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Notes From Coyote


Fed up with Football

    I played a little football in high school, not much but enough to be fairly good at it and grow to love it. Back then, this was not long after the asteroid hit and the BIG lizards were gone, we didn’t have offensive and defensive teams, we had A team, and everybody but the QB, the “backs” and the fragile ends played both-ways. (“Fragile” because they were usually tall and skinny and were treated as special by the coaches because they seemed to be the key players that would create the big gains, maybe ten yards or possibly a TD…..as opposed to the running backs who would pound into the line and grind out maybe three or four yards at a time. Those guys were disposable and replaceable with other glory seekers we thought.)
    For you non-football people, they guys in the line the two guards, two tackles and the center, played both ways. That means that, since I was a center (the guy who snaps the ball to the QB) on offence, when the other team had the ball I was a linebacker on defense. Yep, we were Iron-men back then. At least we thought so.
    After high school I went into the Army and played a little there too, this was hardly semi-pro, it was primarily goofing around. However, whatever dreams I might have had of playing at the college level after-Army were shaken out of me when one day a skinny soft-spoken guy took me out of a play cleanly when, as a line backer I came rushing in and he blocked me so hard that I was out of it for a short time. Turned out he was no “pro” either. Just a third string end who had played a little for the University of Indiana, not exactly a power house in the Big 10. I figured if this third stringer who once played for the poorest team in the Midwest was that good I had no chance at all of competing against the really good players at that level.
    I once had the experience of playing against one of those “really good” guys in high school. It wasn’t a regular h.s. game, just a little pick-up game in a South Side park in Chicago. That guy was so good it was as if he was from another planet…and everybody on the field knew it. (Yes, he was that good.) He went on to play pro ball with the 49ers. Any time he got the ball nobody could lay a hand on him. His name was Abe Woodson. (Look him up.)
    Anyway, I DID have a clue on what real football talent looked like and I learned fast that I didn’t have it.    
    So, after that little stint in the Army I quit being interested in playing football or for that matter watching it on TV. Non-participatory sports held no interest for me. After all, I had been a player.
    Lots of years went by, they were now finding the bones of the BIG lizards and that seemed more interesting to me. Not enough to get me to go to college to get a degree in paleontology however.
    But one night just a couple of decades ago I came home on a Monday night after a day of being a psychotherapist and turned on the TV and there on Monday Night Football was a game between the Packers and the Browns. It must have been around the November part of the year ‘cause there was snow around the edges of the field in Green Bay. The contrast of colors, the green and gold of the Packers uniforms, the orange and white colors of the Browns, the green grass on the field and the white snow bordering it…the spectacle of it all captured me and I was hooked. From that night foreword I became a fan of football again, at the pro. level at least, and for the next twenty or so years I was into it. But over the past year I’ve become dis-enchanted. I’ll list the reasons why. First, in the order of importance, that is the thing that bothers me the most, the “politics”.
        Football players, more than players in any other sport in America, are classed as “Heroes”, the Super-Men of professional sports. They are physically bigger, have classier uniforms, are surrounded by more beautiful women, have more money than just about any other group of professional players in the world. And they are primarily African-American. Because of their racial identity at least a few of them have made an attempt to take advantage of their status in the spotlight to get the attention of (mainly) white America regarding the inequities they, and their families and their friends, and for that matter, everyone in their racial group have experienced every day of their lives. If you’re white, you will not only have not experienced this, you are probably clueless about this….hence the term, and the accurately portrayed and true meaning of the term “white privilege”.
    If you’re white it’s likely you don’t even know that you’ve got it, “white privilege” that is. In my eighty-four plus years, though I’ve experienced it, I’ve never named it…till now. Of course I’ve known about racism, about prejudice. My family was filled with racist rancor. I was brought up that way. When “All in the family” came to TV I could have sworn that the character Archie Bunker was modeled on my father. (And my father might have sworn I was the “meathead” character.)
    When I read John Howard Griffins’ Black Like Me back in 1961, the non-fiction story of a man who became black by dying his skin with drugs and chemicals, and then gauging reactions to him by whites, it was an eye opener. But that was an armchair experience. The real time stuff came when I married a Mexican-American girl from El Paso and brought her to Chicago where we lived on the lakefront in an apartment on the South Side. She was brown to begin with but in the sun she turned a shade or two darker and one day as we strolled down a Lake Michigan beach I had the strangest feeling of tension in the air and of being drilled into by the stares of people as we passed by. There was a palpable air of hostility all around us that I had never in my life experienced. We hurried home wondering what was going on.
    We didn’t know but the NAACP had, on that very day, begun a movement to integrate Chicago beaches just a few blocks away. Obviously we were seen as the vanguard of that event, a white guy with a near-black girl brazenly strolling down a segregated beach, we were lucky we weren’t attacked.
    Despite the fact that I was born and raised in Chicago I had no idea that the beaches were segregated. How would I know that? I was white after all. That was a manifestation of the privilege thing, though there was no such term in common use then.
    A week later we had a visit from an African-American couple we had known for many years and they spent the night in our apartment. The next morning the landlord paid a visit too and served us with an eviction notice because he had heard, “You people had niggers here yesterday and that breaks the lease.” (They were in the next room and were not surprised; in fact they apologized for “causing a problem”.)
    I was a radio announcer at a small Chicago station at the time and one of the shows I worked on was put on by the Urban League. They were the up-scale version of the NAACP in Chicago. I was still reeling from the landlords visit that day and was venting to one of the black moderators on the show and he asked if I would be willing to tell my story. I was more than happy; I was outraged and ready to be heard.
    No one in the mostly black audience for that show was shocked by my tale. Imagine my surprise to discover that my hometown of Chicago was then, 1960, considered to be the second most segregated city in America right after Jackson, Mississippi. Soon after my wife and I and our two kids moved back to El Paso, a town that had just, by local ordinance, integrated all public facilities. No other town in Texas had done the same. I don’t know if any other town in the U.S. had either. (El Paso, by the way, was and is, an anomaly in Texas. Largely Democratic and Progressive, it has never seemed to belong to the rest of the reactionary Lone Star State.)
    I ran into a lot of racism after that, always because I had black friends, mainly jazz musicians, and insisted on having them in my life. I still didn’t really know about the “white privilege” thing though and when I heard the term I felt somewhat defensive about it. I didn’t feel “privileged” on any level. I certainly didn’t come from money. And I’d worked for a living ever since I was 15. What “privilege” did I have? Not until a series of events, seemingly unrelated, occurred, did I really begin to get it.
    Over ten years ago a friend of ours, a white gay woman and her partner, a black woman, adopted two African-American boys. They were infants at the time. One day, just a few weeks ago, Elizabeth, who likes to spend time connecting on Facebook, showed me a current picture of the boys who are now about 11 & 14. I noted them and moved on. “Noted” that they had grown a good deal and were good-looking kids. That was about it.
    Around the same time in Albuquerque our favorite restaurant, an Italian place with good food and music, put this up on their marquee; “Black Olives Matter!” I didn’t pay much attention to it, just thought it was a dumb thing to do
    Then in Milwaukee cops shot a black man and the protests erupted. This was not an unarmed man and it seemed to me from the reports that it was probably a justified shooting, that is, the cops felt he was a real threat. So why I wondered, was the black community taking to the streets? This was not Ferguson.
    Then one other piece came into play, the slogan “Black Lives Matter” had had appended to it, “All Lives Matter” by various politicians and others and I agreed with that concept at first. Of course, I thought, ALL lives matter. Then suddenly as if at a deep level some sort of higher intelligence worked it all out, I suddenly realized that the white mom friend of ours has had to teach a whole different series of life lessons to those two boys that no white parent EVER has had to deal with with their kids. Those two boys would not be having the same life experience of any white kids, not in school, not on the way to school, not after school, not at any time in their lives…..just because of the color of their skin and for no other reason. That’s white privilege. And white people have no clue what that’s like. NOT ONE CLUE! They, we, can guess at it all right. We can empathize. We can understand––––––but we cannot really know.
    That’s why there cannot be anything appended to “Black Lives Matter”, because black lives have seldom mattered in the history of our country. Ever since the Civil War lynching had been rampant in the South. It wasn’t till 2005 that the U.S. Senate apologized for never having passed an anti-lynching law. It didn’t get done because there were other political priorities….and because Black Lives DIDN’T Matter. If white bodies had been hanging from trees in the South, our government would have sent in troops!
    With all the progress that has been made for African-Americans since the 60s we have forgotten that some things haven’t changed at all. For example, in Albuquerque that restaurant owner is now printing T-shirts with his insulting “joke” and he claims, in the face of some who have protested, to have, “50% support” from his friends and clientele. I really hope he’s just playing it up. I hate to think New Mexicans are that emotionally blind. That emotionally dead.
    We have a Republican president who seems quite happy to have the support of a former head of the KKK and members of various white supremacist groups.
    And just one statistic (of the many I’ve come across) says quite a bit about the reality; a young black male has a 50% chance of winding up in prison for a non-violent, usually drug, offense. Most young white males do not even get charged let alone go to prison for the same offenses, though studies show they use drugs at the same rate. That conviction will haunt that boy turned man for the rest of his life on every level, getting into college, getting a job, applying for a loan for a car or a house. One conviction, no matter how small the offense, will negatively shape the rest of his life.
    Today our white mom has to caution her black sons to be EXTRA careful while-being-black.
    White privilege. It’s alive and well in our country and most of we whites don’t even know, and most even deny, that it exists.
    We look out into the world with the same eyes, but because those eyes are inside white skin, we really don’t see at all.
