Cycling Along The Way...

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Silver City, NM, United States
Riders of the wheel. Racers, Roadies, Mountain bikers, Touring cyclists, Commuters, and others. Diamond frames, recumbents, trikes, and more. Sharing a web of connections often misunderstood or unappreciated by those who don't ride. Herewith, my attempt to share some of the more rational thoughts that flit around inside my head while bicycling, knocking back a brew or three, or just thinking about life. Reviews of bicycles, gear, touring, and more, plus some unsolicited posts about people, politics, and philosophy. Other things, too. Me: retired, gave up my TV in 1988, avid cyclist, several cross country tours completed with more to come. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Gary Langdon, One More Time...

"Life does not cease being funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh." ~George Bernard Shaw

"A person doesn't die when he should, but when he can."~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gary, at my house, when he was in his early 20's.

Unfortunately, for me, Gary died on October 28, 2018, two days before I got home. I talked to his wife, Paula, who contacted me when he died. While I was heartbroken that I did not get to see him, I was content knowing that he had died peacefully. If I had been offered the option of having him live until I got home, but he died unpleasantly because of that, I would not have taken the option. Knowing that he was at peace sat well with me. Gary not being here has been hard to adjust to. As with all of us, life will continue until it doesn't. Then we move on, both the living and the dead.

Being home with my family and Gary's family was very different this time. While I was happy that I could be there to help in whatever way I could, not seeing Gary was hard. I'm glad that we had talked a few times by phone, so that we could say those things to each other that were important to say. Writing about this is complicated since I am at a loss for the right words to explain who we were to each other and that we loved each other unconditionally. Gary didn't have to do or be anything that he didn't want to be, nor did I, but that never got in our way. We never argued over politics, money, life, whatever, we just were friends with each other, wherever we were in life. No requirements other than just being there with, and for, each other. And I miss that terribly. While my family is close to my heart, Gary was closer. We stayed friends because we wanted to, unlike family, which is there whether you like them or not.

When I was home this time, it was the first time where I didn't stay at my parent's house and I didn't see Gary. First time in my whole life. Paula and Gary's family are having a memorial for him in May. I will be heading back for that. My plan is to be there for a few weeks, so I can catch up with people that Gary and I knew and hung out with, as well as to see some people that I haven't seen in decades and want to see because I don't know if I'll get to see them again. Odd how aging creates situations that don't come to mind when younger.

I did spend a lot of time with Gary's wife, Paula, and enjoyed that. Talking with her about Gary and about her, wondering how she was doing and how she would cope with Gary not being here for her. She has cared for him for quite a few years and has done much for him. Often, it's difficult to make the adjustment after the death of a spouse, particularly one that you've cared for. Paula is managing very well. I'm certain that it's painful and lonely, but Paula is a strong, determined person. She had to be to live with Gary. As I said, we were good people growing up, but we both have/had our faults, too. I also got to see Gary's twin sister, Susan, and her new granddaughter. Life goes on, eh? And I got to see John, Gary's next younger brother. I was happy to see them and I have fond memories of them, too. John has had a rough time in the past few years as the result of the death of his son from cancer, as well as the death of another nephew, plus the death of his oldest brother, Joe, and now Gary. Well, the whole family has had their turmoil to deal with, not just John. I want to hug them all.

There are also places that Gary and I went to or hung out at while we were kids that I want to go visit again, to bring back the memories of the two of us hanging out with each other whether it was a summer day or in the midst of winter. Places where we went fishing, hiking, hanging out, walking the neighborhood, go see where Pat the cow hung out in the pasture that used to be just down the street from our houses, sit on the dam on the Hudson river, just remembering our life together. For the most part, this I will do by myself because most of this involved just the two of us. I want those memories to flow through my head again, imagining Gary being there with me again.

So, time to bring this to a close...and I need a tune. I'm going with "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" by Eric Idle. This is one of those irreverent songs that both Gary and I would like. So, life has moved on and I'm still here. I'm looking forward to the memorial service for Gary in May, so I can catch up with our mutual friends that I've not seen in decades. Not sure what to expect, but I'm ready for whatever comes up. So, once again, Bro, I love you and I will see you again down the road.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Gary Langdon

"A good friend knows all your stories. A best friend helped you write them." ~ Anonymous

"True friendship isn't about being inseparable, it's being separated and nothing changes." ~ Anonymous

Well, it's a good thing that I'm writing this on a computer because, if it was on paper, it would be seriously tear stained.

