Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all you out in blogland. I haven't posted in a bit and I owe a long rambling summary of the past few weeks, but I also owe an apology to a certain person out there. You see, one of my prior posts (I deleted it this morning) aired some dirty laundry that probably should have been kept in the closet of my mind. You kknow who you are. I'm sorry.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Picking A Tree From the Wayhiup

When my friends Phil & Julie Gardner used to live in Indiana, there home was tucked away south of Indianapolis is a beautiful wooded area near Martinsville. They called their home the Waydownback and it was frequently the jumping off point for our weekend adventures in the hills of southern Indiana. Phil & Julie moved to Missoula about 7 years ago and now have a home, nestled in the pine forested mountains, about 30 minutes south of Missoula...they've affectionately named their Lolo, Montana home the Wayhiup.

The Wayhiup sits atop a ridge and is surrounded by both logged and unlogged forest. Their land butts up against land owned by the timber conglomerate Plum Creek. Because of the reforestation methods of logging companies, fast growing and invasive species of pine have crept onto the Gardner property and they let some of their friends come up each year to help thin away trees that crowd out the native trees. This year, I got invited and it was a super fun time.

I arrived mid-afternoon and was met by Julie, with some advice on where to find good trees and instructions on what type could be cut. Julie and Melanie even showed me to a promising clump of trees. I hiked around, staying near the house for awhile and then slowly drifting off into the backwoods. It was very peaceful and quiet, with a slight wind keeping me just cold enough to remember winter is here. I found a tree that looked just right, about the right height and fairly full. Unlike farmed trees, the trees out in the forest aren't shaped and can seem a bit Charlie Brown-ish. I cut the tree down and dragged it back to my car, where I used some twine to get the tree ready for the highway drive back to Missoula.

After warming my belly with some of the best chili I've had and getting in some good conversation with the other folks who'd made the journey, I headed back to town and started decorating my
Christmas Tree, what a blast the whole experience was...I can't wait to finish my tree this weekend.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

An Early Season Ski Day

Wow, what fun. Sunday, Karl & Lori and I headed up to Lolo Pass for some cross country skiing. Lolo Pass is on the Montana/Idaho border, about 30 minutes or so from town. It was a gorgeous day and the Snow was fine. Karl & Lori are in great shape and are much better skiers than me, but they humored me into thinking I could keep up. Here's me in an action shot on the 3 mile loop course. We also had their dogs Sarah & Sydney with us, so we went on an ungroomed course across from the pass that was fairly strenuous. All big fun.

Brown County Hoe-Down

Hard to believe a whole week has gone by since I last posted. Thanksgiving was a blast on my end. I flew home last Thursday morning, arriving in Indy at 3:30 PM. I'd hoped the trip would be full of holiday cheer, but most of the travelers were down right grumpy. The bad weather in the Eastern and Southeastern parts of the country ran roughshod over travel plans and left people stranded from Wednesday trying to get home. The higher prices this year also seemed to affect families so many were flying on turkey day to get better deals, so both my flights (Indy to Minneapolis and Minnie to Indy) were chock full-o-grumps. No worries, I just kept right on wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving night my Mom, Dad and brother hopped in the car for the ride up to Carmel, Indiana...my sister's Mother in-law hosted Thanksgiving dinner. The O'Connor's are used to eating the holiday meal around 2:00 and then again around 5 & 6 & 7...we compromised and ate at 8:00 PM. We had deep fried turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, homemade cranberry relish, homemade yeast rolls, corn pudding, broccoli, grilled oysters, cornbread stuffing, oyster dressing and a host of other goodies. For dessert there was pecan pie, pumpkin pie, apple pie and my homemade pumpkin roll (made it uncrushed on the plane). It was all delicious. Later that night, back at Mom & Dad's, we tapped into more food. I overate.
On Friday after some quality time with my cute-as-a-button niece Brooke, my brother Chris and niece Tara and the rest of the family, I got back in the car and traveled south, into southern Indiana hill country...Specifically Brown County. My friends Curt & Kathy hosted a post-Thanksgiving party at their split log cabin. I arrived early enough to help Curt and another buddy (John) plant a couple of hundred crocus bulbs. The cabin sits on a beautiful piece of land surrounded by hardwoods and hills. As we planted the bulbs, deer ran freely past us frolicking in the woods (or perhaps running from hunters). It was so great to see many Friends, including those traveling from afar; Marsh & Alyssa from New York City and Christy from Boulder, Colorado. We ate fried food (hey, it was a holiday!) hung out by the bonfire, talked, laughed and had a great time.
Soon I was back in the car heading north to Indianapolis. Saturday morning it was...up early, airport by 7:30 AM, back in Missoula at 1:30 PM. It was a whirlwind trip but well worth it, just to see everyone and to be with family.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Heading Home for Thanksgiving

You may be wondering where I've been hiding the past few weeks...my posts are becoming less frequent and not as full of juicy details. I've been a busy boy this , working more than usual trying to get 4 reviews completed and preparing for the holiday. I've also been stepping up my workouts, trying to speed up my conditioning so I can try a move to a different workout regimen being used by my friends John and Rick. It's called Crossfit and it's used by the military and police forces as a total body conditioning program. It is very difficult and challenging and to date I've only been able to do a few of the exercise with any degree of success. So I'm now working out daily and I've also started to change my diet to accompany the new regimen. I'm hoping my renewed focus on my physical condition will spill over and keep my mental condition positive. This is always a tough time of year for me, Winters onset (at this stage the theme is cold and grey) gets the doldrums rolling and then I start to think about my status as a single man with no family of my own and...well, it normally just goes downhill from there and is only snapped briefly by Christmas and then finally by the new year.
I am excited though about heading back to Indiana tomorrow for Thanksgiving. I fly out of Missoula at 8:00 AM and arrive via Minneapolis at 3:30 PM Indianapolis time. Today was a terrible travel day for the airlines, with winter storms causing delays all over the country. Apparently this is the busiest traveling season since 2000, so I'm crossing my fingers that all goes well tomorrow. I made a pumpkin roll, sort of a Thanksgiving Yule log, and stuck it in the freezer tonight, so it should be just fine to travel with me tomorrow (if they let it on the plane). Unfortunately I'll only be in Indianapolis for 36 hours...that's the only way I could afford the trip. But I'll make the most of it, visiting family and then friends on Friday. My friends Curt & Kathy Churchman have cabin in Brown County, a very beautiful and rustic part of Indiana about 2 hours south of my parents home; on Friday I'll head down there and get to see friends from NYC (Marsh & Alyssa), Boulder (Christy), Chicago (The Yaffe clan and Bruce) and other ex-pat Hoosiers along with the Indy Oligarchy...that should be loads of fun.
So I'll take a two day hiatus from my workouts and my nutritional plan to stuff my face with all the traditional foods our family has on Thanksgiving. Oh and beer...I haven't had any beer in two weeks but I do believe I will enjoy a few on Friday. Yippee.
Hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving if your here in the States (or are an expat)and a great few days if you're one of my friends abroad.

Cheers

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Mean Flower

This song, Mean Flower, by Joe Henry (from the Album Scar)has been dancing around in my head for days. So much of my idle mind has been filled with it that I had to make a new mixed CD with Mean Flower as the centerpiece. What a gut wrenching and beautiful song. I have to admit though, it's added to the mood of melancholy I've been in ever since the election ended and the skies over the Missoula Valley turned grey...if we see the sun in the valley again before March it will be marked with great joy.
The elections...yuck, yuck and yuck. We've probably all had enough talk about that but for me, it's not that I even liked Kerry that much, it's just that I don't like Bush at all. And my fears about what will come next are only heightened by the nomination today of Cond0leezza Rice to replace Colin Powell as the Secretary of State (SOS). I fear for the future, if her nomination is approved. Anyone who is a student of history, especially since the war of 1812, knows how important the SOS is...in some cases the SOS of the USA has been the most important person in behind the scenes wranglings to prevent war (Kissinger in the Middle East)and in sensitive diplomatic negotiations the public only finds out about much later, sometimes decades later. Can you imagine this woman, who refused to testify to the 9/11 panel, who then refused to testify under oath, who lied openly, who is a war hawk, who refused to meet with Richard Clark, who ignored intelligence reports on Iraq, who probably knew about the abuses at Abu Ghraib in December and countless other audacious acts...can you imagine this woman meeting with other heads of State? She is no diplomat...she has a twisted understanding of world history (she is supposedly an expert on Eastern European affairs...HAH!). She's a rich-ass (can you say board of Directors of Chevron, Charles Schwab, The Rand Corporation and J.P. Morgan????) Ph.D, toe the line war hawk who has no regard for the feelings of the electorate. What a travesty.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day here in the USA, a day where most people only know something is different because the banks and the schools are closed. I put my flag out this morning to honor the soldiers who have served and lived. I'm always a little self-conscious about the act of putting my flag out...but I do feel it is the appropriate thing to do, especially on a day like today.

We celebrate Memorial day as the day to honor fallen soldiers, but we don't pay much attention to the ones who survive the messes we put them in. I have tremendous respect for those who are willing to serve in harm's way, who work for terrible wages and who suffer the mental wars long after the physical ones desist. In our medical practice we deal with a population that is overwhelmingly male and overwhelmingly over the age of 50...we have many veterans. Today we made a sign thanking them and put cookies out. It's the least we could do. I called one of our doctors, who was a Navy surgeon in Vietnam, and wished him well and thanked him for his service, he said it was the first time anyone had wished him a happy Veterans day.

I came across this poem today, written in 1915 by Canadian John McRae, a field surgeon during the second battle of Ypres salient, in WWI. He attended the allied wounded for 16 days...mainly French, English, Indian and Canadian troops but also Germans during this second, and very bloody, battle in Belgium. The American WWI cemetery in Belgium is named after the poem. I thought it appropriate for Veterans Day:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.



