Dozer, the Bulldog

Dozer, the Bulldog
Feeling the "Bern"

Ellie Mae

Ellie Mae
No time for gates...

Ollie Mac

Ollie Mac
My cooking assistant

Ollie and Annie

Ollie and Annie
Azorean grandmother


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



Papa and Ollie Mac

Papa and Ollie Mac
Priorities, Baby


Annie, my Sweetest of Apple Blossoms

My first portrait

My first portrait
"Mr. Farmer"

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Envelope, Please

The Envelope, Please

SmallBoy breezed through the front door Sunday evening, stopped and stared at me in mock shock as I looked up from “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” and said, “Hey, there.”

“You’re not watching the Oscars!” he exclaimed.

“That’s funny, neither am I,” I said, “I tried but the excitement got to me.” I could see Gluten-Free Mama through Archway Number 1, riveted to the action in the living room, where I had started out the evening, just to be polite.

I’m not a glitzy person, though it must be quickly added, that GF Mama is not either, so I am not a fan of the annual distribution of awards for exemplary work in the film industry. Truth be told, I have not seen a single one of the entries for this year’s Oscars.

Prior to Monday morning, I could not even have rattled off the title of any one of the five films, or any of the nominated actors and actresses. I am not a Hollywood kind of guy. That being said, I am a film buff and religiously record one or two every day from the bevy of movie channels I have on the Dish, for later viewing at my leisure.

If I have already seen a movie, and enjoyed it, I will often record it for “viewing” as I manicure cannabis, thereby allowing me to revisit the movie without out having to take my eyes off of my work.

Recording the films also ensures that I can continue my rigid policy of not subjecting myself to commercials, something I have managed to accomplish ever since the arrival of DVR, the world’s most innovative invention.

OK, I watched the commercials during the Super Bowl because of peer pressure.

Jimmy Kimmel? Viola Davis? Asghar Farhadi? They are not names I recognize, though I am pleased to relate that I do know the name, Matt Damon, with whom the aforementioned Kimmel apparently has an ongoing  friendly “feud,” the origin of which escapes me.

And the mixup concerning the awarding of best picture? It reminded me of the meme, “Congratulations! Your one job was to have the envelopes organized and ready, and you flubbed it up.”

As expected, there was much fun poked at the reality show figure, currently inhabiting the White House, including Kimmel’s “tweeting directly at him on stage,” but there were also some pointed and poignant moments, as the man who likes to tweet during bowel movements, was criticized for his racist agenda.

Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian director who won for his film “The Salesman,” refused to attend, instead issuing a statement that explained his absence out of “respect for the people of my country” who have been banned from entering the U.S.

Italian make-up artist Alessandro Bertolazzi dedicated his Oscar to “all the immigrants,” and Gael Garcia Bernal, star of Amazon’s “Mozart in the Jungle,” elaborated, “As a Mexican, as a Latin American, as a migrant worker, as a human being, I am against any form of wall that wants to separate us.”

Kimmel referenced trump’s absurd tweet made about Meryl Streep, by joking that her career had “stood the test of time for her many uninspiring and overrated performances.” He added, “Nice dress, by the way, is that an Ivanka?”
The exquisite Meryl Streep

At least I would have understood these references, even if I were unfamiliar with the work being awarded. I don’t do theaters anymore for a long list of reasons, the one at the top of the list being that the volume is too loud for me. I have made no secret of my issues with noise, whether it be chickens, coyotes or in this case, previews of coming attractions that resemble a torture chamber, for someone with a mood spectrum disorder.

I can sit in the back row, the left seat, and avoid the claustrophobic feeling of being in the midst of a crowd, but I cannot get away that piercing level of sound. 

Like attending baseball games, I have found that the comfort of my own living room, cannot be improved upon by actually attending the theater to view a film. Therefore, I don’t, preferring to pay Dish Network for the pleasure of watching the same films being presented awards, only at some later time to be announced. 

It works out because there is bound to be a movie I have recorded, that was released some time last year, and is only just hitting cable TV now. It all balances out in the end and I don’t have to watch another awards ceremony.

Unless, of course, it has anything at all to do with baseball, in which case, I am all ears and eyes.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

K. C.

K. C.

The following is an excerpt from a journal I kept in 1983. This passage was written in January, of 1983, and I copied it word-for-word.

I stared into my son’s blue eyes. I remember thinking that everything had gone exactly like we talked about all along; nothing had gone wrong. We had known it would be hard and it was. Harder than we even remember, I am sure. But nothing could diminish the feeling of triumph, the feeling of accomplishment, and I wanted to shout it to the clouds above.

Kate gave the baby back to Gluten-Free Mama, who suddenly realized she was famished. Of all things, she asked, “Markie, will you get me a cheeseburger?” I thought she was having a relapse since cheeseburgers used to be last on her list of palatable foods, but I realized she was just starving, and the good old A&W was only two blocks down The 101 from Howard Hospital. Off I went.

I was hungry also so I ordered for me too. After I had ordered, it hit me again that I had a son. “But my son doesn’t have a name,” I almost blurted out loud. We had picked several girls’ names but had not settled on any boys’ names. As I was sitting there thinking, in drove a monster 4-W-D pickup truck, all decked out in polished chrome, and parked right opposite me.

