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Way Out and Way In

Colored Man

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The People of the Edge

The Midnight Ride of Charley, the Juice

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Please Note: This journal contains a wide variety of stuff -- complete stories, bits and pieces, commentary, and who-knows-what else. As is always the case these days, the material is protected by copyright. On the other hand, I publish it here to be shared. Feel free to pass it on. Just give me credit. Fair enough?
February 21, 2015

Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
Third week in February, 2015
Mars, Venus, and the crescent Moon in conjunction in the eastern sky,
just after sunset –lovely.
Storm coming – chance of snow and rain showers – below freezing at night.

For an introduction to this essay, first take a look at my Facebook Page,
and check out this link:


The Urge-to-Purge is what I call a mood that strikes me unexpectedly in spring.
Usually it leads me to a disorderly closet or to the mess in the basement.
But this week I decided to look through a wooden box labeled “Small Keepsakes.”
Lots of little things had been tossed into that box over the years, and I wondered what was in it.
Half-way through the assortment of odds and ends I found a little strip of paper.
I’ve kept it since the summer of 1972 – forty-two years – when I lived in Japan – in the city of Kyoto.

At most Japanese Shinto Temples or Buddhist shrines one is offered a chance to learn one’s fortune. The process varies, but at the temple where I got mine,
you made a small donation in yen, pulled a stick out of a bundle, checked the number on the stick, and then pulled open a small drawer with your number on it.
Inside were small rolls of paper the size of a jelly bean.
You then unrolled the paper to learn your fortune.

It’s called an o-mikuji. link:

Mine said: han-kichi,半吉
My Japanese companion translated for me:
“It means you will get a half-blessing – not a big one – just half.”
“What does that mean?”
“It’s hard to explain, but it’s good – keep it.”
And I did.

A week later, at the same temple, I thought I’d try again.
What harm?
Maybe I would get the other half of the blessing.
I went through the same ritual and got another little roll of paper.
This one said: han-kyō, 半凶
“It means you will get a half-curse – not a big one – just half.”
“What does that mean?”
“It’s hard to explain, but it’s not good – but there’s a way to deal with the prediction of misfortune. You take the strip of paper over to the strings tied around that big tree, and tie it to the strings – like all the ones already there.
By doing that, you leave the negative in the hands of the gods to deal with.”

So I did that.

I suppose one so-so good fortune was balanced out by a so-so curse –
a kind of net-zero outcome.
But, then, I kept the good news and left the negative in care of the gods residing in an ancient tree.
So I’m ahead – which is why I have kept the o-mikuji, expecting a half-blessing.
Or, perhaps, I have already received the blessing and didn’t notice?
I should take a retroactive view of blessings?
I thought back on half-blessings – maybe one of those was the payoff?
As my Japanese friend said, it’s hard to explain these things.

I tell you this because it’s my first-hand encounter with the root source of fortune cookies, which are not Chinese at all.
Though the exact history is controversial, it’s accurate to say that the cookie with the fortune inside was introduced by a Japanese restaurant in California around the beginning of the 20th century.
How the cookie shifted to be associated with Chinese food is also controversial.
Even more interesting is the question of how fortune cookies came to be such a pervasive American phenomenon.

It is estimated that more than 3 billion fortune cookies are produced each year in the United States.
As is often the case in our country, the original cookie is marketed well beyond its connection with Chinese food.
You can get Valentine’s versions – dipped in chocolate – with love messages inside. You can get dirty fortune cookies containing raunchy thoughts.
There are fortune cookies for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, corporate events,
personal parties and even for funerals.
You can write your own fortunes to be included in your special order.
There are Mexican fortune cookies made from masa – (corn flower) in small or taco size.
And there are Giant Fortune Cookies – 5 x 7 inches - weighing one pound – and stuffed with candy, small toys, or souvenirs.
Or, if you’re really in a down mood and want to spread it onto your friends after dinner, you can get misfortune cookies that predict the worst.

So . . . what?
For one thing, it’s a tribute to human imagination that something so small and trivial can be turned into a thriving industry.

The on-going-ness of the cookie is connected to the word fortune, and the everlasting desire to know one’s fate and future

“What will happen to me?” We want to know the answer.
Even if it comes on a small piece of paper inside a cookie.

What’s this about?

(Sometimes it’s useful to stand outside of one’s self and take an objective view. Now is one of those times.)

A man I know is intelligent, well-educated, thoughtful, and rational.­
By category he is an agnostic humanist.

Here is his public stance:
He does not believe in the paranormal or the supernatural.
He does not believe that any kind of gods take an interest in his personal affairs.
He does not believe in luck, chance, fortune, fate, devils, or good fairies.

