Saturday, September 06, 2008

Day Three: Fresno to Lodi

We have a theme in tonight's post: lovely. There is "how lovely!" spoken with delight and enthusiasm and the sarcastic and heavily-spoken "just lovely." We had both today.

Since, once again, it is late and the connection is painfully slow, I will only share a very few highlight photos this evening, but I took probably just short of 200 pics today. You would be bored by most of them, trust me.

This morning we slept in late, both of us being exhausted. I rather think it is far less the rigors of the road and more cumulative exhaustion from inadequate sleep and sundry stress. After a late breakfast we headed to downtown Fresno.

This is the old Warners Theater. How cool is it? I will share more of it later on.

This is the statue of David of Sassoon, the great freedom fighter of Armenian folklore. I love this statue and have taken many photos of it on multiple occasions. This was a chance to get lots of digital pics of it. Once cannot fully appreciate the dynamism of this work without standing by it and walking around it.

Some of you will recall an earlier post when I spoke of the awesome fired tile mosaic of human knowledge arranged by the Dewey Decimal System in the Fresno County Library. A librarian kindly sent me two photographs of it. Today I took my own, a section at a time. This is the beginning (more later).

This is the house in which I grew up. It has changed. Originally built around 191o it had gray wood siding and a green shingle roof. In the back there is an attic sleeping porch. Now the exterior is a cream-colored stucco. The front lawn is worn down to dirt. It is for sale. Still and all, this is much better than the time I visited it and it looked like an abandoned crack house. I am glad to see it spiffed up. My grandparents lived here and my mother and her siblings all lived here (two adults and seven children with one bathroom - it was a different era!).

Today I pointed to houses, identifying them by who lived there when I was a little boy. The Francis house on the corner (they had pet skunks), Mrs Kradjian's house (where Edith and Hipolito, the Mexican consul, lived later), Mrs. Faeron's house (later the Woods house), Mrs. Londquist's house, Grandpa Anderson's house (he lived to be 104). Someone came to the door of the Woods house checking to see who this stranger taking photographs was. I explained that I had grown up next door. This seemed to satisfy him and he went back inside.

And this is that little boy on my knee from an earlier post: the groom. I wanted a nice photo of the bride but almost all my pics of the wedding party involve red eye and I cannot fix that tonight. But she is lovely.

Now, the adventure of the day is as follows:

Y'all recall my preparations for the trip - having a major service done on the car and obtaining a functional emergency spare tire (one of those "donuts" that I hate). I wanted a full spare tire but that was proving to take too much time and effort so I settled for a new donut to replace my dead old one. All my tires were balanced during the servicing, btw.

Well, we had a flat tire today, of course. In Manteca. While driving, say, something in the neighborhood of x miles over the speed limit, in the fast lane. I eased over to the shoulder and limped to the exit, around the corner, and into a service station. There we unloaded all our baggage and wedding presents from the trunk, took out the donut, and put it on in place of the now very flat tire. We had picked up a nail somewhere. Lovely.

Fortunately we had given ourselves a comfortable schedule but by the time this was done things were just a bit tight. We threw a beach towel over the flat tire in the trunk, repacked hastily, and also added air to the underinflated donut. I used to have a tire gauge in my glove compartment. Somewhere along the line it broke and the air station at the gas station did not include a gauge on the air dispenser. Lovely. We estimated the inflation pressure then off we went, driving from Manteca to Lodi on the donut.

Yes, my friends, I am very aware of how moderate a speed and short a distance one is supposed to drive with those things. Why do you think my original one was dead?

We managed a quick shower and change at the hotel and got to the church with about ten minutes to spare. And yes, my dear brother-in-law began to lecture me on donuts. Evidently he has learned the hard way too. I assured him I had been there, done that, and gotten the T-shirt.

The wedding was lovely (the very good kind of lovely). The mother of the groom, my niece, looked fabulous (you reading this, Jann?). Afterward, it being Saturday evening and we having miles to drive tomorrow, we inquired of locals how we might get this taken care of. A nice couple from Berkeley came to our rescue. She, a cousin of the bride, offered a ride to Berkeley tomorrow. Her husband got on the phone to Pep Boys and then told us they were open until 8, could do the job, and gave us directions. So while everyone else headed off to the reception, we went the opposite direction.

It was not the tire with a slow leak that had gotten the nail, of course, so I asked them to do what they could with two tires. The slow leak was repaired, the flat with the nail was beyond hope, and was replaced. We then headed to the reception where there was still food for us - and delicious food at that. Very good meal served in a catering barn out in the vineyards. Nice wine too, though being the designated driver I only had one glass. All in all a great evening and a chance to see family and friends of family I had not seen since my brother-in-law's funeral.

