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Krampus Day Eve

December 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Happy Krampus Day Eve. Krampus, if your unfamiliar with him is the Swedish anti-Santa. He beats bad girls and boys with birch twigs and has kind of a demonic cast to him. I have been wishing people Happy Krampus Day Eve and telling folks about him all day.

I have done mine up in style making my biggest splash into the spirit of the holidays yet so far. Kevin and I went and got a tree from the Optimists. I got a longleaf pine this year. I like firs and don’t mind paying a little bit more but I got one last year and thought I would mix it up. Its not my first but we never got them when I was a kid because Mom thought the short needle ones were less of a mess. I like it because it has a shaggy look like something out of Dr Seuss.

I didn’t have it bagged because the truck was close and I thought waste the plastic and that was the right move because it was pretty easy. The Optimists cut off the bottom for you too. I have two tree stands, struggling with crappy stands is not worth the trouble. I used the big plastic one because it will hold like a gallon and a half of water so I usually only have to water every other day to stay out of trouble.

I am going to have a New Years Day party so I will want it looking fresh through that long at least. It has scented up the whole house, much more than the fir I got last year. I considered going to a cut your own place but the Optimists are close and it goes to a good cause. I have the angel on top but haven’t put up lights or anything yet. I still may do that tonight. I will also decorate Mom’s ficus and moved it to the other side of the living room instead of the corner next to the tree so it should be more prominent.

I also went to the Odd Fellow’s Christmas banquet. It was fun. I played door man and wished people  a good afternoon. It seems early to wish people a Merry Christmas and the fellahs who go to meetings I’ll see twice more before the day. Tomorrow is the meeting and I didn’t walk the dog today, maybe I’ll do that instead of decorating the tree. Getting some dinner and a walk would be a struggle.

After the dinner I went to Amy and Michael’s so Fido could play with Olive. They had a good time and Fido is sacked out. He’ll get up for a walk though. Although since he got a good play in he’s probably fine to wait until Tuesday for his walk. I worked pretty much a full day on Saturday so with the abbreviated weekend it might not be a bad idea to just chill. Curl up with a She Hulk comic and relax. I’ve been reading a stretch of hers lately starting at the beginning. Pretty crappy but they’re getting better in the second year, the character is fleshing out and becoming a little more interesting. Watching this growth process has been interesting, certainly a lot more to it that I didn’t get when I was reading them as they came out.

I’m also continuing to read Foucalt’s archaeology of modern thought. I’ve been reading the book off and on for like seven years now so I am certainly savoring it. Currently reading about the dualism of man with the Cogito no longer proving existence because what we know rests on this foundation of the unknown and we know enough about thought to know a lot of it is unknown to us. I’ve been reading 2-4 pages a couple times a week and taking time to let it settle in.

I’ve also been talking about dreams. I did two groups on them Saturday, what they are and how they work and am working it into conversation so I learn the stuff. PET scans have shown which parts of the brain are active, visual and feeling motion, deep centers of emotion with a deactivated volition, propriety, and logic centers. Explains a lot about dreams. To sum it up dreams are thinking but they feel different because of chemical changes in the sleeping brain. We think in dreams about the same stuff we think when we’re awake. You need dreams to solidify memory and they can be used to problem solve, hence the old saw, ‘let me sleep on it’.

What does all this mean and have to do with Krampus anyways? I don’t know, let me sleep on it.

picking fights on facebook

November 30, 2011 3 comments

Its kind of funny looking at things from multiple perspectives. I get to joust with Christians and their critics. There’s obviously some stuff that needs challenging but there is equally or more things that inspire greatness. Jesus really comes through as a character and has some profoundly good things to say that are foundational to what motivates me to do good. I keep trying to listen and look for common ground but be provocative and thought provoking.

Christianity turned me on to the words of Jesus and did a lot of other good for me. I saw people who were profoundly touched by the spiritual, a willingness to sacrifice, and powerful shared spiritual experiences. At least a couple of the ten most profound things I’ve experienced. But there’s also a lot of blood on the hands of that religion as a whole. 25% of the population of Europe was killed in its Christianization and I suspect other continents fared even poorer.

I try to take ownership of the fact that I share membership in many privileged groups. Being an American, white, male, not unChristian (don’t consider myself a Christian though I am a follower of Christ), straight, and by current status middle class I kind of hit them all. But what do you do? Very little of it was my choice and I try to be mindful, correct the imbalance, and make my piece of the universe a little bit better. In that spirit I wrote this piece opening with a bible quote and also lifting three words from Bill Clinton’s 2nd inaugural poet I forget his name. I’ll underline them so you’ll know they’re not mine. Its such a great phrase I couldn’t resist using it. This piece feels unfinished so someday I’ll break through and write a bunch more on it. I’ve had some false starts but nothing i’ve liked as much as the opening:

As an edit I am adding another stanza. It feels more done. I plan on using it in a new chap book which is why I’m trolling around old posts. I don’t fight with people on the internet anymore. I gave that up for local politics. I might do a little of both in the future.

The sins of the fathers pass on to the sons

Unto seven generations

And not just privilege and freedom

Come from being born an oppressor’s son.

Now I don’t blame the man who gave me my name

He only did what he did to survive

But the Karmic web of the disenfranchised dead

Tells me to pay for his crimes

I rejoice in the struggle

In battles not yet won

I believe in the redemption of the father

Through the redemption of the son

I believe in the spirit of wholeness

That calls us all to one

Categories: childhood, poetry, religeon

self esteem

October 28, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been talking about self esteem in my Friday education group. It used to be a four week presentation but this iteration is looking like six. Its a really important topic in recovery because there is an inordinate amount of self sabotage amongst folks in substance abuse treatment. Intellectually the topic appeals to me because its so difficult to do anything productive on the topic. In general attitudes and beliefs are hard to shift and our sense of self is the oldest and most solid piece of who we are. It takes years of concerted effort to make serious headway and pointing people in that direction, laying it out and providing the tools feels like activism. “You Are Awesome” my favorite Occupation sign says. Its animated my thoughts.

