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Archive → June, 2018

The Fireflies Made Me Say it: Happy Solstice

For whatever reason, summer really got ahold of me this year, like on my mind all the time, and dare I admit that I have actually been looking forward to this day, today, the Summer Solstice, all year long.

No funny Druid costumes. No somber walks among the big trees, waving incense or talking to the trees themselves. At most I might BBQ some hotdogs and crack a cold one (Yuengling, naturally).

But why is this long day so subliminally important, so that I look forward to it without really thinking about it?

I think the long summer days are when I really deeply recharge my batteries, recover the energy lost to drudgery and hard work the rest of the year. No question, long summer days really last. You can get in one more walk, one more bike ride, or do that much more lawn work. You just feel…more.

The sad thing is that after sundown tonight, the days get shorter until it starts getting dark at 4:00 PM in November.

Last night I pulled off the side of Montebello Road in Perry County, into one of Farmer Hines’ corn fields. Something caught my eye in the darkness, and when I turned off the truck and its lights, my vision was filled with a most glorious sight: Thousands of fireflies blinking all across the corn field. So many that they were beyond counting. Never before in a lifetime of watching fireflies have I seen so many.

Perhaps, they, too, are sensing the peak moment we all sense, the longest day, the greatest opportunity, and they are doing their firefly thing the most at that moment, in that narrow window of opportunity.

It was one more reason to drink deeply of these long days, to savor every moment and ray of sunshine. These times come with so much hidden magic.

Maybe a Druid outfit and an oak leaf wreath in my hair is warranted. Last night might have made a believer out of me.

 

From Venezuela, with love

Recently I had the educational opportunity to have lunch with a refugee couple from Venezuela.

For safety reasons their names and location cannot be divulged. If it is any indication how insecure and unsafe America has become, this pair of humble, poor, well educated, fairly young EVIL capitalists (sarcasm) could not take refuge among their fellow countrymen in Florida. Should they be recognized, there are enough Venezuelan government -affiliated henchman there that they could easily be gunned down in what would be seen as a mere robbery.

We listened in shocked awe at the detailed and personal stories they told us of life in Venezuela’s socialist paradise. The absence of food or medical care, the absence of freedom or liberty, the absence of personal security. The absence of personal choice, the complete lack of free speech. The packs of government militia thugs on the prowl everywhere, spreading terror and forced obeisance.

Doors kicked in, people dragged from their homes.

Latin America has a long history of repression, violence, and autocracy. When a capitalist tyrant is in power somewhere there, the American press reports daily on his malfeasance. When a socialist tyrant is in power, there is practically a news blackout.

When I asked the husband what he thought of America so far, he said he liked our freedoms the best.

“Which one do you like the most?,” I asked him.

“Although I have never shot a gun in my life, I like that everyone here has a gun, if they want one,” he said.

Continuing in his halting, broken English, he said “When the new, illegitimate government [Maduro] wanted to really control the population, they rounded up every private gun they could find. As a result, the Venezuelan people were unable to fight back.”

Looking at me across the table, he said almost shyly, quietly, “Do not give up your guns.”

US Media: immoral head fake, or illegal “fire!” in a crowded theater?

The First Amendment to the US Constitution is one of humanity’s greatest achievements.

The First Amendment guarantees individual citizens, and the press (media), certain free speech, communication, and assembly protections and rights, as well as religious freedom rights.

But one exception to this amazing free speech right we all know is that the First Amendment does not guarantee a right to yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theater, because there is no public benefit, or private right, to cause an injurious stampede. You cannot use a liberty to cause injury to innocent people, which is what yelling FIRE! in a crowded theater does.

One after another fake, manufactured media crises over the past eighteen months have come and gone, and if all of them call into question the meaning of the First Amendment for today’s fake press, any one of them will suffice.

Russia collusion (after two years there is zero evidence, and never mind the FBI\DOJ collusion with Hillary Clinton’s campaign). Stormy Daniels (never mind that rapist and serial sexual harasser Bill Clinton is still a hero to half the nation). Milania’s pathetic shoes or Sarah Sanders’ face structure and clothing (weren’t we -correctly- supposed to not criticize women’s appearances?). Now it’s Hispanic babies fake-crying in English (not Spanish) for long distant parents who sent them alone to break American law and illegally enter America under the care of thieves, pedophiles, and human traffickers.

Every month or so the American press manufactures another crisis meant to stir up the American people, to put people in a panic, to get them racing and stampeding over one another. The press is essentially yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater, in an attempt to damage a president they dislike.

Each cry of “Fire! Fire!” by the press is at the very least an immoral head fake meant to distract from the documented crimes by many senior staff of the Obama administration, now wide open to the public as a result of the Dept. of Justice’s Inspector General. Or to distract from the amazing economic news, because they can’t let Trump get any credit or good news.

