The A-Team

8

May 17, 2017, Prescott-

In my twelve years of public education, 1956-1968, there were mostly competent educators, a few misfits and twelve stand-up, top flight professionals, who either were my teachers of record or served as mentors beyond the immediate classroom.

One, Miss Bernis Hanlon, passed on, over the weekend.  She was my fifth grade teacher, and one of two at the Felton School, Saugus, MA, who went above and beyond, when it came to building character.  It was largely Miss Hanlon’s influence that brought me out of my shell, had me at least approach a modicum of competence in a few sports and join the Boy Scouts.  She taught us that boys and girls, working together, accomplish three times as much, as the genders working separately.  She taught me that having a  then little-known disability (mild autism) was never an excuse for not doing one’s level best.  She built on the framework which my third grade teacher, the then Miss Joanne Nugent, had started.

Fast forward, to 1966-67, my Junior Year at Saugus High School.  I had survived junior high school, the awkwardness, the quirky behaviour, which had generated taunts from otherwise good people, and the fires of our eighth grade year.   Only the stalwart protection of Mr. Paul O’Brien, who died earlier this year, and Mr. Ron Ahern,  and the character education of the late Miss Gladys Fox,kept me on an even keel.  I had endured inept teachers, in three of my freshman classes.   I had mastered grammar and punctuation, with the guidance of Miss Miriam Kochakian, as a Sophomore. It was the junior year that brought Mr. John Quinlan and understanding of Algebra,  Mr. Bernard Hussey and a stellar United States History class, Mrs. Lillian Pittard Bisbee, and love of prose, and the renewed mentorship of Miss Hanlon, by then a colleague of Mrs. Bisbee and a full-on enthusiast of poetry and drama.   The two ladies set the stage for Mrs. Katherine Vande and the best creative writing instruction I have ever had (Senior English).

Miss Hanlon was an integral part of that A-Team of mine, and I can’t imagine how my life would have played out, without her presence.  I know she is smiling down on all of us whom she loved, with that reassuring, infectious Irish grin.

Nephilim

2

May 16, 2017, Prescott-

Some say there are giants

buried in the earth.

They say this explains

the great mounds of Ohio

and Cahokia.

The giants,

the story goes,

fouled the planet,

yet also built the Great Pyramids,

and dug the canals of Arizona.

They built Stonehenge,

and arranged the boulders

at Carnac.

These giants,

their chroniclers say,

were evil.

If  this is true,

I’m glad they’re gone.

I had a dream once,

that I was in the presence,

of such a giant.

I had the opportunity

to torture him,

to inflict

extreme pain.

I declined.

Loathsome as he seemed,

he was a creature of God.

It was the Almighty’s call,

as to his fate.

The giant

and his own captors

were puzzled by my response.

I went my way,

in peace,

and the giant fell,

of his own weight.

This is the way of the Light.

Those who carry darkness,

find it the most unwieldy

of burdens.

 

 

Mothers and The Ides of May

10

May 15, 2017, Prescott-

There was no obligatory Mother’s Day post here, this year. The Second Sunday itself was largely taken up with funerary rites.  Mom got a call from me in the evening, though two earlier attempts were made.  She’s on the move yet, during the day, so evening always seems to work best.

She loves the roses, and will hopefully have some idea of what I can do, come July, regarding helping to renovate our family home of 62 years.   Those are more welcome gifts than tying up the phone, which she finds tiresome, after ten minutes or so.  Perhaps the best gift I can give her, though, is maintaining a positive attitude.  It’s gotten her through nearly nine decades, and keeps her on top of what goes on, day by day.

My second brother, also a model of positivity, came through today’s medical procedure, ready as ever to get back to taking on the world. He helps guide the company that produces some of Boston’s finest frankfurters (“hot dogs” is not the term of choice there).

That news is indicative of this month:  Warm and cool days intermingle.  Death and suffering are dovetailed with love and recovery. Years ago, my over-correcting, on a California surface road, almost derailed our pending marriage, but warmer hearts and cooler heads prevailed.  Fifteen years later, I had walking pneumonia, which took well into June to disappear.  Now, twenty years further on, I am in the penultimate week of a challenging, but largely successful, academic year, and my first full-time stint since 2004. ( A brief internship with a rather mercenary “social service” agency, in 2009, hardly counts.)

