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

Monday, May 29, 2017

Why Is that Spatula Staring at Me?

Why Is that Spatula Staring at Me?

Aside from the overused “setting on a washing machine,” I think we have determined that there is no such thing as “normal.” For me normal is:

…having a permanent dispensation from jury duty because “there are no facilities available in the courthouse, for me to take my meds.”

…never having to worry about which shoes to wear. There are town sandals and work sandals and it’s pretty clear which are which.

…writing and posting between the hours of one and six in the morning.

…never being able to watch a home night game from AT&T Park because, well, they start after seven.

…forgetting to eat until I have been up and rocking for twelve hours, and someone reminds me that most people find it necessary to refuel upon occasion.

…being able to work comfortably at the kitchen table, while the world swirls around, within and through me-simultaneously.
The author of Mark's Work
…working from wake-up until down-fall, which for me is “normally” about 18 hours. 

…being thrilled when the Giants play on the East Coast, because the games start at 4:10 in the afternoon.

…refusing Big Pharma’s answer to a mood spectrum disorder, preferring cannabis instead. 

…listening to my Beats until my ears can no longer stand the headphones, and then listening to music without headphones. 

…drinking vast quantities of coffee and even more water-and nothing else.

…dancing as though no one were watching, because they’ve all seen that movie before.

…keeping two or three ice cubes in my hat when it is hot; not only does it the melting ice keep me cool, it makes it look as though I am working my backside off.

…welcoming Sleep, whenever she should grace my presence.

…talking to my chickens (though not expecting any responses-yet).

…handling a pitchfork wearing sandals. When questioned, I always say the same thing, “I managed to avoid impaling my foot while wearing boots; why would that change?”

…preferring to camp over at the coast, to flying to the Fill-In-the-Blank Islands.

…avoiding social situations until no longer avoidable.

…struggling in restaurants.

…listening attentively to everything that is being said, nodding appreciatively, but comprehending little.

…feeling claustrophobic as f**k in the Willits Safeway. Someone is always in my personal space and it makes me uncomfortable.

…intensely disliking any kind of travel, even if it is only to Laytonville. I can do it, even alone; I just hate it.

…having the ability to communicate with dogs. Not talk to them-just communicate.

…having multiple ongoing projects: gardening, construction; organizational; writing; landscaping, especially weed-eating; cleaning; artistic; et al. 

…going to extremes [Editor’s note: Department of Redundancy-Hall of fame], as in planting 120 Heinz tomato plants.

…feeling ungrounded when by myself, for any length of time. I hate it. Fortunately, it always results in a spotless house!

…having three contact phone numbers on my phone.

…watering by headlamp.

…not being able to locate the spatula in the utensil drawer, though it is staring right at me.

…determining as early in the day as possible, who is running the show: Mark or Markie.

When it’s Markie, I make sure that my seat belt is securely fastened. That’s all.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Wrong Impression

The Wrong Impression

You know what my biggest fear is? I am starting to believe that instead of this period of American history going down as the most corrupt ever conceived, it will all be glossed over by none other than the folks who are bringing these atrocities into our living rooms.

That the sitting president (I refuse to capitalize this word) has committed countless felonies, is irrefutably obvious. That his henchmen who serve as our leaders are happy to comply with his agenda, is equally so. Since these predators now control the media, what is to stop them from simply rewriting what’s going on, the way it has been done in so many instances throughout our nation’s history?

The ongoing glorification of everything that is white, is sickening. The hate crime just perpetrated in Portland, defies comprehension. And yet there are millions of Americans who are cheering this white supremacist’s actions?

I saw the notification that assistance for impaired children “had quietly been withdrawn” by Congress, and I am no longer shocked. No longer do I question how these individuals can continue to lay siege to the weak and impoverished.

I got over that last January, when I saw how eager these “leaders” were to support the preposterous selections for the “president’s” Cabinet. What a joke.

Billions upon billions in tax cuts for corporations; more and more cuts in assistance for the poor. 

How do you phrase that in an eighth grader’s history book, so that students don’t get, you know, the wrong impression? I mean, on the one hand we have the Constitution guaranteeing the right to pursue happiness. 

On the other hand, our “leaders” have taken every precaution possible, to strip millions of Americans out of their last vestiges of hope.

Welcome to the Land of the Free and the Home of the One Per Cent: 1 for you-99 for me! You have to love this wonderful country in which we live. 

I live on a ridge-top. Go figure.
True story...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Speed Bumps of Life

Speed Bumps of Life

My expectations, great or otherwise, influence me every day of my life, and far more so than I like. If I think something is going to be easy to do, and it turns out to be the reverse, it can knock me for a loop. Normally, when I am loopy, I just blame my bong, but I can’t do that so easily with expectations.

Unless it’s a social event, in which case there are no bets to call off in the first place, expecting a piece of cake, and having it be fruitcake, makes for hard times. Expecting a job to go quickly, based on incorrect expectations, makes the job ten times worse because there is so much room for expansion in my head.

I can turn a gopher mound into Chimney Rock as quick as a toke, and like The Chimney, sometimes it’s hard to get back down from those lofty expectations. We’re not talking life-changing here, just day-changing. As I have always said, it’s not the big things that knock me down, it’s the little things.

I call them the speed bumps of life.
Take the South Orchard, please, as far away as you can. It’s a jungle in there, where only a few weeks ago, there was an orchard, complete with fruit trees and nine terraced rows awaiting 120 tomato plants.

As carefully as I have kept pace with the rest of my complex when it comes to the exploding weed population, I dropped the ball on the orchard. So when I went out there Monday afternoon, my thought had been that I would just knock this out, real quick-like, and go in and watch the Giants club the Cubs.

