Thursday, May 31, 2007

Maya Goes to Dipac

Now, in July when Maya and her Mama went to Juneau to visit Granny and Auntie Kathy and Uncle Richard, they had planned many amazing things for them to do. On Sunday they went up the tram to the top of Mt. Roberts, and then came Monday, and what should they all do on this day? Well, it was raining, so they had to plan around that. They couldn't go to the Glacier, because the clouds were so thick they wouldn't have been able to see it well. They couldn't go berry picking, because they would get too wet. They couldn't go to the library for story time, because that was scheduled for Wednesday. They decided not to go to Sandy Beach, because that would be more fun if the rain ever stopped.

"Well," said Uncle Richard, "we could go to Dipac (which stands for Douglas Island Pink and Chum, and is a salmon hatchery). Much of that is indoors, and the rest is close to shore, so the rain won't make a difference." So, that is what they did. Oh, Dipac was very exciting! The salmon were running, and running, and running. (Indeed, Maya had already seen fish jumping in Gastineau Channel when she first arrived.) When Maya looked in the window to the fish ladder, she saw huge fish, so many that they were almost stacked on top of each other, swimming against the flow of the water. Mama and Maya were just amazed to see so many of them. Those salmon swam hard, hard, hard to get up the ladder. And when Maya looked at the channel leading to the fish ladder, there were thousands of salmon crowding and trying to get to the ladder.

The whole family went into the building, and they saw many kinds of fish in the aquarium, and tasted smoked salmon, and Granny bought a stuffed toy salmon for Maya. It was a lot of fun, and when it was time to leave, they stopped on the way to the car to look one more time at the fish crowding in to the ladder. Maya had never seen so many fish at one time, and neither had her Mama. Granny and Uncle Richard and Auntie Kathy were pretty impressed, themselves, and they live in Juneau.

When they were in the car, Maya fell asleep in her car seat, so Auntie Kathy drove out the road so that Maya could finish her nap, because Mama said if they stopped the car Maya would wake up and then not take another nap. After Maya woke up, they had lunch at Rick's. Then all went home (except Mama and Maya, who went to the hotel), and Granny made spareribs. Everyone came to Granny's for dinner, and they had Auntie Kathy's birthday cake (except Maya, who had ice cream). And that was Monday, and a very good Monday it was, too. And Monday was the only day that Maya was in Juneau when she was near the water and didn't throw any rocks in.

Click to magnify pictures and see how thick those salmon are running.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Maya Threw Rocks

We walked out the flume, forest beauty to seek,
& Maya threw rocks into Gold Creek.

"Look at the beaver dam," said Granny so fond,
& Maya threw rocks into the pond.

Icebergs and waterfall,
Glacier — the Mendenhall
What does it take?
& Maya threw rocks into the lake.

Up to Eaglecrest, blueberries to pick,
& Maya threw rocks into the crik.

Mama found berries up on the ridge,
& Maya threw rocks off of the bridge.

We examined the remnants of gold miners' dreams,
& Maya threw rocks into the streams.

Being the Last to Catch On

My office mate, Jessica, is having a baby in August. As the date approaches, it affects her body in a number of ways. She eats earlier, she eats oftener, she eats more, she goes to the bathroom more often, she gets up to walk the kinks out.

We were sitting at our desks, working away, when Jessica mentioned that she was really having kinks today and needed to walk more, and then got up and walked out. I needed to go to the bathroom, but she is after all the pregnant one, so I waited. And waited. And waited. Was getting very needy, doing Boo's little dance sitting down, when I realized that she had gone for a walk. That, indeed, she had told me she was going for a walk.

When she returned, I mentioned this and she said, "There is another bathroom in the hall."

I knew that. Really, I knew that.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Maya & Mama Come To Juneau

In July of 1999, just in time for Auntie Kathy's birthday, Maya and Mama came to Juneau. This was when Maya discovered that Granny didn't live at the Oakland Airport; that it was a step on the journey between Maya's house and Granny's apartment. It was a very long trip on the plane, and although Mama had brought gum for Maya to chew so her ears wouldn't hurt, she was too young to understand and swallowed it all and then there was none. By the time they got to Juneau, Maya's ears were aching terribly and she was crying. But, by the time they got to Granny's place, her ears didn't hurt any more and Auntie Kathy took her out with sidewalk chalk and she had a good time. That night when she called her Dado, she said, "It's so pretty here!"

Every day while they were in Juneau, Uncle Richard and Auntie Kathy and Granny had things planned that they could do as a family. They went to the Mendenhall Glacier, where they saw trees that had been chewed by beavers and all sorts of birds and salmon running in the stream, and of course, the glacier itself. And Maya found three different places to throw rocks in the water. That was Maya's favorite part of the Mendenhall Glacier.

One day they went up the tram to the top of Mount Roberts and ate and took a long walk and enjoyed the wonderful view of the mountains and channel and woods. And on their way down the tram, they were looking out the window, and they saw a whale in the channel. Everyone was so excited! And later, Maya threw rocks in the channel.

One day they went over to Douglas Island and ate at the Douglas Inn and explored trails around the old gold mine buildings. There were lots of little streams, and Maya threw rocks in all of them. Then they went on the beach, and Maya threw rocks in the ocean. Finally, they drove up near Eaglecrest, where people ski in the winter, and picked wild blueberries and Maya found three creeks to throw rocks in there, as well.

One day they went to the public library, where Auntie Kathy works, for story time and Maya heard a delightful story and made paper puppets. (She gave her puppets to Granny, and Granny had them on her refrigerator door for seven years, until the Hooligan cats tore them off and up.) And as they were walking back to Uncle Richard and Auntie Kathy's house from the library, Maya and Granny were walking a little behind Mama and Auntie Kathy and Uncle Richard and Maya said, "Let's hurry Granny and catch up to our family."

