Thursday, July 31, 2008

Family Trip

My son, Nick, and his son, Boone, are visiting from West Plains, MO. Tomorrow morning we are driving across the desert and mountains to San Diego, CA, where Boone will see the ocean for the first time. We will also be spending a day at the San Diego Zoo. And sometime during the long weekend we will catch up with my aunt, Mary Day Macy King, who has lived in or around San Diego since the end of World War II.

May your weekend be as wonderful as mine!

Pa Rock

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Windmills and Gas Tanks

by Pa Rock

I heard a gentleman from Colorado talking about energy this morning on NPR as I was getting ready for work. He said that he favored John McCain because of his stance on energy. McCain wants to drill for more oil. This fellow said that he personally likes the idea of windmills and nuclear plants (renewable resources), but neither would put more gas in his car.

I'm glad that people are thinking in terms of energy, but these are the facts as I know them. More oil drilling will mean more oil on the world market, but not here in the United States. Our refineries are already running at full capacity. So, yeah, drilling for more oil might make us feel good (McCain's psychological cure for the recession), but it won't put more gas in our tanks, at least not in the foreseeable future. More oil drilling would, however, continue to deplete a finite resource - one that our children's children may one day truly need -and it will continue to pose constant risks to the environment - especially in the off-shore drilling that McCain lusts after, or in the Arctic National Refuge where drilling continues to be the wet dream of the far right lunatic fringe.

Surprisingly, windmills (and even the dreaded nuclear power plants) can put more gas in your tank, and, in the case of windmills, they can get the gas to your tank much quicker than drilling can. T. Boone Pickens, himself a proud part of the far right lunatic fringe, happens to be right on windmills. His argument is that as windmills go on line to produce more electricity, they will free up natural gas that is used in some areas for the production of electricity. The technology is already at hand to make cars that can run on natural gas - and they run cleaner and cheaper than the ones that we rely on today. So, fields of windmills could quickly provide combustible fuel that is cleaner and cheaper. What's wrong with that?

And don't forget that hybrid cars are already here, and electric cars are in the pipeline (excuse the bad pun). GM has announced that its Chevy Volt will be on the market in two years.

McCain has recently had a big influx of campaign cash from the oil industry. They would love to open up our coastal areas and the Alaskan wilderness for more drilling. And when that new oil starts gushing, it will follow the market - all the way to China!

We've danced to big oil's tune for over a century. It's time for a change!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Power of Hate Speech

by Pa Rock

Yesterday I commented on the shooting at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville. Police officers who searched the home of shooter David Adkisson after the crime found that he had engaged in some interesting reading. Books in Adkisson's home included The O'Reilly Factor by Bill O'Reilly, Let Freedom Ring by Sean Hannity, and Liberalism is a Mental Disorder by right-wing,radio nut-job Michael Savage.

Does garbage in automatically equate to violence out? No, of course not, if the person doing the reading is of sound mind. Unfortunately, however, a substantial portion of the people who listen to these hate mongers are low functioning individuals who are predisposed to believe that the government is their enemy and that gays are just lying in wait to jump on their slovenly carcasses.

As much as these people profess to abhor what they see America as becoming, they still savor their freedom of the press even if it incites illegal or deadly behavior, and they vehemently defend their right to own as many guns as they damned well please!

Pogo was right: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Another Hate Crime

by Pa Rock

A lone gunman walked into the Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN, last Sunday morning and opened fire with a shotgun. He managed to kill one person and critically wound four others before being subdued by church members. The shooting was apparently random, being an attack on the liberal philosophy of the church rather than specific individuals. The shooter, Jim D. “David” Adkisson, was said to hate blacks, gays and anyone different from himself.

I didn’t know much about the Unitarian Universalist Church, but after this tragedy I have begun to educate myself on the group. If it really is the bastion of liberalism that the shooter thought it was, there might be a place on one of the pews for me – and I intend to explore that possibility more fully.

Let us hope (and pray) this act of twisted bigotry can serve as a catalyst to make us all open to the feelings and needs of one another. The act was violence, the reaction needs to be reaching out with love and understanding to make the world a truly inclusive place for all.

Jesus Would Litter

by Pa Rock

Daniel Mills is a 29-year-old Spanish teacher who was hauled before a Federal Judge last Friday on a charge of littering. Littering! Business must be mighty slow at the Federal Courthouse!

There is, of course, more to this case than simple littering, in fact, the case is not about littering at all. It is a reactionary attempt to put one more obstacle along the footpaths of undocumented workers as they make their perilous way across the Sonoran Desert to harvest America’s crops, mow her lawns, and clean her toilets.

Daniel Mills was tried for carrying water to the thirsty. He left 22 one-gallon water jugs in the desert in an effort to save lives. (While he was leaving the water jugs, he was also picking up litter!) People who cross the Sonoran Desert on foot sometimes have the bad luck to die along the way, and Daniel Mills worked as a Good Samaritan to ensure that they could survive the journey.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Commission cited Daniel for littering last February and issued a fine in the amount of $175, which he declined to pay, preferring a court trial instead. He admits that littering is a crime, but he does not believe that he is a litterbug. Indeed, it appears as though his “crime” was providing humanitarian aid.

A Federal Judge heard the case on Friday, and promptly dodged the bullet by “taking it under advisement.” A ruling will be issued sometime, maybe.

Daniel Mills volunteers for a humanitarian group called “No More Deaths.” Information about this group may be found at

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mama Mia, Here We Go Again!

by Pa Rock

Mama Mia is a good movie, a very joyous movie with a beautiful cast dancing along the cliffs and seashore of a Greek Island, all the while singing ABBA tunes. What's not to love?

The premise is that a young girl, adeptly played by Amanda Seyfried, is planning her wedding. The poor child was born out of wedlock to a very independent mother (Meryl Streep). When she finds her mother's old journal, she is able to narrow the prospects for her other parent down to three, all of whom she invites to her wedding without telling mama. Several complications and a lot of singing and dancing later, a happy ending is had by all - including the audience!

Now, for the genesis of the movie. The plot was basically lifted from a 1968 Gina Lollobrigida movie (non-musical) entitled Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell. In that movie, Lollobrigida plays a crafty Italian beauty who had a baby out of wedlock at the end of World War II. Not knowing for certain who the father was, she skillfully tapped each of her three GI lovers for twenty years of child support. The child support hit the fan, of course, when they all showed up at once to see their daughter.

The music and the glittering dance numbers of Mama Mia were sucked right out of the marrow of 1994's camp classic, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. In that movie three drag queens (Terence Stamp, Guy Pearce, and Hugo Weaving) go traipsing across the Australian outback in a pink tour bus lip- syncing ABBA tunes along the way.