That was today's little adventure. All's well that ends well and thanks be to Godde for the kindness of strangers, who, it seems, are now freshly related to me after all.
--the BB

Barstow, California

Looking from the arcade of the Harvey House at some of the commerce carried on the tracks. We seemed to see an endless parade of freight trains - "the industrial might of China parading across the western landscape" as Bill put it.

See, even in the California desert I'm looking at architectural detail.

Some of the engines pulling the afore-noted train.

How American can we get, eh?

When cars were cars!

And horseless carriages were horseless carriages.

Gas station nostalgia. I remember stuff like this.

A map of Routed 66.

For the quilters out there

A Harvey Girl loses her head over me, what can I say?

One finds the most unusual items in out-of-the-way museums.

Headlines from when I was conceived!

Yes, youngsters, cars did look like this on the interior, and it was way cool, so stop sniggering.

A vintage California license plate. I remember when our family car had a plate like this. FBB 081 was the number, if I recall correctly.

I have more pics of Kingsburg to share but it's time to dash to downtown Fresno for some photography before hitting the road to Lodi and the wedding.
--the BB

Biden's response

You tell 'em, Joe!

Meanwhile, Governor Palin is being kept beyond the reach of reporters. What are they afraid of?
--the BB

Got Milk?

Thanks to the cajun, who commented here, I take note of the Gus Van Sant film Milk about Harvey Milk, starring Sean Penn. I am so looking forward to seeing it.

Blessed Harvey, pray for us!
--the BB

Friday, September 05, 2008


Latest Coalition Fatalities

09/05/08 MNF:
Soldier dies of non-combat related causes
A Multi-National Division – Center Soldier died of non-combat related injuries in Baghdad Sept. 5. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and official release by the Department of Defense.

DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Pfc. Patrick W. May, 22, of Jamestown, N.Y., died Sept. 2 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries sufferedfrom a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the Division Special Troops Battalion, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.

09/04/08 MNF:
2 MND-B Soldiers killed in terrorist attack
Two Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers were killed while on patrol as a result of a terrorist attack using an improvised explosive device in eastern Baghdad at approximately 12:15 p.m. Sept. 4.

--the BB

Day Two: Kingman AZ to Fresno CA

We began the day at JB's Restaurant, a classic coffee shop with some classic cars parked out front. Check out these two hot rods.

We stopped in Barstow, California, and had green chile cheeseburgers (New Mexicans need their green chile requirement to be met), then checked out the Harvey House. It has been restored and now houses the Barstow Chamber of Commerce and the Route 66 Museum.

When they were boys, Bill and his brother rode the train from Los Angeles to Texas for a visit with their grandparents. On the way they had dinner at this Harvey House.

As we got very near my home town of Fresno, we stopped in Kingsburg, California, my father's home town. Back when he was a boy it really was a Swedish town with a large Swedish population. Over the years that has diminished but, imitating Solvang's success as a Danish village and tourist attraction, Kingsburg went for the Swedish village tourist angle. Totally false new facades and decoration but fun to look at. By now there are very few Swedes left. It may have been a decade ago that I went into the allegedly Swedish bakery and asked for Jul limpa (the Christmas version of Swedish orange rye bread). The young woman looked at me as though I had dropped down from another planet. She had never heard of such a thing. They sold it but no longer used the Swedish name for it.

In spite of what by now is extremely phony kitsch, it is nonetheless where my aunts and uncles and grandparents lived, so I had to stop.

I have lots more photos but it is late and the tour continues. Had dinner with my sister and her husband and had a nice time. I am sparing them blog notoriety but got some pics for my own collection.

We'll check out some Fresno nostalgia tomorrow morning before driving up to the wedding.
--the BB

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Day One: Albuquerque NM to Kingman AZ

Thermy and Manuel oversee the packing. His Orthodox Majesty Maximiliano Cuauhtémoc Juárez Primo (aka Cocoa) naps in the background.

This is a shot taken from the parking lot of the Arizona Visitors Center just after we crossed into Arizona.

I really wanted to take photos of the western New Mexico countryside which so delighted me by its beauty that I had trouble keeping up coherent conversation, but I was driving. The photos that follow were taken when I was a passenger (so fear not, even though they were shot while moving).

On the road!

Looking out the passenger window (at 75 mph)

I think we have articulated a principle for our travel. No further in one day than we can go on one tank of gas. My Accord can go about 450 miles before the "low gas" light comes on, so that's still a good chunk of driving, but keeps us from driving to exhaustion.

