do you know the way

If I ever got a chance to see this angle of San Jose, CA in 1968, it would have been from the backseat of our 1967 Ford Fairlane station wagon.

I probably would have been asleep…my sister Beth would have probably been asleep, too.

This is what I would have seen if I popped my head up to ask, “Why are we driving around?  What are all these lights?  Where are we?”

My parents probably would have told me to just go back to sleep…”We’ll explain in the morning…”

My parents didn’t make this movie….they had other things on their plates than driving around town with a super 8mm camera.

It’s interesting to see that some of it…even all these years later….looks familiar.

When I tell people that we lived in San Jose in the 1960’s, the common response is “well…it’s changed a lot..”.

Here’s another couple of videos of modern life in San Jose.  I guess it has changed some.

But what hasn’t changed?


Reclaim Detroit

Oh my goodness.

Don’t talk about the good things going on where it’s easy for good things to happen.

Talk about the good things that are going on where it seems impossible for something good to happen.

I think that early in the homesteading movement, it seems like land that no one thought might be good for anything was the land that was being given away.

Maybe Detroit needs to begin a homesteading program….live in, reclaim, rebuild…and get ownership of a piece of land in return for your efforts?

You look at some of the things that are going on in Detroit right now…things aren’t going so well up there…’s bankrupt!! How about that?  A major city….once a world power house…a titan of industry…now BANKRUPT. Holy Smokes….that’s amazing and sad and bizarre.

I’m not brave enough to move my family up to the Motor City.  I need a place out in the country…blue sky and nature…but there has to be a certain segment of the population with some moxie and the confidence that things can get a lot better than they are right now who are willing to take a leap of faith and try and save Detroit.

Maybe it’s just going to go down…I don’t know much about what it’s currently like up there  other than what I see on the news.  You really have to wonder what other city could go the way of Detroit if it does continue to fall, though.

Here’s another great video about growing food on abandoned land.  Pretty inspiring and amazing.


blow the carbon out

My Jeep started running funny the other day.

It was idling kind of different…surging….running a little bit hotter than usual.

It wasn’t anything really profound.  It was still running…had good power…started right up when I got ready to go again.

I talked to some older friends sitting on their front porch when I brought their mail by…

“My Jeep’s running funny…”

“Sometimes you just have to run them hard…take it out on the highway for a while…” was the answer from the porch.

By the time I finished the route and drove it into town to the mechanic so I could ask him about it, the car was running like usual.  No problems that the mechanic could help me with…it just needed to be blown out on the highway a little.

Here’s an LJ Booth song that I like quite a bit.

03 Blow the Carbon Out

big hourglassThat’s probably one of the things I appreciate about running…it really helps to “blow the carbon” out of my head.

Something about repetition and focusing on something other than a swirling thought process….it seems to do me good.

I have other things in my life that do that…just hanging out with my family….(vacations! I need another nice vacation)…playing some music…watching a good movie.

I guess there’s probably more things that let me calm down and clean up the chatter in my brain.

I seek peace…I really do…even if I don’t always know where to look.

That was the funny thing about that Jeep the other day.  It wasn’t running all that rough…just different enough to draw my attention…but it was all I could think about.

(One of the things that really set me off was when I looked at the coolant in the overflow tank.  It had turned dark brown and I was sure that I’d blown a head gasket or some other such horrible thing had occurred. When I got to the mechanic, I wasn’t too proud to tell him that I figured out that dark glasses might have been the reason for my “new perspective”.)

I wonder how many days I’ve wasted because I couldn’t get my mind off a problem that kept getting bigger the more attention I gave it?

If I’m really going to be “diligent”, I’m going to know about every potential problem under the sun.  I’ll know what every tick in the engine means, why a few extra degrees of running temperature on a hot day could be the end, why a shimmy or a new shake is all about impending disaster.

I will catalog every bad thing that could happen…and then strain to listen for the smallest clue that its time may be coming soon.

Sometimes I wonder if the philosophy of “dude, just crank up the Bob Marley on the stereo….you won’t have to listen to the car falling apart” might be the best way to handle all of the angst.

No wheels have fallen off yet…I still “keep it between the fence posts” like my Dad used to say.

life worth

woody, life worth living

I’m in the process of buying some more life insurance.

I woke up this morning and thought, “man…they sure do ask a lot of personal questions when they are getting ready to sell you a policy…”

They ask a lot of questions when they’re getting ready to sell you a “lottery ticket” against your own existence.

They really do ask a lot of questions.

I hear other guys say stuff like, “I told my wife…I told her….hey, I’m worth more dead than I am alive!” when they get a life insurance policy.

That got me thinking about exactly “what is a life worth?”.

We’ve got our concept of “net worth”…add up the cars, the house, the land….anything we can “quantify”…anything we can pin down to a number…and we come up with a measure of value that somehow defines us.

