Remember 1971?

Richard Nixon installed a secret taping system in the White House, and Joe Frazier beat Muhammad Ali. You could buy a new Malibu Barbi for $1.94 and an Etch-A-Sketch $2.83.

Jimi Hendrix's arrangement of the "Star Spangled Banner" was broadcast over Radio Hanoi, and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" won the Grammy for best song.

A highlight for me was the passage of the 26th amendment which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.

The USSR performed numerous nuclear tests, as did the USA. And, there was trouble in the Middle East, and at home. The Supreme Court upheld busing as means of achieving racial desegregation, and Charles Manson was sentenced to life for the murder of Sharon Tate.

On a brighter note, the State of Washington became the first state to ban sex discrimination, and Apollo 15 launched (Scott & Irwin) and completed the fourth manned landing on Moon.
"Ed Sullivan Show" aired its last broadcast on CBS-TV, and the White House Plumbers unit was formed to plug news leaks.

Late in the year, Don McLean's 8-plus minute version of "American Pie" was released. John Lennon released "Imagine", and a book called, "A Theory of Justice" by American philosopher, John Rawls was published.

From assorted websites I was reminded that in 1971:
Average Cost of new house $25,250.00
Average Income per year $10,600.00
Average Monthly Rent $150.00
Cost of a gallon of Gas 40 cents
A Ladies Beret and Scarf Set was $6.00 (apparently those were a thing).

Let's go back to John Lennon and John Rawls. I don't know if this singing/songwriting Beatle and this philosopher knew each other or not. I hope they did. I wish I could have been in a coffeehouse with the two them, maybe John the Philosopher would have mentioned the book he had just written, and I would say, “You know, John the Philosopher, the concept of your book reminds me of the idea of a song that John the Beatle just wrote, called "Imagine”.” Lennon might say, tell me about your book John, and he might say:

Imagine that you have set for yourself the task of developing a totally new social contract for today's society. How could you do so fairly? Although you could never actually eliminate all of your personal biases and prejudices, you would need to take steps at least to minimize them. Now, imagine yourself in an original position behind a veil of ignorance. Behind this veil, you know nothing of yourself and your natural abilities, or your position in society. You know nothing of your sex, race, nationality, or individual tastes. Behind such a veil of ignorance all individuals are simply specified as rational, free, and morally equal beings. You do know that in the "real world", however, there will be a wide variety in the natural distribution of natural assets and abilities, and that there will be differences of sex, race, and culture that will distinguish groups of people from each other. (From Wikipedia)

Then maybe John the Beatle, would sing the chorus to his new song:

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

And I might mention, John the Apostle, who told about one who was life and light, and this light shone in the darkness but the darkness did not understand. Imagine that.

It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I have five Grand-Girls, and NOW A GRAND-BOY. You may not know though that there is another little girl who has a piece of my heart. Her name is Maimouna. I have never seen her in real life, but I have seen her picture. She writes me letters and I write to her. She draws me pictures and I tell her I think of her and pray for her often. I send her a little money every month and a little more on her birthday and at Christmas. She is eleven now. I’ve been her "sponsor" since she was five. She is beautiful.

Maimouna lives in Burkina Faso. In Africa. Her family subsists on little. Life expectancy in Burkina Faso is low. There is a strong chance that she will suffer genital mutilation at puberty. Over 70% of girls there do. Her favorite subject in school is art, and she obviously loves color. 

The pictures Maimouna drew for me in her last letter.

The pictures Maimouna drew for me in her last letter.

I know I’m naive, proved by the fact that I prefer anecdote to anaylsis, metaphor to methodology. At least I’m willing to admit the dangers in that kind of rhetoric. For example, consider Inhofe’s Snowball, to coin a phrase. (Maybe this will catch on like Pandora’s Box or Schrödinger's Cat.)

You remember Inhofe’s Snowball right? Jim Inhofe, our long, long, long term senator from Oklahoma, infamously carried a snowball into the Senate Chamber one very cold Washington D.C. winter day. He stepped to the podium and said, basically, that his snowball was proof that global warming was a hoax. That’s a really big conclusion from one snowball, but that’s what anecdote and metaphor can get you if you’re not careful.

Imagine, though, if the rules we play by were written behind a veil of ignorance. What if you didn't know if your were going to be born to healthy, loving, caring parents in the USA? What if there were a possibility that you would have been born a little girl in Burkina Faso? Imagine if the rule makers were humble, if they were selfless, if they could imagine the full impact of their rule and rules on the world, the whole world, not just the one of privilege. Imagine light in the darkness. If John Lennon is right, "It's easy if you try."

Malachi & The Formidable 5

WHEN I FIRST DECIDED to write a blog, I chose the name “About POPS” because first and foremost it is a role I cherish: being Pops to five beautiful, stong, talented and determined Grand-Girls. And, yes together they are formidable.

On May 12, 2017, a miracle happened. (On the issue of miracles: when someone says they don’t believe in miracles, I assume they’ve never held a newborn baby in their arms.)

