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, August 31, 2016

The Do-Tell Motel

The Do-Tell Motel

You know you might just be getting old if:

…today’s music seems unpalatable, making you a fuddy-duddy-OR- today’s music is awesome, meaning that you are going through your “second childhood.” Yes, either way you lose.
Second adolescent-stage for me...

…you have figured out that it’s smarter to keep you mouth shut, and have folks think you are a doddering old fool, than to open it, and prove them correct.

…a trip to the gym to work out, is actually code for “I need to take the car to the car-wash….”

…“been around the block a time or two” has nothing to do with parallel-parking.

…a night out on the town means a trip to Denny’s for hot fudge sundaes.

… hot and heavy refers to your woolies and not your sex life.

…the checked shirt you are wearing, seems right at home with the striped pants you have on.

…you stop worrying about your socks matching because you stopped wearing socks…

…a trip to Ukiah involves careful planning, based on the availability of restrooms in different establishments.

…you now keep your glasses on full-time because you found it impossible to keep track of them otherwise.

…you can’t help wondering why your ear and nose hair seem to grow at double the rate of the hair anywhere else on your body.

…you have to consult the seating chart at AT&T Park when you order tickets, to make sure your seats are within spitting distance of the bathrooms.

…you buy the same-sized ribeye steak you always have, but divide it into two pieces, half for dinner and half for breakfast the next morning.

…a plate of hash browns, a three-egg chili omelet and two pieces of sourdough toast now seems like enough food for two people, instead of being the norm for a working Joe.

…the kid bagging your groceries at Safeway asks you if you need help out with your bags.

…you walk into the kitchen to get something, forget what it was you were looking for, but grab something anyway, so as not to have made a trip for nothing. [Later, when you remember what it was you were originally looking for, you can also return the object you grabbed as an afterthought, a twofer if ever there were one.]

…if your kids actually seem to be functioning adults instead of juvenile delinquents.
Three little miscreants, if ever there were...

…going on vacation means either an overnight trip to Westport, or a weekend in Eureka.

…you wake up every morning with a smile on your face, until you actually try to get up.

…seeing your grandfather’s face in the mirror no longer freaks you out.

…going to a family reunion, means you are no longer expected to actually remember anyone’s name.

…you have long since substituted Irish whiskey for beer, because it’s much more practical later on, when you hit the sack and don’t have to get up every fifteen minutes to hit the head.

…there is no longer enough room on your birthday cake for 64 candles.

…you can remember names and dates from forty years ago with crystal clear detail, but can’t remember who it was that borrowed your cement trowels last fall.

…the “no-tell” motel becomes the “Do-tell!” motel.

…you no longer think there’s even the remotest of possibilities, that you will somehow end up playing pro baseball.

…the kid getting into the driver’s side of that pickup truck, looks as though he is in middle school.

…your selection of wardrobe, on any given day, is so outrageous, that it actually comes across as stylin’.

…you can’t help but notice that a man you wouldn’t trust to pump your septic tank, is the Republican Party’s top choice for President of the United States.
Would you trust THIS man???

…you stop worrying about offending others, because almost anything you say is likely to suffice.

Feel free to add your own definition…

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Freedom Run Amok

Buffoonery Abounds!
Freedom Run Amok

As elementary as it may seem, the very concept which established this nation as great, is the same one that is bringing it down-WILL bring it down. Freedom can be a treacherous thing when it runs amok, and that is what has happened here in the Land of the Free.

As a kid, I devoured Charles Dickens and was particularly fascinated by the French Revolution. The theme I could not get out of my head was how brutal the common people were, when it came to dealing with the Aristocracy. How could they be so heartless?

What escaped me at that young age, was how brutal the common people had it, living in abject poverty, while a few lived in extravagant luxury, refusing to acknowledge that there was even a problem in the first place.

Or more likely, if there was a problem, it sure as heck was not the problem of the Aristocracy. I see that happening today, in this country, more than ever, and it’s getting worse.

The same rights which guarantee a person’s ability to achieve wealth, also guarantee that there has to be balance, in that there will be people who have nothing. 

Excuse me while I astro-plane for a sec.

Why can’t the legislative body running the country, simply determine how much revenue will be needed to insure that everyone has food, shelter and medical care, and then raise the level of taxation to the point where these issues are addressed?

Those who are wealthy must be prepared to pony up for the right to have more than others. It’s not a personal thing-it’s simply the price of success. If you have millions, it will not hurt you to share with the other guy.

If you are destitute, for whatever reason, then you still deserve to eat, have a place to sleep and a doctor you can consult for any issues, be they physical or mental. It’s enough that you have no resources; you should not have to stress out about poor health also, simply because you cannot afford to be sick.

When a candidate as repulsive as Donald Trump has unbelievable support, from the same people who should be running in terror, I have to figure there is something horribly amiss.

Like freedom running amok.
George Carlin

George Carlin posed the rhetorical question, “Can God create a rock so heavy, that He, Himself, can’t lift it?”

I might pose a question with similar implications, Can a nation create an economic and social system, so carefully crafted, that in conjunction with a bevy of lawyers, it can result in a self-serving, self-promoting legislative body that looks only after Number One?

In this case, Number One is anyone with big buck$. The secret to success, is to instill in the common man’s head, that he/she can also succeed in this great nation, because, well, this IS the Land of the Free. If you have watched Donald Trump in action, and I’m sure you have, you know that being a buffoon need not preclude you being a Player.

