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...

Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks
Why I grow flowers

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.
Brought to you in Three-Bee...

At the coast

At the coast
Love is the greatest power.

Beauty abounds!

Beauty abounds!
Tomatoes are what's up. Sooooo close...

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

If you've seen one butterfly,  you've seen 'em all, said no one ever.
"You put your left foot out..."

July Jewels

July Jewels
Bees to the Kingdom

Bells of Ireland

Bells of Ireland
My first time growing these lovelies....

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

bellspringsmark@gmail.com

Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Few Good AR's


The pilot and copilot of today's excursion
This is the fourth installment of Reggae on the River, 2016, a Shameless presentation of views and opinions, straight from the Devil's Workshop.

A Few Good AR's

When Lito and Robin popped in on Friday, it was already after noon, so I was surprised when they asked if I wanted to go back up to French’s Camp, the site of Reggae on the River, 2016, to continue setting up the two kitchens.

“Dang! I can’t. I told Bro Brian I would be here because he wanted to stop in while he is on the mountain. So, no, I have to pass. What are you going to be doing? Painting tables?” It didn’t really matter because all of the setup work was pretty much the same, but my siblings (or at least seven of the eight) had congregated here on the mountain, and I figured I should make myself available.
This is what last year's VIP kitchen looked like

“Putting some storage racks together, hanging lights, maybe painting. It’s all good if you have other plans; I just figured I ‘d check it out with you. Anyway, we’re going over to the Pepper Pot for a few minutes and then we’re off. Great success!” 

The Pepper Pot was the newly acquired twenty acres, a couple of parcels over from HappyDay Farms. The Pepper Pot was the home of most of Annie’s vast array of heat-seeking peppers, plus most of the eggplant being grown on-farm. Peppers are not necessarily her specialty, as such, but they are a special interest of hers.

Annie uses them in her cooking, she preserves them, she makes salsas and she sells them at market. When I up-planted sixty of them into our greenhouse, I got big ups for tagging each one individually, so there would be no confusion. 

I live for “big ups” from Annie.

Lito and Robin had not been gone five minutes before I started to think about the big picture. Brian was here for at least one more day, so he could visit tomorrow; it was already after twelve so it would be a short day; the temperature was a mild[er] 96 degrees; and finally, this would make three days of volunteer “service” under my belt already.
Revelers at last year's ROTR

I called Lito and when he picked up, I said, “Hey, are you still on the mountain? If you are I decided I would go on up with you and help out. I want Nate-Dawg to see me up there for the third day this week.”

“Nice. We have a few more minutes here, spreading straw, and then we’ll come scoop you.”

I got the essentials together: wallet because I was leaving the mountain, filled water jug, ice cubes in the hat to get me up to the hippie gas station across from French’s Camp, and the most quintessential item of all [for me], a few AR’s. “Already Rolleds” is a succinct way of saying that I had had the foresight to roll up some of my medicine, so that I would have it as needed.

Rolling joints is an art form in and of itself and I take great pride in my ability to craft the perfect doobster: I use Raw papers, not the short ones at three-and-an-eighth inches, but the ones that are close to four-and-a-half inches long. 
I'm not the only one who rolls 'em big...

A properly-rolled bomber should be able to substitute as a baseball bat in a pinch.

The funny thing is though, my fingers do not always cooperate. Some days they function as smoothly as Uncle Ed’s homemade chocolate edibles, and other days it takes me three wasted papers to determine it just isn’t happening. You win a few and you lose a few; as long as I am still in the game, I’ll take my time in the penalty box, as need arises.

For those not as well-versed in the ways of “reefer madness’ hounds, I can only speak for myself. I indulge to keep my mood spectrum disorder under control, so that if I am manic, as I am 98% of the time, cannabis acts as magnet to draw me back down to earth.

On those extremely rare times, when I am trapped under the pillows, incapable of forward progress, cannabis does the reverse, and infuses enough life-spirit into me, to kick-start the engine. 

It’s not a matter of getting high; it’s a matter of maintaining the presence of that which allows me some modicum of normalcy.

Normalcy? In a world where refugee children are vilified because they might be Muslim, my use of cannabis seems rather benign.

Prior to abandoning The Doze, I set up our fan in the lowest part of the house, where Dozer inevitably chills when the heat is most extreme. I then took a wet cloth saturated with cool water, and gently rubbed the old dude down as a means of trying to help him get through one more day.

Leave. Me. Alone.

English bulldogs suffer when it’s sweltering outside. Originally bred in a climate which eschews heat, bullies wheeze and their breath sounds ragged, as they struggle to draw in enough oxygen. The hotter it is, the more extreme the reaction.

Were I to take him out and engage him in a serious workout, either with his ball or a stick, I would risk his keeling over dead, they are that sensitive to the heat. Annie and I are acutely aware of his fragility and we cater to him simply because we can.

Annie identifies with Dozer because the heat is draining to her also. On the other hand, being a SoCal born-and-raised kind of guy, I like the heat. I would infinitely prefer to be roasting alive than to be cold. I feel that I can cool off immediately with water or ice but it takes a lot to get me warmed back up, once I have gotten chilled.

Upon arriving up at ROTR, having survived an attack of a killer seatbelt which threatened to choke me to death (Mind you, there is no relation between this incident and my indulgence in cannabis…), Lito and I attacked the two storage racks that needed to be assembled. Purportedly each shelf could hold more than a thousand pounds.
Mid-sized David in action...

As we cut the binding to access the contents of the box and opened it up, the first thing we found was a set of directions, published in multiple languages. “Directions? We don’t need no stinkin’ directions,” I said, as men have been saying since at least 1948, which is when Bogie said, “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges” in Treasure of Sierra Madre.