One day they took a walk up the hill from Granny's place and into the Silverbow Basin. All along the walk, they were on the side of a mountain -- first Mount Roberts and then Mount Juneau, and between the two mountains, was Gold Creek. There were several places where Maya threw rocks in the water. Because Maya was only three and a half, she found many interesting things in the woods. Pine cones. Spruce needles. Rocks. Indeed, this walk was so interesting that they took 45 minutes to get a quarter mile. And no one minded, because Maya was enjoying exploring the world and her family were enjoying watching Maya explore the world.

One day Uncle Richard had to work, and Mama and Auntie Kathy went fishing and Maya stayed with Granny. Maya and Granny read and talked and played games, and Auntie Kathy and Mama caught two salmon. When Uncle Richard got home, he grilled the salmon and for desert they had the monkey bread that Auntie Kathy and Maya had made.

One day they all went to the Dipac salmon hatchery and watched the salmon swim up the fish ladder. And there were so many fish that they couldn't swim without touching each other, and this was the one place where Maya didn't throw rocks, because she didn't want to hit a fish.

And whenever they went to Granny's house, Maya would pet Missy. But, she liked it better at Uncle Richard and Auntie Kathy's house, because they had Hobbes. And Missy was a very old cat who didn't play any longer, but Hobbes was a very young cat and he played all the time. At first Maya called him "Pobbes" but she soon got his name right. None of the grownups knew exactly how they felt about that, because they wanted her to talk correctly but Pobbes sounded so cute. Hobbes come running when he heard Maya coming and he would lay on his back and Maya would pile soft, light things like string and feathers and cat toys on him, and he would let her. She would pull a string over him and he would bat at it and she would say, "I went fishing and I caught a cat." Oh, Hobbes and Maya became very good friends, and for months after she had gone home, when Granny would go visit Auntie Kathy and Uncle Richard, Hobbes would hear her on the stairs from the street and come running and then be so disappointed that Maya wasn't there; it was just that old Granny, who just wasn't as much fun.

Memorial Day Visits

There are a number of very good Memorial Day posts you might want to visit.
Sandy Szwarc has a piece on the Missing Man's Table.
Julie, at Thinking About talks about Rethinking the Draft.
Jill over at Brilliant At Breakfast has a number of posts that concern the war and the losses we are suffering. To me, the most touching isThe Loss Most of Us Can't Even Fathom.
Gawilli at Back In the Day talks about Memorial Day and her father.
At Pandagon, Bring Them Home looks at the 980 graves that have been filled since last Memorial Day.
At Along the Way. Joared tells us about the Hawaian Lantern Festival
Donna, at Changing Places posted History, a good read that mentions Shiloh and the lessons she has taught her son.
On Lassiter Space Jay talks about Honoring The Fallen, Philly Style.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Random Thoughts on Memorial Day

From early childhood, I would go to the cemetaries with Mama, and sometimes Aunt Flo, on Memorial Day to put flowers on all of the local family graves. Some were veterans, most were not. My father, my lost baby brother, Mama's lost baby brother and five year old sister. Grandparents and great grandparents, aunts, uncles. It was a solemn time, a time of remembrance. One year, when I was in my 30s, we went and Mama had to search for my brother Storm's grave and I broke down -- there is something of total despair to looking for an infant in a grave yard.

Please click pictures to enlarge

Today is Memorial Day, at least the day that Nixon decided we would celebrate, the last Monday in May, giving us a three-day weekend, a chance to travel and have picnics and a good time. According to Memorial Day History
While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays)

But, the real meaning of the day is to honor the war dead. How terrible to lose a grown child to such a death. To see him or her off to defend the coutry and never have them come home again. Although my family has fought in most of the wars that have been fought in this country, we have record of deaths in only a few. Benjamin Proctor, the 16 year old brother of one of my ancesstresses died in the Battle of Bunker Hill and my great-grandmother's father, John Nevins Mace died in the Civil War . The brothers Philip, Ephraim, and Benjamin Parkhurst served in the Revolution, my grandfather Percy Herndon served in Siberia during WWI, my uncle, Leland Hunt, served in the Pacific Theater during WWII. I'm sure that if I searched the family history Julie did for my 60th birthday, I would find more. I seem to remember reading something about Queen Anne's and the French and Indian Wars, but I'm not sure.

In addition to the dead, war also brings us back wounded warriors. Some are physically wounded, all are spiritually wounded. It is important to remember these, as well. Visit Bill Moyers Interviews Maxine Hong Kingston and read about the incredible writing project that Kingston has done with Vietnam vets, bringing forth stories and poems that have allowed these people to finally give voice to the experiences they had. This project has used writing as a change agent, allowing soldiers to tell the truth and so make peace with the horrors of the past.

To me, the saddest thing about this section of the Vietnam War Memorial is the ages. The oldest one was 41, the age of my youngest child. And I'm sure that this section of the wall is pretty much like all the others in that respect. Week by week, as I watch the list of the fallen on This Week, the majority are under 25.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Motherhood Is Universal

Filmed on 18th march 2006 in "Ouwehand Zoo" in the Netherlands.

She knows she's supposed to teach this child to swim, but she just can't resist one more hug. And who would have guessed that the Dutch for Aaahhhh was aaahhhh?

When I look at this, I find myself thinking about how much we have in common with all peoples and all life. We absolutely understand this polar bear mother and her behavior. We are moved by it. The Dutch are moved by it. Not only do we respond the same way to our babies as the bear does, we respond to our response to her in the same way the Dutch do. We know why she hugs her baby, we remember hugging babies ourselves, we remember being hugged by our parents ourselves. And all of it touches us in the deepest corners of our hearts.

When we are all so very much alike, how do we hate? How do we kill? Of course we defend our young, they are so precious to us that we must. But how do we not see that the young are always precious to their parents? How do we wage war? How is it possible that our mutual love of our children, as well as the unlimited other ways that we are alike, is not enough to bridge the chasm between us?

I don't know the answer to these questions, and I wish I did. I do know that we must figure it out, because it is probable that the only road to safety for our children is the safety for all children.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

I Gave Birth To This Child

The Thunderbird is Tanya and Karla's clan totem.

