Category Archives: Personal experience

St. Francis, his birds and my Bucket List…

 St Francis – of The Way of St. Francis fame – “preaching to the birds…”. 

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In the last post, “Some highlights,” I noted what was to me the highlight of my recent 140-mile hike on the Way of St Francis. (From Assisi down to Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica.)

It came on the first day’s hike out of Assisi, on September 1, 2022. That first morning we reached Eremo delle Carceri. That was after getting through the city and hiking 3.2 miles for an hour and a half, just in time to see the day’s foreboding weather forecast come true. That forecast was for thunderstorms and a lot of really heavy rain. But before I get into the highlight of the 15-day hike – a highlight involving lots of cute jungen Frau – here’s some background.

Eremo delle Carceri is a hermitage complex on Monte Subasio, in Umbria, central Italy. The name “Carceri” comes from the Latin carceres, meaning “isolated places” or “prisons.” Which is basically what religious hermits like Francis wanted, a place to shut themselves away from all the crap going on in the outside world. Which I can understand, at this time just before the election of November 2022, with all those hateful, negative political ads. (Although in Francis’ case he gave a reason that sounded better,* to wit: A place to pray and contemplate.)

Around 2015 – 10 years after he first went there – the Order of St. Benedict gave him the site and its few buildings. Francis then “dedicated himself to a life of preaching and missions, but throughout his life he would frequently withdraw to the Carceri to pray.” And near the site of the hermitage is a stone bridge and an ancient oak. That’s where – according to legend – “Saint Francis preached to the birds as they perched in the oak’s branches.”

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Anyway, we three hikers had toured the site and visited the “facilities,” then gone to the concession stand near the entrance of this isolated hermitage. It was still early, but as it turns out, the Way of St. Francis features very few places to stop for lunch or mid-day break of any kind. So we took advantage of the situation and settled down with our sandwiches and drinks under one of the few umbrella-covered tables, in peaceful isolation. That’s when the heavy rains hit.

In a “New York minute” the heavy rain had overwhelmed the umbrellas, so we scooted over to the limited overhang of the concession building itself. And were soon joined by a horde of other visitors, all jostling and crowding in, with one tall gent positioning himself perfectly in front of me so the rain that fell on him came cascading down on me. (Okay, it wasn’t really “cascading,” but it was annoying.) I scootched around to a better position, cursing my luck, when all of a sudden we were joined by a flock of young high school ladies, apparently out on a field trip.

In other words, we three hikers thought ahead and found a good spot, sheltering beneath the two-foot-wide eaves, but then all the other pushing-and-jockeying-for-position visitors included a host of young ladies, all speaking German and all part of some field-trip group.

[T]hose pushing-and-jockeying-for-position visitors included a host of young ladies, all speaking German and all part of some field-trip group. The rain kept up for quite a while, but somehow the presence of all those jungen Frau – together with the challenging linguistic exercise of trying to figure out what they were talking about – made the situation enjoyable.

To which I can only add, “I’m just old, I’m not dead!”

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Anyway, in getting ready to write this blog, I thought it might be nice to compare this last Camino hike with the first one, back in September 2017. Kind of an Alpha-and-Omega thing. Or a compare-and-contrast thing. I covered that first 2017 pilgrimage in three posts: From October 3, 2017, “Hola! Buen Camino!” Then from October 23, 2017, “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited. And finally, after my brother and hiking partner thought I was too negative in the first two posts, on December 6, 2017 I added “Buen Camino!” – The Good Parts:

Some people reading “Hola! Buen Camino” might think I had a lousy time in my five weeks hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain… {T]here was my comment on the first 10 days – after starting in Pamplona – being “pretty miserable. My left foot constantly throbbed, until it blistered up and got tough.” And that it took about 10 days for that to happen.

Which brings up some big differences between that 2017 hike and this last one. For one thing, I didn’t have near as many problems with my feet on subsequent hikes, especially the last two. (In 2021 and 2022.) My feet still got a bit sore at the end of each day, but not as bad as back in 2017. Routinely I would end the day back then by laying down on the hostel bed, laying my pack at the end of the bed and propping my feet up on it, then telling my brother, “You go ahead and take a shower. Take all the time you want!

For another, after leaving Pamplona in 2017 we hiked for 30 days, with only two days off: After 10 days a break in Burgos, and in another 10 days a break in Leon. That’s where we had to stop hiking and rent mountain bikes. We were running out of time, even though we’d tried to hike the 15 miles a day recommended by the Brierly Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago.

That experience led us to lighten up a bit. In the new normal we try to average 10 miles a day, depending on stopping places being available. (Sometimes we hiked six miles and sometimes 12 or 13 miles, but the average was ten miles.) And we take a day off every four days or so. (We are “getting up there,” with me at 71 YOA.) And about those mountain bikes. I thought they’d be a welcome break from hiking and sore feet, but the result was just different parts of the body getting way sore. Not to mention one time I rode off into a deep ditch, covered with brambles on both sides and the bottom. But we did end up making better time on that last third of the trip.

Other differences: The trail on the Camino in Spain was much better marked, and featured a lot more choices in places to stop for the night. One place even had a beer machine in the hall, and then there was the one place that featured pour-your-own and all-you-can-drink wine:

…at the end of the first day’s hike we stayed at the Albergue Jakue, in Puente la Reina. That was September 13, [2017,] when we made 15 miles but didn’t reach the albergue until about 8:00 p.m. The good part: “They had a $13 dinner special, which included wine. I GOT MY MONEY’S WORTH!” To explain: The wine came in a serve-your-own set of three spigots, not unlike those for draft beer. (Except for the privilege of “pouring your own.”)  

But alas, when we went through again in 2021, those pour-your-own wine spigots were gone. (Because of COVID.) That’s the trip where I hiked over the Pyrenees … finally, and that was because I wimped out in 2017. My brother hiked over those steep mountains from St. Jean Pied de Port, but I chose to avoid that and meet him in Pamplona.

In other words I eventually got to cross hiking over the Pyrenees off my Bucket List.

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The upper image is courtesy of St. Francis Of Assisi Preaching Birds Image – Image Results, with the added note, “original artwork by Henry Stacy Marks RA.”

 Re: Eremo delle Carceri. Here’s a more complete review, gleaned from the Wikipedia article. In the 13th century, Saint Francis would often come to this place there to pray and contemplate, like other hermits before him. Soon other men followed him to the mountain, finding their own isolated caves nearby. The oratory became known as Santa Maria delle Carceri after the small “prisons” occupied by friars in the area. The site was probably given by the Benedictines to St. Francis in 1215, at the same time they gave him the Porziuncola in the valley below. Francis dedicated himself to a life of preaching and missions, but throughout his life he would frequently withdraw to the Carceri to pray. Around 1400, Saint Bernardino of Siena built a small friary and extended the earlier chapel by building a small church, which was also named Santa Maria delle Carceri. In the centuries that followed, various buildings were added around St. Francis’ cave and the original oratory, forming the sizable complex that exists today. Today some Franciscan friars live there and visitors are welcome.

“Reason that sounded better.” Dale Carnegie once said there are two reasons to justify any action: The real reason and the one that sounds good.

“Hola! Buen Camino!” That’s a phrase you heard a lot from fellow pilgrims hiking the Camino de Santiago. It got on your nerves after awhile, and especially on my brother’s nerves. It got so bad he eventually took to taking long detours…

Re: Wimping out in 2017. The year before, in 2016, we had hiked the Chilkoot Trail, “meanest 33 miles in history.” See Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!,” and links therein. That experience soured the idea of mountain hiking for me, at least up to and through 2017.

The lower image is courtesy of Bucket List Image – Image Results. The link adds that it was first used by people facing imminent death, but recently just means “a list of things that I would like to do someday.” The phrase came into wider use after the December 2007 release of the self-styled movie.  

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One week away from a “Roman Holiday”

I don’t think I’ll be seeing Audrey Hepburn or Gregory Peck on my “Roman Holiday…”

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Saturday, August 20, 2022 – A week from today I’ll be flying over to Rome. (The one in Italy.)

I previewed this adventure back on April 17, 2022, in Getting ready for Rome – and “the Way of St. Francis.” That post told of a new adventure, starting on September 1. It will be the fourth of three hikes on the Camino de Santiago. The three earlier ones came in Spain, Portugal and a short section in France. (For details type “camino” or “paris” in the search box above right.)

In this upcoming September adventure three of us – me, my brother Tom and his wife Carol – will hike the 154 miles from Assisi to Rome. Specifically, we’ll be hiking from Assisi to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. (In Italian it’s the Via de Francesco.) The April post noted that because of its “challenging topography, the Way of St. Francis is a challenging walk.” The first few days are – it has been said – as challenging as a “walk over the Route [de] Napoleón that crosses the Pyrenees. A daily climb of 500 to 1000 meters is not unusual.”

Which is a hike we did back in September 2021. (See Hiking over the Pyrenees, in 2021 – finally!)

The April post noted that in preparing for the hike, I first had to find an affordable flight to Rome, then figure the best way to get to Assisi from Rome. At the time I thought the best way to Assisi was by bus, leaving Rome at 8:30 in the morning. But since then I found the Trenitalia website, and got a later train – leaving Rome at noon – to Assisi. And the place we’ll be staying in Assisi is a short walk from the station. (Whereas it’s a two-mile hike from the Assisi bus station.) And I got an affordable flight to Rome and back, mostly because I could pay for it in installments. (Thanks to my American Express – Delta – Sky Miles credit card.)

Meanwhile I’ve been making plans for my first day or two in Rome. Once settled in my B&B by Roma Termini station, I hope to visit a place called “LET IT BEER,” about two miles northeast. (I just like the name.) Later, or maybe the next day (Monday, August 29) I figure on hiking down to the Isola Tiberina. (Tiber Island.) That’s an island in the middle of the Tiber River, kind of like the Île de la Cité in Paris. (Which we visited last September. We got our required COVID shots at a tent set-up by the Pont Neuf. We had to get them to take a train down to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.)

Also, based on a recent video I saw on Rome, I may try a fried artichoke in the Jewish Ghetto. (Highly recommended, for the adventurous anyway.) Google Maps shows “La Taverna del Ghetto” that may have it. “La Taverna” is a mile and a half southwest of my B&B, and Tiber Island is just beyond it. The Colosseum and Palatine Hill are pretty much on the way.

We’ll see how those plans work out.

Also this past week, I got 250 Euros from my local bank. Last Tuesday I did a four hour hike – figuring six miles at 24 minutes a mile actual hiking time – at a local Nature Center. (We”Il average ten miles a day.) I carried 17.4 pounds* including a pack and camp chair for an occasional break in the woods, without getting chiggers. (Always a problem in the Southeastern woodlands.) I covered up pretty good but still got a couple bites, one on my right tricep that still itches.