    When all of this swept into my consciousness I began to weep, and still do as I write this. I will do what I can to try to make a difference about this truth. Boycotting that restaurant, bringing this issue to light in groups I speak to now and then, changing my own attitudes about black protest. Letting my black brothers and sisters know that I get it!
    I pray we ALL do.
    Having written all this you know how I must feel about the taking-a-knee protest. What I DON’T understand is why every player on every team in the NFL doesn’t follow suit. 70% of every team is made up of black players. What would American football look like if they just up and walked off the field, paychecks be damned?
    A few black players are putting overt protests on “background”, working behind the scenes both politically and in communities all over the U.S. to try to raise consciousness about all of this. Perhaps this will be more effective in the end. Hard to tell at this point but this issue began to make a difference for me at least and I suddenly began to lose my fascination with the “game”. Yes, racism played a big part in it…and economics too.
    The over-the-top marketing that fills every aspect of the game to overflowing seems to want to make us forget that it IS just a game after all. Why would naming a Ford truck “The NFL’s truck” make any difference to me? We all know that happened, not because NFL players fell in love with the F-150 but because Ford dumped a bunch of $s into the NFL coffers. More than GM anyway.
    If you’ve never seen the shopping possibilities available to a fan you might be shocked…..OK, maybe “amused”. It’s really unbelievable. Really. Anything a team logo can be applied to is for sale in the “Pro Shop”……anything…..maybe not condoms (yet) but anything else is for sale to him and her in the Shop. I’ll just list a few ‘cause really, who cares? Most obvious, the hats, shirts, jackets, sweaters, underwear, clothing of all types. Fake helmets (small and full size) and then the real deal, professional helmets autographed by various and sundry players. These are very high end. I saw one signed by New England’s Tom Brady for $4000+!
    A little aside here, I actually bought one of these helmets, full size, which was, so said the seller, signed by a whole slew of players both famous and not so much. Problem was, there was no proof at all that the signatures were genuine. When these signature pieces are sold they are supposed to be accompanied by a both a letter of guarantee and, best of all, photos of the players actually in the act of signing that item. Without that it might just be the product of a guy in a garage with a felt marker. I returned the helmet and got my money back over the protests of the seller who kept assuring me he was honest….but he couldn’t provide proof of authenticity. The practical me knew that if I could never re-sell it as genuine just based on my “assurances” either.
    As a one time fan I DO have some “stuff”. A good down jacket (which was given to me by my Bear-fan daughter, a true expression of love. (The Bears and Packers have a very long-term rivalry. I might sell that on eBay.*) A leather “Packer” jacket, which I bought and will keep, despite my disaffection with the sport. It is a nice jacket after all.
*I wound up “gifting” it to the local thrift store.
    I have a hat, which I bought and might give away….or sell on eBay. A nice rayon (I guess) jacket I put on every chilly morn (I’ll keep that ‘cause it’s handy.) and a sweatshirt I picked up in a thrift store in Oregon (might keep that for the same reason.)
    That’s about it. No PJ’s, no underwear, no car stuff…..well, one “sticker” (small) on the Prius which I’ll keep till it peels off on its own and a license plate frame on the truck which I’ll keep ‘cause it’s handy. (I took off the big “G”, a magnetic sign, and will never fly the “G” flag a buddy gave me. It was to be used in the event that the Packers would go to the Super Bowl…. (a spectacle I haven’t watched in a couple of years.)
If this seems like a lot of “stuff” to you, because you’ve never really been a fan, this is nothing compared to how far guys, (yes, it’s mainly guys who do this kind of shopping) will go. Some even paint whole cars or trucks in team colors complete with huge logos. I guess they only intend to re-sell in the team’s marketing area to other fanatics.
    So that’s a very small peek at the Shopping part.
    And then there’s the fact that doesn’t really capture what playing on the field is like.TV cleans it up so well.
    If you haven’t ever played football you don’t realize that the field those guys play on is NOT made of soft foam, though it appears that when one of them is tackled that they just sort of sink into the grass……softly. I can assure you that the ground is hard. Even harder when you’re brought down by a 240-350+ pound guy who falls on you usually after a full out run into you. I know it-goes-without-saying that this is a rough game. But I must reiterate; football is a very ROUGH game indeed. Hockey seems rough, and of course it is….but most of the guys on a football field are no were near as padded up as a hockey player. Not even close. And most hits in hockey are glancing blows designed to knock another player off balance. Even banging into the walls that surround the rink, though making a lot of noise, is something that absorbs the force of the collision. In football, hits are targeted to take a player down, and OUT. Not many hockey players limp off  the ice after a hit. It’s routine in a football game to have a player carted off the field (that’s football talk for taken off on a mobile stretcher with everyone, fans AND players hoping he can still move his toes).
This more than a “rough” game. It’s dangerous.
    And then there’s the hype! Of course the commentators have to make a living and to do that they have to seem somehow essential to the process of getting people to watch the game so that they can be subjected, BOMBARDED is more like it, to all the selling opportunities, literally hundreds of them crammed into time slots before, during, and after a game that sponsors pay big money to the networks for. So there’s a lot of what-happened-last-week and what-might-happen-this-week talk. This can be dragged on and on in as game time grows closer. Of course what’s being communicated (sold) is that THE game is the most important happening since BC became AD. Yet, the game is clearly secondary to the commercials. You can verify this by noting that when an announcer says, “There’s a time out on the field.” It’s NOT necessarily related to what’s going on in the field of play. It’s a scheduled commercial break.
    Here’s what’s so weird about that; teams are allowed only so many time-outs in each half of a game. If they take more than that they can be penalized for “Delay of game.” Nobody counts the time outs taken for the insertion of a commercial. That’s not counted as a part of the game. Yet the time is taken and I suppose players are not supposed to take the opportunity to talk to one another about strategy or get a drink of water or call a girlfriend during that break. By the way, though the announcers will talk about why a time out is being taken if a team request one but they never talk about the time outs that are requested by sponsors. Everyone just goes silent while viewers are being pitched to buy another six pack of something.
    Now there’s a new ploy to keep the men and boys interested in tuning into the pre-game show, a good looking, preferably sexy, short-skirted and at least moderately well endowed female (girl, must be on the young side) will be included on the panel of he-men commentators. She must be well spoken when it comes to football both historically and statistically. Certainly she must hold her own in the give-and-take between the males who are busy pontificating at the commentator-desk. And she will be seated at the end of the desk closest to the camera so that we can see her legs and mile high shoes. (Nothing about professional football is very subtle.)
    The make up of the male crew must include one African-American and two white guys. *The black guy and one of the white guys will be former players. The other white guy is usually a well-known sports celeb. who is very football savvy. (He can be either black or white but it’s best if he’s a retired someone we should know.)
    This breakdown is only true for the small 4-person commentator “team”. If this is expanded to a 6-person spread then TWO black guys, possibly even three will be present along with two white guys. Only one female is ever present This may be because the producers of these things feel that with two females there might get bored and start talking to each other on the side and the boys will be left out. This is usually how these things work in normal social situations after all.
It seems important that everyone speaks very fast, has quips handy and can always tell some “insider” story about an active player now and then. These can be amusing or may elicit concern. This depends on how well the show is moving along.
    (By the way, if really doesn’t matter if the game is one being played by NFL teams or by two of the top college teams, the format is always the same but it is more likely that the beautiful girl will be on the NFL panel. She will be optional on the college level crew.)
    Speaking of females, in the last few years there has been a huge push in marketing pro-football to women. Remember the whole “man-cave” phenom? Note in commercials now that women are ALWAYS included in every single group-watching-football scene in a commercial. And they are always every bit as enthusiastic about the game as the boys/men. I don’t know if this is realistic since my wife has never been interested in even SPECTACULAR re-plays when I’ve been watching football in the TV room. In fact, I only know ONE female in my family who is a football fan…..my oldest daughter is a Bears NUT. But she lives in Chicago and likes it there….so perhaps this is an anomaly.
    Game Day used to be limited to Sundays but now has been expanded to include Mondays and Thursdays and has gone from two games on a Sunday to three or FOUR (if two of the teams are playing in London. Yes, that’s England, not Ontario, but if they can melt the ice in the hockey rink one afternoon I have no doubt the NFL wouldn’t mind another “expansion” to serve the football hungry fans in Canada. After all, the type of football they play up there can’t match the REAL American stuff on this side of the border.)
    After the game there is more “wrapping up” to prepare for the next game, which might be the very next night….and then the look ahead to the next week which will look exactly like this week with the same level of manufactured “excitement” over what-might-happen…..etc. i.e. same script, different uniforms.
    And who are the people who are actually at the game? 98% of the fans in the stands are white and they are mostly the children of “privilege” not only racially but economically. (It will cost a family of four easily $1000 to go to one game! In Dallas, it costs $75 just to park your car. Not many average Americans can put out that kind of cash to attend a single football game.)
    One more little (nasty) tie-in that the owners have created in order to promote their “sport”, it’s the turning of the opening of every game into a military event, expanding the tradition of singing the National Anthem to include fly-overs and fake military family reunions with the implication that ALL of this spectacle is somehow related to patriotism and the support of America and troops overseas. (War in other words.) and all brought to you by the NFL (and their sponsors.)
    ALL of this has led me to decide that I’m done. Again. Only this time, not because I don’t play anymore, but because I don’t want to be played. I am turned off by ALL of it.
    After three weeks of NOT watching any football I find I haven’t missed it. Of course, they don’t miss me or my few measly bucks spent on football flotsam either……and it’s one less topic of conversation I will have with the men I know, but that’s interesting too. We actually DO find other things to talk about, just as we did back in the off-season. I find it’s a relief. I REALLY don’t care who wins what…..and life goes on, just like before….and Sundays are really nice….without football.
   