Gradually, as it came into focus, I noticed the off-road lights on the front bumper. What I zeroed in on were the initials on the two, cloth-covered spotlights, K C on the left and K C on the right. K C, K C , KC,  Casey. It was perfect, even if I was not particularly thrilled with the A & W parking lot as a source. But I thought the name was the best in the world.

I wasn’t sure if GF Mama would go along with my choice of names, or not. Others we had considered included Doyle, Graham and Blaise, but all of the sudden I liked the name Casey more than any other.

I could already hear him running into the house, shouting, “Dad, let’s get the baseball and toss it back and forth.” He doesn’t have to play baseball; I don’t plan on forcing him to do anything he doesn’t want to do. But if he’s into it, he will find me a willing participant-if my legs will still carry me.

Somehow I can still see myself playing baseball at sixty. I guess it’s because I think of baseball as a state of mind, and not a physical achievement.

Later as GF Mama and I chatted quietly, I asked, casually, “What do you think of the name, Casey?”

“K. C.?” she asked.

“No, not K. C. Casey,” was what I replied.

She asked me if I liked it. “Yeah, it sounds Irish. Casey Stengel, Casey at the Bat. You know. Kind of All-American and home-townish.” My voice was still very calm.

She agreed. “It is a well-known name but certainly not common. It is kind of nice. Let’s think about it.”

The rest is history. The A&W is gone now but it left behind some memories. 

One of them became a legend.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Sad Emoji

The Sad Emoji

I have been enjoying my self-imposed break from politics, this past month (Monday’s “Hot Air” being the exception), because I never thought I would see the day when Mark’s Work would ever focus on politics. Or if such were the case, it would not be with anger.

Anger is a normal part of the human experience; it’s how anger is manifested that can frequently bear close scrutiny. Levying anger at political adversaries, formerly known as friends, is decidedly not the way to go about it.

Therefore, I have worked to replace my anger with a deep, enduring sadness, while continuing to do the things within my own sphere of influence, that make a difference. One of those things is to reach back into my razor sharp, cottage cheese brain, and relate amusing anecdotes from an earlier time and place.

There are times when the specifics blur and shift, and folks do their darnedest to confuse me with facts, but when I consider the obstacles my brain has to overcome, to even attempt to traverse the minefield of memory, I figure I am doing OK. 
Hell, I can’t help the way Markie dresses me in the morning.

I know the bridges that I burnt last month, when my mood spectrum disorder reared its ugly head, will not be replaced, but at least I gained from the experience. I have a clearer understanding of national politics, as it applies to our small community, and I will benefit from that knowledge. I was outraged at many elements of the developing political scene, but so were millions of others. 

“‘C’est la vie,’-say the old folks; it goes to show that you never can tell…” John Prine

Well, nothing like allowing water to flow under the bridges that no longer exist. Those missing overpasses are a constant reminder that I allowed my emotions to escape, as a result of anger. I would rather be sad than angry.

I mean, I would rather be neither, but that is the easy path: Close the blinds, skip the news out of Washington DC, and keep the bong fired up, the logic being, better the bong than I. I can’t shut the curtains with so much at stake, both from a personal view, and a Constitutional view; thus, I will express my opinions at ongoing developments, with the sad emoji. 

This does not mean that I am no longer outraged, it just means that I am in charge of my own wardrobe now, not Markie.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Set It Free!

Set It Free!

I am typing one-handed this morning, while soaking my left index finger to remove a splinter, so this'll be brief. I have seen the light. It took me until this, my 64th year, to figure out that the proper way-nay, the only way-to remove a sliver is to soak it in hot water, until you set it free.
How about a fresh blade?
Let's keep this black & white.

Gone is the “Attack!” mode, as in grabbing a utility knife (and a pristine blade) to slice an inch-and-an-eighth incision down the length of a chunk of plywood, lodged in my right thigh. This was no sliver. It was a spear. But I could not go home without dragging the crew off the site, so I took care of business.

Like battling colds, which I do with vast quantities of tea, Vitamin C and echinacea, I have always taken a hard-line approach with splinters, especially in the eight years I worked in the trades, prior to teaching. Like having a tick in me, I hate it.

It becomes obsession and the results are sometimes ugly. I can do a lot of damage with a needle. Mama always, always, insisted I soak it, correctly informing me that the hot water would take it out if I soaked it long enough.

That’s a mighty big “if” for a manic.

Then a couple of months ago, during a period of uncommon lucidity, I snagged the mother of all slivers, not in terms of length, but in terms of gnarly-being buried in the murky depths of a key finger. It hurt fiercely, unlike most which just wait until it’s been in a few days to sound the alarm.

So I figured I would do some preliminary soaking before going to battle. I soaked it while reading and just kept freshening the water. Miraculously, after an eternity, the sucker literally popped out, without my ever assaulting the finger with a sword. Why I was so astounded, I do not know.

Mama said it would work if I just kept soaking it in hot water.

The hotter, the better. 
Until it pops out. 
No needle really required. 
Freshen that hot water. 
What’s the best way?
What’s next to me?
Wood-burning Superior stove.
Where is the water?
Sitting on the stove.
Is it hot enough?
If not, just wait.
And add more wood.
Better pass the bong.
I won't need tweezers...

Anyone got a fork?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Will Strike for Sideburns

Will Strike for Sideburns

I attended high school from September of 1966, until June of 1970, a period of our nation’s history when a lot of new ground was broken. With the “police action” in Vietnam now requiring 500,000 troops, there was political unrest throughout the country, as millions protested our involvement in a conflict on the other side of the earth.