That’s kind of weird, really….but it’s a measure that we can see and understand that doesn’t confuse us.  It’s cut and dried…it “is what it is”.  We can understand an idea that’s accepted worldwide (like a Visa card).

It’s the “low net worth” guys who usually say something like, “I’m worth more dead…”.

When you break it down…run the numbers and check the books….that may be true.

Sorry…it may be true.  Some of these guys are never going to have much money.  That’s just the way the “cookie crumbles”.

When you dig a little deeper, though, you start thinking about where real value comes from in a person’s life.

We sometimes suppose that our lives don’t have much meaning or impact out in the world.

We haven’t made the “big speech”….we haven’t cured cancer….written the “great American novel”…we haven’t done anything grand or important.

But we may have provided the one kindness that allows someone else to do another kindness that allows someone else to provide a kindness that allows someone else to rise up just far enough that they can get out of bed to get to the lab to find that cure for cancer.

A person’s net worth can be low…in the eyes of the world they may not count much in material terms…but their impact can be huge.

I have a friend who gave a morning watch talk when I was working at the camp up the road from where we now live.

It was a quiet morning…peaceful…and we walked into the “service” trying to support that quiet.  He was playing some soft music on a boom box…some solo piano music…and when we all got to our “chapel in the woods” and sat down on the benches, he threw a stone into the lake .

And then he started talking about ripples….how the single effort started something that when it moved outwards got bigger and bigger.

It was a good morning watch. It was a good way for all of us to start the day.

I think that the stone just wants to be in the lake.  I don’t think it expects that what it does really has much of an effect on anything around it.  It doesn’t look for ripples…it just looks for water.

We don’t see or understand the effect our lives have out in the world.

We can make a quiet, seemingly insubstantial gesture that ends up moving mountains.

It’s all about a mustard seed…another stone in the pond.

Now…do I need the 250,000 policy or should I spring for the 500,000 policy?


back out fast


My son is getting ready to take and pass his driving test.

When he passes his test, he will get his driver’s license.

That’s amazing and terrifying.

My children are getting mighty independent.

Last night, we went out to do some night driving. We have to keep a driving log and one of the requirements is that we drive a certain number of hours after dark.  We drove all over the back roads around our house.  We drove up some pretty curvy back roads.  Up and down and around some very wiggly roads.  We zigged…and we zagged.

At night.  In the dark.

That was interesting.

Actually, most of the roads around our house are “back roads”.  When you live out in the country, all the roads are “back roads”….some are just more “backy” than others.  The roads we were on were the most “back” I could think of.

Before we left for our nocturnal adventure, I’d been repairing an entrance way door on the downstairs porch entrance.  The door was a cheap one when we got it….recycled/used…neglected by me and in need of some “fixin’ “.  So I was gluing and clamping and sanding and painting…seeing if I could resurrect it…make the entrance to our “airlock” a little nicer.

( I used to call that outside porch an “airlock”…people got a kick out of that…like that old door was a porthole or something….”hold your breath….we’re getting ready to go into the kitchen…you’re in the “airlock” now…you’re safe.” )

I suppose the word “mudroom” would have made more sense.

Anyway, I’d been working on the door so it was still up on sawhorses.

I’d forgotten to leave any lights on in that outer airlock mudroom…so when I got home, I sauntered in to the lower porch to flick the switch and get back to the job at hand.

The cat was up on the washing machine watching something.

I looked where the cat was looking…and it was something really furry and white…and black.  It didn’t really register at first exactly what this thing was.  I didn’t remember what kind of animal looked like that…black and white?  Furry?

Then I remembered…IT WAS A SKUNK’S REAR END!

I think that what I had going for me was that the skunk was as surprised as I was.  He was oriented to let me know of his “pre-scents”…but too surprised to really “do the deed”.

I liked that part of the story.

I don’t want to make it sound like I pondered any of this while it was happening.  It didn’t take me a long time to react.  I figured out what to do pretty quickly.

I backed out fast… tripped over and spilled the can of paint I thought I’d closed tightly,  ran upstairs and went in the top entrance, checked my shoes for paint when I got inside and on the nice new floor, got the flashlight out of the drawer in the bedroom, ran back downstairs, shined the light out of the kitchen window…

and realized that the skunk was gone.

I must have terrified surprised him, too.

I put the door back up before I went to bed….even if the paint was still a little moist.

hungry ghost

I was listening to one of my audio books yesterday and I realized that I am what is called a “hungry ghost“.

In the Wikipedia link, it’s a pretty repulsive thing to be a hungry ghost….so maybe I should clarify this a little and say that I’m not a full-time hungry ghost.

I’m an opportunistic hungry ghost.  I only trot out the tendency when I feel like it.

