Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Roger Fouts and Booee

I have been looking for the accurate story of Roger Fouts being reunited with one of the chimps he had taught sign language to.  I had thought it was 60 minutes and the chimp was Washoe.  I actually saw this story on 20/20 in 1995 while visiting my parents....I was frozen in place for an hour after the show with tears running down my cheeks.  I am so  glad to have found the description.
Here is the entire story.  It is so moving I wanted to include all of it here in Roger Fouts own words: 
Booee is the one on the left.  He is speaking American Sign Language with Bruno.

In early 1995 I got a call from Dean Irwin, a producer of 20/20, the ABC news magazine. While planning a show about the morality of conducting biomedical experiments on chimpanzees, he had learned about Booee and my other former chimpanzee students at LEMS I P, the biomedical lab owned by New York University. He asked me if I would be willing to visit the lab and be reunited with Booee in front of television cameras.
I wanted to say 'No.' I had deliberately avoided LEMSIP since Booee and the others were transferred there in 1982. Seeing them would be agonizing because I knew there wasn't a damn thing I could do to rescue them. As for helping them, I'd tried that already. In 1988 Jane Goodall and I had sent a student of mine, Mark Bodamer, to LEMSIP to start an enrichment and activity program for all 250 chimps. The program was a great success, but unfortunately it was scuttled after Mark left.
Mark never got to see Booee - Booee had been transferred to another lab temporarily - but he did visit Bruno for me. When Mark began signing to him, Bruno answered with two signs of his own: KEY CUT. I wasn't sure if Booee would remember me if we saw each other after more than a decade. But if he did remember, he might well think I was there to free him, something I could not do. It would break my heart and his.
But I also knew that visiting Booee would make for some very good television. We could take millions of people inside a biomedical laboratory, which I'd dreamed of doing since I toured Sema seven years earlier. If there was any chance that this wide exposure might improve conditions or help Booee, then I would do it.
A few months later, I found myself in the back seat of a long black limousine, sitting next to anchorman Hugh Downs as we drove to LEMSIP. A soundman and cameraman, seated across from us, taped our conversation. I couldn't help thinking that the back of the limo was bigger than Booee's cage. Hugh Downs wanted to know ifBooee would remember me. I didn't know.
I couldn't begin to guess what thirteen years alone in a cage would do to someone's mind and personality. But the closer we got to LEMSIP the more I hoped that Booee would not remember me, that he would see me asjust another lab-coated visitor passing through. I didn't want to sign GOODBYE to Booee. I was sure I would break down.
When we got to the lab, we were instructed to put on white gowns and caps. Then Dr James Mahoney escorted Hugh Downs, the cameramen and me to Booee~s windowless barrack. Booee lived in a hot unit', where all the inmates were infected with one virus or another. He was infected with Hepatitis C, a virus that can cause progressive liver disease. Through the door I could see my friend sitting alone in his cage.
He looks the same, but bigger, I thought.
The last time I saw Booee he was a young teenager like Loulis. Now he was twenty-seven.
This is really happening. It's too late to turn back.
I hesitated for another moment, then entered the room in a low crouch. I approached Booee's cage uttering gentle chimpanzee greetings.
A big smile lit up Booee's face. He remembered me, after all.
BOOEE, BOOEE, ME BOOEE, he signed back, overjoyed that someone actually acknowledged him. He kept drawing his finger down the center of his head in his name sign - the one I had given him in 1970, three years after NI H researchers had split his infant brain in two.
YES, YOU BOOEE, YOU BOOEE, I signed back. GIVE ME FOOD, ROGER, he pleaded.
Booee not only remembered that I always carried raisins for him, but he used the nickname he had invented for me twenty-five years earlier. Instead of tugging the ear lobe for ROGER, he flicked his finger off the ear. This was like calling someone Rodg' instead of Roger'. Seeing him sign my old nickname floored me. I had forgotten it, but Booee hadn't. He remembered the good old days better than I did.
I gave Booee some raisins, and the years just melted away, the way they do between old friends. He reached his hand through the bars and groomed my arm. He was happy again. He was the same sweet boy I met on that autumn day decades earlier when Washoe and I first stepped on to the chimpanzee island at Lemmon's Institute. That was before everything, before the stun guns and Dobermanns, before the adult colony and Sequoyah's death, before Yerkes and Sema. I was a young know-it-all professor then, right out of graduate school. I yelled at Booee one day, and he humbled me in front of my very first college students by lifting me off my feet and letting me dangle there. For twenty-five years I'd been telling my students about how Booee embraced me and forgave my anger toward him.
Look at him now, I thought. Thirteen years in a hellhole and he's still forgiving, still guileless. Booee still loved me, in spite of everything that humans had done to him. How many people would be so generous of spirit?
As we signed back and forth and played CHASE and TICKLE through the iron bars, I forgot about the cameras and the millions of people who would be watching this. For one wonderful moment I even forgot where we were. But only for a moment.
I MUST GO NOW, BOOEE, I signed after a while. Booee's grin changed to a grimace, and his body sank. I MUST LEAVE, BOOEE. Booee moved to the back of his cage. GOODBYE, BOOEE.
As we left LEMSIP, I shook hands cordially with the director, Dr Jan Moor-Jankowski, as if we were two colleagues who had just transacted some mundane piece of business. I was overwhelmed by shame. I was ashamed of Booee's hepatitis, ashamed of the professionalism of Moor-Jankowski and myself, ashamed of the respectability that hung over all this suffering.
After our limousine pulled out through the heavily barred security gate, no one spoke for the whole drive back to the hotel.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Canines to Love, Canines to Kill