Last Saturday, I was sitting on the bench outside the grocery store waiting for the Care-A-Van to come and pick me up when I saw my friend Tanya with her two year old Jonathon in the stroller. They were getting ready to go for a walk-a-thon. I've known Tanya since she was about 13, and she has to be the most volunteering woman I've ever met. She is always putting her energy into the community. This week she is helping to build a play ground.

When Tanya was a senior in high school, she was a member of TATU (Teens Against Tobacco Use), among a number of other groups. She was chosen as one of two teens in Alaska to attend a conference in Washington D.C. honoring the top 100 teen aged volunteers in the country. Tanya and her mother, Karla, were flown to Washington and spent most of a week seeing the sights with the group and being honored.

In Washington, the teens and their parents were put up in a nice hotel, the teens with roommates from another state. The first night, Tanya wasn't hungry for dinner at 5:30 EST. Her stomach was still on AST, and it was much too early, so she ate what she could and then stopped. At 9:45 she was starving to death. The teens were not allowed to order or bring food into their rooms, and they couldn't be out after 10, so Karla ordered dinner brought to her room for Tanya. At 10 the chaperon from the event did a room check and discovered that Tanya was not in her room, but rather right across the hall in her mother's. The chaperon descended on Tanya and Karla, full of bombast and moral rectitude, demanding that Tanya return to her room "right this minute." Karla explained that Tanya was hungry. The chaperon said that dinner had been at 5:30.

"Yes," Karla responded, "but we are from Alaska and she wasn't hungry at 5:30. Now it is dinnertime for her stomach and I'm feeding her."

"It is after 10. She has to be in her own room."

"Very well, we can take the food in there."

"There is no food allowed in the kids' rooms."

"I gave birth to this child," declared Karla -- and that foolish white woman from Washington D.C., who had never dealt with a Tlingit mother before did not hear the sound of mother bear.* "And I am feeding her." After that I don't know what was said, no one has told me. I do know that Tanya spent the rest of the week as her mother's roommate. And I know that she ate when she was hungry.

* Anyone who has dealt with a Tlingit mother knows that when she says, "I gave birth to this child" the only wise thing to do is back off. The farther, the better.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Out of the Mouth of Maya

When I go to California, sometimes I fly into the Sacramento Airport and start the round of visits with my mother or my pal Kate. But, I used to always fly in and out of the Oakland Airport, and Maya, Ted, and Julie would pick me up and take me back. Year after year this happened, until the year that they were taking Julie's half-sister Melissa to the airport and Maya announced, "This is Juneau, Alaska. My Granny lives here."

The next summer, Maya and Julie came to Juneau, and soon after that they flew other places as well, so that the sweetie's mind was disabused of that rather charming idea.

When Maya was six, I was visiting California, and we were in the grocery store. Julie had gone one way, Maya and I were going another. The aisle we were going down had a pillar to one side, so that all traffic had to go the other way around it. As we came down the aisle, there were two women standing in that narrow point, talking. Maya slipped her small body through the tiny opening between the pillar and the shelf and waved for me to follow her. "Maya," I said, "never in a million years will I be able to squeeze through there." To which Maya answered, "Granny, in a million years you'll be dead."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Taking Action

If you are disturbed by the capitulation of Congress on the funding bill, visit Short Woman and send an e-mail to your representative and senators. She has the links and instructions.

Saving My Sanity

Ah, Death has blue eyes and rides a horse named Binky. How I love Terry Pratchett.

I have always read a lot and, over time, at least 20% of my reading would be non-fiction. After 9/11 it shifted. About 95% was non-fiction; 80% politics. I think I thought that if I read everything I could and learned as much as I could, everyone else would know what I knew and we could pull this country out of the cess pool I saw us sinking into. And then the 2004 elections came, and we didn't. I went into a major depression. In mid-November, I picked up a political book I had been looking forward to reading and couldn't get into it. Picked it up, put it down. Felt like death warmed over. Wanted to cry.

Before I went to bed that night, I checked my e-mail and there was a message from Kate, sending me a very funny Broomhilda comic. I laughed until the tears ran down my face. It felt so good. I hadn't been sleeping well, but that night I did. And realized that what I needed to do was laugh. There was no way what I did was going to save the world in the short run, and I needed to save my sanity if I was going to be of any use to the world in the long run. So I promised myself that I was going to read nothing but funny stuff until the end of the year or of my collection of funny stuff, which ever came later, and pulled out my Terry Pratchett books. Read the entire shelf. Laughed a lot. Slept better. Finished them before the end of the year because I'm a fast reader, and went on to Thurber and Twain and Peanuts and Pogo and Calvin & Hobbes and Rose is Rose and . . . Saved my sanity. If you haven't read Pratchett, you should give it a shot. Because in his books, Death rides a horse named Binky and has blue eyes and an adopted human granddaughter who filled in for him while he was on vacation, which explains why once, for two weeks, Death was a 16 year old girl named Susan.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Beast Charmer

When Julie was little, she was a beast charmer. One day when I was pushing the kids in the stroller, and we were waiting for the walk light, I looked down and she had her little face hidden in the fur of the mangiest cur I've ever seen. This dog was licking the back of her neck and wagging it's almost bald tail with great enthusiasm. When it walked away, a nearby woman told me that she hadn't said anything while the dog was there because it could probably smell fear but -- this was a dog that bit a lot. She had never seen it react to anyone with anything less than a snarl and semi-lunge. Indeed, she had at first thought she must be mistaken and this must be some other dog, but then she realized that there probably wasn't another dog on the face of the earth with just those mange patterns.

We moved to Fairbanks when Julie was four. A couple of weeks after we arrived, the Tanana Valley Fair opened, and we went. As we left the horse barn, I realized that Julie was not with me. Since she loved horses it took little detective skills to realize that I needed to backtrack and I would find her. And, indeed I did. Sitting between the front hooves of and having the back of her neck nuzzled by a horse which was roped off with a sign saying, "Stay back. Extremely vicious horse." There were about forty people standing around looking dumbstruck and worried. Julie was petting the horse and kissing its cheek.

