The LifeStory Institute
The writer's workshop for memoirists, autobiographers and family historians.
LifeStory was founded in 1991 as a how-to newsletter/magazine 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,  
professional historians.
All material on this website unless otherwise indicated is Copyright 2014 by The LifeStory Institute.
The LifeStory Institute
DAY SEVENTEEN OF THE 12th JOURNALONG!
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 try to 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, charleylifestory@gmail.com

BAKED FRESH THIS MORNING!

Thursday, December 18, 2014 Federal Way, Washington.    

Patrick made pancakes for us all and served them up hot, thick, and
with plenty of cherry syrup.  In 1964 this kind of departure from the
cuisine of the time was unusual, if not bizarre.  Mary and Patsy and
I sat at the big oak slab table on the little back porch and laughed
as Patrick made his rounds, he grinning, dancing almost, flipping
the pancakes up one by one with his spatula and onto our plates,
then ladling the syrup on.  “Enough?  Want more?” And before we
could say anything he’d ladle on another load of the beautiful hot
cherry syrup.  Syrup was something our mothers bought at the
grocery and it was always brown and contained no fruit.  If
anything, it was “maple-flavored.”  So we laughed and felt very hip,
very with it, tres moderne as Martha might have murmured--Martha,
who was a graduate student and teaching part time in the French
Department.  

We had been living out here all summer and now it was November
and beginning to turn cold.  I’d run into Patrick on campus in the
spring and he asked if we had a place to live come summer.  “I’ve
rented a cabin on Lone Star Lake,” he said.  I didn’t know where
that was and he explained that it was about twenty miles south of
Lawrence on a back road, on a lake with cabins all of which was
built in the 1930s by the CCC or the WPA, or somebody.  “The
cabins are fishing cabins,” he went on.  “Three hundred dollars for
the year, and you can just stay for the summer, use it for weekends
or…as we’re going to do, live in it all year.  There’s a cabin or two
left, if you want to come out.”    

What about heat? I might have asked, but didn’t.  The adventure of
it all was just too exciting.  Anything done with Patrick was an
adventure.  A trip to the grocery with Patrick was an adventure, a
walk in the woods or dropping in on a class you weren’t really
enrolled in.   He did stuff like that.  He had the gift of making all his
life an adventure.  Years later I realized that that was much of the
spirit of the 1960s, which had grown out of years and years of dull
life where the only adventure was if we were all going to be
destroyed by nuclear weapons.  

So what about heat?  Well, there wasn’t any.  There was a fireplace,
a big stone one in each cabin, very picturesque, and that would do
to take the chill off on a nasty November night: but what about real
winter?    Winter did come, and all too soon, and it was one of the
worst winters in Kansas in years.  The lake we lived on froze, the
waterpipes froze, and we nearly froze too.  Patsy and I would lie
under the heavy blankets in the dark of night and listen to the noise
the thick ice made on Lone Star Lake as it expanded.  It sounded
like the roar of a lion.  At first, we actually thought it was an animal.  
Like two children we hunkered down and pulled the blankets up
over our eyes, as if that would make us safe, and in fact no lions
appeared.  ###


Wed., Dec. 17, 2014

The guy rolling the grocs through at WinCo had big hair.  He was a
big guy, too, a young man maybe 25, six and a half feet tall at least,
and he had a sort of Afro that surrounded all of his head  but his
eyes and lower face.  It was really quite a production and, really,
rather stylish and, one might say, even handsome.  And he was a
nice kid too.  June joked with him as he rang things up.  He looked
at the Seattle Times I’d put there for him to charge out.  “I swear,”
he said, smiling, “they put the price of that thing in a different place
every day.”  He found it and rang up a dollar for a daily newspaper
that used to cost a nickel.  

We sat in the car for awhile and ate our treats—a Snickers bar for
June, a bag of mixed nuts and M&Ms for me, “trail mix,” they call it.  
I read the Times.  “There’s nothing in this thing,” I said to June.  
“What a flimsy paper for a huge city like this.”  I started the car and
we rolled into the stream of traffic and headed for home.   We are
getting used to driving in heavy traffic, and with the help of Garmin,
our GPS, getting around is almost easy.  

The joy of city life—one of them—is watching people, the endless
representatives of humanity walking along, doing their business
shopping, getting home for the day, school or work.  They are fat,
thin, grotesque, beautiful, huge, tiny, black, red, white, brown,
yellow.  The diversity of a city like Seattle (or Tacoma, where we
were and are right now)  is just stunning.  

Stay home, country mouse!  My father used to warble, laughing, and
some days I wish we had, but what an education and honor it is to
be part of all this!  

When I was a kid in summers in the village of Rewey, Wisconsin,
my cousin Gary and I would hitch-hike to Platteville to use up the
dollar or two we’d earned picking and selling the wild asparagus
that grew along the railroad track.   More often than not five or so
miles away from Platteville someone would drop us off and we’d sit
there on the banks of the nearby creek looking at the trout nibbling
as they made their way through the clear water.  It was so quiet
then.  When we heard a car, we could hear it coming, lapping the
pavement, a half mile away.  It would get closer and closer and we’d
have our thumbs out there, and they’d slow down to see whose
kids we were, and—more often than not—stop and take us into
town.  We’d go to Mike’s Pool Room and pass the morning until the
swimming pool opened playing pool and horsing around with the
other guys there.  

What a contrast to my life today!  And what an amazing thing to
carry that stuff around in your head and be able to bring it out, sixty-
five years later.  For in those Rewey days I couldn’t have been any
more than a lad of 11 or 12.  And now here I was, an old man nearly
77, waiting at the light at 72nd and Thompson with a thousand
other cars, and no trout streams in sight. ###

Tu., Dec. 16, 2014                                           Tacoma,
Washington        

Last night we sat around the dining room table after supper trying
out various ringtones on June’s iPhone.  This is modern life.  By we
I mean my son Rip and his wife Joanne and their daughter Adah
and June and yours truly.  We listened and laughed to ducks
quacking, crickets chirping, and sirens.  Adah, who surely is going
to grow up to be a firewoman, loves sirens.  Her favorite TV is a
Youtube thing of firetrucks going to fires.  Actually it is quite
absorbing watching Adah watching the fire engines go.

This is modern life.  This is it.
-
On the table in front of me is an iPhone, silent and dead now
(“Server has stopped responding.”); my glasses, which I do not
wear when looking at the screen of my computer.   My cellphone,
which I guess still works, a wall clock turned upside down awaiting,
I guess, a new battery, a bill from our insurance company.  A wax
candle in the shape of a pinecone, a red glass bowl with two apples
in it; a large (one foot long) plastic replica of a buffalo, a folded
hand towel, a butter dish, covered, an empty wire basket, and a
plastic fire truck.  And oh, not exactly by the way, this laptop
computer.

This is modern life too.  This is it.
-
I have very little to say for myself this morning.  I do recall teachers
when remonstrating with me would say, And what do you have to
say for yourself, Charles?  And I would hang my head and respond
in a peep: Nuthin.  

Nothing! King Lear said to her errant daughter, the fair Cordelia.  
Nothing will come of nothing.   
-
Living in others’ homes, if nothing else, leads you into new
technologies and how to operate them.  I speak particularly of
coffeemakers.  Over in Gig  Harbor our absent friend and host had a
Keurig coffeemaker, surely one of the most damnable ways to make
a fine cup of coffee in the world.  You put this little round packet of
coffee, sealed, into the great black machine standing on the kitchen
counter and close the lid, which pierces the seal on the thing, and—
no small thing—then you program the blue readout and, if you’re
lucky, it changes from NOT READY to READY TO BREW and then
you punch another button and it says—and for this you are always
very thankful—BREWING. And the liquid coffee begins dribbling
into the cup.  It all reminds me of those drawings on the covers of
old New Yorkers by Alfred Steinberg (wasn’t it?) of machines that
went through about twenty machinations in order to, say, strike a
match or turn on a radio.  