I love Gary Langdon. He is now, has always been, and will always be my best friend. If I could say it loud enough for the whole world to hear, I would gladly do it. We all go through life thinking we're immortal. Even when people around us that we love die, we still believe that we're immortal. I remember telling my Dad, after my Mom died, that I always thought we were invincible. We aren't.

Now, Gary is not dead. He's still very much alive, but is close to the end of his life due to multiple medical issues that he's accrued, some a result of lifestyle, some from his DNA. Having worked in the medical field and been with many families while their family member died, it's very different when it's up close and personal.

A bit of history...Gary's father and my father were also friends. They built very similar houses not even a block away from each other back in the late 1940's. The Langdon's had 6 kids; the Lyford's had 6 kids. And on the block where we lived, there were a ton of kids. Well, it seemed that way back then. No problem getting two teams together to play stick ball, baseball, etc. Definitely a blue collar neighborhood where everyone knew everyone else. The Langdons and the Lyford were so much a part of each other's families that I have no memory of meeting Gary. He has always been in my life and he has always been my best friend. Now, I have other friends that I've made throughout my life, some of whom I consider to be best friends. Gary has always been different. There was no moment where we were introduced to each other and decided to be best friends. We just were and have always been.

I don't get home to Glens Falls, NY, as often as I used to. Now, I'm married and plans take other directions sometimes. Recently, Gary's wife, Paula, contacted me to let me know about his deteriorating medical condition. So, I've made plans to go home to see Gary, so we can talk with each other about our life together as friends. When he does die, I will go home for his funeral, but I didn't want that to be our goodbye. I want to see him, hug him, talk with him, and tell him how much I love him and what he has meant to me in my life as my best friend. After he's dead, I won't be able to say those things to him and hear his responses. There is no one else in my life like Gary. No one. We always had each other's back. We always hung out with each other, chased women together, drank too much beer to even remember, had many parties, many hangovers, ate lots of Dirty John's hotdogs, delivered newspapers together, shoveled snow together, too...way too many fekkin' times, worked on cars together, went fishing, hiking, biking...well, let's just say that we lived life together. I cannot imagine my life without Gary in it. It will come, but if I could strangle it to protect Gary, I would.

Now, my heart is broken thinking about what the near future holds for Gary. At times in our lives, we would have done everything and anything to protect each other from harm from anyone. Fortunately, I have the opportunity now to go and be with him and tell him face to face what my thoughts and feelings are about him. We grew up in an era where hugging, expressing emotions, etc., was not considered "manly". Thankfully, times have changed and I can now say all those things to him...and I have. So, while I am unable to change the outcome, I can be with him. A real blessing.

I'm writing this now, so that Gary will have the chance to read this and I can put into words some semblance of my feelings about him. Experience has taught me that, in those very hard moments, not everything gets said that needs to be said. I did not want that to be the case with Gary and me. All the times in the past when I went home for vacations to catch up with family and friends, there were two things that I would do first: go see my parents,  then go down the street to see Gary and his parents/family. After he got married and his parents were still alive, there were three things that I did first: go see my parents, go see Gary's parents, and then go see Gary and Paula. He collected beer cans, so, when I would come home, I'd bring beer cans that I knew he would not be able to get in Glens Falls. I'd drive to his house and, if he wasn't home, I'd leave the beer in between the storm door and the inside door at his house. He would know that I was home when he found the beer cans, then he'd call me.

To be totally honest, there are some stories that Gary and I have written together that will remain known only to us and no one else. One, there are way too many of them to put down here, and, two, to protect the innocent. Yes, we were good kids, but, hey, we struggled through the teen years, young adulthood, and all that those times bring on. Were we perfect? No, but we sure did break some hearts.

This will be it for now. I'm headed home on October 30th to spend a week in Glens Falls to see Gary. One of the things that I want to say here is how strong Gary is and how very strong Paula has been to carry on throughout all of this and be supportive of Gary. You know what they say...behind every good person is an even better one.

This is one of those hard choices/decisions for me now...what tune do I close this post out with??? We were in our heyday back in the 60's and 70's, so let me think. This one is a good one for now: Born To Be Wild We sure did a lot of crazy ass shit growing up and it's all been a great part of my life and, I believe, Gary's. So, to you, bro, there ain't no other. I love you...

Thursday, September 13, 2018


"Finding friends with the same mental disorder...PRICELESS!"~ anonymous

Recently, I had a new experience that was so Los Alamos perfect! It all fits into the quote above, so I'll get to the mental disorder in good time.

