Monthly Archives: March 2018

buffalo bob and jeezus

i wrote this somewhere in the South China Sea between Pusan, Korea and Qui Nhon, Vietnam in my second tour of duty in 1970 before getting out the first time…or maybe it was the third if you count NROTC at Vanderbilt and the following Navy Reserve stint (another story or two to be told someday, someday). i revised it in 1996 and again in 2013 when i included it in A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems . i wasn’t going to include poems in my posts today, but this seemed to capture some thoughts i have about now.

buffalo bob and jeezus

where do we live, in heaven or hell; why not either? ho jeezus.
is it restlessness, human nature, or abject and terribly humane stupidity driving us toward
life in a fast lane leading to no exit from the super highway down the road. oh
yes.
my problem is i was/am an innocent, well unarmed to seek a feasible answer while
the world runs amok,
looking for the next best thing to change,
which really bears no difference to the last change where
we reel, rockin’ n’ a rollin’ way ’til the break of dawn, shoobey doo wah.
christ,
mohammed,
errol flynn,
joe dimaggio,
mickey mantle,
willie mays,
gone to
other things of which we know not but are unwilling to admit
other than our own interpretation.
mister aspiration: don’t hide your arm, and smoke a lucky, and tell the truth.
tomorrow, someone may ask us where we’ve been:
homer: long game winning ball or the iliad.
christ.
live well among the cedars of the limestone-pocked hills where the cherokees
did not cherish nobility anymore than the white invaders who
bought, sold and still try to own the negras
who changed their name several times to avoid their own perception of embarrassment or
the other coast where high desert promotes the same silly-ass idea of superlativeness which invades places, our spaces
having no climate but drinkable water. ho, santa ride, ride, ride Rudolph,
have you heard of
mr phinneas t bluster and, god bless her, princess summerfallwinterspring? maybe buffalo bob and howdy doody had it right all along
after all.

the dark side of the hill

i wrote this as i was returning from Korea after a year of taking Republic of Korea troops back and forth from the war. Spending about eleven days at sea, five to six days in Vietnam ports, two days in Pusan, Korea, and about six in Sasebo, Japan in a cycle which had created…well, some creativity in my heart and on paper. Some of it was not so cheery. This was one of those.

the dark side of the hill

I was walking down a small-town street
on a cold, harsh Sunday
when from a corner of an alley
a huddled, gnarled old man
leering from under a soiled and torn fedora
spoke to me:
“I have been to the dark side of the hill,
my boy,
“I can tell by your gait,
you are headed there;
frivolity and adventure
are what you seek,
but it’s not there, son;
it’s not there nor anything you would want to find.”

I paid no heed, passing away
from the old man,
continuing to pass through
the sun-reflected snow
to the zenith of the hill,
and on.

the wind is biting
on the dark side of the hill;
there is no sun
to disperse the cold.

now, on some small-town street
on a cold, harsh any day
in the corner of an alley,
a huddled, muddled, gnarled old man
waits.

i have been to the dark side of the hill;
my gait is altered.

 

Discovering Me

i have been putting off writing this because, quite frankly, i’m a bit scared. It is not of my nature to write just for me. This is not a piece of writing i suspect many who read  my usual stuff will enjoy. i try not judge how people react to my writing except when they attack me for the rare political comments i make because it doesn’t agree with their political position. As i told my friend Cyril Vaughn Fraser this past weekend, i am nearly always aware of who might be reading and tailor my writing based on my perception of how they will receive it. Not this one. This one was written by me for me. i hope you will go along for the ride.

Friday, March 10th, while whiling away the hours waiting for the 6:00 p.m. start of the Vanderbilt, UCLA baseball game at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Los Angeles, Alan Hicks and i suggested to Cy Fraser we should go to the Getty Center, John Paul Getty’s gift to LA and the world, a campus including the Getty Museum and the Getty Foundation dedicated to research and preservation of the arts. Alan and i had been to the Getty before. We knew Cy’s inquisitiveness would make the visit worthwhile.

When we got off of the tram from the parking facility and walked up those magnificent stairs to the entrance hall, before we reached it we saw the large hanging sign announcing “Museum of Obsessions,” the celebration of Harald Szeemann, the renowned and visionary Austrian,  structured in “a surprising series of thematic interests: avant-gardes, utopias and visionaries, geographies, and grandfathers” (Thanks, Getty Center). Of course, being men we laughed at the title and said we had to go see the “Museum of Obsessions.”

We veered off to the research center where the Szeemann exhibit was located. And in we went.

