Archive for the ‘religeon’ Category

Ethics of Integrated Care

As a long time social services provider, clinical manager/trainer and administrator I have been doing my own trainings to maintain my Co-occurring Disorders certification for a long time. I have a strong interest in philosophy and have spent some time with a lot of primary texts.

The ethics trainings I have attended have not been very informative or helpful and have been focused a lot more on CYA (Cover Your Ass) and agency policies than actual training on ethics or even morals. Discussing scenarios is not as engaging as the real ethical scenarios that come up on almost a daily basis doing the work and managing those delivering services.

Since COVID raised it’s bumpy little head I have not been at an agency that has staff that need 6 hours of ethics training or wanted to gather up folks who need the training as a consultant. Last time I did self study and read and reflected on Stoic ethics. I had planned to work my way through some of Epictetus’s Discourses but I left it at home while I’m away from the office getting my van repaired.

I thought instead I would distill some of my ethical thinking in an extended blog post. My post career plans are to write a book “A Practical Guide on Building a Better World” distilling my lessons learned in social services, activism, politics, policy making and living an ethical life. A section on ethics will be a must.

My thinking on ethics is rooted in a big handful of thinkers, writers and doers. In no particular order I want to acknowledge Lou Marinoff author of “Plato Not Prozac” whose chapter on ethics I found transformative and made me a Multi-Ethic Relativist. I was fortunate enough to work with another PhD philosopher Brian Bowles who taught me the difference between boundary crossings and boundary violations.

My brother John Trapp has been an invaluable collaborator. He followed MLK to Gandhi to Tolstoy to the ancient Greeks. As a true Epicurean he nonetheless turned me on to the Stoics, most importantly my man Epictetus and the inimitable Marcus Aurelius. Of course I couldn’t leave ethics without acknowledging Jesus, primarily the Sermon on the Mount Jesus who launched me on a path with his simple admonition to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

Since you’ve read this far, you deserve a photo. Here is the aforementioned John Trapp in front of Turkey Creek on last week’s hike.

The first question to ask is why ethics? With a myriad of ongoing training needs why is ethics the only one required by name? The reason ethics is required is so that professionals don’t have sex with their clients. It is perennially the most common reason professionals lose their license or certification. I’ve seen it again and again throughout my career. To say it plain, never have sex with a client.

When we elicit feelings in clients we call it transference. Freud identified it as the driver of the therapeutic change process. Counseling, if you do it right is almost all listening with total attention. What is sexier than that? But it’s not real. As a helping professional you are not presenting your unadulterated authentic self but you are being paid to provide a service which involves activating the best part of yourself to help another primarily through supportive listening and empathy. Your client is not in love with you. They are in love with an illusion.

When clients elicit feelings in us that is called countertransference. It is normal and should be expected and needs to be managed. Clients will stir up all kinds of feelings in us from frustration, anger, sympathy, admiration and even love. No feeling is wrong, only actions based on those feelings. Having good supervision or peer support is essential to navigate the tricky waters of countertransference.

Now that the most essential point is made we can move on to defining our terms. Ethics is a system of thought that determines how to make moral judgements. Ethics is the system and morals are what we do. The powers that be should really mandate morals training instead of ethics training. As clinicians, supervisors, administrators and policy makers and even just as humans we are constantly using moral reasoning to navigate ethical dilemmas.

One of my favorite John Trapp quotes is “Most ethical dilemmas are choosing between the right thing and the easy thing”. This point helps us to make the distinction between justification of our choices and actions and rationalizations of our choices and actions. We all have a strong bias for the path of least resistance. Lou Marinoff points out the root of justification is in justice. That is why we need to have intelligible ethical systems. Lost people wander downhill.

Another shot of Turkey Creek from yesterday’s hike.

There are lots of ethical systems and they all have some value and they all have weaknesses, blindspots and contradictions. Lou Marinoff recommends using multiple systems for moral reasoning. Some fit better in some situations and sometimes looking at issues from multiple perspectives. He calls this approach Multiethical Relativism. Let’s look at some systems and what they offer.

Most folks get their ethical system from their religious background. That is fine and works for most people most of the time. The golden rule appears with slight variation in a large number of religious traditions.

In Buddhism they identify a concept called Ahimsa which means do no harm. It’s the first part of the Socratic Oath. As I learned from Brian Bowles both the left and the right hold a do no harm ethical basis, it’s truly a universal ethical principle. Where the right and the left diverge is the right holds a purity ethic as well. From borders, language and culture; to defined gender roles, and a respect for “life” folks in the right sometimes see the purity ideal trumping the limiting harm ethos.

