The Hotel Project, Day 5

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September 29, 2020, Dallas-

The young mother pushed her son’s stroller up to where I was standing, and matter-of-factly asked me to hold her clean laundry, when it comes back tomorrow, as she was headed to her hometown, to tend to a family emergency. She will return on Thursday or Friday.

We are approaching the midpoint in this effort, and yes, people are moving out of the hotel and on towards salvaging their possessions, their livelihoods and their lives. It will be a rocky process for most, and as one gentleman reminded us, this afternoon, we volunteers, as hard as we are working now, will soon head back to lives of relative comfort. Those hit by three successive storms will, in many cases, have no such respite.

This team is far more comprised of multiple generations, than the Strike Team with whom I worked in Alexandria. I find it most gratifying. Half of the team here is comprised of Millennials, giving the lie to arguments that the younger generations have no cache in solving the problems of society. The ideas and observations of our younger teammates equal their energy, in value.

We shall overcome-and so shall the victims of the storms.

Jargon and Cross-Purposes

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September 24, 2020, Dallas-

I came here, this afternoon, to begin two weeks of deployment with the Red Cross, this time mainly helping clients who were displaced by three storms: Laura, Sally and Beta. They are staying in hotels, so our efforts are in the lobbie sof some of Dallas’s larger chain hotels. The Hilton, Hyatt, Wyndham and Marriott chains are earning their stripes, these past few weeks and for the near future.

I have spent a good part of the afternoon, at Dallas-Fort Worth Inetrnational Airport, bickering back and forth with Uber’s IT department and finance office. When IT finally cleared me, Finance stuck its foot out and, with the use of jargon and God-knows-what payment model, determined that my bank accounts were insufficient to meet a $ 26 tab. (They were not insufficient and aren’t now, either.)

Such are the vagaries of communicating only by smart phone. Tabs that are easy to locate on a PC do not exist on a phone. Looping is also more prevalent on a cell phone than on a PC or I-Pad. This is not the phone maker’s fault, but that of the website designers who choose not to add the same buttons to the phone that are on their PC applications. I know this, because my banks and this Social Medium,as well as others, have the smae buttons on their phone apps as on their computer apps.

It is a challenge, when businesses that depend on the consumer act at cross purposes with themselves, as well as with their prospective customers.

The good news is that a proactive taxi driver benefitted from Uber’s foolishness and I enjoyed a fine meal of Hawaiian Poke at a nice little establishment called Lemon Shark, not far from my abode of the next two weeks.

Self or Others?

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September 23, 2020-.

I was in a group session on Monday evening, in which the question was posed, as to whether it is more crucial to care for oneself or to care for others.

The short answer to the title question is: Both. Actually, anything one does for oneself usually impacts others, and vice versa. This is especially true if one is reflective and maintains a consistent presence, in any given activity.

I have two socially-responsible lines of activity: Substitute teaching, which I did yesterday and Disaster Response, which I will resume tomorrow. A flight to Dallas, via Denver, early tomorrow morning, will begin my second Red Cross deployment, in a month. Two weeks will be spent in “Big D”, purportedly in providing assistance to those still being sheltered after Hurricanes Laura, Sally and Beta. Much of the sheltering happens after the full-on storm has left, and the floods/power outages make life continually unpleasant.

The activities in which I am involved are impacted by my beliefs. ‘Abdu’l-Baha exhorts us: “Be fair to yourselves and to others, that the evidences of justice may be revealed, through your deeds, among Our faithful servants.” It was ingrained in me, long before I became a Baha’i, to consider the needs of others, in lieu of indulging myself. That has remained, by and large, a guidepost in my life. I would have to , of course, acknowledge critics who say “Wait, you weren’t very nice to ME, not so long ago” or “I remember when …….” The goal, however, remains the same-and none of us walks on water.

So, as with my earlier deployment to Louisiana, by way of Beaumont, the needs of others will be far ahead of my own needs-this being the essence of Disaster Response.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 14: Equinox, 2020

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September 22, 2020-

The day of equal amounts of light and darkness has come just a tad later, this year. It’s just as well-too many things have been dumped on us, without warning, the first three seasons of this earthshaking year.

For me, autumn has ever been my favourite season, being the time of my birth. Gradual cooling and the vividness of colours have energized my being, after the increasingly extreme heat of summer, as much fun as the season just past brings with it. Bracing for the season of earth’s rest, that is winter, and the eventual promise of spring, makes “Fall” a most purposeful time, as well.

