Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The election

I’ve seen more than a couple internet comments from folks who are tired of Facebook ‘status updates’ involving thoughts on the election.   One read ‘I live in Ohio and I’ve voted early.  Now leave me alone!‘   Another was a cartoon of a guy throwing his tv out the window with some comment about seeing enough political ads on the screen already.  

Me?  I’ve tried to be publicly subtle about who gets my vote, but if you know me at all, you know who I already cast my vote for.  (Yes, I live in Ohio and I’ve voted early.  Election day will be a drive day back from New Orleans for Cindy Lou and me.) 

But trust me, it doesn’t take much for me to dive into an energetic monologue with a liberal listener about how ridiculous the other side seems to have become.  It’s much easier to preach to fellow choir members that take on the opposition.  I figure Romney/Ryan supporters have already made their minds up and how can I change ‘em anyway at this point?  Blessings to Cindy Lou for taking on presidential election issues with a few conservative friends a few weeks ago in Toledo.  She’s a brave one, that Cindy Lou! 

Last Sunday, a grade school/high school PhD buddy of mine went public on FB about supporting Obama, citing an editorial in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  So now I suppose it’s my turn here at The Back Porch to spell out the reasons I think Obama and Biden deserve another four years.  

First, I can’t help but think that if a Republican had inherited a failing economy the way Obama did, and America had improved as little or as much as it has to date, the GOP would be pounding the talk show circuit with stories of success and ‘stay the course.’  Look at the successes: 

•  The war is Iraq is over.  Troops have come home.  And, yes, some troops have been reassigned to Afghanistan, but that conflict is also scheduled for a USA pull-out within the next year or so.  Sounds like success to me -- except for neo-cons who think war is always the answer, but I can’t believe that’s what most conservatives think. 

•  Health care reform has been contentious in this country for the last fifty years.  Like school funding reform in Ohio, everybody knows something ought to be done, but nobody is/was willing to do much for fear of the political fallout with the electorate.  Well, Obama picked up on a health care reform package originally developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation -- one very similar to the one put in place by a certain one-term Republican governor of Massachusetts -- but now the GOP/Tea Party thinks such a change in health care is a communist/socialist plot that destroys American freedoms.  Perspective is everything, I guess.  

•  What about Osama BinLaden?  Wasn’t he the devil reincarnated under the Bush presidency?  They couldn’t get the guy, but Obama did.  And now they say Obama’s foreign policy indicates poor decision making?  If McCain/Palin were elected in ’08 and they had gotten BinLaden, I can only imagine how they would celebrate the success of a tough GOP foreign policy.  Again, I guess it’s all perspective.  

•  Maybe Mitt Romney’s idea for a struggling General Motors and Chrysler was to let them go bankrupt so some entity could re-emerge financially healthy.  Maybe.  Or maybe he figured if they couldn’t compete for international markets, they ought to be put out to pasture.  All I know is Obama supported auto workers and a whole lot of folks did not lose their jobs, and now that industry has rebounded into profitability.  Seems like a good use of governmental power to me.   

•  And what about women’s health issues?  I get the idea that all life is sacred and that unborn human beings need protection, but for many church going conservatives, this issue is the only viable issue to vote on.  Really ‘pro-life’?  I have my doubts.  I quote Thomas Friedman from the New York Times:  

You don’t get to call yourself ‘pro-life’ and be against common sense gun control.  You don’t get to call yourself ‘pro-life’ and want to shut down the EPA, which ensures clean air and water, prevents asthma, and combats climate change that could disrupt every life on the planet.  You don’t get to call yourself ‘pro-life’ and oppose programs like Head Start that provide basic education, health, and nutrition for the most disadvantaged children.  You can call yourself a ‘pro-conception-to-birth, indifferent-to-life conservative....’  I have no respect for someone who relies on voodoo science to declare that a woman’s body can distinguish a ‘legitimate’ rape, but then declares that global warming is just a hoax.
Well said, Mr. Friedman.  I could delve into my diatribe about how ‘pro-life’ is really pro-human life, but I’ll refrain for another time. 

I happen to think America is a better place today, respected by more people around the world, than we were four years ago.  

•  Under the Lilly Ledbetter act, women are guaranteed equal pay for equal work.  

•  Gay and lesbian Americans can serve in the military proudly to protect this great country of ours -- a country with a contingent who would rather see them bounced out unceremoniously.

