sure…when I was little


Jenny and I have a conversation that at this point has turned into sort of a joke.

When we’re watching television, if some place that’s amazing comes on, some place that you wouldn’t think anyone could have possibly gone to, some place so exotic and wonderful and enriching and fantastic, some place that we dream about reaching someday …if some place comes on like that…

Jenny will say, “Have you ever gone there?”

And, especially if it’s someplace out West, I can usually respond, “Sure…when I was little..”

It’s kind of a joke….now I tell her that for most of the interesting places we see.

I’ve never traveled outside of the United States, but it’s funny for me to tell her that I have been to the jungles of Cambodia…or the fjords of Norway…or the Deserts of ….wherever all the deserts are….”when I was little”.

It is “deserts”, right?  That’s where all the sand is…not the thing with the cherry on top.

My parents took us so many places when I was little…so if the place that we’re seeing is in the Western part of the United States, there’s a good chance that I’ve been there…or somewhere close by.

It happens often enough that it really is kind of funny.  How could a little child go so many places?

Surely, the man must be lying.

We traveled a lot when I was young. We were always going from our home in San Jose up to Spokane to see our relatives, going up and down the coast, in to the desert…through Reno and Lake Tahoe, Idaho and Montana…all over the place.

And the thing about it, looking back on it all, is that we really didn’t seem to retrace our steps a lot.

We covered a lot of ground.

The last years of her life…the last 15 or so, really…my mom was a quadriplegic. That sounds like she’d turned into a frog or something.  Maybe a less common but more accurate description would be that she couldn’t walk anymore because of a spinal condition.  Things were harder for her the last 15 years of her life.

There was a lot more to her than just “being a quadriplegic”.

The only reason I mention that is because, even though it was a lot more awkward to do it, we still traveled.

I remember going all over the place with the wheelchair in the back of the little car.  We were still ready for action.

I am very thankful for those memories my parents gave us.

We weren’t poor.

We weren’t rich.

We were somewhere in the middle of the two…probably a little closer to the poor side than the rich side…but never really aware of any lack.  If there ever was a lack for anything, I wasn’t aware of it.

I know where my thriftiness comes from, though.  My parents didn’t spend money if they didn’t have to.

But we were rich in experiences.  That was one thing that my parents weren’t afraid to spend money on.

That’s a great thing for a child to be able to remember… laying in the back of a 1967 Fairlane station wagon, waking up with the lights of a different town shining in the back windows.

That’s one of the best things my parents did for us…give us the experience of travel.

They gave me a chance to say, “Sure….when I was little”…and when I say it, I’m telling the truth.

Now, if I can get a chunk of time away from the Post Office…maybe I can continue the tradition.

old men and entitlements


Jenny told me not to complain about entitlements so much.

She said it was something old men did.


I talked yesterday about some folks who ripped off Wal-Mart with their limitless EBT cards (sounds like something Willie Wonka would make) and I guess the conversation leaked over into entitlements and people expecting to be taken care of.

“Expecting” is the part of it that baffles me.

I guess we’re all like that, though…the more we get, the more we expect.

We’re fine with the hot dog stand until we get used to the 4 star restaurant.

What’s that old saying?  “How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm….after they’ve seen Pareeeeee?”

I guess that everybody’s got a different row to hoe…everybody’s has their own life to live.

If living on the dole forever and ever is the way it goes down for you…so be it.

I don’t have to understand it, though.

So…I’m not an old man yet.  I don’t want to complain about entitlement programs.  I have too much going on in my life to worry about how somebody else is getting a free ride.

Enough said.

Went for my morning run a little later this morning….6 instead of 5.

Two dogs surprised me…barking their heads off, trying to be imposing…but I recognized the bark and when I called the one I knew by name they warmed up to me.

It’s a victory to take them from growling to wagging.  It’s a good thing not to get bitten.

Simple pleasures.

Sometimes, it seems like it might be hard work to find something to complain about.

Maybe that’s why talking about politics is so popular….it’s something outside of us that we don’t have to work hard at to find parts of it that are offensive.

Maybe that’s why old men complain about entitlements, too.

They just run out of juice…they don’t have the energy to do anything other than slide downhill…they can’t find it in themselves to concentrate on what’s going on in their own lives that’s still good.

That’s the beauty of running.  It’s hard not to be “in the moment” when I’m running up the big hill and gasping for air.

When I’m running, it’s just me.

Me in the weather, me in the darkness, me in the sunshine.

It’s just me and my thoughts.

