Monday, October 03, 2005

Had breakfast with the buds, Gary and I had a long run. We spent a big portion of the morning discussing Iraq; what a mess. And, on every turn. Andy is pretty much an idealist, in a perfect world, everybody would love each other. I think much of it has to do with his background, being raised in Greece. I think I told you that as a twelve year old, he saw all the men in his village killed: it was in his book, I think. Michael is a little more practical: we are there and so don't tell me all this stuff about weapons of mass destruction, forget all that, yes, no, true or not, we are there. What is your plan? Gary is close to being a Bush hater. He, like Andy, also likes to deal in the "what ifs." My position is more and more fluid, to be honest. After watching Sixty Minutes and seeing the guy who was a big part of our getting in the war int he beginning, who literally convinced all the neocons as they are called, i. e., Chaney, Wolfowich, a few others that Saddam was a bigger threat than he was. Then, of course, he fell out of favor with the Bush crowd and they tried to discredit him. He reinvents himself in Iraqi and is now a leading minister, head of all the oil. Another example of how screwed up everything is. Weird to the max. I've always felt that we had to get Saddam at some point; get him now or later; but, the war has been horribly mismanaged.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Ultimate Friend

Long before the Terri Schiavo's prolonged death of 15 years, death and how to die has been a topic of discussion. When I use to go into nursing homes and see acres of old folks or not so old who didn't know they were in this world, you better believe I thought about it. And, also, one of my best Army buddies developed early alzsheimers and it got me to thinking. Under what circumstances would I want to live or die if I had a debilitaing physical ailment. Basically two things would guide me: (1) if my mental capacity were so diminished that it was clear I was, "losing it." But, while losing it, I knew that I could still have some logical thoughts to make a decision. (2) That I had reached a stage where I was a burden to my family. Consequently, I was ready to go. I honestly believe that as a person of faith, "this world is not my home. I've lived a good life and so have no fear of death.

That being said, I would want a friend to do me in. I have such a friend. We are still working out the details: the commitment is there, it is just in figuring out the logistics and making sure it is not questioned and maybe even the "how."

I asked my man, Michael, does he want me to do him in if the conditions exist? No. What! The icon does not want to be done in. I am blown away; it almost equals my Marine buddy not believing in the draft.

In Lonesome Dove when Gus was hanging Jake, one of his former partners, Jake said, "Well, boys, I'd rather be hanged by my friends than my enemies." And when they hanged him, Gus declared, "Jake sure died well." Can't get much better than this.

I am putting this great statement on the Airborne Press website as it relates, "Every soul is divine though during the state of ignorance, it remains oblivious of its spiritual nature. In every heart the divine light shines with undiminished lustre. Hence all men are entitled to respect. The divinity of the soul is the unshakable basis of democracy, self determination, freedom, and the aspirations of modern minds. Shankara

Monday, March 21, 2005

God, Man, and the Universe

We hit so many subjects today that it's amazing. I had to institute the "raising your hand" rule as everybody wanted to talk. We had a non regular this morning. A great guy--the first time in a long time. Actually, we use to see him over at our old place (Shoreline Cafe--don't know why we quit. This place is a combination restaurant and health food store. NG (new guy) is a Muni (municipal buses in San Fran) mechanic. A gentle guy. He's a bachelor and we decided over an objection that he needs a girlfriend or at least start looking. He has pretty good criterion but not impossible: late thirties to early fifties, likes Asian but not necessary. Cooking would be an asset. Needs her to be financially solvent.

Ok, don't want to use real names here, especially of main parties involved but a heavy duty issue of jeolousy involved. Here is basic situation. One of the guys goes out with a girl on one day and almost immediately, she through a routine appointment has cancer. She goes through all the treatment and recently died. Very sad. But, through all the treatment, my friend sticks with her and even takes her to several appointments, nothing romantic, he is truly being just a friend: a standup guy. In the meantime, he gets a girlfriend who knows all about the friend with cancer. It doesn't seem to be a problem. The dying friend bequets her car to her "stand up" friend who has been there for her. The present girlfriend is having trouble with this and actually refuses to ride in the car. The "girlfriends are giving advice on this delicate subject.

