Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Good God!

The details remain unknown. He came back from Iraq with two sets of dog tags that were from young Iraqi men. He told a few people close to him they were innocent Iraqis he was ordered to shoot. Why or who ordered him to shoot them, we don't know. He said he kept the dog tags to honor the men. What we know is that he was haunted by these young Iraqi men upon returning home in 2004.

At first, he seemed normal although a little distant. Then he began drinking and a series of events led his parents to seek help from the VA. He was committed for a short while be released without being diagnosed with PTSD with the determination he was not a threat to others or himself. He slowly went downhill despite the love and support of his family. There was a car accident and more cases of drinking. His family hid away his knives and other items that they were afraid he would harm himself with. He spoke with his father one night about all that was troubling him.
Well, Monday night, when I got home, Jeffrey was in a total rage. He was pacing through the house. He was angry at the war, angry at everything. And I was trying to get him to calm down. And then he started talking of suicide. And he felt abandoned. He didn't know where to go.

At that point, I called the Vet Center, and I told them what was going on. And the Vet Center was tremendous. They spoke to me, got me to calm down, because we were all distraught by this time. And then they spoke to Jeff. And substantially Jeff was very calm after the phone call. They advised me to call the police, if necessary.

And what happened was that Jeff and I then started talking while I was doing some work. And then what happened with Jeff was -- it was about 11:30 at night, and everything was very -- I was exhausted, Jeff was exhausted, but he kept talking, and then finally he asked me if he would be able to sit in my lap. And so, forty-five minutes we rocked in silence. And the therapist told us after Jeff died that that was no doubt his last place of refuge, his last safe harbor that he felt that he could go to.

The next morning -- I stayed up ’til about 2:00 or 3:00 until Jeff went to bed, and he was calm. And then I got up, went to work. And then, of course, it was at 6:45 Tuesday evening that I came home.

Jeff is another casualty of war that won't be counted amongst the statistics. I don't want to make a political point about how we should get out of Iraq. I was out on the street protesting about our going there in the first place. I am sick of our support for war in general. This is how the father found his son - Jeff.
I was talking on the cell phone to Joyce, and I said, “Jeff, no doubt, is lying in front of the TV.” And so I told her I would call her back. So I went into the house, and I couldn't find Jeff. I went to his bedroom, and the one thing I noted was that his dog tags were laying on his bed. I then went out to the porch, to the deck. He wasn't there.

And so, then I went through the addition, and I saw the cellar door open. I could see a light on, and I caught some pictures that were laying on the floor, and in the center was his platoon picture. And I could see other pictures. So I went downstairs. My focus was on the pictures, because I couldn't understand why they were there. When I went up to the pictures, the platoon picture had blood on it. The picture of each of his sisters were on each side of the platoon picture, and then there was pictures of the family in a half-circle.

Then I saw Jeff, and Jeff was, I thought, standing at first, until I saw the hose double-looped around his neck. I went running over there, and I pushed Jeff up with my knees. And that was the last time he ever sat in my lap. I took the hose from around his neck, and I laid him down onto the floor, trying to make him comfortable. And at that point, I tried to rub his chest, because I thought I felt some warmth there. Otherwise he was very cold. So then I went upstairs and called the police.
We have to do more than end this war. We need to renounce war altogether. War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Say it again.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Sell out.

There was a term we used for bands that had gained commercial appeal by sacrificing their integrity. It was something we all realized was necessary to some degree, but some bands managed to pull it off more gracefully than others. For a local scene, if a band made the transition to a more national audience, there was no greater scorn than for a band that sold out.

What exactly does it mean to sell out?

In our society today, everything is measured by price. The only recognized value is price. Even our time has a price on it - time is money. Some people's time is worth more than others. My time is not worth quite as much as my bosses, but more than our office secretary. Yet, intuitively, we all know that some things in life our priceless. We sell our time to pursue some things that cannot be valued in a marketplace. Eight hours a day, five days a week buys us a few precious hours a week for such pursuits if we can make all of our payments necessary to maintain our lifestyles. Sometimes we dream about combining our priceless pursuits with our work. We think about making our hobbies into profit-making adventures. What would it take to profit off of our hobbies?

Selling out, of course.

This is the dilemma. As many jobs I have had, I have also had hobbies, dreams or goals. Each time my hobby has run up against the market, it has evaporated into a fine mist and blown away with the wind. For anything to have integrity and value that is long lasting it has to be motivated by something close to the heart and not by what can be obtained in the market.

This does not mean that anything that has sold for a price in the market is automatically crap and of no value. There are many examples of successful artists who have made a good living off of their art. However, their chosen craft would still be the same whether they made money or not off of it - for they are motivated by something that comes from within.

Right now I garden when I am not working. Someday I would like to farm, but this notion of value and markets has me worried. I can see what happens to farmers and the economics of agriculture. There is an incentive to get into organic farming because right now there is a large demand for organic products. Walmart, Target, Sam's club and many other retail stores are devoting several aisles to organic products. However, farmers should never forget that these outlets and buyers of their production are forever in search of selling at the lowest price to their consumers and generating profits for their shareholders. When agricultural products are in large supply, the market place will lower the price. Eventually, the market for organic products will bottom out and farmers will get lower and lower prices for their ever-increasing yields.

