Hometown Bound: Day 3

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May 14, 2021, Cloverdale, IN- Looking around this morning, in Joplin, for a breakfast place, I checked out one strip mall, across from Budget Inn and found it completely empty. A block to the west is Granny Shaffer’s- which, down to the feisty Filipina manager, is one of those “home away from home” places that serve as anchors, both to locals and to people like me, who keep mental sticky dots on the map of memorable spots. Like Gramma’s Kitchen, in Banning, CA; Harpoon Henry’s, in Dana Point; The Beachcomber, in Newport Beach; Fricker’s, in Richmond, IN; D’s Diner, in Wilkes-Barre; Bedford Diner, Bedford, PA; and Prescott’s own Zeke’s Eatin’ Place and Raven Cafe, Granny’s holds a strong place in the culinary register. With me, good food is one thing- but it’s the human connection that matters most.

I set out, after breakfast, as my cousin who lives east of Joplin was hard at work. Getting to Rolla, a bit after Noon, I found that another friend’s place, Cupcakes and Cravings, had gone under, due to Covid. So, it was onward and eastward, through a short bottleneck near downtown St. Louis and a somewhat longer, but not excruciating, traffic jam, due to bridge construction, once on I-55/70. When I-70 became separate from I-55, the traffic flow was much lighter. I enjoyed a healthful dinner at Niemerg’s Steak House (grilled catfish), Effingham, IL, with another standing welcome to come on back, whenever I’m in the area. That puts Niemerg’s on the above-mentioned roster. My server, L, never stopped working and told her manager that she didn’t need a break. I’ve said before, that there is no dearth of a work ethic among the younger generations. This is just more proof.

Another aspect of this road trip is mask-wearing. I have put mine on, when I see a sign requesting it. So far, Arizona and Oklahoma leave it up to the individual; New Mexico, Illinois and Indiana have posted signs asking that masks be worn indoors; Texas and Missouri pretty much have no state-wide mandate, but some individual businesses expect people to don masks, when indoors.

Here in the Super 8, Cloverdale, mask and gloves are required when getting our breakfasts (to take back to the room), and when in the lobby. I am fine with this. We will get through the rest of t.his, only with courtesy

Hometown Bound: Day 2

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May 13, 2021, Joplin, MO- Along the highways today, I passed the same onion truck seven times. We started out from Lisa’s Truck Stop, in Moriarty and he did not seem to stop much between there and Tulsa. At least, I would stop here and there, and would find him up the road, sometime later.

The day dawned, cool and gray, in Moriarty. I heated up what was left of last night’s Sombrero and savoured it, in the quiet at Lariat Motel. After getting a coffee at Lisa’s, I made a beeline for Amarillo.

The cool and gray dissipated, by the time I rolled into the parking lot, at Venezia Italian Restaurant, on Amarillo’s historic Sixth Street. Old pal Wes Hardin was there, standing outside his “new” car, which I found a relief-as he is again independent of cabs and Uber. Wes and I solved the problems of the nation and world, at least in our own minds, in the span of an hour, whilst enjoying Shrimp Alfredo and Lobster Ravioli, respectively.

With that accomplished, I bid farewell to Wes, as headed back to work and made my way east. A brief stop in Shamrock, TX revealed another friend, named Rusty was not at her cafe. It turns out this is an evening music and unwind type of establishment. Note to self: File that in travel notes.

I did not stop much in Oklahoma, gassing up in Sayre and stopping for a bite at the Stroud Travel Center, off the Turnpike. Block Party BBQ has pretty decent brisket. I will reach out to another friend in NW Oklahoma, on the way back, but for now, the main task is to make good time, between now and Sunday morning, when I should be in Saugus.

Turnpike traffic was relatively light, so I was surprised to see one of Joplin’s larger hotels was completely booked. No problems here, as my spirit guides set me towards the city’s shopping district, where I found Budget Inn and am set for the night.

Hometown Bound: Day 1

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May 12, 2021, Moriarty, NM- This time, I planned things out ahead of time, started packing the day before and was out the door, with everything in place, by 8:30 a.m. Even the houseplants being placed in suitable amounts of water was a thing that was done last night.

This is not a routine summer jaunt, nor is it a breakout from pandemic restriction. My mother made her own decision to move to a different residence, after 66 years in the house where her children grew up and where so many family memories were made. I told myself that when this day came, I would not be absent from the clean-up and moving of keepsake items from the house. It would be a gargantuan task for family members who live closest to the house. I’ve said that no one should ever have to take on a humongous task alone-and this is one such time.

