Dozer, the bulldog

Dozer, the bulldog
Dozer: Spring training is upon us!

Caught in the headlights...

Caught in the headlights...
The author of Mark's Work, at the botanical gardens inFort Bragg...

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock
I can climb up, but I could never climb back down...

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.
C D B's... D B's R G's

Gluten-Free Mama and Ben-Jam-Man

Gluten-Free Mama and Ben-Jam-Man
Love is the greatest power.

Beauty abounds!

Beauty abounds!
Butterflies know what's up.

If you've seen one sunrise, you've seen 'em all, said no one ever.

If you've seen one sunrise, you've seen 'em all, said no one ever.
Sunrise through the oaks...

Tulip

Tulip
April Madness

Green is the new sexy.

Green is the new sexy.
We have plenty of green.

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

markyboy1231@hotmail.com

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

No Sign Required


No Sign Required

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was going to do something more patriotic this Fourth of July, than just the usual firing up of the barbecue, and getting drunk.  I mean, there is something to be said for grilling up some chicken and drinking a little whiskey on such an auspicious occasion, but actually getting out and making a statement, against the current despot in our society, is the better way to go.  Besides, if I play my cards right, I will get to do both.

What I am going to do is make a sign, clearly demonstrating that I oppose Monsanto and all things GMO, join those who plan to stand out along the 101 in Laytonville, and exercise my freedom of speech.  Monsanto IS a despot, and a far more dangerous one than King George ever was.  I say that because people have to eat, and the people who are most securely entrapped by Monsanto, are the poor people of our country.

Now I may be poor, but I live on twenty acres of land, and have thus managed to avoid the pitfall that is the fate of millions who live in an urban setting, and find themselves shopping at Walmart or K-Mart, or any other business which features poor quality, processed food, at an inexpensive price.  When your meager paycheck barely covers rent and utilities, it’s impossible to be able to eat properly.  So you do what you have to in order to survive: you eat inexpensive, processed food, and you forego the organic fruits and veggies, in lieu of affordability.

Make no mistake about it: Monsanto is a despot.  It is an example of corporate production, run amok.  Monsanto produces colossal amounts of food, very cheaply, and thus has ingrained itself into the American economy, as a success story.  After all, we spend less money on food, than any other industrialized nation.  But what about the other side of the coin, the fact that GMO-produced food has been linked to numerous afflictions, from intestinal cancers, to the development of food allergies, to the change of reproductive function, in both men and women, including sterility, and increased infant mortality?

Monsanto has managed to maneuver its way into a political position, where it has secured immunity from prosecution, by buying political clout.  If you look at the list of individuals, with dual ties to Monsanto, and the American political scene, it’s no wonder that this corporation thumbs its nose at the Monsanto naysayers.

It’s easy for me to preach about the benefits of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables.  When Annie and I were full-time teachers, we found it next-to-impossible to afford fresh produce, because we were living on the salaries of teachers.  Now that I am retired, and have the time and resources to pursue a healthier eating lifestyle, it’s all good.  But there are so many people in this country who cannot afford to eat properly, that Monsanto continues to flourish, a fact that will end up causing disease epidemics of unfathomable proportions.

So I say again, Monsanto is a despot, a huge conglomerate that appears unstoppable, just as Great Britain once appeared to the colonists.  The Revolutionary War was a David Versus Goliath conflict of gargantuan proportions.  People who get discouraged at Monsanto, have only to recognize that we have been down this road before.

The recent grass-roots movement against Monsanto, on FaceBook and the internet, in general, shows us that even a corporate giant like Monsanto, can and will feel the pinch, as hundreds of thousands of people make their opinion known.  The recent shift to non-Monsanto-produced food in The Chipotle Grill chain of restaurants, and Target stores, is evidence that enough concern is being raised to have a financial impact.  

So that’s why I am apportioning a chunk of my Fourth of July, in what I consider to be a most American and appropriate response to despotism.  Annie and I are heading down to Laytonville to protest against GMO’s and Monsanto, beginning at 11:00 in the morning, carrying our signs, and letting our voices be heard.  

Barbecuing and imbibing are as American as anything, but so is expressing an opinion, especially against a despot.  If you are of a mind, come on out and join us.  No sign required.
  