Unlike the unification that WWII brought to this land, Vietnam divided it down the center, fostering incendiary incidents like the Kent State shootings, May 4th, 1970, a month before I walked across that high school stage. Berkeley sit-ins were common in the news, love-ins in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park took place, and bodies came home in boxes. Thousands of them.

In January of 1970 Max Yasgar was sued for $35,000 by neighboring farmers, for damage done to their property, by attendees of the 1969 film festival, Woodstock, even as Simon and Garfunkel were releasing their final album together, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” 

Dissension seemed the name of the game, with “Let It Be” being released in May of 1970, only five weeks after Paul McCartney had shocked me (and the rest of the universe) by announcing the breakup of the Beatles. 

Was nothing sacred?

“The Magic Christian,” starring Ringo Starr, debuted in February of 1970, a film I was to see while sitting on top of a 1964 Ford van, at a drive-in movie theater, while traveling in NorCal with friends. We were in the midst of an epic adventure beginning the night of high school graduation, 1970, and lasting for three timeless weeks. *
John and I, New Year's Eve, 1970

This excursion with my four friends, one of them John, was the origin of what I called the Strike for Sideburns chapter of my life. The entire saga is a sordid example of what happens to a kid who was reared in such a tumultuous period of history, but whose family values still reached out and grabbed ahold of his collar, and gave him a good yank, now and again.

Or a shove, depending on the circumstances.

I mention that because one specific shove occurred in the backroom of Sunrize (sic) Market, upon my return from that voyage of discovery, when my boss placed both of his hands in the center of my chest, and knocked me flat on my back.

My crime? I had returned to work with a set of flaming red sideburns, that extended well below my ear, a no-no of extreme proportions at Sunrize Market. White-walls and dress shirts (with tie) were the uniform of the workplace, and nowhere was there a sideburn to be seen, let alone two.

Like the weasel, I popped back up on reflex, and got in his face so fast, he took a step back himself.

“You shoved me! That was stupid. I am on my way to the union so fast it will make your head spin!” and I brushed past him on my way toward the door.

“I did not shove you!” he roared, “You tripped!”

“Tripped? With your two hands solidly on my chest? I tripped? You messed up, Augie, and you messed up with the wrong guy! Find yourself a new flunky to shove around. I quit!” I screamed. I didn’t care if Eddie or Harold, the produce guys heard me, and I sure didn’t care about Jimmy Richardson hearing me either, though his name was to come up in the conversation in the next day or two.

Angie and I had begun our dialogue down at the end of the cereal aisle, where he was building an end-display, an Augie special. As head box-boy, I’d had almost three years to watch Augie in action, but he had never laid a hand on me up until that point.

When I had come into work the first day upon my return from that three-week journey, I was rocking a tan that couldn’t be matched, and the three-week-old growth of beard that was flaming red, partly because that was its natural color, and partly because we had just come from five days at Big Sur, where we spent much time down on the sand.

Well, not the entire beard, of course, just the part that allowed my “sideburns to hang in there,” as we used to say. Angie was having none of it, “Get home and shave, and don’t come back until you do.”

The conversation had gone downhill from there, quickly, necessitating the move to the backroom, where I strode purposefully, turned around to face my boss, and got met with the shove that came out of nowhere.

It is a testimony to the time period that I would never have dropped the f-bomb in my argument with my boss. When I said I “messed” up, that is a direct quote, but I was dead-serious about quitting, I was that confident that I could find another, comparable job. My friend John, who originally worked at Vons on Pass Covina Rd, switched over to Sunrize, for a spell there, without any problem, so I figured I could make a similar move.

I was wrong.

Confidence and a quarter would still get you a cup of coffee in 1970, but it did nothing to get me a job. I started with Alpha Beta, then Vons/Shopping Bag, and moved on to Market Basket, in downtown La Puente, before I began to realize that I had overestimated my own worth on the open market.

I pressed on to the Ralph’s and finally Safeway, in the GemCo Shopping Center, before giving up the quest and going back to face Augie. The reality is that as much as I wanted to make a statement, my mom had made a statement to me, when I informed her of my rash actions.
Mama, June of 1972

“You march right back up there and ask Augie for your job back. And you better hope that your father does not find out what you did. Imagine! The unmitigated gall of some people’s children. Quitting your job! Hmmph!” Mama was fit to be tied. 

“And shave!”

Sigh. With my shirt-tail tucked in, and my face clean-shaven, I slunk back in and begged Augie for my job back. Forgotten was the shove, the sideburns, and everything except for the fact that I was jobless, and did not want to go back to sweeping alleys.

Angie sized me up, recognized Mama’s work at play and smirked.

“Go get your apron on and get up on the front to relieve Jimmy, so he can fill the milk-box.

Stunned, I just gawked at him. “Jimmy’s? I’m working the front? I don’t get it.”

“No, but you’re going to. Jimmy is my new head box-boy. I’ll tell you one thing, I don’t have to tell Jimmy to get his sideburns cut.” He turned his back and stalked out.

