Author Archives: bbj1969per@aol.com

Getting ready for Rome – and “the Way of St. Francis…”

This September “we” will hike the Via di Francesco – the “Way of St. Francis” – from Assisi to Rome…

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As briefly noted in the March 30 post, St. Patty 2022 – and the Way of St. Francis, my older brother Tom recently proposed a new adventure. (The brother I’ve had so many past adventures with.*) This September we two – along with Tom’s wife Carol – will hike, from Assisi, the 150 miles to Rome. Specifically, we three* will be hiking from Assisi to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, by way of the Via de Francesco. (In English, it’s The Way of St. Francis.) 

Which will no doubt be as much fun as last September’s “hike over the daunting Pyrenees.” (From Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain, via the Route de Napoleón, and from there – for me – on to Pamplona and Burgos.*)

One guidebook I found was The Way of St Francis … to Assisi and Rome, by “Sandy” Brown. It said the Apennine Mountain Range is “the thick spine of the Italian peninsula,” bordering the Way of St. Francis. And that because of its “challenging topography, the Way of St. Francis is a challenging walk.” The book noted that veterans of the Camino de Santiago (like us) may compare several days walking on the Way of St. Francis “to a walk over the Route [de] Napoleón that crosses the Pyrenees. A daily climb of 500 to 1000 meters is not unusual.”

Also, “sporadic rain is assured in any season of the year.” On that note, I still have plastic shoe covers from September 2021’s Pyrenees hike. And for Pyrenees hiking in the rain, I used a cheap plastic Walmart poncho. I covered that with a black windbreaker to keep the poncho from blowing all over in the wind. The combination was both lightweight and worked well.

Finally, the Sandy Brown guidebook said the region near the Francis trail remains green pretty much year-round. And that the trail offers breathtaking views from lofty mountain ridges, along with “long walks in ancient forests.” However, it’s also important for hikers “to plan and prepare well for the challenges ahead.” Which is good advice for any such adventure.

But first I have to get to Rome, and from there to Assisi. Which means finding an affordable flight, then booking a room, then getting from Rome airport to that room, and from there getting up to meet Tom and Carol in Assisi. (They’ll be flying in before me and doing some sightseeing up in northern Italy.) Which means this post will be devoted to some initial research.

So now for that first two days in Rome, after flying in. That is, before booking a flight, I booked a room at the “Biancagiulia Bed and Breakfast near Rome Termini Station.” Because Tom and Carol will be arriving early and doing some touristy stuff up in the northern part of Italy, I’ll meet up with them in Assisi near the end of August, 2022.

Which means I have to plan on either a bus or a train from Rome, which is why I picked Biancagiulia. It’s a four or five minute walk from there to both the central bus and train stations. “Termini is also the main hub for public transport inside Rome,” not to mention several museums nearby, and a place called LET IT BEER, Roma. (“Piazza delle Crociate, 26/28, 00162 Roma.”) One reviewer said of the latter, “Hard to find, but worth it. small live music joint. was there on a sunday, not many people, but a well playing local blues band. and of course: cpold beer.”

That “cpold beer” must have been really good. As far as finding the place, I’ll do some assiduous Google-mapping before I go, just like for my May 2019 pilgrimage to Jerusalem. And how I found the BEERBAZAAR JERUSALEM my first full day there. (On Jaffa Street. See This time last year – in Jerusalem!) Anyway, after checking both options, the bus from Rome to Assisi seems preferable to the train. The price is cheap – a mere $13 – and only takes three hours or so. The only downside? A departure time of 5:30 in the morning.

I saw from the link Rome → Assisi Bus: from $12 | FlixBus | Busbud, that the bus will leave Tiburtina bus station. (Rome Forum – Tripadvisor clarifies that it’s actually the “Largo Guido Mazzoni, next to the Roma Tiburtina train station.”) As for “Let It Beer Roma,” it’s said to be a two-minute walk from the station. I won’t be stopping there at 5:00 in the morning, but I would want to check the station the afternoon before, just to make sure I’m at the right place.

Google Maps also shows that the bus will arrive, at 8:30 a.m., at the Piazza San Pietro Assisi. The town of Assisi itself is much smaller than Rome, and it’s a mere three-minute walk from the station to the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, the town’s main attraction. (For us pilgrims anyway.) Assisi spreads out more toward the southeast, and I didn’t see any McDonald’s, but there is a quaint-looking Ristorante Bar San Francesco on the way. (Francesco, not Francisco.)

So now what I have to do is find an affordable flight. The two best choices for me are Delta and Turkish Airlines. I’d prefer Delta, both to support local business and earn SkyMiles®. But the cheapest Delta “Basic” flight doesn’t give SkyMiles, and it’s also non-refundable and non-changeable. (Not without a hefty penalty anyway.) So the cheapest feasible Delta flight hovers around $1,200, but I remember seeing a Turkish Airline flight for roughly half that. (Some weeks ago, and with a seven-hour layover in Istanbul.) And by the way, I flew “Turkish” to Israel in May 2019 and was reasonably impressed with their service. In the meantime I’ll meditate on that goal of reaching the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, and from there walking the 150 miles to Rome…

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The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, starting point for a 150-mile pilgrim hike…

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The upper image is courtesy of Way Of St Francis Pilgrimage – Image Results.

Re: The brother I’ve had so many past adventures with. They include hiking the Camino de Santiago three times, once from Pamplona, once from Porto (the Portuguese Way), and once over the Pyrenees from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Burgos. Others include hiking the Chilkoot Trail (“meanest 33 miles in history”), canoeing 440 miles on the Yukon River, from Whitehorse to Dawson City, and canoeing eight days, 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi, primitive camping. (“Dig a hole and squat.”) To see more, type in the subject in the search engine above right.

Re: “We three will be hiking.” The last time “we three” hiked together was on the Portuguese Camino, from Porto – where they make Port wine – up to Santiago de Compostela. See my posts, “Greetings from the Portuguese Camino,” and Here’s that second post on the Portuguese Camino. For the hike over the Pyrenees, We Three were joined by Carol’s brother Ray.

