Harry Dean Stanton and Henry Barnwell

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September 16, 2017, Prescott-

Yesterday, the Divine called back two very different souls, whose influence on me was indirect, (I never met either man), but extraordinary. Harry Dean Stanton was a party animal, a singer and character actor, par excellence.  Henry Barnwell was a man of the cloth, and a family man, as well as a community bulwark, par excellence.

Harry Dean was someone people saw in movies, for nearly six decades,  and while many couldn’t remember his name, the man was ever familiar.  He had a Festival, as well as an award, named in his honour, by the City of Lexington, Kentucky, near the town where he was born and raised.  Harry Dean was the first winner of the Harry Dean Stanton Award, in October of last year.

He influenced me, by confirming that it is alright to have friends of even the youngest generation, and that it was not disrespectful to be a friend, but not a  worshipper, of one’s elders.  He pointed out that, while having a relationship with someone many years one’s junior was okay, it was even money as to how the romance would end.  He learned this from direct experience.  I’ve found his assessment to be absolutely on point, as well.  Harry Dean’s party-heartiness is not something I chose to continue, past the age of thirty.  It didn’t hurt him much, but I was not born to be a booze hound.  Nonetheless, the cool cat ruled, over much of the Hollywood scene.

Henry Barnwell was a Bishop, a nonstop social activist, and a man committed to breaking the cycle of broken families, especially in the Black community of Phoenix.   He was a child of broken marriage and made sure that he and his devoted wife did not follow suit.  Their four children are lasting beneficiaries of their parents’ insistence on Family Night and regular dinners together.

Phoenix, and all Arizona, are the lasting beneficiaries of Bishop Barnwell’s constancy, in the matters closest to obtaining and maintaining a codified and de facto equality of all people.  He met with the most reactionary public figures, on the same level as with those who agreed with him on civil rights matters.  He would call people whom he wanted to bring together for the public good, and sometimes as early as 5 a.m.  Few, if any, hung up on him.  None were viewed, by Henry, as strangers.

His influence on me was to affirm that reaching out to those with whom one disagreed was the most correct and most natural thing that could happen, in a truly civilized society.  He would never write anyone off, in perpetuity, and that remains my goal.   He would also never write off a desired outcome.  The work continued, despite a struggle with dementia, until Henry breathed his last.

I continue to strive to be as relaxed and nurturing around others as Harry  Dean Dean; as caring and dedicated to helping others, as Reverend Mr.  Henry Barnwell.  May they both be victory-bound!

What Would I Do In Portugal?

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September 11, 2017, Phoenix-

What would I do, if I went to Portugal?

I’d sit on a hilltop,

in Braga,

and ponder what made

the Bishop of that city,

issue a screed against the Guarani,

who stood between his country

and control of the Rio de la Plata Basin.

I’d visit the Fish Markets,

in Lisboa,

Porto,

and Coimbra,

and listen to the banter

of people who rise early,

and bring Omega 3

to the masses.

I would stand

in the grandeur of Evora,

and reflect on the

temporary nature,

of all save God.

What would I do, if I found myself in Zanzibar?

I would pay my respects

at memorials to those

who freed the people

from servitude.

I would befriend the common folk,

be they Waswahili, Arab or Indian.

I would book passage on a dhow,

from Unguja to Pemba,

spend three days on each island,

saving Stone Town for last.

What would I do, if called to China?

Macao would be first,

because of the School of Nations.

I’d not visit the casinos,

being averse to monetary gambling.

Shanghai- the Bund is being overshadowed,

by those great Chinese structures

and systems,

which Pu Yi envisioned,

when he turned the country over,

to Sun Yat-sen.

I would gladly walk,

from the Great Wall’s fastness,

in Beijng,

to the field of the terracotta warriors,

in X’ian,

if the authorities were inclined

to let such a thing happen.

I would stand at the Potala,

inside the Forbidden City,

and within the Stone Forest,

as my spirit soared,

from the energy

extant in each.

What will I do, in my forest town,

over the next two years?

