Crime rates Are Up

Crime rates have been going up lately. And why wouldn’t they? Take a look at what our economic system is based upon. If you want to eat and have a place to live you’ve got to be able to earn a living and how is that done in today’s society? For the most part, it’s done by big business taking advantage of other people. The inequality is unfair.
Big business, worth trillions of dollars, takes advantage of people who need jobs by paying them as low a wage as possible. And that’s minimum wage for millions of people. And everybody knows that’s not enough to make a decent living or rent a decent apartment and certainly not enough to buy a home. Far from it.
The top few dozen people in the US have more money than the bottom 150 million people. That, in itself, is enough to cause a revolution if not enough for a rise in crime.
And the cost of going to college these days is outrageous. More people owe more money to college loans now days than they do to credit cards and we’re talking trillions of dollars. How did that happen? Republicans have been cutting taxes for the rich for years and giving tax subsidies to big business.
And who is really paying for that? Everybody else is paying for it and that angers people who feel like they should be able to get what they need in the USA.
So, more people do what they think they have to do to get what they want. If it’s dealing drugs or burglarizing or robbing people or worse, evidently they’re willing to do it.
Just like today’s candidates running for president are saying, “the system is rigged.” It’s rigged for the rich who now basically control Congress by making “Campaign contributions” that we know are basically brides to get the policies passed that they want passed. And, naturally that’s giving them more power and putting more billions of dollars in their pockets.
People know that’s what’s happening and they feel powerless to stop it and some people evidently are willing to do what they believe they can get away with to get what they want and if it’s committing crime, they’re willing to do that and hope they don’t get caught. And some of them don’t get caught.
And speaking of getting caught, with less taxes paid by the rich, who are not paying their fair share (They pay much less percentage wise than you and I pay) and the cost of housing criminals in prison today, many criminals are being let out of prison for crimes they commit and what do they do then? A lot of them commit more crimes. So it’s a vicious cycle and until we do something about it, I’m afraid it’s going to continue.
And I’m not even talking about the cost of health care and medications. When one guy can have a monopoly on a necessary medication and raise the price 750 percent which happened recently. The health care system is due for a massive overhaul as is our inherently unfair economic system.
And what can we do about it? I believe a good start is having the rich pay their fair share of taxes so we can fix our infrastructure and make college affordable again (like it was not that long ago when the rich were paying their fair share of taxes before Ronald Reagan) and hire more teachers at a decent living wage and put more police officers on the street and put money into solar and wind and other sources of renewable energy so we’re actually protecting our planet that sustains us rather than poisoning our air and our water and our food.
Then people won’t feel as ripped off and might care more about other people than they have been doing lately. And they just may commit less crime.

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“Nothing’s Free, Phil.”

When I was a kid I remember my mom answering a knock on the front door and hear some guy say hello and then try to tell my mom about something being free and my mom saying, “No thank you” and closing the door on the guy. I remember looking at my mom and saying, “Oh, mom, how could you do that? That was rude. He said it was free!” My mom looked at me and said, ”I’m too busy for that nonsense and nothing’s free, Phil.”
“But he said it was free.” I repeated to my mom, thinking that it was rude and we missed out on something free.
“He’s a salesman and he wants to sell me something. He’s not knocking on doors to give something away for free.”
“Well, shouldn’t you at least hear what he had to say?”
“I don’t want to waste my time or his time.”

I guess I was confused but years later after answering many knocks at the front door and hearing somebody say, “Let me show you this, it’s free” and patiently listening to what they had to say and only after hearing a long winded sales job, saying, “No thank you” and wasting my time and the salesperson’s time, I realized that my mom knew a whole lot more than I did about answering doors and wasting time.

I remember a guy knocking on my front door here in Chico and saying he wanted to do a “free carpet renovation” and me saying, “Okay” and the guy came in the house and spent 45 minutes vacuuming and cleaning the carpet and then saying I could buy the Hoover Renovation Machine for only $1500.00 and me remembering what my mom said years ago and me having a hard time getting the guy out of the house with his big heavy Hoover renovation Machine.

I’m wondering if the word “free” has become obsolete. I mean why do we use the word if nothing’s free anymore?


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Could it Really be That Long Ago?

On December 23, 1965 I was 19 years old, living in East LA with my parents. My mother said, “Phil, this looks important,” as she handed me a letter from the government. It was my draft notice ordering me to report for duty on January 4, 1966.

Five months later I found was in the Central Highlands of Vietnam with the First Cavalry Division as a medic. That was absolutely the longest year of my life but somehow or other I survived and flew home June, 1967.

Phil in Vietnam, 1966

My uncle Monty picked me up at the airport in San Francisco. Instead of taking me home he brought me to Haight-Ashbury which was the zenith of the hippie movement during the Summer of Love. I was still wearing my army uniform while walking down the streets filled with hippies playing music and singing and looking at me saying, “Hey, brother, make love, not war.” I never felt more out of place.

Back in LA my parents were happy to have home as was my girlfriend until we broke up a few weeks later.

I soon found myself in Griffith Park at a love-in. There were thousands of long haired hippies and I was out of my army uniform. The marijuana smoke floated through the crowd like a cloud. At the merry-go-round a band was playing loud. The band was The Doors and the girls and half the boys were screaming at Jim Morrison that they loved him. The crowd, including myself, were mostly undressed.

I grew my hair long and stopped shaving. I went to East LA College and had to carry my discharge papers with me to prove that I’d already been to Vietnam because many of the professors accused me of going to school to avoid the draft.

For the next thirty years Vietnam Veterans were treated in less than a positive light including being portrayed in movies and TV shows as trouble. That included the military service organizations such as the American Legion who for a long time shunned Vietnam Vets.

The good thing about Vietnam for me was learning how to survive. I made it through Vietnam so I could make it through anything else including job losses, breakups and post traumatic stress disorder.

It took a long time for me to feel like I was back home but I must say, there’s no place like home.Back from Nam


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Going to the Beatles Reunion

At Cal State LA I met some other hippies including a lady with long black hair named Linda.

She had a sweet face and wore a hand-embroidered fringed suede jacket.

She lived with seven other hippies in a house on a hill. They called themselves “The Tribe ” and loved listening to Beatles music.

The LA Free Press said there was going to be a month-long music festival in Toronto, Canada where the Beatles were going to get back together.

Three members of the Tribe including a guy named Sam who had long red hair, Tina, a brunette with big hips, Linda and myself decided we had to be there.

Sam’s best friend was Jim from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. He said, “I’ve got a flight back home tomorrow but you should all come visit my farm for a while.”

“Let’s hitchhike there and see America. We can stop at Jim’s on the way to see the Beatles,” I said, so the next day we started hitchhiking to Toronto.

We caught a ride to Truckee and spent the night in our sleeping bags on the cold ground.

At 2 AM it started raining.
At 5 AM we pulled ourselves out of our wet sleeping bags and stuck out our thumbs.

at 8 AM a pickup truck gave us a ride in the back of the truck to Sparks, Nevada.

At 5 PM a pickup truck filled with cowboys stopped and yelled, “If you hippies are here tonight we’re going to have a turkey shoot.”

We waved at every car that passed by. A car slowed down and stopped in front of us. As we ran toward the car they tossed eggs at us and drove off laughing.

At 6 PM Sam said, “There are some train tracks over there. Let’s hop a freight and take it wherever it goes.”

Heading over to the tracks, a small car stopped. The driver asked, “Where ya going?”
“Anywhere,” we answered, climbed in and an obviously inebriated old man said, “My name’s Joe. Why don’t one of you drive and I’ll sit in the back seat.”
I started driving and within minutes Joe started grabbing the girls who were sitting on both sides of him.
An hour later we stopped at a gas station, got out and Sam said, “I put some LSD in his whiskey bottle.”
We drove all night long with Joe saying, “Wow, wow.”

