“He Was At Home Here”

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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

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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.

Selective, or Snooty?

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April 24, 2017, Prescott- 

It’s no deep secret that I have issues with those who build walls of snobbery around themselves. I’ve found them everywhere, from my home town of Saugus,  to Jeju, Korea, and to my present home base of Prescott.

Usually, snobs rely on “isms”, to validate their choices.  There are those who fall back on their self-perceived intelligence, while forgetting that the late George Plimpton, and others, routinely ridiculed their insolence.  There are others, “hipsters”, who brag about their sense of aesthetics, overlooking the beauty of simplicity.  Money, status in the community, and a misperceived “racial purity” are other sources of walls. Even in small communities, and communities of colour, subgroups operate to either maintain a false sense of superiority or to ingratiate themselves with those in power.  Seventeen years ago, a woman spread filth about my family and me, in a small desert community.  She had arrived  ten years earlier, from Ohio.  Here in Prescott, another individual, an attendant at a local fitness center, turns her head, sharply and disdainfully, whenever anyone over the age of forty approaches.

I have my own sense of selectivity.  I stay clear of fast food restaurants, many chain stores, and most Big Box establishments.  There is no shortage of people who would cry “Snoot”, at this information, and perhaps they’re right.  I do not, however, treat others with disdain, based on age, physical appearance,  mannerisms,perceived intelligence level, economic status or skin pigmentation.  Even the snobs get a fair hearing.

I have made the observation that fear is behind most snobbery.  If the wall-builders would stop and take several deep breaths, perhaps they would realize that nothing of consequence would befall them, were they to open the blinds, and take off the blinders.

Looking Back-Part 1

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December 30, 2016, Chula Vista-  I arrived here at 8:30 PM, PST.  It will be my last time visiting the San Diego area, for the purpose of spending time with my son.  The next time I see him, it will be in Arizona, then in LA, as he gets ready to go overseas, albeit to a “safe” duty station.

I had an interesting drive out here, from Prescott, in the rain.  Our Arizona Outback got a goodly amount of precip, as did SoCal.  Both are parched, so these little sips of dew will slake the earth’s thirst for a week or so. I am hoping the reservoirs, in both states will benefit, at least an inch or two.  I noticed mostly responsible driving, all the way here, even at the often dreadful Morongo roundabout.  Patience, on my part, and that of the three drivers behind me, got all of us into the parking lot of Ruby’s Diner, without so much as a honked horn.  The only exception to the orderly flow came later, in Hemet, when an SUV, going at least 50 mph, blew past three of us, and through the red light, at which we were waiting.  I was reminded of why the driver might have behaved in this way, when going through a DUI checkpoint, set up by the Chula Vista police.

Now, to look back at this curve ball of a year.  2016 saw the end of many lives, both public and private.  I appreciated the accomplishments of John Glenn, Muhammad Ali, Nancy Reagan, David Bowie, Merle Haggard, Prince Nelson, Glenn Frey, George Michael, the mother-daughter duo of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, and Harper Lee.  I also am much appreciative of the sacrifices of all First Responders and Military who gave their lives in service, thes past twelve months.  Personally, I will miss two aunts, a cousin, and four friends who passed on, in 2016, also.

The changes that happened, as common folk raised their voices, worldwide, and demanded to be heard, will be long in their unfolding and in their repercussions.  The key to living through those, though, is to remember the power of attraction- and focus on what GOOD one wants to see.  The bad will, otherwise, not fade.

Tomorrow:  The good parts of 2016

Sixty Six, for 66, Part III: People, Places and Things

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December 23, 2016, Prescott- School is out, for two weeks.  After helping to re-arrange the classroom, I took off from work, and decided to spend the afternoon and evening around town.  I will head for Phoenix, and the Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference, tomorrow morning, after a full night’s decompression.

