Archive for September, 2015

Friday 9-25-15 blog

September 24, 2015

WPA Project # 1116

September 23, 2015

by Ed Chasteen

“Ten mineral springs were brought together in this building in 1935 under WPA project #5252.” On a brass marker outside an imposing white limestone, now the City Hall building, in Excelsior Springs, Missouri these words identify the Hall of Waters and prompt me to wonder what my WPA project # is. I, too, was born in 1935. So I self-designate my project #: 1116. If in federal government archives this number is otherwise taken, please know that my life appears to many as unplanned before it happens. Here I am today on my bicycle reading this sign in front of this building and thinking these thoughts.

My dad’s dad died in 1925 when my dad was 14 and in the eighth grade. Dad quit school to take an unskilled, low paying job to support his widowed mother. Social Security was not even yet FDR’s dream. The coming crash of ’29 would end the Roaring Twenties and usher in a bevy of alphabet agencies to cushion the damage. Formed in March 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps, CCC, was one of the first New Deal programs. It was a public works project intended to promote environmental conservation and to build good citizens through vigorous, disciplined outdoor labor. Close to the heart of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the CCC combined his interests in conservation and universal service for youth. He believed that this civilian “tree army” would relieve the rural unemployed and keep youth “off the city street corners”. FDR created WPA (Works Progress Administration) on May 6, 1933. FDR signed the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935 at 3:20 p.m.

Dad and Mother married December 15, 1931, and moved in with Dad’s mother. He was one of the three million men put to work in 1933 by the CCC. Dad and Mother’s first two children died. One after a few hours. Unnamed. The other after a few weeks. I was third born. The first to live. It was 1940 before Dad’s mother and millions of others began to receive monthly Social Security checks.

Until today I never thought of myself as a WPA project. But now I do. No one on either side of my family before me ever went to college. Most did not finish high school. Some could not read or write. My parents never had much and always worked hard. College was their goal for me from the day I was born. The New Deal gave them hope that one of theirs might make it.

Both are gone now. I wish I could be sure they knew the bounds of my gratitude. I remember telling them. But now that I can’t, I have the feeling that my efforts were puny. So telling those who might read this is my effort to give them credit. I was their project.

WPA project # 1116.


Wednesday 9-23-15 blog

September 23, 2015

From the UK with Love

Monday, September 22, 2015

by Ed Chasteen

His name, as I will shortly learn, is Tom Nicols. I do not yet know that he is a geophysicist from Leighton Buzzard Beds in the UK. I first see him pedaling south on 291 highway just across from the Pour Boy station in Liberty, Missouri. I have just come from breakfast at Ginger Sue’s and am driving home in my red PT Cruiser HateBuster Mobile, license # H8BSTR.

His brightly colored front and rear panniers are bulging, a bedroll, spare tire and assorted other necessities, lashed with bungee cords to the rack behind his seat. But none of this is first to draw my attention. He’s wearing a baseball cap. Not a biker’s helmet.

I’ve driven north from downtown on Missouri Street and just come to 291 when I see him and his bicycle. I watch as he veers right onto the access road leading past North Star Nursery and to Jefferson Apartments. Then at the stop sign just past North Star, he turns left and back onto the 291 shoulder. I pull ahead 200 yards, stop on the shoulder, get out, walk behind my car and wave my arm to flag him down. We talk for several minutes before I ask his name.

“Where’re you headed?” I ask. “Boston.” He says. “Where’d you start?” San Jose.” “You’re not wearing a helmet.” “I did. Before the desert. Got up to 128 degrees. I put my cap in water to stay cool.”

Tom wanted to see America. His friends in England advised a bus ride. Or a car and driver. “That would be like watching TV.” He said. So he bought an American bicycle in the UK. Had it flown to San Jose. Across desert and mountains, in heat and cold, for a month now Tom has met America and Americans, up close and personal. “America is the greatest country in the world by far. I wanted to experience it for myself. The best Americans are right here in America. The worst Americans are some of those overseas.”

Tom will be about 60 miles farther along when he settles in for the night. Exactly where he will be, “I have no idea,” he says. Between now and then, though, he will have met other Americans and seen other places. He takes pictures on his phone to send home. He takes mine. And fishes from his billfold what looks to be the only business card he’s carrying.