Wrong, again. Not about the Giants, but about “real quick-like.”

I obviously had the wrong tool, the weed-eater taking a back seat to a chainsaw, when I saw the weeds towering over my head. Was that a tree-sitter over there in that ryegrass? OK, maybe not that bad, but you get my drift.

I had to make two passes over everything, one at knee height, and a second one in the conventional manner; otherwise, the weeds choked the life out of the spinning head of the weed-eater. It was hot, I was thirsty and the law of diminishing returns reared its ugly head all too soon.

Or, in reality, not soon enough. When I returned to the scene yesterday, 24 hours later, expecting Godzilla, all I got was your garden variety lizard. I started by redoing a portion alongside the orchard, but still outside, and it went smoothly.

Encouraged, I went to the far end of the orchard, where I had done the prep work for the tomatoes, and started there. It was easy because I had already been there in March. Now I had a fine chunk already under wraps, and it was game on. 

I have about another hour or so to go today, but the rest is a mere formality, now that I have ironed out the logistics.

Do I learn from these experiences? I try to. When I told Gluten-Free Mama this morning, that I was doing some foundation work at SmallBoy’s spot that would take three days, I stopped myself.

“You know, three days…four? Or five! Whatever.”

You know?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Not One To Catastrophize

Not One To Catastrophize

Has it been a week? Eight days?

Zounds, time flies when you are having fun. I thought it had been a month. Just goes to show you that the pendulum will swing, from the perpetually manic Markie to the Dark Side. 

But enough of these fun times.
Ukiah VA Clinic

I am here to update those of you holding your breath, awaiting news of my fractured toe, the one that Dr. Mulligan of the Ukiah VA, diagnosed as a stress fracture last March 2nd. That’s 82 days, for those of you who love a scoreboard.

At that time Dr. Mulligan hooked me up with the phone number for the VA clinic in Santa Rosa, gave me some basic logistical directions, and sent me on my way. Remaining always in character, I rushed home, grabbed my phone and made the appointment post haste. 

And if you believe that, please let me know as soon as possible, so you don’t miss out on the opportunity to acquire a Golden Bridge. Cheap.

Remarkably, I had not phoned anyone after five days, so it came as a surprise, when out of the blue on March 7th, I received a phone call from Dr. Mulligan, asking if I had made the appointment. Busted, I was informed that she had herself, made an appointment for June 19th, 104 days into the future. 

Even for VA standards, this was stretching it.

“No worries,” said Dr. M. “This appointment is a mere formality, in order to activate the Veterans Choice Program, which will allow you to make an appointment closer to home. You should also be able to get in a lot earlier than June 19th.”

“Great success,” I responded. "So I just go home and wait for them to call me?”

“Not exactly,” she went on, “but I will set you up with everything you need to activate the process. After you call and get started, it will take five to seven working days to get your appointment.”

Gosh, it all sounded so wonderful! Closer to home, sooner than 104 days, what was not to like?

Well, one component that I didn’t care for, was the telephone aspect of it all. You see, I have this issue processing information when it comes at me orally. I like to see things in writing, if possible. Disclaimer aside, I did make the call, and talked to that nice Tina, who took my information down, asked me a hundred clarifying questions, and assured me that in five-seven working days, I could call back and all would be well.

Tina lied to me.

I hate to put it that way but nothing that she said came true. I called after five business days and there was nothing. I called again after seven business days, and this time was told that it was actually ten to fifteen business days to gat the process started, so I waited. Again, after the fifteen business days had passed, I checked in to find that I was still not on the roster.

Each time I phoned, I had to go through the entire hundred questions part of the dog-and-pony show, and it was not as much fun as I am making it out to be. It was so much not fun that after the third time, I decided I had to reboot before I could try again.

Skip forward to April 17th, when something must have triggered new concerns for fractured toe, because I climbed into the ring one more time, and gave that nice Paul, who works the desk at the VA Clinic, a call.

After explaining the dilemma to him, the first thing he told me was that health care providers do NOT make appointments for patients, so I must be wrong about Dr. Mulligan’s having set me up in the first place. 

“Oh.” Well, this may be easier than I thought. Are we done now?

When I refused to change my story, he actually put me on hold and made some phone calls. When he came back, he admitted that Dr. M. had indeed made the appointment in Santa Rosa for June 19th. He asked the hundred questions, put me on hold again, and then told me he would check the whole thing out and get back to me.

Which he did. What he told me was that I had slipped through a crack, but that he had gotten me back on track, and all I had to do was wait five to seven business days, and I would be hearing from the good folks at the Veterans Choice Program.

“And if I don’t?” I asked, not one to catastrophize, but nonetheless considering the track record, what else could I ask?

“Then you call them,” Paul suggested.

I did not have to though, because that nice Nikki called me. Of course, since it was an unfamiliar phone number, she had to call me several times and leave several voice mails over several days, before I got them, but we overcame it all.

Nikki asked me the same hundred questions, and told me that I was indeed in the system, and that I would be hearing from a local podiatrist any day now.

That was May 2nd.

A funny thing happened yesterday, not to change the subject, but I was maneuvering a fully loaded wheelbarrow of homemade compost up the path, in my sandaled feet, digging my toes into the ground for leverage up the path, and I felt no pain.

OK, I felt pain, but instead of the Nine-Point-Nine on a scale of ten that I wrote about almost three months ago  ( it was more like a four. Could this mean I am getting better?

Lest you think divine intervention has come into play, I will provide a more reasonable explanation. Ever since March 2nd, When Dr. Mulligan diagnosed the toe as fractured, I have adjusted my program to exclude the use of my right foot for digging. I am now even one step closer to being a complete “lefty,” now pitch-forking and digging exclusively with my left foot.

