Friday, July 31, 2015

The Buddhist Temple in Santee is a place that I revisit at least once a year.  I am reminded that the world is not very big after all. This temple could as easily be a regular feature on a road in Singapore or Penang or Hong Kong or New York.  I rode my bike to the Hazard Center Trolley Stop in Mission Valley, hitched a ride out to El Cajon, pedaled up Fletcher Parkway to Estelle's house and then after a short visit I went on over to Windmill View Road to Ed's house and then down the steep road to the Buddhist Temple... after a stress-free few minutes there I rode on over through Mission Gorge.  It's a ride through the history of San Diego.  Life is Good!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

and Dick
and neighbors

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My friend John left town a couple of days ago; but before he headed north, he gave me a book and a pen.  He made the pen himself… well, most of the pen… everything about it except the metal that holds a pen together and the writing instrument which I can replace when I’ve written all the ink out of it. I won’t even try to describe the barrel of the pen.  It’s a wonder of lathe-turned wood. I will definitely write with it.

The book is Sue Monk Kidd’s Invention of Wings.  Kidd wrote The Secret Life of Bees.   I had read reviews of this new book by Kidd, but I was unprepared for the first few short paragraph of the first page:

“There was a time in Africa the people could fly.  Mauma told me this one night when I was ten years old.  She said, “Handful, your granny-Mauma saw it for herself.  She say they flew over trees and clouds.  She say they flew like blackbirds.  When we came here, we left that magic behind.”

My Mauma was shrewd.  She didn’t  get any reading and writing like me.  Everything she knew came from living on the scarce side of mercy.  She looked at my face, how it flowed with sorrow and doubt, and she said, “You don’t believe me   Where you think these shoulder blades of yours come from, girl?”

Those skinny bones stuck out from my back like nubs.  She patted them and said, “This all what left of your wings.  They nothing but these flat bones now, but one day you gone get ‘em back.:

I was shrewd like mauma.  Even at ten I knew this story about people flying was pure malarkey.  We weren’t some special people who lost our magic.  We were slave people, and we weren’t going anywhere.  It was later I saw what she meant.  We could fly all right, but it wasn’t any magic in it.

Those first few sentences hooked me, but if they hadn’t the next sentence would have done it:

The day life turned into something the world could not fix, I was in the work yard...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I went out to the airport to pick up my friend Dick Kirby this afternoon, and the light was just right for a picture of my city.  There are days when the city belongs to some unknown entity, a person or a group, but not to me.  When the light is just right, it belongs to me.  The boats and the water and the sky are mine and the buildings are mine... the world is mine.

My feeling about the city today brings to mind the question with which I have been wrestling for the past couple of days; and I wondered if everybody had days like this one has been for me, days when nothing is wrong in the world.  Of course, today Donald Trump, and as a matter of fact, none of the others who are trying for a place on a special ballot which we'll mark to elect the next president of the United States have figured into my picture of the world. My sense of the universe is limited to what I can see, and what I could see today was absolutely wonderful... no fighting, no wars, no divorce, no hungry children, no people without a place to sleep when nightfall comes... everything is right. I've heard a saying since I was little, "God's in His heaven and all's right with the world." For me it has never meant anything like what the literal words suggest.  When I've heard someone say it, I've never wondered who or where God is or where heaven is, and I've known since I was a small child that there aren't days when literally "All's right with the world."  When I was a child in Arkansas, there was a war going in Europe and I knew it, and I knew there were people who were suffering.  I didn't know the details of the Holocaust, but I knew there was something terribly wrong, even when I was a child.  I knew the perfect, spacious school I attended in Roseboro, Arkansas, was for white children only; and my Mother kept me aware that black children in that little town went to school in a shanty on the other side of a mill pond. She didn't like segregation, of adults or children; but she kept from me the extent of the suffering of Americans who were not white.  Her brothers were in Europe during the war... fighting... seeing what the rest of the world was like, and although I knew something about the unfairness of things in the world, I didn't learn until I was older that there are people who never have a day when the world belongs to them.

On Sunday, I got an e-mail response to my Saturday BLOG writing from my friend Taylor Hill who lives in Florida.  I've known Taylor long enough to know he has days in Florida that belong to him the way this day in San Diego belongs to me.  I got his permission to share his writing:


Reading your writing this morning before heading out to church, I am struck especially about your second paragraph--"I have been preoccupied lately with an awareness that my existence is known really only by me," etc.  

