What is worse than riding on an Amtrak train? Maybe confronting yourself.

Ahh, the romance of train travel. Reclined, relaxed, renewing oneself while gazing lazily at the world through the picture window.
The folds of landscape pass, naturally rise and fall, enveloping one into Mother Nature’s picture book – sometimes invaded by man’s dedication to himself. Like the scribble of an adolescent with a crayon – Homeosapians’ relentless progress influences artificial weathering and erosion while depositing his longing for remembrance in deep compaction of fifth and wealth – soon sending Mother Nature’s work to the discard pile.

Wait -what is wrong with me?

This is not true.


I am passing by a plethora of beauty—God’s creation. Only my picture window is stained with filth, distorting my view.
Perhaps it is my eyes that are stained? My perception?
Do I no longer see the wonderful world full of beauty? What is the cause of my perverted vision?

Man cannot be so powerful – my vision is perverted. My vision limits and causes me not to see the forest for the trees.

My spacious seat is surrounded by others who have set up little Banana Republics on this cross-country Amtrak journey. We carry our needs, our perceived needs, and each his own.

We are connected only by these walls of a train. We journey together, but each journey is ours. Perhaps society could learn from nature. Perhaps our arrogance and disconnect from our “natural” relationship have been our greatest sin.
To borrow an idea or two from Edward Abbey –
We reap what we do not sow – and plant things where they do not naturally grow.
Beyond this smeared window lays symbiotic relationships, biotic and abiotic kinships from microscopic to astronomical. Systemic truths developed out of a need to survive rather than to find purpose.

Perhaps that is where true beauty is found.

A spiritual kinship that cannot be screen-printed on a t-shirt or scribbled on a FAQ page.

A majestic peak is only majestic on the surface – under the surface is aggressive – pushing and pulling, destroying and creating – a natural war. I find it ironic that man feels superior when he climbs to the peak. I am more impressed by those who move the mountain.

Why did Thoreau sit and watch the forest burn? Could he have tamed it with water and a call for help? Would that have made Thoreau superior?

If destruction provides for new creation, then perhaps that fire is a form of conception/renewal. Would firefighting then be a form of nature abortion?

Was Thoreau a Right to Lifer?
Was Thoreau a voyeur?

The Amtrak roles on and the scenes beyond the distorted glass pass and the Amtrak roles on-

Wait! No, it does not. It stops—a lot.


Why do we need to know why?

Usually, I hide my thoughts behind satire and humor – an attempt to disguise my jabs and punches directed toward the powers which drive public opinion and emotional response to a tragedy. But, today, I will write connected. 

Today, I will write with personal knowledge. 

Who is responsible for our children in school?

What are these individuals’ responsibilities?

How should these individuals be disciplined when they have failed at protecting the children?

After a tragedy, the question is always – why?

Why did this happen? A question that forces the mind into lamenting. A state of mind that does not work towards answers but dwells tirelessly on unanswerable questions and placates emotions. 

The question of why reduces the emotional response and slowly allows the impact of the incident to fade.  

Why? – a time-wasting question? Why? – is a pointless pursuit. Why? – is meaningless to prevent future tragedy. 

How? – is the correct question. 

How did this tragedy happen? 

Objective answers are born from how questions. Objective answers create definitive solutions. Definitive solutions correct the error and solve problems. 

Therefore, answers to “how” questions make “why” questions disappear. 

Why do we fear “how” questions?

Often, ” how ” questions do not shift blame, whereas “why” questions allow individuals to find fault in others.

“Why”- questions lead to blame games. These subjective solutions arrive on the scene eager to produce division and are often labeled “political .” Moreover, “why” is elastic and malleable. Easily manipulable in the hands of cultural, political, or dogmatic forces. 

“How” questions do not bend.

How did the individual enter the building? Through an unlocked door? Was the do supposed to be unlocked? Whose responsibility was it to lock the door? Easy questions with simple answers. Answers can create responses that will limit tragedy. 

So much more straightforward than “why.”

Maybe if we focus on the “How,” the “why” will not be asked someday. 

Just as a bartender is responsible for the actions of an over-served patron,  an administrator is responsible for students’ behaviors. 