Ahimsa is a great foundational ethical principle. There are other systems. Utilitarianism holds the most good for the most people. It has some moral value though it can easily be taken to perverse extremes with simple thought experiments. Here’s a nice comic illustrating it’s downside.

Utilitarianism does have some good practical applications especially in group living situations. Sometimes the ethical choice is not in a particular client’s best interest. For the good of the group, the integrity of the program or for the safety of other participants and staff it can be ethical to discharge someone for example even if it’s not best for them.

When I was a young clinician I always gave my best effort for the person in the room and didn’t hold back. I was proud when I had successful outcomes in difficult cases and was not afraid to go the extra mile. I also didn’t pace myself well and would burn out. I saved my ducats though and so I would resign with notice and go backpacking or hitchhiking around the country until I healed up a bit and then throw myself back into the grind. Had I not been in a place to do that it would have been ethical to do a little less, better project my energy and personal well being and stuck it out for the long haul.

Another example is thinking about the clients you are going to serve in the future. I remember in my first social work job I was working with a sweet little old grandma who had her 2 grandkids (a boy and a girl) placed with her in a dilapidated one bedroom apartment. She had moved into the living room but Protective Services had issues with a bit and a girl sharing a room.

I worked the local housing authority to get them fast tracked and vouched for her without completing my due diligence. Turned out Gramma had a felony for operating drug house. Not only did I not get her in public housing I never got anyone in public housing ever again. On a positive note I had helped clean and paint the apartment did some other minor repairs and ran a curtain across the bedroom as a Plan B and it passed inspection and she kept the kids.

Even more than utilitarianism I find value in virtue ethics. As a student of sociology I learned about roles, status, and master status, the role that singularly defines us. Most women take their master status from relationships, wife and/or mother are common. Most men from their employment. I have never wanted to be defined by job or career or relationship and chose my master status as, a good person. So I naturally turned to virtue ethics that hold that virtue is the only good.

When faced with situations that challenge our equanimity we need only ask which virtue do I need to call on. When you can say, “thank goodness I ran into that really annoying person because it gave me the opportunity to practice patience” nothing bad can ever happen to you.

Virtue ethics requires us to define what is good. Fortunately Marcus Aurelius has done that for us. I’m going to share a larger meditation because it is a good one.

“Begin the morning by saying to yourself, I shall meet with the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I, who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly…”

For Marcus Good, Truth and Beauty are all synonyms. As a policy maker my moral framework of decision making was whenever possible we should move forward in the most just, beautiful, sustainable and equitable way. When that option is not on the table, and the utopian ideal rarely is, I would then factor all the possible options including doing nothing and support whichever was the least terrible and that set the stage for better choices in the future. Time for another picture.

Hunting morels is a great joy in life. This feller and his friends and neighbors was delicious.

Few clinicians and direct service workers are philosophers. We just need to have a few perspectives down in order to have highly functional moral reasoning. The work gets most interesting and the most dangerous not when we are choosing between the right thing and the easy thing, that is simple even if hard. Moral reasoning is most fruitful when our ethical principles are in conflict. When there are no easy choices but carefully balancing competing interests and moral precepts.

It’s less important to definitely answer the great questions, like is morality absolute or is it relative to the culture and times that you live in. In the helping professions we are not engaged in an intellectual exercise but making choices that can literally be life and death.

One important ethical consideration is boundary crossings versus boundary violations. Boundary violations are moral failings that are always wrong no matter what the circumstances. Exploiting clients financially or sexually or using them to meet your own emotional needs are all examples of boundary violations.

Boundary crossings are different. They are a step across clearly delineated lines of separation between staff and people being served. It might be socializing, accepting a gift, taking someone to a holiday gathering or a support group meeting which you might attend anyway. Going to funerals or weddings or other celebrations. The myriads of things we do with our friends and family that we don’t do with our clients.

Boundaries are an important part of professional life as dual relationships are frought with peril and ambiguity. A good boundary crossing is done for a therapeutic reason and is discussed with your supervisor or peer accountability partner. Having that second set of eyes is an important safeguard.

Here is an example in case I’m not being clear. I had a long-term counseling relationship with a fellow I’ll call Mark. Mark was old school,of Irish descent, and a larger than life character. He made a lot of breakthroughs in our work together after struggling with drugs and alcohol for a long time. As our work progressed he started mentioning and then insisting that we share a meal together. For Mark us sharing a meal was an acknowledgement of our equality and a recognition of our common humanity. So towards the end of our work I checked in with a peer manager  and took Mark to lunch. It was an important thing for him and helped him be OK with moving from our formal supports to relying on the informal supports of the recovery community.

