16 November

Mansion: Thank You For This Fireplace Insert

by Jon Katz

The fireplace insert the Army Of Good bought for the Mansion was installed last week, and it works beautifully, and thanks digital screen technology, it looks real.

The Mansion residents love to sit and talk and read in the Mansion Great Room, and the insert as brought great warmth and feeling to the room.

Several of the residents asked me to thank you for our help in buying this insert for the Great Room. It is a special kind of small act of great kindness. And it cost under $300.

Step by step, we are bringing color and light to the Mansion, a Medicaid assisted care facility in Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. The message is for you.

16 November

Snowstorm Radio: The Media Critic Returns

by Jon Katz

Thomas Toscano (and Fate above)  called me around 9:30 a.m. to tell me he had this sudden idea. A guest on his morning show had to cancel because of a snowstorm raging outside both of our windows.

Thomas asked me if I might agree to talk on his station WBTNAM, the home of “Talking To Animals,” for an hour. He apologized for calling so late.

I had a lot of work to do, and was disinclined to do it, but Thomas, who is clever, said he knew I was a media critic at one point – I wrote about the media for Wired, New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, the Freedom Forum and others for some years.

When I came upstate to write about dogs and animals, I left that behind and rarely mention it or write about it much. Thomas had an hour of air time to fill and he thought it would be great to talk about modern media with him.

I looked out the window again – it was almost a white-out – and said sure, but I had to be in the studio, I don’t like doing interviews on the phone. He said it was risky driving in the snow, but I wanted to do it, I tossed Fate in the car – she loves to come along on rides and headed out to Bennington.

The ride was hairy at times, but overall, not awful. I made it to the station in less than an  hour, and Thomas even had a pot of herbal  tea waiting for me. Fate and Thomas are a perfect match, they fell in love with one another.

And we had a nice hour. Some people tried to call, but I think Thomas had the phone lines turned off, I managed to get a blog post off before I left,  and I did get some  e-mail about our hour later.

We talked openly and easily with one another. I talked about modern media, the Internet, the impact of corporatism on journalism, the impact of cable news on politics.

We had such a good time we are talking about doing a weekly public-affairs/media round up on Fridays. It seems I have a lot of ideas and feelings about media and it would be satisfying to talk about it on the radio. We would of course take calls. More later.

It was a good trip. Fate was wonderful, she visited us regularly for a pat, but otherwise settled down to chew on her rawhide. She’s a great ride-a-long dog, and a media whore like  Red.

She and Thomas are cut from the same cloth. And we found no trace of  weasels although Thomas insists they are nice. I’m glad he asked me.

My regular broadcast, “Talking To Animals” will be broadcast next Wednesday, one to three. Golden Leash supporters are welcome, for $25 you can support an hour of Talking To Animals in the name of any person or pet you wish.

We will mention you and the cause or living thing you want us to mention.

You can send $25 to WBTN, 407 Harwood Hill, Bennington, Vt., 05201, or send the $25 via Paypal here.

16 November

Bud’s First Snow

by Jon Katz

Bud was shocked by his first sight of snow, he ran back into the house and later, took a big dump on the living room carpet – no way he was going outside.

A half hour later, we all went out, and he was a different dog. He was transformed, tearing up and down, circling the sheep, jumping on Red and Fate.

He seemed to just love it, in the way I’ve seen Labs love it. After about 15 minutes, I saw him start to shiver, and I put him right back in the house. When he came out again later, I saw him run into the barn to stay warm and out of the wind.

We have a sweater for him next time, and I think we’ll use it. But he loved his first look at snow, he can sure run when he gets excited. Gus didn’t mint he cold But is more sensitive to it.

We will take that very much into account.

16 November

What Ed Gulley Wanted

by Jon Katz

I am bound to the Gulley Family, by blood and honor and love.

Ed was my closest friend and he entrusted me with his fears, dreams and wishes. He asked me to be a witness to his thoughts when he was gone, and to  give testimony, if needed,  to the way in which he chose to die.

Carol is also a friend, and a student in my writing class. I have always felt close to her, we met in cardiac rehab, we saw each other every day for weeks as Ed sickened and died.

I am determined to be faithful to that trust, even though it brings me to the brink of things I really hate: invading people’s privacy, intruding on their decisions, speaking indirectly.

I can save no one but myself, and never presume that I can. But a promise is a promise, there is no place to dither.

Carol Gulley knew Ed much better than I did, and for a much longer time, but in the final weeks and months of his life he gave me the gift of his honesty and his trust and hopes.

We made videos together, drew together, talked for hours.

It is not something I sought or wanted, but I will do the best I can with it.

Carol Gulley, someone I much admire, wrote a post on her blog today  that shook me. I knew I  had to write about it.

She wrote that Ed’s plan for his children to take over his farm was not working.

She has decided to milk the cows herself, twice a day, and said she “cannot and will not give my animals away…”

She said “we all should have gotten involved and made it work and thrown our personal feelings out the window.”

She wrote that she is back in it, not as a farmer’s wife…”I now have become the farmer.”

The Carol who wrote this piece feels guilty, as if Ed’s death and the farm’s troubles were all of her making.

Carol is milking her cows by herself as the winter approaches. “My body has grown older, she writes, “and as soon as I get over this lameness I will be on my game again..I will make my Farmer proud…perhaps by continuing to farm or maybe by deciding not to any longer. Either way he will know I am doing my best…besides, I have to answer to him one day.”

I have not had much connection to Carol or her family since Ed’s death. They do not confide in me, or seek my counsel, which is their rightful choice. I see Carol when she can come to my writing class, and beyond that we have barely seen or spoken with one another.

