Monthly Archives: January 2020

Words matter

Opinion

My wise old grandmotherMy wise old grandmother never finished first grade. Her father had died, and she had to hit the fields to help ensure that the family had crop to harvest and sell. I find that amazing considering all that I learned from her.

One day when I was 11, I had a conversation with her that went something like this:

Me: Can I go over to Jim’s house?
Her: I don’t know. Can you?
Me: I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking.
Her: Are you sick?
Me: No.
Her: Can you walk?
Me: Yes.
Her: Then I guess you can.
Me (as I turn to run out of the house): Thanks!
Her: Where are you going?
Me: Over to Jim’s.
Her: I didn’t say you could go anywhere.
Me: Yes you did!
Her: No, I did not. Sit down.

I sat.

After a 5-minute lecture on the importance of words and how words matter, and the difference between Can I? and May I?, I asked her, May I go over to Jim’s house? She answered, Yes, you may.

I bring this up because 54 years later, I still believe in the importance of words, that words matter.

Yesterday on Facebook I posted a link to an article titled,

Your Homophobia Isn’t A ‘Difference Of Opinion,’ It’s Hate.
Don’t tell me, a gay man, just to accept that some people want me dead.

Here is the conversation:

Person 1: I would say more ignorance than hate. These things are often passed on from parents. And they have not been exposed to the beauty there is in all types of people – gender, race, or sexual preference. And, that is sad.

Me: Or sexual orientation. “Preference” indicates a choice. Words matter.

Person 1: Whatever, you know what I mean, Russel. Everyone has beauty and importance them. It is time that people realized it.

Me: I cannot agree with “whatever.” My life is important to me, and when people like Mike Pence want to kill me because of my “choice” and “preference,” well, words matter.

Person 2: Person 1, big difference between preference and orientation. I get the feeling that you don’t understand the difference (e.g, “whatever”).

Person 3: It’s definitely ignorant but it is also hate. The hate is the dangerous part that is sweeping across the globe right now. The hate is the flame that Trump and his minions are throwing fuel on. It is the hate that Bolsonaro and the lumber barons and miners use as they torture and destroy the indigenous people of the rain forest. It is the same hate that Boris Johnson inflames the people with bats to beat lesbians on the streets of London. It is the same ignorance and hate that we remember on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Hate of the other: gypsy, Jew, homosexual, Catholic, neurodiverse, mentally ill, physically disabled, African, African American, South American, Native American, Mexican, Puerto Rican, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, left handed, Muslim, Iranian, Syrian – any group that the masses can be made to hate so they can be manipulated. You know what they are capable of. We have come to a time in our world where we must take a stand. Whatever is not enough.

Person 1: Russel and Person 2- of course orientation. Thanks for the correction.

I have no problem with preferences. Preference is a choice. I prefer margaritas, you prefer wine. I might not agree with their preferences but I’m not going to argue with anyone over them.

Since 1993-94, I have been estranged from thousands of relatives on both my mom’s side (Mormons) and dad’s side (Catholics). None of them could accept my “preference,” and none of them were willing to continue to love me. So we split. No problem. They prefer their religion. I don’t. But I also don’t want their preferences in my life. It’s not like pineapple on pizza, or not (NO!).

Another phrase that irritates me is “gay lifestyle.” A few years ago a Mormon relative with whom I had grown up in Kingsville, Texas, contacted me. She said she was aware of my “gay lifestyle.” Well, here’s a representation of my gay lifestyle:

I get up each day, shower, dress, eat breakfast, brush my teeth.
I feed Little Queen Olivia.
I go to work.
I take a lunch break (pizza, without pineapple!).
I go back to work.
I get off work.
I come home.
I eat supper.
I check Facebook, news, and sports.
I pay bills.
I play with Little Queen Olivia.
My husband comes home.
We kiss hello.
Husband checks Facebook, news, and sports.
We kiss goodnight.
Repeat daily.

O.M.effin.G. That’s so gay!

When I came out to all my relatives and friends in 1993-94, many asked me, “How long have you known you were gay?” and “When did you decide you were gay?” and “What made you gay?”