After he was out of services he connected with me on social media. My policy is not to solicit online relationships with former clients but to accept them if I’m comfortable with it after they have completed services with me. Mark stayed in touch and I saw him continue to do well. Many years later he invited me to lunch at the restaurant he worked at. I was serving on City Council at the time and he wanted to show off his important friend and show me that he had made it.

After giving Mark a ride or two to the store I briefly became his paid caregiver when he developed a terminal illness. Throughout our post therapeutic relationship I was cognizant that the therapeutic relationship goes on forever but nonetheless a more reciprocal friendship type relationship developed. To do nothing else would have been to label Mark a second class citizen forever.

When we conflate boundary violations with boundary crossings we close the door to activities that can enhance the therapeutic relationship and add meaning and depth to our own lives as well as a greater sense of community. Many agencies and supervisors preach so hard against dual relationships out of an excess of caution and a lack of recognition of the full humanity of those served.

I developed a diagram to make this point. We have two axes, one is bond intensity (the strength of the staff-client relationship) and the other is bond integrity (the morality of the staff-client relationship). With high bond strength and a high moral compass you have engagement. Engagement comes from mechanical engineering, you engage a clutch for example. Even though the gears are separate they interlock and movement happens.

With a high bond intensity without equally high integrity we get enmeshment. The clinicians feelings are wrapped up in the client, there is an unhealthy connection that leads to poor outcomes and increased risk to the client and/or the agency. It is fear of enmeshment that drives most ethics trainings and policy manuals which unilaterally ban innocuous or even beneficial boundary crossings.

With high bond integrity but low bond strength we get a lot safer for staff and agencies but at a cost to efficacy and really helping people. I call this Arms Length Professionalism. Some people are going to get better but they probably would have gotten better without your help as well. With neither bond integrity or bond intensity you most likely get case failure. People quit showing up or get discharged from the program. Here is a poorly drawn chart to illustrate the 4 quadrants:

My final advice is engaging and acting your moral reasoning is also based on where you are in your career. If you are new in the helping professions stick close to agency policies and procedures and written ethical guidelines. Make your mistakes in the “Arms Length Professionalism” quadrant. Ask questions, seek advice.

As you grow in the work you gain greater ability to bring nuance and flexibility to issues. To seeing beyond the immediate to long-term issues and more effective ways to successfully engage clients to create a climate of better outcomes while avoiding the pitfalls of enmeshment.

There are bright lines though that should never be crossed regardless of how long you have been in the field. I worked on a psychiatric unit right after I got my BS degree. There was a 16 y/o girl who had been sexually assaulted who did not want to visit her father. She escalated and the charge nurse told me to take her to the “quiet room”.

I deescalated the situation and she agreed to stay calm. The charge nurse insisted, I resisted and she threatened to write me up for insubordination. I drug that poor girl to the “quiet room” and still feel the shame 30+ years later. I should have stood my ground and let the chips fall where they lay.

Your moral reasoning and your identity as a good person are some of the most sacred things you have. Protect them, grow them, teach them and let them carry you into a place of peace and efficacy.


December 10, 2011 Leave a comment

A selenelion is when the rising sun and setting eclipse moon are both visible in the sky at the same time. Its not supposed to be possible because one rises as the other sets but the view is refracted by our atmosphere so you can the moon even after its set. As I write this the nearly full moon is very big and bright and beautiful out my picture window. It was even more impressive this morning.

I don’t use an alarm as a rule, don’t own one and don’t have a cell phone. I just tell myself what time I want to get up before I go to bed and if I really need to be up I drink two glasses of water as recommended by O’ Henry in the ‘Ransom of Red Chief’. I was up late, restless last night but still up way early, 5ish. That meant I had all the time in the world which meant I was late and didn’t get to witness the gradual reddening. I started with coffee, the first of Honduran as a dark roast. Surprisingly good, my favorite one thus far out of the four coffees I’m currently roasting.

Fido was not excited about getting up early but he’s game for anything especially a walk. We walked to Bear Creek Trail park and no one was out to see it except a couple of joggers who didn’t look up. Had a nice view and there was a reddening of the sky on both the moon set side and the sun rise side. Very cool effect, my second favorite lunar eclipse ever.

