Single- Track Through Paradise

10

May 28, 2017, Cave Creek-

I have now gone from one point of angels to another, meaning from Superior to Cave Creek, via Globe and the Apache Trail.  This road (AZ Highway 88) is mostly single track, offering enough room for vehicles heading one way to pass, whilst those going in the opposite direction wait their turn.  It’s good for people to do this, at least a few times in their lives.  I last drove the AT, in 1983, with Penny in tow.  She was petrified and made me promise never to bring her there again. Today, she and my other spirit-minders made sure I paid close attention.  With scenes like the one below, it might not have been so easy, had my main focus not been on the well-being of everyone on the road, including yours truly.  Fortunately, there were also plenty of turn-outs.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

There are two lakes along the Apache trail, between Roosevelt Dam and Goldfield. Here is a view of Apache Lake.  When I taught at Villa-Oasis School, in the late 1970’s, this was one of the places groups of kids were sent for camping weekends.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Imagine how the Salt River must have flowed, before these reclamation projects took root.

At Fish Creek Hill, I drove up a 10% grade, made doable by the dryness of the road, and the cautious courtesy of all comers.  One is rewarded at the top, by  amazing views of the Superstition Wilderness.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Fish Creek Canyon looks like a fun place to hike and camp- in November.

I drove on, and found the pavement had resumed, about 1 1/2 miles west of the overlook.  So did one young man behind me, who chose to pass, on a double yellow line, in a 15-MPH curve zone.  The look on the face of the driver who had to stop and wait for him was classic.  I would not want to be on approaching driver’s bad side. Itchy Foot was the only one who broke courtesy, on the 44-mile drive.

I stopped at Tortilla Flat, a small tourist haven, close to Lost Dutchman State Park, in the heart of the Superstition Wilderness.  Siphon  Draw and Boulder Canyon are two popular hiking trails, accessible from Tortilla Flat.  Again, late Fall and early Spring are the best times for this area.  Tortilla Flat does offer a wide variety of cool treats, and I thoroughly enjoyed a sarsaparilla float.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Back in  1900’s Arizona,, sidewalks, and even some roads, were made of planks.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Having had a nice relaxing break, I headed on towards Apache Junction, then up through the Valley, to pay my Memorial Day respects to Penny.

There is one more attraction on the Apache Trail, before one gets to Goldfield (another, slightly more upgraded “ghost town”),  This is Canyon Lake.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Each of the lakes and vista points along the Apache Trail is worth a day or two, in comfortable weather.  People, nonetheless, go there, even in the heat of summer, at least where there is water.  Looking back, I spent most of my summer days in and around water, as a child and young adult, so the appeal is a no-brainer.  It beats being inside.

I stopped at the Cemetery, anchored Penny’s flag, and one other, and thought of how fortunate I’ve been, with her presence, since 1980, and since 2011.

As I pulled up to Local Jonny’s, a lovely young woman, who seemed to be an advanced medical or law student, given her heavy briefcase, was securing her dog’s leash to the gatepost.  There weren’t many inside, so  Alicia was  glad I stopped in, and in ten minutes, I had the last of her pitcher of iced tea and a cilantro chicken salad was placed in front of me.  Jonny’s salads are good for two meals, so I have Monday’s lunch in my cooler, as the drive back to Prescott begins.

Having angels surrounding me, in all directions, including above, is a comforting state of affairs.  Oh, and an e-mail from the chief of department leaves the door to my staying in Prescott ajar, at least.

 

 

 

 

Sixty-Six for Sixty Six, Part XX: Genuineness and Imposture

6

April 1, 2017, Superior, AZ-  I returned, briefly, to this roughly beautiful little town, at the edge of central Arizona’s Queen Creek Gorge, to partake of the Gorge’s eastern flank, popularly known as Devil’s Canyon, (I prefer “Spirit Canyon”), and a sandwich, coffee and butterscotch brownie prepared by a friend, Kathy, at Sun Flour Market.

She and the market’s owner, Willa, are prime examples of people who make everyone entering their enterprise feel genuinely welcome, like royalty.  They work hard, as well, and their efforts show: The place was hopping, despite the relatively quiet Main Street.