In a few of my previous posts, I put down a few of my thoughts about Los Alamos and it's weirdnesses, as well as another post discussing the type of bicycle tire that I'm presently using on my road bike (Continental Gatorskins). Nothing unusual about either post, but it prompted Lee Kanning of Washington (state not D.C.) to send off an email to me. That wasn't unusual either, but Lee stated that he'd been following my website for a few years, which pleased me since I have not a clue if/when people follow/read my website posts. He asked if I knew another cyclist in the Los Alamos area, which I did not. His name was/is Tarik Saleh. Come to find out, Lee and his wife, Petra, were coming to Santa Fe, NM, to see a few operas of which they are fans. We agreed to try to get together while they were here visiting. That was a first as a result of my website. Other email exchanges were just that...brief exchanges. This was new.

My wife, Eileen, and her mother, Marilyn, were heading off to NY for a wedding and then Eileen was heading to Olympia, WA, to teach beginning Irish fiddle at an Irish music camp, Cascadia, that our friend, Randal Bays was putting on there. Somehow, between Eileen's travels and my travels to Albuquerque, Lee and I managed to figure out a way to meet. I had been down to Albuquerque and, on my return to Los Alamos, I stopped at the Trader Joe's in Santa Fe to get a few things. After I was done shopping, I got in my car and texted Lee about perhaps getting together for coffee or a beer while I was in Santa Fe. Voila! Lee and Tarik were going to be meeting at a bookstore in downtown Santa Fe in a matter of minutes, per  Lee, and he asked if I'd like to join them. On my way!

A side note here...prior to moving to Los Alamos, Santa Fe was at the bottom of the list of places that I enjoyed visiting. Having grown up in a major tourist area in Upstate NY, tourists became my least favorite of the human species, so Santa Fe had nothing going for it in that category. What I did enjoy about Santa Fe included Second Street Brewpub and a now defunct pan Asian restaurant on Cerrillos Road. That was the extent of the things I enjoyed about Santa Fe. When I lived in Albuquerque and friends visited that wanted to go to Santa Fe, I would just let them take my car and go on their own. Since we've lived in Los Alamos for over a year now, I have become more acquainted with Santa Fe and what it has to offer...and I have learned how to drive around the "city different"...which has allowed me to see Santa Fe in a much different light. I now enjoy going there and discovering all that it has to offer.

So, I was off to meet up with Lee and Tarik, and their spouses/family. Since I now know how to maneuver around Santa Fe, I found a place to park near the bookstore. One of the bennies of learning my way around Santa Fe has been becoming more aware of where to park, which is a major issue when visiting Santa Fe. Got my vehicle parked and walked to the bookstore. At the bookstore, I was at a disadvantage since Lee knew what I looked like, but I had no idea who I was looking for, except his name. I conjured up all my images of cyclists so I might pick him out of the crowd as I ordered my coffee and waited around the counter to see who would be approaching me that looked like someone with the same mental disorder...extensive cycling. Soon enough, a gentleman approached me that didn't look like he was going to ask me for money or was someone who would be assaulting me. Lee? Patrick? Lee was with his wife, Petra, and Tarik and his wife and daughter arrived shortly after Lee, Petra, and I had sat down. Lee had met Tarik as a result of following his blog and had met in Santa Fe as a result of that connection a few years earlier.

Well, we had a good conversation, appeared to enjoy each other's company, and spent a fair amount of time talking to each other. Good vibes! Tarik and I discovered that we lived in the same neighborhood in Los Alamos, probably less than a mile apart. So, here we are, two cyclists that live in the same community being introduced to each other by another cyclist from the State of Washington. That was a first for me, but it seemed so Los Alamos-ish. I really enjoyed meeting all of them and I'm looking forward to catching up with Lee and Petra around the Christmas holidays, when they'll be visiting again. I've not made it over to Tarik's yet, but I will. Hopefully, around the holidays, we'll be able to go out to dinner together or, better yet, have everyone over to our house for dinner and drinks. Found out that Lee's wife, Petra, was also a librarian with an MLS degree...the same as my wife, Eileen. Everyone had interesting histories, particularly Petra, who grew up in a family of migrant workers in Texas and other parts of the country. I'm looking forward to finding out more about her history, which she is writing down now and is going to submit a column for the NY Times. What I found really fascinating is that everyone there had an interesting story. So, getting together over the holidays should be fun and educational. Lee worked for Boeing and is now retired. Tarik works for the National Labs here in Los Alamos and has lived here for 15yrs. Tarik seemed to agree with my thoughts about the weirdnesses of Los Alamos. Will find out more later.

Unfortunately, I took no photos at the time we met up, but I will when we meet again. This is, as I stated, a first as a result of writing posts for my website. Other contacts I have had via my website have mostly dealt with questions about products I've reviewed or about my bike touring and were very brief email exchanges. I've enjoyed this quite a bit.

