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Nov. 9th, 2016

Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell.

I'm drinking Spanish wine tonight, honoring those leftists who fought so well and still lost to a vast right-wing crusade that lasted more than three decades. Their undoing was their own, brought about by mismanagement, internal squabbling, inefficiency and ineptitude. But never by purity of heart nor commitment. I agree the comparison to the Spanish Civil War might sound a bit hyperbolic, but I don't know anymore.

My longest-time friend Carolyn (we were born a day apart and literally put into the same crib within days) expressed today her frustration with yesterday's election results and her mind is in the same place as my own. It's not that our candidate lost the election. I was on the losing side in 1976, 1984, 2000 and 2004. Political philosophy ebbs and flows and we're a republic so it happens. Note the years I was with the winner: 1972 (Nixon's the one!), 1980 (Saint Ronnie!), 1988 (Bush/Dole!) and the Clinton years. I also proudly voted twice for Barack Obama, Given that my mother was a Goldwater Girl in 1964, I can tell you all about both sides of the two-party system. I was also a reporter for 32 years, covering legislatures and politics in three states (AL, SC and FL).

I don't blame third-party voters for Hillary Clinton's loss yesterday. She came into the race with far too much baggage and was a poor political choice to potentially succeed Obama. But the DNC insisted it was her "time" and she was certainly the most qualified of any candidate of either party as the race opened a year ago. I'm not going to get involved in the, "Well, Bernie woulda won" argument because things simply never materialized that way. I also understand the deep distrust many voters have of her, given the (lemme roll my eyes here) email issues and other long-standing, shoulda-been-settled items over the past 30 years or so. Some folks just couldn't pull the Hillary lever and they just don't like Hill or Bill. Okay.

(A pause here. This "Crooked Hillary" and "lock her up" crap is bullshit. Plenty of very smart and experienced lawyer/lawmakers have spent years and millions of dollars trying to bring charges against her and nothing has worked. No charges, no indictment, no trial, no conviction. Some conspiracy nuts even try to say the Clintons have had witnesses killed. Seriously? The FBI has faced and beaten real gangsters with actual, real-live hitmen over and over. Guys like Capone and Moran and Gotti. They're not afraid of some pantsuited politician. Get over it. Jesus).

This nation has elected (through a sadly and tragically gerrymandered Electoral College) the single most undignified, unqualified, uncouth, unregulated, uncommitted, insensitive troglodyte ever possibly imagined for the role. Even apologists such as Newt Gingrich, Bobby Jindal and Rudy Goddamned Giuliani are comparative political gold compared to our new Orange Julius Caesar.

Note that I have not said anything about any of these men being dumb. They certainly are not. And neither is the electorate that decided Donald Trump should be the president-elect. The economic and political landscape that brought us to where we are (our economy is strong, job growth is good, the stock market is kicking ass, housing has made a comeback) is for better analysts than this one. But here's the deal....

I understand why folks couldn't vote Hillary. I know why they felt they had to go Stein or Johnson. But for the life of us (and we won the popular vote), more than half the electorate cannot understand why anyone could vote FOR Donald Trump.

The man can't tell a consistent truth. He doesn't pay his bills. He's a serial bankruptcy filer (disclosure: I've filed twice --once to save my house after Hurricane Katrina and then after Kim's medical bills became An Issue -- but I don't try to pass myself off as a successful businessman). He's on record multiple times spreading unfounded falsehoods about any minority you can name. He wants to boot Mexicans and Muslims without regard to circumstances. He encourages violence, admits sexual assaults and is, this day after the election, facing more than 70 court cases naming his companies and/or himself personally. He has been endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and the list goes on. In short, he's a Major League, solid-gold, professional-grade dick.

My question, Carolyn's question and the question so many others of us have is just this: how can we in good conscience and in good faith continue to remain in contact with friends and family who have actively supported this kind of charlatan with an actual vote? I have a daughter and a granddaughter. We have friends and family members in who are LGBTQ. We are committed to, believe in and fully support inclusion. We cannot, do not and will not sanction, ignore or otherwise minimize a candidate or a voter who somehow thinks complete and open inclusion is not okay. In our world. we cannot and do not support any candidate who is also supported by the Klan. This is a deal-breaker. We were not raised this way. It is, in a word, UnAmerican.

