On football, Moses and Rephidim…

Moses at the Battle of Rephidim:  “If I let my arms down, the other team will win!

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite.  That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written up and published by Harry Golden.  Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”  (For his work on the Israelite.)

That’s now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

It’s time to lighten up a bit.  Which is being interpreted:  “It’s time to take a break from the election coming up.”  That is, it’s time to talk about something really important:

Like football!!!

Which is another way of saying we’re halfway through October – Week 9 of the college season and Week 7 for the NFL – and have yet to talk about those 2016 seasons.

And to talk about practices that affect those seasons, like sport superstitions.

For an example of a former player’s superstition:  Michael Jordan – who graduated from North Carolina – used to wear his blue North Carolina “shorts” under his Chicago Bulls uniform, for good luck.  Always.

I wrote about such superstitions in last year’s Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”  But that post focused on those superstitions which were practiced by sport-team fans.

And this one will too…

That is, if you’re a true sports fan, you’ve probably gotten some weird looks.  That is, you’ve gotten some weird looks when you try to explain how one of your actions – or “non-actions,” usually during the game at issue – impacted the outcome of that game.

And you may even have been asked the direct question:  “Do you really think that what you did” – or didn’t do – ” affected the outcome of that game?”  But now – after reading this post – you have a ready answer:  “Hey!  I’m just doing what Moses did, in the Bible!”  (Or you can say, “I’m just following in the footsteps of Moses,” as illustrated in the painting at the top of the page.)

Here’s what happened.  (As told in Exodus 17, some 3,500 years ago.)

The ancient Children of Israel had just Crossed the Red Sea, during the Exodus.  They emerged at Rephidim, near Mount Sinai.  (Where the Water From the Rock happened.)

That’s when the dreaded Amalekites – who would become Israel’s archenemy – launched a sneak attack.  (Not unlike Pearl Harbor, shown at left.)  Verses 8 to 16 – in Exodus 17 – then tell the story of Israel pulling off  an “upset of the season.”  You might say they beat a hated arch-rival, thanks to Moses and his “superstition:”

Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.  Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Am′alek prevailed.  But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat upon it, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side;  so his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

Which – it has been noted – sounds a lot like a modern-day football fan.  (Who – watching his team on TV – may move around the room, or change the way he stands, or sits.  Or – and I’ve done this myself – he may mute the sound on the TV, if that “brings the team good luck.”)

But always – always – the goal is to “help your team win.”  (In the case of Moses, his “team” started winning when he held his arms up, but started losing if he let his arms down.)

https://library.nd.edu/about/history/images/mural.jpgAgain, I wrote about this at length in last year’s Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”   (Which included the photo of Notre Dame’s Touchdown Jesus, at right.) 

For an update, see Superstitious sports fans abound, posted on October 20, 2016.  The article started with this question:  “Are you superstitious about your sports teams?”  Bill White then wrote of an incident several years ago, about “no turnovers so far:”

At one point in the NFC Championship Game, it occurred to me that there had been no fumbles or interceptions [in the game].  I nearly blundered into mentioning this to my wife while the Eagles had the ball, a terrible jinx, but I caught myself…

He caught himself because his team – the Eagles – had the ball.  So instead he waited until the other team had the ball:  “‘No turnovers yet in this game,’ I mentioned casually.”  Sure enough, on the very next play the opposing team’s quarterback threw an interception.

And who hasn’t seen that happen?

White joked at one point, “It’s a good thing I use the powers only for good, not evil.”  He added:

I suppose there are readers who think superstition is stupid, and that the players alone determine the outcome…   I thought some of you sports fans out there would  be able to relate, and the rest of you can just make fun of us.

File:Aladdin-disneyscreencaps.com-4574.jpgOr not.  Which is another way of saying that for all the grief we get – for our “idiosyncratic quirks” – we rabid sports fans do get some benefits.  See for example, Why We’re So Superstitious | Psychology Today, which concluded with this proviso, limitation or quid-pro-quo:  “The upshot of this research is that it’s important to distinguish between the controllable and uncontrollable events in your life.”  On the other hand, there are those benefits:

Sports fans, for all the ribbing they take, do have some decidedly positive mental health advantages over non-fans.  Evidence cited by [Kent State researcher Shana] Wilson and her co-workers supports the idea that fans who strongly identify with a team, particularly a local one, are less lonely, feel happier, and feel better about themselves.

On the other hand, there are those people who “think superstition is stupid.”  And there are those people who say things like such fan superstitions are “ignorant, embarrassing, and frankly [make] me a little pessimistic about humanity.  Do you really think that wearing that unwashed jersey [or undershorts] will help your team win?”  To which I will respond, hereinafter:

“Hey pal, tell that to Moses!”

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The upper image is courtesy of Rephidim – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “Moses holding up his arms during the Battle of Rephidim, assisted by Hur and Aaron, in John Everett Millais ‘Victory O Lord! (1871).”

Re:  Sports Superstitions.  Aside from the article in Fact Monster, you can Google the term “sports superstitions.”  I did that and got some 1,040,000 results.  And for an interesting treatment of the phenomenon, see BBC – Future – Sporting superstitions: Why do we have them?

Re:  “Provisos, limitations and quid-pro-quos.”  See Quotes from Movie Aladdin :: Finest Quotes.  The image of the Genie – with Robin Williams using the voice and mannerisms of William F. Buckley Jr. – is courtesy of Image – Aladdin-disneyscreencaps.com-4574.jpg – Disney Wikidisney.wikia.com.

The lower image is courtesy of www.reddit.com/r/nfl/comments/3o00dy/jeff_fisher.  See also www.packernation.com/its-only-weird-if-it-doesnt-work-of-game-day-superstitions.  That’s where the quote came from: “Athletes know it, fans know it, and even Bud Light knows it….”  

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden wrote and published it from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (Another way of saying he told good stories.)  That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life.  As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like so many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  And for more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

“No more, Mister Nice Guy…”

No More Mr. Nice Guy by Red-Szajn

This might be the “after” picture, from “that handsome Maverick” in the picture below…

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite.  That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written up and published by Harry Golden.  Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals” for his work on the Israelite.

That’s now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

It’s hard to know where to begin.  (Other than with the word “implode.”)

Not that long ago, Donald Trump was in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton.  And – just as an aside – I was perfectly willing to accept the judgment of the American people, should they choose him as president.  (Based on the Bible command of Exodus 22:28, as explored in Dissin’ the Prez.)

But since then there seems to have been a “collapse inwards in a violent manner as a result of external pressure.”  But you have to hand it to “the Donald:”  He’s not going down without a fight.  

Thus the title:  “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”  

See for example:  1)  Trump Threatens to Sue The New York Times Over Article,  2)  Donald Trump threatens to jail Hillary Clinton, and/or  3)  Trump Threatens To Sue His Female Accusers | Huffington Post.  Then too see Melania Trump [Donald’s wife] threatens to sue People Magazine.

Or you could just Google “trump threatens.”  I did that and got 4.310,00 results.

On the other hand, you may have to narrow the field.  (Under “trump threatens” you’ll see:  trump threatens violence, trump threatens Cruz, trump threatens Hillary, trump threatens Ford, trump threatens Obama, trump threatens Mexico, trump threatens riots, “etc.”)

In turn, as a metaphor for Donald Trump’s apparent fall from grace – otherwise known as his “implosion” – you might compare the picture above left and at the top of the page – of “Alice Cooper” – with the handsome, debonair Maverick shown at the bottom of this page.

Which is another way of saying that I’ve been writing about the fascinating Mr. Trump for months now.  For example, I first mentioned “The Donald” last March 10, in a post titled, That OTHER “Teflon Don.”  In that post I made this observation:

It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Donald Trump is really trying to help Hillary get elected.  In other words, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit to learn that Master Showman Donald Trump is actually playing those far-right conservatives like a piano.

Donald TrumpThen on April 4 came On Reagan, Kennedy – and “Dick the Butcher.”  Which included the photo at right.  (And which – I’m assuming – “the Donald” wanted taken that way…)

And BTW:  Any resemblance between Donald Trump and Alice Cooper – above left – is purely coincidental.  (To keep “Alice” from suing me for slander; comparing him to Trump.)  

Also in That OTHER “Teflon Don,” I compared Trump to P.T. Barnum, and noted that “Barnum turned out to be an effective elected official.”  But we seem to be past that possibility.  (That is, it seems apparent to everyone except Trump and his camp followers.)

Which brings us to the post I did last April 27, “Is there a new ‘Maverick’ in town?”

That post was about a candidate for president who showed “a malignant understanding of how angry words, more than real ideas, can be deployed as weapons of power:”

He knows that repetition – invoking the same foul claims over and over – can transform outrageous lies into popular understandings.  He blithely changes his facts, positions and personae because he is making it up as he goes along and assumes no one will catch up with the contradictions.  Beneath the mask of conservative idealogue is an amoral pragmatist.

But as it turned out, that “angry” presidential candidate wasn’t Donald Trump!

As it turned out, the angry candidate in question was Newt Gingrich.

As in “The Real Scandal in Washington is Newt Gingrich,” an article in the November 1998 Rolling Stone magazine.  That’s what I noted in the May 9 follow-up post, Is this “deja vu all over again?”

Rolling Stone noted that Newt – in 1998 – “will  become anything and ruin anybody else in order to achieve his goals.”  Then came this:  “Sure it’s difficult to imagine the nation electing someone disliked by two-thirds of the electorate.  But it’s easy to imagine Gingrich scoring well in Republican primaries, where right-wingers can crowd out moderates.”

All of which sounded chillingly familiar.

And all of which led to the question:  “Can you say prescient?”  And that could be another way of saying the current political situation for Republicans has been a long time coming.

Then came my post on July 12, “The Coming Fury?”  The title came from first book of Bruce Catton‘s Civil War Trilogy.  Catton began that first book – on the “coming fury” – by describing the “first of two 1860 Democratic National Conventions.”  It seems that in the first Democratic convention there were certain “fire-eaters” who didn’t care if they caused a split convention.

As it turned out, there was a split convention, and one result was a revolt.  That revolt split the Democratic Party, and that split virtually guaranteed th election of the opposition candidate.

In 1860 the candidate opposing the Democrats was Abraham Lincoln.  In 2016, the candidate opposing the Republicans is Hillary Clinton.  And to be blunt, you could say Republican “fire-eaters” at the 2016 convention virtually guaranteed the election of their most hated enemy.

