On Marriage

Today, friends become one.

Not only is this miraculous,

But I’m honored to witness it.

Being witness to a miracle has its ramifications.

You must tell about it,

“Two have become One!”

You must support it,

“ I, and my house, are forever there for you!”

You must take it into your heart,

“Search me now, search me in the future, my heart is yours!”

Miracles are joyous, and miracles bring a response!

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The Selfish Self

I’m thinking about words. I’m thinking specifically of my ability to string words together to form a sort of communication. If I wanted to express and transmit an idea or thought, I need to find the right words, the words that can be understood at the other end. If I don’t consider the recipient, then my intention may be valid, but the success is questionable.

I have often recalled a story about Leonard Cohen while he was composing a song. The melody was complete, the lyrics were nearly done, it would seem like the song could be in the next album. It did not happen, Leonard was unhappy with one word, he was one word shy of completing the song. It remained uncompleted for 18 months.

At some point one could wonder if the right word existed in common language. Perhaps something not in English? And then, of course, because it was part of a lyric, the number of syllables in the word were an issue. And perhaps the perfect word can only be assessed by the artist.

I don’t write songs, but sometimes I put words together without regard to the audience. I am at times a selfish purveyor of words.

There is a “common fact” that the Eskimos have a 147 words for snow. It’s not a fact. It was only said that there were “many more” words for snow. And then somehow the amount was 50 words, which was then changed to over 100 words. Actually, in the Sami language of the Laplanders there are over 300 different words for states of snow.

And yet we try to live with “love” and a few adjectives.

And then it comes down to this- how is it that poets, songwriters, authors… how is it that they succeed? Not only do they succeed, but they soar!!

“I heard of a man

Who says words so beautifully

That if he only speaks their name

Women give themselves to him.

If I am dumb beside your body

While silence blossoms like tumors on our lips

It’s because I hear a man climb stairs

And clear his throat outside our door.”

Leonard Cohen spoke this between sets at a concert I went to. I was floored and wondered “What song is this?” It wasn’t a song, it was a short poem he had written fifty years earlier. I found it published in his first book.

“Blago bung, blago bung

Basso fataka”

From Hugo Ball and Karawane

I am reduced to quoting bits and pieces, the scraps of what I remember, from works that express the meaning where I have no words of my own. A serial quoter coming from the paucity of connection. (Okay, well, those three words were pretty good.)

Maybe the answer is in my motive. I reference back to the phrase, “I am a selfish purveyor of words” I spew for my own amusement”, I create only for my own pleasure. But I secretly wish that others would peak through the curtain.

Time to end this thread.

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Van Gogh

I’ve just seen something so amazing that I hardly have words to describe how I feel.

I don’t know what was the first painting of Vincent’s that I saw. I suspect it was one of his portraits. Perhaps the blueish one with the piercing eyes. His eyes were always piercing… whatever painting drew me in, it wasn’t long before I was on a mission to see everything. I didn’t know that there was nearly 800 painted within eight years.

So many favorites, so many meaningful works, filled with greatness, strokes of joy and loss. I couldn’t get enough. I could hardly find a way to talk about how a felt, viewing his work, understanding his life. Then Don McLean wrote his song “Vincent”. He understood, he caught the essence and found the lost words to express what I felt. How did he do that?

I had honored Kirk Douglas for his work in the movie about Vincent, but it was still not what the song did for me. I was happy that another medium had captured something of how I felt about the power of Vincent Van Gogh.

And tonight I saw “Loving Vincent”, and I am in shock. Please, if you have ever found that Vincent struck a chord in your life. Please see this movie to experience an orchestral event. It is moving, it is beautiful, it is inspiring… the work jumps off the screen and embeds itself into your soul. I feel much the same way as when I first heard the song “Vincent”, and here is this animated movie, with a version of the song at the end. It is perfect! Please see it soon.

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Okay, I’m having that illusion while sitting in a parked car, you know the one, where you are certain that something is moving, but you are not sure who. I have checked the parked car across the street at least ten times, and I have marked their hubcaps on my window frame as a reference. The invisible driver has somehow gotten the car back to the original position, from where I thought he moved. I don’t know how he does it. Very fast reflexes.

I know there is movement. It is a scientific fact that even if we think we are perfectly still, we are moving at approximately 43,000 miles per hour towards Vega. That’s me, and you, the Earth, the Moon, and the entire solar system. Of course everything is moving as well. Even Vega isn’t stationary.

Come to think of it, probably for half the year we are going a little faster. We are orbiting the Sun at 66,000 thousand miles an hour, so we could at the most, add them together to get almost 100,000 miles per hour towards Vegas (unless we are orbiting sideways). And then half the year we are actually in retrograde and heading away from Vega at 23,000 miles per hour (unless we are orbiting sideways).

I also forgot that we are spinning on our own axis at 1,000 miles per hour. I suppose that is petty compared to the cosmic movements. Still, 1,000 miles per hour should requires a windscreen.

I have read that we are also rotating around the center of our Milky Way galaxy at approximately 483,000 miles per hour, and I don’t know if we are sideways or not, but the possibility is that for at least some time we are traveling at almost 600, 000 miles per hour.

And if everything lines up just right, at some point in the galactic future, we can add that speed to the speed that we are making from the center of the universe, (the Big Bang) so it just possible that you, and I, and that parked car across the street are moving at 1.9 million miles per hour.

This totally makes sense. I knew that invisible driver moved fast, I just didn’t know how fast.

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First Trike Ride

First ride after heart attack. Wow, it’s hot out here. I’m in my granny gear of all grannies. I can’t be any slower, but I’m still moving forward, heart rate hovering at 95. So I’m good.

I’m only a block from home but it might take two hours. Hahaha! Hey, uphill is still uphill and I’m not using the motor. Can’t, the battery died. Hahaha!

And I had a flat tire while resting. BwaHaHa!

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Morris Graves

I have come to Morris Graves too late.

It should have been sooner,

I could have learned so much,

If I had only listened to Ferlinghetti in 1965.

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Public Speaking

I’m not good at public speaking. I’ve never been good. I understand that there are classes in this, and I suppose they have been successful. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never taken one.

I don’t know, I’m sure it is some kind of social restraint that takes place. I do have something to say. I’m voicing ideas in my head, so close to verbalizing, but no, I remain mute.

Who will I disappoint? Who will I embarrass? Why such restraint?

These are good questions and I have the answers. I will only embarrass myself, but I’m okay with that. It’s a process. I’m only going to disappoint myself if I remain mute and isolated. And I restrain myself because I do not wish to offend or make anyone uncomfortable.

I cannot help that I’m a fairly good sized man, and while older, I do have a full beard. I can see that I may appear threatening to some, so I need to be careful in my interactions. Speaking in public may trigger some individuals and I would wish to avoid that. It’s not worth it, no matter how important my ideas might be.

When I write that down it seems so controlling. It’s as if I am predetermined to get some limit in a perfect stranger. Perhaps I should reconsider and not self-edit.

Perhaps I could ease myself into the practice. I could wear dead headphones, or a disconnected. Bluetooth headset. That way no one could be certain that I wasn’t having a conversation with someone at a distance. At the very most I wouldn’t be threatening, just a little rude.

I may tackle this public speaking successfully! Perhaps I’ll be sitting at a table next to you in Starbucks!

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The End of the World

The air is unhealthy. They are a few things that must be right, and when they are not it becomes a problem.

We can’t control anything, that much has been proven. But we have learned to expect some basics. One of the more important expectations is that we should be able to breathe.

I currently live in California during the summer of 2018. It seems that most of the state is burning. It is the end of the world for thousands. If it is not burning then the smoke from fires is bringing visibility down to a few miles. It’s not just red sunsets, it’s grey leaden skies with only a trace of blue directly above.

The news has 17 fires that are being fought by 14,000 fire fighters. One fire is ten times the size of San Francisco, and started when a trailer had a flat tire. The metal rim shot sparks out thirty feet from the freeway.

Over 8,400 homes and structures have been turned to ash. Remarkably, with all this destruction there has only been 6 deaths. But ask anyone and that is 6 too many. There will also be be many who will be suffering from health issues because of the smoke.

It is not just wood smoke, there is toxic materials from many of the man made structures. There are thousands of acres of poison oak that most people have very intense reactions, and the smoke from burning plants is even worse.

There really isn’t a recovery from this, there is only living with the scars.

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Who Am I?

He broke into a huge grin and squeezed my shoulder. “You know what, “ Dick said with good humor, “I don’t have the slightest idea who I am!”

-excerpt from “A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety” by Donald Hall

One can’t really avoid the various groups that we are associated with. Some we join with enthusiasm, some we are delegated to with reluctance. Most don’t demand that we become card carriers, but the cards still exist. I only had to survive to become a card carrying AARP person. I still wonder why I would want to carry the card.

In academia in the 1950s you could become a card carrying member of the American Communist Party. I don’t think you got a discount at the drug store. I think that perhaps you could show it at faculty teas, in order to shock, or to prove that you thought for yourself. A few years later Congress would search high and low for the card carriers. They didn’t care about the intensity or commitment of your beliefs, they cared about what cards you carried, because that is who you are.

I once hired a card carrying Communist to work with me in a tiny 10×10 office with three desks. He wasn’t the politically correct modern Communist, he was proudly a Stalinist. He thought I should be retrained in a Gulag. I suggested it was ironic that I had served in the government that allowed him the freedom to be a Stalinist. He agreed completely, and said that was the flaw in the system, and the reason why he would eventually win. He tried to convert me by logic.

