Tuesday, January 22, 2013

You know I'm going to talk about it!

I watched our Presidents inauguration yesterday, all of it, all the pomp and glory, each float along
Pennsylvania  Avenue and every speech.   It only happens once every four years and is our statement to the world that we can move forward without a coup, without a revolution, without mob rule, in an orderly and democratic process.  I am proud (and lucky) to live in such a country.  In the days leading up to this event we had been told that second inaugural speeches were a disappointment and I wasn't disappointed at all. I thought it was a great speech.  I did flip back and forth between CNN and FOX news to see what the differing opinion might be. I am amazed at how quickly it got classified as a
"Liberal Agenda" and now I don't even know what that means?
   Obama's speech was inclusive, reaching out to every color, to every creed, every persuasion, each and all of us.  That is liberal?  It is only fair. He reached out to women, wanting equality of education, wages and importance.  That is liberal?  It is only fair.  A society will be judged by how it treats its elders and infirm, its children and the weakest among them.  He talked of preserving Social Security and Medicare, Public Education and a belief in the future and the responsibility that entails.  That is a liberal agenda?  What is the alternative?
   He talked briefly about "gun control" a hot bed issue for sure but he is not the first President to be against assault rifles and 100 round clips.  President Bush was also against these.  If there was ever an issue that should cross both sides of the isle this would be it.  Almost thirteen thousand Americans die each year from guns.  When will we talk about this?
   "We, The People"...I think he said this several times and I am hoping it will cause us to consider what it mean to be a "citizen."  Is it a verb or an adjective?  Is it a process or a birth right?  Is it active or passive? and what does it require of us?
   Congress is broken.  The Republicans spent the last four years attempting to make Obama a "one term President."  They couldn't even pass a farm bill or school lunch program because it might make Obama "look good"!  They lost miserably.  In shock and totally defeated they are now trying to reinvent themselves and I wish them success.  I believe in the two party system and I hope they return to their better days when they were less hateful and more optimistic, had a better, kinder belief in America.  They can't do this through retreat.  It was embarrassing that former President George Bush and even Mitt Romney was not there.  I think that was an inauguration "first" and it is a bad omen.
We can go forward together, each side contributing in this discussion and let every issue be on the table for full disclosure or it can be done with omission allowing groups, women, children, elderly, poor, infirm, Red, Brown, Black, Gay and others by the wayside.  We have all of these people in America and more.  Every Religion, every Race, every belief, we are truly a "melting pot" and that has always been our greatest strength.  If that is "Liberal" then I guess I am too.
   I look for Obama to take his cause on the road.  He will be touring the country to express his ideas
and gain more ideas and the way into the future with us, the Citizens.  We live in interesting times and we can be a part of it.  Or not.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Importance of Breakfast

