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One guy's experience....

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Because I don't often talk much, and don't drive my car much or do much else that's quick or flamboyant, some folks seem to think of me as having a somewhat drab life, but actually, one slow episode at a time, I've had a rather interesting life so far (co-creating a popular bookshop near Stanford, renovating homes and gardens, writing for the US Office of Education about how to improve libraries, working in Yellowstone Park and for the California Department of Public Health and for a psychology journal, working on voter registration in several states, traveling in each state of the United States and somewhat beyond (by bicycle, car, foot, train, plane and boat), growing up in the Washington DC area (where I explored the Pentagon, the Congress, the Library of Congress and nearby forests), later studying at a venerable old New England college, and sometimes (ok, often) goofing off, and struggling to be useful in political campaigns, and trying love, and studying diverse religions, philosophies, medicinal plants, musical instruments, filmmaking, photography, energy conservation approaches, computers and astrology (yes, it "works" -- if you delve beyond mere sun sign stuff). Through these and other experiences and interesting relatives and friends and girlfriends, and hours and years of quiet contemplation, and more than 5 decades of practicing yoga (and more painful experiences, such as getting hit by a car in 1980 and eventually recovering fully, via yoga and diverse therapies, mainly acupuncture), I've discovered a bit which I'd like to share with you, and some things I'd like to ask you about, through this site, though it'll take awhile to get much of it up here.

Each person who reads this will know significant things which I don't (skills, facts, songs, myths, etc), so I truly welcome your suggested additions (see the bottom of the page).

At this point it feels appropriate, a good change of pace, to pause and ask about your life, but since you're not here (or are you? let me know!), I'll ramble on about myself and the people, places, things & ideas I've encountered. Gradually, I'll revise this draft and my life and (with you) this world.

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my first date -- what to do? what to say?

My name's Paul. Though I'm a 4th generation Arkansan, I grew up in Washington DC and Alexandria, VA. Before I was born, my mother (whose dad was a shopkeeper and whose mother was from a farm family) was a student at the U of Arkansas, where she learned to fly small planes and got a pilot's license, taught typing (she typed 120 words per minute, shocking me years later) and worked in JW Fulbright's first campaign for Congress, then moved to Washington DC to work as his secretary (soon after entering the House of Representatives, he proposed creation of the United Nations). When I was old enough to go to school, ma shifted to a job at the Pentagon (as administrative assistant to the US Army's Director of Civilian Personnel), while retaining her Arkansas friends, whose children were my pals.

Like my mother, my dad was from Arkansas (his dad was a judge in Batesville, then mayor in the then-small town of Springdale; his ma was a nurse and artist), and after college in New York, dad moved to Washington DC, in the 1930s, because of his appreciation for FDR's determination to help all Americans, especially those who were poor and not politically powerful. In DC dad met the gal who later became my ma. During World War II, my father-to-be worked for the OSS (years later renamed the CIA), met Mahatma Gandhi in India and worked in China on behalf of the US in helping the Chinese oust the Japanese -- experiences which changed him, made him more respectful of people from different lands and cultures, which he sometimes tried to explain to me. He was agnostic and liberal, while ma was a generic Christian and more middle-of-the-road Democrat.

After World War II, my parents-to-be married, and according to Ma, I was conceived at the Arlington Hotel during their honeymoon in Hot Springs, Arkansas. They went back to live in D.C., then when it was time for me to be born they went to Memphis, TN, where my dad's 4 older sisters were living. One was married to a pediatrician who delivered me on a snowy winter night, December 27, 1946, in the presence of my 4 aunts -- two were nurses, one later created a wildlife refuge in central Mexico, while another co-created a small town in Arkansas, where she was postmaster, ran a restaurant and created a 10,000 sq foot museum. These 4 aunts all loved learning about and growing medicinal plants (a passion which they passed on to me) and they've lived an average of a little over 100 years (and rising -- one is still alive, at 103, the one living a simple, healthy life in Mexico).

