Thursday, July 25, 2013

when they built interstate 80 through iowa, back in the fifties or sixties, quakers objected because their plans led the new interstate right through the grounds of scattergood school, the old scattergood meeting house, and a cemetery that held some of nixon's ancestors. the cemetery trumped all, legally, and the highway boys reluctantly agreed to put a crook in the road (possibly the only one in the state), so that it would go past the meetinghouse but not directly through it. the meetinghouse became a bit noisy. we would put wood in the woodstove during the winter meetings, but in the crisp january air you could always hear those trucks making the curve and shifting their gears. silence, of course, is the mainstay, the foundation, of quaker meetings. we waited for god in those meetings. sometimes god did amazing things.

i actually worked there, so it was my business whether the high school students showed up, what kind of shape they were in during morning meetings (they were notorious for staying up all night), and whether they were able to keep a silence in their rebellious, teenage, anti-quaker spirit. they were typical high school students, good at heart, but relentlessly, constantly, creatively "bad." we were fighting a losing battle. some elder quakers took the roles of stoking the fire, casting stern eyes on wayward kids, counting the noses, etc. sometimes i relaxed into a deep, wood-smoked silence. the sun would be rising out the ancient paned windows. there was a wood floor, and absolutely no decoration. on some mornings it was cold enough to see your breath and the girls would wear mittens and cover their noses. then, of course, they could giggle better.

somebody recently asked what kind of ambient noise is acceptable for a quaker meeting. i almost felt like they were asking if it was acceptable to put one of those computer-generated ambient waterfalls, or ambient rainstorms, or ambient campfires. to me, no, no, no. the highway was ok, it was even good. the woodstove was good. downtown streets are ok. the occasional trains in southern illinois meeting were ok.

this is partly because i spent years travelling and i-80 more or less ruled those years. it went from iowa back to my home towns in the east, iowa to california, iowa to chicago, i was all over that road. and the trains: if they were slow enough, which they almost were in southern illinois, i'd jump on them, but, settled in silence, it was like the world was busy, the world was moving, the world was its usual self, but i was still. i found my peace in that noise. i actually became a quaker in that meeting house. there were other meeting houses in that area, there were even other places at that school where we'd meet; in town, there was this fine old one but it had its own set of elders who would move over a bit to make room. there was no place like that meeting house, though. it was the original thing, the old farm-school meeting house. it was not tarnished by the noise. it sat in its glade, stern, rectangular, peaceful. its pews made a nice sound on its old wooden floors.

it drove some of the kids crazy, though. two of them were in love once, and were suffering from stern looks from the elders. the elders knew, i think, that they were staying up nights, in love, walking out over the prairie, making out in the sod house by the old pond, or whatever. one day they were very restless in meeting; the next they were gone. they'd crawled down the bank to the road and hitchhiked off to california. of course, this was scandalous; they were in high school, we were responsible for them, etc. they showed up a little later and of course we hemmed and hawed and had to figure out some punishment or whether to let them back into the school. it was a major crisis, maybe our worst. we were lucky though. there were kids in my high school that simply didn't make it through those terrible years, at least these two made it.

nowadays those kids have grown up and rack it all up to good memories of high school days. somebody came up with enough money to build a little wall that reflected the sounds of the trucks and deadened the sound; this wall runs right behind the meeting house now and no doubt alleviates the sound, which actually irritated quite a few people. now, of course, they have to keep kids from hiding behind that wall and doing whatever kids do; back in my day, they would sneak into the meeting house as one place that was always open, and empty, not to mention quite beautiful, in the middle of the night. some of those kids became quaker, like me, though i was not a kid; others were quaker all along, and just became a little older there. quakerism is a religion that is based around people's experience with that silence, and their experience with each other that is based around it. this is what they were trying to teach those kids with that meeting. who's to know if it worked? it worked for me, incidentally, though, because they'd actually employed me to watch, they didn't even know how badly i myself needed to be watched, or how thoroughly incapable i was of watching.

