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Abiding Blog
(2015-2016 Archives)
Lucki Melander Wilder

Still digging the blogs. Keep up the good works.  -- Jim (a reader since the first-ever announcement)

These are personal ruminations on divers and sundry topics of interest to me and, I hope, also to you. Some are long, some are short. Some are silly, some are serious. Some are trivial, some are profound. Nor is it always easy to tell which is which, even for me. And all the opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

Feel free to email me to subscribe and receive notice of new entries, with feedback, or if there are any topics you would like me to ruminate about. Not all feedback necessarily appears in this page, and may be edited for links, typos, multi-source redundancy, and relevancy. That doesn't mean, though, that we consider negative feedback irrelevant or refuse to post it, as negative feedback can often help us learn to do more and better.

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"The treasured vistas of our solo journeys are not always about the landscape."  -- Gina Greenlee

High Point trip report done. Back to the Victoria trip a year earlier. The one that started way back here.

What Greenlee said is, of course, true. Sometimes the vista is not about the landscape. Sometimes it's all about the landscape. This journey had both.

A long house alone on a rise in the middle of nowhere
A long house, all alone, in the middle of nowhere

Stately building indicates a civic-center presence
A stately building, indicating a civic presence

Water tower with the word "Stanley"
A tall water tower proudly declaring "Stanley"

Rectangular hay bale
Hay bales of the older rectangular block style

Rolled-up hay bale
Hay bales of the newer style, rolled up like HoHos

Grain elevators at a transport & milling hub
Grain elevators at a transport and milling hub

Refining operation
A refining operation where all used to be agriculture

Daylight moom over branches
Enjoying the visual effect of a daylight moon

First badlands ridge through rear window
First badlands ridge extending far north and south

Entering the fifth badlands ridge
Passing through a second line, a third, a fourth and fifth

A wrinkle on the face of Mother Earth
Wrinkles on the face of beautiful Grandmother Earth

Cows grazing near the train tracks
Seemed like most of the animals couldn't care less about the train


The land after Minot, ND, started rolling for a while, then got flat again. Rolled some more. Flat some more. Alternating. Watched things go by at speed. Like a long house, all alone atop a moderate rise in the middle of nowhere. A stately building indicating an occasional civic-center presence. A tall water tower proudly declaring "Stanley". Hay bales. Both the old rectangular block style like I remember from my uncle's truck farm, and the newer kind that are more easily cut and rolled up like HoHos. Juxtaposed grain elevators at a transport and milling hub. Also working oil drills in constant motion in sere fields, files of storage tanks, and a refining operation. Which, sadly, I'm sure accounted in both the short and long run for some of the ponds being so obviously oil-scummed. Among others, Williston, ND is a good example of a town that was historically agricultural, until the oil boom hit the area. Growing pains for real.

I enjoyed tracking the daytime moon. A friend and I once met a man and his small son in a store. I don't remember exactly what, but the boy did something that made me mention a "wow, he saw that" to his father. "Yes," the proud father replied, "he can even see the moon during the day." My friend took that to mean the child had exceptional eyesight. I took it to mean the child was very observant. 'Cuz just about anyone can sometimes see the moon in the daytime. But most people don't think to look.

We passed crosswise through a sudden ridge. Wrinkle. Line of bluffs. I missed the close-up because I was in a corridor. I got to the observation lounge and saw the odd landscape just as we exited. I sped - and lurched - to the train's back window to get a distant shot. Which doesn't look very impressive. But it was. The ridge extended north and south as far as I could see through the window. We soon passed through a second such line, then a third, then more. I was finally able to get some good shots at the fifth line, though none as dramatic as the one I missed at the start.

As we went along the totally level track, some ground was even with us, some rose above, some sank below. The land turned flat again. A tumbleweed rolled by. Maybe a glob of baby's breath, this being North, not South, Dakota. Made sense. This "half-baked" infertile land mimcked, could be considered one type of, a desert environment. Yet, more wrinkles loomed to the sides at a distance. I thought maybe these are the north edge of the Dakota Badlands. And I wondered how they originally formed. Erosion, certainly. But that doesn't totally explain their orientation and parallel nature. Are these the eastern-most edge of the tectonic-plate collision that formed - and is still forming - the Rockies? Humongous concentric ripples - like from an asteroid tossed into the ocean - spreading out over geologic ages through solid land? Whatever, they really are wrinkles in the ever-beautiful face of old Mother Earth. Our grandmother Earth.

There were also, of course, animals. Like water fowl, wings aflap, generating just enough lift to actually run on the surface of their pond before taking off. A herd of probably-livestock bison in the distance. (Almost dug out my binocs for that one. But again, I'd've missed actually SEEING them. And besides, I'd already seen - and smelled - bison much up-closer and personal on the grounds of Leavenworth federal penitentiary years ago.) Horses. Donkeys. Sheep, both shorn and un. Goats. Pigs. Cows. Most of the animals seemed pretty unimpressed by our train. There was one time, though, where a few cows had gotten through a fence gap and down into a gully very close to the tracks. I can see why they wanted to graze there. That grass, getting more water, would obviously be more succulent. Then the train roared by. Those cows shot up out of that gully and back through their fence like herdbeasts being culled by a very hungry Pernese dragon. But I bet after the scary part was over, they sidled back down into that yummy-grass gully again.

And then there was Bruce. Wait 'til I tell you about Bruce.

Khoda hafez,

email your feedback with ABIDING BLOG and the entry date as the subject


Switch to Adding Insult

Go to Newer Entries



Entries During

2016-12-17 Westerer
2015 Victoria, BC trip

2016-11-23 Return
2016 High Point, NC trip

2016-10-24 Regard
2016 High Point, NC trip

2016-09-16 Roadeo
2016 High Point, NC trip

2016-08-16 Wester
2015 Victoria, BC trip

2016-07-13 Kool-Aid
"True" Stories

2016-06-03 Revelation

2016-05-20 Westish
2015 Victoria, BC trip

2016-04-19 Re-Pete
2015 Victoria, BC trip

2016-03-14 Lounge
2015 Victoria, BC trip

2016-02-29 Leap
2015 Victoria, BC trip

2016-01-22 Who?
"True" Stories
2016-01-05 Prep
2015 Victoria, BC trip

2015-12-20 Same
2015-12-01 Ex(c)it(e)
2015 Victoria, BC trip

2015-11-26 Whom?

2015-08-31 Simultaneity

2015-06-03 Cold?

2015-04-26 Misflap
guest blogger: Tom Ligon

2015-03-31 Smoky
Cat Power

2015-01-20 Winner


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"You never know what events are going to transpire to get you home."  -- Og Mandino

Finishing the saga started two months ago and continued last month, Day Three in High Point dawned with another tasty breakfast provided by Country Inn. Then it was time to take a last look at our hotel rooms to ensure we weren't leaving anything. As I headed for checkout, I pulled my black travel case with one hand (Rezvanieh's green one had stayed in the car) and carried my CPAP with the other. Atop the suitcase, purposely in plain view, was that hand towel I'd been using.

As usual, the bill had been slipped under my door before breakfast. Now I took it to the front desk and asked the night clerk, nearing the end of her shift, to recalculate and reprint it with the charge for their hand towel that I was absconding with so I could relieve my back pain on the way home to Chicago. She looked flummoxed. "I don't know what it cost. I wouldn't know how to even do that." Well, then, I approved the bill charges on my credit card, gave her my e-address, and asked her to have the day manager figure out the charge, amend the bill, and just email me to let me know what the new total was.

And off we went.

Back hrough the mountain pass
Back through all the mountain passes
Back through the tunnels
To say nothing of the long, noisy tunnels
Back across the bridges
And, of course, don't forget the bridges

Still wonderful weather
Weather is as still as wonderful as can be

A motorcycle picture for Rey
Had to take a picture of that motorcycle for Rey

Motorcycle on a trailer
And hey, Rey, even the rides get to ride

Truckers, two other cool walkers
Plenty of other cool walkers at the rest stops, like these two truckers

Home to Chicago in the rain
Then finally home to Chicago in the late-night, pouring rain

Milton & David
Milton (left) hits a home run -- David steps up to the plate

They never did charge me for that towel. My friend David later opined that they thought I must be from Mars to have even asked. People just don't tell you when they're ripping your stuff off, he insisted, so the hotel didn't have any protocol for responding to someone honest. I dunno. Maybe. More laid back than brand-name Chicago hotels, that's for sure. Here, Housekeeping has surveyed your room for missing and damaged hotel property before you even make it out of the elevator.

Trip back was as smooth as trip to. Weather continued great. Hearty meals were fun. Once again, got all my steps in.

Actually, two things of special note happened on the highway this trip. One was that Diva and Doña got into a big argument. We were in the middle of nowhere. We needed gas. Diva knew where to get gas. About 20 miles off the highway. She directed us where to go. Doña got all bent out of shape. 'Cuz we weren't on the highway any more and she didn't know why. She kept trying to redirect us. It got to be silly after a while. But there was no way to get Diva and Doña to talk to each other.

Diva eventually got us to the gas station. We filled up. Headed back for the highway. And Doña calmed down, finally back in control. Ain't technology grand?!