Therefore, if The Donald can be a Player, being a person of ridicule, than I can too, because I am not an idiot, like Donald Trump. But in order to be able to strike it rich, I need to have Trump’s rules in place, so that when I hit the big time, I will be able to capitalize.

It all makes sense, I guess, if you ascribe to being rich. I do not. Therefore, I have a harder time understanding why people want it so much, and moreover, what makes them think they are ever going to be able to do something about actually accumulating said riches.

It does tend to blow my little pea brain right out of the water.

However, you can’t argue with success. There are millions of Americans willing to throw dignity, integrity and honesty right out the old window, by electing a bozo.

I mean, W was a bozo too, but at least he tried to be a real politician. He understood that those zany, cocaine-filled college days, were really not OK, and he had to keep it together or Dad would get mad. He used big words, contrary to The Donald, even though the words made absolutely no sense. At least W thought they did.

The Donald knows his words have no worth. He does not use big words; he does not want folks to get dazed or fogged. His lies are the same words, used more than once-ten times if need be. If you say the same words more than once, folks know that they will come true. He has done it so much, it no more seems new or odd.

He is a pro, he is rich and he is you or I. Or so say those who would vote for this cad.

I do not see a way out. How do you convince the ruling entity to relinquish control? There is no way one can be elected to national office, without millions of dollars to pay your way. The closest we will ever come, is Bernie, and look how easily he was swatted aside, by a far more savvy politician than he.
We felt the Bern.

Oh well.

Money talks and good intentions are run right out the door, much to the pity of the fifty million Americans at or below the poverty level. I might add, that there are also millions of Americans slightly above the poverty level, who get by on bare basics.

All so that the Waltons, who own WalMart, can enjoy their $150 billion annual income.

Isn’t this a great nation? 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Taking a Stand-While Sitting on the Bench

Taking a Stand-While Sitting on the Bench

OK, I’ll bite.

Having watched the Colin Kaepernick protest mushroom out of proportion to what it was, an innocuous expression of the personal freedoms for which I served in the military, I feel compelled to add my nickel’s worth of two cents to this non-issue.

Kaepernick had the unmitigated gall to sit during the playing of the National Anthem, prior to the start of an NFL preseason game last week, much to the dismay of various factions in our country, who felt that he was being disrespectful to the military.

Woe is me!

The first thing the San Francisco 49ers did as an organization was reaffirm the reason why the Anthem is played in the first place, and then to state that 49er players are encouraged-but not required-to show their allegiance in this manner.
Colin Kaepernick

“This country stands for freedom, liberty and justice for all-and it’s not happening for all right now,” was Kaepernick’s explanation for his lapse in etiquette.

Right now? Seriously, right now? 

Freedom, liberty and justice haven’t been happening in this country for a long time now. Is there anyone who doubts this? I’m not just talking about injustices to black people, as Kaepernick was, I am talking about injustice to 50 million plus Americans, who are functioning at or below the poverty level.

That is as heinous a fact as any that could be imagined. In a nation where one family alone accounts for an income in access of 150 billion dollars annually, that such abject misery be allowed to continue, is as much of an indictment of this country as anything else.

What ever happened to common decency? How can the people who run this country not see that by lining their own pockets with ungodly riches, at the expense of so many regular Americans out there, they are blatantly mocking the founders of this country?

This is not a Democracy for the people; it is an oligarchy for the benefit of a small minority. Nor is it likely to change, since the very people lining their pockets are the same ones running the country.

How convenient.

Now an athlete like Colin Kaepernick stands up, metaphorically speaking if not literally, for the downtrodden in America, and he is criticized. Is it because he is speaking his opinion, or is it because he is not the second coming of Joe Montana?

OK, that’s irrelevant and I know it, but I have read criticism of Kaep’s stand, not because of its political implications, but because he “throws a football like a baseball.”

Or how about, “Wise words from a self-indulgent, black, pro athlete, who was raised by white parents?”

Neither is valid as a reason for Kaepernick not voicing his opinion. By taking his stand while sitting on the bench, he opened himself up to criticism, and he says he will continue to remain sitting during future renditions of the National Anthem.

I support Kaep’s right to express his opinion in this manner, just as I support the right of Americans to burn the flag in protest. I know that is not a popular opinion amongst many, but I also coughed up 21 months of my life to serve in the army, so I have earned the right to express an opinion.

If someone burning the flag in public disgusts you, then that’s a real shame. But that does not remove the fact that in a free country, personal expression of one’s opinion, must be tolerated.

I mean, everyone has the right to express an opinion, but having put in my time, I feel that I am backing up my opinion with more than just hot air. You may feel free to disagree with me because that is your prerogative, but just remember, what I am supporting is simply a return to an era when a wage-earner worked full-time, he or she was able to pay for food and shelter for a family, and do so confidently.

Now, two full-time wage earners in the same family, are too frequently unable to accomplish the same goal. This is patently not right; this is not what the founding fathers had in mind.

Is Kaepernick’s protest going to help? Is this piece of writing going to help? They help raise awareness, maybe, but otherwise, no, they’re not going to help.

The grip on the economic control in this country is far too tight. Kaepernick maintains it is not the current presidential race that concerns him, though he pointed out that Trump is openly racist and Hillary Clinton has that pesky “black teens or kids are super predators” statement from 1996 still kicking around.
I served in the 199th Personnel Service Company, in Korea.

As long as these two candidates are the best this country can come up with, Kaepernick’s point is well-taken. Who possibly thinks either Hillary or The Donald cares about the minimum-wage earner?

And that is Colin Kaepernick’s point: “This country stands for freedom, liberty and justice for all-and it’s not happening for all right now.”

The question is, what has to happen before our government cares enough about the common people, to do something to help them out?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

On the Cutting Room Floor

On the Cutting Room Floor

“Will you still need me; will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” 

When “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” hit the record stands on June 1st of 1967, I was fourteen years old and just finishing up my freshman year in high school. I was three months away from beginning my illustrious career at Sunrize (sic) Market, and working as a bottle-boy for Handy Liquors, a job which paid one dollar an hour.
"Will you still need me? Will you still feed me? "

I was enchanted by Sgt. Pepper’s, particularly by the mellow “When I’m 64” ditty, which always seemed so uncomplicated. To begin 64 always seemed so ancient, so distant and far away, it could never have anything to do with me. I would never make it to 64-that was a given.

In my thought process, I am never clear as to specifically why I never thought I would be around that long. I forget. Is that a good thing? Life was so miserable that I checked out early?

Or is it bad? As in, Oh dang, wrong place-wrong time? Didn’t even see that bus.

As I approach my 64th, I look back on this song and reflect on the inexorable march of time. That’s the one parade that never varies from the established route. There are no blisters on the march of time, nor are there any pit stops, at either Bob’s Big Boy or In N Out. 

Time does not tarry, nor does it trip. A manmade concept, it defies death and keeps on ticking, long after the Energizer Bunny has come to a screeching halt. Time serves no master and yields nothing, and will still be here long after the last Swiss watch has ticked its last tock.

I won’t make it quite that long, and that’s OK with me.

Life is one ride that can’t be repeated; that’s what makes it so precious. No matter who you are or how much wealth you accumulate, eventually you are going to end up on the cutting room floor, edited out by the process of natural selection.

That’s one reason why the Giants only win the world series every other year: They know that if they won the whole enchilada every season, it would get boring. I mean, wouldn’t it? 

[OK. Upon further review, I will get back to you on this one.]
My shrine to the Orange and Black

No, I am not having a party to celebrate my 64 years; I have never had a party for my birthday that was planned any earlier than the day of. Actually, I may have while overseas but fortunately, can’t remember. I’m just not a person who likes to be the center of attention.

I prefer left field to catcher; I would rather be the linebacker than the quarterback. I would opt for bass guitar over lead; others can head the parade while I follow. I like attending Sunday Services under the oaks, while taking photos of wild mushrooms.

I am past caring what others think of me because I am OK with myself. Therefore, I do not worry about the contents of the bucket, as I kick it one final time.

I do not have a bucket list because I never set out to do anything other than fulfill my commitment to Annie, and raise three sons who are community contributors. Sure, I wouldn’t mind a return trip to Ireland but would settle for a three-day weekend in Eureka, where we would stay at the No-Tell Motel.

I do not adhere to any organized religion because I am not a religious person. I sprinted away from Catholicism at nineteen years of age, coincidentally the same time I got my first car, and have never had the urge to return.
My "Bucket List"

If I do something to help someone, it is not because I am trying to please a Supreme Being up above. I am simply trying to do my best to ensure that at the end of every day, I can look back on it and say I was part of the solution and not part of the problem.

I have great respect for others who do choose to acknowledge a power which exceeds our own. 

To each his own, I have always said. Live and let live. One man’s treasure is another man’s trash. One woman’s floor is another woman’s ceiling. Pick your poison. Pay to play. Better safe than sorry. Better not hedge your bets. Cover all the bases. 

Choose whichever cliche works for you-I’m good with it. Each of us has to decide how to view this fragile commodity called life. We’re all in it together-no one gets out alive. I happen to believe that just because we can conceive of the existence of a heaven and a hell, doesn’t mean they actually exist.

So when I have checked out, I will not have to worry about standing up in front of a higher power and being judged, and coming up short. If that sounds arrogant, it’s not my intention; I simply mean that were I to be evaluated, and found short, all I could ever say is that I did my best. 

There is something to be said for going through life, not to please a higher power, so much, as holding yourself to high standards because it’s the right thing to do. 

That way, if you can’t please everyone, you can at least please yourself.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Little Things

The Little Things

Which of the following life features poses the biggest threat to my mental frame of mind?

a) Repeated visits to the transmission shop for Ukiah
b) Fluid in Dozer’s lungs: multiple trips to vet in Willits plus $986.00 in fees
c) Stage IV progression of kidney cancer in Annie, necessitating trips to Sacramento every three       weeks for overnight treatment. 
d) Giants knocked out of first place by hated rivals from SoCal

You guessed?

OK, I gave it away, inadvertently, by italicizing and capitalizing letter “e,” the wire that connects my ratty headphones to my telephone, so that I can access radio Pandora. It’s hard to fathom but my tranquility is inextricably connected to my ability to infuse music into my life.

It’s not the big things that paralyze me; it’s the little things.

Much of my time is spent by myself, either now in the wee hours for about six hours every morning, or much of the day as I work out back. As long as there is musical accompaniment, I do not feel alone.

If it weren’t for the fact that I am not particularly thrilled to be by my lonesome, this might be a good scene. As it is, I depend heavily on that infusion of oral sunshine being pumped into my ears at moderate volume ninety percent of the time.

Call it my security blanket, call it my protection from the inevitable presence of unwanted noise from surrounding sources, or call it my panacea for a fragmented mental condition, over which I have reasonable control, I must have access to my music or, ahem, face, er…the music.

How can I compare Annie’s health with a stupid wire, you may ask? The answer is, of course, I can’t, at least not logically or with any degree of credibility. One permeates my existence with its looming presence; the other strikes like lightning on a humid August night. 

