But later in that week, she got sicker and weaker, and Friday, October 16, EMS transported her to the Mercy Ada emergency room. After a week at Mercy being treated with intravenous antibiotics for pneumonia, we moved her to “swing bed” care (rehab) at the Coal County Memorial Hospital where we got such good care in August.
She is resting and receiving intravenous fluids and potassium, but at the moment isn’t showing much improvement.
Sorry this post isn’t optimistic. Many people ask about her every day, and I wrote this update so they will know.
The dogs and I miss her, and I know she wants to come home. We are on hold.
“The pain comes in waves. Soon they will wash me away.” Did Anna write that in a letter from Puerto Rico in 1983? I want to know, but I don’t want to reread those letters because I was such an asshole to her.
Do you know where I am?
With Tomorrow / Last Goodbye
“Swirling toilet of despair.” I can still taste the despair.
Was I really standing here with her on her front porch, asking her to go steady with me? I can remember every detail from that day 47 years ago. But did it really even happen?
“I put out your hand just to touch your soft hair…”
With her covering the scene of a shallow grave
Saying goodbye in the snow
Old Land / Driving through Saint Louis
The Pain Unbearable
It’s broken and I don’t know if I can fix it.
You can’t have your hand back
The trust of a child
“When the winds of forget-me-not blow…”
“As of this moment, I am a stranger. I never existed. I’m gone.” ~Love letter revised eight years later.
All we really have is ourselves
The Bridge / first hug / the moon
Vamossa / power plant
Swing set talk as the storm approached
Heart of Glass / Single Wish
“Hey, you’re that girl!”
“Cover the ground with ashes…”
“My love will keep you warm.”
“I didn’t think it could hurt this much,” ~K, journal, November 1983
I bought a super-cheap box of cassette tapes to send single songs to her.
Somewhere in the distance, so far and separate that it shouldn’t matter, the horn of a freight train sounds as it crosses slowly through the city. They go slower now, to stay away from limbs and things.* On nights like tonight, it’s nice to walk. All the words and images inside are the same, just twisted around in circles. But since there is no one here at all, I’ll have to make do with the materials on hand. So it won’t just do to walk on this night. You see, there’s nothing out there at all any more. And it isn’t that tonight I roll in teardrops, for it seems that freedom too has escaped me. And it doesn’t help to close my eyes, for I still see the the same things, since there’s nothing there to see anyway. My hand scratches silently along, the air gets colder, and the days get shorter.
“Whipping wind whispering songs of silent seclusion…”
There are those of us who spend their whole lives waxing rhapsodic about autumn.
“It never worked.” Holy, crap, did she really just reduce our two years together to three words?
I don’t want to write.
I don’t want to itch.
I don’t want to feel useless.
I don’t want to seem like a burden.
I don’t want my eyes to itch.
I don’t want to make anyone hurt.
I don’t want to forget.
I don’t want to lose myself.
I don’t want to throw up.
I don’t want to burn up.
I don’t want to grow up.
I don’t want to break a leg.
I don’t want arthritis.
I don’t want to bite my tongue.
I don’t want to shake.
I don’t want to be forgotten.
I don’t want to ache.
I don’t want disease.
I don’t want to be hungry.
I don’t want to be mentally ill.
I don’t want to be in an asylum.
I don’t want to cough.
I don’t want to be an asshole.
I don’t want to seem insensitive.
I don’t want to lose touch.
I don’t want to lose face.
And I don’t want to lose you.
* My college roommate’s brother lost his lower leg when he walked across the tracks and got caught on something as the train arrived.
I feel sad for people who are incapable of genuine intimacy.
“Our communication is almost entirely physical, through looks and, mostly, through touch. What we say to each other seems incidental. Tonight I rubbed her back for a while, then brushed her silky blonde hair for half an hour. She fell asleep in my lap,” I said in my journal in January 1993 about a young woman with whom I had a friendship with limited benefits. She an had extraordinarily soft neck, and her hands were as soft as melted butter, though her heart was as hard as steel.
“I wish I had someone’s lap to fall asleep in.” ~The Girlfriend Who Wasn’t
Thinking about them summoned my thoughts about hands. I love women’s hands, and I love my wife’s hands most of all. Why do I love hands? Is it that hands are our first line of contact, and thus our first line of defense? Or is is that women’s hands are evolutionarily constructed to attract someone like me?
“Hold me tight.” ~Girlfriend from 2000. She had tiny, pretty, soft hands, but a shallow disposition.
The Girlfriend Who Wasn’t told me on a number of occasions that she didn’t like “being touched or tied down,” but she always held my hand. I don’t know if that was because she realized it meant something to me, or she liked it, or she imagined she would get something from it, or even that she was lying when she said she didn’t like being touched. Part of me thinks she only said this to guys like me because she considered us unattractive.
“I’m going through another, ‘I can’t deal with our life/work arrangement another minute longer!’ I feel like my life is wasting away and the next time I turn around, I’ll be turning 50 instead of 40, and I’ll be in the same situation.” ~The Girlfriend Who Wasn’t, who turns 58 in a few days.
I knew several women who had rough hands, and it always turned me off.
And yes, I know that the size and shape of fingers and hands are genetic, but at the same time, it is a mistake to dismiss genetics as a valid criteria for finding our way.
There have been women in my life who didn’t understand hugging, or why it’s good. I am a hugger. One long-ago girlfriend called me “the best” hugger. When I run into someone who appreciates this trait in me – most recently, Jamie – we fall into each other’s arms and soak it up.
This item originally came to me as a letter to the editor, but we didn’t publish it. I share it here because, res ipsa loquitur… “the thing speaks for itself.”
Unbelief Leads to Eternal Damnation
Unbelief in God the Creator dooms an individual to going to Hell and later to the Lake of Fire. Two horrific places where no one should want to go.
Yet too many people at this present time seem to be completely ignorant of the existence of such terrible places, and of the fact that unless they repent of their sins and seek God they will spend eternity there. Under continuous torture!
We live in a time when information abounds, and the greatest communication facilities exist, and yet Humanity has failed to inform the masses about God Almighty, and of His kingdom and his authority over Heaven and Earth.
His command was that each generation was to teach each new generation about his creation of Heaven and Earth, and His giving life to Humanity, and all livings things. And to remind us that “nothing is impossible to God” who has “absolute power” over everything.
God demonstrated this awesome power when He freed Israel, his chosen nation, from Egypt, drowned their Army, and then sustained the two million or so nation for forty years in the desert.
The world disobeyed and has failed to teach the new generations again and again.
America too has failed to teach the Holy Bible, “the Word of God.” The most important book in the world has been outlawed to teach in public schools by Supreme Court Judges who are in direct disobedience to God.
Just like they were disobedient when they approved of Same-Sex Marriage and other abominable acts which go against God’s just laws.
Disobeying God has through the ages resulted in God finally punishing or judging individuals and nations.
God has foretold that His creation will reject his ever-lasting love, and also His plan for salvation, and that He will destroy the wicked at a time which only He knows. That time is called “The Tribulation.”
Judging by how wicked humanity has become many now believe that time is near!
Man, for his sake, must realize that our mortal life is short, and that we all have an appointment with death, and then the “judgment.” And as Jesus told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
In other words, we cannot go to Heaven unless we have been “born again.” When a person is “born again” he/or she receives the gift of “Eternal life” from God. Then upon death angels will escort them instantly to Heaven.
The “Word of God” tells us it is God’s will that “none should perish.” But it also tells us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” God said, “without blood there is no remission of sin.”
Therefore, God’s plan for salvation included the Holy Ghost overshadowing the acquisitioning Mary, implanting the Word of God in Mary, and producing the holy thing (baby) to be born to be called the “Son of God.” Because of “the will of God” “the Word was made flesh” and baby Jesus was born, “and “dwelt among us,” “and we beheld his glory.”
At the appointed time, Jesus, “the Son of God”, “the Son of Man,” demonstrated the “Powers of God” to show “God was with us” on earth. He raised the dead, gave site to the blind, healed the sick, gave his life for our sins, by crucifixion, was buried, and on the third day was resurrected. He was seen on earth forty days before returning to Heaven.
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:17). THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO HEAVEN!
My wife Abby is back in the hospital, this time for a bout of lower lobe pneumonia. The acute phase is over, but her recovery, like her difficult illness in August, is achingly slow.
It is stretching me thin.
One thing everybody tells me is “take care of yourself.” On paper, I know what that means, but I also know my duty to my wife, and that being true to that means I might not be able to always take care of myself.
So I’m eating and sleeping, but those activities are tainted by worry and frustration.
A bright spot in this otherwise cheerless entry is that longtime friend Ann Dicus baked us a pecan pie and sent it along with a kind, empathetic card today. Thank you, Ann.
As the years have gone by, I have made a mental note of prominent people, many celebrities, who died at a younger age than I am now, 58 as I write this. Steve McQueen and Michael Jackson were 50. Frank Zappa and Christopher Reeve were 52. Jim Henson and John Denver were 53. John Ritter, Peter Sellers, and Michael Landon were 54. Steve Jobs and Linda McCartney were 56. Prince, Patrick Swayze, and Humphrey Bogart were 57. George Harrison and Andy Warhol were 58.