   I have been going out to breakfast with a friend of mine from when you could get a good breakfast for about $2.25.  I remember when you could get bacon and eggs, toast and hash browns for a dollar.
That same breakfast today is about nine dollars so there is a pretty simple mathematical correlation:
Breakfast is related to the minimum wage, within a quarter to be exact.  The minimum wage in Oregon is $9.05, Washington to the North is a little higher.  Some States are a lot lower and some cities have their own set minimum wage.  San Fransisco is over $10.
   We used to work together every day.  I was officially "his boss" as I owned the company but there were a lot of jobs I did that would not have gotten done without him.  We would go out to breakfast once a week, discuss the past week and anticipate the work ahead.  When I quit the construction business, he did too.  When I bought my welder, he did too and we would do small jobs and arty stuff independently and collaborate, working together on the bigger jobs.  We always had breakfast together when we did these bigger jobs, sharing the tasks, the tools, the labor and the breakfast.  Sometimes he would buy and sometimes I would buy. We were working.  The price of a breakfast tied to minimum wage, it was like giving the other an hour.
   It is different now that we are both retired and living on Social Security.  We still go out to breakfast but normally only once a month, the second Wednesday of the month, to be precise: payday!  One time he will buy and the next month it is my turn.  The exception to this is when either of us finds some kind of work where we need the help of the other and can work together.  That being a cause for celebration, we always look forward to breakfast.
   Least you think that I hang out with liberals my friend is pretty conservative, mostly but not always, votes the opposite that I do, recently joined the NRA and has a concealed gun permit (and actually carries the damn thing!) and drives a big diesel pick up truck.  And yes, of course we talk politics!
What else is going on?  Oh, we do the me, me, me and you, you, you thing.  What I am up to and what he is working on but that is pretty much done by the time the waiter takes our order.  By the time the food arrives we are deep into politics and the world situation.  The secret to our on-going relationship and growing friendship is that we actually listen to each other.  If he finds a good book he will give it to
me when he has finished it.  Sometimes we have exchanged as many as 5 books in a week!  We share our labor, the breakfast and our ideas, make fun of each other when ideas cannot be backed up and always research further for even more discussion at the next breakfast.  Sometimes we catch ourselves
in agreement and sometimes we can sense the other weakening.  I would like to say that it is never personal but it always is.  I really want to know why he feels the way he does and he does that of me also.
   He expected that I would cringe when he told me recently that he had joined the NRA. Not at all, I told him!  My dad was a card caring member of the NRA!  When my dad died I inherited about 6 or 7 guns and rifles.  The funny thing was is that he didn't have a single bullet in the house, no ammunition
at all.  My dad like the mechanics and weight of guns.  He did not like to shoot things, not even targets.
He did believe in the 2nd amendment but not in a militarized society.  If you want militias and free access to guns and less government you end up like Somalia!  Oh, there was a discussion so we went that way for the rest of breakfast!
   I look forward to our breakfasts together.  I think friendships need feeding.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I Get to Work Today!

I have not had a paid job since before Christmas.  Oh, I had a piece in an art gallery that sold but that is not the same as a "job".  A job requires a schedule, a time frame, responsibility and a specific performance.  It requires some organization and forethought and, frankly, I love this.  I dream about it and if I have the time, these are recurring dreams.  I build the project over and over again while I sleep.
    I am a list maker and write everything down:  gas in the truck and the address written down, two ladders, two battery screw guns with extra batteries, a grinder and little cut-off saw, pliers to tie the wire.  The wire to fasten the barbed wire, the barbed wire, the brackets and a special locking devise I made for the back door.  The screws!  A tape measure, and an extra, just in case.  These are all packed, ready to go and I am as excited as a kid on Christmas morning!
   It is a tiny job, I admit it. Maybe three hours of field time and eight hours of shop time and a couple more just running around time.  My local little grocery store, the neighborhood kind is owned by an Indian.  No, not Cherokee! A guy from India.  He is like we used to be, has all the hard work ethic we have long let go of, works a 12 hour day, every day.  Now he bought another little store in a neighboring little town, a store that had been for all intents and purposes, abandoned, run down and in need.  He will totally remodel it (I don't do that any more!) and inject life into it with new lighting, new and bigger freezers and coolers, better products and fairer pricing.  That is what he did to my little store a few years ago and he is now doing it again.
   The "American Dream" requires hard work and we have forgotten about this.  I know another guy from India who owns the local McDonald's.  His whole family works there.  I have seen him mop the floors, cook the hamburgers and serve the food, always with a smile.  They work long shifts too.
From nothing, in twenty years he will own it.
   I have a friend from Mexico who works at the local powder coating factory.  He also works odd jobs in the evening and every weekend.  He has a family and is buying a house.  He is legal now but came here 20 years ago as a kid of 17, crawling across the desert to pick fruit and whatever he could find.
He is an American now, a citizen, and I am proud to call him a friend.
   Where did we go wrong?  It is now these foreigners who come here and show us what we used to be.  In my little town there are people on almost every street corner begging for money, almost always, white people.  Never have I seen a Mexican or Latino, and certainly not an Indian, American or other.
We want it now and we want it free.
   Anyway, I am happy to be working, even if just for a few hours.  I like what it does to my brain, to my attitude, gets me out and away from my shop, which sometimes is a good thing, away from reading which I have been doing far too much of and gets me to anticipate.  Something someone Wants of me:
I like that!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What are you curious about?

