On The Road

Wednesday: We are taking off for a few days to rendezvous with Justin and his crew near Page, Arizona. The purpose of the trip, beyond just getting out of town, is to put Robin and two delightful grandchildren together for two days. Of course we will not completely ignore their parents, but … you know. Zoom is just not where it’s at when it comes to keeping tabs on rapidly changing organisms. It’s a problem of scale.

Page is at the western end of Lake Powell, which was the reservoir created by the Glen Canyon Dam and against Edward Abbey’s will. Mr. Abbey even wrote a book about how what a good thing it would be to blow up the dam, a book that was called The Monkey Wrench Gang. Did I mention that he could be cranky at times?

When Abbey died, he left instructions for his friends to bear his body out into the Arizona desert somewhere, wrap it in his old sleeping bag, and to bury it there. Allegedly the only marker is a stone with these words written on it:

Edward Paul Abbey

1927-1989

No comment.

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It may well be that climate change will achieve Abbey’s goals. Right now the water levels are at record lows with no real hope that they will improve, as the western mega-drought continues. There are serious discussions about taking the dam out of service altogether, and allowing what water is stored in the reservoir to flow downstream to Lake Mead. I can’t say whether that would make Abbey’s spirit happy, that might not be possible. But it probably wouldn’t hurt his feelings any.

Notes: In our first hour of driving today we passed numerous small herds of elk, which taken together probably numbered close to 300 animals. In the small reservation town of Kayenta we went to lunch at Amigo restaurant, which had the most pleasant wait-staff we’d ever encountered. And they were deadly serious about Covid! You signed in when you entered with your name, address and phone number, and then you were ushered back outside. When they called you back in, a woman sprayed your hands with disinfectant and then seated you. Masking was required outdoors and in.

Much of the country we’ll be traveling through in Arizona is tribally owned, and they control access to many of the prime hiking and viewing opportunities. To get to these places now requires getting a permit and hiring a guide, which seems okay until you get to the price tag. It can cost from $65 per person to take a 90 minute walk all the way to $2200 each for a whole day and a chance to visit with one of the few remaining code talkers.

I hate seeing fees this high. There is no denying that the tribes have the right to charge what they will. After all, we’re all happy capitalists, aren’t we? But what it does yet one more time is deny most Americans, people who can’t fork out this much money for a brief walk in the desert, access to some of this country’s most spectacular scenery. That’s not okay.

Mahk Jchi, from The Native Americans

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From The New Yorker

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Thursday: The Glen Canyon gorge is absolutely beautiful. Perhaps even more so now that features formerly under water are emerging as the lake level declines.

I find myself feeling sorry for all those whose livelihoods will disappear as the lake draws down. In the sixty or so years since the dam was built a whole ecosystem grew up that depended on a large body of water. Boating, fishing, luxury homes, tourist lodging … basically the entire town of Page AZ. If this area returns to being the Colorado River there will still be rafting and canyon explorations for the adventurous, but not in the numbers supported by the more passive recreation that a lake provides.

Even if history decides that building the dam was in hindsight a mistake, it was not a mistake made by these working people. The owners of those triple-decker houseboats will pack up and move their toys somewhere else, but a job gone is just … gone. And a home that can’t be sold is a sadness and a burden .

Later today we will seek an area to do some modest hiking, since our crew is a modest bunch. Except for Justin, however, who is immodest in that regard. Thirty years ago I took Robin and her family, along with boyfriend Neil, on a backpacking trip in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area of the Rockies. On our first day we pushed it a little hard, and we were not altitude-adjusted as yet. When we reached the place we were going to set up camp, everyone quite literally collapsed on the ground, cradling their heads on their packs.

Everyone, that is, but Justin.

He wanted to continue on, go over to that ridge a mile or so away and look down on the other side. He was very insistent, but eventually disgustedly resigned himself to our overwhelming horizontalness. I think it dawned on him that if he did get the group up there, he would probably have had to shoot a couple of us, like horses pushed past their limits.

But today we will hike, as one does when in such a group, to the pace of the one person who really would rather not go hiking at all. Today that person is Leina. Our youngest and smallest. But she is also the possessor of one of the loveliest smiles in all of Christendom, and when all is said and done, the smile triumphs over any mere inconveniences encountered while walking together in the out of doors.

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From The New Yorker

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Friday: We moved on today as a convoy to the Grand Canyon area. At midday we will separate, as Justin and company drive south to the Phoenix airport to fly back to California, and Robin and I begin our return trip home.

I’ve been to the Grand Canyon only once before, and truthfully had no particular wish to see it again. You know how you go there with your camera the first time, snap dozens of photos, and then you go back home to rummage through the pics and find nothing worth keeping? Your camera couldn’t begin to capture the immensity of the thing. The canyon is amazing, but not nearly as interesting to me as something smaller in scale. Something more approachable. It’s as if a friend took me to the edge of a cliff and said: “There it is … Indiana!” And all I could respond was: “Are there any towns there we could look at?”

I have now been to the Grand Canyon twice. I have been to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison a hundred times or more. I much prefer the latter. In mid-afternoon we said goodbye to our friends and drove to our motel in Kayenta.

Saturday: Up early and a short drive up to Monument Valley Tribal Park. There is a 17 mile red dirt road that travels through the park and exposes one to some of the most inspiring scenery I’ve even seen. Much more moving than the Grand Canyon. It doesn’t take much more than an hour to do the tour, or you can linger as long as you like. The valley has been used in several western movies, so in a way it was like not my first visit. If you’re interested, here’s a Wikipedia list of times Monument Valley has been used in the media.

In terms of trip planning, we wouldn’t call it a destination, but if you are traveling within a two-hour drive of the Park, it would be shame to miss it. This following gallery contains some professional photos as well as a few of mine. Just didn’t get many “keepers” this time.

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When we returned to Kayenta we went to lunch at Amigo Cafe. Our unfailingly polite waiter brought us chips and salsa as we waited for our entrees. Robin and I each took a chip and dug out a scoopful of the salsa, which will be thought of from this day forward as The Green Death.

Within a millisecond of my hand placing the chip into my mouth I knew that I had a serious mistake. It was as if a blowtorch had been applied to my oral cavity. Gasping, I looked up to warn Robin but I was too late, as I watched her sliding down the banquette and disappearing beneath the table.

All of my extremities began to tremble, my eyes lost focus, and the next thing I knew I was being dragged by my heels to the outdoor patio and laid in a resting position prone against an adobe wall. As I looked about me I saw other patrons, including Robin, who had been lined up along the same wall to recover. Apparently this sauce is locally famous, and even among hardy Navajo citizens there have been one or two who had been similarly afflicted in the past.

In an hour or two we were able to sit up, brush ourselves off, and dazedly finish our lunches. Even though we have temporarily lost the ability to taste, and our upper and lower lips no longer match one another, we have been reassured that given enough time all will be well. If that doesn’t happen, the proprietor has promised that we can come back and have another lunch … on him.

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Our new cat-sitter, Howard, texts us each day to let us know how the cats are doing without us. It’s a nice touch and we appreciate it. Yesterday’s message is reproduced below. (He calls our kitties “the kids” and Howard is a man in love with emojis.)

Jon – kids are doing real well this morning! They are sooo sweet! Hope your trips going well! Your trash was picked up, put trash can back👍alls good here!😻😻👍😀😀

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Loose Lips Sink Ships

Once upon a time I had a friend who applied for a position with an intelligence agency. A brilliant person – decisive, thoughtful, athletically gifted … he had it all and was accepted for the job. He was fired within a month. Among his quirks (and who among us doesn’t have them of one kind or another?) was that he couldn’t keep a secret. This was such a part of his personality structure that he didn’t even know it was there.

Of course, if the agency had wanted to know this, they had only to ask me. After being burned a couple of times, and having information of mine broadcast which should have remained “off the record,” I simply adjusted what I would share with this person and we remained friends.

If you spend a professional lifetime keeping things confidential, as all physicians are supposed to do, you become quite sensitive when you bump up against your polar opposites. Working as a doctor in small towns there are quite a few people who would like get into your head, because they already know everybody and would like to know everything as well. So you learn to be cagey, much like a seasoned poker player, and not give away information either by words or by a “tell.”

Now, to be a little Machiavelllian about all this, if you should discover that you are acquainted with such a talebearer, you can use this when you choose. When you have some information you would like to get out there but don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, simply mention it to this friend and swear him to secrecy. Mission accomplished.

I first became aware of the small town gossip chain when I moved to Hancock, Michigan, popuation 4500. One day within my first month working there, I had ordered a laboratory test of a sensitive nature. The next afternoon I was distressed to hear the following conversation in a hospital elevator between a lab technician and another citizen.

Lab Tech: How ya doing, Charlie?

Charlie: Pretty good, a lot better than Fred, from what I hear.

Lab Tech: What do ya mean?

Charlie: That new doctor ordered a test on him for gonorrhea, right?

Lab Tech: Well, yeah.

Charlie: And it came back positive?

Tech: … well, yeah.

Charlie: That’s what I mean. Wonder who gave it to Fred?

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From The New Yorker

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Shortly after beginning my colorful and peripatetic college career, I enrolled in an American history class where the Turner Thesis was an important part of the readings.

The frontier thesis or Turner thesis (also American frontierism) is the argument advanced by historian Frederick Jackson Turner in 1893 that American democracy was formed by the American frontier. He stressed the process—the moving frontier line—and the impact it had on pioneers going through the process. Turner begins the essay by calling to attention the fact that the western frontier line, which had defined the entirety of American history up to the 1880s, had ended.

Wikipedia: Frontier Thesis

Historians and sociologists since then have debated the Thesis but for the most part accept that Turner was onto something, and the fact that there was no more wilderness to invade and subdue (along with the people who were residents thereof) would impact the further development of America in unpredictable ways.

That’s an interesting topic and there’s much material to read on the subject in the libraries if it grabs you. But it strikes me that while the physical frontier might have ended, there are others barely touched.

One frontier, one place to start is for each of us to finally and at long last completely reject violence as a means of resolving debates or disagreements. I know, I know, impossible. But what could almost be called miracles were achieved by the non-violent campaigns of the civil rights era. These heroes offered a complete rejection of the tit-for-tat, the reactivity that has always been our way. And although many of the good things that Gandhi was able to achieve through his sturdy brand of non-violence have been lost or diluted over time there are those which persist, as is our memory of the power of that approach.

So what do we do when a Putin or a Stalin or a Mao or a Tojo or a Mussolini or a Hitler or a Pol Pot or a Duterte comes along? That is where having moved that particular frontier line forward comes into play. When we apply what we already know about living compassionately together we deprive those guys of their oxygen.

The alternative is to do what we have been doing ever since Glog came out of the cave having carved his first war club and gave Blech a resounding rap on the head with it. Of course, Blech’s friends immediately went out and invented the AR-15, et cetera et cetera et cetera.

Maybe our species isn’t anywhere near civilizable yet as a whole, but we don’t have to wait for 100% of us to get on board to take steps. Thich Nhat Hanh, that gentle and thoughtful man who recently passed away, said it so well. If you want peace in the world, be peace in your life.

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I’ve set sort of a serious tone so far, but before I leave it behind I wanted to play a song which is definitely in that same melancholy vein. Except that the genius of Bob Dylan and a wonderful arrangement by Daniel Lanois together pose the question: if all is truly hopeless where does a song like this that touches rather than depresses come from?

This morning I watched a video on YouTube of Ed Bradley interviewing Bob Dylan a couple decades ago, and when asked where did songs like Blowing In The Wind or Like A Rolling Stone originate, Dylan admitted that he didn’t know. One day, they were just there.

Not to compare myself with anyone else, especially including Bob Dylan, but there have been many times when I woke in the morning and read over what I had written the night before and thought to myself – where in the hell did that come from? (This happened slightly more often back in the days when I used to play spin the bottle with Mr. Beefeater, but still occurs.) I know that it was me that typed it into the word processor … but where … ?

Occasionally I will take such a piece of writing and run into the next room to show it to poor Robin, who then has to listen to it or to read it. At those times I don’t feel that I am boasting, or saying what a good boy am I. It’s more like I just came across a scrap of paper with these words on it laying there on the sidewalk and I picked it up.

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Looking out the windows in the back of the house I see the planters half-covered with snow that in the spring will contain food growing for our table. A microscopic amount of food compared with the great pile that we need to sustain life throughout the year. But some tomatoes, some greens … more of a reminder of how dependent I am on others. A favorite table prayer of mine is this:

Let us give thanks for the sun and the rain and the earth and someone else’s hard work. Amen.

So even though I tell myself that this year I will give myself a break and not plant anything it will probably not happen that way. Apparently I have not yet suffered the required amount of garden insects, fungi, and pathogenic bacteria that needs to happen to make me abandon the whole enterprise. Not to mention droughts, the blazing suns of global warming, and other pestilences.

So bring on the seed catalogs, the bags of soil guaranteed to grow tomatoes that taste like ambrosia and are the size of basketballs. I will suspend my disbeliefs for one more growing season and give it a shot. Once more unto the breach, dear friends and all that.

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From The New Yorker

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It is already Spring to the meteorologists and Tuesday morning promised a sunny and warm day. I was on laundry detail, so early on I ran the clothes through the washing machine and then chose to hang them outside. Out the door I went in Birkenstocks, pajamas, and a barn coat. The warm wet clothes were steaming in the 24 degree air. Somehow it seemed just the right thing to do today. I know that many of my friends don’t have this option because it is still so cold in the Midwest, although I do remember my mother hanging out laundry on days when the items froze stiff on the line.

