As the midterm election approaches, my hope is everyone eligible to vote will do so.
When I served in the military the disgrace of President Richard Nixon was on my mind. With Nixon gone, I didn’t care who won the 1976 election. While shipping overseas to serve in an infantry division during the Cold War, I hoped everyone back home did their duty and voted. I was ready to accept the results of the election.
This year there are candidates on the ballot who continue to say the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. What malarkey! I will accept the results of the 2022 midterm election because I understand our elections are secure and honest, and every vote that can legally be counted will be. In Iowa we are very good at running elections.
Nov. 8 will be here before we know it. Make sure you do your part, study the candidates and the proposed constitutional amendment on the sample ballot, and vote. It is the least we can do to secure our democratic way of life.
~ First published in the Marengo Pioneer Republican on Oct. 26, 2022.
The coronavirus pandemic changed our family’s lives. It goes without saying the pandemic had us withdraw from society. I left paid work, quit all but utilitarian travel, spent more time at home, and downsized our operation to being a one-car family with a newer, smaller automobile. Change is not finished. The pandemic is not finished either, although it is being normalized.
When I consider leaving the property it is about trips to retail merchants, on political errands, or to visit family or friends. That is it. I did my traveling for education and adventure when I was young. Career work with a large transportation services firm had me traveling as well. We took a few vacations when our child was young. These days, when driving along the single egress from our home, I seldom leave the state. Usually a gallon of milk accompanies me on the trip home.
While the chip and seal access lane to our development is a road to everywhere, is it really if we choose not to travel it? Going left at the main road takes me to the dairy store, to my dentist, to political friends in Iowa County, and to the airport. A right turn takes me to town, to the clinic, to the county seat, to shopping, and to visit family. It is a much bigger world than that. I know, because I have been there.
I may plan a trip for recreation or learning. The Stanley Museum finally opened on the University of Iowa campus after being flooded out and permanently evacuated from its previous home along the Iowa River in 2008. Maybe I’ll visit and try not to get grumpy about repatriating all the African artifacts Maxwell and Elizabeth Stanley brought back from their travels. After all, seeing Joan Miró’s A Drop of Dew Falling from the Wing of a Bird Awakens Rosalie Asleep in the Shade of a Cobweb inspired me to learn more about the artist and eventually see him making a film in Saint-Paul de Vence in 1979. I have no desire to see Jackson Pollack’s Mural, which was a gift to the museum by Peggy Guggenheim. So maybe there is a possible non-utilitarian trip in the future.
For now, I appreciate the opportunity to walk along the road and take a photo on a beautiful fall day. That is travel enough in a time of pandemic.
I’m slowly striking the tomato patch where garlic will soon be planted. Each beautiful, fall day is of bright sun, cool temperatures, and the promise of winter. Time spent outdoors offers a chance to clear my thoughts and commune with our patch of life. Younger me would already have the garlic in. Today I am savoring time in the garden.
I gleaned vegetables yesterday and there was a hard frost last night. It yielded tomatoes and peppers. I picked a big bunch of parsley and left the kale, collards and chard out to weather the cold. It has been a great year for bell peppers and tomatoes, for most everything.
It is time to put wool blankets on the bed and get out sweatshirts and woolen socks. Yesterday I walked on the state park trail in a t-shirt yet that won’t continue long. I’m ready for winter and it is coming.
I finished my goal of reading 40 books this year. It’s time to return to my autobiography as soon as the garlic is in and the garden prepped for winter. I’m looking forward to picking up where I left off with new ideas about approach and how to cover topics already on the outline.
I just finished Jann Wenner’s memoir and OMG! I’m not a rich guy, so I can do better than inventory all the homes, aircraft, and celebrity friendships I have. (That would take less than a page). Reading Wenner convinced me to make my story shorter. I envision the first part, up to my leaving Davenport, as chronological history. After that I expect to depart chronology to write thematic sections. I do want to finish the book so I can move on to other projects. If I keep nose to the wheel, I may be able to get a draft out to my editors by Spring 2024. I saw my medical practitioner Thursday and based on our conversation, my health should hold steady until then.
In these pre-dawn hours I’m anxious to get outdoors. If all goes well, I’ll finish clearing the tomato patch so I can prep the soil and plant garlic in the next few days.
I’ll have a fresh tomato for breakfast… because I can.
It is a bit weird, although correct, to call it late summer. Autumn doesn’t begin until Sept. 22 this year.
We had lightning and rain overnight. The ground remains wet this morning. Leaves on deciduous trees have begun to turn. Yellow wildflowers along the state park trail got frosted, even if it wasn’t cold enough for frost.
There were overnight thunderstorms in the county seat, enough to halt the big football game at Kinnick Stadium — three lightning delays totaling 236 minutes in duration. The home team shut out the opponent once the game resumed after midnight.
Today, I’m considering what’s next.
We are out of the coronavirus pandemic as much as we will be. While Governor Kim Reynolds was early, her Feb. 3 declaration that the coronavirus was to become normalized in daily, routine public health operations on Feb. 15 is a convenient bookend to a distinct phase of my life: The Coronavirus Pandemic Time.
