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

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Grandpa

Grandpa

“Come on, California, tell your girl you love her.” 

“Give her a kiss from us!”

“Your glasses are fogging over!” 

I didn’t even wear glasses in 1972, as I hunched over the only phone in our three-story barracks, while doing boot camp at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I had waited two hours for my turn, so everyone in line behind me knew what was up.
Can you find the mustache?

It was January 29th and I was speaking to my family back in La Puente, on Fellowship Street, at a prearranged time so that everyone was there. After passing the phone around for quick hellos to my brothers and sisters, I had next been turned over to my then girl-friend, Nancy, thus prompting the comments from the peanut gallery. 

At the end of our couple of minutes, the phone went back to my mom.

“Hey, Kiddo, I have some bad news for you, and I’m sorry to have to deliver it like this, but Grandpa passed away the day before yesterday. I would have called you but we already had this call set up, so I…” Her voice trailed off.

“Grandpa died?” I managed, as the tears began to cascade from my eyes.

It got real quiet, real quick in the line stretching out to the door of the dayroom.

"Well, you know when you visited him before you left, he had just had his leg amputated, right?" (complications from diabetes)  "After that, he just lost his will to live," she told me. I was not surprised.

Grandpa took my cousin Greg and me, fishing at Legg lake, probably somewhere around 1960. He was not the kind of man to help us bait the hooks, et al, remaining instead in the car reading the newspaper. But he took us, nonetheless. He liked kids, a lot, but by then he would have been in his seventies.

While at the drive-in movies one night, in response to the comment that the movie we were watching (Walt Disney’s "Pollyanna”), was cool, he responded by gesturing over to one side at another car parked off to the left, “True, but the one going on over there is not bad either.”

I would have agreed, possibly, had I been able to see through the fog which obscured exactly what was going on in the car next-door.

I sobbed into the phone, “I can’t come home, Mama, I just can’t. If I do, they will make me start all over again, and I just can’t do that.” I had no intentions of doing basic training twice. It was cold, I was sick three of the ten weeks, and it was lonely. 
They told us Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, was known
as Little Korea because it got so cold. Then I ended
up in Big Korea for sixteen months. My, it did get cold.

Why spoil a good time?

I am sure Mama was relieved to hear that because she would have had no idea where the money would have come from.

“No one expects you to come home and we know how hard it is for you. Just know you have a lot of support…” and she went on, saying the right things in the right way, and I hung up the phone. I was not ashamed of my tears, in front of this group of army buddies.

“My godfather passed,” was all I said, because my grandfather was also my godfather, and I went back to my seven-man room and wrote a long letter home.  

Grandpa Herman Berg was fourteen years old when he boarded a ship bound for the United States, leaving his native home in Germany, and eventually ended up with relatives in St. Louis. He did not speak any English when he made this journey, somewhere around 1902.

I am sure to be corrected by someone who has the original manuscript that he wrote after he had retired. In the 25 page-give or take a few-single-spaced, typed manuscript, Grandpa described his journey and gave his impressions of his new home. 

He died in 1972, around age 84, so that means he would have been born in 1888. In any case, the exact year is not crucial, so much as the knowledge that he made this journey because he had family on the other side of the ocean.

Grandpa’s manuscript is a good read and it is apparent that my mother, Pauline, took after him when it came to writing. She herself wrote four manuscripts: the first, on her childhood growing up in the Great Depression; the second on World War II and her family’s role in it; the third about our home on Fellowship St, in SoCal; and the fourth on life up here on Bell Springs Road. All were in excess of a hundred pages long, and her voice is the perfect blend of pragmatism and humor, that was so much a part of her makeup.

Timing being everything, of course, the current situation with the Ban, brings all of this history hurtling up to smack me in the face. A couple of mornings ago, when I unleashed a torrent of anti-tater tot memes, I am sure that besides the trigger that these memes provided, was the knowledge that I was reliving an anniversary of great sadness.

And joy.

Had my grandfather not made his lonely journey back when he was a fourteen-year-old, or had he not been allowed into the country, I would not be here today.

Damn. My glasses are all fogged up, again.




Monday, January 30, 2017

The Cocaine of Coffee

The Cocaine of Coffee

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Gems and Germs!

Step right this way, if you will please, for a demonstration of the most ingenious device invented since the blender: the latte wand. 


Who would ever have thought that one could make a latte, with a little hand-held device and any kind of milk, for the price of two lattes? Now, I paid twenty dollars for mine but they are available for as little as $7.98 and two Double-A batteries, from Amazon.
The best invention since the blender...

True story.

I have to tell you that my introduction to this magical elixir only came fairly recently into my life, maybe five years or so ago, after a lifetime of imbibing coffee. George Carlin referred to coffee as the low end of the speed spectrum, so that must make lattes the cocaine of coffee.

I need about five lines a day before I level off.

Back in the dark ages, I had to journey at least a half-hour to indulge in this ambrosia of the gods. Now, if I can stagger as far as the kitchen counter, I can create my own panacea of pleasure, without venturing any farther than the refrigerator.

I now brew a cup of coffee via slow filtering, allowing the grounds to soak in the scalding water before I pour in the rest. I take milk, half-and-half or even almond milk if I am of a mind, place the desired amount in a small saucepan, heat it up slowly while blending it with the wand, add the prepared coffee to the heated milk, and voila! I have a latte!