For about 27 years, from about 1947 to 1974, dad was Congressional liaison officer for FDIC (the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), working to ensure that banking practices wouldn't hurt people who trusted banks to preserve their money. Too bad the protective regulations he helped establish were undermined, starting with the Reagan administration (and remain shaky). After his separation from my ma when I was age 7 (they divorced a few years later), I lived with my Ma in Alexandria, Virginia, and talked with my dad on the phone for about an hour after school each day, and spent weekends and some holidays at his small apartment near the White House and roaming around DC. Dad taught me that one can learn something from every person. From my earliest memories, until his death decades later, he organized groups of kids to play baseball and football (in DC for many years, then in his final years in Mexico and southern Texas), and usually most of the kids he coached were not of his race. After retiring, he helped rebuild homes destroyed by an earthquake in Central America. If he were still alive, Dad would be appalled at the current Republican Party's, support for the rich at the expense of the poor, anti-environment stances, religious arrogance, non-compassionate cynicism, and war lust. (Through my childhood during the late 1940s, the 1950s and early 1960s, Republicans were about as progressive as Democrats.) After Dad's death, one of his government co-workers, a senior guy at FDIC, told me that sometimes when Dad was in meetings with powerful members of Congress or agency heads, he'd remind them of their true responsibilities, in heartfelt words that would make them cry.



In my early years, I saw people planning for war and peace, often anxiously, in those "cold war" years, and learned that it makes sense to work respectfully with other countries and emphasize education. I learned to play piano and chess, went on frequent school field trips throughout the nation's capital area (museums, nooks and crannies of government, homes and haunts of the country's founders), and studied weapons systems and the military/governmental labyrinth, and I enjoyed sitting quietly and listening to clearly wise folks like Senator Fulbright and his staff talk about how to resolve international problems.



For a change from the tensions of government, politics, potential nuclear war, and the squabbles of my parents and the demands of school, I often turned to yoga (the first book I recall ever buying, around age 6, was about yoga), or roamed through nearby woods (which have probably been bulldozed by now). Often I wandered around the Pentagon, sometimes when ma worked late at night and nobody seemed to care where a child would go, in the pre-Vietnam war years (especially the son of someone with a top secret clearance). Some nights, I'd walk, all alone, into the enormous offices of the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army, and sit and think about a troubled world; in the daytimes, on non-school days, many Pentagon people would show me what they were working on. I developed my inclination to be a conscientious objector to war.



Politics often seems important, rarely seems pleasant, rarely seems to be going well. I was listening, and heartbroken, standing in a crowded hallway off the Senate "gallery" (upstairs seating for observers), when I heard Senator Fulbright vote no on the 1964 Civil Rights Bill -- but was glad the majority voted yes. I could hear the agony and embarrassment in Fulbright's voice. He had told the bill's "floor leaders" that he'd vote yes if his vote would make a difference in passing the bill, but thought he needed to vote no to keep being elected from Arkansas. Lots of members of Congress face dilemmas like that when voting on issues their less-informed voters misunderstand (as with recent health care legislation). I would have voted yes on that civil rights bill and the next year's voting rights bill, but am glad Fulbright was able to remain in the Senate through the next few years, for his struggle against the Vietnam War. Fulbright later apologized for those Civil Rights no votes and for his support of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution (which escalated a minor non-incident at sea into a useless war).

That day in 1964, when a Democratic President (LBJ) pushed through that important civil rights legislation, was a turning point in the American politics of my lifetime, when the racist, anti-intellectual wing of the Democratic party began to decide to switch to the Republican party. Not many realized that a larger proportion of Republicans in Congress had voted for the bill, than had Democrats; anyway, there now remain few progressive Republicans, unlike when I was a child. The wise 1968 anti-war Democratic Presidential candidates (Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy) and their supporters added further reason for America's most hateful folks to become Republicans. The 1968 Chicago demonstrators (acting against the advice of Martin Luther King Jr and JW Fulbright) provided an example of misguided, under-informed youthful political analysis -- they demonstrated at the wrong political convention. LBJ was already out, not running; Humphrey would have been a wiser President than Nixon and probably would have ended the war a few years earlier. Voter registration work would have been more helpful than counterproductive demonstrating at the Democratic Convention of 1968, which spooked lots of voters into supporting the seemingly more stable Republicans.



