News and Opinion Based on Facts

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Places We've Seen

This is a pool in Sabino Canyon.
The Road up to Mt. Lemon...
A forest in the Catalinas near Mt. Lemon
The Mighty Rio Grande River At Sunset

A view of the Sandia Mountains from the desert near Albuquerque.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Day at the Beach in 1960

Sue Robinson is 13, a very mature thirteen.
I’m twelve; she’s an older woman.
To me, at least, she is definitely a woman, nothing childish about her.
She’s from Tennessee; she has an accent that knocks me out.
We are lying in the hot sun, fanned by the cool ocean breeze, on the beach at Malibu.
Dad, muscular and tan, is wrestling with Mom, but he looks over at Sue and me from time to time.
I get the uneasy feeling he’s looking at her more than me.
Sue looks up as she lies on a blanket on the sand and the waves roll in like liquid, caressing hands, lapping at the shore.
“Do you like me, Michael?” she asked, coquettishly, moving in a way that always takes my breath away.
“No, Sue,” I replied, a smirk on my face.
She sat up abruptly, her cheeks flushed red, she looked out at the Pacific,” You don’t?” she pouted.
“I don’t like you. I love you.”
I answered, and looked into her dark blue eyes.
She relaxed and ran a hand through her long black hair.

She is on my mind all the time.
I feel light-headed when I’m around her, and lost when I’m not.
I’ve had girl friends as far back as I can remember, but this was different.
This was passionate, overpowering, and sensual.

I leaned over to kiss her, she pulled back, “Not here, Michael, not in front of your Momma and Daddy.”
I felt a surge of disappointment.
I stood up and grabbed the rope looped through the surf rider we’d rented.
“I’m going out. Watch me, OK?”
She licked her lips and batted her dark eyelashes “Don’t go out too far.”
I trotted through the soft golden sand towards the foaming, greenish surf.
The sand was hot.
It burned my feet.
I sighed with relief as I trod across the firm, damp, sand at the water’s edge.
I looked towards the pier where Pat, Maureen and Rick are building sand castles.
The water is cold as I wade in and clamber onto the raft.
I used my hands to propel the surf rider past a group of laughing teenagers, splashing and playing at shoulder depth in the ocean.
A flock of snowy white gulls is wheeling overhead under the flaming sun; the deep blue sky is a roof with no ceiling.
I floated over the swells and felt the sea breeze cooling my body.
I looked over my shoulder towards the beach.
The people looked tiny in the distance.
I started to sit up on the surf rider and with a feeling of panic I slid off of the slippery plastic, plunging into the depths of the sea.
I can’t swim!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Zen, Tao and Mountains

I rode my mountain bike to the foothills of the Sandias from Albuquerque yesterday, it only took an hour or so, it was a nice morning, warm and sunny, although we've been having some pretty heavy thunderstorms in the afternoons.
I enjoyed the quiet and solitude while hiking in the high desert mountains..
Because of the elevation and nature of these mountains, there is a feeling of otherworldliness..

I took a trail that begins at the parking lot off of Tramway.
I walked up the sandy arroyo that my sons and I had hiked so many times in the past.
The trail basically followed the arroyo around, and eventually ended-up in a narrow canyon, one or two hundred feet above the stream. This first portion of Embudito Trail was rocky, exposed, and pretty steep. There were a lot of switchbacks along the way, and it was hot, with no shade to speak of.
However, after only 50 yards there was a streambed, I took off my tennis shoes and let the chilly snow pack runnoff cool me down.
After about another mile or so, Embudito Trail started getting into some evergreen trees and shade, and it was really pleasant.
Shortly thereafter, the trail crossed the streambed and switched to the north-facing wall of the canyon. This stretch of the trail was very lush and green. It is one of the most secluded and prettiest areas in the Sandia Mountains.
There were pounding storms during the afternoon hours, but I waited them out in a shallow cave near the trail.
It was invigorating and enriching.
The high country, like the high country of the mind, is not that easy to get to, and the air is rarified, but the effort is worth it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Will the Real Homer Simpson Please Stand Up?

