A Conversation With Lady Liberty

You’re awful good looking for 235. You wear your age well

I said and she blushed…a little

I found you along the way, on a journey from another place

Sailed under your face with the whole human race

You’re modest, I can tell. A woman of few words

That’s OK. I don’t mean to make a big deal

I just wanted to thank you, you know, for welcoming me and mine

We fled tyranny and you invited us in

We were tired for our journey, and we found rest on your shores

under a Golden Gate on a golden coast

She turned, a little surprised, methinks, to learn our route

not the traditional passage to Ellis under her green gleam

She tipped her glass and winked. I wanted to salute

but I just smiled and she smiled back

And I thought, what a great lady she is

sitting here with a glass of California Cabernet

I asked her if I could buy her a drink, and she said no;

that I and my kind had done enough

She offered to buy my drink, and I asked for bourbon

ah, Kentucky she said, knowingly

I prefer rye, she said, and I said, of course you do

And Chevy’s and apple pie and mom?

She stared at me and said

Cadillacs, Key Lime and baseball games with dad

but don’t tell anyone, OK? she put her finger to her lips

Her smile was infecting, and I felt warm and happy

as you do in the company of great beauty and intelligence

She dropped an arm down to her lap, and I noticed

a flag with some stars and red and white stripes

I saw some scars, little white lines on flawless skin

Are those new? I asked. And she flashed angry

for a moment and then it passed and she was quiet

I wished I hadn’t asked the question

Many moments passed and she said

There are many signs of aging in a republic

Iraq? Afghanistan? Libya? I asked

She smiled and held up the victory sign

These scars are not external, she said and showed them to me

The were, on closer inspection, like cracks in fine porcelain

age doesn’t set upon you like putting on clothes

it evolves within you, a relentless march of time

I listened, and she told me of  the decay that comes

on the shoreline of manifest destiny 

sipping Chardonnay at the end of the world looking west

at sunsets and green flashes and every unfinished dream

like civil rights and Mississippi and still-segregated cities

and Interstate 5 and modern slaves sold town by town

and stop for burgers and a shake near the levy at dusk

or Big Two-Hearted River and Brown Dog’s America

She rolled her eyes at my insinuation and show off

I’m not as easily defined by literature

Or perhaps Mr. Clemens might not have to wonder

about golfing or cigars in heaven or God

She smiled, and I laughed out loud

she bought me another drink

And somewhere off in the distance beyond the smoked glass

came the sound of fireworks and she winced a little

Are you all right? she didn’t answer me for a while

and I wondered about this place my ancestors envisioned

Will you excuse me? Of course, I said, and I stood

Such a gentleman she said, and smiled. Proud

Do you have to leave now? I asked

A lady like me doesn’t get to 235 without knowing when to retire

I looked at her for some deeper meaning, but she smiled

that disarming smile, and I bowed a little, unsure of formality

She turned one last time and said

Don’t ever forget why you came to these shores

I couldn’t if I tried. But it seemed hollow

and I knew I’d need to ponder that one for a while

Then she was gone, and I was alone in that bar in the paintings

the one titled “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

What a lady, I thought, sitting there with my regrets

and my gratitude and a host of washed out Hollywood types

In waking up, I realized that she was strong and resilient and beautiful

the kind of thing that doesn’t go away easily or without consequence

And if I ever get the chance, I’m going to buy that lady a drink

and tell her about my kids and the things they want to do

I think she’d like their version of America and the fact

that I won’t ever let them forget why we came to these shores

T.A. Akimoff 

July 4, 2011

A bus ride through texas


By T.A. Akimoff

Walking through the canyons of downtown Dallas on a cold-for-spring morning, I splash through obvious streams of runoff from the newly watered flower boxes, while dodging obviously yellow runoff from the guy in the hoody and camo pants who leans up against the wall like he has a migraine. The grackles mimic sirens as the besuited men are led into high towers to finance their dreams as the restaurants lie dormant mere hours after bustling with late-night crowds, the detritus of which is now blown away by an army of men with leaf blowers so the city sounds like a suburban neighborhood on a Saturday morning in June.

A security guard notices me and falls in beside me.

The “Eye” in downtown Dallas
Continue reading A bus ride through texas

Ode to the retired dictator

Kremlin.ru, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons PresidenciaMX 2012-2018, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By T.A. Akimoff

To the despots out there, the Jinpings, the Putins and the Lukashenkos

For the betterment of millions, you tread on to stay in your new clothes

And for your own piece of mind in a world where wealth is limitless yet vague.

