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Blue Spider's Coffee House

Truth, Love, Beauty and all things Virtuous

Month

July 2016

Run Rabbit Run

las vegas m&msDuring my recent stay in Las Vegas I stayed at the Gold Coast Hotel Casino, a casino that I found out was extremely popular among seniors and Asians. I choose it because it was one of the cheaper hotels near the Strip and I kind of regret the decision. Apart from a lack of fancy good shops, it ended up being was one of the smokier hotels I’ve stayed at. Everyone seemed to have had a fag dangling from their mouths on the casino floor as they tried again and again to defy the laws of probability. Me, I am not a big fan of losing my money and that is one of the reasons I don’t gamble. I know, you are saying but Dale losing seems to be a common theme of your life. Well, that is partly true but there is a big difference between not liking to lose and being a six-time loser. Just because I lose half the time, it doesn’t mean I like it.

For some strange reason I was given a handicapped room when I never requested one and didn’t know why they were wasting one on me when clearly there were others more deserving. Nonetheless, it wasn’t too much of a hardship except for mastering the detachable shower head, which only took two days and one flooded bathroom floor before I figured it out.

Conversations on the Flight Home

The flight home was delayed by about 3 ½ hours. I found an empty gate and occupied most of my time reading Daniel Silva’s The English Girl. The only interruption was when a large Indian family sat next to me despite the gate area being nearly empty. This lasted for about 10 minutes and after they were discussing whatever it was they needed to discuss they left just as abruptly as they had come.

At about 9:20pm our plane finally landed. My boarding pass was B42 which was good enough to get the last window seat on the plane which is better than the last middle seat. Speaking of the middle seat, I was privy to the conversation of the other two passengers in my row. They were about as different as two people could be, but that really didn’t come out until we were near the end of the flight. The two went through the usual questioning. She was a high school Spanish teacher from Louisville, recently married. She and her husband had meet in Denton, Texas working for their church and were going to Reno to pick up a car.

The young man, a beardless boy, was from Los Angeles and once was a male model and now owned his own production company. He was recently divorced from his Columbian partner, but they still remained good friends. They chatted on for a while and as we got closer to Reno the young lady asked more about the young man’s work at the point he explained he had been an adult male model and he made adult movies with other male models in other words, our young man was the Lord of Gay Porn. After that they didn’t dig into his business ventures anymore and the topic changed as did the energy of the conversation.

Music

Here are some recent picks:

1. Please Read the Letter by Robert Plant and Allison Krauss
2. Sweet Honey by Slightly Stoopid
3. Iao Bacio…Tu Baci by the Noisettes
4. So Very Hard to Go by the Tower of Power
5. Truth by Alexander

The Story of John Alden and Priscila Mullins and other sides of our lesser known families

John Alden and Priscilla Mullins Good

 Up until recently I had never heard of the Courtship of Miles Standish written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1858. This poem popularized the love story of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins and tells of the rivalry between Miles Standish and John Alden for her hand. When I asked my wife if she had ever heard of the Courtship of Miles Standish she said had learned it in elementary school.

Now I have to admit my memory is not very good when it comes to my childhood and my wife has Rain Man like memory about her childhood so it’s not surprising when her memory is better than mine. But, down deep I think it is more than that. I don’t think I got a proper education when I was young. I was robbed. The blame doesn’t lie with my parents, but I think my years in elementary school where the beginning of the new politically correct education. Not the blatant re-writing that is done now, but the subtle exclusion, instead of inclusion, of great stories and great writing from our educations. But, that’s okay the adventure of finding these pieces of literature as an adult is fun.

I would have never learned of this had I not been doing some genealogy. In our family we make a lot of our Danish history (well, I do) through my Dad’s side of the family, but through his mother’s side we have varied history including a streak of Irish in our blood, but also through her side of the family we have some direct ties to several of the Mayflower pilgrims, the most famous being John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. I thought this was pretty cool and unique, until I read that millions of Americans are related to Alden family, including Longfellow. Still I consider it a pretty cool discovery.