Friday, June 21, 2013

That Old Stink-Eye


That Old Stink-Eye

So we pulled into the Coddington Shopping Center, just a few minutes past noon, on our way back from the City, and the place was a zoo.  Everybody and his mother’s uncle were there, and we had to go a huntin’ to find a parking place.  Did I mention the place was jammed?  Up and down the lot we went.  As we got to the far end, we finally spotted an available slot, and pulled in, grateful that the search was over.  

Lo and behold, as we parked, we noticed that one reason (or make that four reasons) that parking places were at a premium was that there was one of those oversized pick-up trucks, all tricked out, with giant tires and chromed everything, taking up not one, not two, but four parking places, the rig centered over all four at the same time.

“Will you look at that, Annie?” I asked.  “If the guy who owns this truck comes out while you are in Wholefoods Market, I’m going to have a word with him.”  How did I know it was a him?  It’s a guy thing.  You know what they say about compensating for small equipment, by driving a huge truck.

It didn’t take long before a weight-challenged bozo, wearing sunglasses and a monstrous pair of shorts, complete with grubby tee shirt, belly hanging out and all, came up to the truck, unlocked it, and got in.

“Hey!” I inquired, pleasantly, “Do you mind telling me why you needed to take up four parking places with your truck, on a day when it’s hard to find even one spot to park?”  

“Huh?”  he asked.

I repeated the question.

“Because I felt like it.”  He looked at me belligerently.

I responded to that bit of sage thinking by saying, “I might even have understood it if you took up two spots, because you were worried someone might ding your door.  But four?  Isn’t that a little excessive?”

“What?  You don’t like it?”  He was giving me the stink-eye, and was I ever scared.

“I think it’s rude when the parking lot is so crowded.”  I kind of figured what was coming next, and he did not disappoint.

“What?  You going to do something about it?”  

“I AM!  I’m asking you why you feel it necessary to take up four parking places in a parking lot, when it is so crowded.”  There, I told him off.

At this point he pulled the truck up next to me, fiddled in his CD container for a second, and put on Jon Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” that took a couple of minutes to get to the punchline, all the while giving me that old stink-eye.  The music was at full volume, and it was obvious that he was making a salient point, even though I don’t think Bon Jovi wrote the song with the intention that you should go through life being an asshole.

“It’s my life...it’s now or never...”  the music blasted, as he edged his way out into the departure lane.  I nodded my head to the beat of the drums, and gave him the two thumbs up.

I especially like this song myself, and sang along when it got to the lines, “I ain’t gonna be just a face in the crowd...You’re gonna hear my voice when I shout it out loud.”  I don’t think he got it.

Won’t he be surprised when he gets home and sees that some asshole older gentleman took a key, and ran it the entire length of the passenger side of that nice shiny truck?  *


*  OK, OK.  The last line was wishful thinking.  After all, I didn’t know whether more than one fat jerk would be leaving in the truck.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ambrosia of the Gods


Ambrosia of the Gods

It’s summertime, and the living is easy, especially when there are farmers’ markets to patronize and fresh produce and baked goods to  purchase.  Annie and I stopped in at the Laytonville farmers’ market the other day, on our way back from Willits.  Casey and Amber have their HappyDay Farms booth open now, even though their chief reason for being at the market is to distribute the CSA shares to their customers.

They have somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 CSA customers these days, though I know there are more than 25 shares, because Annie and I receive one, as do Benny and Holly, and Lito.  I look forward to Wednesdays so much now, because it’s like Christmas every week.  

Last week’s share included two humongous heads of red-leaf lettuce, Chinese cabbage leaves, onions, a bunch of carrots, some romanesque, garlic, peas, some gorgeous zucchini and other assorted goodness, some of which went with Annie down to Willits.  I relish the organically grown produce we receive each week, and it never goes to waste.  When I am up here by myself (Thursday, Friday and Saturday), I plan my meals around the goodness that comes in our share, and eat it until it’s gone.  I saute up onions, peppers, mushrooms, garlic, zucchini, broccoli or romanesque, and wrap it all in a giant spinach or sun-dried- tomato tortilla, sprinkle in some cheddar cheese, add some Pico-Pica sauce, and scarf.  If I’m of a mind, I make a fritata, using those same ingredients, but adding eggs, and baking it all in the oven for a scant fifteen minutes.  Ambrosia of the gods! 

