Ghost Ship

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December 4, 2016, Prescott- It was terrifying to contemplate:  Dozens of people, in a warehouse-turned-party-place, whose only possible escape from an electrical fire was a makeshift stairway, fabricated from stacked pallets.  33 of them died, and having had a good friend burn to death, forty years ago, I shudder at what must have gone through their minds.

The “Ghost Ship” warehouse, in Oakland, is just the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to dilapidated and unsafe buildings, around the country and around the globe, being used for commercial, social and even residential purposes.  Earthquakes periodically remind us of the need to upgrade our building codes and increase enforcement of them.  Fires- Providence, Philadelphia, New York’s Garment District, Boston’s Coconut Grove and Dhaka come to mind most readily- tend to do so, far more intimately.

Another factor, in building-related injuries and deaths, reckless driving, also came to the fore, on Friday night, in Phoenix.  Nine patrons and four employees of a Persian restaurant were put in harm’s way, when a seemingly impaired, and rather hostile, driver plowed his BMW into the establishment, not stopping his vehicle until almost at the back wall.  He then got out of the car, and calmly took a seat, not even bothering to even look at the people he nearly killed.  Fortunately, he was otherwise unarmed and the police were quick to respond.

Somehow, some way, the notion that all lives matter needs to be taken far more seriously.  Lax fire codes, and devaluing the lives of those one regards as “those others”, will otherwise claim far more human victims.

Crowds

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December 3, 2016, Prescott-  I am pinching my pennies, for the next two weeks, as it is both high bill time and a cause for continuing severance of expenditures that no longer make sense.  Satellite TV and landline telephone have gone by the boards, as a result.  Even my essential oils purchases are cut, since I’m the only one buying from me.  There also won’t be many meals out, if I’m dining alone.  It doesn’t take much to make me happy, anyway.

Watching this evening’s lighting of Courthouse Square, including the Christmas tree, was a free delight, though.  The melodic voices of children of all ages added sonic luster to the event.  I was a needle in a humongous crowd- I’d estimate 2,000 people on the lawn, and another 500 or so, walking the streets and patronizing every restaurant, cafe and shop within a half-mile radius of the Square.   I found a small deli, a bit off the beaten track, and contented myself with a cheap, delicious bowl of meatball,kale and white bean soup.

Although I am perfectly happy being alone, I like crowds.  They bring prosperity to my otherwise struggling friends and neighbours in the downtown shops and restaurants. I learn from listening to different people talking, as we all stand and watch the festivities, or while  walking along the sidewalks. Although, they can try people’s   patience, they also bring a chance to think outside the box and to develop networks of co-operation, that otherwise would not have a chance to be established.  One never knows when such networks will be imperative.

Last Sunday, at a gas station just this side of the Colorado River, I happened upon the usual chaotic, end-of-holiday scene.  I took my place in a pump queue, moved up in amazingly short order, and filled the Hyundai’s tank.  As I was preparing to drive out, after paying, another driver backed into the spot in front of me, boxing me in and keeping the person behind me from pulling up to the tank.  The driver behind me got out and started yelling at the miscreant, who, as it happened, did not speak English, but  looked determined not to co-operate, in any event.  Fortunately, there was an attendant on scene, who directed me around the car and carefully past the store front, which was also insanely busy.

Thinking outside the box seems to be the only way, as we move through a most unsettled and chaotic time.

Not Kneeling or Lying Down

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December 1, 2016, Prescott-

I was raised to stand for what I believe.

Others may believe as they will.

None, though, will force me to toe a line,

which I cannot abide.

Those who spout foolishness,

those who maintain a false equanimity,

between good and evil,

will not get a hearing in my court.

I believe in the basic capacity for people

to work together and build a better world,

with all that there is,

in the way of raw materials.

I do not, nor ever will, however

believe in the right of the created

to assume equality with the Creator.

This is my response to those who say,

“But they mean well.”

