Some Shooting Stars Miss Their Mark

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November 30, 2022- I was struck by the number of “Giving Tuesday” e-mails which returned today, saying they had fallen short of their goals; struck, but not surprised, by the news. While money is like water, and the amount in toto doesn’t change, the form in which it exists changes constantly. Snapping one’s fingers or thrusting out one’s hand does little, or nothing, to increase flow, when the supply in liquid form happens to be a trickle. I was the recipient of no fewer than 800 e-mails, over the course of Thanksgiving weekend. I gave what I consider to be a reasonable amount, during that period, and will continue, throughout the holiday season, to offer what I consider a reasonable amount.

There is another aspect to this: The very real consequence of constant bombardment, even by the most deserving of causes, is ennui; disinterest, the passing into White Noise of the message being trumpeted. At worst, it can even trigger opposition to the cause. None of these are what I want to see happen to groups like Sandy Hook Promise, Stand With Parkland, Mercy Corps/Haiti, Lady Freethinker, and World Central Kitchen. There is enough nefarious thought in the world, without bringing it to the fore.

I favour an appeal for volunteers as much, if not more than, the call for funds-as much as the mantra, “Money is our life blood”, or the cloying “Money pays the bills” may stoke the intellect. Human energy is equally beneficial, and the more local that energy, the better.

Shooting stars that aim to intensely at one target may well miss their mark. Sometimes,less is more.

72 and Change

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November 29, 2022- This morning, I woke seemingly clear-headed and well-rested, and yet a few faux pas came between the time I awoke and the time I alighted in my window seat, on the plane back to Arizona. They were nothing that apologies didn’t rectify, and the rest of the journey back to Home Base was uneventful. My seat mates, on the plane and in the shuttle from Phoenix to Prescott, were very pleasant; quiet but congenial. I enjoyed a Korean barbecued pork sandwich, with chicken noodle soup on the side. Knocking out what was left of last week’s cold was crucial-and yes, I was one of three people in the travel party who wore a mask in close-quarter situations.

It’s time to look at what the ellipse that is the tail end of 2022 and the first eleven months of ’23 might bring. Next week, I work four days and have my skin scan. There will be a heavy schedule, here in town, Friday and Saturday, with Indian Market and a few other events. Acker Night is Dec,9 and Post 6 Christmas Party, on the10th. After that, SoCal is calling, for 3-4 days, Dec. 12-15-following a Slow Food event in south Phoenix, on Dec. 11. Dec. 16-25 will be close to Home Base, with a few days afterward spent somewhere up north, barring any weather weirdness or Red Cross emergency.

That brings up January-September, 2023-and so far, I have no clear guidance from Spirit Guides as to what, if any, travel will take place during that time. Sept. 30-Oct. 1 is the likely time for Baha’i Unit Convention. After that, October-early November looks like Pacific Northwest, Alaska and some of the Asian Pacific Rim. THAT guidance is very clear. We know from last year that these signals can change with outside circumstances and shifting energy frequencies.

So- stay tuned!

A Seventy-two State of Mind

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November 28, 2022, Grapevine- That the shy young server placed a bottle of Cholula hot sauce next to a plate of chocolate pancakes mattered little. I enjoyed dabbing a few sprinkles on my birthday brunch of Bacado Omelette and home fried potatoes. She was sweet and was trying hard, so all’s well.

Hemingway Brunch, in Coppell, south of here, is one of three eateries in the Sprouts Shopping Center. There is a Burger Bar next door and a “Texican” establishment on the south side of the strip mall. Hemingway is another of the great brunch places in the northwest Metro. We just found this out, though, this morning.

I have had time today to look at where I am now, in several areas of life.

I am more flute than saxophone; more sky blue than cloud gray; more turbinado or fresh honey than corn syrup; more SUV than Mini-Cooper.

I am more salted pretzel than glazed donut; more sunset than noon blaze; more mountain trail than suburban sidewalk; more cozy cabin than sterile suite.

I am more discourse than diatribe; more fresh eyes than regurgitation; more for dogs than for lizards; more immune system than medication.

I am more drawn to cute than to glamourous; more soft and quiet than thunderous; more steady than shaky; more morning than afternoon.

These are what come to mind, as Seventy-two becomes part of my identity for twelve months.

