Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Song for Your Birthday

South Dakota Badlands. Ghost Riders may have ridden here.

This was fun. I was on Facebook, you know, the dreaded and hated by some, can't live without it by others, site. A Facebook friend, and fellow blogger, John Good of "Left in Aboite" blog fame had updated his status with a whimsical idea. That was to find the song that was number one when you were born. I immediately got curious. What was the number one song in May of 1949, almost sixty one years ago?

I did a Google search. I typed in "Number one song in 1949". I first got a question asking if I wanted the UK or the US. Okay, I thought, I want what was number one in the US first, that's where I was born. The exact place was Garfield Park Hospital in Chicago. The hospital is gone now. I researched for a while and seeems the the best of anyones recollection, it was shuttered in the late 1960's. I know it stood at the corner of Washington Blvd and Hamlin Ave., just across Hamlin from the actual park that was named Garfield Park. This Site has some interesting history about Chicago hospitals in general.

Back to the songs, and to the charts. Well, Vaughn Monroe had a great song out at that time and it became a number one hit on the Billboard charts. It was called
Ghost Riders in the Sky (A cowboy legend)
The record album, (pictured below), says Riders in the Sky. I always knew this tune as Ghost Riders in the Sky. I heard it by Johnny Cash, but it was covered by others. I like this song. I've heard it over the years. I was surprised to see it was a number one hit, and on my birthday.

The websites I found that could tell you the number one songs on certain dates didn't let me see the UK number one for May of 1949. I don't know what's up with that. I'm guessing a lot of big band stuff was still going strong and folks like Frankie Laine, Louis Armstrong and the very young and talented Teresa Brewer were high on the charts. I wonder how much of that old music is still out there. Plenty, I'm sure. One local public station in the Twin Cities, KFAI, has a weekly show hosted by Pete Lee called Bop Street. It is heard every Monday in the 3-6 p.m. time slot, (That's Central time zone if you go there), and KFAI streams, so you can have a listen on your computer. Lee plays the songs of the 40's and 50's era and many big band and Pop hits.

I've got a good setup. I have a wireless system that allows me to tune in on my computer in the back room, and play through my Bose equipment in the living room. We can also play our ipods there on the Bose. Mrs. Spadoman's is red, mine is orange. Each has as many songs the same as different. These days, I'm listening mostly to blues, reggae and rock from the 60's and 70's. CSNY, Beatles, Stones, The Who might be some of the artists you know. Alex Harvey, Big Twist and the Mellow Fellows and Zola Moon might be a few you don't.

So, what was the number one song on YOUR birthday. GO HERE and find out. We'd all like to know, so post the answer. I'll bet there will be quite the variety. Also, just a thought. Is that song you found out about the same genre you listen to today? Just curious. Have fun.

I'll leave you with a Johnny Cash version of Ghost Riders in the Sky from YouTube. It is a 1980 performance from The Muppet Show. He originally recorded the Vaughn Monroe classic on his album "Silver" in 1979.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Only the Good Friday, January 29, 2010

Cold here this week. Really cold, but beautiful clear starry nights with the moon growing rounder and rounder as it becomes a full moon on Saturday the 30th. Grandmother Moon is reflecting its reflected light off the snow, which is still plentiful here in the Northland, and makes night seem like daytime. It is quite a sight.

Last evening was spent going to the River Falls Public Montessori Elementary School's 8th Annual Winter Program. Children, my Grand daughter Lilly amongst them, ages Kindergarten to 6th grade, put on a play. The play was entitled "The Strange Moss Covered Rock". It is an African folk tale and very entertaining. Read the whole play dialogue HERE.

The story was a "Good" one with a lesson. A spider finds a moss covered rock that puts people to sleep if you mention the fact that it is a "Strange Moss Covered Rock". The spider tries to steal all the food of all the animals by luring them to the rock. When the elephants, rhinoceroses, monkeys and lions fall asleep after muttering the secret words, spider steals the food. The animals have the last laugh though, when the bush deer turn the tables on the spider. This teaches us all to share and not steal or be selfish. Might that not be a "Good" way to live?

Lilly on stage singing a song about a spider.

The children did a fantastic job with the music and the play. The older kids helped out the younger ones. The community and teamwork are hallmarks of Montessori education. We are very fortunate to have a public Montessori option in this school district and Lilly is receiving a great education in the process.

The curtain call.

This was a "Good" way to spend a cold Winter's evening. It was "Good" to see the Meyer Middle School Auditorium filled with parents, Grand parents, brothers and sisters of students. It sure was funny when three year old little sister Gracie saw Lilly and yelled, "Hi Lilly, here we are!". The whole auditorium heard her and smiled and laughed. Lilly rolled her eyes, but hugged Gracie after the show.

How "Good" is it to have a family that loves each other? How "Good" can it be to see this spirit throughout a community?

I have always thought Lilly to be a special person. All of my Grandkids are very special, don't get me wrong, but I call her magic. Sometimes when I am feeling low, I ask her to lay her hands on my head and let the energy flow. I suggest to her that she has magic in her hands and can give it to people to make them feel better if she just thinks about it. Since she has entered this life on earth, she has helped me, just by being alive, feel better. She is my close friend and doesn't hesitate to show me her friendship, love and affection.

Last weekend, I took the Grand children to see my Mom. Lilly went up to her as she lay down on the sofa, and gave her a hug.

My Mother looked at her and asked, "Did you come here to make me well?"

Lilly bent down and hugged her again, harder. Maybe my Mother saw something in Lilly as she prepares to leave this life. Maybe Lilly really is a person with the power to heal. I don't know, and I don't mean to say that my Grand daughter is a spirit or has magical powers. I just know that her presence is soothing and it helps me to feel better in times when I am stressed to the max, and that is "Good".

It is Friday, and I wanted to think about something "Good" that has happened somewhere along my path. Going to see the children entertain us was certainly something "Good" that happened in River Falls last night. I think I'll try to carry this spirit on through today, as the theme suggests, but also tomorrow and beyond. No need for Friday to have all the fun. Saturday and the rest of the days of the week want to be smiling too.

I hope you can think of something that is "Good" and keep it all day and every day. I am glad that Shelly over at This Eclectic Life started this Only the Good Friday theme. Join in. It's "Good".

Peace to all.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Feeding America

Not sure where this was from, but people are helping people with food shelf donations all across the country and the world.

While Winter rages on here in the Northland, I try to keep myself occupied with some sort of activity. In the past, this has been a very challenging endeavor as the weather limits many things, especially anything that has to do with being outside or doing anything outside. Years ago, I was able to endure the cold and snow better than I am equipped to deal with it now. Seems like going out in Winter was the same as going out in the Summer. I fished, I walked around the woods, I motorcycled or snowmobiled depending on the season and I skated on the frozen lake or swam in it, once again depending on the condition of the water.