Ended up walking Fido down the trail almost to Cosmo park and found the side trails where you can have dogs off leash. They’re really cool trails and we walked 1 1/4 mile before we got separated and I had to go back and find him. Used my Louis L’amour knowledge to know lost folks go down hill and found him. He was happy to see me but still kept taking off so I put him back on the leash. We stopped at the off leash park and he played with this standard poodle. I was proud of him for initiating play because the dog had tried to hump him so bad the last time he was there we had to leave.

Got home and went to The Winter Market. It was more then twice as big as last year in its new location at The Parqaid Center and its also in my neighborhood. There was a large festive crowd and a nice selection for winter. I got bell peppers, candy onions, purple cabbage, my first celeriac, and some goats milk lye soap. That was my only irritant, shelling out $11 for 2 bath sized bars and the guy trying to go for the add on sale of hand lotion. That irks me paying a premium and then trying to hit me for more. My irritation must have shown because the guy got very defensive and I told him I knew the add on sale was a common part of commerce. He gave me a stamped loyalty card which also irked me because if I would have bought my two bars on separate weeks I would have gotten two stamps. Last time I buy more then one I can tell you that.

Then I finished decorating the tree, decked out the ficus and put out the santas. Fido was pretty funny when he saw the one on the table in front of the window and started barking at it. Not going to get on the nice list that way Fido. Actually I have his presents bought. I got him a velvet scrunchie with bells to wear on Christmas, a stuffed donkey, and some duck treats. When I called John and told him Fido was full of burrs from his walk in the woods, he told me I  should tell him when Fido doesn’t have burrs. He is a bit of a burr magnet.

Also gathered some milk weed seed. Going to sow those by the fence row tomorrow. Today I raked some leaves out front. I want to finish that tomorrow plus plant the rest of my bought late at discount tulip bulbs. Other then that been fighting with atheists on another blog. In Santa Monica they traditionally had a series of nativity scenes. After adding a menorah and Kwanza display to the dozen or so nativities they added an atheist display and then put the spots up on auction when there was more demand for inclusion. Atheists won almost all of them and are leaving them empty and only 3 nativities got to go up. It just seemed like a bully action and subversion of the process and I commented to that effect on an atheist blog crowing about their victory. No one dealt with my points and they just made  attacks that had nothing to do with my critique. Fundamentalists are all the same, whether they’re Christian or Atheist. Can’t listen and respond but just launch talking points with no nuance or subtlety.

Made a boiled dinner. Brats out of Hermann (the town, not a name of a pig) turnips, potatoes, carrots, purple cabbage, green beans, garlic, onions, and green pepper (all local) with some fresh ground pepper and caraway seed. Pretty yummy. Going to make vegetable soup out of the leftovers.

All in all a most excellent day. Tired though so probably an early night. Going to try and watch Clockwork Orange. Will see if I can get past the rape scene that it opens up with.

Categories: books, dogs, gardening, hiking, religeon

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

at least kittens still work

November 13, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve had a pretty relaxed weekend going into it with a sick day. Gave me permission to take it easy even though its really nice out there. Its been a beautiful Fall and I am thankful, also for seeing gratitude lists start to come out. Its a nice time of year for a lot of reason. I devoted yesterday to crushing a novel which is something I haven’t done for a while. I knocked out most of “Peshawar Lancers” by S.M. Stirling. One of my favorite authors, I like his novels on The Change, post-apocalyptic fiction.

This is straight up alternative history. Set in modern times but in a world where a meteor broke up over the Northern Hemisphere in the mid 19th century, leaving Europe and North America in a three year winter and decent into cannibalism. The British Empire makes an Exodus to India, South Africa & Australia mostly with the heart of the Empire in India. So you end up with sort of a steam punk world with slower advancement airships, Victorian culture with a nice cross pollination of the cultures of the subcontinent.

Nice setting for an adventure story with the villain being the Russian cannibalistic Satan worshiping state church with girls they have bred who can see the future. Charming and fast paced story and I learned a little bit about Hindus and Sikhs. Can’t beat that, but it killed my productivity yesterday.

I did get some laundry hung and started turning the second half of the cold frame. Finishing that is my next project. Today I’ve devoted to puttering and cleaning house and the house certainly needed it. Got the place swept out, could have used more but I gave it a ‘lick and a promise’ as Grandma Trapp used to say. I find everything is connected to everything else and start cleaning and it can suck up my whole day. I miss Amee’s whirlwind where she could just knock stuff out. I am stuck slowly plodding along, stopping to ponder what I find, stymied on where to put stuff, etc, etc, etc.

