Sometimes, I even scare myself…

I suppose in one way or another, everyone is paying attention to the spreading, indeterminate, ethereal ghost commonly known as the swine flu, which may or may not have anything to do with pigs, if you read enough stories.

And if you read enough stories, you’re either panicking, or not worried. The media doesn’t leave you a lot of options. But if you actually read the WHO’s presser, then you get a pretty good set of instructions and some reassurance as well as a very simple and straight-forward warning: There will be more cases, it will claim more lives-but it’s not as bad as Avian flu or other flu’s we have faced in the past.

Poor pigs. They get a bad rap, you know. I think just to support the pig farmers, I’m going to buy some baby back ribs this weekend and bbq. I haven’t done that in a while anyway and it would be a worthwhile thing to do. Yummy.

As for the flu-well, I’m a teacher and there are indeed such risks. I have kids that go to Mexico rather frequently and God only knows what they’re bringing back. But, I think I’m right when I say–I’ll trust that we can get through this, too. But really, what I’ll do is pray that we do.

When you’re a dad, it brings a whole new dimension to what you concern yourself with. When you’re the husband of an asthmatic wife, that too adds some significance.

So, yeah–a few prayers would be the right tonic now.

In Vino Veritas

I keep reading good wine blogs and secretly pining that I had the ability to be so focused. I used to run a wine blog. I called it winedude and I wrote about wine, lo and behold. But it bored me. I got rather tied down to just wine and so I let my blog wander and ended up writing about other stuff.

One day, I got a comment and the meat of it was preceded by name-calling and swearing and stuff–and then said, “why don’t you, you know, actually write about wine?”

So, my response was to close the account, get rid of the persona of winedude and start this blog which has been so personally satisfying to me. I even, on occasion, write about wine here. But here’s the confession: I get paid to write about wine and to be honest, I kind of find it hard to write about wine here because I’m not being paid. Oh yeah…I’m complex.

It’s just that I find so many other things to write about here, too. And now that I’m working as a reporter, my interests get piqued in myriad ways. So, the big thing for me is to thank those of you who actually take time to read me. I’m humbled, truly. Thank you.

Now-more fun…

I figured out today what most of my friends and family have known for sometime. I’m way too dramatic for my own good. Some would say “drama-queen” but that has erroneous sexual connotations that simply aren’t true, here and besides, when I say it, it makes my daughter giggle at me.

I think my own creative bent has allowed me to do some pretty cool things from performing music, to acting, to writing to doing radio. But it has also opened up the habit of believing that emotional truths are the only truths that matter and as I get older, I realize that this is only so on a very close and personal level. Ultimately, yes-the things that matter are friends and family and love and relationships. But to function daily in the world, those relationships have got to be subservient to some kind of logical choice, some rational purpose.

And this may well be the catalyst that causes the anxiety in me. I’m becoming aware that it’s easy to allow the personal to descend onto the professional and when it does, all manner of weirdness takes place.

We were born to be both passionate and rational creatures and the struggle for us is in the balance. When any one of these two wins out too much, it causes problems. For me, it’s always been the issue of letting my passions run away with me, rather than me running with them in tow.

My passion for wine is one thing that I have actually been able to keep in check. Make no mistake, I love wine and do so because it is infinitely fascinating to me and it tastes really yummy. But I have been able, without much difficulty, to say when–and to control my own imbibing.

Unfortunately, that has not always been true when it comes to how I deal with other things in my life. I obsess on issues, focus too dramatically on the wrong area of relationships, analyze far too much things that require little or no analysis and ignore cues that should be more revelatory for me.

Perhaps you do these things as well? I know many of you don’t–it’s the quality I admire in you whom I know so well. And in the ensuing months, I intend to emulate that more.

Go Away

img_7763I’ve been working on a piece for the agricultural magazine and it’s a lot of fun to write. Problem is, it’s too much fun and a 1,000 word piece has quickly become a 1600 word piece and I think that might be too long. I know that as a journalist, even in magazine pieces, the point is to….well….get to the point. But the thing is, I think I have gotten to the point and told what I feel is a compelling story. But then, as my wife reminds me, I’ve always had a thing for cows. She’s right, too.

I’ve always been rather enamored of cattle raising and cattle in general. Maybe it’s because my mom was raised on a farm and it’s in my genes. Maybe it’s because I was born and raised for the first 10 years of my life in the Midwest (hog-butcher to the world, city of the big shoulders…and all that). But really, it’s that I just think that cattle ranching is way cool. It’s a hard, delicate and difficult life filled with really smart people who have a true affinity for and attachment to the land they work and the cattle they raise. As one rancher told me, “we’re the real environmentalists. What you hear in the media, those guys? They’re extremists.”

