A Night Full of Words

It was my privilege to participate in an open mic night this weekend.

Those like me who love the written word listen attentively as authors read their poems, stories and essays at an open mic night.
Those like me who love the written word listen attentively as authors read their poems, stories and essays at an open mic night.

Longtime readers might recall that from 2017 through 2019, I participated in an open mic night on the first Monday of every month. I made some new friends, and saw many old friends, and got very comfortable reading my creative writing and showing my photos.

Event organizer Cody Baggerly got the night started by reading one of his poems.
Event organizer Cody Baggerly got the night started by reading one of his poems.

I was sad when that ended, and although I got a chance or two to participate occasionally in the years that followed, I really missed it.

Ken Hada, who spoke to my Rotary Club just a day before, read one of the poems from his most recent book "Come Before Winter."
Ken Hada, who spoke to my Rotary Club just a day before, read one of the poems from his most recent book “Come Before Winter.”

So I was very enthusiastic when I heard of another open mic event in my area, hosted by Kind Origins Cannabis.

Cody Baggerly reads one of his wife Bethany's poems.
Cody Baggerly reads one of his wife Bethany’s poems.
Bethany Baggerly reacts as her husband Cody reads one of her poems to the group.
Bethany Baggerly reacts as her husband Cody reads one of her poems to the group.

One reason I was sorry to see it go was that I used reading to my audience as motivation to polish my work.

Nikki Herrin reads a poem. At the end of the night, I bought her book of poems, "The Progression."
Nikki Herrin reads a poem. At the end of the night, I bought her book of poems, “The Progression.”
Mark Walling reacts to a reading. Like Ken Hada, I've known Mark for a couple of decades, and very much admire his work. His most recent book is called "I Can Hear Everything from Here."
Mark Walling reacts to a reading. Like Ken Hada, I’ve known Mark for a couple of decades, and very much admire his work. His most recent book is called “I Can Hear Everything from Here.”

As usual, and since it is my nature, I ended up making most of the photographs of the night. I made a point to shoot them in an entirely different style than my newspaper work, using my Lumix 4/3 mirrorless and a 1960s-era Minolta 58mm f/1.4 in black-and-white.

Everything about this Lumix GH2 and this 58mm f/1.4 lens says "fine art," and that was the photographer I was trying to be.
Everything about this Lumix GH2 and this 58mm f/1.4 lens says “fine art,” and that was the photographer I was trying to be.

I was also very much reminded of a one-time open mic I joined in October 2020, The Esoteric Verse (link). I wish we had more of these kinds of events.

I'd never been to Kind Origins. There is a nice, big space with good seating, and I was very pleased we filled the place.
I’d never been to Kind Origins. There is a nice, big space with good seating, and I was very pleased we filled the place.

The Early Days in the Air

I got my pilot’s license Saturday, May 1, 1993.

I shot this from Cougar Field, the Ada High School baseball field, which is right next to the airport. You can see the date stamp on the left edge of the photo, April 30, 1993, and the tail number, N6059G. It was just the next day, in this airplane, that I took my check ride and became a private pilot.
I shot this from Cougar Field, the Ada High School baseball field, which is right next to the airport. You can see the date stamp on the left edge of the photo, April 30, 1993, and the tail number, N6059G. It was just the next day, in this airplane, that I took my check ride and became a private pilot.

Every pilot remembers seminal moments in their flying careers, like their first solo, their first long cross-country, or the first time they carried passengers.

The day of my check ride was no different. Fellow student Dub and I were both getting our check rides that day. The examiner was about two hours late. He gave a rambling, three-hour oral “exam,” which was mostly him telling us to…

  1. Stay out of the weather
  2. Don’t fly at night
  3. Don’t mis-load the airplane.

We plotted our cross-country flights. I knew my charts, numbers, and regs pretty well.

Dub flew his check ride in a Cessna 172 he had just bought. I flew mine in the Cessna 150 I’d trained in.

On my check ride, which is slang for Private Pilot Practical Test, he had me do a soft-field take off on runway 12 (the shorter crosswind runway), which I executed well. We turned east and practiced some slow flight, then climbed north for some steep turns, one (yes, just one) stall (straight ahead, power-on), and about five minutes under the hood (a view-limiting device) for unusual-attitude recovery and VOR navigation. Over the river north of town, we did turns around a point and half an s-turn, then headed to the airport. I set up for a soft-field landing. He told me to go around at about 50-feet above the ground. We climbed to pattern altitude and turned downwind for 17, where he pulled the throttle to idle to simulate an engine failure.

We taxied to the ramp, where he said, “You go tell Phil (my instructor) you flunked your check ride, and make it convincing. Then I’ll go inside and write your license. Congratulations.”

Dub went next in his 172. Phil was nervous like an expectant father. And since I tested first, I had the honor of being Phil’s first student to “graduate.”

I flew my first passengers just two days later, in a 1966 Cessna 150 I rented in Norman, Oklahoma.

Robert and I horse around one fine and fun afternoon in the air.
Robert and I horse around one fine and fun afternoon in the air.

A couple of days later, Dub and I flew his 172 north of town to find and look at an airplane one of our fellow pilots, we’ll call him “Frank,” had landed his plane in a wheat field after the engine failed. “Frank” was notorious for getting in his airplane and flying off without any preflight checklist or briefing of any kind, and on this occasion, it was rumored he flew it without any engine oil, causing it to fail.

It was also that spring when I found out I had won the AP’s Photo of the Year, and The Oklahoma Press Association’s Photographer of the Year awards, so I really was flying high.

Here are some items about flying to commit to memory.

  1. Be humble, approachable, and credible.
  2. Always, in order: aviate, navigate, communicate.
  3. If you are lost, climb, communicate, confess.

And I can’t stress this one enough: put. the. nose. down. How many more tragic accident reports and YouTube videos (including four fatality accidents that I covered for my newspaper) before pilots stop being so incompetent with the elevator?

Just weeks after I got my license, I was flying with someone from my class who was still working towards his license. The cross-country went fine, but on final I saw his airspeed decay to something like 40 knots, and although I was a green pilot myself, I said, “my airplane,” and salvaged the landing. How? By putting the nose down!

This is a pretty good setup for turning base to final in a Cessna 150; about 70 knots, 1800 rpm, 700 fpm down, 10 degrees of flap. The temptation is to let too much speed bleed off from here to the threshold, but I typically kept that 1800 rpm until I was over the numbers, maybe even pushing it up just a bit to slow my descent rate. I got very good at landing this airplane in just a few hundred feet of runway. And if you feel too low or too slow, don't raise the nose! Stay calm and add power!
This is a pretty good setup for turning base to final in a Cessna 150; about 70 knots, 1800 rpm, 700 fpm down, 10 degrees of flap. The temptation is to let too much speed bleed off from here to the threshold, but I typically kept that 1800 rpm until I was over the numbers, maybe even pushing it up just a bit to slow my descent rate. I got very good at landing this airplane in just a few hundred feet of runway. And if you feel too low or too slow, don’t raise the nose! Stay calm and add power!

Ellen in Grey at The Red Cup

The Red Cup is a coffee house and vegetarian restaurant in Oklahoma City.
The Red Cup is a coffee house and vegetarian restaurant in Oklahoma City.

Mackenzee Crosby invited me to have lunch with her at The Red Cup, a vegan coffee house and restaurant in Oklahoma City. She is hoping to move to New York soon, and despite her repeated invitations, I’d never managed to make it up there, so this was her last chance to share the experience with me.

According to some sources, looking up and to the right can mean a person is constructing a picture. This can indicate that someone is imagining something or visualizing a constructed event.
According to some sources, looking up and to the right can mean a person is constructing a picture. This can indicate that someone is imagining something or visualizing a constructed event.

Mackenzee and I have been friends since for more than a decade, since she was in junior high. She took my class in 2014. Right before the pandemic in 2020, she photographed Abby and me at home for a college project. In 2021, she spent her newspaper internship at my newspaper (you can read more about her internship here [link], and here [link]). During her internship, I wanted her to write a column. My column is called Picture This, so I wanted hers to have an appealing name. After bantering twenty or so names, she loved the sound of Ellen in Grey. Her middle name is Ellen.

Mackenzee really liked the look of these bar stools, and wanted me to photographer her with them.
Mackenzee really liked the look of these bar stools, and wanted me to photographer her with them.

One running photographic laugh between us is that she is very nearsighted, and as I get older, I need readers to see up close. As a result, when she puts my camera to her eye, everything is blurry, and when I put her camera to my eye, everything is blurry.

Mackenzee is known for "acting with her eyes."
Mackenzee is known for “acting with her eyes.”

Mackenzee is also an aspiring poet and author, and I’m always glad when I get to read something of hers. She and I were part of the open mic scene in Ada, and during the pandemic, we both took part in an amazing one-night reading called Esoteric Verse (here, link.)

We found this dilapidated store on Western, and took turns posing with it.
We found this dilapidated store on Western, and took turns posing with it.

After lunch, we walked east toward a cathedral she admires, then over to a spot on Western with a couple of graphic features she knew would make pictures.

Early on her internship, Mackenzee invested in a Fujifilm X100V with its fixed 23mm f/2, a camera that has gotten rare and coveted since being introduced. I have a Fuji X-T10, which I brought with my 18mm f/2 attached, so we were both shooting in a similar set.

Your host shoots with his Fujifilm X-T10.
Your host shoots with his Fujifilm X-T10.
Shot just a second or two after the last image, I love this image because she is laughing.
Shot just a second or two after the last image, I love this image because she is laughing.
It had been cold and foggy for ten days, but the weather turned beautiful, perfect, for our photowalk.
It had been cold and foggy for ten days, but the weather turned beautiful, perfect, for our photowalk.
Mackenzee didn't deny she looked like she had just come from The Matrix.
Mackenzee didn’t deny she looked like she had just come from The Matrix.
I love the way my Fuji makes black-and-white images. This was made using the green filter film simulation mode.
I love the way my Fuji makes black-and-white images. This was made using the green filter film simulation mode.

I am excited for her that she’s moving to New York, but I also know I’ll miss her being close by.

Mackenzee is among the most artistic personalities in my life, and that comes very naturally to her.
Mackenzee is among the most artistic personalities in my life, and that comes very naturally to her.

Words of Wisdom, January 12, 2024

Seven Social Sins is a list by Frederick Lewis Donaldson that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi published in his weekly newspaper Young India on October 22, 1925. Later he gave this same list to his grandson, Arun Gandhi, written on a piece of paper on their final day together shortly before his assassination. The Seven Sins are:

Wealth without work.
Pleasure without conscience.
Knowledge without character.
Commerce without morality.
Science without humanity.
Religion without sacrifice.
Politics without principle.

Of what value?
Of what value?

Some Sci-Fi Gripes

NASA has been developing directed-energy weapons since the 1950s. These devices are aimed at an object in deep space.
NASA has been developing directed-energy weapons since the 1950s. These devices are aimed at an object in deep space.

Engines: most science fiction depicts spacecraft with their engines running the entire time they are shown on-screen; Prometheus, The Martian, Star Wars, Star Trek, and on and on. This is probably because the graphic designers were in love with the deep blue glow they created in the engine exhaust.

Why this is a problem: aside from conserving fuel, the obvious problem with engines that run all the time in space is that it creates constant acceleration. Any time you move a vehicle, that movement requires Delta-v (), defined as change in velocity. If you had unlimited fuel, you certainly could continue to accelerate, but that’s not how it’s done. In space flight, Delta-v is applied, accelerating the craft to the required speed, followed by coasting in space until another change is required. Think about the Apollo Program. Once the vehicles were in Earth orbit, another force was required to push the vehicle toward the moon, Delta-v exerted by the S-IVB (the third stage), increasing the eccentricity of the orbit (not, as is sometimes asserted, to “leave Earth orbit”). This maneuver is called the trans-lunar injection (TLI), and lasts about 300 seconds. By then, enough Delta-v has been applied, the S-IVB is left behind, and the remaining vehicles coast into the moon’s gravity.