Sunday, November 07, 2004

Hanging Out In Alleys

My little house has a detached garage that opens onto an alley, well sort of opens into the alley. The garage, like my house, is quite old; but unlike the house there doesn't appear to have been much of an effort made to at least keep it functional. The roof is sagging and the shingles are only half there, with the remaining ones curled up like a snarled lip. There are two sets of swing-out doors, one I've made permanently unusable after a break-in and the other is barely hanging on...I've sort of rigged them to stay shut.

There were two couples that lived here between 1920 and 2001, and then the yay-who who bought it as a rehab before selling it to me after one year (he is supposedly a contractor, but based upon the quality of the work he did in here I would say he will be out of business soon). Until today I only knew that the last couple (before the yay-who) lived here for about 40 years. But today I learned a whole lot more from an 83 year-old German man named Otto Schwartz.

I decided to try and get my car in shape for the impending cold of winter so today I went to the auto parts store and picked up an air filter, some fuel injector cleaner and some anti-freeze; I then headed over to Costco (don't ask me how I can justify shopping at Costco but swear off Wal-Mart)and grabbed a new battery. It was a nice afternoon so I came home, dug out the dirt in front of one of my garage doors and parked in the alley. I had tunes playing as I was working on getting the old battery out when I first noticed this huge wolf-dog combo and his tiny companion, a sort of raggie mutt. They were strolling down the alley towards me, stopping to sniff garbage cans and the scent of their kind, depositing their own to mark their passage. It was the strangest pair of dog-friends I'd ever seen and was cause for a pause. The big dog strolled past me without hardly acknowledging my presence, but his scrappy friend came right up for a pet. As I was watching them stroll off, an old pickup truck, its' back end stacked with cardboard idled by me and stopped about 10 feet away, behind the dumpster of the gas station that occupies the lot behind me. Out came a scruffy character with full bushels of blackish hair coming out of each ear. His eyes were as blue as the ocean and the hair on top of his head was white as white can be. He had scratches on his nose and wore layers of clothes, all in various stage of decay and covered with dirt. I wasn't sure whether to greet him or ask him if he needed help. He did the honors, telling me he was there to get the discarded cardboard and aluminum cans. What transpired over the next hour was a rambling conversation about his "hobby", the state of city government, the corruption at the BFI landfill, the construction of dams in North Dakota and Montana, "girlie" magazines and other high priced-booty obtained from dumpsters, German homesteading in North Dakota and the former Italian immigrant railroad worker who used to live in my house.

The source of all this information and a majority of the talking was Otto Schwartz, the disheveled dumpster diver described above. Otto is 83 and has lived in Missoula ever since he finished his last dam building job in Idaho. He took a job at the city landfill and eventually became director of the landfill, losing his job after BFI purchased the dump from the city. A flamboyant character, otto is probably the type of guy that the Mayor's office considers a pain in the ass. otto frequently goes to city hall to complain about whatever is on his mind...from our conversation I gather what is on his mind quite a bit is how the city manages development, parking, trash collection and the treatment of the elderly. He had a great time telling me about dumpster diving, which he says is a result of the years he spent at the dump. He collects a little bit of everything that he can sell or get paid to recycle. He was quick to tell me he owns a Toyota Camry and a house and that at one time he could have bought every house in his neighborhood...he obviously did not want me to think he was a bum. Apparently the old Italian that used to live in my house came over to the United States and moved west, taking advantage of opportunities with the railroad system. Otto told me he could never pronounce his name correctly but that he was sort of a big wig in the freight yard here, but in his later years was on a "machine" all the time and only came out into the alley every once in a while to shoot the bull. Otto's parents were German homesteaders in North Dakota and his father mixed plaster by hand for the state teacher college in Dickinson. Otto said the best thing that came out of North Dakota was the road heading west, although he crossed into Montana on a ferry. Just when I was ready to tell Otto I needed to go, he said he'd love to stay and shoot the bull, but he had two more alleys to hit before dark, because the garbage trucks would come through on Monday and he was happy to take money away from BFI whenever he could. He rambled back into his truck and headed out, moving so slowly I could imagine his foot may have not even been on the gas pedal.

As I walked back to my car I thought to myself that I needed to start hanging out in the alley a little more.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

VOTE!

Wow, what a feeling...I arrived at the old Lowell School, the polling place for precinct 89 (my precinct) this morning shortly after 7:00 AM; that's the time the polls opened and there was already a line. The electricity in the air was evident the minute I stepped inside the building. People were EXCITED to vote. And what an important election this is. No matter which of the aisles you fall beside, this election matters more than possibly any other since Hoover v. FDR and the New Deal. In Montana we have 5 choices for President/Vice President...5!!!!!! Personally, I think that is awesome. Nader is on as an independent, we have a Constitutionalist candidate, a Libertarian candidate, a Green candidate and the two major parties. In Montana we're also electing a Governor/Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Three Supreme Court Justices, a Congressman, School superintendent, State Auditor, District Court Judge, County Commissioners and City Commissioners and choosing yes or no to initiatives on medical marijuana, cyanide mining, the definition of marriage and noxious weed management. It's alot to be informed about.

Last election I voted for Nader and I wanted to again BECAUSE HE IS RIGHT...but I couldn't bring myself to do it this time as he would be a terrible President in terms of foreign relations, something we need badly right now...I wimped out. Despite my conservative thinking on economic issues and my support for many ideals labeled "Republican", I couldn't vote for Bush. His administration's bumbling of the Iraq War alone caused me to lose all faith in him (I never really had any to begin with). I do not trust Ashcroft, Rumsfeld and especially not Rice or the war hawk Wolfewitz. I cast my ballot for Kerry/Edwards. What will you do? Cancel me out or add to the role? The most important thing of all is to get out and vote.

From the Abolitionist poet, John Greenleaf Whittier's 1840 Poem, "The Poor Voter on Election Day":

The proudest now is but my peer,
the highest not more high,
To-day, of all the weary year,
A king of men am I.

My palace is the people's hall,
The ballot-box my throne!
for there, alike are great and small,
The nameless and the known;
The rich is level with the poor,
The weak is strong to-day;
alike, the brown and wrinkled fist,
the gloved and dainty hand.
The rich is level with the poor,
the weak is strong today.
And sleekest broadcloth counts no more
Than homespun frock of gray.
To-day let pomp and vain pretence
My stubborn right abide;
I set a plain man's common sense
Against the pedant's pride.
Today, shall simple manhood try the
strength of gold and land
The wide world has not wealth to buy
The power in my right hand!
While there is a grief to seek
redress or balance to adjust,
where ways are living manhood
less than mamands vilest dust
while there's a right to need
my vote a wrong to sweep away,
up clouded knee and wrinkled coat
a man's a man today.


Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Power of the Internet

Tonight I got and sent an email from Pete over in Thailand. He's busy with his life, his new wife and trying to start his bronze business. Anyhow, i'm trying to connect Pete with my new friend Hossein, who is Iranian. hossein has some friends who make and sell pottery and I thought he and Pete could somehow cross-network.

Here's a glimpse at how my twisted mind works when I have too much time on my hands. While daydreaming about how all this could lead to some sort of adventure in iran for me, a Greg Brown playing in the background made me start day dreaming. my thoughts of Iran floated to Turkey and thoughts of beautiful rugs and wonderful people and then my mind floated to a dusty corner and the name of Ela Aktay popped out. Ela was the first girl I thought I was in "real" love with and that would have been about 20 years ago. I have some funny stories about meeting her parents (Turkish emmigrants to the US) but I'll save that for another time. So suddenly I was thinking of Ela and I remembered how I found her about three years ago, from a paper I came across that had an E. Aktay of Evanston, IL as the author. I sent her an email and she responded very promptly. We started to exchange emails back and forth but they soon faded. So here I sat, daydreaming and all sorts of wondering filled my head, as it often does when I think about life and the journey we all make through it.

So I googled her...and I not only found her and the reviews she's done, but I found a bio on her and a picture. Wow! 20 years. Pretty amazing. from the sounds of it, she's still married to Matt Booty, a guy I never met him and a guy who had a made up image in my head that has been locked up in one of those seldom visited corners of my mind. He might be a swell guy, seeing how Ela's been married to him for quite some time, he must be. Hmmm. interesting.
Ela 2004.bmp

Monday, October 25, 2004

Being Mad at Blogger

I haven't posted for a week or so because I've been mad at Blogger. See, I wrote this very wonderful review of the third day at Yellowstone...quite detailed and blogger lost it. I know that sounds absurd, but I posted the damn thing and it just never appeared. no search found the glitch and this isn't the first time.

But I heart blogger and I heart my little corner of the owrld, so I am back 9but I'm still mad).

I'll write another 3rd day review soon.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Our Yellowstone Adventure, Day 3

Sorry for the hurdy-gurdy approach to my journal these days, but I wanted to put the final touches on the Yellowstone National Park adventure I had with Mom, Dad, Chris & Nicole. If you haven't read the prior posts, you may want to before reading any further.

I awoke bright and early Sunday, as Dad went outside for a smoke and the sound was just enough to roust me from my slumber. It had gotten cold the night before, and the morning sun was already busily melting the frost on the Hoosier's Hotel roof, which was plop, plop, plopping onto the sidewalk.
Cooke City was quite tranquil, either because the locals were sleeping off the Saturday night fun had at the Miner's Saloon or perhaps they were already up and out hunting or something. As I said before Cooke City is an end of the road sort of place. We had breakfast at one of three places open, and the Chinese waitress (with a wedding band on...I'm thinking international matchmaking) was also serving as cashier and cook when we arrived (later a woman who was either Estonian or Ukrainian came in to help...very odd). We downed the oversized pancakes and bad sausage and headed out of town (but not before a fewpictures), back into the park for the last time.
The morning just kept getting better, as we spotted plenty of bison and Elk heading back through the Lamar Valley. The valley floor, so full of activity just 16 hours earlier, was quiet and serene. We decided to try and get back to Missoula before night fall and I had secretly decided to make it to Dillon, so my brother could get to do one of the things he really wanted, stop at the Patagonia Outlet. We made pretty good time to mammoth Springs and stopped there for some Yellowstone souvenir shopping and some grub.
We drove past the sights that two days earlier had been so alien that I felt like I was on the moon and headed west towards West Yellowstone. Our bald eagle was busy somewhere else and we quickly worked our way past packs of cars stopped to look at Elk...Elk! Ha! We'd marked Elk off on Friday....Amateurs!