I've often found it satisfying and informative to have friends from diverse cultures, races, religions. Everyone knows things that I don't know, and that you don't, everyone has a contribution to make, if barriers aren't put in their way. We hurt ourselves when we block the ability of others to help make our society stronger. In my view, education and health services, from birth to death, should be easily available to all, ideally with no qualifications requirements or complex forms to fill out -- paid for by a more progressive income tax system, in which the wealthiest Americans pay more of the taxes, at a percentage raised back to what they were not long ago. When Eisenhower was President, the tax rate on millionaires was 90%; maybe that was too high. JFK and the Congress of his time lowered that rate to -- but now it's been lowered too far (on multi-millionaires and billionaires) -- so we're going deeper and deeper into debt, partly to other countries such as China and Saudi Arabia which may not make future decisions which favor us, and we can't pay for essential services (which would do more good than the reckless wars (Vietnam, Nicaragua, Iraq) which entertain those who are cruel and foolish, but which teach the world to despise us. The rich benefit when the health and education of the poorest people are enhanced. Those who happen to have been born poor will bring unexpected pluses to their communities and beyond, when allowed to develop fully and live to their true potential, and they'll have less inclination to give up on life and turn to counterproductive drugs or to crime or depressed listlessness -- all of which cost more than better education and health services would. 



Anyway, during the the summers, I usually stayed with relatives in various parts of Arkansas, doing odd jobs -- or did gardening work in Alexandria. There were lots of great, warm, diversely skillful people in Arkansas, yet here I found some who hated and belittled black people (not something I'd seen much in D.C. or Alexandria) and considered everybody back where I was growing up to be foolish and corrupt and identical, none of which I had noticed. Sure, some parts of the country often send unwise people to represent them in Congress -- often because of the unwise choices of voters who don't try to learn much about issues, yet are super-confident in their opinions. It takes much less effort to learn and state, repeatedly, a few hateful, sarcastic comments about Congress, than to learn what would really be best for Congress or anyone else to do. Voters tend to support candidates whose minds and natures are most like their own, so educated, open-hearted areas tend to elect representatives who are like that, while cruel, arrogant, learning-averse voters tend to prefer members of Congress who are like that (fortunately most states aren't consistently utterly foolish).

born in a nest built in a wreath...
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...on the tombstone next to my grandfather's grave

Several of my mother's relatives were industrious farmers and operators of small businesses. Sometimes mother's father would come visit us from Arkansas, where he and my grandma owned a store selling TVs and appliances. Grandpa was an interesting fellow who'd often go to Congressional offices, through the 1950s, trying to persuade folks there of various things, such as that the country should invest more money in understanding and, when necessary, controlling weather -- and that others might someday use weather control as a weapon against us. He gave me tips about healthy ways of eating, and I didn't take him too seriously until years later. Around my period of puberty, in the piles of grandpa's books and magazines I discovered the Kinsey books about human sexuality -- and read them, and eventually suspected that he'd helpfully meant me to find them. A good thing, since neither of my parents talked with me about such things, apparently each expecting the other to do so.

After working in voter registration and Democratic campaigns in high school (where I also did standard stuff like homework, sports, learning to play piano, cello and harmonica, watching TV, listening to distant countries on short-wave radio, roaming woods, visiting beaches, and almost drooling in the presence of attractive females, and of course, like any kid, loitering), I went to a beautiful old college in New Hampshire called Dartmouth, then got a summer job as an intern at the US Office of Education, writing about how libraries could be improved. The next summer I got a summer job as a laborer in Yellowstone Park, where I discovered the satisfaction of picking up litter -- something I still enjoy (in high school I'd been inspired by Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, and had done a science project on the then-new organic pesticide bacillus thuringiensis). In my travels I've noticed that many unregistered young potential voters, especially in the South, are unaware of how good Democrats tend to be in their environmental and health policies; too many young and older folks casually pollute their surroundings, and develop a cynical attitude toward life and political issues -- which is easier than learning, but less satisfying, less likely to produce progress. Alas, our nation's current leader seems disinterested in learning anything, apparently reads no books or newspapers, watches no tv news, never mentions using the internet, and rarely converses with anyone outside his circle of wealthy big business pals and right wing sycophants. It feels odd to write such a thing, and like many I hesitate to criticize others (being flawed myself), yet feel that in the case of the nation's chief executive, some analysis is required.

By the mid-1960s, America was getting involved in the long, strange, sad Vietnam War. In high school, after feeling crushed by JFK's assassination in 1963, I'd worked hard in LBJ's 1964 campaign -- mostly simple office work and serving as a messenger between the LBJ campaign, the NAACP, the press and the Democratic Party (putting in so much effort that I was among several who got invited to the White House for cookies and punch with Lady Bird Johnson and Mrs Humphrey), but soon after I got to college in New England, my sense of being a wise fellow faded as I realized that the developing war was a cruel mistake, and because I'd helped elect the misguided War President (who was nevertheless creatively productive in domestic legislation), I felt I couldn't ethically accept student deferment from the draft, so I left college for several years and did alternative service as a conscientious objector to war (it took hard years of appeals to get the CO classification). I see a parallel with John Kerry's serving in the military, yet eventually realizing that the war was a mistake and speaking out against it, in an effort to save the lives of Americans and Vietnamese.

