Thursday, August 7, 2014


Benjamin Franklin once said that there were only two certain things in life: death and taxes. Considering the times in which he lived, he should have added a third certainty—change.
As humans, we emerge from the womb to become newborn babies. Then we change to become little children. From that to adolescents, then adults and finally we grow old and die.
That’s change.
It’s inevitable.

Imagine a cold winter period that never changed to warmth. Imagine a night that refused to give daylight a chance. Imagine a sun that refused to set.
So, if we all agree that change is something that must happen in nature, why should it be so hard for us to embrace change in our own lives?
How come we’re oft times so scared when change swoops down upon us?

All of us experience change in our lives. It’s the one constant. Some changes we look forward to and others we fear. However, one thing’s for sure. Things will not stay the same no matter how much we would like them too.
When our lives change, we have two choices in how to respond. We can assume that things will be worse, or we can look with excitement at the new possibilities that the change presents.
Is every man doomed to relive life, which is all the more profound because it grows comic with repetition? That human existence should forever repeat itself, like a record a drunk keeps playing as he feeds coins into the jukebox?

Some folks see change as an occasional stroke of bad luck, like a traffic accident or a bad snowstorm. Something the Goddesses above and Gnomes below visit on us to test and try us, as we resist changes over which we have no control. Actually, it’s more like the weather, something we live with every day, just another dimension or aspect of our lives. It is change, continuing change, inevitable change that is the ruling factor of our lives. The decisions we make need to take into account not only the world as it is, but as it will be.
Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability; it is the engine that gives us the means to continue.
“Change is the only thing that is constant in life.”  Is a familiar expression used to help folks embrace change, even change they may find to be inconvenient or trying.

Speaking of trying times, as much as I myself oft times set in dreamy remembrance of how life was, or at least how my memories longingly portray, life sure seemed somehow easier, cleaner, more black and white and more logical back in my youth. The good guys wore white hats and rode gleaming white horses and the bad guys wore black hats and rode black horses with steam roaring from their nostrils like dragons from some other magical era.
Then it seemed there were solid identifiable truths no one would deny, nor argue with. Like right and wrong and ways of living that the vast majority deemed correct and proper. There were far fewer laws but more common sense and logic to everything back then.

As most would agree, all the things I remember from my distant past are slipping away moment by moment, like tulle fog rising from the hot pavement after an early summer rainstorm.
So what do we do about it? Is there anything we can or should do? Methinks all we can do is except the undeniable fact that change might very well be the only real thing in life. We are forced to realize any kind of perceived permanence is an idea or supposition that exists only in our feeble minds.

In the political realm nowadays, there are those who lament all the incredible changes they see happening in the world and especially in American right now. As much as I agree, we all have to realize 1950 was a long time ago and will never come back. Most people my age and older have nothing but fond memories of the 50’s as a time in history when stability and reliability reined supreme. A time when the attributes we grew up with were solid, predictable and real.
Monumental change started happening in the 60’s with everyone starting to question the sanity of trying to keep things forever as they were, which was ultimately an impossibility. That was a period when once people’s minds were subjected to new ways of looking at reality, a shadowy door was forever opened to never close again.

The truth is, those times are long gone now. With the social changing winds ablowing across the land, nature, social institutions, social behaviors and social relations changed forever, reminding us once more that change is the only real thing in life. All else are only temporary philosophical ideas. Once again reminding us that society moves forward by evolutionary means.

So all the anger, hate and blame coming from both extremist sides of present day politics as always has no meaning whatsoever.

The only real answers for our present constantly changing issues is a society of clear thinking, honest folks who actually care about each other’s inherent worth and goodness. People who strive to find a middle ground they can traverse together through whatever change brings us into the future.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


In my best moments wonder follows me wherever I go like the wispy trails of a jet oh so high. It’s those magical times when I imagine life as if for the first or last time.
A time of great wonder in a little music, a little poetry and visualizing vistas unimagined. In order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful implanted in the human soul we so oft miss in our mad rush toward what?
Those rare moments when wonder’s tendrils tell me a rainbow is never found by looking down and curiosities reason is self fulfilling in due time.

Wonder, oh wonder….being the beginning of wisdom as I sit alone under the stars twinkling above. What about the galaxies inside my heart? I truly wonder if anyone will ever want to make sense of all that I was, am or will be.
 I oft realize we are nothing but impossibilities in an impossible universe looking for miracles. When our very existences are miracle enough if we were to simply shut the raving minds for but a moment.

Have you ever wondered that we’re going to die and that makes us the lucky ones? All those not born will never die. All the people who could have been here in our place but who will in fact never see the light of day or the wonder, outnumber the stars above.
It’s the wonder of the stupefying odds that you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here now, we privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds stand in our wonder here now.
And how dare we whine at our inevitable return to the prior state from which the vast majority has never stirred.

We the lucky ones can stand on the edge of a stream in the mountains, watching the brook trout in the amber current with the edges of the fins wimpling softly in the flow. When caught, they smell of moss in our hand. Polished and muscular, with backs filled with patterns of the maps of the world in it’s becoming. In the deepness they live, where all things are older than man and they hum of mystery and wonder benign.
They and all living things we share this blue ball’s oh so temporary stance with destiny’s grace are all wondrous things indeed, especially for those who learn to shut the monsters within.

In my best moments I think us here to wonder. To wonder. To ask. When wondering and asking about the big things, we learn about the little ones, almost by accident. It’s quite possibly true that we never know anything more about the big things than we started out with.
We’re all in a sea of wonders. We doubt. We fear. We think strange things, not daring to confess even to our own souls, rather having minds opened by wonder than closed by belief.

Wonder can be a wretched guest. It’s not careful with what is most fragile. If it breaks you, it shrugs and moves on. Without asking, it brings along dubious friends, like doubt, jealousy and greed. Together, they try and take over. Rearranging the furniture in our minds for their own comfort.
Oft times speaking odd languages with no attempt to translate. They cook strange meals in our hearts that leave odd tastes and smells behind. When they finally deem to go, are we happy or miserable?
Truth as patience is always left holding the broom.