I have been thinking a lot about that very thing, not for the altruistic reason you write, concerning racism in our country, but I think about my individuality as a way for preparation for my own death eventually-- sort of like W. C. Fields, when he was found uncharacteristically reading the Bible one day, and a friend asked him what he was doing.  Fields responded, "I'm cramming for my finals.  It's not that I feel that death is pending, (although one never knows), it's just that I'm aware that I am in the winter time of life.

As I get older it comes home to me more and more that we are so individual, so alone.  This is one reason that significant human contact means so much to me.  I don't mean being in a crowd, I hate that, even in a church crowd, but with someone who may have some interest in me, some sympathy, a willingness to listen.  I have discovered people like that in my life (you are one of them) but they are rare.

It occurred to me yesterday as I thought of this, that I have no idea what it would be like to be female, no inkling of what it would be to be a person of color in our mostly white culture, no idea of what it would be like to have a different sexual orientation.  I am of the privileged class--white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant, male, heterosexual.  So I am dependent on people who are different from me to help me to understand their world, their experience.  To me that is a microcosm of the church and a picture of the Kingdom of God, where the lion and the lamb lie down together, where children play on the holes of the asps, where men beat their swords into pruning hooks and their spears into plowshares.

Grace and peace,

Monday, July 27, 2015

I was riding my Bicycle down Ulric Street from Linda Vista again today, and there on the side of the road was one flip-flop.  I thought, of course, that there was only one; but I was wrong.  A few yards down the street lay the mate.  They were on the street at the hillside where there are no houses.  It's still as much a mystery.  Why on Ulric Street do shoes keep being abandoned?  This time there were two. I put them together and will check tomorrow to see if they are still there.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Never ever hesitate…
procrastinate maybe…
but never wait a second ever 
to claim the decades earned.

Ninety is a good number
when counting years lived.
Don’t ever think the alternative
was an acceptable excuse

For not remembering Nixon
or celebrating who FDR was…
You make us glad to be alive with you
and hope for many years to come.

Jerral Miles 

The Lunch Bunch sans Ellis and Kirby

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Just after four o’clock in the morning few cars have ventured out onto San Diego’s Streets and Highways.  Only street lights and very few automobiles' low beams cut through the darkness... the car light breaks are temporary, contained and always quickly leave the world the way it is when night rules the suburbs… little color except roadway reflectors and lots of shadows. I drove out to El Cajon to pick up my friend Ed at his house. Darkness blanketed Windmill View Road in the early morning long before the approaching sun brightened the sky.

I have been preoccupied lately with an awareness that my existence is known really only by me.  Margaret knows me pretty well.  My close friends and my children have some mostly fixed notions of who I really am. My drivers license and my passport don’t give a clear definition of who I am. 

I wrote yesterday of my learning first what being black by living as a black person in America means to Ta-Nehisi Coates and what he says it must mean to his son; and since yesterday I have been trying to figure out what being white means. Sitting in the dim interior of my moving car at four-thirty in the morning, I tried to picture myself as a person of color, as dark as the darkness of the space in which I sat and drove. I wondered what it might be like to step into a well lighted room as a person with skin as dark as midnight. Most of us white people have no way of knowing what it is to be "the other."

My grandparents had nine sons, no daughters... My father is the guy in the red shirt.  The picture was taken sometime around 1943 or 1944.  Uncle Ed was still in the army.  My grandfather lived another twenty years, to age ninety-six.  We are a white family.  None of us ever knew what it feels like to go out into the world afraid because of tint of our skin.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The First image is a sidewalk stain in North Park.
The other pictures are of a man taking pictures of the North Park Sign from the center of the roadway.


On my way to coffee with Eric, I wheeled my bike into the trolley bound for El Cajon this morning… past the rush hour time of getting to work… and it was filled with mostly people of color.  I was an old white man in a sea of black and Latino bodies with a smaller mix of Asian and Middle Eastern folks. Last night I had watched and heard Ta-Nehisi Coates discuss his book Between the World and Me, so I rode the trolley with the same information I had known other times but definitely with more insight than I had previously carried along with me when I waited for the trolley and while I sat for half-an-hour on it watching people come and go.  

