With just a few days of summer remaining, the patch is starting to change. After a very rainy June and July, it’s been a dry late summer, and the grass is turning brown. The trees, though, are healthy and huge, and the pasture is high.
I walk Hawken the Irish Wolfhound every evening. He weighed 135 pounds at the vet 10 days ago, and while he is a handful to walk, it’s good for both of us. Abby comes outside some and helps train him.
“I knew you would love an Irish Wolfhound,” Abby told me last night, “but I didn’t know you’d love him this much.”
Max, our smooth coat Chihuahua, eats like a normal dog, but Sierra, the long coat, is a piranha. Watch her stalk Max as he finishes, then clean both bowls of anything left. I made this video of them this morning…
Last night I finally muscled the deck off the riding mower, and I now need to repair it and replace the blades. Fortunately, it is dry out and the grass isn’t growing much.
At work, my seasons are in full swing. It’s week 4 for high school football, and district matchups are about to start of baseball and softball. All the kids know me and are glad to see me, and I am shooting well.
Abby and I just watched Malcolm X, the 1992 Spike Lee Joint. It’s style summoned some very close-to-home memories from that dark year, so I dove into my journal.
I like to imagine these notes are like Kafka’s or Camus’, but they sometimes sound like they came from a high school girl.
These pearls only scratch the surface of what it was like for me that year, but it’s a good start…
• Return to me, and return to me what you have taken.
• Have you ever noticed that it’s the strong who think the strong should survive?
• Part of me wants her to be happy, and part of me wants her.
• I can see you in your navy peacoat, white scarf, snow melting on your glasses, under the street light.
• Sarcasm chasm.
• And yet, today, I failed to hold anyone close, tell anyone I love them, laugh, cry, have fun. What the hell am I doing?
• Tears always require imagination.
• It’s funny how the most boring people I know find me among the most boring people they know.
• Those who seem to be hiding something are usually hiding the fact that they have nothing to hide.
• Slow dance and mean it.
• Home is a moment.
• Before I go, I’d like to 1. Be famous 2. Get rich 3. Feed the world 4. Marry. Don’t be ridiculous. Who’s gonna marry me?
• If I leave, there’s no chance anyone will want me to leave.
• I’d rather eat cereal than hallucinate.
• Alone. What a wonderful word. Sometimes it’s all that needs to be said.
• I don’t want what you have. I want what you are.
• Today was made of tears.
• Misheard lyric: “The dummy between your legs.” Actual lyric: “The damage accumulates.”
• I hold myself tight because no one else will. Not even you.
• (An exhaustive list of women I dated or wanted to date, along with their best and worst characteristics.)
• I stand still and time passes through me.
• Love is an acquired taste.
• Slow-dancing with my imagination.
• “I’m really glad,” she said, not knowing how much it meant to me and how happy I was the hear her say it, “that you started coming over on Friday nights.”
• There is no place in heaven or on earth better than in my arms.
• She chants and she cries and she holds this night as sacred as I.
• We rise to the levels of strength and bravery that our lives demand.
• Somehow it means more to have someone observe than I am lonely than it does to merely be lonely.
• Most people are made up of their bad habits and broken dreams.
• How does it feel? It feels like I am in a pressure chamber, and it’s all pressing on me, making me smaller, harder. Sometimes I feel like I will disappear completely. Right now, as I sit hunched and write backhanded and yarn tearfully, I remember than no matter who or where you are, you are not thinking about me.
• Don’t go. Stay. Don’t stray.
• The future is up for grabs, and the past is up for review.
• I looked at myself in the cold, harsh, judgmental light of that damned mirror and saw so much of myself I had to look away.
• Read me like a book. I dare you.
• I can still smell her on me, the smell of perfume and tears.
• Her whole life has left her unprepared for the kind of openness I offer.
• 3:13 am. You awaken mysteriously to the sound of my voice calling your name. You hear in me my need, my gifts, my love, my life. You sit up and look around. All seems as it should.
• I sit by the window and listen as the wind chimes play the loneliest song ever written.
• Her soft voice touches me with its illusion.
• The words loomed large when she said, “I love Richard.” Never mind that the rest of the sentence was, “because he always brings cookies.”
• Maybe I was tired, or maybe it was the music, but I swear I could hardly bear the next moment.
• You keep me alive by needing me in your life. Telling you who I am is who I am.
• And you, whose caring ends the minute you walk out that door…
• Even if you have nothing to hide, don’t hide.
• The opposite of hurt is hope.
• The train to yesterday leaves tomorrow.
• Tonight the windy mist does a disappointing job hiding my tears. Miserable weather.
• When I’m with you, I’m as unlonely as I ever need to be.
• The future is our only choice.
• Bachelorhood: the freedom to joylessly masturbate to the uninspired pornography of my imagination.
• “You’re one of the most obvious people I’ve ever met.” ~M
• “Do they abandon you, or do you drive them away?” ~F
• Peace doesn’t come from what you do, but from who you are.
• If there is a god, I want to look him in the eyes. Is that the idea behind mirrors?