Heading out of West Yellowstone we took the back roads. The countryside was expansive and lonely...the only people who seem to habituate that part of the state are ranchers and fishermen. We drove past miles and miles of vast ranch land before heading back into the Horn Mountains, clearing Reynolds Pass and meeting up with the famous Madison River. We passed feeders like Deadman's Creek, Secret Lake, and Papoose Creek. The area is just gorgeous. We finally reached the town of Ennis, where the road turns west towards Twin Bridges. Along this stretch we passed through Virginia City and Nevada City, the latter being a complete ghost town (now maintained by the state). The area had the misfortune of being part of the gold rush and was heavily mined using the abhorrent hydraulic technique, which has left the entire stretch from Virginia City to Alder looking like one big messy gravel pit with huge piles of Rick and tailing ponds scattered along the way. Disgusting.

It was at Twin Bridges that I revealed my plan, "it's 4:30 PM", I said, "...we're 28 miles from Dillon and the Patagonia Outlet, which closes at 5:00 PM. I think we can make it." my brothers eyes lit up as he tried to act cool, "only if you want" was his response. So I turned south on Montana 41 and drove like a bat out of hell to Dillon. We passed some amazing farmland, all green and shiny contrasted against the brown of the surrounding Ruby Range. We arrive in Dillon at 4:55 PM and, to our delight, were welcomed into the store. We spent the next hour or so, the only customers in the now closed store, shopping and telling the employees about our adventures. They loved us!!! And they loved our cash too!!!!

We arrived back in Missoula about 9:30 PM, tired and happy. What an adventure we had.The gang

Book Review: A Rumor of War


I am somewhat of a history buff, including military history. Over the past 10 years or so I've tried to learn more about the history of various parts of Asia, Europe, Africa and the United States. I've also read quite a few books on various wars and conflicts, both modern and historical.
From the moment the United States invaded Iraq, comparisons to the US involvement in Vietnam began to surface. And as time has worn on, the comparisons to me seemed to merit some sort of personal research. My friend Rick is also an avid reader, especially of military history and he suggested I read A Rumor of War, which has been touted as one of the defining pieces on Vietnam.
This book is brutally honest...not only in detailing the often surreal events in Vietnam and the consequences suffered by soldiers and civilians alike from often farcical decision made somewhere far off, but also in the depiction of what can do to perfectly sane and otherwise moral individuals.
It can be disturbing at times, but is so forthright in the presentation of human tragedy that every night I closed the book I sat wondering what I would do if thrust into such a situation.
The western world today seems to have some notion of War that is insane. There seems to be a sense amongst Americans and Europeans that our technology has advanced to the point that "precision" is the only acceptable conduct of War. I think Wendell Berry said it best when he said that if you can accept that death is part of War then you must accept that ANY death is part of War. This book reminds us that War is devastating and ugly and death makes no distinction between color of uniform or uniform at all.

Here are the publisher's comments:
When it first appeared, A Rumor of War brought home to American readers, with terrifying vividness and honesty, the devastating effects of the Vietnam War on the soldiers who fought there. And while it is a memoir of one young man’s experiences and therefore deeply personal, it is also a book that speaks powerfully to today’s students about the larger themes of human conscience, good and evil, and the desperate extremes men are forced to confront in any war.
A platoon commander in the first combat unit sent to fight in Vietnam, Lieutenant Caputo landed at Danang on March 8, 1965, convinced that American forces would win a quick and decisive victory over the Communists. Sixteen months later and without ceremony, Caputo left Vietnam a shell-shocked veteran whose youthful idealism and faith in the rightness of the war had been utterly shattered. A Rumor of War tells the story of that trajectory and allows us to see and feel the reality of the conflict as the author himself experienced it, from the weeks of tedium hacking through scorching jungles, to the sudden violence of ambushes and firefights, to the unbreakable bonds of friendship forged between soldiers, and finally to a sense of the war as having no purpose other than the fight for survival. The author gives us a precise, tactile view of both the emotional and physical reality of war.
When Caputo is reassigned to headquarters as “Officer in Charge of the Dead,” he chronicles the psychological cost of witnessing and recording the human toll of the war. And after his voluntary transfer to the frontlines, Caputo shows us that the major weapons of guerrilla fighting are booby traps and land mines, and that success is measured not in feet but in body counts. Nor does the author shrink from admitting the intoxicating intensity of combat, an experience so compelling that many soldiers felt nostalgic for it years after they’d left
Vietnam. Most troubling, Caputo gives us an unflinching view not only of remarkable bravery and heroism but also of the atrocities committed in Vietnam by ordinary men so numbed by fear and desperate to survive that their moral distinctions had collapsed.
More than a statement against war, Caputo’s memoir offers readers today a profoundly visceral sense of what war is and, as the author says, of “the things men do in war and the things war does to men.”
This edition includes a twentieth-anniversary postscript by the author.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Yellowstone Park 2004, Day Two

We awoke early Saturday with every intent to get into the park before the weekend rush. The first of October is the official rate change date, when summer rates go away and many area shops begin to close. Yellowstone is huge and mountainous and the weather changes fast. In the winter, the only road that stays open all season is from the Gardiner entrance to the NE entrance at Cooke City, everything else shuts down and becomes accessible to snow mobiles and winter enthusiasts. So this first weekend in October is just about the last weekend of crowds in the Park and is by far much less crowded than high season...still we really enjoyed Friday and hoped to not get in too many crowds.

I forgot to mention that our night in West Yellowstone ended with a huge bus pulling up and coughing out what may have been the entire male teenage population of some small Montana town, the football team which came down to battle the West Yellowstone high school team. In the morning, they evidently tried to eat anything not nailed down in the Brandin' Irons kitchen. Free continental breakfast was included with our stay, but the high school boys literally ate them out of house and home. It was actually pretty funny and the amount of testosterone floating around the hotel, if bottled, could certainly have given some of the herbal Viagra's a run for their money.

So, with not so full stomach's we headed back into the Park. Chris was the first to spot the Bald Eagle...perched high on a dead Pine Tree overlooking a river. It was a beautiful sight, that early in the morning. The sky was blazing blue and the fall colors were in full display. The Eagle was huge and so regal. It gave us all a big smile. We'd heard there were grizzlies over in the Hayden Valley, which happened to be on the opposite side of the park. We decided to swing back down past Old Faithful and zip through the West Thumb, so we could see some of the beauty around Yellowstone Lake. This also gave us a chance to stop at some more paint pots. We saw waterfalls, bison, elk, hawks, deer and some other greyish birds that i've been unable to identify in my birding books.

We made it into the Hayden Valley and saw more Eagle and a few coyotes, but no grizzly. We saw plenty of stupid people though, some getting to within 5 feet or so of full grown bison...it was amazing. Every year people get gored or cars get totaled because they forget these are WILD animals. Some of the buffoonery has led to death. Just two weeks before we arrived, a man got gored badly by a bull elk in rut, getting up close and using a flash camera on the poor beast. The result was the man went to the hospital with a big hole in his belly, the elk caused $25,000.00US in damage to nearby vehicles and had to have his rack cut off to try and ease his aggression. Anyhow, we headed up to Canyon Village and the infamous Yellowstone waterfalls, quite possible the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in person.

The waterfall is just simply amazing and the canyon it has carved is proof of the awesome power of nature. We were all in complete awe. Afterwards we decided to forego a trip south to Jackson and instead head back up and around to the Lamar Valley, a place of renown for wildlife viewing. We decided not to stop for anything and get straight to the valley, although we did make one detour, taking the Blacktail Plateau scenic route, a 7 mile dirt road that goes into the high country. Pretty amazing.

We came across a viewing area high above a massive meadow and pulled in. There were 5 or 6 other groups of people, some in lawn chairs with scopes set up looking out into the meadow. I talked to a wonderful older couple who'd been there all day...they told me a pack of wolves had killed a cow elk sometime in the middle of the night before and supposedly a male grizzly had also been feeding on the carcass. They were there all day hoping the wolves would return. We decided this might be our best chance to see a grizzly and set up shop too. There were big herds of bison, antelope and elk scatterred across the meadow and it was a beautiful sight,as the sun started to set and the gold of the grass was set off by the blaze of the sun. More and more people came, soome staying some moving on but a very nice couple set up next to us with a huge scope. Two men arrived next and they knew the couple who was next to us, so they too joined our band. The man next to us spotted a black bear (Mark it off!!!!) and so about 15 scopes and sets of binoculors all swerved over to see the bear, loping across the meadow where it rose to meet the mountainside. About that time a young girl, who had said, "is that a grizzly?" about 20 times, shouted, "I think there are some grizzly bears eating the elk"! No one really moved their scopes but sort of looked with some interest out towards where the carcass lay, near the rivers edge. Then the girls' father looked in the scope and I heard an, "I'll be damned" come from his lips...all the scopes swung in unison and sure enough, somehow a full grown sow and the griz cubs had made it into the meadow without any of us seeing them. Apparantly she used the setting sun as camoflouge to hide her approach. It was like something straight out of a nature show. We sat up there watching her and the cubs feed for about 20 minutes, cubs eating, fighting and playing, mother eating and constantly sticking her snout in the air to smell for any danger. The crowd swelled as news of a grizzly traveled. And here we were, looking at not one, but 4 grizzly bear! About 20 minutes into it, momma griz sniffed and sniffed, stood and looked and then took off into the sun, with all three cubs in single file. Soon a three legged coyote came into view...surely a coyote couldn't scare off a grizzly bear? About that time a truck pulled up and a guy jumped out holding an antennae and some sort of reader. He was with the Friend of the Yellowstoine wolf and was tracking a pack...and boom, they came, the wolves in a pack to reclaim their kill. It was astounding to see, these pack animals swooping in, the coyote running for dear life. Excitement abounded and I have to admit to more than a few high fives with the people all around me. It was one of those life experiences for us. We quickly packed up as the light faded and tried to head down the road to see another pack of wolves we'd heard about...unfortunately we only think we saw them as the light just wasn't good enough to tell. So a 30 mile drive through Yellowstone in the dark...a dangerous proposition, lay ahead of us to reach Cooke City, an end of the road town that spends the winter socked in with only one reliable road in and out...the road back through the park and to Gardiner. We stayed at the Hoosier Motel, which featured satellite TV (all 5 channels) and ate dinner at the Miner's Saloon, a local...and I mean local...bar and grill. There were plenty toothless men and spent women whooping it up on Saturday night. A true experience.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Yellowstone Nat'l Park, Prelude & Day One