Now i have not been a fan of modern art. i have tried. Especially since i learned Alan and Jim Hicks mother, “Becky” Tarwater was an item with Jackson Pollock until that smooth talking Tennessee doctor rode into the big city and swept his East Tennessee sweetheart away, did i attempt to understand…futilely. But i’v kept trying.

Alan (and i) are into the Impressionists. Alan had read on the program about the tour in the East Pavilion about Degas. He moved through the Szeemann exhibit quickly to get to the tour. i studied for a while. Cy was trailing. When i finished, Alan was anxiously (almost: i don’t think i’ve ever seen Alan anxious except watching Vanderbilt sports events). We sat looking out over the parapet to the magnificent garden below. He said he must leave. i said i would like to go, not for the tour, but to see the Impressionist art collection. We discussed how. He called Cy. No answer. We determined Cy must have left his mobile phone in the car. i said i’ll go back, find Cy, and tell him where we will be. Alan said so long and headed for the tour. i went back inside. Found Cy. Told him the plan. Then i realized it wouldn’t work. We would be too scattered. i decided to wait.

i returned to my seat underneath the arbor, breathed deeply, and watched the few visitors who had wandered down, mostly in curiosity, to check out the “Museum of Obsessions,” and the staff, seeming a bit too smotheringly (my word) academic in their conversations as they walked past in supposedly deep discussion when they were likely talking about where to eat a late lunch. The world seemed to go away, and i floated there for a while with the world gone and me in timelessness.

i rose from my floating and went back inside. Cy was sitting on a stool watching a video about one of Szeemann’s projects. Enraptured was the description that came to my mind. i asked him about a placard explaining that minute segment of Szeemann’s rapture. Cy confessed he had left his reading glasses (yes, we are getting older and it’s confirmed with the added contraptions to our lives, but we refuse to believe, or at least accept such restrictions, only wearing the contraptions, like my hearing aids, for convenience, not admitting defeat). i loaned him mine as he had loaned me his to read the menu the night before. i decided to stay as it only made sense to have a mobile phone with Alan and a mobile phone with Cy and me. While Cy watched the video with us interjecting, sharing our thoughts on the enormity of Szeemann’s passion, i walked around looking at the different presentations.

There on one large wall was a piece of modern art. It wasn’t particularly pretty. In fact, it looked like someone had wandered through an automobile junk yard — like the one on Murfreesboro Pike outside of Lebanon where Mike Dixon and i found the hose for his ’53 tank green Studebaker when his hose blew after a ball game in 1961 — collected bits of knowledge, recorded that bit of knowledge on the small pieces, and hung them on the wall. It was a big wall. i studied it and found brownish grey cardboard pieces of different sizes between the collection of strange stuff. The cardboard pieces contained typewritten notes. i determined the notes were about the person who had first hung these pieces somewhere, which had then been collected by the note writer.

i saw the bakelit explanation placard to the left of the exhibit, went back to Cy and borrowed my reading glasses, returning to the placard.

The artwork was created by Ingeborg Lüscher, Szeemann’s partner and eventual second wife. The word captured the essence of Armand Schulthess’s life long obsession. Armand retreated to his home in the woods  in Auressio, Switzerland to gather “all human knowledge.” He began to collect knowledge, recording them on tops of tin cans and other small metal and fabric pieces and hanging them on trees, mounting them on rocks, and amassing them in his home along with hand written notes hand bound in bundles of text. On those small pieces of cardboard intertwined with Schultess’s collectibles, Ingeborg writes small sketches of Armand and his existence in his Gesamtkunstwerk (German for an “encyclopaedic” or comprehensive artwork (Thanks,  http://www.spacesarchives.org/explore/collection/environment/der-garten-des-wissens-the-garden-of-knowledge/). Schultess called it all the garden of knowledge.

The art and Ingeborg Lüscher’s notes on the cardboard pieces struck me in a different way. i began to think more about the definition of art and admiring not just the works in Szeemann’s “Museum of Obessions,” but the artists who created these pieces and who not only saw their creations as art but devoted their very lives to creating them above all else. Just like Schultess. i went back through the gallery and studied more of the works there. i began to connect. i could see art. Meaningful art. A place i had never been.

i breathed deeply.

i told Cy such devotion to their art is something i’ve never achieved (except once in a long while when i went into a frenzy, a passion, and wrote without heed to punctuation or really even what i was writing but connecting to connections with things that said something to me but perhaps, no most likely did not connect to others, writing for me with no intention of sharing, which of course i did, am, and will: but those pieces and such experiences are rare in my life) because i nearly always had, have specific readers in mind when i put something on paper or a computer screen. It was not contrived but it was purposeful, and i still don’t know why i have this compulsion to write on any level nor why i want others to read my stuff…yeh, my stuff, whatever that piece of words may be, purposeful or from another realm, and that’s okay, and i found myself writing in my head as i went from artwork to artwork, marveling at these incredible, devoted people who ignored our cultural parameters, put aside the petty bickering humans seem intent on pursuing, and even experiencing rejection of the worst form: Schultess’s garden was mostly destroyed by his heirs after he died with only pieces, like Lüscher’s work in the Getty, remaining, and was even put in a mad house for the insane, or whatever we choose to call such abominations.

