Monday, March 30, 2009

Phone Calls.


After Saturday's musings about working the night shift, Ben picked up on the theme of thankfulness, which is a close cousin to gratitude. The way I read the connotations, gratitude is almost always defined negatively. That is- we're mostly grateful for things we don't have to deal with. Like living in Gaza, having some god awful illness, being stuck homeless on the streets in some backwater slum in Pakistan, or- well you get the idea. It seems like we're most often grateful for the bad stuff that hasn't happened. Or that has happened. It's an all too common story- something that seems to be a dire misfortune turns out to have some great benefit hidden under the bullshit.

We're thankful, on the other hand, for the good stuff that we do have. Thankful to love someone. Thankful to put in a day's work. Thankful for a day of good health. Thankful for a decent camera, a cool bike.

Anyway.

Yesterday was one of those all day gray fests. Mary rented the Prince Caspian movie. Very enjoyable. I barbequed a steak, and we had a salad with almost no lettuce, because it was mostly avocado, and roma tomato.

See- more stuff to be thankful for. After dinner we did as we always do- came back to the den. Mary reads on the futon, and I start blipping through the various stops in the Coonosphere, and then make the rounds through the other fun places: Lileks, Vanderleun, Hewitt, Robot Japan, and the weather. Then Mary does her prayers, and that's when the phone rang. It was Mary's friend, Michelle from the Buddhist group. She, and her husband were at our wedding, well- what do you expect? We had a Buddhist wedding at the SGI community center, and all of Mary's Buddhist friends were there. And after the ceremony, Mary's friend Irene, and her brother, Charlie held the reception for us at Irene's house. Charlie drove me to the ceremony. And that's why Mary's friend, Michelle was calling. Charlie died last night. Cancer. Last October, his complaint was a sore knee. He was a genuinely good man. Mary called a few other friends, and then we went to bed, and I held on to her. And she held on to me. Grateful to be here. Thankful that my Mary is here with me.


The phone rang again at 6:30 this morning. The boss needed someone to cover the day shift. Right now. Would I rather do that instead of working late tonight at Stephen King Elementary?


JWM

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Get Green and Save Gaia Now Or Else!



Oh, holy shit! Did I miss it? Was Gaia hour yesterday, or is it today? I always forget the really important holidays, and this new holiday is probably the all time most important new holiday of all time, and maybe more! Save Gaia hour. What a concept. I'm sure it's gotta' be listed somewhere in the Book of the Dead, or maybe Druids or Wiccans used to do it too, or maybe not! This could represent a new awakening of the spirit of Mother Gaia, communicating to us, her illegitimate bastard spawn that we had better get back to nature before she puts us there!


I've been reading up on life in the rainforest, and it's nothing but tragic that we have become so alienated from from our earthly roots. Think how cool it would be to live in a totally organic grass and mud hut, running around naked, and feasting on lizards, roots, and palm grubs. You could pierce your nose, lips, and cheeks with really for real boar's tusks and bird bones, and make full body tatts out of shallow incisions rubbed with cold ashes. They even have totally natural organic hallucinogens out there, and no uncool cops to bust you for using them. But I digress.


The thing here is Save Gaia Day. We have to stop being pigs for an hour, or maybe throw a party or something. What to do? Maybe I can send a card. No, no. Sending a card would use up energy. So would a telephone call, or even an e-mail... Lemme think- That's it! I'll think some groovy thoughts for Gaia, and that will atone for all the damage my parasitic presence has caused! I'll think of some poor baby polar bear standing there hungry on an ever shrinking ice flow. Imagine there's no penguins- it isn't hard to do. Think of rising sea levels, and half of Upper Tonga under water- the last few indigenous souls crowded on a shrinking sand spit trying to snag some hapless dolphin for the community stew pot. Think of- Oh, wait.




Even thinking takes energy, and the energy I use up thinking was bought and paid for by the suffering of Goddess Gaia. You know- all those tiny oats crushed in their prime. The banana that should rightly have gone to some jungle monkey. The coffee beans ripped untimely from Gaia's womb... No, thinking won't do.


That's it. I won't think for an hour. I'll just sit quietly, and breathe. Except that means I'll be exhaling carbon dioxide, and that's what is causing the polar bears to melt. Maybe I'll hold my breath for an hour. I'm sure Gaia would thank me.






JWM

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Station on Mellow. Saturday and Slow


So here we are in the middle of another ridiculously beautiful day. I didn't start anything yesterday morning, and by the time I got off last night I just didn't feel like writing.


I've mentioned it before, but one of the nicer things about this area is the selection of good places to grab a bite to eat. Molcasalsa is one of the better ones, and it's just a couple blocks from here. Normally we start the day with oatmeal. I don't mind too much. Today we were out of oatmeal, which is where Molcasalsa comes in. You can get potatoes, ham, eggs, and cheese wrapped up burrito style in a big warm flour tortilla for 99 cents, if you can make it there before 11:00 AM. It's a cholesterol bomb, but every once in a while you just gotta' live dangerously. Walk on the wild side. Roll dice with the devil, and all that devil-may-care kind of daring that goes along with stuffin' your gut.


Anyway-


John was at the corner, along with a couple of other guys I enjoy talking to. And we hadn't sat there long, when Mike came by with his guitar. He's out of the group home, and staying with his folks again, up in the heights. The guy can play. I've heard him go finger picking through some spidery Renaissance melody, and then slide it into some good ass kickin blues. It was good see him back, and good to see that he's keeping it together. It would have been too easy lose half the day hanging out, though, and I had to attend to the small errands of the weekend. Which now have been attended to.

And I put out enough physical effort last night, that I'm not going hiking today. No. Chicken on the barbeque is the height of today's ambition. The last two nights were hard work. The night shift is always split between two schools, four hours to clean half of the first school, and four to clean half of the second. And since the rooms are cleaned only every other day, they're always in bad shape. And last night I had the late half at Stephen King Elementary, on the corner of Scream Road, and Ghoul Street. During the day, it's shady, and seems more like a park than a school. It sits on a dark corner of a quiet neighborhood right at the foot of the west end of the heights. Built in '57, the place has the architecture of a Chevy Bel Aire. Huge ficus trees brood over the classroom buildings. Everything is up hill. In the interest of saving Gaia, all the outdoor lights have been replaced with those evil mercury vapor, and poison gas corkscrew things. Those bulbs are to light what a microwave is to a barbeque. Just. Not. Natural. After dark, you're always in a tunnel of this harsh yellow glare. Outside the tunnel of glare is the void. You cannot see into the void. To boot, the ficus trees grow some sort of marble sized seed fruit, and spend the evening tossing them onto the sheet metal roofs, so there's always some noise, something skittering away just outside your field of vision. And there's a rabbit loose on the grounds, and you never know when the rabbit is going to show up. Always something out there. But it didn't get me. At least not last night.

And for all my complaining I was grateful to make the push through the night. I got all the stuff done, and left it looking pretty decent. And grateful to be able to do it. Last task of the shift is always to do the door check- walk the whole campus; pull all the doors. I came around the corner of one of the wings, and found three high school age kids sitting in the hallway. I think they were just about ready to roll one up, when I came around. I remembered one Friday night forty years ago, when I sat on this same campus with the same intention. "Hi, guys. I'm locking up, you'll have to go party elsewhere." They evaporated into the void. I heard the clinking of the chain link fence and they were gone.


JWM

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Songs, Outlaw Stars, and Workin' Nights


Usually I start writing sometime in the middle to late afternoon, but I got a call for work for the next few nights so here I am, hunting and pecking away at the ungodly hour of nine thirty in the A.M. morning. A call for work. With all the budget cutting and lay-offs and all, I should be grateful to be picking up a few nights. But I'm dreading it. I just got myself adjusted to not worrying about work. Now I have to readjust again one more time all over. I swear, I can find more ways to generate discontent than there are things to be discontented about. It's just the perverse nature of my head. I should be used to this by now.