Enough of that.  I wish to share 66 of my favourites- persons, places and things, in keeping with the Christmas spirit of positivity. So, in no particular order:

1. Mountain vistas

2. Posole

3.  Monty Python films

4.  The Olympic Peninsula

5.  Celtic Woman’s music

6. Fried clams

7.  The Harry Potter series (films and books)

8.  Baha’u’llah’s teachings

9.  The harbour at Vannes, Brittany

10. The presence of children

11.  Do Terra Essential Oils

12.  Honesty

13.  Pizza

14.  My biological family-wherever they are

15.  The United States Constitution

16.  Sweet potato pie

17.  Manitou Springs, Colorado

18.  Bears

19.  ‘Abdu’l-Baha

20.  Mint chip ice cream

21.  My Reno family

22. The Grand Canyon

23.  The Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, IL

24.  Trustworthiness

25.  Equity for women and girls

26.  San Diego

27.  The Fisher King

28.  Forthrightness

29.  Jennifer Lawrence, as an actress

30.  Denzel Washington, as an actor

31.   Gatherings at Prescott’s Courthouse Square

32. Justice

33. My mother’s love

34.  Memories of my wife

35.  Sharp cheddar cheese

36.  The Field Museum, Chicago

37.  My Tampa Bay family

38.  Jeju, South Korea

39.  Les Miserables

40.  The Sonoran Desert

41.  My son’s devotion

42.  Crispy bacon

43. Dogs

44. Thumb Butte, Prescott

45.  A job well done

46. Crystal Cove Beach, CA

47.  A Path With Heart

48.  Caramel

49.  Bluegrass music

50.  The Lord of the Rings 

51.  Consistency

52.  Sedona, AZ

53.  Hopi culture

54.  Whales

55.  Persistence in faith

56.  Boulder, CO

57.  Pumpernickel bread

58.  My southwest Missouri family

59.  Lemurs

60.  The Holy Bible

61.  Gyros

62.  Heidelberg

63.  Navajo culture

64.  Reuben sandwiches

65. Hot coffee

66. Southeast Alaska

There are so many more that I love, but I sense the reader’s flagging attention. 🙂

 

 

Always Welcome

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November 27, 2016, Banning- I am fortunate to find many places, to which I can return, no matter how long it’s been since I have stopped by.  One such is Gramma’s Country Kitchen, in this small, but pleasant city along I-10, east of Riverside.  The decor reminds me of both my Godmother’s kitchen, when I was a child, and various places in which I’ve stopped in the Midwest, over the years.  The owners and waitresses always seem to remember me, from previous visits and the place just feels like home.

My son’s place, in Chula Vista feels likewise, it goes without saying.  It will be strange to go to San Diego, after February, and not have him there to visit.  He will be doing other tasks, in his next duty station, though, and I will continue to feel pride in his achievements.  We had a quiet, but comfortable, visit, over Thanksgiving and will have a few days together, here and there, between now and the time he heads out.

I got back, easily, to Prescott, and it will be a busy, fruitful month ahead- with work for both the Prescott schools and my Faith occupying a great deal of time.  Needless to say, there are plenty of places here, where I likewise always feel welcome.  At the end of this week, for example, the town’s Christmas tree will be lit and all of us in attendance will feel an abundance of welcome, from one another.

As I will write tomorrow, I personally will welcome another year to my chronology:  66. Hope all are rested from a joyful Thanksgiving!

 

No Black Thursday

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November 24, 2016, Julian, CA-  This little town, northeast of San Diego, has been our Thanksgiving hub, for three of the last four years.  Only in 2014 were we diverted to Aram’s ship, for what was an estimable meal, in its own right.  Otherwise, Julian Cafe has been an irresistible venue- for one of the best traditional Thanksgiving meals this side of the Appalachians.

Julian appeals to Aram, because it reminds him of Prescott and Flagstaff.  The oak forests that surround the town, and the Laguna Mountains, to its southeast, are of immense comfort to one who was born , and spent his first years, in a forested landscape.