I also like teaching on self esteem because it excuses me a chance to explore just exactly what we are and where we have emerged from. I discuss the mirror test, an ability to recognize yourself in a mirror requires self awareness. “Hey that’s me in there.” 6 month olds, dogs, cats, and monkeys they can’t do it. 18 month olds, chimps and other great apes, elephants, grey parrots, and dolphins can. What were we doing around that age, toddling around getting into shit. At some point we all went to touch the stove, that’s how babies explore the world and someone who loved us smacked our hand and said, “bad baby, don’t touch the stove”. What’d we learn besides don’t touch the stove. “I’m the bad baby who tries to touch the stove”. We are learning who we are.

How we view ourselves is so vital because of confirmation bias, the tendency to see evidence to support what we already believe. We like to believe we look out on the world in an objective way but really we only perceive what is in line with our existing beliefs. Now what is the risk if you believe you are a piece of shit? That is why it is so vital. The thesis I try to make is to pick a concrete strategy and stick with it for years even. When you achieve mastery pick another. I learned about self esteem and started to work on it around 16 probably in my high school psychology class. I’ve been at it ever sense. I’ve made some significant progress but my journey is not yet done.

I have been working on eliminating the word “should” out of my self talk for five years. I still catch myself thinking it. (the re-frame for “should” is “could”). I pretty much ferreted out “can’t” (the re-frame for “can’t” is “I’ve struggled with this in the past but I’m getting better on it because I’m working on it”  [not as pithy as “could” but memorable in its absurdity]). “Always” and “never” have had their place.

I teach a 2 step of do the right thing and give yourself credit. Challenging the inner critic instead of hiding from it or tuning it out. Ask it questions; “is this true?”, “does this preserve my life?”, “get me what I want?”, “keep what I don’t want from happening?”, “improve my relationships?”.

I told the story of getting shit canned at Food Town after 29 days when I was 17. Not because I wasn’t a hard worker but because I was to insecure to ask questions and didn’t know how to stay busy. Felt intimidated by the customers, not knowing where stuff was, and the bosses, easier to putter around the bottle room. I had always wanted to be a bag boy too. Mom wanted a kid to go to the store, you got to pick out the cereal and get a comic book at Crairie’s Drugs. When I was a little kid I looked up to the bag boys who brought our groceries out to the car back then. (You know when there were jobs for people to do.)

The bag boys seemed like gods. Kids who did what adults did, that’s what I wanted to be and I told my mom I wanted to be a bag boy and she said “You can’t because we’re not Lutheran and Francis Foods only hires Lutherans”. I told the story pretty matter of factly and a brother in the second row just looked dumb f0unded and said “You’re shitting me”. He couldn’t wrap his mind around a world where you couldn’t get a job because you were the wrong denomination. With all the growing problems of modernity, maybe things are getting better.

lamb cakes

October 14, 2011 Leave a comment

What a day, I wish I could talk about it. It was funny and weird and hard and out of the blue and there was a Yosemite Sam type. Just beautiful. And to get to come home to baseball. Good play off baseball with the Tiges bringing home a must wind. John made dinner and Trevor came over to join us. John’s been making a meatless meal once a week which is nice. Its a step anyways, killing the planet a bit more slowly, perhaps. Reminds me of the war years with Meatless Mondays I think and Victory Gardens. The brave little okra are trying to do something with the ever diminishing sun. The tomatoes are starting to ripen a bit, at least a few. I picked some black plums, they’ve certainly produced the most though I couldn’t say a lot.

After dinner Tre and I walked by Itchy’s window and checked out a bag of free stuff. I got some carhart t-shirts enough to be my new look and I got a much needed hot pad. You appreciate found stuff when you don’t really buy stuff. I’ve fallen into like a whole new wardrobe recently through a series of fortunate events. Put about ten bucks into it.

We also saw this lamb cake pan which reminded me of my Grandma Trapp. She would make lamb cakes every year at Easter, like around 60 and give them away. They were a little dry but firm and she would stock pile them. They had white frosting and coconut to look like fleece and a maraschino cherry nose. She would take a bunch to Monroe Auto Equipment where she had worked in the war years and after a hard drinking swear like the men tough as nails Rosie the Riveter type. That was before she came to Christ. We would go around and hand them out around the offices and there was no one there who worked when Grandma worked there but she had gotten to know new people bringing the cakes by every Easter. I went once when I was a kid to help carry cakes.

 

Categories: baseball, childhood, family

eulogy for my father

September 27, 2011 1 comment

Its coming up on six months ago since Dad passed away. I’ve been missing him as baseball season winds down. He  would have been so happy seeing his Tigers winning the division and playing so strong going into the playoffs. He admitted to me that it was a bigger deal the Tigers winning the World Series then me being born back in 1968. They hadn’t won since 1947 and he had other kids. He denied it when I teased him about it later but I didn’t take offense. There was no competition in his love for baseball, it was welcoming and  I knew it didn’t mean he didn’t love me a lot, he just really loved baseball. Watching it with him taught me some of its nuance. I’m still not really patient enough for baseball but its coming.

I wrote the first half the night that Dad died. It opens very strident and I guess I was mustering gumption to do something different, defy convention. The second I wrote the weekend after and put most of a week into feeling my grief full time. And walking the dog. It was time well spent and Dad had an easy story to tell and I was blessed to be privy to the details.

