Tuesday, December 28, 2010

One Potawatomis look back at the year 2010

Looking back at 2010 in the rear-view mirror is a year of mixed emotions.

Around here, it’s always about the weather: We survived over 42” of snow this past winter and the spring brought welcome change. The summer had its spells of rain and then a stifling heat hit. Our pow-wow days were scorchers, as well as the Gathering held in Shawnee, Oklahoma. But, the fall was picture-perfect and we’ve escaped the blizzards the east coast have been experiencing this winter, at least so far.

Outside of a couple wayward souls, most people in this neck of the woods are KU basketball fans. We had such high expectations. This team has national championship written all over it, but it never came to pass. In their last game, I watched the game in disbelief. KU couldn’t seem to do anything right, and I fully expected them to whip off one of their patented 12-0 runs, but it never happened. I thought when they threw a rare full-court press on Northern Iowa, they would unravel and it was close to that, but it wasn't meant to be. Some little gutsy guard shot a long, long 3-point shot with a lotta seconds on the clock and it swished through the net and then I knew it was over.

I did say a few words that aren’t meant for publication and I truly believe I went through a spell of shock. I never thought for a second that they would lose. They were destined for greatness, but there were tell-tale signs throughout the year. KU would create huge leads and then go to sleep and other games they would only play half-hearted. Collins struggled more time than not. Aldrich had his ups and downs. Henry looked like a monster player one minute and quite ordinary the next. Am I painting you a picture of inconsistency because that’s what it was this year. Yet, I remain a KU fan. A 33-3 record isn't bad by anybody's standards. Somebody said after the game "now it's only babies and memories."  There's always this year and maybe Selby will make all the nightmares go away.

In May, they had a birthday dinner for Meeks Jackson. She is an 87 year old elder of our tribe and a good person and one of our last fluent speakers.

The summer months were hot and we had a wave of deaths too. Joe Hale died at age 62. I've known Joe and his boys for years. I watched his boys grow up and because of him, they picked up the songs fast. They are known as top of the line singers on the pow-wow circuit, but I remember them most for helping us with the songs in our religion. That will be Joe Hale's legacy -teaching and passing along the traditions of our way of life.

In his earlier days, he went off to Vietnam as a member of the U.S. Marine Corp. It was a hard go for Joe for a good number of years, he had inner struggles that few can know and understand. His life was similar to the life of my brother Larry. Both left here young boys and the Vietnam war changed them into vastly different people. Thankfully, the inner struggles of seeing war, death and seeing their own blood flow in front of them leveled off in time, but both died fairly young. To me, that wasn't much of a reward for serving our country but we have little say in that department. Now the only thing left is the memory of knowing these good people. That is part of the cruel realities of life on an Indian reservation.

Our tribe also lost Mike Jensen, Dale Thomas and Wesley Begay, as well as the song-man Gary Cooper - to name a few. Age or cancer took their lives. Death is an inescapable truth here and everywhere. I knew all these men and they each made their own marks on this life. Life does go by fast, make the most of it, and sometimes I look around and wonder why everybody had to leave!

In June, my granddaughter Tara was able to meet the First Lady, Michelle Obama while she visited Camp Pendleton and San Diego. Tara was able to sit in one of the front rows. Ms. Obama made a visit to encourage the Marines and their families. Tara said she "felt pretty blessed to meet the first African-American First Lady. She's a beautiful and wise woman."

I’ve watched the golf course progress for the last year on my way to work. Let me tell you this promises to be one of the best golf courses in this area, if not all of Kansas. I’ve had the opportunity to play the course once and it is both breathtaking and difficult.  It will be one of the toughest courses anybody would want to play and it will only get better looking as the years go by once it’s properly established. It will open for public play in 2011. It may be political suicide, but I might try and sneak over there on occasion. I won't play 600 rounds like some guy in Texas did this year, but at least a few times.  Who knows, I might improve on a game that went south years ago.

Other than that, I’m glad I could watch my granchildren grow and develop. Grandchildren can only be viewed as gifts and I'm damn lucky to hang around long enough to see my grandchildren get to this stage of life.

I'm also glad I’m around yet to write these blog entries. I'm thankful to you for reading my material.  I know it doesn't make sense at times, but stay with me it will get better.  I tried not to hurt any sensitive feelings out there.  The sure way to start a fight is to talk about religion and politics, so I stay away from those topics if I can.  But that is hard to do. so maybe I did indulge in veiled references at times during the course of this year.  I'm guilty.  Damn I would hate for somebody to quit talking to me. On top of that, those politico types have their own news outlets!