In these times, some days I can’t get enough clothes on to keep me warm. It is cold today, 14 degrees Fahrenheit, (Brits, do the calculation to Celsius yourselves this time), but the wind is biting. The NOAA says we are to expect at least the next five days with night time lows in the below zero range and day time highs not to exceed 14 degrees. That means today is the warmest day expected this week.

There’s a good supply of food in the house and we paid the heat bill, so we should be able to stay warm. I shouldn’t have any complaints. After all, what am I expecting? Food and shelter along with complete and total happiness? Okay, so I’m a little bored with staying inside. I read some, I write. I don’t like to watch TV during the day and aside from watching the Vikings get beat, which, by the way, made me very happy, I haven’t watched any TV lately, even in the evenings.

Over the years, I have had this same problem. What to do with myself. I haven’t had to work at a regular paying job. I am on a fixed income with Social Security and have always looked for something to do. Summer never posed a problem because I could get outside. But sitting inside every day, day after day, all Winter long is a totally different story.

In my efforts to find something to occupy my time, it has been suggested that I volunteer somewhere.

That is a great idea, but I have struggled and not been able to even walk into the door or call a place and ask about being a volunteer, let alone actually do something, especially if it required a schedule or interaction with a situation I am not comfortable with. That would be most situations. That’s one of the hallmarks of PTSD, an anxiety disorder. I have it and I struggle and that is that.

This year, after many years of realizing I needed some help to return myself back to a normal way of thinking and living, I am able to pick up the phone and even walk into a situation and try to be of service to my community. I have started working the counter at the food shelf as a volunteer. This connection came through the weekly apple deliveries I have been making with my friend, Nick. If you remember, I’ve been picking up and delivering fresh apples from the Maple Leaf Orchard in the rural area for the food shelf. I’ve been doing this for the past few months.

Not every place in the world has the kind of bounty as seen in this grocery store shot.

So, these days, with Winter keeping me home and my mind filled with the events of living which have been quite troubling of late, I found myself going to the food shelf and spending a few hours a week.

Since I am computer literate, (they think I might have an inclination to know what I’m doing), I am at the front counter. I check people in and enter information to the computer file. It has been a good experience so far and I will continue to work, adding myself to the schedule as I can. The shifts are short, just a couple of hours. There is a lot to learn, but so far, it is coming quickly.

I tell you this not to brag, as it is with great humility I finally serve my community in some capacity. It is good therapy for me as well. It helps to keep my mind occupied and not dwelling on the situation with my mother who is receiving hospice care these days. The combination of family stress and the Winter weather keeping things moving along rather slowly can be devastating to the psyche. I’m glad I can stay busy and be of help in the process.

Sitting at the table eating a meal, taken for granted here in America for some, as some folks struggle to put a decent daily meal on the table.

The food program itself is quite interesting. I’ll write about the little idiosyncrasies as I get more experience. But there are things that I never realized about food distribution. It truly is a learning experience. And these days, there is no shortage of people coming and getting a helping hand. Make those donations regularly of food items, cash or both to your local food shelf. From what I’ve seen so far, it is totally donations and volunteers. There is no government money or food involved in feeding those in need, least not around here. Much is from Second Harvest, you may have heard of this organization. They go by the name of Feeding America. And This Article about a Wisconsin Company is interesting as well.

My next shift is Monday evening. Until then, I’ll stay busy fetching apples and keeping the house neat and tidy. I'll be making the almost weekly trip to Chicago to support my sister and see my Mom. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate as I travel back and forth.

The little kids also need me around. They’ve been teasing me lately about getting old. I have to be diligent in my attempt not to become crotchety, as they call it. They tell me that no one wants to deal with a crotchety clerk at the food shelf, or anywhere for that matter. So, each morning, I let them tell me if I am acting or looking crotchety and hope I pass the test.

Peace to all.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Only the Good Friday, January 22, 2010

Chapter Three excerpt......

After about a week being home from the war, I went back to work where I had been working before I left. Jackson Storage and Van lines, an Allied Van Lines agent. I was a furniture mover.

After I graduated High School, I worked full-time all Summer that year. In the Fall, I got a job at the moving company. The pay in September of 1967 for a Teamster Union mover was $3.17 an hour. I had been making about $2.25 an hour at the Jewel grocery store, another Union job.

My Brother worked at Jackson, but way the hell West of where we lived in West Chicago, Illinois. It was a small warehouse and trucking office and had only a few employees. My Brother talked to the Manager and he hired me. It was a good deal money wise and I was quite fortunate to get hired as the moving season was at its end for the year. Fall and Winter are the slowest months of the year.

I labored carrying furniture up and down stairs and into and out of trucks. I would return to Jackson Storage after I got out of the Army. I just automatically went back to my old job like I thought that was what I should do or something. The rule was that if you got drafted, your old place of employment was to hire you back at your old position and salary.

Before I went into the Army, I transferred to another way out west shop in Naperville, Illinois. So, when I got out, I went there. For some reason, I only had worked a few weeks and they came up with a couple of excuses of some technicality for why they didn’t have to keep me working. They said I quit and didn’t leave because I had gotten drafted.

I don’t remember the real reason. Let’s just say someone didn’t want me there, so, they said they didn’t have to give me my job back. So, this manager closer in towards the city, in Maywood said he needed help because his office was busy. He hired me and I went to work there. All this bullshit with the same company, Jackson Storage and Van.

This guy had a reputation for being a prick. Real professional and not real friendly, a business man. Harold Dunn was his name. I got a job in Maywood for the same company at the same pay. I worked there for a little over a year after I got out of the Army. I was working there when I met Barb.

I lived with my parents after I got out. they lived in a small house in Westchester, IL. They moved there after I went in the Army. They gave me a room, but it was evident from the start that my dad thought his children should be out on their own after reaching adulthood.

It didn’t take long for me to get into arguments with him about nothing and I moved on. I went to live with my sister in Suburban Palatine. She had a big house and plenty of room but a bastard of a husband who left me notes about how i should pay for the electricity and water consumption I used.

He was an accountant, so, he had it figured out to the penny and left me a note. The gutless asshole never sat down and talked about it to me. He just left a note. One night, when I got home late at night, I saw the note, read it, and immediately packed up and left. The party had started for me. My wandering, searching, trying to find out where I belong, where I should be, what I should be doing and how I would live my life would send me from adventure to adventure and fill me with experience from that moment forward.

.......End of excerpt

The preceding passage are words from a manuscript I have been writing over the years. It is a chronicle of my life that I hope to pass along to my Grand children. I envision them sitting and reading it to their children or maybe even writing a book about it. It’s nothing special to anyone but myself and the members of my family.