When I thought the pain in my toe was just “old dude shit,” I went on using my right foot to dig; having stopped using my right foot on March 2nd, wouldn’t it be logical to think that maybe the toe was just getting better?

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Hello, VA? Anybody home?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mistaken for Gold

          Mistaken for Gold

Blogging down the avenue, I skip merrily along, careful to keep an eye on the rear-view mirror so as to avoid both po-po, and tripping. I would write about the frustration of dealing with the heartless, brainless, curmudgeon currently in the White House, but it limits my audience. That doesn’t bother me but me throat is parched from preaching to the choir, and it’s a tad early for Jameson.

In yesterday morning’s blurg (That’s a blurb on a blog) I rambled on about the early years on “Mark’s Work,” presenting a linear approach to heretofore, mostly uncharted waters. Today, rather than pursue that same course, I thought I would just bounce around a bit, even more than “normal,” and zero in on a few series of particular note-to me, if not to anyone else. 

I like it best when I feel a connection with a potential audience, which is another reason to avoid politics. In no series have I felt that connection stronger than in the two which centered on my participation in Reggae on the River.

The first of these two series commenced on August 4th, 2015 with, a scintillating account of my pre-festival expectations. In summing up the inaugural post, I had concluded that ROTR was not the bong rip of choice for me, and that not even my idol, Stephen Marley, could entice me to brave the elements.
Quality Control Technician Conner, just
doing his job-checking quality of ice cream.

Twenty posts later, on August 24th, I concluded the series with “Yikes!” the sordid saga of getting busted by the snarling warden at the Eel River Conservation Camp. We had delivered a mountain of leftover food and beverages to the facility, and I was idly snapping a few photos, when the aforementioned wild boar warden charged me.

“Take this man out and have him shot,” he ordered his lackey. Upon being informed that he could not, in fact, have me shot, the warden proceeded to ream me a new anus aperture, or so he thought. I lost track after he began his rant, distracted by his polka-dotted underwear, and when he was through I both saluted him and tried to high-five him, whereupon he gave up and strode nonchalantly away.

2015 began auspiciously enough on my blog, with the reposting of my series on the little school we had up here on the mountain, back in the eighties. After posting the series at an earlier point of time, I yanked it down from the marquee, when the daughter of the central character objected.

I changed all the names and put it back on my blog where it rightfully belongs.

52 of my 74 blog pieces in 2015 were either of ROTR or the series on Wellsprings Educational Collective. Otherwise, it was 1 post (February), 1 (March), 1 (April), 2 (May), 4 (June), 2 (July), 5 (September), and 6 in October-before the crash.
It was these guys.
Technology reared its ugly head, stole my blog away and I marked time for six full months, treading water, awaiting rescue. Not until I hooked up with regional tech guru, Joe, complete with white horse and shining armor, somewhat out-of-place on the ocean, was I able to reclaim my blog from Somali pirates, whose dyslexic leader had mistaken it for “gold.” 

179 posts later, I fumed into 2017 on the political juggernaut, going into a bipolar rage on-line, alienating myself from the three remaining people who still followed me. Fortunately, a second knight (knightess?) in shimmering armor bailed me out with one key word: trigger, and I ran out of ammunition. Thanks, Alana.

From February of this year onward, I have returned to the style which works so well for me: free-falling. I can only do that if I am up there in the stratosphere to start with, something I will never deny, simply because the evidence speaks for itself. When I try to speak for myself, I always step on my- [Editor's note: You wish...]


One thousand and one posts, so far. 

Not sure whether I’m looking for a medal or a chest to pin it on, but here comes number 1,002. As long as I avoid Somali pirates, I hope to post another 998 pieces of prattling, over the next five years, anyway.

“Mark’s Work”: That’s some bad-ass gold, said every dyslexic Somali pirate, ever.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Anatomy of a Blog

Anatomy of a Blog

When I mentioned in passing the other morning, that I was posting my one thousandth piece of writing on my blog, it occurred to me that this piece of information, plus a lot more than a dime, would buy me a cup of coffee at StarBuck’s, and nothing else.

After all, exactly what does one have to say that warrants all that prattling? What is the motivation? How does one keep track? How does one find a path through the maze? And who on earth cares? Besides me, I mean.

In no particular order, I seem to have a lot to say-I am never at a loss, if I am in the mood to write. Never. The motivation is internal, like the need to take photographs, collect stamps, collect coins, read books or follow the Giants, all of which I pursue.

How does one keep track? What’s to keep track of? I write, I post and I mosey on my way. There are posts from the early days which have zero page views. I value them no less than the piece on my friend Keith, who passed unexpectedly a little more than two weeks ago, a piece with more than 1,500 page views at this point in time.

However, for me it is an easy route to traverse, which I naturally do frequently, while seeking a specific post on a topic that has popped up again. The blog-map is end-for-end, in that I generally start a series on a particular topic, and then milk it until it is bone dry. 
Mark of Mark's Work
Beginning on July 17th, 2011, I posted sixteen pieces of writing in the remaining fifteen days of July, ranging from my inaugural piece about freeing myself from panic attack syndrome, to tales of Fellowship Street, and a barrage of “Military Madness” posts. 

I had been writing those army pieces in my head for forty years, and then spewed them out in six weeks in March of 2011, in an epic manic binge that has eventually become the norm. This chronicle was one of the motivators for starting “Mark’s Work.”

August of 2011 was dominated by the San Francisco Giants and “The Church of the Eternal Bleacher,” a series about baseball, in general. I also hit Fellowship Street again and nine more segments on “Military Madness.”