Streep and two female co-horts from her youth (Julie Walters and Christine Baranski) break into song in outlandish costumes and platform heels, looking themselves like three drag queens. The costumes between the two sets of entertainers could have easily been interchanged without detracting from either movie. The most chilling parallel between Mama Mia and Priscilla, however, was that Meryl Streep is a dead ringer for Terence Stamp in drag!

For those with a taste for the happy tunes and lyrics of ABBA, Mama Mia and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, will both hit the mark! They are a lot of fun!

The Dish on Palm Valley Luxury Rentals

by Pa Rock

Yesterday was awful! Some of it was my fault, some of it was the fault of Dish Network, but the preponderance of the blame has to rest with my landlords, Palm Valley Luxury Rentals.

My cable TV had been out for a week, and Cox was supposed to come fix it on Wednesday. On Monday I talked to my apartment manager about the possibility of getting Dish Network. She said that Dish provided more selection and was cheaper than Cox, and then she gave me a coupon off of her bill that would get us both a discount. The only stipulation was that the dish could not be attached to my apartment or placed on the roof.

On Tuesday I called Dish Network and listened in amazement as they heaped discounts and special deals on me. It would take a twenty-four month commitment, but they would move the dish free whenever I moved. After we agreed on a really good deal that was far better than Cox, I mentioned my manager's discount coupon, and they figured that on as well. We agreed on a Saturday afternoon installation between noon and 5 p.m. so that I would not have to take off work.

Later Tuesday I telephoned Cox to cancel the last of the three services that I once had with them. The fellow on the phone pulled the usual Cox crap of trying to bribe me with a special, in this case 25% off of my bill for three months if I would stay with them. I politely refused, and then hung up and took a shower.

Saturday morning (yesterday, the day from Hell) I rushed around early to get things done, including returning my cable box to Cox. At 11:15 a.m. as I was waiting in line at Target to get a prescription filled, I got one of those "the sky is falling" calls from Dish Network reminding me that they had an appointment that afternoon to install my satellite receiver. Yes, I assured them, I knew it and I would be there. We have an installer in your area now, he can be there in fifteen minutes. So I ran from Target, rushed home, and patiently waited. Later I got a call saying that I had not been home so the installer had gone to lunch and would be back in half-an-hour. It was about then that I got some sense of what the day was going to be like.

The installers showed up an hour later, a pair of very nice young men who wiped their feet on the welcome mat and marched through my apartment to the back balcony. Fifteen seconds later they were back inside informing me that my apartment faced the wrong way and there was no way for me to get their signal without putting the satellite dish on the roof. They had already been to the office and knew that they could not use the roof.

What do I do now? I asked. Maybe you should try Cox, was the response.

A few minutes later I went to my apartment office to pay the rent and to discuss the situation. The office was locked, which proved to be a multiplier to my state of dissatisfaction. When the hostess de jour finally returned she had a young couple in tow who were obviously potential tenants. There was also a young man tagging along who rents from Palm Valley and often hangs around the office.

The hostess probably sensed trouble when I cut in on her clients and asked them who they were planning on using for their television provider. She managed to get them parked in some plush chairs and turned her attention to me. I expressed my unhappiness that I had been assigned an apartment that could not receive Dish Network. Hey, the young renter who had joined in our conversation, said, why not put the dish on the roof. That's not allowed, the hostess told him and myself. But I've been on the roof, he pushed on, it's like satellite dish city up there!

Oh? Well, if I can't get Dish Network in my apartment, then I'm moving.

It was at that point that the hostess decided to call the manager. The manager apparently gave her the company line, to which I replied loudly: Okay, I'm moving. It was about then that a decision was made to let Dish place my satellite receiver on the roof.

All rightee, then. I parked my happy butt there in the office, determined to reconnect with the installers and get some television. I talked with a lady at Dish Network who told me that the installers could come back out, but that I would first have to call another office and reapply because my order had been deleted when the installers determined that I could not utilize Dish Network. She started to give me another number to call, when I sweet-talked her into just transferring me instead. She put me on hold. After fifteen minutes of silence, I hung up and tried again.

Eventually I was connected to a nice man in New Jersey who had to set my order up from scratch. His price was only $10 above what I had been quoted last week, and I no longer knew the manager's coupon number which was going to cost me also. But, what the hell. This fellow was going to get me some television!

It took the man in New Jersey another half-an-hour to confirm that the installers could come back to my apartment later that afternoon. He gave me the local dispatcher's name and number in case there were any problems. The man, who was obviously in my age range, ended the call by wistfully reminescing, Hey, Rocky, do you remember when all you had to do was take the new Motorola out of the box and set up the rabbit ears? Those were the days, my friend!

I asked the hostess to type a new permission letter for Dish Network that would allow them to place my satellite dish on the roof. It took almost one hour for her to complete the one-paragraph letter. When the same two installers arrived at 5:30 p.m., they read the letter and said that it needed to be more specific. They left word at the office as to exactly what they would need, and told me that they would see me next week after I scheduled a new time for the installation.

Maybe they will, and maybe they won't. Maybe I have become so used to life without television that I can live quite happily listening to radio. Maybe I will talk to Direct TV and see if their azimuth is more agreeable to my apartment than that of Dish Network. Maybe I will move into the trailer park down the road and let some other lucky individual have my "luxury" rental.

Maybe today will be better.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I Want to Believe

by Pa Rock

It's around 9:30 on Saturday night and I have just returned from a visit with two old friends in the blowing snows of West Virginia. West Virginia in winter is so much more preferable to Arizona in summer. It saddens me deeply to be back at home.

My friends, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, are aging - just as I am. The years have added a few pounds, especially on Fox, and both are showing tread marks of too much fast driving along life's ragged edge. Beneath their aging exteriors, however, they are basically much as they always have been. Fox waltzes through the unexplained dancing with enigmas, while Scully tromps along as his eternal skeptic.

They're married now, or at least co-habitating, and they have had a child, Billy, who has died. Maybe others knew of these events, but they were never brought to my attention.

And they met a retired pedophile priest in the snows of West Virginia, a sad man whom Dana characterized (angrily, to his face) as having "buggered thirty-seven altar boys." The priest was blessed with psychic abilities, or he was a con man who was connected to murders and monstrous medical experiments. Fox wanted to believe that the man was a psychic. Dana wanted to believe that his entreaty for her to persevere was an article of faith from God that would help her to save a young boy's life.

I wanted to believe that I would leave the theatre and step into a snow storm.

Rock of Ages

by Pa Rock

On those days when I get to feeling old, desperately old, I like to sit back, crank up the stereo, and listen to the music of a band from the dark ages of my youth. That band, the Rolling Stones, is incredibly still going. I guess if they can keep up the beat, then so can I.

