Friday, November 30, 2012

Healing of My Heart

Haiku My Heart
November 30, 2012

This weekly thrill of writing Haiku and sharing it with others happens every Friday at Rebecca’s recuerda mi corazonGo there and see more and find out how you can participate. 

Sacred fire burns

Flames point to Grandmother Moon

Healing of my heart

Last Wednesday, I attended a Sweat Lodge ceremony. While standing around waiting for things to get started, we stood around the fire. There was a thin veil of wispy clouds but the Grandmother Moon rose and grabbed our attention.

I stood off to one side, alone, thinking about where I was, what I was seeing and processing the events of the past few weeks. I had been to another Sweat Lodge ceremony last Saturday with friends I haven’t seen nor shared the intimacy of prayer with in over eight years. I recalled the extremely uplifting feeling I experienced at that ceremony and the welcome they gave me as I rejoined a Community that had been lost to me for such a long time.

It dawned on me how I have been getting up and getting ready and actually going to the Wellness Center in town to ride the recumbent bicycle and putting forth the effort to not only get up and go there, but to put in the vigorous thirty minutes pedaling. In the past, I’d have great lofty goals the night before, but no motivation to do anything about it when I got up in the morning.

It was like I was reviewing all the changes and chances that The Creator has given me. The news from the doctors at the VA that my pacemaker hasn’t registered any A-Fib or A-Flutter “hits” and that the read out says the device is working and keeping my heartbeats in order, along with the idea that they are going to suggest that I stop taking the blood thinning drug, coumadin.

Just these few episodes in my everyday living are a change for the better. This thought was realized and I thanked the Spirits for the feeling and realization. I’m truly blessed to have had prayers answered, my prayers, your prayers. Thanks be for listening to the prayers of the people.

I’m about to leave on a much anticipated road trip. That in and of itself no small miracle. I can’t wait to be on a mountaintop or in the expanse of the Southwestern desert and lift up my arms to receive the Spirit guides and helpers that have been at my side helping out, helping me get to where I am. They’ve helped me make the journey.

Grandmother Moon has marked the way and the way she appeared above that Sacred Fire brought the reality to the fact that I am indeed one lucky bastard to have lived through all that I have. 

Tomorrow, December 1, 2012, starts the twelve days of A Virgin a Day on recuerda mi corazon. Each day a story, poem or event is recalled and culminates on December 12th, the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I love to participate in this event. This year, I will be on the road, doing my meditation through the windshield. I'll post most days when I have the time, even if it is a repost of one of the stories from years past. Take some time to check this event out as the artwork alone is worth the viewing.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday Morning Update

Hello my Blogger friends. Just a quick post to let everyone know that I am still alive and kickin'. Speaking of kickin', I just bought the soundtrack from a great TV presentation I watched recently. It was "Billy Connolly's Route 66". I didn't know who Billy Connolly is but found out he is a British comedian. He travels the Mother Road, old Route 66, on a trike. The songs were oldies for the most part, but each one a memory etched into my head from somewhere on the road.

"Get your Kicks, on Route 66"

Starting in Chicago and ending in Los Angeles, and as the lyrics proclaim, over 2000 miles all the way. I remember parts of being on the original Route 66 in 1959 in the back seat of my Father's Oldsmobile. I have had these 8mm home movie film tapes and I really need to dig them out and send them to a place that will put the contents on a DVD.

In the meantime, watching this and telling you about it is a great and easy convenient segway into telling you that I will be leaving on a road trip this coming Friday, November 30th. Mrs. Spadoman and I will be headed West, and some of our trip will indeed be along the old Route 66.

Besides stopping while enroute, our first destination will be Tucson, Arizona for a week. From there, we'll spend some time messing about Arizona and New Mexico and getting our fill of green chile and enjoying the weather. It's starting to get colder up here in the upper Midwest. It's not that I don't like cold weather, it's just that it is cold for such a long stretch that I want to break up the pattern by heading to the Southwest.

Besides the Mexican and Southwestern influenced food, we'll get our fill of coffee shops and diners, making our own version of the Foodnetwork's "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives".

