Wednesday, September 30, 2009

This is the familiar path I ride to get from the valley to my house.
I rode my bicycle beside the San Diego River today before I headed up the hill to our house. Everything was familiar: the river, the poplars, the moon (full next Monday), the bike path. There was chill in the air, but in San Diego there will be no frost; however, frost will come to San Diego County's mountains sometime this month.


Poplars beside the river reach for the full moon
in October when other trees preparing to sleep
ignore everything but frost in the south wind
biting at the last green leaves struggling
like sweet gum and maple before they let go
falling spinning drifting settling dying
which happens to all of us eventually
stretching until the very end
reaching for the full moon in October.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I stepped outside my room onto the porch
and didn’t close the screen door behind me.
As if on cue, a long-legged/long-tentacled,
very green grasshopper flew into the house.
Had it been waiting there to see for itself
how the inside compares with the outside?

Remember Tithonus from Troy, loved by Eos,
to whom he prayed for immortality, which he got;
but like so many who are utterly distracted
by their own beauty, he forgot to ask also
for eternal youth, so he got older and older
until at last he prayed to Eos and asked for death.

But there are some things even gods can’t do,
so she did the best she could for her beloved
and changed him into a grasshopper, which
like so much in life that has to do with love
is both blessing and curse... My grasshopper,
however curious, is probably not Tithonus.

He seemed to have, however, a need to know
about porcelains I kept on a shelve with books.
Had he been outside looking through the window,
and had he seen the ancient vase from China
with flowers and insects so real that I myself
stop to touch them sometimes when I pass?

He paused for a moment on the shelf and looked
before climbing as grasshoppers can do up and up
to a spot where there was a painted grasshopper
much like himself, and he rested there long enough
to satisfy some need to know, and then went quietly
to the door, no turning back, to disappear into the air.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mrs. Laney insisted,
and I think she was right.
What Shakespeare knew
or didn’t know is beside the point.
The world is what it is.

What he was
and would be if he were alive today
is another matter.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Americans are generous and optimistic. Today's annual AIDS (5 K) Walk/ (10 K) Run was a success. The event brought together 8000 participants who together raised more than half-a-million dollars to be used by not-for-profit organizations serving people affected by AIDS in San DIego County. When we get together around a cause, we can accomplish great things.

Patrick isn't in the picture because he was running while the rest of us waited for the start of the "WALK." He came in 8th overall, and 1st in his age group (40 to 49). The RUN was 10 K.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Right wing political strategists are shamelessly resorting to the tactics Senator Joseph McCarthy used effectively in the 1950s until wiser Americans exposed him for the deceiver that he was. Slap a label on a person you wish to discredit; and whether or not the appellation fits or its meaning is even understood, ignorant people are easily manipulated into believing the worst about the person being smeared. To gain control, politicians with the help of loud-mouth radio and television talk-show hosts, like schoolyard bullies, intimidate and scare people into believing the nation is at risk. Their message is that we should be afraid, very afraid.

When right wing ideologues accuse the President of being a socialist, they fail to acknowledge that they themselves are the benefactors of socialist institutions. Public schools and the Post Office are probably the clearest examples of socialism working for the benefit of all, but there are many other socialistic institutions and services in Americans cities. While there are some hard-line capitalists who might vote to disband all systems of public education and turn them into proprietary businesses, the vast majority of Americans receive their education in public schools and are generally like the idea of public education. Street, road, and highway systems, public transportation systems, water and sewage systems, parks and public recreation facilities, and the post office are socialist institutions most of us use regularly. Would the proprietary Federal Express be willing to take a letter from San Diego to New York for forty-one cents? Is there anyone who would seriously like to disassemble the New York subway and bus system or the Washington’s Mass Transit System and turn all those people out to further paralyze rush hour traffic? Without public services provided to all citizens, America could not be the world’s most powerful nation.