One of the ways to avoid one day being the same as the day before is to become curious about something.  I sometimes get horribly curious about difficult subjects to investigate  and then go on reading jags to find all I can on a subject.  Other times my curiosity is over simple things and easily researched, like the "top ten most popular YouTube posts" for instance.  Most are music related, few are political.  And some seriously simple things, like why is it called "German chocolate cake"?
(Named after an American with his secret chocolate recipe: Sam German!).
   I am into Africa at the moment and the Middle East (gee, I wonder why?) and read everything I can find on the subject.  Syria, for instance will become a huge problem because it was artificially carved out as a country and has over 50 different, conflicting interests.  Much the same reason that Yugoslavia never made it, without the iron fist of Tito, that country fell apart.  But I am curious.  Do you continue to pay rent while at war?  How do they manage to eat when the stores are closed?  It is winter there now, they must be cold.  Sometimes I have just simple questions.  I wonder if it is worrisome that Alqueda is feeding these people?
   I wonder whether I will get my Social Security Check next month?  Who would I blame?  What good would that do?  So then I get curious about the National Debt and that is so very complicated!!
It is easier to be curious about outer space and I love the Hubble Telescope!  I can watch those pictures for a long time.  If we are made from stardust, I wonder which star?  Which direction? and, of course, why here?  Why me?
   It is easier to be curious about really good bread and I realize that there is an  amount of science there.  And a lot of art!  Most American bread is so bland and cake-like compared to the average European bread.  I wonder why?
   And, this is really crazy:  A friend of mine is a wild land fire fighter.  Last season he worked in Colorado, Oregon and California.  Now he is on unemployment and like a lot of people is taking advantage of it and not looking for work!  He will receive his unemployment money in Oregon but he can file for it in any of the three States in which he worked.  Oregon would pay him $250 a week, Colorado $200. a week and California will pay him $500 a week!!!! It is all Federal money, from taxpayers, the worker's do not pay but a token into this fund.  Why does California pay so much?
I wonder whether the average Congressman even knows this?  I sometimes have problems tracking down where I spent a hundred bucks! How do you follow many trillions of dollars?
   I need some Barbed Wire for a little "arty" commission I am doing, not much, less than 200 feet. It is sold in spools of a fifth mile long!, about 1,300 feet. I wonder how this came to be? and the three different stores in my little city that carry it, there are three different prices: $91, $89 and $54. I wonder if the expensive stores ever sell any?  I was curious whether I could find any on Craigslist and found a full spool for just $30.  I made money from my curiosity!
   Children are absolutely curious about everything and my dog is too.  I think there is a secret there, some connection to youth and exuberance, an excitement to get up in the morning because there are discoveries to be made, things to investigate!
   It is not all research, some curiosity is satisfied by just doing things differently.  Artists do this, have it in their nature to wonder:  What if I do it this way?  and that same kind of wonder is what makes a scientist.  No fear in experimenting.  You always learn somethings, even if it is 10,000 ways not to do something!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Can You?

