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Sunday, December 16, 2007


Christmas always leaves me with mixed emotions. At times it has been my least favorite holiday for many reasons. However, on the day itself when I saw the kids getting up their eyes open as wide as could be staring at all the presents under the tree. On that day I felt my father's joy for Christmas, understood why it was so important to him. Understood why he took what ever measures to be on earth for his last Christmas in 1987.

What am I babbling about you might ask?

Let me explain.

When my Dad was flying bombing runs during WW II my mother lived with her parents. When I was born my mother went to work, my Aunt Elsie became my "sister" baby sitter. When Dad returned from the war the three of us moved to a house in West Babylon. The house behind my Grandparents came up for sale, Dad used his GI benefits to buy it. There was just enough money coming in to keep the roof over our heads. Mom had to go back to work, I went back to my Aunt and Grandmother. Over time I just never when "home" again. There were many reasons given for this, sleep, time, etc.. My Dad and Mom worked everyday to make enough money to feed the growing family. The money barley keep the heat on, food on the table, and clothes on their backs. Since there were only four of us in my grandparents house things were a lot better.

My Grandparents backyard backed up to my Parents back yard, separated by a fence. It was over that fence I was passed, like a Christmas package, every Christmas Eve. That was the only eight hours out of the year I lived with my parents and siblings. I once had a room in my parents house that I occupied for eight hours, once a year. Every year around 9pm I'd be lifted over the fence, later I climbed it, to be stuffed in to bed awaiting Christmas morning. In the early years it was my sister Carol and I who looked in amazement at the huge tree under which seemed to reside hundreds of present. Then over the years came brother Tom, Sister Ann, Brothers Robert, Frank, Danny and Kenny. By the time the four younger brothers came along I was no long climbing the fence, but driving my car.

On Christmas day we would get into my Dad's car, which had no heater, bundle up for the ride to Grandma and Grandpa Cooke's house. My Dad would begin to sing Christmas Carols, Mom, my sister and I would join in. We had to be back at Nana and Pops by 4pm for dinner. The family would gather around the Christmas tree, presents distributed, then it was time for dinner. Great Grandpa and Grandma, my grandfather's sisters and their families sometime twenty people. We gathered around a table made for six laughter and talk abounding.

When my kids came along we were still living in New York. It seemed to me the hard times of getting enough money to live on was pasted on to me from my Dad. On Christmas Eve I would receive a small bonus. I then spent the better part of the evening running from store to store getting as many things on the "wish list" as possible. I would work late into the evening, then head home to put up the tree, and wrap presents with my former wife. The kids would be up early eye's as wide as ours use to get.

A couple of years after my Dad's death I found a note book he had used for a journal on the transport taking him to England in 1943. Christmas day he wrote to my Mother "I miss you and Cookie, I hope to come home and spend every Christmas with you both."

In 1974 we moved to Arizona in an attempt to save a troubled marriage. My children grew up in Arizona devoid of Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and Grandparent for many years. We had our own Christmas's in Lake Havasu, Kingman, Flagstaff, then Phoenix. They now have their own tradition of Christmas Eve at my Son, Christmas Day at my Daughters. I now watch my grandchildren's eyes become rounded on Christmas morning. The same look my brothers and sisters had, the same look my kids had. That look of intense amazement and wonderment.

Just to see that look made it all worth it. Didn't Dad?

Sunday, December 9, 2007


Death, the Grim Reaper, The Boatman, so many forms and namesgiven to a moment in time. I think Cary Grant, Fredrick March, and Brad Pitt were some of Hollywood's personifications of death.

The was five the first time death entered my world. My grandaunt's husband died from cancer, I did not understand what that was, nor did I understand what death was. I was dressed up in my Sunday clothes, told how to behave, what to do as we headed to Babylon for the "viewing." It was winter because I remember having my great coat on, with my head covered by a Fedora, quite dapper just like my Grandfather.

