C. Bear’s Kind of Year

If people are really what makes the world go ’round, has anybody thought of just being nice to them for a change?”

Click for desktop size imageC. Bear and A.Bear sat on the window ledge, contemplating the apartment grounds below the big glass panes in the dining area. The cherry and plum trees had dropped their February blossoms months ago, and now instead, a sea of iridescent pointed green leaves were fluttering in unison in the breeze outside.

Indoors, the sun shone through the window onto the tablecloth and the traditional flower arrangement behind them. Magentas, yellows and oranges blazed against a foliation of darker and gray greens.

Time brings change. This was Sunday. This was, in fact, the perfect spring day. No one said a word for a while. There was so much to be said, in just the seeing, that sometimes our words paint a gossamer veneer over that which can be directly perceived and appreciated. A. Bear looked at C.Bear and I am pretty sure that one or both of them winked.

This was the year in which, so far, nothing spectacularly good had occurred, but nothing extraordinarily sad had happened either. Sometimes we all need a spell like that, to break the chain of trial and success, ordeal and failure, and event-driven waves of ominous news. No one has forgotten the images of billowing mountains of collapsing ashen gray concrete dust, and twisted steel beams the size of a monstrously deformed hook and ladder.

This was a year in which everybody was going to be watching the good ol’ U.S.A. itself, even our fellers. We have beefed up our Bear Department to make sure we’re on top of every situation.

Click for desktop size imageWith the addition of Rusty and Dusty, and Randy, and the Christmas Bears, this was the year when the Bear Registry surpassed 100 in number, a combined count for both Castro Valley and Phoenix.

Grasping this number alone is remarkable for a bunch that started out barely ten years ago, two and then three in number, unable to count beyond “two”. Nowadays, it’s a pretty sure bet that C.Bear and Phoenix Bear and some of the regulars in the Bear card games were not only counting the cards, but also calculating the odds. Even though they only play for pretend stakes, it is said that Phoenix Bear himself never loses a card game unless he feels like it. And C.Bear is uncannily lucky, as ever.

C.Bear and A.Bear are two of the original “Three Bears”. T. Bear is the very first. We have several older Bears — Johnnie Walker is said to go all the way back to somewhere in the distant 1970’s. It was T.Bear who first arrived at the hospital to become our Healer Bear. Though not our first bear, he is the gregarious cheerful one who generally gets credit for starting it all.

At home, T.Bear quickly became our D’Artagnan of the Three Musketeers, befriending put-aside fellows from the Pile For Unwanted Bears: “I say, sir, you sir, who are hiding yourself behind that shutter – yes, you, sir, tell me what you are laughing at, and we will laugh together!”

Having encouraged C.Bear out of his moody shell of withdrawal, and back onto a proper Bed, T.Bear and C.Bear became “The Bears”. A distinct and lively household group was born. A.Bear soon joined us from Atlanta, and then the Three Bears ruled. One for all, and all for one.

That’s the well and oft-told story that C.Bear and A.Bear were presently contemplating.

s to exactly how we had grown from 3 to 106 fellers over the years, and split those distinct characters into households in Phoenix and here, and educated all those New Bears into a single vivacious, cohesive clan — well, now, many fragments of those stories have already been recorded in these Bear Chronicles.

Presently, A.Bear said, “It looks like it is going to be a good year after all.”

“Well you know,” C.Bear allowed, “I agree with you, old chum. The fog has burned off, and it is warm here now.”

“Yes, but I mean, the whole year is going to be good.” C.Bear snickered and pulled himself completely out of his windowsill daydreaming. “A.Bear, I feel the same way, but how can you be sure of a statement like that?”

“C.Bear, look at what has happened this year already. All the new Bears have learned their lessons. No one asks, ‘what is two?’ or how to turn on the Bear Channel. And they have signed a lease on the apartment, so we all know we will be staying here for a while. I like it here.

“The TV brings us more international news and even talk of nuclear wars that I have never heard before. But the people are not assuming it is going to happen, like I read about in the old days. They are assuming things will get better. How can they not get better?”