He was right about Jimmy, who’d once described his girl friend to me as having “peanut butter legs; they spread easy.” I was suitably impressed. Then, when she ended up pregnant a few months later, and a hasty marriage was conducted, Jimmy was done fooling around with sideburns. Having a kid will do that for you. It would be thirteen years down the line before my first son was born.
283 bored out to a 301; Mickey Thompson Pop-up
Pistons. What on earth was I thinking?

As a plain box-boy, my many talents were wasted, so a transfer was arranged over to Sunrize Market number one, in Charter Oaks, the first of the four Sunrize Market chain. Newly ensconced in my brother Noel’s Chevy Nova, I was pleased as punch with this newfound freedom. I knew I would thrive in this environment, because there was no Augie.

Besides, my new workplace was only a five-minute spin to the In-N-Out on Arrow Highway. Benefits. Who’d a guessed?

* See Big Deal at Big Sur

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What Are the Chances?

What Are the Chances?

“That seems like a dumb rule,” observed Norm, upon learning that Paul and I had decreed that there be no food in the tents, while camping on Yosemite’s valley floor. “What are the chances that a bear would show up at our campsite, when there are hundreds of other ones to choose from?”

“Slim,” admitted Paul, “and we’d like to keep it that way,” he finished brightly.

“Yeah, OK. Whatever, I guess you’re right,” replied Norm, and he sauntered back in the direction of his tent, which he graciously shared with five middle school boys. It was part of the arrangement, whereby we recruited parents until we attained a five-to-one ratio of responsible adults to students.

In this instance, because Norm was also a little league coach and had his own kid along on the journey, he was assigned a couple of four-star specials, kids who needed an adult in charge, who was capable of providing a strong guiding hand. As a unit, this group would be navigating around the valley floor, out and about in public, and we needed to know that there were not going to be any undue discipline issues.

Norm was more than up for the job.

It was long established practice to take the seventh grade to Yosemite, and we spent the entire school year leading up to May, fund-raising to acquire the necessary loot to foot the bill. Paul stayed up until midnight, at the appointed date in January, when Yosemite started taking reservations for campsites, the following May. 

We held after-school meetings, gathered parents and students together, and delegated responsibilities. We established behavioral contracts with students, early in the school year, so as to tie appropriate conduct at school, into that of behaving acceptably while in the public’s view. The logic was that if you could not keep it together at school, why would we allow you to go to Yosemite, and possibly spoil it for everyone?

Paul, with whom I team-taught for ten years, and I formed the groups that would function as teams for the five days we would be there. These teams would compete together, travel around the valley together, under the watchful eye of their adult, and would need to be able to do so without problems.

It was not part of the design, that they should also share the same tent, but there was nothing against it either, so that was the case with Norm's group. They stuck together and seemed to be doing really well, especially when it came to being in good spirits. 

We got to mid-week, with everything following its usual chaotic course, but still all systems go. We were fast approaching the ten o’clock lights out point, and I was off to one side of the camp, closing up one of the metal storage units provided for campers, when I heard a ruckus over by where we kept all of the empty ice chests, after the food was properly stored.

The park had rigid rules about all food having to be kept either in vehicles, or in the metal boxes that were set in concrete so that the bears could not access them or drag them away. Since we were in the group camp site, there were no vehicles, so we placed all of our stores in those bear-proof containers.

“Is that you, Paul, making that racket?” I asked as I moseyed in that direction, shining my flashlight at the same time. 

Right on cue, the source of the noise rose up in front of me, towering over me for one quite surreal heartbeat, before I realized that I was twenty feet away from a California black bear. Before I could register any feeling other than shock, I heard a frightful din begin, from the center of our campsite.

The metal serving spoons being hammered inside the biggest stock pot we had brought along on the trip, made an 808 drum sound like a pair of bongos. Manhandling these otherwise benign instruments, was Miss Morrison, and she was heading right at that bear, hollering at the top of her most capable PE voice.

I was too stunned to move, so I just watched as the bear thought better of the matter, dropped to all fours, and meandered into the darkness, never to be seen again, by us, anyway.

As the students milled around her afterward, Miss M. deflected praise by saying, “Everyone knows all you have to do is make a bunch of noise, and the bear will do just what he did tonight.”

“Yeah,” I thought to myself, “Just walk right at that bear with a pan and a spoon in your hands, and nothing else. No big deal.” I didn’t believe a word of it. She was a super-heroine without a cape.

Suddenly I was aware of Norm, approaching awkwardly from the direction of his tent, lugging an unfamiliar ice chest. When he plopped it down, he flipped open the lid with a sheepish grin. Inside was a veritable goldmine of junk food.

 “I guess I forgot to have you put this in the storage locker. The rule doesn’t seem so dumb now.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Light and Fire

Light and Fire

My mind is a casual study of chaos this morning, as if there were anything new in that. I am accustomed to having my mind inhabit venues where my body never visits, especially when it comes to the realm of time, which passes merrily along, with no recognition that we may or may not be ready to move along with it.
December 1st, 1982, our wedding day, in Old Paint
our VW Bus. The engine blew up the next day...on
our way home from Ukiah.
Time doesn’t care because change is going to occur whether you want it to or not. As I sit in this kitchen, that I built with the help of two brothers and a neighbor, in the summer of 1981, I consider that when Gluten-Free Mama and I moved here permanently in May of 1982, this kitchen was our home, a sixteen by twenty foot structure, with a loft upstairs but no way of attaining it. 