And speaking of food, our trip back will bring us through Chicago and a stop off at my sister's place. My brother will be there and we will share some time together as well as attend another cousins reunion with all our cousins from my dad's side of the family. There will be a ton of good Italian traditional foods there and we will partake inn a robust manner! We will return home on Monday, December 17th and prepare for our Christmas Eve family celebration here at Spadoville.

Other Winter plans include returning to Tucson in January for a month, then back home for some doctor and dentist appointments. Maybe some new teeth, eh? Then off for a tour of Florida with Mrs. Spadoman, visiting friends and seeing some sights. That should bring us into March and the hint of Spring might be in the air, or at least in the not too distant future.

This is how I plan on getting through the Winter this year. Stop and Go, Come and Go, Back and Forth. I'll be busy traveling in any event and that's what I like to do. Nothing, in my mind, is better than living life at 65 miles per hour in a car except living it at 85 on a motorcycle.

Since the accident last September 16th, I have not had a motorcycle. We'll see what bargains Craigslist has to offer in Arizona while I'm there. You never know.

In the meantime, not sure about how often or how many posts I'll lay down here, but I will have the camera and a laptop. I'll try not to be a stranger here and at your place.

Be peaceful and kind to people. It will make you feel good inside.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day 2012

Haiku My Heart
November 23, 2012

See more Haiku My Heart at Rebecca's recuerda mi corazón.

Thanksgiving dinner

Thick Black Friday shopping crowds

Time of the season

Back in the 1970’s, when we were married and didn’t have any children, I would wake up very early on Thanksgiving morning and travel over to my friend’s place. We would load up our gear and shotguns, his Brittany Spaniel, jump in the pick up truck and head out for Minooka, IL, where Roy’s Grandpa owned a large farm. We had breakfast on the way there and did all this so timed for a 6 AM arrival. Minooka is just a short distance from the Southwestern Chicago hamlet of Joliet, home of the famed statesville Prison, featured ‘Big House’ in the Blues Brothers first movie.

Our goal was to go pheasant hunting on Thanksgiving Day and return home to a warm kitchen full of delicious smells and tables and countertops loaded with food. In our case in those early years of our marriage, we went to either my Mom and Dad’s or Mrs. Spadoman’s Mom and Dad’s home for Thanksgiving dinner.

The hunting didn’t always produce results, but if we did bag a few birds, Roy’s spouse would clean them and put them in the freezer and we would gather in January for a wild game feed which was prepared by her capable North Dakota farm girl hands

At Barb’s Mom and Dad’s, the usual relatives from Milwaukee were on hand. They made the 90 mile trip and spent the day sitting at my Father-in-law’s downstairs bar that he had in the basement. These ‘finished’ basements were called rumpus rooms in those days. Football would be on TV. Detroit and Dallas always have hosted a Thanksgiving Day football game ever since I could remember. Of course earlier in the morning was the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I missed it because I was out hunting with Roy.

There was a lot of drinking going on. Schilitz beer, for the most part, maybe a few shots or mixed brandy and water or brandy and seven highballs and cigarette smoke. The turkey in the oven was there, but not of importance to the gathering, which was completely the opposite when we would go to my Mom and Dad’s home for Thanksgiving dinner.

At the Spado residence, there would be a complete turkey dinner, with all the trimmings that included sweet and mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing and a couple of vegetable dishes along with the rolls and butter, and a complete Italian lasagna dinner, also complete with meatballs, sausage, bracioli, (Bra-Zhole’), salad and cantaloupe or some such fruit to cleanse the palette. Then came the pies, about three or four of them, but no alcohol. Just what we called Pop. Canfield’s, Canada Dry Ginger Ale, Pepsi Cola or 7-Up. Funny how food is or is not important to American families.

We moved away from the places where we grew up and shared holidays with family and started our own life and traditions. Thanksgiving was the American traditional feast for years in our home. Similar to the above mentioned turkey dinner.

For a couple of years, we went to our Irish friend’s home on Thanksgiving where everyone brought a specialty Mexican dish. I always made Chile Rellenos from scratch. Funny, we had chili rellenos last night for dinner. I made Chili verde to top them and it was fantastic!