“No man can gather cherries in Kent at Christmas time”

 John Alden, from Southampton, was a hired as a “barrel-maker” for the Mayflower and Priscilla Mullins came over with her family, but her mother and father died during the first winter after their arrival. Apparently she was quite a looker and according to legend after Miles Standish lost his first wife he had designs on Priscilla Mullins and requested that John Alden, a much younger man, speak on his behalf to Priscilla. Despite having feeling for Ms. Mullins himself, John Alden obeyed dutifully but as he was speaking for Priscilla Mullins she interrupted him to ask “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?”

And thus began the great love story of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins who ended up establishing the town of Duxbury, Massachusetts and having 10 children.

Food Wonderful Food: Cold Jellies and Custards

Tammy and I got to participate in the Taste of Downtown. We sampled a lot of good food, but by far the best was Lady Tamale’s samples. We tried to go light this week, with an emphasis on tried. The other night Tammy prepared an Israeli salad with Shawarma Chicken. The chicken was prepared in a rub of garlic, cumin, coriander, all-spice, turmeric, ginger and cayenne. I took my turn a couple of nights earlier and prepared a shrimp avocado salad with a lime cilantro dressing. Mine was a lot simpler since my cooking skills are lacking. I bought a bag of prepared kale salad with pumpkin seeds and cranberries and then dumped the shrimp and avocado on it. It was pretty good if I might say so.

Blind Willie Johnson: The Soul of a Man

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Won’t somebody tell me, answer if you can!
Want somebody tell me, what is the soul of a man
I’m going to ask the question, answer if you can

If anybody here can tell me, what is the soul of a man?
I’ve traveled in different countries, I’ve traveled foreign lands
I’ve found nobody to tell me, what is the soul of a man

I saw a crowd stand talking, I came up right on time
Were hearing the doctor and the lawyer, say a man ain’t nothing but his mind
I read the bible often, I tries to read it right

As far as I can understand, a man is more than his mind
When Christ stood in the temple, the people stood amazed
Was showing the doctors and the lawyers, how to raise a body from the grave

How Strange is the Heart of Man

Let’s face it charity is tough business for most of us. It sits at the apex of all of the other virtues and ergo the hardest one to master. There are the occasional uncommon mortals we know who are truly charitable. No, I am not talking about those who wrap themselves in emotionalism, outrage porn or fake outrage about “news” on the Internet. Charity is not an “expression of a vehement point of view”. And, I am not talking about those who advocate for a Rube Goldberg array of government programs and more investments.  That’s something else, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but it is definitely not charity and it is not unconditional love. Charity after all is transitive and personal and cannot be carried out from comforts of our lofty places.

Rube Goldberg

What I am talking about is that quaint version of socialism, without the endless social engineering, where individuals willingly, quietly and simply take care of their family, friends, and neighbors. What I am talking about is honest to goodness true charity. I am talking about those people who naturally love working with the elderly , the handicap, the poor, the stranger-the least among us warts and all even when they are beggarly, dirty, funky smelling, rude, mean, profligate, and ungrateful.  I am referring to those people who at a drop of a hat will make meals for neighbors or friends when they are sick or down on their luck. They are those people who decide to learn to quilt, can or make gooseberry jams and jellies with the sole goal of sharing with other folks. They are those people whose whole lives seem to be one simple act of kindness and patience. They only see the good in others. They realize that we are not alone in this world and truly see us all as brothers and sisters. We know these people and they are not us, they are strangers in our midst. It is their virtue and their goodness that keeps our societies civil as Elder Neal A. Maxwell once stated:

“There is a critical mass of basically good people which is essential to the functioning of any society or culture. The exact number cannot be mathematically determined by us, but without this critical mass the world rapidly deteriorates. These good people give more to society than they demand of it. Though imperfect themselves, they furnish not only the goods, but the good will, without which little could be done for others.”

