Thursday, May 31, 2012

Oh, Nooooo . . .

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for May 31, 2012

            No, Mitt, No. You don’t know what you’ve done. You’ve still got time to get away. Look, I know why you went to Las Vegas.  You needed the money.  It’s politics.  You gotta get that 50.1%, so do what you have to do, say what you have to say, but you don’t understand.  You’re a nice guy.  I know you’re trying to look tough, Bomb Iran! Bomb Syria! Bomb Everybody!  But that just tells me you’ve been listening to poor old grumpy John McCain too long.  Conservatives love that kinda stuff.  They’re always playing Crazy Dare Me with one another.   
            But that isn’t you. You’ve led a sheltered, privileged life.  The Golden Boy. Thinks he can get away with anything. That’s why you don’t understand what you’ve done.  You’re like the handsome high school football captain who, as a prank, just invited the school’s Ugly Girl to the Prom.  You all know who she is, that tubby body, that bad skin, those lips, the goofy laugh, the pasty face, the hair . . . the terrible hair.
            You gave her a shining moment in the spotlight, the cameras rolling, the music playing, it was all her dreams coming true, to be up there with you, Mitt.  Gorgeous, beautiful, popular you! 
            And now you’ll never get rid of her!
            From now on every time you turn around, there’ll she be, at your elbow, at your knee, in your face.  It’ll be, Yooo hooo! Mitt, Mitt, why haven’t you called me.  You never write, you never text.  Don’t you love me, Mit? Huh? Huh?  Can I come to your house and hang out? OMG! OMG! You’re soooo cool.
            Yet there you were in Vegas with Donald Trump, your big plane snugged up next to his big plane. You stood on stage with him, all huggy-huggy, kissey-kissey.  Which caused conservative columnist George Will to observe, “The cost of appearing with this bloviating ignoramus is obvious, it seems to me.  Donald Trump is redundant evidence that if your net worth is high enough, your I.Q. can be very low and you can still intrude into American politics.” 
            You’re palling around with an ignoramus, Mitt, one of the original Meister Birthers. I know you think you can use him as a cat’s paw to keep the race-baiting dog whistle music going while keeping your own hands clean  – Obama’s not an American, he’s not One of Us, he’s a Muslim, maybe even one of those Hawaiians, but he’s not a citizen.  He shouldn’t even be president.  
            But you don’t use La Donald, Mitt.  He uses you.  And you’ll never get rid of him now.  It’s like that vampire movie “Let the Right One In.” You let him in.  And now he’ll never go away.  All through the campaign, there he’ll be, waddling up on stage to grab the mic from you, elbowing you out of the way so he can announce an upcoming episode of “The Apprentice.”  Making you sheepishly play second banana for his traveling clown show: “Who is this guy? Presidential candidate, my ass. Get him outta here.  You’re fired.”   
            And you’ll just have to smile that sick smile and shuffle and tug on your forelock and do nothing because now he’s got you, lock, stock and fatuous barrel.  Like clockwork, at every news cycle, you’ll try to craft some swell presidential sounding bites and they’ll be trumped by Trump barging into the day’s top stories with more ugly, crazy-ass crap to keep the base riled up and Trump’s mug on TV – “Where’s the Congressional Investigation into Obama’s school records? Did he even go to Harvard?  People are saying he’s got horns.  I’ve got people investigating this and you won’t believe what they’ve found. It’s huge, Huuuuuge!”
            And the press will eat it up.  They’ll unceremoniously shove you aside to cover La Donald.  They know TV.  They know he’s the next American Idol, not you, because that’s where the ratings are, Baby Cakes. 
            Even if you win the White House and you’re sitting in the Oval Office that first evening contemplating your great fortune, you’ll hear the scritch-scritch on the window pane and there he’ll be, peering in.  Those lips, that skin . . . that hair.  And in a split second he’ll be scuttling across the ceiling, orange comb-over flying, hissing dangerously at you, “I’m a smart guy, Mitt.  You shudda invited me to the Inaugural Ball.  That was huge, HUUUUGE. I’m not feeling the love, Mitty Baby.  C’mere.  Let me bite your neck.”
            Sure, you thought you could dabble with La Trump.  Take his money then kick him to the curb.  But you don’t curb-kick The Donald.  He curb-kicks you.  That’s what you don’t understand.  Lay down with dawgs, git up with fleas.  But in this case, Mitt, you’ll get up with long, ginger colored hair strands all over your nice suit. 
            That’s not dignified, Mitt.  That’s not presidential. It’s embarrassing.  Plus, it’ll make one of your many wives ask you where you've spent the night. (I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’ lots of people are sayin,’ is all.) Not good, Mitt.  Not good.
            And worse yet, your willingness to cozy up to and pal around with and attempt to play the fool with this fool does not speak well of your character.
            Or maybe it does. Maybe that’s the problem.
            Which is why I say, Don‘t do it, Mitt.  Step away before it’s too late, before everybody else starts to notice.  

