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

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Behind the Mask

Behind the Mask

The week of Halloween is a most awkward time for me because I am not a Halloween kind of guy. I want to be, I see everyone else planning their costumes for a month in advance, and I know that there will be a number of gatherings from which to select, were I to choose to be a part of it.

It really doesn’t have anything to do with choice, though, because the core of my unenthusiastic approach has been ingrained in me since age ten, when I came under the grip of panic attack syndrome, a malady of which I have fortunately been able to rid myself recently.

I have prattled on enough about the ramifications of anxiety issues, that I need not go further into detail, except to note that the source of my anxiety when it comes to Halloween, is the fact that I am still dramatically impacted, negatively, by the entire genre of horror movies or any kind of creepy visual material.

A huge component is the fact that one thing that used to trigger panic attacks was the unexpected. Well, not coincidentally, scary movies thrive on the unexpected-it gets the adrenalin flowing. I found out long ago, while encountering difficulty with conventional social functions, that Halloween parties exacerbate my anxiety issues twofold, simply because when I do not know who is behind the mask, I panic.

Ironically, my teaching partner back in the day, Mr. Poulton, was completely absorbed by the autumn holiday, so we did the annual Halloween party at the middle school. It helped immensely that Annie is also a Halloween enthusiast, so that helped balance my lack of knowledge or experience in these matters.

The haunted house we set up the first year I taught was off-the-charts cool, even if I was unable to appreciate the finer points myself.

Now as I scroll on face/book, so many folks are engaged in preparations for the 31st, it is apparent this will be an especially exciting Halloween, what with the bright moon and it being Saturday night and all. 

I trust everyone will have a most enjoyable Halloween, just as I will myself, except that I will be home ensconced in front of the television set. 

Fortunately for me, there is a World Series game on between the Mets and the Royals.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tweak Your Oblique? Don't Freak!

Tweak Your Oblique?  Don’t Freak!

Call it cannabis, reefer, pot, marijuana, ganja, grass, happy smoke, or the ever-popular devil’s weed, this plant has an infinite capacity for healing and benevolence that Corporate America refuses to acknowledge. On a daily basis, I benefit from cannabis in its many forms, in a variety of ways.

I have used cannabis as a mood stabilizer most of my adult life. I was unaware of the underlying reasons for my use, but it has always been a way to keep my mania at bay. As ironic as it sounds, getting high keeps me from being high. Besides, the reality is that my indulgence is not so much for the getting high, as merely maintaining the appropriate level of THC in my body. 

Upon the extremely rare instance of me taking a header under the blankets/pillows for the depressive side of bipolarism, cannabis obviously brings me up and gradually out of my funk. Unlike many who suffer from depression, my bouts always have a trigger so it’s not quite so arbitrary. Regardless, cannabis is ultimately going to be my ticket out of the dark.

I wear sandals because I don’t like the feeling of confinement created by shoes. Consequently, my heels and the balls of my feet develop cracks and fissures that make those of the Grand Canyon, look like finger-nail scratches, if I do not apply Amber's cannabis salve on a daily basis.

If I begin in the early spring to apply the salve every day, I never develop the cracks in the first place. If they are already so advanced, that the pain resonates out from the depths of the heel, making it almost impossible to walk, the salve goes to work immediately as far as pain relief, and over the course of the next month or so, not only heels the cracks, but returns my heel(s) to full health.

I had reconstructive surgery on my right shoulder in 2004, because I took it too far one weekend in hauling a tree out of a ravine. My labrum, which is the socket that houses my arm, developed a series of chips in it, and if I raise my right arm suddenly up in the air now, it will come out of its socket and ride the rim.

It takes some excruciating maneuvering to get it back in place, but hey, that’s just old-dude stuff, no big deal, ferris wheel, and all of that. The result is the kind of discomfort that most of America would reach for pain-relief, of a prescriptive nature. 

I turn to Amber’s tincture for the simple reason that even if I got down on my knees and groveled, the VA will simply say, No way, Jose. Amber recommended that I take a single dropper of the fiery substance, but I have found that for me, it’s more like three of the droppers, which coincidentally is also a teaspoonful. 

It goes right into the center of the “discomfort” and washes over the raw edges with a cloak of soothing cool. I hesitate to use the word pain, because if I were to admit to myself that something was painful every time I experienced discomfort, I would be a sniveling little such-and-such. Pain? Nah, that’s just a little discomfort.

I use the tincture for those deep aches and discomforts that afflict my lower back, or when I jolt my oblique. I hurt in originally in 1987, when I finished up one job and was so intent on moving to the next job site, I took my filled tool box, and heaved it with my left arm up and over the side of my truck.

I felt as though I had been pierced to the core with an icepick.