•  The financial industry has been reigned in from the bad corporate behavior that caused the Great Recession meltdown that caused Cindy and me to lose over $40k in our home’s value. 

In fact, I wish Obama could have gotten more done.   But the GOP made it clear in 2009 when he took office that they would do whatever they could to make him a one-term president.  In some ways, it’s amazing he’s gotten done as much as he has with the opposition trying to stop him at every turn.  Even if those programs he proposed were once a part of the Republican platform.  Go figure.  

One more thought:  We are all Americans.  I was deeply offended in 2008 when Sarah Palin concluded that only real American supported her party’s candidates.  If you were a liberal, you were somehow a commie and unAmerican.  Wow.  That’s painful, you know?  

And now a full-circle comment from Cindy Lou:  ‘I’ll be glad when the election is over so I can like my Facebook friends again.’  

And so it is in America in October 2012. 

Today’s elder idea:  Homosexuals are not in a position to adequately protect themselves from the discriminatory wishes of the majoritarian public. 

Dennis Jacobs
The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
October 2012
In the decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (1996)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The fall

I know in the cycle of things that seasons come and go, regardless of how much we pay attention.  For those who live in subtropical and warmer places in the world, I don’t think a change in season makes much difference to how life goes on.  

In more temperate places, like Ohio though, seasonal changes can be pretty dramatic.  There is a drastic difference between a hot August day topping out in the 90s and a January night when a Canadian low pressure system brings on a dump of six inches of snow.   

Still, in my view it’s the ‘shoulder’ seasons -- spring and fall -- ushering in those extremes that bring me the most satisfaction.  As a kid with a spring birthday, I always loved gentle rains, the coming north of the sun, the warming and re-blooming of Earth, and the return of baseball.  

Autumn, however, is one tough season to beat for sheer drama.  Even though I can still find a tomato to pick in late October, or pluck one last bell pepper in our little front yard garden, the main event is the color change of trees and the inevitable dropping and collecting of leaves.  Just yesterday I mentioned to Cindy Lou, while looking out our dining room window, that the yellow leaf canopy we’ve enjoyed for the last few weeks has pretty much dropped, leaving us a spider web of bare branches and a better look at the sky beyond.  Winter can’t be too far behind.  

As I write this, a collection of music called ‘midweek’ is playing on my Mac.  It is mostly instrumental, designed to give my brain a fertile place to find connections that make my writing practice workable.  In fact, I find it damned hard to write without music playing. 

Beyond the writing, though, I thoroughly love to create music collections for the sheer joy of it, something I’ve been doing since I bought my first reel-to-reel tape deck back in the day.  Music almost always accompanies me in my work space and in the car, so I’m perpetually ready to pick up on a musical idea that could become a new playlist.  

Today I’d like to give special attention to a new music collection I just completed entitled ‘The fall.’  Along with all the eclectic assemblages of tunes I make, this one fits into the ‘semi-annual’ category, a special ongoing collection I finish twice a year, first one around my birthday in March, with another following at the half-year point in September.  Music included is always both new and great old stuff.  These collections are numbered according to my birthday, so ‘The fall’ is subtitled 62.5.  

I distribute these collections to a few special friends, as illegal as that may be.  They all seem to enjoy ‘em and, after all, it’s only music.  I mean, how good is music if you can’t share it?  

Here’s a little ‘seasonal commentary’ on the new collection: 

62.5:  The fall  
run time: just under 60 minutes

  1. ‘Ain’t it the fall’ / Starland Vocal Band  (1976)
Love the vocals these four folks create.  Recorded on Windstar, a John Denver label, so you know I’m going to like it. 

2. ‘Autumn leaves’ / Nat ‘King’ Cole  (1956)
Back when I figured many songs on this collection would be about ‘fall,’ I knew Nat Cole’s classic would have to be part of it.  

3. ‘Summer’s almost over’ / Cheryl Wheeler  (2005)
My sister Martha turned me onto Cheryl Wheeler a few years back.  Great little narrative for us baby boomers. 

4. ‘We take care of our own’ / Bruce Springsteen  (2012)
Now the theme song for Barack Obama’s campaign.  Says something about the America I stand for. 

5. ‘Emmylou’ / First Aid Kit  (2011)
New song from a Swedish duo I know little about.  I’ve been an Emmylou Harris fan for a long time, though. 

