” so and so etc.. Some seemed to me to be just so much hype. But I noted in passing that what was being said by at least one of the readers was pretty down-to-earth advice. For instance there was one who said she “….read sand”! I thought, “Oh how far out is that?” but heard her advising her client to: “Get your credit card debt in order so you can get out of this stupid and abusive relationship!” Sounded like good advice to me. Not news about Arc angels or fantastical solutions being offered to help with real life problems.
    I also checked out the Fair Program which listed all the readers along with their credentials and a short bio. Many were retired PhDs who had worked in various human services fields; psychologists, Social Workers, addiction counselors, even a PhD in bio-chemistry then teaching at the University of Oklahoma. These were not “dabblers”, these were mature, professional people.
    Yes there were some who simply picked up a deck of Tarot cards and had some sort of gift that they were putting into play, but most seemed honest and well-schooled. “Seemed” is the operative word here because I didn’t sit down and actually get a reading from any of them. That kind of survey would have cost me $20 for twenty minutes and I wasn’t making any money as it was.
    Fast forward a few years and Shanti had sold the show(s) to a guy named “Steve” and quite suddenly it all took on a new character. And it wasn’t a change for the better. Not by a long shot.
    There wasn’t any doubt in anyone’s mind that Steve was all about the money. Vendors and readers were “vetted” simply by paying for a space. It didn’t matter to Steve if he had ten jewelry tables or five rock tables, or even if a window company was set up to tout their latest double-panes. (How this fit into a psychic fair was not clear. Except for the fact that they paid for a space.) By the way, by this time Steve had turned the Denver show into a space that took on the size of a Super Wal-Mart! ALL the spaces, every last inch, was taken up by readers and vendors.
    Steve ran the show by making pronouncements over the P.A. system, a Now-hear-this! thing. It was clear that he not only didn’t care about the readers and vendors as people, he didn’t even respect, or know, what we were doing. I complained to one of the old time readers about this and she said, “Well, it’s HIS show.” True, I thought. But now, it seemed that this was all it was,  “….HIS show”, and we were but the performers in it! And this is where I, and I believe most of us, began to part company with that concept
    The bottom line for me is that what I, and we, do is the putting-into-action part of a personal spiritual path. It’s a serious undertaking aimed at the healing of each other and, in the process, healing the world. (Might as well go for the BIG picture huh?) And there was this; after all my years as a reader I had acquired a reputation. I discovered this after I began getting referrals from other readers. Clients came to me time after time because they had asked a reader or a vendor about who they might recommend as a no-nonsense person. I had become that source. In our work that’s quite a high complement and one I took seriously.
In the meantime Steve thought of all of this as simply making a buck, maximizing profits, squeezing every last dollar out of his “investment”.         Higher purpose? For him there was no “higher purpose” other than an opportunity for achieving the most monetary gain.
    But there was something else…and as I write this it becomes clear to me. We, both readers and vendors, felt we were a force for good…and Steve, in his money-focus, was someone who was care-less…of us and of this outlook.
    Well, the woman I had talked to might have responded with, “So what?” and “Of course!” But my thinking was, and is, if this is a source of important help for people, should profit be the sole reason for its existence?
    I know that sometimes our health-care system seems based on a profit model, but in every hospital or treatment center or church I’ve ever been involved with there IS a higher purpose and the people working there are, for the most part, dedicated primarily to that. An E.R. nurse is not, in my experience, working in that setting just to make a buck, nor are any of the docs I have come in contact with over the years both as a fellow worker and as a patient.
    I see us, the readers at the fair(s), as having the same healing “mission” and most of the readers I know and respect feel this way too. We’re NOT there just to make a buck. We’re there because we have felt that we have a “calling”. And yes, I agree that not everyone feels that way. But I am not an anomaly, of that much I am certain. In those, typically 20 minute sessions, attention was being paid to each person. They, and their feelings, were being acknowledged and attended to. They were being heard, supported and helped.
    The way we were being treated in these fairs was turning out to be not much better than the lot of an assembly-line-widget maker in a factory (who does not belong to a Union) and this was the result of having someone running it that was solely focused on using it as a cash-cow and who considered we readers and vendors to be working for HIM! The really weird, and somewhat discouraging part of that is that some of the readers and vendors had begun to think this way too!
    Recently while working in Denver, a fair that, on Friday night, was not well attended, Steve passed by my table and asked, “How’s it going?” (not that he was interested in my response by the way) “Well, look around Steve” I said, “This might as well be a bowling alley.” (indicating the empty aisles.) “Well", he responded,"we’re doing pretty good. Not over the top but better than many Fridays.”
    Of course. What else? Steve had already made his bucks on table fees. No problem for him at all. We, who were sitting at empty tables had no traffic and none of that bothered Steve at all. That was OUR problem after all. His not getting people in the door by the outlay of advertising, other than social media, which most of our older clientele did not use, didn’t affect his bottom line so what was there to complain about?
    The next day, Saturday, another slow day, and Steve’s voice came booming over the P.A. “Every one here knows that your fee should be $20 for 20 minutes. Some of you are charging more than this. We KNOW who you are!”
    Yes, obviously there had been some “criminal” activity going on with the workers. The warning had been sounded, we all had better shape up.
    I suppose that was the “last straw” for me. That treatment of we adults as recalcitrant children in need of a public spanking. (By the way, in other fairs around the country, readers charge whatever they wish. Some readers at these fairs who are in private practice have fees that range into the hundreds for one hour.)
    (Note to Steve, That’s called “Free Market Capitalism” It’s your favorite thing….of course this only works when you’re in charge of it……..we understand.)
    Clearly I’m at the end of my Psychic Fair journey. I’ve watched it arc from a well-intended undertaking to decline  into an ugly distortion of what was once a truly magical beginning. When that decline began I wanted to say then, “I’m outta here!”
    Friday when I began writing this I’d had three readings. Friday is always a slow day, and what did I get in return? Well, yes, the usual $20 (sometimes plus a $5 “tip” so maybe 65 or $70 for the day) but much more importantly, I received love and deep appreciation from my clients. So, “I’m outta here?” Is that, I asked myself, what I really want to do?
Then came Saturday, usually a busy day. It turned out to be moderate at best, and Sunday? Well Sunday began with a rush, then slowly tapered into yet another near-death experience.
    During both days, wonderful readings, wonderful experiences, meeting people who were grateful for what I had to offer. On Sunday, the last day of the Fair, I guess I had about ten readings, one with an entire family, mom, dad, son, daughter and son-in-law. All of those readings were wonderful. What made them that? The fact that things got done, problems were addressed, solutions offered and promised to be acted upon. Yes Sunday was good. Sunday was the reason I did the work.
    Then, suddenly the downturn came and aisles were deserted, no one came through the doors, it was over…..three hours before closing. Certainly I had done all I could do. I had put heart and soul into all of it.
It was then I, and we, found out that the manager of the fair, the one person who had worked hard to make Steve’s oppressive, heavy handedness a bit less so, let us know she was finally fed up with his “style” and was leaving.
    We also heard from one of the vendors that the extra fees for electrical services, as much as $75 per person just to plug into the wall, had been going into Steve’s pocket. Electric costs, it was said, had been always been included in the rent for the facility which we paid for with our table fees.     Steve now intended to raise that fee by $50. It looked to be just one more profit opportunity for him taken from the vendors and readers. (I didn’t verify this, but it did fit the pattern.)
    But more than the evident focus on money if I had any ambivalence at all about leaving it was more than overcome by Steve’s clear distain for the people in-the-trenches. I was finally done with the idea that what was the Celebration Fair of old could ever be that again. “Done” because of what had devolved into its distorted progeny, because the, so-called Body, Mind, Spirit Psychic Fairs really could never be what it claimed, a venue which supported healing these things. Instead what the Fairs had become wore on my body, troubled my mind, and did damage to my spirit. This doesn’t mean that those who continue to work the Fairs won’t do the best they can to make a difference. This is just about my own “burn-out” after all.
    Twenty-four years, many, many miles traveled and, literally thousands of readings later….I have now embarked on my recovery. Of course, I will never have a younger body but my mind is at peace and my spirit is becoming alive again.
    I, and we, did the very best we could with what can only be called “bad energy”. Though the original intent of the Fairs became distorted in pursuit of profit, those of us who worked with the people always did so based upon our original intent, the reason we got into the fairs in the first place, to work with many for a higher purpose.
    It would be dishonest to deny that the Fairs didn’t also provide many of us with an opportunity to make a small added income in a short amount of time. They did. But the fact of it was this, in general our outlay for booth fees, travel, food and lodging cut into this a great deal. Working at the Fairs was no windfall. It was a nice addition to retirement funded living, but that was about it. What I, and we, will miss most of all, are the people. The new clients we worked with, the fellow-readers we got to know, the atmosphere of common purpose we all shared.
    We were, for a time, a “tribe”, a band of gypsies, who gathered, worked our magic and then disbursed back into the trees. This is what sustained our spirits all these years. Now we must, and we will, find another path to serve this end. All of us who do this work, have gifts to share and what we do pays us many times over. Our wallets may not bulge but our hearts are full with what we received through working with our magic. That “magic” wasn’t what came through the tools we used. It’s the genuine connection of heart to heart that took place every day across the tables we shared with those who sat with us for a time. That was the REAL healing magic of what we did….and we will find a way to continue. It’s a far too wonderful thing to walk away from, it’s who we are and what we do with that gift that really pays us.




