Category Archives: Nostalgia reviews

Remembering the Okefenokee…

An “alligator mississippiensis,” prevalent in the Okefenokee Swamp – where I kayaked – twice

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Okefenokeelocatormap.pngThis May I’ll be making a two-week pilgrimage to Jerusalem (As part of a local church group.)  Which makes this a great time to remember some past pilgrimages.  Like my two separate overnight-camping ventures into the Okefenokee Swamp (Shown at left.)

I wrote of those Okefenokee trips in several posts:  Operation Pogo – “Into the Okefenokee” (11/7/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part II (11/15/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part III (11/24/15), “There he goes again…” (5/30/16), and “There he goes again” – Revisited (5/31/17).

The original Operation Pogo noted that my fascination with the Okefenokee started – at age 10 or so, back in the 1960s – when I saw the movie Swamp Water, starring Walter Brennan:

The part I remember best was watching Walter Brennan getting bitten in the face by a snake.  In the scene, he kneels over and parts the bulrushes to get a drink. (Of  “swamp water,” while hiding from John Law in the Okefenokee.)  As Walter [kneels], the viewer can see a grinning cottonmouth off to his right.  (The viewer’s left.)  The grinning cottonmouth then proceeds to bite him “right on the cheek.”  I’ve been fascinated ever since…

Part of that fascination also came from the old Pogo comic strip.  (It ran from 1949 to 1975.)  It starred Pogo Possum, was set in the Okefenokee, and featured “social and political satire through the adventures of its anthropomorphic funny animal characters:”

Pogo is set in the Georgia section of the Okefenokee Swamp;  Fort Mudge and Waycross are occasionally mentioned.  The characters live, for the most part, in hollow trees amidst lushly rendered backdrops of North American wetlands, bayous, lagoons and backwoods.

Also, note that my original “Pogo” post was very long.  It clocked in at over 1,600 words in the main text, and over 2,000 words including the notes.  Since then I’ve cut down on blog-post wordage, mostly because the average reader has the attention span of a gerbil.  (You could Google “ideal number of words for a blog post.”  One site – Forbes – said that for one thing, “most people only read between 20% to 28% of a post” anyway…)

1445698042386Revisited” noted my second fun trip into the Okefenokee, from the west entrance into the Okefenokee east of Fargo, Georgia (In the “tagalong” combo at right;  a kayak with a rubber dinghy trailing behind.)  “Among other things I saw some fifty alligators during the first hour of paddling.”  After that I stopped counting…

I camped at the CANAL RUN shelter, “some nine miles in from the Foster State Park launch site.”  And … because it was so early in the season the canoe-only trails were much vegetated-over.  Which meant that many times I had to “butt-scootch” my kayak over a barely-sunken log, and sometimes had to stick my hand out, grab another log and finish pulling the kayak [over].  The last time I reached my left hand out I saw a patch of white.  It turned out to be yet another gator … “smiling” nicely at what he no doubt thought was a tasty new snack.

In case I’m being too subtle, that “tasty new snack” would have been my left hand.

And speaking of “pilgrimages” – and why I do things like camp overnight in the Okefenokee (twice) and fly to places like Jerusalem:  I addressed that topic in my companion blog.  See for example, On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts (The “sluts” came from Robert Louis Stevenson.)

That post noted that on a true pilgrimage – usually by and through such things as “the raw experience of hunger, cold, lack of sleep” – we can quite often “find a sense of our fragility as mere human beings.”  (And to that might be added, mosquitoes, snakes and great numbers of alligators.)  The post added that a true pilgrimage can be “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.

I certainly felt “chastened” at almost having my left hand chomped by a “smiling” gator.

1445624973384And speaking of being chastened:  “One thing I learned is that – in the Okefenokee – there are precious few places to stop and take a break…  The shelters – for day use or overnight – are few and far between.  As a result, the ol’ keister got extremely sore by the end of the second day.  (Not to mention blisters on my palms…)”  That is, in this swamp there are few “shores” to speak of.  Just a “line of reeds that an alligator can mash down.”  And where a wandering kayaker – for example – steps off at his own peril, as shown above left.

Also, one time I was paddling through a very narrow canal when I saw a big bull gator – who eventually submerged. This was on the canoe trail to Monkey Lake.  As I paddled over the water where the gator had been, I could swear he came up and nudged the bottom of my kayak.  I figured it was an accident, at least the first time.  (But the second time?)

That added some spice to the trip.

Then there was the time I miscalculated my canoe-speed, and ended up paddling – late in the dark of night – through what seemed like miles of water lilies.  (Well after 8:00 p.m., as noted in Okefenokee … Part III.)  Which led me to think, as I paddled through the swamp in the dark:  “That Monet guy can take his stinkin’ water lilies andstick ‘em where the sun don’t shine.’”

That is, the canoe only trail to the Cedar Hammock Shelter is – or was – loaded with water lilies…

I discovered a nasty thing about water lilies.  They’re hard enough to paddle through during the day, when you can see what you’re doing…  [But] in a kayak – in the dark and in a hurry – your paddle tends to grab great wads of swamp weed.  Then the paddle tosses the soggy lily-entrails – wet and cold – all about your head and shoulders.

But such are the things that make for a great pilgrimage!  (At least in hindsight…)

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SwampWaterPoster.jpg

Poster for the 1941 film, Swamp Water.

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The upper image is courtesy of Alligator – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “American alligator (A. mississippiensis).”  For more on the upcoming two-week pilgrimage, see “On to Jerusalem!”!”

Pogo - Earth Day 1971 poster.jpgRe:  “Pogo,” running from 1949 to 1975.  Cartoonist Walt Kelly (1913–1973) fell ill in 1972, and was unable to continue the strip.  The strip continued for a short time with reprints, and cartoons from other artists.  But Kelly’s widow ultimately decided to discontinue the strip “because newspapers had shrunk the size of strips to the point where people could not easily read it.”  Also, one of the reasons I liked the strip was because – in hindsight – it seems rather prescient, as seen at left.

I took the photograph of the alligator basking on the “line of reeds.”  (From a safe distance.)

The lower image is courtesy of Swamp Water – Wikipedia.  That article noted the 1941 Jean Renoir film “starring Walter Brennan and Walter Huston, produced at 20th Century Fox, and based on the novel by Vereen Bell.  The film was shot on location at Okefenokee SwampWaycross, Georgia, USA.  This was Renoir’s first American film.  The movie was remade in 1952 as Lure of the Wilderness, directed by Jean Negulesco.”

An early kayaking adventure (blub, blub, blub)…

Cartoon depicting a man standing with a woman, who is hiding her head on his shoulder, on the deck of a ship awash with water. A beam of light is shown coming down from heaven to illuminate the couple. Behind them is an empty davit.

A bit of hyperbole – regarding my long-ago first-kayak voyage that left me all wet…”

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There I was, in the middle of one of the local lakes around here, on a fine sunny summer afternoon.  I was happily paddling away in my spandy-new kayak, when suddenly…

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There’s more on that early adventure later, but first a note.

It’s now Lent, 2019, and so a time to prepare for Easter.  That can include “prayer, doing penancerepentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial.”  And for many people, that means giving up something.  On the other hand, some people choose to add a discipline “that would add to my spiritual life.”  (See Lenten disciplines: spiritual exercises or ego trip?)

Last year for Lent I gave up yelling “Hang the sonofabitch!” at every mention of Donald Trump.  This year I’ll be doing the same thing; for one thing, it ended up netting the Easter-day United Thank Offering a little over $25 in penalties.  (At 25 cents a violation.)  But this year I felt the need to add something else.  To “add a discipline,” etc.

So for this Lent I’ll be trying mightily to add – i.e., to prepare – a reasoned, careful, logical treatise on precisely why I think Donald Trump’s presidency is a constitutional crisis on par with Watergate, though not yet on par with the Civil War.  (Not yet.)  But beyond that, for my Lenten discipline I will try mightily to understand why some Americans still support him, without my saying, “What are you, a bunch of dumbasses?”