There was plywood nailed over the window openings, there was no running water, no electricity, no plumbing, no stove and no steps to get up into the house through the front door. We were expecting our firstborn a little more than three months down the line, and considering she was in her fifth month, life was challenging for a first-time mom.

I had a home-made door in place that I would soon replace with a door that was divided into ten small panes of glass, allowing light to flow into the kitchen from the east of a morning, brightening matters up. I also had a wood-burning Superior stove from the 1920’s, that was stored up at my father’s barn when we first relocated, but was brought over to our spot early on.

Now it burns beside me as I write. That door and stove are the only remnants from those earliest of days. My first attempts at cupboards and counters have long since been replaced, and then, yet again. The steps I eventually built, leading up to a small platform, and then turning ninety degrees to go the rest of the way up, have been removed, and replaced with an enclosed pantry. The windows I put in originally? The wood-sash ones I bought at a salvage yard in San Jose? All replaced with dual-paned, aluminum jobs.

One window was transformed into an archway, leading into the dining room I added on in 2010. Change pervades the arena, after 35 years. With the delivery, yesterday, of the metal roofing soon to replace the original composition shingles, we will also be renovating this kitchen, and the original bathroom, that have been damaged recently by torrential rains. All good and according to plan.

Everything ages, changes and eventually needs to be replaced. Everything, that is, except love. Love is the one commodity that does not need to be replaced, and I place my relationship with Gluten-Free Mama at the top of the list of my possessions.
Old Paint

Note, GF Mama is not my possession, laugh the heck out loud. If you know her, you know she is nobody’s possession. But we have shared a love for one another that I place at the pinnacle of what I consider to be my life’s most cherished experiences: to love and be loved by another person.

We’re not talking flame-on Johnny specials here; we are talking longterm, in the heavens and in the trenches arrangements. We spend time together and we have our separate interests. She spends time in the greenhouse, she hangs upstairs in her sewing domain, and she catches up on her computer, while sitting on the sofa beside me.

She has to travel to Sacramento regularly; I stay home and tend the critters and keep the home fires burning. She spends time at the Fat Quail each week, and does the farmers’ market in Laytonville on Mondays, when it is in season. 

I write, I take photographs, I keep the dust and mud at bay by doing the bulk of the grunt work, when it comes to keeping the house tidy. I’m not striving for Better Homes and Gardens, so much as trying to avoid the tag of hoarder.

GF Mama cooks, she sews, she organizes and she battles. She assumed a huge role last season, over at the Pepperpot, what we call the part of HappyDay Farms which has come alive on the new parcel acquired by HeadSodBuster and SmallBoy, a few years ago.

She grows eggplant in abundance, a favorite here on-farm, and she is the resident expert on peppers, and everything about them. She grows them with love.
Love, as you know, is the greatest power; love is also a many splendored thing; love is what you make of it; love makes the world go round; anything’s fair in love and war; love is the merry-go-round of life; love is worth fighting for; better to have had love, and lost it, than to never have had it at all; love is a four-letter word; all you need is love; three little words: I love you.

Love is a combination of respect, attitude, timing, tolerance, chemistry, acceptance, patience, exploration, and an ability to check your ego at the front door. Undue or constant criticism is deadly, as is being judgmental. For two individuals to maintain a longterm relationship that really works, is the most joyous of all accomplishments.

I mentioned this in passing to GF Mama, the other night while we were sharing dinner and a film, because I thought it appropriate. I missed Valentine’s Day by several, with this particular observation that I valued my relationship with her, but that also seemed apropos because we don’t hold a lot of stock with Hallmark holidays.

Like the kitchen around me, we two have changed, but the door to our hearts has allowed light to continue to flow through, and the fire in our souls has continued to burn brightly, so we are good to love.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Hot Air

Hot Air

Pssssssst. Is the coast clear?

I can't say for sure. It looks good, though.
It’s been a minute or two since I have poked my head above my desk to see how things are going with our new President, but from what I can see, pretty darn well. I will admit to being nervous that he was actually out to make a go of it, but it has become patently clear, that I need not have fretted at all.

Like that which the Rolaids Relief Award provides in baseball, reassurance has washed over me in a most refreshing way, because I see an end in sight, and we won’t have to wait four years for it. Russian involvement will even take a backseat to trump’s inability to simply function, without retreating to his vacation spot in Florida, something he was openly critical of when discussing the previous tenant in the White House.

What inability to function, you might ask, if you were returning from the dead? 

Fake news, for one. trump hates it, as do the rest of us, but fake news makes our leader go berserk. The difference is that fake news for our President, is the reality that the media presents to us, particularly because it is unflattering to him. Fake news for the rest of us, is that which is seemingly real, but obviously originates from a publication that makes its revenue from creating outlandish fiction. 

The inability to distinguish between the two, is fine if you are a private citizen, in which case you are a trump supporter. However, when you are allegedly the President, you can’t take that approach. People simply do not understand, myself included.

Whether you voted for trump, or not, there can be no doubt by now that his term in office will be coming to an abrupt halt in the not-to-distant-future. Collaboration with a foreign government, to influence the result of an election, is still frowned upon.

That being said, trump’s inability to keep it together at a recent press conference, demonstrates that what was only conjecture before, is in fact, reality: The man has a loose screw that he can no longer tighten back up because the threads are stripped.

trump is so removed from reality that he has already committed multiple transgressions, any one of which will remove him from office. It’s just a matter of which one will be acted on first. He either has the wrong advisors, or he has refused to listen to those in his employ. It must be that he has the wrong advisors. No one is that inept.

