Memories of Dusty Failure

"Everybody experiments in college," as the saying goes. I experimented with light.
“Everybody experiments in college,” as the saying goes. I experimented with light.

I visited a friend on the local college campus recently. When we stepped out into the cool late-morning air, I was struck by the memories it summoned.

Many college memories center around the start of college, the start of semesters, the start of the school year. Those are often associated with the excitement of the potential ahead of us, wearing sweaters and walking to class among the falling leaves.

But that late morning moment this spring: the humid, hazy look in the sky, the green grass with fresh clippings lightly littering the sidewalk, that odd silence after classes were done for the year as students and teachers readied for exams, summer plans, graduation… where was I when all this was happening to me years ago?

It would be another summer of scraping by selling news photos to the Daily for $3.50 each, trying to make rent, trying to eat cheap, trying to imagine the future of my photography, a career.

It had the smell of loneliness, the smell of failure. When did I devolve from arrogant freshman to lonely senior? How did my bright future turn so dark and dusty?

I could blame guidance councilors and college advisors, but I won’t. I could blame the company I kept, but I won’t. I could blame high school and college curriculums, but I won’t. Parents, friends, enemies, society, academia, nutrition, the threat of nuclear war, television, sugar, fat, salt. None of those.

That pretty much leaves the mirror.

I failed myself. To posit otherwise would be to admit that we aren’t sentient, that we aren’t people.

A tenth grade English teacher once wrote to me, “You. You. You are the master of your fate and the captain of your soul.” At the time, I thought it sounded like nonsense. I was so busy acting like I understood everything, I missed out on actually understanding.

I see myself in that mirror in that ratty rooming house, looking at a dreamer. I dreamed about money, cameras, cars, airplanes. But I didn’t plan. I waited.

In my journal, it became The Summer of Private Drama. By July, I found myself wondering if I meant anything at all. The girl I adored with the Zeta Tau Alpha socks and the hazel eyes had told me off, again.

In my journal, I wrote, “Right now I’ve got fear, pain, and boredom. These are good ones, because they can get so real, so sharp, so clear. I have blurred visions. Blurred by what? The telephone line. Honesty. Your presence. The realness. History. Ghosts. The sky on fire. Silence.”

What was I writing? Why was I writing? I hadn’t been discovered as the next Anaïs Nin, Henry Miller, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus?

Wasn’t that supposed to happen if I wrote in my journal?

Then I wrote, “If I kept a journal for other people… the concept sounds ridiculous. Every night, there is a blank page, just for me. Create an image with words instead of creating an image with suffering.”

That was my turning point. I realized the journal was for me.

In 2024, this looks like it was at least Photoshopped, and maybe even created by AI, but it wasn't. It is a ten-second exposure during which I move my eyes, making them look this way. It seems like nothing today, but it was one way I experimented with imaging in college.
In 2024, this looks like it was at least Photoshopped, and maybe even created by AI, but it wasn’t. It is a ten-second exposure during which I move my eyes, making them look this way. It seems like nothing today, but it was one way I experimented with imaging in college.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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 receives 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 frequencies 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.
  • Icom IC-A3 aviation band transceiver given to me by a ham radio buddy.
  • 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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

Movie Prop Mistakes

Updated December 2022 to include a note about the movie Die Hard.

Often when watching movies, I will simultaneously look up the background of them on Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB), or, if the film has guns, the Internet Movie Firearms Data Base (IMFDB).

I did so recently when I was rewatching the 1995’s excellent Heat, starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. It has a lot of interesting firearms in it, and I wanted to learn about them.

This shot shows a combination of an accurate depiction and a glaring mistake. I actually owed both of these radios and one time or another. I love how they have been temporarily mounted in the vehicle with clear packing tape.
This shot shows a combination of an accurate depiction and a glaring mistake. I actually owed both of these radios and one time or another. I love how they have been temporarily mounted in the vehicle with clear packing tape.

What I found, however, was an interesting mistake, and one that I see over and over in movies about crimes and cops: a shot showing us a signature rifle muzzle device also happens to show us two police scanners. One of them, the top one, is a Radio Shack Pro-2030. The display on it reads 000.0000, meaning it was never programmed, or it was reset at some point and never reprogrammed. Either way, it isn’t working.

The lower scanner, a Radio Shack clone of a Uniden 500 UBC9000XLT (Probably the
Realistic Pro-2036.), displays 470.5375, which is the correct frequency for Los Angeles Countywide police dispatch.

In the movie Die Hard (IMDB), (IMFDB), on the other hand, the TV reporter, a one-dimensional character played by William Atherton, is on the phone when he hears a panicked police call from an LAPD sergeant played by Reginald VelJohnson. I assume this scene takes place in the fictional TV studio, since there do seem to be at least a couple of reel-to-reel audio tape decks in the background, but the scanners supposedly picking up the call are junk fished out of the back of the props department.

Two of the radios appear to possibly be Radio Shack / Realistic Comp-100s or maybe similar Bearcats. Both are early 1970s tech, and use crystals to set each frequency. Neither of the radios in the scene appear to be receiving anything, though, since the red LEDs on the front panel continue to track and don’t stop on a channel. The other radio is hard to make out, but might be a higher-end communications receiver or all-mode amateur radio transceiver. It appears to display something like 145.890 Mhz, which is an amateur radio frequency, not a police frequency.

Some movies try harder than others, while some, like the big-budget, action-packed Die Hard, don't. The scanners in this shot look like the first thing the props department came across the had flashing lights on them. I guess we're lucky they weren't CB radios.
Some movies try harder than others, while some, like the big-budget, action-packed Die Hard, don’t. The scanners in this shot look like the first thing the props department came across the had flashing lights on them. I guess we’re lucky they weren’t CB radios.

Also, the characters repeatedly interrupt each other while talking on two-way radios, which we all know is impossible since you can either receive or transmit, not both at the same time.

For what it’s worth, the movie with the most accurate and believable radio communications that I’ve seen is End of Watch. Jake Gyllenhaal clearly studied and practices with real police and how they use radios for this film. Props.

 

The Nature of Irrational Fears

I have a friend who is very afraid of heights.  He gets nervous, then panicked, then actually shuts down in the face of any kind of perceived open exposure to unprotected high places.

I don’t share his fear at all. I am known as the photojournalist who will climb on, or fly in, anything without any hesitation, to get a picture, or, sometimes, just to be doing it.

This isn’t fair, because neither my friend nor I are in any real danger. The fear for him is instinctive, and irrational.

