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Archive for 'What Really Matters'

Drop the money off at my grave

February 18, 2013 by , under What Really Matters.


With Kate Bush on the stereo (“The Red Shoes”):   Outside, it’s chilly, rainy, gray, and windy.  Inside, it’s light, warm, dry, and Bushy. It hardly gets any better. I’ve had decent sales today from the moment I opened the computer. If it was like this every day, I might even get some retirement socked away…
…………Okay, let’s not get carried off. Kate does that to me.

There’s a young boy named “Justin” (about 10 years old), who lives nearby.  He stops to see me when he’s walking home from errands at 7-11. (He seems to buy a lot of Twinkies for his Mom.)  He loves my Miata sports car and is always bugging me to “drive it”.

“Yeh, right Justin, sure!!!”

I have fun with him about it. I keep throwing excuses at him, and he keeps coming back for more. Originally, I’d tell him things like “Okay, come back at 5:30 and we’ll discuss it…”… he’d light up… then realize I planned to be gone at 5:00. He no longer expects me to EVER say “yes” but my excuses must now be elaborate and creative since I used up all the easy ones a year ago.

We’ve built an entire Abbott and Costello routine.


“Okay Justin, you’re close enough to legal now I’ve decided you can drive my car to the corner and back… but first I’ll need a deposit in case something happens… and I’ll need a release form from your Mom, so send her by, let me discuss the “conditions” with her, and I’ll run it past my lawyer. If all that goes fine, we’ll look over my schedule – and YOURS of course.  I think about 11:00 a.m. on a weekday is best for me….”

“But I’m IN SCHOOL then!”

“…dang, THAT IS a problem. Okay, we’ll try another day, but get your Mom down here, and we’ll discuss the $10,000. deposit…”


“…Well yeh!  Plus she has to sign the release saying if you kill yourself not only do I get a NEW car but can’t be held responsible for your lousy driving… you know, like if you wreck and all we can find are a few little scraps of you that the street sweeper missed…”

“Aw, man!”

“Hey.  You don’t even know how to shift the gears, so we HAVE to look at these REAL possibilities, pal!”

Justin is black, short for his age, and sports a huge, 1970 style Afro hair do… you know, like twice the size of his head. I’ve always liked those ‘Fros, but on him – looking even younger than his age, short, with a happy face and eyes framed in silver wire-rimmed spectacles – it seems overworked. Justin may be considered a “nerd” within his school community. I don’t know. He’s too nice to be a “cool” guy associated with the “cool” crowd, I am sure. His Mom, a large woman about 30 years old, has walked by with her son many, many times. In good weather I might be outside basking in the sun or working but SHE has never acknowledged my existence… not to chat or even say hello… nothing. She seems angry and distrustful… won’t even make eye contact. I don’t take it personally. It could be a Man thing, it could be a White Man thing, it could be a Stranger thing.  I have no clue.

What surprises me is Justin has NOT absorbed her feelings and reflected them back at me. Nor have I ever seen a father figure anywhere near him, and he does not run with a crowd of boys having fun OR causing trouble.

“Man, I’m NEVER gonna get to drive your car!”

“…sure you ARE, Justin, but there are DETAILS that have to be worked out!”

“Well, how about if I bought it from you for like… a thousand dollars a year?”

“Hmmm… so what will you do, deliver the money to the graveyard?”


“Do the math, buddy! You’d owe me $23,000. That’s 23 years. You’d be delivering final payments to me with a shovel!  I’m more impatient than that!”



This is what we do. He’s a nice kid.




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………………………………………………………It’s Bullshit.

February 14, 2013 by , under What Really Matters.

 (Recalling 2003:) (Thank you to Bernadette Kinlaw for helping with this rewrite)


Reggie, one of FUTURES Antiques “pickers” delivered items for my inspection.  Some I liked, and, despite the nation’s poor economic conditions, he offered fair deals.  I need the inventory, and I wanted to help him, so I bought some things. But this is not why I’m writing.

We began talking.  He’s a hell of a nice guy.  Another customer was nearby, and the three of us started a long conversation. Reggie announced he’d finally begun receiving the monthly payments owed to him from the Veterans Administration.