Mick Jagger turned sixty-five today! Sixty-forking-five! And he's not the oldest Stone on the stage. Drummer Charlie Watts turned sixty-seven last month. Guitarist Keith Richards will be sixty-five in December, and guitarist / bassist Ronnie Wood recently turned sixty-one. The whole damned band is older than me! (I guess I just need to quit whining about my age!)

David Letterman used to tell a joke about getting behind the Rolling Stones tour bus on the highway, and how he knew it was the Stones because they drove with their turn signal on for two hundred miles. He told that joke two world tours ago!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Nick!
(July 24, 1973)

Yes, my eldest child turned 35 yesterday. Nicholas Karl Macy was born on Okinawa in 1973 at the U.S. Army Hospital at Camp Kue, and he spent his first two months of life on that tiny island. If I wind up with the time and the resources, one of my greatest hopes is to be able to take Nick and his son, Boone, back to Okinawa so that he can see where he entered the world.

Nick and Boone are coming to Arizona next Thursday, and Friday I am whisking them off to a long weekend in San Diego where Boone will experience the ocean for the first time, and we all will spend one day at a world class zoo! Someday I'm going to start taking Sebastian on holiday also!

So, Nick, happy birthday - one day late. I love you and I remain very proud of you!


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Rusty Pails #44:
The Return of the King

by Rocky Macy

Shadetree Mike is home!

The boys and I were sitting under the big oak across the road from Ermine’s Coffee Bar, enjoying an afternoon game of dominoes, when a big rig pulled up and ejected the Dean of Dominoes and his claptrap suitcase. The trucker didn’t even come to a complete stop. We watched as Mike dusted himself off and picked up his suitcase. He took a long look at the new sign on his old “Pump and Git”, studied the lacy curtains in the clean windows, and then marched inside like he owned the place.

Our interest in dominoes was suddenly put on hold. Heck suggested that we start a pool on how long it would take Ermine to show Mike the door. We each pitched in a dollar, and Truman, who had only pitched in an I.O.U., took the pot with his guess of seven minutes. (My dollar was on two minutes, so I was sorely disappointed when Ermine cut him some slack!)

We were back into the game by the time Mike ambled across the road, empty-handed, to fill the air with gaseous tales about his trip to California. Heck was the first to acknowledge him. “Hey, Buddy, did the little woman forget to throw your suitcase out with you?”

“She’s going to wash my vacation clothes.”

“Yeah, so she can take them down to Esther’s place and sell them!” The Judge interjected. Shadetree Mike wasn’t going to get much slack from us!

“What do you think about what she’s done to the place?” I ventured as Mike seated himself at the table.

“Well, I’ll tell you this, Rusty…there must be twenty or more Sprung Hinge females in there sipping coffee and munching on pastry. I suspect that she’s making good money.”

“But she’s destroyed our cultural heritage!” Heck blustered. “We can’t let her get away with that!”

“Doesn’t seem to be much we can do about it.” Mike said, much too passively for our liking. “Back when we bought the place her mother, The Duke, put up the cash and insisted that the deed be put in Ermine’s name.”

“You mean the place is really her’s!” I sputtered.

"Lock, stock, and frilly curtains," he admitted. "But she says I can still live there if I earn my keep." We all shook our heads sadly 'cause we knew that work wasn't Shadetree Mike's strong suit. I guess he read our minds and agreed with our conclusion, because the next thing he said was, "Say, Rusty, I don't guess you'd mind making room for me at your place - just til I get things sorted out with Ermine?"

"Yes," I admitted, "I guess I would mind. If you moved in, Baker would move out - and I'd miss her something fierce!"

"If push comes to shove," Heck volunteered, "we can set up our tents down at the creek and fish until the weather turns cold. I can wait until spring to finish painting my barn." That made sense. He had already waited several springs to finish that little chore. "That would give you a couple of months to worm your way back into her good graces."

"That's right!" I chimed in. "A worm like you ought to be able to move a ton of dirt in two months!"

"Good plan!" Mike declared as he jumped to his feet. "We can start by moving my domino table and chairs to the campsite."

"Your table!" Judge Redbone exploded. "The table and the chairs will be yours when you cough up the two-hundred-and-ninety-nine dollars and ten cents that we paid for them!"

"You boys paid three hundred dollars for this pile of junk!" Mike said in disbelief. "Now I know she's gonna be successful in business!" And he laughed and laughed, but the rest of us didn't join in. It's hard to laugh at a joke when you're the punch line!

Leastways, that's how I see it!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Come Fly With Me

by Pa Rock

Cowboy humorist Will Rogers is reported to have said that he never met a man he didn’t like. Well, my heart is not as pure as his, and I can dislike people based on the slightest of slights or the most insignificant provocations. But it’s not people that really get my mad game going – it’s airports!

I do not have the physical ability to remain calm in an airport, an especially dangerous situation for me because I live in Phoenix where the dumb-ass airport security caused a woman’s death last fall. You don’t mess around at Sky Harbor Airport!

Airports have always been cauldrons of discontent based on their operating procedures: overbooking flights and losing luggage being two of the more egregious examples of avoidable trip-spoilers. Weather also can have a large impact on the sanity of passengers, especially after sleeping two or three nights on an airport floor. And there's always the added thrill of never knowing how many hours you may have to sit, cramped up and sweating, on a plane before it actually takes off. Airports are not for the feint-of-heart or those with pronounced homicidal tendencies!

The biggest outrage at our nation's airports, however, is the Cretin Corps whose duty it is to rifle through luggage and remove obvious threats to public safety, such as toothpaste or hair gel. Osama bin Laden would have less trouble riding his camel onto the plane than I would trying to smuggle an extra ounce of Crest past the ever-vigilant, petty bureaucrat, cop wannabe who lives for the thrill of trying to provoke me into a stroke!

I might be able to maintain if the rules were enforced the same way in every airport, but each one does things in their own unique style. What flies out of Denver, may have to walk out of Kansas City.

And speaking of Kansas City (God, how I love a smooth transition!), those mangy varmints, I think they call themselves "First Line" or something clever like that, have one of the choicest scams in the nation. Kansas City fancies itself to be a world class barbecue town - just don't spread that tidbit to Memphis, Chicago, or the entire state of Texas! And because they are so well known for their barbecue, they sell countless barbecue recipe books and sauces in the terminal gift shops. The rub - they sell that, too - the rub is that if you buy their world class barbecue sauce, in plain sight of the luggage goons, they promptly relieve you of it as you try to board the plane. There are, of course, no signs to that effect in the places that sell the barbecue sauce.