C.Bear saw Mr. Crow land on the eucalyptus tree on the other side of the pool. “BeCAWS”, he joked, snickering again, “things are getting better here, yes. Other places, people are bickering and arguing and threatening to kill each other again. Still other places, they’re actually doing it.”

“So, C.Bear, are you saying that if things get better in one place, they will get worse in another?”

“No. I only know things are better here. You can tell by watching the people. And Junior and Little Bear are spotting Mr. Squirrel more days this year. That’s always a great sign. But there’s no reason why things could not get better someplace else, too.”

“Well, everybody knows there are not enough Bears for everywhere. We should be happy with what we’ve done here so far. We should be on the lookout for nice things to do in other places.”

C.Bear is always looking out anyway. Right now he seemed to be gazing past the tops of the far distant hills. He was perched on the edge of the windowsill. He had one leg hanging over, which he was swinging back and forth jauntily, as if there was not a fear in the world that he could fall off:

“Uh huh. One thing you can usually count on: if you do something nice for someone, they will almost always be nice back.”

And they thought about that for a while in the sun. C.Bear was getting sleepy. A.Bear sure hit the nail on the head once again, though. You can just never have enough Bears.

Travel Restrictions

ell, ever since the terrible, terrible catastrophes of last September, airport security has struggled with frenzied, undisciplined growth and scrutiny. Many people think that the end result has been a growth industry paid to go through the motions of checking passengers for regulations compliance, not necessarily for aircraft flight security. It’s obvious that most people on those jobs still have little idea what they’re doing. While commanding the pay of entry-level fast-food workers, these workers receive minimal screening or training and are being asked to bring to their job the experience and intuitive skills of career law enforcement veterans.

We do travel as lightly as possible. Even with full knowledge of the importance of the screenings, it is difficult to watch athletic younger guys with the heavy duffels and menacing glowers saunter aboard, while we oldsters are being asked to step aside, take off our belts and shoes, and watch patiently while our luggage is searched. Then too, I’ve dropped about twenty pounds, but still wear my size 36’s. It is not as fun removing my belt as in the old hip-hugging days, and I told Bob, it serves them right if my pants do fall down.

I used to devour all the old detective and spy novels: Travis McGee, Remo and Chuin, Tom Clancy, John LeCarre, and Ludlum. I studied the bizzarely twisted villains of Elmore Leonard and Lawrence Sanders. I may still be unable to find my coffee because I forgot to take the cup out of the microwave, but, like most Americans, I take pride in my keenly honed powers of observation.

Worse, as an ex-military man, I retained a certain amount of “everything is suspect” training. I believe a reasonably competent lay person can spot ineptitude without a magna cum laude from the J. Edgar Hoover Institute. For example, when the laptops go through the scanners, there is not an employee within airport PA system radius who could tell you the difference between a 2.5″ hard drive and a motherboard CPU cooler. They no longer ask you to demonstrate that your unit is a functioning computer. Removable bay devices, such as extra batteries and hot-swap drives, are seen dimly as “accessories” — if at all. Even Grandma Moses knows they could be something else, infinitely more sinister.

I have never seen a laptop “sniffed” for chemical traces, but when a pair of cuticle scissors shows up on the scanner in Mrs. Grundy’s makeup case, we’ve witnessed a gaggle of them cluster around the screen going “Ooooh!” and “Ahhh…” and “tsk, tsk, tsk” like kids at the nude statues museum exhibit. You’ve seen it too. The prized cuticle scissors are seized as war trophies, further proof that the regulations protect the general public efficiently against hijackers and explosives.

Suffice it to say, C.Bear and the fellers no longer fly with us to visit their brother Phoenix Bear. We did read all about the Los Angeles teddy bears that were rigged with explosives or incendiaries and then passed all over town, by some incredibly goony crank; but then we had already seen it coming. Nothing is sacred, and we understand that.