And we didn’t need them as it took only a few minutes to put the shelving units together. After we had slipped the shelves themselves into their respective slots, I tested the weight of the unit by trying to lift one end. I had none success, as Mike Krukow would say. I figured I could probably handle one corner, but not one side.
We also helped set up the"Great Success Lounge"

Frequently it’s not a matter of I can’t do it, because I do still have the strength; it’s what happens the next day. Hey, it’s all part of the package-deal, this aging process. I am doing OK; a lot of folks my age have it a lot worse than I do. As my mother used to say, “I’m in good shape for the shape I’m in.”

Besides, what I lack in terms of physical issues, I more than compensate for, with mental ones. No one gets out of here alive.

Tomorrow: Accommodations


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Will Work for Tums


Masterpieces, all four. It was a good year for tables.


This is the third episode of Reggae on the River, 2016, a tawdry expose straight out of the Devil's Workshop.

Will Work for Tums

With Reggae on the River, 2016, less than a week away, my next task is to plan a menu for the four days and nights, keeping in mind that the challenges of camping include sharing facilities with 10,000 of my new best friends.

What’s the prevailing thought when it comes to meals while On Holiday? The sky is the limit, right? You get to pig-out on all of the goodies that are forbidden the rest of the time? Because, you know, you’re On Holiday!

Gosh, it sounds so inviting, let me take the training wheels off and see how I do with this.

I’ll start with lime tortilla chips and some Pico Pica sauce, the HOT kind, a huge package of beef jerky (nice and spicy), cheese puffs, jalapeƱo potato chips and some Slim Jims. Next, I’ll toss in some Snickers bars, a case of Coca Cola, some Twinkies, and some sparkly water because water is important. For dessert, (Snickers bars and Twinkies are  integral parts of the meal) I’ll score a selection of dark chocolate, especially if I can find some with sea salt in it.
French's Camp is high in anticipation...

OK, I was just kidding about the Twinkies-that shit will kill you.

As long as I don’t forget mega-sized bottle of Tums, I should be good to go.

And if you believe that I would actually follow through with this suggested menu, then I have this bridge with a golden gate that you are certain to be interested in, one that I can let go for however much you are willing to write the check. 

No, the only item the above list that actually makes the cut is the dark chocolate, with or without sea salt. That particular item takes its place at the top of the list. The rest of it sounds like what I would expect to find in Donald Trump’s daily lunchpail.

No, based on my experience last year, my one and only ROTR extravaganza thus far, I have discovered that I can actually create a more than palatable ensemble, by simply making a quick excursion through the farm, shopping bag(s) firmly in hand(s).

A year ago, when I trotted out cold cucumbers (three different varieties), tomatoes, (both the perfectly formed Ace and a selection of cherry tomatoes), and sliced carrots, with some Ranch dressing, I got inundated with requests for a sampler by those in our campsite. I was more than happy to oblige.

This year I will supplement those offerings with some baby zucchini squashes. My definition of a baby squash is one that I can hold-lengthwise-between the thumb and middle finger of either hand.

No submarines on this voyage.

Last year I had brought along a little tuppie with a dozen hard-boiled eggs, and a similar container with some cold, roasted chicken, and I had lugged along a five-gallon Igloo. Inside was Bell Springs water, the only liquid that enters this old hippie’s body besides the nectar of the gods, coffee.

That’s not completely true; I had a glass of wine earlier this month, when Annie brought home a bottle of pinot noir. If coffee is the nectar of the gods, then wine is the nectar of the goddesses.

I consume six to eight liters of water daily, even on the worst of days; on a good day, the water tank is the limit. Water has become for me the elixir of life, the panacea for all that may befall me, and my take is that if some is good, then more is better.
Hanging the lights

I shudder in revulsion, when I think back on the amount of diet soda I have consumed over my lifetime. I shake my head in disbelief, as I remember all of the years I taught, and how challenging it was to try and balance the need for hydration with that of the awkward requirement that one not abandon the thirty-one eighth graders, to use the facilities.

I did not eat beef for twenty years because, as I used to explain, I just couldn’t seem to digest it properly. Well, duh. Considering I consumed virtually no water, it’s a wonder I was capable of digesting anything. Unfortunately, it’s diabolically hard to drink water, without said water wanting to experience that rush of freedom.

Much to my discomfort.

Teachers have it hard on so many levels, it’s absurd, speaking of heroes who don’t wear capes. The only time I wore a cape to school, Mr. Matlock, his eyebrows cavorting merrily, informed me that wearing the cape was fine, as long as I did not try to fly off the top of the multi-purpose-room.

“Please try to confine your flying to the privacy of your own home, if you get my meaning.”

Mr. Matlock always was a stickler for protocol. Why, I remember when he hauled Paul and me into his office, to ask a clarifying question-or six-about the letter we had co-authored in support of Stu Greenberg, back in the early nineties.

The letter, in and of itself, was not the issue; no, the issue was that we had put the letter on official School District Letterhead, thus incurring the wrath of the powers-that-be. Well, wrath seems bit hyperbolic, when you contemplate the generally jovial Mr. M.

Can you say “School Board?” I know you can. Try it.

Well, the rush of freedom for liquids exiting the body, at ROTR, is facilitated by the availability of more port-a-potties than there are fans of Justin Bieber. They’re everywhere (porta-potties, anyway-not sure about JB fans) and I know where every single one is located. 
Looking a trifle rough, are we?
That’s another perk of volunteering to help set up the festival: Before the hordes arrive, I have been over every inch of the venue and have created a mental map of all available ports-of-storm. When you are competing with “hordes,” you need a handicap.

“Stay hydrated” comes with a warning sticker, for the who rely on such things: “Warning: Drinking water may cause you to have to urinate.”

Well, it’s as logical as, “Warning: Cigarette smoking is hazardous to your health.” After all, if cigarettes are dangerous, then why doesn’t the FDA simply ex it off the list? As in “exit?”

