Friday, September 30, 2011


Dolores' birthday is October 2, Sunday, and so I am thinking about her death, and the memorial we held for her. I always enjoyed her mother's book, "The Winds Erase Your Footprints." It's a true story her mother wrote about her best friend who married a Navajo man and went to live on the reservation during the Great Depression.

(You can read my Memorial to Dolores at and clicking Memorial).
We read passages from the book when we had a "63rd birthday commemoration" for Dolores.

Here is a passage. (The book can be obtained anywhere, plus at the Store at

Here is what I read, from Chapter 7, The Sing:

And then Shimah was telling him about the yellow pollen. Juanita could almost follow the story by her mother-in-law's excited gestures. Shimah's face was strong and tense, no room for gentleness, and her voice carried a new undertone--like fear. Only her hands seemed natural, although excited, as she gestured. Strange that Shimah should tell about the yellow pollen, rather than ask the rider about himself, about news which he was surely carrying. Of what interest could the yellow pollen be to him?
But he was interested. He leaned forward as though better to hear her words; his eyes narrowed and his face looked very grave. He asked many questions. Shimah answered and sometimes Yee-ke-nes-bah. Through their conversation one word seemed to repeat itself until it began to echo and re-echo in Juanita's mind: ma-itso . . . ma-itso.
...And then Lorencito began to talk seriously to Luciano; Juanita heard the work ma-itso repeated again and again. Shimah sat nodding her head as her oldest son talked, occasionally adding a word to what he was saying. Luciano turned to Juanita; his face was marked with gravity as was his older brother's. "Lorencito says that it is not safe to keep this from you any longer; I should tell you now."
Juanita waited. Her mouth and throat felt suddenly dry. She could not have spoken. Her thoughts raced: this is in some way connected, ma-itso and yellow pollen. Perhaps it's all connected, all of the puzzling and unexplained things that have happened. And somehow, the looks on their faces, Shimah's and Lu's, Yee-ke-nes-bah's and Lorencito's, are a little bit frightening.
"Before we came here," her husband began, "when I tried to tell you about everything which might seem strange to you, I didn't tell you about ma-itso--the wolf clan. One reason, it no longer seemed as believable to me as it once had; perhaps all the years in school did that; anyhow, in Hollywood I seldom thought of it. When we came here, my mother told me the wolf clan was still strong in CaƱoncito. I didn't tell you then because I could see no reason why they would try to harm us. But to be sure you were safe, my mother and sisters watched you every minute.
"There were times when I almost told you, those times when you were upset about things you didn't understand. And yet I hated to frighten you needlessly. Already there was so much for you to worry about. It seemed better to wait until I had a job, until we were living in town and then tell you. "But now two things have happened which make me sure the ma-itso is for some reason after us. I found yellow pollen in an X mark on my hat brim, and today my mother found pollen on our clothes. That is their warning. Lorencito thinks you will be safer if you know about this evil thing." A hundred questions sprang to Juanita's lips, but her husband went on talking, interrupted now and then by Lorencito or his mother.
"The wolf clan is as old as the Navajo tribe. From the beginning some men turned certain powers, which should have been used for good, toward evil things. Corn pollen, used for blessing, is used by the ma-itso as a warning to a person marked for death. And death does not come in a usual manner; it comes in a round-about way which cannot be easily traced. The victim sickens suddenly; sometimes his mind leaves him. No Medicine Man can cure him. Sometimes the victim meets with a mysterious and fatal accident.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Goodbye Jonathan

June 18, 1982 – September 1, 2011

Nine of us stood there at dusk on Sunday at the intersection of Baldwin and Palm in Arcadia. It was where my nephew Jonathan died in a motorcycle accident the previous Thursday.

He was driving north-bound on Baldwin when man driving westbound on Palm turned onto Baldwin. He crossed Baldwin to go south, but he probably didn’t see Jonathan. The impact killed Jonathan instantly and the small SUV was toppled, with the driver dying later in the hospital.

We friends and family members stood by the make-shift shrines erected by Jonathan’s friends. In the middle of the street, on the traffic island, were signs and letters to Jonny. On the sidewalk at the base of the traffic light were a dozen or so candles, a small motorcycle, others trinkets, lots of flowers, and many good wishes written in chalk on the sidewalk and curb.

We talked about what happened, or, how we thought it might have happened. I took photos. Then I noticed all the various colored spray paint marks in the middle of the street. They were the marks made by the police to define the accident scene. Richard and I tried to figure out what the markings meant. We couldn’t figure it all out, but we thought we recognized marks for the main part of the motorcycle. We stared at a spot where Jonny apparently fell.