But consider this: spiders freak me out. I feel a very visceral, very instinctive, revulsion to them, and I always have. I am especially freaked out by spiders that are rubbery or have no logical means of locomotion. It is so irrational.

This irrationality makes even less sense when you consider this: I am completely unafraid of crickets. Lately, there have been an unusual number of crickets – I learned only tonight that they are called camel crickets – in the house. Here’s why it is so irrational: this insect is very similar in size, color, and markings to a wolf spider. But I am fine with them. Tonight, in fact, I picked one up (the one in the photo) and posed it next to a penny for scale. Then I picked it up again and tossed it into the front yard.

I could no more make myself do that with a wolf spider than I could a coiled viper or attacking bear. Wolf spiders are actually doing good work in my house by hunting and eating unwelcome insects, and they are absolutely as harmless as the cricket, but any that I see are terminated with extreme prejudice.

Please, dear reader, explain this paradox.

A camel cricket was nice enough to pause for a picture with a penny for scale. It is similar to a wolf spider is most respects, but because of subtle differences, it elicits a completely different response in my brain.
A camel cricket was nice enough to pause for a picture with a penny for scale. It is similar to a wolf spider is most respects, but because of subtle differences, it elicits a completely different response in my brain.

Keyword: Vulnerability

Lately I'm not really trusting mirrors. I wonder if they've always been lying to us.
Lately I’m not really trusting mirrors. I wonder if they’ve always been lying to us.

I sometimes wish I were less transparent. I sometimes wish I were more of a mystery. It seems like my feelings are so obvious, and that the vulnerability from it could be dangerous.

I was at a store recently. My former photography student Devon was behind the counter.

“You look sad,” she said.
“I am sad,” I replied.
She’d held me up to the light, and could see right through me.
“Why?” she asked.
“I miss my wife.”

A recent poem from my journal:

that pose that we all have when we look in the mirror
is why we are surprised when we come across a mirror we we weren’t expecting
who is that in the mirror?
I no longer have that pose
who is that in the mirror?
stop being me in the mirror

“I am not the body you seen before you. Nor am I the soul inside. I am all the things I have said and done, and all the things I failed to say and do. I have said too much and done too little.” ~Journal, November 1990

I went to see a long-ago friend recently. We sat on the couch in her living room and talked. I told her about my feelings about Abby and the last year of her life. I asked her to hold my hand, and to hold me in her arms for a few minutes, which she did.

“It was intimate,” I told another long-time friend later.
“You had sex with her???”
No, no I didn’t. Intimacy isn’t a synonym for sex.

It made me wonder why so many people only perceive intimacy as sexual intimacy, and how that might even make sex non-intimate.

So, then, Richard, what do you mean by “intimate”?

Caring for a child is intimate. Caring for a dying person is intimate. Respecting someone is intimate.

One aspect of intimacy I learned in the past couple of years is the very real intimacy of caring for someone who cannot care for themselves. They are wearing an involuntary vulnerability.

Another friend of mine is at the start of a very intense relationship, and she expressed to me that she wants to say, “I love you,” but is afraid it might be burdened with consequences. I felt that same way when I was much younger, but “I love you” comes easy to me now, from the all-day, every-day “I love you” my wife and I expressed so easily, to the more casual “I love you” for my friends that are simple, welcome, and can make a difference.

Don’t be afraid of “I love you.” But yes, it is vulnerable.

Maybe I finally found that one mirror that isn't lying to me.
Maybe I finally found that one mirror that isn’t lying to me.

Keyword: Inclusion

An issue came up at one of my civic clubs (the name of which I am withholding) recently. At a meeting in June, the Board voted to change the weekly meeting to include a moment of silence instead of a prayer, which historically was always a Christian prayer that included Jesus.

Some of the members claimed they objected to this change because the board made it without consulting the membership, though most of us knew this wasn’t their real objection.

On July 1, a new Board took office, which included me. We considered this action, and decided that yes, we would put it to a vote of the membership. The president emailed ballots, and at our meeting last week, we voted. The choices were 1. prayer only 2. moment of silence only 3. prayer followed by a moment of silence and 4. a “Faith Moment.”

“Faith Moment was presented by one of our own, Richard Barron,” the president said in her email. “He proposed that the (our club) create an itinerary item called the Faith Moment, in which the president or other member conducting the meeting could call upon any members wishing to express their faith. That member could express their faith in the form of prayer, religious thought, or reading from scripture. This segment of the meeting would be open to and include expressions from any faith or belief system, as long as that expression did not deliberately exclude the faith of other members, or contain hate speech or other inflammatory content, as determined by the President. This segment would be limited to 2 minutes.”

I thought this suggestion hit all the right notes for 2022: diversity, equality and inclusion. Surely we would adopt this, and everyone would be happy. I was ready to accept my Nobel Peace Prize.

Sadly, despite my notion that this compromise would work, it was not to be. Though the vote was close, “moment of silence only” was the verdict. My own piece of brilliance received the fewest votes.

As that was announced, four members immediately claimed they would resign, including one who barked, “how can you have (this club) without god.”

So, sure, I have some ideas about this, so let’s start with the most basic: people who are genuinely afraid of the real world.

The urgent, angry, frightened need to control all functions of society like church doesn’t speak of faith, confidence, or trust, but of insecurity, especially insecurity about the fragile house of cards you truly know is your faith.

That faith isn’t constructed by god, by the way, but for centuries by kings and lords and presidents who want your obedience, and, most importantly, your money.

“Why wasn’t God there that day at Columbine? Because God isn’t allowed in the schools.” ~Actual letter to the editor (Sidebar: just this week I wrote a news story about “Rachel’s Challenge,” a program started in memorial of Rachel Scott, the first victim killed at Columbine.)

I love quotes like this because they are such a blunt admission that god is powerless to stand up to school boards.

So really, the small people were the ones who objected. They have small ideas. They have a small world view. They are the people who are afraid of other beliefs, and especially to have other beliefs in their midst.

The idea that all our institutions have to be your church is a very toxic idea.

Pondering important ideas might best be done over coffee.
Pondering important ideas might best be done over coffee.

The Natural Order of Things

Stop for a minute and think this through.
Stop for a minute and think this through.

In a public setting recently, someone said they were, “a Christian first, a family man second, a countryman third, and a member of this group fourth.”

His assertion was intended to express his life’s priorities, and I understood his point, but I don’t agree that you have to put them in an inflexible order.