This is why we're sad today. The fact our candidate lost isn't the issue. We get past that in a day or so. Even the 2000 election was a short sting. The fact the House and Senate are now Republican will change before long, given simply demographics. It's politics.

We are sad that too many of our friends and family members demonstrated they can actually cast a vote against equality and fair treatment and in support of racism, sexual assault, misogyny and xenophobia. We are shocked, disappointed, a bit befuddled, somewhat speechless and a little scared about what happens next.

But we're also very, very angry. If there's a silver lining in the Trump campaign, it's that it's apparently now okay to loudly and bluntly speak your mind without regard to consequences.

It goes both ways. We have the numbers, so buckle up.

Sep. 25th, 2016

"...you've got to have an ace in the hole...." -- George Strait

Life continues to roll along up here in the PNW. I gripe from time to time, but it's mostly for effect and not because there's a lot to gripe about. Sure, things could always be better -- we could find our own place again, Kim could find employment, the car wouldn't need some repair, etc. But we have a roof, food, wheels and I have a steady job and income. That's more than so many these days.

Some dickhead shot up one of our local malls Friday night, killing five. The motive remains hazy, but it wasn't some international terrorist. Just apparently some crackpot with a rifle who went around the bend at the Macy's makeup counter. We went by the mall today and it remained closed. Welcome to the US in 2016.

On the other end of the spectrum, we cruised up the highway about 20 miles and saw Canada yesterday. It's a simple border crossing we hope to take advantage of in the coming months, since Vancouver is less than 50 miles away. We are actually closer to Vancouver than downtown Seattle, which is an hour.if traffic is right. My sincere hope is we don't have to see this same border crossing as a bridge to political sanity next year. I hope I'm right in my feeling the Trumpsters aren't really as close as some polls make it seem. I'm hoping most voters silently see what a serious nutjob he is and will vote accordingly. It appears our Founding Fathers made the right choice with this Electoral College thing. I certainly have no great trust in nor admiration for Hillary Clinton -- but she's the only candidate with a resume appropriate for the job. . She is certainly the nation's most investigated political figure of the past 30 years and she has remained clean despite the nearly constant clamor. I'm hoping it's enough.

Speaking of resumes, I've got an interview Tuesday with the Haggen grocery folks. It's an upscale regional grocery outfit with a lot in common with my former employment at Rouse's. Kim and I have enjoyed working together at Columbia Place, but some recent changes have taken the shine away. I've been enjoying the three-day work week and we've had plenty of creative freedom while working within the budget. But the hiring of a second cook to handle the other four days has brought with it a huge increase in spending that threw the budget out of whack. In turn, this has us under pressure to produce a lower quality product AND could change my schedule to a four-day week with two of them being half-days. This is going to increase our gasoline costs without raising income, as well as meaning I no longer get four days in a row away from work every week. It's the kind of thing I hate to gripe about, since I'm employed and I'm fortunate to be in such a part-time position with other income. But it also isn't the deal I signed on for, and it's due mainly to the fact the other cook is unable to handle any kind of pressure. She's "exhausted" after three days, yadda yadda. Know what? Sounds to me like she doesn't need to be in a commercial kitchen anymore. What we do isn't exactly St. Charles Avenue on Mardi Gras Day (BTDT) or The French Quarter during JazzFest (that too) or running your own restaurant on Magazine St. (yep).

Housing remains something of an issue. We're still in Stu and Lily's basement and chances are shrinking we'll be out in early October. It's not that we can't afford rent. Matter of fact, rent is more affordable now than at any point since we left New Orleans -- and that's just with my income. The main issue is tight supply -- there are like ten applicants for every reasonably priced apartment. We're still in Chapter 7 bankruptcy for a few more weeks, and most property managers won't even talk to us until that's discharged. We can front a deposit and a month's rent, but deposit plus first AND last is An Issue. Oddly, I am also making just slightly too much money for some of the new 55+ places, which don't allow incomes above like $32K. We'll find a place, but I get impatient. At least we're lucky enough to be able to afford someplace decent. It's just a question of timing.