The rest of us struggle and see the world much like French Prime Minister George Clemenceau when he responded to Woodrow Wilson’s vagaries about brotherhood agreeing that all men are brothers just “like Cain and Abel”. We struggle with charity. We struggle to even define it properly. It is not romantic love as many young people are wont to think when they quote 1 Corinthians 13 during their wedding vows, referring to each other as charity cases. At least, their hearts are in the right place and the Apostle Paul’s words are a good place to start a marriage.

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For the rest of us, we have to work hard to convince ourselves to give up whatever we had planned even if it was just sitting in front of the TV to watch two or three hours of murder porn on ID TV while surfing the Internet shopping or posting and sharing on social media. (Guilty! Very, very guilty!) For the rest of us we look often look for excuses to get out of, rather than do charitable work. We wait to see if others will volunteer before we do. We are relieved when too many volunteers show up and are actually happy when we can’t find the place that the event is at.

Part of the problem with charity, at least on the surface, is that is oftentimes just not that rewarding. Much of charity involves doing mundane things like cleaning toilets, packing up boxes, or driving someone to the store. There is nothing heroic in doing ordinary things for others that any schmuck could do. Or sometimes it’s doing more difficult things like changing adult diapers or helping someone take a bath who otherwise is incapable of doing it. Or sometimes it involves having to watch someone else’s not so adorable and needy kids. And then there are the people you serve they are for several reason just not grateful of your time and your work or your “charity”.

One time when my stepson was about 12 or 13, we were playing basketball at the local elementary school a young adult man with Down syndrome asked if he could play with us. We decided to be charitable and let him on our game of twenty-one and we thought it would be charitable to only perfunctory play defense on him and give him several chances to make a basket. We were not rewarded for our charity. No sooner had this young man scored his first basket than he started to talk smack and it was not charitable. Using language typically reserved for sailors he let us know how bad we were playing and how good he was playing. He was relentless. At first it was mildly amusing, since I had worked with the handicapped before and I knew that it was not uncommon for handicapped to swear uncontrollably.

After about 20 minutes of cussin’ and a cursin’ at us, I could tell my stepson who is generally more outgoing and generous than I am was getting frustrated with the fruits of his kindness. There are only so many insults the pride of a young man can take. He finally had come to his breaking point and told the young man that it looked like his mom was calling for him on the other side of the soccer field. Our “charity case” called us out on this fib. It was clear that his family was getting along admirably without him. So we had to finally come clean and let him know we were done being charitable.

When I was going to school I worked at a group home and it was no picnic. Of course, I wasn’t doing it to be charitable. But nonetheless it was hard to find it rewarding at the time. First of all, it’s hard to know if you are doing any good. Progress is hard to measure in a group home setting. Second of all, there is a lot of unpredictability working with the handicapped. The guy I was primarily assigned to had stabbed the previous caretaker and that wasn’t the first time! Luckily, we never had any incidents. There was a young man in neighboring group home who was a true assassin if there ever was .I dreaded the days I had to work with him. While he was developmentally disabled and essentially a mute, he was definitely disabled strong if there is such a thing (in our non-PC days we’d call it “retard strong”, but we don’t say that anymore for good reason). He had a penchant for hitting, pinching and pulling hair without warning. Believe me getting hit in the head from behind when you least expect it will put your limited capacity for charity to the test. God bless him though, I like to think he did not know what he was doing when he would with incredible precision ambush me and land those perfectly placed sucker punches.

Boxing

The convenient thing about living in an imperfect world is that there are oodles of opportunities for us to learn to have faith and be patient, kind, merciful and most of all charitable. The capacity to be deeply charitable is in our spiritual DNA, we all have the light of Christ within us. We have to start looking beyond our anxieties about worldly power, social status, and our obsession with shiny things and start looking beyond all the identities and labels we apply to ourselves and others and reach out. And start realizing that life is not a zero sum game and that with true charity everybody can get out of this life victorious.

