Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Colestin Camp Out in 5 weeks!

Greetings blog followers,

So sorry that your faithful correspondent has been less than faithful lately. Hey, since this blog is called Colestin Camp Out, howzabout some Colestin Camp Out news? It's coming up, y'know: June 25-27. The Dogboy has to work on Friday and won’t be able to act as master of ceremonies for the pizza feed. Lord knows he has earned a year off after working like a field hand since – well, since the first camp out lo these 15 years ago. Sequoia and I will rise up a bunch of dough and make a pan of sauce. Bring sauces, cheeses, toppings, all the good stuff. If all goes to plan, Lowell will pull in right about the time we start putting pizza in the oven. Won’t it be wonderful to feed him for a change?

We haven’t lighted on a theme for Saturday. James Dean expressed a hankering for fry bread again and, really, who doesn’t have a hankering for fry bread? With maybe some pork? Lord, lord.

After years of fretting about the young'uns and the teenagers and the novices and the weather, I'm in a "do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" mood this year; just as long as we remember the second line of that invocation, "love is the law, love under will." Do what you will and do it yourself; as long as it is done with love, everything will work out.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Little Red Hen

The tale of the Little Red Hen has been much on my mind recently. If you don’t remember it, here’s a thumbnail version:

One day, the Little Red Hen found some grain on the ground. She asked the barnyard, “Who will help me plant the grain?” “Not I,” said the dog, so the Little Red Hen planted the grain. When it sprouted she asked the barnyard, “Who will help me water the grain?” “Not I,” said the duck, so the Little Red Hen watered the grain. When it grew tall she asked the barnyard, “Who will help me harvest the grain?” “Not I,” said the goose, so the Little Red Hen harvested the grain and asked the barnyard, “Who will help me grind the grain?” “Not I,” said the turkey, so the Little Red Hen ground the grain and asked the barnyard, “Who will help me bake the bread?” “Not I,” said the cow, so the Little Red Hen baked the bread and when it came out of the oven, she asked the barnyard, “Who will help me eat the bread?” “I will!” said the dog, duck, goose, turkey and cow. The Little Red Hen said, “Screw you slackers,” and ate the bread all by herself.

That’s an extremely loose adaptation, but you get the drift. This story has been stuck in my head lately, probably because I feel an affinity for the Little Red Hen. Sequoia and I were definitely slackers until well into our twenties, but circumstances conspired to deliver a few well-timed wake up calls upside our heads. I went back to school, he went back to school, we graduated, found jobs in our fields and went to work. We didn’t take big vacations, we didn’t drive nice cars, we shopped for bargains and wore thrift store shoes. After 25 years in the workforce, we’re in pretty good shape. Neither of us can afford to retire, but we’ve paid off our mortgage and our cars, we have a little bit of money set aside for retirement and we have decent jobs. I feel pretty darn lucky, but it was more than luck. We worked our asses off to get where we are.

I know that many, many people work their asses off and end up with much less than what we have. I know that we’ve been remarkably blessed with health, opportunities and financial help at a couple of key moments. Here’s the thing: we made the most of those blessings. We made some hard choices and now, after all these years, they are paying off. So, when Loosey Goosey wants to eat the bread that I’ve worked so hard to bake, I have to admit, it pisses me off. I would feel differently if Loosey Goosey was disabled or disadvantaged, but I have no compassion for the Loosey Gooseys who were too damned lazy to work.

When you put off the hard choices, they just become harder. As Chekhov tells us in Uncle Vanya, life is work. We will work Vanya and then we will rest.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I can't sleep again. Want to hear a good old middle-of-the-night ghost story?

When I was a kid, I went to Mary B. Lewis Elementary school in beautiful Bloomington California. It was located right on San Bernardino Avenue, an old two lane highway that ran forever - from Redlands to Pomona at least, probably all the way to L.A. It was a major thoroughfare and this was the 60s; people drove big cars and they drove them like hell. The legend was that, when the school was being built, some kid playing at the site ran out onto San Bernardino Avenue. Mary B. Lewis rushed out into the street, pushed him to safety and was killed by an oncoming car. Legend had it that she had just enough time to cross herself before meeting her maker. In honor of her selfless deed, the local authorities named the school after her. I don't remember who first told me this story; it was common knowledge in the neighborhood. She was our patron saint, a paragon that none of us could ever live up to. I mean, sheesh, she stepped out into traffic for some kid; can't top that, now can you?
All through my school years I carried a vivid mental image of her genuflecting before the grill of an oncoming vehicle.

That image of Mary kneeling in traffic recently reappeared in my fevered little head and wouldn't go away. It seemed like a good subject for a song. So, I started writing about it, thinking about it, tweaking it, and it occurs to me - hey I have access to that there Google, maybe I can find out something about the history of the school or the origin of the story.

I couldn't find much about the school; the Colton Unified School District is pretty marginal and their web presence leaves much to be desired. What I did find online were several sites saying Mary B. Lewis Elementary is haunted. Apparently a ghost walks the halls in the middle of the night (although who is there in the middle of the night to see it?)

I don't believe in ghosts. I don't believe that we linger here as anything recognizably human. I don't know if I even believe in an afterlife per se, at least not one that we can comprehend with our tiny mammalian brain. But, I can't help but wonder if ol' Mary B. somehow put this song in my brain. Damn girl, they already named a school after you; what more do you want?