Another month Tom plans to take before reaching Boston. He will have his bike box forwarded from San Jose. Then back to the UK and the Earth Science Company he directs, his direct knowledge of a good chunk of planet Earth greatly enhanced.

ADDENDUM to me later today from Tom’s smart phone: “I am camping tonight in a small village called Grand Pass, a local farmer very kindly let me camp behind his barn which is really nice as I am uncomfortable when stealth camping, without permission.”

Monday Blog 9-21

September 21, 2015

Weston’s MS Ride


by Ed Chasteen

Brian, Kelly, Weston, Mark and I arrive in Lawrence with a couple thousand friends: some by the short, some by the traditional and some by the long route. Some before noon. Some nearing dark. By tandem, recumbent and bicycles of various makes and designs, eye catching helmets and riding attire enlivening every rest stop.

Weston will be 14 tomorrow. Brian and Kelly, my son and daughter-in-law, have chosen the short route for Wes’s first MS Ride. I have brought my folding Bike Friday and my disassembled battery-powered scooter stashed behind the front seat in my red PT Cruiser HateBuster Mobile, license # H8BSTR, OFFICIAL VEHICLE signs showing through the rear windows. I will drive to each rest stop on the short route and greet Wes, Kelly and Brian when they come.

At Garmin Saturday morning, Brian and I park our cars side by side. Brian takes their three bicycles off his car. I take my scooter out. They go to register and turn in their money. I go to greet other members of our Biscari Brothers team. We have not arrived in time for team pictures. But we make our presence known.

Then I drive to Spring Hill, the first rest stop on the short route, take out my scooter and circulate, meeting Steve, Greg, Paul and others from our Saturday Breakfast Rides. Strange! They’re riding the long route. Maybe the routes diverge past the first few stops. They have in the past.

I wait for Brian, Kelly and Wes to come. When they haven’t after longer than I think should be, I ask a volunteer who wanders by what route this is. “Long route.” He says. I take out the post card sized map I picked up at the Start, Day 1 on one side; Day 2 on the other. How could I have been so dumb? Now I see that the green, red and blue lines are more than the aesthetic touch I had thought. I took the blue line to Spring Hill. I should have taken the green line to DeSoto.

On my bike phone I call Brian, already in DeSoto and wondering where I am. I apologize for not reading the map and promise to meet them at the lunch stop. A deputy sheriff waiting at a convenience store counter advises me to backtrack to Olathe and take highway 7.

At lunch a young woman named Sherrie admires my scooter. I take it apart to show her how portable it is. “My husband has a scooter and MS. It’s portable, too. Goes 25 miles an hour. He’ll be at the finish line. I’d like you two to meet. His name is Fred.”

Mark, Brian, Kelly and Wes are gushing with glowing reports of the morning weather and roads, the mandatory ambivalence of hills and wind given a mention. Mark always chooses the long route. We won’t see him again till near dinner time tonight in Lawrence.

The dozen or so teams riding this year’s MS Ride have set up entertainment and feeding stations in South Moreland Park between 13th and 12th on Massachusetts, Lawrence’s main street. Biscari Brothers Bicycles will feed our team with BBQ they have smoked and side dishes brought by team members. I find a free parking spot in a handicapped space along 11th Street, just beside Lawrence’s imposing limestone City Hall.

I have carried luggage for the four of us in my car, sparing Wes, Brian. Kelly and me the need of waiting on the luggage truck to arrive. So about 3 o’clock the four of us walk the one block from the park to my car, retrieve our luggage and walk up Massachusetts to the Eldridge Hotel at 701. Brian booked two rooms for the five of us a year ago, right after last year’s MS Ride.

Dave, Bob and Alex, the three Biscari brothers, set up a repair shop at the lunch rest stop in Eudora today and will be here again tomorrow. The three of them, with helpers Carl and Rick, will feed us royally tonight. But when I first circle the park on my scooter, I can’t find the Biscari tent. I’m looking for Dave’s long BBQ log cabin-like trailer. I don’t see the Biscari green and white sign or the white pick up truck with a stainless steel smoker in the bed.