September was almost exclusively Ireland, where I spent twelve days with Annie, writing more than 34,000 words during those 12 manic days, almost 3,000 words per day. Er, during the wee hours of the early morning. I averaged two hours of sleep during those twelve days in Europe.

I also had a psychotic incident, during that time period, whatever that is.

Moving on to October of 2011, I feel this is the birth of the real blog, where I started a series on Christmas memories, but also posted about twenty pieces that were independent, in and of themselves. That is more or less the mode in which I operate these days, varying it to do series on say the three spiral notebooks, or my grandfather’s manuscript.

I was just scratching the surface because in November of 2011 alone, I posted 39 pieces, fifteen of them on United Auto Stores, where I worked for eight years in San Jose.

There were also more Military Madness pieces, these centered on my time in New Jersey, at Ft. Dix, for Advanced Individual Training (AIT). In December I did a second series of Christmas recollections, but the rest of the month was devoted to independent posts. 

2012 began by having me post 59 pieces of writing in the first 59 days, but then an astronomical 111 pieces of writing in the next 61 days, about half of them short-short pieces of original fiction. Just reading back that I wrote 111 pieces of writing in 61 days is pretty unsettling. Can you say “manic” but whisper it please?

During March I started to see a psychiatrist, and began writing about my mental issues, eventually adding to this series with another entitled “You Call it Bipolar-I Call it Mood Spectrum Disorder.” When Gluten-Free Mama was diagnosed in August of 2012 with kidney cancer, the next four months collectively saw twelve posts, or one every ten days. 

Hard times. Can you say depression, but not around me?

More to come

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I Stand Corrected

I Stand Corrected

Take your pick: “Stupid is as stupid does,” or “The blind will follow the blind”: Either title applies when it comes to summing up the political situation in our nation’s capital, right? 

What has become apparent in the first 110 days of 45’s presidency, is that the man exceeds every conceivable pinnacle when it comes to being just plain stupid. That he is uneducated is patently obvious, but just listening to him try to formulate a coherent thought is kind of scary, he is that stupid, right? 

45 has left nothing to our imagination.

His most recent folly, that of firing the director of the FBI, in order to dodge inevitable responsibility for his treasonous actions with Russia, only adds one more unnecessary nail to his political coffin. Tacked on to the list of clearly illegal activities, that stem from his taking advantage of his elite position, it adds up to a colossally stupid man, right?

Or is it the rest of us who are stupid?

What if the plan all along was simply to make his already miserable name, more famous, thus swelling the multiple, overseas bank accounts?

What if even the preposterous notion of his actually getting elected, came to fruition? How much the better for promoting his immoral efforts to gain more money? Of course he is breaking multiple laws; he may be stupid, but his lawyers are not.

What if what his lawyers tell him, is that he can break all the laws he wants, and he’ll never serve a day in jail? What if he will, however, make a boatload of money, the size of your basic aircraft carrier?

Let’s think about this but not for very long because it’s enough to make one vomit. 45 was already a billionaire, he runs for President, he gets elected, he breaks a bunch of laws, he makes a mint, his kids make a mint, he sees no jail time, and eventually, he goes down. 

We glorify in his disgrace, we berate those who supported him, a lot of people suffer and die, and 45 walks away from it all, for all appearances a disgraced buffoon, except for one minor detail: He is even wealthier than he ever imagined for the experience.

Fucking brilliant. And I thought the man was stupid.

Monday, May 8, 2017

I Carry a Shovel

I Carry a Shovel

As all true Virgos know, from chaos comes order. Equally evident is the fact that there is a lot of chaos out there, from which order needs to emerge. Take cannabis regulation, for instance, a subject so broad as to be impossible to intelligently discuss anything more than individual components.

If I may be candid here, I know little about cannabis regulation because I am fortunate to not have to know anything. Blissfully blind I remain because those around me are collectively so immersed in the topic, that I am able to fly under the radar. Since flying does happen to be something I am good at, I don’t want to crash and burn.

Therefore, I stay out of the kitchen. As luck would have it, I have inadvertently chosen the correct door, because while all of this regulating is going on at the state and local level, somebody has got to carry out the edicts that the folks making the policy are pumping out.

That’s where I come in: I carry a shovel.
Not just any ordinary shovel, my shovel digs footings for foundations, excavates vast quantities of soil from said foundation work, mixes the mud, and just for good measure, moves compost into the wheelbarrow so that I can distribute it around-farm. I have a multi-talented shovel.

This current project requires that I wrap the corners of the two segments of the workshop, in concrete. Originally, I put in a pier foundation, which is perfectly adequate, but the county would like a perimeter foundation. This is a pretty nifty compromise.

There was a time about six years ago, when I spent a summer working on a construction crew, so as to be able to take Gluten-Free Mama to Ireland for two weeks. Even working only six hours a day, the experience left me physically drained. Though I was a mere 58 years old, my knees almost crawled off the job, an embarrassing development for a guy who can’t get around without his knees.

Ultimately, in order to get them back on the job site with me, I made the decision that I would no longer work on a crew. Not just because the rest of the crew is half my age, but also because I am just too hard on myself. I still want to be able to work at the pace I did when I was 34, instead of 64, and therein lies the rub.

Something has to give and when it does, it usually does not bode well for me. All of this being taken into account, that doesn’t mean I am washed up-it just means that I work at my own pace, and I need one or two vital components to be in place, in order to be able to get up to full throttle.

I don’t mince words when I say that cannabis is always a given. What I require to be on my game beyond my medicine, is to know that what I am doing is valued and that my work is appreciated. There has been no shortage of either commodity in recent memory.

Being salaried, there is no worry about hours, time-sheets or clocking in. HeadSodBuster knows his pops well enough to know that the old dude has been well-programed when it comes to work. Whether with the mind or the hands, I am good at it.

