A shot of Independence

My thanks to those of you who have sent well-wishes about the fall. I am absolutely aware how lucky I am, knowing several people who have taken similar spills and wound up in hospital with pretty serious injuries. I was fortunate enough that my fall took the shape of a kind of prat fall, allowing me to choose fairly quickly where I would hit, what I would hit and how far I would go. Would that all falls ended that way. Still, my rib cage on the left side feels like someone is trying to yank it out.

Tomorrow is a different day. I get to truly combine my passions and spend the day at the Ventura County Star, the newspaper for whom I write most often, along with a few of my fellow journalism advisers from our school district. We are taking a sort of crash course in high school journalism by working a day with the good folks of our great paper to refine our craft and get the local paper more involved in the local schools. It’s a great idea, I think and I’m really looking forward to it.

Finished a deadline tonight and have one tomorrow and Thursday as well. We’re in process of planning our big summer trip for next year. Looks like a doozy, too–to Washington D.C., Baltimore and Hershey, PA, where I used to live. My Aunt lives in Baltimore and we’ll stay with her and use her home as our base while we venture out. I have long dreamed about taking Sue, and now Shannon and Laurie, to see at least one of my old homes east of the Mississippi. It will be the first time I’ve been to the east coast since 1993 and I believe the first time I’ve been back to Hershey since around 1978 or ’79. We came to CA in 1974, but we went back and visited once that I remember. Now, I get to show Peanut where I lived when I was younger than she is now.

It is flu shot time and I’m going to sneak Peanut and Sue off to our local Target to get the stick. Peanut has never taken to needles well. What kid does? But, she has been known to go occasionally bonkers and start screaming, particularly in Doc’s offices. So, last year-we went to Target to get our flu shots and the surroundings changed her. The tech. who gave us our shots was very nice, very gentle and, of course, there were so many people around that she dare not cry out. So, we’re going to do that again.

She said to me earlier, “you know, I’m good with it if I get the flu. I don’t think I want a shot.” I replied with my acerbic wit–“Well, it’s not you I worry about. I can’t get the flu. If I do, then I don’t work. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. If I don’t get paid, you don’t get to ride horses. Capisce?”

“Oh,” she said.

“Yes, Oh. Now quit yer bellyachin’. We’re going to Target on Thursday and we’re getting our shots.”

“OK.” The pause. “Dad, would you really let me be OK getting the flu?”

“I thought you wanted independence…”

“Well, yeah, but…”

And on it goes. Smart kid, that one. Getting smarter every day.


The Ladder and Me

I think it’s great the Herman Cain won Florida. I think it is wonderful that I’m liberated and happy with my choice of Mr. Cain or Mr. Gingrich for President. I’ve decided not to buy the media meme that it’s a two-man race between Romney and Perry. Sorry-don’t buy it. And Florida helped. We’ll see.

Busy weekend that included my falling off a ladder. Went down five feet. Landed swimmingly. Left side, mostly torso related with a lot of pain and ache. But I don’t think I broke anything. I’m just sore. Peanut and I took Simon down to the big athletic field, ducked into the back 40, as it were, and released the dog from the earthly bonds of his leash. Rocket ship like, he ran and ran-freed from the constraints of bi-pedal locomotion. Speed, people. This German Shorthaired pointer, his mahogany blotches set against white fur, is about speed and control. Lightning McQueen has nothing on Simon. Scoop, in his early and best days was nowhere near this. The dog simply has gears that mere mortals cannot begin to comprehend. He is the neutrino to other dogs’ light-speed.

So, the ladder and I used to be friends. I’ve never fallen off a ladder before. I was blissfully engaged in the otherworldly notion that high places and I got along just fine. We were sympatico, adjoined as it were by the happy knowledge that I wasn’t clumsy, at least not for the most part. But my long-lived comfort in the upper regions of my home, were false security. All that time I spent in the attic of our first home in this town, laying new insulation and adding in a whole-house fan as well as new ducts (I hired someone to do that-but I was there with them) for the air conditioning, all of the large light bulbs in the motion sensor lights above the garage, the thrice-yearly climb into the rafters to grab Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decor–all came down to this moment.