Next Tuesday I hope to get in a 7-mile hike along some local golf cart paths, with a full pack but no camp chair. And I plan to take a break for lunch, at a local sports bar, with a prophylactic beer, just to get into the Camino rhythm. And by the way, I have a hard and fast rule for those Camino hikes: I never have a lunch-beer before noon. (Well, “Hardly Ever!”)

Finally – and BTW – I’ll have 48 hours in Rome before heading up to Assisi. (Between getting settled in my B&B and taking the train.) But once we finish the hike we’ll have three full days for touristy stuff in the Vatican City area. (Across the Tiber and three miles from Roma Termini.)

Stay tuned for updates!

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Isola Tiberina 2014.JPG
The Isola Tiberina in the middle of the Tiber River in Rome…

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The upper image is courtesy of Roman Holiday Film – Image Results. See also Roman Holiday – Wikipedia, on the 1953 American romantic comedy starring Audrey Hepburn “as a princess out to see Rome on her own and Gregory Peck as a reporter.” Hepburn won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance. The film was shot on location around Rome during the “Hollywood on the Tiber” era. “In 1999, Roman Holiday was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.'”

Re: The much better deal on getting from Rome to Assisi. My train leaves at noon instead of the crack of dawn, and gets to Assisi by way of Foligno a couple hours later. And a confusing note: The “Trenitalia” train ticket lists the day first, then the month, as for example “22/09/22,” instead of the American way, “09/22/22.”

Re: The 17.4-pound backpack. The ideal for Camino hikers is ten percent of your body weight, which in my case would be about 150 pounds.

Re: “Hardly ever!” See H.M.S. Pinafore “What, Never? [Well,] Hardly Ever!” – eNotes.com.

The lower image is courtesy of Isola Tiberina – Wikipedia.

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My visit to The Big Apple – June 2022

The Statue of Liberty, from my kayak, during an attempt to paddle across New York Harbor

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August 6, 2022 – Back in June I visited The Big Apple, New York City. Part of the trip included my trying to kayak across New York Harbor, from a boat ramp by the Statue of Liberty over to Manhattan. It didn’t work out the way I planned, but I’ll get into that in my next post…

Meanwhile, the main reason for the trip was to see my brother and his wife perform – with some other people – at Carnegie Hall. They were part of a concert by the New England Symphonic Ensemble on Friday night, June 3. The program listed their group as among “participating choruses.” Then in the week after the concert my family and I visited other sites as well. But during that visit I didn’t have time to do any updates on this blog. Then, when I got back home, I had to get ready for another road trip, as told in Catching up from my trip to Dubuque. (For the Fourth of July weekend.) Since then I’ve been busy getting ready for my next trip, overseas, previewed in Getting ready for Rome – and “the Way of St. Francis.”

In other words, I’m just getting back to normal. And speaking of getting back to a rhythm

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I made a lot of notes on Facebook driving up, ultimately through the western part of Virginia (via I-81), and up into Pennsylvania, before heading east to New Jersey. And a bit of foreshadowing: That’s the way I’ll drive back in all future road trips to NYC. Going home the other way – south through New Jersey, into Pennsylvania and then Delaware – the traffic and tolls were murder. (Metaphorically anyway.) Even trusty old rustic US 301 – going south from Wilmington and on over the Bay Bridge into Annapolis – is now a &^%$ toll road!

Not to mention I got a &^%$ fifty dollar parking ticket in Jersey City, for parking on a side street. (I stopped at a McDonald’s to get some breakfast before trying the “kayak across New York Harbor.”)

But back to the happy start of the trip. I left my home just south of the ATL late on the morning on Tuesday, May 31. (Last-minute packing and such, including the kayak.) I took back roads over to I-20 at Greensboro, then through Augusta and up I-77 toward Columbia. That day I made 270 miles, to Richburg South Carolina, 56 miles above Columbia. With the air-conditioning out in my car, and a kayak nestled up and over the front passenger seat. As always, traffic around Charlotte, NC stood like a hydra-headed monster for the next day…

Sure enough, and even though I started early, traffic came to a near-standstill near Pineville. So I got off I-77 and took more backroads over to Interstate 485 – the “Outer” way – and over to US 29. That’s mostly a four-lane highway without the traffic hassle of driving through Mooresville and Statesville. And speaking of no air conditioning, Ernest Hemingway wrote that Hunger Was a Good Discipline. I suppose heat – in the form of temperatures in the high 90s – could also be considered a good discipline. (It makes that first cold beer taste ever so good.)

On Wednesday, June 1, I made it to Lexington, Virginia. That was only 278 miles for the day, but the town looked so beckoning – nice and rustic – that I decided to stop there for the day. (Which is why I decided to take four days going up.) I stopped at the local Ruby Tuesday’s for a quick beer before checking out exercise opportunities. There I experienced some local drama. The wait staff, including the barmaid, were very disgruntled with management, and I was lucky to get that first draft beer before she closed out. (Or walked out) After that drama – and to clear my mind – I took a hike around the beautiful campus of Virginia Military Institute.

Later I went to the local Applebee’s, for two more draft beers and a cup of chicken tortilla soup.

My plan for Thursday, June 2, was to stop in Harrisburg, PA. I wanted to find a place to put in my kayak on the Susquehanna River. Unfortunately, there was no such place. Google Maps showed one possible site;* a park with a stream draining into the Susquehanna. But the only place to put in was above a dam and waterfall. All the rest of the stream-banks were too weed-choked and rock-strewn. Plus I saw enough congestion and bad traffic – just getting to the %^%@$ park – that I “proceeded on” to the Hershey PA exit on I-81.

There I found a nice Motel 6 and visited Arooga’s Grille House & Sports Bar at 7025 Allentown Blvd. (Technically Harrisburg, but I highly recommend it anyway.) I wrote later:

Long day putting around and through Harrisburg PA. No place to kayak, traffic sucked, and a travel tip. Gas up before you get to Pennsylvania. I paid $4.56 at the Sam’s Club, and was glad to get it. $4.79 a gallon wasn’t unusual.

Little did I know that gas prices were about to go higher still, once I got into New Jersey. On a more positive note, I followed up the two beers and sweet potato fries at Arooga’s with a rousing 70-minute hike through the Oak Park Trail. (Adjacent to Dauphin Middle school; I hiked a bit through their parking lot, as they were holding some kind of graduation-night event.)

Next morning I got up early and headed east on I-81 to where it split, becoming I-78 northwest of Jonestown PA. From there it was smooth driving, through the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, until I crossed into New Jersey. Where you are actually fined if you pump your own gas. (Between $50 and $250 for a first offense, and $500 for subsequent offenses. For more, see the notes.)

On Friday, June 3 – the day of the concert – I stopped at my first Wawa convenience story in a long time. (On I-280.) That was before crossing over the Hackensack River and into the traffic in Jersey City and on into North Bergen. There my brother Tom had rented an upstairs apartment just down the street from North Bergen High School.

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The rest of Friday, June 3, was a blur. The three of us got checked in and unpacked, then got “dressed up” for Carnegie. (A note: We needn’t have bothered. The native New Yorkers at the concert were dressed just like us slobs back home; shorts, shirt untucked, whatever.) Then we hiked up the hill, to the stop by the North Bergen High School, for the first of many trips on the 154 bus over to Manhattan. We met up with the other brother and his wife – Bill and Janet – the ones who were singing at Carnegie. We had a pre-concert dinner at this place on Broadway, the Applejack Diner, shown below. As for the concert itself, we had some unexpected drama…

But I’ll save that story for a future post!

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I took the upper photo, from my kayak, near the start of my try to paddle across New York Harbor. According to Wikipedia, it’s “one of the largest natural harbors in the world, and is frequently named the best natural harbor in the world.” Also called Upper New York Bay, it’s “connected to Lower New York Bay by the Verrazano Narrows,” and other bodies of water that actually constitute a “tidal strait.Some foreshadowing, that “tidal strait” figures in the next post, on how that kayaking attempt worked out. For more on my other preparations for the trip, see Back to New York City – finally!

Re “Participating choruses.” The phrase in the program was “With participating choruses.” You can click on the near-upper-right “Calendar View” at Official Website | Carnegie Hall.) The chorus in question was The Trey Clegg Singers, Inc. My brother and his wife have sung with “Trey” for years.

Re: Getting back to rhythm. My first wife Karen (who died in 2006) used to say I wasn’t spontaneous enough, I was in too much of a rut. My response, “It’s not a rut, it’s a rhythm.” See also The Three Biggest Benefits of Good Habits – Top Three GuideWhy Habits are Important: 5 Benefits of Habits.

Re: Hunger Was a Good Discipline. See Hemingway in Paris, vis-a-vis the chapter starting on page 67 of the 2003 Scribner paperback edition of A Moveable Feast.

Re: “Google Maps showed one possible site,” to put in by the Susquehanna. It was New Cumberland Borough Park, on Yellow Beeches Creek, near the New Market suburb of Harrisburg.

Re: New Jersey’s ban on self-service gas pumping. See Why New Jersey and Oregon still don’t let you pump your own gas, and What’s the fine for pumping your own gas in N.J.? – nj.com. I knew beforehand about the ban, but didn’t know it’s long and complex history, over a century old. Initially full-service stations saw self-service as cutting into their thin profit margin. “Full-service gas stations played up safety hazards around self-service, arguing that untrained drivers would overfill their tanks and start a fire. But eventually self-service was seen to reduce costs and increase volumes of gasoline sold. One ironic note: “In New Jersey, the self-service ban, along with the state’s reputation for low gas prices, is part of its culture.” FYI: Gas prices in New Jersey were as high as in Pennsylvania, and 50 cents a gallon higher than back home in Georgia. (Another reason to call it “God’s Country.”)

For future reference (a new post) I noted some activities on Thursday, June 9, the day before we left for home. “After the walking tour of Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown – and hiking across the Manhattan Bridge and back – relaxing with a mint chip gelato, back in Little Italy. Cafe Roma.” Stay tuned…

The lower image is courtesy of the gallery in the Applejack Diner website.

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On Mystic Christians – “The real ones?”

Was Obi-Wan Kenobi the original Mystic Christian? (As in, “May the Force be with you“)

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I’ve been struggling with what to call myself in the current, ongoing Culture war.

I despise the Radical Right – as heartless – but they don’t understand it when I respond, “Liberal my ass, I’m an Independent.” I tried that label back in July 2016, with The Independent Voter, and in 2019’s A reminder: “I’m an INDEPENDENT (Voter).” I also tried “Contrarian,” back in a November 2016 post, ‘Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian. Then there was the February 2021 post, “I used to be quiet and shy, all moderate and nicey-nicey.” That one talked of me being “one of those people suffering from Trump fatigue.” 

So what am I? “Independent?” “Contrarian?” Somewhere between Radical Left and Wacko Right?

A week or so ago I tried the “Independent” label once again with my current lady friend. (Another conservative who voted for Trump; they’re all over the dang place.) But it didn’t go over – it “didn’t compute” – possibly because the label was too complicated. (For “those people.”) So I decided to “baffle them with BS.” (From a Quote by W.C. Fields, detailed in the notes.)