For several months I worked for the California Dept of Public Health in Berkeley, as a lab assistant and delivery guy, and began to develop the idea of creating a great bookstore, and this thought became real when some friends and I co-created a bookshop in Palo Alto, called Plowshare (now defunct, though it had a good long run); we designed and built our shelves, ordered the best books (including many by small presses and self-published authors) and put in lots of chairs, sofas, benches, a room with cushions on the floor for sitting, and lots of plants and great paintings on the wall, which we helped sell for local artists. We did draft counseling, collected many thousands of books for a small, new local college, and had frequent community meetings and events featuring authors. After a year or two, some in the book business said our store was the best in the country (some said it wasn't, others didn't say). Our store was two blocks from the campus of Stanford University, and the bookshop was a great way of meeting great ideas and people; we were also near Portola Institute, which was creating the Whole Earth Catalog, and I learned much from those folks about living in harmony with nature. Plowshare had long hours, a good many employees and projects, and we found running a small business challenging but quite rewarding. Unfortunately the current US President caters almost exclusively to the biggest corporations -- which actually produce fewer jobs than do small businesses.

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Fog rolls into Silicon Valley

I did some work for The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, including exploring various religious groups and practices, and ways of personal growth. I especially enjoyed sitting with and listening to a Zen Master named Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, whose books -- Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind and Not Always So -- are well worth reading. Next, with my girlfriend of those years, I created a McGovern Presidential campaign center in the south-central part of San Francisco. We registered lots of people to vote, and convinced other folks to get involved in the campaign. Eventually I returned to Dartmouth and learned a bit more about world hunger, agriculture, nutrition and medicinal plants (which I later studied further with herbalists in western states), took courses on energy and environment, and graduated, after coordinating 14 other students in making a documentary on future energy sources & the importance of conservation (it was shown on PBS in New England) -- in it I said that if we didn't learn to conserve energy, we'd wind up involved in wars in the middle east, to defend our oil supply lines. Returning to Northern California, I worked on Democratic and voter registration campaigns (rarely paid), studied filmmaking, got involved in home renovation, studied and grew medicinal plants in my backyard, which became a delightful place, as I experimented with growing as many species of nutritious and healing plants and fruit trees as I could, and learned some health-promoting practices, including massage -- and breathed in the fresh air that drifted through my garden from the sea. Sometimes I'd climb up in one of my huge old fig trees and watch the fog roll in, across the valleys of the city and over toward Berkeley. Nowadays, such serenity seems almost beyond reach. Having become aware of the importance of conserving energy, for about a decade I avoided using a car.

Back in Northern Virginia, my ma retired and entered her second marriage and I acquired a great stepfather and stepbrother, both from Alaska. My stepfather had long worked for the Interior Department, where as head of the Territories Division, when Hawaii and Alaska were Territories, he submitted language for a Presidential State of the Union speech, recommending making them States. Later he was appointed High Commissioner of the Trust Territories of the Pacific by JFK and LBJ, and helped those distant islands become an independent democracy. That's to his credit, not mine; I mention it to clarify the beneficial philosophical influence he had on me. We became good friends, occasionally got together to travel with my ma to visit his relatives in Alaska, Oregon, Washington State, Florida and Hawaii.