HappyDay Farms is the culmination of a dream begun forty-one years ago, and kicked around for the next three years, before coming to fruition with the purchase of land, up here on Bell Springs Road.  When the folks moved up here in 1977, it still took another four years before I built a sixteen by twenty foot cabin, in the summer of 1981.  I say I built it; actually, I was the lumper, while my two brothers, Matt and Tom, and my neighbor Rex, framed the cabin in.

Back in those days, we functioned on a labor-exchange basis, which means I helped work on Rex’s addition, helped Matt do his front porch, and worked with Tom on his road, in exchange for their help on my cabin. It makes so much sense, and for our small community, it was the way the work-world rocked.  I also remember going over to Rex’s and tilling his garden the old-fashioned way, with a shovel, simply because I wanted him to know that I could work hard.

Our dream, when we were kicking around the whole commune idea, was to become self-sufficient, on our twenty-acre parcels, and we’re closer to that dream now than ever before.  It’s even more powerful, now that the third generation is rising to the task.  Annie and I always hoped that at least one of our sons would end up here, on the mountain, and our dream has come to pass. 

While we were at the Laytonville farmers’ market the other day, we saw a whole passel of folks that we hadn’t seen in a month of Sundays.  We talked with Susan, who was as bubbly as ever, as she told us about the next March Against Monsanto, due to take place on the Fourth of July, right in downtown Laytonville.  I think it is the most American and patriotic thing I can do, to use my right to protest, alongside the busy 101, and let other folks know that I feel it’s reprehensible to allow greed to contaminate the most basic of our needs, the food millions of people eat.  The fact that I am informed about the poison Monsanto provides for so many, is all well and good, but everyone needs to be knowledgeable so that each can decide for him or herself.

While at the Laytonville farmers’ market, I loved seeing Heidi, Adelle, Carolyn, John and Marbry, and Debbie (again, as we had bumped into her and Davey in Willits).  We also noted that there was a guy at the market who was sharpening knives, and found out that he is going to be up at our own market, this week.

Our farmers’ market, up here on the mountain, is as amazing as any I have ever attended.  Though I sit behind my little table, providing organic juice beverages for anyone who is interested, I can still see what’s going on around me.  Annabelle informed us that last week there were more than 110 people there at one point.  She said there were actually more, because she had counted all that she could see from one spot, and that she couldn’t even see those out by the road.  People have been coming from all over the county and that’s what makes it so successful. Even the crew up at Island Mountain was making it down here last summer, and that’s a three-hour roundtrip.  It just go to show that if you provide a venue for folks to convene, they will gather.

So if you are tired of dealing with the airlines, and you are tired of cleaning house, get your mojo on, and stop by at your local farmers’ market.  There you will find the means to brighten up your week, not to mention avoiding the poison that Monsanto puts out there for those who do not have access to fresh, organic produce.  I’ll see you there!

 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Heart and Soul [And Buster]


Heart and Soul [And Buster]

I was watching the Giants versus the Pirates yesterday, when Marco Scutaro was struck on the left hand by a pitch thrown by Tony Watson, in an eerily similar incident to the one which has sidelined Ryan Vogelsong.  For Giants fans it is a depressing injury, because Marco Scutaro embodies so much of the spirit which empowers the Giants.

However, that being said, I must clarify that I do not think this injury, as devastating as it may seem at the moment, will prevent the Giants from succeeding in their quest to make the playoffs, for the third time in the last four years.  And as all Giants fans have come to realize, if we can get to the playoffs, big things can happen.  I do believe that the Giants will make the playoffs for the following seven reasons.

First, they have excellent pitching; we all know that.  What?  The starting pitching is not what is has been, and Vogelsong is injured?  Pitchers are human; as such, they experience the highs and lows that all professional athletes endure.  The fact that this season has witnessed some inconsistencies, does not mean that our very talented staff is deteriorating.  It just means that we have seen a preponderance of lows, and can therefore, reasonably expect, that we will see the corresponding highs of a successful pitching staff, in the latter part of the season.  Besides, Chad Gaudan has filled in admirably for the injured V-Song, and that is extremely helpful.