Both present challenges but the one cripples forward progress because of the immediacy of the issue.

Truck problems? I speak “guy talk” and handle these things. Truck acts up, taken to shop and truck “fixed”; truck breaks down on way home, is towed back to shop, and information is exchanged via phone; attempts are made to repair truck with no evidence of there being an issue, ten days pass, and truck alleged to be done.

There is NOTHING here that remotely poses a problem compared to that of my music being cut off.
I mean, come on. Look at that face.

Dozer’s issues? There is no thought required; it doesn’t matter how much it costs, or how much hassle it is, we do it. It’s that simple, and therefore not stressful from a cosmic angle.

Giants? lol. The day I worry about baseball on the same level as real life, is the day you should officially send the men in the white coats for me, and cart me off to the loony bin. Seriously. 

Besides, longtime Giants fans know not to worry-October has not yet arrived.

No, I need the music to put one foot in front of the other and do what needs to be done-all day long. And I need Annie because she is the object, towards which my feet are always moving. Annie is never going to vary in this respect and I know that.

When the music stops, however, or squeezes down to just one speaker, I stop.

If it were just a matter of buying good quality equipment instead of the cheap version, then I could blame myself. I buy, instead, the more expensive of two options, when it comes to a 36-inch cable, and spend about fifteen dollars on each of two. 

There are cheaper audio cables available at five dollars each, but those don’t even work long enough to get me home. Though there is a certain amount of wear and tear on the cables, if I am paying three times as much for supposed quality, why do the wires never last more than a couple of months? Or less?

As to why it annoys me, it’s not just the mood spectrum disorder, but that helps. It’s also that I employ the headphones every day to transport me to sleep, at any time I feel so inclined, right in the center of things in the living room on a recliner.

Let Dozer, Clancy, Emma, Margie and Baby Nina all go off at the same time, as visitors storm the farm on a tour of the West Forty, and Annie is chatting in the kitchen with Amber. Just watch as Markie snoozes away, contentedly.
Annie at market in Mendocino.

Some people need a fan going full-blast in the background; others need the TV. If I am napping during the day, I need my music at a moderate volume, to drown out the noise that envelops me.

Don’t ask me how that works-I am clueless and happy to cop to it. I just know that when that wire starts shorting out, so do I. 

Others may find music an intrusion on their thoughts; whatever floats your boat. For me the music goes 24/7 in my head anyway, so I may as well augment it with the real McCoy.

The one nice thing is that though the wire shorting out is problematic, it is an easy fix, as long as I have a spare one on the shelf.

And if I don’t? 

I’ll take Dozer to the vet in Willits, on my way to pick up the truck in Ukiah, while listening to the Giants defeat the Dodgers, with Annie by my side, and pick up another dozen cables.

A dozen may take me to Christmas.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Back the Truck Up

My  # One rock-and-roll  LP

Back the Truck Up

That I have changed is no more evident than in the music I listen to-or don’t listen to-as the case happens to be. Challenged recently to come up with a dozen albums which have impacted me during my lifetime, I found that even though this music has faded from the forefront of my mind, it was still a challenge to sort through and choose twelve.

The artists and music I selected, all from the sixties and seventies, had a huge impact on me; after all, that was the assignment. Having an effect is one thing-maintaining that impactful feeling is quite another matter.

It’s as though, having once had the sledge hammer effect, I have now downgraded these musical memories, and placed them in some sort of storage unit in my brain, where they now wield the impact of a rubber mallet. 

That doesn’t mean I am not as pleased as popcorn to hear an old favorite pop up within hearing distance-not at all. What it means is I no longer have any raging desire to seek this music out, for an “oldies, but goodies” session.

Big Brother-"Cheap Thrills"

None interest, whatsoever.

Not long ago when my sibs and I gathered up here on the mountain, there was great fanfare when an old family favorite, a pristine (newly opened) vinyl copy of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme,” was put on the turntable.

It’s not that I was put off-not at all. But I was also not feeling the general air of nostalgia to the same degree that everyone else was. I cannot back the proverbial truck up that far-there appears to be something wrong with my reverse gear.

When I emerged from Panic Attack Syndrome in 2010, I was drawn to contemporary pop music, the kind you hear on Ukiah’s K-WNE. Though incongruous, in terms of age appropriateness, I do think it commensurate with someone who was reliving his adolescence, at least in terms of emotional awareness and musical appreciation.
I listened to this album for four hours-nonstop-once. 

I went from contemporary pop to reggae shortly thereafter, and have since broadened my horizons to include what some might refer to as techno. To me it’s just music, but employs a more synthetic approach, if that term applies.

Again, there is room in my head for vast, unlimited amounts of music, but there is a waiting line to the music I hold dear to my heart. My heart encompasses only so much at a time and the rest gets squeezed out. 

I don’t write the rules-I just try to follow them.

I’d list some of the names of the contemporary artists I listen to, but that isn’t the reason for this post. I am not extolling you to examine your own musical interests; I am only explaining that I seem different from many others my age, who are content to listen to classic rock, and let it go at that.

Or country, classic, jazz, reggae, hip-hop, oldies but goodies, and whatever else they may want to enjoy. Graybeards are not usually attracted to Vampire Weekend and Walter Meego, not to mention Coleman Hell or Modest Mouse, which might make me different than most. 

Now there’s a real shocker.

Annie and I have several hundred long-play, vinyl records within our combined collection, to which we have no access, lacking a turntable. Obviously, if it were a priority, we would have acquired said turntable, so it merely adds to my observation that I have left the past behind, when it comes to music.
"Bring tea for the Tillerman, steak for the sun,
wine for the women who made the rain come..."