it was a silent meeting like no other. the wood crackled and sometimes the teenagers would fall asleep. i imagined mice skittering around, hoping someone would bring a cookie for breakfast and drop some crumbs. sometimes people spoke on matters of a spiritual nature or on other things that were troubling them. sometimes the things that troubled teenagers would surprise you.

it brought up the question of whether, if a quaker meeting is 85 or maybe 90% teenagers, it could be called a less mature meeting, unworthy of being called a mature, true, full meeting...when the only other adults at the meeting have one eye open, or are practicing the silent tsk tsk tsk? the answer is, there's a meeting house, there's a fire, there's god, and there's whoever is listening. and off in the distance, there are these trucks, changing their gears.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

new story:


enjoy! comments welcome as usual!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

high rolls

so, we're interested in three and a half acres of mountainside in the town of high rolls new mexico, just over the hill from cloudcroft, where we could camp for ten years or so then eventually build a cabin or a put a tiny house.

we went to cloudcroft on a short vacation, and it was so different from lubbock, high mountain air, piney woods, rivers with water, rain, green, etc. that we thought, four hours away, if we could have this more regularly, we could have a little piece of escape, fresh air, and sanity. but as we looked around, we found one problem. a tiny cabin in the town would be hundreds of thousands. outside of town, you have to buy into developments that have requirements, you can't just camp for a while. way out of town, you have some cheap land, but it's a tinderbox - everyone is worried that whole mountainsides will catch and explode. then we find this mountainside - just this side of the tunnel, only highway tunnel in the state, and supposedly you can see the tunnel from the mountainside - and down by the tunnel there's this cave, high rolls cave, and on our side of the canyon, the north side, there's another one, called the fresnal shelter.

two thousand years ago a band of hunter-gatherers found the cave and shelter, facing each other in a canyon. it's interesting that they considered the high mountain less habitable; it was cooler, and wetter, and the dry canyon in general was about the right temperature, and high up (we've noticed the same thing). they apparently used the shelter to process meat; tens of thousands of bones were pulled out of the shelter in 1970. in the cave, though, fewer bones were found, but rather, tobacco, fancy herbal burritos, and various other cultural artifacts. it was almost as if the cave was for the women, and the shelter for the meat-grinding men. except for one thing: the front of the cave had been blown up in the construction of the road, which is, today, 82 from cloudcroft to alamogordo. if meat bones end up at the front of a cave, then this one lost its meat bones at the construction of the road.

this mountainside, i'm not sure how easy it will be to put a house there, or even reach the place. a steep gravel road runs down the hillside, but, halfway down, a spring comes right out of the mountain and cattails and watery grasses grow out right there. remember that, down the mountain, alamogordo is one of the dryest, sunniest towns i've ever seen. up the mountain it's cool and cold. but right here, it's sunny and nice, lots of scrubby trees, but this spring makes a lush green area, going right down into a creek at the side of the road. an interesting combination of ecosystems.

and it makes me feel alive again, having a spot of mountain land to camp in, and watch cars disappear into a tunnel, and know that 2000 years ago, this was the center of civilization. i'm wondering what we'd find if we were to dig into the mountainside a bit. i'm wondering if it's ethical to make that road passable, when it would disrupt one of the few mountain springs in the area. of course we're investigating the process of getting permits for the land - we would have to at least be able to use it, to make it worthwhile - but how does one know? if you are in a clearly ancient site, people have probably forgotten all about it, willing to sell it for a song, not too worried about development - this is, after all, new mexico, where not that much has changed in the last few hundred years.

the archaeologists have been all over the place. last time they upgraded the road, in 2000, they really excavated the cave. they found and analyzed sandals, points, spears, all that stuff. in 1971, when the pulled the thousands of bones out of the shelter, they left quite a bit up there, apparently. and it's forest service land. i have no idea what happens when you tromp out that far and see what's left. do they kick you out? do you get attacked by a bear who has called the place home?

