Using One’s Own Voice


May 26, 2023- Recently, I have fallen into the habit of writing to my Senators and Congressman, using pre-written responses, with which I read beforehand and with which I generally agree. The Senators respond, with generalities and vague statements of understanding. Not so, our new Congressman, whose response, yesterday, was essentially ‘When you write me, use your own words, preferably in an e-mail or response posted to my newsletter.’

What a refreshing reminder! Although there is much that he says with which I disagree, sometimes vehemently, the Congressman reminds me of the late John McCain and Barry Goldwater, with both of whom I also begged to differ, quite often. The fact remains, however, that when we get too caught up in parroting the words of others-or worse, parroting the words of an Artificial Intelligence tool, our own integrity suffers, no matter how much we may agree with what the author is saying.

Pablum is a food for infants. Verbal Pablum is not something that will resolve any issues or the problems reflected by those issues. I sat down and read the Congressman’s newsletter, then addressed a couple of issues he raised, in a concise and respectful manner. So long as our differences are a matter of how each of us sees the world, there is no call for anything less. His overriding concern is maintaining integrity in government. As that is also my concern, we ought to be able to keep in respectful dialogue.

The Energy Field Is Always Right


May 16, 2023, Los Angeles- Someone swiped my light jacket, right out from under the baggage handler’s nose. It was a gift from another friend, a while back, and only cost them $20. Serves me right, for having tied it to the outside of my checked bag-and the fleet-footed thief will not be charged, under LA’s “$900 or less” grace ordinance-designed to keep the jails less crowded. Still, it’ll be a briefly chilly morning dash to my car, when we get to Flagstaff early tomorrow. I have plenty of other jackets and coats at Home Base.

Someone is bound to say: “It might not have happened, had you kept your original plan and gone up to the Northwest, any way you could.” Of course, there’s that. There are also these: 1. Plans change, because the energy behind them shifts. 2. In that light, three events in or near Home Base over the next six days, necessitate my presence. 3. My friends in the Northwest have enough with which to concern themselves right now, without my stopping in on short notice. (Maybe three-to-five days in July, before V’s play, in Carson City, will be enough to connect with them. We’ll see what transpires.

I had plenty of alone time at HI Sacramento, last night, to ponder what lies ahead in the next six months, and to plan accordingly. There were few people around, and those who were hosteling were a costume jeweler and his associate, working on their merchandise. In the quietude, some very strong messages came to me-along with a sense that each month between now and November will find me on the road, in the air, and so on. Each of these months will also entail activities around Home Base. There is always a balance, even for one whose public persona seems to be that of a rolling stone. The messages do have one constant: “Your time is not going to feel like it’s your own- especially on certain days.” There is, however, a basic feeling of safety. Paying attention to the energy field also imparts what is needed, in order to make every minute count and each task successful.

After a series of charter bus and train rides, from Sacramento to this city of angels, with wings that have varying levels of dirt, I am in a lightly-populated train car and ready to just relax through the night. Looking at the stops ahead-other than Fullerton, Riverside and San Bernardino, the stops are all rural and unlikely to result in a crowded train. The conductor says his manifest indicates a number of people embarking tomorrow morning in Winslow. By then, I will be enjoying a hot breakfast and coffee, probably in Camp Verde-as Flagstaff’s establishments won’t open before 7 a.m., and an hour’s drive down the highway will be in order.

Good night, all, and may the Force stay with you.

Delayed, but Not Frayed


May 15, 2023, Sacramento-The message came to me in an e-mail, on Saturday, that a certain post I had held for the past six years was being filled by someone else. It’s a routine rotation, if you will, and no reflection on what I did well or not, as a volunteer.

A check of Amtrak’s Sacramento to Seattle and Portland schedules showed that they were booked solid, or were exorbitantly overpriced-an imbalance of Supply and Demand. What this means for me is that I head back to Home Base, sooner than originally planned. My ties to the Northwest are not frayed-the visit to friends up there is merely delayed.

Strengthening connections to Carson City was a priority, so this journey has not been wasteful-no travel ever is. I am likely heading back in late July, because one of the angels is to be in a play, around then-and supporting her is second nature. That jaunt and the trip back East in September, will of necessity be auto-centric, after all. There are matters that cannot easily be tended with train or Uber, and rental cars are once again either scarce or exorbitant, as new friends found out yesterday and today.

The day itself was a fairly easy train ride back to Sacramento and a toasty, but not unpleasant, walk back to the hostel-largely empty tonight, except for three staffers, two women who are staying in private rooms and me, holding down the fort in the “mixed dorm”. That’s not bad, as I got ot jump around a bit, during a friend’s ecstatic dance Zoom call, and tend to some over-the-phone planning, relative to October’s Southeast Asia outreach.