We do make an exception for Junior or Little Bear, our “Driver Bears”, depending on whose car is going to long-term parking. They are very small bears who sit on the dashboard and help bring us good fortune in traffic, much like those Plastic Jesuses in other circles. We do get the odd stare or two (and an occasional knowing smile), and we don’t mind making a “statement” about marching to the same drumbeat.

Junior and Little Bear are so small they could pass the chemical sniffer tests with flying bear colors. We wouldn’t have to worry so much about them being ripped apart at the seams to examine the innards for prohibited devices and contraband. But they have never been “searched” or given a moment’s notice.

Junior at Red Rock State ParkThis year, both of our little Driver Bears have flown down to Phoenix and back without incident, and of course they enjoy this very much. For the most part, though, the fellers have learned an increased reliance on A.Bear’s Bear Channels for communication, and they have even learned to share TV programs across the same bandwidth. A.Bear can open up all 106 channels at once, if need be, on an unmarked band of the frequency spectrum. You can’t beat broadband communications for keeping in touch with the family.

Junior came down with us to Phoenix in May. We keep an old white 1981 Fleetwood Brougham D’Elegance Coupe down there. It is in great condition and still quite “the boat”. There is no finer way to turn city traffic into an adventure than to float this aging queen down to the corner market or to Fry’s Electronics. Junior was honored to pilot our barge of state all the way up highway 17 to Sedona, where we had a great lunch and did some film shoots, including the picture of Junior above at Red Rock State Park.

Bear School

A.Bear certainly has his paws full trying to keep 106 Bear minds busy and active. Our Phoenix crowd likes to sit around like a spectator gallery, when someone is visiting, and watch the big TV in the bedroom. Of course, that is what our Castro Valley Bears like best too. Besides that, everyone likes to go Rafting in Phoenix when C.Bear is in town, but that’s not happening any more. Besides that, everybody likes to eat Bear Ice Cream, but The People are dieting, so where’s the fun in that?

So, this year there’s been a bigger emphasis on classroom training, partly because of the sudden influx of newer Bears, and partly to keep the fellers busy. A. Bear believes his students should have a working knowledge of world geography and human history, even if they do not plan to go on for advanced degrees in those subjects.

One of A.Bear’s teaching devices is “Place Names”. The rules of the game are to take a legitimate place name and substitute the world “Bear” for one of the syllables. But it doesn’t count unless you also know the location or state where the place may be found on the map. Here are some of the names they are coming up with:

  • Bearington, Rhode Island
  • Bear Harbor, Maine
  • CalaBearas County, California
  • Bearossa Valley, Australia
  • San Bearnardino, California
  • New Beardford, Massachusetts
  • Lake Bearyessa, California

We’re afraid you get the idea. This can also be played with “People”, real or fictional; our fellers can probably identify more entertainment people than historical people, and this is the kind of list they’ve compiled so far. But we didn’t promise you it would be pretty:

  • Lionel Bearymore
  • J. Bearsford Tipton
  • Bearetta (since banned)
  • Cyrano Beargerac (2 points for Cubby)
  • ABearham Lincoln

History Lessons

ey, A.Bear!”, C.Bear said after the longest time. They were still sitting in the windowsill, but now in the shade. The sun had slid high and well over to the west.

“We never found out what happened to that little girl Marjyka, and her little bear, and the soldier Milo whose medal I got in my anorak.”

A.Bear knew what C.Bear was talking about. He was referring to those adventures that Alex wrote up in 1995 and 1998 in the Bear chronicles, one of those stories that maybe happened and maybe didn’t.

“I don’t know, C.Bear. Alex wrote that the people prospered in a long peacetime democracy, but that was supposed to have happened in some Balkan or Slavic country. We never knew which one. I don’t know of any country in that area that lived happily ever after, do you?”

“Um, if you don’t, A.Bear, I sure don’t either.” They fell silent for a spell.

The truth is, those stories were written just before the surprise breakup of the old Yugoslav Republic, the Serbia and Croatia ethnic cleansing, and the destruction and disintegration of the whole region. Another story, a sequel, was well into the draft stage. The plot was far too gelled to back out. The project was dropped out of respect for the living.

