Early #WATWB Heroes

We Are the World Blogfest

A little early for We Are the World Blogfest but the story was on CNN yesterday

It started with a what a drive-thru customer observed a customer in front of her do. The driver threw his drink through the window at the server. Apparently, according to the story on CNN, the guy didn’t want ice in his drink.

Feroza Syed, the customer who observed the outrageously childish behavior of the person in front of her, found Bryanna (the server) soaked and crying. Bryanna was six months pregnant.

Syed gave her a $20 tip, expressed her outrage at the man’s behavior and offered to contact the police. Hours later — and still fuming — Syed posted about the incident earlier this month on her Facebook page and got a huge response.
That gave her an idea. She asked her thousands of Facebook friends and followers if they’d be interested in sending “$5 or (whatever)” to her Venmo or Cash App and she’d figure out a way to get the money to Bryanna.
Donations poured in.
“I used to work retail and this story has me shaking mad,” one woman replied on the post, after donating.
A few days after the incident, Bryanna said her manager told her the woman who witnessed the incident was trying to get in touch with her. They eventually connected.
“(Feroza) was like …’I have a surprise for you and I really want to give it to you in person’ so I sent her my address,” Bryanna told CNN, asking that her last name not be included. “She gave me the envelope and I couldn’t do nothing but cry because I wasn’t expecting that.”
Inside the envelope was $1,700 in donations from people who saw Bryanna’s story on Facebook and, as Syed said, wanted to “put a smile on her face and show her not all humans are horrible.”
“A large portion of the donations were $5, $10, $20 and that totaled up to a large sum of money,” Syed said.
The story continues on CNN. Go there for photos and more details.

#WATWB for November 2020

We Are the World Blogfest

TWO items for this month’s We Are the World Blogfest.

 

First:  all those people who have volunteered for COVID vaccine trials!

Secondly, the folks at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. They came up with this overpass–for wildlife, to protect them and drivers on an interstate from deadly collisions. It’s working very well, considerably sooner than expected, to everyone’s surprised delight.

It went up in 2018. Here’s a recent video showing its use by the local animals. Can’t locate one that I can embed here, you will have to click the link to the CNN item–it’s just 46 seconds.

 

 

#WATWB October 2020–America Can Still Vote

We Are the World Blogfest

What? Of course Americans can vote!

Well, yes–but there is that pandemic. That justifiably worries many people about going to the polls, given the number of cases and deaths here in the US–more than anywhere else in the world!

Most states in the US have expanded the opportunities for both absentee ballots (that go by mail) and early voting (before the regular November 3rd date). That hasn’t gone too smoothly in many cases–due to those of one political perspective who don’t want voting to be easier or safer. They fear their candidate will lose if more people are able to vote.

Where’s the good news here?

People have not been deterred by the obstacles to voting–they have turned out in droves to vote early.

Younger people, with less risk of contracting the virus, have stepped up to work at polling sites. Sites that have typically been staffed by older, retired folks.

Most secretaries of state and local officials responsible for ensuring that voting goes well, have made an effort to see that it does. For those that have–rather than making it more difficult, deserve our gratitude.

Wait, there’s more people to thank. 

Typically, Americans (at least those who are interested) expect to hear predictions of the outcome the same night voting ends. This year, that may well not happen. The large number of mailed ballots will take time to count. Those tasked with that duty will deserve thanks–provided they do the job accurately and efficiently.

Finally, some countries around the world have very high participation in national elections. The US hasn’t generally been among them. That is already looking to be different this year. So, thanks go also to all those who have already voted or will in the next couple days–that is good news!

 

#40th Anniversary

A Toast to Ourselves–4o years this month.

We had a very special trip planned.  Three countries separated by the North Atlantic. Then the pandemic cameAs it happens, we weren’t in our 20s when we married, so we’re retired. For that reason, COVID-19 didn’t hit us as hard as others—for whom we have much sympathy.

We do have to take wearing a mask and social distancing more seriously. So far, we have remained virus free. Can’t really go anywhere either—not even to a restaurant. But we can get carryout. Sounds humdrum and disappointing. But it isn’t. There’s no distractions. We can sit out on the patio and enjoy the view from our dream house, high atop a hill at 6,700 feet.

