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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

"Dirty Dog"

"Dirty Dog"

Having posted three installments on Grandpa’s manuscript, this fourth one really has no theme, except to revel in the content of the journal itself, marveling at the kinds of experiences this stalwart man encountered. 

His opening paragraph sets the stage for Grandpa’s voyage of discovery, as he describes his first impressions of America. He writes, “My ship (KoeniginLuise) docked in New York on the Fifth of July [1901]. The air was still filled with fireworks of one kind or another, and I wondered what was going on.”

Later, on the same page, “Niagara Falls was the end of the first leg of my journey, and since every one left the train, I followed as about the last passenger. The conductor, standing on the platform, asked me a question to which I answered, ‘Yes,’ which caused him to say in German, ‘Oh, there you are. I have been looking all over for you; your train is over there and it will take you all the way to Chicago.’”

Interesting that the conductor had been seeking Grandpa. Why would he have had any reason to be looking for a fourteen-year-old boy, who spoke no English? My guess is that either those wealthy relatives in Sioux City, or Grandpa’s Uncle Joseph, who was the superintendent of the big switching yard in Altenhuden, back in Germany, had some influence along the tracks.

Grandpa writes about Uncle Julius, whom he described as “a wonderful family man and father to his children (who are my cousins).” Grandpa added, “Let me state right here and now, couched in the language of an old German saying, I would ‘put my hand in the fire’ for him.”
This might have been the runabout...

Included in the description of his uncle's world, was this account: “The distance from the Eidt home to the shop was about five miles. “Kitty” pulled the top-less runabout wagon which was our transportation. About two miles of the way was unpaved road, which was a quagmire after any rain, and was worst in spring and fall, what with the oozing black gumbo [!] which would freeze over night into the most fantastic patterns. 

When enough snow had fallen, we would put the “runners” in place of the wheels and hang sleigh bells on Kitty. The temperature sometimes dropped to thirty below zero. We had to dress warm. In spite of which I had frozen toes and earlobes for weeks, but these finally got well.”
Rosebud Indian reservation is in South Dakota.
Sioux City, in 1901, could best be described as a “wide-open” western town, with gambling houses and many saloons, where minors and ladies were not allowed. There were other “houses” which were not as blatantly run, but they were there just the same. The geographical location [of Sioux City] was the intersection of Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska, where the Big Sioux joins the Missouri. 

There was an Indian reservation (Rosebud) near, and an Indian Burial Ground about a mile north of the city…Spring was here when the Indians came over from the reservation. There was a wild fight one day when a bunch of braves came to celebrate with fire water at Burt Hammil’s Saloon.

One of the hangers-on tried to get friendly and asked one of the braves, “What’s your name?” and he told him, and then the fight started. It turned out that the Indian’s name was Dirty Dog, and the drunk thought he was being called a name.”

Grandpa’s manuscript is invaluable for not only its relevant content, but because once more we see the power of the pen in action. His account of everyone on the ship being excited by seeing Liberty; his description of the vile working conditions in the stove shop; his portrayal of bravery and his overwhelming sense of familial duty, all resound in his manuscript. 

It’s enough to inspire a guy to do a little writing himself.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The "Newsbutcher"

The "Newsbutcher"

I turned fourteen almost exactly on the day I started high school, a challenging enough of an adventure for me. Bishop Amat was tough, not only academically, but because there were more than fifteen hundred students attending it, compared to my insulated grammar school, St. Martha’s. Note, we were not a junior high; St Martha’s was a first through eighth grade, elementary school.

 Compared to what my grandfather did at age fourteen, though, my “accomplishment” pales. Speaking only a few sentences of English, Grandpa emigrated from The Fatherland, crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and then traveled by train across the country to Sioux City, Iowa. His passage would have been paid for by his Uncle Julius Eidt, to whom Grandpa was apprenticed for the first five years in America.
Vintage conductors

All along his route, there was someone there to direct Grandpa on to the next leg of his journey, a tribute to man’s humanity to man, the adults along the way monitoring the kid’s progress through he system. He obviously had his paperwork in order, with the ticket available upon demand, and so the conductor had his back.

The voyage would have been terrifying enough for me, if I were able to communicate with those around me. To travel by myself and not understand what was being said or asked of me, would have been a death blow. Therefore, when Grandpa found a "Newsbutcher," a man who peddled newspapers and fruit on the train who spoke a little German, he could relax a little-sort of. 

Grandpa wrote, “The final train ride started promptly at seven P.M. We crossed the state of Illinois and the Father of Waters at or near Dubuque, I believe. There was a “Newsbutcher” on the train who peddled sandwiches, soda pop, peanuts and fruit. He knew a little German, and with my meager English, we managed to transact a little business. 

I liked the strange fruit called bananas, and was familiar with oranges; so was able to stave off hunger. I got the newsboy to wake me when we crossed the Mississippi. There were no other odd happenings until next morning when we stopped at some corn fields. A branch line led off to the northland and a three-car passenger train was ready to go. The conductor had been keeping an eye on me, and so I was off on the last part of my trip. In Sioux City, my uncle, Father Schaefer, and Uncle Julius, were waiting and took me to my new home, in ‘Crescent Park’”. 

What must that have been like, after traveling halfway around the world by yourself, to be united with family again, especially knowing that Uncle Julius had paid your passage to America? Grandpa must have felt indebted to him.

