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Conquest of Patagonian Island

Bertrand Sciboz at the helm of the Ceres

June 19, 2020

From my French friend, the explorer and adventurer Bertrand Sciboz:

Jean Raspail, a high-stolen traveler writer, has just left us. He was fascinated by the history of Patagonia and that of his ephemeral king of which he made the hero of all lost causes, fascinated by their elegance in adversity, admired by their dignity in the final fall.

For those who don’t know, the Patagons have saved St Marcouf.

In 2008, after the refusal to start the work served in six years by 3 consecutive prefects, we decided to throw in the sponge; at the time I did not know the Patagons: Jean Francois Tardiveau and Edmond Thin who have suggested the idea of saying our goodbyes to the island by a patagone ceremony, which would sign the end of the dream, regret not being able to succeed, David’s nose foot against the Administrative Goliath. The operation was reported in Edmond Thin’s book: it was about attacking the island and planting the flag of Patagonia. 

Two wings were needed to achieve this: the North Wing, part of St Vaast, led by Bertrand Sciboz on his powerful professional catamaran of wreck repêcheur, with on board JF Tardiveau, and E Thin and several attack commandos, pockets full of boutreilles de Chablis and the South Wing, on my little semi-rigid, gone from Grandcamp Maisy, charged with my niece Hortense and her two children, another nephew television manager and his equipment, and the dog Upso, still in for the big bullshit. 

The junction was perfect, the lightning attack and the flag flew to the sound of “the Marculfienne” anthem invented on this occasion and has since been ringing on the hunt for the big events. It is also with the same anthem and instrument that I used a few days later, Avenue de Wagram, at the foot of Jean Raspail’s building, putting all the people to the windows in a certain stir. 

I came to pay my respects to the Consul General of Patagonia, to tell him that we had taken possession of St Marcouf Island and pledge allegiance to the King of Patagonia since State french refused to take charge of it. 

We then appointed the main actors of the operation to the responsibilities related to their royal functions, but by saying that it was done under the “secret defense”, since we had acted in full illegitimacy (the flag will be shot down a few days more late by the Conservatoire de Littoral). Jean Raspail taught me that he had been informed of the success of the operation by the Chief of Staff at the Eysées, from the Channel and himself subject to patagon.

Edmond Thin had written a press release with a very nice aerial photo of the island, and the next day, in all the houses of the press of the Cotentin, were in the title and cover cover: ” Two Royal Patagon commandos attack St Marcouf “

And for this reason, the Committee on the sites, finding the exceptional architectural quality of the site and its fragility, asked the prefect to review his position.

Thanks to Jean Raspail, respect to the writer, honor to the traveler.

Used by permission.

Sometimes you don’t know how lucky you are. . .

We had a bulldog puppy named “Ning.” This photo was taken before our second child was born in 1972, when I had been assigned to supply in HMM 265 (later HMM 161), a helicopter squadron at Santa Ana, California. I am wearing the only civilian clothes I owned.

June 13, 2020

I’m reading one of my favorite authors, Alexander McCall Smith, a Scot.  He wrote The Talented Mr. Varg.  My ultra-cool cousin Blaine mailed me his copy.

Mr. Smith reminded me of my own lackluster seven years when I was in the US Marine Corps in the early 1970s.  

I keep saying I left the Marine Corps in better shape than I found it because I, early on, engaged with an officer who was a bully to me when I was a still a private.  I was a private for nearly two years, I think.  The pay was lousy.  I don’t know what became of the officer.  I assume he did well.  Such is life.

But long story short, the officer, Major Waddell, the CO of a training squadron,  asked me how I would improve the Marine Corps.  I think he was being condescending.  I was in earnest, though.  I had formed my opinion during the previous four months when I was in basic training.

No expert in military science, I told him what I had in mind.  (At court martial, he lied under oath, said I used the word “fucking.”)  Anyway, he didn’t like my answer.  He thrust out his jaw and put his face close to mine.  “Maybe you’d like to put me on my back!” he challenged.  Try to imagine that, please.  I thought about it, for what seemed an eternity, before I hit him on his jaw with my fist.  I’m certain most people would have done the same. Well! You have to!

I kept hoping the major’s peers would have seen the folly in challenging a recruit to a fistfight.  Certainly, nobody challenged me to another after that.  Am I good at fistfights?  No.  Never have been.  I should confine myself to nose tweaking.  I am kind of a sissy.  The major had done me a favor.

I ultimately was forgiven for lashing out at the chubby major, by the US Court of Military Appeals.  The judges said they’d have done the same thing.

If the Marine Corps is a better organization these days, I want to take some of the credit.  You are welcome!  I know a few Marines.  We are friends.  Semper Fi!  