We are house/horse/dogsitting in southern AZ.  The house has lots of reading material, which is always a plus.  I have been reading a National Georgraphic from March 2010 that I found on an end table here.
The cover story is Wolf Wars.  The problem with wolves is that the silly creatures like to eat and survive.  Can you imagine?  They kill cattle.  This makes for some very unhappy ranchers.  The ranchers want the wolves outta there.
We have been around lots of people who are over-the-top dog lovers everywhere we park our home on wheels.  Most of the same folks who feel their dogs are family, will consume animal products that are the demise of many other, just as wonderful, canines. 
If this were the rancher’s beloved dogs who were somehow in an area or situation where no human was feeding them, the dogs would kill cattle, too.  And in that scenario the ranchers would be sympathetic.  It is THEIR dogs.  The wolves belong to nobody.  They are not evil when they kill for food.  They are hungry.  They are no more evil than I am when I eat a a bowl of soup because I am hungry.

The other group that is flipping out about the reintroduction of the wolf, and any protective measures for them, are the elk and deer hunters.  

Because of what is considered the “overpopulation” of the wolves, some states are allowing wolves to be hunted up to a certain quota.  Idaho permitted the legal hunting of 220 wolves in the 2009/2010 season.  This is a photo of hunters protesting against the federal protection of wolves.  In the photo one angry man holds a sign that says “Does Anyone Care About Our Deer and Elk Herds?”.  I find the sign a bit ironic coming from the group (hunters) that are the most vocal about the elk and deer population growing out of control if they are not killed by hunters...on one hand.  And, on the other hand, they are saying that the wolves will kill too many.
One of the most popular bumper stickers that the anti-wolf groups have on their vehicles is SMOKE A PACK A DAY. 

There are lots of illogical and ironic parts to this situation.  If a rancher can prove that a wolf killed a calf on his land or while out grazing on public land, he is compensated.  The compensation ranges from $500 to $1000. 
When we were in New Mexico last month, billboards showed the horrible death of livestock killed by wolves.  What the billboards didn’t show is that those killed by wolves were spared the prolonged fear, pain and suffering that awaits those who make it to the next steps of the meat industry.  Separation from family and companions, trucking, stockyards, livestock auctions and slaughterhouses are a fate worse than being taken by a pack of wolves.  When interviewed about the horrible deaths of livestock, it comes down to dollars.  The ranchers want to make money on the cattle and they don’t want to lose any of their cash cows to wolves. 
A part of the story that is rarely told is that only a small percentage of the deaths really are caused by wolves.  Research into the loss of sheep show that wolves account for a very small percentage of the loss.
In Wyoming, Montana and Idaho only 1% of sheep loss is from wolf predation.  As a comparison, 22% is caused by sever weather and 25% is from coyote attacks. 

So, back to this love of one canine and hate of another.  I cannot find how it makes any sense.  It is right in the same category as the people who LOVE their dogs but will purchase fur, animal tested products (often tested on dogs….but not THEIR dogs), and foods that come from suffering animals.

