First Camp, Day Six: Adios, But Not Goodbye


June 7, 2023- Just as Al Martino sang those words to a hypothetical Mexican woman, back in the mid-sixties, I bid farewell to the forty amazing teenagers and adult minders,who have enriched my world, over the past six days. Wedding Anniversary Week has entailed some sort of spiritually-based service, since Penny passed on-and this year was no exception.

The range of humanity was here, in this group: There were Persians, Mexicans, Dineh, New Mexican Land-Grant Spanish, Tanzanians, African-Americans, Moroccans,Filipino-Koreans, Native Hawaiians, and a few of us Heinz 57 hybrids. There was little, if any, tension though. People were forthright about their wants, needs and concerns. Standing and sitting circle sessions, for both prayer and consultation, kept the water of harmony flowing. Small crises, like yesterday’s allergy attack, kept everyone with arms linked. Even a forlorn soul, speaking truth to the group about having felt “prejudice”, couched those remarks in a hopeful frame, looking forward to working towards increased acceptance.

Strong women and girls stood shoulder to shoulder with men and boys. People who are in a journey of discovery about their sexuality and gender identity walked alongside those of us who determined those aspects of ourselves a long time ago. Boomers and Gen-X’ers were readily accepted by Millennials, Gen-Z’ers and Alphas-and vice versa. Autistic people found a place among the neurotypical. This was a microcosm of what lies ahead for humanity.

Once the kids were on the road, I went about sanitizing the bunks, gathering and securing the trash bags, locking up the buildings and making the drive back to Home Base. Gasing up at Maverik, in Williams (The $ 3.50 price range has returned to Arizona!) and gumboing up, at Danny B’s, in Chino Valley, helped me get back in time for a crucial Zoom call.

A short Home Base break will allow for re-focus, before Camp 2 starts, in about 48 hours.

First Camp, Day Five: An Unexpected Allergen


June 6, 2023, Bellemont- On this forty-first anniversary of Penny’s and my marriage, I could feel her spirit, as ever, with many expressions of appreciation for my efforts, coming from the campers. Of course, I won’t ever be as popular as the chef, and she reminds me of that at every turn-but it’s with a twinkle in her eye. I will slowly get over the deeply ingrained doubts over my place in the world-with a few loud exceptions, most everyone these days is my well-wisher. It is only the latter who are here at camp. I don’t miss the others.

A young man found himself in the throes of an unexpected allergic reaction to something that had never bothered him previously: Eggs. He was surrounded by caring adults and peers,and between the sous chef and me, a good supply of antihistamine was soon on site and the suffering teenager was back in the spirit of things by late afternoon. For good measure, he will be kept away from any egg dishes for the rest of camp-and a package of antihistamine will accompany him, in the hands of his lead tutor, tomorrow as they head back home.

Many times, we lack the self-knowledge that would protect us from mental allergies. Those things about others, that remind us of perhaps vulnerable things about ourselves, are ever the trigger. It matters none, though; we each get the same challenge time and again, albeit in different guises-until acceptance of a flaw, and conscious effort to transcend it, become the order of the day.

So it goes, as I learn as much about myself from the campers, as we wind down our time together.

First Camp, Day Four: Overcoming Cold and Dark


June 5, 2023, Bellemont- The power grid seemed to be playing cat and mouse with the girls and me. One young lady would come to me with a complaint about the lights going off, in their section of the bath house; I would toggle the relevant circuit switch and the lights were back. Five minutes later, I would get a text message from someone else, and go back and toggle again. The process happened a third time. Then, a chaperone reported that the power had gone out in the overflow women’s cabin.

That brought the AHA moment: The cabin in question was connected to the same breaker unit as the women’s bath house and there were three space heaters in use, at the time the power kept cutting off. The solution was to connect the cabin with a less-used circuit. There was no repeat of any outage.

Back in Prescott, a single mother who has fallen on hard times, only partly of her own making, has been messaging me with pleas for help. All I can do, either here or in Home Base, is encourage her to seek legal aid and the help of a social service agency. I will do so, ad nauseam if necessary, until the light shines through. Too often, people in trouble will insist on depending upon individuals to help them, whether psychologically or financially. The first only works when the prospective helper can be focused, in perpetuity many times. The second only works when he/she is both well-oiled and willing t.o share their money. Neither one will work, though, if the challenged soul is buried beneath a pile of victim blankets.