Re: My hike over the Pyrenees, in September 2021. In 2017 Tom hiked the entire “Camino Frances,” including over the Pyrenees, but I “wussed out” and met him in Pamplona. From there we hiked and biked 450 miles to Santiago de Compostela. My “wussing out” always bothered me, but I fixed that last September, and hiked as far as Burgos. Tom then guided Ray and Carol, who’d never done the Camino Frances, “back” to Santiago. For more detail see Hiking over the Pyrenees, in 2021 – finally!

Re: Sandy Brown guide. The full cite is The Way of St Francis: Via di Francesco: From Florence to Assisi and Rome. (From Cicerone Guides, Kindle Edition), by Reverend Sanford Brown. Updates available at Book Updates-2017a (2) … cicerone.co.uk, or Cicerone Press | Guides for walkers, hikers (etc.).

A note on the difference between the bus or train from Rome to Assisi. The train arrives at Assisi’s Santa Maria Degli Angeli station. And incidentally, there’s a “McDonald’s Assisi, Viale Patrono d’Italia,” about a two minute walk from the station. (According to Google Maps.) Another note of some importance: In Italy, be sure to “validate your ticket by stamping it in the station’s validation machine after your purchase,” or be ready to pay a 40 Euro fine. (Nice to know.) Finally, my initial research indicated I would have to change stations three or four times on the train, which affected my decision. Tom noted later there was an “Omio” direct train from Rome to Assisi, which meant a later departure time, of 8:30 a.m., and no train changes. But last year I really enjoyed the early morning bus ride from Burgos to Madrid, starting off in the dark and seeing the sun slowly rise in the east…

The lower image is courtesy of Basilica Of Saint Francis Of Assisi – Wikipedia – Image Results.

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Looking back – on March 2020

September’s “Way of St. Francis” – or Via di Francesco – runs in our case from Assisi to Rome…

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I’m in the process of writing two new posts. One is on an upcoming trip to Italy, to hike the Way of St Francis. (From Assisi to Rome, in September, barring World War Three or something like that.) The other post will talk about how Vladimir Putin started his Ukraine campaign of Cyberwar and Misinformation way back in 2014. But they’re both going to take some time to develop, and my last post came almost two weeks ago. So here’s another “look back” review.

From May 11, 2020, there’s Week 8 of the Coronavirus shut-down. And from June 6, 2020, there’s Random thoughts (on “Socialism,” etc.) – from March 2020. I’m not sure why I called the June post “from March 2020,” but I did turn 70 in 2021, so maybe it was a sign of early senility.

Let’s hope not. But anyway, “Week 8 … shut-down” had a lead image of Voltaire, as a prototypical “intellectual recluse” who lived well enough during an earlier time of “destruction let loose.” Which seemed to fit the early weeks of the COVID, and which brought up a question: “What did people do in the Olden Days when disaster struck?” But based on my life experience, I’d say that one question you don’t want to ask at such times is, “What else could go wrong?”

Cue the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and a new poser, “Do I Need a 4th COVID Shot?”

The “March ’20” post talked about how I passed the time in those early days of the pandemic. I described my exercise routine – at length – and also about watching lectures on Great Courses Plus. One course hit a chord, on how Americans who tamed the frontier West learned to “adapt, to cooperate with one another, and to treat each other as equals.” (Emphasis added.) And that by such means – mutual cooperation and treating each other as equals – they “subdued the wild lands around them, working out ideas and techniques unknown to their ancestors.”

Needless to say, I was struck by the words “cooperate with one another” and “treat each other as equals.” To which I can only say, “What the hell happened?”

The fact is that in those pandemic early days I was “busier than the proverbial one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.” Which meant following the advice Voltaire (right) set out in his 1759 Candide“we must cultivate our garden.” Or put in another setting, “Life is bristling with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to cultivate one’s [own] garden.” (See Voltaire’s Solution to a Life Full of Thorns.) 

I also noted that I’d decided to make this Blog (I actually wrote “this post“) more like a series of personal essays. I even included a link for my own self-instruction, 7 Helpful Tips on How to Write a Memorable Personal Essay. One lesson, “Personal essays relate the author’s intimate thoughts and experiences to universal truths… They conclude with the author having learned, changed, or grown in some way and often present some truth or insight that challenges the reader to draw their own conclusions.”

I’ll try to keep that in mind, but just for “your” information: I’m retired now, and so prefer to write like I paint. “What I like,” and if you don’t like it, that’s your privilege. (On the upside, this is a great time to be retired.) Which means it’s time for Random thoughts (on “Socialism,” etc

There I wrote about the fall of 2019, when I toyed with the idea of going to my 50th high school reunion. So I hooked up with the Facebook reunion group, and “friended” some former classmates. But I was surprised to find out how many had become “grumpy old geezers.”

As evidenced by the many grumpy, whiny and negative posts that way too many of them put on Facebook. (Which is why I learned the magic of “unfollowing” rather than “unfriending.”)

Then too, for some reason “socialism” was a big topic at that time and among my former classmates. Along with the idea that Social Security is not an entitlement. “I earned it, I paid into it, and nobody is going to take it away from me!” Which led me to do a little research… It turns out that life expectancy is a lot longer now than it was when we first started paying in, back in the 1970s. The key is, we paid for our parents’ Social Security, and our children and grandchildren are paying for ours. But we’re living a full eight years longer – on average – than our parents did.

Which means that you – my typical Old Geezer high-school classmate – are getting a “free” eight years of Social Security benefits. In other words, for at least eight years of your life – assuming you make the “expected” life span of 79 or so – YOU’RE GOING TO BE A SOCIALIST! (In other words a mooch, a freeloader, or whatever other label you want to use.)