Now, if I could only apply that same logic to my clothes closet, I’d be in business.

                      *        *        *

I decided a Top-Forty was better than a dozen. So here, Davy, is an annotated list of impactful albums from the 60’s and 70’s. As I am sure you can, I identify with a lot of music associated with my time in the service.

The Sixties

Jefferson Airplane-Surrealistic Pillow (My first realization that drugs might just be, well, you know, interesting?)

The Doors-The Doors (I saw Jim Morrison in the summer of 1968 @ The Hollywood Bowl)

Big Brother and the Holding Company (Janis Joplin) Cheap Thrills (I took this album to school one day as a freshman in high school-instant Great Success!)

Quicksilver Messenger Service-Quicksilver Messenger Service (I actually found this album at Sunrize (sic) Market, where I was a box-boy at the time)

Beatles-Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (I reveled in this album all through the summer of 1967, as I single-handedly painted our house on Fellowship: one coat of white primer and two coats of fire engine red)

Crosby, Stills, Nash-Crosby, Stills and Nash (I listened to “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” over and over once for four solid hours, trying to deal with a bruised heart)

The Who-Who’s Next (For decades I have listed this as my personal, Number-One favorite album of all-time. While in the army? "Won't Get Fooled Again" (!) )

Santana-Santana (Blistered my soul with its passion)

Cat Stevens-Tea for the Tillerman (I saw “Harold and Maude” while stationed @ Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, in 1972, which featured this album. It remains an experience seared into my psyche; cosmically, I needed that film at that moment)

Led Zeppelin-Led Zeppelin (White-hot blues that I will always connect with my friends John and Glen, and a ’64 Ford Econoline van)

Simon and Garfunkel-Bridge Over Troubled Waters (I had loved this duo earlier, and for them to follow up with this blockbuster, unreal...)

Cream-Disraeli Gears ("Sunshine of my Love"-part of my summer of self-awareness)

Moody Blues-Tuesday Afternoon (The crossover of classic music and orchestra into rock and roll was breathtaking to me. I loved all Moody Blues music.)

Beatles-Abbey Road (Wine and weed up in the San Gabriel Mountains, my senior year in high school…)


Boston-Boston (Not just me-my entire circle of friends embraced this artist)

Jackson Browne-Running on Empty (I saw JB at the San Jose Performing Arts Center, one of four times I would see him perform)

The Cars-The Cars (So original, this album was part of my college circle at San Jose State)

Bruce Springston-Born to Run (Came out minutes after I got out of the army and was the official start of the “second half of my life”)

Steely Dan-Aja (When Annie and I used to visit bro Matt at his cabin, this album always seems to be on...,)

Supertramp-Breakfast in America (Annie loved this album and turned me onto it. Our musical interests were quite similar until more recent times)

Credence Clearwater Revival-Credence Clearwater Revival (Suzy Q was the headliner, but it was “I Put a Spell on You” that made a lasting impression on me)

Dire Straits-Sultans of Swing (Another college buddy)

Amazing Rhythm Aces-Too Stuffed to Jump (This album represented a strange period of my life, when my first marriage had dissolved and I was dealing with the aftermath)

Deep Purple-MachineHead (Military Madness time-I was in Korea when this came out)

Blondie-The Best of Blondie (One of the most original albums ever)

Joni Mitchell-Miles of Aisles (Another release just after I got out of the Machine, associated with my new-found freedom)

Bob Dylan-Blood on the Tracks (That the King of folk/rock was back-too incredible for words)

James Taylor-Sweet Baby James (Forever associated with my bro, Noel)

Electric Light Orchestra-Eldorado (I used to sit on the roof of my apartment on San Fernando St. in San Jose, smoke a little cannabis, and see Buddha when I listened to this album)

Elton John-Yellow Brick Road (Pure magic, all of it, but “Funeral for a Friend” and “Norma Jean” elevate this LP to Hall of Fame material)

Carole King-Tapestry (Another album connected to my friend John, and a double date we went on together to see Carole King, at the Hollywood Bowl, following dinner at an up-scale, swank restaurant in SoCal)

America-Horse with No Name (I received this cassette while in Korea, just after starting a 24-hour duty-by myself-on a Saturday, and it helped me immensely)

Black Sabbath-Paranoid (This album represented the period just before I went into the service)

Pink Floyd-Dark Side of the Moon (Mysterious and elegant, I was intrigued by “Dark Side”)

Paul McCartney and Wings-Band on the Run (As disappointed as I was when the Beatles broke up, this album gave me huge assurance that we were in for the Beatles times 4)

Starship-Red Octopus (Instant cult success in my circle of United Auto friends)

Jethro Tull-Benefit (So much depth, and the shows Ian Anderson used to put on! We saw him four times over the years)

Allman Brothers-Eat A Peach (Korea-hootch material)

Beach Boys-California Saga (Profoundly boosted my emotional state of mind when I got this album while overseas in Korea)

Flying Burrito Brothers-Flying Burrito Brothers (Korea-hootch material)

The italicized titles are the twelve songs I originally listed on my post on f/b as my personal favorites which made an impact on me.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Night Shift

The Night Shift

Annie calls it the “night shift,” which is as good a way as any to describe my nocturnal schedule. I have been up for just over three hours, it’s going on four o’clock, and my watering is finished. Proving there is life after Reggae on the River, I have been immersed in my work amidst ninety degree temperatures for thirteen consecutive days.