The day brought me through breathtaking backcountry to Winslow, where a leisurely lunch at Sipp Shoppe, made slower by staff shortage, was what I needed, in that I had to relax and not concern myself with The Timetable. Ditto, for the construction-induced slowdowns on I-40, between Gallup and Grants. There were no long lines or gas shortages along the way, as there were reported in the Southeast.

I am in this mountainside town, east of Albuquerque, for the night. A lone server at Double C Diner was earnest and attentive-a young mother, taking care of all aspects of the restaurant-except the cooking, whilst tending to her toddler daughter. This is what happens in small towns; people just go to work and do whatever needs to be done, without complaining. I would patronize Double C, anytime I pass through Moriarty. The food is superb and the little family deserves support.

Day 2 will bring me through familiar turf, as well: Lunch in Amarillo, a zip across the middle of Oklahoma and hopefully, an overnight stop in southwest Missouri. All I feel, going through places in the heart, is love for the people who have made this life so very worthwhile.

The Long and the Short of It: Part II

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May 11, 2021- I was able to locate the Windows service for deleting temporary Internet files, so let’s see if that helps with the configuration issues that have been irksome, over the past few days.

The Elantra is ready for its first cross country jaunt, since 2019. It was found that the small brake light bulb, that kept burning out , is simply not well-made, with small filaments that don’t handle the bumps and lumps of our rougher roads-and those are the ones that are paved. It’s a nuisance, but also a First World problem.

The lack of regard for the safety of children is not just an American issue: Eleven people, many of them children, were shot to death yesterday, in Kazan, Russia. I can’t say it enough- It is not the God-given right of mentally ill people to bear arms. This does not mean those who have been successfully treated for mental illness can’t own firearms, but those still certifiably afflicted are a public safety menace, when given access to guns and ammunition.

It’s time to end the “audits” and voter restriction bills that seek to undo the results of LAST year’s election and/or prevent American citizens from voting, based on any number of anticipated, but unlikely, “potential frauds”. If anything, voter protection needs to be expanded. If that means there are laws passed that I may not like, then let the courts determine whether these are/are not constitutional. It is not up to state legislatures to circumvent the right of the people to vote as they please.

It’s starting to get warm here again, and I see that just as I am preparing to head out of town, the fires are kicking in. This time, I am taking care of family matters first, and pray for the safety of those in the back country, who might be affected by the present wildfire. My journey does not mean I don’t care about our County.

Onward and outward, it is.

The Long and the Short of It

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May 10, 2021- As get ready for a road trip, there are always good things that happen and challenges that interfere with what I need to do, day to day. The dental check-up I had this morning shows that regular care has stemmed the decline that had plagued my poor mouth, up until ten years ago. Tomorrow, I will get my car serviced and expect that all will be well, given the regular care the Grey Galloper has had, these past five years.

That leaves the device on which I am writing this piece. There are some issues with Windows 10, specifically the recent tendency for the screen to jump about and show a menu, starting with emojis. I will need the laptop for Zoom calls and for this blog, during the journey, so a long delayed servicing will wait until I get back. In the meantime, patience and a light touch will get us through.

My overall health is good, and I anticipate fine results from a physical exam, on the first of June. Exercise and good wellness practices have gone a long way to keeping this aging frame relatively robust.

With that, in two days’ time, I will be away from this salubrious Home Base and headed towards the home of my childhood. It will be time for a fond farewell to the house where so many memories of my youth were created.

What Is Always Known

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May 9, 2021- One thing about the mothers, and mother-figures, whom we honour today, is that there is nothing that escapes them, at least at the deepest level. My mother knows, even a continent away, that I am essentially doing better than I have in a long time. She knows that there are a few challenges I face and a few people, some far away, who want to take from me, without giving back. She knows that my siblings are also, essentially, in safe places. Most importantly, she knows that her decision to adjust her lifestyle is the right one.

Baha’u’llah teaches us to be fair to self and others. Mom was teaching us that same thing, when I was the eldest of five. We were never deprived and when, in her humanness, she did not do the right thing by one of us, she made amends ten-fold. The lesson Mother taught, of compassion, has been one of two abiding truths that I have incorporated into my being. The other is to temper that with not being the foil of con artists and those who take full advantage of others,.

So have I balanced my life, and will, as I told another group of people earlier this evening, focus on building group cooperation. It was our family working as a team that got us through downturns and the challenges of caring for those members of our family who suffered from disease. It is our family working as a team that will bring us to say farewell to our family home of sixty-six years and guarantee that the woman we’ve always known has our back will know that we always have hers.