The entrance to Boyd's Funeral home look much like the an apartment building. There was a large mahogany door surrounded by a white brick. A carriage lamp separated the door from a small stained glass window to the right Funny how memory works I can see the narrow hallway we entered, then turned in to the room that held our family. The door was about midway in the room, so we had to walk down toward a box covered with flowers. My cousin, who's dad had died, waved to me, I waved back. My action earned me one of my grandmother's "Just you wait until I get you home" looks. Solemnly I approached the box, peeked in to find my Uncle sleeping. I knelt down, said some kind of prayer, as I was told to do, then said I was sorry, not knowing what I had done to be sorry for, to my Great Aunt.

After dinner for the next three evenings we returned to the Funeral home. When ever I attempted to be with my cousin we were separated. Told in loud whispers this was not a place to play. So it all became quite boring for us five year old's. No one explained that the man in the box was never going to wake up. I think it was on the next visited we wandered away from the family. We came upon a smaller room that was empty except for a smaller white version of the box. We approached climbed up on the kneeler, looked in, finding someone our age asleep. I attempted to wake him, but he did not more.

My grandmother found us which earned another "wait until I get you home look." I managed to get back to that room by myself to look at this "me" sleeping. I then knew what death was, however I did not understand why someone my age was there. It was suppose to be an older person not a "me." I just stood there looking trying to figure it all out. Can't tell you what it was that I came up with. I do know that at some point I realised I had no fear of my death.

The next day I watched them put my Uncle's box in the ground. Watched my cousin laughing with her sister. Listened as my grandmother stated "she's to young to understand, one day it will catch up to her." I remember feeling angry for her saying that. My beautiful cousin should not be hurt by anyone. We returned to doing what was life back then until the next death.

We visited Boyd's many time as I was growing up. Boyd's a second "home" in Deer Park where Great Grandpa was "laid out." Each Great Grandparent "passed," then Great Aunt's and Uncle's, Aunt's and Uncle's, friends of the family. The burial ground moved from New York to Florida where Dad, Nana and Pop are. Only my mother and I, in addition to some cousin's, are left to remember these people. Mom and I drag out the pictures saying remember this event or that person.

In the past four years three of my younger siblings have die. It's not suppose to be that way, then the picture of that child from long ago comes to me. What is the way it is suppose to be? I wonder at time's if I'll out live all my siblings?

One of my loneliest feeling is thinking about what it will be like when my mother dies.

There will be no one left to say "Remember..."

Death has come to visit me twice now. The first time it happen was about a week after my Dad died. I knew at the time it was just a friendly visit to say Hi!. A knock on my door to remind me that at some point this life will come to an end. It was Christmas Eve when the Doctor walked in to tell me that I had five years left to live; that was 1987. Then another visit four years ago. "We found cancer we need to operate," they did, I'm still here. Just another friendly reminder that the sand is running low in the hour glass of life.

What will I have accomplished once it's all said and done.

My kids that what!

My wonderful children all the rest is the stuff of illusions.

Everything in the past is memory
Everything in the future is imagination

Both are illusions

The only thing completely real is this one instant of the present
Have to dig up the sorce?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A trunk for my bike

I have been looking for a "trunk" for my bike. One that will enable me to carry some food, keeping it cool at the same time. If I could fine one that works I would use it on my trip to England next spring. The problem I've had the past two years is not being able to carry food for more then one day without it spoiling. So I've been looking in any bike store I come across for a "trunk." My friend Mark has been looking also, while we discuss ways to overcome this problem. No luck!

Well, as luck would have it my friend Mark calls me up to go look at a grill at WalMart in the sporting goods department. As I wander about looking for this grill I catch sight of what well could be the answer to my "trunk" problem. There in the fishing section I find a kids fishing pack for six bucks. Now if you've ever priced "trunks" in a bike store you would know that most run $30 and up. I look at it, turn it over, open it up, squish it. Mm get rid of the junk in side, do a little alteration, I just might have a "trunk."

