I sit here at my laptop and wonder what happened to the good in our country. I know we’ve always had disagreements and differing points of view since the Pilgrims first landed on North American soil. We had a horrendous civil war, and I am concerned we are heading towards another one. I can’t ultimately place all the blame on our current president because the left has produced many problems with their own policies, yet I’ve never seen a sitting president that was so intent on creating division and chaos, and promoting hatred in everything he says.
No matter who is spewing propaganda and hate speech, aren’t we as Americans better than that? Aren’t we as Americans able to sort through the bullstuff and choose to do what we know in our core is right and correct? Aren’t we as Americans able to differentiate between what is good, right and decent over that which is destructive, deceiving and bad? Maybe not! Maybe we are sheep being led off of a cliff! Just take a look at how many incorrect posts full of misinformation and untruths get liked and forwarded on the internet every day! That’s one of the reasons I deleted my Facebook account. We seem to be in an era now where presidential work is accomplished on Twitter!
I have many times, as I’m sure most persons have in the history of humanity, looked at their lives and wondered what their purpose was in life. I think we can find some excellent words that speak directly to this whole mess that we find our country in right now… and that is from the Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Declaration of Independence, paragraph 2, July 4, 1776…
“Unalienable rights”… “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”… and if we don’t have these rights, if our government fails to derive it’s powers from the consent of the American people, then it’s time to make changes. How do we make those changes? WE VOTE! WE VOTE! WE VOTE! In 1776, our Congress determined it was time to make a change, and they voted to get rid of the despotic ruler that chose to infringe on their life, liberty and happiness.
We have a very similar situation right now in 2020! We are desperately in need of Americans to register and VOTE! Vote to get rid of this hatred and divisiveness. Vote to get proper leadership in this country that we can be proud of, a leadership that is worthy of the respect of its citizens, and a leadership that upholds the sacredness of the office and the constitution, and respects the democratic process.
For me, a pursuit of happiness, promoting good, helping others where and when I can… no matter what their political affiliation is… no matter what the color of their skin is, or what their accent may sound like… pursuing an artistic endeavor of creating something that hopefully brings others happiness and joy… that to me is what life is about.
I’m going to take a guess and say the year was probably 1966…. that would make me 8 years old in that photo. We lived in a small town called Yucaipa, in the foothills of the eastern San Bernardino mountains. It was a town, maybe around 8,000 population at that time, right about 2,600 feet elevation. My father was a contractor and began building custom homes around the town, so we moved a few times… always into a new house that he just built. This boyhood home was at the top of the town, in the hills…. the only house on a dead-end street of about 500 feet in length. Across the street was an asphalt embankment that rose up to an old abandoned peach orchard about 5 feet above the road, and even though the orchard was not tended, it still produced some peaches. I would go with my Dad and pick a few, take them home, cut them up in a bowl and pour cream over them.
I was one of 5 children….. a sister being the eldest… 18 years older than me, then my two brothers, another sister 5 years older, and then me. The eldest sister and my two brothers were out of the house before I could recall… my sis getting married when I was born, and my brothers both entered the military…. The eldest brother, Jim, into the Navy…. and Bob into the Air Force, leaving me with my sister Carol to grow up with.
I will admit I was a handful as a youngster…. always into something. I had a great curiosity about how things worked. My Dad being a contractor always lots of “stuff” in the garage… screws and nuts and bolts… and old lamp cords. I got the brilliant idea of borrowing one of those lamp cords, and a pair of diagonal cutters, and stripped off about 1 1/2 inches of the cord covering, then got a light bulb, and holding one of the bare leads to the end of the bulb with my thumb, and the other bare lead on the threads at the side of the bulb, I plugged the cord into the wall. After a few sparks and a nice 110 jolt, I remember dropping everything, pulling the plug out of the wall, and then looking at the groove burned into my thumb from the bared wire. Let’s just say I gained a real respect for electricity from that incident.
My brother Jim has always been a fun loving person, and indoctrinated me to many things as I grew up. He lived in the Los Angeles area, but would come up on Sundays quite a bit to visit, and sometimes would stay for the weekend. I remember the maroon Chevy Impala SS he had, equipped with an 8-track tape player. That’s where I got indoctrinated to early rock music…. The Beach Boys, Little Richard, Nancy Sinatra, Arthur Lyman. I remember Jim one weekend showing up with a bright red 1963 Corvette Stingray convertible that he traded in his Impala for. I eventually got over the loss of the Impala, especially after he took me for a ride in the Vette down the winding Live Oak Canyon road.