The temptation to produce one crop on a farm is huge. Even local organic farms selling their produce at Farmers Markets are in search of products that will sell. If a farmer just follows the seasons and sells only what is in season, they will always have competition from other area farms and the price for their products will be driven down. Everyone loves tomato season, but it is the farmer that brings the first tomatoes to market that gets the highest prices. Tomatoes in the fall are going to sell for much less. So, one farmer begins growing tomatoes in January in a greenhouse, so they have ripe tomatoes in May or June. Soon everyone has a greenhouse and is selling tomatoes in June. This is wonderful for tomato lovers, but works contrary to what the farmer seeks - high prices.

This is where farming for the love of farming comes in. The first priority of the gifted farmer is producing good food to eat, while taking care of the soil and land. The wonderful thing about farming and gardening is that cornucopias amounts of produce are generated during the season. It is an awesome task to put all the tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, garlic, onions, etc. to good use before it spoils and must be returned to the compost heap. The kitchen is filled with activity this time of the year - cooking, canning, freezing and fermenting. The same goes for dairy, meat and poultry production. What throws all this out of balance is when the farm is devoted to the market and yields of selected crops are emphasized over more diversified production using holistic practices. Of course, farms require land and land costs money that often necessitates debt owed to banks that only care about the profits of the farm. What this means for me is that I can't think of farming as a livelihood, but must instead devote my energies to a garden that produces vegetables and fruits for seasonal consumption of my family and friends. An expanding garden can never come at the expense of "selling out," or the next in my line of hobbies will dissipate into thin air.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A listing of jobs I've had in my life

occupation Company Age
paperboy Mpls Star and Trib 12-14
Sodbuster Smith Landscaping 14-17
Workstudy South Dakota At University 19
Landscaper Mickbrothers Landscaping 19-20
Gas Station attn. Sinclair 20
Maid and Houseman Ironblossom Resort Snowbird 20
Stock Lumber Knox Lumber 20-21
cafeteria worker St Cloud St University 22-24
Convenience Store Clerk Tom Thumb Stores 21-22
Stock Clerk Kmart 22-23
Landscaper Hollands Landscaping 23-26
Bellman Snowbird Ski Resort 24
Taxi Driver Handicabs 27
Mail Carrier USPS 27-34
Teacher/Grad Asst Rensselaer Poly Inst 35-38
Teacher Cordon Blue-Browns Inst 39
Bus Driver Rheiben Transpor 40-41
Correction Officer Henn CO. Jv Det Center 41
City Bureaucrat 41-43

Thats a pretty good list.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What's the point?

I've talked about goals in a previous thread. I have had more jobs than I can count and someday I will list than all in a future thread. I've had many dreams and desires that I have pursued at various times and this question - What is the Point - usually ends up being the end of the pursuit. Yesterday I had that thought as I contemplated a new post for this blog.

It comes without warning usually and is usually accompanied by a wave of sadness. I am not prone to what our society refers to as depression. I don't believe in taking medication for chemical imbalances in the brain. For a number of reasons I don't find the rationale that depression is caused by some dysfunction of our brains convincing. I actually like getting sad. It makes me feel alive. It starts my brain searching and questioning. When I am sad, I blame it on my surroundings and I seek to change what I am doing. This is what leads me to asking the question that can never be answered - What is the point? The answer I come up with is always liberating - there is no point.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tour De France

What the Hell?

Another rider has tested positive for testosterone and another team has pulled out of the race. I can't believe this. It really makes one wonder after the fiasco from last year with Landis. I was as much of a fan of the Tour during the Armstrong years as anyone. I would make time to catch races as they were happening for important stages. But, his domination of it for seven years. You really have to wonder. Was he that good? or was he doping, too.

Sheezus, why would riders continue to try and beat the system and will they always continue to do so? Some current riders must know that Armstrong could get away with it, so they can, too.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Blueberries and Family

My wife, son and I woke up Saturday morning and drove to a farm in Western Wisconsin to pick Blueberries. We were there for two hours and picked 15 lbs (and probably ate a lb or two more). If you haven't had this experience as a family, I suggest you set aside some time soon to go berry picking. My son had a wonderful time and was chattering away about all the berries he was finding and eating. He was so proud of his harvest he was gathering and was in no hurry to leave when we had our fill.

More Irony

I walked through a downtown park on the way to the Mississippi River to lay down for an lunch-time nap in the near the waters flowing from Lake Itasca through the Gulf of Mexico. On my way I was accosted by another homeless person (like any modern metropolis, St Paul is filled with homeless individuals whom the city is currently considering options to make invisible for the upcoming 2008 Republican Convention). He was holding a package of cards with hand drawn art upon them. An Eagle was depicted with the saying "Proud to be an American." written above it.

"Sir, Sir, Sir - Would you like to purchase a drawing? A card?, " he said as I strained my eyes to read the printing he held out to me.

"Sorry," I said, "No, thanks," as I walked on by and he moved on to the next lunch taker walking through the park.

I usually do purchase and hand out what is in my wallet to those who ask of me. Today, I walked by though as I was offended by the card. If he had drawn an Eagle casting a glance downward and written simply "Shame" above it, I would have reached for my wallet.