Then there were the George Floyd protests going on, not to mention the June 2, 2020 post by Jacob G. Hornberger, titled “Trump and His Standing Army.” As you recall, the Floyd protests spread across a number of American cities, which led to then-president Trump’s “warning to state governors that he is prepared to send his military forces to quell violent protests in cities across the land.” Hornberger wrote that Trump’s theory of power “serves as another reminder of why our ancestors had such a deep antipathy toward standing armies.” Which was illustrated by this bit of news: “Heavily armed men who refuse to identify themselves are patrolling the streets of Washington, DC. They were sent by the Bureau of Prisons.” 

That review – of March, 2020 – led me to think, “You know, maybe things today aren’t that bad.”

At least we have a grown-up in the White House…

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The upper image is courtesy of Way Of St Francis Pilgrimage – Image Results.

The lower image is courtesy of Responsible Leader Image – Image Results.

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On St. Patty 2022 – and the Way of St. Francis…

Saint Patrick’s statue at Saul, County Down.” His special day is March 17…

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My older brother Tom – the one I’ve had all the adventures with* – recently proposed a new one. (Adventure that is.) Hiking the 150 miles or so from Assisi to Rome.

Specifically, to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, by way of Via de Francesco. (In English, St Francis’ Way.) I had planned to do a next post on the subject, but then saw that my last post came on February 18, 2022. (Another Super Bowl (2022) is history.) But the “Way of St. Francis” post will take some time, so in the interim, here’s one on Saint Patrick, whose special day is March 17.

Patrick was the “fifth-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the ‘Apostle of Ireland,’ he is the primary patron saint of Ireland.” (The 5th century ran from 401 to 500 A.D.) No one can say when St. Patrick was born, but he is said to have died on March 17. (Now celebrated as his Feast Day.)  In Irish his name would be Padraig, and that’s often shortened to “Paddy.” In turn, it’s seen as a derogatory term for Irish men. See Saint Patrick – Wikipedia, and also The Free Dictionary. That in turn  gave rise to the “Paddy wagon:”

The name came from the New York Draft riots of 1863. The Irish at the time were the poorest people in the city. When the draft was implemented it had a provision for wealthier people to buy a waiver. The Irish rioted, and the term Paddy wagon was coined.

See Urban Dictionary: paddy wagon, about the “police vehicle used to transport prisoners.” But back to St. Patrick. According to legend, he was born in Britain but at 16 captured by Irish pirates. Taken as a slave back to Ireland, he lived there for six years before escaping. He got back to his family, studied and became a cleric, and in the fullness of time went back to Ireland. Legend further says Patrick used the native shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity to the Irish. 

One thing St. Patrick’s day is known for is drinking Green beer. Which raises the question: Why Do We Drink Green Beer On St. Patrick’s Day? That and the article The story of green beer and St. Patrick’s Day show that apparently the trend started in the early 1900s, in New York City:

It is thought that actual green beer got it’s start in the early 1900’s in New York. A newspaper article from 1914 describes a New York social club serving green beer at a celebratory St. Patrick’s Day dinner. In the article, the drink is attributed to Dr. Curtin, a coroner’s physician who achieved the green beer effect by putting a drop of “wash blue” dye in his beer.

A couple side notes: One, “they used to call beer that wasn’t fermented long enough, ‘Green Beer’ because it caused stomach issues or as they called it in 1904 ‘biliousness.’” Two, that  wash blue was, “in fact, poison, an iron powder solution used to whiten clothes.” (I think I’ll pass this year.) As to the day, see How America Invented St. Patrick’s Day | TIME:

The [St. Patrick’s day] holiday also spread by becoming a means for all Americans to become Irish for the day. The shared sense of being Irish, of wearing green and in some way marking March 17, has resulted in St. Patrick’s Day being observed in a similar fashion to July Fourth or Halloween. It’s the closest thing in America to National Immigrant Day, a tribute not only to the Irish, but to the idea that Americans are all part “other.” (E.A.)

(A radical idea these days.) So here’s to You, St. Patrick! Among other things, you and your Irish brethren “saved Western Civilization” from the barbarians. (See How the Irish Saved Civilization – Wikipedia.) All of which is a good excuse to have a tall, frosty mug of Green Beer!

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The upper image is courtesy of Saint Patrick – Wikipedia. It included the “quote” part of the caption.

Re: The brother I’ve had adventures with. They include hiking the Camino de Santiago three times, once from Pamplona, once from Porto (the Portuguese Way), and once over the Pyrenees from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Burgos. Others include hiking the Chilkoot Trail (“meanest 33 miles in history”), canoeing 440 miles on the Yukon River, from Whitehorse to Dawson City, and canoeing eight days, 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi, primitive camping. (“Dig a hole and squat.”) To see more, type in the subject in the search engine above right.

Re: St. Patrick. There’s also the legend he “drove all the snakes out of Ireland.” Some scholars doubt the legend, for reasons including – they say – there were no snakes in Ireland in the first place: “all evidence suggests that post-glacial Ireland never had snakes.

The lower image is courtesy of Green Beer St Patrick’s Day – Image Results.

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Another Super Bowl (2022) is history…

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

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Super Bowl LVI – “56” – is now history. Which means that today there are undoubtedly some LA Ram fans who think their team won because of something they did. On the flip side, there are doubtless some Bengal fans asking, “Why did my team lose? What did I do wrong?

Which reminds me of the 2017* Super Bowl, when I found myself asking that same question.

Five years ago – in 2017 – I did a post on Super Bowl LI (51). In that game, “some clown named Tom Brady” led the New England Patriots to “the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.” Which is another way of saying my favorite NFL team – in the Super Bowl at that time – blew a 28–3 lead. (“My” Atlanta Falcons led 28–3 with 8:31 left in the third quarter.)

I felt at the time that – needless to say – there were some Patriot fans who thought their team won because of something they did. The flip side back then was that among Falcon fans, some were undoubtedly asking, “Why did they lose? What did I do wrong?” And – I’m a bit embarrassed to say – I was one of the latter. Which brings up the topic of “sports fan superstitions.”

For one example, see Two-thirds of sports fans are superstitious about game days. (The article added, “40% think a family member is bad luck!”) Dated November 2021, the post noted a survey that said “3 in 5 sports fans have blamed themselves following a loss by their favorite sports team.” So if I was being weird back in 2017, I wasn’t the only one.

In that 2017 post, I had my own game-time ritual all set. However, it got messed up by the lady I was dating at the time. The thing is, after many years of aggravation I had decided, “No more watching games on TV showing any team that I care about.” That became a big part of my game-time ritual – for teams I cared about – and it seemed to be “ritually efficacious.” It seemed to help my teams play better, and was way less aggravating for me. In turn, in 2017’s Super Bowl 51, that formula worked out well – for the first two and a half quarters…

We – or at least I – deliberately didn’t watch the game on TV. The lady and I went out to a movie, then to a late dinner, but every once in a while I’d sneak a peek at the game progress. The Falcons were doing unexpectedly well. Then we adjourned to her house, and I suggested we play cards. (To pass “game time.”) Then came my big mistake.

The Falcons had been winning big, but then we decided to stop playing cards and check out the game on TV. Which we did, but then it wasn’t long before the Patriots starting coming back. At that point I suggested – rather strongly – that we turn off the TV and go back to playing cards. But the lady said no, she was “invested.” Then the comeback – or “choke,” to Falcon fans – started in earnest, so I started begging her to turn off the TV and go back to playing cards. (“Bad karma,” or something like that.) She ignored my pleas, and that led ultimately – in the fullness of time – to the Falcons going on to suffer that biggest “choke” in Super Bowl history…

But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part came when she had the nerve to say, “You don’t seriously believe that us turning off the TV would change the outcome of the game, do you?”  

Which eventually led me back to the Battle of Rephidim. That’s where Moses became the first guy to ever say, “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work!” (Like that old Bud Light commercial?) Put another way, that Bible episode – at Exodus 17:8-16 – showed Moses “helping his team win:”

Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winningbut whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up – one on one side, one on the other – so that his hands remained steady till sunset. [E.A.]

In other words, Moses “helped” his team in the same way that many modern sports fans help their teams win. (Mirrored by some fans who feel guilty because of something they didn’t do, or did wrong, or jinxed their team, or otherwise caused their team to lose.)

Which raises the question: Suppose Moses had listened to “logic and reason?” Or suppose his wife had come up the mountain and said to him, “Moses, you look ridiculous. Do you honestly think that holding your hands up like that is going to change the outcome of the battle?”

The short answer? The world as we know it would be much different. If nothing else, had the Amalekites beaten the Children of Israel, world history would be “worse, much worse.” Moses would never have had the chance to write – or at least finish – the first five books of the Bible, that “most influential, most published, most widely read book in the history of the world.”

So one point of all this is that devoted sport-fans love to think that if their team wins, they – the fans – helped out. (Through their rituals, their “lucky shirts” and the like.) But in doing so they aren’t acting any stranger or more weird than Moses did back at the Battle of Rephidim.

Of course there are skeptics. Like Faulty logic: Post hoc, ergo propter hoc « Gotham Skeptic: “It’s a natural tendency for people to make connections between events. ‘When I do this, that happens…’ Primitive people developed superstitions in similar ways.” In doing so, Mr. Snide-remark Skeptic not-so-subtly compared modern fans to “primitive people.” And by extension he compared Moses to those “primitives” as well, most likely because he didn’t know his Bible…

Either way, Moses seems to have used just that kind of “post hoc” logical fallacy at the Battle of Rephidim. “Hmmm. When I hold my hands up, my Israelites start winning the battle. But if I let my hands down, they start losing. Gosh, I wonder what I’ll do?” And as has been noted, “events that occur in succession may well be causally related, but they may also be completely unrelated.” In Moses’ case, I’m glad he didn’t take any chances. I’m glad he went with his gut.

“This works. This doesn’t. I think I’ll go with what works!” (It ain’t brain surgery…)

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And now, back to that “clown named Tom Brady.”

The good news is that in the fullness of time, he redeemed himself, at least to me. That is, after he broke the hearts of all those Falcon fans in 2017 – including me – I really didn’t like him too much. In fact, I never liked him or the Patriots all that much. The combination of the two – like Steve Spurrier and the Florida Gators* – was just too obnoxious. But then, a miracle…

You see, before moving to the Atlanta area in 2010, I lived in Florida’s Tampa Bay area for some 50 years, starting in 1956. Which means I was a Tampa Bay Buccaneer fan for way longer – since 1976 – than I’ve been a Falcon fan. But after their breakthrough Super Bowl win in 2003, the Bucs suffered a long, 17-year “playoff drought.” They “would not win another playoff game until their second Super Bowl championship season in 2020.*”

And how did that happen? How did that drought end? A big part of it happened in March 2020, when Tom Brady officially signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And then, less than a year later, he led my beloved Buccaneers to their second Super Bowl win, in a 31-9 “butt-kicking of Biblical proportions.” So the good news? “Tom Brady, all is forgiven…”

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In Super Bowl LVTom Brady “redeemed himself,” to one fan of the Falcons and Buccaneers…

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The upper image is courtesy of Rephidim – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “Moses holding up his arms during the Battle of Rephidim, assisted by Hur and Aaron, in John Everett Millais‘ Victory O Lord! (1871).” Also, this post was gleaned in large part from posts in a companion blog, Moses at Rephidim: “What if?” And Romans 11 – and “What happened to FSU football?” See also – from this blog – On football, Moses and Rephidim.

A note about the 2022 Super Bowl. In a big sense, I didn’t have a dog in that fight. I was kind of hoping the Bengals would win, both because a lot of friends and relatives have them as their favorite teams, and because the &^%$ Rams beat my beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On the other hand, as a Buc fan I can now say, “Well, we lost, but only to the team that went on to win the Super Bowl…”

The “2017” Super Bowl. That game was played on February 5, 2017, to “determine the champion of the National Football League (NFL) for the 2016 season.” In the same way, the Buccaneers capped their championship 2020 season in the Super Bowl played on February 7, 2021.