This is what I require of life: a computer that works; high speed
internet; a cup of coffee that is always hot; and clothes on my back.  
A chair; a bathroom; room temperature of at least 70 degrees.  Is
that too much to ask?  Probably the answer is yes, it is too much.  
You should get a little less than you require. ###

Mon., Dec. 15, 2014
I wish I had a pair of thick socks.  I might have a pair in my baggage
but it’s in the car, and the car is a mess.  We should have unloaded
it yesterday and repacked it.  
-
So, today is here at last.  I’ve always been a morning man.  Morning
cannot come early enough for me.  I hate sleeping late, and my idea
of sleeping late is later than 6 am.  5 am is good; 4 am is better.  If I
get up at 4 and I’m at my desk (metaphorically speaking these days,
as I haven’t any desk on the road) by 430 I have a chance to get
everything done that day.

But I wonder more with each passing year, what is everything?  
-
We went to church yesterday and it was good to sing some of the
Christmas songs we sang when I was a kid.  For once there were
songs to sing that I actually knew.  The one at the end, Joy to the
World, I even knew the words to—the first verse, anyway.  

When I was in junior high we did a thing every year called The
Christmas Masque.  Preparations for The Christmas Masque, which
had been personally written and arranged by our own Miss Helen
Gerard, dominated the fall semester of school.  We were excused
from English, or we were excused from football practice (even that!)
if we had to do something in the Christmas Masque.  The only thing
of greater urgency than it was the monthly Fire Drill.  Later on in my
life in the Navy I realized it was much like General Quarters aboard
ship.  Well, the Christmas Masque was a lot like General Quarters
too:  man your stations and start singing Joy to the World, because
Miss Gerard was coming with her pitch pipe.  She never referred to
herself as I.  She’d say, “Miss Gerard wants you boys to sing the
bass parts.”  And then she’d whip out her pitch pipe and toot on it
once, raise her arms above her head and bring us into song.  

The Masque part was a story of the Little Crippled Boy and the Little
Flower Girl and another boy, I guess, just The Poor Kid.  They sat
outside the church doors on the stage, built by the advanced
woodworking class, and begged for alms (money) while the rich
uncaring people walked right past them and went into the church.  
(Meantime the rest of us, the masses you might say, were in the
balcony singing miscellaneous Christmas carols and all the parents
and townspeople were below in the audience and the musicians
were in the musical pit or whatever it was called.)  Then the drama
of the birth of Jesus and spreading the word throughout Bethlehem
and the surrounding area was played out—it was a very big deal if
you played the part of Mary or Joseph and you practically didn’t
have anything to do with classes all semester, all you had to do was
look holy and heave to when it was time for Practice with Miss
Gerard and her pitch pipe.  Of course no one was small enough to
play the Baby Jesus in the Manger so I think that was a doll.  I
honestly don’t remember.  Maybe like those movies we used to see
in the 50s about Christian things they never really showed the face
of Jesus.  Anyway the story was told, the turning away from a
regular motel and the couple forced to go to a manger, and then the
birth, the star on the East Side of the stage pulled along on a wire
nobody could see, the Wise Men coming with frankincense and
myrrh—we didn’t know what myrrh was, maybe something like a
hamburger steak and chocolate chip cooky rolled into one—and
they came with these things and once the message was brought,
the church doors opened and out came all these people re-
awakened to the Christian message and singing.  Not only did they
empty their pockets for the Poor kid, they picked up the little
crippled Boy and took him to dinner, bought all the flowers from the
little Flower Girl and didn’t ask for change. And meanwhile all the
rest of us were in the balcony screaming out Joy to the World at the
top of our 13 year old voices.  

It was quite a show.  The rest of the school year was all downhill.  
In the spring, of course, things picked up with track and field
practice and, for the girls, preparations for the Golddiggers Prom.
###

Sun.,  December 14, 2014                                  Tacoma

Sometimes when I write I'm just piling up words.  At such times I
think I'm just practicing as a pianist might, day in and day out,
practicing to get better of course, and he'd hope, getting better, but
also practicing just to keep the fire going, knowing that sometimes
that is what you do, maybe all you can do.  
-
I am grateful this morning to be at my son's home and with his
family.  His daughter Adah is a blessing to us all, happy, running
about getting into this, dipping the remote into her cup of water,
playing with the ornaments on the Christmas tree, running, always
running, whispering in the way kids do before they really start
talking (I'd forgotten that), eating an apple in one hand and a huge
pear in the other, taking a bite of one, then of the other.  

I am grateful to have a hot cup of coffee.  I am grateful that my back,
rife with sciatic pain during the night, is getting better by the
minute.  I am grateful to have a light to work by against the dark of
night.  I am grateful for the neat and tidy house that Rip and Joni
have made.  I am grateful to have a good book to read.  And I'm
grateful to be in a great city where I am related to a dozen people
and have at least a dozen more old friends, not even to mention all
the friends I have made through doing half a dozen or more
workshops here over the last dozen years.  

I am grateful for good health today, a good night's sleep, and for
those I love and the love of those still asleep in this house.  

And I am grateful for this laptop computer I have carried around
with me with me for more than ten years, that I have written millions
of words on.  
-
I am more comfortable now that I have put on my long pants and my
coat and my hat and have spread across my knees an Afghan from
their couch.  They keep the temperature at a uniform 70 degrees,
very healthy I am sure, but not warm enough for an old man.  At the
Timmi house where we were staying we set the thermostat at 74 and
that was nearly warm enough.  I am spoiled, I think, from all those
years of wood heat, sitting by the fire in the morning and feeling the
heat from the wood stove seep into my cold old bones.   
-
I don't know why this popped into my head, but it did.  The picture
of me on my drivers license is that of, naturally enough, an old
man.  When someone asks to see my ID I show them this and say
very seriously,  This picture was taken when I was a lot older.   They
nod and then do a double take at the impossibility of what I just
said:  and then they laugh.  

[I just highlighted the above and looked at the word count: 499.  So
I added some.  If I allow myself to get by with writing 499 instead of
500, then the next day, shirker that I am, I might very well write 490,
and then the next, 340, and so on, until pretty soon I'm saying, Oh,
it doesn't matter.  I'll write tomorrow.] ###

Sat., Dec. 13, 2014

Today we leave Gig Harbor and move back to Tacoma.  So much for
our life on the Olympic Peninsula.  At least we’ve learned a bit
about the place.  As for a place to live, well…there’s that toll bridge,
$5.50, maybe a little less if you buy them by the month (I’m not
sure), and so you’re in a way trapped here.  I think if I lived in this
area—near enough to visit our children and grandchildren easily—I’
d rather live inland a bit more.  

