Tuesday, January 20, 2015

THE “STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS” WE WISHED WE’D HEARD


The President:  “Sit down, this isn’t going to take long.

“I’m here to report that the state of our union is strong, in spite of us.  Stocks are up.  Unemployment down.  Consumer confidence on the rise.  You’ve seen the figures.  They’re pretty strong and tough to honestly deny.

“Still it is interesting that when this administration, or any other, presents a proposal to change a law or improve a circumstance, the opposition, rather than to look at the proposal’s merits, trots out statements that begin with ‘The American people want…’ A prominent party leader did this just yesterday in response to what he thought I might be speaking about tonight.

“This brings to mind two observations: If the ‘American people’ support some initiative favored by one side or the other, that data is legit.  If someone or something wishes to trump the desires of the people for some mystical motive out there – I can’t imagine what it might be – data is either created or ignored. 

“Examples?

“First, a really simple one:  When 90% of polled Americans say they support increased background checks for those seeking firearm ownership, that fact related to what the American people want doesn’t seem to spur action here in Congress.  We still have no universal background checks and gun violence in this country makes headlines, somewhere, everyday.

“Most recent data gathered from points across the globe indicate that 2014 was the warmest year on record and that, since the dawn of the industrial age, CO2 levels continue to increase.  An overwhelming plurality of the scientific community sees the connection, but members of this body seek the outlier to bolster their non-defensible position.  That’s like going to ninety-nine doctors for a diagnosis and when each says, ‘Yep, it looks like cancer,’ seeking the 100th doctor on the off chance he’ll says it’s not.

“Information supplied just the other day indicates that over 50% of the word’s wealth is held by a mere 80 individuals.  Many, many of them our citizens.  The gap between the richest of the rich and the average Joe plumber is widening to oceanic proportions.  Yet, this body continues to employ discredited economic theory, tosses around unfounded claims about ‘hurting the job creators,’ and turns its back on our country’s history of fairness and equity; all to thwart efforts at improving educational opportunities for citizens and raising wage levels for workers.

“Exploits on the world canvas should inform us about those actions that will be successful and those that will not.  When wielding our ample power results in an alienation of another people or culture or belief system, we risk reaping only hatred, violence and terror.  Yet when an administration employs diplomatic means to seek difficult, long-term solutions to on-going strife, they are labeled as appeasers, weak and worse.

“And we won’t take time here to again cuss and discuss health care – the law passed, marriage equality – the constitution supports it, and a woman’s right to choose – the Supreme Court has spoken.

“The thing is this: 

·      When factual data are ignored for whatever reason, somebody wins.  Just not the American people.
·      When education costs skyrocket and fewer people are able to attain a high school diploma, a bachelors or an advanced degree, somebody wins.  Just not the American people.
·      When wages stagnate to the point that a full time minimum wage worker must rely upon government assistance to feed his or her family, somebody wins.  Just not the American people.
·      When healthcare is denied a segment of our population, somebody wins.  Just not the American people.
·      When we decide our faith is better than theirs, our system is better than theirs, our practice of humanity is better than theirs – when we vilify and dehumanize others – somebody wins.  Just not the American people.
·      When reason, debate and discussion are shouted down, somebody wins.  Just not the American people.

“I can’t speak for the American people, and neither can you, other than I know that the public’s approval rating of the 114th Congress is now down to 16%.  Congress is looked upon as unruly, squabbling third-graders unable to rise above name-calling, finger-pointing and he-said-she-said confrontations.  No derision intended here toward third graders – I was a third grader once; Vice President Biden, a couple of times – but not so long ago, Congress garnered at least a modicum of respect.

“We need to fix that.  We need to change our modes of operation.  We need to reject the lies, the double-talk and the deception.  We need to employ data rather than hyperbole in making our decisions.  We need to revisit our constitutional tenets and historical foundations because those ideals provide a proven pathway forward.  We need to make unpopular choices and use the bully pulpit of our collective offices to educate and inform our electorate about all the weighed options, their truths and their consequences.  We need to embrace a system that recognizes that while our economic fundamentals are good in supporting both entrepreneurs and investors and many workers – there are necessities a society shares that can better be cared for using complementary means.

“The world – the universe in which we exist – is not black and white.  Our job is to find the patterns in the murky shades of gray we face daily and link or relate or just nudge those patterns toward the universal truths and actions that can move the United States forward and return us to the status of world leader we once legitimately enjoyed.

“In short, in order to best serve the American people, in order to re-become that ‘shining city on a hill’ that President Reagan spoke of, we need to get down to the business of the people in a business-like and respectful fashion.  

“If we can’t muster the backbone to do that, perhaps we should simply go home and allow others – others who truly want to do the public good – to take up the cause.

“Thank you and God bless this great land, our citizens and our patriots – except when they face the Seahawks in a couple of weeks.”

Friday, January 16, 2015

2014: THE CHURCH OF THE OPEN ROAD’S YEAR IN REVIEW


… in pictures

January:  Folsom Lake reaches near historic lows affording interesting panoramas…

Click on any of the pictures and they'll all enlarge...
…while exposing remnants of earlier times, and…

…presenting little mysteries that might be solved with some research of a visit with a local historian.

Muddy shoals created by receding water offered shots of shore birds looking for shores.

An impending relocation excited us with new vistas to explore…

… and new weird things to either learn about or act as if we had.

2014 may have proven to be the year of the bird picture.


February:  And we enjoy a favored walk along the American in the rain…

… and check off a bucket list item – that of a coastal posing the Guzzi where former bikes have posed before.