Now, it's time to end this post and I need to find an appropriate tune. Hmmm, how about Iris Dement's "Our Town"? She is one of my favorite singer/songwriters, along with John Prine. This seems relevant to me, as a cyclist, since I've ridden through so many small towns in the U.S. that are just barely hanging on, slowly dying, literally disappearing in front of the people who live there. Any cyclist who has rode their bike across any section, or the whole, of this country has seen this and knows just how fleeting life is for towns and for people. The joy is in taking advantage of those moments in time where life exists. Thanks for reading this and to Lee, thanks for reaching out to me. I sincerely appreciated it. Looking forward to seeing you and Petra down the road...

Monday, July 23, 2018

Bicycle Tires...Everyone Is Of The Opinion That The Tires They Ride Are The Best!

Over the years that I've been cycling, seriously since 1981, I have purchased a lot of bicycle tires. Some have been very good, like the ones that Compass Cycles sells, while other brands have been so-so. Recently, however, I have had a good run with Continental tires, specifically the Continental Gatorskins. Having dealt with the road conditions in Silver City, NM, which can be incredibly beat up, the Compass tires that I used there worked quite well. Last year, we moved to Los Alamos, NM, where the road conditions are great, yet the tried and true Compass tires failed to deliver its usual quality of no flats. My next step was to do an online search, see what the online word was about bicycle tires, and decided to get a set of Continental Gatorskins, like the ones on my wife's Bob Jackson touring bike.

After reading several articles on bicycle tires on and how the latest research is disproving so many long time myths about bicycle tires and air pressure, I opted to go with a pair of 700x26 Gatorskins. My Vitus road bike won't handle any tire larger than that, otherwise I would have put 700x28 tires on the bike. To date, no flats, unlike the Compass tires that I was using, which had been quite failsafe until moving to Los Alamos. Now, the roads around here are kept up. Trust me. With the big trucks moving radioactive waste from the national labs that are located here (the atom bomb was developed here), no one wants any of these trucks to have a crash due to road conditons. Not only do they repair the roads around here regularly, they make quick work of getting the new road surface done. Oh, and no oil/gravel/crushed whatever road surfacing either. We're talking new blacktop surfaces and paint. They do not fuck around with that cheap shit up here.

So, for whatever reason, the Gatorskins do great up here. While I don't have as many miles on these tires as I had with the Compass tires, I have had zero flats to date. And, if you read the articles by Compass Cycle Articles On Bicycle Tires, you will note that how fast your tires will be has little to do with their width and that skinny tires are out for good reason. With that information available to me now, I trust that my decision to get the Gatorskins for my wife's bike, and mine, was a good one. 

With all that read and said, I am sticking to my contention that everyone thinks that the tires they're riding on are the best...and I'm sold, for now, on Continental Gatorskins, for whatever the hell that's worth. At this point, I am beginning to think about another cross country bicycle trip...ocean to ocean...which will be my last solo cross country bike trip. Certainly not my last bicycle trip, just that I will be doing some different rides after this last cross country trip. I want to drive to specific States and investigate/visit/spend time in places in those States for a somewhat longer stay than I would be if I were on a long distance bicycle tour.  My plan is to spend several days or longer in each place I go to in any particular State. And I will be using the Gatorskins on my touring bike. Unless, of course, I find a better one before I head out in 2020. And I'll be checking out brewpubs along the way.

Ok, just a short posting for this time, but with a tune to close out for now...The Road Goes On Forever...Robert Earl Keen Jr. Robert Earl Keen Jr. is one of my favorite singers/songwriters, who has turned out many a fine tune. This particular one is a tune he does whenever he's a legendary one for him. We all know the lyrics and sing along. While tires don't go on forever, the road does the party!!! Happy trails...

Monday, July 16, 2018


"Only in American can you be pro-death penalty, pro-war, pro-unmanned drone bombs, pro-nuclear weapons, pro-guns, pro-torture, pro-land mines, and still call yourself 'pro-life'". ~ John Fugelsang, actor/comedian

Eileen and I moved to Los Alamos, NM, in June/2017. It's an unusual's not a city, town, or village. It is a census designated place. WTF? White Rock is another census designated place in Los Alamos County. There's no "city government"...just a county government that makes decisions for the county and its occupants. About 65% of the people here work for the national labs where atomic bombs are still being researched, updated, and made, along with the toxic waste associated with that research. Other research is done here, as well, but the main efforts are nuclear.

