July Road Notes, Day 15: Reckonings

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July 19, 2021, Saugus- It was bound to happen-after 1 1/2 long journeys, my sad old tires had to be turned into road filler. I purchased four new replacements. The days when retreads or used tires sufficed are long gone. So are the days when I took a chance, and dealt with blowouts.

Laundry got done today, also. The small local laundromat was different. A single, harried attendant mans a cramped facility, with good machines-but unlike the coin laundries in the west and south, this one had no waiting area for patrons, save a couple of chairs outside. That said, it is an agreeable place, and the attendant has plenty of regulars who offer kind words and help him-and each other.

A maternal aunt-by-marriage passed away, late last week. She was a paragon of elegance, and one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. If I were to follow the example set by Sabina LaSala Kusch, a lot of the now occasional conflict in my life would be expunged. We didn’t see much of Aunt Sabina, growing up, but her demeanor was always pleasant.

There remain the constant appeals for money, from Africa. I know that others have life far tougher than I do, but what if a large number of people were to band together and offer small donations, instead of assuming that one person can take on a project, start to finish, by self? As it is, my own debts are coming due-and I intend to meet these, honourably-even if a few people regard my refusal to keep donating to THEM-as treachery.

Reckonings are tricky. Karma may strike, even when one sees self as justified in one’s actions. I will take whatever consequences come about, but will not put energy into attracting negativity. I only wish for the best for others, even if I cannot provide it by myself.

July Road Notes, Day 13: Happiness Is A Cold-Water Flat

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July 17, 2021, North Smithfield, RI- My visit with Dave Glick brought a different, but equally enjoyable, cast to this stop at the family’s greenhouse. Usually, Dave is busy with the operation, whilst Beth spends time with this visitor and fills me in on the family’s doings. This time, she was out of town and Dave was host. He happily explained the next phase of the operation, which will see centralization of the currently sprawling, and outdated, series of houses. This will bring the thriving enterprise forward, for the next several generations.

The springhouse will remain, and be renovated.

Glick’s Springhouse
One of Glick’s Greenhouses

I left Dave and the crew, around 10:30, and headed, in a zig-zag manner, northward. At one point, along I-78, a semitrailer blew a gasket and sat in the right hand lane, resulting in the rest of us waiting for 45 minutes, as the blocked lane cleared, one vehicle at a time merging with those in the left lane.

I got to D’s Diner, in Wiles-Barre, in time to have Linner, around 3:30 p.m. The two servers were clearly struggling in the warmer than usual dining room. I was most concerned about my waitress, Ann, a slightly built, older woman, but she was plowing through and encouraging her much younger co-worker, who at one point seemed ready to faint. I added my own words of encouragement, bringing a smile to the young woman’s face. I like D’s, but they need to do better, by their workers.

The traffic was lighter than usual, through the Hudson Valley and Connecticut. I was surprised to see a huge amount of traffic, coming the other way, exiting New England for the weekend-or maybe just trying to beat Sunday traffic. I got to what I THOUGHT was my room for the night, Quaker Inn and Conference Center, Uxbridge, MA, around 8:30 p.m. I was immediately told by the “attendant” (who was standing around outside) that the place was closed for renovation, that the hotel booking services were flooding him with guests and that I would have to somehow find another room somewhere else.

It was dark and rainy. I was tired and in no mood to either argue or surf my phone for the Hotels.com number and my confirmation code, so I left him and his two female friends- seeing as he would not let me into the Main House, for a source of light. Remember this place: Quaker Inn and Conference Center, and be forewarned. I will get to the bottom of it, tomorrow when I arrive at my more trustworthy next venue.

Five filled-to-the-brim motels later, I came upon an Econolodge, which had two available rooms. The rub was that the water heater was out, and would not be fixed until Monday. I took one of the rooms; the couple behind me took the other. Cold water is a mere trifle; after all, there were generations of urban dwellers in North America and Europe who made do with cold water flats, in the years before, and during, World War II. People in East Asia still bathe in cold water, during the summer months-and God knows how many people, across the globe, have no running water at all.