I was either a hero or I should have been shot for insubordination.  I’ve heard arguments from veterans both ways.  I respect both points of view.  In many ways the military remains a mystery for me.  I should say it is a mixture of terror and sadness, and it will remain so.  I have friends.  

Does one learn in his or her heart the meaning of fear?  Does one push ahead through life despite danger?  The idea that someone is trying to kill you is central to being in the armed forces during wartime.  It is depressing.

But I got ahead of myself.  I did not go to Vietnam, I did not go anywhere but Japan and Southern California.  And Millington, Tennessee.

After my experience with the Marine Corps major in Tennessee, things got better for me.  More relaxed.  A certain amount of craziness was expected.

Oh, I got in trouble in 1970 for reporting to duty at El Toro Marine Air Station wearing an incomplete uniform.  I wasn’t wearing a tie.  Why?  I can’t remember.  I also can’t remember what the penalty was.  I do remember having gotten a ride to the base with one of my brother Tom’s friends, Bob McConnell.  Bob lived in Los Angeles, 60 miles north.  Bob liked to ride motorcycles.  He said he met Evel Knevel once, in a hospital in Missoula.  They were both stove in from motorcycle wrecks.  Like that.

At El Toro Air Station, I learned that I would be assigned to supply.  The next five years of my enlistment would be in supplying the Marines with everything from fighter jet tail hooks to tires to field jackets and bayonets.  Supply folks had their own way of talking.  Soon I spoke supply language.  I got shipped to Japan, then back to the states.  I got to choose my stateside station if I re-enlisted.  I picked El Toro.  My family (wife, two boys, two dogs) lived close by in Tustin, in 1973.  In 1974 our daughter Clara was born.  Nixon quit the presidency.

Because of a happy accident involving a misplaced hat, I was assigned to Third Marine Aircraft Wing Supply.  Three years later, I got a package through official channels:  A six-inch-thick stack of microfiche.  

It had every commercial part number crossed to a national stock number and name.  What a goldmine! The initial part number was AAAAA. The last was ZZYZZYZZXY.

Did you pick up on that?  I looked up the part number “s h i t.”  Sure enough, there was an NSN and part name.  A friend of mine, PFC Bailey, wanted to look up “BR-549.”  Certainly.  There it was.  A spray paint, brown.  We looked up the part number t u r d.  It was there!

Best damn thing I ever saw.  Reminded me of the school dictionaries we used to get in grade school, when we’d look up all the bad words we could think of:  “shit,” “fuck,” “cunt.”  Of course, none of those words were in the dictionary.  So we’d dial it back a bit, and look up: “fart,” “ass,” and “gutter.”  Ass and gutter would be in the book.

Being assigned to supply in the Marine Corps was a good thing for me.  I spent a few years at the helicopter station at Santa Ana, learning the ins and outs from one of the best supply officers in the business, Warrant Officer John Robertson.  People were kind to me.  My peers said they thought I’d been through enough trouble in Tennessee, so they sheltered me from stuff like guard duty.  These peers, by the way, had endured hostile fire at Phu Bai in Vietnam.  I’m thinking of Sergeant William Rotert.  He got out of the Marines and enlisted in the Air Force.  Good people.  He was from Indiana, married with a small son.  I did feel like I had a family in the Marines.  

I keep wanting to tell more of my Marine Corps experience. I think I want to hear the experiences of others who found themselves in such a weird environment.

Covid-19 Experiencing an anti-Racism rally

My boughten tee shirt from the rally. Color me “confused.”

June 8, 2020

My teenage granddaughter gave me a hug today, so all is well.  Teenagers are difficult, but not as difficult as grandparents.  Or especially as difficult as my own grandmother was.  Whoa!  She was tough.  Do you know what I mean?  Grandma didn’t just nod her beautiful head at me.  No.  She told me I was rotten to the core!  Why? Because she gave it straight from the shoulder!

She was Norwegian, angry, depressed, a woman sparing of words.  I think she was sad because her son was killed in WW II.  She was orphaned early on, when she was still a teen.  She worked to raise her siblings, a brother and a sister.  She took over her mother’s sewing business in Valley City, North Dakota. Her toddler daughter died in her arms from scarlet fever in 1918 in Kalispell. Who wouldn’t be bitter?

Grandma’s son Carl had turned 21 in September, 1944, after he had been drafted into the army.  Then, while deployed to England, then to France, he died Christmas Eve, 1944, when Oberlutnant Gerhard Meyer of U-boat 486, fired two torpedoes at his troopship, the SS Leopoldville.  The first torpedo missed, according to a friend of his, but the second pierced the ship’s compartment where Carl was trying to get comfortable on a pile of duffle bags.  Some of his buddies, who told me they had gone topside to watch for the lights of Cherbourg, said Carl died instantly.  Several of these survivors noted that the torpedo detonation made a distinctive burnt gunpowder smell.  It stank of Nazism, I thought.  Remembering the novel “All Quiet on the Western Front,” by Erich Maria Remarque, the survivors always say the loved one died instantly without pain.  I take it all with a grain of salt.  I sure hope my uncle died quickly.