If I said I was a journalist first, what if I arrived on the scene of a tragedy I am covering for my newspaper, but was the first on the scene? This has, in fact, happened to me on more than one occasion, and in that situation, I was a humanitarian first and a journalist second.

On several other occasions, I had to set aside my newspaper duties to help my wife. In that instance, I was a husband first and a journalist second.

What I’m unpacking here is that while we can define ourselves as we want, it’s not always helpful to remain stubbornly, even anti-socially, locked into such a hierarchy.

And of course I could stomp all over this person’s assertion with, “I am an atheist first,” which in some instances is true, but in others it’s damaging to the greater good.

In group settings, I have always politely and respectfully bowed my head and waited for prayers or pledges or songs to end, and I was never threatened by their presence or what they advocated, even though it was advocacy of some things I consider untrue and sometimes ridiculous.

Maybe it’s tribalism. Maybe it’s fear of change. I hope that those who chose to remain rigid or closed-minded or afraid will one day see that the road to freedom isn’t paved with flags or salutes or doctrine, but with compassion.

Some sage advice: the way to truth is decidedly NOT to deny all other perspectives.
Some sage advice: the way to truth is decidedly NOT to deny all other perspectives.

The Cultural Poison of 1970s Television

There is a brilliant scene in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. The character of Rob (who is also called Max) played by Tony Roberts, has invited Woody’s character Alvy Singer (who is also called Max) to sit in on a television post-production session of Rob’s show. Rob gives instructions to the technical director about where to add laughs and what kind of laughs to add…

“So Charlie, give me a good laugh here. A little bigger. Give me a tremendous laugh here. Now give me a medium size chuckle here, and then a big hand.”

We see Alvy begin to feel sick.

What did we learn as we grew up watching television in the 1970s?

  1. That it was okay to tell your wife to shut up, thanks to Archie Bunker constantly telling his wife to “stifle it.”
  2. That insults are the best way to deal with everything, as in “up your nose with a rubber hose” from Welcome Back Kotter, or Don Rickles calling everyone a “hockey puck.”
  3. Best put-down/comeback ever? “Heeeeey. Sit on it!”
  4. Who thought it was funny to call someone a “jive turkey”? It was something white people thought made them sound black, even though it didn’t.
  5. Three minutes into any “variety show” from the 1970s reveals not only laugh track, but applause track, and it’s very clear that those who created it weren’t trying very hard.
  6. The Brady Bunch Variety Hour’s introduction is enough to make you want to drop your television down an elevator shaft.

Entertainment has an interesting, sometimes destructive role in Western culture.

Part of what poisoned the waters of television is the inherent opposition of its desire to be vulgar vs its inability to use coarse language.

Taken as the main source that raised me (my sister and I were latchkey kids), television sent me to school with the idea that I needed to be quippy and shallow, that if I was sarcastic enough, people, and especially girls, would like me, and, of course, it didn’t work. Since I have a nearly-eidetic memory, I still cringe when I think of all the stupid things that came out of my mouth as far back as seventh grade. I wish time would erase those words, and, thankfully, it will.

Then. Wow. Then I was surfing through Amazon Prime videos, looking for something to put me to sleep, when I saw The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. Hey, I laughed at this when I was 12, so why not… uh. Wait. The Bob Hope roast includes Flip Wilson, Jimmy Stewart, Howard Cosell, Jack Benny, General Omar Bradley, Phillis Dyller, Milton Berle, Neil Armstrong, Rich Little, Ginger Rogers, Billy Graham, Johnny Bench, Foster Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Nipsey Russell, Sugar Ray Robinson, Mark Spitz, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Henry Kissinger, John Wayne, and Don Rickles.

Ho. Ly. Sh!t.

Of all those names, only Rich Little and Johnny Bench are alive today.

The whole thing makes me want to vomit in terror.

The color looks wrong today because 1970s television had an entirely different idea of who we were.
The color looks wrong today because 1970s television had an entirely different idea of who we were.

The Chaos of Personal Bureaucracy

With a nice three-day Memorial Day weekend ahead of me, I was feeling very ambitious about working on the house this morning, continuing my project of cleaning and organizing.

These fans help keep me cool enough without having to make the whole house as cold as a meat locker. They get surprisingly filthy surprisingly quickly, so I clean them out with high-pressure air from my compressor in the garage.
These fans help keep me cool enough without having to make the whole house as cold as a meat locker. They get surprisingly filthy surprisingly quickly, so I clean them out with high-pressure air from my compressor in the garage.

I wanted to make beans, but the kitchen was filthy. As I cleaned the kitchen, I knocked down once of the lights under the cabinets, which I then had to re-hang.

I wanted to put my new lamps in the bedroom, but discovered a mess of wiring under the bed, which I then needed to vacuum because so much dust has accumulated.

Sidebar: an ex-friend of my wife’s sometimes talked Abby into buying things that weren’t really Abby’s style. One such item was a bedroom set that included a huge, poofy comforter with matching pillow cases, and nightstand lamps with long, tacky, hanging chains. Together, they made the bedroom look like an 80’s prom dress.

Then I found the fan I used next to the bed was dusty inside, so I needed to use the air compressor blow it out. Then I realized all the fans in the house needed to be blown out. Then as I unplugged one of the fans, I discovered I needed to move a file cabinet to get the the plug, and discovered an epicenter of dust and spiders. After gathering them and taking them outside, I found the hose to the compressor was hopelessly tangled in the lawn mower.

I wanted to vacuum the whole house, but found I needed to take a couple of pieces of furniture out to the garage, but then found I didn’t really have a place to put them out there.

This all comes down to me, of course. I own that every frustrating little obstacle is of my own making.

For the record, the beans are delicious.

I got two small, smart-looking night stand lamps for less than $30 on Amazon. They include two front-mounted UBS charging ports.
I got two small, smart-looking night stand lamps for less than $30 on Amazon. They include two front-mounted UBS charging ports.

“Dear Abby”

Abby walks down to meet the neighbors on beautiful summer evening. I love this image.
Abby walks down to meet the neighbors on beautiful summer evening. I love this image.

I had lunch in Ardmore yesterday with Abby’s daughter Chele and her husband Tom, who were in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to look for a house, as they are moving there from Baltimore in July. It was great seeing them, and we all hope their move puts them on the north side of the metro area so meeting for lunch regularly like this will be this easy.

Later, one of my longest-time friends Jamie and her husband Ian came by to get my six-burner propane grill, an item Abby was super-proud to have brought home to me, and one with which we made some great meals. But I don’t use it any more, and Jamie and Ian will, since they entertain all the time.

