Friday, June 23, 2006

Flag Day

Yes, it was June 14, but sitting here doing these essays is harder than I thought.

My maternal grandfather who we called Papa flew the flag. Every day was Flag Day for him. Until he and my grandmother, Nonnie, moved into town into an apartment, he had a flagpole in the yard. I can remember three different houses on the Central California coast that had a flagpole, and a view of the sea. Once he moved two blocks to get an unobstructed view of the Pacific, after houses were built that blocked his view.

My sister and I spent not a few summers with Nonnie and Papa. He put up the colors each morning and struck them each night. I learned to fold the flag. I was the only nine-year old in my school, Cub Pack, and neighborhood who knew how to fold the flag, and why it was folded that way.

The U.S. flag was always on top; then followed the California state flag, then maritime signal flags. He claimed that ships would see his flags and signal him, but I wouldn't know about that. He had some powerful binoculars, but even with those, I could barely make out the ships. The flags were important.

He showed me flags with 48 stars, 46 stars, and 50 stars. He had some ensigns from some naval vessels. My sister and I tried to make some flags out of scrap linen and crayons. He instructed us thus: The stripes alternate red and white starting with a red stripe at the top and ending with a red stripe at the bottom. A white stripe is under the blue star field. Proper proportions are 3x5.

When my sister and I were through playing with our flag creations, we just dropped them and went on to other things, as children will. Papa took them and burned them in the fireplace. "The US flag never bows to any other flag and it never touches the ground. If it does hit the ground, it is to be burned and replaced by another." We didn't make any more flags.

He died just after my 16th birthday. Nonnie and I burned his flags in our fireplace.

Then people started protesting, and burning flags. Not really cool, I thought, but at least burning is proper. Then flags started showing up on folks' asses as patches, and other places as decorations. Great hue and cry from the establishment, which, by this time, I had abandoned. (1966) Desecrating the Flag it was called. We needed a CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. But cooler heads prevailed and free speech won. We could do all sorts of stuff to the flag, and not have to worry about the law.

Papa would have gone apoplectic. But I was into free speech. I had pangs of doubt about the flag cult and about free speech. We didn't fly the flag when Ms.CPB and I started a household.

I got drafted, and learned a whole new flag culture in the army. Everything on post stopped when the flag was raised and everything stopped when it was brought down: marching, cars, generals all stopped at colors.

I still like the flag and all that it stands for. (It was a little rough during Viet-Nam and Nixon, but I have matured since then.) I like it when our small village in the South sprouts flags every summer holiday. I liked it when our small suburban neighborhood in the 50s, full of war vets and post war kids, displayed the flag at each holiday. In fact, all those pictures of flags flying everywhere after 9/11 reminded me of my old neighborhood on Flag Day.

It's a good holiday. Too bad no one gets it off, paid.

I think Papa understood that the flag was the symbol for all that America stood for: the good he understood, the bad he didn't acknowledge. Patriots come in many forms: The Papas of the world and their hippie descendents both can salute the flag.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Why BRB is Left Write Left

I always wanted to write. I wanted to write poems, essays, stories, and other stuff. But when I got to college, I kept using the word stuff; I kept getting criticism about that. Term papers had red ink that read: "Well organized, well thought out, some original ideas, but REALLY BORING. B+ Try using a barrel of action verbs and drop 'stuff and sort of.' "


I haven't always been left. I was pretty right-leaning in highschool. I argued the biblical justification for capital punishment. I participated in oppressing workers as a Junior Achievement executive for three years. But all of that had no foundation in thought, my thought.

Then I went to college: Eastern, liberal arts, as a business major. Aside from being homesick, I managed to meet people that had formed their basic foundations in THOUGHT, tempered by education and experience. What a shock that was. People believed that a life not examined was, well, not examined. So I looked, and read, wrote and thought. I lasted one year; I almost flunked out; I cost my family lots of bucks.

So, on to public schools in California. There I met the only professor whose full name I remember as an undergraduate. More eye-opening stuff (there's that word again). But by this time, my biggest motivation to stay in school was THE DRAFT. But I got drafted anyway. I finally ran out of deferments in 1967 after dropping too many classes. I was in love, and spent more time with my love than in class. I was never good at long-range planning: Carpe diem has its price. I got drafted.

