A Fifth Grade Business Gone To Wads

Virginia Heights Elementary school is situated on a hill overlooking the intersection of Grandin Road and Memorial Avenue. It has been there for a long time, and still operates in the City school system. I attended Virginia Heights from the Second to the Sixth grades. Althea Peele was my favorite teacher, because she read Mark Twain stories to us.  In dialect.

One of my good friends was Kenneth Koontz. He was one of the nicest guys I knew, and I’m sorry that I lost touch with him when he moved away. His father was the minister at a local church. He refused to bow his head and repeat the morning prayer or pledge to the flag, but that is a story for another time.

The school building was old when we were there, although the building we were in was a later addition to the original structure next door.  The desks were old, too. the seat folded up and the top opened to a storage area. Those wooden tops were scratched, rough, most had initials carved in them, and numerous holes drilled with a pocket knife. Those holes and carvings made it difficult to write, punching holes in the worksheet.  The problem of writing on the carved desks was a persistent issue for the students and teachers.

Which was the spark which launched the idea of a small business: filling those holes.

Kenneth and I had filled the holes on our desks with small wads of wet paper and Elmer’s Glue, and smoothed over with an eraser. It worked pretty well. No more holy papers.   We became the envy of our classmates, who wanted their holy desks made smooth.

For almost a month, Kenneth and I filled desk holes, for a nickle each. For a dime, the hole got a silver finish, with the tinfoil from chewing gum wrappers. We were the most popular kids in the fifth grade. And making money.

Until the teacher learned we were wetting the paper with spit. Yep, spit balls in the desk tops.  If only we had not advertised our services in such graphic language.

Just think. Two kids running a business under the noses of the teachers, and making lunch money. With spit balls.



The EPA And Remembering The 1940’s

Toward the end of WW2 most of the autos on the road were old and worn out, belching oily smoke and lead fumes from the poor fuel available. Industry smoke stacks spewed thick clouds of smoke into the air. The air around the train yards was hardly breathable. Cinders and coal dust was on everything. Asthma was a common ailment, aggravated by the smoky air.  I experienced that for many years with no treatment. Medicine had not caught up by then.

Watching the cars and buses go by with their exhausts blowing blue and black smoke, the trains blowing plumes of coal smoke, I thought “Where is all that stuff going? Is the air able to absorb it all? It has to go somewhere, but where? ” It didn’t seem to matter to most folks.

It took more that a few years for us to realize that all that pollution was accumulating in the world’s atmosphere, collecting in the valleys around the larger cities, choking off the clean air and causing real health problems. Acid rain from the coal fired generation plants in the Ohio Valley was killing forests in New England. Carbon Dioxide levels grew, and flouro-chloro carbons were depleting the ozone layers. The ice caps started to melt. DDT and other pesticides got into our water supplies, fish died, children were born with serious defects. We slowly began to become alarmed.

We had enough smarts to develop the EPA intended to curb those damaging pollutants, and the world was slowly getting cleaner. Cities were no longer enveloped in smog so thick you could not see the tops of buildings. People died from the smog. Regulations were imposed and enforced and the future looked a bit brighter.

Then some got angry because those regulation were slowing down their accumulation of profits. Those regulations were costing them money.  Something had to be done to get them out of the way to make more profits.

So, money flowed to those politicians who were open to, let’s call it politely, bribes.  Now we have politicians in power who have sided with repealing all those regulations, indeed, the entire EPA department charged with protecting our living world environment.

My childlike observations in the 1940’s of the smoky cars has finally come true: the world can not absorb all the pollution we allow to be dumped willy nilly, and it will soon be too late to fix it, even if we find the courage and the will to do so.

Why?  Too much power has been given to those who profit from the unfettered polluting of our world.

Future generations, if they are able to survive in the new world, will wonder how we allowed this to happen, and some may even curse us for our lack of stewardship. I hope they will find a way to reverse our folly, and maybe find it in their hearts to forgive.