Erstwhile in Elko

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Recently I got a chance to travel to Elko, Nevada, a modest sized town whose economy is focused mainly on ranching and mining. Elko is also home to some of Nevada’s larger herds of deer, elk and rocky mountain big horn sheep. Elko, however, isn’t just about ranching, mining and wildlife, but Elko’s got some culture going on as well. Elko is the home to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering held during the first week of February of each year. Here is a tiny but modest sample of some classic cowboy poetry:

 “…It gives a man a sorter different feelin’ in his heart. 
And he sometimes gits a little touch of shame,
When he minds the times and places that he didn’t act so smart,
It kinda makes you see yourself through other people’s eyes.

And mebby so yore pride gits quite a fall.
When yore all alone and thinkin’, well, you come to realize
You’re a mighty common feller after all.”

—Alone by Bruce Kiskaddon

The reason I had to travel to Elko was to visit the good people working at the Elko Friends in Service Helping (F.I.S.H), an organization that works to help those who are homeless and hungry. They do great work up there. You’d think that in such an independent-minded and conservative community with a historically strong work ethic that they wouldn’t have homeless or hungry people at all. But they do.

Elko actually has a campground by the Humboldt River dedicated to helping the homeless, where a shuttle will come by a couple times a day to take them to job interviews, doctor’s appointment, and other services. This is progressive compared to some of our other rural counties who do not acknowledge that they have homeless people in their areas. And in some cases they might technically be right. Esmeralda County has a population of about 800 people in area of about 3600 square miles (if you have driven through Goldfield on 1-95, then you have driven through Esmeralda County).  If you are homeless in Esmeralda County the may literally not be able to find you if are camping out in the boonies. Heck, it might be easier to find a wild horse or a wild ass than it might be to find a homeless person in Esmeralda County.

However, it’s interesting to me to note that even out in the rural areas no community is immune from the effects of drugs and alcohol, which tends to play a large part in homelessness.

Lovelock

For some unknown reason, I like the drive out to Elko. The first stretch of the drive runs parallel to the Truckee River as it find its way to Pyramid Lake, the last remnant of the Lake Lahontan that covered most of Nevada during the Pleistocene era (contrary to what my children believe I was not alive then). Somewhere around Fernley the river goes another path and the landscape is a barren until you get to Lovelock, a small farming community, which is also the home of the Lovelock Correctional Center the current home to O.J. Simpson.

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I don’t know if it is still true but when I first came to the state they used to tell me that the Lovelock Correctional Center was where they decided to put all the sex offenders because they were having problems housing them with the general prison population. So I found it odd that he was sent there.

This is no knock on Lovelock, but there is not much out there and the correctional center is even more isolated than the town as it sits by itself, away from the community, at the base of one of Nevada’s many, many lonely brown mountains. You can’t help to kind of feel bad for O.J. for a moment because his current lifestyle is quite the fall from his lifestyle at his Rockingham home in Brentwood. But he did commit a double murder of two innocent people, nearly decapitating Nicole Brown Simpson, so the sympathy is short-lived.

Although the murders are not why he is up there, he is up there because a Clark County (Las Vegas) judge gave him the maximum for armed robbery and kidnapping in his an attempt to reclaim some of his memorabilia. I guess the maximum sentencing could be seen as payback for the verdict of innocent he got when he was on trial for murder. Memo to self: If you get off for a double-murder that 90% of population clearly thinks you committed, don’t commit an armed robbery afterwards. Don’t be felonious, for heaven’s sake.

Note: We have to give a shout out to Rob Bates, our brother-in law. Rob sits on the Nevada Parole Board and is briefly filmed, conducting O.J.’s parole board hearing, in the opening scene of Part 1 of ESPN’s O.J. Simpson: Made In American series.

Winnemucca

Around Lovelock the Humboldt River, Nevada’s longest river, empties into the Humboldt sink (basically a dry lake bed). This river was named by John C. Fremont after the naturalist Alexander von Humboldt and was the route that the California Trail followed as migrants headed to the California gold fields. I am always impressed by the Humboldt River’s determination to be a river.