I look through my wallet periodically, to test the theory that I could be identified by what I carry. I tried to use the evidence forensically, as if I was a dead body washed ashore.

I see that there is a CDL, a California drivers license. It has an address, so it’s a good assumption that I live there. Behind the drivers license is a Washington state drivers license, same last name, different first name. It is my fathers driver’s license. We look similar but he looks older. It could be proof that I’m aging backwards.

There is also a red, white and blue identity card issued by the Veterans Administration, this may prove that I was once in the armed services, and qualify for medical coverage under the Veterans Administration. It doesn’t say that I agreed with military policy, or that I was patriotic. It only implies that I served.

I have two different health insurance cards, two different credit cards, a car club card for towing, a card to enter a bulk purchase warehouse, and a lifetime card to enter national parks for free. I also have nine business cards from the college. There are three different job titles.

On the whole, it says a lot, but it does not define. There should be more. I feel a need to add more. I want a fishing license from New Hampshire, a parking ticket from a Tuscaloosa train station, a library card from Sheridan, Wyoming, and a motel receipt from Juneau, Alaska. This would give a far more interesting picture should I ever wash up on a beach.

It reminds me of my days in crypto school, intensive top secret communication training. I went to class each day with a Russian ruble in my pocket. I perversely flipped it between classes. I wonder how close I came to everything changing?

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I Rise

Nordham Castle Sunrise by Turner.

Each morning I rise. My eyes open to reveal dim images of the room, even dimmer images of the backyard on the other side of the window, in the darkling of the morning. I rise at pretty much the same time each morning.

I lay on my side attempting to rotate what I see, in order to make sense. My first few seconds being amazed that I am in the conscious world, where reality is not at my bidding.

I have fallen into a routine. The sun is thinking about cresting the hill. It’s not there yet, but the rays are proceeding the intended path. The light that fills the room is ricocheting from over the horizon, adding to the starlight that filters through the bay leaves. Starlight is just old light, possibly already extinguished for centuries.

I rise to wander into the kitchen to grind beans, fill the pot with water and wait for the hot brown liquid to filter through. It takes time.

I rise to find a bowl to crumble a banana. I’ve rejected a knife and the clean discs that can be made. I crush the naked banana between my finger tips into irregular sized bits. It’s messy but satisfying. The bits are covered with rolled oats, which is then covered by water from the tap. After three minutes in the microwave I am ready to eat.

The rolled oats with bananas has become iconic. I wonder how much value would be added by using bottled water, which I then heat by fire to a roiling boil. Nuking the tap water seems so… quick.

Perhaps in the winter I shall chop wood, strike a fire, swing the kettle over the flames and make the morning a spectacle. Or maybe I will just write about the potential, and nuke things for the ease.

So my routine is mostly set. A solitary morning of oat meal and coffee, with the sun struggling to break into morning. The rest of the day will play itself out with phone calls, texts, family and friends. Anything can happen!

Because I rise!

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How to Paint a Wall

In the spring of 1968 I wanted to go to college. I had spent all of the summer after high school traveling around the western states, hiking and hitchhiking. By the time I returned home I was too late to register for any college, including my local community college.

I spent the fall semester of 1967 going to the library determined to read the entire stack that included philosophy and religion. I struggled with the Upanishad’s and Veda’s, handled Buddhism pretty well, got stuck on Oahspe and comparative Philosophy. So, naturally I decided to major in philosophy when I finally entered college. Great job opportunities in philosophy.

When the spring semester came around I tried to register. Still not being aware of what it was like to enter college I was far too late to register at the state school, so I tried to register at the local community college. I was late there as well, but they would let me register for two classes as a trial. If I succeeded I could continue as a full-time student in the fall, and get my draft exemption.

At least I was a college student with my two classes. I signed up as a philosophy major taking a humanities class, and a philosophy class. I felt well prepared. Both classes were taught by the same professor, Dr. Pasquale Anania. I better like this professor.

I did not like him, I loved him. He was like nothing I had ever experienced, radical in the extreme. He had two phd’s in the hard sciences, not those crappy phd’s in education that you can pay $10,000 from a diploma mill. He had an interesting background and was very well read. He was absolutely despised by his fellow faculty. I thought they were jealous.

Years later I found out the source of their dislike. They thought he was lazy, pompous, and mostly a liar. A really big fat liar. Lying in academia is the worst offense, it’s like plagiarism. They also found his teaching style suspect. He had an official outline, and handouts for every class. If you were brave enough to ask questions about the handouts he would answer directly. But if no student had questions he would lecture on anything that currently was on his mind. And his mind wandered.

That is what I really loved about him. I learned so much that wasn’t about humanities/philosophy. One day he started the class by asking, “How do you paint a wall?” Then he said he had spent the weekend watching professional painters painting his home. It seemed to him that they painted differently than what he had always done. Logic would state that there are five possibilities. 1) left to right 2) right to left 3) top to bottom 4) bottom to top, or finally 5) center outwards.

What Dr. Anania observed was none of these. Instead, he saw the painters apply a blob of thick paint somewhere on the wall, then every subsequent stroke of paint was directed towards it. You paint into the paint, you never drag it out. The wall is completely covered in one coat.

I am aware of Kant, Locke and Aristotle. I do not use their philosophies. I have painted dozens of walls with professional results.

After years of student with Dr. Anania I was aware of all the questionable stories of his personal life. I fully understood why many, or most of his stories were unbelievable. Speech writer for Harry Truman? Shipwrecked on a deserted island during WWII? His mother a famous opera singer at the New York Metropolitan Opera? I mean, come on, one amazing story after another.

In 1971 I found myself drafted, then reenlisted in the US Army. I was there in New Jersey at advanced training in crypto-electronics. I was also allowed to live off-post while going to school. I had a one room apartment, bath down the hall, on the second story of an old Victorian near the ocean beach. Mr. Carlo Ponti was my landlord, he was quite elderly and puttered in the garden on weekend mornings.

I watched him one Saturday and he suddenly burst into song. It wasn’t a meek muttering, it was fully operatic and wonderful!! I was mesmerized and decide to go downstairs to talk with him.

“Mr. Ponti, that was amazing! You could have been a professional!”

“I was a professional, for years I performed regularly at the New York Metropolitan Opera.”

Bells went off in my head, NY Met?

“Mr. Ponti, did you ever run into a singer by the name of Maria Anania?”

“Yes, of course. She was a great artist, and we became very good friends. I used to babysit her little boy, Pasquale!”

Years later Pat Anania and I became good friends. I never doubted any of his stories. I still give him credit of my knowing how to paint a wall.

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Thinking on Poetry

I’ve been victimized by my children. Again! It’s always something. Sometimes it’s family stories where things are discussed in low tones, I’m usually present, but I’m pretending to nap. Well, I am napping, but I’m also awake!

I hear sighs and laughter, then I hear my name, em… title. “Then Daddy went berserk and yelled at us.” Apparently most of their young life was living with a berserker, a seething mound of lava with a thin crust. This is a narrative that is completely new to me. Okay, once I gave two of my daughters knives, and told them to completely end their hate filled bickering, but I did that in a very calm voice and manner.

Not all of the victimization is false narratives. Sometimes they do things “for my own good.” It’s always out of thoughtfulness and love. I appreciate that.

Recently my wife did something similar. She had heard of an audition for movie extras and thought that I might like that. I do not like that, I have never liked that and I have never been interested. I told her absolutely “No way!”, she told me the movie was Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”. I paused.

Okay, I called the casting director, heard the speal and deadline, then I said no. My wife had called to promise that she would drive me to fitting, then told me the casting director almost cried. I called again to say yes, she did almost cry.

The long and the short of it was that I finally went, dressed up as a drunk beat poet from the 40s, sat in a bar for the last scene, and that was it. My fifteen seconds of fame. Later I was cut on the editing floor, and replaced by a shot of a typewriter. No beat poet for me, drunk or sober.

Even more recently another daughter volunteered me to a producer collecting readers of poetry. She told him that she was an actress, but that her father had God-like qualities to his voice. Well, it was true that I did play an offstage voice from above in a local community college play. I just call it my late night jazz FM voice.

My daughter asked me to follow up if I was interested. I hate it when I know, that they know, when I’m interested. So I called. I had a great conversation with a retired gentleman about my age, whose mission in life was to record English speaking poets. He believes that there is something extra special about the poem being read aloud. I completely agree.

So far he has enlisted the aid of about 50 readers, some of them published poets, all of them lovers of poetry. He suggested that I read Donald Hall. I think he would like me to record some of his. I’ve never heard of him, but I looked him up, and I really liked what I saw. I also told him I liked Richard Brautigan. He was somewhat shocked to remember him and agreed he should be recorded.

Okay, I’m on his contact list, I may show up at his recording studio.

The website is www.voetica.com. Please poke around and let me know your thoughts.

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Vagus Nerve

…Its first stop was my stomach, whose complex work is under the control of what’s sometimes called “the little brain”, a network of neurons that line your stomach and your gut. Surprisingly, there are over 100 million of these cells in your gut, as many as there are in the head of a cat. Jul 11, 2012”

I once heard that some monkeys have a second brain that is dedicated to moving their tail. Flying and leaping through branches is a simple as getting both brains on the same wavelength. Well, maybe not that simple if you have to think about it… which brain is thinking?

This is one of those random things that stick around, generally being unvoiced, but being remembered for years. If you do voice these things you are branded as quirky at best, or incredibly boring or worse. So, why is this type of data so “sticky”. I forget important passwords everyday and I really need to remember them.