And Dan Fogelberg was 56.
Recently his widow Jean Fogelberg shared “All the Time in the World,” a serial memoir, on their website, and I read each installment as she published it each week, curious both about the life of the man whose music I admired, especially when I was in college, but also about what it must have been like to get sick and die at the young age of 56. In the midst of reading this, I wrote her a short, frank email:
Feb. 2, 2021
My wife Abby and I love to travel. We got married in Moab, Utah, at Arches National Park. Between our home in Oklahoma and Moab, there is New Mexico, which we love, and Abby and I are especially fond of the Santa Fe area.
In October 2019, we drove up to Pagosa Springs for our 15th anniversary vacation, and in our conversation I said, “I think Dan Fogelberg lived around here somewhere.” It sent me down the path of talking about his music, how I discovered it, and where it took me.
My first experience with the music of Dan Fogelberg was in 1979 when I was in high school, when my first girlfriend Tina decided “Longer” would be “our song.” I didn’t care for it much, but she was young and sentimental, so it fit, as I expect that song did for a lot of kids of that era.
In January 1982, Tina and I saw Dan Fogelberg in concert at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma, when I was a freshman at the University of Oklahoma. The 11,000-seat facility was standing room only. The thing I most remember about the show was that Tina wanted to hear “Longer,” and when he did play it, he insisted on silence from the audience, so when someone would “woo-hoo” from the seats, he played around the intro again until everyone shut up.
Those days were so naive for me. I was learning so much, but it was uncontained, chaotic, sophomoric. I was building a philosophy, but at the same time I was devoting too many hours to hi-fi stereo, fast cars, staying up late and blowing off class. In April 1982, a close friend, Debbie, died in a car crash, and in May, my former college roommate Jeff shot himself in the head. Interesting times.
I listened to a lot more Fogelberg in college than I had in high school, and his work, especially the early work, had an influence on me. If I had to pin it down, I’d say 1977’s Nether Lands was his strongest album.
I was also a devoted Pink Floyd listener, and was discovering Kansas, Phil Keaggy, James Taylor, Todd Rundgren, Journey, Simon and Garfunkel, Alan Parsons, more.
It would be decades before I expanded into genius like Brian Eno, the Cocteau Twins, and This Mortal Coil, and years later I would follow the downward spiral of Nine Inch Nails. It all points to the powerful influence of music.
But back to Santa Fe. I got a big kick out of your description of living in and around the Plaza, and recognizing every landmark you mentioned. I even have a nice image of Abby and her Chihuahua Sierra in Burro Alley.
You may have been to Madrid south of Santa Fe on SH14. We always make time to stop there and eat at The Hollar. Abby always says she would love to live there.
When Abby and I got home from Colorado in 2019, we bought “A Tribute to Dan Fogelberg,” and listened to it together in one sitting. Like his music in general, some of it was brilliant, and some of it missed the mark. That’s true for all musicians.
My favorite Dan Fogelberg cover isn’t on the Tribute, but the title track from Ashton, Becker and Dente’s 1994 cover album “Along the Road.”
Jean talks about Dan sailing alone in the last few months of his life, and while there is a certain romance about going off to sea and disappearing forever, I think this was a serious mistake: pilots aren’t allowed to fly on all the drugs he was taking, and I’m not sure driving is even safe in that situation. If the argument is that it was his business how he wanted to live and die at the end, fine, but search and rescue is costly and dangerous to all involved.
“Stress and physical wear and tear had begun wreaking havoc on my own body,” she writes in the chapter called Living with the Enemy, and I am certainly in synch with this feeling. When Abby is at her sickest, I stop eating and sleeping, lose weight, and my stomach hurts. You can argue that I should take care of myself, but it is a very fundamental reaction to that kind of stress.
Like a lot of artists, it would have been better for Fogelberg’s music to disappear without a trace rather than get drawn into the corporate music mill. As I wrote this, I listened to his entire catalog, and I remembered fondly his amazing early music, and cringed with embarrassment for us all when I got to 1987’s Exiles. This album sounded like the culture at the time, from the Entertainment Tonight-like soprano sax solos to the drum machines. He became the hair band of easy listening. Exiles is as derivative as any music I’ve ever experienced.
It didn’t have to be that way, of course. It wasn’t his sound. It was the sound (and bad advice) of some popped-collar producer who wanted to ride the industry tide.
In some ways, it’s tempting to forgive individual musicians for the dreck they pumped out during that time. 1987 was, after all, the year that gave us Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley, I Want to Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) by Whitney Houston, Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car by Billy Ocean, and … oh, it hurts my brain to even type this … (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.
Dan Fogelberg’s best songs, in my offbeat estimation, are the ones that take advantage of his amazing guitar skills and triharmonic vocals: Scarecrow’s Dream, The Last Nail, The Innocent Age, Sketches, Souvenirs, and Along the Road.
Same Old Lang Syne and Leader of the Band are often cited as great, but they don’t reach me like they do most people.
The chapters of Jean’s account drift off-course fairly often. I know it’s meant to be an intimate tale of their lives together, but I got really bored with the banal chit-chat about which wine they chose to go with which pasta.
Speaking of wine, there is a chapter in which she talks about their wine collection being ruined by a dehumidifier, and they would have to go to the wine shop the next day to replace their expensive Italian wines. Wow. Those poor little rich people had to replace their precious, pricey wine. Sometimes the wealthy can really lose sight of themselves.
I want to add that I thought very highly of Fogelberg’s music when he was really at the crest of his talent and popularity, from 1972’s Home Free through 1983’s Windows and Walls. It’s quite a musical achievement to have such a long run of great music, especially in a world of one-hit wonders.
I would have liked to meet and photograph the man, but I’ve never liked the paparazzi photography scene, and I’m not certain I would have been the photographer for him. Still, I feel I might have been able to express something about his amazing musical talent, and something about how his music and vision influenced me.
“I don’t think you’re going to come away from this ‘decoding’ knowing anything more about him than what is already commonly known. You may learn something about him you, personally, didn’t know before, but as for ‘decoding’ him? Not gonna happen. Not from photos of his journal pages alone.”
And so another dismissive, journalist wannabe tried to put me in my place.
When I inadvertently heard that Kurt Cobain kept a journal, I stopped what I was doing right then and found them on Amazon and ordered them. I have been re-reading them for two years since then.
I read some reviews of Kurt Cobain’s Journals in preparation for writing this review. They were all over the place, from praising Cobain’s rawness, candor and expressiveness, to ultra-unforgiving criticism of Cobain’s widow Courtney Love being a sellout for publishing it.
Cobain wasn’t the kind of kid who hung in my high school circles, and he wouldn’t have been comfortable for a minute with my adult friends. Nor was he the school bully or misfit, prom king or quarterback, trumpeter or debater.
That mostly just leaves one category: burners. Those guys were assholes in school, but they all ended up (or already were) in the throes of self-destruction. So sure, I can see Cobain behind a dumpster on a Saturday night when he was 12.
A teenage girl I knew on the day Cobain died told me, “Kurt Cobain was a genius.” At the time, I was very annoyed with her, since his suicide seemed so petulant and selfish, but today I might reconsider. Why? As my brilliant reviewer/journalist/social commentator friend Dan said in his review of Nevermind, “Nirvana was on the forefront of (a) change, a blast of hard rock that was totally different than the plastic, corporate-sanctioned music that had ended the Eighties.”
I know, I’m shifting all over the place, but so did Cobain’s journal.
In the end, I like Cobain’s journal because I can relate to them. I journal, and that journal can be dark, overly honest, contentious, jittery, and chaotic, although I also yearn for a sense of chaos that Cobain clearly mastered.
Here are a few phrases I circled or highlighted while I was reading it…
“I hope I die before I turn into Pete Townshend.”
“Smells like thirtysomething.”
“I’ve collaborated with one of my idols William Burroughs.”
“Television is the most evil thing on our planet.”
“Fuck now, suffer later.”
“I don’t want a granddaughter of mine changing my soiled rubber underwear while I suck on Ry-Krisp, clinging to existence just so I can reminisce about my life as a professional reminiscent.”
“I like passion. I like innocence.”
“Censorship is very American.”
“The king of words is everything.”
“God how I love playing live.”
“Thanks for the tragedy. I need it for my art.”
“Recycle, vote, question, or blow your head off.”
“The revolution will be televised.”
“Life isn’t nearly as sacred as the appreciation of passion.”
“If you think everything has been said and done, then how come nothing has been solved and resolved?”
“I hate myself and want to die.”
Cobain’s most common illustration in his journal is of rooftop snipers aiming at Nazis or Klansmen.
Cobain once wrote a letter to a congressman accidentally using a cigarette instead of a pen.
My sister pointed out that Cobain had terrible taste in woman, since he married one of humanity’s worst, Courtney Love.