I don’t take photographs of people at work, or of random customers, but these are scenes from Sun Flour’s interior, including Willa’s Easter Tree.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I have spoken before, of places where I feel safe.  This establishment is another such place.  I consider the ladies as friends, who love their spouses, AND have intensely caring hearts, when it comes to people in general.  The Easter Tree is a nod to the children, whose parents bring them in, regularly, on Saturdays.  You might note some Easter dresses, to the left of the tree.  While I was there, a little girl talked her parents into buying one of the dresses.  Needless to say, Sun Flour Market will see me, whenever I’m in the area.

I mention imposture, in the title, as well.  I pondered, a great deal, whilst hiking in the canyon, after lunch, as to my own state of being.  Friends will say that I am a genuine soul, and I am honoured by that.  There are plenty of others, including several family members, who would say otherwise, and I have to live with that.  My own personal jury is still out, on the matter.

Most such self-ambivalence stems from work.  Going back to when I first entered the workforce, there were supervisors, like Phil Mitchell, Bob Powers and Sgt. Dave Cummings (United States Army), who saw my rough edges and used whatever sand paper they had available, to turn me into a fairly decent worker.  Fast forward to the late seventies and early eighties, men like Peter Webb, Dr. Mike Duff, and the late Patrick Giovanditto also helped me hone my skills, often ignoring objections from less compassionate supervisors.  My colleagues at Jeju National University, in Korea, were uniformly supportive of my work, during the five years I served as a trainer of English teachers.  Back in the States, in the 1990’s, I got support and encouragement from Eugene Charley and A.T. Sinquah, whilst serving as a school counselor.  Truth be known, many students, teachers and parents also believed in my abilities- far more than I believed in myself.  The people with whom I worked last Spring, at Prescott High School, remain advocates, as well.  These were the people who could see inside my heart.

The people I mentioned above are counteracted, to a great degree, by the majority of those under whom I have worked, including my current supervisors.  Their negative opinions, unfortunately, only bring me back to a state of doubt.  None of them have been able to see inside my heart.  My own vision, often cloudy, requires constant cleansing and refocusing.  All I know is that the safe zones in my world are what make such recovery possible.  Perhaps some day, my work place will be a similar place.  For the next eight weeks, though, I do the best I can, with six of my eight students as beacons of light.

 

Matthew

8

October 6, 2016, Prescott

Far from here,

mothers slog through the water-logged

streets of Les Cayes and Petit-Goave,

carrying their babies,

to shacks on higher ground.

Their own shanties are now home

to snakes and vermin,

which can better thrive

in a watery place.

An American expatriate,

yesterday lay on the beach

at West End, Grand Bahama.

Today, he sits on his cot,

in a Bahamian Red Cross shelter,

wondering about his faithful dog.

A Cuban woman, dazedly wandering

the streets of Baracoa,

remembers the day

when Pope Francis blessed her.

“What is he thinking”, she wonders,

“about the most powerful storm

to hit Cuba, in decades?”

In Fort Lauderdale,

the image of the Governor

appears on a TV screen.

“Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate”,

he says, as the storm of the century,

plods on- over Lake Wales and Apopka.

In Virginia’s Tidewater,

a young mother gathers her family’s

necessities, for the third time this year.

Matthew has brought water, debris and mud,

change agent that he is.

 

 

Interruption

4

July 10, 2016, Newtown, CT-  In my subsequent posts, I will be doing a bit of time-reversal, focusing on stories of my journey, from last week.  Today, though, I found myself in the predicament of having to put my Nissan in the shop, here in this town that is associated with tragedy.  The engine was smoking, the radiator might have sprung a leak or two, and the coolant overflow tank definitely needs replacing.  I will deal with these things.  It may take two or three days, but I will handle it.

In the meantime, I will be in a hotel room, in nearby Bethel.  This will give me plenty of time to read and write.  I will reflect on the fact that, just three days ago, a mechanic at a Nissan dealership, in a town about 50 miles from here,  replaced the front exhaust pipe, which he said was clogged, with no mention of a radiator problem, or an oil leak. I will converse with one of my closest friends, about whatever cash flow system can be set up, to streamline the payment part of this whole process.  I will write about the things I’ve seen and people whose company I have enjoyed, up to this point.  I will catch up on my reading.

All the while, I will reflect on the lives of the 26 people who paid the ultimate sacrifice, four years ago, this December.  I might lose a car, and have to get another one, but it is a machine.  Most of those who died at Sandy Hook Elementary were just starting out in life.  Being actually killed was the furthest thing from their minds.  That is no longer the case, for many children and their loving adults- both familial and pedagogical.  They look over their shoulders, literally and figuratively, every day.