It’s possibly because one brain seems so incredibly inadequate. We need all the help possible. There was once a science fiction movie titled, “The Man with Two Brains”. It must be an issue or there would not have been a movie made about it. (I will write more about the sociological theory of movies documenting issues)

Yesterday I’m cruising through my random Google searches and I stumble upon that paragraph concerning brainlike cells outside the brain proper. And it references the size of a cats brain! I love it! I just knew that my gut feelings were smarter than my cat.

And that’s not all, there are deposits of these brainlike cells in the heart, near the lungs, packed next the spinal cord, even a suspicious lump near the tail bone. Lots of brain tissue in addition to the brain. Great, and I still feel I need help.

Now to read more about the Vagus Nerve. It seems that this communication highway may connect everything on a common party line. I’ve even been warned that pushing too hard while in the bathroom can cause a heart attack. What doesn’t cause a heart attack?

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Between the Waiting…

Life is what happens between the waiting. My dog has developed a bad habit. He watches the door. When someone leaves, he waits for them to come back. Most of the time they have gone out for the mail, to the car, or the garbage, and he is rewarded with their immediate return. This has happened often enough that he has been trained, so he waits. Sometimes for hours on end.

Time is such a complicated thing, worthy of a very long, possibly boring book. One of the longest boring chapters is probably the expectation of time. “Something is going to happen in the future, sometimes you are given a date, sometimes you are told to wait…” This is almost poetic!

News flash! Something is always happening. Between the expectations, something always occurs. We encapsulate an idea, make it important, then wait for the future important idea. The problem is that we would like to have blank space between the two ideas. Why is that?

Imagine if we had the ability to self-induce a coma. If we then had a toothache on Monday, and we were told that a root canal was planned on Wednesday, well… coma time! Extend that concept to having cancer, then treatment, then see the results in three months. Coma time?

The expectation of time… reminds me of the old joke, “Do you want to hear God laugh? Tell him your plans!” We are doomed at both ends. Either we make no plans between expected events, or we create elaborately detailed plans for something that may not ever occur. Okay, but what is worse? And by worse I’m thinking, what creates an unhealthy choice in living? Wow, such subjectivity! This is good, this is bad.

A conscious mind makes decisions. Decisions are based upon knowledge, values, and experiences. Sometimes these are connected, sometimes they are not. Having the ability to isolate events in time does not change time, time is a river, time flows. Shutting down between time events effectively removes you from the river. Don’t do that! You are not a dog!

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Heart Tales #3

An update from the heart attack… The word is wait. Not enough information. Apparently there are three things to consider.

1. The heart attack can damage the muscle. It would be nice to know how much is damaged. Better to force the heart to work overtime, and then measure the results. They call it a stress test. Better to stress out the heart after it has recovered. So, wait…

2. My right artery is huge. Most right arteries are larger. Mine is larger than large. The good news is that it will take a lot to close it back up again. They placed a wire stent to force it open but the body wants to cover the stent with tissue. The body will do that, but it can go wacky and keep covering the tissue with more tissue. It takes several months to know what is happening. So, wait…

3. Being in better shape, eating better, establishing a better lifestyle is always good. It took a long time of bad habits to get to the event. Controlling blood sugar, losing weight, reducing fat cells floating around, is all good. Developing good habits over time is better. So, wait…

If I had gone to the cardio hospital first, they probably would have done the triple by-pass, and I would have been recovered by now. Missed that by a couple of miles. I have been living a month to month existence for awhile, it looks like nothing is going to change. My focus will be to live a full life in between the waiting. That is a challenge, but doable.

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Follow the Leader

This may be the most basic of all childhood games. The rules are simple. Choose a leader, then do everything they do until a new leader is chosen. Leadership generally gets shared but creative, fun leadership sometimes trumps over boring a leader that brings boring activity.

I saw a Ted Talk recently, given by Lt. General Mark Hertling. It was an amazingly forward thinking talk, and it convinced me of two important things. It reminded me that I have had the privilege to know several military leaders that I would follow anywhere. And the second, is that some military leaders have the amazing ability to see a problem, and start to work on a solution long before anyone else is aware of the gravity.

Gen. Hertling has had a long a interesting career. The definition of a well rounded professional soldier can hardly find a better individual. Highly trained as a combat soldier, Hertling was promoted to a command for basic training.

I remember basic training. Eight weeks of grueling physical and mental training. I’m not sure the mental training was completed in time, but the physical training was well along the way.

I had already done a dozen or so extended hiking expeditions with a heavy pack as a civilian. The military training pushed that further than I have ever been. The spare tire that I was beginning to build disappeared pretty quickly. Morning PT before breakfast created an appetite, but that was burned off easily. We even had a twenty foot section of “monkey bars” to travel just in order to get to the mess hall door.

Imagine my surprise by hearing the general say that a huge majority of the initial new recruits failed to qualify physically, and were rejected. In the 70s we were mostly draftees and we still qualified. What was different?

Most of today’s physical rejection comes from new recruits being obese. Not just a couch potato, but a serious, video gaming, professional couch potato with no high school credits in PE.


Somehow, boards of education all across the country have made PE optional in the last years of high school, so many students have “opted” out. At the same time, “screen activity” has increased to five or six hours a day on the average. Not only has cable options increased by hundreds of channels, but the video industry has captured several generations of youth.

I might add, captured, and placed in concentration camps. Oh, the camps are comfortable, because it is their own bedrooms and living rooms. And they also come with all the sugar drinks and snacks that one can eat.

But, if an enemy wanted to weaken a country, they don’t have to place the population in camps, they just have to invent a new addicting video game. It helps if you also cancel all high school PE.

This was basically the point that the General was making. He worried that he could not fill his slots for future soldiers. Less than one percent of the population is in the military currently and he didn’t think that this was sustainable.

There is a real crisis facing us. Can we still follow the leader? Or are we too winded for even the one percent of us that is needed? Watch the TedTalk.

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I used to love backpacking. No, that’s not right, I still love backpacking, it’s just that I haven’t done it in awhile. Not only did I love backpacking, but in many ways it can be seen as my life parable.

A good friend of mine is parable driven, using the words of our Savior to open up new thoughts about God. We share that perspective.

As a parable we can break backpacking down to some basic components. 1) there is a destination. 2) there is a need to go there as a self-contained entity. 3) time is an important consideration.

Backpacking takes planning. One of the first books that I read about backpacking was “The Complete Walker” by Colin Fletcher. This was a marvelous book by an English author that should still be read today. Colin broke the subject down in a slightly different way. He said the first concern was the “foundation” of successful backpacking, and that was the shoe. One cannot expect to travel hundreds of miles over different terrain without considering the types of shoes on your feet..

I took his advice seriously because I had spent two years hitchhiking the Western states in beat-up sandals. I may have gotten excessive when I purchased three pairs of expensive but ugly Pivetta Eigers. I was struck by the authors insistence of only having holes for the laces. Many of the hiking boots sported the metal clips that used a speed lacing technique. Colin said, “when you are fifty miles from the closest civilization, holes in your boots do not break.”

Back to backpacking as a parable.

1). There is a destination. If you plan to disappear into the wilderness the first obligation is to tell people where you plan to go. The reason is obviously based upon the possibility of accidents. Posting a hiking plan is a smart move, in some cases a necessary action. The forest rangers need to know where, when, and how long people are wandering in the mountains.

More importantly, backpacking without a destination doesn’t exist. You will arrive someplace after miles of hiking, if you don’t… then it is because you never left. There is a common phrase, “If you have no destination, then any path will lead you there!” This is a well-meaning phrase, but not accurate. If you have no destination, you are not traveling. Better to say, “If you don’t know where you are going, then any path will get you there.” This is an important difference.

Choosing a destination is often based upon the expectation of seeing or experiencing something specific when you arrive. It can often be a set trail for (XX) amount of days which may give dozens of difference experiences.

2 The choice in travel is to attempt self-sufficiency. This is not perfectly planned, there all always extenuating circumstances. Basically, this is not a day-hike where snacks are at the next store, and a place to sleep is prepared by using a plastic card to rent a motel room. You carry all the snacks you plan to eat, you carry your shelter and sleeping gear, and you carry all the water and food that you might consume.

One of the more interesting decisions is exactly how much food and water can you carry? Obviously you would eventually need to be resupplied. Unless there is a local grocery store in the mountains, you are restricted by how much food you have, the possibility of hunting and gathering is based upon skill and locale. A few wild mushrooms and herbs are a great find. And fresh stream bred fish can make a great breakfast. While I carry some line and hooks, I have used them three times in my 12,000 hours of backpacking.

Studies have shown the people may live as long as forty days without food, so long as there is still water. This could lead the backpacker to shift the balance by carrying more water. As important as water is, the general plan is to make use of local water sources. With proper filtration, even the muddy ditch can provide all the water needed for several meals, so I never carried much more than a quart. Of course all that changed when hiking terrain that was low on water.

Water was mostly foraged from running streams encountered while hiking. This is not true for the solid food of the meal. Aside from the rare fish, all food is carried in. In order to carry more, with increased nutritional value, some foods can be “freeze dried”, reducing the weight. Some companies have spent millions in order to have tasty, light weight prepared meals for hikers. I have made use of all of them, including raw brown rice and oatmeal. A tasty meal at ten thousand feet is a treat.

After boots, food/water there is a concern for shelter. A good, warm sleeping bag is the difference between joy and misery. I have spent much time and research in this area, and I have designed and sewn at least four artic-level sleeping bags. The most used project that I’ve ever created.