• Message from girlfriend on answering machine: “Meat loaf. Pot roast. Yankee pot roast. English pot roast. T-bone steak cut from the side of a cow. Round steak. Rib eye. Fillet mignon. Fried crab. Oyster on the half shell. Pork ribs. BBQ beef, dripping, glistening with sauce. McDonald’s Big Mac. Ooo, I have a deep voice. Hamburger meat, nice and lean and frying in a pan forever and ever. Chicken noodle soup. Beefy vegetable soup. …uh… (BEEP).”
• “Part of your heart you only use when you’re in love.” ~J
• A single wish: don’t let it end in tears.
• I give because I need to give.
• She cried.
• There have been hours beyond darkness in which I was totally alone.
• Good men make mistakes.
August 15, 1992: My first flying lesson.
• You awaken. The pillow is cool, but for a moment it seems like someone is there with you. It’s me.
• Silence wraps around me like a boa constrictor.
• There is nothing inside my heart that is outside my reach.
• Cool night. Footsteps on the stairs. Clouds witness my tension as I wait for Darla or Lee or the last person I’ll ever see.
• Fire and wind from the sky laugh at my frail heart as I sit in the unwelcome darkness and miss your smile.
• Missing her comes in waves. Soon they will sweep me away.
• Dressed in black, I walk the night, not among the shadows, but as the shadows.
• Sometimes it feels like if you were to cut me open, my anger and pain would flood the world.
• “Swirling toilet of despair.” ~Aria
• I have blurred visions.
• The trouble with sex with M is that you’d have to get along with her for at least a whole day, and I can’t imagine being able to do that.
• The chocolate of truth
• Perspective: use it or lose it.
• If I believed in god, I’d hate him, but my disbelief deprives me of that luxury.
• When the New Order comes, anyone uttering the word “codependent” will spend six months in a reeducation camp.
• “Hello, Richard. I just wanted to tell you that life is a tragic and terrible struggle that is made harder by the fact that as a race, we are all tragically flawed. See you this weekend. Bye.” ~David, on my answering machine
On the morning of December 20, 1992, my flight instructor signed my logbook and got out of the airplane, and I flew solo for the first time. In addition to the first giant step to becoming a pilot, it was a symbolicly high moment in my personal life. My 1992 was over.
I admit to being at least a little giddy about being handed a brand new iPhone 7 Plus by my newspaper this week. Although I didn’t ask for it, many on our staff had experienced shortcomings in the iPhone 6S in our hands, and yearned and lobbied for the next big step up.
Though neither tablet nor laptop, the “phablet” (phone+tablet) has versatility in its favor. It is a jack of all trades, including the basic need of being a phone.
Readers, particularly of more than one of my blogs, might realize that I already own an iPhone 7 Plus, and am the carrying two nearly-identical phones around every day.
Of note for this new edition to my photographic and journalistic lexicon is the camera in the 7 Plus, which is very capable. In fact, just an hour after getting set up on the phone, I made a couple of very nice images for the front page of our paper with it.
At this point it’s a mistake to say, “Oh, well if the phones are so good, why do we need cameras or even photographers?” That’s the way a 28-year-old MBA thinks, and it’s not the route to success or greatness. As tempting to say as it is that a phone made this picture, that is not the case. A photographer made this picture with this phone.
Faithful readers of the Giant Muh know how down I’ve been this week about some of my fellow photographers being laid off from their jobs at The Oklahoman. I was taking stock of this last night as I drove to my final assignment of the day (which I actually assigned myself), the Pontotoc County Free Fair.
As I worked and thought about my photographer friends, I thought about how grateful I am to have this job, and how much fun I was having doing it. People around me were happy to see me, and I was getting great images.
Then this morning as I was walking up to the Roff softball field to photograph a game, the Tupelo activity bus rolled past me and three of the softball girls yelled, “Hi, Richard!”
Also, I won the lottery. A $25,000 scratch and sniff lottery ticket was sold in Ada, but my winnings were more modest. Now the real work begins: how to invest my $14.
Last May after I covered the Byng Pirates state championship game in Edmond, Oklahoma, I went by the offices of The Oklahoman, the state’s largest newspaper, and visited for a while with my longtime friend and fellow photographer Jim Beckel. He told me about the paper’s early-90s move to a huge, expansive and expensive facility on the Broadway extension, which for years we called “the Taj Mahal,” and the paper’s move a few years ago to a much smaller facility in the center of downtown Oklahoma City.
The move to downtown represented a cascade of downsizing at The Oklahoman, and today we learned that 35-year veteran photographers Steve Gooch and Paul Hellstern were laid off. I was a little stung by this news, though not surprised.
Steve and Paul are brilliant photographers, and I am sympathetic with their plights. So many of their photographs are like so many of mine, and I was once laid off, in 1988, so I am feeling particularly empathetic.
In my opinion, in a world of billions of not-very-good photos every day, photojournalists provide one of the last sources for truly great photography.
Finally, my friend Tracy Nicole Holman passed away today after a lengthy illness. She was young and beautiful and I was always glad to see her.
The last thing she posted to social media was, “Eating a piece of candy found in the jeans that had a run through the washer…. I’ll live, right??!!”
I am feeling very sad that she is gone. She was just 31.
