Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Saturday, June 15, 2013
Well, I've been busy doctoring the last week or so. For the last month, I've spent too much time worrying about my demise; I've been forgetting to live. I've worried about calcium in my coronary arteries- indicative of coronary artery disease; prostate cancer, liver cancer. All the while, my back is in constant spasm from my workplace injury. My ribs do seem to be healing, but they are still sore. The good news is that I've been put on disability at work until, at the least, the fifth of July.
Five or six months ago, my childhood friend, Scot, and I planned a camping tour of California. Scot is flying here from Iowa. I'll be writing more about Scot in subsequent posts. The plan is to rent a van and take Joni and the girls to San Diego (where Joni will visit with her Mom). Scot and I will then take the van and disappear into the desert, mountains, coast, for an extended bit of van camping. Cue the Jackson Browne music...running on empty...as we attempt to camp in Bristlecone forest at 12,000 foot elevation; we will camp at Sequoia National Park and then meander along the coast until we get to the very tippy top of California in Redwoods National Park. We are on a "Tree Tour". We want to visit the groves that contain the oldest, largest and tallest single living organisms on the planet. They are all trees that reside in California.
It might be rather foolish to attempt this trip when my back is in spasm and I'm dependent upon a Flexeril/Norco cocktail to get through the day; it makes me feel a little like a welfare cheat because I'm collecting Disability right now. But how different is doing this than sitting in my Lazyboy at home and taking therapeutic walks with the dogs? It is the pain medication that makes me not able to work. Scot will have to do much of the driving. Since we will be traveling in a van, I can just med up and lie down in the back of the van and hallucinate my way all across California. I will also be bringing a special "anti-gravity "chair to relax in and a blow up mattress to sleep on.
And, as always, I will keep a journal of this trip.
Monday, June 10, 2013
We are getting our first ripe Apricots off our lone tree. Every year is different as to how many Apricots we get. In the six years we've been here, the tree has bloomed as early as the first week of February and as late as the third week of March. When the tree blooms too early, late frosts tend to cut our yield and we get very few Apricots. This year is a good year: I've been eating mostly Apricots for the past couple of days. It fits in with the changes I need to make to my diet. An Apricot purge.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
After driving the 165 miles home from the Napa Valley, the thermometer read 102 degrees Fahrenheit in our house. It was 109 degrees outside. As I type this, after midnight, the temperature in the house is still a balmy 88 degrees. We don't have air conditioning. My sweat is sticking to the sheets.
Joni and I took our three dogs for a walk in the evening when it had cooled down under the century mark. Our dog that we call Little One, ran off into the brush. Later I heard a "Yelp". We called for Little One to come to us. No answer. She didn't come. This is quite unusual for her. We waited for an eternity for her to return. Ten minutes go by; Joni started to cry.
I wondered if the Yelp! I heard was Little One making her last sounds as a mountain lion pounced on her.
Just when we had given up hope that our Little One would return, she came happily bouncing along through the woods. She was quite pleased with herself. Joni, got down on her knees and welcomed our wayward dog with open arms. That is, until she realized she was hugging a dog that had just been sprayed by a skunk!
Despite the stink, we decided we were still happy to see that Little One was still alive. This is the third time she has been sprayed by a skunk. She seems to enjoy it. Her Human owners don't care for it much. We walked her home and washed her with tomato juice, followed by a baking soda bath, followed with one last rinse of some lavender wash. It was like a Dog Spa day.
Little One still has a faint stink to her. But it isn't bad. I rather enjoy the smell of skunk. From a distance. The odor reminds me of hot, sticky August nights in southeastern Minnesota, when I couldn't sleep because it was too hot (we didn't have air conditioning in our bedrooms). I'd sit by the window and the smell of skunk would waft through the room. Memories. Good ones.
Saturday, June 8, 2013
One of the nicer things about working in the Napa Valley is that, sooner or later, most of your friends will make the pilgrimage to the fermented grapes of California. When this happens, we generally celebrate with good cheer and gusto. My architect friend from Minnesota, "P"., showed up with his new bride a couple of days ago. Joni and I joined them to share a couple of drinks and a fancy gourmet dinner.
I haven't seen "P". since we graduated from High School. He has done very well for himself. He became an architect and raised a family in the burbs. After 25 years of marriage, he found himself having to start over. He found himself another gal (who has three kids in their teens) and set up a household in a fine Minnesota town that boasts two decent private colleges.
"P" was quite liberal, maybe even radical, growing up. The years have mellowed him, giving him a maturity that most liberals acquire through raising a family and living in the burbs. Like many independents, he is liberal on social issues and a bit more conservative on the issues of government and spending. Raising a couple of kids will do that to you.
After I got over the shock of talking to my High School friend, who looks more like his Father than my friend from years ago, we had a pleasant and long ranging conversation. "P" has learned to listen and politely asks questions with tact and a lack of rancor that we had as children. He has that combination of Minnesota Nice along with a temperament that is measured and rational. I'm sure this tact has developed through years and years of listening to what a customer wants in regards to designing a building.