Haiti and Our Shame

He was the democratically elected leader of a nation. He was popular in his home country. On February 29, 2004, members of the American military and other officials broke into his home and kidnapped him then transported him to Central African Republic and held him in captivity until his release was negotiated by Randall Robinson and others. Amy Goodman interviewed Robinson on Democracy Now, yesterday.

Despite his popularity, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has still not been allowed to return to Haiti. Haiti has a long history of being abused and exploited by Western Nations. It was originally a slave colony of France where the slaves revolted and won in 1804, thus establishing the first democracy where everyone was a participant and free it the world. (The US had slavery).

Rather than embrace this new young democracy as allies, The US worked to undermine the nation by joining with France to embargo the nation. The US was afraid of what would become of its slaves if the successes of the slave revolution were made known to slaves in America. France also charged Haiti with a debt for the freed slaves that Haiti didn't pay off entirely until 150 years later. Aristide was gathering international support in an effort to get France to make reparations for these debt payments that crippled Haiti's economy that continues to struggle today. Despite Frances vocal opposition to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, France willingly went along with the coup to oust Aristide in 2004. All of this is available via Robinson and his new book, An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President.

When reading such accounts of our past and current imperialistic adventures around the world, it makes one cynical about our democracy in America where nothing is beyond the realm of possibilities when considering various ideas and theories that commonly fall under the heading of conspiracy. I don't dismiss any allegation anymore of the potential corruption of those representing the money interests in America. Obviously, to embrace such theories as absolute truth is foolhardy. But to dismiss such theories out-of-hand as preposterous is equally foolish.

I have read many of Robinson's previous works and find him a compelling and honest writer. The fact that he makes me look at our culture under a scrutinizing lens and ask hard questions about our history I think is enlightening. It makes me really believe the old adage that none of us are truly free when their are others suffering under tyranny somewhere else in the world. We should be ashamed of our actions in Haiti, even more so than our invasion of Iraq. We have had a long history of abuse in our relations with this democratic island nation that is led and populated by descendants of former slaves. America will never be truly free until it comes to terms with its past as imperialist, slaveholders and conquerors/exterminators of entire tribes and nations of people. Most of this past helped consolidate power in our nation today and contributes to our corrupt ways as can be seen by our actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and, now, the Island nation of Haiti.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Speaking of Faith

I had a long and fulfilling day in the Garden yesterday. There were weeds to be pulled, composts to be turned, fruits and vegetables to be harvested, second round of plants to be planted, and organic fertilizer to be applied. I woke of this morning sore, but completely refreshed.

Sundays are a great day for gardening. I don't belong to an organized church, so my spiritual time could not be better spent than working with soil and plants. Often, I will set up the radio and turn it to a baseball game - the Minnesota Twins - since Sundays usually mean a day game. Yesterday the Twins lost to the California Angels, 7 -2, but not even this could spoil my mood.

After the game I turned the radio to NPR and tuned into Barbara Kingsolver being interviewed on Speaking of Faith. The segment was called The Ethics of Eating. Kingsolver and her family went one year with trying to raise all the food necessary for their living on their own property. THey supplemented what they could raise with trips to the local Farmers Markets and, if they had to, purchases of organic food from the grocery store. What they were attempting to accomplish was to live off of food that was raised in or near their locality and not support our international corporate food supply. She made several interesting points about questions people don't ask about where our food comes from.

Of course, all of this is just confirmation of my own views and was perfectly accommodating to my afternoon spent in the garden. I share similar goals to Kingsolver and have to echo her statement that purchasing your food locality and tending a garden has benefits that go beyond financial and is not that hard to do. It is a choice available to us all that has many spiritual and ethical benefits.

Friday, July 20, 2007

There went Friday

And here comes the weekend.

See you all Monday, but I have a question if anyone can provide an answer.

Why isn't there a U after the Q in Al Qeada? I was told that Q always comes with a U. No wonder they are terrorists.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tough SOB's

I always admired the artists who seemed like tough motherF@#*ers. My first rock-n-roll hero was Kieth Richard, but his fame and acclaim has kind of eroded my view of him over the years. Now when I think of tough I think of the guys from punk bands who made it to the top of their scene, but are now kind of floundering around as their audience grew up and many of the musicians they traveled amongst died. Mike Watt, Bob Mould, and Curt Kirkwook. I can't tell you how much it warms my heart to learn that Curt has recently reunited with his brother Chris.

Brothers Meat, you come through Minneapolis soon and I'm there like I was before.

Delicious Irony

Over lunch hour I am walking through the park and I overhear this little snippet of a conversation between two middle-aged homeless men sitting on a park Bench.

"Its a long lonely road to the top."


A poorly written plot, and we believe this stuff?

I want to make a confession – I am a political junkie. I enjoy politics. My favorite blogs to read are political and sports blogs. Although, I contemplated starting a blog that was political, so I could push an agenda and challenge the power-structure in our nation, I had a fleeting moment of good judgment and decided not to. My favorite blog of all time was Billmon’s Whiskey Bar. I was just a reader, but he had insight and wit. The problem with political blogs is simple as the old adage – opinions are like assholes, everyone has them.

