Archive - Mar 2013


March 14th



Just trying out to make sure the picture function is fixed. Looks like it is!


Hard to believe that we were here about a week ago! It seems like long ago in a galaxy far, far, away. 


The snowline of the day was only about 150 feet above the bottom of Yosemite Valley. Below that, rain. meadowyose.jpg

John Muir meadow. Lovely spot from which to view the heights from a flat place well-suited to a prairie dweller. 


This is not a small volume of water thundering down the side of this massive cliff. I wish I had the rumbling sound to go with the picture. 

March 13th


Brother Joe placed a well-written and cogent letter-to-the editor in the Fertile Journal in favor of the legalization of marijuana. It has unleashed a round of "have you seen the Journal yet?" gawking locally, as is to be expected. The knee-jerk shame reaction to having somebody take a stand contrary to prevailing dogma is strong.

We need to examine these questions cooly and logically. All scientific studies have found that marjiuana's negative effects are simply inconsequential compared to alcohol's. It is high hypocricy to sit at the bar sucking down beers while denouncing marijuana. The beers cause deaths on the highway. Marijuana has almost no effect on reaction time. Alcohol is addictive (although not as addictive as nicotine), marijuana causes psychological dependency, but nobody has had to go through detox to get off pot. 

I agree with Joe that pot isn't harmless, but locking up 800,000 people for marijuana offenses in this country is a waste of jail space. 

Is marijuana a "gateway drug" for kids? Only if you maintain the lie that it is in the same class as meth, cocaine, LSD, etc. The only way it is a gateway drug is if you have propangandized the children to believe pot is pernicious. They try it. They don't grow horns. They don't grow hair on their palms (an actual result promised in anti-pot literature of the 1920s). So then they think the are also being lied to about cocaine, meth and heroin. Then they turn into junkies. It is the lies that make it a gateway drug. The answer, then, is not to maintain the lies about pot to your kids as you head out the door to the bar, but to face the truth and say, don't do it. And then if you actually believe it, don't do it yourself, either. 

Another hypocricy that parallels this, to my notion, is people who don't curse around the kids but who swear like sailors when the kids aren't there. The fear there is not that the kids might grow up to swear, it is that they will swear at the improper time and bring shame down on the household. So many irrational "I don't want my kids to..." prohibitions stem from the fear of potential embarrassment rather than an actual honest assessment of risk to the body or mind. 

Joe just forwarded me the text of his letter, posted here in full:

I have heard that there have been several recent arrests in our community for the possession and/or distribution of marijuana. My heart goes out to the people whose lives have been affected by these arrests. It’s time for the madness of marijuana prohibition to stop.

The facts show that marijuana is less addictive and far less harmful than alcohol, tobacco, and many prescription drugs. There is no known lethal dose of marijuana, something that can’t be said for aspirin or ibuprofen or Xanax. While it is possible to become psychologically dependent on marijuana, it does not cause the severe physical addiction associated with narcotics, tobacco, or heavy alcohol use.

This is an issue that crosses political divides. Conservatives oppose unnecessary government interference with our lives and choices, while liberals want the government’s involvement in our lives to be rooted in compassion and logic. The current state of prohibition is illogical, intrusive, and the farthest thing from compassionate.

Millions of people in this country use marijuana recreationally and are able to lead productive, normal lives. I have read story after story of people who found marijuana effective for a medical condition when no other treatment would work. A commission appointed by Richard Nixon conducted a comprehensive review of marijuana and public policy and concluded that "from what is now known about the effects of marihuana, its use at the present level does not constitute a major threat to public health.” More than a dozen other government appointed commissions here and abroad have come to similar conclusions.

Before you judge those who use or sell this plant, please take a look in your medicine cabinet and your fridge. I’ll bet that the painkillers, anti-depressants, and Xanax consumed each day in our community would fill a coffee mug. Likewise, the alcoholic beverages we consume in Fertile would likely fill a bathtub. We all have problems, and we all struggle to find the best solutions to those problems. We should have the right to choose our own medicine, and our own way to unwind at the end of the day.