At the end of yesterday's post I put a link to the song Hiru no Tsuke, which was the closing theme for Outlaw Star. I hadn't heard the song in quite a while- not since Cartoon Network had Outlaw Star on Toonami in the afternoons, and that was eight or nine years ago. It was long enough that hearing it again brought on that odd kind of time warp effect that only songs have. It conjured up the palpable rhythm of the days when Mary and I were newly married, and living in the drafty, opossum plagued garage apartment behind her folks' house. I was carving my way through one chunk of rock after another, sure that the next art show was going be the one that would score me a sale, and launch a profitable career as a sculptor. There was money in the bank, and we were doing fine on what income was coming in. The computer was a new toy. I had found robot-japan on the internet and was blown away at the notion that I was trading notes on Japanese toys with people all over the world. We were having more fun than we realized. But that's how it all too often is. You don't see how much fun you're having until you've had it, and it's over. The song brought it all up in a pleasant mist that still sort of lingers with me this morning.


Even though work hangs over my head like Doom itself. I'll be fine once I get in there, and start moving, but right now it still feels more like a sentence than an opportunity to make some much needed cash. Right now, I have other stuff to attend to. I'll pick this up later tonight when the shift's over...


Which is now. Ten forty six P.M. at night by the computer clock. And working the night shift wasn't so bad. But I still have the song, and the mood it recalls floating through my head. Odd how classical music doesn't have that quality of resurrecting scenes and moods from a particular time and place. I remember clearly when I was an avid classical buff, but putting on Beethoven's seventh, or Mozart's Requiem doesn't take me back to the seventies. Throw on Ramblin' Man, and I'm there. And what strikes me as I'm sitting here is how simple, and how difficult it can be to keep a proper focus on the joys of the present. When you look back everything has that sweet glow of nostalgia, and when you look ahead it's all full of latent potential, and anticipation. The present, in contrast, is always full of the problems of the present. Be here now. It is so very simple, isn't it? But simple isn't necessarily easy. Anyway. That's all I have for tonight. I'm going to take a look at the rest of the Coonosphere, and get some rest.


JWM

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More Spitfire Stuff



I'm falling back on an old way of patterning the day. As long as I have the time on my hands I may as well use it. So I made the six mile walk up in the hills this afternoon. Exercise just plain feels good. It clears up the mind as well.


I got rambling on about the Schwinn Spitfire yesterday- specifically the one they sold around 1977. You know- the classic cruiser style balloon tire one speed bicycle. Julie sent a link to her most excellent bike story, and caused me a head slap moment. I was going on about taking long lazy rides on the slow bike, and totally forgot to mention why I bought one in the first place. I got it to ride down the fire roads in the Brea hills.


Like a lot of major trends in my life, my love affair with balloon tire bikes started with a seemingly small gesture. I was out at an auction in Chino. They sold everything from entire estates worth of fine furniture and antiques, to backyard junk. There was an early 1960's Schwinn Co-ed in one of the lots. It needed tires, of course, but otherwise it was in good shape. I bid four dollars, and got it. At the time I had a friend who lived at the very east end of LaHabra Heights. Past his lot there was nothing but a few oil wells, and a Nike Missile site. And the fire roads. I got the notion that it'd be fun to take the old Co-ed, and go coast down some of the trails. It was way more fun than I had anticipated. About that time Schwinn came out with the Spitfire. The boy's bike frame is stronger, and much more stable at speed, and the late seventies version had extra heavy duty spokes and hubs, to boot. I've mentioned this before- that bike was steady, and comfortable at well over thirty miles an hour. There was one spot just past the old missile site where the road ran straight for the better part of a mile. It dropped down the hillside in three long smooth steps. It was a scary fast hill, but that bike rode it like a two wheeled surfboard. This was before mountain bikes, of course. It was like stumbling on to a hidden treasure. Nobody was doing this. And the few people I tried to tell about it sort of rolled their eyes. Nobody was interested in doing it. It was still fun, though.
Anyway.
Oh, yeah- totally unrelated to bicycles- I ran across this video on You Tube. It was the ending theme for the anime Outlaw Star, complete with the odd sci-fi artwork. Hiro no Tsuki.


JWM

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Short on Comfort

1961 Jaguar MK IV

The weather is embarrassingly good again today. Nonetheless, morning found me cranky. One of those days where everything sounds off key, and all things annoying seem to congregate beneath my window. Like fragmented sentences. Like Blogger jumping back to the 'Times' font after I repeatedly change it to Verdana. I have to look at the keys when I type, and I still type with some two to four fingers, but mostly with two. Every time I looked up at the screen the damn thing had changed font again. So I closed Firefox, and opened IE. Font remains the same. Good. Except I lost about half of what I had written.


So where was I? Oh, yeah. Like I said I just woke up with fingernails on my inner blackboard. So I got out the bicycle, pumped some air into the tires, and went out to burn off some of the toxins. Good thing to have done. I made a short loop- maybe five or six miles with easy hills, and it felt good.

I got the bike last year. Here's an example of the subtle PC of marketing. They politely call it a Comfort Bike, which is like a beach cruiser stripped of any pretense of cool. It's an old guy's bike, a 'socks and sandals set' bike. Upright riding position, telescopic front forks, shock under the seat. Low gears. Slow. I like it a lot.

It's funny- through the mid seventies, and early eighties I bought and sold quite a few Schwinns, both to obtain parts for the Classics I was restoring, and just to ride around. It never occurred to me that those old Chicago built Spitfires would one day be extinct like the Jaguar, The Starlet, and the B-6. Schwinn is now just a badge on bicycles imported from China. They're fine bikes, and all, but the Spitfire was American steel. (although the Bendix coaster brake came from Mexico)

The size, the weight, the easy handling of that cruiser made it the mechanical equivalent of a tennis shoe. One of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday was to take the old one speed out for an all day ride. Some times I'd pick off over fifty miles, riding out to the Santa Ana River trail, and following it down to Newport Beach at River Jetties, then Back down to Huntington, and then twenty some odd miles back up Beach Boulevard to LaHabra. Or the San Gabriel River trail, west of here. That one was fun because the San Gabriel riverbed is entirely paved, and the banks are smooth concrete slopes, some fifteen to twenty feet high. The Spitfire held those walls like a gecko. You could surf up and down those banks for miles. But the Spitfire just wasn't fast. A loop to the river beds was an all day proposition no matter how hard you worked at it. Just for the record, I actually made two or three such rides with the bike in the picture, but it wasn't easy. I haven't tried to do any serious distance on the comfort bike. I'm sure I could make it down to the beach on the thing. Getting home- I'd want a ride. But today was just a short loop. Enough to feel the workout. Enough to pick up a thorn and get a flat, despite the thorn proof tire liner thing. But the machine likes me. It didn't go flat until after I got home. No small thing to be grateful for.


JWM

Monday, March 23, 2009

The First Bright Day of Spring


Yesterday was cold, gray, wind, and rain. Probably the last such day we'll see until next winter. Today was just the opposite- as perfect a clear bright day as ever was made. So I walked down to the corner while the morning was still cool. Old John was there, finishing up a burrito that Eddie had bought him a day or so before. I got a coffee, and sat down. John had been over to Trader Joe's the other day, but he lost his five bucks, and so he had to put back the stuff that he was going to buy. This morning he took twenty out of the bank, and was going to head back over to Trader Joe's as soon as the next bus came by. We had the sun on the table for the better part of an hour, but soon enough the edge of the patio shaded over and it got just cool enough to make me want to move. While we sat the bus came and went, so I walked back home and got the car.

The parking lot at Trader Joe's is way too small; every spot was taken, and people were stalking the rows like hunters waiting for a shot at a space. We gave it up and drove to uptown Whittier instead. Didi was up there working at Mimo's cafe, taking orders at the counter, and serving plates out on the patio. Mimo's in Whittier is a hangout like Starbuck's in La Habra. Didi, and her husband were two of the gang I used to BS with back in the early nineties. She keeps her hair dyed purple, even though you could make the argument that she's a little too old to keep doing it. No matter. She has that extroverted personality that lets her pull it off. I introduced her to John, but she already knew John. He comes up there to check the library used book sales. For an 85 year old guy without a car, John gets around. We got a cup, sat there for a while, and headed back over to Trader Joe's.

When we got in the car, John asked why I didn't try to put my artwork on the Google Network, and try to make some money. I explained that I really wasn't making any more art work. What I have is it. There probably won't be any more. I just lost the inspiration to do it. He understood. John said he hasn't been over to his storage spaces in quite a while. He has a pipe organ disassembled in one, and he's been gathering records, and sheet music for such time when he can afford to buy some land out in the desert to set up his studio again. He sets aside a little each month from his SSI check. Once he has enough he's going to buy some land out there, and let someone put a business on half of it, so he can set up his place in the back, and the business will pay him enough... But he's been getting a little discouraged.

Creative energy is a gift from God, he said. Because God Creates, and we are made in God's image. He is The Creator, and we are little creators. But once you lose that energy you're lost. Lost.


We got a parking place at Trader Joe's this time. They give you free samples of coffee over at TJ's, but they give it in little three or four ounce cups. John figures if you're getting it free you might as well get your money's worth, so he brought along his own paper cup. The staff there knows John, and lets him get away with it. I noticed that they gave him a pretty hefty free sample of the salad of the day as well. He picked out a couple or three cans of beer- enough to last him until later in the week. I threw it in with my order. We got out of there, and drove back to the corner.
JWM

Friday, March 20, 2009

Promise of the Future

THE YEAR:2009
This is the future you were waiting for.
Bubble tops, fins, and note the horizontal antennae that can skewer some hapless bird, and barbeque it on the radiator. And V-8's. Or gas turbines. Maybe even atomic power.
I want the future as it was promised 50 years ago.
Like this:



It didn't get here. How about a ride in a nice flex fuel, partly electrical hybrid, runs on used vegetable oil, no pollution, guaranteed not to heat up Gaia, save the earth, thirty horsepower ecomobile (seats three) instead?

Fuck that shit.


And you can go here for more of the coolest cars ever built.

***UPDATE, and Added Note: While you're over there, check out the 1955 Lincoln Futura. Where have you seen that car before?

That's all for this first day of spring.

JWM

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Talking With John



It was just last week, or maybe the week before that I got the phone call from the boss. No more night work. There hasn't been a call at all this week, and likely there won't be next week as well. At first it seemed like it would at least have the advantage of freeing up the day. I wouldn't have to wait around until two in the afternoon. If there's no call by six forty five, there won't be one. But already the extra time weighs heavily on me. I'd rather be complaining about work than complaining about not having work.


I walked down to the corner this morning. Old John was there. He got a good deal on some fried chicken, and melon medley from Fresh n' Easy, and he was having it for breakfast there at Starbucks patio. He offered to share the melon medley, but I had just come from breakfast myself. John asked if I needed money for coffee, but I didn't. John is generous with the little he has. I stayed quiet, while John went on about the deals he'd found on food, and the sheet music he'd bought at the library used book sale.
After a while, he started talking about Phoenix, how he met up with a fellow who made a living as Bozo the Tramp Clown. Not the Larry Harmon Bozo that we remember from afternoon TV shows. Checking Wiki, I find that Bozo was a common name for tramp clowns before the syndicated TV show, so whoever it was that John knew was one of many who used the name. He was down and out when John met him in some hotel bar. He showed John his photo album, and they got to talking, and John invited the guy to come stay with him where ever it was that John was staying. Sometimes John's stories are a little hard to follow. Bozo the Tramp Clown had been run out of Hollywood for crossing the union in some way or other. He was trying to ply his trade in Phoenix, when he was told again that he couldn't be a Bozo. The franchise was taken. Among other things, John helped the guy out by reading the letters sent from Bozo's estranged wife, and then writing return letters, and sending them to her along with alimony checks. Bozo could neither read nor write. Clowning was all he knew.

They had finished a large meal, John said, and were sitting out back. Bozo was on a swing relaxing when he was hit with a heart attack. Someone called an ambulance, and Bozo was rushed off to the hospital. He recovered, I guess, and then started clowning again despite the warnings from the union. Bozo had completed some gig, or other when he was mysteriously run down by a hit and run driver. He died afterwards, but I didn't get it clear if it was the direct result of the hit and run, or if he died later from broken health. Like I said, sometimes John is a little hard to follow.
JWM

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Going Down to the Water


I usually don't come up with anything to write until after three in the afternoon, but this is one of those very rare moments when I have the house to myself. So I ran around in circles for a few minutes, and ended up right back at the computer. Go figure. Ricky Raccoon mentioned surfing this morning. I think about surfing a lot even though I haven't been in the water for over twenty years. Partly, I think on it in connection with lost youth and all that sort of depressing stuff. Partly I remember the fun. Or the fear. The fear is one of those things that is impossible to convey to someone who hasn't experienced it. I can easily write, "Ten Foot Wave", and even capitalize the words for emphasis, but if you haven't been on your belly trying desperately to scratch over the top of one, it doesn't really register. It's the slow panic of the nightmare where something is after you, and your feet are mired in glue, your body moving in slow motion, the implacable monster gaining on you with each strained step. Only you don't have the luxury of waking up safe in bed. Every surfer gets in that spot at least once- paddling out, and then realizing that you've bitten off way more than you can chew, and there's no way out except through it. It's one of those experiences that stays with you, and never fades with time. I never had the courage to be a big wave rider. 6'-8' was my limit. One time when I was at the top of my game I went for it on a solid 10' day, but that was it. I have been out in bigger surf, but I haired out, and couldn't make myself go for it. I was glad to just get out of there alive.

Every time I go down to Huntington I go out on the pier and watch. I see quite a few guys my age and older out in the water. I get tempted, but not tempted enough to borrow or rent a board and wetsuit.

A couple of years ago, December of '06, Mary and I were house sitting for a friend of hers. They live in Newport Beach, right next door to Huntington. I remember being cranky about going down there. I was still getting over the heart thang. Taking pills every morning was new, and slightly horrifying. Carrying the little steel container of nitroglycerin was just creepy. I was on an emotional high wire. It didn't take much of an upset for me to be scratching for balance. I was weak physically, and worried about money. Spending a few days at the beach house seemed like a luxury we just could not afford. I didn't want to go. But I did.

I got down there in the late afternoon, and immediately had to go across the street to River Jetties, and check the surf. Instinct. It was flat, windblown. Nobody out. Nothing to see. And I was still weak enough that I felt the short walk across Coast Highway, and the beach. I was a stranger there- some sick old fart from twenty miles inland who didn't even bother to take his shoes off while walking in the sand. A friend had turned me on to a couple of buds. There was no one around so I hunched down out of the wind, and took a tweet, but a bite on the pipe only deepened the feelings of estrangement and loss. We had Italian food for dinner, and then made love for the first time since I got out of the hospital. It was good.

The next morning we drove down to Huntington pier. A swell had risen overnight. The winter morning was hazy, but not uncomfortably cool. The ocean stretched out like a great sheet of deep green glass, and 4'-6' waves rolled in, and peaked up in A-frames on both sides of the pier. It was as good as Huntington gets. I went from one side of the pier to the other watching the sets roll in, and watching people pick them off for long slides in both directions. I noticed guys my age out there, too. It looked so easy. But I knew what those swells would look like from flat on your belly, and I knew it wasn't as easy as it looked. I was looking at something that was behind me. Something that was once mine, but now belonged to someone else. But as I watched from the railing, some twenty feet above the water, I knew it was OK to be where I was; realized I was OK with it. It felt sad, but it was that sweet sadness of the inevitable ending of all things. I held Mary tight, and lost a couple of tears. There was still a lot of stuff ahead. Good stuff, too. We went into Ruby's Diner at the end of pier, and had breakfast.
JWM

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Faith in the Absence of Grace

I started the morning as I always do: coffee, prayer, internet. Walt has become the first stop, because he's a dawn patrol guy. After Walt's place I check out Gagdad Bob, and Mushroom, and then proceed to lighter fare.

I try to begin the day grounded in awareness of the spirit. All too soon the headlines, and real world events charge in like some sort of mudslide. As of late I've had little tolerance for it. My interior landscape already looks one of Heironymus Bosch's nightmares, and I don't need to throw more monsters into the mix. There was a time when I thought that the right drug, the right counsellor, the right prayer, would clean up the mess in my head. No. The mess is my head, and the mind parasites that dwell there will not suffer eviction, at least not through any means I've yet discovered. So where does that leave Spirit, religion, the prayer thing? If we were talking about a physical ailment few would hold out hope for divine intervention in the shape of a miraculous cure. And it's an all too common story, the supposed 'man of God' caught in some unholy act or other.
"AHH," someone will surely say, "The fellow probably didn't really have Holy Spirit, or he was insincere in his prayer, or he lacked True Faith, or he was just another hypocrite."

I don't buy it.

