Dozer, the Bulldog

Dozer, the Bulldog
Feeling the "Bern"

Ellie Mae

Ellie Mae
No time for gates...

Ollie Mac

Ollie Mac
My cooking assistant

Ollie and Annie

Ollie and Annie
Azorean grandmother


38 years on this mountain, come May 31st...



Papa and Ollie Mac

Papa and Ollie Mac
Priorities, Baby


Annie, my Sweetest of Apple Blossoms

My first portrait

My first portrait
"Mr. Farmer"

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Smile When You Refer to me as Moody

Smile When You Refer to me as Moody
Saying that a person who is bipolar is moody, is like saying a person with an IQ of 161 is smart.  You think?  Being bipolar, or having a mood spectrum disorder, certainly involves walking a tight rope that bridges the chasm between being manically exuberant, and deadly depressive.  But it also encompasses a range of emotions that are normally not associated with mood.
Take irritability, please.  I wish someone would.  Everyone gets annoyed upon occasion, because of the traffic, or the whining of the mosquitoes, or the incessant questions of a toddler.  “Patience is a virtue-have it if you can; found seldom in a woman-never in a man...”  Or, you may reverse it and express the same sentiment from the male perspective.  Either way, the saying acknowledges that trying to remain patient in the light of adversity, can be challenging.
For mood spectrum disorder sufferers, irritability is an emotion that is often infamously referred to as the “bipolar rage.”  I believe that many of the road rage incidents are caused by people with mood spectrum disorder, because of this rapid onset of irritability, coupled with the possible ability to counter perceived slights with a powerful automobile, is just too much to resist.
The other day, at some point mid-afternoon, I experienced a relatively short period of irritability, that would make the term moody, as used to describe my mood, ludicrous.  It began with a chicken.  I have written-humorously-about the challenge of existing anywhere within range of the raucous din of hens, but there is nothing funny about the way that aural pollution penetrates to the core of my psyche.
Use any analogy that applies: it’s like having someone kick you in the shin bone, and then, for good measure, doing it again in the same place; it’s like having the tea kettle go off, with the person who put it on, nowhere to be found; it’s like listening to that wood pecker, hammering away on the siding of your house, knowing the damage that was being done, with no way to stop it.   
This chicken repeated the same discordant note, with alarming regularity, and the sound permeated my very soul.  I had the radio blasting KWNE, the generator going in the immediate vicinity, and unless I wanted to maintain my Skill-Saw cut indefinitely, I was still subjected to the continuous din of this chicken.  Fortunately for the hen, I have managed to plan ahead, having a spray bottle of plain water, readily stationed just outside the house of horrors, for my sadistic pleasure.  
Not once, not twice, but three times (“...Three civil brawls...have thrice disturbed the quiet of our streets...”) that bird went off, and I followed suit.  The third time I patiently-but methodically-herded that hen, and her sixteen sisters, all the way to the other side of the orchard, firing my water pistol, with consistent, if inaccurate, streams of water.  Predictably, when I ran out of water, they beat me back to the hen house.  But it did result in five minutes of quiet, after each visit to the scene.
Then I decided it was time for lunch.  Where was that lettuce?  I knew it was in the refrigerator somewhere, but I had already ransacked the frosty interior, with no success.  No problem.  I’ll just empty the contents of the lowest shelf, out onto the floor, and proceed from there. Fortunately, as misguided as the extreme may have been, I lucked out before I had created chaos, and retired with my lettuce to the counter.
The calm was short-lived.  In attempting to close the broiler door of the oven, I found it would not cooperate.  There is a little trick to it, that I thought I had mastered, but not on this occasion.  The door would still be wide open, if Annie hadn’t closed it, the first time she entered the kitchen afterwards.  She is so talented.
Whether I am experiencing mania, depression, or a “normal” mood, irritability can have me walking a tight rope, until the feelings pass.  Other times, that hen can be joined by multiple members of the chorus, and it will not phase me.  
So, I guess if you are going to refer to me as moody, you had better be willing to back that up.  Otherwise, I’ll be chasing after you with my squirt bottle, at least until I run out of water.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