[In a stage whisper “…$$$$$$$$$$$…”] Oh, right, never mind. 

Mention of the FDA always makes me see red, because of the rhetoric about finding “a cure for cancer.” If “they” really wanted to find a cure for cancer, then cannabis would not have been vilified back in the thirties, to make room for synthetics.
Coffee for twenty?

That being clarified, there is nothing synthetic about my menu. I have decided to pre-fry a pound of bacon this year, so that I can then have bacon and eggs for breakfast, along with some sliced tomatoes, sprinkled with salt and pepper.

I am still contemplating the universe, when it comes to coffee. I would set the whole mechanism in place, and provide coffee for the entire crew of twenty, except for one minor detail.
There is no storage space large enough that I have encountered, that will house THAT much coffee in advance. So, it’s every reggaer for him or herself!








Friday, July 29, 2016

Anticipation



Be prepared.
This is the second installment of ROTR, 2016, in which I describe setting up the volunteer kitchen, still eight days out of the start of the festival. What a difference a year makes. 


Anticipation

On Tuesday afternoon Lito, Robin and I crossed over the Eel River on the site of Reggae on the River, 2016, and then drove parallel to it until we reached the site of the volunteers’ kitchen. This unit was already up and running, despite the fact that we were there to help facilitate that process. 

As we pulled up, nothing around me looked even vaguely familiar and that was disconcerting. Is the kitchen in the same place this year as last year, or what? I then realized there were no orange netting fences up yet; the overhead awning was not yet in place, and of course, there were no throngs of revelers, streaming past.

It’s intriguing that I found the physical scene so vastly changed, in light of the fact that I also found the psychological aspects of the upcoming music festival to be vastly altered in my mind.

Gone is last year’s anxiety, replaced by An-Ti-Ci-Pa-Tion. 

“We can never know about the days to come/But we think about
them anyway… An-ti-ci-pa-tion,” 

sang Carly Simon, back in the seventies. There was a time when this same line would have had ambiguous connotations for me. Anticipating an event can produce anxiety or euphoria, and “euphoria” really does seem the proper word. If you are past the anxiety portion of the show, then you are free to feel as giddy as you please in ruminating on the endless possibilities for enjoyment.

As is invariably the case, one does not remember the downside to past events; one remembers only the high points, pun intended. Maybe “highlight” is a better word than “remember.” When I reminisce about ROTR 2015, I do not focus on the heat, the uncertainty, the logistical challenges or the discomfort. 

I zero right in on those tears that were cascading down my face when Stick Figure broke out into “The Rocky Road,” ** or later on Saturday night (Sunday morning) when the first strains of Stephen Marley’s “No Cigarette Smoking in This Room” drifted through the cool night air, and reached us up on the side of the hill, back behind the Beer Garden.
Sabrina and I
I zero in on the hug I exchanged with Sabrina, who was working the counter of that same oasis-in-a-desert, and how, well, euphoric I had felt that I had pulled it off. I was there at the festival, strolling around as though I were at Harwood Park, amidst thousands of like-minded partiers, after spending weeks trying to decide whether or not I could actually do it. Finally, I zero in on the torrent of support from my community, which made it all possible.

It was a drive-by classic case of overthinking something.

I mean, all those festival-goers, the heat, the challenges of sleeping in a tent amidst thousands…tell me again why would I want to do this? Well, last year it was the music. Somewhat cosmically, there were a half-dozen or so artists who were amongst my favorites performing at ROTR.

I’ve already mentioned Stephen Marley and Stick Figure; in addition there were Collie Budz, Alborosie and Fortunate Youth, among others. In stark contrast, this year, there are only two artists I even recognize, and neither has one-tenth the emotional appeal to me, as any of the five artists I have mentioned.

Hey, you may be sitting there looking at this year’s lineup, and salivating, your feet already twitching at the thought of Anthony B or Sizzla. All the greater the success! I enjoy them also, but neither is on my top-ten list of favorites. 

I enjoy all reggae music, finding that the work goes better when the feet are already pleased enough to keep up with the jaunty beat of the music. I prefer a more lilting bent to my reggae, though, and that would not describe either Anthony B or Sizzla.

The flip side is that there will be artists who are performing in front of their biggest crowd ever, and they will want to put on their best show. Last year there was a band from Columbia and one from The Sudan. If you got a chance to read the bios, you got your money’s worth.

I got my money’s worth last year, my first ROTR ever, which is why I was back ten days before this year’s extravaganza; I wanted to be counted amongst those who were present from the beginning.

Our mission was to take a small stack of green lumber and convert it into four tables, two of them mirroring the three that this same crew had assembled two years ago.

Easy-peasy.

“You mean we are duplicating these tables? The ones we just hauled over from the Beer Garden? Making two more?” I asked the question of Lito and David, and both nodded accordingly.

“Exactly the same,” Lito said. “We’re also building two others, but I’m not sure what the dimensions are.”

“So then I can go ahead and get a pencil and paper, take a few measurements and cut a kit?” It would take me less than five minutes to measure and record  the dimensions on a scrap of paper, of the six different components involved, not counting the four notches for the four-by-fours on the lower sheet of plywood.

I have a task! A quick survey of my wallet produced the required piece of paper for copying down my measurements, this one a receipt from none other than Geiger’s, carefully preserved in my wallet along with fifty others. 

David had brought a chop-saw that was set up on a stand. This saw was the Ferrari of miter-boxes, with bucket seats and four-on-the-floor. I was impressed.

I was also ready to start chopping and sawing.

“Do you need a square to draw a line?” Lito asked, already starting over to the bed of David’s truck, when I stopped him.

“No lines on this job.” I got the obligatory laugh at the oldest construction joke on record. “No need for lines so long as I make sure that whatever I am cutting, is pushed firmly back against the back of the saw, so that the cut is square. The choppie does the rest. You just have to remember to cut outside the line because blade is a strong eighth-of-an-inch thick, or greater if the blade is worn.