He’s right too. The greening, global-warming, alarmist, weirdo’s who have truly no idea what they’re talking about, believe with firm dignity that if you change your lightbulbs, you’ll save the world. Nuts. Absolutely nuts. And it spills over everywhere. My daughter wanted us to stop using the nightlight we keep on in her bathroom because she learned about “conserving energy” at school.

“Well,” I said. “Conservation is a very good thing. We do need to be careful with our resources. But, a night light is conserving, see? It doesn’t use too much electricity and provides enough light so you don’t tripping down the stairs if you have to go potty.”

“But dad, we don’t need it…”

“Well, yeah–we do. We need it so I can sleep soundly at night knowing my little girl is safe and can see her way to the bathroom if she needs to…” And then what I didn’t say to her was, “because the nutso’s are running the asylum and telling you that you don’t deserve to have the life you want–and if the night light were off and you went tripping down the stairs, then we’d have to rush you to the hospital where it would take a good deal of electricity, plastics, medicine, car fuel–not to mention turning on the other lights in the house when it happened—to take care of you.”

I’m so disgusted with environmentalism I could just scream. You people who buy this crap–who really believe that your car is causing the planet to get warmer simply need to go and get a life. And stay out of mine. Please. There. I’m being nice like my mom taught me.

Dog Tales

Scoop is beginning to limp again. Faithful readers here will note that in December and January, a limp from the dog began an entire odyssey in which Scoop grew gravely ill. We spent a great deal of money diagnosing and treating him. The medications he was prescribed seemed to work and all was well.

I don’t sense in him any illness and he doesn’t limp all the time. In fact, we went for a walk both today and yesterday–yesterday’s being a pretty serious romp for him and today being a milder one. Still, at the end of both walks he was tired, went to lie down and limped rather significantly afterward. He is 10 years old and it is possible he’s got arthritis. The x-rays last winter were negative, but the doc said that doesn’t mean he cannot have flare ups. Whatever the case, the boy isn’t feeling his best.

Sue has suggested, and I think rightfully so, that his walks begin to mellow out a bit. I’ll still do my trudges because that’s a part of my exercise regime, but Scoop doesn’t quite seem to be able to keep up. Even on today’s milder walk, he slowed down just a bit. He’s still on it–and he wanted to go and play with the other dogs we saw in the park. There’s an affable group of labs, golden retrievers, Aussie shepherds, border collies and mutts that gathers at one of the parks the boy and I frequent. He saw Ben, Zac (yes, these are dog names–anthropomorphism is big here in Camarillo) and the others and wished to join in.

As a hound dog, though, Scoop is not very good off leash. I actually read that hound dogs, beagles, blue-tics like Scoop, and others simply cannot be trusted off leash because they will follow their nose wherever it leads. I can say anecdotal evidence with Scoop has proven this axiom. The boy cannot help himself.
Scoop (left) and Sue's sister's dog Lucy (right) enjoy a moment of relaxation.
I’ve often imagined that if I allowed by own anthropomorphic dreams to evolve, Scoop would have a Southern accent. If indeed he is a blue-tic hound, and there’s really no way of knowing that without spending a whole lot of money, then he’s probably bred out of Louisiana or Mississippi stock. When I’m home alone with him, I’ll often think of him speaking in a southern accent and colloquially….

“Son, you just go and rustle me up one uh them thaya Minty bones I lak so well, wooja?” And.. “I ben a restin the bettah part of tha day. Ain’t it time you strap on those fancy walkin’ shoes uh yorn an hitch me up to da chain?”

That’s how I think of it anyway.

He’s upstairs in his new cedar bed now. Back before he was sick, he had his own old futon to sleep on in the corner of our bedroom. Unfortunately, during his illness, he became incontinent and we rather had to move the futon out of the house. Now, he has a Costco special dog bed, covered by his very own special sheepskin blanket that he loves so well. He is not, however, above jumping up on the bed when we’re not looking. Apparently, the beds are still a bit more comfortable than his own.

Friday’s coming. Thanks be to God.

An hour of What might have been…

Just back from a city Planning Commission meeting. I’m writing about it for the paper as the city has just completed what is known as its “housing element.” That is essentially a general plan for housing growth in the city. Camarillo being a rural community, there are several advocacy groups that are seeking to make it easier to build low cost housing for farmworkers in the city limits. I’ll not comment. I’m a reporter.

Which brings me to tonight’s topic–a missed calling. It’s become apparent to me of late that as much as I do like teaching, I missed my boat. I love being a reporter, a writer. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed working on anything as much as I do writing and reporting. In that, I’m a lucky guy in that I get to do it now, albeit as a freelancer, but still-I get to do it. And newspapers aren’t exactly the place to be right now as you may have noticed.

