Archive for December 2010
Good morning, Netizens…
As of 1:04 AM yesterday morning, December 30, I suppose it was an accomplishment, or perhaps not, but I am now officially 65 years of age, something I never really expected I would attain. I did a lot of things, both planned and unplanned, over the years that probably should have ended my life without further ado, but miraculously I somehow managed to survive. I've had friends, colleagues and associates who have preceded me in death; some in their passage have taught me great lessons I needed to learn. I would only hope that I might have taught others, perhaps not by example.
I could prattle on and on about the various places I have lived, people I have known or things grand or small that I have accomplished, but for what? If you live a rapid-fire, balls to the walls life until 65 years of age, you accumulate such experiences as a normal course of living. As I have told various people over the last few years, I have lived a long and fascinating life, and never have looked backwards, always forwards into the future.
Egods but this last political and economic decade has been a wild, unpredictable run! From King Kong-sized bankruptcies to incredible political corruption, we have seen it all here in Spokane and beyond. Our police department has been wildly out-of-control, and our control of their chain of command has been, at best, minimal. Never forget the murder of Otto Zehm.
However, there are some advantages to growing older. I am speaking, of course, of medical insurance. I am ecstatic beyond words at being able to obtain health care insurance, although the question is how affordable Medicare might be, given the crippled federal budget may place some constraints on future medical payouts. Still, having Medicare beats having nothing at all.
So we march forward with calm decisiveness and clarity of purpose. Maybe we will continue another year, perhaps more.
Good evening, Netizens…
The City of Spokane this afternoon declared a Stage 2 Snow Emergency. During a Stage 2 Snow Emergency crews will work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until they complete a full-City plow that includes all residential areas. Of course, early this morning, I heard from Dr. John, who informed me at approximately 6:00 o'clock this morning that Grand Boulevard had seen several of our city snowplows eagerly plying the South Hill thus preventing the more affluent of Spokane's polite society from complaining to City Hall that nothing was being done.
As of this evening, and coincidentally another four or five inches of newly fallen snow later, many of the hills on the impoverished North Side have not seen a snow plow coming through nor, for that matter, any of the road graders which did a commendable job during the last snow storm of removing the buildup of ice and snow from the residential streets.
Unfortunately this is only day two since the snow began falling. The challenge will be to see how long we will have to wait before they clear the residential streets of this round of snow accumulation. Perhaps this time they will actually visit the Hillyard neighborhood before the weekend, but don't take any big wagers on it.
Good evening, Netizens…
Today cartoonist David Horsey takes a shot at global warming and climate change in light of the blizzards, snowfall and bad winter weather on the Eastern Coast that largely shut down several major US cities. There are some who persist in believing that the largely unprecedented snowfall in Atlanta, Georgia is somehow related to climate change. There are perhaps even more who swear vociferously that the freezing spell to hit Florida's citrus-growing areas are likewise caused by climate change rather than weather.
The question remains largely unanswered whether these dramatic weather changes are normal cyclical aberrations of weather or part of an evolution in our climate.
I'll concede pollution of our atmosphere caused by fossil fuels and airborne hydrocarbon byproducts are being largely blamed for changes in our climate, and perhaps that is so. Al Gore would have us believe this is true, as would some of our most-critical thinkers in atmospheric studies.
Still, in our climatological history, we have seen the Deep South and portions of the Eastern United States have severe cold snaps and occasional blizzards in other eras long before we polluted our atmosphere with hydrocarbons.
Perhaps the only viable understanding of climate change requires that we as a learned people, discuss and analyze the long-term weather trends to see what is or is not truthful.
Good evening, Netizens…
In keeping with a tradition that is more than a decade old, an old friend, Connie Estell sent me a copy of the King James Version of the Birth of Jesus. She and I have been doing this, posting the Christmas Story in our
respective versions of the Bible, since before 1998, although I had posted the story previous to that, since 1992. This ritual, if you can call it that, is one of my final Steps Toward Christmas, as I wrote in late
November of this year.
It is now nearly Christmas Day, very early on a cold winter's morning. What better time than this to tell the true Story of Christmas?
From conster@ Fri Dec 24 23:32:22
Subject: Luke 2:1-17
From: Connie Estell <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, 24 Dec 23:32:22 -0800
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, everyone unto his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and
lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his expoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tiding of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you: You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to
God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said on to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
From our house to yours, we wish each and every person a most joyous Christmas, and pray that you will keep this story close to your hearts, and share it with others.
Good morning, Netizens…
Like other Christmas stories I have written over the years, this is an exerpt from what I call a living series I call Tales of the City and, in this case, the story is true. Although it hails from a different time, a different place in my life, and perhaps I have taken some liberties with insouciant Metaphysical Philosophy, it is a story of the Anticipation of Christmas. The Anticipation of Christmas can change people for the better, as you will quickly see.
Old Sarah stirred restlessly, laying in the pile of newspapers behind the shopping mall in Century City. Of all the places that she had found to stay, this was by far one of the best. The warm air being pumped out of the mall by huge fans beneath the street kept her warm on even the chilliest of southern California nights.
Normally nobody bothered her here either, as she was always very careful to arrive long after the crowds of shoppers had gone home, and the few security guards still on duty were inside the mall somewhere guzzling styrafoam cups of hot coffee and minding their own business.
Except, now that it was nearly Christmas, she had to adjust her schedule to compensate for the late shoppers that jammed the mall until closing time. Tonight, for example, she had not been able to tiptoe into her customary place until nearly midnight, and still she couldn't sleep.