Which brings up today’s Bible readings from the Daily Office.  Those readings included this, from Ecclesiasticus 1:22:  “Unrighteous anger cannot be justified, for a man’s anger tips the scale to his ruin.”  The King James Version seems even more on the mark:  “A furious man cannot be justified;  for the sway of his fury shall be his destruction.

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 Back on April 27 I asked, “Is there a new ‘Maverick’ in town?”   Apparently not…

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The upper image is courtesy of No More Mr. Nice Guy by Red-Szajn on DeviantArts-anita-rium.deviantart.com.  (With apologies to Alice Cooper.  But see also Alice Cooper feeds off Clinton-Trump election battle for an interesting take, and perhaps a bit of karma…)

See the full Daily Office for the week of  October 9-15, 2016, at NRSV.  The full readings for Friday, October 14 are:  “AM Psalm 20, 21:1-7(8-14); PM Psalm 110:1-5(6-7), 116, 117
Ecclus. [Ecclesiasticus] 3:17-31; Acts 28:17-31; Luke 9:37-50.”

Re:  Ecclesiasticus.  Also called Wisdom of Sirach, it is not to be confused with the Book of Ecclesiastes, generally attributed to the “son of David, king in Jerusalem” (i.e., Solomon).”

The lower image was borrowed from the post, “Is there a new ‘Maverick’ in town?”  Which asked – in essence – if Donald Trump was that “new Maverick in town?” The post also compared the tactics of Newt Gingrich in 1998 to those of Donald Trump in 2016.  

In turn the lower image is courtesy of Maverick (TV series) – Wikipedia.

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden wrote and published it from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (Another way of saying he told good stories.)  That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life.  As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like so many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  And for more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

“No city for Grouchy Old White People”

Liberty Enlightening the World…”   (Before all the talk about “Building a Stinkin’ Wall!”)

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No Country for Old Men poster.jpgThe title of this post is a take-off on the film, No Country for Old Men.

(Which was – by far – the worst movie I’ve ever had the displeasure of sitting through.  I waited – in vain and what seemed like hours – for the movie to show some glimpse of redeeming social value.”)

And incidentally, the title of that furshlugginer movie came from the opening line of William Butler Yeats‘ famous poem, “Sailing to Byzantium.”  In turn, one theme of the movie – according to Wikipedia – was that more and more, “things are out of alignment, that balance and harmony are gone from the land and from the people.”

Which certainly could describe the dynamics of today’s political scene.

But – Wikipedia added – the movie is also “a lament for the way the young neglect the wisdom of the past and, presumably, of the old.”  The wisdom of old people that is.

Of course it might help if more of “the old” weren’t so ^%#$ grouchy all the time!

Then too, what passes for wisdom – from way too many people my age – is simply a rehash of the cliche that’s been around for millenia:  That the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Which is ironic.  That’s because people my age are Baby boomers, and once upon a time we told ourselves we were going to “change the world.”  And yet, here we are – way too many of us – mouthing the same old “negative vibes, man!”

(Which is itself a negative vibe, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

But we digress…  My point is this:  “New York City is a refreshing reminder that there’s more to this country than just the right-wing wackos so prevalent back home in ‘The Bubble.’”

That’s what I wrote on my Facebook page on September 22.  That entry also included this:

Ever since last Saturday, September 17, we’ve been taking the Staten Island ferry into and back from Manhattan Island. So that’s eight times – twice a day for four days now – that we’ve seen the Statute of Liberty, off in the distance…  And I don’t remember ONCE seeing a sign that said, “the heck with your tired, your poor,” those “wretched refuse … yearning to breathe free.”  WE’RE GONNA BUILD A FRIKKIN WALL!

Of course much of the time I did feel like I was surrounded by a bunch of “furriners” in the Big Apple.  (Not unlike the Willie-and-Joe cartoon at left.)  And they all seemed to be speaking every language but English.  But that brings up another – ongoing – theme of this blog:  That unless you step out of your comfort zone on a fairly regular basis, the chances are you’ll wind up as just another GROUCHY OLD PERSON!

And who wants to be just another cliché?

And by the way:  That September 22 Facebook post was also when I wrote that my next offering in this “Wasp” blog was going to be titled, “No City for Grumpy Old White People!”  (I changed it to “grouchy,” as more fitting.)

And finally – I noted back on Facebook on September 22 – it had been “a long day, but fun.  And I’ve had my usual one beer at the South Manhattan Terminal,* then another one on the Ferry itself, and I’m now finishing my third of the night, a ‘Corona Extra.’”

The point being that – while it’s healthy to step out of your comfort zone every once in a while – it’s also nice to have a routine to fall back on…

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Which brings up the fact that we spent a lot of time on the subway, as well as the Ferry.  And traveling on either one can be an especially bad idea during rush hour.  That’s when it seems like everybody in New York City is on the subway (or the Ferry), and in a big rush.

And that’s not to mention being all crowded in – in to the subway especially – and hot, sweaty and disgusting.

But every once in a while you might catch a break and find one of those liminal moments.  For example, what caught my eye in the photo above right – aside from the obvious – was the separate train running parallel to ours, leading to “multiple images.”

I figured there was some kind of symbolic message there.

Then there was the Saturday night – September 17, our first night in the city – when we took a double-decker tour bus.  It was scheduled to head down Sixth Avenue toward downtown Manhattan, then over to Brooklyn.  But the bus was late, and so first one line of passengers and then a second – our line of passengers – had to wait patiently for our bus tour to start.

Then we finally got on the bus, and as we rode down the Avenue of the Americas toward the Chelsea district, we heard a whole lot of sirens.  (I mean, even more sirens and louder than usual in the City.)  Then we passed a street or two that had been blocked off – as seen at left – and all kinds of murmuring crowds.

At the time I was texting my on-and-off-again Dulceback home.  I was describing to her our progress through town,  when she texted back, “Explosion reported in New York..  be safe.”  Which made me one of the first on the bus to find out about the story, “New York City explosion rocks Chelsea neighborhood.”

The thing is, when the bombing happened – apparently – we were still back in that long line to get on the tour bus.  And at the time we were kind of disgruntled about the long delay.  But as it turned out, the delay meant that we DIDN’T drive by right as the explosion happened.

From which an object lesson or two might be gleaned…

I’ll continue this travelogue in Part II.  But I’ll close out this Part I with an example of why – it seems to me – the Big Apple is “No city for Grouchy Old White People:”

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Back home this would come under the heading TMI!

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I took the photo at the top of the page on our first trip into NYC, via the Staten Island Ferry.  You can tell it’s Saturday (9/17) because of all the pleasure boats clogging the harbor.  For more on the Statue see Statue of Liberty – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Re:  “Change the world.”  The song – written by Graham Nash – was originally titled “Chicago.”  It referred in part to the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.  The “chorus contains the lines: ‘We can change the world./ Rearrange the World.’” (See Wikipedia.)  Which begs the question:  “If we were going to ‘change the world,’ what the hell have we been doing all these years?”

The “Willie and Joe” image is courtesy of Willie & Joe: Summary-1 – amyatishkin.  (And of course, Bill Mauldin.)  For a larger image, see Re: “So many dang furriners,” from August 1, 2016.

Re:  The “South Manhattan Terminal.”  As Wikipedia noted, the formal name is “Whitehall:”

The ferry departs Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal at South Ferry, at the southernmost tip of Manhattan near Battery Park.  On Staten Island, the ferry arrives and departs from the St. George Ferry Terminal on Richmond Terrace, near Richmond County’s Borough Hall and Supreme Court.

Re:  “Liminal moments.”  My first thought was to describe the timing of the subway photo as a “subliminal moment,” but further research led me to Liminality – Wikipedia.  One definition therein described such a moment as a “fluid, malleable situation that enables new institutions and customs to become established.”  Wikipedia added that the term has “passed into popular usage, where it is applied much more broadly, undermining its significance to some extent.”   I would define the term – used here – as when you see a photo worth taking, with lots of hidden meanings…

I took the lower-image photo at the “Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal at South Ferry,” the afternoon of Wednesday, September 21, our last day in the City.  We left earlier than usual, both to avoid the usual rush-hour hubbub, and because the hubbub that day was going to be worse than usual.  See Obama, traffic woes arrive in New York for United Nations General Assembly:

[H]ello actual gridlock.  President Barack Obama left Washington, the city where nobody gets along, and arrived Monday in New York, the city where – for the next two weeks – nobody will be able to get around midtown.  Obama is the headliner at the 68th United Nations General Assembly, an annual gathering that means world-class traffic woes in Manhattan.

“No city for Grouchy Old White People” – Part II

An 1886 view of “Liberty Enlightening the World” – before the talk about building a wall

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We left Part I with an example of why – it seems – the Big Apple is “No City for Grouchy Old White People.”  But that’s just another way of saying a visit to New York City is a refreshing change of pace.  And a lot of that refreshment comes from seeing the Statue of Liberty.

(Every morning and evening for four of five days on a mini-vacation…)

But not everyone agrees that “Liberty Enlightening the World” has a special meaning for real Americans.  For example, one knucklehead wrote, in 2014:

[The inscription on the Statue of Liberty] is just a poem.  It’s not one of our founding documents, nor is it a law, nor is it anything more than what it is:  a poem.  A nice poem, with stirring, emotion-driven rhetoric, yes, but a poem nonetheless.

See Words on Statue of Liberty merely a poem – azcentral.com.  But that – it seems to me – is like saying the Bible is “just a nice set of old-time stories.”

Be that as it may, that just a poem guy was responding to a suggestion that “Congress read the inscription on the base of the Statue of Liberty in order to make a more informed decision regarding immigration.”  (Which sounded like a pretty good idea to me.)

And by the way, about 75% of the Old Testament is also “just a bunch of poems.*”

Which brings up the fact that way too many people interpret both the Bible and the Constitution in the same narrow-minded way.

“Strictly,” narrowly and fundamentally.  It also seems they’re usually the ones who already have it made – and are deathly afraid other people might take what they have.  (Like the “just a poem” guy.  But see my response to that narrow approach – On “originalism” – in a companion blog.) 

But we digress!

We were discussing the “mere poem” inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.  (The statue I passed by “eight times – twice a day for four days now,” on my recent visit.)  It spoke of a “mighty woman with a torch,” whose name is “Mother of Exiles.”  (Get that?  Mother of Exiles.)   The poet then told the “ancient lands” to keep “your storied pomp!”  Then came the famous words:

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”*

Which seems to speak volumes about the American Dream.  The Wikipedia article on that “national ethos of the United States” featured a picture of the Statue of Liberty, with these words:  “For many immigrants, the Statue of Liberty was their first view of the United States, signifying new opportunities in life.  The statue is an iconic symbol of the American Dream.”

