Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Mystery of the Cuban Postcards

by Pa Rock
Bitchy Tourist

Since returning from Cuba one month ago yesterday, I have been a busy guy.  I have completely mowed my massive yard twice and am currently well into the third mowing.  I have set out hanging baskets of flowers as well as a large container garden.  The fifteen new chicks that were waiting on me when I got back are all doing well thanks to my constant attention, and I have acquired a flock of baby guineas that are also doing just fine - again thanks to my almost hourly oversight and mother-henning.

In the past thirty days I have played pinochle on several evenings, traveled into the wilds of Arkansas on multiple occasions, read and reviewed a novel written by a friend of mine, kept this blog going, and have been working on writing a short story - a mystery tentatively involving a missing person, a decapitation, and a bit of therianthropy.

The one thing I haven't done during the merry month of May is enjoy reading any of the two dozen or so postcards that I mailed home from Cuba - because none of them seem to have arrived yet!  Part of my morning routine each day that I was in Cuba was to sit at the desk and in hotel room and dutifully pen "having a wonderful time - wish you were here" postcards to my three children, my sister, and my grandson, Boone.  I carefully selected each card, trying to find just the right ones for each of my relatives, and was careful to add the correct postage.  I mailed them at the front desk at the Hotel Capri.

The cards that I sent had pictures of old cars, Old Havana, the malecon (sea wall), tobacco plantations, and old women smoking big cigars.  I was careful to include many aspects of Cuban life.  Imagine my disappointment to find that none made it across the small strait that separates Cuba from the United States.

Perhaps my cards are in the desk drawer of some Cuban bureaucrat who is carefully reading them to ensure that I am not transmitting any state secrets.  Or, worse yet, in the desk of some American bureaucrat sifting for intelligence where there is none.  Who knows?  The only thing I know is that somebody's postal service has failed.

For the time being, I think that I will blame the Cubans.  Their internet, after all, was abysmal, so it stands to reason that their mail transportation system might also suck.

Come on, Raul, start kicking some Cuban butt.  Gringo tourists will come to Cuba even if there are no Starbucks, McDonalds, or Walmarts - but damnit, they expect the necessities like running water, internet service, and the ability to brag about their Cuban adventures through colorful postcards home. Anything less is just third world!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "Rendezvous"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today is Memorial Day, a national holiday of remembrance that was, until 1971, known as Decoration Day - a time set aside to decorate graves and honor the dead - and to particularly pay homage to those who died in our nation's wars.  The holiday actually has its roots in the American Civil War, but much of the art and poetry related to the observance seems to have originated as a result of America's involvement in the two world wars - and especially World War I.

Today's poetry selection is a beautiful poem that is an anticipation of death on the battlefield.  It was written by a young American by the name of Alan Seeger.  Tragically Mr. Seeger went on to fulfill his own prophecy on July 4th, 1916, at the Battle of Somme in France.  Alan Seeger obviously had some personal investment in the cause because America had not even entered the war at the time he was killed.  Alan Seeger was just twenty-eight-years-old when he died on the French battlefield.
Here, in remembrance of all who have fallen in war, are a few haunting lines from a fellow soldier who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the "war to end wars" a century ago this summer.

by Alan Seeger

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air -
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath -
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear . . .
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Will Parker Speaks to Me

by Pa Rock
Entertainment Junkie

I watched the 1955 film version of Rogers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! the other night, something that I am inclined to do every other year or so.  It is a feel-good movie based on, in my opinion, one of the best musicals in the history of the American stage.

(The Brits did their own staged version of Oklahoma! a few years ago starring a surprisingly agile and vocal Hugh Jackman.  It was filmed and has run here in America on PBS.)

Oklahoma! is the story of a budding love affair between a cowboy named Curly - and Laurey, a farm girl living with her aunt on the Oklahoma prairie at the end of the nineteenth century.  Everyone is preparing to attend a big party and dance at a neighboring farm that evening and Laurey, in a fit of pique, has made a date to attend the festivities with someone other than Curly.  The action revolves around the two of them as they attempt to sort out their feelings for one another.

But there is another romance trying to blossom during the play.   Laurey's best friend, Ado Annie, a girl who has trouble saying no and tends to profess her love for whichever man happens to be with her at the time, is torn between Ali Hakem, a Persian peddler, and a rodeo cowboy named Will Parker.  Ali Hakem is preparing to move on, and he has no serious interest in Ado Annie.  Will Parker, on the other hand, is desperately in love with the girl, no matter her easy nature, and has returned from Kansas City that very day where he won enough money in a rodeo to buy the hand of his beloved from her money-grubbing father.

In many ways the complicated love affair between Will and Ado Annie is better theatre than the cat-and-mouse romance of the starchier Curly and Laurey.

Our local little theatre group has announced plans to produce Oklahoma! the third week in June.  The group does a musical most summers, and the ones that I have seen have been surprisingly good.  Unfortunately, there are no parts for crotchety old men, or I might have been tempted to go to tryouts.  I could see myself as Will Parker - if I were forty years younger - and could dance in cowboy boots while twirling a lasso - or could just dance at all - and if I could sing!  Other than that I would be perfect for the role!

But alas, timing and talent appear to be everything.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Excuse Me While I Unsubscribe

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Over the past few years my email-box has become a magnet for unsolicited and unwanted messages from strangers begging for money, or signatures, or signatures and then money.   These unwanted assaults on my privacy represent an electronic tsunami of pleas and encouragement to support candidates and causes upon whose success reportedly rests the fairness of the republic or the habitability of the planet.

Sometimes I am moved to sign a petition, or make a donation - but generally I hit delete - unually without even reading the eloquent plea.  I delete unwanted messages dozens of times a day - and toward the end of the month when all of the artificial deadlines begin to kick in, I delete in excess of two hundred messages a day - often multiple emails from the same sender.

It's like waking up in the morning to discover that that trash truck dumped in the front yard - rather than picked up.  So disheartening, so disgusting, and so unnecessary.

This week I began a campaign to fight back.   As time permits, I have forsaken deleting in favor of unsubscribing.  My first target was PayPal, a service that I have not used in years but which still feels the need to email me multiple times per day.   PayPal hit me with a barrage of nonsense which appeared to be intended to get me to give up my efforts to unsubscribe.  They offered me a nuisnace-lite, or a promise of fewer emails if I wouldn't pull the plug completely.  Then they asked for a detailed reason for why I wanted to leave their aggravating service.  (That was optional, so I didn't respond - but I could have cited the time that I spent over two hours on the phone to PayPal trying to speak with a human - and failed.)  When I finally finished slogging my way through the PayPal unsubscribing process, I got a notification from the ill-mannered behemoth informing me that I had been succsessful and my "subscription" would end in ten working days.  (If they would hire a few humans, it might speed things up a little.)

The process of "unsubscribing" almost makes it sound like I am leaving a service that I sought out in the first place.  Only in the rarest of instances did I go looking for contact with some of these organizations.  Most found my name and email address on mailing lists that were either being passed around or sold to eager beggars.  Yet, to get rid of their rising tide of junk emails, I must be the one to exert the necessary effort to jump through the unsubscribing hoops.

You dumped your trash in my yard, so excuse me while I take a couple of days to shovel it out in the street.

So far I am managing to unsubscribe to four or five beggars a day.  That's not a lot, but I am already beginning to see the difference.   Wasserman Schultz is gone, and that by itself is worth the effort that has gone into this house-cleaning project.  "End Citizens United" I'll miss your three or four daily communications - not!  Julia Brownley, so long.  Hasta la vista, Ed Markey.  And Bill, Chelsea, and Hillary - you might as well go ahead and assume the position - because you're next!

Cleaning my house would be so much easier - but not nearly as satisfying!

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Heartland's Reservoir of Racism

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Jimmy Carter told the New York Times this past week that Donald Trump has "tapped into a waiting reservoir of racism."  If the former President is correct, and I believe that he is, the small, insecure money-grubber (tip of the hat to Elizabeth Warren) should have no trouble at all harvesting the votes of the ridge-runners, chicken-pluckers, meth cooks, and assorted puppy mill operators of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.

I just returned from a trip into the closest county in Arkansas and can report with confidence and no small degree of alarm that the land along the border is blossoming with Confederate flags which are being displayed by people who look like they were bred to be extras in Deliverance.  If those folks are registered, unlike their guns - or dogs, and smart enough to find their way to the polls, The Donald should be well on his way to making America great again!

Perhaps Melania will wear a Confederate flag to the inauguration - albeit a very small one!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Fighting Education in Texas

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Mary Lou Bruner spent much of her working career as a kindergarten teacher where she helped to shape young minds.  The damage that she did in that capacity is likely incalculable.

