All That and A Bag of Chips


June 1, 2023- The title seems to be popping up, here and there, on various friends’ and family members’ posts recently. It does describe my life pretty well- though I don’t see myself as “all that” and the chips are still something I eat sparingly. My weight reduction plan got another boost, this morning, as the tech from the scale company returned from vacation and patiently walked me and my fat fingers through the profile building process, over the phone. Now, I will be able to track my BMI, as well as au naturel weight, each morning. Enough TMI!

June is not gloomy here,just as May was not gray. July might fry, though-we are slated to start seeing summer temps, by the middle of this month. For now, though, the breezy air is delightful.

I have resumed a bit of downsizing, in advance of the two weeks or so that camp duty calls. Plates, bowls and cutlery that are in excess of what I need have gone on to a thrift store-and a bit of re-arranging items was accomplished yesterday, in advance of my receiving a late neighbour’s washer and dryer, in early July, now that the whole probate thing regarding his estate is done. Landlord got the court’s permission to dispose of G’s left over items, as he had asked before passing on. I get the laundry items. Funny how probate can go: Had our landlord entered G’s apartment and removed items before the proceedings were completed, he could have been thrown in jail for theft! I hadn’t heard of that before, but there we were.

For the next two weeks, and maybe for a week afterward, I will be mostly occupied with camp. WiFi will variously involve visits to the Truck Stop and trying to set up a hot spot onsite (for Zoom calls which, if missed, will rankle at least one of the hosts-“No absences, no excuses!”) Oh, well, God didn’t die and leave anyone in charge! At any rate, I will manage to send these posts out from the Truck Stop, most days.

These Messes


May 31, 2023- The video showed three men piling gallon bottles of various laundry detergents into shopping carts, with a caption that the men were shoplifters. No actual footage was shown of them actually leaving the store without paying for the items. Indeed, for many corporations, the policy is to terminate any employee who films shoppers-or shoplifters, for that matter.

There are several cities, responding, I am told, to Federal guidelines for reducing prison populations, that have decriminalized “petty theft”. While the majority of us, of any ethnicity, don’t have the hubris to just up and steal everything they want, there have always been those who believe it’s their right to take-free of charge. This, of course, drives up costs to the retailer-or wholesaler-insurance, loss prevention staffing, legal fees and the expenses inherent in NOT being able to keep shoppers and employees safe, in and around a store. Thus, prices go up, more people bristle at the cost of living and-you see the pattern.

Decriminalizing theft of less than $1000 worth of merchandise, like decriminalizing publicly relieving oneself, living in public parks or in front/back of buildings or aggressively panhandling, is seen by its proponents as the lesser of two evils. Crimes against property, after all, are not the same as crimes against people.

Two things: 1. The two classes of offense intersect at a certain point. Relatively few people can, or want to, live a DIY lifestyle. That means that commercial products need to be affordable-for everyone. When crimes against property pass a certain threshold, people get hurt-and not just in the wallet. The thieves, in the end, become tigers chasing their own tails-and everyone else, including the family and friends of a thief, has to pay extra. No one can live a falsely gratuitous lifestyle in perpetuity, especially in this age of surveillance.

2. The culture of greed starts at the top of the food chain. The mentality of the Hedge Fund or Private Equity groups and managers who buy up properties, in what is known as “Snap-Up Culture” is oftentimes several degrees separate from the needs of the communities in which those properties lie, or which the businesses located in them serve. The “Golden Rule”, stated way back in 1995, in the Disney animated film, “Aladdin”, is “He who has the gold, rules”. Of course, this does not paint all such investors with a broad brush, but there is a critical mass being reached-and those watching from outside the circle are drawing the wrong conclusions. They, too, are deciding to take without giving back.

The transition, from exclusivity to its opposite, is a series of messes. All transitions that are not completely thought through, are messy. Conservatives respond to the chaos by calling for stronger policing; reactionaries, by advocating One-Party rule and a return to the days of privilege and exclusion. Those on the Far Left don’t think change is happening quickly enough. Some call for reparations to be given the descendants of the enslaved, though how such descendants might be determined is open to question. Others call for beating those who oppose abortion, while some on the opposite end of the spectrum think bringing back lynching is still on the table.