some hippie, apparently, lived in the cave for a while way back when. he now has become part of the lore of the place. some locals, supposedly, can tell you whatever you want to know. i look forward to meeting them.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

another friday night

so i'm at the checkout line in lowe's, and i've got two kinds of ice cream and milk and cereal, and maybe something else, so i put it all down on the conveyor while the woman in front of me finishes her transaction. a beautiful little girl is tugging at the woman's leg and begging for ice cream, clear as a bell, in english, though they appear to be mexican, all three of them; the father is off to the side, and he's nice, they're all nice to me. i'm waiting there patiently. the woman has won in the store's promotion, but giving her credit, when she has used food stamps, has caused some kind of problem, and they're unable to finish the transaction without ringing the whole thing up again. the little girl keeps tugging and saying "ice cream! ice cream!"

finally they back off and let me go through with my few groceries, but the irony of it is, i walk off without any of my own ice cream. i take the milk, and the cereal, and whatever else, but i don't see the ice cream, and i leave without it.

the little girl, sweet and beautiful as she was, was probably getting enough to eat, one way or the other. you'd find a lot of people, i think, who are in an uncomfortable position, in the grocery line, and can't even walk off with a five buck prize. i'm not sure how it turned out. in the end i went back, and they'd put my ice cream back in the freezer, and i found it, right there where i'd gotten it to begin with.

we had a little vacation to the mountains of new mexico; came back to an empty but relatively clean house; now we have our eyes on a little strip of land on this one mountain in new mexico, just under the high peak where clouds hover, they always have rain, and where it's often thirty, forty or fifty degrees cooler than lubbock. we breathed that high cool piney mountain air for a week, though the boys never even wanted to give up their screens, even for a minute. we went out in it, reveled in it, and finally started land-hunting in it.

so this three-point-four acres is on a hillside looking down on the highway just as it's about to shoot into a tunnel, but we never quite found it exactly because we were given wrong directions to where it actually was, and turned back too soon. supposedly you can see the tunnel from this land. supposedly there is enough room to build a house, though the lot is very wide and narrow and runs along a ridge; because we didn't see it, we're not sure how that would work. and one more thing, there's a cave nearby, i think it's across the road, and this ridge looks right at that cave, and the springs come right on out of the mountain right there on that ridge, and supposedly they blew up the front of the cave when they built the road underneath it. so i would guess, though i'm not sure, that the little ridge with the mountain springs coming out of it, and down into the creek by the road, is a very important place historically, for these cave people who so wisely used the cave to duck in out of the sun, and hide from the cool rain of the mountaintop eight miles up.

these days, of course, you come down off the mountain on eighty two, you go through the town of high rolls new mexico, where this property is, technically, and, as you come to the tunnel, i believe if you look to the left you'll see what's left of the cave. if you look to the right you'll see our hillside, ours, that is, if we buy it. if you look either way you're in mortal danger of smashing into the walls of the tunnel, it's better to do as they say, put your lights on, don't stop, shoot right through the tunnel and end up in alamogordo. we're talking sacramento mountains here, the southern end of the rockies. way different from lubbock, the air is high, and fresh, and cool, and the rivers have water in them. at least they did, when we were there.

Monday, July 08, 2013

road to mescalero

the sacramento mountain area of southern new mexico is relatively undeveloped, considering that it's high piney woods, 9000 feet, and beautiful, and has rivers that have water in them. they called fire danger "extremely high" when we got here, but it rained several times, in several different places, and now some of these signs say "high" or "moderate" at least temporarily. it's on a straight road from alamogordo to the high plains to the east, beyond that, the oil fields, the cotton fields and lubbock.

so one day we decided to take this north-bound road up through the mescalero apache reservation to ruidoso, which is another tourist town to the north. the mountains were incredibly beautiful, with wide valleys and open meadows in front of them, everything green, the air smelling good. we didn't see too many people out; it was sunday. in ruidoso a huge sign greeted us: inn of the mountain gods. this is a huge casino expanse, which includes a wild game hunting park and lots of things besides the casinos. it's possible that most of the reservation's apaches are employed here; it obviously was a huge enterprise. in ruidoso we stopped for lunch and drove through town where they were putting away a rodeo quickly because of an impending rainstorm. the rain came, and pounded us, as we came around the inn of the mountain gods, from the back way, and saw how truly huge it was.