As was his writing style, Grandpa abruptly followed the passage above with these words:
Might Grandpa's "kelly"
have looked like this?

“It should be mentioned that I entered the country not merely broke, but also hatless, which happened as follows: As our ship proceeded up the Hudson River into New York Harbor, suddenly there was an excited stirring among the passengers: Liberty! There she was, facing out to sea, just as we had been told.”

I pause momentarily to reflect upon what this symbol of our freedom used to mean to the rest of the world. Today? What a joke; we are the laughingstock of the world.

The passage continues, “Everyone wanted to get a good look. And as I craned my neck, a sudden gust of wind grabbed my straw “kelly” and there it went, overboard. And so I landed in New York, bareheaded, which in that day seemed almost a crime.”

Interesting that to be hatless in 1901, outside, was to be out-of-synch with the rest of the universe. 

“My cap, a typical gray one, was in my trunk, out of reach for me at the time; I did not have money to buy a hat, so traveled without.”

It would seem that Grandpa traveled without a lot of everything, including money, food and companionship, which makes the journey that much more amazing. There are times when I feel as though traveling down to Ukiah, a ninety minute jaunt, is like traveling to the ends of the earth.

And they even speak English in Ukiah. Go figure.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Traveling Salesman

The Traveling Salesman

In reading through my grandfather’s manuscript, my initial thought had been that it was pretty lucky that my great-grandfather had been able to secure money for both passage across the Atlantic, and then train fare from New York City to Sioux City, Iowa, for Grandpa. 

In passing I wondered if his manuscript might not somehow have inspired Mama to start writing the first of her four manuscripts, just as her writings have inspired me. I gain much perspective about how and why Grandpa's life was shaped the way it was, plus I once again have an almost overwhelming appreciation for the arbitrary paths that any given life may travel. One of those paths paid his way to America. Grandpa wrote,

“Whereas my railroading started in 1907, it was preceded by five years of the dirtiest occupation imaginable. It was the period of working as an apprentice in the tin shop of Uncle Julius. This was the Sioux City to which I came as a fourteen-year-old boy, with a few sentences of English, a German grammar school education and a burning ambition to become a railroader.”

[As noted in the first post, kids raised in Grandpa’s time did not dare question the directives of adults, so railroading was put “on hold”]

“‘Julius Eidt—Tin Shop.’ That is what the sign on Uncle Julius’ business stated. Our work consisted of stove repairing, cleaning and polishing. We also made chimney tops and various tin work such as bread pans, milk cans, roasting pans, gutters and spouts. Our work day was ten hours, from seven in the morning until six at night, with an hour off at noon.”
Grandpa took us to Disneyland. That's all I know...
[Today fourteen-year-old boys are normally eighth graders; in 1901 fourteen-year-old boys did not necessarily attend school]

“The stove work was unbelievably dirty what with the air being so full of the powdered stove polish you could hardly see across the room. We were always spitting black, never quite cleaning out the lungs. Protective masks were unknown to us. If I did this to my men today, I would go to jail.The shop was located on Pearl, just above 5th Street, which was the edge of the “red-light” district. Any stairway below 5th Street led to a gambling house or a “whorehouse”. There were about a dozen such houses that Uncle Julius had the monopoly on the stove work. The larger ones had about twenty rooms, each having a small stove, about twelve inches in diameter and three feet high. They were used pretty hard and needed lots of servicing.”

[In paying Grandpa’s passage over-I assume it was Uncle Julius-Julius would have known he would have Grandpa’s services for five years and that would have been a sound business expenditure. Fortunately, Grandpa saw the light.
Auntie Anne with the four of us

Like my first post, in which a premonition by my great-grandmother, resulted in an abrupt shift in Grandpa’s future, a conversation-this one with a traveling salesman-accomplished the same goal.]

In grandpa’s words:

“That is where I first learned about “houses”, when Spencer Gaskell enlightened me about birds’nbees stuff. Spence was one of our stove polishers who came to work in early fall and worked until March, when he went to drive a span of mules up into the Dakotas, riding a canvas-topped wagon, selling various cure-alls and medicines, some times helping to deliver a baby.”

[The fact that Grandpa calls Mr. Gaskill “Spence” at one point, tells me that Grandpa was comfortable with him, and therefore more likely to listen to sage advice. That aside, how casual was that reference to delivering babies? Can you imagine the modern woman going into labor and being thrilled to see…the traveling salesman, to deliver her baby?]

Grandpa continues, “Mr. Gaskill is at least partly responsible for my long life, when he advised me to “get t’ell ou of this mess” (meaning the stove polish and dirt-laden air) He did me the greatest service. I had a spot in my lung the size of a silver dollar which had been diagnosed as T.B.  Not until Dr. Boislinier examined me in St. Louis and found it to be “foreign matter” could it be properly treated and removed.”

It all sounds so casual and yet, had Grandpa not followed Mr. Gaskill’s advice, it is highly unlikely I would ever have even met my grandfather.

He would have been dead long before I was ever hatched.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Coming to America

Coming to America

How would you like to discover that the sole reason you exist today, along with your entire family, is because your great-grandmother had a premonition on her deathbed?

