Tambourine Man Not Again

In a previous blog, I composed a poem about how I played trombone in live, “gig” performance. When not blowing my horn during many tunes, I often banged the tambourine unnoticed instead. Reminiscing how “eyes in the crowd” largely fixated on our lead singer’s, dramatic performance, I now imagine what it would feel like being such an idolized superstar. The following poem inspired by the famous Bob Dylan folk song attached below reflects these sentiments.

Spread Voice To Send Cool As Midnight Falls
Take Notice Bob Dylan Of My Celebrity Calls
Crowd Beats In Pulsed Dance Strong Hearts Eyes Wide
Electric Jungle Gone Crazy No Place To Hide

No Time For False Hero As Morning Light Sprays
Shun Bless, Bleed, Breathe, Brood In Normalized Ways
True Destiny Calls For Blind Superstar Storm
As King Of The Mike Frees Mind From Dull Norm

Put Me Up Front In Sinned Idol Stoned Scene
Never Hidden In Shadow, I’m No Tambourine

Embracing Humanity From Animals

“Let us remember that animals are not mere resources for human consumption. They are splendid beings in their own right, who have evolved alongside us as co-inheritors of all the beauty and abundance of life on this planet” (Marc Bekoff)

On many summer mornings in sultry South Florida, I gaze curiously from my condo patio to an unfolding, natural scene of scampering squirrels, migratory waterfowl, and ancient reptiles, coexisting by our adjacent lakeside. Muscovy Ducks huddle together in “busybody” procession. A spiny iguana slowly struts to the top of a sand hill to claim maximum exposure to the sun. A brown squirrel races to my door to retrieve his daily peanut.

How inspiring for me then that the daily survival rituals of one species does not negatively encroach on others in the seemingly endless search to find scarce food each day. Amidst such lush foliage of this subtropical feeding ground and adjoining lakeside glory, nature provides plenty of space for all. Thus, human/animal cooperation rather than competition becomes a most preferable survival option.

On this particular morning, I decelerate in my new SUV to let a a lone, Egyptian goose cross the road nonchalantly in front of my vehicle. Surprisingly, he(she) then veers directly toward the driver’s side door. I then imagine such behavioral movement showing obedience to me as a commanding king. Whether this behavior appears stupid or not, I do not care. For I have observed firsthand evidence for a suitable starting point to see human/animal survival as a matter of trust and mutual coexistence rather than a fiercely contested battle.
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In our road trip travels, we have witnessed a similar phenomenon of human/animal symbiosis at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Along its vast stretch of over 1,904 sq. miles, over 67 species of animals, 16 kinds of fish, and 46 varieties of reptiles/amphibians continue to thrive here in spite of encroaching tourist invasions in the surrounding canyon. In the video below, feel how the sheer grandeur of this special place evokes the peaceful spirit of the “Havasupai” Indians who still inhabit regions of the canyon today. Understand how they cling to beliefs that an eagle, coyote… can travel through life within an individual, assisting that person in times of life crisis. Such Native American passion that wild animals can be viewed as a benevolent friend and ally resonates deeply as a source of hope for a fresh spirit of unity in our increasingly hostile country today.

Car Sales “Squeeze” Defeated

The cars we drive say a lot about us.” (Alexandra Paul)

I knew my wife and I would finally need to buy a new car after undertaking our 5th arduous road trip this spring. You see, my 2008 Honda Accord was pushing 190,000 miles and showing signs of wear. The engine rattled oddly now in idle, tire gauges went on and off randomly, the seat/side panel fabric cracked and tore easily and the exterior paint showed signs of flaking. Yet this amazingly durable vehicle had carried us safely through our latest marathon road adventure of over 12,000 miles without incident.It seemed I would need some therapy after experiencing the potential trauma of giving up this prized possession.