Cheech and Chong said, “If you got something the other guy don’t got, you chair, Man.”

So I’m sharing this with you.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

"Political Crap"

“Political Crap”

Show me someone who refers to the situation in Washington DC as “political crap,” and I will show you a well-insulated person, someone who is comfortable in life and sees no personal issues in the foreseeable future for him or herself, or loved ones. It suits individuals like these to “keep informed” but annoys the, well, crap out of them, to see others expressing their frustration.

Show me someone who refers to politics these days as “political crap,” and I will show you someone who does not have a sick spouse or child, who has just lost precious benefits, obtained under the previous administration.

The current administration has NONE interest in the plight of people who are not in the billionaire class. It’s nothing personal, obviously, or it would not be so diabolically efficient. Every handhold, every element that might offer a ray of hope to elders, is being systematically sabotaged, slashed, cut, removed, adjusted, or eliminated, by the current regime. 


It’s enough to piss off the pope, who recently noted that for a country that called itself Christian, taking the stance that it has towards immigrants and people of color, is not specifically, too Christian.

Yes, social media is being inundated with political posts because there is a crisis. Someone who was not so well-insulated, might view the ban against Muslims, imposed by trump, as being what it is: a racist, petulant tantrum, by a spoiled, billionaire narcissist, acting like a two-year-old-brat.

Unfortunately, he is supposed to be acting like the President of the United States.

And the wall? Just check to see which of trump’s friends has a cement/cinder block factory, and you’ll find out why trump is so bent on the wall. He’s got to making money off of it.

So, yes, millions of Americans are scared because they are struggling to make ends meet, have health issues and they are losing some of the last vestiges of help. If it annoys you to have these people express their political views, you might want to just want to keep that to yourself.


Otherwise, folks might think you were being kind of arrogant and they might not want to hang out with you anymore. Maybe. I don’t know.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Conned

Conned

Never have I felt such a chasm between me and another group of people, as I feel between me and trump supporters. The oldest rule of thumb that exists, states simply that communication is the key to success, when trying to construct a bridge over an insurmountable distance.

In this case communication is useless. To say all trump supporters are stupid is wrong because they are not all stupid. They have, nonetheless, been hoodwinked into supporting a billionaire class that disdains their very existence, conned by a man who has spent his life conning others.

"There's a sucker born every minute..." OK, trump
didn't say this, P.T. Barnum did. My bad. I guess.
Make no mistake-the man is a genius: a pathological, narcissistic, bigoted, misogynistic asshole, but a genius nonetheless. He is a genius because he can make powerful statements like this one, 

“We’re gonna find out. And-and, by the way, when I say you’re gonna find out. You can never really find out, there are gonna be-no matter what numbers we come up with, there are gonna be lots of people that did things we’re not going to find out about. But we will find them out because we need a better system where that can’t happen.” January 25, 2017

Why does speaking gibberish make him a genius? W did it everyday, and no called him a genius.

He's a genius because he played his supporters like a violin. These folks listened, nod enthusiastically and allowed trump to go on talking, because he was speaking their language, using short words. Doublespeak; hypocrisy; misinformation; outright lies; propaganda; incomprehensible rhetoric; gobbledygook; call it what you will-it all spells disaster for millions of Americans, who do not happen to be billionaires.

I have never-either before the election or after-seen an exchange between a trump supporter and anyone else, in which the trump supporter was able to engage in comprehensible dialogue. They are like guns-rights supporters, wind-up dolls who spew the party line. 

Ask a question and you get an answer, but not an answer that has anything to do with the question you asked. It’s just spewage, or spillage, or verbal diarrhea, if you will pardon the expression. Conversing with a trump supporter is as effective as talking to a mannequin.

Many trump supporters do not trust people who use big words because they might be intellectuals, like Barack Obama. Big words confuse many trump supporters; you think trump doesn't know that?

I recently called a long-time friend "stupid" on face/book, ending that friendship forever. I felt bad, for a minute or two, but then I decided that I can no longer buy into the notion that people can put political differences aside, and just be friends.

It works in rare instances, when there are many other connections as well. Otherwise, I no longer ascribe to that theory, because the stakes have never before been what they are now. Political differences-and friendships-have never before hinged on whether the elderly in this country live or die.

Because that’s what we’re talking about here, with the current plan to slash Planned Parenthood, Social Security, and countless other programs that give the poor even a fighting chance at survival. If you continue to support the man responsible for this, and you do it on social media, then I do not want to be your friend.

I simply let my fingers do the deed, clicking on the necessary keys to ensure that I no longer see these cackling posts.

How is the situation ever going to improve if we do not communicate?

Never has there been an easier question to answer: The situation will improve as soon as the poverty stricken in this country start to keel over like so many dominoes. November, 2018 will roll around and enough of the dicks will get voted out of office, to shift the balance.

Legislation will reverse all of the atrocities unfolding today, tomorrow and for the next two years, and it will all be grand again.

Except for those who will die in the meantime, as the party rolls on in the billionaire section of the vessel.


Friday, January 27, 2017

"Love Is Love"

Love Is Love

Why is immaterial. The fact that I cannot be surrounded by people, whether in an elevator or at the yard, without extreme discomfort, was the source of much preparation prior to my participation in the Women’s March in Sacramento, January 21st.

