Thursday, June 7, 2018

On Returning to Sacramento for the First Time in Almost Six Years

What an adventure.

Strange as could be, though.

Both Ms. Ché and I have deep roots in Sacramento -- she was born there, I became a resident when I  was 10 or 11.

After being away for so long, though, much was still familiar, some was not. And one thing we both said was "this is not 'home'". And it isn't. It's a very important place in our lives, but it's not "home."

Sitting outside  of Gunther's having ice cream on an extraordinarily beautiful day

we thought that if we did live there, we'd have compensations.

Gunther's is an iconic neighborhood ice cream place that's been in Curtis Park for decades and decades. It's always been popular, but it seems to have become a fashion destination for the whole city in recent times.

We lived a few blocks south in this house

Small by today's standards, it was considered more than adequate when it was built in 1940. Two bedrooms, one bath, a living room with fireplace, dining room, kitchen, laundry room and hall, that was it. There is a porch behind the overgrown shrubs in front, and a two car detached garage at the rear of the lot. We lived there for over twenty years, and truthfully it was a very warm and welcoming home for us at the time. When we checked it out this time, it hadn't changed much since we moved. It looks like there have been a few interior renovations (kitchen at least) and central air conditioning has been added, but that's about it.

Across the street, this place still commanded the block.

I'm sure it's not the biggest house in the neighborhood, but it's close to it. Dorothy lived there as a widow with her two standard poodles until she died in the mid '90s. There was a big sale of her things and then the house was sold to a doctor and his boyfriend (I think they got married as soon as same sex marriage was legalized in California.) It's a beautiful house, no doubt about it, and like most of the others in the neighborhood, it's been largely preserved intact through the years. Occasional redecoration and infrequent kitchen and bath renovation are about all that happens to most of these places.

Nearby, one of Ms. Ché's work colleagues lived here:

This house had quite a history.  One day in the late '90's the housekeeper found the owner shot dead in a pool of blood in front of the fireplace. A few things of value had been taken from the house. At first it was assumed that a burglar had broken into the house and killed the owner before absconding with whatever it was that was stolen. 

However, soon enough, suspicion fell on the 16 year old boy the owner had taken in some weeks prior. Exactly what was going on with the two has never been entirely clear, but the boy was found in possession of some of the man's things at his grandmother's house not far away, and shortly he confessed to the murder, saying he had killed the man because he was being molested by him. Whether it was true or not could not be determined, but if I recall correctly, the boy was not tried as an adult and I believe was released from juvenile custody when he was 21. 

This is where my sister lived from 1956 to (about) 1963.

It was built by her then-husband's grandparents in 1924 from plans they apparently got from House Beautiful magazine. I know of at least two other examples built from this house  plan, one in upstate New York (I believe in Scarsdale) and one in Connecticut (Greenwich?). 

Until about 1961, my sister's then-husband's widowed grandmother lived in the house with my sister and her then two children. Though the house is large, it was becoming cramped and crowded what with all the children and their things as well as three adults, two of whom needed special care. My sister's then-husband was legally blind and his grandmother was in deteriorating health. 

Eventually, Grannyma went to live with her daughter in the Bay Area. As it happened, she outlived her daughter and died in a care home. The house (and another one she owned at Lake Tahoe) was put up for sale, and as I recall the Sacramento house was purchased by a doctor whose fancy house a few blocks away had become somewhat notorious for his over the top French decorating scheme. 

The houses are somewhat similar, though I believe the one above was built in 1928 or 29 and is actually smaller than the one he purchased from Grannyma's estate.

The house where my sister and her then husband and children lived with Grannyma was in remarkably original condition when they lived there; everything was from the '20's except for the kitchen which had been modernized after WWII with a six burner electric range, a built in dishwasher and an enormous built in refrigerator -- which didn't work and was supplemented by a newer, normal sized fridge on the service porch. I thought of the house as Spanish revival -- due to its tile roof -- but it was actually Norman French revival, and when the doctor bought it, he went whole hog with a rustic French theme, painting much of the interior white including some of the heavy oak woodwork, and adding crystal chandeliers in practically every room. 

We went downtown while we were visiting Sacramento last week, and we walked around some of our old haunts. Surprisingly little had changed. Except for traffic -- which was horrendous. Well, it was horrendous everywhere we went in California. I can't believe it was this bad before we left, yet I could be misremembering, and I've been spoiled by the relative lack of traffic in New Mexico.

McCormick & Schmick's is now Claim Jumpers -- which is kind of sad as McCormick's was one of our favorites in Sacramento, San Francisco and Seattle.  We tried Claim Jumpers. It was... adequate though it seemed to take forever for us to be served our main course, and by the time we got the plates, some of the food was tepid. 

The space where we had our theatre is now a (ahem) talent agency. On the other hand, the space also  hosts an art exhibit area  with large windows on the sidewalk. There was an angel-figure in the window that we found quite charming. 

Homeless wanderers were everywhere in Downtown Sacramento, many more than we remember when we lived and worked there. I asked a friend what if anything was being done about homelessness, and he said that the problem of homelessness was national, and until something is done about it nationally nothing can be done about it in Sacramento. I told him that was bullshit. But apparently, even some of Sacramento's most influential "progressives" believe it.

We only stayed two days and spent four days driving to and from Sacramento. Traffic on Highway 99 through the Sacramento/San Joaquin Valley was sometimes terrifying. Drivers didn't think twice about going 90 miles an hour bumper to bumper, weaving in and out of slower traffic, and causing wrecks and near-wrecks all along the way. The Highway Patrol seemed only interested in stopping truckers and cleaning up after wrecks. 

The weather was surprisingly sunny and cool. The temperature never rose above about 75° in Sacramento, and it was barely above 90° in parts of the Mojave Desert. 

Unfortunately the car had an unanticipated problem on the return trip. The Check Engine light went on just after we crossed into New Mexico from Arizona. As soon as we could we stopped to try to figure out what was going on. Turns out the crank case was bone dry. No oil. We'd had the car serviced including oil change only a month or so before, and as far as we know there are no leaks, so the absence of oil in the crankcase was a puzzlement. I suspect the oil was never replaced or never fully replaced when the oil was changed in April.

I put oil in the car, and it seemed to be fine for the rest of the way home (about 160 miles). It's going back to the dealer where the service was performed to figure out what happened.

It was a decidedly quick and focused trip to start the process of clearing out our long-held storage unit. When we moved, we didn't have time to sort everything and get rid of things we didn't need, so we just packed the leftovers into a storage unit and said we'd deal with it later. It's been almost six years, and this is the first time we've been back. We loaded the car with things we had forgotten or thought were long gone: family photos, Ms Ché's mother's rolling pin, a few books and so forth. The rolling pin was especially important because Ms Ché was certain it had gone to Goodwill or the dump with other excess stuff we got rid of before we moved. She'd written a story about it and the memories she had of her mother making donuts when the thunder roared, and how important that rolling pin was to her memories of her mother. When she found it in the storage unit, she cried. It was almost overwhelming. So it was with a number of other items we brought back with us.

There is perhaps one small truckload of stuff remaining in storage, some pieces of furniture, boxes of photos and books, a mattress and springs and bed frame, a few other things, but we've reduced the accumulation by about half, and one more trip to Sacramento is being contemplated for October. And then? Who knows.