Working is what my family does; we learned well from our parents. Not only that, but I passed this characteristic on to my sons. We all understand the concept clearly. What I have been lucky enough to do-so far-is to be able to stay in the arena that works best for me.

Enclosed places, crowded rooms, meetings, question/answer sessions-any kind of public venue spells discomfort for me. Whereas I am sure the same applies to HeadSodBuster and others like him, he pushes forth indomitably, refusing to listen to voices of dissension from within, who are unhappy that change has arrived and caught them by surprise.

HeadSodBuster being off-farm means that he can’t attend to those same regulations, for which he has been fighting. That’s where my shovel comes in handy, not to mention my tool box of carpentry tools. You see, I did carpentry-and concrete-for eight years before I started teaching. 

Unlike many other “carpenters” of that era, I actually did the deed but stopped among other reasons, because I started experiencing technical difficulties with my back. Construction is hard enough as it is, without having to contend with a whiny back.

My issues now have little to do with my back, so much as my reconstructed right shoulder, which will insist on being the center of my attention. Again, when I required support, I received what I needed in the form of some Ogre Berry crossed with some AC/DC flowers, with high THC content. 

Can you say “instant relief?” The ache in my shoulder subsides on cue. I also received two more jars of cannabis salve, which I use for many things but right now most prominently for my feet, which require routine maintenance for me to continue to make forward progress. 

Whereas sandals are not conventional footwear for concrete work, I could not get my right foot into the steel-toed boot in my closet if my life depended on it. OK, if my life depended on it, I could, but the pain from that pesky fractured toe would make me wish I were dead.

I tried it last summer, when I wanted to bring rocks up from the creek, and wanted more traction than sandals could provide. Excruciating pain also limits traction, so I worked in my sandals-just slower.

I had to look at my photographs from the first step on the current project, to find out it took place on April 20th. So I have been at it for two-and-a-half weeks, leaving out the two Mondays when I washed radishes and did market, and the one day we went to Willits. Of course, doing foundation work was only part of my schedule, cleaning, turning soil and weed-eating taking place simultaneously. I never do anything for more than two or three hours, before shifting gears and tackling something else. Why not?

Besides the construction, I am turning soil for Gluten-Free Mama, who is trying to get summer squash in the ground. I am also trying to beat back the onslaught of weeds, fueled by the rainiest winter in California history. The weeds want a chunk of that history-making action-they are determined to grow faster and higher than ever before.
Better watch out, chicken coop, you're next...

I have also been flexing my organizational skills, taking what has accumulated over ten years’ time, and doing with it, what needs to be done to make the area right again. I have had to spend much quality time right next door to our chickens, a fact that I have managed to negate through judicious use of my Dr. Dre’s.

Life is good.

The project is complete except for a little painting, and I am still in one piece. That is most fortunate because I will be starting the same project, wrapping the corners of the workshop in concrete, at SmallBoy’s spot, next.
This is so bad I should have taken a pic.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Democracy in a Hen House?

Democracy in a Hen House?

“What in the hell is the matter with those chickens? They’re making a lot of racket out there.” My friend, Jay Skulking Bushwhack, was over so I had paused for the cause, while we stood outside the workshop where I had been hammering away, and shot the bull.

Jay is athletic and a supporter of the Republican Party; he’s not the sharpest tool in the shop, but what he lacks in mental acuity, he more than makes up for with his loquacious mouth. 

“No sense in staying quiet when they’s so much that needs to be said,” Jay would explain. “I don’t know why liberals have their panties in a bunch at our new president, jus’ ‘cause he goes on vacation every weekend. You know, being the prez is not an easy job.”

“True, signing all of those executive orders and sending out tweets can be taxing,” I responded neutrally. I was not going to get into it with Jay. Arguing with a 45 supporter was like arguing with a concrete wall: No matter what you say, you are not going to get through to him or her. The hers are the worst. 

“Now don’t you start with the taxes thing, too. I’m sick of hearing about our president’s tax returns. We never saw Obama’s birth certificate-why should this be any different? Say, what’s wrong with that chicken? She’s running around like her head is chopped off,” Jay went on.

Well, females will get a little excited, at times. How do you argue with someone who apparently likes it when the prez plays rough? Any woman who would support such a vile misogynist, is in need of therapy. Female 45 supporters make the Stepford Wives look like an offshoot of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Peering into the yard, I recognized the squawking one as Donna. I might have known.  She was a burnished-orange thing, fat and saucy, and usually the one doing the bullying, not the other way around.

Indeed, whatever she had done to incur the wrath of the flock, the game was on. Even as we watched, a mottled red-hen flew right at fat Donna, wings gyrating and beak flashing. The besieged turned her back and exited from the corner she had ended up in, right down the sideline, so to speak, to wind up in the next corner on the track, protesting silently, for fear of losing her prize at such antisocial behavior. 

The red hen left off the chase, only to tag-team one of the white birds, who took up the pursuit with such an enthusiasm, as to incite another round of excited squawking from the rest of the flock. 

“She’s got something in her mouth,” Jay observed, “and the rest appear to want some.” Leaving the yard, the embattled hen tried a new tactic and veered into the coop, where she fled to the rear echelon, bent on eluding the other girls, so as not to have to give up any of her plunder.

The maneuver failed miserably because one of the hens up above on the roost, bombed the assailed hen from above, landing squarely on top of her, startling her so badly that she reversed course, and raced back into the open area, where the other dozen girls waited, with growing enthusiasm for the entertainment at hand.