Ironically, I was going to stop at Sandy Hook, and pay my respects, after gassing up at the  Mobil station, in Newtown.  The consensus, while I was waiting for the tow truck, was that Nissan wasn’t going anywhere.  I, on the other hand, will go where this turn of events takes us;  Me, the car or its replacement, and any who appear in the meantime.

Nature’s Terror

2

May 7. 2016, Prescott- Today is a rare kick-back day.  I did saunter down to our Saturday market, which is now back in my neighbourhood, until October.  The fresh produce will go into a Spring soup, once I pick up some organic meat at Trader Joe’s.  I also met some of the market’s other regulars, from last year.  It’s a lot more relaxed around here, than it was then.

Thinking of taking a short hike, I encountered rain that was serious enough to send me back inside.  Studying maps and reading took up the time, instead.  I have an inkling to go down to Prescott Valley, this evening, and join a group of friends who are attending a spiritual rock concert.

Our little Drum Circle thumped and chanted, last night, for, among other things, relief for Fort McMurray, Alberta.  It is a city of about 85,000 people, now mostly evacuated, due to the worst forest fire in North America, since our own Indian Fire, of 2002.  The fact that people were evacuated northward, then they ran out of food, is especially frightening.  Now, they have to somehow be brought out of harm’s way, and there was no safe route, as of this morning.  With all the tar sands nearby, the place may be extra incendiary.

I know that Canada, as a nation, is up to the horrific challenge- and as a North American, I will offer any support that the people request.  This is why we do best not to quibble about the inconsequential.

Seismic

9

April 21, 2016, Prescott-  I have been thinking, a lot, about the recent flurry of earthquakes that have caused so much destruction in places like Manta, Ecuador and Kumamoto, Japan.  on our turbulent planet, quakes seem to come and go in series, but the truth is, Earth is never still.

Some react to these events by issuing stern warnings about the “Big One”.  Others, and I include myself in this category, have been rather “business as usual”, in that regard.  I don’t feel like anything humongous, other than at a relatively local level, is going to happen, any time soon.  I have an emergency bag at the ready, but that has as much to do with living at the edge of a dry forest, as it is about getting ready to flee a broken coastline.

Nonetheless, there is only so much turbulence that our resilient planet can handle, so the question begs:  How seriously do we take the prophecies of doom?

My Life Thus Far: Lessons Learned from “The Aughts”

5

March 11, 2016, Prescott- Today’s been rather a fine day.  The AARP Tax-Aid Center did the honours, this year, and I gauged things properly, as it happens.  It was a fine thing to watch a noble send-off for Nancy Reagan.  Shortly, I will head to a Spaghetti Dinner/ Drum Circle, at the home of some Chino Valley friends.

I want to address the single most challenging decade of my life, a bit differently than I have the others.  The high points/low points are getting a bit tedious, and I have mentioned people and places in the heart, to the point of repetition.

The major feature of any time of great challenge is: “What have you learned?”  Here goes:

2000:  1.  Pundits make poor prognosticators.  2.  The wealthy can be quite down-to-Earth, especially when hosting. 3.  Taking a southern route doesn’t always result in avoiding snow.

2001:  1.  Troubled people can sometimes network, and bring about calamity.  In fact, they can be very surreptitious about it. (Mingus Mountain Academy, February and the Wayward Planes, September).  2.  No matter how shattering a calamity in my life, I will find a way forward. (Forced out of work one day, in a new job three days later.)

2002:  1.  Everyone’s child is precious.(In this horrific year of assaults and kidnappings of girls, this was especially vividly accented.) 2.  Girls can be spot-on, in getting the drop on their abductors (Think Kyla Pratt, Philadelphia and the two teens in Los Angeles). 3.  Just because the landlord says so, doesn’t make it so. (Mid-lease attempt to up our pet rent was shot down by the City of Phoenix.)

