Safety or Challenge?


With all the arguing going on this past week from congress to our social media accounts about how best to deal with a society saturated with AR-15 assault rifles, I found it more than a bit ironic to find something removed for “safety” from a local park. We are now entering decades of mass shootings with zero movement to regulate, but sue crazy lawyers have turned playgrounds into a few tires and a swing.

When I was five or six years old, it was a treat to go to Wortman Park at the east edge of town and play hide and seek before catching garter snakes along the banks of the creek bed. There was also an unfathomable challenge for a small child in the form of a twenty foot tall platform-tower with a square hole cut in one side to access the most bad ass metal slide you can ever imagine. I was terrified of the thing from the time I first saw it, but when other kids slightly older than me were laughing and enjoying the maximum slide velocity I just had to investigate. I wasn’t a fan of heights,  so I climbed each rung very carefully and deliberately until I found myself at the top. It took real guts, but I finally inched my way into launching position and shot down that slide at what appeared to be rocket speed to my brain. I barely managed to land on my feet, but I did it. Some kids did fall, and some got a few scrapes, but it had been an important right of passage for all of us at the time. Hence my disappointment to find the slide removed and replaced with a tepid set of low velocity swings on the very (pictured) spot. I understand we must protect our kids, but where exactly is the line between safety and challenge? Guns aside, shouldn’t risk in the daily lives of our kids go beyond just facing a low SAT score? When does protection become too much coddling? I wonder.


The Sunday Truce


So it was a beautiful Sunday evening yesterday as I watched the sun go down before chatting in a coffee shop a couple hours in a very relaxing atmosphere where the pace was slow and all were in good cheer. After dark, I slowly packed up my things, placed them in the trunk of my car and made the 12 mile drive through the rolling rural farm country of Oregon that lay between the two larger cities of McMinnville and Salem. As is my custom, I usually drive (only) 5 over the speed limit as I like to look over the small farms and villages along my path to enjoy my life as Sunday is traditionally our day of rest. But sadly, this doesn’t seem to be enough for the majority on the roads anymore as most choose to either ride my bumper angrily, or floor it past me dispensing an angry look, or shaking their heads in disgust as I’m not playing their game their way on my day off.

Remember, I don’t live in urban Chicago here, and it’s not Monday morning ten to nine when most people who are late to work are struggling just to make their parking spot by nine. This is Sunday, and what I’ve noticed about the evolution of Sunday in our modern world is most people do not have enough time over their weekend to turn off their high gear settings to find that place of peace we all claim we’ll get to when we retire, so I propose a truce. This truce will be recognized nationally from this day forward no matter what your age, level of employment, culture, or general attitude. I propose one 24 hour bonanza of general relaxation where none of us rush, all promise to look around while enjoying their drive, agree not to dispense political ramblings on Facebook,  agree not grumble in long grocery lines, but rather turn to a neighbor and discuss how their life is going, agree to watch out for the safety of everyone’s children, and agree to hold a general positive attitude. ALL day.

I think if we can all agree to this one day, we’ll magically find that all our lives will improve five fold, and before you know it, we might even add a second, or possibly third truce day in the future.


It’s Just A Fantasy


Ok, here’s the kind of weird ass fantasies I find myself daydreaming when I’m bored walking around with the dog. I see this teeny, beat up motorboat today with peeling paint and sun faded windshield in a parking lot. I think to myself, how cool would it be to buy this thing, put like 300 pounds in the front to keep it from flipping before buying the most powerful motor on the market and strap it on the back. I then take it to like the most expensive lake community in America where people have those $200,000 speed boats they sun on and just kick their ass in this beat up fishing boat. There they are showing off to friends when I come out of nowhere passing them at Mach 2 in this total junker. I’d so do this.


Selfie or Your Life?


This past week the Oregon Coast was visited by 40 foot waves caused by a massive storm in the Central Pacific a few days before. Local news broadcast well in advance the danger of the sheer power the water held in crashing against rocks and creating massive undertows, but sure enough, there was no lack of footage the following day featuring horrified relatives tearfully reporting a loved being pulled out to sea.