The biggest thing that I learned about myself, these past six days, is that no amount of planning or anticipation is more important than treating each person and each community, with whom I have ties, as any more vital than all the others. Some activities, meetings, visits cab and will get delayed, but ties need not become frayed.

Oh, well-for tonight, I am comfortable and happy, in HI Sacramento’s quietude.

Rising, and Being Raised


May 13, 2023- The objections offered by the woman sitting in the next room, to the Disney versions of classical children’s stories, which her child, grandchildren-and yours truly were watching, were cogent and well-taken. A woman does not need a dashing man of means to swoop in and solve her problems. A human being does not need another, more “superior” human being to decide how life’s difficulties may be overcome.

Those problems and difficulties are best solved by the person facing them, though they are NOT always to be resolved by one soul, singly and alone. There are reasons why we have issues to overcome and there are reasons why we encounter the people we do, including the parents, children, siblings, friends and adversaries in our lives. Each person has something of value to impart, even if it comes in the form of a challenge or setback.

A couple of times today, I found myself admonishing the little boy in the house I was visiting-a place where I am regarded as a brother and as an uncle. His well-being, and that of his sister and cousins, is of great importance to me. So, I speak up, sharply when needed, and calmly the rest of the time. My lesson, though, was to remind myself that his understanding of life is limited-he’s only f our years of age, and controlling impulsivity is a work in progress. Still, keeping the little one safe from physical harm is a duty of every person older than he. Guiding him to not harm others is also a major concern.

There is a further consideration here. Each of us, in addition to (hopefully) raising the young people around us, is also raising self. Parents and nearby adults (again, hopefully) do the best they know how in raising us. The job is not complete, however, when one reaches the age of 18, 21 or 25. Most of the heavy lifting, from those milestones of maturity onward, falls to the individual soul. We can, many times, consult our elders on a continuing basis, but the final choice is our own.

I learn something new about my remaining challenges, both ongoing and novel, each and every day. How I deal with them, what I choose to do, is not on anyone else. I’ve never been Prince Charming, and have never known a Fairy Godmother, or a Sleeping Beauty. The joys and sorrows that have come from each of the friendships and familial ties I have known, though, are more than enough to inform what I need to do, going forward.

If I can offer the same to the children in my life, that is all that is needed.

Their Joyful Freedom


May 12, 2023, Carson City-

“What we have here, is a failure to communicate”-Strother Martin, Cool Hand Luke

The seemingly forlorn young woman remained holed up, in our shared Mixed Dorm room, speaking briefly, when spoken to, but not offering much, in the way of information about herself. She was functioning and while not outwardly fearful of her two male roommates, had clearly been through a bit of trauma somewhere else, and recently.

The little girl was chatty with her mother, and with another woman, who was from China and who conversed through a translation app on her phone. She went back and forth to her grandmother, in the next car of our train from Sacramento to points east (mine being Reno) and was a kind big sister to her toddler brother, when he got sick and vomited- to which their parents tended, without making a big scene. The family was friendly, but were a self-contained unit. They considered, and politely declined, offers of help from me and from the Chinese woman.

The Turo automobile renter apologized profusely, when his wife took the car I had rented from them, and went to work, returning about ten minutes after my appointed pick-up time, and having put a full tank of gas in, on her way back. While we waited, he told me of the struggles that face both the fast food industry and the truck stops that house many such establishments, as mergers and AI make decisions that are out of whack with reality on the ground. The representatives of High Management are “shocked” to discover that the lay-offs and budget cuts, which their overlords demand, will actually serve to make things far worse, as staff is frequently already at bare minimum.

The two winsome pre-adolescent girls stuck together, brought an issue to the motel owner’s attention and looked after me, while I was checking into my room, later remarking to one of their other friends that they thought I was “special”, though I barely said much more than “Thank you” to one who had picked up a dropped item. The group of children later gathered in a small play area that the owner has established where families can relax and where children can safely enjoy the fresh air.

My extended family, here in Carson, communicated their plans to me, via their matriarch’s texts. It sounds like a delightful two days, as always. We spoke a lot, back and forth, about how essential unconditional love is for children and how that love is most always passed on to the next generation, as well as how it can be brought into the lives of those whose lives have been hell. The woman I call my spiritual sister has raised countless foster children, her two adopted children and her natural-born daughter-and has been a rock for her grandchildren of two generations. Communication has been her staple.

Communication once came hard to my autistic self, but as the love that has always been in my heart overcame the reticence that consumed my mind, connecting with others has become an essential part of being. With Artificial Intelligence and more distant decision-making, often based more on incomplete information and wildly overblown assumptions, being de rigueur, even the most seemingly banal texts and IMs have assumed essential status, in order for the right thing to happen for the good of the order.