And that – I assume – includes the inscription written on the Statue of Liberty.

 that's all i have to say about that - that's all i have to say about that Forrest GumpFinally – on this topic – It also seems to me that the “just a poem” guy probably bears a passing resemblance to the man shown at the bottom of the page.  (At least metaphorically…)

So now, like Mr. Gump, “That’s all i have to say about that.”

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Meaning I’m done with the soapbox part of this post.

Turning to the true travelogue part:

Five of our six various group-members met up on Friday afternoon and evening, September 16, at the home base near the north end of Staten Island.  (From which we were to commute by ferry to Manhattan, and which itself was home to a number of strange-speaking “furriners…”)

At its fullest, the ever-shifting “Gang of Six” consisted of the brother and the nephew with whom I recently hiked the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!  Along with my sister-in-law and her daughter – my niece – and her relatively-new beau.  (Of over a year now, and he arrived late Saturday night.)

On Saturday morning, September 17, the five of us took our first ride on the Staten Island Ferry, and visited the One World Trade Center.  (Where some nice guy took the photo of me at left, with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background.  As also noted, the “beau” arrived late that night.)

In the evening we all – still just five of us – took an tour by double-decker bus, of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.  (Punctuated by the bomb going off in the Chelsea district shortly before we passed by, as noted in Part i.)  But other than that the tour was nice.

At the end of this long day, I got three “Stellas” at the Whitehall (Manhattan) Terminal.  One for me, one for my brother and one for my nephew.  (We had beer in the car near the Staten Island terminal, but that would have taken a while to chill.  Which is why I got another beer on the ferry ride back to Staten Island.  $6.00, cash only.)  We got home about 12:39, much past my bedtime.

On Sunday, September 18 we got up late, and we elder-folk  finally met “the beau.”  (Who had arrived late the night before.)  After that we mostly relaxed and stayed on Staten Island.  I did some laundry.  The six of us took a walk on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach.

On Monday, September 19, a new set of five took the ferry to Manhattan.  (After my nephew headed back to classes at Penn State.)  We visited the Museum of Natural History – uptown – after a long, crowded ride on the subway.  And the line to get in – shown at right – was also very long and very crowded.

That night we had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe New York (Theater District), after which we wandered around Times Square awhile.

Somehow we lucked into some $30 tickets to see “The Fantasticks” at the Jerry Orbach Theater, at 210 West 50th Street.  (“The show’s original off-Broadway production ran a total of 42 years and 17,162 performances, making it the world’s longest-running musical.”)  

Which made for another late night trip on the ferry.  (Fortified by one beer from the Whitehall Terminal, one beer on the ferry itself – I remembered to bring cash – and one back home.)

Tuesday we five headed over to the City on the noon ferry.  While we were waiting in the terminal, there was an old guy wandering around talking to himself, saying something about wanting to get married.  It looked like he was wearing something like adult diapers…

Pedestrians admiring plants along a walkway, which is surrounded by several low-rise buildingsOnce we got over to the city, we took another subway ride up to the start of the “High Line.”  That’s the mile-and-a-half “New York City linear park built in Manhattan on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad spur.”  Then we had lunch at the Artichoke Basille’s Pizza, in Chelsea.  (The same neighborhood where the bomb(s) went off Saturday night.)

Then my niece and her beau left to head back to home-and-work places in the Washington D.C. area.  That left three of us – the three “elders,” two of whom are retired – to head uptown.  We headed uptown – by another crowded subway – to a museum I had chosen, the Frick Collection (and/or Museum).  (“I picked the Frick!”)  

And through the magic of internet, you may see the galleries “through our Virtual Tour.”

We had a light supper at some swanky place uptown.  (I had a brioche au fromage sandwich – with tomato – and we sat outside and watched rushing New Yorkers passing by.)  Then we took a walk along the Hudson river-front, and still got home fairly early.  I bought a draft Bud Light at the terminal – again – and a Corona for my brother.  (He has expensive tastes in beer, at least outside Utah.  Where he lives they can only buy 3.2 beer.)  

Wednesday, September 21, was pretty much an “anti-climax day.”  We visited the South Street Seaport Museum | Where New York Begins.  But then we ended up taking the 3:30 afternoon ferry back home.  That’s because we found out – after the museum visit and lunch – that Ellis and Liberty islands were at least partially closed, because of a visit by “the Prez.”  But back on Staten Island my brother and I visited the National Lighthouse Museum.

Then we started packing, to head back home the next day.

On Thursday, September 22, I kayaked across the Verrazano Narrows.  (Mostly following the Bridge of the same name.)  

Here’s a photo from about half-way back to Staten Island.  You may notice that the waters are fairly choppy.  And I can tell you that those waters got WAY choppier than when I started.  In other words, I seem to have started out – that fine Thursday morning – on pretty much of a neap tide.  It only took me 20 minutes to get from Staten Island to Brooklyn, and I like to do a full two hours of kayaking a week.  So on the way over I toyed with the idea of cruising along the Atlantic side of Brooklyn for awhile.

But I decided not to, mostly because I figured it would be better to get back on the put-in side while I was still fresh.  And it’s a good thing I did.  As I was paddling back the tide started coming in.  Which wasn’t so bad, since at worst it would have swept me in toward Hoboken.

I ended up having 13 minutes left of my two-hours-of-kayaking-a-week quota, when I finally got back to where I put in, at Roosevelt Beach.  (And got dunked “coming in for a landing.”)  But it could have been worse. The tide could have been going out.  (As in, “out to sea…”)

And that was pretty much it for my visit to New York City.  I drove home via the Cape May Ferry and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge–Tunnel, and got home Saturday, September 24.

Except to note that the visit sounds a lot shorter than it was in real-time.  That’s because in real time we did a lot of walking, through the streets of Manhattan.  And we did a lot of people-watching, of the “passing panoply.”  And we spent a lot of time on crowded subways, listening to all kinds of languages spoken by all kinds of different people.

But that’s what made the visit so refreshing…

And except to note one more thing.  The photo below is one I took at the Museum of Natural History, on September 19.  With all the talk of politics lately, I figured this would be a good one size fits all insult, for whatever political opponent you may have in mind.

So here’s my gift to you, a souvenir from my recent visit to New York City:

Here’s a typical [- fill in the blank – ] voter!”

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The upper image is courtesy of Statue of Liberty – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “‘Unveiling of the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World’ (1886) by Edward Moran. Oil on canvas. The J. Clarence Davies Collection, Museum of the City of New York.”

Re:  Much of the Old Testament as “a bunch of poems:”  See Poetry in the Hebrew Bible:

Approximately 75% of the Hebrew Bible is poetry.  All of Psalms and Proverbs are Hebrew poetry and many other books, such as the book of Genesis, are filled with poetry.  The reason much of the Bible was written in poetry is that it was originally sung and stories that are sung are much easier to memorize that when simply spoken.  There is much more poetry in the Bible than most realize because most people do not understand it.*

See also Biblical poetry – Wikipedia.  Which brings up the fact that the just a poem statement also implies that liberty is a finite commodity; that there’s only so much to go around.    

Meaning in turn that – to way too many people these days – “liberty” must be preserved for only those who “already have it.”  (See Nativism – Wikipedia.)  But apparently the swarms of “furriners” – surrounding me in NYC – hadn’t seen the poster at right, from Colorado…  Which may be another way of saying that liberty is only a finite commodity to those who are afraid to share it.

On a related note, of the United States Constitution as “the nation’s scripture:”

During the Constitution’s 150th anniversary in 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt likened [the Constitution] to the Bible, saying it should be read over and over again.  It was an apt simile. The Constitution had always served as the nation’s scripture…*

Battle for Justice: How the Bork Nomination Shook America, by Ethan Bronner.  (Anchor Books, published by Doubleday, at page 21.)  On that note, scripture is alternately defined as “anything written” – from the “Classical Latin scriptura, a writing” – or any statement “regarded as authoritative.”  (In addition to the usual definition: “the sacred writings of the Jews, identical with the Old Testament of the Christians,” and/or “Christian Bible; Old and New Testaments.”)  See Scripture – definition of scripture by The Free Dictionary, and Scripture dictionary definition

Re:  Words on the Statue of Liberty. See The New Colossus- Wikipedia.  Here are all the words:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


Donald Trump and the Hell’s Angel

Bernie Sanders, the replacement Democratic nominee in 2016?   (Can you say “October Surprise?”)

*   *   *   *

Have you heard?  Hillary Clinton is so concerned about her slipping poll numbers that she’s had secret talks with Bernie Sanders.  It seems that if it starts looking like Donald Trump will actually get elected, she’s prepared to abdicate.  She’ll see to it that Bernie becomes the Democratic nominee.  That’ll be her version of the 50-year tradition of “October Surprises.”

By the way, I just made that up.

On the other hand, you are now free to say “I read it on the Internet, so it must be true!”  (Bonjour!)  Which brings up the fact I was originally going to call this post, “Hillary wins in a landslide!”  But recent events put the kibosh on that idea.

My idea was:  The “landslide” could occur in one of two ways.  First of course Hillary might – might have? – get or have gotten elected this November.  (Even if only in the Electoral College. See The Electoral College – 2016. ) The other possibility – I thought – was that if “The Donald” really got elected, Hillary could go back to the Senate in 2018, repair her image, and in 2020 re-appear as the Democratic candidate.  (Heck, she might even do the “I told ya so” dance…)

But of course, that’s assuming Donald Trump turns out to be as bad a President as his political enemies expect.  For myself, I’m trying to take the broader view.  (The broader view that “the Republic” will survive, no matter who becomes the next president.)

Put another way, no matter who wins the election, he or she won’t be able to do nearly as much damage as his or her political enemies say.  (Mostly because whatever the outcome, the next president will face rabid opposition from at least 35 to 40 percent of the American electorate.)  

Taking that broad view – the Republic will survive no matter who wins – is admittedly hard.

But for one thing, consider this:  We’ve survived an actor as president, not to mention another actor as governor of California, and a professional wrestler as governor of Minnesota.  (See Ronald ReaganArnold Schwarzenegger, and Jesse Ventura.)

So how bad could it be to have a businessman as president?

