Friday, January 29, 2010

Shades of Germany 1938

Those of you that are Sheriff Joe supporters need to go to and read the article written by Yvonne Wingett titled Rank-and-file county staff reveal fear of Sheriff.

And as Forrest Gump said so eloquently "and that's all I've got to say about that!"

Monday, January 25, 2010

There Goes the Ballgame

The Supreme Court of the land, on a vote of 5 to 4 (with all five voting "aye" being considered conservative justices having been nominated to the job by Republican Presidents) has ruled that corporations can donate as much as they want to any political campaign. They are calling it free speech. Man, I love free speech but I have great trouble understanding how a collective like a corporation, made up of a multitude of employees and stockholders can have the same individual right as a single American citizen. Let me be the first to explain that your $25 donation to the candidate of your choice just isn't going to mean much anymore. In a time when elections are won and lost by 30 second TV commercials corporations are going to pour millions of dollars into the coffers of the candidate of their choice and do you really believe those candidates will have independent thoughts? The lowly independently minded candidate with the original thoughts and just our meager donations will be swept away. Americans are easily lead anyway, so I can imagine the excitement the corporations are feeling with the prospect of telling us what to believe. New and improved with added fresh ingredients. John McCain, the Republican Senator from Arizona, who has been championing election reform for years now has thrown in the towel saying that any election campaign reform is now impossible.

It doesn't take much for any of us, no matter our political leanings to realize that with this ruling the same corporate greed that helped destroy the economy will be unleashed on politics. The big money boys will buy and sell political office making ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois look like a man ahead of his time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How It's Done - 2

I worked on the new painting this week. The first part was pretty boring, just putting a second coat on sap green down for the background areas. The dark green parts are actually just the deep shadows of brush and trees and foliage that will eventually be painted in. The over all picture will have the dramatic light that I really like with great highlights on the brush and cattle and most of all the cowboy and his pony. Today I start building in the cowboy and his pony and you can get to glimpse the dramatic light I'm talking about. It's a slow process but fun and rewarding. My painting coach is a wonderful woman named Cindy Garrison and her phone number is 602 717-9364. No matter your experience or expertise, if you had a inkling to paint she can teach you. She's been doing it for 30 years.

Thanks to Amanda for getting me started again.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

May God Rest Your Soul Mr. Parker

I feel like one of my family has died. A great American pulp writer, Robert B Parker died today of an apparent heart attack. His wife found him slumped over his writing desk. Mr. Parker wrote over 60 novels in his lifetime. He was 77. He was best known for his Spenser series. Spenser, the single named private detective who was hard boiled and tough with a very soft center. A hero that would not turn away from any innocent in trouble no matter the cost. There were many things I loved about Spenser. His quick witted sense of humor that suffered no fools. His buddy relationship that bordered on brotherhood with Hawk, the black sometime hit man and bodyguard who was the only man as tough as Spenser and who always had his back. And I loved the relationship he had with his long time love Susan Silverman. Most hard boiled heroes get all the girls, bedding them left and right. Spenser was true blue. There is a possibility that the old Spenser TV series starring Robert Urich will be coming to TNT soon.

Mr. Parker also wrote the Sunny Randall series about a female Spenser. He wrote the Jesse Stone series that Tom Selleck stars in and has become a very successful series of made for TV movies. I understand a new one is on its way.

But, to my heart Mr. Parker is at the forefront of reviving the western. His Appaloosa trilogy- Appaloosa, Brimstone and Resolution, featuring Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch is just great. Ed Harris, along with Viggo Mortensen has brought this to the big screen. It's like Spenser and Hawk in the old west. Great stuff!

I've been a prolific reader and in younger days have read almost every major piece of literature available. When I turned to pulp fiction I found my refuge in the John D MacDonald series featuring Travis McGee. When Mr. MacDonald died I was lost until I found Mr. Parker. Now he is gone. No more Spenser or Hawk or Susan or Jesse or Virgil or Everett or Sunny. All gone. There is a hole left in me now.

I asked a friend of mine who traveled extensively and read prolifically to point me toward other series like Spenser. He came up with a few and I read them. They don't hold a candle.