Last week, I read that imposed tariffs in our country would raise car prices significantly by the end of the year. Thus, we reasoned that a better deal for a new vehicle could be made if we acted now. Gathering research online, SUVs jumped out as our most enticing purchase option. I now began the search in South Florida for our favored choice, the Honda CR-V. Over the course of the entire week, I busily assumed the role of prospective buyer, committing myself alone to fending off anticipated high intensity,sales encounters. Fittingly, the “emotional drain” of this experience lingers on in several thoughts below.

1. The Vanishing Cost Paper

During the course of the week, I listened to a multitude of pricing deals presented verbally yet unverified by written estimates on paper. I was told by one dealer that they would beat any price for my Honda CR-V given at their competitors. In addition, written pricing estimates were quickly pulled away from my view after being given little time to look at them carefully.

2. Technology Glitz

A prized “hook” of the dealers in my visit were the added amenities of technology to distract my mind. Did I really need to test the “Bluetooth” capacities of digitized sound systems in a simple test drive of the driving performance a vehicle? Was I- Phone syncing with the control panel truly understandable at the time?

3. Safety Conundrum

For our road trips west, we frequently encounter extreme weather. Thus an all wheel drive SUV seemed a logical bargaining choice for us for safety in our new vehicle selection.Yet, I did not have an opportunity to test drive such a vehicle being told that such vehicles were not available on the lot.In addition to availability, the added cost of “all wheel drive” to the final price, further dampened our purchasing will for such a vehicle.

4. Macho “Uncertainties”

It seemed difficult to imagine bargaining for a new CR-V when my wife was not present. After all, my needs for a car seemed to be an extension of my masculine, “controlling” nature. Hearing thus a family car pitch by the dealer would likely fall on “deaf ears” as I envisioned myself as a confident driver rather than a more passive passenger in this vehicle.

5. The True Value Of A “Trade In”

My 2008 Honda trade has been a testament to efficiency and reliability for the past eleven years. Observing the dealer show little interest in providing just “trade in value” for the car, I would thus sadly question any prospective, new car deal given. Can you blame me?

On the following Monday, my wife would join me in a more relaxed buying effort. With minimal haggling at the dealer on our mind as well as approved, pre-financing for our loan, we would more confidently proceed in our search for the right SUV vehicle then. In the end, a silver 2018 Honda EX Model CR-V with Satellite Radio and only two wheel drive would thankfully become our purchasing choice. Sitting higher in an SUV with a greater bottom clearance and more storage space than our previous car would  make our road trip travels practical for us as  two seasoned travelers. Do you like the look in the picture of our CR-V?

Unscripted Traveler Intentions

“True travel requires the simpler stratagems of being patient, humble,solitary,anonymous, and alert” (Paul Theroux)

Have you ever read the travel writings of Paul Theroux? This past week, I delved into his recent novel,“Figures in a Landscape” and became intrigued by his discussion of how our travel choices coincides with core values we believe in as a person. I thus became inspired to write the following poem.

Imagine Your Life’s Path As In Sync With Your Travels
Throw Away Thoughts Of “Red Carpeted” Dreams
Immerse Mind With Strong Heart In Moment’s Unfold
Grow Mindful Alive As Your Ultimate Reaching

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Savor Wine Taste On Cool Grass With Bared Feet Calm
For Patience Rewards Those Who Take Time To “Chill”
Spread Kindness To Stranger Help Weak In True Need
For Humility’s Hold Finds No Need To Curse King
Beware Of Bias Frenzy Toss Lust For Blind Greed
For Alertness Means Most In Times Of Least Feel

Sense A Buzz In The Air Catch Wind Of Unknown
For In Improvised Travel You Claim Fate As Your Own

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“Hey Man, Poke Me With Your Slide”

I began playing the trombone at eight years old and have made it my my musical instrument of choice throughout my lifetime. I loved the past experience of playing my t’bone  in a variety of musical settings. Today I seem content, however, for quiet listening of trombone performance masters to engage my positive spirit.

