These Messes


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passing By Irritation Station


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

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

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

A Broken String


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

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

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

Those Quirks


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

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

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

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

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



May 22, 2023- Wagging her finger at me, the perturbed woman growled: “Conservative is the only way!” She was at least communicative; her husband grumbled and walked off, cutting me off in mid-sentence. All this, because I was not of the same opinion about a relatively small issue, which I’ve actually already forgotten.

Labels are actually becoming increasingly irrelevant. Even Donald Trump has a strategy for re-election that involves a No Labels Party. Every one of us has aspects of our being that span the political spectrum. I knew Hippies who were incredibly straight-laced about their friendships and interracial ties. I’ve known buttoned-down businessmen who embrace a great tolerance for opposite points of view.

I am conservative, when it comes to common courtesy-from greeting people, to table manners, to respect for my elders. I am progressive, when it comes to honouring dignity-towards people of colour, towards women and girls, towards children and teens, towards street people and towards rural citizens. I am moderate, when it comes to speech and consideration of opposite points of view.

There are times to take a stand- and that process is one I learned from my father. He never came down hard and dogmatic, but stood his ground handsomely and always in a dignified manner. He was able to summarize other people’s viewpoints to us, in a way that made perfect sense, but not necessarily giving the impression that he agreed with them.

I cannot let myself be pigeonholed or typecast. Such misdirected performance art would solve nothing,

Last Minute


May 18, 2023- The message was sudden, but not all that surprising. Essentially, it was ‘I have run into difficulty. Please stop what you’re doing and help me get out of this jam.’ Being one who has to deliberate a bit, when it comes to unanticipated requests, I replied that I had no pat answers or novel solutions.

I understand the situation. There have been times, as recently as twelve years ago, when I would leave things until the last minute, then pitch to family and friends for relief. This came from telling myself that life is too hard, too unfair and that if only people knew my heart, they would gladly keep on helping me out. The finest response I ever got was “Enough! Work it out, even if it’s painful for a while.” That was from someone who did know my heart.

From that point on, I learned that taking full responsibility and reverting to my former practice of finding solutions in advance of an emergency, and connecting with the providers of those solutions-in other words, networking, when necessary, allows for a much fuller, more satisfying life-and for better friendships. The days when people, rightfully, would run when they saw me coming, are in the past. I aim to keep it that way.

After several hours of reflection, and of consulting with other friends, it is clear that the individual who needs help is best pointed towards an agency, rather than random assistance from a scattering of angels.

The Energy Field Is Always Right


May 16, 2023, Los Angeles- Someone swiped my light jacket, right out from under the baggage handler’s nose. It was a gift from another friend, a while back, and only cost them $20. Serves me right, for having tied it to the outside of my checked bag-and the fleet-footed thief will not be charged, under LA’s “$900 or less” grace ordinance-designed to keep the jails less crowded. Still, it’ll be a briefly chilly morning dash to my car, when we get to Flagstaff early tomorrow. I have plenty of other jackets and coats at Home Base.

Someone is bound to say: “It might not have happened, had you kept your original plan and gone up to the Northwest, any way you could.” Of course, there’s that. There are also these: 1. Plans change, because the energy behind them shifts. 2. In that light, three events in or near Home Base over the next six days, necessitate my presence. 3. My friends in the Northwest have enough with which to concern themselves right now, without my stopping in on short notice. (Maybe three-to-five days in July, before V’s play, in Carson City, will be enough to connect with them. We’ll see what transpires.

I had plenty of alone time at HI Sacramento, last night, to ponder what lies ahead in the next six months, and to plan accordingly. There were few people around, and those who were hosteling were a costume jeweler and his associate, working on their merchandise. In the quietude, some very strong messages came to me-along with a sense that each month between now and November will find me on the road, in the air, and so on. Each of these months will also entail activities around Home Base. There is always a balance, even for one whose public persona seems to be that of a rolling stone. The messages do have one constant: “Your time is not going to feel like it’s your own- especially on certain days.” There is, however, a basic feeling of safety. Paying attention to the energy field also imparts what is needed, in order to make every minute count and each task successful.