Several pounds of supplies fill out the remaining self-sufficiency needs. Maps, compass, first aid, optics, cords, safety rope, belt knife, etc are just some of the extras needed.

The lie, of course, is that I was now self-sufficient. What is true is that I might be able to delay my need to go shopping for a few days.

What strikes me now is, what made me gravitate to this activity? It’s possible it was extending into my adult-life the wonderful experiences of camping with my parents.

Perhaps it meshed with my ability to be alone with some satisfaction. Certainly I felt tested by the challenge of preparation. Maybe, I was also attracted to the visual delights of the wilderness.

Another truth is that many aphorisms created by hiking became important in a lifetime of choices.

“If you don’t have a plan for your life, someone else will step in to give you one, and you will be walking a path different from your own.”

“Spend a certain amount of time turning around on the trail and looking back. You may need to know what it looks like in order to get home.”

“Conserve your fuel until you need it. Drink your water often. Better to carry water on the inside, than in your pack.”

“Do not become ‘trail hypnotized’, look up and around, not only for enjoyment, but also to see where you are.”

“Make adjustment to the trail you are walking. Errors and poor choices can occur, correcting them early saves time and energy.”

“Walk lightly, don’t leave your garbage behind.”

I have made a quick estimate of my time commitment to backpacking. I have over 500 days and 12,000 hours clocked so far. I am ready for more.

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Heart Tales, No. 2

What do we know of the heart? We know it is achy/breaky at times. Sometimes it trembles. It is also strong and brave. The very word courage comes from the French root “cour”, meaning heart.

Apparently the heart thinks about things, or at least forms opinions. Like the stomach or intestines, we tend to rely upon the feedback. Although the heart appears to specialize in matters of emotions.

Proof of this comes around every February with millions of representations of hearts (sometimes with Cupid’s arrow) in cards, posters, and advertising. We seem to be good with this. I’m trying to visualize the same advertising with images of a brain pierced by a arrow, because we have used logic to choose a significant other. Not a pretty image.

The heart is a muscle, although in regards to being human it is rarely consumed. In general, the organs are classified as sweetbreads when consumed. It is a mystery concerning the root source of words. There has been several depictions of taking a bite of a human heart, and it is all wrapped up in the myth of the transference of power, bravery, and courage. Apparently in these cases it must be fresh and uncooked.

There are several dozen recipes on the net for beef heart. Much attention is applied to trimming anything “chewy”, even more to adding spices and different marinades. Apparently, to some folks, there is a slight metallic aftertaste, perhaps iron.

In general the whole area of consuming “sweetbreads” can be summed up by using the other categorical word “offal”. Yep, eating offal is awful.

Back to the heart as a muscle. We need to exercise this “muscle pump”, just like any other muscle. We need to push just a little past comfort if we are to gain strength.

My job for the next few weeks is to push, pause, reflect and listen to what my heart is telling me. The information I want is that my heart is healing. It wants to tell me, “Love is a many splendored thing…”

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Heart Tales, No. 1

It’s been a day since I spoke with the doctor who placed the stent in my right artery. I wasn’t allowed to see him, but I could talk with him.

It turns out that I went to the closest medical facility, instead of going to a hospital that was in my network according to my HMO plan. I am not an expert in medical insurance, and it is clear to me now that I will never be an expert. It’s obvious that people will be mostly ignorant until one uses the system by choice, or by emergency.

My medical plan is excellent, if it is an emergency then you are covered anywhere in the world. If it is not an emergency then you had better go to services in your network. Additionally, I got old and I’m covered by Medicare, that adds another huge level of complexity.

I used to think I was competent, well read, well educated… that may be, but it does not give you any understanding of how to weave through medical issues in today’s culture.

I am finished with the emergency, so now my coverage is different. The follow up appointment with the doctor who attended me is not in my network, so I can’t see him. I went to the appointment anyway, but I was denied at the reception desk.

I explained that I was also under Medicare, they don’t take Medicare. I asked if I could pay out of pocket. They said Medicare won’t allow it.

Just a little bit of Catch 22. The doctor recognized this and stepped out into the lobby to speak to me, he ended up saying exactly what he would have said in his office.

The long and the short of it is that I need to go back to the hospital at the end of the month for open heart surgery. They will cut and crack my chest, pluck out an artery from my leg, then stitch in a replacement for at least the arteries that are clogged.

I knew this from the beginning, but I had somehow convinced myself that I was better, and nothing more was necessary. Hah!

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Living life effectively is all about balance. Similar to a bicycle on a narrow path, you want to steer away from the edges, you can’t just arbitrarily jerk the handlebars away from the danger, you have to have balance, in addition to control. Transitions need to be smooth, slow and sure.

Balance is the artful way to live. Balance feels comfortable and secure. Balance is having the ability to see the path ahead and to make only slight adjustments in order to stay on track. Balance is the ability to stop, and not immediately tip over.

Balance is delicate, once obtained you can hold it forever, but the slightest shift can bring disaster. Balance is fair, ideas and actions are weighed and treated equally.

Balance is something learned, sometimes it comes quickly, sometimes it takes years.

My thoughts after this heart attack have mostly been about excess, balance, and the opposite of excess. It can be said that an excess of fats in my diet has led to the heart attack. Probably true, possibly if I had a better balanced diet, I could have kept my arteries healthier. Let’s say that every other meal has taste, then followed by a meal with ruffage for your heart. That would be balanced!

Instead, I am faced with trying to balance after I’ve already fallen off. Okay. I can do this. I’ve eaten well for 69 years, time to chew cud for awhile.

The same goes for exercise, sleep/rest. The formula is to careful build habits that does not fall victim to excess. The old “too much of a good thing is not a good thing”. The interesting thing about balance is that neither the good, nor the bad habits are to be prominent.

Is it true? Is it a good thing to completely remove bad habits? If we have the Ying and the Yang, does removing one of them create the sound of one hand clapping?

For the sake of effective applause, we should eat fatty cheese cake with our kale.

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Tests of Mortality

We are immortal, we are not immortal. No truer thing can ever be said. It seems at first impossible, two statements that are completely opposite. It is all contingent upon the word “we”.

“We”, generally refers to our physical bodies, an ever changing pile of flesh and bone. It is said that at least every seven years it is completely different, all cells have been replaced by… “replacements.” Therein lies the problem, the replacements are not necessarily “first string.” In other words, the replacements are like the players in a late quarter football game, when the score has already determined the game.

So, here I am, with several generations of “second string” replacement cells, trying to win, or at least, tie the game. No wonder I am not immortal.

More importantly, one can define “we” as the immortal spirit, created by God, completely incorruptible and destined for eternity. I am so convinced by this that I have no concerns and no worries. However, I don’t completely live there. I know it, but I am drawn back to the dilemma of my “second string” replacement cells.

I suppose it starts with stewardship. The immortal “we” is given custody of the mortal “we”. We are to care for the body, feed it, keep it safe, and to instruct it in the best way that we can in the Plan that has been created for us all.

How are we doing in that?

Lately I have been reviewing some events in my life where I haven’t been the best steward of my mortal presence. In others words, my life should have ended, like some Darwinian consequence, but instead, I have lived on.

This is certainly not a complete list, but here are some highlights…

1. At the age of eight I was fascinated with matches. Book matches, kitchen matches, long fireplace matches. I loved them all! Not that I loved the fire they created, it was the magic of combustion that fascinated me. Anyway, because of television or movies, I spent one afternoon trying to toss a lit match into the gas pipe of my father’s 1958 Chevy, two-toned, Bel Air, station wagon. I was obviously unsuccessful.

2. At 13, a couple of my friends and I discovered that the local pharmacy was willing to sell the ingredients that combine to make gunpowder. Against all odds, we did not blow our selves up. However, we did make a deadly “grenade” out of a used CO2 filled with ground sparkler dust made from hammering the common July4th firework. The galvanized garbage can that we tested it in was never the same.

3. At nineteen there was a “shooting” accident involving a Western gunslinger holster and a Ruger .22, single action revolver. The end result was a clumsy fast draw, and a bullet in my leg that still remains. While this is not life threatening, I was also shooting my father’s .357 magnum. That revolver would have penetrated my leg, shattered my thigh bone, severed my femoral artery, penetrated my other leg, breaking that bone and destroying that femoral artery. It would have been less than a minute to bleed out.

4. Of course, then there were several years hitchhiking the Western States. Not a particularly safe activity.

5. During this hitch hiking era there was a time that my friend and I took a day hike towards the middle Teton of the Grand Tetons. Some four hours later we were 3/4s of the way up the mountain, following a crevasse. We were hiking with no ropes, no safety gear, and I was wearing sandals. That should have not ended well.

6. And then there was the military. Too many incidents to mention.

7. At the age of 27 I finally experienced an event that was not my fault. A construction pickup truck broke free of it’s brakes, rolled down the hill, smashed through the barricade, then landed about a foot in front of me on the road below the barricade. The truck came down like some Acme safe in a Roadrunner/WileyCoyote cartoon. And there was all the redwood 8x8s that we’re flying through the air. Not a scratch on me, although it led to the ending of my marriage. Another story.

8. At 30 I was backpacking in the Sierras when I came upon a small stream to cross. It was a familiar trail to me, and I usually just boulder hop across. This time it was too early in the season and it was a raging torrent, three or four times the normal width. Instead of heading upriver to look for a better crossing, I simply forged ahead. Unfortunately my wife was along, and I endangered both of us with my actions. I crossed several times, carrying our backpacks, then roped my wife to my back while I crabbed sideways across the white water that was sometimes up to my neck. Nearly a case of hypothermia. It ended up being a great week in the mountains.