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

From one of my favorite poets, Ted Kooser, from "Delights &Shadows."


There are days when the fear of death
is as ubiquitous as light.  It illuminates
everything.  Without it, I might not
have noticed this ladybird beetle,
bright as a drop of blood
on the window's white sill.
Her head no bigger than a period,
her eyes like needle points,
she has stopped for a moment to rest,
knees locked, wing covers hiding
the delicate lace of her wings.
As the fear of death, so attentive
to everything living, comes near her,
the tiny antennae stop moving.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Question of the Week

O.K.  Remember about a year or two ago, on the cover of Time magazine, Newsweek, all the newspapers, TV, you couldn't go anywhere without reading about or seeing . . . bedbugs. 

Everywhere.  Bedbugs.  Under the bed.  On the walls.  In your luggage. At your theatre.  And everyone freaked out and were spraying their houses, calling pest control companies, hiring Bedbug Dogs to sniff out bedbugs.  Crazy.  Everyone went crazy with bedbugs.  Little bedbugs.. Big bedbugs.  Bedbugs in their hair, bedbugs in their clothes, bedbugs in the rugs, in the sofa.  Bedbugs up the gazoo.

Then.  Poof!  No bedbugs.  When is the last time you read or heard even one mention about bedbugs in the media?

So, where did they all go?

Or was it all some grand joke played by magazines wanting to sell copies?  Mass hysteria? Sure, there actually were some people who had bedbugs in their homes.  But there have always been bedbugs in some homes.  They have been around for a gazillion years.  But an epidemic?  That then simply disappeared?

So, where did they all go?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

You're Welcome

Over at Ron Crawford's posted another chapter in the ongoing Epic Sewer Wars saga, titled, "Coastal Commission Enforcement Case Number V-3-07-034," or "How 20 Property Owners in Los Osos Just Made a $25,000 Donation to the Failed, 2005, "Defeat the Recall" Campaign."

Ah, reminds me of the classic quote: The main concern and industry of bureaucrats is not to rectify their mistakes, but to conceal them.  Simon Leys.  No doubt about it.  We live in . . . Chinatown, Jake.  Chinatown.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

This by Mira (Mirabai, c. 1498 - 1550), renowned woman poet-saint of India. Her songs are still sung by Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs today.  She was born a princess of Rajasthan and spent the last years of her life writing poetry and attending the destitute.  From Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West, translated/edited  by Daniel Ladinsky  (Penguin Compass Books.)

A Hundred Objects Close By

          I know a cure for sadness:
Let your hands touch something that
            makes your eyes

I bet there are a hundred objects close by
            that can do that.

                 Look at
           beauty's gift to us --
her power is so great she enlivens
          the earth, the sky, our

The first Matilija Poppy of spring

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Guardians

B-17 "Flying Fortress"

The first thing your body understands when you approach is how small these mighty planes are.  Tiny.  The B-17 Flying Fortress was only 74’long.  And then you feel how tiny and cramped as well.  Nearly impossible to navigate through even though they’re resting steady on the ground. 