Malachi David Fuller was born in the wee hours of the morning. His beautiful mother, his stalwart father and two loving, big sisters welcomed him and let him know from his first breath that he would be part of a very special family. For us grandparents, we watched on with awe and gratitude.

When my son Kyle, whose birth I vividly remember, came to the waiting room to invite us in to greet the baby, I immediatley asked, “Is it a boy or a girl!?” 

“Come and see!” he said.

A boy indeed. And then they told me his name: Malachi David. It was like a dam broke in my soul and humility and honor rushed in. Right away, I thought, “Oh I have some stories for you little man. We’ll have a unique kinship and maybe a few inside jokes we’ll share and keep from the Formidable Five. While they’re watching their princess shows, we’ll get the old Tonka dump truck that your daddy and Uncle Corey played with, and we’ll make a new road in the dirt and in the story of our family.”

Don’t get me wrong, the Grand-Girls collectively and individually hold a very special place in an old Pops’ heart; but it will be so nice to buy a Christmas or Birthday gift that’s not pink and purple—the official colors of the Grand-Girl Queendom. While they’re dancing, singing or being dramatic, maybe we’ll go oil our bicycle chains or take a leak in the woods.

Malachi, we are so glad you’re here. You are so fortunate to have the big sisters you have. They were sooooo excited to meet you for the first time. Your mother is an amazing human with a courageous soul. She has been an inspiration to me and others for a long time. I hope you will inherit her joy and compassion and talents. Your father is my son. I’m guessing that you will take great pride in him, just as I do. He wears two uniforms: one of the U.S. Army and one of an officer of the law. More importantly he is your mother’s husband and your Dad. Regardless of uniform or role in life, his soul is beautiful. He is a kind, humble and loyal man. He will be with you every step you take. Your parents will be the first examples you will know of God’s grace. Don’t you ever forget that little man.

And, don’t forget this either: at any family gathering, if the Formidable Five get to be just a little too much, just let Pops know and we’ll go skip rocks and talk about how to understand women or something.

Old people are distinguished by grandchildren; children take pride in their parents.
— Proverbs 17:6 The Message


The reality of “retirement life” is out there (as is everyone’s future reality). Because we tend to edit the memories of our past to make them sweeter somehow, the angst of my first coming-of-age pales in comparison to this second coming-of-age.

I’ve often wondered why the older members of church congregations loved to sing the hymns of transcendence: “In The Sweet By and By”, “Over in Beulah Land”, “The King is Coming”, and so on. Maybe there’s an escapism in there somewhere. If your birthday cake is suddenly incapable of holding all your candles, and everything that can ache does ache, and you’re tired of going to the funerals of your friends, you’re probably not nearly as concerned about the POTUS pissing off that pudgy little North Korean dude with the bad haircut and starting WW3, as you are if you’re 18 and buying a corsage for your prom date, even though that whole experience can be fraught with anxiety.

There’s a reason why the marketing slogan, “Calgon, take me away!” was so successful.

Don’t take me too seriously; ever. I’m not trying to get into some clinical, fight-or-flight, when-the-going-gets-tough analysis here. But, don’t you sometimes just want to get away? Isn’t it fun to imagine that chair on the beach? Not in a shirking of responsibility sense, or total escape way, but in a pack up the car, we’re going on an adventure way.

Going even further and farther, I’ll admit, the imagined life of a bohemian has always sounded very romantic to me.

“Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic, literary or spiritual pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may or may not be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds.” —Wikipedia

Of coure, I would want to have good food and clean restrooms on the journey. Back in the day, in the first coming-of-age, I had all the trappings of the lifestyle for a time: The VW Bus, the guitar, the bell-bottom jeans, the beads and the bongos. What I lacked was the funds. No doubt I could have subsisted on little, but when you’re bus won’t even start, well…

Note: I still can’t believe My-Amazing-Missus’ parents ever let me drive on to their expansive dairy farm south of Tulsa in that VW Bus and drive off with their daughter. But I’m glad they did.

Today, there is apparently a growing number of wandering bohemians in search of; well, it looks like what they are actually searching for is the right photo op, or as we knew them: “Kodak moments”, to get just the right shot to post to Instagram, to build a following, to get brand sponsors, to fund their idyllic lifestyle. The trend is trending to the point that it caught the attention of a reporter for the New Yorker magazine.

At times, the vanlife community seems full of millennials living out a leftover baby-boomer fantasy: the Volkswagens, the neo-hippie fashions, the retro gender dynamics. --New Yorker

“Leftover baby-boomer fantasy”? I can live with that.

The “movement” has been dubbed “vanlife” because one of the guys, Foster Huntington, noted for giving it traction used the hastag #vanlife to document his journey. I first discovered the guy a few years back because his book “Home Is Where You Park It” fueled my fascination with getting the Airstream and hitting the trail.

