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...


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

Monday, April 24, 2017

Papers, Please

Any resemblance to reality that this piece bears, is purely accidental. I apologize in advance.  

“Papers, please,” the CHP may as well have said, as I attempted to return home recently, to my mountain abode on Bell Springs Road. 

“The top of the afternoon, your Officership!” I greeted the nice California Highway Patrolman, anxious to get out of sight of The 101, so that I could blaze up, something I refrain from doing while on the highway. “To what do I owe the honor?” 

“Yeah, well, you need to honor me with some proof that you live on Bell Springs Road; otherwise, you’re out of luck,” the cop continued.

“No problem, Captain. Got my license right here,” and I handed it to him.
Glancing at it briefly, he handed it back, saying, “This is useless. It lists your address as Laytonville. What good is a post office box number? I need something that has your street address in writing.”

“You need something with my street address? When we don’t get mail delivery? How does that work?” I really was stymied. I mean, I have been asked for a street address before, but never required to produce a document with my actual address printed on it.

“It works like this; either you provide me with proof that you live on this road, or you turn around and leave.”

“Where am I supposed to go? I’m trying to get home. There are no other options, unless you are willing to put me up at one of the motels in town. I lack the pecuniary measures to defray the cost, your grace.”

“Not my problem, Bud. But I need you to figure out what you’re going to do, because there are others trying to get past you.” I gazed into his sunglasses, but all I got back was the mirror image of me. I had no idea my nostrils could flare so dramatically.

“You need me to figure out what I’m going to do? I’m going home. That’s what I’m trying to do, but you won’t let me. Am I supposed to just camp out on the side of the road, here? Your Honor?” This guy was starting to seriously annoy me and all I was trying to do was my best to keep Markie under wraps. However, I had promised him his meds, thirty seconds after we left the highway, and he was holding me to that promise.

Po-po gazed implacably at me. “It is illegal to camp in an unauthorized spot, so no, you are not supposed to camp on the side of the road. As I said, you need to either provide-“


With that, I put the truck in drive and commenced driving up the Bell, leaving the CHP momentarily thunderstruck. He recovered quickly.

Almost tripping in his hurry to get into his patrol car, he fired it up and raced after me. Siren blaring, his lights flashing impressively, he followed me. There really wasn’t anything else he could do, short of shooting me or my tires out. Bell Springs Road is nothing more than a former stage coach trail, not the Formula 500.

Five miles he trailed behind me, his feeble attempts to pass me at the wide stretches, pitiful. I was a man on a mission from God. His engine was twice as powerful as my Ranger’s six cylinders, but I had the advantage of being on familiar territory. I drove up and down this road, six days a week, for sixteen years. On the highway, he makes me look like the old geezer that I am.

Here on the Bell, I am the boss.

So yeah, it was inevitable that he would catch up to me, after I shut the engine off in the driveway outside my house. At least I wouldn’t have to provide a street address anymore, since, voila! I was here. That ought to make him happy. 

If he would just quit waving that big .357 around and let me go into the house, it would solve the question of whether this was my own home or not. But no, he’s going all technical on me now, including the cuffs. 

I guess this settles the matter of where I will be staying, at least for a while.

Next time I leave the Bell, I will have to remember to take my passport along, which I remembered, actually does have my street address on it. Yep, it’s come to this: I need a passport to go into Laytonville.

For now forward my mail to the county jail.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Who Needs Dull Walls?

Who Needs Dull Walls?

Having determined that the world needs more beauty, I have decided to dip my artistic toe into the river of commerce, Monday, at the farmers market in Laytonville. After contemplating the universe for the first third of 2017, while gathering momentum, I am going to trot out about 300 of my photos, almost all of them 8 x 10’s, run them up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes them.

Depending on how patriotic a person is feeling, the salute, in the form of an 8 x 10 print, will cost between 5 and 20 dollars, with a lot more available in the 5 dollar range, than in the 20 dollar range. I see this as merely an opportunity to see what kind of reaction I get from people in person, as opposed to being told on social media, that my pics are somewhat noteworthy.

On that note I might clarify how I view the matter of art versus beauty, and what constitutes either one. I have a far better grasp on what beauty is, than I do on what makes art. So I am not trying to pawn off my work as art. All I am doing is presenting that which I see almost every day, so that if others find it aesthetically pleasing, they might affordably be able to tack a photo or two, up on a dull wall that needs brightening.
After all, who needs dull walls?
So what’s the difference between a five dollar shot and a twenty dollar shot? Circumstances, I would say. Some of the most beautiful photos I have ever taken, are flowers, but there is not a lot of skill in capturing these images. Therefore, it makes sense to me that they not cost a lot: five smackers.

Sunrises and sunsets are awesome but do require that I stop what I am doing and snap some pics at a particular time, so ten clams. Critter pics are less predictable, require more skill than just pointing the camera at the sky, so fifteen dollars, and the exceptional shot, such as a hummingbird in clear focus, a red-tail or a stunner of a bee photo, might top out the list at twenty bones.

Should I find a warm reception to what I am offering, I can then pursue a more definitive approach, such as following through on my original idea of framing them in redwood, and then hitting up local art shows. Having been involved in the celebration of cannabis fairs, the past couple of years, and the mushroom candle business earlier on, I am no stranger to these venues.

Of course, I am jumping ahead of myself here, because this entire process has been a series of baby steps. Hell, we’re talking dipping one toe into artistic waters, here, not cannon-balling into the pond. I have to admit, though, after three straight days of digging forms and mixing sand, gravel and cement to complete the foundation work on the workshop, I am ready to do a farmers market.