Images of her kids, now fully grown and on their own, kept haunting her. It had been nearly five years since her divorce from Ben and she hadn't heard much from either of them since. Of course that was a two-way street, as she would be mortified for either of them to see her now. Ben didn't help much
by saying some of the nasty things he'd said, either.
“That no-good rotten drunken bastard”, she muttered angrily, turning over, making certain to clutch her shopping bag close to her. “Wish his memory'd leave me alone so's I can sleep.”
She had lost her home nearly a year before, about the same time she lost her job at Carlyle's machine shop outside of Bakersfield, and when unemployment finally ran out, she had found herself, at age 54, too old to get another job and too young to retire. Shortly thereafter, she joined the ranks of the
homeless on the streets of Glittertown.
It hadn't been as bad as she had first imagined. Once you learned the ropes, a body could survive with some degree of comfort living on the streets, and it was never boring. Prior to joining the homeless, Old Sarah had never really had the time or energy to just watch people. Why, they were more fascinating than anything she had ever seen. The countless types of people, the voices and the looks on their faces when they thought no one was watching them…why it almost made living on the streets worthwhile.
Now Christmas, there was a matter of a different color.
“People start being extra polite to one another at Christmas, somewhat like peaked frilly white frosting on a cake that tastes bad to begin with.” she had observed earlier in the day to Charlie, one of her few friends. “They simply aren't the same over Christmas, until all the goodness they are supposedly feeling wears off, and then they go back to being their same nasty old selves. What's even worse is the kids these days never learn what Christmas is really about…”
Charlie had thought that was particularly funny, and laughed until he started coughing. Charlie was dying of emphysema, and living off his pension in an old hotel. He had offered, time and again, to let her stay at his room, but she refused, knowing that the room barely had enough space for Charlie and his collection of Zane Grey novels, let alone her.
The morning damp had moved in, and gray was already whispering its way across the eastern sky when Sarah stirred and moved out of her spot, long before the mall employees or early shoppers began arriving.
She had just stopped off at one of her usual morning stops, a MacDonalds that stayed open all night, to buy a cup of coffee and try and filch a copy of the early morning paper.
Frustrated at not finding a paper inside the restaurant, she had gone back outside, under the glare of the Golden Arches, to check a few of the trash containers next to the bus stop for a paper to read, when she saw the guitar laying on top of a pile of greasy rubble in the dumpster behind the restaurant.
Back in the 60's she had played the guitar quite well, and used to sing in the coffeehouses of that time. That had been one of the things that Ben did that ended their marriage, once and for all, was smash up her ivory-inlaid Gibson guitar during one of his drunken rages.
Surreptitiously looking around to see if anyone was watching, she lifted the guitar carefully from amid the mix of food and paper containers in the dumpster and set it carefully aside, next to her coffee. On a whim, she dug a little deeper into the rubble and found a battered, but serviceable hardshell case for the guitar, and before she finally quit digging in the filthy dumpster, had found several books of Christmas music to boot.
“Looks like somebody else is having a tough Christmas,” she muttered to herself, carefully putting the guitar back inside the case where it belonged.
She wandered aimlessly for a few moments, her newly-acquired booty tucked under her arm, until she found the right spot, next to an old, abandoned railway spur, where no one would notice her. Sitting down, she experimentally plucked a few strings, then strummed a few notes. Yes, she could still remember quite a few chords.
An hour or so later, as the sun began climbing in the east, she carefully put the guitar inside the case, and finishing off the last of her coffee, headed purposefully toward where she customarily met Charlie each day. Charlie, as usual, was already there, sitting on the park bench, basking as the early morning sun began warming the little park where they had met, on a daily basis, more or less for the last five months.
“What's you got there, Sarah?” Charlie peered at her over the tops of his bifocals, as she strode up with the guitar case in view.
“I found this guitar in a dumpster behind the MacDonalds. It even has a case and some Christmas music, 'n there's nothing wrong with it. It ain't busted or anything. What's even better, I think I remember how to play it.”
“Well I'll be damned.” Charlie took out his pipe and a rumpled sack of pipe tobacco and began stoking up his pipe. “Let me hear you play a few tunes.”
Sarah shyly opened up the guitar case, next to her on the park bench, and took the guitar out. Like most of her fractured dreams, old memories unfolded in Sarah's mind, as she struggled to tune the guitar. She had been there once, singing in front of uplifted faces in the coffeehouses. She had once been a folk singer, back in the 60's, although in those days her Gibson and her voice were both much better.
This was a good guitar, as guitars go, although not a Gibson, still it had a straight neck, and the strings were not too bad.
The morning waned, and as they returned from their usual noontime trip to the taco vendor, sitting in the park, she played what she had hoped to be her last song for her fingers and her voice were both getting sore. Charlie, who had sat there the whole time, with a beautific smile on his face, tapping his feet to the beat, sighed deeply when she became adamant about quitting.
“Could you sing me a song, please?”
A black child, holding firmly onto the hand of a young woman behind the park bench, was struggling against the woman's insistent efforts to leave this area of the park. He asked the question again, in that same soft voice.
Sarah turned to look at him, and realized that he was blind, for he had a white cane in one hand opposite his attendant. And behind the bushes she could see a small group of children, all with white canes and escorts, getting off of a delapidated old school bus at the curb.
“Why…sure,” she stammered. “I'm really not a very good singer, though.”
“We used to have a teacher that sang to us, but he died, and now we don't have anyone to sing Christmas songs to us anymore.”
The young boy pulled his attendant, somewhat against her will, around to the front of the park bench, whereupon he prompted sat down on the grass, only to be joined by the rest of the children from the School for the Blind.
“Please…” he whispered softly. “Please sing some Christmas music for us.”
