Thursday, October 29, 2009

We Grimly Reap What We Grimly Sow

These days, you might get searched at the airport by some swaggering moron who probably couldn’t get a job doing anything else that didn’t involve asking. “You want fries with that?’

Or you might get your door kicked in at 3am by cops who look disturbingly like the bad guys from Star Wars. While they taser you and hold your kids at gunpoint so they can check under your bed for “terrorists,” you can reflect that “freedom isn’t free” and this is all part of our friendly service to protect you from the "terrorist threat."

If you happen to ask about your rights – warrants, probable cause and all that quaint stuff – then just before some masked bully butt-strokes you into oblivion, you’ll probably get this all-purpose answer shouted hoarsely and brainlessly in your ear: “Nine-Eleven!”

The cry of the faithful.

Our version of “allahu akbar.”

Yes, yes. We lost a lot of people on Sept 11, 2001.

3000 or so, including 363 of my brother firefighters.

Terrible thing.

No question.

And if we ever decide to find out who was responsible for that arson/mass murder and prosecute them, I hope the guilty parties wind up spending several lifetimes in the joint.

But with all this shoe-sniffing for explosives and indefinitely detaining anyone who passes gas during the National Anthem, with billions and billions of dollars --- YOUR dollars – going to fight the "war on terrorism," you might suppose there are whole armies of terrorists, taking out innocent Americans in big bloody batches on every Main Street in every Hometown in the good old US of A.

Well, there aren’t

But I can tell you what is taking us out.

Heart disease killed 631,636 innocent Americans in 2006, according to figures from the CDC. For those of you whose minds have been turned to mush by incessant war propaganda and no longer have any other reference point, that’s the equivalent of more than two hundred 9-11’s.

Cancer murdered 559,888 Americans, including women and children. There’s another, well, almost a couple hundred 9-11’s, right there.

Between just those two diseases, that’s one 9-11 each and every day of the year – with a lots of extras thrown in for holidays like Christmas.

Cerebrovascular diseases (strokes) took out 137,119 of our family, friends and neighbors.

Chronic lower respiratory diseases killed 124,583; accidents 121,599; diabetes 72,449; Alzheimer's 72,432; influenza and pneumonia: 56,326 (puts that swine flu “threat into a little perspective, doesn’t it?) ; nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis chalked up 45,344 kills.

Septicemia, batting last, nailed 34,234 people.

That’s the top ten.

Not just that year or this year.

But every year.


Doesn’t even get an “honorable mention.”

But where’s the “war” on these diseases?

Where are the billions and billions of dollars to find the cave where breast cancer is hiding?

How about mammagrams at the airport instead of confiscating your nail clippers as a deadly weapon?

Why aren’t we funding a fight against these remorseless killers instead of bankrolling an overkill effort against a “threat” that doesn’t even move the needle on the bodycount scale?

Because war is sexy and righteous and righteous and sexy.

And medical research?

Well, hell, that’s just about saving lives.

This is America.


Monday, October 26, 2009

El Dorado

The color of the day was gold.

We chose one of our favorite trails through the woods, splashing along through fallen leaves.

All the reds had fallen and lay prostrate before us like a royal carpet spread along the path.

The leaves that remained were of gold.

Some newly minted gold, still retaining the past-life memory of green.

Some were a rich, buttery gold.

A golden fire ignited by streaks of sunlight filtering through the attending pines to dazzle the eye.

Gold that dazzles the brain with imaginings of splendor.

Others were soft, deep golden brown, like the skin of an exotic lover.

Aztec, perhaps. Or Incan....

El Dorado, they called it. "The Golden One."

A legendary cache of jewels and golden coins.

Or an entire city made of gold.

Explorers -- Gonzalo Pizarro, Phillip von Hutten and Sir Walter Raleigh among them -- searched for it for a couple of centuries.

They searched in Mexico, in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela and Guyana.

They looked for it everywhere, unable to resist the lure of easy money and the easy life it would bring.

Some are still looking.

But maybe it’s not a golden city.

Maybe it’s the holy grail, the fountain of youth, or Shangri-la.

Maybe it’s true love.

Or happiness.

Or The Truth.

A black pearl or a white whale.

Something somewhere over the rainbow or just at the end of one.

Maybe it’s your own personal “holy grail,” whatever that means for you.

Some ultimate prize important enough to you that you spend your whole life questing after it.