And I don’t have time to work at finding the negative.

I don’t need to work at finding something outside of myself that’s not right.

Now the news media would make us think that it’s somehow our responsibility to worry about the fiscal cliff and the earthquake half the way around the globe.

They want us to take responsibility for everything, somehow.

All these people…this big world…there’s going to be something somewhere to worry about.  We can find it if we look…or if we turn on the news.

And if the conversation around the cracker barrel starts to wind down, we can always bring up the “unfairness of entitlements” again…and we’re off to the races.

There are a million and one things that “matter” that never should mean anything at all to us.

We’ve got our own fish to fry.


I’m winning! I’m winning!

So you’ve got your cart piled high with groceries, you’ve cleared the shelves at Wal-Mart, you’re racing to the checkout line because…your EBT card has no limit!

Word is out and the rush is on…bigger than Christmas or Black Friday or any of the other big shopping days…it’s free groceries at the Wal-Mart and you’re gonna git you some.

Wow…what a story.

Apparently what happened was that because of some kind of weird glitch in the processing system, people in Louisiana discovered that their EBT cards were…for a period of a couple of hours…limitless.

So, what are you going to do in a situation like that?  Spend what you know you’ve been allotted and stop there?

Heck, no…you get back out in the store and clear the shelves.

This is your chance!  It’s Christmas in Mardi Gras land and it’s payback time….the guvment owes me, baby!

Shop till you drop.

When they told the Wal-Mart manager what was going on I think that he said to just let them get what they want…there was nothing he could do.

I guess he figured it was the government’s dime…he couldn’t do anything except watch the people buy, buy, buy.

There was this one lady who had a cart full of 700.00 worth of groceries…and after they rang her up, she discovered that she’d missed her window for unlimited EBT and her card only had .49 cents on it.  They said they wouldn’t prosecute as long as she hadn’t taken the groceries.

Here’s the story…

I was telling Jenny it’d kind of be like if the instant teller just kept on spitting out money when all you asked for was a twenty.

What do you do? Keep it?

Well…you shouldn’t.  Not really…it’s not your money.

But if they didn’t want you to have it, they should have fixed the machine, right?

The thing that’s amazing about the Wal-Mart/EBT story is that it sounded like it was a whole bunch of people taking advantage of the system when they could.

It was the “madness of crowds” in action…a continuation of the attitude that “I’m owed”…”I’m entitled”….”I deserve” …taken to a crazy extreme.

It’s only taking advantage of someone else’s mistake, anyway.  What’s the harm in that?

Look at all the abandoned carts when people realized the glitch had been fixed…look at that mess.

People work the system hard…they have all the angles figured out.

Every program that they can sign up for is signed up for…and the folks doing the signing up clue them in to whatever program they might have missed the first time. No stone unturned if it might have some kind of benefit underneath it.

It’s great to have needs met.  There are needs out there.  We need to take care of each other. That’s a given…it’s a no-brainer…take care of the people in need.

I don’t want to feel like we need to take care of people who could take care of themselves, though.

There’s a lot of “able” people caught up in the system.

Look how crafty people must be to figure out en masse that it’s “free lunch” at Wal-Mart…load your carts and get out the door quick before they figure out what happened.

You’d probably be able to save enough stealing all that food to get a better cellphone….so that next time it all goes down like that you can text message your friends to get on up to the Wal-Mart RIGHT NOW!!!…you won’t even have to bust any windows to roll that stuff out the front door.

Wait…the guvment gives you free cellphones now, doesn’t it? You can call your friends using your free government phone to tell them that they can steal from the government if they hurry on down to the Wal-Mart!

What the heck?

mower gang

I am still a little obsessed with Detroit.

How could something that was so grand and important fall so far?

It’s pretty crazy.

I was going to write about EBT cards this morning after reading a short article on my MSN homepage.  There was a mention of people abandoning carts full of food in a grocery store in Maine because their cards stopped working temporarily.

That article made me think of a time when I was in the old Ingles store on Charlotte St. buying a small bag of rice and some chicken livers to cook for dinner…and the guy in front of me had all these steaks and some other pretty good-looking food…and when he paid he used food stamps.


I was amazed.  I didn’t have any experience with food stamps.  Those were some nice looking steaks.

How do you do that? How does that work?

I held my little plastic container of chicken livers and my bag of rice in one hand… and my small pile of quarters in the other hand while I watched him climb into a nice BMW and drive away and wondered, again, “how do you do that?”.

