Monday, July 19

Wild Parakeets
The milk was sour and I poured it into the sink.   Although I don't like milk and cereal for breakfast, my husband does and I decided to combine my morning walk with a trip to the hillside market down the street.  I began walking and fell into an argument with myself about whether I should replace my crappy shoes before or after I got blisters.  As I tramped unenthusiastically along, I began to notice a growing chatter in the trees.  I'm so used to the rasping calls of crows and mockingbirds, and the cheerful noise of wrens that I can go for minutes without really hearing them, but this was different.  It was intense.  The noise was like nothing I'd ever heard and yet it wasn't ominous or scary.   I recognized the noise as belonging to birds, a lot of them.
The bird noise got louder and louder until I had to stop and look up and there in a huge cypress tree was a flock of vivid green parakeets.   At first I thought they were parrots, but I've seen a flock of wild parrots and these guys were smaller and not as loud.  The parakeets were also a lot more fun to watch.  They swooped after each other, hung upside down from the branches and screeched at the top of their lungs.  It made me smile and feel friendly enough to point out these antics to another woman walking along, unaware listening to her MP3s on her headset.  She flashed a smile of appeasement, kept her head down, and missed the show.
I quickly bought the milk and a banana or two and walked back toward the parakeet tree, but they were gone!  I heard them again this morning, one street over.  I hope they stay in our neighborhood because they bring a happy chatter to the morning routine. 
The wild parakeets seem to dampen the irritation of the neighbor's barking dog, the city's service trucks, the dirt haulers and cement trucks from the construction site a block away, the obligatory "talk radio" and other noises that challenge the cheerfulness of a new day.  They blanket these annoyances with their joyous communal shrieking.  It's as if they could care less about the sluggish humans below them and their beeping, crunching, roaring machines.  They're glad to be free and living in an abundant world.
Their presence is like a smile with wings.   

Monday, July 5

Promises to Keep...

"Mr. Ryan?" the young man asked.

"Do you remember me? I played second chair trumpet in the District Band. Umm, I'm John Danvers and my sister, Lisa, played clarinet in your band too."

Dad put down his coffee cup, took a good look at the young man and smiled.

"How are you, John?" he said. "How did that scholarship work out for you? Did you finish college yet, or still working your way through?"

John took a seat at the counter with Dad and me, and proceeded to talk about his progress. At the end of the brief conversation, he turned to me and explained that Dad was a great teacher and a good guy.

Encounters like this one were pretty common whenever I'd sit with Dad at the Bob's Big Boy counter. His former students knew that Dad would still be interested in their lives, years after the classes were over. To some, he was more that a great teacher. He was a man who was truly interested and involved in their lives.

Dad would stop in at the counter pretty regularly, and there were several customers and waitresses who would talk with him about life, work, families, current events, vacations and all of the things people talk about. He loved people and throughout his life, no matter where he was, he'd get people to talk about the things going on in their lives. His curiosity, warmth, intelligence and interest disarmed almost anyone in his path. He also had a wry and teasing sense of humor.

Before he passed away on July 5, 2003, he asked that I make sure and take a cruise to Alaska. He and my mother judged this trip their favorite of many wonderful trips, and he wanted to share this experience with me.

He also shared his curiosity and fears about the end of life. It seemed morbid at the time, but he asked the wonderful hospice workers he saw daily to explain what happens at the end of a life and what he should expect. Because of their wisdom and his persistence, he was able to pass away peacefully and leave his family with fond memories and no worries. Did I say that my Dad was considerate and compassionate too? His final months taught his family and friends much about death and how to deal with it gracefully and intelligently.

Maybe the greatest lesson he taught his family is to "love each other" and we do. I can hear him urge me to make reservations for that Alaska cruise.

"Don't wait!" he admonished. "Do it!"

I promised I would.

Saturday, July 3


"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
- Francis Bellamy, 1892

Francis Bellamy (1855 - 1931), a Baptist minister, wrote the original Pledge in August 1892. He was a Christian Socialist. In his Pledge, he is expressing the ideas of his first cousin, Edward Bellamy, author of the American socialist utopian novels, Looking Backward (1888) and Equality (1897).

Considering America's radical roots, it is sadly ironic that a political dynasty now rules our land in the form of Bush II.

Steve Hogan, the talented cartoonist and creator of Acid Keg commented, "We need real patriots like the great long haired radical agnostic hemp smoking fuckbeasts who founded our nation! Where did everything go wrong?"

And, I have to believe that real patriots are waiting, unafraid, for November 2, 2004, when the Bush dynasty will end.

I have to believe that those anti-war protestors who blocked traffic in San Francisco and those wives-sisters-mothers who hold daily candlelight antiwar vigils on streetcorners are waiting and unafraid.

I have to believe that movie makers like Michael Moore, TV journalists and commentators like Bill Moyers, Diane Sawyer and John Stewart, bloggers like Eric Alterman, Joshua Marshall, political cartoonists like Lalo Alcazar and Mikhaela Blake Reid are waiting and unafraid.

I have to believe that those tree huggers who live in the old-growth trees targeted for destruction, and those Sierra Club members who exposed Cheney's secret energy deals and fought the big boys all the way to the Supreme Court are waiting and unafraid.

I have to believe that those Senators and Congressmen of both parties who oppose the erosion of our civil rights, our air and water quality, our health and human rights are waiting and unafraid.

I have to believe that those families of soldiers and contractors who died in Iraq and let the American public see their caskets and know their faces are waiting and unafraid.

And, even though almost 50 percent of the voting public surveyed still supports the Bush dynasty, I have to believe that they will wait, unafraid, for the rest of us to avert the train wreck known as the Bush administration.

I've spoken recently to a neighbor who supports Bush. I know he's a Bush supporter because of the bumper sticker on his Dodge Ram truck. We were discussing the slow economy, unemployment and how the federal govt. continues to screw California over the Enron rip off. My neighbor was unaware that the feds have ordered California to pay Enron and other energy "providers" over 270 million in "refunds." ::I feel the bile rising in my throat, so I won't expound on this atrocity, but for those interested in Bush justice, here's a nifty link to the information."::

He was unaware that the Democrats in the US House of Representatives sponsored a measure which passed the House requiring FERC to make public all Enron documents, including the gloat-fest audio tapes of Enron traders previously withheld by FERC, and that 3 billion out of the 8.9 billion we lost would be refunded back to California.(Link)

I asked him if he would support Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein in their re-election campaigns as a reward for their tenacious work on righting this wrong. He commented that they were the ones that supported energy deregulation in the first place, and were just doing their jobs. I asked him if he would continue to support energy de-regulation in California and he said of course not. I let him know that the majority of California Democrats agreed with him, but the Republican Governor, Schwarzenegger, is supporting a modified energy deregulation proposal being debated right now. (Link)

We both shook our heads and I finished sweeping my sidewalk while neighbor Jim fired up the leaf blower and annihilated the debris on his driveway. Nothing wrong with Jim that a good cult deprogrammer couldn't fix.

The United States of America will survive this crisis in leadership. I am waiting, unafraid, to vote on November 2, 2004.