Sunday, August 31, 2008

Viva Zapata!

by Pa Rock

Prefiero morir de pie...que vivir de rodillas...
(It is better to die on my feet...than to live on my knees...)

Emiliano Zapata
Mexican Revolutionary

I am heading south by southeast today, with the last planned stop being Agua Prieta, Mexico. If there are no new posts on the Ramble in the next few days, you may assume that I have been kidnapped by white slavers.

Piso Mojado!
Pa Rock

Saturday, August 30, 2008


by Pa Rock

Traitor is a spy thriller on the order of what Robert Ludlum used to write - an agent trapped abroad in deep cover who is at risk from the good guys and the bad guys. But it is a thriller with a very clear message: the needs of humanity supersede those of groups with agendas, whether they be terrorist cells or national governments. Don Cheadle was so moved by the script that he offered to put his own money into the production, not even knowing if someone with the box office recognition of a Denzel Washington might come in at the last minute and take the title role from him. Fortunately for us, Denzel let this one pass and Cheadle picked up another powerful role.

Cheadle portrays Samir, a devout Muslim and former U.S. Army sergeant, who had disappeared in the Middle East until he was arrested on terrorism charges. He is secretly in the control of one CIA agent (Jeff Daniels) who has told no one else of the highly secret intelligence operation. The FBI stumbles onto Samir prior to his escape from a Yemeni prison, and spends the rest of the movie in pursuit of the terrorist who got away.

Guy Pearce is the FBI agent who is fixated on finding Samir. (Pearce has changed markedly from his roles of Adam Whitely a.k.a. Felicia Jollygoodfellow in the Australian hit, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, to the prissy, self-absorbed Lt. Ed Exley in L.A. Confidential, to his role in this film where he plays a hard-bitten FBI agent with a decidedly southern accent and strong Baptist roots. He has the breadth and depth to take on any role.)

And while Cheadle and Pearce both inhabit their characters in believable fashion, it is Said Taghmaoui who gives the most powerful performance as the true terrorist, Omar. Omar leads us into the minds and logic of suicide bombers and those who would spread their message through highly individualized and effective bursts of shock and awe. It is through his eyes that we learn we are all terrorists - and we are all victims.

The only regrettable part of this movie was that the climactic terrorist act was the planned bombings of fifty Greyhound buses on Thanksgiving Day as they traversed America. It has been a very tough year for Greyhound (take the bus and leave your head with us), and the company did not need to have that thought planted in the minds of travelers.

Moving Again!

by Pa Rock

Last night the good folks at Palm Valley Luxury Rentals stuffed a notice into my door - the preferred delivery method of class acts everywhere! My landlords informed me that should I fail to accept their terms for a lease renewal when my current lease expires (October 31), my monthly rent would go up by a hundred dollars. Yeah, right! A hundred extra per month and the air conditioning will still only work on days when it doesn't get too hot! Who could pass on a deal like that?

So today I will go buy boxes, lots and lots of boxes! And I will begin to slowly pack up my life. And I will spend the next two months living out of, and climbing over, boxes. And when the 31st of October rolls around, I will have to climb into a moving van and head on down the road.

Where will I unpack? Right now I don't know. Maybe I will find another hovel in this wretched desert and keep my job at Luke. The people there are wonderful beyond measure! Or maybe I will relocate someplace where there are seasons or a seashore, and hope that I land in another good work environment. I have a long history of being very lucky in that regard. Will my luck hold through yet another move?

Today I went to the office at Palm Valley Luxury Rentals to pay my September rent. As I was writing the check, a young man stepped up to me and said, "Excuse me, sir. I'm thinking about renting an apartment here, and I was wondering how you like this place?" So I told him.

Viva la revolucion!

Friday, August 29, 2008

In Defense of Sarah Palin

by Pa Rock

Well, McBush announced his choice for running mate this morning and spent the rest of the day slapping himself on the back for being so progressive. He thinks that he's found the perfect way to pry loose the wavering Hillary voters. We'll see, Johnny boy, we'll see!

There are things about Ms. Palin that I like, including:

1. She's not Mitt Romney. The country is in dire need of a break from vacuous frat boys who were born with credentials. And isn't it refreshing to know that there are others in the Republican Party besides old white men with money!

2. She is smarter than McBush. Of course, so am I, so are you, and so was 99% of his graduating class at the U.S. Naval Academy!

3. She has been a mayor of a town of 9,000, Governor of Alaska for less than two years, and a proud member of the PTA. Being a mayor of a small town and a governor of a state where the moose population exceeds that of humans really doesn't qualify her for much, but speaking as an old school administrator, I can tell you this with a straight face: if she can navigate the intrigues and politics of a small town PTA, U.S. foreign policy should be a piece of cake!

4. And, as pointed out by a columnist earlier today on Huffington Post, she has what it takes to be the next Dick Cheney! That's high praise, indeed!

Now Ms. Palin, let me give you some heartfelt advice. If John McBush ever calls you a "cu*t" like he publicly referred to his wife, I hope you bitch-slap him into the next life. (And I hope that he wakes up in that next life as the emotionally abused wife of a blowhard!)

Also, I was glad to hear that you were able to get your Wikipedia entry cleaned up a couple of days ago. You're going to need every break that you can get as you try to drag Gramps across the finish line!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Of Prairie Dogs and Grackles

by Pa Rock

I may live alone, but I seldom dine alone - and that is especially true of the many meals that I eat in my car. I am known far and wide, particularly in the furrier and featherier circles, as one who shares his bounty.

My morning routine is to wheel through the local McDonald's just outside the gate at Luke Air Force Base and pick up a sandwich and a tall iced tea. Then I pull onto base, park in the lot next to where I work, and read from my "car book" while eating breakfast. And as I munch on my sandwich, I routinely tear off little pieces and throw them out onto the lot where my regular retinue of grackles and pigeons - and the occasional desert dove - enjoy their breakfast. One morning a scroungy old cat showed up and kept the birds at bay while he ate their food, but usually its the birds who get fed.

At lunch I often go to the local Sonic where I can park under an awning and put the top down while I eat and read. The birds there also know to expect me, and one old grackle will even march across my car hood raising a fuss if I am late dispensing the grub. Yesterday I had thrown out a good portion of my sandwich and was lost in my book when I noticed something odd in my peripheral vision. There scuttling around picking up the bread crumb offerings was a rodent-like creature. He looked like a large, grayish chipmunk without the stripe and with an extra-long tail. He was very relaxed and would sit still and pose while he ate. Today I asked the carhop what I had seen, and she said it was a prairie dog. She pointed to the adjacent field and said there were a colony of them over there. "We feed them tater tots." She added with a giggle. As she counted out my change, I watched another prairie dog scooting along the far edge of the parking lot.

When you feed the birds every day, you get to where you can recognize some of them based on their odd features. There is one truly ugly brown and white pigeon that shows up on base, at the Sonic, and even at Taco Bell. He recognizes my car and always coos expectantly while waiting for a handout - a handout that I am happy to provide. We are both sustained by the relationship!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

As Seen on TV

by Pa Rock

You've seen it...we've all seen it! The info-mercial where the frumpy, red-headed lady leads the goofball man around by the nose as she keeps whipping up marvelously quick dishes in what looks like a waffle iron with two scooped out compartments. She uses leftovers, cake mixes, steak and asparagus - whatever - and quickly turns every pile of scraps into a gourmet delight. And us, her salivating viewers, can order not one, but two of these wonder machines for just forty dollars! They come with a few plastic gadgets and a very small recipe book. And the best part is the machines fold up so nicely and take up almost no counter space!