To be brutally honest, which I am, especially with myself, I didn't think I could come up with anything "Good" today as our family is going through some trying times. But I read this and realized that I have had struggles before and will have them in the future and I have endured.

What made me post this as an Only the Good Friday post today is that last paragraph. Much water has certainly flowed under the bridge since 1970. Forty years ago. I say it and wonder where the time has gone. I can’t look back at every moment of everyday, but I can look back and catch a brief glimpse of how I got where I am today by what I did on many a yesterday. But the bottom line is that life, being alive, is “Good”.

Sure, there have been trials and tribulations, breakthroughs and pressing problems, catastrophes and triumphs through the years. But time passes and things change. Seems like the bleaker the time, the better it gets with the passage of time. For moment to moment, life is “Good”. Working through the problems is “Good”. Learning how to help others is “Good”. Watching children grow, my own and my Grand children, is “Good”. Some learning and change happens by accident, some by precise planning. Making mistakes and then changing the outcome of that mistake. That’s “Good” too.

A simple message today about the “Good”. The “Good” in life, even when things aren’t looking so “Good”. Take a look around and feel it. Give yourself a thought about what has been “Good” and how you might steer today into something pleasant. That’s my goal for today on Only the Good Friday. Look for something "Good". Make something "Good" out of it, or out of any situation or any moment that you can find, whether it presents itself directly in front of me, or if I have to manufacture it in my mind. I hope your day is “Good” as well.

I know, this message is trite and somewhat repetitive. But I need to say these things, not so much to you, but to myself, to motivate and inspire myself to keep going. If I don't, well, I don't know what would happen if I don't, so I must. Like the story in the excerpt. It was gloom and doom. I had no job, then I had a job. The tide turned as time passed by. So it will be with the pains of living I am going through. Time will pass. And it will be "Good".

Only the Good Friday is the brainstorm of Shelly of This Eclectic Life blog. She is a fascinating storyteller and ambassador to her home state of Texas. Give her a visit and prepare to be entertained.

Peace to all

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wisconsin Point on The Great Lake Superior

Mid Winter fog and sun makes frosty trees

I was up by the big lake a couple of days ago. The Great Lake Superior. I didn't realize how much I miss living up near the lake, the energy, I can feel it. My body dances inside when i am near it. I did my usual water run to Solon Springs and added a side trip that took me North into Superior, WI. I met a guy there who bought a pair of snowshoes from me. I probably wouldn't have driven up there just to deliver the snowshoes, after all, it's around 150 miles one way from River Falls to Superior. But since I needed to fill the water jugs at the spring, and Solon Springs is just a mere 34 miles from Superior, I made the trip fruitful and delivered the cargo. That put a few bucks in my pocket and paid for my gas. I took the Ford Focus. With the manual shift, that thing gets me close to 40 mpg!

Lighthouse. Far Western end of the Great Lake Superior. Wisconsin Point.

I have sold five pair of snowshoes since last Thursday. I am out of stock. I don't have any more frames, bindings or anything left. Unless I get a specific order for a pair of snowshoes that I can sell for full boat retail, then I am done making them, at least for this year, but probably done for good. There are so many cheaper serviceable snowshoes out there with space age materials. People just don't go for the tried and true wooden frame relics of the past any more. I accept that. It was a good run. I'm glad I sold out. I was getting kind of tired of seeing them hanging along the wall in the garage. I suppose, looking back, I have made almost 100 pair of snowshoes since I started back in the late 1980's.

Walkway along the channel. Wisconsin Point, Lake Superior

Leaving later in the morning, the sun was high in the sky. At least as high as it gets this time of year up North. There was still some hoarfrost on many of the trees and bushes in the shady areas. patches of fog also held the frost tightly to the tree limbs. At the well, the ice had built up and I actually had to bend way over and reach in to a small pit to fill my jugs with the fresh cold spring water. I did so. I took a sled and loaded the bottles, two at a time, and slid them to the back end of the car to be loaded into the trunk. I brought back 40 gallons of pure water for drinking, coffee making and mixing frozen fruit juice. I had to store them in the house as in Winter, they would freeze in the garage, their usual place of storage. There are 5 gallon jugs all over the kitchen, and a bunch of gallon jugs of water downstairs in the refrigerator.

I was to meet the guy in Superior on the East end of town. That's the direction I would be coming from. We exchanged cell phone numbers for communication. He answered an ad I put on Craigslist for the snowshoes. I got to Superior well before we were to meet, so I took advantage of the sunshine, and warmth thereof, and drove on Moccasin Mike Road to Wisconsin Point, the far Western end of the Great Lake Superior where the St. Louis River empties into the lake. There is a channel there, complete with lighthouse. Not much shipping through this channel as Duluth, the larger city just North in Minnesota gets all the business.

Channel marker, Duluth, MN in the background.

The story goes that Superior was the natural entrance to the big lake. People in Duluth dredged a deep channel to support the large ore boats against the orders of the government and that’s how they became the larger and more important, by commerce standards, city at the Western edge of Lake Superior. To me, it makes no difference. That lake is so grand, it matters not where you stand and look at it. From the high bluffs on the Northern shore above Duluth or from the swampy flats along the South shore. It is magnificent.

Along Moccasin Mike Road, I stopped and looked at shadows of trees and watched birds, crows mostly, but some gulls as well, flying around. People out on the ice, fishing, on Allouez Bay. I made it to the end of the road and walked around on the pier. I was alone there. On a Summer day, there would be much more traffic. Today, in the dead of Winter, I was alone, and it was good.

Winter sun, low in the sky, casting shadows on the pines.

I was surprised that there wasn’t much ice. None, really. A few slabs floating along in the channel. Funny how they flow out of Lake Superior at Wisconsin Point as the St. Louis River flows into Lake Superior at Duluth, making sort of a loop. It was clear as a bell with the sunshine. The air was crisp. It was cold, about 25 degrees, but fresh, and the sun was warm to the touch. Never touched the sun? I have. I touch the light and feel its power. When the water and the sun meet at this great lake, there is an energy like no other. I wish I could describe the feeling. I wish I could share it with you. I took a few pictures, but I know they do not do the day, the weather the place or the time justice.

Small ice flow.

I made my connection, delivered the snowshoes and took off , headed South, along Wisconsin Highway 35. I made it home in three hours and was welcomed by a large bowl of steaming hot vegetable soup. I slept good that night. And I vow to get back along the lake soon.

Peace to all.

