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I Don’t Get It

March 4, 2014 1 comment

   I don’t get it. I made the mistake of  tuning  in to network news, only to be greeted with the fact that the  Russian army has invaded the Republic of Ukraine. As expected, our own “fearless leader” responded with the usual condemnation of “aggression” against a sovereign country by an outside force. Great!!! Just what we need; Another pissing contest between Putin and Obama and a reverting to the good old days of the Cold War.  

   This got me to thinking, which usually gets me into trouble. I am nearing my sixty-fifth birthday now and if memory serves me correctly, in that span of six decades America has exhibited a great deal of aggression in just about every corner of the globe. I am too young to really remember the Korean conflict. It can’t be called a war because a formal declaration of war was never issued. Nonetheless, hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives in the “police action”.

   The 1960’s saw my coming of age and a new battlefield in the headlines, Vietnam. Just what the hell American forces were doing there, no one has provided a satisfactory answer to. It was justified by bullshit and outright lies by the intelligence community and the military. I use the  term “intelligence’ in the loosest possible manner. As a result, over 58,000 Americans lost their lives. For what?

   In the years since, I seem to remember almost unilateral aggressive actions against Granada, Panama, Somalia, Iraq,(not once, but twice) Afghanistan, and threats against both Iran and North Korea. I omit other covert actions that we aren’t made aware of. All of the above are justified by simply using the time worn cliché, national security. We were spoon fed lies about Weapons of mass destruction and imminent threats to the security of the United States. And true to form, we seem to swallow the crap, hook, line, and sinker every single time.

   I guess what my rant is leading up to is simply this. Man has built for himself a society based upon competition, brutality and aggression. And aggression is aggression, regardless of who is inflicting it upon others. Until the human race awakens to the reality that we can no longer accept the old ways of doing things, the old norms, aggression and brutality will continue to be the way of the world. Is the President of the United States correct in condemning the Russian government for its actions in Ukraine? Absolutely so. But the pot is calling the kettle black here. And both Russia and America need to step back and try to see the world from a global point of view. Is this ever going to happen? Probably not. At least I can dream of a world free from aggression, a world safe for my children and their children.

 

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The Trek

August 11, 2012 2 comments

The Trek

    On the morning of August 7, I began my yearly trek to the holy place where I meet my maker. Having overloaded my Ford Taurus with the necessary equipment and supplies, I hit the road, breathing a sigh of relief as I passed the sign indicating I was leaving city limits and the trappings of civilization. I was on my way at last, headed for “God’s Country” (or Goddess), and my eagerly awaited communion with the Creator.

    Proceeding east along highway 126, I began the process of de-stressing. By the time I reached the tiny community of Vida, I found that I could actually breathe through my nose again, which rarely happens for me in town. I knew I was on the right track and better things were in store during the coming week. This might not seem like much to some, but for the person who feels like he tries to breathe with cotton balls shoved up his nose most of the time, it is huge.

    As I turned from 126 on to Aufderheid Forest Drive, my sense of exhilaration grew stronger. Dead ahead and just a mere twenty miles up the road was my destination, Frissell Crossing Campground. I have driven this stretch of road so many times over the years that I think I could probably do it while I sleep. But for the sake of expediency, I chose to keep my eyes open and take in some of its beauty as I drove. As an aside, it seems that the place got its name from the fact that over a century ago an old sheep herder by the name of Frissell, forded the South Fork of the McKenzie at this very spot.

    I soon struck camp. All was in order and it was time to let my hair down and my beard grow. I sat with my back to an enormous fir tree, letting the rushing whitewater stream take with it all the worries and cares and stress of my everyday existence, feeling them wash away with the flow of the pristine waters. I pictured these burdens flowing downstream, eventually to end up where the river meets the sea. The purification process had begun, and with it the much needed healing of body, mind and spirit.

    By late evening the other members of the expedition had all arrived and made camp. So here I was, in the midst of such natural beauty, among family and friends. By this time some of the “curmudgeon’ I have been blessed with had gone downstream as well and I was ready to welcome all with open arms. No man is an island, not even Mr. Curmudgeon with a capital K. Part of the magic of this wonderful place lies in the fact that I have around me those that I care for the most; my 82 year old father, my grown children and their children.

    The time had come to undertake a ritual that needed to be done without the distractions of others. I began my yearly solo hike on the Ollallie Trail into the Three Sisters Wilderness to a small stream known as Bull Creek. Here I sat on a moss covered boulder and opened my spirit to those of the trees, the water, the sky and the rocks. I heard their voices and let them hear mine. I felt my connection to the Earth Mother and my responsibility to live in harmony with the spirits of all things. I don’t know how long I sat there in silence, absorbing the truths of my own lifestyle and its impact on Mother Earth. I was one the universe..

    I spent a wonderful four days in paradise, but all good things must end. Begrudgingly, I made the return trip to reality, or the Twilight Zone, as I prefer to call it. Even now, the experience is just a memory; one among many such memories accumulated over the years. And true to form, some of the curmudgeon wafted out of the river somewhere around Leaburg, attaching itself firmly to my psyche. I shall endeavor to keep it under control. But even now I look forward to another visit to my favorite haunt before summers end and a refresher course from the earth. Unless I completely miss my guess, those around me will be thankful for a second retreat, even if they are unable to accompany me.


Fear Itself

August 7, 2012 Leave a comment

“Fear can do many strange things. Even though water run low, their mouths caked and their bellies burnt dry, not one soul put a foot outside. No one had that much courage. For they feared the peasants and their world outside. So they played it safe and didn’t move. And one by one, they perished and died.” From “The Black Plague.”