In spite of which, since we were both up late last night getting ready, and up early again today, we are nonetheless exhausted. Fried, as it were. We found a hotel with a nice dining room and ate with white table cloths this evening.

I am trying to suppress nausea from watching the RNC.
--the BB

The pithy response

H/t to Kos who shared this reader response

As we all know, people in power do not care for community organizers because they know they are threatened. The corporacrats of the GOP will not go down without fighting, using every means they can. Senator Obama represents everything they fear - non-whites and every other sort of NOKD ("not our kind, dearie") organizing to improve their lives by standing up to their economic "masters" and demanding an end to exploitation.

Governor Palin, who is feeling very empowered these days, is IMNSHO a tool of the power-brokers, just as Pilate was a tool of Roman imperial might. But she will do all she can to squash teh threat.
--the BB

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


OK, it's late and I need to finish getting ready so I'm going to turn off the laptop and pack it. I'll get back to y'all at the first online opportunity.

Be kind to one another, reverence the earth, be gentle with yourselves, keep the love/prayer/good thoughts going for all who need them. Know that I am grateful for this online community.
--the BB

I only do this to tantalize Fran

Sunset over the mesa a few nights ago
(this is the view from my bedroom)

This is the view from my home office
--the BB

Checking in with the mouthpiece

Maggie and Belle conferring with Carlo Verro, Esq., their attorney and brother.

I try to convince myself they are only working out details of a book contract.

Meanwhile, in the process of checking when Thermy and I were in Cuernavaca, Mexico, I noticed that I have been lying about Belle's age. By a decade! I had convinced myself, without reflecting on the impossibility of it all, that she was 28. She only turned 18 this April. Well, at least she's 18. [To think I carted her off to that den of iniquity, even if it is her home town....]

The girls send their love to all their friends and fans worldwide.

[How'm I gonna keep them down on the Farne after they've seen N'Orleans?]
--the BB

Gearing up

Keeping one's ordinary life in order when living away from home can get tricky. Today I made sure my AAA membership and my car insurance were in good order. On my last trip the car had a major service and yesterday I got a functional spare tire at a nearby junkyard (replacing my dead one). Today I bought a wedding present and wrapping paper (one more task for tonight), I got a haircut, and I picked up the prescription refills I had ordered yesterday. Laundry continues. A few more reservations have been made.

We will be discussing Huston Smith's book on World Religions on the road, so I have pulled out some nice supplements from my shelves: the Dhammapada and the Upanishads. Also some poetry we might read to each other on the road. There is going to be lots of time on the road.

My buddy trimmed his beard. I asked at lunch today if this were for my sisters. He said yes.

Lunch today was lovely. It was my treat for Jack's birthday (belatedly) and Bill's saint's day (Gregory the Great on the Roman calendar). We dined as Seasons Grill in Old Town Albuquerque. I had a delicious glass of pinot gris (I usually avoid white wines so this was branching out a bit).

The return to New Orleans begins. The consulting agency I work through said we could come back tomorrow and Friday. I, of course, will be going back later.

This is wonderful news. Gustav hit New Orleans but New Orleans held. Hooray!

I am glad that Mimi and her family are all right though I eagerly await news that they are home and have power and can buy food in stores once more.

Back to laundry and getting ready. Mercifully we will not be departing at dawn as we are only aiming for Kingman, Arizona, on the first night.

Yes, photos are promised. Thermy and Manuel are going along. (This time a couple of my boys will be traveling.) Thermopoulos Lobster and Manuel Mapache (mapache is Spanish for raccoon) will partying on this trip. After all these days I don't think Belle and Maggie have gotten half-way through recounting their New Orleans adventures. I have not the slightest doubt that their siblings are getting much fuller versions than daddy gets. Which is just as well.

Thermy traveled with me to Mexico back in 1988. He is a great travel companion but I did not dare take him to New Orleans (too many seafood chefs in that town for his comfort). He likes riding on my shoulder.

Manuel comes from a long line of Californios, his people stretching back centuries in California. Some of his distant relatives hung out in the neighborhood where we lived in the El Cerrito hills, regularly visiting some of our neighbors.

My nephew in Albany made a slight error in naming places where the bride and groom are registered so I had to cross to the other side of town after lunch to get a wedding present. Fortunately a cell phone call to the groom's grandmother (my sister) got me on the right track.

Albuquerque is lovely. As ever. I so love living here.