The “ritual” link is to Superstitions, a sports tradition – The Aggie.

Re: The Falcons suffering that biggest “choke” in Super Bowl history. On the flip side, two “Atlanta area” teams later also redeemed themselves in 2021-22, ending what had also been long “sports droughts.” First, the Atlanta Braves won the World Series for the first time since 1995 on November 2, 2021, then on January 10, 2022, the Georgia Bulldogs football team won the 2021 college football national championship. (Georgia hadn’t won a national championship since 1980.)

The “old Bud Light commercial.” Searching that term got me 455,000 results, See also my October 2015 post, Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”

Re: “Jinxing.” The link is to 20 Ways to Successfully Jinx a Sports Team. Among the ways: Forget to wear something lucky, leave a game early, or “talk serious trash.” The writer, from the Cleveland area, said, “I have yet to see any of my favorite teams hoist a championship trophy in my lifetime, and can recall plenty of times when I’ve truly believed to have jinxed one – or all – of them in a loss.”

Re: The Bible as “most influential, the most published, the most widely read book in the history of the world,” see Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One),  Avenel Books (1981), at page 7.

The quote beginning “Superstition is a large part” referred back to Super Bowl XLVIII, between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos:

Superstition is a large part of a fan’s repertoire these days, especially when the home team is in Super Bowl XLVIII today… Kenny Shisler has similar superstitions. The lifelong Broncos fan said he will wear Broncos gear all week long, but refuses to do so on game day… “Like the Bud Light commercials [say], ‘It’s only weird if it doesn’t work…’”

That is, Super Bowl XLVIII decided the title for the 2013 NFL season. The Seattle Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos 43–8, “the largest margin of victory for an underdog” in Super Bowl history. Also incidentally, the quote itself is from a “Gotham skeptic” article that is “now defunct.” But see also Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc (Logical Fallacy … – Fallacy In Logic.

“Steve Spurrier and the Florida Gators.” I went to law school at Florida State University – UF’s arch rival – and so became an ardent FSU fan and “Gator hater.” Not that I’m biased or anything…

The lower image is courtesy of Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl – Image Results. With an article, “Super Bowl: Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate victory as Tom Brady wins seventh title.” 

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An update on Nell Gwynn – “Protestant Whore”

 Nell Gwynn, an English actress and “mistress of King Charles II of England.”  

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A nice lady from Iowa recently asked me, “What is voter suppression?”

I hemmed and hawed a bit, mostly because I figured most voter suppression is aimed at black voters. However, there aren’t many black people in Iowa,* so I had to come up with an answer that was “case specific.” That is, I had to frame it in a way that made sense to someone with her “purer” mindset. That is, to someone not that familiar with “diversity.” Which turned out to be way more complicated and time-consuming than I thought.

So in the meantime I offer up this reprise of “Nell Gwynn, Protestant Whore.”

That idea came from a post I did in March 2015, “When adultery was proof of ‘loyalty.” I based the original post on one of  Harry Golden‘s short pieces in his book Only in America. Harry’s column “dealt with the English Civil War, the execution of King Charles I, the Puritan Regime under Oliver Cromwell, and the Restoration of Charles II.” That is, Charles II of England.

Oliver Cromwell by Samuel Cooper.jpg

Briefly, England’s Puritans under Oliver Cromwell – seen at left – executed Charles II’s father (Charles I) in 1649. Son Charles fled to a long exile in France, and 11 years later – after Cromwell died – the English people were heartily sick of Cromwell’s Puritan regime. They welcomed back Charles II with “tumultuous acclaim.”

That is, the Puritan Regime under Oliver Cromwell had “imposed a very strict moral code upon the people.” One result: People having too much fun – or any – ended up “reported by friends, neighbors, and their own children.” (Basically, for dancing, play-acting, kissing on the Sabbath…  In short, “gaiety of any kind” was severely punished.)

Then Charles II got restored to the throne, and naturally there was some lingering concern. The new administration was concerned about people who weren’t loyal to the new king, because – after all – such people had executed the new king’s father. So in the era that followed, the best way to prove loyalty was “to have fun.” To enjoy yourself, and if you really wanted to prove to the new world order that you were “not now and never have been” a member of the Puritan Party, committing adultery was the most convenient way to prove it. (Said Harry:)

If a man and a woman were on a journey and they suspected the coachman of being a Government agent, they went to all sorts of extremes to prove their “loyalty” and throw the fellow off… And so when the coachman peeked, and saw what was going on back there, he shrugged his shoulders; “Those people are all right, they ain’t no Puritans.

In other words, after the Restoration of Charles II, “there was a bit of turnabout is fair play.”

One estimate said Charles II had 14 Mistresses, by whom he fathered 11 children. Nell Gwynn was but one, but the only faithful one. According to the site below, Gwynn “met Charles when she was just 17 and was faithful to him not just until his death, but afterward too.”

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There’s more detail in the original post, but in reviewing it I saw that – among other things – I had to upgrade the lead picture. That led me to Scandalous Facts About Nell Gwyn, England’s Royal Mistress, which led me to a story about how she got her nickname.

It seems that in 1681, Gwynn was passing through Oxford in a stylish coach. An anti-Catholic mob “besieged” the coach, mistaking her “for a Catholic rival in the king’s bed.” They started screaming at “the Catholic whore,” at which point Gwyn “popped her head out of the carriage window and assured the mob, ‘Good people, you are mistaken; I am the Protestant whore!'” Whereupon the mob cheered – “lustily?” – and let Gwynn “carry on her way.”

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I did an earlier update in March 2016, “The Protestant Whore,” and other posts from last March. (2015.) That made it March 2016, just about the time Donald Trump was solidifying his hold on Republican voters. So in March 2016, I thought maybe my “adultery – loyalty” post was a bit prescient. As in looking back to 1649, when “a bunch of radical conservatives took over the government, shook things up, and made every Englishman’s life miserable.