As time marched on and I learned that some of my Native Indigenous friends took offense, and rightly so, with Thanksgiving and Columbus Day for the atrocities suffered by the first inhabitants of this land of ours we call America, I wondered about the why and wherefore of ‘celebrating’ a holiday that brought so much horror and unrest to a race of human beings.

Later in life, I realized that in my heart, I didn’t harbor the idea that we needed to make anyone suffer for our own greed and that I will live my life making sure I don’t have the hatred and do all I can, when I can, to end the practice of discrimination of anyone.

I still, however, am a product of this society and celebrate the idea of Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving Day, but pray and thank the creator for blessings each and every day.

I wish you good Peace in your heart and in the hearts of all that you hold dear. I Thank You for your friendship. 

Much Peace

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Here's My Take

I have an opinion you know. I just don’t lay it out there on the blog or on status updates and Tweets every ten minutes. But I have been sitting here at the computer for the better part of two hours and can’t seem to get inspired to write anything or find an old story to embellish and share, so all that is left is to bore you to death with my opinion.
In the past, I guess I have done this before. “Sunday Morning Musings” or “My Thoughts for Today” have been the headlines in the past. I’m calling this “Here’s My Take”. A new name just for a change of pace.

Twinkies. I used to eat Hostess Twinkies quite often. I actually liked the Hostess Cupcakes a lot better than the Twinkie. The chocolate I guess. Before there were so many choices and I was a gaping fat ass eating everything and anything, stuffing food into my mouth at every tick of a clock, I would buy Hostess Cupcakes, Twinkies, Suzy Q’s, Zingers, HoHo’s, Fruit Pies, Ding Dongs and yes, I ate the Hostess Snowballs like they were the last treat on earth!

Wonder bread was a mainstay in our household growing up. “Wonder bread helps build strong bodies 8 ways”. They were speaking of the eight vitamins that they added, or were naturally occurring in the ingredients, of their red, yellow and blue balloon wrapped loaves of soft, white, emulsified bread. And I still peeled off the crust to make my Skippy peanut butter and Welch’s grape jelly sandwich.

By the way, we went to the cheaper “house” loaves of white bread when I was buying bread for my own family. It was cheaper and just the same. We also went to Jif, and I preferred grape Jam over grape jelly.

I stopped eating things like Twinkies, and pb&j samiches, a long time ago. Right around the time of my first heart attach and wholesale lifestyle change. That would be back in 1986. Since then, periods of over eating and satisfying my sweet tooth while being on the road or sitting in front of the TV watching mindless commercial advertising for attorneys that will handle your lawsuit or Social Security claim, came in the form of a candy bar, the large generous sized one, or a quart of toasted almond fudge ice cream, respectively.

I think I remember that the shelf life of a Twinkie and that sort of “dessert” was more than 10 years. If that is true, the ones that people are buying up faster than you can say “Sugared Fat”, should last a long time and be Ebay prizes for lucky collectors well into the future.

I also think that there will be some manufacturer that will buy the name rights to Twinkies, et al, and start baking them again, just like the old candy and gum from the past is now available. Things like Bullseyes or Adam’s Black Jack can be found easily and are back I to production to appease the boomers that look for and buy nostalgia. I just read an article that the Hostess family of names will indeed be sold. They’ll probably wait until bankruptcy proceedings are over and debt forgiven. I’m sure they wouldn’t want to sell the name and have to give the money away to share holders and creditors.

I wonder if this one will ever die

On Facebook, and other social media outlets as well as news spots across the country, the closing of Hostess’s doors and the idea that Twinkies will no longer be in production is a big story. The Left and Right are already blaming each other and each other’s causes for their demise.

One story that is circulating is that the Unions caused the shut down. That is counter attacked by the liberals saying that the CEO’s that they have hired throughout the years, to try and get the company on solid footing, were raking in huge salaries and stock options while Union members took pay and benefit cuts.

Union workers do make more money per hour than the usual non-union worker, but I can’t think of any Right Wing thinking working man or woman that wouldn’t take a job at a Union shop and make more than minimum wage. In fact, I like that saying where the idea of paying a person minimum wage is that the corporation is telling you that they’d pay you less if they could. At least in a Union shop, some of your rights are protected. Can you say 40 hour work week?