Like maybe near Manhattan, Kansas.  
-
I am a Midwestern boy.  I was born in North Dakota, lived in Kansas
mostly, but also in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Indiana.  I lived for a time
in New York, just as a home port—Brooklyn.  I wouldn’t mind living
in southern California, which has enough Midwesterners there to
make it a pretty nice place.  I don’t know.  D. H. Lawrence wandered
all of his 45 years, and I don’t think he was a happy camper,
however good and productive a writer he was.  He learned to carry
on his work no matter where he was.  I think if I am learning
anything on these road trips—this must surely be my 20th or 30th
over the last twenty-some years—if I am learning anything, maybe it
is just that, to be able to carry on my work no matter where, no
matter what.  I have probably journaled in nearly every state west of
the Mississippi, and quite a few east of there.  

So is that my work?  I guess it is, for whatever it may be worth.  
-
Cats are among the most useless creatures on the planet and,
frankly, for all I care they could live on their own special planet.    A
dog can at least wag his tail.  A couple of days ago we had lunch
with our old friend, Seth, and his old friend and ours too, Peggoty,
his little black happy dog.  Seth and Peggoty lived with us one
winter a few seasons ago, and Peggoty became the only animal to
live in our house ever.  We welcomed her, she sat on the couch
happily and was just a perfect companion.  We fed her table scraps
and made the cats outside extremely jealous.  I have nothing
personal against cats.  Sometimes I even pet them.  But I wouldn't  
give one Peggoty for a stack of cats a mile high.  

Really, the animal I like best, aside from the human kind, is the pig.  
Years ago we raised hogs, had five sows and at any given time
might have fifty piglets.  We had sheep too, but sheep are just too
stupid to be friends.  Somehow, though, I like sheep in herds.  And
I don’t think I like pigs in herds.  I used to sit and watch the sheep
graze and I liked that.   It was very restful.
-
I guess a few rats and mice and even black snakes have lived in our
house over the years, but I can’t say I ever welcomed them.  When I
first came to Letter Rock (so far away now!) and inhabited the shell
of a house there for the first time in eleven years—the first humans
to inhabit in eleven years—I was for a time the guest of a thousand
rats, snakes, mice, insects and even a few squirrels.  But I out-
stayed them, took it away from them, rebuilt it to suit our human
needs, and planted our flag in the living room where it has
remained ever since.  ###

Fri., Dec. 12, 2014

In the Navy on shore duty at the Naval Air Technical Training
Center, Norman, Oklahoma (a less likely place for a Navy base
cannot be imagined), it fell to me to do the monthly Workload and
Manhours Report.  I was given a pep talk about how important it
was by the Chief or maybe one of the personnel officers, Mr. Young
maybe, who was old.  He was a serious, fatherly looking man and I
think he was from Kansas, a farm boy who had joined the Navy in
World War II and now here he was, 1956, still in.He had some gray
hair and may have been even in his low 50s.  His name (I remember
now) was Allan A. Young.  He was a chief ship’s clerk warrant
officer.  Probably he handed me the ten page or more instruction
sheet and went over it with me in his earnest way, and then left me
with it.  

I took it all very seriously and worked on the thing all day and
sometimes (when it was due, even into the night).  I remember
nothing of it specifically, nor do I want to.  As its name suggests, it
was something about accounting for the time of all of us on the
base.  The report was sent to Washington where it was supposedly
combined with other reports from other “ships and stations” as the
Navy called us all, as in
Attention all ships and stations.  We were a
station.  So I made the report and worried about all the numbers,
feared in my sweaty dreams that Department of Defense (DOD)
people would come and get me, pointing out that the instructions in
Section I (a) (4) para. 2e, had not been followed in accordance with
existing instructions, which is the way all cognizant personnel
should do.  

I took it very seriously for some months, and then one day
something in me snapped.  Maybe some officer shrugged and
laughed at it, all my work, saying something about the bureaucrats
in Washington or maybe I just noticed that no one was paying any
attention to it; and I began to make up numbers to fit when the ones
I had didn’t.  Not only did I not do things in accordance with
existing instructions, I made things up.  And no one ever said a
word.  I turned in the report on time, and that was what was
wanted.  Everything was fine. Thank you, Kempthorne, keep up the
good work.  And they tossed the thick report on a pile of papers
and turned back to their work.  

I shudder to imagine God sitting at His desk, receiving such reports
from myself and others.  Maybe some subaltern in a white robe
comes into God’s office, bows slightly, and throws my billion word
journal on a pile of papers next to God’s desk.  He nods and thanks
the man and glances only momentarily at the journal, my magnum
opus, and, expressionless except for a briefly-arched eyebrow
(perhaps satiric), re-lights His pipe, blows out the match,  and goes
back to His own work.  

It gives a guy a little perspective. ###

Thu., December 11, 2014  Gig Harbor, Washington

In the spring of 1969 our TV went black.  I’m sure it was a used one,
but we felt it should work, so I took it to a repairman, a shop called
(I don’t remember now exactly) maybe—oh, now I do remember—Al’
s TV Repair.  And I gave it to Al, a man in his 40s of no particular
visual interest except that he had a kind of incipient sneer on his
face.  Al took it and gave me a ticket.  

Fine.  I was at that time of course attached to the University of
Wisconsin—Stevens Point, and so I was busy teaching, but also we
were involved in organizing a commune, MayDay Commune, and we
were quite taken up with this.  Al called in a few days and said my
TV was ready.  On the way home I picked it up, paid my $15 or
whatever it was, and took it home.  When I got home a pre-
communal meeting was in progress, very important stuff, all of us
sitting in a big circle and passing the Holy Weed.  I chucked the TV
in the corner and joined in.  

Our MayDay Commune began in earnest a day or so later, and it was
a thrill.  MayDay was a great experience; and as a commune, it
lasted twice as long as the average commune: it lasted four months
instead of two months.  When the commune ended and reality came
back, it seemed sensible to get the TV out of the corner where I’d
chucked it and restore it to its prominent place on a table in the
living room.  Which I did.  I even turned it on.  I turned it on and it lit
up and an image appeared and it went off.  Black.  I checked the
plug, the switch, everything I could think of, but it was dead.  

I wasn’t just incensed, I was incendiary: I’d been screwed out of
$15!  I grabbed the thing up and took it back to Al, who stood there
as if waiting for me.  It doesn’t work!  I said.  I brought it in and you
claimed to have fixed it and you didn’t.  You charged me $15.  

When did you bring it in? Al wanted to know.  Oh, I said, a few
months ago, but I didn’t turn it on till yesterday.  And it didn’t
work!  You claimed you fixed it and—

The shop guarantee was for 30 days only, Al said.  

But I didn’t use it till yesterday, and it didn’t even work for a minute.

Thirty days, Al said, his sneer at full sail.  It’ll cost you another $15,
at least, to have it fixed.  

What?  I said.  What?  I sputtered and foamed.  What?  This is an
outrage, I said, picking up my TV.

Fifteen dollars, Al said.

You’ll hear from my lawyers!  I shouted as I went out the door, so
outraged and angry that carrying the heavy old television set was as
nothing to me, opening the door and probably pulling it shut with
my foot as I left.  You’ll hear from my lawyers!

Now, even today, nearly 50 years later, I hear that cry: You’ll hear
from my lawyers!  