Jim was also a motorcycle enthusiast, and the first motorcycle of his I can remember was a Yamaha 305 Big Bear Scrambler… later on that gave way to a customized 1960’s Triumph 500… then came a Kawasaki 500 Mach III… and finally he bought a Honda CB 550, 4 cylinder. I remember the Triumph well because that’s the bike he used to teach me how to ride. I would drive with Jim on the back, and of course at 8 years old I was too short to reach the ground, so when we came to a stop sign, Jim was the one to hold the bike up until we got moving again.
On Sunday mornings I would hang out at the entrance to our street, just hoping to see Jim coming up the road…. the Impala or the candy apple red Triumph. I spotted him!! It was the Impala… and he turned the corner to our street, and I raced after him, excitedly, on foot. Jim was the one who taught me how to ride a motorcycle, hot to throw a football and a frisbee, took me to the Saturday Night Stock Car races at the Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, and to the Can Am races at Riverside International Raceway to see Graham Hill, Bruce McLaren, Dan Gurney, John Surtees, Denny Hulme and Mark Donahue.
As I came running up to the house, Jim told me he had something for me. Out of the back seat of the Impala he wrestled out a Mini Bike with a 1hp Briggs and Stratton engine! I couldn’t believe it! I was absolutely berserk with glee. We just looked at it for a while… then put a little gas in the small tank, pulled out the choke, and wound the cotton rope with a round wooden handle around the starter pulley and gave it a yank. The repurposed lawnmower engine sputtered to life, and my legacy on my own two wheels began! I’m sure when Briggs and Stratton opened in 1908, in Wisconsin, they never dreamed they would have given rise to a whole new recreation.
I must have ridden a million miles on that mini bike…. at least it seemed like that. I couldn’t wait to get home from school so I could ride until sunset. Now I had a mini bike of my own… no longer would I have to ride on the back of my friend’s bikes. I buzzed up and down our dead-end road… perfect spot as there was no traffic. We had a dirt trail that skirted the edge of the peach orchard diagonally up to Flag Hill park almost half a mile away. I rode that dirt trail incessantly. Just across the street from the park entrance was the long, winding driveway that led to the house of my best friend Gary. We rode that driveway too.
Just over the hill, behind Gary’s house, was the old reservoir, about a quarter mile up at the top of Grandview Drive. An above ground water tank was built next to the reservoir, so all the water was diverted to the tank, and the big concrete lined pit was empty…. the perfect playground for young boys. Imagine a large pond… maybe 500 by 600 feet in size… 30 feet deep… with concrete all the way up to the rim, which gave us this wonderful, banked and sloped perimeter. Now I had my own scooter to tear across that concrete bowl on! We rode that reservoir regularly.
Fast forward a year, maybe one and a half years, and Jim dives up on a Sunday morning, and pulls out of his trunk a 3 hp Briggs and Stratton engine to replace the 1 hp motor. We got busy swapping out motors…. well, Jim did most of the work, but I watched every move and learned. We yanked the recoil starter…. no more winding a rope around the notched pulley…. and the engine sparked to life. Now it was time to take out the new motor on a test ride….. it was akin to going from an Impala SS to a Corvette Stingray, in my mind. So much more power… and speed. Wait until Gary and all the other guys see me with my new motor! I couldn’t wait to get up to the reservoir and show them all what my bike with the bigger engine could do.
There were 4 of us guys living within a quarter mile of each other with mini bikes… of course, Mike that lived down the hill from me had the best mini bike of them all…. a Taco with a 5 hp engine. He was hands down the king… In talking with Mike, and other guys that had mini bikes, I learned a very special trick that helped triple the performance of that little repurposed lawnmower engine…… The Governor Spring! Remove the governor spring, get a piece of solid wire about 2 inches long, bend the ends 90 degrees and insert into the holes where the spring was. Now when I twisted the hand grip, the throttle on the carburetor would respond proportionately, and that meant three times the speed! Instead of 15 mph, I was doing 100… well…. not really, but it sure seemed like it. One thing I know for sure… Briggs and Stratton would have been proud of their engines, as we put those little motors through hell, and they kept on going, and going….. and kept going some more. We could have been their R & D lab, for I know we exceeded the manufacturer’s specifications in every category.