WWII planes, slo airport, May 2012 014And how hands-on.  To operate the mid-ship guns, you had to open a portal and shoot. And hope for the best. In an unpressurized plane, bucking around thousands of feet up in the freezing sky with flack  bursting all around, and German fighters coming at you from all sides. Good luck to you. 

WWII planes, slo airport, May 2012 012

Navigation, WWII style.  On a wing and a prayer.  And the guts of the plane are all cables and pulleys, wheels and gears.  Not a microchip in sight.

WWII planes, slo airport, May 2012 005
Looking into the cockpit

WWII planes, slo airport, May 2012 013All designed to deliver twelve of these 500-lb bombs. Which, considering the ultimate massive destruction on German ground, meant endless sorties.  Endless dangerous sorties. Not for the men who flew these planes was there the luxury of delivering death while seated half a world away in a bunker in Nevada. This struggle was up front and very personal.

And that’s the second thing your body understands while scrambling through the tight spaces.  How close these young men were to instant oblivion.  And, once engaged over enemy territory, how trapped and isolated they were, the bombardier far away, alone in the nose of the plane, the turret gunner locked into in his cramped turret ball.  No easy escapes, no way out.

WWII planes, slo airport, May 2012 018
“Help him!  Help him!”  “Help who?”  “Help the bombardier!” “I’m the bombardier.  I’m all right.”  “Then help him!  Help him!”

And that’s the final thing you realize walking around these planes.  How young the men were who went forth in these tiny airships.  Babies, really.  Brave, brave babies. Yet they saved civilization and secured the freedom that allowed you and me to grow up in a strong, safe America.  That was their job and they did their job. All the young gallants.

WWII planes, slo airport, May 2012 001
B-24 "Liberator"

The two planes planes on display at the SLO Regional Airport (the F-51 fighter was in the shop for repairs) were part of the Collins Foundation’s “Wings of Freedom Tour,” a private group that is responsible for restoring and maintaining the planes and taking them out on tour throughout the country.  It’s a form of living history for a country that is far too comfortable in erasing its history.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Da Planes! Da Planes!

According to a recent story in New Times, three restored WWII planes, part of the Collins Foundation's "Wings of Freedom Tour" will be touching down at SLO Regional Airport today.  The planes are are a B-17, a B-24 and a P-51, the planes that helped save the world and will be arriving in mint condition and ready for a visit.  There'll be tours from 2 - 5 p.m. today, tours 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. to noon on Friday.  Cost is $12 for adults and $6 for children and Vets are free.  And if you have $425 you can take a brief flight on the bombers or for $2,200 go up for a half hour in the P-51.  How cool would that be/ Flights will take place before and after the tour hours. For reservations or more info call 1-800-568-8924.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Evil Demon Haunts Los Osos

It was hideous beyond belief, a creature so horrible it sent cold chills down my spine.  Its blazing eye and grinning, rictus-like smile turned small children to stone.  And it was in my house!  Right there on the dog beds!
Molly, sleeping, May 2012 006

Those teeth!  Were they dentures? Little wax inserts kids used at Halloween to look like Vampires? Whaaattt?
Molly, sleeping, May 2012 005

Oh, wait.  It was just Molly Malone, smiling while sleeping in the quite common greyhound “cockroach” position.  Shameless wench.

Molly, sleeping, May 2012 001

Dear, sweet Molly.  But, really.  Those teeth?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

Some delicious snark from Elder Olson from his book, "Last Poems." 

Undelivered Lecture on a Stabile

This is a stabile, numskulls -- reasonably so called
Because it is stationary, as opposed to a mobile,
Also reasonably so called because it moves.
And do not ask me what it represents:
Would you be happier if you knew that it depicts,
Say, a rooster on crutches,
A flamingo struggling to open an umbrella,
A jackass floundering on stilts?
Must a cloud look like a camel or a whale,
A field resemble a quilt, a mountain a coffee-pot
Before you find it beautiful?