Daisaku Ikeda says this in Buddhism Day by Day: Wisdom for Modern Life,

“A shallow person will only have shallow relationships. Real love is not one person clinging to another; it can only be fostered between two strong people secure in their individuality. Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince wrote in a work called Wind, Sand and Stars, ‘Love is not two people gazing at each other, but two people looking ahead together in the same direction.’ “

We were following de Saint-Exupery’s prescription some time ago and we still are. We looked ahead together for our move to the Southwest. And to designing that dream house with a view for many miles. In a dry climate with seasons not to hot and not too cold. We have already been on wonderful journeys here and there. The trip we planned for this year may happen the next—or it may not. But there will be more ahead. Meanwhile, we will enjoy our day reminiscing and discussing what we will do until our 50th anniversary. And where to go in 2030.

Deep, Down and Dirty Writing Secrets Wins Award

 

We are all due congratulations and you are due a free download!

 

DD&D just won the prestigious 16th annual New Mexico/Arizona 2020 Book Awards for eBook nonfiction.

 

Download FREE on October 1st or 20th from Amazon.

 

A Treasure Trove of Writing Tips 

 

From the Amazon blurb:

Writing advice that gets you started and keeps you going.

Wouldn’t you love to have authors reveal the secrets of their successes to you? You get that in this collection of essays, many by award-winning authors, and all of them fine practitioners of the craft. Their insights provide you with tools, tips, and encouragement for your own writing.

The book covers fiction and nonfiction. It includes samples of writing techniques used across various genres and for all sorts of readers.

Here’s a list of our authors–many award winners in their own right: Catalina Claussen, Alethea Eason, Chris Lemme, Kris Neri, E J Randolph, Kate Rauner, Eve West Bessier, Luanne Brooten, Sharleen Daugherty, John Maberry, Sharon Mijares, and Joni Kay Rose.

Cover of Deep Down & Dirty Writing Secretscre

Twilight–a peak, a driftwood frame and memories

Another Zoom brunch and another photo prompt–no, we do word or phrase ones too. Here’s the photo. From Lake Tahoe, Eve says. She is the group organizer–also a poet, photographer vocalist and more. 

A rocky shore at Lake Tahoe looking toward peaks at Donner Pass through a driftwood frame

From the image comes this poetic venture:

Twilight deepens, a flash of light

The camera captures a fleeting image

Through the hastily formed frame

A portal to a snowy peak’s past

She was present there once

Across the lake, over a rocky shore

Not a place for a picnic, still he must recall it

Where she last entranced him

With her smile, a look and a word

A love that might have endured

Like the decaying wood, it didn’t

Dead and gone, but not forgotten

A mind might see and hear

Something, someone, never there

But it might have been

 

Potpourri–Finding Meaning in Art, Perceptual Isolation, Racism and More

Transverse Line, a painting Wassily Kandinsky in 1923
Transverse Lines, by Wassily Kandinsky from 1923  image courtesy of https://www.wassily-kandinsky.org/images/gallery/Transverse-Lines.jpg

Yes, it’s a geometric abstract painting from nearly a 100 years ago. Why is it here? It’s a writing prompt from our Zoom “Tea and Scones Brunch” from a week or so ago. Oddly, but perhaps not surprisingly, no one actually has either the tea or the scones–so far as I know. We will start with my verse response and proceed on to the prose. A mashup of thoughts on the painting, perception with or without the aid of stimulants, etc., word association and excerpts from the memoir, Waiting for Westmoreland.

Verse Inspired by Transverse Lines

Analytical-lyrical or mood-sensational

Right brain struggles with left in Kandinsky land

Cyclops at the edge of time

Peers through a Venn diagram

A warped declination of mind

Where now—when, about?

Out of mind—Dylan, not Fagen

The stars have turned cherry red

Out of the blue, a palette offers more

Swirling shades arc across a porthole

Wormhole worlds gaze back, far away

Claw marks scratch a busy blend

He is unmoved—perhaps Ganja needed

Yet, the work does correlate with the diverticulitis

Perceptual reality–then and now

Once upon a time he focused on a flute, an alto sax—rhythm, lead or bass guitar. An augmented mind slowed to a moment. Perception advanced one note, one instrument at a time–transcendent. No more–he gave up marijuana 40 years ago.

Now it’s caffeine calibration—achieve the fine-tuned blend of alertness without feeling flutters. Alcohol allocation—maintain motor control and not too tipsy—yes, relaxation, words flow fast and freely as in first-year-law classes. Mary Jane—now legal but too strong. No amount tolerable—THC is too high, he is not buzzed, he borders on seizure. Nearly as stoned as the opiated hash he smoked several times in the 70s—without ill effects.