Kansas City may have great barbecue, but I suspect that much of it is served up in the homes of the airport baggage screeners. I also bet that their families have some of the whitest teeth in the Midwest!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dark Knight

by Pa Rock

Okay, I admit it. My $6.50 (afternoon show, senior discount, coupon for free popcorn) was part of the box office record set last weekend with the premier of The Dark Knight. It was a nice distraction in a cool building, and it was money fairly well spent.

The Dark Knight is the upteenth Batman flick ground out by Hollywood over the past decade or so, and though I have not seen them all, this was by far the best of the ones that I have seen. It was a gripping tale of good and evil played out in a Gotham City that was strikingly similar to Chicago - only more blue, more surreal, and more Gothic.

Christian Bale played Batman, but this was not really his movie. (Bale had "his" movie with the title role in American Psycho.) While most of the characters displayed amazing depth and presence, Bale was a disappointment. His Bruce Wayne seemed to be little more than a disaffected frat boy whose focus was on escorting beautiful ladies to plush parties and displaying his wealth.

This movie, as all of the hype suggested, belonged to Heath Ledger's Joker, a richly layered, maniacal creation whose machinations were the pulse and heat of the movie. The other major memorable character was the district attorney, Harvey Dent, skillfully portrayed by Aaron Eckhart. He was the "good" to the Joker's "evil". Batman himself seemed to be little more than a ping pong ball bouncing between the two.

Maggie Gyllenhaal gave a solid performance as the love interest of both Batman and Harvey Dent - the two good guys, and she was able to weave her way through the heroics and flaws of both men and reach a commonsense choice as to the one she really loved. Her agonizing decision was the only sexual tension in the entire movie, and it was minimal.

Michael Caine played Bruce Wayne's butler and co-conspirator, Alfred. (Remember when we knew Michael Caine best as just plain Alfie?) Michael Caine was born to play Alfie, and forty-two years later he is a natural as Alfred. Another character standout was Vermont's Senator Patrick Leahy who shined as a disgruntled guest at a cocktail party. He looked and sounded authentic in this cameo role.

I actually did like The Dark Knight. It was steeped in action, vivid and colorful cityscapes, intense characters, and loud music. It held my interest from start to finish. If I had seen the film rushes six months ago, however, I might have suggested that they write the Batman character out, because he didn't add much to the film.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I'm So Hot I Could Puke!

by Pa Rock

The temperature was 108 degrees as I left Luke AFB this evening. And, as if on cue, I came home to find my air conditioning was out - again - and the inside of my apartment was almost as hot as the outside of my apartment. Praise Allah for my solitary fan, or I would be curled up in my refrigerator waiting on the repairmen. I like the repairmen, we've met before. I give them bottled water and they give me excuses. But they are nice guys, though.

My cable, of course, remains out until Wednesday evening. When I went to the apartment office to report the air conditioning being out, one of the managers and I started talking television service. She uses Dish Network and said that it is cheaper than Cox. (Big surprise there!) She gave me a coupon that will provide me with a discount when I sign up, and it will also give her a break on her next bill. Thanks, Monica, from Palm Valley Luxury Rentals (where the AC works most of the time!).

Things could be worse. Having no air conditioning leaves me with the benefits of a good sauna - the fat is just melting off - and pooling up around my feet! And having no television leaves me plenty of time to blog about minutiae!

If God really wants me to live in Ariizona, why is she making me suffer!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cox Sucks!

by Pa Rock

If you live in or around Phoenix, AZ, chances are you have dealt with Cox Communications. The behemoth controls most of the telephone service, high-speed Internet, and cable TV in the Valley of the Sun. They have a neat little stranglehold on communications.

When I came here I got all of my services from Cox. It was much easier than running all over the Valley trying to acquire a modern communications system in a piecemeal manner. The service was mediocre from the start, and that should have been adequate warning. Instead of sending somebody to my apartment to get things started, I had to drive several miles to pick up a cable box. The phone was switched on from somewhere else in my apartment complex, and I'm not sure how the Internet got connected. I would still be trying to get it all sorted out and connected myself if not for the help of my daughter's boyfriend who was tech-savvy enough to get the entire system working.

A friend told me that Cox has two pricing systems: one for those (usually like me) who never complain, and lower rates for those who do complain. She said to talk about deleting a service, and they would start dealing to keep me. A few months ago I decided to put her advice to the test. I called Cox and told them that I was going to cut back on some of my cable options because my bill was too high. They immediately ran through my bill and said that I could be receiving a discount because I was receiving all of my services through them. And, they could even take that discount back two months. Why, I asked innocently, could they not take it back to the time my services were installed if I had been eligible for it all along. Policy, tut tut, you know, but we can apply the discount now and save you some money.

Two weeks ago I got a notice that the cable rates were going up - again! I called and told them to cancel my movie package as well as my phone and Internet packages. The sputtering on their end was truly heart-wrenching. Why, oh why, Mr. Macy, would you want to do that? Because your rates are too high, Evildoer. Well, let's not be hasty. We could give you a different Internet package that would meet your needs and save you money. Yeah, I bet you could - why didn't you tell me that last October when I got the services?

So now I am operating off of my cell phone (not Cox), broadband Internet (not Cox), and have a very limited Cox cable package. Imagine my disgust today when I got home from the movies and found that my cable wasn't working! I called Cox and talked to a nice young man named Noel. He led me through a process and then put me on hold "for just five to seven minutes" while my cable box would power back up.

Twenty minutes later I hung up on the constant stream of Cox commercials. I called back and got a recording telling me that the office was closed and to call back tomorrow. Somehow I kept from throwing my cell phone and television out the back door and onto the golf course - and I called Cox a third time.

A lady answered who was having difficulty speaking English and dealing with me. She went through all of the routine that Noel had done, but seemed to know better than to put me on hold. After twenty minutes with her, I finally told her that I had burned up nearly an hour of cell phone minutes and we weren't getting anywhere. She said that I should call the office tomorrow morning if my signal still wasn't working, and they would send out a service representative. No, I told her, that
would not do. If she valued my business she would schedule one now. Okay, of course. I can have a service representative at you place on Tuesday between 10 a.m. and noon. No, Ma'am you don't understand. I work for a living. The representative needs to come after 5 p.m. Okay, Wednesday evening then between 5 and 7 p.m. That's the best I can do.

And you know what? Wednesday evening works great for me, because by that time I can have Dish Network set up and hand the cable box back to the "service representative." That's the best I can do!

Lots of things in life suck, but nothing sucks like Cox!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

For the Times, They are a Changin'

by Pa Rock

The need for change in this country, and indeed in the world, is so pervasive and obvious as to be almost maddening. The inequities of energy consumption around the world and the effects of the world's continued reliance on carbon based energy sources are two cases in point. We have been trapped into a dependence on oil for over a century. The auto companies and oil companies have openly conspired for the past four or five generations to limit our transportation options, and to make sure that those options relied on regularly tithing at the gas pumps. When some daring soul speaks up about the need for more public transportation or alternative forms of energy, corporate America roars back about the impracticality or expense of that option, and often tries to paint the person making the proposal as being some sort of socialist. Speech, of course, has never been free, and the big boys who had the money to control the media, controlled the message.