Sarah picked up the guitar once more, inwardly chiding herself for the tremor in her hands, while Charlie smiled that same enigmatic smile of his, and leaned back, puffing silently on his pipe.
She sang Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and then when one of the kids asked to hear it, Jingle Bells. Of course, there was a request for Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and then Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. She played nearly every song in the faded songbook, and many of them twice, even three times.
When she finally stopped to catch her breath, and to rest her fingers, she realized, with a sense of shock, that she had lost track of how long she had been playing music for these kids. The sun was going down, yet the children were sitting silently in a circle around the park bench, their sightless
eyes and faces upturned, as if to capture every nuance, every phrase and tone of each song, patiently waiting for more.
Then, as suddenly as they had arrived, someone from the school, a supervisor probably, reappeared with the wheezing schoolbus, to retrieve all the children. One by one, each of them solemnly reached out to touch her face, and thank her for singing to them. When the last child had thanked her by
touching her face, she and Charlie were once again alone, together.
As they trudged back the way they had came, and as the night dressed itself in its finery ready to take to the streets, in a secret corner of the park, an elderly old man dressed in a moth-eaten red suit and faded red pants, a very special old magician with a white beard known to children both sighted and unsighted throughout the world, peered over the tops of the bushes as Sarah and Charlie passed on their way into the twilight. He had delivered an early Christmas present—one battered guitar and its case for Sarah, former bag lady and musician extraordinaire, who would find it, on her way back to the meaning of Christmas.
The city, contrary to what some people think, breathes and has life. Although we hear so much about the bad things in the city, occasionally, and with no help nor assistance from us, goodness just naturally oozes forth from its concrete and steel barriers and just embraces us. The City lives.
Postscript: Although the real-life embodiment of Charlie passed on in 2000, Sarah, despite her advancing years, has gone on to a well-deserved retirement and currently lives in a senior center in Santa Monica, California. However, I have it upon good report that each Christmas she still makes the rounds to assisted-living facilities, foster care facilities and other non-profit agencies where she plays Christmas music.
Good evening, Netizens…
Occasionally cartoonist David Horsey of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says what I attempt to say with words with an eloquent pen, and in this case, he does so with a savage vision.
If a man named Jose showed up at youir doorstep with his pregnant wife Maria looking for a place to spend a night would you offer them a place to stay or would you, as our innkeeper does, vent your spleen on the man and send he and his pregnant wife packing?
Somehow this question as portrayed by David Horsey seems O so apt, given how close we are to Christmas Day. It does give you pause for thought, doesn't it? Knowing what you believe to be true, would you have the courage and conviction to offer them a place to spend the night?
Good morning, Netizens…
Although this certainly qualifies as breaking news I simply am repeating what I have heard, thus far, on the news wires this morning. At least two mail bombs have exploded in two different embassies in Rome, Italy injuring at least two postal workers at the Swiss and Chilean embassies. A package arrived at the Ukranian Embassy, but at least no reports of any explosions taking place there have been been indicated.
The only reason I mention these events is that this does appear to be an ongoing set of circumstances, and as such, is subject to change at a moments notice.
Good morning, everyone…
Here is a Christmas fable for both the young and the young at heart. Written
in 2001, and later copyrighted, but not before I substantially modified and
edited it in 2009, this tale has more miles than my tired old van.
The China Doll
Written by Dave Laird
November 22, 2001
Copyright Dave Laird
None of the stuffed animals reclining against the overstuffed sofa in the front window of the Swap and Shop on West First Avenue actually saw the blue china doll arrive, since she was obviously inside a set of pasteboard boxes, although they all could clearly see the boxes being hauled into the front door of the old pawn shop on a dolly on Monday morning. It had been a few days since anything interesting had happened in the old store. They had long since grown tired of gazing out onto the sidewalk, where hobos, winos and the homeless gathered together to talk, gamble or share bottles of cheap wine, so they welcomed just about any changes that might come about.
Peter Panda, because of his great height, could clearly see that the boxes were overflowing with used clothing, tattered school books with their covers all bent and mangled and the various other bits and pieces that were hanging down the side. Old Burt, towing the dolly like a locomotive behind him, set down the dolly on the creaky wooden floor by the cash register. Until his arrival, his stepson Billy had been reading a weathered comic book from a pile of Superman comics he kept stashed by the cash register for just such occasions.
“What's you got?” Billy asked his stepfather brightly, as if he really cared a great deal about it. “Looks like you've got yourself some kids' stuff.”
Old Burt chewed on his lip pensively a moment, as if debating whether to chew him out for sitting around reading comic books when he should be sweeping the sidewalk out in front or perhaps, god bless him, dusting off the shelves. He sighed, and leaning on the dolly, said, “No, I just got some stuff from a landlord over on Grace. He said the tenants were busted by the cops for meth last week, and since they were six months behind in their rent, he finally evicted them this morning. Three weeks before Christmas, and the whole lot of 'em are in jail, 'cepting for their daughter, who's been placed in a foster home somewhere. A sad story, I tell ya.”
Wide-eyed, but being very careful not to make any noise, the twin stuffed otters peered at one another from their vantage point in the front window, their black eyes blinking, at hearing this bit of news. They were both very shy and unworldly, having recently arrived in the store's front window after the freight truck in which they were riding had crashed outside of town some months back.
“We Little Beasts don't use meth,” Agatha the chimpanzee hissed, giving a repoving look in their direction. “Only very bad humans do that.”
“What's Christmas?” Oliver, the grey overstuffed cat asked hesitantly, sitting behind them on one of the semi-vacant bookshelves. Oliver, like most of his species, was exceedingly curious about everything and always prided himself on knowing the latest events. “Is that a thing or just a place?”