David had unloaded the device and set it up parallel to the front of the kitchen. The stack of lumber was off to the left, fortuitously placed in the shade of the big oak tree.

The big oak tree. I looked at it again, saw the path that led down the incline to where the truck was parked, and it all came back to me, and I was right at home from last year. It was a warm and fuzzy feeling.

I glanced over at the lumber on the slab in the shade; I turned and looked back out to where the chop-saw sat, waiting for us to get our act together, the steel bars on both sides already hotter than Sizzla. 

“Is there any chance I can cut in the shade?” I asked no one in particular. “I mean, I like the heat and all, but not that much that I want to cut in it.”

A quick check of the kitchen staff, which is when I connected with Anika, a former middle school student, revealed that we should do whatever worked best for us. They were thrilled to be able to get the tables and did not mind in the least where we did the deed(s).

Lito fed me four-by-fours until we had eight, 31-and-a-half-inch posts, stacked neatly to the right. I cut four, two-by-fours at 79 inches, four at 89 inches, four at 31 inches and four at 38 inches. 

There were four required sheets of three-quarter-inch plywood, two of them simply full-boats for the table-tops. There, I already had half of the necessary four sheets completed and ready to install, and I hadn’t even made a cut.

That’s Howie, all right, “how we” do.
The other two sheets of plywood I cut to 86 by 38 inches, and cut in the three-and-half by three-and-a-half inch notches for the posts. Each table would have a practically-full sheet of plywood, which would serve as a storage place down at ankle-level.
We were all set to go-except for the screws. Bull was bringing them and had not yet made the scene. Lito’s phone chirped, or whatever it was that it did, and after a second, he said, “That’s my call. I gotta go,” and just like that, we were off.

I’m done writing for today, but at least I have left with you, a gift. You now have the blue-prints for your ready-to-make table, and all you have to do is cut the pieces and assemble it.

Tomorrow: Stranger in Strangely Inviting Land

** http://markyswrite.blogspot.com/2015/08/waterworks.html

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Danger is My Business

Intrepid inquirer that I am, I am off to Reggae on the River, 2016, first to help set everything up, then to partake in the four-day festivities, and finally to help clean it all up. Having posted 23 pieces on last year's ROTR in August, after I returned, I am going to begin writing this year's saga before the show even starts.
This is the first episode, a triumphant tale of monumental significance, said no one ever.              

           Danger is My Business

The temperature was a manageable 98 degrees, Wednesday afternoon, when Casey and I waltzed into French’s Camp with Tom Sawyer on our minds. We were assigned the task of painting the two new tables that had been assembled on Tuesday, each of them eight feet long by three feet wide, with a second full storage area, the same size as the table top, located at ankle level.
The tables under construction Tuesday afternoon.
TheThe two new tables join the four that were built by the crew, two years ago, and were welcomed warmly by the kitchen staff, an auspicious development in and of itself. After all, an appreciative kitchen staff is a key feather to have affixed to one’s bonnet so early in the game.

What is the game?

Reggae on the River. That would be the Eel River, the source of countless summer excursions and camping trips over the past 35 years for me, and the site of one of the most exquisite reggae music festivals imaginable. The music is what draws everyone together, but it is the vibe that takes that drawing, and creates an artistic masterpiece. 

“Happy Reggae!” as in “Merry Christmas!” is the most commonly overheard phrase over the course of the four days. No matter how wasted one is, no matter how much lack of sleep has impacted you, no matter what the time of day or night, when those words come out of the blue, you serve them back, “Happy Reggae right back at you! Another day in Paradise.”

Because Paradise is where you are, even if the scorching temps are generally associated with that “other place.” When we were setting up ROTR 2015, a year ago, the temperature on the first two days was 106 degrees. It’s always nice to have a little historical perspective.

106 degrees? Hey, 98 sounds…what was the word I used? Manageable.

As always, I had three ice cubes in my fisherman’s hat, which causes the hat to sit a little higher on my head than a hat normally would sit, to accommodate the ice cubes. The effect of the ice is twofold, both equally important.

The first is that I stay cool; the second is that the melting ice creates the impression that I am one industrious individual. “Look at the old dude sweat! He MUST be working hard!” Amazement abounds.

Heat is all in your mind, just as the cold is. I was raised in the San Gabriel Valley, down in the heart of SoCal, where the term “hot” takes on a whole new meaning. Ask my mom, Pauline, who welcomed into the world my brother Tom, in October of 1958, while the temperature outside was 114 degrees. 

Tell me again how 98 is anything to write home about. It’s all about perspective. Vendors on-site are well-stocked with ice, and it is reasonably priced, so everyone has the same access. “Stay hydrated” is the second most commonly heard phrase after “Happy Reggae!”

There are many advantages for me in doing the volunteer thing prior to the opening of the festival. I can acclimate myself to the venue and find out where every one of the seemingly hundreds of port-a-potties are located. I then etch out in concrete, or at least as firmly as possible considering the nature of my cottage-cheese brain, a mental map of said facilities for future perusal as the need arises. 

It’s what you have to do when you get to the advanced age of 63. I like to think of it as one of the many requirements of the aging process, because it’s no big deal, ferris wheel, same old stuff, you know.

A second advantage to the volunteering thing, besides free access to the four-day event, is that we have a group campsite that is not a part of the jungle, or mass of humanity that descends on French’s Camp. Last year we were situated on Reggae Road, an avenue which runs parallel to the raised bank of land upon which the main stage sits.

This year we will be across the 101, in the camp located back behind the hippie gas station. “It’s shady, flat, has running water and showers,” explained Mid-sized David. Standing at six-foot five or six inches, he’s a big ‘un. He is also an integral part of the crew and a stellar individual, with whom to enjoy the festival.

