The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 75: Three Tyrannies

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August 14, 2020-

When I was around thirty-one, I learned to play chess, by watching two chess masters teaching a group of Dineh boys, in the school where I worked and in the neighbouring junior high school.

Chess is a game of high presence and stealth. Many times, a player becomes absorbed in own feelings of cleverness and innovation, until the more present opponent makes the winning gambit, and announces “Checkmate!”. Chess can morph into Covert External Tyranny.

There are, essentially, three forms of tyranny: Overt External, Covert External and Self-Imposed.

Overt External is most often aimed at transforming the person subjected to the trials. It is never intended to permanently disempower its target subject. Basic and advanced military training; team coaching-in fact, any sort of “Boot Camp”, headed by a hard-nosed, but self-effacing, task master, exemplifies Overt External Tyranny. It occurs for a specified period of time, has specific performance goals, and once these are regarded as having been met, the subject is congratulated, the tyranny lifts and all participants come to know one another on a more equal level. A variation on this is SOMETIMES shown by our current President-hardly a self-effacing man, at least on the surface, but one who does, privately, give credit to those who have taken, and met, a challenge he has thrown out. The peace agreement between the State of Israel and the United Arab Emirates is an example of this.

Covert External Tyranny is illustrated by the common method of preparing crustaceans for food. The animal is placed in a pot of cold water, under which a flame is then lit. The water slowly heats, and the animal, being sensitized to the rising temperature, shows no distress. Once the water is heated to a point that no longer sustains life, the animal’s awareness is negated. It loses consciousness, it is boiled to the point where its flesh is safe to eat and the tyranny, in this individual case, comes to an end, only to be replicated, thousands of times over, with different crustaceans.

In the human world, a budding Covert Tyrant will study the target population. The interactions, mindsets and approaches to new ideas, of those intended to be subjugated, will be closely watched and a plan of action will be gradually devised. The Covert Tyrant will appear on the scene as a friend of the people, who will call attention to real and imagined difficulties they have faced. S(he) will then suggest ways to solve these problems, which look great, at first blush. A critical mass of the target group will be elated, extol the virtues of the newly arrived saviour.

The deception has thus started to embed itself, and ere long, as the people give up more and more of their prerogatives and freedoms to the Covert Tyrant, and regime, the rules and the penalties for non-compliance become more stringent. Before long, the tyrant and successors have cowed the populace, and the true intention, usually to enrich themselves, at the expense of the populace, and in perpetuity, is revealed. It is the boiling water, but the semi-conscious victims barely take notice. To those few who do raise a protest, the tyrant responds either with brute force or by disparaging the critics, rendering them as pariahs to the wider community. The current President has followed this pattern, as well. It is my view, though, that he is not the prime mover of the stealthy oppression. He is a bit player. Those who are really working behind the scenes have done their homework, have carefully worked, at state and local levels-and in the judiciary, where lifetime appointments are not easily abrogated by the voting public.

I have mentioned a right-wing claque, led currently by Charles Koch, in previous posts. They are seemingly opposed by an opposite, but more loosely-organized, oligarchy. Both, however, seek the disempowerment of the common man, with a view towards dominance towards their own ends-whether personal power and comfort for an elite, as defined by themselves or for the dispiriting of the masses, who will then grovel and serve without complaint. The enslavement of Africans and certain others, from the 17th-19th Centuries, is a prime example of the latter. Low wage employment and human trafficking, in the 20th Century and presently, are examples of the former.

These are made possible by the third form of tyranny: Self-imposed. Every human being has a modicum of desire to please those close to self: Child to parent and, sometimes, the reverse; spouse to spouse; worker to supervisor, or both, to employer; citizen to public official, and again, sometimes in reverse; friend to friend.

An imbalance in this desire, often sparked by low self-esteem, can lead to tyranny towards self. I have browbeaten myself, on occasion, for not having pleased a person whom I had held up as either a real or imagined authority figure. I wanted to please my parents, close relatives, those bosses for whom I’ve had genuine respect, my driving instructor-back in high school, my late wife. It was only when I learned to love and accept myself, within my own space, that this tyranny became unnecessary, and faded away.

There is much that we could discuss further, along these lines. I am still resistant to uninvited critics, who seek to impose their will-either overtly or covertly. Only by examining their motives from a safe distance does that change my response.

The Wilshire Finger Points East

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November 12, 2019, Santa Monica- 

There are any number of iconic streets across the country, and in the Los Angeles area, in particular.  U.S. Route 66 ends (or begins) here, a scant few blocks from where I stood just moments ago.  Several of the streets around this quadrant are enshrined in my childhood memory, albeit from TV ( Sunset Boulevard and Strip remain in the Long-Term Bank, thanks to Edd “Kookie” Byrnes, who was the king of smooth).  Route 66 itself was the province of George Maharis (“Buzz Murdock”, Kookie’s heir apparent).

