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Rising Sons Surf Club

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Back in the day (the day being the 1960s), I was a member and one time president of the Rising Sons Surf Club of Sylmar, California. For over 50 years I have been proud of my association with both the organization and its many members. I still keep in touch with many of the guys I surfed with from 1963 to 1970.

My memories are so strong and fond of those distant days that I wrote a book a couple of years ago to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of our club. If you are a surfer from either the present or the past, you may want to give it a read. There are many vintage photos from the days I spent surfing on the California coast. The name of the book is: Fifty Years Ago – A Surfing Trilogy. You can find it on Amazon by clicking the title.

Most of us are still around. However a few of our old bunch have passed away. The book and the video below are fitting testaments to days gone by when nothing was greater than our will to ride a wave.

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O-gyee

Blackfoot

O-gyee. Nee-dahn ikoo Allen. (Hello. My name is Allen.)

As you can see, my prowess with the Blackfoot language is rudimentary at best. However, I am attempting to learn this language completely. Why? That’s a long story but here’s the short version:

Over a hundred years ago my grandfather, Lee Allen, grew up in Anaconda, Montana among miners, loggers and the Blackfoot Indians. He had learned some of the language in his contact with local tribe members from a very early age. These same people helped my grandfather gain a deep respect for the earth, its people and resources. This relationship started when my grandfather was only five years old in the year 1899. In that year a local Blackfoot family gave my grandfather a gift of a pair of moccasins as a thank you to his family for being kind to them. (See Black foot Moccasins.) I still have these moccasins and marvel at what they meant to both families at the time.

Being passionate about language, I have learned several in my life: actually, twelve. These languages help me understand others better. They understand me better. That’s the goal. Years ago in college, I learned Lakota because I was curious. Adding Blackfoot to my language base does two things. It helps me understand a people who helped shape the destiny of my family and it does justice to an indigenous race that has been all but wiped out by our country’s politicians. After a hundred years, it seems like a fair if small payback.

That’s the gist of it. So I will keep pounding away in the hope to master a language that I will rarely use but one that I will be proud to call mine.

You can find some Blackfoot phrases and their pronunciation here. These are from Keith Chiefmoon’s 1998-1999 classes in Seattle, Washington.

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Big World, Small World

World

Our world is enormous. Most of us have seen only a very small percentage of our lovely planet, some have seen virtually none of it and still others have seen a large piece. But percentage wise, no one has seen anything near all of it. Where do you fit in?

For me, seeing the world in ample sampling has been a life’s passion. I have lived on two continents: North America and Europe, together accounting for over 28% of the earth’s land mass. I have visited 5 five continents, totaling over 71 percent of the earth. That seems like a lot: the continents are North American, South American, European, Asian and African. However, having seen so much, I have actually seen so little. I’d like to think that what I have seen has been the quality rather than the quantity of our planet.

I once worked in New York City and I have been to many towns and villages with a population under 100. In between, I have met many beautiful people, learned many languages and have been fascinated by endless customs. What is truly mind-blowing is that in the end of the day, there’s really not much difference between the people. In every locale that I have visited, people seem to have the same basic concerns. Also in every location, I have found 98 percent of the population to be wonderful with only about two percent being schmucks. Those are pretty good odds when looking for the positive side of humanity.

The five oceans? I knew you’d probably ask. I have been on the water in only three: the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. Seas? That would take a very large blog entry indeed; let’s just say a whole lot of them.

Again, where do you fit in?

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The Disappearing Crowd

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I am not an old person. However, every year that passes sees more of my friends and acquaintances doing the same. It is as though the herd is being thinned and none of us knows who’s next. Yikes!

When you’re 18 years old, you really don’t give a damn. Life is a long highway and you just got on the on-ramp. No sweat, the road ahead is long enough not to cause any major thinking. You sort of put it on cruise control, sit back and enjoy the ride. When you hit say 50, it starts to get a little clearer, this life thing. You realize you’ve purchased an E-ticket and you’ve already wasted half of it or more. When you hit 65, many of your friends have already been culled. What’s next?

Relax! The disappearing crowd doesn’t necessarily mean you’re next. Be grateful you got the one way ticket to start with and keep on trucking! Life’s a bitch but it gets a whole lot bitchier if you sit around waiting for the big sleep. Enjoy the time you have, enjoy the people you care about and enjoy yourself. It really doesn’t get any easier than that.