After a series of charter bus and train rides, from Sacramento to this city of angels, with wings that have varying levels of dirt, I am in a lightly-populated train car and ready to just relax through the night. Looking at the stops ahead-other than Fullerton, Riverside and San Bernardino, the stops are all rural and unlikely to result in a crowded train. The conductor says his manifest indicates a number of people embarking tomorrow morning in Winslow. By then, I will be enjoying a hot breakfast and coffee, probably in Camp Verde-as Flagstaff’s establishments won’t open before 7 a.m., and an hour’s drive down the highway will be in order.

Good night, all, and may the Force stay with you.

Delayed, but Not Frayed


May 15, 2023, Sacramento-The message came to me in an e-mail, on Saturday, that a certain post I had held for the past six years was being filled by someone else. It’s a routine rotation, if you will, and no reflection on what I did well or not, as a volunteer.

A check of Amtrak’s Sacramento to Seattle and Portland schedules showed that they were booked solid, or were exorbitantly overpriced-an imbalance of Supply and Demand. What this means for me is that I head back to Home Base, sooner than originally planned. My ties to the Northwest are not frayed-the visit to friends up there is merely delayed.

Strengthening connections to Carson City was a priority, so this journey has not been wasteful-no travel ever is. I am likely heading back in late July, because one of the angels is to be in a play, around then-and supporting her is second nature. That jaunt and the trip back East in September, will of necessity be auto-centric, after all. There are matters that cannot easily be tended with train or Uber, and rental cars are once again either scarce or exorbitant, as new friends found out yesterday and today.

The day itself was a fairly easy train ride back to Sacramento and a toasty, but not unpleasant, walk back to the hostel-largely empty tonight, except for three staffers, two women who are staying in private rooms and me, holding down the fort in the “mixed dorm”. That’s not bad, as I got ot jump around a bit, during a friend’s ecstatic dance Zoom call, and tend to some over-the-phone planning, relative to October’s Southeast Asia outreach.

The biggest thing that I learned about myself, these past six days, is that no amount of planning or anticipation is more important than treating each person and each community, with whom I have ties, as any more vital than all the others. Some activities, meetings, visits cab and will get delayed, but ties need not become frayed.

Oh, well-for tonight, I am comfortable and happy, in HI Sacramento’s quietude.

Their Joyful Freedom


May 12, 2023, Carson City-

“What we have here, is a failure to communicate”-Strother Martin, Cool Hand Luke

The seemingly forlorn young woman remained holed up, in our shared Mixed Dorm room, speaking briefly, when spoken to, but not offering much, in the way of information about herself. She was functioning and while not outwardly fearful of her two male roommates, had clearly been through a bit of trauma somewhere else, and recently.

The little girl was chatty with her mother, and with another woman, who was from China and who conversed through a translation app on her phone. She went back and forth to her grandmother, in the next car of our train from Sacramento to points east (mine being Reno) and was a kind big sister to her toddler brother, when he got sick and vomited- to which their parents tended, without making a big scene. The family was friendly, but were a self-contained unit. They considered, and politely declined, offers of help from me and from the Chinese woman.

The Turo automobile renter apologized profusely, when his wife took the car I had rented from them, and went to work, returning about ten minutes after my appointed pick-up time, and having put a full tank of gas in, on her way back. While we waited, he told me of the struggles that face both the fast food industry and the truck stops that house many such establishments, as mergers and AI make decisions that are out of whack with reality on the ground. The representatives of High Management are “shocked” to discover that the lay-offs and budget cuts, which their overlords demand, will actually serve to make things far worse, as staff is frequently already at bare minimum.

The two winsome pre-adolescent girls stuck together, brought an issue to the motel owner’s attention and looked after me, while I was checking into my room, later remarking to one of their other friends that they thought I was “special”, though I barely said much more than “Thank you” to one who had picked up a dropped item. The group of children later gathered in a small play area that the owner has established where families can relax and where children can safely enjoy the fresh air.

My extended family, here in Carson, communicated their plans to me, via their matriarch’s texts. It sounds like a delightful two days, as always. We spoke a lot, back and forth, about how essential unconditional love is for children and how that love is most always passed on to the next generation, as well as how it can be brought into the lives of those whose lives have been hell. The woman I call my spiritual sister has raised countless foster children, her two adopted children and her natural-born daughter-and has been a rock for her grandchildren of two generations. Communication has been her staple.