Mom & Dad arrived in Missoula last Tuesday afternoon. The weather here was unbelievable; after two weeks of wet, cold and blustery weather Mother Nature decided to shine down on the northern Rockies...it was perfect. We went to The Depot for dinner and the service & food were both wonderful. I worked on Wednesday, letting Mom & Dad have a free day to enjoy our Indian Summer. We spent the evening looking at maps, going over accommodation possibilities and laughing about the fact we'd been planning this trip for two months but still had no idea what we were going to do or what direction we were headed.
My brotherChris arrived Wednesday night with his girlfriend Nicole. Thursday morning we all packed up, stood around the map and finally decided to head to Gardiner, Montana at the northern tip of Yellowstone. I came into the office to wrap up a few things before we stopped at Worden's Market on the way out of town for one of their awesome sandwiches. Worden's is a Missoula landmark and I always take visitors there for the food and the funky people watching.
The drive down to Gardiner, MT was fun because Chris and Nicole had never been to Montana, let alone the mountainous region of western Montana. Every turn shows something new. We stopped just east of Butte to get a photo of all of us at the Continental Divide. We laughed about that one quite a bit. We stopped in Bozeman and visited the Wheat Montana bakery, a very cool bakery where all the products are made from Montana spelt and wheat flour. We got some muffins for the next morning and some 9 grain cereal to make cookies with. Just east of Bozeman we got caught in a pretty hellacious rainstorm and the weather turned quite nasty. The drive from Livingston down to Gardiner was beautiful though, with big puffy rain clouds and spots of blazing sun combining to cast amazing shadows across the open meadows and on the mountain sides. Daylight was running out but we decided to pull a National Lampoon-esque stunt and zipped over to see Chico Hot Springs, the famous and quite quaint resort nestled at the foot of the mountains.
Gardiner is a small and historic town that serves as the Gateway to the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park. The town was named after a man whose last name was Gardner, but local yore says the people who named it were Easterners who pronounced Gardner as Gardi-nerr and nobody knew how to spell anyway, so over a short period of time Gardner became Gardiner. There were French and American trappers in the area in the very early 1800's but it wasn't until 1872 that Ulysses S. Grant made Yellowstone the first National Park.
We stayed in a hotel overrun by what seemed like hundreds of Japanese high school students. When we checked in they were all over the first floor, crammed into conference rooms and any other open spaces, performing some type of experiment. None of them spoke any English, as far as I could ascertain, and their Japanese and local hosts were too swamped for me to try and figure out what the hell they were doing. A really funny side note is the clothes they all were wearing. The boys were wearing what I can only describe as Japanese-American western wear. Most of them had big huge belt buckles and boots but they also sported some very strange t-shirts and accessories. My brother came around a corner to find two of them doing back bends DOWN the stairs. They all had crazy hair working, with cowlicks and oily matted hair being the style du jour. It was a very surreal evening.
The next morning I awoke to the smell of cooking rice...Seriously. When I walked down the hall I saw at least 10 huge rice steamers lining the conference room with the students busily gulping down brekkie. We decided to eat at the Town Cafe and Hotel, a place Mom had called and was asked to call back because the woman answering the phone was also the waitress, hotel clerk and cashier. The food was your normal Mom & Pop cafe type grub..cheap and filled the stomach. I made the mistake of asking her what she thought of the possible introduction of a state sales tax...not a good idea. She proceeded to 'educate' me on the evil tax system and how Montanans knew not to let government get into their pockets because it would never leave. Interesting conversation at 8:30 AM.
We entered the park through the Original Entrance to Yellowstone and it had all the makings of a cold and cloudy day. Not to be deterred, Mom and I decided to take a soak in the Boiling River...a spot that up until last year was a sort of local secret. Now it has been discovered and as many as 200 people a day soak in the river during the high season. We were lucky to meet two couples from Steamboat Springs, Colorado and enjoyed the steaming pool with them. They've been coming to Yellowstone for 20 years and still haven't seen it all!
Soon afterwards we saw our first Elk and heard them bugle...a really cool sound that brought a big smile to all our faces. We cruised down to Mammouth Hot springs, stopping along the way to watch Mountain Goats, deer and Elk. At Mammouth we got to see the first geothermal activity at the mineral terrace. It was amazing. We then were treated to the first of two sightings of the rare and elusive black wolf. We actually stumbled across the first wolf by accident, having stopped to view some Sandhill Cranes feeding in a grassy meadow. A man next to us had a large scope and was watching a Bison, far off in the field when he spotted the wolf coming out of the treeline. He allowed us to look through his scope, which was so powerful the wolf appeared to be right next to us instead of the 1500 to 2000 yards away he really was. At one point I thought he was looking right into my eyes and it gave me goosebumps. My Mom started what soon became our mantra when she said, "I guess we can mark that off our list". Later it just became "Mark it Off", something we said often over the next two days.
We headed down to Old Faithful, stopping to see vents, coyotes, waterfalls and Bison along the way. Yellowstone is huge, covering something like 350 million acres, so the drive from Gardiner to Old Faithful is quite long. We arrived late in the afternoon and took our spot among the hundreds gathered to watch one of the world's three 'Old Faithful' geysers erupt. There are actually many geysers around Old Faithful and over 10,000 in the park! Old Faithful erupts every 92 minutes now and is slowing a bit but it was still a glorious sight to see. After such as big day we decided to back track a bit and head west to the West Yellowstone entrance. This is when things got really fun, because the closer it got to dusk, the more wildlife we got to see. There were massive Elk, river otters, bison and another black wolf seen. We even got to see two Elk face off across a meadow, bugling away, marking their territories as a large group of cows grazed nearby. It was a marvelous day.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Jeff in Puglia

Hey, my buddy Jeff Gromen is now in blogland. Jeff is from Indy but now lives in Italy. It's a great way to to hear about an american in Italy. Jeff in Puglia

Monday, October 04, 2004

Yellowstone National Park 2004...An intro

Not much time to write this morning as I need to get back to vacationing! Mom, Dad, Chris & Nicole arrived last week and we've spent the past 4 days down in Yellowstone National Park...it was everything advertised and more!

We saw Eagles, Grizzlies, Black Bear, Bison, Elk, Otter, Coyote, Mountain Goats, Sheep, Deer, Antelope, Black Wolves and Grey Wolves! We saw geysers, paint pots, mineral springs, thermal holes, mountains, waterfalls, canyons, mud holes and more.

It was an amazing adventure. I'll write more later.

Friday, September 24, 2004

WPAQ: Voice of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Category: Music
Genre: Country
Artist: Various Artists

This is the review done by Tom Sheridan at allmusic.com:

These on-air recordings made between 1947 and 1950 at the Mount Airy, NC radio station offer a fascinating snapshot of the musical milieu of the time. From breakdowns like "Old Joe Clark" by the Gurney Thomas Band to the gospel harmony of "I'm Living Down Here on Borrowed Land" by the Silvertone Gospel Harmonizers, it's priceless material.
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I'll add to it that these recordings hearken back to a long gone era for me. Sure, we had TV growing up but our family spent alot of time listening to the radio and to old albums. My Dad's folks had a 78 record player too. But most of all these recordings make me think of my Grandpa Orville, Mom's Dad who was a Kentuckian through and through.

For anyone who has a music library and appreciates old timey music, this CD is for you

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Lucky Girl

I suppose it would be about 10 years ago this summer when I first met the spunky & delightful Gwen Plouhinec, a.k.a. "The Lucky Girl". Gwen is from Rennes, in Brittany (France) and I met her through happenstance. She was working as a traveling occupational therapist down in a rural hospital in Tennessee. She was in the United States on an H1-B nonimmigrant Visa and was working for a company who assigned her to facilities they contracted with for 6-12 weeks at a time. It just so happened she was working in the same hospital as another traveling therapist, Heidi Shubert, an Australian who originally came to the United States to work with me. Heidi and I had known each other for about three years when she brought Gwen up to Indianapolis for the Memorial Day weekend and my Indy 500 race party. Now I had a huge crush on Heidi, with her constantly messy hair, big smile and awesome Aussie accent, so when she said she was bringing a friend I said sure.
I knew I would like Gwen almost from the minute we met. She had only experienced the southeastern and mid-south US, so I spent alot of time telling her she needed to really travel to get a true sense of what the country was like. At some point in time I even told her that if her current job didn't work out she should let me know and I would see about sponsoring her myself and she could work for me.
Well it's a pretty long story as you can see, but 10 years later Gwen and I are still great friends. She's practically an O'Connor as she spent several holidays at my parents house and stays in close contact with my Mom. Our friend Monty and me visited Gwen when she lived in Georgia and I was honored to stand up for her at her wedding in Arcata, CA. I met her family in Nashville years ago and had the pleasure of their company this summer when AW and I traveled to France for Gwen's brother Gildas' (see my archived posts) wedding.
.Gwen and her husband Jack continue to live in northern California and she never cesaes to amaze me. She's one of those people that is so efficient and so energetic that from time to time you just sort of step back and shake your head, because just watching her makes you tired. To top it off, she's very French and very stubborn. The problem for the rest of us is she is usually right. Gwen and Jack have two lovely daughters who are blessed with two sweet sisters from Jack's first marraige. She is very busy.
Shortly after I met Gwen I started calling her The Lucky Girl, because it seemed to me that luck followed her wherever she went. When she was traveling with her brother Gildas, they just stumbled across a Clemson football game and managed to get in...when she went to Lake Tahoe and followed my advice to stop in Alpenglow, she met a world class climber who took her everywhere and introduced her to wonderful people. She's just lucky that way.
I heard from Gwen today. She contacted me because she was a little upset at the "down" tone I used in a previous post about my breakup with AW. She reminded me to be positive and to let good things happen to me. I think she was giving me one of her secrets to life. And, after spending far too little time with her family in France this summer, I gather the way she lives her life has been heavily influenced by her very large, happy and loving family. She really is a great person and a wonderful friend

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Missing Posts

Over the weekend I thought I posted a couple of stories about Dr. Dave's wedding and the rehearsal the night before. Apparently they are floating out there in blogspace.

