Monthly Archives: November 2019

Boatscapes

All aboard!

The threat of climate change – and the forecasted rising sea levels – prompts a variety of responses from people: anger, frustration, denial and new ideas.  The latter is often a matter of subjective interpretation.  Many think of converting human waste to biofuel.  Others, like Wojciech Morsztyn, design new structures to accommodate the changes.

Morsztyn, a creator with Yanko Design, recently unveiled plans for massive house boats called ‘Ocean Communities’ where people could escape, as sea levels increase.  Some coastal and island communities are watching as seawaters encroach more and more upon them.  In the U.S., residents of some coastal small towns are being relocated further inland.  Dykes and levees just aren’t functioning properly in the face of such slow-moving catastrophes.

It’s inevitable, though, that some people will flee to the water itself and relocate their lives to an aquatic existence entombed in a boat.  Ocean Community doesn’t offer a monetary figure for such an abode, but I’m certain those of us in, say, the lower 95% economic range won’t be able to afford one.  That’s inevitable, too.  Most of the aforementioned communities being relocated are of the indigenous persuasion, such as the Alaskan Inuit.

I imagine, however, that the boating life is for those who don’t amass much in the form of material possessions.  I mean, if I was forced onto a luxury barge, would I have enough room for my collection of books, National Geographic magazines and porn DVDs?  Could I even bring my truck?  Yes, it’s getting old like me and this house.  But I’ve kind of endeared myself to the big black bastard.  Okay, that may be a man/Texas thing.  Yet, how much could one bring aboard a house boat to make their life as easy as on land?

More importantly, is this the real solution to dealing with climate change?  Aren’t house boats an admission of defeat?  Regardless, this video may be appealing, but I have to wonder if it’s the right answer to the pending chaos.

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The Chief at 56

The Chief in a moment of self-adulation after a run this past summer – and to prove to real and cyber friends I can actually move faster than a fat man walking through a cactus field. Naked. Blindfolded.

As of 1:15 a.m. Central Standard Time U.S. this past Tuesday, November 5, the Chief turned 56.  It’s not necessarily as big a deal as, say, turning 55.  And I remember years ago thinking that, once somebody reaches the half century mark on life’s odometer, ensuing birthdays don’t really matter.  But I’ve learned every birthday matters.  It’s another year forward and another chance to improve oneself.  I feel I’m doing that with my writing, as well as more practical moves, such as joining a new gym.

This year’s birthday was rougher than expected.  I got sick – again.  Allergies that usually plague me with the change of seasons (the summer to autumn transition is generally the worst) hit me harder this time around; thus prompting a visit to my doctor for a trio of anti-microbial, germ-phobic medications.  My eyes showed the wrath of the usual culprits: ragweed and mountain cedar.  I confirmed my sensitivity to them some 15 years ago with an appointment to an allergy specialist.  Visits to the refrigerator, kitchen cabinets and local stores had long proven ineffective.  Ragweed and mountain cedar ranked at the top of my allergy reaction list, along with other suspected villains – oak and cat dander.  I’m also allergic to stupid people, but aside from working outside the home and driving, there’s no definite test for that.

But my eyes looked as if I’d been ambushed by a swarm of killer bees or came out on the wrong end of a boxing match.  Still, the drug cocktail – which did include the ubiquitous screwdriver – eased my angst.  And then, the little microbial fuckers resurfaced, like dental appointments and property taxes.  They assaulted me with their ecological mainstays: watery eyes, congestion, coughing and the tendency not to use Spellcheck.  Misery!  Misery, I tell you, dear readers!  Joining that gym last month was a much-needed lifestyle change.  Since the late 1980s, I’ve pretty much been a gym rat.  I even wrote about it six years ago.  However, when I signed up to this new place, it had been roughly eleven months since I’d been to a gym to lift weights.  Note to the wise and health-conscious: do NOT take nearly a year off from lifting weights and expect to be back to normal in a single session.  But, at that last gym a year ago around this time, one of the senior staff apparently had an issue with my attire.  I wore an old sweat jacket – one I only wear to the gym.  Admittedly, I’ve had it since high school.  Some 35+ years ago.  Okay, it’s a man thing!  You wouldn’t understand, unless you bear that rare Y chromosome!  The zipper is twisted, and it’s shrunk.  I often keep it unzipped during workouts.  No one had ever had a problem with that.  Until November 2018.

The man – either a lost Viking or an intense Grateful Dead fan – literally got up in my face and ordered me to “zip it up.”  He then walked away.  And so did I.  I re-racked a curl bar and left; canceling the membership once I got home.

This new gym has no such qualms about ratty, decades-old sweat jackets.  It doesn’t cater to GQ cover models or suburban soccer moms – no offense to suburban soccer moms!  It’s an old-school gym – where men can go shirtless, women can wear sports bras, and dogs run around the front office.  Literally, the owners have 2 massive and very friendly canines practically greeting people when they enter.  As a certified Wolfman and canid aficionado, I love the idea of dogs almost anywhere! 