Left Write Left

So now we come to Left Write Left. That phrase was almost the first I heard in the army. But they didn't know how to spell write. We marched everywhere with that mantra chanted in varying terms. I always heard write for right. I kept a journal and tried to write poems. I had my love send me old text books so I could try to keep my sanity in a killer's world. But I learned to be a soldier as best I could, if only to be able to stay alive. I didn't play army as a child. (See posting about Memorial day)

As with many Viet-Nam Vets, it took me a long time to acknowlege my service publicly. We didn't get parades when we got home. I returned my Army Commendation Medal. I felt, and still do, that that medal should go to those whose lives were on the line. I just ducked at the appropriate times.

But now, I am proud of my service, and proud of those who still serve. Thus: Left Write Left

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Pinhead Business

I will never understand how businesses are run. I read PDB all the time, and I still don't know. I had three successful years in highschool with Junior Achievement (I still cannot spell achievement). I won awards, I won a scholarship (the amount will remain secret, but let us say, in today's money, it would pay for 1% of one credit hour at a private university, or dinner for two downtown if the wine does not have a pedigree).

But, some things I do know: Crisis management is NOT strategic planning. Communications means dialogue, not top-down pronouncements. Workers will take ownership of their jobs. Training for like jobs must be consistent. Tension among managers has to be resolved by upper management, not by fights on the shop floor.

But most of all, don't let academics, professors, pinheads start and run a business. It ain't gonna work. I need to tread lightly here, 'cause I've signed so many confidentiality agreements, I've lost count. Just let me say that I work for a Major University, with a Major Medical School and a Major Athletic Department. I depend on these folk for my job. I do what they tell me, and I expect them to get more business to keep all of us employed. I've held up my end of the bargain. Well, there ain't no more business. What now, pinheads?

They re-shuffle at the top, they fire the best supervisor they have, they turn over the running of the business to a steering committee. We still have no work. As PDB would say, there is no profit motive here, and that guts everything.

This job has meant a lot to me. It puts the family out of the paycheck-to-paycheck mill. We can do a bit more, and have some in reserve. (Dinner for two downtown, wine with a pedigree).

But it's time to move on. In the past, others have had to tell me it's time to go. I think I see that exit sign now, for myself.

More interviews, training new bosses, heavy sigh.

One last thought: Generally, I like professors and their kind, Some have had a great influence on me, but on my terms. I accepted their expertise and guidance and respected their credentials and the hard work that it took to get them. But, Mommas, don't let your professors be businessfolk.

You know I'm Write

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Reverend Warren C. Kuhfahl

"Bruce, I know people call me Goofey Koofey."

That was almost the very first thing he said to me when I met him in his office at Edgeboro Moravian Church, Fall 1973. I was in my second year at Seminary and he was just one year into his ministry at Edgeboro. I had more questions after my first year of seminary than I had going in. Warren helped me focus. I don't think he did it consciously, he did it by example.

I met him, because I was applying to be the student intern, associate, pastor, youth leader at Edgeboro. Edgeboro had a reputation of being divided and chewing up ministers. Churches can be like that; they are, after all, just collections of humans.

My previous internship had been in a church in Reading, that thought that they were High Church, formal, and strict. They were just rich and intolerant. The pastor was high church, organized, and very much the Herr Pastor. I loved the kids and the youth group work, and those parents that got involved. But church as a career seemed very remote.

Warren did not change my feelings about church as a career. After a year with Warren, I realized, deep inside, that I could not be a pastor such as he. Too much to measure up to. I did not have the compassion and love for his parishioners that he showed. I hung on for one more disastrous term and gave it up. I should have listened to my heart, as Warren always did.

"Bruce, I know that people call me Goofey Koofey," he said that day. I had heard the stories. I had laughed at him, too.

"I know what they say about this congregation, and yes, I have done some things to get people to get into church that might sound crazy. But I got their interest. I know what they need," he said in all confidence. "They need a lot of love, and that, I can give to them." And that he did, for fifteen years, his longest service of his career; at that divided and contentious church.

I can still see his large round face, friendly, loving, understanding. He knew his capabilities, and his position as Christ's messenger. He was not a great intellect, but I learned more about pastoral care from him than I had in years of church-going and seminary.