Al never heard from my lawyers.  Far from having a legal staff
standing by to handle my every grievance, I had no lawyers at all,
and certainly no lawyer was going to take on Al for anything like
$15, or even the $50 a new used TV would cost me.  So I chucked it
in the corner again, and there it remained.  A month or so later,
wanting to know the news of the day—it was an exciting time—I
quietly picked up a television set at a thrift store. ###

Wed., Dec. 10, 2014 922 AM PST Gig Harbor, Washington

June is beside me here in our friend’s living room drawing a chair.  I
am sitting in one, and she is too, but she is drawing one.  What she
says about it with her pencil and paper remains to be seen.  She is
taking a blank sheet of paper and making it into something with
lines.  I am taking a blank sheet of paper and making it into words—
words that presumably will have a meaning, just as her lines will
presumably have a meaning.  Are we all, always, attempting to
communicate something of our experience, necessarily, whether we
want to or not?  Is the man in the store video I see on the news this
morning, the man who assaulted another in a store check-out line in
Miami—is he trying to communicate something of his experience
too?  I believe so.  But the man he struck, lying on the floor very
still now, did he pick up on what the guy was saying?  I don’t think
so.  To call everything, every act, an act of communicating will not
wash.  

-
I wish I could stop and start time like the timekeeper in a ball game.  
I wish I could have some Time Outs, and use that time to get certain
background things done—like may be have a cup of coffee or two
and stare into space—and then I could start the clock and work.  

What would that do for me, really?  The fact is I have to live in the
moment, and the moment is passing.  There’s nothing I can do
about that.  What did old Omar Khayyam say, The moving hand
writes, and having writ, moves on.  Not all the something in the
world can change it a bit.  Yeah, well, all Omar aside, time marches,
or shuffles, on.  And it only matters if we let it matter.  I could wish
that I had more of the gift of ignoring time.  “Time is but a stream I
go a-fishing in,” some other wise guy said.  
-
My mother would sit for hours at a time in the evening or in the
middle of the night sometimes, or in the afternoon, or whenever she
felt like it, and work a crossword puzzle.  Looking at me over her
glasses she might ask, What’s a five letter word for withdraw from?  
I would offer something and she would often as not write it in: c-r-i-
n-g-e!  Then she would smile and we’d talk about everyday life:
what time the kids would be at her house after school, the dinner
we were all having on Sunday, and most of all, what we would have
for dinner.  Most of the time I was in a hurry to get through with this
and get back to my work.  I regret now, of course, more than fifteen
years after her death, not sitting down and enjoying her wonderful
company more than I did.  
-
I have a friend in prison who did, I guess, commit some crimes,
probably petty drug-dealing things.  He has spent a fair amount of
his life in prison but now he says he’s through with all that and
wants to live a good life and be free.  I don’t blame him.  I have lived
a good many years of my life in a prison of my own making as, I
imagine, most of us have.  I can’t say,
we can’t say, it’s as bad as living in an actual physical prison,
behind bars in an orange suit…but in some ways our prison, my
prison, so self-imposed, has been worse.  Today I hope to be free.  
###

Tues., December 9, 2014,  posted 7 am PST, Gig Harbor,
Washington.  

My dad was the son of a village blacksmith and the village was
Rewey, Wisconsin which even in its hayday probably didn’t have
500 people.  I close my eyes and try to imagine Dad, 15 years old in
1918, say this day so many years ago:  December 9, 1918.  I wasn’t
to come along for twenty years.  Dad talked some about his
boyhood but I didn’t listen much.  He left no papers, no letters, that
told anything about his youth.  His youngest sister, Pearl, was still
alive when Dad died and she could and would have told me a lot
more than she did if I had made the effort to see her more.  Now she
is gone too.  
So I reconstruct it.  Is that reasonable?  Don’t we behave as if we
had a certain history, anyway?  I guess that question doesn’t make
much sense.  I am trying to fill in the blanks of the history that I’m
alive because of.  Yes, that’s it.  And can I do that?  I guess I’m
being a sort of archaeologist of my psyche.  

One might reasonably say, You can’t know that.  Why go there and
make something up?  Well, I don’t know.  Maybe that’s right, maybe
I shouldn’t try to make anything up.  But on the other hand, I’m not
really making anything up, am I?  I’m trying to reconstruct.  That
reconstruction may be inaccurate, but it’s not just made up out of
thin air.  I’ve already stated some of the “known” about my father.  
In 1918 he was 15.  He lived in Wisconsin so the chances are pretty
good when he got out of school that afternoon to hurry to the
blacksmith shop to help his father, it may have been snowing,
snowing huge fat flakes that didn’t come down so much as swirled
in the slight wind, danced in the air, and he, Charlie was his name,
Charlie felt the flakes against his ruddy cheeks melt there and run
down.  Maybe he licked some of them, happy to be out of school,
happy to be going to the shop where the men gathered and stood
around the warmth of the forge and talked about the War and what
ought to be done, sometimes maybe half a dozen of them, just
loafing or maybe there on business waiting for G. R., as everybody
called his dad, to do some work for them—sharpen plough shares,
shoe a horse, perhaps even make some nails so the man could go
home and work on that lean-to he was building onto his house.  

When Dad got there he said hellos all around, took some teasing
and maybe some encouraging about what he was going to do in
pole vaulting in the spring, win another regional championship for
Rewey High—or what.  Dad went to work taking the old shoes off
Elmer Davis’s big sorrel mare, coming at the horse gently,
murmuring something loud enough for the horse to hear but not
the men (who had turned away then) talking about the War, and the
Huns.  He worked quietly and efficiently.  His mother came from
Huns.  Nodolf was her name.  He was glad his was Kempthorne, a
good solid English name, Cornish people. ###

Wisconsin which even in its hayday probably didn’t have 500
people.  I close my eyes and try to imagine Dad, 15 years old in
1918, say this day so many years ago:  December 9, 1918.  I wasn’t
to come along for twenty years.  Dad talked some about his
boyhood but I didn’t listen much.  He left no papers, no letters, that
told anything about his youth.  His youngest sister, Pearl, was still
alive when Dad died and she could and would have told me a lot
more than she did if I had made the effort to see her more.  Now she
is gone too.  
So I reconstruct it.  Is that reasonable?  Don’t we behave as if we
had a certain history, anyway?  I guess that question doesn’t make
much sense.  I am trying to fill in the blanks of the history that I’m
alive because of.  Yes, that’s it.  And can I do that?  I guess I’m
being a sort of archaeologist of my psyche.  

One might reasonably say, You can’t know that.  Why go there and
make something up?  Well, I don’t know.  Maybe that’s right, maybe
I shouldn’t try to make anything up.  But on the other hand, I’m not
really making anything up, am I?  I’m trying to reconstruct.  That
reconstruction may be inaccurate, but it’s not just made up out of
thin air.  I’ve already stated some of the “known” about my father.  
In 1918 he was 15.  He lived in Wisconsin so the chances are pretty
good when he got out of school that afternoon to hurry to the
blacksmith shop to help his father, it may have been snowing,
snowing huge fat flakes that didn’t come down so much as swirled
in the slight wind, danced in the air, and he, Charlie was his name,
Charlie felt the flakes against his ruddy cheeks melt there and run
down.  Maybe he licked some of them, happy to be out of school,
happy to be going to the shop where the men gathered and stood
around the warmth of the forge and talked about the War and what
ought to be done, sometimes maybe half a dozen of them, just
loafing or maybe there on business waiting for G. R., as everybody
called his dad, to do some work for them—sharpen plough shares,
shoe a horse, perhaps even make some nails so the man could go
home and work on that lean-to he was building onto his house.  