News-followers might recall that the last couple of days have been dominated by news of Hurricane Harvey, an originally uninteresting tropical depression that ended up making landfall at Category 4 near Corpus Christi, Texas. As a possible consequence, our skies the last couple of nights have been a little more turbulent and a little more beautiful.
After work last night, I took Hawken, our eight-month-old Irish Wolfhound, for his evening walk. It was cooler than August evenings usually are around here, and between the green pasture turning gold and a particularly synergistic confluence of music on my iPod, I decided to take him around the perimeter a second time.
After washing out his water bowl and giving him a big drink, I decided he needed to be photographed. Though he is 130 pounds of puppy, he believes himself to be a lapdog and wants to be constantly in contact with us, so it is difficult to photograph him without assistance. Still, I found a way, though it involved at least one giant swath of dog saliva on my camera.
As the evening matured, I paused to watch the sky. It reminded me of the sky we saw here in Oklahoma in 2008 as Hurricane Gustav made landfall and skirted past us to the east.
I’m not saying there is a hurricane over us, and it is not forecast to come this way, but the atmosphere is all connected, and the sky often tells me about wildness in the sky far away.
Recently, social media, particularly Facebook, has devolved from its customary shallow, vapid self into a sewer of fake news, angry lies, and complaining. As a young friend of mine commented recently, “I hate how political it all is.”
Here, then, is a list of things I want to stop doing on Facebook…
Getting involved in political discussions of any kind. No one is enlightened in any way by my opinion, so when I give it, I am either a sycophant or an idiot, but not a scholar.
Trying to be clever. As cute as I think I am sometimes with my “orange you glad it’s not a banana” quips, it just adds to the nuisance chatter, and gives me follow-up notifications I don’t particularly want to see.
“Liking” stuff I don’t like to show that I saw it. Yes, I know Facebook added some additional styles of acknowledgment, but they all say the same thing: I saw this. No one really cares if I saw it.
Caring too much about who reads my stuff. This closely parallels the whole industry’s craving for success and money through counting clicks. It’s a tail-chaser.
Clicking on click bate. As temping as it can be sometimes to read, “12 things that will make you smell better,” it is seldom useful, and wastes my time.
Being hesitant to delete items I don’t like because other people have liked and commented. I need to realize that Facebook is so transient and impermanent that no one will care or even notice when I delete stuff from my wall, and that it is their responsibility to preserve their digital lives, not mine.
Putting my pithier thoughts on my Facebook wall instead of here. I need to make better notes and write longer, better pieces for my blog.
What do I want to do instead? Write. This blog is ideal for my kind of expression, and since I moderate comments, I can stay out of the “yes, but don’t you think” banter that doesn’t go anywhere.
Yes, I want to write more here on The Giant Muh. I will still share it to social media, but even there I will try to be diligent at deleting combative comments. It is my hope to continue to be creative, inventive and positive.
As I wrote five weeks ago, we are experiencing an uncharacteristic wet period. Here on the patch, we’ve had four inches of rain so far this month, and some parts of Oklahoma have gotten 11 inches or more. Add to that the fact that it’s been unseasonably cool, and overall, it’s been a very peculiar summer.
I’ve been struggling with the bitterness of politics in recent days, noting that our nation and its morally bankrupt leadership is nothing new. Leaders have known since antiquity to wash the people in fear and violence and gluttony to keep them in slavery.
To that end, Abby and I watched the excellent 2012 movie Lincoln yesterday. I am caught in the middle ground of being amazed that our nation once debated the morality of owning other human beings, and being completely unsurprised that a “Christian Nation,” as today’s alt-right likes to chime, still harbors an element which doesn’t understand right from wrong.
However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.
The Bible, ladies and gentlemen.
It is with this between my ears that I work outside on these cool days, trying to keep up with a forest of grass in the yards and pastures, feeling angry with the people of our land, and so very happy with the trees and wildflowers and sunsets of that same land.
Summers are shorter. When I was a kid, they seemed like three long months of building dams in the creek and eating Cheez-Its. That might still be true for a handful of reclusive nerds, but if you are into anything at all, like athletics or student publications, you had about ten minutes of summer vacation.
My summers are short in terms of activities, but right now, the top of August, is very slow. That will come to an end shortly; my first high school sports media day, Ada softball, is tomorrow, after which it is, in effect, fall.
This August is being unseasonably cool. There are no 90ºs in the current forecast. I’ve been taking advantage of that by working outside. With decent rainfall, mowing is a repeated necessity; keeping the grass spurs in check is extra-important since I am walking Hawken the Irish Wolfhound every day.
My efforts over the years to shape our small patch of the world have paid off. Trees we planted years ago are huge and healthy. Flowers are blooming. Grass is green.
A buddy asked me the other day if I had posted anything on my site. He hadn’t seen anything. The answer was that yes, I had, but just a couple of items. I expect that he hadn’t seen them because, like a lot of us, we use social media as site readers, expecting to see links to our favorite stuff in our feeds. Recently, though, several people had indicated they aren’t seeing my stuff consistently, which doesn’t surprise me.
I see less content in general in the summer. The optimist in me hopes this is because people are outside.
So, what’s going on?