That’s going to be the hard part…

So hard in fact that it’s going to take so much time I won’t be able to do a new post in a reasonable time after the last one.  (From March 5, Didn’t we try this “Wall” thing before?)

So for the time being, I offer up this in-betweener.  It’s about an early adventure I had back a few years ago.  (2013 or so.)   In turn, it will be related to the new book I’ll be doing, tentatively titled “My adventures in old age.”   (See for example, On Brinkley, Clooney, and aging gracefully, which spoke in part of Seeing Old Age as a Never-Ending Adventure.)  That post in turn cited an online article, 11 Smart Things About Getting Older, and an early post I pity the fool.  (Where I said, “I pity the fool who doesn’t … push the envelope, even at the advance stage of his life.”)

November 10, 2014 photo IMG_4332_zps47e076b9.jpgSo, back to my early-on kayaking adventure…  Here’s what happened.  I was on the way back from Biloxi and a canoe trip on Lake Pontchartrain (Which led the following year to On canoeing 12 miles offshore, and the “siesta-at-sea” image at left.)  So on the way back – in 2013 – I stopped at an Academy sporting goods store and found a reasonably-priced eight-foot kayak for a mere $149.  That in turn led to me adding kayaking to my weekly exercise routine.

I did two early “voyages” without mishap, and figured I had this kayaking stuff down pat.  (Except for the part about getting in and out, gracefully or otherwise.)  On my third kayaking venture, while trying to “mount” the kayak at the Lake Kedron boat ramp, the thing tipped over a bit too far.  As a result, what seemed like a small quantity of water got into the kayak.

I didn’t want to go through the trouble of looking ridiculous or clumsy – getting out of the kayak and then back in – so I figured, “No problem, I’ll just put up with the water sloshing around the ‘bilges‘ until I finish up, in an hour or so.”  So I paddled down to the other end of the lake and was heading back home, after 45 minutes or so.  Just then I noticed what seemed to be a bit more water than I remembered sloshing around the seat.

I kept on paddling along, but my thoughts then turned to the water that had been left over after my prior canoe voyages – for example, “Naked lady on the Yukon,” which came a bit later – and how I’d been able to get that water out.  Then, while still paddling, I glanced back – a bit – and noticed that the back end of the kayak seemed to be much lower than the front.

That’s when I discovered a big difference between a kayak and a canoe.  I couldn’t get a really good view because a kayak is kind of awkward to move around in, and in fact is quite “sensitive.”  (Not to say “tippy.”)  So I couldn’t do a good check on the back-end of the kayak, which in turn – eventually – led to this thought:  “You know, I’ll bet there’s a drain plug somewhere on this craft.  I wonder where it is?  I’ll have to check the manual when I get back.”

"Untergang der Titanic", a painting showing a big ship sinking with survivors in the water and boatsThen, paddling around a bend in the lake, I noticed that the ol’ kayak was really getting sluggish and hard to maneuver.  So – discretion being the better part of valor – I reluctantly started heading to the mucky, muddy shoreline, figuring I’d better stop and get this stupid water out.  But it was too late.  I hadn’t made much progress toward the shore when – in a kind of reverse-Titanic denouement – the aft-end started sinking faster than I could paddle, and I found myself and my trusty craft sinking into Lake Kedron.

In seconds I found myself out the back of the boat, which by now had filled with water.  I tried to hold on to the two-ended paddle, and push the stupid thing to shore.  (Thinking all the while, “What?  This thing will never sink.  It’s supposed to be freakin’ unsinkable!!!”)  I also tried to find the cheap deck-shoes I’ had on, the shoes I had bought just last week, somewhere still inside the boat.  (Knowing from past experience what it’s like to come ashore in muck and mire, in bare feet.)

I found the shoes but then had to try and get them on my feet, while holding onto the paddle and kayak, and trying to push it ashore.  Aside from all that, I had a set of weights on my wrists, because I wanted to get more bang for my exercise buck, as it were.  (See resistance training.)  Plus I was checking for my car keys, in the upper left shirt pocket.  (Where I figured they’d never get wet.)  And that’s not to mention the Ipod Shuffle that I’d also stuck in the upper right shirt pocket, for use in case I got bored paddling and needed some music.  (Again, figuring that in my shirt pocket it’d never get wet.)

To make a long story short, I finally made it to the mucky, mirey shore, and not-gracefully-at-all managed to heave the thing up far enough on shore to get what seemed like tons of water out.  And that’s when I noticed – there, at the very back of the kayak – the drain plug that only moments before I’d been wondering about.  Somehow, the plug had worked itself out, and gradually, over the course of an hour or so, the little bit of water from my “opening mount” had shifted to the rear, thus enabling even more water to come in with each stroke.

So there, on the mucky short of Lake Kedron, right down the hill from some fancy-schmancy house – whose residents are likely even now yucking it up over the schmuck in the kayak that sunk that afternoon – I learned: 1) that there is a drain plug in my kayak, and 2) where it’s located, and 3) how to plug it back in (albeit after-the-fact).

So anyway, after the fact i did a little write-up – which formed the basis of this post – and sent it out in a number of emails, to family and friends.  Most people got a kick out of it, but my older (local) brother – not the out-of-state one I do all my latest adventure with – wrote back, “I don’t think I’da told that story!”  To which I can only respond:  “Hey, I’m secure in my masculinity!”

Besides, there’s always this little bit of wisdom from “Robert Matthew Van Winkle:”

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The upper image is courtesy of Sinking of the RMS Titanic – Wikipedia.

Re:  The idiom “all wet.”  See Etymology – Origin of … ‘all wet’ – English StackExchange.  In the sense used in the lead caption, “entirely mistaken,” misguided, or wrong.  The site dates the idiom back to 1909, and notes that by 1924 it was common “that humorists could use it as a punchline:”

Modern American slang is an institution that certainly merits as much approval as condemnation.  It is so tersely expressive.  But sometimes its application doesn’t fit.  “You’re all wet,” says the youth of today [in 1924] when he wishes to convey the idea that in his mind, your opinion or action or attitude in the matter under discussion is wrong.

Drawing of sinking in four steps from eye witness descriptionRe:  “Reverse-Titanic denouement.”  As shown in the main-text illustration, the Titanic went down bow-first, while my kayak on Lake Kedron went down “stern first.”  The main-text painting’s caption:  “‘Untergang der Titanic,’ as conceived by Willy Stöwer, 1912.”  See also “The sinking, based on Jack Thayer‘s description. Sketched by L.P. Skidmore on board Carpathia.”  (Shown at left.) 

The “overturned kayak” image is courtesy of Overturned Kayak – Image Results.  To which I originally added this sentiment:  “Okay, my ‘early adventure’ wasn’t quite this bad – but it was humiliating!”  And the photo-image is accompanied by an article, “How to recover a capsized kayak to the upright position?”  Some good advice:  D on’t leave too much water in the bilges.

Re:  “Secure in my masculinity.”  See also Secure in your masculinity – Asexual Musings and Rantings, for some interesting observations.

The lower image is courtesy of Learn From My Mistakes – Image Results.  Those “Results” includes the quote from Vanilla Ice, a.k.a. “Mr. Winkle.”  He is the “American rapper, actor, and television host,” born in South Dallas, raised in Texas and South Florida, “known professionally as ‘Vanilla Ice.'”  Born in 1967, his initial success faded by 1994, when he “began using ecstasycocaine and heroin.  During periods of heavy drug use, Ice received many tattoos from artist acquaintances.  According to Ice, he ‘was in [his] binge days.  [He] didn’t even realize how many [he] was getting.’  Ice attempted suicide with a heroin overdose on July 4, 1994 but was revived by his friends.   After being revived, Ice decided that it was time to change his lifestyle.”  So he knows whereof he speaks, in terms of mistakes.