     



A Note & a Rant from me
                                                        (Coyote, Dick Prosapio)
   
   
We all know that our country has always had a racist bent. But how can this be a surprise? There’s not a country on the planet that doesn’t have this problem, this “contamination of freedom”. It’s part of the baggage we carry as diverse humans. There has always been an “us” vs. a “them”, and never before has ANY country tried to do what this country is trying hard to do, mix up people of every color, race, nationality, religious persuasion in one place and ask them to then run the thing with everyone’s best interests at heart. No place, no time.
    So here we are trying to do this from the ground up. Nobody has tried that before either. This is the first country in which an attempt has been made to have regular people, not a particular class of people, a designated “nobility”, try to run the whole thing.    
    We are not a “tribe”, none of us has been born into a certain group specifically chosen to take the helm of this ship-of-state, there has been, in general, no position handed down that determines who can or cannot take on a given position of responsibility for running things. Yes, of course there have been some; the Kennedys, the Roosevelt’s, the Adam’s, the Byrd’s…but these have been exceptions rather than rules.     It has been remarkable that we have gotten this far along without making a total wreck of things.
    But! We MUST now deal, at long last with this racism thing. And we must do it now! There is no leadership at the top to take a stand on this. President Embarrassment cannot lead, everyone knows this. His second in command likewise. And his third, ditto. No, this leadership must be taken beginning from the ground up. Beginning from every pulpit, on every political platform, in every town, neighborhood, city, county people of good will, and there are MANY more of us than there are of those of the darkest nature, the bigots, the haters, the murderers of hearts, minds, and souls…many, many more…and all of us need to stand up and declare NO MORE of this slaughter, of this hate, of this us-vs.-them rhetoric or actions.
    Never mind the platitudes, the candles, the cardboard signs, the flag waving, the tears and sorrows….it’s time to take a principled stand against what we do NOT want our country to be turned into, against a turning back of the clock. It’s time to say we will not stand for this any longer. We must ALL…ALL say NO! to politicians who do nothing except make speeches and then disappear when action is called for. We must ALL take-a-knee in support of equal treatment of everyone in our country!
    It’s time to fashion our country into what we, the majority of the population believe and want it to be….it doesn’t start with the disease of guns, it starts with the hopelessness we all feel when yet again another insane individual takes another innocent life in the name of hate.
    What to do? Find out what to do! We create solutions to problems all the time. Want to go to the moon? We worked on it…..we made our way…despite tremendous odds that said it couldn’t be done. We must use that same intent, creative energy, problem solving push to DO SOMETHING NOW! Not tomorrow, not next month, not next election cycle…..NOW!
   
   
Here's a start; how about a Federal law that bans ALL firearms (concealed or not, permitted or not) inside ANY public venue? Walmart, Costco, 7-11, Target, Trader Joe's, Smith's, Kroger, a baseball field, etc., etc. (The NFL already does this....though three...Republicans of course...would like to change that at Seahawk stadium!)
    Any place the general public is served (all restaurants, churches.....) no guns inside. This way all those who have a need to stockpile any kind of gun can have them in their homes, trucks, cars, RVs etc. they just can't take them anywhere else!
    New job opportunities, the small building outside a Walmart where a licensed professional collects and checks all guns at the door, just like the old hat-check girls.
    This would create an opportunity for all of us to feel safe again. (and no more bitching about "The 2nd Amendment"!)


What would REALLY begin to move things would be a; Mother's (Women, Wives, Girlfriends) Against Fathers (Men, Husbands, Boyfriends) Carrying Guns!* movement. THAT would have an impact. Asking gun toting men to be reasonable about this won't work.


*Not a good acronym but we have to start somewhere.




                                        Notes from Seneca (4 BC-65 AD)



It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.

You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply — though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire… How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!

Everyone hustles his life along, and is troubled by a longing for the future and weariness of the present. But the man who … organizes every day as though it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the next day… Nothing can be taken from this life, and you can only add to it as if giving to a man who is already full and satisfied food which he does not want but can hold. So you must not think a man has lived long because he has white hair and wrinkles: he has not lived long, just existed long. For suppose you should think that a man had had a long voyage who had been caught in a raging storm as he left harbor, and carried hither and thither and driven round and round in a circle by the rage of opposing winds? He did not have a long voyage, just a long tossing about.

It is inevitable that life will be not just very short but very miserable for those who acquire by great toil what they must keep by greater toil. They achieve what they want laboriously; they possess what they have achieved anxiously; and meanwhile they take no account of time that will never more return. New preoccupations take the place of the old, hope excites more hope and ambition more ambition. They do not look for an end to their misery, but simply change the reason for it.

Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.





    We Are Still Young…and Foolish

    Emerson said, “The World is young, the former great men (and women) call to us affectionately.” This, of course, speaks of the role of history and its relevance. “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.,” said Santayana. Perhaps we should add at the end, “…doomed to repeat” its mistakes.” ! (As we seem to be doing the world over given the rise of the very evil that promoted both World Wars, the shortsighted belief in nationalism. )
    Here in our country, the same stale religion rises again with the head of our nation babbling on about this insanity.
    We think we have matured with our survival of each crisis. But then we allow the amplified rages of self-proclaimed “patriots” to lead us down the same old well-rutted road to assured destruction. Our nation uber-alles.  Here we are yet again, after a stumbling, murderous slog through the worst war in the history of the world, and two steps back into considering the same old belief systems. “America first!” Beware the OTHERS!
    ALL the “others”!
    I am 84 years old. Subtract that number from 2019 and you get 1935. Six years into the Great Depression, just six years before the onset of World War II.
    Subtract another man (or woman’s) life of that same 84 years and you will find yourself born just 9 years before the war that indeed tore our nation apart. The year will be 1851.
    In just one more long-lived life of 84 years, and you will be in a country that isn’t even designated as such. We will be a collection of “colonies”. The year will be 1767. And even then, talk of separation from England will be heard but only on background for it would have been quite dangerous to speak it out loud.
    Just three long lifetimes from right now, and we’re back in colonial times, and answering to a king without a voice about our circumstances. Subsequently, just 8 years later it will begin at Bunker Hill and continue until a great number of people will sacrifice their lives in order to change that into the nation we will call the United States.
And in another 85 + 9 years, tens of thousands more will die in the attempt to keep this relatively new country from fracturing into more than two, for if we consider the potential that was fought for by the South, the concept of “States Rights”, their success could have resulted in a vastly more fractured “America”. One that would have resembled Italy before 1861….a country of small fiefdoms. Many of them supported by slaves or “surfs”.
    Clearly we are NOT going back. But sometimes I wonder if we really realize that we must go forward. This abomination currently inhabiting a leadership position in our country is not the future. He is a throwback to a time we should have and must leave behind. And the sooner the better. Meaning very soon indeed. The longer his, and his supporter’s voices emanate from high office in our country, the more the same kind of ignorance is encouraged the world over. This, it has been said over and over, is NOT who we are. And if we truly believe this then we must be willing to put a stop the broadcasting of this message of intolerance by removing its ignorant source.
    How? The Congress of our country has as long a history as the Presidency of course. Well over 11000 people have passed in and out of its chambers since it was first assembled. Yes there have been charlatans, thieves, even traitors seated there over the decades. And there have been honest men, and now, more than ever, women seated there as well. But for the first time in our history, Congress must now be called upon to look into its collective soul and find there the courage to act to save our nations honor.
    We have never asked this of our representatives before. We have asked them to debate the particulars of laws, to wrestle over concepts of governance. We have put them there to represent all the full range of the ideas of their constituency and to, in the end, try to determine what is best for the whole. The results have been mixed of course. But over time, even the most contentious issues have, for the most part, been brought into alignment with what the Founders of our country hoped we could be. We continue to be a work-in-progress. But in so many ways we have kept our nation together striving for what’s right and about what was intended from the start.
    We cannot let this all slip away. This is NOT a time to be careful. This is a time to be FULL OF CARE about what we really want this country to be (again). We’ve been derailed. Let’s get back on track. To stay with this metaphor, lets clear the track of this train wreck and move ahead with what was begun not so long ago. (one more rail term) these clowns, the chief Bozo among them of course, are Dead Heads. We will go no where till we rid ourselves of them. We don't have any time to waste on this nonsense. Get him OUT!
                       



