A journal of things, 'n stuff. Mostly stuff...

Category: Uncategorized

What should we be talking about?

This morning I noticed a posting on Facebook. It was well-intended and I don’t disagree with the sentiment or intention.
The post itself was about all the acts of kindness and goodness that humans have performed in the last year. The author commented “Perfect for today….”
Not a bad thing to remember, however, in the aftermath of the events in Connecticut and most of this year, that just did not ring true. Here’s my reply:

“With all due respect and thanks, Marianne, there is no “perfect” post for today. I don’t need to be reminded that humanity is capable of good, I believe that humanity is basically “good”. Are we basically good or bad? I’d say we are basically good, the ever more conscious we become, except when illness is encouraged and accepted.

There are several basic illnesses or dysfunctions in play here, from derangement to obsession to greed. Instead of reassuring ourselves, we need to be asking why we continue to tolerate this type of thing, and why the national conversation on it is dominated by obsessives, enabled by the greedy and selfish. This fosters a society where the deranged are lethal.

It’s easier for a deranged person to buy a weapon of mass destruction (“gun”) than it is for that person to get mental health treatment. We ignore the mentally ill at our peril. It’s tragic.
However, the question is not about guns, nor is it just about mental health services.

The real question here is how do we manifest humanity’s inherent good and transform our society from a war-mongering, ruthless, fragmented wasteland culture to a place that nurtures all to the betterment of all, and deals with its hurting members appropriately.

A society that encourages creativity and individuality in harmony with a healthy community, that focuses on support and nurturing rather than denial and harm. Some will be more creative and contribute more than others, and they should be rewarded. Some may be a drag on the community, willfully or not.

However, no one should be denied the basics, in part because denial of one ultimately is denial of all and results in a negative community. Not a liberal pipe dream – it can be done. I’m not being an idealist, I’m pragmatic. Humans do good when their basic needs are met. Greed is a harmful illness which we encourage and glorify. It’s time to address it.”

Football 2012

I’ve attended several pro games this year, in fact every year for about a decade at least. I try to like the NFL, but I just can’t anymore. The NFL has ruined football – turned it into a spectacle. It’s complete bullshit! I’ve gotten to the point where only high-school ball is very interesting. College ball has become like the NFL, full of fiefs and protection for the almighty cash machine. I think the Penn State debacle, which took down one of my longtime football heroes, is indicative of where sports and our country’s institutions have gone.
Certain writers have said that the working class loves the spectacle, and anyone who feels like I do is a kill-joy. Certain writers have suggested that this is a typical liberal attitude which over-analyses and alienates the working people, who should naturally be voting liberal.
I love football. I hate what has become of it. It’s all about the money, the games are totally controlled, everything is overproduced and airbrushed, from the cheerleaders to that damn Hank Williams,Jr., a world class idiot if there ever was one! (Although I do like a few of his songs). It’s so corporate anymore, from the stadiums named after a corporation but mostly paid for by taxpayers to all the damn selling by the NFL, to the frickin’ overpaid moronic players grandstanding after scoring a touchdown. Hey – the game ain’t over til it’s over. Celebrate then! Sheesh!

And jeez, if we have to tiptoe around the so-called working class because they are too stupid to see how they vote for their own destruction then we are truly lost indeed.

Happy Birthday!

America the Beautiful

Words by Katharine Lee Bates,
Melody by Samuel Ward

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for halcyon skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!

O beautiful for pilgrims feet,
Whose stem impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through
wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!

O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife
When once and twice,
for man’s avail
Men lavished precious life!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!

Threads in a Tapestry

I’ve always been fascinated by my roots, my ancestors. I revere those who have gone before me, and I strive to learn and understand my own life and who I am, based on what I know of my ancestors.

I thought I’d share a bit about some of the threads in that frayed tapestry known as McJeff.

Roughly, my dad’s side gives me English and Irish ancestry. There’s more, but we know those threads for sure. Dad’s side might include Cherokee, might include Swedish. My mom’s side gives me Spanish, Scottish, French and German. Again, there’s more -  perhaps Yaqui, perhaps Sephardic Jew.

If I take four threads, in following my grandparents, what I see is that there were two threads who have been in America for a long time, from the early 1600’s, most likely. The other two threads come from more recent, 19th century immigrants. Both my grandfathers’ families have long time threads in America. Both my grandmothers have later arrivals.

This will take me more than one post. I’ll start with the threads my mother has given me.
On my mom’s side, we’ve got my grandmother Anne, who was French-German, born in the Dakotas, and was a real frontier cowgirl who moved to the big city. Then there’s Grandpa Max, Scottish and Spanish, another frontier vaquero, raised on a ranch in New Mexico.

First, Grandpa Max and his strands. From what I know, I am most like him.
My grandfather Max was Scottish and Spanish. He was a member of a very prominent family in New Mexico, the Luna family. (The Lunas have their own compelling history. Very likely they were Sephardic Jews who converted when the Catholics took Spain back from the Moors. An ancestor in Spain almost became Pope! They came to the New World very early…1590? 1620?).