All the time in science fiction we see spacecraft depicted as arriving at their destinations with their engines, in the back of the vehicle, producing thrust, when, in fact, the goal is to slow down, which would require a different vector than blasting forward.

Important exceptions: Apollo 13, Solaris, 2001 A Space Odyssey

Gravity: this one is only a factor if you need actors to walk around as they do on earth. Various fictions are used to simulate normal Earth-like gravity inside spacecraft. Sometimes freefall (not “zero gravity” as is sometimes asserted) is simulated in practical affects (Apollo 13), or with computer graphics (The Martian). The most popular sci-fi explanation for artificial gravity is to have the crew on the inside of a spinning mass, like a hamster wheel, though Star Trek only addresses this a couple of times with some bullshift like having gravity plates, and it’s only a problem in one of the movies for about two minutes. Also for fans, one of the often re-used background voices in the original series is “gravity is down to point-8.”

This weapon is able to accelerate dense objects to velocities exceeding the speed of sound.
This weapon is able to accelerate dense objects to velocities exceeding the speed of sound.

As bad as The Midnight Sky was, props at least for the scene of the injured crew member’s blood floating inside her helmet.

Also, The Martian, Ad Astra: gravity on the moon is only 1/6 Earth’s, and Mars’ is only about 2/3 Earth’s, yet actors pounce around like they were in their back yards.

The difference between CO and CO2: this one is so aggravating to me because it’s so easy to understand. Carbon monoxide (CO) is deadly even in small doses, while carbon dioxide (CO2) is present in the atmosphere and in ever breath we exhale. I saw this error recently in Prometheus, in which a character compares the atmosphere to an “exhaust pipe,” at almost three percent CO2. Screen writers: figure this out!

Ignoring distances and the speed of light: Solaris really bugs me on this one, but Star Trek loves to change the rules based on the plot (“out here we won’t get a reply for weeks,” vs livestreaming via subspace). Solaris is set on a distant world in a distant solar system (unless my map of our solar system is missing a planet or small star), yet it seems to take George Clooney maybe six months (?) to reach it (and in the mean time, surely stuff must have changed on the space station in six months), yet if we acknowledge speed of light is the speed limit of the universe, the next closest star to our sun is Proxima Centauri, which is 4.2465 light years aways. Thus, even if you could accelerate Clooney to just ten percent of the speed of light, it would take him more than 42 years to get there, and Proxima Centauri certainly isn’t anything like Solaris, so that’s not where he is going.

Related: distance, warp drive, and hyperspace. This one gets flattened into nothingness all the time by lazy screen writing. “We’re the only starship within range,” or, “at warp seven we can be there in ten minutes.” Star Wars goes one lazier in The Last Jedi by having the ships lope along at sub-light speeds on the way to Crait, but didn’t we just discuss the speed of light and how far apart stars are? Even in the tightly-packed star cluster, even travel at nearly the speed of light equals months. Don’t believe me? Light, which of course is at the speed of light, takes 13 minutes to travel from Earth to Mars. How far is Crait supposed to be?

I collected these orbs in my yard one day. I believe them to be eggs of some sort, possibly alien in origin.
I collected these orbs in my yard one day. I believe them to be eggs of some sort, possibly alien in origin.

Related: time, speed, distance. Pilots know all about time, speed and distance. In the Star Trek episode Tomorrow is Yesterday, the Enterprise flies toward the sun at multi-warp-speed to “break away” at the last second to re-create the time warp that got them to 1967 in the first place. Uh, Captain? The sun is just eight light-minutes away. Then, as we are flashing across the solar system at Warp Zillion, we see stars zipping by like fireflies. At one point, and Sulu says they are traveling at Warp 8. Spock says, “Since we have passed Mercury, the sun’s pull on us has increased greatly. From here, we’ll move even faster.” Mercury is just 3.2 light minutes away from the sun, and Warp 8 is 512 times the speed of light, so, there’s the … oops, splat.

And of course, the time paradox. You knew this was coming. If you go back in time and change anything, everything changes in the “present.” Sure, it was super-cool to let Joan Collins get run over by a car, but you still changed about a hundred things around you, like stealing those clothes? Huh? Maybe naked Audie Murphy decided not to join the army. What then?

Battles in space. Okay, I know, it’s only science fiction, but if energy weapons like phasers, blasters, and photon torpedoes move at the speed of light, and your ship can go faster than that, why don’t you just scurry away from the danger?

Also related: gravity in open space. This is one of the most glaring problems with The Last Jedi, when the rebellion sends in “bombers” to drop bombs on a star destroyer. Drop bombs in space? Drop bombs in space?

Text makes sound: spy movies also do this, but science fiction is the worst about it. When text appears on the screen, little blipping sounds accompany it. Why did anyone ever think this was a thing? Think I’m wrong? Create a text document right now and listen for the blips. No? Text is silent?

Propellers that stop: this isn’t directly connected to science fiction, but it’s an aviation fact: when an airplane engine stops producing power for whatever reason, the propeller almost always continues to turn, a process called windmilling. It’s actually hard to get a prop to stop on an airplane in flight – I’ve tried it a time or two, by choking the mixture to fail the motor, then pulling to nose up to an imminent stall, when airflow over the prop no longer forces it to spin. Some of the time, lowering the nose and letting the aircraft accelerate toward the ground will make the prop start to windmill again; in fact, this is the relight procedure on many aircraft after an engine failure.

Okay, yeah, the reason directors show this in movies is to tell the audience that the engine quit.

Growing potatoes on Mars: as I rewatch The Martian, and simultaneously look up how to grow potatoes, I realize the missing piece: there isn’t enough sunlight on Mars, especially indoors, to grow potatoes. It’s that pesky inverse square law: since Mars is twice the distance from the sun as the Earth is, meaning the amount of sunlight on Mars is eight times less than on Earth.

In conclusion, I need some really realistic science fiction to read. Ideas?

A collection of phasers and communicators is shown is this set display from the short-lived NBC series Star Trek: Straight Up Squabble.
A collection of phasers and communicators is shown is this set display from the short-lived NBC series Star Trek: Straight Up Squabble.

Things You See When You Fly

Chris Eckler, Ada City School’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) educator, invited me to fly with him in the Cessna 172 we both rent, the one that lives at our home airport in Ada, to Weatherford, Oklahoma, to deliver some Christmas gifts for children in need, and pick up some for kids back in Ada.

Your humble host smiles for a selfie in the Cessna today. You can see the back seat over my shoulder is crammed with Christmas presents.
Your humble host smiles for a selfie in the Cessna today. You can see the back seat over my shoulder is crammed with Christmas presents.

I mostly ran the radios, and we talked to Fort Worth Center and Oklahoma City approach for Flight Following, which is radar service that adds a layer of safety by providing traffic advisories.

Chris gets the airplane settled in for cruise.
Chris gets the airplane settled in for cruise.

Anyone who knows me knows that there is nothing I won’t climb, crawl or fly in just for fun, or to make pictures.

It was an absolutely beautiful day to be in the sky, and I have always loved the things I see when I am flying.

Every time I drive out west, I see these wind farms, but when seen from the air, they seem smaller and farther apart.
Every time I drive out west, I see these wind farms, but when seen from the air, they seem smaller and farther apart.
This is the cloverleaf intersection of Interstate 44 and the H.E. Bailey Turnpike Extension.
This is the cloverleaf intersection of Interstate 44 and the H.E. Bailey Turnpike Extension.
Holy smackeral, look at this house!
Holy smackeral, look at this house!
It was smooth at all altitudes, and the airplane pretty much flew itself.
It was smooth at all altitudes, and the airplane pretty much flew itself.

That Little Souvenir

Pamela Michelle Young Hudspeth has died. She was 58.

I was unmarried and lonely in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In May 1992, I started dating Pam, and, quite honestly, she was incredibly beautiful. She was so beautiful, in fact, that it blinded me to more realistic considerations, such as the fact that she believed in things that I didn’t: spirit photography, the “inner child,” Satanism, astrology and much more.

This is Pam in 1991. She was waifish and delicate, both physically and emotionally.
This is Pam in 1991. She was waifish and delicate, both physically and emotionally.

Still, I was so taken with her, I probably would have married her if she hadn’t moved away. Despite her odd canon of beliefs, she was always interesting.

The Writing Group

Over the years I have organized several groups that got together on a weekly basis to share our writing and challenge each other to write. Among other things, the endeavor was intended to get me closer to attractive women, and in particular, attractive creative women.

I shot this Polaroid of Pam at her desk in the newsroom. Later, she hand tinted it.
I shot this Polaroid of Pam at her desk in the newsroom. Later, she hand tinted it.

I found it very attractive that Pam wrote. She penned a column at our newspaper, often politically unpopular and inflammatory, and claimed she wanted to write books, stories, and an autobiography. Along with Frank Rodrigues and Melissa Price, Pam joined my writing club in 1991. Oddly, it was hard to get her to write much, and now, decades later, her claims of wanting to continue to write had never come to fruition.

At one point in that group, Pam and I sat across a kitchen table. She looked at me and asked, “Richard, are in a lot of pain all the time?” Now, knowing her intense spiritual pain, I realize she wasn’t asking me, she was inviting me.

Music Guides My Heart

As I write this, I listen to music that brings back those days.

My Pam playlist includes…

Here’s Where the Story Ends, Goodbye, and Wild Horses by The Sundays

I Must Have Been Blind by This Mortal Coil

Ghost and The Girl with the weight of the World in her Hands by The Indigo Girls

All I Want is You and Love is Blindness by U2

Friday I’m in Love, High, and To Wish Impossible Things by The Cure

Season of Hollow Soul by k.d. lang

Torn, High on a Riverbed, and Don’t Go Away by Toad the Wet Sprocket

Three Wishes by Roger Waters

The One by Elton John (after she heard the lyrics “a spirit born of earth and water” and said she looked up our elemental signs to find she was water and I was earth.) At one point I had the cassette single of The One, which we listened to in her car.

While we were dating, I brought her cassette mix tapes. She fell in love with the music of Phil Keaggy, so In the Light of the Common Day puts me right there on her couch with her.

Despite her emotional shortcomings, Pam was petite and beautiful, and my feelings for her were honest and genuine.
Despite her emotional shortcomings, Pam was petite and beautiful, and my feelings for her were honest and genuine.

A Brief and Difficult Romance

Pam and I attempted to get romantically involved starting in the late spring of 1992. At first it was just an invitation to dinner at her apartment or mine, but our relationship quickly grew into romance.

She was never comfortable with that. On some of the evenings that I had hoped and planned to spend with her disappeared because she was so threatened by genuine intimacy.

We talked about getting married. We talked about ideas. Of course, we were both working journalists at the time, so we talked about that.

Despite her efforts to do interesting things and have fun times, Pam's very posture was guarded and defensive, and her eyes seemed to have the "1000-yard stare."
Despite her efforts to do interesting things and have fun times, Pam’s very posture was guarded and defensive, and her eyes seemed to have the “1000-yard stare.”

Her perfume was Tribute. She smoked Virginia Slims. Her smell on me at the end of the night was oddly intoxicating.

Evenings with her were always charged with emotional energy, a promise of drama in the midst of her smoke and perfume that would light my night afire. She would always “need to talk about it.”

I knew that our night was going to be full of closeness when she would invite me to sit close to her on the couch with her legs across my lap.

At the end of all our evenings, we’d walk out to my car parked at her apartment, where I would gather her waifish body, and we would hold each other close, so close.

At one point when I could feel her withdrawing emotionally, I asked, “Do you feel it when I hold you?”

