Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Good Night in America


      The hometown kids prevail and Jon Batiste wails. Good nights in the US.

    High tides, driving rain, breaks of sun play. Victories too.

 game night
  Game night, school night is a good night in America.
   It is the rhythm and soul of our collective dream, the sweat and the lessons of life. It is sweetness, pure and simple from large urban field houses to small village gyms.
    That is especially so in a school like Coast Union in Cambria with an enrollment under 250 kids.
    I am almost religious about basketball. It's in my DNA and has been a constant dream since I learned to dribble in grade school. I love the game and I love to see kids also love the game. That is especially so here, for sure.

   I'm watching a classic basketball scenario run before my eyes here on the California Central coach.  It seems only a couple of years ago Coach Gehrig Kniffen was the floor captain of his scrappy Broncos team. He played with heart and a court sense. Now he's teaching the love of the game to his team.
   They're not big. One of the kid's mom tells me only 3 or 4 of the boys were basketball players. The rest of the kids grew up on soccer.
   Coach Kniffen has done well. The team plays smart, they spread the floor, they move the ball, work for a shot and show a tenacity and drive. 
    In this gym on this night the game was see saw, tight with heart and soul pushing up and down the court. Parents and friends were enthralled and entertained. On this night the hometown Broncos gained a well deserved victory. And on this night in America winners and losers met as good sports.
Orcutt would have a ride home, considering those few plays, those missed opportunities that could have made the difference. The Coast Union Broncos would give the new coach another first season win. It is the way of the game, an American way.

    It is a game that is immensely personal to a boomer from Indiana. My life is measured in chapters of basketball.
    I got the love of the game from my dad who was a skilled and accomplished player who, were it not for WWII, probably  would have continued on in semi pro and eventually professional hoops.
    I'd practice ball handing and dribbling in the basement of our little Muncie house and clip newspaper articles of my beloved 1950's era Muncie Central Bearcats.
    In Indiana a kid plays basketball wherever and much as he can. I remember Jon Hilkene's old barn with a hard packed uneven dirt floor on half the court and uneven old planks around the hoop and free throw line. We used to shovel snow or chip ice from Tom Johnson's extra wide driveway that was bathed in a street light and well pointed night spots on the house. In the winter we had to wear gloves, which affected our shooting and in the summer, sweat soaked we'd swat at mosquitoes and gnats. Summer basketball camps where the smell of the gym was especially sweet from the wax. Playing between the Hackbee's and Lowen's on an uneven, sloping alley with hoops hanging on the backs of garages, stopping when trash trucks or cars drove by. 
    An Indiana kid dreams of wearing the school colors, but life and moves and broken bones and size can conspire against that "glory." But in Indiana a kid can play in community centers in the inner city with dazzling players and shake and bake moves, or in a legendary old hotel in industrial or AAU leagues with true one time stars, or in church leagues campaigning around the city in great old gyms, at the Y, in pick up games on hallowed field house floors.  
     Even in middle age and beyond an Indiana kid can play in the elbows for lunch bunch at the Y, or in "celebrity games" barnstorming around the state in hallowed old field houses and gyms, playing local all stars or faculty teams to raise money for schools, bands, charities and the like. 
     Game night in America is a good night. It is stepping into a slip stream of good nights that reach back to the beginning and flow forward with that sweet, sweet sound and smell and swish of a net.
   New Orleans virtuoso Jon Batiste, leader of the Stay Human band that is Steven Colbert's house band on CBS is a hoopster. He is also a dynamic and charismatic performer.
   After his recent piano concert in San Luis Obispo he lead
a "love march" out of the auditorium. Was he great? Look at the smile on that little guys face. If you ever get a chance to see him, don't miss it.  It is pure joy, love and energy.
    He said his concert is like sitting in his living room while he just plays around. That's a great thought.  So is spending some time in a gym with him, playing the great American game.

     See you down the trail.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Reaching Higher

  renaissance light
      The human spirit has pulled us back from the brink, out of  despair, dark ages and our self inflicted wounds since the dawn of our existence. 
       A few encouraging notes here, posted between scenes from a California oasis, Palm Springs. 

     A capacity to survive may be hard wired into that vagal nerve highway between the brain and the heart. The Sierra Club reports a few signals of hope in the face of challenge.
     World population, now at 7.7 billion is expected to hit 10 billion in 30 years. More mouths to feed on a planet undergoing significant climate change-growing deserts, massive floods, extended droughts is problematic, yes?

