Masked Dancers

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November 20,2021- The four ladies were alternately jumping, twirling and swaying, with the energy of twenty-year-olds, though they were closer in age to yours truly. All the while, they kept their COVID masks securely on their faces. This was for the duration of a 40-minute set by local artist Jonathan Best, and his troupe of blues and funk musicians. Half of it was a funk rendition of “Blowin’ In The Wind”, which I think Bob Dylan would thoroughly enjoy. The other 20 minutes was devoted to Sly Stone’s “Thank You for Letting Me Be Myself”.

I was given an egg castanet, which is about what you would expect-a mini-Easter egg shaped rattle, for the purpose of joining in the festivities. Jonathan goes full-on, bringing his audience into the fray. Whilst dutifully shaking the instrument, I felt as if I was watching a band of dervishes, even when three of the women took off their masks. The fourth, in addition to wanting to guard against COVID, also didn’t want men to see her face, and so kept tugging her mask against her nose. To me, it is six or a half dozen, whether I see a person’s visage or not. The show was the thing. It was all just a great way to spend a couple of hours on a mild Saturday night.

The Raven is the sort of place where patrons, and the bartenders, help the lone server clear tables, when she is overloaded with delivering food. This discomfits the standard dining patron, but for me, and several others, it is second nature. We are more like family, than “us and them”. I kind of like it that way.

That is part and parcel of living in a fairly mellow town. There are those who see everything through an ideological lens, but their influence here is diluted by the culture of broad acceptance. A patron who tried to push the envelope with “Let’s Go, Brandon” ,(poor Mr. Brown, he just wants to race his stock car), was brought into the festivities by being given a larger castanet. Jonathan is a progressive, but ideology is left at the cafe door, when he is set to perform. He knows that conservatives and reactionaries love a good, lively performance as much as anyone else-and so we all rock out together.

The days before Thanksgiving are a great time for such in-gathering.

Bookends

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November 13, 2021- The day began and ended with friends named Lisa. One can never tell where even the most seemingly quotidian act can lead. After breakfast, I got a message from the first Lisa, asking me to get her some crayons, for an event in which she was a participant. Crayons being one of the items not yet hit by the current bout of inflation, this was easy enough. When I delivered them to Lisa, at the event site, she asked my help in one other errand, which was easy enough-though involving a bit of time.

Once that was done, and Lisa in good shape, it was time for my main meeting of the day-a 1 3/4 hour American Legion Post meeting, for which I stood the duration. Yes, this was a rare Post meeting which was standing room only. I began to understand how Congressional staffers might feel, as the meeting entailed a reading of a lengthy document. Verbose attendees added to the length of the session, but that comes with the territory.

Later came a run out to Rafter Eleven, and an interesting discussion of olive oil blends, with a foodie named Linda. When it was time for my own dinner, I headed back to Prescott and The Raven. The ordering line almost always results in light conversation with those around me, and this evening was no exception. A large family had gathered, with matriarch, her sons and their wives, along with several grandchildren. Another party of four was behind me, and while deciding my order, I bade them go ahead. Noting an empty table next to theirs, they set it aside for my use. The large family, including their little pug in a stroller, was directly behind my table.

Thus, I made the acquaintance of the second Lisa. She had lived for many years in Prescott, but now lived in southern California. By turns, she was chatty and withdrawn, as we all listened to a duo playing music of the 1920s and’30s. This brought to mind the dictum: Never make assumptions about a person, based on their demeanour. After forty minutes or so, Lisa turned to me and told of her husband’s recent death and that today, the family had laid him to rest. Condolences and a gentle hug ensued, I was introduced to her family and bade them a safe trip back to their homes in California.

Even the most seemingly quotidian of activities can lead to unexpected places. Sometimes, a day brings bookends.

Serene and Swaying

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October 16, 2021- The full- on, pulsating sounds of the Latino-tinged hard rock band had five generations of people up and dancing, for close to two hours. It was the culmination of an afternoon Harvest Festival, a block party of sorts, set up by Raven Cafe and Peregrine Book Store, to benefit the Prescott Education Fund-and by extension, our public schools.

I found myself swaying to the rhythms, on the sidelines, as couples and families bounced, did the samba and even a guy doing Cat Daddy, with his lady friend and one other mutual friend of theirs. Babies in their parents’ arms were moving and grooving. Kids of all ages were jumping around, everywhere. It was just that sort of magnificent autumn evening, in a small lot that is one of Prescott’s best-kept secrets.