For years and years, intimacy seemed to hover around my journals. Now I look back at them (more on that soon), and see how valuable that is, even when others dismantle and criticize them. They are real, raw, unpolished, unprotected, and vulnerable.
I recommend that you, too, read Kurt Cobain’s journals.
I just watched the Netflix Original Documentary The Social Dilemma, and I have some thoughts on this rather chilling assessment of the current and future netscape.
I have often been disappointed by my social media posts seeming to gather so much more attention than my blog posts here on this site, and I always have a sneaking suspicion that is due to the way social media stimulate rewards centers in the brain, while my blog posts are only well-written, thoughtful and true.
The same concept applies to newspapers vs social media. One of the experts cited in this film asserts that fake news gets about six times as many shares as real news, “because real news is boring.”
I recently turned down a better-paying job in corporate social media, and am feeling very vindicated for it after watching this show.
Social media sharing and participation is easy for everyone, and requires little thought. In a post about my wife’s recent hospitalization, there were 318 “likes” and 108 comments, almost all of which were kind but empty, as in, “thoughts and payers.” You feel like you are contributing something, but nothing particularly valuable.
A relative of ours recently claimed with unwavering certainty that ivermectin, “cures 97 percent of all COVID-19 cases,” and she couldn’t have gotten ahold of a lie like that anywhere else but social media.
So what could the answer be? Is it enough for us to vet and share the truth every day, or will it take action by the force of governments and armies to stop poisoning our minds? Are we, as one commenting in the show asserted, headed for a civil war?
Stroke of genius
Genius at work
Men at work
Sell your soul
Service with a smile
Smile when you say that
When you say
Readers know that my wife Abby has been struggling with a period of poor health that began in early August. Her recovery has been achingly slow, but today I am cautiously optimistic to report that she is legitimately better.
You can see that she’s still a little rough, but her optimism and success with PT and movement in general is a weight off of me. I am hopeful she will get better.
Over the last year and a half, I’ve made an effort to write more by hand in my journal.
When I first started keeping a journal, I married it to a rigid style: date and day at the top of the page, standard block paragraphs, at least a page a day.
I tried to break out of this mold in my 20s by allowing myself to draw, write poetry, and be more abstract, but the one thing I wish I’d done more is make notes about life.
During my recent push, I have done exactly that. I note everything in my journals these days, and use them as more than journals, but also as records of events, travels, media, vaccinations, gossip, weather, entertainment, notes for stories, photos, and columns, and even medication notes.
In the next day or two, the purple journal book, number 55, will be full, and I will start writing in number 56, which is blue.
In the last 15 years, we have all witnessed the internet deteriorate. What at first seemed like a gleaming futurtopia of the “information superhighway” has become a place for intellectual and spiritual poison.
Black box warning: clicking on any of the above links may be preceded by, or contain, advertising.
A recent trip down the Wikipedia rabbit hole on various subjects brought me to this article: the digital dark age. I hate to say it, but I tend to be right about stuff a lot, and I was always right about this one. I tell my students to keep migrating their data to newer technologies, or they will lose them forever.
And of course, you know where I am going with this: it’s all about money. There’s no money in being brilliant. It’s not socially-piercing poetry that gets 10 million likes. The likes, and the money, go to intellectually numbing crap on sites like Tic-Toc.
Of particular annoyance is that so many (probably the majority of) websites have some kind of nagging beg for money. Pop-overs, pop-downs, ads that take forever to load, all make those pages insufferable. Even the Associated Press home page nags us every time with a pop-over that you can’t not see…
This web site, richardbarron.net, has been online since 2004, and I am keeping it up. A downside to that is that viewers gloss over links on social media, and seldom navigate to websites based on searches or bookmarks. I sometimes think that no one ever clicks on links when they browse social media because, to be kind, they are brainwashed into consuming their reality in tiny, salty, sugary, cheesy little bytes.
Part of what we web old-timers liked was the idea of flowing freely from one page to the next, following suggested links or search results, in a fashion that made the internet a bit like a scavenger hunt. In 2021, many, maybe most, users, follow only what one app offers them.
The most obvious solution to you and your digital footprint is to find a way to express it non-digitally. Write or type on paper. Print your photographs. Hold on to your phonograph records, audio tapes, and CDs. Yet I remain pessimistic when I see more powerful and complex smartphones used to create mediocre photos and video, open to one app, used for bottom-tier entertainment only.
In conclusion, if you sprinkle Ivermectin on your Tide pods, it works twice as well to prevent the Rona.
In some ways, the era before 9/11 was an age of innocence.
I have written many times over the years about where I was when 9/11 happened. Since Saturday is the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, an entire generation of people, some my friends and relatives, have little to no memories of that day.
So today I’d like to share not where I was or what I was doing, but who I was on that day.
I was still flying all the time. I earned my pilot certificate in May 1993, and flew a lot in those years. There were a couple of nice, affordable airplanes to rent at the Ada and Norman airports, and I was building hours by flying and training. 9/11 had a chilling effect on this, since, only marginally related, the terrorists involved had a small amount of general aviation training.
I was unmarried and wasn’t dating anyone. This wasn’t for lack of trying, but more about how difficult it is to be in a good relationship or in a good marriage. From the moment of 9/11 to my first date with my wife Abby in January 2003, it seemed like an eternity, but of course it was just 16 months.
I lived in a very small downtown Ada apartment. Because it was near the college, my apartment tended to be more culturally diverse than most neighborhoods, and I really liked that.
I still had a darkroom at our newspaper, so I was still very active in film photography, especially black-and-white photography.
On September 12, after more than 24 hours of watching the news about the attacks, a friend told me on the phone that, “I’m really brain dead. I wonder if it’s information overload. I feel like the wheels are just whirring away inside my head.”
“Everything wrong Gonna be alright Come September…” ~Natalie Imbruglia
My wife Abby and I were lulled into a sense of optimism, both external and internal. SARS-CoV-2 pandemic numbers were in freefall. We were both excited to finally be able to travel out west to some of our favorite places. Work was going well. In June, we felt confident enough in the situation to go on vacation to Taos, New Mexico.
First week in August: there was a huge spike in COVID-19 cases. August 7: Abby broke her shoulder. August 11: we learned that Abby’s former brother-in-law Tim died in July. August 13: Dorothy, Tim’s 95 year-old mother, Abby’s former mother-in-law, died. August 14: Abby was admitted to the hospital with a urinary tract infection. August 23: a relative of mine had unexpected diverticulitis. August 24: Abby’s sister Inez died. August 29: Hurricane Ida hit New Orleans, including my sister, her husband, and his mother.
My sister Nicole, her husband Tracey, and his mother Gail are among the many thousands of people directly in the path of Hurricane Ida in New Orleans.
As of 9:30 a.m. Aug. 29: 930mb, 150 mph, strong category 4 (5 starts at 157 mph.)
“We are staying. Wind is picking up, lights are flickering, we’re becoming part of history, etc.”
August 29, 2021, 12:56pm:
Tracey and I elected to ride out the storm in our home. We feel as prepared as we can be (we’ve got the *good* snacks). Larry is under the bed in “his” room (hey, that’s my office!) and Dauphine is endearingly underfoot. Power went out about an hour and a half ago, so in the interest of retaining phone battery, I’m re-reading all my Little House books (I have a boxed set because of course I do). If you don’t hear from us, it’s only because power/internet/cell towers have failed. We’ll be in touch when and how we’re able. Remember, when you feel like worrying, pray instead. God is good, all the time.
P.S. I’ve been overwhelmed by all the offers of post-apocalypse help and accommodation. We are so very blessed.
Evening: Nicole Barron Hammill marked herself safe during Hurricane Ida in Southern Louisiana, USA.
Star date August 29, 2021, 4:20 pm
Situation Report: We lost a pane of glass from our bedroom window. Tracey patched it with coroplast and duct tape. Superhero!
Edited to add: Tracey’s mom is ok. Thanks for your concern.
Star date August 30, 2021, 8:23 am
Situation Report: we and the animals are alive and well. Larry pooped on the bed and is in time out. I know you have lots of questions, but we are wicked busy and pulling power from our car batteries to charge our phones. So: no power at all and will not have for many weeks. World reeks of uncollected garbage and environmental disaster. Flies are collecting in the corners of our eyes in manner of heart-tugging starving children commercial or similar. House is largely undamaged as far as we can tell. Toilets are flushable. Will attempt recon mission shortly to Jefferson Parish to check on Tracey’s mother since phones are down and she’s not answering her texts. This, despite orders from officials to continue to shelter in place. Once we get her squared away we’ll come back here and clean up.
We do not yet know what our plans are, beyond that.
“Post Apocalyptic Report from NOLA, 3 days after the hurricane.
We’ve been out of power for 3 days, in sweltering 100+ degree heat. Already had to throw a lot of food out from the fridge, but as frozen things thaw we’re cooking them on the bbq, for which I’m thankful to have something nice to eat, but I know all of that will run out soon.