An invitation to retire, to enjoy the spoils of your regimes, the money, the yachts.

Or do you fear the court of human opinion? In your dreams do you see the Hague?

What if we, the world, left you to your lavish lives, to live a little before your body rots?

What if we, the world, absolved you of the death and misery you inflict on us?

I hear Mariupol is nice this time of year, in spring, when the flowers bloom over graves

you opened in the frozen ground in winter, softening the earth with a bloody fuss

from your artillery and subjugated soldier fed not with food but lies and the blood he thinks he craves.

Oh, but I’m off the track here. What about you and your wealth and power and need

for control, for recognition; your empirical delusions that keep you awake at night in a solitary state of existence without the benefit of the big picture concealed by your Orthodox creed?

Hiding out in your Führerbunker watching shadows on the wall playing reruns of your downfall.

Is it hell you fear? Why? You’re just another in a long line of hellish outbursts come to crawl

through this world extracting death to keep your ego well-fed and plump as you feast on souls

who bear you up on bones and ashes of cultures, now limp flags, perforated with bullet holes.

Take some time away from the doorstep of oblivion and enjoy a sunny day at the beach.

Genocide is tough on the spineless, maybe buy yourself a bright, red car and set out on the road.

Or read a book or two instead of rewriting history and gaslighting the world with every speech.

Maybe take a few classes, re-education is all the rage these days, just take a light load

at the Xinjiang internment camps where you hold a million people against their will

to try to stamp out cultural differences for the good of the Communist party you bill

as socialism with Chinese characteristics. But which China are you referring to?

Because we can’t see over the great wall of misinformation and economic manipulation.

Maybe hang it up and go for a round of golf together and dinner and drinks for two

in the clubhouse in the intoxicating company of other despots without a worry, a care or a nation.

Books: “The Ministry for the Future”

It’s the middle of February, and we haven’t had much rain – four dry weeks across January and February, in fact. There’s a high-pressure system that builds up across the North Pacific sometimes in the winter. This is two winters in a row we’ve had it, but it’s hard to pin this down in your memory, because this weekend last year a terrible ice storm broke trees up and down the Willamette Valley.

Climate change is tough to buttonhole, because it looks just a little worse than last year. Maybe it’s a 60-degree day in February but hitting a warm day now and then is just the frog in the warming water pot.

I just finished Kim Stanley Robinson’s “The Ministry for the Future,” which outlines an astonishingly pseudo-bureaucratic response to the human-caused climate changes of today with a storming Normandy approach to reshaping the planet’s economy around carbon reduction with a hint of terrorism for good measure.

Most folks struggle to see climate change as anything other than a set of obscure consequences someone way down the road will have to deal with. I’m guilty of that myself when I celebrate these warm, February days where I can ride my bike in short sleeves well before the summer riding season begins.

After reading Robinson’s book, I tend to get a pit in my stomach on these nice days, knowing that the blue skies are anything but sunny. They are a dark omen of what a planet without defenses becomes in the light of a merciless star.

I try to stay grounded around climate change, because I grew up in the Evangelical church, where I was taught that the world is going to burn away, and God will create a new heaven and a new earth.

Nothing about that ever sat right with me from the first time I heard it. It sounded like a selling point more than a spiritual promise. It sounded like an excuse for capitalism and coal mining and human-caused extinction.

It didn’t pass the smell test and was one of many issues that ground my religion down to a fine, powdery nothing over the years.

But here I am, a former journalist working in conservation communication who believes in science as a process and the process of documenting climate change, and there they are, the millions of people who believe in the inevitability of the world burning away in fire.

How do you reconcile any of this? It’s like screaming into the void or explaining why a mask or a vaccine individually doesn’t help but they do when everyone participates.

And that’s the point of “The Ministry for the Future.” It plays around with the concept of convincing the winners and losers to work together, until millions of people are dead as consequences of a warming planet. Then it’s down to brass tacks, the horrific violence, the massive economic ruin and rebuilding and the total shift in society necessary bring the threat level back down to Defcon 1.

What sucks is standing here looking at the future and knowing just how much people are going to have to suffer, because the people standing next to me don’t believe the future exists.

All in the name of a probable mistranslation of one Holy text.

It’s maddening.