And a couple of years after that, we were at the Alaskaland park and Julie got in trouble for picking up semi-wild ducks and geese. She would sit quietly, holding out the broken cones that the ice cream parlor gave out for feeding them, and they would come close enough that she could, ever so patiently, reach around them and pick them up.

I don't know if the fact that her dog, Samantha, allowed her to crawl into the dog crate and attend the birth of puppies was due to Julie's beast charmer skills or Samantha's incredible good nature, nor if she was able to manhandle Thor the night he tried to eat Grandma (the parrot) was more a reflection on her or on him, but she certainly had the magic touch.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Signposts to Sanity

An occasional feature where your lovin' Granny points you at other people's good stuff.

As I've been slowly recovering from four years of health problems, I've begun to notice that my apartment has become cluttered. Having barely enough energy to work and wash dishes for a number of years has resulted in things being taken out of where ever they live and left out and of new things coming into the apartment and never being put away. Books, mostly. I won't put a book on the shelf until I've added it to my catalog (gotta be able to find it, and if it's non-fiction that means what category I listed it under and now that I'm getting older I forget the exact title of new books and more often than not, the actual name of the author. Rather than search every non-fiction book in the place, which would involve climbing on the ladder and kneeling on the floor in several places, how much easier to sit at my computer and read a list that tells me where it is!). So, boxes of books cover the once spotless surface of my upstairs work table. Also, some things come in and I need to make some changes to accommodate them. Richard and Kathy gave me a George Forman grill for Christmas and in order to put it where it will be convenient to use, I need to move the microwave and all of the other things on my counters, and I haven't had the energy and then Mama and Aunt Flo sent me birthday money and I arranged to hire a young woman to come in and do all that sort of thing while I directed her and then she was served with a restraining order that doesn't allow her to come back to this building and so . . . So, what with all that and the urgent need to get some clothes that I'm not wearing any longer out of my closet and to the Goodwill while they are still fashionable enough to do someone else any good, I've been inundated with stuff. I've lived in this apartment for over 12 years now, and the stuff piles up. The herbal cures for my sinuses that didn't work. The extra parts to items I no longer own. The three styles of flosser that didn't work and have been replaced with the one that does. The pills that have long lost their potency. All that sort of thing. Normally I would re-read Thoreau and get to it. Now I have to find another young person who I can hire to be my hands and back.

All of that has made me very thinky about material stuff and how much a person needs to live a good life as opposed to how much I've just stockpiled in case I live to be 347. And wondering how much of the landfill I'll cover with the stuff that I can't in good conscience dump on the Goodwill. All that. All that values and materialism and character stuff.

Although the workweek in Juneau is only 37.5 hours, I'm also thinking that I would like to work less. I wouldn't be able to buy as much stuff, but part of my problem is too much stuff and not enough time to put it away. I will need to work for at least another ten years before I can retire, but do I want to be working 37.5 hours when I'm 75? But, at these wages, if I choose to work less, could I ever afford to retire?

All of this contemplating made me open to Why Working Less Is Better For The Globe by Dara Colwell on
Americans work more hours than anyone else in the industrialized world. According to the United Nations' International Labor Organization, we work 250 hours, or five weeks, more than the Brits, and a whopping 500 hours, or 12 and a half weeks, more than the Germans. So how does ecological damage figure in to the 40-plus workweek?

Do the math: Longer hours plus labor-saving technology equals ever-increasing productivity. Without high annual growth to match productivity, there's unemployment. Maintaining growth means using more energy and resources, both in manpower and raw materials, which results in increased waste and pollution.
When people work longer hours, they rely increasingly on convenience items such as fast food, disposable diapers, or bottled water. Built-in obsolescence has become standard business practice -- just throw it away and make more -- leaving mountainous landfills in its wake.
The interesting thing about Mistakes Were Made . . . But Not By George Bush by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson on, to me is that whether you agree that Bush practices self-justification or not, you can see how the mechanism works and understand its relevance.
When the fundamental belief that we are smart, moral, and kind crashes into the accusation that we did something stupid, immoral, or hurtful, we have major cognitive dissonance to resolve. Did I just commit an unethical act? I’m a good person; therefore my action was trivial, didn’t hurt anyone, and besides everyone does it. Did I make a decision that proved disastrously wrong? I’m a smart person; therefore that decision has to be right, even if it will take a few decades to prove it. In this way, the brain sees to it that the very need to maintain the belief that we are kind, smart, and moral can keep us stuck in a course of action that is cruel, stupid, or immoral.
The greatest problems that I have ever created for myself were instances of self-justification. The inability to face the fact that I do have a dark side and not everything I do is good just because it is me who is doing it. Thoreau yet again.

And finally, I have always loved the conversation between Thoreau and Emerson, where Emerson, upon finding Thoreau in jail for refusing to pay taxes to support war, asks, "Henry, what are you doing in there?" and Thoreau responds by asking what Emerson is doing "out there." So, finding What Happened To 'Fill The Jails'? by Sean Gonsalves was like a Thoreau tri-fecta.
When even Lee Iacocca is writing: “Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind….but instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, ‘Stay the course.’ Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic” - you know it’s “fill-the-jails” time, to borrow from Gandhi’s tactical playbook.
King was talking about gumming up the gears of the system - fill the jails - to the point of gridlock. That - or the very real threat of that - is what brought progressive victories and is the reason why King was such a powerful and dangerous man in the eyes of his opponents.
The way I see it: those who fear real change have nothing to fear and far too many of those who desire real change are expecting a chicken to produce a duck egg.
How can it be that one quiet philosopher can hold answers to everything from clutter to social justice via the examined life? I don't know, but I do know that having declared him a role model early in my life has made my life both easier and harder. Easier because he so often points out the correct path. Harder because that is never the easier path.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Town vs. Valley

Every place I've ever lived there has been intramural competition. In Juneau, it is town vs. valley. Those wonderful malls she talks about in the valley are two in number, and in California they would be considered little more than street corners. The Nugget mall is across the street from McDonald's and everyone refers to the intersection there as the McNugget Intersection. On the other hand, downtown is the only blue voting district in the entire state.