Most political blogs are discussing the Iraq war and how we are going to end it. Everyone claims to know what will happen under different scenarios. Some go as far as explaining the logistics of withdrawal, the escalation of violence and the political fallout that will result when we withdraw our troops. If I were to opine in on this discussion, I would be as dishonest as everyone else, because the only thing that we really know is that people are dying now and people will die in the future while the human drama continues.

I find it ridiculous that people sit in front of terminals all over the world and read about events happening and different opinions on events and then jump into the discussions with convictions that are solidified on nothing more than rumors and propaganda.

What I could comment on though is the propaganda. As the debate in congress and the media heats up on troop withdrawal, the news we read in the papers begins to contain stories that are predictable and unoriginal. First, there was a vote in November putting the Democrats in control of the congress strictly on the beliefs of the citizens that we need to extricate ourselves from the quagmire in Iraq. This was followed by a certain humility in the administration and the Rumsfeld stepping down. Shortly after that we bagan debating a surge, as if this was a legitimate option. Then, we heard about Iran’s nuclear intentions. But, as the surge began taking place we started hearing more about Al Qaeda. The Iraqi Insurgents killed during the first wave of the Surge were suddenly Al Qaeda. As US troops began dying in increasing frequency, we were told that Al Qaeda strongholds in Iraq were being destroyed. However, other reports from Iraq showed that the stability of the region were still in question and the benchmarks for the new Iraqi government were not being reached.

Congress again begins to debate and Democrats are encouraged to take a stand and suddenly an National Intelligence report is issued on the rise of the influence in Al Qaeda in the World and the strong ties between the leadership in Pakistan and the Al Qaeda leaders in Iraq. Supposedly we had killed the main leader of Al Qeada in Iraq many months ago in Al- Zarqawi, whom had worn out his welcome amongst the Iraqi population. But, if we are going to have wars we need a real enemy and the focus groups must say that Iran doesn’t have the same evil face that Al-Qeada does. So, now we have someone whom we have captured in Iraq who was actually responsible for the connection between the Al-Qeada leadership in Pakistan and the Al-Qeada groups in Iraq. But, we don’t know where the leadership is in Pakistan (Gee, did anyone think to ask the guy that?) but we have the central front on the war on terror and Iraq cannot be a safe haven for terrorists. So, our troops have to keep fighting Al Qeada in Iraq (which is separate from Al Qeada Core, but is really the same as Al Qeada Core in Pakistan though operating out of Iraq).

And, we believe this stuff? Or, at least enough of us are distracted by it to forget for a moment about the War that has continued to be supported by lies. Through this all, there is this background threat of Iraq, which has little to do with Al Qeada. Al-Qeada is Sunni and Iran is Shia. The Iraqi government is dominated by Shia and enjoys the support of the majority Shia population in Iraq that was previously ruled by Saddam who was Sunni and had a great resentment towards Al Qeada. History tells us that all sorts of conditions can create allies amongst previous enemies. What is happening in Iraq is definitely complex, and I don’t know what is going on any more than you do. However, all this talk of Al-Qeada might as well have been written by Orwell.

We are being played like an out of tune piano and the sound coming out is screechy and eerie. It sounds so bad, I have a difficult time believing they are playing this tune for us. But, we’ve been played similar tunes from this bad opera before and the ending does not appear to be any where in sight.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

So, What's the deal with Peaches?

It started as a joke. My friend decided he was going to annoy me and started calling me Peaches. This was a long time ago when we were goofing around in our twenties. It didn’t really take hold. It was a balancing act. My friend was persistent and he knew how to push my buttons. If I protested too loudly, the nickname was going to stick like bugs to sap. My girlfriend at the time loved it, so she picked it up. I just kind of ignored it and rolled my eyes ever so slightly when I heard it, as if to suggest I was surrounded by children.

Overtime, my friend was really the only one who kept calling me Peaches. He’s a very good friend and we have spent a lot of time around each other so I just let him call me that and explained to others that my friend was a juvenile and I was unsure why I put up with him.

One day I bought a CD by Nina Simone and listened to a song called four women. It is a great song telling the story of four black women in America. The last woman is pissed and in the last line of the last stanza Nina screams “THEY CALL ME PEACHES!!!!” I played it for my friend and from then on I embraced the nickname. Today, all my cronies (best friends in the world) call me Peaches.

I first started using it online while playing an internet game called RealmWars. It was hosted by a guy named Bit who site was called PlanetBang. I was there too much playing an addictive game and avoiding life’s responsibilities. It was fun though and very interesting watching this online community come together and evolve. I was one of the older players and, at first, Peaches took a lot of crap. But, people soon learned that Peaches was a good ally and could whip ass on you in the game. Peaches took his share of ass-whooping, too. When I was asked about my name (at first, people always assumed I was a chick, and thought it was cool I was playing this war game), I’d started explaining about the 6’3” tattooed 350lb Hell’s Angel Member everyone called “Tiny.” That’s who Peaches was. It was a little exaggeration, but it fit for Realm Wars.