Fed up with Football
(Yes I know they are trying to ramp up some form of anticipatory enthusiasm for a season that may not come.  I remain just where I was when it ended for me last year.)

    I played a little football in high school, not much but enough to be fairly good at it and grow to love it. Back then, this was not long after the asteroid hit and the BIG lizards were gone, we didn’t have offensive and defensive teams, we had A team, and everybody but the QB, the “backs” and the fragile ends played both-ways. (“Fragile” because they were usually tall and skinny and were treated as special by the coaches and because they seemed to be the key players that would create the big gains, maybe ten yards or possibly a TD…..as opposed to the running backs who would pound into the line and grind out maybe three or four yards at a time. Those guys were disposable and replaceable with other glory seekers we thought.)
    For you non-football people, they guys in the line the two guards, two tackles and the center, played both ways. That means that, since I was a center (the guy who snaps the ball to the QB) on offence, when the other team had the ball I was a linebacker on defense. Yep, we were Iron-men back then. At least we thought so.
    After high school I went into the Army and played a little there too, this was hardly semi-pro, it was primarily goofing around. However, whatever dreams I might have had of playing at the college level after-Army were shaken out of me when one day a skinny soft-spoken guy took me out of a play cleanly when, as a line backer I came rushing in and he blocked me so hard that I was out of it for a short time. Turned out he was no “pro” either. Just a third string end who had played a little for the University of Indiana, not exactly a power house in the Big 10. I figured if this third stringer who once played for the poorest team in the Midwest was that good I had no chance at all of competing against the really good players at that level.
    I once had the experience of playing against one of those “really good” guys in high school. It wasn’t a regular h.s. game, just a little pick-up game in a South Side park in Chicago. That guy was so good it was as if he was from another planet…and everybody on the field knew it. (Yes, he was that good.) He went on to play pro ball with the 49ers. Any time he got the ball nobody could lay a hand on him. His name was Abe Woodson. (Look him up.)
    Anyway, I DID have a clue on what real football talent looked like and I learned fast that I didn’t have it.    
    So, after that little stint in the Army I quit being interested in playing football or for that matter watching it on TV. Non-participatory sports held no interest for me. After all, I had been a player.
    Lots of years went by, they were now finding the bones of the BIG lizards and that seemed more interesting to me. Not enough to get me to go to college to get a degree in paleontology however.
    But one night just a couple of decades ago I came home on a Monday night after a day of being a psychotherapist and turned on the TV and there on Monday Night Football was a game between the Packers and the Browns. It must have been around the early October part of the year ‘cause there was snow around the edges of the field in Green Bay. The contrast of colors, the green and gold of the Packers uniforms, the orange and white colors of the Browns, the green grass on the field and the white snow bordering it…the spectacle of it all captured me and I was hooked. From that night foreword I became a fan of football again, at the pro. level at least, and for the next twenty or so years I was into it. But over the past year I’ve become dis-enchanted. I’ll list the reasons why. First, in the order of importance, that is the thing that bothers me the most, the “politics”.
        Football players, more than players in any other sport in America, are classed as “Heroes”, the Super-Men of professional sports. They are physically bigger, have classier uniforms, are surrounded by more beautiful women, have more money than just about any other group of professional players in the world. And they are primarily African-American. Because of their racial identity at least a few of them have made an attempt to take advantage of their status in the spotlight to get the attention of (mainly) white America regarding the inequities they, and their families and their friends, and for that matter, everyone in their racial group have experienced every day of their lives. If you’re white, you will not only have not experienced this, you are probably clueless about this….hence the term, and the accurately portrayed and true meaning of the term “white privilege”.
    If you’re white it’s likely you don’t even know that you’ve got it, “white privilege” that is. In my eighty-four plus years, though I’ve experienced it, I’ve never named it…till now. Of course I’ve known about racism, about prejudice. My family was filled with racist rancor. I was brought up that way. When “All in the family” came to TV I could have sworn that the character Archie Bunker was modeled on my father. (And my father might have sworn I was the “meathead” character.)
    When I read John Howard Griffins’ Black Like Me back in 1961, the non-fiction story of a man who became black by dying his skin with drugs and chemicals, and then gauging reactions to him by whites, it was an eye opener. But that was an armchair experience. The real time stuff came when I married a Mexican-American girl from El Paso and brought her to Chicago where we lived on the lakefront in an apartment on the South Side. She was brown to begin with but in the sun she turned a shade or two darker and one day as we strolled down a Lake Michigan beach I had the strangest feeling of tension in the air and of being drilled into by the stares of people as we passed by. There was a palpable air of hostility all around us that I had never in my life experienced. We hurried home wondering what was going on.
    We didn’t know but the NAACP had, on that very day, begun a movement to integrate Chicago beaches just a few blocks away. Obviously we were seen as the vanguard of that event, a white guy with a near-black girl brazenly strolling down a segregated beach, we were lucky we weren’t attacked.
    Despite the fact that I was born and raised in Chicago I had no idea that the beaches were segregated. How would I know that? I was white after all. That was a manifestation of the privilege thing, though there was no such term in common use then.
    A week later we had a visit from an African-American couple we had known for many years and they spent the night in our apartment. The next morning the landlord paid a visit too and served us with an eviction notice because he had heard, “You people had niggers here yesterday and that breaks the lease.” (They were in the next room and were not surprised; in fact they apologized for “causing a problem”.)
    I was a radio announcer at a small Chicago station at the time and one of the shows I worked on was put on by the Urban League. They were the up-scale version of the NAACP in Chicago. I was still reeling from the landlords visit that day and was venting to one of the black moderators on the show and he asked if I would be willing to tell my story. I was more than happy; I was outraged and ready to be heard.
    No one in the mostly black audience for that show was shocked by my tale. Imagine my surprise to discover that my hometown of Chicago was then, 1960, considered to be the second most segregated city in America right after Jackson, Mississippi. Soon after my wife and I and our two kids moved back to El Paso, a town that had just, by local ordinance, integrated all public facilities. No other town in Texas had done the same. I don’t know if any other town in the U.S. had either. (El Paso, by the way, was and is, an anomaly in Texas. Largely Democratic and Progressive, it has never seemed to belong to the rest of the reactionary Lone Star State.)
    I ran into a lot of racism after that, always because I had black friends, mainly jazz musicians, and insisted on having them in my life. I still didn’t really know about the “white privilege” thing though and when I heard the term I felt somewhat defensive about it. I didn’t feel “privileged” on any level. I certainly didn’t come from money. And I’d worked for a living ever since I was 15. What “privilege” did I have? Not until a series of events, seemingly unrelated, occurred, did I really begin to get it.
    Over ten years ago a friend of ours, a white gay woman and her partner, a black woman, adopted two African-American boys. They were infants at the time. One day, just a few weeks ago, Elizabeth, who likes to spend time connecting on Facebook, showed me a current picture of the boys who are now about 11 & 14. I noted them and moved on. “Noted” that they had grown a good deal and were good-looking kids. That was about it.
    Around the same time in Albuquerque our favorite restaurant, an Italian place with good food and music, put this up on their marquee; “Black Olives Matter!” I didn’t pay much attention to it, just thought it was a dumb thing to do
    Then in Milwaukee cops shot a black man and the protests erupted. This was not an unarmed man and it seemed to me from the reports that it was probably a justified shooting, that is, the cops felt he was a real threat. So why I wondered, was the black community taking to the streets? This was not Ferguson.
    Then one other piece came into play, the slogan “Black Lives Matter” had had appended to it, “All Lives Matter” by various politicians and others and I agreed with that concept at first. Of course, I thought, ALL lives matter. Then suddenly as if at a deep level some sort of higher intelligence worked it all out, I suddenly realized that the white mom friend of ours has had to teach a whole different series of life lessons to those two boys that no white parent EVER has had to deal with with their kids. Those two boys would not be having the same life experience of any white kids, not in school, not on the way to school, not after school, not at any time in their lives…..just because of the color of their skin and for no other reason. That’s white privilege. And white people have no clue what that’s like. NOT ONE CLUE! They, we, can guess at it all right. We can empathize. We can understand––––––but we cannot really know.
    That’s why there cannot be anything appended to “Black Lives Matter”, because black lives have seldom mattered in the history of our country. Ever since the Civil War lynching had been rampant in the South. It wasn’t till 2005 that the U.S. Senate apologized for never having passed an anti-lynching law. It didn’t get done because there were other political priorities….and because Black Lives DIDN’T Matter. If white bodies had been hanging from trees in the South, our government would have sent in troops!
    With all the progress that has been made for African-Americans since the 60s we have forgotten that some things haven’t changed at all. For example, in Albuquerque that restaurant owner is now printing T-shirts with his same insulting “joke” about olives and he claims, in the face of some who have protested, to have, “50% support” from his friends and clientele. I really hope he’s just playing it up. I hate to think New Mexicans are that emotionally blind. That emotionally dead.
    We have a Republican president who seems quite happy to have the support of a former head of the KKK and members of various white supremacist groups.
    And just one statistic (of the many I’ve come across) says quite a bit about the reality; a young black male has a 50% chance of winding up in prison for a non-violent, usually drug, offense. Most young white males do not even get charged let alone go to prison for the same offenses, though studies show they use drugs at the same rate. That conviction will haunt that boy turned man for the rest of his life on every level, getting into college, getting a job, applying for a loan for a car or a house. One conviction, no matter how small the offense, will negatively shape the rest of his life.
    Today our white mom has to caution her black sons to be EXTRA careful while-being-black.