When Dad got there he said hellos all around, took some teasing
and maybe some encouraging about what he was going to do in
pole vaulting in the spring, win another regional championship for
Rewey High—or what.  Dad went to work taking the old shoes off
Elmer Davis’s big sorrel mare, coming at the horse gently,
murmuring something loud enough for the horse to hear but not
the men (who had turned away then) talking about the War, and the
Huns.  He worked quietly and efficiently.  His mother came from
Huns.  Nodolf was her name.  He was glad his was Kempthorne, a
good solid English name, Cornish people.  ###

Sun.,  Dec. 7, 2014

I have started reading Paul Johnson’s A History of the American
People.  Johnson I know only as he has been disparaged by the
Left.  But so far, reading about early Colonial history, what he has
to say is interesting as information.  The slave trade was a huge
enterprise and was (so far) mostly entered into by the Spanish and
the Portuguese.  
-
Maybe if we go to Gig Harbor, we will get a lot of gigs.  I did contact
the librarian, Joy, at the Gig Harbor Public Library, and she wasn’t
too encouraging, but she did say she’d look at whatever I had to
send.  
-
Fantasy conversation with John about my Simple Idea of Citizen’s
Groups:  I point out to him that we both espouse Lost Causes, but
his is a lost cause of the past, and mine is a lost cause of the
future.  I don’t have a name for what he is doing: surely there is one,
if not a dozen.  It is the cause of politics as usual, it is power
politics.  
-
I suppose we only lived in the Old Holler for a few months, a year at
the most.  Life in the Old Holler was primitive: no electricity, no
running water, no central heat.  We used kerosene lamps, had a
pump outside and brought the water inside in a pail, and we heated
with wood and coal.  We had a battery powered radio.  This was
1942 and 1943.  Fairly early on we moved out of the Holler and Mom
bought a house near the town of Poland and across the road from
the school.  Hal and I both attended.  

The house had electricity that we generated in the garage that
Gramps was always attending to.  We had a radio, I guess, surely.  
Unlike most of our neighbors we had a car and, much more
important, some limited supply of gasoline.  Though Dad was
overseas he was a doctor and somehow Mom had some gas rations
that were intended for the doctor to use to buy gasoline to make
housecalls.  I remember we could drive into town, Greencastle, a
few miles away, and when we did neighbors would ride with us.  

Scenes from that time, most of which I’ve written up here in the
Journal but can’t find readily, would include: butchering a hog; I
vandalize the ripening tomatoes; I am stung by a nest of hornets in
an old milk can that I found down in the draw by the house; my
brother is struck by lightning in a terrible rainstorm but he has he
foot on a piece of rubber used as a basement window hinge and
therefore is saved (this may be apocryphal), the delousing of my
fellow pupils at the school; having to sit on the teacher’s lap for
some sort of misbehavior (Mrs. Archer?); my grandmother’s death
and Gramps walks up and down, moaning softly while my mother
cries; my brother and I roll or try to roll a hoghouse down the hill
after we have sold the house to someone else, and therefore we
somehow assumed we could wreck the place; walking on a Sunday
afternoon with Mom and picking flowers, but leaving jack-in-the-
pulpits alone; going to church…

And many others.  The more I think of, the more I think of. ###

Sat., December 6, 2014

At the Safeway checkout we didn’t quite know what to do.  At home
they had aisles, like here, but they had a straight conveyor belt up
to the register rather than the round things they have here, and it
looked like you pushed your cart one way after unloading, and your
groceries went another.  June and I looked at the checkout woman,
who didn’t smile but looked at us as if to say, Well, what?  “We’re
from another planet,” I said, and then June said it for me, “We don’t
know what to do.”  The woman explained what to do, smiling only a
little, and we got through.  

We sat in the car in the Safeway lot, eating and talking.  I read some
of the Tacoma Tribune along with my eating.  They’re just not as
friendly here, June said, and I agreed.  Too many people, we
agreed.  And maybe too stressed out.  They’re helpful when you
ask, I said, remembering that June had gone to get a someone to
explain how the discounted sandwich price worked—when you
bought it with soup.  

Are people in the Midwest, especially the non-urban Midwest, less
stressed out than people in a megalopolis like this one?  The traffic,
the haste, the competition…sure.  That has to have an impact.  
People don’t move to the city in order to attain serenity.  Maybe you
can’t get serenity by moving anywhere, but people generally think if
you move to the country, you’ll be more likely to find it than in, say,
a seven way intersection in a car surrounded by hundreds of cars
during the rush hour.  

So what?  We’re here.  And here is where we’re going to be for the
next seven weeks.  We’d better figure out a way to like it.
-
I opened my first back account in 1952, when I was 14.  The teller
who helped me was a young man named Vic Roper.  He explained it
all and gave me a leather-covered little book wherein all deposits
and withdrawals and interest payments and the like were entered
and initialed by a teller.  The bank was called the First National
Bank of Manhattan, Kansas, and they owned the whole building,
and upstairs my father, a doctor, had his office, a four room suite—
a large (and nearly always full) waiting room, a treatment room for
ear, nose, and throat, and another, larger room for eye work,
including refractions, and then a small room, really a hallway to the
ear, nose and throat room, where glasses were fitted.  

I was telling about young Vic Roper.  Young Vic grew old, as we all
did, and some forty years later he was the senior vice-president of
the same bank, which had moved to a different, more accessible,
location and built a spiffy new building.  Vic (I had long since made
the transition from calling him Mr. Roper to Vic) loaned me some
money and as he was doing the calculations to fill out the form, he’
d check his machine calculations by doing it all by hand  with a
pencil and pad.  When I said something light about this , he said,
“You just never know how these machines get their answer,” he
said.  “This way I know.”  

I nodded, smiling, just very happy to be loaned some money. ###
-

Thursday, Dec. 5, 2014
It’s 4 am and a strange quiet has fallen over the city.  The guy
upstairs has stopped beating on his drum.  I wonder if he’s okay?  
-
Yesterday afternoon we went to Cabela’s Bass Pro Shop to see
Adah tell Santa Claus what she wants for Christmas.  Santa was a
busy guy, and if he wasn’t holding his tummy and yelling Ho Ho
Hos, he was certainly a civil and friendly guy with a twinkle in his
eye.  Adah was resistant to being held.  But she’d run away and
then turn and look at him.  Santa, ever the pro, handled it all
beautifully while we snapped the pictures.  
-
I guess the guy upstairs is okay, though he’s not playing the drum,
but just running to and fro.  
-
We are acclimating. We didn’t get lost once in traffic yesterday.  
-
People really are friendly here, though sometimes you have to draw
them out.  A young man advancing toward me on the sidewalk and
whom I suspected was going to beat me to death instead smiled
and said a very civil hello, how are you?  Before I said a word, all
hunkered down as I was waiting to be beheaded.  Instead I
straightened up and smiled and said I’m fine, How are you, and he
walked on…and so did I.  
-
Today we MUST finish LifeStory no. 147.  It’s do or die.  Actually we’
re in pretty good shape to do it.  
-
When I was in junior high school I became friendly with a kid
named Lee Teaford, who had a paper route.  Everyday he and two
other kids (and I, tagging along) got in Leo Marx’s big van and
folded papers while he and his partner up front slung them to
houses.  They knew every single route and house.  This went on for
about two hours.  The paper was the great Kansas City Star, and I
felt entitled and honored just to help fold it (free) and be part of the
group.  Later on I worked for an old printer, Mr. James Glenn
Graham, who had worked on the printing side of the Star when
Hemingway was a reporter for them, and he knew Hemingway
slightly and may even have had a drink or two with him.  I was in
awe of that.

About the same time I read a book I found in the trash can by my
dad’s office, The Kansas City Milkman, by one Harlan Ware.  It was
the most influential book I ever read.  It was about a broken down
old reporter/correspondent who drank too much and walked around
New York and later Paris with a broad (woman) on each arm.  I
practically swooned to be doing that: that was my goal in life.  