I’ll continue to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and get tested if there are any. If I get the virus, I’ll follow Centers for Disease Control protocols for isolation and treatment. I’ll continue to wear a face mask inside crowded retail establishments, and wear a mask indoors when with groups of people and the local risk is high. Periodic immunizations will become part of the fall health regimen the way influenza immunizations have been. That’s that.
The main consideration is how I will spend time going forward. During the pandemic I developed a routine that varies little from day to day. Events and activities from the world outside my routine seem like an intrusion. I want to contribute to society, yet not in the same way I have since my retirement from transportation in 2009. Solving this problem, the problem of how to engage in society, begins with shedding the old skin of a life lived well yet has become obsolete.
First comes a shedding of the past and remainders of past engagements. This is neither quick nor easy. It turns out it is difficult to leave a group to which so much of oneself has been given to create. Old habits die hard, as the saying goes. I’ve been at this for more than a year and there is a long way to go.
Next is to determine what’s most important. That’s not easy either. It is work that comes after late summer rain.
When I open the Press-Citizen, the first thing I seek is letters to the editor. There have been less of them printed. Indeed, I’ve been trained to look for them only on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I counted only two issues in the last 24 days (as of Aug. 8) with letters.
This important forum has been de-emphasized. I get it that newspapers are under pressure to turn a profit and an opinion editor costs real dollars. Still, engaging reader-written content must count for something.
I’ve been writing letters since 1974 and accept the medium may be reaching toward obsolescence. It has been an outlet for my writing and a way to get my views in the commons for feedback. I’d like to see more people writing letters from diverse viewpoints.
If only the Press-Citizen could regularly print them
~ Published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen on Aug. 13, 2022.
The number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 increased by 25 percent last week. The number of patients requiring intensive care nearly doubled. 35 Iowans died of the virus. The number of new people being vaccinated remained low in the state at less than 60 percent. The virus is ubiquitous. Click here to read a report from the local newspaper.
While fewer people don a protective mask in public, I still carry and wear mine when going to a retail store or large indoors gathering. I’m getting out with people more, yet it is mostly outdoors events where there is less risk of contracting the virus. Thus far I tested negative on the few times I got a COVID-19 test. I am learning to live with the virus.
It rained most of Wednesday. In between showers I picked tomatoes so they would not burst from the influx of moisture. There are some problems with the way I planted tomatoes this year. They are too close together and the patch of Roma and cherry tomatoes is not producing as well as I would have liked. It was a mistake to plant them under the shade of the oak trees. However, the San Marzano tomatoes are doing fine and there are enough to can once they reach peak ripeness. I have some empty jars from our child to fill first, then will put up as many as possible for the pantry until the season is over.
There are too many cucumbers and plenty of pickles already prepared. A family can only eat so many. Every other abundance — bell peppers, zucchini, greens — can be dealt with by freezing them for future use. Herbs can be dried.
This year my participation in society is going through a sea change. I read the extensive activity list for seniors in the newspaper and don’t feel ready to join the group. There is too much to do at home. My cohort of elected officials is finding their way to the exits and it’s not the same with new folks. Local political candidates have not been engaging as they have in the past although that frees my time. The time since I left my last job at the home, farm and auto supply store has been a landing zone. I’ve not skidded to a full stop quite yet.
Once the garden finishes in October I’ll return to my autobiography. This will be the third winter writing it. In a good world, I’ll finish the draft of the timeline through completion of graduate school up to our wedding. When the written record begins in 1974, I have another choice to make: whether to edit writing from my journals, blog posts and letters into a narrative, or to write a new narrative based on them. It could go either way. For now, I’m focused on bringing the writing to the point in 1981 when I was living on Market Street in Iowa City.
For the moment, I’m still on holiday. I want to return to daily writing yet not that much. The picture of where I land after the pandemic is complicated by the fact it is not ending. I’ll have to seek other ways forward.
For the time being, the kitchen garden — harvesting and processing vegetables for storage — consumes much of my time. It is a good thing.
In the Des Moines Register Iowa Poll released on Sunday, “A majority of Iowans – 60% – say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, at a time when the state’s Republican lawmakers have new freedom to restrict the procedure.” That’s the highest percent since the Iowa Poll began asking the question. The percentage favoring keeping abortions a legal option is higher nationwide.
American voters opposed overturning Roe by a 30 point margin. Politicians such as Governor Kim Reynolds and Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks have said Roe was settled law. Nearly 70% of Americans did not want the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. 75% of people say decisions on abortion should be left to the woman and her doctor, including 95% of Democrats, 81% of independents and 53% of Republicans.
With the willing help of Judiciary Committee Chair U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, president Trump appointed three justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. All three said Roe was established precedent and settled law during their confirmation hearings. Yet here we are. What is popular doesn’t matter. Telling the truth doesn’t matter. In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the court overturned Roe v. Wade. Conservatives who advocated overturning Roe v. Wade (since it was decided) are like the dog that caught the car.