There are no good intentions,

coming from an egomaniac.

My idea of good intention

is consistent, hard work

and consistent love for

the weak,

the vulnerable,

the dispossessed.

Differences

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November 30, 2016, Prescott-

Little one wanted to play,

and hang on me.

200 other students needed me to be on task.

He got on the bus, and got a reassuring hug.

I tended to my task.

Another bus driver blared his horn,

so I would stop everyone else,

and let him go first.

He waited for three pedestrians

and two other cars.

No one fell apart.

Much was made of a person’s “right”

to read the works of a very foolish man.

I have too much to do, already,

so I’ll pass.

Besides, the literature in question

is poisonous, insidious.

I like tuna, on a salsa tortilla,

hummus,

mint brownies,

heartfelt female singers,

and crisp, clear weather.

Others prefer their Big Macs,

a river of catsup,

Oreos,

techno pop

and the climate-controlled

indoors.

We thrive.

 

Clearer Vision

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November 29, 2016, Prescott- Now that my backlog of stuff has cleared up, somewhat, it’s time to consider what 66 has in store for me, or I, for it.

Fitness:  I like going to Planet Fitness, as there is a place for everyone, with a feeling of community and non-judgement.  People of all ages, sizes and ability levels exercise together and support one another, either silently, or as “spotters”.  My current plan has me there, three days a week.

Hiking:  Related to fitness, and to photography, my hikes vary in length and in difficulty.  They have sustained me, in many ways, for nearly 58 years.  The next twelve months will take me to:  Prescott Hotshots Memorial State Park, in Yarnell;  the southernmost three segments of Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, in New River; Spur Cross Ranch, Cave Creek; McDowell Mountains Desert Preserve, Scottsdale; the San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff; the Grand Canyon and who knows where, in AZ and elsewhere.

Work:  I was asked to consider being lead teacher in my current classroom.  I respectfully declined, preferring to see a younger person have a shot at that opportunity- as I am not devoting more time to the courses necessary for re-certification, and  given that I plan to work full time, for 4 1/2 more years, then go on to other pursuits, at the end of May, 2021. Children, and their well-being, will always be one of my highest concerns, though, wherever I am.

Family:  This means both biological and of choice.  Thankfully, there is no one in my biological family who would not be in my family of choice.  The former consists of about 140 people, including my mother, siblings, son, maternal and paternal relatives, and in-laws.  The latter has grown to at least 300, including many who will read this, over the past twenty-five years.

Travel:  My main immediate priority is time with Aram, after Christmas and before he heads to Korea for his next Navy assignment.  Between now and the end of May, I will be mostly in the Southwest and southern California, as work and my Baha’i activities keep me close to Home Base.  Mid-March may find me in west Texas, re-connecting with old friends.  The summer’s focus leans towards the Northwest, and possibly the Great Plains, but much could change, in the interim.  My Back-East visit looks to be in December, 2017.

Spiritual:  As most of you know, I am a fervent Baha’i.  We will observe a significant anniversary, on October 22:  The bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, Founder of our Faith.  A committee is planning a dignified and welcoming commemoration of the event, here in the Prescott area.  I will support and take active part in the event that is put together.

I also support the ecumenical event, known as Hope Fest, which will also occur in October, for its sixth year.  We all are living under the same blessings, coming from One Heavenly Source, in my view.

Writing:  I still very much plan to put together, and publish, a volume of mixed short prose and poetry, between January and March of the coming year.  Online, a series of posts on this site will be called 66 Days of Sixty-Six, being a random group of days that celebrate this age.

It’s going to be a great, if often challenging, year.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Sixty-Six

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November 28, 2016, Prescott-Someone close to me says I am officially an old man.  Well, yes and no.  Consider today:  I went to work, told no one it was my day (though it’s posted in the office kitchen, which none of my co-workers ever enter) and had a normal work day, which means I put forth an effort.  I came home, took a 20-minute power nap.  Then, it was time to mark the occasion, so I went by a Christmas display, at Prescott Resort Hotel, had dinner at Texas Roadhouse and went to see the film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, a Harry Potter prequel of sorts, with a fine ensemble cast and a great story line; definitely four-stars.