My grandfather’s account of his journey from the Fatherland to America, in 1901 at age fourteen, is 25 pages in length, half of it meticulously typed in single-spaced mode. He wrote it in the autumn of his life, after he had retired from business. They say good things come in small packages; by that logic, Grandpa’s journal is a goldmine of relevant family history.

Within these pages, written in a flow-of-consciousness style, my grandfather has provided us with some invaluable background, a foundation if you will, as to how and why my siblings and I were raised the way we were. As adults we talk about the German work ethic and its role in our lives as kids; in these pages it becomes quite clear.

Grandpa’s writing style was quite readable in its flow, with the exception that he never divided it into paragraphs. Additionally, his train of thought took many circuitous routes to arrive at its destination. On multiple occasions he apologizes for his meandering path, and begs the reader’s forgiveness for any confusion caused by his lack of literary proficiency.

Nonetheless, having devoured this work numerous times, the overall effect is to present a sickeningly clear picture of life in the early 20th century. Writing style aside, his portrayal of a dirty and unregulated Mid-West city, is terrifying.

Midway through page four of his account, though, in the middle of his description of his work in a stove shop, he abruptly writes the following passage,

“My mother died when I was not yet twelve, and was buried on my twelfth birthday, [in 1899] after an illness of only a week. When she sensed that she was on her deathbed, she extracted a promise from my father that he would do all in his power to send me to America. She had the premonition that a war was brewing, and wanted to prevent her son from having any part in it. I was not consulted about any details in this and many of the details were unknown to me until years afterwards. Obedience was one of the virtues demanded of children at that time, and we did not dare voice any opinions or ideas of our own. Parents in that time were not “permissive” as we are told they are today. All “grown-ups” were “Good” and all children were “Bad”. For a child to be accused of something meant he might as well admit guilt, for he would be judged guilty anyway.”
Mark, Noel, Brian, Eric & Grandpa
at Disneyland, circa 1957.

Reading first about Great-grandmother’s premonition, and then about the way that children were considered bad, provided me with ample food for thought, a veritable feast. It sure clarifies a lot about our roles when we were kids, especially things like the ongoing conflict between me and Mama about contributing the bulk of my weekly paycheck to the family.

All would be moot, however, if my great-grandmother’s dying request had been ignored. Here is what Grandpa wrote, on page five of the Foreword to his “My Entry into the United States:”

“Of some fifty boys who were my school-chums, half (25) fell in worldwar one, besides a number “missing”. We can only speculate on what my fate might have been." German law stipulated at the time Grandpa came to this country, that once boys reached age fifteen, they could no longer emigrate.

So on her deathbed in 1899, Great-grandmother foresaw The Great War, and because of that, Grandpa was whisked to America at age fourteen.

I will say what has already been said: What a crazy trip this thing called life is.

More to come…

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Unc Keith

Unc Keith

The sledge hammer dropped again, Tuesday, with the shocking news that Keith Oakford passed unexpectedly, while on the job site. Still reeling up here on the Bell from the recent deaths of both Ken and Celia, and Sparky, Keith’s passing is another keen blow, reminding us of the fragility of life.
Unc Keith
“Perrrrrrrrrfect,” was his trade mark statement, and from my vantage point, being struck down while doing what he loved so much, was just the perfect way to bow out. 

Keith could do everything that had anything to do with construction, including the electrical, plumbing and all things related to building. He knew solar, twelve volt and he knew how to make the term “off the grid” immaterial. So much of his handiwork is a prominent part of my system, I will miss him terribly.

When we worked together on the Maguire job, a few years back, my last go at a full-scale project, Keith astonished me by scrambling around on that rooftop like a monkey, he was that limber. I was up on that roof too, but only on my backside, straddling the upper-story wall while installing two-x-ten, twenty-foot-long rafters. 

That there’s some gnarly work.

Already in his 70’s, Keith’s mobility was that of a twenty-year-old. His crusty exterior carefully masked a heart of pure gold, but his sense of humor shined forth always, keeping the work-site upbeat. I strive for perfection, always, but am willing to settle for what I get; Keith strived for perfection and got it.

I first met him back in the early eighties, when he would regale us with stories from his houseboat days, down in Marin County, with some of the old crew: Rex, Tom Tillinghast and the Friel Brothers. 

The Friels came up one summer, long about ’78 or so, and put out 300 pots of soil with freshly planted cannabis plants, all growing just fine with the spring rains, and left. When they returned in September to pluck the vast numbers of Benjamins off the plants, they found them long dried out and brown, not much taller than when they had departed. 

We got a lot of mileage out of that one for a lot of years.

Keith had a lot of stories, but he was no bullshitter. He was straightforward, warm-hearted and talented as fuck. And he made us all laugh. It’s hard to believe that I can no longer schedule him in to deal with the most challenging of the logistical snafus which arise so frequently, when you live off the grid.

I loved him like a brother and will miss him terribly. Good-bye Unc Keith-Be sure and pack a pipe wrench with you when you head out-there’s bound to be a leaky faucet wherever you end up.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

I Failed My Students

I failed my students. I must have; otherwise, how could so many of them support the current, fraudulently elected president? I have spent almost six months trying to analyze why I am so disheartened about this hideous political calamity, and I have finally decided that it's at least partially my fault because I failed my students. 

I most obviously did not do a good enough job emphasizing how crucially important it is, that all human beings deserve to be considered worthy, regardless of whether they are millionaires or Syrian immigrants.