Anyone have any suggestions?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lord, It's Been A Long Time Coming

It's raining. They say it's going to rain all week. You guys might have an inkling but don't really have a complete understanding as to what that means to Carol and I. Carol's father is a retired farmer. When active he farmed over a thousand acres and farmed a family farm that has been in the family, father to son, since before the Civil War. Carol grew up watching him watch the sky. We are in the weed control business. If weeds didn't grow we wouldn't be in business. It takes rain for the weeds to grow. We are the ones that now watch the sky.

Everyone knows that this last year has been the biggest economic challenge our country has faced since the crash of 1929 and the Depression of the thirties. We have suffered along with millions of other Americans. Many have lost their homes and their jobs. This is heart wrenching stuff. We have lost many of our larger customers because they are either out of business or simply don't have the revenues for weed control. The double whammy for us was that 2009 was the year of the second worst drought in Arizona history. No rain. No weeds. No money.

It is by God's only grace and the tenacity and loyalty of our employees, coupled with a mid-western creed of thriftiness that Carol and I carry that has allowed us to survive this crisis.

And now the rain has come. The forecast is for much more rain all week. With a little luck this may get us through the spring. With a little luck this will bring us customers. Some old, some new. With a little luck and God's own good grace.

Yea God!! Yea rain!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Illinois, Winter of 1978

In the kitchen of the small farmhouse, above the sink was a window that looked back over the free standing garage, the large fuel oil tank and on beyond to the farm land behind. Seventy acres of prime Illinois farm land that had a small house on it when Carol's father had purchased it. Seventy acres that was now bare and covered with achingly white snow. When it was bright and clear you could see the stark stand of trees that lined the small brook that ran an eighth of a mile away and paralleled the lane that was at the front of the house. The kitchen window had small curtains with bright flowers that Carol had made. Outside the window, attached to the wooden frame was a sturdy mid-west thermometer that registered to fifty below zero. On this bright winters day the thermometer registered 35 below. The house was small and snug and warm, the furnace kicking on every few minutes.

Outside two dogs, one a border collie and the other a small black mass of matted curly hair chased each other around the back of the four acres the house sat on. If it was cold they didn't notice. Sometimes they would go into the garage and nestle into the bails of hay that had been placed there for their bedding. Many bails of hay made into a virtual cave. They were Lady and Tramp. Tramp being the border collie. They were outside dogs. If you'd picked one up to put on your lap they would have wondered if you'd lost your mind. Lady had come to us in the middle of a blizzard, whining and scratching on the back door. The victim of an unloving master that had driven purposely out into the country and dumped her as far from any towns or farms as was possible. It wouldn't be till spring when she was sheared of the matted coat that it would be discovered that Lady was really Laddie.

In the mornings the sunlight would reflect off the miles of flatland snow and drive into your eyes causing instant headache. Stepping out of the front door onto the small porch the storm door - known as a screen door in the summer - slammed back with a report that was very loud in the silence of the snow. There were no neighbors for at least a half mile and the nearest little burg was five miles away. Walking across the snow your steps made crunchy squeaking noises because the snow was so powdery dry. When you stopped walking and stood with your mouth wide open to eliminate the sound of your breathing you would hear nothing. Nothing. No birds or animals, no traffic, no nothing. It was a most freeing feeling. Sometimes though, after a heavy snowfall I would go out early and stand and listen and eventually I would hear what I was waiting for. The muffled sound of a tractor motor as Carol's Dad headed our way with the snow plow. It was Carol's and my first year of marriage. I had never felt more in love and more at peace than the snow filled days of the year we lived in the farmhouse.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How It's Done

Most of you realize that you can go to my web site and see novels and music and my original oil paintings. I've just started a new painting and Carol suggested that some of you might be interested in how the process works. There once was a wonderful fuzzy headed guy on TV that would paint scenics in the space of one half hour show. His name was Bob Ross and he painted a lot of "happy little trees". I loved watching him and listening to his hypnotic whispery voice. He was very good at what he did and he inspired millions to pick up the paint brush, but for me, his painting was too formulaic and again to me, they mostly looked alike. For the rest of us the process seems to be much more complicated.