Where Have You Been All My Life?

                           
    That’s what I asked when I first met Elizabeth. I asked it again just two weeks ago. No, not of Elizabeth, I already had that answer. I asked it of an inanimate object. (I already knew the answer so I didn’t expect a response. See, I’m not quite as crazy as I seem.
Really, I’m not!)
    Here’s the scenario. Living out here on our ten acre “ranch”, requires some tools that most folks don’t have. Besides posthole diggers and barbed wire cutters there is the very useful, and always problematical….chainsaw. Useful for cutting trees and limbs, problematical because they’re cranky.
    Anything with a pull-cord starter is “cranky”, it comes with the territory. So, one time a pull on the cord will result in a smooth running motor response. Another time, and this is MOST of the time, the result will be a couple of “pops”…and then silence…….followed by grunts and a series of expletives and endless pulls on the cord……and more….silence. (and more expletives.)
    Why these little two-stroke engines act up this way is a mystery, but there’s a whole industry built upon this quirky behavior, the small-engine-repair business. And, as a last resort, there’s Craig’s List.
    So here’s how it works, you buy a new chainsaw and it starts up every time the first few times you use it. Then it quits. That’s it. It will not start again no matter what you do to it; empty the old gas, put in fresh-from-the-farm-organic gas. Put in new oil, clean the filter, put in a new spark plug, clean the carburetor, pull and pull and pull on the cord.
    Nothing.
    So, you take it to the small-engine-repair business and get it back three weeks later (there are LOTS of people with chainsaw problems in front of the line) and it starts right up. (I have no clue as to what kind of magical fairly dust these people use to get these things to run again.) and then the whole dance starts all over again. Or rather, DOESN’T start all over again.
    The other solution? Sell the thing on Craig’s List. Personally I’d NEVER buy a used chainsaw because the reason it’s on Craig’s List to begin with is that it won’t start. Not for me anyway. People DO buy used chainsaws, that’s how I’ve gotten rid of the ones that won’t start for me. Obviously the people who buy them have some of that magical “dust” which is held in a Trust by the repair shops.
    After selling the one that won’t start, for me at least, the next move is to buy a new one. So far, I’ve had four or five. Each one promises to solve the problem. So I’ve had two Poulan’s, a Black and Decker, a Sthil (this is said to be one of the very best). All of them except the last ran for one season and then, predictably, quit. The Sthil ran for over five minutes, splattered oil all over me but ran fine. Despite the prospect of fine-running I decided the oil splattering wasn’t worth it and sold it on Craig’s List. The new owner loved it. (Don’t ask me why. Reputation I suppose.)
    The I got an Echo. This was a fine saw, started and ran for two seasons of cutting, and then went the way of all chainsaws. I’ve got it in the shop now prepping it for Craig’s.
    But! Suddenly I have found the SOLUTION! The second love-of-my-life, the answer to the “where have you been” question…….a battery powered saw! (A Ryobi)
    I can’t begin to tell you how many problems this solves. Well, yes I can, so here they are;
    Pop in a battery and Voila! It runs!
    No gas fumes!
    No special mixing of gas and oil!
    No roar of the engine.
    No cord start.
    It runs!
    Zip!
    OK, you’re going to ask, what about sufficient power? Yesterday I cut through a 12” cedar stump and that saw didn’t even shudder.
    Next question; But how long will a charge last? With the battery that came with the saw, a 1.5 amp, not very long, maybe 20 minutes of total run time. But I ordered a 3.5 amp as my main battery and ran it for an hour or so and still had power time left. I’m not cutting up trees to furnish cords of wood for a wood burning stove so I don’t need to cut all day anymore. This saw is PERFECT for what I need now. Oh! And noise level? Though I wear ear protection all the time, it’s just a preference, not a necessity, the “noise” of this saw is just the whine of the chain cutting through the wood.
    I, and we, (even Elizabeth likes using it) love it. Fact is, it wouldn’t have done the job before, battery technology wasn’t up to the job just a year or two ago. But the new lithium batteries have the run time and the power to make this solution work.
    So we’re cuttin’ up on the ranch….and I don’t think we’ll be using Craig’s for this one.
    Wanna buy a “refurbed” Echo? Starts right up.

      

I’ve Lost it        

    No, not my mind, I've "lost it" about the whole football scene. I mean I really don’t care who wins what. I just can’t drum up any enthusiasm for the sport. Too many “issues” about it I guess.

    I’ll list ‘em, not in any rank order but just as they come to mind;
    First the frustration thing, I have, my whole sports-conscious life, been disappointed by the fact that very often one of my favorite teams (in baseball it was the Pirates and for most of my football fan life, the Bears) had one great star who was unsupported by a team of so-so players. Back in the 40’s the Pirates had a great home run slugger named Ralph Kiner. He came close to besting the Babe’s home run record for a couple or three seasons. But the team never got enough people on base to win the games Kiner hit in. True that in 1960 they finally put it together with pluck, luck and a few talents to beat the Yankees in the Series….just barely. But beat ‘em they did, and the Yanks were LOADED with talent!
    The Bears had a great quarterback, Sid Luckman, but not that many good ends to receive his lofty passes.
    The Packers have had Favre and Rogers, and they have come close more often than other teams, but nowhere near as often as they might have if those two QBs had had better teams supporting their talents.
    Then there’s the political thing, and perhaps this is the most important downer for me. Why, with most teams in the NFL being predominantly African-American aren’t these guys being supported in their protests by both team members AND the fan base?
    Why can’t we get honest with what these protests are about and make a statement about this out-of-balance situation in our society?  (Yes, this is a rhetorical question and I know damned well that a goodly number of the fan base is entirely uneducated or, more to the point, disinterested when it comes to what White Privilege really encompasses and how it continues to impact our minority people.)

    And the money! The multiples of millions being paid out to this running back, and that wide receiver and that quarterback….yes I understand that the playing life of a player is short, but I also know that very few workers in our society will make anywhere near the millions and millions over an entire life time that one of these players gets for playing maybe five or years.
    And don’t get me started on ticket prices…..OK, too late, I’ve started. On average, it can cost a family of four close to $1000 to go to a game. Who are those fans in the stands? Who can really afford to go to those games?
    Well, I looked it up and here’s an actual breakdown, (from GMWiretap in 2016) Seventy percent of African-American men comprise NFL rosters. While the majority of NFL players are black, the NFL fan base is 83 percent white and 64 percent male.
    Never mind. Suddenly I understand why so few of them support taking-a-knee. Those guys on the field aren’t “us”.
    Yeah. This is why I’m “losing it.”
       