The bottom line to me s this: Hostess, like many old large corporations, went out of business. So what! They have outlived their usefulness. The portions are smaller, when compared to net weight from 30 years ago. Maybe the American people have more choices for their bakery goods, desserts and white bread, which I heard, isn’t good for you anyway when compared to whole grain breads and  naturally sweetened foodstuffs. Twinkies can’t be good for you because they are just sugar laden flour mixed with lard and/or vegetable fat and preservative chemicals.

I won’t be alive when they find out what’s really in the newest craze, energy drinks. It’s just a Twinkie in a can. At least the packaging is recycled easier than the cellophane with the thin laminated card stock platform. 

Think I’ll by me a case or two of Amp or Red Bull and save them for my Grandkids to sell on Ebay to collectors in 2045. I can see it now. Like Billy Beer. You can still find a few cans of that around, and even Coca Cola has been reproducing the greenish hued 6.5 ounce bottles of Coke. Buy ‘em from a good well-stocked Mexican grocery and they’ll even be in glass bottles, either 12 or 16 ounce, and sweetened with real cane sugar and not the corn syrup that the government subsidizes. Oh, that’s right, they subsidize sugar beet farmers too. Just Sayin’.


Friday, November 16, 2012

The Heart of Our Home

Haiku My Heart
November 16, 2012

Haiku My Heart is a weekly meme that brings friends together to share. You can find more haiku and find out how to participate at Rebecca's recuerda mi corazon.

My Mom, at the stove in the kitchen, getting Christmas dinner put together for the family around 2000

Family kitchen

Eating our way to heaven

Twelve foot long table

My friend Rebecca had a post recently where she introduced us to a marvelous blog that spoke about kitchens, food, cooking and life. It is entitled Muy Bueno. Click on the link in her blogpost and take a look. You may just see something you like by way of a new, or something you might find to be an exotic, recipe.

In the meantime, Rebecca asked for comments about our favorite kitchen experience. I wrote about some of the time I spent as a kid and throughout my life with my Mother in the kitchen.
I commented, “I would watch my Mom in the kitchen and tug at her apron, asking, "When we gonna eat, Mom?" But I watched, and tried things on my own. Those days "helping" Mom bake Italian delicacies for the holiday gatherings or lifting the heavy pans of boiling water for pasta and huge 6" roasters filled with lasagna when she was getting older, were the best memories I have of time spent with my Mother. As Fall is here and another Los Dias celebration is behind us, we think about Thanksgiving and Christmas and talk with our daughters about our plans and menus. Everyone mentions how they'll miss Grandma and what recipes of hers are we going to make.
Maybe the best memory is the one that we have not yet lived as she attends to the details in spirit at my own home.
Carmelina Rosa Caruso Spado lived her life and directed her love to the family from the cucina. (Cucina in Italian, cocina en Espanol)

That said, it made me think of so many instances of celebrations, birthdays, holidays or just a plain old fashioned Sunday, or even a weeknight, dinner in every kitchen I’ve ever lived in or visited and places where I have been invited to cook. This way of life was inspired by my Mother, Carmelina Rosa Caruso Spado, may she Rest In Peace.
I love the kitchen. To cook for the masses, or to cook for my spouse and myself, is a ceremony. Our home has a table in our kitchen. I remodeled the room to create an open kitchen/dining area. I have made my own custom size tables at three of the places where we have lived. We sit at the table and entertain when guests stop by. All action gravitates there.
We went from a long rectangular table to a round table and were using the outdoor glass top patio table until we found a suitable round one here at Spadoville. Perusing Craigslist, I found a round wooden table that had twelve 8” leaves and extended from four feet to twelve feet and everywhere in between!
So, my haiku today speaks of the many meals that will be shared across our new table and elicits more fond memories of my life at home growing up. In fact, that second line could also easily read "Cooking our way to heaven". 
Wish I was going down to help Mom make some Christmas stuff this year. I’ll just have to make some here in my own kitchen this time. Thank you for letting me share here today.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Book

Some years ago, I tried my hand at fiction. I developed a character named Joe Nighthawk and told a story about a time later in his life. A life he spent working on the docks and ore boats out of the Great Lake Superior city of Duluth, Minnesota. In some ways, it is modeled after my own experiences, but not in every sense. As fiction will allow, I took liberties with the truth and intertwined my own life, feelings and existence into the life of the character I tried to create.