My Dog's Better than Yours

My Dog’s Better than Yours
I have never attempted to discus politics, having been born with what little amount of common sense I possess, and having been wise enough to recognize that waxing on about my favorite candidate, or more likely, dissing on his opponent, is not going to accomplish anything other than stirring up the stuff.  Folks just get so emotional about the whole thing.
As you may know, emotion is a slippery slope for me these days, because of my diagnosis of mood spectrum disorder.  I try to keep the emotional roller coaster at bay, by avoiding topics likely to evoke passion or dissension.  That being said, I want to try and navigate around the carnival that comprises the national political scene, possibly shedding a little light for my own self, as to exactly why people get so bent out of shape.
Beginning with political parties, I see them as big clubs, which are open for anyone to join-or not.  Based on my own upbringing, Papa was a Democrat, because he was a working man, who spent his life laboring with his hands, eschewing formal education, even though he was a very intelligent man.  His nine kids all have college degrees because it was always expected that they would.  He presented the perfect application of the “Do as I say-not as I do” motif.
Mama never declared anything openly, but her father was a Republican, being a businessman, and adhering to the less is best philosophy, when it came to government intervention in business affairs. Consequently, a healthy dichotomy existed, with my father being open and jovial about the whole process, and my mother simply allowing him to enjoy his light-hearted banter, without getting drawn into any debates.  She only smiled knowingly, when Papa named the new sow he had acquired, Mamie, after President Eisenhower’s wife, way back in the fifties.  It was all the same to me.
I have always worked paycheck-to-paycheck; Annie and I have always been satisfied with that.  Money has never held any attraction to me, and I have never had to contend with the challenges of the business world.  I am, therefore, a registered Democrat.  I see the Democratic Party as representing the common man, the regular old Joes of the country, who work in the service industry and produce the goods and homes, that any nation requires to continue to grow and flourish.  That does not make me a bad guy.
I perceive the Republican party as being a collection of people who see big government as meddling and demanding.  I comprehend that sense of indignation, that some politician in Washington DC, should have so much influence over a small businessperson, say, here in California.  So I understand why the Republican Party would be the natural result of this desire to avoid government interference in business.  This is a very simplistic view of the Republican Party.  Feel free to insert your own respective definitions as to what constitutes the two parties.
So far, all is good: in my universe, we have two sides, made up of like-minded folks, and both sides have admirable reasons for existing.  Where it all goes wrong is when the human element gets involved.  As long as it is principles we are talking about, everyone stays mellow.  Introduce a specific personality into the process, and then present an alternative, and it riles folks up. 
I remember the television commercials that pursued the theme, “My dog’s better than your dog,” in pushing a popular dog food brand.  I see the political process as being no more or less than this basic concept: My guy is better than yours.  The only difficulty is, that in modern politics, that translates to, “Your guy is worse than my guy.” 
Republicans are indignant that the sitting President wants to assure that all people have health care; Democrats are affronted that the opposing candidate has so much money, he can’t even find adequate banking within the confines of his own country, but must employ the services of banks overseas.  
There are one or two other things that might be lumped into the mix, but to start mentioning those specific items, is to raise the hackles of everyone still reading this piece.  And that’s the central point: as long as we keep it general and focused on issues, everything is good.  As soon as we start tossing in the human factor, people get perturbed.  
What’s the alternative?  Your computer versus ours?  Is it good that the big issues are so well-defined, or would it be better to be comparing candidates based on looks, or personality, or degree of intellectual capability, or sexual appeal, or any other measurement device?  These have all been used in the past.
I sure do not have the answer, but I do have a suggestion.  Can we all just let everyone root for his guy, and not make it personal?  Can I wonder to myself, how it is that Whosie could possibly like the candidate he does, without thinking bad of Whosie?
Can others listen to me prattle on about my guy, without thinking to themselves, “This guy is so full of blarney, his eyes are brown”?  That is the big question.  Like the dog food commercial, each of us is going to think that “my dog is better than yours.”  Isn’t that OK?  People have to be able to think what they want, without others getting their collective panties in a bunch.  Otherwise, why have two political parties?  Oh, yeah.  I forgot, we have lots of choices: a monarchy, a dictatorship, communism, anarchy...did I leave any out?
When the day after the election arrives, and we have a new President, we are still going to have to hit the shower, and trudge off to work, with next Sunday’s football game newly replacing politics on the front burner.  After all, in this area, if you start dissing on the Raiders, you better have good health insurance.  People just seem to take these things so seriously.
May the candidate who antagonizes the fewest voters, be the next President of the United States.  Besides, ultimately, if I get stuck, and can’t decide, I am just going to vote for Buster Posey.  Can’t go wrong with Buster, and no one will yell at me, except for maybe Dodger fans, and everyone knows that they don’t count.
Shoot.  Did I just write that?  I am such a slow learner.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Regardless of whether we have lacked money, interest, opportunity or motivation, Annie and I have never been big on vacations.  With the exception of our epic trip to Ireland last summer, we have never indulged in this particular leisure activity.  However, beginning in the late eighties, when the boys were past the toddler stage, we began to escape north, to the metropolitan mecca of Eureka, for a weekend at at time, primarily as a means of survival.  
Eureka has a population of just over 27,000, so it is not exactly an urban jungle, but it does have a mall, and a pace that is well-suited to folks who like to avoid the fast track.  Most importantly, it provided a means of escaping the grind of day to day existence, transporting us to a land where time tends to slow down just a tad, and we could forget that we  were on a hamster’s treadmill.
Beginning even before I was teaching, the weekend jaunts took on added meaning, because they were strategically timed for two of my favorite times of each year: Christmas season and the very start of summer.  The Christmas weekend took place sometime after mid-November, and focused on shopping for Christmas gifts.  However, we also tried to make it a three-day adventure, so as to allow for some leisure time also.
From the beginning we gravitated to Old Town, and used it as a base of operations, staying in a series of inexpensive motels, and walking the neighborhood in search of good restaurants, antique stores, and entertainment.  This particular summer, we have taken advantage of the free outdoor concerts, down on the waterfront, and enjoyed listening to the music, while viewing the very colorful characters, who gather to take in the show.
In the past the summer excursion was always set for the weekend after eighth grade graduation, and provided a venue for total collapse, as was our usual desire, at the end of another successfully completed school year.  Successfully completed means that we had survived another marathon, and were probably gearing up for summer school, but that for the moment, we needed to recuperate, and recharge our batteries.
Money was always tight, so our itinerary was less likely to feature glitz, and more likely to focus on the need for simplicity.  We used to bring up our VHS machine, and rent a half-dozen films, and just pig out on whatever recent releases were available.  The first night up there might even have found us stopping for KFC or Burger Bar fare, simply to speed up the process of getting us into our room, with ice chest, and officially off the tread mill.
We have always enjoyed window shopping, and getting out in Old Town afforded us the opportunity to meander about, while taking in the sights and sounds of the local community.  There is a fair contingent of homeless folk, who often ask for spare change, but we have never been bothered by any of them.  We don’t project the image of tourists, so the homeless generally ignore us.
We are familiar with most of the restaurants in the area, and try to walk to dinner if we can, so that we can enjoy a glass of wine at dinner, without having to drive afterwards.  Now that we are not teaching anymore, the need to escape may not be so pressing, but it is still definitely there.  As much as ever, we need to occasionally set aside a weekend to devote to ourselves.  
After all, if we are not going to take vacations, we need to at least seize the day once in a while, and get away for a weekend.  It says so in the manual, in the first section, right there under survival skills. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I'm Not Into Time-Yet