The man's ongoing conflict-of-interest issues between his business endeavors and his presidency, which began the minute he took the oath of office on January 20th, are the most obvious illegalities. That his offspring are so uncouth as to simply dive in and start gorging themselves at the public trough, was predictable, but still illegal.

The two boys were reared in the same manner so they came to the table, complete with bibs.

The sordid information that trump’s foundation is bogus and that he has presented himself with gifts from the same entity, highly unethical, is additional grist for the mill. If one concrete piece of evidence to remove him from office is good, then two, three or more, are better. They are present in abundance.

trump’s denigration of the judicial system, is further proof that he lives in a fantasy world of his own manufacture. Speaking for the majority of Americans, who live in the real world, I suggest he be quickly returned to this fantasy world, from which he need never be heard again. There is a process for this, one that worked efficiently enough with Nixon.

Additionally, the President’s attacks on the media, besides mirroring those of Hitler and other dictators, demonstrate that he fears the press, and why not? He who lives in a glass house, should not throw rocks, and yet, trump never lets up. He hurls salvo after salvo at anyone who questions him, cleverly ignoring the content of specific questions, to wax on eloquently about his amazing victory in the election.

An election he lost by more than three million votes.

There is a disconnect going on here, that should actually come in handy for the delusional President: It will be that much easier to disconnect himself from the White House when the time comes.

And folks, make no mistake, that time is coming. The wheels of justice turn slowly, but the vehicle is all-wheel drive, so we have nothing more to do than wait until that time arrives. That gives us two dates to mark on our calendar, one as-of-yet-unknown, the day trump exits, and the other being November of 2018, only 21 months away, when we vote the rest of the vermin out the door.

This sordid time period, when billionaires combined to run the country, will eventually be recorded as the most corrupt in history, but like trump’s presidency, these wheels turn so slowly, you cannot see the movement. 

You just know it’s there, like the earth spinning in seven different ways, simultaneously, because well, trump is spinning in seven different ways, at the same time, too.

The problem is that trump is not the earth, he is only hot air, and hot air quickly dissipates in the wind.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Champion of Chickens

Champion of Chickens

When Gluten-Free Mama and HeadSodBuster started batting around the idea of raising chickens, a decade ago, I broke the bat over my knee and hoped the matter would drop. Replacing the broken bat with an aluminum one, they proceeded full-speed ahead; I even found myself helping HeadSodBuster build the coop.

“I’m not interested in chickens,” I declared. “They’re noisy, malodorous and I don’t like the eggs,” which was actually true at the time. They were so different from store-bought eggs that the difference alarmed me, and put me off. That’s a perfect example of the super market running roughshod over past practices, including the whole raw milk fiasco.
Eggs at the Quarry Market

Corporate ‘Merica has such a grip on our nation, that time-worn methodologies have been brushed aside and made illegal, so as to pave the way for the Walmarts of our culture. The shelves of this behemoth are stocked with toxic “food” products; the fact that these commodities can live on the shelves, indefinitely, should clue you in, as to the preservatives used to ensure this longevity.

“No problem,” everyone declared. “You don’t have to do anything,” and except for the occasional shutting of a coop door, or administering food and water when no one was around, I stuck to my guns. Because I had made it clear before the chickens had ever arrived, that I was a disinterested party, I never felt guilty about my hands-off approach.

For several years the flock dwelt up above HeadSodBuster and BossLady’s home, and they took care of the girls. Then the coyotes, bobcats, et al, struck with a fury and we took steps to relocate them back down to our spot, inside our fenced-in compound, complete with various dogs at various times.

Then Gluten-Free Mama got diagnosed, and suddenly it meant that HeadSodBuster or BossLady would have to go out of their way, to come down to our spot to tend the critters. This was a different matter because now GF Mama was in a jam and needed help.

I assumed full responsibility for the flock, nineteen strong, including two roosters. From the beginning it was abundantly clear the the roosters were the reason why there was so much racket. I’m not talking the conventional crowing, even if it started early; no, I am talking about the racket that the roosters created with their interaction with the seventeen hens.
And then there were none-roosters, that is...

One was just savagely brutal, mercilessly persecuting the hens for no reason I could discern. He was as mean as he was beautiful, and I took an intense dislike to him. One day I witnessed him hammer one of the most timid of the hens, and it lit my fuse.

I charged into the yard and went straight for him. Recognizing that he had taken it one step too far, the dude wisely took to flight and sailed up and over the six-feet-high fence. I stopped, momentarily taken aback. What now? Was I supposed to try and coax this malevolent dick, back into the fold?

Not on my watch. “You got out on your own, Bro, so you’re gonna have to get back in on your own.” I watched and waited. It was kind of pathetic, actually, to see him mope around the outside of the yard, for more than two weeks.

I don’t know where he roosted at night, but he was always around in the mornings, until one fine day he wasn’t. And then there was one rooster.

This second dude was not mean; in fact, I never saw him DO anything wrong. I just listened to him for sixteen hours a day, the most obnoxious farm critter I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. Every time a hen would do the egg song, announcing her amazing accomplishment of laying an egg, this rooster would go off too.