I am in a good position because I really have no expectations, one way or another. I am a farmer, first and foremost, and anything else takes the caboose when it comes to my attention. It was never my intention to make loot off of my photos, so if it doesn’t work out, I will have lost nothing.

If there is interest and I can recapture a section of my workshop from the farm, I can then create some wood frames and go all artsy on you. How will you know when that has occurred?

I’ll be the only vendor at the Laytonville Market, who arrives in a fire engine red limousine. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Maybe the Time has Come

Maybe the Time Has Come

Wanted: License number of bus that ran over me yesterday. At least, that’s the way I feel this morning, after working with cement, sand and gravel all day Thursday, not to mention the mattock, shovel, and big iron, all tools of the trade of a much younger person than I.

I enjoy the work immensely, even though it leaves me aching in parts of my body I had forgotten existed. The first thing I did upon arising (later than normal at 1:40) was take a teaspoon of cannabis oil. I would have taken two but I am almost out. 

Were I to recommend this oil to someone else, I would say start with a few drops under your tongue, and go from there. I, however, have built up a bit of tolerance, so I tend to favor the sledge hammer effect. This is not work for the faint of heart.

The project I am working on is strengthening the foundation of my workshop, so as to be able to complete the next baby step in the process of cannabis regulation. My home is all legal but when I built the workshop, about ten years ago, I bypassed the building department.

In point of fact I bypassed the building department in the original construction of my home, also, but got red-tagged as a result of the fallout with the rise and fall of the Wellspring Educational Collective. There is simply minimal motivation to involve the county on any level, if it can be avoided.

That being said, I welcome the regulation that comes with the recognition that cannabis is no longer illegal. I use it every day of my life, as the sole means of containing my mood spectrum disorder, and I grow it so that others who have a medicinal need for it, can access this gentle giant of herbs.

I welcome regulation, even with its interminable number of logistical nightmares, any one of which is enough to cause one to wonder if this is indeed, the best course of action. However, having existed within the shadow of the law for forty years now, it’s high time, pun intended, that we have been given the thumbs-up, to our green thumbs.

The hoops we must jump through, and the obstacles we must hurtle include water rights issues, environmentally sound farming practices and going through the process of bringing all structures up to code, amongst many others. At least we built them accordingly, using appropriate materials, except that we did not put in a perimeter foundation, going with a simple pier foundation, instead. 

Now I am wrapping the corners by digging the footings and pouring concrete, so that I can install skirting around the bottom of the structure, helping to bolster the sheer strength of the workshop. The ground drops away as much as five feet over the width of the shop, leaving the back side in need of the sheer strength that half-inch plywood, securely nailed off, provides.

We are also building a different generator storage unit, so as to be able to comply with the regulation that calls for the genny to be on a slab, one with a lip around it. This will be at least the fifth different storage area I have employed over the past 35 years, for a generator. 
The Mendocino County sheriff
who came out, was pleasant
and posed for me when I
asked him

Hurry up summer so that our solar panels can do the heavy lifting!

I noted a lively discussion on Facebook the other day, concerning the pros and cons of following through on the requirements of cannabis regulation. Whether you hate it or love it (as I do), and whether it strains your patience to the max, or not, regulation has arrived.

I rather enjoyed having the sheriff come out to the farm last summer, to check out everything we have going, and give us his signature on the appropriate form. It meant we were in compliance and no longer outlaws. I never felt like an outlaw, I gotta say, but nonetheless, I do not want to "tell it to the judge."

There has been a lot of environmental damage done in the past that must not be forgotten. We are paying the price for the sins of an unregulated industry, so that price is high. 

With this in mind, we must pay homage to those who have spent countless hours trying to create feasible cannabis regulation, because without them, we would be at the mercy of whatever the Mendocino County Supervisors would have come up with on their own.

Though not everyone agrees, as one facebooker put it, “Maybe the time has come.”

You think?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

What Does One Plus One Equal?

What Does One Plus One Equal?

“Why is being in a relationship, better than being single?” was the question posed on Facebook recently. How such a simple question ever got itself tangled up with such a complex answer, is explainable simply by pointing out the reality for many of the two-backed beast: "One plus one does not equal two; one plus one equals one." Or put in other words, "Love is the greatest power."

For someone in a long-term relationship, the universe is not about just you-it is about the two of you. You want to bring her coffee in the morning, if you are up earlier than she is, because you would want coffee brought to you. It’s about doing for someone else, what you would like done for you, and about gaining satisfaction out of trying to make life easier for your partner.

The one thing that rocks my world most about being in a long-distance marathon with the same person, is knowing that the two of us function as a unit, and that as such, I do not have to face the worst that life has to offer by myself.
Doves mate for life.

Additionally, if my significant other is facing some sort of crisis, it impacts me as much as it does her, because our unit is struggling. I can’t go forward if she is stuck, because to leave her behind is to leave too much of myself behind, to be able to make forward progress.

Maybe the question I address shouldn’t be whether being with someone is better than being single, because I don’t have a clue what being single would be like after 35 years of monogamy, but rather, why is being in a relationship good?

Speaking for myself, raised in a home with eight siblings, I prefer to be with others than by my lonesome. I used to hate being alone but have recently gotten over that, partly because I end up manning the home fires when GlutenFree Mama journeys over to Sacramento every three weeks, and partly because I know that our unit remains complete.

This way GF Mama can focus on her task at hand, and not have to worry whether the chickens get brought in at night. It goes back to what I said above, about doing what allows the unit to go forward, both physically and mentally. I derive much peace of mind by doing everything I can to ensure that GF Mama does not have to stress out, about the minutia of running the household.