It appeals to me, as all mountain towns do, because Saugus ( my home town), and so many towns in New England, are similarly entwined with rugged landscapes and a wealth of historical nuggets.  Julian’s history is inextricably linked to the California Gold Rush.  Southern California had several spots which, while not as noteworthy as the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, nontheless contributed to Gold Fever.

What appeals to neither of us is Black Thursday, as some have taken to calling the afternoon and evening of Thanksgiving Day.  There may be some LIMITED need for some people to pick up groceries, in the morning, as I did on behalf of Aram and his housemates, around 8:30 this morning, at the local Ralph’s store.  I can’t see either of us shopping for deals on Thanksgiving, ever.  I understand some want that to be their Thanksgiving tradition, but I stay with family remaining focused on non-commercial pursuits.

We had another awesome meal, with his two housemates along.  This will be the last time, though, for at least three years, as he heads across the Pacific, in a few months’ time.  That made it an especially treasured repast.

 

Ever Evolving

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August 26, 2016, Prescott- 

I saw the face of our Prescott hero.

She was looking out on us,

from the lead photo of a USA Today piece,

on a series of interviews with those who saw her there,

in that place of desolation, where she was the only source of love.

She loves her people, still.

I wear a message T-shirt,

honouring the fallen men of that day,

three years and two months ago.

They look out upon us,

from a crew photo taken after the Doce Fire,

two weeks before the Death Storm.

They love their families, still.

I look at the woman who loved me,

more than anyone.

She gazes out, with confidence,

from a photo of her teen life.

She gave us the best years of her life.

She loves me still.

I look upon my little ones,

imperfect, works in progress,

sometimes exhausting, at times frightful.

There are those times, though,

when they finish work, when they listen,

when they just know

that I love them still.

 

(To obviate the drumbeat of “Where’s The Book of Poetry?”, know that I will start compiling what I’ve written here and organizing it into a volume, during the next seven days. That volume of verse will hopefully be ready for self-publication by January, 2017.)

 

My Life Thus Far: The Nineties

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March 6, 2016, Chula Vista- In the scheme of things, my most productive decade, to date, has been the 1990’s.  My forties were, initially, of consternation to my wife, but ended up being a time of relative calm and mutual growth for us.

1990-High Point: Travels with my family, around Jeju.                                                                                   Low Point:  Losing several more aunts and uncles.                                                                                People in the Heart:  My little family; my students; the Korean Baha’is.                                     Places in the Heart:  Jeju; Mt. Halla; Nonsan; Yosu.

1991- High Point:  Continued growth of our community, and in my teaching.                                       Low Point:   None.  This was a very sanguine year.                                                                                 People in the Heart:  Koreans, in general.                                                                                               Places in the Heart:  Jeju; Inchon; Jonju, Busan .

1992- High Point:  Return to the Navajo Nation.                                                                                               Low Point:  Leaving Korea.                                                                                                                              People in the Heart:  My students, both in Jeju and in Jeddito; the long-suffering Mr. Chun; Marty Green, who gave me a fresh start; the proprietress of Mile-Hi Motel, Prescott.                                                                                                                                                                              Places in the Heart:  Jeju; Sorak-san; Prescott; Jeddito.

1993- High Point:  Penny’s return to teaching.                                                                                                   Low Point:  Dealing with a disinformation campaign.                                                                          People in the Heart:  My Navajo and Hopi students; A.T. Sinquah; the Begay family,              of Cienega Canyon; Harry James, who gave his life for his faith.                                                      Places in the Heart:  Jeddito, Keams Canyon; Canyon de Chelly; Flagstaff.

1994- High Point:  Learning about, and implementing, a comprehensive guidance                              program.                                                                                                                                                                Low Point:  Struggling to adapt to new school administration.                                                         People in the Heart:  The Ambrose family; the Melvins, who taught me how to act                 with grace, and patience; all the aforementioned.                                                                     Places in the Heart:  Pinon; Shungopavi; First Mesa.