C.Bear and A.Bear talked some about the condition of the world, and whether people were any better off, or any worse, than, say, when Johnnie Walker was born.

In the “old days”, almost everybody in the world was owned by somebody else. Unless you had the bad luck to be sent off to war by your country’s rulers, or to live in a country that was being invaded by people sent off to war by their rulers, it seemed to A.Bear you had some kind of chance of living a somewhat “normal”, self-sufficient life. Sanitation and health conditions had been terrible, education was the secret weapon of the elite, and most people didn’t live more than a few decades, if that. At least this was because people didn’t know any better. It wasn’t like unhealthy conditions, famine and disease were being deliberately introduced.

C.Bear said, “So, didn’t they try to wipe out whole races of people before Hitler?”

A.Bear noted that, oh yes, they did, but then it was more carefully disguised as sacred and noble causes. “Ethnic cleansing” came to the forefront of public attention in the twentieth century, mostly after the Second World War, but that actually it had been going on in some form or other for practically two thousand years. He said that Arab conquerors, Mongolian massacres and the Christian Crusades are often cited as the three largest-scale historical atrocities aimed at exterminating entire peoples.

To that, he said, you could add Hitler’s Holocaust, Stalin’s pogroms and gulags, and much of the wholesale slaughter in the current mideast, Asian and African trouble areas. China, he added, also exterminates whole peoples, but only in the act of subjugating or relocating them.

C.Bear didn’t have too much to say about that.

Current Events

U.S.S. Constitution - "Old Ironsides"“OK, A.Bear, what about all those people they say want to come over here and kill us and blow up our buildings and stuff?”

Of course C.Bear was asking about the debacle over the current administration’s idea to target citizens living in a hit list of predominantly Islamic countries.

A.Bear said, “Well, some of them do want to enter the country, kill us and blow up our buildings. But no one has explained how fingerprinting will stop them, or even identify who should be watched more closely.

“The proposal I read was to require them to be fingerprinted when they enter the country, and to register or re-register every so often while here under their visas.” The objection to the proposal is of course that, handled this way, there is no practical or political way to distinguish this tactic from overt racial or ethnic “profiling”.

“These countries they come from, A.Bear — are we at war with any of them?”

“No, no, of course not, C.Bear. If we were, we probably wouldn’t let any of them in the country until it was all over. But, many people who are here now are staying pretty much as long as they like, and we don’t know who they are or where they’re staying. They’re lost.”

“Well, let me ask you this: if I were an Afghanistan refugee Bear, like from Kandahar, and you were a Paddington kind of a Bear from Liverpool, I wouldn’t mind getting my paws dirty for fingerprints so much, if you did too. If they made me do it, but not you, wouldn’t that be a violation of my rights, like I was a second-class citizen or something?”

“Wait a minute, C.Bear. You already are a citizen!”

“Oh. Yeah. So?”

“It works like this. Our Constitution guarantees people certain rights, C.Bear, but it clearly assumes ‘The People’ means American citizens. If you aren’t an American citizen, you might not have the same rights.”

“So how would I know?”

That was a tough one. A.Bear said,

“Well, you might not know. Your rights could be whatever the person in charge said they were.”

“Like, the President?”

“Like the President. Yes. And, that’s the problem. The other countries are going to think they are being punished for the actions of a few, although some of those countries are our allies. Other friendly countries might not like it either. Canada may think, well, we have mideast refugees here too, so we’re next.”

“Why don’t they just have everybody fingerprinted when they get here?”

“C.Bear, they say they don’t have the manpower to do that, even though the laws authorizing it have been on the books since 1982.”

“Oh. Like the airport terminals?”

“Right. Here’s another thing. Most Americans like to think they don’t just have all these rights because some old-timers said so in 1776. The idea was that these rights are God-given, or really belong to all people whether their governments say so or not. So, many people think that guests from another country have most of the same rights as we do, unless there’s cause to kick them out of the country.”