Ms. Ché leaves on Sunday for three weeks at Naropa in Boulder, CO, where she'll be studying with the "Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics." I told her I hoped the surviving Beats, like Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and such -- I think Ferlinghetti is still alive too -- would show up just because. And I've been re-reading the original scroll version of "On the Road" to get myself in the right frame of mind for her departure. It's been interesting, too, because Kerouac trod many of the same paths we have, including mad dashing up and down the Sacramento/San Joaquin Valley back in the day. I think there must be a psychic link there.

Friday, May 25, 2018


A few nights back Ms Ché and I attended a one woman play in Santa Fe written and performed by Delanna Studi called "And So We Walked, an artist's journey along the Trail of Tears." It's an allegorical play connecting a Cherokee actress's personal journey with that of her ancestors who were force marched from their homeplaces in what's now Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee in the 1830s to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma.

I suppose for those who know little or nothing about Cherokee history, it might have been revelatory. However, Ms Ché and I attended an intensive immersion course in Cherokee history years ago. It was led by (then) Principle Chief Chad Smith and Cherokee historian Julia Coates, and we've never forgotten it.

Readers may know that Ms Ché, though born and raised in California, is Cherokee, her mother a full-blood who moved to California from Oklahoma in 1941, and truthfully her mother never looked back. She and her sister left Oklahoma voluntarily -- perhaps even eagerly. They were not part of the forced urbanization of Indians then fashionable with in the US Government, but chose to set out on their own for their own reasons.

What happened to the Cherokee people in the 1830s -- along with the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Seminoles -- however, was something of a different order altogether, nothing less than ethnic cleansing on a massive scale, all so the Georgia crackers and their ilk could take the Indians' land and homes and farms and cattle without the fuss of Indian resistance. Just round up the savages, seize their property and send them westward, "Bye bye!" It worked, too, for there was little  or nothing the Indians could do once the President, Mr. Jackson, refused to honor the Supreme Court decision on the Indians' behalf.

He said, in justification for his refusal, that if he had enforced the ruling, it would have been worse for the Indians, for the crackers probably would have risen up and massacred them all. Given the spirit of the times, that's quite possibly true.

Our playwright/actress, Ms. Studi, was born and raised in Liberty, Oklahoma, but like so many before and since she was restless and she wanted something beyond the confines of the rather rigid -- and racist -- Oklahoma society in the "14 Counties" in Northeast Oklahoma designated the "Cherokee Nation."

Many people may not know that the Cherokee have no geographical reservation, nor do most of the other tribes in the former Indian Territory. The Osage are one of the only tribes in Oklahoma who have an autonomous reservation. Cherokees and most of the rest of the tribes in Oklahoma lost their communal/tribal lands and sovereignty over those lands during the period of allotment in the early 20th century. Allotment meant the extinction of tribal government and sovereignty over territory. For a time, the Cherokee Nation was functionally extinct as well, though some of its previous attributes and the institution of Chief were maintained.  The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma was officially reconstituted only in 1975. There are two other Cherokee tribal associations, sometimes referred to as "nations," the Eastern Band in North Carolina, and the Keetoowah Band in Oklahoma.

The Eastern Band is composed of descendants of Cherokees who "didn't walk" during the Indian removals of the 1830s. Many hid out in the hills or escaped from groups being forced West. Some were actually allowed to stay in their ancestral territory as Anglos moved in. Despite the removals, there are still quite a few Indians in much of the former Cherokee territory in the Southeast.

In the play, the actress who grew up in Oklahoma with her full blood Cherokee father and her German/Irish mother seeks to reclaim her Cherokee people's heritage and their roots in their former territory. She will take a journey with her father to North Carolina and return to Oklahoma along the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears, filming and interviewing Indians she meets along the way.

She falls in love with an Indian, "Steve," who jilts her.

She returns to Oklahoma with a terrible sense of loss on the one hand and a box of hope on the other.

And it takes forever.

The play is about 45 minutes longer than it needs to be. Two and a half hours is way too long for a one person show, sorry. I was getting very antsy as the play would not wrap up. I think I was not the only one. In fact, I know I was not the only one.

Structurally, "And So We Walked" is three separate plays woven together -- the story of the actress and her heritage project, the story of the actress and "Steve," and the stories of her ancient ancestors that formed part of her dreams and served to both spur her on her quest and made it as difficult for her as possible.

Each of these stories could be and probably should be a stand-alone forming a kind of trilogy.

But as it is, the piece is not just too long but it's confused/confusing as well. While there are definite attempts to clarify elements, and the performance was mostly fine, some of it never does make sense or the sense it makes appears to belong somewhere else.

As allegory it may work better than history. The basic story is that of the actress trying to find herself through learning about and being in the places where her ancestors once lived. But her journey is an allegory for the journey of the Cherokee people removed from their ancestral homes to Oklahoma under the guns of the US Army and the cracker militias of the day. The history of what happened and why is... dense... to say the least, and it is filled with what amount to legal arguments rather than human interest stories. The people involved, apart from the contending Rosses and Ridges, have never been given their due.

Like the actress, Ms. Ché did not grow up hearing of Cherokee removal on the Trail of Tears, even though it had happened to her mother's grandparents. They didn't talk about it. Over the years, of course, Ms. Ché and the actress had learned about it from books and movies, and in Ms Ché's case the Cherokee Nation history course, but the reality of it hardly resonated. The truth, yes, but not the reality.

The actress chose to re-trace Cherokee Removal from North Carolina, but Ms Ché has taken a somewhat different path. She's been to Nashville and its environs a number of times, for example, and has visited Andrew Jackson's plantation home "The Hermitage." The actress also made pilgrimage to The Hermitage -- and I wouldn't be surprised if she spit on Old Hickory's grave.

Ms Ché's reaction was quite different. She said she got a much better  -- and surprisingly more sympathetic -- picture of what Jackson was doing than the standard story of his perfidy toward the Indians. To her, it was much more complex than good v evil. Jackson faced a dilemma, partly of his own making, and his way out was to enable rather than resist the removal of the tribes to someplace he believed they would be safe.

It wasn't because he loved or hated the Indians so much. It had more to do with his frustration at white people's tendencies to get ornery, greedy, and wild.

Ultimately, most of the Indians were removed from the Southeast; and almost by a miracle they were able to re-establish themselves in their new homes in what's now Oklahoma where many of their descendants still are.

But many, many have gone elsewhere, Cherokees especially.

Ms. Ché says that she found a remarkable affinity to the land and landscape around Nashville -- not to the city itself -- and she sensed that that's probably where her mother's ancestors had lived before they were removed to Oklahoma. She never had a chance to ask her mother, though. And even if she did, her mother might not have known where her grandparents had lived before they moved (or were moved) to Indian Territory.

I think one misconception about Indians that white people ("Wypipo") have is that they "always" lived in a certain ancestral place, even the nomadic tribes of the Plains, and it was the whites who forced them somewhere else against their will. There is truth of course in this story, but the "always"-ness of whatever their ancestral home place is largely or partially fabricated. Indians moved around well before the advent of Wypipo on the North and South American continents. They weren't bound to a single home place forever and ever, amen. Tribes were distinct but not necessarily exclusive, and there was much interconnection and interaction between tribes.

