These Happened

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September 24, 2022- The little girl, no more than two, came up to me while I was sitting in my “director’s chair”, at the large music festival. She tried to climb on my lap, which, as I knew neither her nor her mother, I gently declined. Her mother came over and led her back to the spot where she was preparing the child’s stroller. With mother so occupied, the girl came right back, and tried again. This time, both mother and I explained that this was not something she should be doing. There was no yelling or finger-wagging, just gentle dissuasion. Conversely, while the mother said I should have ignored her daughter, that, too, is something one doesn’t do to a person who is experiencing so much, for the first time in her life. I feel that I have a duty before the Creator to lovingly assist other people, especially children, to the best of my ability.

Earlier today, a small group of us honoured a revered community leader and beekeeper, on the first anniversary of his passing. There was a man who embodied loving assistance to all he met. Even the bank manager, who oversaw his mortgage, was given instructions on what to do with his house-upon the occasion of said passage. Hopefully, those instructions were followed and the home sold to the certain type of family who would honour its feng shui. The bees themselves were carefully dispersed to various other apiaries, prior to GK’s passing.

I went from the memorial service to VortiFest, in Sedona, particularly to meet up with a friend I had not seen in 2 1/2 years and to possibly see other friends from the Synergy/Apotheca complex. The centerpiece, for me, of the music festival, was an appearance by Camille Sledge, the scion of Sister Sledge, and her band, Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra. Camille, as it turned out, was off, touring with her mother and aunts, so PAO’s superbly talented instrumentalists managed a delightful and rousing 45 minutes of non-vocal ear candy, and got many of us, up and jumping around, much as they and Camille did, when I first heard them, four years ago.

That set was what brought about a brief encounter with a Sedona friend, that puzzles me, even as I write this. She greeted me, danced around for a bit, then spent the rest of the set alternately acting like she was scared to death of me and that I no longer existed. I will refrain from trying to explain that, other than I am aware of certain threats to her safety, from someone other than myself. He could have been around and have made his presence known to her. For a good part of the rest of the Festival, she was escorted by other men, including one of the security detail members, so who knows? For my part, I would not harm a hair of anyone’s head, much less a dearly loved friend of three years.

My newly re-connected friend served as a reality check on the whole matter, cautioning against personalizing the incident, in any way, shape or form. I followed her advice, knowing that forming a narrative, based on incomplete information, is worse than a fool’s errand. So, I headed homeward, ahead of the mass exodus that was sure to happen after the last set of the festival. Even having parked in a smaller lot, across the highway, I would have been stuck in the scrum of traffic, had I stayed to hear the last, excellent band.

Besides Afrobeat, there were two other fabulous bands that I did encounter: One was the festival founder’s group, simply named “Decker”. The other was a group called “G-Love”, which offered several peace-themed tunes, that were nonetheless rousing, and which had what seemed to be 2/3 of the audience standing and bouncing, in front of the stage. I chose to sit for most of that set, getting up mainly to take video of three friends who were wearing lighted costumes and were engaged in performance art. There was a third band, which performed well, but their vibe was a bit on the angry side. Turns out, they had a shortened set, due to some misunderstanding with the festival organizers. The final band, Arrested Development, a hip-hop group, also performed well, though I heard their offerings only as I walked back towards my vehicle.

So, that was Vorti-Fest, and my Saturday. This is also my 3000th post, on this platform. Goodness and ill abound in this life, and I do not hesitate to bring you both, in the right measure. My feelings right now are well-covered, if obliquely so, by Paul Simon’s “America”.

Mean?

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September 23, 2022-

The complaint was registered: Why are people so mean? The response was offered: What makes you call them such? The retort: No one gives me what I want!

I am glad to have been raised with a work ethic and to be able to hear “We owe you nothing!” , without sulking or arguing. The same people, after all, do reward me, handsomely, for doing the job that I was hired to do.

This makes it hard for me to identify with someone who does little or nothing, and finds people mean.

Looking Past the Shrillness

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September 21, 2022- The call came, with about fifteen minutes left in the class. The tone was furious, and decidedly personal. It was clear that the caller felt let down and that in her mind, the rest of the day was about damage control. The students carried on, and did a fairly good job at completing the assigned task.

It was actually all about process, procedure-and will have scant effect on the learning of those particular students. I know little about the caller, so maybe other parts of her life were not going well today. It doesn’t take much to trigger a tirade, these days.

It was, all in all, a nice day. I was working with a group of children who I particularly treasure. The classes accomplished a lot, with the second and third groups following the procedure that was reiterated to me, albeit in angry tones. I choose to look past a person’s rage, because when it’s all over, we will both be standing in the same spot. So long as there is no harm to children, or other innocents, I walk away.

There will, I know, come a time, maybe as early as next Thursday, when I will face that person again. I will not be swayed, one way or the other, by anything she has to say. At this stage of my life, it’s all about the children and teens, and their progress, their well-being.