Considering Beginnings       

    The questions begin with “Is there a god? And if so, or even if not, what is my place in this creation?”
    All answers are speculations of course but we have to start somewhere so this is where I start. There IS a god. Pure speculation on my part of course, but to get anywhere with this quest this is where I begin. If I were to begin with, “No, there is no god.” then my quest is over. No further questions need be asked even about “purpose” or at least higher purpose, which is something more than basic survival and subsequent procreation. I prefer moving along with the quest with the premise that there is such a thing as “higher purpose” and that on this small speck of dust in the Universe, there IS God’s work to be done and that I am, as is all of humankind, charged with task.
    By the way, I have no answer to any questions about why a creator would decide to select this particular bit of rock and water for any kind of undertaking. Perhaps this same experiment is taking place on every single populated rock in the Universe. Rather then try to read the mind of God; I’ll just limit myself to our own backyard. Perhaps there are any number of writers on any number of rocky globes writing about this same subject right now. With the kinds of numbers we can conjure which make possible almost infinite possibilities, anything is possible.
    (The use of “He” is simply a convenience. There is no “He” or “She” there is only the Creator-of-Life.)
    Back to our own “backyard”, I look at the “Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and I focus on the hands, God reaching for Adam, Adam reaching for God. Clearly Adam is less sure of this effort; you can see this in his halfhearted reach. (Google the Sistine Chapel for the visual.)
    God, however, is reaching. So humankind seeks with less certainty about just what, if anything, is being sought. God wants to connect with His/Her creation…no less certain about the possible outcome, but reaching with intent nonetheless.
    (The Creator probably had this same ambivalence about sparking the Big Bang but did so because Life wants to know what it is to live!)
    So, once the contact is made the journey begins. And yes, it begins with The Garden of Eden where, up to this point, ALL of creation has been thriving.  Adam (and Eve) along with all the other life forms have been fully formed, since everything had been set in motion, and have continued to evolve following a natural unfolding, that natural tendency to become more and more successful. And in this creative salad there was one life form that had evolved the potential for reflection.       
    Concurrently, one day, the Creator began to develop a desire to be recognized by His creation, and He decided to touch Adam. What followed this awakening was another birth, this one the birth and evolution of consciousness and thus was born the metaphor of The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Creator placed in the middle of the Garden the opportunity to discover the gift (and the dilemma) of free will, a choice about how they wanted to live life. (“Good” is defined by choices that are life affirming. “Evil” is defined as life denying. One moves life forward, the other does not. Each creates its own subsequent challenges.)
    From this instant the living of life is determined by choices made by God’s creation and not by God. Yes there are natural forces at work as well, but these are not all determined by human consciousness. Earthquakes and tsunamis for example are, for the most part, natural processes that humans have no part in creating….at least not early on in the story of creation. However humans have become more and more the prime actors in the processes of what would otherwise be natural geological shifts. Earthquakes can now be stimulated by human interferences with underlying rock formations. Huge forest fires, once only set off by lightning strikes are now mostly human caused. Our vast oceans and all life in them are now at risk. And even the very climate has been interfered with by human carelessness, greed and lack of responsibility.
    None of this has been God caused. In fact, after the initial desire for contact with His creation, God has taken no part in either negative or positive occurrences that have affected life on the Earth. The Creator is not responsible for famines, plagues, wars, diseases, or any of the natural disasters humankind has experienced. (I am aware that this is a deist point of view.)
God does not respond to prayers (any and all “responses” are the provinces of spirits, mainly ancestor consciousness’s that are always available helpers who hover around their progeny after physical death.)
    The Creator does not make rules to live by. These have been created by humankind….sometimes to help, sometimes simply to control (for good or ill). So there is no sin that the Creator keeps track of and, of course, there is no hell, defined as a place of eternal punishment for those who have sinned. Humans live and die and experience life as they have created it in their own times.
    All religions are human created in order to try to make some sense of what humans have created and not in order to understand the Creator who is easily known by what He/She has created
    It follows then that there is no right path or wrong path when it comes to knowing God. God does not judge the manner of seeking. In fact, God does not judge at all. God simply IS.

Phew! Glad I figured THAT one out. Now on to larger questions; What's for dinner?
   

A Hobby

    I frequent the Albuquerque “Hobby Lobby” store now and then, most often to see if there are any interesting frames for my photography (I find them there and in antique/junk shops) and often I’ll detour to the aisle where the model planes, boats, cars and trains are stocked.
    I was a bit of a model builder when I was a kid….actually a huge overstatement, in those days, the 40’s, models were sheer hell to put together if you weren’t totally obsessed with the idea. I wasn’t, especially since most models had to either be almost completely carved out of balsa wood or put together with thin sticks covered with thin paper. The main body of a plane for example, was shaped into the basic outline, but beyond that you had to carve it into the finished piece. The alternative was a body made up of small, thin sections of wood, which were joined by long rods of wood to form the wings, body and tail. It was just like constructing a real plane, at least one that was fabric covered, and it was a nightmare for a non-detail type of kid like me. I’d get about 50% through the process and a rod would snap or wouldn’t stay glued, or one of the thin sections would break in half and it was almost impossible to put those sixteenth of an inch thick pieces back together again. I just couldn’t stick with it. Literally.
    I really admired those who could do it and felt somewhat “less-than” over this issue for a long time. There was the rare kid who could actually do that stuff well and they were the envy of the rest of us slackers  when it came to model building. Of course we also thought this kind of kid was a little weird, like the “geek” of today. Still, we marveled at the finished product and secretly wished we could match it. But no matter how often I determined to “…..really stick with it this time!” when yet another model plane showed up under the Christmas tree, gifted to me by some uncle or aunt who thougth that any kid could breeze through the project. After all, that’s what it said on the box,
    I was one of those kids who simply could not complete one of those things. It was an area of failure in my young life that I had a hard time getting over. Even as an adult, I carried with me the idea that if I had just manufactured more patience, I could have completed one of those Mustangs P-51’s. So, even to this day, I walk down that path amongst the enticing models of WW ll planes, ships and 40’s cars and think, “Hell, these are just plastic snap-together things, how hard could it be? This is so much easier than what we had to do in the ‘old’ days. Snap it together and paint it. That’s it, no problem.”
    So one day I finally decided to spring for it and bought two model cars. Both boxes claimed that they were “Level 2”, which, I discovered, perhaps a bit late, means between a-(talented)-monkey-can-do-this (Level 1) and do-not-attempt-without-a-degree-in-building-teeny-weenie-stuff that takes forever.(Level 3).
    I had another motive for embarking on this endeavor; our middle kid (Honor) and I had never hit it off. ‘Course, up to then she hadn’t hit it off with anyone in the family or in society at large, but I thought I’d give it another go via a shared project. We would build model cars side by side, hers would be just the kind of car I could see her liking, a ’70 Pontiac Firebird, with stripes, etc. and I would build one of those old collectors fantasies, a 1935 Auburn Boattail Speedster. (This was the very classy and esoteric car that was driven in one of the “Topper” movies of the late 30’s. In case you’ve never seen a Topper movie, just take my word for it.)
    Upon investigating the parts and detailed instructions, I discovered that the “snap-together” thing was sort of misleading. This was not going to be a “snap” by any means. Though nothing had to be carved, every single aspect of these cars was available (and necessary to the successful outcome) and it all had to go together……just so.
    Shades of the 40’s, this was not just putting a car together; this was BUILDING a car…from the bottom up! Springs, shocks, front end, rear end, engine, oil filter, starter, distributor, turbo (in the case of the “Speedster”) fan, fan belt housing, floor, seats, rear view mirrors (inside and out) bumpers, radiator, grill, all the chrome “goodies”…the whole car in other words. And they wanted it all painted in appropriate colors too. This we weren’t going to mess with. My goal, and I thought it might be shared, was simply to build the basic car(s) and in the process have a “bonding” experience with my daughter.
    And so it was that I unexpectedly re-visited the frustrating nightmare of the model buildings of my youth.
    Problem(s) first encountered; I expected that when it said, “snaps together” that would be what happened when you pushed the little round nodules into the little (almost) rounded holes. But no! Nothing “snapped together”. Nodules and holes were only ‘”indicators”. Everything had to be glued! AND, some things didn’t even get glued to a designated spot, that is, it wasn’t a tab-to-slot fitting. Sometimes it was just a glue-it-there-and-HOLD-it-till-the-passage-of-time-makes-it-stick thing.
    That meant that you glued something and then went away for awhile to watch a movie till it dried before being able to move on to “Direction #2”, “#3”, etc.. (in theory)
    (As we progressed I noted kid losing patience with parent close on her heels.)
    (Also noted, kid seemed to have more patience than parent at this point. Probably due to having a more recent association with things glued in school.)
    It wasn’t long before this parent was running on empty, the Speedster was a LOT more detailed than the Firebird what with modern uni-body construction techniques and such, so I abandoned the complicated 30’s fantasy (no wonder they only built a few of those things, with no shocks it must have ridden like a tank) and I took over the relatively easier stick-it-together Pontiac while kid toddled off, happy to be off the hook, to watch TV. Her main hobby.
    I struggled along for a while, and got most of the thing stuck together. Then, noting this had become MY project, put both unfinished shells back into the boxes and admitted defeat in all quarters.
    I’m staying away from the model aisle from here on out….unless it’s one of those all-metal, fully formed things and all that’s required is to snap on the wheels. Or just take it out of the box.
    Either that or I’ll contract with my grandchild who is going-on-ten and maybe she can do it all. I’m not proud, and after all, the instructions claim that, “Any ten year old can do this!”  If I’d seen that I wouldn’t have even gotten started.

       





What Are you Doing………….?

    At the end of my life (I’m gettin’ there, don’t rush me) should I value more the day I accomplished all kinds of work chores, weeded and cut the whole ten acres, or wrote ten pages in that book I was supposed to be writing, or the day I painted one whole side of the house…or that day I sat in my comfortable recliner, something I never possessed before in my life, stroking the back of my sleeping dog who lay on the floor next to me, and read a non-challenging, but fun-read book on old movies.
    “What are you doing with your one precious life?” will query the very serious minded questioner, either inside or outside of me. And I will be flooded by feelings of guilt realizing that I am NOT living up to the requirements that responsible and intelligent people are supposed to be adhering to in order to justify their taking up the space that could have been allocated to those better qualified and more highly motivated.
    I recognize that there are some who are doing a lot more to improve the lot of others, clean up the planet, solve the otherwise unsolvable problems of living, and in so many other ways weaving a more beautiful carpet of destiny for the world by actually doing something that IS productive with THEIR “one precious life”…and I can feel that I have let down not only all of my progeny, only a few of whom I am directly responsible for launching (50% that is) I must, in my defense, proclaim that surely I must have done something to help out along the way….but also must (somewhat grudgingly) admit that due to my sloth, I may be prolonging the suffering that will go on for centuries because I have not taken a hand in ending more of those…….somethings.
    Yes, I accept my feelings of guilt over this. (I am lying about this last part and just trying to appear as if I’m trying hard to take responsibility.)
    I do, however, wonder if my enjoying the feel of the soft fur under my left hand, the fresh breeze from the open living room window that has just blown past my cheek, the noting, as I looked up from my reading, of that breeze that has moved a branch in the juniper tree out front in the drive….and, yes, I wonder if I will remember and value more this moment than those hours of grass cutting, painting, writing….all of the BIG doing of my life’s’ work.
    Does all of this “wondering” do any good I continue to wonder?
   