Second, the Giants have experience; they are a group of veteran ballplayers who will not abandon their hustle and their belief in one another, just because the injury bug has struck.  They have been down this road before, as recently as the season before last, when the heart and soul of the team went down, with an inning-ending injury.  But Buster Posey is back, and it’s just an ongoing sign that even the worst of the injuries has a time frame that allows fans to recognize that it’s all part of the game, and one reason why the season is 162 games in length.  

Third, the Giants have chemistry.  This is a term that has repeatedly come up over the course of the past three seasons.  It just means that when one player struggles to perform at peak level, the others try to pick him up.  When one pitcher cannot maintain the highest of standards, the others try to compensate.  If someone commits an error, the rest strive to overcome that error, and take away the next batter’s chances of getting on base, because that’s what teammates do.  Hitters try to emulate each other’s success, because that’s what makes an offense a formidable weapon.  The Giants love to play the game, and they demonstrate that repeatedly, especially when it involves coming from behind to compete in the late innings.

Fourth, the Giants have the element of the twelfth man, their loyal fans.  I do not think it is hyperbole to say that AT&T Park, jammed to the rafters, for how many consecutive games, is a significant reason for the aforementioned, late-inning success.

Fifth, the Giants have leadership.  Bruce Bochy is a manager who understands the importance of sticking with proven players, even when there are mitigating circumstances.  He knows when to back off, and he knows when to give someone a break.  He works well with Brian Sabean, who has stocked the team with players who mesh well with the expansive boundaries of AT&T Park.  He has speedy outfielders who cover a lot of territory, and he has pitchers who know that it takes a lot to put one over the wall.  And Sabean has proven that he knows how to supplement the team just before the trade deadline, as the acquisition of Mr. Hustle himself, Hunter Pence, demonstrated last season.

Sixth, the Giants have depth.  Joaquin Arias filled in for Pablo last season, with no letup in defense, while batting .400 in the month of August.  Tony Abreu, Brett Pill, and Nick Noonan all have the tools to provide the backup that is so essential, and anyone who watched Juan Perez’ debut on Sunday, can see that he will provide superior defense in the outfield.  This goes back to what I said about Brian Sabean’s savvy, when it comes to creating a competitive team.

Seventh, and arguably the most important, is Buster.  All I have to do is refer to 2011, for Giants fans to know what I’m sayin’/talkin’ about.  With Buster Posey we have the core of our team, indomitable and ready to lead us once again into the playoffs, where big things happen. 

Go ahead and tell me I’m wrong; just don’t tell the Giants.  They’ll have none of it.  What they do have is heart and soul, which adds up to success.

Friday, June 7, 2013

1967 or Fire-Engine Red


1967
or
Fire-Engine Red

1967 was a unique year, in that my own coming of age seemed to parallel that of America in general, and the music industry in particular.  It was a time that the American public found that it could flex its collective muscle, and effect social change.  There were the “love-in’s” in San Francisco, and there was the recognition that our government was pushing a conflict overseas, that it would not even dignify, by referring to as a war.  Instead, Viet Nam was referred to as a “police action,” yet more than 500,000 troops at a time were deployed in this land so far away from home. 

There were race riots in Detroit, Michigan; Tampa, Florida;  Buffalo, New York; Newark, New Jersey; and Washington, DC, among other cities, even as Justice Thurgood Marshall was confirmed as the first African American Justice of the Supreme Court.  Earlier in the year, in February, the minimum wage went from $1.25 to $1.40. 

***

“Somebody to Love” (Jefferson Airplane); “How Can I Be Sure” (Young Rascals);  “San Francisco, Wear a Flower in Your Hair” (Scott McKenzie);  “I Say a Little Prayer” (Dionne Warwick)  


June 1st: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles is released in Mono  and Stereo LPs.
***

I was fourteen that summer, working as a bottle boy for Sunrize Market, and sweeping the parking lot every morning, with my ten-year-old brother, Matt.  I was destined to go to work as a box-boy, on September 11th, of that year, exactly one week after my fifteenth birthday, but during that summer, I had a different occupation: I was a painter.  I was never officially hired as one; I simply started to paint the family home, sometime in June, partially because I was available, partially because I loved to paint, but mostly because Mama really did not have any other options immediately available.  I did three coats on the house, the first one primer white, and the second and third coats, fire-engine red.