Ambiguities

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September 20, 2022- The young man remembered me, from seven years ago, and launched into the playful antics for which I remember his eight-year-old self. He livened up the web-based class, for which I was the in-person monitor, maybe a little too much-but we got through the material offered by the online teacher. He showed up twice afterward, during the day, once to hang out during lunch and correct a prank he and his buddies had played on me and once, hoping to hear that his class was my favourite of the day. It wasn’t, and the shoulders slumped-but he’ll get over it. He did allow as to having been furious, when I was abruptly dismissed from that Third Grade teaching position, in favour of a dour local resident, who needed a job. Many of the students in that class felt the same way, and I’ve encountered three of them, elsewhere, since then.

I created a mild set of problems for myself, this morning, by overlooking the time for the onset of class, arriving a bit late and thus having to navigate the ambiguities and idiosyncrasies of the online Spanish class, on the fly. Things were a bit hectic, for the first two hours, but the learning curve was mastered by the start of Third Hour. The rest of the day went smoothly.

Ambiguities have never been my strong suit, yet I am having to master them more often, these days. Thus I will arrive early for tomorrow’s assignment, so as to read the instructional fine print more carefully. Even then, there are no guarantees of immediate success, as the connotations of words are different sometimes. Sometimes, sparks have to fly, in order for the communication to be made clear. Today, the teachers and admin were patient; not all teams are.

I also sense that there is a bit of tension in the air, as the seasons change. This evening, while at the gym, I found a bottle of energy milk on the floor, and asked a woman who was nearby, working out with her ten-year-old son, if it were hers. She said it was his, so I gave it to him and advised as to a safer place to put it, which he did-and then got self-conscious. The two left the area shortly afterward, so I wondered about the ambiguous situation again being an issue. In any case, I can’t ignore anything that compromises the safety and well-being of a child.

As I headed over to the massage chairs, a man was loudly complaining about what he regarded as an affront to his dignity and threat to his personal safety. He was gently guided outside by a gym employee, who continued to hear him out. I heard the same mother who had been in the whole body exercise area, telling the front desk clerk that if the man had gotten any closer to her son, she’d have called the police. Ambiguities, again, were exacerbated by the assumptions made by two different personalities.

It was, in the end, fitting that my own horoscope told me to not make assumptions about people. So I have learned, time and again.

The Great Outdoor Soup Kitchen and A Pellet Gun Outburst

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September 18, 2022- The line at Courthouse Plaza snaked around to the south side of the Courthouse, and for nearly 3 1/2 hours, people came to purchase a fresh ceramic bowl, and fill it with one or two kinds of soup. The Empty Bowls Project is a worldwide effort to raise money for food security, at the local level. It began in 1990, with a ceramics teacher named John Hartom and his friend Lisa Blackburn, to provide a means to food security in their community in the Detroit area. The concept quickly spread across Michigan and Ohio, then spread across North America. It is now a yearly event in several countries. https://emptybowls.com/

I joined this year’s event, the first since 2019, as part of Slow Food-Prescott’s crew. About twenty people, including several Girl Scouts, prepared and served 10 gallons of piping hot Minestrone Soup, with potatoes instead of pasta. The crowd that attended seemed smaller than in 2018, when I last joined the effort, but there were more vendors this time, so maybe the line was just moving faster. I was one of three “ladlers”, along with a local naturalist and the chef herself. It was truly a joyful event, bringing all parts of the Prescott area community together.

We finished the cleanup, at the catering kitchen where the soup had been prepared and cooked, around 3 p.m. Chef was kind enough to give me a lift home, as I’d walked downtown to the event, but the kitchen was 2.5 miles from Home Base. As we approached the neighbourhood, we saw that my street was blocked off by several police cars. I got off at a parking lot near the neighbourhood and walked down the alley across from Home Base, passing four police cruisers, with several officers searching a connecting alley.

It turned out that they were seeking a disturbed individual who had been firing a pellet gun, at one point blowing the rear window out of a neighbour’s vehicle. He had taken off to the south end of the street, and it took the officers another hour or so to locate and subdue him. Fortunately, there were no human injuries.

It was surreal, to have found peace and camaraderie downtown, only to return to my normally sleepy neighbourhood and find such commotion. As I write this, the police and the perpetrator have left, with peace returning.

Piscean

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September 16, 2022-

A planeload, or two, of migrants showed up, on the tight little island. A busload, or two, of refugees showed up, at the gate of an Observatory.

A pair of men, outwardly claiming to spread the pain caused by loose enforcement of law but inwardly looking to embarrass their perceived foes, arranged the journeys, telling the travelers that they would be soon living lives of prosperity and peace.

Imagine their surprise, when those hosting the unexpected guests responded with kindness, hospitality and plans for actually helping those guests move towards those lives.

Imagine the consternation of those men’s apologists, those who say “It’s high time the elite take in their share of the rough-edged and unruly”, when it is pointed out that the northern states, regardless of the dominant ideology of their residents, are a polyglot bunch, and are ready to become more so.

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”- Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”

The Piscean idea, of top-down decision-making, often misses the fact that the masses themselves are taking steps to solve their own problems.