Well, back when I was pseudo-religious, I thought God made me gay because God made me, and the Mormon and Catholic religions taught me that God doesn’t make mistakes. Maybe making about 10% of his/her creations gay was his/her form of birth control?

If we substitute “homosexual” for “gay,” I’ve known since about the age of ten that I was homosexual. I was always more interested in the boys than the girls, and it was far more than “boys will be boys” and “girls will be girls,” far more than getting cooties from the girls.

When my friends brought Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler to school, I was right there with them looking at the pictures (Ooopsy. I mean, reading the articles). However, while they were looking at the women, I was looking at the guys. Hustler was the best because it showed full frontal nudity for the guys. I was a Hustler fan, and it was easy to fool all my friends with my heterosexuality….

We were getting aroused over different things. It wasn’t something that happened overnight. It just naturally happened, and I never really questioned why it happened.

I never decided I was gay. I did decide to try not to be gay. I did that for 38 years. All it did was cause me to be a mess mentally. I’m kind of surprised that I survived, but I did.

With Twitler in the White House and his Crime Family, supporters, and enablers doing everything they can to ostracize people like me, yes, I’m going to speak out when and where I can in a forceful yet respective manner. It’s the least I can do to ensure that people like me never have to live like I did the first 38 years of my life.

The little monster

Cats

I have been spending a lot of time cataloging and organizing pictures, so I don’t have much to say today.

When I don’t have much to say, I let pictures do the talking.

So here are some recent pictures of the little monster, Little Queen Olivia.

She’s been with us for six months now and is as crazy as ever.

1
Little Queen Olivia

2
Little Queen Olivia

3
Little Queen Olivia

4
Little Queen Olivia

5
Little Queen Olivia

6
Little Queen Olivia

7
Little Queen Olivia

8
Little Queen Olivia

9
Little Queen Olivia

Which is your favorite picture of the little monster?

Fighting depression

After a lifetime of working and volunteering, I find myself really depressed after retiring on December 31, 2016. Since I was self-employed for 90% of my working life, I had to become an expert in many areas related to business: marketing & advertising (they are different), accounting, actual work, taxes, customer service, and negotiating, just to name a few.

I am endeavoring to do a few things that I have always wanted to do, such as publishing a book. I finished my first book, Nature’s Geometry: Succulents, in October 2019.

Cover of "Nature's Geometry: Succulents" by Russel Ray

I worked on it 12-18 hours a day from mid-June to October. It kept me busy and out of trouble.

Spiny Succulents, by Jeff MoorePrior to that, I did the final editing and design layout for Jeff Moore’s fourth book on succulents, comprising 350 pages and about 1500 pictures.

I started that on January 28, 2019, and finished in mid-June. I think I worked on it for 18-24 hours a day because I did pull a couple of all-nighters. It was like I was back in college albeit without the keg parties.

United States SSS mapJanuary 28 through October was the only time since retirement that I have not be depressed on a daily basis. Those months caused me to realize just how much I love reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, not to mention photography. Late last year I hit upon the idea of writing another book, to be titled SSS: Southwest Succulent Staycation. I would explore finding succulents in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah. Those four states pretty much take in the southwest United States.

The problem I immediately ran into is that they are four big states. It’s not like the northeast where you could go to eight or nine states all in a week or less. To explore these four big states and get appropriate material for my book would take a year or two. Just finding the places that I need to visit already has taken all of January, and I’m nowhere near finished.

When I have a significant problem to work on, I take a nap. These are not your normal naps, though, because I don’t fall asleep. The problem weighs on my mind. It’s kind of like daydreaming.

A couple of days ago I took a nap in order to work on this problem and came up with what I think is a brilliant idea.

There’s no doubt that a book covering succulents in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah is going to be a pretty big book, taking a pretty long time to complete, and costing a pretty penny.

My nap showed me that I could make four books, and instead of huge 8½x8½ books or larger, I could make “pocket books” (4.25″ x 6.75″) which would be better for actually using them during your staycation. The pocket books would cost less money and provide me with something to do immediately since I can easily create California’s book starting today.