Below I've posted the start of my new painting. Actually, this is the second stage. The first is my taking some Payne's gray oils and using turpenoid as a cutter with a short stiff brush to actually draw the main subjects. Block them out on the canvas. In this case, on Carol's instigation I've chosen a western theme with a cowboy and some cattle. The background will be interesting to the eye if I do my work right. The overall look will have a misty affect. So after I've blocked out the subjects I start filling in the darkest back ground. I usually paint dark to light, adding the brightest highlights at the end. I used almost a whole tube of sap green, with some additives like small amounts of alizarin crimson and zinc white with Payne's gray on this so far. I have to wait for this first coat to dry then do it all again. If don't the canvas will look paint starved and you'll be able see the texture of the canvas through it, which is a no no. Later after I've progressed some more I'll post the progress so you can watch it become the painting I'll hope it will be.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Only In America

A friend sent this to me and it's too good not to share.

Only in America:

do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back and sell cigarettes at the front.

do people order double cheeseburgers with fries and a diet coke.

do people leave their brand new Lexus in the driveway and fill their garage with junk.

do we buy ten packs of hot dogs and eight packs of buns.

do they have a drive up ATM with braille.

And then you have to ask yourself;

why do you never see the headline, "Psychic wins the lottery!"

why is abbreviated such a long word?

why do Doctors call their job practice?

why is the slowest drive time during the day called rush hour?

why do they make an indestructible black box for airplanes but don't use the same stuff to make the airplane?

why are apartments all stuck together?

If con is the opposite of pro, is Congress the opposite of progress?

why is lemonade made with artificial ingredients and detergent made with real lemons?

why do I invest my money with a guy called a broker?

And lastly, why aren't wings of hospitals named after faith healers?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Hardest Decision

This story is from the Vietnam conflict but has been repeated in almost all armed conflicts. A young soldier is in the bush with his squad when they are attacked by the enemy. A fierce fire fight ensues and as quick as it happens a burst of automatic fire stitches across the young man's body and he falls to the jungle floor with a scream. A Medic, who has the responsibility of the well being of the squad as his job, saw the young man fall and despite his better instincts he rushes through a hail of bullets to the boys side. It was bad and the Medic recognized that the young man had severe injuries. His stomach was opened and he was bleeding profusely internally. The Medic had a choice to make. The boy could bleed out or the Medic could reach a hand into the boys body and try to clamp the bleeding off. If he did nothing the boy would certainly, eventually die. If he reached inside his action may make the situation worse causing other complications and the boy would die. Or it might stop the bleeding. What did he do?

Few of you know that I spent over twenty years in the health insurance industry. First as an agent, then as an Agency Manager then as a Vice President. I have a first hand knowledge of where health care and health insurance in America is. If you are young and the company provides your insurance you probably don't understand the severity of this moment. For twenty years I helped families find quality health insurance and as the person in charge helped them with handling the bureaucracy and frustration of claims. I've had to purchase individual health insurance since 2002 when I retired from the insurance company. My premiums have more than doubled and almost to triple and my benefits have diminished badly. I know people that are "middle class" Americans that can't afford insurance. They are one accident away from financial disaster. Many disagree with me but I believe that as Americans we have a right to quality education and quality health care.

The young soldier in the jungle is the embodiment of health care and insurance in America today. The Medic's hand is health insurance reform. The Medic is the current Administration. Don't talk to me about cost. The patient will die without action. The health reform is messy and inadequate and in places incomprehensible but without trying, the patient will die.

Legislation of this magnitude is extremely hard to enact. I believe fully that if health reform is not enacted now I won't see it in my lifetime. While it is extremely hard to get that grand benevolent together on any one idea, we need to pass it. Changes and amendments later are a lot easier.

Sorry this wasn't as light hearted as I have been but someone asked.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Da Jinx

Okay, even for non football fans yesterdays playoff game between the Packers and the Cardinals had to be thrilling. It was the wildest game I've ever seen. It ended in overtime with a fumble and a Cardinal recovery that went into the end zone to win 51 - 45. A total of 96 points. My old high school basketball team couldn't score that much. Kurt Warner was amazing. He had 5 touchdown passes and only 4 incompletions. Let me repeat that. He had more touchdown passes than passes that weren't caught.