Basically what the audio book was saying is that a hungry ghost is someone who feels desire without having a need.

That’s me to a “T”.

I really want another pair of double front logger jeans.

Am I a logger?  No…I’m not a logger…I just want those pants.  I don’t need another pair of jeans…I have a bunch of jeans in various states of wear…I have a bunch of shirts….a bunch of baseball caps…I have a lot of stuff.

But when I see something cool, I want it.

I’m a hungry, hungry ghost.

In my defense, I think that establishing desire without need is really what makes the world go round.  It’s what we know….we don’t raise an eyebrow when someone tries to sell us something.  We’re used to it.

What do they call a person who’s happy with very little? An “ascetic”?  No….that doesn’t really define what I’m thinking…what’s that thing where you look up words and it gives you a bunch of different words?  It’s not a dictionary…um….A THESAURUS…that’s it…a Thesaurus.

Ascetic was the wrong word.

Maybe more like “contented”.  That’s a much nicer word.

Every one of the books and magazines I read about “success” has at its core the idea that we need to be dissatisfied with something.

They seem to teach that there is something we need to rise above so that we can become a “success”.  We need to transcend what we are now to become what we “need to be”.

Advertising….self-help books…it all creates need that the product can help us fill. They help us understand what our needs are before we even know we have these needs.

This world is just a “hungry ghost factory”.

That’s kind of sad when you think about it…but what could you sell if the goal was to allow everyone to be satisfied with themselves and what they have?

I think the world of commerce would come crashing down if we sought only our real needs.  The “sellers” of the world won’t let that happen.

“Contented” doesn’t generate a lot of the “mean green” that seems to make the world go round.

“Hungry Ghost”.

I’m a hungry ghost who wants in spite of knowing I don’t need.

Maybe the solution is to get rid of enough stuff…. that I need again. Lighten the load until there’s room in my life to satisfy the desire….just get rid of enough good and useful stuff until I can buy some more new stuff.  That might work.

The funny thing is that this “hungry ghost” would probably buy most of his “new stuff” at the thrift store.

I’d buy the stuff that someone else got rid of so that they could make room for their own version of “new stuff”.

Silly hungry ghost.


i am big brother

I have a little sister…we’re both adults now (or at least old enough to be considered adults)…so I have always been the “big brother”.

It’s something I’ve always been.

It’s something I’ll always be.

You can’t change birth order.

But check this article out….all of a sudden, “big brother” takes on whole new meanings.

Here’s another link to a report that CBS News did….

(Just in case you don’t click on the links…the USPS photographs every piece of first class mail that comes through its facilities.  How about that?)

I work for the Post Office.  I deliver the mail.

I am Big Brother.

Thankfully, they don’t have me sitting in my car with a digital camera taking pictures of all the mail.  I think that would take a crazy amount of time. If it would save them money they would probably just tack that on to my current duties, though.

I hope they never think of that option.

I guess that now they have machines that do it.  If I was cheaper than a machine, I’d be the one they’d choose to take the pictures.

Now that I have made that news about mail surveillance even more public, I hope I don’t have to go the way of Edward Snowden and seek asylum in Norway or something.

( You know….that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, now that I think about it.  Maybe Norway has a special place in its heart for displaced Postal whistleblowers? It would be worth checking out…)

The thing about any of this news….cameras on the street, Google Earth, phone taps, finding out that Paula Dean used a racial slur while growing up in the SOUTH…pictures of our mail….is that it’s nothing that we didn’t already suspect.

I don’t know why it freaks us out to have it confirmed.

Before I worked for the Post Office, I used to be really curious about survivalism and the militia movement.  I never wanted to hurt anyone or take up arms to defend my little island of paranoia…I was just really curious about what survivalism was all about and why people were living full of fear.

It was a heady time.

Anyway, during this time, it seemed like a lot of our mail was coming to us opened.

Even my Guitar Player magazines were coming to us with the plastic wrapper opened…like for security purposes someone had read why “Eric Clapton is the best guitarist ever”.

It inspires curiosity and mild paranoia when you think that someone is reading your mail.

(I don’t think that many people read this blog….so it’s the one safe forum I have to broach a topic like this.  If it was a different situation, I’d be a lot more covert about where I shared my questions about “mail tapping”. This blog gives me the option of being kind of a “Windtalker”…even though I don’t know Navajo and any code I include is unintentional. )

We’re going to be monitored.  That’s not paranoia…it’s reality.  It’s kind of like when they offer you a card at Lowes that tracks your purchases for you.  On the commercials, it makes it seem like the next time you need a furnace filter, that card is going to make it so much easier for you that you’ll wonder how you made it before everything you did was recorded.

It’s a pleasure to have it all in a place that someone can pull up and see what we were up to.

Now where did you say I needed to go to get that MARK OF THE BEAST?!  The Lowes card is the Mark of the Beast?