Let’s, for a moment, return to the “why” question. Why did an individual do such a horrific act? 

Again, an asinine question. 

“How” did the individual arrive at such a state of mind?  

The “how” question could produce accurate answers. 

I challenge the schools and administrators to look at the disregarded discipline referrals or the redirected cries from teachers. What will be found are the answers to why these tragedies happen. Will we see a progression of discipline referrals that sat in administrator inboxes? Will, we will find a multitude of instances of threats and bullying. Will, we will discover administrators whose responses to teachers are “have you called the parent?”. Will, we will find crumbling builds with broken locks and lackadaisical School Resource Officers. Will we find days-upon days of in-school suspensions for children and young adults with mental illnesses? 

Will, we find a million answers to “how” did this happen? 

As for the why, one can only surmise that it lacks attention to these details. The detail that are the duties of the school principals and administrators are those individuals who should be criminally liable for the safety of the children. 

Major Robert Simpson Neighbors – A True Texan

Everything is bigger in Texas, including the tall tales. Those malleable stories build the pedestals, materialize the laurels, and fabricate the “facts” of the state’s iconic founding fathers – individuals whose sacrifices and servitude reward their memories with stained-glass images and names on universities.
These rough and tough Texans’, who lost and won, stole and gave, gained independence, then gave it away, histories are as dynamic as the shifting sands of Monahans.
Okay – I will stop.
Texas is fantastic, and the history is just great. I would not change a thing unless that thing would make history more extraordinary and the state that much more wonderful.
Sorry – I will stop.
Not all Texas history heroes have to have their stories inflated. One such fellow is Major Robert Simpson Neighbors. Neighbors was an Indian Agent, a significant player in the relocation of Kiowa and Comanche throughout Texas. Neighbors believed in going out into Commancharia and making connections with each tribe. This proximity allows a personal relationship with the tribes. Unfortunately, his modus Operandi caused many Anglo settles grief – as they felt his connection to the “savage” tribes inappropriate. Nevertheless, he continued to do his duty with fidelity and respect.
Neighbors ultimately helped create a reservation along the Brazos River just south of present-day Newcastle, Texas. This location was also a stone’s throw from Fort Belknap. Unfortunately, this was not a good location for the reservation.
The settlers’ outcries of Indian depredations rang out across the prairie, echoing off the hills. The heated exchanges between the groups exploded into violence. Something had to change. In attempting to do what was right, Major Neighbors organized the tribes and delivered them from Texas to an Oklahoma reservation.
Undefeated, Neighbors returned to Texas with the expectation to keep serving with consistent fairness. Instead, a bullet awaited him on his return to Fort Belknap. The shooter disagreed with Neighbor’s ideas.
Then, this true Texan was taken to the town cemetery and buried without much honor. Major Robert Simpson Neighbors rests in an unkempt cemetery in a cow pasture. An individual whose history is not inflated or fabricated. A Texan who sacrificed his life in an attempt to maintain peace.

The road – to the gate – through the cow pasture – to his grave.
Restored 1960
Major Neighbors’ Stone – leaning against his raised grave?

The Calling – part 3

An image that has haunted me now has a name – she is real – she lived. Her name is Virginia Moore.
Curiously, I have amassed numerous images of Virginia, unlike my photo; each depicts her full of life, wearing a bright smile – exhibiting an exuberant, brilliant demeanor. I shuffle pictures collected from online sites interpreting and inferring meaning from her random sentiments scribbled in the margins.

My emotions overwhelmed- as I continue to locate more artifacts.

Peculiarly, I have acquired her scrapbook; while cannibalized by collectors and resellers of antiquity, it still holds significant information, such as letterhead, greeting cards, and casual correspondence with friends.
How has this offering so conveniently found its way to me – effortlessly?

Our silent interchanges become frequent – unbalanced yet pleasurable.
Although I grow more confused as her images send mixed signals. She introduced herself to me in anguish, calling to me for help. Now she laughs and taunts my bid to do her well.

My questions have not been answered with the knowledge of her name or the acquisition of her personal items – my interest only intensifies.
I know she was a nurse, an RN from Missouri; her license number was 14675.