I will serve those

who only seek

to meet each day,

with wonder and a smile.

I will follow the promptings

of  my Creator,

which are not found,

only in carefully arranged stones,

or  in the pronouncements

of this body of personages

or of that Enlightened Soul.

I will use this time,

to inculcate

the spirit-set

of making each act

a holy act.

I will love.

A SoCal Break, Day 2: Crystal Cove

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June 13, 2017, Chiriaco Summit, CA- 

Not that much has come easy to me, over the years, largely because I grew up among impatient peers and had to do things quickly, or not at all.  Fortunately, my parents were a tad more sanguine, and gave me the space to master things at my own speed.

I mention this, because camping, while dear to my heart, has certain aspects, like putting up the tent, that have taken awhile to master.  So, it’s been a wonderful affirmation that my tent has gone up, three times in a row, without a hitch.  I know now that the whole discombobulation thing was a contrivance.  Even with the wind, at San Onofre State Beach, my tent stayed up all night, as did the others.

So, the day dawned with a fine view of the ocean, and I felt a strong sense of confidence.

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Coffee, another morning staple, has always come easier.  Billy the Barrista, at Dana Point’s Crank and Grind Coffee House, put together a superb Cranked Up Americano.  As the name suggests, it’ll get any sluggish beast firing on all cylinders.

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My next impulse was to stop and smell the roses, so up to Doris Walker Overlook, I went.  There is a commanding view of Dana Point Harbor, from this quiet redoubt, and I was able to offer my morning prayers in peace.

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A sea of flowers is complemented by a sea of boats and the Pacific, itself.

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After one further stop, at Corona del Mar public Library, to check my correspondence, it was time to head to Crystal Cove State Park, for a  lunch meeting with a long-time friend.   We have a mutual interest in the fortunes of the California coast, and the cottages of Crystal Cove are among our concerns.  Her news was that the California Coastal Commission had granted Crystal Cove’s Preservation Society permission to renovate the north side’s dilapidated structures.  In real terms, this means drawing blueprints, razing the existing structures, and building replicas.  That is certainly far better than putting up more high rises and condos, which would be a travesty here.

Here are some scenes of the north side cottages.

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After a fine lunch and lengthy catch-up conversation, at the Beachcomber, we walked a bit along the south beach, in search of sea shells.  Those we found were embedded in several rocks.

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Among the rocks which line this section of coast, here are two which are aligned perfectly.

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There were many people enjoying the beach, as one would expect, on so fine a day.  A couple had found the perfect perch, atop a rock that resembled a whale’s head.

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After a couple of hours, it was time to say farewell, and I headed south to Aliso Beach, in the southern part of Laguna Beach, and collected a Ball jar of ocean water, for a grieving friend.  Aliso, too, was packed, and as I was gingerly looking for a parking space, a beach ball sailed into the parking lot in front of me, pursued by a boy of about 10 or 11, just as I hit my brakes.  No one was any worse for the wear, but it reminded me of the TV ad, where a little girl, pursuing a soccer ball, runs pell mell in front of a car- whose brakes are shown to be of superior quality.

The drive from Oceanside, through Vista, Fallbrook, Temecula and overland to Palm Desert, was uneventful, save for a couple of crazed drivers doing 80, on a winding road that safely can support people doing 60, if that.  I always manage to pull off and let them go on their intrepid way, though seldom as quickly as they seem to want.  The second one chose to pass a tractor trailer, on a curve, against a double yellow.  I’d say his luck will run out, sooner or later.

Lastly, here is a scene at Cactus City Rest Area, uphill and east of Coachella.  There are no cacti, at Cactus City, but I had a peaceful supper break.

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Back to Arizona I go, if only for a couple of weeks, before family time ensues.

 

 

Knowing When

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June 8, 2017, Prescott-

My sister’s mother-in-law passed on, this morning, after putting up a good fight, for a good many years. It was just time for her to go on and re-join her husband.  She was one of those souls who walked her own path, without apology.  It was a loving path, but not one that was understood by many people.  I can identify with many elements of that road.