We only had minimal storm damage at our house, only some fallen tree limbs and a fence that fell over, we were very blessed. Even though during the storm the wind was so tremendous it sounded like a freight train for 10-12 hours, and it shook the house constantly. But I kept praying that God would protect us and that God would be merciful, and even though things are dire here, today in the aftermath I am feeling so thankful and blessed. I know as bad as it is here, it could have been way worse.
I’ve already cleared all the fallen debris around our house, and after that I picked up all up and down my block. The street on my block was full of roof tiles, trash, tree limbs, etc., I thought I’d do what I could to bring things back to some sense of normalcy.
However, this morning I felt like I was in the movie Soylent Green at the food riot. I was waiting in line at a local ice house selling ice for $5 a bag, limit 4, for nearly 2 hours to get ice …I got there an hour before they opened at 7am and there was already 100 ft line, by 8am the line was 2 to 3 blocks long… everyone was very uptight, and it seemed like things were going to get out of control and anarchy was going to ensue. I was glad to get outta there.
I have not seen ANY city, state, government, FEMA assistance. No National Guard passing out ice, MRE’s, etc. “Where dey at, where dey at?”. People are suffering here and need help.
A lot of people are in survival mode, kind of every man for himself, but I’m encouraged by occasional glimmers of hope from acts of Good Samaritans like our neighbor, Joris, across the street who evacuated initially, but came back to check on their house. When they came back they had two 5 gallon containers of gas, and two big bags of ice to give to us. I was literally moved to tears at their thoughtfulness and generosity. I brought the ice to my elderly mother, who has also been without power.
Please continue to pray for everyone affected by this storm. God will see us through.
God bless you.”
Captain’s log, star date September 3, 2021, 1:30 pm:
Beautiful, blessed day here at Hammill Manor.
Tracey “McGuyver” Hammill discovered yesterday that we’d lost our roof turbine. We figured we had until the morning to *somehow* plug the gaping hole until we can get it professionally repaired, but before those plans could come into play, we heard thunder. Oh no!
Undeterred, our hero raced to open up the attic, scramble up the stairs, and — and here is where you’ll need to suspend your disbelief— snake a number of plastic bags, then an UMBRELLA! through the hole. Once opened, he tied the umbrella down firmly. Crisis averted, and now our house wears a jaunty hat.
Today we were able to buy non-perishable groceries, procure enough ice for ourselves and for Tracey’s mom, fill up our gas tank after only having to wait 28 minutes, and enjoy fresh chicken salad sandwiches courtesy of the Sankofa food bank, which is located half a block from our house.
We’re fine and have everything we need, except power, but we’re now being told that it could be restored within a week or so.
Guess what we have?!?!
From Tracey on Facebook, Sept. 13…
My Hurricane IDA Story…
Having been born and raised in New Orleans, and being 57 years old now, I am no stranger to hurricanes. But I can’t say that I get any more used to them. On the front end of them, they spike my anxiety, I’m always fearful of how bad they can be. I had a traumatizing refugee experience resulting from being the only one on my block for 3 weeks after hurricane Katrina 16 years ago. There was no power, no stores open, no emergency service, police protection, etc., it was a scary surreal time that has left it’s mark on me. I’ve had to brace for several hurricanes since Katrina, some were pretty bad, but none were quite as bad as Katrina. This is why I was so fearful of Ida, at first it looked like it was going to miss us, and then not long after it looked like it was headed right for us, and it was going to be every bit as bad as Katrina.
Aside from one of the rooms in our house that I use as an office / studio, mostly for computer equipment, etc., a lot of my artist studio is in the form of tents I use in our back yard. I do things in the tents that are too messy to do in the house, like spray paint, etc., kick up sawdust, whatever. I do that out in the tents, I have several of them, 10’x20′ ft each. Well, in a hurricane, those tents might as well be kites that I’m always afraid will get swept away like Dorothy’s house in the Wizard of Oz. So, in advance of the hurricane, I’ll tie down the pole structures down from inside using whatever I can to weigh it down so it won’t go flying. In a mad scramble, I did all of that prior to the storm getting here, but still had my doubts whether it would be enough. Well, let me tell you, during the hurricane, those tents danced around like a jitterbug for 12 hours, and I had to run out during the worst of the storm to tie things down twice, but I was astonished that a 10’x40′ long, two 10’x20’s together, that long of a tent stayed put through a Category 4 hurricane, when all around there were much more formidable buildings that sustained a lot of damage. Honestly, it seemed to defy reasoning. I know I prayed and prayed and prayed, all through the storm, because I was terrified. Our house shook constantly for 12 hours during the tremendous wind from the storm, it sounded like a freight train outside. I kept praying, God, please hold this house together, God please keep the roof on, please keep my tents from flying away, please watch over my mother, protect her, protect us, all that. And astonishingly enough, we were very very blessed. My tents stayed put through a hurricane, and our house sustained only minor damage; we had a roof turbine get blown off of the roof. I temporarily covered the open turbine hole with an umbrella just moments before a rainy downpour. The next day I retrieved the turbine that blew off, bent it back into shape, and me and my neighbor, Ken, put it back on. He was nice enough to climb on my roof and put it back in place, while I fastened it from the inside of the attic. So, my neighbor, Ken, was a real blessing to me. Other than the roof turbine, three 8 ft sections of our wooden fence fell over. I picked them up one at a time, and propped them up with some wooden pallets like kickstands. They’re not permanently fixed, but it’s good enough for now until I can do better. Also had one window pane blow out during the storm. We were here at the time when it happened during the storm, so I was able to quickly cover the open window pane with a piece of coroplast, a political sign, that I cut into the size of the window pane and taped in place. After the storm, I was able to retrieve the glass pane on the ground outside of the house, it was still intact. I’ll just put it back and put some clear silicone on it when I get a chance. But all and all, I am thankful because I know it could have been so much worse… How those tents stayed put is a minor miracle, Praise God!
Our power was finally restored after 6 days of being without in the sweltering heat. I had a little computer design job that was due the first week of September, so when our power was restored, I checked in with my customer who’s out of town, and told them I’d have their design done shortly since our power was restored. I finished the job, and the customer said he loved it, so I could cross that off my list of things to do. I kept looking at FB posts from lots of people that had not yet had their power restored in different parts of town, and there were a lot of them, all over, and I felt bad for them. So, I took it upon myself to try to be a blessing to folks that were still suffering. I went to National Guard distribution points, not for myself but for others, and collected ice, water, MRE’s, etc., and for several days I was delivering relief supplies to people who had not yet had their power restored.
Bear in mind, this is at a time when gas is much sought after, lines for gas were sometimes miles long, and took hours to get through. I was driving around using up precious gas to help folks because I can’t just idly sit back watching and allow people to suffer, knowing it’s within my power to help, and there’s something I can do to ease their suffering… which is why I was appalled when I heard a man was shot dead at a gas station in a case of cutting in line over gas. How horrible, especially now that gas is readily available again. Such a senseless killing.
These hurricanes have a way of bringing out the best, and unfortunately sometimes the worst in people. We’ve been very blessed by the very generous help of our neighbors, as well as private and church organizations providing relief supplies like ice, water, and food, etc., to people in my neighborhood. But in the first few days after the storm, these organizations were not yet in place to help people.
I remember the morning of the 3rd day after the storm, and hearing from a friend’s FB post about a commercial ice house just a few miles from where I lived and how they were going to be selling ice to people, starting at 8am. I got there at 7am, and the line already had over 100 people waiting. By the time 8am rolled around, the line was 2 blocks long, and a lot of people were uptight, tensions were high, people wanted ice to save their food in their refrigerators because power had been out for 3 days now, or to get some relief the the sweltering heat, but everybody was desperate for it. At 8am, they announced they weren’t ready to start selling until another 1/2 hour or so, while they unloaded a truck that had just brought more ice in from outside the city. The ice that they had available for people was actually “snow-ball” machine blocks. Solid blocks of ice that are about 6″x6″x24″ long blocks. They’re designed to fit into a standard size snow-ball ice-shaving machine. They were selling 2 to a bag, for $4.50, limit 4 bags. I bought the limit, 4 bags, for $18.00. It seemed worth it to save our food from spoiling, and to cool off some beverages and get some relief from the heat.
Here’s a blessed moment, I had all 4 bags of ice, 3 in a cooler, and the last over the top because it wouldn’t fit. All the while before I got my ice, I noticed others getting theirs, and nobody was able to carry more than 3 bags at once. Most took 2, one in each arm, and if it was a couple of people, they could each carry 2 bags each. Occasionally a strong guy would carry away 3 at once. But I was alone there, in this mob of desperate for ice people, trying to carry away my 4 bags at once, something no one before me had done, and yes it was a struggle. It felt like everyone was checking me out in astonishment that I was able to muscle 4 at once. I had to travel a block to get to my car, and I have to admit, I had to stop at the half way mark, just to set the cooler down, and take a breather… when out of no where comes this guy saying, hey man, I’ll give you a hand! And this stranger helped me carry that 4th bag to my car. Of course, I thanked him. But that was a blessing right there, that stranger. He was a blessing to me.