                                                Listen, dim-wits,
A line can hang slack as a slung rope in rain,
Be tense as a fiddle-string,
Be a snail's crawl, a locust's leap, an arrow's flight:
Colors can rush out, or stealthily withdraw,
Motionless mass can seethe with violent motion,
Silent metal may cry out or sing;
Until you know this,
Look, look, and look: but you will never see.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I Do! I Do! Not You. Yet.

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for May 10, 2012
            On the same day President Obama went on TV to affirm that he has finally “evolved” to believe that gays have the right to marry, just like straight couples, 61% of North Carolina voters went to the polls and voted to not only outlaw same-sex marriage but to outlaw previously legal “common-law” civil unions and domestic partnerships, even for straight couples. It takes a powerful fear for people to want to take away rights already granted to fellow straight citizens.  No “common law marriage,” no domestic partnerships for them, because those forms of making a legal family unit might be used by gay people and that cannot be tolerated.  So everything must be cut out, sterilized, cleansed, sanitized, protected. If it isn’t, those gays might get a toehold and infect the whole “married” community, which would be intolerable.
            As I said, it takes a powerful fear to do something like that. Fear of change, fear of the dreaded “other,” the false conviction that the Golden Rule is a zero-sum game and if you gain, I lose.  And good old-fashioned bigotry, too.  Can’t ever forget that because it’s always sadly present in so many hearts as We the People struggle to perfect our more perfect union and ourselves.
            And it’s all so sadly deja vu. Same fears, same hatreds.  That dreadful darkness was there during the long, terrible struggles to gain civil rights for all black Americans. It seems that human nature decrees that so many people will always fight so fiercely and for so long to keep rights for themselves they would deny to their neighbors.  Which is why I keep wondering how North Carolina voters can square this circle?  What does it feel like to be on the wrong side of history?  Again?  Because that, too, is deja vu.  
            The whole direction of our history has been one of inclusion, of expanding rights, of transforming the “other” into “one of us,” all guided by an extraordinary document: A Constitution that translates a religious Golden Rule into a secular Equal Justice Under Law.
            It was the power of that document that transformed a slave into 3/5ths of a person into the N-word into a Negro into a Black into an African-American into an American into an American President.
            It was the same document that transformed women from chattel into voters into CEO’s into Secretaries of State.  And changed gay soldiers into soldier soldiers.  And struck down segregated schools and housing and all manner of discriminatory laws of all kinds that diminished and demeaned our fellow citizens. It was that document that held that in America, there are no second-class citizens. Not under law in a nation of laws, the primacy of which is “equal rights.”  
            Plus, the blood, tears and strength of good men and women who held the golden rule in their hearts instead of fear and were willing to do battle to see that our union, our shining city on the hill, kept its promise to all its citizens.
            And thus it will be for gay citizens.  It’s simply a matter of time.  The clock is ticking, the legal cases are making their way to the courts for what can either be one final ruling from the Supremes or a series of rulings that will make the logically obvious the legally obvious. In the meantime, the legal patchwork tangle that fear hath wrought in so many states will have to be untangled by the courts.  The law of unintended consequences will claim its share of victims until the inexorable push of history straightens out the road ahead. For the old and the fearful, this world is passing away. Their grasping effort to keep gay people excluded by neo-Jim Crow laws is futile. After all, the future now belongs to the young.  And for the young, the issue is interestingly moot. To the majority of them, gay people and black people aren’t the scary other – they’re classmates and friends.  And the idea that friends and classmates should be treated as second class citizens can’t be so easily squared away. 
            Which is why I keep thinking about the North Carolina voters.  And all the other voters in other states that have enacted similarly fearful bans.  In ten years, how will they square that circle to themselves? How do they do it now? 

Tuesday, May 08, 2012


Moon Pool.  The abalone shells edging the pool are arranged to resemble lotus flowers.

 Bless the ladies, those who marry well.  And often.  Case in point, Madame Walska, a well married Polish Opera singer and socialite.  Her opera career didn't go so well, but her luck marrying wealthy men did.