The day ended quite well.

July Road Notes, Day 4: Poolside

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July 8, 2021, Grapevine– The birthday festivities having finished, Aram and I eased into our mornings, whilst Yunhee went to work. We did our part, later, with a Costco trip that garnered items we each needed-and a few belated birthday gifts.

I got word that another, equally important, event across the country had gone roughly at times, but ended well. So, too, did the final installment of an investment that has taken me three years of due diligence and getting past my own overthinking, to complete.

Aram and I went out to Terrawood’s relatively small, but comfortable pool area. There were about six other people in and around the pools, at the time we were there. The water is not deep- 4′ 6″, maximum. Nonetheless, I sat with my lower body in the water-taking care to not go in, as usual, because of the growth on my face being covered, both for protection and for the peace of mind of those around me.

There has been a tendency in me, all throughout adulthood, to be very watchful of children around water. It was a major area of my service to the Red Cross, when we lived in Phoenix, to help with Swim Safe events. Pool safety, in particular, is a huge concern-and not just in summer. So, here I was, being encouraging to the little ones, with their flotation devices attached, but not taking my eyes off them, for a second. A young girl, of about twelve, was equally vigilant, apparently being babysitter to at least two of the kids. As Aram did his laps and cardio, I was content to be a second pair of eyes.

It can’t be said enough: “Watch your kids around water!”

July Road Notes, Day 1

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July 5, 2021, Moriarty- I am in a more relaxed frame of mind, this time around-as compared to the “get there and get it done” mindset of May’s out and back. Departure out of Home Base was fairly early: 7 a.m., and I did have one Baha’i Zoom meeting this afternoon, but my flow was fairly even-between 65 and 80, most of the way (A few construction zones called for 45-55, but no workers were on the highways today, as it was a Monday Make-up, for Sunday’s Independence Day.)

I made a coffee stop at a Maverik, in Dewey, AZ, about 40 minutes into the drive. This is of note only because a poor soul, just trying to get a cup of joe, found the lid on his cup didn’t quite fit-the third time in a row, he told me, that this has happened. We agreed that he probably was not the only one to whom it occurred. I wished him a better day, and was glad that the lid on my cup was sealed.

I kept an eye on the roadsides, in an area between Camp Verde and Winslow where wildfire had wreaked havoc, in late June. There was a burn scar on the ground cover, in several spots, but no tree singeing. The road between there and Gallup was serene and, as mentioned earlier, no construction work. Going through Albuquerque was also no big deal-save that, when a Jeepster decided he wanted to “tandem race” me, on the Duke City’s east side along I-40, a state patrolman in an unmarked car flashed him to move over one lane-then looked over at me and told me to get behind his car-no pull-over, no citation, no warning-just “get out of the passing lane”. As I was essentially minding my own business, when the Jeepster became Jerkster, the officer’s command was easy enough to follow. They both left the freeway, at the next exit, and I continued over the mountain, to this eastern suburb.

I had stayed at Sunrise Motel, once before, under a previous owner. The current management is on a strict pandemic protocol: Phoned check-in, outdoor document reading and signing-with a six foot distance-though masks are not required outside, and key to be left in the room at check-out. The room is the same as before, complete with a rubber duck by the bathtub-as well as a plug that fits the drain (less common than one might think, in the days of drought and cutting costs).

Tomorrow, I head over through Texas-to my family in Grapevine.

Their Whole Selves

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July 3, 2021- The comely young woman set down her blanket, just six feet from where I sat in my foldable studio chair, and proceeded to writhe and shift herself back and forth, finally finding a relatively comfortable position. As she was wearing a fairly short skirt, I felt it seemly to look straight ahead and not make her obvious discomfort even worse. Her two children were off and running, to other parts of the park, so she had that, too, to handle-and was constantly sitting up and looking past me, until finally spotting the kids. Poor soul was definitely stressed and barely able to relax, so after the family had watched five minutes or so of “Grease”, on the outdoor screen, and mother had wrapped herself in the blanket, they stood up and left. Hopefully, she got the rest that was so obviously in order.

