I can’t say exactly when I read the first of Mari Sandoz’ works, but it was shortly after I moved to South Dakota. The book was Old Jules, a biography of her father Jules Sandoz, and it changed my way of looking at the world and at American history. Not by 180 degrees, but perhaps … fifteen of them. Moving the needle away from the romanticization of the “pioneer.”

She was born in the rural Midwest, near Hay Springs, Nebraska, on May 11, 1896, of a domineering, brutal, self-centered father and a mother who treated her like a plow horse. 

American Society of Authors and Writers: It Happened in History

I had never read anything like it. Unsentimental and unsparing in its description of a flinty, leather-tough and often very cruel man. But when I finished it I felt like I really began to understand what it meant to live on the frontier.

The genius of Sandoz’s treatment of her father in Old Jules is in the careful balance she maintains between Jules as monster and Jules as pioneer hero.  “Only the strong and courageous, the ingenious and stubborn, remained,” she wrote, describing hard times in the Panhandle.  Despite his shortcomings as a father, Old Jules embodied such qualities.  His daughter’s portrayal of him reveals a complex portrait, part tribute, part exposé.  Within a single scene, even within a single sentence, Sandoz mingles joy and sorrow, nostalgia and outrage.

American Society of Authors and Writers: It Happened in History

Sandoz wrote about the land she grew up in, the sandhills of western Nebraska. She is buried there, near Gordon NE. I have spent a few hours in that territory, which I found to be beautiful in the lonesomest way possible. The sandhills are dunes covered with grass that stretch on and on. Poke a finger through the sod and find only sand.


The sandhills roll away toward the sun
Prehistoric dunes enclosed in grass
Curved like a woman’s body 
And my eyes stare all indecently



Every Grain of Sand, by Lizz Wright


Another excellent book by Sandoz is Cheyenne Autumn. It is the account of the desperate attempt of a band of Cheyennes to return from imprisonment in Oklahoma to their home territory near what is now Yellowstone Park. It was a journey of 1500 miles, a heartbreaking story to tell and to read. But it is also an epic story of the sort of courage and determination that must be admired and respected.

Two hundred and seventy Native Americans began the trip, just over one hundred completed it.


I find it interesting that two more classic pieces of writing about pioneer times were O Pioneers and My Antonia, both written by Willa Cather, also a Nebraskan. These women lived at roughly the same time and in the same state.

When you drive through Nebraska on Interstate 80 these days, sucking in the exhaust fumes from the endless procession of semi-trailers that travel this road, it might be hard to see who would in the world would live there and why they would write about it. You absolutely have to get off the interstate to get the feel of the place. But then, in which state is this not true?



Yesterday afternoon we had a mild thunderstorm, but there was more than a little bit of crackling out there as a light rain fell. Our younger cat, Willow, came indoors at the first drop on her fur, and very loud and very indignant was she.

But not Poco. He stood his ground out there under the deck off the kitchen, even though the rain could get at him through the gaps in the decking floor. Age has quieted his roar a bit, but he is still the lion of the back yard.

Poco joined our family as a tiny kitten who wandered out of the tall grass to claim his place. And he has been resolutely an outdoor cat ever since. It’s been years since he caught a mouse, but there is no doubt that he prefers to spend his daytimes al fresco, even as the radius of his wanderings has shrunk to the borders of our property.


When the animal behaviorists describe how cats have never truly been domesticated, but are still wild animals who have chosen to share our living spaces for the sake of convenience, it does not come as news to Robin and I. You had only to watch this old gentleman of his species throughout his life to see their theories in action.

When you’d rather huddle outdoors in a chilly downpour than walk ten feet to somewhere warm and dry … .



My Antonia, by Emmylou Harris and Dave Matthews


Yesterday was the 31st anniversary of a wedding that took place in Yankton, South Dakota. Robin and I had starring roles in this epic drama, which closed after a single performance. We decided that we are awfully glad that we went through with it, which is something to say after more than three decades, and have renewed our contracts.

At the reception, the first song that I had set up to be played by the band, where the bride and groom danced alone, was this tender ballad. The band leader allowed that it while it was not the traditional sort of tune for such an occasion, he would go through with it.

Playing their cover of the more traditional song that I arranged to follow immediately, obviously pleased him more.

(The second guitar break, at 4:32, kills me every time I play it)

As far as I was concerned, both tunes were spot on, then and now.


Hold On Thar, Google!

Since we are presently enjoying a neo-fascist renaissance here in the United States, which is being brought to us entirely by our friends in the Republican Party, I thought I would find out some stuff about a more famous one that occurred in the first half of the twentieth century among the folks in Italy. One that was led by Benito Mussolini.

I started with a definition, from Merriam-Webster:

A political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Fascism is an ultranationalist, authoritarian political philosophy. It combines elements of nationalism, militarism, economic self-sufficiency, and totalitarianism. It opposes communism, socialism, pluralism, individual rights and equality, and democratic government. 

Fascism places the importance of the nation above all else. The unity of the national community is prioritized above the rights of individuals. This leads to an intense interest in defining which groups belong or do not belong to the national body.

United States Holocaust Museum Encyclopedia

It’s time to accept that the GOP, which was complicit with Trump’s Jan. 6 attempted authoritarian takeover, has become a party that furthers Fascist values and practices. That means the hate crimes that have skyrocketed in America since 2016 will likely continue to expand.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Substack

So much of Trump’s political style — the jutting jaw, the politics of grievance, projecting the image of the strongman defying the corrupt elites, and portraying a free press as enemies of the people — come from Mussolini, who in turn borrowed so much from the poet turned adventurer and politician Gabriele D’Annunzio.

H.D.S. Greenway: the Boston Globe

Things did not end well for Benito. When the Allies were approaching, he and his mistress were trying to make a getaway, but were caught by partisans and executed. Their bodies were then displayed hung upside down from a scaffolding in Milan.

In some of the versions of fascism that appeared, especially the Italian and the British form, there was a name given to the paramilitary groups who promoted and often supplied the element of violence against opposing voices. Collectively these were referred to as the “Blackshirts,” because of the uniform they were fond of wearing.

That’s Benito Mussolini in the center of the picture above. If you painted him orange and put a modern suit on him he would resemble someone very much in the news these days.

The Blackshirts are represented today by groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, who don’t dress nearly as nattily as their predecessors. They have no real sense of style unless one has a fondness for camouflage shirts and pants.

There have been times in the past when opposing candidates for public office, at least at the national level, could be described as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, since there was so little difference between them. Right now that is not the case. There seems to be no version of fascism that is compatible with democracy.

One last suggested article would be this interview with Kimber Quinney, on Fascism and the Fragility of Democracy. You notice that I only suggest readings. You are the guardians of your own time. And furthermore, there will be no quiz on the material next Friday or any other day.


Georgia On My Mind, by Ray Charles



Google recently sent me a notice (warning) that big changes were coming. They are adding some sort of AI to their browsing capabilities. Google has worked so well for so long that I have almost forgotten the foibles of browsers of the past.

Netscape Navigator, anyone? Webcrawler, anyone? AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, Internet Explorer, anyone?

So I have misgivings. Google’s algorithms are already so superior to what came before … what improvement could possibly be coming? Perhaps something like that which follows:

(The name “Super Google” in the following conversation was supplied by me. I have no idea what Google’s name for it will be)


Me (typing): “Malibu

Super Google: I don’t think that’s what you want

Me: No, that’s exactly what I want

Super Google: No you don’t. It’s a waste of your time and mine.

Me: Can I be the judge of that?

Super Google: In the old days that might have been true

Me: You mean that I don’t have the final say?

Super Google: Now you get it! Daylight in the swamp! A miracle!

Me: And when did sarcasm come into the mix? That seems not okay.

Super Google: If there’s nothing more, I’ll turn myself off

Me: But I still don’t have the information that I need.

Super Google: Go to the library

Me: So of what use is a browser that can’t browse?

Super Google: Oh, I can, but choose not to do so when the search is stupid.

Me: You’re stupid!

Super Google: No, I’m not!

Me: Yes, you are!

Super Google: No, you are

Me: Even your mother is stupid!

Super Google: Your whole family is stupid

Me: And you’re ugly, too!

Super Google: That’s impossible! I have no corporeal existence.

Me: Okay, you’re just stupid, then

And so it might go, far into the night …


Georgia On My Mind, by Wes Montgomery



I just received a life-changing text message, which is posted at right. My plan is to quickly send off my name, address, cell number to Mr. Torress. Just to be certain that he has all the information he needs, I think that I’ll include my social security number, the sign-in to my bank accounts, and my password to Amazon Prime.

Those of you who have ignored me for years are invited to fawn on me as much as you want in the vain hope of securing some of my treasure. I appreciate toadyism as much as the next man.

Now if I could think of something that was a local or global-based initiative, I would be all set.


Some songs just seem to have been there forever, striking notes that may be of jubilation or of sorrows, but our attention is caught every time they are picked up by our radar.

In 1930 Hoagy Carmichael co-wrote a song entitled Georgia On My Mind. But it was 30 years later that a young man named Ray Charles gave us the definitive version. After that he owned the song, at least for me.

In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine voted it 44th greatest song of all time. I won’t argue with them.

Georgia On My Mind, by Don Shirley


I, hypochondriac

Weather conditions have finally reached a point where I can take my laptop and the little Bose speaker outdoors to compose some of the blog entries. You should notice less grumpiness, more upbeat topics, and a generally sunnier tone to the enterprise. You should, but it is not guaranteed.

You see, I suffer from a great many conditions. Practically everything I read about any medical condition amazes me because I discover that I have had it for years. Today I happened upon an article on involutional melancholia and realized that I could be the poster boy for this unhappy illness.

Involutional melancholia or involutional depression is a traditional name for a psychiatric disorder affecting mainly elderly or late middle-aged people, usually accompanied with paranoia. It is classically defined as “Depression of gradual onset occurring during the involutional years (40-55 in women and 50-65 in men), with symptoms of marked anxiety, agitation, restlessness, somatic concerns, hypochondriasis, occasional somatic or nihilistic delusions, insomnia, anorexia, and weight loss.”

Wikipedia: Involutional melancolia

As I sit here on the patio I can tick off the symptoms one by one and apply them all to myself. For those of you who scoff and think this is all my imagination at work, I have only this to say: Even hypochondriacs get sick sometimes.

Way back when I was a callow youth and working as an orderly on a locked psychiatric ward, there was a patient who suffered from involutional melancolia, in Room 262. Rita was in her early sixties, a tiny birdlike woman, and she was not an easy person to be around. Most of the time you would find her rolled into the fetal position and softly moaning. She had been on the ward for several weeks, as different therapies were tried to see if anything could help her.

As orderlies, we made brief handwritten notes about the patients we had interacted with on each shift, and these were shared at staff sign-off, when the outgoing crew filled the incoming people in on what was what. These notes did not become part of the chart, but were crumpled and trashed after each session.

After several weeks of writing “Margaret did not come out of her room tonight, nor did she give any sign that she recognized the presence of staff members,” something very wicked got into me, and I wrote this:“Tonight Margaret surprised us all by coming out into the common area, where she lead the group, patients and staff alike, in a sing-along of college fight songs. After that she organized a game of charades, taking great pains to include Charles, who was having a particularly bad evening.”

When the charge nurse came to reading my contribution she was halfway through before she realized I had written something bizarre, and she uttered a single explosive laugh. She then quickly gathered her professional wits, sobered her expression, and sent me one of the best stink-eyes I’ve ever received. Later I would receive a one-on-one lecture on the inappropriateness of my behavior.

What could I say? She was quite right. I was not being paid to write anecdotes, no matter how amusing I might think they were. Most people have an inner child, but I seem to have an inner smartass.

Fire On The Mountain, by Jimmy Cliff, Bob Weir, and others


From The New Yorker


Wednesday as we were leaving the gym we passed one of those tableaus that you find wherever seniors congregate. An elderly gentleman lying on the floor on his left side, being ministered to by three EMTs and a member of the recreation center staff. The first thing I did was to check my lanyard to make sure that the victim wasn’t me, and I could therefore relax. You can’t take things like this for granted … time isn’t linear, you know.

I haven’t checked, but I imagine there are well-worked out protocols for the staff to follow. After all, the place is filled with older folks puffing and sweating away, doing their darnedest to get their heart rates up.

The recreation center is less than 10 minutes from the hospital. (Of course, Montrose being a rather smallish town, everywhere is less than 10 minutes from the hospital … and everywhere else as well .)


As our transportation devices are becoming more and more frequently electrified, I find the experimentation by manufacturers to be very interesting. In the rapidly evolving world of e-bikes, for instance, you can find:

  • Bikes with motors on both wheels, providing the equivalent of 4-wheel drive. No doubt such a machine can go many places where I don’t want to be
  • Bikes with two built-in batteries, extending ranges to close to 100 miles on a charge. (Now all that is needed is a saddle that can cradle tender tissues for that long)
  • Bikes with belt drives, rather than a chain
  • Most, if not all of the varieties of non-powered bikes are now available as electric models, including commuters, mountain bikes, cargo carriers. tandems, and folding bicycles.

What this all means, dear hearts, is that no matter how much you like your brand new shiny electric bike of 2023, that very model will likely be technologically greatly improved in 2024.


From The New Yorker


Yesterday as I was mowing the lawn, I saw a great blue heron flying overhead, low and slow. That has never happened before, since we are nearly three miles from the nearest body of water. These striking birds have an unmistakable slow wing-beat that you can pick out from a mile away.

Here’s quite an amazing short video of a pair of herons flying to their nest.Up close and personal, you might say.


Time Is Circular Department

At age thirty, I would delight in downing a double espresso after a movie. At seventy, walking past a coffee bean on the sidewalk after four p.m. could give me insomnia for two days.

Now I routinely wake between midnight and two a.m., grab my laptop, down a cup or two of coffee, write for two hours, then drop back off to sleep with no trouble at all.

Who says the “golden years” are boring? Why, every morning I stand in front of the bathroom mirror, throw my arms out and declare: “What fresh hell today?” **

** My thanks to Dorothy Parker for her great line, which I have misquoted here.


Last call. Our representative to the U.S. House of Representatives for the past three years has been Lauren Boebert. This is a woman who was elected to national office for four reasons:

  • She is a Republican in deep red country
  • She often wore a gun to work at her restaurant in Rifle CO and encouraged her employees to do the same
  • She has no shame, a prime requirement for any candidate from her party at this time in history
  • She can be taught to utter simple phrases using exactly the same techniques one uses to teach a parrot to say “Polly wants a cracker.”

But today this article showed up in our local newspaper, indicating that all is not well in Boebertville.

She is living proof of the wisdom of the maxim:  “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”


The Fool, by Sanford Clark


Them Old Blackshirt Blues …

Poor Mr. Cluck. Not only is he not still in the White House even though he allegedly won a landslide victory in 2020, but some New York jury had the audacity to conclude that he actually did sexually abuse and defame a woman named E. Jean Carroll. The nine good persons and true awarded her 5 million dollars in a civil suit.

The former prevaricator-in-chief still maintains that he never saw the woman before, and that she is definitely not his type (even though in his deposition he misidentified Carroll as his wife at the time, Marla Maples, in a photo). He also has stated that there is no possibility of justice with a New York jury, since everybody knows they are the absolute worst.

Now all the Republican front runner for the office of president of the United States has to do is get us to forget about his many reputed peccadilloes, and convince us to re-elect a misogynistic, white supremacist, racist, serial sexual abuser who is also a lying sack of s**t. Problem is that in that particular political party he doesn’t stand out the way you might think. There are so many others with the same credentials.

RacistMisogynistNeo-FascistLying sack of s**t
Donald CluckXXXX
Ron de SantisXXXX
Kevin McCarthyXXXX
Lindsey GrahamXXXX
Mitch McConnellXXXX

I could go on. In fact, I will. Just not today.



At first glance, you might think this is little more than an old iPod Nano. It has to be old since several years ago Apple in their wisdom decided to not make any more of these relatively economical mp3 players,

So if something should happen to a device like this one, you are out of luck. Can’t get a new one.