And then we left. We found Alan and headed to the ballgame, Vandy against UCLA, hotdogs, fan friends, dressed in black and gold: a different world, the one we live in.

And i promised myself i would return more often…to the Getty…to the spot i was in breathing deeply and writing for me, writing stuff deeply important to me, which may read like balderdash to others, writing to write to feel to create to breathe to live.

Like the sea. Like standing behind the centerline gyrocompass in a storm with green saltwater pummeling the bridge, ordering course changes and speed to accommodate the spirit of the sea, the majestic lady, which will never be completely understood but always awed.

And i will return to the world of concrete, HVAC stucco houses, belching automobiles promoting ill will, and golf, and baseball, and parks, and the beach, and the museums, and the diners, and cleaning the bathrooms, and shopping in the stockowner’s stores, and living okay, no well, enjoying it all, except missing where i was in the breathing, living, writing world those other folks like Szeemann, Lüscher, Schultess, and who knows how many others that breathed and lived in a different world.

 

 

Life 101

Yes, he would have been 101 today. He was a lesson in life for me.

i met him when my future fiancé introduced me to her father. JD and i had moved Maureen’s furniture out of an apartment into Ray’s garage while she looked for a new place to live. He was there when we unloaded the furniture.

Ray was an engineer. He was a lover of golf. He loved fun and laughter. He had a wry sense of humor. He became much more than a father-in-law to me. We became close friends. He played golf with my Navy buddies and me. We did projects together. We rode to hell and back to various places, arguing all the way about which route was quickest. He was usually right. We would stop at his favorite places and have a Beefeater on the rocks with a twist. He loved to get to Navy golf courses early so he could have SOS for two dollars. i escorted him through the last year of life before cancer claimed him. Three weeks before he died, he bought a new set of golf clubs. He demanded he would go to his last Chargers’ game, a pre-season exhibition and sit in his season ticket  by himself about a month before he was gone. He played almost all of the holes on the Pine Glen executive course at Singing Hills with Jim Hileman and me two weeks before he left me. He gave in and didn’t play the last hole. i was with him before the morphine took total control his last morning and we talked about things that didn’t matter but they did and i will never forget.

He had a raspy voice. He smoked too much. Everyone in his extended family loved him…for good reason. Most of all as far as i am concerned was he loved his family. One of the most loyal men i have ever met. He was, as i said, a good friend. A good man.

Ray Boggs, we had ten years together. Too few. i needed to learn a bit more about Life 101.

A Time of Innoncence

Last week, i returned to a time of innocence.

No,  not “The Age of Innocence.” That’s a movie. i’m talking about the time of innocence. Mine.

And it wasn’t me being innocent, not by any means. But it was my time of innocence. I was a small country town boy in a world of which i was not familiar, and i embraced it hook, line, and sinker without having a clue, even though from my perspective, it was a time i was the smartest i ever was or ever will be. Now, i know too much to be smart.

Three Vanderbilt attendees, 1962-1964, one of whom actually graduated, gathered together in a different world and a different time, like 56 years of time, this weekend far, far, away from that campus on Nashville’s West End. Our lives took us to different places in different ways and made us different from each other.

We have never accepted being different. The core, as this weekend demonstrated, was, is, and will be the same. We embrace our differences. And learn.

We have had our troubles, suffered personal loss, are much less spry with much less hair…okay, okay, Cy still has his hair, but it’s white.

i left home in the late morning Wednesday, drove through Camp Pendleton while a major Amphibious Landing Exercise, a “PHIBLEX” was underway. It brought back other memories, good ones, of organizing, coordinating this rather amazing show of strength through of Navy, Marine, even sometimes Coast Guard joint maneuvers, on that small stretch of shoreline and small area of the camp where I-5 runs right through the middle of the great divide between San Diego and Los Angeles (Thank Heaven!). But those are stories for later. The helicopters launching and landing on the assault ship and landing zone, the Marine track vehicles with one body of the crew projecting from the hatch running pell mell toward the training village, kicking up dust like nobody’s business, remains and an awesome, no,  a majestic sight to behold.