The Cherokee are thought by scholars to have originated among the Iroquoian peoples of the Great Lakes and separated from them some three or four thousand years ago. Cherokee stories themselves suggest something more complicated. They suggest that Cherokee are a fusion tribe made up of travelers from the North (ie: the Iroquoian), but also from the Caribbean, and from South America. There may be other indigenous peoples who joined the Cherokee over time. They did not have a single home place, but chose a number of distinct -- and scattered -- locations around the Southeast, and they would move from them when they wanted or needed to.

Indians in general were not particularly stay-put peoples, and Cherokee were no exception. It is more a white-folk conceit that Indians "always" occupied a particular tribal territory that they were forcibly ejected from by whites. Not necessarily so at all.

In the case of the Indian Removal of the 1830s, yes, Cherokee were forced out of their homes, and many resented it. Some resisted. But in fact, Cherokees had been moving west since the 1810s at least, if not earlier, and they had established homes in Arkansas among other places long before the Removals. There were colonies of Cherokee in Texas in the 1820s, others were scattered in Northern Mexico, and so on. "Moving" was not necessarily a bad thing in Cherokee culture and life.

Whether the Cherokee had been living in the Southeastern area for "thousands of years" -- our actress said 12,000 -- is unknown. They may have been, but maybe not. There is some evidence of "proto-Cherokee" in the Appalachian region going back at least 3,000 years, but the evidence seems to be more ambiguous in the Georgia/North Carolina/Tennessee triangle that is asserted to be the ancestral Cherokee territory. Maybe it is, maybe not.

That there are still Cherokee peoples there, however, is important, and those are the people our actress re-connected with on her journey.

As she says in the play, "My God, this place is full of Indians!" Indeed.

That's what Ms Ché noted about New Mexico on our first trip 35 years ago. Indians were everywhere.

And some of them are Cherokee.

Cherokee are everywhere.

The actress had to cut short her journey of discovery to do a play in New York. And so it goes. Cherokee are everywhere and they do whatever they can or choose to do. Some, yes, are in the Cherokees' ancestral places, but many are not.

One thing Ms. Ché has noted over the years is that Cherokee relationships are very complicated and among the full- and half-bloods, they're all pretty closely related.

Thus a half-blood like our actress is probably a cousin of some sort to Ms Ché, as she's found so many full and half-blood Cherokee ultimately are.

Ms Ché pretty much knows her roots. I'm still learning about mine. Our actress was on a journey to discover a deeper understanding of the people and places her ancestors came from in order for her to feel... connected?

It's a journey many of us take -- Indians included -- but many Americans don't care-- Indians included.

Should they?

I can't say. It's an individual matter I think. But what do I know? Not much!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Regarding the Massacres at the Gaza Fence

I can't say it any better than Andre Damon at WSWS:

The money quote:

After all, if Israel’s actions are justified, would not US forces deployed on the Mexican border be justified in opening fire on refugees walking toward US territory? Would the European border police not be justified in sinking boats of migrants fleeing to Europe?
The answer to both of these questions would obviously be yes. The universal defense of Israel’s actions makes clear that the imperialist powers have adopted the mass murder of unarmed civilians as a legitimate policy tool.

 No doubt about it...


Next month, Ms Ché will head north to Boulder to spend three weeks at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa. Oh my. When she told me she was going, I nearly burst, it was so exciting.

She's wanted to go for a couple of years but hadn't yet been invited and was a bit reluctant anyway as Boulder is not necessarily kind to Indians or elder women, both of which she happens to be. But her buddy Doug went last year and came back a Bodhisattva, so what can you say? He's an Indian too, but not an elder woman. Ms Ché arranged for Doug to live in a shack up on the side of a hill in Lower Cañoncito outside of Santa Fé after he was thrown out of the tent he was living in on the arroyo down the Turquoise Trail. So now he's staying in this hand-built Eagle's Nest on Dr. Z's property where he can watch the sky and the clouds and the soaring, wheeling turkey buzzards, eagles, hawks and ravens and hear the coyotes and think there might be bobcats jumping on his roof just because there might be. There is a round cave opening high on the hill behind his shack and it's probably the bobcat's den, or at least it might be. He has a full buffalo hide on a stand in his shack for ceremony and a deck on which to sit and contemplate the Universe when the spirit moves him.

A poetry reading up there at his shack might happen sometime in the next year or so, though Dr. Z is nervous about it. One thing, it's hard to get up there. Lame as I am, though, I made it, one step at a time, careful, careful, and it's even harder to get down again, as the slope is steep and you're not entirely sure where you should or shouldn't step at any given moment. Especially in the dark.

But that's as may be. It hasn't happened yet and maybe it won't. We'll have to wait and see.

I gave Ms Ché a copy of "The Dharma Bums" to take with her to Naropa. I tried to find my copy, all dog-eared and dusty, to give to her as a graduation present, but I couldn't find it, so I got her a new one. That and the Truman Capote Reader. She's always admired TC since a version of him appeared as Dill in Harper Lee's "Bird Book" (as he called it.) On the other hand, Kerouac has scared her more than anything. Kerouac the pacifist who might have been part Indian himself.

I'm linking to a piece I wrote about "The Dharma Bums" after re-reading it four years ago. Time may fly, but... oh my.

The Dharma, "The Dharma Bums," Prefiguring the Rucksack Revolution, and How We Got Here -- Or Something

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Ms. Ché Graduates From the Indian Art School in Santa Fé

Since long before we moved to New Mexico, Ms. Ché has been deeply involved in the literary scene. She was a member of a number of writers' groups in California, and for about ten years, she'd been coming to New Mexico for writers' conferences.

She's been a writer herself for as long as I've known her. We met 53 years ago this month in high school. She was a graduating senior, I was a junior who would do my senior year at a new high school built specifically to educate the white students separate from those of color. I've mentioned from time to time how segregated neighborhoods were in Sacramento in the early '60s, and this was an example of how officials sought to maintain segregation even though it was illegal by the time the new high school opened.

At any rate, the high school she graduated from -- where we met -- published a literary anthology the year she graduated (1965) that included a number of her haiku and one longer poem from me along with a wide variety of fiction, non-fiction and "think pieces." We were encouraged to write and at the time I had a habit of doing so in a journal.

Ms. Ché on the other hand had greater ambitions. As we got to know each other, we corresponded back and forth frequently as she entered college and I completed my senior year of high school. As I recall, she was bored in college. She hated taking so many classes that seemed like such a waste of time, but it's what you had to do, so she did. She saw herself eventually as a serious writer, writing stories, novels, poetry, essays, what have you. The only thing she didn't like about writing was journalism (which I found out later, she's very good at. Go figure.)

After we got together and became a couple some time later (two years or so later) she decided to try learning to write on a more professional basis through a correspondence course which taught her a lot, she said, but she really did not like and ultimately rejected the commercial aspects of the literary business. Her correspondent instructors (who seemed to be very good and were published writers themselves) wanted her to write for the Market, and they tried to help her shape her submitted works for the Market, saying she had such potential, they just needed to be tweaked this way or that. She said no, that wasn't the way she wanted to go with her work.