“Be here now,” Richard Alpert, AKA Ram Dass, said. So, that’s today’s target. Not always easily found. He strives through faith and doctor’s advice on what more medications he can stop. Coming back from a New Year’s Eve Buddhist event 30 years, his exhilarated mind felt like nothing more than the high of good weed—without any. Now, without recreational drugs, listening to Return to Forever’s Romantic Warrior, the Pooh character Christopher Robin pops in his mind each time a certain bar repeats. From whence comes the association, he wonders.

Without aid, words and music heard prompts memories—times, people and places. Time travel is possible—he goes there whenever he wants, via those recollections. Current events—America’s racism, old and new. 

 

Recollections From Waiting for Westmoreland–a bridge to current times

At home, in Minneapolis:

I was eight or nine years old when my mother read me a newspaper report about a gruesome murder. The killers had dragged the cook out of the Bandbox, a burger joint in Camden, a tiny business district in north Minneapolis about a mile from our house. 

“They banged his head on the curb until he was dead—because he was Chinese,” she cried, tears welling up in her eyes. “It’s just like the Ku Klux Klan, dragging black people from their homes—whipping, beating or killing them because of their skin color.”

I said nothing, unsure how to reply either to her sorrow or to her disgust, but the image of people being dragged out and beaten remained seared in my mind.

In Vietnam:

 Upon our arrival, much to my surprise, I immediately spotted Sam Jackson, my former radio school classmate and fellow Ft. Meade parade participant. I knew that he too was heading to Vietnam when he left Ft. Meade, but I hadn’t expected to see him again here. Jackson’s orders had come two days before mine and he had arrived in the unit two days ahead of me.

“Jackson here says you were one of the best students in radio mechanic school.”

“Well, I did OK,” I said, unprepared to provide a more sensible answer. As it turned out, no answer would likely have sufficed to avoid the fallout from this.

“No Sarge, he was really tops,” Jackson helpfully added, in a respectful tone very different from the one I was accustomed to hearing from him when addressing white NCOs. Whether sincere or calculated as a setup, I soon learned it would be difficult to live up to Jackson’s buildup. 

Since I had seen him at Ft. Meade, barely a month before, Jackson had shed the guise of Huey Newton. Now he played the role of Rochester, Jack Benny’s man. Instead of the “Yass, boss,” that Rochester always said to Benny, it was “Yass, sergeant” from Jackson. It was accompanied with a happy hop-to-it attitude, instead of the sneer common to earlier times. What the hell had happened to Jackson? Later on, I would see the wisdom of his change in behavior. This was a cloak of compliance, shielding him from harm in a place where opportunities abounded to deal with “uppity n*****rs.” Clearly, some other brothers had quickly clued him in. Why risk a “friendly fire” accident for the sake of ego or pride while here in Nam? The score against whitey could always be settled later on “back in the world.”

Back to Transverse Lines

Can he find his way from auditory to visual association—visual prompts from previously unseen art. Perhaps. He might try working on that—Dali’s Persistence of Memory, that brings forth much more than Kandinsky. He’d like a print of that surreal work.

Footnote: just days past the writing brunch, he found himself isolating the multiplicity of instruments layered into the pioneering fusion of Miles Davis in Spanish Key, from the 1970 Bitches Brew studio album–the left drum set versus the right, this horn or that. Yes, it can be done–without the drugs, even while mentally fatigued.

 

#watwb August 2020

We Are the World Blogfest

There IS good news out there, you just have to look for it. It doesn’t sell newspapers (those that are still in print) or get clicks on the websites that are where readers eyes focus on today. Actually, the good can be found all around us–in our neighborhoods, stores and medical offices. Recently I have had multiple doctor visits. As my wife and I are oft heard saying, “growing old is not for sissies.” Forget the diagnoses, just know that we have good physicians, a decent hospital with up to date equipment and more. All this in a town with a population of less than 10,000 people.

Like many places in America, there is controversy in our town about wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. No violence, however. Over 90% of the shoppers in local stores DO wear the required masks–maybe 95% plus. So, we don’t have a raging epidemic here. What there is of it is likely spread by tourists or returning residents who have traveled elsewhere. We haven’t left the vicinity since the first weekend in March!

New Mexico’s governor is maligned by many on the other side, but the state is doing quite well in terms of reducing transmission below 1 and has a low positivity rate. In a few days, some relaxation on dining and religious service restrictions will ease. That’s good news and all I had to do to find it is look on the New Mexico website. Of course, the US as a whole is the worst in the world in controlling COVID-19. Congratulations to all of you who live in other countries. Eventually, we will come to our political senses and embrace medical science and rejoin the modern world.