Jacques-Henri Lartigue  1911 Photo

I watched a young fashionable woman walk through the airport last week.  She was wearing a full length fox fur coat and carrying a large handbag made out of snake skin.  In her other arm was her dog.  I assume that she could not see the irony in wearing the skin of a group of canine’s she does not care about while carrying the one who is her “baby”. 

There was a time when I would not have noticed these kinds of inconsistencies in myself or others.   There are still many in myself that I am sure I am blind to.  I would hope that those around me would point them out to me. When they do, I would hope that I would not get defensive.
But, we shy away from being that honest with the people in our lives….whether it is someone we have known for life or someone we cross paths with briefly. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Do You See What I See?

One week ago in the Denver airport I was in a bathroom stall, the marble floors were overly polished and when I looked down I realized I could see the stalls to my right and left as if the floor was a mirror.  The woman to my right was one of those wild tissue users who pulls off enough paper to clean up an oil spill.  The woman on the left was a conservative paper user.  While noticing this, I realized that the piped in Christmas music was playing “Do you see what I see…..” 
I became the crazy person laughing in her stall, while, I am sure Ms. Big Tissue and Ms. Tiny Tissue watched me on the mirrored floor to make sure I wasn’t as crazy as I sounded.

Years ago I was traveling through Paris by bicycle.  I had left Minneapolis to travel in Europe for as long as my money held out.  I got a one-way ticket to Athens Greece and took off from there for what turned out to be many months.  I kept my apartment in Minneapolis and my Australian friend Helena was staying there before heading back to Australia.
She figured I was in Greece.  This is before the internet and she had no way to find out where I was. 
I was biking through Paris and saw a woman with a backpack and a scarf exactly like Helena’s.  It had to be her.  This woman was looking at a menu outside a restaurant.  I whispered in her ear “you can’t afford this place.”  She whipped around and we hugged.  Before heading back to Australia, she had decided to go to Paris and the UK.  In her pocket was a ticket for the ferry between France and England for the next morning.  In my pocket was a ticket for the same ferry. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010


The cooks

"What do you eat?"
I have been asked this a thousand times in my decades of being vegan....
One visit to Adena and Kate's in Boulder and this question would be happily answered for anyone!
It has been a week of eating bliss......
This is the vegan conversion house.  I wish every human could come experience this food.

Black bean soup with corn and cilantro....yummmmmmmmmmm

First Ever Plant Peace Daily Contest!

The first person to identify this object correctly will win a free Plant Peace Daily Book and the bumper sticker of your choice!

2 views of the same object:

Move to Bolivia to be a Locavore?


Sign on a building in Boulder...

JC and I watched the film FUEL and it only makes me more aware of how I take part in the crazy consumption of non-renewables.  I am right now, at this moment, sitting in a big chunk of aluminum flying from Tucson to Boulder after taking a shuttle from Patagonia to Tucson.  Why?  Because I want to see my friends there and I found a great deal on the flight.  200 years ago I would have written long letters to my friends and they would have gotten them a month later and then responded and I would most likely have most of my dearest friends and family within walking distance.  I would not have expected to see my friends on a regular basis who live hundreds of miles away. 
I know that my choice to be vegan saves a boatload of oil.  Animal agriculture uses more petroleum than all forms of transportation combined in the world.  Also, I am not a shopper and rarely buy anything new.  My idea of a gift for our home is the beautiful rocks and sticks and bones I find while hiking.  So, I may not be the world’s biggest petroleum consumer…..but I am still aware of how spoiled I am…and I could sure make my footprint smaller.  

We have a home on wheels.  We get to park it wherever we please.  I would guess that we don’t drive even a fraction of the miles that most commuters do, but the fact that we can even have this mobile lifestyle depends on fuel. 
And, it’s not just that part of our lifestyle that contributes to the USA’s over the top consumption….
Our wonderful daily green smoothie drink has ginger and cinnamon from who knows where and bananas from Mexico.  It is only by chance that the kale, lemons, oranges, carrots, and apples in it are from the local organic farms in the area where we are parked right now.  There are places we have lived where the sources for our smoothie ingredients make it a virtual United Nations in a blender.