In retrospect it was time well-spent. Along with my coach, Gluten-Free Mama, I not only immersed myself in the midst of the throng, I reveled in it. I had my sign in black and orange colors, ("Human Rights: Acknowledge! Respect! Guarantee! ARG!) which was not attached to any kind of stick, so that it required both hands to hold it aloft, and I had my camera, housed in my San Francisco Giants fanny pack. I made extensive use of both.

We had arrived on Friday, the day before the event, so that we could case the joint. We had walked the ten minutes to the capital building, where a lively "Black Lives Matter" rally was in full swing, and I was able to establish my bearings, so that over the next two days, I would never get turned around.
The park when we first arrived

I gave much thought to my wardrobe because it would be in the forties when we went out in the morning, the wind would be blowing, with gusts as high as 28MPH, and there was a chance of rain before ten-and again, after four in the afternoon.

As a concession to the gravity of the venue, I wore socks with my sandals for the first time in recent memory. I’m not into socks. I wore woolies, sweat pants and cargoes, with enough pockets to house the contents of a small suitcase.

I wore a HappyDay Farms tee shirt and covered it with a wooly top, a HappyDay Farms hoodie and my official US Army raincoat, housed in my closet for the past 44 years. It still fit quite well, even being worn over the top of three other layers.

And stylish, you know?

I slept poorly (Department of Redundancy, Hall of Fame) the three nights prior to the march, as hard as that is to believe, and was therefore at my best the morning of the grand event. As long as I hung onto my backpack, I would be in good shape for the shape I was in. Therein lay the necessities for success-cannabis, water and food-in that order. 

Gluten-Free Mama and I took photos of each other, mine making me look like an action figure, the way I was holding my sign. I see it as a combination of Hulk Hogan and Winnie the Pooh…

We had to walk past the capital building, about the same distance as from our motel, to reach the starting point of the march, a large park that was filling with protestors, but still had plenty of green showing. We had circled around to approach from the rear of the park, so as not to be at the front of the parade. 

“That way we can let most of the crowd go first, and we can just be to the back of the arrangement. As long as we can hear, right?” I asked GF Mama.

“You are the one who needs to be in control of that, depending on your comfort level. Is this all right for you?” She gestured around at the rapidly expanding crowd, so colorful and animated.

“I’m doing well. Can you see that sign over there? The one that says, “Protest is Patriotic?” How cool is that? How about you? How are you doing?” The cold was a factor for GF Mama, more so than for me, and I wanted to make sure that she wasn’t ignoring her own comfort, at the expense of mine.

“Oh, I’m fine. Are you good where we are?” There were still people streaming in behind us, from two different directions, being fed by the streets that passed by the park. They just kept filling in all the gaps that still remained in the park.

“This is perfect, because as long as I can see the back of the crowd, I am good to go.” I had spotted another sign that had my heart in a vise, held by a little girl who looked overwhelmed, but determined, if there is such a thing. I asked her if I could take her picture, with her mom standing right behind her.

She beamed and held the sign just below her eyes, seemingly thrilled at being part of the process: “Love Is Love” read the sign.
Love is the greatest power.
“A WOMAN’S PLACE IS WHERE SHE WANTS TO BE!” another sign screams out, and the crowd proved that, including the police force which was predominantly female-and cordial. 

That being said, there were plenty of men there also, equally indignant at the turn of political events, and marching alongside wives, daughters, girlfriends, cousins and friends.

“Even if you’re LITTLE, you can do a lot”

“Human Rights: Acknowledge! Respect! Guarantee! ARG!”

“I’m With Her” (Arrows pointing in all directions)

“There Is No Planet B”

“We Have the Power to CHANGE HERSTORY”

“Climate Change Is Real”

“ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE.” (The period was a little heart.)

“Hands Off Our Civil Rights”

As the crowd gradually ebbed and flowed across the park, we ended up moving slowly forward with it, there still being no sense of closeness.

“As long as I don’t have people crowding me from behind, I can definitely handle this,” I said, noting that by now I could no longer see the street behind us for the crowd. 

I thought back to my experience at Reggae on the River, 2015, my first one, and how I had maneuvered my way from one side of the throng in front of the stage, to the other, the process taking around ten minutes. The purpose was simply to see if I could do so, without being overwhelmed by a feeling of claustrophobia.
Stick Figure played in 2015.

As is frequently the case, I found that it was all in my head. Whereas I would not want to spend any length of time in the midst of the revelers, I found that being there, per se, was no longer a terrifying experience. It was the knowledge that I was doing so of my own accord, and not being forced, that was the key factor.

The fact that I can’t do AT&T Park any longer, is mute testimony to the longevity factor. In this case, “Some is Good” does not translate into “More is Better…”

But I was also on a pilgrimage, a personal journey that allowed me to put my actions where only my words had previously existed. I would have been more than happy to march in Laytonville, but by the same token, the farther outside my comfort zone, I traveled, the more I would feel I was contributing to the effort.

If we are going to be successful, we need to stand united, and be prepared to get outside that zone we used to call comfortable.

It took more than ninety minutes to ease the 300 feet across the park, and I was solid gold the entire time. Now, however, the crush was real, I had been jostled a half-dozen times, and we were converging on the avenue the march was following.

The two streets that bordered the park fed into the route and were jammed, and the park crowd was funneling itself into these two rivers of humanity. We had long since lost any ability to stop and let the flow ebb around us. 