“It’s gotta be a worm!” I asserted. At that instant, the pursued sprang into the air, wings flapping furiously, protesting yet once again. “Zounds,” I exclaimed. “You’d think she’d just give the rest of ‘em a break, but she is a greedy little thing. I don’t know where she comes up with them, but she has an endless supply-look at what a porker she is!”

“Tough titties,” Jay went on. “Let the rest of them find their own worms. This ain’t socialism-it’s democracy.”

Democracy in a hen house? 

As if in answer to his words, Donna caught a break in the action, tilted her head back and gulped that worm right down, smacking her beak appreciatively. 

Jay nodded approvingly. 

“She who hesitates, is lost,” he observed.

Speaking of being lost, it occurred to me that I had the opportunity here to find out, once and for all, just what a 45-supporter thought about Congress passing the new health-care act. Did it bother him that 24 million people were shoved under the bus in such a barbaric fashion?

“Whatever you’re babbling on about, you just don’t get it.” Jay explained, somewhat exasperated. “Under Obama, I had to go out and get health insurance, even though there wasn’t nothin’ wrong with me that a good fishin’ trip wouldn’t cure. My Man in the WHITE House knows what’s up with that.”

“Yeah, OK, got it.” And I did.

Did I say “concrete wall?” Granite would be more like it.

Friday, May 5, 2017

"All Kinda Hitched Up"

"All Kinda Hitched Up"

I had been contemplating doing the deed for a long time, when in an impromptu moment (read that “manic”) a few weeks ago, I decided to go for it. With the interminable rain spewing from the sky, I tackled the job of sorting through a mass of confusion, that had escaped attention about two decades too long. 

Never had pandemonium reigned quite so regally: There were photo albums, boxes of receipts, stacks of printed short stories, and correspondence, most of it dating back 44 years to when I was in the service. I started to write “45” years, that being from 1972-2017, but I don’t care for that number-anymore-so I made it 44 instead, based on the anniversary of my release, October, 1973.
You can't even see the
top shelves with the
jigsaw puzzles and

Additionally, there were art projects, yearbooks, thousands of photos, and even more letters, strewn throughout the whole sordid scene. There were ancient Christmas cards, birthday cards and there were enough baseball cards to open up my own shop, specializing in the years 1991-1993, when I was doing the summer program at the school district in Laytonville, before the price of baseball cards skyrocketed. I paid fifty cents a package for them back then and got bubblegum to boot.

And newspapers? How about the San Francisco Chronicle Sporting Greens, almost every one of them from April of 2010, until November of that same year, when the Giants captured their first World Series title in 56 years? Oh yeah, and the Press Democrat, also, covering the same span.

How did I know the lads were going to accomplish this feat in advance? Don’t be absurd; there was just a huge stack of newspapers in the pantry, from which I culled out the aforementioned sports pages…after the fact.

My plan is to write a baseball book based on, “What They Said…” 

Amidst the turmoil of my shelves, I had newspapers covering the 2012 World Series, the 2014 World Series, and that’s without even mentioning the San Francisco 49ers and five Super Bowl titles. I’m not sure why I have kept the papers around-I don’t think it’s important. They all fit into one box, sitting in the highest shelf, and when I go to the Great Bleacher in the Sky, they can be used as fire-starter material.

Finally, there was one other item, cleverly concealed within a notepad of lined paper. In the back of this pad of paper was a hand-written journal of mine from Monday, November 22nd, 1982 until Monday, December 20th, of the same year. That’s 29 days out of my 64 years, chronicled in my own chicken-scratching, just a-sitting there waiting for me to stumble on them-or not, as the case may have been.

I mean, for Christmas that same year, I received three blank journal/diary arrangements, alone, indicating that others were aware of my tendency to prattle on, on paper. Now I have my blog, a slightly more accessible commodity than journals sitting on a high shelf, cleverly concealed within an old notepad.

Why I began this segment of my journaling process at this particular juncture in time, I have no idea, but within these few pages is a detailed account of Gluten-Free Mama’s and my decision to get married. The journal commences on November 22nd, and the bomb drops only a scant week later, when I wrote on November 29th, 

“Big date today, Gluten-Free Mama (OK, it didn’t say “Gluten-Free Mama,” it said Annie) and I set a date to tie the knott (sic), the date being Wed the day after tomorrow.”

Two things leap to mind: First, I misspelled knot, which I continued to do throughout this journal, something that defies explanation because I simply do not misspell words. Sure, I wrote "kinda" but that's slang-not a word that was incorrectly spelled. The second is the fact that the “date” we set, was only two days in the future. 

Having gone on record as saying that I am a “Seize the Day” kind of guy, I would say this tends to back that up, but it’s not as though we had never discussed the idea of marriage before. Both of us agreed on one thing though: Getting married because you were about to have a child, was a poor reason for getting married.

Once that was established, then the rest was merely logistics, which sounds pretty basic until you read a little further into that same day’s journal entry: 

“I tried to get either of our cars started today but couldn’t, so we’re not sure about how we’re going to get there…I’m going to see if I can get one of them fixed tomorrow.”

OK, so where does it say you have to have a functioning vehicle in order to get married? It does’t; we’re good.

Tuesday, November 30th: “We got more extreme weather today, with snow falling heavily at different intervals, but then stopping long enough to let the snow disappear. It’s snowing right now and we expect more tonight. We hope it doesn’t because we want to go to Ukiah tomorrow and get hitched. I spent all morning [outside, in extreme weather] working on both cars (’72 Nova and ’62 VW bus-Old Paint) and got them both running.
Our limousine

The bus I parked up at the barn [on Bell Springs Road] so as to be able to get off the hill tomorrow if there is snow on the ground. Obviously, if the road is questionable at all, we will postpone our plans.”