I was going to write about how it felt to not have a lot of money…and to be living (kind of intentionally, really) sort of “close to the bone”…and seeing this guy working the system and living “better” than I was (eating steaks, at least…maybe not better).

I was going to write about how that felt to wonder about a system that lets people get a full cart of food.

I don’t know about that.

There’s been periods when I didn’t have any money…but I never really knew poverty.

Playing at being a “starving artist” is different than knowing what poverty is about, I think.

I was going to write about that but I thought it would be a lot more positive to write about these guys who go into some of the parks in Detroit and maintain the grass so kids can use the park again.

That’s more positive than writing about how some people just seem to have a talent for working the system.

(But…in the people “using the systems” defense…the “system” itself seems to be pretty good at keeping people enrolled and signing up “new recruits”.  It seems to be big business to keep the wheels of poverty and dependence on the government greased…got to keep the folks handing stuff out employed, too. I guess. Maybe it’s just another “control thing”…just the Man keeping us down..)

What’s encouraging about this video is that it shows that there’s a lot of different ways to “work the system”.

From everything I read or hear about Detroit, it sounds like the system has pretty much broken down.

Locally, at least, there doesn’t seem to be much of a system left to “work”.

I guess you can still ride the Federal Govt…when it’s working…but Detroit is in bad shape.

So here comes the dudes with their mowers…cleaning things up a little so the wheels can start rolling again.

I love the part of this video where he says something about knowing what he could do to help…he could buy a mower on Craigslist and start cutting grass. That’s so simple.  It isn’t flashy or designed to draw a lot of attention.

It’s not something a politician would do.

When he talks about having fun doing it…just getting together with his friends who enjoy mowing grass and having fun…that’s so freaking great.

Places like Detroit are such a huge canvas for improvement…people deserve something better than what they’re living in when it’s so broken.

People take care of things when they can feel hopeful about the future. From my experience, hopefulness builds on itself, too.  When I’m on a roll and feeling good about my future, I’m a lot more apt to suspect that things might work out…that whatever I try to do might work out.

I’m a lot more apt to just TRY when I think I might be successful.

I don’t know if letting the government take care of our needs allows any hope for the future.

I don’t trust the government to make my future good. I don’t have faith in the government to do that.

It’s naive for me to think that I understand anything about Detroit.  I don’t know that life…it never was my life, so what do I know about it?

I think things are probably only going to get good when we start taking care of each other and push the govt. back a few steps….let the government take care of the government…let us take care of each other.

Again…probably naive.

I love watching these guys jump in with their mowers to do what they can, though.

all of it












My wife and I watched a commercial last night where a lady poured honey over a big piece of cheese.

It looked like expensive cheese.

In fact, I think that she poured honey over two big pieces of cheese.

I think that she was going to have a cheese party.

She was going “all out”.

We watched that commercial together and at the end of it, Jenny asked me if I’d “seen her pour the honey over all of it?”.

I told her that I’d seen it, too. ( I’d been reading…half watching the TV…but I still saw the commercial.)

Then, she said, ” What if she doesn’t eat all the cheese?  It will be ruined.”

“What if she doesn’t eat all the cheese?”

This morning, I was thinking about how I plan for less just in case I can’t “eat it all” the first time through.

Don’t commit to pouring the honey over the biggest slice of cheese…don’t commit completely.

What if I can’t eat it all?

The cheese will be ruined.

I don’t really know….some people seem to be able to commit with the idea that they’ll never eat all the cheese, but “why worry about it?”  Pour the honey, let the chips fall…don’t worry about what comes later…just live …and if you get to the end and you have to throw out half the cheese that you couldn’t eat, well, it’s just “collateral damage”.

I watch a commercial and freak out about what someone else is going to do with their ruined left-over cheese.

People say that the first step is the hardest, that the biggest route to success is just “showing up”…so commitment must be pretty important.

It’s pretty important to make up your mind to just “go for it”….and then follow through.

I’m thinking this morning that it might be important sometimes to just “pour the honey” and not worry about the cheese you’ll have left at the end…kind of like not thinking about having a big “kick” left at the end of the race.

Maybe that’s something I could learn to do? Learn to just commit and let things sort themselves out in the future?  Just throw the cheese out if I couldn’t finish it all?

Although, a cheese party with just me and some cheese and some honey might not be much of a party….it takes a village to eat a big hunk of honeyed cheese.  It’s not always only my responsibility to eat the cheese.

That commercial still freaks me out.

That’s a lot of cheese.