I was still doing well for all of this, simply because the transformation had taken an hour-and-a-half to complete, allowing me to adjust accordingly. Now, however, as we were about to be sucked into the crush of the street, my radar was screeching like a smoke alarm when the microwave popcorn has just burst into flames.

“So, uh, hey Doll, this is not specifically too good for me. I think I need to pause.” All that was between us and the street, with the crowd pressing at our backs, were the cars that were lined along the street, each with an aisle into the street, through which the crowd was filtering.

I had instinctively glommed onto a light post, located alongside a small sedan, one that I could easily see over, so as not to block any of the aisles. I had to share the pole with a woman who was possibly my age, possibly in her twenties-I have no idea. All I know is I head GF Mama talking to her.

“I’m just not sure,” was this woman’s clarifying statement. I could identify.

I clung tightly to the same light pole myself, for the same reason.


Tomorrow: We're Marching! We're Marching!
Great success!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

"Real Women Don't March"

“Real Women Don’t March!”

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Desmond Tutu

If what Desmond Tutu says is true, and who would better know, and those who say nothing about injustice have chosen the side of the oppressor, then what can be said about those people who openly support injustice?

Specifically, I refer to those posts by women, who are critical of the Women’s Marches. These are women who are openly disdainful of those who marched, because “I am a responsible adult who has to pay bills.”

Huh? Women who marched are not responsible women who pay bills?

Or how about the meme that depicts women in uniform, marching? “This is how real women march to make a difference.” 

Real women?

So Stage IV cancer patients, who happen to be women, who are severely impacted by the new tyrannical regime, and who marched to protest, are not real women?

I am appalled at women’s inhumanity to women. If a man posted that, he would-and should-be properly lambasted. But women do it with impunity? 

If it sounds as though I am taking it personally, and that I am one of those easily offended liberals, then great success. I do take it personally because it impacts me greatly, that so many critical areas that affect the health and welfare of the most vulnerable people in this country-elders and kids-are being hammered into oblivion.

Health-care benefits, Planned Parenthood, Social Security, environmental atrocities, immorality, white supremacy, misogyny, bigotry, greed, hypocrisy, irresponsibility (Betsy Vross for director of education) and just plain dishonesty, are all components of the new regime.
The caption says, "This is how real
women march to make a difference.

If you are so complacent in your existence that you cannot see out of your insulated life, that millions of your sisters (and brothers) are hurting, both on the outside and on the inside, then you need to learn the definition of the word “compassion.”

It’s an old fashioned concept for feeling bad that others, less fortunate, are suffering. If you cannot recognize that you are lucky to have escaped poverty, misery and depression, then that’s sad. But know, nonetheless, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, that millions upon millions of people are hurting.

If you can’t figure this out on your own, at least have the decency to not criticize them for doing what they feel they have to do, in order to survive.



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

More of a Crawl


More of a Crawl

I began a post the other morning by writing, “I stepped outside my comfort zone, Saturday afternoon in Sacramento, while marching in support of human rights, and it turns out that I was in good company.” 

“Stepping out” is stretching matters to a degree, because it was more of a crawl, but hey, who’s quibbling? The reality is, what I accomplished on Saturday surpasses any other endeavor of its nature, that I have ever experienced.

And what sort of “endeavor” might that be? I conquered my fear of being surrounded by so many people that I could not see “freedom” in any direction. If you are even remotely familiar with my mental makeup, you will know that I am claustrophobic beyond comprehension, particularly when it comes to being in the midst of a mass of humanity.

I can not even attend baseball games at AT&T Park, any longer, certainly a most benign of environments, when it comes to packing more than 40,000 folks into the same venue. At the yard, each fan has a designated spot; not so on Saturday, in Sacramento.

We knew this going in, Gluten-Free Mama and I, and we had carefully constructed a plan of action. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement, because there were some things I could provide for her, that made it a push, when it came to balancing the almighty scale.

There was never any hesitation after GF Mama had determined last November 18th, the day after she saw the announcement for the Sacramento Women’s March, that she wanted to attend this particular venue. She searched the net for a reasonably-priced motel in downtown Sacramento, settling on the Quality Inn, at $123.00 per night.

Without even having to think about it, she went ahead and made reservations for both Friday night, so that she could be there when Saturday morning dawned, and Saturday night, so that she did not have to worry about making the four-and-a-half hour drive home, after marching all day.

In this manner she could park the truck upon her arrival, and never move it until departure time on Sunday morning, walking everywhere. Needless to say, one of the perks of this particular motel was free parking; on the other hand, the homeless man sleeping just inside the concrete structure from the street, probably did not pay anything either.

Still, the gods must have been beaming upon her as she selected this particular mecca in the chaos that is the city. True, it was only minutes from the capital building, and therefore within easy reach of the starting point of the march. She knew that much; but it turned out to be so much more.

I only noticed the homeless man because we were on the third floor, of a three-story motel;

in a room on the end of the third floor, closest to the street, farthest from the office;

with a balcony across the front, and turning ninety degrees away from view…of anyone, leading to steps down to the street;

with inclement weather practically the whole time, discouraging others from also being out on the balcony;

looking out across the street at an empty parking lot;

Paradise with an ocean view, if you have had past issues with trying to take your meds, in the form of a doobster. Lots of past issues. 