Finally from December 1st: “Well, we did it-got all kinda hitched up…Noel, Olga, Maggie, GF Mama, Casey and I all went to Ukiah where Judge Jim Luther tied the knott for us…After our noon ceremony we all went to The Palace Hotel for lunch. It was superb. GF Mama and I decided to stay the night at The Palace and it was excellent.”

The Palace is gone now, unhappily, but GF Mama and I are still going strong. If there has been chaos along the way, so much the better. Good things can come out of chaos, such as finding old journals that tell it like it was. 

I mean, come on, baseball cards at fifty cents a pack? With bubblegum? Who could make this stuff up? 
Out of chaos, comes order.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I'm on Board!

I’m on board!

I have to admit I have been dragging my feet, even going so far as to be disrespectful to our new President, if calling him a dirty, rotten, lying, sorry sack of bull-stuff, can be said to be disrespectful. Hell, I even refused to call him by his given name, Dopey-er, sorry, old habits, you know. That’s Donnie!

I may have been dragging my feet, but I am here to tell you that is all in the past. I'm on board now! I was all worried about the elderly and the poor people in this country, when I should have been worried about the billionaires. I have now seen the light.

If we continue to coddle the 43 million poverty-stricken people in this country, what good is that going to do them?

It does no good whatsoever because they’ll never “snap out of it” if we continue to baby these losers. I call them losers because who the hell is incompetent enough to be poor in the first place? 

If you are so inept as to not have been born into wealth, then there is patently nothing to be done for you, and the Republican Party has seen this wisdom. Though I am not a Republican, I have come around to this way of thinking also.

I just think a better job could be done.
A dime? If they REALLY gotta go
they'll pay a hell of a lot more
than a lousy dime. Just sayin'
Start with pay toilets. You know, “Here I sit, broken-hearted, paid a dime to shit, but only farted?” A dime!? Hell, make it a buck, and charge extra for toilet paper.


Why can’t we charge visitors to hospitals, a fee to visit their loved ones? That’ll teach ‘em to get sick.

Even better, we should charge a fee every time people go to church, since they will insist on doing so. It’s time to show those Catholics how to really gouge their parishioners. You want eternal salvation, Baby?

It’s gonna cost ya.

We should charge people to go miniature golfing, but not “real” golfing, because we want to be careful about whom it is we are gouging. 

Next, we could charge folks to go visit Granny. 

I can already hear the whining from the Bleeding Sniverals: But what if you can’t afford to go see Grandma? Won’t all the grandmas be sad? 

Ah, that’s where motivation comes in. So what if you have to give up eating veggies for the month, so as to be able to visit Granny? That’s a twofer, anyway, ‘cause those damn veggies are so much more expensive than Ramen. Or Captain Crunch.

Nah, if it’s all about making money-and it most certainly is-then let’s do it right.

Oh, and by the way, anybody got a buck? I gotta go talk to a man about a horse.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

When Doves Coo

When Doves Coo

What are my personal recollections of Grandpa? Having written about his emigration from Germany to America, in 1901 as a 14-year-old, I will just say I would never have known that from him, personally. I had to read it in the manuscript he wrote, after he had retired-possibly, even as I was scrambling around beneath his feet.

He did have infinite patience with me. Whether his patience stemmed from my being a natural born charmer, or because I was somehow chosen to be a godchild, I do not know. I know that his voice rarely changed in tone, and that he had a keen sense of humor.
Oh. My. That. Hair.

He was not above making a slightly bawdy comment, which of course would probably be delivered in German, depending on just how bawdy it was. He and Auntie Anne would lapse into German any time they wanted to escape little pitchers’ ears. 

[Auntie would ask, ‘What do you think, Dear? Are you up for taking them to that western that’s playing at the drive-in? Oh, and for heaven’s sake, stop at the store and get him his chocolate milk, before he drives me nuts.’]

In the piece I wrote last January, I included a snippet about being at the drive-in once with Grandpa. In response to the comment that the movie we were watching (Walt Disney’s Pollyanna”) was neat, he responded by gesturing over to a car parked off to the left, “True, but the one going on over there is not bad either.”

I would have agreed, possibly, had I been able to see through the foggy windows, which obscured exactly what was going on in the car next-door. Grandpa was a proper gentleman at all times, but he still had a very human side to him that included humor and innuendo.

In October of 1956, Mama wrote in my journal that Noel and I spent almost two weeks together at the Wilmar House in August, so I would have  been almost four years old. Noel would have been almost seven. More importantly, Grandpa would have been close to seventy years old.

My earliest recollection of staying overnight, is one which included sleeping upstairs, in the back bedroom to the left, as you got to the top of the stairs. In later years it became Grandpa’s office/study. All four of us older boys were there, and I was still sleeping in a playpen, I was that small. 
Deceivingly innocent, in appearance.

I think the folks went up to Yuba City, circa 1955, but that is only a guess. It goes without saying that I cannot connect all specific memories to specific visits. I stayed with Noel, by ourselves, with JT, with Greg, and also once with the twins, Reggie and Celeste, in October of 1958, while Mama was in hospital, welcoming bro Tom into the world. Mama says I did not seem to get along with the twins, though it’s hard to believe I would display any unhappiness while at Grandpa’s house. It was that enjoyable.

Of all the places I slept in the house at Wilmar, none comes close to comparing to the screened-in porch, upstairs, accessible only by passing through Grandpa’s room. When I was allowed to sleep up there, I felt privileged because I really was in Grandpa’s space. Lying awake in the predawn, reading, I used to hear what I thought were owls.

Several decades and a couple of lifetimes down the line, I discovered the sound I was hearing was actually doves cooing. It remains one of the most soothing noises I have ever enjoyed.

