The LifeStory Institute
The writer's workshop for memoirists, autobiographers and family historians.
Founded in 1991 as a how-to newsletter/magazine, LifeStory, and also as an over-the-road workshop
travelling North America teaching and coaching new and longtime writers of all ages how to write about
their lives and the lives of their ancestors.  The premise is that everyone can, and probably should, write
their life story to pass on to their family,friends,and others interested, including and perhaps especially,  
All material on this website unless otherwise indicated is Copyright 2014 by The LifeStory Institute.
The LifeStory Institute
Hello!  I am Charley Kempthorne and this is my website, my means of reaching out to you and all the wide world.  I am a writer and a writing coach.  
Mainly I help people by encouraging and enabling them to write regularly--daily if at all possible.  Please join me in writing 500+ words this morning
about whatever is on your mind.  You do yours at home and I'll do mine right here.  We support one another by writing together.  If you'd like to
share some or all of what you've written, send it to me via email,
                     BAKED FRESH THIS MORNING
Sun., November 23, 2014        Lamar, Colorado

Miss Mary Johnston was my 7th grade English teacher and she was known to be a tough cookie.  She
brooked no horseplay, called everyone by their last name only—including girls—and demanded the
best of all of us.  I had never had a teacher like her.  When after the first themes were written and
graded and returned some of the girls burst into tears at the red marks all over their paper.  I don’t
know if my heart pounded as I waited for my paper—they were being handed back in alphabetical
order and I waited for the K’s.   Heinrich, Hemmings, Johnson, Kemmerer…Kempthorne.  I opened
the folded sheet and started to look.  Miss Johnston paused, interrupted her returning of papers and
said, turning away,
Kempthorne has a rather racy style.  And then she went on.  LaTrope, Manning…

I flushed with pleasure and embarrassment as everyone looked at me looking at my paper.  
Earl McGinty, next to me, craned his neck to see.  I had an A.  A big red A.  With a little + beside it.  
Nothing else.  

My career was set.  I was going to be a writer.  A writer!  And I never looked back.

I left my town and went away for many years.  I never saw her until she was well into her 80s and I
had come back.  She was in line at the supermarket.  I introduced myself to her.  Her eyes looked me
over.  I remember you, she said simply.  She was disappointed to hear that I had left my English
teaching job at Wisconsin and become a pig farmer, but she smiled, a little,  when I said I was
journaling and writing a novel and doing more writing than I ever did when I was so busy teaching.  
How do you manage that? She asked as she pushed her package of coffee along to the cashier.  I
grinned.  I get up early but I let the pigs sleep late, I said.  And she laughed.  

I never saw her again to talk to her.  A few times I saw her walking along Poyntz on her way to the
store, a tall, stately and fine looking woman.  Then one day I read her obituary in the Mercury.  Born in
some little town in western Kansas, taught many years at the Junior High, was survived by many
nephews and nieces.  She never married.  Teaching was her life.  
It’s warm out.  Balmy.  That’s a little scary.  Tonight, when we get to Denver, I have a feeling the
balminess will be gone.  Last night we met a man, a local, who said I-80 was usually a little easier
going this time of year than I-70, the road we were planning to take.  
I’d go north on 25 to Cheyenne, if
I was you,
he said, and then west on 80.  It’s just a little easier. He was a good looking, burly man.  
When chatting, he said he’d been a musician and I asked him, on a hunch, if he was a singer.  
I was,
he said, smiling and singing a single bar of
O Sole Mio.  I-80's just a little easier this time of year.  ###

Sat., November 22, 2014                  Lamar, Colorado        

I forgot, plumb forgot, to post anything yesterday.  In the press of events, driving to the next town, a
ll that goes with doing a workshop, I just forgot.  
I slept as well as an old man can expect.  9 pm to 430 am.   I dreamed something but I don’t
remember what.  
Lamar is a town of about 10K people, and last night as we drove around it seemed pretty quiet for a
Saturday night.  Maybe everyone stayed home in anticipation of church early the next morning, or
maybe they were just too tired from a hard week’s work to go anywhere, and so they stayed home
and watched teevee.

We are doing a workshop at the public library here this morning and then spending the rest of the d
ay and the night here too, and we will work on LifeStory no. 147.  We have all our computers (3) and
monitors and such around us, and it feels pretty silly.  But that’s what it takes to do what we want to

Snow is forecast in the Rockies west of Denver.  “About two feet,” June proclaimed, having w
atched the weather while I was writing here last night.  

That’s what happens in the Rockies in the winter.  Snow, snow, snow.  We won’t be crossing t
he Rockies, or trying to, for several days—by then we can hope it’s all pushed aside and the roads
will be clear.  They do snow removal very well in Colorado.  It’s Thanksgiving and folks will be
wanting to travel, and to get to the ski towns you need clear roads.  People don’t strap on their skis in
Dallas and ski up to Breckenridge.  They drive there, park, get out, and then ski the approved slopes.  
Maybe by Thanksgiving it’ll warm up and all melt off, who can say?  

One nice thing about having a car stuffed with luggage and junk, as we have: if we go over a cliff,
we’ll have plenty of padding when we land.  

Nearby Lamar is the town of Granada and nearby Granada was, many years ago Camp Amache, a
“relocation center” for Americans of Japanese descent during World War II.  We have stopped there
and stood in the silence of the empty space that it is now, read the signs.  I think there were some
deserted barracks, if I remember. The niceties of basic civil rights were forgotten in the paranoia of
war and so thousands of Americans just as red-blooded as any of us, were taken from their homes
and entrained and deposited in various camps.  It’s an infamous story.  Maybe one of the worst things
about it was naming these places—I don’t know how many of them there were but there were many—
relocation centers.  The Hilton Hotels are relocation centers, these places were Concentration

For a time in my long life years ago I had the honor to have a Japanese girlfriend.  It wasn’t t
wenty years after VJ day.  Her father had been  a Captain in the Imperial Japanese Army and was
killed in the Philippines.  My father was a Captain in the U. S. Army Medical Corps in North Africa.  My
father survived the War and lived to be an old man.  Ayako and I, holding one another in our arms
talked of this and other accidents of history.  We almost got married.  I took her home many times to
visit my parents and my father liked her very much.  She gave him a little wood carving of a bear that
was from Japan and he kept it on his desk for many years. ###

Thu., November 20, 2014      Dodge City, Kansas

Yesterday we left Letter Rock at 730 am in a frenzy.  I kept saying (which didn’t help matters m
This is just the way I didn’t want it to be when we left!  I had hoped we’d get everything packed
the night before and we’d rise and have a nice final eggs-and-toast breakfast together, wash the
dishes and put them in the drying rack, and then pour a last cup of homemade coffee and sedately
get in the carefully-packed car and drive away.

But it didn’t quite go according to plan.  

The evening before, and late at that, we had nothing packed, the house was strewn with junk in e
very room, and nothing was done.

Next morning, we did manage to remember to turn off the hot water, to turn the furnace down to 4
5, and turn the water off in the house while leaving it on outside at the hydrant by the chicken house.  
Thankfully, June had sold all the chickens and ducks… As we crammed more and more stuff into the
car I told June I felt like the Joads in Grapes of Wrath, loading their ancient truck for sunny California.  

When we finally jumped in the car, stuffed but in some serious order at first though certainly not a
t the last, McGee’s closet at the end, and we took off.

But we went barely a half mile from the house and I suddenly shouted:
PASSPORTS!  We might be
doing some work in Vancouver.
 And so we turned around and found those in a desk drawer, actually
where I had thought they’d be.  And then we drove on, too late for the meeting in Junction City,  but
we did roll in to the library at McPherson right on time: 10 am.

It went like this all day: stops at libraries, make our pitch about a future workshop, shake h
ands, smile, move on.  