Being in a relationship means you are through sending signals to-and receiving signals from-others. If you are incapable of shutting off this mechanism within you, then you have no business being in a relationship, unless you are up front with your partner.

Being single, on the other hand, means being able to do what you want, when you want, without consulting anyone else; it also means having to do it all by yourself. There is no one there to take care of the cat/dog/chickens/rabbits when you have to be away; there is no one there to spruce up the place while you are off tending to your health issues; finally, there is no one there to care, whether you come back or not.

Being in a relationship takes a lot of the guesswork out of life; if that works for you, then you run with it. If you do not like this feeling and prefer a less predictable lifestyle, then the single life is probably best for you.

Just hope that guesswork doesn’t end up being you, second-guessing yourself in the winter of your lifetime, when you are alone, with no one around who ultimately cares, whether you are there-or not.

You harvest what you plant, if you have tended your garden well. Your kids will spend a comparable amount of time caring for you, in your old age, as you did caring for your own folks. That is, if you have kids. 
Love is the greatest power.

You walk up and down the path of life together, slowing for the speed bumps, getting going a little too fast on the downhill slopes-at times-and you should not worry about when and where the finish line appears. 

From my vantage point, since any marathon is challenging, I want everything going for me that is possible, and that includes the greatest power, love.

Since everyone wins this marathon-of that there can be no doubt, it’s more about the way you choose to run your marathon, than it is about the inevitable outcome.

Choose carefully, for best results, or as we used to preach to middle school students: “Make wise choices.”

Monday, April 17, 2017


I ran into Carissa the other day when Gluten-Free Mama and I were in the Willits Safeway. Primarily focused on avoiding land-mines in the form of side-displays, an occupational hazard of shopping here, I managed not to hit her with my grocery cart. Of course I didn’t recognize her for a second or two until GF Mama nudged my little pea brain by saying to me, “Carissa?” as in seriously? I know you know this woman.

After exchanging hugs, I did my usual apology thing, which I do a lot. Even though I had “just” seen Carissa at the wedding in the redwoods (Samantha and Caleb) a couple of Septembers ago, I still fumbled the ball. In any case we exchanged pleasantries, GF Mama complimenting Carissa on her aesthetically pleasing Facebook posts, which we both enjoy, and we moseyed on along.
I have these sightings almost every time I venture out into the great metropolitan expanse of Mendocino County, even if that only takes place once every five or six weeks. The last time I ambled out, I took a cool photo of a red-tail sitting on the top of an oak tree. What made the pic unique, was that I was looking across at that hawk, perched on its tree, instead of up because we were straddling the ridge along Bell Springs Road.

The raptor had streaked past in front of us and dived, the land falling away fairly steeply along this section, so that I watched it pull up, circle the oak, and land. We’re talking ten-twelve seconds-max, before I could whip my camera out and make it do its thing, so Gluten-Free Mama graciously pulled over so that I could get out and have a better chance of getting a decent photograph.

She’s like that, you know?

Our five-mile-long driveway provides us with ample opportunity to check out the wildlife, including the juvenile black bear that loped across the Bell a couple of months ago, only a little more than a mile up from the highway. It was gone before I even thought about my camera.

Snap your fingers and you miss out-it’s that quick, kind of like life. It doesn’t seem like a dozen years since I was run out of the teaching game by the new sheriff in town-the one with the big star on its chest, STAR Testing, of course.

After doing the multi-graded, theme-based, hands-on, integrated, team-taught program for ten years, it was devilishly hard to be instructed in how to “teach to the test.” So much so that I hung up my gloves, and slunk out of the ring.

Now I am friends with as many former students as I could track down on social media, the only minor difficulty being that I still have their images from middle school days, ingrained on my memory, despite seeing upgraded photos of them on Facebook. The further back I go, the better my memory, which explains why the dated images are more likely to remain with me than the updated photo versions.

GF Mama is good at names and she helps me out. Otherwise, when it’s obvious someone recognizes me and I don’t reciprocate, I stick my paw out and say, “Howdy! I’m Mark,” and that generally gets the desired result. Afterwards, laugh out loud, I do the apology thing.

Especially when I call Shayla, Heather, or Heather, Shayla. Sigh. I know it happened, but too late to do anything about it. On the other hand, if this is the worst thing I have to deal with, I’m OK with that.

Though I always expect that folks will race away from what must be their worst nightmare, a former middle school language arts teacher, I am always delighted when a connection is made. Somehow a circuit becomes completed, every time I have one of these chance encounters, which is a good thing.

All signs of life upstairs in my swiss cheese brain, with its many holes, gaps, land-mines and crevices, are appreciated, so we’ll move forward with that thought in mind. If I happen to step into one of those holes, and the wrong name pops out of my mouth, you can give me a hard time about it, and I won’t mind.

Besides, I’ll have forgotten it ten minutes later anyway.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Twenty Questions

Twenty Questions

We had our little family gathering yesterday, and during the course of a mellow and enjoyable afternoon, I found myself talking to Gluten-Free Mama’s brother, Tim. Somewhere in there he revealed that his two sons were both supporters of the new president.

When I asked him a clarifying question, he responded that he did not discuss the situation with either of them, and I understood. I have also stopped dialoguing with these people because I simply can’t keep my shit together.