“Sometimes,” she answered.

She decided that her problems were getting in the way of our romance, and her well being, so she decided to go to a 28-day treatment facility in central New Mexico, the details of which she would not want me to share. I wrote her almost every day. She wrote back five times.

As part of the program, I joined her for the third week, and there, in the midst of a thousand tears, in the perfect New Mexico sunshine, we broke up.

We’ve been sharing so many words and feelingsAge is heavier, it seems, than years aloneBut, I told you things I wouldn’t dream of telling anyoneAre we drying out, like flowers from a forgotten someone
Don’t go awayI can’t feel the same without you
Don’t go awayI can’t feel the same without you
~Toad the Wet Sprocket

 

I Flew Away

My saving grace was that I was, at the time, learning to fly, and the exceptionally positive learning experience of aviation couldn’t have come at a more perfect point in my life. She moved away, and I devoted much of my time to flight training, so it was easier to let her go.

This key fob was "that little souvenir." Family members of the clients all got one. For this photo, it is sitting on a "God bag," which bore the "serenity prayer." The idea is to write down your problems, thus "giving them to God."
This key fob was “that little souvenir.” Family members of the clients all got one. For this photo, it is sitting on a “God bag,” which bore the “serenity prayer.” The idea is to write down your problems, thus “giving them to God.”

That Little Souvenir

It’s that little souvenir, of a terrible year
Which makes my eyes feel sore
It’s that little souvenir, of a colorful year
Which makes me smile inside… ~The Sundays


In the decades that followed my short time with Pam, I have thought about her often, and stayed in touch, more so in the last couple of years of her life. In those conversations, she expressed endless regret at letting me go. “Now,” she said in an email, “I know with all my heart, you were who I should have been with. You were the best man I ever dated, period.”

Pam came to Ada for the first time in many years for her grandmother's funeral March 2, 2022. I only saw her for a short time, but we had a good talk, and she held me tight when it was time for me to leave.
Pam came to Ada for the first time in many years for her grandmother’s funeral March 2, 2022. I only saw her for a short time, but we had a good talk, and she held me tight when it was time for me to leave.

In one written correspondence not that long ago, I asked her what she wanted. “Out,” was her answer.

In August of this year, she and I hatched a plan to have lunch in Henrietta, Oklahoma, halfway between her home and mine. We both got pretty excited, dreaming about the buffet at Mazzio’s Pizza and spending the afternoon together. But as the day grew near, she called it off, saying she was sick again.

In tremendous physical and emotional pain for years, and no longer wanting to live, she died at home this week in hospice care.

This is from the evening Pam and I went to Robert Erwin's Cole Porter Party. It was a great time.
This is from the evening Pam and I went to Robert Erwin’s Cole Porter Party. It was a great time.

Goodbye, Pam.

The Abyss Gazes Also into You

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” – Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

How am I happy? It’s an interesting puzzle, isn’t it? I am a happy person, and I expect I will be happy for the rest of my life. But how, especially after witnessing the illness and death of the love of my life 19 months ago, can this be?

I thought about that after a search of a cloud storage folder yielded, accidentally, the transcribed journal of someone I knew and dated in the early 1990s, who took her own life in early 1994.

In that journal, which I discovered only after she died, I found a potent sense of depression, despair, resentment, self-contempt, and misanthropy. Why? What drove her to such bone-crushing lows?

There were certainly the unambiguous signs of anxiety and clinical depression, and certainly some very serious post-traumatic stress disorder. She couldn’t sleep or eat well. She was disinclined to reach out (at least to me.)

In her journal (which she wrote as letters to me, which all started, “Dear Richard”), she wrote again and again about wanting to die. “I’m afraid no one will ever love me again, and I will be alone all my life,” she wrote. “If I live to be forty and am still alone, I think I will interfere with my destiny,” she later wrote, though at that time, she was 43.

One of the least-accurate things she wrote was that she was, “easy to get along with.” She was about as “easy” as a nuclear war. The reason that I stopped courting her was that she was so hard to get along with.

But okay. Doesn’t all that describe me to some degree during various periods in my life? Sure. But now am I alone, living with the echoes and memories of the most amazing love I have ever witnessed, let alone experienced, yet still smile and eat and work and love my life.

It’s too easy to write her off with “she was crazy.” Is the real truth that we are just blobs of delicately-balanced biomass? Are we all just “one trade away from humility,” to cite the movie Wall Street?

Three months before she killed herself, she wrote, “You know NOT ONE IOTA of the pain I live with daily. You are NOT forced to live my life. So LAY OFF.”

I knew fragments of that kind of pain when I was younger, but I dealt with it. She was consumed and destroyed by it.

What, then, do we think and do about this? I will ponder further.

"Every action is filled with light and with darkness." ~Black Filigree Notebook
“Every action is filled with light and with darkness.” ~Black Filigree Notebook

Life on the Patch

Here are a few images of my life this week on this patch of green in Byng, Oklahoma.

There were three corn spiders making a living in my tomato garden this week.
There were three corn spiders making a living in my tomato garden this week.
Hawken chased an adult eastern cottontail rabbit the entire length of the back yard this week. It was amazing to see 180-pound dog move so fast.
Hawken chased an adult eastern cottontail rabbit the entire length of the back yard this week. It was amazing to see 180-pound dog move so fast.
Someone challenged me to make a photo with the theme "fall," so I thought of all the times Abby and I took an anniversary trip in the fall, and made this image.
Someone challenged me to make a photo with the theme “fall,” so I thought of all the times Abby and I took an anniversary trip in the fall, and made this image.
I made this dreamy rendition of a morning glory vine on the fence in the front yard. These vines once covered that entire fence, but have mostly died off.
I made this dreamy rendition of a morning glory vine on the fence in the front yard. These vines once covered that entire fence, but have mostly died off.
Someone sent me this snapshot of me working in Ada's Wintersmith Park. Based on my attire and the white brace on my elbow, I think this was made in about 2002.
Someone sent me this snapshot of me working in Ada’s Wintersmith Park. Based on my attire and the white brace on my elbow, and looking at my files from that day, this image was made July 4, 2002.
We have tons of grasshoppers this year. Infer what you will about antennas on antennas.
We have tons of grasshoppers this year. Infer what you will about antennas on antennas.
Summer sniffs the morning air this week.
Summer sniffs the morning air this week.
The mornings are beautiful right now. This is the front yard.
The mornings are beautiful right now. This is the front yard.

Best Pictures I Have Seen and Liked or Disliked

Unlike some movie fans, I still have a fair amount of content, good and bad, on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Unlike some movie fans, I still have a fair amount of content, good and bad, on DVD and Blu-Ray.

My sister reported watching and hating Reds, maybe my all-time favorite movie. It got me thinking about the best movies I have seen, and the movies I have seen that were highly touted, yet I didn’t like. Here are some the Academy Awards for Best Picture, ones that I have seen, and ones I thought should have been the Best Picture for that year instead.

There are years in which I saw very few movies, so they aren’t all listed here.

1953: From Here to Eternity. Amazing film.

1957: The Bridge on the River Kwai. The plot of this film is riveting. Runner-up: 12 Angry Men.

1959: Ben-Hur. I know this is supposed to be a classic, especially the chariot race, but this is the most closeted home-erotic film of all time. Should have won: North by Northwest.

1962: Lawrence of Arabia. This is a top ten film for me.

1966: A Man for All Seasons. I love this film for a lot of reasons, especially the intelligent, elegant dialog, and the idea of a man standing up for his beliefs no matter what befalls him. A dent is this script is its revisionist absence of Thomas More’s cruel persecution of heretics.

1970: Patton. Love the story, the cinematography, the acting. Great film.

1976: Rocky. Should have won: All the President’s Men. Marry this with The Post, and you have an evening of truly engaging stories about journalism. But then there’s Taxi Driver. It was a good year for films.

1977: Annie Hall. My wife hated Woody Allen for his personal life, but I never turn down the chance to spend the evening with Annie. Also of note: this was the lowest-grossing Best Picture of all time.

1978: The Deer Hunter. Coming Home was a close second. But I don’t feel engaged by either of these films. Their biggest flaws was my inability to relate to any of the characters. Should have won: Interiors, possibly my number two favorite movie. It’s not an easy movie to love, but I relate to every character.

1979: Kramer vs Kramer. Should have won: Apocalypse Now.

1980: Ordinary People. Maybe in my top five list.

1981: Chariots of Fire. This one might go in my bottom ten list. Should have won: Reds.

1982: Gandhi. Also in my top five list.

1983: Terms of Endearment. Almost unwatchable. Should have won: The Big Chill or The Right Stuff.

1984: Amadeus. Watched and was engaged, but wasn’t the best that year, especially the way it let Tom Hulce be just a little bit 1980s. Should have won: The Killing Fields.

1985: Out of Africa was a long, boring masterpiece. Should have won: The Color Purple, which is also kind of a long, boring masterpiece.

1986: Platoon. I considered Platoon as one of my favorite war movies for years, but it hasn’t age well, especially tainted by the presence of Charlie Sheen and his wooden narration and 80s haircut. Should have won: Hannah and Her Sisters.

1987: The Last Emperor. Meh. Should have won: Broadcast News.

1988: Rain Man. This movie made a huge splash, but I might have watched it one more time. Should have won: it wasn’t a great year in film, so maybe Colors or Wings of Desire. Die Hard was fun, but isn’t really “great.”

1989: Driving Miss Daisy. I am one of the few who are really bored by this film. Should have won: Dead Poets Society.

1990: Dances with Wolves. I reluctantly accept this win, with the caveat that I despise Kevin Costner’s bland, monotonal narration.

1991: The Silence of the Lambs. It has its moments, but given a choice, Slacker is the 1991 film for me.

1992: Unforgiven. Abby and I both loved it.

1993: Schindler’s List. This isn’t, as a film critic friend of mine recently pointed out, a fun film to watch, but it merits its Best Picture standing. Unfortunately, it competes with The Age of Innocence, another movie in my top ten.

1994: Forrest Gump. I never liked this movie. Should have won: Pulp Fiction. Duh.

1995: Braveheart. I am really bugged by this movie’s revisionist history, and it’s too long. Should have won but surprisingly is not even nominated: Heat.

1996: The English Patient. Long and boring. Should have won: Fargo.

1997: Titanic. This movie might be at the top of the “Worst Best Pictures Ever” list. My girlfriend in 2000 wouldn’t shut up about it. Should have won: maybe Good Will Hunting, but it wasn’t a very good year in film.

1998: Shakespeare in Love. Should have won: The Thin Red Line.

1999: American Beauty. This movie takes us down a dark path, but it’s masterful.

2000: Gladiator. I love this movie, but often turn it down in favor of something easier to watch.

2001: A Beautiful Mind. This might be Russell Crowe’s best work.

2002: Chicago. Should have won: The Pianist.

2003: The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King. Abby and I gave the Lord trilogy its day in court, and found it guilty of boring us. Should have won: hmm. It wasn’t a good year.

2004: Million Dollar Baby. This movie was great, but so difficult to watch at the end. Should have won: The Aviator.

2005: Crash. Should have won: Brokeback Mountain, maybe another near the top of my list. An interesting aside is that people who don’t understand relationships or society very well called this “a gay cowboy movie,” but is really about how the difficult pursuit of happiness is, and the consequences of adultery.

2006: The Departed is a pretty solid choice, but I also liked Letters from Iwo Jima, the companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers, also a great film. It’s a toss-up.

2007: No Country for Old Men. Abby never turned down this movie, so we saw it a dozen or more times; it’s a great piece of cinema.

2009: The Hurt Locker impressed me on the first pass, but re-viewing revealed it’s flaws. Should have won: Inglourious Basterds.