At the end of the day we were in Dodge City, where we visited one last library and  
then we went right to the motel June had googled for us, and here we are.  $60, and certainly that’s a
good price, though I can’t help remembering when I could get a good one for $20.  It’s just right:
clean enough, spacious enough, down and out, warm, two beds.  Just the other side of this one is the
Comfort Motel with it’s giant ugly decorative arch, and inside (I knew; I’ve stayed in these joints) a
huge lobby, gas log fireplace, a breakfast room, weight room, pool, etc… all of which we had no use

June and I tried sleeping in the same bed for a few hours but after some time I got up and took t
he stuff off the other bed and crawled in it.  We had brought the two computer monitors, and we had  
to get them in out of the cold.  Bringing all this equipment with us is, I guess, necessary, but in a way
I think this is the stupidest thing we’ve ever done…  but how else are we going to publish a 16 page
LifeStory on the road?  ###

Wed., November 19, 2014

The first time I went to sea was in the port of Brooklyn, New York.  We had been waiting to sail, or I
had been, for days, and I couldn’t wait.  It was exciting to live on a 16,000 ton ship with some 300
other people on board this big gray thing standing in the water at Pier 15 SO (South, Outer) near the
Brooklyn Army Terminal at 58th Street and 1st Avenue.  We embarked our passengers, 1,500 Armed
Forces personnel of every description, from lowly privates down in the troop compartments—most of
our passengers, that is to say—to the several hundred officers and non-comms on the upperdecks in
the cabins—they, and they families, too!  Little kids running around playing, wives, civil service

Personnel was a word I learned in the Navy, as in “All personnel will…”  I was a personnel too, as i
n the last line of any military sentence, “enlisted personnel will.”  Always with enlistened personnel,
it was “will.”  With officer personnel, it was “Please,” and “may” and all the polite language.  But with
the likes of me, it was “will.”  

At my leisure out of Boot Camp I read and re-read the finer points of the Enlistment Contract (
known as the Shipping Articles)  I had apparently signed, and I determined that I had better be happy
with “will.”   I had all the rights and privileges of Billy Budd the day he was hanged from the yard
arm.  In fact, they could, if it was amusing to Them, hang me and bury me at sea, yes, feed me to the
fish somewhere between here and Bremerhaven, Germany, our first port.  The Master—I was after all
not on board a US Navy Man o’ War, I was on board a ship known as a USNS, a United States Naval
Ship but not a man o’ war, a vessel leased by the Navy and owned by the US Government to
transport personnel and materiel (another new word)… I was listed on the manifest, or howsoever the
Master may dispose of me.  

I had known this by now for the nearly two years I’d been in the Navy.  I was a GI, “
government issue,” and if I chose to take a flying leap I could be prosecuted under Article 15 (or one
of those) for damaging government property.  I was owned by the United States!  

And the Master (a civilian term), was not really my master. My master was a Lieutenant C
ommander, one LCDR A. A. Lang, who was the commanding officer of the Military Department
assigned aboard the USNS General Rose (T-AP 126).

Sigh.  It was all enough to go to my assigned quarters and turn to my Days Left calendar on t
he bulkhead and scratch another one off and then go down to the chow hall and tell my beloved
shipmates that I had only 580 more days in this Canoe Club.  The old timers would look at me grimly,
the ones who were “short” would laugh and say they had only 40 days or whatever, and the boots
would murmur, I have twice that many, and then some.  It was, actually, quite rare for anyone to
share that they were enjoying themselves so much that they had no knowledge of time.  Everyone,
from the Master on down, could tell you pretty precisely how much time they had left before retiring
or just plain getting out.  We were all owned by the Government, only some of us were owned more
by the Government than others.  ###

Tues., November 18, 2014

My laptop has crashed.  It won’t reboot.  I tried three or four things and then took it to the store, w
here Rick is holding it hostage.  I won’t get it back before this afternoon and I’m not at all sure he will
have it fixed then.  He made no promises.  Rick is a tough guy, not sentimental at all.  He took it in
and carried it to the back.  No, oh, I sure feel sorry for you, you stupid son of a whatever, why didn’t
you back things up?  None of that.  It occurs to me only now that if he doesn’t get it revived, I will
have lost my Journal for all of this month.  I guess I can reclaim some of it by going to the website,
where 500 or more words from the Journal for each day since the 1st have been posted.  Of course
all this happens just in the nick of time: we are leaving in the morning for China.  Well, it may as well
be China: Tacoma, Washington, across the Rockies, across the Cascades.  June and I will feel like
Merriweather and Lewis when we get there.
In the morning someone is coming to get the last of our chickens and ducks, 10 or 15 left out of 40 o
r so. June has managed all that, thank God.  I will miss the fresh eggs for breakfast and I will miss the
five ducks as they quack and waddle in synch around the yard.  They are better at marching in
formation than I was in the Navy.

I was in the Goon Platoon for quite a bit of Boot Camp.   We happy four marched at the rear and t
ried, honestly, to stay in step and just couldn’t.  Four of us with eight left feet, we ambled behind as
Company 400 made its miserably hot way around Camp Dewey at Great Lakes Naval Training Center
in Waukegan, Illinois.  It was July, 1955.  The Chief, a nice guy, really, named Merrill J. Beauchamp,
declared us the worst company for military maneuvering he’d ever had.  The only flag we won was
an “I” flag for intelligence.  We knew how to take tests, but we didn’t know how to march.  

To this day I cannot march, dance, blow bubblegum, or even play Simon Says very well.  (I w
as always lunging forward as someone’s big sister, leading us, laughed and left out the words Simon
Says before she gave the command.)  So it has been with my life.  I have never been able to do what
I was told. I’d like to think I’ve always marched to that fabled Different Drummer, but in fact I’m not
even very good at marching for that guy, either.  All my life I’ve just ambled along, looking to the left
when I should have been looking to the right, thinking when I should have been listening, listening
when I should have been thinking.  

The Navy classed me from the git-go as “one of the ten percent that didn’t get the word.”  

Mon., November 17, 2014

I had then and I still have to some degree the notion that living in a great city would make me m
ore important.  It was and is a stupid idea, but I believed that in 1957 when I got orders from the US
Navy—of which I was then an unwilling part—to report to the Commander of the Military Sea
transportation Service at 58th Street and 1st Avenue in Brooklyn, New York.  Even though everyone
in the know told me I’d be sent immediately to one their ships and to sea, I took my wife along.  Both
of us just kids, married a few months, and 19 years old.  We had a new car, a 1957 Chevy.  We loaded
up and left the base in Oklahoma where I had been stationed and drove to our home in Kansas for a
few days leave before we made the mighty trip halfway across the country to the greatest city in the
world, New York City.  

We were agog and we were living the dream.  Our friends took courses in agriculture or math at K
-State, or worked at a soda fountain or delivered groceries; but we, we were off to New York City,
where Betsy would set up housekeeping for us and I would sail the bounding main.  We were both
good drivers but we had never driven that far.  In those days there were no interstate highways but
there was a series of turnpikes starting at Chicago and going right into NYC (which was not known
then as the Big Apple).  So we drove to Chicago and got a cheap hotel somewhere far from the Loop.  
(Not so many motels then, either.)  Next morning we got up and got on the Indiana Toll Road and
headed east.  Try as I might, I have almost no recollection of the trip of some 800 miles.  I do
remember suddenly we came out of a long tunnel (Holland, Lincoln…I don’t remember) and suddenly
there we were in the heaviest and most congested traffic we had ever seen.  There were traffic cops,
gongs going off, red lights and green lights, and six or eight lanes going in different directions.  We
didn’t go anywhere—we were pushed by the honking traffic.  I drove, I imagine, and Betsy consulted
the map.  

Somehow, surely not easily, we got to Brooklyn, and in an area known as Flatbush, we found a h
otel:  The Mohawk!  The Mohawk was a small hotel, what we might now consider as a retirement
hotel.  Everyone there was quite ancient.  We were a curiosity to them, as they were to us.  We had
our meals in the hotel dining room.  They stared.  We whispered to one another.  There were long
heavy curtains on the windows.  This was where the Addams Family lived before they went on
television (which wasn’t then widely known).  