Andy has some new insight. If it is a problem to the girl friend, he should sell the car and take the money and buy another. Michael thinks that the present girlfriend should be dumped. Dave thinks that it is a bigtime red flag. Afterall, the girl is dead.

Then we moved right into the Terri Schiavo case. All were in agreement that Congress had no business getting involved in this very private thing. And, even the courts but since they were, Congress should leave it alone. Andy thought it was because Bush was trying to please the right wing fundamentalists. Gary said he had already called his parents and made sure that all knew exactly what they wanted. He also related to us the big discussion he got into with his brother who goes to this fundamentalist church and does not see a feeding tube as extraordinary means. I kept trying to bring up Iraq but couldn't get it in. And, then Michael laid into Andy because he had a plaque put up with his name on it where he had donated 80 acres of land to a wilderness preserve. We decided that if our friend ever gets the vehicle, we will go to the place that Andy donated the land and have a ceremony over the it. I allowed as how I would try to get a rabbi, a priest and maybe even an Iman. Nobody was laughing.

Andy saw some guy in the next booth that he recognized from 45 years earlier when they use to sell cars together. The guy is a big time contractor and Gary gave him some of his architect cards. Michael gave Gary and I a bottle of Vitamin B and said we should start taking. Michael also gave me an article about the danger of vioxx which I no longer take.

OK, it has been about two hours and we are out of there. Gary and I go for a short run up this trail so Rascal, his great dog, a yellow lab, can romp. We run into a dogwalker with six dogs. They all go for a swim in this pond along with Rascal. Gary and I continue our talk. He tells me about another friend, child psychologist, that nobody likes, meaning girlfriend's friends. They want to have a party but don't want to invite him. The psychologist is dating one of the girlfriends. It was the girlfriend that introduced Gary to his present girlfriend. They don't like the psychologist because they think he is arrogant and thinks he knows everything. Plus, they think that his girlfriend is getting the short end of the stick. He doesn't want to get married, make any permanent commitment. I like the psychologist but simply ignore. The last conversation we had, thought it was really good inasmuch as he said something about war that really resonated with me. We were talking about gays in the military and I was getting beat up on pretty much by Gary's cousins; I think it is OK for gays to be in the military but in wartime, they need to stay in the closet. War is not a picnic and the soldiers who are really good soldiers are incredibly macho and just shy of being Montana militia men. The child psychologist says that war has to probably be looked at entirely separate from other things. In war, the normal rules just don't apply. I thought that was really good. This guy, the psychologist is one of the few people that I've ever seen when you can literally tell when he is not paying attention to you. His eyes shade over. Really.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


The buds and I have been on a tangent of discussing death and dying. It came about for a couple of reasons. One of our regulars had a friend to die and has been pretty traumatic. He had only dated her once when she discovered she had a terminal illness. She put up a courageous fight for two years and all during the process, we discussed it. Our bud has been a "stand up" guy and has stayed her friend. Recently a couple of us attended her Memorial Service where he spoke and did a great job, to say the least.

Another reason is because several of us have seen Million Dollar Baby--a good movie; and, in many ways, very inspiring. In Million Dollar Baby, Hillary Swank, one of the best actresses around, plays Maggie. Morgan Freeman, Eddie; and Clint, Frankie--basically, Clint and Morgan play themselves. Clint protrays his"kind persona" towards Hillary as he does the prostitutes in Unforgiven.

Million Dollar Baby is a movie that ought to be reckoned with because it ultimately focuses on a central problem in our society and one where denial is rampant; mercy killing/euthanasia. With health care costs soaring and twenty million people without health care coverage, we are keeping people alive in artificial ways and long after their bodies would have naturally shut down. We are in a crisis and have allowed the right wing zealots, who purport to know what God thinks, and who wouldn't know an original thought if it ran over them, control the debate. We need to get off that dime.