2017: The Shape of Water. This might have been more of a political win. Should have won: Dunkirk.

2021: CODA. Should have won: Don’t Look Up!, just because it is SO funny.

In constructing this list, I looked at a lot of lists of movies, and I felt very discouraged at the state of entertainment. There are too many sequels made just to sell tickets, and too many showy special-effects movies that don’t have good plot or characters. Many nights, it’s smarter to read a good book.

Is entertainment what separates us from the animals?
Is entertainment what separates us from the animals?

My Vision for Ada Sunrise Rotary

We ring this brass bell at the start and end of each meeting, as well as during our "bell ringers" segment. A bell ringer can ring for anything from getting their PhD to a grandchild's birthday.
We ring this brass bell at the start and end of each meeting, as well as during our “bell ringers” segment. A bell ringer can ring for anything from getting their PhD to a grandchild’s birthday.

Here my vision for my service as 2023-24 Ada Sunrise Rotary President.

This year’s Rotary International theme is “Create Hope in the World.”

My keyword: fun.

My first goal for Rotary is to make it more popular and appealing to those who might not have considered joining. Rotary is a lot of fun, and many don’t realize that, and I would like to enhance the idea that Rotary is fun by participating in more visible activities. We need to plan to have a much bigger Rotary presence at events like Step Out of the Darkness, the Elks Fall Fest, Homecoming on Main, Fall Cruise on Main, Halloween on Main (we could hand out candy), Open House on Main, the Parade of Lights, and more as they get scheduled for 2024.

My second goal is to add five members during my tenure. I’d like to ask that each member find and bring at least one individual who might be interested in joining between now and June 2024. The sticky selling point is getting up early, so we should offer to buy them “the best breakfast in town.”

The Aldridge Hotel serves a pretty delicious breakfast, but it is the camaraderie that makes it the best in town.
The Aldridge Hotel serves a pretty delicious breakfast, but it is the camaraderie that makes it the best in town.

My third goal; Rotary is known for its diversity and inclusion, but I want to publicize the idea that we are leaders in those areas. We have great service programs,  but I know we can do more, especially if we can recruit more members. To that end, I’d also like to improve our public presence on social media. I would like to create a “Meet Your Ada Sunrise Rotarian” each month, with an individual photograph and bio.

My fourth goal is in keeping with the theme, “Create Hope in the World,” I would love to bring in more guest speakers who would be willing to share their stories of hope. They could be anyone who faces adversity and overcomes it. I am asking our members and our program committee to keep these goals in mind when we invite our guest speaker.

I presented these ideas at our Friday, September 8, 2023 meeting, and they were a big hit, leaving everyone talking about how to make these things happen.

Your host speaks Friday at Ada Sunrise Rotary.
Your host speaks Friday at Ada Sunrise Rotary.

The Journal Turns 45!

For the first 20 years of my journal, I wrote in Mead college-ruled notebooks because it was the first format assigned by a tenth grade English II teacher.
For the first 20 years of my journal, I wrote in Mead college-ruled notebooks because it was the first format assigned by a tenth grade English II teacher.

Many of my readers will recall that I have been writing in a journal for most of my life. September 5, 2023 marks the 45-year mark. As I thought about this anniversary, I began to think about breaking it up into various periods, a kind of lifelong chronology of my writing.

1978 really was a different time. No internet. No cell phones. No air conditioning in schools (at least not in mine.) The top five television shows were Laverne & Shirley, Three’s Company, Mork & Mindy, Happy Days, and Angie. I watched the first four, but I have no idea what Angie was. We must have liked another show on another network, because I even watched the intro on YouTube, and I’d never seen even a single second of that show.

Anyway, the journal got started as an assignment for English II class in tenth grade. The first thing I wrote was the date on the second line of the first page, “Tuesday, September 5, 1978,” in a handwriting that might best be described as resembling Comic Sans.

So, what might the epochs of Richard’s journal be called? I’ll take a stab at it.

1978-1980: The Innocent Age. This was a time in my life magnified by the drama and innocence of being a mid-teenager, unspoiled by the crush of adulthood, yet with a  decidedly distorted perspective about life. I felt emotionally isolated, but also thought it all revolved around me and my feelings.

1980: The First Writing Group. I took a creative writing class in eleventh grade, and decided I was going to be a brilliant novelist before I turned 18. I wrote a lot, but it wasn’t very good. I got my girlfriend and my best friend interested in writing, and they joined in, sometimes giving each other writing assignments or challenges.

1981: The Chatter Box. By this point in my writing, I was doing a daily writing dump. Anything I could think of went on the page, and while it kept me disciplined and literate, it was emotionally empty, often falling back on a sense of humor I culled from M*A*S*H reruns and Peanuts comic strips.

1982-1983: The Dark Age. By the time I was a freshman in college, I thought of myself as a deep thinker, and honestly, I kind of was. I listened to a lot of music with deep lyrics, and cobbled together an elementary philosophy. As a result, there were many nights I didn’t write anything at all in my journal. Two important deaths, both college friends, happened during this period, but I breezed over them in my journal with a kind of arrogant nonchalance.

1984-1985: The Days and Nights of Private Drama. By the time I was 21, in the summer of 1984, I was starting to express real feelings about my life in my journal, including a very powerful sense of loneliness. It was a valid expression, since I was alone in a lot of ways during that period.

1986-1988: The Bridge. I started dating a fellow journalist in the summer of 1986. It started with late night breakfasts and sitting out under the stars on a bridge over an interstate.  She and I were both young and not very good at being in relationships, and if I had listened to her, I would have heard she wanted out, and if I listened to myself, I would have heard that I was into someone else more than her. It was a hard breakup, but it needed to happen.

1988-1989: My Time in Exile. I tried to move to another state to be with that girlfriend, but when it didn’t work out,  I moved back to Oklahoma. It felt both like I had been exiled, and that I was living in a self-imposed exile.

1990-1991: The Second Writing Group. Three other journalists and I got together every other Friday night to trade short stories and novel chapters. We were all writing well during that period.

1991-1992: The Season of Hollow Soul. I dated a beautiful, young, creative, and at least somewhat troubled fellow journalist during this time. We were only together a few months, but I was really in love. The k. d. lang song Season of Hollow Soul came along just then and became an anthem for our break-up.

1993-1998: I Flew Away. During this period I was flying all the time. Airplanes were cheap to rent, and I had disposable income and spare time. My journal is full of fun entries about flying.

1999-2000: The Third Writing Group, Robert’s Frost. I briefly, and with difficulty, dated an endocrinologist who told me she wrote poems and stories, so we formed a writing club called Robert’s Frost. It was her, me, and four other writers I knew. We all wrote some pretty great stuff for the short time we kept it going.

2003-2004: The High Road. Abby and I met and fell in love, and my journal is all over it. She even wrote a journal for a while. Our first vacation was called The High Road, but that very phrase ended up describing our whole relationship. We got married in October 2004.

2005-2015: Diamond Days. For a while, one of our web pages was called Diamond Days, and was an expression of how happy our lives together were. We loved being married, we loved traveling together, and we loved each other. The journal, and, by then, this blog expressed that without doubt.

2016-2019: The Fourth Writing Group, Open Mic Nyte. I started attending an interesting group in 2016, and open mic venue at a local coffee house. We all read, sang, performed, or showed our art, and it was amazing. I wrote all kinds of great stuff during that great period, and often read passages from the journal itself, and I wrote about the sessions in my journal.

2020-2021: The Isolation Journals. My friend Mackenzee crafted some poems during the early pandemic under the heading of The Isolations Journals, but I like that title enough to steal it. During this period, we all faced the difficulties and missteps of the pandemic, and this period marked a sharp decline in my wife’s health.

September 5, 2023: Abby died in March 2022. The journal has it all there in black and white, but it’s not easy to look at those pages. But I am still writing.

Here is a strange truism about journal writing that has not served us well: I wrote things in my journal in tenth grade that would have gotten me arrested and/or medicated 25 years ago, 15 years ago, or today. If anyone in today’s social network scene posted some of the stuff I wrote back then, the schools would go on instant lockdown.

That seems like a reasonable course of action, but the truth is that has the effect of driving self-expression underground, where it festers and builds instead of being expressed and dealt with, and I wonder if that is a contributor to more violent trends now than in 1978.

And it’s not that I was broken and violent. We all have broken and unsettling thoughts and feelings when we are inundated by the cruelties, and hormones, of teen life, and we can deal with them, or we can bury them.

Finally, today I finished my current journal volume, number 56, and tomorrow will start the next one. Question: what can I do to amp the creativity in the next one?

Starting 1998, I wrote in 4-inch by 8-inch hardback volumes, and made a point to let myself be messier and have more fun.
Starting 1998, I wrote in 4-inch by 8-inch hardback volumes, and made a point to let myself be messier and have more fun.

The Second Year of Grieving

My wife Abby sometimes looked like sunshine itself to me.
My wife Abby sometimes looked like sunshine itself to me.

I recognize that I have never experienced grieving the death of a spouse before. My wife Abby died 18 months ago, and I am finding my second year of grieving her death  to be harder than the first.

I miss her more than ever.

Losing her wasn’t as hard as watching her lose the fight. I was there for her every day, but aside from loving her and advocating for her care, there wasn’t really anything I could do to make her well.

One of the best things I have going now is my relationship with the community. It has purpose and remains positive. This image is from a recent Friday night. I was working a football game and over my left shoulder I hear, "Richard!" I turn to see these three kids, who wanted me to take their picture. It's such a great feeling to be a part of that scene.
One of the best things I have going now is my relationship with the community. It has purpose and remains positive. This image is from a recent Friday night. I was working a football game and over my left shoulder I hear, “Richard!” I turn to see these three kids, who wanted me to take their picture. It’s such a great feeling to be a part of that scene.

When I was 14, I read in The Book of Lists that the top two most stressful events in a human life were divorce, and the death of a spouse, but I had always questioned the validity of that assertion since I imagined the death of a child, especially a young child, would be the worst.

On the other hand, paindoctor.com gives an updated list, with a stress index number assigned to it…

  1. Death of a spouse or child: 100
  2. Divorce: 73
  3. Marital separation: 65
  4. Imprisonment: 63
  5. Death of a close family member: 63
  6. Personal injury or illness: 53
  7. Marriage: 50
  8. Dismissal from work: 47
  9. Marital reconciliation: 45
  10. Retirement: 45

I know other people who are currently grieving things like divorce or the death of a parent, but they haven’t expressed it to me in obvious terms. I can understand this. It can be hard to admit that something outside ourselves has taken something valuable from us – that feels weak and vulnerable.

And of course theres always room for self doubt.

Sad songs make me sad, but happy songs make me sad too, since so many of them were about us.

I talk to Abby sometimes. Usually it is just to say that I miss her.

What do I miss? I miss our debriefs at the end of every day. I miss her hand in mine as we slept. I miss the hope of another adventure down the road with her. I miss her laughter as we watched movies. I miss bringing her Braum’s vanilla milkshakes and Sonic burgers. I miss her “I love you” every day and every night. I miss saying “I love you” to her every day and every night. I miss the smell of her hair. I miss that she was proud of me and the things I accomplished. I miss her telling me every day that I looked great.

I miss you, Abby.

Someone told me once that if I never took another picture in my life, this was enough. I have to say I love this image every time I see it: my wife Abby walking through the trees at sunset on a late-spring evening, her Chihuahua in her arms and another curious dog at her heels.
Someone told me once that if I never took another picture in my life, this was enough. I have to say I love this image every time I see it: my wife Abby walking through the trees at sunset on a late-spring evening, her Chihuahua in her arms and another curious dog at her heels.

Mission Accomplished!

No matter what else is going on, there is always time to photograph a beautiful sunset.
No matter what else is going on, there is always time to photograph a beautiful sunset.