And that wraps up the personal news from Desert Farne.
--the BB

My homeboy's new ad

The latest SUSA poll has him up over White (the repugnican). It's still going to be close.
h/t to Daily Kos

Getting to know you - another in a series

From Brave New Films comes this video of a classmate and later fellow P.O.W. on John McCain and the presidency:

--the BB

Captures a lot

Via bartcop by way of Padre Mickey
--the BB

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Fuckin' redneck

Levi Johnston, Governor Palin's future son-in-law

The New York Post provides information on the father of Sarah Palin's future grandchild:
On his MySpace page, Johnston boasts, "I'm a f - - -in' redneck" who likes to snowboard and ride dirt bikes.

"But I live to play hockey. I like to go camping and hang out with the boys, do some fishing, shoot some s- - - and just f - - -in' chillin' I guess."

"Ya f - - - with me I'll kick [your] ass," he added.

He also claims to be "in a relationship," but states, "I don't want kids."
Since he wrote his own material here, I assume there is no slander in sharing it.

Hoffmania, who alerted me to the NY Post article, comments on the "I don't want kids" bit:
Should've planned for that, f---in' redneck.
[Need we remind anyone that Governor Palin is firmly in favor of abstinence-only sex "education," praises here daughter's "choice" while opposing any woman's right to choose, and used a line-item veto to slash funding for a program for pregnant teenagers?]

NYMag calls him "Sex on Skates." So I guess McCain has sewn up the hockey vote.

Charming lad.

All of them lovely people.

This is NOT part of our prince blogging series.
--the BB

A political advertisement

I am no political organizer, I have little time, and my feet don't survive pavement well, but I can share in Obama's campaign by helping make videos like this available:

And you know this site will be at McCain from now until election day. We cannot afford four more years of the Bush disaster.
--the BB

A personal tale (not mine)

Life as a military dependent was a fascinating way to grow up and contributed much to the formation of my personal point of view. I would take nothing for the value I have derived from my interactions with other cultures. It taught me that deep connections are often made between profoundly different people, suggesting what has become a theme in my life – that we are all more alike than we are different.

From that benign beginning OPOL [One Pissed Off Liberal] recounts a portion of his story he had not hitherto shared. It is a rather harrowing tale and at the end he adds a touching and understated video. It is a moving journey into awareness.

Those who remember OPOL's unrestrained rants of earlier days and his eloquent and beautifully illustrated calls to be more than we have been will realize how deeply we are taken into a very personal space in this post. I commend it to you.

And I thank OPOL for every word written and graphic posted, reaching out to our hearts and minds and trying to shock us into awareness.
--the BB

A helpful resource: comparative resumés

You know you're going to hear a lot of stupid shit this campaign (still working on my cuss-o-meter rating). The whole bit about Governor Palin having more executive experience than Obama is an especially prominent one. It really pays to examine their experience to see what kind of experience and at what depth in order to evaluate that claim.

SantaFeMarie has done the legwork on this and posted her results at Daily Kos. I recommend you check it out and get all the details. Here is a small sample of summations for time periods.

1991 - 1995
Him: Expert on our nation's fundamental legal principles.
Her: plotted to leave the Union; thinks Pledge of Allegiance was written by our founding fathers, doesn't know what a Vice President does.

2005 to present
Him: Impressive figure on the national stage who knows how Congress works and is engaged with foreign policy issues.
Her: small state governor for 21 months; "next to Russia", but that is just 1 of the 190 countries in the world she has never been to.

Conclusion: the word "executive" is not some kind of magic force multiplier when placed in front of the word "experience".

--the BB

Ah, freedom of thought! And Godwin's Law - updated

Because y'all should know about it, if you don't already, here is what Wikipedia says about Godwin's Law:
Godwin's Law (also known as Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies) is an adage formulated by Mike Godwin in 1990. The law states:

"As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."

Godwin's Law is often cited in online discussions as a deterrent against the use of arguments in the reductio ad Hitlerum form.

The rule does not make any statement whether any particular reference or comparison to Hitler or the Nazis might be appropriate, but only asserts that one arising is increasingly probable. It is precisely because such a comparison or reference may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued that overuse of Nazi and Hitler comparisons should be avoided, because it robs the valid comparisons of their impact. Although in one of its early forms Godwin's Law referred specifically to Usenet newsgroup discussions, the law is now applied to any threaded online discussion: electronic mailing lists, message boards, chat rooms, and more recently blog comment threads and wiki talk pages.

I preface this post with such information for the sake of self-awareness because I am using such an inflammatory illustration (so to speak).

From Time online:
Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." The librarian, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire her for not giving "full support" to the mayor.

St. George, however, points out that Palin couldn't have seen everything through an evangelical lens. She had, he says, notably resisted calls to restrict operating hours for the bars in town. And even if faith did play an unusually large role in her decision-making as mayor, it may have only reflected the continued rise of evangelicism in the valley, a growth that continues to this day.