I attended a fabulous outdoor wedding, amidst not so fabulous outdoor weather. It was the wedding between one of my employers, Dr. Dave and his fiance Pamela. It was held out at Dr. Dave's river place, also known as Tarkio. There were about 300 people in attendance. Rain has been falling over Missoula constantly for about 10 days and even though Tarkio is 45 miles west, the rain was constant there too. But as these things often do, the rain stopped just about 15 minutes before the ceremony was to begin and held off long enough for us to gather down on the beach and watch the wedding celebration take place. They wrote their own vows, which they recited at the same time and were wed under an alter made of river driftwood. It was lovely.

On Friday they had a rehearsal dinner for 100! It was held at the Pearl Cafe, Missoula's new hot spot for fine cuisine. I knew I had to give a roast of Dave so I decided to have some wine to "loosen" me up a bit: I'm not much of a wine drinker and so I wasn't ready for how quickly it hit me. My stomach got all warm and fuzzy and the next thing I knew I was plain ol' drunk. My roast was a huge success, despite the fact I can't remember much of what I said. Needless to say I paid the price for this indiscretion Saturday. Wine headaches are not to be messed with. All I could do was suck it up and work through the pain.

Watch Out for Neon Drivers

This afternoon I had to run an errand at lunchtime that involved the use of my car. Now I normally don't drive during the weekday, especially at lunchtime, merely for the reason that a gazillion people are all trying to cram as much as possible in an hour and are generally rude and inconsiderate on the road while doing so. So it was with a certain dread that I got into my car and headed across town to the busiest and most McDona-Wenda-Old Navy-Best Buy'ed part of town, the Reserve Street corridor. This is a section of town where all the new development is taking place, where Reserve Street serves as a connector between US Interstate 90 and US Highway 93 and where all the box stores are located. I was heading to the Eye of the Beholder, a custom framing and art shop located in a strip mall next to a mini Pizza Hut. The Pizza Hut was packed with painters, construction workers, truck drivers and a few office folk looking like ducks out of water...all enjoying the $5.99 all you could eat buffet.

I picked up my framed print and started to head back towards the relative safety zone of the 'northside", all the while thinking to myself, "this wasn't as bad as I thought". And then I spotted the Neon. For those of you living outside the USA, the Neon is a sort of poor man's sports car. It's a Dodge model and it is usually driven by 18-25 year olds with a need for speed, a total disregard for others on the road and little to no knowledge of road rules. Many Neon's are tricked out or crumpled and their outer bodies are pretty cheap. This afternoon, my nemesis was in a Kelly Green version with hot pink pin striping. I saw him, about a 1/2 block in front of me in the same parking lot. I hate parking lots anyway, but put a Neon in the same parking lot near me and my palms start to sweat. Sure enough, this idiot had his seat reclined so that you could barely see his head above the steering wheel. He had flashy spoked rims too, which caused me to take my foot off the accelerator and move it to the "hover" position atop my brake pedal. I was in a lane between two parking areas and was heading towards the lot exit, with cars in front and behind. As I neared he of course gunned it, turning left in front of me and cutting off the car coming from the opposite direction. The car driver slammed his brakes, causing the car behind to do the same and the car behind it to hit him. Meanwhile, the little shit in the Neon did the same as he turned onto Reserve Street and sped away.

Dodge Neon's and Honda Civics. I think there ought to be some extra IQ or driving tests or something to weed out all the punks, pricks and idiots who are somehow all driving these vehicles.

That's my salty bitch for the day.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Straight Story

If you thought David Lynch could only make movies that were a bit off center, then you need to see the movie The Straight Story.

It's a great movie that will pull at your heart strings and have the whole family in tears. It's slow, and I mean s-l-o-w, moving but at the same time it feels just right. The movie is based on a true story, about a man who drives his lawnmower across Iowa and Wisconsin to see his ailing brother. Harry Dean Stanton is in the flick, a plus for just about any movie. It also stars Sissy Spacek and Richard Farnsworth, Farnsworth in particular does an outstanding job.

The scenery is fantastic and the stories created along the journey help make the movie a success, at least in my book.

Check it out this month on the Independent Film Channel (IFC) here in the states.

Multiply

Oh this blogging type thing is getting out of control. I just joined another service called Multiply. It allows you to upload photos, keep a group calendar, share recipes and do just about anything else you want. And since (as my Austrian friend Martin so aptly pointed out in my newly added guestbook)my blog is more of an online diary, the multiply site will let me expand outside of the diary concept...thanks for the kick in the pants Martin.

I found Multiply while visiting the blog of a Brazilian girl featured on the blogger home page. Since her site is in Brazilian Portuguese, I just started clicking on links to see where they would take me. in addition to some info on chocolate and some cool photos, she has links to Multiply, Friendster and Fotolog.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

My Friends, the Superheroes

Today I realized just what superheroes some of my friends are, day in and day out. I happen to work for a group of surgeons and I also consider all three of them my friends (Two of them have been my friends long before I moved to Missoula).

I work as their Practice Manager, meaning I run their business. My office is across the hall from the main clinic and my interactions with patients are usually brief (when I'm across the hall and cross paths with them) or about issues related to patient care or their bills. I am not a clinician and I'm never involved with actual patient care. The patient care issues I hear about are usually related to appointment wait times, confusion (or complaints) about their bills or when they want to pay a compliment to our staff or the doctors. It's pretty cool to work in a doctor's office where the patients oftentimes bring in treats or send cards or make things (painting, carvings, etc.) for the doctors and staff. It's a testament to what good doctors and great people they are.

Today was a another rough day, in a series of rough days, for two of our doctor's, the ones who happen to be my close friends. One doctor got called into the emergency room of a local hospital for an incoming trauma; an entire family was involved in a terrible automobile crash that caused the death of a child at the scene, sent another one into the ICU with awful injuries and a third one to the ER where our doctor was called in to try and assist. The injuries were extreme to this young boy, who couldn't know that another sibling was somewhere else in the hospital struggling for his life. As our doctor worked on him he realized this child, if he was going to be saved, needed to get to Seattle and fast. And while all this was going on he became aware that the other sibling was "coding" at the same time. It was heart wrenching for him, to say the least. To have to speak to the parents in such a time of crisis and tell them they needed to send their child immediately by emergency flight to Seattle is just something I couldn't imagine. I happened to meet my friend, the doctor, on the street as he was coming back to our office...he still had an afternoon full of patients he needed to see and needed to give all his attention to: He looked pretty troubled and I asked him how things were going. As we talked about how heavy his mind and heart were, the helicopter carrying the patient took off from the roof of the hospital...it was totally heart breaking for me and I wasn't even involved in the process. To top this off, his colleague, another one of our doctors and also my friend, was seeing patients in our office, trying to use the same compassion and give them all his attention as well...yet in the past week he's had to inform two people they will not live because of cancer that has spread through their bodies.

Most of the time when people think of doctors they think about how much money they make. Doctors don't get much sympathy when it comes to financial issues as the general public doesn't see the exploding costs for doctors and has no idea about what they go through on a daily basis...heck, I've worked here for two plus years and it wasn't until that helicopter took off over my head and I imagined that frightened boy inside & his devastated family sitting somewhere in the hospital that I looked at my friend in amazement. What an unbelievable thing he does with his life and what a heartbreaking day he also must have gone through...all the time not letting his other patients care be effected.

As with every profession, there are good doctors, okay doctors, not so good and just plain bad. It just so happens that many of my friends are doctors and it also is the case they are all great doctors, great persons and they are all superheroes in my mind.

A Note About My Guestbook

Just a quick note, the guestbook I am using is a free tool that has a few glitches. in the case of my guestbook, I thought it was customized so it would show the person's name, what country they were from, a link to their homepage (if any) and their comments...doesn't look like that is what they activated. I will try to fix it tonight.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Sign my Guestbook!

When you visit the Blogger website, you not only can find out about blogging, but can also learn about other bloggers. Tonight I dipped into the website of an Armenian blogger, who happens to live in the long disputed region of Nagorno-Karabagh. The blog is super cool and the blogger, Ara Manoogian, has a great feature I decided to add to my site...a guestbook.

On the right hand side of this page, right under my profile, you'll find a new link that says, "sign my guestbook". Click on it and a new window should pop up allowing you to sign the page. don't worry, I'm the only one who will see your email address and url (if you enter them). I just added it tonight and it should be live by tomorrow morning (or whenever the $1.99US clears paypal).

Sign away and welcome

Monday, September 13, 2004

50 Cents and the Meaning of The Koran

Some time back I spent 50 cents on a book written in 1953 by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall. The book was published then by the New American Library as a Mentor Religious Classic and is entitled, The Meaning of the Glorious Koran. Over the ensuing years I picked it up at various times (usually whenever I reorganized my bookshelves or moved) but never gave it a serious reading. The paperback cover is torn and the pages are yellowed.