6. ‘Cosmic love’ / Florence & The Machine  (2009)
The last song to make the collection.  Needed a newer song and don’t know much about Florence and figured she was worth the listen. 

7. ‘Bridge over troubled water’ / Simon & Garfunkel  (1970)
From the Central Park concert before anybody knew this song. 

8. ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ / Paul McCartney  (1971)
Back in our college days, good buddy John Lauer and I headed to Maine for my first road adventure.  On the way through the Berkshires, this song was on heavy radio rotation.  This summer when Noah and I were driving through that same area, wouldn’t you know Sirius/XM satellite radio played it, too -- right on time!  Good to remember John, too!

9. ‘Classical gas’ / Mason Williams  (1968)
Somewhere along the line I realized I liked instrumental stuff a lot.  Easier to work in my head that way.  Mason Williams was one of the first originals that took me places.

10. ‘Inside passage w. Eno’ / poetry by Tom Schaefer
An original poem by your truly, accompanied by perennial favorite ambient artist Brian Eno.  Music from the album ‘Music for Films.’

11. ‘Alaska and me’ / John Denver  (1990)
Another reason to love Alaska -- and JD. 

12. ‘When you wish upon a star’ / Rosemary Clooney 
We in southwestern Ohio hold Rosie as one of our own, who was from Cincinnati.  Had to include a Rosie piece following seeing ‘Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical’ here in town last year.

13. ‘Venus’ / Frankie Avalon  (1959)
I’ve always liked Frankie Avalon, but this mention of Venus is especially for David Peck Todd, a guy who is part of my book, who was the first to photograph the transit of Venus a century ago.  The transit happened again this past summer. 

14. ‘Because’ / Dave Clark Five  (1964)
It’s the British invasion, you know?  ;-) 

15. ‘Brand new key’ / Melanie  (1971)
Cindy Lou brought this one back to me.  She sings it to the little kids she babysits!

16. ‘Desiderata’ / Les Crane  (1971)
Contrary to common belief at the time of release, this is not an old classic text, but a poem from the 1920s by a lawyer from Terre Haute, Indiana, Max Ehrmann.  ‘You have a right to be here...’ 

17. ‘I can see clearly now’ / Johnny Nash (1972)
If only we could keep that clarity! 

Today’s elder idea:  ‘Who could help but welcome autumn and the promise of a early snow?’

Cheryl Wheeler

Thursday, October 4, 2012

JB, the cat

I’ve never really liked cats.   

I suppose the ill feelings began when I was a little kid.  The lady across the street from us on Fauver Avenue had a dozen of ‘em we used to say, most of whom spent multiple nights every week (or so it would seem) yowling in the bushes just outside our bedroom windows.  They were often spoken about in our home with disdain.  

When Cindy Lou and I found each other twenty-two years ago, however, she was caretaker of two cats:  Snowfire and Dorothy.  If I wanted to hang out with Cindy Lou, I would have to accept her kitties.  And to thicken the plot even a bit more, she adopted her cats from a rescue shelter while accompanied by my daughter, Kelly, a pre-teen at the time.  It was Kelly’s call, in fact, to call the really fuzzy one Snowfire.  Needless to say, I became a non-cat lover living with cats.  

I hate to speak poorly of the dead, but both of those little cat people were a bit psycho.  Snowy lived most of her life under our bed, and when we had company, she was known to hold her urine so long she developed bladder infections.  Dorothy?  More sociable, but the weakest stomach of any animal I’ve ever met.  Poor kid threw up all over the place.   And peeing on furniture?  Let’s just say Dorothy and Snowy did not enhance my affection for felines. 

Still, it was -- and undoubtedly is -- obvious to me that Cindy Lou loves cats.  She loves all little animals, in fact.  She’s said how it’s the vulnerability that attracts her.  Little creatures in need touch her heart.  Since Snowy and Dorothy have gone to that great scratching post in the sky, we’ve been known to rescue a stray and deliver him or her to a shelter for adoption.  We’ve even cat-sat little buddies of friends of ours when they were between places to live.  We had one kitty that way for almost a year.  

So it was when I headed out earlier this week for an all-too-short solo fall camping trip to one of my favorite places, John Bryan State Park in Yellow Springs.  JB is so great because on weekdays this time of year the campground is nearly deserted.  If a guy is looking for a solitary retreat in an Ohio state park, it doesn’t get much better than JB.  For a little YouTube video I made of another such fall camp trip there, see:  'Retreat'.