Kim hasn't even gotten a callback on any of her job applications. I have no idea why, since the resume looks good to me and any gaps are explained. I don't get it. It's one thing to get an interview and not the job. It's quite another when no one calls back at all. Weird.

The main issues I'm dealing with these days are internal, and have mainly to do with my own impatience to get settled in our own place again. I can't cook, read, meditate or rediberate properly if I feel like I'm horning in on someone else's space. On the one hand, life has been pretty sublime in a lot of ways since we got up here. I don't think I've ever had an easier time finding a paycheck, and that's pretty cool for a 62-year-old longhaired reprobate like me. Basically, sometimes I need to just get over myself.

For the first time in too long awhile, we can go to the store and buy pretty much what we want (within reason) and still be able to afford some unexpected things like car repair if need be. For now, at least, we've got back that ace in the hole we used to have.

It'll all work out. It always does.

Sep. 5th, 2016

"...put the cowhorns back on the Cadillac..." John Hiatt

Things are finally beginning to plane out up here in the PNW. It appears we'll be back in a place of our own around October 1st, We've been working for a little over a month and we're a lot more confident about where we're going when we get out on the road. The usual first-month settling in, no matter where you move.

I gotta say this part of the world is absolutely gorgeous. It is so incredibly blessed with and by nature as to be almost unreal -- and I'm not a mountain and heavy tree-cover kinda guy. There's enough wide-open space, education and urbanity to make me comfortable, but I can still go hang with the log-rollers and backwoods types if I wanna touch the Craig Bob part of me. We're nearing the end of what passes for summer here, and today's Labor Day (when I'm used to sunshine, grilling and hot weather) didn't get above 60 degrees.

It has been glorious to spend the last couple of days doing stuff with Stu. He had some work to do on the well and water supply and I can honestly say I helped more than hindered. Just like at the farm when I was growing up, it helps to have a second person doing some pushing, pulling, adjusting or at least throwing out an opinion. I did the electrical work while Stu did the plumbing and overall it shortened the work by about an hour or so. This allowed Lily to focus on shoveling mulch and doing other stuff in a glorious side space.

Kim is "volunteering" at the shop while I actually get paid, and it's great to be working in a kitchen together again. She's still looking for actual paid work and it'll happen, though the wait for callbacks is frustrating. The kitchen, when we're in there, is one of the few islands of stability in the whole operation and our residents are happy with what we're doing. Management is beyond thrilled, and things will improve even more with this week's arrival of a full-time (and apparently sane and sober) cook with Real Experience.

What has been kinda out-of-body is this part-time work but full-time income thing. The first Social Security injection was kinda eaten up by paying back the money we had to borrow to simply survive after we got here. The next one will be absorbed by deposits for a new living space. But there's income on top of it and I'm only working three days a week. In other words, I get a four-day weekend every damn week. Being out here in the country means we have to spend money to get anywhere, and that's pricey. But it'll all settle out between now and the end of the year (particularly when Kim gets work). The Expedition isn't running well (I assume it's a bad computer module or something), but at least it's running.

We're still learning the personality of the terroir, to borrow a winemaking term. My kids who have lived here have commented about the tentative nature of the natives -- not expressing an opinion or being hesitant to commit to much of anything -- and I've found that true in Bellingham. But there's certainly no such mendacity out here in the more rural areas, since we've got some pretty loud Trumpsters and some BernieBros. The Hillary supporters are in town. Like California, the state government up here is solid blue. But this has the red minorty pretty militant. Like most of us, I'm wondering how all of this will play out once the election is over. These folks aren't just going away.

I am a native Texan -- raised with open spaces and literally seeing all the way to the horizon. As such, I'm also a natural, unapologetic though sometimes disappointed optimist. What pragmatism I have feels dirty but it is, well, pragmatic. It is simply part of my makeup. My own personal terroir. What is delightful up here is most folks have that same optimism. I don't know if it's that bigass damn mountain up there or what. We can't see it every day, but we know it's there. And on a clear day, it's absolutely gorgeous.