I have to admit it….I am just another fossil fuel dependent human.
I would like to simplify life down to the point where I am not so dependent on fossil fuels.  But, as I look around at my life, it seems almost impossible. First I would have to shed the things that are wants rather than needs….that means most of what I have and do.  Could I really do without my sun-dried organic Bolivian olives?  Probably.  Or I guess we could move to Bolivia so then I would be eating locally. The olives would be the easiest to let go of (I know this is hard to believe for those of you who have seen me go through a pint of them in less than 5 minutes) ….Choices choices.
It's all easier when I remember that those really simple pleasures are what bring me the most contentment....

JC making saurkraut with local organic veggies.

Friday, December 3, 2010

     This photo is mother and calf it should be.....

I came home from the library where I wrote the Bovines and Bees blog today and found that there were about 75 more cattle who were rounded up today. It has gone from bad to worse.
This is a group that is mostly moms and kids. They are separated in pens where they can see each other, but can’t get to each other.
Now, what was bellowing has turned into the cow equivalent of screaming and moaning. The mom’s are freaking out and their screams fill the air and our home. Some of them are howling like coyotes. The babies are panicked and we can hear their cries in response to the mothers. It is unbearable.
The neighbor at the bottom of the hill told me that the first year she lived here she cried through the whole round-up season. Now, she tries to just tune it out. I am just trying to breath. I cannot get my breath past my chest into my belly.
Bean, our dog, is upset by the sound of the mother’s screams and can’t relax. She is staring toward the herd with big nervous eyes. It may not be her canine language, but she understands panic and fear.
I want to just be like Byron Katie who can “love what is”. I went to BK’s 10 day school three times and I still cannot “love what is” in all situations. I feel edgy and nauseous. The sound of the moms is the same sound that, years ago, made me go next door to my landlord’s dairy farm and find the male calves being loaded on a semi. The mom’s were pressed against the barbed wire screaming just like these moms are. Some had blood coming down their chest fur and all of them had their mouths wide open bellowing for their babies. It was that witnessing that made me give up dairy. As I listen to the moms tonight, the visuals of the dairy farm mothers from years ago is like a painful movie running in my mind…
The same people, who LOVE their dogs and would be completely heartbroken if their canine “children” were taken from them, cannot understand that this is a bond between an actual mother and her birth child. These same people will often have no problem sitting down to a hamburger. It is this disconnect that perpetuates this kind of needless abuse and violence.
There is no difference between the mother/child bonds in these cattle than there is between a human mother and her child. The same pain is felt when chimpanzees are taken from their mothers for research or zoos or the exotic pet trade. Elephants feel the same pain when their babies are taken for circuses, zoos or for work in the lumber industry. The pain of that broken bond is the same in all beings.

Tomorrow some of the cattle will be taken out in trailers. Some will be returned to their grazing land.
I saw a story in the news about a trailer hauling 160 cows in Washington State. The driver changed lanes and crashed into another vehicle and the trailer was smashed and on its side. It was a two level trailer. Only 90 of the 160 cows survived. Those who survived had to be taken from the scene in volunteer trailers after saws cut the trailer apart to get to them. The photos of the survivors are intense. Bodies covered in blood and manure and bulging eyes filled with panic and fear.

I know I am rambling here. I am still, after all these years, shocked by how disconnected we humans are. I just spent the weekend at a family reunion with people who love their dogs with all their heart and would do anything for them…and, these same individuals will eat other beings who are capable of the same bonds, suffering, joy, etc.

I don’t want to be one of those people who only socialize with other vegans. And I completely understand people who make that choice. There is nothing like being with someone who understands the despair of witnessing the abuse we inflict on other species or the joy of doing something to speak up for the voiceless ones. I have this in my partner, JC and in my dearest friends and extended vegan/animal rights community.
It is ironic that I am looking up right now at the side of our stove where we have the bumper sticker: PEACE BEGINS IN THE KITCHEN, GO VEGAN….and at the same time I am listening to the abuse of these cows.
Tonight, we will watch a dvd with the volume turned up high to drown out the mother’s moans, screams and bellowing and the babies’ panicked cries. And when the film is over, I will focus on the community of caring people who are working tirelessly, all over the world everyday to shine some light in the dark corners.

Bovines and Bees

 Why do beautiful places often come with extreme animal abuse? We keep parking in incredible spots, and often, part of the package is hunting, animal agriculture or other animal abuse.

Right now we are in the gorgeous desert and mountains of southern Arizona. We are on the edge of the national forest. The national forest and all private land in the area is range for cattle. If you have private land and do not want cattle grazing on it, you have to fence them out. Cattle grazing has changed the landscape here. The plants and soil all showing the abuse of large herds of domestic cattle who are owned by people.