The six-burner propane grill sits in the driveway in April 2020.
The six-burner propane grill sits in the driveway in April 2020.

While they were here, we poked around in the garage for a while, where Jamie decided it was just too chaotic.

This was the scene earlier this week in my garage.
This was the scene earlier this week in my garage.

Jamie plopped down on the garage floor and started organizing.

It doesn't really show, but Jamie did tons of organizing, including freeing up shelf space to eventually hold stuff I want to keep. She even offered to help me host a garage sale.
It doesn’t really show, but Jamie did tons of organizing, including freeing up shelf space to eventually hold stuff I want to keep. She even offered to help me host a garage sale.

In the mean time, Ian got interested in a console radio/phonograph that Abby had purchased years ago as a piece of furniture, and was able to get it to come on and receive one very close radio station.

Ian was able to get the this pile of vacuum tubes and dust mites to tune in a radio station.
Ian was able to get the this pile of vacuum tubes and dust mites to tune in a radio station.

Last week in my cleaning efforts, I found a 1/4-size Moleskine notebook with journal entries by Abby from March 2004 until the day we got married in October 2004. The notebook itself was mostly empty, so I decided to use it to make notes about what our marriage was like in the form of letters to her … “Dear Abby.”

I was also aware that she’d written more journal entries than these. After Jamie and Ian left, I did some more cleaning, and found a ½-size hardback journal with entries in it starting on January 31, 2003…

“I’ve started dating Richard Barron. It is so great it’s scary.”

Yes, it was, Abby. Yes, it was.

As I was contemplating all this, the song My Tears Are Becoming a Sea, by M83, shuffled past, and it fit so well.

“I’m slowly drifting to you
The stars and the planets
Are calling me
A billion years away from you
I’m on my way.”

I miss her today.

Abby and I pose for a self portrait on the anniversary of our first date, January 17, 2004. It was on this occasion that we decided to get married, and it stands as our engagement day. "One year with Richard," she wrote. "I met Richard at his apartment. He had candles, wine, and a gift for me... great romantic evening."
Abby and I pose for a self portrait on the anniversary of our first date, January 17, 2004. It was on this occasion that we decided to get married, and it stands as our engagement day. “One year with Richard,” she wrote. “I met Richard at his apartment. He had candles, wine, and a gift for me… great romantic evening.”

The Potential

Yes, I am still going through stuff, stuff and more stuff as I clean out the house.

In this image, four "Pocket CD-R" discs sit on a normal-sized compact disc. I originally bought these for Abby because she drove a very small two-seat Toyota MR-2, and these discs fit perfectly in her center console. Buying blank media like discs, and later solid-state storage devices, felt very much like buying paper or film, for the same reason: I would be creating music-mix Pocket CDs!
In this image, four “Pocket CD-R” discs sit on a normal-sized compact disc. I originally bought these for Abby because she drove a very small two-seat Toyota MR-2, and these discs fit perfectly in her center console. Buying blank media like discs, and later solid-state storage devices, felt very much like buying paper or film, for the same reason: I would be creating music-mix Pocket CDs!

There certainly is a lot of scrap paper, everything from canceled checks from when my late wife Abby and her first husband ran Stuckey’s Restaurants in the 1970s, to spiral notebooks intended for a class or a project that ended up with just one sheet written in them.

The number one paper product that needs to be disposed is old books, mostly pulp fiction in paperback form. I am finding most of them stored in cardboard boxes in the garage or the shed. The titles look tempting, but the dust mites and spider eggs do not, so almost all of that goes to the Ada Recycling Coalition/City of Ada Recycling Center on 12th Street.

Handling all this paper, some of pristine, summons in me a feeling of potential, of something great waiting to be created by writing or drawing. Part of that feeling is summoning me to do that writing.

I used to get that exact same feeling when my job was a film and print affair, and my monthly supply order would arrive. I would unpack boxes with 1000 sheets of Kodak Ektamatic print paper, 1200 feet of Kodak Tri-X Pan Film, gallons of developer, activator, stabilizer, and fixer. In my hand these raw materials would becoming something meaningful, something we could all share in my newspaper.

I found this cell phone in a box in the rafters above the garage in my house. It's likely this one hadn't even been charged or turned on since about 1999. I hate to see sophisticated technology like this add to the landfills and subtract from our raw materials supplies, but I sure don't have an answer to that problem.
I found this cell phone in a box in the rafters above the garage in my house. It’s likely this one hadn’t even been charged or turned on since about 1999. I hate to see sophisticated technology like this add to the landfills and subtract from our raw materials supplies, but I sure don’t have an answer to that problem.

Also as the clean-out continues, I am finding stuff I had no idea was even present in my home, like a cell phone from around 1999, and right next to it, a Blockbuster Rewards card. Those brought about some memories of life just a generation ago, when phones were just phones, and seeing a movie at home meant going to a video store like Blockbuster or Hastings and shopping for the evening’s entertainment.

All this activity is meaningful to me. It emphasizes the need to understand that Earth only has so many trees and so much iron and so much copper, and that we are using our resources too fast, through an industry centered around the idea that excess equals success.

So when I pull out a notepad or a storage box or a container of screws in the middle of the big clean-out, and I pause to ask myself, remind myself, to recycle it all, in one way or the other.

I found bunches of untouched notebooks, planners, notecards, sticky-notes, and so on in the past couple of months, and though I could recycle them like I did the old books, this media means something to me. It means I might make something with it, like a poem or a story or even a letter to a good friend.
I found bunches of untouched notebooks, planners, notecards, sticky-notes, and so on in the past couple of months, and though I could recycle them like I did the old books, this media means something to me. It means I might make something with it, like a poem or a story or even a letter to a good friend.

Why I Don’t Want to Be “That Guy”

A vial of cyanocobalamin, vitamin B12, a syringe of B12, and some B and C vitamin tablets sit on my bathroom counter tonight.
A vial of cyanocobalamin, vitamin B12, a syringe of B12, and some B and C vitamin tablets sit on my bathroom counter tonight.

Today would have been my wife Abby’s 72nd birthday. Since she died just ten days ago, I’ve had a ton of stuff to do, and another ton of stuff on my mind.

I shared my thoughts about her birthday on Facebook, saying, “I promise I won’t be that guy who gets all nostalgic with every holiday and anniversary, but this one snuck up on me…”

Almost everyone told me it was okay to “be that guy,” or be anyone I want, as if I was telling them I wouldn’t be boring them with endless moroseness or tedious old news, but the truth is I was saying it to myself.