Incredibly, over 90% of the mainstream press’s coverage of President Trump is negative. That is not honest, it is not reporting. It is straight forward political activism.

The press today is not the press of the First Amendment’s 1787 ratification. Today’s press is not dedicated to serving as The People’s watchdog over government, helping hold government officials to account.

Rather, today’s press\media is a completely partisan, dedicated communication arm of just one political party. The press covers up for the crimes of one party, and helps invent fake crimes for the other political party. And yet, America’s press gets the benefits and protections of the First Amendment, as if press members are doing holy work for the Republic.

The question is, does the First Amendment apply to a partisan activist “press,” whose political advertising and advocacy contributions to just one political party are worth billions of dollars as undeclared in-kind political contributions?

We have to ask, because at a certain point CBS, ABC, NPR, BBC, NYT, Washington Post, et al must have their political contributions assessed. If they are found to have violated campaign election law, then let the legal chips fall where they must.

Adios, Pancho Villa

When he came out of the guest room, suited up to hunt, he looked like the famous Mexican bandito Pancho Villa.

No lie.

Under his ten gallon Texas cowboy hat, he had two bandoliers of rifle ammunition crossing his chest, a Colt .45 ACP on his right hip, a massive custom Bowie knife on his left, his rifle slung over his shoulder, and I think a revolver in a shoulder holster rig.

We were going deer hunting in northcentral Pennsylvania, but my Pancho Villa was loaded for bear and beyond. We all kind of stood there at 5:00 AM, slack-jawed, staring at him in disbelief, our coffee mugs levitating between lips and falling to the floor in uncontrolled spasms.

He carefully explained what purpose each weapon served. The scoped rifle was obviously for deer, and the knife was for gutting a deer. The Colt Commander .45 ACP was in case a bear attacked him at close quarters, and the revolver was in case a human attacked him. Or maybe I have that reversed.

The bandoliers were self-evident. Everyone needs an extra 100 rounds of ammunition when deer hunting.

We went hunting that day, and I sent him up the hill to sit above the cabin. It was a good spot, and many deer had fallen there. He did not shoot any deer, however. Oh yes, he saw some, and a couple that presented decent shots. But he did not feel like getting all bloody.

He took a lot of chiding that night around the dinner table. So the next day, when we set out from the porch under twinkling stars, he was dressed like everyone else: A parka, orange hat and vest, a rifle. Half way across the gravel driveway I stopped and asked.

“What the hell is that SMELL?”

We all looked at one another, and then everyone looked at Pancho.

“What? I always wear aftershave in the morning. Every man should wear aftershave,” he stated.

“We are deer hunting, not running around on our wives, dammit,” I hissed. “Get back inside and clean yourself off. Every deer can smell you for a mile away!”

Five long minutes later Pancho emerged from the cabin, smelling less like a man on the make. Good. We all checked out with complete kit, and we started to all walk across the same stretch of gravel driveway.

Again, halfway across the gravel a tremendous CLANG! rang out. We all jumped out of our boots, whirling about to see what it was. In the stillness of the 5:20 AM pre-dawn dark, that loud and incongruous metallic noise was the only noise, something absolutely necessary to avoid if we were going to put the sneak on wily whitetail deer.

“Oh,” said Pancho.

“My rifle sling was not attached properly and it disconnected from the rifle barrel.”

His rifle and expensive scope had fallen to the ground. Never mind the air raid siren warning affect this had on deer for half a mile around, it probably damaged either scope or gun, or both.

Nevertheless, he reattached the sling and off we went into the gloaming, working our ways into spots high up to snipe ambushed deer from above.

He did shoot at a deer that day, and he missed. Even he was not surprised. The scope had taken a hell of a hit, and required a half dozen shots off the porch to get it dialed back in later that day.

Over the years many similar hilarious and improbable tales emerged from Pancho’s hunting exploits up north. Unfortunately he skipped an opening week of rifle season to take his flock on a trip to the Holy Land, ate undercooked, tainted chicken, got Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and became paralyzed from the neck down.

This once strong, masculine, proud, intelligent man was increasingly hemmed in by a world of aids, walkers, motor scooters, and help with everything. In the past couple of years he talked constantly of dying. His body was in fact shutting down, and he wanted out. His untreatable pain was immense.

He died Friday, a victim as much of the Guillain-Barre paralysis as the double-edged drugs meant to prolong his life.

Pancho Villa was not his real name, but to me, one of his admirers, he will always be that colorful bandito. A man swimming powerfully both with and against the tide he had been born into. To those who could not pronounce his name, he was “Chay-me.”