These words brought me a lot of comfort and I am indeed blessed to have been raised in such away to cultivate them. Dad was really a poet. One of the last things really hit his lyricism, “I’m so tired of holding my eyes closed”. He could be sparse like that, spare I guess is a better word. Well its already a long piece so I shouldn’t put in too much of a prologue, except to say I hope it makes you think and if it brings you comfort I’m glad.

“Eulogy For My Father”

3780 words or so

 

“This above all, to thine own self be true. “ I am not really a minister and I don’t really want to be doing this. I am a grieving son and I want to be sitting next to my brothers and sisters, crying some, laughing some, squeezing an arm in reassurance, an arm across my back in love and support. I want to hear words of beauty and consolation in celebration of a life well lived by someone who knows and loves my Dad and will tell his story with truth, compassion, and respect, in accord with what my dad believed in a way that resonates with what I believe, with what we all believe. That was simply not going to happen. There is a narrow band of belief that dominates most discourse on matters of the spiritual. If you adhere to one of its dominant strains you might not have even noticed, or only noticed the slight difference when you hear someone talk from another dominant strain. But many of us are outside of that, un-believers or simply un-churched. We patiently sit through funerals, weddings and the like and listen to stuff that is irrelevant at best and often frankly offensive. So if I talk about some stuff that church people feel uncomfortable with just hang in there and bear with me, hold on to what is good. Believe it or not, I’m trying to be a uniter not a divider. Take what you need and leave the rest. But for a half hour at least these words are mostly, for the rest of us.

Mr. John Paul Trapp Senior has a story that is long and complicated. It spans generations, a continent, and is in small part outside the bounds of what the masses of men believe perhaps, at least what men say they believe. Funerals are fundamentally an act of the sacred and need touch upon the ineffable, the spiritual wonder of the transition to the next great adventure, or how else are loved ones to be comforted?

John was never comfortable about talking about spiritual things. When asked what he believed I always described his spiritual orientation as backslidden Christian. He believed in that whole thing, sort of, but wanted to do what he wanted to do. Mostly drink beer and smoke cigarettes work hard and raise his kids right. So how does a backslidden Christian raise his children? He exposes them to church, lots of them, if they want. Doesn’t encourage it or discourage it, but makes it clear he is not really into talking about it. He’d heard enough about it already, he would say.  Enough to feel judged, unworthy perhaps; but also defiant, resilient, and able to stand on his own two feet.

About a year ago Dad solemnly informed me that he had become an atheist. What???? An atheist at 73? Who does that? There are no atheists in foxholes the liars say who preach a spirituality of cowardice, of toadyism for rank gain, a theology of threats and bribes.

Dad had been watching the Discovery Channel and had heard about the Big Bang and it seemed a lot more reasonable, he informed me.  And the Big Bang is a beautiful and wondrous way to understand where we all come from. Condensed to a single point, a place with no dimension, only location. Containing all the matter in the universe. And then bam, everything there is flying apart in all directions, hundreds of millions of years pass and the uniform layer of hydrogen has ripples and perturbations and clumps coalesce and begin burning through nuclear fusion and stars are born and grow the heavy elements and die and explode and the star stuff keeps flying apart. Bigger and bigger.

12 billion years pass and dirt and such collects and spins around a midsized yellow sun on the spiral arm of a typical galaxy that we like to call the Milky Way, and so is born the planet Earth.

It is a beautiful story in its stark simplicity, and the lesson it teaches is the truly grand scope of creation. It has all the more power for being factually undeniably true. You can generate testable hypotheses and learn more about its nature, that is how science advances. In all the creation stories of all the peoples the Actual Truth turned out to be far more vast and far more wonderful. For when John declared his independence from the belief in god he was not rejecting the God Who Made the Universe. He was rejecting some weird little cartoon god he had heard about when he was a kid. A god who rejected all that was fun and demanded the humorless life of a drudge. A god who judged and made one feel small and unworthy.

I took John’s atheism as a step in the right direction. A rejection of something that should be rejected. And the universe is a vast and wondrous place. Currently in my day job I am a substance abuse counselor and I wrestle with helping addicts find a source of spiritual support when drugs and alcohol have taken control of their life. It is no accident that a chapter in the AA Big Book is called “We Agnostics”. Recovery is developing a way of life that is so positive, healthy and fulfilling there is no longer any room for nonsense, and so it becomes an exercise in serenity. And so they say: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

But what of atheists and agnostics, is sobriety denied to them?  Not by any means. I have heard a number of workarounds, Good Orderly Direction (G.O.D.), the program, door knobs and file cabinets, anything to reject the toxic selfishness inherent in addiction.  I, a little from the outside, as a treatment person not a recovery person, humbly propose the Universe. The universe is sufficient for the serenity prayer and has the advantage of being self-evident to all. ‘For I believe the universe exists for I have seen and heard parts of it. I have tasted of the summer fruit and smelled the coming rain; felt the gentle breeze as it rolls across the plain.”

The serenity prayer neatly divides the universe into two categories and gives us advice on how to deal with both. First, there is everything under our control. And what is under our control? Only our own actions and those we meet with bravery. Everything else, literally everything that is not our own actions are outside of our control, and so we meet everything with acceptance. The intersection of bravery and acceptance is where we find wisdom. And the universe is sufficient for the serenity prayer. It will hold the things we must accept, it is sufficient for serenity. It offers peace in a time of loss. You can say it with me if you want to try it on for size. “Universe grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

So does a belief in the Universe as science understands it preclude a belief in God? Absolutely not. 96% of Americans believe in God and that included Einstein and most scientists. The universe doesn’t compete with God as creator but is the fundamental proof of the scope of creation and that its source must be vast and mighty. For this message is not one of atheism or agnosticism for I am fact am a believer, a passionate dedicated believer in the God Who Made the Universe.  This universe, the real one. Personally I believe that like my body has a spirit which animates me the physical universe has a spirit which animates it. But I know what I believe is not what everyone believes and for today I want us all to reach for common ground in which to lift up the spirit of John Trapp in communion and love for remembrance, celebration, and comfort.