***


“Standing in the Shadow of Love” (Four Tops);  “Higher and Higher” (Jackie Wilson);  “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” (Jay and the Americans); “Don’t Sleep in the Subway” (Petula Clark);   “Reflections”(Supremes)


June 4th: Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream and Procol Harum, among others, performed a two-hour “Sunday Special” at the Seville Theatre in London.

***

In the beginning I inquired as to the rate of pay I would receive for this rather daunting task, and was told that as a member of the household, I was expected to do my share of work around the place.  To be honest, painting appealed to me more than any of the other job options, among them, picking apricots and removing the seeds; weeding the berry gardens; cleaning-always cleaning; and a myriad of other available chores that Mama could come up with.  

I decided to table the discussion as to my rate of pay, until such time as I had a substantial chunk of the job completed, figuring that I would be able to point a finger at my accomplishment, and demand payment.  I was making a dollar an hour as a bottle-boy, even though I never told Augie, my boss, the accurate number of hours I had worked, fudging downward instead, and thinking of it as a good investment.  It paid off in September, when I was hired on as a box-boy.

***

“San Franciscan Nights” (Animals); “I Dig Rock and Roll Music” (Peter, Paul and Mary);  “Carrie Anne” (Hollies);  “Up, Up, and Away” (5th Dimension);  “98.6” (Keith);  “For What It’s Worth” (Buffalo Springfield);  
“Western Union” (Five Americans); 


June 16-18th- The Monterey Pop Festival, the world’s first large scale outdoor rock music festival, is held in Monterey, California.  Stars include The Who, Simon and Garfunkel, Eric Burdon and the Animals, The Byrds, The Association, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, with Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix.

***

I went to work, painting on the driveway side of the house, figuring that as long as I was still enthusiastic about painting, I may as well work where everyone could see me; later, if and when my energy waned, I would be on the back side, and out of the limelight.  Always, I was accompanied in my endeavors by a little transistor radio, about three inches wide, by five inches tall, but it was all I needed to keep me plugged into KRLA, my radio station of choice.  The music world was changing faster than I could keep track of, and with the Beatles having just released “Sgt. Pepper’s” and with the Doors rocking my world with “Light My Fire,” there was a sense of epic change in the air.  Artists like Cream, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, were almost too much to cope with.  Later in November, when I first came home with “Disraeli Gears,” I was so full of myself, I thought my head might explode.  “Radical,” was the operative word in my house.

***

“I Think We’re Alone Now” (Tommy James and the Shondells);  “Baby I Need Your Loving” (Johnny Rivers);  “Can’t Take My Eyes off You” (Frankie Valli);  “Never My Love” (Association);    “Something Stupid” (Nancy and Frank Sinatra)

July 29th: Motown Records releases “Reflections,” the first single by the group’s new billing, “Diana Ross & The Supremes,” and after firing member Florence Ballard; Ballard, nevertheless, sings on the record and appears on the vinyl’s cover alongside group members Ross and Wilson because the song was recorded before her dismissal.

***

By now I was sleeping out in the Radio Shack, the low-slung shed, probably twenty by sixteen feet, which we had converted into a bachelors’ quarters, with the high-point being that we had successfully negotiated to have an electrical line put in by Papa, so that we had lights and...music!  We even put up fifty bones for a cast-off refrigerator, which was mammoth, and into which I stuffed as much soda as I could afford.  Later on, there would be beer, but that is another story.  I decorated the walls with the classic portraits of the Beatles, a Grass Roots poster, and other musical icons, along with a picture of Raquel Welch, in “One Million Years, BC,” a 1966 film release, which I had never seen.  All I had was the poster from it, but it was a dandy, and one that even Mama never seemed to object to.  I guess, in retrospect, it could have been much worse.

***

“The Rain, the Park, and Other Things” (The Cowsills);  “Georgy Girl” (Seekers);  “Dedicated to the One I Love” (Mama’s and the Papa’s);  “I  Heard it Through the Grapevine” (Gladys Knight and the Pips);  


August 27th: The Beatles, in Bangor, Wales, with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, are informed of the death of their manager, Brian Epstein.