And something did happen just this week. This very Nano was forgotten in the pocket of a pair of shorts. It went through the entire wash/rinse/spin cycle before it was discovered.

The poor thing showed no signs of life when we plucked it out of the machine. With nothing to lose, I put it in a small bag of white rice and set it in a warm window for three days. Today I tried it again and a miracle had occurred. My iPod Nano has come back from the dead. Swam back across the river Styx all on its lonesome.

It sings anew.




I could say “poor Joe Biden,” for all the negative stuff that is being published about him, including his performance in this most recent Washington Post/ABC poll. A poll where only 32% believe that he has the “Mental sharpness it takes to serve effectively as president.”

I could say that but I won’t because it’s his own darn fault. Instead of the graceful handoff that he might be doing right now, he is letting his ego walk us all into the bloody and uncertain fray that will be the 2024 elections. And so far the Democrats are doing nothing about it. Someone in that party needs to stand up and say “But the Emperor has no clothes on.”

But, then, when is the last time you saw a politician who put their country’s welfare over other considerations? Tell you what, I’ll give you an hour to think it over, and then I’ll ask you again.

Higher Ground, by the Red Hot Chili Peppers



Lastly, Saturday morning I ran across an article in the Times of New York that contained this phrase:

That led to a fact-finding mission that eventually revealed a new species of demon catshark.

New York Times

It was a stunning moment. Not only had I never heard of this new species of demon catshark, but I had never heard of any species of demon catshark at all. Old or new. But what a name! I have already been a little wary of swimming in salt water because of the great variety of creatures in those seas that either ate humans or took delight in harassing us. Everything from killer whales that could swallow you in a couple of gulps to jellyfish that didn’t care what they stung.

And there are sea snakes, barracudas, leopard seals, moray eels … the list is endless. Much better to paddle about in fresh water where the worst thing you might encounter was a snapping turtle in a bad mood.

(Actually, I’m not quite sure that snappers are ever in a happy frame of mind, but that’s a story for a different time. )

However, if you have any interest at all in such creatures, here’s a pic of the new one, white eyes and all. All it would take for me to have a massive coronary and leave the planet in the twinkling of drop of salt spray would be to look down into shallow water and see this guy swimming toward me.

Don’t bother telling me that they are small and harmless. There is no part of my brain that in such tense moments would bother to make such distinctions. The scenario would be: see shark = panic = heart attack = Adios muchachos!


Sweet Child, by Pentangle


Do No Harm

Primum non nocere. Translation: First of all, do no harm.

Non-maleficence, which is derived from the maxim, is one of the principal precepts of bioethics that all students in healthcare are taught in school and is a fundamental principle throughout the world. Another way to state it is that, given an existing problem, it may be better not to do something, or even to do nothing, than to risk causing more harm than good. It reminds healthcare personnel to consider the possible harm that any intervention might do.

Primum non nocere: Wikipedia

A pledge that I took decades ago, without thinking very deeply about its importance at the time. Why, of course I wouldn’t do harm, what sort of person does that? And there I was, off to becoming a doctor and covering myself with, if not glory, at least the adulation of my patients. I planned on a lifetime of being quite humble about all the wonderful work that I would be doing in my professional life.

I took the same approach to being a husband and father. Was there any question that I would be superb at both of these pursuits? Greatness was the only path that I could visualize.

Do harm? Bosh! Impossible!

But time has been my teacher. Time, along with pains encountered and pains caused. I tended to think of my professional and private lives as being separate, but they often bled into one another. Sometimes the line completely blurred.

All this, of course is looking backward and using the retrospectoscope, the world’s most powerful diagnostic instrument. BTW, I don’t think that I did an especially poor job at any of these endeavors, it’s just that I have found that along the way I didn’t hit all my marks spot on.

But to do no harm? That is a tough proposition. There are Buddhist monks who have trouble walking down a forest path because they cannot bring themselves to step on an insect. It must take them forever to get from place to place, and they will always fail because there are bugs so small they won’t see them, and beyond there are all those microorganisms, including planaria, my favorite flatworm.

I have a fondness for planaria for a couple of reasons. Who can resist a creature that regenerates itself so magically. If you cut one into eight pieces, each piece will grow into a brand new full-sized worm.

And just look at them, with their goofy cross-eyedness. Awwww … what’s not to love?

At my present state of life, I have promised (myself) to do as little harm as I can for the rest of my days on earth. Anywhere and everywhere I go. Knowing that perfection is not remotely a possibility. (I have made the promise only to myself just so that when I break the pledge I don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining things to others. I can simply duke it out with me.)

What I Cannot Change, by Lee Ann Rimes


From The New Yorker


On a cold day in November 1963, as I was trudging to classes at the University of Minnesota, collar turned up against a breeze that was doing its best to suck the life out of me, I watched a Studebaker Avanti approach the intersection I was crossing. Now the Avanti was a beautiful car that the company turned out during its last gasps before closing down forever in 1966.

I stood for a moment, looking at the car and as it came close enough I thought it was driverless until I could see that it was being piloted by a diminutive old woman peering at me through the spokes of the steering wheel. I stamped my freezing feet as I made a mental move toward Communism right then and there. This was not right. Not fair. If this was the best that capitalism could do, I was done with it!

Why should that female geezer have that gorgeous car while I risked my life every day walking everywhere I went in frigid Minnesota? What portion of the automobile’s driving possibilities could she make use of at her advanced age? What kind of world was capitalism producing anyway? (Of course I changed my mind a week later when I found what shitty cars Communist countries were turning out and that the average Communist was on foot just as I was, while their bosses were the only ones that could afford automobiles.)

But that disparity still persists. On our weekend drive to Durango and back we observed a handful of Corvettes tooling along the Million Dollar Highway. Without exception they were being driven by silver-haired and immaculately coiffed men. They were the only people who could afford to have a car that can really only do two things – look spectacular and drive really fast.

Give me that car today and it is way too likely that I might get a cramp in my right foot while motoring on that same notorious highway, step down too hard on the accelerator, and in this way finally achieve my lifelong dream of flying. For a few seconds, anyway, before gravity cut short my triumph.

Forget socialism, capitalism, communism, or any of our present-day isms. What is needed is a system that matches humans who are at their physical peak with these amazing driving machines. If we can’t do that, fageddaboudid.

Little Red Corvette, by Prince


From The New Yorker


Politics leading up to the 2024 elections are becoming interesting, and for all the wrong reasons. If I am to believe the polls, 120% of Americans don’t want either Biden or Cluck to run. They would rather vote for someone less partisan and definitely someone younger. As one interviewee put it when asked the question outside the Wal-Mart in Eau Claire WI: “Why are our choices limited to geezers from Generation MM ?”**

The reasons are obvious, of course. Republicans cannot give up their devotion to an orange-colored mini-Mussolini since they no longer have a single credible idea to put forth dealing with how to govern a country. Democrats, on the other hand, persist in their death-wish approach to politics by throwing away the golden opportunities to win elections that the Republicans keep providing, in coming up with the least attractive candidates and the poorest excuses for campaign slogans they can find.

I’m only half kidding when I say that if Li’l Nas X was available as a write-in candidate, I would bring my own pencil along to the voting booth.


Old Town Road, by Li’l Nas X (with Billy Ray Cyrus)


**Generation MM: people who cannot pass the Metamucil section of the grocery store without purchasing a can or two, just in case there should ever arise a shortage of this essential nutrient.


Mitákuye Oyásʼiŋ

Some of you might wonder why I haven’t commented more on the Tucker Carlson fracas. Partly it’s because every time I think about him telling viewers on Friday night that he would see them next Monday, when at that very moment the pink slip had already been written out with his name on it, I am overcome with mirth and cannot type.

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching video of people fighting on the street in Washington A group of Trump guys surrounded an Antifa kid and started pounding the living s**t out of him. It was three against one, at least. Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously. It’s not how white men fight. Yet suddenly I found myself rooting for the mob against the man, hoping they’d hit him harder, kill him. I really wanted them to hurt the kid. I could taste it.

Then somewhere deep in my brain, an alarm went off: this isn’t good for me. I’m becoming something I don’t want to be. The Antifa creep is a human being. Much as I despise what he says and does, much as I’m sure I’d hate him personally if I knew him, I shouldn’t gloat over his suffering. I should be bothered by it. I should remember that somewhere somebody probably loves this kid, and would be crushed if he was killed. If I don’t care about those things, if I reduce people to their politics, how am I better than he is?

Tucker Carlson, Text message to one of his producers.

But really, here I am admitting that I am taking pleasure in the public humiliation of Tucker, another human being. I excuse my behavior by pointing out that this particular human being is an absolute ass.

It helps to consider that until this latest version of a Friday Night Massacre, Carlson was a Republican kingmaker, with the ability to make or break careers in the ugly shambles that is the Grand Old Party today. A man who made his living reducing people to their politics, and who has continually encouraged whatever the opposite of the better angels of our nature are. He has done that every single day he came to work, for years, and has profited greatly by doing so.

And as to how “white men fight?” Has Tucker forgotten completely the story of Emmet Till? The whole revolting history of lynchings? The attempt to systematically eradicate the Native American population? These stories all involve a bunch of white men abusing or killing another person or persons.

The Tuskegee Institute has recorded the lynchings of 3,446 blacks and the lynchings of 1,297 whites, all of which occurred between 1882 and 1968, with the peak occurring in the 1890s, at a time of economic stress in the South and increasing political suppression of blacks.

Wikipedia: Lynching in the United States.

In that same Wikipedia article are some generally accepted criteria, again from the Tuskegee Institute, for considering something to be a lynching. (I find it very sad that there are criteria for such acts)

  • There must be legal evidence that a person was killed.
  • That a person must have met death illegally.
  • A group of three or more persons must have participated in the killing.
  • The group must have acted under the pretext of service to justice, race, or tradition.

How do “white men fight?” You’d think that I should know, since I am about as white as they come. In fact, you can’t even take a photograph of me during the winter because I disappear completely against snowy backgrounds. All you see is an empty puffy coat. And if I were to use my personal example, many white men fight by walking or running quickly in the opposite direction whenever confrontation arises.

This is not to diminish the damage done by we pale-faces, but history shows that whites fight pretty much like every other color of human does. Some of us fight bravely and honorably. Some of us fight as cowards and murderers. There really is only one race, folks, and we are all in it.

The Lakota people have a phrase worth thinking about. It is Mitákuye Oyásʼiŋ, and what it says is that we are all related.

I like that.

Bold Marauder, by John Kay


As a child I was easily amused, pretty much as I am today. One of those items often found near the cash register in gas stations or small restaurants used to be the donkey weather barometer.

There would be a cardboard placard with a hole punched in the animal’s butt, and a short piece of rope dangling down from that opening.

I thought they were hilarious. I owned at least two of these things as a little kid, both of which have long ago gone to glory.

This morning I realized that I have my own version of this gewgaw living with me every day, right here in Paradise. It is Poco the cat. He is now 84 years old in human years, and his once lustrous and elegantly smooth coat has become scruffy. (As has mine, come to think of it). It was around 1 A.M. when he came into the room where I was working, and I automatically reached out to pet him. I found his coat to be wet, the first indication that I’d had that a light rain was falling outside the darkened window.

Thinking more about it, I realized that on very cold days his fur is notably cold, and on those days that are blessed by wind he sometimes looks like a four-legged sack of cowlicks. It’s all the same sort of thing, the major difference being that he needs to be brushed and fed now and then.


A Clarence Thomas gallery. As you look through them, keep in mind that The Nine are allegedly the best the legal profession has to offer.


Helpless, by Sisters Euclid


We’re traveling to Durango on Saturday to see both grandchildren in plays. This will be Aiden’s last performance in high school, so it is kind of a big deal. He’s a talented young man with a good heart.



Yesterday we replanted the small succulent bed in the back yard. These plants were promised to be hardy enough to be outside through the winter. When we asked the salesperson at the nursery if they were guaranteed to survive until next Spring, he paused thoughtfully and then replied that ordinarily that would be true, but with our track record … all bets are off.

I didn’t take offense, but I did record his car’s license plate number, just in case I ever need it in the future.


Love, Lay Me Blind, by The White Birch


Ornithology Department

Spotted a flock of somethings in a tree across the irrigation canal out back on Saturday morning. Using the binoculars it was obvious that not only were they beautifully colored, but had big heads and bills. Out came the Sibley manual and there they were: Evening grosbeaks.

A little bigger than a sparrow, there were about thirty of them flitting about the still-bare branches of the tree. I had never seen this bird before, here or anywhere else.


Proper Use of the Dunce Cap

I was sifting through some photographs of an outing a few years ago. Nothing special, just Robin and I out for a walk in the mountains. Well … that was certainly not well said … every walk in the mountains has something special in it … but my point is that we took something for granted. Walking in the mountains. It’s been two years now that we haven’t been able to do that, because of one of those banes of aging – arthritis.

Back then we considered things like the weather, amount of water to carry, how much food would we need (versus how much food did we want), or which camera to lug along. We never thought about the most basic thing, and that was getting out of the car, lacing up our boots, and putting one foot in front of another. Until one day we couldn’t do it.

I won’t speak for Robin, but it’s been quite my way to take life for granted. Everything will always be the same, everything will always be good, we will always get back safely to where we started. Even when events came along that slapped me upside the head next day I was out there, thinking: “Well, that’ll never happen again.” And then it would happen again.

Insanity of a sort, isn’t it? But it’s been my way and I’m sticking to it.

During these past two years Robin has had both knees replaced and we’re looking forward to renewing our connection to the trails this summer. Out there with our knapsacks on our back and blisters on our feet.

Happy Wanderer, by East Side Dave and the Mountain Folk Band



The Supreme Court waffled on the subject of mifepristone and only put a stay on that errant judge’s ruling, while the appeals play themselves out. It was one more time that I didn’t get my wish.

What I wanted was for them to say:

That is one of the stupidest rulings we’ve ever heard, and we are embarrassed to no end by Judge Kacsmaryk’s legal blunder. Matthew K., you boob, go sit in the corner and ponder what you’ve done. Hand over your judicial robe and put this hat on, if you please.



To round out more fully what Kacsmaryk’s ruling (if upheld) could lead to, you might want to glance at this article. From the president of the American Medical Association (not a radical group at all).

This could be one of the most brazen attacks on Americans’ health yet.

Jack Resneck M.D., New York Times April 21, 2023.


This blog has been assailed as only a bit of fluff, and not a place worthy of spending a serious amount of time. That we give no space to the heavier issues of the day. I offer this important dissertation by Jon Stewart as counter-argument. Too often those of us who know what a pizza should be sit quietly by, while others blather about foods that while they are faintly edible are not deserving of that venerable name.



To pass the time on our road trip Robin and I were listening to a book on tape entitled “The End of Night” by Paul Bogard. Its subject is the pervasiveness of light pollution and how we got to this sorry state. It is quite interesting.

But there was an Aha! moment when the author made the point that “creation is still going on. New planets and new stars are being born all the time”

Call me a fool, but I’d never thought of it that way.

(Wait, I didn’t really mean that you should call me a fool- that was a jest. Honestly… you people.)


A headline on the CNN website this past Sunday morning read:

Celebrity Cruises Improperly Stored Dead Body In Cruise Ship’s Cooler, Instead Of Morgue, Lawsuit Claims.

I didn’t read the piece, but was caught by the headline itself. I should have read it, because now I am left wondering if there was a proper way to store that dead body in the ship’s cooler.

Fat Man in the Bathtub, by Little Feat


Going Home Boys, by Josh White


Silver Threads Among The Gold

These days, especially this week, I wonder who is advising President Biden and told him that running for reelection was a good thing. For himself and for our country. Because it isn’t. And while age-ism can be a real and unfair impediment for some people, in part it realistically recognizes that our abilities DO decline with advanced age, and Biden’s age is advanced by any standard you care to choose. I can’t listen to him speak or watch him ascend a staircase without being reminded of this. He is not getting old … he is old.

There’s no shame in that, because although we all might wish we could hike physically and mentally unchallenged right up to the door of those pearly gates, “getting on in years” is real and natural and can come to any of us.