I thought about the gesture of kindness, and by the time I got home with the ice I decided to share the 4th bag with my neighbors across the street. There’s three people living there, Ken and two ladies, and they were very appreciative for the ice. So I was a blessing to them. They were very thankful. This initiated a progressive exchange of thoughtful gestures between us and our neighbors throughout this storm aftermath while we were still waiting for power to be restored in our neighborhood. Like, if they went out looking for supplies; ice or gas, they would get some for us, and vice versa. It created a closeness, like we were looking out for each other, that had not existed so much before.
Our other neighbors, Brooke and Joris, who had evacuated to Alabama because they have a small child, I thought their house looked ok from the outside, and I told them in some messages we exchanged. They said they were coming back to check on the house, and did we need anything. They were so kind and generous, they brought us two 5 gallon containers of gas, and two big bags of ice. I still haven’t used the gas, and are probably going to wind up giving it right back to them, but we sure appreciated that ice. Another unexpected blessing. Another example of people helping people; people showing love and consideration for one another… Praise God! I’m praying for them because when they came back to check the house, they discovered extensive damage that I could not see from the street. So much so, they can’t live there right now, and may not be able to for a while. …Godspeed their recovery.
In spite of my icing efforts, little by little we lost all our refrigerated goods. I tried to eat as much as I could just to keep from having to throw it all out, but even still we threw out more than we wanted to. It’s like tossing your money into the garbage, and when you think about how precious food is, especially to those in need, it’s just horrible. First to go was the stuff in the refrigerator, and then all of our frozen stuff in the freezer began to thaw out. We had a variety of frozen meats; chicken, steaks, hamburger meat, etc. Thankfully, I had several bags of charcoal, and we went ahead and grilled a pack of chicken breasts first, since they were the most thawed. That chicken was outstanding, and so thankful to have something hot and delicious to eat in the midst of so much hard work and a stressful situation. The next day we made all of the burgers and steaks that we had. I made 8 hamburgers to accompany the pack of 8 buns I had, and I made about 5 steaks. Since we had extra, we gave steaks and hamburgers to our neighbors, Ken and Co., across the street. They were thankful, and invited us over to socialize and get to know them a little better, which we did. We had a nice time.
As days progressed, and people were still waiting for their power to be restored, I delivered relief supplies; ice, water, MRE’s, and I even stopped at a very rare Burger King that happened to be open where everything thing else around was still closed. I brought a couple of Whopper combos with fries to my friend, David, a young Brother in Christ, who lives all the way on the West Bank of the Mississippi River. I tried to sit down and eat with him, but this guy ate two Whoppers before I finished my first, he was starving. I was so glad to bring him some food after seeing how hungry he was. I felt like I was a big Whopper of a blessing to him.
The following day, another dear friend, Kaye, a Sister in Christ, told me in a FB comment that her roof turbine had blown off, much like how mine blew off. I asked if she had retrieved the turbine and she said she had, so I went over to her house in Kenner, which is clear across town from me, and I got on her roof, and replaced the turbine from the top, and then I went inside of the attic and secured the turbine from the inside. I was really glad to have the opportunity to do the very same thing that my neighbor across the street from me had done for me, I was really glad to return the same favor to someone else, especially after it had been done so generously for me. I was a blessing to her, as she’s been a blessing to me in the past. She’s prayed for my mother in the past, and I appreciate it.
I had to laugh when I was at Kaye’s, and Kaye’s brother was there, who I had never met before. …I was wearing my Bourbon Street Prayer Group T-shirt, and I might’ve mentioned something about God, or how I like being a blessing to others, and he looks at me and says, “What are you? Some kind of Preacher?” …and I had to just laugh… I thought to myself, if he only knew me years ago, in another life, would he ask me such a thing? …”Some kind of Preacher?” …maybe so… maybe we all have it within ourselves to be “Preachers”, I just want to be a living example of God’s love, and share with people my testimony of the miracles I feel that God has worked in my life, which have been many… Praise God!
After I left Kaye’s, I drove past the house of an elderly couple, Mr. Leon & Miss Gayle, who I’ve known for years. I knew their children; their son and daughter, David & Lisa, who are my age, evacuated with them off in Florida for the storm. I knew their power in their neighborhood had not yet been restored and they were waiting for it to come back. I saw a tremendous amount of fallen tree limbs all on their front lawn. I also saw that most of their adjacent neighbors had already made piles of fallen tree limbs along the street. I know from the past that trucks will go around picking up this debris, and if yours is not in a pile when they come, then they are not going to collect it up piece for piece off of your lawn. So, not knowing when my friends were planning on returning, I thought I’d do them a big favor, and gather up all the tree limbs from in front of their house. By the time I was done, this pile was bigger than a full size van in front of their house. So, I was a definite blessing to them.
I even helped the elderly couple, Mr. Howie and his wife, that lives across the street from the elderly couple I know. They saw me clearing the lawn and thought I was David, the son of Leon & Gayle, and I told them I’m just a friend of the family doing them a favor. That’s when they said, “That’s SOME FAVOR you’re doing for them!” …and I complimented them on the pile of branches in front of their own home. They told me they did that themselves earlier that morning, but there was a tree trunk in their back yard that was too heavy for the two of them to lift… that’s when I said, “Why don’t you let ME have a crack at it!” …I went over there and saw this massive broken tree trunk wedged and caught up on their busted up wooden fence it landed on. I wrapped my arms around that tree trunk, probably 10″-12″ diameter at thickest point, maybe 12′ to 15′ long, it was heavy, but I managed to lift it up off the fence it was caught up on… and after that, I dragged it, there was no lifting this thing, it was too heavy, I dragged it to the front of the house. Howie’s wife told me Howie was 80 yrs old, so I know I was a serious blessing to them… Praise God!
Interesting side story, I had an official Saints baseball hat, with the NFL logo on the back of it. I had it when I went to Kaye’s and I thought I had it when I went to the second house I went to. But when I got home that evening, I couldn’t find it. I was tired, so I let it rest till the next morning. I searched my van the next day and could not find it anywhere. A few years ago, I lost another Saints hat that was identical to it. My wife was nice enough to get me another one as a gift to replace it, but I was shocked to find out the official NFL hat was $50. So I’ve tried to be careful for the last few years with this replacement hat. Well, you can imagine how upset I was to not be able to find this hat. I didn’t want to spend another $50 and make the NFL and Roger Goodell any richer. I kept thinking, where could it be? Could it be in that massive pile of fallen tree branches at Leon and Gayle’s? I drove back over there to look around, and could not find it. Mr. Howie even came out and we talked. I mentioned it to him, and he said he’s keep an eye out for it, but I did not have much hope in me finding it now. …So get this, I’m leaving there, the house is near Grace King High School in Metairie for those familiar, I was leaving going down West Esplanade, I turned right at Causeway to make my approach to the I-10, I’m on the elevated on ramp that merges with the interstate traffic moving at 60-70 mph and it was at the bottom of the ramp, where one accelerates and merges with faster moving traffic, that I noticed to the left of me off in the very narrow 2′ ft wide shoulder, what looks like a black baseball hat. I didn’t get a clear look at it, because it was on opposite side of the traffic I was merging into. I had to drive what seemed about 5 miles to get to the next exit where I could turn around and go back the other way. I did, and I went back the exact same way I did before, I was back on the on ramp, on the elevated entrance ramp to the interstate, I came back upon the hat, I slowed down a little, and that’s when I saw the GOLD FLEUR DE LIS! and I knew right then and there, that was MY HAT! I didn’t have anyone in back of me, so I stopped about a 100 ft past the hat. I realized there was no other way I was going to be able to access the hat any other way where it was. I put my hazard lights on, I waited till no cars were coming down the ramp, and that’s when I made a mad dash for it, I ran 100 ft., picked up my hat and did a 180 degree pivot, and ran back 100 ft. to my van, put it in drive, and hit it! And sure enough, I got my hat back! It wasn’t just any hat, it was MY hat. I knew it was. …I theorize that I must’ve had the hat on my dash board, and the driver’s side window must’ve been down, I may have even had the other passenger side window down too, not sure. But all that wind, plus my attention off to the right looking at the traffic I had to merge into, plus me being tired and fatigued from all that exhausting work I was doing, I must’ve not even noticed that my hat blew out of the driver’s side window, onto the shoulder of the interstate… but I got it back! …Praise God!
After all that, I thought I’d take a break from it all. My wife said she was long overdue for a pedicure. I don’t always go with her, in fact it’s been over a year since I joined her, but a few years ago we were traveling in Costa Rica, staying at a fancy hotel with a spa, and she convinced me to get a pedicure with her, and I must say it was very relaxing and enjoyable. What’s not to like? Who doesn’t like soaking their feet in a soothing hot tub and having your feet massaged and pampered? I know I do! …but like I say, I hadn’t joined her to do that in over a year, but since she said she was going, I thought about how much I had been toiling, and I thought how much that would be a great way to reward myself. My wife had gotten some gift cards to the nail salon, so it didn’t even cost us anything. So I went along, and I was really enjoying the relaxing experience… I think I was also getting pretty high off of all the nail polish fumes too, that stuff smells like car paint… wowzerz!