I'm not sure where I'll go with this or if it will ever be a completed work, but I'll continue writing, when the mood strikes, on this project and the legacy of my real life that I plan on leaving for my Grandchildren.

This is the prelude, the beginning, Chapter 1

The Adventures of Joe Nighthawk

Chapter One

He had been home from the war for a few weeks now. A friend told him he could get unemployment compensation after discharge from the Army,

“Yeah, the Army was payin’ you, right? Then they let you out of the Army and let you go home, right? Okay, so now you had a job, being in the Army, and now your unemployed! Man, go apply for the money, It’s like eighty five bucks a week for six months!” he said.

So he did it, and was reaping the benefits while he tried to straighten his head. He literally was on the battlefield one day and in a big bird headed for home the next. Within three days, just 72 short hours of a lifetime, he was in his home town, back in the world, and not a clue as to what to do or what his next step would be.

Being home from the Army was a good thing. That’s all a soldier fighting in a war in a strange land far far away ever desires is to be home again. For Joe Nighthawk it was no different. The time he spent in Vietnam seemed like it would never end. When he returned, he found that most of his friends were gone. Either they were in the service and in Vietnam like he had been, or had moved away, gone off to college or had gotten married. Others were just gone, maybe they died in that war. He didn’t have a lot of close friends from his high school days as it was, but did know his neighborhood and made notice of who was still there and who was gone since the time he left two years prior. Now, the familiarity of the neighborhood was gone too. He felt a little like a foreigner.

He was given a uniform to travel home with. All civilian clothes he had were lost, and nothing left at his parents home fit him anymore, maybe a shirt or two. He had a few bucks that Uncle Sam gave him, his last paycheck, and he spent most of that drinking and playing poker on the long trip home. With the little he had left he bought a pair of jeans. Now he was broke and had applied for a biweekly check from unemployment. Pocket money if nothing else. He was staying at his folks place while he got on his feet and got a job.

But the main thing was that now he was home. He was walking the streets of the city where he grew up. A city that bought and paid for its heritage with the sweat of labor. A city at the far Western edge of the Great Lake Superior, Duluth, MN.

A shipping port, the largest on the largest of the Great Lakes. Chicago and Detroit were over 500 miles away on Lake Michigan, the next lake down from Superior. Grain was shipped through here from the Dakotas, Coal, Portland cement and the rich iron ore found in the Mesabi Range. Ocean going vessels came and went here. But it was the big ships, the Lakers, as they were called, the long ore boats with holds as big as two football fields, that carried the resources away and were the backbone of the economy.

The girl he left behind was gone. She left him with a ‘Dear John’ while he was in Nam. He had a couple of gals he was writing to, but found out they were doing their patriotic duty and being kind and friendly to the GI’s overseas. His old haunts had changed, or he had changed. He knew right away that the war would do that to a man, change them. He learned that quickly, when he stepped foot on the ground in Vietnam. He was edgy, unsettled, and being broke and alone didn’t help any. Night after night at this bar or that proved to him that his best friend was anyone seated next to him hammering down the sauce with beer chasers.

“Welcome home to America”, he thought, as he belted another bourbon and sipped the beer a little to wash it down. He’d already been in this place for an hour. His eyes were adjusted to the darkness. He focused on the wooden bar and the nicks and scratches and dents and thought to himself that a hell of a lot of whiskey had passed across that slab of wood. He was sure that it had seen its share of blood as well.

That night, after the bars were closed, he went to an all night dive and changed from the hard stuff to coffee. He picked up a paper and looked through the classifieds. The Help Wanted section wasn’t full of jobs, and he had seen most of them before in other feeble attempts at seeking employment. He’d take a gander anyway and read down the columns.

