The Trail Winds Again

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June 23, 2021, Tonopah- It’s been two years, since I last took this route, from Las Vegas towards Carson City/Reno. I see that most places survived COVID and are again thriving. A Speedway on Farm Road, on the north side of LV, will be my go-to refueling stop in the city-easy on/off US 95.

The day started with a continuation of last night’s exploration of intellect and real world problem-solving. Much was personal to one of my hosts, so the details would not be appropriate here. We did reach the consensus, over breakfast at Bad Miguel’s, on the north end of Lake Havasu City, that humans are far too prone to cover up for the team, when making a miscreant own up to mistakes is a far more forthright, and better, use of a team’s energy. It’s not throwing the wrongdoer under the bus; it is, rather, a cleansing exercise for the wrongdoer’s soul.

After bidding these gentlemen adieu, I wended my way through an hour’s worth of a series of roads, to Bullhead City, making a fairly brief, but equally necessary, visit to another isolated soul. The simple, satisfying lunch she prepared gave me a chance to note further about the value of being forthright-in no particular context. She had a Zoom call, about forty minutes into my visit, so back on the road it was- with rain as my companion, from Bullhead City to Las Vegas!

The rain and wind dissipated, along with the traffic, just past the Snow Mountain interchange, on LV’s northernmost edge. I made a customary light supper stop, at the Area 51 Alien Center, in Amargosa Valley- not far from its namesake of legend. A few families were passing through; a feisty 9-year-old boy from one was bantering with teen girls from the other family. I just fixed my hot dog and smiled at the joy of normalcy.

Beatty, Scotty’s Junction and Goldfield came and went-and I was in this center of mining heritage by 8 p.m. I turned on the tv and found- “Boss Baby”. Off went the tube.

Tomorrow will show how much the rest of the way to Carson has fared, in the time of pandemic.

Contraction and Expansion

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June 22, 2021, Lake Havasu City- In the Spring of 2000, a group of senior citizens, residents of a small enclave on the south side of Salome, AZ, converged on a meeting of the La Paz County Board of Supervisors. They wanted to see an ordinance enacted, which would curb the behaviour of the town’s younger residents. Among these seniors was a former resident of San Francisco, whose complaint was with young people who were raising livestock, within town limits. He began, and ended, with “Back in San Francisco, this would never be allowed!” The chair of the Board of Supervisors, in rural La Paz County, cut the man off, merely thanking him for his perspective. The seniors with more universal concerns, about partying and noise, got a fuller hearing.

I am in this city of retirees and service providers to visit for a bit with some friends who have felt isolated for quite some time-and not just because of COVID19. Lake Havasu is at least an hour, in any direction, from any city of comparable, or larger, size: Bullhead City lies an hour to the north; Kingman, the same, to the northeast; Various California retirement havens are an hour away, to the west, and Parker, the seat of La Paz County, is about an hour to the south.

Into the isolation of the Colorado River Valley, in western Arizona, are coming sizable numbers of those leaving California. As is the case elsewhere, people with cash in hand are buying up houses, and vacant lots, “by the boatload”, as it were. Snap-up culture, a peculiarly American phenomenon, sparked initially by fear and loathing of one’s lot-and sustained, later on, by arrogance and greed, is generating a sizable migration out of the Golden State (as well as New York and Chicago)-sometimes pulling the rug out from under people of more modest means, who have come within an inch of securing a home. When this happens here in the U.S., it fosters some grumbling and temporary ill will towards the migrants. When it happens in other countries, the migrants, or second-home purchasers may face reactions from locals that are far less genteel.

I see this from two sides: Mankind has always been on the move. Large populations initially moved north, east and probably west from Africa, very early on. Millennia later, there began several large migrations, in all directions, from the Altai, the Gobi and the steppes of what is now, Kazakhstan, sending Avars, Huns, Mongols, Turks to Europe and southwest Asia; many of who are now known as Indigenous Americans headed, out of the same region, to North America, and thence to its southern neighbour. Northwestward, to the European Arctic region, went those now known as the Sami-formerly the Lapps. What US President James Knox Polk called “Manifest Destiny” has been in our genetic memory for a good long time.