    I’ll have to think about that.





Return with me to Those Golden Days of Yesteryear

Of course we all know that our tendency to distort the facts of the past can paint yesterday(s) with a gold patina….in some cases at least. And there’s the, You-can’t-go-home-again thing……and all that that turns out to mean. Gee, I went back to my old house, apartment…and it was a LOT smaller than I remembered. Yeah, that one.
    Or, I met up with my old girl/boy friend last week and once we got by all the amenities we got into the same argument(s) we used to have back when we ……and etc.
    Nostalgia about “old cars” always gets me going too. I don’t have any fond memories about all the old cars I owned. I mean some of them were beauties; the ’57 Chevy Bel-Aire convertible is now THE “classic” amongst classics. And the MG II was a nice little sports car, and the ’61 Corvette looked great……and……I could go on. But the FACT was, and this is not a distortion of memory, I wouldn’t trade any one of them for the reliable, well-built, fine-running Prius I have today. I don’t care if any one of those cars still LOOKS great. They were unreliable, rattletrap, gas-guzzlers that, if I took them on a cross country trip today, would have to be followed by a parts car driven by a mechanic. (And I would hope that “parts car” wouldn’t be a GM product). Fact; it would have been considered AMAZING if one of those “classics” was drivable after the odometer passed 100,000 miles, something a Toyota or Nissan can triple today.
    Anyway, that’s where I am with fantasies about the past. BUT! One morning last week I had a yen for protein, as in eggs and bacon, and we didn’t have any bacon. But what we DID have was……a can of Spam!
What were we doing with a can of Spam you ask?
    Good question. Actually, it was a joke. We had been invited to dinner at a friends house and asked if we could bring something. So rather than the obligatory salad, we happened upon a display of Spam and decided to get a can for a laugh. (It had the expected effect and then we brought it back home and stuck it on a shelf and forgot about it.)
    On the morning I had that yearning for protein, we decided to open the Spam and give it a try. Can you return to the past? Oh yeah. And it’s every bit as bad as you remember it to be. Spam has NOT changed. It’s still good-ol’-Spam….just a lot more salty than I remembered. Same canned dog-food consistency, same lots-of-promise (it’s supposed to taste like ham after all) with the same disappointing result; i.e. it’s NOT even close to ham.
    So; next time you want to take a trip down memory lane, if that lane happens to include a time when Spam was parked along the way, just get and open a can of the stuff.  And take this to heart; Spam is a genuine window into the past….and there’s nothing that can compare with it around today. Thank God.
    By the way, when I was a kid and had to fix a meal on my own ‘cause my parents were working or out of town or something, once in awhile I’d open a can of Spam (real meat was rationed back then) and “doctor” it up a bit. I’d coat it with mustard, a kind of marinade I guess, then I’d stick some cloves in it to mimic real ham, then I’d bake it.
    No, I’m not going to try that gambit just to get the stuff to pass for food today. The rest of this can will get mixed in with the dry dog food our guys like. (I’m not sure they will actually know the difference.)
    Actually, drop that last idea, I think we will give it to the coyotes.  They might even really like Spam. Yeah, talk about no class.



I Usually Avoid Backward Glances

    Joe Raposo wrote a song that Sinatra sang which I’ve always thought of as the bitter complaints of an old man, one of those guys who reminisces about the-good-ol’-days. It’s “There used to be a ball park right here…..”. I don’t tend to do much of that good-ol’-days stuff; not a lot of it at least. Of course these days ALL of us are talking about better days and fearing that they are all behind us. But that’s another story.
Today I was driving down one of our major east-west streets in Albuquerque and was shocked to note that they’ve dug up and destroyed the batting range I used to go to when highly motivated. Going there used to be a sort of test for me, one of those Can-I-still-do-this thing (hit a ball). Of course hitting a ball in a batting range isn’t any where near as challenging as it really used to be. First of all I only tried hitting in the “Medium Speed” cage. I avoided the Fast Speed cage just two rows down. I was tempted but a little antsy about it. Even though every pitch was thrown by the machine at exactly the same spot every time, that what if? bothered me. Well, I didn’t want to Whiff every time either and that would probably have been my experience in the “Fast” cage.
    “Fast” by the way was actually only about 85 mph, not the 100s that major league pitchers are throwing routinely these days. But hitting in the Medium Speed cage was heroic enough for my baseball ego. I mean, there I’d be in my regular cowboy boots (yes they are VERY comfortable) jeans, in-town shirt, plastic helmet, swinging away at a rubber-covered ball with an aluminum bat…Boink!
Not really like the old-days. I really missed the Crack! of wood on leather, But I’d hit one now and then, one that probably would have cleared the infield, and I could still do it right or left. That was fun! (especially if my daughter Lia was watching. She can hit too, I taught her after all, but I really loved it that she could witness her ol’ dad’s ability to still do it!) I’d think she’d be thinking, “Gee there’s life in the old guy yet!” My fantasy of course…..but a good one.
    Yeah, there used to be a batting range….right there…..and I guess I AM a little bitter about it.
 

The Albuquerque BIG Band!

    I just got back from experiencing one “set” with the Albuquerque Big Jazz Band and I can’t rave about them enough. Anyone who loves big band jazz would be blown away by this band, they are spectacular! Not only does the band sound great but the individual soloists, no matter what instrument, are the best you will hear anywhere. The musicians who play in the show bands in Las Vegas are all top drawer pros, these guys, and one girl, are every bit as amazing and this is somewhat rare in any band.
    Even in a good band, thirteen or more players, though they all can read well, so section work is superb, there are only a few, may one or two in each section, who can put together a solo that is more than a collection of notes, but is something comprehensive, something a listener can not only follow but also “fits” the overall piece. Historically one of the best examples, there are many to choose from but I’ll take this one, is every track on the classic by Miles Davis release, All Blues. There’s not a boring solo in the entire set. The opposite of this is the comment made by, I think it was trumpet player Roy Eldridge speaking about an all night jam session, “We played a lot of notes but not much music.” There seems to be a lot of this kind of playing that has taken place over the past twenty or so years. Their aren’t many great soloists who are noted to be mentors for younger players to listen to. No, Lester Youngs, no Colman Hawkins, no Buddy DeFrancos, no one who is spare of notes yet full of story. The trend, led by Charlie Parker has been to stuff as many notes into eight bars as quickly as possible. But Parker actually made each of those notes relative to the melody of the song. They weren’t just stuffed into a line to provide fireworks, they meant something. And that was his genius. But what some subsequent players picked up on was the number of notes played at the most rapid pace rather than the central purpose they served, to decorate and enhance the melody.
    Any listener of jazz knows when the train has gone off the track. We begin to get bored with the solo. As it loses its way we lose interest. When the soloist begins to entertain him or herself alone they cease to communicate. The solo becomes a self-serving, musical masturbation. We are no longer in partnership with the player. And the masters knew when to quit. Like anyone who has made their point in a conversation, not knowing when to put a period to it will lead to a loss of audience.
    John Coltrane’s “My favorite things” is a long solo performance which works well because 1. He was inventive and always knew where the melody was. And 2. He had McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones holding the track steady underneath and behind him. Still, there were many examples of Trane going off the tracks in other solo attempts and no one could save the effort. In those cases, Trane becomes unlistenable.
    To return to my point here, The Albuquerque Big Jazz Band is loaded with players who can solo and whom you would want to hear. And that is what makes this band so special. I’ve been listening to big bands for at least six decades now, and I’ve heard and seen some certified great ones from Basie to Kenton, and none of them was better than these guys on any level. Yes, those famous bands had a lot cache’ and fame, but sound-wise? The A B J B could hold the floor with any of them.