We have one of those umbrella-type lines that don’t take up the entire yard. It was installed, believe it or not, by me. And it is still standing, even though setting it up required the actual mixing of a small amount of cement and keeping the center post at a 90 degree vertical while it set.

Who knew? Sometimes I surprise even me.

Mom’s lines were more like those in the photo at right. They would sag in the middle to the point where longer items could touch the ground. When that happened she put a wooden pole in the middle of the line, one with a “Y” on the end to catch the line.

This would all work well unless the wind or a passing dog bumped the pole and it fell down. On rainy days this could cause quite a maternal stir as the clean clothes now swung back and forth through mud puddles.

But we have no dog, it is not raining, and the breezes are gentle ones. Expectations are high that the garments will be warm, dry, and unsullied this afternoon when we come to gather them.

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Madness

A couple of definitions here. Paradise is the land, the waters, the mountains … the amazing natural wonders citizens see every day they walk out their front door here in the Grand Valley. But Paradise is presently suffering from an under-abundance of rainfall, and while the natural scientists reassure us that this drought probably won’t last more than another several hundred years, it is easy to worry a bit, especially if your occupation is water-dependent.

I will introduce a new word here today, Pandemia. That is the community of people inhabiting Paradise. A community of which I am, willy-nilly, a member. We are a problematic bunch of citizenry indeed. Pandemia was largely brought into focus by a mischievous virus whose name I will not dignify by mentioning it here, but I will call it La Peste. It passes easily from person to person if you let it, but any sensible person would try to limit their exposure. Because you could just die from it.

The older I get the more I admire and crave competence, just simple competence, in any field from adultery to zoology.

H.L. Mencken

There are four basic principles involved in protecting yourself against La Peste. Principles that under normal circumstances would not even be argued because they are based on facts, science, common sense, and our accumulated knowledge of the behavior of infectious diseases. These four are:

  • Wear a mask
  • Keep a respectable distance between you and your neighbor
  • Don’t go out into large crowds
  • Get vaccinated

Pretty simple, no? Half of the citizens of Pandemia followed these guidelines and have done so from the beginning of this story. When the vaccines became available, they lined up in droves, glad to finally have a material way to strike back against La Peste. The other half of our neighbors have ignored all of the principles from Day 1 right up to the present, with a variety of reasons given that are sometimes laughable and sometimes just make you want to tear your hair out … or their hair, even better.

No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have searched the record for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.

H.L. Mencken

Part of the problem was our leadership. We had very little of it, at least at the local level. Not from the mayor, nor the city council, nor our medical community. Maybe it wouldn’t have made any difference, trying to educate these folks, many of whom believe that Hilary Clinton runs a chain of pizza parlors where children are captured and farmed out to pedophiles around the nation. Or who are breathlessly waiting for the day that ex-POTUS Cluck will rise from the politically dead in (3, 7, 30, 100, ???? days) and go on to lead the faithful to victory over gays and godless Democrats.

The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots. 

H.L. Mencken

It appears that there are a substantial number of people who are unreachable through information. Many refuse to learn even from the most powerful experience, as in the case of those who perish from La Peste while denying its existence with their last breaths.

I will work in a word or two about myself here. I can speak with the authority of age, which along with a dollar and a half might get you a cup of coffee from a convenience store. Over time I have succumbed to self-delusion more than once. There was my infatuation with Marjorie Heath in the second grade and my abject misery when I learned that not only did she not return my affections, but didn’t even know I was in her class.

The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.

H.L. Mencken

Then there was the hope that sprung in my breast when John Kennedy was elected president. Because I knew that he would bring our country further along the highway to perfection. And it didn’t hurt that he and his wife were the perfect handsome fronts for our ever- renewing and shining democracy. Learning after his passing that he might have achieved a lot more had he spent less time in the intimate company of women other than his wife and more time at the conference tables was not a tonic for yours truly. Not a tonic at all.

An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.

H.L. Mencken

More recently, there was my derisive laughter when a certain Mr. Cluck was nominated to run for the office of president the first time. I thought “Well, here’s a gift for the Democrats, with Cluck running they could nominate an armadillo and win in a landslide.” That delusion lasted right up to late in the evening of election day.

On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

H.L. Mencken

As you can see, I have had my problems with keeping my feet on the ground from time to time, and I have swallowed a version of The Kool-Aid more than once. Trying to keep your wits together when so many around you have lost theirs is a full-time job. A person can only hope that they are up to the task.

[My thanks to H.L. Mencken, a delightfully sarcastic dude if there ever was one, for his help in writing this post. He is hands down my favorite codger.]

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On Thursday the NYTimes did a really interesting piece on the movie “The Godfather.” Apparently the original prints are decaying and the costly restoration process is well underway. The article includes an interview with Francis Ford Coppola, the movie’s director. Although I have seen the film several times, what I still remember most is the feeling when I walked out of the theater after that first viewing. That the makers of that film had taken characters who were very, very bad men indeed and made me care about what happened to them. Had made them sympathetic. It was an epiphany of sorts.

I realized that I had been hornswoggled and gained more respect for what a powerful tool movies could be, both for good and not so good.

I also realized that I was definitely a susceptible and had better watch myself in the future, lest I be led seriously astray one day.

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This past Tuesday we finally received a welcome dose of moisture in the form of beautiful snow. Several inches in the valley … much more in the mountains.

South of Montrose about 40 miles, the DOT had to close Red Mountain Pass because of what you see in the photograph. Now this is the road that I wouldn’t drive on for the first year we lived in Paradise because of its hazards (and my acrophobia).

What is not obvious in the picture’s frame is that about ten feet to the right of what you see here is a cliff that goes straight down with your eternal reward waiting for you at the bottom. Looking at pictures like this, I ask myself: for all the money in the world, would I pilot that snowplow?

It’s a rhetorical question.

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Former pres. Cluck thinks that Mr. Putin, Russia’s psychopath-in-chief, is a hell of a guy and wouldn’t it be nice if more countries had such strong leadership?

He is “pretty smart,” Mr. Trump said on Wednesday at a Florida fund-raiser, assessing the impending invasion like a real estate deal. “He’s taken over a country for $2 worth of sanctions,” he said, “taking over a country — really a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people — and just walking right in.”

NYTImes February 24, 2022

Whatta guy. Just when you think he’s already at the bottom of history’s latrine trench, Putin hands him a fresh shovel and he goes right to work and digs even deeper.

So we have another example of political failures in front of us in the present invasion of the Ukraine. The world’s leaders puff and strut, armies are set in motion, and the suffering begins in a new location. That old African proverb about the elephants fighting has unfortunately never ceased to be relevant.