Next day I reported in to the headquarters of MSTS and I was immediately assigned to a ship, t
he USNS General Maurice Rose.  It was all a blur.  The ship was pointed out to me from the windows
of 4th floor of the huge building, and I went down there, seabag perched on my shoulder, and
reported aboard.  I was welcomed, befriended by sailors like myself who asked where I was from,
given a meal, and a liberty card and told we were sailing in two days for Germany.  Yes, I could go
say goodbye to my wife, of course.  Everyone was very friendly and just regular guys like they were
when I was on shore duty.  

Betsy and I had a powwow.  The men on the ship told me I’d be steaming (a new word to me then) 2
7 out of 30 days and wouldn’t see much of New York. I was going to see the world, yes, but through a
port-hole.   I got back to the hotel and we had a discussion and it was decided that she should go back
to Manhattan (Kansas—everyone in New York thought it quite amusing that we lived in Manhattan
Kansas, that is) and finish her last year of school and I would do what the Navy ordered me to do.  

And so after two years in the Navy, I finally put to sea, sailing that old bounding main, whatever t
hat was. ###

Sun., November 16, 2014

Last night I came as close as I ever will to being a business executive.  I was hired by some g
litzy and gutsy company (Apple, Microsoft?) to be head of their Department of Narrative Journaling.  I
was pleased.  My hand was shook by one and all.  But I was not told my salary and even after a long
interview with the Big Boss—after the company meeting and dinner and long walk on the estate of
the BB—and when I finally asked I was told to get back in touch via some subaltern.  And during the
long walk the said same BB had revealed that he really didn’t believe in narrative journaling as a way
of teaching writing.  He made some objection to me that didn’t make sense and that I was anxious to
respond to but wasn’t given a chance, I was waved off.  

Well, this didn’t taste very good.  I wanted to know, I wanted a straight answer.  I went home thinking I
didn’t like being jacked around or played with. I didn’t like games.   I woke up with resignation on the
tip of my tongue.  

I am probably not a team player.  

I’m going to get a cup of coffee.  I’m not hungry.  Last night I ate cookies and cake and pie and o
ther delicious glop at the meeting. On the way home June drove while I played with the phone, our
new iPhone or IPhone or whatever it’s called.  It’s a world in my pocket.  
Now here’s my wish: that we could have all the winters at once, then all the springs, all t
he summers…well, that wouldn’t work, would it?  I would actually like to follow the practice of many
mammals, bears most famously, and simply hibernate through the winter.  Sounds good to me!  Of
course, bears do not have places to go and people to meet…like old
People often have regrets about how they have spent or misspent (as they would have it) their p
ast.  I think my father used to shake his head sadly and express this or that regret—shouldn’t have
bought the farm, shouldn’t have sold the farm, shouldn’t have bought that car, shouldn’t have sold
it…should have moved to California years ago, Arizona maybe, or even Texas.  I looked at him when
he so mused, and wondered why he felt this or that.  Maybe regret is one of those emotions—is it an
emotion or just a state of mind?—one of those I just don’t feel much.  

I can regret what I did or, more often (mouthy me), what I said.  But even then, it’s best to a
pologize or correct as best you can and get on with things.  I do have some regrets, though, and I
think about them occasionally in the form of
If onlys or what ifs?

I don’t regret anything from 0 to 21, really.  Well, I guess I wish I’d asked Tanya out,  or Laura—L
aura, there was a number—instead of just dating the same girl over and over until we a couple of
years out of high school got married, and then five years later packed it in and got divorced.  Okay, I
regret that. But as old Omar used to say, and still does since he wrote it down,
The moving hand
writes and,
having writ, moves on.
 Well duh, Mr. Khayyam.  Duh!  And then he goes on to say something about
Not anything can erase a single line or change a word…well duh even more.  

I wish in 1959 I’d gone to Berkeley instead of Madison to school.  Maybe if I’d just had the e
xperience of sunny California much earlier in my life, I wouldn’t be sitting here in Kansas,
temperature this morning about 15 degrees, hunkering down like some mammal…maybe I’d have
stayed in sunny California. I dunno.  Mark Twain said the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer
in San Francisco.  So it’s all relative.  

This talk is making me cold, sitting here in my stocking cap and scarf, so I lean over and turn on t
he ridiculously inadequate “space” heater, which going full blast, wouldn’t keep a mouse warm, let
alone some enormous oaf such as
Maybe I’ll just sign off and go write an Ode to Winter.  I remember a  40s radio show
, Life with Luigi.    
Luigi, who was a poet and was always writing an ode to something, a lump of coal, a star, O little lump
of coal, how dark and smelly you are, when in a minute I light you and you give me warmth
and…whatever. ###

Sat., November 15, 2014

It’s winter, isn’t it?  Winter sports…ah, how I love them…not!   Oh, I just love the four
seasons…not!  Oh, I can hardly wait to go skiing…not!  

The older I get the colder I get.  I am sitting here in my so-called office with a wool scarf
around my neck.  I’m wearing  a cap.   I’m cold.  I have one of those stupid room heaters that cost a
fortune and work for six weeks (in the summer) and then when it gets cold, they quit.  The only way
those heaters will keep you warm is to burn them.  And who can stand the odor of burning plastic?  

I just googled
why are electric room heaters such crap?  I was pleased to read that others agree,
though some so-called professional testers assured me that brand x or y was very good, they had
tested it in their “laboratory” (spare room) for sixty hours and it worked fine.  Well, duh.  If only winter
lasted just sixty hours, everything would be fine, wouldn’t it.  Unfortunately, winter is more like (90 x
24 =) 2,190 hours long, and these heaters more or less quit after about 60 hours of use.  I don’t know
what it is, maybe the metal thermostat wears off…seriously.  

That’s one nice thing about death: I won’t be cold anymore.  I can’t wait to die and go to Hell.  T
he rooms there will be very warm, I am assured.  No one will have to call the front office and ask
them to turn up the heat.    
One time years ago—maybe in the mid-90s—I did a workshop in the lovely city of C
heyenne, Wyoming.  In those days the workshops were all day, well, something like 9 am to noon and
1 to 3.  The workshop wasn’t large, a dozen or so of us, and we really enjoyed the morning.  At noon
we went downstairs (it was I believe in a church) and had lunch, and I sat with two men and a woman
who were great fun in the workshop and very chatty at lunch--until the subject of religion came up.  I
shared that I was a Unitarian.  They grew solemn.  The two men were both ministers and had doctor
of divinity degrees.  The woman was seriously religious too.  As one, they didn’t approve of
Unitarianism, which, they said, was the work of the Devil.  I laughed heartily and helped myself to
some more corn bread.  As I slathered it with a hunk of butter they looked at me solemnly and said I
was going to burn in Hell.   I laughed harder.  “That’s quite a metaphor, fellas,” I said.  They were
laughing.  “Devil’s work,” they said again.  “Burn in Hell.”  “Not metaphor, real thing.”  

Look, I said, I’m just a Unitarian.  I laughed again.  It isn’t even a religion, really, I said.  It’s just a
lecture society.  We’re for Emerson and guys like that.  

They weren’t even eating their dessert.  “Devil’s work,” they chanted.  “Burn in hell.  Um-ga-wa.”  

I was pretty chastened.  Somehow I finished eating and excused myself and went back to t
he classroom upstairs.  The afternoon went by.  It was a little more solemn.  I went back to my motel
and turned the heat down and went to bed under the warm covers.  ###

Fri., Nov. 14, 2014

I met Ken in 1975.  Two years earlier I had come back to Kansas from Wisconsin and started l
iving here on this 80 acre tract of land my parents then owned in an empty, abandoned house.  June
and I had a new baby, Benjamin, and we wanted to add on to this little house (little then) and so, sure,
it was just as natural as the rain to want to hand dig a huge hole and build a basement room on the
west end.  