On the other hand, with few exceptions since the original peopling of this planet, there have always been “locals” there to either greet the newcomers, or to resist them. Which is which depends largely on the need, or lack thereof, for new blood to revitalize a community AND on the attitudes of the newcomers. People who charge into a new setting, buy up the property, propagate the worst of what they claim to have left behind, and push the locals around, should not be surprised at the glares and sidelong glances they get from their new neighbours, as these mutter among themselves. Those who, on the other hand, settle gently into their adopted community, with a humble posture of learning, will over time be adopted as bona fide residents. There are plenty of both sorts, among the current groups of migrants, as there have been in such groups, throughout history.

I wish the better angels of their natures to be in the vanguard.

A Working Solstice

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June 21, 2021- It was not so much a working day for me, but a relative handful of mechanics performed maintenance on Elantra Thirteen, replacing brake pads and rotors, aligning the wheels and performing the usual oil & lube. It was an all-day affair, leading to a few other errands being postponed, and a Zoom call set aside. That’s okay, E13 does a lot of work for me, both here and elsewhere, so the day was hers.

Whilst ensconced in the waiting area at the shop, I received a call from the Dermatology Center, and my procedure is scheduled for July 29. In the meantime, I will continue to dress the area, with essential oils and Life Wave patches. This also addresses the whole matter of my going where I feel called next month, at least leaving myself sufficient time to return to Home Base, by July 28.

Dallas, Tulsa and Sarcoxie will now, hopefully, be followed by Crossville, Knoxville, Harrisonburg, Oley (maybe Paoli and Exton, if the family schedules permit), Elmont, the North Shore, the resting place in Maine-of a cousin who passed away recently, Mishawaka, Wilmette, Minneapolis-and any part of Colorado that happens to be en route back to Home Base.

Back here around 3:50, I got my bearings, rested a bit and juiced a bunch of wheatgrass, after eating a dinner salad and hummus on a rye cracker. Today is actually the day after Solstice, and I’ve gotten well into my summer salad for dinner regimen, but I am very much enamoured of the 21st day of June being the First Day of Summer.

As I listen to an original jazz tune called “Tales of A Courtesan”, by the Japanese-American composer, Toshiko Ariyoshi, it’s a comfort to know that we each have our strengths and can share a unique view of one or more elements of life.

Father’s Day Ruminations

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June 20, 2021- My Dad will have been gone 37 years, this Tuesday. His smiling countenance beams down at me from two locations, in the living room: One with my Mom, when they were in their early forties; the other, in his early fifties sitting in his office at the General Electric Riverworks plant, in Lynn,

Mom & Dad, dressed to rule.

Ferdinand Joseph Boivin had the gift of gab, loved to make the rounds and visit others, and was always holding court on the front porch, before dinner-with various men showing up to discuss what was troubling them, and either my brother Dave or I dispatched to grab some beer for Dad and the visitor. He always had a corny joke or two at the ready, would sing little love songs to our mother and would hold her close, in the kitchen, when he first came home from work-or from anywhere where he had gone on an errand. They’d kiss, as if no one else was around, while perfectly mindful that one or more of us was close by. The most important thing was that we knew how secure our home was-even in lean times, which came often.

Dad worked graveyard shifts, when I was very small, so our bonding was somewhat interrupted-and we both had to make a conscious effort at remaining close. He never took sides, in our sibling squabbles, but his watchwords were “Now lookit! Yiz need to look at each other from the other’s perspective.” His silent look of disapproval could speak volumes. He only had one hard-and-fast rule for us: “Never refer to me as your Old Man.” I know I disappointed him, by not going into the business field, but there was always my resentment of Riverworks’ management, for how he was treated-cast into a middle management role, seldom given credit and often receiving blame, if others caused missteps. “Freddy” was a trade school graduate, and a creature of habit, who did not particularly get along, at least at first, with fresh-out-of-university MBAs and Engineers, who were elbowing their way to the top. A man about ten years my senior, Peter St. Clair, befriended Dad and served as a bridge figure between him and the new up-and -comers. I hold Pete in the highest regard, for everything he did to help my father.

