The Big Announcement

April 27, 2009

I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it. ~ 34th President Dwight D. Eisenhower


Welcome back, faithful Readership. The New Moon was two days ago, but i wanted to have one more item of business transacted before posting, and that thing happened Sunday morning. So sit back in your seat and prepare yourself for The Big News.

Remember how in my last post i’d said that i wanted to write less of the this-is-what-i-did-last-month type of post, and write a lot more about the bigger picture? Well i’m walkin’ my talk. And along with a new kind of blog, i’ve decided to embrace the fears and doubt which swirl around this endeavor i’ve undertaken, and (as has been my practice more and more) to trust that what happens is what’s meant to happen. With that in mind, i bought a plane ticket today, and am flying from San Francisco to Cairo on May 26. Reason: to see for myself what life is like for the people who live in Gaza.

This all began with an email that i received from Code Pink in mid-April, inviting people to travel with them to Gaza, at the invitation of the United Nations Reliefs and Work Agency (UNRWA). We meet in Cairo the evening of the 28th, and will leave the following day for five days in Gaza. Our purpose? To bring attention to the desperate plight of the children of Gaza; building a playground is one of several activities we’ll be involved in while there, if we are allowed through the Rafah Crossing (note the convenient use of the passive voice; it’s a long story). We will camp outside the gate if we are not permitted entrance. i’ll save more detailed info about the trip for a new blog which i have begun, called Gaza Saga.

For now, Gaza Saga (GS) is locked as i prepare my first post, which i hope to publish by Tuesday. But before you visit there, i want to say something first about my intentions for making this trip, and then something about what you will find at GS.

When i first considered why i might possibly join Code Pink on this trip to Gaza, i had, as you can imagine, several motivations. Here are my major self-serving reasons for wanting to go.

1) This trip will feed my huge love of travel and adventure, experiencing once more the joy of finding out what i have in common (as well as what i don’t) with people in other places, and learning from that. And hopefully maybe sharing something with them about that as well.

2) Since i can’t really afford this trip — in fact, i don’t know many people who would even conceive of such a venture with the limited amount i’ve got left in the bank, and all of that borrowed! — i will in the next four weeks identify one or more persons (or a foundation, institute, etc.) who will defray a part or all of the costs of travel. I thus get some real-world, hands-on experience in one of the fields in which i hope to find work when i return: grants-writing for non-profits. i am attending a one-day Basic Grants-Writing workshop (offered by the agency which i hope will help me to find work in the field) on Wednesday (4/29).

3) i also will begin earning an income from writing and selling articles to any and all media players, with Travel and Activism being just two of several subjects that i envision myself tackling on a regular basis. (You’ll find a short list of my altruistic motivations for wanting to take this trip in GS.)

There is no easy way of saying much of what comes next.

Some of you understand quite clearly how skillfully Corporate Media manages and promulgates the messages they bombard us with, as well as how usually effective they are at removing from the national discourse those story-lines which do not fit in with what is accepted. Some of you have more than once have heard me drone on about the “media-bubble” that we Americans live in. The film The Truman Show (1998, starring Jim Carrey) is just one of dozens of analogies of this, a perfect example that illustrates the greater and greater web of propaganda the media, usually (although not always) in collaboration with government and the military, seek to weave around us.

For those of you who might feel this sounds suspiciously like conspiracy-theory rant, Noam Chomsky’s book Manufacturing Consent summed up the situation pretty elegantly, all the way back in 1988. (With ice shelves dropping into oceans, you might not feel you have time for the whole enchilada, so at least check out the Wiki page.)

As long as people are marginalized and distracted, [they] have no way to organize or articulate their sentiments, or even know that others have these sentiments. People assume that they are the only people with a crazy idea in their heads. They never hear it from anywhere else. Nobody’s supposed to think that. … Since there’s no way to get together with other people who share or reinforce that view and help you articulate it, you feel like an oddity, an oddball. So you just stay on the side and you don’t pay any attention to what’s going on. You look at something else, like the Superbowl. ~ Noam Chomsky

If your own paradigm-shifts routinely enter through your auditory canals, then i cannot recommend highly enough Michael Parenti, “one of the nation’s leading progressive political analysts.” i first heard one of his speeches broadcast on my local community radio station via a really wonderful little content-delivery service for radio called Time of Useful Consciousness. (The story behind the name of the website is cool, too: Founder of TUC Radio Maria Gilardin explains: “When looking for a name, I came across a pilot’s handbook and found the acronym TUC, an aeronautical term. Time of Useful Consciousness is the time between the onset of oxygen deficiency and the loss of consciousness. These are the brief moments in which a pilot may save the plane.”) She has archived on the site a few of Parenti’s speeches. Do not miss Conspiracy and Class Power, “one of his most influential archival speeches.” It’s actually not as dry or pedantic as it might sound; you’ll probably be entertained at first, and only later sickened as you realize what a FOOL you’ve been made, mwah ha ha ha ha ha!!