I just have to stop now. I’m suffering from PTSD.

Let’s just say that I have an obligation to be a better steward in the last half of my life. The first half was a disaster.

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Dung Beetle

We are who we are, and sometimes, we get to be who we aspire to be.

I had this random thought this morning. I’m not sure what was the cause or context.

I am home now, from the skilled nursing facility. I am no longer poked and prodded by nurses and CNAs. I poke and prod myself now. I prick my finger to test my blood sugar, I organize my medications for twice a day intake. I’ve counted the pills, some twice a day, some once a day. I take eleven pills!

Good grief!

I don’t use a walker, I can climb stairs slowly, I sit out in the backyard and enjoy the sunshine. It is all good!

Mostly I’m surrounded by family, and I can’t express how wonderful that feels! Much has been done at the home to make accommodations. A bed has been installed in the office so that I’m not isolated downstairs, and can easily slip in for a quick nap.

The big change was driving home into the garage! Actually room in the garage for a car! This way I take a short cut through the laundry room to take the stairs to the living area. It’s a real blessing.

It’s strange, because, while some things are different, most things are the same. I move through the house almost like a stranger. I wonder why that stack of books is on that shelf? There is a collection of random items in a bowl. Why hasn’t someone put that camera away? Wait, that would have to be me? The evidence of my eclectic sloth is overwhelming.

I recently gave an analogy combining the Myth of Sisyphus and the African Dung Beetle. The Dung Beetle moves about in his environment carefully rolling an ever increasing ball of crap. It’s very important to the Dung Beetle, so he tends the ball of crap and keeps it nicely organized. It that regard I am not like the African Dung Beetle.

And, like the Myth of Sisyphus, there is a hill to climb, and the ball must go before you, pushing, wedging, making sure the ground is gained. The trouble is, that it all comes crashing to a halt.

At some point, all the crap in your life breaks away and rolls to the bottom of the hill. The truth is revealed concerning the relative importance, and I am freed from the unending burden of pushing my crap in front of me.

Yet, I am now back from the hospital, back from the reality of what is life and death… I see all the little piles of crap all over, and I am oddly comforted. I don’t quite have the strength, but I am working hard to collect the little piles in order to push them ahead of me. Life goes on.

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My People

I am in a skilled nursing facility, recovering from a heart attack. Actually. I’m recovering a stent procedure given to stop the heart attack.

I don’t believe there was going to be a recovery, it was a major failure and quite scary. In either case, I only had a few days in the ICU, the rest of the time, before going home, is to be spent in a skilled nursing facility.

You could say nursing home. Probably because it is filled with nurses, and people from homes, who can’t get the care needed at home.

It is often viewed as a last place to go in order to die. Actually, there are hospice care facilities for that, but the tradition is long. This place is filled with people waiting, but not always waiting to be well.

It is not the Bedlam of Old London, but in the quiet of the night you can hear the plaintive calling out for attention, “Hello, hello?” There are bedside manual alerts, but when your need is great, there is no confidence that they are working.

I still have my usual sleeping habits, I nap, and I’m up at all hours of the night. Sometimes I peek out my door into the hallway to witness the late night environment.

There is the grey haired elderly woman, who is nearly mute, who pushes her wheel chair with one foot, while grabbing the wall rail to pull herself along. It is one in the morning and she has been doing this all day, recording a marathon of hallway journeys. Will this help to release her to her home?

There are more than a few nearly catatonic patients, victims of strokes, that are brought out into the public areas, hoping to create stimulation and response. They sit quietly, but they do not track the busy movement of patients or nurses.

I am one of the lucky ones, I am free from pain, I have very little demands, and I am clearly recovering. Still, I witness the group of people that I belong to, and I have great empathy.

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Gen Pop

I’ve grown up, I found a room in the regular hospital. They said it could come quickly, and it did, almost between bites of dinner.

The ICU was completely comfortably and very roomy. It was a little noisy and at times it was dramatic. Very dramatic. People die in ICUs. What was also true was that the staff was extremely dedicated. The doctors, the nurses . the hospital crew,were all professional and caring.

What happened next was being shifted to gen-pop, with a slight heart tinged after taste. Physical therapy could still find me but there were other issues. The one individual next to me was an escape artist. “Where are you going now?. Please get back in bed, and where did you find those cigarettes. You can’t have cigarettes in here!”

This is when the action folks descended upon me. Physical therapy, dietitians. Diabetics for life. Take your pick, take them all. My future is all “up in the action” folks.

Only, I can’t get a Bi-pap apnea machine because, although have been diagnosed with apnea, I have not been a part of a clinical study. I have to come back, get some sleep in his lab, then I get a bi-PAP Machine.

Mean time. I should be transferred to a nursing care facility to focus on the work of physical therapy.

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The Quiet Hours

It a strange time in hospitals, between 4:30 and 6:30 am. Mostly it’s sleeping, except there are several dozen individuals softly shuffling from room to room with their little baskets of vials, needles and tape. The blood collectors.

Some have taken on the characteristics of the Vampire Bat. No, not a scary, hairy thing with wings. The Vampire Bat slowly crawls up to you, nips the flesh between the toes and gently licks the blood flow. You never know they are there.

I know they are there. I can feel their soft hands gently uncurling my fingers. I can feel the faint prick of the needle, as vial after vial of blood is drawn from my body.

It’s a little game we play, they try not to wake me up, and I pretend that they succeeded.

It’s been a few days, I’m still in ICU. I might get a room today. I might be sent home. Someone is talking, someone is making the argument, but it’s not me, or the doctors that I’m talking to. That’s fine, lives are in the balance, the sick must be healed. I just wanted to know where to lay my head.

In hospital standards, I’m proven. I have given many gifts of urine, and I have successfully done Number Two. What more could they want from me?

Apparently I have to prove that I can shuffle the hallways, string together a series of short walks with my gown flapping in the breeze. Okay, sounds fair, but what about the other blockages? More stents? Or what?

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Life goes on

If you blog, you write what your experience. Sometimes you write what you think you’ve experienced. I’m always unclear about that little difference.

I’m currently lying in a hospital bed. I have nurses that are thrilled with my gifts of urine. I have other nurses that comment how much better I’m doing because I helped in the process of rolling to one side.

I’ve been poked, prodded, bled, squeezed, bundled, schelped, scanned, x-rayed, charted, and noted upon. I have generated reams if paper and tons of data. I am deep with the healthcare system. I like it.

I lie here in my hospital bed, being squeezed by my blood pressure cuff every fifteen minutes. I have calf wrappings that gently hug my lower legs rhythmically, first the left, then the right. I have breathing treatments that have a cool misty fog that reminds me of past mornings on the north coast. It’s wonderful.

And all I had to do to get here was to have a heart attack.

I’m afraid it’s going to be a boring few weeks while I relate my current experiences. Perhaps the imagined experiences will have some entertainment values. We will see!

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What You Don’t Know

Days and nights are getting a little out of control. I think I’ve been in the hospital a few days. Hmm, since Saturday? Apparently I pushed myself a little too far while tearing out a deck. I thought I had developed a muscle pull between the shoulder blades. Well, it seemed reasonable, I was really very tired. I tried resting, reclining in my car. It didn’t work. I tried laying down, it was like laying down on a golf ball, I could get comfortable, but I still wasn’t recovering. I wanted to drive home. Maybe I was dehydrated.

I’ve never been dehydrated, I had the sweats, that doesn’t sound like dehydrated. I’ve never had low blood sugar, maybe that’s it. I have some emergency stuff in the car, but what if it is actually super high sugar. I haven’t had any of these things so I couldn’t tell what what was going on by experience.

I also hadn’t had a heart attack. Apparently a golf ball between the shoulder blades is the warning I get. Not that it stayed like that. Good grief no!

Soon after I was admitted to triage, I started getting crackling sounds while breathing. My lungs were filling with fluid. Not good, I can’t get air where need so technically I’m drowning. I’m supposed to relax, be beatific, calm… nope, I’m fighting for my life, I’ve got both bed rails in a death grip (hey, that’s where that comes from) and my feet are pushing through the end of the bed. I had this brief vision of an old western hanging, while the cattle rustler was gasping for breathe.

I just couldn’t inhale deep enough, so the visual was more like a rapid panting while I said “I think this is it”. My daughter and wife didn’t agreed, which was fine from their perspective. I wasn’t so sure. My daughter had just had a baby so perhaps I should treat it like pushing. Every breath I pushed air in, one after the other. I could tell it was up to me because the doctor was standing there with his hands in his pockets. He didn’t have some magic drug or instrument. I had to do it. Eventually I passed out.

I woke up with a tube in my arm The wire was carrying a balloon and a shunt. The offending artery was patched, heart attack over. The bad news is that I have two or three others that are clogged or completely closed. I’ve got to come back to take care of them. Probably open heart surgery.

I can’t seem to get out of ICU because my diabetes is way off the mark, and I’m still short of breath, so I have a mask that shoves air into my face. Oh well….

So now I know A few things more than I did. I’m still pondering the care and love that has been expressed to me. I thought I might be will to go peacefully, not true, I’m fighting hard for every inch. Apparently it shows, because nurses are always offering morphine.

It looks like a long path to recovery.

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Life and Death

There are two states that are guaranteed for all, you are either one, or the other. Further more, all who are alive will eventually he dead, that’s a sobbering thought. Its not a blog I generally like to write about, too depressing, too final. And yet I have mentioned that I’m closer to the end than the beginning. I just had a birthday and you can’t deny that 69 is old! Not decrepit, but pretty dam old.