Anyway, I’m sitting in the pedicure chair, waiting for them to finish with my wife, when I’m checking my FB feed, and I’m looking at one of my FB friend’s posts, Colleen, and she has been handling up on all her hurricane damage herself and posting about it for the past few days, and she was doing stuff like getting on her roof, fixing damage up there, which impressed me a whole lot. Well, one of her friends commented, saying, “I’m overwhelmed, I don’t know where to begin.” … I read that, and remember, I don’t know this person at all, never met them before, I commented back, “I like helping people, can I give you a hand with anything?” Long story short, within a few hours of finishing the pedicure with my wife and getting a bite to eat with her, I loaded up my van with rakes and shovels and ladders, etc., and went over to a stranger’s house to go do some serious back breaking work for the next 3 hours. She was Jessica, a mother with an infant daughter and a 9 yr old son. Her husband is a construction worker, and was out working on damaged homes to make money for his family. They had already cleared their front yard, so there was already a massive stack of tree limbs already started by the street. But the back yard had yet to be cleared, it was vast, like 50′ x 100′ ft , and it was covered with fallen tree limbs all over the place. Some of the limbs were so big, I had to use an axe I brought to chop the limbs down to more manageable pieces. She said to me, I don’t know where to begin, and I said, we’re going to do this one branch at a time, and we’re going to clear this yard, don’t you worry, and three hours later, we finally did. I know I was a real blessing to her and her family… and judging from the extreme degree of soreness I was feeling in the aftermath of helping her, I knew it was a valiant effort and a tremendous undertaking… I could barely move when I got home, and I had to go soak in a hot tub repeatedly overnight to get over my soreness, but I’m feeling a lot better now, 24 hours after, it’s like I didn’t even do it… praise God!
I noticed every day that goes by through this, I am covered more and more with cuts, bruises, blisters, and insect bites. This is what happens through a hurricane experience like mine. I wear it like a badge of honor though, because I know most of it was earned trying to help people or help in the recovery and cleanup process after the storm.
I couldn’t help noticing when I was helping Jessica, every time I’d bring another haul of tree limbs to the front pile we were creating, I had to pass the overflowing garbage cans on the street, and they were smelling most fowl. This is nothing against Jessica, in fact, this stinking rotten garbage problem is all across the city, even at my house which is across town from Jessica’s house. The problem is, everyone had to throw out their perishable food after the storm when the power went out, and it’s been almost 2 weeks now, and the garbage has been festering, literally maggots are growing out of it all, and it’s absolutely disgusting, and it’s all over the place. This is the kind of thing most people don’t think about in the wake of a storm; the lack of garbage pick up, maggots, flies, and unbearable stench. All of the trash cans were overflowing and the lids won’t close. Today, I put on a respirator I use for spray painting, I put on surgical gloves, I brought some big black contractor size garbage bags, I went out to my overflowing cans and didn’t want to dig down too too deep, but I cleared out enough of the overflow so the lids would close, and I bagged up and tied up the overflow garbage. I did this for my cans, and all the cans of my neighbors on my block… So now all the trash can lids are closed on my block, which hopefully will help with the stench, the maggots, and the flies… yuck!
Now that more and more people in the New Orleans metropolitan area have finally gotten their power restored, and things are beginning to normalize for most people, I don’t feel as much need to go out helping people with relief supplies, even though I know there’s still a lot of people further west, outside of the city, that are not nearly as far along in the recovery process, they are just further out of my radius to reach them to help them, unfortunately.
I’m a 57 year old cancer survivor, but I try to help others as much as I can. I know I’m just one guy, but I try to be a living example of God’s love. …I live to be a blessing to others.
…Like some superhero going around using his powers to help people.
Here’s some scriptures that inspire me…
“Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – GALATIANS 6:2
“Don’t forget to do good and to share what you have because God is pleased with these kinds of sacrifices.” – HEBREWS 13:16
“This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you.” – JOHN 15:12
“Give to those who ask, and don’t refuse those who wish to borrow from you.” – MATTHEW 5:42
“Those who are gracious to the poor lend to the Lord, and the Lord will fully repay them.” – PROVERBS 19:17
“Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home.” – ROMANS 12:13
“In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” – MATTHEW 5:16
“Don’t withhold good from someone who deserves it, when it is in your power to do so.” – PROVERBS 3:27
“Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.” -PHILIPPIANS 2:4
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ Then he will answer, ‘I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.'” – MATTHEW 25:44 – 45
“The crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ He answered, ‘Whoever has two shirts must share with the one who has none, and whoever has food must do the same.'” – LUKE 3:10-11
“My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. What if one of you said, ‘Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!?’ What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.” – JAMES 2:14-17
“God isn’t unjust so that he forgets your efforts and the love you have shown for his name’s sake when you served and continue to serve God’s holy people.” – HEBREWS 6:10
“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, and throw out demons. You received without having to pay. Therefore, give without demanding payment.” – MATTHEW 10:8
“Poor persons will never disappear from the earth. That’s why I’m giving you this command: you must open your hand generously to your fellow Israelites, to the needy among you, and to the poor who live with you in your land.” – DEUTERONOMY 15:11
“Generous persons will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” – PROVERBS 11:25
“Don’t just watch your fellow Israelite’s donkey or ox fall down in the road and do nothing about it. You must help your fellow Israelite get the animal up again.” – DEUTERONOMY 22:4
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion — packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing — will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.” – LUKE 6:38
“But if someone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but refuses to help — how can the love of God dwell in a person like that?” – 1 JOHN 3:17
“Happy are generous people, because they give some of their food to the poor.” – PROVERBS 22:9
“Sell your possessions and give to those in need. Make for yourselves wallets that don’t wear out — a treasure in heaven that never runs out. No thief comes near there, and no moth destroys.” – LUKE 12:33
“In everything I have shown you that, by working hard, we must help the weak. In this way we remember the Lord Jesus’ words: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” – ACTS 20:35
“So continue encouraging each other and building each other up, just like you are doing already.” – 1 THESSALONIANS 5:11
“Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.” – EPHESIANS 4:32
…I encourage you in desperate times like these to never underestimate the power of prayer, and to always seek to be a blessing to others in any way you can… we will get through this together… God bless you!
A friend confessed to me just today that he was “afraid of shots,” but was seriously considering getting his COVID-19 vaccination. He said he’d seen that I got vaccinated Monday Aug. 23. What he didn’t realize is that I got my third, or “booster”, dose of the Moderna-made vaccine.
Update, August 25: a day after I talked to my friend and posted this entry, I got a text message from my office showing his CDC vaccination card with his first vaccination, with the text message below it, which said, “Tell Richard that’s for him.”
My sister thinks the entire “vaccine hesitancy” issue is exactly that: fear of needles and injections. I think that is probably an issue with many, but I’m willing to say that it is more dynamic than that; that people are afraid of their bodies, afraid to put things in their bodies that they don’t understand, afraid of trusting others.
For me: there has never been a more important time to be as immune as possible. I am in a hospital setting every day right now as I visit my wife Abby, who is recovering from a very serious non-COVID-related illness, and bringing COVID to her would be a serious setback.
I was born in 1963. I have been vaccinated against polio, smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, pneumococcal pneumonia, shingles, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, yearly influenza and, now, SARS-CoV-2, and have never, even once, had any significant complications from any of them.
I hope my friend gets his vaccines, and I hope many other follow my example and do the same.
Final update for this situation: Abby has been home since Friday, Sept. 3. She continues to get stronger and more alert, she expresses a healthy appetite, and she is eager to do the exercises the physical therapist showed me. There is always a potential for a setback, but I will care for her and nurture her recovery from this difficult, complicated medical situation.
Updated to include that Abby is home.
Updated September 1 to include that Abby is eating more, and is doing her physical therapy. Her friendly physical therapist, Melvin, was very pleased with her progress.
Update September 1: Abby’s pain is much better controlled, her level of consciousness is improved, and the nurses said she had a “good morning.”
Update, August 30: Abby didn’t have physical therapy over the weekend, but will have it starting this morning. No progress to report.
Updated August 26 to say that Abby is feeling, and sounding, much more like herself, and is physically stronger.
Updated Tuesday August 24 to include that Abby seems more responsive and more determined to go home. She is not well enough to come home, since I can’t care for her in this state, but she sat in her chair for a while, had some physical therapy, and had a nurse-assisted shower.
My wife Abby is currently hospitalized.
Her current health situation began Saturday night, August 7 when Abby fell on her shoulder while coming to bed. Sunday the pain became acute enough to take her to Mercy Hospital Ada’s Emergency Room, where she was x-rayed and CT scanned, determining she had two contained, non-operable breaks in the head of her humerus. They gave her a sling and told us to contact our primary doctor about increasing the dosage of her pain medicine.
Sunday August 8 she became weak and disoriented, so EMS had to transport her, again to Mercy ER. They gave her intravenous fluids and the antibiotic Rocephin for a urinary tract infection, and she felt well enough to come home.