My son and his girlfriend have found themselves on a path, together, that has certainly brought affirmations to his life, and I am sure, to hers.  I’m glad to read of their being focused just on one another, when they are in each other’s presence. As an only child, he has struggled with loneliness, and coped by building hybrid families of peers, when we lived in Phoenix.  He has natural leadership abilities, which of course are more obvious to others, including yours truly, than to himself.  His beautiful friend sees these qualities, I’m certain.  It’s one of the things that gave her the sense of when it was right to walk by his side.

My work situation seems to have becalmed.  I have been assured of a position, come Fall. I am also closer to finishing my yard work- just two small sections remain in the back, and some maintenance work awaits, in the front.  I began gathering things , this afternoon, which can possibly be useful to the Women’s and Family Shelter, and a few things that might be useful to a day center for the homeless.  That work will continue, over the next several days.  It is obvious that it’s time to get rid of all clutter.

Knowing when is the key to a successful outcome.

 

 

Peacefulness Is Back

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June 7, 2017, Prescott-

Questions of longevity are always in the background, as I think about what one might do, over the next three to five years. I just finished reading a book, Apocalypse, by Dr, Jim Richards, a Christian writer and broadcaster, and will have more to say about said book, a post or two from now.  The thing I wish to mention, here, is Dr. Richards’ trust in God is a true thing of beauty, and I have to say, I share just about all of it.  That gives me something on which to work.

Several things happened today, all of them good.  I pretty much am down to two large and two small sections of brush, to be cleared, after a mild, cool morning served as my incentive to get more done than I had planned.  I got more supportive e-mails from the District, including one I had never expected, from my recent supervisor.  Goes to show, I need to work on my reading of people’s cues.  Anyway, the job situation looks set for the coming year.

Housing is something about which I am still pondering.  I am also getting advice, mostly unsolicited, about my supplemental finances.  The final decisions about both will be made towards the end of this month.

Having spoken at length with Aram, last night, I reiterate as to how proud I am of what he has achieved, and how he is facing continuing challenges.  He has another person to support him in his efforts now, and that, as many of us know, will make all the difference.

The car will get serviced on Friday, I will continue downsizing and yard work, the rest of this week- and the latter part of next,  and in between, run an errand of mercy in southern California, as well as visiting a friend, or three, there.

Rough patches tend not to last long, if one pushes forward with, as Muhammad Ali said, “eyes on the prize”.

Sixty Six, for Sixty-Six, Part XXXIV: Different

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May 11, 2017, Prescott-

I have, as most are aware, led a life that has been far from conventional.  My love and I did not play by the rules, as much as we might have, when purchasing our home, in 2003.  I did proudly bring in my mortgage check, for five years, whilst juggling her increasingly unpredictable medical state.  Then came the Madoff scandal, which hit us, indirectly.  Then came the “Great Recession”, bankruptcy and short sale.  Three years later, she was gone.  Son moved on with his life, a testament to our own resiliency, and his.

We, the survivors, are hanging in there.  He’s fine in Busan, South Korea, as far as I can tell.  I am stable in Prescott, as far as I can tell. Money is tight, but no matter.  Those who played by the rules have their struggles, as well.  In the end, we each have what we’ve earned, and little else.

My autism has made me different, from day one.  I approach new situations, new groups of people, from a distance, with some caution.That’s caused issues with others, who jump into newness with both feet, and think a delayed response is a sign of apathy.  It’s caused initial issues with women, who are more in tune with connection.  After reading my heart, much of that has faded away, but it still irks me- that I can’t.quite. be. as forthcoming with new friends, as seems reasonable.

Life is better now, though.  At this age, most of those around me have either been through their own scar-fests (my contemporaries and elders) or are heart-readers (children and teens).  I have one goal, for my own behavioural exchequer:  Feel less inclined to hang back, in new situations.  ACCEPT that most people are naturally inclined to be social, to be accepting, themselves.