Yet, in the privacy of his inner self, contradiction reigns:
He has had experiences with psychic mediums, horoscopes, tea leaf reading, palmistry, tarot cards, black magic, the lottery, the Ouija board, the Magic 8-ball device, and he consults the divination technique of I-Ching from time to time.

And he takes fortune cookies seriously – keeping the good ones, just in case.

What’s going on here?

Is it that he holds contradictory views about being human and alive?
Despite his rational clarity, does he secretly wish to find a crack in the great wall of certainty where he can get just a peek into what’s beyond?
Is it that there is conflict between what he knows and what he wishes were so?
Would he like to have a dance with Lady Luck?
Would he like to be able to hack into the algorithms of the Great Existential Computer and move some assets into his personal account?
Is it that he has a congenital trust in hopefulness?
Is he a sucker for any sign of good news?
Is he a simple-minded optimist?
Can he live with both sense and nonsense?

But what about the realities of the dark side of his life – misfortune?
No problem.
He buys fortune cookies by the bag – and when a cookie lets him down, he picks another cookie – and waits for the good news.
He believes you get the luck you look for.

Is he an idiot?
Sometimes – but it works for him

link to this story

February 16, 2015

Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
Mid-February, 2015
Exceptionally mild weather – clear skies.

a post-Valentine’s Day reflection . . . .

(Before you read on, go to my Facebook page for an illustration
and a forward to this journal posting – it won’t make sense if you don’t.

So that’s over and done with.
The Valentine Express Train of Love has rumbled through once more.
Some got a fine ride, albeit brief.
Some were left at the station - and some were run over by the train.

For those who did have a fine ride – who got the flowers and chocolates and wine and cards and kisses and hugs - and all the rest – I say good on you!
I , too, was one of the lucky ones – so, good on me, as well.
(Mine was a win-win deal - lingerie pleases the recipient and the giver – oh sure, that’s a touch of self-interested wickedness, but if it works out . . .)

But - the hard truth about love is that at least half the time it doesn’t work out.
Romance, courtship, co-habitation, going-steady, being engaged, marriage –
no matter the label for the stage a relationship is in – love goes bad as often love goes well.

So this journal entry is for those who came up empty handed on Valentine’s Day.
For those who went out to a movie alone - or ate dinner at home alone in their pajamas sitting on the couch - or went for a long walk – alone.
Or bought a box of chocolate and ate most of it themselves – alone.
Or maybe just had a good cry.

A caveat before I continue:
When I carried out my love story project, I learned and remembered these notions:

1. Anything and everything anybody thinks, feels, or says about love is true.
For them, for the time being.

2. Love has no defined dimensions – no top, no bottom, no edges.

3. There are as many love stories as there are human beings on the planet.

4. In a lifetime, most people experience love in many forms.

5. Winners lose and losers win

6. Love never holds still – it’s always in motion.

Finally, I say that all generalities about love are the useless babblings of fools.
Nevertheless . . .
Being a charter member of the Fools-About-Love Club there are my conclusions.

For several years I asked friends and strangers to “Tell me a love story – not one you’ve read or heard. One you’ve lived.”
I asked in my book UH OH and in my nationally syndicated newspaper column.
The mail poured in – from teenagers in the ecstatic pain of first love – from the elderly in retirement homes scrawling out sacred memories – from those who treasure a small forever based on a ten-second encounter – from those whose love is measured in a lifetime of heartbeats.

Mail came from thirty-six states and seven foreign countries – from writers age eight to age ninety-eight – from male and female – from gay and straight – from the wise and the foolish – from the confused and the sane.
Handwritten on expensive stationery, printed on yellow legal-pad paper, and impeccably turned out by computer.
Hundreds and hundreds of letters.

I expected gooey-sweet greeting-card sentiments, but got salty surprises.
Nasty and kinky and twisted and crazy love.
There was bluebird-and-rainbow love, but also stormy love with thunder
and lightning and hail and landslides.
I expected mushy oatmeal love, but got as much steak-and-potatoes love.
I expected meek-and-mild love, but got just as many love stories made out of muscle and blood and bone.

These sentences, taken from real letters and conversations, stand out:

“Love is what you’ve been through with someone.”

“The reasons you fall in love are often the same reasons for falling out.”

“There’s a big difference between the first time you fall in love and the first time falling in love really matters.”

“You can’t get the exact love you want – only the love someone is capable of giving you.”

“Sex without love is a meaningless experience, but as meaningless experiences go, it’s pretty high on the list.”

“The love we really live is all the love we really have.”