However, if I were to be in the same room with at least the older of the two sons, with whom I share the fact that we have both served in the military, I would ask him the following questions:  

Why does it not bother you that, 

the fraudulently-elected president is a traitor, having consorted with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 election?

the fraudulently-elected president is blatantly breaking the law by using his position in government, to make vast amounts of money?

the fraudulently-elected president is blatantly breaking the law by committing nepotism, employing his offspring in government positions?

the fraudulently-elected president has blatantly broken the law by endowing himself with gifts from his fraudulent “trump Foundation?”

the fraudulently-elected president has steadfastly gone about the morbid task of stripping every vestige of hope from seniors, the sick, and children?

the fraudulently-elected president is bent on erecting an expensive and useless barrier between the US and Mexico, a barrier far more symbolic than practical?

the fraudulently-elected president is stealing land for his pointless wall from thousands of Texans?

the fraudulently-elected president is overseeing the dismantling of Social Security? 

the fraudulently-elected president is bound and determined to increase revenue for his rich homies, by starting conflicts all over the world? Though war is good for business, this is illegal, immoral and repulsive.

the fraudulently-elected president takes hypocrisy to the greatest of heights, having criticized his predecessor for taking vacations, and then spending most weekends down at his palace in Florida?

the fraudulently-elected president has turned his back on his campaign promise to provide more jobs for ‘Meicans, and has consistently continued to outsource industry and jobs?

the fraudulently-elected president has stocked his Cabinet with a group of wealthy, powerful numbskulls, including those in powerful positions who favor white supremacy?

the fraudulently-elected president has convinced the world that our once-proud and mighty nation, is now a universal laughingstock?

the fraudulently-elected president has further strengthened the once ludicrous notion that we are now an oligarchy, that is, a nation ruled not by democracy, but by a few, select wealthy assholes?
Dad and the kids at Sunday dinner...
the fraudulently-elected president shows his contempt for all Americans, by milking the public trough for every penny he can squeeze out, even though he is a billionaire, countless times over?

the fraudulently-elected president is likely to start a war that will likely make WWII look like a love-in at Golden Gate Park?

the fraudulently-elected president will not release his tax records?

the fraudulently-elected president is breaking his promise to veterans, including you and me?

the fraudulently-elected president is incapable of carrying on a press conference, without revealing that he has no brain?

the fraudulently-elected president is a farce?

There are more questions, of course, but let’s give these a go, for starters. I recognize that Tim’s son will never read these questions, because no supporters of the new president will read this post. That’s a given. Oh, well.

What I will say is that finally as an elder, I recognize how it is possible that our nation once fought a civil war. Never in my 64 years have I been able to envision a scenario where families were split down the middle. I never could see how that could happen and now I do.

I am infinitely saddened that my family has been ripped asunder, and more so that I will obviously not be seeing precious little people, because of political differences. 

It’s a steep price to pay but I pay it nonetheless, because it is the price of freedom as I know it. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Coffee, Cannabis and 1942

Coffee, Cannabis and 1942

Whatever it takes to keep going on all cylinders, is pretty much what drives most of us to continue pressing onward. I have never been a boozer, simply because I have a strong aversion to the unpleasantness that follows; the price is too steep to pay for the alcoholic buzz.

My drug of choice is cannabis; that’s no secret. What might surprise some, is that as powerful as the various strains are these days, and considering how often I hammer the bong, I do not go through life high as a kite. Not quite, anyway.

With the exception of the initial head rush as I take my rip, my tolerance is such that all I am doing is maintaining a certain level of THC in my system, and I am good to go. Take working the soil, for instance, pausing every so often to take a couple of pokes off a roach, conveniently accompanying me everywhere I go, in an Altoids box.

The work is arduous, requiring the entire body to labor rhythmically, in order to be able to sustain the pace over any length of time. Were I to genuinely get high, my ability to continue would be severely limited. My level of concern that I might impale a sandaled foot with the pitchfork, would most likely paralyze forward progress.

Stoners do tend to get paranoid.

Rather, think of it as physical therapy, as well as salve for the psyche. The Ogre Berry crossed with the AC/DC is high in cannabinoids, but ends up at varying points on the scale when it comes to THC. We have some with about a 7% level; others might range as high as 18%. In either case the benefit of smoking this strain, is that the wear and tear on the body becomes easier to bear, because of the relief from pain that the cannabis delivers.

So even 64-year-old dudes can get out there for four or five hours a day, and work bent over at the waist, hoisting the still-pretty-much-saturated soil up on the fork, and flipping it over to break up the clods. I can then remove any rocks and shake the dirt out of the root structures, of the weeds being pulled.

Don't forget the magic-wand!
In addition to the devil’s lettuce, I also drink coffee, but I am careful to balance my intake of the black death, with water. So if I have quaffed two mugs of Cafe Domingo goodness of a morning, before it is even four o’clock, rest assured I have also guzzled two mugs of cold, clear spring water.

I ain’t bragging-just filling you in on what may seem a slightly unorthodox approach to one’s morning. Water for me is the elixir upon which I depend to make everything right. It keeps me headache-free, it keeps my toes warm when the temperature outside is freezing and it keeps my joints lubricated so that I rarely stiffen up after exertion.

Yes, eliminating the six to eight liters of water I consume every day is an inconvenience, but when I think about how miserable I was when I taught, I don’t mind the inconvenience. As a teacher, I simply did not drink water: coffee, tomato juice, V-8 juice, Diet Snapple, Diet Dr. Pepper (shudder), light sports drinks, et al, but not water.

I ate hardly any beef for sixteen years, complaining that I just didn’t seem to be able to digest it properly. Duh. When one consumes almost no water, the digestive tract is going to register various complaints, and none of them can be ignored.