It is Wilshire Boulevard, though, which has the most cachet- It starts here, overlooking the beach and hosts some of LA’s great museums. Wilshire leads the visitor to UCLA’s turnoff, to Hollywood and, eventually, to Koreatown.

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At its western terminus, St. Monica herself is the traffic icon, standing between Wilshire and the long drop down a steep cliff.

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I chose to walk, from the far end of Third Avenue’s Promenade, to this overlook.

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So, the true glory of Santa Monica, these days, lies in how the city is making itself pedestrian-friendly.  Third Street Promenade, like other urban pioneering efforts, is a well-planned and relaxing venue for people, of all walks of life, to re-center themselves. My first order of business, after checking out of Rest Haven, was to find breakfast.  That matter was resolved by Santa Monica’s branch of LA’s Le Pain Quotidien.  Mini-pancakes and cafe au lait sufficed, as there will be a lunch meet-up with a family friend later on, in Hollywood. LPQ is my kind of spot, though, with a long communal table that goes against the “keep away from my turf” ethic that is so prevalent in many American establishments.  Strangers here are truly “friends you haven’t met.”

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These are just a few of what LPQ offers.

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The long row does have its share of kitsch, in the form of dinosauria.  At least, it’s imaginative kitsch.

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Bella, another signature cafe, would have been my breakfast choice, had not LPQ stared me in the face, when I first left the parking garage.

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Walking towards the beach overlook, I was captivated by a small boy, who was re-arranging these chess pieces, under his mother’s watchful eyes.  I sat a few rows away and pondered his “strategy”.  For a four-year-old, the little guy was doing quite well.

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Such is life, in one of Los Angeles’ most eclectic satellite communities.  Now, it is time for me to head to yet another of those:  Hollywood.

Mindfulness, Murals and A Milestone

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July 22-27, 2019, Carson City-

In my life since 2011, there have been a few constants:  My community in Prescott, wherever my son is,  Birth Family on the East Coast, friends all over the country and my northern Nevada family, here and in Reno.

I have made at least one stop here, each year since 2012, when  I joined Michele and Tom on a road trip to the Bay Area, for a Baha’i commemorative.  He passed on, a year later, making a visit with Michele, like a sister to me, that much more urgent.  The kids are always a good part of the mix, to say the least.  So, when V was given a part in a community theater’s rendition of “The Little Mermaid”, I set aside this week for my annual jaunt.

After a veritable pit stop in Prescott, I drove up to Kingman, on Sunday evening.  That cut three hours off Monday’s drive which, other than slow traffic stemming from an accident, just shy of the state line.  I noted that Rosie’s Den, a place in White Hills, where I had stopped a few times, to and from Nevada, had closed.  Iron Horse Cafe, in Henderson, was my first stop.  Being still the morning commute rush, as I passed through Las Vegas, no stops were made there.

That meant lunch was in Beatty, about 3/8 of the way north.  This old mining town has its funky side- the huge Death Valley Nut and Candy Store and, until last year, a motel in an old trailer park.  Then, there is Sourdough Saloon, where one enters-finds an empty bar (before noon, anyway) and goes in the back, where a lone waitress is glad to see anyone.

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The fare at Sourdough is simple, but on par with road food I’ve found anywhere. For some reason, Pastrami Cheeseburgers are a fairly big thing in western Nevada.  Sourdough’s is tender and moist.

I hadn’t noticed on earlier passes through town, but looking at the ridge north of Beatty, it seems a Teddy bear is keeping watch.

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Another constant on my drives north is a stop at Beans and Brews, a small coffee house inside Three Deserts 76 gas station, in Tonopah.  The shop is run by high school and college students, who never drop the ball when it comes to congenial service and generous portions of iced coffee, espresso and lattes.  (Photo, courtesy of  http://www.beans andbrews.com)

 

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The rest of the drive was made easier by the stop at B & B.  I noted that Walker Lake is higher, this year, than in the past seven.  The word is that the flow from Walker River has been increased.

Much of Michele’s focus, and mine, is on the little family of four:  V, her parents and infant brother.  Father is a multifaceted artist, whose work includes murals.

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The week included many long conversations about mindfulness and holistic health (always a concern with us Boomers), the efficacy of  fairy tales (specifically the message presented by some Disney versions) to child development, and how best to approach the welter of social movements in our time.  Chess with V was actually more challenging than one would think it would be, with a 7-year-old opponent.  She has a fine analytical mind. We each won a match.

The play, Friday night, featured V as one of the Starfish.  They appeared in one scene, dancing to the song, “Under the Sea”.  It was heartening to see the turnout- a packed house for opening night.  As with any child, I leave it to V’s parents to determine whether to share photos from the occasion.