I’m Not Into Time-Yet
Which is, of course, a lie.  I am very much into time, and I spend an inordinate amount of, well, time, thinking about this concept.  Among the aspects of time that fascinate me, is how one period of time, the exact same interval as another, can seem to stretch out, depending on the circumstances.  
There have been Julys that have sped by in what seems like the blink of an eye.  There have been others that seemed to take months to complete.  When I was in Korea, newly arrived by a couple of weeks, in July of 1972, I was the sorriest example of a human being as there could possibly have been.  Immersed in my depression about being 7,000 miles from home, I was put through a litany of challenges by the army, seemingly bent on destroying what little morale I had left, with a series of unreasonably demanding tasks, that had me on the brink of despondency.
I credit the support of friends and family back home, and the presence of my oldest brother Eric, in Korea at the time in the Peace Corps, with pulling me through the whole experience.  Being diagnosed with MSD, I can only now understand why it was that I was so profoundly depressed while in the military.  It’s what MSD patients do so well.
Now consider July of any of the sixteen years that I taught, and I will show you examples of time running rampant.  Even though I taught summer school, or ran enrichment programs, thirteen of the sixteen summers I was in education, July was always the easiest month.  June was still caught up in last of the school year functions, including graduation, and August too much geared toward the upcoming school year, especially when the school year began in August, for time to relax.
July being easy means that, as much as I wanted to slow the speed boat down, and stretch those thirty-one days out, it never happened.  The more I focused on enjoying the moment, the more I found myself being battered about by the wake of the departing vessel, known as July, bobbing up and down, and gasping for breath.  “Just give me a little more time.”
Father Aidan, back in high school, used to assign after-school detention, and require the detainees stand for the sixty minutes, staring at the clock.  Talk about a turtle’s pace, and I would have welcomed it.  Try a snail’s pace, and then we’re on the same page.  After an hour in Father Aidan’s detention, jobs such as peeling potatoes, or washing dishes, seemed absolutely scintillating.
Watching a typical Giants game on the TV, usually produces the tense drama that Duane Kuiper refers to as “torture.”  Whereas, those of us know, who have been National League fans since the early days of the West Coast, Dodgers/Giants rivalry, tight, low-scoring games are the norm.  That is real baseball; it just seems interminable, compared to a game when the Giants jump out to a quick lead, and methodically trample the opposition.  Sure, that happens a lot.
They say time flies when you are having a good time, but that it drags when you are not.  I agree, but I wish I had a formula to reverse the process.  If I could attain the proper outlook over the elapse of time, and reverse the process so that the hard times could be sped up, and the enjoyable times slowed down, who knows?  I just might make the cover of “Time.”

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Ugly, the Bad, and the Good

The Ugly, the Bad, and the Good
Once again, the ugly, the bad and the good have aligned themselves to rearrange agendas and refocus attention on what is important in life: love, the higher power.  First, the ugly: Mood spectrum disorder manifests itself through some ugly components, but enough peaches and cream.  Been there, done that, and now my goal is to not repeat it.
The bad presents itself, more in the way that I allow MSD to alter my previous lifestyle, than through any physical or mental challenges.  I dealt with the gong going off in my head every time I flashed on bipolarism, until it stopped of its own accord when I acquired some knowledge on the subject.  I think of the bad as any lack of communication, which allows false assumptions to be made about what MSD is and how it impacts the people involved.
I hate that I am anxious about this upcoming family gathering, because it should be something to anticipate with relish.  That is a bad thing.  But I love the fact that I have six weeks to get my tools together, and formulate a plan.  That’s the good news.  I can’t do anything about the presence of MSD in the first place, but I can do much about how I proceed from here.  
So much of the available information about MSD, begins with the premise that medication is essential.  When I asked Annie how we were supposed to deal with this attitude, she said to ignore it, and draw from the work, that which applies to us.  I also see this as good because all along we have adhered to the idea that one must advocate for oneself, or take potluck.  Having already been served a portion of Seroquel, the “atypical, antipsychotic medication” I was prescribed on the very first visit to my original psychiatrist, and having chosen to abstain after reading about possible side-effects, I am more determined than ever to call the upcoming shots.
That is also a good thing.  For me to pursue a course of action with which I disagreed, would be disastrous, because I have to have buy-in, the same as any other middle schooler.  Tell me I have to do something, and watch me dig my heels in.  Suggest that it is in my best interest, to direct my own therapeutic path, and I am much more likely to see the advantages, and go for the jugular. 
The end result is that my illness has allowed me to see the higher power of love in action and that is the best thing of all.  I have seen patience personified, and I have seen perseverance prevail.  I have seen uncertainty turn into illumination, and I have seen bewilderment become knowledge and power.  I have witnessed initiative in action, and seen the results, even though I was flummoxed at the time, not to mention dazed and confused.  Now I see the reality that MSD is no different than any other ailment I may have developed as I aged, only more misunderstood.
That very misunderstanding is what leaves me incapable of embracing the upcoming reunion with anticipation and enthusiasm.  I find myself wanting to say, “Hey everyone, I’m the same old me.  I mean, I used to be weird; now I’m just weird with a label.”  Then I remember that no one has suggested that I am not me-except me.
Oh.  I have to remember that.  I am the one who is creating the classic “what-if” dilemma.  What if, like, well, everyone is all uncomfortable around me?  What if, like, well, I take a sharp stick and jab it into my eye?  Both would have an equally nonexistent effect on the outcome of the event.  
What if, like, well I just walk into the joint like I own it, and tell thems what have a problem to eat a root?  Now there’s a what-if I can live with.  Just skip the potato chips.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Isn't Baseball Grand?