This whole subject was frustrating for A.Bear, because as a teacher he could only explain the explainable, and shrug his shoulders over the other things, those things we can’t do anything about. But C.Bear wasn’t going to let go of this yet.

“So, look here. If we say we’re just breathing down the necks of people of people from some countries, why would we do that? Isn’t that the same thing as saying that if you’re a bad guy, and you think you can recruit terrorists from England and France, that’s OK with us?”

A.Bear shrugged his shoulders.

“A.Bear, this whole thing is silly. They could just make every foreign person call their mother at home once a week. Hey, if the President can’t think of a good idea, why doesn’t he just ask Congress or the Courts?”

A.Bear said he didn’t think there was an answer for that one either, and the conversation moved on.

Sedona

Junior at work on Hwy 89Junior does love to pilot that big long white Caddy. We’re not sure whether this was his first or second time, as we don’t take many long trips while in Phoenix. When we are just going out to dinner or the store, Junior is on vacation too, so he gets to stay home and watch TV with Phoenix, Wooly, Sandy and the rest of the fellers down there.

Here you see Junior taking us south on State Highway 89 back down to Sedona. This whole area is part of Coconino National Forest, which in turn is made up of five distinctly different geological and ecological environments. We are most definitely in Red Rock Country, which features low forest mountain terrain somewhat akin to the Yosemite foothills in the area of Big Oat Flat and Groveland. But this area is clearly most famous for its red cliffs, buttes, and formations strangely eroded by winds and waters of bygone epochs.

Our excursion north of Sedona was really the result of being unable to find a place to park or turn around within Sedona itself. As you can see, Junior didn’t mind. It is only 32 miles by highway 89A to Flagstaff, but we turned around well short of there. There are dirt turnoffs everywhere for campers and RV’s, marked by the ubiquitous signs that parking here (or there) required a “Red Rock Pass”.

Highway 89A was later closed between Sedona and Flagstaff, in the first week of June of this year, due to the drought and dry brush, and the resulting early and severe fire danger.

We pulled into one paved tourist area where we think we might have been able to purchase one of these, but the gate booth was unattended. The entrance was partly blocked by an old fellow with a pencil and paper envelope. He was trying to figure out what to write on the envelope, with his wife offering encouragement from their pickup truck. We pulled around, parked, took a few quick pictures of some of the red rock bluffs, and left.

We found parking in town off the main drag, to the rear of the shops crowded along the highway. We did some shopping and found an absolutely delightful sandwich shop, Sedona Memories. The food, service and local color is all delightful, and you will find mostly locals there because it cannot be seen from the obvious offstreet parking spots. If you call your order in (928-282-0032) you get a free home baked cookie with your order. We recommend it.

There was a weathered, sun-beaten older fella eating sandwiches in the shop with a friend. He was packing a loaded Ruger Super Redhawk .357 magnum stainless revolver, 6″ barrel, in a crossdraw leather holster, along with a battery of pagers, a Motorola radiotelephone, spare cartridges and cellular phones. He sported no badges, shoulder patches or other identifiable official credentials, just impressive and well-worn artillery – what I call a “working gun”. No one paid any attention.

It is just as well C.Bear didn’t see this, or there would have been a hue and cry for western gear and Bear-size cap pistols, 106 ways around. Our Bears aren’t raised in violence, unless you count the TV. Once in a blue moon, C.Bear will get into a pretend “Walker, Texas Ranger” slugfest with one of the bigger bears, but they giggle so hard that no one ever gets hurt.

Those two left, the friend and Mr. Ruger Redhawk, and they said good-bye to the regulars. This is still Arizona, for sure.