       Ingenuity and resourcefulness have begun the response. 
Urban and hydroponic farmers around the globe have taken cues from Holland where a small nation has become a major vegetable exporter. 
      As Sierra reports, indoor farmers precisely control water and fertilizer inputs and use LED's to emit photosynthesis-optimized light. Vanguard farmers have converted underground spaces, shipping containers, old industrial locations into soil free growing operations.
     Where it is dry engineers are improving passive fog and water vapor capturing technologies. In areas of Peru and Chile farmers no longer rely entirely on rain.
      Tech farming, advanced at schools like Purdue is expected to be a $10 billion industry in 5 years. GPS guided self driving tractors were the start. 
     The next phase includes in-the-field water sensor irrigation, drones, multi spectral analysis measuring sun and water absorption and satellite information. 
       No-till farming techniques improve moisture and nutrient levels in the soil and protects from erosion. 
renaissance thought
    As human stupidity or natural forces cloud our future, the better side of the human animal responds. Marshall Medoff is a case in point. 60 minutes recently revealed his amazing new technology that turns plant life into fuel and even new food products. 
   It is such a stunning development luminaries from science, government and investment sit on the board; 
--Robert Armstrong former Department Chair at MIT,
--Gregory Beecher, CFO of Teradyne, former partner at PriceWhaterhouseCoopers, 
--Steven Chu former Secretary of Energy and Nobel Prize winner, 
--Sir John Jennings former managing director of Royal Dutch/Shell, 
--Mario Molina three-time member of US President's Council on Science and Technology and Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, 
--William J. Perry former US Secretary of Defense, 
--Richard Schrock Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, 
--George Shultz former US Secretary of State, Treasury, Labor and Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

our better angels
    Even in the most dire of circumstances our better angels preside. Doctors without borders, NGO and aid volunteers,  relief workers, counselors, chaplains, educators, emergency responders, and many more are found in war zones, disaster areas, refugee migrations, camps, settlements, and where there is human need.
       There are millions of other human beings noble, caring, sensitive and more worthy of influence than a venal, greedy man and his associates in the inflicting of a crime on federal workers, as well as pain and suffering to people and to this planet and the sensitive balance of life. 

a hand out to our federal employees
     Here's a radical suggestion, wrapped in compassion.
George Soros, Sheldon Adelson, Tom Steyer, and the Koch brothers spend hundreds of millions, if not a billion dollars in aggregate to fund campaigns, public relations efforts and causes in their interest. Don't you think they could offer an emergency fund to those 800 thousand government workers who are not being paid. A few hundred thousand dollars means nothing to the uber wealthy influence peddlers but could be a God send to workers struggling to pay mortgages, buy medicine, make car payments, buy groceries and etc.
     For heaven's sake, these people are forced to work with out pay by the US government. Can anything be more unAmerican or wrong?

the righting of wrongs

       My warning bell indicates the more trumpy of you may say the Democrats are also responsible. Not so. Even Republicans voted for a spending authorization. This rogue president had two years of total control of the government and his own party couldn't carry the day to get a "wall" built. I urge you to watch the evolution of the man's remarks on the wall and to understand it was only a code word by campaign handlers to get him to talk about immigration issues because it played well with his more poisonous base. 
     He's in trouble. He's under attack. All of this was predicted by establishment Republicans. All of this was foretold by men and women who served in Republican administrations from Reagan to (W) Bush when 55 of them warned America he was unfit for office. 
      The judicial system he has attacked is working as it has for two centuries. It is the process of a republic. He is a disease and he has infected America and the cure is under way.   
     It's my hunch the man who I have thought is a greedy, tax cheating, venal, stooge may also be a real traitor who sold out his country for his own personal gain. He is the worst of us.
    There are many, there are millions who we should celebrate. They lead us to reach higher.

    See you down the trail.

Thursday, January 3, 2019


cheers to women in charge 
    A new year, hopeful and inspired as they are, currently offers a great beginning rendition with a MOM scoring one of humanity's greatest accomplishments.
    Alice Bowman is the MOM of New Horizon, the teen ager that has gone farther and taken one of the most important photos in the history of the world with more are on the way.
    Bowman was the Mission Operations Manager of the little space craft launched in January 2006.  It has survived the cosmic freeways and space storms to give us data on Pluto and almost as a whim, it was told to go see a frozen rock in the Kuiper Belt. It did and that is mind boggling.
    If you want to feel good about what humans can do, dig into the story a bit. That we flew billions of miles for a brief flirtation with an icy rock that we didn't know existed in 2006 ought to give us hope that science might just help us survive ourselves and our trashing of this planet and our bashing of each other. Thanks MOM.

the kid
     A little hope may glimmer into your heart when you read about a 16 year Swedish girl. Greta Thunberg boxed the ears of the world in December..." So we have not come here today to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignores us again. We have come here to let them know that is coming whether they like it or not."
    She was speaking at the UN and her message was to the world. If you missed it, her 4 minute remarks are below. By the way, the remarkable young woman identifies as an climate activist with Aspergers. 
 the nancy  
   And one of the most powerful bipeds on this blue marble
is a US mom and now chief herder of the cool, alley, and weird cats in the democrat zone in the US House. Nancy is back on top. Pelosi has not survived all the power plays and battles without a few smarts. That immediately gives her clout over the president. Thinking is not something he does, nor expects from women. 

ya just can't stick Facebook 

     They tell us the US mail service is doomed, but can a computer platform offer cool neon or those beautiful old post boxes? Cheers for the old guard.
   But we boomers do like our phones. They are smart, so as our gray cells age, we have a chance to stay smart. Hello Siri, turn on my brain.

cheers for the wild life

    Just a couple of miles from the post office, zebra roam under San Simeon skies. 
     Now, let me introduce you to a few neighbors-

     By this juncture in his idyllic existence, Hemingway is 
relatively unimpressed by the deer and turkey. Bobcats, mountain lions and skunks on the other hand make an impression.

    Seeing the old bird reminded me of me. As I guided this old guy into another year, one that seemed to arrive entirely too quickly and in such a pitiful state, I pondered and even worried a bit and then took solace in the knowledge intelligent people still exist. Not only that but so do people who care about this planet. Each generation offers up brilliant minds who do their own to advance our sum knowledge.       
    Problems that are still years away, will be puzzled over and solved by people who do not now exist. And I took away from that, problems that now seem intractable are the grist for new scientists, doctors, researchers and problem solvers. 
     Maybe you too can take succor in this from Isaac Asimov.
   There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." -Isaac Asimov, scientist, author

     In the new year, seek new information. Spend some of that silo time in new pastures. Despite the jack ass in the White House and the carny side show, there are signs of intelligent life on this planet.

...and cheers to the baker

   Lana's artistry extends beyond the canvas. 
   We may not live by bread alone, but it sure goes well with everything else.

    Cheers to you!

     See you down the trail.

Sunday, December 23, 2018


   My gratitude for your visits to this little spot of the blogosphere. You have kindly indulged these quirky essays, ramblings and flights of thought. 
   In this season of light and hope I wish you the abiding peace and joy that is the nexus of Christmas.
    And too it may be a time for pleasant visits from Christmas ghosts. Speaking of such, here is a visitor from the past.

Published December 17, 2013
     Snow had turned to freezing rain and the old wiper blades spread a smear of icy trails across the windshield. It was dark but the snow covered road shone in the headlights courtesy of the glaze of ice. It was late Christmas Eve and I seemed to be the only car on the highway and now on this county road.
      I saw the old beater off the road to the right with the hood up when a dark figure stepped around from the front of the car and stood there. It did not beckon or wave but  simply watched me approach as though resigned to see me drive by. The headlights caught the visage of an older black man in a threadbare overcoat. Ice crystals matted into his hair. He appeared surprised I was pulling the old Studebaker over to park behind his even older car, I think it was an Oldsmobile.  As I started to alight he walked toward me wearing a smile that shone.
     I had worked late at the commercial radio station in a city some 60 miles away. While my college was on holiday recess, I needed to be back at the station the next morning to sign it on at 6:00 AM. The winter storm had slowed my progress to get home to my parents house to spend a bit of Christmas. I knew my parents and brothers were probably concerned about my travel in the snow and ice. This was long before cell phones or adequate snow clearing equipment on county roads or state highways.
     Something "froze up" he said.  He was on his way to his daughter's house with part of their Christmas Eve meal.  He'd been there "a while" he said and the few cars that had passed slowed down, but sped by "when they got a look at me."  A black man on a county road.  
     He was headed for a neighborhood near the downtown of Indianapolis, a neighborhood I would not normally frequent nor drive through.  We chatted about how our Christmas fates had put us together as we navigated the ice covered road that led to suburban streets which in turn fed us into the car lined streets of old houses, commercial buildings and vacant lots.  Lights gleamed from windows, rimmed with Christmas decorations.  We chuckled at how a few of the homes had painted snow scenes on windows or doors.  No need for that now as the ice had turned back to snow and the drive crunched on.
     His daughter and son in law looked curiously out the door and then came down the steps when they saw the old man get out of the car. They were visibly surprised to see a young white man get out of the other door.  
     Two or three little faces peered out of the large window on the porch, their eyes were wide.  "Those little angels are my grand children," the man said, his smile even wider now.
     Both the old man and his son in law went to their billfolds as though to offer me money.  No way I said. It's Christmas Eve.  I'm just being a Santa's helper I added, looking at how other doors were opening and seeing people appear in windows.  The daughter wanted me to come in and warm up, have something to eat. I explained my family was waiting and I needed to get on.  We shook hands and his big grin had a special quality of that caused a tingle in my chest.
       As I picked my way back to the suburbs the aroma of the dish that had rested on the back seat continued to fill the car. It had a sweet scent that activated my hunger sensors and I began to think about my parents and brothers and how I hoped they had dined.
      When I made it to the driveway Dad was first out of the door, as Mom stood behind him, in her apron.
       "We were very worried about you," Dad opened the Christmas Eve conversations.
       Later when I had relayed the story and we had begun to eat the feast Mom prepared, I noticed she was sitting there, looking a bit distant, but smiling.
       "You did the right thing," Dad said, "but you took a chance in doing it."
        I never confessed my nervousness, in making the stop or driving into that neighborhood. It was the mid '60s and times were different.
        A ghost that visits me this time of year is that picture of Mom, sitting there and smiling. Later, and she would often remind me of the story, "you were a Christmas angel for that man."
        At least I was a young white lad who saw another traveler and realized color makes no difference. 
       The other ghost I recall is that heart warming smile. It spoke more than words.
a Christmas pastiche

                            Merry Christmas. Peace!

    See you down the trail.


Friday, December 21, 2018


Cambria Sunrise

    California's central coast is known for its painted skies. Frequent readers have seen magnificent sunsets in this space. Sunrises can also dazzle.
     Over the last two years it has become the custom of many to check the morning headlines with some apprehension. Recently the rogue and probably illicit administration has been getting its clock cleaned by American justice. So with the Syrian withdrawal, the treasonous president, also the felon known as Individual 1, gives another gift to the Russians.
     Additional thoughts follow this trip down....
memory lane
   As mentioned in an earlier post I've been sorting through a career and organizing archives, tapes and files for curation at the Indiana Historical Society and the Digital Repository at Bracken Library at Ball State University.  
    Tucked away in a dispatch bag in the back of a file cabinet was a bundle of press passes and credentials from a long and far flung political reporting trail. My first campaign was 1968, while still in school. The watershed moment was covering Bobby Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy, including being with Kennedy the day Martin Luther King Jr was killed. Kennedy's breaking of that news to an inner city rally in Indianapolis is a famous moment in American political history. 
    My first extended exposure to a candidate was the Wallace 
Campaign in '72. For 3 years I've told people Trump has taken a page from the Wallace playbook. 
   The first time I covered a President I got this press badge. I was assigned to cover Nixon's arrival at Weir Cook, now Indianapolis International airport. 
    I was up most of the night before, cramming on all things Richard Nixon. I was probably good for 2-3 hours non stop. My assignment was report live on the touchdown, taxi and arrival of Air Force 1. And to cover the President's deplaning, comments and greeting as well as his "working the snow fence"-shaking hands with those on hand. As soon as he was in the limo our helicopter reporter took over and I sped to the center of the city where I covered his speech as part of a team effort. 
     As it turned out I covered a lot Richard Nixon, and his daughters and sons in law.
     Election nights were my favorite. A close second was the national political conventions, before they became such highly produced and strictly controlled television productions.

    Jimmy Carter's 1977 inaugural was my first. I walked along the parade route and reported as I went. It was made easy because Carter walked it himself.
     The coldest-an icy chiller at about 7 degrees was Reagan's second in 85. HW Bush-Quayle was mild by comparison, though damp. My last inaugural was Clinton's first in '93. 
     These artifacts, my little footnote in history, will reside in the Indiana Historical Society along with files, notes, copy and investigations. Perhaps they will someday be a window into the "old days."

the stooge under attack
    You know there's trouble when the biggest blowhards of the right wing media begin attacking. All one needs to do is read the headlines and listen to how major Republican Senators, who until this point have been spineless quislings, have responded to the unilateral and non advised decision to pull troops.
      US allies are saying the US can no longer be taken at its word or trusted. There is glee in Moscow. Once again Trump has played the perfect stooge for Putin, giving them an opening to be the dominant force in a critical region. 
     Anytime we can save an American kid's life is a good thing, but pardon my skepticism. After watching this unfit and unqualified miscreant, who got into office only after a rigged election assisted by Russian intelligence, I see only an ego maniac's desire to change the headline. In this case he wants to divert attention from the clouds of criminal indictments and investigations. He leaves us weaker in a critical region. It was as if he took orders from Russia. His expiration date has come and gone.      
from the sparkle shop

     This year, as much as in any year, there is a need to be of good cheer!

      See you down the trail.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Is it beginning to look like...?

    A Christmas adventure story about packs of strike force agents coming up, but first it struck me that even kelp pods seem decorated for the holiday. Pacific tides offering assistance.

    This is enough "white" for our Christmas. Since our transformation to Californians, we dream of a "green Christmas" and we seem to be on our way.
    Green blades have emerged in the space next to our house.
      You can see tinges of green on the grazing slopes rising behind the trees.
   These were the spectators in the walk in seats at our tennis court. They're more interested in tender green than our "exciting and dynamic" matches. (Actually play was very good-on this occasion) 
indeed it is beginning to look like....

   The community chorale is tuned up for their seasonal concerts--seen here at "hospitality night rehearsal" in the village

  While just a couple of blocks away the "village dancers flash mob" made one of their multiple stops...
   The seasonal turn and cultural calendar come to us as a moment of joy that is getting better. 
    It looks as if the naughty or nice list may have a bigger impact at the White House than Melania's spooky red trees.
 it's beginning to look like justice will be the  white house stocking stuffer
    If the rogue president was to peek out of the White House window he might find special task force elves at work.... 
    In fact there may be a couple of strike forces of elves. There's the batch deputized by Robert Mueller. They are not saying much. But the group that appears to be dancing and giving high fives are the Trump Justice Department appointed prosecutor elves from New York. That's the team that has "gifted" their boss, Individual 1, by saying he has committed a felony. 
    To keep the good cheer alive after the New Year, elves from the House of Representatives promise investigations and subpoenas. 
another early gift-cherish it
     America opened an early gift when 44 former US Senators asked the current Senate to be "steadfast and zealous guardians of democracy."  The bi-partisan group, including respected lions of the Senate, urge this and the future Senate to guard our democracy by "ensuring that partisanship or self interest not replace national interest." That last line was a two-by-four to the head of Mitch McConnell.
      The unprecedented action reminds us of the 50 former Republican administration officials from several Republican Presidents who took out ads to warn us that Donald Trump was unfit, unqualified and did not have the temperament to be President. 
      Individual 1 prompted another historic first when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court publicly rebuked the President. And now we have the warning from distinguished former members of the upper chamber.
its beginning to look like individual 1
really is a russian stooge
     For the first time in more than 600 days one can say there may be a real chance the majority of voting Americans will finally see truth and justice over come the Russian fix and the Trump lies.
    A gift came early. One of our coffee dialectic buddies, who out of pique and anger over gridlock and business as normal and his distaste of things Clinton, cast his franchise for public enemy #1, er, Individual 1, cheered our hearts when he offered "I've come to agree with you guys, I think he is just evil." When will Senate and House Republicans also realize Trump belongs in a prison jump suit? Put it on your Santa wish list. 
    Nothing too jolly about these Santas. They're reading the Mueller investigative files. 
      Maybe, just maybe in this season of Santa and Elves, the nastiest of spoiled brats will be left with just his pout and a  hearty, "You're fired!"
      Yes, it is the most wonderful time of the year!

      See you down the trail.