Age does not affect what I have ahead, over the next few months, either.  December, though, is as far as I have planned, concretely, and then only in terms of those events that have to be planned well in advance.  It’s more a matter of keeping the bulk of my focus on my work and on my Faith, than it is of slowing down.

I will have more to say about the weeks ahead, but now it’s time to keep my bedtime routine- 10:30 is late enough.

Always Welcome

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November 27, 2016, Banning- I am fortunate to find many places, to which I can return, no matter how long it’s been since I have stopped by.  One such is Gramma’s Country Kitchen, in this small, but pleasant city along I-10, east of Riverside.  The decor reminds me of both my Godmother’s kitchen, when I was a child, and various places in which I’ve stopped in the Midwest, over the years.  The owners and waitresses always seem to remember me, from previous visits and the place just feels like home.

My son’s place, in Chula Vista feels likewise, it goes without saying.  It will be strange to go to San Diego, after February, and not have him there to visit.  He will be doing other tasks, in his next duty station, though, and I will continue to feel pride in his achievements.  We had a quiet, but comfortable, visit, over Thanksgiving and will have a few days together, here and there, between now and the time he heads out.

I got back, easily, to Prescott, and it will be a busy, fruitful month ahead- with work for both the Prescott schools and my Faith occupying a great deal of time.  Needless to say, there are plenty of places here, where I likewise always feel welcome.  At the end of this week, for example, the town’s Christmas tree will be lit and all of us in attendance will feel an abundance of welcome, from one another.

As I will write tomorrow, I personally will welcome another year to my chronology:  66. Hope all are rested from a joyful Thanksgiving!

 

Keyholes

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November 26, 2016, Chula Vista-

We went to see the film “Doctor Strange”, this evening.  It’s a highly entertaining account of mystics being able to bend time, space and matter- for good or for ill.  One of the characters mentions to Dr. Strange that, in being concerned with his own ego, he is seeing the universe through a keyhole- and imagining his view to be all-encompassing.

So many of us seem to be seeing the world through keyholes of our own device.   The two extremes in out national politics have been doing so, for sometime. The keyholes seem to be also getting smaller and smaller.  It is also apparent that the backdrop, behind the door, is getting dimmer and dimmer.

Any time in history, when people feel totally disenfranchised, has been fraught with severe pendulum swings.  The decline and fall of Imperial Rome, the French Revolution and its aftermath, and the fall of the Soviet Union  are each an example of this, albeit differing in severity.  Jacobin France is one of the deadliest examples of people looking at the world through keyholes, and seeing nothing but enemies- even in the faces of those who were their allies, only a short time before.

It is no coincidence that the leader of a White Supremacist splinter group identified his personal role model as Napoleon Bonaparte.  This, to me, is a clear indication of the intentions of his particular entourage.  Sowing chaos, in this large and disparate society, may seem impossible- but look to Rome, and to Russia.  It only takes a relative few opportunists to bring it about- and with the advent of false news reporting, the mayhem can come about rather quickly.

Once again, to be safe, at any given time, is to be vigilant beforehand.  I do not see the answer to our nation’s current growing pains to be drawing our wagons into  tight circles, such as supremacist or nativist fantasies, or safe zones.  The real solution, in my humble view, is wider inclusion.  There will never be a time when I cut off my conservative friends to curry favour with people on the Left, or vice versa.  I will not shun my friends of colour or of sexual identities that aren’t my own, just so that my White and heterosexual friends are assuaged- or vice versa.

It’s time to open the door, for a broad view.