Strident, cacophonous, intensely annoying, the racket grated on my bipolar nerves, and over time drove me nuts. “That’s why headphones, exist,” I started out saying, and then found out that even my Dr. Dre’s could not block out the high-pitched clamor.

In desperation, after centuries of battling this nuisance, I threw myself on the mercy of Meadow, down at the feed store, and she took pity on me. “Bring him down and I’ll keep him out in a cage expressly for this purpose, and someone is bound to want him. Is he mean?” And so I explained. It was as simple as that. I owe Meadow.

Now there is just me and my girls: Markie, the champion of the chickens.
Unaccountably, I have grown quite fond of the little-[Editor’s Note: Careful…] creatures. They are no longer particularly noisy, and if they are that means egg production is as high as I am. Two good things.

I have found that cleaning their quarters weekly not only makes it a simple task, it has reduced the malodorous smell in the air. I have also come to realize how tasty the eggs are, so there.

For this past year, I have been funneling the manure onto a compost pile, layering it with dead organic plant matter and compost that is delivered to the farm in bulk, to create a mix that I will blend into the soil when I plant this spring.

I can’t have this much interaction with the girls, and derive all of the benefits, without gaining an affection and appreciation for them, as surprising as that is to me.

Ultimately, of course, it was the desire to be helpful to GF Mama that was the determining factor. I would do anything for her, and nothing proves it like this single course of action on my part.

That way I can be her champion too, as well as that of the chickens.
Moving and mixing the pile from the right to the left.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Are They Talking To Me?

Are They Talking To Me?

John Prine sang about Sam Stone “climbing walls while sitting in a chair,” and I like that, because right now I am soaring while sitting here typing out this piece. After more than four years of operating on an almost one hundred percent cyber level, I visited the Fotomat, and had a roll of a hundred photos developed.
All of these prints are 8 x 10's.
OK, that’s what I would have done back in the day. Now, instead, I moved individual photos into a folder, relocated them to a cyber gallery, downloaded them to Nations Photo Lab (along with the specifics as far as size and type of photos desired) and then waited for delivery.

Whatever anxiety I felt about the quality of the photos themselves, or tension that arose in trying to actually get them into my fat hands, evaporated when I saw them. I know nothing about art, for art’s sake, and so I am not saying that the pics are noteworthy for that reason.

All I am saying is that I am overwhelmed at how pleasing they are to me. Again, I am looking at my own work so I am understandably biased, but I am really only doing so after being told repeatedly by folks on social media that they also find my photos pleasing.    

Are they talking to me?
I have made a career of deflecting praise. Whether it is due to my habitual anxiety issues, over which I have gained the advantage, but still find myself being tripped by the occasional trailing tendril, or lack of confidence in the field of photography, I do not know.                       

All I know at this stage in the game is what Gluten-Free Mama demon-strated yesterday, when she got her first look at my hundred prints, thirteen of which I had culled out of the pack, and presented to her as a late Valentine’s Day gift.                                                 

Actions speak louder than words and therefore she did not need to say anything. She leafed though the stack as though she were looking at the Top One Hundred Quilts Ever Made.

When she got to the print of the home she grew up in, down in San Jose, she let out a gaspy/squeaky sort of yip, and the smile radiating from her face, made those blinding blue headlights-in-the-rain, seem more like a set of Triple-A batteries for my headlamp, on their last legs. 
Seriously, though, GF Mama is not one to accompany me on my magic carpet flights of fancy, whether I am discussing my writing or my photography. No, she remains firmly grounded, even though she can be supportive to the extreme.

So when her face teleported what she need not have put into words, and then she also put it into words, I took note. Until she sifted through the prints and reacted the way she did, I was still operating on the level I have since the first day I ever took my first pic here, just over four years ago.

Automatic pilot. 

I like my stuff but what artist does not like his own stuff? If I didn’t, why would I think anyone else would? By the other token, just because my photos please me, does not mean they please others. And then I remember the feedback I get practically every time I ever post one of my scenic shots.

I can’t afford to have bribed ALL of them, so some may just have been sincere. I have been asked repeatedly, why I do not make a book of photos/poetry; do coffee table publications of my photos; work art shows, including the Laytonville Art Walk; do a gallery showing; and make some loot.

My standard response has always been that I had not yet figured out how to actually get prints into my hands, but now that I have, I will have to adopt a new line, not to mention a course of action.

What comes next?

I’m thinking. I’m thinking. Can’t you smell the sawdust smoldering?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Nintendo-64 Wars

Nintendo-64 Wars
Gosh, that was such a refreshing picture I painted the other morning, with the treehouse, the long hikes, three boys living the wholesome, country life with no machines in the garden.  Didn’t that just warm the cockles of your heart, and everything, what with it being Valentine’s Day? No smarmy love stuff-just nostalgia for a time period when boys lived the life of Tom Sawyer, and there was nothing to interfere with this idyllic view. 

Except Gameboys.
We could have kept Gameboys out of the picture as easily as we prevented television from being too much a part of their lives, except the boys were social creatures, and therefore found out all about these magical devices, on their own from friends.

Gluten-Free Mama and I saw the down-side to Gameboys immediately. It’s hard enough to get kids to focus on schoolwork and reading books, when these bell-ringing, light-flashing devices are not in the arena, let alone when they are in direct competition. It’s not that the boys resisted homework or reading, but they led active physical lives also, so there was only so much time in the day and priorities had to be set.

