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Monthly Archives: June 2017

Meet Pollyanna’s Brother

Sometimes your best Facebook post is the one you don’t make.

I just deleted a lengthy tome – a response to something a friend posted on Facebook. In thinking about it, I thought it was more appropriate to post here on the blog instead.

On starting this blog, I made a conscious decision that I was going to refrain from any political statements. There have been a few posts  … a very few … where I alluded to things there were going on in the country while being very careful not to point fingers or take an outright political stand on things. I’m going to follow that rule to some degree today, but given the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise a couple of days ago, there’s something I need to get off my chest. And it has to do with the political climate we are all living in.

Like Will McAvoy of “The Newsroom”, I remember a time when we didn’t identify ourselves “by who we voted for in the last election.” When disagreements with other people’s viewpoints didn’t escalate to estrangement from one another. And when we didn’t think that those we disagreed with were evil!

I have good friends … dear friends, with political viewpoints that range pretty much all the way up and down the “conservative – liberal” spectrum. So I’m deeply troubled and saddened when those friends post things on Facebook like, “Guns don’t kill people. Leftists kill people,” or “It’s okay that 26 kids get killed at Sandy Hook, but let one Republican Congressman get shot and all hell breaks loose.”

Given how vilification is the norm these days, is it any wonder that someone has taken a pot shot at elected officials? Quite frankly, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before now. And it doesn’t really matter that this time it turned out to be a guy with a liberal bent who shot a conservative congressman. It could just have easily been the other way around. Next time, If there is a next time, it could be. Hatred isn’t confined to one side or the other. Neither is violence. There are people on both sides who are extreme enough to listen to all the hate being expressed in politics today and decide to act on it.

I don’t care what your political beliefs are. From my perspective, we all have valid concerns about the problems in this country. And for the most part, they are all legitimate concerns, whether you personally share specific ones or not.

But also for the most part, when you get down to the basics, we all want the same thing – a decent place to live where you don’t have to worry about stepping outside your door; meaningful work, whether it’s in a job or as a stay-at-home parent; the ability to put food on our tables; and a chance at a better life … ideally, for ourselves, but most definitely for our kids. I’m pretty sure those are universal wants and desires and it doesn’t matter who you are or who you voted for!

After that, I’m pretty sure most of us would like to see some ongoing problems in our country addressed, too – a reduction in child poverty and suffering; adequate and affordable health care; a reduction in violence; the right to practice one’s faith, or to live without having someone else’s belief system forced on them. There are others, but that’s not the focus here.

Unfortunately, none of those things are going to happen … basic or otherwise …  if we continue to vilify those we disagree with. Or see them as incapable of rational thought. Or think of them as evil!

We have to establish a give and take. A middle ground, a place where we can agree. And be willing to compromise. Even on things for which we feel there is no room for compromise.

Some people are saying that the divisiveness in our country is the fault of “the media”, or the current makeup of Congress. In reality though, we really can’t do anything about “the media” … CNN and Fox News aren’t going to change, and we’re always going to have the New York Times and the Rush Limbaugh’s of the world.  The odds that most of Congress will be re-elected are greater than the odds that the New England Patriots will make the playoffs each year, too. So it doesn’t seem like we can do much about them, either. We’re not going to see an end to money influencing our lawmakers (or the election process itself), nor are we going to see term limits. At least for the foreseeable future. We can only take full responsibility for ourselves.

We can take responsibility for how we see each other. How we talk to each other. And how we act towards each other. Even if “they” live an entirely different way of life than we do! Even if “they” have an entirely  different political perspective than we do.

I work very hard to do that myself. That wasn’t always the case – I’ve been guilty of my share of vitriol (and I’m ashamed to say that I had lapses this past November). But a few years ago, something happened.

I made a generalized statement one day that attached all sorts of vile reasons to why someone would vote opposite of how I believed. And a good friend “Joe” (not his real name) pointed out to me that if I felt that way, then I must feel that about him, because he was going to vote differently than I was in the election.