I have been in both situations. Fortunately, my victimhood was cut to pieces by family members who knew just the right combination of Good Cop and Bad Cop. I was out of the hole, within four years-but it took my own determination to get upright and stay that way. Conversely, I have had to be the Bad Cop with three people who came to me for help, would not help themselves, screamed and yelled that I was not solving their problems and ended up being cut off. I saw one of them later and learned he taken charge of his own life. His enablers were gone. Sometimes, rock bottom is what it takes.

No one is entitled to a bed of roses. My life only became good when I was willing to take responsibility for all of it. Teamwork makes things better, yes, and so does a measure of self-reliance-which requires self-respect. Thus may one dispel cold and dark.

First Camp, Day Three: A Spoonful of Sugar


June 4, 2023, Bellemont- Mom says there are two ways to “draw flies”-honey and vinegar. The first draws more, of course. I will pass on drawing flies, but relating to teenagers is all about figurative honey: Understanding their minds and hearts, paying attention to their words as well as their actions, without butting into their conversations.

A young woman made a reference to someone as “respectfully creepy”. Since I was within earshot and line of sight, and my behaviour has not been “creepy”, and as she is a well-mannered person, I doubt that was a reference to yours truly. It is more likely with regard to one of her peers who is showing unwanted attention. Nonetheless, one must always be mindful of how attention to others is interpreted.

The chef decided, after a low key day that was concerned with study groups and an impromptu volleyball tourney-and little for me to do around campus, that a baked treat was in order. She served up a pan chocolate and butterscotch chip cookie- a bit soft and gooey, but definitely a hit with the campers-and several adult staff. I was the one serving, and for making sure that stragglers and loners got their share, was able to bond with more of the campers.

Millennials came up with the term “I appreciate you”, in expressing gratitude for kindnesses great and small. The succeeding two generations of youth have continued this nice practice, and we oldsters likewise have taken it into our own lexicon.

I draw a lot of strength from being with groups like this one. Camp is rejuvenating!

All That and A Bag of Chips


June 1, 2023- The title seems to be popping up, here and there, on various friends’ and family members’ posts recently. It does describe my life pretty well- though I don’t see myself as “all that” and the chips are still something I eat sparingly. My weight reduction plan got another boost, this morning, as the tech from the scale company returned from vacation and patiently walked me and my fat fingers through the profile building process, over the phone. Now, I will be able to track my BMI, as well as au naturel weight, each morning. Enough TMI!

June is not gloomy here,just as May was not gray. July might fry, though-we are slated to start seeing summer temps, by the middle of this month. For now, though, the breezy air is delightful.

I have resumed a bit of downsizing, in advance of the two weeks or so that camp duty calls. Plates, bowls and cutlery that are in excess of what I need have gone on to a thrift store-and a bit of re-arranging items was accomplished yesterday, in advance of my receiving a late neighbour’s washer and dryer, in early July, now that the whole probate thing regarding his estate is done. Landlord got the court’s permission to dispose of G’s left over items, as he had asked before passing on. I get the laundry items. Funny how probate can go: Had our landlord entered G’s apartment and removed items before the proceedings were completed, he could have been thrown in jail for theft! I hadn’t heard of that before, but there we were.

For the next two weeks, and maybe for a week afterward, I will be mostly occupied with camp. WiFi will variously involve visits to the Truck Stop and trying to set up a hot spot onsite (for Zoom calls which, if missed, will rankle at least one of the hosts-“No absences, no excuses!”) Oh, well, God didn’t die and leave anyone in charge! At any rate, I will manage to send these posts out from the Truck Stop, most days.

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.

Two Views


May 25, 2023- This is a “slow news” day, here at Home Base. We had a productive session on public discourse, this morning, though, and the thought occurred to me that, with the fairly minor act of moving Amanda Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb” to a middle school library in a central Florida school (No, it was not “banned”), a posting of the young lady reading the poem, (which I happen to like), in the same place as Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The USA”, (which I also happen to like), would be appropriate on the cusp of Memorial Day weekend.

The fact is, many people are climbing the hill towards that Shining City, that Ronald Reagan mentioned all those years ago. Some have been in the city for a while now; others are at the gates, and are trying to get in, by various means. I was born on the city’s edge and was raised there, by two hard-working, honest folks. Many of my compatriots were also born and raised in the Shining City. Some were relegated to its far outskirts and have yet to work their way inward. Others have done relatively well. This City, though, is not the result of a zero sum game. There is room, for all those born here, to succeed. Pretending otherwise is a sorry delusion.

The following are two views of America, one celebratory, the other an admonition. Neither is an extreme view, although to those who themselves harbor exclusionary mindsets, that with which they disagree is always going to represent a threat. Please give a listen, and some thought, to both. .

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.