Seventy-One: The Wrap

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November 27, 2022, Grapevine- The dignified, courteous waiter brought the courses in order: Fresh bread; stuffed mushrooms, sitting atop a bed of cream sauce; garden salads; pasta dishes (Chicken Jerusalem; Rigatoni and, for me, Lasagna). The last was not the common, 3-5 layers stuffed with ricotta, spinach and ground beef/succhini. This was a delicate, two-layered lasagne, an elongated, open ravioli-type pasta with a sublime filling of ground beef and mozarella, covered, but not swimming, in sumptuous marinara. Another variation of one of my favourite Italian dishes-and heaven on a fork. Spumoni and Italian coffee topped off this day-early birthday meal, taken at Grapevine’s Cafe Italia, truly a hidden gem.

Tomorrow, when I actually turn 72, is a back-to-work day for Yunhee and. in the evening, a service time for me, so a Sunday celebration it was. For now, though, having followed the epicurean meal with a walk along Mill Creek, which is flowing at quite a robust level today, it is time to reflect on the past twelve months.

This was a year of catching cold, but not COVID. It was a year of planes, trains, ferries, two SUVs and a pair of Greyhound buses. Key West was followed,three months later, by L’Anse aux Meadows. A pair of drunkards, six months apart, tried to devalue me as a human being, and failed, in both cases. A couple of young ladies, two weeks apart, pointed out a blind spot in my own character-and provided a goal for the coming year: Use words, as well as expressions and gestures.

It was a year of Andersonville and the Tuskegee Airmen; Seminoles and Micmaqs; Astronauts and Vikings; down-home cooking in Whycocomagh, Crossville, Mishawaka & Oley; upscale fare at Cooks & Soldiers-and at Farm Provisions. (All of it prepared with love, so to my palate, there is no difference in satisfaction.) It was a year of Sonesta Midtown and Casa Remuda; of House of Trestles, Bikini Hostel, Gram’s Place, Quisby House; of Auberge St.Lo, Blueberry Patch Cabins, Three Bears Inn, Fair Isle Motel and Abbie’s Garden. Within the last twelve months, there appeared before me the Parthenon of Nashville, Natchez Trace, Cape Breton Highlands, Gros Morne, Big Cypress, Lake Ontario, the Overseas Highway, Marland Mansion, Craters of the Moon-and the Amitabha Stupa.

Friends came and went, but most stayed. I will miss Dharma Farm and Synergy Cafe, at least for a while-but Hiking Buddy, the Pieper family, the Prescott Cluster Baha’is, and my extended family from California to Florida, on up to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, pinging back to Idaho and Nevada-and all points in between, are a core of my being.

Of those who left this year, Kevin Locke, Jim Seals and Thich Nhat Hanh enkindled the spirit; watching Yvette Mimieux, when I was only nine, affirmed that my heart would always be drawn to girls and women, first and foremost; Nichelle Nichols and Sacheen Littlefeather showed that any typecasting of a talented human being is a fool’s errand; Mikhail Gorbachev showed that a person can redeem himself, by embracing a wider view.

There were those whose departure shrank the window on my childhood and adolescence: Harry and Gisele Surabian, Carmine Moschella, Philomena Mattei, George McCarrier. Jr., Chuck Shipulski, Danny Rossetti, Bill Warren, Ron Napolitano, Uncle Tim Lynch and Aunt Helen Connolly. Of more recent vintage, Gene Gertler, Gregory Gooch, Mona Gilstrap and my last living father figure, Jarrod Fellman each left their mark on my psyche.

There were also the hallmarks of continuity: Two friends were married on Memorial Day and a tough little boy made it into this world on November 9. I took on more crucial roles at Baha’i Unit Convention and with the Red Cross. With those, I am reminded that life surges on, and in the end, it merely changes form.

The Rain Was No Barrier

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November 26, 2022, Grapevine- We walked through the mist, which reminded me more of Honolulu than Dallas. After three days of more or less being housebound, we set out for Re:defined Coffee House, a popular hangout, at the edge of downtown Grapevine. There, we sat for nearly an hour, and discussed a game plan for the rest of the day, over coffee and small donuts.

The next stage was to go and watch the film, “Spirited”, a sit was a musical comedy, which appealed more to Yunhee. Basically, it is loosely-based on “A Christmas Carol”, by way of “Scrooged” and “Oliver!”,with a bit of time travel thrown in-because, spirits can do that. It was entertaining, but alas, would have been more meaningful to DIL, had there been Korean subtitles. In time, that will be available via streaming.