There are people who live and work in the valley, and people (like me) who live and work downtown. Ninety-five percent of the people work one place and live in the other, work downtown and live in the valley.

Douglas is a small community across the channel from downtown. All three of these communities as well as Auke Bay are part of the City and Burrough of Juneau, population 32,000. Which makes it the smallest state capital, but covering 3,248 square miles, it is also the largest.

Anyway, this is very funny, at least to those of us who know the community. It is only a minor exageration of how at least some people see things. So, you get to see views of my home town and hear the local take on that invariable intramural rivalry.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Poor Excuse for Vice Ridden

This picture is a poster from California illustrating Shoulder Taps, a project where teens hang out in the parking lot in front of a liquor store, with an ABC officer out of sight, and see if they can get adults to agree to buy beer for them This is one of the things I was doing with the teens I work with last weekend. I am currently the adult advisor for Teens In Action (a group of high school students who work to reduce underage drinking ) in Juneau and the administrative coordinator for the three TIA groups in the region. .

And sometimes I feel like a bit of a misfit. The non-profit which serves as the umbrella for my grants, as well as a number of alcohol and tobacco prevention grants, is mostly staffed by people in recovery. Which would qualify me if I were with TATU (Teens Against Tobacco Use), since I'm an ex-smoker. But, I'm not an ex-drinker. I hardly ever qualified as a current drinker.

I come from a family of people who don't bother to be tee totalers because we forget to drink. I once was having dinner at a Greek restaurant and decided that a glass of retsina* would go well with my meal, and realized that was the first time I'd had a drink in over 20 years. Not because I'd resisted the desire, but because I hadn't had the desire. I don't usually think of having alcohol any more than I would think of drinking butter. No virtue to it, just lack of interest.

Where other TIA leaders have been able to warn the teens of the perils of booze by telling about their own humiliating experiences, I've only been drunk three times, all one winter when I was living in Fairbanks, and if I told the kids about it they would laugh. Once I got up on the bar and led all of the patrons and servers in a round of children's songs. I was working as a Montessori teacher at the time, so we sang things like "I've got two eyes, they're both the same size" and "Where is thumbkin" and "It's not easy being green." Once I woke up my eight and six year old children and led them and my two roommates in a game of follow the leader over the dressers and under the beds. Once I was out with a gay French Canadian chef and we spent the evening picking out likely men for each other. And then, because the streets were icy and I was having trouble walking, I locked my knees and he pushed me home while I sang "Here we go loop de loo."**

Now none of that is very dignified. But I'm afraid to share it with the teens for fear they'll think it proves that alcohol isn't all that bad. Actually, when I was a hippy I was hardly any more into drugs than I've been into alcohol. I thought I was living a pretty decadent life, but partly that was because I was contrasting it with the complete small town respectability I had been raised with. And, as wicked as I got, the times soon caught up with and merrily passed me by.

* And you are undoubtedly thinking that retsina is an acquired taste, and how could someone who seldom drinks acquire it? Well, I like the taste and did the very first sip I took.

** My friend Joyce Zimmerschied was one of the roommates for follow the leader, Linda McKinney was with me when I got pushed down the icy street. So, of course, one day decades after these events, the three of us got together and they sat around regaling my children and each other with tales of when I got drunk!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Where My Ringlets Went

When I was only almost four,
Clothed in dress and pinafore,
While other kids were locked in cars,
I rode my mother's handlebars.
And as we went from here to there
The wind would macrame my hair.
When Mama yanked the tangles out,
I would cry and whine and shout.
And that is how I came to trade
Sissy ringlets for tomboy braid.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Skunk Cabbage Complaints Chorale

Juneau Arts & Humanities Council happily welcomes spring with an airing of winter's

And every word they speak, is true. These folks are on the steps of the State Capitol, kitty corner across the street from my office.

Friday Cat Blogging IX
The First Annual Cat Flinging Day

When I first moved to Juneau, I lived in the Mendenhall Valley, in a three bedroom trailer. I came up shortly after my friend, Linda McKinney, had moved back to Alaska from California, and the plan was that she would come up and find a job and a place, I would follow, and then Richard and Kathy would get married and follow me. Then, one by one, we found our own places. Linda found an apartment in the Valley, Richard and Kathy and I found places downtown.

Linda had two cats, Ebony and Heinekin, and I had Missy. Richard didn't rescue Hobbes until we were living in town. That first winter, while we were all in the trailer, we had a fairly heavy snowfall. And so, Richard and Missy happened to celebrate the First Annual Cat Flinging Day.

Richard still flings his cats (Hobbes and Abby [short for Abcdefghijklmnopqrestuvwxyz {as sung by Big Bird and pronounced Ab kuh def ghi jeckle monokqur stew ix is}]) into the snow, but Missy was only flung the once and the Hooligans have never been flung. It's not a sport I go in for, but the pictures are rather amusing.

Click on pictures for detail.

Spring Sing

All year long we have these guys. This trio is exchanging opinions on something, in the snow. They like to play in the snow, using their wings to throw it into the air and sliding down small piles. Ravens are quite my favorite birds, and I'm glad they stay all year. When I lived in Fairbanks, I remember one day when it was -50 and everything was hunkering down indoors to stay warm and the ravens were out and about, dancing circles and loop-de-loops in the sky. It reminded me that life did still go on and one day, the kids and I would also go out and enjoy it.

We also have eagles all year long. This pair is called the Taku Twins, although they are a mated pair. They perch on this pole next to the Juneau Douglas Bridge. Often they perch closer together and facing opposite directions -- which I think is cool in a mated pair, close and watching each others' backs.

Just lately we are seeing whole flocks of chick-a-dees. They are delightful little guys, often descending on a mountain ash and denuding it of berries in a few minutes. Once, before the mountain ash that used to grow right outside my bedroom window was chopped down because of the carpenter ants, Missy and I stood and watched them feasting. We were within four inches of some of them, but what with the screen, they were safe. They really chirp up the mornings.