In the morning Joe started grabbing the girls again so we all got out in Boulder, Colorado and left Joe in the back seat of his car.

An older couple stopped and said, “We only have room for three of you.”
“You three take the ride and I’ll meet you at Jim’s farm.”

Four days later I made it to Eau Claire, not far from Chippewa Falls. I called Jim from a phone booth.

Jim, Sam, Tina and Linda picked me up and I asked, “Are you guys excited to see the Beatles?”
Jim said, “Hate to tell you this, Phil, but we found out the whole thing was a hoax,”
There’s no music festival in Toronto and the Beatles aren’t getting back together.”
“You’re kidding.”
“Wish I was,” Jim said.

“Aren’t you glad to see me?” Linda said.
“Sure but I can’t believe we’re not going to see the Beatles.”

The next day Linda took the train to visit her brother in Florida. Tina took the train to see her ex husband in Reno. Sam hitchhiked home to East Lansing. Jim left for British Columbia and I spent the next week hitchhiking back to LA.

Three weeks later I got a call from Linda saying, “I’m at LAX. Do you want to see me?”

I picked up Linda up and she said, “Do you know anyplace I can stay?”

The radio was playing Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon.

“Want to hitchhike and see if we can find where Joni Mitchell lives?” I asked.

Linda shook her head and said, “No,” and we both laughed hard.

Linda became my roommate and soon after that she became my first wife.

Neither one of us ever hitchhiked again and the Beatles never did have a reunion.

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Welcome to Vietnam, 1966

Welcome to Utter Chaos

The streets of Saigon are busy, dusty and noisy.

GI’s driving vehicles of all sizes and in convoys loaded with equipment are all in a hurry. Horns are blowing and arms are waving frantically at pedestrians scampering across the street.

Everything is written in strange Asian lettering. Bicycles, mopeds, peddle-driven and small engine scooters run between the military vehicles as they stop for red lights.

By the time the light turns green, there is no single lane, only a massive jumble of many different vehicles, pushing and shoving and squeezing in and spewing out exhaust and noise.

Some mopeds are driven by pretty and nicely dressed young girls and others by men smoking cigarettes and wearing army clothes and thong sandals.

Some tinny motorized bikes have two, three or more people on them. Anywhere there is room for somebody there is a person riding there; on gas tanks, on handle bars, on rear racks, on headlights, on fenders, on each other’s laps and even on peddles standing up.

We fly through the streets that seem to have no rhyme or reason. They don’t go in any recognizable 90 degree angles. They go in all directions and seem to cross randomly. The names all looked alike. I’m lost immediately.

“How do you know where you’re going, or do you?” I take a chance and ask Specialist Chavez, the jeep’s driver. Chavez is a tall, thin, good-looking Latino from East LA. He grins, laughs and says, “Took me a while before I knew how to get around. Got lost a lot and still do whenever I go off the main streets. You have to watch it anyway. Get lost in the wrong neighborhood in Saigon and you can disappear for good”

“Yeah, disappear! Like in getting ‘Shanghaied’ but in this case, getting ‘Saigoned.’ You could be sold here for ten bucks. Stay out of the back alleys.”
“How do you know the back alleys from the front alleys?”
“You’ll figure it out. But you may not have to worry about it. You may get sent up North right away and have other things to worry about besides Saigon’s back alleys.”

Chavez is speeding through the streets like he’s driving a race car, blowing the horn and yelling at anyone who even thinks about getting in the way. We turn hard rights and lefts, the wheels are squealing and I have to hold on to keep from flying out of the jeep.