I started in radio back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. But it wouldn’t pay the bills, not even to the point of making my rent, and I wasn’t prepared to move-though I was offered a job in the Midwest and in Alaska. If I’d taken those jobs, who knows? But I’m pretty sure Peanut wouldn’t be here-and that’s something that I can’t countenance.

So, it’s not like I’m regretting a whole lot. I’m just rather thinking of what might have been and I’ll allow that for about another hour or so. But while I’m at it, if you hear of any place that needs a reporter and is willing to pay about 90K a year plus benefits, I’d appreciate you letting me know.

This is the Life…

We got home late from Arizona after two days of working vacation. For the girls, it was relaxing for me, less so–but still I enjoyed myself. I attended the Journalism Education Association Convention and there were things I learned there that were truly enlightening. I got a lot out of it.

Meanwhile, the trip across the desert and my trip Saturday up the coast were life changing. They really were. The Arizona trip was about family and relaxation, even in the midst of the JEA convention. That was so because truth be told, I’m much more at home as a journalist than I am as a teacher. For financial reasons, I really cannot walk away from teaching now, but I love being a reporter, a writer and I don’t want to give it up.

Yesterday started in Ventura at 8:00 in the morning while I stared bleary eyed at notes I was taking on the YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day that was held both in Ventura and Camarillo. But I also had to be in Buellton by 10:30 at the Buellton Stockyard where Bill King and his family were loading cattle onto a truck to go to the Templeton Market. I’m writing a story on cattle ranchers in Santa Barbara County and so I spent the morning with Bill King of King Brothers’ Ranch and Nancy Williams and her son Jerry of Williams’ Livestock. I watched as cattle were rounded up, loaded onto trucks, some for market and some for pregnancy testing, and I met a team and family of Border collies that do the work of many men combined. I met real cowboys and cowgirls and they told me why they live the life they do (it’s not the money–because there isn’t a whole lot of that) and they taught me, in a brief time, about beef cattle, how to raise them, how to care for the land that they live on and how to provide for the future.

I stood in an open field of wild grass next to some quarter horses and the dogs. I walked with my camera, climbed to the top of the loading chute, and began triggering photos of the scene. I’ll upload them here tomorrow. The surrounding beauty, the breeze through the canyon and the sun beating down made for a scene that calmed me, elevated me.

And tomorrow is back to school. But it’s also back to writing, back to articles about people who do wonderful things and it’s about understanding, as my good friend Mike Pherson says, that this is not a dress rehearsal…

Rising from the Ashes

Phoenix, AZ-From here this evening. Sue, Peanut and I drove over yesterday for a short break cum working vacation. I have a few seminars here at the Journalism Education Association convention and I also have family here. Brother Jerry set us up at a beautiful Best Western Hotel (he works for the corporation) in North Phoenix near his home and I went down to my first seminar this morning.

I sat in on a writing seminar that was probably one of the best I’ve ever attended-and I’ve been to a few. Even hosted one or two myself. This one, however, led by Dan Austin of Sacramento, CA, taught me more in three hours than ever I learned. I didn’t stay for the after lunch session as I had other things to do, but I can honestly say that it was well worth while.

Sue got to spend the morning on her own as Peanut spent last night at grandma’s house and we picked her up together when I got back this afternoon. Sue loved the morning–nothing expected of her, nothing to do, a swimming pool below us, a movie on T.V. It was, she said, perfect.

Tomorrow, I have a seminar for a couple hours in the late morning–a luncheon I’ll attend and then I’ll mosey back here to pick up the girls and we’ll head back to the coast.

Time is slow–things are good—learning to slow down a bit, take it all in.

The Past Two Months

The first time I remember it happening, I was in my 20’s and was prone to anxiety attacks. I still am, though in recent years I’ve had an easier time warding them off and rationalizing my way out of them. Still, they can creep up-as they did in the last couple of months.

Various things including some financial issues, home repair, Scoop getting sick, a few rejections in editorial decisions–and voi la–it added up. Sometime after March 9th, I know this because we were on vacation up in the Bay Area that weekend, I began having the palpitations.

As I said, I’d had them when I was in my 20’s and the next time I remember having them again was about 4–almost 5 years ago. That time when I had them, and being close to 40, I went to the doc and he was calm and reassuring, but he figured what the heck, let’s do a cardio stress test and check things out. I did an EKG, a stress test and a stress echo (a three-d ultrasound of the ticker). All turned out well and other than a sense that I was out of shape, the heart was fine. Since that time I have been working on the in-shape part and have made good headway toward stamina, strength and such.