Even without this knowledge, when Gluten-Free Mama informed me of her plan, and the steps she had already taken-way back in November-I was immediately intrigued. I had been posting political hit-pieces on the new administration, practically since the absurd notion of trump running, popped up. I particularly remember one comic strip from Don Asmussen’s Bad Reporter in the Chron.

Would GF Mama like some company, I asked? Driving over to Sacramento could be problematic, should it happen to be snowing at that time. [Editor’s note: What are the chances? lol]

I think I surprised her; fortunately, this time, it was a pleasant surprise.

“You want to go to the Women’s March?” she asked.

“I mean, if it’s OK and everything, me not being of the woman persuasion. You know,” I stopped, while I was not any further behind.

“No!” she exclaimed, “I mean, yes. No, you don’t have to be a woman, and yes, it would be nice if you wanted to go with me.” 

There, that settled that.


Tomorrow: “Grab a light pole and hang on.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What's Next?

What's Next?

We traveled; we marched; we have returned.

What’s next?

The first Women’s Roundtable will convene at the Laytonville Grange, Tuesday January 31st, at 4:30. As Diane Schankin phrased it, “There are so many ways we could affect our community in a positive way. Please bring your thoughts and your ideas to share.”


Some suggestions included in Diane’s post are:

a seminar for girls on setting boundaries and learning to say no

supporting a wo(man) for political office

an environmental cause

working on a campaign to eliminate the electoral college

health care issues

reproductive rights

“Let’s be at the cause and not the effect of change,” Diane said, concluding with, “Thank you again for the inspiration of yesterday’s Women’s March across the world."

"Power of the people.”

When I saw the post on face/book, I included an idea that popped into my head: A concerted effort to address bullying at all levels in our school district. Small group, across the table dialogue, designed and led by students. "Let's make America kind again" should be more than just a slogan, and it has to start where kids are gathered together, especially if they don't want to be there.

This type of community effort supersedes politics. It does not matter for whom you voted; it matters that you see the need to address issues arising from the new administration.

Enjoying the fruits of victory from the protest last Saturday, is grand, but when we've emptied the bowl, the work must begin. We need to take the torch that has been ignited, and carry it forth. Our ray of light in Northern Mendocino County, may not extend as far as more populated areas, but then there are fewer lights on the ground to obscure, that which we do create.

United, we make forward progress, which is better than remaining complacent.

Sitting around at work or home, bitching about the injustice of it all, doesn’t get anything accomplished. Even if you cannot make it to this meeting, or other meetings, does not mean you cannot be involved, right?

Using social media, we can sift through information, suggestions, agendas, time-frames, surveys, questions, ideas, and we can provide links. We can use social media to organize. All of these options are available. There are so “many ways that we can affect our community in a positive way.”

I agree, Diane. Thanks!





Monday, January 23, 2017

Nothing but Strong Women Around Me


She was so proud to pose for my photo.

Nothing but Strong Women Around Me

I stepped outside my comfort zone, Saturday in Sacramento, while marching in support of human rights, and it turns out that I was in good company. Though I had been following posts on social media about the multitude of available opportunities to protest, I was staggered by the web of connectedness, that exists within my universe. 

From London to Washington DC; from Alaska to Hawaii; from Vermont to North Carolina; from Michigan down to New Orleans; from Seattle to Los Angeles; from Ft. Bragg to Laytonville; from Sacramento to Oakland; from Bend to Napa; from Arkansas to Ukiah; the web that connects us together in this time of crisis, is so intricate, so strong and above all, so all-encompassing, that it electrifies me.

Included in our web, was Bernie Sanders, speaking Saturday in in Montpelier, Vermont. Also included in Saturday's epic protests were a whole lot of other men, marching in solidarity with our sisters, daughters, aunties, nieces, grandmothers, daughters-in-law, mothers and every other possible connection there could be. 
The children turned out in force, thousands of them, brought along to the rally by parents who wanted to teach their children about democracy in action.

In numbers there is strength. Whereas 20,000 strong in Sacramento seems impressive to me, how does seven hundred and fifty thousand in Los Angeles sound to you? Three-quarters of a million angry people turned out and there were how many arrests? 

Zero.

You can find crazy people everywhere in this country and they are scary. To me three-quarters of a million, angry but controlled and focused people, are a lot scarier. With the power of social media, people found that organization is infinitely more efficient than it has ever been.

This web of connectedness is essential, now that the White House has made it official: We have come face-to-face with Orwellian times, when we are told to ignore what our ears and our eyes tell us, and instead, focus on what is being bleated into our skulls by a petulant bully.

That I am personally connected to so many parts of our Planet A, (There is no Planet B) gives me the brightest ray of hope that I have encountered thus far in this crisis. My sense that there is mounting frustration at the audacity of the farce now serving as our President, is hammered home by how tightly sculpted this web of connectedness is.

My initial feeling of insignificance has passed.

Instead of wondering how much impact one aging hippie, male at that, could possibly have on an event of such magnitude as the Women’s March on Sacramento, I focused instead on the importance of simply providing support for Gluten-Free Mama.

You see, when it was first announced last November 17th that there would be a Women’s March in Sacramento, Gluten-Free Mama spent exactly 24 hours contemplating the universe, before making up her mind that she had to be there. 