we'd decided, rather than exploring, to basically turn around and go back to cloudcroft. the kids were being terrible. they didn't like leaving their television and their screens; they didn't like the mountain air; they didn't like going anywhere; and they were crabby until they really had had enough to eat. i was mad at them for being so spoiled, but i can't expect them to be interested in the same things i am: new places, different people, high mountain meadows, piney woods. we try to hike in the high mountains, and would love them to do it too; we huff and puff in the high altitudes. they, on the contrary, just reject the whole idea. why should they suffer? it's vacation.

coming back from mescalero, though, we saw what looked like snow on the sides of the road, in the valleys, up against the trees. actually, i think, it was hail, but it was still quite unusual for july. it looked like snow. people here said it was probably hail, hail is common, though they wouldn't be surprised at snow.

it's a ribbon, a patch of wet, cloudy mountains, and it's very dry on either side of it. we go down into alamogordo, and it's very clearly desert, used to an absolute lack of rain, for as far as you can see. and on the other side, to the east of mayhill, the same. very dry, bad soil, desert land, goes forever with the few drops of rain valued and cherished. they fall on a sizzling desert like water on a frying pan. we've seen it. we're shocked, and then the cacti bloom.

lots of bears around, also elk, deer, fish, etc. lots of hunters and cowboys, but mostly, i think people just live on what few tourists come around. it's hard to say how they make a living. we, used to the hot and dry plains way below, just try to go outside and breathe cool air a lot. but we investigate cabins a little. if a person had an independent way of making a living, this would be a good place to be, i think. but the true value of a place is in the quality of the people there. do they have bluegrass? do they have quakers? do they have the things we really value? who knows? or, how much could one learn just to get along without stuff, just for the luxury of breathing the fine, cool mountain air?

my wife, familiar with the high-mountain way of life, drives better on the hairpin turns but has a deep fear of forest fires. this would be the problem, if we were to do it. "extremely high" would be torture and even "moderate" would cause a problem. and there's evidence everywhere, of whole mountainsides just burning. they burn quickly and take a lot of underbrush and everyone has to just evacuate and hope their big old house didn't have too much stuff in it. you live in such a place, maybe you limit your possessions, you keep your ear to the radio, you plan your escape route. i'm not sure how you do it.

the mescalero apache have been here for years, though there's this whole story of how they were rounded up, at one point, and sent to florida. eventually they were allowed this huge patch of beautiful mountain pastures, and they, like many native tribes, took advantage of the right to run a huge casino. it's odd, it's a little creepy, but apparently we don't have to worry so much about lack of money in the native american community as much; they have money. they have problems too. but they have beautiful territory. the rivers have water in them, because they are so high up, they come right down off of beautiful green mountain forest.

Friday, July 05, 2013


patriotism is loosely defined as supporting your country, so many people mistakenly identify it as joining the service and going off to fight whatever war the country is waging. our country has had a long string of them, and the reason we've come to call world war I "the good war" is that so many of the ones since then, large and small, have been questioned, both our motives for entering them, and who exactly benefits from them. the words "fighting for our freedom" after a while ring a little hollow when we are occupying afghanistan, for example, or sending guns and planes to one group in syria, that is made up of a coalition of radicals, moderates, and various other people.

so then, is patriotism just agreeing, and going along with it, or voting first, and then agreeing or going along with whatever is the collective agreement about where and when we should fight? is it possible to define patriotism as loyalty to one's culture, which may or may not be damaged by these wars, or in the case of syria or maybe turkey, may or may not find its government to be acting in its own best interests? rebels in places like turkey and syria are often called patriots by us, but that sets us in the difficult position of saying, people have to decide what's best for them, and bailing on one's own government is a pretty radical move.