My Dad gave me an allowance of 25 cents each week, and I would grab the gallon gas can and ride my bicycle about half a mile, down the hill to the Shell gas station on the corner of Yucaipa Boulevard and Bryant Street. A gallon of regular gas was 25 cents, and that would last me all week. I rode my bicycle down to the gas station, as opposed to the mini bike, because we heard all the horror stories of how the Sheriff would write tickets to those kids riding their motor bikes on the street…. some even said the officer would confiscate your mini bike and take you to the station in handcuffs! That was a tough dilemma for me, because in order to get to Gary’s house I had to ride a short distance on the street, and then for us to get to the reservoir, we had to ride about a quarter mile up Grandview Street. We built up our nerve…. the adrenaline rush of being outlaws for riding on the street… nothing was going to keep us from the sheer exhilaration of riding in the reservoir… not even the possibility of our mug shots being published in the Yucaipa News Mirror weekly paper.
I know that I gained an understanding of why the Sheriff would occasionally drive by Flag Hill Park and the reservoir. It wasn’t because they were on a specific beat or route…. it’s because someone phoned the station and complained about those young whippersnappers out riding on the street again. Those outlaw kids….those Hell’s Cherubs and their mini bikes! It was inevitable that we would lose the use of the reservoir. We just used what the environment availed.
A new mobile home park sprung up the whole distance along Grandview Drive, and a little up from the reservoir. Now the Sheriff showed up every time we went there to ride. Makes me wonder why people are so eager to complain… why do we always look for the bad in everything first, and not the good instead? We sure had a blast while it lasted! Memories that will never fade!
I don’t recall what happened to that mini bike. Assuredly I outgrew it. Maybe it wound up in a scrap yard someplace…. or got melted down and made into some patio chairs, or a bed frame…. or maybe it became a new lawnmower deck. I would love to pull that rope again and hear the engine purr, take off up the dirt trail, be an outlaw again for the 30 seconds it took me to ride on the street to my destination…. to feel the freedom of having nothing more to do than experience joy with the wind in my face.
P.S. The original photo…. The boat that Jim showed up with one day. My Mom at the side with my sister Carol behind the wheel. You can see the back end of Jim’s 1964 Chevy Impala SS, and in the background my Dad’s 1960 Chevy Wagon, my bicycle carelessly left on it’s side in the driveway, and me on my mini bike with the 1 hp Briggs and Stratton motor.
I was brought up in a small town in Southern California, and my Mom made sure I went to church, and urged me over the years to participate, be a part of the “religious family”. I must admit that I learned a lot about social structures, what’s acceptable and what’s definitely not. It’s not easy keeping a rambunctious 6 year old quiet during a church service! My Mother definitely deserved sainthood. I got pretty creative trying to pass the time during the sermon… usually 20-45 minutes, depending on how long winded the speaker was. I would lean back in the pew and look up at the clear finished pine ceiling high above, and try to count all the knot holes. I never got very far, generally because by the time I got to 200 or so, the sermon was about done and it was time to go.
What I also learned was the dogmas of the denomination, including all the apocalyptic, end time events that would signal the end of the world. And because “we” as a denomination had “the truth”, I would certainly be on the front row when it came to the Pearly Gates and entrance into Heaven. The thought of entering through those massive gates made me think of standing in line with thousands of other people, shuffling through to the turnstiles and gates into Disneyland. It was a real life promised land for a young boy.
55 or so years later, I work in a hospital in Northern California… in the Radiology department. Been working there for 31 years now.… a total of 39 years in the profession. I Have seen many things in my career. There is the reality of a necessary disconnect from the patients that I deal with and the tremendous difficulties they each face, because without that disconnect I would not last long… I would be overwhelmed with the burdens of what I see and take in every day. That’s not to say I don’t have compassion and empathy for my patients, because I surely do.
The current COVID-19 situation has given me pause and caused me to reflect, in many ways. In the process of doing the best job I can for my patients, part of that is learning a little about their history and what we are looking for, so I can better tailor the exam being performed. The reasons for disease and conditions can sometimes be predictable… such as, if a person has smoked cigarettes for a good part of their life, it’s a sure bet that majorly contributed to their lung, heart, peripheral vascular disease, and more. I would see a patient with a large hemorrhage or bleed in their head, and many times their life story would include a history of uncontrolled high blood pressure, tobacco and alcohol abuse, or illicit drug use. Sometimes it seems that the line of humanity coming into the Emergency Department due to their abuses is endless and will never cease. Something that is not part of my job process is to judge people for why they are sick, rather it is to realize they have a need and are desiring help.