Which naturally gave rise to a whole lot of quasi-religious hypocrisy:

One may easily see how desire for office or promotion led to hypocrisy. If sour looks, upturned eyes, nasal twang, speech garnished with Old Testament texts, were means to favor, there were others who could assume them besides those naturally afflicted with such habits.

Back in March 2016 I asked, “Does any of this sound familiar?”  And in closing I noted one of Harry Golden’s main points, that history repeats itself in cycles. Which led to the question:

“Which cycle are we in now??”

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Joseph N. Welch (at left) tries to figure out a way to escape McCarthyism…”

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The upper image is courtesy Nell Gwynne – Image Results

Re: Black people in Iowa. According to Iowa Population demographics 2020, 2019, African-Americans make up two percent of Iowa’s population. (Which is 91% white, with “Hispanic or Latino” as the second-largest racial group.) Compare that with Georgia – where I’ve lived for 10 years now – which has a black population of 32.6 percent. (While “Non-Hispanic Whites” make up only 50.1 percent of the population – a bare majority – compared to Iowa’s 91 percent white population.)

Re: Number of “kingly” mistresses. According to the link in the main text, the record for most mistresses goes to King Henry I, who had twenty-two. And the site Henry I of England – Wikipedia listed nine illegitimate sons and 15 possible illegitimate daughters.

The “hypocrisy – sour looks” quote comes from the book by Winston S. Churchill, “The New World.” (Volume Two of a four-volume series, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Chapter XX, “The Lord Protector.” See also Chapter XXII, “The Merry Monarch,” which told of the relief the English felt when Charles II took “a mistress from the people,” Gwynn, and further that the King’s example “spread far and wide,” demonstrating a “sense of relief from the tyranny of the Puritans.” (More prescience?) 

The lower image is courtesy of McCarthyism – Wikipedia.  See also Joseph Nye Welch – shown in the lower image at left – as “head counsel for the United States Army while it was under investigation by Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for Communist activities.” See also – re: history repeating in cycles – Historic recurrence – Wikipedia.

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A look back at 2021 – Some unfinished draft posts…

You may notice one possible missing member of this Presidents Club – by mutual consent?

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It’s the beginning of January, 2022, just after New Year’s Day. Which makes this a good time to look back on 2021, and – in my case – back on some draft posts I never finished.

One such project – last revised on January 24, 2021 – I tentatively called, “Flag distress, etc.” (And that’s why I call it a draft. A “place to make mistakes, to try out new ideas, to explore variations on existing ideas.”) It had to do with Trump supporters flying the American flag upside down, explained below. But for some reason I started the draft post off like this: “Thank you, Donald, for just giving me the lede to this new post: Trump shuns ex-presidents club.” Along with a note that “for the uninitiated, this highly-exclusive club is – or was – made up of five men:”

After serving the highest office of American government, five men – Jimmy Carter, the late George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama – became members of the world’s most exclusive fraternity. In Team of Five, Kate Andersen Brower [offers] a glimpse into the complex relationships of these five former presidents, and how each of these men views his place in a nation that has been upended by the Oval Office’s current, norm-breaking occupant, President Donald Trump.

Incidentally, the full book citation is Team of Five: The Presidents Club in the Age of Trump. The book itself is said to offer a “poignant, news-making look at the lives of the five former presidents in the wake of their White House years, including the surprising friendships they have formed through shared perspective and empathy.” Unsurprisingly, that group of five former presidents does not include Donald Trump. (Perhaps by mutual consent, if not relief.)

Another note: It’s now a group of four, since George H. W. Bush died on November 30, 2018. And Jimmy Carter is now a ripe old 97 years of age. (“Bless his heart,” as we say in Georgia. And see also my last post, “Will I REALLY live to 120,” as to my own aspirations in that area.)

I haven’t read Ms. Brower‘s book yet, but I did read The Presidents Club:  Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity. And in February 2016, I did a post reviewing the book, “Brother from another mother” and other ex-Prez tales. I ended that post with a photo of three ex-presidents, with a caption asking “Who’ll be the newest member of The Presidents Club on 1/20/17?”

I never dreamt that the answer would be “Donald Trump.”

Which brings us back to those upside-down American flags. I saw an example of the phenomenon just after the Biden Inauguration: “A lifted-up Georgia pickup truck with two American flags, with both of them flying upside down. I assume the driver was a Trump supporter, so I Googled ‘upside down american flag distress.’” And found out that an upside-down American flag was designed to be a signal of “Dire distress and extreme danger to life or property.” But it’s also been used as a signal of protest, which to me brought up this thought, last year at this time: “No doubt the same people now flying the American flag upside down complained most loudly about professional athletes kneeling down during the National Anthem.”

Then again, it turns out that some people back in 2017 were Flying The Flag Upside Down To Protest Trump. As in, “to protest Trump’s being president.” So I guess that’s why the call it “Freedom of Speech.” On that note, I can say – freely and without hesitation – that Donald Trump is my favorite EX-president. (And I hope he stays that way.)

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On a happier but likely unrelated note, I started another draft post in January 2021, “On the Beatles in Hamburg.” (Last modified January 30, 2021.) That started with me watching England, the 1960s, and the Triumph of the Beatles | Wondrium. (An online course offering “a fresh look at how a pop band became one of the most compelling voices against the status quo.”)

I don’t have the space to get into all that in this post, but readers who want to look ahead can check out the in-German version of “I want to hold your hand” at Komm gib mir deine Hand (Remastered 2009) – YouTube. Or Sie liebt dich (Remastered 2009) – YouTube. For some deeper background see The Beatles in Hamburg – Wikipedia. Something to look forward to!