A couple of costumed characters briefly moved among the crowd, essentially getting the party started.

So it went, and the exercise did me good. It is ever so, that even as the twilight of the first year of my eighth decade on this earth approaches, there is still very much a relevance to my presence here. My immediate reward was a delectable creme brulee at the Raven, once the concert had wound down. The more substantial reward was an indelible viewing of Home Base for what it is: A small spot of paradise, in which my spirit can thrive and from which it may go forth, to other paradises.

And After The Ending…..

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September 24, 2021- The tough little road warrior took to squealing its displeasure, as soon as I popped the trunk. The alarm, that we all figured was dead, went off and stayed squawking, almost until the trunk was empty. It took less than an hour to clear everything out of the Elantra and transport it back to Home Base. My farewell to Elantra was shortened by the presence of a visibly irritated yard manager, at the body shop to which I had taken it. My friend’s car was taking up much needed space in the yard, so with one last tap on the road warrior’s roof, we left it to its destiny with USAA.

Picking up the rental, which I will pretty much need until the next car is purchased, was quick and easy. Ditto for processing the Transfer of Title and another document. It was the practical end to a strange, dreamlike 36 hours. I looked online, at several used car sites, and knowing the severity of the computer chip shortage, am mentally set for a rather long haul.

The evening was sweeter. I went downtown and joined the local rally for Earth, dubbed Climate Strike. Several friends were present, with a young lady I love as if she were my daughter being one of the leading organizers. I am very proud of her efforts and those of the earnestly involved team. With few, if any, exclusionary statements, the speakers stressed the importance, to every resident of this planet , of making efforts at curbing pollution and taking whatever practical steps that can be taken to ameliorate the daily and intermediate-term effects of climate change-whether it be in the form of extreme heat or extreme cold; whether it means extended drought or an increase in the frequency and severity of storms. The key term here is sustainability.

As I spent time, after the rally, sipping iced tea and enjoying an evening of funky music, at Raven Cafe, Annie and two friends walked in, offered a cheerful greeting and went upstairs to the roof patio. Knowing we have one another’s back, my friends and I also let time flow, being together sometimes and doing our own things, the rest of the time.

My back is slowly but steadily recovering, less stiff today than yesterday and will get better soon.

Alpha/Omega

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April 2, 2021- Every so often, I get a reminder about the commitment that I, as “an American of some affluence”, must have towards the poor of other parts of the world. It usually comes in the form of a veiled demand, but is at least offered with good wishes for my health and well-being. That stands to reason, as a sick person would hardly be able to offer anything to others.

My dealings with people who primarily view the world through a transactional lens are, of necessity, getting more and more limited. Even among those businesses I frequent, I regard the people therein as friends first, and means to an end second. One example is a local family restaurant, Zeke’s, where I sit at the counter, gab with the wait staff and other patrons, and comment freely on goings on. The same is true of Rafter Eleven, Synergy and, to a lesser extent, The Raven Cafe. It is increasingly true in the schools where I am taking on special assignments until the end of May.

My circle of friends trends larger these days, even with-and in some cases because of-virtual connections. The first and last, alpha/omega if you will, is compassion based on love. Those whose primary focus is transactional have a hard time seeing this-and there was a time when part of me was there. Much of my standoffishness had to do with lack of self-confidence, and a degree of self-loathing, as if I were not “good enough” for others. I suspect that is true of those who behave in this manner now. More’s the pity.

There is, to a good extent, the notion that failure to thrive is a Catch 22, a vicious circle. That realization came to me, about four months after I met Penny, back in 1981. Gradually, over several decades, the self-doubt has fallen away-so that even in the most harrowing of circumstances, the faint light has been in view.

I thought of this today, as the Mystery of Alpha/Omega from 33 A.D.: The Passion of Jesus the Christ, plays out in the minds and hearts of millions across the planet. His basis for everything was compassion, rooted in love.

A Natural Pace

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February 15, 2021-

It took a while, and a few messages back and forth, before I connected with a friend who recently moved out here, from the East Coast. Once we did finally meet up, a delightful two hours of conversation and The Raven’s usual fine lunch ensued. Friend got an introduction to downtown Prescott, Courthouse Square and one of the town’s many antique shops.