For even though he called himself atheist once, Dad told me that Mom was waiting for him. Dad was on a ventilator toward the end and when they took him off and brought him out of sedation, he told me, he had died, and he told me, with assurance, that Mom was waiting for him. I believe him. It is in her character. It is about all I ever saw my mom do. And so it begs the question if Mom was waiting for him where exactly was that? I can honestly say that dad didn’t care and didn’t put much thought into it. I already said he was uncomfortable on matters of the spirit. He was not uncomfortable in contradiction. And neither am I. The truth is too vast the universe too big to not contain many contradictions.  I like to believe in a personal god who cares about me. I like to believe in a universe governed by immutable natural laws that can be known and predicted and depended upon. I like to believe in miracles. I like to believe that Mom and Dad still live still love me and care about me, still speak to me with their wisdom. I know they still live in my heart if nowhere else.

John Trapp was a simple man and when I asked him how he wanted to be remembered it was as a Working Man. He worked hard growing up on an organic farm, though in those days they just called them farms. He was born in the heart of the Great Depression and the war years were lean ones on the home front. But the Trapp family was self-sufficient in a way that now we can scarcely understand. He had to churn the butter, pluck the hens, weed the row crops, feed the animals, there are others here who know these stories better than I so I will leave it at that he worked hard even as a small boy. But he played hard too. Fondly remembered tales of hijinks and adventure, messing around with the dogs, sledding, skating, hunting, how he earned his switchings, his sister Alice and her friends holding him down and kissing him.

But mostly he talked about working. Mowing grass, being the first to get a chain saw and cutting down trees. Hiring out as a farm hand, eventually for his sister Norma and her husband Joe. When the season ended he moved to the kill floor, slaughtering beef, hogs, and veal. It was a short trip from there to being a meat cutter. A dollar an hour until the union came and then he moved up to $2.65 cents an hour. Good money in the 50s and he still played hard. Drinking, dancing, roller skating, shuffle board and pool leagues, convertibles and drag racing; mishaps and near escape. Some reckless driving in Monroe that inexplicably ends with him joining the army. Trained as a mechanic he was stationed in Germany when the Berlin Wall was doing its Berlin Wall thing. There he developed a lifelong love affair with trucks. Most of his army stories though are about baseball or drinking beer. Good local beers with each town its own.

After his time in the service he returned home and to meat cutting, bought himself a brand new 1963 Ford Falcon Convertible, courted and married Frances Eileen Allen. He didn’t care that she had three kids he loved kids and promised to raise them as his own. John still had a little growing up to do but rose to the occasion with his readymade family and tried to be a good father to Bob, Betty and Brenda and three more boys when they came. Dad worked hard and we camped in Lake City in the summers.

Tragedy struck early and hard on this little family when John’s youngest son Dennis drowned in the swimming pool in the backyard. Dad blamed himself as the army had only taught him adult CPR and he later learned it was different for little kids. He drank beer and pitched horseshoes, all four by himself. Eddie Trapp came over and walked with him, no one had anything to say. Dad couldn’t handle family life anymore. He was broken in a way that luckily few of us will ever get to really understand. It was only 7 or 8 years ago that he told me he had finally gotten over Dennis dying. He went on a six month drunk from what I understand I am too young to remember.

He couldn’t stay home and didn’t believe in leaving, John was no coward, so all there was to do was to become a truck driver. He bought a straight truck and started hauling furniture for Beakins Van Lines. He would always point out the parking lot where he learned to drive when we drove through Circle City, as he liked to call it. North America became his home.

He took his first trip and was frightfully lonely. I had the great pleasure of finding and reading some of his letters home to Mom, before moth and rust destroyed, and they were heartfelt and touching. A demonstrative loving side of John I had never seen.  On his second trip he threw me up in the cab with him and we were off to see the country. I was three years old. I would stay up all night to help keep him awake and we would talk about everything. I was his confidant, sounding board, and in many ways the repository of his hopes and fears. What an incredible gift to give to a child, your total attention, sharing from your heart. Showing him the country. I am so incredibly blessed I cannot describe. Having such an enriching early childhood in large part shaped who I am today. I was able to learn that people live all kinds of different ways and you can go to places and see stuff.

Dad was a character on the road. He knew this country comprehensively. Everywhere. He gave his own names to the flowers he saw. He knew the phases of the moon and how the stars change overhead with time and distance. He grew to be wise. He learned to instantly make friends. To make the most of a chance encounter. To be real with people. He stayed true to Fran though she had her doubts as she had seen him flirt, a lot. But he stayed true to her in death as he did in life and as easy and convenient it would have been to find another woman to take care of him. Instead he struggled on alone learning how to take care of himself for the first time in his life.

Hauling furniture was hard work. He would work hard all day and drive all night, running hard after the elusive dollar. But he also learned the culture of the truck driver and prided himself on acting as a Professional Driver. Driving safely and courteously, safeguarding fellow travellers, and caring for shared spaces. Looking for opportunities to do someone a good turn. Flashing in trucks when they passed with his running lights a quick flash of thank you when another truck did the same. He was also a friend to hitchhikers and transients, scooping them up giving them honest work and a chance to see the country, starting many in a career.

He helped many a stranded motorist or someone just down on their luck. Early in his career he was the first on the scene when a truck had smashed into a pick up full of migrant workers. There were bodies all over the road the truck driver who caused the accident was weeping and doing nothing. Dad began pulling bodies off the road, living or dead he could not always tell but he had no assurance traffic would stop and it needed to be done. He was a brave man who acted with honor whatever the cost.