Put another way, I’ve decided to take the high road, to get away from talking politics altogether. (On Facebook, or dealing personally with Right-wing Wackos.) I turn the tables and use the Bible against them, saying things like, “How does that save souls?” It drives them crazy – which is worth the price of admission alone – mostly because “those people” have been using the Bible to advance their reactionary political agenda for decades now.

(There’s more on that radical agenda below…)

Besides, using “Mystic Christian” bring up the title of my new. soon-to-be-published book. The full title is “On Mystic Christians – (You know, the real ones?)” It follows up a book I did in 2018, “No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian.” (Under my nom de plume, “James B. Ford.”) It was designed as a bit of payback, or “turnabout is fair play,” a way of evening things out, mostly in response to Rick Santorum’s saying in 2008 that there’s “no such thing as a liberal Christian.”

The point is that logic and reason are mostly wasted in addressing the Wacko Right, “those people” who generally have no sense of humor. Which brings to mind an earlier mystic – and devout Roman Catholic – Thomas Merton. Someone asked him how you could tell if a person is “enlightened.” (Having gone through an inner, spiritual transformation.) He smiled and said, “Well it is very difficult to tell but holiness is usually accompanied by a wonderful sense of humor.” And such a sense of humor is noticeably lacking in the Radical Right.

On a related note, here’s another by-the-way: If you think I was being too political back in 2018 – when I published “No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian” – check out Televangelist Pat Robertson says God told him Trump will win. (Or Google “pastor God Trump win,” for similar results.) Either way, I’d say Robertson’s message from God got “garbled in transmission.”

The point is, if I was way too militant back then, I wasn’t the only one.

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I originally planned to have this post feature early pages in the ‘Mystic Christian’ book. I included those pages in the notes, but here are some highlights. Like how conservative Christians interpret most of the Bible literally, but not – in one glaring example – “The Bible’s ‘erotic love song:” But why don’t such Literalists interpret “Song of Songs” literally? Why don’t they adhere to the “exact letter or the literal sense” for this book, like all the others in the Bible?

Some Bible Literalists become snake handlers, based on a too-literal interpretation of Mark 16:18: “They will pick up snakes with their hands.” But I would say: “Be consistent. If you’re going to interpret Mark 16:18 literally, you should do the same with Song of Solomon 7:1-3: ‘Your rounded thighs are like jewels… Your two breasts are like two fawns…’”

On a more serious note – and speaking of using the Bible to advance a political agenda – there’s a question, Did Evangelicals Make Trump Their Messiah? (From early in the ‘Mystic’ book.)

The article opined that initially many Evangelicals supported Trump because they thought he shared the same politics and values. But then it seems that some Evangelicals – and other Christians – “supported him because they thought he was a Messiah. They saw Trump as infallible and became his disciples.” Which led one pastor (Franz Gerber) to worry that many in his congregation seemed to idolize Trump more than they worshipped Jesus.

“Nothing good can come from putting any single person on a spiritual pedestal. No one is infallible, no one is free from bias, and no one is honest all of the time, no matter how hard they may strive…”

Returning to “Trump-Messiah,” it noted the seeming hypocrisy of evangelicals who insist that Trump’s “morality” was nobody’s business but God’s, “while also casting great judgment on non-believers or those who don’t believe as they do.” Then came the matter of media coverage:

“What makes a good president is the ability to survive our constant scrutiny and the scrutiny of the free press. Through this process, which is critical, we can get a better sense of whether a politician is trying their best, and whether or not they generally have Americans’ best interests in mind…”

And speaking of borrowing a page from the Trump playbook – “baffling them with BS” – try this on for size. (Demonstrating how a mystic – Christian or otherwise – sees things differently.)

By his own admission, Donald Trump is: 1) a very stable genius, 2) a master negotiator, and 3) a true American patriot. Aside from that, he’s the only American Putin will allow into Russia.* With all that in mind, Trump could accept Putin’s invitation and negotiate an end to the war in Ukraine. By doing so he could end the needless suffering of millions of Ukrainians, and bring down the price of gas in America as well. If he did all that he would probably win the Nobel Peace Prize, which would certainly get him re-elected in 2024.

I wonder if he’ll do it? (In other words, “Fish or cut bait.”) 

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The upper image is courtesy of Obi-wan Kenobi Alec Guinness – Image Results. See also Obi-Wan Kenobi – Wikipedia.

Re: “Mystic.” For more see What is a Mystic and What Traits do they Typically Possess? One definition: “an individual who is born into a very specific role. Gifted with a deeper understanding of spirituality, and possessing psychic gifts and abilities, their role is one of guidance. In essence, mystics are here to use their powers to show humanity the correct way to live.” Merriam-Webster defines mysticism as “the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (such as intuition or insight).” But see also Christian mysticism – Wikipedia, noting the “mystical practices and theory within Christianity:”

Mysticism is not so much a doctrine as a method of thought. It has often been connected to mystical theology, especially in the Catholic Church (including traditions from both the Latin Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches) and Eastern Orthodoxy… The attributes and means by which Christian mysticism is studied and practiced are varied. They range from ecstatic visions of the soul’s mystical union with God and theosis (humans gaining divine qualities) in Eastern Orthodox theology to simple prayerful contemplation of Holy Scripture (i.e. Lectio Divina).

Re: Thomas Merton (1915-1968), “arguably the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has sold over one million copies and has been translated into over fifteen languages. He wrote over sixty other books and hundreds of poems and articles on topics ranging from monastic spirituality to civil rights, nonviolence, and the nuclear arms race.” See also Thomas Merton – Wikipedia. His books included Zen and the Birds of Appetite, Mystics and Zen Masters, and the more conservative Praying the Psalms:

According to Merton: “To put it very plainly, the Church loves the Psalms because in them she sings of her experience of God, of her union with the Incarnate Word, of her contemplation of God in the Mystery of Christ….If we really come to know and love the Psalms, we will enter into the Church’s own experience of divine things. We will begin to know God as we ought.”

Re: The Force be with you. See Idioms … Free Dictionary, referring to the catch prase adapted from “Star Wars,” in which it is used as a blessing, “to protect or guide the other person.” See also 1st Chronicles 22:11, “The LORD be with you, and may you have success,” as well as Dominus vobiscum – Wikipedia. The latter noted that the phrase “the Lord be with you” is an “ancient salutation and blessing traditionally used by the clergy in the Catholic Mass … as well as liturgies of other Western Christian denominations, such as LutheranismAnglicanism and Methodism.” The response is Et cum spiritu tuo, meaning “And with your spirit.” 

And speaking of “Wacko Right,” Donald Trump was among the first to use the term, back in 2000. See THE STAUNCH-RIGHT WACKO VOTE – The Fleming Foundation, noting how in an early run against Pat Buchanan, “Trump told America that Buchanan’s supporters were the ‘staunch-right wacko vote.’”

Re: “Baffle them with BS.” According to Goodreads, the line is attributed to W.C. Fields: “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” See also idioms … Free Dictionary: “In lieu of concrete facts or exceptional wit, you can convince people with artful, flowery, or misleading speech.” See also the Phrases website, which noted that the maxim has “been proven true, repeatedly, one need look no further than the American Republican party for evidence. Facts and logic have been swamped by absolutely preposterous nonsense.

Re: Putin’s invitation to Trump. See Russia bans 963 Americans from the country including Biden, Harris, Zuckerberg. But not Trump. For a different take, search “putin trump russia” for some interesting comments.

The lower image is courtesy of Fish Or Cut Bait Images – Image Results. Wikipedia explained that this is a common English language colloquial expression, dating back to the 19th-century United States, which among other things, “cautions against procrastination and/or indecisiveness.” Or in this case, saying you’re a very stable genius, a master negotiator and a true American patriot, but not doing anything with those sterling qualities. See also “Put up or shut up.”

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Here is the complete cut-and-paste from the first part of the new “Mystic Christian” book:

On the other hand there was my post, St. James … and the 7 blind men. It included the “parable of the Blind men and elephant,” and this thought:

Good Christians should be able to “argue” with each other –in the good sense.(The sense of “civil” lawyers presenting concise and reasoned bases to support their position, and not resorting to name-calling or “ad hominem” attacks.)

And a heads up for this book: I’ll haveSt. James … and the 7 blind menas a separate chapter later in the book. Before that though, it might help to review some parts of the “No Such Thing” book. (Then came the part about “rounded thighs, followed by:) – In the process of trying to find a less militant and more Christian title for this revised book, I originally came up with one that included “Evangelical” in quotation marks. I did that mainly because the word “Evangelical” these days means something way different than it used to.

To see what I’m talking about, search “trump and evangelicals today.” I did that and got 167,000,000 results. (That’s 167 million.) Those results included: 1) Trump Is Tearing Apart the Evangelical Church – The AtlanticThe Evangelicals’ Trump Obsession Has Tarnished Christianity, and Did Evangelicals Make Trump Their Messiah?

Taking them in order, Trump Is Tearing Apart said the “aggressive, disruptive, and unforgiving mindset” so much a part of our politics has “found a home in many American churches.” Put bluntly, too many Christians have embraced the worst aspects of our culture and our politics:

When the Christian faith is politicized, churches become repositories not of grace but of grievances, places where tribal identities are reinforced, where fears are nurtured, and where aggression and nastiness are sacralized. The result is not only wounding the nation; it’s having a devastating impact on the Christian faith.

Then there’s The Evangelicals’ Trump Obsession Has Tarnished Christianity. It talked about how the Trump era has affected the ability of Christians to share the good news about Jesus in a diverse and skeptical world:

If you believe … Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life,” then it makes sense to share the good news with everyone… But what happens when so many of Christ’s messengers have sacrificed their credibility and moral high ground by allying with a controversial political figure[?]

The author concluded, “Trumpism, I would argue, has damaged the Christian brand, as well as the conservative brand.”

(Then came the reference to Did Evangelicals Make Trump Their Messiah, followed by:) – Which brings us back to my struggle to find a better title for this new, updated, less hostile and more Christian re-write of the 2018 book.

That struggle started back even before I published the 2018 book. I went back and forth on what to call it, and once tried, “Not all Christians are Right-wing Wackos.” That certainly was direct and eye-catching, but way too hostile. (Again, I’m trying to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.)

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Holden Caulfield – Revisited Again!

Cover features a drawing of a carousel horse (pole visible entering the neck and exiting below on the chest) with a city skyline visible in the distance under the hindquarters. The cover is two-toned: everything below the horse is whitish while the horse and everything above it is a reddish orange. The title appears at the top in yellow letters against the reddish orange background. It is split into two lines after "Catcher". At the bottom in the whitish background are the words "a novel by J. D. Salinger".