I won’t give the end of the book away but suffice it to say there it’s an exploration of probable solutions that grow more probable the more desperate we become. They’re too expensive now, and you still have millions of people who believe the world is going to burn away anyway, so you’d never convince them to pay for it. The hope that I took away from the book is that there are solutions out there we could be doing. And we will likely get there at some point, and all my wishing we could end the culture wars and get on with the business of saving the planet is just the reality of many people dying over the course of the next decades of climate change until that cost outweighs the costs of the solutions to slowing it down.

Banned

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/books-behind-bars/

Here we are in 2022 still talking about banning books. Sometimes I shake my head at the backward motion of humanity as it strives to move, I’m not going to say foreword, because that implies that there is an actual direction we’re moving in, but perhaps we’re striving to move beyond ourselves.

We’re inherently conservative as a species with just enough progressiveness to push us along beyond our last milestones but not enough to rip the connective tissues that tends to bind us all together.

How reluctant am I to write that last line?

Very.

Continue reading Banned

When decades fall like glaciers

An Alaskan glacier
Alaskan glacier

I felt optimistic when I turned 40. My partner and I drove down to New Orleans and spent a glorious few days enjoying that party of a city, which may have contributed to my optimism. Fifty seemed a decade away, and at 40, decades are still slowly crawling downhill. At 45, I started to think about what 48 would look like, gazing down the cannon barrel at 50, and I’ll admit, it sent shivers down my spine.

Continue reading When decades fall like glaciers

Winter as a monthless Period

If you’ve read this blog much, you know I hate January. It’s my least favorite of the 12 months Julius Caesar’s astronomers gave us. Not even Pope Gregory XIII, in all his wisdom, saw fit to rid us of the month named after the god of beginnings and transitions. Before the Gregorian and Julian calendars, you had a blissful monthless period in winter.

Bleak and rainy January
Continue reading Winter as a monthless Period

2021 Audio/Book List

2021 AUDIO/BOOK LIST

I started 2021 off with the usual plan to read more. Read, as in my eyes scanning the words printed on paper. God knows I do enough scanning of text on a screen for my job. Of course, that did not happen. Instead, I road my bike more than 4,000 miles this year, something like 291 hours in the saddle with Apple ear pods in my ears listening to audio books. It’s not for lack of trying. I’m desperately trying to complete one paperback in the next two weeks so I can say I read a book from start to finish rather than listened to it. But I’ve found that audio books work for me. They just do. Here’s what I listened to this year.

Continue reading 2021 Audio/Book List

Vaccinated: A plain, old view

I don’t remember getting my first vaccinations. I was a baby, and we traveled a lot, which meant that vaccinations were the norm and not the exception.

My partner Cheryl gets her first Covid-19 vaccine dose

I do remember asking my dad why he had a big, puckered scar on his upper arm whenever I’d see him in a tank top. He told dad jokes to explain it, as most men do. But eventually I learned it was caused by the skin’s natural healing process after recieving the smallpox vaccine.

Continue reading Vaccinated: A plain, old view

One last Hunt in the North Malheur

Three years ago, my friend David Lane and I decided to do our own elk camp. The idea was to hunt for cow elk to put some meat in our freezers and limit our reliance on store-bought meat.

Evening of the first day. Just about the time the coyote chorus begins.

That first year we borrowed a friend’s wall tent and set up camp in the absolute worst spot a person (me) could possibly pick. The spot was in the bottom of a canyon that saw just a bit of sunlight each day and seemed to concentrate the cold each night. We didn’t see a single elk that year.

We stayed in a hotel in Burns the second year. My two boys joined us for that hunt. We’d get up early, drag our gear to David’s truck and head for the hills with some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in our packs and some beer in the coolers. The weather was far more conducive to camping that second year, with temperatures in 60 and clear, sunny views for days. My son Cole managed to surprise a cow elk, or vice versa, and she ran away unscathed. The rest of us saw no elk that year.

This year we stayed in an Air B&B. Mostly because I wanted to support the local economy in these rough times but also because our hunt was shortened by everyone’s work schedules. This year was an in-between year, with cool, mostly clear weather but a lot of snow left on the ground from a big fall storm a few weeks previous. We saw no elk this year.

Continue reading One last Hunt in the North Malheur

"THE WORLD BREAKS EVERYONE, AND AFTERWARD, SOME ARE STRONG AT THE BROKEN PLACES." – HEMINGWAY