Whose True North?


October 31, 2022- There is always a back story.

As is the case every Halloween, the lines of costumed people, of various ages, spanned both sides of Mount Vernon Street, one of three Prescott neighbourhoods that put on a great display of hospitality. In a nearby service post, two disparate groups of people were gathered: A handful of adults, indulging in alcoholic beverages and a fairly flowing stream of children, most with their parents, picking up bags of chocolate candy and enjoying cookies and punch. For the most part, things went well. An unfortunate confluence of young girls entering the room and the use of foul language from the adjacent area led to a direct appeal to the adults to cub their vulgarity, while children were present. After a brief period of tension, involving protest about First Amendment rights and such, there was an apology, a handshake and mutual recognition of humanity.

It was explained that there were some hard circumstances in one person’s life, which were being shared with a concerned friend. These, strictly among adults, would not be cause for anyone to step in and ask for more polite language. In my world, though, children ought to be spared having to hear profanity, despite the insistence by much of society that “These are only words”. Adults having a hard time in life deserve every bit of support that can be mustered AND care should be used in speaking around children, points I was able to get across, after a fashion. They are not mutually exclusive.

True North does require showing love towards everyone-and working through situations which may initially be tough. That seems to be a theme surfacing quite a bit lately, both in real life events and in entertainment media. We may be at loggerheads, at various times, because priorities don’t always jibe. My priority: The care of, and setting examples for, children and youth, is not as far removed from extending a hand to an adult who has come on hard times, as it sometimes seems. Helping parents, after all, IS looking out for the kids. Defusing the tough situations that arise from a clash of priorities just feels good, besides.

There is always a back story, when someone seems obstinate or hostile. It does not have to end badly, and tonight, it did not.

On A Disquiet Friday


October 28, 2022- Random thoughts pass through, as I consider the implications of the attack on Paul Pelosi.

Would I be just as outraged, by an attack on Elaine Chao, or Melania Trump? Absolutely! The whole “shot across the bow” thing, with regard to one’s perceived enemies, who are-at least for now-no more than political opponents, has taken several steps too far. Good on those in the Republican Party who have seen fit to express their own revulsion at the attack.

I am the last person in the world who should be asked to sing in front of a group of friends, much less a worldwide audience. Yet, if I were, I would know the words of the song and the flow of the melody cold. I’ve heard Eric Burton sing; he has a compelling voice. May last night’s floop be a good lesson, and not represent a trend.

The whole generational divide thing, or any divide for that matter, is as contrived as a Hallmark holiday. I have learned, over time, to follow my gut-and to see people in my elders’ generation the same as I see Millennials, Gen Z and the Alphas. The cliche holds true: “Old people were young people, before young people were people.” Let none of us forget that, should the temptation to disparage the “other” arise-in either direction.

I witnessed two sets of multiple-car collisions, to and from the simple errand of going to my landlord’s bank, to deposit the rent check. Having lost three vehicles, in the past eight years, one of which was partly my own doing, another due to sabotage and the third due to another person driving while impaired, the lesson of the crucial maintaining of discernment has been in my mind ever since the last accident. Every time I set out, therefore, a prayer for protection is in order-even for such a routine errand.

Be especially mindful, these next three days. Whether you think Halloween is a time for having fun, or view it as a harbinger of evil, be careful with children and teens. Safety is not negotiable.

Last Quarter Plans


October 11, 2020-

With October nearly half over, it’s high time for me to look at this last three months, or so, of 2020.

October 12-17– This is Fall Break week and is the first of the two weeks I gave myself off, from any out -of-state deployments with Red Cross. If a wildfire breaks out around here, of course I will be on hand to help. Otherwise, on Tuesday, I will hike the first of two peaks in northern Arizona that go by the name Red Mountain. It is in an area between Prescott Valley and Lynx Lake, a section of the Bradshaw Mountain foothills that I have not explored, up to now. Monday and Wednesday feature Zoom meetings, two of which I host, so walks downtown will suffice. Thursday through Saturday, the road will lead to other Red Mountain, north of Williams, on the road to the South Rim of Grand Canyon. If the road to Hermit’s Rest is open, on the South Rim, I will go there as well.

October 18-24- This is a Holy Week for Baha’is, with two days spent commemorating the births of al-Bab and Baha’u’llah, which did occur back-to-back, though two years apart- Baha’u’llah having been born in 1817 and His Herald, in 1819. It’ll be different, celebrating these auspicious days on Zoom.

I may also have work opportunities, with the Sub service, but we’ll see.