Long shadows. A cement parking marker at the sand dunes, Lake Superior

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ruby Tuesday 01/19/2010

Ruby Tuesday is the brainstorm of Mary/The Teach, on her Work of the Poet blog. It's a great blog. A lot there to keep you entertained a while. It's easy to participate, just post pictures you've taken that have red in them. I can do that, and it's great fun to look through old photos for red things or a red theme. It's also fun to be driving along and spotting things red and think about taking a picture. I'm getting good at seeing red. No, not at the driver that cut me off, but the barns, the signs, and anything natural that might have a red hue. So here goes, Ruby Tuesday for this week.

Gracie Jayne riding the big red train

Red in the morning, sailor's warning. Red at night, sailor's delight.

Sumac is bright red in Fall.

Red is part of the landscape.

Coffee bin handles are red at the J&S Bean Factory Coffee Shop in St. Paul, MN

Swirling Red. Children dancing at the Pow Wow, Crow Creek, South Dakota

The red coat was the warmest Lilly could find for a ride on the motorcycle.

Being Italian means a red checkered table cloth, but it also means red sauce, on everything!

Peace to everyone.

Monday, January 18, 2010

New Findings About Agent Orange

I’ve told this story before, but now there is a new twist to it. Not sure how in depth I ever went, but if you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you know that I have had a series of heart attacks and a couple of bypass surgeries over the years. My first heart episode was way back in 1985, I was 36 years old. I wondered why I had a heart attack that young.

After all, I was overweight, but I didn’t have diabetes back then. I smoked some pot up to that point in my life, but didn’t smoke cigarettes. There is no heart disease in the family. My cholesterol was low. So, none of the big risk factors they told the public about. And even if I had risk factors, and a heavy dose of them, I was only 36 years old.

I was working at my business. I had a maintenance service back then and I was pushing a vacuum at the Pine City Municipal Liquor Store and Bar, one of my accounts. It was a Sunday afternoon. I was in pain, chest pain. It wouldn’t go away. It was like a real bad case of heartburn. I got home and laid down in bed. My then twelve year old daughter looked at me and told me I should go to the hospital. My foster son drove me the 21 miles to Mora, MN and I made my way into the emergency room entrance clutching my shirt at my chest, just below my neck.

The doctor put a small white pill under my tongue and the pain released and subsided. They then did all the tests and found blockages in my young heart. After three balloon treatments, (this was before stents), that each collapsed, the doctors took me by ambulance to Minneapolis and had a triple bypass surgery performed in January of 1986.

I studied the facts. I learned all I could. I had no idea why this would happen to me at such a young age. People I knew who either died from a heart attack or got surgery were older, most in their sixties. Mrs. Spadoman was sure of her idea. She has always said it was from Agent Orange, the chemical defoliant that was sprayed on plants to kill vegetation in the jungles of Vietnam. I served in Vietnam from February of 1969 for one complete year to February 1970. I was on two Agent Orange spraying operations that I remember. Right up close and personal, Agent Orange, dioxin chemicals were sprayed directly on me and I lived in the area where it was sprayed for weeks.

Agent Orange is a code name for a chemical defoliant developed for use by the military for use in the jungles of Vietnam. It came shipped in a 55 gallon drum. The drum was black at the top and bottom, with an orange stripe around the middle. Some say that’s where the name came from. Read more about it and its use here. And if you want to know a little more, or maybe a lot more, about poisonous dioxin chemicals and Agent Orange in general, here is a good web site from Canada. Many Canadian troops were exposed as well as Americans in Vietnam.

Years later, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the VA, released documents that told of the horrors caused by direct contact with Agent Orange. They listed all kinds of maladies. Many cancers were listed and some birth defects. The VA started screening those that served in Vietnam for symptoms of exposure to Agent Orange. They designated some certain diseases and cancers, and if you had one of these on this master list, you could get medical care. The screening was done without cost to the Veteran, even if the Veteran was not eligible for medical care at the VA hospitals and clinics.

That’s the way it works, you know. Just because you’re a Veteran doesn’t mean you can drop in at a VA clinic or hospital and get medical care. There is a series of documents to fill out and more documents to provide, namely, the DD-214 discharge paper, which we were told was an important document when they handed it to us at discharge. There is also a means test form. The means test is a statement about your net worth and income and whether or not you had access to other insurance. This health care crap isn’t new to the Veteran. After being told as a nineteen year old soldier that you’d have medical care for the rest of your life, you found out that you didn’t really, unless you were indigent. If the illness or injury was caused by something that happened to you while you served in the military, a service connected injury or illness, you would be cared for at no expense, but the individual had to prove to the VA that what ailment you had was caused by something that happened to you when you served.

Even now, the Department of Veterans affairs Medical Center asks me, at every visit, if I have other insurance. Even though I have fought the system and was found to have a service connected disability I must answer to them if I have other insurance, like being listed on my spouses medical and hospitalization plan. I am not. I can get on that plan, but at great expense as my conditions are pre existing.

Hard to not have pre existing conditions when you have open heart surgery at 36 years old. Hard to get life insurance too. I don’t have any. The VA will give my spouse, or surviving relative, $300.00 and an American flag when I pass. If they deem the passing as caused by my service connected disability, she’ll get more. Here is the facts and parameters of death benefits for Veterans. By the way, it doesn’t matter if you sat at a desk or fought in combat. We are all the same down at the enlisted man’s, (or woman’s) level.

I first applied for benefits in 1992. I applied in Minnesota when I lived in Duluth. I was denied. I applied again in Grand Junction, Colorado after I had another heart episode. Another small heart attack, an enzyme change and a week in a hospital bed with a nitroglycerin drip in my arm. I was turned down again.

The process of applying for benefits from the VA is an unbelievable nightmare. Forms to fill out, drawing on memory from incidents from the time you served in the military, and doctors visits, tests, and results, letters from friends and relatives, affidavits to attempt to prove that what happened to me was caused by them and happened while I was in the service.

This took me nine years. And if it wasn’t for a couple of really good guys that helped me through the process, I still would be out in the cold without benefits. But I don’t get disability benefits for what I have always thought to be the cause of my health problems, that is, exposure to Agent Orange. Even after Agent Orange screening, there was no residual effects from such exposure evident in me. I am disabled on other counts.

A few years ago, the VA did admit and start providing benefits for Veterans that served in Vietnam that had diabetes. I was diagnosed as being a diabetic about 12 years ago. The Va has recognized my service in Vietnam and has given me a portion of my disability for diabetes. My diabetes care is paid for by the VA. It is considered service connected as it is assumed the exposure to Agent Orange has cause diabetes in Veterans, this proven from case studies.

Now, it finally has happened. The VA has admitted that heart disease is caused by Agent Orange. Their findings will now allow military Veterans that served in Vietnam to apply for benefits if they have heart disease, specifically, coronary artery disease. I have it. I also have diabetes. I’m already disabled, so I don’t get more money or some lump sum payment, and I already get medical care at the VA at no monetary charge.