1995-High Point:  Our first cross-country road trip, as a family.                                                                 Low Point:  The passing of Penny’s paternal grandfather.                                                                  People in the Heart:  Sadie Charley; the Bathkes; the Shuplas; A. C. Fellman.                           Places in the Heart:  Louhelen Baha’i School; Bedminster; Saugus.

1996- High Point:  Continued success in our school’s program.                                                                    Low Point:  The passing of our neighbour, Georgianna T.

           People in the Heart:  The Coin family; Clifford Q., who taught us all patience, in a                  different way; Mark Sacco, who never gave up on the hardest of students; the                            Smiley sisters; the Tewanema family.

          Places in the Heart:  Edgewater, NM (our vacation spot); Sandia Crest; the Navajo                  and Hopi Nations, in general.

1997- High Point:  Our road trip with Lady (our dachshund, adopted in 1995).                                        Low Point:  The suicide of a former student.                                                                                            People in the Heart: Marwin Woody and his family; the staff of Louhelen Baha’i                      School; all my relations.                                                                                                                                  Places in the Heart:  Amarillo; Effingham; Lambertville, NJ; Louhelen Baha’i                           school; Edwardsville, IL.

1998-High Point: My securing a principalship.                                                                                                   Low Point: The accidental death of a key staff member.                                                                       People in the Heart:  Mrs. Lowe and Ms. Young, my strongest classroom teachers.                  Places in the Heart: Chilchinbeto; Kayenta.

1999-High Point: Landing on my feet, at Salome High School.                                                                     Low Point: Aram’s harrowing return visit to Korea.                                                                             People in the Heart:  Tom Riggenbach, the Charley family (who spoke in my                             defense); Paul Lansing; the majority of my constituents in La Paz County.                                   Places in the Heart: Polacca; Salome; Prescott.

The Nineties began with stability and hope, though various storm clouds were always showing lightning,in the distance.  This was a time that began and ended with big moves for us.  I made a stab at being an administrator, and found it was not for me. I am much more at home with counseling, and would have done better to hone my skills in that area, still further.  Penny had a serious fall, in 1998, and we spent much time and energy seeking competent neurological care.  She seemed to have recovered, by the end of the year, when we observed her parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary.  The decade ended with us working through the joys and sorrows of life in a small Southwestern town.

Still and all, that decade was good for us.  The ten years to come would prove far more challenging.

 

 

Epiphany

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January 6, 2016, Prescott- I woke this morning to two things:  There was a not totally expected, fresh coating of snow on the ground and I found an e-warning that taking down holiday decorations, before today, is “just plain wrong”.

Prescott being in central Arizona, the streets were cleared by late morning sunshine, though more snow is in the offing, between now and Friday. As for the rather stern warning to those of us on Facebook, it’s a non-issue.  I know all about the Twelve Days of Christmas, and have had my part in several choral renditions of the song, over the years.  I’m also familiar with the Shakespearean romantic comedy.

Like Saul, who became Paul, I have had my share of divine revelations.   The most significant of those led me to accepting the Baha’i Faith, thirty-five years ago, next month, after nine years of holding it at arm’s length. Those were nine rather futile years, as  I recall, with nothing to show for them, other than a Bachelor’s Degree, and a middling Grade Point Average.

I am presently reading a book, “Extreme Ownership”, which describes the Navy SEALS method of dealing with challenges, and applies it to business models.  I have done my share of blame-casting, over the years, so a beloved family member thought it would be good for me to read, and absorb, lest I be tempted to resort to further ascribing of my difficulties in life to others’ actions and attitudes.

There is always SOMETHING that a person can do, to turn adversity into a beneficial lesson.  Saul the Tax-Collector determined he would do better to be a servant of God.  The SEALS who wrote the above-mentioned book determined they would do best to seek to understand the reasons for the actions of their superiors.  I am learning, from them, that coping and transcending all conditions, without blamecasting, is not only doable, but is far superior to the almost Pavlovian tendency to hand off responsibility.

Joyous Epiphany, one and all!