“SSSHHHHHH!” Peter Panda admonished them all, waving one paw in the air frantically. “If you persist in making so much noise, I cannot hear what is being said. Even worse, the humans might get suspicious.”
Once more, all the animals gathered in the front window fell back into that peculiar posture of relaxation they all maintain when there isn't anything really important to watch, and within minutes, half of them had fallen back to sleep.
It was a short time later that the otters, Hissie and Missie, in adjusting themselves into a more comfortable position, suddenly noticed the Blue China Doll sitting back in one corner of the storefront window. They were both very sure she had not been sitting there before, her expression blank, her eyes gazing through the dusty window to the street outside.
“Hello?” Hissie asked in a barely audible whisper. “I say, how long have you been sitting there?”
“Not long,” the doll barely answered. Her pretty blue satin dress was soiled in places, her hair badly mussed up, as if she had just arose from bed, with her face smudged with sleep. “I just arrived a short time ago.” Her voice drifted off, as if it took a great deal of energy even to speak. “Where am I?”
Good evening, Netizens…
As many of you who have read The Used Kharma Lot for years and years know, each Christmas I publish a collection of fables, tales and stories about this most precious, magical season of the year online for everyone to enjoy. This year is no exception. Over the next few days, I will publish a few more stories, culminating, on Christmas Eve with the story of the Christ Child as written in the Holy Bible.
From our house to yours, may you have a Merry, Merry Christmas.
Santa Claus arrested and charged under terrorism laws!
by Dave Laird
Copyright 2001 (Dave Laird)
Anonymous Press (SPOKANE, WA) December 15, 2001
Statement to the news media from the FBI:
A person purporting to be Santa Claus has been arrested by the Spokane Police Department's Anti-Terrorist Squad and is incarcerated in the Spokane City-Council Jail. At a press conference held yesterday, Chief of Police Terry Mumbles made public the rumors that for days had been leaked to the news media.
“We have a person in custody who is *purporting* to be one S. Claus of the North Pole. He was arrested at Northtown Mall early yesterday morning, subsequent to a complaint made by Northtown Mall Management that he had landed a herd of reindeer towing a sleigh atop the mall without official permission. When he was unable to produce picture identification, he was detained subsequent to the anti-terrorism law recently ratified unanimously by President Bush and the United States Congress.”
“He is being treated as a person of interest for the following reasons:
1. He has a beard, appears to be unemployed, and has no identification on his person We have to assume the worst about such people after the events of September 11.
2. He purports that he has no known source of income and the particulars of his place of residence is certainly under investigation since he has repeatedly claimed he is retired, independently wealthy and lives at the North Pole year round. We have been unable to validate *any* of these assertions.
3.At the time of his arrest, he appeared to have a huge sack filled with toys of a wide variety and nature, for which he had no receipts nor proofs of purchase. Contrary to the rumors which were initially being circulated throughout the media that the fifty pound gunny sack full of toys could not be emptied, the sack possesses no such intrinsic magical powers. Officers were able, after a time, to empty the bag of all its toys and material items and the bag and twenty-two and one-half tons of toys have been booked into the evidence room at the City of Spokane's Police Department.
4. After further investigation, it has been learned that none of the eight reindeer with S. Claus at the time of his arrest have either exotic pet licenses, as required by Spokane County Ordinances, nor do they appear to have had their rabies vaccinations. The eight reindeer have been placed into protective custody by Spokanimal. Once again, contrary to rumors being wildly circulated by members of Spokane's alternative news media, there are no plans to feed the reindeer to the giant cats at Cat Tales.
5. As of this morning, there have been statements issued by the North American Air Defense Command, commonly called NORAD, relating to this gentleman's arrest. According to the NORAD report, incredibly enough, NORAD was tracking S. Claus by radar from the time he entered American airspace, and it does appear his flight, by whatever means, originated somewhere outside the United States. Therefore, because there is credible evidence he is an illegal immigrant, the US Department of Immigration and Naturalization have issued a hold on Claus, pending the outcome of the INS determination process.
6. The FBI are, at present, actively investigating S. Claus' background to determine if he has any known links to terrorist organizations anywhere around the world. According to Agent Gear of the FBI Elite Anti-Terrorist unit, most terrorists carefully disguise their involvement with terrorist groups, and will go to any means to disguise their presence in America.
That is all I have for you at this time, and I will take no questions.
Good morning, Netizens…
Let us take a brief aside from the business of the holiday season to examine something that Detective Ron Wright brought to my attention recently. Now I have to admit that Detective Wright can be, at times, problematic, as he has a stubborn and dedicated opinion set; but one of the more recent complaints he has lodged is that the Spokane Police Department routinely blocks his e-mail address. E-mail sent from Detective Wright to Chief Anne Kirkpatrick (and other members of City Hall) are routinely blocked by City Hall’s anti-SPAM filter which, to my way of seeing it, is highly-questionable if not illegal.
The rejection of Wright’s e-mail was confirmed by an e-mail sent to Wright by Cylas Engeland of the City’s MIS Department. It was also sent to Larry Shook whose e-mail was, for a time, blocked, as well.
Is this an open government issue? It does seem so, given that Wright was attempting to communicate with Chief Kirkpatrick regarding the Scott Creach shooting in the Spokane Valley. I was able to confirm that through Ernie Creach, Scott Creach’s son.
What is equally interesting is that nothing regarding this set of events has appeared in the Spokane news media.
I will revisit this as circumstances change.