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I’ll be talking about re-reading Catcher in the Rye a couple paragraphs down. But first…

Back on September 25, 2021, I flew back from Madrid and a month in France and Spain. As told in Hiking over the Pyrenees, in 2021 – finally, the trip centered around a 17-day hike on the Camino de Santiago. It covered the section from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and over the Pyrenees Mountains that I failed to do in 2017, when my brother Tom and I first hiked the Camino Frances. (He hiked over the Pyrenees but I met up with him in Pamplona. From there we hiked and biked the remaining 450 miles to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.)

I ended the “Pyrenees” post by promising more posts about the hiking adventure, but since then I’ve been working on another project. It’s an Ebook about turning 70 in 2021, and like I said in the book, I have to finish it soon. That’s because turning 70 is like losing your virginity: “You can only do it once!” Besides that I want to have the paperback version done in time for handing out as presents for each family member at our Christmas gathering.

One chapter compares how old people were seen 50 years ago, compared to how “we” see ourselves today. That chapter included how John Updike portrayed old people in his 1971 novel, Rabbit Redux, set in the summer of 1969.* But then I came across a paperback copy of Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger. I – like most adolescents my age – loved that book 40 or 50 years ago, but now that I’m up there in years I take issue with how he portrayed old people.

It’s been a while since I’ve read about Holden Caulfield’s adventures, but I got as far as the start of Chapter 2. That’s where Holden visits “old Mister Spencer,” his history teacher at Pencey Prep. (He’d just gotten kicked out of school and stopped to say goodbye.) Mrs. Spencer meets him at the door, and Holden has to repeat questions; “She was sort of deaf.” He said the couple got a bang out of things, “in a half-assed way,” then described a time he and some others visited the couple. Mr. Spencer brought out a Navajo blanket he’d bought years ago. “You take somebody old as hell, like old Spencer, and they can get a big bang out of buying a blanket.”

Holden said he wasn’t crazy about old people anyway, sitting around in “ratty old bathrobes… Their bumpy old chests are always showing. And their legs. Old guys’ legs, at beaches and places, always look so white and unhairy.” He added, “you wondered what the heck he was still living for. I mean, he was all stooped over, and he had very terrible posture.”

As when Mr. Spencer dropped some chalk in class, “some guy in the first row always had to get up and pick it up and hand it to him.” Then came the kicker: “They were both around seventy years old, or even more than that.” To which I said, “Excuse me? Old as hell at 70 years?”

Then added, “Hey Holden, yurass!” I had a feeling that old Mr. Spencer didn’t do stair-stepping, 30 minutes at a time, four days a week, with  a 30-pound weight vest and ten pounds of ankle weights. (Like I do now.) Which led to the main point of the chapter: That “old people” in this day and age see themselves as way different, compared to 40 or 50 years ago. (Now that “we” are getting up there ourselves.) And indeed, some people my age – like many “old” high school classmates – still yearn for a return for those “good old days.” (Bumpy old chests, white, unhairy legs and all.) But not me. I’m enjoying the heck out of turning 70, and plan to live a lot longer. (Thanks to a healthy diet and lots of aerobics, including high-intensity stair-stepping.*)

But getting back to Holden Caulfield, and how he ended up leading me down a Rabbit Trail.

The term is generally seen as negative and non-productive, but to me those “Rabbit Trails” are the best and most-fun part of doing research for my writing. (Even though I usually have to shunt them off to the notes, either at the end of a blog post like this, or in an Ebook.) This one centered around my hearing that Salinger saw extensive combat in World War Two:

In the spring of 1942 … Salinger was drafted into the army, where he saw combat with the 12th Infantry Regiment4th Infantry Division. He was present at Utah Beach on D-Day, in the Battle of the Bulge, and the Battle of Hürtgen Forest.

And during the Normandy campaign Salinger met Ernest Hemingway. He was “impressed with Hemingway’s friendliness and modesty, finding him more ‘soft’” than his gruff public persona. Hemingway in turn said of Salinger’s writing, “Jesus, he has a helluva talent.” Later in the war Salinger was assigned to a counter-intelligence unit, using his knowledge of French and German to interrogate prisoners of war. In April 1945 he entered a concentration “subcamp” of Dachau. He’d risen to the rank of Staff Sergeant and served in five campaigns. His war experiences affected him deeply, and he later told his daughter: “You never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nose entirely, no matter how long you live.”

More to the point, just before the war Salinger submitted several short stories to “The New Yorker,” but most got rejected. Then in December 1941, the magazine accepted Slight Rebellion off Madison, a “Manhattan-set story about a disaffected teenager named Holden Caulfield with ‘pre-war jitters.’” So “old Holden” goes back as far as 1941, pre-World War Two

And that’s what I love about my research, for writing blog-posts and Ebooks; going down those “rabbit trails.” The joy of discovery, the joy of learning something new. (Even if I do have to end up putting most interesting stuff in Ebook notes, so as note to interrupt the flow of the main narrative.) But in the end, going down those rabbit trails can – along with vigorous exercise and a healthy diet* – keep you young, alive and kicking for a long, long time.

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Make that, “Pardon me, I’m off on a Rabbit Trail…”

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The upper image is courtesy of The Catcher in the Rye – Wikipedia.

Re: How I ended up with a copy of “Catcher,” just as I’m working to finish the Turning 70 book:

And as if John Updike’s picture of old people wasn’t bad enough, in the process of trying to finish up this book, I got hold of a copy of “Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger. And that all started when I picked up a second-hand paperback copy at the local “Yuppie Goodwill,” in early October 2021. (Can you say, “sign from God?”)

Also Re: “Catcher in the Rye.” I bought the paperback edition by Little, Brown and Company, 1951. (In October 2021, while working to wrap up the book for use at the family Christmas.) Salinger copyrighted the work in 1945, 1946, and 1951, and renewed the copyright in 1979. The quotes about the “old” Spencer couple are at pages 8 and 9, the end of Chapter 1 and the beginning of Chapter Two. Another note: I learned in “Crash Course American Literature” – the one I talk about in the chapter on “Great Lectures” [in the Ebook] – that Salinger saw extensive combat in World War Two.

The information about Holden and Salinger came from Wikipedia and links therein. I read them, but found discrepancies. For example, the article on Holden himself said that Salinger first used the name Holden Caulfield in an “unpublished short story written in 1941,” but that it first appeared in print in 1945. The article on Salinger indicated that the “New Yorker” published the article with Holden in it in December 1941. (But putting that in the main text would “interrupt the flow.”)

Re: Aerobics, high-intensity stair-stepping, and healthy diet. I currently do two hours of stair-stepping, 30 minutes at a time, with a 30-pound weight vest and ten pounds of ankle weights. I also do five hours of medium aerobics a week, kayaking, jog-walking or calisthenics ten minutes at a time. As for diet and supplements, see An Updated ‘Geezer Guide to Supplements,’ with links to A Geezer’s guide to supplements, and A Geezer’s guide to supplements – Part II.

The lower image is courtesy of Rabbit Trail Images – Image Results. It’s accompanied by an article, “Rabbit Trails are Good!” A blog about the joys and benefits of home-schooling, it includes these thoughts: “A quality education is not about sticking to the book. It is about expanding beyond it’s margins, exploring, discovering and teaching to the spark:”

“Getting sidetracked” will not only help you teach to your children’s interests and improve the quality of their education, but it will also help you to ignite a lifelong love of learning. In the process, you will have also taught them that they can learn anything! All they need do is go off on a rabbit trail!

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Countdown to Paris – 2021!

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If all goes according to plan, I’ll be arriving in Paris – at De Gaulle airport – early on the morning of Thursday, next August 26. From there I’ll take the RER Train B to the Gare du Nord. (18 Rue de Dunkerque.) Then out the exit past the Starbucks, and take a left and onto Rue la Fayette. (Small world. I live in Fayetteville, in Fayette County, Georgia.)

From there I’ll hike a mile or so to my two-night’s lodging. (Before joining the trio I’m meeting on the 28th, at a swanky hotel near Notre Dame, before heading south to hike over the Pyrenees.) On that mile hike I hope to stop for my first iced coffee of the day, at “McDonald’s Stalingrad.” (So-called because it’s adjacent to the “Place de la Bataille de Stalingrad.”)

And by the way, all this is part of a plan to hike the Camino de Santiago yet again.

For the third time, actually. In 2017 my brother Tom and I hiked the Camino Francés, or French Way. Or Tom did, in the purest sense. That’s because the Camino Francés starts at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees. (To Roncesvalles, in Spain.) The problem for me was that I’d had enough mountain hiking the year before, when we hiked the Chilkoot Trail, as detailed in the notes. And that trail – from Dyea, Alaska to Bennett, British Columbia – is called “the meanest 33 miles in history.” And I found out why, the hard way.

And so in 2017 Tom flew into Paris, while I flew into Madrid, then took a train up to Pamplona to meet him. (After he had hiked over the Pyrenees.) And had a miserable time, partly because of some nasty weather but also because he opted – for the first and last time in his adult life – to stay in one of those dormitory-style lodgings the Camino is famous for…

But we digress. I was talking about flying into Paris, to join up with the trio I’m meeting on the 28th – “before heading south to hike to over the Pyrenees.” That trio includes Tom and his wife Carol. (With both of whom I hiked the Camino Portugués, or the Portuguese Way, in 2019, as also detailed in the notes.) But this time I’ll be part of a group of four, including Tom, Carol, and Carol’s brother Ray. (Who will be hiking the Camino for the first time.)

Which brings us back to the Pyrenees, as shown at the bottom of the page.

It’s bothered me, ever since 2017, that I didn’t have the nerve to hike up and over those daunting Pyrenees mountains. And so I now feel the need to finish that “unfinished business.” And that’s in spite of the 2010 film, The Way, starring Martin Sheen. The central premise of the film is that an old, out of shape Beverly Hills eye doctor “goes to France following the death of his adult son, Daniel, killed in the Pyrenees during a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James), a Christian pilgrimage route.”

And this old, out of shape Beverly Hills eye doctor didn’t just go to France. On the spur of the moment and without a minute’s training or preparation, this Old Geezer decides to hike the entire 500 miles to Santiago. (I think they call that artistic license.) Which is another way of saying that interesting fictional characters do things no one in “their” right mind would do. (Like Sheen’s character in the film sitting on a bridge and taking off his pack, only to see it fall into the river below and float away. Or leave his pack unattended, to be stolen by a young gypsy.)

But then again, some would say hiking over the Pyrenees is something no one in his right mind would ever do. Which brings up the recent story, Human remains found in Pyrenees confirmed as those of missing hiker Esther Dingley. “Ms Dingley, 37, had been walking solo in the mountains near the Spanish and French border and was last seen on Nov 22 last year.” The story added that there was “no sign of equipment or clothing in the immediate area … and the details of what happened and where still remain unknown.”

Which in turn brings up the old saying, “Never hike alone.” And I won’t be hiking alone…

Then again, I probably wouldn’t be flying over to Paris this year if not for Tom’s suggestion. Or Carol’s actually, since she hasn’t hiked the Camino Francés (French Way), but did get a kick out of hiking the Portuguese Way. (Starting in Porto, Portugal – home of Port wine – back up to Santiago from the south.) Which brings up another point.