Even though you know you may never find it.

Even though you know it might not even really exist...

We paused on a high hill overlooking a valley strewn with autumn gold.

The subtle breeze was cool and clean.

The sun stood arms akimbo in a cloudless sky.

A distant smell of woodsmoke.

He caught a mouthful of green grass and munched thoughtfully as we surveyed the scene.

“Still trying to find El Dorado, huh, Jack?”

“Maybe,” I said.

“Well, then,” he snorted. “Don’t... you... move.”

He was right, of course.

He usually is.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Weeping of the Guitar

The weeping of the guitar


The goblets of dawn

are smashed.

The weeping of the guitar



to silence it.


to silence it.

It weeps monotonously

as water weeps

as the wind weeps

over snowfields.


to silence it.

It weeps for distant


Hot southern sands

yearning for white camellias.

Weeps arrow without target

evening without morning

and the first dead bird

on the branch.

Oh, guitar!

Heart mortally wounded

by five swords.

Federico Garcia Lorca


Friday, October 23, 2009

Watch This One...

It may make you weep.
It may make you mad.
It may make you act.
I hope so.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

You Raise Me Up

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;

When troubles come and my heart burdened be;

Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,

Until you come and sit awhile with me.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;

You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;

I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;

You raise me up... To more than I can be.

You Raise Me Up
Recorded by Josh Groban

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Breakfast at Epiphany's

I was taking a fire service course called EVOC – Emergency Vehicle Operation Course. Most of the content could be summarized in one sentence: “Slow down and wear your seatbelt.”

The grand finale was to go out on a driving course that was marked out with cones in the university parking lot, and take an engine through some simple maneuvers.

I’m a pretty good driver.

Been driving since I was 15 and that’s a lot of miles.

Took a driving course once called “evasion and escape.” Learned how to do boot-legger turns. Some other interesting tidbits.

Drove a garbage truck for a while.

And a dump truck a few times, in the waybackwhen.

So I wasn’t intimidated by a fire engine.

But I haven’t done much except “routine” driving in a long time.

And I crushed just as many orange cones as anyone else...

There’s a huge, huge difference between driving a car and driving a fire engine. The load, the momentum, the turn radius, the stopping distance (1000 gallons of water at 8 lbs a gallon…..)

And that’s when something really hit home.

In the official conspiracy theory of 9/11/01, some guys who’d been trained on Cessna’s (with mediocre performances in at least one case) flew those commercial airliners with appreciable precision.

That’s like saying a guy who just learned how to drive a VW bug drove a fire engine through midtown traffic.

I just don’t think so.

Apparently, a lot of experienced pilots don’t think so, either, because quite a few have come forward to the declare the notion – shall we say “extremely unlikely?”

It’s possible that ONE wild, anomalous aerial wunderkinder might have gotten incredibly lucky. But four out of four?

I may have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Dubya's Third Term

In utter defiance of the US Constitution, George W. Bush claimed the unprecedented authority to declare any person an unlawful enemy combatant (a term he created ex recto) and imprison that person without charges, without legal representation, without a trial, without recourse to habeus corpus, for an indefinite period --- not for anything the person had done, but for something the President thought the person might do.

Now Obama claims the same unconstitutional power.

Oh, but he's not going to use the "enemy combatant" term.

That makes it all better.

Still think that frog you kissed is going to turn into a handsome prince? You've got a long wait ahead of you.

See this Rachel Maddow clip:


OBAMA: Like BUSH only darker.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Serve & Protect

When the people fear their government, there is tyranny;

When the government fears the people, there is liberty.

Thomas Jefferson

Friday, October 16, 2009

First Blood


Good thing horses winter better than I do.

As long as they get plenty of hay and can stay out of the wind and keep dry, they can handle temperatures to 30 or 40 degrees below zero. Wet especially is no good and makes them lose body heat fast.

Once upon a time, I used to blanket my horse, but I don't do that anymore. His natural coat is a better "blanket" than anything you'll find at the tack shop. If he gets wet and it's real cold and windy, I might blanket him until he dries out some. I prefer a wool blanket. Something light that won't compress his hair.

Even on cold days, I notice he prefers to stand outside in the sun rather than be in his shelter.
Paddocks are pretty muddy right now (Got to find a way to change that...) and he hates standing in mud. (Keeps looking around for Sir Walter whenever he has to walk through it...) I feed him a little closer to his run-in so he won't have to.