I ain’t bragging-just sayin’ it like it is.

My list of possible endeavors (I prefer the term “endeavors” to that of “chores”) for the wee hours includes the aforementioned watering, roasting cuts of meat in the oven, canning tomatoes, giving the outside of the stove a thorough scrub-down, doing the occasional piece of writing, mopping floors-just about anything that does not produce noise.

I have to scrub pretty hard with that mop to wake Annie…or the Doze.

I would prefer to go to sleep at ten every night and wake up around six, but hey, 7-11 is what it is, and if I can stay in bed for another hour or more, it’s gravy. I have the time to get artistic and I have the time to gather my thoughts, as fragmented as they often turn out to be.

I know they are sometimes fragmented because I have mentioned to various friends and family recently, that Annie is undergoing an experimental program at UC Davis, in Sacramento, to deal with her Stage IV progression of kidney cancer. I have erroneously used the term chemotherapy, in addressing her treatment, when I should have been saying immunotherapy.

There need be no confusion.
Annie, cleaning up trash at our campsite.

Chemotherapy seeks to kill, shrink or otherwise hinder cancer cells.

Immunotherapy includes a variety of approaches designed to augment, or redirect, the body’s own immune system, to destroy the tumor cells.

One significant difference between the two approaches to fighting cancer, is that immunotherapy targets just the tumor, and not normal tissue, unlike chemo, which cannot distinguish between the two.

Annie has to travel over to Sacramento every three weeks for her treatment, and that presents a logistical challenge, but she has a great deal of support, so it makes it more doable. The worst is that it leaves her drained of energy.
A girl and her dog

Draining physically, but not necessarily emotionally, the program affords a great deal of hope. There is no cure; that is a given. Time is what there is-time and the quality of life. Whereas I normally do not step into this realm in my writing, Annie being an extremely private person, she has ventured out into the political limelight as an advocate for patients’ rights.

In doing so, she opened up a door to her life that beforehand was always kept locked. Out of respect to and for Annie, I have rarely touched on her health. 

That being said, however, and never having heard the term “immunotherapy” before, I think she would feel that this was an acceptable reason to vary from my normal course. Aside from radiation therapy, the third most common way to fight cancer, immunotherapy offers an alternative to chemo of which you-like me-may never even have heard.

Working the night shift is not something I have any control over, but I do still have control of my writing. If there is a typo, then there is no one to blame but me. So let me go ahead and post this piece-it will only take a minute.

Just as soon as I run it past Annie. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Instant Karma

This is the 21st and final chapter of Reggae on the River, 2016. This is an account of an event which occurred after Casey and I had left French’s Camp, and were traveling south on the 101. From watching the performers to being watched as a “performer,” it’s all good.

Instant Karma

Returning from Reggae on the River, Sunday, Casey and I were traveling south down the 101 corridor, just north of Leggett, where there is only one lane in each direction. Coming around one of the many bends in the road, we came suddenly upon the brake lights of probably twenty vehicles, far short of the signal that controls one-way traffic.

There was a tree down, blocking our lane entirely, and extending into the northbound lane as well. 

“Definitely a tree, and it must have just come down; otherwise, there would be CHP on-site,” I said to Casey, as we drew to a stop. “Doesn’t look that big to me.”

“Doesn’t look that big to me either; let’s see if we can move it.” was Casey’s response.

I opened up my door and exited the truck, striding [purposefully] alongside the stopped vehicles to get a better look at what was going on. There were three dudes already there, similarly assessing the scene, one of them removing a smaller branch that had broken off.

The line of vehicles alongside me started moving, and just as I reached the scene, Casey eased past the downed tree, and put his Yodi in reverse, backing right up against the one end of it.

There were two parallel trunks, sprawled out across the highway, attached at the base, that were probably thirty or more feet in length. The diameter of each trunk approached eight or ten inches at the base and tapered off as it got taller.

Our first thought was to attach a strap to the tree and try to pull it off the highway. It wasn’t optimum because we would be more dragging it lengthwise, than sideways, but it was the best we could do. If we could start it, maybe in conjunction with some timely grunt-work, we could maneuver it to the side.

It took two minutes set it up and watch it snap, without any prolonged drama. There being five of us, we then attempted to drag/push/muscle the fallen oak to the side.

Our first effort produced almost no gain. I looked up at the lines of cars in both directions. Every person in every car who was awake, was watching us. If even a couple of scrawny dudes had gotten out of their air-conditioned vehicles to lend us a hand, it would have helped.

However, if you are not countrified, then it does not occur to you to do something like this. As sad as it seems, it’s been bred out of you. It’s not good; it’s not bad, unless you hate sitting on the highway, waiting for someone to do the job that you are capable of doing.

We shifted our attack to one end and heaved. The tree grumbled but moved six inches grudgingly. We heaved it again with the same results. We focused on the other end, and accomplished the same few inches of forward progress. In this manner we “walked” it off in less than three minutes.

While scampering about, regrouping, applying muscle, and gauging results, we learned that the first guy on the scene, had pulled over to let others pass, when the tree came crashing down.

“Had I not pulled over, it would have come right down on my roof. I was that lucky,” he explained.

I pondered the implications of being a jerk in the corridor, road-hogging it and refusing to pull over, and then getting flattened by a falling tree. Poetic justice, some might say. I then looked at the man in front of me and thought to myself, “Instant Karma. You are standing here today, because you did pull over.”

I strained my back and scraped my palms when I fell at one point, and in general, did what I had no business doing. I also felt pretty good about it all. We joke about country living and getting it done, but this was no joke and we got it done.