Before he was drafted, he worked along the waterfront. He never had a real job as he was only eighteen when the Army sent him his notice. Now, out of the Army, fresh from the American war in Vietnam, no college or special training. He had been in the infantry. He was a leader of men, but who would buy that crap from a twenty one year old with no work experience.

No, labor is what he sought. Labor is what he could do right now. The government had a program where he could go to school and make something of himself, but he had to get a grub steak now, get out of his parents home and venture into the world. It would take time and he would need more than unemployment compensation as income.

He saw the ad for dock workers at a loading facility along Duluth’s waterfront. The next morning, he shaved, cleaned up and rid himself of the stink of the bar room and applied for a job.

“Hello, I’m here to apply for the dock worker position.” he said.

“Yes, fill out this application, do you have a pen?” the receptionist said as she handed him the form and pointed to a cup of pens sitting on her desk.

Joe Nighthawk sat down and filled in the blanks. It was a short form. The longer apps had the experience sections and more space to write about references and previous employers. The short form needed to know if you were breathing and capable of servile labor. He was able-bodied, he was thinking when he handed the completed application back to the receptionist.

She told him that the applications would be accepted until tomorrow, then a manager would look at them and call anyone that they would be interested in. Joe headed out the door, feeling that another dead end while looking for a job in a tight market was futile. He was pleasantly surprised when the next day, he was called and hired. He’d be on the bottom rung, but he would have a job.

Joe was a strong young man. His body made hard over the past year of being a soldier. Plenty of walking and exercise, a diet low in fat. The effects of the drinking had been absorbed by his youth at this point. His muscles rippled and his stomach was flat. At nearly six feet tall he looked formidable. The leather jacket he wore, the one handed down from his step father, fit neatly and the elastic around the waist set his profile to angular.

It took labor to accomplish the task of loading and unloading these behemoth ships. People with grit and a strong back. Folks tuned in to the weather that could take the punishing cold of winter up here in the Northland and the heat and humidity of the hot midwestern summer and everything in between.

Joe grew up here. He knew the weather. He’d seen it snow in late May and experienced the 65 degree stretch in January of 1957. He was rugged before his time spent after being drafted into the Army. Now, as a combat Veteran, he had a hardness, a patina, covering his soul. He was solid and lean. His hair and eyes were dark. He was young, but typical  for a soldier, barely 21, when he returned home.

His wartime experiences would be inside his mind. They weren’t a bad thing at first, after all, he just got home. He didn’t realize these thoughts and visions would stay with him forever when he was 21. In fact, he didn’t dwell on the past at all, as he had a future and a bottle of Jim Beam, in front of him. Gone was the youth, and so was the life of a teenager. It was time to go out and earn his own living.

He’d thought of being like his father. Not his biological father, that man disappeared a long time ago. His real dad left home when he was very young, still an infant. He was raised primarily by his mother until about age 6 or 7. That’s when his mom met this Native American fellow named Jim Nighthawk. Jim Nighthawk was his stepfather after he married his mom, and that’s who he was thinking of. An American Indian from East of Duluth who came there in the 1940’s and worked on the rails and in the iron ore mines. Joe didn’t want to be underground and he didn’t want to be away from the big lake.

Jim Nighthawk's dad, a man the young Joe called Grandpa, worked on the ore boats. He was a cook and told stories of nights out on the deck with the moonlight so bright you could read the fine print on a last will and testament. He’d follow Grandpas lead and find a job with the boats. He’d be a longshoreman to start, then, eventually earn his way aboard a ship. He’d sail the Great Lakes Fleet. He’d experience the weather right up close and personal, standing on the docks or on the deck of a ship heading outbound for Cleveland. He’d see the big cities, Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Erie Pennsylvania and the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Joe had applied at a few places at first. Finding a job in 1970 was a little tough. The steel and iron ore business was changing. A newer process for the ore was being developed. The Japanese had found a way to produce high quality steel from inferior grade ore. The rich ore, taken from under the ground in Northern Minnesota, wasn’t in such demand anymore.