And I've seen a lot of these guys just lately, mostly on lawns. I love the way they space themselves on a lawn. I love to watch them all shift when someone comes too close to one of them. And, their pretty little red vests are a cheerful sight. Although eagles and ravens do have calls, and ravens even are classified as songbirds, they don't sing pretty songs. It is nice to have the birds with the pretty voices back in town.

Click on pictures for detail.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Humble Moment

Once again, I learn that it's a good thing I'm not God. Because, if I were, way back when John Ashcroft was sending the feds after the growers and users of medicinal marijuana in states where it is legal, I would have condemned him to contract a disease for which the only relief was marijuana. And now, it turns out, he got off his sick bed and defended the Constitution when Dubya was trying to bully him into signing reauthorization of illegal wiretaps. I was ready to damn him to suffering, and he was protecting my rights.

When it is so easy to rush to judgment and to be horribly wrong, how do judges do it?

Monty Python Does Star Trek

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

In A Nutshell

OK, you know what we're doing here. And today, we are down to

63. I remember this about my father's work and responsibilities:

My father was a drummer in a dance band before he met my mother, but I don't remember that. I'm not certain if he gave up music because of losing his hearing or because of the Depression. By the time I was born, he was deaf and working in the shipyards, between the hulls of battleships. All of the time I knew him, he did construction work. When I look at this picture I think of my mother, washing clothes in trailer park wash rooms, in set tubs, on a scrub board. Click the picture and see how dirty my father got at work. And then, I got pomegranate juice on my little white dresses. Poor Mama!

My father always took a shower and changed clothes before he came in when he got home from work. I can remember my grandfather and great-grandfather doing the same at the end of the day. A person didn't traipse into a home in all that dirt. He had to wear boots on construction sites, and he was like me -- his feet overheated easily. So, he not only had dirty clothes, but stinky socks. Mama wouldn't let him keep Limburger cheese in the house because it was bad enough that she had to wash his socks, she wasn't dealing with another pungent odor if she didn't have to.

Because of his hearing, my father was very lonely at work. His hearing aids couldn't filter out background noise and it wasn't really possible to listen to two or more people at once, so he had trouble making friends on the job. At home we all knew -- stand in front of him or touch him to get him to turn towards you, and only one person at a time. You can't train a work crew.

We moved often, and he worked on many large construction projects in California. We traveled the length of highway 99 many a time, and the oleanders in the center divide seem to run through many of my memories of my childhood, as well as many of my dreams. Indeed, 99 runs through my early childhood like a ribbon, taking us north and south, always returning to the Central Valley, where my parents grew up. I first saw mirages on 99. I first saw orange juice stands that looked like giant oranges on 99. One Christmas, when I had received more dolls than I wanted, I threw them out of the car window all along 99. When we returned to Modesto, there was a neon windmill at the north end and at the south end of the town, on 99. See a windmill, know you're close to the family homes.

Because I was only six when I lost him, I don't know much about my father's work. Except that he got up and shaved and dressed to go to work the day that he died.

Monday, May 14, 2007

How Low Can They Get?

Today on Angry Black Bitch SharkFu wrote about a 14 year old girl who was raped, and when she went to the hospital was not even told about emergency contraception. Go and read it. Think about it. What kind of hospital staff doesn't tell a 14 year old rape victim about emergency contraception? How can the possibility that two cells will unite and create life be more important than the future life of a 14 year old girl who is already here and suffering? How can anyone consider that she should have to pay for the sexual experience she surely didn't want or enjoy? The experience that was more power than sex, and that she will never recover from completely already.

I can understand if she were already pregnant, how a person who believed abortion was murder could advise against an abortion. I wouldn't like it, but I can understand how it would happen. But, when she wasn't pregnant, when it was early enough to use a true contraceptive and prevent a pregnancy, prevent a later need to decide whether to have an abortion or not, how could anyone not allow her the choice? In any circumstance, but especially in this.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is a day of chocolates and flowers and cards. Sometimes brunch. Now, I have nothing against flowers and chocolates and cards. And, I really enjoy Sunday brunch, although perhaps not on the day when everyone else in town is having brunch. But, that is not what the oriiginal idea of Mother's Day was. It was not supposed to be a day to pamper mom, but a day for mom to realize her power, to fight to protect her children and all children. The mother being addressed was more the mother of the Pieta than of the Beaver. You know, Cindy Sheehan.

I was visiting Down With Tyranny on Monday, and found This Sunday is Mother's Day: What would Be Better For Mom Than A Box of Candies . I have copied the original Mother's Day Proclamation, by Julia Ward Howe, for you. Do go to the original and read the rest of the post. It is excellent.
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have breasts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Innumerate Accountant

During the years that I worked as a parenting coach, in addition to providing services I also did all of the administrative work for three related state grants. Which meant, three grant proposals a year. Since the requirements stay pretty much the same each year, once you've made suggested corrections to your basic proposal, it is really a matter of updating last year's proposal, with minimum changes to narrative (my responsibility) and not much more to the budget (the accountant's job). This duty was worked around my case schedule, and in the six week period between when the request for proposal came out and when it was due, I might have to work five or six total hours extra to grind out all three of them. Except for the year of the innumerate accountant. It was the second year of a three-year cycle on all of the grants, which means that we would be getting the same amount of money as the year before, and would just have to adjust for changed expenses. It should have taken no more time for the budgets than for the narrative; there weren't that many changes.

The first I knew that we were in trouble was when the new accountant called me to tell me that we wouldn't have enough money to run one of the programs the next year. I had to come to his office right away. On the way up, I was shaking my head because I knew that the only change to that grant was that we had budgeted for a printer in the current year and had no anticipated equipment expense in the next. Staff had turned over, which meant we would be paying them less than we had paid this year. I was at the top of my salary range (a year after that, the salaries were revised, and I got a large raise and continued to receive them annually, but, at that time, I had topped out.) so my salary was staying the same. We should have had the cost of the printer and the difference between step three and step one staff salaries over what we had spent this year. Common sense should have told him that there was something wrong with his numbers

When I got to his office, he showed me his work. I took one look and said, "$500 and $1,200 are not $49,000." "The adding machine said . . . " "You hit the wrong buttons, because $500 and $1,200 are $1,700. You are $47,300 off." "I can't be! The adding machine said . . ." "Did you run a tape?" Well, no he hadn't run a tape.

