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Declaration of Independence, 1776

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

30 years after Glienicke Bridge | Rachel Sharansky Danziger | The Blogs | The Times of Israel

What is freedom, if not truth?
What is religion, if not compassion?
What is compassion, if not right action?

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/30-years-after-glienicke-bridge/

Tales From The Roadtrek #2: The River Rats

I am fighting off a nagging desire to open with an apology for any indiscretions I may be, have been, or ever be guilty of, in my whole life.  That is because my Seroquel turned on me and gave me bad, bad extrapyramidal symptoms (twitches and a feeling like whole-body restless legs that makes me writhe incessantly, plus intolerable heat intolerance) that might not go away even though I have stopped taking it, and now I have nothing with which to quash the hypomania that dogs my heels like a nine-month-old Labrador Retriever, always pushing, pushing.

Nevertheless, I am having the best time I can have on two hours of sleep a night.

Now, disclaimers over with, I can begin today’s edition of Tales From The Roadtrek!

I fetched up last week at East Peoria, Illinois, along a sort of bayou that was once a marina, until the Illinois River left its banks and plowed it quite flat.

Once a marina, now a bayou off the Illinois River

Once a marina, now a bayou off the Illinois River

Everywhere you looked, there was some kind of interesting (or alarming) relic of this epic flood…..

Interesting

Interesting……………..

ALARMING...see the boat washed up on the levee, about 1,000 yards from the river????

ALARMING…see the boat washed up on the levee, about 1,000 yards from the river????

The campground was highly rated in both Good Sam, the premiere RVer’s resource organization, and Escapees (SKPs), the network for mavericks like myself who want to live life like they mean it and have a damn good time doing it.  Both outfits gave the place high marks for ambience, good facilities and clean showers/restrooms.

I called for a reservation and was told I didn’t need one, and to just give a call when I arrived.  I did so, and was met at the entrance of a ramshackle trailer park by an enormously jiggly friendly fellow on a four-wheeler, who ferried me to a shady rise along a stinking sump that looked like this:

2015-06-03 10.35.57

“How many nights?” He smiled, looking up from his receipt booklet.

“Um, two, I guess.”  I kind of wanted to bail out, but hey, it WAS only $13 a night, and there were two other fairly spiffy looking rigs right next to where he put me.  For $13, if it got too weird I wouldn’t feel bad flying the coop.  So I gave him $26 in cash, which made him grin wider, and he took off, leaving me choking on his dust.

“Howdy, neighbor,” drawled my next-door neighbor.  He looked like he’d seen a bit of the world, and then some.  “Welcome to the neighborhood.”  He lit his next cigarette off the last one, being careful to toss the butt into a Coke can, which I appreciated.  I liked him already.

“Well, what do you think of our little piece of Paradise?”

“Er, well,” I stalled, trying to think of something, “well, to tell you the truth, it looks a little seedy.”

“SEEDY?”  Uh-oh.  “What makes you say that?”  Open mouth, insert ass, disappear.

“Um, things like, you know, THIS.”

2015-06-03 19.29.40

“Yeah, so?  Here, come on over here and set down.  My name’s Tuck.”

Thank the Lord.  Breathe.

Tuck fetched a well-loved lawn chair out of a cubby hole in his rig, blew the dust off it, and offered it to me as if I had never insulted his neighborhood.

I settled in, and for the next two hours did not get a word in edgewise while Tuck regaled me with his adventures in the Army, Navy, prison, long-haul truck driving, Military prison, County lockups, fights, liquor, AA, and two honorable discharges despite all the prison time.  He showed them to me, just so I wouldn’t think he was lying.  I would have, actually, because the usual thing when one gets in prison while in the service is a court martial leading to a dishonorable discharge, but whatever.

Next thing on the agenda was our other neighbor, Nancy, who was a well-worn lady of 45 who looked 60 and acted 30.  Three raucous boys surrounded her. One of them was her five-year-old grandson, whose name I never did get the hang of.  She didn’t know what it meant, and neither did he, so he made up endless nicknames for himself instead of trying to remember his given name.  He fondly reminded me of Israeli kids, who have no concept of mortality.  He was forever and constantly finding new and more exciting ways of leaping off of high objects onto things like gigantic concrete slabs, etc, that gave me nearly uncontrollable urges to get my first-aid kit out where I could see it.

Finally he did get whacked in the eye when the rotted rope of a tire swing gave out and he crashed into some other flying object.  After he got done crying he was pretty proud of his shiner, once we had explained to him what the word “shiner” meant.

The “we” in “we” was his grandmother, her boyfriend who looked about 20 and had twin freaky looking heads tattoo’d on his pectoral muscles, which gave me the creeps every time he moved, and Nancy’s daughter–the boy’s mother–who kind of slouched around looking perpetually uncomfortable, and the two other boys who turned out to be Nancy’s great-nephews, and Nancy’s mother who stayed inside Nancy’s travel trailer because she couldn’t be out in the heat.  And Tuck, of course, still chain-smoking, and me.