Yet I was committed to go help a dear friend haul plant material down from the top of a mountain, to keep his trimmers supplied, and I could not  “call in sick.” The first two or three twenty-minute round trips, hauling a huge bag of wet cannabis down the mountain, were agonizing.

I ingested as much of the product I was carrying, as possible, and still be able to walk, and went about my business ignoring the discomfort. A funny thing happened over the next hour: The discomfort gradually faded and I subsequently have found over the past 28 years that every time I tweak that oblique, I simply keep moving and hit the cannabis.

Poison oak, heat rashes, dry skin, sunburn, insect bites, cracked skin, especially from working with either concrete or dirt, are all prime examples of what I use cannabis for, on a daily basis. 

My sweetest of Apple Blossoms, who is a private person and does not like to be the subject of my public writing, will not mind my sharing one pertinent detail. She began juicing cannabis immediately upon being diagnosed with first kidney cancer, and then thyroid cancer, three years and change ago. 

Two years ago, nodules formed on her lungs and grew rapidly before they were noted and recorded in a full-body scan. She began taking Amber’s CBD tincture right away and her oncologist upped the frequency of the body scans from once every six months, to once every four months. The very next time she had one of those scans, the progress of the growth of the nodules had been arrested; there was no advance.

The nodules have continued to remain inactive. If I were not already a convert to the church of cannabis, this divine intervention in the growth of a frightening specter in our lives, would have me in the river, ready to dunk my head. 

I recently became aware of a man who was around the same age as my sons, who had two young daughters and a supportive wife, and was afflicted with seizures. This individual was a firefighter/EMT by trade and had to give it up. 

His doctors did what they could in terms of monitoring and medicating him, but they had no definitive answers. A mutual acquaintance appealed to me and HappyDay Farms to see if there was a way that some CBD oil could be obtained for this person.

The end result is that this man’s life has been transformed. His access to the oil extracted from the cannabis has allowed him to do things that he had been incapable of doing for quite some time.
With all of the work that Hezekiah, Casey, Lito and Amber have done in the past eighteen months or more, to get the California Growers Association up and running, it is appropriate that we start educating those who are not aware, that cannabis is the source of a vast wealth of medicinal cures for countless issues.

So many uses for both physical and mental problems have been documented, that it is nothing short of a miracle. For me personally, every day that cannabis continues to fight the disease which is trying to slow down my Sweetest of Apple Blossoms, is one more day that I resonate with appreciation and gratitude for this gentle giant of a plant.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Plenty to Say, but Nothing to Add

When I first began blogging back in 2011, I wrote a half-dozen or so pieces centered on the Church of the Eternal Bleacher.  Here is the inaugural piece. I now found this to be a handy tool for delving into the sordid Chase Utley/Ruben Tejada fiasco and have done so with this piece of writing.

Plenty To Say, but Nothing to Add

In the name of Buster, MadBum and One Hunter Percent, now and forever, you’re SAFE! 

Welcome to the Church of the Eternal Bleacher, all southpaws welcome.

With the annual elimination of the Los Angeles Dodgers from the playoffs having taken place, the time has arrived for The Church of the Eternal Bleacher to reconvene, for the purpose of conducting an on-the-field examination of the Chase Utley/Ruben Tejada debacle. This is not a trial, per se, to determine guilt or innocence, so much as an analysis of the incident to allow for resolution of three unanswered questions.

The old-school slide that Utley employed, broke Tejada’s fibula and sent him off the field and out of the playoffs, so the first question that looms would be, Is Chase Utley guilty of anything other than being an old-school baseball player? 

Secondly, was his slide “dirty,” with the resulting injury to Ruben Tejada, solely on the shoulders of Utley? If so, then what?

The third question is, should the rule covering this specific scenario be revisited, a la the Buster Posey rule?

The Church of the Eternal Bleacher is not here cast aspersions on Chase Utley or the team for whom he currently plays, which is why San Francisco Giants fans have been excluded from all proceedings. Though among the best fans the baseball world knows, they do take matters involving their rival from the south quite seriously, and can understandably be expected to be biased.

We are graced with the presence of many of today’s stars, some of whom will voice an opinion during the following proceedings. A committee comprised of members from The Church of the Eternal Bleacher, will ultimately render a decision, which will endeavor to include appropriate responses to the three questions posed above.

Let’s play ball, beginning with the question of whether Utley is guilty of anything more than playing good, old-fashioned, hard-nosed ball.

According to Derek Jeter, who has spent a minute or two at shortstop, “...if you watch video from years ago, that kind of stuff happened. It’s nasty. It’s tough when it knocks a guy out like that, especially in the playoffs.” Utley’s teammate, Howie Kendrick, had this to say, “It’s baseball. He probably did slide late. It’s kind of unfortunate the guy ended up hurt...” 