I am not for a minute suggesting that anyone, especially young people, should smoke pot. It dulls the mind, inhibits short-term memory, and I feel that it can delay emotional development by allowing people to run away from their problems day after day. It is much better to keep a clear mind and face the problems of life head on.

However, we need to start respecting the intelligence of our youth. Kids are adept at detecting when they are being lied to. When we attempt to portray marijuana in the same light as truly dire drugs like meth, we run the risk of losing all legitimacy with our kids. Worse yet, they might assume that the warnings about harder drugs are also baloney. Regulating marijuana like alcohol will eliminate the black market that now makes pot so easily available to kids, while helping to restore faith in the law.

Joe Bergeson, Fertile, MN

Good work, Joe!



March 11th

Angel in Billings

Long drive yesterday. I started in Dillon, MT. Had thoughts of going all the way home, but why push it. Bismarck would be far enough. So I stopped in Billings at my favorite chain restaurant, Famous Dave's, and then stopped at a local coffee shop for a thick, caffiene-heavy latte for the road. While at the coffee shop, I checked emails. One of the emails contained a very interesting proposal, which was whirling in my mind as I left the coffee shop. 

Whirl, whirl, whirl. The first forty miles of I-94 went fast as I was thinking about the email. Then my phone buzzed. It was brother Joe. 

"Some woman from Billings, Montana just called and said she has your laptop." 

I had no idea what happened. I must have left it at the coffee shop, I thought. What an idiot. 

Turns out, I was a bigger idiot than I thought. After getting in touch with "some woman," a Kristen of Billings, it became obvious that I left the Macbook Air on the roof of my car while I took off my jacket for the drive. After throwing my jacket in my car, I got in, drove off, only to have my computer end up on the street in front of Wal-mart. 

Kristen found the computer on the street, opened it up and found my contact information, tried my cell phone which didn't connect, then found the nursery by searching on the internet, called Joe, and then, what's more, offered to bring the computer out to the edge of town so I wouldn't have to drive back so far. 

I am reminded of the Buddhist tale of an angst-ridden young man who brings all his wealth to a wise man and offers it in return for the secret to happiness. The wise man steals the chest and runs away. The young man chases him for miles and miles, grows exhausted, gives up and goes home, defeated and demoralized. 

The next morning, the wise man, holding the chest of gold coins, knocks at the young man's door and hands him the chest. The young man is ecstatic, utterly thrilled to have his gold coins back. 

"There you have the secret to happiness," the wise man repled. Getting back what you already had makes you appreciate what you had and now have again more than when you first had it. 

Got it? 

Not that Kristin stole my laptop from me––my stupidity did that–– but I was happier for the rest of the day having her return my laptop than if it had been sitting beside me on the front seat the whole while, in which case my mind would have likely wondered into unproductive rumination on the 411 mile trip to Bismarck that was stretched into a more enjoyable 490 miles by Kristin returning my gold chest. Or my laptop, as the case may be. 

And meeting Kristen was a delight. According to her Facebook profile, she is a "bikini athlete." I love it! (You may have a good samaritan tale, but I'll bet my good samaritan is hotter than your good samaritan!) She is entering a body-building competition next week. 

She's already a champion in my book. 



Abuse culture

This article is spot on. In a religious group that promotes male dominance, there will be sexual abuse, it will be covered up, the perpetrator will be reinstated, and the victim will be blamed. And the members of the group close ranks and deny anything of importance happened. In these male authority cults, the sheer desperation to retain in authority even the most unsavory leaders boggles the mind. Pure evil. And very common. 

March 10th


Elizabeth Warren is just what the banking industry needs right now. She is absolutely correct. We need more of her. 

Death list

Called Aunt Olive two days ago, and I later found out that in response to her rough night of heart problems last week, she has compliled a "death list" of five people she would like to see before she dies. However, she sounds no worse for wear on the phone, so this action might be premature. Or, maybe we should all do it right now. 

I am on my way across the country. Last evening in a small freeway town I had the single most bizarre restaurant experience in my life. I was drawn into the restaurant by the sign which said it was Basque food. I have had very good Basque food before, so I went in. 

