Niners

2

April 18, 2019-

Age nine found me whimsical,

lost ever in my own thoughts,

save when it came to lessons,

in Mrs. Kimball’s class.

Age nineteen found me lackadaisical,

flitting in and out of other people’s lives,

with no thought as to my effect on them.

Age twenty-nine found me desultory,

often lost in the bottle,

floating along Arizona’s highways,

or the backroads of the  wider West,

yet making a stab at conveying math,

to myself and my students.

Age thirty-nine found me devoted,

to my wife and toddler son.

The fragrance of Jeju,

and the progress of my English-teacher candidates,

filled out my world.

Age forty-nine found me wary,

of any and all politicians,

of a wayward shaman,

whose stated goal was

to bring about my ruin.

Age fifty-nine found me crumbling,

about to lose the most important

person in my life,

to the dis-ease that had

stalked her,

for over fifty years.

Age sixty-nine is seven months off,

yet it may well find me

in a state of flux.

Regardless,

I know my life is aimed

towards wholeness,

towards growth,

ever looking past

mere survival.

 

The Z’s, the Alphas and Evolution

6

April 16, 2019-

Yesterday was a bear, for many.  The damage to Notre Dame Cathedral (which I have only seen from outside) and to Al Aqsa Mosque (in which I had the honour of praying with the Imam, in 1982) was serious, but in both cases, not irreparable.

For me, it was a productive day- visiting the new Cuppers Coffee House location, attending a Baha’i study circle and getting in another exercise session were pluses.  A new online acquaintance asked me what I was doing for the day, and my response was “Tending to my personal affairs”, which at the time was weighing on me and not what I wanted to detail, to a relative stranger.  Turns out, the whole process took less than ten minutes, and all’s as well as it can be, for the time being.

I was brought further out of my shyness and awkwardness, at Cuppers, when several young people chose to sit down on either side of me.  Something refreshing about Millennials, and more so about Gen Z people, is their overall forthrightness.  Growing up always questioning my worth as a human being was a real pain.  The younger generations see no reason why anyone should do that, though I’m sure they have their moments of insecurity. Nonetheless, Gen Z’s mantra, “I got you”, obviating any lengthy explanation of one’s feelings or opinions, is actually a treasure.

I see intuition becoming a hard-wired thing.  Yesterday, there was a post about five teenagers who helped an elderly man get up from the sidewalk, where he’d fallen, walking home with him and cleaning his wounds.  Goodness prevails here, and is more common than its opposite.  The media has a label ready for those born since 2010:  Generation Alpha.  I haven’t had much contact with younger kids lately, but judging from the intuition levels and cooperative spirit of my grandnieces and nephews, and online friends’ children, I would say the label, as contrived as it sounds, is actually spot on.  They, with their immediate elders, will be the ones working to reverse a host of problems that foolishness and greed have bestowed on the human race.  All this makes New York’s recently enacted “nonmedical abortionist” law that much more ludicrous, besides being downright menacing.  The world needs its rising generations, even those who have some physical or mental flaws.

So, on we go, and I feel more confidence than at this time last week.

“Be Nice or Leave”

8

April 14, 2019-

Such was the message on the t-shirt worn by another patron of today’s Powwow, at Ken Lindley Park, across the main street from my apartment.  I saw no one being anything less than nice and I was certainly my usual self.  The words kept coming back to me, throughout the day.

The full range of  dancers performed this afternoon, from 5-year-olds to senior citizens, with male and female dancers, in each age category, from Juniors(10-12), teens (13-17)  adult (18-550 and Golden Agers (55>), performing in one of three categories:  Traditional, Grass and Fancy, which refer to the type of regalia worn.

I sat comfortably in my “director’s chair”, for most of the afternoon. Though while still in shy and awkward mode, I got up and joined in the Round Dance, a social dance in which everyone sidesteps in a circle.  Being among Indigenous people is a balm.

I didn’t take photographs, as those gathered here asked that no one take pictures of anyone they didn’t know personally.  As everyone  else who was there was not known to me, the camera stayed off.