The other was when Diva called our attention to an Amber alert. A girl had been kidnapped in the area. Might be in a recent-model black Range Rover. Well, black I get. Range Rover I wouldn't know from Adam. Milton said neither for sure would he. The good news is that, back home, I heard on Friday's late, late news that she'd been found. Alive. Called Milton the next morning to let him know. He was equally happy to hear it.

Anyway, rain finally closed in as we neared Chicago. I'd thought about the fact that when we got to Chicago, instead of turning off for his home on the far South Side, Milton would have to take me all the way to the far North Side, then drive back home alone. 60-ish miles. Extra couple of hours before he could get to bed. So I called David and asked could he meet up with us at Milton's and ferry me the last midnight leg of my journey. He was game. When I told Milton the game plan, he was so-o-o happy.

The next time the Chicago Bahá'í community had its citywide Feast, I was able to share greetings from and pix of Rezvanieh (and Balsam and Linda) with those who'd known her for so many years both in Chicagoland and in Iran before that.

Next time, I'll get us back to the 2015 trip. I promise. In the meantime, enjoy Thanksgiving Day, and remember whom you are thankful for.

Khoda hafez,

email your feedback with ABIDING BLOG and the entry date as the subject



"The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, and we see nothing but sand;
the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone."  -- George Eliot

Continuing the saga started last month, Milton and I began our first (and only) full day in High Point. And it was definitely full of high points.

Preakfast at the Country Inn & Suites, Archdale
Well-stocked breakfast at the Country Inn & Suites, Archdale
Balsam & Linda Collestan
Rezvanieh's son & daughter-in-law, Balsam & Linda Collestan
Rezvanieh Collestan, my beloved spiritual mother
My beloved spiritual mother, Rezvanieh Eghrárí Collestan

The flowers I brought Rezvanieh
The flowers I brought Rezvanieh when I visited her

On the road to Winston-Salem
On the road from High Point to Winston-Salem

Milton & his retired friend/coworker
Milton (left) & his friend Ed from Chicago's main post office

Becky's & Mary's soul food restaurant
Becky's & Mary's Restaurant -
The best-laid plans....

High Point Fire Department patches
Patches - older (left) & newer -
worn by High Point firefighters

Prayer for protection for first respondersPrayer for protection I say for first responders

After the hotel's well-stocked breakfast, we met up with Rezvanieh Collestan's son and daughter-in-law, Balsam and Linda. I hadn't spent any time with Balsam since he was a teenager. Now it was more like seeing Husayn, his father. I'd never met Linda before, so that was a treat, too. Unfortunately, we didn't get to meet their son Wisdom.

Fortunately, Rezvanieh was up to having visitors on Monday. We hadn't been sure she would be, when we planned and started the trip. But we'd taken the chance. Made the trip anyway. 'Cuz she's my spiritual mother. Also author of the first chapter of Twigs of a Family Tree, entitled "Rezvanieh's Story: A Persian Passage". And making the trip panned out. Pure gold.

I'm not sure when, or even if, Rezvanieh recognized me. She didn't when she first opened the door, I know that. But we chatted for a short while and she began to remember some things and people from her years in Chicagoland. She greeted Milton and held hands with him like an old friend. It's possible she remembered Rey's father, Henry (now deceased), and thought Milton was he. That was okay. No one wanted to upset her enjoyment of the visit. We made sure, though, that she understood the high regard we held her in. And she made sure I received a green travel case she'd filled with gifts for Mya and me. I didn't look in it, though, as I wanted to fill whatever minutes we had with conversation. After maybe twenty minutes, she said she needed to nap now. So we helped her lie down on the couch, covered her with a throw, made sure the flowers I brought her were where she could see them when she woke up, and quietly left.

Let me tell you, that twenty minutes was worth the whole two days on the road to me. My beloved spiritual mother is in her nineties now, and I'm sure this was the last time I'll ever see her.

What else did we do with our time?

Well, I found an open AA meeting - the noon St. Mary's Lunch Bunch - that Milton could attend with me, so that was cool. Got to announce ourselves - Lucki, alcoholic; Milton, concerned person - as visitors from Chicago.

Milton and I also drove over to Winston-Salem to see an old friend he used to work with in Chicago's main post office. Ed. Who proudly showed off his home. Rightfully so. Even has a small swimming pool in the basement for his daily physical therapy.

In the evening we introduced Balsam and Linda to the soul food restaurant I wanted to go to: Becky's & Mary's. Only to find out it was closed that evening. But we talked to a nearby resident who happened to be resting on the restaurant stoop. He directed us to another restaurant he liked. We enjoy that immensely. And it didn't cost me (well, Rey, really) an arm and a leg to feed the four of us, either. Balsam and Linda said they're looking forward to going back to Becky's & Mary's for soul food, too, as they hadn't even known it existed.

Linda also presented Milton with a small gold Greatest Name symbol on a chain. And she gave me a large silver-mounted, tear-shaped lapis lazuli necklace, which she placed in a turquoise pouch with a pattern of iridescent red flowers.

To end the day, we visited two fire stations: #1 closest to Rezvanieh and #3 closest to Balsam and Linda. I brought the firefighters semi-healthy snacks. Also brought them Chicago Fire Department patches, and got High Point patches in return. And presented them with framed copies of the prayer for protection that I say for Rey and other first responders.

At one station, the two guys on duty had just been scrounging around for something 'cuz they'd gotten peckish, so the timing was perfect. At the other station, situated at the bottom of a concavity, everyone was out. It was getting late, and Milton's cold was dragging him down, so after a bit we almost gave up. But just as we were leaving up in one direction, we saw the engine heading down in from the other direction. And I gotta tell you, I was pretty impressed by how, at the intersection of two narrow residential streets, that engineer safely negotiated that big old engine up a steep incline and immediately turned 90 degrees onto an equally steep down slope. 'Cuz that hadn't been easy for us to do even in a little ol' car. Anyway, we circled around and got to meet them, too. For a short while. Much to Milton's relief. I told him that the next time we do a road trip together, he's not allowed to catch a cold without my permission. (Which, of course, I'd never give; so he'll be safe. LOL)

When we got back to the hotel, Milton crashed. But I hadn't completed my steps for the day. Not nearly. I didn't feel like going out to walk around in a neighborhood I didn't know. So I hied off to the workout room, put on the TV for company (sadly, they didn't have a retro disco station, or any music stations I could find), and put in the extra 90 minutes I needed on the treadmill. When I left, the lady at the front desk told me she'd watched me on and off on CCTV to ensure I was doing OK, and hadn't minded my being there after the room officially closed because she could see I was serious about getting it done...and surprised at how long I was able to keep at it. Thus ended the second day. On a final up note. One of many.

BTW, I also experimented in the morning with various things in my luggage, to see if anything helped support my back better than that camping pillow. The only thing that seemed to work, though, was one of the hotel's folded up hand towels. Just the right size and thickness. I used that in the car all day and it really made a difference.

Tell you about Day Three next time.

Khoda hafez,

email your feedback with ABIDING BLOG and the entry date as the subject



"On the road again
Goin' places that I've never been
Seein' things that I may never see again"  -- Willie Nelson

Sheesh, I've barely started telling you about my trip to Vancouver Island last Fall, and Rey has already sent me off on another trip. A road trip, this time. He wanted me to visit my spiritual mother, Rezvanieh Collestan. In High Point, NC. The furniture capital of the world. We drove there in one day. Visited Rezvanieh and some others the next day. Drove back on the third. I wisely chose to go during High Point's lull after Labor Day but before the October furniture show (10 million sq ft, 180 buildings, 2,000 exhibitors, 75,000 attendees from 100 countries). So Rey was able to book us a decent hotel - Country Inn & Suites in nearby Archdale - at rock bottom rates for the two nights.

"Us" isn't Rey and me. "Us" is my friend Milton and me. I find him fairly easy to ride with despite my amaxophbia. He's retired, too, so his time is his own. And he said he's always up for a road trip. (Even despite being saddled at the last minute with a nagging cold.) With all expenses paid? Can't be beat. Plus, considering there are no direct bus, train, or plane routes from here to High Point (in fact, none without needing an overnight stay somewhere in between), by car was obviously the only way to fly.

So we did. For about 725 miles. For about 12 hours on the road itself, plus meal and rest stops. Needless to say, I used the same type of planning, list, and packing techniques that had served me so well on my trip to Vancouver Island. There was just a lot less of them needed.

The woods above a rest stop
In the woods above a rest stop
Cloud Formations - Is that a turtle chasing that duck?
Izzat a turtle chasin' 'at duck?
Through the mountains
Through the mountains

Daylight moon over the mountain
Dark mountain - daylight moon

Calming evening colors
Calm evening colors

Through the tunnels
And of course there's the tunnels

Car motion causes a weird photo effect
Car in motion = weird photo effect

High Point aheadHigh Point ahead

Lordy, that bed looks good
Lordy, that bed looks good

Left early in the morning. Stopped every couple of hours to stretch and so forth. I took advantage of the stops to do as much walking as possible. Getting in my pedometer-measured footwork for the day. Sometimes Milton used the time to nap. Most times he walked with me. He said he enjoyed that. Also made up for his not getting in his usual morning run along the lakefront.