So anyway, let me give you a real-world example of this as it relates to what Gaza Saga is about. A British playwright named Caryl Churchill has written an eight-minute play called Seven Jewish Children (a search for which at YouTube currently turns up over 1000 results). Now, here are the first six paragraphs from an article in the April 13 issue of the Nation, by Broadway playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America), and Alisa Solomon; it’s best to be clear and to state upfront: both are Jewish.

Israel’s recent bombing and ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, Operation Cast Lead, killed 1,417 Palestinians; thirteen Israelis were killed, five by friendly fire. Thousands of Palestinians were seriously wounded and left without adequate medical care, shelter or food. Among the Palestinian dead, more than 400 were children. In response to this devastation, Caryl Churchill wrote a play.

Churchill is one of the most important and influential playwrights living, the author of formally inventive, psychologically searing, politically and intellectually complex dramas, including Cloud Nine, Top Girls, Fen, Serious Money, Mad Forest and Far Away. To this body of work she’s now added the very brief (six pages, ten minutes long in performance) and very controversial Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza. The play ran for two weeks in February at London’s Royal Court Theatre and is being presented across the United States in cities such as New York (Theaters Against War and New York Theatre Workshop), Chicago (Rooms Productions), Washington (Theater J and Forum Theatre), Cambridge, Massachusetts (Cambridge Palestine Forum) and Los Angeles (Rude Guerrilla).

While some British critics greatly admired the play, which was presented by a Jewish director with a largely Jewish cast, a number of prominent British Jews denounced it as anti-Semitic. Some even accused Churchill of blood libel, of perpetrating in Seven Jewish Children the centuries-old lie, used to incite homicidal anti-Jewish violence, that Jews ritually murder non-Jewish children. A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews told the Jerusalem Post that the “horrifically anti-Israel” text went “beyond the boundaries of reasonable political discourse.”

We emphatically disagree. We think Churchill’s play should be seen and discussed as widely as possible.

Though you’d never guess from the descriptions offered by its detractors, the play is dense, beautiful, elusive and intentionally indeterminate. This is not to say that the play isn’t also direct and incendiary. It is. It’s disturbing, it’s provocative, but appropriately so, given the magnitude of the calamity it enfolds in its pages. Any play about the crisis in the Middle East that doesn’t arouse anger and distress has missed the point.

The now-rote hysteria with which non-Israeli criticism of Israel is met–most recently dismayingly effective in quashing Chas Freeman as President Obama’s nominee to chair the National Intelligence Council–has a considerable and ignoble record of stifling opinion and preventing unintimidated, meaningful discussion, in the cultural sphere as well as in the political. The power of art to open us to the subjectivities of others is especially threatening to those who insist on a single narrative. Hence efforts to shut down exhibitions of Palestinian art all over the country, [emphasis added] most notoriously, perhaps, in 2006, when Brandeis University officials removed paintings by Palestinian teenagers from a campus library exhibit, “The Arts of Building Peace.”

If you have not already witnessed this little play, here’s the version that i saw for the first time this afternoon, which although it consists of just one woman reading a few lines, is quite dramatic. See for yourself. Go on, right now! i’ll wait.

NOW you can have a better idea of what i’m talking about when you hear me go on so tiringly about corporate media and media bubbles, because here it is in action. Everyone who criticizes Israel, or Zionism, or the actions of the Israeli government (thereby pitting themselves against the received wisdom of US and Israel = forces only for Good, while Palestinians = terrorists = Islamofascists = Evil) is invariably and viciously attacked for being anti-Semitic, from all sides by the establishment watch-dogs, most of them self-appointed. (Jews who make these criticisms are denounced as self-loathing traitors and worse.)

i used to have enormous respect for John Malkovich, certainly as an actor but also for what i had always assumed about him as a human being. At least, that is, until a couple of days ago, when i read that he said publicly in 2002, in front of an audience, that he “wanted to shoot” Robert Fisk, who just happens to be widely regarded and respected as one of the longest-serving international war correspondents in the world. Read Fisk’s description (15 paragraphs) here. It’s positively chilling.

