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.

Anna Mae


May 24, 2023- Before Beyonce, before Rihanna, even before Aretha and Diana, there was Tina Turner. She transcended being treated, and mistreated, as a commodity by her first husband, then by Phil Spector, the latter at least acknowledging her particular vocal talent. She wore it and shook it off, keeping her stage name as a mark of survival.

Anna Mae Bullock was born to an indifferent mother and unsettled father, and frequently made to feel like an appendage. Her grandparents taught her Gospel music and a strong work ethic, which she exhibited throughout her musical and film career. She stuck with Ike Turner for nearly twenty years, until his addiction-fueled, abusive behaviour made her overcome any remaining loyalty or feeling like he had somehow “made” her career. Tina, she remained, and true to her vocal talents, she kept on performing, rejuvenating her career in the 1980s, a decade in which she said she “fit”. Tina Turner remarried, in 2013, finding happiness with her long-time friend and collaborator, Erwin Bach. That same year, she became a citizen of Switzerland, relinquishing her U.S. citizenship. Her last ten years of life were wracked by disease, tempered by her faith in the Divine and the love she shared with her husband.

Tina was the ultimate show artist,and while her view of her native land was harsh-so was much of the life she lived here. She made a grand contribution to American popular music, nonetheless, rejuvenating both her career and the entirety of the genre, at a time when both were in a low ebb. Tina Turner will remain in many hearts, for a long, long time.

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.

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.

Where’s Home?


May 17, 2023- As I got off the train this morning, sans jacket, I felt a slight chill in the air and moved briskly towards the area where the Sportage was parked. I noted that a slightly-built young woman, who had initially regarded me with suspicion, while we were on the train, was also without a jacket and was rather flustered-perhaps having met the same fate. I also noted that several well-built men were without coats. Maybe there was a run on outerwear, back at Union Station.

It is customary to welcome people back, when they have been away from a situation-whether to a place of work or to a community. I appreciate the greeting, but I must admit that a limited view of home has never resonated with me. Home has been any number of places, over the years: Saugus is still the place where I lived the longest, though Prescott is catching up, in that regard. Bangor never really felt that comfortable. Amherst, Northampton and South Deerfield were fine places to live, while I was in school-as was Flagstaff. Tuba City and Jeddito helped me expand my awareness of true First Nations life. Jeju did the same, for my understanding of East Asian thought and cultural norms. Salome, once I got an appreciation of rural desert dwellers, might have been a fine place to settle, but for local politics. Phoenix was too close to the rawness of the situation we were in, as a couple and as a family dealing with deadly disease. It was also far too hot, for too many months in the year.

I’ve addressed the issue of where I feel most at home, when on the road, several times before and will not belabor that matter again, here. Basically, though, home is ever a state of mind. Maybe that was why I felt as comfortable whilst on the buses and trains, yesterday, as I do right now in “my own” living room.

It’s nice to be at Home Base, though, and I hope the young lady at the train station found her way back to where she feels at home, in fairly short order.

The Balancing Dance


May 10, 2023, Flagstaff- The little Amish girl looked at me, quizzically, and asked her mother why I was not watching “The Beverly Hillbillies”, like the rest of the people gathered in the train station waiting room. Her mother responded, “He probably sees that show for what it is-a farce that ridicules people like us.” With that, the family went outside and there they waited for the train, away from television-which the parents despised openly.

Truth be known, I have never been a fan of the insipid- “Dumb and Dumber” and its ilk. Shows that ridicule any group of people have a duty to bring the people in on the joke-or cease and desist. It is healthy to laugh at oneself, within reason. It is not healthy to be on the outside, watching the finger-pointing and hearing the snickers.

I’m told that the Trump “Town Hall”, sponsored by Cable News Network, this evening, was another clown fest. The audience made a spectacle of themselves, laughing almost on cue at the barbs and one-liners thrown out by their idol, in his usual staccato fashion. With that revelation, I had a more appreciative opinion of the station master’s decision to show situation comedies that were come by quite a bit more honestly.

The balance between fact and opinion seems more treacherously off, these days. It’s a dance, for sure, and one in which opinion, unfiltered, manages to stomp on the toes of fact, while gleefully yelling and looking towards its Greek chorus of misfits, knowing it can count on them to keep the party going full tilt.

