we all got holes to fill
, them holes are all that’s real

some fall on you like a storm,
 sometimes you dig your own

the choice is yours to make, time is yours to take

some dive into the sea, some toil upon the stone

to live is to fly
, low and high

so shake the dust off of your wings
, and the sleep out of your eyes

shake the dust off of your wings
, and the tears out of your eyes


                                         Townes van Zandt

Been thinking a bit about ole Townes. I don’t think I really understood this song for a long time.

But it’s true. We all do have holes. We are all damaged in some way. From previous lives. From childhood. Self-inflected damage. Mean-spirited people. Childhood bullying. Addiction. Mental illness of varying degrees. And we try to fill those holes in different ways. Drugs, alcohol, exercise, overeating, co-dependency, working too much, or treating others unkindly to feed insecurity. Who knows.

But I’ve been thinking about it.

I bought a Celtic cross for the garden the other day at the nursery where I accidentally got a little drunk. But since I was on the motorcycle, I had to go back today to get it. When I got there, the lady kept asking if I needed help. She asked several times and offered to let me use the wagon. I told her it was my cross to bear. Just told her not whip me as I was going by. It only weighs about 35 lbs. so no idea what she was thinking. Maybe they have a massive one back there and she was confused.

I am conflicted about this next little passage. I want to be as honest as possible in this public space, without offending anyone directly or embarrassing myself too much. I have a scaled down, private version of this blog that is less edited.

But there is a point to be made here.

Driving to the nursery, I passed a street corner that I’ve passed now multiple times. Every time, there are two young black kids selling bottles of cold water from a cooler at a 4-way stop. I assume they are brothers, but maybe not. One is probably about 12 or 13 and the other 8 or 9. They are running all over. Hustling. Honest work to make a buck.

The first time, I was in the wrong lane and on the motorcycle and so did not take them up. On my return trip, they had already finished and were not there. But today when I went to get my Celtic Cross, I was ready. I got in the right lane and sure enough, when I came under the bridge, there they were and the light was red. I rolled up and the older one came up and offered me a 12-oz bottle. I handed him a 50, that I had rolled up so it was not evident and said keep the change. The car in front of me had turned right, so I eased up hoping the light would change quickly. But before it did, this young man came back and gave me a thumbs up and mouthed ‘thank-you’.

Reason I am recording this episode in my life here, as I normally would not, is to make a point. I’ve as of late been caught up in these exhausting debates with people who don’t support BLM, and love Trump and hate liberal dem’s et al. And in the details of those conversations are the granular comments that show the hand of the other side. These are people that simply do not understand compassion, empathy, kindness. They find it so easy to judge the millions of immigrants who are trying to find a better life for themselves and their children. They hate all liberal dems who are standing in line to throw money at lazy people. People who would like affordable health care like the other 85% of the world enjoys–well those are freeloaders. Unlike their very own relatives accepting Medicaid or disability payments.

It goes on and on. Meanness. Ignorance, arrogance and racism. And I wonder, if they’ve ever experienced the pure joy of doing some kindness for a stranger. It seems a selfless act perhaps, but it’s not. The feeling of love that comes from trying to help someone for no reason is 10X more rewarding than the cost. Being engaged meaningfully in the world, being a positive force in someone’s life rather than a negative is simply not that difficult. Being kind to others; attempting to understand their view and their pain and their motivations should be a very basic tenet of humanity. But for so many, primarily the types of people who support Trump, their worldview is overwhelmingly based on isolating and demonizing everyone except those in their immediate environment. Those who look like they do and have similar experiences and levels of education. I feel sorry that they do not seem to enjoy the sort of happiness that comes from inclusiveness and kindness. Or perhaps they’ve just never tried it.

I’ve been fortunate in my life; I’m aware of that. But I’ve also been selfish and pissed away at times more money than some people make. On myself. On drinking and traveling and adventures and partying and all kinds of crazy shit. Helping others is not meant to be a redemption of some kind. It’s just the right thing to do.

I wonder about that angry white couple on tv the other day who came storming out of their million dollar mansion to point their guns and threaten peaceful protesters. What if instead, they had come out unarmed, and waved and simply acknowledged the people passing by, who were obviously passionate about their cause. They could have gone back into their homes and felt better that they, in their own little way, had participated in a moment in time, but not created drama and havoc. What is the less stressful approach? Even if they do not agree with the BLM message, is it too much to ask just to let them peacefully and lawfully walk down the street without point a gun and threatening them. But I imagine they waved those guns around and then went into their home full of anger and venom and hate and trying to reassure each other that they had successfully defended their property by god. That’s no way to live.