But the Internet has changed all that. Now anyone with an idea or a cause can generate or join a world-wide audience. The Internet has changed politics, it has exposed the ills of society and promoted unique solutions, and it has brought together activists who no longer are consigned to suffer in silence.

The following are three examples of people organizing over the Internet to promote activist policies and challenge the status quo.

1. This group has been previously mentioned in this blog. It was organized by oilman T. Boone Pickens to promote wind and solar energy - heresy to his oil buddies in Texas - and to the oilmen currently running the White House.

2. This is an endeavor by activist Laurie David to build a coalition that will promote alternatives to carbon consumption in an effort to save the planet from the worst effects of global warming.

3. This is Al Gore's group that is promoting renewable energy alternatives - primarily wind and solar. Mr. Gore, of course, also maintains a strong commitment to stop global warming.

Each of the above organizations build political muscle through membership. Congress listens to groups that can generate long petitions and massive amounts of mail. Politics is about numbers and power, and greater numbers equate to greater power. Just ask the clowns at the NRA.

The Internet is the greatest source of democratic power in the history of the world. Take advantage of it. Get out there and join a group or start a group. Find those people who think like you and make your agenda happen. It's time to lace up those Doc Martins and kick some cyber butt!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Summer in Hell

Arizona is under a heat warning for the next couple of days. When they go to the trouble to issue a heat warning in hell, you know it's really going to be hot! On a normal summer day in Arizona I run from one air conditioner to another. I guess this means that I will have to run extra fast this weekend!

I am planning on spending the mornings inside working on my blogs, then maybe occupy the early afternoons at the air-conditioned gym. Late afternoons - when you could most easily pop popcorn on the asphalt - may find me at the movies. Right now I'm thinking Dark Knight and Mama Mia, but I'm flexible and may surprise myself by seeing something unexpected.

It is so hot in Arizona that people put little booties on their dogs before taking them outside! Cats won't wear booties, but cats are too smart to go outside anyway!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Tour of the White House Kitchen
(for Noreen)

by Pa Rock

The tale of my visit to the White House kitchen begins during August of 1814. The War of 1812 was still going on and the British were intent on winning the war, or at least leaving their Yankee cousins some payback for twisting the British lion’s tail. President James Madison was away from the White House helping to wage the war, and he had left his First Lady, Dolley, back in the capital with orders to save as much of the country’s valuable papers as she could in the event that the British advanced on Washington D.C. Word came to Dolley on August 23 that the British would soon be in the city – she had to flee. Saving several trunks of government papers and the large Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, Dolley Madison hopped into her carriage and barely escaped capture by the approaching British soldiers. When the British reached the White House, they executed their payback on their uncouth American cousins by torching the President’s house and burning it almost to the ground.

(Necessary Digression: Recounting that bit of actual history begs these questions: How long would the Iraq War have lasted if Dear Leader had been required to help lead our brave troops into battle? Indeed, would that war have even been initiated if the Commander in Chief had to actually put on a uniform and engage in the fighting? Enquiring minds want to know!)

Pitch forward to May of 1999. Our social work graduate group from the University of Missouri went to Washington D.C. for several days to lobby Missouri’s members of Congress on issues that we had been researching, and to also attend some workshops with the Child Welfare League of America where one of our members was serving an internship. Pat Tyler, one of my best friends and a classmate, had a cousin who was an Air Force pilot and was assigned to Air Force Two – making him Al Gore’s pilot. Pat’s cousin arranged for our group to take an evening tour of the White House.

Our tour guides that evening were two young Air Force enlisted men whose regular duty involved working at the White House. We were somewhat of a rowdy crew, and most of us were old enough to be the parents of our guides. Upon reflection, I believe that we were probably somewhat intimidating, and they were struggling for ways to keep us entertained and under control.

Evening tours get to go places that are off limits to the day tours. We got to step up to the door of the Oval Office and look in. We were taken to the small theatre-type room where press conferences were normally held. While in that room most took a turn stepping up to the podium and making some smart-ass remark. Mine was “I did not have sexual relations with that woman!” We quickly became right at home in the President’s house, pulling books off of shelves, sitting on the antiques, and generally keeping our guides on edge.

They eventually made a decision to get us to a more controllable location. One of the young men suggested that we might be interested in seeing part of the original White House – the one that John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James and Dolley Madison had occupied. He said that a section of an original outer wall had survived the fire and was now part of the White House kitchen. So off we marched into what was the equivalent of a very nice basement. The kitchen was active with several people involved in preparing food for the following day. Toward the rear of the work area was an old block and mortar wall that had seen many coats of paint over the years. Everyone got to rub their hands on the wall and issue appropriate ooh’s and aah’s. Soon thereafter we were shown the door!

Later that night our guides met most of us at a bar downtown where they thought that they would finally be able to relax. But that wasn’t going to happen because we were having too much fun! One of the young men inadvertently let it slip that one of his functions was to announce the President when he stepped into the room for a press conference. He was the voice that boomed, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.” It took several drinks to get him primed, but he finally stood and made his announcement in the packed bar! (I’m sure that the next morning he wished that they had never let us out of the kitchen!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Snooty McSnobby

Cindy McBush recently made the following outrageous statement to CNN: “In Arizona the only way to get around the state is by small private plane.” Oh really?

Well, Princess, I’ve lived in Arizona for nearly a year, and I’ve yet to find any community, no matter how small or remote, that is not serviced by a road. Perhaps you need to get over yourself and see the USA in your Chevrolet – or Ferrari, or Porsche, or Bentley. I’m sure that your chauffeur could get you where you need to go!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Political Diarrhea

by Pa Rock

I've been busy elsewhere and have sadly neglected this blog as of late. During my hiatus, the political crap seems to have backlogged - but now I'm back and it's time to let 'er flow!

Whoops! Dear Leader has been telling us for years now that we will leave Iraq when and if the government there ever asks us to. John McBush even bought into that highly unlikely scenario and implied that his opponent was promoting unconditional surrender for even suggesting a time table for withdrawal. Then last week Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki up and declared that it was time for the US to start planning an exit from Iraq - or at least get a time table set up. Whoops! I guess he shot the Bush/McBush never-ending war rationale right in the ass! Has al-Malaki forgotten who his masters are? Who cut the strings on this once dependable puppet?