An hour later i make a couple of swoops through the flight arrival area of John Wayne Airport when Cyril Vaughn Fraser, III hops in, and we continue the northward trek to Long Beach Airport where we add one Mister Alan Hicks to the mix.

Thus began a visit to my age of innocence.

We checked into our Air B&B in San Pedro, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. It was about perfect for three old guys. It was a middle to low income neighborhood within walking distance to the downtown, filled with good dining of a number of ethnicities. So we ate, visited the Getty, the Queen Mary, the Ports of Call, and found them all good and interesting.

The three of us enjoy exploring the world of people around us.

And…

We went to college baseball games: Vanderbilt vs. Long Beach State (nicknamed “Dirtbags” and you have to love that) at Blair Field in Long Beach, a lovely old ballpark, which generated recollections of Sulphur Dell, the Nashville  park for the Vols of the AA Southern Association: Boys and girls chasing foul balls, peanuts, even beer, friendly opposition fans, good times.

Vandy lost, 4-3 on pitching woes, errors recorded and mental, and silent bats at the end of the game.

i loved it.

Thursday, kicking around. No game. Lots of catching up. And then, the highlight of the day:

The Queen Mary “Observation Bar.” We sat at the large windows looking over the bow across the bay at the city sky scape of Long Beach. Visiting  the ship, walking the decks, and especially having a drink in the bar makes me feel like i have escaped to an incredible era long gone. This was about the fourth time, i have gone to the Queen Mary. Once Maureen and i spent the night. i thought the stateroom was quaint, romantic, beautiful. Maureen thought it was too small (It was a bit cramped but my goodness, it’s a ship, i thought) and having to maneuver in the tiny head was difficult. For her, i can understand that, but it was a piece of cake for me. In fact, it beat an officers head on a FRAM destroyer. i want to go back and take a tour or two, but i am perfectly happy wandering the decks, dreaming about running into Cary Grant or Greta Garbo and joining them for a drink at the bar. If you are ever around Los Angeles, you should visit if you like to dream.

The goofy guy and Alan Hicks at the Getty.

Then on Friday before the UCLA game, we hit the Getty. i have a post pending on that adventure…later. But we concluded with the UCLA game for Vanderbilt. Jackie Robinson Stadium. Baseball doesn’t get much better than that. The Commodores beat a team ranked higher than them. The Vandy fans almost matched the number of UCLA fans. Met most of them, and those ‘Dore fans are fun. Being men and hungry, we went to a nearby sports bar in

The Getty Garden

Westwood (You know? Home of John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood), and the yesteryear college bonding got a shock. Crazy, crowded banks of televisions on banks of televisions with sports events no one was watching because the gazillion gabby students were fiddling with their smart phones. Needed that. Takes one down to earth.

 

A note: i need to thank Maren Hicks. When we checked into our Air B&B, i immediately pulled out my socks to show to Alan and Cy. You see, i made a small donation to Vanderbilt Athletics, and they, in gratitude, sent me some socks, Vandy socks. i was proud of them but also thought it was quite funny. Alan looked disappointed. He dug into his backpack explaining Maren had received an extra pair and sent them with Alan for me. Well, the first game against the Dirtbags, i had not slowed down enough to change into Vandy socks. The Commodores lost. i wore my pair to the UCLA game. Vandy won. i knew about the high probability of rain Saturday and wore other socks. When Sunday came, i put on the socks Maren had sent. Vandy beat TCU.

So i’m pretty sure Vandy could win the rest of their games this season all the way to the College World Series championship if i wear my or Maren’s Vandy socks when they play.

i always knew Maren was magic.

Vandy fans.
USC empty seats. Perhaps they knew the game would be cancelled.

Saturday was rain, but it was a magic day anyway. Alan and i went to USC knowing we wouldn’t watch a game, but we watched the coaches discuss cancellation while we watched the undeniable front moving toward us relentlessly on Alan’s weather radar app. The Vandy fandom was evident. They began gathering in the stands an hour before game time. Then, those coaches decided to begin with a rain delay. The teams retreated to their dugouts while the stadium’s audio kept playing music. So the teams picked their best players and a dance competition from opposing dugouts began. It was fun. For Vandy fans. USC? Not too many to enjoy the dance. Once they determined there was no way to play a baseball game, Alan and i retreated to an old haunt.

Alan was the “Director of the Southern Gateway” for the Maritime Administration for five years. He was a geographic bachelor in Long Beach, commuting on the weekends back to San Francisco to be with Maren and daughter Eleanor. i began working for Pacific Tugboat Service and traveled to Long Beach almost weekly to conduct training and safety inspections. We made it a night. i would stay with Alan in his bachelor apartment. We would play nine holes of golf and then go to dinner, most frequently at the Whale & Ale, a British pub in San Pedro. Saturday, we returned. Nostalgia. Good British food. Nice folks, older, like us, maybe more. i kept thinking of how things change, how we bring in new, fancy, cleaner, neater stuff, but we throw out decorum, a certain way of doing things.

Sunday, our fourth joined us for the final game, “The Dodger Stadium College  Baseball  Classic” was a double header. Vandy beat TCU,7-4, in their final game near the Southwest corner (i don’t count Los Angeles as being in the Southwest corner; Camp Pendleton

Alan Hicks, Cy Fraser, Walt Fraser behind the first baseline dugout.

separates us, and the concrete expanse of LA is a world unto itself). Walt Fraser, Cy’s brother and a running mate of mine from the past, came over from his home in Pasadena to join us — i must pause here to comment the organizers and  Dodger management hosed this event up as much as possible; it was almost impossible how to get tickets, almost; the visiting teams didn’t get blocks of tickets; USC and UCLA did (we got ours at the UCLA game); parking was not available until thirty minutes before game time; the gate security couldn’t tell us the right gate to go to when; it was almost as if they didn’t care about fans from the visiting teams, the ones affected by such poor management; LA arrogance and another reason for me to never be a fan of the Dodgers after they left Brooklyn. But the game, the time together for the four of us, the Commodores playing class baseball made it a damn near perfect afternoon (except for the $15 beer).

And then it was over. i hit the freeways back to the Southwest corner.

The experience caused me to revise my take on city traffic. As my daughter Blythe once so wisely observed, “If you are going to make money in the traditional fashion, you are going to have to live in a place, a city where traffic is a problem.” i agreed then and i agree now. In the past, i have chastised Houston, Seattle, San Antonio, Washington, Austin, and others for bad, bad traffic. LA and New York City were givens. But after this past week, i must proclaim LA is the worst. i never really drove during “rush hour.” Most of it was on the weekend. There was never any of that LA crawl of thousands of cars going no where. But it was constant and it was expansive and it was always. Driving in LA requires total focus because there is enough traffic everywhere all of the time some bozo might take you out. i think i wore a good two or three millimeters off of my molars, grinding them without stop. Bonkers, i tell you, bonkers.

In spite of the traffic, the five days were simply magic from the past. Friends like we hadn’t skipped fifty-six years. Frat brothers and more sharing an old house (ah, the spirit of Maple Manor, another story). Innocence of a different kind revisited. As Bob Seger sang and i have repeated many times, “i wish i didn’t know now what i didn’t know then.”

Magic innocence. Revisited. Thanks Alan, Cy, Walt, and thank you, Maren. i really believe those socks are magic.

Lessons from a POW

My third column for The Lebanon Democrat was in late October or early November 2007 (i’m too lazy to look it up right now). This also serves as a salute to one of my heroes, although i may add to this one later. He is not only a hero for whom i have utmost respect, he is a good friend.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – This past Monday, I left the cleanup from the San Diego fires and flew to Lake Tahoe, Nevada. It was not an escape. It was work. I was co-facilitating a team building workshop for a California police department with my friend, Dave Carey.

Dave is not your ordinary business associate. On August 31, 1967, Dave Carey’s A-4 was shot out from under him over North Vietnam. He spent five and a half years as a Prisoner of War (POW), most of the time in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.”

Dave and I met in 1985 at the Naval Amphibious School in Coronado. We worked together for just shy of a year as I transitioned into Dave’s position as the head of leadership training for the West Coast and Pacific Rim. Together, we help create a two-day workshop on leadership excellence for senior Navy officers.

Dave retired. Four years later in 1989, I followed suit. After my initial dive into my new job as Mister Mom, I soon started to look for ways to generate income in the quiet hours.

After some discussion, Dave and I agreed I would write a book about his POW experience, or more accurately, about his motivational speeches concerning his experience. After completing the draft, we decided it really should be written in first person. The original draft is on my office bookshelf.

Eight years later, Dave holed up for three weeks and completed The Ways We Choose: Lessons For Life From a POW’s Experience.

Part of my approach to writing was generated from conversations with Dave. He and I were driving to another workshop about fifteen years ago when I asked him about what outcome did he expect the audience to have when he gave a speech.