Men, especially of my age group, were raised, mostly by the wider society, to hold the opposite sex in a sort of special status-not quite looking at girls and women we didn’t know very well, in a less than whole human perspective. I can say, truthfully, that this was also true of how we viewed ANY stranger, but was especially so in male-female interactions. It has been a hallmark of my married life, and widowhood, that coming to view every human being in a holistic manner has replaced the old “meat market ethic”. Misogyny, and its derivatives, were quite frankly the bane of my existence-and I don’t miss them at all.

My friends, women and men alike, are people I can hug (pandemic protocol permitting) or at l least fist bump, and with whom I can share just about any insights. This, to me, is the feeling of true liberation. I look forward to the day when ANYONE can feel the same about traveling alone as I do, about being where they like to be and not feeling awkward or at risk, and being seen as complete human beings-from childhood onward.

The Strange Process of Growth

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June 29, 2021- Getting back to Home base, for a short period that is centered on the anniversary of the Yarnell Hill/Granite Mountain Hot Shots disaster (June 30, 2013) and on Independence Day, I found myself scheduling the July road trip and reaching back, to the past. While thinking about my Carson City family, the image of me as a toddler came into focus-almost in a hypnotic manner. I saw the source of certain behaviours and mindsets that have dogged my path, for so many years now. I also saw that I could let those behaviours and mindsets go, fall away. It is sublimely liberating.

Many of you know that I have given some help to someone in another country, whose society has much to re-learn about co-operating with one another, to achieve a greater goal. The people involved have, thus far, rejected such talk of co-operative farming, out of hand. “That is not the way we do things here!” This, essentially, translates into “Fork over the bucks, white man!” You can readily understand what my response is to such rubbish. Fortunately, the primary recipient of my aid is a bit more enlightened than many of his countrymen, and is at least trying to do things on his own. It is heartening to see someone who is walking the path of personal growth.

My own growth has been a strange enough road- complicated by being on the autism spectrum. I was a fairly strong, supportive husband and am a fairly strong, nurturing father. I am better at being a son, and sibling, than I was in the past. Ditto, for being a community member. The pattern of widespread travel will eventually subside, but not for the next five or six years. In the interim periods between journeys, though, I am committed to making a difference in my adopted community and state.

Learning makes this a great life, and it will only get greater.

The Slow Healing

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June 24, 2021, Carson City- Several years ago a person, who claimed to be an adherent to the belief in Progressive Revelation, nonetheless made comments about people needing to be “in their place”. At the time, I just agreed to disagree, quietly sensing that time and circumstance would change that person’s heart.

My father, a fervent believer in the free enterprise system and in the right of individuals to make, and live with, their own choices in life, passed those beliefs on to the four of us who were of competence. I give a bit more leeway to non-capitalist systems, provided they avoid the top-down authoritarianism, to which most Marxist nations have subscribed; but I digress.

At the meeting I attended today, the very same group, who years ago acquiesced to the notion described in the first paragraph, had advanced, by leaps and bounds, to a place of broader mindedness-recognizing the imperative that society embrace all of its ethnicities and show more compassion towards immigrants.

Thus is the way of healing. Thus goes the path to true reconciliation. As a kindergartner cannot, customarily, comprehend calculus, so can a person raised in a largely homogeneous environment not, without a full-range of life experiences, comprehend the vastness of humanity’s variations. A well-read person can appreciate this multivariance, to some degree, and one who is truly well-traveled, who has mingled with many different nations and ethnicities, can appreciate it even more. The basis, the foundation, for such understanding, however, is set in childhood and cemented by experiences in adolescence and young adulthood. It requires a solid spirituality, albeit of the person’s own choosing. Otherwise, the healing that one must undergo, later in life, is a slow, tortuous and sometimes painful path.

The gathering this evening was a vindication of all that Baha’u’llah teaches us, in His Writings, and all that ‘Abdu’l-Baha showed us, by the example of His life. The group will now find its way to a very special place, as will any person, or group of people, who embrace the healing.