***

Noel was home for the summer from school, and we used to amble on down to Baldwin School, a half-hour away, to play over-the-line, a baseball game that did not require running the bases.  Matt and Tom accompanied us, as did the transistor radio, eternally the bearer of righteous tunes.  Though Matt and Tom were only ten and eight years old, respectively, over-the-line was a game that everyone could succeed at, because all the batter had to do was hit the ball past the infielder on the ground to get a base hit.   So as we heard the Beatles singing “All You Need is Love,” just released as a single, we figured love, and a little luck, would get a ball into the outfield, and a “runner” on first base.

“Groovin’” (Young Rascals);  “Windy” (Association);  “Ode to Billy Joe” (Bobbie Gentry)  “The Letter” (Boxtops);  “To Sir With Love” (Lulu);  “I’m A Believer” (Monkees);     “Light My Fire” (Jim Morrison & The Doors

September 17th: The Doors appear on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and perform “Light My Fire.”  Despite having agreed the the line “Girl we couldn’t get much higher” be changed for the show.  Jim Morrison performs it the way it was written and The Doors are banned from the show.


***

So I carried on with the project, all summer, reveling in the painting on the back side of the house, because the poplar trees, which had been planted after the storm drain was put in, provided much-needed shade, to help get through those blisteringly hot, Southern California days.

When the job was completed, and I went back to the negotiating table with Mama, I realized that I had underestimated her resolve, not to defray the cost of the job, the way I felt was appropriate.  Either that, or-more likely-there simply wasn’t any money to spare.  So I settled for the five dollars that had been offered to me, figuring it was better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

It would take until I was in college, at nearby Cal Poly, Pomona, before I was able to talk Mama into upping my income to a third of what I brought home from Sunrize Market.  I remember recognizing that I did, indeed, have a responsibility to help out with the maintenance of the household, but that didn’t prevent me from dragging my feet over the terms.  

In the end, the five dollars that I received, was only a fraction of what the job should have paid, but then again, I also had a summer of listening to the best musical era of my generation, and probably that of any other generation.  And that was worth a lot more than five bucks.

***

“ I Second That Emotion” (Smokey Robinson & Miracles); “Whiter Shade of Pale” (Procol Harum);   “I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends” (Beatles) “Happy Together” (Turtles);  “Daydream Believer” (Monkees)










   





  



  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Unless You Can Do Better...


Unless You Can Do Better...

“Baseball been very good to me.”  Though I have never watched an episode of “Saturday Night Live” when this line was used, I have quoted it  many times.  It’s a catch-all phrase, simply expressing the fact that for me, baseball in all forms is not just a way of life, it is the way of life.  I derive more enjoyment out of listening to Giants baseball, than any other type of available entertainment.  

That doesn’t mean I watch or listen to every game, all the way through to its conclusion; it just means that whenever possible, I take in as much of each game as I am able, and check the end result as early the following morning as I can.

Take last night’s game, against the Blue Jays.  Timmy was pitching, it started after seven, and I only made it as far as the fourth inning.  However, after the Jays took an early lead in the first, and Andres Torres put us ahead in the second, 2-1, the score never changed.  This was quite a contrast from earlier in the season, when we went to Toronto, and got blown out of the ballpark, both games that we played.  

There were numerous lapses on defense, during that series in Toronto, both physical and mental, and there was a fair amount of grumbling from Giants fans, everywhere.  People sometimes have unreasonable expectations, for a team that plays 162 games over the course of a season.  When I think about the multitude of situations that present themselves, to each player, every time he takes the field, I am amazed that our defense stays as consistently on track as it does.

There are so many things that can go wrong, there are so many situations that present themselves-both personally and professionally-and there are so many scenarios that can produce some kind of miscue, that I am always surprised that the Giants can be so consistently on target.  I think about the personal lives of the players, and how they have to grapple with family problems or relationship issues, and that those kinds of difficulties can’t be sorted out very efficiently, while three thousand miles away from home.

I think about the level of confidence that each player possesses and how that affects his ability, every time he takes the field.  I think about the players and how they have to juggle those aforementioned personal issues.  I know I could never have been a professional ballplayer, simply because I could never have left my family at home, and hit the road for those 81 games that are played in opposing ballparks.  I am just not emotionally geared to be able to set those personal feelings aside.