To his parents, he was Chaim. Born in Boro Park, Brooklyn, he was the son of a wood worker and a homemaker, who both fled Germany before the death plague descended on everyone around them. To those who do not know Boro Park, think Fiddler on the Roof. This is a super insulated society, walled off from everything outside. This concrete jungle does not breed woodsmen or hunters.

Chaim Schertz got his PhD at NYU and his rabbinic ordination at YU. He was a terrible hunter, but a great man, a great teacher, a great friend. I miss him now and always will.

 

The boys of summer

This past weekend a friend and I got our boys together, plus one of my son’s friends.

The four young teenagers ran themselves ragged, and it was a beautiful thing to see. Running up and down the river, floating downstream with the strong current, exiting downward of the rocks, sloshing back up and doing it all over again. And again.

Until one of them discovered some otter’s half-eaten breakfast of fish and crayfish, lying exposed in the strong sunshine on a rock with the water swirling around it. Inspecting that absorbed their attention, heads crowded around, someone poking about with a stick. And then >POW< they broke and ran back upstream as a splashing, sloshing pack, marking a distant boulder in the middle of the stream as their next object of focus.

This kind of outdoor joy went on all weekend.

Campfires, campfire cooking, campfires becoming scary bonfires, shooting guns, lighting fireworks, ear-ringing blackpowder cannon booming, combat SORRY! games, food crumbs everywhere, clothing smeared with mud and grass stains, pickup football games, woods walks. It was just one non-stop blur of motion.

At night we watched movies, shooshing one another when someone talked over the dialogue. Crumbs on the couches, popcorn on the floor.

It was a thing of joyous beauty to behold. Such unbridled happiness. Such carefree freedom.

Meanwhile the dads sat on the river bank, on the porch, on a log in the woods, in the living room, and compared childrearing tactics, kid behavior, learning and teaching successes and failures, hopes and fears for the kids’ futures, hopes and fears for our own parenting, for our own relationships.

Somewhere in all of this I was both a child again and a responsible adult. Watching these boys being boys as boys were meant to be was refreshing, and kind of a validation of my own untamed side.  That part of almost every guy that is a kind of mostly-hidden teenager who refuses to grow up and get with the adult program. Heck, being a boy is fun, even a fifty-year-old boy. You never really stop being a boy, you just get new toys. The consequences of screwing up are no longer skinning your knee, however; now, you can lose your home, your spouse, your health.

But we are boys inside, nonetheless.

Being a dad is difficult, and fun; hard and enlightening; frustrating and rewarding. Doing a bit of it with another dad over a weekend makes it easier. But most of all I enjoyed being a part of the boy herd, and reliving some of that unfettered joy of just being a boy free to roam and run in the summer sunshine.

A breezy summer day

One of my most enduring happy memories is actually not just one distinct moment, it is the aggregated beautiful summer days of my central Pennsylvania farm country youth.

As far as I can recall, Happy Valley did not get much sunshine throughout the year. Our glum, overcast days stretched from Fall through Spring. Instead, we saved up every drop of sun for June, July and August. These summers were sunny, usually gently breezy days, with mostly blue skies and flitting clouds, occasional sun showers, temperatures in the 70s and maybe 80s.

A trip to Whipple Dam State Park or a local swimming hole would cure the worst of the heat.

Perhaps youthful memories are clouded by adult cynicism, or more likely, by adult rose-tinted glasses. We prefer in our old age to recall only the good times and bury the rest. That is possible here when it comes to recalling the perfect summer weather of my youth.

However, it is also a scientific fact that Planet Earth is getting really close to having its polarities flip. Very close. As those polarities get close to switching (magnetically speaking, the North Pole becomes the South Pole and vice versa), Planet Earth’s magnetic shield gets weak. So weak that a lot of ultraviolet rays get through to the surface, and our skin, thereby heating things up.

It is one of the reasons for sun burns worse than usual and for really hot, windy weather over the past twenty-five years. It is a fact that some plant and animal species have been moving northward, too, as northern climes warm up, even ever so slightly.

Earth’s magnetic field acts as a filter for harmful UV and other cosmic rays. Our magnetic field is one of the reasons Planet Earth has life on it. When it gets weak, our own experience outside changes.

After a very wet and rainy Spring, we are now experiencing some easy-sleeping cool evenings, and breezy, gently sunny days. The kind we have not seen in decades.

What a wonderful feeling.

If I go in the back yard and work in the garden, and close my eyes, I am transported back to the wondrous summer days of my childhood. They were colored by the ultra-green environment that surrounded me, too, I admit that.

It is doubtful these perfect days in the 70s, with a refreshingly gentle breeze, will last much longer. After all, the poles have not yet fully flipped and returned Earth to where its magnetic shield was much earlier in my life. But I am reminded of how it used to be, and how pleasant it was.

Aaaahhh…summer time, central PA style.