Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gold Star...

...for me!

The last couple of times riding have been a real blast for me. When I began I was afraid of horses--irrationally so, yes, but scared nonetheless. Each lesson I seem to pick up one new thing, and to my astonishment I seem to also remember it the next lesson.

I've said that the most enjoyable thing about riding is the moment or two that I felt just right, and how each lesson that moment got longer and longer.

Well, the last few lessons have been a revelation for me, because they felt just right for most of the lesson! I have come away feeling like I am actually riding, not just sitting on a horse that is moving.

I don't even hold on when trotting now! I don't even think of it. It is work, even a bit of a strain on this old body of mine. I still screw up putting the bridle on, too (but not the saddle). A big break through for my comfort was when I started sitting up straight. And I don't really have to think about what to do--I just do it. One little bit at a time, and I am riding!

Now I even feel confident.I've got a million things to learn (next is trotting without stirrups! Holy shmoly!) but it it has been just one lesson of fun.

So today when I was finished and just gushing about what fun it is and all I told Paula (the world's best instructor) that I felt like I was learning quickly. She said, "Oh yes, you're my prize student." And THAT is why I give myself a gold star today.

Friday, August 10, 2012

11 Lamat

Guatemala, August 2012

I just got over two days of venge Montezuma from my trip to Guatemala. I don't usually suffer that. Maybe it was because Guatemala was never in the Aztec zone and I was supposed to figure out which Maya chief was more appropriate than Moctezuma (spelled correctly).
     I went there as a stand-behind for my friend Don, who went to continue his healing ritual with a Maya curandero.
     You can see a daily blog about it at the site Both Don and I wrote it, but since it is mostly about his adventures it's posted on one of his sites.
Half My Height--our sales person in Pana
     However, here are a few more things are of interest besides our daily adventures.
  • In a week or so, we saw only 3 people smoking cigarettes. I guess that sort of made up for the incredibly horrible auto pollution from the cars.
  • Guatemalans call themselves Chapin, Hondurans are Catrachos, and San Salvadorians are Guanacos. At least that's what the cab driver told us, and I can confirm the Chapin, so I hope I am not insulting anyone else.
  • They use the same accent as in Oaxaca--the ll is pronounced like an English "j" instead of a Spanish "ya." I have been told this is archaic Spanish.
  • My Mayan date-name is 11 Lamat, which translates as Eleven Starshine, Eleven Venus, or 11 Four Colors of Corn
  • We had plenty of opportunity to observe the HMH; or Half my Height. The brutal oppression of the Maya resulted in severe malnutrition which affected their growth. Hence the height of the lady in the photo. Younger Guatemalans are taller.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Not Just Sitting on a Horse!

Two riding sessions ago I snapped awake from a nap and rushed off to riding. I was pretty unfocussed, and stiff too, so that when I tried to mount Lightning she bolted. Or would have if her halter hadn't been properly tied. She's easily spooked anyway, but I think it was just my clumsiness from being so unfocussed, even though Paula kindly blamed the horse. When I went to my next lesson Paula called it a "disaster." We didn't even go to the arena, but just to the little corral near to the stalls, that day.
I made sure I was not in such a state on the next lesson, which was my latest. Always cautious and safety conscious, Paula brought us to the corral again. I guess my stretching and thinking about things beforehand paid off.
When I was riding it was like a totally new experience. I did all the right moves correctly without much outside thought--heels down, hands low, look where I'm going to turn, move feet to seat to hands, etc.
In fact, it was so easy and pleasant that it was a like an entirely new experience! It was actually riding, not sitting on a horse and moving around. Even lightning agreed, giving me the blessing of several of her snorts that mean she is happy and comfortable! Heck, I didn't even have to hold onto the saddle to trot!
I just hope I can stay so centered all the time! It was sure worth the experience. It was maybe 20 minutes of pure pleasure--the kind with the whole world is right. It's better than I thought I'd get, and want to do it some more.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


We did this yesterday, with many friends; and also blew off about $200 worth of fireworks. We could not ask for a more fun time! I would show the whole betting form, but its in an incorrect file type. Oh well, just come next year and get your own!