Breaking A Small Logjam

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June 13, 2021- Every so often, I find myself with nothing to say, at a given moment. On a quiet routine day, such as today, rest takes priority, especially with one very active, at times frenetic week gone and a slightly quieter one ahead. Indeed, a Christian friend, at breakfast this morning, extolled the virtues of not working on the Sabbath of one’s Faith. We Baha’is are, unofficially, given Friday as a day of rest, yet statutes and the present course of the wider society make that sometimes problematic. Still, when I am tired, I take the time to rest.

Nonetheless, life goes on and commentary with it. A small fire broke out today in Cornville, about an hour northeast of here. I may pull a shift, or two, this week, at any shelter that opens in consequence to that fire. There are other matters to which I must attend-some maintenance on the Elantra, a few meetings to host and to attend, and the long overdue resolution of a personal health issue. Fires, and other social emergencies are never convenient, nor are most personal matters. Somehow, action is required on each one-and so on I go, along with anyone else who can make the time.

As for an ongoing flow of conversation, as to why the Federal and state governments move so slowly, if at all, on matters of concern to Joe Citizen, I give you the fact that each person in said governments has to deal with the same logjams of overwork and scheduling rest. There is a conflict in perception, between those who ARE rested and ready for action and those who are running on fumes. Some of us are just slow moving, overly meticulous (Obsessive Compulsive) and prone to overthinking. Others, myself included, take action on matters that present themselves, in as expeditious a manner as possible-giving deferred attention to things that are synchronous to what has our attention at the moment. (For example, a barrage of Instant Messages coming at a time when I am engaged in helping feed two dozen people.)

Each of us is important. None of us is as important as we sometimes want the world to think.

As Chaos Calmed

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June 10, 2021, Bellemont, AZ- Beware slumbering. in the calm sea, lest one be unaware when the roiling comes along. During the day, yesterday, things were smooth as glass. After dinner, though, came a sprained ankle, five other people (teens and adults) needing “immediate attention” (simultaneously, of course) and the recognition that everyone needed to be sent to their respective quarters, and any visitors bid goodnight, a bit earlier than usual.

The night thenceforth passed, with no further incidents. A perceived insect pest was spotted, this morning, and the requisite protocol was set in place. After the offending pest was found and eliminated, followed by the contents of the building subjected to six hours of bright sunshine and a fairly warm afternoon, the alert was lifted.

This is the way of the world, for as far back as I can remember. Problems find a designated solver, the crisis gets resolved and, after a fashion, the next order of business presents itself. That is, unless the disgruntled and the bored contrive a solution in search of a problem. Then, there are at least two problems.

Ludicrous

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June 9, 2021, Bellemont, AZ- Arguments and fighting can sometimes clear the air, in which case they serve a purpose-and need not be repeated. Most of us have experienced this sort of thing, at one point or another, in our lives. Often, fatigue, depression, and feelings of abandonment can trigger a quarrel, which forbearing people de-escalate. The underlying love that the parties have for one another will win out, in such cases.

The most intractable quarrels, though, find their roots in ego, insecurity and not a small amount of malice. These tend to be found within the larger issues facing our species, our nation-and a good many communities. Egotistical actions themselves are mainly rooted in insecurity-the parent of narcissism, which, to me, is a misplaced attempt to cover for feelings of inadequacy. One public figure, known for expressions of narcissism, experienced a childhood in which he was routinely berated and belittled by his own parents.

Where we, as a society, or as a planet, suffer from acts of egotism or insecurity comes in cases of reckless prejudice, greed or lust. We see these in the behaviours of some in government, in business and even in public service. A senior figure in our Federal government recently asked people working under him to act against certain legislation- “as a favour to him”. Some on both sides of a conflict, in another part of the world, continually focus on what they see as the “transgressions of the other side”. A military leader in a developing nation seized power in his country, claiming that only he can save the country from “the forces of corruption”.

I go back to problem-solving processes based on transparency, unconditional positive self-regard, and respect for other people in general. There is also a degree of letting go of past hurts, which proceeds from the aforementioned qualities. There can be little doubt that the paths which perpetuate turmoil and division between people, at all levels, are ludicrous.