I worked in the successful campaign of a progressive Democrat for mayor of San Francisco, and I considered running for the Board of Supervisors there, but shyly decided against it. The person who wound up being elected to the Board from my district was my age, a right-wing fellow who after a few years assassinated the mayor in whose campaign I had worked (and killed another member of the Board of Supervisors who, unlike the mayor, happened to be gay). A sympathetic jury gave the murderer, supposedly a "troubled young idealist", a light sentence. You may have seen films or books about all that. Need I mention that although I'm heterosexual, I don't think it's OK to kill or harm or hinder people who differ from me in that or other ways? Surprisingly many people in this world, and in my own country (including the current President) are far too ready to kill, and then explain it all away, with some hateful slogan or lame excuse, and a smirk, and belittle those who don't value their evil deeds. My impression is that for many fundamentalist extremists of both the American Christian and the Muslim varieties, it matters not whether their war tactics are counterproductive, earning them more determined enemies than before their violent attacks -- what counts to them is the thrill of the assertion, the shout, the shooting, the kill, the putting aside of any thinking or debating or studying anything, even if it could bring better results - and just charging forward, carrying out what they call the will of God, though really it's the will of their own impatient, reckless minds. Such folks are quite dangerous, and politicians who challenge them from within their own countries are vulnerable to assassination, -- or at least being unelected because of being "weaker" than the loudmouth killers -- and sensing this, many fear to challenge such foolishness. Alas, I believe that our current President, unlike any other of my lifetime, and probably unlike any other in American history, is such an extremist, despite some ability to seem affable or pleasantly goofy in public. Our nation may suffer a horrible eventual revenge for its arrogance in these times. (See my "Agenda" page for a foreign policy initiative which I think could avert this.)

I sold my home and moved away from California and my beloved garden. After working in a Democratic campaign in Iowa, I moved to Oregon, where I got hit by a reckless driver while bicycling (and gradually recovered fully, with the help of diverse therapies, including acupuncture, and my continuing yoga). With a renewed interest in health and serenity, I studied herbology in New Mexico and Arkansas, and spent some time in Mexico with my retired birth dad, at an amazing wildlife refuge operated by my aunt, dad's sister. I found and bought a few acres of rolling, strangely beautiful land, covered with pine and juniper trees, just outside Santa Fe, New Mexico, and began living on it in a tent, 7000 feet above sea level, with a view of several surrounding mountain ranges, planning to build a house, when someone legally challenged my right to use the access road. Meanwhile, winter set in, and in the snow near my tent I could see the tracks of a mountain lion, and quite a few mice were always scampering nearby, and on my little solar-powered radio I heard reports of bubonic plague being spread by mice in New Mexico; and I also heard an ad for deeply discounted Amtrak train deals, allowing travel throughout the United States. So I packed my backpack and headed for the Amtrak station in Denver, and traveled by train to Chicago, Montreal, Washington DC, Florida, New Orleans, California, Washington State -- and lots of places between those, getting off the train for days at a time, in diverse places, and taking lots of photographs. I found the trains to be pleasant places to meet other travelers and hear their stories, and the trains had comfortable seats with much more leg-room and options for walking around and changing seats, than do buses or planes or cars. After the Amtrak folks admitted that they'd made some kind of goof in dealing with me (frankly I've forgotten what it was), they said I could travel the whole country again, for free -- and I did! I paused for several months in Santa Cruz, California and took a yoga course at the University there, and rented a good-sized plot in the community garden and filled it with herbs, and registered people to vote, walking door-to-door and sitting at card tables in parks and in front of grocery stores. Then one day I heard that a nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, half a world away, had melted down, and that a cloud of radioactive dust was headed over the North Pole toward the US West Coast, where it would sweep inland, probably on a day when rain was likely. This cloud was said to be of unknown toxicity, possibly severe. Well... I decided to head out of there, and I went to the airport and bought a plane ticket to Hawaii (for $100) -- I was surprised, in the nearly vacant San Francisco airport, that so few people seemed to care about the potential hazard approaching -- and having studied up on cheap ways of living in Hawaii, I flew over thataway, and rented a shack in the jungle on the Big Island, for $50 a month, and studied and practiced landscape painting for awhile. After a few months I grew homesick for the mainland, and returned, where, before long, I read reports in the newspapers of several western states, about strange surges in the incidence of cancer in previously healthy people -- and some speculated that the cause was that Chernobyl fallout (which indeed had been measured to be quite significant in the US West, by several Universities), fallout which was inhaled by humans and concentrated in grass which cows munched before producing milk. Soon after the Chernobyl incident, I quit consuming dairy products, and have avoided them ever since. I'd already quit eating all other animal-derived products, long before, so now I've been a full vegetarian (some call that vegan) for a good while. For more thoughts about vegetarianism, see this site's health page.