After the Powwow ended, and my laundry was done,  I stopped by the grounds of Chalk-It-Up, to get photos of this year’s entries to the annual chalk art festival.  The actual work took place earlier, but a small group was still there-likewise taking photos.

Here are my candidates for the most memorable.20190414_181022

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To anyone who has felt overcome by the careless judgments of others, there is this:

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It was ironic that, shortly after I took the above photo, I was approached by a couple of school district employees, who found it uproariously funny that I would appear at a public event.  Leaving them to their giggling and derision, a much warmer atmosphere was a block away- at Two Mamas Pizzeria, another place where I can say I feel welcome and safe.

I can say this:  Neither those foolish women, their co-workers, nor anyone else will run me out of town.  Shy and awkward as I feel right now, I take solace in knowing I need run no more.  I will define my place.

Reignition

5

April 13, 2019-

I cam close to making what would have been a pre-mature, and perhaps reckless, decision.  It basically would have meant leaving my Home Base, earlier than expected.  It became unnecessary.

Although, I have felt a good deal less welcome here, since the events of April 3- and yes, people in this growing town still do talk and pass judgement- there are still a few pockets in Prescott where I can go and feel safe.  I spent an hour or so at such a place, Ms. Natural’s, where the owner is relatively friendly and glad for my business-even if her helpers are a bit on the hostile side.   I also went to Farmers’ Market, where a few of the vendors remain friendly.

The Arizona Department of Education has decided to renew my substitute teaching certificate.  This at least will give me the opportunity to maintain a flexible work schedule, bounce back from the most recent assaults on my reputation and show, yet again, that I am basically a loving and competent educator.  So, the notion to retire early, leave this area and re-establish myself, somewhere else, is not something I need to pursue for the time being.  I will be safe enough, among the Baha’is and a few other friends.  Hopefully, things will even out and I can follow my game plan until December, 2020.

 

Desiderata- Part II

6

April 12, 2019-

In the last post, I looked at the first half of Max Ehrmann’s 1927 prose- poem, which attained wide popularity in the 1960’s, due to a mass, unattributed distribution of the verses, the result of the author’s having not copyrighted the work.

In this post, the second five lines are the focus.

“Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

By Max Ehrmann © 1927
Original text

I have yet to pretend to like someone, much less to love them.  I have had friendships which turned sour, because one or both of us failed to meet pre-conceived expectations.  I have learned, in very ingrained fashion, to approach friendships more carefully. Cynicism about love, though, is out of the question.  It is as perennial as the grass.

As one in late middle age, I do not act like, or pretend to act like, the youth I once projected.  I still have energy and drive, and I also get arthritic aches, if I sit for too long.  I make regular use  of essential oil supplements, hydromassage and therapeutic exercise, as those are the counsels of age.

I have, with help from skilled financial planners, shielded myself from later distress.  Strength of spirit is there, to help keep distress, and any external threats, at bay.

Being gentle with myself, and recognizing my right to life, has come hard.  I went through a long period of self-loathing, which was mitigated, but not extinguished, by my late, beloved wife.  Only standing up to critics and challengers, including the most recent bunch, has given me the sense that gentleness with self is my due.

I know, finally, that all that is happening, for short-term good or ill, will result in what’s best for the Universe and for mankind.  I have, even recently, seen sham and broken dreams.  Those who jive others, or try to fool themselves, will learn the hard truth sooner or later.

Yes, it is still a beautiful world, and I intend to experience more of it.

Flex Schedule

4

April 6, 2019-

Insights into the wider implications of my being released from my most recent position seem to be coming to me, usually in the early morning- a time when I had been doubting my effectiveness at times, only to pull myself together-and usually do a credible job, on any given day.

There are always aspects of one’s day-to-day life that are not readily understood.  Why, for example, do crisis moments seem to happen, almost out of nowhere?  Why do some people seem to be keenly interested in one’s shortcomings, when they have no supervisory role of which to speak?  Why do processes come to an abrupt end?

I have chosen to not concern myself with any of that.  I will go back to what has sustained me, in times of trial before:  Working where I am most needed, from day to day.  There are nineteen months until I would, optimally, prefer to retire from education: November, 2020.  I would work through December,  if the need arises.