What does this mean then? This decree that Coronary artery disease was caused by exposure to Agent Orange? It means I don’t have to explain to people that I was given a disability because I am unstable and fucked up in the head from PTSD. I can finally say what Mrs. Spadoman and I have believed all along to be the case, that I was poisoned by dioxin chemicals when I served in Vietnam. They admit it, and in my lifetime. Oh happy day.

Before I post the article that I received that told of this news, I just want to say that PTSD is real and it haunts a person for life. Maybe I shouldn't be ashamed of it, and maybe being ashamed is part of what PTSD does to a person, but it is hard to have to live with the stigma of being mentally imbalanced, and especially hard to live with others not wanting, or not believing, one can be disabled because of PTSD. I have been constantly judged and berated, by some, because I receive a disability for a mental illness anxiety disorder. Now, because of this new order about coronary artery disease, I won’t have to explain anymore. People understand heart attacks. I’ve had six, and my chest invaded twice. Now, the VA admits that in all likelihood, being exposed to Agent Orange caused me to have a different style of life and are willing to let me be retired by paying me a disability. The new order will not pay me any more money, but it will call attention to what I knew as the truth for many years.

Peace to all.

Here’s the article:

Costly Agent Orange-Heart Disease Link Looms
Tom Philpott | December 31, 2009

The cost of war -- on veterans’ health and taxpayer wallets -- will loom a little larger in the new year when the Department of Veterans Affairs issues a final rule to claim adjudicators to presume three more diseases of Vietnam veterans, including heart disease, were caused by exposure to Agent Orange.
The rule, expected to be published soon, will make almost any veteran who set foot in Vietnam, and is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, B cell leukemia or ischemic heart disease (known also as coronary artery disease), eligible for disability compensation and VA medical care.  The exception would be if credible evidence surfaces of a non-service cause for the ailment.
Katie Roberts, VA press secretary, said no estimates will be available on numbers of veterans impacted or the potential cost to VA until after the rule change takes effect sometime in 2010.  But the National Association for Uniformed Services was told by a VA official that up to 185,000 veterans could become eligible for benefits and the projected cost to VA might reach $50 billion, said Win Reither, a retired colonel on NAUS’ executive board.
NAUS also advised members that VA, to avoid aggravating its claims backlog, intends to “accept letters from family physicians supporting claims for Agent Orange-related conditions.”  It said thousands of widows whose husbands died of Agent Orange disabilities also will be eligible for retroactive benefits and VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.
 “This is huge,” said Ronald Abrams, co-director of the National Veterans Legal Services Program.  NVLSP has represented veterans in Agent Orange lawsuits for the last 25 years.  The non-profit law group publishes the “Veterans Benefits Manual,” a 1900-page guide for veterans’ advocates to navigate the maze for VA claims, appeals and key court decisions.
Abrams said he can’t guess at how many more thousands of veterans previously denied disability claims, or how many thousands more who haven’t filed claims yet, will be eligible for benefits.  But numbers, particularly of those with heart disease, will be very large, he suggested. 
All of the veterans “who have been trying to link their heart condition to a service-connected condition won’t have to do it now if they’re Vietnam vets,” Abrams said.  For VA, it will mean “a significant amount of money -- and many, many, many people helped.” 
The excitement over expansion of benefits for Vietnam veterans, and worry by some within the Obama administration over cost, flows from an announcement last October by VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki.  He said three categories would be added to the list of diseases the VA presumes were caused by Agent Orange. Veterans with the presumptive Agent Orange ailments can get disability compensation if they can show they made even a brief visit to Vietnam from 1962 to 1975.  With a presumptive illness, claim applicants don’t have to prove, as other claimants do, a direct association between their medical condition and military service.
Shinseki said he based his decision on work of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies.   VA contracts with IOM to gather veterans’ health data and investigate links between diseases and toxic herbicide used in Vietnam to destroy vegetation and expose enemy positions.
In a speech last July, Shinseki, former Army chief of staff and a wounded veteran of Vietnam, expressed frustration that “40 years after Agent Orange was last used in Vietnam, this secretary is still adjudicating claims for presumption of service-connected disabilities tied to its toxic effects.”   VA and the Defense Department should had conducted conclusive studies earlier on presumptive disabilities from Agent Orange, he suggested.
“The scientific method and the failure to advocate for the veteran got in the way of our processes,” Shinseki bluntly concluded.
In last October’s announcement he said VA “must do better reviews of illnesses that may be connected to service, and we will.  Veterans who endure health problems deserve timely decisions based on solid evidence.”
When a disease is added to VA’s list of ailments tied to Agent Orange, veterans with the disease can become eligible for retroactive disability payments, back to the date original claims were rejected, if after 1985.
Joe Violante, legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, praised Shinseki’s decision.  But he said VA faces a “logistical nightmare” in trying to find veterans turned down on earlier on claims.  A VA official told Violante, he said, that cost of the search could be part of that nightmare.
Chairman of government affairs for Vietnam Veterans of America until last October was John Miterko.  He said he wasn’t surprised that Shinseki added ailments to the Agent Orange presumptive list including heart disease.
“If you look at the Vietnam veteran population, the diseases we’ve contracted and the mortality rate, the only group dying faster rate are the World War II veterans,” Miterko said.  “We’re picking up diseases by our ‘60s that we shouldn’t be getting until our late ‘70s, early ‘80s.  So his adding other diseases, heart disease in particular, isn’t a surprise.”
Both Shinseki and his predecessor, James Peake, former Army surgeon general, had long military careers and served in Vietnam.   “That’s a hell of a bonus for us,” Miterko said.  Both of them have shown “much more empathy, much more understanding.  They would have seen many of their own peer group suffering from the effects of exposure to Agent Orange.”
Miterko doesn’t believe anyone can estimate how many veterans will benefit from the new presumptive diseases.  VA will continue to process claims individually, he said, and likely won’t be accepting Agent Orange as the cause of heart disease for someone “who has smoked for 40 years and is morbidly obese.  Common sense is going to have to prevail as well.”

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Mexican Bench

The Mexican Bench

I originally posted this story some years ago. I was looking through some old photos and stories and thought it worthy of a repost.

In the early 1990’s, when I lived in Grand Junction, Colorado, I had the opportunity to travel South along the Utah border and then wander into New Mexico. A friend I met out that way was an amateur geologist and knew quite a bit about the geography and could identify rocks. I love rocks.

I was driving a 1968 Chevy Blazer that had a built-in factory camper on the back instead of the usual boxy seating and storage area. It was a four wheel drive and the engine had been changed from the original. It sported a huge 396 cubic inch power plant that had tons of torque for uneven cattle track mountain roads. We used that to travel to New Mexico and explore the Gila National Forest via a topographical map on muddy dirt trails.