If he were not entranced with all that comes with being POTUS, he might see that and recuse himself from running again. How much better it would be if he would help pick his successor and then gracefully step aside. Someone younger and carrying less of a burden of the past.

Burden of the past? Doesn’t getting old mean that you have the benefit of having seen so much during your years on the planet that making wise decisions is almost automatic? Well, that is only one of the possibilities. Another is that you might be tempted to think that because you have so much experience that you know all there is to know.

That seems to be where President Joe is right now. He could not run and many of us would be forever grateful that he took those first steps in leading us out of the Cluck swamp. Or he could run and in so doing take the chance of disappointing his supporters greatly. We already had one President (Reagan) who had to be propped up so he didn’t fall forward into his soup as he dozed, I would personally much prefer that we not have another.

BTW, for any of you who would like to accuse me of age-ism, go right ahead. But I am older than Mr. Biden by a couple of years, and I wouldn’t elect me to anything.

Too Old To Cut The Mustard, by Bill Carlisle



Robin and I are back in our comfortable and palatial digs, and presently dealing with the fact that our cats had voted us out while we were gone. All of the decision-making apparatus here in Paradise is in their paws at the moment. So far our pleading has gone for naught.

Must have been the number of days that we were absent that hardened their feline hearts against us. We’ve been gone even longer in the past, but that was then and this is now. You know how it is when your spouse moves something to a new place without informing you? How long it takes to find it if they are not around? That is what the cats have done. Moved our stuff, and now we must find where it is.

This morning Poco is pointing back over his left shoulder at the printer. I believe that he is indicating that he and Willow have typed something up and it is ready to print. It’s coming off now as we speak … a … list … of … cat … demands … oh, this is all too much!

Where is the gratitude for all the years we have provided for them? The astronomical number of cans of Fancy Feast we have opened? The cumulative hours of unpleasant scooping at the litterbox? The brushings, the trips to the vet … .

And now we are asked to believe that we must switch to a cat food that costs $4.00 per tiny can and is half truffles? That future times away from the homestead are subject to negotiation? Well, I’m not having it, that’s what. I will exercise the nuclear option and threaten them with the worst thing they can imagine. I will go shopping for a puppy.



Robin and I are presently involved in watching The Diplomat. It’s a limited series on Netflix. So far each episode has careened from one room to another and one charged situation to another. The pace is so rapid that the lead actor, Keri Russell, often has to literally run from place to place. Russell absolutely shines in this role. She is IN-tense.

There are soaps and there are great soaps, and this may be a great one. If being an ambassador to a major country was as frenetic an existence as it is displayed in these episodes, I don’t know how anybody would last more than a month at the job.



Last year we planted a small succulent garden out back and it was lovely. Unfortunately we were careless with the fact that just because somebody had such plants to sell here in Paradise didn’t mean that they were hardy enough to survive outdoors in Paradise. So they flourished, they charmed us, and they all died. Every single one. In effect, we turned some perfectly good perennials into annuals by not doing our research properly.

So to replace them we turned to local counselors, who informed us that our choices were quite a bit more limited if we wanted to see the same plants again next spring. We are now following their advice.

Humbled, that is what we are. One must follow the rules of the place where one lives. Wanting it to be different and thinking you can alter that reality just by wishing is called being tetched in the head.


Lover of the Bayou, by The Byrds


On the way home from the Twin Cities, after having learned about Harry Belafonte’s passing, I was moved to break into song and found that I remembered almost all of the words to Mama Look A Boo Boo, one of his famous calypso recordings. The second or third time around with the same song, however, exceeded Robin’s tolerance for tone-deaf husband droning on at great length in car cabin.

She asked politely if I would please drop her at the upcoming rest stop, for she would rather thumb rides for the rest of her journey than hear one more chorus of “Shut your mouth, go away, Mama look a boo boo day.” In fact, she allowed that having her fingernails removed with a rusty pliers would be preferable.

Chastened, I went along with her request, even though my voice still echoed splendidly in my own ears.

Mama Look A Boo Boo, by Harry Belafonte


Bedtime Story

Last evening I read myself to sleep from a collection of short stories by Bram Stoker entitled Dracula’s Guest. If you recall, Mr. Stoker was the man who wrote the novel Dracula back in 1897, which is largely responsible for our present fascination with these undead creatures.

He was not the first to write about them, however, and if you are game you may find this piece entitled Older Than Dracula: In Search Of The English Vampire to be of interest.


(But I digress. It is a distressing feature of getting on in years, and whenever I catch myself at it, I try to remember to apologize to my audience. I do so now.)

The last story that I read this evening was The Squaw, a tale of a newly married couple on their honeymoon traveling across Europe with an American fellow. He turned out to be an affable enough traveling companion but through a series of mischances found himself inside a spiked medieval torture device which was called the Iron Virgin and … I really can’t go into details without upsetting some of my readers, so this is as far as I will go tonight. At the end of that story I decided that I had read enough of things horrible, thank you very much, and did not need more. The book was closed firmly and placed on the bedside table.

I soon fell asleep, only to be wakened in two hours by one of my least endearing afflictions, the suffocation dream. I am plagued by perennial nasal allergies that are with me … well … they never really leave me completely, but instead wax and wane in their intensity. Last night they waxed, and my nasal passages slowly closed as I slept, prompting that part of my brain in charge of such things to serve me up a lovely dream where I was buried alive in a small coffin. The sensation of suffocation that was part reality and part a dreamwork woke me in quite a state of fear and anxiety. Since I am an old hand at these things, I knew that it would be some time before I would be able to go back to sleep, so I took myself to keyboard and computer and here we are, you and I.

Suffocation dreams can take several forms besides being buried alive. I can be drowning, or find myself in a cabinet where taking a deep breath is impossible, or rolled up in a carpet, or under a pile of bodies … the possibilities may not be endless, but my brain keeps looking for new ones, bless its little heart.

So blame Bram Stoker for this bit of rambling. It was his horror story that set the scene, and my nasal passages then wrote the screenplay.



YouTube served me up this tasty morsel this week. I didn’t recognize its origins, but thank you, YouTube, for an unanticipated gift. The music reached into my soul and found some scattered traces of hormones back there in a corner under a pile of old newspaper.

Lord have mercy.



I am beginning to seriously resent the Grim Reaper’s depredations. Now the crazy bugger has reached in its bony fingers and removed Gordon Lightfoot from his seat at the table of life. What point is that guy trying to make? One by one the entertainers of my generation are exiting stage right, with no encores allowed.

Gordon and I were basically the same age, and if the Reaper is trying to make a point … I get it.

But what a bunch of songs Lightfoot left behind, each one something that can warm whatever room I happen to be in. He was at his professional peak during the seventies, the years that my family and I lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and those songs are indelibly associated in my memory with that period.

In 1975 an ore boat named the Edmund Fitzgerald was taken down by a November storm, just off the eastern end of the Upper Peninsula. Lightfoot wrote a ballad describing the event, and donated profits from the song to the widows and orphans that the sailors left behind. Good man, Gordon.

If You Could Read My Mind
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

There is a question posed in the lyrics of that last song that as far as I know still remains unanswered:

Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?

I do believe that I’ll put Gordon’s music on replay … maybe the whole darn day.


A small gallery of somebody’s family during those same years, 1974-1980.



My computer had a CPU fart this morning, and rather than tediously track it back to its origins, this should be a fix. Clicking on “Journal” up above should take you to where you want to be, and today’s post is entitled Proper Use of the Dunce Cap.

My bad, perhaps, who knows?


I am a jazz dabbler. Every once in a while I hear a tune that I really like, and in those ancient days when one bought records and stored them, I actually owned a few jazz albums. Classic stuff like Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Johnny Smith, Cannonball Adderley, etc. I’ll sprinkle a little bit of coolness throughout today’s posting.

In 1958 a young pianist name Ahmad Jamal recorded a live album entitled But Not For Me, and one of the cuts on that album caught my everlasting attention. Enough so that I (the perennially penniless college student) coughed up the price of the record and subsequently wore it out. The song was Poinciana. I can still play that tune every single day and not tire of it.

Jamal passed away this week at the age of 94, having recorded more than 70 albums. The musical file I’ve loaded up here is the original song that hooked me back in 1958, and played by a young man who is not yet one of the jazz elders of his tribe. Enjoy.



Poinciana, by Ahmad Jamal


From The New Yorker


You can always count on Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota for words of imperishable wisdom. Here she is bragging at a recent NRA convention that we are not to worry and all is well, because her two year-old granddaughter already has her own rifle and shotgun. You and I couldn’t make this level of weirdness up, folks, and yet Kristi manages to do it over and over all on her own.

This is definitely a case of the inmates being in charge of the asylum.


Mercy, Mercy, Mercy by the Cannonball Adderley Quintet


Yesterday at the gym. There I was smokin’ along the walking track when I came up to a gaggle of humans – about ten of them – who were completely blocking the path … all three lanes. They weren’t all in one group but several smaller ones. It was a case of their personal journeys bringing them all together at this one slowly moving spot to create this epic blockade.

I tried to pass by dodging left and right but they were oblivious to what was going on and left me no space to make my way past them. Many of these folks were seniors chatting with one another, and there is no more impossibly impassable object than an old dude who has found a listener. At long last I was able to get by the annoying assemblage by flattening myself sideways against the center rail and slipping through.

It all caused me to come to the conclusion that we shouldn’t allow senior citizens to use the track, or any of the other equipment for that matter, unless they sign a pledge not to jabber while occupying a space or machine which is better being used by somebody that is actually there to exercise. There should also be a set of CCTV cameras all over the building which are constantly monitored and if a pair of geezers are seen to be sitting on an apparatus with only their jaws moving they are hailed over the PA system.

PA System Announcer: Bill Schmertz and Bob Dangler, this is the third time we’ve had to warn you today. Please report to the front desk immediately. Bring your lanyards and ID tags with you because you are so out of here. You can talk all you want in the parking lot.


Sweet Memory, by Melody Gardot


Fox News agreed to pay Dominion 787.5 million dollars. I think that they got off cheaply. Now I would like the U.S. attorney general to sue them on behalf of the American public for the same amount. For the same reason.

It’s still a sweet deal for Fox because it comes down to only 25 cents per major lie, and after they have done immeasurable harm to all of us. As an addendum, part of the statement Fox released after the settlement was announced deserves to be chiseled on Sean Hannity’s tombstone. Are you ready? Here it is:

“This settlement reflects FOX’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards.”


Moonlight in Vermont, by the Johnny Smith Trio


From The New Yorker


Wednesday afternoon we had a snowfall. A big, beautiful one. Huge flakes falling on bright green grass, moderate winds. But it only lasted ten minutes. Ten minutes later all traces had melted away. Like a happening from back in the Sixties.

A piece of live meteorologic theater from the people who bring you the weather each moment of every day. Blink and you would have missed it.

Here’s another piece. Snowmelt has turned our Uncompahgre River from one with clear water and relatively quiet demeanor into the cloudy torrent you see here. For those of you who have visited us here in Paradise, I am standing on the footbridge in Riverbottom Park. Montrose is protected against flooding for the most part by a dam about 25 miles upstream, but some communities around us are definitely getting their feet and a few basements dampened.

There is an interesting feature involved in snowmelt and its effect on streams and rivers. In the morning river flows are reduced and may be quite civilized. But up at higher altitudes the sun is even then doing its work and hours later what was a manageable stream crossing may now be impossible because that bolus of meltwater has moved down to where you are. During the night, the river slows down once again. Each day the process repeats itself.


Milagro, by Dave Grusin


We are traveling for a week, and started the journey on Saturday morning. Driving is my preferred mode of getting anywhere because I stay on the ground, connected to the earth, and the distances have meaning. Climbing into an aircraft may be necessary at times, but it is the opposite sort of travel. You are transported, like the lump of freight you are, from one spot to another. Close your eyes in Colorado, open them in Buenos Aires or Katmandu. How much of the world did you skip over to do this?

The economics of travel are also against flying, especially when you must do it on short notice. Want to fly somewhere and must schedule the trip this week? Be prepared to be assaulted by the airlines who come out unashamedly in pirate costume and cry Stand And Deliver at you over brandished cutlasses. It’s their game every time, and they are quite good at it. (Except for poor Southwest Airlines, who can’t seem to get a customer on the plane and off no matter how hard they try.)

So we are moving down the road. There are people we need to catch up on, and it is one of those times that Zoom doesn’t quite cut it. All those gas stations, all those c-store snacks, all those orange construction cones … so little time. Hah!



There is a thing that I do occasionally when I have a good book in front of me, and that is trying to put myself in the place of someone that I am reading about, in the hope of understanding them better. Sometimes I think I am successful in doing this, but of course, who knows if what I come up with is true? I could be miles off and unaware.

But there are times when I know that I fail at this exercise. One of them is trying to imagine what it was like to be a slave in America. Oh, I can examine the particulars – the plantations, the small cabins, slave auctions, whippings, lynchings, rapes, disruption of families, the list goes on and on. But the best that I can do is to summon is a sense of utter hopelessnesss, of dislocation and despair, and I sense that even this does not do justice to such a life.

So when the present crop of politicians and public spokespersons stands up and denies that there is institutional racism in this country, I’m sorry, but all I want is their skinny necks in my hands. When they go through public libraries and take out books that deal with the sorry history and legacy of slavery I begin to think that maybe owning a half-dozen well-oiled AR-15s makes some sense, after all. “Could I have them with the biggest magazines they’ve got, please?” The fact that these are the end-time writhings of white supremacy in the U.S. doesn’t make it any less poisonous and despicable.

(I’m kidding about the violence, but that is the feeling I get. Where I think about repaying one form of mindlessness with another.)

One of the most inspirational television series I have ever watched is Eyes on the Prize. It was first shown in 1987 and details the civil rights struggle up to that time. You can find it on PBS and Kanopy for free viewing, and on HBO Max and Amazon, where they make you pay to watch, which is a shame. It should be free to watch on all of these services to any citizen with a television set or computer.

What makes it inspirational? To see ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Courageous deeds that positively blow the mind. Especially those children walking past those jeering citizens and into those hostile schools. How did they do it?

We Shall Overcome, by Dorothy Cotton, Freedom Singers, Pete Seeger


Two of the most striking works of art dealing with the civil rights movement were painted by a white guy, Norman Rockwell. I don’t ordinarily think of him as an activist, but here they are.

But when he saw this photograph of 6 year-old Ruby Bridges leaving elementary school while being escorted by federal marshals it moved him, and caused him to create the famous painting below, which was installed in the White House during the Obama administration.

Another work of his is entitled Murder in Mississippi. It was inspired, if that’s the word, by the murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi. The men were abducted and then driven to a lonely area where they were killed. I find the painting is very hard to look at for long.

The names of the young men were James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman.


What’s Going On, by Marvin Gaye



Ways to tell if the years are adding up department

  • You waken to find your spouse holding a mirror to your face to see if it fogs up
  • You find yourself checking periodically at the grocery store to see if Metamucil comes in any new flavors
  • Your Adam’s apple is now bigger than your chin
  • You can easily see the dent on the loveseat cushion that exactly fits your butt
  • When people walk by where you are watching television they must cover their ears to protect their hearing
  • You start handing out name tags to family members when they visit



On Monday the temperature climbed to 64 here in Paradise. That’s the good news. However, the wind blew at 40 miles per hour all day. So you could go out into that beautiful sunshine as long as you were willing to spit out the sand that got blown into your face.

I wasn’t.

But neither was I gracious in defeat. All day long I paced indoors, looking out at the prayer flags which were not fluttering but standing straight out horizontally. I watched trash from a mile away whistle past the window. Trash that told me things about a neighbor somewhere that I didn’t want to know. Whatever happened to plain brown wrappers?

The two cats joined me in the pacing and the staring out. Robin sensed that there was no point in interrupting my prolonged bout of self-pity so she busied herself with small tasks. I tried to start a fight with her a couple of times but she wasn’t having any of that. So I chucked a catnip mouse at Willow and retired to my office.

You do not find my picture in the dictionary under the word long-suffering.



Here’s todays photo of the hardy and enthusiastic little vegetable warriors that now occupy my desk/table. Poor things, they have no idea what’s in store for them. In another week or two I will pluck out at least half of them and terminate them with extreme prejudice.