There is a joke I used to tell. Robert Oppenheimer and Erico Fermi are in the bunker at the Trinity test in New Mexico in July 1945. After the bomb goes off, they turn to each other, high-five, and Oppenheimer says, “fission accomplished!”

I stopped telling that joke because so few people got it or laughed at it.

This was the scene of my driveway blocked by huge portions of a maple tree that had broken off July 11 during a severe thunderstorm. The tree is now about three stories tall, which amazes me, since I pulled it out of George and Dorothy's garden as a leafless, 24-inch stick, and planted it in our front yard, in about 2006.
This was the scene of my driveway blocked by huge portions of a maple tree that had broken off July 11 during a severe thunderstorm. The tree is now about three stories tall, which amazes me, since I pulled it out of George and Dorothy’s garden as a leafless, 24-inch stick, and planted it in our front yard, in about 2006.

Flash forward to May 1, 2003 with George Bush aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, declaring “mission accomplished!”

Well, my most recent mission has been accomplished. After more than three weeks of cutting, pruning, sawing, and dragging, I finally got the mess of tangled branches cleaned up after a July 11 severe thunderstorm wrecked a huge number of trees in the Byng area.

This was the chaotic scene under my 100-year+ old black walnut after the thunderstorm.
This was the chaotic scene under my 100-year+ old black walnut after the thunderstorm.

As I cleaned and cut and lifted and dragged, I got into one really great rhythm after another, with my ipod shuffling song after song that made the work fun, and very good for my body. I felt strong and healthy.

I have no trouble identifying poison ivy, as in this shot of some very classic poison ivy growth. The reason I got a bit of it on me is that a few of the hairy vines on the walnut were active years ago, and the oil remains in the plants even after they die.
I have no trouble identifying poison ivy, as in this shot of some very classic poison ivy growth. The reason I got a bit of it on me is that a few of the hairy vines on the walnut were active years ago, and the oil remains in the plants even after they die.

On the last day or two, I got a tiny squinch of contact dermatitis on my forearms, probably from long-dead poison ivy vines that clung to high branches that fell from the walnut tree.

Your host poses with a rake by his giant brush pile of branches cut, sawed, and dragged over a three-week period.
Your host poses with a rake by his giant brush pile of branches cut, sawed, and dragged over a three-week period.

As I cleaned, I decided that the thunderstorm must have been in the dissipating stage, since none of the damaged branches were moved anywhere, but just forced straight down to the ground.

I stole this graphic from the interwebs.
I stole this graphic from the interwebs.

In a perfect finale to the clean-up, a friend of mine who does wood turning came by last night and got most of the black walnut logs that sat on the ground after the clean-up was over, giving them a good home.

This whole incident reminds us all that we are always at the mercy of forces much larger that us, like the atmosphere.
This whole incident reminds us all that we are always at the mercy of forces much larger that us, like the atmosphere.

These Aren’t My Memories

In 1998, just before switching to smaller notebooks, I wrote in my margins all the time. I love this style.
In 1998, just before switching to smaller notebooks, I wrote in my margins all the time. I love this style.

I was digging through a journal recently, and if I am completely honest, it was to find out when I had sex with someone that year. I didn’t find that, but I came across some extraordinary notes.

May 11, 1998…

“I’m tied of ice chest boyfriends.” ~Lisa, who was hitting on me at the time.

The most suffocating fantasy of all: the white picket fence.

The biggest imagination gap: self image. Look at yourself!

May 12, 1998…

What makes greatness? Only the struggle of the human spirit against nature, against each other, against ourselves, can make us great. Let greatness come about on its own. Yet I yearn to capture it!

May 18, 1998…

I must remember to keep expanding. My diet can always be better. I can always take better pictures. My words can always say more. I can always fly better. I can make more friends. I can forgive you.

Where are you tonight? … not in my arms.

May 19, 1998…

(In the margin) All this waits inside me. Some day we will take hold of each other and this will all come pouring out.

Does she have any idea of the depth and complexity that resides behind these oddly innocent blue eyes?

I am emptied by my honesty.

Decoy wine and decoy not wine? I see what you did there.
Decoy wine and decoy not wine? I see what you did there.

Alarming similarities between Anaîs Nin and me:

“I am unable to move from journal to fiction,” and, “I copy the pithiest aphorisms into the diary.”

June 5, 1998…

Her shallow indifference to my life was never enough to separate my quixotic fantasies from her real self.

Last night was a parade of stereotyping and sexism. Donna was our master of ceremonies.

I don’t despise who you are. I despise who you think you are.

“That was very sexy.” ~woman who watched me lick the salt off a margarita glass.

Your lies are of no interest to me, even if they are just lies to yourself.

June 10, 1998…

Mary drew the dull-orange rag from the pocket of her filthy blue overalls to wipe the mist of sweat from her forehead. The rag was dirty from engine grease, and made a black steak across her brow. Her face had been pale years ago, framed by almost-black shoulder-length hair, but the sun and age and violent unhappiness had all taken their toll, mixing her coloring to a greyish tan, peppered by by grey hair pulled back onto a pony tail.

Who is she? What does she fear?

Last night I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep, so I sat in my camp chair on the deck for a while. It was cool and breezy and amazing.
Last night I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I sat in my camp chair on the deck for a while. It was cool and breezy and amazing.

Summer Time Is Fine in the Summer Time

Summer, my Chihuahua, has been off her feed for a few days.

I was really worried for a while, since she wasn’t eating, and had a bad bout of diarrhea that required shampooing the carpet in my home office.

The day I decided I would take her to the vet when I got home from work was the day I got home to find her wagging her tail, ready to play, and begging for a treat. She was fine.

Summer the Chihuahua plays the cute card one more time this morning.
Summer the Chihuahua plays the cute card one more time this morning.

Slow Motion Clean-Up

Branches lay strewn across the area just north of the house.
Branches lay strewn across the area just north of the house.

Readers might recall that the town where I live, Byng, Oklahoma, was hit by a severe thunderstorm in the predawn hours of July 11.

We were fortunate that very few structures were damaged, but a huge number of trees, including some of the trees on the patch where I live, were damaged. The neighborhood is buzzing with the sound of chain saws, and the air is full of light wood smoke as we all slowly, as time permits, clean it up and burn the branches.

The big, beautiful black walnut tree looks pretty pitiful after the storm torn it up.
The big, beautiful black walnut tree looks pretty pitiful after the storm torn it up.

Here on the patch, the big, 125-year-old black walnut just north of the house got the worst of it. It didn’t look too terrible at first, but as the damaged branches turned brown, it became obvious that more than half of this huge, beautiful hardwood was damaged.

I mentioned this to a photographer friend of mine, Wes Edens, who offered to bring his three chair saws over to help cut it up so I could drag it all down the hill and burn it. When I mentioned this to my next door neighbor Mike Nipps, he offered to bring his tractor over to pull some of the biggest broken branches out of the tree, where they hung by threads and tangles.

There are a couple of very large branches that none of us could reach, and I’m not interested in hiring an expensive tree guy to get them, since they don’t threaten to fall on any structures.

Abby loved the old walnut, and she would be sad to see it so torn up. But it’s not the first time the weather has roughed up this tree, so time will tell if it can recover.

Thanks again to Mike and Wes for the manpower and the horsepower.

One thing I was not able to do was cut up larger branches, like this 14-inch-thick walnut trunk.
One thing I was not able to do was cut up larger branches, like this 14-inch-thick walnut trunk.

The Hard Work After the Storm

Readers of my newspaper and my social media friends know that Tuesday, July 11, 2023, a severe thunderstorm struck the town where I live, Byng, Oklahoma.

A very large branch from the maple tree in my front yard dangles from the tree by a thin piece of bark, blocking my driveway. The tree closer to the camera, a redbud, also contributed to the mess.
A very large branch from the maple tree in my front yard dangles from the tree by a thin piece of bark, blocking my driveway. The tree closer to the camera, a redbud, also contributed to the mess.

I don’t know if the storm was straight-line winds or a tornado, but it made a lot of noise, and did a fair amount of tree damage.

Fortunately, only a small number of structures suffered any damage. The house where I live, for instance, lost just one siding panel, which I nailed back up with no trouble at all.

Power lines across the street were taken to the ground by falling trees, and the power was off for 13 hours as a result.

The trees – mine and most of my neighbors’ – got pretty roughed up. Two maple trees along my 100-yard driveway, for example, dropped large branches onto my driveway, such that while I was trying to figure out how to clear them out of the way so I could use the driveway, my next-door neighbor Mike showed up with his tractor, attached a chain to the branches, and pulled them into the pasture, out of the way.

Neighbor Mike Nipps ties a chain around the largest of the down maple tree limbs to move it from my driveway.
Neighbor Mike Nipps ties a chain around the largest of the down maple tree limbs to move it from my driveway.

Those weren’t the only trees of mine that shed limbs or need further pruning, but it allowed me to get the cars out of the driveway without any off-road excursions.

The last couple of day, I’ve use my six-inch, battery-operated chain saw to dice up some of the branches into manageable sections, allowing me to drag them to the brush pile.

Marry this for a minute with the fact that our guest at Ada Sunrise Rotary Friday was Briana Coureur, who talked to us about paths to health and fitness. I told her that this activity, dragging branches across a pasture on a summer evening, was a legitimate workout, and she agreed.

I still have a way to go. My most-damaged tree is the giant black walnut on the north side of the house. One entire main branch blew down, though only mostly, since it is still hanging on by a sliver of bark. Other parts of this 125-year-old tree are damaged too. My plan is to clear out all I can by hand, then re-assess.

You can see that the 125-year-old black walnut tree north of the house took quite a beating in Tuesday's storm.
You can see that the 125-year-old black walnut tree north of the house took quite a beating in Tuesday’s storm.

My Life in Two-Way Radio

Updated July 2023

As some of you might know, I am a licensed amateur radio operator. My FCC-assigned call sign is kc5tfz, which is also the custom license tag on my Nissan Juke. I have several friends who are licensed “ham” radio operators. Almost universally, we use our amateur radio privileges less and less. I got my license originally to aid in storm spotting, but like most communications in the 21st century, amateur radio has been, or is in the process of being, replaced by the Internet, or more fundamentally by the “datastream.” Even our personal two-way radio needs are better met by Family Radio Service handheld radios available everywhere. Abby and I each carry one when we hike.

Uniden, Radio Shack, Kenwood, Icom and more; I don't have a favorite brand, but certain radios have stood out as the best over the years.
Uniden, Radio Shack, Kenwood, Icom and more; I don’t have a favorite brand, but certain radios have stood out as the best over the years.

I have made a few antennas in my day, like the occasional j-pole or quarter wave, but I was never all that into it. I am actually pretty good at identifying antennas on towers and vehicles.

As I was driving to Utah a few years ago, I had lots of time on my hands, so I decided to make a list of all the police scanners I have owned. It was no small number, due in some part to improvements in technology and changes in the scanning environment, but also due to scanners wearing out and dying. Sometimes even boredom takes a role, and I’ll pick up a scanner as a bargain from a pawn shop or a garage sale just to play with it.

I have a vague recollection of picking up some scanner traffic on an analog multi-band radio I got as a birthday gift when I was a young teenager. I was 15, because I noted it in my journal. “Does this subject want to breath or bleed?” I quoted in my writings. The question was asked to determine if a DUI suspect wanted to take a breathalyzer test or a blood test. I suspect this was on an unpublished frequency, since my radio didn’t pick up the UHF band used at the time by Lawton police.  That was my first experience with listening to public safety communications.

This was my communications stack in the mid 1990s. Most of the scanners in this image have died and been replaced.
This was my communications stack in the mid 1990s. Most of the scanners in this image have died and been replaced.