Isn’t Baseball Grand?
Isn’t baseball grand?  Just when I think I have been watching it long enough to get a clue, I find out that I am still clueless.  Why is it that Barry Zito always seems to be the main man this season, despite the fact that his statistics are not terribly impressive?
The Giants began the season by being swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks, at which time they fled to Colorado, where the Rockies at the start of the season, still posed quite the threat.  Amazingly, Barry Zito pitched a complete game shutout, with four strikeouts, and no walks, leading the Giants to a 7-0 victory.  If you told me that Matt Cain did that, or MadBum, or any of the other starters, I would have nodded sagely, and said I expected it. But, seriously, as much as you might like him, and respect his work ethic, who EVER expects Barry to pitch shutout ball?  
This is the game that featured Brandon Crawford making an early statement about his ability to play major league baseball, by hitting a bases-loaded double, that helped the Giants beat the Rocks.  The G-Men would have to wait until last night’s game against the Braves, in Atlanta, before they would record a second shutout this season on the road.
However, prior to last night’s effort, go back to June, when the Dodgers swaggered into AT&T, in first place, for the first time this season, with Barry Zito pitching the opener.  Bochy didn’t even play Buster, a sure sign [thought I] that the Giants were willing to concede the first game to the Bums.  Lo and behold, Barry threw another shutout victory, leading the Giants to the first of a historic three-game series sweep, all three shutouts, vaunting the Giants into first place.
Who is this guy, and how does he keep managing to surprise me?  I have always been a Barry fan, but there has been too much inconsistency in his game in recent seasons, for me to still consider him a valid fifth starter.  But money talks, and Barry’s salary commands ongoing attention.    Otherwise, would he still be with the Giants?  I don’t know, but I am starting to find out.
He is the consummate competitor.  Even if he walks the bases loaded, (Barry Zito?) all is not lost.  It does require intestinal fortitude to keep from switching the game over-to anything-but like Brian Wilson, Zito mostly finds his way out of the fog.  I love the fact that he is able to at least temporarily quiet the naysayers, who will not leave the salary issue alone.  As long as Barry keeps finding a way to buoy the Giants up into first place, I have no problem with his salary, and I don’t think you do either.
On another note, I prattle on regularly about how I constantly see things in baseball games that I have never seen before.  The latest was in Timmy’s last start, when a checked-swing, called third strike, hit off of the catcher’s shin guard, and bounced back up the first-base line, where Timmy scrambled after it, and threw the runner out at first base.  He thus was able to record his strikeout with a K-2-1-3 putout, which looks very peculiar in a box-score.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