That was a moment of epiphany. I knew that none of those vile reasons applied to him. And yet he was making a political choice different from mine. And I was embarrassed about it! I owned up to it, told him that was wrong of me, and aplogized. But it still weighed on me. If I could be wrong about him, what did it mean about others. Could I be wrong about them as well? And the simple answer was “yes”.

That was tough to acknowledge. It was a negative reflection on me. It caused even more turmoil as I continued to be caught up in political chat threads and Facebook posts by people who were as adamant in their opposing beliefs as I was in mine. Other friends posted nasty generalizations about people who held different political beliefs than they did … and whether they knew it or not, they were indirectly aiming those accusations at me! And I felt the same sting that Joe did. I still feel those stings when I see them posted nowadays.

I continued to struggle because I was still embroiled in those political discussions. I hated those people that were posting stuff I disagreed with. Hate! And at the same time, my experience with Joe was causing all sorts of conflict.

When you add all of that to the ongoing depression and anxiety I was feeling, it put me into a horrible downward spiral. I got to the point where I had basically lost faith in mankind. And I lost faith in myself and my ability to deal with people. In retrospect, it was probably a major factor in why I became reclusive. Why my hands would shake as I reached for the door knob. I’ve mentioned that before in earlier posts, how difficult it was to leave my apartment, even to let Frank out to do his business. I could barely make it to the grocery store and started having take out food more and more.

I won’t recite all the stuff you can read on the “About” page. I made the decision to leave my consultancy practice, get rid of my apartment, and go on the road. And those of you that have followed the blog for awhile now know the transformative impact that had on my life.

Those of you who have followed Frank and me for a while have also read the stories about how my faith in mankind has been restored. You might remember Len, the guy who was managing the campground down in La Feria, TX, who let the young veteran and his family stay in a no kids, 55+ RV park because “it was the right thing to do.” Or the guy who simply said, “Pay It Forward,” as he put $20 of gas in my car early one morning when my debit card wasn’t working because, unbeknownst to me, I had to make special arrangements to have it accepted in Texas. Or the women who insisted that they were going to bring me dinner a few nights around Christmas, just wanting to show kindness to an old guy who was traveling alone with his dog.

Nobody asked what anybody’s political persuasions were. Or what religion they were. Or if they were gay or straight. Or why they were in their particular situation.  They were just doing good! And those were just a very, very few examples of all I’ve seen and experienced on the road.

So why can’t that goodness and respect for one another extend to politics? Why can’t we see other people as human first and put aside whatever other differences there might be. And. Just. Talk. Civilly. To. One. Another.

Are you a staunch conservative? Are you a staunch liberal? I’ve got news for both of you. You are not 100% right on everything and you don’t have all the answers that are needed to solve this country’s problems. And the people you oppose? They’re not 100% wrong … and they are not the source of all those problems!

The simple fact is that we need each other to move forward. We need to get back to a point where we used to be, when the majority of us could be civil, and compromise, and be satisfied that we got some of what we wanted in a negotiation, but not everything. Instead of getting the best of what each side has to offer, we’re getting nothing of benefit. All we’re getting is further apart.

Liberals are not going to destroy this country. Conservatives are not going to destroy this country. They won’t, you know. Rush and Rachel be damned.

You know what will? Hatred, divisiveness, and incalcitrance will. It’s happening. Now!

If you can’t accept that, then you’ve wasted whatever time you’ve taken to read this post. You will continue to be a part of the problem, in my opinion. And we will all suffer as a result. Go back to the news source that tells you what you want to hear. And I wish you well.

If you accept it though, and you also see in yourself what I recognized in myself back when Joe called me out from my hatred, divisiveness, and incalcitrance, then I pray that you use this post as your epiphany. And that you simply stop before you think of the “other guy” the way you have been. And see them as just another person who wants what you do … but has different ideas how to get there. Someone who is worthy of respect. Someone who is worthy of being listened to. Someone who is human.