Dad slowed down, in his last four or five years, cutting back on his smoking, whilst enjoying a round or two of Scotch every evening. He and Mom flew out to San Diego, when Penny and I were married, in 1982. They loved their visit to southern California, taking several days after the nuptials to enjoy San Diego and Orange County-even going up to Knotts Berry Farm-as close as they got to Los Angeles. They stopped in Denver, on the way back and checked out the U.S. Mint there. A few years later (1985), they visited us in Arizona, being awestruck by the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and the vastness of the Navajo Nation-as well as being charmed by the Dineh and Hopi people. A year later, Dad made his flight to his Lord. Mom would return to the West, with her younger brother and sister-in-law, in 1990, to make the one trip that she and Dad had wanted, but never got to do together: Yellowstone, San Francisco and southeast Alaska.

The years since have seen me do my level best to raise a son into manhood. The times I struggled, or stumbled, were always covered well by Aram’s maternal grandfather and by Dave-sometimes in their visits or sometimes over the phone. Father-in-law Norm told me, though, “If I didn’t think you were doing well by Aram, overall, I’d have taken him from you.” That gave me a lot of confidence, going forward.

Being a father, these days, is a matter of checking in with Aram and Yunhee, now and then-just to see how things are going-or to offer counsel, when they are in a quandary about some curveball that life has served. This will long continue, into the years when starting a family, buying a house and/or making career moves present themselves. What I mainly need to do now, for them and for the rest of my family, is maintain self-care and be healthy, for whatever arises.

God knows, I had the full measure of a role model.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

A Matter of National Interest

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June 19, 2021- In the latter part of June, 1969, one of my fellow trainees, of African-American descent, confronted me about what he thought was my negative attitude towards people of colour. I had no ready answer for him, as truth be told, I had no attitude of any kind towards African-Americans, since until entering Basic Training, I did not know any. I believed then, as now, that all people are equal in the sight of God, and that therefore I was to show kindness and respect to Black people, as I did towards Whites and Asians, who were far more numerous in my hometown. What that meant, in practice, was far more complicated. I was to learn that the historical treatment, of all people of colour and of lower class Whites, was woeful in general and that each subgroup was treated in such a manner as made that group’s genetic memory needful of particular attention, distinct from other “minority” groups.

Lavern and I reached an understanding, and there was no further animosity between us. I continued to learn, from other men of colour, throughout my Army enlistment- and afterward, of the difficulties faced by their ancestors, and by they themselves, on a daily basis. Although it may be said that everyone has a hard life, at one time or another, most of those difficulties are transitory happenstance- a stock decline here, a broken down car there, a sick family member over yonder. They are no less problematic in the interim, but they are not compounded by the genetic memory of generations who were, and in many cases still are, excluded from equal treatment by society and by those in their midst.

So it is, that I welcome the national observance of Juneteenth-NOT as a replacement holiday for Independence Day, but as a day of affirmation of the principles upon this nation was founded. I have read much and learned much, about the abhorrent treatment of people of colour-and of lower class people of pallour, across the span of our nation’s, and other nations’ stories. I hope one and all are able to likewise reflect on the course of becoming more equal.

No Half Measures

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June 18, 2021- It is no secret that the strength and longevity of solar heat are getting more intense. This is quite possibly cyclical: The people of southern California and the Southwest endured a drought, from 950-1250 A.D. The Medieval Warm Period, as that era is known, may well have its modern counterpart. How much effect human activity has on this cycle is very much open to research and discussion, but its effect on us is very clear.