Further Changes

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May 8, 2021- I received a supportive message from the principal of the school to which I referred yesterday. There will be some discomfort, for some people, but the children will be safe.
In a few short days, my mother’s life will become more secure. I will be on the road, towards my childhood home, and will help with whatever needs to be done, for at least a week. This was not expected-at least not this month, but life does not compromise with want-only with need.

I received word, this evening, that her next door neighbour of 66 years is dying. He is in hospice- a man’s man, reduced to lying in a single bed. I can only hope that his extended family, his cousins and closest friends, can be with him. If he is still with us, when I get to Massachusetts, I will pay a visit and thank him for being a faithful friend of our family, like his parents were.

The next few days will see preparatory activities- a Mother’s Day call, a dental check-up, a car servicing, laundry and packing. There will be time, tomorrow, for a visit to a magical place: Montezuma Well. My Home Base will be secure, while I’m gone, and there will much to be done, when I get back .

School, though, will wait until Fall, or maybe Winter, as I honour marching orders, sent from a place unseen.

Vape

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May 7, 2021- A young girl told me of the wide-ranging use of e-cigarettes, after a classmate accused her of using the substance, this afternoon, in what was likely my final assignment of this academic year. She said she had not used the substance, as her parents were always on her about the dangers to children and adolescents. I underscored that danger, stating what I know to be the risks for people under the age of 18, let alone the overall risk of e-cigarette use, or vaping, to anyone.

A short time later, someone in whom I am beginning to see the face of evil castigated me, in front of the children- very likely in the hope of discrediting my authority with them. It didn’t work, but did confuse some of the boys in the class. There is something very wrong going on, in the school where I worked today. There is little evidence that people at school are providing the students with e-cigarettes, or any other substances, yet adults, who have no obvious reason to make me uncomfortable working there, have made it clear that my talking with the students is interrupting their own flow of communication-and that it’s a good thing I’m gone for the rest of the semester.

I have learned over the years, in other venues, that where there is smoke, there’s fire-no pun intended. Through channels, justice will be done in this case, as well, whether the person I suspect is involved, or the threat to the students is coming from elsewhere.

https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/Quick-Facts-on-the-Risks-of-E-cigarettes-for-Kids-Teens-and-Young-Adults.html

The Rubber Tire Fire

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May 6, 2021- The six and seven-year-olds watched, from the safety of the playground and grassy field, as a thick black cloud rose, five miles away. The four of us adults watching the group of fifty fielded lots of questions and assuaged the concerns of those watching, that the fire would be upon us, “any minute now.”

It had been a most productive day, from working on mixed addition and subtraction to working on a Mother’s Day packet. The children worked well in pairs and in groups of four, with a bit of “He said I have no friends” and “She scribbled on my Mother’s Day heart”. Some things never change, and are just handled with care.

I stood with a thoughtful little man and explained how the smoke would not affect us, while he continued to express concern about the chance it could zip across five miles of houses and fields. I assured him the fire department was on the job, and as the smoke drifted eastward, well away from us, we all happily watched as the thick black cloud diminished-then disappeared altogether.

It was a bad day for a junkyard owner, but a good day for some little ones to keep faith in their elders, and in their First Responders.

Cinco de Mayo

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May 5, 2021- On May 5, 1862, a force of Mexican soldiers and patriots drove a larger force of French troops from the garrison at Puebla, southeast of Ciudad de Mexico. This day is observed in the present time, as a minor holiday in Mexico and as a folk holiday in parts of the United States. Indeed, the United states Army and Marine Corps provided some assistance to Mexican President Benito Juarez, later in the conflict, as the French had established a puppet regime in the Mexican capital, calling it the Second Empire of Mexico. The combined North American forces drove the French out, a short time later.

Of course, I stopped in at a downtown restaurant, the Palace, and had a lunch of street tacos, small flour tortillas, three tiers thick and stuffed with shredded pork, grilled onions and pico de gallo. The celebratory aspect of the day brings out deals on alcohol, but having long ago given up that part of my life, I found my iced tea was on the house.

Although I do enjoy a good party, it is much more meaningful to ponder the strength of common people banding together to defend their territory against a force that is seeking to dominate them, against their will. It is also crucial to consider that citizens banding together is necessary to defend against dominance by an unelected elite. Even when that elite appeals to the popular will, by presenting itself as the sole protector of national cultural values, it is still an unelected elite.

On this Cinco de Mayo, I remain ever watchful of those who present themselves as guardians of the flock, so to speak.