Quixotic?  Yeah, sure. Pollyannaish? Most definitely! But at this point, it’s all I got.

Who knows? If I can do it, then you can do it. And if the few hundred of you that follow this blog will tell somebody else, then maybe they can do it. And sooner than later, our representatives can do it … after all, we elect them. And if they figure out they’re not going to get reelected by dividing us, maybe they’ll start focusing on governing instead of what we have now. And what will the media have to say about that?

Regular programming on this blog will resume tomorrow. I promise. Thank you for indulging me. And for those of you wandered over because of the title, neither Hayley Mills nor Kevin Corcoran will be making a guest appearance today.   : o)

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Posted by on June 16, 2017 in Musings

 

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“Rock” On

Frank and I are finally close to Nirvana. Actually, we’re on the outskirts of Warrensburg, NY … but as of about 2 p.m. this afternoon, I’d be willing to bet you could send a letter to Buddha using Warrensburg’s zip code and it would find its way to the man. But let me back up a bit.

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Still covered in fleece!!

It never really did warm up at our last campsite. During our last week there, Frank spent most of his time inside the Nutshell asleep. And I spent most of my time in the camp chair with a fleece over my lap. There were some mornings where I also wrapped a blanket around my back, too. I was managing, but I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t getting to me a little bit.

I did get a couple of things done, though. Summer doesn’t start until June 22nd, you know. So technically, it wasn’t too late for me to get some spring cleaning done. And I’m pretty happy with the results.

First off, I went through a bunch of old paperwork I had been carrying. Not all of what I’ve amassed, probably about a third of it. Most of it was old mail – receipts, some magazines, some invoices for things that are automatically paid online, and what have you. I burned it in the fire ring one night with a couple of logs on top to make sure embers didn’t escape into the atmosphere. I figure I’ll do a little bit more at each stop and eventually I’ll have it down to nothing.

Next, I went through two of the bins I’ve been carrying around since day one. One of them had become a repository for stuff that I just needed to throw into the Nutshell when it was moving day. You know – “I’ll get to it later” stuff. In reality, it should have been named the, “What the hell was I thinking?” bin. Isn’t it funny how, in the heat of the moment, something seems important enough to keep for later? Then later comes. And reality hits.

With that in mind, I found the following items in the “WTHWIT?” bin …

  • Four cans of stale beer for which there was no room in the cooler when I packed up back in November
  • Two shirts that needed to go in the laundry after my laundry bag was already in the trunk of the car … I have no idea how long they’ve been there, but I had been missing them
  • A dirty dish rag, probably thrown in there at the same time the shirts were
  • A bottle of ketchup which, if shaken with all my might 15 times, might yield enough ketchup to cover half a sandwich
  • My mallet, that I have been looking for for at least a year … I’ve been using my hammer on the outer stake for the canopy and cringe with every loud clang of metal-on-metal.
  • A rock. A big, flat, 20 pound rock that I saw one day and thought, “this would be really good to hold down the canopy insert” … which of course, never happened because I forgot it was in there. And it never dawned on me to look with every campsite move, even though I would always think, “GEEZUS, what the hell is in here?” when I picked it up because it was so damned heavy!
  • Three crushed packages of ramen noodles. Yes, they were right under the rock.

That is what I had been hauling around for months. Needless to say, the bin is now empty. One less thing I have to worry about on move day. I don’t know what it originally contained. It must have been something that was consumed along the way, like paper towels or canned goods or something. I kept the rock …  I think it might be a good thing to use to hold down the canopy insert someday.  : o)

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The newly cleaned out galley, ready for use

Next came the cooler. I hadn’t been using it that much as of late because I had gotten into the habit of eating out of cans. I took out the few things that were there and gave the inside a good scrubbing with bleach and hot water. It’s now as good as new and packed with eggs, hamburger meat, hot dogs, and 4 beers of the homemade variety. More on that to follow.