Weather was perfect. We made good time. Except the time one of his navigation devices - he has two; so to tell them apart and because he always said "Thank you, Device" when one of them gave him good info, we called the little cell Diva and car's big system Doña - it decided to reroute us around rush-hour traffic in Louisville. Got us off the expressway and onto surface streets. Then lost its way and sent us around in circles. Milton finally said who cares if we're in slow traffic, it's better than this. Shut down the device. Found a way back to the expressway his own self. Then let GPS take over again.

The only thing I had trouble with was that my lower back eventually started to ache badly. Despite my pain pill. Milton to the rescue. He had an inflatable camping pillow back in the trunk with his hiking gear. That helped. For a bit. Then it didn't. Couldn't understand why it would be comfortable and then uncomfortable and then comfortable and then.... Then it dawned on me. Inflatable. And we're now traveling through mountains. Not huge ones like I'd gone through on the train the year before. But not exactly the little foothills I'd grown up in, either. Enough upping and downing that the air pressure changes made the pillow harder and softer and.... Oh, well. Nice try. Just had to live with it until we reached High Point. Stretching my back muscles as much as possible at rest stops. But that's it. 'Cuz I had no intention of doubling up on my pain meds. No thank you.

We arrived at our hotel around 11-ish at night. (Didn't bother to change my watch. Or pedometer.) Rey had booked us adjoining rooms. We let family know we were safely in. And we crashed.

Tell you about Day Two soon.

Khoda hafez,

email your feedback with ABIDING BLOG and the entry date as the subject



“Anything is possible on a train: a great meal, a binge, a visit from card players, an intrigue, a good night's sleep, and strangers' monologues framed like Russian short stories.”  -- Paul Theroux

I don't need to keep listing all the previous Victoria-trip articles, do I? If you're coming to this blog for the first time now, you'll probably wanna read all the old articles anyway. This saga starts with Ex(c)it(e) and pops up more often than not after that.

Fargo at night?
Fargo, ND at night - A low blue streak and two high red eyes

Minot train station
Minot, ND - A smaller station, a chance to walk

Two engines
Two engines - One will end up in Seattle, the other in Portland

Front of the train
From my sleeper door to the front of the train

Back of the train
From my sleeper door to the back of the train

Rear window of the train
That rear window I walk back to and look out of

My second day, the full one, started a lot earlier than I expected. I found out why the train had been late leaving Chicago. Trouble with the generator car. Trouble they obviously didn't completely clear up. We lost electricity several times during the day and night. And when it happened once while I was sleeping, and my CPAP stopped functioning, I jerked awake gasping for air and struggling to get the mask off. Ya know, so I could breathe.

Plus, sleeping just generally wasn't as easy as I'd thought it would be. Probably 'cuz I hadn't started the trip off tired anyway. So I also woke up gently around 3:15 AM. We were slowing down. The change in speed and sound probably registered as something different enough to wake up for. I looked out and essentially saw a blue streak and two red eyes high in the sky. I took a quick glance at our itinerary. I wondered if we'd made up the time from our late start in Chicago. And if what I was seeing (or not seeing) was the Fargo of film and TV fame. A scheduled station stop. After about 20 minutes, we left. I went back to sleep. When Pete woke me two hours later, I asked. He confirmed we were now on time and that blue streak and what followed had indeed been Fargo, ND.  I'm now farther west than I've ever been in my life. And going wester still.

I had breakfast with Frank. He and his still-sleeping wife were traveling by train from southern Pennsylvania to Seattle.

"Then," he said, "we're taking that new trans-Pacific tunnel to Hawaii."
"The one that comes up through the volcano?" I asked.
"Yep," he confirmed, "you got it. That's the one."

Actually, they'd be flying to Oahu and the Big Island. The whole trip was a 50th anniversary gift from their kids. Frank also mentioned that they had traveled to Uganda at one time. Unfortunately, he said when I asked, not to Kampala. So I didn't get to talk much about the continental Bahá'í House of Worship for Africa, except to mention that it was there should they ever go back. After all, they do travel somewhere together almost every year, so another trip to Uganda, even to Kampala next time, may be in their cards.

A while after breakfast, we had a rest stop in Minot, still in ND. Gave me a chance to remember what smaller stations are like. I mean, it's been a long time since I've been in a small station. In Mississippi. Before that, in Connecticut. Years and years. Also for me to get in about 3,000 steps ... point-85 of a mile. From my sleeper to the front of the train with its two engines. Then along the whole length to the back of the train with that rear window I look out of on my interior walks. Then around the station area and back to my sleeper. In 33-degree Fahrenheit (just above zero Celsius) weather. But hey, I'm from Chicago. Cold? Pffft.

More to come next time, as we closely parallel the Canadian border.

Khoda hafez,

email your feedback with ABIDING BLOG and the entry date as the subject


K O O L - A I D

What did all this mean to me? That the Bahá’í Scriptures take a clear, uncompromising stance on racism. Which the Guardian, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's grandson Shoghi Effendi, described as America's most vital and challenging issue. That racial equality is not just a nice idea some Bahá'ís advocate and some argue against and others ignore, depending on how they choose to interpret some esoteric passage or other. That the elimination of racism is a basic tenet of faith explicitly set forth in the Writings. That it's described first and foremost as vital. Meaning it's a matter of the life and death of both the Bahá'í community and the American community at large. That all Bahá'ís must make every effort to lovingly combat all racist habits, thoughts, words, and actions in themselves and in the world around them. And that the first step in doing so, in facing the challenge, is to recognize that we are all in some way infected with and affected by this societal disease.  -- Twigs of a Family Tree

No new Cleverman this week. The Season 1 finale aired last week. That was an intense six episodes, so it was good to learn last month that it's been renewed for Season 2.

Pitcher of Kool-AidI don't want to talk about the show per se. Though I will note that the Australian series, to quote Wikipedia, "reimagines several stories of the Aboriginal Dreamtime in a modern, superheroic context, and reflects on racism, asylum seekers and border protection." But this isn't a review. I want to talk about a meme from the show. One particular scene. About words and the effect they have on people's thinking. Even on the speaker's thinking. About what happens when someone drinks their own Kool-Aid.

***SPOILER ALERT*** If you haven't seen ep 6 yet and you don't want to know anything about it before you do, don't read this article until after you've seen "Terra Nullius".

The scene I'm referring to is between regulars Araluen (portrayed by Tasma Walton) and Geoff Matthews (portrayed by Andrew McFarlane). For those who don't know: Araluen is a "Hairy", a member of a humanoid species and culture that has coexisted and progressed with the Australians for tens of thousands of years. Matthews is a white, colonizer-minded, virulently anti-Hairy, fear-mongering, dog-whistle politician who's darkest secret is his sexual obsession with Hairy women. A secret that his secret opponents plan to use to effect his downfall. Not that they get the chance. The lead-up to this particular scene is that Araluen was captured outside the Hairy "Zone" (ghetto, barrio, inner city), arrested as she sees her younger daughter Jyra murdered by the Containment Authority police, "disappeared", and forced to work in a brothel where she's tortured into being Matthews' "rug". (Stated that baldly and briefly, it sounds more ham-handed than it was actually written and played. But the end result is the same.)

Araluen and JyraMatthews is once again in Araluen's room at the brothel. Drunk and disgusting. Making Araluen give him a shoulder massage as he watches onscreen the "final solution" about to be visited on the Zone. Which is to exterminate the Hairies and any humans who have stayed with them, raze everything in the Zone, and start grandiose new construction. Crowing about the success of his "urban renewal" plan, him. Congratulating Araluen on soon being the last of her species. Showing her the beautiful facility he'll then ensconce her in and give her everything she could possibly want. (Ed. note: Except, of course, her freedom. Especially from him.) Not even noticing that Araluen is seeing the drone-acquired picture of her older daughter Latani in the Zone as the humans are being evacuated prior to the onslaught. She with her massaging hands on his neck.

It is, of course, the final moment of Matthew's life. (Did I mention that Hairies are substantially faster and stronger than humans?) What the blazes did he expect? He isn't just drunk on that French champagne he's swilling. He's drunk on his own Kool-Aid. He's been throwing around the epithet "subhuman" for so long that he actually believes it? Thinks Araluen won't understand what he's saying? Thinks she won't know enough to care about genocide against her people? Thinks she'll be impressed by his plans for her, and be satisfied with creature comforts? Thinks she doesn't see the difference between slavery and freedom? Between care and abuse? He's forgotten that being other than human doesn't make her SUBhuman at all. (And even that depends on whether you insist on equating "human" with "Homo sapiens sapiens" anyway.) And he pays for it. That Kool-Aid of his is pure poison. Self-administered. *END SPOILER ALERT*

So is the Kool-Aid that some people are stirring up in our current political climate in this nation and in others. Not just drinking the Kool-Aid. Not just making it. SELLING it. And we might be paying more than we can afford. We might bankrupt ourselves.