Once after he was done with furniture and hauling freight for BJ McAdams he picked up a hitchhiker in spite of the company rule against it because the kid wasn’t wearing shoes. He drove him somewhere, bought him a meal and gave him some money, and didn’t think much of it. Some months later he was tracked down by a private investigator from a fuel slip. The kid had remembered his handle, Trapper John in those days and John was flown in as a surprise witness in a Perry Mason kind of way and exonerated the kid from a bogus charge of armed robbery. Dad did a lot of heroic shit. Stopped rapes, beat men down for disrespecting women and was pulling out his deer rifle out of his truck when the police gunned down a mass killer in a bar he was drinking in. If the cops had been three minutes later John would have taken care of it himself.

He ended his long career, 37 years and well over five million miles driven without a major accident with Anderson Trucking, ATS. Dad loved Harold Anderson, a war hero, truck driver who parlayed his truck and a granite contract into a billion dollar company. He treated John square. They recognized Dad’s excellence and made him a trainer. As racist and sexist as John could be they tried to give him all the women and black folks because he treated people decent and gave everyone a fair shot.

John hauled freight and ATS specialized in specialty loads. A lot of granite and all kinds of big stuff, mining equipment, giant machines, and cranes. It allowed him to be a piece of history. He hauled in granite for the FDR memorial. He hauled scaffolding for crowd control for presidential inaugurations. He hauled a fair chunk of our industrial capacity to the Mexico border and brought back the things we used to make here. He hauled pieces of the space shuttle. He hauled the Disney Parade and towed the Goofy Car in the parade when it wouldn’t start. At the end of his career he specialized in Wind Mills. Technically difficult blades being 150’ long the rear wheels of the trailer were steered by an escort driver. He also loved being part of something good, something for the future. He drove truck until he was 70 about as old a driver as I have ever seen.

Retirement brought some new challenges but also some new joys. He got a little dog he named Myrtle. He had always called his trucks Bessie and his trailers Myrtle and Myrtle followed him around like a little trailer and was a faithful friend when he suddenly for the first time in his life had time on his hands. She was a little dog a chow mix with a leaky heart valve that left her short winded and easily tired. John could relate he was as well by this time. He struggled to pay the bills on a fixed income and could not work his way out of his spending problem like he always could in the past. I made him a deal, I would buy a house if he would come and live with me and help me with the upkeep.

It was a beautiful arrangement that renewed his sense of meaning to his life. Work, that could be done but didn’t need to be done. Perfect for a working man winding down. As my friend Lisa said in a consolation message: “Mike, I’m so sorry about your dad. I know that he has been a huge part of your life these past few years and you will feel his absence every day. You made such a difference to him during these past few years. I could tell that being part of your bustling, friendly household made him feel connected and loved. You took such good care of him.”

As Dad began to decline he began to lose interest in things. It’s a process I’ve seen over and over as people prepare for death. The Tao Te Ching 16th chapter speaks to this and has been a source of strength and guidance for me since my mom was dying:

Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.

Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.

If you don’t realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Path,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.

If you wonder why we had John cremated it’s because he’d be spinning in his coffin as I have decided to end with a song. John had to abandon music when he married a woman who not only was tone deaf but could only make tone deaf children.  I sing this not only because it is the only song I have written about John but I wrote it when Mom was dying and it speaks to what I believe about these things.

When your wife is dying in the summer time

The ministers go on vacation

The road workers do their excavation

But the truck driver stays at home

Alone with his regrets

He drinks cheap beer and he frets

About his dying wife and his debts

And if he should have stayed on the road so long.

And when your mom is dying in the summer time

The birds still sing in the morning

The red skies give the sailors warning

But the sad boy does not sail on

Alone with his worst fears

He stifles back his tears

He tries to bring his family cheer

As he writes another sad sad song.

And when someone’s dying in the summer time

People still go to the beach

But happiness is so far out of reach

We just all stay home

And we sit alone together

And talk about the weather

And what’s going to happen to Heather

When her grandma dies before too long.

But the birds still sing when we mourn

And with every death new life is born

We’re all just part of the Goddess anyway

So I’ll wipe away my tears

And learn to face my fears

And know there’s a new part of God to hear me pray

I know there’s a new part of God to hear me pray.

a little knowledge…

Eschatology fascinated me as a teenager. It suited my imaginative fantasy driven outlook on life from reading a lot of science fiction, fantasy, mythology, all that stuff. end of times just faded right in. i was rooted in all kinds of books 666, hal lindsey, that weird anti-catholic guy who did the Chic Tracts and bunches more. Then I plunged into the original sources. i had read it all when i plowed through the bible in eighth grade but i went back to the prophets and tried to make since of all that stuff. revelations it was mind blowing. It was also all a little bit scary. i remember in middle school during gym there was a fire drill and there was an impending storm with black roiling clouds and the feeling of electricity in the air. I wondered if if was the end. I don’t have to tell you it wasn’t, it was a storm.

I read more and more for a few more years and was always scrounging books at garage sales. i read some of the older ones and they were dated and the world was supposed to have ended. i found them all the way back to the fifties decade by decade wrong after wrong. i found one in the library from the fourties. it seemed more real, more to fit. I read some history and the millenialists of the year 1000, of the 19th century, in fact every generation has thought they were likely the last generation.

I thought the restoration of the state of israel and man’s new power to destroy the earth made our generation special. israel has been here for 63 years and the ability of man to destroy the earth 66 and it hasn’t happened yet. i looked into one of the books and checked back to their scripture on the israel thing. its a verse about figs. Vague fear mongering seems more likely to sell books, draw attention, and baffle the young and gullible and perhaps the mentally ill. and yet the prophets mean something don’t they?