Today though I did find a steno pad with some poetry I haven’t posted. I wrote this riffing off of Ignatius of Loyola’s bit on humility out of his Spiritual Exercises, which I still haven’t completely read. I was at a conference at some type of Catholic institution and they had a library and I pulled it off the shelf and read a random page on humility that shook me to the core pondering it. It heavily influenced this poem as I tried to assimilate its implications.

Ignatius was a bad ass and a powerful dude. I later bought the book but read how your supposed to be coached through them on a retreat and its better to not know what’s coming. I took it and a bible with me on a 2 1/2 week backpacking trip and worked them in a bastardized way. It was life changing. I felt I had to back off (I was going for the whole deal in a 30 day give or take deal) or risk making a permanent severance with the mundane world. Wasn’t quite ready for that nor did I feel it was necessary.

But setting all that aside I had only read the one page once when I wrote this which I guess I’m calling “Like cigarettes speak for the dead”:

Like cigarettes speak for the dead

They always have

Even since before the world was broken

But at least kittens still work

And many other Sunny Things

Fly high, some higher

Than they’ve ever flown before

Icarus wings perhaps

But at least we’ve known the Sun

And the Son remembers

Someone’s got to decide

If when, if then

I remember, am remembererd

I live, I live, I live

Humility in a poet takes reading

Ignatius of Loyola

Spelling it all out in 3 paragraphs

A thinking man can understand

Humility is the exercise of the will

For the purpose of promoting the will of God

As you follow the pursuits

Only accepting material gratification, social standing

Yea, life itself in a way compatible to the GOOD.

A noble path of humility indeed

Which only the best of us abandon ourselves to

And know the bliss of a clean conscience

In a world gone mad

With violence and control

Ego projection, ego projection, ego projection

Of course you haven’t forgotten

They were the happiest days of your life

We will always be one

And other evil lies said in the language of Action

In the real world

The real fucking world

Fucked up shit goes down.

Its happening right now

All around us

And the deeper path of humility

Cries out for us

For us to walk the path

(To)For the perfect world

That’s coming

Or walk away

And heal and mourn

And watch and pray.

When the final destruction comes

Lurches closer to being

Both or either

I don’t know

But all 3 demand

Us walk the past of

holiness and we’ll

take riches or poverty,

Happiness or unhappiness,

Respect or rancor, as

Secondary to the quest

For the perfect world

Knowing god

As only two loving

Beings can love

Hugging, not being hugged

Remembering and remembered

Image reflection

You know the Kingdom of God,

At hand, within you,

Many mansions, many mansions, many mansions

And real life with its

Treasures and responsibilities

And pleasure gratifications

Are all set aside

Treated as the same

Whatever occurs

In our place in the unfolding of divine will

The few that walk this holy road

For exercise if nothing else

Can choose a third path

Of striving for the divine plan

With all your heart, mind and soul

For so is love perfected in us

And whenever possible

To follow the path of the low

The poor, the reviled

The ignored, until even our

Death serves the divine will.



Categories: books, gardening, poetry, religeon


November 11, 2011 1 comment

Happy Armistice Day. It commemorates the ending of The Great War or the War to End All Wars, and if only it did, it wouldn’t have morphed into Veteran’s Day. I like the old version better, a day to celebrate peace which is a glorious thing and well worth fighting for. Today is an extra special day with the trifold elevensies. I was telling the agency psychiatrist that numerologically 11 meant “magic”. Kabbalistically 1-10 is a progression from the source at 1 (Kether) to the material world at 10 (Malkuth). Eleven is magical because it goes one further, “this one goes to eleven”.

I find myself with time on my hands because I called in sick today. I had tummy troubles and unsettling dreams and woke at one and could not go back to sleep. Don’t have it today and rest is obviously in order. I will attribute both to peperoni and sausage pizza perhaps, could be a virus or something as well as I’ve got a bit of scratchy throat. I hope to nap and feel better, read some more John Byrne era Fantastic Four maybe more of my Stirling novel the Peshawar Lancers which kept me company through my long night of stomach upset.

My dream was vivid, I have been having vivid dreams throughout the night with increasing frequency and intensity since I read a couple articles on dreaming in the latest Scientific American Mind. There are articles on using dreams to problem solve and lucid dreaming, which I was always doubtful of but they can see it in f-MRI so it probably exists. Its a useful technique for PTSD so I have been trying to learn it and have definitely increased my dream awareness, which has been largely cool. My dreams are banal things of petty frustrations, ennui, and little anxieties mostly.