“You stay in Saigon?” I asked, looking at the people he’s almost running over and then looking back at Chavez.
Chavez grins, lights a cigarette, offers me one and says, “I stay in Saigon now. I’ve been up North too. It’s better country up there but more dangerous. Saigon has something to do at night. Up north, you might just be stomping the boonies. Okay if you like that sort of thing. I prefer this.” He says as he blows the horn at a pretty Vietnamese girl and yells, “Hi there, pretty mamasan.” He laughs, winks at me and laughs some more.

We approach a roadblock, Chavez waves at a guard and we head into the “off limits” section of Saigon.

“Off limits?! Why’s it off limits?” I ask.
“It’s off limits because we ain’t supposed to be here. It ain’t really safe. This part of Saigon belongs to the Viet Cong at night. Keep inside at night.”
“Inside where?” I ask.
“Inside anywhere. Don’t even look out the windows. VC own this part of town after dark. And always carry your weapon.”
“Weapon? What weapon?
“You don’t have a weapon? Well, here, take this.” Chavez says as he hands me a fully loaded 9MM pistol. “Keep this with you at all times.”

We pull up to a building and Chavez says: “Go on in there and find a place to sack out.”

“But…but… what is this place?” I stutter.
“It’s the only place available for you right now. I’ll try and come back tonight to take you to chow otherwise I’ll be back tomorrow.”

Chavez speeds off and I think to myself, a year in Vietnam might be a very long time.

ArmyPhil Phil 1966

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Closing the Door on Something Free

I remember my mom answering the front door, saying, “No thank you” and closing the door on somebody who had knocked on the door.
“Oh, mom, how can you do that? That’s rude. Besides, he said he had something free!”
My mom looked at me, shook her head and said, “I don’t have time for that nonsense and nothing’s free, Phil.”
“But he said it was free,” I repeated, thinking that we missed out on something.
“He’s a salesman and he wants to sell something. He’s not knocking on doors to give away anything for free. He’s the one who’s being rude knocking on doors at dinner time.”
“Well, shouldn’t you at least hear what he had to say?”
“I don’t want to waste his time and I don’t want to waste my time.”

I guess I was confused but years later after answering many knocks at my door and hearing people say, “Let me show you this, it’s free” and patiently listening to what they had to say and only after hearing a long-winded sales-job, saying, “No thank you” and wasting my time and wasting the salesperson’s time, I realized that my mom knew a whole lot more than I knew about answering doors and wasting time.
I remember a guy knocking on my front door in Chico and saying he wanted to do a “free carpet renovation” and me saying, “Okay.”
The guy came in the house and spent 45 minutes vacuuming and cleaning the carpet and then saying I could buy the Hoover Renovation Machine for only $1200.00 and me suddenly remembering what my mom said years ago and having a hard time getting the guy out of the house with his big heavy, expensive Hoover Renovation Machine.
I’m wondering if the word “free” has become obsolete. I mean why do people still use the word if nothing’s free anymore?

I’ve given things away free. Some good things too. I’ve given away records and guitars and bicycles and motorcycles and even some cars. Yes, I’ve given away several cars and some good ones too. I use to basically collect cars. I had so many cars in front of my house that my neighbors wouldn’t talk to me. At least I think that’s why they wouldn’t talk to me.

Right across the street from me was a poor family with two kids who used to like to play in the tall, overgrown grass in my front yard. I didn’t mind. Matter of fact, I kind of liked to see them having a good time playing in what they called “the corn field” because the grass, or maybe it was the weeds, was so tall that they could lie down and basically hide in it.

I also collected bicycles and I had a few of them in yard because my kids had more bikes than they could use.

One day one of the children from across the street asked if she could ride one of the bikes. “Sure, go ahead,” I said. She came by the next day and asked to ride it again. “Sure. Take it. Matter of fact, keep it. I don’t need it.”

The next day the girl’s father came over while I was actually trying to cut the lawn with my push mower and he angrily yelled at me, “Who do you think you are giving my kid a bike?”
“I don’t need it and she wanted it.”
“I don’t need it either,” he yelled and he threw the bike down in my front yard.