The main thing that I notice here is: it's all white people. Not really, but I can count on two hands the number of non-white people I've seen in the last year. I'm sure there are more non-white people here than what I've seen, but the overall impression is WHITE. Another thing that stands out is that there are no old buildings here, except what remains of the Los Alamos Ranch School that was taken over by the U.S. military in 1942. Until about 1957, it was primarily a military base and is where the atomic bomb was developed. After that, it was opened to the public. About 3/5ths of the land up here on the mesas is owned by the Dept of Energy and not open to the public. Housing is very tight here because of the small geographic area available for houses to be built on. While driving on roads that go through DOE property, all vehicles are subject to random searches and aerial surveilance over DOE land is routine.

Another oddity here: almost no crime. The amount of crime that occurs in Los Alamos County annually is about what one would expect to occur in about 5 minutes in a major city. No joke. People leave doors and windows unlocked. Haven't seen that since living in upstate NY back in the 1950's. I think some of that has to do with how out of the way Los Alamos is located. Like Silver City, NM, where we used to live, Los Alamos is not on the way somewhere. You have to want to drive through here, perhaps to see the Valle Caldera that is some 15 miles southwest of Los Alamos. That's one of the reason that the U.S. government and the military chose this place for the Manhattan Project. Also, Robert Oppenheimer and his brother owned a piece of property near here, so he pushed for this site to develop the atomic bomb.

Now, in its favor, Los Alamos is quiet, safe, and very educated, but I believe that most people who have lived here for a while have a poor conception of what life is like in a bigger city. It is located up on 5 mesas, at the foothills of the Jemez mountains. Elevation here is about 7400', with the mountains at about 10,000'+. Scenery and surroundings are beautiful. Yes, there is still pollution here from the 1940's/1950's/1960's and there have been "accidents" where harmful material has caused problems here. Oh, it's also the second most affluent city in America. Washington, DC, is the most affluent city in America. For town/city of less than 100,000 population.

There is a decent brewpub here, the Bathtub Row Brewery Co-op, and a couple of good restaurants. Even decent sushi and a recently opened French bakery. There is NO GOOD PIZZA here. Period. So, I make my own or we go to Santa Fe. Fortunately, Santa Fe is only about 35 miles from here. Once there, many options are available from arts, music, beer, food, entertainment, etc. It makes the move here much more tolerable.

One of the things that I like to do is lift weights. There are two places here for that and the YMCA is one of them. Now, I have been lifting weights regularly since the early 1980's and the YMCA in Los Alamos has to be one of the worst gyms I've been to in 30 years. Now, in their defense, there was a vote in the past year where money could have been allocated to help replace the aging YMCA building with a new one, but it was narrowly voted down. Too bad. Another negative is cell phone/internet connectivity. I expected top shelf stuff here, but that has not been the case.

Another oddity has been the lack of interaction between people while out and about in Los Alamos. In Silver City, it made not a lick of difference if people knew you or not, everyone said hello to everyone else. Well, it seemed that way. We've been here over 6 months and only recently have people begun to open up and say hello. Now, whenever I encounter someone, I say hello just to see what the reaction will be. Fun to shake them up a bit. Another oddity, New Mexico's suicide rate for those 10-24 yrs of age is twice the national average and Los Alamos County's rate is twice what the rate is for New Mexico, so, Los Alamos County has a suicide rate for the 10-24yr old group that is 4 times the U.S. national average. Incredible!

Overall, I like small towns and the low crime rate is great. Will we remain here after Eileen retires? Not sure, but I'm willing to bet we will move back to Albuquerque at that time. But, with the future, we won't know until we get to where we have to decide. I will say that, if all the towns/cities in the U.S. were like Los Alamos, NM, I would move to another country. While the low crime rate is appreciated, the lack of personal interaction with people is very weird. People here don't say hello, don't casually talk with strangers, and it's everywhere. Restaurants, bars, stores, on the streets, everywhere...people do not socialize like I experience elsewhere. I have been going to the Bathtub Brewpub for over a year now and I know the name of one person who works behind the bar. The interaction of the bartenders is so very different from other brewpubs, as well as the grouping of people who come there who most likely work at the Labs. While the groups talk with each other, there is no interaction between groups...period. If this was one of the neighborhood bars back in my hometown of Glens Falls, NY, I would know just about everyone at the brewpub by now. And the bartenders would know what I usually drink.

We will be here for the duration, until Eileen is ready to retire and, hopefully, in that time we will get to know some people up on "the Hill", as Los Alamos is fondly referred to. What we have learned since we moved out of Albuquerque in 2006 is that small town life is quite pleasant. With that said, we'll have to see where we'd like to move to considering that small town life is pretty good. Large cities have more to offer, but with significant negatives that are not present in most small towns.

