Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Dangerous Trends

Andrew Rosenthal wrote a piece called “Gunsmoke and Mirrors” in the New York Times yesterday.  He was reporting on President Trump’s comments to a group of governors on Monday about “throwing people who have not committed a crime into mental hospitals to prevent mass shootings at schools.”  Rosenthal says it reminds him of a country where he once resided: the Soviet Union.  There, in the 1960’s, “until the fall of Soviet Communism, the Kremlin employed the notion of ‘sluggish schizophrenia’…to imprison people on the ground that they were on their way to becoming insane.”

“Now comes Trump,” writes Rosenthal, “urging the nation’s governors to return to a time when he said states could ‘nab’ people and throw them in a padded room because ‘something was off’.   (Mr. Trump is using misdirection here—there never was such a time when this could be done).  “It is tragic,” Rosenthal continues, “that in recent decades, states have closed mental hospitals and thrown people into prisons when they should be receiving psychiatric care. But that has little to do with gun violence — in or out of schools, on a small or mass scale.”

Who is to determine when “something is off” with somebody?  I’m sure that some people think I’m a little “off” sometimes—even “odd.” Does that mean, that on the basis of your opinion, or a policeman’s opinion,  I should be  nabbed and committed to a mental institution?  This kind of thinking, this kind of attitude, is dangerous.  

Mr. Trump has also said that state and local law enforcement will be given more high quality military equipment (armored vehicles, arms of war, etc.) in order that they might do their job more efficiently.  What is the job of local and state law enforcement?  Does the job require the equipment of war?  

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

This Conservative/Liberal “Me”

I’ve always thought of myself as both a conservative and a liberal in the way in which Jesus expresses these two philosophies in Matthew’s gospel:  “Every scribe, He said, “who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”  Elton Trueblood believed this passage to be “a vivid rebuke both to the one who pines for the good old days and to the one who has contempt for anything that is not strictly contemporary.”

Conservatism is a political philosophy that leans toward tradition (religious, cultural, or nationally defined beliefs and customs) in the face of change.  I  am a conservative and want to retain those values that have proven to be beneficial to our nation.  Because of this conservative part of me, I have always been slow to buy into any radical political or social reforms. On the other hand, as a liberal, I’ve always tried to be open to new ideas, behaviors, or opinions and have been willing to discard some traditional values if in the light of the “new” they seem “wrong” or “unjust.” 

This conservative/liberal “me” struggles with what it means to be a Christian in the modern world—for as a Christian I hold certain principles and beliefs that are not necessarily accepted by my brothers and sisters of other faiths, nor by many of my fellow citizens, who may claim no religious faith at all.  This conservative/liberal “me” struggles with what it means to be a Christian and a citizen in a democratic society.  A democracy is not a religious form of government.  It is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people (all people according to our Constitution).   These people, who govern in a democracy, are not necessarily of my religious persuasion or yours, or anybody else’s—they are a wide and diverse group with many different philosophies, opinions and behaviors.  A religious (Christian or other) government would be a theocracy (ruled by God—or by the leaders who think they think like God). This kind of government would force everyone (in spite of diversity) to adhere to what those, who think they think like God, demanded.  There would be no room for differences of opinion, behavior, or philosophy.  I much prefer the conservative/liberal struggle both as a Christian and a citizen within a democracy. Why?  Because in a theocracy there would be no room for my conservative/liberal struggle.

The new nationalism is not conservatism.  It is something different—leaning sadly toward a sick kind of theocracy (our way or the highway, we are the only truth, only our type wanted. we are number one). Ronald Reagan was a conservative, but he described America as a shining city on a hill, suggesting that America would keep the world safe, that America “is not turned inward, but outward—toward others.”  The new nationalism says, “America First.”  Reagan’s dream of America was optimistic while the new nationalism is angry and fearful.  This new nationalism is a big change that makes for a more dangerous world, especially for conservative/liberal people like me.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Tip-Toeing Time

We arrived “home” safe and sound yesterday afternoon and our granddaughter Katie was here  at the door to greet us.  She was our house-sitter while we were off galavanting around the country.  She had a delicious veggie lasagne all prepared and we enjoyed a nice dinner together, catching up on all the happenings since our departure.  Thank you, Katie, for a most pleasant home-coming.

Today is our oldest son’s birthday.  Paul was born in “Wild and Wonderful West Virginia,” back in the day when I was just a young college student.  Now, Paul’s sons, our grandsons, Austin and Nick, are young college students!  “Time marches on,” we say, but I don’t think it does.  I don’t recall a big parade, or the blare of trumpets, or the beating of drums, or the stomping of feet as it (time) passed  by.  The time just kind of tip-toed along. The time of Paul’s growing up years, his adolescent years, his college years, his graduations, the day he and Helen wed, the time when his sons were born—these days, months and years just tip-toed along and all at once it seems, I turned around and those times were gone.  I like the idea of time tip-toeing rather than marching along—tip-toeing allows “time” (Paul’s journey) to soak in and thus for memories to take root and to live on.  I do remember his growing up years, his adolescent years, etc., because time tip-toed along permitting us to remember all the seasons of his life as we give thanks for the gift of Paul today.

What will I do now that I am no longer on the road?  I’m sure I’ll find something to do until I can get “on the road again.”  Thank you to those of you who rode along with us through this blog on our journey across “America the beautiful.” I hope you enjoyed the ride and the experience as much as we did.  


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Great Grandad’s Role Discovered

We left our home on Sunday, January 21st for our cross-country trek and we will return home today, Sunday, February 25th.  We had a wonderful visit and lunch with Matt, Emily and Addison yesterday.  After lunch we said our goodbyes and drove northeast on I-85 to Petersburg, Virginia for the night.  Our drive home today will be a short one and hopefully a safe one.  

I want to share a lesson I learned yesterday.  If you read my blog yesterday, you will remember that we were planning our visit with our first and only great grandchild, Addison, and I was questioning what my role was as a great grandad.  Was it a different role than that of a grandfather? Well, Addison helped me figure out my “great grandad” role. 

During our lunch at a restaurant, Addison became restless and  needed some fresh air.  Her Daddy had already taken her out for a few minutes, but apparently that wasn’t enough.  I volunteered to take her outside and to my surprise (and delight) she willingly allowed me to pick her up and carry her outside.  There we noticed some colorful pansies and quite naturally Addison wanted some of those pretty flowers to take to her Mommy.  So we picked a few and went back into the restaurant where Addison shared her flowers.  Then she developed a new mantra:  “More flowers.” “More flowers.” “More flowers.”  Out we went again, and again, and again, Addison in the arms of her great grandad in search for more flowers. The pansies were beginning to disappear, so we searched for flowers elsewhere and found some dandelions on a grassy hill.  What fun we had climbing the hill, picking some dandelions, and running back down that hill!  Then, back into the restaurant after each jaunt to share dandelions and then the mantra “more flowers” took us back out again.  I loved every minute of our adventure and I think Addison enjoyed our moments together as well.  

The lesson learned?  Just be there.  Just be available.  Just pick flowers or climb little hills. Just be there whenever, wherever,  and however an old grandad can with his two-year-old great granddaughter. There is nothing more to it, or more special, than that!
"More flowers...more flowers!"

Saturday, February 24, 2018

“Everything’s Goin’ My Way”

"Gettng to know you, getting to know all about you..."
Our granddaughter Katie called last night.  She had great news.  The visa she and Liam have worked on so hard since their marriage has been approved.  She will now join Liam  and they will reside together in the United Kingdom.  “Oh, what a beautiful mornin’ it is for Katie and Liam.

This morning we are off to see and visit Matthew, Emily and Addison.  Matthew is our daughter Rachel’s son, Katie’s brother, and our oldest grandson!  Emily is Matt’s lovely wife.  They live in North Carolina.  Their daughter is two years old.  Her name is Addison Elizabeth and she is our first and our only (so far) great grandchild.  She is absolutely beautiful.  

We’ve seen Addison (Addie, for short) several times since her birth.  I doubt that she knows who we are yet.  That isn’t really so strange, since we don’t know yet who we are as great grandparents.  We’ve never been great grandparents before!  Is being a “great” grandad a new role, different from being a “regular” grandad?   I think so, but I don’t know what that role is at the moment.  I hope to learn more about it during our visit today.

Addison was born two years ago on her father’s birthday—January 31st.  Matthew was only 23 years old the day Addie was born.  “Too young,” I wrote in my journal that day, “to be a father, and yet I was only 23 years old when I became a father!”  At 23, a fellow isn’t hardly “dry between the ears!”  But, from what I’ve observed over these last two years Matt is doing a great job as a father—and Emily is a great Mom. Watching them care for Addie makes my heart sing and my spirit dance!

Matt, Emily, and Addison are just a few miles away now.  We are so eager to see them and spend time with them today.  “Oh, what a beautiful mornin’, Oh, what a beautiful day, I got a beautiful feelin’, Everything’s goin’ my way”—for the moment anyway.

Addie's Birthday Party!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Almost Home

Have you ever heard of a little village called Fair Play, South Carolina?  Have you ever been there?  We spent last night in Fair Play.  I’m sure we’ve passed by the sign  “Fair Play” while traveling on I-85 before, but I never noticed it. Fair Play—what a neat name.  I wonder who decided on that name and why.  I will have to do some research.

Our month-long journey across country and back has been a good one packed full of new sights and insights.   Today we will travel north into North Carolina where on Saturday we’ll visit with our grandson Matthew and his wife Emily and their two-year old daughter (our first, and at the present moment, our only, great granddaughter) Addison.  We are already excited just thinking about being with them  The visit will be a wonderful way to close out our journey of nearly 8000 miles.  If all goes well, we should be home on Sunday evening.

Home?  I feel I am at home even while on the road.  Home for me is no longer a house, a place, a town, a setting.  My home is within me.  Maya Angelou wrote, “The ache of home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”  It is in this sense that I’ve been “home” all along the way.  But I read or heard somewhere that you really can’t travel without having a home some place, some where.  If there is no home to leave and return to, then traveling in and of itself is simply wandering, a state of being lost.  It is only when one returns home and settles in that one can reflect on the growth and experiences that occurred away from home. 

I’m still inclined to say that I am at home while on the road.  “We see the world piece by piece,” writes Emerson, “as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are shining parts, is the soul.”  Perhaps I’m beginning to see in these later years that all things are connected—that all is of one piece—the soul (or home)?  The old adage, “Home is where the heart is,” may be truer than we know.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Billy Graham

It was 1957.  The Billy Graham Crusade was happening at Madison Square Garden.  Our church arranged bus transportation for those of us who wanted to go.  I cannot remember what Billy Graham said.  I do remember George Beverly Shea singing “How Great Thou Art.” I also remember Cliff Burrows leading the massive crowd in the singing of various hymns and the powerful effect that singing had on my spirit.  I do not remember what hymns were sung.  I do remember the invitational hymn, “Just As I Am” being sung as Billy Graham called us to come down front and make the decision to put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  I remember gripping the railing in front of my seat—gripping it so tightly that it made my hands hurt.  I remember my heart racing and something within my being urging me to move, to go forward, to do this thing.  My sister was sitting near me.  I believe she was going through the same emotional and psychic turmoil.  We hesitated, we held back, and when we both finally decided we had to go forward, we were too late.  We did, however, as we tried to find our way to the front, encounter Billy Graham face to face.  He looked straight into our eyes and smiled.  I shall always remember that Billy Graham!  The Billy Graham who smiled at me!

I don’t remember what date we attended the Crusade.  It went on for 100 days.  It was July 18, however, when Billy Graham told those in attendance:  “A great social revolution is going on in the United States today. Dr. King is one of its leaders, and we appreciate his taking time out of his busy schedule to come and share this service with us tonight.”  And Dr. King prayed: “O God, our Heavenly Father—out of whose mind this great cosmic universe has been created, toward whom the weary and perplexed of all generations turn for consolation and direction—we come before Thy presence this evening thanking Thee for the many blessings of life. We come recognizing our dependence on Thee. We also come, O God, with an awareness: The fact that we have not always given our lives to that which is high and noble. In the midst of all of the high and noble aspects of justice, we followed injustice. We stand amid the forces of truth, and yet we deliberately lie. We stand amid the compelling urgency of the Lord of love, as exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ, and yet we live our lives so often in the dungeons of hate. For all of these sins, O God, forgive. And in these days of emotional tension—when the problems of the world are gigantic in extent and chaotic in detail—give us penetrating vision, broad understanding, power of endurance, and abiding faith, and save us from the paralysis of crippling fear. And O God, we ask Thee to help us to work with renewed vigor for a warless world and for a brotherhood that transcends race or color. We thank Thee this evening for the marvelous things which have been done in this city, and through the dynamic preachings of this great evangelist. And we ask Thee, O God, to continue blessing him. Give him continued power and authority. And as we look into him tonight, grant that our hearts and spirit will be opened to the divine inflow.”

If Graham’s evangelism and King’s social justice had been united as one package, we might have come close to an authentic Christianity.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Natchez Trace

Unlike Texas, you don’t have to drive three days to get out of Louisiana.   We left the Lake Charles area yesterday morning , driving through Lafayette and on to Baton Rouge where we crossed the mighty Mississippi River.  I’ve always wanted to travel the Natchez Trace Parkway, so we turned northward at Baton Rouge eventually arriving in Vicksburg last night. 

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile road and scenic drive through three states. It roughly follows the “Old Natchez Trace,” a historic “travel corridor used by native Americans, ‘Kaintucks,’ European settlers, slave traders, soldiers and future presidents.”  Perhaps the heaviest use of the Trace was from 1785 to 1820 when Kaintuck boatmen floated their flatboats down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to markets in Natchez and New Orleans. They sold their cargo and boats and began the trek back north on foot to Nashville and points beyond.  The Parkway was established in 1938 and is under the management of the National Park Service.  It may be the only 444-mile long, two hundred yard wide National Park in the country.

So what’s the big deal about this Natchez Trace?  There is little left to see of that original trail.  Nature and man have reconfigured (or disfigured) the primeval forests, rivers, bayous and streams that once surrounded the ancient trek (used for more than 10,000 years).  Why have I wanted for years to travel this path?  I have found it extremely meaningful to be in any historical place where men and women before my time have walked and played and lived.  These phantoms, my forefathers and foremothers, blazed a trail that I can now walk or drive and they appear to me (in my imagination) like phantoms lingering still along the Natchez Trace, or Stonehenge in England, or at Delphi in Greece.  I can almost feel their presence.  Does that sound ridiculous?  Perhaps it is.  But I have felt such phantom presence in many places.  When walking through an American World War II cemetery in Scotland I sensed the presence of those young men who rest there.  It happens almost every where: in the Garden of Gethsemane outside Jerusalem, or sailing the Nile in Egypt.  And so it was  yesterday as I drove a portion of the Natchez Trace Parkway.  I felt the phantom presence  of  the Natchez, Chickasaw, and Choctaw native peoples.  I sensed the presence of Andrew Jackson, Meriwether Lewis (who died along the trail in 1809), John James Audubon, Jefferson Davis, and Ulysses S. Grant, along with the hundreds of Kaintucks who also traveled that path.  

I am convinced that the cry of those who came before us continues to sound in us.  Their cry joins our cry.  Isn’t that a silly thought?  Nikos Kazantzakis suggested that we “uncork our mind” until we realize “there is no such thing as ‘me,” ‘you,’ and ‘he or she’; everything is a unity and this unity is a profound mystic intoxication in which death loses it scythe and ceases to exist.  Separately, we die one by one, but all together we are immortal.” 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Looking Up and Looking Down

It takes three days to drive across the great State of Texas. We started with an overnight in El Paso, then drove to Fort Stockton the next day and then to Luling on the second day.  Luling is about 40 miles east of San Antonio.  Yesterday we drove from  Luling  some 350 miles or so to Lake Charles, Louisiana.  Three days!   We will likely drive all the way through Louisiana today!

Sometimes I am accused of painting a “bright” picture of the world in which we live and at other times accused of being pessimistic about things in general.  I suppose I am both, as most of us are.  Sometimes life’s stony paths hold my attention and sometimes (especially while traveling) I seem to spend much of my time looking at the clouds. In fact, this is why I think traveling is a good remedy for “what ails you” (which is usually a result of focusing on life’s stony paths).  Here again, what is called the “holy conjunction” is important—we must watch the stones AND gaze at the clouds—and do BOTH at the same time.

When Nikos Kazantzakis was a young man, a neighbor said to his father, “…I think your son’s going to become a dreamer and visionary,…He’s always looking at the clouds.”  His mother responded, “Don’t worry, life will come along and make him lower his gaze.”  And his father had the last word, “Forget the clouds.  Keep your eyes on the stones beneath you if you don’t want to fall and kill yourself.”  In spite of life’s stoney paths and the necessity to lower one’s gaze so as not to trip, we must always make room to look at the clouds. 

One of the benefits of being liberated (retired) is the ability to look back (and most older folk look back far too much) and realize that you have spent far too many days gazing downward at the rocks, and too many years letting life lower your gaze, when you should have been “looking at the clouds.” In every chapter of life we need to be “always looking at the clouds,” and  “gazing downward at the rocks,” so as not to stumble and fall.  We are capable of BOTH/AND—doing two things at once.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, AZ

Monday, February 19, 2018

Farewell to Texas

If all goes well today we will cross over into another state besides Texas.  Texas is an awfully big place.  Former governor Ann Richards put it this way, “I thought I knew Texas pretty well, but I had no idea of its size until I campaigned it.”  

I noted a sign along the Interstate yesterday which said, “Don’t mess with Texas.”   Then I met and talked with some fellows with their souped up V-8 Diesel Turbo pick-ups at the fuel pump yesterday.  That meeting confirmed for me the truth of the signage.  I wouldn’t want to “mess” with any of those guys!  They seemed to me to be as tough as their trucks!  On the other hand, I’ve met some of the most courteous and generous people here in Texas; people who are willing to bend over backwards to help you.  Texas has everything—all sorts of geography, all sorts of people, all sorts of all things!  Texas, in the last analysis, is like everywhere!

There are all kinds of jokes about Texas and there all kinds of impressions and descriptions of the Lone Star State and its people.  General Philip Sheridan wrote back in the late 19th century, “If I owned Texas and Hell, I’d rent out Texas and live in Hell.” John H. Holliday, the infamous “Doc” Holliday of western legend, purportedly said, “At the risk of descending to unscientific generalizations, 90 percent of Texans give the other 10 percent a bad name.”  Davy Crockett, hero of the Alamo said in 1836, “I must say as to what I’ve seen of Texas it is the garden spot of the world. The best land and the best prospects for health I ever saw, and I do believe it is a fortune to any man to come here.   There is a world of country here to settle.”

This “world of country” called Texas has a uniqueness all its own.  People have indeed come to settle here and Texas is the second largest populated state in the union and has a growing, highly diversified economy which includes the new technologies.  “I must say as to what I’ve seen of Texas” (to quote Crockett) it is a Big Country, with wonderful scenery and genuinely kind people.  

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Where Have All The Roadrunners Gone?

We drove some 240 miles yesterday from El Paso to Fort Stockton, Texas.  I am trying to be faithful to my new discipline of driving a maximum of 300 miles per day.  At this rate, in TEXAS, I may not get out of the state until next month! 

On our way west several weeks ago, we stayed at the Roadrunner RV Park here in Fort Stockton. We decided to stay at a different RV park this time around just to add some variety to our life on the road.  Actually, we stayed at this park, the Fort Stockton RV Park, last February.  The Fort Stockton RV Park has the “Best Little Cafe in Texas” called The Roadrunner Cafe.  We took advantage of the cafe for both dinner last night and breakfast this morning.  (I needed a break from cooking and doing the dishes). 

Fort Stockton has a rich history.  The Fort grew up around Comanche Springs (one of the largest sources of spring water in Texas) and its mission was to protect the western expansion.  In 1867, the famous Buffalo soldiers were stationed at the fort. 

Today we continue our journey eastward on Interstate 10, traveling to (and I hope, though) San Antonio before the day ends.  

I have yet to see a roadrunner on this trip.  Normally I see one or two here in Texas or in New Mexico or Arizona.  Where have all the roadrunners gone?   A roadrunner’s life is not an easy one and has many dangers.  Roadrunners are preyed upon by hawks, raccoons, snakes (even though the roadrunner enjoys rattlesnakes for dinner on occasion) and skunks.  During the winter months, many roadrunners succumb to freezing, icy weather.  Another and much more prevalent predator these days is the automobile. I feel a certain kinship with this bird since I am somewhat of a roadrunner myself.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Desert Rain

Last year we had a little rain shower or two while driving across the desert (Sonoran).  It felt strange then, so you can imagine what it felt like yesterday when torrents of rain fell upon the desert—all the way from Tucson AZ to Las Cruces NM.  Last night here in El Paso TX we had heavy rain with thunder and lightning.  We will drive today from El Paso to “Somewhere” TX.  The temperature will be about 70° and rain is not expected.

Rain is supposed to bring forth new life to the barren landscape of the desert according to all those nature films I’ve seen through the years.  I was tempted to hang around a day or two and see if this rain-drenched desert might come alive with blossoms and so forth, until a fellow told me it was the wrong time of the year for that to happen.  “You need to come back in April or May to see the effect of this rain,” he said.  I may just do that!

We have a tendency to expect things to happen overnight—whether it be the desert coming to life after one rain, or for our problems (individual or societal) to go away after a good night’s sleep.  We know it doesn’t happen that way, but we keep hoping all the same.

“Since 1968, 1,516,863 have died from guns on American soil,” someone has reported.  Isn’t that enough “rain” to bring about some kind of discussion about the issue?  It is not just an issue of mental illness, parental discipline, or religious faith that is needed.  Prayer ain’t goin’ do it!  Sleeping on it isn’t going to solve it.  Let’s talk about it—then let’s do something about it.  “Yes, we can” do something about it.  There has been enough “rain” and it is time now for new life to blossom forth in the barren and deadly desert of guns.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Arizona: Every Kind of Country

Fifty-four years ago I visited Arizona for the first time.  We were driving a little black and white 1957 Opel Rekord with a white top that I had purchased for the large sum of $350.  I bought a little metal roof-top carrier for the top of it, loaded all our possessions in or on top of the car and off we went from California for the East coast.  Along the way we visited “new” family—some in Phoenix, others in Kansas, Ohio, etc.  Phoenix was terribly hot (in April).  Traveling north to Flagstaff it was cold and I had trouble starting the car because of both the cold and the altitude.  It was that issue which caused a cog to pop out of the Opel’s transmission while being “pushed”.  The transmission was temporarily repaired enough in Flagstaff for us to creep cautiously across the Painted Desert to Albuquerque where we connected with the Unser Brothers garage, and a new [used] transmission could be installed.  I’ve already told that story—but it always come to the fore when I’m in Flagstaff.  Fifty-four years ago I had no idea that our son, Luke, and his family would be living here in Flagstaff.

I attended an Air Force Chaplains Conference at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona in February some thirty-plus years ago.  I left Maryland in an ice and snow storm, but arrived in Tucson to sunshine and 80-plus degrees.  For the first few days of my visit in Tucson I was convinced that I should move my family to Arizona!  But, alas, it didn’t happen!  And what if it had?  Would my son Luke have met Kim, born and raised in Tucson?

Arizona has all kinds of terrain (and thus weather) from the desert valleys of the Sonora Desert, to the White Mountains and the Kaibab Plateau.  “Arizona is a land of contrasts geologically, racially, socially, and culturally,” according to a Arizona Guidebook in 1940. “Its mountains tower a mile or more into the air; the rivers have cut miles deep into the multicolored earth. Snow lingers on the peaks while the valleys are sweet with the fragrance of orange blossoms. Here are sere deserts and the largest pine forest in the world. Here are fallen forests turned to stone, and forests of trees that have survived the slow change from jungle to desert by turning their leaves to thorns.”

I think Zane Grey in his book, Valley of Wild Horses, has his character sum up Arizona much better than I can. "I had a pard who came from Arizona. All day long and half the night that broncho buster would rave about Arizona. Well, he won me over. Arizona must be wonderful.
"But Pan, isn't it desert country?"
"Arizona is every kind of country..."

That Opel looked something like this.....

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Common Cold

“Happiness is a tablet,” writes Mitch Album, author of Tuesdays With Morrie. “This is our world.   Prozac.  Daxil.  Xanax.  Billions are spent to advertise such drugs.  And billions are spent in purchasing them.  You don’t even need a specific trauma, just ‘general depression’ is enough, or anxiety, as if sadness is as treatable as the common cold.”  Sadness is not very treatable by pill or fluid and neither is the common cold as far as I’m concerned.

I wish there were such a tablet to treat and cure the common cold at the moment, but I don’t know of any.  We have both developed a cold! Consarnit! That is my diagnosis.  The worse part is that we are suffering from these colds while visiting our grandchildren.  Where’s the tablet to make colds go away?  We’ve been trying some over-the-counter remedies, eating a lot of chicken noodle soup, and drinking lots of water, but we still have colds.  We can “treat” the common cold, they say, but there is no cure for it.  Pam Ayres wrote:
Medicinal discovery
It moves in mighty leaps,
It leapt right past the common cold
And gave it us for keeps.”

Gene Tierney said, “Movie failures are like the common cold.  You can stay in bed and take aspirin for six days and recover.  Or you can walk around and ignore it for six days and recover.”  We will try to do the latter while here in Flagstaff with our grandchildren.

Ethan and Eleni on Katie's Wedding Day
October 2017

Monday, February 12, 2018

Making the Most of 75!

Wind, rain and snow with a 38° high temperature is expected here in Flagstaff on this Monday.  It is helpful for me to think that just a few hundred miles south of us, in Casa Grande, it will be 69° and in Tucson it will be 73° today.  It is winter time and it is February and Flagstaff is 7000-plus feet elevation.

Abraham Lincoln was born today in 1809. My mother-in-law was born today in 1924.  A friend of mine was born yesterday in 1944.  I was born last Thursday, February 8, 1943.  My nephew (Josh) was born on the same day (Feb 8) but not the same year.  My great granddaughter Addison had a belated 2nd year birthday party on Saturday (Addie and her Dad were born on the last day of January—very, very close to February).  George Washington was born February 22, 1732. My niece was born yesterday in 1979.  My oldest son, my paternal grandmother, and my youngest brother were all born in February, too.  Lots of folk were born in February:  Thomas Edison, James Dean, Charles Darwin, Galileo, Ronald Reagan, Steve Jobs, Johnny Cash, Charles Dickens, Rosa Parks, and even Elizabeth Taylor. A lot of great and famous people were born in February and my grandchildren, Ethan and Eleni, apparently count me as one of those people!

Yesterday, our son Luke (and the children) baked and frosted a birthday cake for me.  Ethan and Eleni placed the candles on the cake (using seven candles to indicate 7 decades around the perimeter and 1 in the middle to represent a half-decade, following their mother Kim’s suggestion instead of sticking 75 candles in the cake).  I really didn’t need to worry about that possibility because Eleni was quick to say that they didn’t have that many candles in the house! Luke, with Ethan and Eleni watching closely, lit the candles, and then they all sang “happy birthday” to me.  I blew out all the candles—it took two or three puffs (I figured it was the altitude here in Flagstaff that prevented me from getting them all with just one puff).  Eleni instructed everyone that I was to taste the cake first and it was the most scrumptious I’ve ever tasted.  Ethan brought me a little medal reading “Birthday Boy” and Eleni called me to the keyboard where she played “Happy Birthday” just for her grandad.  Now, I know for sure that 75 is going to be one of my best years yet!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Awaiting the Welcoming Committee

Our 411-mile journey from California to Flagstaff, Arizona went well and without a hitch until…  About 125-miles west of Flagstaff we came to a stand still along with hundreds of trucks and automobiles.  A serious and deadly accident had occurred some miles ahead of us.  An 18-wheeler and another vehicle had apparently collided and the vehicles caught fire.  We waited patiently with the many others for nearly two and a half hours before being able to proceed with our journey.  We finally arrived at the Flagstaff KOA at 7 p.m. after nearly 10-hours on the road!

We are now just a five-minute drive from two (well, actually 4) of the nicest people I know.  The first two just happen to be our grandchildren, Ethan and Eleni.  The other two just happen to be our son and his wife, Kim.  

We asked Luke last night to give us a couple extra hours this morning to pull ourselves together after our long yesterday before bringing the “Welcoming Committee” to the campground. What a warm welcome it will be—I can hardly wait!

I’m sure Ethan and Eleni have grown some since their visit to Maryland last October for granddaughter Katie’s wedding.  At the wedding, Katie gave her bridal party clear plastic umbrellas (just in case of rain) and Eleni took her umbrella all the way to Arizona on the airplane,  But—but, somehow or another the umbrella was left on the plane.  Not to worry, Grandad has carried a plastic umbrella in the cargo bin for all these 4,700 miles just for Eleni, along with a bouquet of plastic flowers from the wedding that never even made it to the airplane.  

I better get moving.  The Welcoming Committee will be here soon and I sure want to be ready for that moment when it comes.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Desert Wind Blows

We traveled south from Monterey yesterday to Paso Robles and then east across the San Joaquin Valley, and up through the Tehachapi Pass and into the Mojave Desert to the Edwards Air Force Base FamCamp.  Overnight, the desert wind began to blow and continues to blow with 15 to 20 mph gusts.  I’m not sure yet from which direction the wind is blowing, but I’m kind of hoping it will provide us a tailwind as we drive eastward to Flagstaff, Arizona today.  Our granddaughter, Eleni, now has a “when exactly” time for our arrival.  

As the gusts of desert wind buffet Odysseus this morning I recall a song about the “Wayward Wind.”  Perhaps you remember it, too?  I believe Patsy Cline and Gogi Grant made it a popular hit.  

“The wayward wind is a restless wind
A restless wind that yearns to wander
And he was born the next of kin
The next of kin to the wayward wind.”

The desert wind reminds me that I am “the next of kin to the wayward wind,” but one who has chosen to “settle down” and “stay put” for a good part of my journey.   At three score and ten plus five I intend to more fully live out my birthright as a gypsy and a wanderer—as the next of kin to the wayward wind.  My Bucket List has no end and there are so many places I have yet to go.  At 75 I hope to spend more time reading and acting out Dr. Seuss’ admonitions.

be your name Buxbaum or Bixby, or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea
you’re off the Great Places!

Today is your day!


Friday, February 9, 2018

Back to the Desert

Today we are eastward bound—but with many a stop along the way.  Tonight we will stop once again in the Mojave Desert (probably Edwards Air Force Base FamCamp).  I’ve set a goal to drive no more than 300 miles a day—Edwards is exactly 300 miles from where I am now sitting in Monterey.  But what about tomorrow?  

We are eager to get to Flagstaff, Arizona, and we know Ethan and Eleni are eager for us to get there.  Flagstaff is 411 miles from Edwards, California.  I’ve driven that route many times before—but it does surpass my new goal.  Shall I go to Las Vegas and spend a night (less than 300 miles) and then drive back south and east to Flagstaff (less than 300 miles)?  That diversion adds about 150 extra miles from Edwards to our Flagstaff destination.  Or should I flex my 75-year-old mind and body and just go directly to Flagstaff?  My new discipline of limiting my driving to 300 miles a day must not be a rigid one—after all I’m only 75 and rigor mortis is not due to set in just yet.  Well, I just don’t know what to do!  I’ll let you know when I know.

Meanwhile, Eleni is in Flagstaff asking her dad every day just “when exactly” is Grandad going to get here!

Three Score and Ten Plus Five!

I really celebrate being 75 today.  Thank you, one and all, for your happy birthday wishes. I celebrate 75 because I wasn’t overly happy about some of the occurrences in my 74th year.  I really don’t want to be 74 anymore, or for that matter, ever again.  I guess I won’t have to worry about that.

Here are a few words of wisdom from the pens of others that speak to me on my 75th birthday. 

“And in the end, it is not the years in your life that count.  It is the life in your years.”  (Abraham Lincoln)

“We turn not older with years but newer every day.”  (Emily Dickinson)

“Today you are You, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” (Dr. Seuss)

“Men are like wine.  Some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.”  (Pope John XXIII)  I am hoping that I am the latter, improving with age—and I hope you think so too.