Last year we were camped on a patch of land that featured a small gully running through it. Small or not, a gully is an inconvenient detail to have to factor in when it comes to setting up a tent. Thus the promise of “flat land” had a great deal of appeal.

“Bucket seats and four-on-the-floor,” was my happy response.

As much as Casey and I were ready for action-ready for danger-we found that we had to overcome some minor logistical impediments, before we could Sally Forth into the project.

Though we had paint and enthusiasm, we were missing some key accoutrements. There were roller brushes without the rollers; there were four gallons of paint with no way to open them and there were two “brushes,” or what were supposed to pass as paint brushes.

I sauntered over to another cluster of volunteers, who were working on the far side of the kitchen pavilion, to see if they might have a flat screwdriver I could borrow for a minute.

“No,” said one of them, “but if you have a quarter, you can use that.”

Without missing a beat, I quipped,”If I had a quarter, I would sit up and watch it all night. May I snag one of your ten-penny nails? That will do the trick quite nicely.”

I left them sputtering with laughter, nail in hand.

“Let’s flip the tables over, and do everything we can, first, and then flip them back over and do the two main surfaces,” was my suggestion.

“Great success,” agreed Casey, and so we did. The heat dried the paint almost on contact, so we were able to do the two coats without pausing. I started on the sunny side and did the first coat, and then we swapped, so that Casey did the second coat in the sun.

We applied still a third coat to the four-by-four posts and the table top, to make cleaning them forever just a little easier.

I had checked in with the kitchen staff-on-hand prior to starting the construction job on Tuesday, being as how we were in their space, to inquire as to whether or not we could work immediately alongside where the materials were stacked.
Collie Budz performed last year
“I want to make sure we are not infringing on your space,” I explained. The gal I was addressing had brightened up considerably and as I was speaking, began waving at me in that indisputable way that says, “I know you and you know me, but you don’t know who I am.”

Holding out her hand, she said, “Anika,” and I was looking into the eyes of a former student from the middle school. Instant recognition and an automatic hug.

“This is my sixth grade teacher,” she enthused to the group. I noted that she did not say, “one of my teachers.” I was Anika’s homeroom teacher, which meant she was in at least three classes with me, and a fourth if she were in my elective class.

I am always thrilled to make these connections, because it heightens my level of comfort to know that those around me are aware of my past role in my community. I have a mildly unorthodox appearance, and I like to set minds at ease as early in the game as possible.

I guess a middle school language arts teacher is about as dangerous as a piece of milk weed.
Nate, also known as Bull

Danger, however, happens to be my business, as Casey and I proved quite emphatically Wednesday afternoon. The danger was that Nate (aka “Bull”) was seriously salty. His terse text earlier in the day to Casey said simply, “David called an audible. Bad move.”

Casey called Bull and found out that David had phoned earlier that morning and said he, Lito and the crew would not be able to show up that day. Bull’s collar was hotter than the metal bar supporting the awning. 

“He picked a bad day to call an audible. I have Mel on my back because she wants her f**king tables, and I’m about to step into a meeting where I am lobbying for all these improvements over last year.”

He was referring to Casey’s quasi-demand that Casey be equipped with all of the necessary tools to take care of business: vehicle, walkie-talkie, day-parking pass, night parking pass, dancing girls on the side… What the heck? One shoots for the stars and settles for a Mercury Comet.

Tomorrow: Mel





Wednesday, July 27, 2016

That's the Way the Mop Flops

                 That's the Way the Mop Flops

Dear Siblings,

The impending gathering over the next few days is front and center on the agenda for me, and though I have had access to the stream of recent emails from most of you jabonies, I have not yet stuck my big toe into the flow, to test the waters, so to speak.

It’s been a minute or two since we have gathered and that should heighten the anticipation of our imminent reunion, but I have to say that I have reservations about the upcoming festivities. No, not up in Eureka-that’s the coward’s way out, and I might be a lot of things, but I am no coward.

The term I prefer is fraidy-cat.

But still, one or two of you might take it the wrong way if I found it imperative to waltz up to our northern mecca, simply because, well, CostCo has a lot of cool stuff, and there is no WinCo in Laytonville, or Leggett, for that matter.

But I digress.
Daffodils were Herself's favorites.

Why would I not look forward to my first gathering since we [collectively] became orphans upon Pauline’s passing, twenty months ago? Though not unexpected, her loss still impacts us all. We can be grateful that we all worked together to make those last two years play out the way they did, despite a bump or two along the path, and that when the end came, Eric was there to hold her hand during the last moments.

I label myself a fraidy-cat because though I am a respected elder in my own community, one which winds itself entirely around the globe, I compare myself to the Stranger in a Strange Land when it comes to my own family.

I stop short of calling myself a black sheep because that has an unsavory sort of flavor, but let’s just say that I probably make some of you uncomfortable. It’s not my intention but that’s the way the mop flops, as himself was heard to say, once.
After all, I can't help the way Annie dresses me in the morning.

So the appropriate thing to do, from my perspective, is to just run down the list of names, and see if by taking a quick peek at each of you, I can pin down the source of my anxiety. Buddha knows that being such a carefree sort of fellow, any blip on the radar of my tranquility, bears investigation.

We will go in community order.

Uncus, I guess that psychotic episode of mine in Ireland, probably makes you a tad more cautious around me. Would you believe, it made me a tad more cautious to be around myself, too? But hey, whatcha gonna do? That’s just part of that stream of past events that my toe hesitates to test.

I saw that pic of you and Sebastian the other day on face/book and it made me smile. I guess you and Cecilia are not quite the world travelers anymore. Well, settling down is good, now that you are maturing. By the way, quick question: Do you think Uncle Joe’s showing us his travel footage from all of those exotic places when we were kids, honed your interest to a fine point?