But, the stress and anxiety hit again as I mentioned and so did the palpitations. I talked myself out of dealing with it for a while, hoping and rather guessing that it was the same issue that plagued me 4 years ago and again in my 20’s. I think I had them in between then, too-but if so, I cannot recall it.

There was no one single event that led me to call the doctor again. I simply wanted some relief either from the symptoms themselves or from my fear of them. I would obsess on them, think about them and they feed on themselves. That is, you have an anxiety or stressful situation and then the palpitations, known as PVC’s (premature ventricular contractions) start. Then, you worry about them and the whole thing just goes in circles.

The doc sought to reassure me, he listened to my heart, checked my blood pressure–all was in pretty good shape. For added measure, he prescribed a test known as a myacardial perfusion scan. Essentially, I was given an injection of glucose which simulates exercise or heart stress and then an injection of a radioactive isotope. Then, I was put into a machine that scanned my heart and blood vessels, etc.

I had the test on Wednesday and in typical fashion, did not hear back from the doc until Monday. I have to admit, though–the fact that he didn’t call right back made me feel good. For, in our litigious age, I would expect that had he found anything worth being concerned about, the phone would have rung sooner.

Bottom line: Heart’s fine. All is well. I still get the occasional palpitation, but I assume that is normal and the doc says it is. Some people get them. The key is not to dwell on them–and with the recent news, I should be better equipped to avoid that.

It is rather annoying, I have to admit. But as I am coming up on 44, I think it’s time I mastered the anxiety attacks and that, of course, will be the next step.

This post was merely for posterity. I’ll allow comments, but to be honest–it is time to move on. Thanks for reading.


I had no plans to post, but I have to. I’m moved by events of this day, Easter Sunday, a day in which we Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It seems odd to celebrate another event today in which decisive action was made and men were killed–but, I maintain their deaths were necessary and, will cause a giant ripple effect that will make the US stronger.

I have been very critical, while, I think, being fair to President Obama here. I’ve stated I did not vote for him nor do I think his economic policies wise in any way. But I have resolved not to be like so many people I know who became rabid “Bush-haters” and are completely unbalanced in their view of President Bush the President and George Bush the man. I decided that since I cannot fix that, I will try not to duplicate it by not becoming a conspiracy theorist in their vein with president Obama.

And so, it is with great pride that I point to a true success, perhaps in my view, the only real foreign policy success that President Obama has made so far. In the CNN story is this graff which is key to it all:

Obama had given standing orders for the military to take “decisive action” if Phillips was in “imminent danger,” Gortney said.

I was afraid after all the political correctness, the changing of “The War on Terror” to “Overseas contingency operations” and the attempts to close Gitmo, etc., that the President was giving in to his baser leftist instincts which I maintain will never guide him well.

But I see that with today’s rescue of Captain Phillips–and the decisive quickness with which the rescue occurred, that President Obama has simply shown us that he has the stones. I will join my conservative ranks with the discussion of economic policy when the dust clears, but right now–I am proud that the President had the standing order and that he allowed the military to exercise its right–and its might. The shockwave will be immense, rest assured.

For today-the myriad pirates and terrorists all over the Somali coast saw that the US will not sit still while such things are happening around us. They saw that our military is highly trained, highly effective and can act independently because their Commander in Chief still trusts them. Go ahead, mock me if you’d like–but you know as well as I do that if President Bush had made this call, the Dems would be circling and calling him a cowboy, saying he was reckless and calling for his impeachment. Now–my leftist friends, what will you say?

What will you say that your man–not mine–“not my President” as you said about Bush, though I demur from you there, too–though I did not vote for the man, he is the US President–had a standing order to kill the bastards who dared attack our ships? For my part, I’m proud to be an American right now. I’m proud to know that in a dangerous time when we have enemies that want to kill us, President Obama will not hesitate to do the right thing. I still think FBI negotiations were idiocy. That said, he can now, Henry V like, claim he did everything possible. He can say what he likes for all I care. The message isn’t in what he says. The message to terrorists throughout the Middle East is–three dead pirates. All shot through the head, quickly, cleanly. And it’s what is in store for the next group that dare to attack innocent lives or hold our shipping for ransom.

So-there will be more tests, yes. There is no question about this. But the fact is that President Obama did the absolute right thing today. If you disagree, I’ll gladly post your comment. But I will forever disagree with you. President Obama made the right call and now Captain Phillips and his crew are all free–and three pirates, ugly, stupid terrorists whose aggression sought to bring the United States to its knees, have bullets in their head and they didn’t even see them coming.

Bravo, Mr. President. Bravo.