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.