Thursday, July 11, 2019

"You've got to have a sense of humor..."

"sitting on the dock of the bay 
wasting time..."

    Frank was a honcho at Cal Tech, and JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) back in the heyday of the space race. Some of his underlings have won Nobel prizes for science. He is modest, so I will say it, he's brilliant and one of the sharpest minds to inhabit this planet.
    Frank will often remind us at our monthly dinners, "You've got to have a sense of humor!" This is a man who in his mid 80's was still climbing a ladder to his roof. He's also devoted years to reading history. 
   Hearing "you've got to have a sense of humor" from a man who has calculated how to stare more deeply into space so as to look further back in time" carries credibility.
    My mother was a believer in the principle of laughing at least three times a day. She was a fan of Norman Cousins and his advocacy of laughter as a healer. Medical science has caught up with mom and Cousins and there is data that explains how laughter is indeed very healthy and healing. 

      I was considered a "serious" little boy and so mom would tell me to go outside and watch the clouds. I still love to watch clouds. And now I stare at the tide. My dad would sit, zen monk like, watching the tide, whenever family vacations took us to the shore. I get it dad. 

     So, if you happen along on the California central coast and find an old boomer staring at the tide rolling away, maybe humming Otis Redding's ditty or laughing at seemingly nothing, know that you have encountered a guy who is taking advice, from those far more wise than he.
      And in this day and age, if you can't laugh at what's going on, you'd cry!

explosive news

    I, like a couple of thousand other folks, was a bit mystified by the local fireworks.
        They opened strong. I think I even muttered, this is more like a finale.

     Turns out, something went wrong. It began with the end and it could have been worse. My source is the diligent local reporter Kathe Tanner who has revealed the story.

   After starting like gangbusters, things slowed, and then it was as if things went crazy.  They did....

    Kathe reports in our local weekly The Cambrian that a new pyrotechnic specialist, utilizing a new electronic system, goofed. The intended end of the show opened the display and then things went down hill. The intended 20 minutes display was over in 7-9 minutes. A lot of stuff went off at once. 
     It was an exciting 7 minutes though. Those of us down then beach thought it looked a little wild at the park, where the aerials were launched.
     Back story here---the fire Marshall and the fire chief was about to shut it down because the launch area was too close to the folks in the park. A rapid negotiation followed by moving people further away, allowed the show to go on. However the new pyro, unfamiliar with Cambria, was sending stuff up in a wrong sequence and still too close to people and homes.  He could have used Frank's satellite and telescope calculus expertise.
      It's become a matter of local "fireworks" over the fireworks. Ash and debris landed where it should not. It took two or three days to clean the beach and nearby neighborhood. And then when you consider the complaints of pet owners with terrified dogs and cats, and the complaints of naturalists worried about birds and wild life, we've got a local hubbub underway.
        Don't you feel a chuckle coming on? 
        The belly laugh is for our Labor Secretary and his boss! Not even Carl Hiaasen could make up stuff like that. 
         I think mom would be getting in maybe 300 laughs a day.

       See you down the trail

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Which is it?

July 4, 1912- Huntington Indiana
Photo Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society

   Our session on non-violence veered into the topic of patriotism vs jingoism. An interesting conversation followed, probing, defining, and, I thought, a conversation appropriate for this nation at this time. 
     At the least people could afford themselves time to think about the difference between patriotism and jingoism, in light of their own attitudes. It would be a patriotic thing to do.
    Patriotism, a pride in what this nation has done that is honorable and good and an acknowledgement of errors and wrongs is healthy. One sided patriotism is not healthy. Both the good and the bad need to be measured. 
    Jingoism is dangerous and is the province of the stupid.
    The current president is a jingoist. Dangerous because he suffers a mental illness that distorts reality. But he is also dangerous because he is ill informed and dangerous too because he lies almost all then time. 
     His desire for a military parade is not without precedent, but it is jingoistic, as he is, and it is stupid because he has no concept of the context. Veteran analyst and political correspondent Jeff Greenfield observed this on Politico:  

      "...history also suggests there's a good reason that his plan is rubbing people the wrong way. For one, it really is rare; it; far more common for presidents to vacate Washington on the Fourth of July, or to remain at the White House, than to insert themselves into the proceedings.
            And on a more troubling level, what Trump is doing is wreathing himself in the most potent symbols of American history-delivering a speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, site of the 1963 March on Washington, looking across at a landscape of monuments-without any appreciation for the history that made that whole landscape possible. Perhaps uniquely among American presidents, he sees himself without any connection to the American story, any link to presidents past, other than his manifest superiority to any of them."
         Greenfield notes the sure sign we are dealing with 
an unbalanced man who acts as if he aspires to be a dictator, like those he embraces;

         "Trump prefers to think of himself as the lone, overarching figure who can bend history to his will. "I alone can fix it," he said..."

           He offends sensibility and decency which explains the undeniable fact that a majority of Americans voted for someone else, despite the Russian interference. 
         The American pageant has its sordid and despicable chapters and this is the latest. We have survived our past sins and we have worked over the centuries to improve, to broaden human dignity and to extend liberty. We have been courageous and generous and we will be again. But we came upon this continent as terrorists, invaders, practitioners of genocide and ethnic cleansing. We were slavers, chauvinists, sexists, classists, drunks, racists, xenophobes, cheaters and liars. But some two centuries has refined us and forced us into a stream of history where we are bending toward a better nature, a more civilized and decent nation. We will survive and overcome regressives and new racists like Trump and McConnell. 
           As much as we might desire to be like Moses and call down a plague on the house of the Pharaoh, that is not for us.
        We are the heirs of Democratic Republicans who have battled on philosophy, policy, politics and who have changed positions and minds, but have since the beginning been combined in a hatred of tyrants, kings and dictators. That is a common creed we share. The president we see is not "American," his behavior is anathema to our history, he is not us. We are not his minions and not his subjects. We are his employer and we will not forget that, despite what may be seen on TV or read on twitter.
          The Fourth of July reminds of throwing off a tyrant, of declaring Independence, of being ready to stand in the breech to combat evil oppression. In this season, think about patriotism and jingoism and maybe read the Declaration. Happy Fourth!

blooming for the 4th


         See you down the trail.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Last Of The Old Boys...

    Calvin Coolidge was President when John Angel was born and though he had reached into his advanced years he never lost a sparkle in his eye, or zest for a good joke. That long and good run has come to an end.
     John was the surviving founder of a group that gathered each Wednesday and Sunday at 4PM for a cigar, coffee and friendship.
Phil Allen and Reg Perkins were the other founders. John, Reg, and Phil cultivated the friendship and grew the group for some 30 years.

    Phil invited me into the group when I showed up in Cambria in 2007, a recent retiree and knowing no one in the village.
     It was the place to learn the local lore and ways, find the best plumber, electrician or repairman, hear great stories and  hilarious jokes. But mostly it was about friendship.
  A WW II vet, John had been in sales, he called himself a peddler. Also a vet, Reg had been a battalion chief on the LA Fire Department. Phil had been in sales and one of the smartest investors anywhere. 
   But these old boys were active. John and Reg served on the local government board. They were officers in a benevolence society that did charitable giving, the Odd Fellows. Reg and his wife founded the annual Easter Egg hunt, and Cambria's Anonymous Neighbors, a group that delivers medical supplies, operates a community bus, drives people to medical appointments and more. Phil was  active in his church and a significant philanthropist. Up to just a few of months ago, John still hosted a community forum, was secretary of the Odd Fellows and drove errands for people, as he approached his mid 90's.  
    Phil called it the "prayer meeting" though his wife Nan called it "smoke and joke!" Eventually it became a Sunday afternoon only gathering and some of the younger recruits introduced wine. 
    These guys were role models for we boomers. They filled their years with meaning and never lost the joy of being with the boys or enjoying life despite losses, illness and setbacks.
     Phil was the first to go. About a year ago Reg just went to sleep in his favorite recliner. Ray, Dick and I went to visit John last week and were shocked by his decline. We had seen him just 4-5 weeks earlier and though slowing down, he was still full of sparkle and good wit.
     These men were my first friends as I entered a new chapter of my life. 
      After John lost his beloved Sally several years ago he was over at house for dinner. Lana asked him if he could cook. 
      Not at all he said. 
      She asked if Sally had a crock pot.
      Yes he said and she had a freezer full of meat as well.
      Lana gave him instructions and for years when he hosted our Sunday gathering, his house was fragrant with his latest crockpot "creation."  
      John had a way of making his presence know, did not suffer fools easily, spoke his mind, volunteered most of his days and loved a good story, and especially the time with "the guys."
      We saw pictures of John when he worked for Westinghouse and was a pitchman for one of their divisions. He looked like a David Niven marquee idol. He was always nicely turned out, though the guys kidded him about his white bucks, that may have been as old as some of us. His WWII uniform still fit. He was proud of eating broccoli everyday. And he missed Sally something terrible. 
Ray, part of the youth movement
Dick also a boomer.
Reg, Glen and Griff
Paul-the class of the group

      Bill, Dick, Ray, Paul, Griff, Gary, Glen and I should gather one of these summer Sunday afternoons and pay tribute to our "three Musketeers" and we should keep going "the prayer meeting" smoking, joking and all. Friendships never end.
    Letting you in on a little secret here-John was frequently  kidded about always smoking his cigar in an uneven and precarious manner. He's caught here looking at yet another uneven smoke, for which he was again unapologetic!
     Rest in peace old friend.  

      See you down the trail.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

A Rare Coinhabitant ...and A Sense of

      the mystical saguaro exists in only 4 places-
the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, the Whipple Mountains of San Bernardino County of California, the Mexican state of Sonora and Imperial County California
     These images come from Arizona, where the Sonoran Desert is home to the largest population.
    The icon of the desert southwest often live to exceed 150 years. Those with arms, produce their first after 50-75 years. 
       They dwell from the valley floor to the top of buttes and share the space with other cacti, and a plethora of birds and creatures including lizards, sidewinder snakes, scorpions, rats, squirrels, tortoises and cotton tails. One walks with care in this desert. 

  the chola 
 the barrel cactus

sentries of the desert  

the sense of the voter
     I used to get paid to pay close attention to political campaigns,  now I do it out of habit. 
     Back when I thought it was the true national sport, we spent time on buses, flew on planes, and we took turns in small groups of having close up access to the candidate after which we would write what is called the pool report, that was then distributed to all media. 
     All of us also did reporting we called "the Sense of The Voter." David Broder of the Washington Post was probably the best. You go out and talk to everyday people, mostly listening. Today there is social media and attitude driven cable nets also crowding the traditional media and press corp in reach for the public.
     It's always changing, not only in personality but in the nature of the campaign. It is, if you will, the appeal to the soul of the US. What we see these days speaks volumes about how we have changed, and what we've left behind.
     I think we've devalued our national experience by not doing a good job of teaching civics, government, and critical reasoning.  We need wise "understanding media and persuasion classes."    
      Politics has become a profession, and a cash cow industry. Public service is not the prime motivator, no, now it is personal, financial or ideological. That is how it is.
     So this old boy offers a "sense of the electorate" to any candidate or organization.  The nexus of your strategy, the focus of your attention should be the women and men who are working, but struggling as they see the future shrink away and diminish just as the middle class is in decline. If I were to put a face before you, I would post a working woman. What are her needs and expectations and how can the federal government play a responsible role?
       Next to that would be a picture of a family, however it is constituted. How are they doing? Can they afford health care, or sending children to college, what kind of retirement future do they have? Do they have benefits? 
       The economic balance is out of kilter and there are bad consequences for all including the selfish class at the top. The divide in wealth, and the corrupt and broken tax code bears the omen of a struggle and demise that would be profound.
       There are other matters that cannot be ignored: Climate, personal freedom and dignity, a clam and steady hand in our role in the world community and a more civilized way achieving common good.  But the key is to hear and know the needs of what we used to call Middle Class America and to guarantee its existence and future. Everyone still deserves an American Dream, and a sense of security. 
     In 2016 there was a pandering or an ignoring. A winning candidate should act on their behalf, by offering ideas, with sound economic footing, showing a path and explaining how things can be paid for. Be specific. Most voters, especially hard working women and men know as much or more than the many politicians who have been bought and sold by the money that bets on government outcome="follow the money!" 
      Whatever color, race, sex, gender, age, origin, or whatever there are basic needs. Too many of us are not getting a fair shake. A public servant can work to change that. Start there.
        That I think would be a winning strategy by an insurgent Republican or Democratic candidate.

a hard working boat
the Ragamuffin of Los Osos
people work for their living here

      See you down the trail.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

A New Home for Live Oak

live oak nation in a new neighborhood
    The 31st Live Oak Music Festival opens a new chapter in a new home, El Chorro Regional Park in San Luis Obispo after almost 30 years at Lake Cachuma in the mountains outside of Santa Barbara.
     We've been "Oakies" for a mere12 years but veterans of many more also like the new venue and its proximity.
 Live Oak is a benefit for public radio KCBX serving the central coast from Ventura to Salinas and centered in San Luis Obispo. The new venue is closer for the audience of SLO, Paso Robles, Morro Bay, Cayucos, Atascadero, Cambria, Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach, Avila and environs.
   There are generations of Oakies and it is increasingly a family event. We pitched "camp" under the great new sun shade and adjacent to the playground.
  Three days and nights of music with options to day camp or come to stay. The festival has a history of providing great acts and discovering new talent.
    Phil Salazar and the Kin Folk are beloved old pros.
   A new act the Shook Twins from Portland were a hit. Katelyn performs some vocals with a repurposed telephone microphone along with guitar, mandolin, banjo and glockenspiel. Laurie on the left uses beatboxing and looping playing banjo, guitar, bass, djembe, ocarina flute. Nico Slice on mandolin guitar and bass, drummer Barra Brown.
stage too

  Away from the Main Stage is Stage Too where True Zion a roots based reggae band was on when we were there.
    The Hot Licks stage for late night or early morning picking.
     The Beer Garden stage features acts like the Something Ridiculous Jugglers. 
      Live Oak is full of visuals.

   The new home features an excellent Children's area with a game zone for teens and learning stations, games and craft workshops for the little acorns. 

the vibe is like a sunny day in the park
  The new neighborhood is thoughtfully planned, provides camping options, is cooler and less dry than the old campground and there are plenty of convenient facilities.
   From the Main Stage area you see a decorated wall...
        ...and behind that wall...

         From most vantage points, one can look out and see some of the 7 Sister peaks that line the central coast.
     El Chorro has an infrastructure for RV or tent camping and the areas are neatly laid out.

   Musician Joe Craven, far left, is back as the congenial, poetic host and MC for the three days and nights, and, as always, constantly in a new costume.
  I also notice a tucked away work space that was the control room for the energy supply and network, solar powered!
  Long live LIVE OAK NATION!  Peace, Love and Dirt!

   See you down the trail.