The American soldiers I interviewed who survived the torpedo jumped or climbed down to safety, or were picked out of the English Channel by rescuers.  Like that.  Books have been written.  Movies made.  

When I was a kid at my grandparents’ house in Kalispell I found the purple heart medal of my uncle Carl.  Also his flag.  I have a 48-star flag downstairs in my darkroom, but no medal.  I’ve gone to some lengths to learn Carl’s story, still incomplete.  I’m learning.

None of the adults told us about Carl when we dug out the memorabilia in Kalispell in the 1950s.  We also found a chess set and a couple of photographs of soldiers, packed into rows, they all looked alike, nearly.  We knew which of the soldiers was Carl because his face had been circled by a pencil.  You had to tilt the photo, just right to see it.  

My mother doted on Carl, her little brother, a very good soldier, she said.  Private First Class. My mother told me this when I was ready to go to sleep in my bed upstairs.

War is never over.  The Nazis have not been vanquished once and for all. I fear the current president is pro-Nazi.

Witness the recent occurrences in our own country.  Things couldn’t be weirder, could they?  We see marijuana legal in a list of states, and we have a fascist president.  Well, he claims to be a nationalist, if not a white nationalist, or racist.  We could quibble about definitions.  I was interviewed on television a few years ago when Trump visited Billings.  The interviewer, an asian man, asked me on camera why I protested his visit.  The question seemed ridiculous.  I thought it was self-evident that everyone should be against a fascist, a racist, so I said so.  I guess everyone didn’t learn history as I had. A friend of mine, Charles Lechner, phoned me to ask me about my labeling Trump as a racist. I affirmed my labeling.

Blacks are being lynched, same as they have been for many years.  George Floyd was murdered by a grinning policeman who strangled him with his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes while three other police officers watched.  Like that.  This provoked great sorrow throughout our land.

The national, even international, outrage inspired many protest rallies, including one in Billings yesterday.  Our fascist president threatened to shoot people, then tear-gassed and sent riot police to clear an area so he could pose with a Bible.

Our daughter in San Diego has been protesting and marching with other concerned Americans who value justice.  

We had a mass protest here in Billings yesterday.  However, now we have an odd wrinkle, the appearance of heavily armed people who mingle with the protesters.  Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Trump warned that “Antifa” would be designated an enemy terrorist organization.

“Antifa” is an acronym, or maybe it is a portmanteau(?), for “anti-fascist.”  Supposedly “antifa” is a militia that would oppose … well, fascists.  Sort of like, but not quite like, the people who showed up at yesterday’s Billings anti-racist rally with military assault rifles and big handguns.

Kind of murky, isn’t it?  Near as I can tell, “antifa” is a fabrication, a straw man or fake adversary that the gun-lovers among us can use as a reason to show up armed at regular people’s rallies.  To “protect.” ???

In Minneapolis, the mayor said outsiders came to protests to wreak havoc, break windows.  Same thing in Washington DC.  The AFL-CIO headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue was broken into and swasticas were spray-painted on the tile in the lobby, according to my son Bob, who is a regional representative for the AFL-CIO.  Racial equality protesters would be unlikely to leave Nazi graffiti, he said.  

Our experience in Billings was decidedly non-violent.  Because it was in Montana, where almost everyone knows everyone else.

I wish I could reassure my grandchildren. Truth will win! You will win! Don’t be fooled by those who tell you that white people are better than any other people. They are not. We are all wonderful!

Can one sing during Covid-19 pandemic?

The early years. I was probably learning to light farts.

June 3, 2020

1952

My earliest recollection of singing was mimicking my big brother who sang an Olympia beer jingle:  “It’s the water, the water, the water, the water that MAKES Olympia beer…so reFRESHing refreshing refreshing refreshing, so light, Olympia beer.”  

Television advertisement

Only Tom inserted the word “shit” for “water.”  Tom had been in Kalispell with his cousin Dick Judd, who taught him a few forbidden words, including “shit.” Well, it was scandalous.

I was living my kid life, in Missoula, across the street from my childhood home, singing to my younger friend, Stevie Little.  I sang the Olympia beer song, but in order to inject some panache, I used the word “shit.”  His mother came out of his house and threatened to not let me play with Stevie if I used bad language.  Hurt my feelings.  She didn’t complain about the quality of my singing, just the naughty word. I didn’t play with Stevie much after that. He was a great kid. Kids my age were more robust, they could take the foul language better. We had to be careful not to let grownups overhear us.