Our oft times futile attempt at language is our way trying to explain away the wonder and glory of the world. To deconstruct or dismiss all that’s amazing and unexplainable. We can’t seem to deal with how beautiful the world really is. Nor how impossible it is to truly understand.

Isn’t a child’s world fresh, new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement? Unfortunately, that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is awe-inspiring, is dimmed before we reach adulthood.
If I had any influence with the Goddesses above and Gnomes below who are supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I would ask them to gift each child with a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the oft times boredom and disenchantment of later years. Would that that might be possible, I could proudly claim a small measure of victory and accomplishment to my life’s resume.

To my sometimes-great dismay, I’m no longer a child but still want to be, to live with pirates. Because I dream of living forever in wonder. The difference between me as a child and me as an adult is this only. When I was but a child, I longed to travel into, to live in wonder. Now, I know, that to travel into wonder is to be wonder. So it matters little whether I travel by plane, rowboat, book or by dream. That is what the pirates knew. There is only seeing and in order to see, one must be a pirate again.
Wonder is after all, only a spoonful of elusiveness beyond imagining for most.

My coffee gets increasingly better the more I drink and the closer I come to the bottom of the cup, where all the sugar is. I wonder if life is the same way as we approach the end.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thoughts from the netherworld….

When oh when doth reality bend toward thine goals established in our youthful fantasies unannounced?
Can we but be driving our own unique molecules against the grains of time and place? Or is our fate a completely out of control mistress? Does time offer no reprieve from the everlasting ravages flowing within the swirling stars above or within?
Can it even know of us in our egotistical whimsies, as they haphazardly tease with their absurdities and misaligned oft times swirling waterfalls crashing to the rocks below?

These ponderings and more attempts to balance on my mind daily, with no truth nor equilibrium to show for the efforts. They come unbidden as small gusts of wind tugs at the edges just out of sight or unspoken awareness.
“Hush.” I often say within my ever-charging mind’s constant and unrelenting flow towards what? Madness, or just unbidden normalcy?
But saying so, nay, even secretly shouting it within doesn’t come close to altering its constant conscience provoking idiosyncrasies.

Nay, in this renowned oaken vault without a clear handle nor combination we balefully call life, a guiding light or beacon of sanity has no purchase. No foundation with which to lay our hopes and dream upon with credibility’s that hold with certainty.
Does the glass half full or empty have meaning beyond the elusions they playfully hint?  Or are they just the wispy clouds formed from the never-ending waterfalls we’ve been given by who?

Who indeed? Does that in any real way matter? Is all within or without? If within, within what? These frail and temporary fleshings? Fleshings that seem to spurn or fade from lady lucks finicky embrace?
If without, without what? Another mad hatter musing us from above for its own benighted entertainment?  Would that mad hatter be true, it would perhaps give some meaning or direction to pursue.
But clearly the Goddesses above and Gnomes below have in all their given names throughout mankind’s stand on this magical blue ball offered nothing beyond faith’s ambivalence and improvable suppositions and contrivances.

Then there’s the multiple follies of the demon in the box, some call Father time. We start as the ultimate innocents, barely aware, just out of the intimateness of the womb. Rudely ripped from the blessed calm dark and quietude into a strange world of swirling wisps of light and dark. Then unexpected assaults of sounds only heard until now through the insulate softness of Mother’s skin.
The only cares are intimate, immediate. Like bobbing on the storm waves of an ocean, an ocean presenting new vistas, vibrations and assaults with each new cresting. Showering moments of great confusion, the new feelings of fear, excitement and ultimately pains.
It’s then we learn of discomfort and need with inpatients at its helm. We learn to take in this strange new world through the mouth. Delightfully realizing that the liquid ambrosia sliding down our throats calms the monster wailing below.
After the feeding we slowly and luxuriously slide back down the long corridor to lay once more in the blessed piece and quiet of the land of fleeting dreams, along with ticklish feathers caressing our closed eyelids.

Oh, if only we could luxuriate in this in-between space for all time. A place where all our needs, desires, worries and silent wishes are solved, or at least soothed over as a baby turtle who soon learns to shut it all out by retreating back into it’s protective shell.
But its not meant to be. Father time turns out to be the devil in the details, forever moving us toward new highs and lows. We often lose our center in the continually changing maze of uncertainty and oft times delusionary madness we call life.

If we make it through the youthful period with our sanity still intact, mid life brings with it the clear-headed strength of body and mind. It’s the time of great dreams, some turned to goals and accomplishments stacked one over the next, like cord wood put up for the winter.
It’s a time when doing is more important than pondering. It’s a time when conquering the next mountain one step at a time is more vital than why its there. It’s an exquisite time when now is fully realized, if only for a moment.
A time for Yin and Yang to dance the dance of love and procreation, assuring the continuation of humankind on into the future. A future of constant change and newness only fools and false prophets claim to know, much less understand.

Inevitably father time grows weary along with all creation. With everything being temporary, illusive and fragile, the energy of youth slowly but ultimately wanes. With the assumptions of youth that everything would get easier with age variably crumbling around the ankles, its time for a reevaluation of all man thinks he has understood thus far.
It’s then we once more learn of discomfort and need with inpatients at its helm.

With pine scented fires, we have warmed well this oft times cold space and time
With a guttering votive’s flickering lighting our way
Sweet melodies amidst the cascading spheres
Breaks forth, a solemn yet entrancing sound
A harmony whereof the earth’s green hills
Give but the faintest echo, yet is there music everywhere
We do cool the tears of mortality and cover our fears with rationality
While hoping others tell of our poetry….

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


There are currently two main proven methods to separate salt from salt water. The first is
Distillation and the second is Reverse Osmosis.

The Distillation process is simple, at least on the surface.

This is a simplistic example of how anyone can do it right in your own kitchen.