I don’t want to be the guy who was crushed by grief over my wife’s death. I want to be the guy who gets up in the morning and sees the sun shining a little brighter because she was here with me for nearly two decades. I want to be the guy who smiles more and says hello more and does a better job because of the love Abby and I shared.

I am also hearing (and seeing via technology) a lot of people asking me if I am okay. Yes, I am okay. I am not numb or dead inside, and I have no sense of regret or unfinished business. It is true that my body is responding to this process, and I am feeling an uptick in the little things, like tendonitis in a few of my joints due to my job and my age, and I recognize that big emotional changes are indivorceable from physical changes. “The body knows.” I am responding as I always have, with heat, stretching and exercise, and Tylenol when my jaw clinching gives me a headache.

So, I am taking care of myself. I am busy and optimistic. I am eating and sleeping. I am talking when I need to talk. An aside to this is that tonight I decided to use Abby’s prescription injectable vitamin B12. (I got really good with needles in the 1990s when I was giving myself allergy shots.) I don’t think I am vitamin deficient in any way, and I believe that diet is always the best way to address potential nutrient deficiencies, but the B12 is already in the medicine cabinet, and it won’t hurt me to use it.

So let me leave you with this heartwarming story of love to the end: when Abby was in nursing care, I visited her every day. When she was well enough, I’d pile her into a wheelchair and we’d go for a stroll, sometimes with Summer the Chihuahua in her lap. Sometimes she would ask me for a Coke, a drink she associated with growing up. On one occasion, the vending machine was out of Coke, so I went to the corner store to get one, where I found a bottle of Starbucks’ frappuccino, which I often brought home to her, and bought it, too. When I rounded the corner coming into her room, her smile was irrepressible, and as she drank it, she looked so happy. “This is so good,” she told me. That was about a week before she died.

Sometimes all we need is a little something that helps us feel good.
Sometimes all we need is a little something that helps us feel good.

Easy Little Things

Even reflecting on the obvious can bring us to unexpected conclusions.
Even reflecting on the obvious can bring us to unexpected conclusions.

I had my first successful nap in 10 days.

Despite being tired and needing to rest, when I had the Rona, lying down often resulted in a shift in my head and chest mucus, prompting yet another coughing fit, so napping was impossible, and sleeping at night was tough.

Today, though, I balled up in the living room couch quite cozily, and dove into a hard, welcome nap.

The first thing I dreamed was that Abby was there with me, as simple as that. I could feel her breathe.

Then the dreamscape shifted. At first, I was convinced that I had to accomplish something like answering a riddle, and if I got it even partially wrong, all the consciousness of the universe would vanish with no hope of being restored.

Next, I was trying to escape some kind of a plot to end the world. Mackenzee Crosby  and I were forced into a maze of trickery and exploration as we probed through streets that were sometimes made of asphalt, and sometimes made of cotton candy. We eventually realized that the plot was to flood the world.

Rounding a corner into a child’s room, we see millions of white and blue balloons floating around us. The white ones are hydrogen, and the blue ones are oxygen, and at the given time, they would collide and combine into water, along with, I am told by an explanatory video, hundreds of light sabre duals fought with blue and white fluorescent  light bulbs.

At an opera we are led into the basement through a trap door, where we enter a room made entirely of shiny brown leather. We see a fat man in a leather bed, where I sit and give him counseling for his depression. At the session ends, I pull a straight razor from a cubby in the side of the bed and say, “So I guess you won’t be needing this, now.”

I look up to realize the watering has begun. Balloons are colliding and water is rising. We escape through a street-level window, Mackenzee pulling me through at the last possible second. We are in an alley at a biker bar. I see children who have obviously gone insane. The water continues to rise.

How much of our perception depends on our perspective?
How much of our perception depends on our perspective?

The Arches Connundrum

I read just today that Arches National Park  will implement a temporary, pilot timed entry system “to help manage traffic and improve visitor experiences, from April 3 to October 3, 2022.”

I shot this Delicate Arch image in Arches National Park on our 10th anniversary, October 12, 2014. I was at the trail head 90 minutes before sunrise, and it was cold out, so I had the place entirely to myself.
I shot this Delicate Arch image in Arches National Park on our 10th anniversary, October 12, 2014. I was at the trail head 90 minutes before sunrise, and it was cold out, so I had the place entirely to myself.

I wrote about this issue once before (link), but today I want to be a little more thoughtful.

The National Park system is under stress right now, and I don’t know how much of this is the fault of photographers like me tempting photographer wannabes to go to the sites they see on the web, and how much of it is just the nature of a growing population becoming more mobile, and more hooked in by technology.

There are a lot of people in our National Parks these days, but the parks belong to all of us, not just self-righteous photographers and granola nuts.
There are a lot of people in our National Parks these days, but the parks belong to all of us, not just self-righteous photographers and granola nuts.

My personal National Park experience has mostly been much better in terms of crowding and all that entrails because I am very much a cold-weather person who dislikes the heat, and have usually visited in colder months, often very early in the day. That includes our trip to Arches in 2004 to get married.

Another factor that probably leads to more crowding in the spring and summer are school schedules. You can only take your kids to the Grand Canyon when they are not in school. I don’t have kids, though Abby and I were guardians of a teenager for a while.

When I really thirst for the wilderness, I imagine higher, harder, and farther than most people. The crowds are chatter and clutter, and I yearn to be alone. Also, I don’t get inspired to travel and explore from sources like Instagram or Tumblr. My main source of inspiration is actually paper maps.

This April 2015 Grand Canyon image spells out the less-appealing side of the popularity of our National Parks.
This April 2015 Grand Canyon image spells out the less-appealing side of the popularity of our National Parks.

Just as an aside: when I actually looked at Instagram for pictures of Delicate Arch, the location where Abby and I got married in 2004, I wasn’t particularly impressed. I guess that might be because I have been there many times, and it has become less-surprising to me.

If there is anything missing from my Delicate Arch portfolio, I would say it is either at night with a star field behind it, or with snow on the ground. In either case, about a thousandy-grillion other photographer have these.

One of the comments about Delicate Arch I found in my Instagram search was, “If you ever get the chance to visit Arches, it’s an empowering life event that you’ll never forget!” I agree that you’ll never forget, but how, exactly, is making the relatively easy hike to a popular rock formation “empowering”?

Maybe when it comes to our National Parks, Abby and I were just lucky that we came along when we did, before their explosion in popularity.