Lesson: Watch what you say. Watch how you say it. Watch the very words you use. You might start to believe yourself…to death.

Khoda hafez,

email your feedback with ABIDING BLOG and the entry date as the subject



"The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves
they find their own order, a timetable not necessarily--perhaps not possibly--chronological.
The time as we know it subjectively is often the chronology that stories and novels follow:
it is the continuous thread of revelation."  -- Eudora Welty, One Writer's Beginnings

Confusion barometerAs many of you know, in 2008 acquisitions editor Terry Cassiday of the Bahá'í Publishing Trust asked me and my Twigs of a Family Tree coauthors, Mead Simon and Rezvanieh Collestan, to at least double the length of our book. For economical publishing. It took us five years, and the addition of coauthor Theresa Ashford, to complete the mission. In the meantime Terry had died, the Pub Trust's needs had changed, and Mead and I were free to start shopping the book elsewhere.

Confusion signpostWe were free to, but we weren't able to. Two more publishers expressed interest, but the fit just wasn't right. And for us, the energy just wasn't there. When Mead and Shoghi visited me in Chicago in 2013, finalizing and implementing our publishing strategy was #2 on the agenda. (Second only to watching the Doctor Who anniversary episode together ... 50, count 'em, 50 years!). Didn't happen. Ditto in 2015 when I visited Mead, Marielle, and Shoghi on Vancouver Island. #1, that time. Top of the list. Didn't happen.

Something was off. Something was missing. We couldn't figure out what.

Now we know what.

RevelationIt was a revelation. One I had in the Spring by dint of much soul-searching and anguish. One I shared with Mead and Marielle, and they said, "You definitely must include that in the book." One I shared with Rezvanieh, and she said, "Lucki joon, you MUST include that in the book!" One I shared with my family, and my 12-Step grandsponsor, and my sponsees, and they all agreed, "Yes, of course that needs to be in the book."

So now it's in the book. Thousands of words more. And the energy is there. Crackling. Sparking. Making hair stand on end.

We consulted for long hours. And wrote in an awesome rush. We completed the writing and dated the expanded introduction on 10 May 2016. We began doing the final, vital job of ensuring we (1) hadn't messed up our continuity and (2) were happy with the additions throughout my chapter and Mead's. We gave ourselves 22 days to do that. (Not too long. Not too short. We liked that double digit, the two of us. So why not use it as incentive.) So our goal, which we refused to miss no matter what it took, was to have it ready to ship off to our peer reviewers on 2 June 2016.

Which it was. And we did.


And, yes, we are indeed looking forward to peer review. It's worth the cost. Time. Effort. Even if it were for no other reason than that we have a lot of translated quotations. And complex citations in the endnotes. About as many endnotes as we have pages…around 450. (Not to worry, though. The endnotes aren't all boring citations. Just as many of them cover additional interesting information. Personal sidebar anecdotes. Other meaty digressions.) And we are so grateful to have experts available who can help us ensure that what we've included is accurate and up-to-date.

And no, of course I'm not going to tell you here what the revelation was. Not even a hint. No spoilers. None.  'Cuz when the book comes out and you get a copy (we of course hope) and you're not already one of the people who know, I want the reveal to hit you like it hit me. Good and hard. And I do mean hard and good! Why in heaven's name would I ruin that for you?

I'll keep you informed of progress. Wish our work luck. Prayers also appreciated.

Khoda hafez,

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"Life is an adventure; dare it."  -- Mother Teresa

Ex(c)it(e), Prep, Leap, Lounge, Re-Pete, and now we're really on the move. Trains go fast. And they're massive. No wonder a car, even a big truck, can't win over them in a dead - and I do mean DEAD - heat.

Tavares, westbound Portland coach attendant
Tavares - "T" for short - Portland coach attendant

The track beneath my feet
Track flowing out from beneath
my feet

Milwaukee, WI - Infrastructure that reads like sculpture
Milwaukee, WI - Infrastructure
that reads like sculpture

Lynne - Dining Car Attendant, Seattle end
Lynne, dining car attendant,
Seattle end

Minneapolic, MN in the night
Minneapolis, MN - Alight in the
dark of the night

A few lights in the distance
A few lights. Six. Alone in the distance. Can you see them?

It took time to get out of the busy bustle of Chicagoland. City. Suburbs. Exurbs. Eventually we reached the more relaxed rural areas. The tracks receded behind us. Since I was at the front (Seattle) end of the train, I got in some long walks through all the Seattle sleepers and coaches, dining car and observation lounge, and Portland coaches and sleepers. The first time I reached the end of the Portland coaches and started to enter the sleepers, the Portland coach attendant Tavares - "T" for short - stopped me. Doing her job. Coach riders - and she logically assumed I was from a Portland coach - aren't supposed to go into the sleepers. But when I explained what I was up to and why, she was really cool about it. She agreed I probably couldn't get in all my steps just at the rest stops, though I took advantage of every one of them. But using the quarter-mile long train as a treadmill? That'd help. And that's how I got all the way back to the last window to take a pic of the track flowing out from beneath my feet ... it and its parallel partner.

Taking pics of moving things, though, when in my roomette or the dining car or observation lounge, wasn't easy. Even with camera already in hand. Often, by time I realized I was seeing something interesting, it was already gone. Sometimes I refused to even try and frame a shot. 'Cuz I knew if I looked away even for a second, I'd not only miss the shot anyway, I'd also miss actually SEEING what I was looking at that I considered memorable enough to be worth a photo. Still, I appreciated when we slowed down in Milwaukee, WI. 'Cuz I sometimes enjoy infrastructure that reads like sculpture. And I hadn't seen the place in quite a while. But even when the landscape seemed featureless, I wasn't bored.

In my first long convo with T, I mentioned hoping that the dining car stocked bananas. Turns out they didn't. 'Cuz they can't afford to take up space with foods that will rapidly deteriorate. I had hoped to eat a banana a day, as I'd already been doing for three days before the trip. To help alleviate altitude sickness going over the Rockies. And wouldn't you know it, T said she had a banana that was within an inch of going too ripe. Added she didn't feel like eating it and hated it going to waste. And gave it to me. I demurred, of course, figuring she was just trying to be nice. But she insisted. So at least I got a fourth banana.

The dining car did have a wonderful selection of meals, though. I checked the menu during the afternoon and planned out what I'd eat at each meal. Just so I could sample everything I was interested in without having, for example, lunch and supper be too much alike on the same day. When you go into the dining car, you don't seat yourself. The staff seats you, filling in the available seating from the center to each end. So you never know whom you're going to be eating with. The first evening, I entered the dining car from the Seattle end, so I got seated with another Seattle passenger. In fact, it happened to be Mike, who was in the roomette right next to mine. We had a wonderful meal, good service from Lynne, and cheery conversation. After eating we also went to the observation lounge together and chatted for a while.

And no, I'm not gonna post pics of the meals. Didn't take any. Not even gonna tell you what I ordered. Though I know. If you find that kind of thing interesting, even drool-worthy, feel free to look up the menus, which rotate every eight weeks, on the Amtrak website. Or in other travelers' blogs … I won't be jealous.

I didn't want to take any of my long multicar walks during meal times. Too likely to lurch into someone trying to eat. Later, while walking through the dining car again after passenger supper service was over, I saw T having her supper. I didn't want to sit down and disturb her meal and "me time". But I stopped and gave her a copy of my Infinite Blessings chapbook, sharing spiritual food with her as she had shared material food with me.

After supper, Pete asked about making up my bed. I wasn't tired at all, so I asked if he could make it up right after Minneapolis, MN, which was scheduled to be around 10:30 PM. That was a bit later than usual for that part of his work, but he said he'd make up my roomette last. I also asked him could I have a 5:30 AM wakeup call, so I'd have plenty of time to get it together - slowly and carefully in such cramped quarters - before my scheduled breakfast time. He was amenable to the early call 'cuz he gets up to make coffee anyway, then goes back to his quarters and prepares for his day.

That night, I packed away my first day's outfit. Got out my sleeping shorts, shirt, and slippers. Pete had remembered to make up my bed in the "wrong" direction, so setting up my CPAP was easy. I didn't need to close the window curtains, though, because when we're not in a big city, there's not much of anything out there. A few lights, maybe. Usually in the distance. With the door-side curtains closed, leaving the window-side curtains open makes it feel a little less claustrophobic. (Fortunately, plain ol' claustrophobia isn't usually an issue for me; so when I did have to close everything, like while changing, it was OK.)

And thus ended my first day on the Empire Builder.

Khoda hafez,

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R E - P E T E

"Go west, young man, go west."  -- John Babsone Lane Soule,
1851 editorial in the Terre Haute Express

Works for old women, too, in 2015. So if you haven't read Ex(c)it(e), Prep, Leap, and Lounge yet, now's the time. Then join me on the train.

Pete, my westbound sleeper-car attendantRight from the start, let me say that my first ever experience with a railway sleeping car was mostly a joy because of the awesome sleeper attendant, Pete. And the few things I had problems with were none of his doing.