As the week went by, she seemed to be better able to stand and move, and required less effort from me when I lifted her. It seemed like she was recovering. We worked out a system for me to help her stand and walk that kept away from her very painful left shoulder. I administered the oral antibiotic cephalexin and her pain medication every six hours on the dot.
Saturday, August 14, things took a very steep turn for the worse. She awoke weaker and more disoriented. She complained of stomach pain and was sick all day. She rapidly degenerated into dehydration-fueled confusion, and became increasingly combative.
She didn’t want to go to the hospital, and I was leaning that way, but honestly thought of it as a last resort. I bought some Pedialyte and had her drink an entire container of it, but she didn’t improve.
EMS transported her to a very crowded ER, where she sat unattended in a hall for a while. There she was diagnosed with a worsening UTI, but continuing to resist my reassurances. I was relieved when they gave her half a grain of morphine for her shoulder pain.
She was admitted through some herculean efforts of ER staff, since there is currently a shortage of beds due to the coronavirus pandemic. I went home.
For a while during the week of August 16, she seemed to get very slowly better while I worked from the room using my laptop. I couldn’t stay the night (nor did I want to, since there was nowhere to sleep, and I needed to take care of the dogs), so I would time things so I could do at least some work on the way to or from the hospital.
On Tuesday August 17, she was given an e-neurological exam, and passed perfectly. Analysis of her CT and MRI scans were unremarkable.
On Thursday, August 19, a hospitalist named Weidong Zhao told me she was medically well, and a social worker recommended transferring her to the “swing bed” care level in a smaller area facility. Sulphur rejected her because they were short a staff member, and I rejected Seminole because they aren’t allowing visitors. We settled on Coal County Memorial Hospital, which required a negative COVID-19 test, which she passed.
On Friday, August 19, we loaded Abby into our truck and drove her to Coalgate, where she is, as I write this, hopefully resting comfortably and recovering.
Tuesday, August 24: Abby seems more responsive and more determined to go home. She is not well enough to come home, since I can’t care for her in this state, but she sat in her chair for a while, had some physical therapy, and had a nurse-assisted shower. She correctly remembered my t-shirt today, which she gave me eight years ago, and was also able to accurately relay to the nurse the story behind her father’s wristwatch that is covered with pock marks from when he welded.
Update, August 26, to say that Abby is feeling, and sounding, much more like herself, and is physically stronger.
Update, August 30: Abby didn’t have physical therapy over the weekend, but will have it starting this morning. No progress to report.
Update September 1: Abby’s pain is much better controlled, her level of consciousness is improved, and the nurses said she had a “good morning.”
Updated September 1 to include that Abby is eating more, and is doing her physical therapy. Her friendly physical therapist, Melvin, was very pleased with her progress.
Updated to include that Abby is home.
Final update for this situation: Abby has been home since Friday, Sept. 3. She continues to get stronger and more alert, she expresses a healthy appetite, and she is eager to do the exercises the physical therapist showed me. There is always a potential for a setback, but I will care for her and nurture her recovery from this difficult, complicated medical situation.
By the time I was a senior is high school, I was hanging out with some people who might not have been the best influences on me.
One thing we did all summer long after graduation was to “cruise.” Younger readers might not exactly understand this activity, since it seems so lame, but essentially, we drove around in big circles, showing off something – how cool we were, how much cooler we were, how much cooler we were than (insert other kinds of people like “goat ropers” or “proud crowd”), and, in the case of the people I cruised with, how cool their cars were.
I recently watched a video on a YouTube channel called Audit the Audit, which is about “the right and wrong of police interactions.”
A nearly identical event happened to me in 1981: I was riding in a vehicle with two other teenagers when one of them spotted a cop and called “OINK!” as loud as he could from the passenger window.
The police weren’t very happy hearing that, and immediately pulled us over. I understand now, as an adult, why this is so offensive, but at that time in my life, steered by the influence of kids with too much money and huge egos, it felt rebellious and event righteous.
The police called us back behind the car one at a time, and I was first. They asked me who yelled at them, and I told them it was my friend in the back seat. Our driver was next, and he also told them it was our back-seater.
The kid who oinked was back there along time, and the driver and I heard raised police voices. When he came back to the car and the police told us we could go, he was visibly shaken, and told us it was because he recognized the officer as one who had allegedly shot a teenager while working as deputy in a nearby small town.
I thought of this encounter and similar ones from my youth after watching the Audit the Audit video, which concluded that the police officer in the video, who was fired from the force after the incident, acted wrongly, and that criticism of the police, even vulgar, puerile criticism, is a right protected by the Constitution.
Sidebar: this is a separate entry I have been holding for a few years, but it seems connected to this item in many ways…
I took up with the wrong people in late high school and college, not by virtue of them ruining my life or getting me in trouble, but because they were assholes.
J, who moved into my dorm room by trading with my assigned roommate while I was away, without asking me, was something of a sadist, took pleasure in making people look foolish, and constantly made fun of music I liked even though I never asked him to listen to it.
A, who set some sort of “trap” to find out if I’d been sleeping in J’s bed, which I had not, and took great pleasure in accusing me of it.
On the first day of my sophomore year, A and C brought a dog to our room while I was away, and asked me if they could keep him. When I said no, A said, “See, I told you so.” No you can’t keep a dog in student housing, you four year old.
C and J once accidentally skipped the check at a popular Mexican restaurant, and upon discovering how it happened, repeatedly skipped the check in the same fashion.
C kept a pistol in his car, and routinely parked in the tow-away zone. Once he fell asleep and his car was towed. About to be arrested for illegal possession of a firearm on campus, his father intervened, possibly with a bribe, to make the charges go away. C had the gun in his car as soon as it was returned to him.
C and J made it the duty of passengers to throw any fast food packaging onto the road from the moving vehicle without regard for littering in any way.
In 2000, I joined a Yahoo! group associated with my high school’s Class of 1981 20th reunion. I got really interested in it for a while. It was like a forum or chat room, only with people who, mostly, attended Eisenhower High School in Lawton, Oklahoma with me. Like most Yahoo! groups, or anything else from the internet in 2000, it has long since died. It was unsuccessfully replaced for the 30th reunion by a Facebook page, and now is two Facebook pages, Eisenhower Class of 1980 and 1981 class reunion, and Ike 1981 40th reunion. Both sites appear to be hosting the same event.
(Note to self: blog later about the failure of social media to actually be social.)
In early July 2001, I attended that reunion. I admit that I really just wanted to see a few people, all women, and that the event was awkward and disappointing.
The only real thing I had in common with most of these people is that I lived within the same boundaries on a map as they did. We owed any “friendship” we had to school board members and the economics of home ownership.
You lived in that school district, so don’t fudge your Huggies because you were a Hokie or a Gamecock or a Trojan or a Tarheel or a Pug. It just happened to you.
Most of the people at my high school, and by extension my high school reunion, were complete strangers, and even the people I sort of knew back then turned out to be as boring and ordinary as I thought they would. Some were, just as they had been in high school, complete assholes.
The reunion was a two-day affair. On that Friday, I attended the Blue Ice Cream Social. It was named after a non-sanctioned event on football Friday nights, held at a different rich kid’s house each week, called Blue Ice Cream. It sometimes involved drinking, but always involved a pool party. Except for one time I was assigned to shoot it for the Talon yearbook, I never went to Blue Ice Cream, for both the fact that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it, and that I was never invited.
With me on that Friday night in 2001 was Ann Kelley, who seemed to have a lot of fun making video from the affair. On the drive home to Ada, after an odd silence, she said, “Richard, I can’t believe someone as interesting as you went to school with those people.”
In all fairness, I am pretty sure none of them really care about me, either, and if they thought I was an ass in high school, they still thought of me as an ass. Except for their efforts to populate the 30th reunion, almost no one from the class has made any effort to maintain any kind of friendship with me. In fact, looking through my contacts list, I only find Anna and Michael, who were two of my closest friends in high school, and the only genuinely loyal ones.
Early in her internship, Mackenzee Ellen Crosby was using the moniker “Mac,” both personally, and on social media.
As she grew up, her identity matured and she felt more distance from who she had been as a child and as a young teenager, and she struggled with her identity. We all do that. My sister Nicole wanted to be called “Nicci” for a while. My friend Kaitlyn went by “Katy” for a year or so. One of the Ashford cousins used the last name “Smashford” for a while.
Then one day I told Mackenzee that I liked her name, especially when paired with her middle name, Ellen. In another conversation around that time, I brainstormed some title ideas for her column, and they included Eye Opener, Truth and Coffee, Dear Ellen, Something to Say, Inside Out, This Reclusive Silence, Between You and Me, Journal of Secrets, Thin as a Ghost, This Mortal Coil, Ellipses, A Woman Alone, Hide and Seek, Rough Draft, Morning Light, and Ellen in Grey.
She loved Ellen in Grey, and for the entire summer, that was the name of her column.
Also for the entire summer, she fell in love with journalism.