Didn’t we try this “Wall” thing before?

“Memorial to the Victims of the [Berlin] Wall, with graffiti, 1982….”

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1953 Bowman Yogi Berra.jpgThere’s been a lot of talk – lately and for the last two years – about Donald Trump’s wall(The “colloquial name for a proposed expansion of the fence that makes up the Mexico–United States barrier during the presidency of Donald Trump.”)  Which led me to wonder:

“Isn’t this like ‘deja vu all over again?'”

Which brings us to the Berlin Wall:

[The] guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989…  [S]tarting on 13 August 1961, the Wall cut off (by land) West Berlin from virtually all of surrounding East Germany and East Berlin…  The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, accompanied by a wide area (later known as the “death strip”) … and other defenses.  The Eastern Bloc portrayed the Wall as protecting its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the “will of the people” in building a socialist state

East Germany also called the Wall its “Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart,” while the West Berlin city government referred to it as the “Wall of Shame.”  Wikipedia also noted that the East German government took the action because of its “brain drain problem.”

In other words, people who wanted the promise of freedom were kept in virtual prison:

In the West, the Berlin Wall was regarded as a major symbol of communist oppression.  About 5,000 East Germans managed to escape across the Berlin Wall to the West, but the frequency of successful escapes dwindled as the wall was increasingly fortified.  Thousands of East Germans were captured during attempted crossings and 191 were killed.

(Berlin Wall built – HISTORY.)    Which brings up the question:  “Do we really want to be like East Germany?  Do we really want to build a ‘major symbol of oppression?'”

Ronald Reagan – for one – said no.  He – like most if not all presidents before him – bought into the idea of America as a unique “city upon a hill.”  That idea in turn is based on what Jesus said in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world.  You cannot hide a city that has been built upon a mountain.”  (From His parable of Salt and Light in the Sermon on the Mount, seen at right.) 

To give you some background on the American take on that idea:  In 1630, the Puritan “father” John Winthrop cited Matthew 5:14 at the end of his lecture or treatise, “A Model of Christian Charity.”  That sermon (lecture, or treatise) languished in obscurity for over 300 years.  That is, until the beginning of the Cold War – which included the building of the Berlin Wall.  That’s when “Cold War era historians and political leaders made it relevant to their time, crediting Winthrop’s text as the foundational document of the idea of American exceptionalism.”  (Which included Thomas Jefferson’s seeing America as the world’s great “Empire of Liberty.”)

President-Elect John F. Kennedy quoted the phrase during an address in January 1961:

We are committing ourselves to tasks of statecraft no less awesome than that of governing the Massachusetts Bay Colony, beset as it was then by terror without and disorder within. History will not judge our endeavors—and a government cannot be selected—merely on the basis of color or creed or even party affiliation.  Neither will competence and loyalty and stature, while essential to the utmost, suffice in times such as these.  For of those to whom much is given, much is required.

(Which itself is from Luke 12:48.)  In other words, America is special, and because it’s special, all Americans have unique and special responsibilities.  For one thing, we have a special responsibility not to be “just like other countries.”  We don’t want to build walls, either to keep freedom-seeking people out, or to keep smart people from leaving the country.

Which is pretty much what Ronald Reagan said, over and over again.  And this even though, politically, he was the exact opposite of John F. Kennedy.  But they both agreed on the idea of the United States as a “city upon a hill.”

For example, in his Election Eve address (November 3, 1980), Reagan spoke of his Vision for America:  “I have quoted John Winthrop’s words more than once on the campaign trail.”  Reagan added that Americans – at least in 1980 – were still “every bit as committed to that vision of a shining ‘city on a hill'” as the long-ago people who settled this country.

Finally – in that speech – he said Americans weren’t “white or black, red or yellow;  they are not Jews or Christians;  conservatives or liberals;  or Democrats or Republicans.  They are Americans awed by what has gone before, proud of what for them is still… a shining city on a hill.”

And Reagan repeated the theme yet again in his 1989 Farewell speech to the nation:

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life … a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace;  a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity.  And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.

Which – in its way – mirrored just what Jesus said in John 6:37:  “I will never turn away anyone who comes to me.”  So whose side are you on?  Hopefully, Jesus and Ronald Reagan…

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The upper image is courtesy of Berlin Wall – Wikipedia.

The “farewell speech” link is to Opinion | Ronald Reagan’s Hopeful Farewell – The New York Times, by John Meacham.  Dated January 10, 2019, the piece was sub-titled:  “His last speech as president was about his faith in America and its people.  Our current president could not be more different.”

The lower image is courtesy of Mr Gorbachev Tear Down This Wall – Image ResultsSee also Tear down this wall! – Wikipedia, which included this from the 1987 speech:  “We welcome change and openness;  for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.” 

Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!”

The “Chilkoot Trail” isn’t really a trail, it’s just “one big pile of &%#@ rocks after another!!!

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Back in 2016, my brother, nephew and I hiked the Chilkoot Trail.  People call it “the meanest 33 miles in history,” and I found out why – the hard way.  After that adventure, my nephew – just out of the Army – headed back east to start the fall term at Penn State.  My brother and I went on to take two canoes “up” the Yukon River – paddling 440 miles in 12 days.

Once back home I posted “Naked lady on the Yukon,” on August 28, 2016.  (The events of that trip were still fresh in my mind, for one reason or another.)  I later posted Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 1 and Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 2, on September 7, 2016.

I guess I’ll have to revisit “Naked lady” in more depth later on. (Deep sigh.)  But for now it’s enough  to say:

I just got back from two weeks canoeing the Yukon River…  And the “mighty Yukon” is the last place on earth I would expect to see a [naked] lady sun bathing.  But one moment, out of nowhere, there she was…

You can see the full story in the 8/28/16 post.  But for the metaphorical lead picture above left, you’ll have to imagine no sand.  “(And no ‘Bikini Bottom,’ for that matter.)”

Which brings us back to the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!”

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The “Chilkoot” starts in Dyea, Alaska.  And Dyea is pronounced “DIe-eeee,” maybe prophetically.  (Like, “that’s what you feel like doing once you get on the &$%# Trail!”)  It ends in Bennett, British Columbia.  That’s where you end up waiting, a long afternoon, with other hikers who’ve shared your ordeal. (Of four days or more.)  There’s only one train, at 3:15 in the afternoon, so all the footsore hikers get a chance to sit on something besides rocks, and pitch their tents to dry out.

Which brings up the fact that the number of hikers is strictly limited; you have to get a special permit to even start.  And they keep track of who gets where and when.

Like on the second afternoon – on the way to “Happy Camp,” seen in part at right.  That late afternoon I was “dragging tail” and the light started fading, so a nice lady ranger came out to help me, along with a nice husky young gent who carried my pack the rest of the way.*

That’s when I experienced the phantom pack phenomenon.  It’s not unlike the “phantom limb” sensation, but leaves you weaving and rolling like a drunken sailor.

That was one time I got to “if I could have cried I would.”  (Hey, I’m secure in my masculinity.)  

Another thing:  The nice lady ranger felt so bad for me she let us three stay in her private facility – the one above right – which meant we didn’t have to pitch our tents in the dark.  (She also gave us juice boxes, like “heaven on earth.”  I could have sworn they were raisin juice, but my older brother later said raisins are just dried-up grapes. It may have been the delirium, or the relief…)

Another excuse?  “Hiking the Chilkoot Trail is sheer torture for someone – like me – with only one good eye and and thus no depth perception.”  (For more detail see the February 2017 post, On that nail in my right eye.)  So my word of advice:  If you have only one good eye and no depth perception, take it slow and easy, and be ready to let the other hikers pass you by.