I can't say this part of the world is my last part of the world. But it's damn sure where I'm very comfortable right now. 

Aug. 2nd, 2016

"...He's dead, I'm crippled, you're lost..." --Richard Burton in "The Longest Day."

The scariest thing happened to me yesterday.

I got lost. I don’t mean allegorically or professionally or something abstract. I mean lost in the realest sense – I didn’t physically know where I was.

Well, sure I knew I was in Bellingham WA and TBK was in the passenger seat and we had cell phones with GPS and it’s not like we’d be found dead in a desert or lost in some stereotypical bad neighborhood like the Griswolds in National Lampoon’s Vacation.  But hear me out.

I have a very, very good sense of direction. I always know which way is (generally) north.  Let me drive around a town for an hour or so or show me a general map and I can find shit. I know X road is which side of the interstate, which goes in a general direction and I’m good. Besides -- we’ve driven all over this damn town for three weeks.

But it didn’t work yesterday -- and maybe for the first time in my life. That’s what scared me. I knew where we were and then we took a different turn and went through a neighborhood and up and down a few streets and some steep hills and goddamned if I had no clue how to get to anywhere.  Kim was working the phone and we got back to I-5 and things were fine but we got to the highway and I’da swore we were headed south when we were actually headed north. Most discombobulating experience of my life and, even though we were back to normal in a few minutes, the impression of all this was deep and definite. It made me question my self-confidence – and that’s something no one wants. I don’t mind being wrong (I’m good at that), but I DO mind simply not knowing.

We’ve spent the past week on a fast jaunt back to San Diego to make a bankruptcy court appearance and then returning as quickly (and cheaply) as possible. We had hoped to put this off until late August or maybe Labor Day, when we could handle it all on our own. But our attorney advised otherwise and we had to crowdfund the trip. Thanks to friends and family, we raised the money and now we’re clear of travel obligations for awhile.  I cannot possibly express adequate thanks to those who helped us.

This trip, along with yesterday’s experience and observation of some of our neighbors, has given me tremendous insight into the Trump situation and why the orange sumbitch has appeal.

The 1970s comedy group The Firesign Theater had a political routine in which the slogan was, “give them a light, and they’ll  follow it anywhere.” Ronald Reagan (thanks to the late Lee Atwater and others) certainly knew that and it has been tragically yet effectively imposed again these days by the Trumpster. Folks who feel they’ve been too long in the wilderness will follow pretty much anyone who promises a way out, especially if they can blame someone else for putting them there.
Our temporary move to a more rural area has been beneficial in a variety of ways. We’ve both had our younger-day experiences of going back to Mother Earth and it’s fun to do it again for a minute or two. But we know it’s only temporary.
It’s not temporary for those out here who honestly and, sometimes with reason, feel they’ve been left behind and screwed by an urban elite, immigrants and a gubmint out of goddamned control.  Their day-to-day rules have changed significantly (often with reason) over the past decade and, godddammit, they went their fucking lives back. Trump promises a quick and permanent solution and you can bet this is why they’re lining up.

These folks aren’t dumb. But the past decade or so has seen a demographic and economic shitstorm in this country they cannot control nor really even influence In any meaningful way. Back in 2010, they voted the GOP back into control in Congress and in state legislatures and in governors mansions but things  haven’t really improved much.  Matter of fact, they’ve gotten even worse because there is no longer even a pretense of civility. Hate speech is now seen as protected speech and too few are willing to call it out for what it is. We just accept it as part of a New Normal, along with periodic terror attacks and mass shootings. Meh.

I’ve lived most of my adult life in an urban or suburban setting and the past 15 years or so in areas where my lily-white ass was definitely in the minority. This has been by design and it’s where I’m most comfortable – a place where languages, colors and experiences are highly diverse. But I have to remind myself that is certainly not how I was raised. It has taken decades of living in various places with different populations and attitudes to bring me to where I am.

That’s not the Trump crowd, which longs for a national greatness that never really was . Or what greatness we had was silently offset by darknesses such as Jim Crow or an Asian war or our Harvest of Shame, overt sexism in the workplace and it was okay to beat up on gays. When our modern day “Make America Great Again” folks start talking, it’s pretty clear they want to bring ALL that shit back again.