Get a pot and put an empty glass (Pyrex or metal is safer) cup inside in the center.
Slowly pour some salt water into the pot. Do not over fill. Stop well before the water level has reached the mouth of the glass. Make sure no salt water splashes into the glass while boiling.
Place the pot cover upside down so the highest point or handle is facing down directly above the glass.
Bring the water to a slow boil. A violent full boil can contaminate the drinking water by splashing into the glass.
As the water boils it becomes vapour, which condenses in the air as steam and on the cover's surface as water droplets, which then runs down to the lowest point (the handle) and drips right into the glass. As you probably know, when water boils, it becomes pure vapour, leaving behind anything that was dissolved in it. (This will probably take 20 minutes or more.)

To wait a little while before drinking the water from inside the glass should be obvious, since both the water and the glass will be very hot.

Distillation on a large scale, in which raw salt water is evaporated and then condensed as freshwater, requires high temperatures and a ton of energy, so that method is used mainly in the Middle East where oil is plentiful.
Also using the rejected waste heat from power plant operations can cut energy expenditures greatly, when available.

More commonly, however, desalinization plants rely on a technology called RO, which is based on running the salt water through high-tech polymer membranes that let the water through but block the dissolved salts.
Scientists call this phenomenon Osmosis.
In the 1950’s and 60’s scientists realized they could reverse the process by applying pressure to the more concentrated solution, causing water molecules to traverse the membrane, leaving behind condensed brine.
To counter the osmotic pressure that arises between the solutions and force the water back through the membrane, the plants have to use extremely high pressures of 1,000, to 1,200 pounds per square inch.
These advances, in combination with energy-recovery devices are slowly but surely making desalinization more affordable.
Current RO facilities desalinize seawater for 68 to 90 cents per cubic meter. The average delivery price of municipal water in the U.S. is around 60 cents per cubic meter.
Presently there are some 13,000 desalinization plants producing 13.8 billion gallons of potable water a day in operation. But that is only a half percent of global daily water use.

So after presenting some facts about the current science behind desalination,
I think it’s time the whole world got serious about this growing problem.
If you agree with most reputable scientists that we are in the throes of a global warming period in human history regardless of it’s ultimate timetable, or duration, don’t you agree that now’s a good time to start investing in whatever it takes to work with what Mother Nature laid at our shores. After all, there is more ocean than land on this blue ball floating in the heavens we were graciously allowed to exist on.
If you believe in anything, that fact alone should tell us something of our fate, much less the blessings we often so easily ignore.

Even though this is a world wide issue, I don’t live, nor am responsible for the world, so I’d like to concentrate only on California with my BS, err, I mean humble opinions.

California’s worsening drought is raising the stakes for a $15 billion plan endorsed by Governor Jerry Brown to build two 30-mile water tunnels under an ecologically sensitive river delta east of San Francisco Bay.
The tunnels, each as wide as a two-lane interstate highway, would ship water more reliably from northern California to thirsty farms and cities in the south.

The next proposed gigantic expenditure is the California High-Speed Rail system. The latest price estimate by the Authority for a Full Build option is $91.4 billion according to the 2012 Business Plan.
It’s projected by 2029, the system will run from San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin in under three hours at speeds capable of over 200 miles per hour. The system will eventually extend to Sacramento and San Diego, totaling 800 miles with up to 24 stations.

So, here’s my humble proposal. Take the combined cost of $106.4 Billion for both those questionable projects along with any other wasteful government expenditures (can you imagine how much that would be?) and instead apply every penny of that money to establish a high tech modern, fully equipped science center. Then find the best and brightest scientists that can be recruited. For the sole purpose of coming up with whatever it takes to make the Desalination process a financially viable and doable product.  Make this a 24/7 operation with only one goal. That would be to make water a complete non-issue, not only in California but also in the entire world community.

Part of my humble premise is based on the fact that I’ve always considered the human scientific mind to be literally mankind’s ultimate savior in every way. Whatever your beliefs about our place and how we got here, it’s a stone cold fact we arrived with not only a fully functioning mind but minds that continually grow and prosper as time moves us toward whatever fate we’re destined to explore and enjoy.
So therefore, I’ve always thought we should not only revere sciences exalted place in the scheme of life but never get in it’s way with our small sometimes narrow minded approach toward new findings and discoveries. 
To put in simply:

Let Science be!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Drought and other nonsense

Well, contrary to the consistently wrong doom and gloomers, California looks like it’s going to survive the as usual freak out news projected and almost revered drought of all droughts, after all.
As I set here today once more letting my humble (ha) mind roam freely, I’m looking out the window to another gorgeous, nay, almost perfect California day after a pretty good little rain everyone was saying might not ever happen again in our lifetime.
I’m not sure if it could be any more perfect. Large puffy cumulous clouds dancing their dance of rejuvenation across a sky with blue patches interspersed throughout. Along with a slight breeze ruffling both the living leaves hanging and spent ones scuttling across the road out front, looking for a resting place to return to and feed the Earth.

And on the future weather horizon, the predictions call for more gentle rains coming up, furthering the falsehood absurdities tossed around by the doomers that the “end is near” as far as California “for sure man” drying up and blowing away as referenced by the Dust Bowl years of long ago in Oklahoma.
I’m sure the poor folks living there were sure as could be that life as they knew it was a done deal then but alas, eventually everything turned back to “normal”. At this time I’m sure the good folks of Okalahoma only shake their heads and roll their collective eyes at the false notion that “the end is near” then, now, nor into the foreseeable future.

Speaking of the weather, I’ve long thought that what was needed with all the weather services was a simple bit of the truth. For instance, when they predict a blasting storm front on the way and it peters out, as they oft tend to do, they should the next day say something like: “Man did we screw that one up.” With a small guilty shrug of the shoulders and smile. Then if they must, they could go on to explain how they could have been so very wrong, which usually would consist of Ma nature not following their made up rules.
But as you know, the next day, they pretend nothing was out of the ordinary at all, just showing us the radar views of the non-existent storm, as if it never were predicted just last night.  