More good advice:  Anyone hiking the trail is advised that if they have to get airlifted out – like for a twisted ankle or such – the cost will be a cool $28,000.00.  Which brings up another point rangers make in the process of getting your permit to hike the trail:  Watch out for the bears!

A historical note:  The Chilkoot’s claim to fame started with the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896–99.  That “transformed the Chilkoot Trail into a mainstream transportation route to Canada’s interior.”  Also, the only other route to the gold fields was through White Pass.  (Up to 1899, when a railroad was built from Skagway to the Yukon.)   So which route was better?  Pioneer Mont Hawthorne said there wasn’t much difference:  “One’s hell.  The other’s damnation.”

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

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

Which in turn brings up the question:  Why the hell would you do such a thing?

One answer can be seen in a post from my companion blog, On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts.  It spoke in part of the “value of such pilgrimages in general.”  For example:

We were speaking of pilgrimages.  More to the point, of why an otherwise-relatively-sane 65-year-old [at the time] would either hike the Chilkoot Trail or spend 12 days canoeing 440 miles on the Yukon River.  That of course brings up St. James the Greater

And James is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.  On that note, the post cited the book Passages of the Soul: Ritual Today. (James Roose-Evans.)  It said a pilgrimage – like a 12-day canoe trip on the Yukon or a “hike” on the Chilkoot &$%# Trail – “may be described as a ritual on the move.”

Further, the book said that through “the raw experience of hunger, cold, lack of sleep,” we can often find a sense of our fragility as mere human beings.  (And that’s especially true when the “majesty and permanence” of God’s creation included “all those &$%# rocks!”)

Finally, the book noted that such a pilgrimage – such ritual on the move – can be “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.

I certainly felt “chastened” after we got back to Skagway from the Chilkoot Trail.  (Although the 10-of-12 beers that my nephew and I shared – of the two six-packs I bought – helped a lot too…)  But as I said in I pity the fool, “I pity the fool who doesn’t do pilgrimages and otherwise push the envelope, even at the advance stage of his life.”

Besides, my Chilkoot Trail experience made the Happy Camp “raisin juice” taste great!!!

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To repeat, the Chilkoot Trail is just “one big pile of &%#@ rocks after another!!!

(And this is one of the smooth parts…)

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The upper image is courtesy of Chilkoot Trail – Image Results.  From a post, “What the Chilkoot Trail Taught Me about Leadership – Pt. 6,” posted on , “b.”  A highlight:

We endured miserable weather throughout the day – cold, rainy and very windy…  At times, especially hiking up to and down from the summit I was quite frightened as I was afraid we would either be blown off the mountain or slip careening down the mountain.

I knew the feeling…  Also, this review-post borrowed liberally from On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 1 and Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 2.  

Re:  “Up” the Yukon River.  Like the Nile River, the Yukon flows north, which makes it unusual.

Re:  “Husky young gent who carried my pack the rest of the way.”  My brother and just-out-of-the-Army nephew also took turns carrying my pack part of the way to “Happy Camp.”  

Re:  “But as I said in I pity the fool…”  There followed a loose translation of Ralph Waldo Emerson‘s saying, “Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”

Re:  The book Passages of the Soul: Ritual Today.  The book also noted that a healthy sense of ritual “should pervade a healthy society, and that a big problem now is that we’ve abandoned many rituals that used to help us deal with big change and major trauma.”

Re:  The negative tone of this post.  My brother thought my post “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited was also too negative; too “complaining” in general.  So I posted “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.  For example, there 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…”  But there were lots of good things that happened during those 30 days on the Camino…

But “fun stuff doesn’t make for good drama.”  See What Elements Make for [Good Drama]?

If your drama doesn’t have a juicy, complex, emotional, heart-wrenching, personal, intelligent, connectable role for an actor – it’s dead in the water.  And as a side note, don’t be afraid to inject some comedy into your dramatic scenes.  Except for Schindler’s List, every single drama listed above has more than one moment of levity.  However, there is one thing that every good drama needs no matter what the story is.  It’s more than a trend – it’s the mandatory ingredient – CONFLICT.  Drama is based on conflict.  And not just any conflict, but one that is powerful, relatable, and complex enough to propel a story forward… 

And BTW:  That hike on the Camino de Santiago in Spain took place in the fall of 2017.

The lower image is courtesy of Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site – Parks Canada:  “The Chilkoot Trail is a 53 kilometre / 33 mile trip through history and one of North America’s most fabled treks. The trail crosses the international boundary between the United States and Canada and is co-operatively managed by Parks Canada and the US National Park Service.”

On Nehru jackets, Madras shirts, and the magic of “spin”

The Beatles – at the height of their mid-1960’s fame – sporting their “trendy” Nehru jackets

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Over the past year I’ve accumulated a number of draft posts:  Draft posts that have remained unpublished “even to this day.”  So for this post I started with some odds and ends.

One such “scrap” had to do with Nehru jackets.  They were the “hip-length tailored coat for men or women, with a mandarin collar,” as featured by the Beatles – and others – in the early 1960s:

The jacket began to be marketed as the Nehru jacket in Europe and America in the mid 1960s.  It was briefly popular there in the late 1960s and early 1970s, its popularity spurred by growing awareness of foreign cultures, by the minimalism of the Mod lifestyle and, in particular, by the Beatles and subsequently the Monkees.

Note also that the word “trendy” first came into use around 1962.  (What a great decade!) 

And here’s another BTW:  Jawaharlal Nehru – seen above right and for whom the jacket was named – “never wore a Nehru jacket.”  The point being that – while I never got to wear a Nehru jacket in the 1960s (when I was in high school) – I did get to wear a Madras shirt.

Madras shirts – and pants and jackets – also became popular in the 1960s.  The name came from the Indian city of Madras, now called Chennai.  (Located near the southern tip of India, the city is now nicknamed “The Detroit of India,” with more than one-third of India’s automobile industry.)  And the “Madras shirt” is definitely a lesson in spin doctoring.

1954 Hathaway Madras Shirt AdThe original idea was a “lightweight breathable fabric suited to a humid tropical climate.”  (Like Florida, where I used to live.)  And today’s Madras is basically a check-patterned cotton cloth, in three varieties.  The most interesting of the three is bleeding Madras.

For us the story began when a textile importer – and ultimately Brooks Brothers – loved the fabric’s low price.  But the seller never mentioned that it “required utmost care when laundering because the color would run out if it wasn’t gently washed in cold water.”

As a result, “Customers were furious when they saw the colors run that ruined their expensive summer apparel.”  Lawsuits were threatened, but ultimately a solution of “sheer marketing genius” was arranged.  An attorney for Brooks Brothers arranged a meeting with an editor from Seventeen magazine, about a new “miracle handwoven fabric from India:”

In the following issue, the editor ran a seven-page article about fabric titled “Bleeding Madras – the miracle handwoven fabric from India.”  And since pictures say more than 1,000 words, they added beautiful photographs with the caption “guaranteed to bleed.”  Within a days [sic] of the magazine hitting the newsstands, Brooks Brothers was flooded with thousands of requests for the Madras items and it became an overnight success.

And who couldn’t help but fall in love … with either the dashing “Hathaway gent” in the photo above left, or “Mad Men‘s” Pete Campbell(As shown below.)  And speaking of lessons in spin doctoring:  I just Googled “spin conor lamb” and got 16,900,000 results.

Which just goes to show:  Fashions like Madras may come and go, but spin goes on forever!

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Mad Men - Pete Campbell in Bold Sportscoat

Mad Men – Pete Campbell [center] in Bold [Madras] Sportscoat…”

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The upper image is courtesy of “https://sep.yimg.com/ay/yhst-73969762682587/beatles-45-rpm-picture-sleeve-i-ll-cry-instead-b-w-i-m-happy-just-to-dance-with-you-32.gif.”  See also File: Beatles I’ll Cry Instead.jpg (Wikipedia).  As to Nehru jackets in general, see Nehru jacket – Wikipedia, and/or The Nehru Jacket Guide — Gentleman’s Gazette.