I've been doing lots of thinking about the Terri Schiavo situation. I can hardly believe the President and Congress have decided to get involved. For all practical purposes, she has been brain dead for fifteen years. It has been a sad case anyway you look at it. A mother and father who are overwhelmed with grief and have become hard-core activists, I think, because of their grief. A husband who says his wife didn't want to live like this but nobody else knows if she said it or not. And, apparently, he is not so sterling a character. It has become a mess inasmuch as it shows again that most people have enormous difficulties in dealing with death.

As a young pastor, I can remember once saying to the wife of a really elderly husband who had just died, "he's better off." She immediately corrected me and said, "No, I don't agree, I would want him back under any circumstances." I don't understand thinking like that but I know that many feel that way--Terri Schiavo's parents!

Why really would the Terri Schiavo's parents persist so vehemently in keeping the daughter alive. I don't get it personally. I use to go into these old age warehouses called Nursing Homes where acres of old people would reside. They didn't know they were in the world. Many had not known who they were for years. Yet, the parents, religious zeolots, the governor of Florida, his brother, the President and Congress are poised to do whatever is necessary to keep someone alive who has not known she is in the world for fifteen years. Why?

Let the poor woman die! It's amazing that a movie like Million Dollar Baby defines the debate better in moral terms than the Church or certainly any of the zeolots. When Hillary aka as Maggie is lying in the rehab center, knowing she is in the world but not wanting to live in her present state, she makes the decision about her life--I want to die.

Does a person's life belong to them? Albert Ellis, long time psychologist and therapist, not to mention, one of my heroes, has argued over and over, “Yes, a person’s life belongs to him/her. He says, “If a person says they are going to do themselves in,” I will say, “I understand, your life is your own but you must understand that if you are successful, there is no turning back.”

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


I've been gone for a week to North Carolina visiting my brothers. How have these guys gotten along without me. Naturally, I'm the first to arrive--we have a system, don't be waiting around. I have my usual: double shot of wheat grass, large carrot juice, and oatmeal with blueberries, bananoes and cinnamon. We are talking healthy here! Michael drags in and then Gary and finally Andy. So, here we go with the relevant topic.

We start off talking about the war and then quickly transition to religion. I don't remember why. Andy is an atheist and thinks religion is the bane of society. "What we all need to do more is love each other and accept everybody and be happy." I told him he had been hanging out in Berkeley too long.

Not that he is wrong. Gary is a Methodist type. His girlfriend, is a former Catholic who at best, according to Gary, is an agnostic. Michael is a Jew but says he's a Buddhist, has done all sorts of things, Zen, etc.; we all agree that religion has been the cause of beaucoup problems as it is practiced in the world. As a Christian, I allow as how often it is a matter of how it is misinterpreted and one has to realize that religion and Christianity the way I practice it is based on faith. I mean, nothing to be proved, whatever.

What our talks do for me is allow me to really think about it, as these guys challenge everything. You could say that the sun is up. They would want to know how you know. My basic belief is that if one follows Christianity, then always deal with the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, these are the books that record what Jesus did and said. Can't go wrong if you are interested in the "basic." He was always the champion of the poor, the downtrodden, the disenfranchised. Whether it was the women of his day, the hated gentiles, whoever, always took the side of those who had no champions. It is only when what he did and said is interpreted is it a problem. Mostly the interpretation is by Paul, who is credited with beginning the concept of the Church. I see Michael's eyes glazing over?

Andy wants to talk about when he was a youngster in Greece. He was a twelve year old when all the adult men in his village were rounded up by the Nazis and killed. Where was God when all this was going on? I allow as that I don't think that God is very involved with us down here and we could say, "where was God when people are starving or the Germans zapping seven million Jews or some drunk father is abusing his daughter or the innocent die."

Michael thinks it is the Catholics. They brain wash from the get go and then spend all this time proselytizing. And, there seems to be something common with all Catholics, he sees it in how they see things. They can't quite get away from what they were taught and be open. And, what is it with the Pope trying to stay alive anyway?

I explain that the Pope in Catholic theology is viewed as Jesus on earth and in a sense, when he suffers it is Jesus suffering and now with this present thing, he is really replicating Christ suffering on the cross. They all look kind of skeptical. Definitely to be continued.