I expect we'll get a little warm spell soon. And then.....



Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stop Winging It

In nature, a vulture cleans up the dead, decomposing things that have died or been killed.

In politics, a vulture reaps a fortune from the deaths of others: the deaths of innocent Iraquis, the deaths of innocent Afghanis, the deaths of our own soldiers, the deaths caused by toxic “medicine,” toxic food, polluted air and poisoned water…

A lot of people argue about the Right Wing versus the Left Wing as if one were virtuous and the other were corrupt, as if they were fundamentally different from each other.

But those are just two wings on the same vulture.

We'd better stop focusing on the wings and concentrate on the whole bird.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Eres Tu

Como una promesa, eres tú, eres tú.

Como una mañana de verano.

Como una sonrisa, eres tú, eres tú.

Así, así, eres tú.

- Mocedades, "Eres Tu"

Columbus: The Ideal American Hero

The Official Story:

In 1492, the great navigator, Christopher Columbus, financed by the Queens pawned jewels, sailed out in three small ships, the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, proved the world was round, and discovered America. Welcomed as a god by the local Indians, he set up trade with them. He was a radical free-thinker whose voyages of discovery ushered Europe out of the superstition and ignorance of the Dark Ages.

The Rest of the Story:

His name was Christoffa Corombo to his home-boys in Genoa and Christobal Colon to the Spanish.

His ships were the Pinta, the Santa Clara (sometimes referred to as the Nina) and the Santa Maria (sometimes referred to as the Gallega).

The queen didn’t hock her jewels to pay for the expedition out of inspiration and the goodness of her heart. She made a deal to finance the trip on the condition that she would be paid back from the spices and other goodies Chris was supposed to bring back from India.

Did he prove the world was round?


A Greco-Egyptian scientist named Erastosthenes, measured the circumference and diameter of the world in the third century B.C. In the tenth century A.D., Al Maqdisi described the earth with 360 degrees of longitude and 180 degrees of latitude.

By the time Columbus sailed the ocean blue, educated persons in Europe already knew the earth was round.

Did he discover America?

I’ll put aside for a moment the unasked question of how you can “discover” a “new world” when there a a few million people already living there.

The Vikings visited the North America 500 years before Columbus set sail. And Columbus never set foot on the continent; he landed in and stayed in the Carribean Islands.

He was a great navigator though, right?

Depends on your definition of "great." He set out looking for India, remember.

He made three voyages to America and did more than a decade of study, and at the end he STILL thought Cuba was a part of the continent of Asia, that South America was only an island, and that the coast of Central America was close to the Ganges River.

He would have been perfect for the 911 Commission.

Me, I wouldn't trust him with a road map on the inter-state.

But don’t despair.

Old Chris DID accomplish something noteworthy.

TWO things, actually.

First, he established the slave trade. Remember that debt to the Queen? 1200 Taino Indians sold into slavery was the first installment on Isabella’s easy pay-back plan.

Of course, a lot died en route. Eventually, they ran out of Indians – many of whom didn’t make very good slaves, anyway, what with escape attempts and suicides – and had to find a good substitute. Perhaps you are aware that they found the replacements in Africa.

The other thing Columbus achieved was the genocide of the native population of the "West Indies." Estimated at as many as 8 million, they were virtually extinct within 50 years after Captain Courageous “discovered” them.

In the first four years alone, he murdered or enslaved an estimated 300,000.

Furthermore, according to eye-witness Bartoleme de las Casas, Columbus & Company not only murdered them, but tortured and mutilated them, including women, children and infants, sometimes just for sport. He burned them at the stake and fed them alive to his dogs. They swung infants by the heels and smashed heads against trees and rocks.

Did other things that would gag a maggot.

And rape, of course. That goes without saying, eh?

"They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance… They would make fine servants… With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."
- from the logbook of Christopher Columbus

So why would I call this guy the ideal American hero?

Because he was a greedy, merciless, ignorant bastard whose crimes have been white-washed and whose myth far outshines his feats.

Like so many to follow in his bloody foot-steps.

And because even though the truth is out there and not difficult to find, it seems too many Americans generally prefer self-flattering fantasy to sobering history. In fact, they avoid truth like vampires avoid holy water.

This might be something you want to remember if you ever find yourself wondering IF the government would lie to you or IF they could get away with it.