2nd Annual Mighty Small Farm


Chicken Races Betting Form
Betting is 25¢ per bet.
This is your betting form.
1. Choose Your Chicken from the list below
2. Write your name on the space provided, and the time of the race.
3. Find the bet-meister.
4. Pay the bet-meister 25¢per entry—exact change only!!
5. The bet-meister will confirm (initial) your bet and return your form.
You have to bet to win!
In case of ties, the winners will have a quiz-off.
Each winner will blindly choose a question from the Chicken Box. The youngest person answers first, then in order of increasing age. Who ever get the right answer first wins!
Prize: A fresh chicken egg, payable later this week

The MOST WONDERFUL events concerning Humbolt Roller Derby

   So I love Roller Derby, and I’ve got two special announcements to share! One is waaaay cool.
First, you know roller derby is an all-female sport. This is one of the things that I find so exciting. I mean, who doesn’t want to watch a bunch of well fit women skating around real fast and knocking each on their asses? One of the best things is how much confidence it instills in these women. Another is that it’s so new that everything about it has a wonderfully raw, wild feel to it.
   But as I said, it’s all-women, and there is no part in it for a guy. Wait a minute! Yes there is! The team has a board of directors who do all the shit work for them! That’s right up my alley! I interviewed for them a couple of weeks ago, in addition to having the kick-ass job of being the volunteer parking director! How cool is that? So I presented my potential assets to the board: 35 years of running a business, bubbling and energetic personality, not afraid to talk to anyone--and most importantly—plenty of spare time!
   So just a couple of days ago I heard back, and I got in! So I am now able to help out this fantastic organization to establish itself as one of Humbolt’s coolest things going. And not only that, but I also get a derby name! So from now on at any roller derby event you can address me in my official moniker: Señor Moment.
   But that is not the coolest thing! What is absolutely knock-my-socks-off farthest out is that we heard today that Suzanne has been chosen from the pool of qualified gals to play on the Widow Makers! They are one of the two teams that compete publicly.
   So not only do I get to tell everyone where to park (see below), but I will be watching my honey babe on the track kicking ass! I say, HOT RATS THIS IS COOL!
   So local friends of ours, you GOTTA come and see a bout now!
Page 20, Codex Nuttal

Mexican Treasures

   So Don and I had some extra time in LA after our fabulous Oaxacan lunch. I said the only thing I knew of was the La Brea tar pits, but they seemed to be on the other side of town. Don wanted to go to a great bookstore that he’d heard about, and we decided on that. On the way we passed the tar pits, and then we passed a museum with an exhibit of ancient Mexican treasures. Ooooh, I hoped we’d have time to go there.
   Alas, the book store had closed! Another tragedy of literacy! We debated briefly whether to go to La Brea or the exhibit, and since the tar pits will always be there, we went to the Mexican exhibit. And am I ever glad we did!
   The exhibit had lots of cool stuff, most of it really similar to things I’d seen before. But two items in particular had me in goose bumps from excitement at seeing them. It is always way cooler to see a real artifact instead of a photo or reproduction. Always. And there I looked upon two ancient codices, the Selden and the Nuttal,
   Codices are the ancient Mesoamerican screen folds. Once they had hundreds, if not thousands, but in the throes of religious zeal the earliest missionaries burnt them all, losing a vast treasure of ancient knowledge. Fewer than a dozen or so, depending on how it is defined, now exist. Slightly more lienzos exist, of a document made after the conquest to document land owned by indigenous people. Those provided the initial keys to translate the codices, which document the history of royal houses.
I love those things! They excite my imagination and sense of wonder and I’ve spent a lot of time studying books about them, reproductions of them with explanations. I was so excited I started translating the pictures to Don—it was the story of Lady 6-monkey. At one point a high school kid yelled out, “Hey, come here, this guy can read these things!” So I began again, explaining each panel to the students. When I looked up I was surrounded by twenty or so, plus a couple of instructors, all of them wide-eyed Latinos.
   “How do you know this stuff?” one asked.
   “I study!” I am imagining that I will have interested one or two of them to do the same!
With just a few minutes more we whisked through other parts of the museum, some permanent exhibits, but I don’t actually recall them as I was still swimming in the fact that I’d been inches of two literary treasures that excite me incredibly.
   As a closure to the adventure, we actually got misguided by the GPS while trying to return to the car rental place, and nearly ended up driving on the airport runway! What fun! We eventually found our correct way, and got home OK.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tlyuda, open faced

