Remembering Bob (not his real name) and his thousand keys


Years ago during one of the new age tidal waves of enthusiasm for all things psychic, spiritual and otherworldly, I took a course in one of the disciplines of the day that promised to show me how to improve my psychic powers. The course did what it said it would do.

oldkeyWhile the course followed a set lesson plan everywhere in the country where it was taught, those of us in Bob’s course probably saw many phenomena and discussed many ideas that weren’t on the agenda elsewhere. Quite simply, the reason was Bob and his enthusiasm for everything that might tangentially be related to the course’s core ideas.

Bob had the kind of vision that would have made a university’s doctoral dissertation committee proud, for he was forever “surveying” the literature and finding new associations to ideas most people would have lost track of in the more obscure footnotes. The downside, however, was that if he were writing a new age doctoral dissertation, he would never finish it because the data about practices, techniques, theories and methods was, of course, open ended and could never be compiled into a definitive research paper.

Keys to Everything

chakraDuring late-night, after class discussions, Bob was forever saying “if we can just find the key, we will finally know how everything in the psychic world works.” This was, of course, what we wanted to hear. But, once again, there was a downside to this approach because it meant that every time Bob came across an ancient (yet newly discover) system/book/method, THAT was suddenly the key to the world–in his view. We went through phases on new keys and newer keys. Certain principles of Yoga became a key, followed by an in-depth study of Huna mysticism, and then some of the deep secrets being channeled by discarnate entities.

Bob’s enthusiasm led us to discover many new ideas (new to us, though often very ancient) and to consider that there are many approaches to new age techniques that, in fact, are more related to each other in substance than might initially be obvious. People talk about the same things with different words and/or enhance what they’re doing with rituals that make the object of their work appear alien when, in fact, it’s similar to something one already knows.

I don’t know if Bob ever found his master key because those of us who were the mainstay members in his courses moved away over time and lost track of each other. In some ways, Bob couldn’t stick with each new thing long enough to totally understand it or to see if it could be totally integrated into the techniques we were already practicing. Sadly, many of us started to become a little jaded about some of the new ideas Bob brought into the classroom because we knew it was a matter of time before they were proclaimed as the new key.

But what about last week’s key and the key from the week before that?

My thoughts in those days–and since–have probably traveled down many roads I never would have seen had it not been for Bob and his preoccupation with keys and the idea that something miraculous was always just around the corner. Then, as now, I believed that we create our own reality and that whatever we perceive as keys and miracles are our own creation. Bob didn’t believe that and we had many debates about whether or not he was creating clues (without consciously knowing it) and throwing them out onto the road ahead for him to find later.

While we never came to a common ground on this subject,  I’ve carried his scatter-shot enthusiasm with me for forty years because it keeps me young, open minded, and willing to look at alternative ideas. Perhaps we all need a Bob in our lives who can’t stick with anything long enough to fully know it but who serves as a catalysts for the rest of us.

Thanks for the ideas, Bob, and for showing me so many real or imagined doorways.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism, fantasy, and paranormal short stories and novels that probably came to mind one way or another because years ago, Bob said, “I’ve found the key that unlocks the world.”

as usual, it only hurts when I laugh


Seriously, do we really need so much hospital paperwork? Every few minutes or so, somebody handed my a form to sign. What’s this one for? This one is your acknowledgement that you have seen all 5,000 forms so far.

redmondOkay, now what’s this one for? This one, which as you can see is being handed to you in the middle of your surgery, is your acknowledgement that the anesthesia is doing a damn good job so far.

You gotta laugh. But if you do, it hurts.

Praise the Lord for narcotics.

The surgery was scheduled for Monday morning. Since the anesthesia was high quality, late Monday afternoon I was able to sit in a chair and eat supper. The nurse threatened me with the news that if I couldn’t climb out of bed, I wasn’t going to eat.

Don’t make me laugh.

Then she told me that I would be walking down the hall three times a day. I only walked down the hall twice because things were going so well, they gave me some more paperwork and sent me home where I promptly took a pain pill and got into bed.

The surgery went very well. The cancerous tumor was removed from my left kidney without messing up the kidney, or anything else, for that matter. The scar is probably larger than the kidney, held together with bailing wire and duct tape. It’s no laughing matter, and I’ve signed paperwork that says I’m going to keep it that way.

I do appreciate all of you who asked me–actually, my wife and/or my Facebook page–how I’m doing. That depends when you ask. If you ask 23.5 minutes after the latest pain pill, I’m doing pretty good. If more time has gone by since the latest pain pill, I staying away from anything that might remotely be funny.

Now, I think it’s time for another nap. Fortunately, I don’t laugh while dreaming.



Goodbye to Many Glacier Hotel


After working as a student at Glacier Park’s Many Glacier Hotel in the 1960s, I hoped I would end up living in the area and possibly being part of the workforce there over time. While that didn’t pan out, I thought, well, I’ll sell 100000000000000 copies of my novels including the two partly set in the hotel and will be able to fly out to Montana for a visit area year. While that didn’t pan out, I thought I’d go there occasionally and have my memories.

Many Glacier Hotel

Many Glacier Hotel

Now, as the National Park Service continues to refurbish the hotel, it has accomplished much in terms of infrastructure that will keep the 1915 hotel alive and well for many years to come. But, I’m not going back again and will let the Many Glacier Hotel of my memories suffice. Why?

I’m not going to rehash the issues here; I covered some of them in NPS to proceed with ill-advised restoration of Many Glacier Hotel Staircase. I believe this action and several less obvious changes are better classified as vandalism rather than preservation–or even restoration. I did not like the changes I saw the last time I was at the hotel. While many upgrades were necessary, changing the look and feel was not. Once the lobby and lake level spaces are gutted by the unfortunate rebuilding of a staircase (that has been gone longer than it was there), I don’t want to see the hotel again.