I guess my point is that kindness is just a better view of the world. I do get distracted and angry at the Trump crowd. And I realize it is not a zero sum game. I can’t throw some money at a couple of kids or donate to charity and somehow gain the right to be a dick to other people. But I guess, that in a way, I am hopeful that I can reconcile the hate and anger of one mob with the love and gentleness of another. And, as the Taoist suggest, we don’t need to all change the world, it’s enough if we all leave the world a slightly better place than we found it. So for me, I try to do my bit. It helps me sleep. It helps me feel like I am part of the solution and not the problem, even thought I sometimes am not so elegant in engaging the other side.

What if we woke one day to find out that the idiots were right. That wearing face masks really didn’t slow the spread of COVID and did cause massive breathing problems for normally healthy people. And that drinking a bit of sanitizer, while being uncomfortable, did kill COVID. And in spite of the 99% of climate scientists in the world agreeing that humans were exasperating global climate change, they were all wrong and Donald Trump and the other .00003% of the population who worship him were right. And it turns out that Hillary personally flew to Libya to shoot those 4 State Department employees and the email server was hidden in the beer refrigerator in her garage the whole time.

Well, that would just be damned unfortunate I guess. I’ve invested a lot of energy in trying to convince these brainless twits of the error of their ways. But what if the 50 or so brain cells they shared among themselves turned out to be right? Well, fuck em anyway I say.

Once, in Tarpon Springs Florida of all places, I got in to a row with the desk clear at the Days Inn, or Holiday Inn Express or whatever 3rd tier hotel we were authorized to stay in.

I’m an early riser, so I was there for coffee at 6:00 after my morning run. The lady came in and turned the TV on and of course it was fixed to Fox News. As she was walking away, I picked up the remote and put it on CNN. I was the only one in the lounge. She turned around and looked at me and said ‘Oh, our guests here prefer to watch Fox News‘. I said, ‘Well, I’m a guest and I wish Fox News would get cancer and die a slow painful death‘. She did not crack a smile. But she did look down at the remote, which I was now holding tightly. Then she looked back up at me and we stared deeply into each other’s eyes for a few moments, looking to see who would blink. Finally she slowly turned, keeping her eyes on me, and walked away, but made a point of noting the two TV’s behind the front desk were tuned to Fox.

As people came down, I could see their perplexed look as they saw CNN and then started looking for the remote. I smiled just a bit as I went to my room knowing the remote was now safely hidden behind the waffle maker.

Tough call with the folks tonight. Yesterday, I got a call from my sister who rushed over there after the neighbor called and said both of our parent’s were walking around on the roof. They are 83.

Mom got it into her head that she had to clean the gutters. So she goes upstairs with a bucket and opens the window and starts cleaning gutters. My mom is legally blind, in addition to being 83.

Anyway, the conversation is something like:

Me:   Mom, stay off the damned roof. Also, no rock-climbing, no parachuting, no riding motorcycles without a helmet and no god-damn scuba-diving.

Mom:   Well, you guys are all so busy and I don’t want to pay someone to do these things I can do myself.

Me:   Mom. Please. Stay off the roof. Call me. We’ll handle it. It’s our house and we’ll handle it but we just need to know.

Mom:   Well, you kids have your own lives and you don’t need to look after us.

Me:   Yes, definitely too busy to attend a funeral or sit at your bedside in the hospital for weeks while you recover from falling off the roof.

Mom:   We don’t want to inconvenience you.

Me:   Mom, you know what would inconvenience me. If you or dad died a slow, lingering, horrible painful death after a broken hip or head trauma because you were UP WALKING AROUND ON THE FUCKING ROOF AT 83. (I did not really scream that, but I did put a little emphasis to it.

Mom:   Well, you kids are busy.

Me:   (cutting mom off) SSSHHHHHH. We are not too busy. Shame on me for not realizing the gutters need cleared but now I do. It will be done. Leave it. Stay off the roof.

Mom:   But, blah blah blah

Me:   Shhuusshh…..Stay off the damned roof

Me:   You know who you sound like now? Like a teenager making excuses. ‘I would not have driven drunk but I didn’t want to call and wake you up’. Or ‘I didn’t have money for a taxi and it was only a few miles’. She got the point but her head is harder than a box of rocks. So she won’t listen. She’ll just be more careful to not be caught.