Michael and Thea recently moved from Norman, Okla., to Oklahoma City, to a larger house, and to a location closer to their works. I’m happy for them, but I don’t admire the “interstate culture” that involves constantly using interstate highways every time you need a loaf of bread. My role in their move was to use Abby’s Nissan Frontier pickup to move a new dining set and a new huge-screen television from the store to their new home. The Visio television was interesting: it is a 65-inch flat screen with the option of using a phone app as the remote control.
I had a big 48,000-mile service on my Nissan Juke, including oil, transmission fluid, air filters for the engine and the cabin, tire rotation and more. Props to Ada Nissan for getting the work done quickly, and for lending me another Juke, no charge.
My wife Abby and I finished the quilt squares her aunt Judy asked us all to make for the next family reunion. The whole family was asked to decorate these squares, which Judy plans to make into a giant quilt and raffle off at the reunion in October. Abby and I took our squares – with pictures of family stuff – to Duncan last weekend, where we had lunch and fed the deer.
My push lawn mower has decided to be vexingly inconsistent. I was certain 10 days ago I was on the verge of buying a new one, but when I cranked it the last time, it started on the second pull. Ghost in the machine.
I cranked up the power washer and washed my Juke and Abby’s Frontier, which always re-reminds me how much more we love our vehicles when they’re super-clean.
I just finished teaching another intermediate/advance photography class. We had a great time. At one point, one of my students asked, “Is there and advanced advanced after this?” which I consider very flattering.
One of my reporters and I covered a story about a firefighter who delivered a baby by the side of the road recently, and we both noted how cringingly stupid tv reporters’ questions are. “How does it feel to deliver a baby like this?” It’s like being punched in the groin, Sylvia. “Is there anything your want to say to the firefighters who delivered your baby?” Yeah, perv, get out of my coochie.
Max the Chihuahua, who is now completely deaf, dug out of the front yard for the first time in a couple of years. I was very proud, though, when I caught up with him, that he followed me back to the house without a leash or picking him up. Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is off the charts lovable. Sierra the Chihuahua is fine, and eats her breakfast and dinner in about three seconds. She’s also been eating a lot of sh!t lately. Bad girl.
My wife Abby spotted some nice whole wheat sub sandwich rolls at Wal Mart the other day, so much of this week’s dining has been in one iteration or another of sandwich.
After dinner tonight, I tried to devise an apparatus for removing webworms from hard-to-reach branches of trees on the patch. Every Oklahoman knows these ugly parasites that weave thick, sticky webs on hardwood trees while consuming all the green within. The webs are tough enough that the birds can’t get to them, so I decided to fashion a stick with a metal tool on the end – a shelf bracket, actually – that would allow me to stick-twist-pull to remove the mess from the branches I could not otherwise reach, and it worked pretty well.
Later when I was mowing near the old walnut tree, I came across a lovely, funny stand of mushrooms that I’d never seen before, and photographed them.
Also, today was the Stratford Peach Festival, and while the local farms didn’t have much to offer, I was able to secure some from nearby Sallisaw, which are quite tasty. I bought a very large bag of them and in addition to eating them fresh, I’m sure Abby will make a cobbler.
For my birthday, Abby agreed to let me order new shoes from Zappos.com. (Before you ask me why I didn’t buy locally, ask the locals why the same shoes are 20% more.) I got a pair of brown New Balance casual walking shoes for everyday wear in my office casual environment at work, and another pair of Merrill Moab 2 Ventilators. I got my first pair of Moab’s because of the name: Abby and I got married in Moab, Utah, but that led to the discovery that these are best shoes I’ve ever owned.
I have the healthiest feet of anyone I know. My feet never hurt and they are anatomically ideal. I don’t require wide sizes or insole inserts of any kind. I wear shoes all day, every day, all year long. It’s possible the shoe companies are sneaking in at night to measure my feet and make shoes exactly for them.
Also among the huge and the healthy is Hawken, our six month old Irish Wolfhound. Ten days ago he weighed in at 108 pounds, so he is still growing, but he is well and loves us to pieces. Abby has taken to putting bandanas on him. Last night I tried, but he wants to play with the bandana as a toy, so it’s really a two-person job. Once we got his Harley Davidson bandana on him, I asked Abby to make a few pictures of us, which was particularly fun when he decided to knock me down and cover me in huge-tongue dog slobber.
My wife Abby and I both awoke thinking we heard whistling. She even seemed to hear a tune being whistled, which was too weird to ignore.
I got my Ruger P95 9mm, which has a Streamlight on it, and swept the house for intruders.
“Is it clear?” she asked when I came back to bed. Of course it was, I explained, since if I had found a home invader, I would be holding him at gunpoint and asking Abby to cover the sector behind me and call 911.
Maybe that’s an important difference city life and country living: in the city, you might threaten a potential assailant with a call to the police or to scream, where in the county, we tend to offer the choice between surrender or death, since we know the police could take as much as 30 minutes to arrive.
I was even able to determine that Hawken, the back yard Irish Wolfhound, was fine when I looked through the blinds at him eating some kibble.
We speculated the whistling could have been an owl, a dove, the cuckoo clock, the police scanner, or a dog tummy, but Abby swears it was a tune. None of the dogs reacted to the sound in any way, so my best guess is that one of us, probably me, was dreaming about whistling and whistling out loud.