Last night I dreamed I was visiting the homeland and was feeling very out of sorts. There was some holiday or parade or something and I decided I needed to go the hospital. I went to Boone Hospital and after a long journey through white tile corridors I ended up in this cafeteria and a psychiatrist invited me to eat lunch with him and we talked. He had a large platter of bacon, which was good at first but became increasingly cold and greasy (see why I think there was a pizza connection?). Before we were done there was some kind of break for prayer or meditation or something and everyone in the room got into a big circle and put their arms around each other and prayed or meditated or something involving droning and people rubbing other people’s heads. I found it all very weird but was glad to be a part of it and it broke up and the doctor and I walked down a long corridor and he asked more questions. He asked me what I was feeling and I told him that I felt like a large crystal a picture of this became the dream a complex crystal structure but that I felt very fragile. He surprised me when his tone went from a convivial camaraderie to the voice of authority and he told me he wanted me to go to University Hospital for an evaluation. I thought it odd already being in a hospital but I asked him why I needed to be in a hospital. He said because you said you were fragile.

Usually for dream interpretation the question to be asked is what was the overall feeling of the dream. Bewilderment. I chalk it up to being sick as any larger meaning, but its made me think. Which is one of the points of dreams to look at things differently.

In the spirit of 11/11/11 I wanted to share an older poem I wrote about Solomon, our preeminent magic man. It probably goes in a series with my Biblical Biopics with a Twist with the one about Jesus and John and Salome.

Wise Old Solomon

Wise Old Solomon was an old soul

Walked closely with the Lord

But he could still rock -n- roll

From time to time

He had a thousand wives and concubines

Was courted by the Queen of Sheba

He drank her wine

He was a wise man

He won the prize to understand

That if one is ever truly wise

One sees through child’s eyes

He knew the names of a thousand angels

Never known before

He knew the names of a thousand demons

And what’s more

He put them down

Into the ground

So they never got up again

He bound them for their mischief

He bound them for our sin

He was a wise man

He won the prize to understand

When one is truly wise

He can fell opponents of any size

Solomon built a house

Where the Lord did dwell

And the dead went to Sheol

They’d never heard of Hell

And the Lord won’t dwell in a house

Built by human hands

And what Solomon built with

Few can understand

He is a wise man

He won the prize to understand

That if one is truly wise

One never dies


Categories: books, insanity, poetry, religeon, the mind Tags:

a free verse poem about anything

November 4, 2011 1 comment

An interesting night, all dressed up no place to go, if I was capable of being frustrated, I might have been. I was pledged to go to the Dinner Train to Centralia something I had been wanting to do and the Odd Fellows reserved a car. Tre and I were gonna go but he got sick and I couldn’t find the take off spot. The guy at Caseys didn’t know nor did the guy at the bookstore. So I bought a book. If I were up to the technological norm I could’ve looked it up easily, instead I just accepted it wasn’t going to be. Next time.

Thank goodness I have had ample opportunity to walk through a lot of frustrating situations with people and encourage them to roll with stuff outside of their control. I also read and preach a lot of stoic philosophy. All that helps me just roll with stuff enjoy the ride be flexible. I might do a lecture on stoic thought when I finish my series on self esteem. Got some good students, one with 8 pages of notes, cross referenced by topic because I like to skip around.

Most interesting conversation I’ve had has been on facebook. We were talking about judgement, he critiquing my encouragement of Fire your Bank day. (4.5 billion dollars pulled out of banks I heard on Marketplace and more people have joined a credit union in the last 6 weeks then in a normal year. That’s a nice protest with the multibillion dollar hit.) Anyway he cited Bruce Cockburn as saying we all want judgement on somebody else and said the Occupiers were as greedy as the banks.

I conceded his first point but challenged the second that banks with more resources are more liable to judgement for not helping the poor and that activists with some notable exceptions often take a financial hit and have a sincere desire to help and a simple lifestyle. He commented back saying salvation comes from belief not good works. But I wasn’t saying you get to go to heaven for doing good, I just said you face damnation for not. But we’re talking about different stuff, I don’t buy the concrete version of heaven.

The heaven I believe in is more conceptual, an idea, the memic universe. Do you want to know if you are living forever? Are you living forever right now? Investment in the trappings of wealth or power block out the eternal now that is accessible in a child like way to anyone who reaches out for it. That’s what I’m saying. Greed and accumulation make people scared, shuts off from real experience and transcendent awareness. I know because if they had it they wouldn’t act like that. You couldn’t if you value others like yourself.

