Monday, June 28, 2010


Never visited a presidential library or museum--resolved to do so here--in Abilene, Kansas--home town and grave of Eisenhower. It's late in the day so I settled along this quiet street on the outskirts of town--will visit the museum tomorrow--will bike around the city --letting it speak to me.

Ike as a boy--an accurate likeness--in a park downtown--made me ponder what accidents of fate or traits of character propel someone to greatness--wonder if any of his townspeople saw anything remarkable about him.

He grew up in this house--upper right room--one of several kids---all had distinguished careers.

Next day I paid the $5 and spent the day in the museum---which was excellent--really well done with full sized panoramas--movies--maps, guns--everything. I come away really understanding his life and times--I was a part of it--remembering election day--our store was the community voting place.

The Library is mostly for scholars and researchers---The Museum is an equally imposing building. I learned that the taxpayers fund all this.

Mural in the museum. I resolve not to leave till something "touches me".

Ike wearing the famous Eishenhower jacket--he selected for the troops--thought they looked spiffy. I do too. I wondered how he managed to stay so trim even into old age. Learned the secret from a historian on the scene. (Managed to corner two of them before I left.) Turns out Ike was a super heavy smoker--3 packs a day--It finally killed him--via heart trouble. I quizzed a second historian about his (alleged) affair with his female jeep driver---said it was probably true. Truman wrote about it in his biography--said Ike asked permission to divorce Mamie and marry the lady--apparantly was swept away---like the governor of South Carolina. Truman said he ordered Ike to end the affair and get on with the invasion of Europe. In all fairness I should report that Truman when writing this years later had soured on Ike--considered that he'd betrayed democratic principles. (wikipedia)

He and Mamie are buried here---I waited till everyone had left--wanted to be alone with the president.

He lies beneath this simple plaque.

And on the wall--these words--a fitting epitaph. no way of life at all

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: Alone in the buriel chapel, letting myself feel whatever surfaced, my first flash was a poem fragment by Grey:
" The boast of heraldry and the pompt of power,
and all that beauty and all that wealth ever gave
awaits alike the inevitable hour,
for the paths of glory lead but to the grave."
True enough, but once understood as the context for all our lives, is somewhat irrelevant to the keener question: WHAT IS A LIFE WELL LIVED? Was Eisenhower's a life well lived? Is mine?
Big subject, but I'm a clever condenser: I thnk Eisenhower was a product of Germanic culture that stresses obedience (duty) as a primary value--as the path to success--a higher value than creativity. Emotions must subordinate themselves to the prime value. So Eisenhower plodded his way to the top---a career of endless years--following orders---slowly discovering his personal genius for herding humans by wielding power inoffensively. So rock steady and dependable that superiors could not but appreciate and promote him. But was he happy? Was he a joyful--well-rounded personality like Franklin or Teddy Roosevelt---or Ben Franklin for that matter. The answer is NO. They led us creatively and progressively. He had to be dragged into issues of social advance. (Little Rock school integration)
The sad incompleteness of his character surfaced in his addiction to cigaretts and his heartrending hunger for romance. I would not trade lives with Ike--I would rather be a creative, joyful nobody---which I am.
P.S. The Germans have much to answer for---foisting on the world a scripted, joy starved culture of obedience--that leaves them vulnerable to emotional con men.
And to my question about the good life---I say it is a life of LOVE AND CREATIVITY.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I've been invited to come see for myself: A Mayberry of a town out on the Kansas Prairie. Cottonwood Falls, an Emeral city in the emerald green flint hills--Darlene and Linda's hometown and they've invited our "tribe" to come see for ourselves.

I stopped to take a picture--turned around--and these curious cattle had assembled--looking expectantly at me. I naturally assumed they wished to hear a few words from me--so I quoted a special poem I wrote for them some years ago.
Whenever I walk by a herd of cows
they stop whatever they're doing,
raise their heads to look at me
and quietly keep on chewing.

Such focused attention is truly rare
so far's I can determine.
It rouses up the preacher in me
so I preach the cows a sermon.

I introduce myself as Randy,
a long-time lover of milk,
a special friend of cows everywhere;
my words flow smoothe as silk.

I urge them to be good cows;
stay within their fences;
share the grass evenly;
honor their bovine senses.

I warn them about those handsome bulls;
rascals up to no good,
who satisfy their lust and run
away from fatherhood

I'm warming up--I speak of calves;
I warn of loco weeds;
describe the joys of bovine heaven
for those who've done good deeds.

I'm prepared to preach on but suddenly
they're all back grazing again;
such a wonderful audience---but
a short attention span.

Stopped to puzzle over this odd structure--what is it--a water tower? Nobody was around to ask--have to remain a mystery, I guess.
The tribe was already assembled for evening circle when I arrived---full time RVers from around the country will gather like this when the call goes out to come experience something new.
This was Mothers day --Ernie provided roses to every mother--I offer a poem to these now-single ladies brave enough to travel the country in their own motor home:


These are Mothers of the road--

finished rearing up their brood;

now with time and lighter load

express a traveling mood

Ernie gave each one a rose

honoring Mothers day.

let flowers speak what everyone knows,

but none of us can say.