So if you are like most Americans, you too will have been spoon-fed a particular story-line regarding Israel, its relationship with the United States, and its war with its neighbors, etc., which will make it very difficult for you to entertain other perspectives. And — here’s that warning that i promised earlier — part of my purpose in writing GS is to startle people out of their complacency. i feel like, when civilians are slaughtered on the scale that just went down in Gaza last Dec. – Jan., the time for sugar-coating the truth has long since passed us by. i like the bumper sticker i saw again this afternoon as i biked down to Old Town for a cup of coffee: IF YOU’RE NOT ENRAGED, YOU’RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION.

So by all means, drop in to GS for your twice- or thrice-weekly dosage of the red pill. And don’t feel too badly about what you might find there. Personally, i think of my involvement in some of the unpleasantnesses of the world (as the beautiful mind of Barbara Bush might put it) as the small price i willingly pay for not having to experience that hell myself. Not averting my gaze .. witnessing .. doing some small something for those who can’t do it for themselves is what i attempt to do, simply because i’d want someone to do the same for me.

When the Nazis arrested the Communists, I said nothing; after all, I was not a Communist.
When they locked up the Social Democrats, I said nothing; after all, I was not a Social Democrat.
When they arrested the trade unionists, I said nothing; after all, I was not a trade unionist.
When they arrested me, there was no longer anyone who could protest.
~ German pastor and social activist Martin Niemöller


Now (those of you still reading!), there are numerous ways you can help out that don’t necessarily involve your going to Gaza with me! Here are some of the most important needs that i have so far identified.

1. If you or anyone you know is in a position to make donation$ on behalf of the children of Gaza, by all means, do so. No amount is too small. i have opened a separate bank account esp. for this purpose, and checks or money-orders can be made out to me and sent to the Community Credit Union of Southern Humboldt, 757 Redwood Dr., Garberville, CA 95542. Please write “Acct # 13888” in the memo field before sending. (Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin writes, “We will be buying gifts (sports equipment, toys, school/art supplies) as a group, so if you have raised funds for that just bring them with you [but let us know beforehand so we know how much money we have to spend]. We’ll buy most of the supplies in Cairo, where things are cheap and we only have to transport from there.”)

2. i’m looking for someone with the expertise to design, within the next ten days, a fairly basic website that would a) briefly explain the Code Pink mission to Gaza, b) allow visitors to inform themselves about the situation in Gaza, and c) allow for donations and purchases of two or three items to be made via credit-card.

3. If you have any suggestions on Jewish, Arab, Palestinian or other types of agencies or foundations that you have personal experience with (esp. if you know of someone who works in such a place) who might be willing to defray all or a part of my travel expenses, by all means get in touch.

4. i plan to remain in Cairo for about two weeks after returning from Gaza, the first week of which will be for collecting my thoughts and writing about the experience while it’s still fresh. i would like to avoid the cost of hotels while there (although i’ve learned that there are 3- and perhaps 4-star hotels which charge less than $20/night). If you know of anyone there, or know someone who knows any Cairenes who might be able to offer me lodging in exchange for sparkling conversation (from the guy who will be with me, i mean!), drop me a line.

5. i will be gathering advice from other international bloggers who have already been there on what kind of video-camera i should bring with me, and what features it should have. Anyone who has advice on the topic, or perhaps has a videocam they’d like to donate to the cause, drop me a line.

6. Buy a kaffiyeh through me made in the only remaining textile-plant in Palestine! i’ve just placed an order that should ship on or about May 1 from the sole US distributor, in New Orleans, a gal who will also be going on the trip! Buying a single one at the site would cost $12, and once i see them, i’ll decide what to ask for them, probably either $15 or $20, with 100% of profits (minus my small cost in shipping it/them to you) to go for the relief of the children of Gaza. (All the rest of the kaffiyehs — also sometimes spelled kufiyeh — that you see these days are made in China. Check out this neat, but sad, little video: Palestine’s dying keffiyah industry [2:39]. The owner, now 76, has still got a couple of machines running after all these years.)

7. i have never purchased a lap-top because i’ve preferred owning a desk-top computer, and couldn’t afford both. Now i find myself in need of a laptop for this trip. If you have one to loan, or know of someone who might, drop me a line. Wi-fi capable would be important.