A few sprinkles fell, in our area, yesterday afternoon, as I was returning from a dental appointment, in Phoenix. My time in the Salt River Valley is limited, by choice, especially when temperatures remain in triple digits. Here in Prescott, we may expect temps in the 80s, until about mid-October. It may or may not rain, on any given day, though the National Weather Service rather lazily just pushes the button that says Sunny, as a default, most days. I imagine budget cuts and executive fiat may have something to do with that-as with the Post Office and FDA.

We all make choices, and as Penny would say-“You get all that comes with those choices.” She always made her own decisions, though asked what I thought, matter-of-factly, before doing so. Conversely, she expected me to do the same, and, after a previous life of bullheadedness and unilateral decisions, many not very well-made, I learned the wisdom of consultation.

I think of the above, as the inevitable debate about the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and HER choices, ensues, this still being America. I disagreed, vehemently, with her take on abortion-though the role of men in that matter is largely one that ought to be performed LONG BEFORE any plug is pulled. Those men who raise their daughters, support their sisters and value their mothers, in the girls and women making their own INFORMED choices, are doing their jobs well. Those who downplay the intelligence and capabilities of the females among them, and pretend this is merely a man’s world, should not be surprised by anything at all that happens, as a result. Many, if not most, of the fetuses that have ended up aborted, (and whose souls no doubt greet those who aborted them, in the hereafter), would likely have either not been conceived in the first place, or would have been given an alternate path to life, had their mothers been raised in a place of love, empowerment and security.

The other real sticking point I had with RBG was her, take on “In God we trust”, which she saw as antiquated. I respectfully decline that observation. The Eternal cannot be so lightly dismissed, even in the name of free expression. In the end, though, “God hath no need of His creatures”; it’s very much the other way around.

Autumn plans? Well, I am spending today working with a Special Needs child. My Red Cross on-call status renews, tomorrow. During Fall Break, 10/12-16, I may go off on a sojourn, somewhere else in the West-and ditto for Veterans’ Day and Thanksgiving/ 70th birthday weekend. In any case, days and nights will remain productive and largely other-centered. (More on that topic, tomorrow).

Fortnight of Transition, Day 13: The Fallacy of Convenience

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September 21, 2020-

A person who I have been helping to get an economic enterprise started recently sent a message, to the effect that he was sorry to inconvenience me as the message came while I was busy with something else.

He need not have been apologetic, as few people know with what activity I am engaged,at any given moment. So, it falls to me to explain myself a bit, to people of good will, that they not feel they are being intrusive.

Many of us have based our plans, our actions, our policies and our very communities on the concept of convenience. Many of the inventions that have come about, over the past 150 years, are designed to make life easier. To a great extent, that’s a good thing, in that people may have a shot at improved hygiene, more time to focus on the other people in their lives, and thus, enjoy a heightened quality of life.

Convenience as a goal for the few, however, rings hollow. The reason is, simply put, that the convenience enjoyed by one, or by a several, is not readily transferable to a sizable number of the Earth’s population-at least as yet. Those who are still making a gargantuan effort to rise up, out of a threadbare existence, cannot possibly understand why it is “necessary” for someone to own three, or six, homes. A person in Africa, just starting in life, may, with good reason, look askance at an older person in a prosperous community, who has no time for conversation-because he’s going out sailing or has to finish the fifth course of dinner.

What brings convenience to one, if it brings destitution or suffering to another, is a falsehood. I have said, in other places, that hunger and starvation, in this day and age, are largely failures of distribution. In Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a growing pecentage of the populace are well-fed, and the rulers include many who are obese. In Yemen, a fairly short distance from those two countries, a growing number of people are on the verge of starving to death. An effort at correcting the errors in distribution of food and medicine, rather than on punishing the people for their dubious leadership’s alliances with a perceived enemy, would go far towards saving the Yemenis, with their hollowed eyes and protruding rib cages. This state of affairs is mirrored in many places, large and small, across the globe.

The scene of the privileged, watching with blank expressions or annoyed at intrusions, while the suffering come into their filed of vision, calls out convenience for what it is- a falsehood, until the day when the hurt of one truly is internalized as the hurt of all.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 11: Hacked

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September 19, 2020, Sedona-

As I sat on a small couch, in Synergy Coffee and Tea House, on the west side of this fascinating, if rather insular, town, I learned that my Facebook account had been hacked. Someone whined, “This always happens to you!” (Actually, this it the first time it’s happened, since 2011.) Maybe the individual has me confused with someone else.