We had this friend, Bob, who was crazy enough to agree, and he said he had this crazy friend, K
en, who would no doubt love to join in.  So the three of us, early in that winter of 1975, set to digging a
hole about 14 x 30 x 8.  

This is a true American story.  We did that, and in about thirty days, we had gone and done it.  W
ith concrete blocks we laid up walls and we considered the packed earth floor enough.  Some days
we had to pour gasoline on the ground and light it in order to thaw out the area we were going to dig.  
We’d dig all morning and work up an appetite and June, Ben in her arms, would fix us a blast-off lunch
and we’d eat and eat and then go back at it.  

Now in my long life I have been able to fit in a number of crazy things, but this is the craziest thing I
ever did with other people in broad daylight.  Occasionally other people would wander down our
road and see us there, laughing and happy and sweatily digging, ask us what we were doing
(“Digging a basement,” we would say, and they would begin a conversation that was heavily laden
with the word “backhoe” and we would go on digging and laughing and they would eventually go

Yes, I have no doubt that Bob and Ken and I could go down to Topeka and raise our right hands a
nd certify to what we did and thereby gain admission to the State Hospital for the Utterly Insane as
fulltime residents.  Is it a surprise that all three of us are today teachers?  

Of course not.  Teachers are, along with psychiatrists, one of the craziest groups of people in t
he world.  

I have to say today that digging that hole with Ken and Bob is one of the most beautiful things I e
ver had the honor to participate in.  The hole is still there, and above it we have long since built a
couple of rooms, and June and I sleep in one of the rooms every night we are home.   I guess it might
have been slightly saner to have waited for a meteor to fall on that spot and make the hole for us, but
we just couldn’t wait.  

Of course we were all hippies.  That was the thing.  In digging this hole by hand we were a
dvancing the cause of the Hippie Revolution, probably the greatest revolution of the 20th Century,
though not, as yet, confirmed so by the cognoscenti. ###

Thu., November 13, 2014

I am having thoughts this morning of the uselessness of things and of my life as a waste.  I am s
cared about the trip—why did I have such a crazy idea, and why didn’t June save me from it?
Crossing the Rockies in the middle of winter?  Knock-knock…Charley, are you home?  

I am scared and I want my mommy.
I am scared and I want my mommy.
I am scared and I want my mommy.

Well, truth be told, even if my mommy were here—and I believe she died 17 years ago—she wouldn’t
do much except say,  You’re on your own, boy.  Or, ask your father.  And I would go to my father and
he would say, Ask your mother.  

And so… I have to believe that the Lord will provide.  Everything will be all right.  
June has sold about half her chickens.  Maybe we will take the rest along with us, and the five d
ucks.  If we were proper Okies, we would do just that, tie them in crates to the top of the car, harvest
their eggs as laid as we crossed the desert, stop and fry them on the road and eat them…
“You are mad, Englishman!”  Remember that?  From David Lean’s great movie, Lawrence of A
rabia—Omar Sharif says to Peter O’Toole as O’Toole proposes to cross the desert to get to Aqaba:  
You are mad, Englishman!
Having gotten all that out of my system, I can now get on with the day.  
I wrote to President Truman in 1950 and asked him for his autograph.  I got a prompt answer from h
is secretary that he was too busy to give me his autograph.  Okay.  Ike was the next President.  I got
his when he was the newly retired General of the Army and President of Columbia University.  So I
didn’t have to ask after he was Prez.  

Then came JFK, the first President I ever voted for, and by this time I was wanting more than a
n autograph.  So I wrote to JFK and gave him and earful of what I thought he ought to do.  Alas, I didn’t
keep a copy of the letter for my vast archives.  Nor did I keep the response I got.  It took two months,
which kind of annoyed me, and even more, the response wasn’t from him, it was from his brother
Robert.  “The President has asked me to respond to your letter…”  little Bobby said, and he ran on for
several paragraphs.  But I had the feeling that he and his brother, though they no doubt had many
conversations almost daily, didn’t have one like this:

Well, I have a letter here from this guy out in Kansas, Charley Kempthorne.  Do you know him?  

Bobby shook his head.  

He has some ideas of his own, and I’d like to answer him, but I just don’t have time, you know.  There’s
that dinner tonight where Marilyn is jumping out of my birthday cake, so…  

I’ll handle it, Jack, Bobby said, taking the letter and glancing at it.  

So.  I doubt, honestly doubt, that they had any such conversation.  The reply, I realized and s
eethed was….canned!  

That was the end of my writing to presidents…until now.  I have started a letter that goes,
Dear Mr.
Obama, I am writing to you because…
 That’s as far as I’ve gotten, but you I’ll finish it, and I’ll mail
it…and—aren’t you glad?—I’ll share it with you.  ###

Wed., November 12, 2014

I’m not sure why I hate exercises but I always have.  I don’t mind physical work, in fact I love physical work.  Or I used to.  It’s
harder now, pain is there, and so I don’t like it so much.  But I still find physical stuff a relief from my mostly mental life, sitting
here and listening to my mind flicker, writing it all down.  

I never learned to dance.  The opportunity was there—dancing lessons in junior high could be had once a week downtown  i
n large groups where we took a dime and got in for an hour or so.  Maybe a hundred kids were there.  It was put on by Fran
Schneider’s School of the Dance.  Fran was a guy, a gay man I believe, in a time when that was on the one hand, accepted, and
on the other, condemned.  (Yes, it was an odd time.)  In those days all gay guys ultimately moved to (and disappeared in)
California.  We never heard from them again.  Where’s so and so?  Went to California, we were told. That was it.  

Anyway I remember horsing around there and learning almost nothing.  Tommy Kelly and I cut up and started d
ancing together.  Fran came over and broke that up.  Why? We asked, laughing.  And he said something about boys didn’t do
that, that it was “powdery.”  Meaning I guess those who used a powder puff (girls) only danced together.  Boys didn’t do it.  It
wasn’t a big thing for us.  We were just clowning around.  But maybe we both (age about 12 or 13) were scared of girls.

I certainly was.  
Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give u
s this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into
temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.  Amen.  

Six or seven years ago before I decided to hang up my cynical dancing shoes and get with the Program, I could not h
ave recited this prayer from memory, as I did just now.  I never learned it as a child.  My parents were functional heathens,
really.  I think titularly we were Methodists.  My father gave them some money every year and every now and then some
deacon or other would come around and pester us about attending church.  We never went.  I have no memory of ever being
in church with my parents.

I do have some vague memories of being in a church in the backwoods of southern Indiana, where we lived with my mother’s
parents during World War II.  We went, occasionally.  I remember seeing other kids there, a guy I looked up to, a bigger boy,
named Ferd Lautig.  I wonder where he is now?  Funny name, Ferd.  But I’m sure it was Ferd, not Fred.  

We never prayed at home.  Never.  When Dad came home from the War we moved to Wisconsin, his people’s home, but no o
ne went to church there very much either.  I do remember being sent along with my cousins, all scrubbed and clean, to Sunday
School.  We had to memorize a Bible verse and stand up in front of the congregation and say it.  I chose
Jesus wept. And I ran
up when it was my turn and almost without stopping yelled
Jesus wept! and ran back to my pew.  

Then we went to our separate Sunday School classes.  I put in the collection plate the dime my mother gave me,  and then t
ook back a nickel to buy an ice cream cone at Moffet’s Store afterwards.  I think maybe we all did that.  We weren’t stealing, we
were just making change.

My brother asked me if I wanted a Rocky Road, a kind of ice cream, and I said yes, and so he and Buck Hitchcock got me out i
n the gravel road in front of Moffet’s and pelted me with rocks.  I ran home, bawling. ###

Tu., November 11, 2014

June and I were remembering last night,  as we drove home,  the story of the five Sullivans.  Or I was remembering it aloud f
or June, who’s just a little younger and has no memories of World War Two.  The Sullivan brothers, five of them, all served on
the same ship that was blown up by the Japanese in the Pacific, and all aboard were lost.  I remembered the scene in the
movie, The Five Sullivans, where the Chaplain goes to the home of Mrs. Sullivan, who answers the door.  “Which is it?” she
cries.  “Is it little Bobby?”   “Is it Edward?” she implores.  “No, ma’am,” the chaplain says.  “It is all five.”  