Over the years, she wrote a lot of... stuff: poetry, a long novel, many, many short stories, plays and so on, each in her unique style which she privately circulated among friends or had published in local anthologies, and occasionally had fiction or poems in magazines.

To say she's lived an adventurous life is putting it mildly. A lot of that is what she wrote about, and that is what her readers wanted more of. But she always wrote to satisfy herself.

In California, she felt stymied despite the fact that she was involved in many literary activities and forums and was being published from time to time. She was pretty well known among a circle of writers and there was a growing audience for her work. Her plays, especially, were very well received. But she didn't feel 1) she wrote as well as she wanted and needed to; 2) that she was really getting anywhere. Also she found the literary atmosphere to be stultifying. She wasn't getting anywhere because a writer couldn't where there was so much negativity and pure bullshit everywhere you turned.

She branched out by coming to New Mexico to the Hillerman Writer's Conference and then to its Word Harvest successor after we had purchased a house here. At these conferences, she was mixing and mingling with some of the West's prominent writers of mysteries and genre works, and she was also able to practice her craft among them. Every time she came back from one of these conferences she was exhilarated. Then she became depressed again as she saw how crabbed the whole literary scene around her in California was. It was night and day.

So when we moved here, she was itchy to start on a serious "grown up" writing path. She workshopped with good writers she respected and she stayed in touch with many of the writers she had met over the years at those conferences. It didn't take long before she became convinced she could "do this" -- write, seriously, in her own voice -- and she was given so much encouragement by so many other writers who wanted to see her succeed just as I did.

We'd been giving money for scholarships to the "Indian Art School" -- IAIA -- for a while, and she'd gotten to know some of the faculty, particularly Jon Davis, the head of the MFA creative writing program, and at the time, the Poet Laureate of Santa Fe. One thing led to another.

Long story short, she decided to enroll in the "Indian Art School" as a student. Initially, her idea was to go directly for the MFA, but she became convinced that it would be better for her to obtain a BFA first for the grounding it would give her, and so, for the last two and a half years, she's been studying and writing very hard with some instructors she respects and indeed loves, among a lot of other Native and non-Native students. And yesterday she graduated with her BFA in creative writing, accepted for the MFA program starting in July.

She's been pretty widely published during her time as a student, both short stories and poetry, but she wants to focus her MFA studies on poetry. "Why?" ask some. "There's no money in it." Well. So?

She laughs, and she will be going to the Naropa University for three weeks in June to study at the "Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics." So there. She's really looking forward to it.

And as an Elder -- she's 70 -- she's been inspiring all kinds of women of age to follow their bliss and do... don't fret at lost opportunities, just do, including returning to someplace like IAIA or work with artists/writers you feel can help your native (or Native) talents to blossom.

Yesterday's graduation was quite an event. Her cousin came from Nevada and other friends from California and Texas sent cards or came through to wish her well. The day before, there was a swell party at friend's house in Santa Fe.

And at the graduation, Ms. Ché was honored as the Valedictorian for the Class of 2018. She wrote and delivered one of the most compelling and touching speeches of its kind I have ever heard.

She wore her mother's dress which she altered with tucks and ribbons to resemble traditional Cherokee garb, but which she had made very definitely her own. She wore a tiny Zuni-made quail pin on her mortar board because part of her name in Cherokee means "quail." She wore a carved shell necklace made by a Cherokee artist in Oklahoma because that's where her mother was from. She wore another shell necklace made by a California Native artist from abalone shell because she was born and raised in California. She wore moccasins hand made at San Ildefonso Pueblo north of Santa Fe because she now lives in New Mexico and studies among Pueblo peoples, and she wore a Pueblo sash in honor of those Pueblo students and faculty she's come to admire.

Her speech was mostly about her mother and the sacrifices she had made and the gifts she had given her children during her life time. (Readers of this blog may recall that Ms Ché's mother passed away in her sleep at our home in 2009). She wove a story of her mother and the life she had passed on to her daughter that seemed to touch everyone attending. Her speech was near the very end of the ceremonies, and people were tired, babies were fussing, and there might have been a few thoughts of "oh no, not another speechifier..." And then as she told her story, a hush fell over the crowd, the babies stopped fussing, and some in the audience were simply mesmerized. Awed I think is not too strong a word. More than a few wiped away tears running down their cheeks (including my own self.)

And as she came to her conclusion they started cheering and applauding enthusiastically, and as she stepped down, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, also a Cherokee, stood at the mic, took a beat, and simply said, "Wow."

Yep. That's right.


Oh, yes, and Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Houses Again

This is the sort of-somewhat Mid Century Modern house in suburban Sacramento that I grew up in. Well, "grew up..." Maybe it's a "coming of age" story. Maybe not.

My mother bought the house in 1962 when I was 13 and I moved out in 1968 when I was 19. I moved back in 1973 (with Ms Ché) when my mother went to work in Stockton, and moved out again in 1975 when Ms Ché and I moved to San Francisco.

The house looked a lot like this when my mother bought it (for something like $17,500).

It looks like this now:

In between time, I painted the exterior avocado green. I planted the Japanese maple trees in the front yard. Most of the shrubbery, though, was there when we moved in. The people who bought the house from my mother in 1985 painted it white and it's been white ever since. They also made some slight landscaping adjustments and replaced the garage and entry doors. Other than that, it's pretty much the same as when I lived there. As far as I know, the address board I made in 9th grade shop class is still over the garage door.

The house had three bedrooms and two baths, built in electric range and oven in the kitchen, hardwood floors in the main rooms, a used brick fireplace in the living room as well as a wall of floor to ceiling windows with a sliding glass door to the backyard, but not much else. It was plain to the point of Spartan. There is just over 1250 square feet of living area.

The house was built in 1957 with a vaguely "Japanese" exterior, but there were dozens of other houses with the same floor plan in the neighborhood, and there were three exterior designs to choose from: contemporary, Japanese, or farmhouse. The interiors were all the same; the exteriors were actually more similar than not.

Every once in a while, one of these houses goes up for sale, generally listing between $270,000 and $300,000, and so far, none of the ones I've seen listed has undergone a gut renovation. In fact, most have had only normal repairs and replacement updates. Floors and appliances have been replaced in the kitchens, maybe a built in dishwasher has been added and the original sink replaced. Sometimes the kitchen cabinets and countertops have been replaced along with the appliances, but just as often, the original cabinetry remains. Bathrooms have had vanities installed and perhaps bigger mirrors and better lighting, Central air conditioning has probably been installed. The original aluminum windows have likely been changed out for vinyl. Roofs have been replaced. Decor has changed a bit from the 1950s. But otherwise the houses with this floor plan that I've seen listed were very similar to the one I grew up in.

This kitchen, for example, is almost exactly the same as the one in our house -- but for the newer appliances and the lighter stain or wash on the cabinets.

Even the countertop appears to be the same as in our house or very similar to it. Ours was this pattern Formica (Skylark):

And about that countertop, though installed in 1957, it featured something that's become ubiquitous on the home remodeling shows: a breakfast bar.

Though it doesn't show very well in this picture, the "breakfast bar" was about a 12" extension of the counter with an 8" overhang.

Though there are no barstools in the picture, we had two rattan and wrought iron ones (very popular back in the day) and from time to time we would sit at the counter having... ta da... breakfast. Note, there are no pendant lights over the counter-bar. There wouldn't have been in those days!