We hung out around Nancy’s totally amazing fire ring, created out of fragments of stone that the flood had busted up and thrown around.  As the sun settled down over the river, it started to look like this:

2015-06-02 19.49.35

And I started feeling pretty mellow as the many kinds of night-critters began tuning up their orchestra: peeper frogs, tree frogs, leopard frogs, the Purple Martins twittering, coming home to their house upon its pole that leaned crazily over the bayou.

It was time for me to leave all my bourgeois preconceptions of “quality of life” behind.  All these folks were here because here life was almost free and certainly unfettered, and a simple need for an affordable place to dwell had brought us all together.

And I?  I was the guest, as it turned out, who stayed for another two nights, drawn by the unquestioning offer of friendship and camaraderie, undeserving, from a warm and open-hearted group of fellow travelers, flotsam and jetsam all of us, who happened to wash up on the same shore.

And the clean washrooms and showers?  Burned down last year.

Guns and Pots

I’ve been having a bit of a rough time with a urinary tract infection that just won’t go away.  But hey, at the doctor today the scale said I’m three pounds lighter!  Look what being sick can do for you!  Not funny.

After I got back from a bracing visit to my harried-looking but actually very sympathetic GP, I scurried off to the sheriff’s department to get the final phase of my handgun concealed carry permit done: fingerprinting, filling in yet another questionnaire…

Before we go further with this, I need to address that group of you who is sitting there with their jaws on their knees going “wha…you mean you…she…”

Yes.  I own handguns.  Two of them.  One of them, a Ruger target-shooting competition pistol, I have had for years.  I love to shoot targets.  It’s fun.

I just bought the other one last week.  I have had my eye on this pistol for a long time.  It’s a Smith and Wesson .38, model name LadySmith.  I know, I know, it must be the devil that causes me to get all hot and bothered over a gun.

But how can I possibly describe the smooth burl of her grip, so perfect in my hand, as if made expressly for me; the smooth way she rolls out for loading and unloading; the coy bluing of her short barrel; and the prospect of making some really big holes in the paper targets, instead of the little tiny holes my Ruger .22 caliber makes, so I have to go up and squint at the target to see where the holes are, after shooting off a clip?

Well.  There I was, with a form in front of me that asks me have I been convicted of this, am I a fugitive from that, am I mentally ill?

Hm.  I thought about that one for a while, and then checked “No.”

That is because I have been stable on medicines for over five years, and if you ask me, I believe that I am not mentally ill.  I take medicines that ensure my mental health, and they are a part of why my mental health is excellent today.

Other factors is that I meditate.  A lot.  And it grounds me, and with the help of the medicines I can find a still point.  Things bother me, of course, but things bother everybody.

Next thing you know, I get body-slammed.

“Just write the name of your doctor right here.”

“My doctor?  Why?”

“Oh, it’s a formality.  We have to check whether you are mentally ill.”

“Oh, okay,” I chirp cheerfully, writing the name of the doc I just saw and hoping he will be cool and keep it between the ditches.

Damn.  If it isn’t the “honesty tax” (“Oh, you have DSM diagnoses?  Sorry, no laundry today”), it might be the DIS-honesty tax, which I can see would be a lot lot worse, having to do with lawyers and unspeakable things and places.

After that, I realized I had a choice of either flipping out and becoming totally paranoid and having a bad day and maybe many bad days and then a vicious cycle and I get sick again; or, I could take the other road and have lunch.

I hadn’t eaten anything besides tortilla chips and cheese for three days, because I have felt too lousy to have an appetite let alone cook.

So I made a pot of ramen noodles with all kinds of good-for-you stuff in it.

Listen: I’ve been living in this camper for going on two months now, and layers of civilization have peeled off me like a snake shedding its skin.  In other words, I have become a Neanderthal woman.

I’m sitting in the passenger’s side captain’s chair eating ramen noodles out of the pot (why dirty a bowl?) when a knock comes at my half-open side door.

“JEEZEZ!!!”  I thought for sure they were right there, brandishing the warrant, handcuffs go on, click, and off to the new county lockup.

“I’m sorry to scare you,” said my mom, brandishing a tin of cookies with a card taped to it.  “I wanted to wish you a good journey.”  She hands me the tin.  “They’re gluten free, every last one of them!”  She had on her beatific high beams.  Not to be trusted, but you have to roll with it.

“Oh thank you!  That’s very thoughtful!”  (Holy shit, am I relieved, for the moment anyway.

I see her glance inside the RV.  Piles of laundry cover most of it.  It’s been so humid here, everything has gotten musty and I must wash it before it gets genuinely moldy.  I try to explain that to her.  She looks puzzled.  She’s lived here for over 40 years, and she’s used to everything being damp and smelling musty.

She knows not to touch me.  I feel a pang of wistfulness, having a mother who feels like acid or hot lead to the touch.

I notice that she has been spiffing herself up a lot these days.  Better haircut, makeup, a spring in her step.  Widowhood has done her good.  Everybody’s different, I always say.