Kind of unfortunate”...That phrase is one of those which hits the grass and keeps on bouncing, ricocheting around the bullpen area, as fielders chase it fruitlessly...

When asked his opinion, Chipper Jones intoned, “That was not a slide; that is not how you ‘go in hard.’” Utley himself says he did not realize that Tejada had his back to him, until it was too late, to which I call, “Baloney.” 

Utley has the play unfolding in front of him; he sees Tejada taking the throw and sweeping to one side of the basepath, and he has been around long enough to know there is no time for Tejada to make the 180 degree turn. It’s all about the willingness to start the slide after he had passed second base, and the fact that a man got injured unnecessarily.  

Justin Turner weighed in with this, “Everyone knows how hard Chase plays the game and [he] did what everyone would do going hard to break up the double play...” Turner, a teammate by the way, dabbles in a bit of hyperbole here, when he says “everyone.” That is blatantly incorrect.

So was Utley’s slide “dirty?” The Dodger organization evidently thought not, as it issued a statement that read, in part, “The Dodgers stand behind Chase Utley and his decision to appeal the suspension issue by Major League Baseball.”

There is the school of thought which says the slide was wrong simply because a man got hurt, but there is also that which dictates that the guy playing the position has got to know the risks that accompany his turf. In fact on September 24th, 2010, an almost identical play took place while Utley still played for the Phillies and Tejada was already on the Mets.

The difference between the two plays is that Tejada got his feet out of the way the first time, and was therefore not injured when he was dumped to the ground. Nonetheless, having been upended once already playing against the same player, it would have behooved Tejada to get out of the way, simply because Utley’s actions matched his reputation. Forewarned is forearmed.

In handing down the penalty of two games’ suspension, Joe Torre called the slide illegal. Torre said upon a complete examination of the play he concluded Utley’s slide merited punishment. Torre said it was up to the umpire on the field at the time of the play, to make the judgment call, but that he was not blaming the umpiring crew for the controversy.

All Joe Torre seemed to want was to not have his star players hurting one another. Because the umpiring crew for the game in question did not see fit to penalize Utley, Torre did not do so, either.

Sitting in the back of the room, with plenty to say but nothing to add, was Marco Scutaro, who has played only a handful of games since his debilitating encounter with Matt Holliday during the 2012 National League Championship Series, which the Giants ended up winning, four games to three.

Should the rule be amended? 

I don’t know; shall we put the question to Scutaro and Tejada?

I am not surprised that it took the Church of the Eternal Bleacher committee less time to reach consensus on the three questions, than it takes Yasiel Puig to strike out, which he did in three of his six plate appearances during the 2015 playoffs, ending with a batting average of .000.

To answer the first question, the committee ruled that Chase Utley was guilty of being nothing other than an old-school ballplayer, except maybe also being an oaf. Secondly, yes, his slide was dirty but according to an outdated code, Utley can not be held accountable, legally. 

Finally, whereas one might have hoped that a rule change was not imperative, it is apparent that as long as there are those willing to play the game with no regard for the safety of others, that something will have to be implemented. 

In conclusion virtue is its own reward, and vice versa. Karma is a cruel mistress, praise Buddha for that, and the team from LA got exactly what was coming to it. No one is suggesting that Chase Utley deliberately caused Ruben Tejada’s injury, but his reckless play did exactly that, and the Dodgers paid the appropriate price, praise Buddha for that.

The baseball gods are alive and kicking...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Full-Stream Ahead!

Full-Stream Ahead!

If you are planning an outing to the Willits Waste Management Facility , you had best have your act together, or face the wrath of the Dump Deputies. I thought I was prepared; I thought I was on the right ramp; I thought I was doing the right thing, as I spilled my contractor bag’s paper contents into the humongous bin, but I was wrong. Oh, was I so wrong.

It was 9:02 AM on a Friday morning recently, when Annie backed up our little pickup to the base of the ramp leading up to two colossal recycling bins. The one on the right had a sign which read, “Cardboard Only” while the one on the left read, “Plastic, Tin, Full Stream” and nothing else. Glass went into different bins.

Not seeing a sign specifically for paper, I erroneously assumed that paper went into the “cardboard only” bin, an assumption which seems to prove the old adage, “Never assume; you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’” 

There were two men on the walkway above who had been observing me as I had climbed the ramp, seemingly engaged in not much of anything. They were dressed in those stylish blue coveralls that service folks always seem to wear, with identifying industry names stitched somewhere on the front.

The one with the black bushy mustache and piercing black eyes to match his voice, had bellowed out, “Good morning!” to which I had responded, “The top of the morning to you!” while hoisting my cargo of paper up and over the rim. I was careful to hang on tightly to the plastic bag because those two “enforcement personnel” were paying meticulous attention to me, and I knew that the plastic bag did not belong in the bin. Neither did the paper, apparently.