Back in bed, I dreamed I was a dog handler at a wedding, in charge of a giraffe-sized Irish Wolfhound. A one point, he felt faint, so I game him a bowl of elbow macaroni and milk.
Those thoughts are from last night.
Yesterday on the way to the grocery, Abby and I got to reminiscing about a recent nail-clipping disaster with Sierra the Chihuahua. I told Abby about the mistakes I made when doing it, and to clarify, she asked, “Was the ‘the bloodbath’?” We laughed and laughed at that, since we now have an event in our lives we will remember as The Bloodbath.
As usual, I had a super-fun time covering Independence Day celebrations in Ada’s Wintersmith Park Tuesday. The weather was nice and everyone had a great time.
It rained 3.1 inches Monday, then 1.5 inches early Wednesday morning, then another half inch right on top of us and nowhere else in there state, just as I was about to walk Hawken the Irish Wolfhound two nights ago.
Everything was browning just a bit, but is now turning green again, and growing fast, so I am experiencing a burst of outdoor work.
My wife Abby and I gave Hawken a bath in the front yard yesterday, then took him to the vet, where he weighed 108 pounds, which is typical for his breed at his age, six months. He is a mess, but he loves us both.
I have been taking a few staycation days as things slow to a crawl in the newsroom.
Yesterday turned into one of the rainiest of this spring and summer, 3.1 inches measured at our nearest Mesonet site. As a result, I didn’t get anything done outside, and didn’t even get to walk Hawken the Irish Wolfhound.
My wife Abby, on the other hand, having spent the last few days organizing some recipes, had a burst of energy and decided to make No-Knead Casserole Bread and Beef Noodle + Faux Beef Noodle Casseroles.
Thunderstorms rolled through and there were a number of severe thunderstorm warnings, and even some minor damage in town, but the Storm Prediction Center never issued a watch of any kind, which I thought was odd.
Abby and I enjoyed her meal, and put up quite a lot of leftovers.
We are binge-watching Season 12 of Criminal Minds.
Hawken is an outside dog, and there are several places he can get to stay dry, but got pretty wet and looked pretty ridiculous. He was bone dry this morning.
Photos were added to this entry in September 2017.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the café culture. Artists and Bohemians like Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac seemed to lead lives of densely-layered creativity. For similar reasons, I’ve always been interested in getting together with fellow writers and poets, to share and compare and express. One result of these interests is the formation of various writing groups over the years: in 1980, in 1992, and in 2000.
So when I was recently invited to join a social media group called Open Mic Nyte, I didn’t hesitate, and in June 2017 I attended my first session.
Though many people recognized me as Richard the news photographer, I told them I was just Richard.
One thing Open Mic Nyte co-founder (along with Steve Brogdon and Lisa M. Pyre) Sterling Jacobs emphasized is vulnerability and its value in situations like this; the willingness to be emotionally vulnerable is indispensable in expressing yourself.
I recently updated this entry to reflect my ongoing participation in this event. Watch this space for more images from Open Mic Nyte.
I am aware that my last few entries have been about our new puppy, Hawken, and that my readers might have heard enough for a while.
“Evelyn slapped Raymond on the back with a laugh. ‘You must be starved, old friend. Come into my apartments, and we’ll suffer through a deep breakfast of pure sunlight.’” ~Sri da Avabhas
With things slow at the office, I took a couple of three-day weekends. We sleep, we watch movies, I work outdoors in the early summer breeze. Days like these represent everything I wanted from marriage.
This week’s joke between us: “I wish this had subtitles. It’s all in Canadian!”
This time last year I talked about beauty and its significance, and it remains just as significant a year later. The outdoor world on which we live, seven green acres here in southern Oklahoma, changes, and with my tools and my hands and my back, I am part of those changed. The Rose-of-Sharon bushes, for example, are at the end of their lives. I allowed the elm trees, along the fence leading south from the house, to grow, and they are huge and green, and make nice shade.
When I mow, I have a lot of time and monotony in which to think. It’s not always pleasant – I often think about negative things and try to imagine successful solution scenarios, but it doesn’t always end well.
For example, Abby’s SiriusXM satellite radio was streaming one of Abby’s favorite country music stations recently, and on the playlist was Lee Greenwood’s Proud to Be an American.
“And I’m proud to be an American/Where at least I know I’m free…”
I certainly have no problem with the premise of national pride, but this song is really about being proud to be a rich, white, straight, conservative American. I’ve been to events where they play this song, and the parking lot is full of $36,000 pickup trucks, and the white-to-other-race ratio is 1500 to 1. There are no gay pride flags flying.
“…God Bless the USA.” I don’t know how you can listen to these lines without thinking about the demise of the democracy/republic and the rise of our electoral oligarchy. I am dismayed that we are taking giant steps toward being a pure mercantilist society, all the while posting childish memes about the purpose of life not being about being rich and popular, but about being kind and humble. We are not a kind and humble nation.
It’s possible I wasting my mowing time thinking about too many negative things. I am grateful to be outside on these summer days, cutting the grass or photographing the dogs and flowers, or clearing the brush from overgrown fence corners. I am grateful to come inside, covered in sweat and dust, to see that Abby loves me more every day. I love her more every day.