    White privilege. It’s alive and well in our country and most of we whites don’t even know, and most even deny, that it exists.
    We look out into the world with the same eyes, but because those eyes are inside white skin, we really don’t see at all.
    When all of this swept into my consciousness I began to weep, and still do as I write this. I will do what I can to try to make a difference about this truth. Boycotting that restaurant, bringing this issue to light in groups I speak to now and then, changing my own attitudes about black protest. Letting my black brothers and sisters know that I get it!
    I pray we ALL do.
    Having written all this you know how I must feel about the taking-a-knee protest. What I DON’T understand is why every player on every team in the NFL doesn’t follow suit. 70% of every team is made up of black players. What would American football look like if they just up and walked off the field, paychecks be damned?
    A few black players are putting overt protests on “background”, working behind the scenes both politically and in communities all over the U.S. to try to raise consciousness about all of this. Perhaps this will be more effective in the end. Hard to tell at this point but this issue began to make a difference for me at least and I suddenly began to lose my fascination with the “game”. Yes, racism played a big part in it…and economics too.
    The over-the-top marketing that fills every aspect of the game to overflowing seems to want to make us forget that it IS just a game after all. Why would naming a Ford truck “The NFL’s truck” make any difference to me? We all know that happened, not because NFL players fell in love with the F-150 but because Ford dumped a bunch of $s into the NFL coffers. More than GM anyway.
    If you’ve never seen the shopping possibilities available to a fan you might be shocked…..OK, maybe “amused”. It’s really unbelievable. Really. Anything a team logo can be applied to is for sale in the “Pro Shop”……anything…..maybe not condoms (yet) but anything else is for sale to him and her in the Shop. I’ll just list a few ‘cause really, who cares? Most obvious, the hats, shirts, jackets, sweaters, underwear, clothing of all types. Fake helmets (small and full size) and then the real deal, professional helmets autographed by various and sundry players. These are very high end. I saw one signed by New England’s Tom Brady for $4000+!
    A little aside here, I actually bought one of these helmets, full size, which was, so said the seller, signed by a whole slew of players both famous and not so much. Problem was, there was no proof at all that the signatures were genuine. When these signature pieces are sold they are supposed to be accompanied by a both a letter of guarantee and, best of all, photos of the players actually in the act of signing that item. Without that it might just be the product of a guy in a garage with a felt marker. I returned the helmet and got my money back over the protests of the seller who kept assuring me he was honest….but he couldn’t provide proof of authenticity. The practical me knew that if I could never re-sell it as genuine just based on my “assurances” either.
    As a one time fan I DO have some “stuff”. A good down jacket (which was given to me by my Bear-fan daughter, a true expression of love. (The Bears and Packers have a very long-term rivalry. I gave it to our local "thrift store".) Got a leather “Packer” jacket, which I bought and and now have given to a rabid Green Bay fan, our UPS driver.
    I have a hat, which I bought and might give away….or sell on eBay. A nice rayon (I guess) jacket I put on every chilly morn (I’ll keep that ‘cause it’s handy.) and a sweatshirt I picked up in a thrift store in Oregon (might keep that for the same reason.)
    That’s about it. No PJ’s, no underwear, no car stuff…..well, one “sticker” (small) on the Prius which I’ll keep till it peels off on its own and a license plate frame on the truck which I’ll keep ‘cause it’s handy. (I took off the big “G”, a magnetic sign, and will never fly the “G” flag a buddy gave me. It was to be used in the event that the Packers would go to the Super Bowl…. (a spectacle I haven’t watched in a couple of years.)
If this seems like a lot of “stuff” to you, because you’ve never really been a fan, this is nothing compared to how far guys, (yes, it’s mainly guys who do this kind of shopping) will go. Some even paint whole cars or trucks in team colors complete with huge logos. I guess they only intend to re-sell in the team’s marketing area to other fanatics.
    So that’s a very small peek at the Shopping part.
    And then there’s the fact that doesn’t really capture what playing on the field is like.TV cleans it up so well.
    If you haven’t ever played football you don’t realize that the field those guys play on is NOT made of soft foam, though it appears that when one of them is tackled that they just sort of sink into the grass……softly. I can assure you that the ground is hard. Even harder when you’re brought down by a 240-350+ pound guy who falls on you usually after a full out run into you. I know it-goes-without-saying that this is a rough game. But I must reiterate; football is a very ROUGH game indeed. Hockey seems rough, and of course it is….but most of the guys on a football field are no were near as padded up as a hockey player. Not even close. And most hits in hockey are glancing blows designed to knock another player off balance. Even banging into the walls that surround the rink, though making a lot of noise, is something that absorbs the force of the collision. In football, hits are targeted to take a player down, and OUT. Not many hockey players limp off  the ice after a hit. It’s routine in a football game to have a player carted off the field (that’s football talk for taken off on a mobile stretcher with everyone, fans AND players hoping he can still move his toes).
This more than a “rough” game. It’s dangerous.
    And then there’s the hype! Of course the commentators have to make a living and to do that they have to seem somehow essential to the process of getting people to watch the game so that they can be subjected, BOMBARDED is more like it, to all the selling opportunities, literally hundreds of them crammed into time slots before, during, and after a game that sponsors pay big money to the networks for. So there’s a lot of what-happened-last-week and what-might-happen-this-week talk. This can be dragged on and on in as game time grows closer. Of course what’s being communicated (sold) is that THE game is the most important happening since BC became AD. Yet, the game is clearly secondary to the commercials. You can verify this by noting that when an announcer says, “There’s a time out on the field.” It’s NOT necessarily related to what’s going on in the field of play. It’s a scheduled commercial break.
    Here’s what’s so weird about that; teams are allowed only so many time-outs in each half of a game. If they take more than that they can be penalized for “Delay of game.” Nobody counts the time outs taken for the insertion of a commercial. That’s not counted as a part of the game. Yet the time is taken and I suppose players are not supposed to take the opportunity to talk to one another about strategy or get a drink of water or call a girlfriend during that break. By the way, though the announcers will talk about why a time out is being taken if a team request one but they never talk about the time outs that are requested by sponsors. Everyone just goes silent while viewers are being pitched to buy another six pack of something.
    Now there’s a new ploy to keep the men and boys interested in tuning into the pre-game show, a good looking, preferably sexy, short-skirted and at least moderately well endowed female (girl, must be on the young side) will be included on the panel of he-men commentators. She must be well spoken when it comes to football both historically and statistically. Certainly she must hold her own in the give-and-take between the males who are busy pontificating at the commentator-desk. And she will be seated at the end of the desk closest to the camera so that we can see her legs and mile high shoes. (Nothing about professional football is very subtle.)
    The make up of the male crew must include one African-American and two white guys. *The black guy and one of the white guys will be former players. The other white guy is usually a well-known sports celeb. who is very football savvy. (He can be either black or white but it’s best if he’s a retired someone we should know.)
    This breakdown is only true for the small 4-person commentator “team”. If this is expanded to a 6-person spread then TWO black guys, possibly even three will be present along with two white guys. Only one female is ever present This may be because the producers of these things feel that with two females there might get bored and start talking to each other on the side and the boys will be left out. This is usually how these things work in normal social situations after all.
It seems important that everyone speaks very fast, has quips handy and can always tell some “insider” story about an active player now and then. These can be amusing or may elicit concern. This depends on how well the show is moving along.
    (By the way, if really doesn’t matter if the game is one being played by NFL teams or by two of the top college teams, the format is always the same but it is more likely that the beautiful girl will be on the NFL panel. She will be optional on the college level crew.)
    Speaking of females, in the last few years there has been a huge push in marketing pro-football to women. Remember the whole “man-cave” phenom? Note in commercials now that women are ALWAYS included in every single group-watching-football scene in a commercial. And they are always every bit as enthusiastic about the game as the boys/men. I don’t know if this is realistic since my wife has never been interested in even SPECTACULAR re-plays when I’ve been watching football in the TV room. In fact, I only know ONE female in my family who is a football fan…..my oldest daughter is a Bears NUT. But she lives in Chicago and likes it there….so perhaps this is an anomaly.
    Game Day used to be limited to Sundays but now has been expanded to include Mondays and Thursdays and has gone from two games on a Sunday to three or FOUR (if two of the teams are playing in London. Yes, that’s England, not Ontario, but if they can melt the ice in the hockey rink one afternoon I have no doubt the NFL wouldn’t mind another “expansion” to serve the football hungry fans in Canada. After all, the type of football they play up there can’t match the REAL American stuff on this side of the border.)
    After the game there is more “wrapping up” to prepare for the next game, which might be the very next night….and then the look ahead to the next week which will look exactly like this week with the same level of manufactured “excitement” over what-might-happen…..etc. i.e. same script, different uniforms.
    And who are the people who are actually at the game? 98% of the fans in the stands are white and they are mostly the children of “privilege” not only racially but economically. (It will cost a family of four easily $1000 to go to one game! In Dallas, it costs $75 just to park your car. Not many average Americans can put out that kind of cash to attend a single football game.)
    One more little (nasty) tie-in that the owners have created in order to promote their “sport”, it’s the turning of the opening of every game into a military event, expanding the tradition of singing the National Anthem to include fly-overs and fake military family reunions with the implication that ALL of this spectacle is somehow related to patriotism and the support of America and troops overseas. (War in other words.) and all brought to you by the NFL (and their sponsors.)
    ALL of this led me to decide that I’m done. Again. Only this time, not because I don’t play anymore, but because I don’t want to be played. I am turned off by ALL of it.
    I find it’s a relief. I REALLY don’t care who wins what…..and life goes on, just like before….and Sundays are really nice….without football.
   