the nsa scandals have driven some people to the very end of their patience with even the obama administration, which is demonstrably more liberal and less war-prone than its predecessors, but nevertheless couldn't help looking bad when it was pointed out that government spies were running through our e-mails, etc. i myself have no opinion on this anymore. it just seems to me like there's no privacy anyway, if facebook has it why shouldn't the government have it, china certainly has it, but china simply kills people who, like we're so used to, simply criticize the government. the world is small. china and the usa will soon enough be working together, and iceland and bolivia and those countries that might feel a little outside of the loop, well, it'll all be one loop. this would give a new meaning even to "loyalty to one's culture."

we were hurtling across the plains of eastern new mexico and could see for hundreds of miles, scrub wasteland, going on up to roswell, hardly a fence, no sign of human occupation at all. eventually we found a ranch, this was after we'd gone up a few thousand feet, and one ranch had a huge flag out more or less on the road, all by itself, nothing but a road and vast plain for hundreds of miles. turned out, right around then, there'd been a freak hailstorm that had dumped a couple of feet of hail, way up north of roswell. you never know about this stuff, it's the high plains, anything can happen. got up here, high in the mountains, and it smells of piney woods, and we can see hundreds of miles out across the mountains or down into the valley that has alamogordo in it. that's where i saw some fireworks, small, way down in the valley, from a cupola of an old lodge here where they brag about this old ghost woman, rebecca, who supposedly haunts the place, but whom i have not seen at all. that night, the fourth, i ran back and forth up to that cupola hoping i'd find some nearer fireworks, some in the area of the lodge, but apparently people have been very nervous about fire danger, and they're cutting back these days. it had actually rained when we got into the mountains, but it hadn't been much, or enough. the woods were still crackly. people weren't all driven to blow stuff off, apparently. and they were in the habit of not doing it, which was a relief as well.

you see these flags everywhere, on lawns, at the grocery store, the hospital, it was a pretty big deal. but remember, out here, in the southwest, is where those nineteen firefighters died as well. it's a tenuous balance, this gun-happy, blow-it-up kind of feeling, and the temperance of trying to control one's wild impulses, keep the fire danger down, save lives, pay attention so that whole towns don't go up in smoke. we were almost out of texas, near the town of plains, and there wasn't much traffic; most people, it being in the middle of the day in texas, were out at farms doing barbecues or something, because it was the fourth. but we came upon this town that impressed me; it was called tokio. tokio texas is a ghost town. most of its houses have fallen in roofs. and most of these fallen in roofs, people have just left there. it's like, it's easier to move on, and just leave this stuff there, than to actually clean it up and get it out of there. and that's what they've done. but if that isn't a fire danger, i don't know what is. i do know, the winds and the dust come tearing through there. so do the hailstorms, the rain, everything. it's the high plains. the ranchers and cotton farmers, the frackers, the hustlers, they're all busy, they don't want to mess with tearing down an old roof. but somebody should look into it. who knows, maybe it'll be fire next time.

you get that sense out here. fire is the worst. everyone is jumpy about it. patriotic yes. but be sensible, look at that hillside. don't let it burn down, like it did a couple of years ago. next time it might be worse.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

e pluribus haiku 2013

Available on Amazon
Paperback $3.59
Kindle $1.99

Over 750 haiku, most from a journey in the seventies, from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Whereas most contemporary haiku masters scorn the 5-7-5 syllable American haiku, this volume embraces it as a way of having a unifying structure for many different experiences, and celebrations of place, that these haiku illuminate.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013


my litany of complaints about the modern world has been altered somewhat by moving here, where conditions are somewhat different and it becomes more apparent that it's possible to do something about some of these complaints. For example, my first complaint and possibly most important one, is that it's imppossible for kids to spend enough time outside these days; since nobody else sends their kids out, and everyone puts kids in summer camps, etc., it's virtually impossible for a kid to wake up, walk out the door, go down by the creek, and spend his days swinging from vines as i would do occasionally as a young child.