Sedona is anything but a small town. Along the shopping mall highway, the mix of shops is jewelry (Native American, imported and locally crafted), paintings, art, curios, gift shops, trendy restaurants, and more gift shops. The tourist industry is everywhere, and very well funded and advertised; Sedona seems much more in-your-face about capturing the tourist dollar than, say, the Carmel that I recall through a veil of 20 years of memories. That is not to say Sedona is not a pleasant place, and fun to shop and eat and see the sights, but if you came with the expectation of “getting away from it all”, you might be disappointed unless you were prepared to camp out, far from the teeming hordes.

Of course this made us wonder, well, where do the locals live and shop?

The answer lies on the west leg of the “T” intersection of highways 89A and 179 North. Highway 89A west of Sedona Airport offers wall to wall banks, real estate offices, motorcycle dealers, Safeway Plaza, and burgeoning building supply or “Home Improvement” warehouses. Growth is really a growth industry here. We continued west to Red Rock Road, not far out of town, and to Red Rock State Park.

Red Rock State ParkRed Rock State Park is a sleepy little multipurpose park tended by a gatekeeper and one Ranger, originally from New England. He arrived with a busload of tourists as we were setting up the camera tripod, explaining that “no one from Sedona is originally from Sedona.”

You could have knocked us over with a feather.

To the south of the park observation point is a grand sweeping vista of low mountains, high desert terrain, scrub pine, and red rock formations. We had technical difficulties with the planned panorama shots, but we left with some nice shots and pleasant memories anyway.

 

Home Is Where You Hang Your Hat, Pardner

Bob and Alex and Junior made it back from Phoenix safely. The Castro Valley Bears were glad, because they were glad to see everybody back once again, and the TV schedule could resume, and Junior could tell all about what the Phoenix Bears were up to, and his wonderful adventures on the Sedona trip.

The Phoenix Bears were sad, because the air conditioner would be off for the duration, and it would be hot, and quiet in the house with just each other for company. But they could share events with their northern cousins through the Bear Channel, so that was OK. The house got still, and the Phoenix Bears settled down into their “wait mode” routines, like cards and pillow sliding. They are a great and patient bunch, that Phoenix crew.

We acquired four red Bear-sized shirts, very spiffy white-collared shirts in the polo style, which were a gift from a friend at work. We don’t look for “Bear clothing” very often, because most Bears come outfitted from the factory with some kind of T-shirt, sweater, hat or such, and because, well, Bears are not clothes horses, and besides, it takes them a very long time to get dressed.

The red shirts were just the right size for a medium-smallish Bear. With 106 Bears, you’d think these new shirts would be sold out as soon as “the store doors” opened. But it turned out that several who tried the shirts on found them too tight, and were afraid of getting stuffing migration.

We finally outfitted A.Bear in one of the new shirts, as it fit him perfectly. He’s been wearing the same old tight, stretched out of shape “Atlanta” T-shirt for about ten years. He was very grateful for the new shirt and it looks like it was made for him. Another went to Tuffy, the most senior of the Uffy Brothers up here. The other two went to Phoenix for Scruffy, the other senior Uffy, and to Snappy, who is the newest down there. Snappy was delighted with all that extra attention.

A.Bear and C.BearC.Bear and A.Bear resumed their conversation in their favorite private spot, the window sill ledge in the dining room.

“One last thing, A.Bear”, C.Bear asked. “What do you think of this Tom Ridge fellow and all the departments he wants to take over? I don’t like his looks.”

A.Bear flashed C.Bear a sharp smile, but said, “Well, we can’t say that. We have to wait to see what he does. I know, I know, we’ve been waiting since October, and you’re going to say he hasn’t done anything yet.”

C.Bear looked pleased with himself, but A.Bear resumed:

“Part of this plan makes some sense, C.Bear. In the old days, The Coast Guard was for sinking pirate ships, catching spies in rubber rafts if they came in from the U-Boats, and maybe catching the rum-runners with their bootleg booze. People bought boats, and even yachts, and then we needed the Coast Guard to teach them how to steer without running into each other.

“But the Coast Guard didn’t need the FBI for that in 1941. They didn’t need a guy in an office to telephone the CIA to find out that spies on rubber rafts were bad guys who came from the “Fatherland”, which you know was Hitler’s Germany.”