In some sense they serve as a warning to make the most of every day. to treat it like it could be your last even if you are young and healthy. the promise of the return is part of what makes jesus jesus. but if i know jesus at all the return won’t be like anything anyone in the established church is saying, or how else will they all miss it, and i guarantee they will. they always do or we wouldn’t need divine intervention.

i think talk of an antichrist and a mark and such reminds us of the continual threat of totalitarianism. when one man controls all power to buy and sell there is total control and it is indeed time to flee to the mountains and prepare for the rivers to run with blood. i believe there will be a narrowing and consequences for our misbehavior, my god we’ve broken the weather. spurned the gift of a functioning biosphere and poisoned what we’ve given. katrina, might have been a warning, did we heed its warning. not some simplistic anti voodoo and drunkenness nonsense, i am talking about the sin of destruction. i can see seeds of the apocalypse, but also seeds of the beauty that is to come when we come to our senses and start living right. we’ll get sustainable or we will die by definition. my vote is for life and i choose every day to look for the signs of hope so that i can nurture them. that i can light a fire or provide a little air, a little fuel so it burns brighter and it spreads and throws its light and its warmth and its cleansing.

nuclear power and me (part 1)

The recent events in Japan have had me engaged in thinking about nuclear power in a way that I have not for many years. I have had an intimate connection with nuclear power for pretty much as long as I can remember growing up in fermi country on the eastern shores of lake erie. My earliest memories of nuclear power is the propaganda comics we would get once a year in science class when detroit edison covered the education.

the fermi 2 nuclear power plant went from planning to construction to trying to come online when i was in high school. having had it be a presence for as long as i could remember i never thought to ask why it was called fermi 2. i mostly remember the coloring book with mickey mouse riding in goofy’s jalopy and telling him to air up his tires to save energy. goofy preferred the smooth ride of under inflation. i also learned about background radiation and the unreasonable fear ignorant country people have of things that are new. nuclear power was the promise of the future. even my hot wheels went nuclear. tired of having to go to the imaginary gas station every so often the cars switched to nuclear fuel. a handful of powder and they’d run for life. aircraft carriers ran on it. silly scared people who don’t know nothing.

In 7th grade science class Mr Lowney organic asparagus farmer did his own bit on nuclear. He presented its dangers and promises (fermi 2 was running into billions over budget and years behind schedule at this point) and told us about fermi 1, the day we almost lost detroit. when we moved to debate i was the only proponent. fermi 1 was an experimental fast breeder reactor not the really cool GE Mark 2 reactor we were gonna get. sure there is risk from radioactivity but there is risks in not having electricity too. try running your hospital without it and see who loses more lives. sure waste is a problem but gosh darn it we’re just getting smarter every day. I already knew you couldn’t win debates with teachers but i felt i held my own. the voice of reason.

In 11th grade i had technical writing and we did a speech to persuade. I was eager to do nuclear power because i already knew the material and had already waded through a lot of science for an english class. the pro nuclear position was already taken so i was forced into taking anti-nuke or having to learn something. I prided myself for the easy way out and the little as possible model of formal education. I was crushing a novel a day in that era so i can see how school work was an obstruction. I was also hanging out with scott woodward at the macomb branch library and decided to do some research, bone up on what’s happening since 7th grade (fermi 2 is still over budget and still under construction).

I am horrified by the facts because i had not yet come to understand the sublime in the face of nuclear horror. I read the Monroe Evening News article from the day after the near meltdown of fermi 1 after perusing the day we almost lost detroit and learned about the china syndrome. It was one paragraph long from the second page and said plant operators handled an incident in an admirable fashion according to training. Kudos to them.

Mostly though it was the waste. I learned that spent fuel means that it has become so highly radiated that it can no longer be used. That with its half life it would be two hundred thousand years until it was safe and we have no idea how to safely store this shit for any where of even a fraction of that. I learned there was enough low level radiation waste to pave  a coast to coast highway and that every nuclear waste storage facility radiation had migrated into the ground water. I was horrified and convinced. I was anti-nuclear. the first brick had popped out of the right wing wall i had built my political ideals.

Ultimately I would question a system that would devise such a monstrously fiendish boondoggle on us country folk with a taste for walleye. Why did we need a nuclear power plant when we already had the third biggest coal fired plant in the world? How were we selected to be the environmental sacrifice zone? jesus pushed me over the edge with his words “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. bam, like a stroke of lightning i knew war was wrong and i was off to the races. from right wing republican to anarchist within days as i followed the obvious implications of being anti-war. I rejected anarchy as naive and ultimately evolved into a democratic socialist type until my ultimate embrace of decentralization and participatory democracy and that i was really back to being an anarchist. having been everything now i don’t see it changing.

Fermi 2 ultimately got close to opening. in my research i found out about nuclear protesters as not just historical relic but as happening now. Well sort of. I went to some 1o people protests mostly old nuns. I bought some buttons and told them i wanted to help. I waved a sign or two. Wow 12 people with signs or the finishing touches on your 6 billion dollar investment. the plant opened with fits and starts and the 10 people went away. I went to college.

The first gulf war changed my brother john and me. John wanted to hang a banner when i got home from the psych unit afternoon shift he had painted “wage peace” on a sheet and wanted to climb a power tower and hang it the night the bombing started. “high voltage message” and peace was on the front page along with the war. never doubt a small group of dedicated people could change the media message in a small town paper. we went to protests and were part of a million people saying no to war. it was life changing.

After the war we drove down to east liver pool ohio and protested a toxic waste incinerator coming on line with martin sheen and all. Discovered SEAC, the student environmental action coalition and started organizing anti-statist pro-planet radical environmental events. it was great. changed my life. we were all in.At Frankies, this club in east toledo a door man said he was gonna jump off the martin luther king bridge for the anniversary of steven biko’s death. He said he jumped all the time and just swam to the docks, once he did it 7 times in a row. I remembered i’d seen one of his early ones in the paper. We jumped that night and it was cool. my brother was there and thought since it hadn’t been in the paper for awhile we could probably put anything we wanted in the paper with a little planning.