In 1982, I got an internship in a newspaper in Lawton, and there was a scanner in the newsroom, and one in each of the cars the paper owned that we photographers used. I recall that one of the scanners was the venerable Bearcat III 8-channel crystal-controlled units, and the other a 16-channel programmable. They were getting long in the tooth even then, with the emergence of better microprocessor-controlled scanners, but they got the job done, since Lawton only used about four frequencies on a regular basis.

The Bearcat BC-100 was among the first programmable scanners. Although it wasn't a great radio, it worked, and I used it for a few years in the 1980s.
The Bearcat BC-100 was among the first programmable scanners. Although it wasn’t a great radio, it worked, and I used it for a few years in the 1980s.

I was so enamored of the notion of “spying” on the police and fire departments (which prior to that I thought was illegal) that for my July birthday I asked for a scanner, and my parents obliged. Thus began a hobby that has lasted to this day. The list of scanners I owned throughout the years goes something like this (red ones are dead):

  • Bearcat BC-150, 10 channel (birthday gift 1982.)
  • Realistic Pro-21 4 channel crystal scanner (scanned VHF great, but very poor for UHF, which it was supposed to do. I had the front end readjusted a couple of times, which didn’t really help.)
  • Bearcat III, 8 channel crystal (garage sale, installed in my first car, a 1973 VW.)
  • Bearcat BC-100, 16 channel, the first ever programmable handheld scanner (bad battery setup, bad antenna design. I later got one from Ebay just for kicks.)
  • Fox BMP 10/60 10 channel, died decades ago, replaced with a half-working copy from Ebay for$20 in 2023; red LED display plus red LEDs for each channel, with Service Search (installed in VW and later Renault Alliance.)
  • Radio Shack Realistic Pro-2001, 16-channel, acquired in 2023 for $30 from a guy who called it “untested,” but it works fine. Interesting hybrid of crystal-controlled-style LEDs for each channel plus red LED display on the face.
The Fox BMP 10/60 sits atop the Realistic Pro-2001.
The Fox BMP 10/60 sits atop the Realistic Pro-2001.
  • Radio Shack Realistic Pro-31, 10 channel handheld (big radio that uses six AA batteries, hard to carry, but nice and loud.)
  • Realistic Pro-37, 200-channel handheld. Regarded as one of the best handheld scanners in 1987, I got one from Ebay in 2022. Uses six AA batteries.
  • Realistic Pro-2006, 400 channel base station. Regarded as one of the best base station scanners in late 1980s, I got one from Ebay in 2022. Sticky keys meant I had to open it up several times to spray with tuner cleaner, but it mostly works. Electroluminescent display is sketchy.
  • Realistic Pro-2004, 300 channel base station. This was regarded as the base station scanner to own in 1986, so I got one from Ebay in 2022. It turned out that bad soldering during production meant none of these work any more. It looks good in my stack, however.
  • Radio Shack Pro-2021 200 channel. I bough this radio new in 1986 when it got marked down and discontinued, but despite the fact that it scans too slowly, it received well and is loud and clear. I had it my car for a short time in the early 1990s, and it currently resides in the garage. In early 2024, I saw one in mint condition on Ebay for $25 and bought it, so I have two of these.
  • Cobra SR-15 100 channel handheld (with leather case, one of the best handhelds I ever owned.) Update: in 2020, I found one of these for $10 on eBay and bought it for its nostalgia value. It looks great but doesn’t run well.
  • Regency MX-3000 80 channel (slanted front, blue display, worst receiver circuit of any I owned.)
  • Uniden BC760XLT 100 channel mobile. Good audio, good form for car mounting. But mine forgets all it’s frequency when power is interrupted, so I have relegated it to single-channel listening and band searches.
  • Uniden Bearcat BC560XLT 16-channel with 2-digit display x2 (very cheap, good speaker – one was destroyed in a crash in 1990.)
  • Sporty’s Pilot Shop A300 aviation band transceiver.
  • Uniden 500 UBC9000XLT 500-channel (most expensive scanner I even bought, died within three years.)
  • Radio Shack Pro-2026 200 channel
  • Bearcat BD144XL 16 channel (pawn shop, gave to a friend.)
  • Radio Shack Pro-23 50 channel handheld (bought for next to nothing from a coworker.)
  • Radio Shack Pro-94 1000 channel handheld (confusing “trunk” radio programming, terrible battery performance, tinny audio)
  • Radio Shack Pro-2035 1000 channel
  • Radio Shack Pro-2039 200 channel
  • Alinco DR M06TH 6-meter amateur (not really a scanner, but will scan 30-50 Mhz in addition to 6m; at home, fed by Cushcraft AR-6)
  • Cherokee AH-50 6-meter amateur handheld (not really a scanner; 6m; not in use.)
  • Radio Shack HTX-202 and HTX-404 handheld 2m and 70cm transceivers (not scanners)
  • Icom IC-2820H, great, very capable dual band amateur radio with full scanning ability, including tone squelch; my primary news-gathering radio in my Nissan Juke
  • Icom IC-2350H amateur dual-band + public safety, installed as a second radio in the Nissan Juke
  • Icom IC-207H amateur dual-band + public safety, currently in my stack in the house
  • Icom IC-V8000, a high-wattage 2-meter radio mounted in the Nissan Frontier
  • Kenwood TH-79A amateur handheld + public safety
  • Kenwood TH-22A amateur handheld + public safety
  • Uniden BD175XL 16 channel (given to me by Abby’s late father)
  • Radio Shack Pro-2030 80 channel
  • Radio Shack Pro-2028 50 channel
  • Uniden BC72XLT “Nascar” handheld 100 channel (one of the best handheld scanners I own because of its small size and good audio.)
  • Uniden BCT75XLT 300-channel handheld scanner, given to me by Robert Stinson, who bought it and two others at a thrift store, giving one to Scott and one for himself as well.
  • Radio Shack Pro-2055. After installing an additional quarter-wave on the roof, I poked around a couple of pawn shops and found this radio for next to nothing.
  • Radio Shack Pro-163. This radio is very similar to the Pro-2055.
  • Radio Shack Pro-2020 20-channel scanner of 1978 vintage, bought from Ebay for its nostalgia. I took it apart and cleaned it out with contact cleaner, which was a chore, but which worked. I paid about $10 for it. It is the heaviest and largest scanner I own, maybe 10 pounds and the size of a cassette deck.
  • Radio Shack Pro-2002, a 50-channel radio, also as a bargain from Ebay.
  • Icom IC-2200H. I got this from a pawn shop for $80.
  • Baofeng UV-5R multi-role transceiver. This tiny radio is all the rage, so I bought one in June 2019 for next to nothing to see what the fuss was all about. Read it’s review here (link).  I had three of them, but the red one seems to have disappeared.
  • Uniden Pro501HH Citizens Band radio. I got this recently after patiently scouring garage sales, estate sales, and used equipment websites like Ebay, with no luck at all finding anything CB at all. I don’t expect to use it a lot, but the tipping point for me was learning that Jeep events still use Citizen’s Band.
  • Radio Shack DX-394 all-mode communications receiver, bought on eBay in 2023 as a replacement for my long-dead DX-400, which got done-in by corroded batteries.
Radio Shack DX-394
Radio Shack DX-394

I had a few Citizen’s Band (CB) radios over the years, and found them to be just as useless as most of the internet is today, littered with vulgar, ignorant, undisciplined chatter.

The Radio Shack Pro-2055 was added to my home stack July 2012. Although it is not able to be rebanded, its low pawn shop price makes it a good choice for local listening in my area.
The Radio Shack Pro-2055 was added to my home stack July 2012. Although it is not able to be rebanded, its low pawn shop price makes it a good choice for local listening in my area.

My wife was annoyed by the daily chatter of the scanner, but I am able to filter it very effectively, and my ears perk up every time I heard a code that corresponds to something that might be newsworthy, like an injury accident, house fire, missing person, high-speed chase, severe weather, and more. The best example of my brain filtering scanner traffic was one night in March 2000. I kept the scanner on at a very low volume level, so that I could barely hear the routine comms, but sirens or urgent voices would wake me, as did, that night, the very urgent words, “The roof of the Ada Evening News is on fire!” After hearing that, I was downtown covering one of Ada’s biggest fires, of the Evergreen Feed Mill, in about three minutes.

So as long as I am able, I’ll be listening.

My main source for scanner frequencies is http://www.radioreference.com/

Nothing says "Get out of bed!" at three in the morning like an urgent voice yelling that downtown is on fire.
Nothing says “Get out of bed!” at three in the morning like an urgent voice yelling that downtown is on fire.

The Spider Paradox

I am living in an uncomfortable paradox, and I am sure I am not alone. The issue: spiders, and more specifically, the paradox that spiders in my yard and garden are more than welcome, yet spiders in the house instantaneously and intensely trigger my fear response.

This is a very small American house spider I found in the bath tub tonight. Just looking at this picture is triggering me.
This is a very small American house spider I found in the bath tub tonight. Just looking at this picture is triggering me.

I shared this with a neighbor, who said his trigger is snakes.

Just tonight, I saw a beautiful Argiope, a very large spider that I often see in my garden this time of year. She hung on her web between the tomato plants, and I was so glad to see her making a living eating the bugs that would otherwise eat my tomatoes. In fact, while I was picking tomatoes tonight, I saw her ambush and wrap-up a small grasshopper.

Some people are afraid of cats, mice, rats, even dogs. But for me it’s spiders, and only in the house.

This is the Argiope that stood watch in my garden tonight. Isn't she beautiful?
This is the Argiope that stood watch in my garden tonight. Isn’t she beautiful?

How Many Life Lessons by 60?

Eye-catching wisdom?
Eye-catching wisdom?

I’ve been cooking on this item for six months, hoping to get “60 life lessons I learned by the age of 60,” but I guess I haven’t learned that much, because I topped out at 50.

  • Every day is the best, because it contains all your great days within it.
  • Every day is the right day.
  • Looking bad in the eyes of strangers doesn’t matter, and I don’t really look bad in the eyes of my friends.
  • Healthy anger is constructive, but it can turn on you.
  • Resentment only hurts you.
  • If you have nothing to say, don’t say anything.
  • Beans are the best. They are good at every point in their chain of existence; they are good for the environment, they are good for your body, and they are good for the soul.
  • No one is inherently evil, no matter how awful they seem. No one is irredeemable.
  • “Evil” isn’t a thing, it’s a perception. It is WAY too easy to call something evil, like cancer or Nazis, but those examples and a million more are just a point in the evolution of the universe.
  • It’s too easy to misunderstand the world because we mess up the words that go with it. “Mexican” isn’t racist, for example, because Mexico isn’t a race, it’s a nation, and “Mexican” is a nationality.
Is it art just because it's not very clear?
Is it art just because it’s not very clear?
  • You can’t defeat something by hating it. It will just hate you back. Try understanding it.
  • If your friends tell you during your crisis that, “If you need anything, anything at all, just let me know,” it means that they don’t understand what they are promising.
  • Saying “you are in my thoughts and prayers” is seldom even the case. Saying that is a fashion statement, not a real expression of empathy.
  • “True friends hold you accountable for your actions.” I held someone accountable once, and at first it seemed like the destruction of the friendship, but not long after that, she told me I was right, and thanked me for calling her out.
  • Silence does not imply or infer guilt or siding with oppression, because most conversations deserve thought and reason, not impulsiveness. I do NOT make exceptions to this idea because of the urgency of current issues.
  • Did I block you? Boo hoo. I blocked you because you suck.
  • Entertainment is pleasure, not art.
  • War will always be with us, and “We’re not here to do the right thing. We’re here to follow f*cking orders!”
Know who and what to love.
Know who and what to love.
  • Violence sometimes seems like a very clear answer until you imagine that violence wielded against your loved ones or children.
  • There have been many instances in which a group will be accused, and held liable, for how they are perceived, not how they are. In that moment, it is your responsibility to stand against that.
  • Your responsibility to be ready for the fight never ends.
  • Marriage is as good as you make it. We made ours, and rebuilt it every day, and it was great.
  • The absolute best move when someone does something dangerous, stupid, or annoying is to be nice to them.
  • Hold the door for people. Thank people when they hold the door for you.
  • Expressing anger and hopelessness about humanity does nothing to improve it. Express hope, and ideas to make it better.
  • Tracers point both ways.
  • “IF” is the word in the middle of life.
  • Our possessions own us, not the other way around.
  • If what you are doing isn’t fun, you should be doing something else.
  • Procrastination, no matter how much you claim you enjoy it, makes the task more difficult in the end. Thus…
  • Just do it.
  • Make that dream into a reality. Whether it is “Doctor” in front of your name or bicycling across Europe, no one is going to hand you these things.
  • Your insecurities are lying to you about vulnerability. Being vulnerable can bring your heart and mind to new levels.
  • Get up and move. Walking anywhere, anytime, is better for you than sitting.
  • Listen to your wanderlust.
  • He/she is just one person. There are 8 billion more.
  • You decide what is true and meaningful. Don’t bet bullied into someone else’s ideas about the true nature of it all.
  • Touch heals, which is why broken people don’t touch you.
  • Hard work at every level is honorable.