But our demographics and economics have changed and we can’t go back and that’s why they’re mad and scared and lining up behind a guy who really can’t build the wall, restore manufacturing and coal mining jobs or really do any of the shit he says he’ll do. He’s their Custer, and they’d rather go down in their own personal Little Big Horn.

It’s a shame, really. But it’s damn sure interesting to watch.

Jul. 14th, 2016

"...for the purposes of commerce...." --Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis

We arrived  here in the PNW six days ago and it has been mostly glorious. We've taken the time to cruise around a bit and get to know both the more urban areas nearby (Bellingham and Sedro-Woolley/Burlington) and there's plenty of reason for optimism.

It appears I'll be finding work quickly. Had the executive director been at the place I interviewed yesterday, I am sure an offer would have been extended. I have an interview tomorrow at another senior living facility and have also gotten very positive feedback from a couple of other places. There are also some things TBK can do and she's applied a series of spots. We're out of money, but we've been able to contribute some food and some income won't be long. I've made some bread and some butter to help things along.

For the time being, we're on a blow-up queen mattress in Stu and Lily's basement. With its cinderblock walls and concrete floor, it's akin to living inside the Maginot Line. All we need is a cannon poking out at the nasty Boche nearby. But, that said, Kim has made it delightfully homey and we're very comfortable. Stu and Lily have done a great job making the space as useful as possible, with a chest of drawers, adequate lighting and (thankfully) a working toilet. There's a comfy couch and we've added our own furniture to make a great temporary space.

"Temporary" is the operative word. We've determined we'll be much more comfortable in an environment that's a little more urban. While it is indeed lovely out here, getting to anyplace requires driving -- meaning the cost of gasoline. While much cheaper than Southern California, driving 50 miles or so to and from work every day is gonna run up expenses pretty fast. The idea of moving here, aside from family reasons, was to lower our cost of living. Additionally, I'm not getting any younger. As much as I enjoy helping Stu cut wood and whatnot, I am more comfortable closer to help if something goes wrong.

If we had the money, we'd be moving tomorrow. There seems to have been a sense we might move into the basement and never leave -- an idea we certainly did not foster. As sweet and welcoming as Stu and Lily have been, it is abundantly clear Lily's mom does not want us here and she has done nothing to hide her contempt. This pretty much scotches the idea of us eventually building a cabin or something on this property. We had planned to be here as briefly as possible, then look at possibly building something here down the line. But with that off the table, we are even more in a hurry to get into our own place  The situation also makes us wonder just how often we'll be seeing this new granddaughter. We're clueless as to what brought all this on, but it's tragic Stu and Lily are caught in the middle. We just keep our heads low.

That said, I still plan on putting a little rootstock into the ground next year and on working with Stu to brew some beer. This basement is the ideal spot for wine storage and has plenty of room for brewing. I'll be cutting and splitting wood between now and winter and it's good to work up that kinda sweat again. This truly is gorgeous property and there's a never-ending list of things that need doing. Once I get into a routine with work and gin up a little income, I can start holding up my end of that list and we'll have a little fun.

Thomas Jefferson's lengthy instructions to Meriwether Lewis at the outset of the first US expedition out this way included the line, "As it is impossible for us to forsee in what manner you will be perceived by those people, whether with hospitality or with hostility, so it is impossible to prescribe the exact degree of preserverence with which you are to pursue your journey."  Jefferson was, of course, referring to the Native Americans. But we're learning some of the same lessons ourselves these days in the same general part of the world.

There is so damn much potential for us in this wilderness so immense. We can't wait to get at it.

Jun. 12th, 2016

"..You might as well question why we breathe.." Victor Laszlo in "Casablanca."

This morning saw the intersection of gay rights, gun rights and terrorism in this nation and, predictably, we've erupted in political arguments while over a hundred families prepare to dispose of their dead or hold vigils hoping for recovery. At least in the physical sense.