They’ve been putting him off — stalling him — since 1976, when he came home from Vietnam.


He’s not bitter or angry. I would be.  I have been and am, because of what I saw happen to friends and acquaintances who went to Vietnam.  These men returned filled with fear, delusions, hate, violence, and addiction to admininstered drugs.  Or, returned in a pine box. In the 1960s and 70s I was against that war and prepared to deny the draft.  Now I was talking with a man who served in the Marines, LEAD everyone else into that Hell.

The paperwork for Reggie’s service from 1970 to 1976 was finally approved in 2000, 24 years after he came home.  Three more years passed before he began receiving his rightful, monthly benefits. Oh, but DON’T think the benefits are retroactive to when he came home from the war in 1976.   No, benefits only begin upon approval and activation of paperwork.  THAT is 2003, NOT when he left Vietnam.  As we talked, I became angrier.  Reggie practically had to calm me down.

We’re the same age but I DON’T have Agent Orange in my lungs and cells. I didn’t go to Vietnam. I don’t carry the unimaginable images, sounds, and odors in my head.  He did, and he does.

I said, “Let me ask you something – and you don’t have to answer if you don’t want.”

Reggie said, “Okay.”

“IF you could go back to 1970, would you do things differently?


He’d already thought about it.  He didn’t hesitate.

“Yes, I’d take the 4 years of prison. time instead, even with all the problems that follow you through life with a record like that…  I’d do it that way because of what I know now. They lied to us, they took away what was promised, they treated us badly even before we got home. You think we didn’t know we were being sprayed with Agent Orange? We knew. We didn’t know it was as bad as it was, but we knew. We did what we were told. When they said, ‘Kill anything that moves from this line, north,’ we did it. After we were done, then the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard came in for clean up. No one communicated worth a damn. Because of that, one in every 4 or 5 of our men were killed from ‘friendly fire’… our own guns… target coordinates were screwed up… bombs were sent in… and we took the hits.”

The other man listened closely. His father served in Vietnam and was then laid up for years from Agent Orange, while our government denied the facts and those affected.  For decades, Agent Orange was a “classified secret”.  Allow me to translate:  “Keep denying these soldiers – delay – wait for them to die – to die on the vine waiting for their help.  We can’t AFFORD to pay out all those benefits.  Leave them hanging.  To Hell with them.  Again.” 

But, it’s no longer a secret.  (No thanks going to the bureaucrats on our payroll). Is ANYONE WITHIN THE SYSTEM informing our youth, our fresh soldiers in our newest “political unrest” what they will face not only in battle but (if they’re lucky) when they return home?  If they make it back, they’ll still be facing the same lousy bureaucratic odds.

I am ANGRY. I want SOMEONE to do a feature article on this… then I want someone else to do one… and then someone else to do another.  I don’t want this to go away.  I don’t want this to be a fad.  I don’t want one more soldier treated poorly after doing what WE ASKED OF him.


You can bet someone out there is going to say:

 “Hey, I DIDN’T ask them to risk a thing!”




I tried using that same detached argument years ago.

 It’s bull shit.  We all play a part.  We all are responsible.



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It was glorious and we knew it

February 5, 2013 by , under What Really Matters.


I’m listening to “Jethro Tull” on the stereo. For all the recognition they received, it still seems less than they deserve. They were one sophisticated group of musicians.

In the early 1970’s, I helped jockey discs for friends at an independent FM radio station. They liked how I lined up music for an evening. Being left to our own devices, we truly “ran the show”. I loved doing it, and this gave the real DJ’s a break.

It was SUCH a pleasure to receive the latest Jethro Tull, Jimmie Spheeris, Stevie Wonder, Blind Faith, Melanie, Mark & Almond, Joe Cocker, Marvin Gaye, or Led Zeppelin vinyl! They were shipped to the station, free, as promotions. Sure, also sent was LOTS of junk, but, if you had the patience, previewing crate loads of mystery-albums could offer up a new, waiting-to-be-discovered genius.