Communication once came hard to my autistic self, but as the love that has always been in my heart overcame the reticence that consumed my mind, connecting with others has become an essential part of being. With Artificial Intelligence and more distant decision-making, often based more on incomplete information and wildly overblown assumptions, being de rigueur, even the most seemingly banal texts and IMs have assumed essential status, in order for the right thing to happen for the good of the order.

Miscommunication can be a snowball going downhill. It is our lot, to prevent it from becoming an avalanche.

The Crowded Restroom, Stable Central Valley and Sac’tology


May 11, 2023, Sacramento- The congenial man, who seemed to be in his 50s, entered the crowded restroom, as I was shaving after the long train ride from Flagstaff. LA is LA, and Union Station is as much a place where street people can purchase a decent snack or light meal, and take care of their business in a socially acceptable manner, as it is a place for train passengers to meet their needs. The man looked about, did his business and thanked me for being understanding. Trust, me, I have been there, (though I have never used his particular method), no one was bothered and no further details are needed.

He was followed by a man who expectorated a substance that should never be in the body of any human being. He left, and I found some tissue to safely clean the residue and throw it in the trash. The gentleman at the sink next to mine, also a street person, remarked that I treated the other guy better than he would have. It struck me that the poor soul has probably not caught a break in quite a few years. There was plenty of soap and water to take care of matters, and I am no worse for the wear. The third guy and I went to the snack shop, once I was clean shaven. It’s as fine a thing to have friends on the street, as anywhere else.

Union Station does have its paying guests enter secure waiting areas. Guards check tickets and, on occasion, IDs. I thanked the young man who kept our gate. He looked surprised, but felt glad to be appreciated, I’m sure. We rolled out of Union Station, in a chartered bus, right on time. I got a fair look at downtown Los Angeles, from a northbound perspective.

East Building, Union Station, Los Angeles, seen from a chartered bus.

The journey through San Fernando Valley certainly had its share of mountain scenery and interesting buildings, but I chose not to take any more haphazard shots, whilst the bus was in motion. We rode through forested mountains, then promontories shorn of all vegetation, save grass, until we came to Grapevine, and the southern edge of Central Valley. An hour or so later, Bakersfield, a surprisingly vibrant and attractive city, came into view and we swapped out the bus for a train that was headed for Oakland.

Being a local train, we hit every major city and a good many smaller ones, before arriving in Stockton, my transfer point for Sacramento, about ten minutes late-due to the demands made by freight trains (pride of place, you know). All the areas visible from the train appeared to be in good shape, the waterways were at a comfortable level and the crops were all on track-though I know there are other fields, elsewhere in the bread basket, that will not be as productive this year. Fresno, Madera and Modesto all seem quite bustling. Stockton is a bit under the weather, and there were a fair number of tents along the sidewalk near the train station there.

Sacramento had experienced tremors from a 5.4 earthquake, whose epicenter was near Lake Amador, quite a way to the northeast. I spoke with a man named Max, who had been on the thirteenth floor of a state office building, paying his taxes, when the tremor hit. He hadn’t been so scared since 2001, he told me. He was at Ground Zero, when the towers fell, so he comes by the fright quite honestly, in my book. I told him I was glad he’s okay and went on to check out the state capitol and its grounds. “Sac’to” has a rather interesting vibe to its downtown. Here are some photos of the area, as I was on solid ground and could again focus the camera in a proper manner.

Front room, HI Sacramento, where I spent the night and will return on Monday afternoon.
HI Sacramento’s exterior. Across the street is Sacramento City Hall, with probably the neatest and cleanest tent camp I’ve seen. It is not impossible for street people to be orderly, much as i long for the day when no one feels it necessary to live on the street.
Elks Building, downtown Sacramento
The city’s namesake, Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
The State Capitol of California, seen from the north. It is under construction on the east side.
Sweet fragrances adorn the west side of the Capitol.
California Live Oaks and Incense Cedars offer a wealth of shade on the East Lawn.
Lastly, the First Nations of California have not gone away.
The Capitol bid us good night, and now I do too.