Well, our Consumer Division here at Pa Rock's Ramble is pleased to let you know that we have found the same marvelous little machine at Wal-Greens for just $9.95. It is called an omelet maker. It doesn't come with the plastic doo-dads or recipe book, but it is so simple that even I can use it. Tonight I made salmon patties in just a few minutes, and, as our friend on TV says, there was virtually no clean-up. Later I may try my hand at small strawberry cakes. And the best part is that it folds up so nicely and takes up almost no counter space!

Move over, Martha Stewart. Pa Rock is in the kitchen!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


by Pa Rock

Being one of three or four Americans who exist without television, I am reduced to sifting Democratic Convention gems from the Internet. Tonight's jewel comes from the governor of New York, David Paterson:

"If McCain's the answer, then the question must be ridiculous!"

Somebody needs to get that onto a bumper sticker!

Great Balls of Fire!

by Pa Rock

Number Two Son (Ah so, Mr. Chan!) has asked me to revisit the night that I saw Jerry Lee Lewis in concert. I will try to honor that request, but as I step into the land of country music and hillbilly rockers, the temptation will be mighty strong to ramble. Be forewarned, be very forewarned!

Jerry Lee Lewis, aka "The Killer," was on a program with Porter Waggoner and Dolly Parton at the Shrine Mosque in Springfield, Missouri, sometime in the very early 1970s. I am certain that some lesser stars were there also, but those three were the headliners.

Lewis, a native of Ferriday, Louisiana, grew up banging on a piano and talking Jesus with his two equally ambitious cousins, Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart. He toured with the likes of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash in the 1950s. (If you haven't seen Walk the Line, do it!) He fell into public disfavor in the late 1950s when he travelled to England to perform, accompanied by his third wife, Myra. A reporter at the London Airport discovered that not only was Myra just 13-years-old, she and the 23-ear-old Lewis were first cousins (once removed). Gotta love those hillbillies!

See, I warned you that I would ramble!

Jerry Lee Lewis (and Cousin Mickey, too, for that matter) can do anything with a piano. That night he pounded out several songs, and then ended the show with his signature number, Great Balls of Fire. Our group was standing watching him get crazy at the piano - and he was standing also. The music was raging by the time he kicked the piano bench off of the stage and into the audience. And then he was pounding the keyboard with his butt, and then he was back to leaning into over the ivories and attacking them with both hands - never missing a note or a beat - and then...and then we all gasped in amazement as "the Killer" lunged into the final few bars of the song with both hands and a foot beating Great Balls of Fire out of a piano that was probably just as shocked as we were!

There was a television documentary on Jerry Lee Lewis a few years ago that strongly indicated that his nickname, "the Killer," might be appropriate due the strange deaths of a couple of his wives.

Dolly Parton, you ask? That Dolly Parton? Yes, there was a time many years ago, just after Dolly stumbled down out of the hills of Tennessee when she and Porter Waggoner were a singing duo. They were together several years and even had their own television show for awhile. Dolly finally broke her contract with him and headed out to Hollywood where she became the caricature that we all know and love today. Even though there was a lawsuit when she broke her contract, she and Porter eventually patched things up. Dolly's song, I Will Always Love You, (the one that made Whitney Houston a bazillion dollars) was written for Porter. When Porter Waggoner lay dying in Nashville last year, Dolly came to the hospital and sat at his bedside. (That was probably more than you wanted to know.)

Porter Waggoner, after he lost his Dolly, went on to be a regular host for thirty-minute segment at The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville where he pitched Martha White Cornbread, emceed, and sang a few songs. The last time I saw him was at the Opry on March 4, 2006. I am certain of the date because they announced at the show that it was the 10th anniversary of Minnie Pearl's death - and I looked that up on Wikipedia! He was a shrivelled little, old man who had to read his song lyrics from cheat sheets as he sang. I was at the Opry that night because the 14-year-old daughter of my good friend, Cheryl Belfiore, was performing for the first time with the Opry's regular group of square dancers. Melanie was fantastic! It was a good thing that Jerry Lee Lewis wasn't around!

What, me ramble?

Monday, August 25, 2008

This, I Believe

by Pa Rock

I spotted this bumper sticker on a car in Goodyear, AZ, yesterday:

Get Real: Jesus would never own a gun or vote Republican!

Isn't it strange how many "Christians" can't grasp the concept that Jesus was about Peace?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Brideshead Revisited

by Pa Rock

I've been without television for over a month now, and, for the most part, I don't miss it. I am starting the process of indexing Rootbound, I am more diligent with Pa Rock's Ramble, and I have begun enjoying movies on the big screen. I do suffer television withdrawal, however, on Sunday nights when I realize that other denizens of this wretched desert are watching Masterpiece Theatre - and I'm not.

Last night as I perused the movie listings for this area, I noticed that a new adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited would be having a single showing this afternoon at only one theatre in this district of Hell. I was excited at the prospect of getting my Masterpiece buzz on. Then, while studying the write-up on the movie, I became even more interested in going when I saw that one of the two male leads was being played by Ben Whishaw, the young man who had starred in Hamlet at the Old Vic in 2004.

I drove to Surprise, AZ, late this afternoon to see this adaptation of the classic novel. The theatre that was hosting it just opened this past May. Before the show started, a fancy usher (probably the vice president in charge of popcorn) walked into our viewing room, stood in a spotlight, and explained that this movie was entirely digital and would provide a beautiful picture with very high resolution.

Okay, so the movie is going to be extra clear - start the show already!

For those not familiar with the story, it takes place in England in the years leading up to World War II. A young artist named Charles Ryder, from fairly ordinary circumstances in Paddington, goes to Oxford to "read history" and paint. One of the first people that he meets is a rather flamboyant "sodomite" who introduces himself by sticking his head in the painter's window and puking on the floor. He is Lord Sebastian Flyte, a son of privilege with serious mother issues.

Matthew Goode is the painter and Ben Whishaw is the Oscar Wilde wannabe. The painter and his very wealthy friend strike up a tepid romance which becomes complicated when the painter also falls in love with his friend's sister, Lady Julia Flyte, portrayed by Hayley Atwell. Emma Thompson is the formidable mother of Sebastian and Julia. She commands the family mansion, Brideshead, and all who tread her hallowed halls. She is Catholic to the core of her being, and forces her religious intolerance onto her children with such severity that it drives them from her.

It is not a happy movie, and it is, in some respects, even more tragic than Hamlet. But it is a story of life and the desires that propel us through it. Brideshead Revisited is a tale of the downfall of decadence and resplendence, a last glimpse of an English lifestyle that was swept aside by the Second World War.

And young Mr. Whishaw slid into the skin of Sebastian Flyte as easily as he did that of the troubled Prince of Denmark. He is a remarkable talent whose star is on the rise.

The Last Time I Saw Hamlet

by Pa Rock

It was the evening of Friday, May 28th, 2004, at the famous Old Vic Theatre in London's West End. A new version of Shakespeare's classic tragedy, Hamlet, was being staged in the same theatre where Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud had once introduced the world to their versions of the deeply troubled Prince of Denmark.

I was in the audience that night with my niece and her husband, Heidi and Jason Pfetcher. I had seen several wonderful plays that week and really did not have a strong desire to see Hamlet, a play that I have seen staged many times, but I did want to see the Old Vic. It is one of the oldest theatres in London, originally built in the early 19th century and named in honor of Princess Victoria. American actor, Kevin Spacey, was serving as the artistic director (and still is, I believe), and the board of trustees included such notables as Sir Elton John and Dame Judi Dench.