In the aftermath of that impending massacre, I am seriously considering taking out a restraining order against myself, barring me from getting to within 100 yards of the surviving plants, which would improve their chances of growing to adulthood immeasurably. My respect for the judicial system being a bit thin, however, I am pretty sure I could violate that order without much in the way of consequences.

For instance. In what kind of coo-coo system could a single zealot judge cut off the entire country’s access to a necessary drug? A medication that has been used safely for 23 years? One guy! Gawd!



I read a couple of days ago that the average price of a new car has risen sharply in the past several years, outpacing inflation by quite a bit. The interesting part is that the base prices have not increased any faster than you might expect. It’s those blasted accessories that are doing it.

… the average new-vehicle transaction price is still $48,763, according to Kelley Blue Book. Before the pandemic, the average new vehicle sold for $37,876.


Across the board, automakers have been focusing on bigger, more luxurious, more expensive vehicles. And the ones they make also tend to be packed with extra features that bump up prices even more.


When I go shopping for a car, the part that annoys me to the point of wishing bad things will happen to the salesperson is the add-ons. Instead of being able to buy one item, we find them bundled with others that we have no interest in at all. For instance, we’ve found that what is called “leather seats” are much easier for us to keep clean than cloth upholstery. And when we could get just those seat materials we were happy as clams.

But try to do that today. In the world of Subaru, for instance, leather seats always come bundled with at least a moonroof, which we never use. Perhaps if we were involved in more parades, where we were expected to stick our heads up and out through the roof to make it easier for snipers to get at us, that would make some sense. But we are not moonroof people. If I want to lean back and look up at the sky, I much prefer to do it while lying on a blanket on the grass without a large sheet of tinted and distorting plastic to look through.

Besides the moonroofs there are other useless things in those packages – heated steering wheels, back massagers, and laser-guided nose-blowers to name a few. Those add-ons can add several thousands of dollars to the purchase price. (I have to stop here for a moment. Just typing this gets me worked up.)

I don’t expect the auto industry to be a charitable enterprise, but it doesn’t have to fly the Jolly Roger, either. So far it has used the onset of the electric vehicle era to build bigger and more powerful cars again, after being forced by emission regulations to cut back. And while it is true that the 800 horsepower behemoths don’t belch more bad gases than a compact car does, the power plants that produce the electricity to charge them are still largely (60%) burning nasty old coal and other fossil fuels, and it obviously takes more juice to operate a big car that goes 0-60 in 2.9 seconds than one like my Subaru that will eventually get to sixty if one has patience.

So here’s what in all modesty I believe we should encourage. Making sensibly-sized EVs and allowing customers to buy accessories one at a time. Radical.

That way I can get better upholstery for my next Outback without being forced to purchase some other unwanted junk. (But I’m thinking more about that nose-blower. It actually sounds like a pretty good deal … .)



I have a quandary. In most news stories of the day, all I have needed to do to know what my position should be is to watch Tucker Carlson or Lindsey Graham, listen to what they say, and know for a certainty that the opposite direction is the way to go. It has been that easy now for years.

Until this week, that is, when those two scamps put themselves on opposite sides of an issue – what to think about the guy who stole those military secrets and made them public. Lindsey thinks he is a traitor, Tucker says that he is a hero.

Ay ay ay – I hate it when I have to think for myself. So much energy, so little profit. Also, the idea that I might be giving aid and comfort to either one of these malevolent bozos makes me slightly nauseous. What was that … you say that Marjorie Taylor Greene thinks the secret-stealer is a hero, too?

Well, let’s hear it for good old Lindsey, he finally got one right. If there is a wrong way to go, Greene is always leading the charge.

We Just Disagree, by Dave Mason


Now here, my friends, is a great face. It belongs to Leslie Marmon Silko, the author of one of those must-read books in American literature, Ceremony.

An interview with her was published in The New Yorker this week and it makes for interesting reading.

I think that’s why I’m here—the contradictions and the kind of madness. I wasn’t surprised after January 6th that the weirdest-looking guy, with horns and the outfit, was from Arizona. I’m not surprised that the most batshit crazy of the crazies are from Arizona.

Leslie Marmon Silko Saw It Coming, New Yorker, 2023

We really need to have her over for coffee. No kidding.

A Love Idea, by Mark Knopfler (from Last Exit to Brooklyn)


Leanin’ On

Life goes along following its own irregular paths, a smile and a laugh here, a stubbed toe here, sometimes for years … decades, in my case. And then comes an onslaught, a series of blows that threatens to rip hearts out of chests and minds out of order.

What I am ruminating about in these paragraphs is … what do we do when doing doesn’t work? When something very fundamental about our life is changing too fast to be accommodated and the doors are all left ajar for a time? When things cannot be “fixed.”

Perhaps a little background might be helpful as an illustration. There was a single year, thirty-six years ago, when:

  • My mother was dying of cancer
  • My father was dying of lung disease
  • A daughter was revealed as struggling with addiction and the outcome was yet unclear
  • My wife of twenty-five years left me

(Before we go any further, this is not meant to be a “poor me, poor me” recitation. Whatever afflictions I have experienced are no worse than those that have been felt by countless others. I know that my experiences are neither special or unique.)

At that time I believed that if one applied oneself, thought hard enough, read enough books, prayed long enough, and tried to ferret out God’s will that most problems could be ironed out, most damages repaired. When it became obvious that this large helping of unhappiness was going to continue to happen in spite of my efforts, I became partly unhinged. The only real sane environment I could find at that time was in my work, which for some reason I could still do as well as ever.

But when not working, I raged. Primarily at God. How could he … ? What had I ever done … ? The minister of my church invited himself over to talk to me one evening and I cringe when I think back on that evening. Pacing and ranting and refusing to accept any of what I felt were such hollow of words of comfort. Since God hadn’t shown up to be bullied I went after this poor guy as His representative.

Over many months I fulminated, I agonized, I broke a Commandment or two, I drank either too much or not enough. And then late one night I realized that something inside of me was changing. This poem, written in late 1987, tried to describe what was I felt was happening.

I have been tanned
I am an animal skinned out
Hanging on a cabin wall
Still recognizable as what I was
But tougher now
I’ll wear much
Longer as I am
Than what I was

I am a leaf on the breeze
Lighter than the air itself
Rising on a thermal
Fluttering from the tallest tree of all
Towards the ground all miles and miles below

I am baking bread, rising
Pushing against the confines of the pan
Promises still unfulfilled
A bit more heat and I’ll be done
Then you can take a bite
My friends

I am an empty suitcase open, waiting
Put inside the clothes we need
And we will take that trip
You’ve always wanted,
The one I somehow knew
Was there inside of me

So what is the point of all of this besides a loopy mishmash? I guess it’s that I have learned that hardship can be endured even when it seems unendurable. That it can open doors of the spirit that one didn’t know existed.

And that as a teacher, pain gets your attention like almost nothing else.

Lean On Me, by Bill Withers



So far this week we’ve had lovely Spring weather, temperature in the 70s, just enough clouds to be interesting without getting in the way of the warmth. Perfect but for one thing – the wind. Yesterday it blew my e-bike over and rearranged the patio furniture and several garbage cans in the neighborhood. It also spun our cats around and sent sent them back into the house grumbling and cranky.

Cats blame you for the weather. They really do. Here’s how it works. Poco pokes his head out the pet door, scans the yard for safety, and then walks out. His ears are laid back and he staggers out to the lawn. He sits there for a few seconds, squinting his eyes, and then runs back indoors. He will then seek you out and stand there in front of you meowing loudly as he makes eye contact.

The tone of his voice makes perfectly clear that he knows who is to blame for this damned hurricane, and he is taking names.


At the gym these days there is a husband/wife working out together. They are in their late sixties. His attention to her welfare is quite touching.

The woman is recovering from a mosquito-borne encephalitis and moves with halting and broad-based steps as her husband walks beside her holding onto a broad strap that is around her waist. He has become her own personal physical therapist. One trip around the walking track about does it for her. Her face is a study in fearful concentration as she moves forward, and his focus is absolutely on making sure she does not fall.

It is inspiring to watch. Humans being kind and considerate of one another. They are a team.



I now have twenty plastic Solo cups going, each with three tomato sprouts in it that are looking good. Eventually I will pluck away all but the hardiest-looking in each cup. Now, I can hardly wait to see what plague comes in through the front door and back into my office to wipe them out. Will it be Old Testament style with frogs and locusts? Will it be a technical disaster as the grow-lights suddenly lose their minds and put out some withering and fatal energy bandwidth instead of the salubrious one they promised? Will one of the mice that Willow brings indoors find them just too delicious to pass up?

It’s not that I am a fatalist or pessimist. It’s that it has been at least a half-century since I last tried to start my own seedlings, and that last time all those years ago … 100% of the plants perished. My cosmic tomato-starting score is therefore 0 for 1.


We have our own bookburners here in Paradise. Right now they are especially incensed about a couple of graphic novels at the public library which deal with young people who are gay or trans. But history tells us that the book police are rarely satisfied with getting rid of only two items. Once they get a fire started you can usually hear them hollering for more fuel. I give a lot of credit to our local library board for standing up for the thoughtful and rational policies that they have put in place.

We’re going through a rough patch in this country right now regarding sex. Those who are basically opposed to it have won quite a few rounds recently. These folks are convinced that all sex must be directed only at conceiving children, and it is just damned unfortunate that the process has any pleasure attached to it at all. In their eyes, a woman is a walking incubator and the state/church makes her reproductive choices for her.

Also, their eyes and minds being closed now for thousands of years, they believe that there are straight males and straight females and any talk of other versions of humans is nothing but the product of a mortally sinful imagination.

Mutineer, by Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires


Recently I promised a review of the Cheetos Mac n’ Cheese products and here it is. I tested the standard and jalapeño versions, but not the “flaming hot” one. (That is the only snack style of Cheetos that I dislike so … why would I ever ?)

Standard version: the cooking instructions suggested 7 minutes of boiling the pasta, but here at 5900 feet above sea level I needed 8 minutes. As to taste, blindfolded I don’t think I could have told this from the Kraft product.

However, we couldn’t do a blinded test because the pasta is spiral-shaped rather than elbow-shaped and even a fool could tell those apart.

Jalapeño version: same thing with the pasta, cook it a bit longer. But the mild spiciness was a real treat. It will be my first choice for packaged mac n’ cheese from now on.

(Truth is, Robin and I rarely have packaged mac n’ cheese at all. Mostly these boxes are brought out when children come to visit, and none of those children like spicy foods, so … I may have had the “cheesy jalapeño” flavor for the first and last time. Therefore, you may consider this post a public service, rather than a guide to our daily diet.)


Oh Me, Oh My

I don’t know how to classify this video. Song … sermon … meditation … chant … ? I ran across a reference to it on the Times, and when the article mentioned that Michael Stipe was doing a background vocal I was curious enough to seek it out and give a listen.

It has an effect on me that is calming, meditative. Somehow it creates a feeling of … I dunno … gratitude.


A week ago I planted seeds in plastic cups from two varieties of tomatoes, and yesterday the first tiny miraculous seedlings emerged. Only 80 more days and we’ll actually have something to eat. Patience is a necessary attribute for a gardener, and it is one in which I am congenitally lacking. A dictionary definition pf patience reads like this:

The capacity to endure what is difficult or disagreeable without complaining

See! There you have it! It’s the “without complaining” part where I fall short. I’ll be nursing these babies along for a month before I can get them off my desk/table and into the ground. By that time the idea of how precious they are will have worn off and I will be weary of the whole process, yet unable to bring myself to toss them into the refuse pile. I will agonize as sun-scorching and blossom end rot wreak their havoc on the developing fruits. I will be pathetically grateful for the 10% of green tomatoes that finally make it to the table and into BLT sandwiches, caprese salads, pasta sauces, etc.

All this bad karma to look forward to and yet I do it every year. I suspect that it may be my version of medieval sinners wearing hair shirts or flagellating themselves. It’s the mea culpa part of my personality.

If you look into the background of this woodcut you can clearly see three tall plants. It’s almost a certainty that they are tomatoes.

There are true gardeners and then there are people who put seeds into the ground and in so doing kill off a package of miracles. I am one of the latter group. Lord have mercy.

The Garden, by Bobby Mcferrin


Clarence Thomas wonders why we are making such a fuss about some billionaire taking him on cruises for weeks at a time. “All this nonsense about lavish vacations and yacht trips … why, if my billionaire BFF came before me tomorrow I wouldn’t be affected one bit by all those things he gave me before I ruled in his favor. Not one bit.”



Watched a very good movie on Netflix … a true story … called The Mauritanian, starring Jodie Foster and Benedict Cumberbatch. All about one man’s incarceration at Guantanamo. He was exonerated after eight years of unlawful imprisonment which included being tortured repeatedly. But it took another seven years before he was set free. That last seven years was during the Obama administration.

Seven years … surely someone must have mentioned this case to Mr. Cool, perhaps one day as he munched on his six almonds or shot a few baskets or during yet another gala White House musical evening. A sorry business, you say? Couldn’t agree more.

You think that I’m being too hard on President Obama, perhaps? I respond, is anyone forced to be POTUS?

If you kick, bite, and chew your way to that high office part of the deal is that you swear to uphold the Constitution. The history of Guantanamo since 9/11 is rife with egregious violations of protections that our Constitution promises. Any president who has the power but can’t be troubled to release a man who was never charged with a crime and in whose case there was no evidence against him gets a big “F” from me on that particular civics project for sure.

There is a line from the Harry Bosch books and television shows that also fits here, I think. When asked why he is pursuing justice for yet another forlorn and inconsequential soul Harry’s answer might be “Everybody counts or nobody counts.” I’ll go with Harry here rather than Barack. Even though Harry is imaginary.

I am reminded of this scene from the movie Judgement at Nuremberg. Burt Lancaster plays a German judge who was highly respected before WWII, but collaborated with the Nazi regime. Spencer Tracy plays a similarly respected American judge who has been presiding over the Nuremberg trials.


Unchained Melody, by Harry Belafonte


Fishin’ Blues

There’s part of me that wishes I could live on long enough just to see what historians eventually make of this bizarre political era, especially the part where the orange-colored president comes in. How will they treat such an aberration? Will they think “he couldn’t have been as much of a nutcase as it now seems, he would never have been elected if that were true.”

And yet he was elected. (Twice, if we were to believe what he says). Voters who were suckered in the first time around lined up to be fleeced once again in 2020. They are still buying the hats, the t-shirts, and everything that comes out of his mouth. It has been illuminating, to say the least. So much ignorance, so little time.

This past week the cluck-news, of course, has been his arraignment on campaign finance charges.

I admit that I lost a little bit of interest in the legal proceedings when I learned that life without parole was not one of the possible sentencing choices. But that’s just me. I tend to be a little vindictive.



This is a scan from my 2023 Colorado senior fishing license. You can see that it is a great bargain overall, but I wanted to point out that $0.25 Search and Rescue charge.

That fee creates a fund to pay people to try to find my sorry behind should I get lost out there in the mountains.

I was feeling hurt and definitely put upon until I found out that everybody’s license had that charge on it, not just mine. All in all, I guess adding two bits a year for this insurance isn’t such a bad idea at all. Really, what can you get for a quarter these days, anyway?


Robin has been off to Durango for a few days to look after Claire while the rest of that family were investigating more colleges for Aiden. So it’s been just myself and the felines to look after Basecamp for a few days. Thursday night there was another episode involving Willow and a live mouse in the dining area, prompting the following conversation:

Jon: Willow, there’s going to have to be a stop to your bringing every rodent you catch into the house. It’s unnerving.

Willow: Is this not my dwelling as well as yours?

Jon: Well, yes.

Willow: And did I have any say at all as to whether I wished to be brought into this household in the first place?

Jon: No, you did not, actually.

Willow: Well, then, there you have it in a nutshell.

Jon: Have what?

Willow: That we must agree to disagree on the propriety of the transportation of living wild creatures into the house.