Now I drink coffee and I drink water, but I drink three times as much water as coffee. And yes, I take my meds in the form of cannabis, as need requires. I don’t keep track; all I do is keep my bong reasonably clean. Not only does it allow me to enjoy the taste far more effectively, a clean, filtered bong, allows one to draw with almost no discomfort.

I clean it with salt and isopropyl every day, rinsing it multiple times in between each cleaning. The analogy I always use is the guy who has just brought home a bottle of 1942, and wants to sample his prize. He reaches under the kitchen sink and pulls out a dirty peanut butter jar that has been kicking around amidst the detritus beneath the sink, since forever.

The little jar is dirty, it stinks and yet he pours a shot of this nectar of the gods into it and lifts it to the heavens before imbibing. Right? Wrong. A clean-nay, polished-shotglass is provided with due ceremony, and then the beverage is downed.

It’s the same when switching from maybe some Lemon Ogre to The Great Success, for example. One could never properly make this transition, without a thorough cleaning of the vehicle in which The Great Success would be consumed.

Says so in the manual: page 12, Paragraph 4, Subsection C.

I remain convinced that a regimen of organic food, most of it from the farm, together with plenty of water and cannabis, is what is going to keep me mobile for a spell yet to come. 

I do consider myself fortunate to be in these circumstances in the autumn of my life, because I live on a ridge-top where I can do as I please. That includes sampling some of the Lemon Ogre #6, which I grew myself out back, and which I just finished trimming.

Just let me give the bong a quick rinse first.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Fucked Up Again, Naturally

Fucked Up Again, Naturally

I harp on my mental deficiencies a lot but I don’t apologize because one of the principle reasons I started this cyber-journal, was so that I could work some of these matters out on paper. This is an extremely inexpensive form of therapy.

So if having my mood spectrum disorder shoved in your eyeballs is getting monotonous, then you may want to consider shifting to a more conventional site, where never is heard a discouraging word, and the bong never gets dirty. I have found much to appreciate about the process of writing out my thoughts, reviewing them, and then trying to decide if what I am looking at is gibberish or not.

I have no plans to abandon ship on this format.

With that preamble in place, I’ll just say that being bipolar means do not rock the boat. If I make the decision to journey down to the great metropolis of Willits, as Gluten-Free Mama and I did yesterday, rest assured those plans are meticulously outlined, with nothing being left to chance.

Chance has fucked up more of my good intentions, than any other entity.

No, if I am going to Willits, I have my backpack carefully packed with current book, i-phone, headphones, cannabis, lucky stones and a selection of random paraphernalia that would rival an average woman’s overnight suitcase. Oh yeah, there’s Suzy Puente too, my computer.

Additionally, I have written down our intended destinations for the day, I have compiled a store list and when everything is neatly in line, I’m ready for action-ready for danger. What I’m not prepared for, is to be hit up somewhere on my travels and asked to vary from my established theme, because it rocks my mental boat dangerously close to sinking.

Included in my overview for the excursion, and frequently in bold, is the selection of a place to dine, whether it be breakfast or lunch. Yesterday we chose the pizza place in what used to be Ray’s Shopping Center. I will leave the name conspicuously out of the conversation.

I rarely eat pizza because I rarely eat anything that could be construed as bread. Pizza crust is a lot of bread with some cheese and mushrooms on top, which explains why I crave it so much. My sense of anticipation for this meal was right up there with my need to be back home, so you can figure my expectations were great indeed.

When Gluten-Free Mama decided to pop next door and pay our phone bill, while we waited for our lunch, I assured her that I would guard her pizza with my life should it arrive before she returned. So when it actually did show up a few minutes later, while mine lagged behind, I decided the best way to guard at least one piece of the pizza, was to consume it.

She had gone with the gluten-free crust, as her name implies, and I am here to tell you, this pizza was everything I wanted in a pizza, except maybe not the sausage. Whatever. Different strokes for different folks. The crust was crunchy and the overall effect was stellar.

Imagine my chagrin minutes later, when my own regular-crust cheese and mushroom pizza arrived, and it fell far short of the original effort. Succinctly put, it was grossly undercooked, with the “crust” still very much bread.

There is no technology sophisticated enough to register the level of disappointment I experienced. The higher the expectations, the harder the fall. Send it back? Nooooooooooooooooooo, thank you. I am the least assertive person I know. Besides, just the thought of sending it back conjures up all kinds of uncomfortable images, about how a disgruntled employee might possibly respond to being called out on inefficiency.

Again, no thank you.

Being able to recognize all of this objectively, does not help me when it comes right down to the bottom line. I ate two more of the smallest pieces of the medium pizza, before hanging up the towel and calling for a box.

Someone more capable than I, would have either asked for a reheat or a new pizza and not batted an eye. I recognize that; it’s the difference between having a mood spectrum disorder and not. This information, and a lot more than a quarter, will buy you a cup of coffee.

Do I not return to this establishment? After all, the last time I came here, I liked the pizza but had to eat a plain cheese one because when I said cheese and mushrooms, the only part that got written down was the cheese. I can get pizza up in Eureka, I can order Papa Murphy’s and heat it up at home (best idea) or I can buy a frozen pizza. 

Besides, it’s not as though Willits doesn’t have seven Mexican food establishments, from which to choose.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

trump Comes to Laytonville

trump Comes to Laytonville

Not literally, thank Buddha, but symbolically the weak-brained, self-aggrandizing oaf is very much present in our community; there can be no mistake about that. Otherwise I would not be taking this summer off from watching the action down at Harwood Park, as the local teams are gearing up for another action-packed season on the baseball diamond.