On the land to the east of us is a ranch. It is round-up time. This means that cowboys have gone out on horseback and rounded up the free-roaming cattle and have them in pens so close to us that we can hear their bellowing 24/7. I sat outside the pens today and watched the trapped cattle trying to get back to the cattle they had been grazing with and all of them wanting out of the pens. Because these cattle are being sold off to slaughter or other ranches, they are divided by new owner. This means that mothers and babies are separated..... and friends, those who spent the last 5 months wandering these mountains side by side, are no longer together. Their bellowing is not random bellowing. They have gone from freedom to captivity. They have gone from choosing their food and friends to having no choice.

I watched one mother staring at a youngster three pens away. The youngster was staring back. When the mother called out, the youngster answered. While watching them, I thought about the story I read a few days ago by a writer who is a holocaust survivor. He tells of getting off the train at the camp and being lined up with all the men. His mother was lined up with the women. He watched her line move forward and as he and his mother looked in each others eyes, they had no idea that would be the last time they would see each other.

The pens are slowly being emptied by pick-up trucks coming in empty with empty trailers, loading the cattle and then driving out. I have watched about a dozen leave in the last few days. For those who are full grown and heading to slaughter, the next part of their journey will be the worst. They are heading for a place where the air is filled with panic and the floors are covered in blood.

I heard one of the cowboys screaming at the cattle to get in the trailer. He was calling them lots of names, including “stupid”. We think that cattle or other animals are “stupid” when they do not willingly walk toward a violent situation. The cows and pigs who have escaped from stockyards and slaughterhouses by leaping over 5-6 foot fences and walls were not stupid. No one had to tell them in their own language that they needed to get out of there. The cows who are trying to avoid getting in those trailers are far from stupid. They are no more stupid than any human trying to avoid pain and death.


Our sweet gentle and beautiful neighbors to the west:

I find it amazing that any of these beings are able to eek out a living on this land....where do the cattle find water in a place of no year round lakes or rivers?  These two are in a large field, but they have most likely been out on the open range until recently.  They slowly suck up the water from the tank with a look of total bliss on their faces. 
How do they find food on land that seems to barely sustain dry brush?





Even the smallest creatures want to live. It is so dry where we are that the animals have learned to seek out any moisture. Our first morning here, I turned on the outside shower and within a few minutes bees, crickets, ants, birds and other life appeared all around me. The bees will not leave. There is a constant hummmmmmm around our camper as they enjoy the party. I asked the neighbor why the bees are swarmed around one of our screen doors. She asked if we had fruit inside. Sure enough, they are smart enough to know that there is a giant bowl of fruit just inside that door. I am too dumb to have figured out they wanted the fruit. When the occasional bee gets into our home, our dog Bean starts chasing them and trying to eat them. They do not just dumbly sit there and let Bean chow down. They fly for their lives. They hide in the perfect places that she cannot get to. They want to live. Like all of us…..from the tiniest insect to the biggest mammal.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Another Wavelength

One definition of the word invention is: the creation of something new.  Ask me what I think is one of the greatest inventions and I am most likely going to say “libraries”.  I love libraries.  I have a huge stack of library cards for every place I have been from Minnesota to Stockholm.  Drop me in a place for more than a day and I will end up with a library card.  My library card collection is even bigger than my co-op membership card collection.  I also join every co-op I live near for more than a week. 
Libraries are filled with history, fantasy, new ideas, films, recipes, music, art and shelves of what is possible and what has been.  And, all of this is available to anyone of any age, background, race, gender, and economic bracket. 