When the redcap lifted my suitcase and gym bag into the sleeping car, I figured my huge, heavy, locked, black suitcase with the giant white polka dots would be safe on the lower-floor luggage rack. Hard for anyone to sneak off with that. (There was a couple who got luggage stolen. Reminded me of why, when Rey and I went on pilgrimage to Israel back in 1988, we used my old tapestry luggage set. Literally the ugliest pattern anyone could imagine. Bold. Garish. UGH-LEE. No confusion when it came out the baggage chute at the airports. No possibility of anyone sneaking off with even one, never mind all four. No one who didn't actually own that set wanted to be caught dead with it anyway. LOL)

So I told the car attendant, Pete, that I needed my black bag upstairs in my roomette. I took my CPAP upstairs myself. Next thing I knew, here was Pete behind me. With that humongous suitcase.

"Oh, goodness, Pete, did you lug that heavy thing up here? I was talking about my black gym bag."

And back downstairs we went, so he could restow the suitcase and I could show him the bag I meant.

"That's a relief," he said. "I didn't see him put the small bag with the suitcase. I was wondering how you'd have room for that big thing in your roomette."

Roomette, day & nightAnd he was right. Those roomettes are anything but roomy. Hence the ETTE. With the two seats upright, facing each other with the fold-out table between them, I could've set the suitcase on one of them. If I could lift it that high. But once the seats were lowered and connected to form the lower bed, no way that suitcase would've fit in the remaining floor space. I mean, my feet barely fit in the remaining floor space. And no way I could've lifted 50 pounds up into the upper bunk, Even if I'd wanted the upper bunk deployed, thus scrunching away my headroom. That little stairway to the upper bunk - which two steps can also serve as a bi-level nightstand and which I needed at night for my CPAP anyway - that wasn't big enough to hold the suitcase. Nor would it have fit in the tall, skinny closet across from the steps, I don't think. Which closet I refused to use anyway. For anything. 'Cuz sure as shootin' I'd've forgotten at the far end of the ride and left something in there. You know: "Invisible and insane." (Out of sight, out of mind.) Fortunately, there was a hook on the outside of it for me to hang my coat for the trip, CPAP during the day, and purse at night.

But hey, it sure as blazes beat being stuck in a coach seat for the whole trip. I got plenty of bang for the buck. There on the starboard side of the sleeper. With a view that would be mostly to the north as we traveled west.

Roomette with the bed set up "backwards"Anyway, for the 3 days/2 nights of the trip to Seattle, Pete was a charm. He was up early in the morning to make coffee for his passengers. And to set out various juices ... purchased on his own dime, I believe. He always woke me at the early time I asked him to. Assuming that heavenly aroma of coffee hadn't already done the job. (Too bad none of it ever tastes as wonderful as it smells. Which is why I seldom drink it. Tea for me. Always keep a stock of both blacks and herbals.) He kept track of when I was signed up for breakfast and supper, so he could work around me. So he was johnny-on-the-spot with setting up the sleeping accommodations at night and reverting it to a sitting room in the morning. And he always remembered that I needed the bed set up in the opposite direction as usual, so I could put my CPAP on that top step. He was hardworking. Friendly. Informative. And never acted like he was being put upon by anyone. Even when he was. In retrospect, if I could have my druthers, I'd always ride with him. But it doesn't work that way. C'est la vie.

As for the roomette experience? Well, I'd been prepared for certain things. Because my gym bag was slightly overstuffed (those useless binox that I'll never bother with on a train again), the zipper ripped partly aloose one day. But hey, I'm a Grams. Have a couple dozen safety pins in my purse at all times. I carried a long extension cord with 3 sockets. Worked wonders when I needed to charge, say, Lily's cell and Rey's camera at the same time. Also, like I said, the beds are normally made up with the pillow at the closet end and the steps at the foot end. But I needed the opposite, so I could put my CPAP on the nightstand. That meant I had to run the extension cord the length of the room from the wall socket to the machine. The door only latch-locks when you're inside the roomette. But I had all my absolutely-needs in a small purse that stayed with me at all time. Cards, keys, tickets, passport, cash, cell, camera and charger, day's meds, pen and notepad, a few small chapbooks, etc. All that in a 6.5 x 6.5 x 3.5 purse. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

It didn't take me long to figure out how to keep that door from slamming open and shut when the train's momentum shifted. That became very important when the bed was down and I had the doorway curtain closed but the door itself open so I could do stuff while sitting on the bed with my feet in the doorway. By the end of the round trip, I had mastered the ins and outs of living in a roomette. Maybe I'll even get to use all that experience/knowledge again some day.

One final thought about that cash. I'd packed a slim wallet (just the size to fit in my small purse) with enough singles and fives to get me through every tipping situation round-trip. I knew I'd be tipping redcaps and bus drivers a buck per bag up to twelve times. My car attendants five to ten per night for four nights. Dining-car staff for probably ten meals. It all added up and I was ready for it. Even for a little something unexpected. Which happened. As you'll see.

Khoda hafez,

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"It's the only way to fly."  -- Tyler Fitzgerald (portrayed by Jim Bakkus)
in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Have you read Ex(c)it(e) and Prep and Leap yet?

Chicago's Union StationChicago's Union Station is the only remaining intercity rail (Amtrak) terminal in Chicago, and a major hub for commuter (Metra) trains. And it's a grand old dame of a bygone architectural era. If you like that sort of grandiose architecture. Want to see the station in action? Check out movies like The Untouchables (remember the plummeting baby carriage?), where it played itself, and Man of Steel, where it played Metropolis Union Station. Being a Chicago icon, it's also been featured in a number of TV shows shot here.

Chicago's Union Station - Baby-carriage stairsRey and I entered Union Station still with plenty of time to spare. Depending on which side of the station you come in from - because the ground is slanted, so different doors land you on different levels - entering the Great Hall can take a little doing (again, check out the bouncing baby carriage's entrance in The Untouchables). But it's always easier to negotiate doors and escalators and ramps and all when you have someone helping. As we passed through the Great Hall, I shook my dreads. Enough to hear some of the woven-in cowries click together. 'Cuz I remembered buying all nineteen of them (plus one for an earring) one year at a huge African market that filled the Great Hall for a week when I was working nearby.

We had no trouble with my tickets. And we had no trouble with baggage weight. Even that humongous suitcase weighed in with two pounds to spare on my home scale, and a tad lighter on Amtrak's. All that planning and (re)packing paid off.

My days of taking long trips in coach cars - or, for that matter, busses - are long over. And even then, my longest trips to/from Chicago were Connecticut and Mississippi. Both of which were under 24 hours, so just buying a seat made sense. Chicago to Seattle is twice as long, though, so Rey got me a roomette. I can't tell you how greatly I appreciated that. Something like comfort when I needed it. Something like privacy when I wanted it. And a brand new experience.

Chicago's Union Station - Metropolitan LoungeAs a sleeping-car passenger, I was able to stay in Union Station's Metropolitan Lounge for free. Rey, of course, did not have access. But, ya know, that badge and gift of gab I mentioned last month. And a cool lady at the front desk. After I was all checked in, Rey received a free pass to wait with me in the lounge until the train was called. The free snacks were cool. But when we realized the train was going to be delayed pulling out, meaning the dining car would probably be closed, Rey snuck off for a bit and thoughtfully surprised me with a sandwich to tide me over on the train until supper. That sure beat trying to pig out on coffee, chips, cheese puffs, and a sweet roll (blech!) before I boarded.

We heard different rumors about why the train was late starting. I'll never know for sure, but I think I pretty much figured it out from things that happened on the train as we went west. At the time, though, I simply was glad that Rey was there to keep me company most of the time, except for that sandwich run. We made staying-in-contact plans (most of which never worked out). We chatted. We snacked. We people-watched. Finally, the train was called.

Lounge passengers get boarded before other passengers. Disabled and senior passengers (I'm one of each) can even get a ride to their train car door. The driver loaded my suitcase and gym bag onto the cargo deck of the 4-passenger cart; I hung on to my purse and CPAP. Rey was not allowed past the doors to the platform. So we waved goodbye. And off I went. Victoria, here I come!

Khoda hafez,

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"Today's the day I've been waiting for."  -- Pink,
The Ellen Deeneris Show
, Season 13 theme song

Warning: If you haven't already, first read Ex(c)it(e) and then Prep. I'll wait.

Mead's friend Greg with my luggageSo there I was. All packed. Ready to leap off on my grand adventure. The one that would be by train instead of plane 'cuz … well, you know. And the day had finally dawned. Thursday, October 29, 2015. Mead had recruited a Chicago friend, Greg, to help me lug everything on the L and off to Union Station. Rey would meet us there. Having expresswayed from the Northwest Side, he'd be parked at the closest fire house in the outer Loop. We knew which Union Station entrance we'd be meeting at.

Good thing I had built in plenty of lag time. The Red Line was running slow that morning. Track construction. We'd planned for Greg to be at my place by 10:30, but he didn't make it until after 11. So we had to get truckin'. Luckily, there are escalators at the L terminal, so we wrestled everything up to the platform in fairly short order. And onto the train as soon as it rolled in to start its run. Humongous polka-dot suitcase. Train-needs gym bag. CPAP case. Purse. I was SO-O-O glad Greg was helping. No way I could've managed all that on my own.