Since I’ve hiked to Santiago twice now, and get nervous away from home more than a month, I won’t be going the whole way. I’ll hike over the Pyrenees, and get that off my List of Things to Finish. Then through Pamplona, over to Burgos, where I’ll part ways. As the rest of the group goes on for another 29 days of hiking – with days off at intervals – I’ll take the train back to Madrid. And spend some more quality time there, possibly visiting the Prado again.

But first comes Paris.

As I write this, I’m making a list of things to do in my four days in Paris. Two of those days I’ll be on my own; the other two I’ll join the group at a Swanky Hotel across the Seine from the Cathedral of Notre Dame. (Or what’s left of it.) But there is one place on the outskirts that I definitely want to visit. (Via Metro.) As I recently learned, Choisy-le-Roi is where Henry Kissinger conducted secret negotiations with Le Duc Tho to end the Vietnam war, in 1972.

But back in 1979 it was also home to a youth hostel, and on the grounds of that hostel I and a young lady named Janine camped in a little tent, between the Seine and Marne Rivers. With the moonlight shining through the tent flap… (Can you say, “romantic interlude?”)

Google Maps says that hostel isn’t there any more, and I’d like to find out what happened…

Some things ARE sacred, you know!

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Central pyrenees.jpg

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The upper image is courtesy of Paris City Of Love Image – Image Results. It came with an article, from “travelfeatured.com,” which for some reason I couldn’t latch onto. But you could search “paris city of love and lights.”

For more on the 2017 “French Way” hike, see Training for the Camino, “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited, and “Buen Camino!” – The Good Parts.

For more on the 2016 mountain hike, see Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!” With links to two earlier posts.

For more on the 2019 Camino hike, see “Greetings from the Portuguese Camino,” Here’s that second post on the Portuguese Camino, and “They sell beer at the McDonald’s in Portugal!”

Re: “Never hike alone.” The link is to 11 Reasons Why Hiking Alone Is Actually A Bad Idea, as opposed to “Never Hike Alone,” the Friday The 13th film created by Womp Stomp Films. (Never Hike Alone | Friday the 13th Wiki | Fandom.)

For more on the secret negotiations in Choisy-le-Roi, see KISSINGER MEETS THO FOR 4 HOURS – The New York Times, December 5, 1972. Or search “choisy-le roi secret negotiations kissinger duc tho.”

Re: My visiting Choisy-le-Roi. Google Maps indicate that I have a choice of Metro stations. I could get off at the Ivry-sur-Seine station, then walk due east across the Pont-d’Ivry bridge, toward the Gendarmerie Nationale. Then from that area – where the youth hostel used to be – head back west over the Port à l’Anglais Bridge. Unfortunately the whole area now looks extremely built up, with what appears to be an interstate-like cloverleaf where highways A86 and D19 intersect.

The lower image is courtesy of Pyrenees Mountains Image – Image Results.

On “(Some of) the music of my life…”

Short answer? “No, I can’t!” For that matter, “I wouldn’t want to try life without music!”

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As noted in my post from April 4, 2021,* I’m working on a new E-book:

The tentative title is “Turning 70 in 2021 – and still thinking the best is yet to come.” One chapter will be “On the music of my life,” and how important it’s been to me. (Like making those long Camino hikes – illustrated [below] left – more enjoyable, as well as those endless hours of canoe-paddling, [say] on the “Rideau Canal Adventure?”)

So here it is, one post on “(some of) the music of my life.” (And maybe “the importance thereof.”)

For starters, a lot of the music that I listen to – mostly on my iPod Shuffle* – brings back a bundle of memories of good times from long ago. (Very pleasant, like when I’m on one of those “long Camino hikes,” or enduring hours of butt-numbing canoe-paddling, like “on the ‘Rideau Canal Adventure?’”) But sometimes it works out the other way around.

Like the one memory I had from visiting London back in the summer of 1979.* That memory brought to mind a song few people know, “on this side of the pond.”

You can hear the song at George Formby – I’m a wanker – YouTube, with one note from the guy who uploaded it: “Not many people have herd [sic] this song by the old George Formby, so i thought i would upload it.” (To put it delicately, the song concerns a practice which had been described as “heinous,” “deplorable,” and “hideous.” However, “during the 20th century, these taboos generally declined.”)

Anyway, another group I like – and that few people seem to know – is (are?) The Blind Boys of Alabama. Per Wikipedia, it’s an American gospel group, made up of blind Alabama black men. “The group was founded in 1939 in Talladega, Alabama and has featured a changing roster of musicians over its history, the majority of whom are or were visually impaired.” Their song that I like best is Down By the Riverside. You can hear it on YouTube, and you’ll no doubt notice it’s the “real thing.” The soulful version, as opposed to the lily-white, pasty-ass Lawrence Welk version.

Although I will add that ol’ Lawrence and his band kicked ass with his 1960 – or ’61* – song Calcutta. You can hear that instrumental at LAWRENCE WELK – “Calcutta” (1960) – YouTube. (When I listen to it I can just imagine the Lennon Sisters cutely singing “la-la-la-la-la-la” in the background.)

Note too this was “a chart hit, the most successful of Welk’s career.”

So you could say my musical tastes are eclectic. (As in my liking music from a “variety of sources, systems, or styles.”) Which can lead to jarring moments, listening on my iPod Shuffle… Like when I hear Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus – by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra naturally – and that song is followed immediately by the cackling, maniacal opening to Wipe Out.

That’s the 1962 instrumental by The Surfaris. (Hear it on YouTube, and if you keep listening you can hear the “drum cover by Sina.”) Note too that this instrumental is not to be confused with Pipeline, also from 1962, to wit: the “instrumental surf rock song by The Chantays.*

Another instrumental I like is Java, recorded In 1963 by Al Hirt (1922-1999), famed trumpeter and bandleader. “He is best remembered for his million-selling recordings of ‘Java‘ and the accompanying album Honey in the Horn… Hirt’s recording won the Grammy Award for Best Performance by an Orchestra or Instrumentalist with Orchestra in 1964.” You can hear that song at Al Hirt – Java – YouTube; and if you have a pulse at all, it’ll get your toes tapping.

Then there are some songs I used to do on Karaoke, the “interactive entertainment usually offered in clubs and bars, where people sing along to recorded music using a microphone…”

One of my biggest signature songs was You Never Even Called Me By My Name, the 1975 song by David Allan Coe. Not only was it a favorite chorus-singalong at karaoke, it was also popular at “my” family events, like weddings, graduations, and some 50-year-anniversary-get-remarrieds. In the same vein there’s Farewell Party, the 1979 song by Gene Watson. For some reason I found that I could do a great job with the last note (“g-o-o-o-o-o-n-e!”) long and loud. (Loud enough for people to cover their ears.)

In a different vein, I used to do a kick-ass version of John Lennon‘s 1971 song Imagine. (The link is to the original demo version.) From late 2016 to early 2019 – just before the COVID hit – I used to sing that song every once in a while, just to tweak a large part of the audience; mostly old, mostly white and mostly conservative, most nights. (And – need I say it – way too many Trump supporters?) Along with Well Respected Man,* the 1965 song by The Kinks. (“Doing the best things so conservative-leeee…)

And in a way different vein, from time to time I also liked to do Bob Marley‘s tribute to the “black U.S. cavalry regiments, known as ‘Buffalo Soldiers.'” (You know, the ones that “fought in the Indian Wars after 1866?”) Needless to say, in the mostly old, mostly white and mostly conservative audience (most nights), that song usually went over like the proverbial “disagreeable nuisance or source of irritation.”

However – to borrow a phrase from Big Chill, the 1983 film – “The heck with them if they can’t take a joke.” Or, a phrase from Hunter Thompson, that noted iconoclast,*  “Something, anything, to give the Right-wing Whackos a jolt!”

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Photograph showing just the head of a man with a serious expression, aviator sunglasses, a full head of medium-short hair, and a visible collar of a leather jacket

Hunter S. Thompson, the prototypical gonzo Karaoke singer?

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The upper image is courtesy of The Importance Of Music In Our Life Image – Image Results. It comes with an article, The Importance of Music in Our Daily LivesSee also 8 reasons why music is important to us — Mitch de Klein, and Why is music so important? | SiOWfa15: Science in Our World.

Re: The post I did on April 4, 2021. See Revisiting March 2020

The Wikipedia caption to the “Camino hike” photo: “A pilgrim near San Juan de Ortega.”

Re: My iPod Shuffle. That’s the “discontinued digital audio player designed and formerly marketed by Apple Inc.” Unfortunately I had to move on to a variety of the SanDisk Sansa model music player, because – being now defunct – I couldn’t buy a replacement “Shuffle.” And personally I found the iPod Shuffle much easier and better to use. Sometimes, it seems, “progress isn’t really progress.”   

Re: “Visited London back in the summer of 1979.” My lady friend at the time – Janine, who is undoubtedly a grandmother by now – attended Eckerd College, while I worked at the old St. Petersburg Times. She did a semester abroad early 1979; I took three weeks vacation to visit her in London, after which we toured “the Continent” via Eurailpass.

Re: “Wanker” song. See The Winker’s Song (Misprint) – Wikipedia

Re: Welk’s “Calcutta.” From the Wikipedia article: “This article is about the 1960 song performed by Lawrence Welk… An instrumental version by American bandleader and TV host Lawrence Welk on the 1961 Dot Records album Calcutta! was a chart hit…”

Re: “Chart hit.” The link is to Hit song – Wikipedia, with a subsection on “Chart hits,” with two paragraphs on the various charts at issue, such as the Billboard Hot 100: “a single is usually considered a hit when it reaches the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 or the top 75 of the UK Singles Chart and stays there for at least one week.”

Re: The instrumentals “Wipeout” and “Pipeline.” See also Surf music – Wikipedia

Re: The Kinks song “about conservatives.” Hear one version at The Kinks – A Well Respected Man lyrics – YouTube, but that version is way faster than the one I used to sing. I liked to draw it about a bit, and especially the final, “Doing the best things so conservative-leeee…” And add an occasional word of explanation, like “He likes his fags the best (cigarettes)…” 

Re: “Buffalo Soldier.” I just learned the song “did not appear on record until the 1983 posthumous release of Confrontation, when it became one of Marley’s best-known songs.” Marley died in 1981.

Re: “Give the squares a jolt.” The allusion is to Hunter Thompson‘s book on the Hell’s Angels, infra. See How The Hells Angels Became America’s Notorious Black Sheep, at bottom:

By kissing one another the Angels proved that they were way more far out than the people watching them… In Hunter S. Thompson’s book, he explained that when Hells Angels were kissing each other full force on the lips they were doing it for shock value because the act “is a guaranteed square-jolter, and the Angels are gleefully aware of the reaction it gets. The sight of a photographer invariably whips the Angels into a kissing frenzy.”