Forgive me, for I have sinned.
I mean in putting up this video.
It's pretty funny, though, and the tune is catchy.

Monday, May 21, 2007

It's Monday...

Monday morning, can't trust that day,
Monday morning sometimes it just turns out that way.
Oh Monday morning, you gave me no warning of what was to be
Oh Monday Monday, how could you leave and not take me.

Mamas and Papas

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Shalom Ba' Olam

Shalom, Shalom,

A dear friend, Aliza Shifberg, of blessed memory, would say that when I said "Shalom."
She said it in kind of a bored way.
Like, "Yeah, Yeah, Shalom already."
Aliza was a Holocaust survivor from Poland.
After fleeing Poland in the forties, as a 15 year old girl, she fought against the Arabs and the British, ("Mainly the British." she would say) as a member of the underground organization, Haganah.
When I light the Shabbat candle on Friday, I think of dear Aliza and her family.
When I was "vacationing", last year, her daughter sent me a number of books on Israel and Jewish issues, and kept in constant communication, when many of my gentile friends, and even family, forsook me.
Aliza was brought from New Mexico to live with her son, Israel,in Thailand, where she lived the type of life she deserved, pampered and loved by all.
A true mensch, she was.
I'm going to keep the Amy Winehouse video up as long as YouTube will let me, it's really a great video and showcase for an incredibly talented lady.
If you have a few moments, please give it a listen..tell your friends, buy the album!
All you Blackburn's out there, and everyone else, for that matter, enjoy the week-end!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Amy Winehouse!

Music Review: Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
Written by Janine Macdonald

Back to Black is Amy Winehouse’s second album, and the soul singer gives it her all. Although her first album came out in 2003, many people will be hearing her for the first time around, and will love her as much as I do.

The funky reggae sounds of "Rehab" is addictive, but even more addictive is this girl’s strong, big voice and her ability to change her style of music in each song and still belt them out.

It’s not hard to see why this girl won the Brit awards for best solo album recently. The track "Me and Mr Jones" seems to take back a step in time to the sixties, and sounds like an all-girl band’s, such the Supremes, hit song. It is very catchy and her vocal range shows the influence of the likes of Diana Ross as well as "Just Friends."

The title track, "Back To Black," is another that sounds like a Supremes' song musically, and as soon as I heard it, I expected Diana Ross to start singing, “baby, baby…” as it is so reminiscent of "Baby Love."

Actually, probably more than half the album bares itself as a tribute to artists from the sixties, who have influenced Winehouse, and it could easily be considered a tribute to Phil Spector’s style of music that helped many bands from that period become famous.

The whole album is a highlight and a music lover’s delight in not just the vocals but the chimes, sax, bass drums, piano and harmonies. The talented singer also had a hand in writing her songs and the style of her writing is fresh and refreshingly honest.

Definitely a fine introduction to jazz for those who have not had the pleasure before, and Winehouse shows that she can hold her own against the likes of Joss Stone.

Outstanding songs: "Rehab," "Back To Black," "Me And Mr. Jones."

I can’t wait to hear more from this refreshing new artist, who blows Norah Jones out of the water, and might even look at picking up her first album.

I give her 4/5

Record Label: Republic
Year: 2007
Track listing:

1. Rehab
2. You Know I'm No Good
3. Me & Mr. Jones
4. Just Friends
5. Back To Black
6. Love Is A Losing Game
7. Tears Dry On Their Own
8. Wake Up Alone
9. Some Unholy War
10. He Can Only Hold Her
11. Addicted

Needs Must, I like It Well

Things are going alright.
Haven't heard from any family in a while except Patrick and Liz, but I guess everyone is pretty busy.
Nice weather in New Mexico today.
Enjoy the weekend everyone!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