Cottonwood Falls fairgrounds---free parking if you don't need electricity---stayed a week.

Courthouse---stately status symbol of Chase county pride. Courthouses usually are--symbols of status and pride. In Texas counties-- they carried this urge to ridiculous extremes--building massive, ornate, county courthouses to rival the Taj Majal---each seeking to outshine the others. It's worth a trip through Texas to see them.

From the 3rd floor looking down on Cottonwood Falls. That's the whole business district.
The interior floors, walls, staircases and furniture were marvels of carpentry.

A stallion and his harem? Close enough! We're touring the courthouse jail.

The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve---just outside town--a vast area--treated with great care by dedicated rangers--you're seeing almost precisely what the pioneers saw--heartlifting just to know its there.

I happened upon this stunning scene--A sure fire sign you're in Shangri La----bicycles NOT LOCKED UP.

Madonna of the trail---famous statue in nearby Council Grove.

A strange man lived 3 years in this tiny cave---declared himself a holy man--migrated to Las Cruces, New Mexico---Indians killed him.

This marker lets me return to the subject of Shangri La. Is it reasonable to believe that somewhere else you might make a better life?---yes!--But not reasonable to think that the good life could ever be a PLACE. I go further and say that all places (and all people) must be MOVED THROUGH to experience the Shangri La feeling. All people and all places grow stale--It is MOTION (albeit sometimes very slow motion) that generates happiness. I see signs everywhere that humanity is beginning to grasp this insight---marriages are shorter---jobs---avocations--even friendships. To be happy, one must be going somewhere. Happiness like electricity can only be generated by motion. Thoreau left his Shangri La of Walden Pond because the experience was complete and he "had many more lives to lead." I believe most people squander their lives chasing the delusion of permanence.
So to answer the title question precisely: SHANGRI LA IS AN EVER FADING FLICKER IN THE HEAD. The Good news is that there is an infinite supply of flickers available to those with the courage to MOVE.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


LET'S SAY YOU WIN YOUR FREEDOM---(and I remind you that an income stream of $400 to $1500 is more than enough for my style of adventuring)---And you've made yourself comfortable in some kind of rig.----WHAT NOW? How will you fill your days? ----Well---here's how I fill mine. The following represents about 48 hours of travel. 37 miles east of Dodge I encounter this vast array of whirligigs---never seen them before but I recognize the style--I call Kodger art---have seen hundreds of examples of it---most communities in fact have an eccentric guy who expresses himself in some quirky artistic fashion like this. These whirl in the wind-each in its own unique rhythm--creating a line of frenzy across a peaceful prairie.
They stretch perhaps a quarter mile west of mullinville, Kansas. Considered finding the Kodger artist--but didn't.
Stopped in town for a sandwich, a walk and a nap. Later engaged the recycle guy who was deeply absorbed in working sudoku puzzles. This trailer cheers me up because it symbolizes the heightened environmental consciousness I encounter almost everywhere I go. Can you read the top sign? It says: WE HAVE NOT INHERITED THE LAND FROM OUR PARENTS--IT IS ON LOAN FROM OUR CHILDREN! (well said)
You may remember these windmills from an earlier post---I resolved to go get their story.
And I did---from this guy who is largely responsible for their being there. He is a top employee of British Petroleum. (what irony) His job is to purchase the right to place giant turbines on farmers land. Fully installed they cost about a million dollars--service about 400 homes. The farmer gets a royalty-- He wouldn't say how much, but I think it's about $500 a month for each turbine. (that's what my nephew gets for a cell tower on his land) He gave me a half hour of his time and lots of material.
Passed through a small town having a street party--so I joined in--had a decent high school band and gave away free pizza.
And they had a terrific oil museum. I remember all these companies--do you?
Called it a day at the Wal-Mart in Pratt, Kansas. This splendid rig pulled in beside me.
It carried this pretty lady--who was full of wonderful surprises---we walked together in the night and again next morning. The biggest surprise came after I was describing my ex. She reached into her wallet and pulled out one of Diana's art cards--saying--"you mean the lady who did this"? Small world.
The real thing! I did not know that there are half-breeds out there that look approximately like this but are half cattle. Kansas claims to have the finest grazing land in the world---and I believe it. Here are the flint hills at their finest.
Stopped for the night in another small town---walked all around "looking for my liking". Knew there was a story here. This guy's much more than a barber. He is the town collector---will buy anything of value and pile it up in his shop--ready to be sold for a profit. Let me show you.
looking left from the barber chair--He said he had a hundred guitars-
And lots of saddles---there was barely room to walk ---merchandise piled high everywhere. Couldn't help thnking he should watch the tv program HELP--IM A HOARDER.
This blew me away and I scrambled to get a picture for you---This kid---riding a bicycle--IS TEXTING on his cellphone. I swear we have lost this generation to the cyber devil.
I shuffled around a bit before carefully selecting this spot to sleep in. (It is in a SEAM--an area of visibly indistinct jurisdiction--not obviously trespassing on anyone; therefore harmless and for practical purposes invisible--I camped right downtown--free and undisturbed.)
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: Creative drifting is mindfulness in practice--letting the immediate situation impact you and if it invites you to dance--then dancing. I lie down after a day such as these with a sense of having done my job as a human being. I don't know the grand purpose--don't worry about it-- just enjoy.
There's a story here I mean to get after-the-fact-----telephone or however---have a few leads furnished by Darlene. Of course I stopped--walked all around--has a locked door--is made of 4 inches of reinforced concrete---has what appears to be a bed and furniture inside. It's located south of Cottonwood falls, Kansas, alone on the prairie, beside a country road. Who built this and why. Anybody out there know?