The sky was red with awesome clouds, and drops of rain had begun falling lightly. Rain, any rain, was a rarity in early September in California. As we silently stood, we listened for Jonny as the cars roared by. I heard Richard continuing to describe what happened, and listened to his hopes that somehow it was all a dream and Jonny would ride up their driveway on the motorcycle. The sky began to light up in an electrical storm. These were huge flashes of multi-branched light quickly followed by the crack of thunder. I took it to be Jonny’s goodbye to all of us who stood there honoring his last stand, where his 29 years ended.

I reflected on the few but happy interactions I had with Jonathan. Helen and I last saw him at Tina Frausto’s Fouth of July party in Altadena. He was there with motorcycle helmet in hand. He was happy and we enjoyed our short talk.

I remember when I went to a mailbox shop one day in Sierra Madre when I needed something notarized. The man behind the counter smiled as he refused my money for his work. It was Jonny who recognized me. He was happy, and smiled in his generosity. He always seemed so happy to see me, even though we only saw one another very seldom. I’d always hoped that I’d have the time, or make the time, to develop a closer relationship with my nephews and nieces. Now there would be no more chance with Jonny.

I knew through his father – my brother Richard – that Jonny loved bikes and motorcycles from an early age, and that he was – like his two brothers Michael and Jeffrey – a whiz when it came to the technical things like computers.

I wish I could have known him better. Now it is too late.

I know the pain too well of losing someone we love. When my wife Dolores died, I felt empty and lost and depressed for a long time, and close friends offered me much support. Now is the time for friends and family to do all they can to offer your loving support and physical support to Richard and his family.

After Dolores died, my mentor shared with me something to keep in mind with all our living loved ones. This is an urging for how all of us should begin interacting with each other, all the time.


This could be the last time that I see you;
either you or I could die before we meet again;
so please know that I deep-admire your admirable traits
and laud your ceaseless efforts to perfect your soul
and elevate your character (and that of everyone you interact with).
I hope we interact again (in this life or the next);
but if we don’t
I want that you should know
my heart has been enriched by having had you in my life
and hereby do I wish you Godspeed
in your up-and-onward sojourn through Eternity.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Labor Day 2011

A review of “Razor’s Edge”

We were in a small field and a small stream was trickling by. We created an ember with a bow and drill, and then put the ember into a wad of mugwort. We blew it into a flame, and then created our small fire between two rocks. We balanced a #10 can over the rocks, and heated water. Soon, we added coffee grounds to the water, and then strained our coffee through a clean sock into each of our cups. The hobo coffee was delicious and then we began to warm our stew made from beans and wild greens.

It was Labor Day in Highland Park, and we gathered for the annual WTI event [] to discuss the meanings of “real labor,” and to consider why we do what we do all life long, and whether or not there are better alternatives. Our focus was upon those peripatetics throughout history who could not go along with their society’s norm, who knew there was a better way, and who worked to share this insight with their fellow man.

Such peripatetics could have included Jesus, Socrates, Ghandi, Pythagoras, and many others.

As we enjoyed our coffee and beans, we moved to a nearby makeshift shelter where an outdoor TV had been set up. We sat in the shade as we viewed and discussed the original version of “Razor’s Edge.”

The story begins in 1919, post World War I, where the author Somerset Maugm, describes one of the most unusual individuals he’d ever encountered. The main character, Larry, survived the last battles of WWI, but his fellow soldier, right next to him, was shot dead. That caused an indelible mark in Larry, and it led him on his search for the meaning of life, his life, life in general. It meant Larry found himself unable to settle down, and wandered to Paris, and to a monastery in India. Meanwhile, we see what happens to Larry’s childhood friends as they pursue their ordinary life, the very life they wanted for Larry.

I first viewed this movie when it was on TV in the middle of the night, a restless night when I could not sleep and I was asking the very questions that Larry asked himself. What is this all about? Why do I do what I do? What should I do? Why is everyone so unhappy with me if I do not do as they want?

The original black and white version of “Razor’s Edge” remains an inspiring classic, and I strongly recommend that you view it, and put yourself in Larry’s shoes.
Did Larry ever find his answers? He said he found some of his answers, though not all, and that he might never find all his answers. But while in India, while alone outdoors as the rising sun made its appearance, he experienced what some would call a Oneness with The All, and felt that he were a part of God. It was an experience that he could barely describe in words, and one which he thought back to often.

That was what I did on Labor Day.