The cabinets were oak veneered plywood and had a sort of butternut finish. In this house, it looks like the finish was stripped and a pale yellow wash or bleach was applied. They're not painted. But they are the same cabinets. The hardware is hammered copper and is original. The tile pattern flooring appears to be vinyl and would have replaced stone pattern linoleum -- yes, real linoleum which was still widely available and very popular back then.

The problem we found with this linoleum was that the finish wore off rather quickly. We replaced the linoleum with vinyl asbestos tiles within a few years of moving in. Also a note for those who have pets and would like to have real linoleum floors today: think about it long and hard. Pet urine will destroy the linoleum surface in a twinkling. It cannot be restored. Word to the wise. Pet urine on hardwood floors can be even more destructive though repairs are possible.

The light fixtures don't have the original "space-the-final-frontier" globes, and just like us, the householder has replaced them with plain white spheres. I noted that some houses listed for sale had the original light globes, which I'm sure delighted Mid-Century fans and probably disgusted HGTV fans. The whole kitchen would throw them into a tizzy of horror and disgust. Sixty year old Formica?! Ewww! Must have granite! Marble! Quartz! What is that sink? Must have farmhouse apron sink! And that built in range and oven must date from the '70s! (Can you imagine what they'd think of the original appliances from the 1950s??) Who could stand to use them? They must be gross if they work at all. And electric???! Horrors! Rip it out and put in a Wolf or one of the other high end "dream" free-standing gas range. Those cabinets are soooooo dated. Rip them out too. Subway tile and open shelves are much better above the counter, and those lower cabinets are soooo ugly! How could any body live that way! Need recessed lighting, crown molding, and PENDANTS!!! over the breakfast bar! Stat!

Then the HGTV fan realizes the kitchen is really tiny, barely 10'x10' and there's no room for an island. How can you cook in it! Rip it out to the studs and incorporate the adjacent space (originally called a "family room" but it's only 10'x10' too) to make something at least potentially...something!

Here's a view of the kitchen and "family room" from another angle:

Yes, those false beams were in our house too. There's a built in dishwasher in the picture which would have been added later -  whenever the rest of the appliances would have been replaced. Our range and oven went out in the '70s.  We had a portable dishwasher. The picture makes the kitchen and "family room" look much larger than they are. No, I recall they were very cramped especially when we had parties.

Rip it all out right away! You have to! Can't live like this! [Per HGTV, This Old House, etc.]

The problem is there's no place to expand these rooms without taking space from others. Beyond the double window in the "family room" is a side yard that's barely 6' wide if that. Out the door on the right is the garage. Some homeowners expanded the "family room" into the garage space by six feet or so, but that's about as far as you could go without making the garage too small to accommodate autos. 

There's a laundry area in the garage on the kitchen side of the door in the picture. It was interesting. The electric water heater was on family room side of the door. On the kitchen side, there was just enough space for a washer and dryer, but nothing else. There was no vent for the dryer if you had one (but there was a 240v plug to plug one in on the assumption you'd get one.) The dryer location was on the door side of the space rather than the exterior wall, so a vent had to be installed by the washer, and a vent hose had to be run behind the washer. Once that was done, the dryer vented into an alcove by the front door. Not exactly best practice, I would think.

On the other side of the house was the living room. The picture of this living room is remarkably similar to our own:

The wall by the fireplace wasn't paneled in our house and the far wall in the dining area featured various wall papers over the years. It also had a high capacity room air conditioner punched through the wall high up. 

Sacramento is notorious for hot summers ("But it's a dry heat!" Feh.). Temperatures above 110° are not unusual. Some people got by in those days with swamp coolers, but when the temps were above about 104° they didn't do much of anything; likewise when humidity was above about 25% they ceased to have much effect on temps.  So for about half the summer, the swamp cooler would simply blow hot, wet air around... 

We got a room air conditioner (from Sears, I believe) for our previous (rental) house -- which we left there -- and got a much larger one for this house. A handyman installed it together with the appropriate 220v electric connection. 

Well, it cooled the living room, "family room" and kitchen reasonably well, but it could not cool the bedrooms. Eventually we got another window air conditioner for the master bedroom, but the other two bedrooms had to make do with fans. I remember being unable to sleep some summer nights because of the heat. Often, however, by early morning a sea breeze would come in from the Bay Area and cool outside temperatures down to tolerable levels. Of course  that could cause problems for the air conditioners. They would ice up if outside temps fell too low and would cease working. It could be a constant struggle to balance outside heat and inside cooling. Over time, most locals shifted to central air conditioning -- which was very expensive to install and operate in those days and I imagine still is -- but we never did. In fact, though I've lived in many different houses in lots of warm climates, I've never lived in one with central air conditioning. Hm. How about that? [It can get warm in the summertime where we are now in New Mexico, sometimes over 100°, but we make do with a couple of portable air conditioners and one window unit.]

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Side Tracking -- Houses Again

While cruising real estate listings in a neighborhood where I lived in Los Angeles County's San Gabriel Valley (1954-59) I came across this:

I remember this listed house quite well. I don't recall the people who lived there, but I do recall the house. It's on the corner of the street where I lived and its floor plan is identical to our house down at the other end of the street. This house has been heavily rehabbed for sale but with the usual update exceptions, it's much as I remember our house back in the day.

It's quite a small house, though it is photographed with a Real Estate Marketing Fisheye Lens® to make it appear enormous. 

I was five or six when we moved in to our house down the street --and to my eye then, the house did seem rather large (I think it was June, 1954, so I would have been five.) The house was brand spanking new, still stinking of paint and varnish, gobs of dried stucco on the bare, dusty ground, no fencing except on the property line along the drainage ditch in back, Yes it was new but very, very stark and plain.

The house in the picture is the first house on the block, and our house was the last house on the block. A blacktop driveway had just been laid at our house. There were no sewers, no gutters, no sidewalks, no curbing. The street was paved, more or less, and there was electricity and running water, so there was that, but otherwise... not much.

I can't say I liked living there for the first year or so because the house we had come from was such a cozy and homelike place, built pre-war, surrounded with lush greenery, I really didn't want to leave it for... this one. This one that echoed with your footsteps. This one in a rough and raw neighborhood on what seemed like the edge of nowhere. Wild hillscapes abutted the development. Coyotes would howl the night away. Orange groves were still in operation behind our place.

But I got used to it. We lived there five years, longer than any other place up to that point in my young life, and I got used to it.

In some ways, the renovation of the listing house is so spanking fresh and raw, despite the interior glitz and brand new nursery plants and rolled out lawn in front, it feels a lot like our place did not long after we moved in. Actually, we set to work very quickly putting in landscaping. There were lawns front and back, shrubbery and roses galore within a few months, even a "water feature" in back where we kept frogs and turtles. 

The exterior or our house was painted white with hunter green trim. The driveway was blacktop not concrete. There were no lawns or trees on the property or anywhere nearby when we moved in. The garage door was solid, it had no windows. There was an open field to the right -- houses wouldn't be built there for another several years (I believe 1957).