Can you post a blog without using the word "I"?  I (easy to do and difficult to omit!) have been looking over my blogs for the past three years and realize they are an autobiography of sorts.  I have taken through my life from my grade school years, through my cancer battle, my years of construction and my introduction to the world of art up until the present.  I have even described my morning bath.
My blogs (a sneaky way to omit "I"!!!) are becoming repetitive, my daily journal being much the same, all pretty much routine.  I did this!  I did that!  Look at "me"! The true state of affairs is my today is much like it was yesterday and I am running out of stories!
    I have tried, with much criticism I will admit, to get the discussion away from me, with the introduction of politics, god forbid!  Many of my "followers" totally misunderstood my position and what I was attempting to do and some went by the wayside.  My idea of politics is simply WHY do we believe what we do?  What historical accident makes us think the way we do?  Clearly if we were Eskimos we would like seal eyeballs and consider them a delicacy.  There are reasons one believes what they believe.  I was just trying to discover what they were.  Sort of trying to find out how I got here before I can figure out where I am going!  Well, that discussion went nowhere and I will try to figure out another one.
   For some reason I have a lot of "followers" from Russia and I have many who check up on me from all over the world.   I am curious?  What did you eat for breakfast and what will be for dinner?  How much money do you make and what do you do?  What are your worst fears and happiest times?  What are you really good at cooking?  I love to share recipes!  How much is a quart of milk where you live?
How much is the rent?  What do you want that you don't have?
   I don't use this blog to sell my wares, I have Websites for that.  So, I am hunting for other topics, besides "me" and other than politics.  ... So I will tell you what happened yesterday!
  The Mercedes needed a front end alignment and I took it to the shop at eight in the morning for the scheduled appointment. I arrive at ten minutes before eight and only the boss was there.  He told me that people over 50 arrive early and people in their 40's arrive on time and younger people always arrive late.  So we had a discussion on the ruin of youth and how difficult it is to find good help these days!
While the car was being fixed I walked about two blocks away to find a cup of coffee and was accosted by a prostitute!  A very pretty girl in her 20's wanting a "date".  Or what was once a pretty girl, someones daughter.  She had maybe forty open sores on her face, red and pussy, the mark of
meth users, wide open eyes, dark and dilated and scary.  In a parallel universe she would be in school, dancing and happy, curious and investigation life.  She will be dead soon and I can't stop thinking about her. There was nothing I could do, no power to help her.  It still bothers me.  Meth is the devil's drug for sure and I wonder how it could have been different?  We don't teach much art in school anymore, not much literature or music or theater.  Even physical education is taught less and less.  I wonder when there is not a reasonable method of escape people sometimes will choose the unreasonable.
    One day I will write a blog post without a single "I" but it may be difficult!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Whatcha Reading?

The main advantage to being retired is that I can do pretty much whatever I like.  On short notice I can travel. I can weld if I feel like it, putter in the garden, think of Spring and my tomatoes or do nothing at all.  This time of year, the dead of Winter when the garden is mostly mud, I seem to read a lot.  I am lucky to have a used book store just four blocks from my home where I can find used books for a dollar each.  I go through fits and starts, find an author I like and then devour each and every book they have written.  Mostly I read cheap mysteries, nothing too intellectual, just reading for fun.  I like well written books where the author has gone to some effort to entertain me with language, where
the telling of the story is as important as the story.  When I find such a book I set it aside, reading it again a month or so later just to see if it can still capture me.
    I also like "historical books", books set in time and place, a particular geography, the telling of a particular struggle, maybe in a way that I hadn't thought of before.  I will just mention two here but there are so many.  These are books that rearrange your brain cells, make language and description fun, where curled up on a couch one can get lost and find the attempt at self discovery jolting, invigorating,
and mystical if you allow it to be.
   Beryl Markham wrote just one book and died before we could benefit from another.  "West with the Night" takes place in 1930's and '40's Africa.  It is her story, growing up white and a woman.  Two marks against her in deepest, darkest Africa.  At a time when women couldn't smoke she became a pilot, a bush pilot among the elephants.  This is probably the best descriptive book that I have ever read.  It will give you a new respect for adjectives.  She could write about changing motor oil and make it interesting.
   A book I have almost finished is also about Africa.  I told you that I go on jags, finding an author or a topic and beating it to death.  I am hunting for more.  Barbara Kingsolver is the author of "The Poisonwood Bible", a story of missionaries in the Congo in the 1960's when that country got its independence from Belgium just as diamonds were discovered!  It is a great read, well written for sure and one of those books where you will learn a lot:  of history and yourself.
    Johnathon Kellerman is, so far, my favorite mystery writer.  His hero is Alex Delaware, a psychologist who works with the police department.  Very involved, complicated and well written for that type of book.

Screen on copper plate.
I am welding a little.  My latest "painting", a hundred year old screen from a rockmill over  a copper sheet and framed in steel channel.  About 10" X 24"  I think I will put it in the bathroom.