I’ve gone past my usual limit, so let’s end with this: How costly is it to consider the rational and reasonable elements of a social opposite’s belief system? How detrimental to one’s well-being is it to follow the original Golden Rule? A physical, elemental world revolves around limits-some temporary, others fixed. We can attain much in this life; just not everyone, everywhere, all at once.

Passing By Irritation Station


May 30, 2023- It never fails. I find myself in a grumpy mood, in spite of an excellent weigh-in report, and the end of Memorial Day weekend, which always seems to leave me irritated, due to its rather conflicted nature. I won’t say “Happy Memorial Day”, even though death itself is not a horrible thing. The day itself is a solemn occasion, due to the nature of the passages we honour. Many were killed in the line of duty. Any gatherings are events I attend sparingly.

My irritation was partly left over from having been dismissed from the presence of someone who had previously been polite, even friendly, at yesterday’s crafts fair. I guess the poor soul was just exhausted and wanted to be alone, but the abruptness of it all rankled a bit. Then, news came that another friend had been injured, in a favourite activity. Friend needs to just rest, for tonight, and we will see what the situation is in the morning.

Once I exercised and enjoyed a maple-flavoured cacao bean, the mood eased, and a message from another friend in the Northwest made the day end on a pleasant note. The end of the post-Mercury retrograde phase is also supposed to signal more positive energy, but one can always find something to blame for a bad mood. I have learned to just work through it and try not to trouble anyone else.

The Decorated Ones


May 29, 2023-His name was Richard Daniel Devine. He died in combat, in Kontum, VietNam, on January 10, 1968.

His name was Stanley Joseph Egan. He died in combat, in Hua Nghia, VietNam, on November 23, 1969.

When we were children, every year, just before school let out for the summer, we gathered in the yard of Felton School, and recited a poem that began “Tomorrow is Memorial Day. The soldiers will be marching, with banners waving high.” The day was officially called Decoration Day, as we honoured those who had died, after having served in the military and had been decorated for their efforts. Another meaning of the day came from the practice of decorating graves of departed loved ones with flowers and other tokens of remembrance.

In 1968, the last Monday in May was designated Memorial Day. The actual practice of this three-day weekend began in 1971, along with Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February) and Columbus Day (second Monday in October, and now mainly known as Indigenous Peoples Day). The three days have been observed as Federal holidays since then. They were joined in that status by Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (third Monday in January),in 1986 and by Juneteenth ( June 19), the date of the last documented informing of American slaves that they had been emancipated (Texas, 1865), in 2021. Other Federal holidays of long standing, are New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

There were a myriad observances of Memorial Day, across the United States, and in some other nations which have been allied with the United States in various conflicts, today-as there will be on the traditional Decoration/Memorial/Remembrance Day, of May 30. The men mentioned at the beginning of this post, and over a million people like them, are the decorated ones, the soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, Merchant Mariners and a fair number of civilian ancillaries, who gave their lives, this nation and other countries around the world, might continue to know the reality of freedom.

I knew Stan Egan, and on the day he passed on I chose to spend Thanksgiving in fasting and prayer. It just made no sense that a vibrant, athletic, engaging and confidant young man should have been blown to bits, as it were. It never has-and never will. Until the quest for dominance, for ownership of land, for subjugation of others is given up, the nonsensical will remain commonplace.

In honour of the fallen, across the globe, I give you this rendition of Il Silenzio (The Silence), by Dutch trumpeter Melissa Venema, who first played the tune at the age of 13, in Maastricht, NL. She is now 28, and regularly offers the melody in concert.

Musings, On Another Half-Way Mark


May 28, 2023- I weigh under 170 lbs, for the first time since I left Korea (1992). The work and the discipline are worth it-and while some are already trying to get me to EAT more, the nutrition I am giving myself is more than adequate. As with anything else, when someone pushes me one way, I go the other, at least as far as it suits my own greater well-being.