And I wasn't disappointed. The Old Vic was regal in every sense of the word. Heidi and I got there early, and Jason came in from work, snarfing down an order of fish and chips, just before the curtain went up. I used my early arrival to explore the building and peer into all of its historical nooks and crannies. The walls were lined with pictures of earlier productions, featuring a who's who of theatre royalty extending back generations. It was everything that I had imagined it would be.

The surprise came when the curtain went up, revealing the unkempt room of a modern teen. Hamlet entered, a skinny lad dressed entirely in black and looking very much the disaffected youth that we have all known. I noticed several people in the audience nodding their heads in recognition. The contemporary retelling of Shakespeare's masterwork held true to the tragic story, but it played out among people who could be ourselves and our children. It was a powerful experience, one that I had not anticipated encountering.

Hamlet was given life by a young actor named Ben Whishaw. I had never heard of him, and, indeed, his credits (stage, screen, and television) were scant. But he proved to be an astounding talent, and I left the performance knowing that I would encounter this young man's work again in the future. As young Hamlet lay dying, Mr. Whishaw's star was rising.

I have told this brief tale for a reason. More to follow.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Joe Biden: A Solid Choice

by Pa Rock

Joe Biden was not my first choice to be the next Vice President, but he's a solid choice - well versed in foreign policy, military matters to include the needs of our veterans, economics, education, and the Constitution - all areas that have been of little or no interest to our current Vice President or President. And in addition to being fully qualified and ready to be President, Joe Biden will be effective on the campaign trail because he has the kick of a Missouri mule!

I first heard of Joe Biden when I was twenty-five and he was thirty. I was stationed on Okinawa, a remote island in the Ryukus that the United States had recently returned to Japanese control. Our primary source of news on Okinawa was the Stars and Stripes. I was reading that newspaper one day and saw a photo of a wrecked station wagon with a campaign sign for a fellow named Biden in the window. Accompanying the photo was a tragic story about the wife and infant daughter of Delaware's very young Senator-elect being killed when a train had hit the car that the wife was driving. Their two sons were also in the car and badly injured.

I have continued to follow Biden's career over the years. He married a school teacher named Jill who now has a doctorate in education. Biden and Jill are both powerful advocates for education. He is also the all-powerful chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a role that has allowed him to be a forceful ill-wind to the Bush administration.

Joe Biden is older than I would prefer, but he is not cranky-old like McBush. He is quick with a joke or funny remark, and he spar with the most venomous of Republican snakes. He will make us proud, both in the campaign and as our next Vice President of the United States.

Free Birthday Cake

by Pa Rock

Although I haven't been in a Wal-Mart store in years - and never hope to enter one again - I can occasionally be caught slumming at a Sam's Club. Today was one of those days. I had lost my membership card and was hanging at the service desk waiting on an "associate" to create a new one for me. As he searched for me in the Wal-Mart computer system (which is where the CIA goes when they need to find someone in a hurry!), I busied myself studying the pile of returned items behind the counter.

"Tell me something, Kev...did somebody really return part of a child's birthday cake?"

He turned and looked at the partial cake at the base of the pile. "Oh, yeah." Kev replied. "They said it didn't taste right. We take anything back."

So after your kids eat their fill of birthday cake, take the remains back to your local Wal-Mart or Sam's Club for a full refund - and tell them that Pa Rock sent you!

Viva la revolucion!

Atypical Saturday

by Pa Rock

This is the first Saturday since February that I haven't been chained to the computer typing Rootbound columns into a blog. To celebrate, I went to the office and spent three-and-a-half hours catching up on the paperwork that piled up while I was in Texas. I didn't get completely caught up, but the backlog is now manageable.

After that I went to the gym. I expect to die at the gym someday...but that's okay. It will be the radical changes in temperature that do me in. I go into the gym from the oven called Arizona, walk on a treadmill in air-conditioned comfort, and occasionally use a couple of the weight machines - all of which begin to warm me up again. Then I go to the locker room (where it is cool) and change into my swim trunks and got sit in the very hot spa for twenty minutes. Then it's back to the cool locker room, the cool gym, out the front door, and back into Hell! (If I do die at the gym, I hope that it is in the large, bubbly spa! It is Nirvana!)

The spa today was fun. There are two actually, and each can accommodate fifteen or twenty people. The one that I was in this afternoon was fairly full, and at one end of the communal bath a young couple appeared to be very busy trying to breed. I suspect the reason that they weren't successful in their endeavor was that the warm churning water took the jack out of his hammer. Several other individuals in the spa looked as though they would be ready to jump in and help if need be, but the invitation never came. Instead the young man and his lady left and went to the lap pool which has cooler, non-turbulent water. I wonder if the water stayed that way?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Honoring Our Vets - Bush Style!

by Pa Rock

I am constantly amazed by how the Iraq War's most ardent supporters are the first to crap all over our brave veterans in their hour of need. Remember the awful veteran housing conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital? Or how about Bush and McBush and the other zealots fighting against a decent GI Bill of Rights. Veterans give their time, their commitment, their safety, and often lose their families, their sanity, and their lives in defense of our country. Is it too much to ask that we treat them with respect and basic human dignity when they come back from Dear Leader's fiasco in the sands of the Middle East?

The latest case in point is unfolding at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. Ft. Sill is one of thirty-five bases across the United States that has a Warrior Transition Unit, a special housing unit designed to address the special needs of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently one-hundred-forty-two individuals are housed there. (I have friends that work in other WTUs. The units serve a very important function in the treatment and reintegration of our veteran population back into society.)

Chuck Roeder is a U.S. Army veteran and he is also a Social Services Coordinator at Ft. Sill working with their WTU. Chuck is apparently a dedicated social worker, one who takes his work very seriously - and his job is to take care of veterans. Chuck just came to Ft. Sill this past January. He reported problems with the facility, of which there were apparently plenty, to his superiors, and he was promptly labeled a malcontent and ignored. One of the problems that made Chuck angry was the mold in the living units. When his superiors ignored him and the safety of the veterans they were supposed to be serving, Chuck blew the whistle. Yes, in July he notified USA Today, and that national newspaper brought the matter to everyone's attention.

Now Congress is looking at Ft. Sill, and the Army is busy busting its collective ass trying to make things right.

And they will get Ft. Sill's WTU cleaned up - I'm sure of that. Step one in cleaning up the situation was firing the whistle-blower. That's right. Chuck, who was only there seven months, was told to resign or be fired. A spokesman for Ft. Sill, said that the firing had nothing to do with the whistle-blowing, and that it was purely coincidental. He was fired, according to the spokesman, because he had a history of confrontations with base officials.

(Now folks, here's the truth. I am a civilian working for the military just as Chuck Roeder was. It is impossible - IMPOSSIBLE - to lose a federal job in seven months unless somebody way up the food chain wants your head on a platter in the worst possible way! IM-FORKING-POSSIBLE!)

A delegation of veterans from the WTU at Ft. Sill went to Washington DC to plead in defense of Chuck Roeder. They asked Secretary of the Army Pete Geren to rise to his defense. Secretary Geren responded that it was hard to do anything about hirings and firings from Washington.

Say what?

Secretary Geren, with all due respect, get off your bureaucratic butt and go to Oklahoma and fix the problem! Our veterans are special people, and they deserve far better treatment than what they are receiving at Ft. Sill. And Chuck Roeder deserves better, too.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

McBush's McMansions

by Pa Rock

Making fun of John McBush for not knowing how many houses he owns is like shooting fish in a barrel. I don't feel right even commenting on this story - it's like picking on the mentally retarded!