“Fatherland, Motherland, Homeland, they all sound the same to me. Call it something else. I don’t like this.”

“C.Bear, times have changed. Terrorists could be anybody, and they don’t wear rubber suits and swim fins. If you’re the Coast Guard and you stop a guy with a barge load of fertilizer, you can’t just hold the barge while you take weeks to talk other guys into tracking down his story. I hate to say it, but you’d have to be able to tap all of the outside intelligence agencies’ information right away. A central clearing house may be the only way to go.”

“Well, they say that their computers can’t even talk to each other, A.Bear. Why are we just finding this out now?

“Look, A.Bear, everybody in the world is asking, why didn’t these guys see it coming? Why didn’t they do their jobs? Were they too busy spying to protect the homeland from its churches and schools?”

“Well, yes and no. Since what they tried to do to defame Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he was alive, Congress made them get a court order for most domestic spying and infiltration. Today, some of these guys are still the best in the world at what they do, but they can’t get into Al Qaeda cells because, well, they don’t have enough people who look like they could fit in there. The big shots are asking them: what do you need from us to do your jobs better? I’m just afraid some of them are giving back the answers that point the fingers away from them.”

“Wait a minute, A.Bear. If the big shots ask people in any business, what do you need to do your jobs better, yes, you’re going to get some answers like better break rooms and shorter days and more money. But, if you’re getting tons of answers of all kinds, and the big shots are even asking these questions at all, doesn’t that mean they’re in some kind of trouble?

“Besides, some of the answers are, ‘our equipment doesn’t work,’ and ‘people won’t talk to us.’ If the Cactipus were still a bad guy, and he was chasing you, and you couldn’t even connect to Phoenix and them on our Bear Channel, wouldn’t you be mad too?”

A.Bear nodded and shrugged. It seemed there were still too many questions for which no answers could be found.

Presently, A.Bear said, “It looks like it is going to be a good year after all.”

C.Bear said, “That’s just what you said that started all this the other day!”

A.Bear gestured toward the big azure swimming pool on the apartment grounds down below. “C.Bear, look down there and tell me what you see.”

“I see a bunch of noisy kids splashing each other, and some of them are running on the concrete which they aren’t supposed to do, and the parents ain’t hollering at them either. I see an older lady who is trying to get some sun on the deck but she is getting splashed instead.”

“Well, C.Bear, what I see is a bunch of people of all ages having fun, and I see parents looking at their kids and smiling, not looking up into the sky and frowning. Lighten up. These are good people. They aren’t going to let the world be destroyed. It is a beautiful day, you know, and people are having fun. Isn’t that what we’re here for, to make sure that they do?”

C.Bear laughed at that. “OK, A.Bear, you’ve got me there. You’re right. And, Junior and Little Bear each saw Mr. squirrel again this week! The critters are playing, and they’re happy too.

“Just one last question. Getting back to your history lessons, I know that in the old days some of the Arab rulers almost conquered the world. They said they wanted it for their church, while the European rulers said they wanted all the Arab lands for their church.

“But all that time, from what you tell me, the Arab people, the people themselves, have always had to do pretty much whatever their rulers told them to do. And so still they have so little. Now, mind you, I don’t give a hang for this Arafat fellow, and I don’t give a hang for that General Sharon guy either. Without that war, and the killing of all those people, the people who just want to live – like the people in the pool down below – these soldiers would be nothing. But those are the only two guys we even seem to talk to.”

We told you the Bears are seeing too much violence on TV. C.Bear continued:

“So let me ask you this about the Arab people (not their rulers), old chum: if people are really what makes the world go ’round, has anybody thought of just being nice to them for a change?”

A.Bear hadn’t even seen this coming, but he had to laugh. So far as he knew, no one had ever thought of that before. And the two of them giggled in the windowsill for a moment. Maybe people make the world go ’round, but Bears and happiness and laughter are the grease that keeps it turning.

 

 

© Alex Forbes, June 8, 2002

 

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