Exercise is also a key, and I find it easier to do more cardiopulmonary stuff than I did four months ago, when the whole weight reduction plan started. Shedding bulk works. Of course, I also walk more and will get in plenty of hikes, over the next several months, including early morning walks to my favourite grove of trees, about 1.5 miles from the camp I will be managing from June 2-16 and possibly over Solstice Week. I won’t know about the latter until, maybe, June 16, but there we are.

Being 72.5 doesn’t feel bad at all, and actually feels better than 65 or 68. Much is in how one views the world-and oneself in it. I spent the day fitting a friend wh,o is in pain, with a back brace; holding space for a devotional online; driving down to the cemetery where Penny is laid to rest; putting flowers in a plastic vase, provided by the cemetery, and placing the vase at Penny’s grave, then sitting foe a while and communicating about the next few months. Finding the vase was itself an interesting process. Being Memorial Day weekend, most of those vessels were already in use-and people were using the vase bins as trash cans! I drove around and checked a few other bins, finally finding several in a bin near the Cemetery Office. Some people who had pulled in behind me, near the row of graves, were also looking for a vase, so I directed them to that bin, and it was win-win.

Upon returning to Prescott, a dinner was being held in honour of a Baha’i craftswoman, who has a booth at the festival on Courthouse Plaza. So, I attended the delightful meal, and will certainly visit her booth tomorrow, in between all the Memorial Day activities. Tomorrow also marks the 131st anniversary of the Ascension of Baha’u’llah, thus imparting extra meaning to the concept of commemorating the lives of departed loved ones. It will be 106 years since the late former President John F. Kennedy was born. It will also mark 59 years since my late youngest brother was born. I get messages from him also- “Stay true to yourself; you’re on a good path and people love you.”

I feel that energy, especially lately. It’s always good to get messages from departed loved ones, though.

A Broken String


May 27, 2023-Of course, it happened just as Rick was getting into an extended riff, for his last song of the evening: A string broke, on his electric guitar. With a shrug of his shoulders, the craftsman and artist took out a new string and replaced the errant interrupter, in less than two minutes. Then, he resumed playing a rendition of Eric Clapton’s “Old Love”, from where he had left off-no mean feat of memory. The Bluesman has a limited playlist, but it is surely larger than mine, since I don’t play anything other than a hand drum and a few chords on a piano. He never fails to entertain, this one-man band.

Last-minute events never fail to either aggravate or astonish. Certainly, the buzzer-beating shot by Derrick White, giving the Celtics the win in this evening’s NBA East Semifinals Game 6, will rate among the great turnarounds in professional sports history. Boston teams have done it before-the Red Sox, in 2004 and the Patriots, several times. It was actually the New York Yankees, Penny’s favourite team, who perfected the art of Last Minute Charlie-hood- often coming from behind, in the last half of the ninth inning, and more than once, with two outs.

Mickey Spillane, Al Capone and Dame Nelly Melba said it best, if in a politically-awkward, and in Dame Nelly’s case, self-deprecating, way: “The show’s not over until the fat lady sings”. Nothing is truly over until its last element has transpired. The lengthy tussle over the national debt ceiling is about to come to at least a two-year respite. Let’s hope there is no last-minute broken string.

Using One’s Own Voice


May 26, 2023- Recently, I have fallen into the habit of writing to my Senators and Congressman, using pre-written responses, with which I read beforehand and with which I generally agree. The Senators respond, with generalities and vague statements of understanding. Not so, our new Congressman, whose response, yesterday, was essentially ‘When you write me, use your own words, preferably in an e-mail or response posted to my newsletter.’

What a refreshing reminder! Although there is much that he says with which I disagree, sometimes vehemently, the Congressman reminds me of the late John McCain and Barry Goldwater, with both of whom I also begged to differ, quite often. The fact remains, however, that when we get too caught up in parroting the words of others-or worse, parroting the words of an Artificial Intelligence tool, our own integrity suffers, no matter how much we may agree with what the author is saying.

Pablum is a food for infants. Verbal Pablum is not something that will resolve any issues or the problems reflected by those issues. I sat down and read the Congressman’s newsletter, then addressed a couple of issues he raised, in a concise and respectful manner. So long as our differences are a matter of how each of us sees the world, there is no call for anything less. His overriding concern is maintaining integrity in government. As that is also my concern, we ought to be able to keep in respectful dialogue.