Hacking usually happens when someone who is bored or lonely gets a video on screen and “just has to share it with all their friends!” I found myself in an unguarded moment, not wanting to hurt Ms. Lonely Heart’s feelings, and clicked on something I normally would ignore. After changing my password, and answering about twenty-seven pings on Messenger, I have put the matter to rest-and will leave all the Lonely Hearts (male and female) to deal with their hackers in a similar manner.

Speaking of lonely hearts, I spent much of the late afternoon listening to a single mother unload her sorrow and anger at what she perceives as a community that dumps on single mothers-and parents of small children, in general. While she finds Flagstaff to be worse, in that regard, her disappointment in Sedona is palapable. When she left, I pondered this matter, whilst myself enjoying dinner at a Mexican restaurant, within walking distance of Synergy. I saw several families, out and about, along with a sizable crowd, of mostly people my age and older, conducting a vigil for the late Supreme Court Associate Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Moms and Dads were indulging their sons and daughters with cheeseburgers and fries, or with gelato treats. Families enjoying life together, as they do in any community.

The cry of the needy is very often not heard, in a society that styles itself “Busy, productive, acheivement-oriented”. I had a short, but spirited, conversation with a couple of 40-something developers, who were bemoaning how hard it was to make money building in this area. I pointed out that, without a guaranteed water supply, successful building is a chimera. They brushed that aside with the “Field of Dreams” mantra:
‘If we build it, they will come.’ Time will tell-though, as Groucho Marx once said, “You can get stucco! Oh, how you can get stuck-o.”

So, in the small hangout that features caffeinated drinks, hemp products and artisan chocolate/cacao treats, both sadness and testosterone-fueled hubris were in abundance, at different points during my visit. The overworked owner had broken free, for her own evening of relaxation, elsewhere. In her absence, a mostly male group of musicians gathered, and began playing around 10 p.m.

I’m all about balance, and peaceful energy, and so left the boisterous, insular group of men behind and prepared for a quiet, calm ride back to Prescott.

There was one other, curious aspect to this evening. An engaging forty-ish woman, in talking about circumstances, asked about my current status. I replied that I am old enough to be her father and that I am essentially just into establishing friendships with people. She honoured that, while saying that age means little-it’s the energy that matters.

I think that anyone can be as connected, or as lonely, as one chooses. It’s harder in some communities than in others, but time will tell.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 10: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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September 18, 2020-

A major voice in the cause of women making their own choices, right or wrong, was stilled today. It didn’t make any difference to her WHAT the choice was, necessarily, so long as the outcome was not dictated to the woman by a man.

We needed Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as long as we had her among us. Eventually, even those women who greeted news of her death with mockery and derision will recognize that their own reactions, strangely, are in a way reflective of the late Justice’s life’s work. They came up with their own ultraconservative tirades-rather than just parroting the men in their lives.

Getting back to her achievements- I am greatly in favour of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I am not in favour of widespread promotion of abortion. The procedure should be safe, legal and very, very rare. Alternatives, though, need to be presented, clearly and consistently. I am most in favour of equal pay for equal work, and having worked alongside many women, over the years, I have seen plenty of equal work-and much that is superior.

Because of Justice Ginsburg’s early legal work, I, as a widower, have been able to receive Social Security Disablility Insurance Survivor’s Benefits, since my wife, Penny, passed in 2011. She stood squarely in favour of women being breadwinners. She stood squarely in favour of women being in the military-leading an effort that saw Virginia Military Institute, once a cornerstone of the Confederacy, agree to accept female cadets.

She stood up for a thirteen-year-old Arizona student, who had been forced to submit to a strip search (albeit only in the presence of female staff). Her male colleagues agreed that this was a miscarriage of justice. That act, alone, earned her my undying admiration.

She was a pioneer in the reference to international law, in some U.S. Court cases. She was also a true believer in the aisle as a mere passageway: Her best friend on the Court was Justice Antonin Scalia, with whom she shared a love of opera and of fine dining.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, rest in power.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 9: Glow of a Super New Moon

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September 17, 2020

If anyone had mentioned the above term to me, when I was a kid, I’d have rolled my eyes. Everyone knew that a New Moon was invisible to the naked eye, so how could it be “super”. The explanation turns out to be: If the new moon is at its closest approach to Earth, in a month, it is a Super New Moon. So it is with this New Moon, and will be with the next two.

Under this New Moon, lots of things are happening. The “pop-up” hurricane, Sally, dumped a lot of rain-several feet, on Mobile and Pensacola, and brought with it a storm surge that, among other things, washed away a replica of the Columbian ship, Pinta.