The sun was just beginning to paint the sky as dawn crept, like an awakening lover, over the distant mountain ranges.
I’d been living in the Sandia Mountains for a couple of seasons.
The faded yellow Toyota pickup was parked on a slant on the sandy, rock strewn trail, a tent and assorted camping gear would be stowed in the back later.
I heard the quiet chirping of birds in the fragrant, Douglas fir overhead and the hectic chatter of a family of squirrels.
I was invading their space, and they were letting me know it.
My campsite was on a grassy field off of a rock covered four-wheel trail at the timberline.
I stretched in my sleeping bag in the red, heat-encapsulated tent, grabbed some matches, put on a pair of cut off jeans and walked outside through the yielding soil towards the fire ring six feet from my tent. The morning air was chilly.
Pines towered above me like ancient wooden sentinels, the air was filled with the smell.
I poured some gasoline on the logs in the center, struck a match and stood back as the pile exploded into flames.
As the flames died down, I leaned over the burning logs to warm up.
I looked around.
The firs and pines of the forest were covered with sweet dew, the grass looked healthy and alive, the hills and valleys around me were pink from the rising sun.
I hiked down a rocky slope and through a thicket of reeds where I knelt beside a cold, clear stream and bathed, goose bumps breaking out on my body as I braved the frigid water.
I pulled the cutoffs over my hips and trotted back to the fire.
The warmth of the flames on my skin felt good.
The smell of burning pine mixed with the scent of the forest was invigorating.
I looked at my watch.
It was 7:30 in the morning; I had to be at work by 8.
I put on a pair of faded jeans, a black t-shirt, a pair of canvas shoes, threw my tent and accoutrements in the back of the truck, stuck the key in the ignition, cranked the Toyota’s four cylinder engine to life, and gravel spraying behind me, bounced over the rock strewn four-wheel trail into town.
The countryside was lit with the blazing fire of the sun, which now was burning over the horizon.
The valley below was alive with brush and green cacti,
The green jungle- like strip of forest bordering the Rio Grande snaked it’s way through the middle of the valley, only occasional glimpses of reflective silver giving away the river running through it.
I gunned the engine as I left the wild country and pulled onto Tramway, heading downtown.
20 minutes later I wheeled the pick-up onto the gravel covered parking lot of the yellow cab company.
I was covering for another driver today.
Usually I worked nights.
If you want to see the raw underbelly of life in a city, drive a cab for a while.
I got behind the wheel of cab 64, guided her out of the lot and drove over to 15th and Summer where my kid brother Kevin lived with his wife Liz.
Liz was a beautiful Spanish girl with lustrous black hair, soft brown eyes, and an intelligent, cheerful, soft-spoken manner.
Kevin was a match for her physically, and had a kind of animal magnetism that made him irresistible to men and women.
I liked the neighborhood, I had survived quite an ordeal there, and I had come back to life, from the brink of self-destruction, in a small wood and stucco house that he and I built over a couple of summers and winters.
I reached into the pocket of my beaten leather jacket and extracted a joint, which I smoked while I watched the rustic little neighborhood come to life.
The dispatcher’s voice crackled over the radio as I blew a stream of bluish smoke through my nose.
‘Sixty-four, you got a personal call. A young lady wants you to pick her up at the restaurant on Central next to the Imperial Inn. Her name is Marcia.”
I coughed up a lungful of potent marijuana as I clicked the mike, “Ten-four, dispatch. My ETA is 10 minutes.”
I shoved the transmission into drive and maneuvered the cab onto 15th as I headed for Central.
The dew had burned off of the lawns and young Hispanic kids were plodding towards their respective schools.
I caught the traffic light at 15th and Central, and the eye of a pretty 15 or 16 year old schoolgirl.
She waved and stuck out her thumb.
I waved back and smiled, but kept driving.
I pulled into the rear of the restaurant as Marcia walked up and got beside me in the cab.
Marcia and I had been dating for a couple of months.
She was a hooker.
We talked a lot; she was quite intelligent, really.
She was pretty, a brunette with very short hair, not butch, but short, just past her ears.
She looked about thirty, but she was only 27.
We talked about life, philosophy, and morality.
She was a very moral person, for a prostitute.
She put a soft hand on my knee and said, hoarsely, “I’m tired, Michael, take me home. I just want to soak in a hot tub, relax, drink a beer.”
“Sure thing, Babe.” I said as we headed out into the rush hour traffic heading west on Central.
I looked over at her.