Hypocrisy Watch: Jesse Jackson was caught on a live microphone saying that Barack Obama should have his nuts cut off because he encouraged young black males to be responsible parents. Reverend Jesse felt that our future President was "talking down" to these men. Give it a break, Jesse! Someone should have bent your ear on that subject a few years ago before you fathered a child out of wedlock. You're not offended by Obama's advice - you're offended by the fact that you, like me, are quickly slipping into insignificance. Old age is a bitch, and so is irrelevance. Get over it - or get out and do some work in the community and make yourself relevant again. And quit worrying about Obama's nuts - yours seem to be much more problematic than his!

(For the record, I have a certain amount of respect for Reverend Jackson, and even voted for him in Missouri's 1988 Presidential primary. I feel sad that people like him and Bill Clinton, once formidable political figures, are letting unnecessary pettiness obscure their legacies.)

Cancel My Subscription: This week's much maligned cover of The New Yorker has certainly generated a lot of controversy. Personally, I thought it was funny. Of course, I also think Rush Limbaugh is funny. Unfortunately, both reinforce a portrait of the Obama family that is patently false and feeds into the fears of the underinformed masses. The New Yorker has handed Obama a lemon, and he needs to squeeze that sucker into lemonade. I think it would be a great lead-in to a speech on patriotism and faith - much like his earlier, highly praised, speech on race. Lay it on the table and serve it up!

Oh Those Girls! The conservative press let out a roar regarding the Obama girls' television interview. They seemed to feel that allowing the interview to take place was tantamount to bad parenting. What I saw was two very articulate young ladies who were very loved and quite comfortable talking about their daddy. And even though Daddy winced a few times (and a few times I winced for him), he was comfortable enough in his parenting experiences to let them meet the press. And they were great! You go girls!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Whiners and Losers

I was feeling depressed about the depression, or at least recessed about the recession, until former Senator Phil Gramm (John McBush's chief economic advisor) explained it away last week. According to this great economic mind, we are not in a recession or a depression, it is just all in our minds. Gramm admitted that we may be in a mental recession, but the actual economy has never been rosier. He also said that Americans are just a bunch of whiners.

Am I ever relieved! I am currently wrapping up a quick trip to Missouri to see my kids,grandkids, and stubbornly conservative father. The credit card bill arrived just before I left Arizona, but thanks to the stellar economic wisdom of Team McBush I knew that the airline tickets to Missouri weren't all that unreasonable. I was just being whiny. And the $4 a gallon gas that our overpriced rental car was so fond of - wasn't really that bad of a deal. Shouldn't I be thankful that Vice President Cheney took the lead in developing our national energy policy eight years ago? Where would the country be without him, or Enron, or Dear Leader's good friends in the Saudi royal family?

I've got to quit whining and be more supportive of my country. If Cindy McBush can rack up $50,000 a month on her credit cards to keep the our economy pumped up, surely I could be doing more. Maybe I'll take out a second mortgage and use the proceeds to buy a Hummer - and then take out payday loans to feed it. What could be more American than massive debt, energy wastefulness, and struggling to pay the loan sharks before they begin breaking my tired old bones?

But I can live that way, especially knowing that my imminent financial collapse is only a figment of my imagination.

So America, rest easy. John McBush readily admits that he knows nothing about the economy, but with Cindy at his side to spend us back into prosperity, and Senator Gramm wishing away bad news with the ease of a Texas steer shooing flies with his mangy tail, things are looking good. It's time for all of us to quit our whining!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sebastian at One Year

(as reported by his Daddy)

Sebastian had his 1 year dr. appt today. He is 29.5 tall (34%), weight was 18.4(1%) and head circumference is 48(87%). He gained 2 pounds 3 ounces which was over the 2 pound goal! His weight percentile is really low but the doctor said he is fine. She was more concerned about his rapidly growing head. (he's a MACY) She was very impressed with his language skills. She only expected him to know a couple words. He put on a show for her. He said, "What's that? Light! Hi! Go! Go! Go!" and more. He received three immunization shots: pcv7, varivax, and MMR. We were also told that he could start drinking whole milk and begin eating almost anything except nuts, so we are going to be trying a lot of new foods over the next few weeks.

Molly is packing for their trip to MO. We will be spending the night in Portland tomorrow night. Their flight leaves at 5:45am Friday morn.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I get to work very early every morning, and then kill time by sitting outside the office in my car - eating my sausage egg McMuffin and listening to National Public Radio. Most mornings, when its not too hot, I will read a chapter or two from my book de jour before going in and starting another day at work. Usually my routine is just that - routine.

This morning while I was eating and tearing off small bits of bread to feed to the loud and pushy desert birds, NPR came on with a segment that caught my interest and stayed with me the rest of the day. T. Boone Pickens, a rich Texas arch-conservative who made his money sucking the people's oil out of the ground and selling it back to them, was on the radio plugging his new energy plan - a monumental wind farm in the Texas panhandle that will be able to provide electricity to 1.3 million homes. I was so taken by what he was saying, that I came home and began researching the topic.

Pickens is 80-years-old and seems to have finally figured out that greed really wasn't going to be much of a legacy. His plan is more than just a big wind farm, he is organizing a movement ( to change the way America thinks about energy - and to force our political leaders to factor his ideas into a national dialogue on energy.

His plan is simple: use wind resources to replace the natural gas that currently goes into the production of electricity, and use that natural gas to power cars and lower our dependence on foreign oil.

Did you know, according to T. Boone, that there could be enough wind turbines placed in the windy state of North Dakota to provide all of America's electricity needs? Talk about an economic bonanza for North Dakota! And with those turbines, other complementary land uses can happen - such as grazing cattle.

I moved from Kentucky to Arizona last fall. My son drove the truck while I followed along in my car. When we hit southwest Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle, we saw hundreds of these large, beautiful windmills. I telephoned Nick in the truck and told him we were seeing the future. And we were!

T. Boone Pickens, you're a beautiful person! Better late than never!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Fred Blue
(18 Aug 1931 - 21 Dec 1990)

by Rocky Macy

If ever there was a person whose identity was defined by his workplace, that person was Fred Blue. Fred was as much a part of the Noel School as any book in the library, any desk in a classroom, or any trophy in the trophy case. He was as hard and noisy as the ancient radiators that warmed the school, and yet, had a heart that was pure marshmallow.

Fred was a bus driver who couldn’t be rattled by the shenanigans of any student, or any parent for that matter. He was the school’s ubiquitous custodian who was everywhere doing everything. If it was snowing - Fred was outside spreading salt, if some kid got sick - Fred was throwing kitty litter in the vomit and sweeping it up, and when the roof sprang a leak – Fred was Johnny-on-the-spot with a bucket. If it needed painting, trimming, cleaning, mopping, repairing, mowing, thrown away, or just a good old-fashioned cussing, Fred was there!