When time comes to eat about 5:30, Dave tells me to be first in line. While we eat, Bob comes to every table and gives a ticket to every rider. After dinner he calls numbers, and the ticket holder is handed a small gift plucked randomly from a bag by a third person. “Nobody can leave after we finish eating.” Bob says. “We have two special events. If you leave, you can’t come next year.”

Bob invites a member of another team to come introduce our speaker. “For the last several years,” he says, “all the money raised by our team and your team has gone directly to fund a MS researcher. All the way from Seattle, we have invited the researcher we have supported for the last three years to come speak to you tonight.”

If the young woman who comes then to speak to us is anywhere nearly as talented at research as she is bubbly, charismatic and informative, MS will shortly be fully understood and no longer the life-limiting scourge it now is.

As Bob calls numbers and folks come to collect their prizes, I notice Kelly and a few other women at a table just beside him. They are arranging two cakes, one chocolate, one white, on the table. When the researcher has concluded, Bob begins a story. “Years ago a friend of mine had a bike shop in Raytown. He had given a bike to an old man in Liberty. We bought everything in his shop when he closed. He made me promise to take care of this old man for the rest of his life. That old man will be 80 this year. And he’s here tonight. Ed Chasteen, come on up. Ed, this cake is for you. “And your grandson, Weston, will be 14 tomorrow. Weston, come on up. One cake is for you.”

Bob Dinkins owned the Raytown bike shop. The blue bike he gave me is now the trainer Brian rides, the one years earlier my daughter Debbie had when she lived in Macon, Georgia and taught at Mercer University. I’ve lost touch with Bob Dinkins. Dave Biscari, at their Liberty bike shop, keeps my bike road worthy. I love to ride. That’s the extent of all I know about bikes. For every thing, I go to Dave. When he is absent, hunting, fishing, barbecuing, etc., Bob comes from their Kansas City shop to sub. And we never miss a beat.

Saturday morning pancakes in the park fuel us for the short and long routes back to Olathe. Mark rides long. All five of us meet at the first rest stop. We won’t see Mark again. But I promise to meet the other three at rest stop #2 in DeSoto. I linger long in Eudora. No bikers in sight as I leave. Somehow, somewhere I miss the MS arrow. I’m back in Olathe hunting for Garmin when I see bikers coming. I follow them in. I have missed DeSoto again today.

I wind up back in Olathe way early. So I tool around on my scooter, meeting folks I know. And some I don’t. Then I spot a three wheeled scooter unlike any I’ve ever seen, parked near a porta potty. When the owner emerges, I ask, “Is your name Fred?”

It is. “Can you do 25 miles an hour?” He can. As he demonstrates. “Mine comes in three pieces. I put it in my car.” I say. “My steering column folds down. My seat post folds. It just fits in my car.” He says.

Brian, Kelly and Weston pull in to Olathe about 12:30. We wolf down pulled pork and barbeque chicken sandwiches from the food tent.

By about 2 o’clock my scooter is back in my car. All three bikes are back on Brian’s car. We hug each other. I drive home to Liberty. Brian, Kelly and Weston drive home to Lee’s Summit. Mark is still out there on his bike. At rest stops and on the road, his booming laugh and non-stop repartee belie his past as a standup comic. Mark spreads joy.

Good weather, good friends, good food! A FANTISTIC weekend. Calling for an encore. Next year. Same time. Same place.

Friday Blog

September 17, 2015


I’d Rather Be Dead

Copyright 1996 by Ed Chasteen

I’d rather be dead than live in a world where I can’t speak to everyone I see and go to see anyone I choose.

The founders of all the faiths taught that we all are one, members together of the human family, meant by God to commune with one another. Some mistaken followers of all the faiths would have us believe that our faith should separate us. They say we must do certain things certain ways. But the founders of all the faiths were not so limited in their vision. The circle they drew around themselves was as big as the world.

There is deep within me a yearning to be a world class person, one who can go any place at anytime and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe. I must resist all those people and powers that would restrict me to a faith, a nation, a color, a sex, an age, a particular place on the planet.