1953

I think I sang a lot as a child.  I listened to my sister’s radio.  One of my favorite songs, back in 1953, was “I”m Never Satisfied.”  Tom told me later the woman who owned the Sunshine Store asked me after I’d done some sort of bad thing, “Well, are you satisfied NOW?”

I answered, singing “I’m Never Satisfied, I’m Never Satisfied…”  Rosemary Clooney was my favorite singer. Tom thought my answer was funny.

Not Dinah Shore.  No.  We had a television when I was five.  An announcer said the Dinah Shore show would be that night.  I thought it would be a dinosaur show, so I made myself stay awake so I could sneak behind a couch in the living room to see the dinosaurs.  No dinosaurs, obviously, just a woman singing.  Bore-ing!

My second earliest singing experience was in the Spring in Missoula when I crawled out my window in the morning onto our back porch roof to sing for the little girl next door, Kathy Lou Bass.  I had listened to the radio, so I knew how to sing a medley of favorites, starting with “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy!”  They tell me I sang in the nude, wearing only a pair of slippers.  I don’t know if the lovely Kathy Lou was in the audience, but someone was, because I heard about it later.

1956

I liked pirate songs as other children did.  I could sing “Blow the Man Down,” as heard on TV.  I was singing at a table at Mrs. Bloom’s kindergarten in the morning, and she hushed the other kids.  I sang as many verses as I could before my self-consciousness took over.

Our kindergarten teacher had each student make a phonograph record.  I still have mine.  One side of the record I sang, “I’m the happiest child alive, I had a birthday and now I’m six.”  The other side was, “Four little chickadees sitting in a row, one flew away and then there were ……  Chickadee chickadee happy and gay.  Chickadee chickadee fly away.  I didn’t do well with this song.  Couldn’t remember the words.

1957-1962

We had a singing unit in school daily, all through grade school.  Things went well until the sixth grade when my voice began changing.  My teacher noted my odd sounds, so she expelled me from class.  She said I was clowning. I don’t know where I went, probably the principal’s office. I wasn’t clowning.

Seventh grade I learned to lay low.  I quit piano lessons to deliver the Missoulian Sentinel, an evening newspaper.

I managed to avoid detection musically when we moved to Dillon, Montana in 1962.  I went out for sports.  I did poorly, but I stuck it out.

1967

Our senior year I was asked by the band director to sing a tenor solo, so I did.  I also went out for plays and did comedy.  Could be the pinnacle of my acting.  I remember the audience laughed, but I think there were stooges who helped out. I wanted to be a weirdo.

In Missoula, 1967.  I learned how to smoke cigarettes.

No singing in my hippie years, except to sing folk songs, then Beatle songs.  Didn’t everyone sing?  I bought one cheap guitar after another, until I landed a 200 dollar Gibson hollow body electric.  Suddenly I was in demand to play in Missoula rock groups. The guitar had its own life.

It probably cost me my journalism education.  I ended up quitting school.  I quit my girlfriend.  I moved to Seattle with a bunch of buddies.

I didn’t sing.  In Seattle I smoked really good hashish instead.  I wandered around the parks of Seattle, playing in drumming groups that formed spontaneously.  I tried to make a living selling hippie newspapers.  I think I earned upwards of $1.10 a day.  Then I sold tickets to the Shrine Circus by telephone.  I didn’t cut it.  Couldn’t raise the $40/month rent.  I talked my brother into moving back to Missoula.

No singing until I joined the Marine Corps, went to jail, got out of jail, went to a small base in California.  Got married.  Couldn’t find any entertainment we could afford.  Started going to the base chapel.  MSgt Amos Cadiente helped me learn the tenor part of the choral introit.

I liked singing with Amos.  I hadn’t heard a tenor part before and it intrigued me.  It went high above the other parts and was fancy.  Made musical sense. All was well until the neck injury.

I played some flag football with Cpl Larry Neu in our squadron.  Larry was an “officer in a non-commissioned status.”  Trouble was, I got hit in the neck by another player.  Right in the adam’s apple.  Suddenly I couldn’t sing tenor. Sort of a gravelly bass sound.

I went to the Marine base infirmary.  A doctor looked at my vocal chords with a hand mirror.  He said I had a bruise.  He also wondered why I bothered going in for that.  I told him the body has important and unimportant parts.  If one takes care of the unimportant instead of the important parts, then one is an inferior man.

The doctor heaved a sigh.  He sent me away.

From that day forth I sang the bass part in the church choir, nowhere near as interesting a line as that of the tenors.