The alteration is figuring out how to attach it to my rear bike rack. Most of the more expensive "trunks" use Velcro, maybe I could also. Back to the bike store I go to study how the big boys do it. Yep, Velcro stitched on to the sides, two strips on each side. By golly I could do that with my sewing machine. Yes! I own a sewing machine, which has not been used in nearly ten years.

I have just spent the last two hours, good therapy, putting the Velcro on my fishing bag, which is now a bike "trunk."

I'm pretty darn proud of myself! I had to learn how to use the sewing machine again, find the right strength thread, then sew the Velcro on, used a little "Goop" to back up the sewing, low and behold my bike is now sporting a "trunk." Life's little victories.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Salisbury, England

I went to England and by chance Salisbury for the first time in 2006. For no more then it seeming to be centrally located I chose Salisbury as a starting place for my adventure. Ever find yourself looking at yourself, in an event, as if you were looking in from outside when you think about it? From above I see myself standing along side the bus waiting for my bags, listening to as a fellow traveler asks the bus driver directions. Seeing myself looking around in an attempt to get my bearing, while deciding my next move. Watching quietly from the side as bags are picked up, not knowing what direction to head, but start walking.

I had arrived in a city, in a county far from home with no idea of where to go, just as I had planned. That's not much of a plan you may think, however I beg to differ. It was a plan not to have a plan, which worked out beautifully. Watching myself, with a sense of wonder, walk in a complete circle ending back at the bus station by happenstance. The thought came that there was no dread of getting lost, or that some mayhem might come my way. There must have been in my subconscious the beginning of a love affair with this beautiful town.

Again by non-planning I ended up spending four days wandering the streets with head attempting to look in all directions at once. The picture is of Salisbury Cathedral, which was finished in 1254. I happened on it while wandering, having no idea of its age. Once it was learned a feeling of awe entered me, which is still residing there. Soon the town was like home to me, comfortable, safe along with a feeling of peace. Most of my life has been filled with a feeling of not belonging where I am. Something missing, some untouchable, vague feeling that this is not where I really belong.

During my wandering I began to noticed that this feeling was not haunting me. It was dismissed as being silly, yet it felt strange not to have the sensation hanging on like a weight. It was surprising to feel such a sense of belonging to this place, which I have never touched before. Now it took some time to figure this out, really almost a year. When the belief finally came to fruition it was as if someone a jumped out of the shadows, it startled me for it to be true. For the first time I felt as if I were someplace I belonged. stunning!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Bible

I ride my bike as often as possible in order to keep in shape for riding in England. This year the plan is to ride 700 miles in Austria, Spain, and England. So, the ride from my house is ten miles most of which is on the shoulder of I-17. Which is much safer, believe it or not, then riding on the majority of the roads in England which have not shoulder.
Riding along, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a book ling in the dirt. My head resisted that it had been there yesterday, but was ignored. Today, however, I turned abound to get a closer look. Looking down I see that the book has been inserted in to a leather cover. Could this be a Bible ling there forlornly I thought?
As my hand came into contact with the book a feeling desolation, sadness, frustration, anger, and betrayal filled my mind. I saw the book flung out the window with anger after a painful loss. The feelings of betrayal, along with frustration because possibly unanswered prayers, or not answered to the persons liking. The desolation of having depended on something that was not considered undependable. In hast and anger the book flies out the window as the vehicle moves off into history.
After I arrive at my destination I look at the fly page, I think that's what it is called, finding the book is dedicated to Luke, by Mary on the 7th of August 2007. Mary wrote "For your new beginning, I'll love you aways." Only a short three months later the book ended up strewn on the side of the road. I wonder how close I am to the why of its being discarded?
What shall I do with it? Having once been in seminary the one thing that is not needed is another Bible. The thought enters my mind that I'll put it in the Big Brother/Big Sisters bin. However, as I ride the thought occurs that maybe I'll keep it, maybe even read it, maybe.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