Well, this year a plot was added to the birthday four days later. On June 16, 2018 I had my first heart attack. It should have been my third or fourth but my body kept adjusting. The valves are closing, well, build another one to bi-pass it. Adjust!

But on that day it had had enough. The right closed-up, the left took it’s lead and shut down. The central had been plugged for almost ten years and tried to muscle through. It didn’t work, blood flow slowed to a minimum and the surviving muscle sent out pain signals.

I had been tearing out a rotting deck, I thought I was tired, with a muscle pull between my shoulders. That rationale lasted about twenty minutes. When I finally called for help, wiser heads prevailed, and I was taken to emergency. Little did I realiize how crucial the timing was.

The long and the short was that three pathways were clogged. One received an emergency stent. Heart attack stopped. One can’t be stinted, so in a month it will be open heart surgery.

I’m still processing what I experienced in the ICU, and the thoughts of the future. For now. I am still alive.

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It’s true, I love photography. I’ve been blessed to help teach hundreds of students to be more successful at creating images. I say “help” because way more than half the instruction is students teaching themselves and other students, by practice in the field or studio.

i also love words. I’ve been noting the many important concepts in photography that use words that have a double meaning. There is the photographic context, and then there is a very important communication or thinking context.

1. Contrast: all photos must have contrast. A snowball on a snow field. Where is it? In life we need the same contrast for clear thinking. We need to isolate ideas to find their edges. Defining edges gives the shape of an idea.

2. Perspective: not all photos demand perspective, but when it naturally occurs it is a powerful element to emphasize. We also need perspective in our daily decision making. We need to have a mental space where we can stand to see more clearly, to make decisions more accurately. A fresh perspective often gives a new lease on the life of an idea.

3. Framing: the true lie of photography is that we choose the right focal length in order to put a frame on a photograph. Generally there are no frames in nature, and unless you suffered from tunnel vision, you do not see things with a frame. A frame captures an area that the photographer wants you to explore. When we frame arguments or discussions, we set the limits of ideas in order to come to a conclusion. Sometimes we manipulate the situation in such a way that the frame gives no choice in the decision.

4. Focus: an “out of focus” photograph is a contrast blob. No detail, no fine lines to form edges. Lack of focus in thinking has the same effect. Bokeh is the Japanese word for the quality of the unfocused area. The unfocused area of our lives does not generally have quality, unless we are Zen masters. Focus allows us to follow a lineal path to a conclusion. The more focus, the shorter time on the path.

5. Depth of field, or depth of focus: choosing the right f-stop can isolate a subject in order to direct the viewers eye to that subject. Otherwise the viewer may never see the reason for the photo. Using the depth of your focus in thinking helps not only to clarify an idea, but it also isolates it from the random, and incessant noise, that distracts your thinking.

6. F-stop: controls the amount of light that will give the image it’s shape and form. Sometimes the trouble in life is that we have too much. Too much experience, too much distraction, too many “shiny objects”. We need to develop a mental iris that will constrict the amount of ideas at times. And then, when appropriate, we need to open up, let more light in, and think out of the box.

7. Time: the amount of time for exposure must be controlled. Not enough time and nothing develops. Too much time and everything is burned out. True for photography, true for life

8. Sensitivity: our image capturing must be adjusted for sensitivity, a slow ISO to record rich colors and detail. Fast ISO to penetrate low light and darkness. In life we also need to monitor sensitivity. If we don’t we can create chaos in our thinking and in our communication.

Possibly there are other connections, other double word meanings, but these eight have kept me entertained for years. Other suggestions?

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Roofing Rant

“Home is where the heart lies”, said to be a quote by Edmund Coke from the early 19th century. I take it to mean that emotion helps to define home, not architecture.

And at various times in my life the roof of my home has been canvas, ripstop nylon, and wood shingles. For the last 24 years it has been composite asphalt tile.

I once read a book with a whole chapter dedicated to “roofience”. Why a roof? What is a roof? What can be expected from the concept of “roof”?

I am old, but not at the end of my life. My roof is old, and it is at the end of its life. Thank you, roof! You have mostly kept me dry and comfortable. Now, I need to replace you.

This would have seemed to be a simple process. Call a few roofers, get a few bids, don’t lowball- but go for good quality from a good company. I had no idea what I was about to unleash.

The first issue is to maneuver through the meaning of words. There are guarantees, materials are guaranteed from the manufacturer. Workmanship is guaranteed by the company. They are not the same time frame.

It used to be tarpaper, then tiles nailed on. Now it’s underlayment, flashing, architectural composite tiles with fungus control, and roof venting system. It takes a full afternoon to understand the terminology.

At the end the day you just want to know that you will be dry and how much will that cost? The answer is… “It depends!”

Do you want a company that will guarantee a quality installation for ten years? Materials for twenty-five years? Fifty years? Hey, I don’t want any mistakes in the first place. What kind of hellish reality would it be to have bad installation, repeated by a never ending guaranteed fix? Does anything last fifty years on in the weather? How do I know that?

Just know what you are doing, use good materials and do it right.

Do you want “Johnny on the Truck” roofing that will take $1000 down and half the contract on the first day of installation, and then disappear, never to be seen again? Hey, is that a thing? Does that happen a lot? Isn’t there a contractor’s license at risk?

Are sure your roofer has a contractor’s license?

What? I need to hire someone to vet my roofers? I’m sensing that something has been lost.

I long for the day when a contract was a handshake and a fair wage asked for a fair day’s work. I live in a zip code where bids are 30% higher because the homes have higher value. A shingle is still just a shingle.

Terminology has been used to terrify, not to inform. This product is guaranteed for fifty years, but this inferior product is only guaranteed for twenty five years. The question I have is, “Has anyone gotten a free roof because the roof shingle fell apart five years short to the guarantee? Has any modern roof been replaced free because of material defects?

I have not been a good homeowner. I have not kept up with the proper maintenance. My brother tells me that it is almost a full time job, because once one project is done, there is another where time has run out. It’s like the Golden Gate Bridge in a constant state of repainting.

Perhaps that is true. At this time in my life I’m trying to simplify. Just pay someone else to do it, and take a nap.

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A Little Sharps Work

Summertime filing, sanding, and polishing.

Braided wire wrapped over leather, solid grip in wet circumstances.

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We have all heard that the secret to life’s success is to do a lot of multitasking. Meaning, I suppose, that whatever you are doing, learn to do two or three things simultaneously, in order to get ahead and be successful. It doesn’t matter that there are studies that show that humans can’t multitask, and never have.

Certainly we can see and hear at the same time, and we can walk and breathe at the same time. But it doesn’t mean that we can process two different sets of data in order to create action. What we are very good at is “fast switching”.

I didn’t say that we can walk and chew gum at the same time, but we can, because both walking and chewing have certain aspects of “automatic mode” in terms of thinking. A drummer can beat out a rhythm with her left hand while steadily beating another rhythm with the right, but they are in automatic mode with thought controlling only the beginning and the end.

The classic teenage response is that “I can listen to music and study at the same thine.” This is only true if one action becomes automatic with no thought behind it. If the music becomes “background noise”, then perhaps study can occur. But if a lyric catches your ear, then suddenly you are pulled out of your text or essay, and you are listening and not studying.

I don’t know if any study of schizophrenia shows the ability to multitask, but at least the theory that it takes two minds to have two thoughts simultaneously is correct.

So, how fast is our “switching” ability? How many eggs can we juggle before the entire cartoon is destroyed?

Well, it depends. Most nerve signals travel at roughly .3 seconds from brain to extreme limb. However, most can blink an eye in .1 of a second. That’s three times faster, (however, brain and eye are considerably closer together). We are now only talking about the signal to move, not the assessment and calculations that are necessary to consider the action. All that takes additional time.

My wife and I enjoy playing cards together, generally with another couple. I should say that the enjoyment is not equally and consistently shared. It has evolved from playing games of clever strategy, with bidding, or calculating odds- to games of action and stress, as the situation is fast paced and in constant flux.

One particular game requires that you play a solitaire situation in front of you, turning three cards from the deck in order to see what can be played. That can be stressful if there is a time element in order to beat the other players. They have their own decks and their own game of solitaire. Add to that stress by playing the aces on piles in front of you along with all the other players, collectively.

I have my solitaire game in front of me but the aces piles are constantly changing. If I concentrate on my hand, looking to play cards, I am aware of the cards I need, except on the ace pike everyone else is playing and what is needed is in flux.

My neurons are firing, but often they are firing on old information. I’m looking for a two of clubs and the pile is now at the seven of clubs.

The hand must be faster, but the data behind the movement has to be even faster, and keep track of the changes.

What is curious to me is that often my wife is holding a card in her playing hand, waiting for me to recognize that I have a play, then tenths of a second after I play she puts hers down. Spooky! How does she know what I am going to play before I even turn my cards?

I can understand how someone is faster. Both are ready, the shot is fired and one person crosses the line first. But she crosses the finish line before I can tie my track shoes.

I used to play racquetball. When I played younger faster players I would win only if I played smarter. But what I f they are faster, smarter, and have psychic powers?

Multitasking? Apparently I can chew gum and walk. But I cannot rotate through a deck of cards three at a time, play solitaire, and watch as everyone keeps playing in the ace piles.

We call the game “Squeal”, maybe because of the joy of winning, maybe because of the sound of my losing.