And yet, people have such high expectations for the players!  When I read the blogs of Brandons Belt and Crawford, and the writing of Gregor Blanco, the players are constantly referring to their wives and kids.  It is apparent that they take those responsibilities as seriously as I do.  And yet, they have to be separated for much of the time, and are expected to be able to function at the same peak level of performance at all times.

That’s a lot of pressure.  There are an infinite number of elements that comprise a major league game, from the offense, to the defense, to the way the players have to deal with the aches and pains of playing a grueling schedule, against the best athletes in major league sports.  For a team to be successful over the entire course of a season, so many things must go better than the opposition, it defies comprehension.

The fact that the Giants have won the World Series, two of the last three years, compounds the task of trying to do it again.  I always judge a game to have been a successful contest if the Giants can put the tying run on base in the late innings, thereby placing themselves in a position to win.  At best, the winner of the NL West will not win more than 95 games, which means that team is going to lose somewhere around 67 games.  Just as the best hitters are still going to be out seven times out of ten, a team must be prepared to be on the losing end of games a lot, over a long season.

With all that in mind, I say to those who gripe about the inadequacies of any given player, at any point in time, “Get over it.  Unless you can do better, quit your whining, and open another beer.  You had your chance, so if you’re watching the games on TV, you obviously couldn’t measure up to the standards that the Giants have proven they possess.”

So play on, men, and if you make an error, we’ll chalk it up to experience, and make up for it with our bats.  After all, the players are not robots, only humans, like-as far as I know-the rest of us. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

I'm Helping, I'm Helping


I’m Helping, I’m Helping
Clancy arrived three days before school got out, the year I retired, in 2006.  He was a bundle of soft, luxurious fur, an Australian shepherd, born to herd, with nothing to round up.  Of course the kids all loved him; he was so cuddly and quiet.  We brought him back up on the mountain, and he was the sweetest pup imaginable.  I’ll never forget the first time he let out a genuine, grown-up bark.  We were all in the kitchen, and it sounded like a sonic boom.

Well, as much as his barking did nothing for me, it seemed to suit him, and he became the official town crier, if you will.  It’s not that he barked incessantly; there was always a reason for his comments, mostly in the form of deer out front, wild hogs crashing along, down in the creek-bed, or a neighbor maneuvering up the driveway.  Clancy was bound and determined to keep us informed.

We understood why he performed this civic duty; what we couldn’t understand, was how excited he got when I-or someone else-would start up the quad.  He would go frantic, and nip at the tires, and in general, endanger his life through his rowdy behavior.  Annie used to say it was because of his herding instinct.  As farfetched as that might sound, it actually makes the most sense.

When we took the apartment in Willits, there was a no-pets rule.  For that matter, there is still a no-pets rules, and when it came to Clancy, the rule makes sense.  Clancy is loud and his fur, once so soft and luxurious, now is more long, than anything else.  It’s the classic instance of the gift that keeps on giving.  So we never felt that it was OK to violate the no-pets rule with Clancy.

With Dozer, it’s another matter.  He has short hair, rarely barks in an unfamiliar habitat, and sulks so badly when left behind, it’s easy to pretend that the no-pets rule is just window dressing.  We have accommodated Dozer’s need to be with us, ever since the beginning, leaving poor Clancy out of the loop. 

Because I felt so guilty, leaving the Clanster behind, I started trying to find an alternative to just leaving him on the mountain, with Casey feeding him, and letting him out to run around every day that I was gone.  He really is a great dog, but his overprotective nature gives him an air of being aggressive.  So I worried that for that reason, I would not be able to find him a new home.

Then, right out of the blue, Casey’s partner, Amber, suggested that Clancy might fit in well on the farm.  The deer had been making a regular practice of lurking about, waiting for a gate to remain open, so that they could partake in a delicious, fresh salad bar.  Amber thought that with Clancy’s propensity for barking at strange critters, he might prove to be an asset.

Annie and I were exultant at this remarkable turn of events, and Clancy took up residence, accompanying either Morgan, or Courtney, the farmhands, as they went about the business of taking care of the organic vegetable gardens, that make up Casey and Amber’s business.  