I failed to teach them to think clearly enough to recognize that human rights have more precedence than money. That 43 million Americans, a figure so huge as to defy complete comprehension, should live in destitution, while tax cuts for billionaires and corporations continue to abound, is absurd.

Yet, so many of my former students support an individual, who spits on the elderly and the sick, that I have to point a finger back at myself, as being at least, partially responsible. I might have believed that I would have had some sphere of influence, if I taught a given student for at least one school year. Figure 50 minutes x 180 days = 9,000 minutes. 

I feel sick to my stomach that in 9,000 minutes of their [undivided, I’m certain] time, I could do no better than to leave them so abysmally unprepared. I obviously forgot to teach my students that people matter more than money. I forgot to teach them that our globe has finite resources, and that when we run out, we are all messed up.

Now I would just say, “We’re all fucked,” but in my zeal to model what I taught, I refused to drop the F-bomb in a classroom. In sixteen years of dealing with the little middle school darlings, I never once used the word fuck in any way, shape or form. That’s a lot of effort on my part.

Now I can’t go one declarative sentence, without including at least one colorful zinger.

Why did I not put just as much effort into teaching basic human rights? Why did I not focus on the concept of bullying, every single day of my career, so that my students would recognize it, later on in their own lives? 

Our nation is being bullied by a madman who places money interests above those of science.

Our nation is being bullied by a madman, bent on bringing our country into war, just to build on the Swiss bank accounts, so pivotal in the lives of our country’s leaders. 

Our nation is being bullied by a madman, bent on reducing the impoverished of this nation to walking/talking zombies, in pursuit of nothing more than staying above the water level. Otherwise, they, their kids and a lot of elders, will most certainly drown.

Our nation is being bullied by a madman, bent on reducing human worth, while completely dismissing an entire culture. This is horrifically reminiscent of another madman, who drove his nation into war on the promise of racism and making his country “great again.”

What was I doing, standing up in front of my students, if not instilling in them one of the most basic concepts that exists? Teaching them language arts? Teaching them to diagram sentences? Teaching them to perform as a unit, when they pulled off stunning coups in the theater?

What a waste of precious time. I'd have been better off teaching them to play Tiddlywinks.
That's me, bottom left.
For those of you who would argue that diagraming sentences, is far more important than teaching them to love and value their fellow man, I would bellow, “Nay!”

“‘Twould have been infinitely better to have done anything, other than what I actually did. 

Because I failed my students.

Over and over I examine the evidence. Maybe I did not do it by myself, but I most certainly did fail my students.

So much so, that in order to attend any semblance of a public event in the ‘Ville this summer, I will have to turn into a seventies hair-guy, complete with Duck Dynasty beard, just so’s I fit in.

That way, no one will recognize me, thereby reminding them how I failed my students. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Papers, Please

Any resemblance to reality that this piece bears, is purely accidental. I apologize in advance.  

“Papers, please,” the CHP may as well have said, as I attempted to return home recently, to my mountain abode on Bell Springs Road. 

“The top of the afternoon, your Officership!” I greeted the nice California Highway Patrolman, anxious to get out of sight of The 101, so that I could blaze up, something I refrain from doing while on the highway. “To what do I owe the honor?” 

“Yeah, well, you need to honor me with some proof that you live on Bell Springs Road; otherwise, you’re out of luck,” the cop continued.

“No problem, Captain. Got my license right here,” and I handed it to him.
Glancing at it briefly, he handed it back, saying, “This is useless. It lists your address as Laytonville. What good is a post office box number? I need something that has your street address in writing.”

“You need something with my street address? When we don’t get mail delivery? How does that work?” I really was stymied. I mean, I have been asked for a street address before, but never required to produce a document with my actual address printed on it.

“It works like this; either you provide me with proof that you live on this road, or you turn around and leave.”

“Where am I supposed to go? I’m trying to get home. There are no other options, unless you are willing to put me up at one of the motels in town. I lack the pecuniary measures to defray the cost, your grace.”

“Not my problem, Bud. But I need you to figure out what you’re going to do, because there are others trying to get past you.” I gazed into his sunglasses, but all I got back was the mirror image of me. I had no idea my nostrils could flare so dramatically.

“You need me to figure out what I’m going to do? I’m going home. That’s what I’m trying to do, but you won’t let me. Am I supposed to just camp out on the side of the road, here? Your Honor?” This guy was starting to seriously annoy me and all I was trying to do was my best to keep Markie under wraps. However, I had promised him his meds, thirty seconds after we left the highway, and he was holding me to that promise.

Po-po gazed implacably at me. “It is illegal to camp in an unauthorized spot, so no, you are not supposed to camp on the side of the road. As I said, you need to either provide-“


With that, I put the truck in drive and commenced driving up the Bell, leaving the CHP momentarily thunderstruck. He recovered quickly.

Almost tripping in his hurry to get into his patrol car, he fired it up and raced after me. Siren blaring, his lights flashing impressively, he followed me. There really wasn’t anything else he could do, short of shooting me or my tires out. Bell Springs Road is nothing more than a former stage coach trail, not the Formula 500.