I know she answered the call of the Cadet Nurses during World War II. I know she traveled from New Orleans, LA, to San Francisco, Ca, on December 16, 1943, via a Pullman car to work at the Marine Hospital. I know she frequented the numerous nightspots in Union Square. I know the names of her friends; Verda, George, Doris, and her niece Sally.

I know her uniform. Gray wool flannel with silver buttons – red shoulder epaulets and insignia displaying the United States Public Health Service. I see the color of her lips, “Rocket Red,” the unique shade the Lentheric Cosmetic Company created to match the bright red trim on the Nurse Corps’ uniforms.

I know her smile, and I perceive her energy. I know her crassness. I know her writing. I know her slang. I know her eyes.

Why were your eyes down when I first met you?

Why have you exposed so much to me?
This obsession has gone too far – I have become a steward of an impossible cause – a situation that cannot be corrected. What is this effort attempting to accomplish? There is nothing to gain. It is probably just all a creation of my own unstable mind.

While her image lingers in my thoughts, I decide to bid farewell. Accept that an unexplained photograph can continue to exist as just that – unexplained.
Virginia will now be just a part of me. A piece of my history, a temporary focus of interest, that, for a moment, entwined too deeply in my thoughts.

I view her as a hobby, a random interest to explore. My heart breaks at this realization. I have removed the pursuit’s emotion and replaced it with a mundane inquiry. She has become a failed conquest.
She is a still-life memory.

Weeks turn to months, she lingers in my mind – I randomly search for clues while lying to myself I have put her to rest.

When life allows, I pursue more information about this elusive woman I know so much about -working through a vast array of mismatched puzzle pieces searching in vain to find connections – in my collection of photos and letters, cocktail napkins, and newspaper clippings.

Without surprise, each pursuit ends the same, nothing of Miss Virginia Moore after 1944.

I feel more of a calling than ever –

I should have never found the photo, I should have never entered the junk store, I should have never even been in that town two years ago. I should have never known her name; I should have never been able to collect so much information about this woman.
Why is this happening?
Is it all just a fabrication of imagination?
The photos are tangible – she did exist?
Was it all random, or is there meaning?

What is the calling?

I examine the San Fransisco Chronicle Virginia had folded in her scrapbook.

Tuesday, June 6, 1944.
The colossal headline “INVASION!” – Allies Pouring Into Northern France.
I imagine her expression, the excitement flowing through her as she held the paper, the paper I now hold, the turning tide as the allies push toward Berlin.

I long to share her emotions as my eyes read the same print on the same paper. I attempt to tune into her emotions- my senses ignorant to her reality – unable to relate – fall short of a reunion with Virginia.

I place the paper on the table, and it comes to me – the newspaper – my answers could be in the newspaper.
I hurriedly begin searching through the San Francisco Chronicles’ online archives.
Searching – Virginia Moore. A slew of Moores and Virginia produce thousands of hits.
Narrowing the search with quotations -“Virginia Moore” – narrowed but still thousand of random words, too many to examine – I scroll down and quickly lose focus – a feeble attempt.

Driven by an emotional passion I search – hours pass. I sense the end.

My emotions swell as I find my answer; how long have I wondered?

My eyes scan the few sentences dedicated to Miss Virginia Moore from the August 15th, 1944 edition.

Miss Virginia Moore was found dead in the stairwell of the Drake Hotel Tuesday night. An autopsy found substantial amounts of Luminal in her system. Miss Moore’s death has been classified as suicide.

I stare through the screen – fonts melt into long horizontal streaks.

Did Virginia Moore call to me, or were our conversations fabricated from my own imagination?
A feeble attempt to produce shallow valor.
To weave a personal hero’s quest?
To create purpose?

I stole her life.

My punishment is to be haunted by the spirit of a woman who is now deeply ingrained into my being.
I open my photo from the Perisian Room with trembling fingers and examine the mood of the photo I know so well.
If your eyes were not down –

I would not now envision your final moments with such horror.

Disgusted – I close the cover and attempt to harness my emotion – running my finger over the image I realize that the Perisian Room was in the Drake Hotel.

Quickly pulling the photo from the sleeve I flip it to the back – the printed date’s ink, aged, faintly expresses – August 12, 1944.