So, a brief annual report from the new kids on the block in Los Alamos, NM. Stay tuned for more from My Side of The Ride. Now, to close, a tune to entertain y'all... Always Look At The Bright Side Of Life performed by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame. Seems appropriate. Have a good one!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Mr. Earl, my buddy...

"There is, incidentally, no way to talk about cats that enables one to come off as a sane person." ~ Dan Greenberg

"In ancient times, cats were worshiped as gods; they have not forgotten this." ~ Terry Pratchett

Like the start of 2017, this year, 2018, has started out with the death of a great friend. Furry, yes. Frustrating, yes. Lovable, quite. My friend, yes. One that I love/d dearly and for whom I still cry. His name was/is Earl. His buddy, Scrappy, died last January/2017. They were/are my best friends. To humans, I can be a best friend, a good friend, a colleague, a jerk, a total asshole, and, for some, there is the wonder of what the fuck is that person doing in the human race. To Scrappy and Earl, I was the best thing since canned salmon.

How do animals become such an integral part of our lives? I don't have an answer, but I loved Earl completely. He never asked much of me...water, food, and a warm place to sleep. Oh, and no water on him, please! He hated to get wet. Not sure why people think they have to bathe a cat. They take good care of themselves and their cohort.

Last June, Eileen and I moved to Los Alamos, NM, which has been an adjustment in itself, and we brought Earl with us. I struggled with the decision to bring Earl to Los Alamos. He grew up in the neighborhood where we lived in Silver City and had some buddies...Missy Grey, Missy Black (sisters), and Scrappy. Scrappy was the boss cat. Although Scrappy had died and Earl was the new boss (same as the old boss), he and the other two cats were still together. Missy Grey and Missy Black were healthier than Earl and Scrappy...had all their teeth, good fur, good hunters, etc. I thought, selfishly perhaps, that Earl would have a difficult time adjusting without me there. When I rode my bicyle across country in 2010, Eileen told me that he constantly walked through the house looking for me. So, Earl came with us. I made arrangements with the neighbors to take care of Missy Grey and Missy Black. A little side note: last November, Eileen and I went to Silver City to see friends and to eat at 1zero6, a restaurant that our friend, Jake, owns. While there, I stopped by our house to make sure all was well. Missy Grey was by the back wall, near the wood fence between our house and the neighbor's. She meowed loud and mournfully for over 45 minutes. I was shocked. Finally, she came out and slowly came up to me to let me pet her and, finally, to pick her up. I regretted not taking her with us back in June/2017, but it didn't seem fair to take them out of that environment.

Well, the main plus for bringing Earl with us was that he was well cared for here and not out in the elements. I took him to the local veternarian and had many tests done to see what was causing his weight loss. It was the same thing that had happened to Scrappy. All the blood tests were normal, but Earl continued to lose weight. Finally, around Christmas, he was emaciated, but still eating, drinking, and pooping/peeing. I chose to not put him down since he didn't appear to be in great distress. Yes, he was getting weaker by the day, but not in great pain. With Scrappy, we took him to the veternarian and had him killed. Yes, I know, the vernacular is "putting him down", but the reality is that you're having someone kill him with chemicals. It was painful to experience and I was determined to do that to Earl only if he was in great pain or discomfort. He continued to eat, drink, and poop/pee until his last day, which was Friday, January 12, 2018. I had lunch with my friend, Neil, and, on returning home, found Earl sleeping on his rug. He stayed there throughout the afternoon and evening. Around 10pm, he meowed a couple of times, so I picked him up, wrapped in his rug, and held him in my lap with my arms wrapped, as lovingly as I could, around him. At 11pm, I realized that he was dead. His head flopped a bit too loosely, which let me know he had gone on.

These guys, as well as Missy Grey, were quite the team. They ruled the part of the neighborhood where we lived in Silver City, NM. They hung out and defended their turf from all comers, with scars to prove it. The birds, rabbits, mice, lizards, and other living critters, including grasshoppers, had to be on their guard at all times. Our neighbors loved the cats since they kept the mice population under control. My fondest wish is that Scappy has found Earl and that the two of them are once again hanging out with each other with great enjoyment.

Here are some photos to show y'all what Earl looked like, along with some of him and Scrappy, as well as Missy Grey, so you can see how affectionate they were with each other. And how, fortunately, they cared for me.

                                                    Earl sleeping in his favorite place...
                                                    A big yawn from the big guy...
                                          A big kitten at heart...
                                                    Scrappy sleeping in the sun...
Scrappy sleeping on the purr pad...

While these friends are not here with me any longer, they will always be my best friends and I will love them completely...and hope to see them somewhere down the road. Until then, here's a tune that I posted on Scrappy's post: Memories from Cats Thanks for choosing me to hang out with...

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

We Gotta Get Outta This Place...

I wrote this several months ago after watching the Vietnam War series on PBS. Rereading it now, I have nothing to change in it, so I hope this encourages you to watch the series and come to your own conclusions. For me, the lives lost far outweigh whatever the politics that were behind it. Watch the movie, "The Post", for another take on what was going on then. Publishing the Pentagon Papers was, and still is, a first amendment issue, but it revived the anti-war activities after the colleges/universities shut down to end the student protests that were occuring in 1970. There had been a serious uptick in protests after Kent State. Shutting the colleges/universities down resulted in the dispersion of the students, thus ending their ability to coalesce on their respective campuses to effect more protests. Thankfully, Daniel Ellsberg was just around the corner...waiting to step into history.

Another interesting note, I recently read an article in the NY Times written by a guy who  has been researching the whole issue around returning soldiers/marines from Vietnam being called "baby killers". He has been unable to substantiate, reliably, any instance of this happening. Now, some bonehead/s may have, but no one that I ever associated with or protested with ever did that. All those who fought in the Vietnam war returned to military bases not public airports, so I'm not sure where they would have encountered protestors. As I said, this is not in stone and may have occurred, but it did not occur with anyone that I knew.

"I covered the Vietnam war. I remember the lies that were told, the lives that were lost - and the shock when, twenty years later, former Defense Secretary, Robert S. McNamara, admitted he knew it was a mistake all along."~ Walter Cronkite

"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."~ Howard Zinn

My mind is in a whir. I just finished watching the ten episodes (plus a 20 minute segment featuring a group of Iraq/Afghanistan vets and two Vietnam Vets, one of whom is highlighted in the Vietnam PBS Series) of the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick Vietnam series.

Even now, after all these decades and after watching this series, I still am unable to pin down precisely what happened back then. I can only speak my own truth. This PBS program covered a considerable amount of material in a short period of time, about 18+ hours.  It did a reasonably good job of covering this era, yet, to me, much was left out. Yes, the Vietnam war was central to our lives then, particularly to those who served, and were serving, in Vietnam, and to their families, as well as to those of us who were most likely going to be the future fodder of that war...the poor, the middle class, and the college me.

No, I did not go to war nor did I serve in the military. Nor did I come from a wealthy family. Straight up blue collar, lower middle class family. My Dad was a police officer with the Glens Falls Police Department, who, after 17 years as a cop, went to work driving a beer truck to make more money to support his family of a wife and six kids. Initially, I went to college because several friends had been killed in Vietnam and I did not want to die...there or anywhere else. In high school, my plan had been to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps, as my older brother had done, and then, after service, join the NY State Police and be a police officer like my Dad. On being accepted at Adirondack Community College, I was provided a 2S draft deferment, then, in May of 1967, as a result of a motorcycle accident where I came close to losing my right leg, I was no longer draft eligible nor eligible to enlist. I would not have enlisted anyways.

One major element that was not included in this series was the craziness around the draft. While in college, my freshman year, I discovered that Adirondack Community College, where I was enrolled, was giving students' class standings (grades/GPA) to the draft board without our permission. Another student, Lance Weisser, and I started a petition requesting the college administration stop releasing that information without the student's permission. That information was ours, not theirs, to release or keep private, as we had the right to decide. The draft board based a college student's 2S deferment on the student's GPA. If a passing GPA was not maintained, the student would become draft eligible...1A. Even then, in small town America, things got told to others unbeknownst to us. The American Legion in Lance's hometown got word of what he and I were up to..our small protest...and went to Lance's home to speak to his parents about his un-American activities. Can you believe that? I was incredulous when Lance told me. It did not stop us from continuing and the college finally agreed to not release a student's GPA without the student's permission. Small success...

This craziness drove me mad and pissed me off. This aggravation contributed to my reading up on Southeast Asia and the history of war in that part of the world. In high school and in my first year of college, I supported the war and President Johnson. Had no reason not to because, like most Americans at that time, I was completely ignorant of what was going on and how/why the U.S. thought this was an important place to send American kids to die. As the Cronkite quote above states, there were so many lies and uncovering them was difficult, if not impossible, to do. After some research, I came to realize that what we were being told about why the U.S. should take a stand there was a lie.