Callix, I was happy to have that clarifying conversation at our last meeting, because I know that my having a particularly uncomfortable label (bipolar II) was not something you wanted to hear, but we got past that. I have also seen pictures of you on face/book and they make me very happy.

I see Mini-you and I see both you and Jackie. I guess I have seen you since November of 2014, because we were both at Alex and Claire’s wedding last year. So my question for you is, Does Ethan have a Sunrise Market green apron? Too bad they don’t need bottle boys anymore…

Neex, Reverend O’Malley, if I sound like a broken record (what’s a record?) I saw a pic of you, Roman and Orion the other day on, er, face/book, and I believe you were pontificating something along the lines of these being two of your favorite guys in the world. You seem at total ease in this role.

I only wish that Pauline were here to see you trying to keep up with yourself, in pint-size form. Just watching Roman last year over at the coast on the family camping trip, left me impressed with just how fast YOU must have to be, to keep up with him. And yes it’s coming so brace yourself because there are two questions: Does Roman seem to have any unusual fascination with fire? And do you have any plum trees?

JT, gosh I haven’t spoken with you since last April, since we spent the day together while I picked up my new “spare tire,” Suzy Puente. I mean, well, except for the weekly, lengthy, detailed, existentially slanted emails that we exchange, while you lament no longer having the fulfillment of your job in the school district. 

Maybe lament is too strong. …while you ponder no longer having….while you start to come to the realization… while you revel in not having…

Whatever.
JT, just remind me...

I know that the home-front is a construction zone, and that is unsettling, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. This time next July, when the dust has been replaced with greenery, and the new tenants are comfortably ensconced within, you will have only the photographs to remind you of this transition.

My question is, When are you going to stop volunteering to do yard-duty at the school? Let go, Woman!

Unc Matt, how’s it hanging? I have to hand it to you, when it comes to swinging a hammer. I tried a little of that this week and it’s not as fun as I remember it being. I mean, I didn’t hamburger my finger or anything, but that’s just because I can’t even nail off a wall anymore. You have to be able to swing a hammer in order to nail a finger. I can tack the plywood in place, and let them’s what’s up for it, go for it,but that’s it.

My question for you is, When is the last time you sneaked into the candleshop, and under the cover of darkness, made a mushroom candle, just for old times’ sake?

Tom, wherefore art thou? Was it something I said? Oops, probably not the best question…

Laura, you and I frequently cross paths in the early hours, and I love it every time you make a comment on my blog. I write a lot of goofy stuff and you have an infinite amount of patience.

So is it true? Are you stamping yourself, “Return to sender?” and retiring? I guess it was the invitation to the celebration that gave me that idea. I am so glad for you and can’t help thinking about next December. Do you see yourself going into any one of the local post offices at Christmas time, you know, just to help out?

Bro Kevin, that reminds me, I still have that check for ten thousand dollars sitting on my dining room table. (Now there is something you can’t say every day of the week.) I now know that it will not affect my health insurance at the VA, something I was unclear on, so I guess I will go ahead and put it into the bank.

My only question is, whose picture is on a ten thousand dollar bill?

OK, that’s a wrap. When I look over the list and try to pin down why I am uncomfortable, I am still flummoxed. 

The only thing I can come up with is that you are all going to hit me up for all of the loot that was promised you, when you managed to accomplish the impossible when you heard the following words, 

“Touch me in five seconds, when I say “go,” and I will… do the dishes for you for the rest of your life.”

Goooooooooo…..gooooooooo……. GOGO Gomez! GO(!)ing……………..

I can’t possibly make it to all of your homes just to wash dishes, every night, so fergeddit…


Monday, July 25, 2016

In Good Company

In Good Company

Normal: ordinary, regular, typical, standard, conventional, run-of-the-mill, average, commonplace, routine…

I’m searching through this list of adjectives for one that describes me, but I am having no luck. After all, what is “normal,” besides a setting on a washing machine? What defines normal? Are actions performed when there is no one else in the arena, evaluated the same as when you do something in front of others?

Take dancing, for one. I see the posts on social media that go like this, “Dance as though there is no one watching,” or “Dance like toddlers; they don’t even need music.” It would seem that others share my affinity for kicking up the old heels, and letting it all hang out, as we used to say…a long time ago.

I do go through life these days plugged in. I listen to contemporary pop, I listen to reggae, I listen to just about anything that has a quick pace and a lively beat. I need everything going my way if I am to have the best shot at getting any work done.

As I made my way through two solid months of soil-prep back in March and April, that is working with a pitchfork, the music was fuel for my soul. It’s hard to dance while turning soil, but it’s not hard to get yourself motivated to make steady progress.
Ear cushions long gone, electrical tape in abundance...do I care?
What seems like an endless task is made more palatable if there is endless music, especially if one has a good sound system. I invested my life’s savings back in 2011, prior to going to Ireland, to buy a set of quality headphones, and have gotten my two hundred dollars’ worth, ten times over.

The ear cushions are long gone and I have had to use electrical tape to keep the exposed wire covered up, but the quality is stellar.

So the question is, when I walk Dozer early in the morning, and I am listening to the song “Karate” by the band, Kennedy, and I am gyrating to the beat of the music, is that normal? Others obviously “do it.”

Does it become abnormal, if there is someone to observe my actions? Is it a case of, “Oh, don’t worry. He’s harmless-just likes to get involved in his music…?” I guess there are worse classifications than “harmless.”

Is it normal that I arise every morning-after no more than four hours of sleep-and ponder the universe from my own personal tilt-a-whirl? I drink one cup of coffee, wait a couple of hours, and then have another. I limit my intake of the “black death” to three cups, or maybe four on a particularly tumultuous day.

I listen to my music, I write letters, I pour over my photography, I write about the Giants, I post on my blog and I visit face/book and connect with some my many social media friends. No one else is around and Annie says she never hears a sound that I may make.
I took a pic of the sky...and found this.