I could go on – if you want more, read the book: TRUE LOVE.

I remain eternally optimistic about love and its infinite shape and endless possibilities.
I lift my glass to salute all those who have been knocked down and run over by love – take heart - may you rise up to look for the next opportunity.
I write out of empathy for those who were not passengers on the Valentine Train Express excursion this year.
Hang on to your ticket – it’s a local train – it stops for passengers frequently.

link to this story

February 06, 2015

Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
Early February, 2015
Moon so bright I can take a walk at night without a flashlight.
Warm and mild days.

It’s about a week before St. Valentine’s Day.
An abundance of red-and-chocolate-and-heart-shaped goods fill the “seasonal specialties” aisles of City Market.
A mass of tulips and roses are on offer in the floral section of the store.
Look out - Here comes love!

Some years I have dodged the holiday – the years when love was not going so well.
But some years, like this one, I find myself in a sentimental state of mind - glad that the culture celebrates love at least once a year.
Bring it on, say I.

Alas, my wife will be away in Seattle on February 14, and I’ll be alone at Pack Creek – and that puts a damper on my personal celebration.
Nevertheless, love is on my mind - provoked by a spoon.


Love can be connected to an object.
Think of the keepsakes we all have tucked away somewhere.
Treasure to you, trash to anybody else.

But sometimes the sacred stuff is right out in the open - in daily use.
Like the spoons I’ve used for eating morning cereal for 58 years.

The spoons are stainless steel with a teak handle – Dansk Design – part of a set of tableware that was the first wedding gift my first wife and I picked out long ago.
The set is incomplete because my children used some of the pieces for backyard sand pile excavations – a couple of serving spoons and forks disappeared into
the earth, never to be seen again.

Other pieces are unusable because Findley, our children’s Beagle puppy, found the wooden handles a pleasure to chew on.
His legacy is teeth-marks on the tableware.

When I left the house of that first marriage, one of the few things I took with me was that set of table hardware.  It connected me to the daily life shared with my children, and it made me smile when I remembered Findley.

Over the years, as I have moved from house to house, the knives and forks and spoons have moved with me and continued in daily use – silent reminders of good
parts of my past – increasing in value as participants in ongoing life.

I admire these wood-handled, stainless steel utensils.
They’re useful, well-crafted, and have remained elegant to look at and hold.
I wonder how many times I have used them, washed and dried them, and put them back in their place in the drawer – hundreds? thousands, maybe?

While I was eating my Cheerios this morning, I considered just one spoon.
When I am living alone, I keep this spoon out on the table instead of putting it back in the drawer after I wash it.
I know I’m going to use it again tomorrow morning, so why put it away . . .
It sits in a wooden bowl, ready for another round of cereal.
Thus it has an all-day presence.
It becomes a kind of icon of personal history – a good-luck talisman that brings love to mind.

Not Big Love in the romantic, hearts-and-flowers sense.
But lesser love in the sense of affection attached to memories and ordinary things.

I loved all the houses the spoon has been in.
My children and I loved the dog who would have chewed it to pieces if he could.
I love the memories of the quiet mornings spent using the spoon in all the seasons and years of my life when I loved being alive.
I love the memories of the times when it was used at meals with friends I love.
I love the woman who usually joins me for breakfast and uses an identical spoon.

My son wants the set of tableware when I die.
These food tools are part of his past, too.
I love the son who loves the spoon and its companion utensils.
Perhaps he will use the same spoon I’ve used for his morning cereal.
Perhaps he will pass the knives and forks and spoons on to his son.

I love imagining my grandson sitting and eating his Cheerios with my spoon someday, long after I am gone.
If the spoon could talk, it would tell him a lot about love and the unexpected sizes and shapes it comes in.
I hope he thinks of it as Grandfathers Valentine Spoon.

link to this story

February 03, 2015

Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
First week in January, 2015
Full moon rising – with Venus as the bright evening star.
Still a few snow showers in the mountains, but rain in the valley.
Mild weather during the day.

My team lost the game on Sunday. And all day Monday and into the evening
there was what seemed like a jazz riff going on in my mind on the theme of losing. As the notions and concepts blipped through my brain, I jotted them down in
my notebook. There’s no particular point to the exercise – but each item is in common, current usage. I hear them often – and each points to a powerful human experience. So much to lose . . .