Eventually, I had to stop playing this game or be locked into the virtual world without friends and family forever. So, I unhooked the internet from my house and stopped playing. Then, I began posting on a political blog called Talkleft.com as Peaches and a new personality was born. Peaches is basically me. Most of his ideas are my own. However, Peaches goes off half-cocked a lot, although he attempts to be fair. For the most part, Peaches is a lot smarter than I. I mean, he surprises me. He is all over the place at Talkleft and sometimes I find his ideas difficult to pin down. Sometimes he sounds like a conservative and sometimes a liberal, but he insists on identifying only as a liberal. Well, again, this sounds like me. But, I tell you, in all honesty, Peaches is a hell of a lot smarter than I am.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Goal - what is it?

It was in summer basketball camp that the high school coach told us that none of us would ever be playing NBA basketball. I was defiant. I could not even start for my junior high team, but I was convinced through hard work I could be a professional basketball player. My more immediate goal was to play for the High School Varsity team – the Osseo Orioles. I attended every home game as a youngster. I would cheer on the Orange and black team and knew all the starting players. It seemed an honor to be able to wear those flashy warm-ups and all I desired was to one day be able to play on that team.

I shot baskets over and over again in our driveway and developed a potent outside shot. But, I was small and not very strong. I had not grown since I was in the fourth grade and by my ninth grade year I was an undersized and skinny guard. Going into to my sophomore year, it seemed like I would probably get cut once tryouts for the basketball team commenced. Suddenly, I began to grow but not upward. My feet and hands grew. I was 5’7” with a size 13 basketball shoe and I could not run down the court without falling down. I think I made the team, strictly because the coaches knew my father (he was 6’4”) and the looked at my feet and knew I had to grow into them eventually. My junior year I was 5’10” and going into my senior year I was 6’3” although still skinny weighing barely 135 lbs. I made the team and I could shoot and handle the ball decently. I was wearing the uniform, but I stopped having fun. Suddenly basketball was not very fun.

I started running distances my senior year. In my phy. ed. class my junior year, I ran a 4:57 mile in high-top basket ball shoes. I was skinny and all legs. I could run forever without tiring. My phy ed teacher was also the Cross-country coach. He told me if I trained all summer I would be the State Champion in the fall. I didn’t train over the summer, but since I was assured of a place on the roster for the varsity basketball team in the winter, I decided I might as well go out for the cross-country team as well and I had a blast. I wasn’t the state champ but I was all state, all conference, all regional and our team went to the state meet. I ran a 4:20 mile and a 9:26 2-mile in the spring and suddenly I my goal went from the NBA to the Olympics.

I ran cross-country in college and track, but I never really trained during the summers. I slowly put on weight and eventually my frame filled out with muscle that was not conducive to being carried over long distances. Besides, I started playing the guitar and decided I was going to be a rock star. Then, I was going to be a politician, then get my PhD.

Goals? What is the goal in life? One of the things I realized about sports and competition is that there is no ultimate goal. We strive to be a champion and, in the majority of cases, most of us will never get there. But, even the champions have to defend their title and eventually will be dethroned. So, we end all competitive pursuits with failure. That is our last memory. And, I knew I wanted more in life than failure. But, what is success?

Is there a goal in life? Raise a family, is that it? I really don’t know what it is. It might be to live the good life, but to live the good life we first have to decide what the good life is. I suppose that is the spot I am at right now. I am trying to define what the good life is, so I can make a goal worth striving for. In the meantime, it is just one day at a time, or on a more cynical note - as Celine says - Death on the Installment Plan.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The drive with my Grandma

“You wouldn’t even believe it, Andy. The wind, it was blowing. Where there were fences was a mound of dirt and the pigs and cows would walk right over the fences. People were starving in the cities. We had food. We always had food. But, Dad worked so hard. He would have to go to the county and pick up feed for the cows. Just a little handful a day – enough to keep them alive, and then in the winter he had to repay them for the feed by working all day putting gravel down on the roads. He found a trucker to take the horses to a field near Granite Falls, because they had some rain, see? And, then we heard that one of the horses had sleeping sickness. So, they sent him home and he died. Dad worked so hard.

He had two brothers in California, Uncle Ervin and Uncle Elmore, who owned lumber yards and they wanted him to move there because they knew he was getting old. So he decided to go and Martin and I were just married and Grandpa wanted to go with him. So, we all went, but the work for the lumber yards was even harder. They drove trucks and they didn’t know where they were going. Sometimes they had to go to LA and deliver to the Negroes there. They worked all day. Dad wanted to go back and Martin wanted to farm. So, we moved back and bought the grocery store and Dad retired soon after.

It was hard during the depression, you would never believe it – how it was. But, we had so many pets and we were happy. The cats would line up on that board every morning and wait with their mouths open for Dad to squirt the milk into their mouths right from the cows. I had to help Dad with the chores too, cause I was the oldest, so I was the hired hand. I did the man’s work. I drove since I was twelve to deliver Dad his lunch every day in the field or wherever he was. And we had a garden, Mom kept a big garden. We’d can tomatoes. And an Apple Orchard in the back, a couple cherry trees. Oh, we had fun. WE were never hungry, Mom only had to buy sugar and flour, otherwise we had everything. One Christmas all we got was we each got a new outfit for our dolls – that was it. We didn’t have money, but we were happy.

