Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Repeating bears

A retread, yes, but worth another go. Wherever you are, in whatever way you worship or contemplate, I wish you peace.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Guns versus mutter

Two beacons for radical change crossed this week, one gone cold, the other burning hot.
Robert Bork died. He's why Supreme Court nominees don't say much more than "We gotta play 'em one game at a time" and "I'm just happy to be here" and equivalent clichés during Senate confirmation hearings.

Because when Bork opened his mouth during his hearing, out spilled arrogance and contempt for all of us. Supposedly charming in social settings, Bork might have made it onto the court were it not for his public demeanor — he somehow had popular support — and would have died on the bench trying to put all women back in skirts with minimum hem, and everyone back to before civil rights.

Bork was one of the original "originalists" who argued that we must follow the Constitution as its creators intended. By the looks of his Shaker beard and wild ringletted hair, he could have been one of those creators.

President Nixon's hatchet man in firing Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox (when attorney General Elliot Richardson refused and resigned in protest), Bork was a Harvard professor specializing in antitrust law — which he opposed.

He also opposed your right to privacy, because it's not explicit in the Constitution. Nor is civil rights, he said, though a poll tax, designed to prohibit blacks from voting, wouldn't OK; it wasn't in the original Constitution, just the 24th Amendment, I suppose.

"In the subsequent quarter-century," after most of the Senate voted against his confirmation in 1987, The New Yorker said, "Bork devoted himself to proving that his critics were right about him all along."
Ahhh, Bork and Ollie … key players in the Reagan administration, second
only to the Nixon administration for its dark melodrama …
To paying choirs, he was a libertarian who preached against individualism, and railed against our social sins ruining the country — sins sent forth by the free market he loved, even if it wasn't free enough. He tried to turn back time and tide rather than deal with the inexorable change.

"Bork" became a verb in his time, meaning to vilify publicly. Better to bork than be borked, I guess.
In sincerity and silliness, debate over what the country does next after Sandy Hook still burns hot.

California's retired teachers' investment program plans to divest itself of a company that owns a gun maker (noble and immediate, though why didn't it do so long before?). Gun owner advocates, led now by the National Rifle Association, continue to urge we arm teachers, or at least post an armed guard at every school. Armored children's backpacks are selling briskly at $200 per.

NRA director Wayne LaPierre blamed violent video games and movies and said today the next Adam Lanza is planning an attack on a school. (Buy more guns, by the way! Become a member, before it's too late!) As much as I hate the video games — what's fun about shooting people, even for pretend? — I doubt they're the cause. How many millions play? Are we going to enforce ideas now?

News reports this week remind me that Patrick Purdy's Stockton schoolyard shooting in 1989 prompted a ban on assault weapons — that wasn't enacted until 1994, and not without guarantees to lift the ban in 2004, nor without loopholes that guaranteed assault weapons could still be sold legally.

The Bushmaster assault weapon — one was used at Sandy Hook — is popular, I learned, because the makers stripped it clean of all the features that would have banned it under that 1994 law. It's sleek and cool and fun, I've heard gun advocates say more than once.

Of mental health, President Obama said access to it should be at least as easy as access to guns. California's Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg urges early mental health treatment.

That's it so far.

Talk should shift almost entirely to mental health, not just in money to provide it but in the way we all think about it. And certainly not just for people who would shoot up a school.

Suicides in the U.S. military run almost one a day now, and most who kill themselves never deployed, never saw battle, as we expect. Many face isolation in the military, and try to survive in a culture that frames mental issues as weaknesses.

But as far as we know — and we don't know what we don't know — the Adam Lanza got his weapons from his mom, who would likely have gone through meetings and training to procure them. They were legal; the shooter got them by some means, and police say he shot his mom before driving to the school. His mental health was known, his troubles known, as far as we can tell. His mother was trying to do something about it.

That's where the talk should focus.