JC brought home a dvd called Unchained Memories from the library yesterday.  It was a 2002 documentary about former slaves in the USA who were interviewed in the late 1930’s as part of the Federal Writers’ Project.  They wrote memoirs in the exact words of the ex-slaves.  More than two thousand former slaves were interviewed.  For the documentary, HBO chose some of the interviews and had actors emulate the accent and personalities and read the interviews. 
The dvd was eye opening, even for someone like me who grew up in a very aware civil rights family.
What really struck me was how recent these interviews were.  It made this documentary a mix of horrifying and hopeful.  Incredible that people were sold to the highest bidder and taken from their families and given no choices.  Intense to hear about people being whipped horizontally and vertically across their backs so the skin would come right off in chunks and then have salt rubbed into the wounds.  These beatings could happen to a hungry adult or child stealing part of a biscuit.  Children and adults were forced to watch
the beatings. 
I have been working as a voice for the voiceless for so many years.  I am working with the hope that people, who so recently were able to commit these kinds of atrocities legally in the USA, will widen their vision to include all beings, human and non-human.  It is asking a lot.  Not that long ago, we could not even see that a human of another race was not property and had feelings.   Now I am asking the human race to see non-human beings as other than property.  A big leap.  But, the most hopeful for me is that in just a few generations we have gone from thinking that having human slaves was just fine to being shocked by what we Americans were capable of.  And that said, there are currently 27 million human slaves around the world.  Slavery is not just part of history.  

But, most people, if asked if slavery is morally or ethically ok, would say “no”. Most people in the USA look back at what we did to Africans who were stolen from their land and people and sold into bondage, as something that we, as a nation, are ashamed of.

I look forward to the day when we look back at this time and feel the same about our current treatment of other species.  It is going to happen….it is just a matter of time.

I love this by Ellie Maldonado in NY City:

In order to believe we are entitled to domesticate, exploit, and kill, we need to believe the others are inferior to us, and that they can’t think, feel, or experience emotions.  Now we know better.  No wonder this myth is losing believers, and that so many of us include other animals in our moral code.

And, as Lee Hall so beautifully put in her book On Their Own Terms:

Each person plays a political role every day.  We can conform to the scheme of things, and that’s one role.  Alternatively, we can become conscious of the messages that run through our heads, adjust them, tune our thoughts to another wavelength, conceive other possibilities.  We can then organize our lives, and perhaps whole communities, around a key idea.  This takes stamina.  Whenever we get together and dare to undo old hierarchies, we can anticipate vehement attacks that mischaracterize our efforts.

We may be very close to the tipping point….the place where a minority of the population influence the entire culture to choose compassion for all beings.

I want to hold this vision.  The vision that this tipping point could be tomorrow….

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Silver City New Mexico is impossible to describe accurately.  Mix cowboys and hunters with artists and wealthy Californians and co-op loving organic baby boomers….stir in many toothless smokers living on the street and a strong GLBT community and you still don’t have the whole picture.  Plop all this on the edge of the beautiful Gila Wilderness and you may think you get the picture, but without a few years of exploring it is impossible.

Snapshots of this past week:
 Jumping Man flying in front of our home on wheels.....

We kept bumping into Paul the Jumping Man.  His card says Wonderer.  He is jumping all over the USA… taking photos for a sport trampoline company.  He keeps the trampoline on top of his car.  He also photographs the most beautiful parts of the country.  When asked any philosophically challenging questions, his answer is “It is all light and angles”.  He jumped into our life.
In our almost two months here I haven’t seen anyone in the endless wild space trails outside our door.  We hike for hours everyday and ….no one.  This week for the first time I bumped into a young woman coming toward me on the trail. She was hiking in black lingerie and bouncing along to iPod entertainment…  her arms and legs were solidly tattooed.  Her un-neutered pit bull was with her and she told me his name was Luger.  What could be more charming than a dog named after a gun with balls hanging down to his knees and a fat studded leather collar? If she had hesitated long enough I would have gotten a chance to give her my “neuter your dog” routine. 

And the best day for me, since we hit the road, was a few days ago hiking into this canyon...

and along the Gila River for hours….stopping to swim in the clear cold river….then hiking straight up the canyon in the afternoon…finding the rock that has OY imbedded in it….. 

and ending the day at the hot springs in water so hot it makes you dizzy.  

What is the word for gigantic gratitude?  Oy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wheel of Misfortune
I am not a TV person.  Haven’t had one since I lived at my parents house when I was 17.  I think the programming is mostly shallow useless time wasting fluff or violence.  I know there are exceptions…those exceptions still do not feel like they balance out the utter crap. 
I realize that I am out of the mainstream when it comes to discussing shows that have been popular for either the past twenty years or the past two years.  I asked JC what that show was called with all the good questions and he shook his head and said “Jeopardy”.  I guess that is common knowledge to most people.  Wouldn’t that be a great question to have on that show?  See if the contestants could remember the name of the show?

