The only thing to believe in

In the Netflix series “Ozark” the male lead, Marty Byrde, is asked, “What do you believe in?” Marty, a well-intentioned money launderer for a drug cartel, replies, “I believe in numbers.”

I’ve often used numbers but never thought seriously about them. I was good in math up until high school when I made a choice between athletics and trig. But it seems true. Numbers make our world go round, make sense out of chaos. Sports, astronomy, politics, healthcare, travel, business, investing, you name it. Maybe even religion. On the 7th day God rested.

The problem with numbers, though, is this.  Are they the right numbers? If you take a fake news figure that 80% of Americans support Donald Trump when the truth is 30%, then you are out on the wrong side of a limb with a saw.

But, since I’m headed for a significant birthday next year, I am going to make a resolution. I’m going to try to emulate Marty Byrde.  Numbers are the only things to believe in.



“Brodie Mansion”

The boyhood home of A. O. Brodie, aka the Brodie Mansion.

I had hoped to eventually get back to Edwards, NY, and find the “Brodie Mansion” that eluded me four years ago. The opportunity arose earlier this month during our second visit to Lake Placid and Adirondacks Park, upstate New York.

The boyhood home of Alexander Oswald Brodie was important but not key to my research on the Walnut Grove Dam Disaster of 1890 in Arizona Territory.  Brodie, a West Pointer and a former Army officer who fought the Apaches, was chief engineer at the dam the night it broke and sent a flood of water downstream to kill dozens of workers in a camp along the Hassayampa River. He did not design the dam or build it and was never held responsible for its failure.  Not that it was essential to my story but Brodie had later served as territorial governor of Arizona, 1902-1905.

We were in the Adirondacks primarily to hike.  But when Sunday, September 3, turned rainy, we decided to travel the 87 miles W to tiny Edwards, population 1,156, just outside the Park.

I had a better idea this time where the home was located.  Thomas Freeman of Edwards had sent me a note describing it and where I would find it.  He should know. His family had owned the “mansion” since the 1880s, he said.

A first stab at a house up Talcville Road seemed a fit, but the owner said it was not the place I was looking for.  But he knew exactly where the “Brodie Mansion” rested.  With his information, we steered north on Gouverneur Road driving toward town,  At one point I looked west and there it was, about 150 yards off the road.  Painted white, four-pillars.  Had to be.

A few vehicles were parked in the driveway as we approached.  I got out of the car and yelled, “Anybody here?”  A man came to the door.  It appeared he was remodeling a room in the interior.  He said it was OK to shoot some photos of the exterior but we couldn’t come inside.  His name was Fuller, I think.  His mother was a “Freeman,” he said.

The man didn’t seem to know much about Brodie.  He seemed surprised when I told him that “Colonel Brodie” was a friend of Teddy Roosevelt and had fought as a Rough Rider with him in the Spanish American War.

It appeared the Brodie family of the 19th Century had been well off.  It was a beautiful site with the languid Osegatchie River behind it, on its way to the St. Lawrence.

I shot three of four photos and we left,  Satisfied at last.







Glen Campbell in the Old Sod

Nebra waiting on concert time, with me.

Glen Campbell died today, and I was glad to have seen him perform in person one time, in Ireland no less in 2006.

I had bought tickets for Nebra and me for the Midlands Music Festival primarily to let my favorite singer, Van Morrison, mesmerize me again, only this time in his native land.  I didn’t even realize then Campbell was on a card with Don McLean and the headliner, Dwight Yoakam.

We were on our way back toward Dublin from the West Country and had stayed the previous night in a B&B at rainy Mullingar, about 25 miles distant. The rain faded, and the next afternoon we drove up in the rental car to the festival site at Ballinlough Castle as sun broke through clouds.

It was surreally beautiful.

The 17th Century castle stretches out on a rural hilltop overlooking two lakes with the stage on the slope. I recall seeing some colorful clothing hanging out to dry in a castle window as we swilled a few beers (photo) and waited. Only a few thousand hard-core fans showed up defying the prospects of more rain, most laying out like us on blankets spread in the summer grass.

Campbell was not at his best that day. Alzheimer’s had already started its dirty work on his mind. His daughter, Ashley, sang at his side, raising her voice when he stumbled over the words or sang off key. I remember thinking it was an embarrassing performance.

But now 11 years later, I don’t care so much about the quality.

It was a great moment to see Campbell fighting to do what he no doubt loved, and doing it in front of a crowd, even if they were mostly Irish..

Yes, that, and realizing the tragedy that was unfolding.

A mystery solved

In the summer of 2013 on our way to the Adirondacks, we drove east of Canton, NY, to Saranac Lake.  At the small town of Edwards we stopped briefly to search for the childhood home of Alexander Brodie.

I wrote about  it on September 8 of that year, “A village, graves and an old house.”  Brodie was a former army officer, a territorial governor out here in Arizona and rode with Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders in 1898 during the Spanish-American War.

I was armed only with a hand-drawn map of where to look.  The map indicated to drive west of Edwards a short distance, past a cellphone tower and the house was there by a pine tree.  I published a photo of the place above a cut-line that read,  “I believe this might be the old Brodie family home.”  It wasn’t.