Some of the reaction this week is … reactionary. In what is shaping up to be an Internet meme, dads of elementary school children are donning their military or police uniforms and standing guard outside their children's schools. It's a sincere Hands-Across-America gesture that poses troubling questions:
  • How long are you planning to stand guard?
  • Are you armed? Please say no.
  • If you aren't armed, how are you planning to stop an attack?
  • Who are you? How do we know?
Already, at least one self-appointed guard may not be the Marine he claimed, and the gesture suddenly becomes absurd.
    At the school where I teach a weekly art lesson, nothing had changed, to my surprise. The office staff sits far back from the front counter. Most of the time they don't ask who I am with my cart full of papers. I fill out my adhesive nametag, sign in on the visitor log, and sign out while I'm at it, since it's easier to go straight back to my car after the lesson.

    It's no different now, a week after the Sandy Hook shooting. In fact, I forgot to peel off my nametag yesterday; it was still sitting there on the label sheet when I thought twice and went back to the office, just to see if anyone noticed. No, still there. No, no one looked up to see me pass.

    Maybe that's as it should be. Horrible as it is, statistics show school shootings are rare, the danger extremely low. That's small to no comfort.

    The real epidemic, requiring radical change, remains our mental health.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012

    Fire arms

    The first thought, one of many, I drew for The Stockton Record after a mass shooting at
    Cleveland Elementary School nearly 24 years ago.
    Every grownup hoping for children, I suppose, collides at least once with the idea: What's the point?

    Into this world?

    My collision came in 1989, when a troubled young man named Patrick Purdy opened fire with an assault rifle on a Stockton, Calif. elementary school playground, an hour south of where we live. He killed five children and wounded 29 more, and a teacher, before killing himself.

    The killings riveted the nation with a notion too horrible to imagine. School children, playing.

    How naïve we were.

    Since then, of course, the slaughters continue, the body counts rise, as if a contest is under way; Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, Oikos University in Oakland, Calif. Now the murder of 20 children and six adults — teachers — last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. That's just some of the schools, just some of the 62 mass shootings in the United States since 1982.

    Not to mention about 30 people across the United States murdered every day by guns.

    Patrick Purdy's onslaught was, if you'll forgive the worst possible analogy, child's play.

    With the Sandy Hook murders, it's easy for me now to expect that at any time in America, someone with mental illness, someone unmoored by drugs or alcohol, someone mis-wired for social mores, someone unable to control anger or depression, someone lacking or losing a sense of right and wrong, will slaughter innocents.

    Just add a gun.

    What will it take, now, to prevent it? Are 20 little first graders enough? Do we need more little ones to die? Need they be younger still? A preschool, perhaps?

    What will be — another poor word choice — the trigger?

    Though I don't know the answer to this, I know it can't be more of that same. That would mean we are indeed waiting for something worse to happen, more of the same. President Obama told the Newtown folk Sunday he would "use whatever power this office holds" to prevent tragedies. But what?

    My search for answer only snags more troublesome questions, which circle back to Sandy Hook.

    Limit the number and kind of guns in the United States? Most people who own guns are reasonable, I get it. Hunters I've met are extremely safe, extremely respectful of their weapons, almost to the point of making me wonder why they bother to hunt.

    I just can't understand why reasonable people would own handguns and assault weapons, designed for killing humans in large number. I've never reconciled how having one would keep me safe without also — and more likely — putting me in grave danger.

    Why would anyone, for instance, want a Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle, the kind used to kill those at Sandy Hook? "Why should anyone want a Ferrari?" someone named Philip Van Cleave answered. He's the head of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, and he said in the Washington Post that Bushmasters "are absolutely a blast to shoot with. They're fast. They're accurate."

    I wonder if he said that in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings. I wonder if he realizes how he sounds.

    Guns flourish in the United States, enough for almost everyone to have one, and the Supreme Court has reaffirmed our right, by the awkward sentence construction of the Second Amendment. Regulations are already in place to make purchases difficult — Connecticut's is one of the nation's most stringent — and to prohibit their sale to people who exhibit mental illness, but they don't work and people who shouldn't have guns get them anyway. Laws were supposed to emasculate assault weapons, but a rivet here and semantics there, and the National Rifle Association and gun advocates have restored their firepower.