We were killing carpenter bees. Well, my wife was. She was killing carpenter bees and then determined to get on the roof and caulk up the holes they made. But the grade on the roof of the house is demanding, steep–probably in excess of 9 percent or so–maybe 8 percent–and there was no way to be safe up there. So I stood on the ladder after convincing Sue not to and aimed the spray at the bees. One of them, a male by my Internet research, came straight at me.

The research, by the way, was after I fell and it was only then I learned that the humble carpenter bee will destroy your home, but it can’t do much to you. No stinger, no biting. It just sort of flies at intruders and that’s it. “Stop, or I’ll say stop again” and that kind of thing.

So, my ego was bruised and so are my ribs apparently, but I’m otherwise fine. It could have been worse, I know. I’m grateful. I’m also sore.

I did a bit of radio yesterday morning on a local show here in Ventura. Tom and Sandy interviewed me about wine and we had a great 5 minutes or so. Then off to story coverage after a healthy breakfast at Allison’s in Ventura–a favorite haunt of ours when we lived in that city.

Miles to go before I sleep, gentles. Goodnight.


Political Englightenment-Political Naivete

I have several very good friends who are truly left leaning and the ones at school, because of our daily interaction with one another, are always up for a good debate. Both are respectful and kind, both can be cuttingly funny and we have a good time. But in today’s discussion with my friend, Kevin, a discussion which was about big ideas, rather than minutiae, I saw the light…

No, there were no conversions, sorry gentles. I remain a committed conservative and an evolving Libertarian. No, Kevin, who I should point out is one of the very best teachers I know and a guy with a big intellect, a lot of heart and an authentically good soul, simply pointed out that at bottom, the purpose of government is to help people. And it blew me away. I want to pat him on the back, Roger Rees like, when he played John Marbury, the British Ambassador, in West Wing.

I don’t think I need to link to stories about the damage done by govt., but suffice to say that since govt. is coercive and doesn’t produce anything, it lives merely to take from those that do produce and redistribute it. At some point, this system of coercive payment becomes an entitlement and then, no one wants to work-so the govt. has to raise taxes. Unemployment goes up, so money gets printed, debt is accrued….I could go on, but you get the idea.

It’s a fundamental difference of opinion I’m looking at. Kevin is a smart dude, but he believes govt. is there to help people. I don’t see that at all-though I know that’s what it is supposed to do. As PJ O’Rourke said, “giving money and power to Congress is like giving whiskey and car keys to 16-year olds.”

“What could go wrong?” in the words of my pal, Shawn.

I start with the assumption Thoreau made–I say this because Kevin is a Thoreau fiend–he’s a bit of a Transcendentalist himself and reads Thoreau and Emerson voraciously–but Thoreau said, “that govt. governs best which governs least” and he extrapolated that out further, “that govt. governs best which governs not at all. And when men are ready for it, that will be the kind of govt. they will have.” Now, that’s a big caveat, but it is, I think, essentially true.

We are watching Keynesian economics at work. Or rather, we are watching it not work. You cannot compel people by “stimulus.” You have to provide a basis for their self-interest to fire up and Keynesian thinking doesn’t do it. Freedom, liberty, capitalism do. That’s my manifesto, anyway.

We’re headed down a strange path. We have to figure out what’s next and it would be nice if we all got on the same boat. But as it is, our political leadership is driven by idealogues on the left. I’m not sure idealogues on the right would be a whole lot better, but at this point-I’m willing to give it a try.




Holding Place

A late night post after I crashed for 15 minutes on the couch. That happened about 8 this evening while Peanut and I were watching shows together. That’s the first time this school year. I imagine it will happen more. At night, I have been taking the occasional melatonin supplement and I don’t think it helps me sleep, but it does cause me to be really tired–which is like sleep, without the….well, the sleep.

Did an interesting story today on a Master Falconer who uses his birds of prey both in show-business, television, film and such and does pest abatement, particularly seagull abatement. The story will come out in the local paper here, but Joe Suffredini is an interesting dude with a cool job. The State Farm commercial with the guys all buying cool gifts? That’s his falcon Zoe in there. Zoe is a Lanner Falcon and she’s beautiful. He doesn’t send them out to hunt the seagulls–rather, it just scares the snot out of them and they fly away. It’s actually really fascinating.