Nobody believes the wonderful singing parts I’ve had since then. Therefore I’ll keep them to myself. Hell, I’m ready to forget them too.

Preaching. Skip if you don’t like preaching.

Yup, it’s me again.

June 1, 2020

These are evil times in our country and I feel physically ill.  

I see our president acting like a clueless, bungling bully, threatening to have our protesting citizens shot.  Who the hell does he think he is?

I see a huge racial divide with police hassling and murdering people of color.  I hear about the rise of armed white supremacist racist nazis and fascist groups who fantasize about a race war.

Locally, I see pickups with confederate flags.  These signify racism to me because the civil war was fought over slavery and the South was pro-slavery.  People, armed with military rifles resembling M-16s, are in news photographs, parading around our state capitol.  They say they are protesting the pandemic restrictions.  I think they are trying to scare people.

These days people of good will appear to be marginalized.  Us citizens, obeying the health experts, are staying home, socially distancing.  By contrast, the non-mask-wearing Great Boaster occupies the news headlines, along with his hand-selected sycophants and toadies.  

The Covid-19 pandemic is killing two to three thousand of our citizens every day, while infecting many times that number. The whitehouse blowhard doesn’t seem to care enough.

A record number of citizens are in financial ruin, jobless, hungry, in danger of losing their businesses, their homes.

Meanwhile, Summer will start this month and the weather is already hot.  It will get hotter, thanks to global weather disruption from fossil fuel burning.  People need to cool off, so they will go to the beaches, to the mountains, to air-conditioned places.  All of these places will attract people, some infected with the corona virus.  More people will get infected, get sick, more will die.

One may want to give up and call our situation hopeless.

That would be sad and wouldn’t help.

What will we do?

I believe we, as individuals, must stay in place and admit this is a bad time.  The time to act will come, but that may not be soon.  We must not be fooled by these desperate times to break out of isolation.  Difficult to do, I know.  

I have faith, not religious, per se.  Here’s what I have faith in:

*Reality is indestructible.  Think about it.  Despite the disagreement between the president and the traditional press, things are the way they are.  Personally, I side with the reputable news sources, like the NY Times.  It has stood the test of time before, mostly.

*Time will reveal the reality of our situation.  Comfort and help those you can. Many people of good will continue to work tirelessly for us all.

*The universe is benevolent.  Look at the natural world.  All those plants and birds thrive without any tending or help from us.  We can also thrive naturally.  With a little help from our friends.

*Friendship is more powerful than animosity.  It is even nicer.

*Evil will eventually destroy whatever good thing it devours, but then the evil itself will also perish.  The universe will persist despite that.

*We may eventually be required to sacrifice our selves for a greater good.  But there are more important things than life.

*Things are often not what they seem. Look around.

These lessons are in the Bible, but also in other religious traditions, other writings.  We can derive strength and comfort.

Remembering Walter Blackwolf tell about his father

Seven years ago this month when he was still alive, Walter Blackwolf told me several stories about his father, James Blackwolf, Hat Keeper for the Northern Cheyenne.

Walter had health problems and phoned me from St. Vincent Hospital once in a while. I went up to visit him.

Walter’s grandfather was Ben Blackwolf and his great grandpa was Joseph Blackwolf (I’m not 100% sure about this last name. Oh, Walter told me correctly, but I’m not sure my memory is quite right.)

Example of story about Hat Keeper James Blackwolf: A van with a Sioux drum and drummers visited James at his house. The Sioux had had many people die prematurely recently and they sought help.

The Sioux medicine man saw James from a distance, and the people in the van gave James gifts. When they got out their big drum James told them to leave it outdoors!

“Don’t bring that drum into my home,” he said.

The reason? The drum had an image of a buffalo head. James told the group that their people would stop dying prematurely if they would wash the image off the drum head with a cloth and water from a coffee can. After washing the drum head, they should place the cloth into the water in the can, put on the lid, and bury the can in a certain way. After they did these things they could bring the drum into his house.

Walter said that after a long time–months–the people in the van returned and brought even more gifts to James. They said after they had done what he said to do, the people stopped dying prematurely. Walter explained that when the drummers drummed they had insulted the buffalo by banging on its image with their drum sticks.

Sweet Friends

Suzie and Gunther

May 31, 2020

Protests across the United States yesterday against police murdering Blacks.  Pandemic quarantines around the globe.  Two people blast off into space.  Me?  I feel depressed, but controlled with medication.  The weather has been beautiful. Rivers are running full.

This morning I walked Gunther down the alley, stopping to pick up household effects of a recently deceased neighbor around a dumpster.  Lamp shade, some socks, some bank statements. A cardboard box.