Mexican barrel cactus

As a result, in 1941 she had the cash to buy a big chunk of property in Santa Barbara (Montecito) and unlimited funds to start creating an extraordinary series of gardens, filled with a dizzying array of amazing plants.  As the L.A. Times put it, "For Walska, plants were more than plants; they were colors to paint with, a family to nurture, characters to direct."

Newly created cactus garden

And direct she did, for 43 years until her death in 1984, creating dramatic tableauxs of plants, a huge Lotus pool (hence the name), whole swaths of jungle-like groves filled with massed bromeliads and a huge variety of succulents.  She even made a pact with a fellow plant collector, who had created a huge, spectacular cactus garden, that when he died, he would will his cache of prickly flora to her.  Alas, she died before he did, but he worked with the estate and was finally convinced to move his treasures before he died.  So the Lotusland staff created a new, beautifully laid out section and all the cacti, some of them toweringly huge, were transported from San Diego to their new home. Almost all the plants survived the perilous trip and our collector, by this time, a very, very old man, was able to attend the opening ceremonies.

 It must have been a culminating moment for him, to see this new, beautiful and cunningly designed "cactus world" filled with his "babies," an eye-popping variety of cactus, all thriving happily, even in Santa Barbara's cool coastal weather. Several weeks after the installation ceremonies, the gentleman collector passed away.  I'm sure he had a smile on his face.  His lifetime's work had been achieved.

Ethiopian papyrus

Since the great lotus pool doesn't start blooming until June, the beautiful lotus blooms weren't yet open.
But there was plenty of other amazing plants to see, including a whole section given over to the ancient endangered cycads, plants that were here before the dinosaurs.

Female cycad

Male cycad

Cycads, aloes, ferns, succulents, lotuses, waterlilies, bromeliads, blue gardens, japanese gardens, butterfly gardens, topiary gardens, olive groves, the whole of Lotusland is one series of astonishments after another. A perfect example of the interesting conjunction of a creative passion and money well spent, all now available for the public to enjoy.  Quite a legacy. 

Main house with cactus garden

Since parking is very limited, reservations are a must.  Regular tours and family tours are offered at 10:AM and 1:30 PM, Wed through Saturday, Feb 15 - Nov 15.  There is an admission charge.  For further information or to schedule a tour, go to or call (805) 969-3767.

Trellised lemon trees

Rose gardens

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

Did you see the moon last night?  And early this morning?  Huge.  Gorgeous.  So near to earth, as if to peek down to say hello. Yesterday morning the air was like spring champagne.  This morning the smell of the sea has returned. It is still except for the faint sound of a rooster waking up the neighborhood a few blocks away.   This poem is by Billy Collins from his book, "Nine Horses."


If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Dressed to Shine

Before restoration.
 The Piedras Blancas Light Station is all dressed up and ready visitors.  Last year when we went out there, volunteers and others were in the process of removing all the old lead-based paint and doing other repairs to this amazing years-long restoration.

After the new paint job

Looking up the spiral staircase

The ground-cover yarrow isn't in bloom yet (that happens later in June-July) but the sand poppies are out, the sea lions are on the rocks and the whales and their babies are skating very close to shore on their migration north to the cold feeding grounds. The weather should be perfect this weekend for a visit.

     Tours are an easy 1 1/2 mile ramble, last about 2 hours and from now until June 15th, are offered on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays.  Starting June 15th, they're held 6 days a week, Monday through Saturday.  Cost is $10, which goes to help with restoration costs.

Meet at the former Piedras Blancas Motel, which is located 1.5 miles north of the light station at 9:45 a.m.  The groups then caravan in your own car to the lighthouse.  Piedras Blancas is located north of Cambria, north of the elephant seal rookery.  (Plenty of young elephant seals are still there lolling around in the coves so that's also worth a visit. And remember to stop by at Sebastian's Cafe in old historic San Simeon (opposite the Hearst Castle entrance) for one of their killer sandwiches for lunch.)