When “Kelly” by Van She came on a little while ago, I drifted outside onto the front deck, reveling in the cool seventies-plus temperature that will soar into the nineties later on. Once the front door was closed, I turned up the volume on my headphones to almost the maximum, for just the one song.

Interestingly enough, with this particular song, there are several versions, none of which has a whole lot of personal interest, until we get to the “cut copy, remix” version, and then I go into a quasi-trance…when I am alone. There is something about the term, "cut copy remix" that intrigues me. Maybe that's what I need: a remix!

I press the two speakers against my ears and allow the music to cascade over me like white water on the Colorado River. It’s free, it’s cathartic and it’s harmless. 

But is it normal?

My father used to have an expression that seems to apply. He’d say, “Do whatever blows air up your skirt.”

The Divine Bette Midler had an even better one, “Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.”


The Divine Miss M on my left and me own father on the right? I’m in good company, even if I am by myself.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Luckier Than Most

Luckier Than Most

If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that each of us has at least one “day of infamy” lingering in the murky depths of memory, a day in which it did not pay to get out of bed. I am luckier than most: I have two such days, January 10th, 1972 and July 23rd, 1985.

I entered the military on the first date, having been drafted in the final year in which a draft was held. I rolled into the Armed Forces Entrance Examination Station (AFEES), Los Angeles, just before six o’clock in the morning, and before the day was done, I was in Missouri, in total misery.

For many years this particular date loomed in my mind as the one day that I would just as soon forget ever happened. The depths of my despair, as I embarked on this particularly unwelcome adventure, had no measurable basis in reality.

Talk about being on automatic pilot.

Possibly to instill a sense of balance in my life, fate then decreed that I should have a second “day of infamy,” as President Roosevelt referred to December 7th, 1941, this one set in the dead of summer, July 23, 1985. 

On this day while I was straddling a roof at Jeff Bath’s place on Bell Springs Road, installing a new roof, a helicopter landed on my property in the big field where the pond now exists, and commando-style, paramilitary thugs disembarked.

I call them thugs because they found it necessary to kick in our unlocked gate, they ransacked our house, they crow-barred off the unlocked lid of Annie’s Hope Chest and they confiscated $900.00 that Michael Ferretta had pre-paid me for construction services that were still to be rendered.

I had to work ninety hours over the next couple of weeks, just to break even, before I could start bringing in income again.

Additionally, the thugs left notification on the destroyed gate that my home and twenty acres were now the property of the United States Government. 

CAMPed on, facing prosecution for the dastardly deed of growing thirty-three cannabis plants and looking at the prospect of losing my home and property, I would say July 23rd, 1985, trumped January 10th, 1972, as my personal worst day of infamy.

I remember sitting around on the redwood deck over at the parents’ house that same night, a residence located ten minutes’ walk from our own home, and one clearly in the line of vision for all of the events of that most eventful day.

In an effort to lighten the mood-a weak effort-but an effort nonetheless, I opined that “we would all get a good laugh out of this, ten years down the line.”

I remember wondering how Annie’s folks were going to handle the whole debacle. Would they condemn me for leading their daughter into a life of crime and debauchery? I needn’t have worried. 
My father-in-law, Tom, drew this for me afterward.

After presenting the facts to them, Annie’s dad Tom presented me with a little something he had been doodling on, as the whole sordid saga was being unfolded. It was an illustration of a character with an apple on his head, and an arrow shot though his forehead. The dude is smiling, and below is the caption, “Smile and have faith!”

Solid advice. That paper still resides on our cork-board.

I never did see the humor in the whole thing but I did learn how valuable a good lawyer can be, and I paid the $17,500 with a smile on my face, once the decision had been made to withdraw the allegations of cannabis cultivation.

Lawyers get a lot of bad press, and much of it deserved, but when you really face injustice from the powers-that-be, regardless of the infraction, and you have to enter the arena, they are worth every penny it takes.

The grow was a joint (no pun intended) effort on the part of my then 63-year-old father, Robert, and myself. Defying all logic, Robert, the most conservative of individuals while in SoCal, turned into a pot-growing rebel when he hit Mendocino County.

I exaggerate, of course, because like all of us who moved to the mountain in the late seventies/early eighties, he worked to keep the home fires burning. It’s just that he grew a few plants on the side to ensure that there would be enough money to make it through the rugged winters.

In 1985, that number was 33 and we grew them in the middle of a manzanita grove, in a series of little patches with maybe a half-dozen plants in each little plot. I guess it was a slow summer for Sheriff Bill Stewart that year because he came after us with a vengeance.

I never came into contact with any individual involved with the entire process, except my lawyer. There were no charges, no finger-printing and no mug shots. It was all rather antiseptic.

Just hand over your house and twenty acres and disappear, along with your old lady and three brats.

That was then-this is now.

We had that nice Mendocino County Sheriff Dan out here one week ago, to inspect our site to ensure that we were practicing clean/green procedures with our plants, and to sign al the necessary documents of compliance.

We now frequent cannabis farmers markets, offering our medicine to those with proper documentation, and accepting in exchange, donations to our collective that help us stay afloat in the farming business. It is all so civilized and could even be described as joyous.

And yes, the subject of that infamous day in 1985 surfaces frequently, and inevitable comparisons are made. 


And I do smile a lot, so I guess that constitutes seeing the humor in it all.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Impasse

Impasse

I have a mood spectrum disorder, what old schoolers would call being bipolar. For me it is 98% mania and 2 % depression, with normalcy not even on the radar. I have tried two different prescriptions from Corporate ’Merica’s ever-ready, bottomless pit of handy-dandy chemicals, suited for one purpose and one purpose only: to reenforce the lining of deep pockets. The prescription(s) created a whole new plethora of anxiety-riddled issues, for which I was unprepared.

Can you say chemical shit-storm?

