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Justice Served

Michael Vick was released from the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas today. He left in the early morning, and headed back to his home in Virginia, where he will serve 2 months of home confinement. He will have three years of probation ahead of him, but he will have served his hard time and will be free to return to the society that rejected him & his behavior. It seems a cut and dry case for Mr. Vick. He broke the law, was found guilty and sentenced to federal prison. His time almost done, he will be able to rebuild his life, and hopefully move past his dog fighting days, perhaps returning to glory on the gridiron.

Some of his critics seem to think that playing in the NFL is a privilege, one that Mr. Vick is no longer entitled to, and the league should not let him return. I hope that this is not the case. Mr. Vick will have paid his debt to society and should be free to pursue his athletic career, if he so desires, and he can find a team to give him a job. I think now, more than ever, we need for justice to simply work, and for those who have served their time to be given a second chance, it’s the American way.

We have a problem with justice in America. The system seems to work, from the bottom up, almost all the way to the top. We can deal with Bernie Madoff and Michael Vick, but it seems stuck when it comes to dealing with our elected leaders & the law, or lack of it. All across America, the justice system hears cases, Monday through Friday, and the courts churn out verdicts. In this system, our system, Mr. Vick found himself, a jury of his peers and 19 months of hard time in Leavenworth, Kansas. He broke the law, was plucked from his life and placed in jail.

Are we, as a society, going to do anything about this torture disaster? We did in Mr. Vicks case with dogs, but do we have the courage to prosecute those who ordered the torture of human beings? It seems the dogs of America are safe, but the dogs of war still roam wild. We have been told we cannot look back, that we must look ahead. Isn’t crime solving, essentially, looking back? When I look back, I see W, Cheney, and broken laws. Woof.

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Shallow Ken

Torture alone is so far outside the scope of my ken.

How am I supposed to put commentary here at all, let alone regularly? All the hot issues, all the news and blogging out there. I thought I wanted to do it, too, but, well — it’s not just the Presidency, anymore, that’s best described as “trying to drink from an open fire hydrant.” What with the Internet and all.

Being an informed citizen by the standards of the day takes effort. Of course, it ways has. Even if it takes more attention now, just to stay buoyant, it definitely takes much less actual effort than ever. More caffeine and fewer calories.

Good half-serious whining is one way to figure the whole big, roiling, stupid, intimate thing out. Take the time and write down some feelings. Today I downloaded a new Twitter (!) interface “app” for this iPod-brand handheld computer thing.

Going without a laptop for one month now, and I think I’m more used to the limitations. This is how it’s done now.

Open up the fire hydrant.

pittsburgh1

I love the city of Pittsburgh. I have friends and family there. I spent 3 great years, working in and around the city, playing music and making records. I lived on the east side of the city, in a relatively tough part of town and I never had any problems. When something good or bad happens to a place you love, you feel it. You feel it in your heart, your mind and your soul; you feel it tugging at the memories that you carry inside you. I was friends with police officers from the east side of the city. They knew me and I knew them. Their job was to protect and to serve, my job was to play music, and I mourn the loss of the officers killed in the line of duty, in the city that I love, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Richard Andrew Poplawski told his friends that he was afraid President Obama would take away his guns, take away his right to defend himself. At this time, it appears that Mr. Poplawski is not allowed to own any guns, due to his being dishonorably discharged from the service, in his case the United States Marine Corps. Mr. Poplawski was reportedly an avid supporter of the 1st and 2nd amendment, but apparently he had little regard for the Federal Law that prohibits ownership of firearms for those who are dishonorably discharged from military service. No guns for you Mr. Poplawski. President Obama was not going to take your guns Mr. Poplawski, because you are not allowed to own them. So, where did you get your AK-47? Where did you get your handguns? Did you buy them; was it before you where dishonorably discharged or did you get someone to buy them for you? Either way, you should not have had them, it is against the law. We live in a country of guns and that is not going to change, but we also live in a country of laws and that is not going to change either. So Mr. Poplawski, I hope you get a fair trial, by a jury of your peers, and I hope that you serve the rest of your life in jail, not for breaking the Federal Law that says citizens, who are dishonorably discharged from the military, cannot own firearms, but for breaking society’s law, for breaking God’s law, that says, you shall not commit murder.

town hall.

bynum-store-exteriorfamily-friendly-venueNeighbors and friends, villagers and others, assembled last night for competitions of luck and skill. Down to the Bynum General Store — once hopping with old-timers and Federally-funded as a post-office, then quieted by Jerry’s retirement, now variously revived for community gatherings like this — we played Jan’s homemade Sjoelbak board, good ol’ Risk, and the German hot-shot Klaus Teuber’s Barbarossa. Can’t remember what else. Had about 20 people at three or four tables with the Sjoelbak pucks sliding and thwacking away at the back of the room. The potluck snacks were more plentiful than wholesome; that’s how it is in land of Moon Pies and RC Cola.