My Nature’s Geometry: Succulents book has landed me on the cactus & succulent club speaking circuit, and publishing four more books instead of one book would keep me on the circuit. Second and third editions could keep me going for many years, and having five books to sell instead of one or two keeps clubs happy. They like variety, having choices.

I also can work on four books simultaneously since I do have enough pictures from all four states to give me a good start. Working on four books, traveling on the speaking circuit, and traveling to get pictures of places I have not been definitely could keep the depression at bay.

Of course, I would miss my husband and Little Queen Olivia while I was traveling. The lazy ass cat will never know I’m gone….

Little Queen Olivia

Out & About—Slab City, California, public library

Out & About

One of the nice things about libraries here in California is that almost all of them have a “Friends of the Library” association, taking in book donations and selling them to make money for the library. I have bought many books from Friends.

Here is the public library at Slab City, California:

Slab City, California, public library

Here is their Friends of the Libary:

Friends of the Library at Slab City, California

Dolphins killed Jesus

Out & About

One of the “neighborhoods” of Slab City, California, is East Jesus.

Its complementary neighborhood is West Satan.

East Jesus and West Satan don’t get along. No surprise there, but since the leader of our photographic expedition was wearing an East Jesus shirt, we decided to skip West Satan. Consequently, all I have to offer you today is pictures of the East Jesus sculpture garden, obviously Slab City’s “tourist trap.”

For your visual entertainment:

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

A Smith Corona Coronamatic.
This was my first electric typewriter.
I would have kept mine if I had known
that some day it would be a museum piece.
East Jesus sculpture garden

I’m worried about his followers

Out & About

Yesterday I went to Salvation Mountain.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain location

This was my sixth or seventh trip to Salvation Mountain since 1993, but I was always alone, so I never exited the car and walked around.

I did not feel safe.

Yesterday I was with a group of seventeen photographers…. There’s power in numbers.

I felt safe.

Not completely safe.

But safe enough to get out of my car and take pictures.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Is it odd that I don’t feel safe in the midst of Bible Thumpers, especially those spouting “God Is Love?” On the surface, yes, I think it is odd. The underlying reality, I believe—

—and as my wise old grandmother told me,
“You can’t argue with someone’s beliefs
because their beliefs are not always based in reality.”—

—is that these people will do just about anything to protect their beliefs, and they often are not sane, sober, or interested in other beliefs, not to mention opinions, facts, science, truth….

Armed & bitter libertarian drunkards live here

Salvation Mountain is a “hillside visionary environment” created by Leonard Knight (1931–2014) in the California Desert area of Imperial County. Knight started it in 1984 when he was 53. Although there are many Bible verses painted on Salvation Mountain, its main philosophy is the Sinner’s Prayer. Knight’s version of the Sinner’s Prayer seemed to be the following because it was everywhere!

Jesus, I’m a sinner.
Please come upon my body
and into my heart.

Sinner's Prayer

What little research I could tolerate doing this morning on the Sinner’s Prayer indicates that it’s just another of those beliefs. In this case, even the Bible does not contain any reference to the Sinner’s Prayer. It’s all made up gobbledygook even beyond the fairy tales in the Bible.

Salvation Mountain is the “showpiece” of Slab City. Other parts of Slab City include the “neighborhoods” of East Jesus and West Satan. I’m pretty sure I would  be living in West Satan.

We didn’t make it to West Satan yesterday. Seems the West Satan folks and the East Jesus folks weren’t getting along…. Where’s God’s love?

All residents of Slab City are “squatters” and seem to be paranoid about government, technology, and science. However, if you want to donate to their paranoia, they have an email address and they do take PayPal. They also have a Facebook page. Am I the only one who sees the irony here?

East Jesus PayPal

I do find it interesting that for a “city” propounding God’s love, there was a lot of non-love exhibited throughout Salvation Mountain, Slab City, and East Jesus.

Slow the fuck down

I'll have them all shot

More irony (my belief)
No stupid people

No fucking parking

In 2000, The Folk Art Society of America declared Salvation Mountain

a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection.