But, retarded or not, McBush is running for President and that makes him fair game for explaining the crap that slides off of his tongue. Politico asked - and the senior senator from Hellizona either couldn't or wouldn't state the number of homes he owns. Apparently his campaign came back later and said that he basically resides in four. The correct answer, as purported by sources considerably more honest than his campaign, is seven - estimated value of $13 million.

Yep, he sounds like a man of the people - just not the people who live in my neighborhood!

And again I ask - who's the elitist?

My Next Career

by Pa Rock

This morning while running the obstacle course at the San Antonio Airport I discovered that I have a talent for smuggling. As I was dumping the contents of my pockets into the plastic tubs, I suddenly remembered that I had forgotten to eat my breakfast bar.

"Piso mojado!" I exclaimed, causing every Spanish speaker within ear shot to look at their feet. I dropped the bar into the bin, resigned to the fact that a TSA employee would be enjoying my breakfast in a few minutes.

And sure enough, all hell broke loose as my three tubs (computer, shoes, books, etc) went through the x-ray machine. A little fascista came marching up to me holding the tub that contained my breakfast bar.

"Is this yours, Senor?"

"Si, Senor. Es mio."

He reached into one of my plastic bags in the tub and pulled out half a bottle of water. "You can't take this?"

"Piso mojado," I mumbled, and he looked at his feet. The little man from TSA kept the water that I had forgotten about, and me and my breakfast bar headed toward the plane.

Viva la revolucion!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Alamo

by Pa Rock

Tonight I am finishing up my seventh trip to San Antonio in the past three years. I spent several hours exploring the Alamo and its beautiful grounds during my first visit here in 2005 but hadn't had the opportunity to get back there during the intervening years. This evening I was again able to visit San Antonio's most revered tourist attraction.

The Alamo is almost hidden among the tall urban landscape of this city. The mission itself is quite small, and the remainder of the fort encompasses two or three acres that have been manicured and landscaped into a living work of art. There is no charge for admission, but donation jars are scattered about. A large souvenir shop in the main outbuilding also generates income for the historic landmark. A person could tour the mission, the other buildings, and the grounds fairly easily in half-an-hour, but a full appreciation, particularly of the grounds, will take more time.

Downtown San Antonio is a walker's paradise. The Alamo is just a couple of blocks from the Riverwalk, and El Mercado, the ethnic marketplace is a scant twenty minutes or so from the Alamo. It's a great place to relax and walk around.

Change is Coming

by Pa Rock

I have a couple of friends who were (are) Ron Paul supporters. I like libertarians because they have strong convictions and aren't afraid to speak their minds. In fact, I think that I would enjoy being an ornery libertarian if it wasn't for a few problematic issues: guns (they cause crime and not the other way around), taxes (they are a necessary evil, and every American should pay based on ability - including rich Americans and corporations), and immigration (no borders, no where - from North Pole, Alaska to the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego). Other than that, I would probably make a damn good libertarian!

One of these friends that I just mentioned recently asked me what kind of change was on the horizon if Obama gets elected. In my reply I prattled on about having national goals and policies based on intelligence and the public need, rather than being rooted in greed and vindictiveness like we've seen for the past eight years. I believe that a bright future awaits us if we have the courage to go forth and meet it.

In fairness, John McCain would bring change also, most of it positive - at least positive compared to the abysmal swamp that we've been mired in for the past eight years. But McCain has shed his luster. He is no longer the maverick that was putting his spurs to the Bush family eight years ago. He no longer rails on the crackpot Christian fundamentalists as being agents of intolerance, and he supports Big Oil and never-ending war. Now, in an attempt to form a winning constituency, he has thrown his tent open to all of the crap that coalesced eight years ago to put Dear Leader in the White House.

One can only hope that if McCain wins the presidency (and I think a snowball would stand a better chance of rolling across Phoenix in August) that a bit of the maverick survives somewhere deep in his gut. We keep hearing about what a mean little bastard he really is. Wouldn't it be fun if that personality came busting out the first time the boys at Fox News (excuse the oxymoron) tried to tell him how to run the war, or when Lou Dobbs started lecturing him how to construct the border fence? That McCain also needs to be the one who smites down the Christian fascists when they show up to select his cabinet members and federal judges.

If John McCain gets to the White House (Allah forbid!), my prediction is that we all will experience change, even those who thought that they were voting for Bush's third term.

It shouldn't be a question about change, because change will happen regardless of who wins. The question must be about direction and destination. Where do we want to go and how will we get there? We need positive change to tap into our great national potential, and only Barack Obama appears to be willing to go there.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rusty Pails #45:
The Great Camp Out

by Rocky Macy

We've been camped down by the river for a couple of weeks now. We each brought our own tent out of necessity. Nobody wanted to sleep with Shadetree Mike due to fear that he would talk all night about how awful Ermine had done him, and she had! Judge Redbone has his own tent and didn't invite any of his constituents to share his abode, not that we'd want to anyway. Rumor has it that he gives speeches in his sleep - and kisses babies! He can keep to his own tent!

Sharing a tent with Truman Treetopper is out of the question unless you have a gas mask, which none of us did. And Heck Frye and I ain't overly fond of one another, leastways not fond enough to share tight living arrangements. So five tents it was, but Baker and I share.

Our little encampment is becoming a jewel in the woods. Heck brought a bunch of Christmas lights and we strung them through the trees. They are hooked onto Heck's generator that also powers our coffee pot and Heck's hair dryer. (He wanted to bring his television, but the cable company refused to run us a wire. I'm sort of glad they didn't. Now instead of vegetating on mindless TV, we sit around the campfire each night and stretch our imaginations by telling tall tales!)

We have trails set out and bordered with rocks so we don't get lost at night as we head off to our special trees and bushes - the well fertilized ones!

Esther Pearl came by last week and set out some petunias. Ermine also came by trying to make nice with a platter of pastries and a big thermos of fancy coffee. That was appreciated, but we are still mad about the high-handed way that she disabused us of our domino parlor - leastways I'm still good and mad!

Our other guest of note was the game warden. He came looking for a gang of fools that had apparently been setting off fireworks late one night. He nosed through most of our stuff while lecturing us on how many years we could spend in jail for setting the woods on fire. Fortunately, he wasn't up to sticking his nose in Truman's tent, so we have enough bottle rockets and Roman candles left for another war game late some night!

We haven't had much luck living off the land. Truman and the Judge take their fishing seriously, but all they've pulled in so far are sun perch so small it's amazing that they could have swallowed the bait. Heck found a mulberry tree, but gorging on them caused us to have blue hands and the runs - and mature folks like us can't afford to spend much time running!

I go home every evening to feed Annie and the emus, and to check on things. I know that Esther does some checking on my place, too. But that's all right. If she hadn't been conspiring with Ermine, we wouldn't be out here on the riverbank trying to restore Shadetree Mike's self-esteem. It would serve Esther right if we moved our domino game to her store when the weather starts getting cold!

Until then...pass me another root beer. I'm on vacation!

The Drury Plaza of San Antonio

by Pa Rock

Our conference is being held at the Drury Plaza Hotel in San Antonio, a very nice place whose back door opens onto the Riverwalk. My "rooms" are on the 19th floor with large windows facing across the city in two directions and offering amazing views of San Antonio - especially at night when the city sparkles like a fine lace tablecloth splattered with Texas bling.

I say rooms because my digs include a nice sized bedroom, living room, and bathroom. There are two large flat-screen televisions, one in the bedroom and one in the living room, and also a small refrigerator in the living room. If it included a small kitchen I could live here quite happily forever!