     



A Note & a Rant from me
                                                        (Coyote, Dick Prosapio)
   
   
We all know that our country has always had a racist bent. But how can this be a surprise? There’s not a country on the planet that doesn’t have this problem, this “contamination of freedom”. It’s part of the baggage we carry as diverse humans. There has always been an “us” vs. a “them”, and never before has ANY country tried to do what this country is trying hard to do, mix up people of every color, race, nationality, religious persuasion in one place and ask them to then run the thing with everyone’s best interests at heart. No place, no time.
    So here we are trying to do this from the ground up. Nobody has tried that before either. This is the first country in which an attempt has been made to have regular people, not a particular class of people, a designated “nobility”, try to run the whole thing.    
    We are not a “tribe”, none of us has been born into a certain group specifically chosen to take the helm of this ship-of-state, there has been, in general, no position handed down that determines who can or cannot take on a given position of responsibility for running things. Yes, of course there have been some; the Kennedys, the Roosevelt’s, the Adam’s, the Byrd’s…but these have been exceptions rather than rules.     It has been remarkable that we have gotten this far along without making a total wreck of things.
    But! We MUST now deal, at long last with this racism thing. And we must do it now! There is no leadership at the top to take a stand on this. President Embarrassment cannot lead, everyone knows this. His second in command likewise. And his third, ditto. No, this leadership must be taken beginning from the ground up. Beginning from every pulpit, on every political platform, in every town, neighborhood, city, county people of good will, and there are MANY more of us than there are of those of the darkest nature, the bigots, the haters, the murderers of hearts, minds, and souls…many, many more…and all of us need to stand up and declare NO MORE of this slaughter, of this hate, of this us-vs.-them rhetoric or actions.
    Never mind the platitudes, the candles, the cardboard signs, the flag waving, the tears and sorrows….it’s time to take a principled stand against what we do NOT want our country to be turned into, against a turning back of the clock. It’s time to say we will not stand for this any longer. We must ALL…ALL say NO! to politicians who do nothing except make speeches and then disappear when action is called for. We must ALL take-a-knee in support of equal treatment of everyone in our country!
    It’s time to fashion our country into what we, the majority of the population believe and want it to be….it doesn’t start with the disease of guns, it starts with the hopelessness we all feel when yet again another insane individual takes another innocent life in the name of hate.
    What to do? Find out what to do! We create solutions to problems all the time. Want to go to the moon? We worked on it…..we made our way…despite tremendous odds that said it couldn’t be done. We must use that same intent, creative energy, problem solving push to DO SOMETHING NOW! Not tomorrow, not next month, not next election cycle…..NOW!
   