I don’t know if it was a coincidence or not but a few days later the girl’s father left his car running in his front yard and it somehow or other slipped into gear, crossed the street and it ran right into my bedroom knocking a hole in the wall only a couple of feet from my bed.

A few days later my kids wanted to have a yard sale and they put the bike on the freshly cut lawn with a sign that read $8.00.

The little girl from across the street came by and said she wished she had 8 dollars. I wanted to tell her to take the bike for free but who knows what her father might do next? The bike was one of the first things that someone else bought.

I lived across the street from the family for a few more years and I never saw the kids ride a bike again.

I guess the father would rather his kids did without having something they wanted than have someone else give it to them for free.

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The School Shootings

People are scratching their heads wondering why these school shootings are happening. And they are happening like crazy, 41 mass shootings at last count this year alone.

I’m going to be blunt and go right to the point, our society and our economic system is based upon selfishness and the concept of “watching out for number one.” That consciousness does not encourage cooperation. It encourages competition for everything from jobs, money, material goods and happiness. It also leaves out a whole lot of people. And what could be more selfish that going on a shooting spree and sadistically shooting a bunch of helpless, vulnerable people who have no way to defend themselves, like a bunch of innocent people at a school?

There are many people who are not happy in our society and they may be looking to target what they blame them for making them unhappy. They can become envious and jealous of people who are happy, including people who have kids doing well and are happy getting an education. And what’s the best way to cause the most hurt for those other people? Go after and hurt what matters most to them — and naturally for most people — that’s their children.
I won’t even go into how easy it is for just about anybody to get a gun or get an entire arsenal of guns, including military type assault rifles especially with the gun manufactures giving the National Rifle Association millions of dollars a year who in turn make “campaign contributions” to congress to keep the money rolling in. I’ll just talk about wealth distribution.
As of March 2012, Forbes notes how the unequal distribution of wealth is defined in real numbers. The top 1 percent of the American population is worth approximately 70 times the amount the remaining part of the population is worth financially and that causes those left behind to feel cheated and left out.
In the same article, Forbes reports that the average income of the upper class is $717,000, while the average income for the remaining 99 percent of the country is around $51,000 per year. Within the top 1 percent of the population, there is an even wealthier subset, approximately 0.1 percent, that has an average yearly income of over $27 million, approximately amount of resources, causing a vast difference in the living conditions between classes.
The New York Times notes that even though American productivity has risen since the 1930s, the value of wages in correlation with work has not. Profits make up the largest sector of the national income, encouraging the unequal distribution of wealth.
And because our economic system is based upon selfishness, people who feel left out and feel left behind and feel cheated, they may not don’t know what to do about it, but they know they are angry and they know guns are quite readily available. The school shooter in last week’s mass shooting had 14 guns at the ready and he was more than willing to use them.
So what’s to be done about this national tragedy? How hard is that to figure out? Either make guns at least as hard to get for the population who have mental health issues and who are angry and ready to use the guns against other people as it is for people to get a driver’s license by doing mental health evaluations or somehow make people who feel left out to feel less angry.
Or, to make the gun manufactures and the NRA happy, make it a law that everybody has to carry a gun, just like in the good old days of the wild west because it looks like that’s what the NRA and the gun lobby want and they’ll be more than happy to go along with it.
That way, when the next angry gun-slinger starts shooting innocent people (any moment now), he (yes, it’s always a guy) may think twice and not have to kill himself once he sees the police closing in because somebody else will probably be more than happy to do it for him.