2003: 1. Never take your eyes off someone so precious (Penny fell, when I was momentarily distracted by talking to another friend). 2.  No matter how noble an effort one is making to save others, focus on family first. (She fell a second time, while I was occupied with fighting serious bad actors on the Internet. This time, the gig was up and her decline began.) 3.  Honouring one’s elders is always a good thing. (Mom’s 75th was a bright spot, in this dark year. 4.  Working close to home is not always the best course of action. (Palo Verde Middle School)

2004:  1.  People are beginning to feel a disconnect with government, even down to the lowest level, i.e. school administrators. (The parent of a white student, who felt victimized by a black classmate, voiced the sense she was being dismissed out of hand, by the principal, at the school where I was working.) 2.  There is, related to that, a serious gap in communication, between different population groups. 3.  Never take a job, out of expedience.

2005:  1.  People, who are uncomfortable with physical disability, are not above bending the truth, or exaggerating, to get rid of a disabled employee.  2.  There is magic,still, in a full formal wedding, set in the mountains. (My eldest niece was married in the Mount Washington Hotel.) 3.  Justice, deferred, is still justice. ( A Justice of the Peace, who ignored the testimony of a deputy sheriff, in favour of well-connected people, who caused the accident that totaled Penny’s car, was himself removed from the bench, by the Superior Court, six months after having fined my wife.)

2006: 1.  As excruciating as it is, for the person being retired, there are some people who do their level best to offer a dignified retirement to a disabled worker. (Penny’s retirement was achieved in dignity, thanks to school district office personnel.) 2.  The advancement of knowledge is always amazing. (She moved on, and began working on her third Master’s Degree.) 3.  Having pride in one’s child graduating in summer is perfectly natural, and essential. (On his 18th birthday, our son showed that persistence was part of his nature, as well.  We honoured him fully.)

2007:  1. Putting together a Virtual Field Trip is an amazing experience.  (We flew to Atlanta, attended my oldest nephew’s wedding, then drove to various places, between Atlanta and Saugus, taking photos along the way. These were part of Penny’s technology education project.)  2.  Even the most reserved family members come through, in a pinch. (My taciturn sister-in-law put together a lovely 25th anniversary gathering for us and Penny’s gruff brother-in-law repaired her rickety wheelchair.  We got it replaced, once back to Arizona.)  3.  Driving in the pouring rain is probably not the best practice session for a teen driver. (The poor girl was in tears, after pulling out in front of me, on a South Carolina highway.  No harm was done, except maybe to her confidence.  The man in the passenger seat didn’t look very happy, perhaps a stern father.)

2008:  1.  Arrogance can lead to overreaction. (The CEO of an automotive design company busted out laughing, at a poorly-designed electric car prototype, offered by an environmental action student group to which Penny belonged.)  2.  Even in a period of declining health, the mind can accomplish great things. (Penny completed most of her coursework by December.)  3.  Honesty always leads to vindication, when coupled with persistence and attention to detail, even if it takes a while. (A school worker was rough with a Kindergartner, then embellished a tale about me, when I comforted the girl.  I voluntarily took a leave of absence, but was vindicated, after three weeks.  The other person was terminated.)

2009:  1.  Even mental health workers can have a blind spot, when it comes to the disabled and their families. (I was let go, after three months, because of “conflict”  between my work for the agency and being Penny’s caretaker.  I found out later that it was all about my not generating revenue for the agency.) 2.  Driving, cross-country, with a disabled passenger was slowly getting easier, rest-room wise.  More states allowed opposite-sex caretakers to go with their disabled person into the restroom, and several were starting to install Caretaker-friendly “Family” restrooms. (We had a relatively easy trip, to and from my third nephew’s wedding.) 3.  If acting as caretaker, do take time for one’s own well-being.  The greater selfishness comes from pretending that one must be full-on, 24/7. 4.  Never, ever, try to outpace credit card debt by just pulling more money out of investment funds. (Yes, we ended the year in Chapter 7.) 5.  Most importantly, when given a major task, involving a loved one, see it through, no matter the obstacles.

The decade ended with me still substitute-teaching, Penny having earned, and received, her third Master’s Degree, and she increasingly spending more time asleep than awake. As those who followed me, then, on Xanga and Facebook will recall, there would be 14 more months of struggle and decline.  The decade which followed, and which is now  well past half-finished, would sharply distinguish between light and shadow.

 

San Bernardino

10

December 2, 2015, Chino Valley-  I was involved in overseeing a series of lessons, holiday song practice and the making of decorations for our classroom.  Then, there was the pilfering of a math test master copy, which did the thief no good, as I simply switched to Format B, for tomorrow’s assessment.