The next time he called me to his office, it was to announce that there wasn't enough money in one of the grants to pay salaries, not to mention rent and mileage and . . . Once again, salaries had gone down because I stayed the same and the other three people were new; the budget was for the same amount of money. There was no way the grants wouldn't cover less with the same amount of money. He knew what he knew and I had to come up to his office!

Once again, up I went. Asked him to show me. Looked at the numbers and could immediately see the problem. "Why," I asked as patiently as I could, "are you charging a third of my salary to this grant?" "Well," he explained with condescending patience to the stupid little woman, "this is your hourly rate, times 52 weeks, times 5 days, times 3 hours a day." "I only work 3 hours a week administering that grant. How about my hourly rate times 52 weeks times 3 hours a week?" "Are you sure?" "Look, when this amount of money was enough last year and the expenses for the grant have gone down this year, it has to be an error in the math. As a matter of fact, why don't you just copy all the things that stay the same from last year's budget, and since my salary is one of them you won't run into these problems."

Somewhere along the line over the next six weeks, I asked him what grade he had been in when he started using a calculator. First. Honest to God, first. Which, combined with his refusal to run a tape (they cost money! Of course, reworking the numbers with no idea of where you went wrong, costs a heck of a lot more, but . . .) and his tendency to hit the wrong numbers on any keypad he used, led to my putting in six seven-day weeks of 12-hour days, with exactly one half of a day off. It was made just a little worse by his tendency to ignore information that came in a feminine voice. One of the three programs we administered, and services were delivered by contract by a child care center. All of that grant went for the contract with the center. It was, honest to God, a one item budget. We spent four hours one day with him asking me, "What rent do we charge Parents' Time Out?" and me answering, "Zero. We don't charge PTO anything. We get the grant, we write a check every month to the center for a 12th of the grant. We don't charge them rent." And, half an hour later, "You haven't told me how much rent we charge Parents' Time Out." Finally I was driven to saying, "What number did I put on the budget I sent you for rent?" "You didn't put anything." "I beg to differ," trying not to get any more exasperated than I could avoid, "look at the original I sent. What does the rent say." "Zero." "And why do you suppose that is?" Somewhere after we had repeated this conversation at least four times, I started tallying. I honestly had to show him the tally each time and say, "I've been tallying. As you can see, this is the seventh time we have talked about this. This is the seventh time I've made you look at the original. This is the seventh time you've seen that it says zero." I hate it when I get snotty like that.

For the first four weeks, everything I said, he challenged. Finally I had to start saying things like, "We've been at this for four weeks. Every time I've made a correction, I've shown you the tape. Every time I've made a correction, I've been right and you've been wrong. why would it be different this time?" I will say that the last two weeks, when I said something he did simply accept it. He might forget it and have to ask again, but he did accept it without my having to prove it to him.

It probably won't surprise you to learn that they had a new accountant at the agency very soon. Sadly, it may not surprise you to know that this man set up his own accounting service. It certainly won't surprise you to learn that he closed it after six months, with a number of his clients suing him.

I have no idea how I lived through it. The fact that man is still alive qualifies me for saint points. Lots of saint points. And, I know I got points, 'cause I didn't get overtime. But, what really scares me is if kids are using calculators in the first grade, and even a few engineers are as bad at math as this accountant, for how much longer is it going to be safe to drive over bridges?

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Night The Bookcase Fell On Missy

One April morning in 1995, at about 5 a.m., I was roused from a deep sleep by a resounding THUMP CRASH TUMBLE rattle, rattle, ding. I staggered out of bed, naturally leaving my glasses behind, and headed in the direction this odd Reveille had come from, where I discovered that the brick and board bookshelves that normally live under the built in bookcase were tumbled on the floor, along with the books (my entire science fiction collection) that they had housed. With no idea as to what could have caused this, I decided that Missy must have tried to climb them and pulled them over. How I thought a five pound cat could pull over bookshelves that had never been even the smallest bit wobbly (I've been building brick and board wonders since 1960 and I have never had one be anything but stable) I don't know. Well, it was 5 a.m. I was without the ability to see or think clearly.

Anyway, I decided, still in this sleep deprived fog, that since I couldn't see or hear Missy, her little body must be buried under the books. In digging for her, I had piled books on the worktable and was now carrying them into the bedroom and piling them on my dresser, when Missy came quietly back in the open (and now screen-free) window. Not being anybody's fool, she had decided that some large animal, possibly the mother of the bear cub she had been making friends with lately, had broken in and she went out. I suppose that she saw me up and about, even carrying armloads of books, and decided it was safe to return.

Knowing that Missy had not pulled the shelves over, I went out on the living room roof looking for what had happened. It turned out that a boulder the size of a basketball had rolled down the hillside, smacking into the wall right behind the shelves, leaving this evidence on the outside. On the inside, as you can see in the top photo, the plaster had cracked and one of the electrical face plates had been knocked across the room. Additionally, as you see in the middle picture, a couple of boards and a few bricks had been broken. Ah, good old kinetic energy.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sarah Warren Prince Osborne

Today is the 315th anniversary of Sarah Osborne's death. She died in Boston Prison, May 10, 1692, waiting to be hung for witchcraft. Sarah was my many-greats grandmother, on my mother's side of the family. She was also one of the first three women to be accused in the Salem witch trials of 1692. Sarah was a sick woman without power who came to grief over a disagreement with powerful in-laws of her first husband* about land. She hadn't been to church in two or three years, because of an illness which kept her bedridden. Additionally, she had married her indentured servant, Alexander Osborne, an action which was not approved of. Some sources say that there were questions about the propriety of their relationship before their marriage. She was one of the few accused who neither confessed nor accused anyone else. She was the first to assert in her defense the claim that the devil could take the shape of any person without their knowledge or agreement.