This time around, however, I was surprised to find a kitty at my feet within the hour of setting up the camper.  Cute little thing, as cats go, I had to tell myself.  Just the same, when she jumped up into my lawn chair, or into my lap, I let her know such behavior would not be tolerated while I was there.  Still, she kept hanging around, and, well, she was really pretty.  She seemed so calm, too, so unlike house cats that hunt around our neighborhood who high tail it whenever I come out the back door hissing.  

Odd thing was she had a flea collar on.  How did she get there?  She seemed wed to my campsite, and regardless of how long I’d be gone on a walk, she would be right there when I returned.  I sent Cindy Lou an iPhone pic soon thereafter and asked if she had ‘packed the damn cat’ with my gear.  

Later that afternoon, one of the few campers there ambled over to my site and offered that the cat seemed to appear the weekend prior when two young girls had inhabited my campsite.  He had the feeling that the girls left at least a couple cats there intentionally for pick-up by Good Samaritans.  We both lamented how poor that decision was, but at least I had a sense of where this little kitty had come from.  My neighbor advised that he had put a handful of dog food out under a tree -- that’s all he had -- for the little critters.  Sure enough, while I sat at the fire as evening came on, the cat approached the dry stuff and set to crunching.  Before too long I set out a little rug she could sit on, along with a bowl of water and a little tuna, saving the rest for another meal.  

Oh, did it rain that night!  When I got out in the morning, I looked around for the cat but couldn’t find her.  Her rug was now soaked and her food bowl scoured clean.  Then I saw her in one of the only dry places she could find.  I refer to the picture above.  

I i-messaged Cindy Lou soon thereafter and told her somebody better come over and pick up this cat.  First, she was way too cute.  Second, her good nature would never stand up against a feral cat, raccoon, or -- heaven forbid -- a coyote.  Cindy accused me of being smitten by the cat.  True, perhaps, but I really wanted her to see the kitty the way I had.  We set a date that she would come up for breakfast the next morning and then we would decide what to do.  

Later that day in an i-message Cindy asked if I had named it.  I said I had.  I figured JB would work since I found her at John Bryan.  Cindy had arrived at precisely the same name.  I didn’t know yet she was a she, but Cindy said even if she were, we could feminize the spelling to Jonnie or Johnnie or something. 

Next morning I was looking forward to Cindy Lou coming out to meet the kitty.  Problem was, Cindy had been out late the night before in Cincinnati for our niece’s first violin concert.  By morning Cindy was dragging and wondered if she could skip breakfast and just have me bring the kitty home with me.  

I wasn’t happy about her not coming and I growled as I put my wet camp away.  Cindy messaged that she would nonetheless have some cat food and litter at home when I got there.  

But then, just as I started up my SUV to hook up the trailer, the cat disappeared.  That was it.  Gone.  She had been there for three days non-stop, then gone.  I waited.  No cat.  I drove around the campground, circling back to see if she had come back out of the woods.  Still, no cat.  

By the time I got home I was pretty unhappy with both the cat and Cindy.  We talked civilly a bit, then I invited Cindy to go to lunch with me at Clifton Mill.  She had mentioned just prior to my going camping that we hadn’t been to Clifton, so I figured there was no time like the present.  Besides, then we could stop by the campground one more time to see if we could find the little bugger. 

Back at camp an hour later, there was no sign of the cat.  I told my story again as we looked into the thicket to see if we could pick up any motion.  

Then I looked up.  There she was sitting 15 feet overhead in a honeysuckle bush, stuck, unable to get down.  I climbed up on a dead limb and she eventually came to me.  Cindy got her first hold and it was love at first sight, like I figured. 

Still, we didn’t know what to do with the cat.  On the way home we called SISCA, Tenth Life, the humane society, and a place called Robin’s Nest.  Nobody had an opening.  We knew we could always pay a fee and take her to the county animal shelter on Webster Street.  Only problem was, that is a kill facility.  No adoption after a time and the animal is put down.  That was a last option we didn’t want to take just yet.  

Then Cindy suggested we could take her home for a time to figure out what we should do.  

And there you have it.  We have a new cat.  

She’s a cutie, too.  And a thought came back to me from a day prior when I wondered what teacher had I been sent so mysteriously.    

Who knew?  ;-) 

Today’s Elder Idea:  No matter how much cats fight, there always seems to be plenty of kittens. 

Abraham Lincoln