It never happened.  But I did start LifeStory 20 some years ago and
very often my wife, if not hanging on my arm, is there telling me to
finish page 5 so she can lay it out.  ###

Thu., Dec. 4, 2014                            Tacoma, Washington

Seattle/Tacoma has six million people and twelve million
restaurants.  Eating out is decision time.  First we deal with what
ethnicity.  Then we deal with which one.  We couldn’t decide.

I tell friends back home that Seattle has passed a law prohibiting
the eating of meat within twenty feet of the city limits.  People look
at me aghast and then when I grin an April Fool grin they laugh with
me.  But vegetarian stuff is big here, no doubt.  Nevertheless, we
didn’t do vegetarian.

With my son and wife I went to the Itchiban Teriyaki place on Pacific
Avenue at about 57th or so, and on the way in I said to Rip, Hey Rip,
here’s something I bet I know that you don’t know, What does
Itchiban mean?  I haven’t a clue, Rip said, striding along, opening
the door for us.  Number one! I said.  Number one!  Really, Rip said.  
Yeah, really, I said.  We were standing there, the three of us, facing
the counterman, a young Japanese man.  Hey, hi, first things first, I
said, What does itchyban mean?  Number one, he said.  See, I said,
dancing around Rip and June.  See?  I was right!

We ordered and sat down with our food.  I explained that Ayako,
whom I almost married, taught me that.  I jumped up and ran over to
the counterman, who was leaning across and chatting with us
amiably.  He and Rip knew each other, and they were gabbing about
stuff.  I come in here all the time, Rip said.  Oh, I said.  June was
eating her chicken strips.  I was at work on a bowl of miso.  And Rip
had the chicken strips too.  How do you say, What time is it? I
asked the counterman.  Nani deska, he said.  That’s right, I said,  
You speak Japanese too.  We laughed.  His partner and the cook,
also a young Japanese man, came out and leaned on the counter
with him.  I can speak any language except Greek, I said.  They
smiled at me.  Come on, I said, ask me to say something in
Mongolian.  They didn’t know what to say, or murmured something
in Japanese I couldn’t make out.  Well, I said, launching ahead,
Mongolian is Greek to me!  It’s all Greek to me!   Hahahahaha!  And
everyone laughed, or simulated it.

On the way home I said that miso was pretty good and I could eat a
big bowl of that every winter evening of the world.  It warms my
tummy up, I said.  I was sitting in the back of Rip’s enormous
pickup.  It is big as a house and cost just about as much.  At the
motel Rip let us out and we said goodnight.  See you tomorrow, we
said, waving him off.  That was fun, I said to June.  That was fun,
she said.  I’m sleepy though.  I am too, I said.  Get something good
on tv that we can fall asleep to.  And so we did.###

Wed., December 3, 2014        Tacoma

Good morning, the sweet young thing with the genuine smile at the
motel desk said.  I managed a smile back at her and looked for the
morning paper.  There was none.  For the fourth day in a row there
was no paper. Well, what passes anymore for a paper: USA TODAY.  
No paper, and worse, nobody missed it.  Nobody except me.  

I am going to start a newspaper.  It is going to be sold for a nickel
on every streetcorner in the world every morning of the world and it
is going to have in it what a paper ought to have.  Well…  

I got my cup of steaming hot coffee from the pump in a corner of
the breakfast room and came back here to my room. I sat down here
and began writing.  I am my own newspaper.
So here’s the news of the day.  

June and I drove 500 miles, 250 miles each way, down to Eugene,
Oregon, to do a workshop.  We left here (Tacoma) at 10 am and got
back here at 1 am the following morning.  In those 15 hours we
drove 10.  This should not happen to two aging backs.  June isn’t
up yet but I am and I’m creeping around like Quasimodo.  I sit down
and it hurts just to sit.

But we did a workshop, and it went well.  It wasn’t big enough.  It’s
hard to believe that in a city the size of Eugene, 160,000 people,
only about 10 or 16 showed up to advance the world wide cause of
writing memoir--not even ten percent!  16,000 people would have
been about right.  I had a microphone.  We could have made room.

Everyone wrote, though, and everyone read, and everyone was
happy.  I was happy.  June was happy.  However microscopically,
world history had been increased.  Who knows--in 10,000 years, in
12014 (wrap your head around that: it’s the Year 12014!)--someone
would look back and see that that evening in Eugene, Oregon, the
world had been saved.  By those very people who remembered their
youth and its music, the farm they did chores on, the boy or
girlfriend they stepped out with for the evening, the old granny they
helped with peeling potatoes for supper.  
-
So it is a new day here in Pugetropolis, the city that never sleeps.  
The noise of vehicular traffic never stops.  At home the deer and the
antelope are playing.  Here, the cars and trucks go to and fro.  
Wherever you roam, there are people--people driving most of all,
but people walking along, standing on the corner and staring into
space.  People, people…none of them writing their memoirs.  I can
see them, they’re just standing there, or they’re waiting for the light
to change, vacant eyed, dreaming, thinking--but not writing their
memoirs.  In fact it’s fair to say that in this megalopolis of six
million people, fewer than 10,000 are writing their memoirs right
now.  Maybe 100,000 are thinking about it.  The rest are--carrying
on.  Just living.

Maybe that is not so bad.  If you are making love to someone you
love then you are excused, for now, from writing your memoirs.  If
you are feeding a child, you are excused, for now.  If you are a child
playing, you are excused…for now.  If you are helping someone
who is in pain or trouble, you are excused for now.

But as for the rest of you, what is your excuse?  Hearing none, I
look forward to reading your memoirs…soon.###


Tu., Dec. 2, 2014
Every morning when I get up and start this journal I first write the
date, and even after nearly fourteen years of writing the year as 2000
and something, I still start writing 1900 something.  So I am a
creature of habit, as we used to say back in the 20th Century, and
so I still am in some serious sense in the 20th Century.  Do you
remember how awkward it sounded back in December of 1999, just
fifteen years ago, when we all said, Oh, how will we ever learn to
say it’s 2000.  “It sounds so sci-fi!” we said, having been brought up
on comics that tossed around The Year 2000 as if it were a lightyear
or two in the future.

And so here we are.  You, I, all of us.  
-
And here I am in Tacoma, Washington, where I have both family and
friends but little else.  I am a Midwestern boy, born in North Dakota,
raised in Indiana, Wisconsin and Kansas, and lived since 1971 in
rural Manhattan, Kansas 66502.  I guess I lived for awhile in
Oklahoma and Texas but I don’t count those places--in Texas I was
too little to even know where I was and in Oklahoma I was only
there stationed at a Naval Air base.  I am what I am, said Popeye the
Sailorman, one of the greatest American philosophers of the 20th
Century.  

I do not know that I could adapt to life in a megalopolis.  My son
Rip, who lives here and has for a dozen years, calls it Pugetropolis.  
There must be five or six million people here.  The entire state of
Kansas has barely half that many--in an area many many times
larger than this isthmus of only a few square miles.  Somewhere
back in the 20th Century some scientist did experiments and
observed that the more rats that were put in a cage together, the
more savagely they behaved toward one another.  At a certain point,
they began to eat one another.  I have not observed that here in the
SeaTac.  People are remarkably civil.  They are not big with smiles
and friendly greetings like they are back in Kansas--they do not
Howdy one another.  But they are polite and considerate.  Out and
out incivility and crime do occur, of course, but perhaps in no
greater proportion than they do in Kansas, where now and then
someone does eat another person or murders them, or something
else that is not nice at all.  