I have a masters in English but comprehension would appear to be the issue.

There being no one else to whom the inquiry could be aimed but me, I responded, “Yes, I can,” and waited expectantly for the hammer to fall. 


It’s a good thing there was still a couple of yards between us so that I was able to avoid the spray. Is this a trick question? Here’s your sign... He just saw me dump the paper in. I guess “cardboard only” means... Let’s see how egotistical these guys want to get.

“Because I thought it was the right bin? My bad. Obviously it’s not. I am abjectly apologetic for the transgression.”

“THE SIGN SAYS ‘CARDBOARD ONLY.’ Why did you put paper in the cardboard only bin?”

“Because I thought it was the right one?” I asked innocently. “Where I normally dump my recycling, all paper goods go in the same bin, whether it’s paper or cardboard,” I explained. While accurate, it still sounded lame.

Why do I think this is not going to suffice? This guy’s just getting revved up...

The bellicose one stalked past me, positioning me between himself and the second of the two attendants, and pointed authoritatively at the sign which read, well, you know what it read. “Here is the sign. Does it say anywhere on here that paper is OK to dump into THIS bin?” His eyes were bulging, his face was mottled and he was in his element.

I stood on tip-toe and peered over the top of the bin and down into it; it was empty except for what I had just dumped in. “Would you like me to retrieve the paper?” I asked sincerely, though that would certainly not have been possible.

The indignant one looked as though I had punched him. “No, that will not be necessary.”

How nice for me. At 63 I do not have to acquire wings to be able to fly any higher than I normally do.

“I just do NOT understand how you could have made that mistake,” he flamed on.

Take me out and have me shot, already. What does this guy want?

“Yes, I understand that you are having a difficult time this morning. Let me help you out. I see this sign which reads cardboard only. I see this sign which reads tin, plastic, and nothing else. Where is the sign for paper?”

Pompously he thrust a finger out at the phrase, Full-Stream. “What do you think that means?”

What it usually means, Bub, not that it’s any of your concern, is that I am having a conversation with my doctor, so shut the...never mind. I had rocketed from annoyed to enraged in a nano-second.


And I left, taking the rest of my truckload of recycling to a different facility, one that did not include employees who felt it necessary to harangue customers, especially ones who may not be as familiar with the lingo of the dump as he should be.

I composed an email to the company in question, explaining the situation that had occurred, but I did not get a response. I wasn’t expecting the heads of the two miscreants on a platter, but I was hoping for some assurance that it was not the company’s official policy to berate senior citizens. It’s a good thing I did not hold my breath waiting.

Meanwhile, I recognize that this incident does not paint a picture of a guy (me) who appears in total control of his faculties, but it was an honest mistake. I am probably the only adult in California who does not know what the term “full-stream” means in the lexicon of the dump, but that does not make me a criminal.

On the other hand, I’d rather appear out of my element when talking about control of his faculties, because of an unfamiliar phrase, than have control of my faculties questioned, because I felt it necessary to chastise customers of the company for which I worked, in an aggressive and intimidating manner.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Thou Shalt Not Get Offended-Not When You Can Get Snarky

Thou Shalt Not Get Offended-
Not When You Can Get Snarky

I spend my share of time with my nose buried in a book, face/book that is, and as a result I occasionally get my cage rattled. I have an eclectic assortment of friends, most of whom are actually my friends, so I know I will see a vast chasm between opposing points of view, on a wealth of contemporary subjects.

The rule on face/book is that you are not supposed to get offended. Whereas that is an auspicious goal, it is blatantly impossible. What the rule actually says is, if you can read between the lines (which are at least ten yards apart), go ahead and get offended but skip the drama.

Some of the stuff that gets posted is so outrageous that I want to call the poster on it immediately, but I know there is a protocol. I can simply scroll by (SOP), I can do the polite, distant, “I’m afraid we must agree to disagree on this matter. Sniff,” or I can lambaste the post.

However, I am here to inform you there is a fourth approach, one which I seem to be favoring these days: I can be snarky. One who is snarky employs a light approach, one which could come under the category of sarcasm, but one which allows the commenter to go for the jugular under the guise of humor.

Take all of the spate of pro-gun posts after the most recent installment of Sandy Hook Revisited, Part Ad Nausea. Please. Whereas I want to scream obscenities at those who sanctimoniously keep clamoring for THEIR Second Amendment rights, I recognize that is probably not the smartest strategy when dealing with gun advocates. 

However, when it comes to arming teachers and posts that advocate open carry weapons, I am finding it impossible to resist taking the snarky route to express a counter-perspective. For the one which advocates students be armed, I respond with something along the lines of, “Excellent idea! That should reduce bullying on campus. ‘Go ahead, Kid, make my day.’”