After passing Lovelock, I generally make my first stop on the way to Elko in Winnemucca. A town named after Chief Winnemucca of the Northern Paiute and father to one of Nevada’s most famous historical figures, Sarah Winnemucca. She was the first female Native American to write an autobiography, using her education to argue for Native American civil rights in this region. For a small town Winnemucca seems to have a lot going on, they even have a Wal-Mart.

On a less positive note, Winnemucca used to be somewhat infamous for having a brothel district and these businesses where not shy about advertising it on big billboards as you were approaching town. My family used to joke about one particular brothel, which I think was named the Kitty Katt Klub, pretending it was literally a cat house where big burly truck drivers could go and snuggle up to kittens. Such is the humor we had to develop when you are forced to explain that crap to your young kids.

Battle Mountain

In between Winnemucca and Elko is a hard scrabble mining town called Battle Mountain. Because I don’t stop too often at Battle Mountain, I can’t tell you how lively Battle Mountain is. I mean it does have a McDonald’s but the old downtown is pretty sleepy. One of things I do like about Battle Mountain is that they are unashamed of their town’s initials and proudly display the initials “BM” on the side of a big hill just outside of town. Ironically, the road that takes you to the hill with the town’s initials on it is the road to Battle Mountain’s landfill.

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Basque Food and Going Home

The trip from Winnemucca to Elko is not too bad and usually goes quick. Usually, I stay at the Americas Best Value Gold Country Inn & Casino. I am not sure why. I think it’s because when I would travel with the kids from Carson City to Provo, Utah this hotel had a nice pool where the kids could play in when they were little.

Elko has some good restaurants, like the Star Restaurant, which serves Basque-style food. Now, don’t ask me what Basque cuisine is. I still haven’t figured out what makes it so different. My first introduction to Basque food was a slice of hard cheese on a dry roll with no butter or mayonnaise on it. Ever since that time I’ve been a little skeptical about what makes this food so unique. Nevertheless, I can give two thumbs up to the Star Restaurant. I am not a big steak eater but their steaks are worth giving a try.

The spell of the Great Basin landscape has normally worn off by the time I need to leave Elko. Usually, I am less patient on the way back occasionally finding myself driving a desperately brisk 90 mph. I try not to go any faster than that and only in spots. I did once get a ticket for going 95 mph and that was costly. But no matter the cost, coming home is always worth it.

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Kitchen is Done

Tammy painted the kitchen last week. She did it all by herself and it looks soooo good! I figured it was a labor of love so I didn’t help out at all and I think she didn’t mind at all. She accentuated the paint job with some new Hobby Lobby accessories including a large metal H for Hansen.

The kitchen walls are now a light yellow and I believe the color is called Cotton-Linen yellow. Next to being the tester of Fancy Ketchups, I would love to be the guy who gets to name paint colors. I could come up with some pretty good names like Troglodyte Tan, Dorian Grey, or Obliging Orange.

Evolution and God

I am no expert on Evolution or God, but since this is the Internet I will not let my ignorance on both stop me from commenting on them. I was just reading a book on Evolution where the author argues that the advent of Darwin’s theory of evolution did away with the notion of design and purpose in the creation of the earth and the idea of God manifesting himself in the creation.

Sure I see how it dealt a blow to the mechanistic view of the creation, but I am not sure how evolution, natural selection, gradualism, and speciation mean that there wasn’t a creator behind the creation or that there is no design or purpose to His creations. I mean what is so random about processes that take millions of years to bring about any change. Isn’t time a key component to deliberation? It seems to me that the universe and nature scream design and purpose and point to an intelligence behind the creation.

“But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.”—Alma 30:44

I don’t know why a general belief in Evolution (change) would mean to people like Richard Dawkins that I would have to cast aside my faith in God, if anything it would affirm my belief in God as the master Biologist. I am just glad that whether or not I believe in evolution will not be a criterion for getting into the gates of heaven. However, if they ask me what the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow is I’m in trouble.

 

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