In an event organized by the Seattle Symphony and Nordstrom, hundreds of singers joined in a flash mob performance of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” at the downtown Seattle Nordstrom on Saturday, December 11, 2010.
Good morning, everyone…
After spending an entire week working on less creative but far more lucrative objectives, I am finally sitting back down to the keyboard to work on my Christmas story collection for this year. Thus far, I have two new stories in rough draft and one semi-completed which will be posted here over the next few days. This first story, one that first appeared in the year 2000, is actually not fiction at all, but a real-life story of a woman who spent every Christmas with her late husband, long after he had passed on. Last year, after a fitful bout of pneumonia, she, too, succumbed and passed away at home in a cabin above Springdale, Washington. I will never forget her and her late husband and the wonderful bond that tied them in their lives together and then they were gone.
A Christmas Present
Copyright December 2000
by Dave Laird
The weatherbeaten old highway had seen better days, lots of patch jobs hastily done by county employees who didn’t care how well it held up. Where it crested the steep grade, the roadway generously overlooked part of the sloping valley to one side, with a tiny creek now frozen hard as a rock in the throes of winter. Down the road a quarter of a mile, there were a set of huge scars where, one spring several decades ago, the creek had neatly bisected the roadway in a flood. The patch job bore mute testimony to the violence of the washout, still to this day.
In the half-hearted sunshine of a cold winter morning, a rattling clattertrap of a vehicle, a faded red Toyota Landcruiser with dented fenders and a spare tire on the back door that jiggled at every bump, began wheezing its way up the hill, desperately attempting to dodge the potholes, and as it reached the scars on either side of the roadway, it momentarily slowed.
Behind the wheel, a woman with hair gone to white, slowed down, carefully downshifting, easing her way over the broken pavement. Although she wasn’t that remarkable, really, she was the kind of woman that if you met her in the grocery store, you would remember her brilliant blue eyes and white hair, all soft and downy, and perhaps the gentle lines of humor that tickled at the corners of her eyes. She wore a brown 60’s-style Chairman Mao work cap, shoved back on her forehead, and was dressed in a faded pair of bib overalls with a blue nylon down-filled jacket, open at the throat. There were a brace of pencils jutting this way and that out of the front pockets of her overalls, which lent her a rather businesslike air, much like a farmer on his way to town.
It was not unusual that the road was devoid of any other traffic at this hour of the morning. Those few houses scattered throughout the hills on either side seemed vacant, or so it appeared, driving down the road. Having been this way a number of times, she knew better. Since this was part of the Spokane Tribal lands, there were Indian families for the most part, living back in the trees, eking out their humble living hidden in nearly invisible cul de sacs that more resembled dirt tracks than driveways.
Good morning, Netizens…
Now that we have reached the last day of Autumn, tomorrow being the first day of Winter, one might think that our weather this morning would somehow become benign, absent of any snowfall. However, such is not the case. Fortunately for those of us who have to travel anywhere today, at least this morning the snow plows and sanders have already been working the hills overlooking downtown Spokane, and based only upon the various cameras scattered throughout our urban wonderland, it does appear that streets are far more passable this morning than on Saturday when approximately 100 people slid, crunched, crashed and anguished their fellow drivers by sliding into one another on slick pavements.
I am not here to belabor the deplorable issue of our abject inability to maintain our city streets this morning. Rather, barring any major news stories that happen over the next five days, I will be dedicating most of my creative bent upon Christmas, as viewed through a number of private pieces I have written recently, and extending back throughout the years to 1982-83 when I first began observing this tradition.
Then, on Christmas Eve, I will post the Christmas Story according to the Book of Luke, and take the rest of the evening and most of Christmas Day off to spend time with my family and close friends. That, too, is a tradition that is part of my online life dating back to the 80’s. For without the true story of Christmas, we simply do not have Christmas at all.
Good afternoon, Netizens…
It began snowing on the Lower Sourth Hill at approximately 10:00 AM and it took less than an hour for the streets and the freeway of Spokane to degenerate into a bumper car race. Two of three hills I drove over were largely impassable, and the freeway was largely closed between the Argonne and the Hamilton Street exits with multiple fender-benders lining both sides of the roadway. KHQ-TV put the carnage on the freeway at 15 vehicles, but given the number police, fire and ambulances in attendance it truly was hard to tell.
Nevada Street hill had its own count of slide-offs, and the backups caused by that only added to the confusion. Expecting this, I wisely took a side street and made it back home safely.
Why, oh why do we keep revisiting this same inept scenario, with ample warning of foul weather approaching, with snow predicted, and the hours after the storm arrives our streets and roadways degenerate into mayhem? I do not claim to have understanding, nor can I ascertain the reasons why our local government continues to allow this scenario to play out, over and over again.
However, I know it is unacceptable.
Wow! I can hardly believe this. Now Shellye L. Stark will get a new trial. How does this affect her boyfriend, Brian Moore, who is in jail as a conspirator in this murder.
This case is the same one for which I was in a jury pool. At the time, I was asked if I could objectively hear this case and had no pre-conceived conclusions. I can honestly say that if I were to be on the jury pool again, I could not be objective. In fact, I doubt that any jury can be picked in Spokane County.
Your thoughts may differ.
Good morning, Netizens…
When has our national government ever led the way when it comes to social progress? In retrospect, it seems not. Our government damned near decimated our country during the Civil War in order to end slavery. School integration took federal marshalls to finally get the job done. Now it seems as if perhaps we might see the end of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military.
Of course the inevitable resistance from the conservative and largely Republican coalition of pro-Christians are still strenuously resisting the passage of the bill necessary to make “Don’t ask, don’t tell” a reality. Perhaps they have been paying attention to the numbers of veterans returning from the wars overseas suffering from all kinds of emotional damage, for which the Veterans Administration do as little as possible.