She really looked tired.
She had been a middle-class kid from a good home in the suburbs when she started working for a high-class escort service as a teenager.
Years later she was on a whole other level, selling her body to strangers, some pretty unpleasant strangers, for the money to survive and pay for her habits, whatever they might be.
She told me that she wanted to go back to school, get out of the life, but it was her life now.
She was stuck in it.
I leaned over and kissed her softly on the mouth.
She smiled. “You’re nice, Michael. I like being around you. You make me feel all warm and fuzzy.”
I chuckled. “I know some women that would take issue with that assessment.”
She rolled her eyes, “They don’t know you like I do.”
Marcia lived in a motel near the Rio Grande, one of those weekly rates places, a little run down, almost abandoned after the freeways were put in.
I keyed the mike, “Dispatch, I’m out of service for a few.”
The dispatcher drawled back, with what sounded like an edge of sarcasm, “Check, 64.”
I walked her to the door.
“What do I owe you?” She asked as she reached into the pocket of her tight, worn, blue jeans.
“It’s on Yellow Cab.” I smiled.
She reached up and clasped her hands around my neck, “I don’t want to take advantage of you.”
I leaned closer, her perfume was soft, enticing. “Take advantage of me, Marcia.”
She ran her hands down my back; I tingled.
“Alright, Darlin’, come inside.” She whispered.
We walked into her room, furnished with a TV, a small gas range, a bed, a mini-refrigerator and a couple of worn looking chairs.
Marcia kicked off her high heels and said, “I’ve gotta use the little girl’s room. Make yourself comfortable. Kick your shoes off, and, whatever.”
She looked so pretty.
She was safe here, at home, I liked her, and she knew it.
I turned on the TV. It looked to be a slow news day, a couple of muggings, an assault or two, and a rape. Nothing unusual or particularly news worthy.
The newscaster was a frankly sexual- looking blonde.
I really felt like Marcia and I were friends more than anything else, but I was still a young man with normal desires, and I couldn’t help but think of what she would be wearing when she emerged from the “little girls room.”
She got a kick out of my expression when she wore something particularly sexy.
I looked at my watch. She was certainly taking her time, I thought.
I waited a few minutes more and said, “Hey Marcia, you ok in there?”
The silence was heavy, oppressive.
I walked over to the bathroom and knocked softly, “Marcia?”
Not a sound.
Something was wrong, I felt it.
“Marcia!” I banged on the door.
I cracked the door and the world focused sharply in one terrible moment.
Marcia lay sprawled out on the floor, her feet up against the door, pale as a cadaver.
I forced the door open, her legs bending at the knee stiffly.
She was dead.
A needle dangled from a vein in her arm, her eyes stared unseeing into the vacuum of space.
I knelt beside her body and placed my fingers on the side of her throat, checking for a carotid pulse.
I could see she wasn’t breathing, either.
I placed one hand on her forehead, tilted her head back, pinched her nostrils shut and blew into her mouth.
Buttons popped as I ripped her blouse open and felt for her sternum.
I’d done this kind of thing before, I mean CPR, but not on someone who I cared about, someone who I’d expected to be relaxing in bed with me about now.
I gave her a couple of breaths and began chest compressions.
Suddenly there was a man standing in the doorway, staring at us wide-eyed.
He looked like a junkie.
I turned towards him, “Call 911!”
I turned back and continued performing CPR on Marcia.
The junkie was still staring, frozen to the spot.
I shouted, “call 911, NOW!”
He stammered, “I can’t, I’ll get busted..”
“I will track you down, if this girl dies, and I will beat you to death. Don’t give your name. Tell them what you saw. Give them the address and walk away. Call, Goddammit!”
The junkie started walking backwards, “OK,” he said.
I could hear him on the phone as I forced air into Marcia’s lungs and pushed her sternum against her lifeless heart.
My hands were sliding across her chest from perspiration; I was almost blind from sweat pouring into my eyes as I worked on her unresponsive body.
After what seemed like an eternity, Firemen were rushing into the bathroom.
“We’ll take over, fella.” A tall, muscular looking Paramedic said.
I fell back against the shower stall, dazed, saddened and nearly exhausted.
The Paramedic shoved an endo-tracheal tube down Marcia’s throat while another medic injected her with Narcan.
He looked at me while he attached a bag to the tube and began hyperventilating her.
“How long has she been down?”
I wiped perspiration from my forehead with the back of my hand. “Five minutes, ten. I’m not sure. She was in here alone when I found her.”
Suddenly Marcia coughed and began gagging.
My eyes widened.
I could not believe it.
She was alive!