One Year of Posting

One Year of Posting
July 17, 2011, marked the occasion of my first post on my blog.  Today is the one-year anniversary of that first post.  Since then I have posted 441 pieces of writing, which means that I averaged one piece of writing per day, with an additional 77 beyond that.  When I consider that thirteen of those original posts were about my experiences in the military, under the title of Military Madness, and consist of around 250,000 words, that’s a lot of writing.
I have written extensively about my mental issues, and the very first piece I posted reflected that interest: Six Days a Week.  This is the piece that describes my emergence from panic attack syndrome, and set the tone for all of the ensuing writing on mood spectrum disorder.  Unfortunately, disorder also pretty much describes my blog.  I have struggled since the beginning to find a way of presenting my writing to those who wish to access it, in a more effective manner than I currently employ.
I have had people ask me what’s the best way to access my writing, and all I can say is hit and miss.  After my initial posting of much of the writing I had had stockpiled, I went into a series of pieces beginning with a month’s worth of daily posts on the Giants, who were still in first place at the start of August, even though having Buster go down with injury, doomed the Giants to a second-place finish.
My interest in the Giants then took a back seat to the trip to Ireland.  Not only was I not able to hear the games, I was barely able to get game results because of the challenge of the Internet.  While in Ireland, I wrote more than 34,000 words in twelve days, posting them in the first two weeks of September.  My experiences in Ireland were extremely frenetic in nature, because I got almost no sleep, and I was in a perpetual state of mania, but the writing I did is suffused with a depth I had heretofore been unable to attain. 
In October I began the first of what would be twelve pieces on my remembrances of Christmases past,  while growing up on Fellowship Street.  These are purely for my own enjoyment, because the Christmas season has always been my favorite time of the year, even surpassing the summer, probably because of the intense highs to be found during that two-week break from school.  I followed that up with another dozen pieces called The Christmas Box, based on inscriptions from the outside of a treasured cardboard box, used to store Christmas decorations, all on the theme of the early years up here on the ridge during the years I taught, and the way that those sixteen-day breaks came into play when Christmastime was upon us.
During the fall, I also posted fifteen pieces on my experiences at United Auto Stores, in San Jose, each one a biographical sketch of one of the characters I met while working there.  I like these pieces because they originated during a period of time when I was immersed in San Jose State’s culture, which overflowed to the auto parts house, because the management had a policy of attempting to hire not only veterans, but also students at one of the neighboring colleges.  I worked with an eclectic group of individuals, and their individual personalities are reflected in my writing.
I then dug out all of the old court records that we had kept and wrote thirty episodes on the rise and fall of the Wellspring Education Collective, beginning with my meeting of Grace Shins in the Czech Lodge, and detailing the events surrounding the attainment of my California Teaching Credential.  These pieces reflect my observations and opinions, as they relate to the process of getting my teaching credential. Throughout November I posted these episodes, which I intend to compile into a novella one of these days, and present for sale at the market.
In the beginning of December, I discovered “blogging,” as opposed to posting writing on a blog.  I began to visit other blogging sites, where I made comments and in turn, received input from others.  I began to tailor my writing to the blogging community.  Interspersed during the fall and winter, was a series that was published in the local paper, and was based on community events.  Included in this genre, were a dozen or so posts on the murder of Jamal Andrews, which were highly emotionally charged. Because this particular event was so intermingled with my emerging mood spectrum disorder, I found I could not continue to involve myself in it, because it made it impossible for me to disengage, and my mental health suffered. 
At this same time period, in the dead of winter, I also began to experience the most intense of the mood spectrum disorder characteristics, and when I became aware of this component, my writing took up the challenge of sorting and classifying all of the known information.  I wrote thirty plus episodes about the process of being diagnosed, and then accepting my diagnosis, all accurately detailing the events as they unfolded.  
During this time period, I began to write short stories, pieces of fiction, something I had never attempted to do before, preferring to stick to the subject of me, because I know this subject so well.  I wrote 75 stories in about sixty days, sometimes writing as many as three in a day. 
The final burst of writing consisted of thirty plus episodes, titled You Call it Bipolar-I Call It MSD, which simply chronicle my daily experiences, trying to become acclimated to this new mental development.
Now, I am returning to a more conventional blogging style, relating the day-to-day life experiences I encounter, with no specific emphasis on anything other than what presents itself on any given day.  
I started posting a year ago today.  I never imagined my secluded lifestyle could expand the way it has this past year, including FaceBook, which I value as much as I do my blog, for connecting and communicating with the members of my community and my family.  
My goal for this upcoming year is to master the complexities of on-line publishing, so I can extend my blogging to a broader spectrum, and maybe get some grocery money in the bargain. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

They Have to Let Me In, Don't They?

They have to Let Me In
Don’t They?
My family is planning a gathering for the first week in September, a week which also happens to feature my sixtieth birthday.  I do not believe there is a connection, because one main reason for the reunion is my brother Tom’s presence amongst us, all the way from Hawaii, with his wife, Reiko.  Many people enjoy family get-togethers, and look forward to them for the most part.  I enjoy them also, but I do not always look forward to them.
Much depends on the environment, in which the festivities take place, and whether it’s one of those confined, everybody-jammed-against one-another situations.  It also depends on whether or not I already know the people gathering.  In the case of this upcoming event, I should know the participants, because they are my siblings and respective partners/kids.
However, this particular occasion is different because it will be the first time the family has gathered since my diagnosis of MSD.  It shouldn’t make any difference, right?  I mean, they have to let me in; I’m fourth in the line-up.  But what about others who will be there, who may not feel all that thrilled about having someone there who has, well, you know, mental issues?  Everyone knows that all families have a few of them, but mostly they don’t draw much attention, unless they go off.  You don’t even usually see them, because they're off in some back room.
Now, Annie says there is no reason to think that anyone will have a hard time with my being there, but she also says she understands what I am experiencing.  When I think to myself that I have only talked to half of my sibs about my diagnosis, I then wonder exactly what it is I am looking for.  The answer is, I don’t know, except that I cannot help thinking that there are reservations out there that have nothing to do with dinner.  
When all is said and done, though, I would just settle for knowing that there was no serious degree of discomfort being experienced by anyone because of my presence.  I have already made it clear to a couple of my sibs that I have to feel there are no red flags, before I could consider it a go.  The only time I can do that is the morning of the event.  I cannot tell in advance what kind of impediments may be present; maybe some day I will gain that ability.
For now I have six weeks to figure out how to deal with this whole arrangement, but I also have a session with Dr. Mark on this coming Thursday, so I can ask him for some guidance.  One of the most influential parts of the cognitive behavioral therapy, was the section on self-talk, and negative patterns of thinking, including that of making assumptions about what people are thinking, when you have no way of knowing.  
These examples of negative self-talk represent the most logical place to begin, because already I am making assumptions about what others are thinking, that are based on nothing more concrete than my own cottage cheese brain.  Keeping in mind my success rate with cognitive therapy in the past, gives me a firm foundation upon which to build my current social stage.  Therefore, I feel there is a good chance that I will be able to work out the logistics, so that I can not only attend the event, but that I can actually enjoy myself.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Of Mice and Zen