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The Reeperbahn nighclub as seen from the side walk with its entrance lighted. Theatre marques say "Sex" and "Peep live shows".
Hamburg‘s “Reeperbahn,” where young Beatles honed their act…

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The upper image is courtesy of Book review: “The Presidents Club” (Washington Post), with the full caption:  “From left, George H.W. Bush, President-elect Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office on Jan. 7, 2009. (NIKKI KAHN/THE WASHINGTON POST).”  

Re: Upside-down American flag. As noted, Googled “trump supporters flag upside down.” And was surprised to learn this was “nothing new under the sun.” For example, see ‘Time For My Flag to Go Up’: How Anti-Trumpers Are Reclaiming the American Flag. See also What does an Upside Down American Flag Mean? – Collins Flags Blog.

The lower image is courtesy of The Beatles in Hamburg – Wikipedia. Some notes, for use in a future post: The “Reeperbahn” was one of a number of German “dives” where the band performed. Also, “German customers found the group’s name comical, as “Beatles” sounded like Low German: ‘Piedel,’ which is an infantile word for penis.” On a similar note, “the only women who hung around [those] clubs late at night were strippers, dancers, or prostitutes. Harrison (who was then only 17) called Hamburg “the naughtiest city in the world.” 

A further note: It took me awhile to find a good definition for dive bar, like the kind the Beatles performed at in Hamburg, “typically a small, unglamorous, eclectic, old-style bar with inexpensive drinks, which may feature dim lighting, shabby or dated decor, neon beer signs, packaged beer sales, cash-only service, and a local clientele.” However, in Hamburg, each such “Beatles” club had a doorman “whose job was to entice customers inside, as the drinks were expensive.”

Finally – and also for use in a future post on the Beatles in Hamburg – I got some good background from the 2009 book, Stories Done: Writings on the 1960s and Its Discontents, by Mikal Gilmore.

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Other notes, this one re: “Brother from another mother.” See also Another “deja vu all over again?” The Brother from another mother post told how I came to acquire the book, at the reception for a funeral for my step-mother. There was a bit in there about great politicians selling hope, gleaned from Chris Matthews’ book, Life’s a Campaign, as well as some thoughts on Shakespeare’s, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” As well as some thoughts on the “good old days,” when political opponents could “sup with their enemies:” Like Ted Kennedy admiring the fact that Ronald Reagan, an ardent conservative, “could sup with his enemies.” Kennedy said of Reagan:

He’s absolutely professional.  When the sun goes down, the battles of the day are really gone.  He gave the Robert Kennedy Medal, which President Carter refused to do…   He’s very sure of himself, and I think that people sense that he’s comfortable with himself…   He had a philosophy and he’s fought for it.  There’s a consistency and continuity at a time when many others are flopping back and forth.  And that’s an important and instructive lesson for politicians, that people admire that.

I added that “supping with your enemies” is something we should bring back: “We could use a bit more professionalism in today’s politics.”

Re: “Lede.” The link is to How to Write a Lede in Journalism – 2021 – MasterClass

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On “Will I REALLY live to 120?”

basilica of Moses - how old was Moses when he died
Moses made it to 120 years old, “with eye undimmed and vigor unabated…” (Deut. 34:7.)

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

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

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

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

In the meantime:

I just published a new E-book. (And also a paperback version I just handed out to 11 or so family members at our week-early Christmas get-together.) You can check out the book by clicking on Will I REALLY live to 120?: On Turning 70 in 2021 – and Still Thinking “The Best is Yet to Come.” It’s under my Nom De Plume, “James B. Ford.” And the book represents “a bet I’m making with myself. That I might just live to 120, like Moses…”

Will I REALLY live to 120?: On Turning 70 in 2021 – and Still Thinking “The Best is Yet to Come” by [James B. Ford]

Naturally I found some errors in the initial author’s copy version. Like in the paperback, Kindle Direct Publishing had to reformat the manuscript I uploaded. In the original Microsoft Word format, the paperback came out to 102 pages, but as reformatted it came out to 161 pages. There’s more on those boring details in the notes, but the point here is that after publishing the book, I happened on to a bunch of other stuff – web articles – about making it to 120.

Like How to Live to Be 120 – WebMD. Posted in 2000, the article noted the work of Roy Walford, professor emeritus of pathology at UCLA. Walford claimed that “calorie restriction with optimal nutrition (what he calls the CRON diet) can help people live for 120 years — possibly even longer.” See also CRON-diet – Wikipedia, which described it as a nutrient-rich, reduced calorie diet that involves “calorie restriction in the hope that the practice will improve health and retard aging, while still attempting to provide the recommended daily amounts of various nutrients.”

Unfortunately, the good doctor Walford died in 2004. And since he was born in 1924, that means he only lived to 80 years old. (10 years from now for me.) Which doesn’t necessarily mean his ideas are all wrong. For one thing, he suffered some trauma that most people are able to avoid. (Like me and Moses.*) “An adventurer as well as a scientist,” Walford was perhaps best known for his “two-year stint in Biosphere 2, the utopian greenhouse experiment in self-sustenance.” But the Biosphere experiment took a serious physical toll on Walford’s health:

Working six days a week in the fields left him with an injured back that ultimately required surgery. Worse, he suffered nitrous oxide poisoning because the structure’s glass enclosure prevented ultraviolet light from penetrating and dissipating the gas, an agricultural byproduct. The resulting nerve damage has made it difficult for Walford to walk.

For myself, my back is fine, it’s been a long time (if ever) since I worked six days in a field, and I’ve avoided nitrous oxide poisoning. (So far.) In fact, as noted repeatedly in the “Turning 70” book, I can still stair-step 30 minutes at a time, four days a week. but wait, there’s more!