See also Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (1967). I first bought the book in the early 1970s. I thought it a superb example of what can best be called experiential journalism:

Mother Jones (magazine) recently had a piece about life as a prison guard, one of the very best examples of experiential journalism which I have ever read. The reporter became a prison guard without alerting his employer [the prison] that he was a reporter… They are a shining example of the reporter’s obligation as an experiential journalist to dig deep, to be acutely aware of his or her own psychology and thought processes, and to observe the internal impacts of an external reality which is far from the life ordinarily lived

Emphasis added. See also Experiential Journalism – MR. RESTAD. And just for the record, I thought – and continue to think – that Truman Capote did an equally good job of experiential journalism in his 1966 non-fiction novelIn Cold Blood. Which is pretty much what I try to do with my “ADVENTURES IN OLD AGE” BOOK, and my next book, on “Turning 70 in 2021 – and loving the sh– heck out of it!”

Re: “That noted iconoclast.” See also my March 2015 post, On Pink Floyd and “rigid schooling.” It quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Whoso would be a man, must be a noncomformist, and it’s worth both a re-visit – in a near-future review – and a bit of re-editing.  

The lower image is courtesy of Hunter Thompson – Wikipedia. The caption: “Self-portrait photo of Thompson c. 1960–1967.” Wikipedia said he founded the “gonzo journalism movement. He first rose to prominence with the publication of Hell’s Angels (1967), a book for which he spent a year living and riding with the Hells Angels motorcycle club to write a first-hand account of the lives and experiences of its members.” Gonzo journalism is said to be a “style of journalism that is written without claims of objectivity, often including the reporter as part of the story using a first-person narrative.

The word “gonzo” is believed to have been first used in 1970 to describe an article about the Kentucky Derby by Hunter S. Thompson, who popularized the style. It is an energetic first-person participatory writing style in which the author is a protagonist, and it draws its power from a combination of social critique and self-satire…

And finally, for future reference on later post I’ll do on other important music in my life, these early notes I wrote for this post: “1) Roxanne [The Police]. Lousy karaoke song. 2) Devo. Crack that whip. 3) Hanky Panky, reminded me of ‘Sgt. Sjoberg, CAP encampment,’ circa 1966-67.” To clarify, the actual title of the Devo song is Whip It. (See Wikipedia.) The “Hanky panky” song was by Tommy James and the Shondells. At the 1966 or 1967 Civil Air Patrol encampment in Orlando, Sgt. Sjoberg was in charge of my barracks and loved to sing the song, apparently because he had a young-lady friend who was also at the encampment. And “Roxanne” is a lousy karaoke song because of the chorus:

(Roxanne) Put on the red light
(Roxanne) Put on the red light
(Roxanne) Put on the red light
(Roxanne) Put on the red light
(Roxanne) Put on the red light, oh

If only one person is singing the song – as Brie the waitress tried on one karaoke night – all she can sing is “Roxanne” at the end, over and over again. She really needed a partner for the “put on the red light” counterpoint, as that term is defined by Merriam-Webster: the “use of contrast or interplay of elements in a work of art (such as a drama),” or a karaoke song.

On “Re-living the Florida life-style…”

 

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For some reason this April 2021 post is now a main page when you Google “georgiawasp.” The notes give more detail, but there is a newer post,Recalling Week 8 of the COVID shut-down, above right. I’ve tried working on the problem, but without success. In the meantime, this glitch* seems to be something I and the reader will have to live with…

 *   *   *   *

(Another note: In the original post I had a photo that I took, along with a caption describing a big part of my recent visit to Florida: “Can you say cheek by jowl? Except for the undeveloped lot…”

*   *   *   *

Two weeks ago I drove “back” down to Florida…

Specifically, “back” down to the Kissimmee-Poinciana area. My “brother from Utah” – who now lives in Massachusetts* – went down to check out some investment property. So, he and his lovely wife rented a condo for a week, and they invited me to come down and join them for a visit. (Along with my brother from Peachtree City and his lovely wife.)

The thing is, I lived in Florida for 54 of my soon-to-be 70 years.* And didn’t realize how much I would not miss living there until I finally left. (With “strong urging” from my ex-wife.) Which means I got a chance to “re-live the Florida lifestyle.” And for me, four days was enough.

Which brings up cheek by jowl… That refers to the property my brother and sister-in-law inspected on Wednesday morning, April 14. They’d made a tentative offer* on the place and wanted to check it out. (I was scheduled to leave for home that very day, after lunch, having arrived the previous Sunday evening, as described below.)

The four days’ experience gave me a strong sense of “deja vu all over again.” To ee what I mean, go to Google Maps and put in “poinciana fl Secure Connections.” That’s a security business in the area, and if you focus a bit you can see what I mean by “cheek by jowl.”

That is, you’ll notice the streets in that area of Poinciana all have “themes.” In this case, lots of bird names like Hawk, Pelican and Parrot. You’ll also notice there are very few undeveloped lots in the area. The one shown above left is an anomaly. For the time being anyway…

Then you can go to “RJ Automotive Repair Shop,” at 12201 Seminole Boulevard, in Largo, Florida. That’s the area I grew up in – and lived in – those 51 of almost-70 years.* You’ll see the same “cheek by jowl” set of ticky-tacky houses all jammed together. (On the other hand, when we first moved down there in 1956, the area was mostly orange and grapefruit groves. That is, the area north of 12210 106th Street, and from what is now 105th Street down to that big lake; Lake Seminole.) For that matter, each house lot in the block – back in 1956 – had three grapefruit trees in the front yard and another three in the back…

But we’re digressing here. The point is that by the time I left Pinellas County, in late 2009, the area was a nightmare of traffic, not to mention the crowded living and “hot muggy weather.”

But I’m not alone in feeling that way. See for example, What is Living In Florida Really Like – Moving To Florida. The article describes three phases, or sets of feelings of people who move there. First comes the initial “honeymoon period,” which can last from three months to two years. Then comes an in-between period, from four months up to five years. Then finally comes the third phase, realizing “what living in Florida is really like.” (From people who’ve lived there “for many years.”) There are some unanticipated negatives “never mentioned in the glossy promo brochures.” They include: 1) learning to live mostly indoors “to avoid sunburn and the hot muggy weather,” and 2) having to maintain your pool, because otherwise “the Florida sun will turn a pool into a thick pea-green soup in days if maintenance is not kept up:”

At this point you are either in the group that has avoided or stopped doing things you loved outdoors altogether because of the hot muggy weather and will eventually leave the state … or you’re stuck because there’s no way you can afford to move out.

Or unless you are “forced” to leave the state as part of a nasty divorce proceeding. (Which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. “Thank you Jesus!” And I really mean it.)

laketohoBut to be honest, in April – at least – some parts of Florida aren’t too bad. I ended up doing three kayaking trips on Lake Tohopekaliga. (At right.) I set out for my  first kayaking – 90 minutes or so – from Big Toho Marina, on the north end of the lake. I wrote later, “It’s a big-ass lake, some 22,000 acres, about the size of Lake Oconee in GA, and four times the size of Lake MacIntosh” in Peachtree City. “Fortunately the locals refer to it as ‘Lake Toho.’ As in ‘Big Toho Marina,’ where I finally found a boat ramp.” (It took awhile to find a put-in that first early-Monday-morning.)

The next day – Tuesday, April 13 – I did two trips. The first was out of the Big Toho Marina, again. Then after a snack and bladder break, I went out for a second kayaking, this time out of the Granada Public boat ramp. (South of Kissimmee and about at mid-lake of “Lake Toho.”)

Then on the way home – Thursday, April 15, after a traffic-choked drive heading north by west over to Chiefland – I kayaked an hour or so on the Suwannee River. I had planned to put in Friday morning at the free park right by the water in Fanning Springs, but here’s a traveler’s alert.* That “free park” is now closed; to put in there I’d have to go next door into Fanning Springs State Park, which charges six dollars “per vehicle.” So I said the heck with that, and – with the Google app on my phone – I found the Log Landing public boat ramp. It’s 14 miles and some 20 minutes north of Fanning Springs, via County Road 341. And had a pleasant paddle… 

*   *   *   *

So all in all it was a pleasant four days. it was nice being with family again, exchanging memories from long ago, and occasionally hearing a family secret I didn’t know before. And the kayaking itself was a great change of pace from the three kayakable lakes around Peachtree City. Still – and as Thomas Wolfe once wrote – “You Can’t Go Home Again.” The question is, what happens when you don’t want to “go home?” When you don’t want to go back and revisit all the trials and tribulations you had to go through to get where you are today? When right now you’re “turning 70 in 2021* – and still think the best is yet to come?”

Besides, who’d want to exchange the cheek by jowl living-in-Florida for your own private God’s Little Acre, amid the piney woodlands 20 minutes east of Peachtree City? And where you have your own private mini-herd of deer, coming through your yard in the mornings?

*   *   *   *

The “fuller story” on the glitch is below, at the bottom of these notes. 

I took the photos for this post, of which one survived. In the original post I added, “Hopefully they’ll stay in this post,” but it was not to be. The platform photo gallery somehow lost or deleted my uploaded photos. (The photo at the bottom of the main text showed “my” herd of deer recently grazing in the front lawn, captioned, “It was so good to get back to my God’s Little Acre in the Georgia woods.”) Which means I’ll have to do some tweaking…

Re: Brother “who now lives in Massachusetts.” He’s the one I have travel adventures with, like on 2019’s “Camino” trip. (Click on the Travelogs link at right.) He recently moved to Massachusetts – at the strong urging of his lovely wife – to be nearer to their new grandson, “Little Ben.”

Re: “54 of my soon-to-be-70 years.” The family left our chicken farm in rural Bucks County PA in 1959, when I was five. I lived in Pinellas County for all but three of the next 59 years; I spent three years going to law school (1981-1984) in Tallahassee.

Re: Tentative offer. The seller accepted the offer. Which meant that after driving back to Massachusetts at the end of the week, my brother and sister-in-law packed up their fixer-upper tools, then drove back down to Florida to get the property ready to rent out. 

Re: You Can’t Go Home AgainWikipedia noted the title is reinforced in the novel’s denouement:

“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.” (Ellipses in original.)

Re: “Turning 70 in 2021 – and still thinking the best is yet to come.” That’s the title of my next e-book. (Which I have to finish soon, since turning 70 is like losing your virginity. “You can only do it once!”)

*   *   *   *

Re: The “foul-up” or glitch resulting in this old (March 2021) post being made so prominent right now. Maybe it’s a sign from God? See for example Sign From God Meme – Image Results, including the one featuring various church billboards, including the one billboard saying, “Well, you did ask for a sign.”