   
Here's a start; how about a Federal law that bans ALL firearms (concealed or not, permitted or not) inside ANY public venue? Walmart, Costco, 7-11, Target, Trader Joe's, Smith's, Kroger, a baseball field, etc., etc. (The NFL already does this....though three...Republicans of course...would like to change that at Seahawk stadium!)
    Any place the general public is served (all restaurants, churches.....) no guns inside. This way all those who have a need to stockpile any kind of gun can have them in their homes, trucks, cars, RVs etc. they just can't take them anywhere else!
    New job opportunities, the small building outside a Walmart where a licensed professional collects and checks all guns at the door, just like the old hat-check girls.
    This would create an opportunity for all of us to feel safe again. (and no more bitching about "The 2nd Amendment"!)


What would REALLY begin to move things would be a; Mother's (Women, Wives, Girlfriends) Against Fathers (Men, Husbands, Boyfriends) Carrying Guns!* movement. THAT would have an impact. Asking gun-toting men to be reasonable on their own seems a lost cause.

*Not a good acronym but we have to start somewhere.


                                        Notes from Seneca (4 BC-65 AD)



It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.

You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply — though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire… How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!

Everyone hustles his life along, and is troubled by a longing for the future and weariness of the present. But the man who … organizes every day as though it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the next day… Nothing can be taken from this life, and you can only add to it as if giving to a man who is already full and satisfied food which he does not want but can hold. So you must not think a man has lived long because he has white hair and wrinkles: he has not lived long, just existed long. For suppose you should think that a man had had a long voyage who had been caught in a raging storm as he left harbor, and carried hither and thither and driven round and round in a circle by the rage of opposing winds? He did not have a long voyage, just a long tossing about.

It is inevitable that life will be not just very short but very miserable for those who acquire by great toil what they must keep by greater toil. They achieve what they want laboriously; they possess what they have achieved anxiously; and meanwhile they take no account of time that will never more return. New preoccupations take the place of the old, hope excites more hope and ambition more ambition. They do not look for an end to their misery, but simply change the reason for it.

Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.





    We Are Still Young…and Foolish

    Emerson said, “The World is young, the former great men (and women) call to us affectionately.” This, of course, speaks of the role of history and its relevance. “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.,” said Santayana. Perhaps we should add at the end, “…doomed to repeat” its mistakes.” ! (As we seem to be doing the world over given the rise of the very evil that promoted both World Wars, the shortsighted belief in nationalism. )
    Here in our country, the same stale religion rises again with the head of our nation babbling on about this insanity.
    We think we have matured with our survival of each crisis. But then we allow the amplified rages of self-proclaimed “patriots” to lead us down the same old well-rutted road to assured destruction. Our nation uber-alles.  Here we are yet again, after a stumbling, murderous slog through the worst war in the history of the world, and two steps back into considering the same old belief systems. “America first!” Beware the OTHERS!
    ALL the “others”!
    I am 84 years old. Subtract that number from 2019 and you get 1935. Six years into the Great Depression, just six years before the onset of World War II.
    Subtract another man (or woman’s) life of that same 84 years and you will find yourself born just 9 years before the war that indeed tore our nation apart. The year will be 1851.
    In just one more long-lived life of 84 years, and you will be in a country that isn’t even designated as such. We will be a collection of “colonies”. The year will be 1767. And even then, talk of separation from England will be heard but only on background for it would have been quite dangerous to speak it out loud.
    Just three long lifetimes from right now, and we’re back in colonial times, and answering to a king without a voice about our circumstances. Subsequently, just 8 years later it will begin at Bunker Hill and continue until a great number of people will sacrifice their lives in order to change that into the nation we will call the United States.
And in another 85 + 9 years, tens of thousands more will die in the attempt to keep this relatively new country from fracturing into more than two, for if we consider the potential that was fought for by the South, the concept of “States Rights”, their success could have resulted in a vastly more fractured “America”. One that would have resembled Italy before 1861….a country of small fiefdoms. Many of them supported by slaves or “surfs”.
    Clearly we are NOT going back. But sometimes I wonder if we really realize that we must go forward. This abomination currently inhabiting a leadership position in our country is not the future. He is a throwback to a time we should have and must leave behind. And the sooner the better. Meaning very soon indeed. The longer his, and his supporter’s voices emanate from high office in our country, the more the same kind of ignorance is encouraged the world over. This, it has been said over and over, is NOT who we are. And if we truly believe this then we must be willing to put a stop the broadcasting of this message of intolerance by removing its ignorant source.
    How? The Congress of our country has as long a history as the Presidency of course. Well over 11000 people have passed in and out of its chambers since it was first assembled. Yes there have been charlatans, thieves, even traitors seated there over the decades. And there have been honest men, and now, more than ever, women seated there as well. But for the first time in our history, Congress must now be called upon to look into its collective soul and find there the courage to act to save our nations honor.
    We have never asked this of our representatives before. We have asked them to debate the particulars of laws, to wrestle over concepts of governance. We have put them there to represent all the full range of the ideas of their constituency and to, in the end, try to determine what is best for the whole. The results have been mixed of course. But over time, even the most contentious issues have, for the most part, been brought into alignment with what the Founders of our country hoped we could be. We continue to be a work-in-progress. But in so many ways we have kept our nation together striving for what’s right and about what was intended from the start.
    We cannot let this all slip away. This is NOT a time to be careful. This is a time to be FULL OF CARE about what we really want this country to be (again). We’ve been derailed. Let’s get back on track. To stay with this metaphor, lets clear the track of this train wreck and move ahead with what was begun not so long ago. (one more rail term) these clowns, the chief Bozo among them of course, are Dead Heads. We will go no where till we rid ourselves of them. We don't have any time to waste on this nonsense. Get him OUT!
                       



Where Have You Been All My Life?