In an address to the United States Congress on May 15, 2002, California Senator Barbara Boxer described Salvation Mountain

as a unique and visionary sculpture… a national treasure… profoundly strange and beautifully accessible, and worthy of the international acclaim it receives.

In December 2011, the 80-year-old Knight, suffering from dementia,
was placed in a long-term care facility in El Cajon, California (where I live!).
He died there February 10, 2014.

In 2012, a public charity, Salvation Mountain, Inc., was established to support and maintain Salvation Mountain.

I found the question mark in this little section of Salvation Mountain to be quite interesting:

Bible Jesus Loves ? You

I’m not worried about whether or not Bible Jesus loves me. I’m worried about the followers of Bible Jesus….

Still sad

My wise old grandmother

My wise old grandmother adopted me in December 1965 when I was three months short of 11. She was the only person who wanted me since I was a juvenile delinquent and then residing in the Troubled Youth program at the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital in Ogden, Utah.

I learned a lot from her about life, responsibility, gardening, plants, and compassion for animals. She was the person who captured flies and returned them to the outdoors. Captured snakes, rats, mice, roaches, spiders, and lizards, and returned them to the outdoors.

When she knew that she was dying, she asked me if there was anything I wanted to ask her. I did. I wanted to know how she kept ants from getting into the house. She practiced things like rinsing off dishes immediately after Earthgro decorative groundcover barka meal, keeping sugar in a container rather than in the store package, keeping cereal in containers as well, rinsing honey residue off the container before putting it back in the cupboard, and spreading fine mulch around the exterior of the house. Her experiential evidence indicated that ants and snails didn’t like crawling on fine mulch. Larger sizes didn’t bother them.

I follow in her footsteps, capturing anything inside that belongs outside and returning it outside. I have watched the Nature Channel and many nature documentaries. I know how cruel and unforgiving the food chain can be, but I guess as long as I don’t have to watch it in person, I’m okay.

Yesterday, Little Queen Olivia took a position in front of the dresser, refusing to budge. Very strange behavior, so I got the idea that, perhaps, there was a lizard behind the dresser. Instead I found a young rat. I know it was a young rat because it was only about four inches long with just a four-inch tail. The rats we have out here in the East San Diego County boondocks are huge, the size of opossums.

I tried capturing the rat, but all I did was encourage it to move to a different corner behind the bed where it was much more difficult to try to get to, especially for one person. I called pest control hoping for a humane way to capture the rat and move it outside. They recommended glue traps. The rat gets stuck to the glue trap and then they take it back to their office, use a mineral oil to soften and remove the glue, and then return the creature to the outside.

However, due to the arrangement of the room, as well as the furniture, he also set a few regular snap traps just in case the rat avoided the glue traps. Well, said rat did avoid the glue traps but didn’t make it past the snap tracks.

I felt so bad. While the rat was squished behind the bed headbord, I had been shining a light on it, making eye contact, and talking to it, ensuring it that I would help it get back to the outdoors. The poor little rat was so frightened, and it’s little eyes seemed to plead with me not to kill it.

Sadly, now it is dead.

I interrupted the food chain. There might be a coyote or raptor that went hungry yesterday.

Do I worry too much?

All during the ordeal, Little Queen Olivia was endeavoring to help. I didn’t get the impression that she wanted to kill it. I thought that she simply wanted it removed from her domain.

I know how the rat got in, and I’ve taken care of that.

I also believe that the rat got in sometime on Saturday, January 11. Little Queen Olivia was telling me because she took a position during the day next to the entry spot. At night she didn’t sleep on the bed like she usually does, preferring to run up and down the hall. I now believe she was chasing the rat. There also was the fact that suddenly she was eating half a bowl of dry food during the night. I’m thinking the rat was eating the food.

Last night, Little Queen Olivia slept on the bed again, not running up and down the hallway, and not eating half a bowl of dry food.

Little Queen Olivia is back to her pre-rat self. Problems solved. Still sad.

Olivia on a window sill watching a rabbit

Wow, oh wow. Hidden San Diego.