down here summers are hot, especially the afternoons, but there are lots of ways to spend lots of time outside, and we've quickly found a few of them. the key words are: morning, and evening. we took our baseball stuff to the park the other day, and had no trouble finding other kids who were willing to swing a bat and run from tree to tree. baseball has always been my favorite sport. if really all they cared about was football around here, i'd be very unhappy. but in fact they like all sports. soccer is big too, so is basketball. being outside is big. being friendly and doing stuff with other people is possible and happens a lot.

i always thought i'd have to join one of those intentional communities, which have maybe twenty families, and are really more like small towns, or, what the heck just go live in a really small town, where you turn your kids loose and everyone knows them, and they grow up on the perimeter or beyond the big garden, or on the mountain trails or something. here we're in a very conservative city. we don't really know how people feel about letting their kid run off with a black kid down the street or looking for trouble. but, there are people around, and they spend time outside. it's a start.

another of my complaints is the following: the balance between i'm-gonna-get-mine and we-are-a-community-and have-to-be-fair-to survive is a little out of whack. some people are piling it up behind an iron gate, and you can tell, everyone knows, you can't keep burning oil and using water forever, but then, there''s this mentality, yes you can. so, you say, once there's a natural disaster, an epic one, then people will come around. well, maybe. sandy came through, and that was enough for three quarters of the usa, but it wasn't enough for texas. a $2 billion drought came through, and that wasn't enough either. i guess they don't impress easily down here.

of course, what's really necessary is a national plan, that everyone buys into, that relieves the earth of some of its burden, and helps the human race to survive on this land a few generations from now. with the world as hungry as it is for energy, and the usa & canada sitting as they are on natural deposits, it's probably inevitable that the frackers come along and squirt gluey toxins beneath us and get whatever they can out of the place. but to have tap water that catches on fire and people forced to leave areas in large droves will be destabilizing to our future, so we have to agree on an orderly way to plunder, and we have to do it as a large group, we can't just let certain clans call the shots.

then the question is, can a place that's so ruggedly individualistic, and gun-oriented to boot, convert itself culturally, fast enough to survive, so that it can do anything as a group? we can do some things as a group, for sure, for example, fight some war. but this, you could argue, is the survival of the whole culture. either we do it, or we can't, and if we can't, there's a long line of consequences just around the bend.

have a happy and blessed fourth, as they like to say, wish you a calm and restful holiday.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013


two interesting things about the fourth holiday in general, whether it lasts ten days, as it does here in texas, or just one, as it does in other places. one, it's a kind of wary mix of fire-alertness and drunkenness, and the two don't go together really well; in fact, the more people get into drunkenness, the less they tend to follow basic rules, like don't set off firecrackers when it hasn't rained for several years. here, believe it or not, it's been raining a little; it rained last night; it's rained several times over the last few weeks.

my strongest memory of the fourth was on the bicentennial year, 1976, when i was living in iowa city and went down to a large city park where people were spread out on blankets; the crowd was thick. getting in there by car you could only go so far on the road, but there were people all over this wide plain down by the river and they were all watching this fireworks display. unfortunately one of the fireworks hit one of the people, deep in the middle of the plain. everyone panicked and someone called 911, though i'm not sure how this was done, since it was before the age of cell phones. we could hear the ambulance come from the city, cross the bridge, and enter into the city park on the little road. but then, it had trouble. it literally couldn't reach the injured guy. it was like the people just couldn't figure out that they had to make a little road through the open area, for the ambulance to get through. people were yelling at them, move over, make a road, let the ambulance get through, and everyone had good intentions, but they just couldn't figure it out.

that same night i went home and someone was shooting fireworks in this little housing area where i lived; one hit me in the temple, landed on the ground, and went off there. i was deaf for a few hours after that, but i basically considered myself lucky; it could have gone off anytime.