It will be a process of acclimation to higher elevation for my friend, but it will be nice to have at least an occasional hiking buddy and someone to tag along for other outings, like Synergy Music Nights. The key to this is that my life is resuming a natural pace. Work will wind down, after this week, and after Spring Break, I will cut back to three days a week of availability. It is time to focus on the avocational.

There is much to be done for my Faith and so much of my stamina to be rebuilt, with more time on the trails and a greater devotion to overall exercise. I have come a long way, towards letting life unfold at a natural pace, not so much focused on making things happen according to my schedule. The organic unfoldment of this day taught me a lot, in that regard, and it felt refreshing.

Vigilance

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November 11, 2020-

Today was Veteran’s Day. I was treated to a nice breakfast at Zeke’s, watched most of the downtown Parade, met for a while, on Zoom, with some friends in a spiritual discussion group and had a light dinner at Raven Cafe.

One of the qualities people most admire in our nation’s military is that they (we) have exercised vigilance, in the performance of our duties. I did, whilst serving in the United States Army, remain watchful in handling the mail, remained alert on guard duty and executed any other duties assigned, with loyalty and honour.

These commmitments translate, for most of us in civilian life, as integrity and trustworthiness. There are certain generalities that still matter greatly to me, and in which I will stay vigilant:

  1. Everyone’s vote should count. I see no evidence that this is not being honoured by those entrusted with the electoral process. I see no evidence that the party whose candidate is leading is circumventing the process-and vigilance will keep it that way.
  2. The rights of every citizen, from the time of physical conception to death by natural causes, should be defended by everyone of conscience. Reports are surfacing that at least one technocrat, who favours a national triage system for medical care, is part of the presidential transition team. His views should remain just that, his views. Widespread abortion and forced euthanasia are not the hallmarks of civilized society, and must never take the place of the rare instances when those practices may be viewed as necessary.
  3. The Constitution must be followed. On December 14, the Electoral College should certify the next president, according to final vote tallies. On January 20, 2021, the person certified as winner should take the oath of office as President, no matter who is upset by this or how many who voted for a losing candidate take umbrage. I have long taken my own pledge as a citizen very seriously. That will not change.

The Summer of the Rising Tides,Day 27: Grass Stains

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June 27, 2020-

Today was largely spent in a Zoom conference, concluding Unity Week, an 8-day conference, in which I only obliquely participated, largely through addressing topics that need to be faced, if true unity is to be achieved. The closing sessions, therefore, caught my undivided attention, addressing the Four Roads one must traverse, in reaching a point where contributions to society will be meaningful.

More about these Four Roads (or Vias), in the next several days. This evening, my mind went back to simpler times. I walked downtown, after the conference had reached its closing remarks and extended farewells. The aim was to sit up on the roof of Raven Cafe, and catch the salsa and funk that was emanating from the rooftop’s makeshift stage.

Wouldn’t you know it? There was an hour’s wait, for any spot on the roof. I’d already eaten dinner at home, anyway, and so went up the street to Frozen Frannie’s, and grabbed a refreshing cup of goodness, then headed further, over to the Courthouse steps, enjoying pina colada and berry frozen yogurt. A group of children buzzed around me, alternately sliding down the short incline, tussling, and engaging in a game of hide and seek. It’s always reassuring to see that, COVID or no COVID, life is going on, and parents are taking their families to places where fresh air and exercise are not monitored by draconian elements.

After enjoying my frozen treat, a seat in front of a tree beckoned, closer to the Bluegrass band that was occupying a festival stage. Sitting on the lawn, taking in a bona fide North American art form, was a perfect ending to the evening. Another group of kids was dancing up a storm, twirling around, as the band played the songs of Bill Monroe and John Prine, among others. When it was time to get up off my haunches, I noticed something was missing from my childhood: Grass stains. Lawns sure have changed, in 60 years.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 8: Persuasion and Fake Rain

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June 8, 2020-

Today was a good day. I got to visit Raven Cafe, and while I wore a mask into the establishment, and while ordering and paying afterwards, I found the al fresco dining experience both comforting and free of any worries about COVID19. The young ladies who work there, like all those I encounter during this Twilight Zone of a year, are worthy of no less than the utmost care that each of us who patronize the place can muster.