Ms. Bruner, aged 69, is now retired, but she wanted to keep her hand in the Texas educational system - so this year she ran for a seat on the notorious Texas Board of Education - and damned near won.

The retired teacher openly encourages parents to home-school their children because "that's the only way you can control what they are taught."  She apparently felt that if she could gain a seat on the Texas Board of Education, she could have a hand in controlling the information that makes its way toward student minds.

Ms. Bruner has many colorful and unique beliefs herself, and she enjoys posting them on Facebook.  She is convinced, for instance, that President Barack Obama worked as a gay prostitute during his drug-addicted youth, and that as President, Mr. Obama has had her investigated for letting the world know about his immoral past.  She also believes that school shootings are somehow connected to the teaching of evolution in public schools.

She has also characterized the Boy Scouts of America as a "homosexual" organization.

(Can you say "nuttier than Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, Rick Perry, and the whole Bush family all eating Payday candy bars on Billy Carter's peanut farm?")

Mary Lou Bruner is so bizarre that in another life she could have been Donald Trump's mother.

The election was close.  Ms. Bruner won the most votes in a March primary, earning 48% of the total vote.  Had she reached 50%, she would have been elected, but falling short of that she had to face an opponent in a special runoff election earlier this week - an election which she lost.

After that defeat, the Texas Freedom Network, an organization which had collected and publicized Ms. Bruner's Facebook craziness, said, "Texas escaped an education train wreck tonight."

Even with Mary Lou Bruner's loss at the polls this week, it is still unlikely that students in Texas will be confronted with any significant challenges to education based on Biblical teaching and Fox News orthodoxy during this millennium.  If they want more, they will likely have to move out into the real world - or be home-schooled.

And there is undoubtedly little clamor for real change in Texas classrooms.  Ignorance, after all, is bliss.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Super-Duper, Party-Pooper Delegates

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Super delegates, those elected officials guaranteed seats and a substantial influence at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, are the result of party rule changes that came about in 1982 - a time that the Democratic Party was still reeling from Ronald Reagan's big victory over an incumbent Democrat - and the big wins that the Reagan landslide brought to both the House and the Senate.  Certain party elders felt that Carter had interrupted the natural flow of the universe when he seized the nomination in 1976, and they wanted to put some safeguards in place that would help to minimize the role that actual voters got to play in the process of selecting a presidential candidate.  The Old Guard new best.

Democratic Representative Tony Coehlo who was head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) at the time the rules were changed, reflected on the new super delegate system in 1984 by saying, "Elected officials don't control the convention, but they have a tremendous influence."

Tremendous, indeed.

This year, of course, many in the Democratic Party are expressing disgust with the super delegate system, airing their view that it was established to quell popular support for insurgent candidates and ensure the safety of the staid and tired status quo.  Their disgruntlement with what many see as a rigged convention may at least lead to some modifications in the super delegate system - if the Sanders supporters can maintain their heat and rage as "the Bern" itself slowly flickers out.

Ironically, as the Democratic Party contemplates opening its windows to a bit more actual democracy, the Republican Party seems to be heading in the opposite direction.  The Republicans, having just gone through a primary season dominated by crazies and seeing the craziest of them all preparing to accept the party crown at the convention, would like to place some serious limitations on the power that ordinary voters wield in selecting the candidate.  Super delegates, anyone?

So as the Democrats slowly shift back toward democracy, and the Republicans begin to quietly goosestep toward autocracy, it would seem that God must be back from Her latest visit to the skee ball parlor - and things are getting right with the universe!

Now, if we could just get rid of Debbie Whatshername Schultz!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Roy Blunt, Do Your Job!

by Pa Rock
Missouri Voter

It's been over one hundred days not since Justice Antonin Scalia died leaving a vacancy on the Supreme Court.  The Court, which under normal circumstances has nine members, had become known in recent years for five-to-four decisions on many of the more important issues of our times - decisions that, although extremely close, were at least definitive.  Now an extremely close decision in the (of late) highly partisan Court, generally means a vote that ends in a tie - or non-definitive.  The strain of having an even number of Justices is beginning to negatively impact the Court and the country that it serves.

The Constitution calls for the President of the United States to nominate new members to the Supreme Court, and for the Senate to vote to approve or not approve those nominations.  President Obama did his job seventy days ago when he nominated Judge Merrick Garland, by all accounts a politically "moderate" jurist, to serve on the Supreme Court.

But even before the nomination was made, Senate Republicans, the majority party in the Senate, announced they would not act on any nominee put forth by this President.  They were not going to do their job.  Then, after the President announced his nominee, almost no Senate Republican has shown Judge Garland the courtesy of a get-acquainted visit - an no movement has occurred in the confirmation process.

(Word has leaked that in the increasingly likely event that Hillary Clinton is elected President, the Senate will rush a vote during the lame duck session - the interregnum - and approve Judge Garland before Hillary has an opportunity to name someone of her choosing as the replacement.)

Technically, the Senate Majority Leader, Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, is orchestrating this flagrant denial of Constitutional process, but Mitch, like many of the other Republicans in the Senate, is a prisoner of the right-wing rabble that has taken over the GOP.

That is certainly true of my home state Republican senator, Roy Blunt.  Ol' Roy is in a tightening race for re-election, and while he still has plenty of time to glad-hand corporate lobbyists for campaign cash, when it comes to meeting with Judge Garland - well, he suddenly has no time.


When asked if he would meet with the prospective member of the United States Supreme Court, Ol' Roy's response was:  "I can barely schedule a call with my son's math teacher, so probably no."

He has no time for trivialities like getting the Supreme Court of the land back into functioning order.  Was Ol' Roy elected to serve the people of Missouri and the Constitution of the United States - or to attend parent-teacher conferences?  What would the reaction have been if a female senator had coughed up that excuse?

Roy Blunt, do your job!  Meet with Judge Garland and then get vocal and demand a vote on his nomination.  Study the man and the merits - and then make an informed decision as to whether on not you believe he is qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.

The Show Me State is watching, Roy.    Show us something besides your political cowardice and that partisan streak running up your backside.   Missouri's dynamic Secretary of State, Jason Kander, seems ready, willing, and able to do what which you so shamelessly neglect.  Do your job, Roy - or Jason will!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "The Harlot's House"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Britain's Victorian era featured many noteworthy writers, one of whom was Oscar Wilde, a man  whose personal life was as remarkable and intriguing as any fiction he ever dared to pen.  Wilde's novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, has been read by millions over the years and made into several films.  It examines the darkness that lurks within us all.  Wilde's most famous play, The Importance of Being Earnest, still evokes unbridled laughter more than a century after if was first staged.  In both of those works, Oscar Wilde took on the social norms and mores of British gentry and exposed the human underpinnings of the stodgy social class.

Oscar Wilde was also an accomplished poet with several works focusing on travel as well as the lives of his poetic predecessors like Keats and Shelley.  In today's selection, Wilde looked the topic of prostitution in Victorian England from a street-level perspective.   His cadence and imagery put me in mind of early American poet Edgar Allan Poe.

Lust and love and Oscar Wilde - please enjoy.

The Harlot's House
by Oscar Wilde

We caught the tread of dancing feet,
We loitered down the moonlit street,
And stopped beneath the harlot's house.

Inside, above the din and fray,
We heard the loud musicians play
The "Treues Liebes Herz" of Strauss.

Like strange mechanical grotesques,
Making fantastic arabesques,
The shadows raced across the blind.

We watched the ghostly dancers spin
To sound of horn and violin,
Like black leaves wheeling in the wind.

Like wire-pulled automatons,
Slim silhouetted skeletons
Went sidling through the slow quadrille.

They took each other by the hand,
And danced a stately saraband;
Their laughter echoed thin and shrill.

Sometimes a clockwork puppet pressed
A phantom lover to her breast,
Sometimes they seemed to try to sing.

Sometimes a horrible marionette
Came out, and smoked its cigarette
Upon the steps like a live thing.

Then, turning to my love, I said,
"The dead are dancing with the dead,
The dust is whirling with the dust."

But she—she heard the violin,
And left my side, and entered in:
Love passed into the house of lust.

Then suddenly the tune went false,
The shadows wearied of the waltz,
The shadows ceased to wheel and whirl.

