A Five Dollar Blessing

He is a little man, dressed all in black, shivering on a wet and cold street corner. It is 37 degrees and raining hard, puddles of blackened half-melted snow marking the vestigial remains of winter. His sparse wiry facial hair and vaguely Asiatic features mark him as an American Indian. Native American. Indigenous. First Nations, as the Canadians about sixty miles to the north say. He stands at the busy intersection, clutching a hand-written cardboard sign with letters scrawled in black Sharpie announcing his plight: “Homeless, God Bless.”  Continue reading A Five Dollar Blessing

It’s a Beautiful World

There’s beauty in this world, if we choose to see it. It surrounds us, sneaks up on us like a stalking mugger, jumps out at us from behind buildings, lurking around corners.

This morning, as I exited Union Station, the sky took my breath away. The Capitol dome loomed a few blocks away, framed by a sky that displayed all the colors of a Crayola box. Not the cheap little 8 crayon box that I had as a kid, either. The one that the kids from wealthy families had, with 64 colors and a built-in sharpener in the back.

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The redneck awakening

My hero and favorite author, Edward Abbey, sometimes referred to himself as a redneck philosopher. Abbey was born and raised in Appalachia, but lived most of his life in the Southwest. He was a Fulbright Scholar and attained a Master’s in Philosophy, examining the relationship between anarchy and morality. He did a post-graduate writing fellowship at Stanford and published over 30 books in his lifetime. Not bad for a hillbilly kid from rural Pennsyltucky.

Rednecks have a poor reputation in modern American society, and deservedly so. Stereotypically, rednecks are under-educated, insular, bigoted, xenophobic and narrow-minded. But that’s just the stereotype. Of course there are exceptions to every stereotype. It’s interesting to see what happens when the redneck rises above the stereotype.  Continue reading The redneck awakening

Kang’ethe and the Matatu

Jake ran, his feet treading on a soft cushion of dew-covered grass, down a narrow goat path bordered by heavily pruned pencil cedar trees. Ahead, clad as always in his worn gray suit coat and pants, Mzee Kang’ethe outpaced Jake, easily widening the distance between them. Kang’ethe was 72 years old and smoked 2 packs of Sportsman cigarettes every day. Jake was exactly fifty years younger and had never smoked in his life, yet he struggled to keep up with the older man. Continue reading Kang’ethe and the Matatu

Book Review: The Emperor and the Elephants

Upscale Shack readers will recall my 2014 review of Dr. Richard Carroll’s first book 2000 Miles around the Tree of Life, which recorded the author’s experiences hiking the Appalachian Trail from start to finish in the mid 1970’s. In his latest book, The Emperor and the Elephants (ISBN: 1935925709), Carroll recalls his Peace Corps service in the Central African Empire (today known as the Central African Republic, or CAR), in the late 1970’s, and his subsequent years working as a conservationist in Central Africa .

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A Cozy Little Place