I finally have restored all the photos that I eliminated from my 2012 posts, whilst still in the limited storage space of Word Press’s free account. Writing means more to me now, so maintaining a Pro Account, with its unlimited storage, has made such restoration possible-and with better quality versions of the older photographs.

Now, to the title subject. As is my wont, I have engaged in reading and listening to both sides, or all sides actually, of the various debates on both COVID19 and the episodes of violence towards individuals, the vast majority of whom have been African-American. I have engaged, as well, in discourse with people who bring up seemingly minor details of these matters, both by way of expressing their concern with the matters at hand and by way of denying such problems exist. There are also those who don’t want to hear what is being said, and interject-sometimes, but not always, with pejoratives and catcalling.

Into this cacophony, have come Black Conservatives-loudly, almost tearfully, denying there is systemic racism extant in this country. The “you low life cousins of mine are bringing it on yourselves” take on the issues MAY have SOME ring of truth, in SOME situations. What it tells me, more immediately, is that these are people who have either lived more comfortable lives than many others of their skin tone or they are just hard-wired to tough out life, without thinking much of misfortunes.

I have never had to endure the day-to-day ignominies faced by, say, Appalachian whites, or trailer dwellers who work day labour, in many small cities and towns across the continent. That doesn’t mean I look down on them. I am hard-wired to tough out misfortunes, but those who aren’t, are deserving of a leg up, along with encouragement to build up their emotional immunity, so that life is not an endless cycle of tears and self-loathing,

On the edges of the cacophony, and often in the middle of it, stands our nation’s 45th President. I have to say this- I do not think he is a well man. I don’t think he’s an evil man, but he is not acting like a well person. It would be far better for all concerned, if he were to step aside, preferably at the end of his current term, as our nation’s 36th President did. Lyndon Johnson was also not well, and did what he could to save himself and the country.

If the voters of this nation want to stay the course of conservatism, there are plenty of others, men and women, who could take the reins. If, as current polls indicate, the electorate is shifting leftward, there are plenty of competent men and women who could serve, from that political stance, as well. (I am far from sold on the current presumptive alternative to Mr. Trump).

The cacophony, however, is unlikely to let up until a critical mass of one end of the spectrum either sees, or experiences, the legitimate concerns of the other. There is far too much urination, to put it indelicately, that is being sold the public as “rain”. Only independent investigation of truth can bring this to an end.

The Tide

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March 20, 2020-

I awoke today to a sky that was mixed, in its promises for the day.  As it happened, clouds came and went, allowing a basically sunny day.  I spent much of the day reflecting on a piece that I had written in 1996, which my brother forwarded me, early this morning.

The day stayed mixed. I was not surprised to learn that work is delayed until April 13, at the earliest.  Swinging by Raven Cafe, one of my hangouts, I ordered delectable mushroom soup and a lamb burger with sweet potato fries, as a take-out meal.  Enjoying the soup, sitting outside, whilst watching the antics of a trio of dogs and talking with some of my mates, was arguably the high point of the day.  I took the lamb burger and SPF home, so as not to be a canine tormentor.  It tasted every bit at home,as it would have in public.

After catching up with my photo scanning project, on behalf of a longtime friend, I got a call to head out on a project for a revitalized Yavapai County Angels, delivering food boxes to an elder, picking up more supplies for further deliveries, over the next several days and visiting one of our local grocery stores, as my teammate was hoping against hope for paper products and loaves of bread to give to other elders.  I found three fresh-baked loaves (packaged loaves went the way of toilet paper and most other items.  These will go to some fortunate senior citizen.

The matter of the near future arose, as it always does of late.  There is an ominous feeling, among many of the people I encountered.  Everyone was rattled, to some extent or another, so I kept a low profile, though my saying that grocery stores were still open in states that were on lock-down provoked a furious response.

The tide is roiling.  We can perform random acts of kindness, as many are choosing to do, or we can sequester ourselves in racism and intolerance of any divergent opinions, as even some close to me are starting to do.  This is not a “Chinese” virus, or even an Asian virus, as the president and a few others keep claiming.  It is a worldwide threat, no matter who, or what malevolent force, unleashed it.  The whole of humanity has to move, in unison, to fight it.

I will continue to help in any way I can, for as long as my 69-year-old self is allowed, and as long as those who are committed to  forcing drastic measures, such as martial law, are not allowed to hold sway, we will make progress, acting as a community.