When we found one – a perfectly cut gem mixed in with the mud such as Jimmie Spheeris’ first album “Isle of View” – oh MAN did we play it! Since NO ONE told US how to run the show, if we played a cut and liked it, we played the entire side, and if we liked that we flipped it over and played the entire “B” side, and if we wanted to hear the “A” side again, we flipped it over right then!! And you know what? No one EVER

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called to complain. We received nothing but compliments and support.

It was a GLORIOUS opportunity. It was glorious and we KNEW IT even THEN. It was a period of time in OUR lives which we could NOT take for granted. We celebrated that time AT that time.


Watch for them now in YOUR time.





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Defending you against you

February 4, 2013 by , under What Really Matters.

While playing at being a “dj” (helping my real radio DJ pals), I was an Art major at

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Colorado State Univ.. I lived outside of town (Ft. Collins) with Khismarr, my Afghan Hound, in a homey, old 1957 trailer.

In the previous post, I mentioned how my good friends and I KNEW, RIGHT THEN, and WITHOUT A DOUBT – we were living in the middle of OUR VERY OWN “Classic” phase of Life. SUCH an exciting feeling! However, I also felt I was outgrowing C.S.U. and needed new, more intense challenges from professors. By that time, my challenges and support were coming from nurtured relationships with good friends – few of whom were fellow Art majors. “Area of study” could not have mattered less.

Creativity is CreAtivity is CrEaTiVity. These good friends did not need the ability to say “Well, have you tried upping the ratio of nitric acid to water by 8 percent when etching a softground on magnesium?” That was my solo job and pleasure. I didn’t tell them how to study biology or psychology. What we DID DO for one another was question MODES…

“AND JUST WHY is it you’re supposed to AVOID the use of WORDS in a drawing?”

“What might happen to your psych group if you met at each other’s homes instead of the classroom, and you served wine & coffee?”

“Who SAID you can’t broadcast this album immediately again? It’s great. TRY IT!”

“Sure, I’ll help you catch snakes for your Bio experiment!”

First and foremost, Best Friends defend you against YOURSELF, and secondarily against others. They don’t let you get lazy, nor do they let you go over the Edges you find.

They ask you to:

- grow,
- share it along the way, and
- defend them too.

What a joy.




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I’m tired of being me

November 7, 2012 by , under What Really Matters.

I said I’m tired of being me!

For the moment then, I’ll be someone else.

I’ll be… someone… someone I know well enough that I’m not just making it all up. I’ll take on some of his or her life, and live it for awhile. Yeh, that’s what I’ll do. It’ll give me a chance to rest up…

I’ll rise early in the morning and go through lots of appearance rituals demanded by my job. I will deal with a staff of people that are always a mixed bag of nuts. (My “rest up” will come a little later, I guess…) I’ll receive a steady paycheck and the feeling of security that comes with it. I won’t need to worry day and night about a self-built, self-owned, low-demand/high maintenance business so often attacked by a feral public that insurance companies drop me. True, I must still deal with the public and intermediates – often flakey, incompetent, and self-absorbed – but I am good at my job and my boss recognizes it. Plus, I’m able to leave the company’s 24/7 concerns in the hands of the owners. I get to simply drive away.

I will go home at the end of the day and usually be greeted at the door by my mate – who is not a drug addict, child molester, thief, spouse beater, drunk, gambler, or adulterer who brings home terrible diseases of the body & spirit. Sure, we have our problems yet they are mild compared to what I KNOW is possible “out there.” Even then, I will sometimes behave as though our problems are monstrosities. I won’t like myself – or anyone else – when I behave this way.

I will lose my mate much too early. I will go home each night, and no one will be waiting for me. I want to believe I am being watched over but struggle with these ideas. I become more and more grateful for my friends. I know they love me. I do not like rejoining the dating “scene,” but I am not the type who wants to be alone. Sometimes I wish I were.

I try explaining to my children why their other parent is not often happy and always tired. I wonder how I would ever manage to raise them properly if we were left alone. This is NOT the way I wanted to learn a deeper appreciation for my mate.