The disappearing crowd? You’ll see them all soon enough. Why rush?

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Cogito, Ergo Scribo

Thinker

Cogito, ergo scribo: I think, therefore I write. It seems like a simple enough statement.

For over 55 years I have been a professional writer. Over this expanse of time I have often been asked, “Why do you write?” My simple reply has always been, “Because I think.” Writing is an extension of our thinking process and our attempt to share those thoughts with others. Yes, there are those writers who do not wish to share their thoughts. Emily Dickinson comes to mind. She was content to keep her poems to herself for many years. However, in the end she did share them with us. Even a dear diary entry is in fact designed to be shared; in the writer’s mind, it is often shared with an alter-ego or intended to be shared with one’s self at a later date. Anne Frank’s diary is such an example.

The connection between thinking and writing is uniquely human. Ancient Neanderthals wrote stories of hunting on cave walls to share their cognitive processes with all who would gaze at the drawings for eons. Today, virtually any person can be an author via the internet and social media. But perhaps the equation has altered just a bit. The millennials tend to write and then think; perhaps their mantra should be, Scribo ero cogito.

In whatever order, it is certainly heartening to see that many of us are still thinking and writing. It is after all, what makes us part of the same species.

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Photos Speak

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Photos speak to us…. especially the old photos that most of us have tucked away.

When I was researching source material for my book, The Horse Whisperers from Anaconda, I went through the many old photos I have from my family. While some date as far back as the Civil War, I focused on those that told the story of my mother’s family which migrated from Missouri to Montana. There were many to choose from but the one that stuck out the most in my mind was the above photo which pictured a simple morning’s hunting outing with a father and his two sons.

Simple? Some would say extraordinary when counting the number of rabbits that are displayed with the three men. But in our family, such a morning’s hunt would have indeed been just ordinary. These were people of pioneering stock who hunted not for pleasure but for the nourishment of their large extended family. The scene in the photo depicts a rabbit hunt on the Allen farm in Louisiana, Missouri in 1912. The Allen family had returned to their farm from their new home in Anaconda, Montana to attend a family funeral.

It was a cold morning that foretold a bit of the family’s future fortunes. Proudly displaying the morning hunt of 39 rabbits was a family bonding between men that would soon be shattered. After their return to Montana, the family would move to Fresno, California. James E. Allen, on the left, would enter the world of commercial art only to be caught-up in World War I as a pilot in Belgium. The father, William Allen, would lose his wife. Elmer Leroy Allen, on the right, would join his brother in war and fight in the Argonne Forest. Lives, livelihoods and family bonds would be altered forever…. but never broken! All three men would survive their misfortunes and go on to help put their brand on the American West.

For a moment in time, three men stood in the frozen morning as the pillars of the Allen family’s pioneering spirit. At the moment that the shutter clicked, all was well in the world.

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For a full account of the Allen brothers and their family, read The Horse Whisperers from Anaconda.

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Cretino Oppure Maleducato?

Thinker

Domenica scorsa Io andato colla moglie a Senale in Val di Non per una festa. Era proprio bella! Incontrato molti amici della zona e mi sembrava un giorno straordinario.

Dopo siamo entrati un negozio vicino la chiesa dove abbiamo comprato regali e vestiti fra i anni. Il proprietario arrivata con una faccia brutta. Ci ha chiesto, “Cercate qualcosa?” Io detto, “No, ma guardiamo…. grazie.”

Lui diventata subito cattivo e diceva, “Sempre venite in mio negozio… vattene in un altro negozio. Vi non mi piace!” Ho pensato, “Perché?” Ero imbarazzato e con niente di dire, uscito la porta con un “fan cullo” al’labbra.

Ma perché dopo 15 anni quel’uomo mi tratta cosi? Forse un cretino che non piace stranieri? Forse solo un maleducato? Non lo so ma sicuramente lui aveva un grande problema con i Americani. Volevo parlare con il sindaco di questo paese ma mi sembrava inutile. Niente di fare senza questo blog. Ma se diventiamo tutti noi come questo uomo di Senale, dove arriviamo?