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Look in any jewelry store window and you’ll see diamond rings priced at thousands of dollars.
Even at Costco you can easily pay $10,000.00 or more for a diamond ring. I mean, come on, who can really tell the difference between a real diamond and a fake one? If you need a professional jeweler with a magnifying glass to tell if a pretty rock is supposedly worth thousands of dollars or only worth 50 bucks, that’s crazy, isn’t it?
I happened to be in Jerusalem in 1978 and I wanted to bring home some souvenirs for family and friends. I bought some very beautiful hand crafted silver dangling earrings with pretty olive wood balls for my mom and my sister in laws.
I liked the pair I gave to one of my sister in laws so much that I hated to part with it but I gave it to her anyway. I could tell by the look she gave my brother that she thought it was something she didn’t want and I never saw her wear them.
I guess if I paid a lot of money for them my sister-in-law would have appreciated them.
I know a lady who inherited her mother’s wedding ring who’s father paid $10,000.00 for it years ago. Do you think it went up in value? No. The lady recently needed money so she went to a jewelry store to see if they would buy it. The guy at the jewelry store offered her $500.00 for it. She was shocked but she was finally able to sell it to someone else for $750.00.
Men are expected to spend most of their savings on a shiny piece of rock. I mean if they don’t spend at least a couple thousand bucks to demonstrate their love for their fiancé, they’re considered cheap. But wouldn’t it be better to invest that money in something that has real value, like maybe toward a down payment on a house?
But, no, men are snookered into trading a big chuck of cash for a little diamond ring that really isn’t much of an asset at all. It’s worse than buying a new car where as soon as you drive it off the car lot, it’s value is worth thousands of dollars less than you’re paying for it. But at least you can drive a car.
A diamond ring immediately loses more than 50% of it’s value once you walk out the door of the jewelry store.
Here’s the lowdown on diamonds: in 1938 DeBeers thought up a very successful marketing campaign telling people that diamonds are rare — but diamonds are not rare — DeBeers has been carefully restricting the supply of diamonds for years to keep the price of diamonds expensive.
Meanwhile every year thousand of American men feel the societal obligation to furnish a diamond engagement ring that is both stressful and expensive — especially when they’re usually young and their income isn’t all that high.
But here’s the thing – this obligation only exists because the company that stands to profit from it willed it into existence and we have fallen for it.
Maybe it’s time for us to will away the crazy idea that diamonds are rare and worth the hundreds of millions of dollars people are paying for them every year and go back to giving other, much more affordable jewelry to loved ones — like the ones I gave to my sister-in-law — or better yet — invest the money into something that is actually going to gain value and not just an inflated pretty rock.

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The Convenience of Internet Banking

The Convenience of Internet Banking

Rushing out the door to a class I teach 20 miles away I thought I’d first quickly pay a bill online.

It’s so convenient, you don’t have to bother going to the bank. Just do it online.

I get it done and rush to my class. Halfway though the class I think to myself, “Hey… didn’t I already pay that bill?”

After my class I rush back home and try to sign on to my email account but for some reason my usual email account is not working so I use Firefox to get to my bank’s Bill Payer and, yes, I did already pay that bill…I try to cancel it and up comes, “Bill is processing, cannot cancel this bill.”

I call the business I wrote the check to and get an answering machine. I leave a message asking them to call me back.

I call the bank and go through the obligatory 10 minute phone tree to get a live person. She asks my name. I give her my name. She asks my account number. I give it to her. She asks my birth day. I give it to her and she says, “I’m sorry sir, that’s not the date we have for you on file.”
“What? I think I know my own birthday.”
“Sorry sir, but you’ll have to come into the bank and change what we have on file.”
“I just drove the 20 miles back home from town.”
“Sorry, sir, if you can’t come in, you’ll have to call this 800 number.”
I call the 800 number and I have to go through another phone tree and I get, “All systems are busy. Please wait,” and I get to listen to commercials while I’m put on hold.

I wait several more minutes and Caller ID tells me the business I wrote the check to is calling back. I switch calls and try to explain to the business that I’ve already paid the bill.

What? You paid the same bill twice?”
“Ahhh…Well…yeah…I guess… I….did… pay the same bill twice.”
“Why’d you do that?”
“Well, I paid it over a month ago and I thought it was new bill that I owe you but I found out too late that I already paid this bill.”
“Okay, we’ll just keep the money for next time.”
“We’ll keep it safe for you here for your next bill.”
“You’re kidding.”
I switch back to the bank and I’m still on hold.