We send the best of our youth, both male and female, off to war to kill people, but until now we have largely demanded that gay men and women stay out of the military. We have tried repeatedly to prevent them from marrying, although some states have already made that legal. They pay taxes and are regulated like everyone else.
Don’t you think it is about time our nation made them citizens, with all the rights inherent in that?
Good morning, Netizens…
Are you one of the unfortunates that cannot decide where you stand on Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks organization? Like a pigeon sitting astride a skinny telephone line in a stiff windstorm do you find yourself swaying first one direction, then another, constantly fighting for balance against the forces of nature?
Perhaps it is time to go to the following web site and read what appears to be pretty much the unexpurgated history of WikiLeaks, how it got started and why. The four videos are, at times, compelling. It contains, among other things, one of the videos of civilian casualties in Iraq that appears to clearly define the parts of the war that our leaders never wanted us to see or hear, which is perhaps why they are so eager to nail Assange to the cross of public opinion.
If nothing else, the quotation, “democracy without transparency is just a word (and not democracy at all) rings very true to me. If some military man strode up to me and demanded I would give them justification for firing upon a van containing children from a helicopter, I would hope I would have the guts to, as WikiLeaks has done, simply expose the truth. War is ugly, but in our country, nothing says I have to support war or those faceless individuals who wage it.
Good morning, Netizens…
As I told several concerned Netizens over the last few days, I have been absent without official leave simply because I have been working more than usual for this time of year. A client’s broken server, a failed drive and several other technical issues more diverse than I would have expected just shy of Christmas, and there wasn’t enough time left at the end of the day to do more than fall into bed.
In the aftermath, while I was suited up for my early morning regimen, my puffy green bathrobe firmly affixed to keep the neighbors from summoning police (the neighbors seem to get hysterical when I sit visible in the window in my birthday suit), I am sipping a cup of my favorite Vietnamese coffee which is perpetually close to hand and watching the television morning news with a jaundiced eye since they are absolutely ecstatic over the early shopping results, and I do not trust their statistics any more than I trust their weather forecasts.
Then an advertisement for Churchill’s on Post Street on KREM-2 got me thinking because, prior to this time I had heard several positive comments about their cuisine. While their culinary skills might be superb, their taste in advertising left me busting a gut. There were three scenarios in this ad: In the first script some lothario, unquestionably under the influence of testosterone overdosing, calls for his date and takes her to a restaurant which, for the sake of the lawyers, is unfortunately not visible. After dinner, she shakes his hand at the door, leaving him unrequited. In the second script, once again a young beau picks up his date and takes her out to another unnamed eatery, and once again, the lady lets him kiss her on the cheek, and that is that. The last vignette, however, the young couple go to Churchill’s, plainly visible on several occasions. As they are parting at her door, she grabs him by the tie and drags him inside her residence where they ostensibly spend the rest of the night either coupling with wild abandon, or perhaps they are discussing the superb dinner they just ate. You choose.
I can almost see it now, a young man-about-town summons his lawyer, suing for false advertising, after taking his significant other to Churchill’s and spending a veritable fortune on a good repast. Rather than drag him into the house as per the Churchill’s ad, she adroitly tosses him into the English Thornbush immediately by her door and summons her pit bull to discard of the evidence.
In my opinion, this ranks quite high on Dave’s Scale for a sleazy ad. Do not expect that just because you took your favorite person to Churchill’s means you are going to move expediently to boom boom in the living room. You might end up in a thorn bush, instead.
Good evening, Netizens…
About 18 years ago, I was living in a remote mountain community above Springdale, connecting to the Internet over a pair of dial-up modems, and ran a BBS (bulletin board) that was delivered to the Internet via dial-up. I regularly posted messages, fables and tales about Thanksgiving and Christmas during the holidays into a series of Usenet newsgroups which were and still are, although somewhat defunct, hosted here in Spokane. Some of these stories received enough acceptance that they were published in several tiny periodicals, but for the most part, they were written explicitly for the sheer pleasure of writing. Although some of these storied reflections upon Thanksgiving and Christmas still persist in Google or Alta Vista’s huge repositories, for the most part they have been relegated to my web pages on http://www.kharma.net .
Last week I opened up my archives of various things I had written over the years, some of which was largely spent in solitude, and began trying to decide what, if anything, I could post to Community Comment, as it is hardly a place for fiction, as I have been told. Yet, upon several occasions, bits and pieces of stories I have written which clearly do not “fit” in a traditional news environment have fallen off the electronic platters of my hard disks and landed here, in Community Commebt, by mistake. Depending upon the will of the person who holds the feather duster used to dispense with off-topic messages, you might see some of the Christmas stories this year.
My Christmas shopping, for the most part, is already done, as I fail to see how special sale prices will ever determine my sense of giving at Christmas. I would sooner stand in a circle of like-minded people on a street corner discussing the real meaning of the Christmas Season than standing in line among the rumbling hordes in front of the malls waiting for a store to open. The exchange of ideas is, to my way of perspective, far more grand than fighting in the aisles of Walmart over trinkets and baubles.
Who among us will stand forth in the psycho-babble of Christmas buying, the trashy endless and often false advertising and speak quietly and firmly about the need to give to one another, with none of the falseness of the holiday season? My God, the advertisers have been celebrating Christmas since before Halloween this year! I fully expect, within my lifetime, to see Christmas ads everywhere by the middle of July, which I feel is wrong.