In the living room looking toward the front door: the door had no window, so the hall was kind of dark. The walls were a neutral beige. The floors were oak hardwood. To the left of the front door (right as you enter) there was a doorway to the "den" or third bedroom. It's been closed off in this remodel, but the way the light hits the wall, you can almost make out where it was. There was no recessed lighting. We had an old Philco console radio. No TeeVee until sometime after we moved in, and then the TeeVee went in the den.

Our furniture was Early American, maple and homespun, with brass lamps on the tables and a braided rug on the floor. As I look at this picture I can hear the echo in the room and throughout the house due the bare travertine tile floors. But our house with wood, tile and linoleum flooring echoed too, as we had few rugs or curtains and the rugs we had were small.

Two other views of the living room with the dining area beyond. I think the overused term, "flooded with light might be appropriate. When we moved in, it sure seemed  like it. 

The bank of windows in the lower picture faces north, so it shouldn't have been too bright, but it was. We had curtains, but they didn't go up immediately, and they proved too small when they did get hung, so my mother either made or bought unbleached muslin tiered cafe curtains which she hung on brass rods with brass clips. (I know she bought a Brother sewing machine but she couldn't figure out how to work it, so I'm not sure now if she made the curtains. I know that was her idea, but she may not have followed through.)

The curtains cut some of the glare. The high window in the dining room faces west, and you can imagine what the afternoon sun was like. The one salvation was that it was so smoggy most of the time, you hardly ever saw the unfiltered sun.

The picture window in the living room had a wonderful view out over the orange groves to the San Gabriel Mountains about eight or ten miles north. Of course the view depended on how thick the smog was. Smog often obscured the mountains completely. Nowadays, they say it's not nearly so bad, even in the San Gabriel Valley where smog was once the worst in the Los Angeles Basin.

The kitchen and bathroom are the most heavily remodeled in this reno-flip. They're almost unrecognizable to me compared to their original appearance and what they looked like in our house. 

The layout of the kitchen is similar to what I recall, and yet not. There was a sink and tile countertop and cabinets on the right and a door to the side yard in our house, and on the left there was a stove and refrigerator, a closet with a water heater, and to the left of that I believe there was a broom closet. There were, as I recall, no cabinets or countertops on the left side of the room. Just beyond where you see housing for a refrigerator in the picture is a door to the front hall way, and beyond that is a tiny breakfast area across from which, in our house -- and no doubt in this one before the reno -- there was just enough space and the hook ups for an automatic washer, not a wringer washer that needed a tub (though I suppose the kitchen sink would have done in a pinch) and not enough room for or hookups for a dryer.

We had a Kenmore washer like this one:

As I recall, the counter top and back splash was medium green tile with a dark green edging. The cabinets were off white as were the walls. The flooring was a grey mottled linoleum with scattered red and green designs -- not florals, more like deco patterns. The refrigerator was to the left of the stove and the water heater closet was to the left of the refrigerator. 

We had a compact Wedgewood gas stove and cycled through one refrigerator after another. For some reason, my mother thought a new refrigerator was "too expensive," so she bought used ones for $50 or so, mostly pre-war models, and when they conked out, as they inevitably did after 6 months or a year, she'd buy another one. We had a Frigidaire (c. 1939), a couple of Crosleys (c. 1939, 1940), a GE (date unknown), and a Servel gas refrigerator (c. 1941) which necessitated installing a gas line from the stove but which survived and operated until 1957 when my mother broke down and bought a new Coldspot refrigerator from Sears. I think we kept that until 1963 or 64, schlepping it from house to house. After we got a new frost-free fridge, the old Coldspot lived in the garage as spare. As far as I know, it kept functioning well into the '70s and was probably still there when my mother moved out of that house in the mid-'80s.

I remember all this stuff which is kinda weird but there you go.

I'm curious about what they did with the water heater and the laundry area in the flip-house because they aren't where they were, and moving them is not exactly a "cosmetic" matter. I suspect that the linen closet in the bedroom hallway was pressed into service for laundry equipment (it's behind the shuttered doors in the picture below):

This would explain some of the changes to the bathroom, too.

This picture makes it almost unrecognizable to me. 

The bathroom I remember had a stall shower, a separate bathtub, and a cabinet with a single bowl sink. The door at the end of the room in the picture goes I don't know where -- maybe that's where the water heater is? If so, it would need venting. At any rate, that's where the tub used to be and the shower was where the tub is. The cabinet and counter on the left replaces the one that had been there. As I recall, it had a pink tiled countertop edged with blood red tiles and the tile around the tub and shower were also pink as was the tile floor. Pretty!!(/s). It was actually pretty fancy for the time. While the rest of the house may have been plain and spartan the bathroom was luxe. Comparatively. 

The bedrooms are plain, and except for closet doors, are pretty much the way they were:

The front bedroom which we used as a den/teevee room. There was a door to the front hallway that's been closed off on the right, and a closet which isn't shown in the picture. On the left, next to the desk is the door to the bedroom hall.

Here are pictures of the other two bedrooms. The first two pictures are of the back bedroom. The last is of the other front bedroom, across the hall from the bedroom above.

Except for the fact that the floors in our house were oak, they look and feel a lot like the bedrooms in our house, what with very few furnishings, beige walls, and bright light through the windows. 

My bedroom would have been like the one pictured directly above. It wasn't very big, maybe 11x11 or so-- though it looks much larger in the picture -- and as I recall, my room was furnished with only a single bed. There was nothing else, not a chair, desk, dresser, nightstand or bedside lamp. The bed was against the wall rather than against the windows, and my memory is that for a long time there were no curtains on the windows, though there were roller shades. The windows faced the open fields and hills to the east, so the early morning sun would sometimes wake me up. The mitigation was that the smog was often thick enough to cut the glare, and the hills to the east were close enough and high enough to block the actual dawn. The sun didn't come in the windows till half an hour or so after dawn.

When construction started on the houses east of us, I was a little sad and miffed. The way our house was situated, it felt like we were in the country -- at least from the bedroom side. And for a year or so after we moved in, the view from the living room windows to the north was of orange groves and the mountains not far in the distance. This rural feel was actually new to me -- I'd always lived with close neighbors in fairly tightly packed communities until then. But once I got used to living in a semi-rural area (though it didn't stay that way) I liked it.

The orange groves were ripped out and the trees were burned in 1955 or 56 and an elementary school was built on part of the bare land. I started third grade there when it opened. What we called "cracker box" houses were built on the remaining land. Those houses are now very desirable Mid Century Modern examples, some of them very well preserved, others not so much.

Though built mid-century, our house was not actually Mid-Century style, and I think that's one reason why the overhauled example that's listed for sale now has had the kind of thorough-going "contemporary" renovation it has. There was no charm, no style to our house at all. None to the essentially identical house listed either. In fact, none of the houses in this section of the development had anything like "style." They were quick-built cookie cutter houses intended to fill a void and a need for post War housing as fast and efficiently as possible. 

It took me a long time, but eventually I realized that the floor plan was actually that of a standard bungalow that could be traced back to the turn of the century. The standard bungalow floor plan had been built in California and all over the country by the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, between about 1910 and 1930, and the basic floor plan continued to be used right up to the outbreak of WWII when house construction largely stopped for the duration. 