Perhaps the most egregious deception promoted by those determined to discredit the President is that capitalism is always right and is always good. Many years ago Karl Marks and Friedrich Engels made a case for extreme socialism, which they called communism, and half the world was plunged into economic and social disaster. Their biggest mistake was to make anathema the very notion of capitalism. Capitalism was the dirty word, the evil. In 1991 when the Soviet Union was dissolved, capitalism was lifted up as the solution for all the problems of post-Soviet Russia. Not quite two decades later, Russia is a country where a few people are obscenely rich, and the majority of Russians are living near or below the poverty level in a country with crumbling infrastructure. When America has been strongest and our system has done the most good and the least harm, we have enjoyed a blending of capitalism and socialism within a two-party system of government. Just as strict communism was a calamity for Eastern Europe, the gradual unbridling of capitalism over the past quarter century lead to the current disastrous economic recession. The financial weakening of the American middle and lower classes has resulted in a tremendous imbalance in the economy. It takes the monetary and material resources of the bottom ninety-five percent of Americans to equal the wealth of the top one percent.

We are witnessing the incredible power of the top five percent as we watch the insurance and pharmaceutical industries maneuver to defeat , or at least weaken, President Obama’s Health Care Program. Money for reelection buys representatives and senators of both parties The oligarchs who control American business can be successful in keeping control only if they do what schoolyard bullies do: show exaggerated strength, intimidate and frighten... and if enough ignorant people can be deceived into believing the top one percent who control our nation’s wealth will look after the interests of all Americans, President Obama’s efforts to get health care for all americans will fail.

Friday, September 25, 2009

This white gardenia...
the only one blooming now...
Summer is over.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

AS THE STORY GOES...the gate came from Monastery of San Francesco in Fiesole, near Florence, Italy. During WW II the monks in the monastary were short of food. A lieutenant in the U.S. Forces befriended the monks by taking them food supplies. At war's end the gate was given to the lieutenant in appreciation.

In 1970 the gate was in an auction in San Diego. It was purchased by Dr. Dean Edell. Dr. Edell sold the gate to Ideas, Inc. Ideas Inc. was owned by George Babcock and Quint Pearson. The gate now hangs in a special place of honor in the home of Ed Jirjis.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The statue in my friend's garden is St. Francis.I got a request from one of my very best an e-mail:

“Jerral,  I need some of your words; calm, nonagressive, non-confrontational words.  During lunch today, a guest  stated that members are leaving the church because the high leadership of the church (Lutheran) decided to allow homosexuals to pastor churches.  I would like to write a letter to the news letter of the church and have read some pretty good blogs from you on the subject.  If you feel like writing a paragraph or three, I would like your help.  That's all, “

So, I wrote:

Lutherans and all other Christians are called to put into actual, day-to-day practice Jesus’ suggestions for relating to other people. As a matter of fact, his best known statement about responding to others is known as the “Golden Rule.” It’s not a name Jesus gave to the practice, but it’s not a bad label. His suggestion is that we should relate to other people in exactly the way we would like them to relate to us. The “rule” doesn’t say we should expect other people to see the world the way we see it. In no way does the “rule” say the responsibility is ours to decide and declare which ways of being human are appropriate for other people. In Matthew 7:12 Jesus said , “Therefore all things whatsoever you would that men should do to you even so to them.” The New English Bible translation says, “Always treat others as you would like them to treat you.” Perhaps beginning with verse one of Chapter seven is a good idea: “Pass no judgement, and you will not be judged.”

Some of the things Jesus did NOT say: “Do to others the things they do to you;” “Do to others first before they get a chance to do to you;” “Wait and see how others treat you, and then give them the same kind of treatment.”

Perhaps it is time for Lutherans to set the right example before the world, and especially before the rest of the Christian community, in the matter of human sexuality. We reject outright many of the laws in the Levitical Code. None of us, for example, believe a “woman caught in adultery” should be stoned to death. Yet many in the Christian community believe they should decide for other people whom it is appropriate for them to love, and whom they may marry. Because more than half of all marriages in American end in divorce (obviously, many others fail but don’t end in divorce), it is clear that many people are notoriously bad at picking life partners for themselves. It is time for Lutherans to do to others in this matter of human sexuality what we want them to do to us. Don’t judge. Leave the matter of loving and marrying and mating to “the other,” just as we expect “the other” to do to us. It’s a simple suggestion, this Golden Rule. It’s easy. It applies to Sunday School teachers and pastors and music directors and organists and to every soul that wanders into our churches off the street.