Five miles he trailed behind me, his feeble attempts to pass me at the wide stretches, pitiful. I was a man on a mission from God. His engine was twice as powerful as my Ranger’s six cylinders, but I had the advantage of being on familiar territory. I drove up and down this road, six days a week, for sixteen years. On the highway, he makes me look like the old geezer that I am.

Here on the Bell, I am the boss.

So yeah, it was inevitable that he would catch up to me, after I shut the engine off in the driveway outside my house. At least I wouldn’t have to provide a street address anymore, since, voila! I was here. That ought to make him happy. 

If he would just quit waving that big .357 around and let me go into the house, it would solve the question of whether this was my own home or not. But no, he’s going all technical on me now, including the cuffs. 

I guess this settles the matter of where I will be staying, at least for a while.

Next time I leave the Bell, I will have to remember to take my passport along, which I remembered, actually does have my street address on it. Yep, it’s come to this: I need a passport to go into Laytonville.

For now forward my mail to the county jail.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Who Needs Dull Walls?

Who Needs Dull Walls?

Having determined that the world needs more beauty, I have decided to dip my artistic toe into the river of commerce, Monday, at the farmers market in Laytonville. After contemplating the universe for the first third of 2017, while gathering momentum, I am going to trot out about 300 of my photos, almost all of them 8 x 10’s, run them up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes them.

Depending on how patriotic a person is feeling, the salute, in the form of an 8 x 10 print, will cost between 5 and 20 dollars, with a lot more available in the 5 dollar range, than in the 20 dollar range. I see this as merely an opportunity to see what kind of reaction I get from people in person, as opposed to being told on social media, that my pics are somewhat noteworthy.

On that note I might clarify how I view the matter of art versus beauty, and what constitutes either one. I have a far better grasp on what beauty is, than I do on what makes art. So I am not trying to pawn off my work as art. All I am doing is presenting that which I see almost every day, so that if others find it aesthetically pleasing, they might affordably be able to tack a photo or two, up on a dull wall that needs brightening.
After all, who needs dull walls?
So what’s the difference between a five dollar shot and a twenty dollar shot? Circumstances, I would say. Some of the most beautiful photos I have ever taken, are flowers, but there is not a lot of skill in capturing these images. Therefore, it makes sense to me that they not cost a lot: five smackers.

Sunrises and sunsets are awesome but do require that I stop what I am doing and snap some pics at a particular time, so ten clams. Critter pics are less predictable, require more skill than just pointing the camera at the sky, so fifteen dollars, and the exceptional shot, such as a hummingbird in clear focus, a red-tail or a stunner of a bee photo, might top out the list at twenty bones.

Should I find a warm reception to what I am offering, I can then pursue a more definitive approach, such as following through on my original idea of framing them in redwood, and then hitting up local art shows. Having been involved in the celebration of cannabis fairs, the past couple of years, and the mushroom candle business earlier on, I am no stranger to these venues.

Of course, I am jumping ahead of myself here, because this entire process has been a series of baby steps. Hell, we’re talking dipping one toe into artistic waters, here, not cannon-balling into the pond. I have to admit, though, after three straight days of digging forms and mixing sand, gravel and cement to complete the foundation work on the workshop, I am ready to do a farmers market.

I am in a good position because I really have no expectations, one way or another. I am a farmer, first and foremost, and anything else takes the caboose when it comes to my attention. It was never my intention to make loot off of my photos, so if it doesn’t work out, I will have lost nothing.

If there is interest and I can recapture a section of my workshop from the farm, I can then create some wood frames and go all artsy on you. How will you know when that has occurred?

I’ll be the only vendor at the Laytonville Market, who arrives in a fire engine red limousine. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Maybe the Time has Come

Maybe the Time Has Come

Wanted: License number of bus that ran over me yesterday. At least, that’s the way I feel this morning, after working with cement, sand and gravel all day Thursday, not to mention the mattock, shovel, and big iron, all tools of the trade of a much younger person than I.

I enjoy the work immensely, even though it leaves me aching in parts of my body I had forgotten existed. The first thing I did upon arising (later than normal at 1:40) was take a teaspoon of cannabis oil. I would have taken two but I am almost out. 

Were I to recommend this oil to someone else, I would say start with a few drops under your tongue, and go from there. I, however, have built up a bit of tolerance, so I tend to favor the sledge hammer effect. This is not work for the faint of heart.

The project I am working on is strengthening the foundation of my workshop, so as to be able to complete the next baby step in the process of cannabis regulation. My home is all legal but when I built the workshop, about ten years ago, I bypassed the building department.

In point of fact I bypassed the building department in the original construction of my home, also, but got red-tagged as a result of the fallout with the rise and fall of the Wellspring Educational Collective. There is simply minimal motivation to involve the county on any level, if it can be avoided.

That being said, I welcome the regulation that comes with the recognition that cannabis is no longer illegal. I use it every day of my life, as the sole means of containing my mood spectrum disorder, and I grow it so that others who have a medicinal need for it, can access this gentle giant of herbs.

I welcome regulation, even with its interminable number of logistical nightmares, any one of which is enough to cause one to wonder if this is indeed, the best course of action. However, having existed within the shadow of the law for forty years now, it’s high time, pun intended, that we have been given the thumbs-up, to our green thumbs.

The hoops we must jump through, and the obstacles we must hurtle include water rights issues, environmentally sound farming practices and going through the process of bringing all structures up to code, amongst many others. At least we built them accordingly, using appropriate materials, except that we did not put in a perimeter foundation, going with a simple pier foundation, instead. 

