Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bees. our current "canaries in the coal mine"

There are many versions of the old adage about canaries as the harbingers of disaster,  but the most powerful one currently has been sounded by Friends of the Earth,  warning about the loss of our pollinators as the "Second"  Silent Spring.   This "imminent and frightening threat to our food" and our very lives is underscored about a revelation concerning Neonics/Neonicotinoids,  chemicals which come in many, many brands, and which are virtually unregulated. 

The losses of the world's bees is documented by the countless stories about massive bee die-offs,  something referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder earlier on.  To quote the Friends of the Earth brochure:  "Diseases, pests and climate change have all been implicated in the global bee die-off, but now a growing body of science points to the world's most popular pesticides as a key contributing factor."

I have noticed in the last few years the rarity of bees as pollinators on our plants.  If it wasn't for bumble bees I'm not sure what would have happened out there.  Luckily some relatively new neighbors have taken up bee keeping in the last two years and thus we see bees among our plants again.  There is no way we can fight this menace by ourselves,  we must band together with others,  and insist that the organizations (for example farm organizations) get into the fight for our pollinators.

So I suggest that you dial up Bee from Friends of the Earth.  Use their launching pad to  support a well thought out campaign to deal with this unbelievable crisis,  and encourage your friends and organizations* to do like wise.  The Friends of the Earth  campaign includes the passage of the Save America's Pollinators Act,  something which parallels the actions abroad,  for example the U.K. and the European Union. Employ their 5 ways you can help save the bees.

*  Especially farm organizations, including the USDA and FSA,  landscape and gardening organizations

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Gas Station

My first gas station was across the street in L.A., corner of Silverlake Blvd. and Silverlake Drive,   Hoeppel's Flying Horse Mobil.  It was right next to my father's automotive repair garage, Norman's.   Thus these were places to hangout and work,  get to know people.  My dog, sort of, Wimpy,  lived a lot of the time in the gas station.  Because he got so greasy in the station and garages he wasn't allowed in our house, except for the back porch in rain storms and other bad weather.   This was around l936 - l937,  depth of the depression.

Only rich people and those in the business had cars.  No credit cars,  no credit card gas.  Mr. Hoeppel had little jobs in the office and garage,  I did some of those:  helping sweep out cars,  clean the insides and wash the lower outsides, being a gofer to deliver things,  dump the trash into the burn barrels in the vacant lot,  recycle things, clean up,  including out in the little landscape on the corner, etc.  At the gas pumps I could ask to polish the hubcaps,  sometimes it was "do they need polishing,"  checking the battery water,  etc.  Mr. Hoeppel was very patient,  encouraged me in every way,  except when I got in the way.  Wimpy was always supportive too,  wagging his tail, looking for handouts of food,  of course, especially hamburgers or pieces of them.

Rich people lived atop the hills,  and down the sides,  the rest of us lived on the flats.  The very poor didn't have screens on the window and doors,  the children came to school with bites all over them.  We were lucky to have  a landlord who not only maintained our flat in good order but hired me too to help him with the gardens and landscapes at ours and other rental properties.  Sometimes he would pay me a nickel or pennies,  sometimes he would take me to the Silvermart and get me a soft drink or candy bar.  I started a savings account in the Bank of California,  and either my Mother or Father would take me to make deposits.  I was very proud of my little savings book and showed it to relatives at times.

Mr. Hoeppel sold windshield wiper blades and other items,  he also had gum and peanut machines.  Remember them,  a penny or a nickel would get you a small handful?  Sometimes he let me help him when he reloaded these machines.  My father too had things for sale in his garage,  and I sometimes helped him clean shelves and restock items.  Thus I became interested in the businesses and wondered just how all those small purchases added up to anything. 

Fast forward to now where  gas stations seldom have grease racks, often do no mechanical work.  I am amazed to go into inner city ones,  Pump 'N Munch type places,  often run by Middle Eastern people;   who sell necessities, including powerful energy drinks,  liquid vials of ginseng,  condoms,  magazines and papers, groceries,  etc.,  etc,  and don't forget the many versions of gambling tickets (!).   Gas, oil and other automotive liquids are crucial, of course,  and some of these places even have air hoses to pump up your tires (3 quarters,  maybe even 4)  perhaps even a water hose to add water. 
Now-a-days these places have wire mesh cages around the cash registers and managers.  Mr. Hoeppel and Wimpy would indeed be astonished by the transformations.

It would be interesting to see the books of these latter day gas dispensaries,  how much is made on what,  the overhead vs. the profits,  the stocking routines,  cleanups,  etc.  It was so simple and primitive back in Silverlake,  and there four corners out of five were gas stations (!) in the thirties;  two were soon to fail.  Luckily the fifth corner was a vacant lot and that was next to the property our landlord owned.   Today it is all different,  of course,  and I intend to look it the intersection on the Google Map system and see what it looks like.  Maybe one gas station left,   who knows?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Your humble "Late Stage Adult" is back

Apologies for the prolonged absence,  I've been making notes for the BLOG and my intention is to be better about blogging those.  Meanwhile,  the terms of "elder" and other such words are in transition,  probably with the Boomers;  thus "late state adult" showed up in the New York Times awhile back. Who knows where it will go next?  I've recently received the advanced notice for the "2014 Senior Americans Day,"   "Fun, fit, focused and fulfilled!",  "26 Years of Being Positively Ageless."  Aye,  Senior American.  My intuition was to suggest that the Grey Panthers be invited to do a presentation.
Vamos a ver.

The subject this time is dread,  dreading change. William McFee in his excellent book on the merchant marine ("To Catch a Ship") captures this with the feeling which can happen when some one signs on a ship and then goes to it and up the gang plank.   The dread can be palitable because you seldom if ever know what the crew is like,  the captain and officers, the physical conditions,  and what the journey/journies will bring. 

When I went the last time from San Francisco to Portland to join the crew of a ship in dry dock there I drank my way north on a Greyhound bus.  And when I got to the shipyard in a driving rain,  soaked
and in rough shape,  the gang plank looked to be pretty much straight up.  Strangely it was wide enough for two people and a half way up a shipmate leaving for town said three words:  "She's a feeder"  (which was a close as I was going to get to a greeting,  the food was going to be tolerable).   Which was enough.   The bunk felt much better that night for those few words.  Gracias, senor.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

One might guess that this could be attributed to Oscar Wilde,  it originates with a Roman philosopher named Apuleius (124 AD - l70 AD);    the second part of the quote is:   "While Rarity Wins Admiration."   In an age where privacy is given up to surveillance,  where intimacy is sacrificed to bad taste,  public confession and support,  the possibilities of contempt seem endless.  For those willing not to tempt the paparazzi into a chase, there may be a diminishing possibility of the rarity which wins admiration. 

I've said earlier in this BLOG that the hazards of individuality in this time seem endless,  and those hazarded by familiarity seem to be the most tragic.   The cute approach to information  (a very telling example of familiarity) and self serving  promotion is one of the most blatant  examples of the the hazards.   Even organizations such at National Public Radio are indulging in this, perhaps because  of the view that this is necessary for fund raising.  And that may indeed be true.  Sad if so,  familiarity
breeds contempt. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Close Calls

Having lived as long as I have, I have had many so-called "close calls."  Recalling a California memory for my son Aaron last week,  I then elaborated it in memory,  both as it seems in reality;  and then as an extension of memory.   During my last residence in Venice (Calif.) I body surfed at night sometimes below the fishing piers with a group of crazies.   Sometimes we were on acid,  sometimes we had smoked "dope,"  I guess at times just alcohol was involved,  and often none-of-the-above.

As I shared with him,  I do not have a single memory of anyone having really hit one of those piers,  but it had to have happened over the years,  without doubt.  I had a close call where I just kind grazed one,  tore up the skin on an arm and it got me out of the water for an examination.  The fictional account included  splinters, blood and a creosote smell, but did not,  when I try to sort it out, really happen (?).

The is a prelude to an advertisement for a time when I will not longer be able to write this BLOG.  It will be when my "wake"  is to be held along Highway 35 in Wisconsin,  from  Bay City to Fountain City,  all the small towns,  camping places,  parks,  bars and restaurants,  shops, and the like.  This will be to celebrate   i m p e r m a n c e (especially those who come,  but mine as well).  My hope is the people will wear orange clothing,  hats and such so they can identify each other as part of the celebration.  My further hope is that no one disqualify themselves because of time or money limitations.   You can stay as long or short as you wish,  and in any manner you can afford (eg.  if you cannot afford lodging,  fine,  sleep during the day on beach, in a car or truck ... whatever works). 

When will you know when this is going to happen?   My wife, sons and associates will hit the grape vine,  and this BLOG  will provide lists of resources for your use.  For example,  the A-Z Farm, above Stockholm on the bluff has a pizza dinner on their grounds every Tuesday evening.  My hope is that there might be a gathering there at least once.  Overlooking Alma is a park not to be missed,  Buena Vista.   I would be hugely pleased if people could come there as part of their stay on the coast.
A three CD album set of music has been prepared by a good friend from Minneapolis,  and that will be available for audio celebration  Enough,  for now.  Thanks in advance for coming.   Zoom,   Don

Monday, April 29, 2013

An Open Letter to the President of These United States

4/29/13   Dear President Obama:

With all due respect,  I would like to share some humble opinions from the hinterlands.   My feeling is that you are too much in touch with the power brokers,  the revolving door swingers and the like,  with not enough "input" from the trenches and back roads.   This is from a BLOG written in farmland,  it will also be published in the "Hay River Review"   in Prairie Farm, Wisconsin.  

Although I have never held public office I have an enormous amount of respect for what you and the Vice President do,  including and especially the part that has to do with vital memory,  applying thought to problem solving and the like;  extrapolation,  crucial in times like ours.  With that in mind I am going to start with your latest trips to Boston and Texas.   Part chaplain,  part cheerleader with the weight of your office behind you,   you become, willy nilly, a publicist for terrorists and a mourner for victims and a mourner and  celebrator of  first responders .  What often gets lost are the meanings attendant to issues like the fertilizer plant (the lack of inspections there - 5,  10 years,  the violations involved by the plant -- eg. the huge amount of anhydrous ammonia stored there (270 tons/54,000 pounds), adjacent to a school,  senior citizen housing,  and houses!  Nothing said about this,  the focus was put on the loss of the first responders and their families.

With the XL Pipeline on deck we have next to no response by the White House to the Mayflower, Arkansas tragedy.  It is as if it this Pegasus Pipeline is a "sacrifice zone,"  a not to be talked about precursor of the mammoth XL in the West.   The same goes for the behemoth Shell Kulick oil rig in the Artic.  Hardly mentioned in the media,  it as if the weather conditions which have been described in great detail up there just have no bearing on what is done or not.  Corporate energy power is almost sacrosanct,  and you needn't dial back far to discover that there is plenty of BP oil on the shores of the Gulf;   and Williwas in the Artic are  considered just a figment of indigenous imagination,  or  cries of leftist weather wimps. 

Weather and the response of corporate and governmental power to it.  Mother Nature has lashed back with unbelievable fury,  the bills paid in part for Katy are instructive,  the earlier ones in New Orleans and the South are by  now assumed,  but are unfinished,  incomplete, as well.    Part of the deal,  as we  know too well out here in farmland, is that continual droughts and challenging weather condi- tions take a tremendous toll on agriculture,  and how much is that mentioned in Washington (?).  The latest absurdity there was that you signed the spending bill with a very dangerous Monsanto rider in it,  something that will unleash a huge amount of genetic engineering mischief with  alfalfa crops. Can it be that Mr. Vilsack missed providing you with information about this outrage (?),  or are his and the USDA's ties to giant agribusiness such that it was a fait accompli.

In order to make all this work  Air Force One has to be a "frequent flier,"  which means that our very fragile atmosphere  (ozone layer) takes a beating as yet another assumption.   Again, little or nothing said, a lot assumed.  We are doing our best out here and it isn't good enough.  It was only a week or so ago that we had a lot snow on the ground,  now that soil seems to be as "dry as dust,"  as I heard someone say yesterday  ...  and the temperature today was in the seventies.  You are doing a lot of praying,  Mr. President,  don't forget the farmers and growers,  and Mother Nature.    Thank you.

Respectfully,   Don Roberts  -  in Otter Creek

Sunday, March 24, 2013

John Clayton

Johnny Clayton came through the door of the Venice Public Library, sometimes with his siblings with him.  It was the sixties,  the family lived a few doors to the East.   Mother worked at the Post Office & the children needed a place of be  ...  the Father gone elsewhere.   Soon Johnny asked if there might be a job he might fill;   and luckily we had one,  shelving books. 

It wasn't long there after that he asked if we might like to have his band play in the Library (we had started some performances and such) and we said "yes."   The quartet was composed of Johnny and his fellow students and they were quite good.  Then he and I did a project to build a collection of LPs to play in the Library and circulate.

I went on to Buffalo, N.Y. to teach library school and Johnny won a full scholarship to Indiana University in music.  Later I heard that he had played an extremely difficult bass concerto to complete his degree there,  and later on I heard from him on the phone in Minneapolis;   he was playing with Count Basie and could I come that evening and hear them?

Now I am honored to count John Clayton among my friends,  treasure his recordings and still know his family.  We have kept in touch,  and I was so pleased when he came to the Los Angeles Airport to pick me up during a visit to Venice and its' environs a few years ago.  I want to ask that you get to know John and his music too,  first by going to his website at John Clayton and then to You Tube to hear both his small group and orchestra.  Specifically I would like you to hear his rendition of the great Stevie Wonder tune, "You won't go  when I go,'  and know that this song is deeply embedded in my "Last Exit"/impermanence   recordings put together by another friend,  David Motzenbecker.