Are You There?

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The daily question the Wizard of Oz asks is, “Are you there?”

The question is directed at those who stumble across his blog and glance at a word or two before moving on. Where they are going and where they have been do not interest Oz because those places are unknowable. Oz is curious about the gentle reader who comes across his story and then moves on.

Are you there?

The search for intelligent life in the universe is an ongoing process that has yet to produce any results. Oz learned that SETI (the funded project) was suspended a few years back due to lack of funds, and, dare we say, interest?

All this reminds young Oz of the times when he traveled with dear old dad in the family car.

When he asked his father, “Are we there yet?” Dad would reply, “No, but we are here.” Dad could have replied, “Wherever you go, you are there.” No, he would leave that bit of nonsense to Buckaroo Banzai. For Dad lived in the moment. He was patient. He was kind and understanding. Now dad is gone and Oz is left with only the memory of an old man who liked to travel, who liked to walk here and there, who said many things a young Oz did not understand then, but does now.

And now Oz wants to know, “Dad, are you there?”

It is, at times like this, when Oz is melancholic that he pulls out an old and worn copy of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. On a dog eared page is the quote by the forever befuddled Arthur Dent:

You know,” said Arthur, “it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.”

“Why, what did she tell you?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t listen.”

Oz returns to his thoughts of his father, to the walks along the Oregon coast and the conversation.

‘I am listening,’ he wants to say to his father, ‘it is just that I don’t understand.’

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Dang the twang is good

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Oz is sitting on a swing under the stars listening to melodies in his head.

Oh, Sweet Alison, dang the twang is good and the voices sweet as angels singing softly in the wee hours of the night, but the lyrics hit too close to home,

Wishing I could sleep.

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Great Northern Railway

Great Northern Railway engine

“Nothing lasts forever,” Jeff Bezos acknowledged, and someday the mighty Amazon, having outlasted its usefulness to the American consumer, will find itself in the history books.

Great Northern Railway engine

The Great Northern Railway

The Great and Wonderful Oz comes across many oddities in his travels. The world is full of them, oddities we call them because they are unusual, persons and things defying common description.

It is easy to see them, but harder to find them.

Here in Whitefish, Montana the railroads still run, hauling timber, coal, cattle, and crops. The railroad now is the Burlington, Northern, and Santa Fe (BNSF), but once upon a time it was just the Great Northern (1899-1970). The idea of 19th-century railroad entrepreneur James J. Hill, The Great Northern ran from Saint Paul, Minnesota, through North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho, to Seattle, Washington. One of the oddities of the Great Northern is that it was built without the the financial aid of the United States government.

No land grants, no bonds, just pure capitalism at work.

Where are the railroads that built America?

The railroad tamed the west, crossed this vast land and made America great. It brought immigrants to new lands and provided a means to ship crops and produce from the productive west to a starving east.

The Great Northern created value from tourism. Another oddity about the railway is that it promoted legislation that lead to the establishment of the Glacier National Park in 1910. Then, it developed mountain retreats, built touring cars, and promoted the trip as a tourist destination. Indeed, the Great Northern Railway built fabulous trains like the Empire Builder, Western Star, and Oriental Limited, that whisked thousands of curious tourists each year to and from the Pacific Northwest.

But, the automobile and paved roads defeated the railway’s hopes and dreams for a profitable tourist business.

cars and trucks in Glacier National Park

Change is the only constant

No, Oz is not suggesting that the railroad, like the buffalo, will vanish from the American landscape. In Montana and elsewhere freight trains still travel the tracks delivering goods more cheaply and quickly than other means of transportation. This has given rise to a new concept, the Inter-modal station where goods are delivered by train and then distributed to trucks for local shipment.

Change, Oz knows, is the only constant, the only means to staying relevant.

Yes, the sight of a railroad track, the sound of the faraway whistle, and the rumble of a passing engine and cars still stirs Oz’s imagination with thoughts of long ago.

Odd, how the mind wanders from thought to thought.

Hear the train blow

Speaking of which, Oz fondly recalls a mother softly singing to her child the sweet words from Down in the Valley:

Late in the evening, hear the train blow
Down in the valley the valley so low
Hang your head over, hear the wind blow
Hear the wind blow love, hear the wind blow
Hang your head over, hear the train blow…
Purple wildflower Glacier National Park

The Brown Box

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Life Mysteries

We have all heard of a black box, a metaphor for an object which can be viewed in terms of its inputs and outputs without any knowledge of its internal components. It is “opaque,” the Biblical “glass darkly” and its contents and workings within can not be seen. In this same way, a home (though brown, tan, and shingled) is a mystery to all who walk by. Its contents and the people within are unknown to passersby-ers.

Oz is fascinate by the shape of things and homes in particular. Homes come in all shapes and sizes. Some are lovingly cared for, some worn down and sadly forlorn.