Just Say No! (Not Maybe)


    “You’re not the boss of me!”
    “You can’t tell me what to do!”
    “No! I don’t want to!”
    Remember when you were trying to parent those 3 year olds? And later those teens? How did we handle those refusals to play by the rules?
    Yeah, that stuff was hard to handle. Arguments. Consequences. Eye rolling. Giving up. Blow ups. Resentments.
    But the bottom line was, as parents, we had to win in the end. We could NOT allow our kids to have their way when, 1. What they wanted went up against what we, as responsible parents, had determined was the best course. Or, 2. What they wanted was dangerous or unacceptable behavior for them or for others.
    But as a society that is exactly where we have failed when it comes to weighing individual Rights vs. individual Responsibility. What we have done has been to tip the scales way out of balance when it comes to determining that Rights are more important than Responsibility and we did it first with our actual children, the young in our society so that they determine the shape and make-up of our fashion and entertainment….in fact the youth of our country have control of our culture. All of this is based upon the fact that our children have the purchasing power to draw the attention of marketers and marketers pander to that huge sector of our economy. We adults have allowed this because we worship youth.
    But it hasn’t stopped there. We have also allowed our society to give way too much power to the concept of Rights in so many areas that we are now reaping havoc everywhere. Where once we determined that no one had the right to, on a whim, yell Fire! In a crowded theatre, we now claim that this is a Right of Freedom-of-Speech and should not be abridged. Now insult, no matter how egregious, falls into this category as well. So simple civility has been cast aside in favor of individual freedom of expression.
    Fact, whether as a scientific proof or Fact as a report of an actual occurrence can now be called into question simply because it may be inconvenient to acknowledge reality.
    And now we have created a full blown culture of guns based upon a fairly simple Amendment, the 2nd of course, having determined that a “well regulated militia” means EVERYBODY….should walk around carrying guns of every caliber, capacity, and capability and these should be able to be carried everywhere. That’s our “right” after all and it should not be abridged lest a tyrannical government take us all into concentration camps. And no one has been willing to say No! to this mad idea, to these adult children who claim they have the RIGHT to go about in our society, creating and contributing to the air of paranoia and anger that fills our streets day and night and makes everyone feel unsafe. For contrary to the claim that if all are armed we will be safer for then it will be true that the criminals will be out-gunned, now everyone has the potential to be a killer, intended or not.
    So; what to do about our current un-reality? First, ALL public buildings must be equipped with metal detectors because no one should be allowed to carry a gun inside a public space. Yes, that includes, but is not limited to; movie theaters, hotels, churches, restaurants, coffee shops, department stores, malls, liquor stores, libraries, schools (of course) government buildings, super markets, etc., etc in short any space open to the public (probably have to include parks somehow) must have, at all entrances, metal detectors and personal to oversee them. Yes, just like air ports. (After all, if we’re going to be protected against “terrorists” we must include the most prevalent source of terror in our country, our own citizens.) Who will pay for this? Well, the gun lobby of course. If it weren’t for them we wouldn’t need to do any of this so they are responsible. Oh! And they have the money.
    Next, let’s stop selling assault weapons. Nobody hunts deer with them so no excuses from the hunting lobby. And let’s stop accepting the, “Stop-telling-us-we-can’t-have-assault-weapons!” people telling all the rest of us that they have a right to have them just “because”. Maybe they feel “safer” having them around but the rest of us do not. And there are more of us. Yes there are thousands and thousands of these around and we will just have to cope with that but let’s not add to the total. (No point in trying the Aussie answer and have the Government off to buy them back ‘cause those obsessed with having them aren’t going to let them go….the whole “…pry them from my dead fingers…” thing having been a flag waver for them after all.
    No more high capacity magazines sold. (For obvious reasons. Of course any restrictions would be put in place at this point for “obvious reasons”.)
    Register ALL guns. (ditto above)
    None of this will solve the problem we have been building up to all these years, but there’s not much we can do about that. There will still be random killing by guns, there will still be mass murders occurring, the trend after all, is continuing and the body count grows with each passing year, but it may slow things down a bit and most importantly, all of this will send a message that this romance Americans have with guns is NOT a good thing. It’s a problem, and anyone who contributes to it is feeding that problem.
I don’t know about you, but if people are wandering around in a public space carrying guns I DO’T FEEL SAFER! Crazy people with guns look just like sane people with guns and I can’t begin to tell the difference. So I just think it’s better for everyone to not have to try to figure that one out. Just take the gun out of the picture and I won’t worry about your sanity….or mine.
    Once we get outside of a public space, well……we will just have to get back to duck-and-cover I suppose. Fewer semi or fully auto weapons will help. Limits on how much a shooter can fire in a given amount of time may help. Other than that, we’ve been working on creating this nightmare scenario for over a hundred years and now we are reaping the whirlwind. No one in high political office seems to be willing to take the role of responsible parenting about it so far but perhaps these few steps will help some.
    Of course it will take a bunch of law makers deciding to say “No!” to the willful children-with-guns (and money) to get all of this done (and ALL of it must be done in order for anything to be even moderately effective).
    But do we have any responsible parents in control anywhere?
     


Last Flight


    She was a mix of the golden yellow of a sunflower and the light green of an early spring, She was fiercely alive on that morning, not shy as she perched on top of the gallon sized hummingbird feeder
“Oh! Just a bird!” You might have said as I began to tell the tale. “I thought you were going to talk about a beautiful girl.” But I was.
    I was telling the story of a beautiful girl. One all dressed in feathers. The female Oriel who came to the feeder now and then sometimes accompanied by her more flamboyant consort, the black hooded and in-your-face yellow bodied male.
    She was more tentative then. Careful and watchful usually, but that day, she was bold and she came back several times that morning.
    That afternoon it was obvious that there was something very wrong. Her beak slightly open, she stayed at the feeder for longer and longer minutes and she had begun to pant, her body rocking back and forth with the effort.
    As the day wore on she returned again and again and finally settled on the shelf of the feeder, panting more rapidly now, her beak opened wider.
    By late afternoon she could hardly stand, her eyes were slits, her breast rested on the shelf, she could hardly hold herself up.
    I had seen this in birds a few times in the past, usually it was the result of their having flown into a window, thinking they were headed for clear air. Most of the time they were only stunned for a time and once they recovered from the shock they were able to fly off again.
    But there were a few who hit too hard, and after a time, a time of this panting and confusion, they would lose their balance and fall to one side, eyes closed, breath stopped.
    I hadn’t heard any impact that morning. Perhaps this was some infection, a virus of some kind….there was no way to tell, but she wasn’t getting stronger, she wasn’t recovering. Dusk was getting near  and now she could no longer hold her head up. She rested her beak on the shelf, That’s when I knew I had to intervene. I knew there was no saving her, I had to end her suffering.
    I got out the b.b. gun and went to her. I talked to her awhile. Told her how sorry I was that whatever had happened had happened. I told her I loved her beauty and as I slowly brought the gun up to her head she closed her eyes and I fired. She was a flurry of yellow as she pitched backwards off the feeder and fell to the ground. In one last stretch, as her sprit left her body, she spread out her tail and wings and took a final flight….a breathtaking display of her beauty…..and she was gone….gone out of my life and into my soul.
    I put her under a tree to the north of the house, the direction I had seen her fly to on so many mornings. I thanked her for her beauty and her presence in my life. For all the mornings when she, in her understated grace blessed my day.
    I still look for her. A glance now and then at the feeder where the hummingbirds have returned…..they stayed away while she was dying there.
    The male showed up today, going about his life as I go about mine.
    Yes, “Just a bird.” A beautiful, elegant, wonderful bird. I’ll never forget her.



Finally!

   
    Over the past year I’ve been through a truckload of books on topics ranging far and wide and mostly non-fiction; bios, WWII and Civil War exams, chasing about for concepts of God, my daughter Winter’s two murder mysteries (very good stuff) but just last night a sudden blessing. It was like discovering, by happenstance, a comfortable chair that suddenly feels familiar, or being touched by a song forgotten and now remembered, a deep relaxation takes over, a breath exhaled, I felt I had come home.    
    I can’t name all the writers who can take me to this place, a few spring to mind, Doig, Elroy Bode, Deloris Kerns Goodwin….William Least Heat-Moon. It was this latter creator, singing a prose song that spoke to my soul that brought my own desire to write awake again. This happened the other night when I finished just ten pages of his, Here, There, Elsewhere. This is a collection of some of his published pieces and, as he states in the intro., some that didn’t get published as written. In other words, this is Mr. Heat-Moon unvarnished (almost)……and it’s wonderful reading.
    Here’s what he says about the “whys” of this book, “Setting these stories forth again has allowed me to restore elements one editor or another deemed too challenging for the audience he perceived. My mind is an ordinary organ and thereby  useful to judge contemporary capacities; if I can follow along, then so can thousands of others, including those who. Unlike me, don’t repeatedly have to look up the meaning of algorithm or the spelling of rabbit and sheriff to see where the double consonants belong……..the annual sales of dictionaries and atlases probably indicates the existence of readers who own and sometimes use them, people who believe the jolliest part of knowledge is its discovery.”
    Discovering Least-Heat is certainly jolly for me, so I’m launching into Here, There, Elsewhere with anticipation and relief. This is certainly the most absurd president our country has had in my lifetime, and probably in our history. I don’t think we will have to wait long for the historical verdict on that. I doubt he will last four, let alone the “eight” he claimed as his future a few days ago. What a travesty! At any rate, I’ll do whatever I can, as I know many are beginning to do, to lessen the impact of his presence in our lives and shorten his tenure. (Begins with prayer of course.) And I know, from past experience, that I and we will not only survive this nonsense, we will rise above it all and become even more than we have been to date. We need these challenges to grow together and we will use them to do just that.
   