Frankly, it ain’t that hard to do.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Stand-up Guy

"I’ve been to 175 countries all around the world including Afghanistan, including every country in that region, and what I’ve seen everywhere I go is that there are some commonalties everywhere you go.
Everywhere you go people want to fall in love. It’s an interesting thing.
Everywhere you go, people love children. Everywhere, they love children.
Everywhere you go, there’s a taboo against violence. Every single place you go.
And everywhere you go, people want to be left alone.
And that’s the best foreign policy of all. Just to leave people alone."

- Alan Grayson

Grayson seems to be a stand-up guy, one of only 32 members of Congress who had the courage to stand up and vote AGAINST more war funding. Not an easy thing to do.
But he's used to doing things that aren't easy.

He worked his way along, got degrees in law and government from Harvard, studied economics.
Was a successful businessman.
As a lawyer, went after corrupt war profiteers and defended whistle-blowers.

Seems possible he's cut from the same cloth as Ralph Nader and one or two other "crusaders."
How he ever got elected, and why he hasn't had a small plane accident or committed suicide yet, I can't imagine.

But judging from his actions, he may just be one of "the good guys."


You can find Grayson's official bio at:

Saturday, October 10, 2009


A friend is someone who knows the song that's in your heart,

and can sing the lyrics to you when you forget how it goes.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Can Sainthood Be Far Behind?

Has somebody gone completely NUTS?????

The Nobel Committee has just awarded the 2009 Peace Prize to President Obama.

When I read that, I thought, “This is a joke.”

It had to be political satire on the “Change” Candidate who turned out to be a Same-Old President at the stroke of midnight.

Let’s see what this guy has done to deserve that “Peace” prize:

  • We’re STILL occupying Iraq and Gitmo prison is still going strong.
  • Torture, rendition, murder, warrantless spying on Americans are all now practically institutions of the New America. You know, the one that looks a LOT like the Old Nazi Germany.

  • Mr. Obama has expanded the war in Afghanistan,
  • started a new war with Pakistan,
  • and is chomping at the bit to go to war with Iran.

For this, he gets the PEACE prize????

In other news, the Nobel Committee also awarded the prize for medicine to Jack the Ripper.

And the prize for literature went to an anonymous lunatic who wrote obscene grafitti on the bathroom wall with his own feces.

Idi Amin was posthumously awarded “Miss Congeniality.”

I guess standards ain’t what they used to be.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Some Day

I know I dreamed you a sin and a lie

I have my freedom but I don't have much time

Faith has been broken, tears must be cried

Let's do some living after we die

Wild horses couldn't drag me away

Wild, wild horses, we'll ride them some day

- Wild Horses


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fantasia Number Ten by Mudarra

It was a good day to be a horse.

So I played hookie today, put off a few things, to spend the afternoon with my partner. I arrived at the barn at an unusual hour, but he was right there waiting for me, like he knew I was coming.

How the hell does he DO that?

We took our time. Groomed. Shared a couple of apples. Told a few jokes. Saddled up and headed down the road. Took some warm-up time, walking beside him, enjoying the Autumn colors.

Some trees bare already.

An omen.

Mounted up and took on one of the old boy’s favorite hills. It has steeper parts and round-offs and dips and climbs. A good workout. Let him choose his own pace.

Reached the black-topped cross-road and turned back the way we came.

It was a long, long decline now.

From the crest of the first rise we could see practically all the way to the end.

Trees, dressed in red and gold, lined the road,

A breeze brought a handful of leaves across our path.

Like a ticker-tape parade.

And then…it was different.....

We ambled almost casually along the road and past the gates of the city.

Hundreds and hundreds of jubilant citizens lined the path, pressed together like a wall on each side. Parting before us like the Red Sea.





Their voices blended together into a roar the way individual drops of water become indistinguishable in the ocean...

We were bone weary, and still stained with sweat and gore from the fight.

But we collected ourselves and entered the city with dignity and humility. I felt him quicken his pace under me, my hips alternately rising and falling with his steady gate.

I looked into faces. Some young. Some old.

I knew none of these people.

I had no friends or family here.

I knew only that now, they were safe.

And they knew it, too

A child, lifted up by a father with too few teeth in his grin.

Her tiny hand.

A blue flower.

I accepted it from her with a bow of my head, and stuck the stem into my compadre’s bridle, behind his ear.

He snorted.