Then too, the problem seems to be more of a “bug” than a glitch. See Wikipedia:

A glitch, which is slight and often temporary, differs from a more serious bug which is a genuine functionality-breaking problem. Alex Pieschel, writing for Arcade Review, said: “‘bug’ is often cast as the weightier and more blameworthy pejorative, while ‘glitch’ suggests something more mysterious and unknowable…

Also on the not-up-to-date main page: Here’s the original note, when the April | 2020 | The Georgia Wasp started coming up as the main page. Here’s the note I wrote for that SNAFU:

I have no idea why this old post – from April 2020 – comes up as the main page when you Google “georgiawasp.” Something happened on the evening of April 3, 2021, and I’m not sure what. I was writing up the new post, Revisiting March 2020, that I finally published on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021…

For other more-recent posts, click on the highest-up link under “RECENT POSTS,” above right. 

An Updated ‘Geezer Guide to Supplements’

It’s a marathon not a sprint!” (From age 70 to maybe 141. And – “Is that a sunrise or sunset?”)

*   *   *   *

For some reason this March 2021 post is now the main page when you Google “georgiawasp.” The notes give more detail on this glitch* but there are newer posts, like Recalling Week 8 of the COVID shut-down, above right. I’ve tried working on the problem but without success. In the meantime, that problem seems something I and the reader will have to live with…

 *   *   *   *

I’m working on a new E-book. The title will be “Turning 70 in 2021 – and Still Thinking The Best Is Yet to Come.” This post will be a chapter in the new e-book, and it’s based on two posts I did back in July 2018: A Geezer’s guide to supplements and A Geezer’s guide – Part II. See those two posts for all the gory details on my dietary supplements, but here’s a short summary…

But first a word about “maybe” living to 141. My ancestor William Bradford – who came over on the Mayflower – lived to the equivalent of 141 years old in today’s years. (Age 67, at a time when average life expectancy was 36 years.*) But whether I live to “141” like him, or 120 like Moses, or just one of the “seven times as many people over 100 by the year 2050,” I’ll have to pay attention to my diet. Which led to my interest in dietary supplements.

*   *   *   *

I first became interested in supplements when I flew home – from Newark to the ATL – in the summer of 2018. (After a week-long family visit, first to Pennsylvania’s Poconos region near the Delaware Water Gap. From there on to New York City, in part to “see a few shows.”) Flying back, the Southwest in-flight magazine had a full-page ad for M-drive. (A “daily supplement designed specifically for men.”)  And since I had just turned 67, the ad “piqued my interest.”

Long story short, M-drive wasn’t my cup of tea. But it did lead to some Googling. which led me to The Top 10 Supplements for Men – menshealth.com.* I ended up adding six of the ten recommended supplements to my routine. (I get Chromium and Folic Acid in my multivitamin, I opted out of Creatine, and already took Glucosamine Chondroitin, as noted below.)

First off, I read about “Boron,” which especially piqued my interest. It’s said to be good for a healthy prostate, and my brother Tim and father had both gotten prostate cancer. In turn:

The site said men with high boron levels are “65 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer than men with lower levels.” It added that American men on average have one of the lowest boron intakes in the world. The site recommended 3 milligrams (mg) a day, and added that it “doesn’t just fight cancer: USDA researchers found that this is the best dosage to improve memory and concentration.”

I figured I could definitely use all the help I could get for my memory and concentration.*

Number Two on the list was Calcium.* The article said American men generally get only a third of the calcium they need, and that “men with the highest calcium intakes weigh less on average than men consuming less calcium.” (And at this time in my life I’m going more for the “Lean and Mean” look.) I got enough Chromium – Number Three on the list – from the multivitamin I was already taking. Number Four – Coenzyme Q10 – helps manage the body’s energy. But for us older folk the only way to “get back up to youthful levels” is a supplement:

Recent studies suggest that coenzyme Q10 may fight cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease, and may thin the blood to help prevent heart disease. Q10 is also packed with free-radical-fighting antioxidants, which can slow the signs of aging.

One problem? You can’t get this in just a vitamin supplement or daily food. But I lucked out and found GNC’s Triple Strength Fish Oil Plus CoQ-10. (“Two for the price of one.” See below.)

I opted out of Number Five – Creatine – as “too body-builderish,” as shown below left. (It’s for younger men who want to “bulk up” by doing high-intensity anaerobic repetitive work. I.e., it’s for those interested in Bodybuilding: Focusing “on physical appearance instead of strength.”)

I got enough of Number Six – Folic Acid – with my multivitamin. Folic acid (or folate) helps blood flow to the brain, and minimizes the risk of both blood clots and Alzheimer’s. Number Seven was Glucosamine, “to grease your joints.” I had already started taking Glucosamine Chondroitin in the form of “soft chews” long before 2018. Here’s what it’s good for:

You don’t have the same amount of cartilage in your joints that you had at 19. To reverse the damage and actually rebuild cartilage, take glucosamine, made from the shells of crabs and lobsters.* How much? 1,500 mg a day. Brands that combine glucosamine with chondroitin are fine. [As noted, I take two instead of three, and so get 1,000 mg a day.]

Number Eight on the list is OMEGA-3, “to protect your heart.” As noted, I got a “two for one” deal in the form Triple Strength Fish Oil Plus CoQ-10. At 44 cents a day for a three month supply of both CoQ-10 and Omega-3s, that was a pretty good deal. And beneficial as well:

Omega-3 fatty acids keep blood pressure and triglyceride levels low and the heart beating regularly. They make blood slicker, reducing the risk of clots and blocked arteries. Studies show that men with the highest omega-3 levels have the lowest risk of dying of heart diseaseHow much? For healthy guys, 1,000 mg a day. Those with heart problems may need 2,000 to 4,000 mg. But too much can increase your risk of catching a cold.

Another tip from Menshealth: “Take Omega-3 with meals so you don’t burp up a fish scent.” Which leads to a side note. I take the Omega 3 – by way of “fish oil” – in the morning. (These days a breakfast of basically a “kale and spinach omelette.*”) And still get fish-scent burps.

Number Nine on the list was Selenium, “to fight off cancer.” And not just any one cancer. As Menshealth said, “No other single nutrient appears to prevent cancer more effectively than Selenium…  It basically forces cancer cells to self-destruct.”  Further, some studies link increased selenium intake with a “decreased risk of cancers of the prostate, colon, and lungs.” As to how much, the article said 200 mcg a day, and “more when you’re sick.”  And here’s the good news:  “Nature’s selenium supplement is the Brazil Nut, which measures 100 mcg per nut.”  So I get my daily dose by eating two Brazil nuts every morning.

And last but not least, Number Ten on the list is Vitamin E, which the Mayo Clinic says is “important to vision, reproduction, and the health of your blood, brain and skin.” Menshealth added that Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant and “may help reduce the risk of certain eye diseases, heart disease, cancer, even Alzheimer’s.” The article added that some studies show that “E” also reduces “muscle damage after exercise.”  And – finally finally – it said  that most people “get just a fraction of that [Vitamin E] from their diets.”

As to why I bother with all these supplements: “Simply put, I want to live long enough – and if only metaphorically – to ‘dance on my enemy’s grave.‘” Or maybe just live to the year 2092, when I hope to be a sprightly 141 years old, with “undimmed eye and vigor unabated!

*   *   *   *

At 120, “His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated.”

*   *   *   *

The “fuller story” on the glitch is below, at the bottom of these notes. 

The upper image is courtesy of Alone Marathon Runner – Image Results. With a page (“Jooinn?”) and caption, “MAN RUNNING ALONE AT DAWN.” The link It’s a marathon not a sprint is by someone who actually ran a marathon. To him the saying was an overused cliche: “the statement has far more significance than just time horizon.” Here’s how he summarized:

A marathon isn’t easy, in fact it’s pretty awful at moments. However, the process of learning to train, having patience and pushing through dark times have made me resilient in areas of my life I didn’t expect. The saying [has] more meaning to uncover than what we initially assumed. Committing to a goal is difficult, but seeing progress is something we can never regret.

In the same way, life can be “pretty awful at moments,” but spiritual progress is the prize…

For related articles see This is a Marathon, Not a Sprint: Understanding Reactivity, on “strategies to stay well in the long-term in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” and What Does Life Is A Marathon Not A Sprint Actually Mean? “Instead of satisfying yourself with short-term goals and happiness, you start seeing things in long-term mode.” And that running a marathon – metaphorically or otherwise – “requires a strategy, devotion, willingness and balance.” 

As to the question, “sunrise or sunset?” (In the caption.) See Benjamin Franklin’s Rising Sun < Topics < Government 1991, about Franklin being 81 and feeble as the Constitutional Convention ended:

On the final day, as the last delegates were signing the document, Franklin pointed toward the sun on the back of the Convention president’s chair [and] went on to say: “I have often … in the course of the session … looked at that sun behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”

Re: The not-up-to-date main page. Here’s the original note, when April | 2020 | The Georgia Wasp, came up as the main page. Here’s the note I wrote for that SNAFU:

I have no idea why this old post – from April 2020 – comes up as the main page when you Google “georgiawasp.” Something happened on the evening of April 3, 2021, and I’m not sure what. I was writing up the new post, Revisiting March 2020, that I finally published on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021. For another more-recent post, click on An Updated ‘Geezer Guide to Supplements…’ Meanwhile, I’ll work on fixing the problem.

Re: The Top 10 Supplements for Men – menshealth.com. I just re-checked and it’s now “the Top 13.” And the article I read in 2018 has changed; the 2021 version is all about “protein and whey.” I checked an alternative, The Best Supplements for a 60-Year-Old Male | Livestrong.com. It included a section on the benefits of Omega-3, but otherwise I’ll rely on my notes from the 2018 article.

Re: Calcium, “Number Two on the list.” The morning after I posted this – Sunday, March 21, 2021 – I made an interesting discovery about my calcium intake. I’ve been getting way less than I thought! According to the July 2018 post, I got 500 mg a day – of the recommended 1,200 – with “soft chews.” But at some point in time they went off the market, so I switched to GNC Calcium Citrate 1000 mg, in caplet form. Apparently I figured each caplet had 1000 mg as well, so for years now I’ve been cutting each caplet in half, per day. (Thinking to get “my” 500 mg.) But this morning, switching an empty to the new store-bought one, I saw the fine print. The fine print said the serving size was four caplets! 

Which leads to another side note. Starting back in July 2018, I took less than half the recommended 1,200 mg. For one thing, I figured half would be plenty, and that I could get other calcium each day through cheese, yogurt or other dairy products. But I also didn’t want to risk a kidney stone, like what you can get taking calcium phosphate. (See Calcium Phosphate Kidney Stones – Causes: “A high calcium diet may also cause high urinary calcium levels.” The article also made a strong case for “staying hydrated,” to prevent such stones.) But the point of all this is that for years now, instead of getting what I thought was 500 mg of calcium citrate, I’ve been getting a mere 125 mg! Which figures out to a quarter of what I intended, and about 12 percent of the daily recommended. So from now on I’ll start taking two of the GNC recommended four caplets. (Even though I have to cut them in half to swallow, and even then sometimes have to crunch them with my teeth to get ’em down.) Which will still be four times as much as I’ve been getting, via failure to “read the fine print.” Another note: The 2018 post recommended “half in the morning, half at night, to maximize absorption.” Which I will also start doing. (And finally, I also found it this morning that the GNC calcium caplets were Kosher.)