Dave said he had expectations initially, but discovered his listeners made their own connections. Early on, Dave had completed a luncheon speech when a huge Texan came up to him, put his big arm around Dave’s shoulder and drawled, “Can I talk with you, Dave? I understood every word you said today. The fact of the matter is, in this life, we are all going to get shot down, and some of us more than once.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve managed to get shot down several times. Dave’s book and his ideas have been significant guides to me as I have wandered through living and getting shot down. The book not only applies to San Diego, Lake Tahoe, and Middle Tennessee; it worked in the Hanoi Hilton over 40 years ago.

Dave’s book revolves around a question he is most frequently asked, which is, “How did you do that? How did you and the other POW’s get through that?” He maintains they did that in a similar way to how we get through our daily process of life and work.

Dave’s assessment of how he and his fellow POW’s made it through boils down to five factors:

  • We did what we had to do
  • We did our best
  • We chose to grow
  • We kept our sense of humor
  • We kept the faith
    • In ourselves
    • In each other
    • In our country
    • In God.

His anecdotes relating to those factors are humorous, inspiring, and thought provoking. I have had the wonderful opportunity to discuss these things in depth with Dave.

So I check myself against his factors almost daily. They have even become part of the value statements for my consulting group.

I will not ruin the book by parroting it here. However, I am particularly fond of Dave’s pointing out how the POW’s trusted each one of them would do the best they could, would resist the severe interrogations to their limit; recognizing each of them had their own limit levels.

I now try to consider folks I work with are doing the best they can do. This puts a whole different shape to the way I work with these people. Fewer rocks are thrown; fewer lines are drawn in the sand; fewer chips are put on shoulders.

I would encourage everyone to read’s Dave’s book. Your connections should be yours, not mine, not Dave’s. I know folks in Middle Tennessee also get shot down every once in a while.

Note: Dave’s book can be obtained on-line through the Amazon.com and Dave’s website, www.davecarey.com. A glimpse of what Dave delivers to us and how he provides us a chance to choose is in the video in the link below. It is not the entire captivating and moving speech (after all, Dave is a “motivational speaker,” and i don’t think Dave ever took a back seat to anyone in any endeavor he has undertaken), but it gives me a sense of what he is about, and i have been choosing to make my life “the best of times” ever since i met him eighteen years ago.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Xinjxlw5DQ

There are a series of four videos of Dave’s story in his own words if you would like to hear and watch him tell his story. i will provide them if you let me know you would like them.

Thanks, Dave. 

Random Rants of a Curmudgeon on a Cloudy Saturday Morning

The promise of heavy rain didn’t quite meet the prognostications. We got enough to dampen the hardscape, maybe as much as a quarter of an inch. Boo. As much as i brag about the weather in the Southwest corner, lack of rain is a dangerous thing in the high desert. Then i wonder, as i have many times,  why we humans decide to take a place so charming it is almost perfect and ruin it by overpopulation.

Richard Henry Dana published Two Years Before the Mast in 1840. It remains one of Alan Hicks and my favorites. We discuss it, read it again, try to figure out what the West Coast cities were like in 1832-1834 when he sailed into what is now called Dana Point, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and San Diego. When he arrived on his merchant ships, the population of San Diego was about 200, everyone included. In Los Angeles was about 400, and  Santa Barbara had in the neighborhood of 600 souls. In San Francisco Bay, Dana and his shipmates found one deserted log cabin.

When Dana returned in 1874, thirty years later, San Francisco’s population had grown to 100,000; Los Angeles had over 10,000; Santa Barbara had grown to 2,000; and San Diego? Well, Dana reported it was pretty much the same, about 200. Why? High desert. That is about all the folks the water supply could support.

So we pumped water in from the Colorado River, came up with air conditioning to expand development into the hot of the desert, away from the coast, and Voila! We got about about three million in the county, about half of whom live in the city proper.

Ugh.

Yesterday, another of my friends took a swipe at California. It seems like everyone i know east of Yuma has this hate thing for anything Californian. Those knocks at California, by the way, doesn’t exclude me from the attack.

It was Lebanon High School’s Class of 1962 forty-fifth reunion, 2007. i was there for the second time having been included by those generous and caring folks because i grew up with them but attended Castle Heights Military Academy instead of the public high school (my mother got a deal; i bitterly opposed the idea but my pleas went unheard and going to Castle Heights was one of the best things that has ever happened to me: still, i felt very much a part of those high school contemporaries and was honored to be included). i’ve gone to all of the succeeding reunions except last year when i fell ill just before departing the Southwest corner.

Anyhow, i was there in May of 2007, when i struck up a conversation with the venerable Stratton Bone, someone whom i respect a great deal and who is married to the beautiful Marty Smith, one of my favorite women of our class and who, by some marriage twists is a relative.