Lizzie Borden, who took an ax and gave her mother forty whacks
(and when she saw what she had done gave her father forty-one),
wasn’t a native of Kansas or Washington--I think she was from
Massachusetts, actually--and there is no evidence to suggest that
her heinous crimes resulted from overcrowding in the Borden
household.  I did not know the young lady personally but I'll just
bet she was--may I say it?--more than a little wacky.   ###


My first Christmas in the Navy, December 25, 1955.

I suppose there were 25,000 sailors, at least, stationed at the Naval
Training Center in Bainbridge, Maryland, on December 25, 1955.  
But when I got up that morning, a little late perhaps, yet so
acclimated after only six months in the Navy was I to be ousted
from my rack at 0500 that I couldn't really sleep in. It appeared that
there was only 1 person stationed there that morning: me.  The
other 24,999 were home on leave, laughing and happy and eating
turkey and opening presents with their families.

I dressed in my uniform (I wasn’t allowed to wear civvies ashore yet)
and went to the chow hall.  The cooks laid it on--turkey, ham,
dressing, all that stuff.  And it was terrible.  The Navy’s idea of great
cooking was quantity, not quality.  Never was a group of human
beings able to take so much basically good food and cook it so
badly as the Navy cooks did in that era.  A premium ham was boiled
and cut into slabs an inch or more thick.  Taste was not the issue:
size was everything.  The tables were decorated with little baubles
that were to resemble Christmas ornaments, and they were so
unlike the ones in civilian life that they were depressing.

But somehow I ate my fill.  I walked back to the desolate barracks. I
had nowhere to go nor any money to go there.  In my last liberty I
had blown the last of my meager salary.  Nor was it that I had turned
down beaucoup invitations to go over with shipmates.  No one had
asked.  Maybe everybody assumed I would go home for the two
weeks’ Christmas leave that the rest of them had taken.  The
distance to Kansas from Bainbridge, Maryland, was close to 1,500
miles.  So here I was, a stranger in a strange land.

I decided to hitch-hike into DC, thirty miles away.  Traffic was light
but luckily I got a ride quickly.  

The driver turned out to be a gentleman in a big Buick who was very
friendly--
very friendly--and when I, not yet 18, figured out what the
score was it was time to get out in downtown DC and say thanks for
the ride, and thanks but no thanks for the further invitation.  I went
my way down the lonely city streets.  I looked in shop windows.  I
pressed my face against the glass of the very few restaurants and
nightspots that were open.  It wasn’t especially cold.  I had my
peacoat.  I turned up the high collar and trudged on.  I found a
Salvation Army outlet and even it was deserted except for a waitress
and a couple of tired bums.  Food was free, this was before the
glory days of free meals cooked by the great chefs of the city.  I was
given a tuna fish sandwich (white bread was all they had then) and
a glass of warm tap water.

The Christmas spirit, that year, for me, did not obtain.###  


,where it’s important to know.  Mom was raised in Elizabethtown (I think), Kentucky;
Louisville, Kentucky, and mostly, in Indianapolis, Indiana.  

I know very little of her childhood, her girlhood, and I should know.  I should have written
down every single word she told me, but I didn’t.  She was willing and even eager to talk
of her girlhood.  They were poor.  She mentioned once going to the saloon with a bucket
and a nickel (?) to buy a bucket—or a pail—of beer, which she would take home to her
father.  I knew him, much later of course, but I don’t know if he was ever much of a
drinker.  I should have written down every single word he uttered too, but I didn’t.  I was
12 when he died at the age of 80.  His name was Lewis Clinton Isaacs.  He is buried
beside his wife, Elizabeth Lee Knight, in an unmarked grave (except the sexton’s mark) in
a cemetery in Cloverdale, Indiana.  

I could probably write some scenes from their life.  I could certainly write (and have)
many, many scenes from my mother’s life.  
-
I should write to the Salt Lake City people (Mormons all) about the advantages of narrative
journaling.  
-
After we got signed in we were hungry.  Nothing was open.  I asked at the desk.  The boy
said the Safeway ought to be open, and he gave me an address for it.  On the way there
the only thing that was lit up was the mortuary—and it was well lighted and ready to go.  
Finally we found Safeway, and a Walmart too.  “Look at Walmart, it’s packed!” June said.  
And it was.  The parking lot was jammed.  “Oh, of course,” I said.  “It’s Black Friday, or
almost.”  

We were in a good mood, happy to know that tomorrow we’ll get to Tacoma, and just plain
happy to be together, I guess.  Something I learned from my mother is the phrase, “a
good egg.”  Not about eggs at all, it referred to human beings.  People were divided into
two groups, according to my mother: good eggs and bad eggs.  Anyway, June is a good
egg.  I have known her since May 1, 1973.  And we got married, in effect, that day—the
day we met.  

We went to Safeway, got some soup in a plastic container, a couple of ready-made
sandwiches, and came back here and ate.  We were tired.  Soon we went to bed.  I didn’t
sleep well, but what else is new?  I had my last good night’s sleep in 1946. ###

Thu., November 27, 2014                          Jerome, Idaho    Thanksgiving Day        

If I am thankful for anything, and of course I am—who could not be?—one of the things I
am most thankful for is getting out of the Navy on a beautiful crisp clear morning, January
16, 1959, in the fair city of Brooklyn, New York.  My last few months in the Navy I began to
be overwhelmed with a fear that I wouldn’t get out of the Navy alive—that I was destined
to die in the Navy.  This was a real fear, no joke, and the physical reality of having
diarrhea the last two months attests to that.  In fact I thought the fact that I had the
constant trots would be what the medical examiner would use to keep me in the Navy.  It
was a kind of catch-22: You are terrified you won’t get out of the Navy so you have the
trots; and you have the trots so you have to stay in for treatment.  

If that seems screwy, consider this one:  though I am most grateful for having gotten out
of the Navy, I am also extremely grateful they let me in.  Yes, I am.  I am grateful that on
July 20, 1955, in Kansas City, Missouri, I took the oath to serve and I was accepted—and
kept in for the next three years, five months, and twenty-seven days until that magical
moment in Brooklyn.  

What did the Navy do for me?  Well, I tell people that above all they taught me to type
using the touch system.  And they did do that.  They put me along with about 30 others
into a windowless room and told us with all the subtlety the Navy could muster, to learn
to type 35 words a minute…NOW!  It took us three weeks but we did.  Today I can type
80+ wpm, and that’s important because that’s almost faster than I can think, and to think in
writing is a terrible thing.  (Think before or think after, but not during.)  

The Navy was also a place for society to put me, a disgruntled and unhappy human being
in the making, to some vaguely socially useful purpose until I grew up a little more.  I
grew up a little more—not completely by any means, I’m still working on that—and I had
some experience beyond Manhattan, Kansas 66502 under my belt.  I had gone all over the
world.  Much of it I had seen through a port-hole (“Hey, guys, there’s Singapore!”) but no
question I had seen much of it first-hand and close up.   And I think I had learned just a
smidgen of gratitude about being a citizen of my country.  
-
We are this morning in Jerome, Idaho, a town along the Interstate to Boise, to which
village we shall soon repair after a Best Western Breakfast.  It looks to be a beautiful
Thanksgiving Day.  We’ll talk to all the kids and grandkids on the phone while we drive,
drive, drive.  Happy Thanksgiving! ###

Wed., November 26, 2014     Rawlings, Wyoming

Everywhere I go people are gloomy about the world situation.  All faith in Obama gone,
there’s the mess in Ferguson, the mess in the Middle East, the mess in…everywhere, I
guess.  Everything is bad and nothing is good!  the whole world chants.  Everything is
bad, nothing is good!  Everything is bad…!