It will take you where you're going, whether you're going there or not.

    It will take you where you’re going, whether you’re going there or not.
  • If you did everything you dream about doing and wish you would do, you’d never be bored again.
  • Creativity in any form is the high point of human behavior.
  • Words and how you use them make a difference. Well-crafted words and sentences command respect, and poor language damages your image and credibility.
  • Manners matter, especially in the 21st century full of incivility.
  • Standing up for what you think is right can be an asset, but be sure your really are right.
  • It’s so hard to be honest, especially when many around you are in love with your own dishonesty.
  • Try actually listening, instead of just waiting for your turn to talk.
  • No one ever said, “That $29,000 helicopter ride was totally worth eating all those stale Burger King french fries.”
  • Nobody ever said (or will say), “I sure am glad we put all those oil wells in the Grand Canyon.”
  • Make your bed, hang up your coat, contain and eliminate the clutter.
  • Know what among your possessions is really valuable, and what is really just garbage, and act accordingly.
  • Dress up; I mean professional attire. If I were a boss and you came to me for an interview in shorts and a t-shirt, I won’t look twice at your resumé.
Washing your hands is pretty basic, but many people don't.
Washing your hands is pretty basic, but many people don’t.

All About Rotary

Today was the swearing-in of officers and directors, so we all posed at the front of the room. That's me in the back on the left, wearing the Rotary necktie Christine Pappas and Shirley Mixon brought back for me from their recent visit to Australia.
Today was the swearing-in of officers and directors, so we all posed at the front of the room. That’s me in the back on the left, wearing the Rotary necktie Christine Pappas and Shirley Mixon brought back for me from their recent visit to Australia.

As of today, I am your 2023-2024 Ada Sunrise Rotary President.

It honors and amazes me that I was elected to do this, since in some ways, I don’t really see myself as an adult, and never have. I know I do an adult job, was a good adult husband, and I behave as an adult in the community. But me as a civic leader? Wow.

Robert Greenstreet reads from the Constitution of Rotary International during an Ada Sunrise Rotary meeting Friday at Pontotoc Technology Center. Robert was the Rotarian who first invited me to join three years ago.
Robert Greenstreet reads from the Constitution of Rotary International during an Ada Sunrise Rotary meeting Friday at Pontotoc Technology Center. Robert was the Rotarian who first invited me to join three years ago.

Rotary International is what’s known as a “service organization,” meaning we exist to provide enrichment to our community. The motto of Rotary is “Service Above Self.”

My fellow Rotarians and I usually meet at the Aldridge Hotel in downtown Ada, but Friday we were at Pontotoc Technology Center due to the Aldridge being closed this week.

Dr. Leah Dudley discusses the upcoming Fireball Classic event during our Ada Sunrise Rotary meeting Friday at Pontotoc Technology Center.
Dr. Leah Dudley discusses the upcoming Fireball Classic event during our Ada Sunrise Rotary meeting Friday at Pontotoc Technology Center.

Ada has two Rotary Clubs, Ada Sunrise, and Ada Rotary, and either of them merit a look if you are interested in joining. I have friends in both clubs, and they are both full of good people who welcome me.

Suzanne McFarlane is a fixture in Ada, pictured Friday at our Ada Sunrise Rotary meeting at Pontotoc Technology Center. For decades Suzanne has been at the center of the Back to School Basics program.
Suzanne McFarlane is a fixture in Ada, pictured Friday at our Ada Sunrise Rotary meeting at Pontotoc Technology Center. For decades Suzanne has been at the center of the Back to School Basics program.

So what do I want to do as Rotary President, and how would I like to lead? I would like to have more guest speakers on topics like health, fitness, the environment, diet and exercise. I would also love to bring in more guest speakers in the creative realms like artists, poets, authors and musicians.

Dr. Christine Pappas flashes her inextinguishable smile during a conversation at our Ada Sunrise Rotary meeting Friday at Pontotoc Technology Center. Christine and I have been friends for a long time, but being in Rotary together has made us even better friends. I'm always glad when she's around.
Dr. Christine Pappas flashes her inextinguishable smile during a conversation at our Ada Sunrise Rotary meeting Friday at Pontotoc Technology Center. Christine and I have been friends for a long time, but being in Rotary together has made us even better friends. I’m always glad when she’s around.

I am a champion for issues like donating blood, and even at today’s meeting, I encouraged us all to donate.

Of course, the bottom line of leadership is to lead through example, so I hope to work as hard as anyone in our Rotary Club, and, by extension, have as much fun doing it as anyone in the club.

Outgoing President Dr. Ashley Durham presents Dwight O'Dell with the Ada Sunrise Rotary's Rotarian of the Year Award at our meeting Friday at Pontotoc Technology Center. We chose Dwight unanimously; he is the guy we lean on when we want to get something done, and he always comes through.
Outgoing President Dr. Ashley Durham presents Dwight O’Dell with the Ada Sunrise Rotary’s Rotarian of the Year Award at our meeting Friday at Pontotoc Technology Center. We chose Dwight unanimously; he is the guy we lean on when we want to get something done, and he always comes through.

So if you have ever been interested in joining a civic club and Rotary looks like a good fit to you, email me, or just come by one of our meetings on a Friday at 6:45 a.m. at the Aldridge and find me, and I’ll introduce you. We would love to see you!

This year's Fireball Classic medallion is impressive. The event is slated for July 4 in Wintersmith Park in Ada.
This year’s Fireball Classic medallion is impressive. The event is slated for July 4 in Wintersmith Park in Ada.

Our DNA in the Dust

It is with a sense of amazement that I admit I am about to turn 60. That means that I moved into the Adams Center Dormitory on the campus of the University of Oklahoma 42 years ago.

Adams Center, the dormitory where I lived from the fall of 1981 to the fall of 1983, sits as a pile of rubble. Photo Courtesy of Carey Johnson.
Adams Center, the dormitory where I lived from the fall of 1981 to the fall of 1983, sits as a pile of rubble. Photo Courtesy of Carey Johnson.

42 years is something to ponder. The world has changed so much in that time, as have I. That’s the reason I think it’s a mistake to do anything permanent, like get a tattoo or have a baby, when you’re 18. What on earth was I into when I was 18? Hi-fi stereo? Camaro vs Trans-Am vs Z280? Melissa?

Wait, wait, wait. Before you go off on me for advising you when to have children, yes, I know tons of happy people who had children at a young age, including my late wife Abby, whose daughter was born when Abby was just 19.

But with health care improvements and increasing lifespans, I happen to think it’s a smart move to wait until you settle into adulthood before you take on parenthood. According to healthline.com, for example, “Experts say the best time to get pregnant is between your late 20s and early 30s. This age range is associated with the best outcomes for both you and your baby. One study pinpointed the ideal age to give birth to a first child as 30.5.”

But back to my younger days: the two things that remain in my life that I loved in 1981 are writing and photography.

I thought of all this because one of my college roommates, Carey Johnson, who at that time we knew as “Chip,” sent me a couple of photographs of the dormitory where we lived, Adams Center, and the strip mall across the street from it, Stubbeman Village, being demolished.

Adams Center was a complex of four red brick towers that, along with Walker Tower, dominated the skyline of the south part of the OU campus. Stubbeman Village was right across the street to the west.

Help me remember, Norman people: Stubbeman Village had two restaurants:  Mr. Bills and Pinocchio’s, the Half Acre Food Store, a video game arcade, and a movie theater, where my friends dragged me to see the terrible animated sci-fi fantasy Heavy Metal. Later that same year, my first girlfriend Tina took me there to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show. What else was in Stubbeman Village?

I was doing a lot of changing and growing, and screwing up, in those days, and while some of the friendships I forged remain to this day, others I carelessly squandered in my arrogance. I was moody and mopey and hard to get along with (please don’t mentally say “and still are”), and I took college much less seriously than I should have, so I didn’t really get enough out of it.

One thing I did manage to create and nurture in college was my love of writing and photography, which have become some of my strengths as the years have passed. During my time in college, I remember that I couldn’t wait to get out of journalism classes and go do some journalism.

But now, the buildings where our young lives were lived, fun was had, and mistakes were made, are dust. I like to think that some small of us, maybe just traces of our DNA, remain in that dust.

Stubbeman Village lies in ruins next to the rubble of the Adams Center Dormitory at OU. Photo Courtesy of Carey Johnson.
Stubbeman Village lies in ruins next to the rubble of the Adams Center Dormitory at OU. Photo Courtesy of Carey Johnson.

Like a Dockside Bully

I recently rewatched a couple of my favorite home entertainment items: A Man for All Seasons, and Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror.

A Man for All Seasons tells the tale of Sir Thomas More, named by King Henry the VIII as Lord Chancellor of England, but, when More declines to endorse Henry’s divorce from Cathrine, Henry has him beheaded in 1535. It’s an engaging story for a certain audience.

At one point, More is being interrogated by Thomas Cromwell…

Sir Thomas More: You threaten like a dockside bully.
Cromwell: How should I threaten?
Sir Thomas More: Like a minister of state. With justice.
Cromwell: Oh, justice is what you’re threatened with.
Sir Thomas More: Then I am not threatened.

It’s a great scene, and an excellent commentary on the nature of bullying.

Later in the film, one of More’s friends asks him to relent and endorse Henry’s divorce, “for fellowship!”

More replies, “And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?”

Can you imagine someone of such character today?

And that brings me to the other piece I rewatched this week, the 5-part Netflix miniseries Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror. It’s an interesting study in bullying, especially the horrible bullying by radical Muslims, also sometimes called “Islamists,” toward their communities and especially toward women.

At one point in one of the episodes, an interviewee says, “Afghanistan is the worst place in the world to be a woman.”

These actors are the biggest bullies on the planet, forcing other people to behave exactly as they say or face cruelty, torture, or death.

These excellent excursions in entertainment certainly sparked a lot of thoughts about bullying, and conversations that revealed how many people feel that they were bullied when they were younger or continued to be bullied to this day.

At one point (I think while I was mowing), I had an epiphany about bullies: they really are afraid. They really are. Think about it: one of the very hardest things to do every day is be honest and vulnerable, and then think about how hard bullies try to act dishonest and invulnerable.

In conclusion, I would encourage anyone reading this to make an attempt to improve your entertainment consumption habits with media like that I have described. Even if you don’t agree with the underlying points of view, it would do us all a huge service to cast off our baser viewing habits and try to use them as educational.