Everybody deserves a chance to see the wonders that our National Park system protects, but protecting them has to be a higher priority, since once they are damaged or gone, there’s no getting them back.

You host is silhouetted against a post-dusk sky in the Windows section at Arches National Park in March 2011. (Photo by Robert Stinson)
You host is silhouetted against a post-dusk sky in the Windows section at Arches National Park in March 2011. (Photo by Robert Stinson)

The Utopian

40 years ago, I was a freshman college student at the University of Oklahoma. I had yet to buy my first Nikon camera. I lived in Adams Center, the older of the “tower” dorms at OU. My roommate was Jeff, who had switched rooms, without being invited or even asking, with the kid I was assigned to live with at the beginning of the semester.

My friends and I had some distorted priorities. We were way too invested in audiophilia, the devotion to “hi-fi” stereo and all it entailed. We spend way too much money on cassette tapes – sidebar about that here (link).  We stayed up way too late at night. We skipped way too many classes.

But today I am talking about Jeff’s raison d’etre, the band Utopia.

By start of 1982, he had a tinted banner at the top of the windshield of his beloved (more so than any human) Pontiac Trans Am that said “Utopian.”

His parents correctly called him out about this, but he, and we, were loathe to listen. We knew it all, we thought, and parents are just old people who just wanted us to be “normal.”

He and several other friends also had rebel flag front license plates (though I did not). In the 2020s, most of us recognize what this actually represents and how offensive it was, but to Jeff and his ilk, it represented freedom and rebellion, not racism.

I never enjoyed much of Utopia, formed by Todd Rundgren in 1973. Whole albums of theirs seemed unlistenable to me, though I was able to cull out a few songs I kind of liked: Love Is the Answer [immediately covered by England Dan and John Ford Coley], The Road to Utopia, Set Me Free, Overture: Mountain Top and Sunrise/Communion With The Sun, and Singring and the Glass Guitar (An Electrified Fairy Tale).

Overall, however, Utopia suffered from what too many bands do: it wasn’t very musical. Most of their tunes scratch by semi-tunelessly, striking no pleasure centers in the brain or conjuring empathy.

And although Todd Rundgren couldn’t sing, I liked much of his solo work: Hello It’s Me, I Saw the Light (a song that, for me, is about Abby), Can We Still Be Friends, and practically all of his albums Healing and Hermit of Mink Hollow.

When Jeff and I were roommates in 1981, we quickly learned to hate each other’s musical tastes. His Utopia decidedly clashed with my Pink Floyd, James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg, Phil Keaggy, and so on.

The question for me, though, has always been: why was Jeff so mentally and emotionally obsessed with Utopia? Jeff owned close to 100 record albums when we were roommates, but I can’t seem to remember any other band he liked. It makes him seem shallow and single-minded, like Rush Guy (link).

By January 1982, Jeff flunked out of college and moved back to Lawton. He killed himself in May. You can read about that year and Jeff’s suicide in an entry I called That Dark Season Underground (link).

Allen, Jeff and I pose for a photo on the night the three of us had a barbecue at my parents house in Lawton, Oklahoma, in August 1981, as a college going-away party. The thing that intrigues me the most about this photo isn't the pose (although it is noteworthy that Jeff took those kinds of chances all the time), but that I have no recollection of owning a "Boomer Sooner" belt buckle.
Allen, Jeff and I pose for a photo on the night the three of us had a barbecue at my parents house in Lawton, Oklahoma, in August 1981, as a college going-away party. The thing that intrigues me the most about this photo isn’t the pose (although it is noteworthy that Jeff took those kinds of chances all the time), but that I have no recollection of owning a “Boomer Sooner” belt buckle.

Why, Internet, Why?

Is this all that's left of self-perception?
Is this all that’s left of self-perception?

Lately the internet has been hocking wet loogies on my cupcake and telling me it’s frosting.

Most recently is the idea that every page … every page … had some kind of delayed pop-up, mostly intended to get me to sign up for updates. Usually there is no “No Thanks” button, just a tiny, hard-to-see “X” in the corner of the box.

The pages are mostly alike, too. Title, share buttons, long, lengthy, long YouTube video that restates what you are about to read, and a comments section in which nurds tell us what idiots we are.

Every time, the YouTube video takes 17 minutes to tell us 35 seconds worth of information.

This level of commercialized crap must be working or it would go away, so who is signing up for free updates at “How to Sit Down”?

No wonder you’re not getting my emails. You have 3400 unread emails from “The Best Way to Cut Up Cabbage.”

Even worse are the pages that claim they will teach you how to burp your baby. “Step one,” the article will say, but when you get to the end of the paragraph, it tells you to click to the second page, and so on.

Do these pages really need us to look at 400 ads for baby blankets? Can’t it just say, “Hold your baby on your shoulder, put gently on the back, wait for burp. You’re done.”?

No, website, I don't want to sign up. Also, I was reading when you popped up. If you'd done that in person, I would have smacked you.
No, website, I don’t want to sign up. Also, I was reading when you popped up. If you’d done that in person, I would have smacked you.

Unbelief Leads to Eternal Damnation

This item originally came to me as a letter to the editor, but we didn’t publish it. I share it here because, res ipsa loquitur… “the thing speaks for itself.”

Unbelief Leads to Eternal Damnation

Unbelief in God the Creator dooms an individual to going to Hell and later to the Lake of Fire.  Two horrific places where no one should want to go.

Yet too many people at this present time seem to be completely ignorant of the existence of such terrible places, and of the fact that unless they repent of their sins and seek God they will spend eternity there.  Under continuous torture!

We live in a time when information abounds, and the greatest communication facilities exist, and yet Humanity has failed to inform the masses about God Almighty, and of His kingdom and his authority over Heaven and Earth.

His command was that each generation was to teach each new generation about his creation of Heaven and Earth, and His giving life to Humanity, and all livings things.  And to remind us that “nothing is impossible to God” who has “absolute power” over everything.

God demonstrated this awesome power when He freed Israel, his chosen nation, from Egypt, drowned their Army, and then sustained the two million or so nation for forty years in the desert.

The world disobeyed and has failed to teach the new generations again and again.

America too has failed to teach the Holy Bible, “the Word of God.” The most important book in the world has been outlawed to teach in public schools by Supreme Court Judges who are in direct disobedience to God.

Just like they were disobedient when they approved of Same-Sex Marriage and other abominable acts which go against God’s just laws.    