I have seen a disturbing video, purporting to show Mr. Biden inappropriately touching a little girl, while her family members were distracted. There is a voiceover, “narrating” the scene, and sounding remarkably like some of the Bots who “narrated” the stuff about Pizzagate. Uncle Joe may, or may not have, pinched the little girl, in a sensitive area. It’s hard to tell from the video, but she was uncomfortable and moved away, right after the contact. As with all such videos, while I take the comments with several grains of salt, (Any video can be doctored or altered.), I know that, with people of a certain age, patting, or slapping, a girl on the buttocks is seen as an act of endearment. I am disgusted by such behaviour, though. The whole culture of NOT seeing children, teenagers or even grown women, as full human beings is something that can’t fade away fast enough. This video was taken five years ago, but still- Mr. Biden needs to acknowledge the issue and make some serious changes to how he is perceived. At the same time, his misbehaviour can’t become a Right-Wing trope. His opponent, after all, is hardly a paragon of virtue.

The whole concept of good forest management is being raised-especially with regard to the Oregon fires. It is not enough to simply blame Climate Change-especially when arsonists are to blame, for at least three of the fires. If the First Nations could maintain good forest management practices, well before Europeans arrived on this continent, modern man can certainly do the same.

Around here, a house burned down in nearby Prescott Valley-the huge cloud of black smoke suggests that a vehicle was parked in the garage that burned.

COVID numbers are up, just a bit, in Arizona-attributable, it is suggested, to Labor Day weekend. I worked in two schools this week, and saw a good deal less than high attendance. Reportedly, a second wave of the virus has hit parts of Europe and, as expected, it’s worse than the first outbreak. August is vacation month on the Continent, so maybe that has a lot to do with this.

In the meantime, I am getting my rest while I can, and fully expect to be deployed, somewhere, with the Red Cross, either Tuesday or shortly thereafter.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 8: Remaining Worthy

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September 16, 2020-

As the natural afflictions that are challenging us ramp up in both number and severity, my ties to the Red Cross are growing both in frequency of appeals and in complexity. A side effect of this is that I am likely to be out of town more often, after next Monday.

Only a dental appointment is keeping me here, as it is, but that’s one of those things that will keep me around, on this earthly plane, a bit longer. So, as Thomas Sowell says, “It’s a trade-off.” Check-ups head off trouble at the pass.

Coming and going from town, regardless of the reason, does rankle a few people. I see some of the places I frequent, during extended time at Home Base, becoming more frosty in their ambiance. It’s my opinion that “Green is green”, anyone’s cash will keep people afloat. I do understand the notion of being missed, yet for anyone to be hurt, because a community member has gone to help people elsewhere, seems a bit farfetched. I have to remind folks that, when we needed assistance from places far afield-during the Indian Fire (2002), the Doce and Yarnell Hill Fires (2013) and the Goodwin Fire (2017), people came from as far away as Alaska and Michigan.

We will, slowly, arrive at an understanding that love means both letting people follow their hearts, and realize their dreams-but also letting those we love extend that love to others, in other places.

Even if I go, next week or the week after, I will come back to what I expect to be a stable and welcoming community.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 6: Teaching in a Hybrid Manner

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September 14, 2020-

I returned to substitute teaching today, for the first time since COVID burst through the door and took over. Being with eighth grade students has been fairly easy for me, over theyears,and today was no exception. One difference is, though, that Hybrid Scheduling has been adopted. This means, essentially, that students whose family names begin with A-K attend in person classes, on Monday and Wednesday; those whose family names begin with L-Z attend on Tuesday and Thursday. Thus, on any given day, the classroom is, essentially, half full.

Masks were no problem for any of us. I had plenty of training in wearing a mask for twelve hours at a stretch, during my Red Cross deployment for Hurricane Laura. The kids have, in most cases, chosen their own masks, and I wore my Planets and Stars pattern, which got a few compliments. One boy broke a strap on his, and I sent him to the School nurse, to get a replacement. He came back, wearing a rodeo pattern mask, which made his day.

It was also nice to be among a group of educators again. The bantering and discussion of a wide variety of topics, in the Teachers’ Lounge, is something I’ve missed, more than I thought.

Needless to say, this sort of day is likely to be rare, this coming Autumn, if the call to service comes as early as next Tuesday-and I go back out on deployment. That has its own rewards, though, as we’ve seen recently. In any case, even with all that is creating mayhem this year, I am glad to be in a position to help, in more than one way.