Historians Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum state that Sarah's refusal to comply with customary "patterns of land tenure and inheritance" and her relationship with Alexander Osborne were a threat to the social ideal, which was considered to be devinely sanctioned.

Meghan Carroll, in her paper "Sarah Osborne" for her University of Virginia class, Salem Witch Trials in History and Literature, has stated that "Ultimately, it was her refusal to compromise her integrity that cost Sarah Osborne her life." What more could any of us want to be said about us?

Rest in peace, Grandma Sarah.

* The Putnams, also ancestors of mine.

Post Script Julie has posted about Sarah as well at A Witch!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Just For Fun

Go on over to Bitch PhD and watch this lovely YouTube selection.

Signposts to Sanity

Where your lovin' Granny points you at some other folks' really good stuff.

I'm getting a regional training together for the Teens In Action groups in Juneau, Craig, and Sitka this weekend. So, I'm going to direct you to other people and concentrate all my time on last minute arrangements. And trying to figure out why my e-mails to Sitka didn't arrive and didn't get kicked back so that I would know they hadn't arrived.

Over at Junkfood Science, on May 8, Sandy Szwarc discussed how risk factors frighten us in her post The Greatest Myth of Health Risk Factors
Why do studies continue to find that health risk factors don’t actually predict who will succumb to disease or die early?
The answer comes down to what we’ve been misled to believe about risk factors. These misconceptions are the key to successfully scaring us about our health, food and life; the key to compelling us to do things proactively “for our health” that don’t really make all that much difference; and the key to identifying and blaming “bad” people, foods and lifestyles.
Dr. Malcomb Kendricks, Medical Director of Adelphi Lifelong Learning, Cheshire, UK, estimates that about 1,000 risk factors have now been identified for heart disease. And there are countless numbers for cancer. Just about everything, it seems, can cause cancer. Wearing a bra is a risk factor for breast cancer, wearing boxers a risk factor for prostate cancer, and eating (anything!) is a risk factor for most everything. Consuming a lot or too little garlic, red wine, chocolate, fat, red meat, whole grains, sugar, or produce; and having migraines, bad teeth, pot bellies, dark skin and big noses — have all been made a risk factor for something. And they’re sure to change tomorrow. It’s little wonder that we’re all nervous wrecks.
All that the term “risk factor” means is that a researcher has found a correlation between two variables. We get risk factors from epidemiology. And it’s easy to take a group of people and pull out endless correlations between those with and without some disease and produce another health “risk factor.” And something else to scare us with.
Remember: a risk factor is just a correlation.
The public has been convinced, however, to give risk factors such importance that it’s affected our very concept of what it means to be healthy. Rather than realize that most of us are healthy most of the time and only occasionally get sick and then get better again; it’s become widely believed that healthy young people need regular medical attention and constant diligence to stay healthy because we’re all at risk.
Then go to the Alternet article on Rosie O'Donnell by Jeanine Plant to look at just what makes this very opinionated star so very popular. Perhaps being true to yourself is appreciated by the public.
That she attracted the ire of Tom Delay, managed to stir up controversy with the Donald Trumps of the world, and often gets the conservative media machine in a tizzy bespeaks her power. That such a progressive force is in such high demand and so threatening to conservative men is a happy reminder that the sea change we saw last November is real and not going away, even though she is.
And then take a trip to and read Lee Iaccoca's Where Have All The Leaders Gone?.
Am I the only guy in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, “Stay the course.”

Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic.
I’ll go a step further. You can’t call yourself a patriot if you’re not outraged.
Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them—or at least some of us did. But I’ll tell you what we didn’t do. We didn’t agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn’t agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that’s a dictatorship, not a democracy.
A leader must have COURAGE. I’m talking about balls. (That even goes for female leaders.) Swagger isn’t courage. Tough talk isn’t courage. George Bush comes from a blue-blooded Connecticut family, but he likes to talk like a cowboy. You know, My gun is bigger than your gun. Courage in the twenty-first century doesn’t mean posturing and bravado. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk.
Thanks to our first MBA President, we’ve got the largest deficit in history, Social Security is on life support, and we’ve run up a half-a-trillion-dollar price tag (so far) in Iraq. And that’s just for starters.
We were all frozen in front of our TVs, scared out of our wits, waiting for our leaders to tell us that we were going to be okay, and there was nobody home. It took Bush a couple of days to get his bearings and devise the right photo op at Ground Zero.

That was George Bush’s moment of truth, and he was paralyzed. And what did he do when he’d regained his composure? He led us down the road to Iraq
So here’s where we stand. We’re immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We’re running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We’re losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Maps & Planes

When I was about eight, my Aunt Flo started dating the man who would become my Uncle Wes. Aunt Flo, Mama, Forry, and I were all living together, so one day Uncle Wes took us up in his airplane. I'm not sure what kind of a plane it was, but it looked much like the one in this picture. Mama had flown before, when she eloped with my father, but Aunt Flo, Forry, and I hadn't. Indeed, in those days most people had never been in an airplane, and for almost all of the years of my childhood I had more experience in planes than most adults.

We flew from Stockton, where we were living, to the San Francisco Bay Area. When we were over the Bay, Uncle Wes pulled out a topographical map and pointed out to me all of the geographical features, mapping the paper representation to the reality on the ground. I learned to recognize a bay, peninsula, island, delta, coast, mountain range, and a river on a map. We could see all of the towns and cities below us, and how the closer you got to the City, the less space between towns. We flew over the bridges -- the Golden Gate, the San Francisco - Oakland Bay, the Niles Canyon, the San Mateo, the Antioch, the Carquinez, the Dumbarton, the Martinez - Benicia, the Richmond - San Rafael, and the San Pablo Bay Bridges.

When we returned to Stockton, Uncle Wes pulled out a street map and we flew low and over the streets I normally walked, tracing them from the air and on the map. The route from home to school. From home to the store. From home to the bus stop.

It was the most wonderful lesson I ever had and I've been in love with planes and maps ever since. And Forrest became a pilot as soon as he could afford the lessons.