When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. This ancient proverb of the Kikuyu people, a tribal group in Kenya, Africa, is as true today as when the words were first spoken, perhaps thousands of years ago. Its essence is simplicity—when the large fight, it is the small who suffer most. And when it comes to war, the smallest, the most vulnerable, are the children.

Orca Books.com

It’s all madness.

War, by Edwin Starr
And I Am Still Searching, by Pete Seeger

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Trust Me

I have never been what you might call a man of my time. For instance, I am too old to be considered a “boomer.” Boomers were born once WWII was over and I was born two years before our participation in that war began. This makes people my age the modern equivalent of the Anasazi.

In the middle Sixties there arose a saying commonly heard – never trust anyone over thirty. That phrase hit a peak in regular usage the year I turned thirty. So while my personal sympathies were definitely on the more youthful side of that artificial line, my less fit corpus and receding hairline definitely put me well into the ranks of the duplicitous ones. It was a schizophrenic time – my fist raised in the air as I shouted anti-establishment and antiwar slogans at rallies while my t-shirt could have read: “Trust me not, I’m thirty-one.”

Little wonder my self-image is a bit bleary and out-of-focus.

Then there was the feeling I had all through my twenties that I would not live to see thirty years old. I had that feeling so strongly that on the eve of my thirtieth birthday I had trouble sleeping. It was the “if I should die before I wake” syndrome. (I thought I was unusual in this but have since learned that having such notions is not a rare thing, especially among persons of a certain nervous temperament.)

So it was with a mixture of relief and disappointment that I woke on October 26, 1969 and found that I was not only not dead, but had a wife, four children, and was still a conscript in the United States Air Force. So many roles and responsibilities for a man who had fantasized about living in a caravan, growing his hair out, taking fewer showers, and learning everything there was to be learned about psychedelics.

Since I wasn’t dead, I now had to make plans for a future that I hadn’t thought to be a part of. I knew more what I didn’t want to be than what I did. I didn’t want to be the middle-aged man whose small talk at parties leaned heavily toward what was the best sidewalk edger or foundational planting. I left such a party one night horrified by the conversations I’d overheard. I turned to my (first) wife and said: “I am going to purchase a small-caliber pistol which I will give you as a gift. If you ever hear me start into one of the inane back-and-forths we have witnessed this evening, I want you to take the pistol from your purse and shoot me on the spot. And don’t worry – there’s not a jury in the world that will convict you.”

And now I am a blue-label octogenarian living in a red zone. Mmmmmmm. I think I’ll have a t-shirt printed that reads “Never trust anyone over eighty,” just so I feel comfortably out-of-sync. It’s who I am. It’s what I do.

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A Dick Guindon cartoon

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Another Super Bowl has come and gone (Yawn). Apparently Eminem was part of the entertainment and he took a knee (took him a while). There are many of our shared American rituals that I do take part in, so I don’t think that I need to apologize for skipping this particular one. The last time I cared about the outcome of a pro football game was in the early 1960s, so by the time that Super Bowl I began the whole series of overblown spectacles in 1966, I had already gone in other directions.

To me it’s little more than the modern version of the Roman games, without the excitement of having lions present to eat the losers. Instead, we watch as large men gamble with their bodies, many of them hoping in vain that they don’t acquire brains as moth-eaten as an old woolen sweater in the back of your closet.

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From The New Yorker

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Each morning I check the online newspapers to see if we are at war yet. I am even concerned enough that recently I actually checked a map to see where the Ukraine is located. I thought it was the least that I could do. The amount of saber-rattling over the past several months has almost made too much noise for a person to go to sleep at night.

You know that definition of insanity? The one that goes like this: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?” Wouldn’t that apply to the making of war pretty well? What our world lacks is someone like Zeus to act as a celestial referee. Let’s say that a Vladimir Putin or a George W. Bush gets their underwear all in a bunch and begins to move armies to the borders anywhere. This referee could say “Hold it right there!” They would then step in and gather all the swords, break them over their knee, then send the offenders to their respective rooms without any supper.

When I was an undergraduate student at the U. of Minnesota, there was a humorous piece in the student newspaper that went like this. War is such a horror at least partially because we are doing it all wrong. We draft the young and send them into battle to be slaughtered or maimed or emotionally crippled. So much potential lost.

What we should be doing is getting all nations to agree to draft only their oldest citizens. This would have the following benefits.

  • Since the aged are also a very crafty bunch, they would exert enormous pressures to stop the nonsense, put the guns back into the holsters, and settle things amicably.
  • Should a war actually somehow begin, these same senior citizens would be much more comfortable in a nice warm tent than charging up a hill, and it would be difficult to motivate them to attack things. In fact, charging up anything in large enough numbers to do real harm would probably be impossible due to arthritis, old sports injuries, bladder difficulties, etc.
  • The vision of older citizens is often impaired, thus their ability to hit whatever they’re aiming at would also be impaired, with most of the bullets fired flying off into harmless directions.

I would volunteer for such an army in a heartbeat. Let’s get more eighty year-olds around the truce tables of the world. Men and women who, if they voted for war, would be among the first to be drafted.

Good for all nations to have an army where it is more important to get carloads of Metamucil to the front lines than it is ammunition. There are few things more difficult to deal with than a cranky old soldier without their fiber.

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Fiddling

The passage of time does some strange things. This morning I am grateful to former president Cluck. It is similar to the situation in the musical Fiddler on the Roof, where the rabbi is asked if there is such a thing as a blessing for the Czar.

I am grateful that since he was going to become our bigot-in-chief and a traitor (isn’t that what he is, really?) to our democracy that Cluck wasn’t any better at it than he was. His narcissism prevented him from looking much further ahead than any day’s newscast, and his careless tossing aside of one aide or staffer after another kept him perpetually weaker.

Weaker, say, than another would-be-autocrat of the past, Richard Nixon, who was potentially more dangerous because he aligned himself with two capable lieutenants in Haldeman and Ehrlichman. This trio could have gone on to do even more harm than they did to our Republic if they hadn’t developed the unfortunate habit of telling fibs and being caught at it.

What we are seeing finally on the national stage is the slow unraveling of the noose that Republicans tied around their own necks, where one of them after another is finally finding the drawer where they had put their backbones and the ragged remnants of their integrity and saying “No, that’s absolutely wrong,” to His Perpetual Orangiosity. Gratifying, at long last, to hear.

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As long as I’m tossing video clips at you, here’s another from “Fiddler.” As it begins, the milkman Tevye has just been told that daughter Chava has eloped with a Russian man and married outside of Judaism. What follows is for me one of the most moving passages in any movie I’ve ever seen.

There is much wisdom sprinkled throughout this film. This passage, however, is purest heartbreak. “If I bend that far, I’ll break.”