The enormity of all this is only beginning to settle in on me. Beyond Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, San Bernardino and tragically too many others, what happened in Orlando this morning symbolized a national ill more than 200 years in the making -- namely that our Second Amendment needs serious adjustment. While the rest of our Bill Of Rights has been subject to tweaking and adjustment by subsequent amendments and/or Supreme Court rulings, that "shall not be infringed" clause creates lots of problems. It's long past time to deal with it.

But we won't. We'll get the usual litany of NRA defensiveness until the public indignation dies down. And, as I've noted here before, more gun laws aren't the answer. We could ban AR-15s tomorrow and it'd just make every garage and basement into a DIY gunsmithing shop. A new and worse Prohibition. We're much too far around that bend.

What disturbs me much more is the element mainstreaming the kind of hate, fear and intolerance that led to today's attack. We can make fun of Donald Trump as much as we want and I honestly think our even currently addled electorate is smart enough to reject him. But the fact is, even when he's defeated, his constituency isn't going away. A simple look at tweets actually supporting today's shootings shows just how large this moronic subculture is.

This is why it's incumbent on all of us who believe in a greater, larger, more inclusive humanity to take advantage of every opportunity to speak up, clearly and loudly, in support of each other. It's also just as important to be just as clear and loud in opposition to ignorance. Maybe it'll make someone think for once.

This isn't a political issue. We're not discussing economic theory, foreign policy or What Gubmint Oughta Damn Do And Not Do. We're discussing common decency -- an idea that seems to not be in the lexicon of surprisingly too many. Anymore, "decency" is a sign of weakness -- just like "compromise" and "common ground."

There will always be idiots of various stripes among us. We cannot ever fully prepare ourselves for all eventualities. Our very existence as a free society makes us a threat to the unenlightened and leaves us open to attacks such as the one we endured in Orlando this morning. I frankly think we have already surrendered too much freedom to the cause of national security.

...but our best offense is bitching like a Gabor sister when some asshole tries to get a hate on. Sit down, motherfucker. You have no idea what this country is all about.

Jun. 1st, 2016

"...gotta get myself back to that place...." Gary P. Nunn

TBK and I have been gradually adjusting to a new reality we know too little about. We simply won't know what awaits us up in Washington until we're there, and that's the biggest part of the allure. Our day-off cruisings have been to find clothing we know we'll use and to prognosticate about stuff we might do, need, want or use. It has been a delightful exercise, even if much of it might prove mistaken or useless.

We've spent the past decade in urban and suburban environments. But we both have pretty good experience in rural living and our kitchen experiences have us more than ready to do stuff literally from the ground and smokehouse up. Kim spent over a decade on 20 acres in rural northern Missouri and my family had the farm north of Dallas, While our experience in WA won't allow for livestock (too many predators), we can damn sure grow, age, can, cure, smoke, ferment and do otherwise. I'm told some trees need to come down and stuff needs repair and installation and, well, there's things that need doing that I haven't done in some 15 or 20 years.

Good. I can also build a damn good fence.

There's all kinds of stuff we can do but just haven't done in awhile. But beyond that, there's stuff we want to do that we didn't used to have the equipment to do. But now we do -- or at least we know where to get it. Cheese forms, butter storage, sausage-making -- all kinds of stuff. And we'll have time to do it. Well, at least over the long term. First things first, like actually moving up there.

We want to help as much as we can, yet be as invisible as possible. We don't know the household rules nor do we want to change them. This truly is virgin territory and we'll be treading as lightfly as possible. But I suppose that's the case for all of us, and it'll all work out.

I'm curious about the smells when I walk outside. At the house where I was raised, it was oaky and chlorine. At the farm, it was cowshit and hay. At the cottage in PA, it's wild dill. In New Orleans, it was river, jasmine and asphalt. Here, depending on neighborhood, it's either horseshit and cactus or frijoles and tortillas. Smells are the most important, no matter where you live.

Years ago, a trip to the feed/seed store was a weekly event. We mostly grew our own hay, bought some cow cake as a treat for the livestock and tightened low spots in the fence as just part of How It Was. That's not been the case in, oh, more than four decades and that time is done and gone and this is a different part of the world anyway. It's okay.