Marcia refused to go to the ER.
After the Paramedics left I walked her over to the bed where she lay down.
She looked at me angrily, “I’m very upset with you.” She said.
“Upset? At me? What for?” I managed.
“I lost a good high when you called the Paramedics.” She responded.
“Marcia, you were dead. You were in code arrest.”
She snorted, “I do that all the time. I always come back. Without the paramedics.”
I stood up.” I’ve got to get back to work, Kid, I apologize for spoiling your day.”
I walked outside, got into the cab, and left a long black streak of rubber on the asphalt as I roared back onto Central Ave.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Pacing our fretful hours....

The sun is bright, the birds are trilling, I almost feel happy, I'm puzzled by the unfamiliar feelings.
I was sitting by the water fountain near an ancient, gnarled oak when a woman with long black hair, in her forties or fifties, sat nearby.
She smiled.
I smiled back.
I had nothing to lose, for christ sakes.
"You have a nice smile." she said.
I shook a cigarette from the pack and offered her one.
She took the smoke and I lit her.
She took a long deep drag.
"Are you a student here?" She asked.
"No, I'm an outside agitator."
She cocked an eyebrow. "An agitator? That doesn't sound like a good thing to be."
"I'm kidding." I responded.
She leaned forward."You have hazel eyes."
I looked at her.
She wasn't bad looking.
She looked like she might have been roughed up a time or two, but who hadn't, in this environment, our mutual environment?
"My name's Michael." I said.
She smiled, "They call me Loca."
I sighed, it figured, the first women that had interested me in a while, and "they called her Loca."
We chewed the old fat for a while, her story was pretty typical, when you thought about it.
Abusive boyfriend and husband (Aren't they all?), tough times, difficulty finding work, drugs cut with too many bad additives.
"you like coffee, Loca?"
"Sure." she smiled with what might have passed for a winsome smile, and we walked to the Frontier restaurant.
I gazed around the restaurant.
Mainly college students and teachers.
I remembered coming here once with Marcia.
Marcia was no longer among the living, which I thought, was not all that bad a thing.
I took a sip of coffee, it was good.
Loca looked like she was sizing me up for something.
She was probably wondering if I had any money, a job, a car, a home.
"Where do you work, Michael?" She asked, casually.
" I don't work, Loca. I collect unemployment."
I wondered why I was thinking of Marcia today.
Then it occurred to me.
Loca resembled her, and Marcia and I had sat right in this very booth more than a few times.
The last time I'd seen Marcia she was talking about going into rehab.
I had kind of loved Marcia, in a way.
She was really independant.
No one told her what to do.
Now she was dead.
I shuddered and took a long drink of coffee.
I want to tell you about Marcia, I don't know why, I guess because someone should remember her.
She was tall, almost as tall as me.
She had that look, though, that trouble is my middle name kind of look.
I didn't care, I had it too.
(to be continued)

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Look At these Photos and Win a Prize

Click this link, see how many of these celebrities you can identify:

Everythings Fine...

I spoke to Mikey, Ricky and Michele, yesterday.
They sounded great.
Mikey reports having "A lot of friends, doing great in school."
Ricky sounded really well, too.
He talked about many things and seemed particularly happy about their new puppy who Dylan named "Cutie Pie."
He's looking forward to playing soccer this summer.
Our best wishes go out to The whole kids and all the family.