I originally bought the book out of sentiment, as the first girl I can honestly say I loved was Ela, a Turkish-American girl from a Muslim family who I dated in College and pined after for many years afterwards. My experiences meeting her family and some of the things that happened during those stays (like the fact she couldn't speak directly to me in her parents house and also was not allowed to make eye contact) made me want to know more about Turkish culture and Islam. Long after we broke up (err...I mean, long after she broke up with me 'cause that's how it went down) I saw the book at a book sale and bought it.

Ever since the rise in the insurgency in Iraq, specifically since Al-Sadr's increase in popularity, I've been visiting the Al Jazeera website on a daily basis. And I've been deeply troubled and become more fearful from reading the posts by Muslim readers who not only feel like America and Americans are evil but who state emphatically that non-Muslims are infidels that need to be either expelled from Muslim countries or killed. So about a month or so ago, I started reading my 50 cent explanation on the Koran. While this book is not the Koran itself, it is a great work on the Koran. I guess if I had to use an analogy, it's a good precursor to the "for dummies" series.

What I find very telling, and completely against what some of the more radical clerics are preaching, is the attitudes and teachings of both early converts to the Muslim faith...many of whom survived by fleeing to the safety of a Christian country, Abyssinia, and what the Koran itself actually says. The teachings of the prophet, as Muhammad is called, include making women equal to men, striving for universal brotherhood and the creation of a common law. That's not to say that Islam is not a faith of violence, in the 10 years between the time Muhammad left Mecca and when he became the defacto ruler of north Arabia, he and his followers participated in 38 "wars" against those who persecuted them, other Arabic tribes, Syrians, Byzantines and Jewish clans allied with tribes who opposed them. I've read quite a bit so far and have more to read, but thus far I've found no mention of the claims made by the martyrs in Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, Indonesia, The Philippines, Morocco, Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the USA.

And I suppose what also troubles me, as I try to maintain some sort of rational opinion about the state of our World, is there seems to be no organized effort on the part of the mainstream Muslim community to reign in these extremists. Extremists aren't the sole possession of the Islamic faith, their are plenty of other religious extremists in the world, but at present there doesn't seem to be so much death and terror coming from any other religious sector.

I've been in a four-day discussion on this topic with my friend Pete in Thailand and Bruce in Chicago...it's been very educational and though provoking. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this book and perhaps readig further so that I may speak from a position of knowledge and not one purely of trepedition.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Well, This Explains quite A Bit

Late last night, while watching highlights from yesterday's college football games, I saw a commercial for an Internet dating service called eHarmony. Although I've played around with Internet match services in the past, it's not something I'd normally consider. But the combination of AW and I biting the dust (at least I think that's what happened, I'm still unclear on this), my emotions of the day and a spontaneous, "what the heck" that sort of popped into my head at the moment, I decided to visit the eHarmony site.

eHarmony touts itself as being the perfect way to find a match, using a 29 dimension profiling system to properly match people. I spent about an hour filling the thing out, almost quitting three or four times. But I battled through all the psychological profiling (you know, where you're asked the same thing 5 different times in a slightly different manner) and carefully read through the terms of the agreement before I pushed the submit button. Then I waited for eHarmony to pump out my matches. And I waited some more, and some more. There were none.

Now I didn't choose the option limiting my matches to my city, nor did I pick the one for limiting to my state...or even my country. I selected the "find my matches anywhere in the world" option and eHarmony had zero. Ouch! That explains quite a bit.

I guess it is me after all. Damn, that's cold.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

9/11 Thoughts

I got up early this morning, while the sky was still grey and the morning air cool. I put out my American flag, more of a traditional act of respect in my family than anything else, but I thought it appropriate nonetheless. It was early enough that I stepped outside in my boxers and a T-shirt, I knew no one else would be around. I came inside and started thinking about what to do next. The house needed cleaning, the yard needed cutting and my laundry needed to be done. I turned the radio on and the Weekend edition of All Things Considered was just starting. The host started talking about New York and how residents of the city were marking the third anniversary of the events of 9/11. I hadn't planned on participating in any sort of memorial to those who died, American, Bangladeshi, Honduran, British, South African and others alike I'd thought my flag was enough. But as I stood in the living room, thinking of how to go about the morning, I found myself drawn to the story on the radio and plopped down in my chair. Over the next hour or so I listened to various stories about those who died and those left behind. I have to say, the tears were flowing and I became pretty somber.

I spent most of the rest of today keeping busy around my house and just reflecting. It started raining mid-afternoon and I found myself standing on the porch, listening to the rain falling and watching the flag flow in the wind, sticking to itself. One of the stories today, about the wife of the Fire chief who died in the Towers, held my thoughts for a long time and it popped back into my head while the rain fell gently. It wasn't just the things she said about their 30 years of marriage or about how hard it has been since he died,it was also the things that weren't said and it really shook me up to think about all the individual stories of heartache. My mind being what it is and doing what it does, this thought soon led me to think about heartache caused by War throughout the world, sadness and futility.

It really is too much to bear, if you allow it to consume the joy of living. So tonight I decided to try and concentrate on the joy. I went to a fundraiser, a dinner for the charitable foundations of the two local hospitals. The foundations support various charitable causes, from relieving patients financial burdens to providing services to ease pain and grief. It did the trick, as shallow as that might sound, by allowing me to see people smile and to know that I was helping others will having a good time myself.

I hope that no one, anywhere in the world, will have to go through another terrorist attack, It is a hope I know cannot be fulfilled, but I'll hope nonetheless.

Friday, September 10, 2004

The Politics of Dancing

This has been a fun week in Johnny O's blogland...I seem to have somehow gained an international following. My Mind: Lifesized has gotten all kinds of crazy hits this week and even some comments. I think that is totally cool.

When AW and I were in France this summer we had one of those days from Hell that has a way of turning into a great story. It's a long story but let's just say it involved getting stuck on a bus at Charles de Gaulle Airport outside of Paris which then got delayed by a bomb threat, which then got stuck in traffic, which then dumped us in a slum and so on. During this 6 1/2 hour ordeal I first exchanged glances, then hellos and then a conversation with an Iranian guy named Hossein. Hossein was in Paris for a quickly arranged business meeting and had somehow gotten himself into the same predicament as AW and I...turns out he's a pretty cool guy. We've stayed in touch via email, first exchanging pictures of where we live (my pictures were of mountains and river streams as Hossein is a fisherman and his eyes lit up when I described the fly fishing here. His pictures were of some of the ancient cities in Iran I told him I yearned to visit), then talking about Art and Culture and lately about politics and religion. It's been really enlightening and exciting. As AW said to me the other day, I'm the World's best pen pal (this is of course not true and I seem to remember she said it with a bit of sarcasm, but I like to entertain myself with the notion that friendships can still be made via the pen or the keyboard).

At the same time all this has been going on, I also reconnected with a longtime friend and guy who holds a special place on my friendship shelf, Dick Coons. Dick and I went to high school and college together and we were inseparable during an important stage in both our lives, so our friendship runs deep despite the fact we've drifted apart over the past decade. He and his wife live outside of Dallas, Texas and he recently started a new career working for a company that basically sells pre-emptive cyber security. We've been catching up on life and such and I invited him to read my blog. He made a comment about my politics, which I found a bit strange, and told me about his wife's involvement with the Republican Party and how she got to attend the national convention. Personally, I think it's pretty damn cool whenever anyone is committed enough to attend a convention, regardless of their politics.

I guess this long meandering introduction brings me to the point of this post...politics. I define myself as a conservative liberal who has an independent streak. Haw! Did that statement make you spit up your milk? Seriously...when I was in high school I worked on the campaign of Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut, a successful Republican who helped transform our sleepy "nap-town" into a thriving community. I then worked on the gubanatorial campaign of one of the Hillenbrand's, a Democrat. My first presidential vote went to Reagan, my last to Nader (as a write-in in Indiana, a staunchly Republican state on the Federal level). I've marched on Capitol Hill for Peace & Justice in Central America & South Africa (during the infamous Barbie Nation phase) and voted for Perot. In short, I'm all over the board. What I say to my conservative friends is that if there were no such thing as greed and if the private sector truly was as benevolent as they advertise, EVERYONE would be a Republican (well, everyone except the Libertarians, Socialists and Communists that is)...somewhere between the Republicans and the Democrats is where I sit.

Now my friend Dick made a good point, he said he just votes and hopes whoever wins will do a good job. The part of that point that is good, of course, is the fact that he votes. Too many people in this country don't even bother, even though they sure bother to complain. I do believe a vote makes a difference and I do believe that despite all the riders, pork barrel's, filibusters and scandals, good politics can and does take place. I like grassroots stuff, even though I still haven't found my legs here in Montana (talk about a crazy ass state politically...this place is wacky).

I really don't think either one of these jokers running for President can do much in the next four years...Iraq will still be struggling with forming a future after we shattered their past (a past worth shattering by most standards but not the way we did it), the Afghans will still be trying to figure out the best way to enter the modern world, Islamic fundamentalists will still be trying to push their version of Islam on the rest of us, corporations will still be directly and indirectly helping and hurting people at the same time and so on. I think it was Nader who said we've got a bunch of Republicrats and Demublicans running the show around here and I suppose I feel the same way.

I'm still going to vote, I'm still going to volunteer and I'm still going to speak out about things that I believe matter. And I'll still be doing it as a very independent conservative with strong liberal leanings!

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

A Labor Day Scorcher

Busy, busy, busy is the story of my life these days. Since my post last Thursday I've been to Boise and back ( a 7 1/2 hour drive from Missoula), played in another Ultimate tournament, experienced the unpleasant task of having to terminate an employee at work and spent countless hours wrestling with my own thoughts (ohhhhhh, cruel world).