I will make poor decisions that leave me distrusting others as though they were the cause of my problems. I will not recognize how easy some things have come to me. I’ll take them for granted and expect this to always be the norm. I will eventually have to learn how to count my blessings… and believe in myself at a much deeper level. This will not come easy.

I will carry in me an anger I do not understand. It will eat at my spirit every day, and I will try spitting it out at others. I know what happened in years gone by but I cannot afford to downgrade the only past I believe was given me.

I feel I have almost enough money to be happy.

I will flounder on my chosen paths, often doubting that they have been the correct choices. While this consumes me, I will not enjoy my time or my people. My unhappiness will seem to confirm I made poor choices.

I cannot see the forest through the trees.


This was no “rest” at all.

The grass is not always greener in the forest with the silver lining…

It IS interesting to do this, and you need only travel outside your own life for a short time before you’re willing to come back with

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a revived appreciation for EXACTLY what YOU’VE CREATED, and, this reminder:



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It’s all we really have…

October 1, 2012 by , under Larger Forces at Work, What Really Matters.


Overdosing on coffee this morning with a good friend, we discussed “Communication”. To me, Communication is actually “Comparison”.  This is a “vision” I’ve held for a long, long time.  This core belief guided my Thesis and, since my Thesis was an honest part of my Life, “comparison” is how I understand most everything.

Comparison is the mode within which we try to understand.  You speak, I speak, you respond, I respond… each of us describing OUR own world and then weighing it against the others’. We WORK our way TOWARDS one another…  It’s all we have.



It’s sometimes hard enough just to LIVE through each of our days. To OBSERVE them is added work. To CONSIDER them asks even more of us. CULLING OUT the reasonable thoughts are more work yet. To EXPRESS those select ideas to your SELF – further effort. And, to find the means of sharing them with ANOTHER – it is downright tough, and sometimes impossible.

Still, REACTING is only a start, not an end.

Call it “debate”, “chit chat”, “comparison”, or, if you insist, “communication”, I don’t care… but mere reaction is not enough.



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September 21, 2012 by , under What Really Matters.

For upcoming Halloween 2012

Halloween, like most of my childhood, holds good memories. Here are a few kid-mems of Halloween:

- My brother wore those lightweight, dimestore costumes like a Gorilla or Skeleton, and he thought he was real “scary!” He said he wanted to grow up and BE a Skeleton. I used to laugh and say “YOU WILL!!!!” but my folks would hush me, and ask that I “Don’t say things like that to your little brother!”

- Let’s face it: it’s ALL about free, sugar (candy) !!!!

- There was one stop on the next street over where the adults went WAY out of their way to scare us kids every year… and it was WONDERFUL. The house was always pitch black. Always looked like no one was home. We always knew better. Knock… and wait. Knock again… Start getting nervous… Eventually these crazy adults dressed as really scary creeps would bust out at us, screaming and flailing like they were going to kill us. It was SWEEEEEEEEEEET. We ran for our lives. Every year.

- When me and my best buddies (Ray and Kenny) reached the age of

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10 we began “smoking”. We’d wrap a tight layer of newspaper around a short piece of cotton rope, scotch tape it at the “filter” end, and light them. These “roperettes” would smoulder for hours, and we would walk around puffing on the nasty things, thinking we were cool. The rope smoke would singe our tongues and we couldn’t taste anything for days after. We’d dress as “Beatniks”. I put my rope-cig in a long, “Beatnik” cigarette holder one year. Extra cool.

- One year we ventured out of our neighborhood. Did people celebrate Halloween 4 blocks away? Turns out, they did! We’d been pondering the TRUE MEANING of “TRICK or treat”… and decided to try the TRICK part. In the Foreign neighborhood was a porch with candle-illuminated, carved pumpkin heads. We snuck up, lifted the huge vegetables high above our heads, smashed them onto the cement porch, and ran like Hell. Someone screamed something from somewhere, and we exploded into sprints toward the woods that separated Home from this foreign land. In the total dark, across unfenced and unexplored backyards, through gardens… at high speed… WHAM! WHAM!! WHAM!!! – all three of us hit the ground with such unexpected force that no breath was left in us – having tripped over a low, invisible wire tightly stretched around a vegetable garden. It may have saved us. Lying there in the garden, unable to move, we were out of sight long enough to gather our senses, and sneak back home… with vegetable stains all over the front of our Beatniks…

- Another year, up on the next block was a house that we never did figure out… We didn’t know who lived there, and once up on the porch, things just felt “weird” – “bad” – “evil”… We could see through the large front window, into the living room, which was dark and deserted. A harsh light was on in the back kitchen. We could see shadows moving about. The place looked upset. No one would come to the door.