Well…I’m glad I didn’t need a furnace filter.


Tensed up

Turn the volume down on this video (the music is kind of obnoxious for such a peaceful place) and you can see where we were a little over a year ago.

Last summer, we took an epic road trip up to Minnesota and then across the Dakotas, Montana, and finally… Idaho.

We were visiting my cousin who has lived on his parcel of some family land for a number of years.

Here’s another video to give you an idea of what the area is like…

I miss being on the road.

The fun thing about our experiences is that I think we were successful enough with all the traveling that our children are still pretty excited about it all.

Our “almost 4-year-old” says, “We could go to a motel?!” when he’s looking for something really fun to do.

That’s a good sign that the trip was kind of a fun adventure for him.

Here’s a video filmed up at a place called Hunt Lake.  I’d never heard of it but it’s farther north than Tensed is….above Lake Couer D’Alene…looks like a little shy of 100 miles from Tensed….141 miles by road.

Pretty amazing country out there.

It looks like Tensed is about 2300 miles from Fairbanks AK.

325 miles to Seattle WA.

459 miles to Vancouver, BC

904 miles to San Francisco.

1277 miles to La Jara CO.

I could do this all day long.  The computer makes it a lot easier to find out mileage than it felt when we were driving it all.

What a great road trip.  After ID we drove over to Spokane WA to visit my relatives who live there….and then started the long drive down to Colorado via Yellowstone.

I had two weeks off from the Post Office to do my portion of the trip ( I flew out of Denver to come home and start work again…Jenny went to La Jara with the kids and drove home a couple of weeks later) but two weeks wasn’t even close to being enough time.  I think two years would have been a more workable time frame to really get to see everything we “sped through” on our tight itinerary.

But why stop at two years?  Think BIG, right?  How about something longer than two years? Maybe…maybe….maybe like…..shoot, I can’t think of anything longer than two years.

20 years?  That seems kind of weird.  We’ll stick with two years.  That feels “do-able”.

“Where we are right now” is a good place… trying to take care of the tasks at hand feels good…but I do loves me some adventure.

I’m going to post this one last video so that Idaho doesn’t get too crowded.  It’d be a shame if a bunch of folks watched these videos and decided to move there.

Watch this video…there’s too many snakes in Idaho for it to be appealing to everyone.

Don’t move to Idaho.  Look at all these snakes.

Awwww….who’m I fooling.  It’s freaking beautiful in Idaho.  Here’s one more video.

I guess that what I’m saying is “leave some room for us”.

shaking the tin

Woke this morning to the sound of thunder….how far off?

I laid there and wondered.

Just kidding…paraphrasing Bob Seger.  It’s never too early to paraphrase Bob Seger.

( Did you ever get a chance to notice what a good writer he is?  Some of his lyrics are like haikus or something.  But, typically,…I digress.)

The morning is a good time.  There’s that sweet spot where I know that I don’t have anywhere to be for a couple of minutes…and I can let my mind roam where it will.  No discipline in the thinking department at 5 in the morning….I can let “tornado mind” take over… and ride it out for a while.

This morning, I heard the thunder….and I was off to the races.

Before I knew it, I was thinking about those guys who do sound effects for the movies….foley artists…I think they’re called foley artists.

Anyway…when they needed to conjure up a close approximation of thunder, they used to shake a big piece of tin.  The shaking made the tin sound like thunder off in the distance.

Now, it’s probably a digital soundfile that is stored on a massive hard drive somewhere…nothing is as low-tech as shaking a piece of tin anymore.  Everything’s more realistic…but maybe not as real….it’s hard to say.

This made me think of how we become good at “shaking the tin” in our own lives.

We become good at presenting something that is an illusion as something that could damage or inconvenience us.

We shake that tin until the people around us are sure that it’s going to rain.  We shake the tin until we feel we need to duck under cover so that we don’t get hit by the next bolt of imaginary lightning.

It’s not hard for us to have faith that something bad just might be real.

( I listen to talk radio out on the route sometimes…there’s a lot of really good tin shakers on talk radio.  Fear must boost ratings.)

I don’t know why we’d be willing to shake the tin.  It’s hard to fathom why the pessimistic viewpoint seems to be the easiest one sometimes to arrive at.

Water flows downhill…maybe that’s what’s going on?  Maybe it’s just the easiest route to take…

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”  Mark Twain

Good for you, Mark Twain.  I’m still working at taking that realization to heart.

I have enough trouble sometimes with what is really happening.  I have troubles with what I fear.

When I think about it, though…I really don’t have all that many troubles that I can think of at the moment.

And I must have too much “good stuff” piled on my sheet of tin to remember where I put it.

Even if I felt the need to shake it for a while.


(The YouTube video is 10 hours long…you don’t need to watch it all. )