Of Mice and Zen
This account is not a warm and fuzzy one; it depicts cruelty in its most abhorrent form, and will universally incur the wrath of animal rights individuals everywhere.  The odd thing is, I have always considered myself to be an animal rights person.  I am not a violent man, by nature, I revere life in all its diversity, and I have a great respect for those who go out of their way to circumvent the need to kill, arbitrarily.  Unfortunately, war is an evil creation, one which tramples principles and thrashes reverence for life.  
There are many varieties of war, fought for a plethora of reasons, which take place on a multitude of battlegrounds.  All wars are the same, only different.  Some wars follow periods of time, during which tension has built, in which both sides reinforce their battlements, polish up their swords, and spew rhetoric.  Other wars ignite spontaneously, when one side or the other steps across the line, permanently drawn across the sands of time.  One of those “lines” involves the interior of my domain, my castle as it is, and any invaders who defy animal logic, and attempt to take up residence, will find themselves embroiled in an instant battle.
At this moment, however, the morning is silent.  I am at peace with the cosmos, reposing in the pre-dawn hours, my fingers poised above the keyboard, ready to dance a minuet, the result emerging in the form of a piece of writing.  I enjoy this creative process immensely, and nothing serves as perfect a setting, than the early morning stillness, that allows me to pursue my literary endeavors without distraction.  I am in the process of running through a brief litany of tasks, preceding my written efforts, when I become aware that I am not alone in the room.
A scritching within a wall of the kitchen, indicates a visitor-and not a visitor I welcome with any degree of warmth or hospitality.  The noise which accompanies this guest is not only irritating, it guarantees that what is going on within the confines of the wall, will result in trouble in the attic for me.  Whereas we have lived up here on the mountain 31 years, we have probably only had a half-dozen or so invasions of mice. 
The rules concerning wildlife are simple: stay outside of my space, and I have no problem; come inside the boundaries of my house, and it is all-out war, with no holds barred, and no prisoners taken.  The days of the have-a-heart traps are over; now ruthlessness rears her ugly head.
The result is always the same;  we set out the traps, take care of business, do a thorough pantry cleaning, and move on.  Now, as I sit here, I ponder how on earth I am going to get inside the wall to get at the little beastie.  I do not have to wait long, to realize that I will not need to get inside the wall; she comes to me, and I hear her again-in the pantry, I think.  I go over, open the door, shine my headlamp around, shake a few packages of cereal, wait, and then return to my chair, leaving the pantry door open.  
A minute later, I repeat the empty gesture, shaking some dried macaroni noodles, in a vain effort to force whatever is in there to show itself.  I do this another three or four times, before I decide it is kind of pointless, so I leave the pantry door ajar, and decide to wait for the noise again.  Inevitably, it starts up, only this time I listen without moving, taking in the direction from which the noise emanates, and realize the sound is actually coming from within a little side set of enclosed shelves, housing only two things: a row of cookbooks, and three shelves of preserved jars of goodness.
Shutting the pantry door, I open the side cupboard door, and staring me right in the face, is a billowing pile of shredded paper, the unmistakeable evidence of a mouse-nest.  It is disconcerting, and a tad revolting, but not especially tragic; it just means we have to go back to some more aggressive means of dealing with the invader(s).  An instant later, I catch my first glimpse of my adversary, a long, velvety smooth, gray mouse, the kind with the ears that stick straight up in the air, as opposed to lying flat against the head.  She is calico-colored, with light gray alternating with a very dark shade of gray, and a white stomach.  
I have met the enemy, and I am not impressed.  I wonder vaguely why she is building a nest; she does not seem especially rotund, as she would if she were expecting, any time in the immediate future.  Now I have in front of me, a little rodent, darting in and out the jars of peach preserves, and jars of tomato sauce.  I reach for the first thing I can lay my hands on, and that is the flyswatter, which hangs behind the stove on its nail.  Grabbing it, I begin thrusting it in between the jars, pursuing the little varmint, without knocking any of the jars off the shelf. 
After going back and forth several times, she unexpectedly bails out, and skitters across the kitchen floor, diagonally from the corner where the pantry door is, to the opposite corner, where it miraculously vanishes beneath a panel of sheet rock, that covers a nine-inch-wide swath of wall, representing the end view of two walls, up against each other.  There is a space between the two walls that was required for upstairs plumbing, the net result of which is a one-inch wide corridor between the two walls, through which the mouse has gained ingress and egress to the kitchen.  
The good news is that the little thief has had to travel all the way to the other side of the kitchen to escape, indicating that it is probably the only way in and out.  The bad news is that that little gap has existed in its present form for 25 years.  That’s a lot of time for comings and goings.  Now that I realize what is up, I think I can take care of it pretty handily.  I snag a chunk of foil, and stuff it into the gap under the sheet rock, and figure that is the end of the story, except for cleaning up the detritus of the mouse-nest.  
Unfortunately, not more than five minutes later, as I am approaching the mouse-home, rubber gloved, I become aware of tiny peeping noise(s), and pause, listening.  No way to ignore it-I still have company.  All of the sudden, the pieces fall into place.  The mouse is not fat, because she has already had the blessed event take place, and I am hearing the result, firsthand.  Knowing already what I will find, I poke and prod the recently-discovered nest, until I am able to count four little pink, somewhat curved sausages, with four tiny appendages each, identifiable as feet. 
I will not dwell on the particulars, as I derive no enjoyment over the antiseptic means, with which I dispatch the little innocents, apologizing to the gods as I do so.  There are no free passes in war.
I am intent on my writing, fifteen minutes later, my fingers dancing merrily over my keyboard, when I hear a scritching in the wall... Mama is back and she is frantic.  She returns to the spot where, formerly, she was able to get into and out of the kitchen, only to find it now blocked with foil.  She begins prying and digging at the tightly balled foil, making tiny, tinny noises, repetitious and determined.
As I listen, feeling simultaneously bad, for having been the cause of the demise of the babies, and for what I am contemplating doing to the mother, I remind myself, war is war.  I admire her tenacity, and I can sense her air of desperation, as she encounters a metal barrier, where before there has been none.  She must sense that the noise she is making will sound the alarm, yet maternal instinct propels her onward.  
Now I start to get drawn into the arena of the strategist.  What if I allow her to get through the barrier, only to blindside her the second she makes it under the foil?  I can lie in wait, with my trusty flyswatter, which only has to stun her long enough for me to finish the job.  When did I get so blood-thirsty?  I think it was seeing all of that shredded paper, which undoubtedly came from the cookbooks that lined the top shelf where the nest existed.  Sigh.  Any thoughts of mercy dissipate as quickly as they appeared.
The plan is a good one and I wait, as the mouse has withdrawn back from the entrance, now that I have removed the foil, and am poised above the entrance.  When she does show her whiskers again, it is only for an instant, before she pulls back again.  Then again, she sticks her head out, and waits.  Interminably it seems, but is only one full minute, before she withdraws again, only to dart out so quickly, that my flailing flyswatter never comes close.  She is past me, all the way to the pantry door, where she once again disappears.
Now I know where she is, and I know where she wants to end up, so I contrive a little corral, formed by the door of the pantry, and a little chunk of plywood, that I retrieve from just outside the screen door, where it awaits transport to the workshop.  I place the plywood so that it serves as the final wall of the enclosure formed by the pantry door, the cupboard of shelves where the mouse wants to return, with its open door, and the plywood.  Of course I want to slam that cupboard door shut, as soon as the critter ventures outside the pantry door.  And I again wait.  
I want the little varmint trapped in my pen.  With no way to escape, I will make short work of the situation, with a chunk of oak replacing the ineffective flyswatter.  It’s called bringing in the big guns.  So now  I again wait.  My patience is rewarded when the little sucker again goes through the drill of peeking, withdrawing, coming out again, and so forth, until she fully departs the pantry and dashes across the enclosure to the other side, where I have just slammed the door shut, trapping her outside both doors, but within my pen.
Except that the little miscreant has been too fast, and slipped into her original home-base, just ahead of the slamming door.  I am saddened once again because I know she is going to proceed directly to the now-removed nest, where the only reminder that she is a mother, will be the rapidly fading scent of her babies, who now sleep with the potato peels, in the bottom of the compost bucket.
Short of having to remove the jars from the cupboard in order to gain access to the little jaboney, I await again, the pantry door shut, the corral awaiting the presence of a victim.  Having come to the inevitable conclusion that her babies are gone, the mouse once again pokes her face outside of the cupboard door, goes though the drill, and ends up inside the pen after I slam the cupboard door shut.  
She has lost her motivation to be greased lightning; her reason for venturing into dangerous waters has disappeared.  She has lost more than a step, and I easily finish the job with a precise jab of my oak club.  I am the great white hunter, but I am feeling less than great.  Where is my sense of victory?  Where is the euphoria of the victorious hunt and kill?  
I don’t know-maybe at the bottom of the compost bucket.  What was I going to do, bottle feed four blind mice?  Transport the whole family out in the great outdoors?  I don’t think so.  When all is said and done, she broke the rules and she paid the price.  It is the price of war.  