Satire is a perfectly acceptable literary device, especially when it is misconstrued. All I require is one yahoo to take one of my “snarkettes” seriously, to make all of the other readers realize how extreme the perspective in question actually is.

I mean, no one hates bullies more than I do, but blowing them away, regardless of how downright satisfying it might make one feel, is definitively frowned upon.

Another favorite is the anti-Obama posts. Kind, normally rational and coherent individuals, go off the deep end and hammer our President unmercifully. I don’t get it but I must admit that those who maintain this is nothing short of racism, have a point. Why else are the posts so derogatory? 

One can criticize the President without denigrating him, but in doing so, they show their contempt. That puts a different slant on things, and one which has a fetid stench attached.

I like face/book because there is such a wide array of opinions, and I realize that I will not change anyone’s mind, but I might change someone’s attitude with my weak attempts at humor. It’s hard to stay mad if you are smiling.

Everyone has the right to post personal opinions; each of us has the right to oppose the views presented. It’s how one goes about the business of doing so, that makes the experience either pleasant or otherwise.

Bottom line: Feed Markie malarky and see him get snarky.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Anything but Water

Anything but Water

I am embarrassed to admit that I am a recent convert to the religion of water, it having taken me more than sixty years into my life’s journey, to discover what so many others already know: Water is not just important-water is essential.

It astounds me that I could have had so little awareness of the needs of my body, that I would have ignored water for so long. I mean, if I was thirsty-really thirsty-I would chug the stuff. Otherwise, I preferred in no particular order, coffee, diet soda, apple juice, sports drinks, almond milk, bottled iced teas, mocha coffees, whatever I could find that would satiate my thirst that did not involve drinking water.

I remember explaining to Annie once that water gave me indigestion. I have no idea from what perspective I was coming. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact I routinely use water when I find a headache coming on, when I get any kind of unhealthy craving, or when I think I am hungry, when it has only been a couple of hours since I had a normal meal.

I start my day inordinately early, generally between two and three in the A of M. I sip one piping hot cup of coffee slowly, savoring it, and then I down 18 ounces of room temperature water, fresh from our spring. I used to be abhorred by the idea of drinking water so early, but that is because I never tried it and I never realized how much benefit I derive from it. I then indulge in a second cup of coffee, but that’s it-two cups.

I drink a minimum of six liters of water per day-never less than that. For so long I repelled the idea of following this course of action because I was afraid I might as well take up permanent residence in the bathroom. A good night for me is only three trips to use the facilities. A bad night sees me up once an hour.

Any thought I had to going the six-liters-per-day route, was tempered by the knowledge that I would pay the price that night. Unfortunately, that “knowledge” was erroneous. The way it works is that one’s body develops accordingly, expanding the bladder to accommodate the additional liquid, and allowing me to seek sleep without the kind of repetitive trips to the bathroom that I had feared.

I have, however, found a direct connection between those frequent trips to the bathroom at night, and the amount of coffee that I drink. Coffee stays inside me and creates that need to get up hourly, if I have three of fours cups or add a latte on top of a couple of cups. The less coffee I drink, the fewer times I need to get up at night.

Now I drink nothing but my two cups of coffee in the morning and vast unlimited quantities of water. I have never been much of a beef-eater, because I have always had difficulty digesting it. Well, duh. If one does not consume enough water, one’s digestive system is going to encounter technical difficulties, as a matter of course. Elementary, My dear Watson, except that if it isn’t elementary, how do you find out? 

Guess and by golly, I suppose, as it took me more than sixty years. The funny thing is, though, that now I have reached this stage, I will never go back to the other stuff. I mean, diet soda? That stuff is so toxic, you can use it to clean your toilet bowl. And the sugar from much of the other stuff is laden with toxic components, if you care at all what you put into your body.

Water makes the world go round, and a lot of other things too. I am late to the party but I figure better late than never.

Think about it-how much water do you drink every day, and when do you drink your first glass?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Greed: It's the American Way

Greed: It's the American Way

Social media has been inundated with images of the 32-year old wretch who found it within his capacity to first purchase the rights to a specific medication, and then raise the price per pill from $13.50 to $753.00.

I will not name him because he represents only one in a lengthy list of individuals who has demonstrated the ability to traipse through life in the same manner that a Sherman Tank “traipses” through life, and with a comparable indifference.

I gave much thought to which specific label I would attach to this wretch, because there are so many choice examples from which to choose. He is a wretched example of a human being and I am ashamed to live in a country which glorifies the almighty dollar and raises it to such dizzying heights, as to make this even possible.

The concept of capitalism, in and of itself more than acceptable, becomes murky when society takes the time to examine transactions like the above-mentioned abomination. The notion that an individual would make a conscious business decision to profit from the illness and misery of others, is unthinkable.