Whew! Maybe, just maybe the jinx is dead. Many of my friends, myself included have in the past considered me a jinx to the Cardinals. It seems everytime I tune in to a game, no matter how well they've been playing, as soon as my TV is recognized as being on they fumble, stumble, bumble and basically go down the toilet. So yesterday as I watched the game from the beginning I knew that my friends were praying that I had forgotten to watch. I was really worried but I had to watch. We haven't gone to the playoffs much and this was the game of the season. I had to watch. Jinx or not. Then, wow, we jumped out to a big lead. We played amazing football and somewhere at the point that we were 21 points ahead I called my friend Charlie to crow that the jinx was dead! DEAD, DEAD DEAD!

I hung up the phone and the Packers scored 21 points to tie the game with less than two minutes left. Okay, not to panic, even as the bile rose to the back of my throat. I knew that Warner would get us down the field. And then Neal Rackers, the kicker and one of my favorite players and one of the best kickers I've ever seen would win the game with a field goal with two seconds left. As predicted Warned roared down the field and with just a few seconds left Rackers lined up for a 3o some yard chip shot.

He missed. HE MISSED THE @#&&%** CHIP SHOT!!

My neighbors heard my wailing from a block away. THE JINX! THE JINX! THE JINX!

Then we won it in overtime.

I think the jinx is just wounded.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Excuse Me While I Check my Tweet

I was talking with our old friend Curt Johnson yesterday. Curt and his wife Ann are raising a great family in Indianapolis. Well, actually it's a suburb of Indianapolis and that may mean something to them but to the rest of us way out here it's Indianapolis. As a single guy, Curt spent a lot of years here in Arizona and most of those on our back patio where we solved many of the ills of the world.

We were talking about blogs and Curt - one of the brightest guys I know - had this insightful question; since I've been blogging do we hear less from our friends around the country? Great question. In other words, Curt says he used to call more but now all he has to do to check on us it to pull up my or Amanda's blog. This made me start thinking about the trade off we are making as we progress into this techno information age. Look at all the ways we communicate with each other. We can text, tweet, facebook, e-mail, and blog. Oh yeah, if we remember we can actually call. From anywhere at anytime. We can take calls in the middle of the movie, or the middle of the church service, at the funeral, or during family dinner time. I mean it is great technology ain't it!

But, what's the down side. When's the last time you received a long letter from someone you care about. Carol and her Mom and Sister were going through letters from great and great, great grandparents. People moving from Texas to Illinois in the nineteenth century. Can you imagine how exciting that was for them to have family history unfold in the actual words of ancestors? But, where are your kids going to store your tweets for future generations to read? And, I don't know about you, but I can communicate much more effectively if I'm writing. But I'm as guilty as the next guy. I have written a letter in years.

And, I'm not sure I get the texting thing. I mean, I do it but I'm not sure I get it. Why not just call? Oh, I know, with texting you can postpone your response, and you don't have to interrupt what's going on by answering. But I've never seen anyone not look at the phone when receiving a text. And, I know you kids can text like the wind but Amanda congratulated me when I responded to her text with more words than just "ok".

I guess it is all great and I along with everyone else will use the technology and benefit from it but all the same I'd rather have some face time with Curt on the patio. Or at least a letter.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

2000 - 2009 RIP

Most of us watch with some interest the various lists that always accompany the end of a year. This year we had the additional lists of the end of a decade. I'm always interested in and always regret the people we have lost in the last year or in this case, the last decade. I was thinking of this and decided to dedicate this blog to the people that I've personally lost in the last decade. Some of these are people I've been arm and arm with and others are people I've brushed up against. If I've forgotten someone, and I'm sure I have please leave a comment on the post.