Why Sacramento, when there were marches in Eureka, Santa Rosa, Ukiah and even Laytonville, not to mention most every other major city in the country? Because Sacramento is the capital of California, and GF Mama thought it to be the most appropriate venue for her to march.

Like millions of other Americans, she feels frustrated and betrayed by the actions of an individual who has made it clear that he has nothing but contempt for the very people he is supposed to represent. Sitting back and griping about it wasn’t going to be enough this go-round.

Yes, the sign asks, “Didn’t we settle this in the ’70s?” And then I see the meme that has the Suffragettes depicted, and I get it. Or take the man with the sign in Spanish that says, and I’m paraphrasing here, “I stand here, half-naked, in the midst of thousands of the opposite gender, and I have no fear, I am not intimidated, and I feel safe.” 

Point well-taken.
One aging hippie: ARG! Acknowledge, Respect; Guarantee
Human Rights
People need to feel safe and they need to know their kids are safe. How can any family not pristinely white, ever expect to achieve that feeling of safety in an environment of hatred, bigotry and greed? A world where ratings and appearance means infinitely more than ensuring that children and elders do not go to bed, cold and hungry.

Sigh.

No, not sigh. ARG! Human Rights: Acknowledge! Respect! Guarantee!

ARG!

So many diverse individuals put aside their personal agendas, even on a rare sunny Saturday in London, in the snow in Alaska and Oregon (and countless other places), in the cold, driving rain in Laytonville (and countless other places), that I cannot help but feel jubilant at the results of our efforts.

Being the language arts guy, I don’t do numbers. That being said, the fact that this worldwide effort is being labeled the biggest protest in history, thrills me to the marrow of my soul. 

Whew. We’re done, right? We got out and marched, we set the world on fire and now we can go back to fuming, silently, in our little boxes.

I don’t think so and neither do others.

Tomorrow: The first Women’s Roundtable

Thank you so much for the shout-out on face/book; it was truly inspiring:

Alice, her friends and her sister: Anacortes, WA; Mt. Vernon, WA and Palm Springs, CA

Angie, married to my nephew TJ: dear friends of hers marched in Sacramento.

Brady: Eugene, OR

Kris: Bend, OR

Moorea-Rose: Kailua-Kona, HI

Carly's step-daughter marched in Ukiah

Sean reports that Bakersfield supporters turned out.

Fawn: Kathi, Shannon and others marched in Santa Rosa, not to mention Laytonville.

Roz: Guinevere in San Francisco and Shanti in Santa Rosa

Rebel said Janet was in Santa Rosa, also.

Karen: Family marched in Sacramento, San Francisco and Winters, CA.

Missy: Marched in solidarity in Ukiah.

Colleen, my cousin: Marched in Los Angeles, where people were "cordial and patient" all day, despite the turnout of 3/4 of a million people.

Keoma: Laytonville, Baby!

Evan: Eureka

Apple: Montpelier, Vermont, a city of 8,000, where 20,000 turned out to hear from Bernie Sanders (!).

Jason, my nephew: Charlotte, North Carolina with the quote of the day: "Nothing but strong women all around me. How could I not support!"

Michelle: Eureka

Allison also marched in Eureka.

Joanie was in Oakland, and Biasha marched in San Francisco.

Jenny marched in London, and we had a picture!

Jove was part of the March on Washington DC. Zounds!

Lynn marched in Seattle.

Gloria marched in San Francisco.

Stacey marched in Ukiah.

Lindsay: Laytonville! (Loved the banner!)

Cheryl: Laytonville!

Ericka left a link for protests worldwide.

Laura: Ukiah

Tim, with his son Miles on his back: Los Angeles

Lu: Three generations strong, daughter, daughter-in-law and granddaughter, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, ended up on the University of Michigan campus.

Stephen: Eureka

Paul, my cousin: Bridge Together Golden Gate Friday, in San Francisco

Shannon posted a photo from Santa Rosa. (Kathi's sign: "I can't believe I still have to protest this fucking shit.") Word

Rebel's mom was in Santa Rosa and he reports there was a good turnout in Ft. Bragg.

Mare marched in Santa Rosa along with Sisters of Perpetual Mercy.

Aurelea: New Orleans, Louisiana

Lisette marched with her daughters in Ketchikan, Arkansas. One of her signs: "We stand with Standing Rock."

Yvonne marched in Eureka.

Wayne and Mary marched in Ventura, 3,000 strong in "Cowtown."

Stacie: "Folks braved some nasty wind and snow in Haines, Alaska."

Dreama's mom marched in Santa Rosa.

Jon was in downtown Laytonville.

Louann marched in Napa.

Leslie marched in Eureka with over 7,000 peeps.

Peggy, my cousin, marched in Portland among 100,000 strong.

Tim mentioned the great turnout in Laytonville, proud to have been a part of it.

It goes without saying that many others communicated with me in countless venues so I know I do not include all of my brothers and sisters who marched. Know, however, that we stand united, in solidarity, for human rights for all.
Whatever it takes


















Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Around the Block

Around the Block

We are rapidly approaching the Women’s March in Sacramento, scheduled for Saturday, the day after the inauguration, and corresponding with other protest marches all over the world. I am going to carry a sign that says, “Human Rights: Acknowledge, Respect & Guarantee (ARG!)”