The following poem I wrote reflects about these “inner felt” moments of appreciation.

The only thing that ultimately matters is to eat an ice-cream cone, play a slide trombone, plant a small tree, good God, now you’re free” (Ray Manzarek, The Doors)

Trombone In Band Time I Love Bassy Sound Brass,
Sends Vibes To Cool Minds Who Can Musically Follow
Whether Dance To T’Bone Shorty Or Step To March Beat
In Slide Sensations Of Present You Ascend From Life’s Rut

In Perfections Of Tongue You Often Strong Seek
But I’d Settle For A Mere Taste Of Your Jazzy Slick Beat
Your Bone Blasts Often Hide Behind Melody’s Call
Yet There Seems So Much to Feel From Pure Harmony’s Blend

Hey Man, Poke Me With your Slide Trombone
Help Me Feel Moments Of Now In Your Magical Tone

Historic Stirrings of “Miami Feel”

You can think, talk and act yourself into dullness or into monotony or into unhappiness. By the same process, you can build up inspiration, excitement and surging depth of joy. (Norman Vincent Peale)

Why would a leisurely visit to the Miami History Museum be emotionally draining? Most likely, I was “flashing back” to some momentous, Miami moments in my past. Consider how my graduate degree program in Urban Studies Education at the University of Miami passionately pursued community involvement to attack poverty, homelessness, and racism. Or understand the stress I felt as a public school teacher where I taught underprivileged middle school students to read and learn American History in the impoverished Miami  vicinities of Opa Locka and Liberty City. Or picture getting up every day in my late teen summers to wash delivery trucks outdoors in Miami’s oppressive  heat and humidity.  Or feel my contagious “high” of  sitting with rabid football fans at a sold out Orange Bowl rooting madly for their beloved Miami Dolphins. 

In my non travel times now, I live contentedly with my wife in the quiet suburbs of suburban Fort Lauderdale. Yet I still look forward to reigniting those urban passions that so deeply impacted me in Miami downtown. In 1968,  Miami hosted two, Pop  Music Festivals that rivaled Woodstock’s renowned, concert gathering  in the Catskills region of New York in the year that followed. Last Monday morning, I would thus revisit the sights/sounds of these memorable concerts in this highly anticipated visit to “History Miami.”           

 No question, “History Miami” depicted a distinct air of  late 1960s, rebellious protest as I remember it. I distinctly felt a “groove” in the air from psychedelic posters, hippie- like pictures, and filmed concert sets observed during my visit there. How  cool it seemed as a fervently spirited “Progressive”  today  to rekindle my passionate disgust for an unpopular war in Vietnam. Given another chance to re-experience the creative guitar licks /seductive lyrics of Jimi Hendrix, in his famous rendition of Purple Haze/Foxy Lady  at History Miami, in wide screen video, I deeply felt again a powerful need for political change. 

Continuing to arouse my curiosity at History Miami, other exhibits  would further provoke my emotional connection to this city. Wildly colorful artifacts of Miami’s Afro-Caribbean influence revealed a vibrant, downtown cultural scene.  Descriptively positive letters/pictures from children about Miami provided vivid reminders of my love of teaching. Unique street signs/bumper stickers exhibited  Miami’s flair for revealing both joy and sorrow in my artistic imagination.

It seems clear that I am not willing to be satisfied with idle existence in the air conditioned comfort of my home. My curious mind, therefore will embrace deep-seated passion in the present moment wherever I find it. Nourish my brain for knowledge with a good book yet  give me a heart that beats to the historic pulse of my “Miami Feel”once  in awhile.

 

No “Free Pass” From Values

“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” (Alexis de Tocqueville)

In our extensive global  travels, my wife and I have always been acutely sensitive of the need to spread “goodwill” towards  others we encounter. When visiting the poverty stricken lands of  tribal Kenya, we offered pencils to Masai children. In touring China, I shared English language letters with curious children along busy Shanghai public squares. Encountering strangers in Bangkok, Thailand and New Delhi, India, we bowed in silent, “Namaste” prayer. Making new friends in long train rides throughout Western Europe, we became friendly hosts/tour guides for them when they later visited us in our home in Florida. 

As you can see, values matter. So I expect our  President should see it makes equally good sense to model similar standards of goodness  in his unique capacity as our country’s supreme negotiator and ambassador overseas.Yet the following events in recent days cause me to be deeply disturbed. 

1. As the Trump/Putin Summit opened this week, I read that our President felt compelled  to cast blame to Americans for stupidity and foolishness …in worsening of America/Russia relations. Meanwhile, it has been widely documented that he has praised the authoritarian regime of Vladimir Putin numerous times since taking office. 

 WHOSE SIDE IS OUR PRESIDENT WORKING FOR WHEN HE REGULARLY SIDES WITH DICTATOR LED RUSSIA WHILE DENIGRATING OUR OWN COUNTRY?

2. This weekend, twelve Russian operatives were lawfully targeted by the Robert Mueller Investigation  for illegal activities activities against the Democratic opposition leading to the 2016 Presidential election. What right  then did he have  to claim at the  London Summit  that the Mueller probe  was targeting him personally with  “witch hunt” intention?

WHY DOES HE CRITICIZE THE FAIRNESS OF AMERICAN RULE OF LAW IN THE MUELLER INVESTIGATION AS A PRETENSE FOR RUSSIAN BARGAINING WHEN THERE HAS BEEN INDISPUTABLE EVIDENCE OF RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE IN THE  2016 U.S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION? 

3. On the final day of the NATO Summit, Trump gave a brash, closing statement to the press. After being asked by a foreign reporter to clarify his earlier criticism of Theresa May, he dismissed such talk by announcing  that our country is filled with fake news.

 IS  IT ETHICALLY  OR LEGALLY RIGHT FOR  A PRESIDENT TO TAKE A DANGEROUSLY POOR, PUBLIC RELATIONS STANCE ABOUT THE COUNTRY HE/SHE TOOK A CONSTITUTIONAL OATH TO “PRESERVE, PROTECT,AND DEFEND” IN SUCH A GLOBAL FORUM? 

4. On Saturday, our President met Queen Elizabeth. I sadly observed  a picture of him walking boldly ahead of her in a formal procession as the slumping yet endearing presence of the 91 year old Queen dragged slowly behind. 

HOW COULD OUR PRESIDENT ACT SO OBLIVIOUS TO AN AGING MOTHER FIGURE AND THUS SHOW DISRESPECT TO THE HISTORIC LEGACY OF THE BRITISH QUEEN ? 

5. As the European Summit proceeded, on Saturday, thousands of people protested in London about President Trump’s there. In acknowledging such negative reaction, he noted that he would not take time to visit London because he felt unwelcome there. Meanwhile, it became a priority of him  to take leisurely time off to play golf the next day in Scotland.

IF THE AMERICAN WORK ETHIC ENCOMPASSES  EARNED SUCCESS EACH DAY, WHY SHOULDN’T A PRESIDENT ADOPT AN ETHICAL OBLIGATION TO  SIMILARLY  SPREAD “HARD AT WORK” VALUES  WHEN TRAVELING ABROAD? 

Civil War Mindset In Question

“A Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me.” (Robert E. Lee)

Is the current state of political disharmony existing among Democrats/Republicans  in the  United States  heading us toward another Civil War? What lessons from this tragic period of American History appear  relevant to our present day conflict? In the months leading up to the Civil War in 1861, our country was deeply embroiled in a North/South sectional dispute over the issues of slavery and related states rights/powers. The inability of the two sides to settle on peaceful terms  would ultimately lead to eleven southern states seceding  from the union as well as a destructive bloodbath where over 620, 000 soldiers would ultimately lose their life in the ensuing  four years.      

06922FC9-7495-4BCF-8D67-6BA916070780 Major political change in Washington further fueled this conflict.  The rise of the Republican Party with Abraham Lincoln’s two term victory as anti- slavery President spread deep seated anger among slaveholders in the Confederate states. Yet through his determined leadership to preserve our nationwide unity, our country survived. 

58FCEAC8-22C1-4883-B42D-CFB5C1704594Being  curious to find authentic evidence of the political tone that prevailed in the pre-Civil War era, I discovered some revealing letters in my research of the “Online Internet Archive”. Common threads of Southern discontent expressed in these anonymously signed letters showed  radical opposition  to a “spirit of a country united “ and in particular President Abraham Lincoln’s Presidency at the time. It seemed true to me that our country today faces a similar set of extreme circumstances characterized by a rapidly escalating divide of friend and foe on a wide reaching, national scale. These letters thus showcased  below illustrate that these toxic atmosphere  elements again threatens to cause nationwide war.

1.  The God’s Will Crisis – “The South”

Click on letter here

Notice in this letter that holy “Godliness” appeared as a protector of “noble right” for Rebel insurrection. Southern devotion to his “holiness”, in this view, justified this cause is justification to slaughter their Union opponents in the future. With comparable religious passion, some “Christian Right” believers  today provide strong support for our President in hope that he will return our country to the strict moral teachings of the Bible. In the meantime, religiously conscious issues like women’s rights suppression, white supremacy, and xenophobia are targeted in a politically toxic way.       

2.Patriotism Gone Haywire – “ Southern Song of Liberty”

Click here for letter            

To defend our homeland” reveals as a strong theme in this letter, implying that Confederates  would fight against the enemy who they feel shamed the country’s greatness. The desire to retain a pro-slavery culture, as a patriotic duty , however, appeared treasonous in the North, inevitably providing heavy justification for war. In today’s times, our country equally seems under patriotic attack. Our  President angrily exhorts to his followers that (1) Democrat political opponents  threaten our country’s greatness, (2) NFL players who do not stand at attention during the National Anthem are treasonous, and (3) strict enforcement of anti- immigration policies restores the right path to American greatness. Unsurprisingly, however, his questioning of one’s  loyalty to citizenship, has exacerbated bitter disunity and political alienation for political gain, ultimately weakening our country spirit.

3. Charismatic Leader Myth – “Country,Home, and Liberty”

Click here for letter

A leader who expects  blind obedience to his/her cause can dangerously manipulate the minds of avid followers. In this letter, the reference to Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States provided strong reasoning that a state of Southern rebellion existed  to justify calls for warlike action. Many thus would see little wrong in Davis’ appeal for such endless bloodshed. Our “reality star” President today, likewise, propagandizes to his Republican base that “Making America Great Again” is his greatest priority. Yet his angry tweets, pathological lying , and “witch hunt” denials of  the Robert Mueller Investigation make greater headlines for him in his crisis ridden Presidency.         

 4.Lunacy of Violent Redemption –  “Liberty or Death”

Click here for letter

This letter vividly points out the “win at all costs”theory that Confederate should  commit intimidation and violent action  against enemy as a noble cause. Revengeful attacks to save their Southern homelands from enemy invasion seemed preeminent in their minds. Little attention was given in this letter, however to the moral implications of their mass killings. Enter today  a raucous political rally for Donald Trump today and you might not  feel safe if you work for CNN or have left wing, political leanings. If your child feels traumatized about a recent school shooting at a local high school, don’t expect talk of gun control from the President as a way to solve the problem. If you are a female activist  exercising your free speech right to have an abortion in protest, you might consider the emotionally driven tactics from your pro-life enemies that await you . 

The letters I presented in this blog fuel a bloodthirsty war and senseless road to our country’s destruction. A much different path seems critical now to transcend religious differences, embrace country over self, present honesty by leadership example, and embrace non- violent action. We all may not agree but at least  let’s try to consider voting for those who care in the above stated ways  to make our country better. 