I am reminded of old George Carlin’s routine about how
People tell me positive thinking
really works…but I don’t think it’d work for me.

For it takes some at least neutral thinking to do what I propose: that you sit down with 6 to
12 of the people you most disagree with about politics and talk politics with them: or rather,
ask each one to say his say in 3 to 5 minutes, and then—without comment except for a
simple Thank you for sharing—move on to the next person.  And do this until you’re all the
way around the table.  Then stand up and, holding hands, sing the national anthem.  (If you’
re in the US, sing the US national anthem, if you’re in China, sing the Chinese national
anthem, etc., etc.)  

Well, you might say, physically that’s impossible, even if I were willing to do it, and I’m not
at all sure I am.

Okay.  I’m just asking you to try it.  You don’t have to believe in it, you just have to be
willing to try. Do it virtually, in live chat or even not live, do it via email.  Even if you’re
“altogether and apart”  in Snoqualmie, Washington or Kokomo, Indiana, write out what you
have to say and share it with one another…without any comment but thank you.  And then
agree to meet again tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Amazing things will happen…slowly, and steadily, if you are zealous about this.  No
arguments, no comments…just Thank you for sharing.  

One other thing.  After you’ve shared your politics, then start sharing your life experience in
as much detail as you can, 3 to 5 minutes at a time. Tell about your life, little slices of it,
what happened that day at the factory, what your spouse said when you got home, your
children, friends.  Just tell about your life.  Let these other folks know you inside and out to
whatever degree you possibly can.  

Don’t think it’ll work for you?  And even if you think (as I do) that you’ll all come to love and
respect one another, what then?  What can 6 to 12 people who love and respect one
another do about the “world situation”?  

Well, a lot.  Tell your friends and neighbors about what you’ve done.  Pass the word.  Form
a Citizen Group, and learn what non-partisanship really is.  Soon—within a few years
perhaps—there will be thousands of these groups all over, and thus will we change the
world.  We will come to see that it is our experience, and not our worth as humans, that
make us what we are.  

Sound silly?  Well, we’re desperate, aren’t we?  And desperate people will try anything.  
Won’t we? ###


Tu., November 25, 2014                           Denver

Breathing is easier this morning but not by a lot.  I’m not going to panic and use my
oximeter every two minutes…or maybe I should say I’m not going to use my oximeter and
throw myself into a panic.  Panics don’t help me breathe easier.  In the old days I just lit
another cigarette and didn’t worry about it.  
-
I’m sure Denver is a lovely city but I’d much rather live in Kumquat, Texas.  Or even
Manhattan, Kansas.  All I require is high speed internet and a warm place to write.  And a
cup of coffee.  And two eggs over easy with June’s homemade bread toasted with real
butter.  And…well.
-
In the excitement and froth of leaving home we forgot to observe with a moment of silence
the Great Day when I first came to Letter Rock: November 18, 1971.  I was 33 years old—
June and I had not yet teamed up.  That was 43 years ago!  Let’er rock, let’er roll!
-

It really isn’t very cold here.  I think the temp last night got down to the upper 20s.  We have
left our two computer monitors in the car.  I went out about 9 and started the motor and sat
there for fifteen minutes listening to a Mariachi radio station while the car warmed up into
the 50s.  Then I thought, that’s enough, turned off the radio, turned off the motor, locked up
the car, and came in.  June was already asleep.  
-
I remember now going out to the car in the spring of 1951, running through the pouring
rain, then sitting and listening like a big boy (age 13) to the news on the radio for word of
my brother’s whereabouts.  We did this several times a day.  Finally one day the only radio
station in town, KMAN, mentioned his name along with the hundreds of others.  He is safe.  
He was living in the fieldhouse up at K-State and helped the refugees there.  Later,
somehow, I stayed there one or two nights too, after the water had gone down enough so
that we could get to town.  I helped out a little.  I remember lying awake sleeping on a cot,
listening to all those hundreds of people, maybe a thousand,  snoring in unison.  

That was the Great Flood of 1951, and for many, many years after, people would tell time by
“Before the Flood” and “After the Flood.”  
-
I am staring at the blinking cursor a lot this morning.  I am zoning out. It’s not that I have
nothing to say, it’s just that I can’t think of it this morning.  For two cents I’d go back to
bed.   I don’t look forward to a day of driving across the Rockies.  For my money, they could
take all the mountains in the world, flatten them out and grow crops on them.  
-
When I was 16 I got a job with Mid-Central Theaters.  I was first a concession boy, then an
usher, and then a ticket-taker.  Thank you, I’d say, taking a ticket, tearing it in half and
giving half back to them and putting the other half in the stand I leaned against that had a
slot in the top of it.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Oh, thanks so much.  
Good evening.  Thank you.  I was a professional charmer…or so I thought. ###

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, all 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 day 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 do.  

Snow is forecast in the Rockies west of Denver.  “About two feet,” June proclaimed, having
watched 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 the 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 Camps.  

For a time in my long life years ago I had the honor to have a Japanese girlfriend.  It wasn’t
twenty 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
much), 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 every room, and nothing was done.

Next morning, we did manage to remember to turn off the hot water, to turn the furnace
down to 45, 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 at 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
hands, 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 for.  

June and I tried sleeping in the same bed for a few hours but after some time I got up and
took the 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…

Personnel was a word I learned in the Navy, as in “All personnel will…”  I was a personnel
too, as in 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
Commander, 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
the 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, where 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 or 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 tried, 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
was 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 more 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 hotel:  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, the 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) 27 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 that 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
glitzy 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 other 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 the
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 moi.
-
People often have regrets about how they have spent or misspent (as they would have it)
their past.  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
apologize 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—Laura, 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 how 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
experience 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 the ridiculously inadequate “space” heater, which going full blast, wouldn’t keep a
mouse warm, let alone some enormous oaf such as moi.  
-
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.  The 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
Cheyenne, 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
the 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 living 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, Ken, 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.  With 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 away.)  

Yes, I have no doubt that Bob and Ken and I could go down to Topeka and raise our right
hands and 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 the world.  

I have to say today that digging that hole with Ken and Bob is one of the most beautiful
things I ever 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
advancing 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 scared 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 ducks.  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 Arabia—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 his 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 an 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
seethed 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  in 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
dancing 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 us 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
have 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 one 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 took 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 in 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 for 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 then,
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
months, 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
without 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 the 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 are 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 part 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 of 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 neither 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 was 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 and 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 up 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 me 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 told 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 out $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 was 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--apparently 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 fix 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 and 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 friend 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 Truman 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 speaker.  

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 school, 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
conspiracy.  

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, where 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, and 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 and 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 stove 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 there 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 Doctor 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 them 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!  Everything 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 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 and 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 stove 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 there 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 Doctor 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 them 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!  Everything 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 into 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 the 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 be 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.  We 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 by 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 human 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 of 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 the 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 betting 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 it.  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 morning…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.  Maybe 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, there 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 any 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 having 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 in 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.  

Okay.  

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 that 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 and 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 harmonica 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 the 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 production, 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, probably 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 was 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 their 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 saying 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 difference.  Old Edna, what a babeLived just 58 years—1892 to 1950.  Only 58 years, but what a life it was.  ###