I have said my piece on this from the perspective of a person who wrote preservation grants and who worked in preservation at the municipal level. Nobody was listening to those of us who felt the changes violated the Interior Department’s own standards. Sentimentality won the day, and those of you who visit Many Glacier Hotel beginning in 2017 will see a new lobby/cafe/giftshop configuration. You might actually like it, and that’s fine because you didn’t grow up seeing it the way it’s been for over 50 years.

I applaud the NPS’ work–and those of many fundraisers–in support of stabilizing the hotel and in dealing with building code issues that are always problematic in older structures. But when the look and feel is altered, the historic nature of the structure is compromised. The hotel stands in (to my biased view) the most beautiful valley in a park that’s my favorite place on the planet. I hope many people will enjoy the Swiftcurrent Valley for years to come. I’ll enjoy it as I remember it as this blog discontinues any future mention of Glacier National Park.

As my father grew older, he stayed away from some places he recalled as childhood favorites because he liked them better as they were than as they became. Perhaps a lot of this are this way. The tide of change and so-called promise is as hard to stop as the incoming tide on a beach. So, sometimes it’s better not to go back to the old familiar places because nobody there knows your name any more and too much of what was familiar has been altered, sometimes in unforgivable ways.

I’m happy I saw the hotel several years ago before the worst of the changes arrived. Do you feel this way about some of the places in your past? Do you worry what you’ll find if you go back for a visit? Do you wonder if it’s best to stay away after friends who still live there tell you about the old buildings that were torn town for parking lots and the parks that were paved over for housing developments or the historic structures that were ruined by misguided efforts?

Or, perhaps these feelings only come to those who are starting to grow old.


Malcolm R’ Campbell’s novels “The Sun Singer” and “Sarabande” are partly set in Many Glacier Hotel.



Authors Urge Customers and Colleagues not to Boycott NC Bookstores


From the ABA: When Sherman Alexie announced that he was cancelling an appearance at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café in Asheville, many North Carolina booksellers expressed fear that an author boycott would have a chilling effect on free speech as well as inflict economic damage on booksellers who support LGBTQ rights. To address this fear, the American Booksellers Association has joined several groups in issuing a statement supporting free speech and urging authors and illustrators and their publishers not to boycott bookstores.

The following authors may evaluate attending conferences and festivals in North Carolina, but will still participate with libraries and bookstores;


A huggable kidney for my upcoming surgery


kidneySince I don’t know anything about huggable stuff, it never occurred to me there would be a huggable kidney out there “when urine love.” One of these showed up as a surprise package from my daughter, her husband and my granddaughters today to help me prepare for and get through next monday’s kidney surgery.

Much appreciated because it will come in handy whenever the pain meds start wearing off.

However, since I think the hospital might mix this up with one of my real kidneys, I’m saving this for home use only. Not sure that my calico cat will allow this in the bed, but we’ll see.

So far, my research has shown that real kidneys don’t have eyes, feet, and stuff, but we’ll let that slide.

This is going to come in handy.



Brief Review: ‘The Girl on the Train’


The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This mystery, narrated by three London-area women, is tightly written with multiple who-dunnit style twists and turns. Rachael takes the train into London every day and has gotten into the habit of fantasizing about the lives of two people she’s never met in a house near the tracks several doors down from the house where she used to live. She builds a perfect life for the unknown couple in the house and almost comes to believe she knows them–until the woman who lives there ends up missing.

The interesting plot is dulled to some extent due to the fact that Rachael, Anna and Megan seem some hopelessly inept in maintaining any order and purpose in their lives other than, perhaps, a focus on their relationships with men.

The author brings a nice touch to Rachael’s chapters because her excessive drinking makes her an unreliable narrator. The police–and the readers, as well–won’t be sure until near the end of the book what she saw and what she did during a black-period on the night “it happened.”

The train imagery is pitch perfect and the ending is satisfying.

View all my reviews



Will Ferrell, you have stepped out of bounds from comedy to cruel


ferrell“The family of Ronald Reagan has slammed Will Ferrell for signing on to star in and produce a comedy about the president’s agonizing battle with Alzheimer’s.” – New York Post

“Penned by Mike Rosolio, the story begins at the start of the then-president’s second term when he falls into dementia and an ambitious intern is tasked with convincing the commander-in-chief that he is an actor playing the president in a movie.” – Variety

“I saw the news bulletin — as did everyone — that you intend to portray my father in the throes of Alzheimer’s for a comedy that you are also producing. Perhaps you have managed to retain some ignorance about Alzheimer’s and other versions of dementia. Perhaps if you knew more, you would not find the subject humorous.” – Patti Davis, in Open Letter to Will Ferrell

Hollywood is famous for taking oafs, clowns and unintelligent people and poking fun at them. Perhaps we laugh our gallows humor laughs, thinking “there by the grace of God go I.” But dementia? That’s out of bounds.

Will Ferrell’s movie may never be made, some say, due to the firestorm of protest the concept has already created. Let’s hope the soothsayers are right: Alzheimer’s is not comedy and to make it so for a movie, especially one about a real person, is without any redeeming value whatsoever. What’s next, Mr. Ferrell? The hi-jinks of a cancer ward or accident victims dying in the E. R. on a Saturday night?

In her open letter, Davis writes, “Alzheimer’s is the ultimate pirate, pillaging a person’s life and leaving an empty landscape behind.” Mr Ferrell, what do you find funny about this?

I hope you’re better than this, Will Ferrell, but I’m beginning to have my doubts.


UPDATE: (April 29, 2016) Will Ferrell Walks Away From Controversial Reagan Project