One thing that particularly bothered me while watching this PBS series is the section on the protesters, particularly the ones who called the returning Vietnam veterans "baby killers" and other names. Those protesters got front page coverage because they were in big cities and were confronting the servicemen who were returning home. They were assholes, IMHO, and did not, and do not, represent those who protested the war that I was with and knew. NO ONE I knew ever said these things to anybody. Those people who were returning from Vietnam were our brothers, our fathers, our friends, our neighbors...people we loved and grew up with. Call them "baby killers"? I would beat the fucking shit out of anyone who said something like that to a Vietnam veteran, as would anyone of the others who I was with while protesting the war. My two brothers were in the U.S. Marine Corps. One of them, John, served in Vietnam. Call him a "baby killer"? Get the fuck out of my face before I do serious harm to you... I love my brother and would never stand for anyone treating him like that. This was a major omission from this series. There was no real presentation of who these soldiers were to those of us who were protestors. John and I, as well as other family members and friends, disagreed about the war, and we argued about it, but call him names? Deny his reality? Diminish their beliefs just because I had a difference of opinion? NO...we talked, we agreed, we disagreed, we tried to convince each other of the righteousness of our respective stance, but I loved those people who I knew were in Vietnam, doing what they thought they should do. All I wanted was for them to come home alive and as whole as possible. Unfortunately, many friends of mine, who served in Vietnam, came home in body bags and it broke my heart, then and to this very day. I cried at their funerals and I cried watching this series. I cried for those who came back physically whole, but psychologically broken. It has all come back to me, as I'm sure it has for all those who have watched it, veterans of the war or of the protests. I do not regret my protesting the Vietnam war nor do I regret not having served in the military in Vietnam, but I, and others who protested with me, would never denigrate a returning veteran from that war...or any war. Those who did should be ashamed of what they did and not hide behind the belief that they were just kids, too. We were protesting the war and the politicians who were supporting the war with their lies, not the people serving their country.

What I believe is good about this series is that it puts this topic back on the table for discussion, with our brothers, our sisters, our children, our friends, those who are still here to talk about their time in Vietnam. I know they can redo this series and add what I think was important, just as a million others think things should be added that reflects their truth. As with most of the media, small town America always lands on the cutting room floor when it comes to telling its story. Growing up in Glens Falls, whenever someone would ask me my name, I'd say, "Patrick Lyford". They would invariably ask, "Is Carl Lyford your father?". So, we knew each other, we knew who got drafted, who enlisted, who died, who got married, who was killed in Vietnam and their family. It was personal and very up close. No, we didn't fight in Vietnam, but we were scarred by it just the same. Certainly not like those who fought there and saw so much horror. No comparison, but we did suffer in our own way. The crazines around the draft, which I spoke of, was hard to deal with. No, no one was shooting at me/us, so, it's not the same, and I'm not trying to give it equal footing. Just trying to help people understand what I/we were thinking. I truly believed then, and now, that whatever I could do to help bring the Vietnam war to an end was worth it. If just one less person died there and one less family had to bear that burden, it was worth it.

I am sure that, even now, all of the truth about Vietnam has not been told nor will it ever be told. It is the defining moment for my generation. Like Kent State. But, does anyone reading this know about Jackson State in Mississippi and what happened there? More students killed, but they were black students, so they didn't merit the same media coverage like that provided when white students were killed. Black lives mattered then, too. Think its different now? Google college protests during the Vietnam war that resulted in deaths of students and try to find any mention of Jackson State. It is there, but it is not front and center like Kent State. Black lives still matter. Someone tell the sentient septic tank that is occupying the White House, please.

Time to end this and get it posted, so I will close with a John Denver song, Readjustment Blues
I think it represents the times fairly well. Unfortunately, times have remained the same over the past, it's the deserts in the Middle East. Do some research on the history of the Middle East and you will discover the hand of the greedy, racist, self-serving white people of the world thinking they have the perfect right to dominate this part of the world for the riches within. The brown people there? Well, fuck'em, as they like to say whenever they believe their righteousness outranks humanity. We know what to do with all that oil and the money that ensues, they don't. Let's see, in Vietnam, it was the infamous "Domino Theory"...just another excuse to take land, kill people, and make them see that "we're right" and "you're wrong". How cool is that, eh? It only cost 55,000 plus lives from the U.S. Oh, and, in case you might be interested, about 3.5 million Vietnamese people died. Just for the record, eh? Yes, I'm still pissed off...

For Buddy, Jimmy, Joe, John, and way too many others who died in Vietnam, wherever you are, God speed. For Clyde, Chico, Murph, Mike, Wayne, Smokey, Karen, Margee, Sheila, and all those other protestors, never stop standing up for humanity. There are lives in the balance who depend on it.