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The old Washington Avenue bridge across the Mississippi River had no cover and a rather easily scaled guard rail. The “new” one has a plexiglass cover from one end to the other. Walking to campus from the West Bank was much more pleasant using the new one, since the wind and whatever was falling from the sky couldn’t get to you until you were across and on campus, where ducking into warm buildings became a possibility.

There was one added benefit of that cover in that it made jumping off into the frigid waters of the river impossible. Why bring this up now? Because in the old uncovered days February was statistically the month of the jumpers. I never had a problem understanding this, because who isn’t sick of winter in Minnesota by February? If one’s mental health was a bit shaky in November, it was not benefited by seemingly endless gray skies, sooty snow everywhere, cars that wouldn’t start, repeated episodes of frostbite, and having been shut into small spaces by the cold for many weeks. So suicide by freezing leap was somewhere between commonplace and unheard of in frequency.

Sometimes when I was crossing the bridge to campus, collar turned up against the wind that seemed to be forever howling down the river in the winter, I would look over the railing into the dark brown water at that strong current and say to myself no way. To spend my last moments of consciousness even colder than I was at the moment I was peering over the rail … it was never going to be my choice for ending it all. If push came to shove I would always opt for something more genteel and above all, warmer.

Theme Song from the movie M*A*S*H, by Johnny Mandel

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Robin and I just finished watching Women of the Movement, one of Hulu’s offerings for Black History Month. This limited series dealt with the lynching of Emmett Till, and of his mother’s life after that horrific tragedy. Her name was Mamie Till.

I won’t put in any spoilers here except that by the end of the series if you could pass through that television screen and get at the killers and their smarmy protectors … you might be tempted to commit a couple of felonies yourself. The state of Mississippi in general does not come off well as it is portrayed in 1955, when the murder and subsequent trial of the killers took place.

When this incident was front-page news and that news reaching even as far North as Minneapolis, I was fifteen, only one year older than Emmett was when he died. And yet back then for me it was a dark story coming out of what I saw as another country altogether, the South. I had a lot to learn and a long way to go.

Retracing the events in the series, when Till’s damaged body was returned to his mother in Chicago, she declared that there would be no closed casket wake for him. She said “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby.” Tens of thousands of people filed by the casket over several days. Millions of people saw the photographs of the body that journalists were asked by Mamie Till to take. As I relive the whole thing now through this series, it resembles nothing so much as scenes from some ancient play, where a mythic woman accompanies the corpse of her slain soldier-son as his funeral cortege rolls into Rome, or Athens.

About a hundred days after the funeral, Rosa Parks took her stand.

In Montgomery, Rosa Parks attended a rally for Till led by Martin Luther King Jr. Soon after, she refused to give her seat on a segregated bus to a white passenger. The incident sparked a year-long well-organized boycott of the public bus system. The boycott was designed to force the city to change its segregation policies. Parks later said when she did not get up and move to the rear of the bus, “I thought of Emmett Till and I just couldn’t go back.”

Emmett Till, Wikipedia
My Name Is Emmett Till , by Emmylou Harris

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I’m being a good boy with regards to my visits to our local recreation center. Robin gets me moving and we’re out the door in the dark for a cold car ride to the gym. Once there I run the gantlet from machine to machine, sometimes with the numbers on the weights used being embarrassingly small. But hey – I’m moving, just the same.

Yesterday I visited all but one of my self-assigned torture devices, missing only the abdominal crunch. This was because the apparatus was occupied by an ancient citizen who seemed incapable of movement. Alarmed, I checked him only to find that he was indeed breathing and conscious to boot, but he required the passage of an eon between reps of the exercise. I finally gave up and went home. If I go back today, it wouldn’t surprise me if he is still there, laboring to bend the machine to his will. I gave him a perfect 10 for determination, and a lesser score for execution.

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Let us finish this today with some self-observation. In Tuesday’s Science section of the NYTimes was a piece which began with this paragraph:

It’s a dubious distinction in the fossil record: For the first time, a vertebrate has been found with fecal pellets where its brain once was.

NYTImes, February 8, 2022

I will let this sink in for a moment.

Imagine, if you will, that you have a satiric frame of mind in general, and a sarcastic one on occasion. Imagine that you are served up this savory bit of intelligence one morning, like a bit of meat tossed to a big cat, and are rolling it about in your mind, savoring it and wondering exactly what to do with it. Imagine further, if you can, that you have no journalistic standards or ethics, and are well-known for dipping into areas of bad taste when it suits you. So what are your choices?

Here are mine.

Ignore it … absolutely not.

Clean it up for readers … not today, son.

Exploit it … now we’re cooking, baby.

From my personal perspective, the crucial part of the sentence is “in the fossil record.” Crucial because we likely have scads of examples of just this problem right in front of us, not in fossils, but in humans walking around and going to work and eating and breeding and generally making a mess of things.

Of course we haven’t the luxury of popping open the crania of these men and women to examine the contents of their skulls, but we can certainly make some inferences from their behavior, can’t we? And it’s not as if we’d never suspected that something like this wasn’t happening. There is even a common vulgar phrase that goes: “S**t for brains.”

How can this knowledge be helpful? Perhaps mostly because it explains so much of what is puzzling about modern life, as it answers the questions: How could anyone believe that or act that way? Not having to wonder about this any longer will be a great timesaver for many of us, since we don’t have to waste precious hours trying to think through what seem to otherwise be inexplicable contradictions.

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Which Way To The Front … ?

We’re beginning to think of having folks over for dinner once again, and aren’t sure how to begin. All of our friends are of the fully vaccinated variety, but each of us also knows that this is not 100% protective, and that we could conceivably bring the virus into a room unaware that we are carrying it. Small chances each time of that happening, but there is no zero-risk option.

And yet, when will there be a zero-risk time for us? This year, next year … ever? And how long do we put this part of our lives as social beings on hold, as Covid seems to be making its slow transition from pandemic to endemic?

And when we issue those first invitations, how do we word them?

You are cordially invited to our home for dinner and conversation on February 30 , at 6 PM. We hope that you will accept, but you must recognize that we are still in a moderately perilous situation regarding Covid 19, and that there are no assurances that you will survive the evening should you choose to attend.

If you do accept and show up, you reckless devils you, please stay at least six feet away from one another at all times, do not hug anyone or shake their hand, and practice eating through your mask just to be on the safe side. To make this easier, we are serving only broth and tea.

I guess that this would meet the definition of full disclosure and everything, but it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi, don’t you think? If someone sent it to me, I don’t know if I’d accept it. I think that I might answer “Sorry, buddy, but I have done a risk/benefit analysis and your invitation did not survive it.”

Well, we’ll think about it some more before we do anything as rash as actually acting upon this impulse. (BTW, dining al fresco here at BaseCamp is not an option when the temperature is below 40 degrees. We might bundle up our bodies like crazy but the food would still chill too fast and the gravy would surely clot.)