Monday, March 07, 2005

All this Commo

This is really a weird thing about what is going on in war. A friend told me that her daugher got a dozen roses yesterday--is this the weirdest thing?? You're at war, in a battle zone, and just dial up the internet and send flowers. Don't know what to say?

Well, I don't either. The jury is out as far as I am concerned. What happens to soldiers often when they are at war is the importance of the family is magnified. And, there is a certain solace in not knowing what is going on. In modern war, where soldiers have computers and email and can telephone home in an instance. Not sure this is good. I would view it as a distraction. Here they are, fighting. War is no day at the beach. It is life and death. They have a job to do and they need to be concentrating on it. And, to be distracted by a phone call, having to do email, etc. I'm thinking the jury is out on whether all this commo is good.

On Iraqnam

I think yo are exactly right. Urban guerilla warfare is not all that bad if they are not out fighting it. I think it is one of the mistakes we've made in Iraqnam. We have tried to keep the soldiers isolated and not secured the country. I mean, we are at war and the Iraqis can't defend themselves. They are not ready. If we have made the decision to be in Iraq, let's do the job. And, we're not doing it.

With drugs, with life, with whatever, being passive won't hack it. We have to get out there and chase it. The insurgents can kill at will without retribution and that is one of the reasons that Iraq is such a f...... mess. And, we have smart people over there, in our Army, and why they are being so muzzled amaze me but it also doesn't amaze me.. I tell you what I think it is: a kind of mentality that happens in the military, especially with the types of personality that end up at the top. They are a "can do" and yes sir, yes sir, three bags full command structure and this is not good. Our goal at this stage is to "get out." Or, it should be and how best to do that: they have had elections, have a semblance of a chance and we need to make sure that we give them a chance by securing the country and once we basically do that, out of there baby. But, it seems that I am the only one in America thinking this.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Needless to say I'm the first one on the scene this morning. Gary is out walking probably with Rascal, his dog. This is the greatest dog, a lab. I've never seen a dog have as much fun as Rascal. A couple of times at the Presidio where dogs are king, he runs along the water, dives in it, smiling all the way. I wish he could come to breakfast. No telling where Michael is this morning. I've just read this thing on this yoyo who taped the presidents's conversations. Wouldn't you love to have a friend like this. With friends like this guy who needs enemies. And, of course, he is not doing it for money or to push his book: merely wants to preserve it for posterity. I mean, "yes, we all just fell off the turnip truck."

George W. comes out OK I think: you don't reckon it is a set-up and George W. is in cahoots. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt. The "gays" should take a little consolation in "W" remarks that he's not out to "get them." Well, this might be a stretch! But, the remark I liked was about smoking the weed. He didn't deny inhaling like, "Bill." And yet, refrained from being in Al's camp but he definitely gave marijuana a try or two. He didn't want American's children thinking he was a pot head. I smiled.

Drugs, of course, are no laughing matter. And, I think that most Americans have no earthly idea how pervasive they really are. And, where many of American's young parents have a tough time with their children who know that Mom and Dad took a whiff. Now even the "W" has fessed up.

One of the things I want to ask this morning is the question: "is pot a big deal?"

You better believe it. Potis a "gateway" drug to harder stuff.

Give me a break, who says so? Well, I do Drug users and especially proponents of pot deny this but it is fact.

I can tell you with the stuggle with my son. I later discoverd from his wife, now his exwife, that he had smoked pot for years before he got on the hard stuff. It isn't that pot is bad or good but it will take over your life.

Yes, but the question is, "Does it lead to other things?"

Well, it's not that it leads to other things by itself but the reason it is definitely a gateway drug is that when you are smoking pot, it is the company you keep. Those people are doing all kinds of other things besides smoking pot and suddenly maybe the casual user of pot is exposed to all these other drugs and they begin to indulge." Yes, pot is a gateway drug."

Monday, February 21, 2005

I am hanging out here waiting on these guys. I worked awhile in my Day Timer. You would think that with a Day Timer, Palm Pilot, I could keep up with things. Here's what I said to these guys, "You guys have got to quit drag assing in here about noon. If we are going to wait till noon, we might as well eat lunch."