We are juggling this Saturday’s upcoming family gathering so that SmallBoy can get a practice in down at the yard. Over the past two summers, this information has added a pleasant sense of anticipation to my outlook on life and the ensuing summer months, but not so this year.

I will find it impossible to sit down in the stands, popping up every two minutes to snap a photo, and feel comfortable. Despite being a member of this community for more than 35 years now, I am still very much a stranger in a strange land.

That much became more than evident last fall and winter, as political events unfolded that have shocked and saddened me beyond comprehension. In my initial disbelief, I lashed out passionately at what I saw as a brutal attack on the most basic of my beliefs: that people are created equally. To attack one race or culture, is to attack me and mine.

To support a fraudulently elected man, an individual who has made it clear that he is a racist, is to stand alongside him as he plunders the Constitution. I cannot and will not do that. I can’t stop him but I can put up a strong defense against his machinations.

Not only that, I have absolutely no influence over anyone who does support this tyrant, a self-serving billionaire, who gets his jollies out of squeezing the last drop of blood from the weak and elderly in this country.

I’m done with the dialogue-over it a long time ago. That doesn’t mean there is not still much to say; it simply means I do not have the temperament to do the saying.

If I weren’t already bipolar, I sure would have gotten to that point on my own, after watching the wealthy lawmakers of our nation, align with their leader in efficiently going about the business of stripping every beneficial measure that exists, right off the backs of the weak and ill. It is enough to piss off the pope.

Oh come on, I can hear you saying, leave that shit behind and enjoy the game.
Easy for you to say but impossible for me to do. If
the folks around me think I’m a dick for being opposed to racism, and disdaining the president, how am I supposed to ignore that feeling, and concentrate on a baseball game? Besides, I personally have a hard time watching players, that I know do stand firmly in their support of a billionaire, who gouges the American public and sets his kids up in positions of authority.

I can’t cheer for a player who has made a good play, when I know I am cheering for a person who is furthering the pain and misery that exists in this world, instead of doing something about it. It goes against the grain so I will just do myself a favor and skip a summer.

Any thought that this is the coward’s way out, is balanced by the thought that my own peace of mind is more important to me than proving anything to anyone. Whereas my presence might be a distraction, my absence will never be noticed.

A year from now, after his criminal behavior has brought an end to his tyranny and the billionaire boor is gone, I will come back. As it stands, I ain’t skeered but I ain’t stupid either. 

My bipolarism is all on paper as far as anyone knows and I’d like to keep it that way.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tip-Toe Through the Mustard Greens

Hey there JT,

As you might imagine, you are featured in those three spiral notebooks that Mama kept on me, something that fascinates me because she fills in a lot of the missing pieces. I have written on multiple occasions about the time when we were bosom buddies, with no academic worries because we had not yet started school.

We spent long afternoons exploring the tall mustard greens in the vacant lot next door, building forts both outdoors and in and playing store with “groceries” provided by Mama, in the form of empty cereal cartons, metal saltine cracker boxes and a wealth of other durable goods.

What the spiral notebooks do is present the foundation of our friendship, from the omniscient perspective, a recounting of information that lets me know that the ties that bind us together, even after we went a couple of decades with almost no communication, go deep.

The first entry that Mama made that contained your name was May 28th, 1954, when you would have been eight months old: “He likes Jean, will 'talk' to her, push her swing, pick up her toys, but when I feed her, he comes along to the kitchen and stands next to my chair waiting for spoonfuls of food to go into his mouth.”

While the iron is hot, how about the next entry, maybe seven weeks later on July 17th, 1954? “He likes Jean enormously, at least he is very friendly to her, smiles and talks to her, picks up her toys for her and performs other like services.”

Conversely, three weeks later on August 6th, Mama wrote, “Mark has a little streak of meanness-I guess it’s normal for his age. He thinks it’s fun to throw handfuls of dirt at the kittens, and one day I caught him throwing dirt all over Jean.”

By the time November rolls around, I am becoming a real dirtbag. I like Mama’s tongue-in-cheek reference in this next passage from November 17th: “He and Jean get along but only when they are not together. [Right? lol] That is, they will talk to each other while each is in the crib, but I can’t put them on the floor together. He is jealous of her or maybe he has learned what is his and what is hers. He won’t let her lay even a finger on what is his, and since he regards both rocking chairs, all footstools, and end tables as his private property, things can get difficult. And she doesn’t take it lying down-she hits back and we have lots of tears. But he is scrupulous about giving her what he considers her property, mostly the old rattles and such that bore her now.”

January 2, 1955: They don’t get along at all right now; he picks on her and she fights back.

February 6th, 1955: He is talking more and more now and takes it upon himself to snitch on her when she gets into something. Or he’ll come to me and say, “Jean crying.” She gets into his toys a lot and he doesn’t like it. He plays with her doll-that is, he abuses it, throws it on the floor and steps on it to make it cry.

March 2nd: He has such an idea about what should be and shouldn’t be. He argues with Jean about the words she uses-“toast” for bread and the like…He watches Jean with an eagle eye, and often I hear him say, "No no, Jean!" Or he runs to tell me of some mischief Jean has got into.

Oh, and I apologize in advance for this next one, dated May 22nd, 1955: “He is by turns easy to manage and independent and contrary. He teases Jean and delights in making her cry. It’s not unusual for him to push her down and grab her hair with both hands.