We rode past the adulation to a fountain at the city center and I slipped down from his back. He drank deeply, ears twitching with each gulp, like a heartbeat.

I leaned over and plunged my head into the cool, crisp water, rubbed my face and stinging eyes hard.

Pulled out and let the water trickle down the back of my neck and tickle down my chest.

In my reflection, I could see that the stains on my face were now gone.

Those on my soul remained….

He nudged my shoulder gently with his nose.

Then bent low for one more sip from the stream.

I scratched him behind the ear, in that favorite spot of his.

“So,” I said. “You want to be a hero?”

He gave a moist snort in my direction to express his utter disdain for the notion. But I think he did protest too much.

“You incurable old romantic,” I teased.

He nudged me again.


“Don’t worry,” I told him. “I won’t tell anybody.”

But I’m not sure if it was his fantasy or mine.

Or somebody else’s.


Monday, October 5, 2009

What Did I Want?

I wanted the hurtling moons of Barsoom.

I wanted Storisende and Poictesme, and Holmes shaking me awake to tell me, "The game's afoot!"

I wanted to float down the Mississippi on a raft and elude a mob in company with the Duke of Bilgewater and Lost Dauphin.

I wanted Prester John, and Excalibur held by a moon-white arm out of a silent lake.

I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and to eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon.

I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid.

I wanted the world to be the way they had promised me it was going to be, instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is.

- Robert Heinlein, "Glory Road"


The way I feel
Is like a robin
Whose babes have flown to come no more
Like a tall oak tree
Alone and cryin'
When her birds have flown and the nest is bare

-Gordon Lightfoot, "The Way I Feel"

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rosemary and Time

I lost my pocket knife.

Had been meaning to pick up a replacement, but hadn’t gotten around to it.

Don’t know why.

Vital all-purpose tool.

Rumaging around in a box of junk, I found an old one. Supposed to be a “horsemans’” knife with a hoof pick, etc on it. Hard to open, though. Needed some oiling.

I laid it on my desk so I wouldn’t forget about it, and promptly forgot about it.

A week or so later, I was heading out to the barn, grabbed my hat, and for some reason remembered that knife and stuck it in my pocket.

When I arrived at the barn, something was up.

The ponies seemed agitated.

My partner K was at the far side of his paddock and as soon as he saw me, galloped – and I do mean galloped – over to me and called loudly.

What the hell?

I heard something like chain rattling and I looked across to where he’d been standing.

There’s a stand of trees there where some machinery is kept.

A disc harrow.

Couple other things.

I could glimpse one of the blonde girls in amongst those trees, rearing up, making that noise like Morley’s ghost.

I sprinted over and found Duchess had managed to entangle her halter on one of those mechanical monstrosities and was trying to pull free.

Soaked with sweat.

Not having a good time.

No way I could disentangle her.

I grabbed that knife out of my pocket, it opened up slick and easy, and I cut her halter off.

She snorted a few curses and bolted off.

Turned out she had some lacerations on her legs, but nothing serious.

Insert sigh of relief here.

Reminded me of something else.....

I was heading out early one morning, going to an “extrication” class at the fire academy.

That’s a class on how to get people quickly and safely out of smashed-up vehicles at traffic accidents by disassembling the vehicle.

Cutting up cars, basically.

I was already out the door juggling keys, coffee and turnout gear, when I had a sudden urge to go back. I found a packet of Kleenex tissue on the bathroom counter and stuck it in my pocket.

Don’t know what made me do that.

Didn’t think another thing about it.

That afternoon, one of the firefighters at the class got a tiny shard of glass in his eye.

An instructor, who’s a superb EMT, by the way, took over and asked if anyone had a clean tissue.

I dug out the Kleenex packet, extricated a virgin tissue from the middle.

Just what we needed right at that moment…

A lady I know recalls to me a time we were going out to dinner and I stopped for the light at a certain intersection.

When the light turned green, I waited instead of going ahead.

A second or two later, another vehicle came blazing through the intersection, not even slowing down for the red light, if he even saw it.

Had I gone ahead as usual, he’d have slammed into us broadside.

And I was in the death seat.

“How do you DO that?” she asked.

Good question.

Some people call it “synchronicity.”

If you’re waiting for me to explain just what the hell that is, you’ve got a long wait.

But I think it’s good that we don’t know all the answers.

Keeps you on your toes.