Oh, I’ve been talking your ear off.”

“No, Grandma. Tell me more.”

And she did. Farming is a hard life, there is no doubt. No one should ever think it isn’t. But, once my grandpa and great-grandpa left for California – left their homesteads – they spent the rest of their days pining over the old days on the farm.

Friday, July 13, 2007

See you Monday

Time to go, have a great weekend.

This has been a crazy week at work. Busier than normal. But, not really that bad. I'm going to spend the weekend listening to the Minnesota Twins play on the radio while working in the garden. I am also picking up my Grandma from her assisted living home in southern Minnesota for Sunday dinner. Shes 86 and little lonesome since my grandpa died this winter. It'll be good to see her.

Berries and breakfast

Every morning I pick a few raspberries for my morning breakfast out of two bushes I planted last year. I planted 5 more red raspberry and 5 black raspberry bushes this year which should start producing well next year. I also have a fairly large strawberry patch and I plan on making space in the garden for a row of blueberry bushes also. I purchase frozen berries for my breakfast all year round. I would love to produce enough berries in my garden during the summer berry season to supply my berry fix for the entire year.

Here is my mornign breakfast.

handful of frozen organic blueberries
handful of frozen Org raspberries
handful of frozen Org strawberries
one banana sliced
2 heaping teaspoons of Wheat germ
2 heaping teaspoons of ground flax seed
1 teaspoon of bee pollen
covered with 1/2 to 1 cup of Muesli (Bobs Red Mill usually)
pour plain Organic vanilla Yogurt over and mix all ingerdients in large ceral bowl

Add a little soy milk and let sit while I drink cup of coffee and read paper, then shit(this high grain breakfast keeps me very regular), shave and shower (Usually about 45 minutes to an hour). Mix again and eat.

This is a filling and very nutritiousway to start the day providing an energy boost for almost the entire work day. I usually drink tea at work, have a light sandwich at lunch and come home to a large salad (out of the garden fro 6-8 months a year) and hearty dinner.

My goal is to be self-sufficient on the berries within a year or two.


There was a time I wanted to be a rock star. I played in a band for a few years in the late 1980’s and early nineties. It started in Fargo North Dakota while I was in College. We had a little following there. One of the bands I helped found went on to some small national fame after I stopped playing with them and moved to Mpls when I graduated – Hammerhead.

Those were some great times in my life. I loved creating music and when you are in your twenties with a lot of time on your hands, you can really blossom under a heavy dose of delusion and obsession. My memory holds some notions that we actually were the greatest rock-n-roll band for those fleeting moments in a basement of a small home overlooking the wheat and sugar beet fields of the Red River Valley.

I started a couple of bands when I moved to Minneapolis, and although I became more technically proficient on the guitar, the inspiration for creating music was gone. Slowly, as I have grown older, music has become more and more trivial to me.

I still love to hear a good song and I pick up my guitar once in a blue moon to strum a couple of chords. I even have some recording software and I have put some songs together with all the parts. I am very thankful for those delusional and obsessive days of my youth, because although genius is no longer within my grasp on the guitar or in writing songs, playing music is a lot like riding a bike in that you never forget the mechanics of it. I can pick up the guitar and play a song that I have formed in my head, even if my guitar has laid untouched for a month or more.

But, music is too technical and the obsession is long gone. First I discarded all my albums (<500)i>

Maybe it is just that I am getting older, I don’t know. But, there is something that is lost when everything is just available to you. We get bogged down in choice until we become paralyzed. I long for the days when all I had to decide was whether I should listen to Exile on Main Street one more time or the Kinks Arthur.

I remember the excitement I felt when I began listening to music from Jamaica and then Africa. I also used to love to hear what they were doing in Seattle or Athens. Now, that music really is global there is no connection of music to a place. It is all just digitalized notes downloaded into cyberspace. But the music I loved grew out of the South in some dire conditions for downtrodden people. It was fused with the land these cultures identified with. And out of that land, music was formed that traveled full circle around the world. Blues, Jazz, Country Western, Rock, Soul, R&B, etc, all came from a place and wherever it landed it took on the forms and cultures of the place it arrived at. Music now never arrives at a place and it doesn’t sound like music anymore to my ears. I’d rather listen to songbirds in my garden and the winds whipping through the trees – even the hum of the freeway in the distance and airplanes overhead – than the music that comes to us from cyberspace.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I hate war

I am really getting tired of all this. What the hell? We get a surge for our efforts last November. Somehow I am not surprised, but I am getting more and more cynical.

Read this from The Nation. All of this was so predictable. War means innocents die and we have been doing this too long.

I see the only plausible long-term solution to be one of secession. Bye Bye American Empire. I think it is time to give up on everything American except its original ideals and hopes. The Empire is out of control. Its been this way for far too long. But, it is getting much much worse lately.

Harry Potter

I was reading in my daily scribe, which isn’t much of a daily scribe anymore with the takeovers by Wall Street investment groups and profit speculators and the sell-offs and the layoffs, about what makes Harry Potter a success. It seems there is a formula for the hero that the series follows that has proven effective. I didn’t read it closely, but I was struck by the observation that Harry was orphaned and raised in a school without parents – apparently a common theme for the protagonist of successful tales.