Re: “Trendy.”  The Merriam-Webster definition included a note that the first-known use of the word came in 1962.  For other “first words” from 1962, see WORDS FROM THE SAME YEAR.

Re:  “Spin conor lamb:”  Those results included New GOP spin: Conor Lamb is a secret Republican, and Paul Ryan Is Dizzy From The Spin He’s Putting On Conor Lamb’s Victory (dailykos.com).

The lower image is courtesy of Madras Guide – How the Shirt, Pants & Jackets Became Popular (Gentleman’s Gazette).  See also Mad Men – Wikipedia, which noted the character Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) was a “young, ambitious account executive from an old New York family with connections and a privileged background.”  Further, “Campbell is often shown cheating on his wife, and is not above manipulating and blackmailing women to get them to sleep with him.” 

See also prescienceforeboding, and/or foreshadowing

On a totally unrelated note:  The original title for this of draft post was “On Nehru jackets, Madras shirts – and other odds and ends.”  As to such odds and ends, see also Dictionary.com, which noted that this term – for a “miscellany of leftovers, outsizes, scraps,” or “unmatched bits” – came to its present meaning in the mid-1700s.   Some future posts will likely feature more “odds and ends…”

Movie review: “The Post” – It wasn’t REALLY 6-3!

Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and “The Post” staff get news from an old-timey (3-channel) TV…

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The Post (film).pngI just went to see The Post, the “2017 American political thriller” featuring Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee (The publisher and executive editor of the Washington Post – respectively – at the time in question.)

It brought back a lot of memories.

The film – set in June 1971 – covered the month when both the Washington Post and the New York Times ran afoul of the Nixon Administration.  Specifically, both newspapers ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court, charged – essentially – with treason.  At stake – also essentially – was the future of freedom of the press in the United States(You know, that pain-in-the-ass part of the First Amendment of the Constitution?)

The Washington Post was perhaps best known for its coverage of Watergate scandal:

[From 1972 to 1974], in the best-known episode in the newspaper’s history, reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein led the American press’ investigation into what became known as the Watergate scandal; reporting in the newspaper greatly contributed to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

However, The Post (film) covers an earlier time:  June, 1971.

That was when first the New York Times, then the Washington Post began running a series of articles based on the Pentagon Papers (The 47-volume, 7,000-page assessment of the history of the Vietnam War.  It was ordered in 1967 by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, and ultimately concluded that the war was “unwinnable.”  The papers were “turned over (without authorization) to The New York Times by Daniel Ellsberg, a senior research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for International Studies.”) 

 The Nixon Administration charged Ellsberg with conspiracy, espionage, and theft of government property – i.e., the Pentagon Papers – for which he faced a possible 115 years in prison.  And the substance of The Post (film) is that “Kate” Graham herself faced criminal prosecution, not to mention personal bankruptcy and the loss of the “family paper.”  (The Post (newspaper

An aside:  The paper had been “in the family” since 1933.  That’s when Katharine’s father – Eugene Meyer – bought the paper in a bankruptcy action.  “In 1946, Meyer was succeeded as publisher by his son-in-law, Philip Graham” – Katharine‘s husband – who died in 1963.  (Which itself offers some interesting drama…) 

The point being that Katharine Graham had a lot to lose…

I could write a lot about The Post as both film art and a commentary on how history tends to repeat(My original title for this “article” – to avoid a redundant “Post post” – was “Movie review: ‘The Post’ – and history repeating itself…”)  And I will do more “posts on ‘The Post'” in the future.

But for today I’ll focus on journalism and its place in American law.

All the President's Men book 1974.jpgFor one thing, I majored in journalism because of “Woodstein” and the film All the President’s Men.  For another, after graduation in 1976 I went to work for the St. Petersburg Times – now the Tampa Bay Times – for five years.  Then I  went to law school intending to become a reporter specializing in the law and legal proceedings.

Which could explain my focus for today’s review.

Near the end of the film, the staff of the Washington Post got a telephone call – on a rotary phone, no less – announcing the Supreme Court’s decision.  At stake was not only freedom of the press, but also the personal and financial future of Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee (U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell was quoted as saying, “Katie Graham’s gonna get her tit caught in a big fat wringer if that’s published.”)

The announcement?  “We won, 6-3!”  (Or words to that effect…)

My first reaction?  That the scariest part of the movie was that – back in 1971 – three Supreme Court Justices seemed to agree with the Nixon Administration.

And if that was true back then, what would happen today if the Trump Administration took a similar stand, from its own Enemies List?  Or worse, if Trump goes on to pack the Court?  But –  after further review – it turned out that Chief Justice Warren Burger – together with Justices John Harlan and Harry Blackmun – dissented only because of the “haste of the proceedings:”

[Burger] argued that in the haste of the proceedings, and given the size of the documents, the Court was unable to gather enough information to make a decision…  The Chief Justice did not argue that the Government had met the aforementioned standard, but rather that the decision should not have been made so hastily.

Which doesn’t mean the dissenters favored the government.  It only meant they thought the decision should not have been made so quickly.  (See New York Times v. United States.)

To give some perspective, the Times published its first article on June 13, 1971, while the Washington Post began publishing its own articles on June 18.  The Supreme Court heard oral arguments from the various parties on June 25 and 26, and rendered its decision on June 30, 1971.

Which means the whole process – from the first publishing to the government’s law suit to the final decision by the Supreme Court – took less than three weeks.  But in normal certiorari proceedings, “cases take approximately 12 to 24 months from the day they are petitioned until the Supreme Court issues a decision.”

On the other hand, the average schmuck trying to fix a decision in a state court must first “exhaust all state remedies” – which can take years – and such cases are rarely granted review.

At any rate, the fact that the three dissenting justices only felt the decision was rendered too quickly made me feel a bit better, and not so panicky.

At least for now…  In the meantime, consider this from one Thomas Jefferson:

…were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. 

I’ll be writing more reviews of The Post in the future.

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Official Presidential portrait of Thomas Jefferson (by Rembrandt Peale, 1800).jpg

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The upper image is courtesy of The Post (2017) – IMDb.  Text and/or images were also gleaned from  The Post (2017) – IMDb and Pentagon Papers – Wikipedia.

RE:  “That pain-in-the-ass part of the First Amendment.”   That Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;  or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Re:  The Pentagon Papers saying the Vietnam war was “unwinnable.”  The study also indicated that presidential administrations beginning with Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower also routinely lied to the American people as to why the war was necessary in the first place.

The photo to the right of the paragraph “To give some perspective,” is captioned “The Monday, July 21, 1969, edition, with the headline ‘The Eagle Has Landed’‍ – Two Men Walk on the Moon.” 

Re:  The “normal” length of time for Supreme Court proceedings.  See How long does a US Supreme Court case take – Answers.com:  “More commonly, cases take approximately 12 to 24 months from the day they are petitioned until the Supreme Court issues a decision.”  Re:  “Average schmuck” and “exhausting state remedies.”  See SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES, (courtesy of “law.cornell”), and U.S. Supreme Court: Failure to Exhaust Remedies Is an Affirmative Defense.  

And as another aside, Chief Justice Warren Burger also argued that the Times should have discussed the possible societal repercussions with the Government prior to publication of the material.

The lower image is courtesy of Thomas Jefferson – Wikipedia.  As to the quote, see also Jefferson’s preference for “newspapers without governmentJefferson on Politics & Government: Freedom of the Press, and/or Jefferson’s Warning to the White House | Time.com.

On George McGovern’s “KMA” buttons…

Unlike many Republicans – past and present – George McGovern actually served his country…

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It’s the Thursday after Christmas Day.  So those holidays are over, and the end of 2017 is near.  Which means it’s time to look back at 2017.  And for me especially, that means looking back at some draft blog-posts that I started this past year, but never got around to finishing.