A full dermatological inspection of my neck and face showed that both ears, my left cheek and a spot just under my left eye have basal cell carcinomae. The ears and the spot under the eye have been treated and may very well not continue to represent a problem, provided I am more diligent in wearing a broad-brimmed hat, and sunscreen, when outside-a habit I let lapse, during the mandatory face mask period of last year. The cheek blotch will need more careful removal-at a point 4-6 weeks from now. In the meantime, I will continue to treat it with DDR Prime and cover it with an X39 Patch. If nothing else, this regiment will protect it and keep it from spreading.

What this does to some of the plans I made for next month is not consequential. Anything on the itinerary after July 15 can be accomplished, after the carcinoma is removed. In the meantime, my days remain full and my heart feels good about seeing this matter through, and renewing the health regimen that had kept me in good stead, for well over sixty years.

PFAS

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June 17, 2021- In the autumn of 1987, President Chun Doo-hwan, the autocratic leader of South Korea, came out with an amazing edict: Parliament was to investigate, and curb, the use of toxic chemicals in women’s cosmetics. The members of Parliament were appalled that this was going on, and swiftly complied with the President’s directive-not something that regularly happened, in the slowly changing South Korea of the late 1980s.

As newly arrived temporary residents of Jeju, where we were involved in teaching English to university students, Penny and I were also appalled at the toxicity of such a basic product, and gratified that the macho President had placed priority on women’s health. She was able to get non-toxic cosmetics, fairly regularly, from late 1987, onward.

Penny preferred a natural line of cosmetics, from a company called The Body Shop, which she regularly used, after we returned to Arizona, in 1992. She had enough of a struggle, with the hand she was dealt by heredity, without buying into the culture of toxicity.

It was with a considerable sense of outrage, then, that I read today’s report from Notre Dame University, which “found that 56% of foundations and eye products and 47% of mascaras contained high levels of fluorine- an indicator of PFAS, so-called ‘Forever chemicals’ that are used in nonstick frying pans, rugs and countless other consumer products.” (Matthew Daly, Associated Press, June 17, 2021, taken from the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, June 15, 2021) . The study also reports that the highest PFAS levels were found in waterproof mascara (82%) and in long-lasting lipstick (62%). Of all the products tested, only ONE listed PFAS as an ingredient on the label.

Fortunately, both the EPA and Congress are moving on this issue, albeit belatedly. One Congresswoman remarked that she could not identify PFAS, in her own makeup, as the products were not properly labeled. That is likely true, across the board.

Here is the wider issue: Besides poisoning and endangering the lives of so many who are near and dear to us, Dr. Graham Peaslee, the principal researcher into this issue, at Notre Dame, states that “PFAS is a persistent chemical. When it gets into the bloodstream, it stays there and accumulates.” This has implications for babies in the womb or who are being breastfed. Then, there is the environmental contamination, which surely results from manufacturing and disposal. What effects does PFAS have on our water and soil?

A wake-up call for the cosmetics industry? That is the understatement of the year!

Loyalty

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June 16, 2021- Fifty-two years ago, I reported to the Reception Station, at the Massachusetts National Guard Armory, and began what would be thirty months of service in the United States Army. It was all hard for me, back then, for just as a life-toughened fellow soldier told me, ten months later- I hadn’t really had a hard day in my life, up to that point.

Basic Training, at Fort Jackson, SC, was in retrospect, not all that hard. I missed Combat Fire training, by getting stuck in a book. Sergeant First Class Santiago, when I asked to make the training up, told me, “Where you’re going, you won’t need this stuff.” I’m so glad he turned out to be right. Had circumstances been different, though, and combat come my way, I would have figured it out in a hurry. When it was time to qualify on the rifle range, someone misaligned my scope, and I missed the first four shots. Sergeant Braithwaite shook his head, took the rifle and corrected the sights. I got the remaining 16 shots, which made me a Marksman, the lowest category, but still a passing score. As with Combat Fire, grenades and bayonet, I never needed to use the M16, for anything other than training exercises. I passed the Physical Training and General 3 tests, with flying colours-and felt like it was the first time in my life that I’d done anything right. First Sergeant Elam, a bitter man, tried to cut me down, but I could see right through his jabs.