The restaurant was dated and drab, yet at the top of the specials list was steak and lobster for $64.95. The listings underneath were just as expensive. I finally worked my way down to baked lamb for $14,95. 

First came half a loaf of bread with a big bowl of soup, complete with a full-sized ladel. The soup didn't have much flavor. It was chicken and rice. I ate too much of it. Then came a huge lettuce salad. Just lettuce. Nothing else. The lettuce was covered in sour cream. It was not very good. Then came the main meal, served family style. 

A large platter containing four huge chunks of lamb, baked to black. A dish of potatoe au gratin, which was a whole baked potato covered in cheese sauce. Then, for good measure, a dish of rice, a dish of boiled green beans and, bizarrely, a dish of spaghetti with sauce! This was food enough for a family of four and I was alone. I ate one out of the four chunks of lamb and was full. And it was awful. Awful. So I, for some reason, asked the waitress for a box, but the stuff in it, paid and left. 

I dumped the box in the first waste basket I saw. 

If that was Basque food, it isn't the Basque food I remember. It was more like a medly of dishes from a school cafeteria in the early 1970s. 

I don't know if I will ever eat again. 

March 8th

Yosemite, cont.

Pictures of Yosemite, and I have plenty, will have to wait until I get home next week. They are not loading and I lack the technical expertise to solve the problem. My technical expertise consists of waiting to see if the problem goes away on its own. 

What a great refuge here at the Yosemite Bug. It is the perfect place to work. Quiet, calm, no hassle. 

March 4th

Yosemite Bug

Digging in for a week at the Yosemite Bug hostel. Don't think I am sleeping in a bunk, we have a nice cabin on stilts on the side of the mountain. We walk on catwalks to get to the door after climbing switchbacks from the main lodge. The main lodge is a completely happy, rustic place where you are free to spend the entire day hanging out, working, whatever. After two days negotiating Los Angeles, I did nothing but sleep and stare at the ceiling today. Lance is going to go shooting photos in Yosemite, which is thirty miles away. I will stay back and do some editing and writing on the book I am hoping to finish by the middle of the month. 

We were supposed to return home March 1, but after looking at the weather forecast, I decided to fulfill a long-time goal of renting an alpine cabin and writing. We'll see if the reality matches the ideal!

Meanwhile, back at the Hilton, Aunt Olla had a very tough night a couple of nights ago. Might have been heart issues. She was unresponsive twice during the night. They called my cell phone out here in LA. Those middle of the night calls are scary, but I am so glad they keep me posted. Tracie, Joe and Kae went in the next day. Olla had been up all night, yet she seemed no worse for wear and told stories they had never heard before, just as if nothing had happened 12 hours before. Incredible. I was about to drive home, but when I heard the good report, I decided to continue on with plans here. As a matter of policy, I have decided that not taking long trips just because you have a 101-year-old back home isn't the way to approach life. The 101-year-old might live to 105, and who am I to think I am that important anyway. 

I still can't load pictures here. Frustrating. I guess the thousand words will have to do. 



March 2nd

Los Angeles

 Lance and I left from Phoenix for Los Angeles this morning. It was a six hour drive, and featured LA traffic in spades for the last hour. Wow. This place is something else. 

We went to Culver City, which is a suburb, to visit a sister Lance recently discovered named Sarah. I had a picture of us all, but the site is not loading right now. 

Sarah lives in an area of town known as Little Ethiopia. There are dozens of Ethiopian restaurants. Dozens. We picked one and had  a great meal. 

The entrees come on an enormous platter. You scoop them up with teff bread, which is like a crepe. Very good flavor. 

Lance just met his sister last month. She works for a video game company. Her job makes no sense to me, but it does to Lance. They talked shop the whole time. Wow. There are worlds out there I do not understand. 

The two share a father who lives in St. Lucia, an island in the Caribbean. It is thrilling for Lance to discover and meet Sarah. He has five more new siblings to meet. 

The congestion is quite something in Los Angeles. The reason for it is obvious, too. The weather is spectacular. It was 86 degrees up in the hills outside of LA when we were driving past snow-covered peaks. Down closer to the ocean it went down to 81. 

Tomorrow, up to the Yosemite area.