Miscommunication can be a snowball going downhill. It is our lot, to prevent it from becoming an avalanche.

The Crowded Restroom, Stable Central Valley and Sac’tology


May 11, 2023, Sacramento- The congenial man, who seemed to be in his 50s, entered the crowded restroom, as I was shaving after the long train ride from Flagstaff. LA is LA, and Union Station is as much a place where street people can purchase a decent snack or light meal, and take care of their business in a socially acceptable manner, as it is a place for train passengers to meet their needs. The man looked about, did his business and thanked me for being understanding. Trust, me, I have been there, (though I have never used his particular method), no one was bothered and no further details are needed.

He was followed by a man who expectorated a substance that should never be in the body of any human being. He left, and I found some tissue to safely clean the residue and throw it in the trash. The gentleman at the sink next to mine, also a street person, remarked that I treated the other guy better than he would have. It struck me that the poor soul has probably not caught a break in quite a few years. There was plenty of soap and water to take care of matters, and I am no worse for the wear. The third guy and I went to the snack shop, once I was clean shaven. It’s as fine a thing to have friends on the street, as anywhere else.

Union Station does have its paying guests enter secure waiting areas. Guards check tickets and, on occasion, IDs. I thanked the young man who kept our gate. He looked surprised, but felt glad to be appreciated, I’m sure. We rolled out of Union Station, in a chartered bus, right on time. I got a fair look at downtown Los Angeles, from a northbound perspective.

East Building, Union Station, Los Angeles, seen from a chartered bus.

The journey through San Fernando Valley certainly had its share of mountain scenery and interesting buildings, but I chose not to take any more haphazard shots, whilst the bus was in motion. We rode through forested mountains, then promontories shorn of all vegetation, save grass, until we came to Grapevine, and the southern edge of Central Valley. An hour or so later, Bakersfield, a surprisingly vibrant and attractive city, came into view and we swapped out the bus for a train that was headed for Oakland.

Being a local train, we hit every major city and a good many smaller ones, before arriving in Stockton, my transfer point for Sacramento, about ten minutes late-due to the demands made by freight trains (pride of place, you know). All the areas visible from the train appeared to be in good shape, the waterways were at a comfortable level and the crops were all on track-though I know there are other fields, elsewhere in the bread basket, that will not be as productive this year. Fresno, Madera and Modesto all seem quite bustling. Stockton is a bit under the weather, and there were a fair number of tents along the sidewalk near the train station there.

Sacramento had experienced tremors from a 5.4 earthquake, whose epicenter was near Lake Amador, quite a way to the northeast. I spoke with a man named Max, who had been on the thirteenth floor of a state office building, paying his taxes, when the tremor hit. He hadn’t been so scared since 2001, he told me. He was at Ground Zero, when the towers fell, so he comes by the fright quite honestly, in my book. I told him I was glad he’s okay and went on to check out the state capitol and its grounds. “Sac’to” has a rather interesting vibe to its downtown. Here are some photos of the area, as I was on solid ground and could again focus the camera in a proper manner.

Front room, HI Sacramento, where I spent the night and will return on Monday afternoon.
HI Sacramento’s exterior. Across the street is Sacramento City Hall, with probably the neatest and cleanest tent camp I’ve seen. It is not impossible for street people to be orderly, much as i long for the day when no one feels it necessary to live on the street.
Elks Building, downtown Sacramento
The city’s namesake, Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
The State Capitol of California, seen from the north. It is under construction on the east side.
Sweet fragrances adorn the west side of the Capitol.
California Live Oaks and Incense Cedars offer a wealth of shade on the East Lawn.
Lastly, the First Nations of California have not gone away.
The Capitol bid us good night, and now I do too.

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.

Takeaways from Last Watch, 22-23


May 9, 2023- The call came fairly early, yesterday, as I was en route to Sedona, in caravan with Yunhee and her mother following close behind. The need was for someone to cover three or four classes, for an hour or so in each. Much of the work would be transitional, getting the children from one class to another-and some light monitoring of work in between. With today being unscheduled for anything else, I said yes.

There were no “bait and switch” elements involved. I have a reputation for not taking kindly to such tactics, though being reasonably flexible is part of any substituting activity. So, when asked to help the playground staff for part of the three hours I would have otherwise been idle, I put on sunscreen and went down to the field and the fun zone. A little girl showed me her rather well-executed cartwheel, which generated others to do the same. A mixed group of 5th and 6th graders played kickball, with rules that were quite a bit looser than I remember, but it was all peaceful and I saw some strong displays of athletics. All in all, the kids did what was expected of them, and most of the staff were appreciative.