Mostly I want to put up more poetry. This one I wrote a slight variation on the first line in my first chap book 16 Best. I took the title of the book from the CD that John Glenn took into space Neil Diamond’s 16 Best. I wrote on the top of a blank page something like “I can write a free verse poem about anything” as a statement that I could finish it on a first draft and have it be a pretty good poem. I couldn’t, and ended up hacking out a short little shitty thing. Some time later though in a late night manic rush I blasted through the thing in its completed form in only a little more time then it takes to read it ( a bit over 3 minutes unless I’m doing it in a slam with 3 minute time limit which I pick up the pace. I consider it my definitive slam poem.

I can write a free verse poem about anything

If I want to extend my ego

Or I can just let the world be

All fucked up and beautiful

Six billion lives alone

Living in self imposed exile

From real experience

Cast adrift in a specific social milieu

Which is then projected onto the rest of humanity

Except for those, few or many

We think of as “others”

People so alien to our experience that we deny our  common existence as people

Greeks and Barbarians

A five thousand years old idea

Which still dominates our consciousness

And of course it does

How we clothe ourselves, how we feed ourselves

How we have shelter and transportation and the frivilous entertainments that make a C+ life feel like a solid A-

Can I hear an amen please?

Because of course I’m preachin’

In a free verse poem about anything.

The last frontier of the wordy hypocrite

On vacation from responsibility

When the knowledge that we are all one

And the world is in pain

Often and harsh and often preventable

If we can care more, know more, do more

more, more, more, or


Block it out

Return to the acceptable

Accept the inevitable

Of the way things are

Just sit back an enjoy the fringe benefits that go to those citizens and their neighbors who get to vote every four years or so for one of the two  guys who learned how best to suck up to power and gets to be the CEO of the big stick of Capital

Bread and circuses baby

Only now its on a hundred and fifteen channels

And the bread may take a little longer to get then it used to

But its so good

That’s why most of us have to make it

Or serve it

Instead of painting and writing poetry

Singing and dancing and growing gardens

We wouldn’t want them to do that would we?

I can’t make my own fucking Big Mac can I?

It isn’t someone has to dig the ditches anymore

Now its the guy who gets to drive the ditch digging machine is a lucky bastard

With a fat paycheck and a good  tan

A paid lunch and health insurance

May I take your order please?

Would you like fries with that?

I’ll suck your dick for fifty dollars.

Because of course a man has to talk about sex in a free verse poem about anything

Because money buys sex and not just servitude

Would you like fries with that?

If you turn your back I’ll kill you

Just for what you’ve got in your pockets

I can’t write ads to sell cigarettes to teenagers in Asia can I?

But I watch the same TV commercials that you do

Where the guy in the phat car gets the skinny girl with the big tits and perfect teeth

And guess what motherfucker

Guns are cheap

Would you like fries with that?

Categories: friends, gardening, poetry, religeon

i believe i am a pattern

October 30, 2011 Leave a comment

I have been working on a poetry archive on my blog with links to each of the poems I have posted. You should definitely check it out if you’re into that sort of thing. One of the bonuses is it gives me a definitive list of what I’ve got up on the blog. This one I could have sworn I put up as I recall posting different versions as it came together but the the most recent version I came across in the poetry category was incomplete. This one I’m quite proud of as it says what I believe in a pretty tight and succinct way. Hope you like it.

I believe I am a pattern

A pattern of information

Built from millions and millions of simplicities,

Organized through emergence

I arise up from the bottom,

I am many but still I am me.

And I believe I am a pattern

A consciousness construction

Will, sense, imagination, memory

And though I surely rise up from my body

I am much more a story

Told in the hearts of everyone who knows me.

And I believe I am a pattern

A pattern set in motion

In oscillation with the tides

Not just the ocean

But the Universe besides.

In every mind’s eye there is a cup

Its not the one from which I drink

But its close enough

Occam’s Razor cuts simplest is the best

Is my idea of cup unique from the rest?

Or do we all drink

From the same cup

After all?

For I believe I am a pattern

A process not an object

Like pendulums swing together

When they’re on the same wall

My heart beats to the rhythem

Of the One and the All

And I am subsumed in

The One.

And I believe there is a pattern.

Black Iron Prison

October 29, 2011 2 comments

Phillip K. Dick talked about the Black Iron Prison as a descriptor for ever growing systems of control. I like the term and have been working on a piece about it for the last four or five years. Five years after posting this I am putting in the final (for now, I’m still not entirely satisfied with the ending) stanza. I finished it maybe three years ago and reads a little prescient with the election of Trump. I am putting together a chap book tentatively called “Words for Dark Times” and leading with this piece. I finished it on a road trip to Death Valley for Christmas I believe three years ago. That Christmas John thought it was my best yet.