The Drury Plaza is in the old Alamo Bank building. There are some interesting vault displays from its days as a bank that can be viewed in the basement. An enormous stained glass of the Alamo (the mission) looms over the front door, and it is bordered by two art deco brass plaques (each approximately 5 feet wide by 20 feet high). One of the brass plates has a laborer holding a globe with the caption, "Trust Binds the Nation," and the other has a laborer holding a hammer with the caption "Thrift Drives the Nation." Taken in total, those plaques represent a time in America's economic history that has long past.

This hotel also boasts a nice outdoor sauna and swimming pool on the 22nd floor, and, again the views are amazing.

Surprisingly, the one amenity that this fine hotel does not offer is a restaurant. A very respectable breakfast buffet is offered free to hotel guests each morning, but for all other meals one must look elsewhere. (Of course, San Antonio has some wonderful places to eat!)

My dad would like the breakfast buffet at the Drury Plaza. He is a breakfast expert, managing to go out somewhere for his morning meal most days. Dad is especially fond of buffets (what I call "trough" places") because he thinks that he gets the most for his money there. Shoney's is his absolute favorite, both based price and on quality.

I am not as fond of trough places, though, for health and sanitation reasons. I'm really not into dipping scrambled eggs from a tub that other people have leaned over, sneezed into, and sprayed with their spit. I know that someday I will be ladeling gravy over my biscuits and discover someone's dentures or glass eye!

Make mine a special order from the kitchen every time! (And while I am at the Drury Plaza, I will carefully scrutinize everything that I pile onto my plate!)

Piso Mohado!

Monday, August 18, 2008

El Mercado

by Pa Rock

I spent this evening shopping and dining with five attractive ladies who had a fondness for strawberry daiquiris and trying to embarrass me! We began our evening at El Mercado, San Antonio's famous old ethnic market, took a side trip through a nice Mexican restaurant, and then I followed the three most committed shoppers of the group to the Riverfront Mall.

My life in Phoenix tends to be fairly monastic, so it was nice getting out and having some fun. It was also a good networking experience because everyone in our group works at different Air Force bases, so we were able to swap stories and anecdotes about our work sites. I always come away from these trainings having learned as much from my classmates as I did from the instructors, and this trip will be no exception.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Piso Mojado

by Pa Rock

I wish that I was fluent in Spanish, but the best I can do is a vocabulary of 200-300 words that I can readily call up and properly pronounce. I get lost as soon as the person with whom I'm tyring to communicate speeds things up to a jabber. I recognize the common curses - I learned that in college from a Colombian friend, and know my colors, days of the week, farm animals, numbers, directions, and basic tourist phrases. I can also conjugate some of the more common verbs.

I enjoy acquiring new words and phrases as they present themselves. My latest acquisition, "piso mojado," was on a warning cone in the basement of my hotel this afternoon. It means "wet floor." It struck me as amusing, and I think that I will incorporate it into my lexicon of Spanish curses. Used with the right inflection and level of force, it might just get the gringos to step aside!

Piso mojado!

Strangers on a Shuttle

by Pa Rock

I met the nicest lady on the shuttle from the San Antonio airport today. She had an Obama button on her bag that I was quick to compliment, and that led us into a conversation about politics, Hurricane Fay, and child abuse. The lady (we never did exchange names, but I hope that I run into her again this week) was a child abuse trainer on assignment for the Feds, and I am here for training in how to question victims of child seexual abuse - but, alas, we were at different trainings.

My new friend has met Senator Obama three times, and went on about how personable he is and how he really wants to hear people's opinions on the issues. She said that he actually listens, an unusual trait for a politician. Her daughter and son-in-law are going to the convention in Denver, and then they plan to follow him to Washington to work in his administration. She wanted to know about Arizona's Governor Napolitano, and I had lots of positive things to say about her.

And then we talked about grandchildren...

Before we parted company she gave me an Obama button, and I have worn it around San Antonio the rest of the day. A couple of people have stepped up to me and made positive remarks about our candidate. I think it's called networking!

Greetings from San Antonio!

by Pa Rock

This evening I am blogging nineteen stories above the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas. I believe that this is my sixth trip to San Antonio for job training in the last four years. It is a beautiful city, one that offers scenic vistas at every turn. During past visits I have toured the Alamo and its grounds, visited the city market, and even enjoyed the annual Fiesta. I have listened to street musicians, watched colorful local dancers, and sampled much of the local cuisine.

Today, as in all previous trips, I strolled along the River Walk, fed the ducks and pigeons (and the occasional grackel), and nosed through some of the tourist shops. Tonight I will go back down to the River Walk and stop at my favorite cantina for a plate of enchiladas.

Tomorrow the work begins. I'll try not to let it interfere with my fun!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Compleat Rootbound!

by Pa Rock

Today marks a milestone of great personal significance. I just finished putting the last of my genealogy column, Rootbound in the Hills, on Blogspot. That's right, all 242 individual columns are now posted. I began the task in February and set a goal of getting them up by the end of the year. My new goal is to get them indexed for full names, subjects, and locations by the end of the year. When the indexing is complete, the collection of columns will be a valuable genealogical resource for those whose ancestors crossed or settled in the Ozarks.

For those with an interest in this project, the web address is:


Friday, August 15, 2008

Nuckin' Futz!

by Pa Rock

The school board of the Harrold Independent School District of Texas has voted unanimously to allow teachers to carry guns to school. Yep. You can't make up crap this weird! The good people around Harrold want their teachers to pack heat in case some deranged shooter gets into the school. With lead flying from every doorway, up and down halls crowded with screaming students, somebody would be bound to hit that evil Arab bastard!

Well, so be it. You just can't beat the problem solving skills of a Texas school board. And it may be a decent idea. A teacher plagued by discipline problems might just get a little more respect in the classroom when she plunks a .44 Magnum down on her desk. And Friday Night Lights might evoke even more excitement when some pissed off coach begins shooting them out after a referee makes a particularly heinous call.

But why stop with teachers? What about bus drivers? A terrorist could jump aboard a school bus with relative ease and take everyone hostage. If the driver in the front of the bus and the bus monitor in the back were armed though, they could catch that sucker in the crossfire and...problem solved!

And I've always worried about church shooters (so much so that I quit attending!). Shouldn't pastors be allowed to pack at the pulpit? Sunday school teachers, too. And what about Wal-Mart? Wouldn't we all feel safer knowing that Wal-Mart's non-unionized, underpaid, part-time workforce was carrying loaded weapons to protect us from retail shooters? I know I would.

In fact, let's get rid of all gun laws so everyone can carry - everywhere. Then, by God, we really would be safe! Why, the help that gun-totting citizens could provide to law enforcement would be amazing! Joe Bob could stand on the overpass and enforce the speed limit, you bet your ass he could!

Thank you, Harrold, Texas, for heralding the future! You're an inspiration to every Christian, Republican, straight, red-white-and-blue-blooded, testosterone-oozing, white American. You good old boys done real damned good!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Crazy Chicken Cravings

by Pa Rock

One of the nice things about getting older is that many of those cravings that drove my life when I was younger are now just pleasant memories - and as I get older, even the memories of cravings begin to fade away.

But, every now and then some craving reaches out from nowhere and just overwhelms me. (Usually it's food!) I don't know where today's craving originated, but as I was getting ready to leave work and head home, the urge to splurge on some El Pollo Loco ("The Crazy Chicken" for those of you too lame to learn basic Espanol) reached out and hit me right in the gut! To get Crazy Chicken I had to drive half-way across Phoenix, literally, but that gave me plenty of time to obsess on the treat that my eyes, nose, mouth, tongue, taste buds, and digestive tract would soon enjoy.