Can you imagine such a scene? Can you imagine such horror?  That mother’s feelings at that moment?  Who t
hen, remembering that, could talk about the glories of war?  Wilfred Owen, killed in World War One, wrote a poem quoting
Horace’s Ode that goes, “sweet and fitting it is for the young to die for their country,” which I guess is the way the old Romans
felt back then.  (No reports on what the mothers said, however.)  And Owen calls this “an old lie.”  

I could wish for a Veterans Day in which we celebrate not having any more veterans.  I am a veteran of 3 years, five m
onths, and 27 days of active duty in the US Navy.  The Navy was a tonic for me and it helped me grow up.  It was peacetime,
such as it was, back then, from July 20, 1955 to January 16, 1959.  The Cold War was on, and in one instance lasting only a day
or two, I was a bystander in Beirut, Lebanon, and in a hot war.  I don’t think that qualifies me as a warrior.  

But those men and women who have served should certainly be honored.  How do we honor veterans of a war w
ithout glorifying war?  I don’t know.  Today in Manhattan there is a parade, free breakfast for Veterans, all that stuff.  Well, so
be it.  

Once or twice I’ve had young people when they learned I was a veteran thank me “for my service.”  I feel the Navy did me a
service, grew me up, taught me to type (no small thing), and got me away from the police in my hometown for a necessary
interlude.  I certainly didn’t think of myself as serving my country at all back then.

However, now in my old age I have a great desire to serve my country as well as the whole wide world, not by being in t
he Navy all over again, but by doing what I can to ensure that there will be no more wars. Yes, I am a peacenik.  

Sort of.  And to that end I suggest we establish voluntary  Citizen Groups of 6 to 12 people who are as concerned as we a
re about world peace and general conflict resolution in a happy and peaceable way.  I suggest we sit down with friends and
neighbors at least one evening (or morning or whenever it’s convenient) a week and share our experience as human beings
in writing and in spoken words, following the protocol of any twelve-step program.  Over time, if thousands and millions of
these groups are established and functioning, there will be a change of consciousness that will cause war to become
obsolete as a way of resolving conflicts.  I’ve outlined this a little more in LifeStory no. 145, which is available (or will be soon)
online at this website. ###
Monday, Nov. 10, 2014

Not every morning am I thrilled at the thought of writing in my journal.  So I write a letter to someone in my family and call it p
art of my journal.  This one I wrote just now to my oldest son in Pennsylvania.  I don't think he'll mind if I share some of it with
you and the whole wide world:  

I'm still thinking about what y
ou said about your car boyhood and Kyle's car boyhood now in progress--and my own, long gone.  It's funny how guys and
their cars are, how important they are to our identity.  In workshops I can ask everyone to write about the cars they've owned and the men will go right to
work, writing joyously (often for the first time that day) about their 1951 Hudson that had a 450 cc engine, straight stick, etc, etc., and the women in the
workshop will look blank and then maybe write down that they had a blue one and later on a green one.  (The corollary of this is that if I ask everyone to list
their favorite outfits the women will go happily at that, telling about their lace taffety silk moire dress with the light blue whatever, and the men, most of whom
couldn't tell you what they wore on their wedding day, will look blank and wonder if I don't want them to write that they were in the 455th Machine Gun outfit  in
World War II.)  

Some of the kids I knew when I was one of them were really car crazy.  Your Uncle Kuhrman (aka Hal) loved cars and engines and all of it and he built a car o
f his own from stuff he got at the junk yard, mostly a 1949 Mercury.  It didn't have a windshield and was unpainted but he drove it all the way to Wisconsin to
visit some of the family.  (In those primitive days you could get away with driving almost anything that ran--no seatbelts of course, missing doors--there just
weren't any laws about that, I guess not enough people had died in car wrecks yet.)  Hal became an excellent mechanic and, as you may know, later had an
MG dealership in Manhattan and then a Honda motorcycle dealership, the first in the area.  They used to go on something called gymkhanas (sp) which were
car tours kind of like a race, you had to stop here and there and do certain things and then everyone would meet up fifty miles away, something like that.  Your
brother Rip did a lot with cars and trucks too.  From his 16th birthday he always had a truck.  

I didn't work on cars, though of course I came to know the basics of running them--more than you have to know now, when cars are so complicated n
either boy nor man can do much but call the repair man if something goes wrong.  I think I told you about my '34 Chevy I got when I was just 14 or 15.  By the
time I was 21 I probably had owned ten or twelve different cars.  I didn't have car wrecks (never had one) but I ran them into the ground and left behind me a
trail of thrown rods, bald tire blowouts and transmission failures.  Your Mom had a '48 Chevy that we drove, and then we bought a new '57 Chevy, robin's egg
blue, that was our first new car.  

Just a couple of days ago, to jump a little in time, I sold a car I really loved, my '08 Santa Fe.  I put over 100K on that car and had almost no trouble.  And it w
as a good car when we sold it to a dealer, tired of trying to sell it privately.  The Bluebook on it was something like 7K plus (a little hail damage, not much, not
so you'd notice without leaning over and really looking) so the dealer offered us $5500.  "You'll want to think it over, probably," he said, sitting in his little office
on the car lot.  We looked at one another for two seconds.    "We've just thought it over," I said, and held out my hand.  "You've got a car."   But I hated to sell
it.  We're going on the road in a few days for most of the winter.  So who needs an extra car?  We'll drive our 10K miles in June's smaller and more efficient--
and newer (2013) Hyundai Tucson. ###

Sun., Nov. 9, 2014

Every morning of the world for the forgettable past I have gotten up and had a cup of coffee, first thing.  Before 1982 I’d get up and have a cigarette a
nd a cup
of coffee.  If I didn’t have my morning coffee—which eventuality I only rarely and then only by oversight let happen—I
couldn’t function.  Or so I told myself.

In the age of the cigarette—my age of the cigarette—I would drive into town, 8 miles, to get more if I was out.  Back when I was in
between marriages and hitch-hiking around to visit supportive friends and was really kind of on the bum, if I didn’t have money to buy cigarettes I’d pick u
p butts and smoke them.  The best place to look (in those you-can-smoke-anywhere days) was in the sand-filled stands by elevators.  You know, you’re
puffing away, smoke-smoke-smoke that cigarette, and here comes your ride up (or down), and so you take a long glorious drag on the ciggie you just lit a
minute before (because you just couldn’t wait!) and you stick it in the sandstand and jump on the car and go.  Along comes such as I to snatch it up, a minute
later, an hour later, a day later, and it’s a good as new.  Sometimes there was lipstick on the tip…well, so what?  

It is not true that I would
de temps en temps select a long one from a urinal or toilet and dry it out and smoke it.  I never did that.  I had my standards.  Besides,
they had a funny, really rather unpleasant, taste.  
Yet I have always been fascinated with living off the fat of the land, as I used to call it: living off what others have thrown away.  I don’t know
why.  I love thrift shops, Salvation Army stores, Saint Vincent de Paul stores, church basement stores…  I rarely buy new clothes.  My mother used to buy m
e new clothes for birthday and Christmas and such, but she passed in 1997 and so it’s been a while.  

Actually, however, I bought a new pair of shoes the other day, shoes to teach in, a very trendy looking pair of sneakers that are a number of
different colors that, back in the day, I would have been repelled by.  The clerk was a pretty young girl named Mattie.  “Hi, Mattie,” I said, and immediately t
old her that I had a beloved aunt Matie who was among other things, a great cook.  “Can you cook?” I asked her.  She said something about she wasn’t bad at
it.  “Well, listen Mattie (she pronounced it with a short a, different from my aunt), I like these shoes here—I pointed to a pair—but I can’t buy them on my own,
so I’m going to go get my mother and come back.”  