There is a pride one has when you meet a friend you grew up with, were close to, who has done well for himself. My hometown public school system should be congratulated that they have done such a fine job educating young men and women who develop into successful and inquisitive adults. As I ponder the people I was close to from the ages of ten to twenty two, all of them seem to have successfully weathered the perils of each of life's stages. They have come out on the other side, now grappling with the joys of being a Fifty something, most with their heads and hearts in tact. Most remain weathered liberals; wiser and shaped by the winds of wisdom and experience.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
We have a society, a culture, an economic system that is obsessed with speed and efficiency. These two items in business are deemed the prime characteristics of free market capitalism. Most Economists would say these values are the hallmarks of a good, successful society. Adam Smith detailed such principles in the laws of comparative advantage. On a personal level, we all are obsessed with speed: fastest computers, lap tops, cell phones, G4, fastest commutes, directions, meals, fastest emergency rooms, 10k running times, fastest thru hikes on the PCT. Time is considered "valuable". We want to know the quickest way to get places and we measure distance, not by miles, but by time.
"How far are you from home, Allan?"
"Oh, about three and a half hours."
There was a reason why I titled the piece I wrote yesterday about the 13 year old boy who was struck and killed by the Mercedes in the crosswalk "The Tyranny of Living Fast"; speed and efficiency, as primary cultural and economic values, are tyranny. The people of Paradise should not accept having an uncontrolled four lane highway enter their town amongst the residential neighborhoods where children are walking, playing and are generally busy being kids just because it is the fastest way to get to work or the mall.
Cars are less important than people. Three pedestrian deaths in less than a year is too big of a sacrifice to the speed and efficiency automobile god.
So should Forty Thousand people who must use that road have to wait longer to travel the only road down the ridge to Chico? Why, yes. Of course they should! Safety and living trumps the needs of a commuting public. Or at least it should.
And here's another idea that won't win any popularity contests because it doesn't even involve humans: Speed limits should be imposed on known animal corridors both during the day and night. A Forty mile an hour speed limit on our local Highway 70 would decrease the number of deer that die on that meat mauler. In California, twice as many deer are killed by automobiles than by hunters. We should be able to drastically reduce those numbers. Wildlife is more important than speed and efficiency.
Henry David Thoreau put his finger on the problem back in 1852:
"If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen."
Should we value sloth? Retire it from the list of the seven deadly sins? Teach courses in business school on inefficiency and slowness? If it is rooted in values that include biodiversity and egalitarianism, I'd say: Yes! That's an idea worth pursing.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Last Friday, at this crosswalk, a 13 year old boy with no cell phone or identification on him, attempted to cross the street in Paradise, California. The name of the street is Skyway and 40,000 people in the towns of Paradise, Magalia, Sterling City and Inskip are dependent upon this one route to go to, and from, the larger city of Chico. The boy entered the crosswalk; one car stopped. He continued walking when a late model Mercedes Benz, driven by an important man in the town of Paradise with an excellent job running the Water District, neglected to yield to the kid. The boy was hit by the Mercedes so violently that his shoes were thrown off of him.
The young man was knocked unconscious by the collision. He had multiple broken bones and also endured severe trauma to the head. Because the boy had no Identification on him, it took 30 hours to discover who the boy belonged to. The boy's father thought his child was spending the night at a friend's house. When it came time for the boy to come home the next day, the father was informed his son never made it to the friend's house. It is the mistake a trusting father would make of a good son. The father didn't pay attention to the news or social media over the thirty hours the boy was in the ICU alone, so he didn't know that social media, television stations, newspapers, radio and the police were frantically looking for the family of this poor child.
The boy died two days after the accident when he was declared brain dead. He never regained consciousness. His organs were harvested and they will be used to save a few other lucky soul's lives. And so disaster for one child becomes opportunity for others.
As is so common these days, a make shift memorial/altar was set up at the scene of the accident. I stopped and paid my respects. The cars flew by as I took photos--many vehicles exceeding the posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour.
Nobody does 35 mph on this stretch. Given the four lane nature of the road and the lack of traffic lights, speeds of 50 to 60 miles per hour are common.
On a poster at the memorial, the boy's father wrote a very personal and heart breaking note:
To my son:
You were the best achievement in my life. You had become such a good young man. I was so proud of you. You were the biggest help and I could not have had a more open and honest and most of all, loving and charitable son. I was so proud of you when you took your lawn mowing earnings and donated them to charity. You always wanted to help anyone and everyone. You would have made a great man.
Love always and forever,
Such a waste.
It is impossible to read this loving note from the father and not be motivated by this wonderful kid to be a kinder, gentler, more charitable person.
As for the man who was driving the Mercedes? The important man from the Paradise Irrigation District who was in such a hurry? I'm told he is a decent man who will be haunted for the rest of his life by the Tyranny of Living Fast.