By the early 1980s I'd predicted to friends that the Soviet Union would soon be turned away from Communism by reformers, and that the new threats would be from Islamic terrorists and North Korea. Most such analysis didn't originate with me -- I'd heard discussions of such things in Washington DC, and in reports from sources such as the old McNeil-Lehrer program on PBS (but it was odd to learn, years later, that many US leaders were surprised by these events). Tired of the western earthquakes and crowding and expecting eventual attacks on the US coasts (even if decades away), I decided to head inland, back to the roots of my parents. For quite a few years I've lived in a small town in Arkansas, helping older kin, beginning with my grandma, who finally died at 95, and have been doing lots of organic gardening and some home renovation and exploring Arkansas and the internet. Back when I was recovering from that collison with a car in Oregon, I went to stay with and help a very dear aunt of mine, my dad's sister, who had a wonderful museum in the Ozarks, and who was an organic gardener. She died not long ago, at age 100. Another of dad's sisters, a fine nurse and teacher whose husband delivered me when I was born, also died recently. Yet another of my dad's sisters, the one who created a wildlife refuge in Mexico, is still alive and in her late 90s. My dad's brother Virgil, who'd been a judge and an Arkansas State legislator, died in his 90s. (My dad's dad was also once a judge, and once was a mayor of an Akansas town.)

Hanging out in Arkansas gave me a chance to meet Hillary Clinton, once, by chance, when I walked into the State Capitol Building, a couple of years before her husband first ran for President. I first asked her what she thought of the Sierra Club (which had recently endorsed her husband's Democratic primary opponent, in Bill Clinton's last run for Arkansas Governor). She gave a somewhat rehearsed-sounding answer about having tried to preserve forests. While she was saying a few sentences about that, I was remembering how, years before, I'd met LBJ's wife, and had not really said anything worthwhile, in the very early days of the Vietnam War -- and lived to regret my reticence. So my second question to Hillary Clinton was this (ok, it's awkwardly constructed, but she got the point): "Do you think that, unlike an outsider, a person who has been in power for a long time -- through having to deal with all kinds of people and through having to make compromises to get things done -- would gradually drift away from an earlier idealism?" To my gratification, she took that question seriously, as worthy of consideration, and did not resort to mere defensiveness, and I sensed the presense of an alert and intelligent person. I urged her to become more assertive and emphasize the environment and health, and we shared thoughts on what both works and is decent to do in campaigns (stay programmatic, avoid personal attacks). I mentioned the frustration that had been felt by my uncle Virgil (who'd been in the State Legislature, and had long tried to upgrade the state's backward Constitution), and she confessed to being frustrated too. She pointed out a ridiculous campaign poster promoting her husband's primary opponent. Immediately (a couple of seconds after our conversation), she verbally confronted a guy standing a few feet away, who was beginning to give a prepared statement to a few reporters. He was the Democrat who was running against Bill Clinton in Bill's last campaign for Arkansas Governor. News crews recorded that vigorous exchange between Hillary and her husband's opponent, and later biographies of her said that seemed to be a turning point in her life, when she began speaking up after years of semi-quietness. Did I have an effect there, or would she have spoken up anyway? It doesn't matter. Or does it? Anyway, I appreciated that she'd have such an open conversation with me, a stranger -- including actual listening -- not all pollitical folks would (and I'd just gotten to Little Rock after a couple of weeks of camping out in the Ozarks, so was pretty scruffy-looking). In a way, the me of that day (and some other days of my life, including sometimes when I work on this website) reminds me of the stranger-confronting Ancient Mariner, of the Coleridge poem. I should insert here that Hillary Clinton's intelligence and concerns grew over years of study and experiences and development, with many influences, and she's hardly identical to me, or progressive because of me. By the way, after Bill's Democratic opponent for Governor that year -- a good fellow, with some values similar to mine -- gave his little speech that day, one of his aides, whom I'd met, brought the candidate over to meet me, and as with Hillary, I made specific recommendations on how he could win (including putting out TV ads telling what he had done in his life and planned to do as governor, instead of continuing to run silly ads with trivia such as about how tall he was), and I could tell he didn't quite care what I had to say, just wanted my support. Sigh. The lesson of this paragraph: be prepared, in case the occasion comes, to say, concisely, what you believe, what you yourself actually believe and want, rather than revert to what you've been taught to say, or formalities of no consequence. And once you have such a personal statement, don't wait for the occasion on which to deliver it: create your own opportunity, through a blog or website or project about which you deeply care. Many who read this can do better than I.