"Why didn't you just take a cab?" I hear you ask. "Or have Rey drive/help you? " Good questions. Tertiary reason: Time. There are no rapid transit routes or expressways between the far Northwest (where Rey was) and North (where I was) Sides. Pretty much everything fast everywhere in Chi Town feeds directly to the Loop. Plus which, driving in the Loop around lunchtime is a nightmare. Secondary reason: Expense. I ride CTA free, only had to pay Greg's way. Way cheaper than a cab. Primary reason: Amaxophbia. Mine. No way I'm gonna start off a venture this special with something that triggers a neurosis. (Well, it turns out my amaxophobia isn't really a neurosis. Sure looks like one to the untrained eye, though. But that's another story. Maybe blog entry.)

Naturally, we ran into some more of that track construction on the way south. But it was OK. That lag time I'd built in. Lots of it. And having company on the ride was cool, too. When we reached the Jackson subway station in the Loop, and had to transfer from the Red Line to the Blue, wrestling all that stuff down the stairs, through the block-long tunnel, and up the other side was a painful victory. Even Greg kinda sagged when we finally got to that platform. Then it was a quick jaunt back out of the Loop. And back under the river. For the second time. (Most Chicagoans aren't consciously aware of when the subway tunnels have to dive down under the winding river. Ignorance is bliss.)

When we got off the Blue Line, there was Rey waiting for us on the subway platform. Having a badge and a gift of gab helps sometimes. The attendant trusted him when he said he just wanted to help his disabled mom get from the subway to street level. It also meant that Greg didn't have to leave the system and then pay to get back in. He could just cross the platform, easy as pie. Rey reimbursed him for the ride on his transit card and spotted him to some breakfast money. Everyone was well satisfied, Greg caught the train heading back home, and off Rey and I hied to Union Station.

Done with the narrow-gauge commuter trains. Real live, full bore railroad up next. Watch for it. In the meantime, have a happy Leap Day.

Khoda hafez,

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"I could have chosen any time and any place."  -- Captain Jack

WARNING: This article isn't actually about what you think it's about. Bear with me and keep reading.

Okay, I admit it, I laughed! Repeatedly. Don't ask me why. It just struck me as too funny. I was watching a brand new TV program, you see. Giving it one good shot to catch my attention. It went something like this:

The Doctor
1. Having stolen his TARDIS from the High Council of the Time Lords
2. And having decided to spite them by saving Earth from the odd savage vandal or six,
3. Uses his chameleon circuit-disguised ship --
4. Which is bigger on the inside (with its wacky bedrooms, walk-in wardrobes, swimming pool, multi-story library, art gallery, telescope observatory, cloisters, archived control rooms, et al) but is stuck in a wheezy old police-box configuration --
5. To swoop through time and space with a couple of PoV companions
6. Like a runaway bride and a budding doctor
7. Or a fatherless blonde and her slowly-evolving boyfriend
8. Or a so-Scottish redhead and her centurion hubby
9. Or a control-freak schoolteacher and her 3D-ish graffiti-artist friend....

Uh, no, wait, that's not quite right. It's more like this:

The Captain
1. Having stolen his Waverider from the Council of the Time Masters
2. And having decided to spite them by saving Earth from the odious Vandal Savage,
3. Uses his holographic indigenous camouflage projection-disguised ship --
4. Which seems bigger on the inside (if it has life support, supplies, quarters for nine, shuttlecraft, et al, and doesn't merely itself shuttle people from point A to point B as they otherwise live off the land) but becomes visible where hit by heavy-weapons fire --
5. To swoop through time and space with a team of not-all-that-heroic legends in their own minds
6. Like a tall/teeny super-suited billionaire who was once thought dead and a dancing bloodluster who used to be dead
7. And a pair of hawkish and repeatedly dead lovers
8. And a really odd couple who are awfully hot together when they're not apart
9. And a couple of hot-and-cold running criminals with a code....

Yeah, that's it. And I lied. That wasn't BBC's Captain Jack Harkness who said that. It was DC's Captain Rip Hunter.

Hunter & his WaveriderThe earliest and easiest guffaw is, indeed, the in-joke casting of Captain Hunter. At one point in "Pilot", he says, "I've spent years studying the implications of chronological alteration." That is, what happens to the future when you change its past. And that's true. He should know. 'Cuz of all that time he spent traveling in the TARDIS, plus millennia protecting the Pandorica. As well as costarring in other work with 10th-Doctor David Tennant (Broadchurch) and 11th-Doctor Matt Smith (Swimming with Sharks). So just by virtue of his "stunt casting", Arthur Darvill is once more, as usual, fun to watch flying through the time vortex. I guess you can take the Roman out of the TARDIS but you can't take the TARDIS out of the Roman. Oh, and don't forget the Captain's long brown coat flapping behind him. 'Cuz where have we seen that before? Plus which, hey, Rule One: The Captain lies.

Snart protectively holds Rory backBut he's not the biggest reason to hurt yourself laughing. The acme of stunt casting has got to be reuniting #WentworthMiller and #DominicPurcell. The lead brothers in the once and future Prison Break. (No, silly, not that kind of brother. Well, Miller is. But Purcell's about as white as they come, all Nordic and Gaelic ethnicity. And yes, they're also doing some more Prison Break. Yowzah! I remember thinking, from the moment I saw it, that focusing on all that sparking from the fuse box implied the surge didn't actually kill Michael Scofield. It's a common trope. When a hero truly dies, he gets to do an awesome death scene in real time. It's part of the actor's reward. When, instead, the camera just hones in on some iconic micro-detail, well....) Reprising their guest roles from The Flash, Miller and Purcell hilariously chew the scenery as, respectively: #CaptainCold. AKA #LeonardSnart. The perfect surname for a character – and an actor – who's obviously perfected the art of snark. And #HeatWave. AKA #MickRory. Which, boy, does he roar around, over, or through every distraction, hurdle, and cliché in his path. Except when his blue-parka'd "conscience" protectively holds him back. Chemistry there. #Wentnic is screen gold. Again. As usual. #WentnicIsScreenGold.

Despite a couple of major and minor missteps in "Pilot: Part 1", if DC's #LegendsOfTomorrow keeps me laughing, I'll likely keep watching. If not, likely not. Not unless they do some real in-depth work with the idea of changing their destinies, as Snart teases, "for better or for worse". (Well, the writers do a little heartstring-tugging on that one, don't they just? 'Cuz if there's any character whose destiny you'd like to see change for the better, it's the emotionally frozen survivor of paternal child abuse, isn't it?) To me, character-driven trumps plot-driven every time. We'll see.

Khoda hafez,

P.S. What did I tell you. yo?! Vancouver. Hollywood North. Whoa, hey, the show was filming while I was (passing through) there! Cool; no, super cool. And BTW, though maybe I'm way outa the box on this one, I deeply respect actors who have willingly mastered torquing their innate reality to subtly inform their portrayals. Rather than, say, to fearfully suppress or foreclose on their truths or to carelessly, even callowly, bollix their gigs. But that's just me.

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"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation,
hard work, and learning from failure."  -- Colin Powell

Warning: If you haven't already read Ex(c)it(e) first, the following isn't going to make much sense. Don't worry, I'll wait.

Big polka dot suitcaseSo there I am, it's mid-September and I have about six weeks to prep for a three-week trip. Rey eventually borrows a big, boldly polka-dotted, four-wheeled airline suitcase. And I decide on a black fabric, shoulder-strapped gym bag with six exterior pockets, including two big ones with zippers. Dragging all this around is going to be fun. Especially since I also have to carry a purse and my CPAP case. Plus which, the suitcase has to be under 50 pounds and the other three under 25 each. (Well, actually the gym bag could be 50, too. But then I wouldn't be able to carry it very far for very long.) I figure I better knock five pounds off of each. Just to cover any discrepancy between my scale and Amtrak's. 'Cuz I don't want to be standing there in Union Station having to repack my luggage.

Mead and I agree that it makes no sense to carry more than seven days worth of outfits, including one set of dressy wear for Feast and the Holy Days. So I put together six heavy-duty, zip-lock freezer bags of daily outfits. Including everything from hair ties all the way down to socks. Another of dressy wear. And an eighth of sleepwear and slippers and such. And what you do is, you zip the bag almost closed, then you sit on it until all the air puffs out, then you zip closed the last little inch before standing up. Voila, vacuum-packed outfits, not a millimeter of suitcase space taken up by captive air. More zip-lock bags hold everything from meds to toiletries. From accessories to gifts. As well as supplies for activities at Mead's show and during the Holy Days. And, of course, there are things like a cell phone and charger, a camera and charger, and my binocs. (That last being the most useless space-waster I brought. Won't make that mistake again.)

Travel documentsI also make sure my smaller purse (the one I'll carry on the trip itself) contains all the stuff you have to keep at hand, like transit pass, trip tickets, passport, itinerary, disability documentation, camera, my cards, some reading material and, of course, funds.