"We like to call this the Bible Belt of Alaska," says Cheryl Metiva, head of the local chamber of commerce. Churches proliferate in Wasilla today, and among the largest and most influential is the Wasilla Bible Church, where the Palins worship. [emphasis mine]

That first paragraph should make your blood run cold.

The final one gets to me as any mention of a Bible Church makes my blood run cold. I have history.

So, while I cannot say I have conclusive evidence by any means, there seems to be enough material floating about already to suggest that Sarah Palin is something of a theocrat. Which is why the fundagelicals like her and I find her simply terrifying.

The real issue, however, needs to be McCain's judgment and decision-making style. He is a gambler, someone who acts on impulse, and - given his famous temper - very short on self-control. America and the world really don't need someone like that heading up the United States.

Think some free thoughts today while you still can.

h/t to my friend Kathy who e-mailed me the paragraph about banning books and to Plutonium Page at Daily Kos who posted about this.

Prior to affiliating with the Bible Church, Palin attended the Wasilla Assembly of God where Ed Kalnins is the senior pastor.
The church runs a number of ministries providing help to poor neighborhoods, care for children in need, and general community services. But Pastor Kalnins has also preached that critics of President Bush will be banished to hell; questioned whether people who voted for Sen. John Kerry in 2004 would be accepted to heaven; charged that the 9/11 terrorist attacks and war in Iraq were part of a war "contending for your faith;" and said that Jesus "operated from that position of war mode."
[Emphasis mine]

Your blood running cold on that one yet?

That and more may be found in an article by Nico Pitney and Sam Stein at Huffington Post. H/t to John Aravosis at Americablog for that alert and link.
--the BB

An important message

My thanks to those who have been praying for my sister's niece, Jan, who died last Saturday. This morning I received an e-mail from her sister and I am sharing it with all of you. If it helps just one person make a decision for health and life the angels will rejoice.

To All Smokers and Family/Friends of Smokers,

This past Saturday, August 30, 2008, I sat with my sister (57 yrs old), and watched her pass away from small cell lung cancer. That type cancer is caused from smoking or second hand smoke 98% of the time. She was a long-time heavy smoker. It was a painful, lingering death...almost a year from diagnosis. It was agonizing to see her pain and sadness at leaving us. Her daughter, son and I lived in her room in the Hospice unit at Presbyterian Kaseman Hospital for a week while she went through her final hell of suffering. It isn't something I recommend you either do yourself or have to witness.

Some of you young smokers may think 57 yrs old IS old, but believe me, when you get there, you will feel like it's a great time of life....not so old!

My sister, Jan, was enjoying life...her children, grandchildren, and friends. She had a 9 yr old grandson, Anthony, with whom she was extremely close. Anthony had to watch his grandmother slip away, often too sick or tired to respond to him as he knew her. He was kept informed by her as to what was going on, and that she would leave him soon. It was totally heartbreaking. She and her children were very close. They have lost their best friend and support. It changes their lives forever.

I know what a tough habit it is to break, but I urge you..for your sake and your family's, to do whatever it takes to quit smoking. And don't tolerate others around you polluting your air. Make rules about smoking in your home...protect your kids and yourself.

I met a caregiver at Hospice whose young daughter (14) has the habit already. I would advise her not to marry and have children, because starting that young, she will probably leave them before they are old enough to fend for themselves. The caregiver asked me to try to get through to her daughter, and this email is especially for her.

Find your path and follow it, and if you think this message should be passed on, please feel free to do so.

In loving memory of my sister.

--the BB


09/01/08 :
DoD Identifies Navy Casualty
Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Harris, 36,of Lexington, N.C., died Aug. 30 from injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan. Harris was temporarily forward deployed from his assignment at Naval Special Warfare...


Monday, September 01, 2008


I have not been keeping this current for which I apologize.

Latest Coalition Fatalities

DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Spc. Steven J. Fitzmorris, 26, of Columbia, Mo., died on Aug. 25 of wounds suffered from enemy fire while on a dismounted patrol in Adhamiyah, Iraq. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team...

DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Spc. Jorge L. Feliz Nieve, 26, of Queens Village, N.Y., died on Aug. 28 of injuries sustained from a vehicle incident in Mosul, Iraq. He was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas.

DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Spc. Carlo E. Alfonso, 23, of Spokane, Wash., died on Aug. 26 of injuries sustained when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in Sadr City, Iraq. He was assigned to the 40th Engineer Battalion, 2d Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division...


O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us, unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.