October 25-31– Halloween Week will also be different this year. No word has gone out, from either of the groups who have put on parties, in years past. My default will be to throw on the silly suit I wore last year, and bring treats to neighbour families who know me. It may also be either a heavy subbing week or yet another deployment, for a disaster response yet unseen.

November 1-6- Election Week will have its share of challenges, both local and further afield. I am leaving my service options open: Our normally quiet, live-and-let-live little city could need as many voices of reason as can be had-or it could stay quiet, and congenial. There could very well be those who need the services of the Red Cross, if mayhem results in mass displacement. I will have the blessing of a virtual Spiritual Retreat, each evening, from November 5-8, to provide online balance.

November 8-14- Veterans’ Week will hopefully remind everyone that Freedom isn’t Free. Any public activities on November 11 will find me there. November 12-14 will be a good time to head up to Painted Desert-Petrified Forest.

November 15-21- Mid-month will be either a full work week or a time for day trips to Sedona, finishing the long-delayed completion of a hike on Limekiln Trail and going up Cathedral Rock.

November 22-28- Thanksgiving Week, ending with my 70th Birthday, so it’ll be Texas Time. Son will use a grill in the apartment complex courtyard, so this will be another fine gathering. I will likely be quite reflective, on that Saturday, with a view towards using all for which I can be grateful to help those who have been discounted and marginalized- the mirror image of the fourth Thursday in November.

November 29-December 5- The first week of my eighth decade will begin a run-up to my retirement (always unofficial) from substitute teaching. In practical terms, what that will mean is that I will not NEED to work, in order to make ends meet, after this calendar year. I will still be amenable to going in, two or three days a week, from January through May. The major emphasis, though, will shift to volunteer work, for which I’m already getting plenty of practice.

December 6-12- This marks forty years since I first met Penny. A trip to Zuni and Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Preserve will be in order. I will also stop in Bisbee, which we never visited together, on the way back-just because it’s there.

December 13-19- There may be a smidgen of work to be done, but my emphasis this week will be culling old files out of the cabinet and putting effort into shredding.

December 20-26- Depending on family input, and the state of the pandemic, I will either make a journey to New England or devote some time to an Arizona Christmas.

December 27-January 2- Part of the time will be in Texas and part will be in Florida, with the Gulf Coast in between (weather-permitting). The first week of 2021 will be the same, in reverse.

Some things will remain constant, location notwithstanding. I will have regular Baha’i Zoom calls to maintain and continuing to pay off what is left of my bills will be achieved.

This is my vision for the last twelve weeks of a tempestuous year.

Canalside Ruminations


November 11, 2019, Venice, CA-

As I set out to walk alongside the canals of this down-to-earth beach community, I noted that its namesake, in Italy, is at serious risk of sinking into its swampland underpinnings.  California’s Venice has its own concerns:  Earthquakes and a large homeless population being two very different such points of focus.   This is a part of Los Angeles where it is not unusual for people to set up impromptu “shops” along South Venice Boulevard, across from the north entrance to the Canal Walking Path.  There are many who sleep where they can, around the village.

The canals themselves are lined by eclectic houses, which seem to have many students and artists, in residence.  The quirkiness of the district is as much of a draw as the serenity that radiates from an early morning, canalside.

I chose to walk mainly along Grand Canal, which is the western boundary of the District.  My route took in the bridges of Carroll, Linnie, Howland and Sherman Canals, at their juncture with Dell Street.

Here is a long view of Grand Canal.


I turned left at Carroll Canal, looking to cross the bridge in the foreground.


From the Dell Street Bridge, here is a view towards the Eastern Canal.


A couple of Little Egrets were on hand.  Here is one, grooming herself, along the Grand Canal.


There is plenty of kitsch here, as well, including a Pink Flamingo paddle boat.


Linnie Canal is the next feeder to Grand Canal, going north to south.


As is seen in a previous paragraph, Halloween has a lingering presence, in the Canal District.


Howland Canal came next, on my southward jaunt.



These peace-infusing homes are at the junction of Grand Canal and Howland.


This Gingko Tree nearly overwhelms the towpath.


An upside-down dinghy strikes a pensive mood.


Various messages appear, along Grand Canal, between Howland and Sherman.






Canalside gardens also tend to be polychromatic.



Here is a view of Grand Canal, as it bends towards Sherman.


As I crossed Sherman Canal Bridge, and was walking northward again, I caught this Little Egret on its way to “safer” perches.


This mural, outside the Canal District, depicts some whimsical creatures out of Dr. Seuss’s lesser known tales.


With a peaceful counterpoint to the noise and energy of Venice Beach, I felt ready to take a look at Santa Monica’s vibrant Third Street Promenade.