“The Truth”….What a convoluted concept that turns out to be in this new and improved day and age we find ourselves in huh?
One day it’s an unequivocal scientifically proven fact that the yolks of eggs are the devil incarnate.
Originally, the egg received a bad reputation with regard to cardiovascular health, as one large egg contains approximately 187 milligrams of cholesterol. Now new studies show that the caution may have been an exaggeration and conclude that eggs are fine and may even improve your health, as they contain nutrients difficult to find in other foods.
Just the fact that our grandparents consumed at the least a few eggs a day and lived healthfully on into their old age might give a hint also.

Old Truth: Coconut oil is a saturated fat body bomb that should be avoided.
New Truth: Coconut oil can cure what ails you.

Old Truth: Coffee equals caffeine equals bad for you.
New Truth: Coffee is loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients. Plus a little caffeine makes the world go around.

Old Truth: Salt kills. It raises blood pressures, causes hypertension and increases the risk of premature death.
New Truth: Salt is essential to health. Too little salt can actually lead to premature death.

Those interesting examples of how truth can change with time bring me to the present day news sources. I don’t know about you but as I was growing up, it sure seemed that whatever Walter Cronkite and those esteemed newscasters told us back then was basically “The Truth”.
Never having been a “newsie nutcase”, I have no idea if there were opposing or contrary opinions or others accusing their ilk of having “Slanted or spun” views of the world events they nightly portrayed, but it seemed everyone I knew took what they said as “The Truth”.

What we have now seems diametrically opposed to what was presented to the masses back then.
Now we seem to receive nothing but extremism spun to the ninth degree opinions from both sides of the political isle now, having no real connection to any kind of real time tested verifiable truths.
With both proclaiming the other side guilty of spinning “The Truth” to Mars and back, what we have now to digest is mostly ignorant robotically repeated nonsense having more to do with each individuals political agenda than any kind of solid truths.

Another thing I find interesting is both sides of the extremist morons truly believe they are members of the vast majority with their political agendas, when in fact they are a tiny minority of folks only roboting whatever they are told to think by some radio nut job or entertainment news source pretending to know something.
Another thing I find nuts are those relatively regular folks on both extreme sides who start thinking they are somehow experts on incredibly complicated world issues. This is while some of the best minds in the world are in a constant struggle trying to do the right thing for mankind.

In my humble (there he goes again) opinion most world issues have a dozen, if not far more shades of gray to take into account before attempting any decision-making. To try and see them through any extremist black or white lens is beyond nutso, it’s flat ass idiocy and solves nothing except furthering ignorance, hate, blame and confusion between what would be mostly normal caring Americans.
If possible, we need to start attempting to solve issues through commonality born clear thinking, not extremist ideologies dug up straight from the bomb shelters and basements of the lowest common denominators of humankind.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Others will never taste Grandma’s great cooking.

I’ve had the total misfortune to witness a G.I.D. (governmental intrusion disaster) unfold for months on end now in the commercial space next door to my shop.
A very nice woman decided to try and achieve her dream of opening a great little pizza parlor there. Not just another of the hundreds of standard franchise models but a home made, brick fired oven variety. The kind of oven I’ve seen while watching a travel channel in some far away island community. A place the locals hang out drinking exotic drinks while watching the suns rays slowly sink into the abyss of the Ocean.

I’m guessing now but I can imagine she will use a secret sauce that was proudly passed down for generations in her family. My admittedly overindulgent imagination would also include the dough. Not a dough from a box with an ingredient list in some foreign language as long as the Constitution, thrown together with water but something her Grandmother taught her to make with the main ingredients being love and patience for perfection.

Now that’s one hell of a wonderful dream the lady has, wouldn’t you agree? What could it possibly take to throw together a nice little pizza parlor to serve the locals a great tasting pizza?
Admittedly the building we’re talking about is old. Very old. Probably pushing 100 years old in fact. Still, some wall, floor and ceiling treatments, a little paint, some kitchen appliances, the oven of course and some tables and chairs for the patrons and BAM! “Welcome folks. Come on in. Your nice hot, bubbling pizza straight from the brick fired oven will be ready in a moment. Have a glass of wine or a beer while you wait.”

Approximately 17 years ago, when I rented my commercial space next door, in the same 100 year old building, it was already painted so all I had to do to create a Barbershop was put up some mirrors, install a sink and slide the old fashioned Barber Chair in place. Then some nice rocking chairs for the clientele and “Welcome folks. Have a seat. I’ll be with you shortly.”
If I remember correctly, it took all of a week to open for business.

Now back to the nice lady trying her best to open a little pizza business next door.
The first activity I saw and of course heard, being right next door was a whole lot of demolition. They obviously had to tear out a lot of the old wood, wiring and what little plumbing there in order to upgrade the whole thing to modern standards.
It all seemed to be going well until everything stopped one day. Which turned into not days but weeks, then months.
When I asked, they told me they ran into the dreaded building department monster.

Now my life experience admittedly does not include all the modern requirements in this day and age to create a space to handle food but the things I was hearing from the contractor and workers’ trying to do their jobs was horrifying at the least.

First of all, instead of hiring some draftsman to pencil in some general drawings for the place, they had to hire an architectural engineer for god’s sake. Now his work extended the timeline another month or more. He for reasons unknown did not work out in the end, so they had to hire a new and improved architectural engineer. Of course his work only added another few months to the now ridiculously long drawn out process.
Again I have no idea what’s involved in achieving this little project but was constantly amazed at how long this was taking.

Finally one day, when I came to work it was a beehive of activity with grins on everyone’s faces as they told me everything was in place and it was a go! Then the bangs, crashes, air guns blasting and shaking enough to knock things off my walls commenced in earnest once again.
With every apology offered, I always responded with “No problem. Just happy you’re on your way now.”

Once more silence prevailed.