    Even if somehow the most reasonable laws come forth to keep guns out of the hands of those who would kill others, they would only affect guns yet unmade. Millions are still out there.

    Arm everyone? Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, among others, proposed arming teachers and principals. Gohmert said he wishes Sandy Hook's principal had an M4 (a military assault weapon) and "takes his head off." More arms, not fewer, will solve our problems, they say.

    Imagine a teacher, already trying to master the manifold skills needed to produce educated, happy children, also training in tactical weapons. Imagine states and the federal government, already unable to provide all districts with enough books, paper, pencils, let alone the resources for excellence that children deserve, paying for that training. Imagine the gunfights in the hallways among the unstable and untrained and unstained.
    • Odd aside — wouldn't you think by now weapons technology would have come up with something deadlier and easier to use than a gun? I mean, how long has the gun been the go-to weapon in war — 250, 300 years? Each era of war won by those with better guns, but no one has invented something better — or worse — than a gun?
    Ban bullets? Comedian Chris Rock had it right when he once said bullets should cost $5,000, that bullet control is the answer. One push now is to ban large clips and limit access to ammunition; the odd result, I guess, is that only nine children would be killed in the next shooting, rather than 20?

    Maybe it weakens the arms we already have. Maybe more likely people who want to shoot a lot of bullets will still find a way to do so.

    Help the helpless? Salvation lies within. As the camps entrench over gun control, all can agree our mental healthcare is woeful. The only problem we can really hope to solve is the most difficult.

    Our anger and grief are misdirected. It's not the guns we should focus on in that horrible killing. It's the young man who killed, in the place he killed.

    We must be part of a sea-change, bringing mental illness to light rather than shunting it to dark corners, depriving it of our care and our money. Stories are emerging of the struggle the killer's family made in raising their son.

    Read the heartbreaking story of another mom who finds help for her young son so hard to find, and dreads what will come of him. Soon you'll also find criticism of that mom, denouncing her fate, denying her veracity, and we are back where we started, not helping. Instead, waiting.

    Some say the killing is pure evil, the result of sin, of God removed from our schools. As in, did the devil assign the killer to shoot up a school made weak by lack of prayer? Prayer can't hurt — prayer of mourning, prayer of supplication — but consigning the horror to an act of evil serves instead to free us from the responsibility of doing anything about it.

    I fear we'll tire of this, and inertia will ensue.

    But then I think of my own children, growing and going places in their lives.

    Whether because he was first born or just built with keen emotions, our son especially embraced the world as wonderfully dangerous, or the other way around. Almost every new thing he learned became a new thing to wonder at and be wary of. He worried a lot. Come elementary school, he felt stress, and it manifested in peculiar repeated twisting of his arms and hands, a repeated sideways nod of his head, and a lot of blinking. The tics slowed about this time of year, disappeared by spring and resumed with the new school year.

    Once, when both our kids were young, about the age of the first graders at Sandy Hook, we had signed them up for summer day camp in the park across the street. It was ideal; they'd play and swim each weekday for most of the summer, and I'd get work done from home.

    Not a week into camp our son, already frightened of cigarette smoke, too much sun, and all the things he had heard us say were harmful and that he decided could kill him immediately, was in a bathroom stall when some older kids came in from the park and began smoking. Our son decided he was about to die, suddenly and alone and unnoticed in that stall, and when he didn't, he absolutely refused ever to return to camp.

    Even the mere suggestion he give camp another try ignited yelling tantrums and flailing of limbs, so I stopped suggesting and he stayed at home. It took me months to find out why, because it took our son that long to tell my wife his problem — imagine all the possibilities I pondered.

    Now I'm trying to imagine our son as this little boy again, already fraught with a first grader's heavy regard for the world, trying to understand a troubled man firing and firing a high-powered weapon.

    We can't do nothing.