Wait Just A Minute


October 31, 2018, Prescott-

Halloween was low key, at least tonight.

Twenty people happened by my solitary, if well-lit, table on our quiet street.

It was full-blast, over the weekend, though

I went to one party, with my co-workers,

and it was the most heartfelt event.

My appreciation goes to friends in Phoenix and Scottsdale,

whose parties I missed.

See you next October, as things stand now.

That brings me to the main point of this piece.

I no longer rank order my friends.

I no longer have most favourite restaurants,

coffee shops, places to visit.

I am finding too much of merit,

in too many places,

and with too many people.

Someone asked me,

not long ago,

who my best friend was,

and why I didn’t speak to that best friend,

on a daily basis?

In truth, I have many friends

and I may speak to them,

as needed.

My friends are,

quite frankly,

both human and spirit.

Usually, it is the spirit friends

who tell me I need to be

nicer to the humans.

I take that admonition seriously.

Back to the idea of favourites.

We rank order, in this life,

for reasons particular to the person

doing the ranking.

We want to have reliable people,

on whom we might call,

in a time of need.

We enjoy a certain barrista’s latte

or a given baker’s quiche or breads,

or a pasta chef’s lovingly made spaghetti bolognese.

We love how the vegan lady downtown

makes such delectable soups.

I might miss the teasing of a cerebral friend, uptown,

or my brother’s sometimes caustic, but always on-point, admonitions.

I might just need the affirmations of a devout Christian friend,

who understands me, better than most.

I may want to connect with friends in Alberta, Alaska,

or Alsace.

None really is superior to the others.

Maybe, I am reaching a point of true unity.

It has come hard, and I am still working

on my sticky point:

That consistency of presence thing.

It even happened this evening.

Little “S”, for whom I’d give my life,

snuck up to my Halloween table,

whilst I was bidding farewell

to a 9-year-old vampire.

“Trick or treat”,

followed by the world’s most beautiful

toothy smile, brought me back

to front and center.

She wanted to visit my table,

before putting on her witch’s hat.

“S” and her mother made my evening.




Face The Lion


October 28, 2018, Prescott-

One month remains of my being 67.  October, thus far, has been another instance of what the forest rangers call “facing the lion”, the feline in this case being a mountain lion (aka cougar or puma).  The broader meaning of this, of course, is facing one’s trials, without flinching.

I stood for what I believe, earlier this month, was castigated for it by a troubled soul and am not sorry for standing my ground.  I have promised to not harp on this, so I won’t. The most important thing is that, if I am all but ordered to compromise who I am, under pain of disapproval- I will take the scratches and bite marks of disapproval.

Physically, I have recovered from a mild injury to my left knee and am maintaining a rehabilitative exercise regimen.  It was gratifying to have returned to our local Planet Fitness, this evening, and to have been able to complete my usual exercise regimen, with a few modifications.

Yesterday, I chose to stay close to home during the day, rather than go down to Phoenix for what would have been a mere hour, before returning to this area for a Halloween party.  The day was greatly satisfying, though, as I attended a Fall Festival, at the site of the chiropractic office which I use.  There were many raffles, and I won a plastic sled.  The sled ended up going to a five-year-old boy.  I believe every child ought to have the enjoyment of sledding on snow- and in his grandparents’ yard, to boot!

The Halloween party, at my lead teacher’s home, was a masterful blend of food and imaginative visual effects.   There were “talking” creepy ghouls and monsters and a fine variety of hot and cold buffet items.  The best part, though, were their three German shepherds, including a very vocal albino G.S., named Lloyd.  He and I got along just fine, as I would talk back to him, saying it’s all okay.

I got mesmerized by yet another replay of Bette Midler’s classic “Hocus Pocus”, which we used to play every Halloween, when Aram was a child.  It’s been a while, so looking back on how different child characters stood up to Bette’s character and her sisters was a treat.

Yes, some lions are more comical than others. Some are more problematic. All must be faced with confidence and courage.

Burning the Masks-Prologue


October 11, 2018, Prescott-

This series of posts will look at my demon masks. Yes, how apropos for the advent of Halloween.  We all tend to wear one mask, or another, and it falls to the truth tellers of the world to either yank those masks off or get the wearers to take them off, themselves.

Penny was a Libra, and as such, one who suffered fools, not at all.  She accepted me, for who I was, because she saw that my heart was dedicated to truth. Yet, there were always the masks, and I did not get to discard all of them, before her passing.

Now, seven years later, I have to confront certain realities, on my own.  I will share some of the things I am finding, as some risk, but also in the hope that my readers might find the process beneficial to yourselves.