The Coronavirus takes captive anyone regardless of clean, healthy living or not. There is so much information disseminated… all the numbers thrown out there about the potential death tolls modeled by the doomsday computer programs… the what if’s and possibilities if the worst happens… 240,000 to 2.2 million deaths in the United States alone! The shelter in place lockdown could go on for several more months, or maybe even a year. The virus will come roaring back in the Fall or Winter. We haven’t seen the worst yet. One thing for certain is that stress and anxiety levels are up. I know mine have been. My Doctor just told me that Psychiatry is the busiest branch of healthcare right now. No doubt!
Hearing the overhead speaker calling out for the Code Blue team, or the newly formed CART squad to the rooms where we hospital employees know the temporary COVID ward is located makes me realize our vulnerability. I think of the outstanding movie Glory, a historically based film about the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment made up of African-American soldiers led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. The movie depicts, accurately or not, the 54th leading the assault on the Confederate’s Fort Wagner, in which Colonel Shaw is killed along with a soldier that he had flogged as an example to the regiment for being caught AWOL. One of the final scenes shows, in slow motion, Colonel Shaw sliding down an embankment into a large grave, and right after comes the soldier that was whipped for being AWOL. The gravity of that scene is that the Colonel’s rank, family wealth and connections could not save him from death at the hands of the enemy…. just like the soldier that had nothing… they both wound up in the same place… in a grave dug in the ground. Death is an inescapable equalizer…
I’ve been hearing many people state, based on superstitions and religious beliefs, that COVID-19 is retribution from God for a disobedient civilization… that this can possibly be the end of the world, the end of humanity. I really doubt that is the case since the world has seen much worse happen, and our current civilization is still here. Anytime there’s loss it’s always perceived as some judgement from God.… good vs. evil…. Something I realized along my journey is that nothing in life is fair…. and there’s nothing fair about sickness either… nor death. Everyone is potentially at risk, no matter what their social status or beliefs. The Coronavirus is an ominous equalizer….
It’s been 29 days since California Governor, Gavin Newsom gave the order for people to stay home, and most businesses and venues are closed now. I’ve been working all along because I’m considered an “essential” worker. My wife asked me if I was overly concerned about catching Coronavirus at work… and my response was, I deal with so many other “bugs” every day, many are a lot worse than Coronavirus. I try not to dwell on it all…. Sometimes I’d like to lean back and start counting knot holes again.
This is to remember one of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball! To remember the thrills from the resurgence of “Showtime” that we all were witness to during the 80’s with Magic and Kareem, and how it made a glorious comeback with Kobe and Shaq. His legacy will remain with all basketball fans around the world as long as organized basketball exists! Kobe…. we are so sad that you are gone, yet we are thrilled and blessed to have seen one of the best, to have beheld the amazing plays that astounded even the best contemporaries on the court, then and now! You will always be at every game, because basketball would be nothing without you! Just a peach basket hanging on the side of a barn….. From our hearts… Thank You so much, Kobe, for bringing us 20 years of excitement, for the championships for the Laker organization, and for giving your all to us! We have been the luckiest fans of all to have had you on our team!
In the 1868, a wealthy banker named Edwin Crocker bought land and existing buildings on Third and O streets in downtown Sacramento. In 1871 Crocker commissioned a local architect to redesign and remodel the buildings into what is now the stately mansion that included a gallery for the Crocker’s growing collection of fine artworks.
Edwin Crocker was a judge serving on the bench of the California Supreme Court, and his brother, Charles Crocker was one of the 4 railroad barons instrumental in bringing the railroad to the west coast. In 1885, Judge Crocker’s widow, Margaret, made good on the couple’s desire to create a public art museum when she presented the art gallery and it’s contents to the City of Sacramento and the California Museum Association.
In 2002, the Crocker museum had commissioned a major expansion to the museum, and a beautiful new building was designed and built to accommodate the large and growing collection of art, and had opened in October, 2010.