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A Dick Guindon cartoon

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Just finished yet another book whose subject matter was the confrontation between the U.S. Seventh Cavalry and a large force of Native Americans that took place at the Little Big Horn in 1876. A battle commonly called Custer’s Last Stand. The title of the book is .

Over a lifetime I don’t know how many books I have read about the battle, which was the last major one for the plains Indians, and of course for Col. Custer as well. The drama is just too intriguing. The struggles between a duplicitous white United States and the indigenous inhabitants of the Great Plains culminating in what turns out to be a complete victory for the natives, one which was never to be repeated.

After Little Big Horn, the tribes were broken up and forced onto reservations. Their children were taken from them and placed into a disgraceful residential school system. To read the history of the United States vis a vis its treatment of indigenous peoples is to become angry, depressed, horrified, or a combination of all three.

When Robin and I visited the Little Bighorn battleground which is now a National Monument, I was affected deeply by standing where that chunk of history took place. The hills, ravines, river, and valley are much the same as they were in 1876. Scattered everywhere are markers where participants had fallen, making it very easy to replay the desperation of those soldiers when they realized that they had gotten themselves into a situation from which there was no way out.

BTW, did you know that one of Custer’s major worries was that the Indians would break camp and escape before he could get to them? Ay ay ay, but didn’t the man get his wish?

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From The New Yorker

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One of the problems that we have discussing political and economic systems is that we are always looking backward. In the US if we don’t like what someone is saying we call them a communist, or socialist. If on the other “side,” the word hurled at one’s opponent is capitalist. The assumption implicitly made is that all of our options are carved in stone, when really what we are headed for may be none of those. Something for which we don’t even have a name as yet. And when we reach that point … well, we’ll likely keep on going past that.

It’s thinking like this, of course, that has helped me to acquire a well-earned reputation as an airheaded dimwit. While I admit that this may be true, it doesn’t make me wrong. You know the old saw about even a stopped clock is right twice a day?

At the end of Joseph Campbell’s excellent 4-volume series The Masks of God, he says that there is a future coming at us the shape and nature of which he cannot predict, but that we will have a bloody and dangerous time getting there as proponents of new ways of thinking are vigorously and physically attacked by the defenders of the old ways.

As a result of having all of this liberal nonsense ricocheting around within my cranial vault, I have decided to look backward as well, and have picked up a new/old nighttime read – Charles Reich’s The Greening of America. For those of you who are of tender years, this book was a major best seller when it was published in 1970. So when I first read it I was a callow 32 year-old version of the prat that I am now, and I am eager to see whether the book was only a bit of fluff that doesn’t hold up at all.

REFLECTIONS about U.S. society & its new generation. There is a revolution under way–not like revolutions of the past. This is the revolution of the new generation. It has originated with the individual & with culture, & if it succeeds it will change the political structure only as its final act. It will not require violence to succeed & it cannot be successfully resisted by violence. It is now spreading rapidly, & already our laws, institutions, & social structure are changing in consequence. Its ultimate creation could be a higher reason, a more human community, & a new & liberated individual. It is a transformation that seems both necessary & inevitable, & in time it may turn out to include not only youth but the entire American people. The logic of the new generation’s rebellion must be understood in light of the rise of the corporate state under which we live & the way in which the state dominates, exploits, & ultimately destroys both nature & man. Americans have lost control of the machinery of their society, & only new values & a new culture can restore control. At the heart of everything is what must be called a change of consciousness. This means a new way of living–almost a new man. This is what the new generation has been searching for, & what it has started to achieve. Industrialism produced a new man, too–one adapted to the demands of the machine. In contrast, today’s emerging consciousness seeks a new knowledge of what it means to be human, in order that the machine, having been built, may now be turned to human ends.

Charles Reich, New Yorker Magazine, September 26, 1970

Be warned that signs that this trip back into time is affecting me may include that my present L.L. Bean-style wardrobe will be replaced by tie-dyed everything. And that I can’t utter a complete sentence without inserting the word “groovy” into it.

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One of my favorite people on the planet passed away on Friday. The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh had been ill for years and was 95 when he died. Robin and I had been fortunate several years ago to attend a three-day mindfulnesss retreat at the Shambala Mountain Center at which he was the principal speaker. The good impressions he left on us are as fresh today as they were then.

This body is not me; I am not caught in this body, I am life without boundaries, I have never been born and I have never died. Over there the wide ocean and the sky with many galaxies. All manifests from the basis of consciousness. Since beginningless time I have always been free. Birth and death are only a door through which we go in and out. Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek. So smile to me and take my hand and wave good-bye. 

Thich Nhat Hanh

I learned more from his writings and the example of his life than from any other single individual. There was no gentler soul, no braver man. The New York Times published a thoughtful obituary on Saturday.

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Petty Larceny

In playing with this thing I call a blog, I rely heavily on theft. I have been getting away with it for more than a decade now only because the journal is a thing of modest circulation, and it is by no means a commercial venture.

I write for fun. Part of that fun is digging around on the internet for images to sprinkle between the words. I could try to contact the sources of those things, but that would change significantly what I was doing. My practice is to write something down today, and you read it in a day or two. There is no way that I could get permission fast enough to make this system work … and so I have become a pilferer of pictures.

But it’s not always an easy thing to do. It does require some effort on my part. Let’s take cartoons, for example. The New Yorker magazine is one of my solid sources for them, but I find that even there, the majority of their cartoons don’t appeal to me. Out of today’s “Cartoons from the issue,” for example, I picked out only one of eighteen to share. The rest … meh. Here is today’s “winner.”

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This morning at around two a.m. the wind came up suddenly and with such ferocity that it sounded like workmen out there in the neighborhood, banging on things and operating machinery. It actually woke me up, which is unusual since I habitually sleep through the most violent soundscapes, only to be wakened later by Robin trying to carefully open a door without disturbing me.

I notice only what I have to notice, even when asleep. You know that there is a part of your brain that never rests, that never takes days off. It’s the part that is in charge, among other things, of making sure that we don’t fall out of bed every night. It knows where the edge of the mattress is and acts accordingly. The part that is continually scanning the sounds in the house and occasionally wakes us to go and check them out, just in case there is a burglar or an axe murderer out there in the kitchen. The part that knows when it is time to empty one’s bladder and sends an alert.

In these cases the brain does its job so well that we don’t even notice or give it credit. We only complain when it fails. It’s been decades since I have fallen out of bed. My tally on axe murderers is zero so far, for which I am sincerely grateful. The bladder thing … still working but the margins are slimmer than twenty years ago. These days it goes off around two in the morning, and I don’t have the luxury of taking time to decide whether I will answer that call or not. I just wake up and hit the ground stepping smartly towards the WC.