Insightful

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November 25, 2016, Chula Vista-  Son is steadily healing and uses a “space boot” on his left foot, so he’s more mobile than a month ago.  Still, this is not the time for him to go back to full-on hiking mode, and this weekend will find me taking short, but beneficial walks, as I did this afternoon, on a loop of Rice Canyon Trail and the parallel Rancho del Rey Parkway.  It was fitting that I began at Discovery Park and ended at Explorer Park, both named by children of Chula Vista, and geared towards families.

Another aspect of the day was that I finished re-reading “The Celestine Prophecy”, a novel which speculates on the evolution of the human spirit.  It postulates nine insights, which are summarized at:

http://www.gurus.org/dougdeb/Courses/bestsellers/Celestine/Insights.htm.

There is an interesting mix of profundity (the insights and the challenges they present) and hokum (“The Mayans went to a specific spot near Iquitos, in the Peruvian Amazon, and built pyramids”; Peruvian agents broke into an American scientist’s home and stole his copies of the first two insights).  Nonetheless, each of the insights is compatible with my own Faith.  What is also true, though, is that the state of human consciousness described by the ninth insight is probably a good thousand years in the making. We could easily achieve the goals described by the first eight, in the meantime.

I am particularly interested in the notion that children deserve more respect than many are willing to give them.  Adults are seen by Redfield as exemplars and mentors, not as controllers. Also, speaking about anyone in the third person, when they are present, is correctly viewed by the author, James Redfield, as an onerous practice.  So, too, is the notion that an authority figure is needed to interpret Scripture to the laity.  This cornerstone of the concept of clerical primacy is challenged by Redfield, in the nine insights, and is the basis for the conflict in the story.  The near-infantilization of the human race is viewed as outmoded and evil.

I have gone through many of the personal growth dilemmas presented by Redfield, including a host of what he calls control dramas (Intimidator, self-pitier, interrogator and aloof).  Entire decades have seen me in self-pity mode, and a fair amount of my life has found me aloof.  There is also his concept of “addiction to another person”, which he views as a misguided attempt to unite a person’s male and female sides, by attachment to a person of the opposite gender.  The eighth insight prescribes a person finding those two sides, and making peace with both, within oneself, and being a platonic friend to members of the opposite gender, first, rather than “rushing into romance”.

So, much of what is found in these pages is what many of us are already doing in our lives.  It would have a fine thing, though, if I had realized, and practiced, these concepts, a long time ago.

No Black Thursday

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November 24, 2016, Julian, CA-  This little town, northeast of San Diego, has been our Thanksgiving hub, for three of the last four years.  Only in 2014 were we diverted to Aram’s ship, for what was an estimable meal, in its own right.  Otherwise, Julian Cafe has been an irresistible venue- for one of the best traditional Thanksgiving meals this side of the Appalachians.

Julian appeals to Aram, because it reminds him of Prescott and Flagstaff.  The oak forests that surround the town, and the Laguna Mountains, to its southeast, are of immense comfort to one who was born , and spent his first years, in a forested landscape.

It appeals to me, as all mountain towns do, because Saugus ( my home town), and so many towns in New England, are similarly entwined with rugged landscapes and a wealth of historical nuggets.  Julian’s history is inextricably linked to the California Gold Rush.  Southern California had several spots which, while not as noteworthy as the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, nontheless contributed to Gold Fever.

What appeals to neither of us is Black Thursday, as some have taken to calling the afternoon and evening of Thanksgiving Day.  There may be some LIMITED need for some people to pick up groceries, in the morning, as I did on behalf of Aram and his housemates, around 8:30 this morning, at the local Ralph’s store.  I can’t see either of us shopping for deals on Thanksgiving, ever.  I understand some want that to be their Thanksgiving tradition, but I stay with family remaining focused on non-commercial pursuits.

We had another awesome meal, with his two housemates along.  This will be the last time, though, for at least three years, as he heads across the Pacific, in a few months’ time.  That made it an especially treasured repast.