Well folks, i could go on but it’s time (as they used to say in publishing) to “put this baby to bed.” And myself as well. It’s just turned 4:20 am, and although that time has important significance for some folks around these and other parts (!), for me it just means Man, what are you still doing up? i’m off to ZZZ-land, thanks for sticking with me, here’s a little more food for thought, dougie T out PEACE, SHALOM, SALAAM …

It is no measure of health to be adjusted to a profoundly sick society. ~ Krishnamurti

Let not a man glory in this: that he love his country. Let him rather glory in this: that he love his kind. ~ Persian proverb

No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be an enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice. ~ Dwight Eisenhower

A room of one’s own

April 16, 2009

Hoo-wee, this sure is frustrating, because i was ready to post what had taken me a couple of hours to write a few nights ago, and then after clicking Publish, was dismayed to realize that all of that evening’s work was gone, being then left with the couple of paragraphs i’d started out with. i’m already a couple of weeks late (well, now it’s three weeks late) with this one, due mostly to all the time and energy that went into moving up here to Eureka (that’s right!), and then getting settled in. But now i’m just gonna take a few more minutes to get this update out into the ether, with another update due on the next New Moon, Apr. 24th.

i am elated to report that i have been, since Mar. 27, ensconced in my new abode! i’m sharing a pretty nice 2-BR/2-ba home in Eureka (the Humboldt county-seat), about an hour’s drive north of where i’ve lived these last three years. Glenda is one of the gals i met through my involvement in stopping Caltrans from widening that road through Richardson Grove State Park (which i’ve described in earlier updates), and she introduced me to my new house-mate Marla, who of course is a peach! Check out photos of my groovy new pad here. i’ve also bought a new pair of running shoes in hopes of beginning training for a marathon in October, and a new (old) bike, so that i can park Peaches a little more often and reduce the ol’ carbon foot-print a bit more.

Any of you who have not yet heard any of my broadcasts, SHAME, what the heck are you waiting for?!? i feel like i am kicking radio ASS and am having a blast. I subbed for DJ Lisa Luv Apr. 11 from 2 to 4 pm PT, and had a grand time; you should really try to catch that show before  it’s deleted from the Archive, around the 25th or so. Let me know if you’d like me to send you the 2-CD copy of that show, which was a winner. i had about 6 phone calls! Next broadcast of the What It Is show is this coming Saturday, Apr. 18. Send me your musical requests now, if you got any.

Folks, i’ve got huge news to share about a project that i decided tonight to undertake, and you will be hearing more about that in my next update, 4/24. But for now i just want to say that i’ve been feeling the need to get away a bit more from the “this is what happened last month” type of blog-entry to entries that take into account even more of what’s going on in our country, and in the world at large. For example, i came across this tidbit in a recent TomDispatch article.

In a Los Angeles Times interview, new Secretary of Energy Steven Chu offered an eye-popping warning (of a sort top government officials simply don’t give) about what a global-warming future might hold in store for California, his home state. Interviewer Jim Tankersley summed up Chu’s thoughts this way:

“California’s farms and vineyards could vanish by the end of the century, and its major cities could be in jeopardy, if Americans do not act to slow the advance of global warming… In a worst case… up to 90% of the Sierra snowpack could disappear, all but eliminating a natural storage system for water vital to agriculture. ‘I don’t think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen,’ [Chu] said. ‘We’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California’ [emphasis added]. And, he added, ‘I don’t actually see how they can keep their cities going’ either.”

Shortly after reading this, i watched Aaron Russo’s film America: Freedom to Fascism, and it has had a huge impact on my thinking. The film is about 110 minutes long, and you can watch it online for free here. It’s also available pretty much anywhere you pick up DVDs, including Netflix. Do yourself a favor, and check it out. In a nutshell: the income tax is unconstitutional. Well (some of you radicals out there might say), so what? A LOT of shit our most recent governments have done is unconstitutional, and i’d have to agree with you. But now we have our eyes open to the total illegitimacy of our system of taxation. High time we got rid of the income tax, and went back to 1950’s-levels of taxing corporations to make up the difference. The government then wouldn’t have so much money to drop bombs on the brown people of the planet.

ANYway, my next post on or about the 24th will be a major step toward embracing what’s going on in the world, while retaining some measure of the personal that you have come (i hope!) to know and love. Stay tuned, and until next time: p E a C e !!

Protected: observing vicissitudes

February 28, 2009

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Bring it on, oh-nine!