El Pollo Loco is damned good chicken - the best in the Phoenix area. It is a chain that, unfortunately for me, tends to be located in the busy downtown areas of the city, rather than out in the desert where I live. As I drove to the location at 51st and McDowell (I live at 115th and McDowell), I had plenty of time to work my taste buds into a frenzy. By the time I got there I was picturing drumsticks the size of turkey legs and corn-on-the-cob to-die-for!

My order was $20! Yes, that's a lot for takeout for one, but it will last me through at least three evening meals. For the twenty dollar bill I got eight pieces of chicken (legs and thighs - and yes the drumsticks were smaller than the imaginary ones that I was savoring!), a pint of pinto beans (seasoned at about two alarms - out of a possible five), four small pieces of corn-on-cob (wonderful beyond words!), and a couple of large flour tortillas (it's a cultural thing - and I could have had corn tortillas), a large, unsweetened raspberry tea, and several containers of hot sauce. I pitch the sauce because El Pollo Loco is plenty zesty as is.

So that was my craving, and it is now completely sated. And the next time someone tries to tell you that seniors don't get cravings, you can tell them for me that Pa Rock still does!

Who's Really the Elitist?

by Pa Rock

McBush and his minions have been busy lately suggesting that Obama is a "celebrity" and an "elitist." For those not up on their Republican hate speech, both are code words for "uppity." The Republicans are casting back to those romantic days of the 1950's when upright Americans like Bull Connor, Orville Faubus, and George Corley Wallace would have known exactly how to express their feelings, without having to resort to code: "That boy, Obama, shore don't know his place. He's gotten plumb uppity." The Republican base knows what elitist "really" means, and for the vast majority, (the ones who haven't completely shed their tails), the sentiment rings true. Remind them that the boy is one uppity nigra, but for pete's sake, don't get racial! And so the straight talk goes...

But who is the true elitist candidate? Would it be the one who grew up poor and put himself through college with student loans - and owns one home? Or would it be the one who is a son and grandson of Admirals, has a family income in excess of one-third of a billion dollars a year, and owns eight homes? Even a Republican ought to be able to figure that one out!

I probably won't make it to a McBush Town Hall Meeting, but if anyone reading this does get to one, here is a what I would like to hear him answer: How many undocumented workers does it take to mow the yards and clean the toilets at your very nice eight homes?

And tell him that the question is from Pa Rock - with love!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fixing Your Credit

by Pa Rock

Having been a real estate broker in a recent past life, I think that I have some sense of the nation's housing crisis, especially as it is playing out in the Phoenix area. We all know the basics: housing prices were going up fast, and many people got suckered into taking out loans that they couldn't afford. And many of those that had money, went out and bought "extra" homes and condos in the hope of reselling them quickly for a nice profit. It was good times, the poor got houses they really couldn't afford - and the rich got richer. It was also a bubble, and as anyone who has ever taken a bath or washed dishes knows, every bubble will eventually burst.

The housing bubble burst two years ago. People who had gotten loans by lying about their income or falsifying documents, or who worked with lenders who did the lying and falsifying for them, suddenly got caught and were unable to pay the rising rates on their variable rate loans. Foreclosures and home abandonment's followed, and what had once been a sellers market suddenly turned sour. Even many of the people who had bought homes solely as investments got burned because the extra homes on the market meant that supply was up and demand was consequently down.

The Phoenix area was hit especially hard, with the average price of homes now being down 25% below what it was when the market was at its height. Not only are many nice homes sitting empty, but many homeowners who have managed to hold on to their homes are now finding that they are, in fact, worth less than what they owe on them. A Bloomberg report in today's press states that almost one-third of homeowners who bought in the last five years now owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth.

So, if I had the money (and the inclination to remain in the Phoenix area) this would be an ideal time to be home-shopping. I could buy a nice home at a depressed price and know that sooner or later the housing price crisis would be over. Having bought on the cheap, I could then sell my property at a nice profit. Everybody (just about) understands the economics of that situation and realizes that there is money to be had. Unfortunately, not everybody has the money to jump into the housing market.

But there's money to be made.

But there's cheap homes just waiting for needy families.

Sound familiar? It should. Those were the conditions that inflated the last bubble. And the sleazy lenders, like cockroaches, live on. A couple of weeks ago I found a flier in my front door of my apartment - always a sign of a class act. This flier told me in bold detail that it is a buyers market, which is true. It also informed me that the miracle worker who put out the flier could "fix" bad credit.

Bad credit can be fixed - by paying your bills! Life is hard, and one of life's hardest lessons is that every bill eventually comes due. If you can't manage your money, find someone who can and ask for help. If you can manage your money, help someone who can't. Think of the economy as a big ship that carries us all. When the ship begins to spring leaks, we all suffer.

And when the sleaze balls show up plastering your front door with miracle cures, just remember that dealing with charlatans is the first step toward taking up residence in your car!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


by Pa Rock
I received the Obama email a few days ago telling me that I would be among the very first to know his running mate selection because the much anticipated announcement would be made through emails and text messages to supporters. What I would really like, however, isn't instantaneous knowledge of who the individual is, but rather some input into the selection.

I realize that a straw poll of supporters would not be practical, especially because the Hillary crowd would flex their muscle and he would be stuck with that mess. And it would hardly be fair to limit the process to just those few thousand who have been with him since before his Presidential announcement - of which I am one. So, If Senator Obama can't really find out what his people are thinking without opening a Pandora's box, I feel obliged just to come out and tell him my thoughts on the subject.

Senator, her name is Janet Napolitano and she is the governor of Arizona. Time Magazine named her one of the five best governors in the nation in 2005. When she ran for reelection in 2006 our democratic governor was so astoundingly popular that her yard signs had only one word: "Janet!" She won that election in the red state of Arizona by 16 points! She is a fireball of a politician, and the smartest and most capable governor in the United States - bar none!

You have said, often, that you are looking for a Vice-President who can step into the role of President. Measured by that criteria, you could do no better than Janet. She is an amazing chief executive who has an astounding knowledge of her state and its workings. And, if you are not adverse to having a running mate with high octane campaign skills, she is a barn-burner of a campaigner. Remember when she campaigned with you last February? The crowd in Phoenix, all 18,000 of us, loved the nostalgia of getting to see Caroline Kennedy, and the inspiration that you provided on what America could and should be - but it was Janet who rocked the house!

Senator Obama, turn that tiger loose! Put Janet Napolitano on your ticket, and put Arizona in play!

Monday, August 11, 2008

What About Bubba?

by Pa Rock

The biggest problem facing the Obama campaign isn't choosing a running mate, deciding how to campaign against McBush, or even what to wear on Inauguration Day. The biggest problem that Team Obama faces is what to do about Bubba. The ex-President got his ass kicked by a rookie, and he ain't about to forget it.

Well, you Illinois giant-slayers can quit worrying because Pa Rock has a plan.

Big Bill wanted this election, and everything else for that matter, to be about him. So why not slice off a piece of the electoral map and give it to him. Tell Bubba that if he's as God-awful powerful as he thinks he is, he can just go out and prove it by placing Arkansas in the Democratic column. Then buy that sucker a bus ticket and put him on the road.

Stroke that big boy's ego, get him pumped up with a challenge that he can't refuse. Put it on the national news - Bill Clinton will deliver Arkansas to Obama! Paint him into a corner, and then set the building on fire and see what happens!

Tell him to sound off in Yellville, buzz around Bee Branch, and not to get too picky in Cotton Patch. He needs to leave his Oxford airs at home, and not use big words in Dumas. Bubba knows Arkansas. Tell him that he can do it, the future of the free world rests on his shoulders - just like it did in the good old days!

