Where’s Home?


May 17, 2023- As I got off the train this morning, sans jacket, I felt a slight chill in the air and moved briskly towards the area where the Sportage was parked. I noted that a slightly-built young woman, who had initially regarded me with suspicion, while we were on the train, was also without a jacket and was rather flustered-perhaps having met the same fate. I also noted that several well-built men were without coats. Maybe there was a run on outerwear, back at Union Station.

It is customary to welcome people back, when they have been away from a situation-whether to a place of work or to a community. I appreciate the greeting, but I must admit that a limited view of home has never resonated with me. Home has been any number of places, over the years: Saugus is still the place where I lived the longest, though Prescott is catching up, in that regard. Bangor never really felt that comfortable. Amherst, Northampton and South Deerfield were fine places to live, while I was in school-as was Flagstaff. Tuba City and Jeddito helped me expand my awareness of true First Nations life. Jeju did the same, for my understanding of East Asian thought and cultural norms. Salome, once I got an appreciation of rural desert dwellers, might have been a fine place to settle, but for local politics. Phoenix was too close to the rawness of the situation we were in, as a couple and as a family dealing with deadly disease. It was also far too hot, for too many months in the year.

I’ve addressed the issue of where I feel most at home, when on the road, several times before and will not belabor that matter again, here. Basically, though, home is ever a state of mind. Maybe that was why I felt as comfortable whilst on the buses and trains, yesterday, as I do right now in “my own” living room.

It’s nice to be at Home Base, though, and I hope the young lady at the train station found her way back to where she feels at home, in fairly short order.

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.

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.

Quiet Streets and Sweeping Vistas


May 8, 2023- We stood atop Airport Mesa, one of Sedona’s premier places to get a quick look at several landmarks, in one fell swoop. My daughter-in-law, Yunhee, and her mother, Mrs. Park, were my visitors for a day. It was Mrs. Park’s first trip out of Asia, and only her second out of Korea- with Vietnam being the only other foreign destination. She is mesmerized by the differences in this western half of the United States-the prairies of Texas, desert around Phoenix and the three microclimates of northern Arizona.

Her questions, as to where are the pine trees and mountains of Prescott were answered, as soon as we turned a corner and saw Douglas firs and Alligator Junipers, then drove down a street and had full view of the Bradshaw Range. All this was within Prescott’s city limits, of course. What surprised her the most, though, was the fact that our city is walkable- unlike the areas in Metro Dallas that she has seen thus far. I hope she gets to walk along Mill Creek, in Grapevine, when they go back, at the end of this week. She will see a mix of walkable and not, when they visit Las Vegas, in a day or so. The ultimate walkable area, the South Rim of Grand Canyon, will cement her image of North America’s vastness.

Airport Mesa was the last of the spots I chose for the itinerary. Lunch was at Raven Cafe, photo stops included the summit of Mingus Mountain, a ravine just west of Jerome and, of course, Airport Mesa. Coffee, from Mesa Grille, was enjoyed whilst watching the small planes take off and land at Sedona Airport. It was a bustling day, more from their perspective than mine-as it had begun with rising very, very early, catching an early flight from DFW and driving from Phoenix to Prescott, then following me over Mingus Mountain to Jerome, Clarkdale, Cottonwood and Sedona. As we proceeded through the Red Rock city, to our point of adieu, we were each in a queue that was dealing with the aftermath of a serious traffic accident. I took Rte. 179, towards Oak Creek Village and the Interstate highway. The ladies were not so lucky, and inched their way up through Oak Creek Canyon, by choice, and found the backlog was inching along with them.

We all made it to our respective destinations, and tomorrow, while I am in my last day at work for the school year, Yunhee will show her mother what I first showed her of the South Rim. It was a splendid first day for this perky, spirited extended family member to really see what makes our continent such a marvel. In a few days, my own latest journey, by train, will get started. I may even opt for a roomette.

Avoiding Overkill


May 3, 2023- The day’s horoscope asked whether “they” were getting under my skin. As I had not encountered anyone, as of the moment I read those words, I had to wonder whether things were actually going to get testy.

As it happened, my two team mates on today’s shelter site evaluation were not altogether focused on the process, so I had the opportunity to get irritated. All the while, I kept the horoscope in mind, and stayed calm, but firm, saying that if they didn’t want to finish the project, I could wait. That led to a refocus, and I didn’t have to engage in histrionics, which would have been just as bad as their tangential conversation.

There is, among those who distrust any government above the county level, a “theory” that Earth is really covered by silicon, the Moon and Sun are pure light-and so are the stars in the sky. Space is, to them, a contrivance. This, to me, is a fad and will go away-maybe not until the next actual successful lunar, or Martian, landing. It is not worth fighting with anyone.

Lastly, in prudence, I began to research the prices of airfare to the Philippines, from Honolulu, in October. The bulk ticket agent quoted me a price that seems reasonable, and agreed to hold off on closing the deal, until I actually get confirmation from the agency that helps me sponsor a youth in that country, that the trip is even advisable. Coronavirus is not, presently, a problem there, but it has resurged in parts of Arizona and in other areas of the world. I will hear from the agency in a day or two, and then either revise my plans or go forward with them. Overkill, and rushing into things, are not necessary.

Stitchless Again


May 2, 2023- At first, the receptionist thought she had to get permission from the dermatologist, in order to send me in to see the young man who was scheduled to remove the sutures, from my recent procedure. As no one was answering the phone on the other end, the PA’s supervisor came out to the lobby and verified that I was to see him, once the backlog of people who had arrived before me was seen. That did not take anywhere near the time it might have, and my five minutes of the PA’s time came, only 30 minutes behind schedule.

I had no other immediate appointments, so it was not trouble to spend several minutes watching those who were seeking condos by a beach, and a McMansion in Santa Fe, on HGTV. Once the stitches were out and a bandage applied, I dropped off some items at Disabled American Veterans Thrift Store, took care of one or two other errands and got the laundry done, after a fashion.

A miscommunication between me and another Baha’i friend led to my getting the time wrong, for a gathering on the 12th Day of Ridvan (today), so I got a few refreshments and helped clean up, catching up with a few friends I’d not seen for quite a while. Things can change on a dime, so I was not at all perturbed-at least I got to the tail-end of the gathering.

This evening brought me into the world of Turo, a car rental service that lets people deal with one another directly. That will be needed, when I get to Reno and am ready to head to Carson City, in about nine days. It will also come in handy, on other occasions. A cousin of mine used Turo, a while back, and was quite pleased with what amounts to the Air Bnb of car rentals. The lady from whom I’m renting a hybrid has good reviews from prior customers, so I feel good about the arrangement.

All in all, this was another good day. I have to double down on exercise, and be more patient with myself, and others, in dealing with situations in which people are hair-splitting, during certain Zoom sessions. The temptation to tune out is pretty strong, yet there are things that the hair-splitters have to say, which are rather important, in the midst of it all.

Sifting wheat from chaff is still a worthy exercise.