In no particular order:
My mother, Virginia Lee Davis Jackson Holliday
Jordan "Dad" Smith, band mate, cool drummer and great friend.
My best friend in high school , Richard Dunn
Our neighbor across the alley, Marilyn
Watson Powell Jr. the Chairman of the Board of American Republic Ins. Co. who single handedly picked me out of the mass to start up a brand new Agency in Arizona - therefore changing my life.
Molly the beagle. Her of the soulful eyes and overwhelming bray of a bark.
Hazel and Ben Sprague, Carol's grandparents on her mother's side.
Aunt Betty Henneberry, Carol's father's sister.

Many of our friends lost parents in the last decade, including;

Cindy Bennett's father.
Cindy King's father.
Brent Robinson's parents.
Bob Place's mother.
Greg Cooper's parents.
John Duval's father.

In tribute I've written the following;

The Journey

when I came slippery and wrinkled into that light
and the jolt made me fill my lungs for the first time
to cry aloud my first opinion
and the metallic snip of those scissors
left me alone and disconnected
when I came slippery and wrinkled into that light
I had nothing

But opportunity

when I leave, wrinkled and tired
and the sudden slow decline gets beyond my control
and those that will be watching will have that look
and even if I didn't know I was going I would know by that
when I leave, in that final jolt that will empty my lungs for the last time
and the sterile wheeze of the room
will be my last memory
I will have nothing
but the hope
I didn't

my opportunity

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ain't Family Great?

Carol and I went to Gammage last night to see "August - Osage County". Strange title but a fabulous play. It was about a family gathering in August in Osage County Oklahoma because the patriarch, a drunken ex-award winning poet has gone missing. Mom - played to a T by Estelle Parsons - was strung out on prescription drugs and the the three dysfunctional daughters and trailing husbands, fiancees, et al, converge at the moment of crisis. What followed was three hours that went by like fifteen minutes. At moments outrageous and shocking and at the same moment made you laugh so hard the seltzer came out your nose. There were two intermissions and each one shocked me when it occurred, I was so caught up in the play.

I came from a broken home so growing up I had misconceptions that there were really tight loving families out there. Just not mine. Of course, in the reality of several decades I find that there are really great families out there but almost always they are the nuclear. Carol and Amanda -and now Lance- and I have great relationships. Go outside of this and wow! But it's not just me. It's everyone I know. I guess this gives me some kind of relief. I'm at an age where while she was alive it came to me to take care of my mother. Role reversal. Most of my friends are embroiled in the same sad mess. I grew up sharing a bedroom and sometimes a bed with a brother I never see or hear from. I have another brother who is very close to me and my heart but has a wife that is threaten by any relationship he has that she can't control. So I never hear from him and when I contact him he pays dearly.

I guess my point is that family is almost always messy. You can pick your friends, and you can pick parts of your body but you can't pick your family. God did that. It makes me wonder if I'd been bad in a previous life.

Go see August, Osage County. The only difference between the family on stage and your own is that the one on stage makes you laugh.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cyber Spaced

If you read my last blog and I'm assuming that if you're reading this, you did then you know that Amanda has moved on with her life and Carol and I are left to handle Arizona Weed King by our lonesomes.

I came in over the holidays and retooled my desk so that I could jump into the breach ready to go on Monday morning. Sharpened pencils, organized paper clips, got the headset setup on my desk. I'm not one of these that can balance a phone on my shoulder and type into the computer at the same time. I was ready to go!

Monday morning dawned and I booted up my computer, opening all six programs I need access to, and sure enough within a few minutes the phone rang and I took the call with Carol watching me like a hawk. It was a new customer wanting our service and an estimate. I pulled up the proper screen and took all the information. With great aplomb I explain our services just like I had heard Amanda do a million times. Feeling accomplished I hung the phone up and looked at Carol. "How did I do?" I asked smugly. Carol said I did great and with great satisfaction I reached over and hit the next keystroke for the program to schedule the lady and all the information disappeared into space. Gone. Not to come back. Name, phone number, address......all gone. Didn't even wave goodbye. Gone in an instant leaving an old idiot behind.

For anyone interested and you both know who you are, I've posted my two latest paintings on my website. Tina has finished posting the novel "The Sundown Corral" so it is up in its entirety.

Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!