But I wonder sometimes about what Mama didn’t see, that caused me to be such an obstreperous little snot. Take this entry, for instance, from July 10th, 1955: “Last night I heard a commotion in the kitchen and when I went out there, Jean was standing in front of the counter shouting, ‘Sucker! Sucker!’ and Mark was on a stool trying to get her a sucker (and one for himself) from the top shelf.”

Here is a telling entry from October 13th, 1955: “He is crazy about playing with blankets and pillows and will make a bed on the living room floor, or a tent on the porch. In this way he and Jean will play for hours.” The start of our golden era?

From November of 1955 comes this entry, “I am enormously amused by the way that he and Jean play with their teddy bears and other stuffed toys. They treat the toys just as if they were real children.”

Skip ahead to April 2nd, 1956 for this entry: He is a dreadful tease-seems to delight in aggravating the other boys-not Jean so much. He and Jean get along pretty well right now.”

From May 10th: He plays with Jean and Becky, especially to Jean he adopts a protective and patronizing attitude. “No Jean, not that way!” As an example yesterday, Jean said to Mark, “He (meaning Mama) wants you!” and Mark answered, “Not he-her!” 

Good Buddha, I was already a grammar Nazi.

January 1957: “He teases the older boys and he and Noel scrap all the time. But he plays with Jean nicely and by himself is very pleasant.” Interestingly enough, JT, this would have been about nine months before I started kindergarten, so it makes sense.

May 5th, 1957: He and Jean have a sort of private language-they have watched T V commercials and heard about Alka Seltzer and how “speedy” it acts. So now when they mean something real fast, they call it “speedy Alka Seltzer.” “Let’s run speedy Alka Seltzer!”

Since this is the last entry that mentions you prior to my entering kindergarten, I am going to snip this off, because it was the end of a golden era, even though I only went to school half-day all the way through the end of first grade, so I'm sure our hanging out together was extended.

Mama’s notes clearly indicate that we had our ups and downs early on, but that we got it together in the time period before we entered school, when we had our own thing happening. Our own language? How cool is that? 

Of course those were sweet times, simpler times, and we made the most of it. Our preschool days would seem to have been a microcosm of our lives: We got along early, had a rocky spell (high school) in there somewhere, and then finished out cool.

BTW I am abjectly sorry for pushing you down that time and pulling your hair, so I walked to Sav-on Drugs Store yesterday and bought you a package of M&M’s and a nickel package of Laura Scudders potato chips. 

Will you please forgive me?

Monday, April 10, 2017

"Laugh, Clown, Laugh!"

I cannot escape the allure of those three spiral notebooks, so bear with me as I draw a conclusion or two from the notes Mama kept on me, as I made life miserable for those around me. So cute, you know? 

"Laugh, Clown, Laugh!"

June 5th, 1955: He has suddenly changed from his good-natured little self to a very ornery and contrary little Mark. He wants to do just exactly what he wants and pays little attention to discipline so I have my hands full.

October 13th, 1955: He can be awfully ornery-right at the minute he is acting like a three-year-old. [I was three years, five weeks old.] When I tell him to do something he will ignore me, or just quietly sneak off and hide in a corner, or in the closet.

December 7th, 1955: He has become very difficult to handle, being stubborn and contrary. He wants to do what he wants to do and no more.  He teases Jean and the other boys, stands in front of the TV set so nobody else can see and pulls such other ornery stunts.

February 23rd, 1956: He is right now very difficult and rebellious. If I tell him not to do something, it’s as good as a guarantee that the minute I turn around he’ll do it.

May 19th, 1963: I can see I haven’t written about Mark for a long time. I don’t know why-he is a character and causes me lots of headaches. For one thing he is a clown. He goes around making remarks and cracks to the other boys with the result that they-one or all-are always angry at him.

February 26th, 1964: Personality wise he is enough to drive a poor mother into the nut house. He is a clown from the word go…

July 1st, 1964: Mark is quite a problem at times-he is very contradictory in character…He has this peculiarity of personality that clashes with a lot of people. He is annoying because he is noisy. He chatters about nothing; he is persistent to the point of driving a person stark, raving mad.

April 26, 1965: He is absolutely the most stubborn, persistent, one-way character I’ve ever seen. Once he gets an idea in his head, he never lets it go.

And back by popular demand, is this gem from May 29th, 1969: Mark seems to be almost a typical teen age boy, if such a thing is possible. His interests are those of most boys and his attitude also. He is loud, rude, rebellious, belligerent, anti-everything, rarely appears to study, and knows every popular singer, group and recording out.

I am sensing a theme here. 

In the earliest of these entries, I had only three older brothers, to be joined down the line by thee more. Talk about caught in the middle. I also have two younger sisters, so for me to get what I considered to be my fair share of parental attention, I had to go into my act on a regular basis.

My older brother Eric christened me Clown, or Clownie, and was often heard to intone, “Laugh, Clown, laugh.” He was not likely to be amused when addressing me thusly. Brian’s moniker for me was The Babe, and we’re not talking baseball here. It’s no wonder Mama makes so many references to having to play referee, in order to keep things down to a roar.

Whether I was doing my patented “Touch me in five seconds, I will fill-in-the-blank,” thereby inciting potential chaos by having kids chasing all around the house, or simply being “loud, rude, rebellious and belligerent,” I was always in Mama’s headlights. It was all about seeking the spotlight.

Shockingly, I was unable to avoid military service the final year of the draft; had I known at the time it was to be the final year, I can guarantee you I would have dug my heels in much deeper, but such is the nature of water under the bridge. Gone and best forgotten. I am the person I am today, in part, because of this time in the Big Green Machine.