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Some Unusual Art

I attended a jazz recital last night. Our music department generally has a performance to celebrate their student’s accomplishments. Our jazz quintet, “Jazzology”, was the featured performer. We also had a guest performer, Kallil Wilson, a great voice, with amazing runs.

Each of the performers had an opportunity to engage in some “scat” singing. Classic sound riffs, where the voice becomes an instrument that is played, as opposed to singing.

Ella Fitzgerald was famous for her scat performances, and helped to popularize the technique. As I listened last night I couldn’t help thinking about the connection between scat and sound poetry.

Both movements appeared in the early 1900s. Jazz came out of New Orleans and the southeast of the US. Sound poetry came from the cafes and cabarets in Europe frequented by the Dadaists. Dada had turned the art world upside down. The Salon controlled art world, was in turmoil, with art being defined by artists, and not professional critics.

It is said that Dada was named by randomly pointing a finger in the dictionary. Either that, or the first words of an infant.

In either case, Dada, broke the rules. Piet Mondrian graded the canvas, Marcel Duchamp “found art”, and declared it so!

In poetry, a German named Hugo Ball, wrote a poem in 1916, and declared it as part of a new genre of “sound poetry”. It was called “Karawane”. He performed it while wearing his “lobster suit”, certainly one of the first performance artists of the century.

If this is the first time you have heard of sound poetry, try thinking about the first time you experienced jazz with scat riffs.

What really helped me was Marie Osmond.

I can’t believe just wrote that, but there is a reason. She was a guest on some sort of variety television show that liked to prank famous people. A writer had thought that it would be funny to provide Marie with a poem to memorize with very little forewarning. A classic fear from any English lit class in high school. The additional fun was that straight-laced Marie, would be memorizing the classic Dada poem “Karawane”, words with no meaning.

The surprise was that Marie memorized in a few minutes, then delivered an amazing performance. The sound clip made it to the internet and has been one of most popular versions of Karawane. Later, she was asked to make another video to explain sound poetry and Hugo Ball. Click below


Jazz, Dada, Hugo Ball, and don’t even get me started on Duchamp. It’s been a full weekend already.

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More Murmurations

I have now spent several hours watching YouTube murmurations. I am enthralled! I desperately want to experience this first hand. I can remember once, while my family fished from the levee on the Sacramento River, early in the morning, a dense black river of starlings going east, flying just yards above the water.

It was continuous and it must have taken an hour with very few gaps in the cloud of feathers. They didn’t break and create spirals in the sky, they were directed and linear. They had some place to go!

The funny thing was that later in the afternoon they came back, just as dense, and just as directed. Black feathers blotting out the sky!

I remember reading stories about herds of bison that took days crossing a particular river. Then, a few short years, and mountains of bones later, they were mostly gone. Murdered almost as successfully as the dodo. Hmm, man can change the environment, and he has!

Back to murmurations, I just can’t imagine how signals are communicated so quickly, and accurately. “Wait, you want me to follow you? Where are we going? What do you mean it’s partly up to me?” It’s beyond human understanding.

An instantaneous collective thought, maybe the patterns are three dimensional thoughts, written above the fields, murmurations disappearing as thoughts fade. Someday perhaps our recordings of these patterns may be deciphered, and we will understand the language of the flocks. Will they say something profound? Or will it be “I’m cold and hungry!”

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Thought Murmurations

I just used the WordPress feature of tracking the access of my blog posts. It isn’t that time consuming, haha, hardly a dozen eyeballs a week find my posts. Notice I didn’t say read and comment!

Anyway, over the last few years I’ve noticed that one post usually gets several hits per month. I wrote about Abraham traveling West from Ur. I wondered about the possible story telling around the fire. He was part of the foreign ruling culture of Ur, and he was probably literate in Sumerian, so I researched what I could about Sumerian Proverbs, thinking that they might be entertaining, and appropriate campfire content.

And apparently a lot of others are interested as well. It is still the most popular post on my blog.

I started this blog about four years ago, partly in respond to my retirement. I say partly because it is unclear which motive kick started my action. While I did teach about blogging and general web activity, I didn’t really have the time to do much personal work. I was on Facebook but mostly lurking and connecting with my students.

After retiring, many people asked about the free time that I had acquired. I admit I went through several “hobby” activities. They were fun, but I approached them with “project mode”, an intensity that looked to completion. I was “done” in a few weeks with each of them.

I was tired of listing the various activities that I had burned through, so I made up a story, “Well, I spend a certain amount of time pondering, and then writing posts to my blog.” Except that I wasn’t. So obviously I was convicted to make that a truth. I do ponder, especially when I have the time, and I did profess when I had a classroom. So why not actually write down some thoughts and keep them in a publicly accessible archive. I didn’t really think that one through. Part of me really wants to make some serious edits. Not everything pondered should see the light of day. Especially years later.

So again I looked at the history of my posts as I wondered about where I was and where I am now. One of the first posts was about Ivan Illich, a thinker, author and educator. On reading this I marveled on my undisciplined approach, wandering all over in big sweeping circles, barely keeping the focus, almost like some bird or fish murmurations. Where was I going?

Yep, that’s how I think, “thought murmurations” and who has the time to read through that?

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The fear of missing out. I love the internet based short hands, but this one is a little different.

The general category of human fears has been well documented with little change over the years. The fear of snakes, spiders, heights, dark, broccoli, ….wait, the studies on broccoli are recent, and inconclusive. Basically it’s only been some recent media generated fears that have added to the list, like shark week or snakes on the plane.

So where did “the fear of missing out” come from? Clearly the net citizens resonant with this term, they type the acronym out fairly regularly. Sociologists have correctly labeled this as the Age of Information. That’s not only true because of the importance, but also because of the volume.

The amount of important information at your fingertips is multiplied a hundred times by the amount of useless data. Perhaps realizing that we don’t have adequate filters to select the important stuff from the unimportant, we have generated a new term, FOMO.

As with any fear, we see individuals respond in various ways to fear. We carefully look under seats and in loverheads for snakes, we keep a wary eye for shark fins. But how do we respond to FOMO?

I credit my wife with a new possibility. She thought that perhaps there is a “hoarding of experiences”, an over abundance of events in order to stave off the potential fear.

Hoarders of possessions are often addressing the fear of poverty. They don’t make a rational decision to invest in real estate or bonds, instead they collect multiple sugar bowls, or a half dozen ski parkas.

People with FOMO collect meetings, join book clubs, sign up with PTA, volunteer at church, attend political discussion groups, etc. None of these things are bad, and being active in several at a time should not cause alarm bells to ring. The question might arise when someone’s calendar is always full.

Are there days that are open? Is there down time when hobbies can allow relaxation? Or has even hobbies become somewhat manic?

So the question one should ask is “Have you become a HOE? A hoarder of experiences? Hmm, perhaps some further work is needed on the acronym.

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Smartphone Photography

One of the biggest improvements to photography is the development of smartphone cameras. This also has created tremendous challenges.

The first challenge may seem odd, but it is a hard problem to solve. There are well over 2 billion smartphones in the world. The goal of placing a camera within the immediate reach of individuals is almost achieved. The difficulty is that we generally forget that we have it.

Clearly, many folks are very aware of the camera function, but it is not the same as slinging a DSLR around your neck in order to take a photo. The phone connection is the primary tool, and the camera is a nice secondary option.

The first thing to learn in taking better photos is that you have a camera with you! It may seem like a silly exercise, but practice taking photos with your phone in the same way that you do when you break out your larger DSLR. Developing that sense of image making at your fingertips will lead your desire to improve the images.

What are the next few issues that smartphone photos have that need improving? Basically there are three general problems that I commonly see.

1. Fuzzy. Images are blurry.

2. Light. A better understanding of light is needed.

3. Framing. Too much sky, ceilings/wall, background.

The cameras are generally producing images that are remarkably good. Wait, change that, they are amazing! The automatic focusing and exposure issues are a thing of the past. So why are photos blurry?

The most common reason is answered by asking the question, “Where do you commonly keep your smartphone?” It is probably not in a lint-free container, carefully sealed from the greasy world. It may actually be in the same jacket pocket with yesterday’s half eaten snack!

We have gotten used to the idea of cleaning our camera’s lens, but recognizing that our smartphones have a lens is the issue. Swiping a greasy thumb across the surface is not the solution.

This is also one of the most difficult issues to resolve. In many cases the actual case is the culprit. In the attempt to weatherizing the smartphone the case manufacturers have placed a clear lens over the hole where the camera is located. This lens often is not optic quality. It also traps particles on the actual lens. Cleaning the lens by removing the case doesn’t clean the case.

I don’t recommend enclosed cases, and I also don’t recommend cases with a deep recess for the camera to look through. The best case has a very tight fit around the edge of the camera, and a beveled opening that would allow a cleaning tissue to access the lens.

Use a dry, soft cloth or tissue. Once the lens is clean that will solve most of the blurry images, but not all. Fuzzy or blurry images also occur when movement occurs while the image is being taken. Check the image carefully. If the subject is blurry but the background is crisp, then you have done your best, but the subject moved. If the background is also blurry then you moved.

The smartphone camera has an electronic shutter. It is similar to a standard camera shutter. If the subject is not well lit, then the shutter stays open to let in move light and you can’t move while that is happening. Learn to hold the smartphone steady!

Cleaning the lens, and holding steady, can remove nearly all the blurred images. The next issue is understanding light.

Light is either natural or artificial. In either case it comes from a direction. Try your best by having the light come from behind you, and slightly to one side or the other. It’s also good if it is a few feet above your head.