And incidentally, here’s what Wikipedia said about Ventura’s term as governor:  “Lacking a party base in the Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate, Ventura’s policy ambitions had little chance of being introduced as bills.”  But that’s a whole ‘nother subject.

Getting back to the possibility of Trump as president, consider the Federal Bureaucracy:

Over 16 million full-time workers now administer federal policy, including 1.9 million federal civilian workers, 1.5 million uniformed military personnel, and 850,000 postal workers.

Oddly enough, that thought gave me great comfort back in 1974.  That was during the dark days of Richard Nixon’s impeachment.  I knew Nixon was inherently paranoid, and it worried me no end that he was the one man in the country with his “finger on the trigger.”  (Especially faced with the possibility of going down as the first president to be impeached and convicted.)

What gave me great comfort was the sheer size of the Federal Bureaucracy.  I figured that with so many Federal employees bent on protecting their own turf, that massive bureaucracy would act as a sort of ongoing, self-perpetuating mechanism – if not a self-guided mechanism – no matter what kind of wacko the president turned out to be.

Which brings up the connection between Donald Trump and that “Hells Angel.”

Years ago I read a book by Hunter Thompson:  Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga.  The original version was published in 1966, long before Thompson became a caricature of himself.  And I’ve long considered it both a classic of pure investigative journalism and a fertile source of mind-jangling metaphoric connections.   (See for example, On the wisdom of Virgil – and an “Angel.” ) 

And so it was – just the other day – when I read some stories about Hillary’s slide in the polls.  That raised the possibility that Trump might actually be “our” next president.  (See also That OTHER “Teflon Don.”)  For whatever reason, that possibility became associated – in my mind – with an episode in Thompson’s book on the Hell’s Angels.

Chapter 16 started off with a lengthy quote from Rebel Without a Cause.  (More precisely, the quote was from the book on which the James Dean movie was based.  Specifically, Robert M. Lindner‘s book published in 1944.  Thompson quoted Linder’s definition of psychopath.)

The main text of Chapter 16 started with, “On a run everybody gets wasted.”   Then – among other things – Thompson talked about habits “widespread in outlaw society,” including “tricks you pick up from drinking in bars when you’re broke.”

As an example, Thompson told the story of a Hell’s Angel who visited a non-Angel friend, and while there went to use the bathroom.  While in the bathroom, he looked through the medicine cabinet.  He found a bottle of orange pills “that looked like Dexedrine,” which he promptly gobbled up.  Later he confessed to his host, but only after he started feeling sick:

[H]e had taken a massive dose of cortisone, a drug well known for [its] unpredictable reactions and weird side effects.  The man whose pills had been eaten was not happy and told the Angel he would probably break out in a rash of boils and running sores that would keep him in agony for weeks.  On hearing this, the outlaw nervously retired to whatever bed he was using at the time.  The boils never came, but he said he felt sick and week and “queer all over” for about ten days.  When he recovered, he said the incident had taught him a valuable lesson:  he no longer had to worry about what kind of pills he ate, because his body could handle anything he put into it.

When I first read that – 30 or 40 years ago – I was flabbergasted by the “lesson learned.”  To me that lesson should have been:  Don’t take the &^%$ unknown pills in the first place!

Which leads me to this lesson on what will happen if Donald Trump is elected.  Some people will say:  “We shouldn’t have elected him in the first place!”  But others will likely say this:  “We learned a valuable lesson.  We no longer have to worry about who we elect as president.  No matter what kind of clown we elect, our body politic will be able to handle it!”

For that matter, some may say the same thing if Hillary gets elected…

*   *   *   *

Hobbes‘ metaphor of a “body [politic] formed of a multitude of citizens…”

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Bring Back Bernie Sanders. Clinton Might Actually Lose.  (Huffington Post.)  Which means that I wasn’t the first to come up with this idea of “Sanders as replacement.”  See also It’s Time To Bring Back Bernie (September 12, 2016, 9:30 p.m).  

Re: “Self-guided mechanism.”  The phrase is based on the book by Maxwell Maltz, first published in 1960, Psycho-Cybernetics.  See also On sin and cybernetics, in my companion blog.

For a related story, see On the wisdom of Virgil – and an “Angel.” 

Re:  Hells Angels. See also the Wikipedia article. 

Re: “October surprise.”  I Googled that term and got over 16 million results.  (16,400,000 to be exact.)

Re:  “Internet … must be true.”  The “Bonjour” image is courtesy of ‘French model’ turns heads as hottest TV-ad star du jour.  See the full commercial at French Model Commercial … YouTube.

Re:  “‘Told ya so’ dance.”  See the one I’m referring to at Will & Grace: Told Ya So Dance. – YouTube.

The “Ventura” image is courtesy of Jesse Ventura 2016 For President.

Also re: Jesse Ventura.  According to Wikipedia, Ventura “had no respect” for Vice President Dick Chene:  “a guy who got five deferments from the Vietnam War.  Clearly, he’s a coward. He wouldn’t go when it was his time to go.  And now he is a chickenhawk…  And he’s the guy that sanctioned all this torture by calling it ‘enhanced interrogation.'”  He added, “it’s a good thing I’m not president because I would prosecute every person that was involved in that torture,” during the “Bush II” administration.

Re:  The movie Rebel Without a Cause.  Wikipedia noted the “title was adopted from psychiatrist Robert M. Lindner‘s 1944 book, ‘Rebel Without a Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath.’ The film itself, however, does not reference Lindner’s book in any way.”  From Thompson’s book:

The psychopath, like the child, cannot delay the pleasures of gratification…  [H]is egotistical ambitions lead him to leap into headlines by daring performances.  Like a red thread the predominance of this mechanism runs through the history of every psychopath.

If that sounds familiar, see Former Obama aide calls Trump a ‘psychopath.’  But consider this from the “other side of the aisle:”  Donald Trump’s Simple Solutions to Tough Problems:  “Trump is an example of the Stupid Psychopath Problem.”  That was posted last March in the National Review.

The lower image is courtesy of Body politic – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “The cover of Hobbes’ Leviathan famously portrays the metaphor [of a ‘body politic’] by showing a body formed of a multitude of citizens which is surmounted by a King’s head.”

On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 1

A fellow sufferer – err, fellow hiker – on what some people call the Chilkoot “Trail.”  

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite.  That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written up and published by Harry Golden.  Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals” for his work on the Israelite.

That’s now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

As noted in my last post, I just got back – last August 29 – from a trip that began on July 26.

That’s when my brother and I started the drive from Utah to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.  Four days later – on Friday, July 29 – we met up with my nephew, fresh out of the Army.

In due course, my brother and I – alone and aged 70 and just-turned-65 – paddled our canoes “‘up’ the Yukon River.”  (440 miles in 12 days.)

But first, we two brothers – joined by our nephew-son – hiked the Chilkoot Trail (See Naked lady on the Yukon.)  And to hike the Trail you have to start in Skagway, Alaska.  (Above left, the day we arrived.)  I also noted that people call the Chilkoot Trail the “meanest 33 miles in history.”

http://www.dralionkennels.com/images/newsflash.jpgAlso in Naked lady on the Yukon, I posted this news flash:*

There’s a reason [why] they call it the “meanest 33 miles in history.”  I’ll be detailing that little jaunt in a later post.  (To be titled, “On the Chilkoot &$%# Trail!”)  

And so, here it is – drum roll please – my blog-post on the Chilkoot &$%# Trail!

First of all, note the picture at the top of the page.  It includes an easy-to-miss orange pole.  (You see them marking the “trail.”  The one in the photo above is to the hiker’s right – the viewer’s left – and “up the trail” a bit.)  Note also:  There doesn’t seem to be a “trail” anywhere around, either in the top photo or the ones below.  Just one big pile of &$%# rocks after another.

So now you’re getting a feel for “hiking the Chilkoot.”

More background:  Before doing the hike I learned that the trail actually started in Dyea, Alaska. (It ends in Bennett, British Columbia.)  I also learned that Dyea is actually pronounced “DIe-eeee,” perhaps prophetically.  (As in, “that’s what you feel like doing once you get on the &$%# Trail!”)

Further, the Chilkoot was a major access route – from “DIe-eeee” to the Yukon goldfields – in the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896–99.  That gold rush “transformed the Chilkoot Trail into a mainstream transportation route to Canada’s interior.”

And I learned that the only other route to the gold fields was through White Pass.  (Up to 1899, when a railroad was built from Skagway to the Yukon.)   As to which route was better, a pioneer – Mont Hawthorne – said there really was no choice:  “One’s hell.  The other’s damnation.”

13 Dead Horse GulchA side note:  White Pass was also called “Dead Horse Trail,” apparently renamed by Jack London:  “Nearly 3,000 pack animals died.  Drivers rushing over the pass had little concern for beasts.  Exhausted horses starved, were hurt on rough ground, became mired in mud and fell over cliffs.”

Which also gives you a feel for “hiking the Chilkoot.”

And finally – after the fact and back at the Westmark Hotel, Whitehorse – I saw a plaque about the Trail.  It noted that every Klondike “stampeder” had to haul a year’s supply of food – 2,000 pounds – up and over the Chilkoot Pass.  “This often took 35 to 40 trips up and back down.” Further, the last 1,000 feet of the climb “took an average of 6 hours with a loaded pack.”

Which made me feel better about my performance – detailed below – but only after the fact. (On Tuesday – August 2, the day we climbed over the pass itself – we averaged a little over half a mile an hour.  Which turned out to be not too bad, historically speaking.)

By then I’d already developed a host of blisters, one of which – a blister-on-a-blister on my right heel – got infected.  It was still throbbing – from time to time – and didn’t fully heal until well after two weeks of canoeing and then six days driving back home from Dawson City.  (I’m sure the 12 days of feet being wet and cold 11 or 12 hours a day canoeing on the Yukon didn’t help.)

But we digress… 

I packed a notebook for the hike – which lasted four days – and duly made an entry at 8:32 p.m., August 1.  (Day 1 of the hike.)  But then I didn’t make any more entries until August 4, when we finally got to the railroad station at Bennett.  There I noted:  “I wrote no more until we reached Bennett, on the 4th day. Too [&$%#] tired and late arriving on the 2d day.  And the 3d.”

There’s more on those second and third days below.

But on the first day we made Sheep Camp: “13 miles or so – nobody seems sure of the miles – by 7:30 p.m.”  That included crossing the swaying footbridge shown at right, à la Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

There’s more on that in Part 2, but unfortunately, I’m now approaching the limit of the ideal length for a blog-post.  (No more than 1,200 words.*)  So, I’ll wrap up “Part 1” with a story relating to the photo below.