All three boys played soccer and little league growing up, and wrestled, at least at the middle school level. All three consistently made the Honor Roll, and none got into any more trouble than maybe providing occasional lip service to me, necessitating a lunchtime appointment with Richie, who did detention in those days.

The school district had written a grant to acquire a class set of computers, so that one computer technician could guide an entire class though specific exercises designed to make them more computer-literate. Though we were a rural district, we did our best to keep our students on a par with those of urban areas, so that when they went on to higher education, they would not lag behind, technologically.

Whereas GF Mama and I supported computers in the classroom one hundred percent, we did not favor playing computer games in lieu of doing homework. It was like opening Pandora’s Box to get the good things, but trying to filter out the bad things at the same time.

Not that much different from life. So the tug of war between the three boys wanting to have access to electronic games, and Gluten-Free Mama and I not wanting them to have this access, essentially began somewhere around the time that HeadSodBuster was eight or nine, and the other two a year or two behind, and never stopped.
Erin Rose, HeadSodBuster, BenJAMmin & Small Boy

There were no hills upon which to die. We held out on the Gameboys, which burst on the scene in 1989, for as long as we could, and then capitulated. We knew it was only a matter of time before reality caught up with us; all we did was try to delay the inevitable.

When the Super Nintendo Entertainment Series System was introduced in the US in 1991, Gluten-Free Mama and I put up a unified front and said no. I don’t remember when the battles began but I do remember how they ended.

It had to have been after 1996, because that is when Nintendo-64 came out. Again, the pleas, the promises and the tears ensued, as they tried to convince us that a Nintendo-64 would not only not be a distraction, it would actually be an enhancement to education.

You don’t ever want to get into a debate with HeadSodBuster, when the stakes are so heavy, because you will lose every time. The only reason I ever won anything, was because I was the dad. Hey, any port in a storm-you take what you can get.

In this particular instance, it was they who took what they wanted, and they did it diabolically, pulling the wool over first, Gluten-Free Mama’s eyes, and then over mine. It was an intrepid stroke, guaranteed to be successful by the very audacity of it.

On a day like any other, except that they were all four together, Gluten-Free Mama drove the three boys down to Walmart in Ukiah, in the old Trooper, with its spacious back compartment. While GF Mama was doing her thing with the shopping list, the three rascals, the oldest probably fifteen years old, or so, boldly sallied through the check-stand with a brand-new Nintendo-64, paying in hard-earned cash. They then took it out and stashed it in the back, cleverly concealing it so that GF Mama never saw it.

The rapscallions were cautious to keep a low profile. When I finally realized what it was that had them so preoccupied, later that evening, imagine my surprise to find them hunkered in front of one of those idiot boxes. Now, mind you, I have never so much as considered playing these games and there is a damn good reason.

I know I would love them, so forget it; I do not have the time. Just as I have never been snow-skiing: It is better to not get started, than to get hooked and spend the rest of your life enjoying a hobby that is well out of your price range. You pick and you choose.

“Who did you guys borrow this from?” I asked, noting the pristine box. Anytime they had borrowed one in the past, it was a beat-up thing that got treated kind of like a football. 

“Uh, we didn’t borrow it-we bought it. Mom said we could. After all, she spends time playing Yahtzee.”
Gluten-Free Mama's electronic drug of choice
They were all in agreement.

I raised my eyebrows, in my best Mr. Matlock mode, and said, “I doubt that,” and sauntered out to the kitchen where I asked GF Mama,

“You really let them finally buy one, huh?” more curious than anything else. We always talked these things over and tried to stay united. However, there were now three of them and only two of us, and they were smart fellers.

“Let them buy what?” she looked alarmed.

“Well. that answers that, the little turkeys. They bought a Nintendo 64 today down in Ukiah, and just told me that you said it was OK.”

She looked sideways at me and said, “You know who was behind that, right?”

“Oh, yes. But you know, they all three work (at the Chevron, no less), they all get good grades and they play sports. There just isn’t enough time in the day. Besides, we held out this long and that is a moral victory in and of itself. I’m not dying on this mountain.”

When I went back in the other room, I had to do the parental disapproving thing, which went doubly hard because I had also held the role of their language arts teacher. I called them on their deception, and then threw my hands up in the air.
Heartfelt sigh

“At this point in the game, I am not going to be a jerk and take your Nintendo away, but I do not appreciate the way you went about acquiring it. It was sneaky and underhanded. But since that is not your usual style, I am going to overlook it this time.”

HeadSodBuster had the grace to not smirk. “Sorry. It’s just that you would never have allowed us to get one, otherwise.”

“Why do you suppose that is? Because I am mean?” I always like to be kept informed.

“No, you’re not mean; you don’t want us spending all of our time on it, that’s all.” 

“Well, not all of it, anyway, but you will be going off to college one of these days, where I am sure you will not have time for Nintendo-64.

The other day, when GF Mama and I were rehashing this incident, she scoffed at the notion that college took precedence over electronics. “Oh, no way. I was up there once when they had a tournament going in the basement.”

My eyes got big and I said, “I remember that house. OK, I stand corrected. They still played Nintendo-64after high school. Good thing we let them have one when we did, or they would never have been able to play at the college level.”

Basking in the glow, I can now assert that my sons played college-level Nintendo-64. Does it get any better?