One of the posts was on George McGovern and his famous “KMA” buttons.  But first a note:  In the 1972 presidential election, only about four people in America – including me – voted for McGovern.  Richard Nixon won in a landslide, but neither he nor Vice-president Spiro Agnew served out their terms of office.  (Agnew resigned in less than a year over allegations he took bribes as Governor of Maryland.  Nixon resigned over the Watergate Scandal in August 1974, illustrated above right.) 

Which means that my vote for McGovern in 1972 is one of the proudest moments of my life.

In case you’ve forgotten, that election in 1972 was famous for Republican dirty tricks.  (Including but not limited to the infamous “Canuck letter” that led to Ed Muskie’s tears of anger.)

But since then I’ve gotten used to underhanded Republican campaign tactics.  Like the fact that some stay-at-home conservatives in 1972 also took issue with McGovern’s service in World War II.  And just for the record, McGovern served in combat with the the 741st Squadron of the 455th Bombardment Group of the Fifteenth Air Force, stationed near Cerignola, Italy.

He was commissioned a pilot in the Army Air Forces and flew 35 missions over enemy territory.  He piloted a B‑24 Liberator that he named “the Dakota Queen,” in honor of his wife Eleanor.  (And won the Distinguished Flying Cross.)  

But my favorite story about George McGovern came much later in his life.  It happened late in the 1972 campaign and involved his confronting a heckler from the Richard Nixon camp.  (Though it was not Donald Segretti):

McGovern was giving a speech and a Nixon admirer kept heckling him.  McGovern called the young man over and whispered in his ear, “Listen, you son-of-a-bitch, why don’t you kiss my ass?”  The heckler confirmed this to an inquiring journalist and the remark was widely reported.  By the following night, “KMA” buttons were being worn by people in the crowds at McGovern rallies.  Several years later, McGovern observed Mississippi Senator James Eastland looking at him from across the Senate floor and chuckling to himself.  He subsequently approached McGovern and asked, “Did you really tell that guy in ’72 to kiss your ass?”  When McGovern smiled and nodded, Eastland replied, “That was the best line in the campaign.”

See McGovern presidential campaign, 1972 – Wikipedia.  And again just for the record, Senator James Eastland was a Democrat – like McGovern – but who supported the Conservative coalition, and was “known nationally as a symbol of Southern support for racial segregation.”  But this was when Southern Democrats were effectively Republicans:

Mississippi was effectively a one-party state, dominated by conservative white Democrats since the disfranchisement of African Americans with the passage of the 1890 state constitution.  The state used poll taxesliteracy tests and grandfather clauses to exclude African Americans from the political system.  Therefore, winning the Democratic nomination was tantamount to election.

But this was also a time when political rivals could “sup with their enemies.”  In the photo at right, Eastland shared a moment with noted northern liberal – and a very young – Ted Kennedy.

You can see this photo – or one much like it – at Kennedy got Senate assignments in boozy meeting (N.Y. Daily News, 9/30/15).  At the time Eastland chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee:

After he slammed three drinks, Kennedy staggered away with the three assignments he wanted the most…   “It’s quarter to eleven, and I’m barely able to get up.  So of course I go back to my office [and] walk in there smelling like a brewery.  Here’s our little senator, 30 years old; he’s been down here two weeks, and he’s stiff as a billy goat at 10 in the morning.”  Kennedy said Mississippi’s Sen. James Eastland poured him a drink as soon as he arrived to the 1963 meeting.  “Bourbon or scotch?” the chairman asked.

But of course Eastland’s legendary drinking – or Kennedy’s for that matter – is a whole ‘nother subject entirely.  The point is that back in the good old days, politicians still had a sense of humor.  (Even to the point of chuckling over an arch-enemy’s “best line in the campaign.”)

And in a very big sense politicians as a group were eminently more likeable than they are today.  (See also On Reagan, Kennedy – and “Dick the Butcher.”)  But the main point I’d like to make is that I wish George McGovern could have hung around long enough to run in the 2016 presidential election.  That way he could have told someone else to “kiss my ass!”

For that alone, George McGovern would have made a great president…

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Donald Trump

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The upper image is courtesy of George McGovern – Wikipedia.  In other versions of the “KMA” story, McGovern was appearing in Battle Creek, Michigan, on November 2, when a Nixon admirer heckled him.  McGovern told the heckler, “I’ve got a secret for you,” then said softly into his ear, “Kiss my ass.”  The incident was overheard and reported in the press, and became part of the tale of the campaign.  See also “George, Heckler Exchange Words”. The Spartanburg Herald. November 3, 1972. p. B8.  For an account of his passing – by Fox News – see Former Senator George McGovern, ’72 Democratic presidential nominee, dies at 90.  

Campaign trail.jpgFor still other takes on the 1972 campaign, see Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘7 – by Hunter Thompson and illustrated at left, The Boys on the Bus – and/or One Bright Shining Moment.  Also, reference was made to Boller, Paul F., Presidential Campaigns: from George Washington to George W. Bush, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2004, ISBN 0195167163, at page 340. 

And for one of my takes on Southern Democrats like Eastland , see Blue Dogs and the “Via Media.”  For yet another take on the politicians of yesteryear, see “Great politicians sell hope.”

The lower image is courtesy of businessinsider.com/donald-trump-has-been-fired.  I first used a smaller version in Reagan, Kennedy – and “Dick the Butcher,” but then used the photo as a “parting shot” in the December 15, 2017 post, On “Pyrrhic victories.” 

(There seems to be a trend here…)

Last year at this time…

Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge.jpg

“Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge,” during the winter of 1777-78, and as noted last June 23…

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Stephen Dobert standing on rock near False Summit looking south toward Skagway, Alaska.Last year at this time I was training for a four-day “hike” on the Chilkoot Trail.*  (Well- and deservedly known as the “meanest 33 miles in history,” and as ilustrated 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 I’m in training to hike 450 miles in 30 days on the Camino de Santiago, in Spain, in September.

Between last June and this June we’ve had a contentious presidential election, and an even more contentious beginning-of-the-Trump Administration.  So I’ve decided to focus on some things I can actually have an impact on.  (And that won’t drive me crazy trying to keep up with all the lies and counter-lies.)  Things like my upcoming pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago.

Which means that in the near future I’ll be starting a series of posts, detailing what I expect the hiking trip to be like.  I’ll refer to those posts during the hike itself.  Then, once the hiking trip is over, I’ll do a post-mortem, to see how close my fantasy matched with reality.

But first, here’s a look back at last year at this time.  (Vis-à-vis “fantasy matching reality.”)

In “The Sweetest Place on Earth” – posted last June 23 – I noted “the difference in those who can work with others to come up with viable solutions to our problems, as opposed to those who just ‘curse the darkness.'”  Which seems strangely prescient, as was this cartoon:

In that post I also noted the now-apparently-obsolete idea that “great politicians sell hope.”  (An idea which now seems far more honored in the breach.)  But a reminder:  In this post I am trying to “focus on things I can actually have an impact on.”  Which brought up the idea of “65 being the new 30,” and on my then-just-turning 65, and so being eligible for Medicare:

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

Christie Brinkley: Still Stunning in a Swimsuit at 60!Or age 65 for that matter.  And a BTW:  The post included a photo of Christie Brinkley, with the comment, “Now that’s turning 60!

And speaking of reasons why it’s great to live in this country:  I followed-up that June 23 post with On the Independent Voter (Posted July 5, 2016.)  Which made that a great time to bring up Independence Day:

Independence Day is a day of family celebrations [of] the American tradition of political freedom…  Independence Day is a patriotic holiday for celebrating the positive aspectsof the United States…  Above all, people in the United States express and give thanks for the freedom and liberties fought [for] by the first generation of many of today’s Americans. (E.A.)