January 26, 2009

Greetings Faithful Readership, i allowed myself to procrastinate most of today (instead of just a couple of hours) when i learned around 2 pm that the work i’d thought would start tomorrow has been postponed, perhaps indefinitely. Which is a shame, because i’d been counting on the opportunity to pad the bank account a little bit more. Like a lot of folks, i’ve been thinking a lot lately about what comes next, and not really sure what i might be doing next. Some thoughts about that are meant to be the focus of this post, in addition to sharing some news and views about happenings local and global.

First, a shout-out to my dear friend Maike van A. in the Netherlands, who to acknowledge the possibilities inherent in the start of a new year, sent me a few weeks ago this video clip of the song “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen).” Some of you might recognize the opening words: Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’99 – Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.

One part of the song which particularly touched my heart was this one: Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t. (I’m assuming that not knowing at 50 makes you 25% more interesting.) The music and the rest of the lyrics are great, with the possible exception of the advice about wearing sunscreen which both starts and ends the song. If you’re not yet aware of any controversy over the alleged relationship between, ironically, the use of sunscreen and an increased risk of melanomas, you might want to check this out.

Interesting little factoid about the song: it had been widely (although falsely) believed that the words were from a commencement address given at MIT by Kurt Vonnegut. The Australian director of Romeo + Juliet (and Moulin Rouge, and Strictly Ballroom, and most recently Australia: Baz Luhrmann) wanted to buy the rights in order to create the song, and eventually discovered that a Chicago Tribune columnist named Mary Schmich was the author. There’s an article that sums up that whole story nicely here, which also states: As for royalties, Schmich gets a small cut; the Tribune gets a bigger one.

Well, most of you know how much i like movies, and a couple of weeks ago i caught another one of the famed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa‘s, Dersu Uzala: the true story (and the name) of a Siberian man who became the guide for a small band of Russian soldiers exploring the wilderness there in the 1920s, and helped save them from certain death on more than one occasion. It was the only film that Kurosawa shot outside Japan, and also the only one he made whose language was not Japanese.

Last month a new friend Tyler had suggested a movie called American Drug War: The Last White Hope, which i’d ordered from Netflix (a company whose service is SO convenient for people like me who live out beyond the boondocks!), and which i finally got around to watching tonight. Some things from the film which made me go WTF:

  • San Diego County judge James Gray estimates that California ALONE spends a billion dollars EVERY YEAR in trying to eradicate marijuana, and prosecute and incarcerate non-violent marijuana users.
  • He also estimates that decriminalizing and taxing marijuana would bring into California coffers between $1 billion and $1.5 billion annually. What would YOU do with $2.5 billion?
  • The top ten drug companies account for more than 50% of Fortune 500 profits.
  • “But if you look at all the pain medications, probably 80% of them could be eliminated by people using cannabis.” – Dr. Claudia Jensen, pediatrician & medical marijuana advocate

So add Big Pharma to the list of institutions opposed to legalizing marijuana. (Move over alcohol and tobacco. And private prison construction and operation companies. And companies providing security guards, making and selling weapons, most (but not all) of law enforcement, the DEA, etc., etc.)

This article on “how medical marijuana is transforming the pot industry” came out in the New Yorker last July, but it’s still a really good read if you’re interested in that, and as an American, regardless of your political orientation, you should be.

Well folks, the new moon is exactly one hour away, and i feel that all of these words about songs and movies is perhaps just a ploy to keep me from writing about what’s more personally important. So i’m going to attempt to publish whatever i’ve written in the next hour, come what may.

i know i’m not the only feeling like i’m at this crossroads in my life. There’s what’s happening on a national and an international level, economically and politically. An aside: Obama himself has said that he can’t make by himself all these changes that have been so vaguely talked about. Well i think it goes even deeper than that. We citizens will need to hold HIS feet to the fire just as much as we will those of Congress. There are lots and lots of folks who like Obama, and lots more who appreciate what a great speaker he is. But folks, (as he himself has alluded) he is also a creature of our broken political system: the system that will not allow for effective third-party participation, enforcing the mass illusion that we have some real choice; the system that is bought and sold for the benefit of our corporate masters who, needless to remind you, are not held accountable to anyone except their shareholders; and the system that wages endless war against created enemies both here and abroad simply and mostly for the enrichment of those at the top of the power structures.