But I've got a chance to do a little of it again -- plus learn a whole lot more. That's what kicks ass.

May. 29th, 2016

"...as long as the world keeps a-turnin’ I just keep a-turnin’ too..." -- Bob Dylan

My supervisor asked me today what I'll be doing when we move north -- as in, "what kinda job? You gonna still be cooking or what?"

I have no freaking clue. This is the glory of it -- the greatest of the several blank slates. You just jump off and you land where and how you land. If life so far has taught me one thing above all else, it's that the landing never hurts as bad as you think it will. You get up, dust yourself off and keep moving.

Granted, we're not throwing all caution to the wind. Part of accidental good fortune is having something of a backup plan and a little financial flexibility. George Strait sang, "In money or love or all the above, have a little more than what you show." We'll get there fine -- the questions are what we do afterward.

I've always been one of those types more comfortable with change and uncertainty than with stability, much to the consternation of two wives (though both kinda got and get it but only to a point). I'm not sure if it's genetic or simply because that's how I started my career (radio) by going where the job was. While I love certain aspects of a permanent home, there's a particular part of this recalcitrant soul that will likely always be wondering about and only too curious to find out What and Where's Next. Maybe this'll change. But let's be honest....

I can cook, I can write, I can manage, I can do a million things and, really, my attitude is I'll do what I want to do. My only requirements are it be 1) part-time (I'll be penalized by Social Security above a certain income until I'm 66) and 2) low stress. And by that I mean artificial stress. I'm used to Real Stress, as in: when I write an urgent and I know it'll be read verbatim on CNN within 90 seconds. When I'm live on-air in the radio lede about the 2000 presidential election in Florida. When it's Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans and I'm running the kitchen in a bar on St. Charles Ave. I know this kinda shit and I got it. I'm talking about some bullshit manager showing up to gripe about the color of my pants (which actually happened to me in a BACK OF THE HOUSE POSITION at Cheesecake Factory. They suck, in addition to being grossly overpriced, because their daily food waste is an epic tragedy). All I'm saying is don't try to tell me shit matters when it really doesn't.

Ultimately, we'll find where and how we need to be. Back to the original point, this is pretty much as free as I can remember being in a long, long time. There's challenge and adventure for sure and more opportunity for bad decisions and life ain't shit without them. I've made plenty of good life decisions and plenty of bad ones, but no one can ever say I've shied away from making one. God help the poor mofo who simply can't. Or, worse, won't.

Lucky and glad I made it this far, since too many of my contemporaries and classmates haven't. Others are battling some health issues I've so far avoided and I hope I have half the class they do, if I face the same fight.

I'm not putting it on cruise control. But I'm damn sure being more selective about when I hit the gas.

 .

May. 17th, 2016

"...he did not know he could not fly, so he did..." -- Guy Clark

Had to nod to Guy Clark's death this morning. He and Billy Joe Shaver have written so much of my life, along with a few others like Jimmy Buffett, Willie Nelson and Chris LeDoux. Songwriting is a serious gift and we each have our favorites. I'd also have to nod to Holland/Dozier/Holland from Motown, Bob Seger and Brian Wilson. And, of course, Bob Wills.

We took some more steps toward our upcoming move today, with a trip to the library. Kim picked up some books about growing mushrooms, herbs and other stuff. I also got a book about viniculture -- making serious wines at home. I'm pretty sure I'll start out with one of those make-your-own-wine kits to get more familiar. But, as previously mentioned, the plan is to plant and grow our own grapes. I've been going over the extension-service stuff about all this, but I won't be able to really get an idea until we're actually up in Whatcom County and getting a close-up view of what's possible. There are questions about available sunshine, soil composition and so forth. Turns out Washington state is one of the few areas of the world where local rootstock is more resistant to things like nematodes and phyolloxera, meaning we might be able to go without grafted stock. We'll see. Whatever happens, we're enjoying the mental exercise and the talking about potential.