And down the long and silent street,
The dawn, with silver-sandalled feet,
Crept like a frightened girl.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Perfect Game

by Pa Rock

The Perfect Game by Leslie Dana Kirby  (Poisoned Pen Press)

Liz Wakefield has been murdered, bludgeoned to death in her own home in what police initially believe was a botched robbery.  Much of her expensive jewelry is missing.  As the investigation continues, however, the police of Scottsddale, Arizona, begin to focus on two suspects close to home.  One is Dr. Lauren Rose, Liz's younger sister, who is doing her medical residency at a local hospital, and the other is Jake Wakefield, Liz's husband and the star pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Lauren is the sole beneficiary of Liz's one million dollar life insurance policy, and some argue that she had developed a jealousy toward her rich sister.  Jake has been an unfaithful husband, and although he claims not to have known it, Liz had seen a divorce lawyer just days before her murder.

Eventually there is an arrest and much of the remainder of the novel focuses on the lengthy courtroom proceeding as the skilled prosecutor struggles to build a case that would show the defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt - and the high-powered defense attorneys pull out all  of the stops in their attempts to create doubt in the minds of at least some of the jurors.

Then there is a verdict, and then there is another murder!

Except for the modern setting, The Perfect Game reminds me to a certain degree of the older Perry Mason novels of Erle Stanley Gardner where the focus of the books was on the intellectual duels between the lawyers.  Gardner always gave his readers an insider's view of the workings of the law, and Leslie Dana Kirby skillfully does the same with her novel.

Surprisingly, Kirby is not a lawyer in "real" life, but a psychologist - and that field of knowledge helps to layer her characters to a point where they are both complex and entirely believable.  The plotting is first rate, taking into account the steady building of a criminal case and punctuating it with the twists and hairpin-turns that keep the reader from drifting into complacency.

The Perfect Game is an exciting read, one that educates readers about the mechanics of police investigations and murder trials while telling a gripping story.  I recommend it without reservation.

(That said, I feel both obliged and privileged to add that Leslie Dana Kirby is a friend of mine.  She and I worked together at an Air Force mental health clinic during my Phoenix years, and after my stint in the desert was interrupted by a two-year tour on Okinawa, it was Leslie who drove across Phoenix one hot afternoon in July to pick me up at Sky Harbor Airport when I returned from the overseas assignment.  Her annual Christmas letters are a highlight of the holiday season for me.  This is Leslie's first novel, and I am sure that many others will follow.)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Funny Guy in Baton Rouge

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Republicans, particularly those entrenched in our fifty state legislatures, are so busy worrying about public restrooms, private bedrooms, women's bodies, preventing minorities from accessing health care - or voting, dismantling public education, and giving white goobers the right to carry guns wherever they damned well please, that it's a wonder when they turn their attention to anything that might actually be of benefit to society.

But it did happen recently in the state legislature of Louisiana.   For some reason or other, the legislators in Baton Rouge were promoting a bill that addressed the sex trade - a proposal with the aim of increasing the minimum age for strippers in the state from eighteen to twenty-one.

But State Representative Kenny Havard couldn't restrain himself.  Havard, an opponent of "over-regulation" (on some things), took the opportunity to inject a little good, old-fashioned humor into the process of making laws.  He put forth an amendment saying that those people wanting to be exotic dancers in the state of Louisiana would have to be between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-eight and not weigh over one-hundred-and-sixty pounds.

Fat grandmothers - and chubby grandfathers - need not apply.

That Kenny is such a card!

While many in the legislature were undoubtedly amused at Kenny's sparkling wit, the merriment was not universal.  Julie Stokes, also a Republican state lawmaker, took the floor in a rage, citing Havard's amendment as just one more example of how women are mistreated by the state legislature - a body that is dominated by good old boys men.  Ms. Stokes declared:

"I've never been more repulsed to be part of the House.  I can't even believe the behavior.  I hear derogatory comments about women, I see women get treated differently than men.  That was utterly disrespectful and disgusting."

Havard noted that his remark wasn't sexist because it was aimed at women and men.   "I can't strip either," he commented, "because I'm a little overweight."  And he is forty-five-years-old.

Kenny Boy added that he was regretful that his joke had offended some people, but ""I don't know if I'll ever apologize for being politically incorrect, it's just not in my nature.  Political correctness, in my opinion, has ruined the country, and it looks like it's ruining the state now."

Kenny the comedian withdrew his amendment, and the bill ultimately passed ninety-six to zero.  With that debacle behind them, Louisiana legislators are now free to resume monitoring public restrooms and peeking in bedroom windows - as God intended.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Roost Work

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring

We have had some rain this week, and I have been rushing out to mow between showers.  Right now I am five days into my fourth mow of the season, with at least a couple of hours left to go.  Slogging through the damp grass caused my big riding mower to quit on Wednesday, but once all of the packed vegetation up under the deck got cleared away, it was running again.

Nick and a friend of his have been putting up some much-needed new siding on the old garage that now serves as a chicken coop.  They are painting ti green to match the other garage,  Not only is it more attractive, the building will keep the poultry much warmer in the winter.

The little chicks that arrived while I was in Cuba are doing well.  Their baby feathers are coming in, and a couple are even sporting tail feathers.  Yesterday I watched as two of the little fellows squared off at each other preparing to fight - so it looks as though the lot contains at least a few roosters.   Young roosters are always very entertaining!

The peacocks are still laying eggs and still refusing to sit on them.  I am getting an incubator today and will try to hatch a few with the aid of a machine.  I also have chicken eggs and a few duck eggs for the initial hatch.

Last evening I brought home thirty-six baby guineas.  Should they all survive to adulthood, the Roost will be a riot of noise.  I bought too many, however, with the historical knowledge that few will make it through the first year.  Last year I brought home twenty-eight, and only three now survive.  Guineas can be a bit dim-witted - constantly crossing the country roads and forgetting to jump out of the way of on-coming traffic - and trying to make friends with any predator who happens by.  This is my third year to try guineas, and I will be extra-cautious, but I do know that many won't be around to play in their first birthday cake.

I have set out the beginnings of a container garden.  Finishing that will be next on the priority list - after the lawn is finally all mowed.

And then there is laundry, dishes, house-cleaning, grocery shopping, and the deck needs refinishing, the dog needs washing - and so does the car.  Retirement is such a rush!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Wasserman Schultz, Hypocrite Extraordinaire

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Democratic National Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is out begging for money, and, as usual, it isn't for the direct benefit of the Democratic Party.  Debs is instead whining for cash to fund her own reelection campaign to Congress.  And as she begs, she manages to sound both indignant as well as desperate.

A couple of days ago I received the following junk email from Debs:


It looks like rainy season has come early for South Florida. But it’s not raining, so much as “pouring” for one of my opponents. At least that’s the word people are using to describe his outsider contributions.

Just one of my opponents raised almost one million dollars, and 90% of it came from donors outside of Florida. That would be enough to worry about for one election season -- except I have FIVE other opponents who also want me out of office.

I’m going to come right out and say it: I need your help. We’re speeding toward our May deadline, and the primary is right around the corner. Click to give $5 or whatever you can.
The opponent that has the curly-haired huckster so brassed-off is Tim Canova, a true progressive who appears to have a decent shot of defeating Wasserman Schultz in Florida's Democratic primary this August.

So, in order to compensate for all of this awful out-of-state money that is flowing to Canova, Debs turns, in desperation, to the DNC mailing list and begs for her own cash - most of it from out-of-state sources, like me.  What a colossal hypocrite!

Debs, here's the solution in two words:  payday lenders.   Let those loan sharks know that staying in bed with you comes at a price - and don't let your votes go cheap.  There's lots of cash to be had in the sewer - as you well know.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Arkansas Jailbirds

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I made a quick stop at a quick stop as I was leaving Fayetteville, Arkansas, last Sunday morning - for gas and to purchase a couple of Arkansas lottery tickets.  While I was in the store, I noticed a stack of folded pulp publications on the counter.   Assuming that they were free "shoppers," I picked one up.  Then I noticed that it wasn't a shopper at all, nor was it free.  The publication was something called Arkansas Jailbirds and it appeared to be a small newspaper containing color booking photographs and write-ups on several hundred criminals (or accused criminals) from northwest Arkansas - Washington, Madison, and Benton Counties.

"This could be entertaining," I thought - so I gave the clerk a dollar and took one to my car.  The publication was folded over and stapled shut so as not to give casual viewers a free peek at the contents.  Of course, ten "jailbirds" along with their criminal biographies were pictured on the front cover for all to see.

Once I got the multi-page rag home, I carefully removed the staple and started perusing the contents.  I found that it contained over seven-hundred-and thirty photos and write-ups, along with ads for bail-bond companies, pawn shops, and a convenience store - as well as a few public-service types of ads promoting positive behaviors and providing hotline numbers.   There was even a poem about mothers that a reader had contributed.  (Merle Haggard would have loved that!)