I don’t know if I even like cheese on my honey.

Coach Traina


I wonder sometimes if I’m more of a butterfly chaser than I am a racer.

I remember this one race …I guess it must have been maybe my second year of cross-country.

I ate a big bag of orange slices (the candy, not the healthy fruit) before the race, so my blood sugar was probably a little messed up.

It wasn’t one of my best races.

The end of the race is the part that I really remember, though.

I came around the final turn and there was a little rise in elevation…and then it all flattened out and there was a roped off corridor that we had to run down to finish up.

When I saw that wide, roped off area, I started my kick.

When you’ve kind of dogged it in an ill-timed sugar funk for most of the race, you have some reserves left for a potentially impressive kick.

I started sprinting…and then I saw him.

He was a runner from another school…probably a sprinter who’d been made to run cross-country to get ready for track season.

He was a lot more muscular than a cross country runner should be.



I blew by him and managed to hold him off…even though, after looking over at me in surprise, he pulled out all the stops and went into his own version of a desperate kick.

I was the WINNER…even though I was far from being the first one to cross the finish line.

Coach Traina, my coach that year, met me at the finish line and said, “What happened out there?  You shouldn’t have that much at the end.”

I could have told him about the orange slices….I could have made up some excuse…but I was still a little proud of myself for saving up for a BIG FINISH like that.

He was probably right.  I shouldn’t have had that much of a kick at the end.  I had a whole race to exhaust all that energy.

What happened?

Looking back, I realize now that it’s probably the same thing that always happens.  I save enough during the “long race” that I might have a chance to do something impressive at the end.

I have big plans for the end…I’m really going to blow it out at the finish line.

I am distracted by the finish line before the starting gun has even been fired.

What hope is there of enjoying the race if I’m only thinking about the roped off corridor?

I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy the “race”…I do.  I love every step of it, every plodding step…I love the missteps and mistakes, the triumphs….I love the journey.

And I still really love the occasional big finish.  I love passing in an ever slower blur.  I like surprising people.

But Coach Traina was right all those years ago.

I don’t want to get down to the end and have any reason to ask myself, ” What happened out there? You shouldn’t have had that much left at the end.”

the best word

Bunch of bananas

We have a dry erase board in our kitchen that we use to keep track of groceries that we need to buy.

This morning, when I made my lunch for later in the mail route, I realized that we were running low on bananas.

So I wrote bananas on the board.

I don’t know if the revelation I had is correct, or if I was still in that halfway zone between dreaming and being fully awake, but as I wrote my word, my request, on the board I realized that “bananas” is the best word we have.

It was something about the way it flowed onto the glass…liquid and beautiful.

I love the word “bananas”.

Now, apparently Scarlett Johansson was named the Sexiest Woman Alive (for the second time)by Esquire magazine. I’m not really sure that’s completely accurate…it seems kind of subjective or something.  I have one who lives in my house who’s sexier…and that’s just my house.  I bet that other people have an idea that’s different about who the Sexiest Woman Alive is, too.


That Esquire thing doesn’t really tell the full, true story.

But I think that I’m correct in saying that “bananas” is the best word.

It’s lyrical…it’s magical…it’s simple and conjures up visions of simple pleasures to come.

It is a perfect word to describe the thing that I will enjoy eating later.

(Although, to be fair…burrito is a good word, too…just not as magical as bananas.)

Getting back to this Esquire magazine thing.

Are we just really lazy?  Surely, there must be more out there that we could flog for an accurate measure of what’s “sexy”.  Two time winners shouldn’t exist…there’s no reason for that to happen.  Is it like saying (when someone says, “what are we going to eat tonight?”)…”How about spaghetti?”

Spaghetti is good…but when it’s the “fallback” meal, it just shows a lack of imagination.

Now, in my world, I know who the winner of the contest is.  It’s a given…an easy decision. If people asked, and I told them, who my yearly winner was, they might say that maybe they had an even different idea of who was the “sexiest”.

I know what my answer would be. I can’t help myself…it’s just the way I roll. It’s no contest.

I wonder if Scarlett, knowing what I just said, would feel like she’d participated in a sham if she knew what I know?

Probably not.

I guess that I really did digress with that Esquire magazine thought.

I meant to write about the beauty of the word bananas…and there I went…off on a tangent about one magazine’s estimation of attractiveness.

I guess that what I’m thinking is that it’s all subjective…every bit of it.

What if my word really isn’t the best word?  What if I just had a really good experience with it this morning….and picked the wrong word for best?