Friday, July 13, 2012

Goons Gone Gonzo-Part II

Goons Gone Gonzo-Part II
The most evocative response I received from the piece I posted yesterday, about the federal agent who got off on intimidation and threat, was the one which simply said “...What a shame...”  The implication is that we have slipped backward, more than just a stride or two, on what has once again become a mountain, rather than a hill.
Since the days of Bill Stewart (May he rest more peacefully than he lived.), we have seen a gradual lessening of the chains within the marijuana universe.  In recent years we have been free to pursue a medicinal planting of a perfunctory number of plants, to allow for personal harvesting of a commodity which brings relief to a long list of physical, mental, and/or psychological issues, which people face.
For so long folks have either had to grow their medicine in the shade, or face possible prosecution for growing in the sun.  Though I realize that I am at odds with corporate America on this issue, I believe it is every person's right, to do what works best for him or her, when it comes to issues of personal health.  As long as there is no money to be made by Big Business from marijuana, there is going to continue to be resistance to this medicine.  I can live with that.
I have also lived for nine months * under the threat of having my house and twenty acres seized, by federal authorities, back in 1985/86, for the reprehensible crime of having thirty plants on my property.  Later it was determined that the plants were not on my land.  The federal government never charged me with a crime, never finger-printed me, and never so much as questioned me, and yet it posted a forfeiture notice on my destroyed front gate, stating flatly that my property was now that of the United States government.  It took nine months and $17,500 1985 dollars, before the whole thing was dismissed by the Attorney General’s representative, here on the West Coast.  I have paid my dues.
Now we are once again facing egregious violations of our most basic human rights, not to mention “American” rights.  For some reason American rights always seem more elevated than human rights, because, well, everyone seems to think it should be that way.  I lean toward the notion that human rights, if anything, should be the barometer by which these things are determined, but what do I know?
So when the comment, “...What a shame...” is made, I have to say it strikes a tender chord.  Once again we must withstand some sort of political grandstanding on the part of the federal government, to prove that it can keep those pesky Californians in their place.  It doesn’t seem to matter that the medical marijuana movement extends from ocean to shining ocean.  
Right now, in Oakland, Stephen DeAngelo is also facing forfeiture of his assets tied into his marijuana dispensary, as of Wednesday, July 11th.  He has stated, “We have no intention of closing our doors.  We will never abandon our patients.”  
Here lies my central point of contention:  If California, in all of its infinite wisdom, has deemed the medical marijuana industry legal, what business is it of the federal government on any level?  Every step which interferes with this industry costs the federal government vast unlimited amounts of money in lawyers’ fees, and the fees paid to thugs who patrol our rural-and not-so-rural-neighborhoods, in search of medical marijuana plants to harvest. **
I believe the time has come for the federal government to get off this particular soapbox, before it becomes any more painfully obvious that Big Business actually IS INVOLVED in the marijuana industry, only as an ongoing antagonist in the never-ending saga of “Reefer Madness.”   
  • I posted a piece entitled “It Came Out of the Sky” last spring, detailing this event.
    ** In yesterday’s piece, “Goons Gone Gonzo,” I detailed a federal agent running amok up here on the ridge.  One of his stops included the confiscation of twenty-five plants, from a medical marijuana patient, who is an acquaintance of mine.  I remain outraged on behalf of injustices that are so unwarranted, as this.  The “perpetrator’s” crime?  His homestead lies on the same road, as the originally intended target, a site with 1,500 plants on it.  I have no problem with the big target, only with the aftermath of an ego gone gonzo.  That agent did not have to go out of his way to confiscate those twenty-five plants, but he was just that kind of guy.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Goons Gone Gonzo