There are no boundaries on my soul. It is at home among all people. Peace, power, purpose, and joy flow thorough it in an ever deeper and wider stream of life-giving water.

I know not what course others may choose, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death. The liberty to move freely about the earth. The liberty to relate peacefully and productively to people of all colors, cultures, and creeds. The liberty to go where my conscience tells me I must. The liberty to live the dream of Don Quixote and King Arthur and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi.

I am not content to read about these noble souls. As often as I refer to them in the classes I teach, as much as I urge them upon my students as inspiration for their lives, as much as I draw upon them for guidance in my own life–still there is more I must do. I must live as they lived. I must think as they thought, teach as they taught, act as they acted.

How easy it would be to surrender our ideals. To hear them taught and preached is necessary but by no means sufficient to keep them alive. Unless ordinary people like me demonstrate their power to overcome evil we will all sooner or later lose the little confidence in them we now have. To help prevent our long slide into the dark night of fear and ignorance and hate, I hereby offer my puny self.

Do not tell me it is hopeless. Do not caution me to lower my sights and take on a less ambitious task. Do not think that the horrors of Bosnia or Somalia can persuade me to abandon the quest. The inn keeper tries to reign in Don Quixote’s impossible dream with his observation: “I’m afraid wickedness wears thick armor.” Don Quixote rouses himself from his death bed to proclaim: “And for that wouldst thou have me surrender? Nay, let a man be overthrown ten thousand times, still must he rise and do battle. The Enchanter may confuse the outcome, but the effort remains sublime.”

In the word’s of Winston Churchill, I will “Never, never, never give up. Ten two letter words will not let me rest, and in spite of all the evidence I see that no one individual can have any far reaching or long lasting influence, these ten words bring me back to the fight each time I am tempted to quit. The ten words: “If it is to be, it is up to me.

I’d rather be dead than abandon this quest. Should I abandon it, then I will be dead in all the ways that really matter. Dead inside. Life as a soul-less manikin is no life at all.

HateBusters Bulletin is a publication of HateBusters, Inc. Box 442, Liberty, Missouri 64069, phone 816-803-8371: e-mail:

Wednesday Blog

September 16, 2015

Bike Ride to Grammar Gulch

by Ed Chasteen

You won’t find Grammar Gulch on a map of Greater Liberty anymore than you would find Brigadoon on a map of the Scottish Highlands. Brigadoon is a magical place that appears once every hundred years for only a day. Then at nightfall everyone in the town goes back to sleep, for what, to them, is no more than a single night, but is in fact 100 years. Grammar Gulch is more magical yet. A probable one-time sighting. It likely will not reappear on May 17, 2105. But on May 17, 2005, I found it by bike not two miles from my home.

Miss Proper, the school marm is holding class when I get to Grammar Gulch. Teaching her class to use proper English. Suddenly Dirty Dan and his band of outlaws (known as Outlaw #1, Outlaw #2, Outlaw #3, Outlaw #4, Outlaw #5 and Outlaw #6) burst into the room and steal the bag of verbs. Dirty Dan and his men use improper English, and are the enemy of proper English. When they steal all the verbs, leaving the class with only nouns, pronouns, adjectives and adverbs, the class is helpless. Verbs do all the work. Take all the action. Looks Bad!

Hold on! One enterprising student has her own box of verbs. She will let the class use some of her verbs if the class will let her go after Dirty Dan and his band of improper speakers. No! Too dangerous. Her friend volunteers to go with her. Okay! Off they go. Sheriff Noun and his deputies appear. They learn of the dastardly deed. They go in pursuit. In Perils of Pauline fashion, the sheriff and his deputies, the student and her friend save the day and restore verbs to the class. All is well in Grammar Gulch.

Three times today does this fourth grade class at Lewis and Clark bring Grammar Gulch to life. Who would ever think that learning English could be such fun? And so entertaining? Hats off to Ms. Stokes, teacher of the class. Without her vision, none of us would have found Grammar Gulch today. None of her students would have gotten to wear bonnets or cowboy hats or bandannas as masks.

Long live Grammar Gulch. If it never appears again for us to see, still will it have a long life in our minds. Schoolrooms are magical places everyday and all the time. It’s just that sometimes it’s easier to notice.