Delayed Reactions To Life Trauma

When someone experiences trauma the normal reaction is denial, fear, anger, and grief. Acceptance follows in most situations, and life goes on. When the trauma is extreme, continuous, or unavoidable, however, those steps can be arrested, halted, or forgotten, so that the person does not find healing relief. Instead, one or more of the grieving/healing steps is repressed. The experience may be from a single instance, or a from a series of similar events over an extended period, or even events in a situation in which the person feels trapped and unable to defend or to extricate himself.  The repressed the grieving process will then reappear later in some way, often in a more damaging manner.

We see that process in veterans who were traumatized in combat, in young adults acting out their frustrations and anger, and sometimes older people who lived through extreme wartime conditions as children. Facing those hidden fears, the suppressed anger, the unresolved frustrations and the deep, stark, fearful memories of that experience when they resurface can be severe.

Dealing with the emotional damage caused by the trauma, even when it arises many years later, can be a difficult and exhausting trial that often requires the help of a trained counselor, a psychologist, and in extreme cases, medication, and maybe protection in a confined environment.

When someone who in all respects is normal reacts in an uncharacteristic manner, it may be the symptom of such a repressed, unresolved trauma memory resurfacing. An outburst of anger at a minor injury, such as road rage, or unusual emotional reaction to a seemingly innocent occurrence, may be the expression of the suppressed reaction to the prior trauma.

Healing begins with the difficult process of facing the source of the emotions, the acceptance of the fears aroused and the anger caused by the trauma long ago repressed. It is not a fun trip down that harsh memory track, but essential in achieving a healing recovery.

For anyone going through such a process, I have great sympathy. May you find solace, calm and lasting peace.


Slight of Hand And Distractions

The magician does a slight of hand move, tricking us so we do not notice what is going on with the other hand. That is the secret of magic tricks. We get caught up in the moves, marvel at those moves, and enjoy being tricked when it is entertainment. Should we now sit back and enjoy the slight of hand tricks that distract us from what is going on in Washington now? It is not entertainment.

The internet and social media, news networks and bloggers are pumping out stories that attract our attention, titillate, outrage and maybe amuse, for a purpose. That is to distract us from the business going on in Congress. Those stories are manufactured for a purpose. It makes headlines, and like sex, it sells. We gobble it up, consuming everything that pings in our inbox, on our cell phone or Ipad.

While we use up hours and gigabytes of computer broad ban on fluff, the party in control of congress is passing all kinds of measures to roll back safety rules, enforcement of laws and regulations, and throwing away years of carefully crafted legislation that protects the consumers from predatory practices.

While that is disturbing, in the back rooms of Congress, politicians are scheming on ways to gut the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Social Security, Medicade, and the EPA  in ways that will elicit the least amount of blowback from the citizens. Or no more than they can ignore. Laws that have been enacted to limit conflicts of interest in our politicians, enforce ethical behavior, and keep the powerful under control, are being hacked away, as we speak.

And all the while, we are bombarded with trivia, like her knees on the couch, how much ketchup is on the over-cooked steak, and who did and who did not stand up and clapped. We are being led down the garden path with blinders by the very folks who should be investigating and exposing all the bad legislation being passed as we twiddle thumbs. And they are being marginalized and demonized for what they are publishing.

The report of the FBI’s  multiple recordings of phone conversations between the candidate’s staff and Russian agents, and confirmation by those agents, should be  front page news every day. Those phone calls should be investigated, exhibited, examined in detail, with sworn testimony of those who were involved, in open inquiry, so that we can learn to what extent, if any, the Russians were involved with tampering in out elective process. This is not a political party issue. This is an American sovereignty issue. We should be demanding an impartial inquiry.

But it looks very likely that an investigation will not be held. It looks like the entire affair of a political invasion of our country by an enemy of the state will be swept under the rug, and quietly hushed up. And the very people who should be vigorously following the leads, investigating the deepest held secrets of the campaign, are being blocked, distracted, pushed to cover up the story.