Losing the game, losing face, losing heart -

Losing one’s head, one’s mind, one’s marbles -

Losing ground, losing the way, losing track -

Losing a child, a parent, a friend -

Losing your wallet, your keys, your glasses -

Losing a limb, a tooth, your hair -

Losing at love -

Losing money, losing dignity, losing a bet -

Losing one’s reputation -

Losing your life -

Losing time, losing your job, your identity -

Losing your hearing, losing weight, your appetite -

Losing your balance, losing ground, losing one’s cool -

Losing your grip, your nerve, your courage -

Losing your shirt, losing your temper, losing your touch –

Losing sleep, patience, contact –

Losing your bearings, favor, losing the plot –

Losing one’s edge, your advantage, your resources -

Losing your lunch.

If you think of any I missed, add them to my Facebook page:

link to this story

January 28, 2015

Pack Creek Ranch - Moab, Utah
last week in January, 2015
Residual snow and ice almost completely gone.
Mud is drying up – temp is in the mid-40’s.
Brilliant Jupiter is the evening star.
Coyote choir practice across the valley last night.

To be helpful, I should have put up a road sign here.
A yellow one with a crooked line across it – the kind my children called
“warning - snakes ahead.”
Actually meant to indicate that the road ahead was winding and slow.

This posting asks you to tag along on the trip my mind took last Sunday,
knowing in advance that the line of thought is not linear – it winds around.
Besides, in life the best route between “here” and “there” is seldom
a straight line . . .
Bear with me - there is a destination point at the end the essay.

You may need to refer to my Facebook page to connect with the photographs I’ve posted there – and explained here: (link:

And I’ve also included some interesting links to sites you might like to look at during and after the initial mind trip.

(My search engine is Google, by the way – it works best for links to images.)

* * *


My wonder-wander began when I followed my Sunday ritual.
On the Sabbath, I try to forego my mundane tasks and the news of the world as delivered on the web and radio – put all that on hold until Monday.
It’s a pleasurable relief to leisurely consider the news of the universe instead.
The Astronomy menu on my web browser is the gateway.
I want to consider the long, deep view of the cosmos.
Every week astonishing new photographs are posted on the web for viewing.

On my Facebook page I’ve posted a picture of a galaxy that caught my eye.

This is NGC 1398 – a galaxy 65 million light-years from Earth.
It spans approximately 135,000 light-years in diameter.
That’s 35% larger than our own galaxy (100,000 light-years across.)
NGC contains about 300 billion solar masses like our sun – part of which is
concentrated within 100 billion stars.
It’s quite beautiful, don’t you think?

But it’s always hard to get my mind around the sizes and distances.
So I turn to subjects closer by and more comprehensible.

The photos of objects in outer space always remind me of jellyfish - Medusozoa.
There are always new photos of new varieties, so I check from time to time.
And I posted one I liked on my Facebook page.

Here comes a sharp turn in the road.
While I was wandering around on the web, I thought I’d take a look at mites.
My interest was provoked by the current issue of National Geographic.
It features an article on mites, with photos taken by an electron microscope.: 
Intrigued, I punched up more images of mites on the web.
And found more than I bargained for.
(Facebook page:

Every night I sleep with these tiny forms of life that scavenge my dead skin.
I can’t feel them or hear them or see them – but they’re really there.
Other specialized forms live on my face, in my eyelashes, in the hair on
my head, up my nose, in my ears – in fact, all over my body – working away, having sex, reproducing, and excreting waste.

In short, I am inhabited – a condominium for micro-life – a zoo of exotic forms of life beyond my imagination – colonized by creatures that belong to the Cambrian Age – the domicile of tiny scavengers, squatting and crawling on me.
And that’s just what’s on the surface.

So . . .If all that’s going on outside, how about inside?
There must be photos taken by electron microscope?

Another turn in the road.
Working on down the scale of life, I took a look at the photos of the bacteria that inhabit my gut.
(link – Facebook:

This stuff is ALIVE!
And there’s a war going on with these creatures – some fighting for me, some against me – but mostly my side seems to be winning because I’m in good health.

Science says that without all this microbial life, my body could not function.
Without the positive work of bacteria – in my gut, for example – I would die.
They need me and I need them.
I feed me and them – and they mop up and clean house for me.

I am not a single living creature.
I am a cooperative of creatures.
More than the number of stars than I can actually see in the sky.
My tenants are not aliens – they are me.
We are a co-op.
As mysterious as the outer reaches of space.

There – that’s it.
Maybe I’ve told and showed you more than you wanted to know.
The winding road I began down has not come to a dead end.
The way goes on, without end – still expanding.
Like the universe “way out there,” the universe “way in here” is beyond my comprehension.
At this point, I’m too overwhelmed to continue wandering around the web.
More adventure next Sunday . . .
It’s easier now to focus on going up to the house to do something simple.
Making bacon and eggs and toast for Sunday brunch.
It’s feeding time for the zoo.

link to this story