Black Iron Prison

There’s a Black Iron Prison

Casts its shadow across the land

From the tar-sands of the North

To The Wall at the Rio Grande

So show us your papers

Your biometric ID

And remember a time

When you thought you were free.

And power corrupts

As always we have known

And absolute corruption

Is what we have sown

Just as the sun sets in the West

It rises in the East

and Total Control is the Mark of the Beast.


And you’ll show The Mark

to buy your bread

And show it when you sell

And without a trace of irony

You’ll call out for your Hell:

“Oh keep us safe from terrorists

Those oh so evil men”

And lock us up in cages

‘Til its safe to go out again.

And watch our every movement

And listen to every call

Analyze the meta-data

Until you know it all

And what Hitler wanted

But could not have

Will have finally come to pass

And we shall be a people

A people…

Made of glass.

Categories: poetry, politics, religeon

Matthew Shepard Died for My Sins

October 13, 2011 3 comments

So here we are again watching Tiger baseball still tied in extra innings. Texas has a couple on but I am still optimistic. I missed of the game being my late night to work but there was a rain delay and now for the extra innings I’ve gotten some baseball in. Being the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death makes me want to write about homophobia. I am blessed with a community that is almost exclusively open and tolerant and welcoming of diversity. Of individuals mired in that mindset that I deal with is the maliciously ignorant and Christians. Its the latter group I want to share some thoughts with as the first group tends to stay quiet about it on social networks.

Many of my friends would wonder how I can even be friends with people who are intolerant. That is a fair question and worth answering as way of introduction to the topic. I can remember my own homophobia. Being part of the privileged class whose sexual orientation is affirmed by culture and safely in the majority I blindly accepted the teaching of my church that homosexuality was sin and worthy of judgement. I wasn’t a bad person and had a lot of love in my heart. I am sure I must have said and done things to my friends who were gay but they were all mostly in the closet then and I hadn’t developed much empathy.

What changed for me was reading from the sermon on the mount and really believing what Jesus was saying and realizing its amazing and profound implications. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”, bam, hit me like a thunder clap. War was wrong and I was called to be a peace maker. My whole worldview changed rapidly and profoundly as I followed the inferences to economic justice and radical non-judgement. It was a long process of looking at myself and growing into the person that I wanted to be.

For many years I maintained an Evangelical belief in the bible as the literal word of God. Ultimately I found that belief to be incompatible with the clear message of Jesus as represented by the Gospels. Paul in particular makes several statements that are incompatible with Jesus’s message. Jesus always sided with the disenfranchised over the powerful. Children, tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans and the poor. “He who is without sin cast the first stone” “sell all you have and give to the poor”.

Jesus rejected a law and preached a salvation that was a free gift to all. He railed against the law givers who used as a weapon to beat down the powerless. He would not have rejected a law through its “fulfillment” only to establish another. Paul has his amazing wisdom but I find him to at times be in error. As he himself admitted he saw through a glass darkly. He did not claim the infallibility fundamentalists bestow upon him. So he makes some statements you can choose to interpret to denigrate women and condemn homosexuals but should you when it clearly runs counter to Jesus’s core message?

There are a lot of things that are condemned in books of the bible. I suspect there is more about sloth then homosexuality but Christians don’t have the same antipathy for the lazy. I am overweight, obese even and no Christian has felt the need to warn me that I face judgement and Hellfire for my sins. Homosexuality gets this special treatment because the religious angle is a gloss to justify hate and fear that runs counter to what Jesus was about.

I know a Christian who is proud to be homophobic and wears it as a badge. Phobia means fear and I wasn’t given a spirit of fear, but of love. I was told not to judge and to hate someone is the same as murdering them. Matthew Shepard bears this out. It was all of our fear and all of our hate that gave cover to the men who beat him and hung him on the fence to die.

Wanting to take sin as a laundry list of potential infractions that are clearly listed in a book is legalistic hogwash. Jesus clearly laid out principles. Love God. Love your neighbor. Hell they’re the same thing. But we create these institutions and books of rules when Jesus said the institutions and the rule book are not the way. Give from your heart, give it all. Its beyond a Law. Even Paul knew all a law is capable of is condemnation. “To know good and do it not that is sin”. Sin is the lack of a positive not a negative. What part of the void did you fill with love today? What part did you fill with good? What right do you have to judge and can you tell me your blamelessness? How much of Matthew Shepard’s blood is on your hands? Evil prevails when good men do nothing.

Categories: baseball, religeon

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.