Goons Gone Gonzo
Common sense dictates that discussing politics or religion can get me into hot water, faster than a steep slide into a jacuzzi.  I don’t particularly like hot tubs, so I usually don’t talk politics, but I am also outraged at the way Californians are being disrespected by federal authorities, who operate as though this is last century sometime.  Up here on Bell Springs Road, we have DEA field agents operating on their own power trips, detaining citizens without reason or warning, intimidating them through implied violence, and threatening to run rampage on personal property.
Corruption of power begins at the top and filters its way down, as the battle between the federal government and individual states, over individuals’ rights, continues into the present day.  Back at the inception of our democracy, states’ rights were a central issue, stemming mainly from the economic and social differences between various geographical locations within our country.  Now it is about philosophical differences of opinion, with the federal government adopting a repulsively antiquated stance concerning the medical use of marijuana. 
Operating from a 1930’s mentality, the federal government continues to pursue a misguided and farcical course, involving marijuana and its users, in the classic “reefer madness” approach to the entire subject.  Though California has enacted public policies to regulate and monitor the dispersal of medical marijuana, via distribution centers set up throughout the state, federal agents continue to beat the backwoods, in an effort to shake down local citizenry, for the pathetic “crime” of growing twenty-five plants.  Worse yet, these federal cowboys also find it necessary to interfere with the right of passers by on public thoroughfares.  The entire situation reeks of bias towards medicine, with a huge contingency of buffoonery thrown in for good measure.  Either that, or pharmaceutical companies simply make larger contributions to the President’s coffers, than medical marijuana advocates.
In his platform for election four years ago, President Obama promised his support of medical marijuana, but has wavered in this goal in many areas since, especially as far as federal support for ongoing research is concerned.  Now with re-election on the agenda, he has once again pledged his allegiance to this cause.  And yet, in California, the owners of the clubs that distribute medical marijuana to card-holding medical patients, have been persecuted, not to mention prosecuted, by federal authorities, since early last year.
Whereas this is egregious, in and of itself, the government is also going after legitimate medical grows, of twenty-five or fewer plants.  This is an outrage.  I do not feel that the politicians in Washington DC, have any business telling me which medicine I should ingest, because I think that is up to my doctor.  Having procured my medical prescription, and finding it economically viable to grow my own, I am incensed that I must now worry about goons traversing my neighborhood, infusing fear and loathing into my world.  It is no more acceptable now, than it was 200 years ago, and I am going to protest, the same as my fellow countrymen did back in the day.
On Tuesday afternoon, two Bell Springs residents were driving approximately three miles up from Highway 101, when they encountered a gold GMC Sport Utility Vehicle, parked squarely in the center of this public thoroughfare, making it impassable.  After waiting as little as two minutes, by one’s estimation, to as long as five minutes, by the other’s estimate, the driver leaned his head out the window and hollered out an inquiry as to how long they were expected to have to wait, before they could go on about their business.  Other vehicles began to line up behind the original.
There were two men off to the side of the road, who kept glancing back at the two Bell Springers, while a single occupant of the GMC glanced back, opened the door, and got out.  He approached the two occupants, while making an ostentatious shift of his overcoat, to reveal a handgun in its holster, dangling down on his side.
“I am a federal agent and I am in the process of conducting official government business.  If you interfere with me in any way, I will come to your house next and seize your marijuana plants.”  He did not produce an identification, as is required by law, and he acted in an abjectly inappropriate manner, for a person who allegedly represented the federal government.  My two acquaintances simply acquiesced.  What else were they expected to do?  Except feel a sense of suppressed anger and frustration at the antics of a goon gone gonzo?
I am frustrated by big government’s unwillingness to follow through on campaign promises; I am incensed by the club owners’ persecution; and I am outraged by the presence of goons gone wild within my immediate community.  The whole medical marijuana issue has become a farce in the eyes of the federal government, which makes it look pretty out of touch with reality.
The reality is marijuana is recognized by the medical community as a viable source of relief for numerous medical issues, and the federal government needs to acknowledge this.  Otherwise, it may appear to a savvy public sector, that the legislators have been indulging in marijuana for reasons other than medical.  There does not appear to be any alternative explanation, for the backwards and archaic approach to marijuana that the government employs.