I had an epiphany recently when my wife Abby and I were watching some politically-charged testimony regarding Donald Trump. Frustrated and angry, Abby said, “Trump doesn’t care about anyone but himself!”
Then it hit me. No he doesn’t. People who really care about themselves are emotionally whole enough to care about humanity. People who care about themselves understand that we are all part of the same world, that we all depend on each other, that without each other and our fragile planet we are nothing, and that we are all mortal.
Donald Trump is a sociopath. He feels neither empathy nor sympathy. He doesn’t understand love or meaning. His life is empty.
Two song lyrics are stuck in my head this week, both brought to me by internet radio ambient/chillout channels, both by Sia, about whom I know little except I like her etherial voice…
“Living in your head
Without anything to numb you
Living on the edge
Without anything to numb you…” ~Numb
“Be my friend, hold me
Wrap me up, unfold me
I am small, I’m needy
Warm me up and breathe me…” ~Breathe Me
I got Abby hooked up to listen to SiriusXM streaming at home, so there is country music in the house frequently now. Though I am not a country music fan, its sound is 1500% better than the prattle of television.
Ploughing through my journal from 1993 looking for mention of something I was trying to recall, I came across several interesting items.
“I’m going to start listening to my thoughts. Lately I’ve been finding them to be much too violent and petty. I’m looking for the silence, the nothingness, the emptiness that can set me free. Eventually it all comes down to this reality now. Too often I’m lost in fantasy and conjecture, the past and the future. I’m looking for NOW. I think I’ll become a nowist.” ~Journal, November 1993
“Kathy was very hard to get along with this weekend. She reminds me of my hurtingmost times in 1988-89. I hungered to be with people, to be soothed by their company. But at the same time, that hunger drove them away.” ~Journal, November 1993
I was flying all the time in those days, and we weren’t always mad at the President.
A friend of mine died this week from injuries she sustained when she was kidnapped and assaulted in January, meaning she was murdered. I am horrified and baffled, but I feel that somehow these feelings are naive. In any case, she is in my thoughts.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is tall enough at the shoulder to eat with his dish in the seat of a chair. He is strong, majestic, beautiful.
It is warm but not hot on the patch these days, and we have gotten healthy rain.
I cooked out last night.
It is also the season for fruit, which I feel is far more nutritious than, well, almost anything.
It is with all these things in mind that I am grateful for my life.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound’s astonishing growth spurt has plateaued. He is still very much a puppy, but he is learning to mind a little at a time. I walk him on a circular route from the house to the front of the patch to the pond and back once or twice a day. It might be a half a mile. It tires him out, and he sometimes wants to stop and rest.
We had a huge rain last week, so I wanted to mow to keep up. The last thing I need is a forest to cut. Two nights ago I got started, but the John Deere riding mower’s battery suddenly died by the back gate. I drove down to it in my Nissan Juke and jump started it so I could put it away for the night in the garage, where I removed and tested the battery. Much to my annoyance, not only was it stone cold dead (putting out less than 9 volts), upon examination, it was a full-sized automotive battery. $100 battery in a lawn mower, John Deere? Really?
Yesterday I took the battery to town and decided I was going to make a $25 mower battery work, which only required attaching the cables in a slightly creative way. It worked fine.
I also recently got into the rafters in the garage and pulled down Abby’s father’s Johnson Messenger citizen’s band radio from the 1960s, hoping to power it up and see if it still works. I was unfamiliar with the connector, so I blithely asked several amateur radio groups of social media how to do it. After a litany of useless, patronizing comments, I decided that amateur radio operators on the internet are just as douchey as they are on the radio, and deleted all my memberships to all those groups. I don’t know why I thought otherwise, but all anyone wanted to do was look smart and try to make me look dumb. Goodbye.
Abby bought a new recliner this week. She loved her old one, but seldom sits anywhere else, and just wore it out. The replacement is a home theater chair, with electric reclination, lighted cup holders and footrest, and armrest bins big enough for a laptop computer.
It’s almost summer, so it’s melon season, and the grocery has my current favorite melon, the golden honeydew. If you get a chance, try one. They are sweeter and more complex than regular honeydew, and are softer and slightly less edgy than cantaloup.
With a puppy on the patch, it’s more evident than ever that our Chihuahuas are getting old. Max, who is 13, is getting kinda deaf, and Sierra, who is 12, has been blarfing on the carpet more lately.
They both certainly have a lot of life in them, but they definitely aren’t puppies any more, though Max plays and fights like a puppy, and Sierra spins excitedly, always counterclockwise, at dinnertime.
As I told a fellow news photographer recently, “It will be a flurry of graduations to cover, then *crickets chirping.*” Still, it’s a fun time to do what I do.
Meanwhile, our puppy, Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, is growing in fits and starts, and still hasn’t found his paws or his nose. He could end up rivaling me in weight. He’s the next big thing.