Two Views


May 25, 2023- This is a “slow news” day, here at Home Base. We had a productive session on public discourse, this morning, though, and the thought occurred to me that, with the fairly minor act of moving Amanda Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb” to a middle school library in a central Florida school (No, it was not “banned”), a posting of the young lady reading the poem, (which I happen to like), in the same place as Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The USA”, (which I also happen to like), would be appropriate on the cusp of Memorial Day weekend.

The fact is, many people are climbing the hill towards that Shining City, that Ronald Reagan mentioned all those years ago. Some have been in the city for a while now; others are at the gates, and are trying to get in, by various means. I was born on the city’s edge and was raised there, by two hard-working, honest folks. Many of my compatriots were also born and raised in the Shining City. Some were relegated to its far outskirts and have yet to work their way inward. Others have done relatively well. This City, though, is not the result of a zero sum game. There is room, for all those born here, to succeed. Pretending otherwise is a sorry delusion.

The following are two views of America, one celebratory, the other an admonition. Neither is an extreme view, although to those who themselves harbor exclusionary mindsets, that with which they disagree is always going to represent a threat. Please give a listen, and some thought, to both. .

Anna Mae


May 24, 2023- Before Beyonce, before Rihanna, even before Aretha and Diana, there was Tina Turner. She transcended being treated, and mistreated, as a commodity by her first husband, then by Phil Spector, the latter at least acknowledging her particular vocal talent. She wore it and shook it off, keeping her stage name as a mark of survival.

Anna Mae Bullock was born to an indifferent mother and unsettled father, and frequently made to feel like an appendage. Her grandparents taught her Gospel music and a strong work ethic, which she exhibited throughout her musical and film career. She stuck with Ike Turner for nearly twenty years, until his addiction-fueled, abusive behaviour made her overcome any remaining loyalty or feeling like he had somehow “made” her career. Tina, she remained, and true to her vocal talents, she kept on performing, rejuvenating her career in the 1980s, a decade in which she said she “fit”. Tina Turner remarried, in 2013, finding happiness with her long-time friend and collaborator, Erwin Bach. That same year, she became a citizen of Switzerland, relinquishing her U.S. citizenship. Her last ten years of life were wracked by disease, tempered by her faith in the Divine and the love she shared with her husband.

Tina was the ultimate show artist,and while her view of her native land was harsh-so was much of the life she lived here. She made a grand contribution to American popular music, nonetheless, rejuvenating both her career and the entirety of the genre, at a time when both were in a low ebb. Tina Turner will remain in many hearts, for a long, long time.

Those Quirks


May 23, 2023- Ms. Jessie reacted to news of her friend’s illness by heading over to the woman’s house. It was storming outside, and she could barely see to pull into the driveway. Ms. Jessie’s vehicle was high-centered, so she called the friend, frantically, to come outside. The sick woman came out, looked at the mess, and called a male friend, who had a truck with a tow bar. He came over and managed to extricate Ms. Jessie’s vehicle, after which, Ms. Jessie and the friend had something of a laugh over the whole thing.

Ms. Jessie passed on, not long ago, leaving a lifetime of similar stories and memories-the things that transpired because she was Ms. Jessie, and had come to look at life through a particular lens. Her daughter said she hurt no one by what she did, and that she had raised her early and well.

Each of us has our quirks. Mine were off-center enough that I am remembered by some in my circle as an “odd duck”. The water has fallen off my back, in that regard. I have become somewhat more conventional, in my early senior years. On the other hand, Sagitarrian wandering, a sense of duty to the Divine-in the form of service to others and being responsive to spiritual energy prompts have combined to make my activities still rather a full slate-and not always predictable to others. The closest of friends and family shake their heads and smile knowingly.

One of the finer aspects of this meandering life has been all the characters I’ve met, over the years, each of whom has had something to teach me. In Ms. Jessie’s case, it was with regard to flowers-how to keep them in bloom longer-and with more varied arrangements. I might have been a bit more cautious as to taking her advice about navigating roads. I have had enough of my own problems, now and then, in that regard.

Gotta love those quirks, though. RIP, Ms. Jessie.