This past weekend was Labor Day weekend here in the States and, like most Americans, I used the three day weekend to get out of town. I headed south to Boise, Idaho to participate in the Boise Scorcher ultimate tournament with a team from Missoula. The drive to Boise is really spectacular and I saw a bull moose on the way down through the mountains. The weather was perfect and the sunset on the way down was added to my list of great sunsets. Our team had won a tournament the weekend before in Jackson Hole, Wyoming but we weren't really expected to make much noise in Boise. Scorcher is a tourney that brings out some very good teams and this year was no exception. Quite to my surprise (and that of all my teammates, I believe) we won the tourney in grand fashion, beating an established team that went to the national championships last year. It was an awesome weekend. On the way back I saw a red fox, a bald eagle, some mountain goats, plenty of deer and some incredible whitewater all along the way.

The weekend was a nice diversion from the things I've been wrestling with lately; my quickly disintegrating relationship with Annie, all the garbage at work, my current financial state and thoughts of home. I got home late last night and didn't sleep much. This morning I had to get to work early so I could prepare for our new employee (who is replacing the one I terminated last week). It was a crazy day...I just hope she comes back!

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Holy Crap, Did George Bush just Speak Spanish?

What genius! What bravado. GW Bush is giving his convention speech right now and I'll be damned if he just didn't stammer through, "we will leave no child behind" in Spanish. That was pure genius. Now you may wonder just what the heck a fiscally conservative Democrat like me would be doing watching the RNC...I believe this is important, important to know what all (notice I didn't say both as I am also following Nader...sorry, the Libertarians lose me with some of their crazy gun ideas) sides think.

The RNC has been truly amazing...I cannot believe the bullshit flying out of the mouths of some of these speakers. Gov. Patacki tonight said the Bush inherited a recession...that is untrue [sidebar...GW just through out his first salvo for a pro-life, anti-gay, pro religion, right wing constitutionalist agenda and the crowd went crazy and now he's launching into his anti-Kerry bit].

This election will be incredibly close. The RNC has been tremendously effective, as Arnold the Terminator was simply fabulous and GW is pleasing his constituents.[Wow, demonstrators are interrupting Bush's speech. There have been two so far], They are effectively painting Kerry as a flip-flopper. I must admit, I'm impressed. It will be interesting to see how Kerry responds.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Uncle John Gets Dissed

Today I got the first inkling of things to come with my niece Tara. It'sher 11th birthday today and I decided to try and call her as soon as she got home from school to sing to her and wish her a happy birthday. My Mom told me that Tara got off the bus at 3:15 PM Indiana time (2:15 PM Montana time)and she was planning on taking some balloons up to her so I thought that would be a good time to give her a buzz. "Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you....", I had barely finished the song when she announced that her friend Jordan was there with her. "Great", I said , "did you have a fun day at school? Are you excited for your birthday? Have you gotten any treats yet? Do you feel older?" "Well, my teacher totally embarrassed me", she said, "and everyone sang happy birthday to me...it was totally embarrassing". "Ah, c'mon, that's pretty cool", was my response, "they must really like you". "Not in this century, uncle John, that's totally embarrassing". "Oh", I said, with a little chuckle, "well, I think it's pretty cool anyway. So, what else are you doing?" "Well, I have alot of homework, and like I said, Jordan is here". We talked for a few minutes more during which time she asked if I'd be home next year for her birthday and then she whipped out the statement, "well, actually, I'd love to talk to you longer, but I DO have alot of homework to do and, well, ya know, Jordan is here."

And just like that, I was dissed. In that short moment I realized the little girl who used to cry when I would leave, who couldn't wait to see me, who loved to hang out with me and thought I could do no wrong, in that moment I knew things had changed. I'm not trying to be dramatic, after all it was pretty damn funny when I thought about it; an 11 year-old using the phrase "actually, I'd love to talk to you longer" in a sentence...that phrase is usually reserved for women who are in the process of breaking up with me. Now I knew it would happen someday, after all it is a phase we all go through...that phase when grown-ups just stop being cool, but I just didn't expect it to happen so soon with Tara. She's as close to being a daughter to me than I've ever had (and at the rate I'm going, will ever have) and it was both hilarious and heartbreaking to hear those words.

I called my Mom right afterwards and told her my tale...we both laughed until we cried. "Well actually, well actually" I kept saying, over and over. I'm sure my Mom thought it was even funnier than me. Ah, life; it's pretty darn funny.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Even the French?

I have quite a bit to catch up on, like my trip to Jackson this past weekend, my romantic state of limbo and the passing of a dear family friend, but right now all I can think about is how really pissed off I am at these so-called insurgent groups in Iraq.
CNN reported today that a group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq, is threatening to kill two French journalists it captured on August 21st. Now terror has been used in the world for a very long time, dating back as far as recorded history, but most modern historians feel the use of terror was resurrected in the modern era during the 1970's with hijackings, bombings and assassinations. The Japanese Red Army, various Palestinian groups, South America's Shining Path rebels and the SLA in America were most notorious.
Most people in the world today think of terror as something committed against westerners or western style countries (not discounting the Spaniards struggles with the Basque movement or the Columbian rebels terror tactics) and many of those people think it's justified...Iraq is a focal point. Looking at web chat groups from the rest of the world, the theme seems to be the American commit terror all the time and now they are getting what they deserve. But now the Islamic terror groups are really stooping to new lows and I just can't fathom how mainstream Muslims can tolerate it...there is definitely a faction of Muslims who believe in some made up fundamentalist dogma that makes them think Islam does not respect life, that they can kill and be rewarded in heaven and some truly believe another crusade is coming. This article from CNN shows how pointless they've become. France today emphasized the banning of all religious items from public schools, including the Muslim headscarf, the Jewish skullcap or large Christian crosses...an Islamic group in Iraq kidnapped two French journalists and says they will kill them unless France lifts the ban and lets Muslim school girls where their headscarf's to school.
Are you shitting me? Are you serious? These people value life and other people so little that they would kill two people because the French government won't let Algerian emigrants wear a head scarf to their publicly funded schools? Schools the emigrants quite possibly have never pitched in to help pay for? It's mind-boggling to me that anyone would support such an action. Even French Muslim groups are condemning the action.
Any credibility these groups had before must surely be washing away.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Women's Field Hockey

Tonight I vowed to myself that I would get the Hollasaugadougatuck 2004 vacation expenses figured out. Admittedly, I'm only hurting myself by not getting this task done, well me and a few other of the 43 participants who fronted the cash for the event. I thought I emailed the spreadsheet to myself so I could work on it at home, but it turns out I emailed the wrong document which leads me to the topic of my post.

I just turned on the television and the Olympic gold medal match of Women's Field Hockey is on the Bravo network. I've never seen field hockey played and frankly I'm a bit dumbfounded by the sport. Now I know that I play another crazy sport (Ultimate)but this field hockey thing looks like a back breaker. The women play with sticks a length that forces them to constantly move about in a perma slouch...that's gotta take its toll on their backs. It's brutal too, they all had blood coming from somewhere on their bodies. But what really surprised me was the crowd. It was huge...much larger than the Women's soccer finals. The Germans won 2-1, a major upset according to the announcers. I wouldn't know whether it was an upset or not but I do know the olympics are cool.

Monday, August 23, 2004

This One's for You, JCP

My two readers both pointed out to me the frequency of my postings has dropped dramatically in the past month and upon short reflection I agree. But don't be fooled, my mind still fills with all sorts of ideas, my days are still full of notable events (at least to me) and I still have plenty to say. I could try to blame the Olympics for cutting into my time (they have been pretty awesome after all) or I could say that I've been too "busy" to write, but the fact is I just haven't been able to motivate myself. Thanks, Mr. JCP, for shaking the cobwebs from my brain.

Tonight was an amazing evening here in Missoula; the cold, fall-like day gave way to a remarkable night. The clouds all parted and almost vanished, letting the sun brighten the evening sky and make the mountains shine. I got to play some Ultimate, which was a nice way to end a pretty busy day.

Things aren't going so well for Annie and me, which has alot to do with the lack of posting. We're struggling to keep our relationship on course as the long distance starts to take its toll. I haven't written much about Annie; some of that is out of respect for her and some of it is due to my own caution. Annie is a true joy to me, she is smart, cute and for some strange reason she hasn't been scared off by all my defects. But, truth be told, we hit some bumps while we were in France and it caused us both to take a step backwards to reassess our relationship. I can't fault her, she's been through this before and was burned in a past relationship. On the other hand, I've been burned too and I'm not prepared to make life changes or ask her to make life changes until we're both sure it is what we really want. So it brings us to the current impasse, she feels like we're going nowhere and I feel like she is painting us both into opposite corners. It's a little frustrating but I can't say I didn't see it coming. I'm not sure what will happen in the next couple of weeks as we both try to determine what direction to take.

On a lighter note, I saw my first bear of the season on Saturday. I was spending the weekend at the Matelich's up on Flathead Lake. They are building a home out on King's Point near the narrows and the bear, a full grown black bear, somehow was stuck between their house and another developed property. King's Point is the tip of Cherry Point, an area that has been developed slowly over the past 25 years. The are is wild, although it is being transformed into manicured lawns and $500,000.00 homes. There are mountain lions and bear that still wander into areas that are becoming neighborhoods and it is sometimes easy to forget we live on the edge of the wilderness. As best we could tell, the bear we saw Saturday would be close to 7 feet tall standing. The bear apparently destroyed a couple of trash cans sometime early Saturday morning and then hid in the densely forested land between the homes. When we arrived in the afternoon, Lewie Matelich nonchalantly mentioned a bear was hiding in the bushes, about 40 yards from his house. I assumed it must have been a juvenile, drawn to the area by trash. About an hour later I saw the bear, standing in a clearing looking very stressed and pacing nervously. This is never a good sign for bear-human interaction, so we made sure all the kids (there were 17 kids at the party) stayed up on the second level deck. We saw him a little later from a vantage point on the third level (second level above ground) and it was almost funny as he thought he was hiding well, but his bum and ears were longer and higher than the brush he was trying to hide behind. It made for an interesting night, as my friends Karl & Lori Westenfelder and I attempted to sleep outdoors. The Matelich's invited 10 families and me up for the weekend, so sleeping space was at a premium. Karl, Lori and I had planned to sleep under the stars, but the more I laid there the more I bean to see myself as a sleeping bag wrapped appetizer for that bear. As the night wore on, every sound made both Lori and I wake up and then we both had a hard time getting back to sleep. I remembered that one of the Mom's put watermelon rinds in a plastic trash can on the front porch, so Lori and I got up and moved the trash can inside. Then she freaked out about the s'mores makings that she was sure were left down on the shoreline near the fire pit, so we donned our headlamps and cautiously went to the shore only to find everything had been meticulously cleaned. All the while Karl slept through it all. Lori was the first to bail, opting for the indoor basement floor, somewhere around 2:00 AM. Shortly thereafter Karl and I used the lightning we could see south over Polson as an excuse to move inside without admitting we were more than concerned. We never saw the bear again and I hope it snuck away safely.