I expect I will have many more thoughts about this topic as the weeks go on.

How can we know what is really true? We are given the power of reason.
How can we know what is really true? We are given the power of reason.

 

Words of Wisdom, April-May 2023

“Illness is a cross, but perhaps also a guardrail. The ideal, however, would be to draw strength from it and to refuse its weaknesses. Let it be the retreat that makes one stronger at the proper moment. And if one has to pay in suffering and renunciation, let’s pay up!” ~Albert Camus

“Liberty is the right not to lie.” ~Albert Camus

“Sometimes offers for help are actually cries for help.” ~Unknown

“The main thing, when the sword cuts into your soul, is to keep a calm gaze, lose no blood, accept the coldness of the sword with the coldness of a stone. By means of the stab, after the stab, become invincible.” ~Franz Kafka

If wisdom were as simple as this...
If wisdom were as simple as this…

Please tend my marigolds

This year is my first vegetable garden since 2020. In both 2021 and 2022, my wife’s failing health took priority over getting a garden planted and attended.

As usual, my mighty Irish wolfhound Hawken keeps a watchful eye on me and my garden.
As usual, my mighty Irish wolfhound Hawken keeps a watchful eye on me and my garden.

I’ve had a garden most years since I moved to Byng in 2004, and it is among my very favorite things to do. The best thing about it isn’t the produce, although it is fantastic, but the beauty of being outdoors in the evening sun, tending to and caring for live plants.

For the years I was married, I would come into the house with a basket or bag full of tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe , onions, lettuce, strawberries, spinach, and bell peppers, with a huge, proud grin on my face, eager to show Abby what I had grown.

Despite her absence, I am still going to be grinning with pride when I start getting produce this year.

I also very regularly grab a camera, especially when the light is nice or when I see something unusual, like the large caterpillars I spotted recently.

I spotted two or three of these large caterpillars in the yard this week, eating their fill. I use a biological pesticide called thuricide to keep them out of the garden.
I spotted two or three of these large caterpillars in the yard this week, eating their fill. I use a biological pesticide called thuricide to keep them out of the garden.

Wednesday night I mowed the grass for a bit, then dug weeds in the garden. At some point, I stepped in some fire ants, but it took them a while to migrate past my shoes and socks to get to some of my leg to start biting me. And bite me they did. I know they are just doing what fire ants do, but they really do hurt. Fortunately, I am not allergic, so it’s more of a nuisance than anything else.

Tomato blossoms catch evening light in the garden. It's an optimistic sight, since I know that soon, these will become tomatoes.
Tomato blossoms catch evening light in the garden. It’s an optimistic sight, since I know that soon, these will become tomatoes.

In addition to the fruits and vegetables I cultivate in the garden, I have a small orchard with peach, plum, and cherry trees. Some years I have unlimited peaches and plums, and some years, like this year, I have none at all, due to a late frost.

These vines grow quickly in the spring, and while they are fun to photograph, if I don't cut them back, they'll take over the back yard.
These vines grow quickly in the spring, and while they are fun to photograph, if I don’t cut them back, they’ll take over the back yard.

I almost always plant marigolds in the garden, ostensibly because they attract beneficial insects, but mostly because I love the look and smell of marigold flowers. When Abby was still with us, I often brought her marigolds from the garden, along with wildflowers from the pasture.

In the spring of 2020, with the Covid-19 pandemic brand new and remaining largely unknown, I wrote to a friend that, “if I get the Rona and die, please tend my marigolds.”

I caught the last rays of the sun making the evening extra beautiful, and photographed these walnut leaves at last light.
I caught the last rays of the sun making the evening extra beautiful, and photographed these walnut leaves at last light.

Bookstore Days

I recently came across a YouTube video about the demise of Borders Books, and it sent me down memory lane about my bookstore days in the 1990s.

I photographed one of my best friends, Jamie, at Hastings in the 1990s. We were all sorry to see the demise of Hastings.
I photographed one of my best friends, Jamie, at Hastings in the 1990s. We were all sorry to see the demise of Hastings.

My friends in Norman, Oklahoma, and I would often meet for lunch on Sunday, then pick something to do in the afternoon. Much of the time, we would make a grand tour of the bookstores in Norman: Hastings, Borders, Barnes and Noble, and, in the mall (remember the mall?), Waldenbooks.

We browsed for hours, almost like in a library, though we almost always bought something.

I don’t know if it sounds bombastic or pretentious, but my first stop was usually the philosophy section. I was absolutely entranced by the idea of reading the world views of brilliant minds, both contemporary and historical.

Once in a while a couple of my Norman friends and I would drive up to Full Circle Books in northwest Oklahoma City, often paired with a stop at Akins Natural Foods nearby. Full Circle is just the right combination of coziness, impressive selection, and employees who love reading.

I don’t want to leave Ada out, of course. Many of us loved going to Hastings in North Hills Center. One of my closest friends, Jamie, worked at Ada’s Hastings for years, and I was always glad to see her there.

Ay, there’s the rub. As with everything else in the 21st century, reading has been transformed by our electronic devices, and not always for the best. I don’t want this to sound like a post mortem for reading. Some of the best people I know love to read, and would rather grab any book one their shelf than watch or listen to anything on their smartphones.

Hastings and Borders are gone, swallowed up by e-readers and bad business practices, but somehow Barnes and Noble is still around.

Not too make people know this yet, but I am finally getting my book together about my life with Abby, so a final question might be: would you read it in print, or would you rather see it on your smart device?

I happen to think that reading, especially reading actual printed books, is one of the best ways to enrich ourselves and those around us.
I happen to think that reading, especially reading actual printed books, is one of the best ways to enrich ourselves and those around us.

The Persistence of Memory

I haven’t had a huge amount of time off in the last few weeks. Today is Monday, and while I often have Monday off at my newspaper, that’s the day I teach photography, so it’s not really a day off. I write this on a Monday, and as it happens, this was the only day my newspaper could arrange for a gym for our all-star basketball game, so I’ll be covering that this evening.

I try to fit projects into the gaps and cracks, but often enough I get inspired by something else, from the weather to sunsets to brilliant conversations, and today was no exception: as I was cleaning out and archiving files in my iCloud drive, I came across this photo:

This is a Google Maps screenshot of my first girlfriend's house.
This is a Google Maps screenshot of my first girlfriend’s house.

I’d been looking around Google Maps for this and that, and why I thought to navigate to my first girlfriend, Tina’s, house, I don’t know.

Still, it brought back a spitload of memories, mostly positive ones, about my time with her and this house. She and I dated from the middle of my junior year in high school until the end of my first year in college.

Of course, the rabbit hole of Google Maps lead to the rabbit hole of my own journal.

I first went to Tina’s house in November 1979 because Tina stopped showing up in class, and I found out she’d been in a car crash. I helped pick glass out of her hair.

I can picture the inside of the house: the dark, seldom-used living room on the right side of the photo, the kitchen and dining room in the middle, and the den on the left side. Tina’s bedroom was at the back on the right, and it had bright red shag carpet, and she had a bright pink velour bed spread. A trio of shelves above it displayed her Smurf collection.

There were a lot of long goodbyes on that front porch, winter and summer.

Since I wrote in a journal, she gave me a copy of Jay’s Journal (since debunked as Mormon propaganda), which I read cover-to-cover in a couple of days.

We woke up February 9, 1980 to find a foot of snow on the ground. I walked to Tina’s (one mile in the snow) where her mom and siblings joined friends for pizza, then session after session of snowball fights.

“I never had so much fun in my whole life. We were rolling around on the grass when I saw an airplane fly over, so I yelled, ‘air raid,’ and we both ran and hid under George the bush,” I wrote later that year.

In October 1980, she had an operation on her elbow. My journal doesn’t say why, but her arm was in traction with a drain tube in it. I have no recollection of that at all.

On another occasion, we were horsing around and I dove out that front window, breaking one of the panes with my heels. I wasn’t hurt, and had to buy a new window pane, but I remember that moment perfectly clearly.

She considered Dan Fogelberg’s Longer as “our song,” though I did not. I took her to see Fogelberg in concert in Norman in early 1982.

She worked at a toy store in the mall.

She had an older brother and a younger sister. I don’t remember much about them. Her mom and dad were divorcing at the time, but she and I stayed in the margins of that as much as possible.

As far as I know, there are no photographs of us together.

Here is an image I made in September 1980 at my high school's "trike races" event. On the left is Jena Owrey, who was always sweet to me in school. I have lost track of her. In the back on the right is Jeff Glenn, my college roommate who killed himself a couple of years later.
Here is an image I made in September 1980 at my high school’s “trike races” event. On the left is Jena Owrey, who was always sweet to me in school. I have lost track of her. In the back on the right is Jeff Glenn, my college roommate who killed himself a couple of years later.

Sleep Well, Dauphine

It’s been a month since anyone heard a peep from this blog, and while there are some legitimate reasons, there are as many lame ones. The biggest blame falls to work, which, while it is the absolute dopest the bomb there is, the middle of April through the middle of May take it all.

The pasture is yielding much life, including Indian paintbrush, pictured, which was Abby's favorite flower. Throughout the summers of our marriage, I brought her vases full of wildflowers like these that I picked for her in the pasture.
The pasture is yielding much life, including Indian paintbrush, pictured, which was Abby’s favorite flower. Throughout the summers of our marriage, I brought her vases full of wildflowers like these that I picked for her in the pasture.

So here it is, my latest news and other stuff.

My sister Nicole and brother-in-law Tracey’s dog of nine years, Dauphine, died this week.

My brother-in-law Tracey sleeps with their new puppy Dauphine nine years ago.
My brother-in-law Tracey sleeps with their new puppy Dauphine nine years ago.

When I got home from covering baseball recently in Edmond, I found the house air conditioner had failed again. I know it’s old, but it sure would be nice to catch a break.

One result of this occurrence was my installation of a large window-unit air conditioner in the living room, which I had purchase for cheap from Amazon in early 2022, knowing I might soon need it.

I bought this large-capacity window-unit air conditioner about 18 months ago as a hedge against the central air going out in my home, and being too expensive to repair or replace.
I bought this large-capacity window-unit air conditioner about 15 months ago as a hedge against the central air going out in my home, and being too expensive to repair or replace.

The guy came the next day and fixed it, and for not as much money as I had feared.

My Nissan Juke is back in service after a month of negotiations about what needed to be fixed. It turned out to be fairly expensive, but, so far, worth it.
My Nissan Juke is back in service after a month of negotiations about what needed to be fixed. It turned out to be fairly expensive, but, so far, worth it.

The mass shooting in the greater Dallas area was just a few miles away from my step daughter and her family’s home. Chele said they recently shopped in the mall where it happened.

I found and photographed a mouse skeleton this week.
I found and photographed a mouse skeleton this week.

I can sort of see the light at the end of the tunnel of the big clean-out. This week I made giant strides in the house and in the office, but I think it’s ridiculous that … yeah, I know. When we get married, we are making a bargain with our spouse, and that includes, in our case, my making peace with her collectionism.

Part of the big clean-out involves customizing how I live as just me, which lets me bring hobbies to the center of my living space, such as these various amateur radio and public safety radios in the garage. I expect to do some serious realignment of them in a week or so to make them easier and more fun to use.
Part of the big clean-out involves customizing how I live as just me, which lets me bring hobbies to the center of my living space, such as these various amateur radio and public safety radios in the garage. I expect to do some serious realignment of them in a week or so to make them easier and more fun to use.

The garden is taking off like it should be. After a couple of seasons of very serious drought, both from the earth and from my ability to garden, April and May have been ideally rainy to bring the garden along.

I have entered the second period of a vegetable gardener's season: real growth after the transplant shock period.
I have entered the second period of a vegetable gardener’s season: real growth after the transplant shock period.