However, when I do ponder the act and the defiance of the same individual when confronted by an angry nation, I see nothing short of perversion. His smugness is comparable to a sex pervert masturbating over the corpse of the victim he has just murdered, getting his kicks from the suffering of others.

If the reader finds the image revolting, then I have achieved my goal. Perversion comes in more than one form, and though it may be performed by men in white shirts and ties, it is no less reprehensible than the acts of a sexual sociopath. 

For one to set his own financial gain over the tears and misery of others, his soul must be set in concrete.  To trample over the lives and souls of those who suffer, and then smile smugly for the cameras, sets this one wretch apart from the others.

He now has a name and he now has a face. And he has a special fate waiting for him from a good friend of mine, Karma. She may take her time but she will get in the last word. 

Of that you may be certain. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Maybe Heaven Isn't That Perfect

Maybe Heaven Isn’t That Perfect

“My God’s better than your god” is a game I choose not to play. It tends to produce nothing but tension, if you call most of humankind’s conflicts “tension.” Religious differences have accounted for the vast majority of these occurrences, blood shed in the name of God.

That being said I have much respect for folks whose lives include organized religion, of any denomination, because it is part of the human experience to try and make some sense of it all. You know, the biggee: Why are we here? 

It matters not whether one derives comfort from being one of many like-minded individuals meeting every Saturday [Sunday...Thursday...], or whether you just like that notion of going to heaven, where your team wins the world series every year, and your golf game...well, maybe heaven isn’t that perfect.

The bottom line is that life is filled with surprises, some of them spontaneous and joyful and some of them awful. That’s the way it works and when stuff gets piled up, one negative thing on top of another, you just want to go some place where you pay a dime to call someone who actually gives a heck.

My take on organized religion is that is is a win/win proposition for those who embrace it, and no one can take that away from an individual-no one. For myself, who chooses a more solitary path, neither more nor less “spiritual” than the average church-goer, I might suggest that my religion consists of confronting those issues I encounter on my journey through life, and evaluating my response to those situations that would be classified as “awful.”

I mean, it’s easy to be on top of your game when everything is coming up roses, but how about when those same roses rip the stuffing out of the inside of your arm, when you get careless and get snagged by a thorn? One of those jagged four-inch-long rips because you were in a hurry?

OK, so a scratch is not exactly Death Valley on the Life’s Timeline but you get my drift. Part of it is simply coping with hardships, but a lot of it has to do with rising above life’s dilemmas, and carrying on with as positive of a front as as humanly possible. I derive much spiritual comfort from evaluating my conduct and finding it acceptable.

Lest I come across as smug, it being most convenient that I am the one evaluating my own conduct, I am quite hard on myself if I come up short in my behavior. Let’s face it, I am not comparing my behavior with that of others-only with that which I find appropriate.

Heaven? I find the concept, though more palatable, just as unrealistic as hell, the place I was doomed to inhabit from early on. There were just too many absurd rules in the religion I was indoctrinated into, for me to ever hang onto it once I hit the age of reason.

Call me an existentialist, call me a heathen, or call me a human being. Or better still, call me Mark. And when I finally close my eyes for the first good “night’s sleep” I have had since age ten, it will also be my last. 


Thursday, September 17, 2015

"Normal" Is a Setting on a washing Machine

“Normal” Is a Setting on a Washing Machine
Have you seen the post on face/book which features the little girl asking her mother what “normal” is? Mommy responds, “‘Normal’ is a setting on a washing machine.”

The analogy works for me, as a guy whom many would find to be anything but normal. Being incapable of sleeping much more than three or four hours at any given attempt, I find myself functioning nightly in a world of muted sound and light, unless the sound is coming at me through my headphones, and the light is blinding me from the halogen-bright bulb inside my brain.

I wonder if that explains why it is that my mind is anything but muted during these expeditions into “normalcy.” I give little thought to what it would be like to go to sleep at night, secure in the knowledge that what will awaken me in the morning is the shrillest alarm clock that money could buy.

Alarm clock? What is this thing of which I speak so blithely?

I generally make an effort to remain in bed for at least six hours, which means somewhere around two in the A of M, I surface. I nurse a couple of cups of coffee, gulp eighteen ounces of water, and have another cup of coffee. 

I devote those several hours to any one of a number of endeavors, all involving components of the right side of my brain. This region of my cranium, heretofore locked up and unknown, was recently unleashed when I managed to finally escape the prison of my own mental morass, with its panic attack syndrome and the subsequent diagnosis of my having a mood spectrum disorder.

This brings me to a second f/b post, one that sums matters up, clear as mud. “I hate being bi-polar; it’s awesome!” The truth of the matter is, I embrace my newly discovered side and cherish it, despite the inconvenience of functioning on half the sleep that “normal” people get.

