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Just fishing

Jackson’s success at fishing.

June 26, 2019

Gunther seems like a gentleman these days because of Velma, our granddaughter’s big, boisterous black poodle puppy.  By comparison, I mean. 

I fear Gunther is gaining too much weight.  He’s over 20 pounds!  Sedentary life most days.  Oh, we go on the two- and three-mile walks, often up steep hills, but those take just an hour, or so.  He loves going on these adventures.  I used to worry about cliffs and snakes.  Now, he’s shown me that he can be cautious.  In fact I encourage him to explore.

Actually, yesterday he plunged into a channel of the Yellowstone River because he slipped on the long grass on the bank.  I howled with laughter when I heard him swimming.  Poor Gunther!  He didn’t seem to mind my laughter, just shook himself, spraying droplets.  He didn’t look all that wet.

Today my plan — I should say our plan — is fishing at Lake Josephine with Jackson.  For some reason P. and I are watching the lad this week, so we’ve come up with some activities.  Our grandchildren have caught fish there and Gunther is permitted to roam.  Situation perfect.  I’ll take pictures.  I’ll buy a fishing license, but I’m not planning on fishing personally.  We’ll buy some worms.  I don’t like removing any worms from our garden.  Those worms work for us, making dirt for vegetables.  Jackson has a small spinning rod in the garage.  I checked it out.  Works perfectly.  I got the line off the reel, through the guides, and tied it with a slipknot to a handy loop near the handle.  I grabbed my tackle box.  

Jackson ran upstairs for his fishing vest.

The plan worked satisfactorily.  Jackson brought home a bluegill, on the bathroom counter in a plastic container.  I gave the last of the fishing worms to a bass fisherman on the bridge at Lake Josephine.  Gunther is asleep on the couch.  Jackson is upstairs playing, talking to himself, singing.

First day of summer, 2019

A few weeks ago I helped my friend Dulais Rhys and his son Osian make a Welsh opera.

June 21, 2019 first day of summer

Things are green, overcast, periodic rain.  Took Gunther out to poop on Mrs. Johnson’s lawn.  I caught most in a bag before it hit the ground.

I am a self-appointed neighborhood cleaner. Today I found a ziplock bag on the street with a printed warning that it contained marijuana, keep away from children.  It was open.  Contained a broken pill vial with some kind of statement about product purity.  I sniffed within.  Sure enough, old familiar smell.  Weed.  Carried the bag to the trash.  Remembered the last couple of times I partook of the weed.  Got sick and vomited a few years ago.  More recently I took a dose of oral pot and got too stoned.  

Can’t remember ever seeing a factory-made bag of weed, except that one time my cousin Blaine and I went in a dispensary in Hillsboro, Oregon.  The stuff in there didn’t look like any marijuana I had seen before.  You know, wasn’t all crinkly and green and rolled into a sandwich baggie. Like in the 60s.

I still wish to write, to create.  However, I also like to nap.  Rather, eat, then nap.  Can’t do both together.

Gunther hops on the couch, looking mildly depressed.  I whisper “Gunther!”  He raises his eyebrows.  He looks down, then up.

I’m growing a beard for the Welsh opera, Blodwen

April 24, 2019

Gunther and I like to explore our alley.  Well, I like to explore our alley.  I must guess Gunther’s likes, according to where he sniffs.  He generally prances a little way, then puts his face close to the ground and trots farther.  At first, I thought there was something wrong with him, but now I see his methods are his own.  I guess he’s looking for other dogs, or food.  I have a more charitable attitude toward him.

One of my neighbors put out a toilet by an alley dumpster.  I noticed it had a vinyl toilet seat cover.  I never did like those.  Can’t say why.  I wonder if someone, maybe in a pickup, will scavenge the toilet?  I shudder.  Perhaps it was too heavy for my neighbor to drop into the dumpster? Will a muscular city employee from the “solid waste division” hoist the toilet into a truck? 

When I walk Gunther each morning I like to pick up the most egregious trash—the stuff that pokes me in the eye—and drop it into dumpsters.  You know, bright paper scraps, plastic grocery bags, like that.  I think people are going to feel better when they visit the alley, only they won’t know why.  It’s because the bright paper scrap and grocery bag aren’t there.  Does that make sense? I’ll feel better, anyway. Also earth day was this week.