Gunther and I also greeted a couple of tiny female dogs, one across the alley from the other, unrelated, but named Nina or Nana.  One, a sweet puppy, the other a mature chihuahua.  Gunther seemed indifferent to both.  You see, Gunther loved a great black labrador bitch who broke his heart when she moved from next door.  I have pictures.  You can see the joy.

“Suzie” was a highly trained service dog who returned Gunther’s rollicking affection.  Suzie was responsible to care for a woman with a heart condition.  

Gunther was depressed at least two years after she broke off with him.  These days Gunther is a shade sadder but wiser, having nearly returned to his previous condition of joyfulness.  Only he doesn’t fall for the girls anymore, although he likes “Velma,” our son’s schnoodle.  Gunther has reserve.

The pandemic has its occasional joys.  Yesterday P. and I met my dear schoolmate Abdul Kadri and his beautiful wise wife Cathy.  Of course, she might spell it Cathi or Kathi or Kathy.  I don’t know.)  Both are charming, sympathetic, good looking.  Also smart, funny, simply fun to be with.

Abdul and I met in 1978, I think.  I’m unsure of the year.  In 1978 I quit smoking, although I took a toke of a marijuana cigarette on the steps of the chemistry building with another fellow student.  I didn’t smoke with Abdul.  

I remember Abdul as a compatible soul then.  He mentioned that someone weighed ten stone.  I had not heard the expression before.  He and I took organic chemistry from professor Ralph Fessenden.  We all had taken lots of schooling since then, had careers, were mostly retired, and loved to hike. We share lots of friends in common in Missoula and in Billings, Montana.

That’s why we met in Red Lodge yesterday for hiking.  Because the Kadri couple invited us and we jumped at the chance. I nearly ran over Abdul and his wife as I pulled into the convenience store parking lot. I followed their car to the Silver Run trailhead.

As we walked we reminisced.  We learned about each others’ lives, but not nearly enough.  Our wives walked ahead with Gunther.  I remember that I felt really good to exchange thoughts with Abdul.  The air was clean, the sky blue, the forest fresh.  We hiked the Silver Run trail, as I mentioned.

Abdul and Cathy hiked it yesterday, encountering a grizzly.  Cathy spotted it first, Abdul said.  Both got their bear sprays out.  Abdul blew his whistle a couple times.  The bear ran off.  Abdul said he notified the forest service person who asked if the bear had a collar.  Abdul said he couldn’t say the bear did not have a collar, but he didn’t see it.

Yesterday we saw no bears or any other large animals.

I struggled to keep up with the Kadris and P. and Gunther.  Seemed like we hiked in a straight line into the wilderness, so I felt surprised when we encountered a road and a parking lot.  We even saw a vehicle that looked like ours.  In fact it was ours.  My confusion abated.

The hike was over.  I don’t know how many miles we walked because I forgot to set my Strava app on my phone.

History of English Language

Gunther, thinking. What about?

Last night at about one, or so, I was awake, so I listened again to History of the English Language podcast by Kevin Stroud.  He has 137 episodes and he tracks the development of English from its Indo-European roots on the steppes of Asia perhaps 5000 years ago.  Our language has some ancient words in amongst the modern.  Sure, many of our words were borrowed from other languages, but a number have been passed along from the earliest tribal days on the steppes after the last ice age.  Old words tend to pertain, of course, to matters we have in common with our ancestors, such as “oxen,” “yoke,” and “mother” and “father.”  The newest words often pertain to technology, such as “fax” and “google.”  Mr. Stroud helps us stop and examine words, and for that I recommend his podcast.

He has a great speaking voice for his carefully researched podcast. I often fall asleep after the opening music or after the first few sentences. Takes me many tries to get through a 30- or 40-minute episode.

English is a Germanic language that owes a lot to Latin.  One cannot understand the history of the language without knowledge of the social and political climate from which it sprung.  Think of all the anomalies in spelling.  Many of these were contrivances of ancient scribes who were adept at using the alphabet to approximate the sounds of words in olden times.  Mr. Stroud notes that Old English, such as in Beowulf, would be unintelligible to a modern English speaker, but Middle English, such in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, while strange-sounding, can pretty much be understood, though perhaps not completely.  He poses the question, what kind of English did William Shakespeare write in?  Answer:  Modern.  Granted, Mr. Shakespeare used words we might find quaint, but his work can be easily understood today.

I found it interesting the notion that not all written languages have alphabets.  Chinese, for example, employs hundreds, if not thousands, of characters that are, in effect, pictures, while English gets by with a few more than two dozen letters.  He notes that languages that employ phonetic alphabets, like English, are much easier to learn to read and write.  The ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics had scores of characters that only specially educated scribes could read and write.  Those who study linguistics may not learn anything new here, but the rest of us might.