I would bet that such individuals probably have a deep faith; that they have many times prayed their knees sore trying to defeat their inner demons in the spiritual equivalent of house-to-house urban warfare. I would bet that they exhausted the last efforts of will, threw themselves on God's mercy, and got up with the same set of troubles they knelt down with. Just like the person in a wheelchair who pledges eternal faith and gratitude to God for the chance to stand and walk again.

So God ain't Santa Claus, jwm. We knew that already. What's your point here? Is it to discredit the whole business of faith?

No. I'm just trying to get a handle on it like everyone else. An anonymous poster over at One Cosmos left a poem in the comments section today. Here's an excerpt:


When the eyes of my eyes were opened/I saw wonders that can't be spoken/You took my hand when I least expected/And blessed me with your Golden Presence . . . ./ Is this why in your Heart I found mine,/And in your face I see a Treasure?/Do the tears of joy as I contemplate you/Pay tribute to your sweet embrace?. . . .


It is not my intention to mock the person who wrote this, or to doubt his sincerity. I've heard plenty of religious folks, Christian, and Buddhist, speak of this sort of spiritual euphoria. I don't think they're making it up. It's just never worked that way for me. Oh, don't get me wrong here, I've heard 'the voice'; I've had my share of transcendent experiences. Occasionally there comes a flash of insight, a glimpse into the depth. And after having been with One Cosmos everyday for the last few years I have had my eyes opened to the awareness of Truth, if not the firsthand experience of it.
I don't look to God to solve my problems for me, that's all. God ain't going to solve them. Or make them go away. God will, and has grown me deep enough to know that wrestling with my inner demons is part of my job here. And like it or not, I have to step in the ring. Unlike pro wrestling, God doesn't fix the match. Not even for himself. The thing is- I know that I don't fight alone.
JWM

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday Musings



No clouds today. The sky was naked blue. Odd. Mary and I started the day with a walk down the now famous railroad easement. There were a few remaining puddles along the footpath, but some meathead in an "off-road" vehicle churned them into muck and ruined substantial chunks of the trail. We had to walk through the weeds. Walked over to the Maintenance Yard, and signed for my time from Saturday. And then home. A little yardwork. I hate yardwork.
And I always feel like I should like it. You know- making contact with Gaia. Artistically shepherd the vegetation surrounding the domicile; create a spot of beauty. All well and good. But I still don't like it.
We have these shitty palm trees that my brother planted here years ago- Wait a minute. I'm going to go get a picture.


There. I mean check it out- That looks like Crown of Thorns material. It pokes the crap out of you when you trim the damn things. And the planter boxes filled with geraniums? Geraniums stink. I hate the smell of hacking them, and if you leave a chunk of geranium stem in the dirt, you get a whole new plant. The only thing going for geraniums is that you don't have to take care of them. You can't kill them with effort, and they keep the planter box filled. Like I said. I just can't get into yardwork.



My Dad used to like it. I've reached an age where I sometimes see him in my own reflection. I can't believe it has been sixteen years... Every now and again you catch a glimpse of yourself unawares. Like the other day at Costco, seeing myself on the video cam. Mary remarked on it- seeing her reflection, and suddenly realising that the last vestige of that cute young thing is gone. That old fart is me. Don't get me wrong here; it isn't all bad. Mostly it's pretty cool.

Today I stopped by the corner 7/11 to use the no fee ATM. Some guy tried to panhandle me. "Hey, Sir? Could you help me out with a dollar?"

See, I've hit the age where they call you 'sir', instead of 'bro'.


And I guess "Spare change" has hit a dollar minimum contribution. But time are hard. The other day I saw a guy pushing a shopping cart. Then I recognized him. A relation of an old friend. It is scary to see people on the streets. On the one hand, I am aware that no one, myself included, is immune from it. Just plain hard luck puts some folks there. Bad decisions help. I have had both. I always swear I'd never stoop to panhandling, but what if...

And the other thing that gets scary is the thought of the situation getting worse. Getting hit on for a buck is one thing, getting beat up for it ... How far away?

I don't mean to wax all grim here, but most of the news is just discouraging. The networks, and newspapers are an ever shifting fun house mirror, distorting the information they peddle into their own version of reality. And the newspapers are printing themselves into extinction. Today's LA Times was no thicker than The Whittier Daily News. I can get a more accurate picture on-line, but not a more encouraging one. And through it all, you have to decide what stuff you hear is true, and what stuff is a distortion of the truth. It's a sea of information, and trying to get the truth out of it is like trying to drink sea water. None of it is untainted. So you look to the deeper source, turn to the wise, or to Scripture for access to the clear water of the deeper Truth. It's what I did yesterday. Clicked on Bible Gateway, and went here. Sometimes I feel like I catch a glimpse, make out a little of the broadcast through the static. All you can do is keep looking; keep tuning in.


JWM

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Silver Sunday

We finished the coffee, ate our oatmeal, and got in the car before ten. Almost early. Rather than taking the short drive to the East end of La Habra Heights, Mary and I drove west to Whittier, Turnbull Canyon, and Cloud Peak, the highest point in the Puente Hills. Turnbull has become a surf spot for mountain bikes. Dozens of 4wd pickups, and SUV's jammed up the small roadside parking area, and spilled over into the neighborhood below. It reminded me of a Sunday morning at Huntington Pier. Surf's OK, but not great. Conditions are good, but there's over a hundred people out there sniping for waves. How much fun do you want to have? Only this was with bicycles instead of surfboards. Anyway.
We drove up to the top of the canyon. There's another entrance to the preserve up there. Nobody around. Go figure. We hiked up the trail that goes to Cloud Peak. Although it's the same range of hills as the La Habra preserve, Turnbull looks a lot different. Turnbull grows less brush, and fewer trees. You see some pretty dramatic erosion of the cliff faces, and hillsides here and there. That's because Turnbull has burned to the ground several times in the last few decades. La Habra has never burned.

The trail around Cloud Peak is Pretty steep, and once you're at the top every direction is downhill. With gravity on your side the first half of the walk is a little too easy. Then you have to turn around. Again, we're having that classic silver weather that defines Spring out here. Today I was grateful for it. Marching up hill is easier when it's cool.






Mexican Food is mandatory after walking in the hills. We Stopped at La Chiquita, right around the corner from the house. Their version of chile colorado is a spicy beef, potato, and chile stew. It's one of my favorites, and you can get all you can eat on the buffet. Along with chile rellenos, Menudo, rice beans, and warm tortillas. And fresh mango, strawberries, and cantaloupe to round it off. And home. Plug the pictures into the PC, and call it an adventure. Oh, yeah- Look closely on the horizon in the first picture. You can barely make out Downtown Los Angeles in the haze.




JWM

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Short Post for a Short Day


The sun made a weak attempt at coming out sometime around three thirty, or so this afternoon. We're having that silver spring weather I was talking about the other day. It looks like the part of Wizard of Oz where they're all still in Kansas. The school district was having some sort of Saturday morning district wide open house of some sort. Most of the students, and parents had left when I got to the Jr. high, just before noon. We had half a day to put the school back together after the gathering: Move furniture. Dump trash. Rearrange, and clean a few rooms. (the hard part) Roll about fifteen racks of folding chairs from the quad to the multi use. Some of those racks of chairs, and quite a few of the folding tables are as old as the schools they came from: late fifties/early sixties. The casters are worn, the wheels don't wheel so well, and the loaded racks are gut busting heavy. The newer equipment, bought in recent decades is falling apart.

Andy was in charge. He knows what he's doing. So does Martin. We got the place back in shape, cleaned up, and locked up, and that was the day.

Or half a day, actually.
JWM

Friday, March 13, 2009

Of Hills, Hikes, and Tacos

So, yeah- I've had that GET ME OUTA HERE mood running for a while now. So this morning my wife and I decided to do something about it, and go walking up in the hills. As per always, I take the camera with me, and snap thirty or forty pictures to try to capture a little of the magic. And as per usual I end up with a couple or three half ass decent shots, and a whole bunch that just look like weedy hillsides.

But it was good just to spend a couple of hours walking in the cool morning with Mary. We followed up the hike with tacos at The Mexican Taco in downtown La Habra. The restaurant is well named. There aren't many choices on the menu; you can have a taco or a burrito. Served on a paper plate with lime wedges and salt, the tacos are small, Mexican style antojitos: a spoon of char-broiled beef, a dollop of salsa, cilantro and onions on a couple of soft 4" tortillas. It's no trick to wolf down ten of them.