The publication also contained some specialized collections of criminals including:  Frequent Flyers, Registered Sex Offenders, Mugs of the Week, Birds' Bandits of the Week, Weekly Contributors, Jailbirds of the Week, Special Bird of the Week, Bird Gone Wild, and the Weekly Beating (specializing in people accused of assault and battery).

I was reminded of a high school yearbook with special sections for student royalty - and I had visions of clandestine gatherings of criminals where tattooed yahoos eagerly pored over the publication checking to see if they had made it into print and to see if their names were spelled correctly and all of their crimes were included.

And the proud parents and sbilings, eagerly calling up friends and family to brag that bubba had his picture in the paper!

Mocking the disadvantaged in nothing new, nor is it peculiar to northwest Arkansas.  In Arizona where I used to live, one of the local newspapers had a feature with the funniest police booking photos of the week.  One of our local radio stations where I now live likes to run stories about criminals who were so dumb that they brought about their own capture through stupidity.  Yesterday they ran a story about a burglar who broke into a house with his cell phone in his back pocket.  He inadvertently butt-dialed 911 while robbing the place!

I suspect the publishers of Arkansas Jailbirds have stumbled upon a gold mine.   For some readers, it is a window into sordid types of lives that growing up in poverty often generates - much like reality television cop shows, and for others it is their fifteen minutes of fame - "Hey look, Ma, I got my picture in the paper!"

But for those who don't take pride in seeing themselves or their relatives made out to look like pathetic criminals, this warning is posted clearly on the front and back covers"

"All content provided in Arkansas Jailbirds is deemed to be in the public domain.  Arkansas Jailbirds only compiles information from public records for public consumption.  Arkansas Jailbirds assumes all records are accurate but does not guarantee accuracy.  Corrections or complaints should be made to the department or agency providing said records.

"The data in this publication provides arrest and booking information and should not be relied upon to determine an individual's actual criminal record.  This data may not reflect charging decisions made by State Attorney's Office or the outcome of criminal trials.  An acquittal or dismissal of a criminal charge does not necessarily negate the validity of an arrest.  To obtain the final disposition of any criminal charges, contact the Clerk of the Court's Office.  ALL SUSPECTS ARE INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY IN A COURT OF LAW."
"Innocent until proven guilty" - but they get their pictures in the paper nonetheless where they are collectively known as "Jailbirds."

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Noel High School's Final Graduation

by Rocky Macy
Class of 1966

The last class to ever graduate from the little high school in Noel, Missouri, walked across the stage and received their diplomas fifty years ago this evening.  That day in 1966, like today, was also a Tuesday.  The following year Noel students were consolidated into a large county high school.

Our class was very small, even by the standards of the time.  I have always had it in my mind that there were twenty-two of us, but the official class portrait panel shows only twenty.  I visited with one of our classmates just a few days ago, and she said that she thought there were only seventeen who went through the graduation ceremony.

The graduates pictured on the panel included Anna Harmon (our class president), myself, Abe Paul (the salutatorian), Mary Riley, Doug Morriss, Dick Easter, James (Jim) Riggs, Jerry Brooks, Ivan Jones, Lynda Latty White, Marvin Gilming, Jim Durham, Sandra Epperson, Tim Shields, Sharron Brackeen, Wilbur Payton, Denice Nations, Elizabeth Abercrombie, Mike Carr, and Cheryl Henslee.

There were others who were members of our class for several years, but had moved or for various reasons were not still in the group at the time of graduation.   In particular I remember Dan Abraham, Inge Brubaker, Tom Whitten, Larry Higgenbotham, Connie Howard, Jean Osterloh, Mike Poynor, Jolene Brown, Fred Puryear, Ellen Holland, Peggy McNeley, Jim George, and Larry Huber.  One member of our class, Linda Merchant, was killed in a tragic car accident early in our senior year.  Linda's younger sister, Susan, a junior at Noel High, was also killed in that same wreck.

Also pictured on the panel were three staff members:  Miles Elliff, the superintendent, Patrick Laurie, the principal, and Jennibel Paul (Abe's mother), our class sponsor.

Several members of our class have passed on during the intervening years.  Of the twenty pictured on the panel, Wilbur, Dick, Sharron, Denice, and Marvin are gone - and among the others we have lost Tom and Larry.  There may be others who are no longer with us, but those are the only ones I know about.

I don't remember great deal about that night, but a couple of things have remained with me over the intervening decades.  My first memory is of stepping through the doors at the back of the gym - as a part of the processional - and looking up at the bleacher seats which were furthest from the stage.  There sat Lil and Bill Bunn, an older couple who cleaned the Ozark Theatre where I worked each weekend.  I remember smiling and waving at them, and Lil beginning to sob.

I also know it was a windy spring evening, because the old curtains on the gym windows were flapping in the breeze and creating large dust-balls which floated across the audience and upon the stage where they drifted among the graduates.

My parents were there, along with my sister Gail and my paternal grandmother, Hazel Macy.  In my mind's eye I see them sitting on about the second row in the center.  Being the valedictorian, I gave a speech that night.  I remember my mother staring up with pride in her eyes as I spoke.  Sometime that same week her niece (my cousin), Nedolyn Sreaves, was also giving a valedictory speech at nearby Seneca High School.  I don't remember what I said to the graduates and families at Noel High that night, but the next day my friend, Roseann Harmon, told me that it had been a very good speech.

After that night we split up and began charting our own courses through life.  Some went to the military and did tours in Vietnam, others headed to college, and still others hit the local job market.  Most of us married and raised families - and today we have grown kids and grandkids.  Our group produced career members of the military, school teachers, nurses, postal workers, business administrators, entrepreneurs, a lawyer, at least one PhD, and even an impoverished social worker.  We have seen the world, and the world has seen us - and now many of us are leaving the workforce and slipping quietly into retirement - slowly creating room for younger graduates to make their marks on the world.

During one of my several careers, I had the pleasure and privilege of going back to the old Noel School - by then a K-8 - where I served as the principal.  One member of the staff at that time had been with the school since we were in high school - Coradell Alexander was still there teaching music.  Mrs. Alexander retired  a year or two later, but she returned many times to substitute teach - and it was always a pleasure having her there.  Our staff and students loved her very much.

The beautiful native stone school was razed several years ago and replaced by a modern eyesore, but the spirit of the old school still lingers.  Here for those of you with ties to Noel High School, is our school song.  It was composed by the Music I Class of 1938-39 - and we dutifully sang it at the end of every school assembly.

"In a green Ozark valley - surrounded by hills
Stands a school with a purpose, a school with a will
'Tis sure to be Noel, the students all cry,
Hail!  Hail!  Alma Mater!  Hail!  Hail!  Noel High.

Through all of its hardships our school still remains,
School spirit has done it, let's hope it won't change.
Our students can keep it if they'll only try,
Hail!  Hail!  Alma Mater!  Hail!  Hail!  Noel High."

(Note:  I understand that the upcoming all-school reunion at Noel will be at the new school on Saturday, June 4, 2016, from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.  I plan on being there and hope to see many members of the Class of '66.)

Fifty years have raced by!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "Vincent"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

I have probably told this story before, but it can stand repeating.  Years ago while listening to a talk on the romantic poets that was being given by a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic instructor, the lady suddenly went off on a tangent as to what she perceived as a lack of practicing poets in contemporary society.  In an expression of exasperation, she reached backward and struck the chalkboard with her fist as she declared, "Where are today's poets?"

Well, aside from the fact that there are some very good poets currently practicing there craft, there are also many poets who choose to package their verse as songs.   The professor, who was also a friend of mine, had obviously not spent enough time listening to the lyrics of Lennon and McCartney, Simon and Garfunkel, Elton John, Carole King, or even Dolly Parton.

A couple of weeks ago as I was driving home from Kansas City - just after the Cuba trip - Don McLean's beautiful ode to painter Vincent van Gogh, came on the radio, and I quickly became lost in the portrait that McLean had painted with his words and his wonderful voice.  The song is a finely honed description of the artist, his work, and his demons.

"Vincent," also commonly called "Starry Night," was on McLean's "American Pie" album, and it is one of his two best known works.  The other, of course, is the iconic "American Pie."