My favorite episode is no. 120, describing the plague of 1348 that killed about a third of everyone in Western Europe. Turns out the wealthier and better-educated clerics and nobility were prone to becoming infected with a disease that killed its victims in less than a week. The aftermath of the “black death” led to a rise in economic status among the peasants who could feed and care for the survivors.

I wonder how the current plague will affect our citizens economic status?

I hope I’ve piqued your interest.  Just google the above podcast and give it a try.

The Portable Wall

May 17, 2020

I keep trying to encourage my friend Ezra to document, to write.  Life can be tedious for him, locked in a solitary apartment during a pandemic, so I have sympathy.  The other day we talked about a magazine I used to publish, called The Portable Wall.

This was the second issue. Cover by Dirk Lee. I put them out for grabs at the university and they quickly disappeared.

Who hasn’t thought about starting a magazine?  Probably lots of people.  

I think of E. E. Cummings’ poem, “let’s start a magazine.”

let’s start a magazine 

to hell with literature 

we want something redblooded

lousy with pure 

reeking with stark 

and fearlessly obscene

but really clean 

get what I mean 

let’s not spoil it 

let’s make it serious

something authentic and delirious 

you know something genuine like a mark 

in a toilet

graced with guts and gutted 

with grace

squeeze your nuts and open your face.

I visited several websites to find this poem.  The first two sites left off the last line, possibly to make the poem more palatable to children?

In 1976 I discharged from the Marine Corps to return to the University of Montana to  return to journalism.  I had abandoned my studies in 1968 after breaking up with my girlfriend.  I wrote a screed in my world literature class complaining the professor was boring, rather than trying to address the final exam question.  He gave me a passing grade anyway.  Soon I was on a passenger train to Seattle.

Also, I decided not to stay in school to avoid the army.  I figured I’d go to Seattle to visit my brother, then possibly head to Canada.  Vietnam was terrifying.  Bodies were being shipped back daily.  My classmate, Kim Archer, had been killed.  Danny Sanders had been wounded.

Ultimately I left Seattle, then stayed a couple days in Eugene with people about to defect to Canada.  Only, I disliked the defectors.  They seemed self-righteous, or selfish, or something.  I slipped away, grabbed a freight train back to Seattle.  I was in the ID bookstore and saw a drawing of a soldier bayonetting a baby.  Hippie newspaper.  I tried selling hippie newspapers, earned less than a dollar after hours of work.

I kicked around the country and worked as a telemarketer in Seattle, as a carnival worker in Alaska, then as a gandy dancer on the railroad out of Missoula before I enlisted in the Marines.  Seems counter-intuitive, but I enlisted out of cowardice, not bravery.  If I had been brave, I’d have waited to be drafted.  I was too scared for that.

The Marines about drove me crazy, but I eventually came to love the unique people there.  I hated the boot-lickers and sycophants, but plenty of others, such as Bill Moody, Crazy Ed Bonk, Gunner Robertson, turned into friends I could relate to.  My nickname was Stork.

Took a long time before our family of five could afford to leave the Marines.  

When off the base, I had to deliver newspapers, fix up and sell old Volkswagens to fatten up our bank account.  We had a duck.  Tried to fry her eggs, but they tasted fishy.  I tried to cook some small squid in a pan.  They were from Huntington Beach.   Rubbery and I felt sorry for the kids who gamely sawed at the flesh with a butter knife.  We tossed the squid, made a rare trip to fast-food.

But we got out of the Marines.  Drove a U-Haul from California to Bozeman, then on to Missoula.  We were assigned an apartment in family housing, an X-shaped building a few blocks from campus, on the edge of Mount Sentinel and the marvelous green hill.  The green hill was a child’s paradise, with sledding in the winter.  Only someone sled into a parked car and split open their head.  Like that.  Turns out inner tubes can be dangerous.  They are fast and impossible to steer.  They send you headfirst into parked cars with your tender head and its numerous veins and arteries.

We arrived at Sisson apartments in September in time for Fall classes.  In 1976, military service was nothing to be proud of.  In fact, I felt ashamed, cheap.  None of my hippie friends went into the armed forces, except Bob Verduin who famously said, “Fuck the draft.”  I never found out what happened to Bob.

However, in 1976, I enjoyed visiting with a woman in the old Student Union Building who was responsible for dispensing veteran’s education benefits.  They were dispensed by the month.  I was entitled to 48 months.  School came by the academic quarter in those days, encompassing just shy of nine months each year.  The woman made the 48 months fit the academic quarters by trimming here, cutting there.  She was a genius and I ended up getting all of journalism and most of a pharmacy degree, courtesy of my dear Uncle Sam.  Hell, I earned it.