We looked in the calendar and the anniversary of fermi 1 was coming up. we sent press releases and organized a march from international park to the center of the bridge. Joe Mold and I got up and held a banner gave a short speech and took off our shirts and jumped in. no tv, the trucks were late and we felt we risked arrest if we waited. We swam to a sail boat to avoid the cops and sailed away drinking grog and glad we didn’t die in the cold maumee in october.

After I got my masters i was aimless and ended up being a full time field organizer for SEAC, hitching around Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri teaching kids how to cause trouble for a good cause. Jousted with NAFTA, the wise use movement, made a lot of connections, and got my first death threats. the woods is a dangerous place to be antilogging and lead country does not want anti-lead activists cleaning up flood damage. they’ll shoot you for wanting to pick up garbage if you don’t agree with him.

Fermi 2 ran on until christmas day 1993 the turbine threw a blade (a big un) and it ripped around the containment building. shut it down and some water got contaminated. i was home for christmas and john was still in town. better coverage then fermi 1. we both thought they would dilute it and dump it in the lake. really, what else are you gonna do with that stuff??? John was on it. organized some protests and a public hearing and 700 people turned out. started blockading the plant with bodies, people getting arrested.

I was field organizing in the ozarks as things heated up that summer when they wanted to dump the water in the lake. I came home early and called in debts from all the kids whose backyards I had been busting my hump to save and finagled SEAC to sponsor an event The Grassroots National Action Festival, we got the local coalition (CRAFT -Citizens Resistance At Fermi Two, great acronymn), the radical version we had spun off when CRAFT wanted to say no to stupid stuff we wanted to do (Zebra Mussel Alliance), and Green Peace and Earthfirst! who never worked together. we had a lot of energy and we had ruled the local media for months. My mom never really respected our choice to be radical activists until people she watched on tv started to call the house to find out what’s going on. it was beautiful.

I had gotten arrested in a blockade get dragged off scenario. There were two gates and we could only force arrests by blocking both. It got routine. Fermi was getting ready to come back on line so we decided to throw everything we had at it. In the woods we cut down 6 30′ trees and made tripods. We made three barrels filled with cement with pipe through the center big enough for an arm intersecting a piece of rebar. We bought handcuffs, steve merrix got an employee discount at the adult bookstore. we used the tools we had, could borrow, or steal.

The event came. three big protests in three days. we hit detroit edison headquarters with a handful of high profile arrests. We covered the statue of general custer (unfortunate favorite son of monroe michigan) with yarn weaving a web of peace over the nuclear war machine. (fermi 1 was a fast breeder to make bomb stuff and was defended by the Nike nuclear missile base which became a park which we reserved to camp our protesters [it really is all connected]. We brought up as guest speaker a native activist who was opposing a consortium of power companies trying to site a dump on her land. (detroit edison dropped out shortly later). On day 3 we borrowed Mark and Mike’s anti-nuke bus (no we won’t use it for anything illegal, its cool). we loaded up our team, the tripods and the barrels. We had announced we would blockade the plant at 2:00 pm on a sunday afternoon. the police were out in force and lined up by the gates with the media ready for a nice but big typical thing like we’d been doing.

We stopped in the road leading up to the plant and threw up three tripods with activists chained to the top within two minutes while the police looked on in disbelief. We drove the bus up the road pulled on to the main one dixie highway and pulled the bus across both lanes and stopped traffic. We pulled out our barrels  and started to block the road, “roads closed folks”. One lady said her son had a little league game so we waved her through. a dude in a truck said he was going to work. “sorry the roads closed”. “I’ve got a tire iron that says its open”. “Hey get a camera on that guy he says he’s gonna hit me” as i handcuffed up to the barrels. The road was closed, the plant was blockaded as promised over a month ago at 2:00 on a sunday afternoon.

to be continued….

4th of July Memories

July 5, 2010 1 comment

I am a lover of Summer and have many fond memories of the fourth of July. My dad drove truck and I started going with him since as long as I could remember. A lot of Fourths we would be out in the country somewhere and we would climb up on top of the truck and watch fireworks out in the distance. Sometimes we would see them in several different towns. I remember the anticipation of waiting for true dark when they would begin. I can only think of one time when we just came up empty.

My most memorable Fourth we were in St Petersburg. I was maybe eight and John would have been eleven. I don’t remember what Dad was doing but we were out on our own playing. They shot the fireworks out over the water and we were swimming in the warm Gulf pretending we were storming the beaches of Normandy or whatever.

As an adult the Detroit fireworks would sometimes draw me out. Impressive display. I would also catch Toledo’s over the river or in a pinch Monroe’s could be seen from our house on Roeder Street. Mom always kept the dog in, concerned about malicious children and explosive devices.

In 1994 I was with Sarah and Christa at our abandoned house (headquarters for Ozark Summer) in Black Missouri. It was nice to be away from crowds of people and we spent a leisurely day hanging out in the hammock. We drove down to a small town and watched their display. We took our kitten we had found and later lost again. That was such a bustling time of frenetic high jinks it just stands out as peaceful.

On the Fourth of July 1996 I was living in Berkeley. Phil and I dropped some acid and walked down to the Marina to watch the show. We were seated near several different groups of folks and some were speaking Mandarin and some Spanish and other languages and it started to freak us out. We moved to a quieter place and enjoyed the display. Walking out someone began throwing fire crackers into the crowd. Out of nowhere a squad of storm troopers in full riot gear game trotting in and snatched up some brothers. Very freaky.