No discussion of the vanlife or the trailerlife or the AirstreamLife would be complete without remembering the amazing Saturday Night Live skit featuring Chris Farley as the motivational speaker, Matt Foley. Here’s an excerpt from the SNL script:

Mom: Your father and I came up with a brilliant idea to give you kids some direction - a motivational speaker.

Dad: Yeah. One of those guys who speaks to big groups at high schools and churches.

Stacy: You mean, to come to the house?

Mom: Yeah.

[ the kids get up to leave ]

Dad: Hey, come on, you guys. This set me back a few bucks. Okay, his name is Matt Foley. Now, he's been down in the basement drinking coffee for about the last four hours, and he should be all ready to go. I'll call him up. [ opens the basement door ] Matt, we're ready for you! [ turns to the kids ] His speech is called "Go For It!" Now, he's used to big groups, so make him feel like there's a crowd here. [ calls down the basement again ] Matt! Come on up, buddy!

Matt Foley: [ runs up the stairs, bouncing back and forth as he talks ] Alright, how's everybody? Good! Good! Good! Now, as your father probably told you, my name is Matt Foley, and I am a Motivational Speaker! Now, let's get started by me giving you a little bit of a scenario of what my life is all about! First off, I am 35 years old.. I am divorced.. and I live in a van down by the river! Now, you kids are probably saying to yourself, "Now, I'm gonna go out, and I'm gonna get the world by the tail, and wrap it around and put it in my pocket!!" Well, I'm here to tell you that you're probably gonna find out, as you go out there, that you're not gonna amount to Jack Squat!!" You're gonna end up eating a steady diet of government cheese, and living in a van down by the river! Now, young man, what do you want to do with your life?

Brian: [ nervous ] I.. actually, Matt.. I kinda wanna be a writer..

Matt Foley: We-e-e-elll.. la-de-freakin'-da! We've got ourselves a writer here! [ jumps across the room ] Hey, Dad, I can't see real good.. [ lifts his glasses off and on his face ] that Bill Shakespeare over there?

Dad: Well, actually, Matt.. Ellen and I have encouraged Brian in his writing.

Matt Foley: Dad, I wish you could just shut your big yapper! [ stumbles back across the room ] Now, I wonder.. Brian, from what I've heard, you're using your paper, not for writing, but for rolling doobies!! You're gonna be doing a lot of doobie-rolling when you're living in a van down by the river! [ turns to Stacy ] Young lady, what do you want to do with your life?!

Stacy: [ sarcastic ] I want to live in a van down by the river.

So what does it take to make the leap into life on the road? Maybe some courage, a bit of desperation, a chorus or two of Que Sera Sera… Whatever it is, I don’t have it yet. Props though to my Bro-In-Law and Cousin/Sis-In-Law for taking the plunge. Happy trails!

Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arrive.
— ― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

RIP brother Pirsig.

Going Home Again

You can only be young once. But you can always be immature.
— Dave Barry

My father was once pastor of a Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Looking back, I probably didn’t make it easy for him or my mom, the pastor’s wife. I think I was just about Sixteen at the time. Do I need to say more?

There are witnesses to the fact that I may have been at most obnoxius stage of life; to this point. As I slide into full-blown senior adulthood though, it could be that my worst self is yet to come.

"Like I said, things never turn out exactly the way you planned. Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day, you're in diapers; next day, you're gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place... a town... a house... like a lot of other houses; a yard like a lot of other yards; on a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is... after all these years, I still look back... with wonder." From The Wonder Years.

Now about this church in Tulsa. They have something now they didn’t have when I was a teenager there — a Facebook page. I’m a “follower”. Chronicled on the church’s FB page is a sort of reinvention for the church, which is something that probably could have happened to me during my few years there—reinvention that is.

I found myself a little troubled about the church’s actions, something they called a “reboot”, which included redesigning the church auditorium and changing the church’s name (for heaven’s sake). Why should it matter to me? I only spent a few years there, but they were important years. My dad and mom though, gave all there.

I think this is why it matters. It’s not as though the reboot necessarily does away with the seeds my folks planted there so long ago. It’s just hard sometimes when the bedrock stuff of your life shifts. Not long ago we drove down the street where I spent most of my growing up years. Our little house is gone now, and the Bordens Cafeteria where I can remember getting fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy for Sunday lunch has been replaced by a “dollar” store.

My folks are 92 and 89. My mom still checks “The Facebook” from time to time, when they have a good wireless connection at the assisted living village. If they have taken note of the changes at the church, they haven’t mentioned it. Probably they would see it as progress, and therefore, cause for thankfulness. They are like that.

For me I have the memories: like playing that little game during the sermon where you match up song titles from the hymnal to see what funny combinations you can come up with. My personal favorite: “Have Thine Own Way!” & “O, Why Not Tonight?!” And, I remember the wonderful people there who served with humility. I remember the man who taught my Sunday School class and wrapped up every, single lesson with this: “Now, boys, the lesson in a nutshell is…”

Maybe the point of this essay in a nutshell is this:

"You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory." — from the book, You Can’t Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe