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Another political meet and greet in Billings

Wilmot Collins is running for US Senate against Steve Daines.

July 18, 2019

Wilmot Collins, mayor of Helena, Montana, is running for US Senate against Steve Daines, incumbent Republican.  That’s pretty much all I knew about him before P. and I drove to a local meet and greet at the “Agada Integrated Wellness”  in Billings at noon today.

Just getting to the meeting proved challenging.  Second Avenue North was blocked off for construction, so I had to take Montana Avenue.  

Only a long slow train was headed east, blocking the way to the southside, so the street intersecting Montana Ave. had a perpetual red light.  We were back almost a block, almost back to 1st Ave N., so I boldly drove up the left side of the street (against the lane of traffic, which had no cars in it) and turned left against the red light onto Montana Ave.  P.  was aghast, called me any number of names and wouldn’t let up until I admitted to being a bad person.  Once at the address (2409 2nd Ave N) we couldn’t figure out how to find the meeting.  Adrian Jawort appeared on the sidewalk and helped us figure it out.  Or maybe we helped Adrian.  I was confused.

But I digress.  We walked into Agada past a massage table into a small gymnasium. About a dozen, or so, women sat in chairs on the perimeter.

According to an article in Slate, Mr. Collins, 55 years old, got nationally known a couple years ago because he was a Liberian refugee and the first Black to win a mayoral election in a major Montana city.  He might be the first Black to win a mayoral election in any Montana city.  His platform against a four-term incumbent was largely to protect essential municipal services.

Now he is running for Senate.  He seemed conversant with major issues of interest to Democrats:  Health care, veterans affairs, the environment.  He didn’t do a lot of speaking.  When he invited the women in the room to voice their concerns the first woman spoke at length of the MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) epidemic.  Mr. Collins listened carefully and patiently to the speaker who was passionately and personally invested in this important issue. He listened for perhaps 10 minutes without expressing impatience.

Another woman spoke of the huge expense to provide insulin to her child with type 1 diabetes.  Another spoke of the nearly hopeless debt load college graduates carry. Another spoke about the need to ban military assault rifles used in school shootings and elsewhere.

He expressed solidarity with labor unions. He did not chime in affirmatively when I suggested the need for gun control. Instead, he advocated better mental health services.

He wore light blue slacks, a navy blazer and white shirt with no tie.  I had on a “Kathleen Williams for Congress” teeshirt and shorts.  

When we shook hands, Mr. Collins admired my teeshirt.

A walk downtown in July

Tonight we attended a meeting in Billings at the “Tap Room” bar on First Avenue North with US House candidate Kathleen Williams, of Bozeman.  P. and I had previously knocked doors for her run for Congress in 2018. We walked downtown from our house.  We were a little early.

P. bought us a couple of beers and we found some stools in the pool hall where Kathleen was to speak.  Finally, Kathleen placed her beer on a shuffleboard table. She thanked everyone for coming. The noise subsided.

She told why she was running again.  She almost won last time. She expressed concern for many of the issues important to Democrats:  Health care insurance for all, fixing the partisan, divisive, climate in Congress, helping to stabilize wheat prices, helping curb climate change, and a few other issues.  She didn’t speak of the concentration camps along the border, although we left the meeting early, so she might have.  She didn’t speak of impeaching Trump.

When she asked us for our concerns, I was first. I raised my hand.  I asked her to get Congress to stop the “forever war,” now 18 years and running, originally declared against the perpetrators of the 9-11 attacks.  An old guy sitting next to me said I made a good point.  Kathleen said she would advocate that Congress take back its Constitutional responsibilities that also includes economic policies toward other countries.

A woman at the end of our line of stools asked Kathleen to support a woman’s control of her body.   Kathleen said making abortions illegal would not stop abortions, just make them illegal and more dangerous.  Kathleen’s husband added, “and available only to wealthier women.”  Kathleen said the rate of abortions is less than in previous times.  I don’t know if that means the total number is down, or if the rate per 1000 pregnancies is down.  A man in the audience started pontificating about health insurance, so P. and I decided to exit.