Stratton was his usual congenial self until right at the conclusion when he seemed to find my choice of a place to live as bad. He belittled the state of California, its politics, its politicians, and by extension, its voters, regardless for whom they voted.

Since i’ve began using email and been on Facebook every so often, good friends put in some nasty comments about California and its policies. Some very recently. Some of these emails and posts make fun, but most are ugly and mean spirited, like the senders (or copiers and pasters) are superior and Californians are evil.

My initial reaction is to get angry and respond. i don’t like to be hated. i initially consider the rocks over the wall to be hateful, but then i just feel sad. Ignorance needs an outlet apparently and folks need to feel superior like they know the answer. Can’t say i’ve seen anyone come up with an answer that works yet.

i have, because of the roving nature i didn’t even realize i had, been to many places. i have spent significant time in my hometown of Lebanon, Tennessee. Newspapering took me to Watertown, New York, at the edge of a Thousand Islands and queen of the snow belt. The Navy allowed me to learn about Newport, Rhode Island; Norfolk, Virginia; Long Beach and Los Angeles, California; my Southwest Corner; College Station, Texas; Sasebo, Japan; and Jacksonville, Florida; Since the Navy, i’ve added Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Richland, and Pasco), Washington to the list. There are many other places i have visited.

You know what? i’ve found all of them to be places i could live. Yes, they had their faults, their drawbacks for my ideas about living and government, even weather — even the Southwest corner has some weather drawbacks; but not many — but i found really nice things about each of those locales, things i would enjoy like landscape, weather, attractions, and yes, even people. i could throw rocks at each of them, but i choose to remember them as good places to live with good people, and like everywhere some pretty bad human acts as well.

In this vagabond life of mine, i have been lucky enough to have wonderful relationships with a number of women before ending up with my soulmate, an incredible woman who has a few faults — she and i love each other and understand the nature of what each of us find are not particularly pleasing about each other. With those other women in my life, most have continued a strong bond with me. They are friends, not just friends, close friends, who remember the good times and the continuing good things about our relationship.

Back many years ago, a woman rejected me. i certainly wasn’t the best mate one could hope for, but i had tried to make the relationship work. i committed to it and i kept finding good things about this woman, in spite of some things of which i was not…er, enamored. She dumped me, professing not to love me. She then spent the rest of the time i knew her looking for, inventing, revising history, to prove i was something despicable, something to hate. She finally made it. We no longer have a relationship. It hurt. No, it still hurts. i’ve gotten smart enough in my old age to realize any attempt to reach out to be friends would only cause more negative, hurtful reaction. It ain’t worth it.

Sort of like people inventing and repeating negative things about where i live.

i have friends out here in the Southwest corner who are not thrilled, no, abhor the politics of California, not to mention the crazy costs of living here. There are a number of things i don’t like about California politics, just like there are a number of things i don’t like about any state’s politics (that i know enough about to have an opinion). Because of the financial climate, Maureen and i have often discussed moving. In 2014, we even scouted out homes in Middle Tennessee, and looked at homes for sale on Signal Mountain during many Christmas trips. My friends bitch about living here, some even have researched preferred places for relocation.

None of them have left, and i will be surprised if many do. We certainly have decided to live here for the rest of our lives, barring unexpected events.

You see, the Southwest corner is a nice place to live, just like all of those other places. There are good people here, even people with whom i disagree on several issues who are trying to do what’s right for all of our inhabitants. And yes, there are some pretty self centered, despicable characters who are only interested in themselves and amassing great amounts of wealth for themselves. Just like everywhere else.

The most surprising thing about this to me is so many of those folks who throw hate at anything with which, or anyone with whom they disagree claim they are Christians. Oh yeh, some of their stuff sounds like it came from the Bible, but just like the hateful group of people in the Muslim religion, they rely on sound bites, incomplete quotes, and a massive twisting of the words to come up with their hate. And that stuff the supposed Christians claim for support comes mostly from the Old Testament, like “and eye for an eye…” and slaying lambs, even sons to gain favor with the higher being.

i’m too old to try and change them. i’ve lived my life attempting to do the right thing. For everyone. Some people have interpreted that to fit their needs. Okay, i can live with that.

You see, one of my patron saints is Mose Allison, the Mississippi bred jazz and blues piano player who wrote many songs i found meaningful. i remember two of his songs when i get those nasty, uninformed generalized comments about where i live or even when someone finds my behavior or words lacking.

You got it, Mose:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4olfgtgLp8

and:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOWrsXDuwDE

i feel a bit better now.