And I did come back, with my wife, June, of course.  June approved and so I bought them, the first new pair of shoes I’d bought myself in
probably thirty years—well, other than those Walmartian shoes that sell for $11 and, according to my doctor, have no support at all.  So this time I shelled o
ut $115 (and they were on sale at that, 10% off), which is just about 36 times as much as I paid for my first pair of sneakers back in 1949 that I bought for gym
class.  ###

Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014

Emblematic of my ability to handle money is this little story about when I was in the Navy and stationed near DC at yeoman service school and I w
as transferred to Norman, Oklahoma and given $120 travel pay.  All hail the drunken sailor, I took it (a fair amount of money in 1956) and got it all into $1 bills
and went to some nightclub where they had a dance floor and I went out on the floor, everyone dancing, me dancing with myself and my wad of cash and I
threw all the money up into the air just to watch all the guys drop their girlfriends and grab for the bills.  They grabbed it all.  

Somehow I got back to the hotel where my shipmates and I were staying, woke up the next morning with red puke caked to my Navy blue jumper--a
pparently there had been a spaghetti supper in there somewhere--all alone and unable to pay my hotel bill, I packed up my seabag and put on my peacoat (it
was January) and went out the window and down the fire escape and out into the busy downtown (three blocks from the White House) street and hitch-hiked
west.  Twelve hours later, that night I was standing on the roadside in rural western Pennsylvania and traffic was slowing to one car every half hour or so--I
had gotten dropped off by my last ride several miles from town--and a car came, a '55 Chevy, I remember that, one guy in it, and I stuck out my frozen thumb
(it was snowing pretty hard by then) and the car actually stopped.  The driver rolled down the window on the passenger side and yelled at me to ask if I could
drive?  Hell, yes! I said.  Then he said, Do you know where Topeka, Kansas is?  And I jumped in.  You betcha, I said, I know just exactly where Topeka is, and off
we went.  Turns out he was an air force sergeant who'd been transferred to Forbes Air Base and had to get there by 8 am or something two days later and he
was dead tired, falling asleep driving.  So I drove and drove, starving, didn't have a cent and so we stopped in Missouri or somewhere and he bought me a
tunafish sandwich and a glass of milk, 45 cents. Thus fortified, we drove on to Forbes, he dropped me off and gave me a nickel to call home.  

Dad answered. It was Sunday.  I thought I'd play a little joke.  So I said, Is this Dr. Kempthorne?  Doctor, I have a bloody nose and I'm wondering it you could f
ix it for me.  How long has it been bleeding? Dad said.  Several days, I said, but I knew I'd have to make an appointment so I waited to call you  till now, Sunday,
when I was pretty sure you'd be home.  

When I said that I heard the phone kind of crackle but Dad, believe it or not, held his temper and asked what nostril it was bleeding from.  The middle one, I
said, pretty sure that'd make the joke obvious.  I was just aching to tell him, Dad, it's me, little Charlie, it's a joke, but he didn't flinch and asked, Oh, you mean
from the septum?  And then I just couldn't wait any  longer, I told him, Dad it's me, can you drive over to Topeka and pick me up?  He did, but he wasn't as
happy to see me as I thought he'd be.  

Of course I learned nothing from this experience.  I had in fact (in rehab parlance) been enabled. The guy in Pennsylvania should have whooshed past me a
nd left me to freeze; Dad should have hung up on me and gone back to watching his ball game and (multi-tasking before the word was invented)  reading the
sports page in The Kansas City Star.  

But God enabled me. ###

Fri., Nov. 7, 2014

This great emblematic story was told to me one evening over several collegiate beers by my late friend Eddie (not his real name).  Back in the 50s my f
riend Eddie was in law school at Washburn University in Topeka.  

Now Eddie was an on-the-ball guy and he was the program chairman for his law class, and he had to come up every month with a speaker.  President T
ruman had left Washington and was living in Independence, not a hundred miles away, and so Eddie wrote a letter to Mr. Truman and invited him to be the

Truman replied and agreed to come!  So Eddie met him when he got there—I think he just drove himself to Topeka—and showed him around the law s
chool, and when they got to the room where the former President was to speak, Mr. Truman asked Eddie where the john was.  Eddie walked him down the
hall to it and they talked all the way, and Truman just went in the john and whipped it out and took his leak and didn’t stop talking, didn’t close the door or
anything, zipped up, washed his hands, and went out to the podium and was introduced to the waiting class.

He was a true president of the people.

One of the things that makes me angriest about how the world has changed is the way they make bananas anymore.  In the good old days you could grab a
banana as your mom yelled
You’ll miss dinner! and run out of the house and peel the banana open as you joyously raced to your bike and pedalled  off to the
park to meet your pals…you could just peel it and eat it like a candy bar.  But now…no, oh, no, these new genetically modified  bananas have to be cut open at
the top.  You have to take a knife and make a slit at the top.  If you don’t, and try to open it in the good old American way, just snap the stem back and peel it  
down—if you try that on these new-fangled bananas, you will split your banana’s peel and often mash the whole banana!

There oughta be a law.  Of course it’s all part of the genetic meddlers which is all part of the general Communist/Al Queda beheading

As I frequently say, Everything is bad.  Nothing is good!  I know I’m right.  Say it isn’t so!  
As for the late unlamented election, I’m glad that Barrack Obama was re-elected.  He could be president for life as far as I’m concerned.  I
know he hasn’t addressed the banana problem yet but in time, I have faith that he will.  
When I was younger I couldn’t wait to be 36 so I could run for President.  But the truth is that when 36 came (on January 24, 1974), I had too
full a plate to bother to run.  I had a new wife (my final wife, June), beaucoup children, and a farm to love and care for.  Well, it’s a great country, isn’t it, w
here every boy and girl can grow up wanting to be president if they choose to go for the brass ring.

But now I’m just too old.  Thanks, anyway.   If they offered me the nomination on a silver platter, I’d just want to take the platter and sell it
(I could use the money) and bypass the nomination itself.    

So with the presidency out of my life, I am faced with this day that the Lord hath made.  I do rejoice in it and I am glad!  ###

Thu, Nov. 6, 2014

I crept into the bathroom, lifted the lid of the toilet and peed.  I looked in the mirror and stared at myself.  I forced a smile.  Good morning, sir, I said, a
nd saluted.  

I walked a little straighter into the kitchen.  The light wasn’t on but in the feeble glimmer of the night light over by the dishrack.  I reached across it a
nd switched on the bright overhead light.  There was the kitchen from last night, bits of food and bread crumbs on the island counter, an empty gallon jug of
milk, a wrapping from a pound of cheese, two cups half-filled with coffee and an empty glass with a milk ring at the bottom.  The sink was filled with dirty
dishes, a skillet we had used to fry eggs, a couple of cereal bowls with water run into them, the tiny remnants of cereal floating in the cold, dirty water.  

I checked the thermostat on the living room wall, flipped on the light over the couch, got the box of matches off the top of the fridge and went over to the s
tove in the corner and knelt down.  I opened the door, lighted a match, and started the fire going.  I closed the door, stood up painfully, and went back to the
kitchen to turn on the coffee.  Yesterday’s coffee, but it would serve.  

I turned on the TV and watched for a few seconds the beginning of Morning Joe.  There was Joe saying something about the Republican victory, and t
here was pretty Mika smiling and laughing with some rejoinder.  They faded away and a commercial for a safety razor ($19.95 plus P&H) came on.  I turned
away, poured some coffee, sipped—not warm enough—and put the cup in the microwave and set it at 45 seconds.  I stood there, then stepped aside,
remembering for the thousandth time my engineer friend’s advice never to stand in front of a microwave.  But if it was heating me too, I didn’t feel it.  I took my
coffee and ambled into the office and flipped on the lights there.  I put the coffee on my desk, went back to the living room, and turned off the television and the
light over the couch.  