When the post war construction boom got under way, the same basic floor plan was still employed, but our house and ones like it had a twist. The floor plan had been "reversed" -- that is the front of the house had been turned to the rear of the lot, and what faced the street was actually the back of the house -- if it had been built as a standard bungalow. The front door would have been the back door, the front porch would have been the rear screen porch where there would likely have been laundry tubs and the ice box or refrigerator, and the door in the center of the living room wall that goes out to the back yard would have been the front door, and there probably would have been a front porch too, though many of the houses built in the '30s didn't have front porches, just an entry stoop.

My mother grew up in a California bungalow, so I can understand why this house might have appealed to her instinctively, though she might not have been conscious of the evocation. To me, it was just another move to yet another house. We'd already lived in three different houses in Santa Maria, and this house would be the third house we lived in in the San Gabriel Valley. This by the time I was five. It was actually the seventh house I'd lived in as I was born in Iowa and had lived in my father's house for the brief time I was there.

Moving that often is disruptive to be sure, but to me it was normal, and until I got much older, moving was exciting. Then I came to dread moving. 

We lived in our last house in Sacramento for more than 20 years, and getting ready to move to New Mexico in 2012 was a months-long process. It was a... pain. The move itself was liberating, but not the preps. 

Moving as often as I did as a child, though, seemed easy. I'm sure it wasn't, but back then, it was just part of life.

So many things seemed "just part of life" in  those days, and one day before I pass on I might tell some of those stories. In the meantime, I just wanted to note the house where I lived from 1954 to '59 and the current listing for the house just like it down the street.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Reflections on Earth Day

This year I jiggered together a sort of semi greenhouse out of Wal-Mart shelving, animal fencing and a heavy plastic drop cloth. I set out trays of Cherokee Purple tomato seeds saved from last year's crop (lost one tray because it got too hot one day, and they cooked!), long pepper seeds -- we could pretend they're Hatch chiles, but they're not, they're seeds from garden variety Anaheim chiles grown in Texas,-- a tray of wildflower seeds, and pots of Indian corn and bolita beans, cantaloupe, acorn and butternut squash, catnip, lavender, and other flower varieties. Most of the seeds have germinated, and the tomatoes and peppers are almost ready to transplant to larger peat pots. I think I'll have plenty to give away this year just as was the case last year. Some of the people who took the plants last year said they had the Devil's own time trying to get any fruit off the vine, but tomatoes are touchy. It's simply a fact that it's very dry in New Mexico, and tomatoes like lots of water. I know one year I grew tomatoes here and for a while, the plants seemed to flourish and then they declined, never had more than one or two tomatoes from each plant, and then they seemed to shrivel and die. I'd grown them in large pots with good potting mix, and so their decline seemed strange -- until I pulled out the plants and discovered that only the top couple of inches of the soil had any water. Most of the soil in the pot was bone dry; I hadn't watered them nearly enough, though to my eye, and to my California conditioned watering hand, they'd had more than enough water. Lesson -- sort of -- learned.

This season, we had the driest winter in many years, and it has affected everything. I've started watering the trees and lilacs and other long term residents of our property here, but some,  I think, aren't going to make it. They've had many years  of drought stress before this only occasionally relieved with "good years" of reasonably abundant rain and snow. And a "good year" is dry by any common measurement.

The Indians abandoned this area in the 1670s during a severe drought and famine exacerbated by Spanish colonial Franciscan padres who simply saw the suffering of the Indians as God's wrath for  idolatry and whatnot. By the time the nearby pueblos were vacated, there were only a few hundred Indians left. They mostly joined pueblos on the west side of the mountains along the Rio Grande -- which apparently still had some water in it. This area was left more or less uninhabited for many years. The raiding tribes would set up temporary camps amid the ruins, and from time to time Spanish settlers would run their cattle and sheep over the range. But otherwise, it wasn't until the early/mid-1800s that small settlements were set up on the lower slopes of the mountains, and re-settlement of the plains (without the Indians) only got going in the early 1900s.

It's not easy land to farm, and drought is a persistent risk. I'm sure the early dry-land bean farmers were shocked the first year the rains didn't come. And the next and the next and the next. Eventually, they realized they couldn't rely on summer rainfall and winter snow to grow their crops, and somebody decided to drill down into the aquifer that underlies the whole basin. Sure enough they hit water, and ever since, such crops as are grown here have been under irrigation. But it's an uneasy balance.

There are a few farms still operating, but mostly such agriculture as there is around here is cattle raising, and when things get too dry -- as they seem to be right now -- the cattle... disappear. Where they go is one of those.... mysteries. Most I imagine go to slaughter right away. A few go to feed lots or greener pastures in Texas and Colorado.

The farms grow beans and corn and alfalfa and a few other crops for the animals, not so much for people. I'm one of several trying to get some varied vegetables to grow here. It's possible with enough water, soil amendments and care, but it's not easy.

For one thing, the soil lacks nutrients. It's mostly heavy clay with some sand, and it's highly alkaline. Organic matter is nearly completely absent, and all our attempts to establish a compost pile have failed. There are no earthworms, and practically no soil bacteria. Compost doesn't form because the material you're trying to compost doesn't decompose. It petrifies.

They say there's a way to make compost in buckets if you're patient and you keep it wet and introduce bacteria and earthworms, but I haven't figured it out yet. The two open piles we started are kind of hilarious what with their petrified garden debris and food scraps. One has grown quite large, but nothing has happened. Everything is as it was deposited, just dessicated.

In pots -- and bags and other containers -- things can grow very well. The only things we've been able to grow in the soil have been tulip and daffodil bulbs, but even they are stressed by the super-dry winter, and this year they are pretty peaked and wan.

Our farmer friend down the road supplements his soil with fish emulsion and manure. It gives him good crops, mostly beans and corn, but he's had only middling luck with vegetables. They will grow, but it's like they don't want to. He's preparing to grow some vegetables in greenhouses, but his first attempt failed when some kind of disease in the greenhouse killed off most of his plants. I don't think he's going to try again this year, but his kids have set up two vegetable plots outdoors. They set out lots of plants one weekend. Couple of days later, there was a hard freeze overnight. They'll have to replant when the weather warms up enough.

My beans and corn germinated in the greenhouse a week ago, and that same hard freeze killed most of the beans. Even though the greenhouse has heat (a number of 25w pads) I forgot to turn them on that night, and by the time I remembered, it was too late. The corn is struggling, but looks to be surviving. I'll plant more shortly.

So far, the squash and melons have not germinated though they were planted weeks ago. I'll give them another few days, then try again. Oddly, some hollyhock seeds that are at least five years old are starting to germinate. We'll see. They can be really tough to grow. You never know.

Though there have been some failures and disappointments so far this year, all in all I'm pretty pleased with the way my modest attempts at growing things are going. Freezing overnights have not quite ended, though, so I might have some more losses. It's not all that cold right now (early morning -- about 5am, about 37°) but the prediction is for it to freeze again by 6am. I've got the heat on in the greenhouse just in case.

I've just got to keep learning and trying.

Meanwhile, we don't do nearly enough R, R, & R, though I think we do much more than most others. Our garbage can, for example, is hardly ever full, unlike that of our neighbors -- some of whom have two cans overflowing, week after week. We recycle, reuse, and repurpose as much as we can, and so we send much less to the landfill than we might.

We learned about "living lightly on the Earth" many years ago and those lessons have stayed with us.