A Different World

This post has been produced from my aunt’s photo albums. i was going to post them in a Facebook album as i have been doing for quite some time, so relatives and friends of my family past and present could enjoy them and download if they were so inclined. Yeh, i know, all of you whippersnappers, i could have put them in “dropbox” and made it accessible to those folks. But that’s a lot of work. Even worse, it is a lot of technical work, and as much as i see the benefits, i am too old to get into that stuff…at least for now.

But when i scanned these today for the purpose of the Facebook album entry, something struck me  to lead me to putting them here first with my comments. i will post them there later for my original intent.

Our world was back then was this thing call family. It was tangible. It was constant. It was even tribal, i guess. It was beautiful. Perhaps it was because when it was. After all, there was a war going on. Perhaps it was because it was in “Brigadoon.” After all, it was a small town smack dab in the middle of Tennessee, and like most of the small towns at the time, people grew up there, most stayed or didn’t wander far from home. i’m not smart enough to figure out why or even how. But it was family beautiful.

There was this wonderful woman, who came up from the little hamlet of Statesville where her forbears had found sustenance among the fertile patches of land between the creeks and the trees and the bramble of the woods where game was plenty. Her husband, a man of strength and labor by fate, brought her into town so he could work at the pencil mill…well, not really town yet because they first moved out on Coles Ferry Pike and only later to town but even then there was a garden and a root cellar and a wood-fired stove inside and the family grew up there, and she hung on through the first seven years of my life, long enough for me to remember her caring.

And Mama Jewell had family, eight children, and i lost count on grandchildren, among of whom were my cousins like big brothers to me living across the street on Castle Heights Avenue. Graham Williamson, the fiddler who babysat his cousin while his band practiced in his home and let the young boy sing “Kaw Liga.” The family Jewell saw after each other and my father went with Graham to the West Side Hotel to get the body of Graham’s father, and Aunt Naomi Martin, nee Jewell, the older sister had taken Graham in when her younger sister Virda died in her twenties, and Naomi and George Martin raised Graham like he was their son along with their natural son Maxwell Martin who followed in his father’s footsteps being like a brother  to my father and they all, including me fished on the Tennessee lakes with a passion.

Then there was the maternal grandmother, the one who held her family together like glue and bounced around from house to family house to help take care of her grandchildren or work tasks for her daughter and son-in-law and Katherine “Granny Prichard had a rough life but still managed to enjoy it, her family and her friends. Like Daisy Lawrence who wasn’t Lawrence at the time (Susan Rockett, help me out here), still carrying her maiden name, and they lived across Clearview Drive on West Main Street from each other and became close friends, more like family for the rest of their lives, and more like family for all of us, and became the resting spot for Florida travel amidst the citrus groves.

And the man who took her from Lebanon to the citrus groves was a strong and intelligent business man, but his love of family, even the extended family seemed to have no bounds. And when Katherine “Granny” Prichard was tending to her young husband who we now believe suffered from asthma, she gathered up her family and went to the citrus groves where Euless, forever known as “Uncle Euless,” by all of us, and Daisy, forever known as “Aunt Daisy” by all of us, Lawrence took Katherine and her ill husband in and let them stay in the log cabin next to the big house until Joe Blythe Prichard wanted to go home for his final resting place and the family of six gathered in the ambulance-like van and headed north, back home to Tennessee.

But the Lawrence’s kept coming back to Tennessee, and the Jewell’s and the Prichard’s, and the Hall’s kept going to Gotha, Florida, and Uncle Euless seemed to like me and liked me until he too left us. And in this photo is the new Dodge, which remained a running usable vehicle for long afterwards, and there is no name on the woman resting her arm on that Dodge and i wonder if she might be “Aunt Ella” who was another extended family member.  And the roads to and from Gotha, Florida to Lebanon, Tennessee should have had a rut from all that back and forth: US 231 to Murfreesboro, US 41 through Chattanooga through Georgia until deep into Florida, cut across on US 44 to US 27, around 700 miles, but of course there was family along the way where we stayed.

And the bonds were strong. Then in the spring of 1962, i did not have a girl to ask to my graduation dance at Castle Heights, i just didn’t think those Lebanon girls liked to have more than one date with me. But family came through. My mother and grandmother talked to Aunt Daisy and her son, Douglas, and her daughter Juanita (Susan, did i spell her name correctly?) Browning. You see, the family ties run deep and the Browning’s daughter Susan was a year younger than me. We’d never met, but all parties agreed she would attend my graduation weekend with me.

And she did and she was beautiful and wonderful. Still is. i think about my feelings during those wonderful change of life days and how i felt about her. Sometimes i wonder…but she has a wonderful family in Georgia, and i have mine in the Southwest corner, and we are still family, and that is the way it should be.