So, old and getting venerable as I might be, I will continue to write about the various times the REAL meaning of Christmas has touched me in that bittersweet way that sometimes makes people really consider what we have done with one of our most-important, cherished holidays of old. The advertising of Christmas-materialism is, to my way of thinking, is a pestilence, and should be exterminated. However, saying doesn’t make it so. Rather, like Don Quixote mounted on a stumbling old nag of a steed waving an antique sword at these imaginary windmills, I intend to do battle with them and slay them, one paragraph at a time. To further quote Cervantes, “With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”
Moreover, I encourage everyone of a like mind to write about their perceptions of Christmas, rather than participate in this annual folly called the Christmas Season. Take up your wooden swords, my friends, and let us proclaim Christmas a season of true meaning, one totally free of artifice, baseless opulence and greed. Let our words go forth from this day of infamous materialism; let our words more reflect the day a homeless mother traveling through Bethlehem gave birth in a manger, and how we each can contribute to a world of Peace.
Good afternoon, Netizens…
I received this note from its author, Linda Radford, and am posting it with her permission. It is both a heart-warming and thought-provoking message for us all.
A Note of Thanks To A Great City
By Linda Radford
Spokane is a great city! This is my fifth winter here and each year I love it more than the last. When my kids and I first moved up here I was told that we get snow here, but not too much. Enough to make winters fun, but usually it’s not too bad, and the first winter we were here seemed to confirm that. Then the next two winters arrived, back to back, and I realized that maybe it does snow here more than I’d thought. As a native Californian I found this to be both exciting and challenging.
Well, a couple of weeks ago we got our first snowstorm of the season. To me there is nothing more beautiful than the snow that blankets this city. Things seem tranquil and quiet and everything just glistens. I work for the county road department and know that this is just an illusion—there is nothing truly tranquil and quiet about the snow. It causes chaos and frustration. But what I’ve come to love is that as the physical beauty of the snow begins to fade, the real beauty of this city begins to show—and by that I mean the people. In the last 2 weeks I have been stuck with my car three different times in three different places. Each time absolute strangers came to help get me unstuck. The first time was only a few blocks from my house in a neighborhood at 6:30 in the morning! 2 men saw me and my son trying to get the car out of slush and they just came with their shovels and the four of us got the car going again. The next time was in the Rogers High School parking lot. My son was already inside the building and I couldn’t pull away from the curb. Two boys that were outside came over and gave me both valuable advice and valuable pushing (it turns out that floor mats can be used for traction when stuck—good to know!). Just as we were thinking that we couldn’t get the car out, a third boy came and joined the pushing party and I was on my way to work in no time. And finally, today. If it hadn’t been for a bank of snow along the curb I would have slid right into a stop sign, so for that I’m grateful. But in the end, I couldn’t get my car out by myself! My son-in-law, along with a stranger that was driving by and saw us stuck, got my car out. This stranger was cheerful and willing and a perfect example of what I’ve come to know and love about Spokane.
Good morning, Netizens…
As many of you may remember, each year about this time I begin a mini-series of stories, fables, tales and commentary about what I perceive of the magic and true meaning of Christmas. Some of these stories date back to the 1980’s, written originally for various publications while others simply appeared in Usenet news in a newsgroup I hosted called The Phoenix. This year is no exception, although given our national economy, the implications of poverty are more widespread than at anytime since the Great Depression.
I could cite the grim statistics of our national unemployment, the numbers of the homeless or the pain of watching entire families losing their homes in a horrific downward slide toward both, but despite all the sadness that surrounds us, it is still Christmas. It is a time of joy and magic, not necessarily what we have come to expect from watching our collective television sets. Despite what you have been led to believe, you do not have to have oodles of money in order to experience either the joy nor magic of the true sense of Christmas. All you need to contemplate is the original Christmas Story, how a tiny babe was laid in a manger lined with straw, that his family was as poor as church mice, yet he was heralded by angels and was destined to save the world.
More current, perhaps the link, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXh7JR9oKVE speaks to the magic of the season far better than even I can. A flash mob is defined as “a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse.” This flash mob gathered in a public food court in a mall and suddenly began singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah aloud. At first shoppers apparently did not know what to make of this development, but by the time the flash mob completed the chorus, as is customary, people who remembered the ancient custom, were standing, some even joining in the singing. People stopped eating, shopping and all commerce simply ground to a halt in the video. I submit this, too, is part of the magic of Christmas. Turn off the machine; turn on your heart.
However, I also admit a clear and distinct fondness for The Messiah, and know nearly all of it by heart. Thus on this note we begin my annual contributions to Christmas, at least as I believe it to be.
Good morning, Netizens…
LONDON – Police say Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder has surrendered to British police as part of a Swedish sex-crimes investigation, the latest blow to the secret-spilling website that faces legal, financial and security challenges.
Assange was arrested at 9:30 a.m. (930 GMT) Tuesday and was due to appear at Westminster Magistrate’s Court later today. Assange has been hiding out at an undisclosed location in Great Britain since WikiLeaks began publishing hundreds of U.S. diplomatic cables on the Internet last week.
Good morning, Netizens…
There has been a police-involved shooting at the Special K Tavern and Eatery on the corner of Market and and Garland in Hillyard at 9:34 PM last night. The police investigation resulted in Market being closed both north and south of Garland and Garland east of Market. Although details are still very sketchy at this hour, initial reports indicate there was a fight taking place outside the tavern, with one of the subjects being armed.
Police confronted the man with the gun and that is when he was shot.