It also occurs to me that the needs of my Faith, and possibly other needs that have yet to reveal themselves, are the true reason for my newly resumed flexible schedule.  Another, younger person could do what I had been doing with my former charges, from one day to the next and do as well, if not better.  I see that there are already areas, in which having the freedom to determine my own work schedule will do more good than I’d been able to do, in those areas, over the past three years.

Everything happens for a reason, and usually for at least two or three.

Feet First, Again

8

April 3, 2019-

I began the work day ready to help keep our charges occupied, and relatively productive, as ever.  I ended the day, back in retirement mode- at least until I can get another position.  I chose to leave, after a brief pitch for me to take a position for which I am even less-suited than the one I have left behind.  I declined the offer, and the end game was set.

For all the platitudes that my co-workers and I have received, over the past two years, regarding loving and working with autistic children, there are people watching who do not have the best interests of those children in mind.  They are the ones who call the Governing Board, Human Resources-and the hapless school administrators.   I know this, because I once took the calls that my former boss has been getting.  I know this, because I heard the veiled threats and “you don’t know who you’re dealing with”- from individuals like the person who has been threatening me, personally, with the loss of my job, since last October.  I know this, because for refusing to take the earlier threats seriously, I was relieved of my position as Principal, in 1999, twenty years ago, this month.

So, it behooves my former supervisors to protect themselves.  Follow due process, but do not fall on your swords for others.  You are doing excellent work and deserve to remain in your leadership roles.  I will make my way, just fine, and being of “retirement age”, no one can come out of the woodwork, on the other side of the equation, and blast me for “not delivering”, as has happened a few times during my checkered career.  I will find work to tide me over until I hit 70, and, no, I will not heed the threats from last Fall.

My former co-workers remain like family and have already been in touch, wishing the best-as I do for them.

 

Microaggression

5

April 2, 2019-

The other night, whilst visiting one of my best friends, I watched and listened to a speech by the conservative commentator, Ben Shapiro.  Among the social phenomena he noted was the trend towards condemning “microaggression”.  The term is used to describe remarks or gestures that trigger unpleasant feelings, discomfort or fear in people who are experiencing , or whose forebears have suffered, oppression.

I was treated, in junior high school, primarily, but also when in the Army, stateside, to a modest amount of bullying and verbal taunting, due to my autism.  I sometimes pondered what society would be like, were it to be rendered illegal to ridicule or belittle another person.  I came to the conclusion that, while it would a fine thing if people were to choose freely, as a society, to rise above such behaviours, to codify criticism as an offense, with criminal penalties, would only drive negativity underground.

To be sure, there are words and phrases that don’t belong in an enlightened society’s discourse.  Racial, ethnic and gender-based slurs are things I banished from my own vocabulary, when I was about 17, to the extent I ever used them at all.  Getting to know people on an individual basis, without pre-conceived notions, has been the only way I have achieved any personal growth, in my own right.

Last October, I found myself, mercifully only for a short time, in a veritable microaggression bootcamp, where every single word, behaviour or gesture that came from me was analyzed, castigated, sliced and diced, to the point I was leery of even taking a breath sideways.  The individual doing this determined that I was beyond redemption, and I was dismissed from her presence.   Mind you, I went through this at the behest of a friend, who was likewise deemed irredeemable.

None of us walks on water.  No matter how loving one’s heart is, and how consistently one shows that love, there will always be someone, somewhere, to whom one is a bete-noire.  It’s helped me, to be more present and aware of the deepest feelings and insecurities of others.  It has also helped me to have grown a thick skin, over the past many years.  “Microaggressions”, it seems to me, are best rooted out through calm, but firm, dialogue and education.  Shrillness and stridency, as Mr. Shapiro pointed out, only drive unkempt behaviour and rhetoric underground, into the maw of the Dark Web or the shadier places in the legitimate Internet.

 

The Black Hand

4

March 30, 2019-

In the Planet Fitness where I work out, there is a large seat, shaped like a Black Hand, in each of the stations where a hydromassage bed is located.  It strikes me that this is a symbol of challenge, that there are always difficulties to be overcome, whether self-imposed or brought on by others.