This new bureaucratic brick wall had something to do with a “Grease Trap doohickey”, which costs thousands of dollars by the way and has to be reviewed and approved by several arms of the permit department, as more weeks flow by.

Using her California bureaucratic travesty as a lead in, as the title of this piece infers, because of these insane food processing rules, our free choices of what, where and how we enjoy food is only going to get more and more mind numbingly generic and tasteless. Because Grandma is flat out not allowed to cook in her own kitchen and serve to the public from her front porch swinging bench, the general public will never get the chance to enjoy the delicious food she regularly prepares for her family. Food by the way she’s prepared and served most of her life with no one turning green and keeling over with some exotic disease never heard of before or since.

No sir. The only food available to the masses (that’s us folks) will be served from the confines of the mass marketed franchise verity. With meat products from boxes labeled “Eatable Meat”, as I observed in the loading zone of a McDonalds on my very LAST visit there.

So no folks. You will NOT be allowed to taste the wonders passed down through the generations from folk’s family recipes, straight from their regular kitchens. You’ll have to settle for the tasteless garbage offered at the McPlastic establishments only.
So at the least, treasure every chance you get to set down in Grandma’s kitchen and savor every morsel of heaven offered therein……..

Lastly, all I can say to the nice lady next door is “Hang in there. Hopefully in the end, we’ll all get a chance to enjoy your offering from the heart.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A little bit of nothing

The dreaded alarm woke me this morning with a sudden start. After slitting my reluctant eyes open to the just brightening sky, I did the only thing I could then.
I rolled over, grabbed the down filled heavenly cloud and covered my head with an almost whimpering, begging hope I could make the world fall back into the softness I’d been so rudely dragged from.
You know what? It worked. I could feel my being drifting downward, getting smaller and losing it’s substance once more.

Aaah. What heavenly pleasure sleep’s embrace hath on our souls
Oh soft embalmer of the still midnight, shutting, with careful benign fingers
Upon my pillow, breathing away the days woes
Save me from curious conscience, that still lords
And seal the hushed casket of my soul.

Then…..Whumf! What the hell? As my mind once more dragged itself from the billowy softness below, reality twisted with the beginnings of what had plopped onto my side. As was his usual morning ritual, it was the great ball of fur that considered all else to be beneath his greatness. If I don’t immediately and obediently rise after the Zen like brass bell announces another breaking dawn, he assumes it’s his royal purpose to rouse the troubled masses.
His self-proclaimed duty is to get the show moving toward giving him the substance he demands. No matter he’s over weight enough to bounce the bed into a rock and roll shimmy of resonance landing there.

Still pretending to slumber, hoping against hope he’ll go away, he soon takes the next step. Crawling onto my side, he reaches out, to first lightly tap my face. Within seconds, if that doesn’t get the proper response, he extends the tip of his claw onto the skin of the only little exposed spot available. Then as all furred monsters do, he mixes bread, with little flexes of his hand, just short of breaking the skin.
Now having experienced this many times before, I still pretend he doesn’t exist, even as his nails digs slightly deeper and his bodies weight increasingly makes my breathing labored.
Soon it becomes a contest between the slowly increasing stinging of his claw and the weight of his formidable body pressing down.

During this ever-mounting torture, I kept slipping in and out of my soul’s hushed casket, with the lid becoming heavier and harder to reopen, now with the creepy hinge screeching upon my mind, as if from some horror movie.
There’s only so much even I can take and still pretend to slumber, so with an angry rude grunt along with a resounding whoosh, I threw the down cloud aside leaving in it’s wake a blessed moment of silence as the furred monster flew through the air to once again bounce the bed with refrains of shimmied resonance straight from one of Jimmy Hendrix’s most powerful feedback events. If it’s true that music is what your emotions sound like, the symphony pounding my just awaking mind can go to hell!

After throwing my legs over the side of the bed that’s lost its blessed moment, they hang there. With eyes closed to avoid dawn’s reality a bit longer, I consider for several seconds slipping back under my down filled cloud to deny my curious conscience, that’s just starting to rear it’s lord like dominance once again.
But that’s not to be.

Having been raised with the ridiculous premises of responsibility, honor and duty, the supremely fabulous idea of flaking off life starts losing its luster by the moment. So I force my body to slip off the edge of all that’s wonderful to again stand upon wobbly legs with full body weight bearing down upon the cold hard floor. A weight I imagined I’d lost back upon the beds grace tantalizingly just above me, now gone from my grasp in my need to achieve something with this new day.

Next comes the torturous walk with all its little painful creaks, pops and groans, half bent over, wondering if I might ever walk upright again, much less sans pain. Having finally crippled over to the bathroom’s quiet entrance, I stand eyes closed tight before the dreaded mirror, not yet daring to turn on the stark blinding lights that cold bloodedly allow no falseness.
The most amazing thing happens when one stands before the bathroom mirror first thing in the morn. All ones egotistical notions of who we are and what we look like in our mostly fantasized, idealized worlds stands in stasis at that moment in time, there in the blessedly muted light of dawn.

At that moment, we still hold fast to the lies of our fantasies. Fantasies that include young, hard, smooth skin, stretched over a handsome youthful face. On top of that carved from marble marvel, a head with rich, dark, thick hair cascading down over the ears and falling with abandon down the thin muscularly veined neck. The kind of hair one would imagine crowning a Roman Gladiator’s head.
Then as we revel in our combination of complete denial and robust imagination, we reach toward the light switch, which allows no falsehoods and pause there, finger almost touching, allowing ourselves just one more moment of wishful mind adultery.

Unfortunately, with the growing dawn light slowly beginning to make the whole exercise a sadly mute point, reality finally pushes it’s way through the madness we call early morn life and our finger pushes downward, as we automatically shut our eyes one last time, using the unspoken excuse to not cause them harm.
Then after allowing ourselves one more moment of seeing life through our closed eyelids, now lit from without like a living lightning strike, we finally open the one door we’ll not be allowed to close for another full day.