Next, was a rare mid-afternoon meal-this one at Mom’s Cafe, a Korean restaurant, in Carrollton. This was a throwback to days in the motherland, Hankook. Here were Bibimbap: Chicken and egg, with sliced spinach, carrot and mushroom, on a bed of steamed rice, served in a hot stone bowl and dressed with gochujang (hot pepper sauce); a Korean pancake, with scallion, squid meat and garlic; side dishes, such as cabbage and scallion kimchi, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, sliced fishcake;and bori cha (hot barley water). My meal came with miso, the wondrous Japanese soup that serves as a soothing digestive aid.

Finally, on the way back to Home Base II, we happened by Rockledge Park, Grapevine’s taste of the Great Lakes. It had stopped raining, so we headed out along North Shore Trail, being careful to steer clear of the slippery caliche. We walked past a small, intrepid wedding party, up along short, but well-defined sandstone ledges, reminiscent of some of the shore front I encountered, years ago, on the north side of Lake Superior. (Photos by Aram will be available for a later post, and we may return there tomorrow, in which case I will have my own camera at the ready.)

Nonetheless, Lake Grapevine, impressive when approaching DFW International Airport from the northwest, is equally fascinating on the ground. The rain did not keep us housebound.

The Next Needful Steps

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November 25, 2022, Grapevine- I). In mid-1984, while Penny and I were presenting on a Baha’i theme, at a diverse gathering of people, in Spring, TX, northwest of Houston, we were interrupted by an indignant person, who wanted to know by what authority any white people could recommend such simplistic actions as we were describing to a largely black audience.

The articulate, lovely Sharon made several valid points, not the least of which was that people become “schooled” in the experiences of their audience, before addressing issues through a lens that is not necessarily applicable to said audience. That we were taken aback by “hostility” to “a loving message” seems quaint now-after Rodney King, James Byrd, Jr., Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Breanna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other victims, beaten or killed while in various degrees of doing daily activities-and all because others were addressing issues through a lens not applicable to the presenting situation.

Penny later taught children several lessons that involved seeing through different coloured lenses. That was a good first step, and I have been left to take further steps in gaining increased awareness, applying lessons imparted in books to my daily life. As with any other aspect of life, through which I’ve stumbled, understanding and embracing people of colour is an exercise in mindfulness, translated to action.

II.) The good-natured, playful girls saw me watching their activity, in the afternoon classroom, and decided to teach a lesson of their own, by staging a staring contest. I “blinked” first, and gave them the “win”. A few weeks earlier, similar vigilance, at a different school, was described as discomfiting, by the young woman who was clearly trying to get out of doing her assignment, though for valid personal reasons.

A residual aspect of my autism leads me to observe people in a situation, often not speaking at first. This has, as indicated above, landed me in hot water, to a limited extent, over the years-with women, girls, interracial couples, gay people. I have set two goals, to be achieved sooner, rather than later: 1. Engage such people in conversation, immediately, rather than stare at them for even a few seconds. 2. Make my purpose in attending to them clear, in an articulate manner. There is nothing to be gained from being tentative or hesitant. People are not zoo animals.

Approaching the start of my seventy-third year, the next needful steps in improving my interactions with others are crystal clear. Everyone deserves to know my heart, not misinterpret my mind.

Thankfulness Is A Heart Song

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November 24, 2022, Grapevine- I remember, in years that my parents deemed “lean”, being quite happy with what had been given me on Christmas of those years. I recall being puzzled at Mom’s dismay about the quality of the gifts they had given. Life itself was quite enough, actually. All the things besides it were gravy. I told her as much.

Speaking of which, Thanksgiving 2022 is a wrap, at least the dinner part, here in DFW’s shadow. Yunhee made her first traditional American dinner, and it was stellar. Turkey, peppered mashed potatoes, cornbread dressing and cranberry sauce were a grand first effort. Korean sticky puffed rice replaced pumpkin pie and whipped cream, and is actually better for early afternoon.

I have read a couple of articles on “how to be grateful”, this morning. I most definitely agree with friend Andrea Cagan’s synopsis of gratitude (See Andrea Cagan, “Gratitude Shmatitude”, Andrea’s Writings, Thoughts and Inspiration) as best being more spontaneous, definitely not forced, or even rehearsed. Missing out on the tiny delights, from a small plant first shooting up through the soil to a child’s first steps or on the grander, a recovering patient’s doing, tentatively, what had been de rigeur prior to their mishap, is disaffirming. It is vital to one’s well-being to notice and appreciate all that life brings to the table.