It’s okay to be different.

Game Plans, and Other Inspirations

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February 19, 2017, Prescott-

It’s sunny/overcast, this morning, as is often the case in Prescott, after a day and night of heavy rain.  My phone tells me how things are, weather-wise, in Phoenix, and in Busan, as well as here.  It’s a fine thing to keep tabs on my son’s environment, with the aid of the second frame. Korea is a bit milder than Arizona, at the moment.

We old vets talked of earning one’s keep, and of game plans for our years ahead, at this morning’s breakfast.  I am optimistic, as to my own situation- for the simple reason that I don’t plan on sponging off anyone.  What this means, in practical terms, is that I will, as I’ve said a few times, work full-time until either December, 2020 or May, 2021, then take a couple of years for personal pursuits, helping my son with his efforts and traveling- in a mix of discovery and service.  After that, if health allows, I would be glad to return to service-related work, such as I am now doing.  TIME Magazine, in this week’s edition, posits that elders will need to consider several “retirements”, interspersed with work, unless/until infirmity sets in.  I am pretty much covered, thanks to my late wife’s foresight and our son’s personal vow, in the event of my own infirmity.

Children inspire me, first and foremost.  Besides those with whom I work, day to day, there are little souls, incidental to my life, the thought of whom lifts my spirits.  There are my grandnieces and grandnephews, looking out at me from the side of my refrigerator, and whose exploits are regularly relayed by their proud grandparents, my siblings.  The little neighbour kids, brother and sister, bring me to my picture window, whenever I hear their voices and the wheels of their mini-vehicles, from the alley across the way. There are 5-year-old “Boo”, my surrogate granddaughter, in Nevada; her age mate, “B”, in Juneau; the now 11 and 12-year- old sisters from Belgium, who were just full of mischief, three years ago, when we were in a dining car restaurant, in Bastogne; the spirited middle schoolers from Koln, Germany, who enlisted my help in a “take home” exam, in Brussels’ Grande Place, during that same cross-Atlantic jaunt; my nearly 13-year-old sponsoree, “I”, working diligently at his studies, in the Philippines; countless youngsters who have weighed in on matters great and small, in chance encounters during my travels.

The other main source of inspiration is human resilience, which I see every day, in people of all ages and backgrounds.  My cross-town friend, “M”, toughed out some very lean years, as a single parent, before finally arriving at a place of stability.  My cross-country friend, “K”, slept many nights, God-knows-where, before getting her own apartment, finding an honest means of living and a man who loves her.  A once-homeless man, whom some of you may remember from my posts of 2014-15, now has a steady income and reason to get up every morning and smile.

I believe in the Law of Attraction, and its eleven related laws, as surely as I believe that the Arizona sun will dispel any clouds, no matter how thick they may seem.

 

Hearts, Black History and Chief Executives

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February 1, 2017, Prescott-

The Mini-Month is now upon us, with groundhogs galore waiting to be yanked out of the ground, tomorrow.  I know there will be many enlightening programs and articles about African-Americans, this month, but I think people should be fully honoured for their place in America’s story, and the stories of the world, EVERY month, and regardless of ethnicity.  Still, I’m glad the stories are getting out there.  Too many people still think Blacks, Native Americans, Latinos, Irish-Americans, and even women, collectively, are making up, or exaggerating, the past,  because “things aren’t so bad for ________________ NOW!” We  have to know our history, and know it well, for the very reason that too many people see things on the surface, and have short memories.

The Italian martyr, Valentino, has become a symbol of unconditional love and thus a day devoted to love- and romance- has taken the English form of his name.  St. Valentine’s Day falls on a work day, Tuesday, this year.  I will be giving the same unconditional love to my students that I offer, every day.

The following weekend will be Presidents’ Day, ostensibly to honour two of our greatest Chief Executives:  Washington and Lincoln, and, by extension, those of our presidents who have not harmed our nation.  Who they are, remains a matter of intense debate.  I have my opinion, but will not get into that, here.

Aram will leave for South Korea, in about a week.  I will be at San Diego International Airport, to see him off.  Then, each of us will get on with our respective duties, and other aspects of our lives.  For him, there will be some familiar aspects, as he was born, and spent his first three years of life, in Jeju, and shore duty will be more of a routine, than sea duty.  For me, the regimen will continue at school, the American Legion honours World War II’s Four Chaplains, my work for the Baha’i Faith goes on, and new outdoor adventures will present themselves- Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountains, the Verde Valley’s Limekiln Trail and, a slightly-delayed visit to Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park, in Yarnell.

It looks to be a fascinating 28 days.

Seeking Light

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January 22, 2017, Prescott-

I spent much of today in spiritual study, first attending a Baha’i group, which is focusing on our Supreme Administrative Body, the Universal House of Justice.  Afterwards, I continued a simultaneous reading of “Apocalypse:  A Spiritual Guide To The Second Coming”, by Dr. Jim Richards and “The Standing Stones Speak”, by Natasha Hoffman and Hamilton Hill.

Many of us are on a spiritual quest, of one sort or another.  My purpose, in reading the two, rather divergent books, is to find the common cord, which Baha’u’llah says exists in any faith that is based on Divine Revelation.  Dr. Richards cautions the reader against taking everything, in conventional religion, at face value.  He offers a good compendium of religious trappings that appeal to one’s ego, or are drawn from darker practices of the past.  Ms. Hoffman and Mr. Hill advise the reader to open spiritual channels and meditate, deeply, on the positive and pure  elements that reveal themselves to the discerning, while being wary of negative forces.

In other words, both the conservative Christian and the spiritualists are warning us away from negative forces, and pointing us towards the forces of light.  This is what I’ve seen, so far, and verifies my learnings from Baha’i Scripture.  It’s important, to me at least, to not be too attached to names and titles, but to look, carefully, at the lives of the Great Spiritual Teachers and to sift out any indication of self-aggrandizement, on the part of the writers.

All I have read, thus far, encourages more comparative study- including a simultaneous study of the New Testament and the Quran, later this Spring, Summer and Autumn.  Baha’u’llah teaches that each individual is to learn spiritual truth for her/himself.

On The Ground

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January 2, 2017, Chula Vista-  “Make a friend today.  Be the first to smile, in a friendly way.”- These words, to a Bluegrass song, coming from my son’s housemate’s i-pod, say all that needs to be said, in the first step to healthy survival.

Son is understandably anxious, about the coming change in his life, which is why I’m here, this week, and will be available for him, between now and departure day.  It makes it easier,for both of us, that he will be in Arizona for most of that time.  Once he gets to Korea, there will plenty of other seasoned adults to guide him into the routine.

I went on a routine errand, to pick up some items at the local Ralph’s (SoCal’s version of Fry’s and Kroger’s), yesterday afternoon.  While backing out of my space, synchronicity almost led to crash, as a large SUV was also backing out, across from me and the guy who was waiting for my space was inching forward.  Each of us noticed the others, at the last split second, and no fender benders hailed in the New.  Such is life, in Bubble Land. I’m grateful to everyone, when I was growing up, who kept after me to get out of my head and pay attention. Now, I just have to keep their admonitions in mind, in all circumstances.

Today is statutory New Year’s Day, which means that, while the majority of us carry on with our lives, the government and the banks stay shuttered, more or less.  It could be more severe, though.  In Japan, New Year lasts for five days.  Then again, even here, if Congress and the Executive don’t get their act together, soon, it’ll be another series of rounds of “Who’s open for business?”, come April.

The rains were kind to SoCal, and to nearby eastern neighbours, this past weekend.  I sense we all may get a few more soakings, the rest of this winter.  It’ll be a relative drop in the bucket, but perhaps will be the start of a reasonable trend.

Reasonable trends are what we need, across the nation, and the planet.  I look forward to each such movement, however small. Have a great month, moving forward, everyone.  I will be here, as many days as possible.  Oh, and make a friend today!