Ever notice them? I mean really notice them! All shapes and sizes, maybe human, maybe animal, or some other life form. I have a friend, well I really have more the one, whom I went to 1st grade with. Yep we are still friends, still in touch, still going strong. Her mother when to school with my mother way back when. Some times friends kind of sneak up on you. You don't expect them to be friends then they are. What is the criteria for being called a friend?
There are books, articles, movies, songs on what it takes to be a friend. For me I think that it would be really hard to define the criteria for being my friend. There have been many "friends" in my life, who have long ago exited from that relationship. Are they still friends? If I ran into them again would we instantly pick up where we left off? It seems that about 20 years passed between contacts with my first grade friend, then we were back in touch, catching up, sharing our lives as we always had, maybe more so.
It seems that within the last ten years I have renewed several friendships with people who attended high school with me. We were friends long after high school, however after moving to Arizona from New York we "lost touch." Every once in awhile my sister, who was still living in New York, would meet one then pass on information. A few I "ran into" on the Internet, how times have changed. So out of a graduating class of 32 I am currently connected to seven classmates, friends. Sadly out to 32 seven, that I know of, are no longer among the living.
Some friends have chosen not to be friends with me any longer for assorted reasons. I almost chose not to be friends on two occasions, but changed my mind. I am glad to say that in both instances it proved to be a very good decision. There are times I had allot of friends, then times not so many. I could not count all the people who have borne the title "Friend" since the word entered my vocabulary. Funny how that word is used to isolate a select few from the throngs of people who pass through.
I now have friends in England, also Spain. We talk every now and then, each time they refer to me as "friend." First I had friends in the town I grew up in, then I had friends at work, then in other towns, then I had friends in New York and Arizona, then California and Florida, now England and Spain. It is almost overwhelming to think about how many wonderful people have passed through this life; so many of them friends.
Friends and lovers, friends are not lovers or are they?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Die Trip

Went on a Dies Trip. What is that you may ask, anyway that's what I asked when one was first suggested. My friend Gary suggested going on one as he had done it a few times with others. Throwing caution to the wind I agreed. The trip, about a year ago, turned out to be a great adventure. Your right I have not answered the question but I will...soon.

A few weeks ago I suggested to Gary we go on another Dies Trip, to which he agreed. Then mentioned to my friend Mark that we were going. Well make a short story shorter the three of us decided to do the deed. I'm getting there just hold on. When Mark arrived at my home in Flagstaff, after driving up from Phoenix, we spend some time talking about camping gear we will use this summer in England. Then he asked about the parameters which would guide the trip. I said that the only parameters were the ones we would decide with Gary in the morning.

Saturday morning we drove into town to meet Gary for breakfast were we spent time assigning different directions to each number of the die. Mine were simple 1 = right, 2 = left with the most elaborate being Roll again. Gary's were some what playful, with Marks being the most creative. The thing of it is there is no wrong way to go on this kind of trip. There is nothing to be missed, no indebt planning, just assign values to a die and go. Heading south on Lake Mary Rd. still making "rules" for out trip, such as "we would not roll the die until we came to a major intersection." Then we had to define what a "major intersection" was.

At the end of several throws we ended up at Mormon Lake Lodge. There a throw of the die put us on a one hour horse ride. What wrangles me about going on a trail ride is the six to eight horses in a row clop, clopping along a warn trail. Once up on a time you rented a horse and rode off in any direction you wanted. Insurance and law suites ended all that so now you clop, clop, clop with your horses head up the butt of the one in front of you. Clop, clop through the forest trail led by our Wrangler Jim. Jim spent most of the ride talking to the woman in front of me, every once in awhile remembering there were others on the ride by asking how we were doing. Sure go ahead an ignore the rest of us I though. Being jealous of not being talked to my the Wrangler, now how silly was that? I even thought about the time the female Wrangler on a trail ride talked only to me na na.

About a quarter away through the ride it began to rain mm mm something familiar here. But, that is another story.