Be on the lookout for whales heading north.

 For further information,go to   or

Thursday, May 03, 2012

It Wuz Ayn

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for May 3, 2012

            It could only have been her. Who else in the world could have talked a whole country into collectively committing suicide?  Turn it into a heedless fiddle-playing grasshopper who had no responsibility for its future because winter would never come?  Who could make a whole nation believe that it was so exceptional, so special, so wonderful, so King-of-the-Worldish that it didn’t need to undertake those annoying chores like taking out the garbage, washing the windows, mowing the lawn and paying the mortgage, all of which are part of the adult responsibility required to maintain a civil society?  Who could feed the adolescent ego to such a degree that a whole generation of boomers would grow up to become right-wing Randian Republicans, all convinced that they were John Galt and it was time to shrug?          
            Ayn Rand, that’s who. And why not?  Hers was the irresistible siren song for every 18 year-old brooding in his room in the basement, picking at pimples and daydreaming about the cool, blond Dagny Taggart, while Mom keeps hollering down the stairs that he needs to do his homework, clean up his room, take a shower and come take the garbage out. Terrible. Take the garbage out. That’s for mooks, for losers, for leeches and takers, not for job-creating Masters of the Universe!
            And so John Galt was secretly born in the hearts of millions of average Americans – the belief that the benefits they received by living in a civil society, the schools they attended, the roads they drove on, the public health measures that helped keep them healthy, the regulations and subsidies that kept their food safe and affordable, everything in the social compact that surrounded them, all paid for by taxes by their hard-working fellow citizens  – all of that should be eliminated, de-regulated, privatized, profitized and paid for by The Other Guy, while they alone would be exempt, would be the special ones, answerable only to themselves.  Not for them the taking out of garbage.  Or paying the taxes that kept the schools and roads open so others could also benefit.  No.  Once he’s gotten his, John Galt doesn’t do The Commons for anybody else. That is for the moochers, the leeches.
            Did I say “siren song?”  Crack cocaine is more like it.  It was irresistible to the self-centered sociopathic 18-year old mind.  Fortunately, most people were able to outgrow Randian sociopathy when they grew up, got a job, had a family.  That’s when a world-wiser adult realizes that paying for a civil society actually brings benefits, secures a better future for their kids, and offers vital protections against the brutal way capitalism often operates in the real world.
            But a few people never grew out of that mind set. Alan Greenspan, the former Chairman of the Fed, was one of those life-long fanboys of Ayn.  He was also one of the most powerful financial advisers to all the Masters of the Universe for years, which gave his Randian world view extraordinary legitimacy. The Koch  Brothers are fanboy beneficiaries extraordinare, as is Congressman Paul Ryan.  He’s a Super Fanboy who requires that his staffers read her interminable Atlas Shrugged.  His proposed federal budget is Ayn at her chilling best.
            Which is all well and good.  In a capitalist, consumer society, sociopathy has its special charms and pay-offs for a certain few.  But here was the most amazing part of  Ayn’s mind-trick:  Her few fanboys managed to convince a huge majority of normal adults --who knew better-- that they should repeatedly vote for Master of the Universe policies that would benefit a handful of real John Galts, while hurting all those useless, contemptible moochers and leeches  -- themselves. 
             It was a brilliant piece of political ju-jitsu, all blind self-destructive noses, scissors, and fearful, misdirected spite on the part of the voters.  While the manipulative, sociopathic Randers smiled. Ayn would have been so proud.   
            So, how did it all work out?  Look around you at what happens when Atlas shrugs: For the moochers, an underwater mortgage, a looted national treasury, record unemployment, outsourced jobs, busted unions, voter suppression, a crumbling, bankrupt Commons, a failing health system, a failing school system.  In short, a system in collapse, a country without a future.
            And for the Masters of the Universe? The happy continued massive transfer of the nation’s wealth upline, with the booming Wall Street casino once again open for business-as-usual.   
            And why not?  Johnny Galt needs a new pair of shoes.