If that’s the case I’ll print some kind of retraction…but for now, I’m sticking with my original conclusion.

Bananas is the best word in the English language.

And Scarlett Johansson is, at best, only the runner-up.

Get it right, Esquire magazine.

it’s just a rock


When I run in the early morning darkness, sometimes I hear something big that I’ve surprised running through the woods.

It scares me.  I’m more than startled.  I think I’m really a little scared.

I listen…and usually I can tell that it must be scared, too…the sound usually sounds like it’s going away from me.

This morning, I hoped I never hear something crashing loudly through the woods that sounds like it’s coming towards me.

That would really be scary.

To me, at least.

Towards the end of the run, I saw a falling star…bright in the clear night sky.

Now, people tell me that it’s just a meteor…it’s just some rock burning up as it travels through our atmosphere.

I guess that sounds plausible.

I’ve never actually seen it…except in that Ben Affleck movie or that one with Robert Deniro Robert Duvall…so I’ll have to take their word for it.

It’s just a rock.

But somebody else told me that a star is a sun.

If a star is a sun, and the sun warms us, and we need the sun to live…and a star is a sun…and sometimes I see a falling star, well…

What are the chances that someone somewhere is really missing their sun?

I’d think that it would be kind of a drag….but I guess that at that point it wouldn’t really be much of an issue for them.

What do some people say?  “That ship has sailed”?

Of course, we are the only intelligent life in the universe so it’s not really much of an issue.

Sun or meteor…it’s just a big rock as far as I’m concerned.

Unless it hits us in the night and wipes out all life as we know it.

I guess I wouldn’t be so cavalier about “someone/something else’s problem” if it landed on us while we slept.

( How we had the that how you spell it?…to arrive at the conclusion that we’re the only intelligent….and that’s open to interpretation, too…life in the universe is really beyond me.  I guess it’s like wondering what’s crashing around in the dark woods…less scary not to think about it too much.)

Anyway, I’m sure that there’s an explanation for the ball of fire falling through the sky while I’m leaning against my mailbox…panting just a little after an early morning bit of exercise.

A scientist might explain the chemical process as the rock burns up…we may have a way to explain any “magical” thing that happens in life, but I kind of like something simpler.

I need a grasshopper to sing a little song to me to remind me to make my wish when I see something like a rock trying to fall to earth.

jiminy cricket

I need some big magic in my life.



Most of us know if what we do is essential to someone.

We have a feeling, deep in our spirit, whether or not what we do matters…if what we do makes a difference in this world.

I just don’t want the government to decide for me.

I don’t want some bureaucrat, sitting in some office somewhere, who’s never done what I do, who’ll never do what I do, to decide that when everything shuts down for a while that I won’t be missed.


Unless they tell me that I’m one of the “nonessential” ones…they send me home while they fight about who gets the money….or they fight about where the money goes when they get it…or they fight about something that doesn’t have anything to do with the money…unless…

Unless they send me home after making me feel like I don’t really matter in the big picture…and they don’t tell me when I can come back….but I hear on the news that when I do come back…


Now, how cool is that?

Other than having your sense of self-worth destroyed for all time, you just got a vacation of undefined length…and the promise of getting paid when you finally do get to start participating in the governing of the USA again.

What’s the downside?

Don’t throw me in the briar patch.

Now, of course, I work for the Post Office.

People say, “Oh…you’re still open?”  like they’re surprised.


When they ask that question, I do have to wonder if some of these guys on my route don’t consider all of us at the Post Office nonessential.

Especially the ones getting all the bills.

People don’t like the bills.

I don’t want anyone putting me out to pasture…even if it’s for a short amount of time and they promise to pay me when they let me come back.

I can find the pasture on my own just fine.

That would be kind of different to have the kind of power where I could say, “You…yeah, you…trying to hide over there in the corner…yeah, you, that’s right…you….uh, huh…you.  You heard me…you.  Right.  I appreciate what you do…what’s your name?…yeah, you…good…anyway, we appreciate you… but in the big picture you don’t matter as much as me…who?…I said me.  Who am I?  I’m one of those guys…the other ones…essential.  Who decided that?!!l  Well…I did of course.  Me. Anyway…you’re in the nonessential group so you’re going to have to go for a while.  Don’t worry about the money…we’ll pay you when you get back.”

“Now, go on…don’t be sad…don’t cry.  You get to come back, after all.”


I thought I told you not to be sad.

That would be a new and unique experience for me to be able to say that.