Later in the day we found ourselves deep in the forest talking about the movie "Deliverance." It always interests me at the conversations that arise out of some vague thought or feeling. Now we were no where near a river, nor were we deep in "Hillbilly" territory, yet some fleeting neuron fired off causing the thought that we did not have a bow to protect us. Having left the car in the middle of a dirt road, in the middle of a Forest, I heard a horn blaring, which ended our revelry in the stillness of the place. Yep, we were blocking the road, no way, yep. I notice as the car sped passed that their faces did not show concern as to whether we were stuck or not; just annoyance. I managed to get out "Sorry," as the speeding pickup bounced by over the rocks.

Later upon rounding a corner I heard what sounded like gun fire, which caused me to stop suddenly. I am always cautious of people with guns. Especially after the horror stories told in the gun safety classes I had attended over the years. Silence! We listened. A staccato of gun fire erupted then stopped. Proceeding slowly we came upon several families target shooting into an embankment. We drove slowly by them waving as if they were long lost friends. Somewhat nervously we discussed what we would do if they decided to use us for target practice. An executive discussion caused us to turn around passing them yet again. No bullets tore through the van as we quickly exited the area.

When we finally arrived at Route 87 Mark announced that he was hungry. Gary explained that a right would lead us to a place to eat rather quickly, but if a left were thrown he would not be eating for quite awhile. Such are the rigours of a Die Trip. It was my turn to throw, to the left we when now heading toward Winslow AZ. Yes of "Standing On The Corner" fame. Mark indicated he was "O.K." with adhering to the "rules." Rules are important things, however I am of the mine set that many are made to be broken. Well, not all rules just some of the sillier ones, no one does not jump to mind. I am sure if you think about it you'll come up with one. Unless you've never broken one, even a little one?

In Winslow it was Marks turn to throw and his number indicated that we were to stop, get out of the van, tell the first person we saw what we were doing, then ask them what we were to do next. Inventive Mark! As we pulled into Winslow dead ahead of us was a gentlemen in a wheelchair sitting out side a store called "Make Up Your Mind." As we approached a woman came out of the store to stand beside him. Since this was Mark's throw he proceeded to follow the directions. The listeners faces showed polite smiles, appreciative nods, along with comments of approval. Be nice to these guys they could be escapee's came to my head as Mark talked.

The man in the wheelchair did not say much, however the woman entered into conversation with us. We found out that she was a massage therapist, who then offered her services. Gary throw the die, which came up "NO." Mark asked for a good place to eat, directions were given as we parted. On the corner we took pictures of the "Standing On The Corner" sculpture and mural. It turns out that Gary, when living in San Francisco, studied under the artist who painted the mural. We talked some about the picture, which had been damaged by a fire, then headed off.

Our waitress seemed to be having a conversation with someone other then us. Each of our questions were met with answers having nothing to do with the question. The conversation at the table became unique when Gary began talking about Gay's view of heterosexual kissing. As the conversation progressed I could not help but think that this is not a conversation "men" would be having at a dinner table in Winslow, Arizona. This cause me to begin laughing which seemed to befuddled my table mates. Once I explained we looked around to see if we had cased the exodus of other dinners. It seemed that we were not being paid attention to, or being ignored. Having finished dinner Gary make another executive decision, he was going to get a message! Which led conversation about my not liking massages, which seemed to be a foreign thought to both my companions. Now I have had a few, but they have left me cold, no clothes, and far from relaxed. Mark turned to me saying "Well you don't like to be touched." When asked were he had gotten that idea he said "You told me that."

Now I am not sure when and where I might have said such a thing, but it shocked me to hear it. As we walked I had to think about this statement. I like to touch and be touched, just not by everyone in the world. I recently received a very tight hug that was wonderful, because it seemed to have no hidden messages. I could not for the life of me come up with a reason why I would say such a thing. Then I wondered if I had said it at all, but somehow portrayed it in body language? mmm I received no insight as I walked so put it on automatic to bounce around my head.