And as always, Mama was called upon to referee, this time the opponents being loneliness and depression. Having worn this cap during WWII, while Papa and her brothers were in the service, Mama sported it brilliantly. She kept me supplied with letters, treats, cards sympathy and most importantly, love.

As always, I was her problem child, and as always, she came to my aid. She let me know I was not going crazy, just a little nuts, but that it would pass when I got out, and came home. She guaranteed it in her letters to me, and she was right.

And though she’s gone now, Mama’s words remain with me, and it’s a damn good thing. I still need a referee at times and who better than her? She used to ask Gluten-Free Mama, “Well, is he behaving himself?”

GF Mama always said yes, and as long as my Mama was standing there, I was…

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Making the Hurt Go Away

Making the Hurt Go Away

The time I endured in the military was made infinitely more bearable by the support I received from everyone at home. Mama had advised me upon my departure, that if I wanted to get mail, I needed to write letters first, and so I did.
I must have had a particularly rough go of it at one point in time, and spewed it out on paper, because I got this letter from Mama on November 1st, 1972, in response. It was addressed to “Markie Baby,” and in it she was able to articulate exactly what needed to be said; looking over it now, I marvel at her ability to convey the perfect sentiment at just the right time. She wrote,

“But you can always unload the stuff on me; if it makes you feel better to let it all hang out, you can write it to me. I think back a long, long time, fifteen, eighteen years, to when you were a little kid and when you got hurt or somebody pushed you around you’d come in crying. I used to hold you in my lap, or put my arms around you and make “the hurt go away.” But now you’re not a little kid anymore, or even a big kid, you’re a man and doing a man’s job every day, a cruddy, dirty, detestable, job which you abhor and hate with a passion. But you’re doing it and doing it as well as you can and keeping your head on straight while you’re doing it. I can’t take you in my lap like I did when you were a baby. Right now I can’t even put my arms around you like a mother wants to, but I can tell you that I think about you and feel what you’re feeling and know your pain.”

Even now, 45 years later, the words soothe, cascading over me like the aloe vera oil that takes the sting away from a burn, or the cannabis salve that eases the pain from the dirt-caused cracks in my fingers and heels.

The comfort derived from these words is inestimable, simply because the setting was so abysmal. Amidst the triviality of the comings and goings at home, that which made up the bulk of Mama’s letters, might be a passage like the one above.

Mama sure could turn a phrase, and in doing so, she made a lot of “the hurt go away.”

Saturday, April 8, 2017



I have been in cruise mode for a week or so, building strength for a series I am writing in my head, while recovering from some physical discomfort, caused by once again overdoing it. Though splitting wood with the big iron merely requires feeding it a steady diet of already cut oak and madrone, there was much back-bending and arm-wrestling with individual rounds too big to pick up and put in the truck.

I would do it again in a nano-second because with this last burst, I may just have enough firewood to get us through until summer. Sometimes you just have to take one for the team. Gluten-Free Mama makes it all worth while by informing me how much she appreciates my efforts, obviously instinctively aware that one will work twice as hard when he knows it is appreciated, than otherwise.

Actions speak louder than words but words can make a pretty powerful impression as well, especially when the words come from 7,000 miles away. I have been regaling you with the words Mama wrote in my “baby books,” the three spiral notebooks recently sent to me by my sister JT, but there is more.
This photo was taken two months
after Mama wrote the letter below.

There are the letters Mama sent me while I was in the Big Green Machine, letters I have kept with me, along with all my correspondence from that period, everywhere I have gone in the ensuing 44 years. Not only does her voice come alive when I read her words, the content of those words leaves me flummoxed.

A couple of weeks ago, in a piece entitled, “That’s My Kool-Aid,” I wrote, “When I reflect that I can never remember being told I was loved, I am almost embarrassed to be thinking that I needed to be so informed: I did not. Love was woven into the fabric of our home in so many ways, that the words themselves would genuinely have seemed superfluous.

Imagine my surprise to encounter the following passage in a letter from Mama, dated April 12th, 1972, just a few days over forty-five years ago. It just goes to show that words on paper are more likely to survive the passage of time, than a questionable memory:

“You don’t have to worry about answering any of the letters I wrote; what I said in there was true, and the main problem we have around here is that we haven’t always been communicating too well. Sometimes I think we worry about how it’s going to sound, or maybe we’re embarrassed about showing our emotions. Enough of that. We have to hang together and get closer to each other, or what good is a family? 
Mama's letter, dated April 2nd, 1972
In any case your letters are just as beautiful; your thoughts come through loud and clear and they mean just as much to us here at home. What can you say? Well, when you or anybody else says, ‘I love you,’ they about cover it pretty well, I would say, and ‘I love you’ doesn’t have to refer to a member of the opposite sex. It’s just as important that we all share that love. So hang in there and remember that we’re thinking about you at all times.”

Mama’s ability to articulate the subtle nuances of what constitutes love, is noteworthy. ‘We have to hang together and get closer to each other, or what good is a family?’ she wrote. And she was right. Family is hanging together, and when I was overseas, I always felt that Mama was at the center of a web of love that encompassed everyone within her range of experience.

So I did not worry about what it sounded like, I skipped the embarrassment, and have tried to do so ever since. I tell Gluten-Free Mama that I love her, and then I empty the trash, the compost and the recycling, before going off to split wood for five hours. Sure, I am embarrassed that I am such a light-weight now, that I can’t even split up a little wood, without injuring myself. 

However, that being said, I am also warm and so is GF Mama.