Now I am wrapping the corners by digging the footings and pouring concrete, so that I can install skirting around the bottom of the structure, helping to bolster the sheer strength of the workshop. The ground drops away as much as five feet over the width of the shop, leaving the back side in need of the sheer strength that half-inch plywood, securely nailed off, provides.

We are also building a different generator storage unit, so as to be able to comply with the regulation that calls for the genny to be on a slab, one with a lip around it. This will be at least the fifth different storage area I have employed over the past 35 years, for a generator. 
The Mendocino County sheriff
who came out, was pleasant
and posed for me when I
asked him

Hurry up summer so that our solar panels can do the heavy lifting!

I noted a lively discussion on Facebook the other day, concerning the pros and cons of following through on the requirements of cannabis regulation. Whether you hate it or love it (as I do), and whether it strains your patience to the max, or not, regulation has arrived.

I rather enjoyed having the sheriff come out to the farm last summer, to check out everything we have going, and give us his signature on the appropriate form. It meant we were in compliance and no longer outlaws. I never felt like an outlaw, I gotta say, but nonetheless, I do not want to "tell it to the judge."

There has been a lot of environmental damage done in the past that must not be forgotten. We are paying the price for the sins of an unregulated industry, so that price is high. 

With this in mind, we must pay homage to those who have spent countless hours trying to create feasible cannabis regulation, because without them, we would be at the mercy of whatever the Mendocino County Supervisors would have come up with on their own.

Though not everyone agrees, as one facebooker put it, “Maybe the time has come.”

You think?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

What Does One Plus One Equal?

What Does One Plus One Equal?

“Why is being in a relationship, better than being single?” was the question posed on Facebook recently. How such a simple question ever got itself tangled up with such a complex answer, is explainable simply by pointing out the reality for many of the two-backed beast: "One plus one does not equal two; one plus one equals one." Or put in other words, "Love is the greatest power."

For someone in a long-term relationship, the universe is not about just you-it is about the two of you. You want to bring her coffee in the morning, if you are up earlier than she is, because you would want coffee brought to you. It’s about doing for someone else, what you would like done for you, and about gaining satisfaction out of trying to make life easier for your partner.

The one thing that rocks my world most about being in a long-distance marathon with the same person, is knowing that the two of us function as a unit, and that as such, I do not have to face the worst that life has to offer by myself.
Doves mate for life.

Additionally, if my significant other is facing some sort of crisis, it impacts me as much as it does her, because our unit is struggling. I can’t go forward if she is stuck, because to leave her behind is to leave too much of myself behind, to be able to make forward progress.

Maybe the question I address shouldn’t be whether being with someone is better than being single, because I don’t have a clue what being single would be like after 35 years of monogamy, but rather, why is being in a relationship good?

Speaking for myself, raised in a home with eight siblings, I prefer to be with others than by my lonesome. I used to hate being alone but have recently gotten over that, partly because I end up manning the home fires when GlutenFree Mama journeys over to Sacramento every three weeks, and partly because I know that our unit remains complete.

This way GF Mama can focus on her task at hand, and not have to worry whether the chickens get brought in at night. It goes back to what I said above, about doing what allows the unit to go forward, both physically and mentally. I derive much peace of mind by doing everything I can to ensure that GF Mama does not have to stress out, about the minutia of running the household.

Being in a relationship means you are through sending signals to-and receiving signals from-others. If you are incapable of shutting off this mechanism within you, then you have no business being in a relationship, unless you are up front with your partner.

Being single, on the other hand, means being able to do what you want, when you want, without consulting anyone else; it also means having to do it all by yourself. There is no one there to take care of the cat/dog/chickens/rabbits when you have to be away; there is no one there to spruce up the place while you are off tending to your health issues; finally, there is no one there to care, whether you come back or not.

Being in a relationship takes a lot of the guesswork out of life; if that works for you, then you run with it. If you do not like this feeling and prefer a less predictable lifestyle, then the single life is probably best for you.

Just hope that guesswork doesn’t end up being you, second-guessing yourself in the winter of your lifetime, when you are alone, with no one around who ultimately cares, whether you are there-or not.

You harvest what you plant, if you have tended your garden well. Your kids will spend a comparable amount of time caring for you, in your old age, as you did caring for your own folks. That is, if you have kids. 
Love is the greatest power.

You walk up and down the path of life together, slowing for the speed bumps, getting going a little too fast on the downhill slopes-at times-and you should not worry about when and where the finish line appears. 

From my vantage point, since any marathon is challenging, I want everything going for me that is possible, and that includes the greatest power, love.

Since everyone wins this marathon-of that there can be no doubt, it’s more about the way you choose to run your marathon, than it is about the inevitable outcome.

Choose carefully, for best results, or as we used to preach to middle school students: “Make wise choices.”

Monday, April 17, 2017


I ran into Carissa the other day when Gluten-Free Mama and I were in the Willits Safeway. Primarily focused on avoiding land-mines in the form of side-displays, an occupational hazard of shopping here, I managed not to hit her with my grocery cart. Of course I didn’t recognize her for a second or two until GF Mama nudged my little pea brain by saying to me, “Carissa?” as in seriously? I know you know this woman.