   
   
 
White Privilege?

    If you’re white it’s likely you’ve never known of it. In my eighty-two years, I’ve never been aware of it. Of course I’ve known about racism, about prejudice. My family of origin was filled with racist rancor. I was brought up that way but it never took. I just never bought into it at all.
    When I read Black Like Me back in 1961 the book by John Howard Griffin, the non-fiction story of a man who became black by dying his skin with drugs and chemicals, and then gauging reactions to him by whites, it was an eye opener. But that was an armchair experience. The real time stuff came when I married a Mexican-American girl from El Paso and brought her to Chicago where we lived on the lakefront in an apartment on the South Side. She was brown to begin with but in the sun she turned a shade or two darker and one day as we strolled down a Lake Michigan beach I had the strangest feeling of tension in the air and of being drilled into as we passed by. There was a palpable air of hostility all around us that I had never experienced. We hurried home.
    I didn’t know it at the time but the NAACP had, on that very day, begun a movement to integrate Chicago beaches just a few blocks away. Obviously we were seen as the vanguard of that event, a white guy with a black girl brazenly strolling down a segregated beach, we were lucky we weren’t attacked.
    By the way, despite the fact that I was born and raised in Chicago I had no idea that the beaches were segregated. How would I know that? I was white after all. That was a manifestation of the privilege thing, though there was no such term in common use then.
    A week later we had a visit from an African-American couple we had known for many years and they spent the night in our apartment. The next morning the landlord paid a visit too and served us with an eviction notice because he had heard, “You people had niggers here yesterday and that breaks the lease.” They were in the next room and were not surprised; in fact they apologized for causing “a problem”.
    I was a radio announcer at a small Chicago station at the time and one of the shows I worked on was put on by the Urban League. They were the up-scale version of the NAACP in Chicago. I happened to tell my tale to one of the speakers on the show and he asked if I would be willing to tell my story. I was more than happy; I was outraged and ready to be heard. No one in the mostly black audience for that show was shocked by my tale. Imagine how surprised I was to discover that my hometown of Chicago was then considered to be the second most segregated city in America right after Jackson, Mississippi. Soon after my wife and I and our two kids moved back to El Paso, a town that had just integrated all public facilities. It was a local ordinance; no other town in Texas had done the same. I don’t know if any other town in the U.S. had either. It was 1960. (El Paso, by the way, was and is, an anomaly in Texas. Democratic and Progressive, it has never seemed to belong to the rest of reactionary Texas.)
    I ran into a lot of racism after that, always because I had black friends, mainly jazz musicians, and insisted on having them in my life. I knew about racism, had experienced it from both black and white. I still didn’t really know about the “white privilege” thing though and when I heard the term I felt somewhat defensive about it. I didn’t feel “privileged” on any level. I certainly didn’t come from money. And I’d worked for a living ever since I was 15. What “privilege” did I have? Not until last week when a series of events, seemingly unrelated, occurred, did I really begin to get it.
    Over ten years ago a friend of ours, a white gay woman and her partner, a black woman, adopted two African-American boys. They were infants at the time. Last week Elizabeth, who likes to spend time connecting on Facebook, showed me a current picture of the boys who are now about 11 & 14. I noted them and moved on. “Noted” that they had grown a good deal and were good-looking kids. That was about it.
    Around the same time in Albuquerque our favorite restaurant, an Italian place with good food and music, put this up on their marquee; “Black Olives Matter!” I didn’t pay much attention to it, just thought it was a dumb thing to do
Then in Milwaukee cops shot a black man and the protests erupted. This was not an unarmed man and it seemed to me from the reports that it was probably a justified shooting, that is, the cops felt he was a real threat. So why I wondered, was the black community taking to the streets? This was not Ferguson.
    One thing more, the slogan “Black Lives Matter” had had appended to it, “All Lives Matter” by various politicians and others and I agreed with that concept at first. Of course ALL lives matter. Then suddenly all of it coalesced in my consciousness. It was as if at a deep level some sort of higher intelligence was working it all out. I suddenly realized that the white mom friend of ours has had to teach a whole different series of life lessons to those two boys that no white parent EVER has to deal with with their kids. Those two boys would not be having the same life experience of any white kids, not in school, not on the way to school, not after school, not at any time in their lives…..just because of the color of their skin and for no other reason. That’s white privilege. And white people have no clue what that’s like. NOT ONE CLUE! They, we, can guess at it all right. We can empathize. We can understand––––––but we cannot really know.
    That’s why there cannot be anything appended to “Black Lives Matter”, because black lives have seldom mattered in the history of our country. Ever since the Civil War lynching had been rampant in the South. It wasn’t till 2005 that the U.S. Senate apologized for never having passed an anti-lynching law. It didn’t get done because there were other political priorities….and because Black Lives DIDN’T Matter....not as much as white politics.
    With all the progress that has been made for African-Americans since the 60s we have forgotten that some things haven’t changed at all. For example, in Albuquerque that restaurant owner is now printing T-shirts with his insulting “joke” and claims, in the face of some who have protested, to have, “50% support” from his friends and clientele. I really hope he’s just playing it up. I hate to think New Mexicans are that emotionally blind. That emotionally dead.
    Nationally we have a Republican president (small "P" intended) taking office who seems quite happy to have the support of a former head of the KKK and members of various white supremacist groups.
    And just one statistic (of the many I’ve come across) says quite a bit about the reality; a young black male has a 50% chance of winding up in prison for a non-violent, usually drug, offense. Most young white males do not even get charged let alone go to prison for the same offenses, though studies show they use drugs at the same rate. That conviction will haunt that boy turned man for the rest of his life on every level, getting into college, getting a job, applying for a loan for a car or a house. One conviction, no matter how small the offense, will negatively shape the rest of his life.
    Today our white mom has to caution her black sons to be EXTRA careful while-being-black.
    White privilege. It’s alive and well in our country and most of we whites don’t even know, and most even deny, that it exists.
    We look out into the world with the same eyes, but because those eyes are inside white skin, we really don’t see at all.
    When all of this swept into my consciousness I began to weep, and still do as I write this. I will do what I can to try to make a difference about this truth. Boycotting that restaurant, bringing this issue to light in groups I speak to now and then, changing my own attitudes about black protest. Letting my black brothers and sisters know that I get it!
    I pray we ALL do.
  
It was a very good day. Maybe.

    Listening to Sinatra sing “It was a very good year” this morning while freeway traveling I began to drift back in time with the lyrics; “When I was 17, it was a very good year, it was a very good year for small town girls and soft summer nights. We’d hide from the lights, on the village green, when I was 17.”
    Well, that was about right for me–––or pretty close anyway. But the next line, “When I was 21, it was a very good year, for city girls who lived up the stairs….” our paths diverged there Frank. When I was 21 I was married and had a new born daughter, Christy, my first. I was just out of the Army and headed back to my hometown, Chicago, after almost two years in the dusty little El Paso, Texas. I couldn’t wait.
    As I continued down that road into the past it dawned on me that I had arrived at a current fork in the road of memory and now I had to chose about how to think about it. All of these memories could be seen as sad and filled with regret and pain, or I could see my life as one filled with blessings and wonderful gifts. Same eventful eighty plus years, but how I would sum them up would determine my present state of mind, how I would feel about who I am now and what it has all been about. It would even determine what kind of day I was going to have from here on out!
    That’s when I decided to try a different station.


                                    What’s in a Name?

    What’s in a name? Well George Carlin let me know, did it to me––– in public. He did the whole shtick on my name at the worst possible time, on my first, and it turned out only, date with a girl I had just met while we sat in the balcony of a sold out concert in Houston. (I don’t know if that was the reason for the “only”.)
Up to that point in my life, little had been made of my “nick name” even through high school. I was all of forty years old and suddenly my name became a laugh line. Nobody laughed at Richard “Dick” Burton or old Hollywood legends like Dick Powell or Richard Harris or Richard Gere. Or that great comedian Richard Pryor. The name was somewhat besmirched by “Tricky Dick” Nixon of course, but Burton had Elizabeth, Harris had Shakespeare, Gere had talent, and Pryor was a riot. I was just “Dick”, or as my mother liked to diminish me, out of affection I hoped, “Dickie”.
    After that night I bought into and became sensitive to it, dodging the issue with Richard or “Rich”. Years later I got over the thing, but it seems very few others did because when I was addressed or introduced, not always but often, “Dick” was studiously avoided….as if I might be offended by my name.
    Just to let you careful people know, I’m over it. Mostly. You can call me “Dick” any time and you won’t get a rise out of me.............Unfortunately.
(Even I couldn’t resist that one.)



 


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