Back in the office I sat down on the small chair in front of my desk.  This desk had belonged to my father, who had acquired it from (I think) the old D
octor Evans who had preceded him in occupying his three room office above the old First National Bank downtown.  That would have been 1942 or maybe 46.  
Probably this desk, I went on thinking as I sipped at my coffee and turned on my lap top—probably it was made in the 1920s.  It had been a rolltop desk but
Dad had some carpenter remove the rolltop and plug with woodfiller the holes where the bolts holding it on had been.  

So here I was sitting at a ninety year old desk, a nearly-eighty year old mind in an equally octogenarian body, thinking my ancient thoughts and writing t
hem down.  

And so life goes on, or must go on, as the lady poet Edna Saint Vincent Millay, wrote, and then added:  I forget just why.  

Then I remembered, smiling to myself, the lady who would get up in the morning and dress in black and chant Everything is bad.  Nothing is good!  E
verything is bad.  Nothing is good!

And I softly chanted as I began writing, maybe it should be, Everything is good.  Nothing is bad.  Everything is good.  Nothing is bad!  

I crept into the bathroom, lifted the lid of the toilet and peed.  I looked in the mirror and stared at myself.  I forced a smile.  
Good morning, sir, I said, and

I walked a little straighter into the kitchen.  The light wasn’t on but in the feeble glimmer of the night light over by the dishrack.  I reached across it a
nd switched on the bright overhead light.  There was the kitchen from last night, bits of food and bread crumbs on the island counter, an empty gallon jug of
milk, a wrapping from a pound of cheese, two cups half-filled with coffee and an empty glass with a milk ring at the bottom.  The sink was filled with dirty
dishes, a skillet we had used to fry eggs, a couple of cereal bowls with water run into them, the tiny remnants of cereal floating in the cold, dirty water.  

I checked the thermostat on the living room wall, flipped on the light over the couch, got the box of matches off the top of the fridge and went over to the s
tove in the corner and knelt down.  I opened the door, lighted a match, and started the fire going.  I closed the door, stood up painfully, and went back to the
kitchen to turn on the coffee.  Yesterday’s coffee, but it would serve.  

I turned on the TV and watched for a few seconds the beginning of Morning Joe.  There was Joe saying something about the Republican victory, and t
here was pretty Mika smiling and laughing with some rejoinder.  They faded away and a commercial for a safety razor ($19.95 plus P&H) came on.  I turned
away, poured some coffee, sipped—not warm enough—and put the cup in the microwave and set it at 45 seconds.  I stood there, then stepped aside,
remembering for the thousandth time my engineer friend’s advice never to stand in front of a microwave.  But if it was heating me too, I didn’t feel it.  I took my
coffee and ambled into the office and flipped on the lights there.  I put the coffee on my desk, went back to the living room, and turned off the television and the
light over the couch.  

Back in the office I sat down on the small chair in front of my desk.  This desk had belonged to my father, who had acquired it from (I think) the old D
octor Evans who had preceded him in occupying his three room office above the old First National Bank downtown.  That would have been 1942 or maybe 46.  
Probably this desk, I went on thinking as I sipped at my coffee and turned on my lap top—probably it was made in the 1920s.  It had been a rolltop desk but
Dad had some carpenter remove the rolltop and plug with woodfiller the holes where the bolts holding it on had been.  

So here I was sitting at a ninety year old desk, a nearly-eighty year old mind in an equally octogenarian body, thinking my ancient thoughts and writing t
hem down.  

And so life goes on, or must go on, as the lady poet Edna Saint Vincent Millay, wrote, and then added:  I forget just why.  

Then I remembered, smiling to myself, the lady who would get up in the morning and dress in black and chant Everything is bad.  Nothing is good!  E
verything is bad.  Nothing is good!

And I softly chanted as I began writing, maybe it should be, Everything is good.  Nothing is bad.  Everything is good.  Nothing is bad!  ###

Wed., Nov. 5, 2014

So the Dems have lost big time.  I’m sure even as I write meetings are going far into the night about how to deal with this great loss and how to turn things i
nto a victory in 2016.  

Here’s my suggestion, fellas and gals:  Play bigtime the card of
We need to find a better way of getting along and getting things done.  And mean it.  When
Mitch McConnell or John Boehner spew venom and try to crack the whip to destroy Obamacare (which of course they cannot), or immigration reform, or any
things that you regard as the Dem agenda, then say, Okay, let’s talk it over.  And mean it: really,  call them up and talk things over.  Invite Mitch into your home
for a turkey dinner, or at least a turkey sandwich and some leftover dressing the day after Thanksgiving.  Tell him how cute he is: listen to him  tell about
growing up on a farm in Kentucky.  Really.  Become human with him, and invite him to do the same.  

Same thing with John B., that Ohio suntanned guy.  Be human with him, and bathe him in yours. Be humble, grateful, interested, upbeat, and refuse to play t
he game as it is usually played.   

That’ll work.  Just have faith that it will.  Do all that with your right hand. With your left hand, of course, fight the good fight as always has been done.  
Maybe I should run for President…I sure could use the money.  And I’m perfectly willing to do it if I can spend about half the day writing.  I think that’s
reasonable.  Just say, Okay, I’ll be Prez: but every morning no matter what I write 1500 words or more here in my Journal.  After that, an hour or two for a
bath and a nice breakfast and working till about noon on my current memoir or novel, and then I’ll meet with the heads of State of the Middle East or wherever
and of course we’ll eat lunch together and chat about our personal lives and aspirations, and then we’ll  see what we can’t do together, one day at a time.  

And oh, don’t forget that we all need an afternoon nap.  
I have yet another brainstorm.  The big battle between us and them bad Middle Eastern guys is over how they treat the ladies, right?  They want them to b
e slaves, n’est pas?  So we pick up the phone and call the mannequin factory and then the guys at robotics, and we all get together and see what we can build
quickly, a jillion or so simulateds.  All the real females we will invite to come here to Utah or some more or less empty place or some spot in the USA or
Canada (it’s a big country) of their choice.    In fact we’ll give them valet service there.  And we could help the feminist movement here by making sure all the
women get good on-parity-with-men salaried jobs at the plants (made in USA!) where we turn out these fake females.  

Is that ingenious, or what?  I mean, it’s a win-win.###  

Tues., November 4, 2014

Any memory that comes to our mind is a good thing, a necessary thing, and we ought to do something with it.  It didn’t come to mind just for the hell of it.  W
e are being asked to process it, or reprocess it.    
Today is election day.  I suppose the Republicans will sweep things, and probably that will be good: we will get a taste of what they’re like that will be rancid b
y the time of the presidential election in 2016, and so Hillary will be elected along with both houses of Congress and we will get something done rather than
merely undone, as will probably happen from now until then—if the Republicans have their way.  They are the great Undoers of American life.  

But that’s electoral politics, only.  We have to do something to move our way of getting things done, done.  We need to come to see one another as h
uman beings working together for a common good.  (The fact that I can say that after just attacking Republicans as undoers, the guys in the black hats, is a
contradiction, of course.  Contradictions are what I’m made of, what move me forward—and backward sometimes.)  

I just ask that the next right thing is to share our lives with one another, period.  Many people have been doing this for years—otherwise the whirling ball o
f twine we live on would have long since become completely unraveled.  

In the election of 1948, Dewey vs. Truman, I was in my ten year old pants, for Dewey.  I bet Bill Barr, older kid maybe already a big high schooler, who rode t
he bus with me and thirty other country kids—I bet Bill a dime that Dewey would win.  Of course Dewey, whom my Democratic Mother contemptuously called
“the little man on the wedding cake” did no such thing.  We all know—but if we don’t I’m going to retell it—the story of how Dewey thought he was going to
win, everybody thought he was going to win except Harry Truman, who kept fighting and
did win; and so on election night Dewey went to bed early and didn’t
even stay up to watch the late returns.  When later in the evening and it was clear that Truman had won, some reporters went to Dewey’s home (I think it was
the Governor’s mansion, I think he was Governor of New York then)—anyhow these reporters knocked on Dewey’s door and the butler answered and told
them that “the President-elect has retired for the night.”  And one of the reporters said, “Well, would you please wake the ‘President-elect’ and tell him he isn’
t the President-elect?”  