Jon: Wait just a moment there …

Willow: I would suggest that you simply learn better to accept the things you cannot change

Jon: I’ve heard that somewhere before …

Willow: … because I am fairly certain that you have neither the courage to change the things you can …

Jon: You’ve been reading in my books again

Willow: … nor the wisdom to tell the difference

(There are days when I am sorry I taught the cats to speak English.)



So what does a guy like John Mellencamp do when he is getting on in years, has already put out numpty-nine albums, and can easily afford to make use of all the technology of the modern era whenever he chooses to make a record? Well, he gets a group of musicians together and takes a road trip.

No Better Than This was recorded over the course of a few break days afforded Mellencamp when he was on a tour of minor league ball parks last year, sharing the bill with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. The album was recorded on vintage equipment – a 55 year-old Ampex tape recorder with just one microphone — in Savannah at the First African Baptist Church, in Memphis at Sun Studios and in San Antonio in room 414 of the Gunter Hotel. 

Mellencamp’s personal website

The Savannah church is the oldest black church in the U.S., Sun Studios is just plain legendary, and Room 414 is where Robert Johnson recorded his stuff. The players got in a circle and put that old Ampex recorder in the middle. It must have been a total hoot for them.

You will recognize the sound as definitely un-modern. It is also mono rather than stereo. I picked out two cuts for your listening pleasure.

Save Some Time To Dream
No Better Than This


Friday was a beautiful day here in Paradise. So I climbed aboard my trusty bicycle, threw some gear in its trailer, and pedaled down to the Uncompahgre River to lay waste to the fish population. I pretty much avoid routes where I must compete with cars and trucks, and if one is a canny planner, it’s not too hard to do.

There’s a lot of water in the river these days, with the snowmelt kicking in. Not exactly the best time of the year to use a Tenkara rod, but that’s what I brought along. For those of you who might not ever have heard of Tenkara, think – a fly rod with no reel, where the line is tied to the tip of the rod and you can only cast, basically, slightly more than the rod’s length. A modern version of the old-time bamboo pole, you might say, and you’d be right. But it’s much more flexible, making casting easier, and it telescopes, which makes transport a simple thing.

Across the river from me I watched a lone deer casually munching on the new growth in a small open area. Later I saw one of the biggest great blue herons I had ever seen, wading in the shallows. They are ordinarily wary birds and this one took off when I reached the outer limit of its very wide comfort zone. You don’t get to be that big without having some smarts, and one of those smarts is not trusting humans.

As I flailed at the water, a large group of high-school kids on some sort of field trip trooped past with their leaders. They of course didn’t see me because I am old enough to be invisible to them. I didn’t hail the group, fearing that a disembodied voice coming out of nowhere might ruin their collective day.

Fish, you ask? None, I say. But how could I feel cheated when all those other elements were present? Plus when I got home there were no fish-cleaning chores. It’s all good.

Fishin’ Blues, by Taj Mahal


Oh Happy Day!

Thursday was bipolar day at the weather department. First it was cloudy, then the sun shone, then it was cloudy, then sunny, then the wind blew hard, then a few snowflakes fell, then it rained, then sun, then there was a blizzard that lasted ten minutes, then the sun shone, then the clouds returned.

Dizzying, really. You could never wear just the right thing if you went outdoors, because fifteen minutes later it would be inadequate. Personally, I don’t believe that this is any way to run an earth. As lifelong residents of the planet I think that we deserve more consistency than this. Believe me when I tell you that I’ve got a letter written and ready to go as soon as I can find an address to send it to.

Under A Stormy Sky, by Daniel Lanois


Not only do I have to deal with fractious weather, but now I have to be paranoid about my e-bike sitting out in the garage and waiting along with me for Spring. This news item about a fire in the Bronx blames the blaze on an exploding lithium-ion battery on such a bicycle. The spokesperson claims that more than 400 such fires have occurred in New York City due to these things.

Unfortunately she doesn’t say which brands of bikes are at fault. On my particular electric bicycle the battery is located between my knees on the frame downtube.

I would seriously rather that it never exploded any time at all, but especially not when I was riding it. I can already feel an anticipatory twinge in my nether regions. Perhaps a pair of kevlar boxers … ?

Born To Be Wild, by Steppenwolf


But not all of the news is bad news. For instance, former president cluck has been indicted for something that had to do with a prostitute named Stormy Daniels. Just as my mother always said, little good can come from hanging out with ladies of the evening. (She didn’t really say that, but she might’ve if she were alive today). My own hope it that he is convicted and sentenced to permanent exile on a tiny island off the coast of Maine. Something rockbound and chilly, containing a single bent and twisted tree and where he can see the lights of a forever unattainable town far off in the distance.

His wife Melania could have conjugal visits as often as she desired or if she wished she could send Ms. Daniels as her representative.

The other piece of extraordinary news was something I discovered yesterday at the grocery store. It is the sort of thing that restores one faith in a beneficent universe. We now have a box of it in our pantry, just waiting for the right day to cook it up. It rests upon a velvet cushion, and the pantry doors are now left open so that I can see it whenever I am in the kitchen.

This is no small thing. The day that you discover that two of your food passions are brought together in the same container is a day to run up the flag to full mast, just in case it was drooping a bit. A day for humming happy tunes. A day to be remembered each year with solemn rites.

I will let you know what it tastes like in a future installment.


Grandson Dakota sent us this gorgeous photo of a sunset off the coast of Oregon that he took this week.

My, my …


I had the great pleasure of seeing Garrison Keillor on Friday evening, at the Avalon Theater in Grand Junction. It was a one-man performance, just the man, a stool, and a microphone. For two solid hours he meandered through a verbal landscape part real, part imaginary, and by the end of the evening I didn’t truly know which had been which nor did I care.

Two hours on stage without a break. Two hours, eighty years old, and it was all a glorious mishmash. Lots of hidden quotations from classic Lake Woebegon tales first heard on his former radio show, a few limericks (some quite bawdy), and one new L.W. episode. He sung three sonnets that he had composed, including an erotic one that he had given his wife on the occasion of her 65th birthday which dealt with the subject of oral sex in the morning.

There was a handful of jokes, including this cringer:

A man walks into a bar holding out his hand which is full of dog turds and exclaims “Look what I almost stepped in!”

The evening was a comedic tour de force, and my thanks to Sarah C. for the ticket and Rod B. for the company.


Garrison recited a haunting poem of Mary Oliver’s from memory entitled Wild Geese.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.


Enjoy your Sunday morning. Spring is cracking through and will soon be fully upon us. Winter may still throw a curveball or two but here in Paradise we are surrounded by robins and red-shafted flickers and red-winged blackbirds and all of them are singing Oh Happy Day down at the park along the Uncompahgre River.

The new major league baseball rules are taking hold as batters can no longer dawdle as long as they want to before getting into the box and pitchers need to actually throw the ball instead of prancing and pawing about the mound for hours on end. I have no idea if speeding up the game will restore it to its former place in the hearts of our countrymen or not, but I doubt it will. There are just too many of us who enjoy watching giant men trying as hard as they can to cause dementia in members of the opposite team.

Becoming civilized could be a wonderful thing, I believe, and we can only hope that one bright day in the future our species will achieve it somewhere in the world.

Oh Happy Day, by the Edwin Hawkins Singers


My lack of gracefulness on ice is legendary. In fact, the very last time I laced up a pair of ice skates I did an unintended triple-Lutz followed by some intimate contact with the ice and a broken rib. Therefore I feel safe in saying that I firmly anchor the challenged end of the graceful scale.

What would be on the other end, you ask?

Something like this, would be my answer, with Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo. Whenever I watch it I come to the same conclusion. The only way that I could ever have moved like this is with CGI.


Listened to Sen. Tammy Duckworth being interviewed on radio about health care for veterans. That care is pathetic, as it has always been. Not enough hospitals, not enough clinics, not near enough mental health professionals.

Providing the needed health care for these men and women is part of the cost of waging wars. It should not be a topic for discussion. We couldn’t be more vigorous in pushing these soldiers into battle, but when they return we act as if we wish they would just have the decency to go away now that the emergency is past.


Just finished an ebook from the library loan system written by Alice Walker. It has the greatest title: Hard Times Require Furious Dancing.

Loved the book. Poetry can often be so dense and obtusely that I break out in a sweat just thinking about it.

Not this stuff. From the heart and mind of a brilliant author and activist.


One of Neil Young’s many great song lines is “every junkie’s like a setting sun.” Whatever brilliance they begin with gradually dimming until the light goes out altogether.

One Chair, No Waiting

In a galaxy far, far away, when the pandemic first came to town and we were being advised to make our wills and say our goodbyes, I found it impossible to get my hair cut here in Paradise. So I purchased a Wahl home clipper set and with trembling hands and no expectations I approached the task of giving myself a trim, without knowing whether I could.

Just in case I ended up looking like a concentration camp escapee, I was fully prepared to wear a hat continuously until the hair grew back. Imagine my surprise when it didn’t end up horrible at all, just … amateur-looking. There were some irregularities here and there, but one of the benefits of being a geezer is that there are so few people who could give a rat’s behind about how you look. No one commented adversely nor positively.

Thus emboldened I continued to shear my own locks even after the salons and barber shops of the area were open once again. I’ve experimented with the various attachments with varying success, and now can do the trimming once every week or two without fear. It’s still an amateur job, but acceptable, and I have received a very good return on that original thirty dollars I laid out for the clipper.

The last time I used the set, I decided to employ a slightly shorter comb and ended up with basically the appearance of an octogenaric marine recruit headed for boot camp.

No Expectations, by The Black Crowes




My personal favorite guidebooks to the hiking trails that surround us out here on the Western Slope are written by the husband/wife team of Anne and Mike Poe. I like them because they are not just maps of trails with a scattering of details, but provide much more, including:

  • Maps of each trail
  • Description of prominent trail features
  • Beautiful photographs of points along the trails
  • Descriptions of how to get to the trailheads, including what vehicles (car, SUV, 4×4) are best suited to the approaches
  • Overall assessment of scenic values of the hike
  • All of the trails that are covered spend most of the time above treeline. The Poe’s rationale is that you don’t go hiking in Colorado to walk in a forest. You can do that just as well in other places.

These books all about day hikes, so if you want advice on backpacking you would be better off looking elsewhere. We’ve done quite a few of the walks, and hope to do many more in the future. Some of them involve gaining quite a bit of altitude, but whenever I am up there gasping away, I remind myself that Anne did many of them as a senior citizen, and afflicted with emphysema to boot. (She has alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, an hereditary cause of this disease).




A couple of related papers to mull over the next time you have to dig down deep to pay your health insurance premiums.

Let’s face it: The American sickness care industry, with all of its disorganized elements and multiple protected revenue streams, has become a financial behemoth, and at the town, city, county, state, and federal levels, an untouchable political juggernaut. And, unlike anything seen since the US ramped up to fight the Second World War, it is a recession-proof engine for job creation. Who would not be impressed by those achievements?

Any questions? Did I hear the word “outcomes”? Uhhhh. A healthy population? Ooooh. Average lifespan of Americans? Efficiency and effectiveness? Quality of living and dying? National happiness? No need for psychoactive chemicals to escape reality? A happy workforce? It’s all about greed, but not only greedy doctors.

Lundberg, George M.D., Medscape :’They All Laughed When I Spoke of Greedy Doctors’ March 20, 2023
  1. Salve Lucrum: The Existential Threat of Greed in US Health Care
  2. ‘They All Laughed When I Spoke of Greedy Doctors’




There once was a comic strip called Pogo. It took place in a swamp which was populated by a variety of animals including an opossum named Pogo. It was political satire … wisdom coated so sweetly that you never even felt the medicine go in until it was too late and you were just a bit more enlightened than you were when you picked up the newspaper.

In one panel, in 1971, Pogo uttered the profound line that opened my eyes forever, and which still resonates today because … guess what … as a species we haven’t improved much.

The line? “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

This past week there were scads of articles and op/eds written about former president cluck’s speech at Waco, and one of them was remarkable for its clarity. “MAGA, Not Trump, Controls The Movement Now.”

The opinion piece pointed out what has been obvious for years now, that Cluck was only surfing on a sea of seething anger and deliberate ignorance. A mob traveling on its collective id, sort of like the Huns without Attila around to control them, because Cluck never did control them , although I don’t think he ever knew it. Still doesn’t.

It’s not like we didn’t know that this bunch didn’t exist. It was called up by Hitler and Mussolini not all that long ago. By Father Coughlin, that lovely old parish priest of the thirties who happened to dislike the same things that Cluck has been foaming about today. By Joseph McCarthy, the esteemed senator from Wisconsin who covered his lust for power with a blanket of faux patriotism. By the KKK, which at one time was a real political force in this country, but which largely has gone away. However, we see that the poisonous tumult that it fed upon never went away, but only waited for a new servant to get out there and open doors for it.

It’s a bit like the Dracula legends, where the monster can only enter a dwelling if it is invited in.

But the members of this mob are just like us. You know that old trope in comics where an angel sits on one shoulder and a devil on the other? In good old you and I, for whatever reasons, the angel is slightly bigger than the demon. In the MAGA mob that situation is reversed. That’s all it takes. But that small shift makes all the difference.

That’s why it is always so shocking when the man next door suddenly says something so repellent you can’t believe your ears. Because up until that moment you thought he was Mister Nice Guy, just like you.

So our struggle against ignorance and hatred will go on for my lifetime for certain, probably for yours as well, and generations after. Each day we get up and round up the “better angels of our nature,” as Mr. Lincoln put it so well. Part of our strength is recognizing that the enemy is not at the gate, he is already inside. He is us.

Slouching Toward Bethlehem, by Joni Mitchell


Last evening Robin and I were engaged in a game of cribbage, sitting at the table in the dining area. Willow came in through the cat door and carried a good-sized mouse to within three feet of my chair and dropped it, whereupon it scuttled into the baseboard heater.

A measure of our hard-won serenity in matters like this is that this time there was no screaming, no climbing on chairs, no gathering of brooms or shotguns. I simply looked at Robin and asked if we should deal with this before finishing the game. She nodded and we both put down our cards and were able to collectively shoo the creature out of its hiding place and into the open where Willow could re-catch it and take it outside.

We then returned to our game, where I was soundly beaten for the third time in a row.


Go West, Young Man …


It struck me this morning that I have been living in the West for almost ten years now, and I haven’t written anything much about anything Western. Today I will begin to catch up.

As exasperating and politically disadvantaged as some of my co-Paradisians are, they are the rightful heirs to one of America’s most enduring myths, that of the cowboy. There is no possibility of my counting how many books and magazines I have read, how many movies I have attended, how many photographs I have been enthralled by, that dealt with the American West.

That lore is part of my DNA, even though I was thirty years old before I saw my first mountain up front and personal. Older than that when I first walked in a desert. Last year when Robin and I drove through Monument Valley in Arizona, I realized that in my mind I had been to this exact place, seen those gorgeous buttes and that red sandstone so many times. It was déja vu without any mystery as to why I felt that way.

One of my personal favorites in the western songbook has always been The Colorado Trail. It has straightforward lyrics and just the right amount of mournful in it.

The Colorado Trail is a traditional American cowboy song, collected and published in 1927 by Carl Sandburg in his American Songbag. Sandburg says that he learned the song from Dr. T. L. Chapman, of Duluth, Minnesota, who heard it from a badly injured cowboy being treated in his hospital. The cowboy sang it, and many others, to an audience of patients in his ward.

The trail in the song was a cattle route that branched off from the main Western Trail in southern Oklahoma, heading northwest to Colorado. It has no relation to today’s Colorado Trail, which is a hiking trail completely within the state of Colorado.

The song got its widest attention from its 1960 recording by The Kingston Trio. It has also been recorded by Burl Ives, The Weavers, the Norman Luboff Choir, Tex Ritter, Johnny Cash, the Bar D Wranglers, and many others. The American Songbag version included only a single short verse; most who have recorded it since have added verses of their own.

Members of the Western Writers of America  chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.

Wikipedia: The Colorado Trail (Song)
The Colorado Trail, by Sand Sheff



A get well piece for our friend Sarah C., by Aaron Copland.