At the Grossmont Transit Center I watched as people approached the trolley station.  A black boy in a hoodie came onto the platform carrying a skate board. He sat hunched with the hood covering most of his face.  Black women and girls and other darker skinned females came onto the platform, but they stood.  White people came onto the platform and most of them sat if they found an empty seat.  A White boy about the same age as the boy in hoodie came onto the platform, back straight… he walked to meet his friend, a white girl, as if the platform belonged to him.  Two men, one a good looking black man and a shorter, stockier white man came onto the platform and walked to the ticket machine at the same time.  The white man was at ease and in charge.  The black man waited until the white man had got his ticket before he put his money into the machine. 

On the way back home, it occurred to me that I am the only one of my hilltop friends who routinely rides the trolley.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

What’s the Problem!

The most reliable charts detailing the growth of human populations (UN  designations) indicate that Homo Sapiens, my species, made up a negligible number around 70,000 years ago.  By the Time the Common Era began 2015 years ago there were 200 million people on earth.  When I was born in 1935 we had grown to around 2 billion people on the planet.  By the year 2000 just over six billion of us were crowded onto five continents and a scattering of islands.  Fifteen years later there are seven billion, three hundred twenty four million (7,324,000,000) of us. 

Technological developments make keeping track of demographic information possible, even for an old retired teacher like me.  I went to the Internet and soon found plenty of information about what happened to people in the past and what may happen to us in the future.  I am left to wonder what in the world can possibly be on the minds of people like Marco Rubio when they stand up in front of Obama Administration leaders like John Kerry and the world and insist that “the deal” with Iran is the most dangerous alternative available.  The agreement, considered by all European  leaders after months of negotiators to be the best option, is now being presented to the American Congress and American people as one that holds out hope for Israel and for the world.  Rubio and all other announced Republican candidates for the office of U.S. President, along with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, insist that the deal means certain annihilation for Israel and disaster for the rest of us.

ISIL/ISIS and all those everywhere who want all 7,3+ billion of the world’s people to live under Sharia law will continue their campaign to destroy Israel, but they won't be successful ultimately. The hope of radical Islam is as unrealistic as the hope of radical Christianity or radical Judaism. There is not going to be a time when the majority of people on earth indorse a religion as the guide for all 7+ billion of us.  There is the possibility, some would say even likelihood, that enough radicals might get together under the flag of one or the other of the world’s religions to do terrible damage to civilization.

If you haven’t yet seen the MOPA exhibit, 7 Billion Others, go right away.  Also, take a look at the August issue of Scientific American. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015



Under a picture of Eddie, a 14-year-0ld who has dropped out of school in San Bernardino, the statistics paint a very different picture of America from the one where I live.  The story begins with the headline, “No Room at the Inn for Innocence.”  Information in the story includes statistics for homelessness and poverty of children in America, and closer to home in California.  I learned, for example, that 5.7% of children in California are homeless.  They live in cars or in parks or temporarily in shelters for the homeless.  The only states with more homeless children than California are Mississippi and Alabama.  Nine percent of the children living in San Bernardino County are homeless.  

In America 22% of children live in poverty. I was taught that our country is “the city set on a hill” that all the world should use as model.  What has happened to us?  Where is the outrage? Where is the determination that the situation will change?  Trickle down, indeed.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Regarding a VERY PERSONAL LETTER today from Alan E. Sears, President, CEO & General Counsel of  Alliance Defending Freedom based in Scottsdale, Arizona... WHAT A CROCK OF …!  The four page “personal” letter to me from “Alan” is a clear signal that “my dear friend ALAN” is on the take for big bucks.  Although he expresses his distain for American government, he represents a charitable organization that is tax-except and free to use the U.S. mails and other infrastructure to frighten and hoodwink people and separate them from their money.  The letter begins with a Personally penned note (blue ink instead of black) telling me that “You’re being told: KEEP YOUR FAITH AT HOME…OR ELSE.”  

The four page letter goes on to paint a dreadful picture of ACLU, the Obama Administration, and various other U.S. Government villains who, according to my friend “Alan,” are striving to destroy Judeo-Christian underpinnings of American culture.  