No matter our income or where we live, Iowans value the freedom to make our own decisions, including access to safe and legal abortion. Abortion remains safe and legal in Iowa and we are fighting to keep it that way. We intend to protect our freedom from Republican politicians hellbent on taking it, who attempt to divide us and legislate for the wealthy few. From Sen. Grassley who stacked this court, to Gov. Reynolds who requested abortion rights be overturned at the federal and state levels, we seek their removal at the ballot box.
We all care about someone who has had or has considered an abortion. Most people likely know someone in this situation. We must ensure everyone has access to the care they need. Taking this right away won’t end abortions, it will simply make them harder to access for people with fewer resources. Limiting access to abortion puts pregnant people in danger and puts their lives at risk. Denying access to safe, legal abortions strips Iowans of a fundamental right.
What is there to say about abortion that hasn’t already been said? Very little.
Despite the Iowa Poll, some conservative Iowans continue to assert that a “majority of Iowans are pro-life and support every individual’s God-given right to an opportunity to live.” Thing about Roe is the discussion of when life begins was had in court and settled. I doubt conservatives who make the claim about when a fetus becomes an individual have read the court documents of Roe v. Wade. Their assertions reflect a position of ignorance.
If, as suggested, the dog caught the car, what comes next is a jump ball with conservatives having the home court advantage, especially those who have organized to overturn Roe v. Wade since it was decided. When asked why Roe wasn’t codified in law already, a Democratic legislator said “some things are just settled.” That is, until they aren’t.
A lot changed in political campaigns since I worked my first for Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Democrats and Republicans are now at a place where established patterns repeat each cycle: marching in parades, having a booth at the county fair, putting up sign advertising, and canvassing voters. These may be comforting, yet campaign action has moved.
Both major parties use big data to inform their campaigns.
Perhaps the most dramatic change was the way Trump campaigns used Facebook and Cambridge Analytica to scrape personal data about tens of millions of voters from the internet, and then custom target voters with tens of thousands of distinct daily ads designed to either persuade people to vote for Trump or not vote at all.
Progressive radio host Thom Hartmann wrote that on the day of the third presidential debate in October 2020, team Trump ran 175,000 variations of ads micro-targeting voters. These ads were, for the most part, not publicly seen.
This is way beyond showing up to meet candidates at a county fair.
Despite this use of technology, elections reduce to staying engaged with candidates, and working to cast an informed vote. That pressure from social media to disengage from politics? Someone is working to make us feel that way. We must resist and vote for who best serves our interests.
I reviewed the candidates and for me, Democrats on the ballot deserve our votes. That’s for whom I will vote on Nov. 8.
~ First published as a letter to the editor of The Little Village on July 15, 2022
The main effect of summer holiday has been to get more sleep. It hasn’t been good sleep, just more of it, maybe seven or eight hours per 24-hour period. I felt fully rested a couple of days since beginning this holiday and hopefully more of the same is in the immediate future.
My main activities have been gardening, walking the trail in the nearby state park, and cooking in tune with seasonal produce from the garden. There has been time reading on my mobile device, although my book reading slowed down. It is beginning to pick up again as I just finished Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Since my sister-in-law gave us her old television, I’ve been watching some of the January 6 Committee hearings and cooking shows on Iowa Public Television. These things are a preview of retirement life to come.
We decided I’m too old to be climbing on the roof for my annual inspection and cleaning of gutters. I haven’t resolved how to get this done yet I’m thinking of buying a drone to fly around the roof and send pictures of its condition back to the ground. At 12 years since the installation of the current roof, it may be showing some wear. When I’m ready to clean the gutters, I’ll post a notice on our community Facebook page feeling confident someone will help. The gutters do not appear to be clogged with organic debris and haven’t been since I cut down the maple tree I mistakenly planted too close to the house.
I drove our new car 1,196 miles since we bought it. A trip to Chicago, three trips to Des Moines, and the rest of the miles are local errands. It is good to own a newer car, one that runs well and gets better fuel economy. I also enjoy the ability to charge my mobile device while driving. The 2019 Chevy Spark is a subcompact and the feel of driving it is a bit rough. It’s not like I live in it, so it is tolerable. During holiday I’ve been considering what other trips I may want to make. No decisions, yet I’m looking at Saint Louis and another trip to Chicago.
When conditions are right, I spend time outdoors. There is unending garden work and a host of long delayed yard projects. There will never be enough time to do everything myself, so I’m going to have to hire some help. Once finances stabilize after replacing the freezer and auto, I’ll take a look at a fall project by a contractor.
The main purposes of this summer holiday were to rest and consider where I want to take this blog. I know some things about my writing, but haven’t made any progress toward a decision. I expect the blog will survive in some form.
For now, it has been raining with scattered thunderstorms. The lightning woke me earlier than usual this morning. If it stops raining, I’ll walk on the trail by the lake and take it all in. I’m in no hurry to determine what’s next.