Peeping Roadrunner

He hopped atop the rock. The one holding down the table against the wind.

 

His piercing eyes gazed through the window. What life did they have beyond the glass barrier,  he wondered.

 

She might have opened the door for a visit, instead she just took photos. For the best, no doubt. He and our dog Max might not have hit it off.

A Roadrunner atop a side table looks in our window
A handsome, curious bird–can, but prefers not to fly

An Excerpt from Waiting for Westmoreland

We Are the World Blogfest

There is good news out there–YES, REALLY! I just didn’t have time to find it this month. TOO much going on but I won’t bother you with that.

Instead, something I’ve been meaning to do for some time now–post an occasional excerpt from Waiting for Westmoreland.  This is from the 2017 Tenth Anniversary Edition. This post does have its good news perspective–about an unorthodox introduction to the faith that has led me to create value over the years.

It’s condensed; two parts from the same chapter, closely related. Emphasis has been added that’s not in the text of the book.

FROM DEATH COMES LIFE. Two weeks after returning from Doug’s funeral, I attended a party. It was like most parties. People were standing around with a drink in one hand, a cigarette in the other, holding forth inanely on topics of little or no consequence. The more intoxicated they got, the more animated (but no more meaningful) the conversation became. Borrrrrinnng. It was Lorna’s party. She was a legal secretary, at the law firm where I clerked. I wasn’t obliged to go, from the self-interest perspective, as would have been the case if the invitation had come from one of the law firm’s partners. I went anyway. How could I turn down free food and booze? It was fortunate that I did. I met Lisa there, a member of Lorna’s carpool. They all commuted from Virginia to the K Street business district in DC.

Amidst the dull peoplescape of the party, Lisa sparkled like a mirrored ball above a dance floor. Who is that person? Why is she so alive, so different from the rest? I had to talk to her. I asked what it was about her that accounted for her obviously higher state of being than the rest of the partygoers. She explained that she was a Buddhist and she chanted.

“Oh, what do you chant—Nam-myoho-renge-kyo?” I asked.

“Yes! How did you know that?”

“Somebody told me about it two years ago at Springfield Mall. They invited me to a meeting but I didn’t go. When you said you were a Buddhist and chanted, it just popped into my head.”

“Do you remember who it was?”

“No.”

“Well, they planted a seed. Once you hear it, you never forget it.”

A seed may have been planted, but in 1975, the ground surrounding and supporting my life was compacted too hard for it to sprout. That was before I had pursued another year and a half of law school without realizing I still didn’t know where I was going. That was before Liz split. Now, with less than a semester to go until the end of law school, Lisa would bring sun and rain to fertile soil. Widening cracks in my self-confidence ran in all directions after Liz left. Until then, I had reassured myself that once I learned enough, my path in life would become obvious. I would know what to do to make the world a better place. But it hadn’t worked out that way. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” He might have added that the over-examined life could be very frustrating in its complications and unresolved questions.

. . . .

Lisa and I hit it off right from the start in my soon-to-be-well-lubricated state. Although I didn’t know it at the time, what I perceived was the life-condition of a Buddha. I had no interest in talking further with any of the other partygoers. Compared to Lisa, they were semi-somnambulant. She wound up in my lap, where we blissfully exchanged kisses, heedless of the party continuing around but apart from us. The experience was nothing like what I supposed an orthodox introduction to Buddhism should be, but it was an effective one nonetheless. At the conclusion of the evening, in my intoxicated state, I couldn’t find a pen and paper to write down her phone number.

“I’ll remember your number,” I said, repeating it several times to ensure success.

“I’ll remember your kisses,” she replied, with a happy smile promising more.

It could only have been through a concerted act of will that I did remember the number. I called her the next day. I had to know why she had such a self-confident zest for life. More importantly, I had to know how I could get one. Recognizing my intellectual bent, Lisa gave me a thick book to read the very next time we were together, The Toynbee-Ikeda Dialogue. The book was a compilation of an extensive discussion between the noted historian Arnold Toynbee and Daisaku Ikeda, the leader of an international Buddhist lay organization (the Soka Gakkai). I read it quickly, ravenously. Three things running through the dialogue impressed me:  pragmatism, humanism and hope.

The romance with Lisa was short-lived. The continuing one came two years later and has lasted for 40 years. You can read more about the start of that relationship in the link to the brief intro to Waiting for Westmoreland here on this site. The book’s hook, if you will.