Hawked apparently scared up a skunk two nights ago. We heard his deep, derpy, “Rooof, rooof,” followed a few seconds later by the distinct (stinked) skunk smell. I grabbed a rifle and hunted around, but couldn’t find the skunk. I smelled Hawken’s fur to find he had not been sprayed directly. Later in daylight we discovered a large swath of skunk spray on the siding next to the faucet, in the back yard, indicating that Hawken had tangled with a skunk, but the foe had missed when he sprayed.
Since we sold our RV, the wall next to its parking spot is open to view, revealing that the siding was covered with mildew. This wall is the worst, since it faces north and is protected by our large black walnut tree. I cranked up the power washer and dispatched the slime without undue difficulty.
My peach trees have peaches this year, but since I don’t spray them, they are ugly. Still, if you cut the bad parts off, they are still richer and sweeter than grocery store peaches.
As playoff season winds down, as of this writing we have just one team, the Byng Pirates baseball team, in the fight. As usual, it’s been a great time covering our teams and their parents who I covered years ago. I feel very welcome and very much a part of their community.
As a result of my giant office cleanout project, I have posted on social media a number of photos of Adans (people from Ada, Oklahoma, for you out-of-towners) and their neighbors who I photographed in the 1990s and know in the twentyteens. Some of them look very familiar, but some of them are almost unrecognizable. Why is this?
At the same time, I felt obligated to post a few images of myself from that same era. Almost to a man, people tell me, “You don’t ever change,” “You look the same now as you did then,” or “You never age.”
The truth, of course, is that I have aged, but not as dramatically as some of my friends and neighbors. How much of this is luck, and for how much can I take credit?
I didn’t get fat. You might be amazed how much different people can look who double their weight. Often they can be almost unrecognizable. I can take most of the credit for not getting fat. I have been a vegetarian since 1989, and I have always been physically active.
I didn’t lose my hair or its color. This is plainly luck. I have great hair. It hasn’t greyed or thinned. My beard, on the other hand, is grey through and through, so I color it, and this makes a significant difference in my apparent age. I see a lot of guys get to a breaking point in their hair lives, when they shave their heads and grow long goatees, or worse. This makes them look old, and kinda creepy.
I never smoked or got high. A couple of lifelong smokers from my high school with whom I recently connected on Facebook already look like their grandparents.
I dress appropriately for my age and personality. I feel depressed when I see someone my age wear their clothes and hair like they did “back in the day,” only on a body remains very much in this day. I also eschew the “shorts and black socks with sandals” scene that the elderly sometimes inexplicably adopt.
I talk to people as though they have value. Young people and old people seem to forget this is important, for different reasons, but the truth is that we are catching more flies with this honey than with their vinegar. One effect of this is…
I smile more. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I was unhappy much of the time, and didn’t smile enough. There are few things as effective at disarming and charming people than a decent, genuine smile. I give it as a gift.
I try not to complain. No one wants to hear how much my lateral epicondyle tendon hurts, particularly young people who have no idea why old bodies hurt. It just comes across as meanness.
In conclusion, I am 53 as I write this, and have no intention of “acting my age” with the “ask me about my granddog” set.
After seven years of recreational vehicle (RV) ownership, Abby and I have sold our RV, The Kokopelli, for an undisclosed but very reasonable price to Abby’s cousin, Donald Ashford.
When Abby and I bought this RV from some neighbors down the road, gasoline was cheaper than it is now, and most everything on the machine worked. We primarily used it as our base camp when we visited Abby’s family reunion in Duncan, Oklahoma, and her hometown, Ryan, Oklahoma.
One of our favorite uses for the RV was as a guest house, so if you were a guest in our RV, let me say thanks!
Our experience was mostly positive, but we did find it stressful to drive such a large (34-foot) vehicle, and as it aged, repairs became increasingly expensive as major items stopped working.
Donald was an excellent choice to take the reigns of The Kokopelli because he is a machinist and engineer, and has extensive experience repairing machines just like this. He does exactly that for a living.
Abby and I feel that one day we might buy another RV, hopefully newer and much smaller. I expect that since it’s staying in the family, we will see the this one on occasion, so it’s not like we’re really saying goodbye.
With rain in the forecast and nice evenings, I spent lots of time outdoors the last two weekends, rebuilding the roof of the doghouse, cleaning out the pen where the chicken coop lives, moving bricks and boards, re-attaching loose siding, weed whacking, cutting down dead trees, limb lopping, and of course, mowing.
Abby and I switched up some of the living room yesterday at her request, and we actually had a lot of fun doing it.
I saw my doctor this morning for my six-months checkup. He had nurse Amber give me a big bolus of methylprednisolone for what he and I like to call “Photographer’s Syndrome,” or achy-break joints from standing around news and sports events with 15 pounds of gear on my shoulders.
The only surprise was that their lab tech quit, so they sent me down the street to give a blood sample, but it was so crowded that I vowed to come back first thing in the morning.
Those who read the teaching blog know that in my rare spare time at work, I am organizing bunches of old prints I dug out of the morgue. It’s been incredibly fun, since I am able to post photos of people I know from when they were 20 or 25 years younger.
Finally, I published a note on Facebook called I am an Atheist. I had a feeling when I did it that it would have an energizing and potentially divisive effect on my readership, but I was quite happy with how many comments of support I received, from theists and atheists alike. My regular readers know where I stand, but here is the message in its entirety…
I Am an Atheist...