It was a good way to begin the day. The walk in the hills and subsequent taco lunch is one the small rituals of our marriage. We hadn't done it for quite a while, and it was good.
When we got back home there was a call for work, and that immediately threw me into adrenaline fueled ambivalence. I was already tired. I wanted to just kick back. I need the work. I called the boss, left a message, and waited; decided to lie down and rest up. Called back to double check. The shift had been filled. Adrenaline fueled ambivalence out; disappointment fueled ambivalence in. So, I figured I might as well fire up the wfb, and share the few good pictures I got. Click for the full sized version. Enjoy.










JWM



Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sweetness into Rant

This is where I have to pull myself up short, and take a look at where I'm going with this current run of musings on a particularly sweet season. This line of reflection can very quickly descend into toxic nostalgia. I've got a full pitcher of it sitting here, just waiting for me to pour another glass half empty.

What happened then, was that I needed to run away from an ugly environment, and I did. Let me repeat that for emphasis: I ran away. And it was not the first time that I had done so, nor would it be the last time that I would do it. It's not one of those admissions that you wear on your sleeve. It's not a point of pride.

Escape. That's what it is. And there's a huge part of me that wants to do it again right now. But it's not just me. I talk to several casual friends on a fairly regular basis. Even the couple of folks who are committed obamanaifs, are just spooked. And truth to tell, even the LA Times isn't exactly gushing praise on teh prez. I was not a huge Clinton supporter, even though I voted for the guy both times. I remember being irritated by the impeachment business. The guy was a sleaze. It's not surprising that the kind of men who are compelled to seek great power and influence, probably have voracious, predatory sexual instincts. I don't think the nation as a whole was well served by the whole business. Call me a prude, but maybe we were better off in the days when such stuff was swept discretely under the media rugs, to allow the commander in chief to do his job. Gore was just too creepy for words. I was used to voting Dem, but somehow, when I got into the booth that year I just couldn't do it for Gore. So I jumped ship from the donks, and voted a straight Republican ticket.

Especially, I voted for Bush. I don't want to belabor the point, but consider the media's eight years of vitriolic, unapologetic hostility to George Bush. First off was the 'stolen election' meme, which lasted from the election all the way to early September. The man was allowed decent media treatment for a short while after 9/11. But when the bombing of Afghanistan made it clear that this Texan was going to- you know- actually hit back, the gloves came off, and the media plied their trade like so many wormtongues, poo flingers, and slander masters, and in more than one case, had no problem with an outright lie or two, letting a secret slip, or publishing a little open propaganda for the enemy. Nothing in any of this has changed, incidentally.

And the same hate machine is now in reverse operational mode gushing out oceans of froth to try and cover up for the fact the teh prez we got now is a lightweight; He ain't up for the job; he's in over his head. We elected a charming fellow with all the intellectual depth, and about two thirds the wisdom of Sean Penn, or Cher. If America was a high school, we just elected to send the Homecoming Queen to represent us in the academic decathlon. I didn't like the thought of losing the election, and seeing the Dems take over. But I figured the country would keep chugging along regardless. I didn't think much of Obama, but I actually hoped that he'd get in there and do a good job. I figured he'd be a guy I'd disagree with a lot. I didn't figure he'd be a guy so shallow, so naive, so incompetent, and apparently thin skinned, petty, and vain. Oh, and rather lazy. In short, This guy is worse than a sharp Democrat in power. Obama is like some dude who went up a few times in his buddy's Cessna, and once even got to try the controls! Well, the dude has just been jumped into the pilot's seat of a 747 in bad weather, with a whole nation of scared, and/or pissed off people on board.
What the hell are all these buttons switches, and dials, and stuff? What's that thing do?
Oh, yeah, he was just too busy this last few weeks to select a flight crew... oops. So his reaction is to get on the PA, and announce how he's never done this before, he can't figure out how half the shit works, he doesn't have a crew, but he'll get the hang of it sooner or later, and in the meantime, he's totally stressed out, so Stop listening to Rush Limbaugh, and don't panic.

Besides there's three or four hours worth of fuel left. In the meantime, Fight 93 is available on your screens for a slight fee.

So, like a lot of people I just sorta want to run for it, or something. But now there just ain't no place to run.

Oh- a note to potential trolls, should you show up. Don't bother. I'll just nuke the post, and supress your freedom of speech. Because I can.

JWM

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Turning the Dials Back Down to Four



Somehow, yesterday's random ramblings ended up on a pleasant memory from the spring of 1982. Something about girls and cars, and- you know- stuff. That's a long time ago. If You threw that incident into a novel, the teacher would take pains to explain to the class how the author was foreshadowing the good times that the season would bring, and then go on to explain the Freudian symbolism of the boobs...

You can go ape shit crazy trying to divine symbolic meanings out of an amusing event. All the more so if the event is a work of fiction, part of a made up world completely contrived by the author of a story. Or, if it's just a bullshit line invented by some poor soul to try and impress everyone with all the cool shit that never happened to him.

But that event wasn't something written into a story. Nor was it BS. It happened. In real life. No (deliberate) embellishment in the re-telling for dramatic effect. A random event. Nothing more than a coincidence that I just happened to be right there, right then. So, if there was, indeed an author to that particular flash of insight, it wasn't me. Sometimes, however, there is evidence of a Greater Hand...

Anyway. It was a good start for the season that would strike a chord so sweet and clear that the resonance of it still defines spring for me twenty seven years later.
I guess, like I said yesterday, that a great deal of it had to do the abruptness, and stark contrast of the change. It was a blessing to escape from the grit, shit, and drama of living in Hollywood. It was liberating to not have to meet obligations, or listen to the horror stories that were the stock in trade of meetings in the city. That year too, the coastal eddy settled in forever. I remember weeks on end of the monotonous pewter sky, and bland temperatures. It was like turning all the dials back down to four, after having them pegged on eleven. It was healing to resume a quiet routine set to the rhythms of tide, wind and swell.

Mornings I'd drive the '68 Falcon down to Huntington cliffs. There was a spot where a couple of parking meters were missing, but even if those were taken it was still just a quarter for an hour, so a dollar would take care of most surf sessions. The Cliffs was the ass end of Huntington. There were oil wells pumping away on the bluff, and a mask of shattered concrete, and broken chunks of highway covered the bluff face to protect the oil wells from erosion. There wasn't much beach to speak of. At high tide, the shore break washed right into the surfboard eating concrete teeth of the lower bluff. But there were consistent sand bars off shore that produced a decent wave from any swell that happened to be running, and the wave field was scattered and random enough that you could manage to get rides no matter how crowded the place got. And while it was never a great surf spot, it always had something worth paddling out for. It was funky, ugly, and my favorite place. The old pintail that my brother gave me was really more of a big wave board; it was stiff, and hard to maneuver on small mushy days, but it suited the way I liked to surf. I had never been into carve, and slash surfing. I always tried to pick the longest cleanest line, and execute the ride as smoothly as possible- that casual 'waiting for a bus' kind of style. It didn't take long before I regained, and then exceeded the proficiency I'd had five years earlier. I was confident, strong, and deft in the water.

Other days I'd take the cruiser out for all day bike rides. Sometimes I'd travel out Carbon Canyon Road, which started just east of Brea, and twisted some twenty miles through the Chino hills. Back in high school, when I first had a drivers license, Carbon Canyon was an empty road to nowhere. Perfect for a solo slow cruise on a sunny day with quart of beer, and a fat joint of cheap Mexican weed. Better yet if you were ditching school for it. To get out there you had to head out of La Habra on Imperial Highway, and drive east just past Brea. Once you got past the dump, Carbon Canyon road snaked up the into the Chino hills in sweeping 45 mph curves before making a steep straight plunge of a half mile or so into the canyon itself. It was a workout on the heavy five speed, but the old style Schwinn cantilever frame, and balloon tire bike handles remarkably well at speed. Those old clunkers were stable at over forty miles an hour. Going down hill through the canyon was huge fun, but the long straight drop was actually kind of scary. Right at the bottom and a few turns down was La Vida Hot springs, and a couple miles past La Vida , a small community of very old houses called Sleepy Hollow nestled into the canyon. La Vida had been a popular resort back in the 1920's. The hotel was closed, and I never did see the actual hot spring, but the restaurant drew new owners every few years. It was a great location for a secret spot restaurant- a place just loaded with atmosphere, a word of mouth treasure of an eatery... but no one could pull it off. Last I was out there in the early nineties, it was a biker bar. I don't know if it's even still there now. Carbon Canyon Road ended up in Chino. Chino was important for dairy farms, and a state prison. Now it's a huge city. Much of Carbon Canyon was incorporated into Chino hills State park, but the rest of it was incorporated by land developers.
But in that spring of '82 a ride down Carbon Canyon Road was still a day of long immersion into the soft lit, hazy spring colors, drinking in the soft resonance of that season with the weedy sweet perfume of the unspoiled hills.
JWM

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Changing Shifts of Season


I like being able to get out of bed before the sun comes up. Like this morning. That's easy to do when daylight savings first kicks in in the early weeks of spring, and it's easy again for a while in the last few weeks of daylight savings before real time returns in the fall.