The industry was reeling and until they could compete on the world market, the economy of this region that relied heavily on iron ore mining was at a standstill. As the USS Steel Company’s plant closed and over 4000 people lost their jobs, unemployment was high. The bars were filled with workers who spent their time drinking as the prospect of a livelihood was bleak in their minds.

Joe was one of the lucky ones. He had his youth and strength going for him and now had a job. He worked the worst of shifts, and did the meanest sloppiest of jobs, but he was there. And working in the bowels of an ore boat, the idea of going any further down was out of the question. The only movement would be up towards the sky.

The development of Taconite changed things quickly. The iron ore tailings could be made into pellets. These pellets could be shipped in the big boats. The pellets flowed like water out of the rail cars and through large chutes into the holds of the ships. There were some jobs available, but so many unemployed. Duluth’s population was dwindling and dropped from over 115,000 to just under 85,000 in what seemed like overnight. Being young and willing was what got Joe his start.

The bars in Duluth and the Wisconsin port city of Superior were the only places that made any money for a long time. They seemed to flourish during times of plenty and of despair. They would be sitting side by side, three and four to a block, and all full of patrons drinking away the time and pain. But things looked better and ebbed and flowed. This was a time of flowing, and Joe had his job with the great lakes shipping industry.

As time went on, he had spent much of it in the bars, too. He was a seasoned man with his fists. Being young and lean meant defending yourself against those that build a challenging posture after a few cold ones. Joe seemed to be a target often, but he also targeted others when the grain spirits got the best of him. He didn’t like to hang around in this environment, but this was where the men who did the hard work went. He stood with them.

His father, the Nighthawk guy who raised him after his real father took off and left him and his mother with four children, used to drink a lot. He was recovering from alcoholism when he entered Joe’s life. He’d tell Joe about his disease, but at this stage of his own life, Joe forgot the lessons and teachings of a wiser more determined man that took Joe as his own. He was a good man and treated his mother with fairness and respect.

The elder Nighthawk would tell Joe about when he used to drink and how he’d been one of those deadbeat kind of guys. He learned the value of a loving wife and a family and honored the prospect of raising Joe and his brother and sisters as his own.

Surely Joe wasn’t an alcoholic. After all, these men here in the bar held a job and raised a family, they supported themselves and didn’t drink all day at work. Joe never saw that he had any problems with alcohol. He was just like so many others that it seemed normal to stand at the rail after a long shift on the docks.

He was single, he paid his rent in the small rented rooming house after his stint at his parent's place. The Seaway Hotel was a place where many of the transient boat hands stayed when their ship was in port. Joe had a permanent room there. It was close to the docks, walking distance. Joe didn’t own a car in those early days.

His routine would be to take a call. The foreman would call the Seaway, The message would be delivered to Joe. He’d be given the time when he’d have to report, the name of the ship that would be loading or unloading, the commodity that would be handled and a dock number. He’d get the word and prepare for his long shift with the clothing he’d need to stay comfortable and a few sandwiches to eat. He’d stop and get his thermos filled with steaming hot coffee at the 19th Street Diner, just across from the Greyhound bus terminal on Superior Street in West Duluth.

The shifts were long, some around the clock, not finished until the job was done. Then some rest, a stint at the bar, and a call to do it all over again. A hard life, but easier to digest when your young and fearless.

It was after a particularly long shift that he wandered into the Waterfront Diner, a small place that catered to the longshoreman with service and hot coffee twenty four/seven. Joe was seated at the counter with his hands wrapped around a mug of hot java. He was waiting for the breakfast he ordered. The waitress, a pretty young thing named Carol, walked by back and forth. He noticed her. He had seen her often as he frequented The Waterfront on almost a daily basis. He liked her curves coming and going and wished he could sit and chat with her instead of just sitting there and voice a few words now and then as she worked.

He had noticed her hands, the left one in particular, and that the third finger wore no ring. He wondered for a long time if she was either married and didn’t wear the ring, had been married and is now divorced, or just single and hasn’t found “Mr. Right” yet. He was hoping she was single and unattached and spoke to her when she made a brief stop at his place at the long counter and filled his mug with steaming hot coffee.

“Would you like to go out sometime?” He asked, softly, barely audible.