I inserted these words into a piece of writing I posted recently, and they reflect the attitude I am carrying with me to Sacramento. I am not interested in quibbling with terms; I am interested in preserving the basic rights of all human beings.

Whether you are female, gay, Muslim, black, Catholic, bipolar, Mexican, wheelchair-bound, 92 years old, conservative, a kindergartner, flat-topped, pock-marked, atheist, weight-challenged, red-necked, lesbian, bearded, height-challenged, anorexic, left-winged, punk, uneducated, hippie, or even male, I am standing up for your right to be the person you are.
My sign

I have been around the block a time or two. I watched through the 70’s, as student-driven organizations fought to establish basic human rights for themselves and others who did not fit the bill of being white, straight and “normal." I supported each and every cause, as long as it used peaceful means to implement change.

Along with millions of other Americans, I thought we were finished establishing the fact that we are all guaranteed the right to pursue whatever blows air up our collective skirts, as my sainted father used to say.

There was a time when no politician-let alone a business/con man-could even consider making a disparaging comment about women or minority groups, without getting lambasted in the media. This was nowhere more prevalent than in professional sports. Now we have a racist, bigoted, misogynistic, bully of a President-elect, working his hardest to set the clock back to the fifties.

I was born in 1952, three months before Dwight Eisenhower was elected to the first of two terms, in an era when the Republican Party still reflected American values for everyone, regardless of your economic status.

Now, of course, the Republican Party concerns itself only with the top one percent of the people in the country, in terms of economics. Instead of family values, which include caring for the elderly and sick, the Republican Party thinks only of ways to increase revenue, for itself and rich friends.

The protests this Saturday are not directed at the president-elect, so much as they are attempting to reassert that basic human rights are currently in place. We are protesting the possibility that Congress will attempt to remove these rights.

In numbers there is strength and we will have the numbers on our side this Saturday, all over the globe. Specifically, I am marching to demand that basic human rights remain Acknowledged, Respected and Guaranteed.

ARG!


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Clerical Error

Clerical Error

I wrote about my first date with Gluten-Free Mama the other morning, and how we discussed Bell Springs Road and all it entailed. I wrote about us chatting on about the Giants, where we worked and about San Jose State, where I was going to school full-time, enrolled in a masters program in English.

Having come out of the US Army with a fervent need to be “educated,” I had not only completed my degree in Humanities, in 1979, I had done so with an unblemished 4.0 grade point average. I saw no reason why that should change, just because I was doing post-graduate work.

Without doubt the most rigorous class I ever took, at any level, was Methods and Materials of Literary Research, taught by the head of the English Department, a crusty, diminutive man in stature, who spoke softly but carried a lot of weight. 

He was brusk without being gruff; he was all-business, with the ability to infuse just a hint of jocularity into the environment; finally, he was demanding without ever seeming so. The work level was the greatest I have ever been assigned, and I spent several hours every day that semester, slaving away at this class, but I also thrived.
I filled out hundreds of index cards, I completed every assignment religiously and I aced every test, so I was dumbfounded to find that I had earned a B+ for the class. I had just received my grades in the mail, a day or two before I took GF Mama out for the first time.

So, of course, during our evening together, I spelled out for her my frustration at the grade I had received, for no other reason than to make with the palaver.

To my shock, she hit me up with, “Why don’t you go talk to him about your grade? Maybe he just made a mistake.”

“Dr. Hagar make a mistake? The only time he ever made a mistake, was the time he thought he made a mistake. But you think I ought to go talk to him?” It was truly a novel idea.

She looked at me as though I were a PE Major. “Yes. You should go talk to him and see if it was just a clerical error. If all of your grades have been A’s for the work you have done, then there has to be a mistake.”

I followed up on what GF Mama had suggested, by going by his office the next day to make an appointment to discuss the questionable grade. To my surprise, he invited me in to talk about it right then, his office being devoid of other students at the moment.

There was no question that he knew who I was, my ponytailed hair and fiery red beard possibly jogging his memory. When I showed him the transcript with the objectionable B+, he reached for his grade book, saying at the same time, “Well, this should be easy to resolve; let me take a look. Hmmm, O’Neill. Hmmm.”

Whereas I might have thought that there would have to be some sort of process needed to sort through it all, it took him all of thirty seconds to say, “Plainly there is some sort of clerical error here, because your work has been A quality. I will make the necessary change and inform the university accordingly. My apologies,” he said sincerely, extending his hand.

Just like that.

Never in the history of the universe had I thought anything was going to change, and yet it had, without any hullabaloo. I had only gone because of GF Mama’s certainty that there was a mistake. 

When I informed Gluten-Free Mama of the change in my grade, I was glowing. She, on the other hand, did not seem surprised. 

“Well, it made sense. Now, aren’t you glad you listened to me?”

I’ve been listening to her ever since.



Monday, January 16, 2017

Have Scissors: Won't Travel

Have Scissors: Won’t Travel

I did eight loads of laundry yesterday, without washing an article of personal laundry for either Gluten-Free Mama or me, having accomplished that task the day before with six loads to start off the parade. I ain’t bragging but I ain’t skeered, neither.

Doing laundry this winter has been a challenge, with the temperature never being quite warm enough outside to completely dry clothes, even when it is sunny. We have three clothes racks indoors, in addition to the clotheslines outside, to hang stuff that GF Mama does not want hung in the direct sun.