    Raising our children is our first job, President Obama told the people of Newtown Sunday. "If we don't get that right," he said,  "then we aren't getting anything right."

    Friday, December 14, 2012

    A modest proposal

    I hate Christmas.

    Can't dance around it anymore, or dull my declaration with $10 words. No point in making people around me wonder why I'm such a jerk (or moreso) during the holidays.

    I hate Christmas for what it is — what it probably always has been: A celebration of consumption. Not a celebration; a hyperventilated expectation of consumption, the de facto duty of all Americans (and maybe all the first world).

    The economy, somehow, depends on us to buy stuff at Christmas. And buy. Etc.

    It is the Mythical Manufacture and Movement of Money, the Emergency Reallocation of Resources, and everything we do during the ever-lengthening season serves it.

    Even what we call tradition is really just a whetstone for commerce.

    Maybe once Christmas was solely about tradition — but not in my lifetime. Probably not ever.

    Many ancient traditions, it turns out — even ones we may hold dearest — aren't ancient at all, but just made up for covert motive.

    To my wife's chagrin I'm reading "The Battle for Christmas," an analysis of how America celebrates the holiday, by historian and Pulitzer finalist Stephen Nissenbaum. At first banned by Puritan leaders because it collapsed into drunken riots, Christmas has since become a layered social engineering project promoting family togetherness and homebound pacification, Nissenbaum writes.

    In no time the economy hijacked the whole package and ransomed our wallets. We have since been buying things we don't need, with money we don't have, and singing and baking in an attempt to sugarcoat it all.

    Once — some of you may recall — this was a spiritual time, and not just for Christians; many religions and philosophies held this time sacred or at least solemn, finding in it a period of rest representing death, a dark cold time of hope for longer, warmer days representing renewal. Many interested parties, Christianity among them, decided this a good season to stick a high holy day.

    Whatever was spiritual about this time, though, became the flea on the tail of the big dog.

    Witness any Christmastime TV trope. Whenever religious reference arises in any show, whenever Christ is born in a manager — in a school play, say — Santa is soon sure to follow, distributing gifts. I've done my hour with Jesus, now gimme my "Call of Duty: Black Ops."

    The farce has no limits. One ludicrous violation soon follows the next. Christmas shopping now begins officially on Thanksgiving —Black Thursday! — and will eventually start even earlier; thousands camp out at stores, pushing, shoving, yelling, cursing, fighting in gratitude for the chance to buy. Talk about tradition.

    Jon Stewart is right. It's not a war on Christmas. Christmas is warring on us, swallowing up other holidays.

    The Hallmark Channel, hijacker of our emotional consumption, rolled out the Christmas movies long before that. You can find radio stations playing Christmas carols year 'round. TV commercials mock the gifts we give, unless they're the cool gifts the TV commercials sell. Only cool parents buy kids cool gifts. We are supposed to believe this how we are supposed to behave.

    Car makers seriously suggest you buy someone a new sedan for Christmas. A local dealership even declared last week in a commercial:
    "Nothing will give you more holiday joy than driving a 2013 Audi A3."
    Read it again. Nothing? Even under the crushing overhead, bled by razor-thin margins and ruthless competition, an auto dealer should be able to taste the bile in that season's greeting.

    But we sally forth, celebrating harder and louder, as if to drown out the siren song of the shopping malls, and the true nature of this time.

    I say, enough. 

    Here's my modest proposal: Skip it. Have Christmas every other year. Give it distance so we can miss it and welcome its return with sincere remembrance. Give Christmas a rest. Make it official, issue a decree.

    Unlike Jonathan Swift's modest proposal, no children will be eaten in mine. Nor is mine satire.