The morning’s wind is the predecessor of what is predicted to be a wet and possibly snowy day. That would be very okay with me. Since I moved to Paradise seven years ago, I have never met a rainfall that I didn’t like.

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The Christmas truces were a series of widespread unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front of the First World War around Christmas 1914. The image below is a contemporary artist’s interpretation of the event at one location.

“The truce occurred five months after hostilities had begun. Lulls occurred in the fighting as armies ran out of men and munitions and commanders reconsidered their strategies following the stalemate of the Race to the Sea and the indecisive result of the First Battle of Ypres. In the week leading up to 25 December, French, German, and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In some areas, men from both sides ventured into no man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs.

There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol-singing. Men played games of football with one another, creating one of the most memorable images of the truce. Hostilities continued in some sectors, while in others the sides settled on little more than arrangements to recover bodies.The following year, a few units arranged ceasefires but the truces were not nearly as widespread as in 1914; this was, in part, due to strongly worded orders from commanders, prohibiting truces. Soldiers were no longer amenable to truce by 1916. The war had become increasingly bitter after the human losses suffered during the battles of 1915.

The truces were not unique to the Christmas period and reflected a mood of “live and let live,” where infantry close together would stop overtly aggressive behaviour and often engage in small-scale fraternisation, engaging in conversation or bartering for cigarettes. In some sectors, there were occasional ceasefires to allow soldiers to go between the lines and recover wounded or dead comrades; in others, there was a tacit agreement not to shoot while men rested, exercised or worked in view of the enemy.

The Christmas truces were particularly significant due to the number of men involved and the level of their participation—even in quiet sectors, dozens of men openly congregating in daylight was remarkable—and are often seen as a symbolic moment of peace and humanity amidst one of the most violent events of human history.”

Wikipedia: The Christmas Truce of 1914.

The Wikipedia article goes on to say that the powers-that-were found this practice unacceptable, and over the next several years of the war such inspiring goings-on basically disappeared. This morning I found myself wondering why this was such a heart-warming story to me? After all, once the holiday had passed the combatants returned to the business of killing or maiming one another with gusto.

The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I, was around 40 million. There were 20 million deaths and 21 million wounded. The total number of deaths includes 9.7 million military personnel and about 10 million civilians.

Robert Schuman.org

What the stories mean to me today is that it seems to be very difficult to completely erase the decency within human beings, even when they are involved in the hellish endeavor that is war. The Great War went on, of course for four more bloody and nightmarish years after that Christmas of 1914.

Maybe a way to put all of this together can be found in the meaning behind the African proverb: “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” The gentlemen in the artwork above represent the grass, the governments that put them there being the elephants.

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A Dick Guindon cartoon.

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Yesterday’s trip to the grocery store was interesting in that really for the first time this year, the place was full of Tellurideans. Planes filled with well-to-do visitors land at our airport, the passengers are loaded into “limos,” which are basically big black Chevy Suburbans and other similarly-sized transport vehicles, and they are then driven to the City Market. While there is a grocer in Telluride itself, the store is smaller and the prices are higher, so these folks are given time to stock up before striking out for the 50 minute trip to that village.

So if you go to the store and find yourself suddenly shopping alongside rafts of people who are generally more expensively dressed than the typical Montrosean, and who ooze a sense of entitlement, you know there is snow on the mountain without even looking out the window. You can tell those who are visiting our town for the first time, because they are surprised that we have electricity and indoor plumbing. And to imagine that there is a grocery with a first-rate cheese shop within it … why, will wonders never cease? But, they must wonder, who buys this cheese when they (the Tellurideans) go home? Surely not the natives?

But they are a colorful and pleasantly chatty bunch, these travelers, as long as they are not thwarted in their search for provisions. At the deli area is where you find most of the confrontations occurring, as customers haggle over how thick or thin the slices are, and “why don’t you carry _____, for God’s sake?”

But the workers at the checkouts are familiar with handling resorters and keep things moving along quickly so that they can all be loaded into those “limos” and sent on their way. There is lots of smiling and nodding of heads and little scenes of faux commiserating:“Oh no, half of your luggage went to the Ukraine, what a trial that must be! You poor things.” It’s a perennial roadshow drama, with each population group dependent on the other while being slightly contemptuous of them at the same time.

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Each year Robin makes a batch of fudge, usually to share with others. It is always delicious, and no one ever says: “No thank you, I don’t want any this year.”

It may have something to do with the fact that there are three main ingredients … chocolate, sugar, and butter. Enough butter to fry a thousand eggs, in fact. A whole pound of it in each small batch. I strongly suspect that if one were to decide to end it all, eating an entire plateful of the stuff would do the trick, as arteries one by one gave up the ghost while the person’s serum butter level approached 1000.

But that person would be found sitting smiling in their chair with just the trace of chocolate at the corners of their mouth. Not an altogether bad way to go. In smaller doses, however, it is simply excellent.

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Sweet, Sweet Jane

This one is for Lou Reed fans. The introduction to the vocal is several minutes long and is just outstanding. This album gets played often at my home address, and played as loudly as my equipment and neighbors will permit.

It almost goes without saying that the song Sweet Jane is about drugs. After all, this is Lou Reed we’re talking about. In this case the substance is heroin. You might miss that in the lyrics … I did for the longest time … but it’s there. Part of the problem is that the original and longer lyrics to the song were dropped from the most popular recorded versions. So I heard the sadness and longing and missed the rest.

But watch the video, check out the vintage hair and mustaches and clothes, and get in touch with your rock and roll side for a few minutes. You know you want to. That bass player … is he inscrutable or impassive or imperturbable or what?

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The last spate of elections are over, and the Democrats are exhibiting their typical Brownian Motion, running around bumping into one another trying to figure out why they did so poorly this time around. Nobody asked me if I knew the answer. So I will put it out there anyway. Let’s say a political party spends an entire year and can’t come up with the equivalent of a mission statement. Who squabble so much among themselves that they can’t get the things done that they need to do to hold our interest, much less retain our loyalty. Why should we vote for them except for the fact that they aren’t practicing Cluck-ism? That might have been enough in 2020, but it’s not holding up very well as a reason.

If there is such a thing as an average American, their lot hasn’t improved one iota in the last two or three decades, while our “leaders” are enriching themselves so fast the money changing hands never gets a chance to cool off but is always slightly warm to the touch. The one percenters are so bored that they are climbing onto the Musk/Bezos rockets like they were a new ride at Disney World. “Excuse me, Elon, but I’d like an aisle seat if you please, and did I miss the snacks being passed out … I love love your peanuts!”