After exchanging hugs, I did my usual apology thing, which I do a lot. Even though I had “just” seen Carissa at the wedding in the redwoods (Samantha and Caleb) a couple of Septembers ago, I still fumbled the ball. In any case we exchanged pleasantries, GF Mama complimenting Carissa on her aesthetically pleasing Facebook posts, which we both enjoy, and we moseyed on along.
I have these sightings almost every time I venture out into the great metropolitan expanse of Mendocino County, even if that only takes place once every five or six weeks. The last time I ambled out, I took a cool photo of a red-tail sitting on the top of an oak tree. What made the pic unique, was that I was looking across at that hawk, perched on its tree, instead of up because we were straddling the ridge along Bell Springs Road.

The raptor had streaked past in front of us and dived, the land falling away fairly steeply along this section, so that I watched it pull up, circle the oak, and land. We’re talking ten-twelve seconds-max, before I could whip my camera out and make it do its thing, so Gluten-Free Mama graciously pulled over so that I could get out and have a better chance of getting a decent photograph.

She’s like that, you know?

Our five-mile-long driveway provides us with ample opportunity to check out the wildlife, including the juvenile black bear that loped across the Bell a couple of months ago, only a little more than a mile up from the highway. It was gone before I even thought about my camera.

Snap your fingers and you miss out-it’s that quick, kind of like life. It doesn’t seem like a dozen years since I was run out of the teaching game by the new sheriff in town-the one with the big star on its chest, STAR Testing, of course.

After doing the multi-graded, theme-based, hands-on, integrated, team-taught program for ten years, it was devilishly hard to be instructed in how to “teach to the test.” So much so that I hung up my gloves, and slunk out of the ring.

Now I am friends with as many former students as I could track down on social media, the only minor difficulty being that I still have their images from middle school days, ingrained on my memory, despite seeing upgraded photos of them on Facebook. The further back I go, the better my memory, which explains why the dated images are more likely to remain with me than the updated photo versions.

GF Mama is good at names and she helps me out. Otherwise, when it’s obvious someone recognizes me and I don’t reciprocate, I stick my paw out and say, “Howdy! I’m Mark,” and that generally gets the desired result. Afterwards, laugh out loud, I do the apology thing.

Especially when I call Shayla, Heather, or Heather, Shayla. Sigh. I know it happened, but too late to do anything about it. On the other hand, if this is the worst thing I have to deal with, I’m OK with that.

Though I always expect that folks will race away from what must be their worst nightmare, a former middle school language arts teacher, I am always delighted when a connection is made. Somehow a circuit becomes completed, every time I have one of these chance encounters, which is a good thing.

All signs of life upstairs in my swiss cheese brain, with its many holes, gaps, land-mines and crevices, are appreciated, so we’ll move forward with that thought in mind. If I happen to step into one of those holes, and the wrong name pops out of my mouth, you can give me a hard time about it, and I won’t mind.

Besides, I’ll have forgotten it ten minutes later anyway.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Twenty Questions

Twenty Questions

We had our little family gathering yesterday, and during the course of a mellow and enjoyable afternoon, I found myself talking to Gluten-Free Mama’s brother, Tim. Somewhere in there he revealed that his two sons were both supporters of the new president.

When I asked him a clarifying question, he responded that he did not discuss the situation with either of them, and I understood. I have also stopped dialoguing with these people because I simply can’t keep my shit together.

However, if I were to be in the same room with at least the older of the two sons, with whom I share the fact that we have both served in the military, I would ask him the following questions:  

Why does it not bother you that, 

the fraudulently-elected president is a traitor, having consorted with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 election?

the fraudulently-elected president is blatantly breaking the law by using his position in government, to make vast amounts of money?

the fraudulently-elected president is blatantly breaking the law by committing nepotism, employing his offspring in government positions?

the fraudulently-elected president has blatantly broken the law by endowing himself with gifts from his fraudulent “trump Foundation?”

the fraudulently-elected president has steadfastly gone about the morbid task of stripping every vestige of hope from seniors, the sick, and children?

the fraudulently-elected president is bent on erecting an expensive and useless barrier between the US and Mexico, a barrier far more symbolic than practical?

the fraudulently-elected president is stealing land for his pointless wall from thousands of Texans?

the fraudulently-elected president is overseeing the dismantling of Social Security? 

the fraudulently-elected president is bound and determined to increase revenue for his rich homies, by starting conflicts all over the world? Though war is good for business, this is illegal, immoral and repulsive.

the fraudulently-elected president takes hypocrisy to the greatest of heights, having criticized his predecessor for taking vacations, and then spending most weekends down at his palace in Florida?

the fraudulently-elected president has turned his back on his campaign promise to provide more jobs for ‘Meicans, and has consistently continued to outsource industry and jobs?

the fraudulently-elected president has stocked his Cabinet with a group of wealthy, powerful numbskulls, including those in powerful positions who favor white supremacy?

the fraudulently-elected president has convinced the world that our once-proud and mighty nation, is now a universal laughingstock?

the fraudulently-elected president has further strengthened the once ludicrous notion that we are now an oligarchy, that is, a nation ruled not by democracy, but by a few, select wealthy assholes?
Dad and the kids at Sunday dinner...
the fraudulently-elected president shows his contempt for all Americans, by milking the public trough for every penny he can squeeze out, even though he is a billionaire, countless times over?

the fraudulently-elected president is likely to start a war that will likely make WWII look like a love-in at Golden Gate Park?

the fraudulently-elected president will not release his tax records?

the fraudulently-elected president is breaking his promise to veterans, including you and me?

the fraudulently-elected president is incapable of carrying on a press conference, without revealing that he has no brain?

the fraudulently-elected president is a farce?

