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.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


     It has been a kind of healing. It's as though we settled upon an island of how it used to be. And for those few hours in the National Cathedral we saw again the America that aspires to greatness. We experienced again the temperament, tenor and a sense of the essence of America's better self and soul.
    The very nature of the George HW Bush observance has been a picture of a better nation. Dignity, decorum, tradition, respect, honor, devotion and service has filled the days. The formality is out of the American handbook. The stories have been from those who knew him and from the historians who have studied and documented his life.
     The point here is not to see the late President Bush as anymore than he was, but to see in him the qualities of what has accompanied the American journey. Loyalty, friendship, humility, service, courage, love of family, and a guiding faith.
     Certainly there have been other men and women who also displayed these qualities. Given our recent history it has been good to remember who we can be, who we really are.
      What has been on display in our Capitol is a core sample of the dignity of a nation, a government larger than mere mortals, the yearning, maybe even the dream to transcend the human stain to be something truly great, something that helps America lift the human condition to something noble.
       One need only to look at the images of the front row, the men and their mates who are part of an exclusive American echelon. It was telling, very telling. Maybe nothing more dramatic than when the creed of belief was being read. Almost everyone in the Cathedral read or recited a belief, but one President scowled and glowered.     
        Was the Bush mourning, memorial and observance enough to shock this nation out of its toxic mood? Can those few brief hours of class, historic symbolism, and evocation of the hallowed work of trying to live full to the reach of a democratic republic, and the ghosts who made it so, bring us to our senses? Perhaps, but perhaps not. It has been, however, a cleansing, re-charging and hopeful spring in this winter of a pernicious and virulent administration. By the very comparison on display we may understand we all have a hand in the job to form a more perfect Union, to establish Justice, insure domestic secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.

seasonal visitations
  faces from the sparkle shop

celebrating new days
photo of sunrise in Cambria by Karen Dean-a good neighbor

   See you down the trail.

Saturday, December 1, 2018


Old Santa Rosa Chapel Cambria
November 30, 3018

    Suddenly it is December. So out of context in this profane and destructive time. There has been so little motivation to bow to the manger and the "Prince of Peace." Our psyches have been in combat, armed with anger, despair, and disbelief. But Christmas whispers, it is coming.
     And so in winter's dark chill we climb the hill, to the Chapel, to enter a portal, to go home, to Christmas, again.
   It was in the calm of the candle light, as Molly Pasutti with the voice of an angel, from the back of the chapel illumined only by candle began with O Come, O Come Emmanuel. As she paced forward she opened something in time. My eyes moistened. Our hearts stirred in unison. 
    Somewhere as Eric William's guitar and Jill Poulos' Celtic Harp wove into the voices of Wayne Attoe and Steve Dowling  in Oh Come Let Us Adore Him, I was drawn into a timeless flow where my boyhood and those of the century and half of Christmases in the Chapel and those of Dickens, and nights where Angels sang and shepherds quaked and nights of watching and waiting, for ever, seemed to meet, quietly, peacefully, blissfully. 
     I was home. 
     Judith Larmore's annual reflection further wrapped the gift. Yes you can go home, she said, though it will be different, it can provide different memories, and give you a new appreciation for your cherished deep memories.
      She shared how she returned to her Bluffton Indiana home, a different place than her childhood. Buildings gone, boarded, a beautiful bank now a smoke shop, the 5 and dime a failing dollar tree. It was especially poignant as I know that town well, it was my mother's home.
     In Judith's telling I was home again, with my mom and with all my Christmases past. 
     Christmas is like that, a kind of current in the alchemy of our lives that never goes away and never ends, and waits for us to enter it again. 
     As I have written in this space before, Lana says the Concert in the Chapel is her Christmas delight. 
     The sweet music and tender sentiment was precisely the magic this old boy needed.
     Selections from Suite No. 3 by J.S. Bach, John Williams Some Where In My Memory, Leroy Anderson's Jazz Pizzicato and Jazz Legato, Praise for Christmas, Sleigh Ride,  all performed by the marvelous string quartet filled us with even more magic. Brynn Albanese 1st Violin, Bill Alpert 2nd Violin, Drew Van Duren Cello, Peter Jandula-Hudson Viola. 
     Eric Williams vocal and Mandolin, Molly Pasutti Vocal and Brynn Albanese Violin brought extraordinary life to A Down Home Christmas Medly. Then, selections from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, Winter.  It was stunning.
      We all joined our voices for Hark The Herald Angels Sing and Joy to the World. And Bruce Black did his annual recitation of "T'was The Night Before Christmas." 
      To the refrains of We Wish You a Merry Christmas, we left the historic old Chapel on the hill and descended into the world again, but we were filled with a new hope, an anticipation of light. Just like it has always been we dwell in a broken, frightened, hurting and needful world, a world awaiting an advent. So it was in 2018, but we left with Christmas in our hearts. We had been home.

     See you down the trail.     

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


    A photo journey to the Monterey Bay Aquarium is just ahead.
   And likewise, a few looks from the "sparkle shop."  But first...

burning issues
    While this has particular application to California and the US West, it is truly a global concern. Fires threaten more of the population and do so with an increasingly lethal ferocity. 
     Debate and discussion about causal factors are important but of equal "life and death" significance is dealing with on the onset.
      REVEAL, an NPR broadcast from the Center for Investigative Reporting, provided a compelling and eye opening examination of several aspects of the worst wildfire in California history, the Camp Fire, just extinguished, and the previous worst fire that ravaged Santa Rosa. 
       It was chilling but more importantly illuminating to hear the emergency communication as the inferno ramped up and to hear the actuality of the desperate attempt to evacuate and to battle the blaze. After study, planners will better understand patterns of on scene emergency communication, plans for evacuation and coordination. It is clear a better system of multi agency communication is needed. It is clear also phone service providers need to be on the same page with each other and with emergency agencies so alerts are sent to all and with timeliness. And it is clear that evacuation routes and methods need a lot of study.
bury the lines
      When I was a daily deadline journalist I wondered privately why in the then 20th Century, power lines ran from pole to pole in much the same fashion as those early telegraph lines in the 1830's. Surely there is a better technology. As power lines are the suspected trigger of these last two deadly fires, the matter is even more critical.
       All power lines should be buried. Power companies will fight it and protest cost and difficulty, but given the cause of the largest and most deadly fires, the complaints don't matter. There are many advantages to buried power lines and simply put the government can and should mandate their burial.
build? rebuild?
       Cities and towns need to find a way to enforce building codes that make sense. In the last century we've pushed deeper into undeveloped areas, into quake zones, fire zones, on mountain sides, near rivers, lakes and oceans. 
       I recall standing on a volcano with a USGS scientist who decried that humans have a desire to live in places that are fundamentally unsafe. It's difficult to put the Genie back into the bottle, but we need to better consider where and how we build. There maybe some places where we should not be.
      Santa Rosa is on the threshold of rebuilding. The council passed an application to build again in an area where fire has devastated at least twice before. Business interests and developers got their way. It is understandable and even laudable that a community wishes to rebuild. But it is laudable to not repeat past mistakes. There may be someplaces that should not be home sites again. A dissenting Santa Rosa councilwoman said it is just a matter of time before the historic burn zone, will burn again.

giving shelter
         Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires, avalanches and mudslides happen. We know that even despite our best plans, disasters will visit us time and time again. 
        Helicoptering into and over the aftermath of a particularly wicked tornado and flood, looking at acres of destroyed buildings and infrastructure, I thought how good it would be for those who had lost everything to have access to something other than an extended shelter existence in a gymnasium, church basement or parking lot. Why don't federal and state agencies or volunteer relief groups create what amounts to a rapidly deployed and quickly built emergency modular community? Those infamous "FEMA trailers" are a well intended but clumsy response. 
       In a time of IKEA, 3D printing and modularization, pre-fabricated units, something between a tent and a trailer that can be assembled into an instant "relief city" with water supplies and generated power would be vital relief to people who experienced loss and the worst moments of their life. Devastated residents could have a modicum of privacy and basic shelter as they pick up the pieces and begin to repair their lives. The concept has been tested in battlefield medical units and command/logistic shelters.
       The modular units could be used again and again. Until folks connect with family, friends or find new or more permanent temporary housing they could have, at least, a safe place to sleep and decent facilities that do not otherwise
create a public hassle or health and sanitation crisis.
       Survivors are emotionally wounded. Just recently in Chico a kind of mutual support "evacuation village" cropped up on a Walmart parking lot. You understand how people  bond with others who have experienced such tragedy, but they need something more than camping tents or shambles on a parking lot as they try to recover.
       Evacuees, refugees, and victims of disaster are an ever present part of the human family. We can and should do better in the early aftermath to provide shelter and facilities during the early recover.

water life
delights of the Monterey Bay Aquarium

 The frame below contrasts how a moment can be experienced.

The frame below is a rare face to face with a kind of sea worm/eel comedian.

  Can you spot the fish in the frame below?
He or she is the character that appears to be a rock to the far right of the screen. In the frame below you can see the fins.

faces from the sparkle shop

      See you down the trail.