And the spring pattern weather is returning, stretching out into those gray, cold mornings, when the sun doesn't get out of bed until early afternoon. Today it cleared by about eleven, and the temperature hit the low sixties. I know if you're in Idaho, Washington, Missouri, Connecticut, or even Arizona, a high in the mid sixties sounds damn near tropical. For me it's uncomfortably cool, but I doubt I'll win much sympathy if I gripe about it.
Fall- even the tepid excuse we have for Autumn out here, was my favorite season for a long time, but now I enjoy the spring here more. Spring in Southern California is an acquired taste. Like turnips, or brussels sprouts. Most years give you several long spells of coastal eddy weather that comes and goes from April to early July. Silver days. You wake up, and it's overcast, and somewhere in the mid sixties to the low seventies. It just stays like that for eight weeks. No wind . No shadows. No change in temperature, day or night- not warm enough to be warm, or cool enough to be cold. Maybe the sun breaks through for a couple hours. Maybe not. A lot of people find it boring, and vaguely depressing. I find it soothing while it lasts, because you know the gray blanket that buffers the temperature, and softens the light is going to catch fire and burn into summer sooner or later. And there's no one curmudgeonly enough to not get happy over the first real day of summer. There are days like Christmas, and Easter, that are so deeply saturated with tradition, and ritual that it is impossible to not feel their specialness. In the same way, we all have our personal mythology with its own sacred calendar of significant days:birthdays, anniversaries, and other personal milestone dates, or seasons. I have a pretty fair collection of springs. Some were better than others. But it was 1982 that secured Spring its most favored status among seasons. That was the year I quit the gas company. I've talked about it before. You see, the thing that made it so good, was the crap that preceded it. By the fall of '81 I was stuck with a job I hated. My personal life was - well, let's just say that I was diligently working away at my qualifications for a seat in an Alcoholics' Anonymous meeting.

Not long after, the other folks in AA welcomed me as card carrying member of the club. I jumped from a job I hated to a job I hated worse. I ended up living and working in Hollywood. I was going to AA meetings at night in Hollywood. You can imagine. I quit the job in February of '82, but hung out in the city for several weeks before leaving. I hadn't been surfing since sometime late in'79. So one day, I decided to ditch off the meetings, screw the little obligations, and go to the beach. My surfboard had been lent and lost. So I grabbed the old boogie board, and my ratty wetsuit, and went out to Zuma beach. There wasn't much swell, and it was windblown, choppy, and cold. I put on the churchills, and backed into the shorebreak. The water was colder than shit. I ducked under a wash, and kicked out to where the sloppy little waves were breaking. Damn, I was out of shape. But I flippered into a little swell, flexed the soft foam board into the wave face, and managed two seconds worth of slide across a greenwater slope before ducking into the churn, and letting the wash carry me to shore. That was all it took.


AA gets to be like a family. I had some friends from the program by then: a regular group who used to get together for coffee after meetings, and talk into the small hours. I had a coffee commitment, and a birthday cake coming up for a year with no booze or dope.


I didn't so much as extend a phone call to anyone.


I didn't bother to get the birthday cake.


I didn't tell anyone goodbye. I just left.


I didn't have much stuff at all. It was a furnished apartment that I'd taken over from my brother. I filled up my car,unloaded it in Whittier, and my dad, and I drove out the next morning to pick up the rest of the stuff. The last possession I had left there was my bike, a five speed Schwinn Spitfire Deluxe. It was about nine thirty in the morning when my dad took off, and I pointed the beach cruiser east on Melrose avenue, and headed out of there. It was a thirty some mile ride from Hollywood to Whittier, and the parts that weren't going through bad neighborhoods, were the parts that were going through dangerous neighborhoods. But nothing bad happened. The scenery just changed gradually in that soft silver lit spring morning. Block by block, mile after mile I poked along through the run down, industrial, and poverty zone corners of LA on that heavy old cruiser. Early in the afternoon I swung onto Washington Boulevard, and a few miles later I was in town, finally riding along on familiar routes. It felt good. I heard quick repeated blasts of a car horn behind and to my left. I looked up as a carload of high school aged girls slowed beside me in the right lane. One of the girls leaned out the window, pulled up her top and flashed the finest set of young breasts that nature ever created. They sped off laughing hysterically before I could even exhale.


When I pulled up to my mom's house, my brother had been there. He left me his old 7'5" Russel pintail, but the fin box was broken. No biggie. I could glass in the fin and the thing would work just fine.


JWM

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday Morning Blues



The sitemeter stands at 994, which means that the world famous blog will probably break the 1000 visitor mark sometime today. I still haven't quite figured out the difference between a visit and a page view, or what it is that site meter actually meters, but getting that 1000th hit should be a milestone, and a cause to celebrate. Maybe I'll eat some ice cream, or take a couple of xanax.

Or something.


I recognize most of the hits from my friends in the coonosphere. Some of the hits come from odd Yahoo or Google searches. Somebody got here a couple weeks ago after searching for cartoon dogs. I hope they weren't too disappointed. The ones that are intriguing are the visits from Europe, or Asia. But those are mostly the result of the toy robot article and pictures, and the links from Robot-Japan, or Toybox DX. I doubt that many folks in Europe or Asia are much concerned with my post-middle aged musings, or observations of life here in Southern California in the final days of the world as we know it.


As I mentioned yesterday I am getting hugely burned out on the news. My contempt for the newspapers, cable networks, and television in general has accelerated into a gut churn of pure loathing. If I hear one more scare story about the environment, or the economy, I'm going to go out and go into massive debt for the sake of hunting down, and killing some endangered creature, and burning it in an SUV so I can help melt the north pole. And the whole of the internet has become a lot like a visit to rotten .com. No I don't want to see a picture of some guy who got his head caught in a punch press, *click* Yaaarrrggghhh, why did I click that? Oh, wait- a guy who couldn't outrun a freight train on his mountain bike, *click*, urp. The latest story on teh prez *click*, oh, holy shit... I should have stayed with rotten .com.


And even when I go over to Walt's place, or Mushroom's, or Gagdad's to get my metaphysical fix, and tune in the faith aerials, I come away vaguely disappointed. Not by the material, but by my static filled reception. Something in me wants a light to go on, but nothing seems to hit the switch. And something in me wants to craft some poignant, moving piece that will hit someone right where they live, and they'll be so moved that they link it, and it'll get picked up by somewhere else, and somewhere else, and then... What? I don't even know.


I went down to the corner a couple of times yesterday. That's a hit, or miss proposition for entertainment. There are some people there whom I really enjoy seeing. And some for whom I can just about rise to indifference. And of course there are a few that I just can't fucking stand. I ran into one of the later group, as luck would have it- a pugnatious little jerk, some years older than myself, whose idea of a conversation consists of baiting people into arguments, and then getting hysterical defending his point. Normally I don't even talk to him. But I had heard that he'd been quite ill- heart trouble and stuff, and when I saw him, he looked as if he'd been quite ill. I said, "Hello", and broke my usual rule to ask how he'd been. I swear it didn't take the guy five minutes before he started slinging ridiculous assertions about the war, and all wars, and how Bush was the idiot who got us into all this mess...

I just left.

Went back home, and clicked on the internet. Another story about teh prez. And so it goes.


JWM

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Slow and easy on Saturday.