I hate when I have these ideas about family values that make me think the adage about being a liberal when you are twenty and having a soul, while being a conservative when your 40 and having a brain seem true, because I still identify as a liberal. I am not talking about family values though. I am an independent person who is not particularly close to my parents. I appreciate my parents for their role in raising me and bringing me into the world. I just wonder if there is something deeply and inherently wrong with our culture and if there is, since I am a part of this culture, then I can discover it by looking deeply at myself.

My Grandfather left the small town and moved to California during the depression. His family stayed home on the farm. He was part of the first major exodus from small towns to urban areas. Eventually, he returned to the community, but not as a farmer. He ran a small grocery store. My father left the small town and raised our family in the suburbs of Minneapolis. He was part of the last exodus that doomed small towns for good. But, as a child, I made many trips to visit my grandparents grocery store in the small town. It was a four hour drive and I have many cherished memories of time spent with my grandparents and small town living in an agricultural community – albeit a dying one at that. These trips required a 4 hour drive one-way, but still we made frequent weekend drives.

I live less than 30 minutes from my parent’s townhome. My son visits my mother and father about 3-4 times a year at their home. This is much less than I spent with my grandparents. His other grandparents operate the beautiful hay and alfalfa farm near us as well. My son cannot get enough of spending time with my father-in-law and his tractors.

Part of the appeal is the land, I am sure. But, I wonder how long this will last. Eventually, the farm will be associated with work for my son and without a love for work and the time spent with loved ones working together this love for the farm will dissipate as it has over and over again amongst rural families.

My friend is a sixth-grade teacher and he tells me that he tells his students on the first day of class every year that he is going to be spending more time with them than their parents. Public schools have taken over the role of raising our children. Who needs parents anymore? Public schools in rural communities educate the children to be productive members of our economy. This has nothing to do with preserving the community these schools are in. Graduates like my father left the community to work in the cities rather than toil away on the farms in the area.

Myths like Harry Potter only add to this message that parents and families are not needed for the development and maturation of our children. All we need to do is send them to school. I have recently come to believe that sustainable economies can only be found in small rural communities where wealth is produced from taking care of the land and community and not by speculative ventures where profits are made through buying and selling commodities. This wealth has not been appreciated in our present economy, but it will eventually be necessary to return to our rural roots if we wish to live in harmony with our environment and in a sustainable manner.

For this to happen we are going to need new ways of educating our youth and alternatives to Harry Potter for myths to raise our children on.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I'll be there

Its time to make my peace with Barry Bonds and I think I did last night. I was watching his at bat against Beckett and I actually jumped off the coach in anticipation of the homerun, ready to give him a huge cheer - a loud YES, BARRY! BARRY, BARRY.

I had to check myself to see what just happened. I’ve been one of those baseball purists over the last couple of years who is convinced Barry used Steroids and I remain convinced that his steroid use is a strong possibility. But, I also always suspected Lance Armstrong must have used Steroids and that never stopped me from watching the stages in the Tour-de-France and his domination of it. I would be in favor of them taking all of Lances championship trophies away from him for his violations, if proved, but still nothing can take away from that moment in the 2000 Tour, I think it was, when Lance was going up some mountain, leading Ulrich (another alleged steroid user) and glancing back at him as if to say, “you hurting Jan, well, lets just pick if up a little then,” and then raced away opening up a large lead.

There is something about a dominant sports athletic performance that is spectacular to watch. I’d rather know that these dominant performances were not steroid produced, but what if everyone is doing them? You still have to admire the feat. No one in baseball has been even close to as dominant as Barry Bonds over the second half of his career. He hit balls out of the park like popcorn popping. I don’t know what I think about him being in the Hall of Fame, but I decided I’m going on barry-watch and I’m not going to miss his breaking of Henry Aaron’s record. I watched Henry break Ruth’s record and, dammit, I’m not going to miss this historical moment in Baseball, just as I never missed Armstrong’s run of tours or Clemon’s 350 victory or Mcguire’s historic run at Maris’s single season record.

Barry is one hell of a Baseball player, even if you factor in that he’s a cheater.

Monday, July 9, 2007


I had a nice weekend and a screwed up Monday. Way too many things to do in the office. I hate that. I was thinking all weekend about some of the things I wanted to write about, Now it's already time to go home. Oh well, I hope tomorrow goes a little smoother and I can get ahead of the wave a bit.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Yay!, It's already the weekend -that was a short week

The previous post comes across a little self-righteous. You should always keep in mind when reading anything I write, that I really am just flying by the seat of my pants. I am not judging anyone on the way they live their lives. I just think each of us should take more care in our lives. Our lives might be more meaningful if we were producers for an economy in addition to being consumers and selling our labor. When producing goods for people to buy in our local communities we will take care in these products and how they are produced. That is something missing from today’s global economy.

I took out the comments feature for most of my threads a few weeks back. I just decided it wasn’t necessary and I hated to judge the quality of my posts by the number of comments I received. I will usually place a thread with the comments feature on at the end of the week so you can comment on the previous week’s posts, or anything else you like until your heart’s content over the weekend in this space.