And if he doesn't get hooked by the nostalgia of the small towns of his youth, remind him of all of those nubile young hillbilly gals chasing their pet razorbacks through the hills and hollers of Arkansas! His little head will rise to the challenge!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pretty Boy Self-Destructs

by Pa Rock

Does anybody mourn the passing of John Edwards? If Ohio had been counted honestly in 2004, he would today be Vice-President of the United States. It was that close! And if he would have kept his marriage vows, he might have been elected Vice-President this November.

John Edwards had the lofty goal of making America see poverty and understand it. He talked about growing up poor in a mill town and then becoming the first member of his family to graduate from college. He was inspiring. He also talked about the horror of having a child die, and the family's personal struggle in dealing with Elizabeth's cancer. He was sympathetic.

And he was a fool.

John Edwards did more than just cheat on his wife. That brave woman has been no ordinary wife. When their teenage son died in a car wreck, an aging Elizabeth dutifully gave birth to two more children so that John could have a son. When her cancer reoccurred, she sucked it up and hit the campaign trail with her man. She was the wife that most men would die for - but not John.

So Pretty Boy crapped all over his marriage vows. Then when he was finally cornered about the affair with Rielle Hunter, he admitted a dalliance, but denied that he had hired the woman for his campaign after the affair began so that he could keep her near him. He also denied that he was the father of her baby daughter. Both lies.

So John, twist in the wind, you deserve no better. Elizabeth, however, does deserve better, and so does America.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Decapitation, Cannibalism, and an Unfortunate Ad Campaign

by Pa Rock

While Chinese immigrant Vince Weiguang Li was busy hacking off Tim McLean's head on the floor of a Greyhound bus in rural Canada, and, according to some reports, dining on pieces of the lad's flesh, Greyhound Bus Lines was rolling out their newest advertising campaign. Their catchy slogan for this year's travelers was: "There's a reason you've never heard of bus rage."


Needless to say, the company is busy pulling down all of the new ads. Maybe they should stick with their old standard: "Take the bus and leave the driving to us."

Friday, August 8, 2008


by Pa Rock

I have always contended that my definition of Hell would be a Disney cruise, a long ocean voyage on a big red ship with hordes of crumb-snatchers swarming across every deck like so many crazed and starving locusts. A recent article on the Internet, however, has led me to a clearer understanding of just how truly awful Hell could be.

It happened this week when a large group of adolescent girls who were attending cheerleading camp at the University of Texas decided to see how many of their group could squeeze into an elevator. Twenty-six of them managed to get inside and then ride the elevator down three floors without mishap - until they tried to exit their big sardine can. It was then that they discovered the doors wouldn’t open. Fortunately, each was equipped with a minimum of one cell phone, so they were able to call for help - and then, most likely, spent the rest of their ordeal texting each other about their tragic situation. (OMG!) The vacuous teens were pasted to each other for twenty-five minutes until a repairman managed to pry the doors open.

If I expire in the pursuit of sin, may I wake up screaming on a cruise ship crammed with out-of-control children rather than in an intellectual vacuum of compressed cheerleaders. There is Hell, and then there is Hell!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Bone to Pick with T. Boone

by Pa Rock

A few weeks ago I used this forum to promote a wind power energy plan concocted by greedhead Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens. ( I made the pitch with a certain amount of trepidation, because I did, in fact, have some knowledge of his scurrilous past - i.e. helping to fund the crap-filled Swiftboaters for Truth in the 2004 election. But the plan sounded good, and basically is makes sense. Al Gore is essentially blowing the same trumpet.

Good friend, Bob Cronk, forwarded the following site regarding T. Boone's scheme. It indicates that the old leopard may have not changed his spots after all, and may be using this project as cover for a nefarious scheme to lay claim to the largest water aquifer in the US and direct its gurgling H2O to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area where it will flow through the old coot's water meters and make him even richer. I don't know how accurate this video is, so check it out yourself and reach your own conclusion. Here is the site:

Wind and solar energy are still our future, regardless of the pickpockets and charlatans who may be trying to make obscene profits in the process. Check out the video and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Yes, but...

by Pa Rock

John McBush seems to have turned sputtering senility into an art form as he bangs his cane on the furniture wanting to know why no one is paying any attention to him. After all:

• Yes, he’s been in Washington DC for over a quarter of a century, but isn't that a good thing?

• Yes, he campaigns five days a week, or less, but reporters ought to appreciate the time off, right?

• Yes, he’s a nice guy, but it’s usually during the sixteen hours or so a day when he’s asleep.

• Yes, he has a rich and pretty wife whom he only disparages whenever he feels like it, but only in the presence of friends, aides, or anyone else who happens to be within ear shot.

• Yes, he has the support of the Bush family, kinda sorta, but that's a good thing, too, isn't it?

• Yes, he walked out on his physically handicapped first wife and mother of his children (the woman who waited patiently and faithfully at home for years while he was a prisoner of the Viet Cong) in order to live in sin with a pretty young woman who was half his age, but, hey, boys will be boys, right?

• Yes, he graduated from the Naval Academy in the bottom one percent of his class, but what’s wrong with a little humility?

• Yes, he will agree to pull US troops out of Iraq when the Iraqi government asks us to leave, but that is subject to change if the Iraqi government really does ask us to leave.

• Yes, he spent months berating Obama because he had not been to Iraq recently, but then he regrouped and accused Obama of conducting a campaign stunt when he took up the challenge.

• Yes, he admits that he knows nothing about economics, but he does know that the bad economy is all just in our heads anyway.

• Yes, he was a part of the Keating Five corruption scandal, but so were the other four.

• Yes, he supports off-shore drilling, but it has nothing to do with his windfall donations from Big Oil.

• Yes, Barack has Oprah, but McBush will always have Paris!

• Yes, he was photographed hugging Bush, but they didn't kiss - at least not in front of the cameras!

Exxon-McBush '08!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Republican Math

by Pa Rock

The local NPR sttation has been difficult to receive for the past couple of weeks due to the heat, so I have begun to spin the radio dial and listen to some of the other local offerings.

This morning, as I took Nick and Boone to the airport at 3:30 a.m., and later as I was driving to work around 6 a.m., I was listening to the "oldies" station and heard this political tidbit repeated twice: The Rasmussen Poll has just come out with a new set of polling data that shows McBush (my term, not theirs) leading Obama by 55% to 51 percent.

I don't know about you, but I tend to be skeptical of any poll that reflects the opinion of 106% of the population! Where did these guys learn to count - Florida?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Back in the Heat

by Pa Rock

Our traveling show arrived back in Goodyear, AZ, late this afternoon. It was an uneventful trip home. We stopped a few places and took pictures of the amazing mountains of round rocks that Interstate 8 passes through between El Centro and San Diego. We also took pictures of the energy windmills that line the last ridge of hills before the highway begins its long descent into San Diego.

Not being in a hurry to get home, we made a couple other excursions along the way. We pulled into a little cafe, gift shop, and date grove called Dateland, where Boone had a date shake that he really liked. (I had tried one on my previous trip and found it to be far too sweet, even for me!) We also stopped at a gift shop in Gila Bend, where the old timer that runs the place (think Desert Pete) gives out cold bottled water free to everyone who stops in to peruse his wares. It's the desert, he says, and people need plenty of water! Gila Bend is just across the border from Ajo, Mexico, and he gets his art work and assorted merchandize directly from the Mexican artisans in the Ajo area. The man has a nice shop with very reasonably priced items. I bought my second piece of horsehair pottery there today, and Nick made a few purchases as well. The clever businessman ended our transactions by giving us our change in John Quincy Adams dollars!