Even long-time CIA agents are speaking out against this monstrous tyranny that has been put upon us. Listen to author and CIA agent Robert Steele (quoted from ADW): The next big step is the people refusing to pay taxes, or to re-elect people. In fact I see 80 million Americans [the estimated number who have smoked marijuana] getting themselves organized to the point where they can tell Congress, that if it doesn’t dramatically reduce what we spend on heavy-metal military, on secret intelligence, on prisons, which are actually slave-farms, then these people will be fired. Man, when CIA agents start talking like that, you know some seriously nasty shit is going down, for those with eyes to see.

i’m disheartened by the slaughter going on in so many places, especially in Gaza, which seems to have become so routine, taken-for-granted. Someone in the media talked about how “inevitable” it was that large numbers of Gazan civilians would be killed by Israeli bombardment, implying that the bombardment itself was something that simply could not be avoided. i’ve learned (from the film War Made Easy) that convincing civilians of the inevitability of conflict is one way to defuse their motivation to mobilize protests.

So what i want to be doing next has got to have something to do with making a contribution to foment change. And to help people, on some level. i recognize the need to make that much more specific, but for now that’s what i’ve got.

1995 Chevy S-10

Some things i’ve been turning over in my head in the past few days, weeks and months: putting together a demo-tape and investigating the west-coast radio market for music DJs; getting training in mediation, and helping people to mediate between themselves. Humboldt Mediation Services has a training coming up in three or four weeks, and i’ve emailed them my interest in participating. i’ve also thought about getting training in solar-panel installation, and have begun researching what kind of commitment that would entail, esp. for someone like me with zero background in electronics. And i’m toying with the idea of going back overseas to teach English. Or of going to Hawai’i to do massage. i gave two massages recently, one in December to a co-worker, and one a week ago to a Heartwood employee, and i must say: my Swedish massage kicks ass! (And i really want to brush up on my Thai and Hot Stones massage training as well.) i could definitely make a living off that if there were enough clients around! And i’ve considered getting training to do in-home care for the injured or elderly.

Some good news while trying to figure out what comes next: i’ve paid off all the debt that i’d accumulated. i just bought a (used) pickup truck and paid for that in full. i don’t have my own place to live, but that’s nothing new; i do have a sweet house-sitting gig for the winter, and who knows if it may turn into something longer-term.

There is no one special person in my life right now, but i’ve learned and continue to practice acceptance and contentment with what is. Having just finished reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth went a long way in reminding me of what’s really important, and to not get caught up in the trivial. And i’m expressing gratitude for lots of things on a pretty regular basis.

Right, the new moon is in 13 minutes. This post is done for the night; i’m gonna close it out, give it a once-over in the morning, and then publish it. Do drop me a line with any advice, input or feedback you might want to share. Next New Moon (and next update) is on Feb. 24. Until then, peace!

Happy New Year

January 11, 2009

Well my friends, welcome back. After not making any new posts to my previous blog A Man, His Dog, the Road for almost an entire year, now seemed like a good time to start afresh. i will be continuing to follow my old schedule of publishing once a month, although this time instead of publishing on or about the full moon, i will have a fresh post ready for you on or about the new moon. Next new moon: 26 Jan.

A quick look back at 2008 before looking ahead. My last post mentioned the birth of Jack Frybulous, my DJ persona on KMUD, Redwood Community Radio. i have been DJ’ing there twice a month for almost a year (my playlists are here), and i am having a bLaSt! i have recently begun downloading and recording a lot of what i play even before I set foot in the station, and so the three hours of prep-time i used to do there has turned into .. oh, i don’t know .. six or seven hours of prep here at home. And having gifted myself with an iPod at Christmas, i’m soaking up new and fun musical influences at an incredible clip.

If you haven’t already heard my show [called “What Is Is,” the most unpredictable music on the FM dial] then you must make plans to tune in: 1st and 3rd Saturdays monthly, from 2 – 4 pm Pacific Time. Those of you outside the listening area, go to the KMUD website and click Listen Live. (Make time-zone conversions here.) If listening live is inconvenient, you can still catch the show for up to two weeks after broadcast (all music programs are then deleted for copyright-related reasons) by going to the Audio Archive, and scrolling down by date to the show’s time-slot (it’ll say “Planet Humboldt / What It Is”), and finally in the right column clicking Play.