Meanwhile, due to all the confusion, I typed the wrong password into my email account and am now locked out of that too.

10 minutes later the bank says, “Sorry for the wait, sir.”
“No problem. I want to cancel a bill I paid 3 hours ago but I can’t seem to sign onto my account.”
“What’s your name?” I give it to her. “What’s your account number?” I give it to her.
What’s your birth day?”
I swallow hard and hope I haven’t forgotten my birth day.
I give her my birth day and expect the whole “Groundhog Day” process to start all over again but this lady says, “Thank you sir. Now you’ll have to logon and change your password.

I try to logon by using Firefox and not using my usual email account. Naturally everything is different and it’s hard to find where anything is. The lady talks me though it and I finally logon and suddenly it hits me, I was using my bank password for my email account and my email account password for my bank.
I have to change both passwords and hope that next time I log on, I remember which is which.

They say you shouldn’t use the same password for all the hundreds of accounts you have online but how many passwords can you remember and where are all the little pieces of paper you’ve written them all down on?

And now you hear there are thousands of viruses that you have to guard yourself against and that some viruses can see every key-stroke you make. They can go onto your online bank and drain your bank account.

How’s that for convenience?

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Touch It and See What Happens

I live in Forest Ranch surrounded by hundreds of tall pine and beautiful gnarly oak trees.

It’s very beautiful and peaceful and very nice and quiet with lots of open space all around us. From our house you can’t see any other manmade objects. All you can see is nature surrounding us. I love it very much all through winter, spring, summer and fall.

But speaking of fall, come October and November the leaves fall by the hundreds of thousands, which is also very beautiful.

The first few years living in the mountains I didn’t think much about all the leaves falling and collecting into a half a foot thick carpet of leaves on our property. I thought they’d just decompose and become good fertilizer.

But a few summers ago when the fires ravaged thousands of acres of the foothills surrounding us, Cal Fire came by and told me that I’d better get busy and rake up the tons of leaves and get rid of them off our property because they are a fire hazard and could cause a ground fire.

In 1972 I moved out of LA not only to get away from the congestion, the chaos and the hustle and bustle of the city but also to get out of the bad air quality.

I never dreamed that someday Chico and the surrounding air quality would be just as bad as LA is due to all the burning that’s done in Butte County. So, I felt I couldn’t add to it by burning the leaves that fall all over our property.

Instead I put a very large tarp on the ground and raked the leaves up onto it and dragged the tarp with the leaves on it a few hundred feet away onto what once was a dump.

There, the leaves become mulch and don’t contribute to the bad air quality of Butte County.

Believe it or not, leaves can weight a lot. I don’t mind the labor and the exercise to do the work. The problem is, besides a lot of trees and leaves up in the foothills, there is something else that grows wild like crazy. No, I’m not talking about marijuana. I’m talking about poison oak. It grows like there’s a poison oak farm up here. Which isn’t bad looking. It’s actually kind of pretty with the shiny read and green leaves and pretty little flowers. It’s healthy and happy and strong.

The only problem is what happens to me after I accidentally touch poison oak which I do every time. The next day my skin itches and burns like crazy and I can’t help but scratch and scratch and scratch it some more until my skin is red and raw.

Even in my sleep I scratch it until it sweats and bleeds and gets worse and worse until I promise myself that I’ll be sure to never touch any poison oak again for the rest of my life.

But then pretty soon, time goes by and pretty soon the leaves are falling again and pretty soon I forget about the poison oak and I’m out there raking up the leaves again and pretty soon I’m itching and scratching like crazy all over again.

Maybe it’s something like a women told me about giving birth, “At the time, it was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced but after a while, I forget and pretty soon another baby is on the way.”

Naa, it couldn’t be that. I must just need a better pair of glasses.

And here come the leaves.


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