And who stands there before us? Who indeed? What the hell happened to the Roman Gladiator we knew we were just moments ago?
There is no explanation, excuse nor definition for what we see there in that damn morning mirror straight from the depths of hell. The shock is indiscernible.
We immediately avert our eyes, busying ourselves with the rest of the morning’s standard rituals.
After finishing, we cripple off toward the goddesses greatest discovery. Coffee, a cup of coffee that will hopefully dry the tiny tear still moist below our eyes. Eyes again in full slit mode against this God-awful morning’s realities.

Friday, March 7, 2014

We ain’t got it so bad, now do we? Part 15

Part 15.

In those days having cash in hand made for an easy purchase. So in no time at all, they bought the 9-acre property and Guy was hard at work building their future home, along with all the outbuildings needed on a working farm, along with milking and storage sheds, fencing all around and finally a large metal building he would soon utilize as a welding and fabrication shop along with a farm machinery repair establishment.
When all that was accomplished, it was a proud day. On that day, he climbed a tall wooden ladder he’d made to the front peak of the shop with Viola standing below shading her moist eyes; he hung a sign he’d hand painted that read “Guys Welding and Repair”.

Next in the natural order of things was having a family but in those still fairly crude and backward times even that was not to be so smooth.
The first time Viola became pregnant, it was truly a time of great joy for them. Viola was the picture of health and happiness throughout the pregnancy.
Everything went pretty trouble free until the actual birth. Then something went terribly wrong and the baby died at birth, as so often happened in those days of sketchy healthcare.

That put both of them in a slump for a while but like all things on a farm, there was little time to morn over deaths. Experiencing all the varied problems with births and deaths with the farm animals soon taught them to just pull themselves up by the bootstraps and move on, so move on they did.
The next pregnancy went well again, including this time birthing a healthy girl they named Yvonne.

Next came preparing the fields for whatever crops they might be able to make some coin with. With the irrigation canal bordering their piece of land, it was a relatively easy chore to breach it, using wooden gates to control the flow into smaller main ditches onto the property. From those ditches, Guy used special bent pipes he created to use a siphoning method to get water into the lower planting channels running the length of the property.
So after planting potatoes, all he had to do daily was pick up the pipes leading to the filled channels between the plantings to the next section until the whole field was well watered.

Before long, the farm had Chickens for eggs and meat, a couple of cows for milk and beef, a drove of pigs for pork and a small barn filled to the ceiling with alfalfa hay to feed the cows.
Having both been raised on farms back in Okalahoma, they had all the skills necessary to handle everything it took to raise, slaughter, medicate, skin out and handle every aspect of dealing with farm animals.
As with most real farms, the chickens roamed freely, doing their job of keeping the bugs, flies and grass seeds controlled, which also fed them nicely.  Each dusk they would all head back into the chicken coop, where Viola would arrive to shut the door to protect them from nightfall’s predators.

Farming then and now was actually a pretty hard life. The cows had to be milked twice daily, morning and night. That gave the family not only milk but also butter, Viola churned from the cream floating on top of the milk after it set for a bit. Often if Yvonne was there during the milking, they would play a game where Yvonne would kneel down close by and Viola would squirt the milk straight into her mouth, often time missing on purpose, causing the milking shed to light up with laughter and joy. Being so far out in the quiet country, those sounds drifting through the dusk air reached Guys ears, causing him to stop what he was doing for a moment and smile with joy also.

In the meantime, with the addition of a welding and repair shop out in the country surrounded by farms of every description, Guys business was growing almost daily. Being able to repair, fabricate and build most anything the farmers needed made his success inevitable. He not only had all the skills necessary to do most anything they wanted but also had the fair price attitude he’d brought with him from Okalahoma.

During the next 8 years, Yvonne grew up learning all the ways of farming, while roaming the acreage until she had every square inch of the place firmly in her heart and soul.
During those years, Guy and Viola tried to add to the family but fate laid it’s cruel hand on their plans with another stillbirth and one more who died soon after birth.
After three children not meant to be, they pretty much decided they would be a one child family but truth was, birth control was not something people thought much about in those days.
So they put the idea of adding to the family out of their minds with all the work and toil involved in the running of the farm and shop. Then that same fate decided to change their plans once again with the birth of a brand new child.
This time it was a boy, which pleased them both immensely, giving them someone to keep the family name marching into the future. They named this boy Paul and from day one he was almost the opposite of Yvonne. Where she was the typical girl, a little quiet and reserved, he started out on day one loud, awake all night and demanding the world revolve around his every whim. In other words a boy!

Since I started this little writing project to relate, along with embellish a few stories my Parents told me about their early days coming from the Okalahoma Dust Bowl, Great Depression days, I feel compelled to end it with my birth on the little farm they developed in Mid Valley California so long ego.
As I hope I conveyed, I’m nothing but proud of my heritage. These folks started with misery unimaginable. They learned to pull themselves up by their proverbial tattered bootstraps and with incredibly hard work, perseverance and toil, make a meaningful life in the Earths womb and soil of California.

I hope you enjoyed their adventures along the way, as much as I enjoyed relating them…..

We ain’t got it so bad, now do we? Part 14

Part 14.

With government money pouring in for the war effort, the pay at the shipyard was pretty dang good and being the spendthrift masters they were, between what Guy had already saved on top of this job; they had a nice little nest egg by the end of the war.
With that safely put away, they started to think about settling down in California. The only thing they knew was farming, so they started dreaming of where they might buy a piece of land, settle down and start working the soil.
It seems once a farmer, always a farmer. They couldn’t wait to feel the soft loamy earth in their hands once more.
Some women liked fingernail polish on their long nails to feel womanly; Viola loved the feel of fresh dirt under hers to feel human and in touch with life, which only added to Guy’s love and admiration for her. Being half Choctaw Indian, only added to her natural beauty and affinity for the Earth and it’s many bounties.