Friday, June 04, 2010


I GENERATED A MISSION FOR MYSELF: Go to Dodge City Kansas--grip the town firmly--and not let go till it tells me something I don't know.

Special places---if you let them have their way with you---enrich--in unpredictable ways. (Custer battlefield, Trinity site, Sedona AZ, Mt Shasta Ca, Chichenitza Mexico)

Dodge City, Kansas---formost sin city of its day. I'll go there and stay till it "speaks to me". Does the flavor of it's wicked past still linger? (I once went to the most famous brothel in America--Mustang Ranch, Nv and let a beautiful prostitute have her way with me----and Oh yes!--that flavor lingers mentally) So off I go to Dodge City---learning from the internet some of the basics of the drama: Texas cattle driven north by cowboys to the Kansas railhead to supply protein for hungry easterners. What I didn't know was that the Kansas Legislature inadvertantly created this sin city by drawing a quarentine line (feared Texas tick fever) West of Witchita----which funneled the trail drives to Dodge City---CONCENTRATING in one spot--thousands of raucus, entertainment hungry cowboys, with money to spend AND --- dark-side entrepeneurs ready to provide it.
I love to drive across the prairie===was told that the horizon is 14 miles away. Hundreds of these dot the prairie---made a promise to myself to go get the windmill story soon.
A stunner! A real stunner! Someone out in the middle of nowhere posts this sign--boldly declaring to the world-- and all their neighbors-- their conviction on this hot subject. I feel chicken by comparison---hesitating to put the EVOLVE fish-with-feet symbol on my trailer---fearful that some crazy creationist will smash my window or something. I'll know I'm really brave when I stop hedging and tell the world I am an atheist.
Fire of a different sort sweeping across the grasslands. Watched a guy in a truck drive across the field leaving this blazing trail behind.
Got here late Sunday evening--will settle somewhere convenient and start my inquiry in the morning.
Settled into this out of the way lot for the night. Do you wonder why I would camp in such a place? TO SAVE $20--or more. Every month I do this I'm $600 dollars ahead---and really, I enjoy the privacy boondocking affords. ( As I settle into a place such as this, I prepare a plausible "story" to explain my presence here--- should anyone ask. They rarely do-- but it flexes my imagination to concoct one. If I think the asker can handle the truth--I go with that. If my readers have not surmised yet--I tell you now that mine is the ethics of CONSEQUENCIALISM.

(Perhaps I'll elaborate sometimes)
Monday morning and I'm ready for Wyatt Earp and his famous buntline special pistol. Seems to be whirling into action.
His history in a nutshell . Placques like this are scattered around town.
The Kodger King and Matt Dillon---the City's Marshall of fiction. I asked about the actor James

Arness and was told that he still lives==is in his nineties.
Boot Hill --tourist trap--I parked here--while I walked the town asking it to tell me something I didn't know.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: We WANT the excitements of sin-cities ---- they occupy and amuse us. (some of us)
We NEED sin cities as ETHICAL PATHFINDERS --testing the boundaries of what is acceptable---trailblazing new frontiers----often normalizing what was previously scandalous. They help society feel its way forward, ethically----bare bosom dancers in Vegas for example---and legalized prostitution also. Now and again they lead into dangerous and destructive directions---opium dens and gay sex bath houses in San Francisco. So we (our politicans) outlaw them. Slowly society feels its way forward---ever weaving a FABRIC OF AGREEMENT.
RANDY RANTS: Only religious people pretend to know absolutely, what is right and wrong. They EXTRAPOLATE their ethics from "HOLY BOOKS" and try their damnest to impose them on all of us. Their efforts are a cruel and bloodstained story.
RELIGION INHIBITS ETHICAL EVOLUTION----time and again we must DRAG the religious into society's advancing ethics---our new fabric of agreement-(e.g. evolution--Slavery--women's rights--civil rights--gay rights--children's rights, abortion rights)
CONCLUSION: At the psychological level we are children till we have tasted forbidden fruit. A lifetime in Eden would be intolerably boring.
Even Christians sometimes say that Adams fall was ultimately a "fall forward."