Mi Estómago Está en los Cielos

One of the things that Suzanne and I really miss around here is Oaxacan food. Nearly every state in Mexico has some sort of regional cuisine, and it’s likely unknown in other states. For instance, when I was teaching down there my students insisted that a burrito was American food, like hot dogs. I asked them, “Where do you get burritos in Oaxaca?” They all had the same answer: “MacDonalds breakfast burrito.” And they were right! 
   It is said that the last words of Porfirio Diaz, the dictator “president” who was finally tossed out by the Revolution and died in Paris (I have seen his tomb!), were lamenting for Oaxacan food.  I’m a bit surprised that he didn’t take any decent cooks with him into exile, but am not surprised that he died because he didn’t get any.
   Our favorite food Oaxacan food is Tlayudas. Memelitas and Chiliquilles are close behind. We have a “Oaxacan” restaurant in Eureka nearby, but they don’t serve those—they only have several moles, which is something else Oaxaca is famous for. It is impossible to find Oaxacan food anywhere except two places: Oaxaca and Los Angeles.
   Los Angeles has a huge Oaxacan population. It’s so large that they celebrate Guelaguetza (pronounced Gway-la-gates-a) there, which is a strictly Oaxacan fiesta. Eight indigenous groups live in Oaxaca, and on Guelaguetza representatives from all of them come into the city for a mutual dance fiesta. The government has a huge formal presentation of a favorite “foundation story,” a love story which ends with the Oaxacan heroine being beheaded. It’s in a stadium and is a huge production with lights and a band and all. We never saw it, but we always attended the more casual one in one of the city squares. Even without understanding Spanish we loved it. And Los Angeles has one!
   I went to Los Angeles with my friend Don to translate and be his “stand behind” while visiting a curandero (healer) from Guatemala. Don got a nerve nicked in a surgery, and none of the neurologists are able to do anything for him. However, Tata, the curandero, did help. Lots. In fact, one of the neurologists told him he was better off getting results from the healer than with further modern procedures. So off we went. The healing went fine, but for me the really high point was that we visited el restaurant Guelagetza. Don was a bit worried at first since it was in east LA, reputedly a dangerous place. Not so, we went with some friends from down there.
   And it was scrumptious.
   And the next day we went again for lunch, as we had some time to kill. The waiter was from Puebla, and when he realized I’d actually been there—I mentioned admiring the statue of General Zaragosa, the victor of the Battle of Cinco de Mayo—he was quite pleased. (Puebla is just about the only place in Mexico that celebrates Cinco de Mayo. No one is sure why it became the American Mexican holiday.) I had chilaquiles this time.
   And it was scrumptious.
   Mi estomacha 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My New Job
We pensioners must find things to keep us busy, lest we dwindle into senility without purpose. Thus, I am proud to reveal that I've been battling this dwindle swindle by sharing my new job. Only part time--and heck, a few days a year is better than nothing! 
   Revealed there in the picture is my job: parking overseer for the home bouts of the Humbolt Roller Derby! Yea man, I get to wear a bright reflective orange vest and point to where people ought to park! Some people brazenly ignore me--usually the tokers, as I can see, after they take the farthest-away slots--and I don't care. Perhaps that is the benefit of my aged wisdom? It's gotta be good for something!
   If you do not know what flat track roller derby is then you must not bee cool. It's the latest women's sport happening, and a hella fun to watch. Suzanne skates, though not in bouts (like most of the girls) and we have season passes. I'm even thinking of driving to watch the away games! 
   And even better yet, I've managed to maneuver my vast business experience, fantastic ideas and especially my oodles of free time to land a spot on the HRD board of directors!
  And entirely without irony or sarcasm, i really am pleased to participate in this. It's one of the best things I've ever seen for women empowerment, cuts across all class and economic barriers (well, at least those that we have in Humbolt), and is really fun to watch. 
   Roller derby is everywhere, and I really do suggest you check it out in your area.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Old Joints and Ponies