                           
    That’s what I asked when I first met Elizabeth. I asked it again just two weeks ago. No, not of Elizabeth, I already had that answer. I asked it of an inanimate object. (I already knew the answer so I didn’t expect a response. See, I’m not quite as crazy as I seem.
Really, I’m not!)
    Here’s the scenario. Living out here on our ten acre “ranch”, requires some tools that most folks don’t have. Besides posthole diggers and barbed wire cutters there is the very useful, and always problematical….chainsaw. Useful for cutting trees and limbs, problematical because they’re cranky.
    Anything with a pull-cord starter is “cranky”, it comes with the territory. So, one time a pull on the cord will result in a smooth running motor response. Another time, and this is MOST of the time, the result will be a couple of “pops”…and then silence…….followed by grunts and a series of expletives and endless pulls on the cord……and more….silence. (and more expletives.)
    Why these little two-stroke engines act up this way is a mystery, but there’s a whole industry built upon this quirky behavior, the small-engine-repair business. And, as a last resort, there’s Craig’s List.
    So here’s how it works, you buy a new chainsaw and it starts up every time the first few times you use it. Then it quits. That’s it. It will not start again no matter what you do to it; empty the old gas, put in fresh-from-the-farm-organic gas. Put in new oil, clean the filter, put in a new spark plug, clean the carburetor, pull and pull and pull on the cord.
    Nothing.
    So, you take it to the small-engine-repair business and get it back three weeks later (there are LOTS of people with chainsaw problems in front of the line) and it starts right up. (I have no clue as to what kind of magical fairly dust these people use to get these things to run again.) and then the whole dance starts all over again. Or rather, DOESN’T start all over again.
    The other solution? Sell the thing on Craig’s List. Personally I’d NEVER buy a used chainsaw because the reason it’s on Craig’s List to begin with is that it won’t start. Not for me anyway. People DO buy used chainsaws, that’s how I’ve gotten rid of the ones that won’t start for me. Obviously the people who buy them have some of that magical “dust” which is held in a Trust by the repair shops.
    After selling the one that won’t start, for me at least, the next move is to buy a new one. So far, I’ve had four or five. Each one promises to solve the problem. So I’ve had two Poulan’s, a Black and Decker, a Sthil (this is said to be one of the very best). All of them except the last ran for one season and then, predictably, quit. The Sthil ran for over five minutes, splattered oil all over me but ran fine. Despite the prospect of fine-running I decided the oil splattering wasn’t worth it and sold it on Craig’s List. The new owner loved it. (Don’t ask me why. Reputation I suppose.)
    The I got an Echo. This was a fine saw, started and ran for two seasons of cutting, and then went the way of all chainsaws. I’ve got it in the shop now prepping it for Craig’s.
    But! Suddenly I have found the SOLUTION! The second love-of-my-life, the answer to the “where have you been” question…….a battery powered saw! (A Ryobi)
    I can’t begin to tell you how many problems this solves. Well, yes I can, so here they are;
    Pop in a battery and Voila! It runs!
    No gas fumes!
    No special mixing of gas and oil!
    No roar of the engine.
    No cord start.
    It runs!
    Zip!
    OK, you’re going to ask, what about sufficient power? Yesterday I cut through a 12” cedar stump and that saw didn’t even shudder.
    Next question; But how long will a charge last? With the battery that came with the saw, a 1.5 amp, not very long, maybe 20 minutes of total run time. But I ordered a 3.5 amp as my main battery and ran it for an hour or so and still had power time left. I’m not cutting up trees to furnish cords of wood for a wood burning stove so I don’t need to cut all day anymore. This saw is PERFECT for what I need now. Oh! And noise level? Though I wear ear protection all the time, it’s just a preference, not a necessity, the “noise” of this saw is just the whine of the chain cutting through the wood.
    I, and we, (even Elizabeth likes using it) love it. Fact is, it wouldn’t have done the job before, battery technology wasn’t up to the job just a year or two ago. But the new lithium batteries have the run time and the power to make this solution work.
    So we’re cuttin’ up on the ranch….and I don’t think we’ll be using Craig’s for this one.
    Wanna buy a “refurbed” Echo? Starts right up.
Note: (05/08) Just got the elecric lawn mower! More on this later, but so far, ditto the above!

      

Considering Beginnings       

    The questions begin with “Is there a god? And if so, or even if not, what is my place in this creation?”
    All answers are speculations of course but we have to start somewhere so this is where I start. There IS a god. Pure speculation on my part of course, but to get anywhere with this quest this is where I begin. If I were to begin with, “No, there is no god.” then my quest is over. No further questions need be asked even about “purpose” or at least higher purpose, which is something more than basic survival and subsequent procreation. I prefer moving along with the quest with the premise that there is such a thing as “higher purpose” and that on this small speck of dust in the Universe, there IS God’s work to be done and that I am, as is all of humankind, charged with task.
    By the way, I have no answer to any questions about why a creator would decide to select this particular bit of rock and water for any kind of undertaking. Perhaps this same experiment is taking place on every single populated rock in the Universe. Rather then try to read the mind of God; I’ll just limit myself to our own backyard. Perhaps there are any number of writers on any number of rocky globes writing about this same subject right now. With the kinds of numbers we can conjure which make possible almost infinite possibilities, anything is possible.
    (The use of “He” is simply a convenience. There is no “He” or “She” there is only the Creator-of-Life.)
    Back to our own “backyard”, I look at the “Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and I focus on the hands, God reaching for Adam, Adam reaching for God. Clearly Adam is less sure of this effort; you can see this in his halfhearted reach. (Google the Sistine Chapel for the visual.)
    God, however, is reaching. So humankind seeks with less certainty about just what, if anything, is being sought. God wants to connect with His/Her creation…no less certain about the possible outcome, but reaching with intent nonetheless.
    (The Creator probably had this same ambivalence about sparking the Big Bang but did so because Life wants to know what it is to live!)
    So, once the contact is made the journey begins. And yes, it begins with The Garden of Eden where, up to this point, ALL of creation has been thriving.  Adam (and Eve) along with all the other life forms have been fully formed, since everything had been set in motion, and have continued to evolve following a natural unfolding, that natural tendency to become more and more successful. And in this creative salad there was one life form that had evolved the potential for reflection.       
    Concurrently, one day, the Creator began to develop a desire to be recognized by His creation, and He decided to touch Adam. What followed this awakening was another birth, this one the birth and evolution of consciousness and thus was born the metaphor of The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Creator placed in the middle of the Garden the opportunity to discover the gift (and the dilemma) of free will, a choice about how they wanted to live life. (“Good” is defined by choices that are life affirming. “Evil” is defined as life denying. One moves life forward, the other does not. Each creates its own subsequent challenges.)
    From this instant the living of life is determined by choices made by God’s creation and not by God. Yes there are natural forces at work as well, but these are not all determined by human consciousness. Earthquakes and tsunamis for example are, for the most part, natural processes that humans have no part in creating….at least not early on in the story of creation. However humans have become more and more the prime actors in the processes of what would otherwise be natural geological shifts. Earthquakes can now be stimulated by human interferences with underlying rock formations. Huge forest fires, once only set off by lightning strikes are now mostly human caused. Our vast oceans and all life in them are now at risk. And even the very climate has been interfered with by human carelessness, greed and lack of responsibility.
    None of this has been God caused. In fact, after the initial desire for contact with His creation, God has taken no part in either negative or positive occurrences that have affected life on the Earth. The Creator is not responsible for famines, plagues, wars, diseases, or any of the natural disasters humankind has experienced. (I am aware that this is a deist point of view.)
God does not respond to prayers (any and all “responses” are the provinces of spirits, mainly ancestor consciousness’s that are always available helpers who hover around their progeny after physical death.)
    The Creator does not make rules to live by. These have been created by humankind….sometimes to help, sometimes simply to control (for good or ill). So there is no sin that the Creator keeps track of and, of course, there is no hell, defined as a place of eternal punishment for those who have sinned. Humans live and die and experience life as they have created it in their own times.
    All religions are human created in order to try to make some sense of what humans have created and not in order to understand the Creator who is easily known by what He/She has created
    It follows then that there is no right path or wrong path when it comes to knowing God. God does not judge the manner of seeking. In fact, God does not judge at all. God simply IS.

Phew! Glad I figured THAT one out. Now on to larger questions; What's for dinner?
   