Well, I packed. And repacked. Reanalyzed. Reevaluated. Repacked some more. And then some more again. Somewhere along the way, I realized the only thing to do was wear one of the daily outfits to the train. Stuff two more (plus the empty outfit bag) and everything (and only what) I had to have on hand while traveling into the gym bag. (Stuffed, 'cuz those binocs were in the bottom.) Put the remainder in the suitcase. All the stuff I wouldn't need until I arrived at my destination. Believe it or not, the suitcase came in at 48 pounds. Rey and I agreed, though, that I'd put the least desirable outfit bag on top in the suitcase; so if we were a pound or two over on the Amtrak scale, I could just reach in, take out that bag, and give it to him to take home.

So there I was. All prepared for the rainy season on Vancouver Island. Which doesn't get as cold as Chicago anyway. Though Chicago was also having an unusually warm autumn (and is still having an unusually mild winter ... but of course there's no such thing as global climate change, right?).

More trippy stuff to come. Have a safe and fun Gregorian New Year's Eve, y'all. And a peaceful and prosperous 2016.

Khoda hafez,

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"Illinois professor suspended for saying Muslims, Christians worship same God"  -- Reuters headline

Ten days ago Dr. Larycia Hawkins, a Christian tenured professor at the evangelical Wheaton College in Illinois, did two interesting things on Facebook.

Dr. Larycia Hawkins with hijabThe first thing she did was to announce that she would start wearing hijab during Advent as a sign of solidarity with Muslims. (She'd sought the counsel of the Council on American Islamic Relations, a preeminent Muslim organization in the US, to ensure that her wearing hijab would not be disrespectful.)

That raised eyebrows.

The second thing she did was to write that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. "I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book," she explained. "And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God. ... As part of my Advent Worship, I will wear the hijab to work at Wheaton College, to play in Chi-town, in the airport and on the airplane to my home state...and at church."

That raised ire. Got her suspended from her job. With the ominous threat of termination.

The college explained it thusly: "In response to significant questions regarding the theological implications of statements that Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Larycia Hawkins has made about the relationship of Christianity to Islam, Wheaton College has placed her on administrative leave, pending the full review to which she is entitled as a tenured faculty member." When they participate in causes, the college insisted, faculty and staff must faithfully represent the school's evangelical statement of faith. And apparently, whatever isn't mandated is forbidden.

Many Names, One GodNever mind that Dr. Hawkins was certainly acting – living - in a loving Christian manner when she expressed solidarity with Muslims all over the US who worry about burgeoning Islamophobia. Never mind that she wasn't even talking about, say, Eastern Faiths like Hinduism and Buddhism or elder Faiths like Wicca and Totemism, but about the common roots of the four Abrahamic Faiths (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Baha'i). Never mind that she was quoting the spiritual leader of a major branch of Christianity.

What really gets me is that the college administration itself obviously doesn't understand the theological implications of its own statement. Because to me it's obvious that, if it insists Christians and Muslims don't worship the same God, when they obviously both do worship, it's unthinkingly implying that there's more than one God. And you know, even if you insist that yours is the "true" God and the others' is a "false" God (which, you then shouldn't be surprised if members of the other Faith make the same statement in reverse), you're still implying more than one God.

I don't remember Christ falling into that fallacy. In fact, I remember Him saying that:

In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.  -- John 14:2

But He didn't tell us it wasn't so. So wasn't He pretty clearly telling us that, while there are many mansions, many strongholds of faith in it, there is only one spiritual house? And one Father no matter what name we call Him by? One God who inhabits and maintains all the mansions in His house?

Khoda hafez,

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E X ( C ) I T ( E )

"Lucki, Mead, and David are involved in an unexpected and exciting special project (we promise to tell you about it when it's done), which means no time to do anything here between Canadian/Oct 12 and US/Nov 26 Thanksgiving."

That was the promise made to you back in October. Now here's me keeping it.

What I started telling people was that, me being about to turn 70 and therefore officially old and useless, my Number One Son decided to ride me outa town on a rail. Actually, he was conniving to send me outa Chicago on an airplane. As a special birthday present. To go visit Number Two Son on Vancouver Island. Yep, they conspired together completely behind my back. And Rey told Mead to don't dare even talk to me until after he, Rey, had a chance to spring it on me. Which Mead didn't. And Rey did. And I was flabbergasted.

Happy Birthday

I'm the one who held out for rail, though. Look, the farthest west I've ever been in the US is Leavenworth, Kansas. And the farthest west ever in Canada is Winnipeg, Manitoba. Why in heaven's name would I want to fly over the more-than-half of the country I've never been in when I can ride through and see it? True that, Rey agreed. And so we all three started working on getting me booked via Amtrak.

Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle, that's easy. Roomette, even, 'cuz this leg'll take almost 48 hours. Then - since I didn't want to go from the Seattle Amtrak terminal to the Seattle/Victoria ferry, which would've necessitated cabbing (twice) and an overnight hotel stay, and since I did want to see at least a bit of Vancouver (Canada's "Hollywood North", whence have come some of my favorite movies and TV shows) - thruway bus from Seattle to Vancouver. And finally, secondary thruway bus from Vancouver to the Vancouver/Victoria ferry and then to downtown Victoria. Ditto in reverse coming back.

Map - Chicago to Victoria

Initially, Rey tried to book through whatever call center Amtrak has serving Chicago. And that was a trip in itself. Understand, I think Amtrak people are great. By which I mean the Amtrak people who actually serve customers en route. But the anonymous people who don't have to look you in the eye? Maybe not so much. We finally gave up and had Mead do the booking through whatever call center serves Victoria. Because while Canadian staff seem to know all about places like Chicago and Seattle, US staff are pitiful at knowing what's what in Canada. And apparently, when they don't know, they just make stuff up.

The biggest (though not the only) unfunny joke was when Rey and I were on the phone together with an Amtrak agent trying to tie down exactly how the bus/ferry interface would work. Was it a bus to the ferry terminal, then I'd walk onto the ferry and ride across, then board another bus at the island terminal? Or was it all one bus that actually drove its passengers onto the ferry? Neither, the guy told us. What do you mean: neither? The thruway bus doesn't use the ferry. Well, then, how does it get to the island?. And I swear the guy told us, confidently, that it goes on the bridge. At which point we said never mind and hung up.

When we told Mead about that, he laughed too. The bridge?! What bridge? There's no bridge. The mainland and the island are 90 minutes apart. Bridge, pffbbbbttt. So Mead booked it from his end. Easy as pie, 'cuz people at the call center in his neck of the woods know his neck of the woods better.

The other thing I held out for was going not FOR my birthday but AFTER it. Since Mead and I decided to look at three weeks' round trip, delaying the start to late October meant we could do three time-sensitive things together in Canada: attend Baha'i Feast, work one of his shows, and celebrate the Twin Birthdays. Rey conceded graciously; it meant we could do a little something ON my birthday here in Chicago, too.

Dates all tied down nicely in pretty green ribbon, we "booked" David to be my house- and cat-sitter during my absence. I trust him. Rey trusts him. The cats trust him. Well, Silver certainly does. And even Angel has her moments (albeit she doesn't trust anyone ALL of the time...not even me).

Stay tuned. Lots more to come.

Khoda hafez,

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W H O M ?

"Thanksgiving has wings and goes where it must go."  -- Victor Hugo

Every once in a while, a new Thanksgiving meme comes along. Or at least a new twist on an old meme. The one that struck me this year was asking – instead of the old "What do you give thanks for today?" – the slightly but deeply different question "Whom do you give thanks for today?"

Well, that list could go on for, uh, how much free memory does the cloud have? But I'm going to just mention those people that I will actually be in touch with today for sure. And whom I will also give thanks TO today. I'm immeasurably thankful for:

= My Number One Son Rey and my #grandMya
= My Number Two Son Mead, his wife Marielle, and my grandShoghi
= All my spiritual children, whether we're still in touch or not, but especially where we're in touch today
= My two communities of people who don't use: my Baha'i community of faith, and my 12-Step community of recovery
= My sponsor Gregory D, her sponsor/my grandsponsor Owen H, my sponsees, and my special mentors

And now I'm outa here to go BE with some of them. And to tell them so in person. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

Happy Thanksgiving

Khoda hafez,

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"Black lives matter."

I watched the confrontation this month between Hillary Clinton and some Black Lives Matter reps. And I don't want to get into the partisan political aspects of the issue. What I do want to do is talk about a statement Ms. Clinton made in that conversation that I both agree and disagree with. Because I think she was partly right and partly wrong.

"I don't believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You're not going to change every heart. You're not," Ms. Clinton said. A bit later she added, "You can keep the Movement going and through it you may actually change some hearts. But if that's all that happens, we'll be back here in ten years having the same conversation."

So what's right and wrong about that statement? What's absolutely right about it is that we must change laws. And resource allocations. And especially the way the system operates. What's sadly wrong about it is the belief that changing hearts isn't – or doesn't need to be – an integral part of the equation. In fact, they must all happen simultaneously. If one fails, all the others will eventually fall.

Hillary Clinton with Black Lives MatterWe'll be back having the same conversation in ten years? Hey, you're having the same conversation now that we had fifty years ago.