Oz likes simple homes, plain and boxy though they may be, a cottage in Cannon Beach Oregon, just off the ocean, with a white picket fence and blue hydrangeas in full bloom. These few adornments are the wrappings on a gift to the homeowner.

Many images come to mind when one thinks about a home, a refuge, a safe haven, a castle, a place they have to take you in (if you are a relative), but perhaps the strongest image comes the 1964 ballad recorded by Dionne Warwick and written by the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David:

…[A] house is not a home
When there’s no one there to hold you tight
And no one there you can kiss good night

Oz, you have learned by now, is a wanderer.  He lives by the saying, “All who wander are not lost,” though now and again Oz gets lost and serendipitously finds something new and exciting.

The Wizard of Oz

You may also have observed that Oz is an illiest, that is, one who speaks of himself in the third person. Some people say that that is a sure sign of narcissism, but Oz thinks that is unfair. After all, isn’t it a way of taking oneself less seriously rather than more-so.

His full name is Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs, and he ruled the in The Land of Oz, until one day he hopped into his hot air balloon and left for “parts unknown” (RIP Anthony Bourdain).

Then again, Oz must be part Dorothy, who discovers in his/her travels that, “There is no place like home.

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a moment of change

Why don’t we do a moment of action? Why don’t we do a moment of change? Kelly Clarkson

There have been too many moments of silence this year, at too many schools, for too many students, and too many teachers, for too many lives lost senselessly.

At the 2018 Billboard Music Awards Sunday, television viewers were prepared for the traditional recognition of the tragic school shooting in Texas two days earlier. Instead, Host Kelly Clarkson called for a moment of action, a moment of change.

Oz tries to stay in the background, off stage, and out of the limelight. Some subjects are taboo, touching off visceral reactions, even rage. Gun control is one of those.

But as Kelly says, it is time, long past time, to do something and change the course America is on.

Please, won’t you be part of the change?

 

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I got no job

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If you are lucky, very lucky, no, very, very lucky, when you grow up you won’t have a job.

You will have a calling.

And if you are one of the lucky ones, then you will know what I mean.

sheep lamb

In the beginning

In the beginning, we all worked.

Even in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve gathered the fruit that they ate and built the shelter in which they slept. It got worse after their expulsion. Since then work has been part of the human experience. It defines us. It makes possible the good life.

Back in the day, work and jobs were passed down from father to son. A trade was something you learned from dad, and if not from dad, then some uncle.

Education changed that. Go to a university, learn something, contribute to society. Thus, doctors and lawyers filled the earth. And there were hospitals full of patients and courtrooms full of plaintiffs and defendants.

Ouch!

Then Oz had this thought: Artificial Intelligence is making possible another Paradise on Earth. Imagine machines manufacturing things, machines driving cars, cooking food, doing all the things we used to do.

Let’s hope it doesn’t turn out like H.G. Wells dystopian vision in The Time Machine.

All this talk about work reminds Oz of what his father used to say:

Find a job you like and you will never work another day in your life.

The Calling

Gotta go…, Oz hears his wife calling.

What will the New Year bring?

What will the New Year bring?
Hopefully boundless joy, loving family and friends, few cares and an abundance of God’s blessings, then it helps to have a nut or two to tide you through the winter days, an adventure that lets you venture somewhere you’ve never gone before, and, at the end of the day, a thought to keep you warm in bed, may there be peace on earth.

 

What will the New Year bring?

It is that time of year when we all pause to think back on what the past year meant, on friends no longer with us, and what will the New Year bring.

Friends I have lost keep piling up like the round smooth stones hikers leave on the way up to the peak of Colorado’s Mt. Long. Hikers know what I mean, the rest of you need to get off your chair and hike a mountain to know.

Words and songs that keep coming back to mind. How about Donna Fargo’s What will the New Year bring? Friends, if you have tears, listen and prepare to shed them now.

And yes, I know this is copyright material, but I can’t help but think it is fair comment and a salute to a great artist from Mt. Airy, North Carolina and all the folks in Mayberry, including Andy, Barney, Aunt Bee and Gomer, who are now gone from us.

If you don’t know what I mean, you are under thirty and you don’t watch TNT.

This past year was good to us the one before just a little rough
The one before that was an awful thing what will the new year bring

Will it bring us a little boy to fill our lives with love and joy
We’ve had our share of growing pains what will the new year bring

You’re still one and one makes two now one and one make one
I hope you will love me throughout the year to come

We’ve made our mistakes with love we learned that it can’t promise us
Tomorrow and forever things what will the new year bring

Wish I hadn’t read our horoscope things look stormy for Scorpios
Virgo’s posed to sprout their wings what will the new year bring

Will you want me to love you the way you know I do
And will you walk through life with me another year or two

Or three or four or five or six hundred years or more
Happy New Year darling for whatever is in store

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