Here is Don McLean's poetic triumph - here is "Vincent."

by Don McLean

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer's day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul

Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colors on the snowy linen land

Now, I understand, what you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now

Starry, starry night
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze
Swirling clouds in violet haze
Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue
Colors changing hue

Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand

Now, I understand, what you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now

For they could not love you
But still your love was true
And when no hope was left inside
On that starry, starry night

You took your life as lovers often do
But I could have told you, Vincent
This world was never meant for one
As beautiful as you

Starry, starry night
Portraits hung in empty halls
Frame less heads on nameless walls
With eyes that watch the world and can't forget

Like the strangers that you've met
The ragged men in ragged clothes
The silver thorn of bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow

Now, I think I know what you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they're not listening still
Perhaps they never will

Sunday, May 15, 2016

White Pride Radio

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I imagine that many small communities, particularly here in the Midwest, have elements that they would just as soon stayed off of the public radar.  The presence of a bona fide hate group, for instance, probably does not help to draw in the types of individuals and families that most towns need in order to thrive economically, socially, and intellectually.

As an example, my own community has an active branch of a national organization called the League of the Confederacy, a group that expresses its pride in the Old South by displaying their Confederate flags and snorting aspersions on the President and his family with alarming frequency and ease.  Most of the members of the League, I am sure, would deny being motivated by racism.

(The League of the South has been determined by the Southern Poverty Law Center to be a "hate group."  I have a great deal of respect for the work and the judgment of the SPLC.) 

Walmart has quit selling Confederate flags, so now two local "flag" stores have opened up, both proudly displaying the Stars and Bars as they attempt to build a clientele of discerning customers.

Yesterday during my trek across northern Arkansas, I just about drove off of the road as I was entering to community of Harrison.  There, on the left-hand side of the road was a large billboard that I had never noticed before.   It featured a pretty young (white) girl holding a puppy, and the caption read, "It's NOT Racist to (heart) Your People."  Below that was  "www.WhitePrideRadio.com", and below that was "Harrison - Love Lives Here."

A pretty young (white) girl, a puppy, and a statement that "love" lives in the community.  Why, who wouldn't want to move into a swell place like that?

I looked the billboard up on the Internet and found that it has been there for over a year.  It was apparently funded by the Ku Klux Klan.  I didn't check out the Internet radio station, but the article regarding the billboard said that typing in the "White Pride" address gets a redirection to "www.kkkradio.com".

I guess if Walmart ever quits selling bed linens, there will be a sudden proliferation of "sheet shops" out here in my neck of the woods!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Reed Smith Is Ready to Coach!

by Pa Rock
Proud Uncle

Early this morning I left the Roost, grabbed a breakfast sandwich at a drive-thru, and slipped down into Arkansas for a drive over to my sister's place in Fayetteville.  The objective of the trip was to watch my nephew, Reed Smith, graduate with a teaching degree from the University of Arkansas - woo, pig, suey!

Reed is graduating with honors and will have a seat on the stage at the ceremony.

Reed has a degree in agriculture from Oklahoma State University, and he worked for several years as a meat distributor for the big hotels and casinos in Las Vegas.  He had been home over Christmas week in 2009 to attend my father's (his grandfather's) funeral and was returning to Vegas when he was involved in an horrendous car wreck in Texas - a wreck which killed Reed's father, Bob Smith.  Reed was life-flighted to Amarillo where he underwent major surgery and spent a couple of weeks in a coma.  It was an extremely traumatic time for the whole family - including his many friends from high school and college - who all rushed to Amarillo to be with Reed.

Reed's girlfriend, Jamie, was also a passenger in the wreck.   Jamie was (is) a school teacher, and they were eventually married.  Being a former star high school athlete - and married to a teacher - Reed decided that he wanted to leave the world of commerce and work in a field that he loved - school athletics.  He returned to college for a teaching credential and to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a coach.

And know this, world - he will be a great one!

Congratulations, Reed, for having the courage and tenacity to pursue what you love!  The youth of America have just scored a big win!

(Follow-up Footnote on Footwear:  Reed wore a pair of boots to graduation that had belonged to his father.  Bob Smith would have been very proud!)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Come Mow with Me

by Pa Rock
Fitness Nut

I've written about the FitBit before - the thin strip of plastic that fits around my wrist - like a wristwatch - and keeps me updated with  a wealth of information related to my health.   It also tells the time.   The FitBit tracks my heart rate and lets me know how many steps I take each day.  I currently chart my weight and blood sugar levels daily, and now with the aid of the Fitbit, I also keep a record of the number of steps that I take per day.

And I am learning a lot from the record-keeping.  I now know, for instance, that I walk a great deal more in warm months than during the winter, but my summer foot-mileage drops precipitously on rainy days.  The Fitbit has a vibrating alarm which lets me know when I have reached 10,000 steps in a day, so reaching that milestone has become my daily goal.  With the warm weather and regular sunny skies, I manage to hit the goal almost every day.  A week ago I actually managed over 15,000 honest steps in a single day.

I say "honest" steps because I have learned that the FitBit gives false readings on the days that I use the riding lawnmower.  My lawn, while basically flat, does have a lot of twists, and turns, and bumps, and dips - and mowing on the rider can at times feel somewhat like bull-riding.  When that happens, the FitBit gets the notion that I am walking or stomping about - and the steps begin adding quickly, although my feet are basically just resting on the deck of the mower.  It is not unusual to record a couple of thousand phony steps during a two-hour mowing session.

Oral Roberts University is a Bible college in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that is not necessarily known for high academic achievement or standards.  (Marcus and Michele Bachmann are two or ORU's more notable graduates.)  Recently though, the religious institution has made a move that some might regard as somewhat progressive.  Oral Roberts University has managed to slap a FitBit on the wrist of each of its students.  And, if news reports out of Tulsa are to be believed, all of those students are expected - or at least encouraged - to take 10,000 steps a day.  Apparently the school has some way of collecting data from the FitBits and can monitor the walking habits of the entire student population.

So here's my proposition to all of the would-be future mega-church leaders and television beggars now attending ORU:   On those days when you just don't feel up to doing another ten thousand steps, get thee to a riding mower and pile on the miles while taking a spin around the yard. .  Scam the system while making America beautiful.  There ought to be plenty of raggedy yards around Tulsa to tackle, and, if you ever find yourselves over in Missouri, please know that you can mow my yard anytime!

It's all for the greater good!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

George Zimmerman Sinks Even Lower

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Self-appointed vigilante George Zimmerman has already established himself as one of the most repellent characters of the twenty-first century.   When Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin four years ago, he proved once and for all that hatred and racism still flourish in America.   Zimmerman murdered the unarmed black teen in a confrontation that he (Zimmerman) instigated, and then whined successfully in a Florida courtroom that he had felt threatened by the kid and was standing his ground.

But just being a dangerous racist thug, like George Zimmerman, does not pay the bills.   George has been trying to figure out how to make a living without working ever since he shot his way onto the front page and into a shameful chapter of American history.

During George Zimmerman's trial for second degree murder his defense attorneys secured a presence for him on social media with the stated intent of raising money for his defense.  Zimmerman also managed to get his gullible and not overly bright "fans" to chip in over $155,000 to his PayPal account, money that his wife then tried to hide from the court.

Later in George Zimmerman's burgeoning career as a conman, he started creating and selling paintings which had a Confederate flag theme.

Now he has come up with one more plan to make some easy money.  The Department of Justice has recently returned George's 9mm pistol that he used to kill Trayvon Martin, and George has decided to sell it in an online auction.

George Zimmerman says that he will use the proceeds of his gun sale to fight against the State Attorney Angela Corey who prosecuted him in 2013 - and Hillary Clinton.  And while the angry Mr. Zimmerman probably means fighting in a political sense, both Corey and Clinton would be wise to exhibit caution.

Zimmerman does have a history - and he has not always behaved rationally.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The IRS and the Windbag

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Tax returns can be very revealing documents - showing not only how much a person or a corporate person earned in a specific year, but also what percentage of that income he, she, or it returned to the government in the form of taxes.    Tax returns show levels of charitable giving, and likewise give indications of just how devious one might get in order to minimize tax payments.

Donald Trump, like other presidential aspirants before him, is not anxious to share his tax returns with the public.  So far he has held steadfast to a claim that he can't reveal those enlightening documents because he is currently undergoing a tax audit by the IRS.  Ever helpful, the IRS has said that they are perfectly fine with Trump sharing the documents with the curious public.

But Donald is standing firm.  He won't release his tax returns until the government finishes with them.  He now says that should be around November - probably just days after the general election.

Many might assume that the Donald is hiding his tax returns because they are rife with evidence of tax evasion and dirty dealings, and Trump is fine letting the public wallow in those assumptions.  He knows that a significant number of Americans hate paying taxes and secretly admire anyone who cheats the government out of its due.

Others, however, are beginning to question's Trump's secretiveness as being based in something completely different.  There is speculation that he does not want to share his most private financial records because they will show that he is not worth nearly as much as he likes to let on.  Perhaps the "billionaire" isn't a billionaire at all - but only a sniveling millionaire!  That would certainly let some of the hot air out of the massive windbag.