As we entered the massage parlor I noticed several whips hanging from the wall, Teddies hanging on another, all were for sale. "I see you have more for sale here then messages." "The good stuff is down in the back." was the response. At the rear of the store we found a selection of goods we did not expect to find in Winslow AZ. Mark and I chuckled conspiratorially as we headed off to explored the restored La Posada Hotel leaving Gary to his message. Returning an hour later we entered the store as Gary emerged from the massage room. I was taken aback! He looked as if he had just awoken from a deeeeeep sleeeeeep, barely able to keep his eyes open. This is not anything I ever experienced from getting a massage. However, Mark seemed to understand his lethargic behavior. There was this grin which looked as if he had just got caught with his had in the cookie jar. I was amazed, yet found my self embarrassed at the intimacy of the moment.

Mark and I turned our attention to another woman in the store who left am imprint on my memory. As she perused the Teddies my "man" brain took over wanting to offer to buy her one if she would model it. Later Mark admitted to the same desire, while Gary was still in the throws of his massage. There was no cold shower available so we opted for an ice cream during which we discussed Gary's message. So now I feel the hook settling in with a tug to go, maybe to experience what Gary had. No no to much money, or just not wanting to be touched without being able to touch back.

There is nothing as soothing as touching a womans skin in my mind. Running your hands over the curves, feeling the softness or hardness below the smoothness of the skin. I used to fall asleep slowly moving my hand over my former girlfriends body. Of course this did not thrill her all to pieces. However, I found it took away the cares of the day, just being held and holding, touching, I guess similar to the soft rubbing that once put my children to sleep. I smile. How I love my children. Even now I rub my son or daughters back thanking God they are the people they turned out to be. My children are magic to me as I watch them grow old, raise families, love their spouses.

The next morning finds us talking over breakfast. All I can remember is that all our conversations were vibrant. There was little disagreement among us which surprised me. Mark and Gary have never spent this much time together, yet we seem to understand and accept where each is coming from. There are smiles, laughter and even a little shared sadness as we talk. I am relaxed as our words become my massage by being in a place of accepting and acceptance, not judged. As I think back I hear very little of passing judgement on others just stating our feeling and thoughts. Can it get any better then this?

We are heading home, I suggest a stop to tour the ruins of Canyon Diablo ( . I have passed it many time over the years, but have never walked around it. I guess it was a town, not the story I had heard. So now, since I am driving, I am looking for the correct exit. I get off a two wrong exits, knowing that it is not far from Winslow. Mark, riding shot gun, pulls out his portable GPS, I am irked. "I know where I'm going I don't need that." or words to that effect spill from my mouth. Mark is again perplexed at my reaction to the GPS. "I don't know why that thing bugs me the way it does." I say. To which I receive "Get over it." Now I am angry, get off at the next exit finally arriving at the canyon. We exit the van and begin to explore the canyon, I mostly by myself.

This is not the first run in over the GPS system. I have thought allot about why it bothers me so much, also coming up with some answers which I don't like. I am not anti-technology having embraced most as it comes along. I have not embraced GPS! Maybe it's the "man don't ask for directions" thing, yet I have many times misplaced myself, asking strangers without compunction about where a place is. Nope not that; then what? I find it silly to have a thing tell me how to get to a place that I have been to many times before. So using it to go to San Diego makes no sense to my head. The issue come down to the word TRUST. My friend does not trust me is the thought that runs through my head the instant he pulls out the GPS.

Old route 66 bridge

However, I look deeper to see why that thought is there. The "logic" come out that we have been talking about him going to England to bicycle through the lanes together. I have been to England twice, riding hither and yon, with out a GPS. Yes I got lost which allowed for me to meet some of the kindest people. An aside, if I had not gotten lost I would not have met them. That purchase ran through my head as He does'nt trust me to get him through. There is a place that also says My friend does not trust himself to get him through. I do not know this to be true, not asking for fear that it is.