    It was a warm spring evening in the sleepy little town of Eureka, California. As fortune would have it, the sky was cloudless; a not too common occurrence for this coastal town at any time of year. Family, friends and neighbors were gathered in the grassy field near our homes. We were there to observe the passing through the night skies of something called Sputnik.

    It was the year 1958, and I, being all of eight years old, had no notion of what this Sputnik was. The significance of the event was foreign to me. My young mind was preoccupied with notions of playing baseball for the New York Yankees, and of course, my budding crush on Diane Smith. Tonight, however, all took a backseat to the much ballyhooed transit through the heavens of something called Sputnik. This was front page news in the local rag, the Humboldt Standard. To be precise, this was actually Sputnik II, or “Muttnik”, so named because of its canine passenger named Laika.

    Time seemed to come to a halt and the minutes dragged interminably along. As the last vestiges of daylight faded into darkness, the conversation of those around me became dark and ominous. I heard about “Russians” for the first time and learned that they were responsible for this Sputnik thing. This was all their doing, and somehow it portended great evil for we who were gathered that night. I was truly afraid because around me were afraid. These were the very ones I looked to for protection from things that go bump in the night. If they were fearful, I knew I should be fearful too.

“There it is” came the cry. I didn’t want to look, choosing to hide my eyes from this terrible manifestation in the firmament. “If I don’t look, it can’t hurt me.” I was terrified. And yet, the irresistible urge to have a peek at this evil Sputnik overcame my dread. I looked in the direction my father was pointing. At first I didn’t see what the others were gazing at. All I could discern was stars, a bazillion stars.

“Where is it”? “What am I looking for”? I looked to Dad for directions. He pointed at the sky in the general direction of west. Then I saw it. A tiny pinprick of light was the only thing moving among the stars. This was Sputnik the terrible, Sputnik the harbinger of the apocalypse that was certain to follow.

Despite the prognostications of the adults gathered there, the world did not come to its cataclysmic demise that evening. The new dawn broke, and with it the realization that I would have to endure another day of the drudgery known as school. I can’t recall that I ever cared much for school. Point of fact is, I can’t remember ever not hating every minute of it. But all things considered, I guess it was preferable to whatever doom Sputnik was to have unleashed. And Diane was still my girlfriend. I knew this to be so because she told me of her affection for me when we kissed for the first (and last) time. Diane’s parents soon moved to another city far away. The love of my life was gone forever.

The years went by, slowly and inexorably, as they always do in the eyes of a child. Eventually however, the days at Worthington Elementary School were over and I was a seventh grader at Eureka Junior High. The first week was a rather interesting one and I quickly found myself at odds with the powers that be. All seventh grade newcomers were ushered into the gymnasium and shown films depicting the power of a nuclear bomb. After observing the devastation, we received much needed information on how to save ourselves in the event of an atomic attack.

“When you see the bright flash of light in the sky, a flash as brilliant as the sun, hide under your desks.” I couldn’t resist. Up went my hand.

“Did you just see what just happened to that air base and the small town around it? It is gone. It’s not there anymore. It’s just gone. So is everyone who took shelter under their desks.”

Thus began the first of many trips to the vice principals office. Mrs. Davis had a face that would curd milk and a sense of humor to match her countenance. She was quite angry with me, but more than that, she was genuinely afraid. I learned more about the “Communists” and their plans for our obliteration. They were everywhere. There was one behind every tree and they were out to get us. Just like the Russians who did that awful Sputnik thing. It wasn’t long after this initial “office visit” that I learned that the Russians were the Communists.

I didn’t understand what a communist was or better yet, what communism was. No one could tell me. Even my parents had no clear notion of whom, or what a communist was. They just knew that Russians were communists. That was bad because our government leaders told them it was bad. Without knowing why I believed them, I did nonetheless.

Then came October of 1962 and the Cuban Missile Crisis. For the first time, I was really afraid. At the tender age of thirteen, I wasn’t ready to die just yet. But I could sense that this was very real and along with everyone else, I held my breath, waiting for the bomb to drop. On Saturday night, the air raid sirens went off in town, and even though my family lived several miles outside the City, I reverently placed my head between my knees and said good-bye to my gluteus maximus.

Much to my relief, the night skies never lit up and it turned out to be a five alarm fire that caused the sirens to scare the hell out of all of us. It seems a drunk driver went headlong into a gas station, causing a huge fireball and the burning of quite a large block of town. I awoke Sunday morning to the news that cooler heads had prevailed and the immediate crisis was over. This was indeed welcome news to somewhat who thought we were all goners. It wasn’t until I was much older that I learned just how close we were to the unthinkable.

Many years have gone by and much water has passed beneath the bridge of my life. The cold war is a thing of the past. The evil “Iron Curtain” has collapsed and the foe has been vanquished. But some things remain, seeming eternal. We have a new “ism” to contend with, one that we are being led to believe is infinitely more evil that the old. Terrorists have replaced Communists as the enemy of the day. Just as in Orwell’s novel “1984”, the face of the enemy is ever changing, depending on political and economic expediencies. Today’s ally will be tomorrow’s foe. We continue to live in fear of each other and even ourselves. Fearful people are easier people to control.

    In conclusion, I hearken to the words of one of our greatest Presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt. During one of his famous Fireside Chats, he told America that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Indeed, fear can do many strange things. Let us hope that as citizens of Planet Earth, we will awaken to a new age, a true age of reason. I, for one, choose not to let live in constant dread of unseen enemies, whether real or imaginary. My prayers are that the world will do the same.


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