Where we are currently parked with our home on wheels, we have the misfortune of having TV reception.  Our camper came with a TV as standard equipment.  It is a built in thing that lives in our living room.  Luckily we rarely have reception.  I love the places that have no phone, TV or internet reception. 
JC has been obliging enough to wear headphones so I don’t have to hear about bladder control drugs and the explosive diarrhea I could get from taking an anti-depressant.  I also don’t have to hear what now passes for “news”.  I pass through and glance at the thing every once in a while. He is there with his headphones on watching and listening.  What I see only makes me that much more grateful for not being part of the human/black box relationship. 
There was some “reality” show on when I passed by the other evening.  Some half-dressed young woman was crying about something that didn’t go right on their island.  I laughed at her belief that what she was experiencing on that island was actually reality. 

But, Sunday night I passed by and saw Jane Goodall on the screen.  I immediately unplugged JC’s headphones and found out that she was going to be one of three segments on 60 minutes.

I think I actually sat down in a chair to watch it. Someone should have caught that rare moment on film.

(Here is a bit of personal background:  HOME has been a constant holy grail for me.  I test everything and everyone with my litmus test of “does this feel like HOME”?
I am like Dorothy.  There is no place like HOME and it has been inside me all along. I never left HOME.
Yea yea, whatever….I still have my HOME tinted litmus paper handy at all times.)

So, from my perspective, all three segments of the 60 minutes show were about HOME.  (It's like Woody Allen thinking everything he hears relates to anti-semitism....)

The first 60 minutes segment was about the folks in Silicon Valley who once earned six figures and are now unemployed.  They are collecting recyclables from people’s trash, selling their McMansions and living in everything from stranger’s attics to their cars. What they once assumed would always be their HOME got pulled out from under them.  This is exactly why I never wanted to get used to some fancy high price lifestyle.  I always wanted to know that how I live was sustainable in any economy and in all situations.  I want to always be happy with few material goods and I want to know the ins and outs of surviving during apocalyptic situations.  You want to live near me if the shit hits the fan in this country.  We would survive just fine.

The next segment was about a very popular automobile TV show in Britain.  It is called Gear something or other.  One of the hosts was interviewed.  The big bruiser guy was talking about caravans (that is Europeans call rv trailers).  He said, “Oh yes, just what I want to do, go out in the freezing rain and live in a metal box parked in a field.  With Americans it is different.  You Americans like that kind of thing.”  
Hmmm, here we are with bright sunshine parked in the national forest in the metal box we call HOME….and loving it. JG
Then, Jane Goodall appeared.  Can I just say, I LOVE this woman.  First, her beautiful relationship with the chimps as a twenty something non-academic untrained scientist…then her visit with them as a seventy something spokesperson for all living beings.  The forest habitat that serves as HOME to the chimps is being chipped away at.  Jane points to once forested hillsides that are now barren.  She is delighted to find that many of her old chimp friends are still alive in the forest and have children and grandchildren.  But, their population is a fraction of what it once was and she blames habitat destruction, killing them for bushmeat and killing them to steal their babies for the exotic animal trade.
I feel for these chimps who just want to be HOME…with their familiar surroundings, family, friends and food.

It is really so little to ask.

I cried tears of gratitude for Jane Goodall's clear compassionate voice.  And for just a moment I was glad that the black box brought Jane right into our living room.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Blow Away That Symbol of Peace!

I have been studying the road atlas so that I can figure out the details of our winter plans.  I have been reading more of the road atlas than ever before in my life.
And I am shocked.  While I have been busy studying those maps in the front, there has been a whole section that I could have been enjoying in the back pages….The Festivals of the USA!
The festival section has lots of pictures and ideas, including:
For the kids!
-Photo of a boy in a kid’s rodeo called Mutton Busting. Kids cling to terrified sheep in a rodeo arena.
-Photo and description of kids in the specially flooded Center St. of Spanish Fork, Utah.  The center of town is turned into an artificial pond and is stocked with hundreds of trout.  The kids can use their hands or plastic bags to catch a trout and every kid who participates gets to take home a 10 inch trout for their family.
(What better way to teach kids about our connection with the natural world and the other animals in our big animal family)
For the Adults
-Endless rodeos and Renaissance Festivals where you can grab some lamb or a turkey leg and show off your unique human skills.
I actually could not find a single page that did not include some glorification and celebration of violence in our culture…..
I pretty much held my breath in horror as I looked through page after page of “Americana”.   As I was reading them to JC he was sure I must be making some of this stuff up…especially when I was reading to him about “Mike the Headless Chicken Festival” in Colorado.  I am not kidding.
Finally I let out a sigh of relief when…at the bottom of one page, I got to the National Lentil Festival in Pullman Washington….There was of a guy dressed as a giant brown lentil wearing a baseball cap.  Now there is a festival I can get excited about…..Between that and the Gilroy CA garlic festival, they are finally talking my language.  (Well truthfully the lentil looks like an M &M and is very corny.....but I am desperate to find a non-violent image in the atlas!)
I like anything that makes me feel like I almost belong in this country.