Halls of History

In my never-ending exploration of all things San Diego, I found a plaque along a walkway in Balboa Park. Looks like this:

Agaston Haraszthy

I have walked this path hundreds of times yet never saw this plaque even though it is on a good-sized rock. However, as you can see in the picture, it looks like the vegetation that once covered it has been pruned back.

Or maybe, just maybe, it has been in storage from when the walkway was expanded a couple of decades ago and now has been returned to its original location. I know the City of San Diego often does that. Sadly, sometimes things never get returned to the original location…..

So, of course, I had to jump on the research wagon to find out more.

Research Wagon

Agoston HaraszthyWe know from the plaque that Agoston Haraszthy was born in 1812, was the first Sheriff of San Diego, and died in 1869….

I was sure that my 762-page book, San Diego Trivia 2 by Evelyn Kooperman, would provide quite a bit of information. I mean, after all, he was San Diego’s first Sheriff!

I was excited when the index said that Agoston Haraszthy was on page 6. A full page all to himself!

Sadly, the entry’s not even about Agoston Haraszthy. It’s about Roy Bean. Yes, Judge Roy Bean. Haraszthy is casually mentioned. Here is the entry:

Roy Bean. Around the mid-1800s, San Diegans decided to be truly civilized, they needed a jail. Bids went out, and Agoston Haraszthy, who was sheriff and town marshal, was picked to do the job. He hired someone to build a 20-by-50-foot room of cobblestones, which wee set in mortar that contained no cement. According to legend, the first prisoner in the 1852 cell was Roy Bean, nephew of Mayor Joshua Bean. This was the same Roy Bean who was later known as “Judge” Roy Bean, famous for his “Law West of the Pecos.” No soon was Roy incarcerated than he began digging in the soft mortar with either a jackknife or a spoon, and quickly made his way out.

I wondered what a Google search might provide. I was not hopeful.

Surprise!

A Google search took me to the greatest encyclopedia in the history of the world: Wikipedia (where I happen to be an editor who can make edits stick permanently). Following are highlights of his life, and the link to his Wikipedia page follows this list.