A Hobby

    I frequent the Albuquerque “Hobby Lobby” store now and then, most often to see if there are any interesting frames for my photography (I find them there and in antique/junk shops) and often I’ll detour to the aisle where the model planes, boats, cars and trains are stocked.
    I was a bit of a model builder when I was a kid….actually a huge overstatement, in those days, the 40’s, models were sheer hell to put together if you weren’t totally obsessed with the idea. I wasn’t, especially since most models had to either be almost completely carved out of balsa wood or put together with thin sticks covered with thin paper. The main body of a plane for example, was shaped into the basic outline, but beyond that you had to carve it into the finished piece. The alternative was a body made up of small, thin sections of wood, which were joined by long rods of wood to form the wings, body and tail. It was just like constructing a real plane, at least one that was fabric covered, and it was a nightmare for a non-detail type of kid like me. I’d get about 50% through the process and a rod would snap or wouldn’t stay glued, or one of the thin sections would break in half and it was almost impossible to put those sixteenth of an inch thick pieces back together again. I just couldn’t stick with it. Literally.
    I really admired those who could do it and felt somewhat “less-than” over this issue for a long time. There was the rare kid who could actually do that stuff well and they were the envy of the rest of us slackers  when it came to model building. Of course we also thought this kind of kid was a little weird, like the “geek” of today. Still, we marveled at the finished product and secretly wished we could match it. But no matter how often I determined to “…..really stick with it this time!” when yet another model plane showed up under the Christmas tree, gifted to me by some uncle or aunt who thougth that any kid could breeze through the project. After all, that’s what it said on the box,
    I was one of those kids who simply could not complete one of those things. It was an area of failure in my young life that I had a hard time getting over. Even as an adult, I carried with me the idea that if I had just manufactured more patience, I could have completed one of those Mustangs P-51’s. So, even to this day, I walk down that path amongst the enticing models of WW ll planes, ships and 40’s cars and think, “Hell, these are just plastic snap-together things, how hard could it be? This is so much easier than what we had to do in the ‘old’ days. Snap it together and paint it. That’s it, no problem.”
    So one day I finally decided to spring for it and bought two model cars. Both boxes claimed that they were “Level 2”, which, I discovered, perhaps a bit late, means between a-(talented)-monkey-can-do-this (Level 1) and do-not-attempt-without-a-degree-in-building-teeny-weenie-stuff that takes forever.(Level 3).
    I had another motive for embarking on this endeavor; our middle kid (Honor) and I had never hit it off. ‘Course, up to then she hadn’t hit it off with anyone in the family or in society at large, but I thought I’d give it another go via a shared project. We would build model cars side by side, hers would be just the kind of car I could see her liking, a ’70 Pontiac Firebird, with stripes, etc. and I would build one of those old collectors fantasies, a 1935 Auburn Boattail Speedster. (This was the very classy and esoteric car that was driven in one of the “Topper” movies of the late 30’s. In case you’ve never seen a Topper movie, just take my word for it.)
    Upon investigating the parts and detailed instructions, I discovered that the “snap-together” thing was sort of misleading. This was not going to be a “snap” by any means. Though nothing had to be carved, every single aspect of these cars was available (and necessary to the successful outcome) and it all had to go together……just so.
    Shades of the 40’s, this was not just putting a car together; this was BUILDING a car…from the bottom up! Springs, shocks, front end, rear end, engine, oil filter, starter, distributor, turbo (in the case of the “Speedster”) fan, fan belt housing, floor, seats, rear view mirrors (inside and out) bumpers, radiator, grill, all the chrome “goodies”…the whole car in other words. And they wanted it all painted in appropriate colors too. This we weren’t going to mess with. My goal, and I thought it might be shared, was simply to build the basic car(s) and in the process have a “bonding” experience with my daughter.
    And so it was that I unexpectedly re-visited the frustrating nightmare of the model buildings of my youth.
    Problem(s) first encountered; I expected that when it said, “snaps together” that would be what happened when you pushed the little round nodules into the little (almost) rounded holes. But no! Nothing “snapped together”. Nodules and holes were only ‘”indicators”. Everything had to be glued! AND, some things didn’t even get glued to a designated spot, that is, it wasn’t a tab-to-slot fitting. Sometimes it was just a glue-it-there-and-HOLD-it-till-the-passage-of-time-makes-it-stick thing.
    That meant that you glued something and then went away for awhile to watch a movie till it dried before being able to move on to “Direction #2”, “#3”, etc.. (in theory)
    (As we progressed I noted kid losing patience with parent close on her heels.)
    (Also noted, kid seemed to have more patience than parent at this point. Probably due to having a more recent association with things glued in school.)
    It wasn’t long before this parent was running on empty, the Speedster was a LOT more detailed than the Firebird what with modern uni-body construction techniques and such, so I abandoned the complicated 30’s fantasy (no wonder they only built a few of those things, with no shocks it must have ridden like a tank) and I took over the relatively easier stick-it-together Pontiac while kid toddled off, happy to be off the hook, to watch TV. Her main hobby.
    I struggled along for a while, and got most of the thing stuck together. Then, noting this had become MY project, put both unfinished shells back into the boxes and admitted defeat in all quarters.
    I’m staying away from the model aisle from here on out….unless it’s one of those all-metal, fully formed things and all that’s required is to snap on the wheels. Or just take it out of the box.
    Either that or I’ll contract with my grandchild who is going-on-ten and maybe she can do it all. I’m not proud, and after all, the instructions claim that, “Any ten year old can do this!”  If I’d seen that I wouldn’t have even gotten started.

       






                  Return with me to Those Golden Days of Yesteryear

    Of course we all know that our tendency to distort the facts of the past can paint yesterday(s) with a gold patina….in some cases at least. And there’s the, You-can’t-go-home-again thing……and all that that turns out to mean. Gee, I went back to my old house, apartment…and it was a LOT smaller than I remembered. Yeah, that one.
    Or, I met up with my old girl/boy friend last week and once we got by all the amenities we got into the same argument(s) we used to have back when we ……and etc.
    Nostalgia about “old cars” always gets me going too. I don’t have any fond memories about all the old cars I owned. I mean some of them were beauties; the ’57 Chevy Bel-Aire convertible is now THE “classic” amongst classics. And the MG II was a nice little sports car, and the ’61 Corvette looked great……and……I could go on. But the FACT was, and this is not a distortion of memory, I wouldn’t trade any one of them for the reliable, well-built, fine-running Prius I have today. I don’t care if any one of those cars still LOOKS great. They were unreliable, rattletrap, gas-guzzlers that, if I took them on a cross country trip today, would have to be followed by a parts car driven by a mechanic. (And I would hope that “parts car” wouldn’t be a GM product). Fact; it would have been considered AMAZING if one of those “classics” was drivable after the odometer passed 100,000 miles, something a Toyota or Nissan can triple today.
    Anyway, that’s where I am with fantasies about the past. BUT! One morning last week I had a yen for protein, as in eggs and bacon, and we didn’t have any bacon. But what we DID have was……a can of Spam!
What were we doing with a can of Spam you ask?
    Good question. Actually, it was a joke. We had been invited to dinner at a friends house and asked if we could bring something. So rather than the obligatory salad, we happened upon a display of Spam and decided to get a can for a laugh. (It had the expected effect and then we brought it back home and stuck it on a shelf and forgot about it.)
    On the morning I had that yearning for protein, we decided to open the Spam and give it a try. Can you return to the past? Oh yeah. And it’s every bit as bad as you remember it to be. Spam has NOT changed. It’s still good-ol’-Spam….just a lot more salty than I remembered. Same canned dog-food consistency, same lots-of-promise (it’s supposed to taste like ham after all) with the same disappointing result; i.e. it’s NOT even close to ham.
    So; next time you want to take a trip down memory lane, if that lane happens to include a time when Spam was parked along the way, just get and open a can of the stuff.  And take this to heart; Spam is a genuine window into the past….and there’s nothing that can compare with it around today. Thank God.
    By the way, when I was a kid and had to fix a meal on my own ‘cause my parents were working or out of town or something, once in awhile I’d open a can of Spam (real meat was rationed back then) and “doctor” it up a bit. I’d coat it with mustard, a kind of marinade I guess, then I’d stick some cloves in it to mimic real ham, then I’d bake it.
    No, I’m not going to try that gambit just to get the stuff to pass for food today. The rest of this can will get mixed in with the dry dog food our guys like. (I’m not sure they will actually know the difference.)
    Actually, drop that last idea, I think we will give it to the coyotes.  They might even really like Spam. Yeah, talk about no class.