Another side note, on “staying hydrated.” See Stay Hydrated This Summer: Kidney Stone Season is Here. (From “WakeMed.”) “With the number one cause of kidney stones being dehydration, summer in North Carolina is prime time for kidney stones.” An interesting article, and a little nugget of wisdom I hadn’t fully appreciated until now. Live and learn!

.Re: My ancestor William Bradford and maybe living another 70 years. See the February 9, 2021 post from my companion blog, From two years ago – “Will I live to 141?” That post includes a note about projections that there will be seven times the number of people over 100 by 2050.

The “memory and concentration” image is courtesy of Image Results. It came with an article that has since been removed, but I Googled “music as an aid to memory and concentration.” I found 5 Powerful Ways Music Can Improve Your Memory, including these thoughts: 1) There is a Vivaldi Effect. “According to the studies, listening to Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ can boost both attention and memory.” 2) Pop music “appears to decrease errors in spell-checking” by 14 percent. 3) Music can minimize stress, improve your mood, and help you think more clearly. And just as an aside, one of the chapters in my new “Turning 70” e-book will be about “the importance of music in my life…” 

Re: Glucosamine Chondroitin. The Men’s Health article recommended Glucosamine – alone – to “grease your joints,” but the ad for the “gummies” said “Both Glucosamine and Chondroitin are components of cartilage and can be found in the body’s tissues.”

On a related note, re: “glucosamine, made from the shells of crabs and lobsters.” At some point in the recent COVID pandemic, Walmart no longer offered Glucosamine Chondroitin in the form of “Spring Valley Glucosamine Chondroitin Soft Chews.” I had to search for alternatives, some of which – in the liquid form – were rather disgusting. Eventually I settled on Doctor’s Best Glucosamine Chondroitin Msm capsules, since they didn’t have to be refrigerated after opening. But eventually the soft chews made a come-back, and so for the time being the capsules can “supplement the supplement.” 

Re: The “kale and spinach omelette,” and still getting fish-scent burps. Those fish-burps are usually gone by my second cup of coffee. And technically an omelette is “a dish made from beaten eggs” – plural – “fried with butter or oil in a frying pan (without stirring as in scrambled egg).” But I figured I had to “dumb it down,” like Moses and Jesus had to do, to get a point across. So: I breakfast on one egg, which I scramble in a glass bowl, along with portions of kale and spinach. (In frozen packages from Walmart, at a dollar apiece.) I add to that some wheat germ and flax seed, with “dots” of brick cheese, usually pepper jack. But I no longer add a link of turkey sausage…

Re: “Undimmed eye and vigor unabated.” The link is to Deuteronomy 34:7. In the English Standard Version: “Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated.” See also Live until 120 – Wikipedia, about the Jewish blessing said to come from Genesis 6:3, “Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.'” Which I didn’t know about until I did this post.

A side note: The context of this blessing from Genesis 6 is the “Wickedness in the World,” involving Nephilim, “mysterious beings” said to be large and strong, and certain “sons of God.” They “saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.” The passage on “their days will be a hundred and twenty years” came after that passage in Genesis 6:2. From there Genesis 6 went on to describe Noah and the flood that destroyed all but eight people in the world. Which may explain why that blessing is now considered a fixture of Jewish humor. Like the story of a man who said to his noisy neighbor “May you live until 119,” then said to the neighbor’s wife “May you live until 120.” When the husband asked “why only until 119,” the man said the neighbor’s wife “deserves one good year.” 

The lower image is courtesy of Moses 120 – Image Results. it came with an article, Parashat Vayeilech: Summary | My Jewish Learning, by Vayelech” is Hebrew for “then he went out,” referring to Moses; a link in Book of Deuteronomy – Wikipedia, has more information on Chapters 31–34. Greenfield discussed God’s telling Moses that he was about to die, which raises a whole ‘nother host of questions.

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Re: The “foul-up” or glitch resulting in this old (March 2021) post being made so prominent right now. Maybe it’s a sign from God? See for example Sign From God Meme – Image Results, including the one featuring various church billboards, including the one billboard saying, “Well, you did ask for a sign.”

Then too, the problem seems to be more of a “bug” than a glitch. See Wikipedia:

A glitch, which is slight and often temporary, differs from a more serious bug which is a genuine functionality-breaking problem. Alex Pieschel, writing for Arcade Review, said: “‘bug’ is often cast as the weightier and more blameworthy pejorative, while ‘glitch’ suggests something more mysterious and unknowable…

Also on the not-up-to-date main page: Here’s the original note, when the April | 2020 | The Georgia Wasp started coming up as the main page. Here’s the note I wrote for that SNAFU:

I have no idea why this old post – from April 2020 – comes up as the main page when you Google “georgiawasp.” Something happened on the evening of April 3, 2021, and I’m not sure what. I was writing up the new post, Revisiting March 2020, that I finally published on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021…

For other more-recent posts, click on the highest-up link under “RECENT POSTS,” above right. 

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Some “remembrances” on better times…

One such “remembrance” – about an adventure in old age: Hiking the Camino in Spain…

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I did my last post on June 6, almost three weeks ago. (“Random thoughts (on ‘Socialism,’ etc.“)

It started off with a note that we were then in the “12th full week of Covid-19,” and that we also had to process the George Floyd protests. (Based on his May 26 death.) So I proceeded to remember back to a May 24 post, a “hark back … to This time last year – in Jerusalem!

Which was – as I noted – most likely “an exercise in escapism.” That is, a “mental diversion from unpleasant or boring aspects of daily life.” Another note: “Escapism may be used to occupy one’s self away from persistent feelings of depression or general sadness.”

Or when the world as we know it seems to be “Going to hell in a handbasket.”

So here we go again. This time I’m harking back to another variation on a theme, back to 2017’s post Last year at this time. Which in turn went back to one year earlier. Here’s what I wrote:

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Stephen Dobert standing on rock near False Summit looking south toward Skagway, Alaska.Last year at this time [June 2016] I was training for a four-day “hike” on the Chilkoot Trail.* ([D]eservedly known as the “meanest 33 miles in history,” and illustrated at right.)

I was also getting ready – last year at this time – to canoe 440 miles down the Yukon River, in Canada.* That canoe-trip started three or four days after the hike, and took 13 days.

This year at this time [2017] I’m in training to hike 450 miles in 30 days on the Camino de Santiago, in Spain, in September.

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I made it to Spain in September, 2017, and have now hiked the Camino de Santiago twice. Once in 2017, from Pamplona, and again last September (2019), from Porto, in Portugal. (Where Port wine comes from.) And by the way, we’re now in our 15th full week of “the Covid.” (Also BTW, for an explanation of the asterisks after “Chilkoot” and “Canada” in the rehash above, see the full post.)

Which brings up the fact that before the Covid struck, I’d hoped – this next September, 2020 – to go back overseas. Back to either Israel or Spain, for yet another pilgrimage. But it was not to be. Instead, my “adventurous brother” – from Utah – just came up with what could be the only viable alternative. The idea of canoeing five days or so down the “lower” Missouri River. (Basically retracing the Lewis and Clark Expedition as they were heading back home from the Pacific, in the late summer of 1806, memorialized above left.)

Accordingly I’d planned to do a “before” post, with preliminary information on the trip. But that will take some time, and a new post is way overdue. So instead I’ll present this and other  “Remembrance(s) of Thing Past, in the form of 2018’s Last year the Meseta, next year “Porto.”

That post has a lot of details on what my brother and I experienced on October 4, 2017. We got into León, in northwest Spain, “for our second one-day break after 20 days of hiking:”

The good news was that once we reached León, we had to switch from hiking to bicycling. (We were running out of time.)  The bad news?  That change just led to “a different kind of hell.” (From Dorothy Parker’s famous quote, “What fresh hell is this?”  In our case, it only meant a change in where we got sore…)

The other good news? We were finally done with the Meseta part of the hike. That is, hiking through the “Meseta Central plateau part of Spain – and it’s dry, dusty and hot. In fact, it’s the part that some people recommend Camino pilgrims skip.  (If they want to be all ‘wussified.’)”

So by October 4, 2017, we’d hiked 250 miles from Pamplona for 20 days, and got to León. And aside from taking a day off in León, we rented two 15-speed mountain bikes. “With them we covered the remaining 200 miles to Santiago de Compostela in seven days. Even though neither of us had ridden a bike in 40 or so years…”

Which is why it wasn’t really surprising “when my right handlebar took out – smashed the heck out of – the side-view mirror of some poor slob’s nice new car,” heading out of Leon. And in a second mishap I literally “ran my ass into a ditch.” (See “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited.)

Those were some great times. (As shown at right.)

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But getting back to 2017’s Last year at this time. That post spoke of the the idea of “65 being the new 30.” (Or as just checked, of 70 is the New 50. Whatever. I plan on being around a while.) And on my then-just-turning 65, and so being eligible for Medicare. I noted that either way:

There’s a lot of living left to do after age 60…

Or after age 69 for that matter. And to help make that happen – and maybe get a date with Christie Brinkley – I did the posts A Geezer’s guide to supplements, Part I and Part II

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Christie Brinkley: Still Stunning in a Swimsuit at 60!

Or “Yours truly at 69” – come this next July, 2020…

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The upper image is courtesy of Pilgrimage – Image Results. And no, that’s not a picture of me. The image goes with an article, An Ancient Religious Pilgrimage That Now Draws The Secular (NPR), about the Camino: “A 1200-year-old European pilgrimage route is experiencing a revival. In recent years, hundreds of thousands of modern-day pilgrims have followed in the footsteps of their medieval forebears, trekking across France to the Spanish coastal city of Santiago de Compostela.”

Another thing about the “Chilkoot.” I use quote marks because – all things considered – it’s not really a “trail” at all, “it’s one big frikkin’ pile of rocks after another.” Except for the glaciers of course…

Re: “Remembrance of things past.” That’s an alternative title to the novel In Search of Lost Time, “in seven volumes, written by Marcel Proust (1871–1922).” See Wikipedia:

‘In Search of Lost Time’ follows the narrator’s recollections of childhood and experiences into adulthood during late 19th century to early 20th century aristocratic France, while reflecting on the loss of time and lack of meaning to the world.

Hmmm. It seems that some things never change. For some gloomy people anyway…

Re: “65 is the new 30.” There seem to be a lot of variations, but see my posts, On RABBIT – and “60 is the new 30″ – (Part I) and On RABBIT – and “60 is the new 30” – (Part II)

I borrowed the lower image from 2017’s Last year at this time. You can also see “her” at the posts A Geezer’s guide to supplements, Part I and Part II.