I am an atheist. I do not believe in any god.
I was raised in the Episcopal Church, and was an active participant in their ceremony as an acolyte and lay reader. When I was very young, I believed that when our congregation prayed, a beam of spiritual energy shone through the roof of our little church for god to witness.
Though I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I discarded religion and its deities, it was apparent from my early teen years that I had reasoned away god. My journal from tenth grade indicates that I still participated in the Episcopal Church, but only at the behest of my parents. Journal entries, and conversations I clearly recall from high school and college, show that I was an atheist. As an adult, my journal and my blog are filled with unambiguous statements to that effect.
If I don’t believe in god, the real question is: what do I believe? I believe in evidence. I believe in reality. I believe in nature, and I believe that everything in nature is rational, discoverable, and real. I believe that science and genuinely open-minded exploration are the best and most elegant servants of the human condition. I believe that the science in which I have this trust is a learning, growing, changing entity that, through the scientific method, is constantly reevaluating even its most fundament principals, and is ultimately capable of discovering the core truths of the universe.
The recent political environment has caused me to think harder about human nature. Why is power so intoxicating? Why is cruelty appealing? Why do so many people hate so many other people? How could there be Treblinka, the Bataan Death March, the Murrah Bombing, 9/11?
Then four things happened that helped answer it for me.
Steve Jobs’ Cancer: I read on Wikipedia recently that Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs was diagnosed with operable pancreatic cancer and declined treatment for six months. One doctor called it “suicide” since he tried a bunch of new age bullspit instead of real medical care.
Harrison Ford’s flight incident: actor Harrison Ford overflew an American Airline 737 while accidentally landing on a taxiway instead of the runway he was cleared to use. I am a pilot with far fewer hours than Ford, and though saying this may catch up to me, I’ve never done anything even remotely as stupid as landing on a taxiway.
Oath: Verizon recently announced they were folding AOL and Yahoo! into a company called “Oath,” baffling the tech and business worlds. No one in the press has any idea how they came up with something so lame, but I know there are people in the halls of AOL and Yahoo! right now who can’t believe their idea was passed over for “Oath.”
Donald Trump’s Inevitable Plunge into Awfulness: pretty much every time he opens his mouth, the President embarrasses himself and us. I have noted that since his election, the Trumpeters on social media have shut up about him, seemingly realizing what a bad choice he is to lead our country.
How can human beings in charge of millions or billions of dollars, in positions of authority with power to change the lives of thousands or millions of people… Be. So. Stupid.?
I have a long-time friend, LeAnn Skeen, who found herself is a position of serious workplace bullying a couple of years ago. We all know how that feels because it takes an incredibly charmed life to avoid workplace bullies. Just 18 months ago, most of the news staff at my paper were verging on quitting and/or felt they were verging on getting fired because of a very serious problem with a workplace bully. And if you handed me a calendar, I could mark periods of time over the years we were stuck with one bully or another.
I add this because it, too, raises vexing questions about the nature of humanity. How can people in positions of power such as bosses and company owners.. Be. So. Stupid.?
Finally, in the last few months, much to my dismay and amazement, some of the very pillars of marriage in my life have divorced their long-time husbands or wives. You can hear the loud “boing!” sound and see the springs and stars popping out of my head as my eyes spin counterclockwise.
Yesterday morning, I took Max the Chihuahua to the vet to have his teeth cleaned. It’s an all-day procedure, so I left him and headed home.
In the afternoon on the way to pick him up, I tried to call up Siri on my iPhone 5 to ask Abby what she needed from the store. I found that the home button on the phone wasn’t working, and thought it might be a grain of grit in the case.
I picked up Max. They cleaned his healthy teeth, but removed four tiny incisors (front teeth), which is fairly common for older dogs. He was otherwise healthy for a grey-headed 13 year old Chihuahua.
When I got home I couldn’t get my phone to work at all, and once I pried off the case, I found the whole thing coming apart. I consulted our provider’s web site and found I was due for an upgrade, so today I went to the local store got the newest iPhone, the 7 Plus.
Here are the highs and lows of the situation:
I don’t love that phones are so big these days, but I understand that this feature increased their versatility.
Though my iPhone 5 was five years old, it wasn’t subject to abuse, and it should not, in my opinion, have disintegrated as it did.
I bought a phone with smaller storage. Many people stuff huge amounts of data on their phones, then end up losing it when the phone is crushed by an ostrich or drowned on a waterslide. They also don’t organize their data very well, and can never find it when they need it. I, on the other hand, download and archive everything, and keep only the bare necessities resident on the phone itself.
The vendor had all the colors available, and I chose silver, along with a transparent case, which I think matches my other Apple products well, and makes it easier to find in computer bags and travel bags.
I use the cloud effectively, and had no difficulty logging in, and didn’t lose any data, phone numbers, photos or apps.
The 7 Plus has a double-camera arrangement, which allows it to mimic the selective focus effect of large-aperture lenses, though only with a fair amount of software fussing and fumbling. It wasn’t why I got the phone, but I expect I’ll find an occasion or two when I will use it.
Abby has an iPhone 6S Plus, so we now both have fairly large phones that are fast, modern, and capable.