March: That impending move causes us to visit the Sierra – soon to be a day’s drive away – more frequently, while it is still at our doorstep.

Easing that partum anticipation is knowledge that the coast will be closer and its finer points just as fine as the Sierra.


April/May:  The Church of the Open Road goes on hiatus, taking a job as a school principal for a few months.  Probably never again.

Still, weekend walks afford all manner of surprise.


In June, we fulfill a promise to take a short road trip with Granddaughter…

…to see some California missions…

…and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Bird 4.

Bird 5.


Summer Months find us entering midwestern states never before visited to catch a ball game…

…and taste some Bourbon and check out the ‘Vette factory (where they don’t allow photographs.)

Birds 6.

Bird 7 (at Avery Pond)

Another quick day hike in the Sierra discovering an historic dam once used to power monitors miles to the west.

This one isn’t a bird.


September: and a group of Italians visit on Classic Guzzis traveling, in part, a route shared by the Church of the Open Road.  We cooked 'em dinner at the house...

They brought along their own mechanic.

A trip to the Basin and Ranges of Nevada and Utah offered a chance to walk along the rail line that Dad helped construct 70 years before…

…hum a few bars from “the Magnificent Seven”…

…wonder at the civilizations that preceded us in this place (Nine Mile Canyon, UT)…

…check a specific spot off the Bucket List…

…find the historic Airway Beacon Arrows Granddad used to rely upon while carrying airmail back in the early 20s…

… and view some generally spectacular regions ribboned by rails.


October:  Engaged in a motorcycle tour of Northern California and Oregon’s volcanic Cascade Mountains, seeing first Shasta…

…then Crater Lake…

…rendezvousing with riding buddy from the north…

…the rugged and unforgiving Sisters of Oregon’s McKenzie Pass route.


November:  A Modoc Plateau trip is scheduled – again with the intent of addressing that bucket list.  Here, a buck poses across from the store in Adin.

A homestead weathers on the historic Barrel Springs Byway.

Bird 8.  A Golden roosts in Vya, NV.

And we achieve our goal of seeing the corner of California and Nevada at the Oregon state line – first marked by Von Schmidt 140 years ago.


December:  We investigate the smaller things closer to home…

…gather in another bird shot…

…and catch the Golden Gate shortly after dusk.


Shots of the Year:  Third runner up, a frog has affixed him or her self (I don’t know where to look to find out which) to the sliding glass door one stormy night at home.

Second runner up:  An art-deco fuel truck rusts outside a remote landing strip in Nevada.

First runner up: Granddaughter Emilia draws a portrait of her “Noma.”

Shot of the Year:  The reflection of Crater Lake’s Phantom Ship is captured in the reflection of the Crater’s far wall.  Photographers tip:  Better to be lucky than good.

© 2015
Church of the Open Road Press.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

THE GRANDDAUGHTER MUG


Along with t-shirts, I have about two dozen coffee mugs collected from various stops along the Open Road.  The mugs I use randomly as a vessel for my morning cup of Joe.  Mostly.


A long time ago, when I was prinicipaling at an elementary school in the southern cascades, I came across a mug that reminded me of my earlier career as a local truck driver.  Snagging the thing from the collectables shop where it demanded fifty cents, I decided that I would only use it on Sundays.   

My thought being this: No matter how hard I worked leading teachers and solving kids problems at the school, I would likely never be as physically drained as those days when I drove truck and delivered freight.  (Turned out I was wrong about that.)  I’d use this mug strictly on Sunday to remind me how good it actually was to be working with folks rather than hustling stuff.

Time and the dishwasher ultimately faded the cup’s logo for a now defunct outfit.  When the company went bust, I decided to retire the cup to my memory cabinet.


Finding a replacement was no chore.  In and amongst those two-dozen mugs was one that came my way as a surprise.  A colleague (I’ll call him Tom) and I had similar physical features, so much so that kids often mistook one of us for the other.  In front of the students, we began to joke about our shared “mom.”  On the last day of school one year, I showed up to work with a new Grumman canoe atop my Toyota.  Tom said, “Hey!  We’ve got one just like that back at the cabin in Minnesota.  I’m heading out to pick up Mom in Iowa and head up there next week!”

I didn’t know that “we” already had a Grumman canoe (let alone a cabin in the north woods) or I wouldn’t have purchased one.  Stealthily, I procured “mom’s” address and wrote her a letter of complaint, mailing it so that it would arrive before Tom did.  Mom had no idea of her son’s gag with his boss and peppered Tom with many questions upon his arrival in Davenport.

A few days later, via parcel post, I received - from "mom" - the mug that would become my Sunday cup for the next twenty years.

Once again, however, time and the dishwasher scrubbed away at the cup’s art.  Before it disappeared completely, I decided to retire the Iowa cup next to the trucker’s mug.


Months passed.  Then, Christmas 2014.  In a box wrapped in tissue in a bag with a ribbon, a gift came my way.  Something – unlike some Christmas gifts – something I actually needed.  A new Sunday mug!   

Designed and decorated by my ten-year-old granddaughter!  This would be a keeper!  I couldn’t wait until Sunday arrived, but I did.

That morning I chronicled things.  The first grind:


The first pour:


The first steeping aroma:


The first sip:


Even the first relaxing Sunday puzzle:


Out of reverence for the memories that came before and the memories that are yet to be formed, I pulled the trucker’s mug and the Iowa cup out for a rare group photo.

And this I promise: the Granddaughter Mug shall always be washed by hand.

© 2015
Church of the Open Road Press