When I was young, the usual lessons of “Please, Thank You and You’re Welcome” were imparted to us. One of my maternal aunts offered what I thought was a refreshing caveat- “Don’t ever fake being thankful. I, for one, will see right through it.” Therein lies the heart of true gratitude. Like love, on which it is based, gratitude is never vain or false; it is neither snide nor self-deprecating. It cannot be feigned. The flip side is, approaching life with a loving heart, one can see the value in just about anything, endure it and thus feel grateful for some element contained within it.

Life, even recovering from an illness or mourning the senseless losses of innocents to war and personal rage, contains within it the admonition to do better, to break out of the prison of self. Therein lies the greater blessing, that true thankfulness is a heart song.

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!

The Break Room

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November 23, 2022, Grapevine– There was no solace, no room to sit and get a few minutes’ rest, after standing at a register, or stocking shelves, or moving boxes from the back room. It was not to be, on that painful Tuesday night, in one of the largest cities in Virginia. It was not so, because a supervisor snapped, and forgot that his mission statement-his “job description”, the words in a manual that were supposed to give direction, no longer mattered-if they ever did.

Forgive me, if I have no sympathy for someone who takes own life, after slaughtering so many others. Murder is a choice-and one of the most heinous of choices, but you knew that. Whatever the person may have meant to others, prior to the bloodbath,has likely changed. All their loved ones’ impressions, memories and good feelings of the wanton killer are relegated to the past.

No, all of my heart goes to the victims in Chesapeake, in Colorado Springs, in Moscow(ID) and in each of the nearly 500 other locations where MASS MURDER has taken place since the Texas Towers, in 1966. Part of the blame can go to those who closed mental health facilities (to save money-never mind the lives lost), to those who fight back against keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill. In the end, though, killing is a choice. A better choice is always talking; a better choice is always pursuing one’s legitimate grievances in a non-lethal manner; a better choice is always looking, under rocks if necessary, for an advocate. None of those other choices dehumanizes or ends the life of another person.

Murder is a choice.

Cactus Flower to Yellow Rose

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November 22, 2022, Grapevine- A 1:45 a.m. wake-up, for a 3:15 shuttle, leading to a 7:15 flight from Phoenix to Dallas-Fort Worth, is not on my frequent travel schedule. It is also far from the hardest of itineraries, as I imagine any veteran of a Belem to Manaus to Leticia packet boat trip along the Amazon, or a joyride from Punta Arenas to the Ross Peninsula, or even a trek to the summit of one of the great peaks of the Himalaya, Andes or Northern Rockies, would attest.

It is, however, something I have mastered, along with nine other travelers, who joined me in packing a van that made it in perfect time, from the campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (where a twenty-minute search of three stops yielded the two travelers sought.) There was scant traffic, once two more passengers boarded the shuttle, in Prescott Valley and Groome’s driver got us to Sky Harbor on time.

Other than a few uptight, suspicious people in an airport coffee shop, and in my row on the plane itself, there were no hiccups between Phoenix and my secondary home. I retrieved my luggage fairly quickly and took my first ride in a Tesla. The car is not quirky; I’ll say that much, and the time may well come when the brand has no more association with Fascism than does a Volkswagen. It rides very smoothly.

Now it’s time to relax, get rid of the rest of the cold that has bothered me-along with 3/4 of the people I know in Arizona- and bask in my little family’s presence.

A Non-Starter

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November 21, 2022- Both of us are respectful of electricity and its power, being careful to avoid mishandling the pair of battery jumper cables. Friend was glad to hand off the task of attaching the cables cables to me. I did so, easily enough, but when I started Sportage and tried the same with the problem vehicle- crickets. As a “door is ajar” warning sound continued to ding, even when all doors were closed, I suspect a short in the wiring. I gave friend a ride to a place of lodging, and he will resume dealing with the matter tomorrow morning, hopefully with help from his insurance carrier.

This was nearly the last task to occupy me today, before my flight to Dallas, early Tuesday. The day mostly consisted of accompanying a 10-year-old student from one class to another. She is soft-spoken around adults, but is very much independent and seemingly in charge of her disability, rather than the other way around. The day went well, and her teacher asked me to consider taking on the task full-time. While it might be better for a younger, female paraprofessional to do the job day-to-day, I am not ruling it out for the second semester.

The last task was to conduct a Baha’i study of social action formulae. We came close to finishing the unit, but my purpose is to generate meaningful discourse, which indeed came out of our study of three sections. leaving two to examine, next Monday evening. This will mean my birthday dinner will be an early event, which I prefer anyway.

After a bit of packing for tomorrow, it was early to bed- with joy at a productive day.