The letter is a plea for money.  I went on-line to check the WEB site of Alan Sears’ Alliance Defending Freedom, and I found more stuff that will appeal to people who live in frightened ignorance that the American Government is bad for them.  Our system of government is a good one partly because it allows people like “my friend Alan Sears” to send letters through the U.S. mail to try to get people to send “a gift of $25, $35. $50… $100 or more to defend our religious freedom.”  

Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention that “my friend Alan” has send me a free gift along with his advice and his appeal: a page of sticky return address labels… which I have dropped into the waste basket along with his four-page appeal for money.  Oh, also by the way, I found that Alliance For Freedom had administrative services costs of nearly $47 million dollars in 2014.  I don’t know how much of that went for salary for “my friend Alan.”  

Monday, July 20, 2015

We'd Rather Look at Obvious Beauty

Take a Closer Look…

No Child Left Behind is a federal Act that has been on the books since the presidency of George W. Bush.  It is the brainchild of the Department of Education “experts” in his administration who recognized that many students in the public school system are disadvantaged by, among other things, poverty.  What a Republican administration does about any of the inevitable end results of poverty, especially of children living in poverty, is limited by a Republican trickle-down, pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps mindset. The thing never to do is spend “government” money to correct a problem.  Disadvantaged people, even disadvantaged children, are expected to find a way out of the circumstances that create the disadvantage.  

In a time when both houses of the legislature are dominated by Republicans, the No Child Left Behind program has all but collapsed after being replaced by a complicated and problematic system in which states have been granted waivers that allow them to choose what they will or will not do for public school students living in poor districts. Congress is dominated by leaders who are convinced that Federal control over schools is a bad idea. When the law was put in place, poor districts were given fourteen years to bring their schools up to “full academic proficiency” for ALL THEIR STUDENTS.  Strategies developed by “educators” in the Department of Education clearly did not work. Now both the House and the Senate have passed separate bills. The two bills must be reconciled. Prescriptive and punitive remedies haven’t worked.  The federal Department of Education is managed by people who seem to know only strategies that are aimed at punishing those people who are in charge of lower performing schools. That has obviously not worked in the past because punishing poor people for being poor instead of removing as many of the disadvantages of poverty from poor children and poor older young people has never been tried in our country.  

Standards can include measures to prepare students for jobs and/or college.  Living conditions of students in a district can be evaluated locally to determine what can and what should be done to help the poorest children achieve academic success that leads to jobs or college.  All teachers assigned to schools serving poor students should be thoroughly acquainted with the impact of poverty on learning.  That will take more money for teacher training in poverty pockets of America. Rather than pouring money into federal and state departments of education, funds must be made available for preparation of teachers in poor neighborhoods.  “No Child Left Behind” put great emphasis on student performance as measured by tests, so teachers naturally began teaching to the test.  Those teachers whose students didn’t show improvement were fired and their administrators were put on notice that they would be fired if they couldn’t find teachers who “could teach to the test.”  The disadvantage of poverty has not been addressed.  We seem unwilling to do that.  Until we become willing, programs “approved” by the House and Senate leaders who don’t understand poverty are bound to fail.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Helen's Birthday was last Wednesday...
but we went for dinner this evening.
Life is good!

Saturday, July 18, 2015


Patrick is in France.  Elaine ran with her group in a 5-K race.  I drove her to the event which began on University Avenue ahead of the Gay Pride Event and the biggest lightening/thunder/rain storm we've had in San Diego in a very long time.  The event was great.  I dropped Elaine off to get her number and went off to find a parking place, and; I rode back on my bike and phoned her to learn where I should meet her before the race began.  She said to meet her on Center Street East of Normal Street.  It occurred to me when I got there that if I were writing a novel now I would call it "East of Normal."  

She is wearing Jeremy's NASA shirt... She came in second in her category.  

Friday, July 17, 2015

Looking at some of the pictures of shadows today
I remembered Plato’s Allegory of the Cave… 
I dug around in my books and found his story of people
who have been chained to the wall of a cave
all of their lives… chained and facing a blank wall.
The people watch shadows projected on the wall
by things passing in front of a fire behind them,
so they begin to designate names to these shadows.
Shadows are as close as the prisoners get to reality…
and the story goes on to explain how the philosopher 
who is freed from the cave and finally comes to know
that the shadows on the wall don’t make up reality at all.