Finally, I tackled the galley. I haven’t been using it. Not at all! When I bought food, I just left it out on the camp table. And when I moved, I just threw whatever was on the table into the cabin of the Nutshell, loose.

That’s not the case now. I organized the galley … which in reality is nothing more than two shelves for storage … so that I don’t have to just throw things into the cabin on move day. The top shelf has my one pot and frying pan, the electric skillet, and hot plate, some bowls and plates. The lower shelf, which has more height than the upper one, was divided in half. I put appliances on the left, including the coffee maker, electric kettle, heater and fan. The right hand side holds all my non-perishable food. Right now it has cans of beans and pasta; some packages of rice; soup, both canned and boxed; condiments; and a glass measuring cup with my cooking utensils and miscellaneous other things in it. Like a cheese slicer. A cheese slicer that I bought new two years ago in Charleston and have never. Once. Used.

Larry suggested that since we just passed our 2-year anniversary, a good topic for a blog post would be, “Things I didn’t know that I didn’t know.” In other words, things that I would have done differently had I the benefit of foreknowledge. One of the biggest things I would have done different is I would have packed a hell of a lot less than what I did! Like a cheese slicer. Seriously – I’m going to dirty up a cheese slicer, that is a pain in the ass to clean even in a kitchen, instead of just using my paring knife to cut off a hunk of cheese to eat? Or the set of 16 Tupperware knock-offs that are now down to three, with only two lids? Don’t even ask! There. I just eliminated the need for that post! I’m on a mission to minimalize! LOL

Anyhow, I got all that done towards the end of my last full week at Timothy Lake South,PA. Just in time for some company.

On Sunday, an old classmate from Pompton Lakes came out to the campground. Actually, John lives less than 15 minutes away, in the Poconos. And when I say old classmate, I mean the “original” classmate for all intent and purposes. When I moved to Pompton Lakes in the middle of second grade, John was the first kid I spoke with. He asked me if I knew where the cafeteria was and walked me down there come lunch time. At recess, he showed me the ropes, per se. Where everybody hung out. Who in his estimation the good guys were and who weren’t. We sat and visited for a few hours before he had to leave. While he was there, though, he told me that at one point he and his wife had an RV. That they were avid campers, although most of it was in tents when his kids were in the Scouts. And that when he retires, he and his wife have talked about doing what Frank and I are doing. John, if that happens, I hope you let me know. I’d love to camp next to you and the Mrs!

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The Cornerstone guys: Front, Bob and Lou; Back, Tom, me, and Gary

The next day brought a visit that I was really looking forward to with a lot of anticipation. I don’t mean that as a slight to the other friends we’ve seen along the way. It’s just that this one was special in a different way.

Back when I lived in Wayne, I belong to a men’s group at my Parish. It was called Cornerstone and there were six of us that more or less formed a core group. Four of them made it out to camp on Monday for dinner. (Ed, we missed you! Hopefully I make it back for another stop in or near New Jersey and we can all have another visit when you can attend.)

You know how you can identify good friends? You can be apart from each other for years and when you get back together, you just start back into conversing as if you had never been separated at all! That’s the way it was with Gary, Lou, Bob, and Tom. We talked about everything from our vagabond journey, to the Yankees and Red Sox, to a little bit of Parish news, and I don’t know what else. It was fantastic! They even brought some bottles of the beer they all get together and brew at a do-it-yourself place in New Jersey. I have to admit, it’s pretty damn good beer!

That was it for all the visits. Frank and I packed up on Wednesday morning and drove 4 hours north to the Lake George Escape Campground. We’re not actually on the lake itself … that’s a few miles away. Instead, we’re on the Shroon River. Plus, there’s a little stocked pond that is right behind our campsite. Haven’t done any fishing yet and I’m not sure if I will right now. We’ll see how it goes.