Army Postal Training, at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, followed. Then, there were postings at Fort Myer,VA; Long Binh and Cholon, VietNam and I was home by January 2, 1972, to resume my college studies. The biggest things I learned, from the Armed Forces were loyalty, perseverance, commitment and ingenuity. Those have stood me in good stead, for well over 50 years.

Loyalty does not mean subservience. I picked that up from one Corporal J. Eggebrecht, a hard-as-nails Physical Training instructor, and nobody’s fool. Eggebrecht razzed me, constantly and directly, but I could see every point he made-and it was a good part of what made boy into man; though at the time, Jim would’ve rolled on the ground laughing at the thought of me being full grown. The same was true of Mack Gray and Ted Wescott, two other drill instructors. Fifty-two years later, Paul Elam was wrong and his underlings were right on the money.

I am loyal to family, friends, community, nation and planet. I will never swear fealty to an individual, nor will I ever again ask “How high?”, when someone says “Jump”. This is something that one person on the periphery of my life, right now, is bound to learn to his chagrin. It’ll be best for him, in the long run, and for me, immediately.

Just So Much Skin in The Game

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June 15, 2021- After reading my horoscope, which said not to make financial decisions today, I spent a delightful morning at Phippen Museum of Western Art, on Prescott’s north side, with my hiking buddy. Given that it was too hot for any outside activity, enjoying various paintings, sculptures and Native American handicrafts was a fine way to appreciate the Southwest. It also gave A.K. a possible outlet for creativity, during the rest of the hot weather. The Phippen offers affordable painting classes, once a week.

I have no qualms about sharing time and energy, as these imply that the other people involved will invest the same. Money, as I’ve said before, is a different matter. People often throw out- “The more you give, the more you get”, in a guilt-mongering manner. I have said, more times than I have cared to, that my fair share of coin goes to those in need. So, I set a hard and fast limit on the amount going towards a socioeconomic development project in another country. This generated a sarcastic comment, that I have such “an elevated sense of brotherhood”. I actually view that as a compliment. What I am not doing for one person, in perpetuity, is balanced by what I am doing for others. I want to see just how much the individual will pull himself together, working with others to build a communal dream. I will “beseech God to guide him”-as Baha’u’llah teaches us.

My parents gave us only so much, in the way of financial and material assistance, and I believe each of us are the better for it.

Flags, etc.

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June 14, 2021- Today was Flag Day, an often overlooked commemoration of the adoption, on June 14, 1777, of the Stars and Stripes as our national pennant. The flag, to me, is something to be honoured and respected. I am proud to offer a salute, or to stand with my right hand over my heart, when it is presented at a public event. By extension, I will also stand in silent respect, if I am in another country, and ITS flag is similarly presented.

A candidate for local office has been showing a photograph that depicts his opponent waving a flag that is tattered, at a public event of a few years ago. If this is authentic, I object to that other candidate’s ignorance. If it is altered, the shame goes to the man who is showing it around. As for those who stomp on, burn or spit upon a national flag, this may be regarded by the judiciary as free speech, but it is no more worthy of respect than is a stream of profanity.

Flags may be symbols, yet symbolism has value. The most strenuous exercise, in the history of mankind, has produced a society which has slowly, often with excruciating pain, approached its stated ideals. Many of those ideals have yet to be fully realized, and there have been many times, which deserve to be acknowledged, studied and corrected, when the behaviour of the ruling class, and those underneath them, went counter to the stated guiding principles of our national experiment.

In my journey next month, Tulsa will be on the itinerary, on the way east, and Minneapolis will be on the route back west. My heart is heavy, yet hopeful, for this nation which will guide the world spiritually, in years to come, much as it has guided the world economically and politically, in times past.

The flag is a symbol-of the ideals towards which we work, perseveringly.