In April, my employer granted my request for a four-week vacation [the good ol’ days!] to Colombia so that i could attend the wedding in Medellín of my American buddy from Amsterdam Matt Minkin to his Colombian honey Ingrid, affectionately known as Gigi, who by the way just brought on to our planet their first-born baby, Sofia Lillian Minkin! It was a huge, gorgeous wedding which several of our Amsterdam-era friends flew in to attend, as well as my good buddy from Heartwood, Sky Olson. i’d emailed Sky on January 11 to let him know i was thinking about going, knowing that he’d been planning a trip to s. America for around the same time. Meeting him at the airport in Cartagena, on the Colombian coast, had to be one of the happiest moments of the entire year for me! We had the first of five two-hour Spanish lessons the following day with an instructor i’d arranged in advance, and what a delight Marcela Guzmán turned out to be: sexy and fun, but prepared and professional, as well. She bumped our Spanish up a notch or two and we all had fun; what a gal. i don’t think we could’ve asked for anything more in a Spanish teacher. Aside from the wedding itself and the parties before, during and after, some other highlights of the trip include scuba-diving off Taganga, and sightseeing around Cartagena, a city the Spaniards built and fortified to protect the treasures they looted from the New World before sending them back to the Old, and as such a magnet for pirates from all over; the UN has declared it a World Heritage Site. i will definitely be returning one day to this beautiful and very welcoming country.

In May, i gave my employer since Sep. ’07 (when i’d left Heartwood) a month’s notice. Leaving was a bit complicated, as i wap1020080s also living at the site where i’d been working. But Mike was for the most part pretty understanding, allowing me to live there for almost another three months while i searched for a new place to live, even though no longer on salary. (I continued to help out with various chores in the house and around the property.) He’d asked me to stay and do one more grow-cycle, but i felt it was important for me to move on. In a nutshell, i was tired of dealing with his inability to control his anger, and realized finally that i deserved better. i did learn a lot about taking care of the animals he kept on the property — 2 goats, 4 hogs, about a dozen chickens, 2 cats, a fish-tank, and an ever-changing number of dogs — and also about growing this particular crop that’s popular in these parts. But it definitely felt like it was a good time for a big change.

i left Humboldt in mid-August for three weeks’ vacation: one week in Portland with ex-classmates and buddies from the Monterey Institute Eve Connell and Lance Savage, who (with his partner Norio) flew in from Japan for vacation. i then flew to my hometown in Rochester for a weeBuddies since first grade! Martin C. and me in NYCk of visiting my brother Scott and his wife Kathy, and old friend from high school Mike Morone and his family; and then took the train down to New York City to spend time with Martin Carney (whom i’ve known since we were in the first grade!) and his wife Dana (and their girls Molly and Lucy), and my sister Eileen, re-assigned by the Salesians to a spiritual retreat center in Newton, NJ.

i flew out of LaGuardia and into San Francisco just after Labor Day, and then spent a month living in a motel in Garberville, while continuing (unsuccessfully) to look for housing in s. Humboldt (it’s really tight)! On my first Friday back i’d picked up about a month’s worth of mail from my post office box in Miranda (where i used to live, along the stupendous Avenue of the Giants, which refers to the redwoods that are still somewhat plentiful in this area), and the next day was having breakfast at the Eel River Café when a gal sitting at the counter next to me noticed the latest issue of Mother Jones i was reading. (It had a great illustration on the cover of George Bush as the Wicked Witch of the West.) Anyway, she struck up a conversation with me that led to one of my last, big, new friendships of 2008! Faithful Readership: meet Ramalamadingdong [not her real name], a long-time resident of s. Humboldt and currently doing what she can to get the hell out! (It’s a long story.)

Ram’ invited me to drive up to Washington and help her get a house her family owns ready for new tenants, and since i didn’t have a lot going on at the time, i thought “what the hell” and went along. We spent a couple of days cleaning and painting, staying nights at her sister’s place. Before starting our drive back south, we dropped in for almost 24 hours on an old friend from Heartwood Carmen and our friend Anthony on Lopez Island [click Slideshow], my first time. What a beautiful place to catch up again with such wonderful people. If you’ve never been to the San Juan Islands, add them to your list of places to see before you die.

All that time in the car was a great way for Ramalamadingdong and i to get to know each other. When we got back to Humboldt a few days later, we found “seasonal work” together for a few days before i moved on to a second gig that Ram’ had lined up for me, which turned out to be with the ladies for whom i’m now house-sitting!

Boomer's in LaytonvilleMy old Peace Corps buddy Crystal [her real name] drove out from her home “upstairs” from Denver to visit me at this time (mid-October), and she brought her pooch Ralph [a pseudonym] along for the ride. We had a blast, and she got to see more than i thought i’d be able to show her of day-to-day life here in Humboldt! We drove down the Avenue of the Giants, let Ralphie run and romp in the Eel River, drove down to Laytonville for dinner with JR and Brian P. (friends from Heartwood), and up to Ferndale for lunch and the drive along the coast from there back to Petrolia for some of the most spectacular oceanside views to be had anywhere. She learned a lot while she was here while helping me in my day-to-day chores, and hopefully she’ll back one day for more of the same! Crystal left here to visit her nephew Chaz up in Seattle before driving back to Colorado.