So she waved kind of sadly, and left.  I guess she might have been wistful too…

And then I looked down and noticed my half-eaten lunch, still in the pot I cooked it in, looking and smelling inviting.  I ate it all up.  It was only after a few hours that it sunk into my head:

Dear God, my mother would rather be drawn and quartered than to eat out of the pot.  It must have really distressed her, stuck her as odd, pointed out to her that she knew I was odd but not THIS odd…..

Then I thanked the Lord that this home on wheels gives me the freedom to be exactly who I am.

Get Me The Hell Out Of Egypt

No, not Eretz Mitzra’im, which is the Land of Egypt.

Had I been there, I most likely would have been thrown out in one of the many exiles of my people who came there seeking asylum from the Spanish and Portuguese, long about 1492.  All but a handful of Hebrews have been ejected from that land.

But.

In Genesis 15:13-14, it is said:

And He said to Abram, “Know with certainty that your offspring shall be aliens in a land not their own–and they will serve them, and they will oppress them–four hundred years.  But also the nation that they will serve, I shall judge, and afterwards they will leave with great wealth.  (Emphasis mine)

There was, in fact, a cordial relationship between the Hebrews and the Mitzrim (Egyptians).   They traded together, and the Mitzrim gladly allowed the Hebrews to come to Mitzra’im in times of famine in the land of Canaan, where the Hebrews dwelt (now called the Land of Israel), to buy food and water.

For the Nile waters the land of Mitzra’im, but the Land of Canaan is dependent upon seasonal rains for sustenance.

Years and generations passed, and Jacob, whose Godly name was Yisrael (Israel), had twelve sons and a daughter.  His favorite son Yosef (Joseph) angered his brothers, who sold him to a Midianite caravan, who sold him to an Ishmaelite caravan, who sold him to Poti-Fera (Potiphar), who was the Egyptian Chief over the Pharaoh’s butchers.  (Gen. 37:27, 37:36, 39:1)

Yosef did well there, and was promoted to be the supervisor of all Potiphar’s household.  But bad luck for him:

After all these things, his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Yosef and she said, “Lie with me.”  But he adamantly refused…” (39:7-8)

And she kept after him.  One day she actually grabbed hold of his garment and tried to pull him to her, but he escaped and fled, leaving his garment in her hand.  She screamed “Rape!” and Yosef, who was found outside the house with nothing on, was cast into prison.

You can see from this unfortunate turn of events that even when we are doing our best and thinking things are going well, even the greatest among us may have characteristics that unwittingly trip us up and lead to a fall.

Yosef is called Ha’Tzaddik, The Righteous One, because everything he did was in honor of G-d, and he was able to overcome the most natural of urges–the sex drive–even when freely offered by Potiphar’s Wife, who was said to be the most beautiful in the land.

But it is said that Yosef had one flaw: he was beautiful and he knew it.   He would spend time putting on makeup (as was normal for Egyptian men at the time) and gazing at himself in a mirror of burnished bronze.  Thus, all the women in Mitzra’im longed to be with Yosef.  Indeed, why should Eshet Poti-fera (Potiphar’s Wife) not have him?

Yosef had told her that he was free to partake of anything in his master’s household, with the exception of Potiphar’s Wife! (39:9)

But woe to him, he was thrown into prison; but Yosef had G-d’s favor, and even this turned into a good thing, although not for a while.

Yosef found favor in the jailor’s eyes, and he was made supervisor over the prison (even though he was a prisoner himself) (39:21).  There happened to be two other prisoners there, courtiers of the King of Egypt (for in this verse he is not named).  They were the royal baker and the royal cup-bearer, and they had each displeased the King.

One morning Yosef found them distressed, for they had both had disturbing dreams. (40:6)  Yosef correctly interpreted those dreams, and the outcome was that one servant was reinstated, while the other was beheaded.  Yosef asked the reinstated one to put in a word for him with Pharaoh, for that was his boss, but the man forgot, and Yosef was stuck in prison for two more years.

Nothing happens in vain, and everything is G-d’s plan.

Pharaoh had a disturbing dream, and called all of his wise men, magicians, and necromancers to try to interpret it, but none could.  This jogged the afore-mentioned servant’s memory, and he recalled Yosef, and told Pharaoh, who commanded that Yosef be brought before him.  Yosef was given a bath and a shave and new clothes (41:14), and brought before Pharaoh.

Pharaoh told him his dream (41:17-25) and Yosef correctly interpreted it for him (go and read the dream for yourselves–it’s worth it!); and Pharaoh mad Yosef his viceroy over all the land.

Because of the content of the dream, Yaacov (Jacob, Israel), who is Yosef’s father, remember, brought his whole family, who now numbered 70 souls, down to the land of Goshen which is in the northern part of Egypt, a fertile grassy land perfect for grazing flocks, for the Hebrews have always been shepherds.

There was a time of peace, and Yisrael (Jacob) died, and then Yosef died, and the Hebrews grew to be a large and prosperous nation in Goshen.  But:

A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know of Yosef.  He said to his people, “Behold! the people, the Children of Israel, are more numerous and stronger than we.  Come, let us outsmart it lest it become numerous and it may be that if a war will occur, it, too, may join our enemies, and wage war against us and go up from the land. (Exodus 1:8-10)