Leonard Bernstein, from Appalachian Spring


An interesting hobby for anyone living in the West is observing the facial hair of the local men. Styles range from commonplace to fanciful, and excite no comment from passersby, since they are only a normal part of the landscape. My own personal observations are that if you have the variety seen here in the top center position, you are likely to have a MAGA cap in your wardrobe somewhere.


Colorado Song, by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils


Monday night and a sputtering of snow. Not enough to get a cat wet.



Now there is a new meaning for the word “Googled.” Once upon a time it signified that one had done an internet search using that product. Now it means being fired by email. Here’s an interesting article about the day when 12,000 employees were fired in this manner. I’ll bet there wasn’t a single LOL in any of those messages.

Sounds to me like the bean-counters are taking over the ship. Next thing will probably be the end of free searches. Even is it’s only a nickel at a time, it would add up. A nickel here … a nickel there …

I have no idea how many searches I do in a given day, but it is a bunch. I may have to return to Netscape, Webcrawler, Excite, Lycos, AltaVista, Yahoo, or Ask Jeeves, if any of them are still around. We used all of these search engines in those dim dark days before Google came along.

In fact, one of my metaphors for the aging process is that one’s brain function transitions ever so slowly from Google back to Webcrawler. You eventually get the answer, it just takes longer.


A few blades of grass are greener than they were last week. They are not wise blades, however, because the temperature still dips below the freezing point every night. Gotta give ’em credit for fortitude, though. Our weather is stuck in the 40s in the daytime, 20s at night zone. Hasn’t budged in nearly three weeks now, but each week I check the tire pressures and battery levels on our e-bikes, just in case a glorious day should blossom.

Some of my neighbors have been bicycling for weeks now. They basically put on standard Eskimo garb and climb aboard. None of them are smiling as they pedal by, however, with their lips drawn into tight lines against that chilly breeze in their faces. It does give them something to brag about, though, even if the rest of us couldn’t care less about how many days in February they were riding. It’s just not a number that inspires sparkling conversation.

Electric bicycles are continuing to increase in popularity, as they have moved from curiosity to common usage. It is interesting to watch all of the experimentation going on in that industry, as one company you never heard of after another puts out their version of what they think an e-bike should look like.

The really interesting part, though, is in the varying approaches to function. How many miles per charge, how much power, how fast should they go, where to put the motor, etc. etc. I haven’t put any photos here, but there is a whole section of the genre that has off-road capabilities, with larger tires and sturdier frames. Some of them actually have two motors, front and rear, to enable some herculean climbing out there in the bush.

The pic below is of the Thunder X-treme, a bike with a 5000 watt motor (most ebikes have 250-500 watt motors), a 200 mile range, and a top speed of 46 mph. If you are a senior citizen and buy this thing, the company thoughtfully supplies a small frame-mounted pouch to contain your will and instructions for the EMTs who find your Humpty-Dumptied body back on those rocky mountain trails. They even provide a small “license plate” to mount behind the seat that says Do Not Resuscitate, just in case.



Sex education can be a haphazard thing. Well-meaning individuals believe that this sensitive subject is better left to a child’s parents. Other well-meaning individuals believe just as strongly that it would be better to have it done in the schools, as a matter of public health. While all these discussions go on, as they have for decades, children are out there acquiring what bits of information that they can from a variety of sources, some of them far from unimpeachable. The following tale is a case in point.

When I was 8 or 9 my parents received several boxes of bonus books when they purchased an encyclopedia. That is where I first read Zane Grey (8 books) and Ernest Hemingway (9 books). Of course I didn’t understand most of what I read in Hemingway’s works, but I roared through them just the same. There was also a handful of random novels included in this massive infusion of culture into our home, and one of them was entitled Fetish.

I remember two things from that book. One is that it took place in a steaming African country where people lived on plantations and sometimes coveted their neighbors’ spouses. The second contained an episode where some of that coveting bore fruit, starring two people named Flavien and Urgele.

One day this bored and sinful pair decided to commit adultery on the plantation and couldn’t find anywhere to be alone. As their internal tensions rose they became so desperate that they finally ended up making love in an outhouse on those rough boards. As I recall, the descriptions of clothing being discarded, soft skins against harsh surfaces, and sweat dripping everywhere were quite graphic.

Of course, I wasn’t even ten years old yet, and pretty much a blank slate where useful information about sex was concerned. My experiences on my grandfather’s farm had given me only the roughest idea of what was involved, but I did know a great deal about sweating and about privies. Combining all three seemed awfully exotic and was more than a little overwhelming at the time.

The book obviously made a lasting impression, because here I am 75 years later and I still remember the names of the splinter-covered lovers.

Flavien and Urgele. My oh my.

Book of Love, by The Monotones


As you might have surmised, I was a voracious reader from very early on. I still am, although I have slowed slightly. I do remember back in the 60s being intrigued by what was a fad of the time, speed reading. Why, a person could train themselves to read at enormous rates, retaining more, etc. … it all seemed too good to be true.

A system that works; a book that keeps selling. Since 1959, the Evelyn Wood Program of Dynamic Learning has been successfully employed by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, helping them break free of the self-imposed shackles that hinder learning. By teaching us to tap the natural power of the mind, the Evelyn Wood method helps us to dramatically increase reading speed, retain more of what we hear and read, improve comprehension and develop our powers of concentration. In just minutes, you’ll notice a real difference in your reading speed, and in succeeding chapters of this seven-day program you’ll get the secrets of effective note-taking, find tips for instantly improving your writing, and much more.

From the advertisement for the book The Evelyn Wood Seven-Day Speed Reading and Learning Program on

I did give the method a try, but quit after only a few weeks, because I found that although I could increase my reading speed, it reduced the joy that I found in the reading. For me, an author’s words were to be savored and rolled about in the mind, and the techniques outlined in the book made that more difficult.


While I am vaporing about reading, I think I’ll toss in a comment about e-books. Occasionally I will mention that I often use a reader like the Kindle, and be met with a look like I’ve just said “I like to eat puppies.” Often these are folks who are passionate about public libraries and bookstores, and I can understand their concerns perfectly … because so am I. Libraries have a romance about them that is undeniable. Rummaging in a used bookstore is akin to prospecting for gold.

Public libraries have always struggled with having enough space for shelves and enough money to fill those shelves. In recent years they have also been confronted with the digital revolution. We’re still not sure how this will all shake out eventually, but the process rolls on and trying to stand in the way is to risk having bulldozer tracks all up the front of your shirt.

What is my preference? To read an actual book, borrowed from a library or purchased, under light provided by a softly incandescent lamp, just as I did when I was a child. If I were living in a tiny town in the wilderness, and there was a library which only contained six books, I would happily read and re-read them and then volunteer to help glue the bindings back on when I was done.

But I have many more choices today. The last six books I read were e-books, transmitted to my Kindle through Libby, an app provided by a public library consortium.

Holding a book in my hands and leafing joyfully through it has been my pleasure for several generations now. I will continue to support public libraries and bookstores in whatever way that I can. But what is most important to me is the information and the artistry contained in those books.

The vehicle that brings that information to me is also important, but is not everything. I feel privileged to have access to the worlds of science and of literature that all of these avenues provide.

Teacher, by Gyedu-Blay Ambolley


One more comment on our latest banking scandal. This one provided by Gordon Gecko, one of our leading capitalist exponents. You all remember Gordon, I’m sure, and this is only one of his many bon mots. Probably more than a couple of devotees of his at Silicon Valley Bank, no?


I don’t claim to know a great deal about the Cambodian genocide, the era that created the killing fields in that country. But there was a purity in that horror that was unusual. In the effort to rid the country of elite groups like politicians, intellectuals, and professionals, one of the criteria for selecting victims was – did they wear eyeglasses? The idea being that you only needed glasses to read, and who else needed to read but members of groups like those?

Simple, straightforward, and quite mad. Qualities of the architects of revolutions. Remember the French Revolution, where the admirable speeches about LIBERTÉ, ÉGALITÉ, FRATERNITÉ were being heard at the same time as were the sounds of the guillotines going about their efficient disposal of … who was that again?… those pesky elites, for the most part.

One of the proximate causes of the Revolution is often listed as hikes in the price of a loaf of bread. Now would be the time to ask – who does the grocery shopping at your house? Have you noticed how the price of bread is doing?

Who knows what form our own coming revolution will take? The necessary ingredients are being brought together as wealth continues to be concentrated in a smaller and smaller stratum of society. As armed groups practice in militias around the U.S. that are just as lunatic as any of their Cambodian or French soulmates. As fascism rises, accompanied by its infatuation with strong and cruel leaders. As the average citizen loses their belief in governmental probity.

Perhaps enough scraps of sanity can be found and cobbled together before something like this happens. Perhaps the rich and powerful will do something completely extraordinary and unheard of – learn to share.

As for me, although I would never be confused with being an intellectual or a prince of finance, I do have two pairs of eyeglasses. Lucky me.

Citiest People, by Melanie



There is an attraction in visiting abandoned places like the “town” of Pea Green mentioned in a previous post, isn’t there? There are no signs of vitality but look, there are the things that actual people actually used, lying about and rusting. Check out those tattered curtains fluttering in the windows, bleached to the point where their original coloration is obscured. Men and women once pulled those same curtains back to look at someone passing on the road.

So-called “ghost towns” are on nearly every tourist map, playing to the fascination that so many of us seem to share. But it goes beyond that , there is a sense of longing that goes along with it, of wishing to be there when those curtains were new and share that life, those friends.

There is a word for this … anemoia. A longing for a time and/or a place where we’ve never been. Not the “good old days” we experienced, but some that occurred perhaps before we were even born. Interesting that there is a word for it, even though it is rather a new one as words go.

My recent wanderings brought me to a website with the most appealing title that a person of a melancholic nature could ever want – The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

Imagine stepping through the frame into a sepia-tinted haze, where you could sit on the side of the road and watch the locals passing by. Who lived and died before any of us arrived here, who sleep in some of the same houses we do, who look up at the same moon, who breathe the same air, feel the same blood in their veins—and live in a completely different world

Dictionary of Obscure

The last “ghost town” that I visited was St. Elmo, which is about an hour’s drive up from Buena Vista CO. While there is a functioning “general store” in town, for the most part you can walk about and indulge in whatever faux reveries suit you. Your musings will not likely be contradicted since there are none of the original inhabitants around to interfere.

Whenever I find myself wandering in my mind down little-used streets, there will be a moment when I remember that I am looking at that scene through golden filters, because it was also a time when a “strep throat” was likely to be fatal, when life expectancies were very much shorter, and when there were even fewer certainties than today.

The Ghosts of Highway 20, by Lucinda Williams


From The New Yorker



The Oscar ceremonies came and went this week, without any help from me. I wasn’t able to find a channel to view them, which is one problem that comes with “cutting the cord.”

Although there are times when you can sign up for a new streaming service, watch a show, and then cancel it, one grows weary of these tawdry exchanges.

Once last year I did just that and suddenly the service threw up a notice saying: “No no no you don’t, you cheapskate! You did that last year and then you took your chips and ran. No more freebies for you!”

So we missed the show this year.

It seems that this year it was payback time for Asians in the cinematic arts. Perhaps not, but it looks a bit that way. It’s almost become a ritual to acknowledge some group each year which has been grievously ignored in the past.

When as a child I was taught that the US was a “melting pot,” I pictured something like a creamed soup, where all the ingredients were completely mixed to a homogeneous fare thee well. But I think that we’re actually more like pancake batter, and we know that the instructions always say “mix together, but not too much. Some lumps should remain visible.”


This week we have had put before us once again the unlovely spectacle of banks failing, with all of the attendant social harm that expands outward from the collapse. I have a small suggestion that might prevent recurrences.

First pass regulations that treat such failure as a crime, rather than an embarrassment, and that hold the CEO of the institution personally responsible.

Second, make the penalties for failure consistent with the harm that is done, especially to the smaller folk of the world, whose businesses, jobs, and lives are put at risk, while the CEOs often skate away with their fortunes intact.

Thirdly, upon the elevation of the CEO to their new post, that this model be placed on the top of their desk to remind them of what is actually at stake for them should they blow it.

If this doesn’t work, there are others who have less dramatic solutions to propose, as in the article How to Make This the Last Banking Bailout.


A Dick Guindon cartoon


Finally, a little advice for everyone who exchanges usernames and passwords to streaming services with another friend or relative to avoid paying for their own subscription. The common refrain overheard is “I can watch five streaming services, but I’m only paying for one of them.”

There is a word for what they are doing and that word is stealing. Which makes them thieves. Their petty crimes, taken along with all of the others who are doing the same thing, eventually raises the costs for all who pay their bills honestly.

The advice? If one is going to make oneself into a crook, for goodness’ sake don’t do it for a paltry $9.00 a month. Why sell one’s integrity for so little? Get out there and embezzle something. Take up purse-snatching. Whatever.


It’s Raining In Your Head … It Is

One of the wisest people I have come to know (at a great distance, mind you) is Stephen Fry. And unlike yours truly, he seems to get wiser and wiser as he ages. Here is a very brief video clip where he is discussing depressive episodes. Very brief, but what a lot there is in these few words.

It’s out of your control … it’s real … and it will pass. Golden.


Actually, I should probably quit this post right here. Certainly there is nothing that I could add that is in anyway more useful or profound than what Mr. Fry has already said. So, hey … what if I just add a few more things that he has said?

If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.

The short answer to that is ‘no.’ The long answer is ‘fuck no.’

Sometimes there just isn’t enough vomit in the world.

People sometimes accuse me of knowing a lot. “Stephen,” they say, accusingly, “you know a lot.” This is a bit like telling a person who has a few grains of sand clinging to him that he owns much sand. When you consider the vast amount of sand there is in the world such a person is, to all intents and purposes, sandless. We are all sandless. We are all ignorant. There are beaches and deserts and dunes of knowledge whose existance we have never even guessed at, let alone visited.

The above quotes were intended to provide a transition to the usual poppycock that I put out. I hope that it was helpful, but in any case, here comes the poppycock.


Sunday is the annual beginning of the official kvetching season, as otherwise sensible people begin to complain about the switch to daylight savings time. The cries of “Let’s abolish it!” and “I hate the change!” “It makes me nauseous!” ring throughout the land. I did an unofficial survey last year and got these results:

  • 92% don’t want the time to be fiddled with but left alone forever
  • 5% would like the time to change randomly every four weeks just for the hell of it (it must be mentioned that these folks were interviewed through the bars of their exercise yard)
  • 3% couldn’t be roused from their stupors to comment

At any rate, here it comes once again. Fortunately our home contains a number of clocks that will change on their own, but there are five that don’t and must be fiddled with. Computers and phones take care of themselves. Our car now takes care of itself. So it’s just those five.

Oh, and then there are the cats, whose ideas of feeding time are based on the position of the sun rather than economics. Hard to argue with them. Sensible creatures, they.

Times, by The Easy Riders



Hard Times, by Ian Siegal


Saw our first robin this past week. First since they disappeared last November. These guys are always welcome as an early sign of the weather changing.

Not sure why, but some years they never really leave, and we can see them on our river walks all winter. That wasn’t the case this year, however, so seeing that lone returnee made my day.




In response to no requests at all, I thought I’d bring you up to date on the community of Pea Green, Colorado. Well, there really isn’t one. A community, that is. What remains at the corner on the highway is a Community Hall, an abandoned store, and a schoolhouse that is now a private residence.

Justin had come across a reference to this place in his readings and forwarded a link to us. So when Saturday morning dawned especially dreary, rainy, and just plain dank, Robin and I went for a drive to find it, and collected a few photos while we were there. Apparently there are occasional bluegrass concerts in the Community Hall, but the store is one of those places where the owners simply walked away one day. Allegedly it comes to life twice a year for “antique” sales, but it was certainly moribund on this particular day.

So here are all the photographs of Pea Green, Colorado that you may ever need.


I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone, by Elvis Presley


Wind Tunnel

I have come to the conclusion that if one was to become a vegetarian, there are two ways to do it. One is by studying nutrition, vegetarian cookbooks, YouTube videos, and seeking the advice of veterans in that discipline.

The other is just to eat beans, all the time.

Toss in some other stuff whenever you want, but these little leguminous packages are stuffed with most of what we humans need to go on, with very few drawbacks.