My travels have been interesting but have disrupted most relationships. Nowadays I like to stay close to home. My ma's moved back to Arkansas too, where alas, my stepdad entered a long, sad decline into Alzheimer's disease, and died. Ma's home's about a mile from mine. I miss almost everyone who's been close to me but who isn't now. I've been a vegetarian most of my life, practiced yoga since about age 5 or 6, and have goofed off just the right amount -- or maybe too much, as some probably think. I haven't worn a suit or tie since high school, and have never made much money, or spent much. Most of my earnings have come through improving the gardens and homes where I've lived, and eventually selling them. I finally sold my little piece of New Mexico land. (The dispute over use of the access road was decided in my favor. When I'd bought the land my contract included a guarantee about the access road, and I bought "title insurance", so the legal dispute about the access road cost me nothing and was handled by others, but disrupted my plans, tied up my assets and prompted me to be a homeless wanderer for awhile.) I've spent time in all US States. Some years I've lived with a wonderful girlfriend or two; more often I've lived alone. In 2000 I created and distributed campaign fliers for that Gore guy, and in 2004 I did the best I could see to do, for Kerry and Edwards and their campaign to lead my wonderful yet half-crazed country. I registered a few hundred new voters, and ma registered about 40, and I found homes for about 100 yard signs. I created this website in the fall of 2004, when its main purpose was to suggest reasons and ways to help Kerry and Edwards win.

A couple of years after the attacks of 9/11/2001, I took a disaster preparedness & response course at a local college. Organized by State & local health agencies and people from the Pentagon, the course trained us to cope with various kinds of potential chemical, biological and nuclear attacks, and be helpful to people who'd be hurt or fleeing, even if professional medical and government workers were overwhelmed or killed. Through films, talks, demonstrations and considerable printed material, we learned how to administer first aid & CPR (I'd previously taken a course on that), and how to deliver a baby, how to supply intravenous blood and use various hospital machines, and how to recognize and respond to anthrax, plague, smallpox, botulism, radiation sickness, grief and other tough potential troubles. Although they gave us all certificates and spiffy emergency services vests, to tell you the truth, I still don't feel quite ready for much of that. One point which I'd long realized, which could be useful to you: it's a good idea for each of us to keep bottles of kelp on hand, because following nuclear attack or nuclear power plant meltdown, the prime threat will be exposure to radioactive iodine. Consumption of kelp, which is high in ordinary iodine, may sufficiently saturate our cells with iodine so they can't absorb the radioactive kind. Iodine and kelp were distributed to Soviet citizens by the Soviet government following the Chernobyl incident, and to US citizens by the US government following the Three Mile Island incident in Pennsylvania.

Lately local drought has been broken by heavy rains. The weather warms, toads and fruit tree flowers emerge, and my garden grows, and despite its wildness is often more refreshing to gaze at than the compelling, glowing, more controlled eye of my computer or TV.

Given the way my country is organized, with an elected central government determining several crucial aspects of our lives, I hope my country will not again choose the leadership of a guy who apparently thinks he was born knowing everything (and thus need not seek diverse advice), who revels in being a War President (and whose thought process seems to consist mainly of swaggering words), who understands little about wise strategy, cooperation or learning, and thus rarely inspires anyone to study anything useful or do any good, and who quietly appoints polluters to all environmental departments, ignores troubling trends in our planet's climate, subsidizes the rich and the vast, counterproductively used war machine to a degree that bankrupts the country, while ignoring real needs and suffering, promoting a philosophy devoid of compassion, humilty or fiscal sanity, running a Presidency and campaigns based largely on lies and unwarranted attacks -- all perverting the public's sense of what's ok to think or do or be. Sorry to bring up all that stuff again -- living through and hearing about this misleadership can exhaust us, and we need to take breaks from news about it, but gosh, it does matter, is NOT OK, and we can change it. When elections approach, we can encourage others to register to vote, and vote more wisely. Yes, you too are alive in these times, and can have an effect, for good or ill. But other things also matter. Let's learn to create beauty and health and decency in our own unique ways -- and develop local pockets of paradise, or livable havens, when possible.

As individuals, we can often transcend whatever problems confront us, at least most of them, for awhile, and create interesting and productive lives, finding friends, useful work, love (sometimes, at least), and various kinds of pleasure and fulfillment, yet it's wise to keep an eye on the bigger picture -- while understanding that not everything will always go our way -- and ocassionally, because of our ignorance (yes, everyone's), that's for the best.

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