Those Independent Voters –  “who don’t align with either major political party” – could well have taken their cue from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said:  “Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”  Which presents the biggest problem facing such “Independents:”

“One must always choose the lesser of two weevils!”

Of course it remains to be seen whether Americans chose the “lesser of two weevils” in last November’s election.  But who knows?  It may turn out that – like America under the Articles of Confederation – things had to get much worse before they could get much better…

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The upper image is courtesy of Valley Forge – Wikipedia.

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to the “hike’ on the Chilkoot Trail,” and  “canoeing 440 miles ‘down’ the Yukon River, in Canada:”  The image of the Chilkoot Trail is courtesy of Explore the Chilkoot Trail, and/or the National Park Service.   The caption:  “Looking South From False Summit, Chilkoot Trail.”  As to my experience, see On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 1, and On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 2, both of which have photo-image mishaps which need to be addressed.  As to the 13-day Yukon River trip, see “Naked lady on the Yukon…

Another note:  The Yukon canoe trip went from Whitehorse  to Dawson City.  As to the emphasized “up:”  The Yukon is like the Nile in that it flows north, unlike many other rivers.  Thus when paddling down the river – with the current – one is actually paddling north, and thus “up.” 

The quote “things had to get worse before they could get better” is one I remembered from reading The Quartet:  Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789, by Joseph Eilis. (Or “Words to that Effect.”)  Ellis wrote about the four men who “shaped the contours of American history by diagnosing the systemic dysfunctions created by the Articles of Confederation.”  (Note the emphasized phrase “systemic dysfunction.”)  Another note:  Ellis’ book is not to be confused with The Second American Revolution, by John W. Whitehead.  That book ostensibly seeks to be a Christian “fundamentalist manifesto,” and/or to lay “the foundation and framework for fighting the tyrannical, secularist, humanistic power, which has separated our country from its Judeo-Christian base and now dominates this nation and its courts.”

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

“There he goes again” – Revisited

No, this isn’t a caricature of Donald Trump.  (But this alligator mississippiensis is smiling nicely…)

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Image may contain: one or more peopleIt’s been tough getting back to blogging on a regular basis.

That’s pretty much what I noted in the last post, dated May 12, 2017:  From 11/8/16: “He’ll be impeached within two years:”

…aside from a “pain in the back,” I’ve undergone some other big  life events including but not limited to a[n eye] surgery … to have a lens put back in one eye [as shown a[bove] right]…  But now things have calmed down a bit, even if only in my own life. Which means I can get back to blogging

Image titled 10852 9Unfortunately, it still hasn’t been easy.  One big reason is my recent life events – “including but not limited to” – included the long, drawn-out process of first Buying a House, then moving out of my old, tiny one-bedroom apartment, and third moving my accumulated junk into a new and relatively-expansive private home.

So now I’m part of the landed gentry

But as I also discovered, this process continues “even to this day.”  Which means that while I’ve moved all my accumulated belongings into the new house, much of that “stuff” remains in boxes or big piles scattered mostly in the farther-back rooms.  But now I have time…

So anyway, to get back in the swing of things, I came up with the idea of looking back at what I was doing about  this time last year.  That led me to “There he goes again,” from May 30, 2016.

Since then the phrase “there he goes again” has taken on a whole new meaning.

SwampWaterPoster.jpgLast year’s “There he goes again” was about my projected June 2016 kayaking trip deep into the Okefenokee Swamp.  This was to be my second overnight-camping trek into the swamp, which “despite it’s fearsome reputation – as illustrated by the lurid movie poster at right … is quite peaceful.”

It turned out to be quite an exciting second trip into the Okefenokee.  Among other things I saw some fifty alligators during the first hour of paddling.  (Then I stopped counting.)

And I camped at the CANAL RUN shelter, “some nine miles in from the Foster State Park launch site.”   And  (Complete with its own in-house resident gator.)  Third, because it was so early in the season the canoe-only trails were much vegetated-over.  Which meant that many times I had to “butt-scootch” my kayak over a barely-sunken log, and sometimes had to stick my hand out, grab another log and finish pulling the kayak only.  The last time I reached my left hand out I saw a patch of white.

It turned out to be yet another gator – though rather smaller than the one shown at the top of the page – and “smiling” nicely at what he no doubt thought was a tasty new snack.

But now back to that phrase “there he goes again” having taken on a whole new meaning.

On a hunch – in writing up this post – I Googled “trump ‘there he goes again'” and got 4,200,000 results.  Of those 4,200,000 posts, many seem to have been dated before the election.  See for example Donald Trump: There He Goes Again | HuffPost:  From July 19, 2016, Trump was quoted as saying that John McCain “is no war hero … because he was captured.”

(For an alternate view see Torture – John McCain – Pictures – CBS News.  Also, the caption for the photo at left reads:  “McCain’s flight suit and parachute, on display in the North Vietnamese museum at the site of the “Hanoi Hilton” Hoa Lo Prison.”)

More recently, from April 5, 2017, there was There He Goes Again:  On NAFTA Trump Fails To Live Up To What He Says, And American Workers Will Pay For It.  The post – written by “Chuck Jones, President, United Steelworkers Local 1999” – noted a local plant shutdown that had “outraged” Trump on the campaign trail, but not a bit since he’s taken office:

President-Elect Donald Trump tweeted his outrage when the shutdown was announced.  But President Trump hasn’t said a thing since…  I could see it coming back in February when, speaking about what he had been calling the U.S.’s “worst trade deal ever,” and a “disaster,” he said NAFTA just needed “tweaking.”

(Jones was referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement.  See the notes for more.)  

And finally, there was this from May 5, 2017:  There He Goes Again… Trump Praises Single Payer Healthcare.  It seems that shortly after celebrating “the 1/3 passage of the American Healthcare Act” – 1/3 because it only passed the House and not the Senate, nor was it signed into law by the President – Donald Trump “sat with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and praised their country’s single payer healthcare system.”

The conservative-bent writer went into detail about the problems confronting what he thought would be positive change to our health-care system.  He also said Trump’s “public concession that single payer healthcare is better than our own is going to do more to damage our effort than Obamacare’s failure.”  (And he noted among other things that Trump’s “misspeaks” prompted Senator Bernie Sanders to burst into laughter and promise “to quote the president on the floor of the Senate when they debate their own version of the bill,” with video.)

The article then concluded:

“…we need the president to just stop talking.  For the love of God, just smile and wave.  Please?”

Which would be a nice change, and brings us back to the photo at the top of the page.

Meanwhile, maybe it’s time for me to go back “back in to the swamp,” back to kayaking in the quiet, peaceful Okefenokee, home of Pogo Possum and his gentle friends:

…despite the discomfort that seems to got along with such efforts, it felt good to finally visit the home of Pogo Possum.  To visit – even for such a short while – the “hollow trees amidst lushly rendered backdrops of North American wetlands, bayous, lagoons and backwoods.”

And speaking of Pogo Possum, here’s a bit of homespun wisdom to meditate…

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Pogo - Earth Day 1971 poster.jpg

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The upper image is courtesy of Alligator – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “American alligator (A. mississippiensis).”  I used that lead image in the post – from May 30, 2016 – “There he goes again.”  The caption used in the post reads:  “An ‘alligator mississippiensis,’ prevalent in the Okefenokee Swamp – where I’ll soon be kayaking…”

The lower image was also featured in the 5/30/16 post, and featured the following:

The lower “enemy is us” cartoon image is courtesy of Pogo (comic strip) – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Pogo daily strip from Earth Day, 1971.”  In the alternative:  “A 1971 Earth Day comic strip written and illustrated by Walt Kelly, featuring Pogo and Porkypine [sic].”  Wikipedia described Porky Pine:

A porcupine, a misanthrope and cynic; prickly on the outside but with a heart of gold.  The deadpan Porky never smiles in the strip (except once, allegedly, when the lights were out).  Pogo’s best friend, equally honest, reflective and introverted, and with a keen eye both for goodness and for human foibles.  