Gunther and I proceed.  I usually pick up every bit of garbage in the alley behind our house.  Today there wasn’t anything that didn’t belong.  I would have admired my fence, but I was busy scanning the alley ahead.  A neighbor on the other side down the way had cleared some of his hedge and had left the mass of branches in the alley.  Only now most of the brush was gone, just a lot of scattered individual branches.  I grabbed up a beer box and some newspapers.  Also a soda bottle.  Into a dumpster it went.

Before walking Gunther today I read an article Ed Kemmick posted about traveling by car 4,900 miles around the southern US.  His writing feels good to read.  He visited Denver, Memphis, another town where Muddy Waters came from, New Orleans, Austin.  Ed is passionate about American musical roots.  He used to post links to his blog on Facebook, but I don’t know if he still does.  I got my post via email. Interested readers can google “Travels with Xavi.”

April Rain, Cold

April 10, 2019

Drizzled two days. 

Went home from First Christian Church just past midnight, saw a group of homeless lying huddled on the sidewalk beneath an overhang and another at the main entrance, lying beneath a colorful fleece blanket.  Yet another had some black plastic.  Across the street at the library were more people curled up next to a wall to escape the rain.

I started my diagonally parked car; the headlight glared on the homeless person with black plastic.  I should have turned off the lights before I started the car, I thought.  I shivered with the dampness. The bleakness.  Half block farther a large man with rain-glistening coat and a smaller woman in white crossed at the light.  The woman looked odd because she seemed to lean backward as though her legs were walking without her cooperation. Some will not sleep tonight.

I had left Pastor Mulberry alone to watch the nine men and women who slept in the church choir room.  Apparently the coordinator is having trouble recruiting enough volunteers for two chaperones at each three-hour shift.  The project is called, “My Backyard,” for carefully screened homeless to sleep in a church from 9 pm to 6 am during cold weather.

I slept in today until 8:30 when Sasha from the Community Crisis Center asked me if I’d volunteer again tonight.  Sure, I said. Nine to midnight.

I got up. Our famous dog, Gunther, waited at the back door for me to walk him to the end of our rainy block so he could relieve himself.  We hurried home for morning routine:  coffee, read the news, check the blog, emails, Facebook, work on the NY Times puzzles.  Cereal.  This morning I made a fire in the stove.  P. is working on a quilt she says is ugly.  I urged her to finish the damned thing.  Made her laugh.

Today P. volunteers at Broadwater grade school to help with language arts.  Weather permitting, I’ll work on our back fence, to plant a post, nail horizontals, erect cedar boards.  A young man marked the location of the natural gas line yesterday with a can of yellow spray paint and a metal detector. I remembered to phone a couple days ago when I was digging a post hole and I said to myself, I wonder what’s down there?

African bowl

Bill’s wife, Doris Moomy, bought this bowl for my wife in Kearney, Nebraska.

I thought of Bud today when I was looking at our bowl made from an African creature’s horn. Bud’s army buddy Bill Moomey’s wife Doris and my sister Carol bought the bowl for us in 2006 when we first visited them in Kearney, Nebraska. Carol and Doris went shopping while Bill and I stayed back and looked at black and white WW II photos.

Bill said he believed the SS Leopoldville sinking with the 763 soldiers lost from the 66th Division saved him and the other survivors from having to fight in the deadly Battle of the Bulge. Instead the 66th Division went to St. Nazarre and Lorient, France, to contain the Nazis who lived in extremely well-fortified submarine facilities. When Bill told me this he broke down. I was soon crying too.

Gunther looks back. . .

March 12, 2019

This morning started out good.  My neck was hurting from recent spinal fusion surgery so I had to get up before seven to make coffee.  I make it strong and I make a lot of it.  I got Gunther up and P. took him out to pee.  She also brought in the paper while I poured a cup of really strong java.  P. watered hers.  Then we read the news locally and on-line.  We started the popular “Spelling Bee” puzzle challenge in the New York Times.  I recommend it.  You have to make as many words as possible with the seven letters given.  You also have to use one of those seven in every word.  Yesterday we found all 28 words of the puzzle’s admissible word list and were designated “Queen Bee.”  Made me feel good.  The last word found was “coho,” the salmon.  

Didn’t do so well this morning with “Spelling Bee,” but it’s still early.

By eight I was taking Gunther on his morning walk.  Icy weather, so I put my metal cleats on my snow boots.  They really didn’t help me keep from slipping on the hard ice on the sidewalk.  Instead, they acted more like skates.  I soldiered on.

Gunther likes to run ahead of me.  I can get away with not leashing him first thing in the morning because he’s not so easily distracted by the neighbor’s bird feed on the ground and other garbage, like french fries.

I took a picture of him.  He runs ahead of me, but frequently turns to look me in the face, just to be sure I’m still there (I guess).  I snapped a photo of him doing his “business.”  I’m not publishing that violation of his privacy.

Gunther checks to be sure I’m there. (I think.)

Street person with RBF

This is me. I have RBF. (Resting Bitch Face.) I’m actually friendly, most of the time.

February 6, 2019

Today when I got home from my three-hour shift hosting Billings street men and women, sleeping on yoga mats on the wooden floor of First Congregational Church, I put on my PJs and went back to bed.  Mixed up dreams.  Couldn’t quite fall far enough into sleep, but I got up at a little after ten to do my household chores.  

This morning at church a middle-age Native man was the first up, about 5:30.  He had a scowl.  Remembering my own “resting bitch face,” I asked him where he would go next.  He politely told me the Crisis Center would be open, so he could get warm again there.  So much for the “scowl.”  His face didn’t reflect what a polite person he was.  P. tells me my own “RBF” has improved since the time she photographed me at the Mexican restaurant sipping a margarita.  
Nine persons, and these all reminded me of friends I had when I was a fake hippie in the 60s, slept at the church last night.  Two of them brought no belongings.  A tenth person had exited the church in the night, not to return to the mat on the hardwood floor.
When I showed up at three a.m. me and a guy named Juan relieved two women who looked my age—perhaps 70 years old—and who also reminded me of my hippie friends from the 60s.
The night was uneventful.  I read about a third of a book about Edward Curtis, Indian photographer from the early 1900s.  I have mixed feelings about him.  I mean way mixed.  I think my friend Adrian Jawort was critical.  Others said Curtis was an artist who preserved Indigenous history.  Probably the truth is both views are valid, but I’ll put my money on the views expressed by Natives who know that Curtis doctored the photographs.  
Anyway, my shift seemed to pass relatively quickly.  Juan spent time looking at his phone, then he got a Bible off a shelf.
Juan and I chatted a bit at the beginning and ending of our shift together.  He looks friendly, charismatic.  I told him so, and I think he told me I’m full of shit, although my hearing is messed up from rock and roll concerts and the marine corps.  He smiled a lot and seemed eager to help homeless street people.
He originally came from Mexico City, then moved to the Yucatan, then to Oakland, California.  He married a woman who directed non-profits.  They moved to Santa Cruz, then to Billings.  He said his wife, originally from Billings, directs the CASA program here.  I think you’d like Juan.
You also might like some of the street people who stumbled out of the sleeping area into our part of the church before six to collect their belongings, get a pitiful little pastry in a plastic wrapper, drink some water, use the bathroom.  They each folded their blanket and rolled up their yoga mat.
Lisa Harmon, associate minister at the congregational church, showed up to help us close down the sleeping area and the area for the volunteer hosts.  She sprayed Virex from a plastic squirt bottle on the mats and said she takes all the blankets home to wash them for the next night.
Last night the temp was -7F; tonight it’s forecast to be -14, so I offered to show up again.
I had to get training, which I got Monday at the First Baptist Church from MarCee Neery, the director of the Billings Community Crisis Center.  Then I was on the email list from Lisa Harmon, who sent us the schedule for the night, showing who had already signed up for each shift.  I responded with my availability, then she sent out the final schedule.  
The street people we get for the “My Backyard” project have been vetted by MarCee and her staff at the Community Crisis Center.  Staff bring 5-10 people to the church in a van, people who, for one reason or another, were unable to stay at the Montana Rescue Mission, but are still considered reasonable people.  On the other hand, unreasonable people (mentally unstable, high on substances, whatever) remain at the Crisis Center, either for observation, or just to spend the night.  She didn’t say, but I suspect, the most unreasonable folks have to leave the Crisis Center, perhaps to go the psych unit at the Billings Clinic Hospital.
Each person who stays with us in the “My Backyard” project has to agree in writing to a list of expectations.  No profanity, no bothering each other, no sneaking out and sneaking back in.  
The idea is that sleeping on the floor of a church is better than a dangerous night of sub-freezing weather.
MarCee told us in training how to handle emergencies, how to help people who get despondent, in other words, how to act toward our fellow humans.  I appreciated her tips.  She was familiar with each individual street person and seemed to appreciate their personalities.