Once upon a time there was a guy named Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, a singularly courageous Russian writer. He dashed off a bunch of books in his lifetime, eventually winning a Nobel Prize for his work. Among the titles were The Gulag Archipelago and One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich. The books were very good and they were very anti-Communist, so when he was kicked out of the Soviet Union and came to America we all thought he might become our new BFF. But then he gave some speeches directed at us that were the literary equivalent of a swift kick in the pants with a hobnail boot. He thought we were weak, effete, and had lost our way in a maze and haze of materialism and secularism. Basically we were doomed unless we saw the light … and he didn’t think we would. Three of those speeches were gathered into a book called A Warning To The West, and some excellent excerpts are published on the Goodreads site. They are well worth reading, and I think their lessons are as applicable now as they were unwelcome news in the 70s.

What we needed then is what we still need now. Different flags to fly, different songs to sing – those that lift our spirits and bring us together in the common work that needs doing rather than focussing on our bottom line, which can only drive us apart.

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The music of Joni Mitchell’s Miles of Aisles album is doing its good work in my morning. That woman … what a talent … and what a fine double album this one is, recorded live in 1974. Music like this is never dated and sounds today as fresh as it did 47 years ago. The recording is clear and excellent as opposed to the mushy sound that live albums sometimes offer up. Here’s a photo of Joni and her backup band for the album, the L.A. Express.

It’s okay with me if you don’t rush out and buy this and listen to it just because I said you should. There is so much good stuff out there to listen to that it boggles the mind. As a matter of fact, I am having quite a bit of trouble getting unboggled this morning … perhaps the next cup of coffee should be intravenously administered rather than orally. I just wanted to let you know that this album was out there, in case you’d missed it the first time around.

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Grandson Dakota took his leave of us Thursday, on his way to the rest of his life. His car contained everything he owned, so off he went in a VW Jetta version of that famous truck in the movie, Grapes of Wrath. He is a fine young man and we are so glad we got the chance to know him better. ‘Twas a gift to us.

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As everybody knows, Paradise is located in Montrose County, Colorado. As of this morning our county is a Covid – 19 hotspot. Such news should not come, unfortunately, as a surprise to anyone. In the 2020 election, 2/3 of the county’s electorate voted for a presidential candidate who was completely unfit for the office, a charlatan of the first water. They knew it and they still voted for him.

Now, did anyone really think that having flunked Elementary Civics that these people would do any better at Preventive Medicine? The fact that we are now in a situation where nearly all of the deaths from this disease are in the unvaccinated segment of our society does not deter them from publicly refusing to be helped.

Denial? Death wish? Dumbassedness? Take your pick.

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The Many Pleasures of Nitpicking

It’s four in the morning and I am trying to edit a post on my blog and there is a fly in the house. Just one. In the entire place. And it has obviously taken annoying me as it’s life’s work. It can’t bite me, and there is no uncovered food to worry about being contaminated. But what it does do is walk on my head at random intervals. When I make a swipe at it it easily evades my primitive defenses and disappears into the murkiness that is the house at this time of day. Then suddenly there it is back again, traipsing across my scalp without a care in the world.

I am distracted beyond measure. I know that flies don’t laugh out loud, but I swear that I hear tiny chuckling noises. Such is my state of mind. Serenity is lost. Creative writing is impossible because my mental processes have been commandeered by this winged pestilence. There is a single word flashing across the marquee of my thought-stream.

REDRUM! REDRUM! REDRUM!

But now the fly has gone … somewhere. It’s been fifteen minutes or longer since I felt its presence. I know it hasn’t left the house, there is no exit available to it. It’s only waiting for me to relax and to begin to think that I can reclaim my day. Even though its life is (on the average) only 28 days long, it is very patient and probably is now reclining in a closet against one of my sweaters, filing its clacky little nails and waiting for just the right moment to come out and take one more hike …

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I am thinking that Senator Joseph Manchin is the Democrat’s equivalent of Senator McConnell. He seems to care less about doing the right thing than increasing his personal power, and is willing to wield that power widely for as long as he has it. If it were not for the slender margin of the Democratic majority, who would care what Manchin thought? He’s a backward-looking man who is still selling bags of coal to anyone who will buy, even as the earth begins to burn around his feet.

Reading about politics is a good way to spoil a good morning. My grandson who is spending some time with us is 29 years old. Here is the list of people who have been POTUS since he was born:

  • Bill Clinton (president fellatio)
  • George W. Bush (president Iraq/Afghanistan or bust)
  • Barack Obama (president who cares if I didn’t do squat – I’m rich, rich!)
  • Donald Cluck (president disaster)
  • Joe Biden (president wake me up when it’s over)

Now is that a lackluster list to contemplate or what? Keep in mind that these are the presidents, the holders of the highest office, and at least theoretically our best and brightest. God help that grandson if he starts looking at the sorry state of members of Congress during this same period. (I would never suggest that he do so unless a competent psychotherapist was right there in the room with him to ease him over the depression that would inevitably result).

A worm blob

I recently read an article about a blob of worms and its fascinating behavior. As I was reading I realized that without even trying my mind had made that squirming ball into a metaphor for American politicians and politics. Read the piece, watch the video, see if you don’t come to a similar conclusion. If not, please tell me why. There are days when my spirit could certainly use a boost.

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Our cats are already settling into winter behavior patterns. Basically this means more time spent indoors and less time in the back yard. They are eating more, sleeping more, and occasionally looking about as bored as any critter can look.

It has become apparent over the years that Robin and I are not stimulating company for a cat. At our best we are the providers of food, the openers of cans, and minions who deal with kitty litter in all of its delightful forms.

At worst we are poor conversationalists and don’t seem to know on our own when the best times are for the brushing of fur and for scratching behind the ears, and need to be reminded (sometimes forcibly) about doing our duty in these areas. In addition, we often let the weather get completely out of control, allowing wind, rain, and cold to run rampant on the other side of the cat door. Year after year we humans never seem to get any better at this. It’s enough to make a feline weep in frustration.

I know for a fact that Willow is thinking that if she had opposable thumbs and the keys to the car life would be a completely different story at our house.

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Robin and I got our booster shots of Covid vaccine this week. Just as before, it took 24 hours before we started to feel mildly lousy, but within another six hours our bodies were returned to us in fine shape but for sore arms. We are now armored as well as is possible here as players in the ongoing Montrosian soap opera I will call Days of the Numbnuts. The theme of this show is that over the first several episodes half of the town’s occupants are revealed to be mindless drones who get their instruction and misinformation from foxy television screens.

It isn’t long, however, before we find out that the drones are dying off one by one from a mysterious illness that results in their exploding at social gatherings. One cup of punch and they go blooey, leaving quite a mess behind for the host and hostess to clean up. By Episode Six no one is inviting them to anything any more, and they have only themselves to talk to. This is a state of affairs that they bitterly resent, but those TV screens are not providing them any help at all.

Not sure where this will all go from here, but the drama is mildly entertaining if you can just distance yourself and watch it as if you were an anthropological observer from Neptune. At least that’s how I am handling it these days. It makes me less crazy.

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