This morning, I strolled back down there to take some photographs. Turns out, a fellow named Billy Joe is keeping the place open during the day. He’s got some chips and sodas for sale, and says tomorrow there will be hothouse tomatoes.

bynum-store-tv-watchers

cello-lessonThis is my ¾ cello that I was talking about. It is almost a full sized, but a quarter short. That’s kind of like you and me, kid; someday though, you will be full size too. Anyway, I got lucky and found a nice student model, sitting alone in some lady’s closet. It was made the month that I graduated from high school; the stamp inside reads: June, 1984. That was about 10 years before you where born, right? Yeah a long time, alright, sit back and listen close. These points here on the lower body, they go above the knees; like so. Let me adjust the peg to the right height. Perfect. The headpiece, here, wants to be over by your left shoulder, yeah like that. Ok, the bow, you should hold like this and it goes here, just below the fingerboard and you either push or pull it across the strings. Do you notice how the bridge is arched? That is so you can bow 1 string at a time, without having the bow touch another string. There is a time to learn double string technique, but not today. Why don’t you go ahead and bow the 3rd string; that is a G string. Place the bow here, with the edge of the hair on the string, and slowly draw the bow back. Nice! Alright, try to keep it perpendicular to the strings. Do you know what that word means? You’re a smart kid. Ok now draw it back and go ahead and push back again … back and forth. Nice! It sounds good, that is an open G. Go ahead and try them all. That’s a C, then G, then D, and A. Voila! You, my friend, have bowed your first four notes on the cello and it is not yet 10 minutes into your lesson. You are sure that this is your first time playing a cello?

The Gardens @ 509

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While the forsythia, quince and daffodils are in full bloom, the redbuds have only burst open within the past week; their purple flowers adding vibrant color to the landscape. Dogwoods are just opening their buds, with small flowers unfurled as the last days of the official winter season pass by. It was a great winter; cool and wet. The spring blooming Camellias are in full color now; their pink, red or white flowers speak the same majestic language as the Peonies of May; simply fabulous.

The iris bed is looking alive and well, though there are not yet any signs of blooms on the plants. These old fashioned giants will give the backyard a colorful, pastel display in just a few more weeks. This fall I think we should plant some daffodils bulbs around the iris plants, just about the time that they go dormant for winter.

Spring means that the vegetable garden gets turned. All the pine straw that had fallen through the winter is raked off, along with the remnants of last summer’s cherry tomatoes; their fiber skeletons a reminder of summertime deliciousness. There is something grand about turning over the garden soil, especially at an “old” family home.

The lady of the house is all that is left of the family, who has lived here for over 50 years. Her children have grown up and moved out, with families of their own now; her husband passed away 6 years ago. Still, the soil gets turned, seeds get sown and life goes on.

Earth Angels III

Now, for the next installment provided by our generous contributor, David. He’s in Nicaragua, engaging in a (self-motivated) youth art-education undertaking that he calls The Angel Art Project.

strwbrryshrtcake-doll

“The Birthday Party,” by David Chatowsky

Yesterday, March 15th, I took the bus from Nagarote to La Paz Centro. There, I was met by good ol’ Jairo, his 6 year old son Alexander, and Jesus, a friend of Jairo. We went up the main street of La Paz Centro to the hotel where our friend Erica was staying, and sat down in the shade. Sitting in the shade, talking and eating while the wind cools you is a big Sunday past time. So there we sat, waiting for Erica to come out of the hotel and join us under a little canopy. Erica soon came outside to let us know she was feeling a little under the weather. “I think it was something I ate,” were her exact words. Jesus said she was hung over.

So we sat there for awhile talking about the local happenings. Then Erica said she was going to a birthday party for her uncle’s daughter, who had just turned one. “The Mayor of La Paz Centro will be there and you could meet her,” Erica said. I wanted to go and meet the Mayor, so off we went.

The Birthday party was a sight to behold. Never had I seen a bigger one. It took place in the shade of 300 mango trees. The trees belong to Erica´s grandmother and have been providing Erica´s family with Mangos for over three generations. They told me how that week alone they had collected over 12,000 mangos and were expecting at least 12,000 more in what the locals call a “charge,” when the fruit is all ready to be harvested. The trees have mutiple charges in a fruiting season, while the mangos are no bigger than the palm of my hand.

March is mango season in Nicaragua, and the ripe fruit is everywhere. At least two or three times a day I see someone eating a mango.

There were at least 60 adults at this birthday party and 50 children, give or take, all sitting around white plastic tables under the mango trees. Erica found our table, which Jairo and I picked up and moved closer to the trunk a mango tree. They wanted to be in the deepest part of the shade. “We are bored of the sun,” Jairo said. So there we sat under the mango tree, near a tent that housed the birthday cake, and an old trailor filled with gifts, and a stereo system blairing local music. In front of us lay all the people sitting around their own white tables.

Soon a liter of Coca-Cola was brought to the table along with a bowl of ice. Then a plate of food, beef in a chutney sauce with a small salad, and a piece of bread. All the cooking was done over a wood fire in a small building on the edge of the grove. The food and drink were brought to the tables by local women.

A clown appeared and performed tricks and games for the children, a large pinata, which looked like a Strawberry Shortcake doll, was lowered from a mango tree, and while the children were beating Strawberry Shortcake a band showed up in a white pick up truck. Just as Shortcake was giving up her ghost, the band started to blare and the children shouted with glee. “The Mayor is here,” Erica told me. I looked up and saw a tall women who was dressed in a muticolor blouse. After awhile Erica said, “Now is a good time to talk with her, because later she will be busy.” So talk to her we did. Well, actually, it was Jairo and Erica who did all the talking. They told her about my Angel Art Program, and how I wanted to help out the poorest schools in La Paz Centro. The mayor said she was interested in the program, and that we would meet later to discuss at what schools I could help out.

After we met the mayor, but before we left the mango farm, I did some video recording of the party, and then we went on our way. I recorded Jairo explaining about a few other native fruit trees. We got into a taxi and went back to the hotel in La Paz Centro. What a lovely, tasty, beautiful, productive party that was.

Find all of David’s reports from Nicaragua here at the index.