I had a lighter assignment week this week, but it’s picking up again and so I’ll be at it all weekend and into next week. This combined with the classroom workload is keeping me busy these days. Simon and I still find time for a walk and Peanut and I still find time to hang out together for a bit, but the “free-time” quotient has dwindled.

I’ll have some more to say later this week–right now, it’s just tired that’s on me. I bid you good night.


Food for the Soul

I officially announce (though I tweeted when it first showed up last week) that winefox.ca has published my piece on the Willammette Valley.  They even fixed my byline so it shows up.

Winefox is a branch of the Toronto Star and is my second official International publication, alongside Decanter Wine Magazine, a UK publication. I have to admit, I rather like the notion, though no-it has not made me wealthy. That’s OK, though. It has broadened my horizons and I feel pretty good about the things I’ve learned and the fact that there are people out there I’ll never know who are reading something I’ve written. That, in fact, is a great feeling.

I spent the weekend pursuing rest and it felt good to me. It gave me perspective I didn’t expect to get and it also gave the chance to really reconnoiter and spend some time thinking about the blessings I really do have. First and foremost, of course, is my family and I got to spend a lot of quality time with my girls this weekend.

Now, without soliciting pity, I’ll also merely point out that I was in a lot of pain this weekend. From plantar fascitis in my foot-particularly my left foot-to a tightened back from a healthy five mile hike on Saturday with the thunder and the rain gently drifting around Simon and me, like soft pools of chaos in an otherwise tame sky, I was tired and sore and in much need of peace and relaxation. I got both. The Saturday night air cooled as our friends Tom and MB and our God-son, Evan joined us for dinner and we sat out on the patio drinking good wine by the firepit and talking the night away. What a great weekend.

Monday came as a harbinger and I got back to the classroom and to work, particularly with the juniors as I put forth the effort into our Colonial diary projects and gave the kids a chance to see how to make that work. Today was blessedly a good day with room to spare while I got things done.

I felt so good on today, that I put dinner up though, in the end, needed Sue’s help and she pitched in willingly. Rice pasta (on account of Sue’s avoiding gluten) with fresh grape tomatoes, green and yellow zucchini squash, onions, garlic, chicken and a touch of vodka sauce. Man, was that good. Sue is such a fine cook and I’m really not, but I do dream big. All that, plus a Bucklin 06 Bald Mountain Syrah. Man, what a feast…not to mention a slab of MB’s chocolate bundt cake…I should write more about food.

For now, gentles, a fond au revoir. Good night.





I do not recall the last time I took a weekend off from writing. Even on vacation, I was working in Sonoma, then in Oregon, while by day we tooled about and had fun together. No stress at that time, that’s true–still, I was writing.

So this weekend, I had no assignments and I sought none. I was content to rest and relax, which is mostly what I did. Today, for example, I didn’t even walk Simon. I’ve got plantar fascitis in my feet and my left foot in particular has been giving me grief. So,  I took a day off. Peanut and I took Simon up to a big grassy park where no people lurked about and took him off his leash. He bolted in search of birds, got himself scraped up in the bushes and generally had a good time.

10 years ago today, I was on my way to work when I first heard what had happened. I knew driving over the bridge that led to the short freeway drive I used to make to get to school, that the world had changed. Peanut was not yet 6 months old. I remember thinking, “one day, you’ll learn about what happened today and in the subsequent years…”

The past year has seen her develop more interest in 9/11. But today, at 10 years old and this marking the 10th anniversary, she wanted to know more. She spent the afternoon with me watching the 9/11 tributes and the Fox News reports that have been dealing with everything from the event to the war to the rebuilding. It’s been extraordinary.

It’s been leaps and bounds this weekend, too. She has use of an ipod touch that my brother bequeathed to me when he moved up to the iphone (which I don’t want to do). When I got my ipad, I found the itouch redundant, so I let her use the itouch. Well, it has a feature that allows her to text for free and she’s started doing that this weekend. She has a couple of friends with texting ability, so she had a chance to enter into the world wide nuttiness.