I went to UM summer session of 1977.  I studied Spanish.  My old friend Dana Graham helped me with vocabulary and I got an A.  I worked on the Kaimin.  I took a course in journalism from Wilbur Wood, titled, “Poetry and Journalism.”  We read Vonnegut and Le Guin and kept a journal.  We wrote papers.  A young woman told about a lounge downtown that she regarded as her home.  I wrote some kind of bullshit about some damn thing.  Wilbur was encouraging, though.  He required each of us to have a project.  Mine was to start a magazine.

I’d wanted to make a magazine since high school when my friends and I drew panels for a super hero comic book.  We didn’t get the project off the ground. Now, in 1977, I had another chance.

Again Dana came to the rescue with a $10 bill to help pay for the first issue of the magazine.  Since she was putting up the majority of the money, she got to name it.  Hence, The Portable Wall.  The original, non-portable wall was a wall in a hippie hangout on Main Street in downtown Missoula.  The wall had graffiti.  “Life is what we do while waiting to die,” comes to mind.

The magazine had a life of its own.  Turns out many people contributed money, stories, poems, drawings.  Dirk Lee contributed wood engravings.  We published many issues with as many as 60 pages, until 1996, when I returned to college as a non-traditional student at Idaho State to work on an advanced pharmacy degree.

The most recent contributor to the Wall was Frank Dugan with $10, a couple years ago.  

Covid-19 social distancing in Central Montana

Mysterious dancing birds. Ibises? Mostly brown with some white on their heads.

May 16, 2020

Today in Billings sunshine, barking dogs, workers shingling Mrs. Johnson’s house across the alley.  I walked Gunther.

I was sitting in my chair, staring, when Gunther barked loudly. Three neighbors approached our porch. They appeared friendly.

The couple across the street were with their next door neighbor, a pleasant woman, who came home from the hospital yesterday. She recently spent five horrendous days in the ICU on a ventilator.  We exchanged the usual pleasantries, then arranged ourselves at safe distances. Of course, we talked about being sick. Like that.

She said she’d rather die than have the respirator experience again.  We other three looked at one another.  I said, “and we may end up having that experience.”  Of course, I was talking about Covid-19.  Our neighbor said she tested negative for Covid exposure.  We were glad to see her up and walking about, albeit weakly.

We had been out of town.

P. and I wandered about Central Montana in our conversion van, spent two nights at Ackley Lake.  You go from Lewistown to Hobson, then toward Utica. Ackley Lake is on a series of dirt roads, easy to find.

My late aunt, Corinne Ackley, was Lewistown Librarian back in the old days–early 1940s–before my cousin was born.  I doubt if they named Ackley lake after her, but I think of my irascible aunt Corinne often. She dealt plainly with life, much to our delight. She asked me to buy her some whiskey. I refused and she bellowed, “GO TO HELL!” My sweet sister bought Corinne some whiskey, as she is mature and kindly.

We liked Ackley Lake. We saw two others camped on its perimeter. It’s a reservoir and probably didn’t exist in my aunt’s day.

The second day of our foray into Central Montana we drove to Kingsbury Pond, on miles of dirt road, close to Square Butte, close to Geraldine, Montana.  We saw no rattlesnakes, but we did see some avocets wading around in the shallows, beautiful rust-colored heads and chests, up-turned long bills dipping into the mud. 

Square Butte laccolith is visible for miles.

Phone photos didn’t do them justice, but we got good looks with the binocular.  Killdeer made their distinctive vocalizations.  We also saw gulls and smaller birds.  We ended up walking about a mile through a grassy seasonal marshland from the car to the muddy edge of the water.  Gunther bounded through the grass like a dolphin.  A couple times he stood on his hind legs to look around.  I wanted a pic, but I was too slow.

We drove to the middle fork of the Judith River, saw numerous deer and two elk.  No bears.  Cold and rainy.  Tried to go to Checkerboard, but the road was closed from snow.  Driving in we saw nobody.  Driving out we saw numerous campers at Hay Canyon.  So we returned to Ackley Lake via Utica.  On the road we saw a pair of immense long-legged birds dancing or fighting.  We stopped, made a U-turn, watched the birds.  They looked like herons, only distinctly brown.  We think they were ibises (?).  Light was fading.  Soon they finished their flapping and jumping and walked away together.  

People were friendly throughout, although Lewistown had some right wing-nut billboards advertising the “Tea Party.”  I had broken a drain pipe to the RV water tank and a nice man in Belt helped me repair it.  I didn’t see any people wearing face masks in Belt, but I did in Lewistown and at Ackley Lake the second day we were there.

Next day we went to Sluice Boxes State Park.   We drove to the upper part of Belt Creek and hiked a couple miles. Then we returned to Billings.

Sluice Boxes State Park.