There are several other police reports of criminal activities at the Special K Tavern which can be found at
The police report states in part:
“We have been working the Special K tavern all week with several CFS have resulted in numerous fights both inside and out. There was a double stabbing on our days off there. Gang associates have the majority foot hold there and are mixed in with a few hard core criminals. All reports have been forwarded to liquor control board. ”
I would expect that by later on this morning more information will be forthcoming from the police department.
Good morning again, Netizens…
As I was saying to one of my friends last evening, I am still uncertain what to make of the information released thus far by Assange’s WikiLeaks. However, after careful consideration of everything I have read (and I have read a substantial amount of what has already been posted) I am still undecided about the relative worth of what I have read. Some of it, such as proposed in this cartoon from David Horsey, is purely salacious, hilarious if true and perhaps even accurate. If we only knew what is true and what is not! Then we wouldn’t need anyone like Solomon to determine the facts for us, now would we?
As usual, David Horsey has as many points in his favor as he has detractors. It somehow stands to reason that, given the chaos and pandemonium we sometimes see in our own so-called “modern” society, surely some of that is echoed between diplomats and members of other governments. That, by itself, adds some credence to the cartoon this morning.
In Horsey’s examination of International Relations, as suggested by WikiLeaks, it does seem that the entire world of diplomacy is eagerly screwing one another, some more than others. Let’s take Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, for example. His buxom nurse that travels everywhere with him is best-described as curious, but Gaddafi has already been down that road before in the public eye without the aid of WikiLeaks. It is common knowledge he has an exclusive cadre of female all-virgin bodyguards who must wear lipstick, nail varnish and be masters of hand-to-hand combat. All his guards have taken an oath to surrender their lives for his, if need be, as at least one has. Sometimes when he travels to other foreign countries, he has been known to set up a Bedouin tent wherever he deems it necessary. But there is always that voluptuous nurse.
As for the rest, you can believe what you want about foreign diplomacy. The deeper you look, the more Julian Assange’s latest assertions seem to be factual. One, however, never knows, do we?
Good morning, Netizens…
Today is Saturday, the fourth day of Hanukkah, just 21 days before Christmas. We should be girding our loins with industrial duty spandex as we prepare ourselves for the onslaught of TV’s talking heads assuring us that they have the inside track when it comes to finding that “perfect gift” for Christmas and ideologues telling us to ignore the dismal unemployment rates that were released yesterday.
This morning you get two-fers from David Horsey, this being the first, a sage comment on what President Obama must be telling the members of the Democratic Party while Republican leaders are trumpeting their incredible successes.
Why is it that when either Democrats or Republicans begin singing hosannas over their respective plans or success stories, I immediately turn down the volume? Do I distrust political parties that much, or is simply experience won over years or silent observation?
However, from my perspective the Republican party is not what I would call bipartisan. Of course, your results may differ.
Good morning, Netizens…
Free at last! Free at last! Thank God we’re free at last!
At approximately 3:45 AM PST this morning a road grader of unknown ancestry arrived on Morton Street accompanied by a city snow plow and plowed Morton four times (and eventually Glass Street twice) as well as could be expected after over a week. After digging out our cars from the huge berms the plow/grader created, once more our lives will be semi-normal, and once more the school bus will arrive on time and we can go to work.
Now before Queen Mary Verner takes credit for this, I hasten to remind Netizens that since I regularly travel throughout the Spokane Valley I can state with absolute certainty that the residential streets in Spokane Valley were plowed clean as of Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
The problem, as I see it, is that Queen Mary is unable, for whatever reasons, to manage the union plow and grader drivers. It is readily apparent sitting on her throne in City Hall, she is unable to ascertain the true conditions of the residential streets after a snow fall. One suggestion from several others is perhaps Queen Mary should get out of City Hall more often and simply follow one of the city plow drivers around, as always in the interest of keeping them honest.
I am aware that an individual has already offered the City of Spokane the services of various Mormons armed with heavy-duty four wheel drives to help those in need. To date, there has been no response forthcoming from City Hall, but that comes as no surprise. Queen Mary only does press conferences.
That is perhaps suitable material for the next mayoral election.
At any rate, we are glad to be free once more to be able to conduct our lives more or less as we need to in order to survive.
Good morning, Netizens…
Actually, I should address this to Queen Verner, Mayor of our fair city, because I hold her directly responsible for the incredible lack of effort being made to make our streets safe.
I am sick to death of this crap and I’m not going to take it much longer!
We go to work each day and pay our taxes just like most of Spokane’s gainfully employed and we get pretty much the same services as everyone else EXCEPT when it comes to snow removal along our residential streets. Based upon our experiences from two years ago, we should have learned that actually sending a snow plow down our street is, at best, a half-hearted attempt, as two years ago they barely plowed the snow and piled up huge berms against vehicles that were parked on the right side of the street. We spent two days digging out of the result of having city plows clear our street, and we were even parked on the right side of the street.
This year, what do we have? Well, for starters, we have a school bus stuck in front of Willard School, and none of the streets in the vicinity of the school have been plowed. All side streets, from Bridgeport and Morton (and far beyond) are virtually impassable.
This morning the kids that wait every day at Morton and Glass to catch the school bus waited for over an hour and finally, resigned to their fates, simply started hiking up Morton to school because the school bus was stuck.
Then I can speak about Glass Street, itself. It has not seen a snow plow or grader running with its blade to the ground since last winter. Oh, but to be honest, thus far this week we have seen at least two city plows running with their blades aloft running down the street, their drivers unquestionably on overtime with benefits, but unconcerned with the mess of ruts and berms that sit on the pavement.
Is it time to outsource our snow removal? Is it time to put the contract with the unions in the trash can and find something that works? Is it time the City of Spokane started keeping their promises to those of us who live on residential streets?
I want to know.