There are more questions, of course, but let’s give these a go, for starters. I recognize that Tim’s son will never read these questions, because no supporters of the new president will read this post. That’s a given. Oh, well.

What I will say is that finally as an elder, I recognize how it is possible that our nation once fought a civil war. Never in my 64 years have I been able to envision a scenario where families were split down the middle. I never could see how that could happen and now I do.

I am infinitely saddened that my family has been ripped asunder, and more so that I will obviously not be seeing precious little people, because of political differences. 

It’s a steep price to pay but I pay it nonetheless, because it is the price of freedom as I know it. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Coffee, Cannabis and 1942

Coffee, Cannabis and 1942

Whatever it takes to keep going on all cylinders, is pretty much what drives most of us to continue pressing onward. I have never been a boozer, simply because I have a strong aversion to the unpleasantness that follows; the price is too steep to pay for the alcoholic buzz.

My drug of choice is cannabis; that’s no secret. What might surprise some, is that as powerful as the various strains are these days, and considering how often I hammer the bong, I do not go through life high as a kite. Not quite, anyway.

With the exception of the initial head rush as I take my rip, my tolerance is such that all I am doing is maintaining a certain level of THC in my system, and I am good to go. Take working the soil, for instance, pausing every so often to take a couple of pokes off a roach, conveniently accompanying me everywhere I go, in an Altoids box.

The work is arduous, requiring the entire body to labor rhythmically, in order to be able to sustain the pace over any length of time. Were I to genuinely get high, my ability to continue would be severely limited. My level of concern that I might impale a sandaled foot with the pitchfork, would most likely paralyze forward progress.

Stoners do tend to get paranoid.

Rather, think of it as physical therapy, as well as salve for the psyche. The Ogre Berry crossed with the AC/DC is high in cannabinoids, but ends up at varying points on the scale when it comes to THC. We have some with about a 7% level; others might range as high as 18%. In either case the benefit of smoking this strain, is that the wear and tear on the body becomes easier to bear, because of the relief from pain that the cannabis delivers.

So even 64-year-old dudes can get out there for four or five hours a day, and work bent over at the waist, hoisting the still-pretty-much-saturated soil up on the fork, and flipping it over to break up the clods. I can then remove any rocks and shake the dirt out of the root structures, of the weeds being pulled.

Don't forget the magic-wand!
In addition to the devil’s lettuce, I also drink coffee, but I am careful to balance my intake of the black death, with water. So if I have quaffed two mugs of Cafe Domingo goodness of a morning, before it is even four o’clock, rest assured I have also guzzled two mugs of cold, clear spring water.

I ain’t bragging-just filling you in on what may seem a slightly unorthodox approach to one’s morning. Water for me is the elixir upon which I depend to make everything right. It keeps me headache-free, it keeps my toes warm when the temperature outside is freezing and it keeps my joints lubricated so that I rarely stiffen up after exertion.

Yes, eliminating the six to eight liters of water I consume every day is an inconvenience, but when I think about how miserable I was when I taught, I don’t mind the inconvenience. As a teacher, I simply did not drink water: coffee, tomato juice, V-8 juice, Diet Snapple, Diet Dr. Pepper (shudder), light sports drinks, et al, but not water.

I ate hardly any beef for sixteen years, complaining that I just didn’t seem to be able to digest it properly. Duh. When one consumes almost no water, the digestive tract is going to register various complaints, and none of them can be ignored.

Now I drink coffee and I drink water, but I drink three times as much water as coffee. And yes, I take my meds in the form of cannabis, as need requires. I don’t keep track; all I do is keep my bong reasonably clean. Not only does it allow me to enjoy the taste far more effectively, a clean, filtered bong, allows one to draw with almost no discomfort.

I clean it with salt and isopropyl every day, rinsing it multiple times in between each cleaning. The analogy I always use is the guy who has just brought home a bottle of 1942, and wants to sample his prize. He reaches under the kitchen sink and pulls out a dirty peanut butter jar that has been kicking around amidst the detritus beneath the sink, since forever.

The little jar is dirty, it stinks and yet he pours a shot of this nectar of the gods into it and lifts it to the heavens before imbibing. Right? Wrong. A clean-nay, polished-shotglass is provided with due ceremony, and then the beverage is downed.

It’s the same when switching from maybe some Lemon Ogre to The Great Success, for example. One could never properly make this transition, without a thorough cleaning of the vehicle in which The Great Success would be consumed.

Says so in the manual: page 12, Paragraph 4, Subsection C.

I remain convinced that a regimen of organic food, most of it from the farm, together with plenty of water and cannabis, is what is going to keep me mobile for a spell yet to come. 

I do consider myself fortunate to be in these circumstances in the autumn of my life, because I live on a ridge-top where I can do as I please. That includes sampling some of the Lemon Ogre #6, which I grew myself out back, and which I just finished trimming.

Just let me give the bong a quick rinse first.