Seven years ago I was in Mesquite Nevada. Dad was in the hospital in St George Utah with a necrotic kidney. I didn’t even go outside to watch the fireworks. Just sat in the crappy casino hotel room watching their crappy cable. Nevada is the only state with universally poor hotel cable. They don’t want you in your room watching TV. Gotta get out there and lose some money.

The last several years I have gone with friends to downtown Columbia and watch the fireworks over Faurout Field from a parking garage. Pretty fun and usually run into people I know.

This year I agreed to have people over. Dad and I took a morning trip to Boonville and had their crappy brunch buffet. We stopped and got some fireworks at a tent outside of town. Mostly cones that shoot sparks since I live in town. When we got home I cleaned up the rose bed. They have been sickly and was concerned about disease so I raked out the mulch, broke up the clay a bit, and planted a new one i got at the grocery store for six bucks. It came with a packet of fertilizer and I sprinkled it around all the roses because I put in a lot of compost when I planted it. I sprinkled more compost about.

After getting cleaned up guests began arriving. Eric not only brought Dad a six pack of gluten free beer (pretty good actually) but did chicken wings in rice flower. I didn’t have the heart to tell him there is gluten in Worcestershire Sauce. We pitched some horse shoes and more people came, around a dozen. I kept winning and we had some good first time players which was fun. Other folks broke out the Boccie Ball. Dad did the grilling smoked a turkey breast and did some local hot dogs and ground pork patties. Other folks brought brats. We did up a dozen yellow and a dozen white sweet corn. Pretty much the first of the season.

We broke up the party and most of us caravaned to Faurot Field to watch them up close. It was very fun being close and firework technology gets better and better. We were so close flaming debris fell around us. We shot the shit and shared some Fourth of July memories.

Categories: childhood, friends, gardening

bread and circuses

June 7, 2010 4 comments

Maybe a road trip is the ideal time to remember that not only is BP responsible for the oil spill catastrophe but I am as well. I drive they drill ducks get oily. I wish I could get mad like so many of my peers but I don’t feel holy enough to point my finger at anyone at BP. Maybe if I knew more I could know they’re more guilty than me. I know I feel bad because I allow it to happen, and go to baseball games. There’s this whole level of engagement in professional sports that i have gone from experiencing and taking a critical eye. I can easily understand how Marx would consider it an opiate for the masses, some piece of false consciousness to distract us from the oily ducks and the exploitation of man by man. Nonetheless I was thrilled to see Tommy Brookins, whom i listed along with Larry Norman as people I thought were self actualized in my high school psych class. I loved Tommy Brookins, and Kirk Gibson, and Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammel, and all those guys who won the pennant with Sparky. At the game there was a child like joy, mostly in the children. A toddler stood on her mom’s lap and when i would cheer for the Tigers she would too. I told her mom she was raising a little Tiger’s fan. It was fun, engaging, we all shared something. I ran into my friend Isaiah who I thought was a Cubs fan, when I asked him he said, “no, i’m a baseball fan”. If you’ve ever read George Will with an open mind you can’t believe baseball is only false consciousness. A perfect world might need baseball, as well as clean oceans and beaches. My dad has that same childlike spirit about baseball. He knows it all, every Tiger and what they’ve been doing, what their stories are, what pitches they throw and then. Who swings at the first pitch and how quickly they take between pitches. It keeps him engaged in this world. It may be the most important thing in his life. If its not shedding crocodile tears over the fucked up gulf and plotting with his class peers for the dictatorship of the proletariot then fuck Marx and his judgemental bullshit. But nonetheless I drove a gulf oil eating machine halfway across the state to see millionaires play baseball. I am not doing nor planning on doing a damn thing for the oily ducks and all that other bullshit even though I think I am cognizant of how truly awful it all is and that i am personally responsible. A client asked me how bad it really was because he doesn’t trust the news. I told him second cup bad. What? The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died (Revelations 16:3). I refuse the simple comfort of anger at BP and put faith that how i live my life justifies my part in this horrible piece of evil filth our works have created. It will remind me to step up my game, to work smarter if not harder to disengage from the madness. Engage more in the solution.

“The School Dance”

I was planning on writing a piece on persuasion after reading an interesting article on the subject in Scientific American Mind and another on NPR but I am to bushed. I trimmed up the tree in the front yard, used a chainsaw for the first time, and everything. I chickened out from climbing around in it sawing off the dead branches. Instead I tied some rope to a hammer and lassoed the dead branches like I was hanging a bear bag (when you camp you have to hang your food at least 12′ to keep the bears out of it) and then pulled them down. Dad was impressed, didn’t know i had that skill set. So when I want to post but don’t feel like writing its time to post another poem from the past. This one I wrote in that first flurry of school shootings, prior to Columbine. I can’t relate to the desire to commit random violence but I can relate to feeling left out and alone.

Luke Woodham shot some kids at Pearl High

Don’t ask me who, don’t ask me why

Kids got it hard, this is true

Deadbeat Dads and sniffing glue

Luke stabbed his mom or so they say

What a way to start your day

The newspapers say Satan’s to blame

But I know it was cuz he never came

To The School Dance

The School Dance was really Rockin’

After wards all the kids were talkin’

Who you gotta know and what you gotta do

If you want to try… to be cool.

Luke Woodham’s a killer yes I know

But what can you do? Where can you go?

Stuck in a house with a Mom you hate

And there’s no way you’ll get a date

To The School Dance.

The School Dance was really Rockin’

Afterwards all the kids were talkin’

Who you gotta know and what you gotta do

If you want to try… to be cool.

Luke Woodham will spend his life in jail

With no parole, no chance for bail

He was wrong for what he did

Cuz now there’s gonna be two less kids

At The Scho0l Dance.

The School Dance was really Rockin’

Afterwards all the kids were talkin’

What you gotta know, and who you gotta do

If you wanna try… to be cool.

Categories: childhood, poetry