NEXT:  The Mask of Obligation



October 29, 2016, Phoenix-  The fact is, I’ve already voted.  That’s all I’ll say about that topic.  My day kept me in this slowly cooling-off former place of ten years’ residence.  It did not go above 93, and my stops were in lovely venues, so the day lifted my spirits.

It helped that the morning was spent discussing spiritual matters.  We Baha’is are celebrating the birthdays of both Baha’u’llah and His immediate Predecessor, al-Bab (The Gate, in Arabic), in two contiguous days, this coming week.  There will be gatherings during the day, in my home community, while our friends here in Phoenix are planning a Monday evening of prayer and reflection, in lieu of Halloween- as al-Bab’s birthday falls on November 1, this year.  Baha’u’llah’s birthday is being commemorated the following day. More on these Holy Days later.

I also visited an old friend, whose wife, unbeknownst to me until today, had passed away in December, 2014.  She had been one of Penny’s closest friends, when they were students together, at Arizona State University-West, from 2006-09.  The poor soul had also suffered severe physical ailments, for nearly ten years.  Her husband is now retired, and is a freelance mechanic, restoring old vehicles, which he loves doing.  It did my heart good to spend a few hours catching up with him.

I see Halloween as an excuse to indulge in cosplay, just a bit- I had my wizard’s mask on for all of ten minutes.  Mostly, it is another social event, and the people whom I first went to visit, this evening, had canceled their party, preferring to go to a school fair, instead.

Thus, I found myself at a theatrical affair, with the hosts giving a nod to the upcoming election.  Their party is always a well-catered, elaborately decorated event, with a large, diverse and multi-generational crowd.  This one was especially YOOOGE!


Getting Around


October 27, 2016, Prescott-

A brief update:  My landlord is in town, for a few days of repairs to our quadplex and grounds-keeping. He is considering allowing me more responsibility in the quad.  I plan to keep our backyard looking better, with his blessing.  A terraced garden has been my dream, for many years, and I hope to finally get it done.

Our team at school is upgrading the day-to-day curriculum, finally.  I am building a word wall and will post multiplication and division tables, over the next several school days.  Halloween is a half day for the students, and a few hours of planning work for us.  So, I will hopefully get a lot done, in the above regards, on Monday afternoon.

I will head down to Phoenix on Saturday, attend a morning meeting, get in some hiking and attend a Halloween party at the home of some friends, in midtown.  Sunday will be another day for hiking in the Table Mesa area, this time starting earlier in the morning.

Next week, I will begin to collate my poems and short essays, for the book which I want to put forth, in January.

That’s it for tonight.


The Road to 65, Mile 308: October Beginnings


October 1, 2015, Chino Valley- I made my last visit to Del Rio School for a while, spending the day with a class of second-graders, with whom I have worked a few times in the past.  I will actually miss this school, and several others, but throwing myself into the well-being of a specific group of children, day-to-day, for at least two months, and hopefully longer, is something I need to do.  It’s necessary for my own sense that I can do good by a classroom, over a long period of time.  It’s necessary for the children, whose skills are undeveloped, and thus seen by the Masters of the Universe as “low”.

In another iteration, I covered for a teacher on maternity leave, for five months.  The children loved me, and I, them.  I had the support of the school administration.  The teacher, sad to say, did not like my work and made it very clear, especially at the end.  I digress.

It was a good day today, and it will be another good day tomorrow, at Mile High Middle School, in Prescott.  I can work in Prescott schools on Fridays, until the Winter Break, at least, so the separation is less than final.  My first priority, though, will now be Mingus Springs’ third grade class.

October will see me back on the trails- the first few days of Fall Break- next week, and on several weekends hereafter.  Son will be out here, at the end of the month, and I will make my now traditional visit to San Diego, at Thanksgiving time.  My Faith also factors directly into the schedule:  Besides being the cornerstone of my daily life, Baha’i events will occupy me, this coming Saturday, (as will community service, here in Prescott); at the beginning of November and on several days throughout the Fall.  I can never tell when the needs of trusted friends may arise and take me off on an errand of mercy, as happened a week ago, today.

October is always a fascinating month- and not the least because of our fun traditions of Halloween.  I have always enjoyed treating children, from my front door, over the years, in places like Toltec City, Tuba City, Jeddito, Salome, Phoenix and Prescott.  This Halloween will find me at a friend’s house in Tucson, perhaps finagling front door duty.

The crispness of the air, and the changing leaves of the Northland, will also bring me and mine a renewed energy.  I had my mid-year check-up yesterday, and all my vitals are in top form.  Fall will be a great season.