Even our house is a recycled pioneer adobe. From time to time, I think about doing another renovation/remodeling, but since we're getting up there in years, I'm not so sure it's going to happen before we shuffle off this mortal coil. We'll have to make do in the meantime..

Reflections on Earth Day? Over the decades, the lessons are largely ingrained and unconscious now. Sometimes the advocates get too enthusiastic and expect too much from individuals and not enough, it seems to me, from civic bodies and institutions. There's a constant tendency to approach the issues of Earth Day from a position of superiority over those who haven't got the message yet. Demanding, directing, disapproving, hectoring, yadda, yadda. It seems to me, too, that the whole thing is so very, very... white. Ain't much of a Rainbow Coalition. Those who have adopted some of the principles, however, or who have always lived by them, aren't nearly so white or so judgmental at all. We just do our thing!

Keep on keeping on...

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Moar War, War Fever, Scandal! Scandal! Scandal!

What a freaking mess. What have we done to deserve this? [I'm sure the many targeted peoples under the bombs raining down on them from the Empire Above wonder the same damn thing...]

Views from Damascus overnight resemble Baghdad on Shock n Awe night so many years ago. Remember? I don't know anymore whether people do. There's been so much misery, mayhem and bloodshed Over There, it's hard to keep track, isn't it?

The proximate cause of the latest "coalition" air strikes (primarily from off shore missile launches) of yet another Middle Eastern city is the supposed use of prohibited chemical weapons against a rebel stronghold in the suburbs of Damascus.

Whether it actually happened and who did it if it did is subject of some dispute. There are statements that it didn't happen at all. There are statements that it was staged. There are statements that it was done by outside forces. There are statements that it was done by the rebels themselves... Yadda, yadda.

None of us is in a position to know. Whether our military and civilian rulers know much more than we do is a mystery. All we can say with any certainty is that the protagonists of these wars and rebellions tend to be dissemblers.

The launching of retaliatory missiles is essentially de rigeur these days. It's what's done to show the non-compliant who's the boss. It hasn't worked very well with the Assad regime, and it doesn't seem to quell rebellions either. It's just a Thing. Blowing shit up is the way things are done by the Empire and by the Rebel Alliance. Sometimes I think they cause misery for the fun of it.

So they just blow things up. People are in the way, oh well!

Jeepus, I hate this. I was going round and round about the Stephon Clark Thing in Sacramento. My point was that I just want the killing to stop, and he didn't quite get it. Huh? Whut?

The killing. To. Stop.

We seem to be locked into this situation where killing is the number one option when things go sideways or there's a perception of a threat of some sort. When police kill, they're just taking their cue from our Dauntless Leaders. Killing is their Go To solution to practically everything. They're no too bright are they?

Meanwhile the White House (and many other prominent elements of society) are enveloped in one scandal after another. I don't think we've ever had a mobbed up gangster sitting on the throne, but we do now, and our institutions have no idea how to deal with it/him. He's been hamstrung in various ways, but that's not sufficient. He uses what powers he has remaining for making much mischief and propping up his frail ego. This is hardly presidential, but I don't think it much matters any more.

The presidency itself has long since been diminished by various unfortunate and unpleasant occupants and their scandals, deceptions, and military adventures. It's close to time for something else again.

The Ruling Class seems happy to have the Rabble wallowing in it. Distraction? Sure. Entertainment? Yep. A masque?

The downward spiral seems inescapable.

And yet, there must be hope somewhere.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

"The Crisis Is Upon Us"

We've been hearing this for over a year now, ever since Trump ascended the throne and before.

"Existential Crisis!!!! Run and Hide!!!! Resist!!!!! The Republic is Doomed!!!!! Russia! Russia!!! Russia!!!!" Yadda, yadda.

And  I've been thinking all this time that if the situation really is as described by the Doomsayers then surely there would be an intervention. Surely there would be.

Our government is quite adept at dealing with existential crises by any means necessary. And over the course of the current regime, we've seen plenty of instances in which this or that crisis or looming catastrophe brought on by Himself has been... handled... one way or another to mitigate the damage and effects that following the dictates from On High would have caused.

That's not to say things have been stabilized by any means. This has been a roller-coaster ride of unprecedented whipsawing and violent slides. It's wild, but I get the impression that the Overclass is so far fine with it.

If they felt any of the previous Existential Crises brought on by the regime were significant enough to do something about, they would have done it by now. That they haven't done it by now is the clearest sign I can think of that they're satisfied that Trump has been sufficiently limited in his ability to precipitate real Existential Crisis and that what he and his wrecking crew are allowed to do is essentially just what the Overclass wants done and would have done through any pretender to the throne.

Mrs Clinton would have gone about it somewhat differently, but the outcome would have been essentially the same. Maybe not so much Crisis and Chaos, but following the same path toward the same denouement.

But this time, what I see of the punditry (remember, no cable teevee in the Ché household --ever) seems to be saying "It's different." As if this were the Real Thing, we're reaching the end of the roller coaster ride, and it will be over sooner rather than later.

Skepticism is warranted. Too many people are profiting too much from keeping the ride going to shut it down now. Trump has shown that he can be rather easily hamstrung from doing what would jeopardize class and gang interests while he can be guided toward actions which enhance their interests.

The tax cut for the wealthy* was a step, not the end point, of an overall scheme to recreate "government" as the ham-fisted, jack-booted enforcer of Overclass interest. Of course, it's always had that aspect, but over the last generation or so (since Reagan), the purpose of government has been shifted almost entirely away from "public interest" toward private, pecuniary interest and enforcement of increasingly oppressive rules and laws over the Lesser People.

As has often been pointed out, the so-called tax cut actually increases tax liability for a significant percentage of the middle and lower classes. That's by design -- and it happened under Reagan, too. The Overclass simply doesn't believe it should be paying for government. Like medieval lords, they believe the Rabble should be paying them to lord it over all creation, and that all taxes should be extracted by any means necessary from the Rabble. That's the direction we've been headed for a very long time, and the tax cut is just another step.

When we examine what ICE and other agencies are actually doing we see the outline of what Our Rulers have in mind for all of us: No protection from social/political predators and despoilers at all. Unless you have the power (and money) to hire your own fixers and Guidos, tough luck, suckers.

Gangster rule.

Some people -- and it seems most People Who Matter -- are fine with it. It's what they've wanted all along. So now they're closer than ever to it. Calling it "The Crisis" may be accurate enough, but they're not planning to do anything about it. And even if there is a Dem Wave this fall, so what?

Apart from style, what would really change?

And even style may not be that different.

So despite all, I'm not seeing buy in from the Overclass that Trump has to go. He's proved his worth to them as entertainment for the masses over and over again. He's also a money-maker for them. Pence wouldn't be that. Not on a bet, and likely, if he rose to the presidency, he would have to be removed for cause. Not so much for Trump.

So let's say Trump does something really stupid and it has negative effects on the Overclass. The Crisis manifests in ways they don't like. What then? Remember, "Never let a crisis go to waste. Every crisis is an opportunity." In other words, "So what, let's make money."

And so it is likely to go.

The Crisis has been upon us for a very long time, hasn't it?

No matter what else happens, we'll still be in Crisis. Our Rulers like it like that.