Disobeying God has through the ages resulted in God finally punishing or judging individuals and nations.    

God has foretold that His creation will reject his ever-lasting love, and also His plan for salvation, and that He will destroy the wicked at a time which only He knows.  That time is called “The Tribulation.” 

Judging by how wicked humanity has become many now believe that time is near!

Man, for his sake, must realize that our mortal life is short, and that we all have an appointment with death, and then the “judgment.” And as Jesus told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

In other words, we cannot go to Heaven unless we have been “born again.”  When a person is “born again” he/or she receives the gift of “Eternal life” from God.  Then upon death angels will escort them instantly to Heaven.             

The “Word of God” tells us it is God’s will that “none should perish.”  But it also tells us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  God said, “without blood there is no remission of sin.”

Therefore, God’s plan for salvation included the Holy Ghost overshadowing the acquisitioning Mary, implanting the Word of God in Mary, and producing the holy thing (baby) to be born to be called the “Son of God.”  Because of “the will of God” “the Word was made flesh” and baby Jesus was born, “and “dwelt among us,” “and we beheld his glory.”

At the appointed time, Jesus, “the Son of God”, “the Son of Man,” demonstrated the “Powers of God” to show “God was with us” on earth.  He raised the dead, gave site to the blind, healed the sick, gave his life for our sins, by crucifixion, was buried, and on the third day was resurrected.  He was seen on earth forty days before returning to Heaven.

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:17).  THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO HEAVEN!

Thoughts about Dan Fogelberg

As the years have gone by, I have made a mental note of prominent people, many celebrities, who died at a younger age than I am now, 58 as I write this. Steve McQueen and Michael Jackson were 50. Frank Zappa and Christopher Reeve were 52. Jim Henson and John Denver were 53. John Ritter, Peter Sellers, and Michael Landon were 54. Steve Jobs and Linda McCartney were 56. Prince, Patrick Swayze, and Humphrey Bogart were 57. George Harrison and Andy Warhol were 58.

And Dan Fogelberg was 56.

Recently his widow Jean Fogelberg  shared “All the Time in the World,” (later removed), a serial memoir, on their website, and I read each installment as she published it each week, curious both about the life of the man whose music I admired, especially when I was in college, but also about what it must have been like to get sick and die at the young age of 56. In the midst of reading this, I wrote her a short, frank email:

Feb. 2, 2021

Dear Jean,

My wife Abby and I love to travel. We got married in Moab, Utah, at Arches National Park. Between our home in Oklahoma and Moab, there is New Mexico, which we love, and Abby and I are especially fond of the Santa Fe area.

In October 2019, we drove up to Pagosa Springs for our 15th anniversary vacation, and in our conversation I said, “I think Dan Fogelberg lived around here somewhere.” It sent me down the path of talking about his music, how I discovered it, and where it took me.

This is one of my images from the San Juan Riverwalk in Pagosa Springs, Colorado in October 2019. In the distance is Squaretop Mountain, just north of the massive Ranch that was once home to musician Dan Fogelberg.
This is one of my images from the San Juan Riverwalk in Pagosa Springs, Colorado in October 2019. In the distance is Squaretop Mountain, just north of the massive Ranch that was once home to musician Dan Fogelberg.

My first experience with the music of Dan Fogelberg was in 1979 when I was in high school, when my first girlfriend Tina decided “Longer” would be “our song.” I didn’t care for it much, but she was young and sentimental, so it fit, as I expect that song did for a lot of kids of that era.

In January 1982, Tina and I saw Dan Fogelberg in concert at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma, when I was a freshman at the University of Oklahoma. The 11,000-seat facility was standing room only. The thing I most remember about the show was that Tina wanted to hear “Longer,” and when he did play it, he insisted on silence from the audience, so when someone would “woo-hoo” from the seats, he played around the intro again until everyone shut up.

This is my first girlfriend Tina, whose real name was Yvonne.
This is my first girlfriend Tina, whose real name was Yvonne.

Those days were so naive for me. I was learning so much, but it was uncontained, chaotic, sophomoric. I was building a philosophy, but at the same time I was devoting too many hours to hi-fi stereo, fast cars, staying up late and blowing off class. In April 1982, a close friend, Debbie, died in a car crash, and in May, my former college roommate Jeff shot himself in the head. Interesting times.

I listened to a lot more Fogelberg in college than I had in high school, and his work, especially the early work, had an influence on me. If I had to pin it down, I’d say 1977’s Nether Lands was his strongest album.

I was also a devoted Pink Floyd listener, and was discovering Kansas, Phil Keaggy, James Taylor, Todd Rundgren, Journey, Simon and Garfunkel, Alan Parsons, more.

It would be decades before I expanded into genius like Brian Eno, the Cocteau Twins, and This Mortal Coil, and years later I would follow the downward spiral of Nine Inch Nails. It all points to the powerful influence of music.

But back to Santa Fe. I got a big kick out of your description of living in and around the Plaza, and recognizing every landmark you mentioned. I even have a nice image of Abby and her Chihuahua Sierra in Burro Alley.

Abby walks her Chihuahua Sierra along Burro Alley in Santa Fe in 2016.
Abby walks her Chihuahua Sierra along Burro Alley in Santa Fe in 2016.

You may have been to Madrid south of Santa Fe on SH14. We always make time to stop there and eat at The Hollar. Abby always says she would love to live there.

Abby and her Chihuahua Summer enjoy lunch in the sunshine at The Hollar in Madrid, New Mexico in 2019.
Abby and her Chihuahua Summer enjoy lunch in the sunshine at The Hollar in Madrid, New Mexico in 2019.

When Abby and I got home from Colorado in 2019, we bought “A Tribute to Dan Fogelberg,” and listened to it together in one sitting. Like his music in general, some of it was brilliant, and some of it missed the mark. That’s true for all musicians.

My favorite Dan Fogelberg cover isn’t on the Tribute, but the title track from Ashton, Becker and Dente’s 1994 cover album “Along the Road.”

Jean talks about Dan sailing alone in the last few months of his life, and while there is a certain romance about going off to sea and disappearing forever, I think this was a serious mistake: pilots aren’t allowed to fly on all the drugs he was taking, and I’m not sure driving is even safe in that situation. If the argument is that it was his business how he wanted to live and die at the end, fine, but search and rescue is costly and dangerous to all involved.