When I asked that nice Dr. Mulligan at the Veterans Clinic in Ukiah for something to help me sleep, she was very understanding-empathetic even-but nonetheless implacably firm in her refusal to grant my request. She informed me that it was not in my best interest to take that fork in the road.

“People get by on four hours of sleep quite regularly,” she said, “and quite well, I might add. Sleep is overrated.” I do see the value of her logic because I am opposed to putting anything into my body that originates in Corporate ‘Merica’s pharmaceutical factories. 

I prefer that which originates in my own backyard, guided through its glorious journey from April through October, by none other than myself. When I need it I have it. When I have it I can cope.

It’s those long early AM hours that keep raising the question of normalcy in the first place. Music through my headphones sets the tone for my artistic forays, music which is still reasonably new to me and captivates my imagination as no other has ever done.

With my mind already suffused with the vibrancy of what I am hearing, I write, I fiddle with my photography, and I allow myself the luxury of pursuing any intellectually stimulating path that floats my boat. Hours later, when the rest of the world starts to surface, and I have a cup of fresh coffee waiting for Annie, reality returns, and I go back to the other “Normal.”

Since I have no choice in the matter, I am here to tell you, quite emphatically, 

“I hate getting no sleep-it’s awesome!”

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Growing Older Faster Than Growing Up

Growing Older Faster Than Growing Up

Not to steal Jimmy Buffet’s line, but I am growing older faster than I am growing up. Growing up means assuming the mantle of one’s age and acting like, well, a grownup. I want to act my age but that would mean I would have to act like a 63-year-old, and that is just not going to happen-yet.

If I were going to act as though I were 63, I would have told Lito to shove his construction project instead of going on over to serve as sawyer for the rafters. I am an excellent sawyer and know exactly how much shy to cut a board, if I am given a measurement of 71-and-a-half inches, light.

I also know precisely how much a c**t-hair is (one thirty-second of an inch), when instructed to remove that amount from a board which has already been sent up on the roof. In last Thursday’s gig there were no returns from the roof because, let’s face it, it’s just not that much fun to convince twenty-foot-long, two-by-ten-inch, green Douglas fir rafters to assume their position on the roof and then return to the ground.

Put another way, they come down a lot faster than they go up, if we are not careful. Laugh out loud. Silly me, I said “we.”

I do not do rafters. I cut them-I don’t actually do the moving. So in this instance, I can act my age.

If I were really 63, wouldn’t I rock a crewcut and a neatly trimmed, bristly mustache, with a three-day growth of white whiskers, instead of a musteard, my two braids which extend down from my chin, a foot or so? I mean, how juvenile can one get?

Actually, I’m not sure I should say this, but I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

I have always said that I wish to age gracefully, but in lieu of that, I will settle for aging memorably. Instead of retiring to my front porch in a rocking chair, I will chain that rocking chair to the front end of somebody’s 4-wheel-drive vehicle, so I can still go where the action is.

With me in the chair or inside the vehicle, whichever suits my mood.

I waited until this summer to go to Reggae on the River, so now I must make up for lost time. I am going to Hawaii with Annie this coming February, in an effort to gather as many of my siblings together in one place as possible. 

I am not responsible for getting the whole thing organized, but I am sure going to take advantage of the opportunity to go on a real vacation, something that has never been very high on my list of goals and objectives.

I started wearing sandals a few summers ago, but took a huge stride forward this summer: I ditched the socks...

Everyone ought to have something he or she does well that can be presented to the world. I emerged from a 48-year-long mental morass of confusion in 2010 and I no longer have any fear of making a fool of myself. 

In fact, World, I am getting pretty good at it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Fork Kills Another Innocent Child!

Fork Kills Another Innocent Child!

They say the one who is calmest in any debate is the one who is in control, and that kind of scares me when it comes to dialogue concerning gun control. Without exception the issue produces spontaneous combustion from Second Amendment  rights advocates who just barely stop short of frothing at the mouth in their unwavering-nay, undying-need to share with one and all how we will have to pry their cold, dead fingers away from their “guns.” Those who do not agree with this stance seem to be able to retain their equanimity while dialoguing. 

Oh, that it were the reverse.

I wish we could bypass the drama and simply rationally discuss gun violence in this country, compared to gun violence in ANY other civilized (hmmmm) nation on earth, and have both sides show up.

Those who favor gun control can repeat calmly that we do not want to take away your “guns,” until our vocal cords bleed, for all the good it will do. There is no hearing us or our questions, only the bleating that, “No. I will not give in. My protection is my right. My beliefs are my right. And my second amendment is my right. Guns are not the problem.”

It’s that last sentence that is a real attention-getter. Funny that guns are not the problem. I know. Spoons and forks make you fat and pencils misspell words, so let’s ban them too. The only difference that I can see in the analogy is that forks, spoons and pencils, when misused, do not result in instant death.