Mackenzee and I seem to have connections. Photography and journalism are the obvious ones. The next layer is social and religious. At our cores are writing, expressing ourselves emotionally, and a sense that we are outcasts, that people see us as “weird.”
I read things she wrote in tenth grade, and they could have been my very words when I was in tenth grade.
Mackenzee says she’d love to work for us part time during the upcoming academic year, but wants to leave Ada when she graduates from college. I can’t say that I fault her for that; I despise my former hometown so much I actually don’t call it my home town any more.
I have discovered that Mackenzee is not a “hug”person. I have hugged her on three occasions, including when her internship ended, and they all just kind of bounced off. I have tons of “hug” friends in town, and we fall into each other’s arms like we never missed a beat.
I am far-sighted, and Mackenzee is near-sighted, so each of us always had to reset the diopter every time we traded cameras.
We had another great intern in 2019, Ashlynd, and she became one of my best friends. Ashlynd and Mackenzee became better friends this summer, especially after attending the Oklahoma Press Association’s annual convention, but it’s worth noting that they are quite different from each other: Ashlynd is into journalism at the street level. She loves ambushing criminals getting arrested or going to house fires in the middle of the night. Mackenzee’s journalism, on the other hand, seems focused on social issues and injustices, although in her goodbye column she said, “Some of my favorite assignments to cover were spot news. I love the exhilaration and adrenaline from working a car accident or crime scene, even though they are often heartbreaking.”
When Ashlynd saw a photo of Mackenzee running across the street at the scene of a car crash with her camera, she told Mackenzee, “I feel this on a spiritual level.”
There are people in our lives who we are always glad to see, people with whom we have lifelong conversations that we can pick up after five minutes or six months without missing a step, and I hope Mackenzee and I have that kind of friendship.
“I will cherish the memories made alongside my friend and mentor, Richard Barron,” she wrote. I hope she and I continue to curate memories no matter where our lives, and our journalism, takes us.
It has been my displeasure to watch charming towns grow up, and as they do, “grow” economically, meaning that they get more businesses, and in turn get more infrastructure. Taos was once small and charming, but it now has a super Walmart, a sign that it has changed into an emotionally dead suburb. Santa Fe and Moab, Utah, have both died in my eyes in this way.
Poverty due to the virus
It was pretty clear looking at the number of closed, and even abandoned, businesses that towns that rely heavily, or even exclusively, on tourism and recreation fared worse than most because of the pandemic.
On at least two days in Taos, I saw a car legally parked in front of First Baptist Church, covered in blaze yellow signs criticizing Vacation Bible School as “brainwashing.” It’s a pretty strong statement, and many people I know would probably find it offensive, but however you feel about the statement, you have to admit that making it was free speech in its purest form.
Food and more food
We had several great meals on our trip, from an amazing pizza in Taos to a great veggie burger and sweet potato fries in Madrid, but honestly, I don’t understand people for whom the best part of travel is the food. The best meals in our lives are usually at home, and I can get a great meal anywhere. I drive to Utah or New Mexico to find things we don’t have in Oklahoma, like mountains, deserts, and canyons, not overpriced appetizers.
Early May was sunny and perfect for the baseball, softball and tennis playoffs I covered, but by the middle of the month, a consistent rainy pattern had set in.
I made several photo walks around the patch after walking the dogs.
At work, I’m shooting and writing well, and feel like I am succeeding in mentoring our intern, Mackenzee Crosby, well. I have a pretty versatile skill set, but I don’t do everything. I couldn’t tell you, for example, the first thing about covering a court case as a reporter.
At my suggestion, she called her column “Ellen in Grey.”
A portion of this was my column this weekend. I added some less-palatable bits to this entry.
As I cover graduations this year, as I do every year, I think of when I walked the same walk.
I graduated from Lawton’s Eisenhower High School on May 31, 1981. If you subtract, yes, that is 40 years ago. Wow.
For some people, high school is a cherished part of their lives, and while I have some great memories from that time, I have to say that I didn’t remain connected to very many people from my graduating class, which, at about 640, was quite large compared to the graduations I cover in the Ada area.
On the day I graduated from high school, President Ronald Reagan was still recovering from an assassination attempt. I didn’t own a computer. Cell phones weren’t a thing yet. MTV had not yet been launched. The first space shuttle had just launched. CDC scientists reported the first five observed cases of AIDS.
It was, as they say, a different time.
From my perspective as a photographer, I can tell you that “different time” doesn’t begin to describe how much imaging has changed since that warm day in May 1981.
The 1980s saw a lot of important growth in photographic film. In black-and-white, Kodak’s Tri-X ruled at the start of that decade, but by 1987, Kodak reinvented black-and-white with this T-Max films, including T-Max P3200, which changed my world as a news photographer. In color, we saw 400-speed and 800-speed films go from exotic high-sensitivity film with sharpness-robbing grain to the films we reached for every day.
Photographing graduations themselves has changed tremendously as well. On the day I graduated, my parents might have shot five frames of my friends and me, and me in the unflattering powder blue cap and gown. As I walked across the stage, the photographer made exactly one direct-flash shot of me receiving my diploma.
Today’s world of digital imaging means a senior might be photographed hundreds of times at every event, including their walk across the stage.
To me, though, that photo of me isn’t particularly meaningful. Sure, it’s a moment in my life, but it is emotionless and unengaging. I have tried, as years have gone by, to make my photojournalistic efforts at covering graduations more emotional, more engaging, more memorable.
Here is the part I redacted: my posse in high school and I haven’t spoken a word to each other in decades. Part of that is because I was so hard to get along with, but a bigger part of it is that I went to high school with a bunch of turds.
This was my column two Saturdays ago, but I rewrote it a bit for the blog.
I am pleased to welcome my long-time friend Mackenzee E. Crosby as the summer 2021 intern for The Ada News. I lobbied for her to get this position, and so far, she has delivered.
I believe I first met her when her eighth grade class at Ada Junior High won a bet to collectively give over 100 units of blood products at blood drive, and was rewarded by being allowed to shave Luke Penrod’s head.
As the years have gone by, our paths crossed at events like Open Mic Nyte, graduations, and, in early 2020, Mackenzee interviewed my wife Abby and me for a college class assignment.
Mac comes to us with a rich history of imaging, especially for someone so young. Her images are fresh and innovative, yet have a “shoot from the hip” rawness about them that I find intriguing.
Her work reminds me that I need to embrace that rawness in my own work, which can sometimes be too safe and habitual.
On a more personal note, which I didn’t include in my column, Mackenzee has endured some devastating tragedies, such as the debilitating traumatic brain injury to her good friend Avery Anderson in 2016, and the suicide of her father in 2018.
I told her recently that I find her a lot like I was when I was her age, especially when I read her personal writing; it is a lot like the things I wrote when I was 22.
I expect great things from Mac, and, in fact, have been very impressed with how quickly she caught on to the daily flow of news and newspaper. I think this summer is going to be a great learning experience for both of us.
A confluence of conversation this week got me thinking about aging.
“You never change,” someone told me as I was covering a playoff softball game earlier this week.
It’s true that I haven’t changed all that much in the nearly 33 years I’ve been at The Ada News. Some of that is by chance, and some is by choice.
“You kept your hair,” a friend told me recently. Yes I have, though I can’t take credit for that. Baldness is genetic, and I guess I got the lucky gene, because I have young-man’s hair. I have also been lucky so far that it has mostly kept its color, but those days are numbered. I already color my beard twice a week, and I am starting to notice my temples are greying.
Wait, Richard. You color your beard? Yes, I do. I got the idea from a years-ago co-worker whose beard turned grey in his 20s. It’s an easy 15 minute chore twice a week.
Is coloring my beard an indulgence? Vanity? Ego? Yes, all of those.
One thing by choice is that I have kept my weight very consistent over the years, through a combination of smart dietary choices, and remaining physically active. Also, I don’t smoke.
The eyes are the biggest tell when it comes to age. Older people’s eyes tend to wrinkle and sag, and look less bright and intelligent. That’s unfair, of course, since the cosmetic appearance of cognitive deficit is different from real loss of mental function.
As a photojournalist, eyes are, of course, my living. You may have seen me wearing glasses. Those are reading glasses, which as anyone my age will testify, need to be stronger and stronger as we get older.
These conversations culminated late this week when I was on the phone with a fellow photographer who lives in Tulsa. As we talked, he walked into a bright patch of light just as he came across a mirror, and was suddenly taken aback by his self-image.
“Wow. Richard, I am so grey!” he told me.
Maybe age is sneaky that way, creeping up on us until we are suddenly old.
So, Richard, how old are you? That 33 years in Ada I mentioned earlier kind of gives it away, but my age isn’t a secret. I’ll turn 58 in July.
A week after I originally wrote this, a friend who had moved away some years ago, and hadn’t seen my column, told me, “You never change.”
Thank you everyone who asked with concern about my wife Abby. She had a rough winter and spring, but seems to be very much back to her usual self lately. This morning, for example, she asked for grits and runny fried eggs, which is a long-time favorite or hers.