I am writing this here because I think I need to say some things that need to be out there, ideas that need to live and be seen, perhaps by her or her family or her friends.

When Carol says she will be “on her game” after her lameness miraculously vanishes, my heart sinks, this is not the way getting older works.

I don’t think she is looking to talk to me right now, or she would have called,  but I have to speak for Ed, and writing is how I do it. The blog is my voice, my mother in some ways.

It has a power all of its own. It demands that I speak my truth.

I want to say that Ed and I spoke many times about his wishes for Carol after he died. I was present when he said he wanted to return in 30 years and see Brown Swiss Steers on Bejosh Farm.

He and I argued  about that wish, I thought it was selfish and inconsiderate of his children’s own lives. He told me he thought it was a way they could all come together and keep the farm running. He also told me he knew it was a very long shot.

Ed said it wasn’t a literal wish, he knew it might not work out, and if it didn’t, “then so be it.” I asked him what he wanted for Carol and he could not have been clearer about it, or said it more frequently.

He said he wishes for her to be happy, and healthy and safe.

His whole plan for the kids taking over the farm was so that she didn’t have to work so hard any longer. Dairy farming is grueling, even for the young and the hardy. And Carol had open heart surgery about the same time I did, four years ago. She’s been limping for months.

Ed’s wish was that his family would come together and find a way to diversity their talents and make the farm work, in one form or another. This didn’t happen. I don’ t think anyone in the family really thought it could happen.

In Ed’s mind, the farmhouse would be protected and Carol would live in it for the rest of  her life, the children would manage the farm through experimentation and diversification.

In his vision, he saw Carol as marrying again one day, even though the thought made him jealous. He hoped that this is what would happen.

Ed loved his cows dearly, he did not ever love them more than Carol or his children. He would want what was best for them.

Ed never once imagined in his vision – at least not out loud to me –  that Carol would end up virtually alone on the farm with a dairy herd of Swiss Steers she had to feed and milk, almost entirely by herself, especially with the health issues she confronts daily.

He never wished to be a heavy burden for her to bear, an ideal for her to live up to, a heavenly ghost for her to answer to. He wanted her to be happy and peace and safe, he said it a thousand times.

If Carol were asking me, I would tell her that Ed would be very sad to think that she felt she had to answer to  him for every decision, or answer to him at all.

I do not believe he would ever had considered the failure of the farm to be a failure of family character or will, a question of coming together.

He knew as well or better than anyone what the prospects were for small dairy farms, he talked about it almost every day. He told me 100 times that milk prices today are the same price as they were in 1970. No small dairy farmer can last long this way, he said.

Ed told me he believed in Heaven, and he believed that he and Carol would be re-united there, and he would be so happy to be with her again. This thought sustained him.

When they met, it is beyond my imagination to think he would be disappointed in any way to be reunited with his partner of 47 years, the mother of his children, his soulmate on his farm.

I don’t  think he would have accepted the idea that there is a litmus test for heaven, that only successful dairy farmers can get in. He would laugh at how lonely that would be. Carol is a good person with a big heart. She’ll have no trouble getting a pass.

There were no conditions in Ed’s dream, he loved Carol and was sorry they never got to talk more in this life until he got brain cancer. Even though I disagreed with his plan for his family, I know he saw his “plan,” as he called it,  as a way to take care of Carol for the rest of her life.

Ed had a good-sized ego, and was known to drift to arrogance, but he never thought of himself as a kind of deity, as all-knowing and profoundly wise.

He knew how smart Carol is, and  how tough. And he told me a thousand times that the only good thing about brain cancer was that he had some time for himself, and didn’t have to work so damn hard every day. That is not what he wished for Carol.

I do not believe he would ever have wanted to be seen as someone the people he loved would have to answer to at their reckoning. He often laughed at himself – and he and I often laughed at each other. Ed saw himself as a fierce individual, but still as an ordinary man and as a proud farmer.

He was no wallflower, but there was real humility in him.

I don’t believe he would ever have wanted Carol to make all of her decisions based on him, or what he might do, especially after he was gone. I believe he wanted Carol to live like him – to make her own decisions for herself, and accept responsibility for them.

I understand that Carol’s choices are hers, and not mine, and that what she does with her life is up to her.

But reading her column today shook me to the core, the thought of her milking cows by herself through the heart of winner, with no thought or profit or sustenance drove me to the keyboard.

This is what I have to write, and if she gets to read it, I hope she can hear it and  consider it in the spirit in which it was written.

This is not what Ed wanted for her.

You can read the Bejosh Farm Journal here.

16 November

Emergency Storm Radio Show: Call If You’d Like

by Jon Katz

Emergency radio show!

Thomas Toscano of WBTN radio just called and said his   11 a.m. guest just bailed out due to the raging snowstorm going on outside.

He asked if I would be interested in talking on the phone about dogs, life, and perhaps even my time as a media critic for New York Magazine and Rolling Stone and the Freedom Forum.

I was a media critic for a long time, and I would be happy to talk about the impact of modern media on American life, as well as dogs or whatever Thomas wants to talk about it – he is eclectic, interested in just about everything.

I decided I’d rather be in the studio, so I’m commandeering Fate, the chaos dog and heading for storm-bound Bennington. All the schools are closed, but I think I can get there. Much better to talk face-to-face.

I think the phones will be working, you can call us if you wish 866-406-9286 or if you are local, 802 442-1010.

This could be fun, you can listen if you wish, WBTNAM1370 or live stream the broadcast here or you your Simple Radio app. We’ll be on from 11 a.m. to noon.

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