So being in his late sixties/early seventies when I was a sprat, Grandpa was reasonably sedentary. He still went off to work before seven each morning, after preparing for his work day, including making his own breakfast. When he ate with us, he favored soft-boiled eggs, and I used to get off watching Auntie Anne prepare and serve them in those little egg-cups. 

I don’t remember soft-boiled eggs being on the menu, at home on Fellowship Street.

Grandpa served as chauffeur for Auntie Anne, driving her to the grocery store, and to the San Gabriel Mission for mass, rummage sales and pinochle tournaments. He did so uncomplainingly, often playing the radio at a low level. 

As out of character as it might sound, I remember specifically hearing Johnny Horton’s, “The Battle of New Orleans,” playing on the radio, with Grandpa rocking out to it, in his inimitable fashion. You know, “We fired our cannon ‘till the barrel melted down, so we grabbed an alligator and we fought other round. We filled his head with cannonballs ’n’ powdered his behind, and when we touched the powder off, the ’gator lost his mind.”

I remember going with Grandpa and Auntie Anne to a Marine World of sorts, but it was indoors. My impression is that it was in Long Beach. I also remember the epic trip to Disneyland circa 1957. The four older of us boys went, but I was not tall enough to ride the little go-carts on the track, and had to be a passenger in Noel’s car. Still, I was there.

The fact that both the grandparents were willing to take four boys to Disneyland, tells you something about their character. I am sure I would have been a challenge for the weak-of-heart. In 1957 Grandpa would have been 71!

We drove in his late-model Rambler sedan, which was always meticulously clean inside. When he took Greg and me fishing at Legg Lake, he sat in the car and read the newspaper, while Greg and I unsuccessfully attempted to land dinner. He was not the type of guy who would bait our hooks, leaving that up to us, but he was still willing to transport us there.
Eighth grade

One year I received from Grandpa a subscription for “Mechanics Illustrated,” a monthly publication that was geared to do-it-yourself projects that Grandpa thought might appeal to me. He was generous to me, as Mama indicates in her journal, there being gifts for me at Christmas and my birthday, religiously, though Auntie Anne most likely handled the logistics.

In my journal Mama notes that as a gift for my eighth birthday, Grandpa and Auntie Anne took me (and probably other munchkins) to the Los Angeles County Fair, on October 16th of that year, an excursion I remember with a fair amount of clarity. I used my own money to buy Mama a glass swan, that allowed one to fill it with artificially colored water, to create a pleasing effect.

Somewhat noteworthy, in her special way, Mama managed to hang onto to that little glass swan, when the move was made to Bell Springs Road, because it appeared on book shelves above the piano, at one point as the big house got furnished. When I expressed surprise that she still had it, she feigned shock that I would have the unmitigated gall to suggest she would ever throw it away.

One Christmas season there was a fundraiser going on at the Mission, and I was recruited to go door-to-door selling Christmas wreaths. The pool room at Wilmar had been converted into a wreath-making factory, and Grandpa ferried me around in the Rambler. He thought he had it all figured out because he took me to this apartment complex, where there were a whole passel of doors to be knocked on, with minimal traveling.

I got the boot after about three doors.

In 1961 I spent three days at Grandpa’s house, and then returned and spent the Labor Day weekend there, which coincided with my ninth birthday. Grandpa and Auntie Anne took me to the San Gabriel Mission fiesta, including the parade. 

Finally, as my sister JT pointed out on a recent post, there was the television set. We are not talking about a TV here, but nirvana-with color. Watching “The Wonderful World of Walt Disney” in color, specifically the “Swamp Fox” series, was incomparable short of going to the theater, which occurred on the average of twice a year.
Here are two of my four arches.

And if you want to see Grandpa’s influence over me, know that as we faced the television set, from any angle in the spacious living room, in the background were two arches, one on each side. They led into the small library that was filled with books, many of them in German.

I say Grandpa influenced me in that I liked those arches so much, I have four of them in my house. I constructed three of them, and though they are not perfect, they are perfect to me. 

Somewhere long about 1968 or so, the four older of us boys traipsed off to Wilmar one Sunday afternoon, ostensibly to visit, but also to take advantage of the pool table. By now Grandpa would have been eighty. I mention this in passing, because he always seemed available to me/us. 

I went with Mama to visit him in the hospital, only days before I shipped out to Missouri, in January of 1972, and he told me he was proud of me for entering the service. When he passed, only 17 days after I began boot camp, I knew I could not return home for the memorial.

As overwhelmed as I was by his not unexpected passing, I had plenty enough on my hands in the frozen tundra of Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Quite candidly here, I was afraid that if I went home, I would never return. True story.

I remember his voice vividly and I remember his laugh. For a man who described in his own words, being raised in an environment where the adults were all considered good, and the children were all considered bad, he had a funny way of showing it.

I conducted myself properly when around my father, because I knew what was in store for me, if I did not. I conducted myself properly around Grandpa, because I knew instinctively that I had a good thing going, and that if I acted like a jerk, I would have the rug jerked out from under me.

I remember him clearest, sitting in his big easy chair, a solid wooden number, with three adjustable positions for sitting straight up, or reclining. With a hand on either armrest, he would watch television and we would watch with him.

I spent the weekend following the assassination of JFK, at Grandpa’s house, and the television was on a lot, tuned in to the coverage of the atrocity in Dallas. I was just past my 11th birthday, and I really feeling the pain. 

I couldn’t believe the guy who was the center of “PT109,” a film Papa had taken us all to see in August of 1963, was gone. Correspondingly, it took me a long time to absorb that Grandpa was gone. 

It’s been 45 years now but his memory comes back to me now every time doves coo. On this ridge-top where I live, I hear doves a lot.