    Here's what will probably happen when Christmas takes a holiday:
    • A lot of people will still have Christmas, by which I mean buy and buy, and so be it. I'm not against shopping, just buying for buying's sake. More, relieved of the duty, will spread their purchases throughout the year as needed.
    • A lot of people will still worship, and that's all right; it'll feel illicit and rebellious and dangerous, just like the old days. I'm not stomping on religion, just on consuming. In fact, worship may deepen; people will find again the quiet space in which to consider the faiths in which they were raised or have gathered up in their lives

      I admire Kwanzaa, for example, a holiday Maulana Karenga created 46 years ago from African traditions, promoting community and individual ideals. More power to those who celebrate it. But the holiday takes place the week after Christmas, and if it has any real chance of worthy consideration among communities, it needs distance from our overriding urge to have things.
    • The divide will narrow — the one between those who have the cash to keep up with Christmas consumption and those who don't but keep up anyway, because no one is going to tell my child doesn't deserve what your child is getting.
    • Depression will lift among the people who see the holiday for what it really is, and can't make it go away. They will have peace.
    • The economy will not sputter.
    • We'll remember that veterans and  families without homes shiver and starve and get sick and hide out in the woods during the rest of the year, too, not just Christmas.
    • After a two-year absence, we may buy even more. But I bet we do almost everything but.
    You're right, I'm a big fat hypocrite. I am, as a matter of fact, proposing a last-one-in-bar-the-door policy. I did as a child succumb to the nervous elation of peering into the darkness of an early Christmas morning to see, as my eyes adjusted, a mountain of sherbet-colored Hot Wheels™® track, with loops and ramps, already assembled and ready to play, and six new cars to run on the track.

    I loved it with a child's skepticism. I wasn't a bad kid, by any means, but I certainly wasn't good enough to merit this cascade of toys (oh, the Hot Wheels®© weren't all!) that Santa brought, so many I couldn't — and didn't — appreciate them all, or even a little.

    I'm not denying that for kids to come. Maybe my proposal will elevate that feeling, so the mountain of toys every two years becomes all the more grand; certainly we'd be able to save up for it every two years. Or maybe my proposal will elevates kids instead; absent the constant commercial drumbeat, maybe kids will want less, appreciate more what they get.

    It's a tough sell (so to speak), I know. I'm having enough trouble convincing my family that Thanksgiving is not about turkey, is not about a meal that takes eight hours to make and 30 minutes to eat. Thanksgiving can be grilled cheese or take-out chicken and a family walk in a park. Or an afternoon with friends. Or coats for the family in the woods. It's about giving thanks, not getting stuffed.

    There's always next year.

    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    Piling on

    Ultimately, the world will spin on, and the University of California's new logo will become part of our psychic landscape.

    The kerfuffle will snuff out, and all this derision will simmer to barely perceptible sneers among people who hold dear California's vaunted university system.

    (I'm not among them; I'm sneering just because I just don't like the logo. And I'm not alone.)

    I get the begetting of the new logo. I can just hear the passionate points of defense by the in-house design team that created it — once they have been bound and shackled and dragged to a news conference replete with torches and pitchforks, the chancellors hiding in dark corners:

    • After 144 years, it's time for a change.

    • We want to reflect the young demographic.

    • We have to compete harder for students and money.

    • The old logo doesn't look good online.

    • People call the place UC anyway, and we've turned the uprights of the "U" into an open book (one little obligatory nod to the old logo), and the half-resolved (half-dissolved?) "C" represents the students and the university as works in progress.

    OK, but …

    • Maybe after 144 years and worldwide acclaim, change is not quite that urgent.

    • The young demographic is probably not thinking, "Hey, cool logo!"

    • Even after $900 million in cuts and seemingly constant tuition and fee increases, and feeble support from the state to uphold one of the world's great university systems, I find the competition argument incredible. Students come from all over the world to get a UC education, elbows and transcripts flying furiously, and in California you have to be president of half the high school clubs, vice president of the others, hold a 4+ GPA and cure dysentery in a remote Central American village before the admissions board will consider opening your application. And then it's a maybe.

    • The old logo hasn't exactly failed online. It succeeds mostly because it's been around for nearly 150 years, seeped into our collective subconscious. Part of me, on seeing it, thinks, "Ah, Nobel Prize winners. The haughty and the mighty." The irony is that the new logo, before wysiwyg and electronic technology, would have required some mean tricks to reproduce well on printed publications.