The Crocker mansion has undergone many renovations since it was opened 133 years ago, and it’s present state is worth the price of admission alone! To see the beautiful exterior architecture, the amazing tile, marble and wood floors, the grand staircases at the entry displaying the craft of marvelous woodworking and carving, stately lighting fixtures and statuary… to feel the history of the building… and realize it’s all the result of the grand philanthropy of the Crocker family that benefits those of us fortunate enough to visit the site.
The mansion houses an exquisite collection of vintage artworks from Europe, America and California…. some of the artists exhibited being: Édouard-Antoine Marsal, Charles Christian Nahl, Antonio Joli, Guido Cagnacci, Gerrit van Honthorst, Pierre-Auguste Renior, Edwin Deakon, Felice Ficherelli, and many more…. The mansion also includes a collection of ceramics and pottery, and 18th-century tableware, and an exhibit of fine Asian art.
On October 10, 2010 the Crocker opened it’s new addition, a modern, 125,000 square foot building adjacent to the mansion which houses African and Oceanic art, over 1,500 works on paper, master drawings, American photography and California prints, sculpture, craft media and Pop art.
In addition to all the richness of all the exhibits, the Teel Family Pavilion includes an education center with studio art classrooms, a library, student and community exhibition galleries, an auditorium and spaces for public events, movie screenings and special music events. For more information, check out the Crocker’s website at http://www.Crockerart.org.
The crocker Art Museum is at 216 O Street in Sacramento, California… just a couple blocks south of historic “Old Town” along the Sacramento river, which boasts fine riverfront dining, a festive Gold Rush era environment and shopping, and the new Golden 1 arena just a few blocks away.
Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for Seniors… Students and Military, $6 for youth ages 6-17… and every third Sunday of the month is Pay What You Wish Day sponsored by Western Health Advantage. Seize any opportunity you have to come and visit this Sacramento regional treasure! You will not be disappointed!
Exploring The Work of a Phenomenal Musical Artist
As a lover of music….. many different genres…. I have always loved searching through bins of Albums, and CD’s at the music store…. listening to demos at the listening stations…. always in search of something unique, something different…. something extraordinary. One day in 2008 I was at my local music store browsing through the rows of CD’s when a song came on the overhead speakers, and it caused me to pause and listen closely. I rushed to the cashier’s desk to inquire what it was they were playing on the sound system. The cashier went to the computer to look, and returned with the answer of…. “It’s a band called Porcupine Tree, and the song was named Glass Arm Shattering.”
“Do you have the CD in stock?”, I asked in great anticipation. The clerk said yes, and lead me to the “P” section and pulled out the CD “Deadwing”. I bought the CD and couldn’t wait to pop the disc into my car’s CD player so I could listen to that incredible song I had heard in the store. I truly had no clue what I was about to discover! Starting with track 1, listening to one after another, I finally arrived at Glass Arm Shattering. I was already blown away by the weight and significance of the music I had already listened to. Now it was time for “the” song. It was dreamy….. progressive, ethereal, new and original! I couldn’t wait to read the insert booklet and find out more about this band, Porcupine Tree.
When I got home I popped the CD in my player, pushed play and totally immersed myself in absolute headphone bliss…. hearing the spectrum of music that made me realize I was listening to something revolutionary and very significant! The layers of sounds, the complexities of the compositions, the crispness of the production and engineering. It is without any debate that this music I had discovered is one of the most significant contributions to the music world in the last 40 years!
I began the search for more Porcupine Tree music…. more info on this incredible band. In my search I discovered the band was the work of Steven Wilson, a brilliant artist, musician, songwriter, producer and engineer! Steven has been involved with other Bands….… some of them being….. Opeth, Blackfield, King Crimson, Yes, Jethro Tull, Roxy Music, Storm Corrosion, and his own incredible Solo work. I began, in a frenzy of finding and purchasing as much of the Porcupine Tree, Steven’s Solo work, Blackfield, etc. music I could find. I was amazed at the amount of work and music that Steven has produced… more than any other artist I have ever encountered!
To listen to Steven’s work is not just hearing music… instead it is more like taking a journey, being immersed in the energy and emotion of the sounds, melodies and stirring vocal harmonies. It is so much more than music! It is an Experience!
Thank you to Steven Wilson for producing such fantastic works of musical art for those of us that appreciate the work and dedication of such a talented musician. If you are a person that appreciates great music, and are willing to immerse yourself into an experience of this incredible music, then do not hesitate to find and purchase his work, strap on the headphones, and be prepared to be amazed!