Archive for March, 2011

“Sierra Cement”

March 28, 2011

And so it was we sadly witnessed trees by the thousands — many hundred year old oaks — bent and broken — smothered and toppled — as irresistible forces of inevitable nature visited these foothills in the first 24 hours of a new Spring.

Our Oakhurst area was the regional epicenter. A furiously perfect combination of temperature and humidity unloaded wet snow by the megaton on Birch, Pine, Manzanita and more — fresh green buds unfortunately providing greatly increased capture space. As I awoke on Monday morning, the dawn was filled by the sound of trees cracking like rifle fire.

“Sierra Cement?” Yes! A perfect description! Daughter, Susan, claimed no pride of authorship as she uttered this phrase, having lived here for well over a decade, yet never having witnessed such a relentless, devastating example of this unyielding, unforgiving phenomenon. Nor had wife, Eileen, nor I ever experienced so powerfully unique a storm, although both of us were born and raised in Syracuse, New York, where an annual snowfall of 120 inches remains pretty much par for the course.

The amount of water that snow contains is known as the “snow to liquid ratio.” An average ratio is about 10:1, which means that 10 inches of snow melts down to 1 inch of water. The ratio for “Sierra Cement” is about 5:1, whereas good powder is around 15:1 or 20:1. Accordingly to the National Weather Service, our recent Oakhurst inundation was probably close to 4:1 — as heavy as it gets.

The single saving grace of “Sierra Cement” would seem to be its brief life span, unlike “Societal Cement”.

“Societal Cement” is formed and molded, often by passive acceptance. It sets and hardens — securing and separating us into unique personal, individual placement away from others — isolating all in varying degrees by religion, politics, race, national origin, sex, age, income and other often narrow divisions.

Yet ultimately, we’re all in this together, whatever “this” may turn out to be.

Why is gasoline now up to $4.00 a gallon while there has been absolutely no dimunition in available supply except that which has been arbitrarily and artificially imposed by limiting refining?

Because we’ve been conditioned to accept as inevitable the absurdity that certain forces are “beyond our control”

Why are governmental budgets being balanced on the backs of the old and poor while corporate profits are at record levels with General Electric paying NO taxes on FOURTEEN BILLION DOLLARS IN 2010 PROFITS?

Because we’re letting it happen.

Why has our Federal system become polarized and paralyzed?

Because compromise, the essence of cooperation, has been unilaterally condemned as capitulation and foolishly defined as unconditional surrender.

As one can be locked into a situation or system which rigidly prohibits spiritual, philosophical or economic extension beyond defined perimeters, remember that Societal Cement primarily exists to preserve the approved — to keep us in our place in line — all the time. A willful decision to accept selfishly formulated notions of others as personal judgment is self-imposed confinement.

Thinking is heavy lifting for far too many of us. It’s hard being truly free.

“Freedom of Thought” can not be found and is not guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. This may well explain why the “Tea Party” attracts so many spectacular non-thinkers, up to and including the entire programming lineup at KMJ-AM and their struggling FM stepchild.

Please consider thinking about these things. And doing something — about everything.

Trust yourself anytime you choose. It’s only Rock ‘n Roll.

“The Fields Of Athenry”

March 4, 2011

The Irish greeted Saint Patrick’s message in 433 A.D. with open minds and happy hearts. It is Celtic to the core, imagination yielding to exaggeration in elegant elaboration. So, too, is the legend of St. Patrick observed here in America — with wild celebration and exuberant joy. In Ireland it’s a “Holy Day of Obligation.” You’re supposed to be in church.

St. Patrick’s Day 2011 finds me in a reflective, more darkly Irish mood,

“By a lonely prison wall
I heard a young girl calling.
Michael, they are taking you away.
For you stole the English corn
So our young might see the morn.
Now a prison ship lies waiting in the bay.”

“The Fields of Athenry” is an Irish folk ballad set during the Great Irish Potato Famine (1845-1850) about a fictional man named Michael from near Athenry in County Galway — sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay, Australia, for stealing food for his starving family.

1992 was the 100th Anniversary of my Great- Grandfather’s death. He had left Ireland during The Famine Years in 1848 and had crossed the North Atlantic to the green fields of America. He rests buried under a fine Celtic Cross in a little churchyard just north of Syracuse. His name is engraved in sharp, bold lettering, still clearly distinct with more than a century gone:


My namesake’s handwriting appears in an old, worn book on Irish History which was passed down to me. It was all Peter
left us in memory. This is what he wrote:

Diocese of Fern
County of Leinster
Town of Ballyoughter
Irish Nobility
Evicted By The English
And Abandoned By God

I had left broadcasting after 36 uninterrupted years. I knew where to go. Eileen and I drove to Detroit and caught a flight
to Dublin. We rented a car and traveled the land without itinerary or agenda. There was no need. There were spirits every-
where. We were led.

Peter is listed as the son of James and Margaret Cavanaugh, born in the summer of 1816 in Ballyoughter. The town has disappeared. It was located east of Enniscorthy, just south of Dublin in the Wicklow Mountains near the sea.

Peter was baptized July 15 of that year, according to parish records now miraculously preserved on microfilm at the Library
of Ireland in Dublin. The fancy spelling of the family name “Kavanagh” with a “C” and a superfluous “u” can be attributed
to the transcribing priest, who wrote in a most graceful and elegant hand. Before and after his stewardship of some thirty
years, the whole bunch were illiterate “Kavanaghs”, forbidden to learn reading and writing, own property, vote, practice their religion, hold public office, engage in trade or commerce or possess firearms.

The priest had faithfully noted births, marriages and deaths in the small community during his whole tenure. It is a ledger covered with
invisible tears. There are five pages per year before “The Famine,” and five years per page thereafter. Many in our family died
of hunger. So did a million fellow countrymen during the time of the “Great Starvation” with yet another million emigrating on “Coffin Ships” bound for North America, Australia and New Zealand. Of these, an estimated one out of five died from disease and malnutrition before reaching their destination.

“By a lonely prison wall
I heard a young man calling.
Nothing matters, Mary, when you’re free.
Against the Famine and the Crown
I rebelled. They ran me down
Now you must raise our child with dignity.”

Let the record be clear. At no point during the length of the “Famine” period did Ireland fail to grow plentiful crops — enough to feed the entire native population of the island twice over. But “Free Market” thinking carried the day. Such bountiful harvests were sent to England and Europe to enrich the treasuries of non-Irish Lords, Ladies and Landowners who lived far across the Irish Sea, owning and controlling over 95% of the Emerald Isle following 800 years of tyrannical, often brutal rule over Britain’s first and last colony.

The rich and powerful have been triumphant over the poor and weak century after century in our extended human experience. Governance in a democratic fashion is still new and fragile in the history of our species.

Could a time ever come when the wealthiest one percent of American households might represent 190 times the economic worth of an average person? Or witness that top one percent more than doubling their share of America’s income in a single generation while the bottom 90% fell? Or realize fifty percent of Americans now own only one-half of one percent of America’s stocks and bonds?

Such time has come today.

“By a lonely harbor wall
She watched the last star falling
As that prison ship sailed out against the sky.
Sure she’ll wait and hope and pray
For her love in Botany Bay —
It’s so lonely ’round the Fields of Athenry. “

Dubliners — Live –“Fields of Athenry”