      1. August 30, 1812—Born to a Hungarian noble family in Pest, Kingdom of Hungary, Austrian Empire. Pest has been part of Budapest since 1873.
      2. January 6, 1833—Married Eleonóra Dedinszky in Bács-Bodrog County, Hungary. The Dedinszkys were a Polish family but had lived in Hungary for many centuries, being accepted into Hungarian nobility in 1272. Agoston and Eleonora had six children.
      3. March 1840—Traveled to the United States with a cousin, making their way through Austria, Germany, and England, crossed the Atlantic Ocean to New York, and made their way to Wisconsin via the Hudson River, the Erie Canal, and the Great Lakes.
      4. 1840—Founded the town of Széptáj, now knosheim winery
      5. roxbury winwn as Sauk City, which was the first incorporated village in the State of Wisconsin.
      6. 1842—Returned to Hungary to bring his parents, wife, and children to Wisconsin as permanent residents of the United States.
      7. 1842-1849—Built mills, raised corn and other grains, and kept sheep, pigs, and horses. Kept a store and opened a brickyard. Many of the oldest houses still standing in Sauk City were built with bricks from Haraszthy’s brickyard. Owned and operated a the first commercial steamboat to carry passengers and freight on the Mississippi River. Donated land on which the first Roman Catholic church and school in Sauk City were built. Planted grapes and dug wine cellars on the east side of the Wisconsin River in what became the Town of Roxbury. The cellars and slopes are today home to the Lake Wisconsin AVA and the Wollersheim Winery, the second oldest winery in the United States.
        Wollersheim Winery
      8. March 1849—He and his family left for California, not for the gold rush, but to settle in San Diego and plant a vineyard. Elected captain of the wagon train that traveled the Santa Fe Trail, arriving in San Diego in December 1849.
      9. 1850-1868—Formed a partnership with Juan Bandini, a prominent Spanish-Californian in San Diego (see my blog post about Casa de Bandini). Planted fruit orchards, operated a livery stable and stagecoach line, built a state hospital, and opened a butcher shop. Organized a syndicate to subdivide a large section of the San Diego Bay shore into streets, parks, and building lots, called Middletown. Planted a vineyard on a tract of land near the San Diego River. Led an unsuccessful movement to divide California into two states.
      10. April 1, 1850, elected Sheriff of San Diego County. Also served as city marshal. In his capacity as a private contractor, built a jail for the city of San Diego, which was completed in 1851.
      11. September 1851—Elected to the California State Assembly from San Diego, serving from January 5 to May 4, 1852.
      12. March 25, 1852—Bought land in San Francisco near Mission Dolores and near Crystal Springs and planted vineyards. Found the climate too foggy to ripen the grades.
      13. April 1854—Haraszthy became the first U.S. assayer at tne newly opened San Francisco Mint.
      14. 1856—Bought a small vineyard northeast of Sonoma.
      15. 1857—Founded Buena Vista Winery, the oldest commercial winery in California.
        Buena Vista Winery
      16. 1858—Wrote a 19-page “Report on Grapes and Wine of California,” published by the California State Agricultural Society. Now recognized as the first treatise on winemaking written and published in California, and praised as the “first American explication of traditional European winemaking practices.”
      17. April 23, 1862—Elected President of State Agricultural Society. Contributed articles to newspapers and made speeches to gatherings of agriculturalists. Entered his wines in the competition of the California State Fair and received the highest awards.
      18. 1863—Incorporated the Buena Vista Vinicultural Society, the first large corporation in California (perhaps in the United States) organized for the express purpose of engaging in agriculture.
      19. 1864—Harper’s Magazine proclaimed that Buena Vista was “the largest establishment of the kind in the world.
      20. 1861—Appointed by California Governor John G. Downey as a commissioner to report to the Legislature on the “ways and means best adapted to promote the improvement and growth of the grape-vine in California.” Traveled through France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and Hungary before returning to California in December 1861 with more than 100,000 cuttings of more than 350 different varieties of vines. It is a disputed claim that Haraszthy brought the first Zinfandel vines to California.
      21. 1868—Left California for Nicaragua. He formed a partnership with a German-born physician and surgeon named Theodore Wassmer and began to develop a large sugar plantation near the seaside port of Corinto, Nicaragua, where he planned to produce rum and sell it in American markets.
      22. July 6, 1869—Haraszthy disappeared. His body was never found, and it is unknown whether he fell into a river on his property and was washed out to sea, or was dragged under the water by alligators which infested the area.
      23. March 2007—Inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame by the Culinary Institute of America.

All I have to say is, Wow! I have read so many books on San Diego history, and this is the first I ever have heard of Agoston Haraszthy, his relationship with San Diego, his entrepreneurship, and his significant vintner history. Wow, oh wow. Immigrants…. Thank goodness Twitler wasn’t around then.

Here is the link to his Wikipedia page.

Agaston Haraszthy

Designated Survivor

I want to know!

Designated SurvivorI finished watching “Designated Survivor” starring Keifer Sutherland as the Designated Survivor/President of the United States.

I thought all three seasons were excellent.

I think I liked it specifically because each episode could stand on its own, and the episode topics are relevant to what’s going on in the U.S. and the world right now with the Twitler Crime Family Syndicate, Boris Johnson in England, Doug Ford in Alberta, Canada, and probably others whose names escape me at the moment.

Topics like

  • politics,
  • dirty politics,
  • politics of stupidity,
  • crime politics,
  • biological warfare,
  • nuclear warfare,
  • espionage,
  • treason,
  • Big Brother,
  • LGBTQ rights,
  • bigotry,
  • misogyny,
  • racism,
  • mental health,
  • etc.

I highly recommend it.

I also thought Keifer Sutherland was extraordinarily good.

As an aside, did you know that Keifer Sutherland’s full name is
Kiefer William Frederick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland.

As a double aside, did you know that Keifer Sutherland was married to Camelia Kath, widow of Chicago’s original lead guitarist, Terry Kath, who died playing Russian Roulette?

As a triple aside, Sutherland also dated Bo Derek and was engaged to Julia Roberts when the engagement went south three days before the wedding date.

Notwithstanding all of that, I want to know what’s behind his full name!