Walking home a man asked for help getting a job, so P. gave him $10.  A woman companion with him said she would have him stay with her on Lewis Avenue.  We continued home.

On the initial block of Burlington Avenue, a friend, Karen, bolted from a house across the street to greet us.  Turns out they own the house and it’s now an Air B&B.  Some happy chatter ensued.  Karen said she is a registered voter.

We finished walking home, past this guy a block east of where we live who always dives into his house whenever we approach.  He has consistently avoided engaging with us.  Example:  We walked toward where he was sitting near the street, facing his house.  As we approached, he stood and walked hurriedly up his walkway.  I guess I don’t mind, after all it’s a free country!  but I think it strange.  

Farther up the block, an unruly hedge has been cut to within a few inches of the ground.  

No Fish Hook!

Gunther: charismatic, intelligent, talented.

July 1, 2019

As Jackson would say, “Oh snap!”  

Do I list my worries in order of severity?  Most to least?  

One of our grandchildren is in the hospital, having been readmitted post knee surgery, with a fever and elevated white cell count.  They have ruled out several possible causes except contaminated surgical wound and perhaps a few others.  P. and I are contemplating driving across the country today to offer support and assistance.  Our car runs fine.  Our grandchild’s mother seems nearly exhausted.

Yesterday during a successful fishing trip to Greenough Lake near Red Lodge, Montana, Gunther gobbled up a ball of cheese that had a tiny treble fishhook.  I immediately pried open his mouth but found no cheese or hook.  Looked like a bit of blood on his tongue.  There was some fishing line, but it was attached to a different pole.  The line that once had the tiny hook, was crinkly as though the hook had been pulled off.  I consulted Dr. Root just now who advised me to feed Gunther a can of wet dog food, see if he passes the hook by tomorrow, then take him for x-ray if no hook comes forth.  

Fortunately, Gunther’s appetite and zest for life seem unchanged from before the hook incident.

My nephew Jon’s water heater in the crawl space beneath his house leaked, creating a lot of mud.  Today we may help haul the mud out, bucket by bucket.  Mud is good for the complexion, especially the knees and legs.  

When I phoned for Dr. Kate Kilzer, veterinarian supreme, to ask advice about Gunther’s fishhook ingestion, I learned she is moving to a midwestern city to pursue her dream job with the government!  Worse luck for me!  

July 6, 2019  Re: Oh Snap!

Grandchild is home from the hospital, on an appropriate antibiotic.  The child apparently does not have a contaminated surgical wound.  Whew!

An x-ray revealed Gunther did not swallow a fish hook.  Yahoo!

Jon’s new water heater is installed and making hot water in his crawl space!

But. . . Dr. Kilzer is moving!  Oh snap!  However, I wish her all of the best in her new job!

Camping adventure: bow, arrow, deer tick

Gunther had a “bulls-eye” rash on his belly.

June 28, 2019

P. and I watched Jackson this week.  We had adventures, but mostly we let our seven-year-old great nephew pretty much have his own way.  Only we didn’t let him play with his compound bow with target arrows.  At least not in the house.  Not in the yard! In fact we asked Becky to hide the arrows somewhere in a place remote from the bow.  Jack got the bow from his Uncle Patrick a month or two ago.  Anyway, we handed Jackson off to his paternal grandma, Susan, at noon today.  Of course, Gunther has been sound asleep this afternoon.  

Here’s a weird thing.  P., G., and I drove to Crane Lake, Minnesota, last month over Memorial day weekend to camp with our son Todd and his two pre-teen sons.  I had returned to Billings from several days in D.C. to lobby congress to end the “forever wars.”  Our group, “Votevets,” joined with a conservative military veteran’s organization “Concerned Veterans for America.”  Early the following morning after I returned we jumped into the car that runs, and drove all that day.

We stopped in the usual places, including the Theodore Roosevelt National Park badlands.  Also Fargo.  I can’t remember all the places.  We let Gunther poop and eat and drink and pee.  We also did all of those things for ourselves.  And gassed the car. Rained off and on.

With the miracle of the cell phone we listened to the radio, to podcasts, and we used Strava, a GPS-type app, to navigate the many roads of Northern Minnesota.

The weather was unsettled, clouds, rain. Some distant lightning.  We drove on. Got later and later.  We were on track to find Crane Lake in the rain when we got to a huge sign announcing road closure.  Turned around, drove 40 miles back to a cool little town.  Later and later.  After midnight by then.

Todd told us to drive on a quiet road.  With chorus of frogs.  You’ll come to a town, he said.  A real town, we can’t miss it.  Look for a blue house with white trim across from a moose.

About 3 a.m. Strava had me turning onto a dirt road in the woods.  P. objected, so I got out and scouted the road with a flashlight.  Wrong road.

Back on the dirt road.  We came to an intersection and, with no guidance, took a chance on a right-hand turn.  Came to a few buildings.  Todd’s words about “real town” haunted my memory.  We kept going. Started raining.

At 3:30 a.m. we came to a real town with a big metal moose.  It was Crane Lake.  We pulled up to the blue house Todd described and crept onto the enclosed porch with a couple of beds.  Smelled like old bedding.  Todd came out and greeted us.  We slept until maybe 8.  In the morning I noticed Roland and P. were cuddled together.  We hurried off to get some coffee and find the guide who would take us in her boat to our camping place, somewhere in Ontario, Canada.

Our guide was this young woman who worked several summer jobs, including guiding rock climbers like Todd and Cyrus and Roland.  After stopping at a dock where a pair of Canadian border agents checked our passports and asked us questions, our guide took us a few miles more to a rocky point on an island where she had stowed a canoe.  This was a prime camping spot because we would be about 5 feet above the water, open on three sides for a breeze to keep away the mosquitoes and gnats.  After showing us how to hike to a good rock climbing place, she roared away in her boat, promising to return in four days.

Mostly the weather was overcast, the bugs stayed away.  Some kind of critter — a beaver?  Otter? — Kerplunked into the water at odd hours, mostly at night whenever I crept out to use the homemade bathroom.  We finally did see it swimming, but we couldn’t tell what kind of dude it was. We heard loons.

At one point Gunther had a red circular rash on his lower belly, then a couple of dime-size red rashes.  I didn’t have my phone to take a photo.  The rash had faded out by the time we got to Duluth, where Todd and his family live.

After our camping expedition, a couple days in Duluth, and our return to Billings, I called Dr. Kate Kilzer, Gunther’s veterinarian.  She prescribed medicine for possible exposure to Lyme disease.  I must add that P. and one of the boys found ticks, probably wood ticks.  Wood ticks don’t transmit Lyme disease, deer ticks do.  They are considerably smaller than wood ticks.

Of interest, the dosage of doxycycline Dr. Kilzer prescribed for Gunther, a 20-lb dog, was half the amount a human takes.  Fifty milligrams twice a day for about a week. I buttered the pill and basically poked it down his throat. That was one day. The other days I just poked it down his throat. Great having a smallish dog.

None of the others of us had anything like a circular rash, but we didn’t look for one either.  If we had had one we probably wouldn’t notice. The weather was chilly and we didn’t go swimming.

Last week I noticed I had aching joints in places I’ve never been bothered by that before, so I phoned Dr. Malters’ nurse, who advised me to be seen.  He took a blood to test for Lyme disease, but also prescribed a course of doxycycline, 100mg twice a day for a week, which I started yesterday.  

He noted that most people who get Lyme disease do not recall seeing a tick or getting bitten.  Todd, who works in a hospital emergency room, says he prescribes doxycycline for anyone with a rash or other symptoms of tick-borne illness who shows up during the summer.

Lyme disease can have dire consequences, including lifelong disability, if not treated early.  When I worked for a home infusion pharmacy we delivered intravenous antibiotics to a woman in Lewistown, Montana, who had to self-administer the antibiotics daily long-term, yet she still deteriorated to the point where she couldn’t legibly sign her name.

Fortunately, the deer tick is not apt to be found in Montana—yet.  However, with our changing climate, that may change. At this point, Dr. Malters said doesn’t camp in the Eastern United States because of deer ticks and Lyme disease risk.

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.”