I took the photo on Day 4, when we finally reached the railroad station at Bennett.  But it relates back to an incident that occurred on the second – the worst – day of the “Trail.”

We were approaching the summit of the Chilkoot Pass.  (Slowly in general and especially slowly for me.)  What with my lack of depth perception, going over “one big pile of *&$% rocks after another” was like negotiating a minefield.  I wore heavy hiking boots, but they felt like ballet slippers.  Every step was sheer torture, and brought new pain to each aching foot.

I had just taken one of many missteps – especially bad that day – and let loose a string of pungent epithets. Then I looked behind me and there – climbing “personfully” behind me – was this sweet young thing.  Sheepishly I apologized, noting that I had “no depth perception.”

She went ahead and passed me.  (And probably rolled her eyes in the process…)

A short while later I had another misstep – again, the “Trail” is sheer torture for someone with only one good eye – and let loose another string of pungent epithets.  I looked behind me again, and there was a young couple, including another “sweet, innocent young thing.”

So I said to myself, “Hey, I may be on to something here!”

Unfortunately I tried it a few times later on the trail, but my magic formula didn’t work.  (On the other hand there I did see that “Naked lady on the Yukon,” 10 days later, on August 12…) 

The point being that on the forth day of the ordeal, most of the people who’d been hiking the Trail met up on again at the railroad station in Bennett.  There was only one train, at 3:15, so all us hikers had a chance to sit on something besides rocks, and pitch our tents to dry out.  (It had rained the night before.)  Including the young lady I’d insulted on Day 2…

But before we got to the end of the trail, I had to experience the phantom pack phenomenon – weaving and rolling like a drunken sailor – and slip and slide down a glacier or two.  Then I got to the point where “if I could have cried I would.”  (Hey, I’m secure in my masculinity.)  

And finally, we got to take part in a little parade.  (See On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 2.)

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One of many happy hikers who finished the Chilkoot Trail at Bennett, B.C.

*   *   *   *

Unless otherwise noted, the images in this post – including the photos at the bottom and top of the page – are ones I took during the aforementioned “hike.”  (More like sheer torture…)  Also, an asterisk (“*”) in the main text indicates that a word or two of explanation will be made in these notes.

For example, the “news flash” image is courtesy of www.dralionkennels.com/newsflash.

Re:  “One’s hell.  The other’s damnation.”  The quote is from The horror of the White Pass Trail | Yukon News.  Also, “Dead Horse Trail” was also known as Dead Horse Gulch.  The photo accompanying the paragraph is courtesy of the Yukon News.

Re:  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  See also happyotter666.blogspot.com, which included the image at left, of a bridge like the one we crossed on the Chilkoot’s second day of hiking.

Re:  Ideal length of a blog-post.  See How Long Should My Blog Posts Be?  (Suggested length, 800-1,200 words.)  But see also The Ideal Length for All Online Content – Buffer Blog, indicating a preferred post-length of 1,600 words.

Re:  “The end of the trail.”  The link-quotation notes that the “trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast and you miss all you are traveling for.”  I could have used that quote both on the Chilkoot Trail and again on the Yukon River, when I was always “slow ship in the convoy.”  See e.g. The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia: Convoys:  “The convoy can only advance at the speed of the slowest merchant ship in the convoy, which negates the speed advantage of the faster ships.”

I could have used that little quote too, if only to ease my own own mind…

*   *   *   *

Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden wrote and published it from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (Another way of saying he told good stories.)  That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life.  As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like so many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  And for more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 2

*   *   *   *

Okay, it wasn’t quite as bad – crossing that “swinging bridge” the first day on the Chilkoot Trail – as it was for Indiana Jones in the photo above.  (For example, we hadn’t been “cornered by Mola Ram and his henchmen on a rope bridge high above a crocodile-infested river.”)

But that second day on the Trail was pretty &^%$ bad

In case you hadn’t noticed, this continues Part 1 of “On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!”  We left Part 1 with we three – brother, nephew and I – all having made Sheep Camp by 7:30 p.m. on the first day of the hike.

13 miles or so – nobody seems sure how many – by 7:30 p.m…  That included crossing the swaying footbridge … à la Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

(Reprised in the photo above right.)  Part 1 also included the tale of a “young thing” I managed to insult on the second day of the hike – approaching the summit of Chilkoot Pass – and how most or all us hikers met up again – on the fourth day – waiting for the 3:15 train back to Skagway.

But I had to cut it short – and make this a two-parter – because I was “approaching the limit of the ideal length for a blog-post.”  (About 1,200 words.)  So now, back to Day 1 of the hike.

On Monday August 1, we left the trailhead – near “Die-eee” – at 9:00 a.m.  We made Sheep Camp by 7:30 that night, and after getting situated I managed to write a little something in the notebook I’d packed.  I wrote:  “I’m shivering as I’m writing.  I’ve been sweating all day despite the cool 68-degree temps.  And now it’s turning cool, so I’m shivering.”  I then added:

There were many times – many times – today when I wondered what the hell I was doing here.  And that this was just too far to go in one day.  And I like hiking at my own pace.  Rather than always bringing up the rear…  So today was the tough one, as far as miles traveled.  “Only” eight miles, but we’ll be climbing the Pass [tomorrow].  BTW:  I just had my fifth swallow of “O be joyful.”

So here’s another side note:  “O Be Joyful” was our code-word for ardent spirits.  We started packing them – in past canoe trips, like down the Missouri River from Fort Benton, MT – as a way of following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, and other American pioneers.

You see, back in the old days of our country, whiskey – for example – was used instead of hard currency:

One of the first media of exchange in the United States was classic whiskey.  For men and women of the day, the alcohol did more than put “song in their hearts and laughter on their lips.”  Whiskey was currency.  Most forms of money were extremely scarce in our country after the Revolutionary War, making monetary innovation the key to success.

See Why Whiskey Was Money, and Bitcoins Might Be.  So it was in that spirit – primarily – that I took a flask of “O be joyful” along on the Chilkoot.  Be that as it may, after I wrote, “I just had my fifth swallow of ‘Oh be joyful,’” I then added, “Which helps a lot.”

(I wasn’t so sure about the “song in my heart and laughter on my lips…”)

Also on the evening of August 1st, I wrote that the campground was more crowded than I expected.  And that in the audience – listening to a lecture by a ranger when we arrived – there were some cute women, but “romance is the last thing on my mind tonight.”

(Which itself was telling…)  I concluded,Altogether a good day.  I had my doubts, which were justified in a way, but ‘we’ came through.  Albeit with me bringing up the rear the whole day.”

On that note, I “brought up the rear” the next day as well, and for pretty much the rest of the hike.

Which brings up the fact that hiking the Chilkoot Trail is sheer torture for someone – like me – with only one good eye and and thus no depth perception.*  And that applied even on the relatively smooth parts of the trail, like the section shown at right.

Also – as mentioned in the notes – anyone hiking the trail is advised that if they have to get airlifted out, the cost will be a cool $28,000.00.  Which brings up another point rangers make in the process of getting your permit to hike the trail:  Watch out for the bears!

For one thing, the general rule is “no chow in your tent.”  Each camp has a tented-in dining facility,* and there – and only there – are you supposed to eat.  Eating on the trail can be messy, and the usual solution for crumbs or spills is to wipe the stuff off on your pants.  But bears have an extremely keen sense of smell, and so some crumbs in your pocket or syrup from a snack-cup on your pants could lead to an extremely unpleasant midnight visit.

But for me the message distilled down to this:  You don’t have to be faster than the bear.  You only have to be faster than the others in your party.  (Which of course spelled trouble for me…) 

But once again we digress…  The point is that eventually – in our case, the second day – we got  past the smooth parts of the trail and began approaching the summit, shown in the photo at left.  The photo at left also shows – in the foreground – a pack laid aside and a camp stove.  (Someone was apparently having coffee, but not me.)    

And somewhere near the middle of the photo is one of those orange poles ostensibly marking the “trail.”

Finally, if you look really close you can see a white dot, up near the top, close to the gap in the summit.  That small white dot represents a fellow hiker, approaching the summit of Chilkoot Pass.  But things didn’t get any easier after getting over the summit …

It got so bad for me – after we got up and over the summit – that first my brother and then my nephew left their packs ahead and came back and carried my pack for a while.  Which led to its own problems.  Much like the phantom limb phenomenon, the “phantom pack” syndrome leaves you disoriented.  Especially when negotiating “one big pile of *&^% rocks after another,” you end up walking like the proverbial drunken sailor, weaving to and fro.

Finally – after much anguish – you get to and over the summit.  But as noted, things don’t get any easier.  There – on the other side of the summit of Chilkoot Pass – were at least three “glaciers,” or ice-fields.  (Like the one at right.)  My first reaction was:  “Great!  Nice smooth snow to walk on!”

But these glacier-slash-ice-fields were just as treacherous, though in a different way.  My fellow hikers hadn’t relieved me of my pack yet, so walking on the slippery snow led to several falls.

It got so bad that finally I stayed down – on the snow-slash-glacier – and slip-slid to the end.  That got my pants and boots thoroughly wet in the process, but at least – for a moment or two – I wasn’t struggling over “one big pile of &^%$ rocks after another.”

Somewhere in there I slipped and fell on some rocks, banging my right knee enough that by Thursday, at Bennett, that area of my jeans was covered with crusted blood.

Which leads to my confession – I “do not deny, but confess” – that there were times on the Trail when if I could have cried I would.  (But that wouldn’t have helped the pain in my feet, or made the journey any shorter.)  Which brings us to the late afternoon and evening of the second day.

Along with the usual “one big pile of &^%$ rocks after another” – and the three “glaciers” noted above – the other side of the pass featured a seemingly-endless series of streams and/or rivulets like the one at left.  They too were beautiful, but treacherous.  (I was going to say “like some women I know,” but decided against that.)

I know my brother took a spill or two – and got an infected elbow as a result – but mostly because he told me so later.

And as far as I know my nephew did okay crossing the many “beautiful but treacherous” streams, but not from any personal observation.  He – and my brother as well – were usually so far out in front of me that I often lost sight of them.

Then it started getting dark.

Back at the hotel in Skagway – before we left – it was still light as late as 10:00 p.m.  Therefore – I deduced – we should have plenty of hours to hike on the Trail.  But for some reason it got darker earlier on the Trail, which meant that by 7:00 p.m. or so my brother started getting worried.  The result was that in the fullness of time – just in time – we had a little parade.

