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.

The Decorated Ones


May 29, 2023-His name was Richard Daniel Devine. He died in combat, in Kontum, VietNam, on January 10, 1968.

His name was Stanley Joseph Egan. He died in combat, in Hua Nghia, VietNam, on November 23, 1969.

When we were children, every year, just before school let out for the summer, we gathered in the yard of Felton School, and recited a poem that began “Tomorrow is Memorial Day. The soldiers will be marching, with banners waving high.” The day was officially called Decoration Day, as we honoured those who had died, after having served in the military and had been decorated for their efforts. Another meaning of the day came from the practice of decorating graves of departed loved ones with flowers and other tokens of remembrance.

In 1968, the last Monday in May was designated Memorial Day. The actual practice of this three-day weekend began in 1971, along with Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February) and Columbus Day (second Monday in October, and now mainly known as Indigenous Peoples Day). The three days have been observed as Federal holidays since then. They were joined in that status by Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (third Monday in January),in 1986 and by Juneteenth ( June 19), the date of the last documented informing of American slaves that they had been emancipated (Texas, 1865), in 2021. Other Federal holidays of long standing, are New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

There were a myriad observances of Memorial Day, across the United States, and in some other nations which have been allied with the United States in various conflicts, today-as there will be on the traditional Decoration/Memorial/Remembrance Day, of May 30. The men mentioned at the beginning of this post, and over a million people like them, are the decorated ones, the soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, Merchant Mariners and a fair number of civilian ancillaries, who gave their lives, this nation and other countries around the world, might continue to know the reality of freedom.

I knew Stan Egan, and on the day he passed on I chose to spend Thanksgiving in fasting and prayer. It just made no sense that a vibrant, athletic, engaging and confidant young man should have been blown to bits, as it were. It never has-and never will. Until the quest for dominance, for ownership of land, for subjugation of others is given up, the nonsensical will remain commonplace.

In honour of the fallen, across the globe, I give you this rendition of Il Silenzio (The Silence), by Dutch trumpeter Melissa Venema, who first played the tune at the age of 13, in Maastricht, NL. She is now 28, and regularly offers the melody in concert.

Musings, On Another Half-Way Mark


May 28, 2023- I weigh under 170 lbs, for the first time since I left Korea (1992). The work and the discipline are worth it-and while some are already trying to get me to EAT more, the nutrition I am giving myself is more than adequate. As with anything else, when someone pushes me one way, I go the other, at least as far as it suits my own greater well-being.

Exercise is also a key, and I find it easier to do more cardiopulmonary stuff than I did four months ago, when the whole weight reduction plan started. Shedding bulk works. Of course, I also walk more and will get in plenty of hikes, over the next several months, including early morning walks to my favourite grove of trees, about 1.5 miles from the camp I will be managing from June 2-16 and possibly over Solstice Week. I won’t know about the latter until, maybe, June 16, but there we are.

Being 72.5 doesn’t feel bad at all, and actually feels better than 65 or 68. Much is in how one views the world-and oneself in it. I spent the day fitting a friend wh,o is in pain, with a back brace; holding space for a devotional online; driving down to the cemetery where Penny is laid to rest; putting flowers in a plastic vase, provided by the cemetery, and placing the vase at Penny’s grave, then sitting foe a while and communicating about the next few months. Finding the vase was itself an interesting process. Being Memorial Day weekend, most of those vessels were already in use-and people were using the vase bins as trash cans! I drove around and checked a few other bins, finally finding several in a bin near the Cemetery Office. Some people who had pulled in behind me, near the row of graves, were also looking for a vase, so I directed them to that bin, and it was win-win.

Upon returning to Prescott, a dinner was being held in honour of a Baha’i craftswoman, who has a booth at the festival on Courthouse Plaza. So, I attended the delightful meal, and will certainly visit her booth tomorrow, in between all the Memorial Day activities. Tomorrow also marks the 131st anniversary of the Ascension of Baha’u’llah, thus imparting extra meaning to the concept of commemorating the lives of departed loved ones. It will be 106 years since the late former President John F. Kennedy was born. It will also mark 59 years since my late youngest brother was born. I get messages from him also- “Stay true to yourself; you’re on a good path and people love you.”

I feel that energy, especially lately. It’s always good to get messages from departed loved ones, though.

A Broken String


May 27, 2023-Of course, it happened just as Rick was getting into an extended riff, for his last song of the evening: A string broke, on his electric guitar. With a shrug of his shoulders, the craftsman and artist took out a new string and replaced the errant interrupter, in less than two minutes. Then, he resumed playing a rendition of Eric Clapton’s “Old Love”, from where he had left off-no mean feat of memory. The Bluesman has a limited playlist, but it is surely larger than mine, since I don’t play anything other than a hand drum and a few chords on a piano. He never fails to entertain, this one-man band.

Last-minute events never fail to either aggravate or astonish. Certainly, the buzzer-beating shot by Derrick White, giving the Celtics the win in this evening’s NBA East Semifinals Game 6, will rate among the great turnarounds in professional sports history. Boston teams have done it before-the Red Sox, in 2004 and the Patriots, several times. It was actually the New York Yankees, Penny’s favourite team, who perfected the art of Last Minute Charlie-hood- often coming from behind, in the last half of the ninth inning, and more than once, with two outs.

Mickey Spillane, Al Capone and Dame Nelly Melba said it best, if in a politically-awkward, and in Dame Nelly’s case, self-deprecating, way: “The show’s not over until the fat lady sings”. Nothing is truly over until its last element has transpired. The lengthy tussle over the national debt ceiling is about to come to at least a two-year respite. Let’s hope there is no last-minute broken string.