Today, JC, Bean and I were hiking in the beautiful national forest.  About an hour into our hike, a gunshot was fired less than 50 yards from us.  Bean came running back to us and I watched the smoke from the gun rise above the bushes just in front of us.  We held Bean close and I whistled and shouted so the hunters would stop shooting.  They did not answer my whistle or shout, which makes me assume they were hunting illegally.
We turned around and left the area just before getting to our destination on the ridge top.
I came home and looked up the hunting season in New Mexico to see if they were poaching. 
Fish and Game….a government agency supported by tax dollars….has a website that is almost as shocking as the Rand McNally Road Atlas.
A few of the “highlights”:

Private land owners are now paid to allow hunters to kill on their land.  And the most exciting part is that these private lands are open just in time for killing the world symbol for PEACE (doves)!  Here is the news from their website:
New Mexico landowners and the Department of Game and Fish are working together to provide New Mexico hunters more opportunities to pursue game on private land across the state, including more than 102,000 acres available just in time for the Sept. 1 opening of dove season.
The 5-year-old program is funded by $4 Habitat Management and Access validations required with every hunting and fishing license. This year, 19 landowners have enrolled in the program to offer public dove hunting.
“This program is great for dove hunters because some of the best dove hunting is around water tanks and agricultural fields on private land,” said Aaron Roberts, coordinator of the Open Gate Program. “At the same time, it benefits the landowners by putting some money in their pockets and keeping the birds off their crops.”
Participating landowners are paid for allowing hunters or anglers access to their property or for allowing access across their property to landlocked public land. Lease agreements are negotiated individually and can vary according to property descriptions, easements and hunting opportunities. Statewide, landowners have enrolled more than 105,000 acres for dove, quail, turkey, waterfowl, javelina and deer hunting, and some angling. 

Dove hunter with his kill. 
How I imagine this boy 50 years later........

And more “great news”…..Kids “learn to kill” programs are in full swing.  And for you adults who are not satisfied with viewing the glorious Sandhill Crane, you can legally shoot them and carry them home in the trunk of your car. 
Applications are due Wednesday, Sept. 8, for 2010-2011 youth waterfowl hunts at Bernardo Wildlife Area and for special-permit sandhill crane hunts. More than 200 youth waterfowl hunts are available at Bernardo and hundreds of special crane permits are available in various areas around the state.

OK, call me a stick in the mud, but I actually think that all land should be considered no hunting unless it is marked as a place that some land owner has decided to allow hunting.  Instead most states have strict regulations for exactly how you must post your land if you do not want hunting on it.  Is it me or is this backwards? 

The NRA works so hard to ensure hunters have the right to go out there and blast away.  But what about land owner and hiker’s rights?  Private land and National forests are suddenly war zones during hunting seasons across the USA.  Most people head to the forest for silence and beauty.  The most beautiful time of year for being in the woods, turns into an act of courage (or insanity) if you love hiking.  The Fish and Wildlife page reminds those of us who are not hunting to wear bright colors.  Right.  Hunters never shoot other hunters in bright colors.  Right.  Hunters always make sure that their target is clearly identified.  Right.  Hunters are never blurry eyed and hung-over because they never drink on their hunting trips.  Right.  Hunters are very responsible guys who love following regulations.  Right. 

All of this reminds me…it is that time of year….time to pull out one of my favorites:
A Holiday Thought.  You can find this on our website ( in pdf form to print out or send around:

A Holiday Thought…
    Aren’t humans amazing? They kill wildlife - birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed.
    Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them. This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal -  health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer.
    So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases.
    Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals.
    Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and once-a-year send out cards praying for "Peace on Earth."
    ~Revised Preface to Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm by C. David Coates~