Cretino oppure maleducato? Chi sa! Ma per me un altro ragione per non fare turismo in Italia. Mi sembra che ci sono tanti che odono Americani in questi giorni. Peccato. Ma forse sempre cambiato mondo per male. Alle fine, troveremmo un altro negozio ma anche troveremmo un altro paese più bene. Cretino oppure maleducato? Non lo so, ma con un comportamento cosi peggio, sicuramente lui chiusa la porta fra poco. Meno male!

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Ode To Hillary

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(Normally I try to stay away from politics on this blog. However, the “devil” made me do it!)

Ode To Hillary

Oh Hillary, must we believe
You and Bill won’t decieve?
A thief, a liar, an arrogant ass:
Should we believe all this will pass?

Is it Hillary or Billary now?
The skinny finger or the old cow?
Is it the conspiracy of the right
That makes you bark instead of bite?

What happened to your imaginary stroke?
Will the press now ask or poke?
We doubt it because they never do.
They give a pass to Bill and you.

Enlighten us if you will,
Why should we vote again for Bill?
He’s transferred all his villany
Into the person of old Hillary.

Tell us again it doesn’t matter
That Benghazi’s blood will ever splatter.
Tell us again there is no reason
You should be charged with high treason.

A computer server in your home?
Never the truth, the same old tome.
There’s something fishy in your every move,
Like a record stuck in a groove.

White Water and your Midas touch
Really don’t reveal all that much,
Except that you are certainly a crook;
Your life of crime could fill a book.

What’s the deal, tell us Hill?
Or should we speak with sleezy Bill?
Hillary or Bill, which is newer?
They both crawled out of the sewer.

Vince Foster’s ghost tells it true:
There scammy one? It is you!

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Blackfoot Moccasins

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For many years I have been in possession of a pair of moccasins that were given to my grandfather as a 5-year-old child in Anaconda, Montana. They were made by a nearby Blackfoot Indian tribe in 1899. The story is detailed in my book, The Horse Whisperers from Anaconda.

I have recently been researching the design on these moccasins and their meaning. I would also like to know their exact origin. The moccasins are ankle high, made of deer leather and crafted for a five-year old. There are what appear to be inter-joined flowers in blue, yellow and green used in the beaded design. The tongue is scalloped as is the overlap that hides the laces. The likely location of the tribe that made these is somewhere between Missoula and Butte, Montana. The most likely the location is Deer Lodge, Montana. Recently an expert in moccasins suggested that they may be of Cree or Blackfoot origin. I am hoping that the description and photo can help pinpoint their exact origin.

Is there anyone out there who can help?

Nitsíniiyi’taki

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Custard’s Last Stand

Sweet dessert, caramel custard with syrup

I went to the market the other day for a little shopping. While I was there, I thought it would be nice to try some custard. I haven’t had it in a while. I guess it’s going to be a while longer; they don’t sell it anymore. At least it’s not the custard that I remember. It is now yuppie instant custard, a concoction that does not resemble its distant relative. Disappointed, I turned to see if the market carried polenta. No, apparently even in the ethnic section, polenta doesn’t exist either. Puzzled, I went home hungry.

It seems that I lot of the things I knew from years ago are no longer available in local supermarkets. Times have changed and so have tastes. The American diet now seems largely fat driven; I’ve noticed that 40 percent of local markets is now devoted to frozen foods, fast foods, or pre-prepared foods. I honestly wouldn’t know what the hell to do with pre-cooked bacon; it sounds about as appetizing as pre-frozen leftovers. Where have we all gone astray?

On a return visit to the market, I was elated to find that I could still buy a pear, an apple and a half-gallon of milk. The staples have survived, albeit modified greatly from the days of my childhood. The milk now comes in so many varieties that I get a bit confused. I settled on two percent chiefly because I’m not sure what the other varieties even mean. An apple is not just an apple any more either. There are more than 10 varieties hereabouts. Damn, I just wanted a red one.

I suppose I’m a bit old-fashioned (and not 400 pounds like so many of my brethren). I would still prefer to make my own pasta sauce from fresh ingredients. Prego means you’re welcome – I prefer to say no grazie to jarred pasta sauce. If I must eat bacon, I sure as hell want to see it in the flesh so to speak before I cook it. The pre-prepared salads don’t do too much for me either. I guess I’d rather cut my own tomatoes so at least I know what month they came from.

Custard’s last stand? Yep, I think it was lost in the Battle of the Little Bloat-Horn.

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