Because some hearts changed, over the years we passed all kinds of civil rights and voter rights and economic development and social program and anti-hate-crime legislation. But because so many hearts didn't change, because racism went underground and festered like the infection it is and became more subtle and intractable, we didn't really change the way our system of institutionalized racism operates. As a result, many of those laws and programs have been and are being covertly evaded and overtly dismantled before our very eyes. Some imperceptibly slowly, others with alarmingly breakneck speed. All while, say, police assigned to serve and protect think nothing of shooting to kill before they bother to find out that it's a 12-year-old boy with a toy. After all, he was a black male and therefore angry-looking and scary and threatening and presumably dangerous, right?.

This is a legislative problem, yes. Laws and their equitable enforcement must be addressed. This is an economic problem, yes. Economic disparity and mobility ceilings must be addressed. This is a systemic problem, yes. The system's roots and defaults must be addressed. This is a political problem, yes. Partisan divisiveness and gridlock must be addressed. This is a social problem, yes. Societal advancement and cultural civility must be addressed.

But above all, this is also a spiritual problem. Any proposals that fail to include spiritual solutions – those solutions which recognize that being human is, in fact, a divine attribute we all share - such proposals will do little to change the many hearts that must change if any other remedies are to provide more than temporary palliation, growing hard-to-define discontent, and more blood once again flowing in the streets.

Or is that really what we want?

Khoda hafez,

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C O L D ?

"My children's school was canceled today, because of what? Some ice. As my children pointed out, in'd go outside for recess in weather like this."  -- President Barack Obama, in the White House

Freezing Cold ThermometerExactly a year ago today, reader Kim, responding to my article about acknowledging random acts of kindness, sent me a joke that she'd gleaned from six days earlier.  She told me: "I've been hanging onto this joke and looking forward to a chance to share it with someone who'd like it. I think it is for you."

I've stumble across it every once in a while since then. Finally decided to share it with all my readers. Especially since a year is surely enough time for A Joke A Day to have gotten plenty of hits and credit for it. I can't exactly credit Kim as a guest blogger, because the material isn't original to her. But I appreciate her support and involvement nonetheless.

So here it is; see if you see yourself in it:

60 above - Floridians wear coats, gloves, and woolly hats.
   Chicago people sunbathe.
50 above - New Yorkers try to turn on the heat.
   Chicago people plant gardens.
40 above - Italian cars won't start.
   Chicago people drive with the windows down.
32 above - Distilled water freezes.
   Lake Michigan's water gets thicker.
20 above - Californians shiver uncontrollably.
   Chicago people have the last cookout before it gets cold.
15 above - New York landlords finally turn up the heat.
   Chicago people throw on a sweatshirt.
0 degrees - Californians fly away to Mexico.
   Chicago people lick the flagpole and throw on a light jacket over the sweatshirt.
20 below - People in Miami cease to exist.
   Chicago people get out their winter coats.
Hell Freezes Over40 below - Hollywood disintegrates.
   Chicago's Girl Scouts begin selling cookies door to door.
60 below - Polar bears begin to evacuate Antarctica.
   Chicago's Boy Scouts postpone "Winter Survival" classes until it gets cold enough.
80 below - Mount St. Helen's freezes.
   Chicago people rent some videos.
100 below - Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.
   Chicago people get frustrated when they can't thaw the keg.
297 below - Microbial life survives on dairy products.
   Illinois cows complain of farmers with cold hands.
460 below - ALL atomic motion stops.
   Chicago people start saying. . ."Cold 'nuff for ya??"
500 below - Hell freezes over.
   The Chicago Cubs win the World Series.

As I told Kim, except for the fact that polar bears don't live in the Antarctic (shoulda been penguins, maybe?), it was fun reading ... and that last line was truly laugh-out-loud hilarious. Nothing like a good guffaw in the morning! Thank you, Kim.

Khoda hafez,

P.S. Did you know that "40 below" is one of those gosh-wow numbers nature throws at us when we aren't looking? It's the point at which -40 Fahrenheit and -40 Celsius are the same temperature ... and co-o-o-old no matter what thermometer you use.

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"I hope my feathers look okay."   -- Glory

Well, another year, another Tom Ligon guest appearance. Only this year, instead of his usual curmudgeonly rant against some well deserving advertising fiasco, he's presenting a commercial of his own. One against which I certainly have no rant. So have at it, Tom.

Manassas Regional Airport eaglesLucki,

The local eagles suffered an indignity on camera recently. This is the kind of thing that sometimes goes viral, and I'm hoping you spread the infection.

These eagles have had a nest at the Manassas Regional Airport for several years, just 250 feet from a busy road, about the same distance from a busy rail line, inside the airport traffic pattern, and basically not where you expect eagles to live.

I've seen them catch prey about 5 feet from the road (which stops traffic cold, as the drivers can't believe their eyes).


Short and sweet, Tom. And worth the two minutes watching. What a mishap. Consider me a contagion coconspirator.

Readers, I'd recommend you watch the Manassas Airport Eagles Incident two times: first with the sound off and then again with your ears on. That's what I inadvertently did, and it added to the fun.

Khoda hafez,

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"Cats will do as they please. "   -- Robert A. Heinlein

Well, it's been a while since we visited the subject of the psychic powers of cats, but the data keep rolling in. In addition to Rolf telling us about Ted's teleportation, there was the earlier story of Seraphin's teleportation and the original data point about Hadji's levitation. (And, of course, Ascii's big leap may not have been psychic, but it sure was psychologically powerful.) Now it's time to talk about another cat attribute of the psychic kind.

Data point 4: Astral Projection
When I first became friends with Lori Hewett, I visited her one day in her apartment. Which she'd lived in for years. And which she shared with a small passel of cats to whom she introduced me. In her living room was a wonderful old fireplace - the real kind - although the chimney had been closed off, so it was just decorative, unused for decades. As we were chatting, I happened to glance into the fireplace. And noticed a cat I'd not seen before. A big cat with plushy fur of a deep smoky color. Calmly sitting upright on the dark gray hearth floor and gazing back at me. Just at that point, Lori called my attention to something in her hand. Several seconds later, when I looked back at the fireplace, the cat was gone.

"Aha," I thought, "a typical case of teleporting while I wasn't looking. Or maybe he's been hiding elsewhere in the apartment all along. And just used astral projection to check in on what his person was doing and with whom." Which would've come as a bit of a surprise, since I've caught people doing that around me, but never a cat.

Fireplace with CatThe next time Lori and I experienced one of those silences that always occur in long conversations, I took advantage of it.

"Where's that other cat been? What's his name?"

"What other cat? I don't have another cat. I have enough cats already, thank you very much."

"The big, dark smoky one. Jowly male. Heavy undercoat. I didn't see him before."

"What? Where? What?!"

"He was sitting in the fireplace, watching."

This bit of additional info was followed by a long pause, before Lori shakily admitted "My big boy. My Smoky. King of the roost. Calmest, most laid-back cat I've ever had. Loved sitting in the fireplace surveying his domain. I didn't tell you about him 'cuz, um, I mean, he's been dead for years."

Now, I know what I clearly saw. And I know Lori never mentioned Smoky to me until that very minute. But we realized then that not only had cats (well, one cat, at least) perfected astral projection through space, but through time as well. (Too bad I didn't actually get a picture of him. Assuming a camera could even have seen him.)

Khoda hafez,

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"I'm not a Whovian (no opportunity to see it), but I'm getting inspired by Gallifreyan anyway; I'm a sucker for orthographies ... I didn't know you went for Klingon. The Klingon phenomenon does indicate to me a thirst for a second language - a new language without millennial cultural baggage. Something fresh we can make of what we will."  -- Kim

Actually, I don't read or speak Klingon. Not that dedicated. I did go to a Klingon class once at an SF con. A lesson in how to do Klingon. As a final exercise for the class, we worked together on figuring out how a Klingon would say "pacifist". Which word – which concept, even – doesn't exist in Klingon. What we ended up with translated back into English as "one who has decided to not kill today".

Then there was the "love poem" contest I attended. In which, of course, a man read a love poem to a woman - with prizes in two categories:

Klingon ABCh     1.  Sourced English poem translated into Klingon
     2.  English translation of a created Klingon poem

Klingon SigilPoints were awarded for general creativity, his delivery, and her crockery-throwing.

I don't really remember what-all went on with the first category. 'Cuz I didn't understand the Klingon anyway, so I couldn't tell how good - or funny - the translations were. However, I clearly remember the first-prize winner in the second category. Which went:

If you were the only girl in the world
And I were the only boy,
It would mean our side had won.

Now that's the Klingon mind-set if I ever heard one.

Thanx for once again inspiring such a fun blog entry, Kim. Enjoy your spiffy new Gallifreyan patches. And take heart, because the day will come when:

In order to facilitate complete understanding between all people, a universal auxiliary language will be adopted and in the schools of the future two languages will be taught -- the mother tongue and this international auxiliary be determined by a confederation met for the purpose which shall represent all tribes and nations.     -- 'Abdu'l-Baha, Divine Philosophy

Khoda hafez,

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