Then, recently, when Casey added the three hogs to the farm, the price of poker went up.  I told him before the pigs came on board, that my experience with hogs, was that they are very adept at jailbreaks, having watched Robert chase them around from both when I was a child, down on Fellowship Street, and from up on the mountain, back in the ’70’s.  Well, my prediction was not delayed long, before coming true.  The other day, as Morgan was shifting the pen, from one location to the next, which simply involved pulling up fence posts, and doing an end-for-end maneuver, the three pigs got out.

Enter the arena, Clancy!  Dashing!  Sprinting!  Dodging his way amongst the three, he rounded them up and herded them in the direction they needed to go, as though he’d been doing it all his life.  Born to herd.  Instinct was his guide, and his blood drove him to perform the duties of a true farm dog.  In one of the most obvious examples of a win-win situation, Clancy proved his worth, and will probably have to do it again.

Go, Clancy!  Round ‘em up!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Good Enough for Me


Good Enough for Me

When it comes to disseminating information, the internet is a much more reliable source than the more conventional methods of the media.  Take the whole travesty of Monsanto, for instance.  You are highly unlikely to find pertinent information in the newspapers today, unless the paper is a local publication, particularly those in NorCal.

The recent March Against Monsanto is a classic example.  Because no one disrupted traffic on one of the major bridges, or blew up any populated buildings, the media generally ignored it.  On the internet, however, there is-and has been-an incessant flow of up-to-date information, providing details of not only the marches themselves, but just as importantly, the reasons for the marches.

Whether it is the genetically modified production of food, or the manufacture and purveying of deadly chemicals, or the results, such as the mass-destruction of our world’s bees because of the deadly chemicals, the media is not going to provide us with any sort of cohesive coverage, because big business protects big business.

However, whether you are as conservative as they come, or are a fire-breathing liberal, you ought to realize that we are discussing, rather calmly for the moment, the future of our children and our children’s offspring.  The one element that keeps haunting me to the point of distraction, is that there is enough greed in this world, for a few to grow rich and richer, at the cost of our very survival.  The irony, of course, is that no one gets out alive.  Those who are foisting upon us, this curtain of doom, are going to sink also, and their descendants as well.

I know folks who get so wrapped up in the world’s injustices, that they stress to the point of illness, and I understand their distress.  I get worked up also.  However, I also realize my inadequacies, as far as changing the world, and I reign in my emotions, to the point where I do what I can, in my own limited manner, and carry on as best as possible.  As far as the Monsanto insanity is concerned, I recognize, that for many of my sixty years, I have ingested what is undoubtedly unhealthy food.  That’s water under the bridge. 

Now, all I can do is right the ship, check the labeling, and proceed forth in the most appropriate manner possible.  It is more of an internal process than an outer one.  I can’t change the way the world functions, by myself, but I can make the necessary mental adjustments, to ensure that I do everything possible to eat healthily, and encourage others to do the same.  When it comes to the specifics, like poisoned, sugar-coated, GMO-laced cereals, I’m never going to be able to stand outside a giant grocery store, and convince the parents of youngsters, that the “breakfast” (and I use the word loosely) they are feeding their precious children, is deadly.  It’s not going to happen in this universe, probably not ever.

Nor am I going to convince the parents of a young, picky eater, that the hot dogs he craves so terribly, are laced with chemicals found in most processed meats, and will prove to be an unquestionably poor choice, as far as stockpiling those deadly chemicals, within the body, for later destructive action.  It’s not going to happen, because people don’t want to hear it.  That’s what Monsanto relies on, that the need to make the present moment more bearable, is enough to avoid a confrontation with the future.

Why does the FDA allow this travesty to continue?  As difficult as it is for me to comprehend, it is the same answer as the reason why the media ignores the Marches Against Monsanto: big business defers to big business, and put more simply, money talks.  Big money talks louder.  Hence, the lobbyists do their job, the politicians accept their contributions, and the process continues.  The situation is as wretched as is conceivably possible, in a classic instance of man’s inhumanity to man.

I’m not capable of writing the words needed to stem this tide of greed and malicious progress, so I stumble forward, checking labels, keeping informed, and doing what I can on a limited basis, to stem the tide.  If enough people were able to do the same, a difference can be made.  We can all contribute to our own forward progress, if we can only work together.

Working together, to stop a monster.  In numbers, there is strength.
I won’t live to see the downfall of Monsanto, but I will live in the knowledge that I did my part, and that’s good enough for me.