I mostly try and tell how it is out here on our reservation and how KU is doing, because those are much better story-lines. I hope your holidays were great, your time off work was constructive and you have a safe and happy 2011 and if you see me on the street or rez road, wave or say hello, it would make me feel good, but if not that's good too!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The weather, Josh Selby, and pony-league baseball!

I woke up today and watched the weather reports on the tube and it looks like this area is safe from all the elements for now. On the West Coast, the rains are hammering the hills of Hollywood, the snow is coming down hard in Colorado and many parts of the East. Some highways are shut down. All of this makes it dangerous to travel. I’m glad I have no travel plans this holiday season and to be truthful I don’t have anybody to go visit anyway, so that’s that. I used to go see my brother Larry in MN on occasion, but that option is no longer there.

And thank goodness for the naysayers out there because I was reminded about Josh Selby being suspended for nine games for taking a little cash when he was in high school. But let’s be real on this subject. This stuff happens all the time in college, it just some get caught and whole bunch of others don't. Some of these guys are coming out of the inner city, talented as the day is long – and when they hit that college campus, they dress good, drive good, spend good, and all that fine jewelry comes from somewhere. Their mammas sure don't send it to them. The last time I drove by an inner city dwelling, it didn’t look like there was an abundance of cash there, maybe a little drug money on the corner but that was about it. That said, being so damn good has its perks! That is the reality of college athletics.

A case in point: Kansas State suspended a couple of their stars for taking improper benefits -a clothing store in Manhattan put some free cloth on them.  To be truthful, these athletes should get more in a monetary way.  After all the universities and the coachs make millions so why can't the guys who make that possible get a little too.  It's only right and then stuff like this won't happen. Maybe!

I read in the paper about some old guy dying. I knew him years ago. My brother Larry and I played pony-league baseball in Hoyt one summer. We would walk to the highway and this guy picked us up and gave us a ride from there and after the game we would walk from the highway again. After a few games, this guy asked us who picked us up. We said nobody, we walked home and after that this guy picked us up at home and gave us a ride home after the games. We lived seven or so miles from the highway. We didn’t care because we wanted to play ball. That old boy lived a long life and he probably never really knew that being good to a couple of Indians wasn’t ever forgotten.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Josh Selby, Religion and the Second Coming

My spirtual journey has taken a set-back.  I've always took pride in my reliablility to my religion.  It wasn't always that way, I did partake in the forbidden fruits of life for many years and one day I decided to change.  I figured I could work toward making a real effort to do better and hopefully at the bitter end the good just might outweigh the bad.  Who knows?  I will have to wait for that determination, hopefully until after my next birthday!

But the point of the story is yesterday we had our Winter Ceremonies start here and I was late going in and I did catch it for being late, which is something accorded to a guy who is fairly reliable.  I took the verbal stuff because they were right and they knew where I was.

I stayed home and watched on t.v. the "second coming."  Josh Selby made his debut at Kansas University and that guy is everything they said he'd be and more.  I guess ol Wilt scored 52 points, a KU record, in his debut in the early 1960s and there was no doubt he was one of the best to ever set foot on the KU court.  KU was a spring-board for Wilt to greater things in the NBA and his fame also caused him to become a magnet for women, but that's another story.  Last year X Henry scored 27 points in his debut, but never approached that number again, and went off to the pros way too early.

Selby will make everybody forget the stars of the past before he's done.  It was like magic when he went into the game at 16:00 minute mark.  He started out trying to be a passer and then nailed a 3-pointer that brought down the house and proceeded to score 10 points in his first five minutes.  It was like he was on the court by himself.  I envied those fans, including my nephew William Mitchell, for getting to witness the game first-hand.  This game will go down as a memorable moment for them because from my favorite chair in front of my 32" t.v. it was damn exciting to see this milestone.

The game ended 70-68 over USC.  KU did a lot of things right and a lot of things wrong and if Selby wasn't on that court at the end they would have lost, period.  He nailed a 3-pointer with 20 some seconds left and KU ended up winning. Selby delivered and once the chemistry all starts to develop, KU will be the big-dogs of the Big 12.  If they tighten down the defense and do more against the other teams big men, they will a presence on the big stage in March.  Selby is that good.  I don't gush over players that much, but this guy is the real deal. 

Now I gotta get back to making amends for being late yesterday, but I'm banking or hoping that the man up stairs is a KU fan too and understands.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Radio Stations, Josh Selby and my new job, maybe!