It has been suggested that the reason many people are leaving the Lutheran church is that the denomination has officially sanctioned the appointment of gay and lesbian persons to be pastors of Lutheran Churches. Perhaps the persons who leave the church for that reason have failed to understand the heart of the Gospel. All means all.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Yesterday's and Today's photos du jour were taken at Ed's house. The spray painter's mask yesterday was an irresistible image. It was disturbing, however, in a way that reminds me of chaos and war. Today a small bench with a head carved into each end of the seat. I don't know where they came from... what culture; but the face on each end is slightly disturbing, each in its own way. One seems angry; the other almost smiling... but perhaps a disturbing smile.RUSH

Hope has gone into hiding.
Civilization is lost.
Mankind can’t find its way
around the savage beasts
coming with bats and pipes
swinging, bashing, breaking
everything, loosing rage
beyond all sense and reason.

No calling back,
no withdrawal,
no second thought
in broad daylight,
intent on crippling,
perhaps all sense
of fairness

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I am fortunate to be part of a weekly discussion group. We are mostly people who have retired or are about to cut out the daily trip to office or school or other job. We are people that other, younger people might call mature. Maturity is good. It is always interesting in the fall of the year, even in San Diego, to watch growing things mature... like the sunflowers that begin as shy, coy little blossoms before gradually becoming big and bold.
The ideas and ideals of adolescence are largely unrealizable... but the high school kid doesn’t need to know, shouldn’t know yet... is too close to the womb to need to know for sure anything. There will be time later for knowing. In the meantime curiosity and experience are enough.

Full maturity comes sometime between middle age and old age. Up to the time of full maturity there is a growing awareness of what it means to be alive, to be human on this earth with other creatures, including but not limited other people. There are things to learn after reaching full maturity, but there are few surprises left for the fully mature person, only confirmation.

Full maturity is delayed for some and doesn’t come at all for others.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


The trail I leave
like footprints in snow
will disappear.

I am no Ozymandias.

Friday, September 18, 2009

This afternoon I watched a dozen or more bumble bees gathering pollen from pink flowers in Nancy’s backyard. I got my picture for the day and then checked to see what I could learn about these creatures that seem much to big to fly with their tiny set of wings... to see if there is anything special about them. Of course, there is something special about every creature. Bumblebees are related to honey bees. They go about the business of gathering nectar and pollen in much the same way honey bees do. Bumble bee society is also much the same as bees. There is a queen in each hive and she detrmines all kinds of important things for the group... for instance, before she lay an egg, she decides whether to use sperm from her spermatheca to fertilise it or not. Non-fertilised eggs grow into males, and only fertilised eggs grow into females and queens. When she mates, she stores the sperm to use whenever she decides she needs more females.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Today's journal, like Washington, includes a little bit of everything... even a few panels from the Berlin Wall, now in the Newseum (Yep! It is spelled N-E-W-S-E-U-M, with emphasis, of course, on news.HAVE YOU NOTICED?

President Obama seems to lack a quality of character that many of the people in the previous administration had in, pardon the expression, spades. He smiles; he frowns; he laughs; he listens. He doesn’t smirk.

Our President is bright, well-educated, and thoughtful... yet his character seems devoid of hubris. You’ll probably remember your high school English teacher wrote the word hubris on the blackboard when you read Shakespeare. She told you that Shakespeare was fascinated by the idea that hubris was the tragic flaw in otherwise noble characters.


George W. Bush in combat uniform climbing out of the Navy jet onto the deck of an aircraft carrier outside San Diego Harbor, claiming superiority and victory in June, 2003, near the beginning of a tragic conflict that isn’t over six years later.