Our First Amendment is under attack. We are in a downward spiral that will turn into a death throe.  Is it the final gasp of democracy?

There are a few journalist who are pursuing the story we need to expose. Maybe they will manage to do the job. We can hope.















Namesakes and Other Folks

Today is the twentieth anniversary of the birth of grandson number 2, Dylan Stephen Francis. Named after his father, grandfather, great-great uncle, and four-great grandfather, he has inherited a legacy of intelligence, kindness, resourcefulness, health, creativity, industry, and love of music.

It is fitting that we celebrate his achievement of twenty years of growth and development as he enters the third decade of his life adventure.

Congratulations, Dylan.  May you enjoy a long and productive future, and prosper in good health.



Bumps and Potholes in The Road of Life

Today will go down in the history books as a major event in the life of the USA, marking a monumental change in our direction.  We have abruptly veered course away from the beckoning safety of the harbor and have steered toward the ship killing reef.

Years from now, perhaps sooner, the history books will relate how a once great and powerful nation, a democratic republic based on the power of the people, a radical idea in its own right, was stolen from the people and raped of its power and wealth by a small handful of demagogs. People who were able to plug into the angst and fear of those who had suffered deprivation, lost jobs, lost homes, and lost influence, amplify those fears, and focus those fears on the “system” as the source of their woes.

We have elevated to power the very ones who caused their woes, the real enemy of the people.  It is their plan to squeeze every last drop of wealth and power from the country and the people, and let the country collapse. To them, it will make no matter, as their wealth will provide and protect them. The rest of the nation does not have the privilege.

The 45th president is destined to fail as a leader of a free nation. He is destined to face the failure as the country falls apart around him. He is not able to prevent it. He and his admirers will blame someone else, another party, or those who opposed his reign, but the cause will be his, and the blame upon his head.

Unless some change is made soon, unless a correction is forced, our nation, and perhaps the world’s civilization, is doomed to a repeat of the Dark Ages.







What Drives The Creative Process?

On NPR’s “Fresh Air” today was a discussion of a biography of a noted and celebrated poet who was seriously bi-polar.  His many works reflect his mood swings, being forceful, raging, and ragged in his manic phase, fluid and sweet  and charming in his depressive phase.  It made me wonder if mental states affected people who are not officially bi-polar, so that their relationships with their world varied like his did, only less pronounced, less dramatic.

I seem to be more productive in creating prose or poetry when I am sad, under long term stress, or by something that causes me to be emotional, more sad, more glad. The most prolific times have been at the death of a family member or close friend, or holding my newborn, or facing the reality that my kid has grown up, leaving the nest and no longer under my wing.

Lately, I have been saddened by the actions of our new administration, of how EOs are being thrown about like chaff, seemingly without concern for the consequences or how they affect people. Or how crass our elected representatives seem to be about their determination to tear down the very programs that support and help our most needy, destroy the very fabric of our country, for profit.

Has that pushed me to be more creative, to produce more salient prose? Things I have posted on FB seems to be more reactionary than creative, a rejoining of a post from someone who has made an irrational or false statement. Nothing has recently sparked that mysterious flame of creation that some seem to have in abundance. Am I not sufficiently up or down?

Some seem to have the creative spark in spades. One friend in particular is the most creative, productive and energetic of all those I know. Actor, author, playwright, director, producer, vocalist, activist in many causes without cease. Almost always “up.” Where does all that productive creativity and energy come from? Could it arise from a bit of mania, a step above the norm, a production of the mental state, that phase of up – down like the noted poet, that affects some more than others?

If that mental state is the source, that illusive muse of rare creativity, then bravo.  As long as that is under rein, I applaud the outcome: the music, the poetry, the plays, the art. the urge to create.

Tip toe, but no,  race along the high wire, and try not to fall. And if you do, we’ll be there to catch you.