Anything that speaks to a person's character, whether it be tax returns or transcripts of speeches given to large corporations, should be part of the public record and discourse when those individuals choose to run for public office.   Candidates should be eager to bare their souls to the public and thus allow voters to make the best decisions possible based on the most information.  To hide anything reeks of dishonesty.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Obama to Visit Hiroshima

by Pa Rock
Man of Peace

The White House announced today that President Obama would, on his upcoming trip to Japan and Vietnam, visit Hiroshima - the Japanese city that was basically annihilated by the first use of atomic weapons directly against people.  The bomb, carried and delivered by the crew of the bomber Enola Gay, was dropped over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.  A couple of days later a second bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki.  After that, President Truman went on the radio to inform the Japanese government and its people that the third bomb would be dropped down Emperor Hirohito's stovepipe.   At that point the Japanese sued for peace.

The White House explained with today's announcement that President Obama was not going to Hiroshima to apologize for the atomic attack, but rather to see and experience the effects of the event.  The trip will undoubtedly help to focus the world on the horrors of nuclear weapons.

President Obama beat me to Cuba by nearly a month, but I was in Hiroshima when he was only a child.  I visited that historic site way back in the spring of 1972 while I was serving with the Army on Okinawa.  I always intended to get back there during my second run on Okinawa (2010-2012), but sadly missed the opportunity.  Hiroshima is an amazing place.   Surrounding Ground Zero and the famed "Atomic Dome" is an area now called Peace Park, which is populated with monuments to peace from most of the countries of the world.  The city has dedicated itself to the pursuit of world peace - and it is very fitting that a U.S. President should finally travel there to experience the passion of that movement.

My own experiences in Hiroshima are detailed in the August 6, 2010, posting of this blog in a piece entitled "Hiroshima, Sixty-Five Years Later."  It was an unforgettable experience.

President Obama, thank you for putting Hiroshima back in the news.  There is still so much that we can and must learn from that horrific event.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Cycle of Life on the Farm

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring

I lost the last of my three tom turkeys last night.  They had made it through the winter, a season that is tough on outdoor animals, and all seemed to be enjoying the warm breezes of spring when the first kicked off a few weeks ago.   He died peacefully during the night lying on the ground in front of the hen house.  The second died a few days ago, inside of the hen house, in what looked to be a death while napping.  And this morning I found turkey number three.  He was lying on his back - not sure how he managed that - just inside of the hen house when I opened the door to let all of the birds out this morning.

So I am officially out of the turkey business.  I have raised the big birds before with varying degrees of success, but this last group was problematic almost from the get-go.  I doubt that I will try raising them again.

Also, I am down to just three guineas - from the five that had made it through the winter.  Predators have gotten the other two.  The three survivors enjoy the run of my big yard and also manage to visit a couple of the neighbors almost daily.  Guineas take very little care, and I will probably replenish the flock at some point within the next few weeks.  I saw some baby guineas (keets) at a swap meet this past Saturday, but a couple of eager people in front of me appeared to be set on buying the lot of them.

I have fifteen new chicks out in the nursery that is attached to the hen house.  There are four Bantys and eleven Red Jungle Fowl.  They have been at the farm for eleven days and appear to be adjusting very well.  The nursery has an attached outdoor pen which I am going to let them into today.

The peahens have now laid a total of eleven eggs and are not sitting on any of them.  I took the most recent three into the house yesterday - one was still warm - and will research how to incubate them myself.

I recently purchased a little incubator with a seven-egg capacity.  It is now home to seven warm duck eggs - with ducklings due in about three weeks.

Rosie and Riley are fine.  I am working on getting the yard in shape and setting out a bit of a garden.  After that it will be time for another mow, and then my focus will switch to spring house cleaning.

The farm is a busy place!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Thoughts on Mom

by Pa Rock
Proud Son

First of all, happy Mother's Day to my daughter, Molly, and to my daughter-in-law, Erin.  Molly is a stay-at-home mom who spends practically every hour of every day in the service of her three children - Sebastian, Judah, and Willow.  She is a very busy young woman who is always on the go.   Erin works outside of the home, but still puts in countless hours being an active and affectionate mother to her four-year-old daughter, Olive.  Erin is expecting her and Tim's second child, a boy, next month.  Enjoy your day, Molly and Erin - relax and let your husbands have their turns at taking care of the kids!

Happy Mother's Day also to my sister, Gail Macy, and the special mothers in her life:  Tiffany Burke, Dr. Heidi Pfetcher, and Lisa Smith - a wonderful group of moms!

This coming December my own mother, Florine Macy, will have been gone thirty years.  She suffered from inoperable brain tumors and spent the last couple of years of her life slowly fading away, losing track of who she was and the connections she had forged in life.  It was a very sad ending for a woman who had once been so vibrant and so important to those around her.

I remember my mother well, and for that I am very grateful.  Her voice, though pleasant, was a bit sharp, much like that of her sisters.  Although I just barely knew their mother, a fellow told me years later that the sharp and distinct voice that the sisters shared came from Siss Sreaves, their mother.

My mom worked her whole life.  My earliest memories of her are in a waitress uniform from the time that she and her sister,  my Aunt Christine, worked in their cafe, La Bella View, in Goodman, Missouri, while their husbands, Garland Macy and Bob Dobbs, worked next door at their DX service station.  She also worked part-time as a seamstress at the J.C. Penney store in Neosho, Missouri, and later (with the assistance of my sister and me) ran a tourist court in Noel, Missouri.  She cleaned cabins, did miles of laundry each day with an old wringer washer, and still found time to keep house and take care of her kids.

My mother never slowed down.  Late in the evenings she would sit in front of the television listening to programs while crocheting, sewing quilt squares, or repairing our clothes.  She would usually keep at it until everyone else had gone to bed.  (I took a "gorilla pillow" to college that Mom sewed for me from a pattern.  I wish I still had it.)  The only break she took during the day was for lunch - and she spent that short bit of time watching her soap opera:  "As the World Turns."

One winter while Riverview Court was basically shut down for the off-season, my mother enrolled in cosmetology school.  She got her beautician's license, and after selling the tourist court, she went to work in Carol Kerry's beauty shop in Noel.  During that time she also helped out in my dad's appliance store.  Even after being diagnosed with terminal illness, she still put in time helping out with dad's business efforts - which by then was a real estate brokerage.

My mother also liked to cook - and she was good at it.  Her signature dinner staple was fried potatoes, golden and crispy, served up alongside of a main course of standard fare like fried chicken, pork chops, or meatloaf.  She also usually had a homemade coconut pie (my dad's favorite) on the counter as well as her special spice cake.  Oh how I would love to taste that wonderful spice cake again!

Everyone smoked back at that time, and while many eventually quit, my mother was never able to break the habit.  She always had a cigarette smoldering close by - and eventually those cigarettes killed her.  My mother died on December 8, 1986, at the very young age of sixty-five.  She didn't get to watch her grandchildren grow up, and she never experienced the joy of meeting any of her great-grandchildren - and that is a loss to our whole family.

Mothers are the bedrock of civilization.  They are elemental in our existence, our survival, and our futures.  Honor the moms in your life, and treasure the brief time that you have with them.

In honor of my mother and yours, Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Doggone Shame

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Maine's irascible Republican governor, Paul LePage, has been in office since 2011 and has always proven to be a favorite among the state's tea-bagger faction.  The governor, an intellectual lightweight, has the annoying habit of shooting from the lip, and his impromptu remarks often make their way into the nation's news cycles.

Take for instance the time back in 2011 when he chose not to attend events honoring Dr. Martin Luther King in Maine's two largest cities.  When told that NAACP was not pleased about the snub, his response was "Tell them to kiss my butt."  He also did not earn any love from the black community when he famously said last January that "out-of-state drug dealers come to Maine to peddle heroin and impregnate white girls."

Paul LePage routinely disparages minorities, fellow politicians, and the poor.  Once he publicly reflected, "If you want good education, go to private schools.  If you can't afford it, tough luck.  You can go to the public school."  He made that odious remark while discussing school choice at a local community college.

And Paul LePage's personal assaults and cheap shots on the President of the United States are the stuff of legend.  He often uses the line that Obama stands for "One big-ass mistake, America."  He's a funny guy, if you ask him - with the personal warmth and charisma of someone like former governor Jan Brewer of Arizona - or any other desert scorpion.