Any press conference with Donald Rumsfeld and/or Dick Cheney explaining their views on anything.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Today's photograph is a picture of a picture. Margaret and I visited her brother, Dale Martin (yesterday's picture), in the Alzheimer's section of the residential care facility where he lives. His daughter-in-law Anna has assembled a photo collage of Dale and his family. I particularly liked the 3 inch x 5 inch photograph of Dale and Angie, who became his wife a few months after the picture was taken in Brooklyn, New York.

I spent part of the evening yesterday and most of the morning today inside the Alzheimer’s section of the very good residential facility where Dale lives. I am ten years younger than he is, and I can easily remember him when he was the handsome young husband to Angie. Margaret remembers him when he was a handsome young sailor. These days he is having a difficult time remembering anything and anyone. Even with the ravages of Alzheimer’s scrambling his thoughts, he remembers enough to say often, “I have had a good life.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Today we crossed the Verrazano Bridge, one of my favorite bridges in the world... going over to Valley Stream on Long Island to visit Margaret's brother and her nephew and his family. One of the highlights of a voyage from England to the U.S. on the new Queen Mary was the entrance to New York Harbor by sailing through the Verrazano Narrows. Dale, a couple of years into Alzheimer's Disease, has moved into a managed care facility.

Monday, September 14, 2009


...the people panhandling at intersections all over America!!! Who are they? Pay attention and do a little critical thinking about why the people are there who are there and why the people who are not there are not there.

The scene is always the same: the man or woman stands in the median holding a panel of cardboard (one edge torn) with big, hand-printed message. “UNEMPLOYED VETERAN”; “HUNGRY PLEASE HELP”; “I MAY BE UGLY BUT I STILL NEED TO EAT”; “SINGLE MOM NEED HELP”; and dozens of others ranging from attempts to be cute to heart-rendering pleas for mercy.

I do a good bit of traveling around the world and around America, and one of the things I have noticed in Europe is that there are very few panhandlers standing out in traffic begging for money. In America I have noticed that the panhandlers holding signs at America intersections are almost never Latino, Asian, Middle-Eastern, or Black. Now here’s where it might be a good idea to do some critical thinking. While picturing in your mind the people begging at American intersections, try to recall a mental image from TV news coverage of the people in town meetings around the country who are objecting to President Obama's health care program. I know it’s an intuitive leap that will give some people a reason to say, “There he goes again,” but think about it. Where are people of color in all this? Not many of them are among the protesters, and not many are begging at our street corners. I'm guessing that the majority of those people who are raising Cain at political rallies are assuming that the people who will be first in line to get something free from the government will be people of color. Is it possible that hidden way down deep in the American psyche lies a firmly-planted belief by many people who object to a proposed health plan for ALL AMERICANS... that “all americans” should not be given something by government because some of the people who claim to be Americans aren’t legitimate... based on an irrational fear that a program of help that would cost “the rest of us,” the legitimate Americans, money that we shouldn’t be asked to spend on deadbeats... and that “deadbeats” are mostly people of color... AND that way down deep in the psyche of many Americans lies a belief that people of color are basically not legitimate Americans... AND there may be a deep-down, unverified, based-only-on-gut-prejudice that out there in America most of the people who are deadbeats, people depending on government for what they need, people who want something for nothing... able-bodied, lazy, good-for-nothing men mostly, hanging around doing nothing except maybe pimping women who mostly sell their bodies and call it work... that mostly, the deeply engrained prejudice says, “those people” are people of color.

Now, here’s the easy part: What do you make of the apparent fact that the people begging with their cardboard signs at our intersections are NOT people of color? In San Diego, where I live, I see mostly the same cast of characters at the same intersections; and they are white. In other cities the beggars with the signs are mostly white. Why is that? What does it mean? And what does it mean that most of the ten thousand people protesting the President’s health care program at a big ralley on the Mall in Washington were not people of color. What does it mean?
THE NATIONAL GALLERY is alive and well. This is the people's museum... a United States Government museum, free to everybody who comes to the door. Is this an example of socialism? Where do they want to draw the line...these people who object to government involvement in our lives?
America is still working. This project is located on Rockville Pike across from Whiteflint Mall in Maryland.