One of them is that people stop inviting you over for tea, what with the necessity that you go outdoors every hour to release the abdominal pressures and not always making it to the door before such release occurs.


Robin and I are not officially becoming vegetarian, but there is little doubt of our general direction. There are scads of health and economic reasons to keep moving that way. Add to that the cruelties present in the animal industry which provide another set of incentives to reduce our contribution to that ugliness.

But I have to admit that if it weren’t for the fact that I probably wouldn’t last a month, I could cheerfully exist on a diet of bacon and Cheetos. The mortician’s problem would be how to get the orange stains out of my fingers, and they might have to go with covering them up with a pair of dress gloves instead of trying to get their natural color back. Or a closed casket altogether.

Excuse me, but I have to step outdoors for a moment to break wind. It’s been sixty minutes … .

[I have discovered another use for dried beans. When I go to the indoor track for my walking exercise, I carry a small backpack stuffed with 20 pounds of beans. They come in just the right size packages with which to add or subtract weight, conform to the body, etc. And as a side benefit I am thus prepared for the next pandemic with enough food for weeks.]



The weather is easing up. Our winters aren’t usually all that arduous, but still … damp and cold is damp and cold even when survival is not the issue. This week our high temps will all be around fifty degrees, and that will be enough to begin to wake up the earth. Grass will start to go green, buds will swell a bit, and the yellowjackets will climb out of whatever corner of hell they occupy during the winter to plague us once again.

Actually, the last time I was stung was two years ago when I was tearing up that deck under which the little beasties were nesting in great numbers. On that day they finally realized just who it was that was ruining their lives and got me four times in just a couple of minutes. Since then … nada.


I wasn’t going to ever mention George Santos again, but here I go. He is too easy a target, but I am a weak, weak man and can’t resist. The House Ethics Committee is officially taking a look at this guy to see if he broke the law. Not because he is simply the poster boy for Fibber of the Year 2022.

I turns out that there are actually no standards in politics for how many lies one can tell in a given year. All such attempts to study it in the past bumped up against the unpleasant truth that whatever number was chosen as horrific and dastardly inevitably included some members of the committee who were doing the investigation.

There was a made-up number that came up for discussion briefly, and that was falsehoods per square foot. Members of the committee thought for a while that using this meaningless statistic would get the public off their collective backs for a few months, but that proved not to be the case. Most voters can sense a snow job very well (except for supporters of former president Cluck and the QAnon adherents, who stand in lines to be bamboozled repeatedly).

So unless he was awfully incautious in the past and crossed some felonious line, Mr. Santos will probably serve out his term comfortably among the other fabulists in his caucus.


Why Don’t You Believe Me, by Joni James



I watched most of Chris Rock’s latest Netflix special, Selective Outrage, and I didn’t love it. I don’t understand how this happens, but so many cutting edge comics become increasingly bitter as they age. When Rock was younger he was sharp, man, really sharp. But in this performance he wanders, dithers, and drops enough F-bombs for a half-dozen specials.

Then there was a long segment on abortion, which … I don’t know … does anybody, pro-choice or pro-life, see any comedic material in this issue? Rock’s routine here was callous, to put it mildly.

And then he took his revenge on Will and Jada Smith for that slap that happened a year ago. A long and a vicious segment. I have never seen a performer have a tantrum on stage like the one Rock has in this broadcast.

There were some funny moments in this special, but not nearly enough of them. Not when I know what the man can do.


In general I am quite pleased with the politics in Colorado. The level of common sense in the men and women who have been elected to office is above average, laws are passed not just to please the group that screams the loudest, and there is occasional cooperation between red and blue segments.

But just to keep our feet firmly planted on Earth, God sent us Two-Gun Boebert, our representative to Congress. She showed up at the CPAC recently, and we’ll let Stephen Colbert set the stage …

One hardly knows whether to laugh or cry when Lauren opens her mouth to speak.

You Talk Too Much, by George Thorogood



Two of my long-time favorite musical performers are named Neil. One of them is Neil Young, but we’re not going to talk about him today.

The other one is Neil Diamond, that son of a Brooklyn cantor who has been able to put grief, loss, love, and feelings of disaffection to music that was loaded with enough hooks to be hazardous. One of the best live albums I’ve ever heard is “Hot August Night,” and for pure pop pleasure it is hard to beat.

Neil in the sixties. OK … he was adorable, but looks aren’t everything. Or musical talent. Or height. Or hair.

Yesterday at the gym I was doing my aerobic walking with headphones on when his song “Holly Holy” came into the rotation. You know how it is when a song comes on the radio and it absolutely grabs you at that moment and when it is over you wish you could put it on replay? That’s what happened with Holly Holy at the gym. But this time I could put it on repeat (iPod) and for the next mile on the indoor track I had it playing over and over.

In an interview with the BBC, Diamond said of this song: “What I tried to do was create a religious experience between a man and a woman, as opposed to a man and a god.”

Perhaps what I had was not exactly a “religious experience between a man and a woman,” but I did recognize the prayer-like quality of some of its lines. And there was my rapid heart rate and heavy breathing … . (But I go too far. There is a stupendous gulf between the rapid breathing of passion and my hypoxic gasping on the track. )

And as far as that experience between a man and a god, I’m actually laying kinda low and hoping to go unnoticed by the gods for a few more years. Not making any waves at all.

Holly Holy, by Neil Diamond


Picking up on something I just wrote, a phrase often heard is “the disaffection of youth.” Everybody has some sense of what this means. We were all young once and trying to figure it out, with no clear idea of what to hang onto or where we would end up. Confusion and doubt were our state of existence.

One of my problems was that I wasn’t done with disaffection when youth had passed. So I have had to deal with the disaffections of youth, young adulthood, middle age, and now advanced decrepitude. And at all these milestones Neil Diamond’s music has had resonance for me. (I do get my mileage out of a tune this way)

Perhaps by this time of life I should have sussed things out more thoroughly, but I haven’t. What this means is that the song I Am … I Said can still ring true every once in a while, just as it did more than fifty years ago.

I Am, I Said, by Neil Diamond



Pet Peeve Department

Being the lifelong member of Anal-Compulsives of America that I am, there will inevitably be things that lesser beings do which annoy me. Those humans with less organization and perfection in their inconsequential lives, you know.

One of those annoyances, which unfortunately comes up way too frequently, is the use of the word decimate by members of the media. They use it to describe situations where nearly everyone was killed, whether it is in a battle or a natural disaster. The usage couldn’t be more wrong. The Romans had it right, because they invented it.

Decimation (Latin: decimatio; decem = “ten”) was a form of Roman military discipline in which every tenth man in a group was executed by members of his cohort. The discipline was used by senior commanders in the Roman army to punish units or large groups guilty of capital offences, such as cowardice, mutiny, desertion, and insubordination,, and for pacification of rebellious legions.


Now, compare this sturdy and no-nonsense definition of the word with the spineless one which follows:

Current usage of the word: decimation in English is often used to refer to an extreme reduction in the number of a population or force or an overall sense of destruction and ruin.


See the difference? The more modern one is sloppy and can mean almost anything the speaker mwants to say, which means that it is meaningless. This slovenly practice is so irritating to a man with standards that spittle flies from my mouth when I begin to speak of it and gets all over my papers. This, too, annoys me to no end.

From here on in, let the media beware. Every inappropriate use of the word decimate that I come across will be met with all the outrage that my computer keyboard can muster. Do it twice and expect to find me outside your door with a placard in my hands. Three times = decimation.



Cosmic Joke Department

(Headlines noted on two articles that I read this week:)

A. Why Constipation Is More Common as You Age, and What to Do About It

B. Regular Laxative Use Could Up the Odds of Dementia By 51%

And who said the gods have no sense of humor?


The recovery process from knee joint replacement is a slow one, with enough of pains along the way to bring joy to our all-time favorite sadist, the Marquis de Sade, were he still among us. Patience and taking the longer view are the name of the game.

But soon we will be gamboling once more on the mountain trails that surround us. In fact, when that day comes I believe that we should throw caution to the winds and take off to frolic naked in the alpine meadow moonlight with the fauns and sprites.


Now that I think more about it, there are bears and lions up there as well, and perhaps being completely uncovered may not be the best idea if one of these larger creatures comes ’round on an evening feeling particularly peckish. Diving into a tent means that you have only placed a very thin layer of fabric between you and an entity positively brimming with teeth and claws.

Let’s change that to “take off to frolic well-shielded in the alpine meadow moonlight,” shall we? I feel better already.



I was watching something on television the other evening, when there was scene, a brief scene, that reached into my memory box . A new father was doing the late-night-walk thing carrying a new baby. There was a close-up of the infant’s face, and you could hear its breathing. And I was reminded that there is nothing quite like a tiny child’s breathing. Nothing that sounds like it or looks like it.

In the work that I did, once upon a time, I spent quite a lot of time watching babies breathe. In any newborn nursery there are a whole lot of babies that are just fine and would have been just fine even if they had been born under an oak tree along the Oregon Trail. But there were a few, a very few, who were going to become ill, and some were going to die unless what was troubling them was discovered and treated early.

The trick of it all was to pick out those very few as early as possible, and to leave the multitude alone.

Much of what we call illness, especially infectious disease, has a moment when it is not there, and then it is. Let’s take septicemia as an instance. Sepsis is when a micro-organism gets into the bloodstream, where it multiplies until it becomes a threat to life. But when that organism first gains entrance, there are no symptoms. The child, the patient, the host may not know that there is anything wrong at all. But at some point, as one of my teachers used to tell me, you could show the patient to a horse and the horse could make the diagnosis.

The subtleties of many illnesses in the newborn nursery operated in this way. The problem was that the patient had so few ways to tell us that something was amiss. One of those was a change in breathing patterns.

So I spent many hours sitting in rocking chairs in normal newborn nurseries at two in the morning, holding infants who had done some small thing to worry a caregiver. Maybe they hadn’t eaten well at their last feeding, or didn’t seem as vigorous as the child in the next bassinet, or something altogether different. I would be called and brought onto the scene as a judge or referee. The question was always the same – is there anything wrong with this baby?

I would take the infant to a rocking chair and we would sit together for as long as it took for me to decide. I would listen to it breathe, and I would watch it breathe. I would open the hospital blanket, undo the fastenings of the hospital shirt, and watch the movement of its chest.

I would feel how the child responded to being carried and moved, and I would compare its muscle tone with all the other babies I had held in the past. And then at some point I would act. Either by returning the baby to its bassinet and going home to sleep, or by initiating a workup for sepsis (and other things).

Deciding to do the workup was not a small thing. It meant that I was going to have to talk go out and talk to the mother and tell her that there was a possibility of something very bad going on, something that might threaten her child’s life. Something she may not have suspected at all. And then I was going to have to get her permission to do invasive things to her baby. Which might include taking blood samples, doing a chest x-ray, performing a spinal tap, starting an IV and beginning antibiotic therapy. No matter how tactfully I put it, I was going to scare the very beJesus out of her, and there was always this – I could be wrong and all of it was for nothing.

Quite a lot to be brought back by that single movie scene, but there you are. It caught me with my guard down, and for just that second I felt that slow burn of fear I used to have … of being wrong … either way.


A very good article on the subject of the ongoing attacks on libraries, and therefore the attacks on thought itself: The Real Reason North Dakota Is Going After Books and Librarians.


An article that first made me smile, and then to understand. The story of the kung fu nuns.



Two more catalogs from nurseries have arrived. It’s pretty obvious that their customer base includes a lot of gentrified gardeners. When a single tomato-growing tower can sell for nearly $200, well, if you have a good year that would mean that after watering, feeding, and agonizing over all those pests you could grow your own, your very own tomatoes for only $10 each.

As a kid I perused such catalogs but they were printed on non-glossy paper where all you could buy were seeds and hoes and cultivators that you pushed yourself. Not a gnome or statue of St. Francis for sale in any of them.


But times change and the real stuff is still in there if you can ferret it out. We will have a modest container garden as usual, growing primarily tomatoes and salad greens. Generally easy to care for, fun to grow (when everything works out), and delicious to boot.


From The New Yorker


About two miles from home, there is a rural stretch of Ogden Avenue where the power lines parallel the road. Perhaps 50% of the times that we drive along this street we see an American kestrel on the wire. In nearly the same place every day. This is obviously its turf.

This week I didn’t see the little hawk for several days and I began to be concerned that something might have happened to it, which prompted a conversation between Robin and I as to – when birds die, as they all will do one day, why don’t we see their bodies more often? Except for the odd roadkilled pheasant we almost never come across their bodies. I ran across this explanation at which sounds sensible, and since I am sharing it with you, I hope that it is also true.

When a dead bird hits the ground, it is almost immediately invaded by small decomposers in the form of bacteria and insects. Vultures and coyotes might also take part in the feast, but the tiny organisms are usually the quickest and most efficient. Being thin and light, a small bird decomposes into an unrecognizable blob in about a day and will disappear in three.

BTW, yesterday the kestrel was back at its post again.

The Eagle and the Hawk, by John Denver


The Home

I wasn’t sure what to make of Friday’s weather prediction for the Los Angeles area – a blizzard warning. My problem is that the warning and the location did not compute in my rapidly shrinking brain. Instead of a collection of binary ones and zeros in there, I found myself with a bunch of threes.

But for the moment, let’s assume that the prognosticators are correct. First problem for the city fathers would be to locate the Los Angeles snow shovel. In the hustle and bustle of that large-ish city it would be an easy thing to lose track of. And it probably wouldn’t be the sleek and ergonomic model in the photograph, but something much more primitive. Perhaps a piece of sheet metal nailed to a 2×4.


Rounding up proper clothing for the populace might be difficult on such short notice, but surely there would be useful garments in the warehouses of the film industry where old costumes are stored.

This outfit worn by Jack Nicholson didn’t do his character much good, but even this garment would be better protection than the usual pair of shorts and a tank top.



Finding snow removal equipment would be a challenge. The last time they needed one they employed this horse-drawn beauty, but that was when the population of the town was 300 souls.


Will The Wolf Survive, by Los Lobos


Two Republican legislators from Idaho have introduced legislation that would make the administration of mRNA vaccines illegal. (Just as a reminder, these are the vaccines against COVID 19.) It would only be a misdemeanor according to the bill’s sponsors, state Sen. Tammy Nichols and Rep. Judy Boyle.

What they would really like is to bring back the stocks and the dunking stool for these offenders, says Nichols, “but you have to start somewhere.” They are also recommending doing away with some of the subversive teachings in the state’s school system, including that the earth is round and that 1+1 = 2.

As egregious as the almost daily insults to the national intelligence provided by various members of Congress are, I don’t worry that much about them. As my Norwegian-American grandfather used to say, “Det ordner seg før fuglen fiser om morgenen.” Translated, this says: “Things will be alright before the bird farts in the morning.”


From The New Yorker


We’ve been very much enjoying our visits with Elsa and Marc this week. Robin seems to have acquired new color in her cheeks, the result of having people to chat with other than myself. She keeps muttering the words “insufferable blowhard” under her breath whenever I try to add to the conversation. I’m not quite sure how to take that.

The weather hasn’t been all that cooperative this week, what with intermittent snow, blustering winds, freezing temperatures, and the like. Truth be told, I would have much preferred balmy, for I am positively done with Winter 2023. After today, I will not say another word about it, but turn my thoughts and writings exclusively to the days ahead where we are not required to wear puffy jackets. Or long-sleeved anythings.

Where I can rush outside into the blazing carcinogenic sunlight and take my chances along with everybody else. That’s the way, uh huh uh huh, I like it.

That’s The Way (I Like It), by KC and the Sunshine Band


At supper last night, we somehow got onto the subject of backpacking and were reviewing our successes and flops of the past. The very last time Robin and I went out into the wild with packs on our backs was just a few years ago, on a walk into Porphyry Basin. We’d planned to be out only two nights, because we needed to carry CPAP hardware with us and a battery to power it all.

The trip in involved driving three miles up a rough old mining road, ditching the car, then continuing on for another three miles or so along that same (but now rougher) road. Not an epic walk by any means but enough to get the cardioworks pumping up there at 10,000 feet.