Catalina Island



It's an insanely nice day here in the Southland- warm, sunny, clear enough to see the ocean, and Catalina island from the nearby hills. Considering the ocean is about twenty miles from here, and the island is another twentysix more, it's not bad at all. There are rare and exceptionally clear days when you can see out past Catalina to San Nicholas island as well. It isn't that good today. So why am I in here typing instead of going out there to enjoy the weather? Sloth mostly. I got no ambition to speak of, and I already went for coffee.


And to tell you the truth, It would be better for me to get away from the internet for a while. I enjoy doing this- sitting here sharing an observation, or just shootin' the shit about things. This stuff is fun. And it's good to be exercising the creative energies. But every time I venture over to American Thinker, Gateway Pundit, or BabbaZee's place, I just get that gutdrop. It's just too tempting to start feeding on the toxic smorgasbord of depressing, and scary stories out there. Sometimes you get that urgent: I GOTTA DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS! feeling, but -you know- just what is it you figure you should do? I know! A passionate editorial complete with lots of links to demonstrate that teh prez is a facile idiot, who should be tarred and feathered, and run out of DC on a rail. That'll do it! Sure. Or pick any part of the mass insanity that's going on out there; focus on it; make it a cause; fight it...

Look, I don't mean to get cynical. Nor do I mean to demean, mock, or denigrate those who are putting forth an effort to 'stop the madness'.


But you have to divide this stuff into the categories of: Things You Can Change, and Things You Can Not change, and if you can keep your wits when those about you, are stampeding into the The Things You Cannot Change side of the line. Then you're a better man than I am Gunga Din.


I just gotta give current events a rest.


And at this moment I don't even intend to get into serious events of any sort, but I will share this from American Digest: World Builder. You have to scroll down a little. Very strange. Haunting. (to me)Discomforting.

Beautiful. And that's what I have for now.


JWM

Friday, March 6, 2009

Half a Shift is Better Than None



Well, the half day shift is over; I got a shower and some coffee, and it's time to put a post up here on the world famous blog. I'm unaccountably tired after working today. Maybe it's just the vibe of working at a junior high school, or middle school, as they now call it.

The atmosphere at an elementary is vastly different: it's overflowing with energy, and optimism. Jr. High is high voltage pubescent anxiety. 'Cool' is a commodity worth the price of souls, principles, betrayals, and cruelty. Conformity to the unspoken, unwritten, but nonetheless sharply defined parameters of 'cool' is a survival skill for kids that age. The line between those who have it, and those who don't might as well be an electric fence.


Jr. high is the age where the girls who drew the 'pretty card' in the genetic lottery become aware of it, and vain over it. And it is also the age where girls who drew the 'plain card', or the 'plain and fat card' come to realize that the look worshiped on magazine covers, and TV shows is now, and forever out of reach. The boys, and the pretty girls generally have no qualms about rubbing the plain ones' noses in it. I watched one of the noon duty aides escorting one of the crushed and sobbing plain and plump ones off the field during lunch. "I hate middle school," she wept.

I would note that the egalitarian, and far more casual standards of dress and grooming contribute to the division, rather than erase it. Everyone- all the boys, and ninety percent of the girls wear the same jeans, and t-shirt uniform. Forty years ago, when I attended the same school, all the girls were required to wear dresses. Boys could wear jeans and T's but only the 'hard guys' did, and they were a small minority. Slacks and button shirts were the norm. The less attractive girls could compensate and even compete by being sharply dressed, and groomed. In the Mao-Suits that kids wear today the raw, unenhanced material they were born with is all they have to put on display.

And I noticed a kid with a black t-shirt featuring a monocolor portrait of George Bush, and featuring a "NOT MY PRESIDENT" caption. And another with a T that had "OBAMA 44" printed across the shoulders like a football jersey. The entire front of the shirt was a full color silkscreen of Barack Hussein O at the podium emblazoned with the presidential seal, and big white letters reading "Commander in Chief."

Tell me, my adult friends, did you ever in your life wear a shirt promoting, or insulting a president? But then again, keep it in perspective. This was two kids out of a schoolful.

These are kids who grew up wearing bicycle helmets. They are kids who have grown up fearing household chemicals, global warming, and second hand smoke. They are kids who have been raised with hundreds of channels on the cable TV, and not a one of them deviating from the progressive party line. They hear the party line in the plots of their cartoon shows, sitcoms, and documentaries. They are kids who are growing up believing global warming is the world's most serious problem, and that being a racistsexisthomophobe, or an islamophobe is tantamount to growing up ignorant and evil.

But don't get me wrong, here. They still study Anne Frank.

And the other night when I was working one of the elementaries I walked into a classroom with an entire bulletin board covered with posters and pictures of the history unit on The Ancient Hebrews. It had the Ten Commandments. It had a big old map tracing the Israelites journey from the Passover to the Promised land, with all the major events in the Torah pinpointed,and explained. I noticed a gallery of Time Magazine' presidential Man of the Year covers, and Obama's was conspicuously absent. They had some stuff on ancient Egypt, and a little bit about Mesopotamia, but it was just that- a little bit.

So like I say, I don't wish to key some hand wringing screed about this lost and brainwashed generation of mindless progressive robots being indoctrinated in the Orwellian ministry of relative truth. They are also growing up computer savvy, and internet savvy. They have access to the Truth, and the web of coincidence will draw many to it. God can figure out the internet, and use it as a magnet for the iron hearts of those receptive.


For me- I'm looking at a vastly diminished workload coming up, and a vastly diminished income to go with it. But blogging is cheap. Bicycle riding is cheap. And I'm sure I can scrape up a buck sixty here and there for a cup at Starbucks, and the opportunity to shoot the breeze with friends. Life could be far worse.

Anyway. I'm hungry, and I'm going to go fix up some dinner


JWM

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Good the Bad and the Munchies



I got a call from the boss early this afternoon- one of those bad news/ good news kind of things. The good news was I have a half a day filling in at the junior high tomorrow, which is a nice way to end out the week. The bad news is the same kind of bad news that a whole boatload of folks seem to be getting these days. There won't be any work this summer. And for the best part there won't be any more night assignments for the foreseeable future. They won't be bringing in a night time sub until the third day of absence. Considering that the rooms get cleaned every other day, that means if I do get a night shift it's going to be walking in on a serious mess. On the sorta' bright side, I'll still get first call on whatever day shift work is available, and since there won't be night subs, they're going to stop letting the night guy grab the occasional day shifts and let their regular runs be subbed out. Small things to be grateful for are better than no things to be grateful for. Still, it means our already precarious financial situation got more precariouser than it used to was.

But after all, as it says on the sidebar, I'm a fully Bobtized member of Raccoon Order, subject to all the rights and privileges usually associated with a holy fool. So this kind of stuff won't get under my skin at all. Oh, no. Not one bit. Not one itsy bitsy, shitty as all get out, total piss off bit.

I'll just take it in stride, and hope there are no lower life forms in striking distance of my shoe.


And Booger the cat just decided to join me here, taking a seat on the chair at my right, and purring away, just to let me know that if all else fails, she's still there to offer her all important cat support. Good ol' kitty.


And I did an odd thing this morning. Back in '90 when I bought my Harley, my mother decided it would be a nice Christmas gift to turn me on to ten shares of stock in the Motor Company, a two hundred dollar investment at the time. I held on to the stock while it split, then split again, and split again for a third time. The two hundred dollar investment grew to darn near ten thousand bucks worth, and I cashed all but the original ten shares out in '04 to put a on new roof, and paint the house.

Well, as we all know, this is the dawning of the age of Obamanous, and Harley is tanking like everything else on Wall Street. I looked it up on the computer this morning, and it was down to eight bucks and change per share. Sad. That motorcycle was the greatest possession I will ever own. That stock investment paid off handsomely. HD was damn good to me. So, although I couldn't really afford it, I took a hundred bucks and invested it back in Harley Davidson inc. this morning. It wasn't much, but who knows? Good times will return sooner or later.


And I took a cruise over to the corner, grabbed a coffee, and ran into old John. He was waiting at the bus stop to go over to Trader Joes. God told someone to give him fifty bucks this morning, so we went over to TJ's to look for stuff. John found a few bottles of odd beer, and can or two of beans for cheap. I'm a sucker for their Pita Chip crackers, and I couldn't live without some cheese curds, or chocolate mochi balls.

So here I am. I got some decent munchies, and had an enjoyable afternoon. The waters muddied by the trials and tribulations of life in the world are beginning to still; the sediment is settling, and for this one moment I can see the light shining almost all the way to the bottom of my inner pond. Not so bad. Not so bad at all.