    When I saw the new logo last week in a promotional video, my first thought: It looks like another one of the many for-profit universities that implore the unemployed during daytime TV to transform their lives at their many convenient campuses.

    All those universities have bright eye catching logos because they have to. They're going head-to-head with all the other for-profit schools. They have little or no history to lean on, so the shiny logo is all.

    If the University of California was launching today, its new logo might be one idea for consideration, but wouldn't make the cut. But neither would the all-things-for-all-people logos that schools and municipalities favor so often, with crests of a dozen or more tiny graphics symbolizing anything and everything, so no one is omitted or offended. But cram-it-all-in was the fashion at the time the University of California designed its original logo; thus the stars and rays and scrolled filligree. I'm willing to cut UC some slack.

    To my surprise, the howls of rage over the logo have sprung far and wide today, including a petition and a facebook page against it.

    Some call it a Stanford prank. Others see in the new logo images I hadn't considered, including one that UC may never live down:

    A toilet flushing.

    Friday, December 7, 2012

    They earned it

    Leonard Fahlgren went through hell so he could write poems about his beloved Washburn, North Dakota.

    "Washburn is a little city, located in central N. Dee," he wrote for the city's centennial in 1982. "And for years it has been noted for both its friendship and beauty."

    I'm pretending my great-Uncle Leonard is reading his poem to his brothers, who are all gone now. They are seated around a big corner booth in a sunny restaurant, awaiting breakfast and recounting their lives over cups of coffee. They're laughing quietly at their good fortune, talking of their towns, the North Dakota and Montana towns of their youth, and the cities scattered across the Pacific Northwest where they settled after World War II.

    I'm in a booth across the aisle, listening. Thanks to a sheaf of photocopies my Aunt Patti recently sent me, a collection of news clips over the decades, I can imagine the conversation among the brothers, the way conversations go, tacked full of unfinished sentences and random segues and snags of memory.

    I wonder how much of their conversation would turn to the war. A year ago, I wrote about four of the brothers (I incorrectly said five) who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, 71 years ago today.

    They'd get around to the topic, I pretend. Tatters and snags of war talk.

    Poetry was Leonard's reward, I gather, for serving 550 days on the front lines in World War II, with Army tank destroyers grinding through North Africa, then Italy, southern France and into Germany.

    He went to war to come home and farm, and be the poet laureate of the town near where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark spent winter with the Mandan people on their way west. The town where my mom was born.

    In the lore my mom brought to our family, Uncle Leonard's story is not as well known, overshadowed by Glen, Gordon, Vern and Warner having served together on the repair ship U.S.S. Vestal at Pearl Harbor. The Vestal was tied to the doomed battleship U.S.S. Arizona. Two bombs plowed through the Vestal, which would have sunk too except one bomb hit the stacks of metal repair plates the Vestal had just laid in, blunting the damage. Torpedoes that helped sink the Arizona ran just three feet too deep to hit the much smaller Vestal. Instead the Vestal was cut loose and run aground to keep it from sinking.

    The Vestal and the Fahlgren boys lived to fight again.

    Leonard's best friend died in battle in Italy. He married his friend's widow when he returned, and raised their son.

    Younger brother Ervin joined the four aboard the Vestal, the repair ship U.S.S. Vestal, about a month after the attack; he was training in San Diego during the attack, not aboard ship. Ervin passed away in March, the last of the brothers. My grandmother Irene Gibson, their only sister, died more than 20 years ago.

    The youngest brother, Carl, tried to join the Navy at 17 but couldn't pass the physical exam then or when he was drafted at 20.

    I've often wondered how Carl and Ervin and Leonard felt about their siblings' notoriety, their names sometimes spoken in the same breath as the five Sullivan brothers who died aboard the same cruiser, prompting the military to stop assigning so many siblings together. Over the decades, some newspaper or other has told the Fahlgren boys' Pearl Harbor story, and when they could they attended the reunions.