Anyhow I owed Bill a dime and I started to pay him but he refused the money, saying that his parents had told him—finding out about the wager—that b
etting was immoral, and so he could not accept the money.

Bill went on to have a distinguished career as an attorney for the United States Government.  Maybe that’s what turning down dime bets leads to.    

Monday, November 3, 2014

Okay, for the first time the willfully benighted citizens of our fair country mostly agree that there is such a thing as climate change and we have caused i
t.  Fine.  Now we can get on with fixing the problem.  Here’s what I propose:  We get huge vacuums and put them in those places where the global warming is
coming from.  The sun, right?  So we launch these huge vacuums and suck up all that extra summer heat, store it, and then spray it on me in the winter.  Well,
me and people like me: people who have sense enough not to say, “Ohh, fall is my favorite season!”

For fall is not my favorite season.  My favorite season is 80 for high, 50 for low, always daylight and usually 7 o’clock in the morning…Saturday m
orning…and breakfast time, eggs over easy the way my June makes them, toast from her homemade whole wheat bread, and a glass of whole raw milk from
Bailey’s dairy down the road.    

With all our technology, can’t we arrange that?  I mean, really.  Oh, one final request: that we have a cup of coffee that is always hot, but not too hot.  M
aybe somehow the global warming vacuums could take care of that, too.  I don’t see why not.
“Home is where you can say anything you like-- because no one is listening, anyway.”
Tomorrow’s big adventure is a colonoscopy.  It is a routine of once every ten years for those of us who are officially olde.  

This is where they mount a tiny video camera on a flexible pole and shove up the place where the sun doesn’t shine.  (In fact if the sun did shine there, t
here would be no need for a colonoscopy.)   I just had a call from a sweet lady at the surgical center asking me all those questions they always ask.  I have
eaten my last already today.  Tomorrow I get to go at 620 am to the Center and submit to the will of the gastroenterologist.  Then I will sleep.  I’m going to try to
teach my class in the afternoon, and get on with my life.

Visits to the doctor are part of life for most of us “seniors.”  Decrepitude is, sooner or later, our final state.  
I used to tell my college students when I taught in college so many years ago—just about 50 years ago—that the worst thing that could possibly happen to a
ny of us was guaranteed to happen:  that we would die.  

What a stupid thing to say!  I hope no one believed me.  Of course that is not the worst thing that could happen to us, the worst thing is to die without h
aving lived, or lived well, or right, or however you want to put it.  

In fact, death generally is greatly overrated in our culture.  “I’m not afraid of death,” Woody Allen said, “I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” ###

Sunday, November 02, 2014

I woke up to music in my head, the haunting theme of half a dozen or so notes from Fur Elise, which I heard my cousin Jerry play when I visited him i
n Missoula more than a year ago.  He has a big piano in his living room and he plays every day, and he plays very well.  I got to thinking about that bit of music
the other day and as it happened, I had recorded with my trusty little digital recorder, Jerry’s playing of it.  I went to the file and opened it and played it over a
couple of times..  

So the music was in my head and I woke to it.  


Just sixty years ago—sixty years!—I was a kid in high school and I ran around with this guy named (I shall call him) Eddie.  We were both working t
hat summer of 1954.  I had just met Eddie a few months before and we became fast friends, meeting every day after work, horsing around, playing pool
together at the Hole In One Club in Aggieville (the Montmartre of Manhattan, Kansas, as we used to say a little wryly, a lot wryly in fact), and Tony gave me a
gift of a little red plastic radio, a bedside radio.  He had swiped it from where he worked in a retail store I shall not name for fear of prosecution because, after
all, this radio probably cost $8 and, well, it’s never too late to put away a social miscreant like me.

It was a new radio, bright red in color, a very handsome little thing.    I took it and appreciated it and put it beside my bed and late at night I’d turn it on a
nd listen to a radio show I’d just discovered, the Jay Andres Show out of Chicago.  The show  came on at midnight and went until 530 in the morning.  It was
called Music Till Dawn.  Now Jay played nothing but classical music.  That music, somehow, suited me, called to me deeply—as deep as a sixteen year old
can be, and maybe that’s pretty deep—and so every night I’d lie awake listening to Jay play great classical music.  I’d fall asleep somewhere in there, usually,
insomniac teenager that I was.  My brother and I slept downstairs in a big house and I kept my door closed, and played the radio very softly, so no one heard it
but me.  

So that’s it.  That’s how I came to love classical music—which I don’t know much about, really.  I can’t play anything on the piano or the harp or the h
armonica or anything.  I can’t sing a song clear through.  I do remember one song that, what do you know, Jay played one night when he was changing the
pace, and it was an old country song from Europe, and it went like this:  Oh Frances, Oh Frances.  Oh please tell me whyyyyy your mother is calling and you
don’t replyyy.  The soup it is boiling and the cow’s in the corn.  Your mother is calling for you to come home.  It was a catchy melody and I liked the idea of the
cow being in the corn, I could see that, because, years earlier when during the War we lived on the farm and the cow got in the corn a lot.  

So here’s to my old friend Eddy, dead now fifteen or twenty years, and to my old friend I never met, Jay Andres, two gentlemen who introduced me to t
he music that has soothed me and saved my life many, many times. ###

Sat., Nov. 1, 2014

It is 730 am, dawn.  I was up during the night for several hours, working on LifeStory.  The issue, no. 146, is all around me in various states of p
roduction, stacks of unassembled pages, envelopes, the sponge I use to wet the  glue, some issues all assembled and ready to fold, all on the island counter
here in the kitchen where I’m sitting just now, some on the couch in the living room, or strewn about on the other furniture.    
In other words I’m late getting the issue out.  I have had printer trouble.  The printer is, I think, dying.  It has been a faithful friend for at least ten years, p
robably fifteen.  Maybe even twenty.  The years go by.  But it is old now, and has to be nursed along.  It is slow.  Its rollers, I guess, are worn.  Soon it will be
time to  replace it.  
On this auspicious day, the commencement of the 11th LifeStory Journalong, I regret I have nothing to say.  NOTHING!  

Well, I could say I want my breakfast.  I want another cup of coffee.  I want to be dressed and on my way to Southern California, via rocket.  
I have written on the blackboard in the kitchen, on the wall in front of me,
Those who live by theory will die by theory.  What’s that?  Some cute remark I made
and wrote there a week ago or more.  At the time it must have meant something.  Now—I don’t know.  
So.  Some wag, someone who was feeling the way I am now, once wrote:  Life goes on, I forget just why.

Life goes on, I forget just why!!!

Wow!  Yes, that’s what I say Wow!  

Yet obviously the writer of that sentence is depressed.  Down, as I am right now: down, down, down.  But in her down mood (I remember now the writer w
as an American poet, a woman, but I still can’t think of her name), in her down mood she has been given the grace to say something wry and ironic—and
funny!  I don’t mean haw-haw-haw funny, I mean something that is wry and dry and insightful and even spiteful.  But it gets her through the day.

I can just see her there at the kitchen sink filled with dirty dishes, equally dirty light coming through the dirty curtains, dirty children squawling for t
heir breakfast, oh, mommie, we have pooped in our pants and what shall we dooo!  Moan, moan, bawl, groan, screech!  And so the lady looked up at God
sitting up there on a cloud, laughing at her predicament, and says to him, Life goes on. I forget just why!  

And she changes the children and starts washing the dirty dishes.  Forgetting just why but also going on—taking action—is that the same thing as s
aying Faith without works is dead?  

Edna Saint Vincent Millay!  I googled that line—which actually is “Life must go on,” not simply life goes on, as I remembered it, more than a slight d
ifference.  Old Edna, what a babe.  Lived just 58 years—1892 to 1950.  Only 58 years, but what a life it was.  ###