If that is too esoteric of a difference for you to wrap your mind around, then try this: One child overeating does not kill another innocent child, when his fork accidentally goes off and kills her.

Please, stop inundating me with your rights, and talk to me about the rights of the innocents who get blown away because some jerk insisted on fulfilling his or her rights to the Second Amendment.

Never has one concept been twisted so pervertedly as that of the Second Amendment. Yet I politely respond again and again just to let these otherwise wonderful human beings know, that there is still a sense of civilization out there, even if they would have it otherwise.

Human right to life takes precedence over the preposterous extension of the Second Amendment rights in this country by gun enthusiasts, perpetrated and paid for by the NRA.

If I’m wrong, take me out and have me shot. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I Smell A Rat

I Smell A Rat

A wise person once advised me to never talk politics or religion with loved ones because they would not stay loved ones long. It is therefore with great trepidation that I wade into the murky waters of the political arena, boxing gloves on, to accuse Dick Cheney of treason, and write about it.

In case you have never attempted it, writing with boxing gloves on is fiendishly challenging to do, but when I hear of atrocities performed by wealthy men, in the name of capitalism, and profits made on the backs of veterans, men and women who shouldered the burden of enriching the coffers of Halliburton, I feel I have a responsibility to share my views.

I do participate in the election process, having voted in every election since I filled out my absentee ballot the first year I was eligible in 1972, from 7,000 miles away in The Land of the Morning Calm, South Korea. The 26th Amendment was passed on March 23, 1971, lowering the voting age to eighteen and I was drafted nine months later at age nineteen, the last year a draft was ever held.

In case there is any confusion, had I any choice in the matter, I would never have gone into the service. The notion repulsed me at the time and that view has never wavered. If I had possessed the necessary cajones to have avoided it, I would have fled to Canada.

I took the path of least resistance, and subjected myself to the total control of a system run by individuals who had not the least interest in my well-being. I was simply an instrument of control, educated in the art of killing.

Of course, we were taught all of the tactics employed during WWII, which the drill sergeants assured us would do us no good in Vietnam, but what’s new with that? Soldiers do not question why; there’s is but to do and die.

I mention this simply because I have earned the right to speak about my country’s status, without being lambasted by individuals who have not paid their dues. By paying their dues, I mean that they have not donated a two-year chunk of their lives, with an additional four years of having a dagger hanging over one’s head. 

This dagger came in the form of inactive duty, with the caveat being that until a total six years was up, I was subject to the whim of the US Government. If that’s six years more than you have logged in, then the best you can do in contesting what I am saying, is to state your piece and withdraw.

I respect all opinions, of course, and would never think less of someone for disagreeing with me. I simply will not expend the energy to argue my point if we are not on the same plane. You are welcome to have and state your opinion, and I am welcome to state mine.

Here’s my rant:

Succinctly, the third definition of the word “treason” at is the betrayal of a trust or confidence, breach of faith, or treachery. I posted a classic face/book blurb yesterday which stated, “I hereby nominate Dick Cheney and Halliburton to pay the unemployment benefits of the 285,000 veterans that the GOP has turned their (sic) backs on, from the 39.5 billion dollars the company made from the Iraq War.”

It was a simple black and white post, with red letters across the bottom imploring those in favor to say, “Aye.” I cannot verify the numbers; I have no idea how many veterans were involved, and how much plunder was racked up in the coffers of the perpetrators, but I know a rat when I smell it, and the stench is deafening.

I am repulsed, I am angry and I am ashamed. I demand that men and women who first donated their time (no draftees, these people), their energy and their lives to a superficial entity such as Halliburton, and then were shunted aside, be compensated out of the profits of this immoral capitalist enterprise.

I demand that those responsible for a scandal so gratuitously self-centered as to defy comprehension ($39.5 billion with a b), be held accountable for their insidious actions. These soulless vessels have betrayed the American public, besmirched our country’s reputation, filled their pockets so full with gold that it can’t be concealed any longer, and then they defiled my brothers and sisters who served as nothing more than lackeys.

Contemporarily speaking, our vets served as Halliburton’s bitches.

I cannot put it any more crudely than that and that is exactly my point. Crudeness begets crudeness, and I have lowered myself to the same level as Dick Cheney because I think to do anything else is to never get his attention. 

People like Cheney do not have the capacity to see anything but the sides of the cavernous cement septic tank in which they dwell. They have no concept of what it means to live outside that impenetrable concrete vault that houses them and their greed. 

The rest of us, the 99% of us, have no concept of what it is like to live in a septic tank and we don’t want to learn.

We just want to see a modicum of accountability for those who violate the principles upon which our country was founded, and who trample over others with impunity.

We want to see Dick Cheney brought to justice.