But LePage seems to be trying to soften his image.  This week he adopted a dog, a Jack Russell terrier mix, from a dog pound in Maine.  The two-year-old dog's name had been Jasper, but LePage promptly renamed him "Veto," to bring attention to the fact that he has vetoed more bills than any other governor in the state's history.

But Governor LePage could not even adopt a dog without stirring up a controversy.

Hannah Arsenault is a twenty-two-year-old resident of Maine who recently suffered a sexual assault.  She saw Jasper while on a visit to the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in Lewiston, Maine, and knew immediately that he was the dog for her - one that could give her the emotional support and love that she needed to overcome her traumatic experience.  The local humane society had a policy of "first-come, first-serve" as soon as the animals are officially made available for adoption.  Hannah found out when Jasper would become available, and she made plans to get off work early so that she would be the first in line.

Sadly for Hannah, the evening before the dog officially became available for adoption, Governor LePage visited the shelter and wound up taking the poor Jasper home with him.  LePage had bucked the line.  When LePage walked in and expressed an interest in the dog, the officials at the shelter thought that an adoption by the state's governor would be good publicity for the organization.

It wasn't.

Hannah said that she cried when she saw a photo on the internet of Governor LePage walking off with her dog.

Every dog and cat deserves a warm and loving home, and I hope that Paul LePage turns out to be nicer to Veto (what an awful name!) than he has been to many of his fellow human beings.  But if the humane society goes to the trouble to develop adoption policies, then they should follow those policies.  Fair is fair - and privilege is seldom fair.  If the governor is half the man he thinks he is, he should seek out Ms. Arsenault and give her back her dog.

From the soapbox:  Spay and neuter, America - spay and neuter - and don't buy pets with pedigrees.  Adopt!  Adopt!  Adopt!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Boone at Seventeen

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

Today marks the beginning of the annual grandchildren birthday season.

My oldest grandson, Boone Macy, the one who nicknamed me "Pa Rock" when he was little, is little no longer.  Boone, now busy completing his junior year in high school, turns seventeen today.

Boone called last night and we had a good visit.  He thanked me for the birthday money that I sent - not much - and said that it was going toward tires for the car that he recently bought.  I haven't seen his vehicle yet, but understand that it is some type of "town" car, a vehicle that should offer a certain degree of safety.

(My first car was a '57 Chevy - and I saw several just like it last week in Cuba.  Ah,the memories!) 

Boone said that he has taken his ACT and is waiting to learn the results.  He has also recently tested for an Advanced Placement English class.

And in other Boone news, he is taller than both his dad and me, and he has been paid cash money for playing his guitar and singing at a coffee house.  Remember coffee houses?  I thought they went out with '57 Chevys!

Happy birthday, Boone.   You always make me proud!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Trump's Personal Vietnam

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

While Man-of-God Ted Cruz was busy slinging manure on the eve on the Indiana primary, one of the globs that he hurled at Donald Trump was an accusation that Trump is a "serial philanderer" who had called his long battle with venereal disease his "personal Vietnam."  The implication was that Trump, in addition to being a general sleazeball, had also suffered from venereal disease.

Cruz claimed he was quoting from a 2004 interview that Trump had with radio personality Howard Stern.   Several pesky fact-checkers dug into files and concluded that Trump never said he had a venereal disease.  He was instead talking about his fear of contracting a venereal disease, and at some point said that he went through a period where he had his dates checked ahead of time by his personal physician.

How romantic.

After rambling about his fear of venereal disease and how "dangerous" the dating scene was, Stern responded, "That was your own personal Vietnam, wasn't it?"

The only time Donald Trump ever donned a uniform was during his days at a private boys' academy,  so he probably appreciated the reference to the military.  One man's courageous service in the battle against clap.

Can I have an "amen," Brother Clinton?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

America Dodges the Cruz Bullet

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday a majority of Republican voters in Indiana cast their ballots for Donald Trump causing Senator Ted Cruz, the last remaining real obstacle to Trump’s GOP coronation, to suspend his campaign for President.  The Republican race is over, and while the Grand Old Party now finds itself saddled with a narcissistic, racist, sexist, homophobe as its potential candidate – things could have been far worse.  It could have been stuck with Ted Cruz.

Columnist Frank Bruni writing in today’s New York Times had this to say about the junior senator from Texas:  “Sour, smug, and nakedly ambitious, the Texas senator was never built to go the distance.”  Ouch!   Bruni’s entire column, a flaming indictment of the repugnant Joe McCarthy lookalike, is well worth seeking out and reading on the Internet.  I’m going to save a copy to remind myself four years from now just how crazy that Texas loony tick really is.

So Trump remains, and he, like both Hillary and Bernie, is too old to be President.   Ted Cruz liked to talk about America teetering on the edge of an abyss, and now it would seem that abyss is a senility chasm on the order of the one that the country fell into during the Reagan administration.

Can Bernie Sanders, the only one of the three remaining serious candidates who seems to possess any interest at all in the well-being and future of the American people, prevail against the Clinton machine?  Probably not.  Can Hillary manage to attract Sanders’ supporters to her cause and defeat the egomaniacal Trump?  Possibly - but if she takes them for granted, it will be at her own peril.

It’s too early to declare flatly that someone as intellectually shallow and self-absorbed as Donald Trump could never be elected President.  Sadly, I remember saying the same thing about Reagan.

There is an old saying that God protects drunks and the United States of America.  Well, She has apparently saved us from Ted Cruz – this time – but from here on out Her good choices look exceedingly slim.

We are bound for interesting times - with the key word being "bound."

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

New Mown Hay

by Pa Rock
Yard Master

When I left West Plains and began the long trek to Cuba, the six acres of yard that I mow was as short as a 1950's crew cut, but when I returned ten days later it more closely resembled an unkempt, shaggy dog.  I guess it rained in Missouri almost the entire time I was gone - while in Cuba, where it is the rainy season - we were blessed with an entire week of sunny skies.

I have put in almost five hours on the yard in the last two days, and have at least three to go.  Perhaps if I had one of those farm machines that mow and bail, I could turn a profit from my labors.  Getting a few goats is also a tempting idea, but I have had little goats before, and I understand their proclivity for always finding the wrong things to dine on - flower beds, expensive rose bushes, lawn furniture, etc.

I am also thinking about getting a few ducks.  Ducks won't help with the yard work, but I understand from someone who knows that they will play hell with the mice that keep appearing in the chicken coop.  (I prefer to handle as many farm issues as possible with "natural" solutions.)

But back to the grass issue - another solution would be to buy a bagger (grass bagger, not a tea-bagger) for the mower and then throw it all in the peacockery.  I have straw down, but that gets expensive.   One or two of the peahens have begun laying eggs.   The juvenile hens don't seem to be too sure of what is happening, and they haven't figured out that they should be laying their eggs in the nesting boxes that I went to so much trouble to prepare.  Instead, they are sitting on a perch, about seven feet off of the straw covered ground. and playing "bombs away" with their eggs.  So far two have landed intact, but one broke.  The girls seem to have no interest at all in trying to hatch the next generation.

I blame unisex bathrooms and gay wedding cakes.

Other than all of that, things here at Rock's Roost are running smoothly.  Tomorrow the mower and I will continue our long dance, and maybe after that I can't get on to other things - like cleaning my house!  I wounder if there is a "natural" solution for that?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Cuba Dispatch # 8: "Flying Home"

by Pa Rock
Weary Road Warrior

As I prepare this post, it is with the assistance of the rear-view mirror - because I am safely back at my little farm in the Ozarks.

We boarded the two large tour buses at our hotel in Havana at 7:15 a.m. Saturday morning.  For the next forty minutes or so I sat watching the last bits of Cuba slide by the bus window as we slowly made our way to the airport.  The place was packed and very busy, but we eventually made it through and were all on board when the plane was ready to take off.

The flight from Tampa to Havana the preceding Saturday had been fifty-one minutes from takeoff to touchdown.  The return trip took sixty-one minutes, suggesting the pilot who flew to Havana took a short cut.  :)

I left Cuba with more Cuban currency than I had intended, so I took it to the currency exchange booth at Tampa International thinking I could get it converted to dollars - but that was not to be.  The lady in the exchange booth had never seen Cuban pesos before and said they did not handle them.  She was excited about this new experience, however, and called one of her friends over to look at the bills.  My "extra currency" became souvenirs for the kids!

Two big preparations were underway as we left Cuba.  First, the following day - Sunday - was May Day, or "International Workers Day."  Our hotel had put notices in all of the rooms on Friday informing guests that the employees of the hotel would be involved in the big parade and would be leaving the hotel at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday to get to their positions in the parade route.  The hotel guests were invited to join them.  As we rode to the airport Saturday morning our buses passed the Plaza de la Revolucion which had been trimmed out and made ready for the big celebration.