Then came news of the latest horror, the killing of 14 people in San Bernardino.  I have been through the Inland Empire many times, most recently visiting nearby Riverside, whose downtown I find quite enjoyable.  I have only driven through the edges of San Bernardino, and my feelings for the place have been mainly vicarious compassion and concern.  I was worried during the serial arsons of 1980-1, when it appeared someone was dedicated to taking out as much of the city as possible.  During the Big Bear hostage-taking and murders, a few years back, I felt an ominous twinge, that the shooter might bust out of the resort town, and engage in further mayhem, down the mountain.

Today’s events, unfortunately, come as no surprise.  “Berdoo”, as some have called it, has always presented itself to me as a city on edge.  The shopkeepers and wait staff in area restaurants have seemed to be of shorter tempers than in other parts of the I.E., and certainly other parts of California.   The city has its charms, and it would be a fine thing if those were accented.

Now, however, we see another dark day, shaking the calm that had started to set in, a few days after the carnage in Colorado Springs.  I always feel we need, as a nation and as a species, to close ranks around the suffering, and most definitely in both of the most recent episodes.  No city, no community, should have to hang its head in shame, and no place ought to feel abandoned by its neighbours, or by the rest of humanity.

As the answers come forward, regarding the reasons behind this latest attack, let us tell San Bernardino:  “It’s going to be alright.  America is with you, and the nation will not forget this day- anymore than we would forget the terrible anniversary coming up:  Sandy Hook.”

Giving Tuesday

11

December 1, 2015, Chino Valley-  I received exactly 156 requests for money today.  Mot of them were online.  I gave modest amounts to three charities.  That the Solicitation Industry is alive and well is more than a cliche.  Need is great, and I have to figure out a meaningful way to help some destitute friends, yet, before the month gets too old.  Said friends are across the country, and anything I do for them will only be a token, but so be it.

There have been times when I looked homelessness and extreme cold in the face, and got through it, with help from both stranger and friend, as well as through my own resources.  Institutionalized help does do a lot of good, but there is always the Administrative factor, which includes salaries for the staff.  I would strongly advise http://www.charitynavigator.org, in that regard.

It has been quite cold here, the past three days, and my Nissan complained mightily this evening, before starting up and getting me to a friend’s house, for a short visit.  Yes, my car could take a considerable chunk of my resources, yet.  That is something we all have faced, from time to time.  I may have to get an old blanket to put over the engine at night, on days to come, just as my father did a few times, in the New England Decembers and Januaries of old.

Thus has the final month of 2015, and my first full month of 65, begun.

The Road to 65, Mile 350: What Paris Taught Me

8

November 13, 2015, Phoenix- I spent a good part of the day here, taking my third and last Elementary Certification Test.  While my day, to and from this bustling city, was peaceful, Paris’s Friday was the opposite.  DASH, or IS, or whatever the relics of medievalism call themselves, cast the City of Light in mayhem and blood.

With 129, or more, innocent people slaughtered, I am on my knees in homage to the great city, which welcomed me in June, 2014.  My adulthood has been late in blooming, and Paris gave me some key lessons, in that regard.

I learned:  Two very different places, within the same city, can have the same, or very similar names.  So, I trudged up the hill, to beautiful Montmartre, only to have a tourist office clerk patiently explain that my hotel would be found on Rue de Montmartre- down the hill, in central Paris.

I learned that French people can be quite annoyed with a visitor’s foibles, yet still provide fine service- this at my hotel, and again at the France Pass counter, in the west train station.

I learned that, even if one is slightly less than punctual, a tour guide is willing to take one into the group- once.  I didn’t chance being a few minutes late, the second time, though.

I learned that I was fully capable of catching, and dodging, the various ruses used by the “Gold Ring Grifters” and the subway “Card Swipers” (whose “service” consisted of swiping one subway ticket through the card reader, in hopes of a 200 Euro tip.)

I learned that Paris, with all its majesty, its splendour, its sheer humanity, has room for one more, regardless of background, status or appearance.  I also learned that its Metro cars are not like those of Tokyo.  There are no pushers, cramming people in.  On the Metro, the one more must often wait for the next train.

Still and all, when I return to Paris, perhaps in the summer of 2018, or five years hence, I will find a welcoming presence, expecting one who is a bit wiser in the ways of La Luminee.  We shall not disappoint each other.  I feel your sorrow, your pain, mon coeur.