May, 2017 has met its Ides, and the year as a whole is moving along, much faster than the previous two. I wonder what Quantum Physics has to say about such things.

 

 

 

So He Loved and Has Now Flown

15

May 13, 2017, Prescott-

Another long-suffering soul has gone home.

His first comment to me,

thirty-six years ago,

was to not soak a tub of beans overnight,

unless the plan was

to stay up and watch them.

This, as we saw that someone had

done the opposite.

The ground was littered

with soft pintos.

Ants were emerging,

to savour the feast.

His last remarks

to his family, were

that he wanted to go home.

Yesterday afternoon,

he did just that.

In seventy-five years,

Moses Manybeads Nakai

had been a steadfast believer

in the Oneness of Mankind.

He married a young nurse,

who had come to the Navajo Nation,

to serve both the Dineh and Hopi.

They raised two daughters,

both of whom are

college-educated professionals.

Moses went many places,

in his life,

from Samoa to Alaska.

He always came back,

though,

to his beloved Dinnebito.

It was there that his father

practiced traditional healing.

It was there that his mother

made the best mutton stew

in the universe.

It is there that his sister

still lives,

with her husband and family,

living the traditional herding life.

Moses left us,

while in the comforting environs

of Montezuma Well.

It gave him solace

to know that

there is a deep connectedness there.

Only days ago,

a rare red snapping turtle

emerged from the well.

It had navigated the channels,

of which we seem to know little.

Moses knew,

and the Navajo people know,

quite a bit about such things.

One more bit of connectedness

has now gone through the veil.

I trust

that I will hear from you,

again soon,

my friend.

Embrace the Light.

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Different

14

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.

Duality

14

May 9, 2017, Prescott- 

I was ill, today.

It’s been a long time,

twenty years, in fact,

since I have been too ill

to go to work.

So, here I am,

having been in bed

most of the day.

Our bodies remind us

that we are dual creatures.

The physical frame lasts

longer for some,

than for others.

The spirit keeps on ticking,

regardless of the licking.

So, I slept, deeply,

and dreamed of my kids

working through their challenges.

When I get up,

to pray, to read the newspaper,

to get the mail, and to get in the car

and take care of an errand,

it felt like the weight of the world

was pressing down.

It’s not so much that way, right now.

My body will accept going to work,

the rest of the week.

Duality-

It’s like that with groups, too.

My team can be maddeningly fastidious,

about dots and tittles,

of student behaviour.

When I needed their understanding,

today, though,

the word was

“Get your rest,

we’ve got it all covered.”

That’s what I love most about life.

It works out, when essential.

Art Town Serenade

10

May 8, 2017, Cave Creek-

In my thirty-three years of Arizona life, I had never been to the oft-celebrated, sometimes kitschy, seemingly quiet but artfully shimmering oasis that is downtown Cave Creek.  The southwest is filled with these kinds of places.  I live in one, and have been to several others.  Each has its share of solid, hardworking artistes, and several have kitsch galore.

After a routine dental check-up, I got a message to visit here, whilst at my beloved’s grave.  These notions almost always lead me to a special place, and to increased personal insight.  Today was no exception.

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Local Jonny’s is at the south end of a one-mile stretch that makes up Cave Creek’s arts and entertainment district, aka “downtown”.  It’s attached to “world-famous” Flat Tire Bike Shop, so one could have his bike fixed, whilst savouring a breakfast burrito and cup of delectable brew-of-choice, or carry a cup of java around, whilst selecting her very next entry into Tour de France.

When it was my turn to order, the counter attendant, Hannah, looked me in the eye, as if to say, “It’s about time you showed up !”, and cheerfully took my order.  She had a large, exquisite, Flat Tire Burrito and sumptuous coffee on my table, within five minutes. Jonny’s is one of those places, like The Raven Cafe, Marino’s and Two Mamas, in Prescott, Macy’s European Coffee House and Toasted Owl, in Flagstaff, and Sun Flour Market, in Superior, where if one feels not at home, it’s not the fault of the house.  The ladies told me that Cave Creek is just that kind of place, as a whole, from end to end.

After my early lunch, it was time to check out the A & E.  Cave Creek reminds  me, a lot, of Bisbee, Mesilla Park and Laredo, in the number of metallic art shops, selling all manner of animal figures, made from cast-off  steel, iron and copper.

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Disneyesque Frontier Town opts for wooden figures.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES Essentially, the love and sense of fun, that is exuded here, is not to be bottled up and stored in a cave.