During those years traveling from farm to farm, following the crops, once in a while they’d get wind from someone who’d seen or talked to one of Guy’s brothers or sisters. Since the whole family had migrated out to California at about the same time, it wasn’t unusual to hear about or come across someone they’d known from Oklahoma. Also because most of the farming was done in the mid-state valleys, it placed most of them in a smaller area than the whole state.
Quite a while after leaving the Bakersfield area, they even heard tell that Viola’s full blooded Choctaw Indian Grandmother possibly had ended up there. They figured once they settled, they’d look into finding her.

They came across no word from Lester since they last seen him but they did hear about one of his other brothers Lloyd. They heard he’d married a lady named Vera and that they’d bought a small farm close to Castle Air force base outside of a small town called Atwater.
Before long with the war effort slowly but surely winding down, they at last said their goodbyes to all the great people they’d worked beside at the shipyards and with nothing but great pride in their accomplishments, finally set out to travel to Atwater.
They were hoping to stay on Lloyd and Vera’s farm while they looked around for a piece of land to buy with their hard earned money they’d so diligently saved.

With highway 99 running right down Main Street in most of the small towns of California, it was easy enough to find Atwater. Like most small San Joaquin Valley towns at that time, there wasn’t much there. A few gas stations, a couple coffee shops and a very small school, serving Kindergarten through High School for the locals born there and now including the growing population who were still almost daily migrating from points east.

With Castle Air Force base playing such an important role in the war effort, they had no problem finding it once they entered Atwater.
Castle AFB was named in honor of Brigadier General Frederick W. Castle (1908–1944) on 17 January 1946. When on Christmas Eve 1944 near Liege, Belgium, seven Messerschmitts set General Castle's B-17 Flying Fortress afire, he remained at the controls while his crew bailed out. He bravely refused to release his bombs over territory occupied by friendly forces, and died with the pilot when the aircraft exploded. General Castle received the Medal of Honor posthumously.
The facility was officially renamed Castle Air Force Base on 13 January 1948 as part of the establishment of the United States Air Force as a separate military service.
The airfield was opened on 20 September 1941 as the Army Air Corps Basic Flying School, one of the fields utilized to meet the needs of the 30,000 Pilot Training Program. As the original name indicated, it provided basic air training for beginning pilots and crewmen. Many pilots and crews were trained here during the war including a number of Women's Air Service Pilots (WASP)
Turned out Lloyd and Vera’s farm was just on the other side of a roadway running along side the railroad tracks from the Base. One of the benefits of that fact was they could stand on the tracks and watch the giant bombers take off and land. Having never seen such a miraculous sight as these metal monsters lifting into the sky , they couldn’t get enough of it.
Each day, Guy and Viola would get in the truck and drive out in the country from Atwater looking for the right piece of property, they figured they could turn into their dream farm.
One day, there it was. A fine looking piece of land, bordered on two sides by roads and a third by a substantial water canal, they would easily draw water from for their future crops.

To be continued:

Friday, February 7, 2014

We ain’t got it so bad, now do we? Part 13.

Part 13.

When Viola, the one who’d become the girl of his dreams said she’d go to the dance with Guy, nothing else mattered. The rest of the week flew by with them both grabbing every chance they could to develop their own hidden language with secret smiles ruffling the leaves of the Artichoke plants as they traveled back and forth across the fields.
After that night at the dance, they became inseparable every chance they could. Many more dances, along with long walks and picnics on the nearby ocean beaches followed.
Before long a year and a half had passed, with Lester growing impatient to move on. That was when Guy decided to ask Viola to marry him.

So soon after, they were married by a Justice of the Peace in Salinas California, with Lester, along with Guys sister Eunice and her husband Noel Hooks, who had moved to that area earlier as official witnesses.
No longer able to live with Lester in the camper he’d called home so long, Guy and Viola bought a new tent. That way, they could follow the crops northward as the seasons changed.
Guy, being the industrial, handy man he was, also bought a nice thick rug for the floor, where most tents in those days didn’t have that luxury. He also made some furniture out of lug boxes and pieces of used lumber he scrounged from around the various farms they found themselves in as a few more years flew by.

One of those was a carrot farm. This turned out to be one of the hardest jobs he’d ever done up to that point. Having neither heavy machinery nor need for any drivers or welders, he was assigned to the carrot washing barn. He’d stand there with his arms up to his elbows in very cold water washing the dirt from the carrots. In those days, the workday was from sun up to sun down. No breaks. The only day off was for church on Sundays and everybody was expected to attend.
During that period, Guy and Viola came to be known as the rich Couple. Other folks would come by on a Sunday to gaze into their tent with its rug floor and handmade furniture. They even had some pictures and knickknacks they’d picked up on the way, which only added to the opulence the others only dreamed of.
That job ended only when Guys hands and arms started literally rotting from constantly being immersed in the water. When he showed the foreman what was happening to his arms, the Forman simply said. “You’re fired.” Then he turned to the first guy waiting in line for a chance at a job and said. “You’re hired.” Never once looking back at Guy.
So Guy and Viola moved on…….

Next they heard about a shipyard opening in Richmond California, which was advertising for welders.
They heard Henry Kaiser had been building cargo ships for the Maritime Commission in the 1930s. When orders for ships from the British government, already at war with Germany, allowed for growth, Kaiser established his first Richmond shipyard in December 1940.
While the British ships were being constructed, the US Maritime Commission examined the design and made alterations to lessen cost and speed construction. This revised design featured oil-fired boilers. The most significant change was to replace much of the riveting with welded seams. A new practice, the use of welding decreased labor costs and required fewer skilled workers. Due to their plain looks, the Liberty Ships initially had a poor public image. To combat this, the Maritime Commission dubbed September 27, 1941, as "Liberty Fleet Day" and launched the first 14 vessels. In his speech at the launch ceremony, Pres. Franklin Roosevelt cited Patrick Henry's famed speech and stated that the ships would bring liberty to Europe.