I had an old Chevy Chalet like this one when I lived in Colorado.

To the South of the Gila, is Silver City. A nice little town. Sits at around 6000 feet above sea level. Cool and sunny in Winter with an occasional trace of snow, and hot, but not scorching, in Summer, because of the altitude. We supplied there, then traveled North into the Gila. We viewed the cliff dwellings, an historic ruin site from the Mogollon ( pronounced: Mah-go-yon’), people of long ago. We got on to these two track cow paths and drove for hours, at an average of I’d say 10-20 miles per hour.

Cliff dwellings in the Gila National Forest North of Silver City, NM

I fell in love with this land. I fell in love with Silver City. I vowed to return and I did, and still do to this day, every year at least once and usually more. A trip to the Southwest, New Mexico, Arizona, the Desert of Southern California, Southern Utah, Western Colorado. Any and sometimes all of these places. But I always say I’m headed to New Mexico. People ask where at in New Mexico, I tell ‘em, “Silver City”.

A view of the Gila cliff dwellings from the outside

I had a small shop there at one time. It had some living space and a bathroom in the back. The front was an old store. I set up a workshop and made an attempt at making art and craft items. Dream Catchers, Drums, Gourd rattles, Walking Sticks, Talking Sticks, and Snowshoes.

Yours truly in front of the old store front in Silver City

Now I know Southern New Mexico isn’t exactly a hot bed of snowy landscapes and the greatest market for the same, but it was a nice temperate place to live and since I liked a little travel, I could always bring the finished product to the mountains and try to sell them there. That’s what I did when I lived in Colorado. I lived in the dry low desert area around Grand Junction on the Western slope, and took my snowshoes to places like Aspen,Vail and Taos to sell them.

Map of Silver City and the Gila National Forest

Silver City, when I lived there, was a slow easy going place. Many artist types went there for the cheap rent and ample empty storefronts and buildings that they could turn into lofts and galleries. Over the years, the “art” colonies spread from Taos and Santa Fe and Silver City became somewhat known. Rents got more expensive. The secret of the great climate also caught hold and the area is flush with retirees who wanted an alternative to Phoenix and Tucson and the artists looking for cheap living quarters and the influx of tourists to buy their works.

Tucson was only a few hours away from Silver. Down from the higher elevations towards the Southwest to Lordsburg and Interstate 10, then West into Arizona. Three hours at or a little over the 75 mile per hour speed limit. When the rare freeze or snow comes to Silver City for a few days, I used to leave and spend time in Tucson at the Flamingo Motel. This is where the likes of John Wayne and Dean Martin stayed when filming the famed “Rio Bravo” at the Tucson Hollywood Studios. They had a pool and a hot tub and only charged 50 bucks a night.

The Flamingo Hotel in Tucson, AZ

After the freezing weather and snow was gone, usually no more than a couple of days, the return to Silver City was welcome. We tried several ways of snow birding there from Minnesota. We had a pickup truck with a camper, an RV trailer, the rented shop w/ living space, a rented motel kitchenette and tried a rented furnished full blown house once.
I can’t tell you which way was the best. I guess the house was really nice, but it got expensive, so we looked for another place to spend time as we escaped Winters fury from the Northland.

On our travels, we discovered many places. Places we’d like to visit again and do. But we found the best of all we needed in a place called Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. This town used to be called Hot Springs prior to 1950. An enterprising radio star named Ralph Edwards had a radio show called Truth or Consequences. It’s popularity was nationwide. He held a contest and the winning town could choose to name themselves after the show. Hot Springs won the contest and the City council voted to rename Hot Springs Truth or Consequences.

Ralph Edwards liked the weather here and bought a place in the area. He was a philanthropist of sorts for the town and did much to make it a good community. Nearby is the small suburb, if you will, of Williamsburg. Also nearby is a recreational town of Elephant Butte. The Rio Grande River runs through here and a dam, called the Elephant Butte Dam, named after a geological feature that is said to look like an elephants foot, (hoof?), that juts out of the lake that formed North of the Dam.

These days, the water level is so low that there isn’t much use of the lake. Too many boats were knocking off the motors lower unit on the rocks that were nearer the surface of the drying lake bed that loses acres each day from flowage, crop irrigation and evaporation. There has been a drought lasting for some time in the Rocky Mountains, the main feeder for water in the Rio Grande.

The elephant's foot, showing the low water level on Elephant Butte Lake near Truth or Consequences, NM

Storage is cheap. Marinas and RV parks are closed because of the drought of people coming to the area to enjoy Summer water recreation and the boating and camping. RV space is ample and inexpensive for the same reason. We found this a very affordable place to bring an RV and live there while we visited, and stored, when we went back home.

Each year, we travel down that way and attempt some form of fleeing the cold weather of Northern Wisconsin. It’s not that we don’t like Winter, for us, the Winter season is long and we like to break it up a bit by making a journey or two or three to the Southwest. Besides, we like to travel and we have the time. T or C, the locals call it this instead of the long version, is cheap enough to afford for what we like to do. It fits our budget nicely.

After a couple of years, we got rid of the RV altogether and now just rent a kitchenette for a period of time when we go down there. We always make a run to Silver City and stop in Hatch for some Chile peppers and Mexican food.

Wow, that was a mouthful just to tell you about a yard bench, but I had to set the stage, and besides, the Grandkids will be reading this stuff in 2024 and telling their kids about this character they called Papa.

Anyway, there is a place in Truth or Consequences, T or C, that sells Mexican goods. Used to be that gringos went to the border towns and bought goods from the vendors. Furniture, flower pots, decorative items in the Mexican motif. They still do, and some Mexican vendors drive into the states to sell.

The guy I deal with used to travel down into Mexico and transport the goods himself. But he told me he got robbed too many times and stopped going. Now, he sends a guy, who is from Guadalajara, in a truck down to get stuff to sell. The guy knows how to travel and not get robbed I guess, because the store in T or C is full of Mexican made antiques, reproductions, flower pots, furniture, vases, and on and on.

A couple of years ago, we went to the store and I liked the display of the colorful Mexican benches he had for sale. I was driving my pickup truck and pulling a small trailer with my motorcycle on board. I bought a couple of benches and brought them home. We placed one in the back, in the grass, an the other on the sidewalk in front of our enterprise, the Westside Workshop in Ashland.

Old Sol, carved into the backrest of the Mexican Bench

We sit around and drink coffee. Folks stop by and we talk. The benches are a meeting place. I get a lot of compliments on them. The colors, the carved happy face of Mr. Sun on the backrest, the simplicity.

Gas prices went sky high. I can’t go down and get a dozen benches at wholesale and sell them at retail. There is no retail when it costs so much to transport. Besides, the economy tanked. The market will not bear what I’d have to charge. So, I decided to reproduce the benches in my shop. That might be this Winter’s project. A designated shop space to manufacture Mexican Benches.