I'm constructing a little walkway of stone on the east side of my house, an area that has long been neglected. I dug up the old sidewalk and added two cubic yards of dirt and stone. I gathered the flat stones from around Missoula and Flathead and am slowly piecing them together to make a curved walk. I'm planting mums as I go and will fill in the area between the walking path with some type of sedum or rose moss. I think it will be quite nice when I'm done.

I guess that's all for tonight...it's getting late and I really am rambling. I'll try to post something more cohesive and coherent tomorrow. But I'm off the snide JCP, I'm off the snide.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Wow, Kooser takes the title!

About three months ago I visited my local Barnes & Noble (shhhh, I should have supported the independent Facts & Fiction)looking for something to read on a plane...I'd been immersed in a series of political history books about the Middle East and so I decided to try and find something a little lighter. I came across a book called Local wonders, Seasons in the Bohemian Alps by Ted Kooser and picked it up. I'd be telling a fib if I said who I knew who the author was at the time; it was the cover that attracted me. The cover has an old red truck with bright green grass growing up through it. The quote on the cover, by Jim Harrison says, "The quietest magnificent book I've ever read." and so I decided to bite.

Local Wonders is by Ted Kooser and is a marvelous piece of work about Kooser's homeland, Nebraska. It is the kind of book you want to tell your friends about and the kind of book you want to read aloud. In my own case, I do that sort of thing alot with just about everything I think has value, so sometimes I hold back for fear of wearing out my "hey, Johnny O says this is cool so it must be" allure.

Imagine my surprise when, this evening as I was shoveling part of the two cubic yards of soil piled neatly beside my house by the good folk's at Marchies Nursery, I heard over the jam box perched on my porch that the newest poet laureate of the United States was a longtime favorite poet of the State of Nebraska. I stood up, wiped the dirty sweat on my shirt and walked over to the radio...sure enough, the announcer said Ted Kooser had been named US Poet Laureate.

Kooser has a very interesting background and is a wonderful poet. I highly recommend picking up any of his works.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Bruce's Election Link

Dave and Bruce posted some great election information on The Holland Pages and Bruce's link is worth sharing. As Bruce said:

This guy (the Blogging Caesar) combines all available polls into a weekly national and state-by-state statistical composite, a running tally of the electoral college votes, offering many illuminating views into this fascinating data. Naturally, he has a strong personal opinion of who will win and why. But unlike some in say, the entertainment field, he keeps that out of his work, the calculations, bravely giving you a clear look into the data even when it hurts:

Election Projection Blog

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The Western Montana Fair, The Green party and the not-so-crazy Colonel

Tonight I ventured over the the Missoula County Fairgrounds for "free admission" night of the Western Montana Fair...it also just happened to be Charlie Pride night, so the joint was jumpin'. I met Andy Puckett and the two Puckett youngsters, Jack & Daniel in the food area, a sort of lane with a long thin barn divided into food booths operated by various organizations. There was the Tater Pig booth, the twisted tater booth (operated by the Camp Fire Girls USA), the Lifesaver Shaved Ice booth, Pizza booth, hot dog stand and so on. This is not health food, it is full on fair food. By the time I arrived, the boys had already polished off a couple of pieces of pizza, some breadsticks, a corn dog and a couple of slushies. Jack's tongue was blue and Daniel had a good portion of his food all over his face and clothes: they were all jacked up on sugar and super stoked to hit the Midway.

Now going to the fair anywhere in the USA is prime people watching territory and offers a glimpse into a slice of Americana that concentrates a certain type of people in one place...it's really my number one reason for going. I used the "hang out with the Puckett's" theme as ay cover to spend the evening checking out the freaks, hormone crazed teens (and pre-teens it now seems), carneys and assundry of other wackos. Boy howdy was that fun. The teenage boys were sort of chasing the girls but it was obvious who was really doing the chasing...the girls were in total control. Both groups traveled in gangs, with the boys spending most of their time punching each other or being just plain silly while the girls (the outfits were astounding) batted their eyes, posed, strutted and every once in awhile singled out some poor slob for adoration. In any event, all the teens seemed to be out for testing their limits. The freakers were pretty much just being themselves, causing me to spend time contemplating just how these people make it through the day and the carneys all looked like they had plenty of stories to tell.
While Daniel, Jack and Andy rode the Ferris wheel, I zoned out on the 20-ish looking native girl with three tiny kids and no male figure to be seen, the extremely obese teenager in Goth attire who could hardly walk, the three college age guys (one with a shirt proclaiming "take me for a ride") strutting and puffing for whoever was watching, the guy walking around with no shirt and a tattoo of an eagle covering his entire back and the four girls in front of me who couldn't have dressed more alike if they tried. It was total fun and I was totally staring. The fair allows alcohol, but not in the Midway area. So there plenty of people juiced on Bacardi in plastic bottles or bad beer, using the Midway rides to further enhance their buzz. It was some funny stuff.

Later, after the Puckett's headed home, I strolled into the 4-H barn and saw all the desserts that had been judged that day. To my delight I discovered one could have some of any dessert for a donation of their choosing. Since I had already eaten a corn dog and a funnel cake, I opted out of trying the pear custard pie or the mixed berry cobbler or cheesecake or.....oh well. If I go back thte fair before Thursday night, I'll definitely eat some dessert. Next I went to the commercial building, as an acquaintance told me to stop by his booth (he and his wife have a camp for kids). It was rather humorous to see the Montana gay Pride booth and Pro-Choice booth sandwiching the Baptist fundamentalist booth. The very feminine guy in the Montana Pride booth was totally playing it up as I passed by, all for the benefit of the young Baptists, who by the look on their faces, were a little nervous to be that close to a gay man shouting about diversity and free love. The kid with the tie at the Baptist booth handed me a small card that had a smilet face and the word "smile" on the front and was filled with three things God can't do (God can't force you to love him, God can't lie and God can't learn) with reasons why the reader will go to hell if they don't repent right now on the back...intersting approach. They had a little display with the three things God can't do hidden behind doors they opened as they expalined each reason to passers-by. Next came the very nice young lady with some kind of stud thing in her lip asking me if I was registered to vote and if I wanted some information on the Pro-Choice movement. Their booth was stocked by an interesting variety of women, from Missoula crunchie to feminists. I didn't spend much time there.
I was having a dandy of a time observing, listening and staring when I met the Colonel: Colonel Bob Kelleher of the Montana Green Party that is. The Green party booth was a bit down from the Pro-choicers, just past the "The Body Shoppe at Home" booth and right before the Missoula Historic Society booth. A very disheveled man with huge bushy eyebrows, loads of hair coming out of his ears and the strands of hair left on his head going every which way, the Colonel was wearing an old pair of blue pants and a plain white undershirt that had a little stain right down the front. He caught my eye and said, in a commanding voice, "Mind if I say Hello"? So I said, "Hello" and just kept walking. He started to talk but then just sort of chuckled and went back to organizing his papers that were strewn about the table in front of him. I walked out of the building with every intent of calling it a night, but then I decided to turn back around and meet that guy wearing the undershirt. I did it partly out of guilt, it wasn't really too nice of me to take him so literally and just keep walking. Also, he had an air about him that made me think he would be interesting and there is that Nader vote I cast as a write-in in the last election.
So I walked back in and went right up to him, "Hello", I said, "sorry for being rude before. I was just thirsty" (that wasn't a lie), "have you had a busy night"?

"Every night is busy when you're trying to open the eyes of the people", was his reply. What ensued was a 30 or 40 minute discussion with an extremely intelligent, somewhat wacky, man who hails from Chicago and has been working tirelessly for 30 years to change the political landscape of Montana. Bob Kelleher advocates establishing a parliamentary governmental system that, as he says, will eliminate the buck passing of politicians and raise the standard of living in our country. He also wants to make Montana more sovereign and believes the USA could be stronger by making states more sovereign. He is a strong advocate for peace and sums up his philosophy on mankind by saying, "God wants us to do good so we can all meet in heaven". I found him to not represent anything near what I believed the Greens were all about and not anything near what I thought he'd be. On the one hand, many of his ideas were verging on socialist in nature, on the other, he espoused a very liberal view of conservative Christian doctrines. He was simply fascinating to talk to and our conversation soon drew some onlookers, lurkers you might say. We talked alot about the health care crisis in America and I put in my two cents, which I would call educated liberalism. He was quite inquisitive at times, challenging at times and surprised by some of my opinions. We talked about War and I asked him if he had seen or read any of McNamara's stuff. We talked about evil and how much evil is done in the name of good and how good people do evil things. He pointed out to me that despite Montana's population (still under 1 million), Montana had the 7th highest number per capita per state of servicemen in Iraq. I could have spent hours with the man, who says this is his last campaign for Governor (although he says the real title should be Premier) of Montana. He gave me some good information on countries with Parliaments and his website address and invited me to contact for more discussion. I probably will. His website is full of eye raising material, some of which is downright crazy and any reader will be able to see from his ramblings about the Montana race of 2002 that the man has alot to say.

As I left the fair I couldn't help but smile a bit...evenings like this remind me how very amazing my journey through life really is. Every corner reveals another opportunity to experience something new.