To make a long story short, my brother went ahead the couple of miles to Happy Camp, dropped his pack and hiked back to where I was.  He carried my pack for a bit, then some strapping  young lad showed up.  He – the strapping young lad – had heard someone at Happy Camp talk about my struggles, and decided to come back and help.  (Apparently we – or at least I – became quite a conversation piece around Happy Camp that night…)

So the strapping young lad carried my pack a while – “jabbering all the way,” my brother said – and finally my nephew came back.  He had also dropped his pack at Happy Camp and then he carried my pack the final mile and a half.  That was my brother’s recollection.

David Allan Coe.jpgAll I remember is that along about 7:30, I could see some people on the Trail ahead of me.  Eventually I limped up to where my brother and nephew were.  Also there were the aforementioned “strapping young lad,” along with a nice white-haired Canadian ranger lady who called me by my name.  (They keep tabs on all hikers on the Trail.)

From that point, we all set off toward Happy Camp.  The nice ranger-lady followed behind me, engaging me in conversation.  (Probably trying to keep my mind off my aching feet.)  So, eventually we all made it to Happy Camp, and that’s how we “had a little parade.”  But this time I wasn’t bringing up the rear.  (For once.)

On that note – and as described in Campgrounds of the Chilkoot Trail:

Happy Camp is the only campground on the Chilkoot Trail in the alpine…  Happy Camp owes its name to the relief prospectors (and hikers) experienced from arriving at the first outpost after the pass. The camp is situated in a true alpine ecosystem and receives heavy use because of its location.

Personally, I can vouch for the “relief” part.  And it got better.  (At least for that night.)  

Happy Camp shelterApparently the nice white-haired Canadian ranger lady felt sorry for us.  (Or at least for me.)  So she let the three of us use her personal shelter tent.  That is, she said she had to get up early the next morning for some meeting elsewhere on the Trail, so she’d stay in main – wooden – shelter at Happy Camp, shown at left.

That meant the three of us didn’t have to set up our tents in the waning light of that second day on the Trail.

It also meant that two of us got to sleep on cots.  (My nephew slept on his air mattress on the floor, despite my saying I’d sleep on the floor.  But I made it up to him – for carrying my pack – by splitting two six-packs of beer once we got back to Skagway, as described elsewhere.)   And finally, the nice white-haired Canadian ranger lady brought us each a juice-box.

And a sweeter nectar I’ve never tasted.  

Wooden tent platforms among trees in front of a lakeFrom that point the rest of the hike is a blur.  I know we made it next day to the campground at Bare Loon Lake. (Which included numerous tent platforms like the ones at right.)  

And I know that that left only four miles to do the next day, Thursday, to get to the railroad station at Bennett.  And that rangers and other hikers kept saying the Trail would get easier and smoother “a mile or so further along.”

But it never happened.  At least not until a mile or so from the station, when the Trail got wide and sandy.  In fact the Trail at that point was pretty much like walking on the beach.  Which of course presented its own different challenges, but at that point I wasn’t complaining.  (Much.) 

Thursday, August 4, 1:20 Alaska Time.  We’re at the Bennett railroad station.  Got here at 12:05 AT.  I’ve set up my tent to dry it off – it rained last night – and heated up some water…   Spilled some walking back across the tracks.  (“No open fires.”)  But there was enough left over to make hot coffee.  For the first time since Monday morning.  The right knee of my jeans is covered with blood.  The ankle areas are dried mud.  I have two or three large blisters, one each inner heel, that have already popped.  And one large blister on the right big toe that looks about to pop.  Huge!  But right now the world looks great!

That’s what I wrote in the notebook I’d packed, writing in it for the first time since Monday.  So there – at the railroad station that would remain unmanned until the 3:15 arrived – the right knee of my jeans was crusted with dry blood.  And my feet were blistered and beyond sore.

Which is another way of saying they don’t call the Chilkoot Trail “the meanest 33 miles in history” for nothing.  Meanwhile, I had one final point to be made.  I made it via email – to the folks back home – once the three of us got back to Skagway:  “I used up my quota of expletives for the next couple of years, so any prayers in my direction would help immensely.”

So now, to paraphrase that great philosopher, Forrest Gump:

“That’s all I have to say about the Chilkoot &$%# Trail!”

 that's all i have to say about that - that's all i have to say about that Forrest Gump

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Unless otherwise noted, the images in this post – including the photos at the bottom and top of the page – are ones I took during the aforementioned “hike.”  (More like sheer torture…)

For example, the image at the top of the page is courtesy of happyotter666.blogspot.com.  See also Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – Wikipedia, which provided the “cornered” quote.

Re:  “O be joyful.”  See also Definition of oh be joyful – Online Slang Dictionary, and/or O-be-joyful – 17 of the Finest Words for Drinking.

Re:  Whiskey and other “ardent spirits” used as currency.  See also TTB.gov Alexander Hamilton And The Whiskey Tax:  “small farmers on the young Nation’s western frontier in the Appalachian Mountains, often distilled whisky from their surplus corn crop.  This whisky was then often used as a form of currency on the cash-strapped frontier.”

Re:  “No depth perception.”  As illustrated by the image at right – courtesy of lookfordiagnosis.com – imagine trying to negotiate “one big pile of &^%$ rocks after another,” with no depth perception.  And while trying maintain enough speed to keep up with your brother and nephew, while seeing the “piles of &^%$ rocks” as a blur.  (As in the background at right.)  And with the full knowledge that one bad move – one twisted knee or ankle – will cost you a cool $28,000 to get airlifted out.  (That’s what they told us in Skagway when we got our permits.  Meaning it’s happened often enough that they have the figures down pat.)    

Re: “No chow in your tent.”  The photo at left – courtesy of Campgrounds of the Chilkoot Trail – Wikipedia – shows both a “dining shelter” in the background, and in the foreground a ranger at Sheep Camp giving a lecture like the one in the main text.  Also, “Rangers recommend 7.5 to 10 hours for a group to travel from Sheep Camp to Happy Camp.”  We took longer than that… 

Re:  “Called Me by My Name.”  The allusion is to a song by David Allan Coe.  (Which – incidentally – is one of my signature karaoke songs.)  The photo shows Coe on stage in 2009.  It is not intended to refer in any way to the “nice white-haired Canadian ranger lady.”  That nice white-haired Canadian ranger lady should – in my estimation – be elevated to sainthood, along with Mother Teresa.

Re:  The juice boxes and “sweeter nectar.”  My brother said his was grape juice, but I could have sworn that mine was “raisin.”  I remember thinking that it was such an odd flavor for a juice box, but I couldn’t find any such flavor on the internet.  (Or maybe I was in a state of delirium.)  One thing I do know:  No matter what the flavor, that juice box – at that point in time – was delicious!

The lower image is courtesy of that’s all i have to say about that – Forrest Gump – quickmeme.

“Naked lady on the Yukon…”

This is something like what I saw – unexpectedly – canoeing 440 miles on the mighty Yukon River

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I just got back from two weeks canoeing the Yukon River.  (That’s also the caption for the Wiki-photo at left.)   And the “mighty Yukon” is the last place on earth I would expect to see a lady sun bathing.

But one moment, out of nowhere, there she was…

You can see the full story below.  I just wanted add – at least for now – that in the picture at the top of the page, for the Yukon setting, you will need to imagine no sand.  (And no “Bikini Bottom,” for that matter.)

Instead, imagine a bend in the Yukon River, a canoe turned over next to a “good campsite,” and a red blanket, on which lay the “naked lady.”  (And I think she was a blonde…)

But first, some background.

Downtown Whitehorse and Yukon River, June 2008My last post – “Many furriners” – noted it was last July 26 – a Tuesday – that my brother and I started the drive from Utah to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.(Shown at right.)  Four days later – on Friday, July 29 – we met up with my nephew, fresh out of the Army.

From there we drove to Skagway, Alaska.  The following Monday – August 1 – we started a four-day hike on the Chilkoot Trail.  (The “meanest 33 miles in history.”)

And here’s a news flash.  There’s a reason they call it the “meanest 33 miles in history.”  I’ll be detailing that little jaunt in a later post.  (To be titled, “On the Chilkoot &$%# Trail!”)

But back to the Yukon River.  Once we three finished the “Chilkoot &$%# Trail,” my nephew flew back east – to Philadelphia – and from there to Penn State University, to begin fall classes.

That left two old geezers – my brother, 70, and me, just turned 65 – to paddle our canoes “up*” the Yukon River.  From Whitehorse  to Dawson City, that’s a distance of 440 miles, and we covered it in 12 days.  (Not counting the full day we took off on Sunday, August 14, in beautiful Carmacks, Yukon Territory, to rest and refit.)

Before we left I checked a web-post, Canoeing the Yukon River – Our Time Machine is a Canoe, written by Murray Lundberg.  Some years ago he did pretty much the same trip as ours, with his son Steven.  One big difference:  They started at the Lake Laberge Campground – instead of Whitehorse – “to cut down the still-water distance that we’d have to paddle.”

Which is another way of saying that paddling a canoe on Lake Laberge* – shown at left – is a real pain.

But that’s a story for another post.

Now back to the naked lady…

It was Friday, August 12.  We were a day away from Carmacks, and had been on the river four days already.  (And finally made it off “Lake &^%$# Laberge.”)  About 4:00 my brother was way ahead of me, when he went around a right-hand bend and looked like he was heading to shore, for a break.

There followed one lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-ng right-hand curve in the Yukon, one that seemed to last forever.  It was getting late and we were looking for the “good camp” listed in the guidebook.

When I finally got to the end of the long right-hand curve, I could see something, way off, a half-mile or so ahead.  (Where the river turned sharply to the left.)  I saw two small dots, near the bank – at what I later learned was the “good camp” we were looking for.  One of the dots was light and the other dark.  The lighter dot kept moving, to the left, downriver, and I figured it was my brother.  But I wasn’t sure which “dot” to paddle toward.

So I took the middle course, and as I got close to the bend in the river, I could see the dark dot was a green canoe, turned over.  (Which we never do.)  Then – I began to see – there was a red blanket next to the canoe, and something light on it.

That turned out to be the aforementioned naked lady – a reprise interpretation of which is shown at right – laying there in her birthday suit, face down, for all the world to see. (Or at least two passing canoeists.)  

Which brings up the current on the Yukon River.