So home since October — and at least for the next couple of months — is J. and M’s big house less than a mile from the Heartwood Institute on Island Mountain Rd., about an hour’s drive east of Garberville. (For those of you who might be tuning in after a long absence, I’m in s. Humboldt County, California — about a five-hour drive north of San Francisco). J. & M. are enjoying balmy weather at their second home in the vicinity of Palm Springs. I reckon that if I haven’t found a place to rent in s. Humboldt by the spring that I’ll be looking at some place up north near the county seat at Eureka, where the housing market is a lot more open.

After the harvest work here was finished, i was able to find work at two more places, and was busy right up until Dec. 15 when a snowstorm blew in, prematurely closing down our work-site and giving us our break for the holidays, slightly earlier than planned. Not only had i been fortunate to find more work so relatively late in the season, but i was also able to get a promise of still more work, starting up again later this month. Not sure how long it will last, but it should nicely pad my bank account until the next job comes along. (More on that later!)

My last new friendship of oh-eight was with one of my co-workers at the last workplace, a painter from Texas who i’ll call Abigail. Abbie’s car had got stuck on the mountain when that snowstorm blew in, and she’d ended up getting out with another one of our colleagues who managed to get his car up the last, curving and slippery section of dirt road before hitting the relative safety of pavement on Bell Springs Rd. She told me a really funny joke (which can only be heard; it doesn’t work being read) which i told on my show of Dec. 3, and i’m really looking forward to seeing her again in the new year. i drove her car up to Eureka the following Friday 12/19, spent the night at her place, and then picked up a rental car Saturday morning and drove it down into Redway in time for my last broadcast of 2008: the Matt Minkin 37th Birthday Special!

p1030023i spent about a week at Matt and Gigi’s place in San Jose, celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas with them, which was just wonderful. Matt’s folks Marshall and Honey were in town and it was great to get to spend time with them again; they’d visited Matt in Amsterdam when i was there. We spent time as well at his sister Lissa’s and her husband Nick’s home with Matt’s nephew Noah. Then a day or two after Christmas i drove down to the Palm Springs area to spend what i’d thought would just be a day or so with J. & M. — but they invited me to chill longer (and i wasn’t in a big hurry), and introduced me to their friend Dennis, who took it upon himself to show me the sites, which among other things included a really exciting tram-ride up the side of a mountain, with a tremedous view from the top. Having fun with Dennis did mean though that i blew my chance to call and surprise a couple of buddies and ex-classmates from my days at Hofstra Univ., Mitch and Sandy who both live in the LA area. But they are at the top of my must-visit list in ’09. Oooh, not to mention my friend Rosario, a newly-minted Canadian-resident [Bush’s re-election was apparently the last straw], who’s installed himself outside of Vancouver. Someone say “road trip” and i’ll be the first to shout “shot-gun.”

i spent New Year’s Day and night at Harbin Hot Springs, which is a really great way to start off the new year. i love that place, and what a treat to bump into one of me old Heartwood buddies, Tangelina Daviator & co. i showed up w/o a reservation (thinking wrongly everyone would be on their way out), but got the last mattress they had, in the men’s dorm (where i bumped into another Heartwood bud’ Scott, who’d been staked out for a few days of rest and relaxation), and then, as if further proof were needed of my golden karma, and of once again (or this time, in any event!) being in the right place at the right time, i snagged the last parking spot in the lot closest to the pools.

Last night, when i started writing this post, i’d searched online for info about when exactly the full moon was, knowing that it was close. The page that came up indicated that the full moon was at 8:56 pm that same night: the exact minute that i was reading the information! i went outside and looked up at the big, fat, white moon so high in the sky, and smiled.

2009 is gonna be a great year, friends. Have faith, don’t lose hope, and for Goddess’ sake, when are you going to start/finish reading A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle?? (This is one book you should defintely not judge by its cover, and fearing that some of you might, i have left out the sub-title.) Finally,

Q: What 3 words will you shout without hesitation if anyone asks if you are able to do something?

A: YES I CAN!

Good luck, PRESIDENT Barack Obama! May you guide the nation with massive citizen involvement and support that will force those ne’er-do-wells in Congress to do something for the common good, so that peace, justice, respect for international law, and a more harmonious relationship with our planet and all its inhabitants become ever more prevalent.