Fred Blue could be loud and demanding. If he set his sights on getting something done, it happened. When he wanted a blade for the school’s riding lawnmower so that he could push the snow off of the school’s sidewalks, and didn’t have the time or the patience to get one through normal channels, he simply went out and bought one himself – with his own money.

And Fred Blue could be quietly effective behind the scenes. When a young boy was falling behind on his lunch bill because of problems at home, Fred quietly stepped in and paid the balance. No kid would suffer needlessly at Fred’s Place.

I came to the Noel School, a K-8 elementary/junior high, from a large rural high school. The bulletin boards in high schools are often used for posting bulletins, and I suffered under the delusion that it would work that way in an elementary school too. But bulletin boards in elementary schools are for decorating, and before I could ever get anything posted, some do-gooder teacher would have the board dressed up for Columbus Day or Christmas or Easter. One November I had something that needed posting. After finding every bulletin board at the Noel School covered with Pilgrims and turkeys, I approached Fred and asked him (smart people rarely told Fred anything, they always “asked”) if he would please put up a bulletin board outside of my office for my personal use. Less than an hour later as I was walking down the hall, I noticed that he had the new bulletin board up. He had even gone to the trouble of covering it with turkeys for me!

Another pure Fred incident that I remember involved a certain teacher who liked to rearrange her classroom monthly, an event that Fred dreaded because she always asked him to move her large, wooden teacher’s desk. (Fred implied to anyone that would listen that the thought this monthly event had something to do with the teacher’s biology!) After several months of lugging the teacher’s desk around, he came up with a solution. When the teacher reported for work the next morning she discovered that Fred had attached wheels to her desk!

Fred had a very small circuit that ran from his house, to the school, and occasionally to the town’s hardware store when he needed to buy something for the school. He was the first person at the school every morning, making sure that the boiler was working and the radiators were warming the classrooms. Then he would drive his bus route, spend the day cleaning and making repairs, and drive his evening bus route. If there was a ball game at night, Fred would be there late sweeping up popcorn bags and soft drink cups.

Neosho, Missouri, is about twenty miles north of Noel. One evening I convinced Fred to go to Neosho with me so that he could help pick out the ceiling fans that our booster club was purchasing for the classrooms. As we made our way through Wal-Mart, a place that was a second home to most people in Noel, I noticed that Fred seemed fascinated with everything. When I mentioned that to him, he said that he hadn’t been to the Neosho or to Wal-Mart in many years. If it wasn’t at the school, at his home, or in the hardware store, Fred just didn’t have any use for it!

Fred’s wife had passed away several years earlier, and he had a live-in girlfriend who eventually came to work with him at the school. When Fred needed TLC, it was provided by Leatha. He certainly would never spend any of his energy taking care of himself – not when the school needed him. He and Leatha married shortly before his death. Fred also had two grown daughters, both of whom had gone on to become teachers.

Fred Blue was diagnosed with cancer shortly after I left the Noel School. He was cantankerous to the end, and he stayed on the job as long as he was able. I managed to make it out to his house several times during his last few weeks, and always found him cussing and going on about things that really weren’t important in the grand scheme of things. When Fred died I knew that I had lost one of the best friends that I would ever have.

The Noel School was more than a job for Fred, it was the major focus of his life. And Fred, in turn, was a major force in the life of that little school. They had a symbiotic relationship, each dependent on the other for definition and survival.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy Birthday, Sebastian!

Happy first birthday, Sebastian. I really enjoyed talking to you on the telephone earlier this evening. It sounded like you were having a lot of fun opening your presents. Wouldn't it be great if every day was a birthday!

When your Mom turned one-year-old we were living in a big, blue house in Mountain View, MO. I remember that she got a wooden rocking horse for her first birthday.

I wish that I could have been with you on your special day, but I will see you next week in Kansas City and Noel. That will be fun! We will play - and smell flowers - and buy some new clothes. Your Uncle Tim and Uncle Nick will be there, and so will Cousin Boone. Pa Garland will be there too. We are all anxious to see you!

Stay happy and I will see you soon!


Pa Rock

The Great Train Blast

by Rocky Macy

It was the second day of August in 1969, a hot and noisy Ozark Saturday night. The next day would mark the two-week anniversary of man’s first walk on the moon. I was twenty-one and had just finished spending almost all of my college summer vacation at ROTC Camp at Ft. Riley, KS. After two months in hot, humid, tick-and-mosquito-infested Kansas, I didn’t need any special reason for partying with my friends. This particular night I had been up late drinking beer, and probably playing Risk, at a cabin on the bluff in Noel, MO, that was being rented for the summer by some of my friends.

(The cabin is still there. It was reportedly built new in 1939 to serve as a temporary home for Henry Fonda and Tyrone Power while they filmed the movie, Jesse James – leaving one to wonder where Randolph Scott slept. But I digress.)

At that time my parents were living on a ridge that overlooked the little town of Noel. (It was called Chicken Plant Hill because the Hudson Foods Chicken Processing Plant sat at its base. The view was as scenic as the smells were toxic. But, again I digress.) I made it home sometime during the wee hours of August 3rd and found my way to bed with every intention of sleeping late that morning. Those plans came to an abrupt end an hour or two later when a blast rocked our house.

My dad, mom, sister (Gail) and I poured out into the living room, groggy from sleep, (and in my case, groggy from sleep and too much beer!) to try to figure out what had happened. The first thing we noticed was that even though it was still dark out, a red glow was coming through the back picture that faced Noel. It was obvious that something had blown up in Noel, something really big, maybe the feared atomic bomb! We also noticed that the force of the blast had kicked our air conditioner out of its wall mounting and into the living room.

My dad started trying to call the telephone operator (if you remember those, you’re old!) to find out what was going on. The lines were busy, but he eventually got through. The operator told him that something had blown up in Noel, but no one knew what was going on.

Dad had a small appliance store on Main Street that held a lot of merchandise, much of which could be carried off by looters if the windows had been blown out, which they obviously had to have been. He and I got in his pick-up and went into town, not knowing what we would find.

There were several people staggering up and down Main Street and a few emergency vehicles were beginning to circulate by the time we got to his store. We learned immediately that a train boxcar had blown up, and people were worried that the large propane storage tanks that were located in town next to the railroad tracks would blow.

The store windows had been blown out, as had most of the windows in town. Dad and I worked at getting the glass swept up. He got involved in helping the other merchants with getting things organized around town, and I stayed at the store to watch the premises and keep picking up glass and clearing and cleaning.

As dawn arrived we could see the awful devastation that had visited our small town. It was complete chaos of glittering glass shards, twisted pieces of iron that had recently been railroad track, busted homes and buildings, and rumors of dismemberment and death.