Generally the current is pretty fast.  It ranges from over four miles an hour up to seven miles an hour in some places.  (Except on “Lake &^%$# Laberge.”)  That’s the kind of current that helps you paddle 440 miles in 12 days.  But it also means that when you see something totally unexpected, by the time you recognize it, the current is already moving you downriver.  (Creating a flash in the pan, so to speak.)   Which meant that by the time I recognized the naked lady as a naked lady, the current was already pushing me farther down-river.

Besides, my brother was already downriver, waiting.  (Having gotten an eyeful himself.)

As to the lady’s identity:  The last day on Lake Laberge we had landed – for a much-needed break – next to a couple in a tandem canoe.  They were from Turin, Italy, and later on in the trip we kept running into them, further downriver.  They pulled into Carmacks not too long after we did, on Saturday, August 13.  And when we finally got to Dawson City – a shade after 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 20 – they had gotten there a few hours before.

So it was my brother’s opinion – first expressed at Carmacks, on the 13th – that the “better half” of that nice Italian couple was the mystery lady, sunbathing au naturel on the banks of the Yukon.  (Besides which they took the one “good” camping spot on that stretch of the river.) Unfortunately, neither one spoke very good English, and there seems to be no diplomatic way to translate, “Was that your wife’s naked butt we saw back on Friday the 12th?”

But enough about the Naked Lady on the Yukon.

This is the first of several posts I plan to write about our other adventures this month.  And as noted before, those adventures started with our hike on the Chilkoot Trail.

To do that we first had to go to Skagway, Alaska.  And at the left is my picture of beautiful downtown Skagway, the day we got there, last July 30.

This was after checking out the Yukon River, in Whitehorse, after checking out of our hotel.  Then we drove the 110 miles or so to Skagway itself.  That’s where – among other things – we had to get a special permit to hike the Chilkoot &$%# Trail.”  (They won’t let just anybody on there!)

And among other other things, we also learned we’d lost an hour crossing into Canada.  That’s because there’s a special Alaska Time Zone, one hour earlier than the Pacific Time Zone they use in British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.

And there’s one more thing.  I took the photo at right, of one of the first things I saw at the visitor’s center in Skagway.  I thought at the time that it was unique to this part of Alaska.

However, after further review – for this post – I found out that’s not the case.  See for example Footprints on the toilet seats? – Reuters.  (“One Norwegian tourist in Malaysia said, ‘They can be very messy because people don’t seem to know how to use the toilets.  You find black spots, footprints on the toilet seats, and there’s water everywhere.'”) 

Or Footprints on the Toilet Seat: Guidebooks for Novice Travelers, noting Chinese tourists – for example – who behave “in ways the locals saw as inappropriate.”  On that note see also Travel pro-tips from the Chinese government: Don’t leave footprints on toilet seats [or] spit in hotel pools.  All of which is – I suppose – one reason they say Travel Broadens The Mind.

(And you might even see a naked lady along the way.)  But one thing both a good travel experience and a good pilgrimage will teach you:  “There’s No Place Like Home.”  (As shown below.)  

I’ll be writing more about my August adventures, including the next post:

“On the Chilkoot &$%# Trail!”


There is indeed “no place like home” (especially after a longpilgrimage …)

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The upper image is courtesy of Sun tanning – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “A woman sun tanning on a Portuguese beach.”

Re:  Paddling canoes “up” the Yukon River.  To most people, going “up” means to go north, while to go “down” means to go south.  (With “over” meaning east or west.)  But to go “down” a river means to go downstream.  And while many rivers flow “down” or south, the Yukon – like the Nile – flows north.  So while we were paddling “up” north, we were also paddling “down,” as in “downstream…” 

Re:  Lake Laberge.  Most people know the name as “Lake Labarge,” from the poem by Robert Service, The Cremation of Sam McGee.  In the poem, “the narrator winds up hauling the body [of Sam McGee] clear to the ‘marge [shore, edge] of Lake Lebarge.'”  So Service changed the name to “Labarge” to rhyme with “marge.”  (See artistic license – also known as “poetic license” – at Wikipedia.)  Also, the image of Lake Laberge is courtesy of lakelaberge.ca.

The lower image is courtesy http://f3nation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/no-place-like-home.jpg.   See also No Place Like Home – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which noted that – aside from the famous line in the movie Wizard of Oz – the phrase may also refer to “the last line of the 1822 song ‘Home! Sweet Home!,’ words by John Howard Payne and music by Sir Henry Bishop; the source of inspiration for the other references here: ‘Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home,’” and/or “‘(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays,’ a 1954 Christmas song most famously sung by Perry Como.”  For a “live” version, see also There’s No Place Like Home – YouTube.

Re: “So many dang furriners?”

*   *   *   *

Aerial view of Skagway, Alaska.Last Tuesday – July 26 – my brother and I started the long drive north, from Utah to Skagway, Alaska.  (At left.)

From there our plan was to spend four days hiking the Chilkoot Trail.  (The “meanest 33 miles in history.”)

In fact, the Chilkoot is so mean that we had to invite my nephew – my brother’s son, just out of the Army – to go along with us.  (Just in case one or both old geezers sprained or broke something…)

Now, about “all those furriners…”

That’s pretty much the way I felt several times over the last few days.  (After we crossed over into Canada, on Wednesday, July 27.)  But it got especially bad at the free breakfast we had at the Super 8 in Fort Nelson, BC, on Friday morning, July 29.

I’ll have more on that later.  But first, some highlights from our trip north.

The first day out we made Great Falls, Montana.  We drove 560 miles, starting around 9:00 a.m.  My photo at right shows the sky to the east, just as we got to the Great Falls exit.

That means we had 120 miles to go, to get  the Canadian border. (Unless they’ve built a wall or something.)  And driving through eastern Idaho and Montana was a good reminder of how HUUUUGE this country is, and especially the west.

Meanwhile it looked like there was a fire to the west of Great Falls, as shown in my photo at left.  I figured there was a wild fire to the west of the city, which would explain the smoke we smelled driving up to exit 278.  And it turned out my hunch was right.  (As shown by the front page of the next day’s Great Falls Tribune, for July 27.)

It took about 30 minutes to go through Canadian customs, where Interstate 15 becomes Canada Highway 4.  That’s where we had to “Arretez-vous, ici.”  (“Stop here.”)

Which brings up some of the anomalies of traveling in Canada.

For one thing, aside from speaking French, Canada uses kilometers instead of miles.  So when the speed-limit sign says “Maximum 110,” you have to calculate kilometers to miles.  (Divide the number in half, then add 10 percent.)   So using that method – half of 110 is 55, plus 11 – and you figure out that means about 65 mph on your dashboard.

And that when the speed sign says “40,” that means you have to slow down about 25 mph.

Then too, at first blush the gas prices seemed unbelievable.  For example, we saw signs in Alberta that said “96.9.”  Unfortunately, that was the price for a liter, or one-fourth of a gallon. So multiply that by 4 and you get gas at $3.87.  (In British Columbia we paid over $5.00 a gallon.)

Another thing, driving through Alberta.  We saw acres and acres of fields like this:

At first I thought the yellow-flowered crop-fields might be “golden rod,” but it turns out they were fields of Canola.  (See “A Canadian success story.”)

Then too, they have a weird system for Americans to pay for gas up here.  You have to swipe your credit card, then go in to the office and sign something.  It sounds simple but in practice it can be easy to forget.  Which explains why my brother Tom drove off from the Shell station in Airdrie.  We ended up still making good time, despite having to backtrack a bit.  (And make a belated payment for the gas, on pain of seeing “rollers” in our rear-view mirror.)

That night we made it to Drayton Valley, Alberta.  (West and a tad-bit south of Edmonton. And Calgary was HUGE to pass through!)  The next night – Thursday – we made it to Fort Nelson, British Columbia.  In America-talk, Fort Nelson runs from Mile-marker 301 to 308.

And that would be on the famed Alaska Highway, which officially starts in Dawson Creek, British Columbia.  (As shown at left.)  We passed through Dawson Creek about 3:00 in the afternoon, on the way to Fort Nelson.  And at the border of British Columbia, that 3:00 became 2:00.

(Thanks to the change-over to Pacific Time.)  

The next day – Friday, July 29 – we made it Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.  That happened despite our worst expectations, and a slew of stoppages for highway construction along the way.

This was after three straight days of 12-or-more-hours-of-driving.  I got plenty of pictures, but for some reason they don’t transmogrify from my cell phone to my computer, the way they do back in America.  And in fact there was no cell-phone service at all.  Once you hit the Canadian border, you can forget about texting the folks back home.

And I found out that my American mobile hotspot doesn’t work in Canada either.  (Which may explain why the cell-phone pictures don’t transfer.)  I hoped that once we got to Skagway, in Alaska – which is technically in the U.S. – those problems would go away, but they didn’t.  Still no cell phone service, and still no mobile hotspot.

So anyway, we hit the city limits of Whitehorse at 7:00 p.m.  (Pacific Time, or 10:00 p.m. ATL Time.)  Saturday morning we checked out the Yukon River for the canoe part of this expedition. (That is one FAST current, estimated at about 7 miles per hour.) Then we drove to Skagway and got there early Saturday afternoon.  (To prep for the hike on the Chilkoot Trail, as seen at right, in winter.)

However, there was yet another mix-up about what the actual time was when we got here. When we crossed into British Columbia – Thursday – I started gearing up to Pacific Time.  (Three hours earlier than ATL time.)  But when we got to a “necessary” store in Skagway, the sign said, “Be back at 1:45,” and it was well past that.  That’s when I learned that Skagway is on “Alaska Time.”  Alaska Time is one hour earlier than Pacific Time, which meant that when it 3:10 when we arrived in Skagway, it was 7:10 back in Atlanta.

One final note:  We DID get to watch the 13-minute video on what to do when you meet up with a bear.  That was for the benefit of those hardy folk planning to hike the Chilkoot Trail.  My take on the video:  “Be sure and get behind the OTHER two guys in your hiking party!”

As noted before, stay tuned for “further bulletins as events warrant!”

I’ll let you know how the hike on the Chilkoot Trail turns out…

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Calvin and Hobbes

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The upper image is courtesy of Willie & Joe: Summary-1 – amyatishkin.  (And of course,Bill Mauldin.)

The lower image is courtesy Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip, October 25, 1986.