It wasn’t about being heroes or doing it for the publicity. I even forgot to take photos. No, it was just about encountering a chore and knocking it out, so that hundreds would not have to be inconvenienced, sitting there waiting for the CHP and the tow truck.

After being in the midst of 12,000 reggaers for the past four days, and watching others perform, it felt good to do some performing myself.

Why did we do it? After all, we were already on the south side when we stopped and we could have kept going.

We did it because we could.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Irish Coffee

This is the 20th segment of Reggae on the River, 2016, which is hard to believe when you consider that after the third one, the series was cancelled, due to lack of any semblance of quality. Unfortunately, the author did not get the memo.

Irish Coffee

Bless me Father for I have prevaricated, I have equivocated and I have misrepresented the truth.

I have told a whopper.

In point of fact, I wrote earlier in this fantasized odyssey that I did not indulge in alcohol while reggaeing at French’s Camp. Like much of the delusional material to be found within this lengthy treatise, this is a blatant falsehood, because I did indeed imbibe some spirits.

Following the sophisticated thinking of Donald Trump (oxymoron Hall of Fame nominee), I simply figured if I said something often enough, even if it were a lie, my saying it would make it true.

I had explained it this way to Casey later on Saturday (much later), “He [Mid-Sized David] knocked me down, pinned my shoulders to the ground and forced me to drink some Jamie in my coffee. The combination was disgusting.”

Disgustingly good.

Not sure at first whether I was pulling his leg about David, and trying to collect his fragmented thoughts, no easy task considering there was consumption of ale and reveling done at South Beach Friday night, Casey just gawked at me.
David, Conner andAlex, aka Minnix

“Seriously, though, I was drinking (What else at French’s Camp?) French coffee from the reggae gas station and had a nice coffee-buzz going on, and David hit me up with the suggestion that I add a little Jameson to my coffee.”

Relief poured over Casey. “You had me going for a minute there, thinking David…”

I mean, we WERE camping, right? I thought back to going fresh-water fishing with my friend Ken, back in the seventies when I lived in San Jose. We would go out to Lexington Reservoir on Highway 17 leading over to Santa Cruz, and fish for trout early in the morning. We’d bring a bunch of food for later on, but while it was still dark, we’d drink gin, smoke some Columbian and just fish.

Booze has never been my thing, especially in any quantity, but just the right amount in one’s coffee, together with some Sour OG/Sour Band, and the tone is set for conversation and conviviality. Anything with Sour in it is a Sativa derivative, and anything Sativa in nature, gets the right side of my brain fully engaged.

I was exaggerating to Casey for effect, probably because it was unusual for me to mix my poisons, but this was no typical setting. A year ago I had spent much time in the wee hours with David, as I experienced my first ROTR. Both Casey and David were instrumental in their support of me.

When I had awakened after my usual four hours of sleep, Saturday morning, only Mid-Sized-David and Bull were still up, and Bull was on his way out, leaving just the big guy and me. David and I had worked construction on a crew together, we had worked construction just the two of us, and we had watched many a televised sporting event, while barbecuing.

I have many acquaintances but few friends; David is one of my friends.

Because there were so many campers around us, and because many had been carousing all night, there were frequent raucous outbursts that were so common I stopped noticing them. On the other hand, they hadn’t penetrated my slumber and I wasn’t trying to get back to sleep.

The premier topic of conversation later on that Saturday, was the visit to our campsite by two young women after the revelers had returned from South Beach, but before I had gotten up. By all accounts they had been rather, shall we say, animated.

The phase, “Conner is a man of service,” was the theme, and it was one that permeated the venue. Had the young ladies in question been unknown commodities, the words might have had an entirely different connotation; as it were, one was Homegirl, and that makes all the difference in the world. 

Homegirl or not, she was boisterous. 

Casey had surfaced at one point, long enough to get Joey B’s attention and give him the throat-slashing signal, before rolling over and going back to sleep, thinking to himself that he was getting soft in his old age.

“Even last year I would have simply screamed out, ‘Shut the f**k up you silly bit#%*s.’ Guess I’m getting politically correct in my old age,” was his explanation.

“It’s all of those Supervisor meetings in Ukiah,” I commented, wondering at the same time how he was ever able to do it. I could not-not now, not back in the day, not in the future.

I sipped my morning libation, pleasantly surprised at how innocuous it all seemed. I enjoy the flavor of Jameson immensely, and the coffee was first-rate, so it computed, as my father used to say. The only thing missing was the whipped cream, but we were camping, after all.

[Note to Mark: Next year? Whipped cream? Along with the coffee station?]
Gittin' 'er done

Conner refers to them as “good old reggae stories,” but people stories are what stand out most vividly in my somewhat-addled brain. The music is a shared experience with thousands of others, but these one-on-one conversations, whether in the wee hours or in the midst of a crowd, loom over the others as moments that mattered.

Thursday night set the tone, well-established last year at my first ROTR. This year it was former student Nathan S coming up to me during Jah Sun’s performance and saying, “Hey.”

I of course looked blankly at him until he identified himself, and then we greeted one another appropriately, exchanging hugs. During our ensuing conversation what he said knocked my socks off. Considering I don’t wear socks, that is some feat, pun intended.

“You have no idea how much love and respect this community has for you. You raised a lot of us, and we love you for it.”

My gouda-cheese brain recorded every word of our lengthy conversation, complete with names, facts and dates, but this one sentence sums it up.

They were powerful words for this former teacher to hear, especially one who gave up on education because of the requirement that teachers teach to the standardized tests. 