I wondered why I liked him so much…

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Re:  Trump on NAFTA.  See Trump Softens NAFTA Stance | ExecutiveBizTrump Backs Away From Softer NAFTA Stance – IndustryWeekTrump renews aggressive stance on NAFTA | 2017-04-19, and – from yesterday, May 29, 2017 – Trump Softens on NAFTA Stance – YouTube.  (Yet again, it seems.)

On that nail in my right eye…

(…which could have resulted in a “lazy eye” like character actor Jack Elam – but didn’t.)

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Here’s a break from Politics:  Six years ago I was helping my brother take up the deck in his back yard.  I ended up having a large nail – like the one shown at right* – shoot up and puncture my right eye.

Since then I’ve learned to manage with one good eye.  Then last Friday, February 24, I went to a local eye institute.  I figured on getting my right eye fixed, but it turned out more complicated than I thought.  (“Of which more anon.”)  Which leads to one point of this story:  That fooling around with sharp objects can indeed “put your eye out.”  That’s what happened to veteran character actor Jack Elam, shown in the top picture.

Born in 1920, by the early 1930s he was living with his father and stepmother.  (His birth mother died in 1922.)  There – in south central Arizona – he “lost the sight in his left eye during a boyhood accident when he was stabbed with a pencil at a Boy Scout meeting.”

Then of course there was that famous exchange in the 1983 film A Christmas Story:

Ralphie:  I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!

Mrs. Parker:  No, you’ll shoot your eye out.

Which is pretty much what nearly happened.*  Which leads to another valid point:  That sometimes those old wives’ tales turn out to be true.  (See also Old wives’ tale – Wikipedia.*)

But getting back to the nail in my right eye:  The thing I remember most about the incident – six years ago – was a feeling of utter stupidity.  How could I have done such a thing?  How could I have been so careless?

That, together with a feeling of being totally out of it.  I know my brother drove me back and forth to the local eye institute’s other-side-of-Atlanta offices and back, several times.  (On the Atlanta Beltway, which is normally a nightmare to drive even one time.)  I also remember that there was at least one surgery, and a host of pre- and post-operation doctor visits.

But through it all I was pretty much in a daze.

Now fast-forward six years, beyond the ongoing lack of depth perception that I had to learn to deal with.  (As illustrated at right.)  And my going on to finally adjusting to seeing with only one good eye.  Around this time last year – at the annual eye exam that I now take very serious – there was some mention of a corrective procedure that would cost only $500.

But I decided to wait.  And the end result was that having turned 65 last summer, the procedure would now be covered by Medicare.  But again, then came the complications last Friday.

The local doctor who does my eye exams made an appointment at the College Park office.  He added that I could drive myself up and back, and that the actual procedure would only take about five minutes.  Which sounded too good to be true, and it was…

It turned out he was talking about a YAG eye procedure:

A YAG procedure, or … posterior capsulotomy, is a type of corrective surgery sometimes needed to correct cloudiness of the lens covering, which is known as posterior capsule opacification, following cataract surgery…

Which was part of what threw me off during the “procedure preliminaries.”  The nurse practitioner started asking questions about my cataract, and I had no idea what she was talking about.  (I had gotten a nail through my eye!)  But in the fullness of time things got clearer.

That is, I finally got to talk to the surgeon who’d operated on and “saved my right eye” six years ago, and he had a different opinion.  A YAG procedure – shown at left – would indeed take only five minutes, and I’d have been able to drive myself home.

The problem was:  A “YAG” only clears up cloudiness in the lens of the eye.  My problem was: I had no lens in the right eye.  The surgeon had taken the lens out – damaged as it was – in the process of saving the eye six years ago.  So the surgeon’s solution was a secondary lens Implant.

The end result?  A new appointment for an actual surgery in April, complete with a thick folder of cautionary instructions and a prescription for three separate eye drops that appear to be really expensive.  Then too I won’t be able to drive home, so the nice insurance lady arranged for a ride to and from the surgery.  (Paid for by Medicare, thank you very much.)   But I feel ever so much better about this procedure.  If it’s going to be this complicated – I’ll have to tape a plastic shield over my right eye at night, to prevent “inadvertent rubbing” – it’s got to be worthwhile.

Of course I know I’ll get more nervous as the time for the surgery gets closer, but maybe – just maybe – I’ll then be able to see out of both eyes, and have some depth perception.

Also “of course,” there was and is a simple solution that could have prevented all this rigamarole:  Always wear safety glasses,* no matter how dorky they look…

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The upper image is courtesy of Jack Elamlostcoastoutpost.com.  The photo of Elam was part of an article – “GROWING OLD UNGRACEFULLY: The Good, the Bad and the Awesome” – which was in turn a trbute to “Spaghetti Westerns.”  (Referring to the broad subgenre of Western films that emerged in the mid-1960s in the wake of Sergio Leone‘s film-making style…  The term was used by American critics [because they] were produced and directed by Italians.”)  

And a BTW:  The original title for this post was”Yes, ‘you could put your eye out!'”

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to the “large nail – like the one shown at right:”   I’ve kept the actual offending large nail “even to this day,” but was unable to upload a photo of it in time for publication.  Note that the nail image as used is courtesy of additionally 16 Penny Nails Home Depot moreover 10 X 3 1 8 In 12 Penny …nikecuador.com.  I believe the actual offending nail is a “12 penny;” at any rate, it is some 3 and 3/4 inches long, bent and rusty.

Re:  The 1983 film, A Christmas Story.  Wikipedia noted that Ralphie ended up getting the gun, but:

Ralphie takes the gun outside and fires it at a target perched on a metal sign in the backyard. However, the BB ricochets back at Ralphie and knocks his glasses off.  While searching for them, thinking he has indeed shot his eye out, Ralphie accidentally steps on his glasses and breaks them.  In order to cover for the fact that he accidentally broke his glasses, Ralphie tells his mother that a falling icicle was responsible for the accident.  His mother, not having seen what actually happened, believes him.

On that note, the “Ralphie-with-a-BB-gun” photo is courtesy of The Lance : Christmas Classic Movie Review: A Christmas Storyfunny-pictures.picphotos.net.

Re:  Old wives’ tale.  Wikipedia noted that such “‘tales’ are considered superstition, folklore or unverified claims with exaggerated and/or inaccurate details.  Old wives’ tales often center on women’s traditional concerns, such as pregnancy, puberty, social relations, health, herbalism and nutrition.”  The article includes a list of such sayings, such as:  “Swimming with full stomach causes cramps and [you] should wait an hour after eating before swimming;”  “Don’t make silly faces or it will make the silly face permanent;”  and “Shaving makes the hair grow back thicker.”

Re: Depth perception.  That lack turned out to be a problem when I was climbing “one big pile of &^%$ rocks after another.”  See the notes to On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 2.

Re: “Dorky.”  Merriam-Webster indicated the term, “when used to refer to a socially awkward or inept person, is a relatively recent word:  our records indicate that it first appeared in writing in the 1960s.”

Re:  “Always wear safety glasses.”  I should mention that my “niece by marriage” got me a gag gift for the Christmas following the punctured-eye incident in August.  She got me a solid set of heavy-duty plastic safety glasses.  (See also closing the barn door after the horse has bolted – Idioms.  And a side note:  The term “niece by marriage” was provided by What would you call your nephews wife – Answers.com.  Another site, What do you call your nephew’s wife – Answers.com, posits that the “English language has no special name for a nephew’s wife and does not consider you to be related to you. You would simply call her ‘my nephew’s wife.'”)

The lower image is courtesy of We’re going to be remembered [for] dorky looking goggles … kotaku.com.au, in “This Week In The Business: The Dorky-Looking Goggles People.”