this year all thoughts are with the firefighters in arizona. this was not a fourth issue; it was just a dry-as-a-tinderbox issue, and i don't know all that much about it, but all i can say is, if you're on the side of constant vigilance, fire safety, public awareness, etc., this must be a very frustrating time. sunday afternoon, around the same time as the arizona disaster, a neighbor went back into the alley, tugged at some loose wires, and two electric wires came down on each other which set some ivy and some leaves ablaze in the alley there, thus causing another neighbor to call 911. in this case, the city fire department basically guarded the area while they waited for the city electric to come and restring the wires. the city electric wasn't used to working on sundays, so this took longer than usual, but it was all over in an hour or two, and we got out of it basically with some singed brush in the alley. actually in general i was impressed by the fire department's efficiency, response to the call, etc. they have my sympathy in the upcoming holiday.

actually one thing i've found is that people tend to denigrate the city and its workers, doesn't matter what city, or where. our cities (usa) in general do better than most. i stood out there on that alley, and i felt like one of those city residents who takes them for granted sometimes. i was looking at my own overgrown weeds. we'd gotten so used to drought here, to absolute lack of rain, that nobody'd mowed anything for months. then, lately, it's rained a little. this is probably the main reason the whole alley didn't catch on fire, it was all a little wet. the power lines were resting on a garage, but it was a little wet, and didn't burn. hopefully our luck will hold out; it's supposed to rain again at least once, before the big holiday.

Monday, July 01, 2013


i was deeply impressed by the patriotic band on sunday night; they're always patriotic, but on sunday night they played all the old sousa marches, songs for each branch of the military, etc., an entire patriotic performance. they were quick to point out that they were busy on the fourth itself, doing something private, but on the tuesday before the fourth they were doing something in conjunction with the methodists and we should all come down to the first methodist church and hear them again. it was a nice night, although clouds were coming gently over the park; it's been raining a bit lately, and it's been a bit cooler; lots of people came from all over, and brought their chairs and sat out for the whole hour.

as usual i took this one bench where i could watch my child play on the playground, while at the same time hearing the band well, turn around to see them occasionally. my back was to the band itself but i had one of the few public benches. early on an ancient couple came by and shared the bench with me. the old man had trouble walking; i would have given them the whole bench if they'd wanted it. he was wearing a hat that signified his service in the military; lots of people wore either those, or red white and blue. there were lots of older people too.

a friend came by and talked for a long time. he'd been in the marines for ten years, maybe, but had also grown up in the area and knew the whole history of the use of the park - how long the band had been playing there, the other kinds of things they used to do in the park, the various uses of the park. the park, the school, and the little grocery store and cafe are all pretty close to each other, but this area is about seven blocks from our house, so we're not down there every day. i'm glad to have this guy basically fill me in on the history. i'm feeling a little more like i belong here.

of course, our house is not looking so good, since the hailstorm, it's kind of like a crack house without the crack, i like to say, and it's very dark in the days and just about any time, since most of the windows are boarded up, except for one in front and a couple on the sides. the realignment of where light actually comes in has changed the realignment of where the cats take their naps, since they are very sensitive to the moving light across the living room floor, for example, or anywhere else. they don't mind taking a nap right up on the dining room table, if that's the best moving light, and if we'll let them. the dog goes bonkers.

things i like about this country: the music, no question about it. from patriotic marches, to cajun, to bluegrass, to western swing, i have no shortage of good music to listen to, and even a town like this loves its music although like everywhere else musicians have trouble getting paid real money. freedom of speech, too, i love it, and though i'm well aware that there's no such thing as privacy, i've always cherished the fact that we can say a lot of things that people elsewhere just plain can't say. i'm nonpolitical, overall, chances are slim that i'll get out there on the corner and actually conspire against the government. if i were in syria, maybe, or if i were somewhere else, yes. but here, in spite of all the huge things the government does, and many of them are wrong things, like dropping drones, or sending arms to idiots, or trying to control the flow of oil from distant kingdoms, i still consider it my government, and though it may have been a mistake, i stuck with it even through two terms of bush, who essentially ruined it. we're an amazingly resilient people, and in the end the fact that we've shared our dream with people of different races has set us apart from other countries that consider themselves primarily mono-racial.

of course i have my complaints as well, but there's some blackberry-strawberry pie waiting for me, and i think i'll try it.