Sulphur Street runs parallel to the Kansas City Southern train tracks in Noel, beginning at Main Street and ending four or five blocks south at the Noel School. Growing up in the Christmas City, I had walked those several blocks more times than I could tally. I knew the people in every house, all of their kids, and most of their pets.

It was Sulphur Street that suffered the brunt off the train blast. The Catholic Church sat up next to the tracks midway down Sulphur Street, at approximately the location of the blast. That church was so thoroughly destroyed that the parishioners were forced to go seeking other accommodations for several months. The Episcopals, whose church was at the corner of Main and Sulphur, had sustained far less damage, and they opened their doors and their hearts to the homeless Catholics.

There was only one immediate death from the blast, a result of two fortunate circumstances. First, the blast happened late at night when there were substantially fewer people in town than would have been present during daylight business hours. Second, there as a small warning blast several minutes before the one that did so much damage, and many were able to get to their cars and drive away from the center of town.

Roxie Miller, a beautician who lived in an upstairs apartment on Sulphur Street, heard the first blast and ran for her car. When she got to her car, she realized that she had left her purse behind. She ran back into the house and had made it to the top of the stairs when the big blast hit. The forty-something, single woman had her throat cut with a piece of flying glass and became the blast's first fatality. (My mother, also a beautician, worked with Roxie at Carol Kerry’s Beauty Shop in Noel.)

There was a Mr. Green living in Noel at the time of the blast, one of those local characters that often make themselves memorable. Mr. Green used to busy himself by telling people that the end of time was near. He shared the date of the impending doom with anyone who would listen. I don't remember this person, but my dad recently told me about him. Although his date for the end of the world has been lost to history, Mr. Green's end came on the afternoon following the blast when he keeled over dead following a heart attack that was thought to have been a result of all of the excitement generated by the exploding boxcar.

Lottie Bentley and her husband Virgil, an older couple, were asleep in bed at their home a block or so behind Sulphur Street when the major blast occurred. A two-thousand train wheel came crashing through their roof and landed on the bed crushing Lottie’s legs.

Mertie Harmon, a good friend and the mother of one of my classmates, lived in the biggest house on Main Street, just a block or so from Sulphur Street. She had heard the first blast, and was standing at her front door looking out the screen door when the second blast hit. She said that she could see the glass on the screen door spidering with fractures and just had time to cover her face with her hands before it all flew in on her. She was soon in her car driving away from town.

All of the people in town the following morning had one thing on their minds – hunger. Kilmer’s Grocery was located across the street from my dad’s store, but it had been pummeled with flying fragments of glass, rendering much of the store's contents inedible. Before the morning was very old, however, two agencies put up tables with doughnuts and sandwiches, and their presence taught me a lesson about charity that I have never forgotten. The American Red Cross aided the dazed citizens of Noel by selling them food. Most people hadn’t thought to grab cash as they dashed into town to assist with rescue and clean-up. The Salvation Army also set up a stand where they gave away sandwiches. Those fine folks were literally our “salvation!”

(Many years later I was in a social work class at the University of Missouri, and one of our class assignments was to do a follow-up of a river community – Hartsburg , MO – that had been devastated by flooding a few years earlier – the horrible floods of 1993. As my research partners and I talked to residents about what they had encountered during that disaster, many mentioned how grateful they had been to the charity provided by the Salvation Army, and spoke with scorn about the Red Cross selling their services. Today when a disaster occurs, such as Hurricane Katrina, I donate according to the life lessons that I have learned.)

But, back to Noel on August 3rd, 1969:

By early afternoon another crisis was looming. Police were going door-to-door telling people that the gas company was preparing to drill into the large propane tanks by the tracks to bleed off the pressure that they felt was building. We were being ordered to evacuate. Most of the merchants did not want to leave their wares unprotected. Some had managed to board up a few windows, but there was still basically little security for the town’s personal property. My dad gathered up his credit book and other important papers and prepared to leave, but we ended up staying until the town’s warning siren started going off. We drove out of town for a little while until we heard that an all clear had been given.

The national guard arrived that afternoon and tried to keep everyone out of town, but somehow my dad managed to get us back in. I volunteered to sleep in the store that night. We set up an army cot behind a row of washers and dryers. With the national guard patrolling the streets all night, things should be fairly secure, but we didn't want to take any unnecessary risk. I didn’t manage to sleep much because the young soldiers kept walking by and shining their flashlights around the store interior. I stayed concealed until I heard one say, “Hey. Mike, there’s one of them little radios like you want.” At that point I stood and cleared my throat. “There’s somebody in there,” I heard him say. I waved, and they moved on down the street – without the little radio.

As the days passed we learned that a boxcar full of fertilizer had exploded when the brakes on the boxcar caught fire as the train was braking coming into Noel. Apparently the night man at the Noel Train Station had radioed the engineer and told him about the fire. Instead of pulling the boxcar safely out of town, the engineer stopped where he was at to address the issue.

The train’s insurer, Aetna Casualty, was in town quickly and spent several weeks writing checks. Most people were in a hurry to settle, anxious to rebuild and get on with their lives, but a few held out for more. Famed attorney, Melvin Belli, came to Noel to encourage the greedy to sue. Aetna paid out over $2 million in claims, enough to rebuild the town as it was then several times over. Some of the greedier people managed to do a little better, and some did not.

My dad got a fair settlement for the damage to his store and merchandise. We also got a small claim for damage to our house air-conditioner. I drove a little red Chevy Corvair at the time that was parked in our garage. An old wooden wagon wheel fell over on it at the time of the blast causing a big dent in the passenger door. I was able to parlay that into a few hundred dollars.

We lost telephone service for most of the next few days, but my mother was able to contact her family in Newton County and let them know that we were all alright. The next day my aunt and uncle, Fred and Ruth Marble, read about the blast on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. They weren’t able to call us, but they did reach my grandad who told them that we were okay.

And a couple of weeks later I was back at Southwest Missouri State with stories to share that weren't all about the rigors of ROTC summer camp.


Two of my friends, James and Patti Carroll of Noel, MO, were in Phoenix Thursday evening. They arrived in the late afternoon, rented a car at Sky Harbor Airport, and then drove across Phoenix on Interstate 10 in rush hour traffic and 110 degree heat. I am sure that they had had quite enough of The Valley of the Sun by the time they made it to my place in Goodyear. Later that evening after a nice meal and a tour of Luke Air Force Base, we stopped at a local CVS so Patti could by a few necessaries for their trip to Sedona the following day. James and I sat in the car and visited while Patti went to do her shopping. When she returned to the car, she had a bemused look on her face. Patti said that she had been exchanging small talk with the clerk in the store and had mentioned that she was here on vacation. The clerk had replied, somewhat astonished, "You're vacationing here!

Amen, sister!