Naturally, they paid me about as much attention as a tree. I was there about thirty minutes before Michael and Gary showed up. I was sitting in a middle booth and these two guys in the next booth were jabbering away. And, guess what they were talking about? Mostly politics. I eavesdropped for about ten minutes intently before I got engaged in other stuff. It was the war, some politico trying to mess over the Boat People of Sausalito. (This is a group of early settlers on the water in their boats. They pay no rent, live on their boats and generally flaut the various laws. At least that is what the word is). Interesting looking twosome. One guy had no teeth. Now, that is interesting. Oatmeal I guess.

Contrast those guys to the girlfriends and I have to smile. You wouldn't believe it. Honestly, we talk about everything, tell war stories, women, politics--there are no subjects off limit. This morning, Ray told this great war story. As a twenty year old, he joined the Merchant Marines, kind of on a fluke. He needed a summer job and signed up. One day they called him and said they had a job on a ship, something like a transport ship taking old planes, parts, other sort of stuff to Vietnam. This is 1965.

The war has not really cranked up yet. So, he's on this ship with about thirty other guys, the youngest one by far. Basically, he's in the engine room sweeping floors. They go to the Philippines, then Pearl Harbor and finally in about a month end up in Vietnam. He has a night of off when they hit the port in Vietnam. So, here he is: this twenty year old, out by himself, away from home for the first time. He goes to this bar. There are these beautiful Vietnamese women and one comes over to him and says she is claiming him. What! Doesn't have a clue what is going on. Somehow he finds out that they have to pay the bar owner and then they can go somewhere. He gives the bar owner about $5 and then they go outside. He doesn't know anything, all he is interested in is getting some. Anyway, in those days in Vietnam, Madam Nhu, the corrupt premier who was a good Catholic, kind of a morals police. The girls could not be seen outside the clubs and then they couldn't even ride in the same taxis with the man. She tells the Ray to get in another taxi and she gets in one and he follows. They wind all around, alleys, all kinds of stuff and finally gets into this maze of apartments, finally get to hers and go in and it is a great little pad. They spend all night together, great night; he has to be back at the ship at eight andhe's up all night, finally realizes that at six, he's got to get out of there but no taxis and the gal gets him a pedicap. The guy is about a hundred who is pedaling the cab. He finally makes it back. Is this a great story or what? I might have to turn this into at least a short story.


Here I am waiting on Michael. He claims he was in the shower when I called, probably laying up next to warm flesh. What a character. Three books.

I will never forget how we met. My wife and I went to this great little Italian restaurant just down the hill from where we lived in Mill Valley at the time. It was called Baci's and tables were all crowded together but great chow. In fact, for a long time, I mourned its passing. The owner was a character and had a million schemes. The one I liked best was that he was importing these little Italian sports cars, Spiders: they were fairly inexpensive and the Californians would be scarfing them up by the truck loads. I had a Fiat Spider and I didn't think so. I could have bought a Farrari with the price of keeping it going. It was almost as bad as an MG, where you needed a British mechanic riding with you. Fiat--Fix It Again, Tony, caused a smile.

Anyway, Jackie and I were seated by this couple and they were talking. We couldn't help but overhear them: the conversation was fairly benigh. I guessed they were boyfriend and girlfriend. So, about ten minutes into the meal, I couldn't help but overhear several things and almost laughed a couple of times. This guy was really funny and then the girl said to him, "Wow, I don't know what it is but I feel really kind of frumpy tonight." The man gave a big sigh and said, "Well, you look kind of frumpy tonight." Without thinking, I immediately looked at him and said, "What, I can't believe you would say that!" If looks could have killed, I would have been a goner as my wife had this look of horror on her face. The guy looks at me and bursts out laughing. So did I and thus began this great friendship. He is the greatest guy.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

War Protesters

I can't wait till Michael and Gary get here. We are going to have a great fight this morning. I have mixed emotions about the protesters. Mill Valley seems to be a hotbed of activity. I lived in Mill Valley for twenty years but recently moved into San Francisco. I never really bonded with MV. It's a great little town of 13,000 people and going down to the town square, it reminds one of a little Swiss village. To say that it is yuppieville is an understatement but also, quite politically way to the left of Micahel Moore. I hate labels but sometimes don't know what else to use. Mill Valley ain't conservative, you can know that for sure. And, liberal causes are a way of life.