I received this message today from Thomas Freeman of Edwards:

“Hello there, I wanted to let you know, that my family, The Freeman’s of Edwards have owned the Brodie Mansion since the 1880’s. The house you photographed is unfortunately not the “Brodie Mansion”. You were however close. Had you continued out from town on that same road, past the cell tower on your right at the bottom of the hill, the Brodie Mansion sits far back from the road with a two story pillared porch, it is quite a grand structure. The house is painted white.”

I wrote Mr. Freeman a short reply, thanking him for clearing up the issue.  Mystery solved.  I hope to take another crack at finding the “Brodie Mansion” the next time I’m in the area.


33 hours before Xmas

Our tree, ready for gifts.

Our tree, ready for gifts.

It is now less than two days before Christmas and I have done zero shopping.  I have the time to shop.  Plenty of time.  But I put it off as long as I can.

I’m averse to a lot of things about the season to be jolly. It’s what most people usually say before heading out on a spree. Jammed parking lots, commercialization, rude people scurrying around stores.

But, if I’m honest, the main reason I so hate shopping is that I’m afraid I will disappoint someone.  A gift that does not measure up,  If I see a glimmer of sadness in their eyes, really, how can I live with that?  That’s one thing I’ve learned.  Hand someone a gift and don’t look them in the eyes.

Nebra and I made an agreement this year.  We would cut back severely on gifts.  Possibly not even buying anything.

But how many times have I heard, “Oh, don’t buy me anything this year. I have everything I need.”  Then when you don’t they’re distraught.  “He should have known I didn’t mean it.”  You can see the rage building.  It will come back to haunt you.

Empty stockings, bubbling with expectancy.

Empty stockings, bubbling with expectancy.

We do have a tree.  Already a few gifts lay beneath it but they are from family and friends.

One thing makes me believe Nebra is not with the program. Several days ago she placed two Santa stockings above the fireplace, one for me and one for her.

Those empty stockings, I think, are filled with hope, with expectancy.  Maybe Nebra thinks it will be Santa, and not me, that drops something in there.

For sure I best go out soon to buy something.  Anything at this point will do.  I am not yet desperate.  That would come tomorrow.

If I could blow up Christmas, I would.

Fighting back against Trumpism

I started a computer folder shortly after the election called “Trump Era.” Inside are 11 files so far. They deal with FACTS I’ve gleaned on various subjects.

One of the files is named “Jobs.” Another is named “Big Business” and contains info on Trump’s corporate welfare deal with the Carrier Corp. My favorite is a near-empty one, “The Wall.” I plan to start another soon called “Land Grab,” regarding public lands particularly in the West where I live.

Knowledge.  This  is my initial way of fighting back at what appears the New Dark Age of America.  The presidency of Donald Trump.

If anything was clear to me during the election it was this.  Many Americans have not a clue on how our government works and its place in the world.  Facts no longer matter.  The era of easy “information” is as dangerous as it is simplistic.  Find a website that agrees with how you feel about an issue, and that becomes truth.  Few know how to research.  Even fewer know how to think logically.

You have only to look at the advisers and cabinet members Trump has chosen to understand you need to be vigilant, to know FACTS about everything the new administration is going to do after the inauguration on January 20.

Americans who do not support the Fascist policies of Donald Trump need to be more alert than ever, to get over sulking about the election very quickly and begin thinking about the mid-terms in 2018.  Those elections can over-turn a Republican-led Senate where Supreme Court justices go through the nominating process.

This is not the time to go beddy-bye. Knowledge, even in this era of a largely fact-free society, can be turned into power.

Irrationality takes over

Our class valedictorian did not attend homecoming in October this year. But a copy of his published letter to the editor of the Kansas City Star did.

Merrill Stiles, a retired physician, asked readers to think logically before casting their ballots for president and provided a list of considerations.

I was reminded of Merrill’s letter today in reading Donald Trump’s tweet of yesterday. The tweet said that in addition to winning the decisive Electoral College, he had also captured the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

Trump offered no proof of illegal voting. He seemed to have pulled “the fact” out of the sky. Hillary Clinton by all reliable accounts leads the popular vote by 2 million. And the number is growing.

Not only that but Clinton is seeking a recount of votes in Wisconsin. And the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, is raising money for recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Trump has no strong mandate going in to his presidency.  He seeks a stronger voice by saying he won the popular vote so that he can rule America like a king. But the important thing is not what he said. The important thing is that half of America will believe him, nodding that millions cast illegal ballots. Half of the country will suspend logical thinking in favor of fiction, an unproven assertion that would get you a Big Fat “F” in Logic 101.

While I agree with Merrill’s concern, I think it comes a bit late. America has already reached the tipping point where irrational thinking is the standard. Trump is not the enemy. The enemy is us. We have perhaps reached critical mass with the election of Trump. Faith is winning the war with science and fact.

We no longer seek a president but some sort of white man’s messiah. Trump’s election is just another example of America in decline.