    Chances are the other three are proud and didn't care whether Pearl Harbor took the family spotlight. Carl once wrote with admiration of his big brothers' service. I'm leaning across the aisle, just the same, hoping to hear them tell it.

    Chances are I'd hear instead the quirky miscellany of war:

    • How all the brothers agreed the United States would eventually join the war and those of age would enlist in 1940 rather than being drafted later.

    • How the captain of the Vestal got knocked off the ship in a blast, climbed back aboard and berated some mess attendants hiding in his cabin for not being at their battle stations. New arrivals, they hadn't been assigned any.

    "So he (the captain) said, 'If you can't do anything else, throw spuds at them,'" Gordon told a reporter 35 years ago. "They told the story, and it got around the ship. We had a pattern maker who was kind of a self-styled cartoonist, and it wasn't long before he had a cartoon of these boys, throwing spuds at Japanese planes, but using oranges for tracers."

    • How Gordon left out the part about breaking his neck as a kid when the Navy medical examiner asked if he'd broken any bones.

    • How the brothers scraped together enough money so Vern could get a tooth filled — his only failing during his Navy medical exam. Once stationed in San Diego, the Navy took out all their fillings anyway and replaced them with military-issue fillings.

    • How a Japanese reconnaissance plane flew along the Vestal so close, Glen could see the pilot's face.

    • How Glen immediately wrote their mother that he and his brothers were fine — even though he couldn't find Vern and Warner for a couple of days after the attack.

    • How three of the brothers — Glen was hospitalized in New Zealand — spent nearly three years at the equator, with only coral reefs to break the horizon, while ships sailed to them for repair. They sometimes built the parts needed, and slept on deck in the tropical heat and nearly went mad. 

    • "The best reward, however," Gordon told a reporter, "was that we all went through the war without receiving a scratch."

    In the collection of news clips, the brothers praise their mother, Theresa Lindstrom, who raised seven children through the Depression by herself because their dad died young of cancer. She later married William Lindstrom and moved to Montana from North Dakota.

    The Navy honored my great grandmother, for sending six sons to war, by having her christen a gasoline tanker, the U.S.S. Susquehanna, in 1942.

    The brothers came back from war and lived lives they earned, attending to business, contributing to their communities.

    I benefit from their service, and so do you. Every day.

    Tuesday, December 4, 2012

    Winter is icumen in

    We're late to the pity party in California, but winter weather has finally, fiercely, arrived.

    To celebrate — or bemoan — I yank out this illustration, for a story about the competition for limited recreation space in Northern California's national forests.

    (When clients' generosity of spirit will allow, I like to try one-shot illustrations, just to get the look and feel down in one go, without luxury of planning. This came in that manner, just a slow meander with a Paper Mate®™ pen, putting elements where my tiny brain thought they should go.)

    Winter is an option in California. We don't have to be in snow if we don't want — not like in the Midwest or northeast, where people settled before considering that a California might exist.

    We get our rains, as we do now, and trudge through an occasional flood. But snow and truly hard winter are choices.

    Swim buddy Doug laughed when I asked if he would see the famous fall colors during the Thanksgiving visit to his native New England.

    "That was way back in September," he said.

    What do I know? Here the flame-colored leaves seemed to hang on the trees a month longer than usual, too late for people to rake them away, so the heavy warm rains knocked leaves into the streets to clog the gutters and worsen the flooding.

    These things I notice more being outdoors more often and swimming the cold water. The water is "warm" for this time of year, about 5 degrees higher than normal (a huge sensory difference). Part of it is artifice, since Lake Natoma is used by water and wildlife officials to regulate temperature and amount for many, many needs. But only nature can really affect such a massive volume of water, and for whatever reason, nature is keeping things warm.

    Should we worry? Surely.

    (Somehow I missed the occasion of my 200th post, a couple of weeks back. Thanks for bearing with me.)