I have had to do a lot of re-assessment, after a rough past few days.  What I have determined is that: 1.  I am going to make fitness a higher priority than it’s been, having shown that I can make time for a workout, even on the busiest of days.

2.  I am going to cut way back, if not eliminate, my appetite for pastries and other high sugar-based food items.  Neither having my cake nor eating it, at least for the last two months of work.

3.  Doubling down on avoiding violence, no matter how violently I might be attacked, either by one of my charges or anyone who is deranged.  My reaction, from now on, will  be to distance myself, until assistance is at hand, at least in the work setting.

4.  Being more mindful and present.  Neither Alzheimer’s nor Parkinson’s has knocked on my door, but problems have presented themselves, through a combination of fatigue and autism.  I have done better, today, and need to continue getting enough rest, so that there is no repeat of incidents on Thursday and Friday.  The same old story:  When I am challenged by an authority figure, when I’m in a fatigued state, I come out with a blather of telling the person what I think they want to hear and making myself look guilty of something that, in actuality, never happened.

5.  Tax returns are done and I have worked out a more efficient system of time management, so despite some of the above, things are on an upswing.

Fighting Headwinds

2

March 16-17, 2019-

Having hugged my kids farewell, I found processing out of Korea, at Gimhae (Busan) and at Incheon (Seoul), to be a breeze.  The flight back to San Francisco was, longer, as we were flying into the wind currents and things got a bit rough, when we passed through the North Pacific, between the outer Hawaiian Islands and  the Northwest U.S. coast,  I was able to sleep for about five hours, and ended up viewing  “Kin”, which had an interesting Sci-Fi premise, loosely echoing John Sayles’ “The Brother from Another Planet” (1984), except, in this case, the alien is a 14-year-old boy, who is very vocal and is being raised by his adoptive Caucasian parent.  He comes across a weapon, from his home planet, links up with his ex-con foster brother and is subsequently pursued, both by the foster brother’s angry loan shark creditors and by his relatives from Home Planet, who at least want the weapon back.  It all ends, fairly well.

My arrival in San Francisco was not too shabby- C & I was quick and welcoming and the walk from International to Domestic is nowhere near as cumbersome as is that in LAX.  Nevertheless, I was not able to reach the United terminal in time for the scheduled flight, and end up on the next one, reaching Phoenix at 11:20 P.M., five minutes late for the shuttle. That, in turn, put me on the last shuttle, at 12:15, and long story short, I made it to Home Base by 3:30 a.m.

One incident still rankles: A nice young lady, a flight attendant, on the domestic flight, had her skirt lifted by a female passenger’s shoe, as she was helping to go over the pre-flight safety instructions.  She handled it with grace and poise, before a male flight attendant switched stations with her and she spent the rest of the flight away from the errant passenger.  Having just finished welcoming my daughter-in-law into our family, and being welcomed into hers, I was angry that this even happened.  That young woman, someone’s child and probably someone’s beloved, should never have experienced this.  We are not in the bad old days of the 1950’s-early 70’s.

That brings me back to Korea.  Chauvinism and machismo were starting to fade, as we left the country in 1992.  There is scant evidence of it now- as Korean women have stood up for their rights and for one another.  It ought to be a global phenomenon, and I will be responsible enough to speak out against such shameful behaviour, whether it comes from a man or from another woman, wherever it happens.

Korean cities have been very similar in appearance to the U.S, since the rebuilding efforts of the 1960’s, following the Korean War.  Now, prosperity has made them even more so, with high rise apartment and office buildings, echoing those of North America, Japan and China.  Standing in the sun room of my family’s apartment, in Busan, I envisioned a parkour master trying to leap onto the nearby building’s roof. This is something I, with my stumpy legs, would never dare to try-but a good running start would give a practiced parkour enthusiast a chance- maybe.

Enough of whimsy, though, I am back in the quotidian world and have done little, other than sleep, on this St. Patrick’s Day- leaving the apartment only for a two-hour meeting. Work resumes tomorrow, and I don’t plan on going very far afield, for at least the next few months.  The just-completed journey, though, was astonishing. a good reflection of why I travel.