His obit. in The Moravian, house publication of his denomination, seemed rather spare. I needed to add to his memory, both for his legacy and my memory. I have shed tears over this essay. For his family's, and churches' loss, or for my memories of him and what he meant to me, I don't know. I do know that tears from me for any reason are rare. And rarer still is my admitting to those tears.

One more thing. The obit. mentioned his family. I had quite forgotten that all of his children's names started with a W. How could this be? I thought Warren was one of the few I had met who had no ego. Mrs CPB reminded me that it was probably Dorothy's doing. Yes it was, had to be. With ten grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, Warren's message of God's love and man's love was received, at least, by his family.

Thank you Warren.
Vanity Press ?

I guess that one has to have a certain measure (gallons?) of ego to publish a blog. I have written earlier about how MY BLOG is mostly journal writing, and that I'd like some public feedback on topics, style, or opinions. That's probably just BS, and/or justification. It's VANITY.

Publishing a blog is vanity press for the poor. It's free. Well, it's free if you don't count the computer system, internet access costs, and one's time. Ok, it's not free, but it is a lot less than finding and paying a publisher to print a run of my gibberish. And even more important, I give away all my opinions, and thoughts that are published. Read me for free.

So, dear reader, enjoy,or not; agree, or not; criticize, or not. Just remember, it ain't costing you anything.

(This time around, I taught this spell-checker words and concepts it had no idea about.) Ego, Vanity?


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Random Observations

Why does the spell checker on this site always query "blog" and "blogger"? I realize that I can add it to the lexicon, but why should I have to?

Seen at a road construction site: Sign reads: SLOW ROAD PLATE AHEAD. Didn't know road plates could move at any speed.

Sign at local carwash: Wash Pollen Off Attendant Sunday. That attendant must have been standing around under our oak trees as long as my car has; never saw him.

There was an abandoned car parked on Main Street in our downtown between the Court House and the Federal building FOR A WEEK! Memories must be short around here, or they had to wait until the bomb sniffing dogs got back from squirrel hunting. I guess the authorities figured that if it didn't blow up in the first 24 hours, it wasn't a hazard.

Spell checker doesn't know carwash, either. Time to buy a dictionary.

Observations from the South

We have been in the Carolinas for about ten years after an eighteen winter sojourn in Canada. Nice country, Canada, but there is a reason I mark the time in winters. As they say in Alberta: Eight months of hockey and four months of bad ice. More on Canada another time.

I've never lived in the South before, except for a few months' stay in south Alabama for military training. That's another story or five. So we are looked upon as Yankees, and we are accepted as long as we don't tell anyone how it is done in the North. I can throw in a few ya'alls and ain'ts just to show I'm sympathetic. But there is much I don't understand or want to emulate about some Southern culture and habits.

Went to fuel up the car this morn. Guy in front of me was buying his breakfast: Krispy Kreme donuts and a Mountain Dew. Or, at other times in the diner at breakfast neighboring tables were ordering sweet tea, iced that is, with their biscuits and sausage gravy and grits. Now I like all that stuff (well, maybe not grits) but not altogether and not at seven am.

I have never worked in an office full-time until we moved here. But here, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, in the office has an iced drink with them at all times. Work stations, meetings, break room. Never understood that until the first summer here. Eight hours of air-conditioning will dry you out like a day at Death Valley. I tended to spill things, so I just made many trips to the water cooler, and almost as many trips to the Men's room. Needless to say, my production suffered.

Drivers here are another story. This is the home of NASCAR, afterall, and there are a few quirks that take getting used to. I won't go into them all here (blog fodder) but one. I have had about seven used cars since joining the South, and every Southern driver is/was fascinated with the backend of each one. I don't understand it: I drive at least 5mph above the posted limit, I have no bumper stickers, and nothing that is likely to fall off. Yet when I check the rear-view mirror, I see white knuckles, wide eyes, and windshields. Takes getting used to.

None of this is, in anyway, criticism. It is just different: Like Canada, every one looks the same, and speaks the same language (sort of). When we moved to Canada, and told our story to acquaintances, the response was always, "Why did you want to move here?" Here, the response has always been, "We're so glad you chose our part of the South." As I say, different.