So Guy and Viola headed on up there to see if he could get a job using his considerable skills as a welder at the new shipyards.
With the war effort growing daily now, Guy assumed he would join up soon to play his part but all that changed when they arrived at the Shipyards. He was told at the main office that anyone with the skills necessary for building warships, were being excused from the Military. Turned out America needed what were then called Liberty Ships just as bad as soldiers, so were putting folks like Guy to work welding inside the giant metal hulls of the great warships. This put his welding skills in high gear. He’d just thought he had done a bunch of welding at the Farm Machinery repair facility but nothing compared to what he was now asked to do.

Operating four yards in Richmond, CA and three in the Northwest, Kaiser developed methods for prefabricating and mass-producing Liberty Ships. Components were built all across the US and transported to shipyards where the vessels could be assembled in record time. During the war, a Liberty Ship could be built in about two weeks at a Kaiser yard. In November 1942, one of Kaiser's Richmond yards built a Liberty Ship (Robert E. Peary) in 4 days, 15 hours, and 29 minutes as a publicity stunt. Nationally, the average construction time was 42 days and by 1943, three Liberty Ships were being completed each day.

So working 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week for almost three years was by far the most taxing job Guy did then or since. Bending over inside those vast metal monsters, laying red-hot beads of welding rod for literally miles upon miles with the sweltering temperatures sometimes reaching well past a hundred degrees was brutal. Then the burning smoke from hundreds of other welding torches damn near did him in.
In spite of all that torture, he and everyone else there had nothing but pride in helping the Great War effort. In fact every red-blooded American did everything they could to help.
By the way, on that day in November 1942, Viola proudly stood beside Guy below the Robert E. Peary to receive the heartfelt applause of those there, on top of America’s joyous thanks.

To be continued:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

We ain’t got it so bad, now do we? Part 12.

Part 12.

After a year repairing Farm Machinery in Shafter, working their way to the top of the pay scale, Guy and Lester both were feeling boredom creep slowly but surely up their now powerful frames. With folks often telling stories about better opportunities up north, they were starting to get that familiar itch between their shoulder blades to move on.
One day Lester found a fixer upper cab over camper shell for their pickup, so in their spare time, they fixed it up right nice, so if they had too, they could make that their temporary home, wherever they ended up next. Plus it gave them a place to keep what little they owned out of the sun and rain.
A lot of the talk centered on a coastal area in a place called Monterey County. Having never seen an Ocean, the boys were excited about that prospect. Everyone kept mentioning the Farms up there in a town called Salinas.

After talking it over, they made the decision to move on, so they gave their boss their two-week notice. At the end of the two weeks, they packed everything in their new camper and said goodbye to the few folks they’d met at the trailer park and their co-workers. So on a Friday after work ended, they picked up their last paycheck, which included a nice little bonus the owner gave them in appreciation for their continued good work there, and drove off with light hearts and anticipation toward their next adventure.

After a three-hour drive first west on Highway 46 to Highway 101, then north toward Salinas, they once again found themselves traveling within the large green farms there. Being close to the sea, everything seemed lush, richer and greener than the valley areas. Plus the smells and moister in the air slowly grew a little strange with a slight tang of salt in it’s essence they’d never smelled nor felt before.
It was in their blood and souls to not waste a moment setting on their Loral’s, so after asking some of the other oakies they came across about jobs around there, they headed straight over to one of the larger recommended farms.

This turned out to be an Artichoke farm and what an operation it was. There were Artichoke plants in perfect rows as far as the eye could see in every direction. Raised in the hot climates of the Southwest, they’d only heard of these strange vegetables. They’d never even seen one until now. When they first tried one, after learning how to cook and eat them, it seemed such an awful lot of trouble for such a small taste but they ended up liking them in the end.
With their special skills and experience from the Orange farm down south, getting on with the Artichoke farm turned out to be a snap. They were both hired right on the spot and were told to show up first thing in the morning.

As usual, Guy was hired to drive farm machinery and Lester was put on as a mechanic. With their considerable expericance, they were promised both raises and a step up the ladder of employment, soon as a management position opened.

Then one day, everything changed. As guy drove the tractor-trailer out to gather up another load of Artichokes, there she was. There were hundreds of laborers in the field but for some reason, she caught his eye. First with just a backward glance, then a coy, almost embarrassed smile that made everything else of a sudden shadowy.
He was far too shy to attempt to meet her that day but couldn’t keep her out of his mind.
Within a few weeks of seeing her out in the fields and wondering how he might meet her, he got a break. Word got around there was going to be a dance at the local Grange Hall in town this next weekend.
So the next time the laborers lined up with their full baskets, when his dream girl reached the trailer, with her shy downward cast eyes shining, he decided it was now or never.

So he straightened his shoulders and stood up tall and walked right up as if he were doing nothing but inspecting the artichokes. That’s when she looked up and once again bedazzled him with her radiant smile, which almost left him speechless, and week kneed. Luckily he reacquired his faltering backbone in time to smile back and say. “ Howdy Ma’am. I don’t mean to bother you while you busy here but…..” He almost faltered again but saved himself just as she was showing signs of walking off. “My name is Guy.”
“Why hello Guy.“ She said with far more boldness than he was showing so far. “My name is Viola. Nice to meet ya.”
Then came the dreaded moment of silence where guy wasn’t sure what to do or say next. Again just as the moment stretched a tad too far and she again showed signs of turning and walking away, he found his voice again. “I was awondering….” He mumbled as he kicked at a dirt clod at his feet.
“Yes?” she asked into another awkward growing silence.
“Did you hear about the dance this weekend at the Grange hall?” He finally almost blurted out.
“Why yes. Yes I have.” She answered then again stood looking at this strange creature that couldn’t seem to string his words together into real sentences.

“I was awondering…..ifen you would like to go to that dance with me?” He finished in a rush before he lost his nerve.
Now it was her turn to blush and look down at her feet, which made Guys heart almost skip a beat.
“Why yes Guy. I would like to go to the dance with you.” She said, which sent a thrill starting at Guy’s toes, then clear up to the top of his head.

To be continued: