You are under our control.

I wonder how many of us…as in the USA (and maybe in most developed nations)…have the question pop into our minds, say once a month, “What became of __________?”  Fill in the blank with a news story that you were following with interest or just concern, that was on the billboard of cable news just a few weeks ago, or even last week, that seems to have suddenly fallen off the earth?

Cable news and its ability to deliver instantaneous “reports,” governed by the commercial money god, hits us with the “latest” developments…..”BREAKING NEWS,” as one major network says several times an hour….in its race to be the first to “tell us” and capture our fragile and very, very, very short memory cells for that moment, to listen with rapt attention, and then they bet, we will also listen to their commercial sponsors messages.

Now, sure, I am guilty as hell of falling for this presentation, but I do try to turn off or walk away at the commercial breaks, just out of spite if for no other good reason.

But what bothers me is how we, the great populaces, allow cable news to tell us what is on the “news marquee” for today and this week.  What I want to know, is why they are no longer reporting for example, and a good one, on the suicide rate of American military members and our veterans.  Tell me when you last heard about this in the news, unless perhaps on a PBS story.  Or, what about the on the ground war details in Syria?  Many months ago this was the daily story, so what happened? Did it just become so gruesome to our senses that “they,” who control the news marquee, just decided to not punish our sense of guilt any longer?  Is that for them to decide?  No, but I think it really had to do with that being “old news,” babies dying by the hundreds became old news.  I could go on and on, stories I was following that now I have to go search for “current” information, and good luck with that.  Another example, “caravans of rapists, drug dealers, and very bad people” coming from the south…..oh my, where did they go, did they stop? Are they now “here” and stalking our streets while we sleep?  Oh, bullshit.  But I am concerned about the families being torn apart, children ripped from their mothers and “disappeared.”  Why did this story suddenly become non-news? We know why.

Every week, as I am sure you have noticed, the Marquis de Marquee pushes a few buttons and we are now in another world, where all past news stories have been deleted…oh sure, we can recover them of course, ha, ha…and informs us that NOW we will have senses inundated with the stories on the big sign the Marquis has selected for us.

I guess what bothers me about all this, is that it is not that the stories we follow with concern are not able to be found with some digging, but that the Marquis de Marquee is controlling the attention of most of us, and we aren’t even conscious of it, and do little or nothing to protest!  So, each week – really now each day with Trump – there is a new set of news stories, and for the time being, Trump is the Marquis (“de Sade”), toying with the public and the world every new day, as if it is all his little basement play room.

The bright side is that from what I observe, the younger generation has pretty well tuned out cable news.  In fact within a few years cable news may just perish, an ignoble death, for it could have done so much better had it had a conscience.  I can’t wait.

 

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Amigo, my boyhood dog.

I now reside in a rather large suburban apartment complex, and most of the residents are much younger, ranging from college students, on up.  There are a few of us retirees, but not many.  I think there are more just around the corner at the “55 and over” complex.  I prefer being in a representative slice of our society rather than being around a bunch of  “old-folks” needing assistance or therapy, but I may be there someday, who knows.

There are many dogs here in the complex, mostly pets of mostly younger people, singles or married couples without children from what I can tell.  There are some decent dog running spaces also, and most people do pick up their doggie “doo” as they should….though not all, as there is always the lazy-ass person who finds rationale for not disposing of his or her dog’s droppings.  Heh guys, it attracts flies, and those try to land on my food when I am eating outdoors! Good dog, BAD dog owner!

When I see these dogs I am taken back to memories of the two dogs I had in my life at different times.  One my wife and I had, Sassy, and then my first boyhood dog, Amigo.

I will write about Amigo this morning, and Sassy one day, when I will include our cats also…..all family members of course, and all deceased long ago.

The grainy old picture is of myself with Amigo.  I was probably about 9 or 10.  We were actually out hiking on this tall rocky “mountain” (hill) on our ranch in the Texas hill country, along with my folks and my little sister.  I wish I had more photos of Amigo, as he was a cutie.  From his appearance one can easily tell he was a “mongrel,” but he truly had the best of all his ingredients.  Fearlessness, tenacity, intelligence and perfectly crafted to be my little friend.  He and I were inseparable when outdoors, and he stayed outdoors as he was a country dog.

Everywhere I went on our 640 acre ranch, he was there with me.  We fished together, we hunted together and played make believe games together.  I did not usually have a playmate, as my sister was younger, and I had no close neighbor boys, and my one cousin, Eddie, who was like a brother, I only saw occasionally.  So it was me and Amigo, braving the wilderness together, like pioneers stretching our reach to each new horizon.

Our ranch was one section (640 acres), which translates to a square mile.  Now for a 9 year old boy’s backyard, that ain’t bad!  We roamed all of it, and also the river bounding one side.  As any ranch in that area, we had lots of white tail deer, turkeys, and every kind of “varmint” and bird you can imagine, and a few snakes, but thank goodness most of the rattlers seemed to prefer areas beyond our space.

Our land also had large live oak bottoms, actual forested with these wonderful and many ancient oaks, and around the bottoms were fallen warriors, making for great make believe playgrounds.  I would imagine them as ships, airplanes, you name it……it was all part of my daily play dreaming.  And Amigo just played along as I enacted the various roles of my dramas.

Amigo loved to hunt, and we were deadly on lizards in particular!  There were droves of green lizards and tree lizards, and they were all fair game when we were on the hunt.  Fortunately most lizards sacrifice their tails when caught, then grow them back.  I used to see a lot of funny looking new tails.

Amigo also found great sport in attacking armadillos, which were plentiful, leaving their rooting trails in the deep leaves of the bottoms as they moved about searching for grubs and “armadillo food.”  “Migo” had perfected his attack on the clueless fellows, and upon sighting one in the daylight, he would go full bore at it, hitting the unsuspecting creature in the side like a cannonball, tumbling it, then trying to bite into its soft underbelly before it could right itself.  Occasionally he was successful, but usually not, as these little guys could run like lightning themselves, headed straight back to the hold entrances to their underground lairs.  Amigo would not be defeated in his quest so easily, however, as he would go into the hole trying to get ahold of their tails to drag them out.  Well the armadillo was not much smaller than he was, and once in their hole, with their long claws to dig into the earth, it would take a grizzly to get them out.  I was glad Amigo was seldom successful, as I liked the funny looking creatures, and occasionally would catch a baby one to inspect.

I don’t recall how long I had Amigo in my life, time has no dimension at that age, but probably about 4 years I think.  We got him as a pup, watched the little bundle of fur grow, and finally had a full blown Amigo, who adored me, and I likewise.

I went to elementary school 40 miles from where our ranch was.  I rode the bus everyday, along with my sister, to and fro, and it was a long ride, and daily I was glad to see the gate to our ranch where we exited the bus, nearly the last ones to get off.  However, one day around noon, my mother unexpectedly showed up, and found me, and said she had something to tell me.  She took me to the car, and as we left the school she began to talk.  When we were just out of the town’s limits, she said, “Joe Harry, Amigo got hit by a pickup and is dead.”

I felt immediately my whole world cave in.  I knew very well what death was, being a country boy, and having myself brought death to birds and varmints….not sure I had killed my first deer yet.  But to hear my buddy was now dead, oh my god, it seemed like the end of the world to me.  I sobbed the entire 40 miles home.

Mother had recovered Amigo’s body from the highway where he had been hit, and placed it near the house, close to a spot where we could bury his remains.  I fell on the body and cried my heart out, and swore up and down I would find who killed him and do the same to them!  I was totally devastated.

In the Texas hill country, a dog that is running around usually will not survive, because any rancher regards the animal as a threat to the sheep and goats, especially when they are having offspring.  Amigo ran loose, and when I was in school apparently he wandered off seeking his own excitement, and found it by taking a baby lamb.  He was laying on the country highway, gnawing on the carcass, when a rancher came along, saw him, and decided to run over him.  Usually these dogs are shot, but either way…..

It took me a while to get past the trauma, and my father, who wanted a dog around to “guard” the house at night, decided to get two half grown pups.  There were much larger dogs than Amigo had been, but I took to them, but for some reason I never developed the bond that I had with my friend.  I think I was afraid of being hurt.  Probably this was a good defense, as a couple of years later we picked up and moved to California, having to give up the two dogs.

It would be decades later before I had another wonderful doggie in my life.  But even today, as you should be able to discern, Amigo was and always will remain my buddy.

 

Golden years.

So I went looking for a photo to best illustrate today’s topic, typed in “golden years” and got lots of photos of cute golden retrievers and the Golden Gate bridge.  Apparently “golden years” are quite illusive.  My message to the younger generations (I am a retired Boomer) today is just that, if you have any vestige notion remaining, of working toward the “golden years” in the latter years of your lives, after you have already experienced a bit of today’s reality, please sit and reconsider.

My advice is to find your internal “holy man” and listen to his advice (or, if you prefer, holy woman…..I think I prefer).  Likely he will inform you, perhaps told as a parable, that the “golden years” are right now, son or daughter.

Like the American Dream – the neat house with green lawn and white fence – Golden Years in the traditional sense should no longer even be a faint aspiration.  The odds of you attaining sufficient private wealth to live in an upscale lifestyle are very small indeed. Of course many will, those who have by selected the right field of endeavor that reflects the spending power of mass consumption and who have managed their finances “wisely” and often selfishly, may live in modest or resplendent luxury one day, but that’s just a small fraction of your generations.

Your holy man probably will advise, “live your best life today, right now.”  Only you can decide what is your personalized “best life,” but I will second the holy guy’s advice.  There are absolutely no guarantees about “work hard and you will succeed.”  Not in today’s world.  So, to counter these odds, you merely have to live each day enjoying all the small things that are in your life, whether it is a smile from a boss,  a hug from your child, or the light in the eyes of your lover.  Sure, have your goals and work hard, but working toward something must not gloss over what you already have to enjoy right here and now.  Let you golden years be like golden butter mixed with honey, spread over all the slices of your life.

If you are making huge sacrifices right now to get to something “better,” I would urge you to rethink that:  all this does is set up a condition for the next big sacrifice for that which is even larger, and before long your life is a litany of sacrifices for those far off golden years, during which you may have many regrets about what you “could have done” if you had just slowed your thinking and recalibrated your wish list.

So, at least give what I say a little thought today, ok?

I also would say that it is better to share what you have, not just collect.  The returns on such investments in others’ joy will stock your pantry of blessings and help them along through their golden years of their lives.

Peace.

Today we remember all of you, but I remember two with the greatest respect.

I am currently writing a book about my father, who besides being my personal hero, was a WW2 combat bomber pilot who logged 70 missions over Italy in B-25 medium bombers.  Those of us old enough to know much of anything about that war think in terms of the operations in France and Germany, and of course, in the Pacific, but the Mediterranean Theater, which included North Africa, Sicily and all of Italy was one of the toughest challenges for the Allies.  First, stopping the advance of the Desert Fox, then pushing the Germans back across the sea, then up the mountainous backbone of Italy.  The 321st Group that my father was assigned to carried a large portion of this effort, mainly taking out railroad and roadway bridges to cut supply lines, hitting fuel dumps and of course taking out German barracks and defense areas. My father was highly decorated, but like most vets of all wars, he seldom said much about his ordeals.

The other gentleman I wish to remember today is my late wife’s father.  Conrad Buqua Tennyson was an African American drafted into the Army at the ripe “old age” of 34.  Being black in the American Army of those days meant you were segregated and assigned the dirtiest and most physical kinds of duty typically, unless you were a musician, which gave you a big leg up.  I only met Mr. Tennyson once for just a few minutes, not knowing it would be our last visit.  He was actually a “Buffalo Soldier,” assigned to the unit that historically carried that designation.  He was a stretcher bearer, getting the injured and the dead off the field, engulfed in the battles for Guadalcanal and other islands.  I cannot imagine the horror he witnessed.  Somehow he survived and returned to his bride who had given him a pair of knitted socks before he shipped out, telling him he better bring those socks back, and he did.  Like my own father, he was a family man, and raised the girl who would become my wife, taking care of his family till his health failed.

There is a major point that I want to leave the reader with today.  Our military is a mere reflection of our society, with all of its good and all of its bad aspects.  Throughout the military history of the United States, non-whites, and now today LGBTQ people, have had to carry not only the challenge of being a good sailor, soldier or airman, but the personal challenge of dealing with bullshit from racists and haters.  Yet, those of color and those who are LGBTQ continue to join and continue to fight for THEIR country.  Many, many of these people have given life and limb and part of their mind as a sacrifice for their nation.  Today let’s remember ALL people, of all persuasions, and think about what they gave so much for, and try to find a way made up of little daily ways, to assure them that this country is truly getting better and is worth fighting for.

To my father, we miss you daily.

Daddy's Military Headstone

I chose the photo of flowers instead of one with flags that is commonly used for this day, for the reason that those who gave so much do live on in all of us, and this Nation will bloom every year because of their sacrifices.

Cars I have owned.

Did I mention somewhere along the byway of my blog that I no longer possess a car?  I do have access to my friend’s car for important errands, but generally nowadays I just stay put in my neighborhood, as I little reason to be “running around” anymore.  But it was less than a year ago that I gave up my 2014 Ford Taurus SEL (one shown in the lead photo), and occasionally I find myself having pangs of longing and desire, even “lust” for that car.  Oh my, how I loved it.  But everything must change, so I let it go.

I must say though that it was one of the last “almost muscle” cars sold in America.  It was an automatic, but had a passing gear that was marvelous for getting on freeways or passing 18-wheelers slowly coming into my lane!  And, so comfortable indeed.  A great car, but Ford changed, like all the American (or “world economy”) manufacturers have done.  I think in China this car or a similar one is still available, which makes me ask, “What tha f^&%$!”

Over my long adult working life I have had more than my share of cars, mostly brand new, or one or two slightly used.  I admit, I was a car-holic, always feeling the need to drive something I felt was commensurate with my “status” in life, as an engineer growing in his career.

Before the Taurus, actually I also owned Ford’s Focus and Fiesta models, but did not keep these but a short time before settling on the Bull.  (Taurus is my zodiac, so you see how I might be attracted to it.)  All of these cars were fantasic, fast, surprisingly comfy to my 6′-2″ frame.

ford focus 2013

Before I settled into Ford’s products, I had driven the wheels off a couple of models of the Saturn VUE.  Remember Saturn?  Most will not.  Another “deep six” product of America trying to compete in the world economy.

02-05_Saturn_Vue

The VUE was a really good car, and I was sorry to see it fall off car-earth.  When I moved into owning a couple of the VUE’s (I loved them!),  I had done so only because I had driven the best car I ever had to the point of the transmission likely needing replacing.  The WONDERFUL 1996 Oldsmobile Aurora!

1996-Oldsmobile-Aurora

This car was like NCC-1701 on wheels to me.  Fabulous in every way.  The V-8 engine was the bad-ass thing out of Detroit at the time, so bad the engine block was used in some Indy cars! 250HP and a top speed of 135mph, and believe me it would do that.  In fact the engine was governed (limited) to that, as it would do more.  With this car the driver could set the cruise control on 125mph and just drive and drive and feel like you were going 65.  Perfect ride.  At 90 you could punch it and almost get whiplash! No joke.

All of the cars I have owned I chose to satisfy my sense of engineering design and beauty, and also for uniqueness.  I liked to drive something nice that was “not your average car.”  So before the Aurora I had burned miles in probably the very first Nissan Maxima sedan to hit the streets of Dallas.  It was a cool car, with what then were very novel features including recorded voice warnings (“Lights are On”) and information announcements by a sweet female voice.  The ONE thing that caused me grief more than once was the automatic should harness.  At that time, before air bags, some manufacturers were offering a novel design where the connection point of the should harness rode a track in the top of the door frame.  So the front passenger would get in, fasten the lap belt portion, and close the door, then when the ignition key was turned to ON, the should harness would move from the forward to rear driving position, firmly crossing the passenger with the shoulder harness.  Now, let me tell you, that was a problem for someone not really thinking about the position of their right arm.  More than once I started the engine to hear the scream and cursing of my wife who was arrested and almost strangled by the device.  Of course it was all my fault guys!

Maxima

When I bought the Maxima, I traded my Sterling 825.  I had bought it and drove it hard around New Mexico where I was living and working, and then long commutes back to Dallas.  A great car also, well engineered, but although my own car never had one problem, many did, and being manufactured in GB, it could not compete with its sister called Acura.  Built on the same drive train and chassis, the Sterling quality of production just could not compete with the Japanese version.  Americans literally taught the Japanese how to do quality assurance…..looks like we should have also taught our friends across the pond as well!

Before the Sterling I enjoyed the Datsun 810, both owning a two-door coupe version, then a station wagon version.  Great cars both, and I burned the miles on both.

datsun_810

opel gt

Before getting into Datsun, my pride and joy as a young Air Force officer was a car just like the one above, a 1970 Opel GT.  It was like a mini-Vette, and was giving competition to the Z cars of that period.  Powered by a simple in-line 4-cylinder engine (and incredibly accessible to maintain), manual shift, manual levered headlight rotation mechanism (note in the photo, the headlights are turned inward), it was sleek and fast and a road hugging little monster! I ran the wheels off it and loved every second I was behind the wheel.

My father set me up in an Opel Kadette, the actual car shown below.  It was so cool, and racy, and my future bride and I had lots of fun in it!

my first car

My father seemed to know how to pick neat cars, as he bought me a very used 1958 Chevy Impala, like that pictured below.  No, it wasn’t a plastic kit like in the photo! Unfortunately I blew the engine on it, and with me being in college, our family could not afford repairs so it sat at home until Dad found a buyer.

chevy

I learned to drive when I was about 9, on our ranch, on ranch roads, then progressing to driving on the highway with my mother next to me.  What I learned to drive in was a jeep similar to this one.  Daddy acquired it somehow, I think in a raffle where he worked, like he also acquired a motorcycle he never used.  Ours was painted white, and had a cool bullet hole in the back.  The stories I could tell about driving this jeep around our ranch would make most parents pucker up.  Never give a 9 year old boy a jeep and let him roam free!

And so I have come to the end of my “car life” story.  I enjoyed all these rides, but now enjoy walking even more.  Enjoy your rides, but walk as often as you can!2018-Jeep-History-1950s-Vehicle-Lineup-Jeep-M38A1_jpg_image_1440

Jazz, America’s Classical Music

If you are not a student of jazz, nor even very familiar with its vastness, that’s ok, I just hope you will hear me out on this, and then think about how what I say applies to the music idiom you prefer or love even.  I assure you it will apply, you may just need to do some substitution.

I chose the photo above, two empty park benches, side by side.  Now imagine, on one bench is seated a single musician, playing jazz, all alone.  My vision is of a sax player, but maybe it’s a cat or a lady horn player blowing on the trumpet or coronet or …….you name it.  Now it could even be a guy on a trap drum kit, but I prefer to think in terms of a horn’s vibration.  An acoustic guitar will do well though, in this discussion.

Here you come, out for a leisurely walk before it gets too warm, and hearing the wafting notes of extemporaneous composition floating through the trees, you follow these, curious and perhaps bewitched.  Finding the player, who only acknowledges you with a quick glance, after standing a moment listening, you say to yourself, “I think I will just sit and listen for a while.”

Being a jazz aficionado of many years, you just close your eyes, and listen, non-judgmentally, as the player experiments, stuttering on this note, then hesitating, then repeating and repeating again, until satisfied with that stroke of the painting.  Each note you hear takes you somewhere in your soul, your memories, your very primordial essence, carrying you along the strands of your DNA to experiences and relationships of your countless ancestors, and even (in my way of thinking) your many reincarnations.  You sit listening, hearing but not analyzing, for it cannot really be analyzed, as it is “jazz,” a fully-constituted quantum wave/particle having only the smaller parts that make up your very body and all that you perceive around you and all that you do not yet perceive, the very web of the Potentiality that is what many call God, others just know no name may be assigned, for It is neither this nor that.  Of the infinite possibilities of each note you take in, your neurons fire collapsing at each moment the probability wave into that special note that you and only you can claim.  You own each note, just as much as the lady playing.  You become an Eulipion.

The thought may come to mind, does the player hear her notes and feel what you feel listening to his notes?  A little perhaps, but what she is laying down is a river, she is pouring in the sacred water, shaping the twists and turns and rapids and falls, which she navigates, but you are in your own boat, free to also navigate as you feel, or are drawn to do by inexorable forces that you have little control over.  It is her journey, her creation, but she gives openly for you to enjoy in your little “mind skiff.”

A large part of listening to jazz is just relaxing into what you hear, letting the mind and spirit, mind/spirit, synthesize the extension of the notes that are only yours alone to enjoy in the way that you do.  Each person will enjoy the same music differently, because what we hear is what each of us process as our personalized perception of those lyrical dimensions.  This is also true of what we touch and what we see, but that’s another story. All is Mind.

Of course, as I said above, please feel free to substitute your own idiom, your own instrument, and then just visualize mentally, let it be a brief meditation.  Your surely will “see” that of which I write this morning.

Enjoy your day.  Listen to some great music!