We ran home, told our parents, they didn’t believe us, and no news stories ever came out about what REALLY happened. I bet it was covered up because it was SO HORRIBLE.

- We saw someone perform the “Flaming bag of dog shit” trick on a porch. A wooden porch. Okay, me, Ray, and Kenny were pretty goofy, but not intentionally MEAN. We decided that was too uncool and too dangerous. We never did that stunt. We had ethics.

- It was reported in the City News that some adult man, not too far from where we lived (but in the Foreign Zone), gave out “Ex-Lax” as candy. This was the lowest, most depraved, anti-social Halloween event any of us had ever almost-personally experienced. How could ADULTS behave so badly? We didn’t understand. No one did. God bless our Midwest upbringing in the 1950’s.

- Every kid in every classroom gave out little Halloween cards to each other. You just DID. Class cards were part of Christmas and Valentine’s Day, too. It felt good to give cards to school friends you didn’t hang out with.

- I honestly NEVER remember my folks or my friend’s folks tagging along behind us (when we were very young, not yet smoking rope) – while Trick or Treating. They were there… but we were SO LOST in our candy-begging frenzy, there was NOTHING else in our moment but the next door the next candy drop the next yard the next thankyou the next run to the next stop… always the next stop for the next fist full of candy corn… darn! Candy Corn? ON TO THE NEXT DOOR!!!!!!

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Tagging Thoughts

September 12, 2012 by , under What Really Matters.





– The cello is the saddest sounding musical instrument of all.
– I went “steady” for the first time in 5th grade. Her name was Daun Young. Lovely name, lovely girl, and she played the cello – but she was too silly for me. We broke up.
– Sometimes I wouldn’t quit working in the Graduate printmaking studios until dawn. I loved hearing Arizona Mourning Doves coo in the cool morning. They sound peaceful and gray.
– When very young, I practiced endlessly with my slingshot. I was very good. One afternoon, while sitting on the front porch of my home, I “tested” my talents. Two houses away was a Robin busy hopping about on the lawn looking for food. I chose a projectile for the leather tab of my slingshot, pulled back the strong rubber straps, took slow aim, and snapped a release. With a sudden burst of loose feathers, the Robin popped up into the air, and fell to the ground.
I froze. It didn’t move.
I knew immediately this was not what I wanted – yet I had caused it. I didn’t have the courage to go over to the bird. I sat, staring. It felt like an hour. No one saw me take the shot but my concern had nothing to do with punishment from an adult. Then the Robin began moving, flopped to its feet, and made a short flight to the high branches of a summer tree – to recuperate.
I never again took aim at a life – and I hope I never must.
– While a Graduate Teaching Assistant, I taught two lower division classes of Intaglio Printmaking. One of my students – a short, cute, perky woman (about age 20) – introduced herself by the nickname “Ry”. Since I was in charge of enrollment, etc., I asked for her official name. “Robin,” she replied. The weeks passed, and, late at night while working on my own art in the Printmaking studios at school, Ry showed up looking frightened and out of breath. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “I’m on foot and a man has been following me.” “Do you know who it is?” “Yes, one of my customers. He has a weird crush on me.”
Long story short, she was paying her way through school as a “sex worker”. One of her “johns” wanted something more and she was afraid he would hurt her. She stayed with me while I worked, and then I took her home.
– In hi-skool, I spent a lot of time with one of my best pals – a smart, talented, good looking, cheer leading, class officer – a truly sweet girl named Julie. Unlike so many relationships during those years, there was no sexual tension between us. No “Will we ever date, will we ever kiss?” business. We just hung out. We were buds. I called her “JIK”, she called me “RYE”. Our name’s initials sounded like that when pronounced. It was that simple.
Julie had a slightly younger, retarded brother. It was through my friendship with Julie and her family I learned to count a few more blessings and not fear those different than myself. They used Patience at such a high level, I also learned I had no idea what capacities I too might eventually reach.
Before we graduated, Julie’s brother was left unattended for just one moment – at home – and drowned in his bath water.
- In the fields and woods around my boyhood home grew a cornucopia of wild foods. I could be gone all day doing woodsie boy-things, alone or with friends, and when hungry eat sweet fruits from one of the many free sources. Wild apples, wild strawberries, wild grapes, wild plums, wild sassafras root and wild onion (loved the smell, skipped the eating), wild mulberries… It was Boy-Heaven.
I wore a tightly notched, beaded “indian” (tourist) belt that served as the rack for my slingshot, bb’s, hunting knives (plural), hatchet, compass, and quiver full of steel tipped arrows. (The bow went over my shoulder.) The belt also held up what were, by then, VERY weighted pants.
My “tools” remained sheathed as I watched the mice, snakes, gophers, squirrels, crickets, grasshoppers, and birds. It was their field as much as mine…