I will be off on other pursuits, during what remains of the academic year. Autumn will see me back, for as many days as I can be available-working around Mom’s birthday milestone (September) and a visit to a teenager whom I am sponsoring, in the Philippines (October). The latter was approved by the agency, this afternoon. One must not depend on investment income and retirement funds alone. Besides, it’s mostly enjoyable to be with the children.

Tomorrow evening, the train will depart Flagstaff, for Los Angeles, then point north. Life continues on a most even keel.



May 6, 2023- There was hardly a thought in my head, yesterday, about Cinco de Mayo. All energy was on the dried pine needles-raking them up and bagging them, at least around the perimeter of Bellemont Baha’i School’s kitchen and the old Green Cabin, which is a central gathering place for study, during the sessions that are held in June and July. Others will take up the task of raking and bagging, today, around the rest of the property-and we will be in Firewise mode.

My schedule, over the next 2.5 months, is in a fluid state right now. This morning was taken up with manning a booth at another Firewise event, this one in the village of Dewey, which is one half of the town of Dewey-Humboldt, northeast of Prescott Valley. Then, there was the breakdown of Prescott Farmer’s Market, a staple activity when I am in Home Base. This evening, a delightful duo played covers of hits from the 1960s to the 2010s-and nailed every one, at Rafter Eleven.

Checking my messages, I find that the schedule for the next 2.5 months is largely in a state of flux. Tomorrow will be a standard Sunday- Post 6 breakfast, Baha’i Zoom call and laundry getting done. Then, the carved-in-stone ends. Extended family will be here on Monday, and we will do whatever meets their interest. They will be off, exploring the southwest and southern California, thereafter-and aside from possibly joining them on Tuesday, my plans will find me elsewhere. The train to Los Angeles departs Flagstaff at 8:38 p.m., Wednesday night, and a northern California, Reno-Carson City, and Pacific Northwest journey of indeterminate length will be off and running.

The Bellemont camp manager duties, for which I cleared June and July, are in even more of a state of flux. The dates of each camp have shifted, three times, in the last two days. Discussions about cost, and the vagaries of weather, will affect the scheduling even further. I sense that the dust will settle soon, and there will be plenty to do down here, on days when I am not camp bound.

That brings me to thoughts of autumn. September will see another train trip, this time through the Midwest and Northeast, in time for Mom’s next milestone birthday. Back through the upper South and Texas will follow. Then, there is the still possible journey to Southeast Asia-dependent on a head’s up from the agency through which I sponsor a teenager in that part of the world. This, if it happens, will come in mid-October.

Fluidity is a given, in just about anyone’s life, and leads to more of joy and personal growth than anything else. Whatever transpires, I am sure it will be of interest to some. Stay tuned.

The Force and The Source


May 4, 2023- The silly, but catchy, memes that are based on a lisped pronunciation of the word force, and its association with the Star Wars series, have their 24 hours of overuse again this year. I caught some footage of “A New Hope” (Episode 4 of the nine-part main series of films), whilst exercising this afternoon. It all makes me think of the whole concept of power, and from where it comes.

There are, essentially, two views of how power is derived: Through individual initiative and effort; through collective action. In reality, both are necessary, for a full life and for a highly functioning society. Purists on either side tend to negate the effects of their stated views, as they end up getting trapped in the webs of their egos. Thus, the firebrand who wants to cut government to the quick ends up depriving the very free enterprise he wants to promote of the incentives to invest-as the investors are too worried about losing money to focus on much else. The ideologue who wishes death or dismemberment upon the family members of a conservative official ends up contradicting the notion of a peaceful, harmonious society that her cohorts are trying to promote.

All power, every force, comes from the Divine, the Source, the Creator, God, Bhagwan, Allah-whatever one wishes to call the One Who is both the Nameless and the Possessor of all names. From this Source, which has no beginning or end, comes everything we need to build up, or tear down. We do the former either out of love or out of ambition. We do the latter either out of anger/hate or out of recognition that a course correction is needed. The whole process, whatever form it takes, comes from free will-itself a product of the variety that presents itself to us, in a physical world.

I can stay in Home Base and enjoy the comfort of my residence or I can go on the road and visit family/friends, old and new. I can eat delicious ice cream, stuffed omelettes, pizza and such, putting on weight or I can content myself with a strict diet and watch my waistline get more in line, with a healthy regimen-so I have told myself. The truth is somewhere in between.

The same is true, in just about every area of this life. Baha’u’llah tells us: “It is incumbent upon them who are in authority to exercise moderation in all things. Whatsoever passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence.” We who are not in positions of authority do well to follow this, also.

With that, I will exercise moderation, and stop here. May the Force, and the Source, be with you!