“What do you mean, go out?” answered Carol.

“You know, go out, see a show, have a bite to eat, together” said Joe.

Carol turned when the bell rang telling her the order was up. She kept her pace throughout the whole exchange. She had dark brown hair and wore only a little make up. She didn’t need it. Her features were bright on their own. Her lips and nose made her cute, her eyes made her beautiful. She kept herself busy, even in the wee hours at The Waterfront. She had heard so many quips, smart remarks and come-ons from the male audience that made up the clientele of the diner that she was immune to most of it. When Joe had spoken to her out of profile and asked her out, she didn’t respond immediately to his request.

After serving him his plate of ham and eggs and waiting on half a dozen other early morning breakfast eaters, she walked back in front of Joe and while filling his mug with more hot brew said, “Sure, I’d like that, I’d like to go see a show.”

Joe smiled and gulped down the mouthful of hash browns he had in his mouth. He started to speak and she was gone, vanished down to the far end of the counter, setting up a place for a customer and asking if he’d like some coffee.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Veterans Day 2012

Haiku My Heart
November 9, 2012

Haiku My Heart is a weekly practice of sharing and fellowship that eminates from my friend Rebecca on her recuerda mi corazon blog. Go to this link, recuerda mi corazon, and see more of the sharing and find out how you can participate.

The winding cement

Brings us to the pinnacle

Rest in hallowed Peace

This is the chapel at the Vietnam Vets Memorial at Angel Fire, New Mexico. Built on land they owned, Victor and Jeanne Westphall, the parents of David Westphall, their son, dedicated this place as Sacred, not only to the memory of their son, but to the memory of all that gave the ultimate sacrifice in combat. I visited this place during my September trip to New Mexico and was awed by the powerful Spirits that grabbed a hold of me there.

Let this post remind us all to remember those that have fallen from our ranks this Veterans Day, November 11th.

You don’t have to love war to honor the sacrifices made by so many over the years. In fact, I like to say that I Honor the Warrior, but not the war.

The willingness of a Veteran, or anyone for that matter, to give their life if asked to do so is something that only a few are willing to make. Those that walked on are memorialized every day to some, and we recognize them on Veterans Day, November 11th.

Honor the Dead
Heal the wounded
End all war

Peace to all

Monday, November 5, 2012

New Song on the Horizon

Wrote this song this morning as I am pretty darn sick of the whole election scene. There is no way the common man can check the facts on the lies they are all telling the people in their ads. Most folks have made up their mind, and where they have been allowed to, people have already voted. And it won't be over tomorrow night after the polls close. Oh no, then the conversations and accusations start in earnest.

I tell you, this process and lack of clear cut other party choices, the obscene expenditure of money and the corporations dirty hands have me quite sick and tired of any elections in this country. Maybe I'll just sleep through it since I voted absentee a month ago.

Anyway, sing it in your best country voice to any tune you can fashion.

Day Before Election Day Blues
Joe Spado

The country’s in the tank

No money in the bank

We’re still involved in war

Like some kind of dirty whore

Politicians fight and bicker

As we watch the market clicker

I tell you son

The day before election day blues

It’s all you see on TV

People sayin’ nasty things

My side is better for you

As they flash their diamond rings

Cuttin’ throats and slashin’ programs

Disregard the fancy slogans 

I tell you son

The day before election day blues


Ought to take a sack of rocks

And put it in the ballot box

Ought to find out what’s the truth

And take that to the voting booth

Ought to pick a good one some day

‘Stead of lesser of the evils

Can’t stand the final time

As the politicians lie

I tell you son

The day before election day blues

I tell you everybody

It’s the day before election day blues

and of course.....   Peace

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Los Dias de Los Muertos, 2012

Today and tomorrow are the Days of the Dead. The time when the spirits can cross back over into our world. We celebrate the lives of the ones we have loved and lost over the years by sharing food, stories, laughter and tears with our family and friends.

Here is a photo of the Alter de Muertos, the Altar of the dead, at our home this year.

And, a Haiku for the occasion:

Remembering souls

Los Dias de Los Muertos

Those we love and lost

Much Peace to all