The late summer field Cricket is the saddest sounding animal of all.





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What exactly IS the “Past” anyhow?

September 11, 2012 by , under Larger Forces at Work, What Really Matters.




I just spent two hours with videos of the attacks on 9-11-01.  Instead of viewing the collection I own, this time I went to YouTube for footage I had not seen.

Why?  Never do I want to feel any aesthetic distance as I view this horrific day.

Never do I want to forget.

I sit here today full of anger and sadness. I want to cry for all the victims and their remaining families and friends – AND I want more payback.

On that day eleven years ago, I wanted SOMEONE to call up any and all military and civilian volunteers ready to hunt down and kill any surviving planner-murderers. I was ready. In my anger, I would have gone. Me… with my lousy back and asthma. Me… with a revolver. I was ready to say goodbye to my Wife. … Just give me the chance to eliminate anyone who could make another attempt at mass execution of our innocents. I wanted swift revenge. I was ready to hunt and die for it.

Under the circumstances, I would’ve probably hampered not helped… but such was my anger.

Instead, I watched, listened, waited, and hoped. And, for the first time in my life, I hung our flag outside with feelings of defiance, sadness, and unity.

That has not changed.


Yes, Life goes on. The tragedies do not stop, people are born and people die, and, in between, all people suffer through part of their lives… but I do not move on with a singularly forward vision. I’m always checking my rear view mirror no matter how heavy the traffic ahead of me. It’s just the way I am.

And you?

Now, I’m not referring only to 9-11-01. A lot of my time in life has been spent preparing the past and the present for the future. It is in my journals and sometimes in my art, it built my careers, my writing, my concern for family history…

Some of us seem to be here to give attention and testament to the transitions larger than our singularity. Most people seem to do this through creating children. I would think this Act of Family causes a large shift of focus away from the past, an intense focus on the present, and a quiet gaze on the future as you move forward with your young ones.

Time has never been so singularly directed for me. I slip and slide back and forth between the past and the future, with occasional pauses in the present. It takes beautiful weather, a good cup of coffee, or watching someone / something else in real life to slow or stop me within the moment.

But today is not like every other day.

Do you know what I mean?

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September 11, 2012 by , under What Really Matters.


September 11, 2012.  Today, here on the East Coast of America, it is as sunny and the sky is as blue as it was eleven years ago.


Today, I’m thinking of taking the opportunity to drive my sky blue convertible as I did yesterday… an option many people no longer have.

Today, people will be working at their jobs or in their yards or going to the beach or antiquing in the city or going to their synagogues or local theaters or their favorite coffee shops or public parks. Some will be sliding needles into their arms or pointing guns at Quickie Mart attendants and taxi cab drivers.

Today, we – the survivors – again have the luxurious choice to continue as we are… or change.

Today, with a little luck, we – the living – face only our own self-destructive tendencies and not those of outsiders.

Bless this freedom.