   Some days are just better than others, and this was one of those days. I got it now. What a fantastic teacher I have. The last couple of lessons I have saddled Lightning and mounted while in the stall. Mounting’s no more problem now that I realized it’s like vaulting a fence to get up—lower that center of gravity! But Paula has had me get into the saddle properly there, and also had me practice moving the horse sideways. I didn’t really realize it was even possible before.
   So this time when we went to the arena I did the lunging, which means I had Lightning on the halter and had her walk, trot and canter in circles. “Hands down!” was my command this time—especially with the whip that signals her to change pace or keep going. So round and round she goes with me turning with her. I used to just get dizzy when I did that. No more.
Oh yea, I am riding English Saddle too
   But that’s just warm up and the great part was riding and at last learning how to properly turn the horse! It sounds lame especially since I’d been turning her every lesson. But it’s not lame, it is a bit complicated to coordinate hands and feet (and stay sitting properly!) It has to do with that “make her go sideways” movement along with hands held properly. Paula basically grabbed my hands and said “Hold them like this,” which was pretty damn effective. I became acutely aware of my hands and managed to almost always hold them in the right place. And at the same time to do the right thing with my feet—get Lightning to pivot around the corners. And it went right!
   So I was riding in circles and oblongs and long rectangles with rounded corners and then even weaving between obstacles and holding my hands and feet right and sitting back in the saddle and damn but I could feel that everything was done just right. Yow! I have said that when I’m doing things right with Lightning and we are working together and I’m just gently guiding her to do what she wants to do in the way I want it done then everything is just perfect. And by “perfect” I mean that I feel right on the horse and then I feel like the whole damn cosmos is just perfect. Everything. It is exhilarating and if I wasn’t relaxed and breathing just right so that Lightning snorts with pleasure too then it would take my breath away.
   It wasn’t until I got back into the car that I realized I’d spent the whole lesson off the lunge line! Like, no strings attached to my dear teacher! And learning how to turn properly! A fantastic part of my wonderful day.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Oak Dance, 2012

For the last couple of decades I have been attending an annual ceremony called the Oak Dance. It's a trance dance whose purpose is transformation, both personal and extrapersonal. Or to explain it another way, it is where I go to get a direct line to my personal Higher Power, dead friends and relatives, and whatever disembodied entity wishes to communicate. And also, after decades, I visit with a whole lot of people from places distant from me who have become friends, or are becoming one. 
A Live Oak Tree
     Like many such activities, getting there is half the adventure. On the way south I blew out a tire and discovered we didn't have a lug wrench. That's when Officer Collins pulled up behind me and lent me one while she walked her K9. I attended an NA meeting in Santa Rosa and ran into a friend I haven't seen in a decade or more. I locked my keys in the car and instead of burglarizing my own car I remembered a lock box where I'd stashed an extra just for the next time I did this.
     Before the ceremony I was asked to lead a sweat lodge ceremony, which is always a high point. During the dance I realized I was no longer young, desperate, or stupid enough to be compelled to stay on my feet for all 10 hours of the dance. I was nabbed for a while by Trickster and facilitated its manifestation for a gloriously beautiful moment. I came to terms with the death of a dear, dear friend who had died some 15 or so years ago.
     But most surprising and pleasing to me was to again measure the changes I'd undergone in the year since the last dance and discover that I am actually feeling happy. Not just ok, not just good, but downright happy. The information that I've felt unhappy most of my life is perhaps news to everyone who did not know me intimately, because in social circumstances I nearly always felt ok, and always felt a genuine joy when seeing good friends. But it was always transitory. I used to stumble upon joy at times, and many times worked my ass off to get it. But at this time I just feel happy, and without the feeling that surely something bad must now descend upon me. I feel that people who don't suffer from depression might not have a clue what this is about, but I am speaking more to those people who do know. It feels so nice that I have no qualms about exposing my former self just to share the news with others that it can change. It has for me. 
     And I am happy about it.
     How nice!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

I'm in this book!