I was determined to visit the gym on my birthday, as I’ve done with just about every birthday for as long as I can remember.  I even did so last year – before the Sweat Jacket Incident.  But I just couldn’t make it this past Tuesday.  Again, those allergies.  Or maybe the flu.  Or I’m being punished for not completing my second novel by now, as promised.  Perhaps internalizing all those angry sentiments from work and driving had finally caught up to me.  But then again, I never was too keen on the idea of being a serial killer.  That doesn’t look good on your Linked In profile.

But other distractions arose, particularly with this aging house.  Bathroom and kitchen sinks, roofs, foundations and various and sundry attributes boast large repair price tags.  I relish the thought of living in the house where I grew up.  I don’t have to fight for parking space, deal with noisy upstairs neighbors and getting rent paid on time.  I have the joy of dealing with aging bathroom and kitchen sinks, roofs and foundations.  Aaah – suburban life!

So this birthday wasn’t the best.  But I made it to another year!  I’m always thankful for that.  The alternative is not pleasant.

The other day a friend posted a drawing on Facebook of someone hugging what looked like Jesus Christ with the verbiage: “The best part of going to Heaven.”  I thought, if there is such a place, the first person I’d want to see is my father, who passed away 3 years ago and who I think of and pray to every day and night.  Nearly 5 months later, when my dog died, I fell into a mortal depression.  When I marked my 53rd birthday that year, I honestly felt I wasn’t going to make it much longer.  I was ready to give up.  I still truly believe my father returned to get my dog; in part, because he absolutely loved that pint-sized, four-legged monstrosity, but also because he simply wanted the dog to be with him.  I could understand my 83-year-old father’s demise; he had been sick off and on for years with gastrointestinal problems.  His body could no longer take the punishment.  But then, he came back to take the dog?!  Oh well…such mysteries are not for this world to understand.

Yet, as morose as I felt at the end of that year, I realized I had so much I wanted to do.  I still hadn’t published my first novel and I have other stories I want to write.  I realized I couldn’t give up.  It certainly wouldn’t be fair to the people who care about me, but it wouldn’t even be fair to me.  I’ll die, and the sun will still rise in the east the next morning.  Some people I’ve known actually think it won’t, if they die!

So, here I am at the ripe slightly-passed-middle-age of 56!  I’m still writing and still fighting!  Now, I just need to find a new way to assassinate these allergens and get back into the gym.

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Retro Quote – Thomas Merton

“If the you of five years ago doesn’t consider the you of today a heretic, you are not growing spiritually.”

Thomas Merton

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Worst Quote of the Week – November 8, 2019

“Just read the Transcript.  The Justice Department already ruled that the call was good.  We don’t have freedom of the press!”

– Faux-President Donald Trump, regarding his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the source of his current impeachment inquiry.

Here’s a much-needed refresher for Trump and other right-wing extremists.  The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees:

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Best Quote of the Week – November 8, 2019

“You don’t believe in climate change.  You are excused from this conversation.”

 – California Governor Gavin Newsome, in response to Donald Trump’s criticism of the state’s wildfire management

Yes, indeed, such matters as climate change and disaster response are intended only for adults – or at least adult-minded individuals – to discuss.

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In Memoriam: Ernest J. Gaines, 1933-2019

“Sometimes you got to hurt something to help something.  Sometimes you have to plow under one thing in order for something else to grow.”

Ernest J. Gaines

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You are on Indian Land: Acknowledging the Traditional Homelands of Indigenous People at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

For some 500 years the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere have struggled to prove a simple fact: they and their ancestors were the first human occupants of this massive region. They weren’t members of the wildlife and they weren’t features of the various landscapes. They were real people who constructed real communities with the resources available. It’s taken a while, but they’re starting to gain that recognition. As someone of part Mexican Indian ancestry, it’s significant to me.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert is a Professor and Head of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona. A member of the Hopi Indian community, he is also the author of a number of books on the Native American experience in the contemporary United States; most recently Modern Encounters of the Hopi Past, in which he analyzes the ways the Hopi operated within and beyond their ancestral lands, including their participation in the U.S. military, American film industry, music ensembles, and higher education.

It’s a mission and a challenge that may not be fully realized in our lifetime. When one considers the brutal scope of the ongoing discrimination and oppression faced by Indigenous Americans, it’s not difficult to see why.
In 1998, Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right, nationalist Brazilian politician told “Correio Braziliense” newspaper, “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry hasn’t been as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated the Indians.” Bolsonaro is now president of Brazil.

What he and others of that bigoted mindset don’t seem to understand is that the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere never were completely “exterminated”; neither in Brazil nor here in the U.S. The colonialists and their descendants tried, but even after half a millennia, they still haven’t won that war.

Beyond the Mesas

[The following land acknowledgement was part of a keynote address I gave at the Annual Celebration of Diversity Breakfast at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The event, which had over 400 people, took place on November 9, 2018. Over the years, people have approached Indigenous land acknowledgements in various ways. This is how I did it, and I am hopeful that my approach will be of some help to others.]

You are on Indian Land

Good morning everyone. It is great to be here. I am so honored by this opportunity.

I was told earlier this week that I had about 8 minutes at the mic.

And so in true Hopi fashion, I am going to keep my remarks short and sweet.

In recent months, officials and others on campus have started their public gatherings (including this gathering) by reading an official statement that acknowledges the Indigenous people who were…

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