I have no such compunctions; I hang my stuff over the railing on the deck, if that is all there is.

It had been a minute or two since I had hauled the little generator over to the side of the house, hooked up drain, water and power, and done some clothes-washing. Rain and snow tend to discourage doing laundry, because of that running generator, normally housed in a location too far away to be able to stretch a cord.

I have made good use of my time in the inclement weather, however, manicuring flowers that have been carefully stored so that they retain their freshness and bouquet. Trimming is the single most challenging job I have ever done. So much so, that I could never consider doing it anywhere but my own home.
My ball and chain
Physically, working the scissors is not as rigorous as, say, working the soil with a pitchfork, but it still requires far more effort. I can turn soil over for four-six hours at a time, without pausing any longer than to hit both the bong and the water thermos, and do it effortlessly.

When it comes to trimming, however, I expend more effort in fifteen minutes, than I do in an entire outing with the fork. Hey, manhandling soil that has not been disturbed for a year, allows me to channel my manic energy into a worthwhile task, with the mutually beneficial results being tilled soil and a calm Markie.

Trimming is hard because I am channeling that same manic energy into what? This tiny instrument that requires that I meticulously clip countless minute fragments of leaf or stem matter, while climbing the walls without a ladder.

Hold on! There are dirty dishes? I LOVE doing dirty dishes. Stoves need firewood? Wood-ring needs wood? Floors need sweeping? Dozer needs a walk? Toby just barfed? Bathroom needs sprucing up, including scrubbing the toilet? And don’t even get me started on Kodak moments, photo-ops that clamor for my undivided attention.

Anything that will get me out of trimming.
I have been working on Lemon Ogre

Fortunately, I am good at it; unfortunately, I am slower than a slug in a barrel of molasses. Last year at this time, when my blog was off consorting with aliens and I was rudderless for six months, I trimmed from around one each morning, until seven in the morning, so that there was nothing to distract me. This way, once I hung up my scissors and cleaned my work station, I was a free man the rest of the day.
Free to do what, is unclear, since I have no memory of those six months of living in the dark without my blog. It is a similar sensation to losing those five years between the time I retired, and the time we got internet service up here on the mountain. 

Talk about back from the shadows.

There are advantages to working the scissors, though, because quality-control is such a vital component to successfully manicuring the flowers. We can’t have medicine being produced that does not measure up to the high standards that we have established.

So I must continuously sample that which I am manicuring to ensure success in this area. It’s a brutal job but someone’s gotta do it.

I ain’t bragging, but I ain’t skeered, neither.




Sunday, January 15, 2017

Never Enough

Never Enough

So yeah, people “with preexisting conditions,” like say, Stage-IV cancer patients, are simply out of luck when it comes to healthcare.

If you can keep it all impersonal, and just refer to these folks as having “preexisting” conditions, then it’s like, well, what the hell, if you have preexisting conditions, too bad for you-tough luck and all that. Sucks to be you.

All of this so that so that the one percent of the richest people in the country, can get a little bit richer. I have used every adjective that synonyms.com can furnish to describe my feelings for people who are so inhumane to others, that they continue to amass fat Swiss banks accounts, off the pain and misery of others. Exactly how much money in a Swiss bank account is enough, has never been established, because, well, it’s never been enough.

Who would want to live in a world that was so immune to others’ grief, that it allowed elders to freeze in their own homes, while not having enough to eat? And I’m not talking about Corn Flakes and powdered milk, either; I’m talking about organic fruit and vegetables, with chicken, fish and beef easily accessible in the freezer.

Why is it that these lawmakers, who are required by their very oaths of office, to look after the basic human rights of all US citizens, are allowed to blatantly ignore the fact that 43 million Americans are living at-or below-the poverty level?

Why are they allowed to serve the wealthiest, like the lackeys that they are, without being held accountable for their self-serving agendas? I know I have posed these questions before, rhetorically, because all attempts to communicate with lawmakers, has resulted in a form letter being sent to me, lauding all of the recent actions on the part of said lawmaker.

If I choose to not continue to write about these social injustices, then I have done exactly as expected-protested mildly, and then drifted back to sleep, while people die every day, in the most heinous fashions imaginable.

If you voted for trump, righteous in your indignation, just know that it hits some of us a lot harder than it hits others.

I have written about the upcoming Women’s Marches, in venues all over the country, and I have written about how to counter a public, toxic racial or homophobic attack on someone in your immediate vicinity. Finally, I have found myself in the midst of vitriolic exchanges with friends whose political ideologies are different from mine, and these exchanges can get ugly. 

I see there is an effort being made to boycott the inauguration on television, something that will be easy for me to do since I have yet to see one image of trump on tv or hear one word uttered from his mouth. I’d say it was a case of out-of-sight/out-of-mind, except he rarely leaves my mind.

Boorish, immature, narcissistic behavior holds no allure for me. Old-fashioned attributes, such as integrity, humanity and compassion have far greater appeal, and thus I will continue to rail on against the indefensibly atrocious behavior of our elected “greaders” (greedy leaders).

When it comes right down to it, those of us not in the one percent, regardless of which political party we adhere to, ought to recognize that there is a common enemy here, and it is not one another: Greed is the common enemy.

If we could do this and unite together to fight greed, we could really accomplish something. I mean, 99% against 1%?

Why are we the underdogs?