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So, I found that Local Jonny’s, and a dozen other places around town, could easily answer the question posed by another visitor:

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I’ll be back, time and again.

“He Was At Home Here”

6

May 6, 2017, Cottonwood-

There was a magnificent scrum of motor vehicles, and drivers, when I arrived at the parking lot of Taco Don’s, and took my place in the rapidly forming motorcade.  The hearse and family cars were followed by the motorcycles, then the classic cars (Jayme was a car buff, being from eastern LA County) and us friends and admirers, taking up the caboose end.

We set out ahead of time, and had cleared Prescott, by the time we were originally supposed to leave.  Some stragglers caught up with us, on Highway 89A, and passed ahead, to get to their designated spots.  By the time we reached Jerome, and wended our way through the “ghost town’s” streets, everything was in perfect order.  Jerome, like much of the Central Highlands, is in full bloom.  Here are some lupines, that graced our view.

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We reached Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, on the northwest side of Cottonwood, with 30 minutes to spare.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that the church’s cross-street neighbour had set up two golden Dol Harubangul (Korean “stone grandfathers”, the symbol of Jeju, where we lived from 1986-92).  This was very much something that Jayme would have found wildly amusing.  As the statues are usually black volcanic rock, this was definitely a nod to the area’s mining culture.

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Immaculate Conception is a spacious, majestic parish church- almost cathedralesque, in size and airiness.  The celebrant priest, also a friend of Jayme’s, noted that the man “felt at home here”, making frequent trips over the mountain, on Sunday mornings, perhaps because of the exhilaration one feels, when going through the pines, and along Jerome’s streets.  The church felt quite homelike for us, this morning, with a robust celebration of Jayme’s relationship with his Lord and an outpouring of love, from his family and closest friends.

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The exquisite service left me chastened, as funerals so often do.  I thought, once more, of my own ongoing mission, knowing that being there for others, something that Jayme Salazar did so well, and at which I am improving, is imperative.  We will all gather again, in his memory, on May 20, for a Fiesta Grande, at Prescott’s Watson Lake Park.  I promised his dearest friend that I would be there early and leave late.

One other nice touch- when I stopped for lunch, at Colt Grill, in Old Cottonwood, the soundtrack featured Mike and The Mechanics’ “The Living Years” and REM’s “Everybody Hurts”.  The Universe always speaks clearly.

“If you don’t give up and don’t give in, you may just be okay.” – Mike Rutherford

“Hold on”.- Michael Stipe

Wakefulness

3

May 5, 2017Prescott-

I  am freshly returned from a visitation for one of Prescott’s genuine champions.The concept of waking, a seemingly odd term for remembering a departed soul, prior to burial or often, in these days, cremation, is perhaps in hopes that death is not a real thing.

I don’t know if that’s accurate or not, but the life of Jayme Salazar (he pronounced his name alternately in English and in Spanish), came back before those listening to the eulogies.His childhood and adolescent antics, presented by his older sister, were reassuring to all, that a full life proceeded from that awkward time.  A lifelong friend of his recounted the man’s intense work ethic, combined with a genuine love of people, which established his Taco Don’s Restaurant as one of the city’s premier lunch venues, and a true gathering place.

He came came here from California, by way of Las Vegas, as so many of us have come here from farther afield.  Jayme found that the mountains, lakes, dells and grasslands of the area, but above all, the earthiness of the people, were a capturing force.  That he gave his life here, in the shadow of Granite Mountain, was the ultimate giving back.

Some six years ago, I saw my beloved wife go homeward, to the Light, in a more prolonged way, but not dissimilar period of service to the children and general citizenry of a western suburb of Phoenix.  Any home in which we ever lived together was open to countless people.  Any school in which she ever worked was the center of our married life, with work and love likewise moving in tandem.

So, I understood, fully, standing in the anteroom of the funeral home, this evening, that priceless spirit, that brings casual customers and acquaintances of a loving soul to a sense that here moved a lifelong friend; here lived a steadfast pillar.

To each one to whom I’ve bid farewell, these many years, let me close with the voice of Enya.

Jayme, Penny, Norm, Dad, Brian, Colonel Mortimer, Uncle George, Aunt Adeline, Margaret, Mike C. and so many standing beside you, in the Legions of Light, thank you, for having lit my way and for lighting the night.