Cannabis offers me physical relief, in that it helps reel me in when I am super-glued to the ceiling, and it drags me out of the quick-sand, which makes the pillows-over-my-head so appealing. I say physically because both mania and lethargy are the outward manifestations of my disorder; modern technology does not have a vehicle for conveying a picture of my mental state.
Like the butterfly, I stay close to my cannabis.

Fortunately, I have the next best thing. I have mastered the art of being able to evaluate my mental and emotional states of mind, to the extent that I can place a number beside a particular area of concern.

Irritation level? Hmmmmmmmmm. That would be a 4 on the scale of 10, with 1 being minimal and 10 being brutal.

Mania? Hmmmmmmmmm. That would be a 9 on the same scale. It’s different every day.

There are vast quantities of similar symptoms, all with dotted lines for numerical evaluations.

I acquired this ability to quantify my issues when I immersed myself in cognitive behavioral therapy. This process provided me with a set of tools designed to allow me to understand what was going on, and more importantly, how to be able to live my existence, without inflicting my disorder on others.

That’s what it’s all about. I can’t change what is happening inside my head, but I can prevent others from being exposed to whatever shenanigans I had in mind. I simply had to recognize that others did not see life with the same parameters, as the way I see life.

It’s not good; it’s not bad. It is what it is. We are all different and I am no exception. It’s just that instead of there being a gap between me and others, there is a chasm. Again, once I figured that out, I recognized that I needed to bridge that chasm so as to be able to be a part of the shared human experience.

My inability to sleep is the greatest impediment to being a part of the shared human experience. I sleep-at most-four hours at a time, and rarely more than that in any given night. I lie awake until I can’t any longer, and then I get up, usually around 12:30-1:00.

I put the coffee on, don my headphones and open Suzy Puente, my new computer. I write, I post pics from both the farm and outlying areas of Bell Springs Road, and I check in periodically with social media. I read. I spend the first six hours or so of every day in like manner. 

If the Giants are doing well, I will make sure I spend a minute or two in the world of sports, before either writing a piece and posting it on China Basin Chatter, or moving on in another direction. 

The possibilities are endless, especially if I want to dabble in politics. The only problem with politics, by definition, is that only half the populace will even consider reading it. The other half has no interest. I usually avoid the political arena because it’s a stupid venue in which to lose friends.

By the time the rest of the world gets up, I have already been on the go for six hours. I then spend the day outside, regardless of the level of heat, and come back in late in the afternoon. Needless to say, I am pretty beat. I do often nap during the day, generally for an hour or so, and that helps, but by the time seven o’clock rolls around I am in bed.

I would label it a vicious circle but that sounds so negative. I would like to be able to get a normal amount of sleep but my doctor at the VA Clinic refuses to treat the symptoms of mania, without treating the disorder itself.

We’ve been at an impasse for almost four years now.

I recognize the irony of desiring chemicals for sleep, while refusing to take chemicals for a mood spectrum disorder. It’s all about those side effects.
Nice and blurry, just like its contents...

So if you are coming home from a late-night shindig, or happen to be up in the wee hours for any reason whatsoever, and you see that I am online, know that I travel lightly and that I like to keep things upbeat.

I don’t rant and I don’t spew on social media. I’ve learned how powerful it is to compose a letter filled with fury and significance to someone in an adversarial position-and then delete it.

That’s my secret to success-that delete key. It keeps me out of a lot of trouble, and when it doesn’t, someone is quick to let me know.

But that's another post entirely.



Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Flip Side of Chaos

The Flip Side of Chaos

U C D Bees? D
Bees  U C R...OK. D
Bees I C...R Gees.

I posted this little piece of nonsense this morning on face/book along with three photos of bees I had taken recently. I didn’t plan to write such a silly bit of nonsense when I originally posted the pics, and only did so when it came time to say what was “on my mind.”
I C D Bees.

Being retired as I am, the sky’s the limit when it comes to what may or may not be on my mind. I am still in awe of the direction my free time has taken, since I put my collection of neck ties out to pasture, and picked up a hobby-or two.

Because Annie bought me a little camera a few Christmases ago, and because I like to infuse social media with a steady-incessant, actually-diet of positive images, I have become a veritable gold mine of optimism. Despite the dismal direction national politics is taking, I remain determined to stay buoyant and hopeful, just as the bees are doing.

Do I worry that folks may think me just a tad goofy for posting such nonsense? I don’t know. Do I worry that the men in white coats might be on their way to take me away? More likely, I would say. 

I am fortunate to live in an environment which radiates beauty. It’s one thing to have a spiffy little camera, with which to take quaint photographs; it’s quite another to have something in the lens that bears capturing.

I recently had a former colleague of mine from the school district, gently point out that, wasn’t taking pics merely a matter of directing the camera and clicking the shutter? And of course, he is right.

That’s why all pics are pretty much the same.

Regardless of how much talent is required to capture an appealing image, posting it is so easy, even I can do it. 


When it comes to the being goofy part, all I can say is that I am a frequent flyer on social media. When I see those posts which reflect the pain and angst of the human condition, when I view the rants exposing the injustices of individual lives, I tend to expand on the goofiness.

You want injustice? I’ll deliver injustice to you on a silver platter, ignoring the irony for just a moment.

In this morning’s news feed, there was an article about a local individual who was killed when driving on the highway, after debris from a big rig in front of her, became dislodged from the truck and crashed into her car. She ended up losing control and died at the scene. The big rig continued on its way, apparently oblivious to the chaos that had occurred.

Go ahead, tell me again how your life is so fucked up.

So when you see this,

“U C D Bees? D
Bees  U C R...OK. D
Bees I C...R Gees,”

please don’t think of it as goofy.
The flip side to chaos

Think of it as the flip side to “… The big rig continued on its way, apparently oblivious to the chaos that had occurred.”