The balance, if not brought to evenness, will end that sad party in a mass of delusion and dejection-as the Greek chorus, from CNN to OAN, realizes just how badly they have been duped-and like the Jacobins of late Eighteenth Century France. turn on their clown prince-and all that he represents.

The train to Los Angeles is leaving, and for the next few days, I will be going from one end of the Golden State to the other, observing the state of the street people (my term for the unhoused), the present condition of the Central Valley and of the snowpack in Sierra Nevada, I can see much, from the windows of buses and trains, and learn much. from talking with street people in places like Union Station or the tent encampments in downtown Sacramento and Stockton.

Eyes front, America.

Stitchless Again


May 2, 2023- At first, the receptionist thought she had to get permission from the dermatologist, in order to send me in to see the young man who was scheduled to remove the sutures, from my recent procedure. As no one was answering the phone on the other end, the PA’s supervisor came out to the lobby and verified that I was to see him, once the backlog of people who had arrived before me was seen. That did not take anywhere near the time it might have, and my five minutes of the PA’s time came, only 30 minutes behind schedule.

I had no other immediate appointments, so it was not trouble to spend several minutes watching those who were seeking condos by a beach, and a McMansion in Santa Fe, on HGTV. Once the stitches were out and a bandage applied, I dropped off some items at Disabled American Veterans Thrift Store, took care of one or two other errands and got the laundry done, after a fashion.

A miscommunication between me and another Baha’i friend led to my getting the time wrong, for a gathering on the 12th Day of Ridvan (today), so I got a few refreshments and helped clean up, catching up with a few friends I’d not seen for quite a while. Things can change on a dime, so I was not at all perturbed-at least I got to the tail-end of the gathering.

This evening brought me into the world of Turo, a car rental service that lets people deal with one another directly. That will be needed, when I get to Reno and am ready to head to Carson City, in about nine days. It will also come in handy, on other occasions. A cousin of mine used Turo, a while back, and was quite pleased with what amounts to the Air Bnb of car rentals. The lady from whom I’m renting a hybrid has good reviews from prior customers, so I feel good about the arrangement.

All in all, this was another good day. I have to double down on exercise, and be more patient with myself, and others, in dealing with situations in which people are hair-splitting, during certain Zoom sessions. The temptation to tune out is pretty strong, yet there are things that the hair-splitters have to say, which are rather important, in the midst of it all.

Sifting wheat from chaff is still a worthy exercise.

Upticks and Resets


April 27, 2023- After leaving my car, for an oil & lube, I walked off towards our Gateway Mall, seeking breakfast. Usually, the walk takes me over to the east side of the mall, which takes about twenty minutes. Something told me that I would not have that long, this morning, so it was time to revisit Panera Bread, which I had not patronized for nearly three years, after I found the place filthy. Today, though, it was again the Panera I love-and a hearty bowl of oatmeal accompanied my morning coffee. That gives me three choices for a mall breakfast, the others being Wildflower Bakery and Third Shot Coffee House.

Needless to say, the call came from the Service Department, that Sportage was ready, just as I had finished my meal. Everything was in order, and I got advice as to where I could take a recall notice for proper servicing-though it’s nothing urgent. No resets were needed on the car.

With little to concern me, the rest of the day, it was time to re-order weight reduction products, from Thrive by Level and Herbalife, so that I can finish what started on February 6. The two lines compliment each other and combining them is what helped shed a healthy number of pounds-and inches around the middle. It’s time to up my game-and that includes exercise, so two or three routines will be part of any Planet Fitness visit, as it is for so many others.

This evening, after having enjoyed the company of fellow Baha’is at Spiritual Feast, refreshments came-in the form of pie a la mode. It was my first such indulgence, since early February-with the discretion of valor recommending that I take what was offered-and workout once back at Home Base. So, I enjoyed a scoop of Breyer’s Vanilla and a not-too-sweet slice of apple pie-and here I am now, halfway through a set of abdominal exercises. Resetting is a constant, but there are far worse things to face.

Reconnecting, in any case, is most often a delight.