“Stress and physical wear and tear had begun wreaking havoc on my own body,” she writes in the chapter called Living with the Enemy, and I am certainly in synch with this feeling. When Abby is at her sickest, I stop eating and sleeping, lose weight, and my stomach hurts. You can argue that I should take care of myself, but it is a very fundamental reaction to that kind of stress.

Like a lot of artists, it would have been better for Fogelberg’s music to disappear without a trace rather than get drawn into the corporate music mill. As I wrote this, I listened to his entire catalog, and I remembered fondly his amazing early music, and cringed with embarrassment for us all when I got to 1987’s Exiles. This album sounded like the culture at the time, from the Entertainment Tonight-like soprano sax solos to the drum machines. He became the hair band of easy listening. Exiles is as derivative as any music I’ve ever experienced.

It didn’t have to be that way, of course. It wasn’t his sound. It was the sound (and bad advice) of some popped-collar producer who wanted to ride the industry tide.

In some ways, it’s tempting to forgive individual musicians for the dreck they pumped out during that time. 1987 was, after all, the year that gave us Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley, I Want to Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) by Whitney Houston, Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car by Billy Ocean, and … oh, it hurts my brain to even type this … (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.

Dan Fogelberg’s best songs, in my offbeat estimation, are the ones that take advantage of his amazing guitar skills and triharmonic vocals: Scarecrow’s DreamThe Last Nail, The Innocent Age, Sketches, Souvenirs, and Along the Road.

Same Old Lang Syne and Leader of the Band are often cited as great, but they don’t reach me like they do most people.

The chapters of Jean’s account drift off-course fairly often. I know it’s meant to be an intimate tale of their lives together, but I got really bored with the banal chit-chat about which wine they chose to go with which pasta.

Speaking of wine, there is a chapter in which she talks about their wine collection being ruined by a dehumidifier, and they would have to go to the wine shop the next day to replace their expensive Italian wines. Wow. Those poor little rich people had to replace their precious, pricey wine. Sometimes the wealthy can really lose sight of themselves.

I want to add that I thought very highly of Fogelberg’s music when he was really at the crest of his talent and popularity, from 1972’s Home Free through 1983’s Windows and Walls. It’s quite a musical achievement to have such a long run of great music, especially in a world of one-hit wonders.

I would have liked to meet and photograph the man, but I’ve never liked the paparazzi photography scene, and I’m not certain I would have been the photographer for him. Still, I feel I might have been able to express something about his amazing musical talent, and something about how his music and vision influenced me.

My first Dan Fogelberg albums were vinyl records, later replaced by CDs, later supplemented by MP3s.
My first Dan Fogelberg albums were vinyl records, later replaced by CDs, later supplemented by MP3s.

Post script: it was brought to my attention that I was being too harsh in my criticisms of this artist, and that “as a fan,” I should be more flattering. The commenter added that she now had no interest in reading my book.

This, then, is how criticism is handled by the “cancel culture” in the 21st century: pout, stomp, threaten, accuse.

I could counter this kind of behavior with more of the same, or, instead, I will continue to create what I feel is valid, useful criticism and perspectives on entertainment and culture. 

Review: The Journals of Kurt Cobain

I liked reading Cobain's journals in his own handwriting.
I liked reading Cobain’s journals in his own handwriting.

“I don’t think you’re going to come away from this ‘decoding’ knowing anything more about him than what is already commonly known. You may learn something about him you, personally, didn’t know before, but as for ‘decoding’ him? Not gonna happen. Not from photos of his journal pages alone.”

And so another dismissive, journalist wannabe tried to put me in my place.

When I inadvertently heard that Kurt Cobain kept a journal, I stopped what I was doing right then and found them on Amazon and ordered them. I have been re-reading them for two years since then.

I read some reviews of Kurt Cobain’s Journals in preparation for writing this review. They were all over the place, from praising Cobain’s rawness, candor and expressiveness, to ultra-unforgiving criticism of Cobain’s widow Courtney Love being a sellout for publishing it.

Cobain wasn’t the kind of kid who hung in my high school circles, and he wouldn’t have been comfortable for a minute with my adult friends. Nor was he the school bully or misfit, prom king or quarterback, trumpeter or debater.

That mostly just leaves one category: burners. Those guys were assholes in school, but they all ended up (or already were) in the throes of self-destruction. So sure, I can see Cobain behind a dumpster on a Saturday night when he was 12.

A teenage girl I knew on the day Cobain died told me, “Kurt Cobain was a genius.” At the time, I was very annoyed with her, since his suicide seemed so petulant and selfish, but today I might reconsider. Why? As my brilliant reviewer/journalist/social commentator friend Dan said in his review of Nevermind, “Nirvana was on the forefront of (a) change, a blast of hard rock that was totally different than the plastic, corporate-sanctioned music that had ended the Eighties.”

I know, I’m shifting all over the place, but so did Cobain’s journal.

In the end, I like Cobain’s journal because I can relate to them. I journal, and that journal can be dark, overly honest, contentious, jittery, and chaotic, although I also yearn for a sense of chaos that Cobain clearly mastered.

Here are a few phrases I circled or highlighted while I was reading it…

“I hope I die before I turn into Pete Townshend.”
“Smells like thirtysomething.”
“I’ve collaborated with one of my idols William Burroughs.”
“Television is the most evil thing on our planet.”
“Fuck now, suffer later.”
“I don’t want a granddaughter of mine changing my soiled rubber underwear while I suck on Ry-Krisp, clinging to existence just so I can reminisce about my life as a professional reminiscent.”
“I like passion. I like innocence.”
“Censorship is very American.”
“The king of words is everything.”
“God how I love playing live.”
“Thanks for the tragedy. I need it for my art.”
“Recycle, vote, question, or blow your head off.”
“The revolution will be televised.”
“Life isn’t nearly as sacred as the appreciation of passion.”
“If you think everything has been said and done, then how come nothing has been solved and resolved?”
“I hate myself and want to die.”

Cobain’s most common illustration in his journal is of rooftop snipers aiming at Nazis or Klansmen.

Cobain once wrote a letter to a congressman accidentally using a cigarette instead of a pen.

My sister pointed out that Cobain had terrible taste in woman, since he married one of humanity’s worst, Courtney Love.

For years and years, intimacy seemed to hover around my journals. Now I look back at them (more on that soon), and see how valuable that is, even when others dismantle and criticize them. They are real, raw, unpolished, unprotected, and vulnerable.

I recommend that you, too, read Kurt Cobain’s journals.

Writing something on paper summons a very different part of our minds than typing or texting.
Writing something on paper summons a very different part of our minds than typing or texting.