JWM

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mirrors and Treadmills



I went over to Costco Monday to pick up groceries, pills and stuff like that. The doc turned me on to a half month's supply of Plavix, which was pretty cool considering the stuff goes for over three bucks a hit, and you can't even turn a profit selling it off on the black market. The thing he gave me was some cardboard folder, cheerfully entitled Your Heart Attack Recovery Kit. It was filled with informative literature, a plastic card for the pills, and one of those government/insurance company printouts only slightly smaller than the Sunday Times: one of those oversized pages for which you need a microfiche reader, a law degree, and a doctorate in pharmacology to decipher. I think the purpose of the thing is to say, in essence, that if you kick the bucket from taking this shit it ain't their fault. Fine with me. Risk is my middle name.

But what got me was the picture on the front of the cardboard folder. It showed all these happy, glowey, and full of life seniors grinning away, as they no doubt contemplated Club Med Vacations, golf games, tri-athalons, or at least being able to live long enough (thanks to the Plavix) to blow all their money before their Gen-X grandkids could get hold of it. Still they looked like a bunch of old farts, and I found it somewhat galling to be taking old fart type pills, instead of some cooler drug like Vicodin, or Oxycontin which at least has a decent resale value should I run short of cash in the middle of the month. I mean hell- I'm only...

Oh, shit, yeah. That's right. Fifty-six.


But I had to wait for the prescription to get filled, so I pushed the SUV sized shopping cart around the warehouse grabbing the various items essential to life in the world as we know it. All of it in slightly embarrassing quantities. Thirty rolls of paper towels. The forty-five roll pack of toilet paper. Ninety six pounds of laundry soap. A side of beef, three little pigs, and a barnyard's worth of dismembered chicken parts neatly sealed in plastic blisters. I don't buy cat food at Costco, however. They have these fifty pound bags of stuff that I think they import from North Korea, or somewhere, and I hate the thought of feeding Booger the Cat, and Crabby Old Sam on recycled political prisoners, and toxic waste.


I paid a visit to the electronics section. Not a good idea. I don't even want a giant flat screen TV, despite the demo discs showing how realistic shit blowing up looks in high definition. They had some new desktop computers, but my four year old Sony PC works just fine.

But.

They have the Canon EOS digital Rebel 14mp SLR, with choice of lenses... I don't need it, can't afford it, and I know that my life is incomplete without it. I had to take it off the shelf, hold it, and pretend to look through the viewfinder at the imagined perfect shot that won't present itself to me until I break down someday and buy the damn thing. I considered how much better my timeless portrait of the Loch Ness Rabbit would have come out if only I had the thousand dollar Canon instead of the three hundred dollar Minolta. Greatness and fame were just a credit card swipe, and a signature away... Forget it. Get back to the pharmacy; get your boring damn pills, and go home.

But I had to stop and look for a second. A few people were checking out some new gizmo on some new laptop computer which I needed only slightly less than the camera. And whatdoyaknow. What they were checking out was a camera- one mounted right in the middle of the laptop lid. You could flip the computer open, and see your digital image right there in real time, live on your own private TV network.

I had to look. Bad mistake. Very bad.


We all of us look at ourselves in the mirror every day, and since we see ourselves every day we are seldom surprised by what we see. After all, your reflection at five in the afternoon isn't significantly older than the one you saw at seven that morning. But what we are used to seeing reflected in the mirror is just that- a mirror reflection, a reversed image, backward typeface version of ourselves. The image on the laptop screen was not a reflection. It was my face just as everyone else sees it. Right was right, and left was left, and the effect was startling as a son of a bitch. Talk about the old farts on the Plavix folder- Cripes, I should hope to look so good. Who was this dismal old bastard staring back at me? This computer wasn't worth a shit, I decided. No way I need it.

I got my pills, paid for the groceries, and got the hell out of there.


But today brought a brighter note. I had to go and do a treadmill test this morning at the cardiologist's. No sweat. I fried the thing. Actually did better than I did a year and a half ago. So all those grinning idiots on the Plavix folder can eat their hearts out. So what if trick photography made them look all glowey, and young. I'm sure I could kick their butts.



JWM

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Browser bash

I may come up with a real post later, but for now- a question on browsers. Normally I use ie7, at least that's the version I think I have. I can depend on it to freeze up a couple of times a day. Then click the X- nothing. Right click the thing at the bottom. Repeat two or three times until the "this program is not responding" box shows up. Then the "Send error report" box needs a couple of clicks. And then I go back on line and everything's groovy until the next crash.
So I downloaded Firefox. But everything looks funky in Firefox. I set the wfb to post in Verdana, and Times shows up. The text is too small, and pushed way off to the left, and the photos are out of focus, and fuzzy looking. And I have to re-size the zoom for every site I visit. I finally got Flash to run in Firefox but it took an act of congress to get it done.
Anyway- I just got a call for work so the rest of the day is ruined. There will be no real post, and I have to go get some lunch.

JWM

Monday, March 2, 2009

Not Even Funny (so stop laughing)



I just sat down to try and improvise some sort of post for this gray and drizzly Monday when the phone rang. Since it's not quite two O' clock, there was the possibility that it could be a last minute call for the night shift, so my adrenaline level shot through the ceiling for a second. But it wasn't a call for the night shift. It was some goddamn recorded solicitation: a strident warning to visa, and master... *click*

I used to get pretty rude to phone solicitors, and let them know in no uncertain terms just how much I appreciated being interrupted to hear a sales pitch for something I neither needed, nor wanted. Sometimes they'd get pissed enough to call back for revenge. I remember one from a long time back.


*ring* "Hello?"

"May I speak with Mr.----"

"No." *click*

*ring* "Hello?"

(same voice) "Do you have to be so rude?"

"Yes." *click*


A guy I used to know had an even better tactic for revenge. He'd let them go through their whole sales pitch- lead them on, and feign interest. They'd read the whole pitch, and get right up to the point where they ask if you'd be interested in signing up for... And then he'd say, "I don't do business with telephone solicitors."


I've mellowed somewhat over the years. Anymore I just say, "No thanks." and hang up. If I'm in the middle of something I may get pissy enough to hang up without the 'no thanks', but I don't give them crap anymore. I figure anyone who's doing phone sales is probably on hard times anyway, and I don't want to add to anyone's misery any more than I can help it.


But now they've come up with this recorded message bullshit. I can't for the life of me imagine anyone staying on the line to listen, much less respond to one of these things. And I can't for the life of me figure out who thinks this might be a good way to promote their business, and so pay money to some company to record obnoxious messages, and auto-dial them to some zillions of households.


And this reminds me. Phone jokes. Prank calls. The hairy prehistoric cave man version of the internet troll. I have to admit, somewhat shamefacedly, that there was a time when I thought making prank calls was hilariously funny.

There was the unimaginative, but effective, wait until two thirty or three in the morning, dial some random number and let out a bloody murder scream in the phone.

Or the hackneyed, "This is the Edison Company; is your refrigerator running?"

"Yes."

"Then you better run after it!"


One that used to work surprisingly well was soliciting funds for the N.A.P.A.L.M. foundation; that would be the National Alliance for the Protection of the Alligator Lizard from Man. "Due to a proliferation of wild chickens in the San Dimas Canyon area, the Ringtail California Alligator Lizard is in danger of immanent extinction. Our foundation seeks donations of used clothing and canned food to combat this potential disaster..." I had the enviro-weenies down before they even existed. It was amazing how many people would listen to the pitch. Once in a while people would actually agree to leave donations on the front porch.


Or, "Hi! Wow, it's great to hear your voice! Guess who this is?"

"I don't know..."

"Awww c'mon, guess! You remember me, I just know you do!"

"Uhhhh, is this -----?"

"Yes it is! How are you? How's the family?"

"Well, they're..."

"They're all a bunch of assholes. That's what they are. And you're the biggest asshole of the bunch.."

*click*


No, it wasn't funny. And caller ID has made the prank call a thing of the past. There's no more anonymous dialing of a random number just to see if someone will pick up. Probably just as well. And I'm sure, as I sit here, that somewhere there's a kid hysterically blowing soda pop out his nose, and blasting the monitor with cheetos crumbs as he sits typing out some annoying screed for some unsuspecting blogger, or site administrator to delete. The more things change...


JWM