So I called my sister and asked her to find some high school kid to get over there and clean the gutters this weekend. We might as well prop up the local drug economy and keep the folks safe at the same time.

My grandmother, mom’s mom, was around this age when she was out mowing the 18 acres or so of grass she insisted on maintaining when the riding lawn mower rolled over the top of her on a steep bank and she broker her hip. She lived another 12 years or so.

So easy to see why mom thinks she’s invincible. And she HATES asking for help. Simply refuses to do so.

I was thinking about this the other day as I wrestled the canoe off the strongback by myself because I was too prideful to ask a neighbor to help. The whole damn structure toppled over and I had to throw my body under the canoe to keep it from being damaged.

I guess acorns don’t roll far when they fall from the tree.

My dad got all choked up during the conversation. Understanding it’s his job to keep her from doing dangerous shit; but he can’t control her. Nobody can. She is the source of our strength, and now, in these later years, the anxiety.

My bestie Carla is heading up to their cabin in Central Idaho along with her big red dog and her lovely mother Beverly (The Dutchess). Way the hell up East Fork Canyon. East Fork of the Salmon River that is. To get there, from Pocatello, you must drive across several hours of high mountain desert. Past Atomic City and Arco and they will probably stop in Mackay for ice and last minute supplies. Now there are mountains on the right, including Mount Borah, the highest peak in Idaho. Then, they will turn up the winding dirt road in the deep canyon of the East Fork. Around 25 miles or so; past ranches and old mines and countless crossings of the river as they make their way up towards the headwaters.

They call their place East Fork University. Errol, Carla’s dad and Beverly’s husband, was a math professor at Idaho State. In the old days, lots of profs and their kids hung out in these parts. Drinking beer and listening to music and raising hell and occasionally re-building a bridge that washed out every other year or so. Back then, the cabin was on the wrong side of the river. So when the bridge was washed out, which really was most times, they had to drive a 4-wheel drive across, or if the water was too high, wade back and forth several times carrying food and beer and kids.

Just before Errol died, they built a new cabin on the near side of the river. This cabin has propane and running water. The other one didn’t. I’ve a few memories of EFU. Not as many as I wish I had, but it’s their Valhalla, not mine.

I took Sjoerd and Onah up one time. Onah was fine. Sjoerd…well, he’s full on city boy from Amsterdam. He doesn’t understand things like sleeping in a loft on mattresses thrown on the floor with 12 other people and 5 or 6 dogs wandering around from bed to bed. Cooking over the open fire, soaking in natural hot springs, passing around a bottle of bad whiskey while standing around the camp fire. These are things that are foreign to a Dutch man from the city. But he got through it. We next went to Sun Valley and mingled with the pretty people, which is more his speed. That is, pretty people from LA and other big cities trying to pass themselves off as high-bred country folk. A great trip that year.

I miss EFU. I asked Carla to send me a picture of her and Beverly bellied up to the cowboy bar in Challis with a shot of bar whisky and a cold beer in front of them. If history is a guide, they will find their way and chat up the old wanna-be cowboys and listen to a little jukebox music.

I’ve drank in that bar a dozen times or so I would guess. Once, with Errol, when were up in Challis to see Townes Van Zandt play a concert at the local middle school. Strangest fucking concert ever, but one of the best. Not least because I had quiet, uninterrupted time with that old hippie, who I guess I took a little for granted as he left us too soon.

So I was a little jealous when Carla said they were heading out in the morning. We all make our choices.

My little garden is growing. I used some thyme and chives in my ginger chicken dish tonight and my peppers and tomatoes are now all sporting little buds. I can see some little chipmunks or squirrels or some kind of varmit is playing around in the dirt in my pots, but the damage is minimal so far, so I won’t attempt to disrupt them.

I’m slowly progressing my experiment to educate myself on the trees, shrubs, bushes and flowers around my house. Every day, I take picture of a vascular specimen and then I go to the library and check out botany books and read and look at pictures until I identify that species.

Okay, actually I just use the internet. So far I have identified my Japanese Maple, Japanese spurge, a hydrangea (probably a mophead) and a weeping white pine. Still another 30 or 40 to go, but I’ve got nothing but time. If I get stuck, I will reach out to my friend Nick the botanist who forgot more about plants than most people will ever know.

No other news of note.

Humbly submitted

The Lunatics

Dr. Tambo – our beloved MYO alumni

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