On the Electoral College – 2016

Here’s how the the U.S. looked in 2012, according to votes in the Electoral College

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http://www.dralionkennels.com/images/newsflash.jpgDid you know that a candidate for president could get only 40% of the popular vote, yet get 59% of votes in the Electoral College(Thus “winning?”)  It’s happened before, as noted below.

Which brings up some confusion I felt a few mornings ago, after the first day of the Republican convention.  The confusion was about just who is leading in the polls, Hillary or Donald?

For an example, see Pick a poll:  Is the race tied, or is Clinton beating Trump?  As that article noted:  “It all depends on which national polls you believe.”  Which makes this as good a time as any to bring up the subject of the Electoral College:

Citizens of the United States do not directly elect the president or the vice president;  instead, these voters directly elect designated intermediaries called “electors” … who are themselves selected according to the particular laws of each state.

(See Wikipedia.)  Which is another way of saying the candidate who gets the most popular votes doesn’t necessarily become president.  (Think “President Al Gore.”)

President Harry Truman holds up the Chicago Daily Tribune headline trumpeting his "defeat" in the 1948 presidential election.Then there’s the fact that polls aren’t necessarily accurate.

For example, in 1948 “every major political poll predicted a landslide victory for Thomas Dewey.”  (For the history-challenged, Truman won.)  See also the article about such electoral colleges in general, which added:

In the 19th century and beyond, it was usual in many countries that voters did not directly vote the members of parliament.  In Prussia for example, in 1849–1918 the voters were Urwähler (original voters), appointing with their vote a Wahlmann (elector)…  Such indirect suffrage was a means to steer the voting, to make sure that the electors were “able” persons…  The left wing opposition was very much opposed to indirect suffrage.

Which could be another way of saying the powers that be – which for America includes some Founding Fathers, like at right – “didn’t trust the average voter.”  (And some would say – from recent trends – that they had a point.  See Founding Fathers, Trust Issues and the Popular Vote.)

But we digress…  So just in case I’m being too subtle, there are a couple points here.  One is that those “popularity polls” don’t necessarily mean very much.  The other is that what really counts is – are? – the votes in the Electoral College.

The problem is:  Determining the votes in the Electoral College can be a bit tricky.

On the other hand, the present situation in the Electoral College does seem to favor Hillary.  See for example Welcome to the general election: Where did Hillary’s cakewalk go?

Democrats looking for a cakewalk win over Trump in November may eventually get it.  The electoral college strongly favors Clinton.  And Trump is always a step away from a total meltdown.  But in an election in which Americans are disgusted with their choices, anything can happen and a Trump presidency is a real possibility.

The key passage – emphasized – is that the “electoral college strongly favors Clinton.”  Which seems to be true even though the election may come down to which candidate the voters dislike least.  In other words, the election may come down to choosing “the lesser of two weevils.”  (As noted in Independent Voter.)

For another take on the problem, see Don’t Worry About The Electoral College Math.  Among other things, that article noted that while the Electoral College effectively votes “state by state,” there are few if any purely state polls which can reliably show how a state’s electoral delegates will vote.

On the other hand, there’s 270toWin.com, with the trademark, “This isn’t a popularity contest.”

That site shows electoral votes by state.  (Which is – after all – what really matters.)  And that brings up the time in American history where one candidate for president got only 40% of the popular vote, yet won 59% of votes in the Electoral College.

That guy’s name was Abraham Lincoln, and in the presidential election of 1860, he won only 40% of the popular vote.  (The rest were split between John C. Breckinridge, John Bell and Stephen A. Douglas.)  However, Lincoln won 180 Electoral College votes, out of a possible 303.  (Thus his “magic number” was the152 electoral votes needed to win.)  

The amazing thing in that election is that Lincoln lost the Solid South – updated at right – but won what might be called the “Solid North.”  (In 1860, those states generally above the Mason-Dixon line and/or the Ohio River.)

And a side note:  Back in 1860, Lincoln’s “for sure” votes in the Electoral College included New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.  Those three states had 35, 27 and 23 electoral votes, respectively, for 85 of the total 152 needed for victory.  Which means that those three states alone accounted for almost 60% of the total Abraham Lincoln needed to become president in 1860.

For purposes of comparison – and as updated to the present time – New York state seems “solidly blue,” along with Pennsylvania.  Ohio seems to be one of those swing states, but one big difference – compared to 1860 – is California.  In 1860, California had only four votes in the Electoral College, but today that state has 55.  And it too seems “solidly blue.”

Which means that Hillary seems to start out with a solid 104 votes in the Electoral College.  (29, 20 and 55, respectively.)  Which – along with the beginning – is a “very good place to start.”

That in turn seems similar to the beginning of that other American Civil War.  (Where one side “looked much better on paper.  But many factors undetermined at the outbreak … could have tilted the balance sheet toward a different outcome.”)  But once again we digress…

I’ll be exploring the 2016 presidential election in future posts.  In the meantime, one final note:

This may be the last post I’ll publish for awhile, or the next five weeks.  Next Tuesday – July 26 – I’ll be heading north to Skagway, Alaska.  From there I’ll spend four days hiking the Chilkoot Trail.  (The “meanest 33 miles in history.”)  Once that’s done, my brother and I will spend 16 days canoeing down the Yukon River, from Whitehorse to Dawson City.

Assuming I survive all that, I should be back in business some time after August 29.

But stay tuned.  There may well be “further bulletins as events warrant!”

(See the cartoon below…)


Abraham Lincoln by Alexander Hesler.png

This guy got 40% of the popular vote,  but 59% of the electoral votes…

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The upper image is courtesy of Electoral College (U.S.) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  BTW: There is a movement afoot to pass a “National Popular Vote” bill.  That would “guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the entire U.S.”  See National Popular Vote.com

The “news flash” image is courtesy of www.dralionkennels.com/newsflash.

Re:  “Pick a poll.”  The article said – among other things – that “Trump’s negatives remain sky-high and higher than Clinton’s, and the GOP brand is horrible (and much worse that the Democratic brand).”  See also Myra Adams: How Does Trump Win 270 Electoral Votes?

If we do see Donald Trump push the white vote up into 63-64%, it suggests that as whites move towards minority status that they become more aware of their whiteness, and it plays into politics.  It is a disheartening and dangerous trend, but it might be something we don’t have any control over…  He has no other path to victory.

The “Dewey Defeats Truman” image is courtesy of the link 5 Historic Presidential Campaign Collapses, in the web article How the Electoral College Works | HowStuffWorks.  (“Dewey Defeats Himself.”)

Re: President Al Gore.  See also Al Gore: Electoral College System Needs National Popular Vote Plan.  But see also Would Al Gore Have Won in 2000 Without the Electoral College?  (Not to mention Famed third-party candidate [Ralph Nader] accused of ruining election for Al Gore in 2000 says Bernie [Sanders] shouldn’t run as independent.)

The Founding Fathers image is courtesy of quotesgram.com.

Re: “Left wing opposition … opposed to indirect suffrage.”  They might be changing their minds now…

The “lesser of two weevils” image is courtesy of pinterest.com.  See also Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – YouTubeLesser of Two Evils – TV TropesReader Opinion: Clinton v Trump and “the lesser of two weevils, Master and Commander: A Movie Review – Maccabee Society, and/or Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – Wikipedia.

The actual expression of course is the “lesser of two evils.”  See Idioms …Free Dictionary.

Re:  “magic number.”  That term is also defined online as a “figure regarded as significant or momentous in a particular context.”

The comparison in Electoral College votes – between 1860 and 2016 – was gleaned from sources including 270toWin.com, and RealClearPolitics – Opinion, News, Analysis, Video and Polls.

Re:  The beginning of the Civil War, in which “one side ‘looked much better on paper,'” etc. See Strengths and Weaknesses: North vs. South [ushistory.org]

Re: “Further bulletins as events warrant.”  See Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip, October 25, 1986:

Calvin and Hobbes

The lower image is courtesy of United States presidential election, 1860 – Wikipedia.  The caption: “Black and white portrait photograph (bust) of Abraham Lincoln taken immediately after Lincoln’s nomination.”  The article noted that voter turnout was 81.2%, “the highest in American history up to that time, and the second-highest overall (exceeded only in the election of 1876).”

For some recent historical perspective, voter turnout in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections was 61.6% and 58.2%, respectively.  

Other notes from the presidential election of 1860:  To be precise, Lincoln won only 39.8% of the popular vote.  His closest competitor – in terms of popular votes – was Stephen Douglas.  Douglas got 1,380,202 popular votes, or 29.5 percent of the total, compared to Lincoln’s 39.8%.  However, Douglas’ million-plus popular votes translated to only 12 votes in the Electoral College.

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And speaking of voter turnout, see The Americans: The National Experience, by Daniel J. Boorstin. Boorstin indicated that political parties were originally designed – in part – to increase voter turnout, though the blessings of that change seem to be mixed. 

Near the end of his book, Boorstin wrote about the “novel institution of a party ticket.” (429)  The idea – of voting along party lines – originally stirred opposition from political idealists.  For example, one editor in 1790 wrote, “We want no Ticket Mongers.”  (Emphasis in the original.)  And in 1800 a Connecticut Federalist “attacked the whole ‘detestable practice of electioneering.”  

But the practice – which eventually led to our two political parties today – proved “too useful for office-seekers, and too entertaining to voters.” (E.A.)  Which brings up the matter of political conventions.  Boorstin wrote that in its original form – before today’s system of voting in primaries – political conventions “concentrated party strength” and increased the chances of victory.  Also in their original form, party conventions were held only at the state and county level.  It was not until 1832 that national conventions – like we have now – “were for the first time held by all the major parties that offered candidates for president.”  See page 430, which also included this thought:

So long as problems of American political life remained compromisable, the political parties were the great arenas of compromise.  When this ceased to be true, the nation itself would be on the brink of dissolution; and then the political parties, like the nation itself, would have to be reconstructed.

A voter marks a ballot for the New Hampshire primary Feb. 9 inside a voting booth at a polling place in Manchester, N.H.And it seems that we may be seeing that Reconstruction “even as we speak.”  See Sick Of Political Parties, Unaffiliated Voters Are Changing Politics.

See also Five myths about independent voters – Washington Post.  Among the findings:  “Independents are more turned off than partisan voters by negative campaign ads;” “Most independents are socially liberal, fiscally responsible centrists, but some are also libertarians and far-left progressives;” and 60% of Independents “agree with the Republicans on some things, such as the economy and national security, and with the Democrats on social issues.” (The red-blue voting booth image is courtesy of the Sick Of Political Parties article.)