Friday, May 4, 2007

It's just another day dee-de-dee

The cellblock got real quiet after the tear gas dispersed like some kind of phantasmagorical vapor.
Just before the bars of my cell had clanged shut, 702 had squeezed through and now sat on the floor near the cell door.
702 was 19 years old, but he’d seen a lifetime of incarceration already, having graduated from years of juvenile detention centers and emerging into the adult population.
He lit up a crooked hand rolled cigarette and asked, “What’re you locked, up for Blackburn?”
702 was the kind of kid you never really met in the “real world”, incredibly intelligent but completely uneducated.
He was quiet and intense, handsome, in a furtive sort of way.
“It’s a long story, Seven, let’s just say, I made some enemies amongst state officials. Petty bureaucrats with more power than they can handle.”
“Yeah, but what did you do, is my question.”
“Nothing illegal, Seven. I’m innocent.”
He looked at me through heavy lidded eyes, “I think you’re a con man.”
I didn’t laugh out loud but I smiled inwardly.
Guards were filing in through the front of the cellblock, wearing riot gear and carrying a panoply of weapons.
Zimmerman was the lieutenant.
He stood in front of the tightly bunched group of correction officers.
He was calm and efficient, an anomaly in this setting.
His eyes swept the cellblock and he said, “Gentlemen, you are now on lockdown.”
Moaning and cursing reverberated through the block, echoing like a jet roar through a mountain canyon.
He wiped his brow with a black-gloved hand and continued. “There has been a fight, I need to know who was involved.
Until that issue is resolved, lockdown will be in effect. That means no rec room, no smoking.”
702 reached into his waistband, pulled out a Bic and lit another cigarette.
Zimmerman paced back and forth, like a large house cat, “Anyone want to tell me who was fighting?”
Someone shouted from further down the row of cells, “Yeah, anyone wanna snitch? Step forward!”
Another voice yelled out, “it was the new guys! The new fish! Roll’em out!”
Another party was heard from, “Get the Fuck outta here!”
Inmates began shouting throughout the block; the metallic rattling of fifty sets of cell doors gave an unsyncopated rhythm to the uproar.
“Hey, Blackburn,” said 702, “I got some dope, you wanna get high?”
“Maybe later, Seven Oh Two, thanks.”
I cracked the hot-water tap on my sink and filled a cup.
“You want some coffee, Seven?” I asked.
“No, thanks, Man, I don’t drink coffee.”
“How unusual.” I commented as I spooned in a teaspoon of instant from a bag, added some sugar and stirred the mixture before swallowing the coffee in one long gulp.
The brew helped to clear the taste of tear gas from my mouth and throat.
Zimmerman was coming upstairs, his soft- soled shoes noiseless on the concrete stairway.
He peered through the bars at 702.
“What are you doing in here Roberts?”
702 smiled, “I didn’t have time to get to my house when you locked us down.”
“Unlock 19 and 17!” Shouted Zimmerman in the direction of the control room.
“Go back to your cell, Roberts.” Then to me, “You been fighting today, Blackburn?”
I chuckled. “I’m an old man, Sir. Would I be fighting?”
Zimmerman laughed good-naturedly, “I’ve known some pretty crazy old men here, Mike.”
“I’m not one of them, Sir.”
“Then why are you here?”
I pondered the question. “Because I’m crazy.”
He laughed again and walked down the freeway.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

It could be you..or me

United States Homeless Statistics

From the National Coalition for the Homeless:

Poverty, Urban Institute and specifically the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers, draw their estimates from a study of service providers across the country at two different times of the year in 1996.
They found that, on a given night in October, 444,000 people (in 346,000 households) experienced homelessness - which translates to 6.3% of the population of people living in poverty. On a given night in February, 842,000 (in 637,000 households) experienced homelessness - which translates to almost 10% of the population of people living in poverty.
Converting these estimates into an annual projection, the numbers that emerge are 2.3 million people (based on the October estimate) and 3.5 million people (based on the February estimate).This translates to approximately 1% of the U.S. population experiencing homelessness each year, 38% (October) to 39% (February) of them being children (Urban Institute 2000).
It is also important to note that this study was based on a national survey of service providers. Since not all people experiencing homelessness utilize service providers, the actual numbers of people experiencing homelessness are likely higher than those found in the study, Thus, we are estimating on the high end of the study's numbers: 3.5 million people, 39% of which are children(Urban Institute 2000).