Meanwhile, about 80 miles inland on Rattlesnake Ridge (state park), drones captured a flock of people walking over a large crack in the earth on a mountain side that was going to slump in the valley below with devastating power (see recent California footage on mud slide). Despite signs being posted along the entire boundary of the park outlining the danger and even threatening arrest, there they were getting selfies.

I had to wonder, does this stupidity live in ourselves or our culture? What allows us to believe we are beyond the touch of impending doom? Is it possible we’ve become so accustomed to being the master’s of this planet that we believe nature to be inert, a mere Disneyland ride for our entertainment? Is this why we ignore report after report on the dangers of global warming and try to put our kids on a wild bison in Yellowstone because the selfie opportunity is just too good?

Well, I got news for our culture. According to the geologic record, trilobites (a small potato bug looking sea creature living in the ocean) survived 300 million years on this planet before ecological tragedy struck extinguishing 90% of the world’s life (including the hearty trilobite) at the end of the Permian. Humans have managed a mere fingertip of that time geologically, clocking in around 90,000 years at best. If you think ipads, designer clothes, or some last minute rocket to Mars is going to protect you, I suggest you think again.  There’s been five major extinctions on our planet since the lava cooled, and the cosmic plan tends to give each species one roll of the dice. I’ll save discussions on God for another time, but even if you are counting on God to save you from your own stupidity, you are grossly abusing the sacred gift of life. Then again, if we continue to spend the majority of our lives fanatically watching the Bachelor and caring about Kim K.’s next fashion choice oblivious to danger, maybe we deserve it.

What next, Elmer Fudd as an Astronaut?


Sometimes when we look to see the man behind the curtain in life we find a very different version of reality than we expected. Take my recent trip through Nevada where I passed very near the southwest edge of area 51. My entire science paradigm crumbled as I learned this simple Bugs Bunny technology (pictured) was being used to launch our advanced space craft rather than captured alien technology. I am truly devastated.

A Backwoods Giggle


My wife and I were exploring a new section of trail near the Willamette River outside Salem when I noticed the forest floor was being overrun by these small, clover like plants (pictured). Being incurably curious, I said:

“I wonder what that is.”

To which my wife happily offered…

“The forest giggling.”

I nodded satisfied, and we carried on.

The Lopsided Reunion


Since returning to my home region of Oregon this summer, I’d become much more curious about those little corners of reality I was either in too much of a rush or too high school cool to visit. I’d just finished my morning walk when I noticed the large, yellow “Fish & Chips” sign outside a small brick building in downtown Dayton (pictured). It was near noon, I was hungry, and who can’t use more fish and chips?

I went on in and found an interior with a simple linoleum floor where the left half encompassed a small convenience store of half stocked shelves; the right filled with simple tables and chairs in front of a window-like opening on a back brick wall.

With no one in sight, I walked to the window where a hand-written menu was left leaning sadly on a sandwich board. I just started to read when a woman appeared from behind a door and asked if I’d like to order. She looked tired, a bit frayed on the edges, but managed just enough cheer to keep me from turning around and leaving. I ordered the special when it hit me; I knew this person. That uncontrollable brillo pad hair and wry, pixie smile was unmistakable.

She instructed me to pay on the convenience store half where we’d meet, and the walk gave me time to survey my neurons to land on the name Gennie. I’d had her as an elementary school classmate with Mrs. Wickberg, Mrs. Macgilvery, and Mrs Huff at Memorial Grade School. It would have killed me if I’d been unable to recall this information until 3:00 a.m. later that night.

As she walked out the store side door, I proudly said, “Gennie, great to see you, how have you been?”

She looked stunned, her face staring blankly as if I might follow up by asking her to empty the till when I drew my ace; “It’s me, Mike K., we went to grade school together!”

Loooonnnnng pause. “You’re not Mike K.” He’s much shorter and a hell of a lot skinnier than you!”

“Gennie,” I said, “I WAS shorter and skinnier…in fourth grade!”




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