Foyou hard core GS fans, here's a new book coming out to which I have contributed. It will be available from Stone Skin Press and I have a very nifty little fable that I penned for it, titled "You Can't Teach a New Dog Old Tricks."
Learn more at 

Monday, May 21, 2012

I Went Here, 3

House of Dead Toy
The House of Dead Toys
    While attending a game convention in southern France we stumbled across this old house. It was a real traffic stopper, so it was not only us Americans that were wowed by it. Unlike everyone else, though, I went with my French friend Gregory to ask what was up. 
    We spoke to the old gent who lived there who explained that he gave all his grandchildren a new doll each Christmas, but only on the condition that they give up the old ones, which he carefully arranges among the other refugees that have preceded them.
     "I have thirteen grandchildren," he said, I think--I want to remember the number as 30 but don't trust that thought.

Just get the Frog cleared
     My riding continues, and is still my favorite sport.
     Paula, in her infinite wisdom as instructor, has expanded my knowledge and interaction to include cleaning Lightning's hooves before riding. She showed me how to do it and, in my own typical overheated excitement, I asked if it's necessary to get under the horseshoe when she pointed out to me that Lightning isn't shod. In my favor, though, I did not think that "clearing the frog" meant she'd stepped on an amphibian.
     I'm going weekly now too, because it's surprising how much I can forget in two weeks! So we also start off in the saddling stall--at least I've got the saddling down pat, even though I still fumble around with the bit. But it's like a loosening up of my old joints there, practicing getting onto the horse (getting easier!) and reviewing how to sit. Every little bit counts.
     I'm pretty excited too because last lesson we did a lot of trotting--that is, going at the horse's second gear (first gear is walking). I've got the secret down now--hold onto the saddle with one hand. Wow, what a genius I am! But be sure, I won't forget that lesson. And I also remember to sit up straight (a new postures for me, as I've mentioned) and keep my heels down to stop the horse (keeping them up confuses the poor animal since heel contact usually means "go.")
     I'm also happy to report that I am not crippled the days afterwards from using muscles that I have never used before. Just really sore.
Wolves eat the sun! Humbolt Style
     Yesterday was the great eclipse, and we in Humbolt were fortunate enough to be able to see it in it grandest style. Everyone was abuzz about it, and Arcata even held a special street fair to celebrate. Unusually it was a clear and cloudless early afternoon, holding forth a great (and unusual) promise to see the event. For the good of everyone's visual safety a booth sold those special glasses to stare at the sun and not go blind. I got there early enough to see that the line was already huge, and was at the same time late enough to find them sold out before I got to the front of the line.
     I mentioned to the organizer (who was pretty pissed off that they hadn't ordered a thousand sets) that she ought to hand out flyers to make a viewing box, whereupon she told me that they were doing just that at another booth, that had recycled materials on hand too! I went there, and they'd run out of that too.
     Well, thanks to my daughter Alisha we were not going to be skunked out of this possibility! She and Brian got everything in hand and made four viewing boxes and picked up up so we could ditch the crowd and find a less crowded place to watch the cosmos move. Shortly after the event was to begin we hopped into Alisha's car and went out to the Mad River to watch.
     It would take an idiot not to be able to look through the viewing hole to see things. The picture is us trying to figure out how to work the boxes. Not really--it's us clowning about it in our front yard in front of one of one of our beautiful rhododendron bushes. So we peered into the boxes in awe and wonder as the wolves devoured the sun. They crept up and cit out of it until it was a crescent shape.
     Then clouds moved over the sun and wolves both disappeared just long enough so we didn't get a view of the full eclipse with its promised ring of fire. That was very Humbolt, the usual kind of clowning that the clouds do to dupe us into thinking we will have something besides fog or clouds. Boo clouds! They cleared away in time to watch the sun fight way back, apparently making the wolves vomit it up to attain wholeness once again.Yay sun!
     Nonetheless, we had a fun time and shared our boxes with strangers on the Mad River bridge who believed the reports and didn't look at the sun. It was a fun day, and I'll say that hanging out with one's wife, daughter and son-in-law is a good thing, clouds or not.