I Usually Avoid Backward Glances

    Joe Raposo wrote a song that Sinatra sang which I’ve always thought of as the bitter complaints of an old man, one of those guys who reminisces about the-good-ol’-days. It’s “There used to be a ball park right here…..”. I don’t tend to do much of that good-ol’-days stuff; not a lot of it at least. Of course these days ALL of us are talking about better days and fearing that they are all behind us. But that’s another story.
Today I was driving down one of our major east-west streets in Albuquerque and was shocked to note that they’ve dug up and destroyed the batting range I used to go to when highly motivated. Going there used to be a sort of test for me, one of those Can-I-still-do-this thing (hit a ball). Of course hitting a ball in a batting range isn’t any where near as challenging as it really used to be. First of all I only tried hitting in the “Medium Speed” cage. I avoided the Fast Speed cage just two rows down. I was tempted but a little antsy about it. Even though every pitch was thrown by the machine at exactly the same spot every time, that what if? bothered me. Well, I didn’t want to Whiff every time either and that would probably have been my experience in the “Fast” cage.
    “Fast” by the way was actually only about 85 mph, not the 100s that major league pitchers are throwing routinely these days. But hitting in the Medium Speed cage was heroic enough for my baseball ego. I mean, there I’d be in my regular cowboy boots (yes they are VERY comfortable) jeans, in-town shirt, plastic helmet, swinging away at a rubber-covered ball with an aluminum bat…Boink!
Not really like the old-days. I really missed the Crack! of wood on leather, But I’d hit one now and then, one that probably would have cleared the infield, and I could still do it right or left. That was fun! (especially if my daughter Lia was watching. She can hit too, I taught her after all, but I really loved it that she could witness her ol’ dad’s ability to still do it!) I’d think she’d be thinking, “Gee there’s life in the old guy yet!” My fantasy of course…..but a good one.
    Yeah, there used to be a batting range….right there…..and I guess I AM a little bitter about it.
 

 
Just Say No! (Not Maybe)

    “You’re not the boss of me!”
    “You can’t tell me what to do!”
    “No! I don’t want to!”
    Remember when you were trying to parent those 3 year olds? And later those teens? How did we handle those refusals to play by the rules?
    Yeah, that stuff was hard to handle. Arguments. Consequences. Eye rolling. Giving up. Blow ups. Resentments.
    But the bottom line was, as parents, we had to win in the end. We could NOT allow our kids to have their way when, 1. What they wanted went up against what we, as responsible parents, had determined was the best course. Or, 2. What they wanted was dangerous or unacceptable behavior for them or for others.
    But as a society that is exactly where we have failed when it comes to weighing individual Rights vs. individual Responsibility. What we have done has been to tip the scales way out of balance when it comes to determining that Rights are more important than Responsibility and we did it first with our actual children, the young in our society so that they determine the shape and make-up of our fashion and entertainment….in fact the youth of our country have control of our culture. All of this is based upon the fact that our children have the purchasing power to draw the attention of marketers and marketers pander to that huge sector of our economy. We adults have allowed this because we worship youth.
    But it hasn’t stopped there. We have also allowed our society to give way too much power to the concept of Rights in so many areas that we are now reaping havoc everywhere. Where once we determined that no one had the right to, on a whim, yell Fire! In a crowded theatre, we now claim that this is a Right of Freedom-of-Speech and should not be abridged. Now insult, no matter how egregious, falls into this category as well. So simple civility has been cast aside in favor of individual freedom of expression.
    Fact, whether as a scientific proof or Fact as a report of an actual occurrence can now be called into question simply because it may be inconvenient to acknowledge reality.
    And now we have created a full blown culture of guns based upon a fairly simple Amendment, the 2nd of course, having determined that a “well regulated militia” means EVERYBODY….should walk around carrying guns of every caliber, capacity, and capability and these should be able to be carried everywhere. That’s our “right” after all and it should not be abridged lest a tyrannical government take us all into concentration camps. And no one has been willing to say No! to this mad idea, to these adult children who claim they have the RIGHT to go about in our society, creating and contributing to the air of paranoia and anger that fills our streets day and night and makes everyone feel unsafe. For contrary to the claim that if all are armed we will be safer for then it will be true that the criminals will be out-gunned, now everyone has the potential to be a killer, intended or not.
    So; what to do about our current un-reality? First, ALL public buildings must be equipped with metal detectors because no one should be allowed to carry a gun inside a public space. Yes, that includes, but is not limited to; movie theaters, hotels, churches, restaurants, coffee shops, department stores, malls, liquor stores, libraries, schools (of course) government buildings, super markets, etc., etc in short any space open to the public (probably have to include parks somehow) must have, at all entrances, metal detectors and personal to oversee them. Yes, just like air ports. (After all, if we’re going to be protected against “terrorists” we must include the most prevalent source of terror in our country, our own citizens.) Who will pay for this? Well, the gun lobby of course. If it weren’t for them we wouldn’t need to do any of this so they are responsible. Oh! And they have the money.
    Next, let’s stop selling assault weapons. Nobody hunts deer with them so no excuses from the hunting lobby. And let’s stop accepting the, “Stop-telling-us-we-can’t-have-assault-weapons!” people telling all the rest of us that they have a right to have them just “because”. Maybe they feel “safer” having them around but the rest of us do not. And there are more of us. Yes there are thousands and thousands of these around and we will just have to cope with that but let’s not add to the total. (No point in trying the Aussie answer and have the Government off to buy them back ‘cause those obsessed with having them aren’t going to let them go….the whole “…pry them from my dead fingers…” thing having been a flag waver for them after all.
    No more high capacity magazines sold. (For obvious reasons. Of course any restrictions would be put in place at this point for “obvious reasons”.)
    Register ALL guns. (ditto above)
    None of this will solve the problem we have been building up to all these years, but there’s not much we can do about that. There will still be random killing by guns, there will still be mass murders occurring, the trend after all, is continuing and the body count grows with each passing year, but it may slow things down a bit and most importantly, all of this will send a message that this romance Americans have with guns is NOT a good thing. It’s a problem, and anyone who contributes to it is feeding that problem.
I don’t know about you, but if people are wandering around in a public space carrying guns I DO’T FEEL SAFER! Crazy people with guns look just like sane people with guns and I can’t begin to tell the difference. So I just think it’s better for everyone to not have to try to figure that one out. Just take the gun out of the picture and I won’t worry about your sanity….or mine.
    Once we get outside of a public space, well……we will just have to get back to duck-and-cover I suppose. Fewer semi or fully auto weapons will help. Limits on how much a shooter can fire in a given amount of time may help. Other than that, we’ve been working on creating this nightmare scenario for over a hundred years and now we are reaping the whirlwind. No one in high political office seems to be willing to take the role of responsible parenting about it so far but perhaps these few steps will help some.
    Of course it will take a bunch of law makers deciding to say “No!” to the willful children-with-guns (and money) to get all of this done (and ALL of it must be done in order for anything to be even moderately effective).
    But do we have any responsible parents in control anywhere?
  
  

                                    What’s in a Name?

    What’s in a name? Well George Carlin let me know, did it to me––– in public. He did the whole shtick on my name at the worst possible time, on my first, and it turned out only, date with a girl I had just met while we sat in the balcony of a sold out concert in Houston. (I don’t know if that was the reason for the “only”.)
Up to that point in my life, little had been made of my “nick name” even through high school. I was all of forty years old and suddenly my name became a laugh line. Nobody laughed at Richard “Dick” Burton or old Hollywood legends like Dick Powell or Richard Harris or Richard Gere. Or that great comedian Richard Pryor. The name was somewhat besmirched by “Tricky Dick” Nixon of course, but Burton had Elizabeth, Harris had Shakespeare, Gere had talent, and Pryor was a riot. I was just “Dick”, or as my mother liked to diminish me, out of affection I hoped, “Dickie”.
    After that night I bought into and became sensitive to it, dodging the issue with Richard or “Rich”. Years later I got over the thing, but it seems very few others did because when I was addressed or introduced, not always but often, “Dick” was studiously avoided….as if I might be offended by my name.
    Just to let you careful people know, I’m over it. Mostly. You can call me “Dick” any time and you won’t get a rise out of me.............Unfortunately.
(Even I couldn’t resist that one.)



 


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