My granddaughter Kek said “I wish the rez had its own radio station…” on her facebook page and Katie Mitchell responded with “it could be like smokes signals version. Some guy parked at 6 mile corner telling who passed this way or that way and with who in the car."

It’s no doubt this business venture would certainly fail though. All the people would have to have high pay and all the perks of business, so the bottom line is done gone. I normally just run for tribal office because I know I would never be hired for a tribal position.  I wouldn't want to go through that rejection and telling me I ain't qualified even though I worked my entire adult life and even got in a little schooling, but in this case I would at least try and get hired.

I would want the job Katie talked about with certain conditions though.  I want to sit on my front porch, instead of 6 mile, on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays and I could report to the station about who went by that day waving or maybe if they looked mean and was mad about something or the other. Or they could stop and drink a cup of coffee and tell me their troubles and gripes so I could report on that. On Tuesdays and Fridays, I could sit on the main road and do the same reporting. Hell, they could even stop and tell me they hate hearing me talk Indian or a semblance of the Indian language or tell me they hate me for hating xmas - there ain't no sense having a Potawatomi hold back at this late stage of the game. There is a freedom of speech on our rez,so I’m sure their won’t be anything censored.

I would also like to do the week-end sports commentary. I could tell you about how Josh Selby led the Kansas Jayhawks to the national championship, how the Wildcats of Kansas State fame failed again, how the Royals fell apart again and how they whine about being a small-market team and won’t spend no money on anybody.

And if all else fails, I could tell you about my grandchildren and my dog Coda. That’s if they hired me….

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Per cap day on rez

It’s that day and like some old fool, I’m working today. In some tribes, the entire operation shuts down for a day or two, but we don’t, as far as I know. In a few short weeks we will have to pay taxes on this check, so the myth that Indians don’t pay taxes has gone out the window. I’m just glad I’m alive to see it, because we grew up dirt-poor and it sure would have been handy back then. It would have been nice to dress a little better and have some pocket change and buy things other teenagers enjoyed. (but, growing up poor stories come dime a dozen, right?). I realize some don’t get a per cap and others don’t like it because we do, but that’s the way it is. Sure the amount has gone down a tad, but it’s still better than nothing.

In my observation, more people than not depend on getting this check. They have no jobs – won’t be hired by the tribe or the casino even though there is mention of tribal development now and then. Those folks go to town and pay a few bills and it’s all gone, and just maybe they can squeeze in a few xmas presents. Some just sock it away in their accounts and don’t think twice about it. Some are sick and dying and really can’t enjoy or care about spending anything. Others will throw it all back into the slot machine from where it came, but all of this is their prerogative. Oh well the day will come and go, and Josh Selby will start on Saturday.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Johnny Cash, big city life and travel

Let me tell you about a story about a clone of Johnny Cash, big city life and the drawbacks of travel!

Somebody recently sent me a video of a 16-year boy from Seattle named Vince Mira. He was discovered on the streets of Seattle singing Johnny Cash songs for change and dollar bills. Such is the life of the struggling artist in the big city, but I watched this video and the young boy was impressive. He sang one of Johnny Cash’s songs “Ring of Fire,” and did he ever do justice to the man in black. Very few can match the voice of Johnny Cash, and certainly Joaquin Phoenix couldn’t. Remember this young boy’s name because he should become famous sometime or another. Hopefully he will get off the streets and make it because of his talent. Yet, I suppose all aspiring artists have to start somewhere!

I’ve been to this city before and it isn’t much different than other big cities, if fact, somebody said Seattle was over-rated, overcast and over caffeinated. It’s a fast-paced life where everybody is in a hurry to spend their hard-earned or inherited money. It’s a place where there are all kinds: There are lonely people, pan-handlers galore, druggies, and crazies, and a few short steps away are luxury stores where rich folks can buy a purse which will cost more than what some of those people on the street will pay in rent for a year. Some people smile, but there are many who aren’t friendly, and that’s big-city life. But, if you can navigate through all that, there are some great sea-food places to sample.

Travel is getting such a hassle anymore and the lure of seeing new cities is waning as I get older. At the airports they get their jollies feeling you for alleged guns or whatever. It’s a process that is more demeaning than anything else. I had three knee operations and all those changes set off all the bells and whistles at the airport. It’s not good at times.

At this point in my life, I think much prefer rez life. Plus, being away from family, my adopted dog, the couple of friends I have and the comforts of home aren’t good either, so that is my goal for 2011, besides losing a couple of pounds, is to stay closer to the rez. But, like all New Years Resolutions…