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Our set-up at Lake George Escape Campground (after escaping the Bogs of Mordor)

We had a little bit of an issue coming into the camp. This is one of the Encore parks that I was given as a spiff when we signed the Thousand Trails contract. I didn’t think anything of it, but what I’ve learned is that the Encore Parks set aside a limited number of campsites for the Thousand Trails clients. And when I got to mine, I wondered if there was a feud going on between the two companies. My campsite look like the bogs that Gollum led Frodo and Sam through on the way to Mordor!

Half the campsite was covered with standing water and almost another quarter of it was mud. And as I sat there looking at the other nearby campsites, I realize that there was standing water everywhere!

When I returned to the office to let them know this wasn’t going to work, the woman’s response was, “Yes, we’ve had quite a bit of rain” … said with a sympathetic shrug and grimace, but from her standpoint, that was the extent of what she was going to offer as a conciliatory gesture!

That’s when I found out that they expected me to stay in that one little water-logged area because that’s where all the Thousand Trails campsites were. It took about a half-hour discussion before someone finally agreed to let me stay in another area of the park.

Frank and I have a great campsite now! It’s relatively nice size, and we’re backed up to the pond I mentioned earlier. There’s a little bit of an issue with mosquitoes here right now. I went out and bought a couple of citronella torches along with some citronella pots for the table. They seem to be doing the trick – it doesn’t seem to be as bad as it was before we picked up the citronella stuff. I also have some Deep Woods Off, but I don’t want to use that until I absolutely have to. As an aside, I can only imagine with the mosquitoes would have been like over in the bogs of Mordor. I’m grateful that someone had the wherewithal to allow us to move.

(Take a listen to what it sounds like around here when there aren’t any motorcycles)

Unbeknownst to Frank and me, we picked a hell of a time to visit the Lake George area. This week, it played host to The Americade motorcycle rally! Now any other day of the year, Warrensburg’s population is a little under 4,500. Not this week – they estimated over 30,000 bikers came in for the rally. And this was everything from your John Travolta / Tim Allen weekender “Road Hogs” to hardcore clubbers. For the last few nights, the only thing louder than the toads and birds at the campsite was the roar of the motorcycle engines during the “Let’s see who can rev their engine the loudest” contest. One thing I’m grateful for – everyone here pretty much obeyed the rules. At about 10:30, everything died down and by 11:00, all I could hear were those toads and birds.

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As of this afternoon, our loop is completely empty!

And today? Everybody’s gone! Literally. Frank and I are the only campers on this loop. I haven’t ventured out to see what the other loops are like. It’ll be interesting to see what’s what when Frank and I visit the dog park at the other end of the camp tomorrow morning.

Oh yeah. At the beginning of this post, I referenced Nirvana. For the last three days, the weather has been absolutely magnificent! Today is the best so far! Temps in the low 80s, with a little bit of a wind … just enough where I didn’t have to get the fan out to cool down a bit. And there hasn’t been a cloud in the sky all day until right now, about 7:30 p.m. but even now, it’s nice out. No need for a fleece. (Now  would be a good time to bring up that rock again … except as rocks go, it wasn’t all that grungy.)

Frank has been enjoying the sun, too. He’s been outside most afternoons, either sunning or lying next to me under the canopy. I’ll take a few more days like this, thank you very much. Before we know it, we’re going to be in the middle of the sweltering heat of a New England summer. So I’m grateful for days like today.

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Frank missed an opportunity to say hello to the butterfly that was scoping him out.

So that’s it for now. Oh yeah except for one other thing. I finally had some mail delivered and it was waiting when we arrived here on Wednesday. And what was in it? My ordination papers! I am now a certified Dudeist priest in the Church of the Latter-Day Dude! More on that in our next blog entry.

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Connecting with my inner Dude

Suffice it to say, Frank and I are abiding quite well. Even the occasional nihilist has done little to affect our serenity. About the only thing I’m missing is a rug to really tie everything together. This worn-out old tent carpet we’ve been using is … well, pretty close to worn out!

And for any of you who might cast a bit of negativity towards the life philosophy we’ve come to embrace, all I can say is, “Well, that’s like, your opinion man!”      : o)

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2017 in Musings, Travels

 

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