Staying Patient

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August 26, 2022- I have a residual patience issue, with people who are abrupt, discounting and themselves impatient. What a vicious circle this could be!

This noon, as I was in the midst of lunch at a local diner, a man sat down and asked my opinion about an Asian restaurant he was considering visiting. In the ensuing exchange, every comment I made was challenged or discounted, until finally he caught himself and acknowledged that everyone is different. My simmering impatience was thus dissipated and the rest of the conversation went more smoothly.

Penny used to tell me that my greatest challenge was indeed staying patient, in the face of impatience. I spent many hours contemplating just how to understand such people. What was the source of their badgering and importunity? I observed a few such folks from a distance, and listened to their exchanges with others. It seems, like so many other annoying behaviours, and a few dangerous ones, to stem from insecurity.

“A child becomes what is lived.” “Hurt people hurt people”; “The hurried child can never relax.” Thus it is that a person who never knows what it feels like to be treated with kindness and patience passes their opposites on to those who are encountered.

I chose to break the cycle today, and it saved both of us a ton of grief.

Game Plans

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August 21, 2022- This evening, I came upon a film called ” A Feral World”, in which a teen boy and a woman have a chance meeting in the wilderness of what looks like the Front Range of Colorado, following a widespread disaster, which has rendered the human race into scattered groups of men, women and children, operating in survival mode. One clever and amoral man has gathered a group of children and teens around him, Fagin-like, and sends them out to scavenge items from abandoned factories and stores, with private homes also on the table. One of these is the daughter of the woman mentioned above, who is in fact searching for her daughter. He sends a swarm of genetically-engineered bees to help the scavengers. The bees can cause a human or animal to become liquefied.

This scenario plays out, in a bittersweet manner. It struck me as similar to several tyrant stories, both real and fictional, which have been in the public view over the centuries. Tyrants who are successful, up to a point, always have a plausible excuse for each of their actions, no matter how vile. They rely on a combination of fear, grooming techniques, deception and deflection of blame-including what is called “whataboutism” . Those who are duped by these tactics are often people who have felt left out of the march of history and progress. They were in the vanguard of the social hierarchy, for a fairly good stretch of time, but find movements to include others, who have a history of deprivation, in society’s path forward to be both incomprehensible and threatening. They fall for the notion of a zero-sum game.

I have sensed, for many years, that including one group in social progress does not mean depriving others. There is no real zero-sum game. Recognizing that we are all essentially worthy of respect and treatment with dignity removes the incentive to follow a person or group which espouses tyranny. Sounds simplistic, I know, but there really is no other way to avoid a stretch of totalitarian rule.

The Sunny Picnic and A Crazy Squirrel Song

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August 20, 2022-The joyful minstrel, at Rafter Eleven, made songs up as she went along, including one about “There’s sticky glue, on my mailbox, where your name used to be”. She prefaced it all with Ray Stevens’ “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival”. Having been to Pascagoula, I can see every bit of such things as are described in the song-not happening. The city is a bustling shipbuilding center, or was, when I visited-but why quibble? Ray’s songs were a staple of my teen years, as counterpoints to all the heaviness in the music of the late 60s.

It was a lovely musical set, with romantic ballads and country-tinged novelty tunes, well juxtaposed. From there, I drove through a short, but intense, thunderstorm, and sat talking with some friends at Synergy-mostly listening, though, as they inveighed against designer drugs and pondered what benefit, if any, there was to psychotropic substances. Personally, I will pass on all of those things. My mind is active enough, without external help.

These activities were preceded by the annual American Legion Post 6 picnic, at Goldwater Lake. Fortunately, the day was sunny and mild, until well after the picnic was finished. So, during the time under the ramada, a few lingering conflicts between some embers were resolved, awards were given out to long-standing servants in the Post and I won a nice prize. The food was well-prepared and the mood, overall, was very pleasant. The lake itself is slowly rising, though still a long way from being in what I would consider a healthy state.

It’s been a fine day, and night, as I drove back under partly cloudy skies, with the rain being done for the day.

A Fresh Start-Almost

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August 18, 2022- The process of procuring a motor vehicle is far easier now, than it was even ten years ago. The selection, documentation and approval of my purchase took slightly less than two hours. Digitization certainly has much to do with that, as does surety, as to what one wants in a car. I am now the tentative owner of a vehicle that is of later model than any I have owned, up to this point.

The day proceeded well, even though the classroom where I worked today was short-staffed. The three of us kept order and got some teaching done, with intermittent help from others, here and there. There were no major issues. It helped that those two students who began acting out were set straight, as to what would be tolerated and what would not.

After turning in a rental car, I retrieved the KIA Sportage from the dealership, finding it a pleasure to drive and feeling good about the updated technology, that is so commonplace for a lot of people. The Sportage offers just as much security as the Saturn did, so I am not concerned about safety on the road, as long as I follow the maintenance schedule.

All that remains now is to get the title to Saturn back to the insurance company, which for some reason sent it back to me, after it was mailed to them once. There seems to be a minor gap in understanding, at some point in the company’s organization.

I am almost enjoying a fresh start.