They even have an old folks home that has a bunch of senior protesters. Yesterday, this new group was out in the rain. I was going to take picures but by the time I got my camera, they were gone. I will have to say that they had some pretty unique signs--several like peace symbols and then some banners. Most of the folks riding by were sympathetic, blowing their horns. Not me but I didn't give them the finger either.

I have mixed emotions. My feelings all along have been that we had to get Saddam sooner or later. He was a madman, killing his own people, the worst sort of despot. It was going to happen. I would have preferred later. For one thing, we were still fighting in Alfganistan, please! I totally supported our efforts in Alfganistan and taking out the Taliban and getting Osama. Iraq pretty much was contained and so let's wait it out. But, it looked like "W" was bound and determined to go to war with him as the larger idea of fighting terrorism. I was skeptical. My philosophical belief was that after 9-11, our lives changed forever and everybody in America's lives had changed, never to return. Terrorism had been a part of the world community for a long time and now it had come to us. So, we have to realize, accept it and prepare as best we can and not worry about it. We are who we are and to change that, for better or for worst, is to give the victory to the terrorists. George W. didn't see it my way, obviously.

And, I thought that we ought to get more of our traditonal allies on board. I voted for Bush the first time but couldn't stomach the mismanagement of the war. Then we had the invasion and it went smoothly and the infamous Bush pronouncing a victory. There were some symbolic gestures, i. e., pulling down the statue of Saddam and almost as quickly, there was sudden chaos and things began to fall apart. And, it became obvious to those of us who had some experience with the military that nothing had been done to secure the peace.

Obviously, it was a belief by Rumsfelt and others that somehow, the presense of the U. S. in the Mideast would give us a foothold and support the Iraelis; I mean, if you listened to the "talking heads", somehow it all seemed plausible. The problem was that it did not work. Looting was widespread, there was no security and worse of all, we could not secure the safetyof the people. It was a disaster in the making that continues. Suddenly, W's view of victory went to hell in a handbasket and so now we are heading toward the inglorious mark of 2000 dead Americans and maybe as many as 100,000 Iraqis, and we have the Mill Valley protest.

Damn, I just don't know how I feel. Somehow, I don't think I can go along with the protesting. I remember Vietnam and the protesters. I was younger then but it felt like betrayal. Here we were in Nam, fighting for our country. Fighting in the sense that the country had sent us to Vietnam, we didn't just show up on our own. We felt the protesting was very personal toward us. I never doubted the sincerely of those protesting, I don't think but it just didn't feel right.

OK, here' s Michael. He looks like warmed over death.

"What in the hell is going on with you, you look like s...."

"I know, I know, too much dancing over the weekend." Michael is a bigtime sausa dancer and much in demand. It is a form of exercise to him but also I think he's looking at women. He says no but give me a break!

"What you been up too?"

"Oh, just making it over the weekend."

What about yourself.

Well, I am working on my house a little, still leaking.

Did you see the protesters.

He curses. Michael is a hardcore patriot to the max. Served in the Navy and had orders to go to Navy Seal School but at the last moment got detailed into Navy intell. "Ass holes, you got to be kidding me. I felt like stopping and kicking their ass."

Gary comes in. "Well, about time you got here."

"Yeah, I had to get a cup of coffee. the coffee here sucks but I'm not telling them like Michael told Santi." (Santi was the owner of another place we use to hang out and still go to on occasion).
"What you guys up too?

Well, we are tralking about the protesters.

What protesters?

You didn't see them.

No, where where there?

Well, they were at Tam junction. In the rain no less.

I tell you what gets me about them. Not any of them have been in the military, they don't know shit about what is going on.

You can't say that. At least they are out there doign something. I don't think the war is so damn hot myself.

What in the hell do you know.

Well, I know what I read and our ass is in a qaugmire and your man, Bush won't admit it. All of you who voted for him are now going to have to live with him.

Give me a break.