The other big event was the anticipated arrival of the first cruise ship from the United States which was due to dock in Cuba on Monday.  Carnival Cruise Lines will be the first, but the others are sure to follow.  Fortunately Walmart has yet to announce plans to invade the island, and hopefully the government of Cuba will be able to keep the giant retailer away from Cuba's pristine shores.  There are many small shops owned by enterprising local entrepreneurs where tourists will be able to get all of their needs met.  They won't need the Walton's.

Cuba was an exceptional experience - much, much better than what I expected.  I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to visit the island and enjoy all that it has to offer.  The people there are warm and caring - and very similar to your friends and neighbors here in the United States - and they are, in fact, our friends and neighbors.

My thanks to the good folks at The Nation magazine for providing this unique opportunity.   I hope to visit Cuba again someday.

Cuba Dispatch # 7: "The Last Supper"

by Pa Rock
Wayfaring Stranger

Friday, 29 April 2016:

This was the last full day of our trip to Cuba, and it turned out to be the busiest by far.

The day was scheduled to begin with a visit to ELAM, the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina, but before we got there, our guides were able to fit in one more stop of interest along the way.  We visited a beautiful small section of houses and businesses that a local artist had spent years decorating with colorful tiles.  While there we stopped the shop of the ceramicist who appeared to be at the center of the project.  His studio was also his home.  I purchased a tile that he had designed as one of my souvenirs of this trip to Cuba.

ELAM is one of Cuba's fifteen medical schools, and it is designated for the training of foreign students.  Many of the young people who go there are from Latin America and Africa, and there are currently twenty-two enrolled from the United States.  After listening to a presentation by one of the medical school's administrators, we were provided the opportunity to visit with one of the American students - a young man who had graduated from the University of California at Berkley.  He was in his first year of school at ELAM.    The young man was very interesting and answered all of our questions.  Summer break is approaching, and he said that he plans to return to California and work in a hospital during his time off from school.

The school is located in a beautiful old naval facility near the Hemingway Marina. The curriculum is taught in Spanish, however students do not have to know Spanish in order to enroll.  The first year of the six-year program is focused on acculturating students to Cuba and teaching them Spanish.  They refer to it as a "leveling" year, one in which all students are brought to a more-or-less common level - getting them ready for the more difficult and focused years that follow.

The education that medical students receive in Cuba is basically free, but they pay the nation back through service.  The education of some of the foreign students is subsidized by scholarships and assistance from their governments.  Students begin working almost immediately as assistants in local clinics, and they also do research on various medical issues within the communities.  During the embargo Cuba was cut off from access to American medicines, a situation which resulted in researchers in Cuba developing many  medicines on their own.

After our visit to ELAM we had lunch at the Paladar San Cristobal, one of the places where the Obama family dined while they were in Cuba.  The restaurant's owner brought out a large photograph of him greeting the Obama's - it was a very proud moment for him.

I skipped a planned lecture by Peter Kornbluh in the afternoon in order to have a few minutes to pack and prepare for tomorrow's departure.  Having already read Peter's book, Back Chanel to Cuba, and having visited with him throughout the week, I thought that was one I could miss - although I hated missing anything.

This evening we went to an astounding dance performance at the Lizt Alfonso Academy, which was described on our agenda as a "women-led dance company and school for local youth."  The students were almost entirely female, ranging in age from six or seven to adult.  The younger kids went to school on the premises after their daily dance instruction was finished.    The type of dancing that the students do is a "fusion" between ballet and flamenco, with graceful ballet moves highlighted with flamenco stomping.  The overall effect of forty or so girls and a few boys doing that type of dancing in large, choreographed numbers is absolutely amazing!

Dinner, another very noisy late-night affair, was on the roof garden of the Paladar Atelier, a place which Michelle Obama and her mother and daughters also visited.  It was a beautiful night with soft breezes - perfect for dining outside under the stars.  The two groups, Green and Yellow, got together for this final meal, something the guides called "the last supper," and that gave us a chance to visit with people whom we really hadn't gotten to know during the trip.

But I did get to know quite a few people very well.  They are friends and I will miss them when we all go our separate ways tomorrow.

It is now after midnight, I am packed - and ready to board the bus for the airport at seven tomorrow morning.

Buenos noches, mis amigos.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Cuba Dispatch # 6: The Cars of My Youth

by Pa Rock
Former Owner of a '57 Chevy

Thursday, 28 April 2016

The amazing thing about President Obama having his picture taken in front of an image of Che Guevara is that it did not happen much more often.   The image of El Che is everywhere – on buildings, posters, post cards, the back of tourist buses – and I even found one very nice drawing of Che that someone had done on the surface of the street by the Malecon.  There are not nearly as many images of Fidel and Raul Castro in sight.  I bought some old Cuban stamps from a street vendor – and Che was featured on many of those.  He is easily the most iconic image in Cuba, and indeed, one of the most iconic figures of the twentieth century.

Our day began with a talk and discussion led by Marta Nunez, a Cuban – trained sociologist who also has a PhD in economics.  Ms. Nunez spoke primarily of gender issues and the LGBT community in Cuba.  One of the points she made is that there is a fair amount of homophobia among Cubans.  The average family in Cuba has one to two children (1.62 children, to be precise), and machismo is encouraged because if a family manages to have a son they want him to be straight to carry on the family line.

Ms. Nunez pointed out that many of the professionals in Cuba are women, but in the machismo society they have to leave their jobs as doctors and lawyers and engineers in the afternoons and go home to become full-time housekeepers.

Mariela Castro, President Raul Castro’s adult daughter, has become a spokesperson for the gay and lesbian community, a cause that her mother, now deceased, fully supported.  The younger Ms. Castro is the Director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education.  Several years ago she proposed a bill that would allow transgender people to have gender reassignment surgery.   That bill passed the national legislature, and now Cubans may have sex-change operations which are completely paid for by the government.    Our speaker, Ms. Nunez, is a friend of Mariela Castro's and has worked with her on policy.  She said that Ms. Castro, now in her fifties, is a married mother of three adult children.

Another medical procedure which is free in Cuba is abortion.  Abortions have been legal in Cuba since 1962 and have not become the political issue that they are in the United States – primarily because so little of the island’s population identifies with any of the Christian religions – including Catholicism.   Abortions, like sex-change operations, are free.

The government also provides incentives for parenthood.  New mothers can receive up to one year of maternity leave, but the last six months of that leave can be given to the fathers, allowing the mothers to return to work.  Miss Nunez said that most of the men elect to go to work and leave the child care to their wives.

This afternoon I had intended to slip off from the group and revisit Old Havana.  As luck would have it, and as I predicted in yesterday's posting, there is an American movie being filmed in Havana, and the street in front of the Malecon (Cuba's famous seawall) was blocked off -  a fairly necessary route to get to Old Havana - and the rerouted traffic is clogging up the side streets.  The movie is the latest installment of “Fast and Furious.”  I did walk down to the area where it is being filmed, but didn’t run into any stars – at least none that I recognized.  It does look like they are going to use a bunch of Cuba’s classic American cars in the movie.  I haven’t seen any of the “Fast and Furious” movies, but will definitely go see this one.

I checked IMDB - the Internet Movie Database - and discovered that the next movie in the "Fast and Furious" series is tentatively called "Fast 8" and will star Charlize Theron, Scott Eastwood, Vin Diesel, and Kurt Russell - among others.  Ethan Hawke (see yesterday's dispatch) was not listed in the cast so perhaps he is in Cuba just on vacation.  

Regarding the cars, I have heard some people describe Cuba as being "frozen in time," due to the U.S. blockade of the island nation which went into effect more that fifty years ago during the Kennedy administration.  The Cubans have kept - and kept up - thousands and thousands of classic American automobiles which were in use on the island at the time the blockade went into effect.  As parts for the cars were needed, the inventive Cubans found ways to keep their automobiles running..  The streets of Havana and beyond out into the countryside are packed with the cars of my youth.   Many are being used as privately owned taxis - especially the old convertibles.  I would estimate from my own observations that at least forty-percent of the cars on the streets of Havana are American models made in the 1940's and 1950's.  It's almost bumper-to-bumper nostalgia!

It's worth the price of a ticket to Cuba just to enjoy watching the old cars drive by!

Tonight we went the Cafe Madrigal to hear a pair of guitarists who played and sang old Cuban folk songs.  They called themselves “troubadors.”   Wonderful music – a very nice evening - and the cold "Bucanero" beer was so good that I treated myself to a second!

Hasta manana!