I will copy with a few exceptions. I’ll tilt the backrest out a bit more, widen the arms to accommodate a cup holder and change the artwork a little. Instead of Mr. Smiling Sun, I’ll go with the North woods Bear, Wolf, Moose, Pine Tree and Lighthouse motif. I’ll mute the colors to the Hunter Green and Forest Brown and the deep Lake Superior blue for the ones with the lighthouses.

I think I’ll have to make some of them in the crazy wild colors of the Southwest and use Kokapelli and Aztec designs as well. I’ll weave dream catchers into the backs and top the side rails with colorful painted gourds as well. Gotta get the Saguaro cactus in there somewhere too. I might even make a few Green bay Packers benches. These folks up here are crazy for the Packers. They’ll buy anything. I see these benches on patios, in flower gardens and on front porches.

I remember being all gathered around the Mexican Bench, talking and drinking coffee.

I always think I should open a coffee shop. A simple place with no gimmicks and great coffee. I guess I already had that, spontaneously, in the yard by the Mexican Bench. I don’t have the problems associated with a business. No overhead because I live there and the customer has to be satisfied because there is no charge for the product or the service.

I think I’ll call it the “Hit or Miss Coffee Shop” Hit, because sometimes we’re there, or Miss, because sometimes we’re not. I’ll work on this concept a little. The bottom line is, if you drop by for a cup of great coffee, sit a spell on the Mexican Bench.

As of now, January 2010, I haven't made any benches, but the old bench now sits in my garage and is partially disassembled and ready to make patterns for new benches from the parts of the old.

Peace to all.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Strange Incident

Ironic that the post previous to this one was about blogging, then I get an e-mail from a connection to the internet from the past. Years ago, before I started blogging, I was involved on subject forums. I still am to a degree. I am on two Triumph motorcycle forums and an old Chevy truck forum. I gather information about all kinds of things pertaining to my bike or my old 1967 truck.

One of these forums was a biker group I belonged to. Many of the folks were down in the hill country of Texas, around Austin. Others were from Minnesota and closer to where I lived. Still others were from other parts of the country. One year, I think it was 2004 or 05, we planned a meet-up and BBQ picnic along with a few days of riding. The Texas folks were the hosts. They bragged about the beautiful motorcycle riding down there and invited a bunch to come down and get together.

I went down there pulling a trailer with two big Harley Davidsons on it along with my Harley in the bed of the pick up. One of the forum members from Minneapolis rode along with me. Mrs. Spadoman flew down to Texas and attended Cindy Sheehan’s Peace Camp at Crawford, TX, the home of George W. Bush. She stayed in Waco for a couple of days and got involved with the protests going on down there, then drove the rental car to New Braunfels, TX and met up with me.

We stayed at a motel near Austin and did daily motorcycle rides through the hill country. It was as beautiful as they described. We had a lot of time to ride and a lot of time to visit with these friends we met on the internet through the forum. Since these folks all come from different walks of life and had only one thing for sure in common, the motorcycles, it was quite an experience to meet these folks and see them in real life. What they look like, what they do for a living, that sort of thing.

After the visit, some of us stayed in touch via e-mail. That died out as to frequency, but never totally. I still get e-mails from a few of the people I met online first, then in person down in Texas. Some of the folks even came North to visit me and do some riding and still others met me in another state, Tennessee, and we rode together again there.

I’ve met a few bloggers too over the years. I’d be going back and forth and finding a lot in common with someone. If I was going to be out near where that person lived, I’d give them a shout out. We’d meet and have a cup of coffee and talk a while. I’ve done this in South Dakota, Northern California and Southern California, and if the traffic and time didn’t pass so quickly, I would have had that experience on the east coast as well.

Phone calls too. Exchange numbers and talk a while, hearing the voice of a stranger for the first time. I’ve exchanged gifts. Simple things. I’ve fixed up some friends with top quality gourmet coffee beans fresh from the roastery. It helps to have a friend in the business.

Many of these old friends are gone from the blogs. Some have moved on to Facebook. They interact there instead of the blogs. I’ve never done it, but Twitter is another place

where folks interact. There are others too. I am not well rounded and find it hard for my fat fingers to text.

Imagine my surprise when I get an e-mail sent to me from a stranger. It went right to my junk mail box, but I recognized some of the names of the recipients and thought I’d better take a closer look. The subject line had someone’s name in it, a name I recognized. The name of one of the folks down in the Texas hill country. Someone I met years ago who still sends me news about her son and his wife and pictures of her two Grand children. She sends me TGIF notes with hopes of the Dallas Cowboys or the Texas Longhorns football team and her desire for them to win over the weekend.

Her name was in the subject line because she was the subject. You see, she has died. And the possibility exists that it was a violent death at the hands of perpetrators of a break in at her apartment. I don’t know the details, but she is gone, when just a month or so ago she was wishing me a Merry Christmas and showing off pictures of her two beautiful Grand daughters.

To say the least, this made me feel very strange. I e-mailed a couple of old friends from Austin. Of course they remembered me even though it has been over a year since we last made contact. We all felt weird about her death as even though we just knew her, for the most part, as the person on the computer sending jokes from her office at work, we knew her and now she is gone. The circumstances, being investigated by the police, have not been determined. There is evidence of foul play. Very foul play.

I guess I’m just getting my thoughts out on paper. An old friend, someone I used to talk with on a motorcycle forum, someone I e-mailed with kind of regularity, is gone. I guess I feel I’ve been protected, somewhat, from these kinds of announcements. As I age, I hear about people going to the other side. My mother is soon to pass herself. But I have never been notified of a blog/e-mail/forum friend who has passed before. Just kinda makes me feel strange.

Peace to all, and the hope and prayer to the family left behind my friend, Joann Martin.

In Memory of Joann Martin the best friend a person could have.
Joann Martin born November 11,1958 in Liverpool, England, passed away on
January 7,2010. She is survived by son's Jason Martin, wife Meagan and
two beautiful granddaughters, Isabella & Zoe who was her daily
thoughts, and son Eric who was always there. She was a valued employed of
Mitchell's Time & Parking from July 21,2003 until present. She
leaves behind many friends that loved her dearly.

We will miss you so much, all the jokes and laughter we all shared.
You, my friend, were one of a kind. God broke the mold when he made
you. Make sure you keep a good eye on us down here, because we
know you are still here in our hearts and soul.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this great time of loss.

Love you and enjoy that Happy Place. See you soon.

Service to be held 1-20-10 at AUSTIN-PEEL & SON FUNERAL HOME INC 607 East Anderson Lane Austin Texas 78752.