Refreshing End To Fireworks Show

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As a sultry nightfall settled in Fort Lauderdale, on the Fourth of July, I again experienced the pulsating pops, psychedelic light show, and  smoke haze of fireworks shows exploding  nearby to shatter the normally serene atmosphere of my middle class, suburban neighborhood. As extreme vibrations from each blast  went off, a disturbing cacophony of dog barkings, cat screams, and car alarms proceeded to  distract my mind while along the nearby lake, fish leaped from the sound rippling water at this unsettled time. I soon imagined that this experience much resemble a war scene.
The next evening , I expected a continued  “fireworks” show of political negativism, so to speak, would take place during my attendance at a local Democratic Club outing in Davie, Florida. Seeing posted signs of Anti-Trump rebellion,  I anticipated then that this meeting would quickly “spin” into a heated forum for emotionally “mudslinging  dirt” about Republican opponents running in the upcoming November, midterm elections. To my surprise, however , the event proceeded for the next two hours in a much more surprisingly positive fashion.
 How motivating to me that I participated  in a quietly reflective,  round table” discussion  with other Democratic voters concerning ways to increase voting turnout.  Good timing  it seemed  to hear Florida gubernatorial candidates Phil Levine, former State Senator Jeremy Ring, and others educate me on key issues at this time without blaming the current Republican party majority. How gratifying that I was given ample opportunity to engage in face to face discussions with elected officials to air strictly issue viewpoints tonight. I felt the excitement of former governor/U.S. senator Bob Graham entering the room to a standing ovation at the end of the meeting. His passionate optimism to support his daughter Gwen’s run for next Florida governor provided convincing evidence that Democrats would be winning  more elections with positive role models like her  in the future.
It thus appears  that the  Democratic Party can gain ground in midterm elections to increase voter turnout by engaging in such hard work as I viewed this night to foster enhanced community interest. It’s also clear to me that enticing one to vote Democrat does not necessitate a raucous, Trump mob scene where followers blindly join in with cultish obedience. I thus look forward to seeing a fitting  end to a fireworks show of “blaming  and shaming others” before upcoming elections as  Democratic Party candidates choose “high road” methods to promote renewed respect for truth, scientific outlook, and human dignity  in their campaign behavior.
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Vanishing “Fourth Of July” Spirit

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” (The Declaration of Independence, ratified July 4, 1776)

Dear President Trump:

I would like to look forward to America’s tradition of family cookouts, community fireworks, and colorful parades on our July 4 holiday of independence. Yet I sadly report that I do not feel like celebrating on this upcoming Fourth of July. For on this day, marking the birth of our country’s ideals, our constitutionally provided freedoms to speak, write, and assemble are under attack. The hallowed words of the Declaration of Independence simply ring “empty” to my ears now.

Click Here For Full Text Of Declaration…

Consider some alarming signs pervading our country today. Observe how your endless Twitter rantings creates a backlash of distrust that our government will not take responsibility to guarantee these fundamental rights and freedoms for all. Feel the sad images of crying, immigrant children now crowded together in barracks, while the price for their freedom is bargained for your own electoral gains. Witness how the child separation issue has spiraled into mass protests, senseless arrests and intensified political gridlock throughout the country. Notice how your callous support for the N.R.A. provokes a desperate, wake-up call for students to protest this summer against the fear of more high school shootings. Under these dire circumstances, how successfully can I celebrate freedom’s glories on July 4 this year?

I implore you to spend a few minutes of your precious time and study the Declaration… with an open mind. Why did the Founding Fathers write this document? What led them at great risk to oppose a tyrannical king? Why in fact did they call themselves the United States of America? If such confrontation must be employed for America’s best interests now, then understand that a fair deal of seeking “greater good” for all must be equally made.
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With Regards,

A “Stars and Stripes” Believer