I'm going to pick up a four-pack of 16oz cans of my new favorite micro brew available in Mpls/St Paul area -- Surleys Furious and one 4-pk of the Cynic too. See you on Monday the 9th.

Why I am a Luddite?

I promised to answer this question in a post last month. Well, Wendell Berry offers a pretty good explanation.

I rely on technology to navigate in this world. I am fully indoctrinated into American culture with a Masters degree in Economics. I can find my way around the computer quite well without being information systems technician. I know just enough to stay employed in this pecuniary economy.

It is my belief that most of the people I encounter everyday are not happy in their roles each one plays in this same economy. We each feel something is missing or we should be doing something else. Out connection to each other via electronic media, cell phones and text messaging leaves all of us feeling incomplete. I believe the primary component missing in our lives is a connection to place and community - culture. Contrary to the diversity specialists and multi-cultural advocates, culture is not tied to self-esteem or an individual's identity. Culture is attached to place and when we can buy culture through the mail and identify with images we see on television or on our computer, we lose a connection to our community and history. This loss is much greater than most people realize, for without this history we cannot function as citizens. We are no longer responsible for a place and neighborhood, but are rather concerned only with ourselves and our families. To be successful is to be mobile and if the community surrounds us is in danger of collapse, the successful ones will move their families to a new community. This lack of responsibility to a place is what is driving America to forget its glorious past and focus instead on its perilous future and each of our escapes.

All of this is driven by our new technologies and the only way to salvage our past is to begin taking care of a piece of land, however small at the expense of a pension, insurance, mobility, pecuniary gain. All wealth derives from material resources. The pecuniary wealth holders among the professional classes hold on the wealth is precarious at best as our collapsing housing market currently foreshadows. Buying and holding property cannot bring a return on an investment that is subject to exponential laws, unless it becomes speculative. However, these returns do not increase the real value of the land. Only stewardship and community building can raise the real return on the land.

The real return comes with a sense of place that is received from becoming part of a social network that depends on this place for its survival. We no longer have many places left in the US that are locally dependent as we rely more and more upon foreign imports of inferior products. These products are not inferior because they are produced by an inferior foreign people, but rather because they are not produced with care. They are produced with only one goal in mind -- profit. A local producer cares about what happens to the products he or she sells within the community because these products reflect on his or her reputation in the community. Multi-national global corporations have no such cares, outside of how they effect their bottm-lines. All this brings me back to the only permanent solution to the disease that infects our global culture, for lack of a better term describing our current condition.

We must place an emphasis on community and our local environments over technological advancements. Any technology that breaks apart a local community or harms a local habitat, should be restricted if not banned. Without such restrictions, we will continue down the path of individual pursuits of financial rewards at the expense of everything that is necessary for the pursuit of human freedoms and dignity in each of our lives.

My Niece Olivia

taking a stroll through my garden last year. I don't have any recent photos for my garden this year, yet.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Fourth of July

I'm probably not the first person to notice, but sometimes I wonder...

Yesterday, on the Fourth of July, I was on a bike ride with my son shortly before the sun was ready to set in the west. My son is five years old and really has not had any experience with fireworks in his conscious memory. I'm not much of a fan of watching explosions with the accompanying colorful patterns spilling across the night sky. It just never appealed that greatly to me, even as a child.

We pulled into our driveway on our bikes just as our neighbors began to set up their fireworks display on our road. My son wanted to watch, so we sat down in the grass and I watched colorful sparks, bright lights, amongst intermittent explosions as the smell of smoke permeated the air. We were treated to this display by our neighbors son, Eric and his friends. Eric is a 22 year old male, who floundered around after high school and couldn't find a job after failing several tests to become a union employee for heating and air conditioning installation and maintenance. He joined the armed services a year ago and is waiting to be shipped to Iraq this September. He seemed unusually poised, mature and calm as he answered my sons questions before lighting the next display. I am sure he spent a few hundred on this 25 minute fireworks performance that gave him only minimal pleasure as judged by his reaction to it.

Perhaps, I am reading too much into his temperament as he readies himself to go to Iraq where explosions will be commonplace and the "rockets red glare and the bombs bursting in air," will give proof to nothing more than horrible maiming, killing and destroying of his comrades and the Iraqi population.

For a nation that constantly trumpets calls for peace in the world and holds a self-image as a civilized country where democracy rules, it is strange that we have such a fascination and a glorification of that beastly human construct called war. From our national anthem to the annual fireworks display that are supposed to remind of us of our independence, we hardly place freedom, democracy, peace and humanity on the same pedestal we place war and the destruction that accompanies it.

My son watched with fascination as the display continued while my dog huddled shaking in his kennel from fright. When my son was two, I was coaxed to attend a fireworks performance on the fourth at a small town in Minnesota by family and friends. As the performance began my son ran quivering into my arms and buried his face in my chest as he cried inconsolably. Last night, at five, he was visibly excited to watch this much smaller display. I could not help but wonder what he was being conditioned to as Eric bent over to quietly light the next firework with his cigarette, knowing this won't be the last, and assuredly not the most spectacular, display - but it might be his last fourth of July.