Viewing from 9:30 until 10:30 am

Services held at 11:00 am following burial at Travis County International Cemetery 3600 Axel Lane Austin, Texas

Obituary information written by her friend Mandy and sent to me via e-mail.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

About The Blogging Experience

Good morning. Let me tell you a story today. This is a short story. Well, it's not really a story, but it is short by the fact that it isn’t too many pages. I really don’t know the definition of what the literary community calls a short story. People actually go to classes to learn how to write. They study techniques. They study styles. I’m sure they are given parameters as to what constitutes a short story. They write fiction and learn about how to develop characters. They learn to write non fiction.

I guess I don’t get it. When you go to a class to learn to write, you learn from a person who is teaching the class and that person has a way of thinking about writing. I suppose there are instructors out there that will identify a students style and guide them that way, but I don't believe this to be the norm. You usually learn that instructor's ideas and style and way of developing characters, etc. If the instructor uses a text book, then you are learning the ideas from that particular text book the way the instructor interprets them. And how do you learn to write non fiction? I mean, the truth. Learn to write it? It is the truth. It should, or maybe could, only be written one way.

When the teacher of a class uses examples to show different ideas, it would seem to me that you are being told what is good or bad as far as writing is concerned. Not everyone likes the writing of every author. Not every author is the greatest writer that ever wrote. Every work published is not “good” writing and those that weren’t published are “bad”. Like beauty, I think it is in the “eye” of the beholder.

And there are so many things that dictate that as well. You may like the writing but you hate the subject or story or plot. So, I ask the question then. What is writing? What makes it good? What separates the piece or book or short story from the others and makes it be called writing? And even if it’s called writing by the pundits, what are their credentials? Why is their opinion important? Why are we listening to them? Did we seek them out? Or did some publisher or TV station decide who we will listen to?

On blog writing, if you hear a favorable comment about the writing from someone you know and respect, then that is held in much higher esteem than a comment about the writing from someone you don’t know very well and might not respect as much. At least I think that’s how it goes. If I really think about this and have a completely open mind and am receptive and genuinely honest with every comment, then this might not be the case, but being brutally honest with myself, I’d sure pay much more attention to a favorable comment from someone I knew rather than a comment about how crappy my writing is from a stranger.

The internet is a fascinating phenomenon. A person, with no taught skills other than to know how to speak and therefore write what they would be speaking, can write. There is endless reading here on the world wide web. Sometimes, I will click on a name that I see has commented on a blog that I read and comment on. I get to their blog, or blogs, and have a look. My list of blogs I want to go back to and I have saved in my favorites file is longer than my side bar! Some great stuff out there.

But that’s the thought behind this post. Everyone can’t see the same thing in every blog. Seems that if it is interesting to you, then it is good. If not, then you don’t return.

On line, you can read and write to your hearts content. Each individual that reads it will judge what you wrote in some manner. If you are a Democrat and someone writes politically charged piece against the Democrats, you would have a tendency not to like the writer, yet did you judge or look at the actual writing? The story line? The way the words were put together? Was the writing good but the subject terrible because it was a slap in the face about your political party? Just sayin’, or better yet, askin’ myself this question. Maybe I’ve already answered it.

If people judge what you wrote and categorize it as “good”, they might tell others about what you’ve written and send readers to your site or to where your writing can be seen and read. This could happen to “bad” writing if even a very small minority thought it was “good”.

And that’s where I draw the line. This good or bad stuff. What is good to one is bad to another. What is funny to one is not to another. What is writing to one is not worthy of the title to another. And so on and so forth.

A friend of mine had a blog. I met him a little over three years ago. He is an amateur photographer and he would spend many a day driving around and taking pictures. He’d post them, usually with little or no captioning, and put them in a place that was called a blog. A notebook of the pictures he took.

I heard about his blog and I went to see the pictures. I heard about it through word of mouth from a local person who knew him. I met him shortly after and started to regularly visit his blog. I liked seeing the pictures of the area where I lived and I told him so. He told me that anyone could have a blog. At his suggestion, I started a blog and it included writing stories and tales of my then frequent traveling adventures.

I write stories about life’s personal experiences. I write opinions, usually my own. I write thoughts and emotions. I post pictures and caption them and tell the reader/observer where and what the picture represents. I have had the honor and luxury of people telling me they liked this or that story or article. I’ve also had the heartbreak of people who once came to my site often and now ignore me. No one has ever told me, “That article was a piece of crap and I started reading it, but it was so bad I didn’t finish it”. I’ve never said that to anyone either, but I have thought those thoughts. I accept that they have been thought of my writing and probably me as well.

I sure have read some stuff that I didn’t want to read. I honestly can say that if I don’t like the subject, I don’t read it. By don’t like the subject, that could mean I don’t agree with the author’s opinions, remarks or ideas, or it just doesn’t interest me. But people do matter to me. It’s the people behind it all that are important to me. The social aspect.

It also could mean that I am not familiar with a subject and just don’t want to become familiar with it now. I don’t always look at what was written and assess whether it was good writing or not. Then again, I’m not a pundit or someone that a publisher hired to tell you what you should consider as “good” or “bad” writing.

All this to say that there is no good or bad. About writing, about life. If someone pushed over a trash can and littered debris all over the street and a passerby grabbed him by the collar and made him pick up every speck of it while slapping him, someone who was watching the ordeal would say the enforcement was “good”. A non violent peace activist would deem it as “bad” because of the violence. Maybe a whole different set of people would applaud or put down the action if the person had a pierced nose and a Mohawk hairdo.

Good and bad, good and evil. Wet or dry. Black or white. Funny or sad. Open or closed. Up or down. And everywhere in between any of these about everything in general and nothing in particular. I’m just sayin’.

When I write, I place myself at a table in front of someone. That someone is me and I am talking to me. Not talking to myself, but rather talking to me as someone other than myself. And I talk, write, as if I am speaking what I have to say to someone that is listening to me. And that listening is how I would listen. When I am finished and I read through what I have written, I then read it as I read things. I am my own judge and I decide if the finished piece is acceptable. If it is good or bad.

I worked many jobs in my life. Many as a cook. One time I was doing cooking for a group that was shooting a music video and had to provide lunch for the production crew and cast. I was asked to make a dish I don’t like to eat and therefore don’t make. But I made it. Most everyone liked it as far as I could see, but it was very hard to make something I didn’t like to eat. It would be very hard for me to write about something I don’t like to write about. I don’t know if I’ve ever done that. I really have to think about it.

So there you have it. Your writing is good by the way. And you’re a good reader, too. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Four generations.

This photo was taken in 1998 when my first Grand daughter was born. I've been looking at old photographs lately and as Winter projects might go, I'm scanning them into digital images.

Peace to all.