Max was orphaned at an early age, when his parents were killed in a carriage accident. Max’s last name was Longmuir…a good Scottish name. The Longmuirs were from near Aberdeen, Scotland. My great great Grandfather John left for America sometime in the 1840’s. He joined the Union Army and was in New York State for a while. Eventually he ended up in New Mexico. He fought for the Union at the battle of Valverde in the Civil War against the Texas militia. He met and fell in love with Guadalupe Luna, who scandalized the very Catholic and aristocratic Luna family by marrying a common Presbyterian Scotsman! But then, the Luna ladies were extremely independent and passionate women.

My great aunt Aloysia hung out with Billy the Kid, was part of the Lincoln County wars, and burned a swath through the men in the area. She married a dour but wealthy German, was abused by him and so divorced him, became lovers with more than one of the “big men” in Logan county, and was generally independent and feisty, strong-willed and strong-minded. She would not hesitate to give back as good as she got from the men in her life!

As she got older, she settled down a bit, and was close to Max, who was by now an orphan. I think he got a lot of his spirit from her. He did not want to live with her, however.

Max got the hell out of New Mexico as soon as he could. He rode the rails around the US for a while, and eventually joined the Navy. The Great War, WWI, was in full swing, and Max sailed much of the Atlantic, stopping in various European ports, including Rotterdam and Portsmouth.

Max had the wanderlust. He was also a handsome rake and a bit of a ladies man. He was a passionate and adventurous man, very much the Spaniard. He was strong, independent, and self-reliant – very much the Scot.

Some of his early life is a bit mysterious. We know that once he left the Navy, he moved about the country a bit, and ended up in Chicago, where he settled with a woman. We don’t know much about that, just that he left her suddenly and lit out for Los Angeles…there may be other children, she may have left him first, we don’t know. Whatever it was, Max ended up in the burgeoning City of Angels in the 1920’s. He was a top-notch machinist, and he did well there. It was on the Red Car trolley in LA that he met my grandmother, Anne.

My grandmother’s people were originally from the Alsace-Lorraine region, which has bounced back and forth between the French and the Germans for centuries. As a result, my people call themselves French-Germans. Earlier in the 19th century they had taken Russia’s Catherine the Great up on her offer to “colonize” the Ukraine. So, the stolid farmers grew wheat in the Ukraine for a generation. When the deal between them and the Russian government fell through, they departed en masse for the closest place to the Ukraine: North Dakota.

The Karey and Kress families built ranches on the Plains. They dealt with the Sioux tribes there. There are early photos of Anne hanging out with Sioux tribesmen, who are in full regalia. Anne was a great horsewoman, and apparently quite the shot with a rifle or pistol. Shades of Annie Oakley!

Anne’s mother had died in childbirth. Her father, torn by grief, did what a lot of single fathers did in that day – he gave her up for adoption. Actually, Anne went to live with her aunt on the family ranch. As a stepchild, she was not treated well, and given the crap jobs on the ranch. She was high strung and talented. She played piano, sang well, was very dramatic, did some acting. She was also highly sensitive and psychic. She actually predicted her own passing!

As soon as she could, Anne left North Dakota. She had relatives in Los Angeles, so she went there. I suspect she had a Hollywood career in the back of her mind. Whether she did or not, she was very beautiful and creative, and Southern California was the place to be!

So, it came to pass that one afternoon, a very beautiful young woman was riding home on the trolley when she caught the eye of a very dashing young man – not exactly tall, but definitely dark and handsome.

He, being the forward and brash man he was, immediately asked her out. She, being the cautious and strong willed woman she was, said no! He pressed her. She said she would have to have her aunt’s (who she was living with) permission. He got off at her stop and walked with her to the door of her aunt’s house. When auntie came to the door, he asked permission to date the gorgeous young Anne. Auntie said Yes!

No matter how Anne felt (and she must have liked him) they dated and eventually married.

It was a volatile relationship. From what I remember of them, they were both very emotional and strong-minded. They fought a bit. They made up. I’m sure that’s how my mom came to be….

They lived in downtown LA, near Normandie and Wilshire. It was a great time to be in Los Angeles. Creative types from around the world were coming to beautiful Southern California. The Longmuirs hung out with musicians, actors, writers, etc. As very attractive people, there was plenty of jealousy between them, but they loved each other deeply and stayed together.

When the Depression hit, Max lost his excellent machinist job, and was reduced to long, long hours working in a restaurant. He hated it. He drank more. He ate plenty of donuts and put on weight. This eventually led to diabetes…but that’s a story for another time.

Both Max and Anne were members of the Lost Generation in America. They partied hard in the 20’s, scraped through the 30’s, and did the thankless work in WWII as the middle management. Max and Anne embraced life as an adventure, and lived it passionately. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think of them, and feel inspired.

I remember Max as a great carpenter, and a fun and gentle, passionate Grandpa. I remember Anne singing German songs at the piano, cooking me wonderful French Toast when I stayed over, and her love and humor. I’ve gotten the wanderlust and passion for the ladies from Max, and I’ve gotten the interest in the intuitive arts and music from Anne.

Thanks Grandpa Max and Grandma Anne. I love you more than words can tell.
Next time: The Southern Gothic Jennings family!

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