Tonight Nick and Boone are swimming in one of the pools at my apartment complex, and I am contemplating unpacking. They are leaving tomorrow at 5 a.m., and I already miss them. This long weekend has not nearly been long enough!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sunday at the Zoo

by Pa Rock

This summer marks fifty years since my last visit to the San Diego Zoo. Today I made the trip with my son and grandson. My fondest wish for young Boone is that fifty years from now he can have the same pleasure of sharing the zoo with his children and grandchildren. Seeing the zoo again through the eyes of a child was a very special experience!

My Aunt Mary met us at the harbor this evening for soft drinks and conversation. No visit to San Diego is complete without spending some time with that very sweet lady! (Aunt Mary was with me the last time that I went to the San Diego Zoo!)

Tomorrow we are headed back to Hellizona!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Prairie Awful

by Pa Rock

Earlier this week a quiet young man was stabbed to death and beheaded as he was traveling across the Canadian prairie on a Greyhound bus. The victim was 22-year-old Tim McLean, a carny who was en route home to visit his parents, sisters, and little brother in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He had boarded the bus in Edmonton, Alberta, the site of his most recent carnival employment.

Also boarding in Edmonton was Vince Weiguang Li, a forty-year-old newspaper carrier who worked for, among other papers, The Edmonton Sun. Li was the attacker in this bizarre crime. According to witnesses he initially sat in the front of the bus. After a stop in Manitoba where he stepped outside and had a cigarette and some polite conversation with a lady passenger, he re-boarded the bus and moved to the back where he sat down next to McLean - who was dozing with his head resting on the window.

Twelve miles outside of Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, while passengers were napping or watching "The Legend of Zorro" on their seat monitors, the air was cut with a "bloodcurdling scream" coming from behind them. Turning in horror, they saw the attacker standing next to his victim and repeatedly stabbing him in the chest with a "Rambo" hunting knife. The rear section of the bus was quickly turning bright red from the grisly arterial spray. The driver managed to get the bus stopped, and the passengers fled in panic.

The driver, a passenger, and a passing truck driver went back on the bus to see if anything could be done for the victim, and to attempt to subdue the attacker. As they entered they saw Li on the floor trying to cut off McLean's head. The driver managed to disable the bus before the knife-wielding attacker left his business on the floor and rushed at them, forcing the three would-be rescuers off of the bus. The three were able to barricade Li on the bus until the police arrived. During that standoff, the killer brought McLean's head up to the front of the bus to show the terrified on-lookers.

Those were the facts as gleaned from The Edmonton Sun and Yahoo News. Those who are desirous of more gory details should park themselves in front of any cable news show. I'm sure that somewhere tonight Nancy Grace and Geraldo are embroiled in a bidding war for the severed head, so there will be more "news."

This was the story of a nexus in the lives of two people. One was obviously psychotic, probably hearing voices - Jesus, the Queen, Bob Marley - who knows. His background may have included extensive drug use, childhood trauma, and lapsed mental health care. (Oddly, he had no criminal history.) Chances are good that he had been prescribed anti-psychotic drugs but wasn't taking them. Thousands of men and women just like him are sleeping on America's sidewalks tonight, and more than a few are zoned out, going nowhere on a Greyhound bus.

The person whose life path crossed that of Vince Li at the worst possible moment was a slight young man, roughly seventy pounds lighter than his assailant. Friends say Tim McLean had never had a fight in his life, and he usually tried to avoid contact with others. When he did socialize, it was over a card game or an all-night game of Risk. He worked the carnival circuit because he liked to travel and see different places. All that he wanted that last afternoon of his life was to catch some shut-eye before he got back to his family in Winnipeg.

Tim McLean and Vince Weiguang Li had no history between them and they exchanged no words, but they will forever be linked in an indelible bloodstain on the Canadian prairie. McLean didn't expect to die that day, and Vince Li probably didn't expect to kill, but something happened in the mind of one that ended the life of the other, and the peaceful prairie will forever be mocked with that awfulness of that happenstance encounter.

San Diego Saturday

by Pa Rock

The three amigos walked from our hotel to the harbor today where we toured several ships and the stolen Russian submarine that I wrote about back in May. Actually, Nick and Boone toured the sub, and I stayed topside where I watched a big sea gull make a valiant effort to paint the submarine! We also did a tour of the harbor on a small boat where we were able to sail under the bow of the USS Midway and get up close and personal with an America's Cup yacht that was slumming through the harbor. One of the highlights of the harbor tour was buzzing an old sea lion who was sunning on a buoy. The same sea lion (or his identical cousin) was sunning on the same buoy when I took the same cruise last May. BTW, our vessel was piloted by a fine fellow whose name was Captain Jack!

Child Abuse Department: There are works of art, some quite large, and performance artists all along the harbor. I was watching a mime who was painted silver and was doing a moving statue shtick. Nick and Boone walked up as the guy was standing still, and Nick, who realized what was going on, said. "Hey Boone, look at the statue. Why don't you go up and touch it. The mime played along right up until Boone reached out to touch him, and they he wheeled toward Boone. I think that my poor grandson jumped three feet! And his cruel daddy laughed most of the way back to the hotel!

This afternoon we went back to Mission Beach. I had a wonderful time watching Nick and Boone play in the surf. There are one-point-three-million people in San Diego, and most of them spent this afternoon at Mission Beach. Highlights included watching a four hundred pound woman being buried in the sand by a group of children. (I hope they remembered to dig her up before they left!) There was also an old geezer, older than me, wearing a tee shirt that said "Life is a Mountain." As if the challenge posed by his tee shirt wasn't bad enough, he stood around doing karate poses. After about fifteen minutes of striking silly stances, a young guy ran up to him, did a flying leap right at the guy, and kicked his feet above the guy's head. That ended the karate exhibit! And then there were the people who left their sack lunch on their beach towels and went off to play in the water. I watched a sea gull nearly wear himself out trying to rip their lunch sack open! Nature rules!

Life is a beach! There is really no excuse not to live near one!

Friday, August 1, 2008

On the Road to San Diego

by Pa Rock

Nick, Boone, and I left Goodyear just before daylight and made it to San Diego around noon. It was a nice trip out because Nick drove the entire way. I was able to sit back and enjoy the scenery!

A couple of over-the-road observations: It is 340 miles from Goodyear to San Diego, with most of the trip being on US 8, a major, four-lane interstate. In what should be a busy time for tourists, we saw only two RV's. Two! And truck traffic is down very noticeably. It was easy to see where the truck traffic is going. Between Gila Bend, AZ, and El Centro, CA, we saw six long trains double-stacked with cargo containers. America is doing its shipping on the rails!

We also went through three border patrol checkpoints. At one they asked us where we were coming from and waved us through, and at the other two they just waved us through. (We had cautioned Boone not to start speaking Spanish if we were pulled over!) A long stretch of US 8 runs along the border with Mexico. We saw numerous Border Patrol vehicles on patrol and occasional guard towers looking off toward the Mexican sand dunes.

Our room wasn't ready when we got to the hotel, so we took off to Mission Beach and spent time wading in the surf. It was Boone's first view of the ocean. He wants to go back tomorrow. Mission Beach has lots of shops and an amusement park, so there is plenty to do. Tonight we are headed to the Gas Lamp District.

Our hotel is the Downtown Holiday Inn, and we are on the 11th floor with a fantastic view of the city. There will be lots to see and do before our departure on Monday morning.