I also checked out a copy of Don Quixote and I've been simply riveted to it much of the day. It's comical and yet serious -- and there is so much of the Quixote/Panza back-and-forth in my daily mind. It is one thing to be crazy, yet another to embrace and be comfortable with it. To see victory in what others view as defeat, purity in whoredom, windmills as giants, cardboard as armor and, ultimately, to still stand despite the assaults and strike honest blows against (even misconstrued) tyranny. My frail, skinny horse is a proud steed, my lance constantly broken and my self-conversation is overly optimistic and sometimes delusional, supported by friends, family and some acquaintances often too caring to laugh out loud or too afraid of what I might do to really say much. I've made a life of such and it's good to know it's at least some 500 years old.

Sobering is http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/10/goodbye-middle-class-51-percent-of-all-american-workers-make-less-than-30000-dollars-a-year.html (sorry --still learning the updated platform). While our income will improve and expenses decline once we move and things fall into place (at least that's the design), the overall situation remains the same -- cobbling together a living and being independent. There are so many questions about a place, an attitude and a climate we do not know. Hence the enthusiam and impatience.

I had a brief exchange this evening on Facebook with a Trump supporter. It ended cordially enough after he initially hurled insults I ignored. I've come to the conclusion we'll see a lot of Trump supporters the same way we see folks who go to Denny's. No one PLANS to go to Denny's. You wind up at Denny's. My fear is our whole damned country will wind up at Denny's, no matter who we choose at the top of the ticket. While those choices are bad enough, the real rot is in far too many of our state legislatures. There's some seriously crazy mofos out there who'd ditch everything Hamilton, Madison and Jay advocated in The Federalist Papers and replace it with the Articles of Confederation or (worse) what they think Jesus wants. Well, Jesus ain't in your damn legislature. Or, if he is, he's likely a Democrat from a lower-income urban district.

We're optimistic. We're hopeful. We're clueless and we're ready. We're just....... waiting.
 

May. 15th, 2016

"...I'm about to lose control and I think I like it...." -- The Pointer Sisters

Those of you who know me reasonably well are familiar with this. Always another windmill ripe for tilting. This week I plan to begin re-reading Don Quixote to refamiliarize myself with some of the finer points.

In six weeks, roughly some 45 days and in some four pay periods, I will stop full-time work. We will put this sometimes tired show on the road and move north. Like way north. Like from a county that borders Mexico to one that borders Canada. Stu and Lily are pregnant with the first grandchild and we are sure we can "help" by being a constant nearby aggravation when this wunderfraulein is born in early August.

Facetiousness aside, this can't come at a better time. I'm at my best with self-created blank slates and this one is seriously needed. Given the circumstances, we've done about as well as we can here in Southern California (and we're grateful for the help and encouragement from friends and family). But it's simply Time To Go.

I frankly have no idea what I'll be doing in 90 days (if anything). I know I'll have to be looking for part-time work, but I don't know what I'll want to do or what might be available.I've spent some three decades as a writer and reporter. I've got another decade or so in various parts of food service, from restaurant ownership to grocery store to senior living. Do I wanna do any of these? I've got expertise in wine/beer/liquor, some library science and a few other things. Hell -- I dunno. Maybe I'll be a quiet (for the moment) insurrectionist in a Wal-Mart.

The glory is in the Not Knowing. And, at least in the very short-term right now, Not Caring. If my life had a goddamned motto, it'd be "It'll All Work Itself Out." (No, Kristen, that's not my epitaph -- that would instead come from Billy Joe Shaver's "Old Five and Dimers").

For now, at least, I'm lucky to be healthy. Any issues I have (far as I know) are the usual gamut of Old Guy Shit like a little arthritis and some cataract issues. It's okay -- I'm not usually interested in driving at night anyway. I have friends and some family who face tremendously larger issues daily and I simply cannot imagine. I only hope that if I face the same stuff that I can do it with half the grace and courage they have.

This will be a grand adventure -- perhaps the grandest of all so far. Potentially, there is the opportunity to create something of the Family Compound we Gieseckes have joked about over the years. Maybe and maybe not. But I'll be goddamned if I'll pass up the chance to contribute to making it work. No matter what, we're gonna laugh like hell and have stories to tell. Life ain't worth it if you don't get that.

"Too far and too high and too deep ain't too much to be. Just an old five-and-dimer is all I intended to be."

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