I responded, “All I did was give you guys basic respect, and I got it back tenfold. Thank you for your kind words.”

There were many former students at Reggae that I did not see, or at least did not recognize. That doesn’t mean I did not feel their presence. At an impressionable period of their lives, I spent probably ten times as much quality time with them, as their parents did. It’s the nature of the beast.

Students had no choice into whose class they were placed, for the most part, so it was all a crap-shoot. But if you had me for reading and language, then you probably also had me for social studies. And if you ever took Spanish at the middle school or debate, or bridge, then that was me also.

I did a full-length Shakespeare production three out of every four years, Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” being the fourth year’s offering. Some of you may remember those. We simply shared the same space, amicably, for large chunks of time.

I made my expectations clear so that if there was a poor choice made, no one took it personally. Why blame me? I was just the messenger.

My primary goal in the classroom was to keep whatever spark of curiosity alive, that was still present in my students when they hit the middle school. Granted, using your spelling/vocabulary words in a story each week, was not the most spark-arresting assignment possible, but how many of you used it as a forum for expressing yourselves, even as sixth graders?

Now as I get along, the pupils have become the mentors, and I have become the student. If I tend to prattle on about all of this, then chalk it up to old age and be patient with me. 

I have zero compelling items left I feel I need to accomplish, having done that which I set out to do, so it’s all gravy now.

Or should I say, “It’s all whipped cream now?”

Tomorrow: Good Buddha, there’s more?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Bell Springs Mark and the Tent-Pole of Doom

I regret to inform you that this is yet another in a string of incoherent rants, (Number 19, to be precise), covering Reggae on the River, 2016. Purportedly the firsthand account of a once-respected journalist, whose judgment has long since been rendered questionable through habitual use of the Devil’s Lettuce, cannabis, the editors apologize in advance.

Bell Springs Mark and the Tent-Pole of Doom

A man’s tent is his castle. Stretched out luxuriously on a cot that was one inch shorter than I am, I had it good. It didn’t matter a bit to me that my nylon sleeping bag had a tendency to slide off the nylon pad that constituted the cot’s mattress.
If I could, I would have brought the living room along...

I only had to realign matters once per night, and that was after I had already surfaced. 

I had the foresight to buy a duffle bag, just slightly smaller than Delaware, into which I was able to place the entire contents of both my chest-of-drawers and my closet. This is no mean feat considering that I have not thrown away one article of clothing in the last 35 years.

I just wanted to cover all contingencies, plus be able to clothe the homeless population of Garberville, should the need arise.

I did not have an air-conditioning unit, like the one in Bull’s tent, a perk that caused a few pricks in the balloon that constitutes Bull’s equanimity, the very first day.

It seems that Rick was supposed to hook up said air conditioning, but had gotten salty when Bull had given him the horn.

Parking, loosey goosey during the days leading up to the start of ROTR, got deadly serious once the public entered the venue. There were just too many instances of vehicles being left indiscriminately, inconveniencing those who remained to deal with the unwanted presence, to overlook obvious transgressions.

Rick had parked his truck haphazardly Wednesday night, and been given Bull’s blessing on condition that he get it out of there in a timely manner. A timely manner to Bull was that same night; to Rick it meant Free Parking.

When Bull woke Rick up Thursday morning with an early phone call and told him move the truck or have it towed, Rick got his panties in a bunch. He returned from the Benbow and removed the offending vehicle, but refused to follow through on getting Bull’s air-conditioning unit going.

That’s where Minnix comes in. Alex always factors into anything going on that involves techspertise, brains and quick reflexes. He is also the funniest human being I have ever met.

There was a length of 4-inch foil tubing involved, there was a vast wealth of personal experience and there was the knowledge that he was being counted on for the heavy lifting. After all, we are talking about the comfort of the Duchess here.

AnnaBryn was only female brave enough to grace our particular campsite with her presence. Bull’s better half, AnnaBryn’s comfort and welfare was uppermost in our collective minds. She represented that which elevated our campsite above the status of “a bunch of drunken dudes.”

In addition to no air conditioning, my tent lacked an ice chest the size of a small barge, like the one in Casey’s tent. No, mine was the standard-sized blue one, the one that had nothing but food in it, as boring as that sounds. 
That's Mike D. in the red apron, and Casey.

Of course, after the first day, I had to send in a search party to try and find my ice chest, long since buried under a deluge of debris. My tent: so innocent in appearance from the outside, such a tsunami of disaster within its walls. 

It is a source of comfort to me that I spare no detail when it comes to preparing for my four-day entrenchment. Besides the contents of my clothes closet, I brought a couple of full-length, hard-backed novels, my computer with cord(s), camera/cord, phone/cord, cribbage board/decks of cards, grinder, papers, three jars with three different strains of cannabis, a jug of Bell Springs water, and my San Francisco Giants bag.

You don’t want me to list the contents of that monstrosity; I am kind of afraid to even look.

My tent is a tent like most other tents, in that it is domed, has a rain flap, and has foot-thick walls, so that the late-night sounds of drunken partiers might be prevented from disturbing my beauty rest. 

At least that’s what I wanted but they were out-of-stock.

There are bigger tents available and there are fancier ones on the market, but I like mine just fine. I just wish I could manage to avoid running into that stupid tent pole, right in the middle of my domed tent.

Sucker complicated my life the whole four daze, though those in the know maintain that that tent pole is like a lot of other baggage I carry around-all in my head.

It could be yes-it could be no. It could be just, maybe so.

Tomorrow: Irish coffee