With natural light this can be an issue because you can’t adjust the light. It is the Sun and we are stuck with where it is. The biggest thing to remember is to avoid shooting into the sun, or have a brightly lit background, when your subject is in the shade. You will have to do your best to move people around. The great thing about digital is that you can immediately see if there is a light problem.

I love taking photos outside with cloud cover. It removes most of the harsh shadows. I also like “long light”, taken in the early morning or later in the afternoon. The worst light for me is noon on a bright sunny day. Time for a siesta!

If you are dealing with artificial light then you might have a chance of adjusting the light, or at least moving to an area that has better light.

Lastly, the camera flash is truly the worst option. The flash on a smartphone is not the same quality as a flash on a regular camera. It does not reach far, and is only good for close portraits, and even then has issues. I have found that turning the flash off is actually my best move in getting the image I want.

Finally, the framing problem comes from the lack of a standard lens. The smartphone is basically a wide angle lens. The zoom feature is not the same as a typical zoom lens with moving optics. Besides, we rarely pinch/spread to create the zoom when we take the shot.

Framing the photo takes an extra second but it is well worth the effort, and we have an extraordinary zoom feature that we don’t generally use. Walk closer!

If the framing with a wide angle gives too much background, then move closer to the subject. If you a taking a landscape, then drop the image to reduce the sky. If the foreground is too messy then you can crop it off later.

Addressing these three issues will vastly improve your images. I would also consider downloading several different camera apps that give you the ability to manually control your camera. You will learn about shutter speeds, aperture and even ISO sensitivity. Manual control can be lot of fun and will give you more control over your potential images.

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I am radioactive, or more accurately, my blood is radioactive. I suppose by now my blood has passed through every organ and bone in my body. For a time, the radioactive blood flowed through my eyes and I had x-ray vision. That’s gone now, I suppose my liver is trying its best to collect the harmful residue. Perhaps my finger nails will take some, that I will clip off in later weeks.

I did not feel like crawling the walls, or shoot webbing out of my spinnerets, probably because it wasn’t from a radioactive spider. I really don’t know the source of the radioactivity. It’s funny how we just accept foreign objects into our bodies based upon our doctors opinions.

It’s all part of a cost benefit analysis. A little bit of radiation (bad), in order to gain knowledge (good) that may extend life.

The problem with this type of mental bargaining is the buy-in that is necessary. What about my plans to rent a bush-plane in order to drop me off in the Alaskan wilderness? Another time, probably a few decades ago.

You have to follow up on the good knowledge, and the future procedures that it will suggest. But you have to be around and available.

I have a smart phone, a smart watch. Would it be too difficult to keep a calendar of the things that are running out of time? The bloody things have access to all my medical records, it would not take much to give me a heads up on the activities that are phasing out.

I am reminded of a recent conversation with a friend who is in Thailand. After I had gotten over the remarkable fact that it was a free call (what happened to long distance?), I asked what it was like there. He replied endless white beaches, no tourists, English speaking natives. When I said that it sounded like a young persons heaven, and that older people want to know about medical care! He replied that there were at least three hospitals nearby and one that even catered to Westerners.

Yep, once you get to the buy-in, you’re trapped. You can’t go to Alaska, but you can go to a deserted isle in Thailand.

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The Prostitute

Eric and I were barely speaking, not that we were angry with each other; it was just that we had no room for communication. We had shriveled up, lost our vital fluids in the heat of the desert. Spiritually shrunken, physically desiccated, yet still walking, still moving forward. The universe reduced to moving from one streetlamp to another. All I knew, all I could see, was contained in the bright circles of light, thirty feet across, illuminating a deserted street. To either side there were shadows of some other reality. Uncertain and unimportant, they faded in the distance. My goal was the next spot of light, and then the next beyond that.

Pressing forward, head down, glancing up, and sometimes back, checking to see if Eric was still there a few yards behind me. Then, suddenly, she was there. Up ahead, in the future, two spotlights away, I could see the figure of a woman standing, waiting. I slowed but continued walking forward, disappearing from the one light, moving forward, and reappearing in the next light, closer each time to the future woman. Then the future became the present, and we shared the same harsh halogen light.

She was wearing a black dress of sequins, light bouncing from her shoulders, breasts and thighs, sparkling… and fingering a long strand of turquoise beads. Her face, heavy in make-up, framed by black, teased, shoulder length hair- was smiling, but sadly. She was probably forty years old, maybe older, with tracks of the world on her face.

As I approached her, I instinctively nodded my head, and I could see her bright red lips forming words- words I couldn’t hear, although I should have been able. She blinked and smiled again; I noticed that she was holding a shoe by its strap. It was missing the heel.

Heel-less shoe swinging,

turquoise beads swinging,

thousands of bright micro lights flashing,

and wordless lips moving.

Then I left the light, and headed into the darkness between the spots. At the next streetlight I looked back, and there in my past, now captured by the halogen circle, I could see Eric sharing the spot with the sequins dress, and then he too, moved forward. For the next few minutes I looked back periodically, to see if I had really seen what I thought I had seen. Four streetlights back I saw a sparkling figure disappear from one spot, but then never appear in the next spot down. I waited, but nothing showed. Eric came next to me, and he looked back as well. We both waited. He managed to ask where she had gone, but I just shook my head and turned away.

Another few blocks there was an empty lot, covered in tall grass. I thought that if we went to the back wall, we could lay undiscovered, and maybe even fall asleep. There was a narrow trail in the tall grass, I lay my sleeping bag directly on it, well covered from the road. Eric placed his bag in the same trail, and we lay there head to head in a footpath, not speaking for some time. Then Eric asked a question.

“Did you hear what she said?”

I thought about it for some seconds. Remembering the lips forming words. Bright red, moving shapes, parting, closing, then opening again, but no sound. Why hadn’t I heard?

“She said, ‘I hope you have better luck than I.’”

I lay on my back, looking at the stars above me, I listened to Eric’s words, and I listened to the soundless words of a vanished spirit. I thought about events, and the meanings that we place upon them, and I finally thought about compassion and empathy.

I answered Eric, that yes, I had finally heard.

Edited from On The Road, Again. A journal of hitchhiking in the Western States, 1968

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The classic definition refers to either insect or amphibian and the process they go through from juvenile to adult. The remarkable thing is the complete change of the same creature. A crawling, multi-leg earthbound worm that turns into a winged flying beauty. The amphibian is less dramatic, from slimy fish, to slimy frog.

The word simply means transforming, it doesn’t calculate the amount.

I’ve been thinking about re-reading Kafka’s Die Verwandlung, published in 1915, and usually translated as The Metamorphosis.

Kafka is more widely known as an adjective. “That was so weird and Kafka-like”. “Right out of Kafka!”

The trouble is that most people have never read Kafka, although they are certain that either he, or his stories, were weird.

Unlike my usual practice of reading everything published by my favorite authors, I have only read one short story by Kafka. The story of a man who suddenly metamorphosed into a cockroach.

Well, the original German suggests “vermin”, but cockroach does pretty well, certainly not a charming cricket, or an industrious ant.

The story is short and centers around Gregor (cockroach), his father, his mother, and his sister. Initially, Gregor can’t communicate why he can’t go to work as usual. The family is concerned about how his economic contribution will cause great stress. They don’t yet know that he is an insect, just that he can’t be roused from his room.

Finally Gregor uses his disgusting mouth to open the door. Everyone either screams and runs away in fear, or they faint. Gregor retreats back into the room. His sister begins to periodically clean the room while Gregor hides under the sofa.

We still aren’t sure of Gregor’s size. He could be five feet tall, yet he can effectively hide under the sofa. He also can scurry up the walls while listening to the family discuss the situation.

Gregor is brought food, but he has no interest in some of his favorites. He is slowly dying. He trys once again to come out of the room. He scares the potential boarders that would have helped the finances of the family. The father throws a apple at Gregor which wounds him in the back. Again, Gregor retreats into his room, where he eventually dies.

The cleaning lady disposes of the body, the family now notices that the daughter has grown into a beautiful young lady. They now move into a smaller, but much more affordable place, and everybody is happy.

Yep, it was that weird.

And literally everyone who read it has taken the time to make an analysis and codify the symbology. Most see it as detailing “daddy issues”, or how does a young man grow to adulthood. Some see the sister as truly metamorphosing. Everyone has an opinion.

I have one too. I haven’t seen this as a detailed critique from anyone, but it was the first thing that came to me. Gregor doesn’t realize what has happened to him. He knows that when he speaks they don’t understand. He is aware that he can’t use his hands to open the door, but not because he is aware that he doesn’t have hands. For Gregor, he is still Gregor.

Instead, Gregor is defined by others. One morning everyone silently agreed that Gregor was a useless parasite, a vermin, that was if no use to the family, and even a detriment.

We are what we read, we are what we eat, we are what we do… well, in this case, we are what other people decide we are.

I was reflecting on this with a colleague in the world of academia. She had also just recently retired and was experiencing the transformation.

One obvious shared experience was the lack of involvement in students lives. We have no students. We are not we do, we are barely what we did!

I noted a brief summary of my career. I was once young an inexperienced staff member, I was a Young Turk who suggested actions that had been tried decades ago, but not by me! Then I matured into a team player who worked by consensus, that transformed into a “conscience” that reminded the Young Turks that we had already tried that, further transforming, I got into being the elder, but respected, statesman for a few short years. And finally into the funny, quaint, old guy with the beret. And the ever present question, “are going to retire?”

I was the same creature, in my room the mirror showed only a little age. The world I lived in transformed me into… well, not a cockroach, so I guess I’m thankful.

Note to self: read more Kafka!

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