Here, though, is a video clip of the song.

 

It’s been another good week, which I hope augurs well for Fall up here.  I know that my own autumn will be a full one.

 

 

 

The Road to 65, Mile 79: Beach Trees, A Cannoli, and That Blissful Honky Tonk

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February 15, 2015- Panama City to Waveland   I am a bit of a stick-in-the-mud, when it comes to breakfast.  I want no fried, boiled or poached eggs, no bananas and I think keeping the heavy to a minimum is good- so very little, in the way of biscuits and gravy, hits my plate.  I did, however, leave my friends’ home in Panama City, with a fair amount of freshly picked kumquats.  They are a fabulous snack food, and full of Vitamin C, being the only citrus fruit which may be eaten, rind and all.  I will hold these exquisite people in the highest regard, though, I’m not in the market for any of the various ladies with whom Host might want to arrange a relationship.  My presence in anyone else’s life is too fleeting.  Nonetheless, goodbyes don’t come easy.

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The road between destinations always throws in its share of bounties and bestowals.  That’s the magic of the journey.  So it was, that I left Panama City, headed for Pensacola, with at least the intention of spending a couple of hours poking around the historic sights and sounds of Escambia Bay.  There was, as it happened though, the chance of connecting with my friends from Alabama, down in Ocean Springs, MS, for a day or so.  Mental arithmetic led to my decision to put off Pensacola and Mobile, until an as yet undetermined “next time”.  I did stop at Shrimp Basket, in Pensacola, for a take-out lunch.  That was a good thing, as Sunday lunch in the Florida Panhandle means wearing one’s Sunday Best.  My attire was neat, clean-and very casual.    The crab cakes, though, were very tasty, once I got to that picnic table, outside Ocean Springs.  The view of the channel at the rest area, west of Pascagoula, was comforting in itself.  SAM_4099

I called a new friend, who happened to be in Ocean Springs, and was pleased to share an hour or so, in that splendid little town, consisting of the two villages of Bienville and Iberville.  We met outside the old Rail Station, as he walked towards my car.

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As you might guess, he, too, is taking the slow and easy approach to life, at least for a time.

We took the jeep to the beach area, after savouring coffee, and, at least in my case, a cannoli, at the only Coffee House in town.

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The beach here is a blend of sand, due to the recovery efforts from the Great Hurricanes of 2005.

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You can see that there are still some stands of cypress trees and pin oaks, along the Causeway, north of the beach.

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The Gulf here shimmers as well as it does everywhere, belying the ongoing recovery efforts from the Deep Water Horizon, which only the fishermen still feel.

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Well, the pelicans feel it, too.  They were gathered this fine evening, on posts at the end of an old pier.

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The beach towns have always been places to while away a day, in gentlemanly fashion.  Had this been a weekday, chances are some would be gathered in the beach-side park, for a game of chess.

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They’d have been greeted with a fine message.

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A suspension bridge connects Ocean Springs with the barrier islands just to the south.SAM_4123

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Downtown Ocean Springs had celebrated Mardi Gras, just a few hours earlier, as had several towns along the coast.  There were beads and other mementos of the festivities, strewn along the sidewalks.  In this grand scheme of life, even Man’s best friend gets in the act.

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Saying farewell to my friend, I headed further along, to Biloxi, another fine old French-heritage site.  Before I ran out of daylight, some lovely memoirs of the Mississippi that was, showed themselves during an hour’s walk.

Here is Biloxi City Hall.

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The Magnolia Hotel is Biloxi’s Grande Dame.  It was built in 1847.

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Mary Mahoney’s French House is the city’s premier restaurant.

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The white sand beaches, though, are a key element of what keeps Biloxi thriving.

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My last photo of the evening came with a brief stop at the grounds of a place bound to evoke mixed emotions for the history buff:  Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home and Library.  Knowing the past helps shape the future, so on a future sojourn, I may well stop here and learn just what made the man form such an alternate view of how America was to evolve.

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The night did not come in a shy manner.  I continued on, through Pass Christian, which had just finished its Mardi Gras parade, Bay Saint Louis, where none of the Mom and Pop motels had their Welcome lights on, to Waveland, where I got a modest-sized room, for a premier price- this being so close to Mardi Gras and all.  Dinner was cheap, though, at Third Base Bar and Grill, a honky tonk which is one of the most convivial places I’ve yet had the pleasure to visit.  This is country Mississippi as I wish it had been in the 60’s, everyone getting along, without regard to who was from where, or from what background. I was treated just fine, with my mushroom Swiss burger, lightly-oiled fries and a pitcher of ice water- me being a teetotaler and all.

The journey becomes a destination, in and of itself.