Casting the Burden, and Grasping It


April 24, 2023- The intrepid boy sang his way through five pages of three-digit addition problems, doing two pages, then taking time for his Specials class (Music, of course) and returning to work the rest of the lesson. He hit upon a method, which I’ve seen people use in “Swing Mode”-the approach to working through a given task by using rhythm and movement-that engaged his whole body in accomplishing a task that might otherwise have been seen as drudgery. Indeed, his regular teacher was amazed at the progress, initially crediting me with inspiring the child to work in this manner. In truth, I had nothing to do with it. Whatever unseen influence prompted his motivation, it was a godsend. There are many ways to cast a burden and the way that works best for an individual should be decided by him or her.

Conversely, another child has held onto his issues and setbacks, as if they are a perverse security blanket. This child accomplished little, despite an intellect that is outwardly superior to those of many of his classmates. There are, I am told, concerns with the apathy of his parents, which would certainly raise a red flag. None of us enjoys being ignored, especially by those whom we should expect to trust the most. Getting attention by clutching onto negativity is behind far too many of the issues that bedevil our communities. Then, too, there are all the intrapersonal dynamics that inhibit or dissuade the seemingly oblivious adults, in the life of a troubled child, from taking up their inherent responsibilities.

This was the last day of my assignment, and once again, I was thanked by the team for not charging in and rearranging the system according to my own predilections and whims. I do prefer to let established teams continue with what works, whether the group be a Red Cross operation, a Farmers Market activity or a well-oiled team of educational paraprofessionals. Treating people, of any age, as dignified beings who have a fair idea as to what they are doing, tends to have a good effect on their operation. The mentally ill or abused/neglected tend to need more structured support, and for a longer time than others, but it is still advantageous to note what they are doing successfully and build upon it.

Only by increasing the circle of security, can a person reasonably be led to cast a burden and free the self. That requires attention and discernment.

Many Jobs, Few Tasks


April 22, 2023- Earth Day called me to get up on a workday schedule, so by 5:30, I was groomed and dressed. There were four stops and a Zoom call waiting, so after reading the newspaper and saying a few prayers, it was off to Courthouse Square. There was not a whole lot to do at Stop # 1, an environmental group’s booth, between 8:15, when I finally found the booth, and 8:50, when it was time to race back for the Zoom call.

It seemed imperative that I join the call, since I had been absent for two weeks, due to my Red Cross deployment. The moderator of the call has had a hard time with my absence-service to the wider community is apparently not his thing, if it conflicts with his Zoom work. As it happened, he was absent today, but his trusted assistant was glad I was on the call-and has no issue with someone being away due to working with the Red Cross.

After the call ended, I stopped in, briefly, at an American Legion Auxiliary rummage sale-picking up an extra pair of sunglasses(to replace the pair that was lost during my sheltering activity) and a cake to bring to my substituting assignment on Monday. Then, it was off to Farmers’ Market, getting a week’s supply of microgreens and catching up with friend Melissa.

Job #3 was back at the Firewise section of Courthouse Square’s Earth Day, and I got to the Red Cross booth four minutes late, which led to a mild chastisement from the woman tending the booth and groans from the man who had been there since 7 a.m. Water off this duck’s back! I give a lot of myself and no longer fret about people who are overly sensitive at slight lapses of punctuality.

After an hour, in which I greeted seven visitors and explained a bit about our mission, it was back to Farmers’ Market-this time to help a group of college students break down the tents, and put away the folding tables and chairs. With an increased efficiency, on the part of the new team lead, we were finished in less than an hour.

Job #5 was back at the Red Cross booth. This time, I was early, and the tent was folded up and put away a bit after 2 p.m.

There were big crowds at both Courthouse Square and Farmers’ Market, as people are finally comfortable with being at our community’s traditional events. Chalk-It-Up is back, after a three-year hiatus! More on that delightful artistic festival, in tomorrow’s post.

It was a fine day, and not as strenuous as it might have been, had there not been full teams at each location. Topping the day were two relaxing musical events: The Bourbon Knights performed ’60s Golden Oldies and some original tunes, at Rafter Eleven, while friend Stephy Leigh, accompanied by Jonah Howard, of Cross-Eyed Possum, performed two sets of her original music, with a few covers thrown in, at Raven Cafe.

Being back at Home Base has its rewards, great music being chief among them.