She’s also pushing a few buttons. Tired, combined with the brain leaping and bounding and she’s looking for boundaries. She found a few, too. But that’s the nature of it and, I rather suppose, the very reason why at some point in her head, she’s developing this idea that while she loves her parents, they don’t always let her do what she wants.

It’s an interesting set of juxtapositions when I think about it. At the time when Peanut is learning about the seminal event of her young life, and really all of our lives, the attacks on WTC, the Pentagon and Flight 93, she is also asserting her own independence. She’s unaware of it, of course. More’s the connection.

Monday tomorrow, gentles. Papers, writing, working–all the fun stuff. Glad tidings to you all.


Bed Rest

Bone tired. Dog tired. Mega-tired. I could go on. But the blog page mocks me with its stale September 4 date and I had to respond.

Jarvis, from the post below, is recuperating nicely at USC Medical center. It’s a heck of a thing he’s been through…

The week for me has been one filled with emotions for my friend. I’ve thought about Jarvis non-stop. He went in for a bleeding ulcer, so it seemed. Serious or problematic enough. By the time they were done with him, he’s having a six hour surgery to remove a malignant tumor on his pancreas that docs never would have found if it weren’t for the ulcer. Providence? We could speculate all day.

Meanwhile-no sleep, or very little. Long days that start with the wake up call around 6 and end around 11:30 at night. I’m feeling it, too. Came home today early because school let out early for back to school night. Had a 1 PM appointment and Peanut was at school and Sue was having lunch with friends, so I sat down, grabbed a bite to eat and watched the news. When I finished eating, I sat back in the couch and the next thing I knew, it was 20 minutes later. Power nap they call it. It didn’t work well for me. Groggy afterward.

Friday will bring a more info laden and, perhaps, rambling post. For now, gentles-Simon and I are off to bed.

Hope is the thing with Feathers

Dr. Jarvis Streeter is a dear and close personal friend of mine. A Lutheran pastor and professor of religion at my alma mater, California Lutheran University, Jarvis and I have known each other since 1988. He married my wife and me and he has been around at all of the big milestones of my adult life.

We have a few things in common, though we differ on a lot and have had magnificent clashes on the subject of politics, Jarvis leaning left–sometimes far left–where I lean far right. But that has not spoiled our friendship nor our love for one another, as it doesn’t with many of my friends including Marc Janssen, whose comments can sometimes be seen lurking about here on the blog.

Jarvis and I and our good friend Edd, along with several drummers (we went through them like Spinal Tap in the later years) played in a band for a number of years. Never anything serious, mostly drop-in gigs. When Edd became sick and needed a transplant, we thought, of his liver, we played a couple of fundraising concerts in his name. This picture below is one of those in July, 2006–which was the last time I picked up a bass guitar in any way. That’s Edd in the middle, me on your right, and Jarvis on your left (as it should be, I suppose 🙂

Jarvis went in for a check up, apparently not feeling well, and the long story-short version is that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It appears they caught it early, but it is an aggressive cancer and there’s no game playing. Two days ago, Jarvis had a whipple procedure in which the affected portion of the pancreas, the duodenum, a portion of the stomach and the gall bladder were removed. He is at USC hospital, his undergraduate alma mater, and is recuperating. He is in his early 60’s.

It struck me hard that it happened, for Jarvis often pontificates on the capricious nature of life and this certainly is that. But, he and his wife Susan are strong and getting through as best they can. Jarvis is healing and is expected to recover. He’ll undergo a chemo-series just to add to the guarded measures to make sure the cells aren’t somewhere else in his body. In other words, there is hope.

Jarvis is eternally rational, but he’s also a man of faith. Being a lefty, he doesn’t wear his faith on his sleeve–but he’s not embarrassed by it, either. That shirt he’s wearing in the picture above says, “Jesus is my Homie…” I am certain he has said many prayers in the last few days.

I needed to put this post up because I am worried about my friend. I have a chance to go see him, but I don’t do well with tubes, blood, scars, etc. and I’m not sure that going to visit him right now would do anything other than allow me to pass out-I’ve done that before. Just thinking about it makes me woozy. “Man-up.” Indeed. I shall try.

Your good thoughts and prayers for my friend are more than welcome.