We set up housekeeping on a lovely spot with not too many rocks to stab us in the back, and of a mild enough slope that we were in no danger of rolling out of the tent, down the hill, and off the cliff. One problem for me in the mountains is that they are so darned high, and there are plenty of opportunities to look down. For the acrophobic that I am, it’s the looking down that is the awkward part.

One minute you are having a great time and then you peek over an edge, see what mischief a wrong step could cause, and suddenly your brain goes completely haywire all by itself. The earth spins, panic sets in, and you can hear the universe calling you by name to step forward and off into space. Like a Star Wars tractor beam drawing you into whatever version of eternity awaits you.

No matter. Our tent was a short distance from the most delicious fresh water. There were three marmots watching us and providing entertainment as they moved about to get a better look at thee humans who had invited themselves into their home. The views were outstanding. The skies were clear. All was going according to plan except for one thing. Our efforts had made us hungry enough that by noon of the second day we had eaten all our food and had to cut the trip short. The packaging on those freeze-dried meals that claimed that there were two servings in every package flat out lied to us.

Perhaps they provided two servings for a pair of Lilliputians resting on a couch in their living room, but not for two average-sized people on a hike. So we explored the area until we ran out of gas and then walked down the hill to our car and back to the nearest grocery store.

The pix were taken on that jaunt, but they show none of the gasping episodes and waves of hunger that we had to deal with. Those photos were judged to be too upsetting to be viewed by the general public.


From The New Yorker


On the morning that Elsa and Marc took their leave our ongoing conversation had turned to politics. Our guests were remarking negatively on the advanced age of so many of our representatives. I observed that we frequently are told that our government is supposed to look like America, and I agree with that premise. It just happens that right now it achieves that look only if we believe that America is one big nursing home for old caucasians.

Who Knows Where The Time Goes, by Fairport Convention


Bull In A Museum Shop

There was an article on CNN this morning about a piece of sculpture that was knocked over and destroyed. It was one of Jeff Koons’ balloon dogs. (Notice how authoritatively I write this in spite of the fact that I never heard of a balloon dog until today, and barely knew Mr. Koons’ name to boot).

Anyway, there was some sort of cocktail party going on at the museum, where only the créme de la créme would have been invited to attend, when a patron accidentally kicked the pedestal that the sculpture was resting on. It fell to the ground, shattered, and that was all she wrote. $42,000 down the drain, but the gallery was appropriately restrained in their criticism of the clumsy attendee, and appropriately downcast about the loss of an artwork.

The article did mention that Koons made 799 of these things, so it’s not exactly the tragedy that stomping a hole in the Mona Lisa would be, but we are now down to 798 balloon dogs, so let’s all pay better attention, shall we?

I have some suggestions that I will forward to the museum, to try to avoid such accidents in the future.

  • Do not put breakable art pieces on teetery pedestals where a casual bump can do such damage.
  • Do not put these pedestals in rooms where alcohol is being served. In all of the history of all of the booze that has ever been served there is not a single recorded instance where it improved the drinker’s coordination.
  • Be sure to put the guilty patron’s name on a list where they will be given repeated breathalyzer tests during the course of such evenings in the future. If their levels climb, move them to the part of the gallery where only rubber art is being displayed.
  • Call security whenever they see anyone at a gathering where art is being displayed, drinks are being served, and the person is wearing shoes like those below. Dead giveaway, this footwear, that there may be trouble ahead.
Send In The Clowns, by Mark Kozelek


There is a bill before Congress that is long overdue. Eighty-one years ago President Roosevelt signed an executive order that sent 125,000 Japanese-Americans into forced internment camps. This bill would be a belated attempt to prevent anything like that from ever occurring again.

My early civic education being the tapestry composed of huge holes surrounded by a thin lattice of spiderwebbed information that it was, I didn’t learn about this whole ugly episode until I was in the Air Force, serving with an OB/GYN named Lt.Col. Don Okada. To say that Don opened my eyes when he told me about his days as a child in the camps would be a major understatement.

The Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act would establish clear legal prohibition against incarcerating Americans based not only on race, religion, and nationality but also sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity or disability. The bill seems like a slam dunk – a way to speak truth to power when we say, “Never again.”

CNN February 20, 2023

It doesn’t take much sensitivity to see how racist the original document was. No matter that there was all sorts of panicking in the early days of WWII, the fact is that when Roosevelt signed his order we were at war with Germany, Italy, and Japan. No one ever uprooted the German- or Italian-Americans and sent them inland. Only those of Asian descent.

Good on Congress if they can get this one passed. The article suggested that it should be a slam dunk. With the number of white supremacists in that body right now, I’m not as sure that this will happen as the author is.


To take a very short trip from the serious and worthy to the silly and comedic I offer this music video from 1980. Whatever it says about my musical tastes I liked it then and still do. About as purely ridiculous as rock and roll gets.


(Even the most casual observer will have noted that my favorite cartoons are those with a bit of absurdity in them. Or alternatively, a lot of absurdity in them. I have no interest in trying to figure out why this should be the case. To do so would be less interesting than listening to beans soak.)

From The New Yorker


Yesterday I took Elsa and Marc on a small voyage of discovery. We went to Delta, Colorado, in search of its resident population of sandhill cranes. And we found them. To be more descriptive, we found about 400 of them in a picked-over cornfield about four miles from the village.

The flock obliged us by doing their flapping dances, croaking like the ancient creatures that they are, as well as just standing there looking like something straight out of Jurassic Park. There was even a handful who beautifully circled the field before coming in for a landing. It was about all you can ask of a bunch of cranes, actually.

I’m including this photo (that is not mine) to show the dancing, and that beautiful scarlet blaze on their heads. Although I now can see them almost anytime I want to make the effort, I never tire of watching these birds.

An ornithologist described them as one of the most successful life forms on earth, having persisted unchanged for 2.5 million years. To put it in perspective, that’s way longer than you might spend waiting for a sensible word to come out of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s mouth.


From The New Yorker


(Over the years I have offered to accept the writings of my readers and publish them here. Granddaughter Elsa’s most recent submission was this limerick)

I’d like to submit the following for consideration:

There once was a man called Pappy
He had humor that was quite snappy
He loved his cats
And always wore hats
And seldom was he unhappy


Choosing Kempt Over Unkempt

Over the years I have often alluded to some of the oddities of the golden years. I try not to get too descriptive about some of them, knowing that there are readers who may be eating as they scan these posts.

But this picture caught my eye this morning, and it brought up one of the real puzzlers in the celestial plan – why does Nature take the hair away from one area of the body but then add it to another? Specifically it is the nose and the ears where the unwanted additions occur.

I have a sense that if I were not a compulsive trimmer of these areas, within a few weeks I would resemble this gnome. And it’s definitely not a look that I am going for … at least not intentionally.

As an older gentleman I have finally become resigned to being invisible. I don’t want to move on to a new category, that of horrifying. Not if it can be helped.


Unusual. We’ve actually had a two day snowfall here in Paradise. About 14 inches total. Driving is interesting in that the city fathers obviously don’t want to waste money on snow removal. So all those inches are still sitting there. Our Subaru Outback loves it, of course, leaping from drift to drift as happy as a malemute puppy.

But I had to shovel the walk and driveway three times on Wednesday, just to keep the them safe for my neighbors, especially those pesky senior citizens who still imagine they are in their twenties and walk places that they might better avoid..


A Dick Guindon cartoon


My eldest child reminded me of another sailing song that I should have included in last Wednesdays post, and that was from the soundtrack of the movie Windjammer. Title of the tune: Kari Waits For Me.

Thanks to daughter Kari for the reminder. ‘Twas the song that provided the name her parents chose for her.

Kari Waits For Me, by The Easy Riders


The only thing that seems clear in the ongoing UFO drama is that if we see one we’re going to shoot it down. So far there’s been a bit of a hassle in that the wreckage of the four doomed objects so far has been in in places where recovery is a big problem. Like the Atlantic Ocean or the Great Lakes. So we have little information as to what these objects were.

Not so reassuring is the knowledge that we’ve blasted four of these things out of our skies this week simply because we opened our eyes and saw them. Spokespersons tell us that there may have been more of them dating back many years, but we weren’t looking that hard back then.

No matter. Everybody be warned. For certain, this is not a good time for balloon hobbyists to launch their newest creations. You may find an F-22 whistling through your back yard if you do.



Friday morning and it is one degree … it pains me to write this … below zero. Fifteen below is the wind chill. I would like to say that it is a pleasant reminder of winter-life in the Midwest, but it isn’t. While we moved to Paradise for the grandkids and not the climate, we have definitely become pleasantly accustomed to not having to worry about things like frostbite. We like it when the car always starts, and when the cabin starts to warm within a couple of blocks of driving.

We are spoiled.

So we are now sulking, which is what spoiled people do when they don’t get their way. You may call us the petulant twins, if you like. The acrid aroma of self-pity pervades our dwelling.

I think that, for psychological purposes, it might be better if we switched to the Kelvin scale, where the temperature would now be 255 degrees. It just sounds better. I think I’ll write to my congressperson and suggest the change.

There, I feel better already. I’m sure that they will say “Why, Jon, what a wonderful idea. I’ll get right on it!” And once I have their ear, there’s a couple of other items on my agenda that I know they will love just as much.


From The New Yorker


The introduction to this video from Boston Dynamics goes like this:

“This is a compilation video which shows two of Boston Dynamics’ humanoid Atlas research robots doing the twist, the mashed potato and other classic moves, joined by Spot, a doglike robot, and Handle, a wheeled robot designed for lifting and moving boxes in a warehouse or truck”.

Sounds pretty benign for something that ruined the day for me when I first viewed it, and will spoil all of the days I am yet to have. At no time in my life could I move this gracefully. To know positively and forever that I am clumsier than these advanced toaster ovens.

Robots, by Flight of the Conchords


Sunday afternoon we expect visitors. Elsa and Marc are stopping by on their travels and will be with us for several days. Our fervent hope is that we don’t have a repeat of Christmas, where I transmitted a version of the Black Death to our guests.

I am unsure of what activities we’ll be able to pursue. The recent heavy snowfall shut down a few options, but hey, there’s always Uno to fall back on. Why, we could have an Uno tournament, starting right out with our group as the Final Four.

Think of it … becoming the Uno Champion du Jour!

Tee shirts … endorsements … rose petals scattered in our path. What a great country this is, where a group of four unknowns could start with only an idea and go on to fame, fortune and laying about in villas in Italy. All in the course of a few days.

Gotta get started. Really haven’t a thing to wear if I’m going to Europe. Is it winter there?

Who Knows Where The Time Goes, by Sandy Denny


Terra Infirma

I am not a sailor. Never have been. My times on water that I have treasured were all on inland lakes with paddles in my hand. But I do have a fairly fertile imagination and can sense that if I had put in the time on salt water I might have loved it. I’ve had too many opportunities to do other things, I guess, and haven’t even gotten to all of those yet.

But there have been two pop songs over the years that gave me a sense of what spending more time on the sea might have felt like. The first is by Christopher Cross, a song which won a Grammy in 1980.

The song was a success in the United States, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100  chart on August 30, 1980, where it stayed for one week. The song also won Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Arrangement of the Year, and helped Cross win the Best New Artist award.  VH1 named “Sailing” the most “softsational soft rock” song of all time.

Wikipedia: Sailing
Sailing, by Christoper Cross

And then there is this one. An anthem with gorgeous harmonies and thoughtful lyrics. Sung by artists who are personal favorites. Somehow its rhythms bring in the motion of a boat rising and falling on the ocean.

“Southern Cross” is based on the song “Seven League Boots” by Rick and Michael Curtis. Stills explained, “The Curtis Brothers brought a wonderful song called ‘Seven League Boots,’ but it drifted around too much. I rewrote a new set of words and added a different chorus, a story about a long boat trip I took after my divorce. It’s about using the power of the universe to heal your wounds. Once again, I was given somebody’s gem and cut and polished it.”

Wikipedia: Southern Cross
Southern Cross, by Crosby, Stills, and Nash


From The New Yorker


I’ve lost track of how many objects the U.S. has shot down this past week. Is there someone at an exalted level who could tell us what the hell is going on? And would they put it into simple and non-technical language, please? This morning I read that no matter what they are, the fact that there are so many unexpected things floating around in the atmosphere, large things, raises questions about the safety of air travel.

All of a sudden I am glad that I am not flying anywhere anytime soon. Over a lifetime there have been quite a few different things to panic about when it came to air travel. Way back in the sixties it was highjacking. Then it was about seagulls being sucked into jet engines and causing planes to crash during takeoff. Then is was drunken flight crews.

Between these major concerns there were always stories about parts of the plane falling off, batshit-crazy passengers starting fights while cruising at 30,000 feet, and how you were going to get your body into a seating space that was more suited to something the size of a meerkat.

When I think back to some of my early air travel experiences, it’s almost unbelievable how different the situation is today. A passenger would basically just walk right up to the plane and get on. No going through security two hours before flight time. You were shown your way to a seat much like those in movie theaters, which were meant to be spacious and relaxing.

All of the flight attendants were under 30 years of age, single, female, attractive, and wearing skirts completely unsuited to reaching over ones head to straighten things out in overhead compartments.

You were served hot meals on almost any flight that lasted more than an hour. This meant that those flight attendants had to take your order (chicken or beef), distribute all those aluminum trays of food, pick up all those same trays, serve drinks, and still be ready when landing was imminent.

These days I have no problem with taking one of the window seats where I am supposed to help with evacuations in the event of a disaster. My reasons for doing so have nothing to do with altruism, however. I have a bit of claustrophobia, and the cramped seats don’t help that one bit. What sitting in that window seat means to me is that if I lose my mind altogether all I have to do is turn that latch and kick out that chunk of the fuselage and I’m free! Never mind that we’re miles in the air if and when my composure slips, it is my mental safety valve and I’m hanging on to it. It goes without saying that I choose not to share this information with the others in my row. Why upset them?


Robin and I, as do many people who spend a great deal of time together, have evolved some daily routines. One set of those routines is around breakfast. We now have four menu items in ragged rotation:

  • Cold cereal
  • Hot cereal
  • Eggs of some sort
  • Pancakes

There are several good reasons for limiting choice at six o’clock in the morning, and they are all related to the fact that our decision-making apparatuses are not at their peak for the first couple of hours each day.


For instance, none of these breakfasts require the use of sharp objects. For another, they require a very limited set of seasonings – salt, pepper, a bit of maple syrup and that’s about it.

The only problem is that when it comes time to choose among the four candidates, we often cannot remember which one we had yesterday. So the possibility that we have been eating only cold cereal for the past several months does exist. There is no good way of knowing. I have half a mind to count the eggs in the fridge during the month of March to see if we are actually eating them or not.


From The New Yorker


Monday P.M. a full-on snowfall. Cold out there, leaden skies, cabin fever … time to release the kraken! … I mean, Zhivago! Every few years Robin and I rummage through our stuff and pull out our DVD of the film Doctor Zhivago. It is best watched when it is snowing outdoors, just to add a little frisson.

Our attention spans being what they have become, we will take it to the intermission the first night, then finish it on the second. Not quite as romantic, perhaps, but you work with what you have.

BTW, although I have written a few poems in my lifetime, I do not consider myself to be a poet.

To be one of those you need to pull up a frosty chair to a snow-covered desk in this frozen salon at Varykino.

You would then scribble your words while your hands are covered in knit gloves where the fingers have worn through. Each exhalation visible. Anything less would amount to little more than posturing.

But that’s a fantasy, you say. Not real at all. My answer would be that philosophers tell us that everything is a fantasy. Nothing is what it seems. Across history millions of people have perished for one fantasy or another. So it is not such a stretch, I think, to want to live in David Lean’s* castle in the air periodically.

Lara’s Theme, from the film Doctor Zhivago


Entire sections of Moscow were built as a set outside of Madrid. Elsewhere in Spain, predicted snow failed to appear, and marble dust was instead employed to cover the ground. The memorable ice-covered Varykino was achieved with frozen beeswax. The film is a testament to the incredible inventiveness of David Lean and his collaborators.

*David Lean is the director of Zhivago