I do all that stair-stepping wearing a 30-pound weight vest and ten pounds of ankle weights. Which is why I – like Dr. Walford – can afford what I call “splurge days.” Like the one I enjoyed last Thanksgiving – and gained two pounds. But next day it was back to my regular diet, including a breakfast “kale and spinach omelette,” sprinkled with wheat germ and flax seed.*

But back to the subject at hand: All that “make it to 120” stuff I missed before publishing. There’s You Will Want To Live To 120 Years Old, which presented a bit of a dichotomy:

Americans are saying that they want to live longer than the average American, but they don’t want to become centenarians. They want to live 11 years longer than today’s average American, but they claim that their competitive spirit will disappear…

Photo by Jim Linwood on Flikr

For myself, I’ll try to keep my competitive edge as long as possible. (With “vigorous intensity” stair-stepping and eating things like a kale-and-spinach omelette for breakfast. And not end up like the other old geezers at right…)

Then there’s Lifespan – is 120 really the new normal? From 2020, it said “it’s not enough to have a long lifespan; a long healthspan is also a vital goal and an economic challenge.”

The article reviewed a book on supercentenarians – those significantly over the age of 100 – and added this: “On average, middle-aged people today can expect to live 120 years; the elderly can expect to live to 100; and younger people can expect to live beyond 120 years.” And just for the record, I would put anyone who stair-steps with a 30-pound weight vest and ten-pound ankle weights as more toward the “middle-aged” side of the scale. (Certainly not “elderly.”)

Then there’s We’ll soon all live to 120 years old – but this is probably the absolute limit, claims expert. Back in 2014, “Professor” Colin Blakemore said the number of people living past 100 soared by 71 per cent in the preceding decade. (From 2004 to 2014.) But his claims – that 120 is the absolute limit – “contradict those made previously by researchers at Buck Institute of Age Research, Novato, California earlier this year.” (The article gave his title as “Professor Sir Blakemore,” but the heck with that; this is America.)

On the other hand, there’s Humans Could Live up to 150 Years, New Research Suggests. Posted in May 2021, the article noted a study using a “predictable pace of decline” to determine when the human body’s “resilience” would disappear entirely, leading to death. (Resilience being the body’s ability to recover from a “disruption.”) The possible good news? (For me?) Researchers found a range of 120 to 150 years, noting also that in 1997, “Jeanne Calment, the oldest person on record to have ever lived, died in France at the age of 122.”

And finally, there’s the book, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative to Growing Old, by Deepak Chopra. I have the Harmony Books paperback, originally published in 1993. The good friend who gave me the book had a marker at pages 318-319, “The Timeless Way.” That’s where Chopra noted three forces that pervade all life: creation, maintenance and destruction. And he added that as long as “creation dominates your existence, you will keep growing and evolving. Evolution thwarts entropy, decay, and aging.”

Another note: Chopra noted that the most creative people – those who tend to live the longest – share certain traits. Among those traits: Creative people are able to “contact and enjoy silence.” (Like me.) Also, they can “remain centered and function amid confusion and chaos.” Which I’ve been able to do – most of the time – during these last troubling two years or so. “They are childlike – they enjoy fantasy and play.” And finally, “They are not rigidly attached to any point of view: Although passionately committed to their creativity, they remain open to new possibilities.”

As to that last character trait (Number 7), see also Empty Your Cup, an Old Chinese Zen Saying. Which I mentioned in a post from last March in a companion blog, On “Zen in the Art of College Football.” It talked in part about how that old Zen saying sounded a lot like Philippians 2:7, where Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” As for remaining open to new possibilities, even or especially at the age of 70:

This is harder than you might realize. By the time we reach adulthood we are so full of information that we don’t even notice it’s there. We might consider ourselves to be open-minded, but in fact, everything we learn is filtered through many assumptions and then classified to fit into the knowledge we already possess.

Which brings us back to the question: Will I REALLY live to 120?

I’m betting that I can, and the bet is supported by statistics showing “by 2050 there will be seven times as many people aged 100 or older.” Since I plan to be one of them, I’m paying WAY more attention to diet and supplements – along with keeping up a vigorous exercise program. And now, you too can get in on the bet. Years from now you might look back and see just how this author stayed so fit, cheerful and young at heart. Or you might end up saying, “What a dumbass. He wasn’t even CLOSE!” Like, if I got run over by a truck tomorrow.

Either way, it should be interesting. Stay tuned!!!

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Could this be me, 50 years from now? (But with a chin beard?)

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The upper image was initially courtesy of Moses 120 Years Old Eye Undimmed Vigor Unabated Image – Image Results. That site led me to How Old Was Moses When He Died? – Crosswalk.com. The article includes a timeline of Moses’ life, including a note that he saw the Burning Bush at age 80 – also ten years from now for me – and that “if you asked someone in the Old Testament how long Moses lived, and you told them 120 years, they might say that he died prematurely.” (A note: The “Burning Bush” link is to Exodus 3:1-21, in the King James Version, the one God uses.

Re: “More boring details.” Another note: To get to that 100 pages I added some posts from this and my companion blog. But since the updated version totaled 160 pages, I may take some of them out – in the paperback version. I also have to go back and re–number the table of contents. Also, I just found out this morning that in the book I wrote about going to my grandson’s high school graduation “in 2106.” I meant to write 2016. A friend I gave the book to pointed that out.

Re: “Me and Moses.” Most people reading that sentence will say automatically, “Oh no, that should be ‘Moses and I.'” But years ago I discovered a simple rule to get the right grammar. Take out the “other guy” and repeat the sentence. In this case, talking about Professor Walford suffering “some trauma that most people are able to avoid. (Like me and Moses.)” If you say “able to avoid, like me,” that sounds better than “able to avoid, like I.” On the other hand you wouldn’t say, “Me went down to the lake,” just as you shouldn’t say “Me and Johnny went down to the lake.” Is that simple, or what?  

Re: “Kale and spinach omelette.” Technically an omelette has two or more eggs, plural. I have one egg for breakfast, but figured I had to dumb it down, like Moses and Jesus and Paul had to do…

Healthspan” is the part of a person’s life during which they are generally in good health. See also The Free Dictionary, which defines it as “a period of good health in a person’s life.”

Re: “Will want to live.” The full cite is You Will Want To Live To 120 Years Old | Advice | Travels. The article talks about the dichotomy mentioned in the main text, along with this: That nearly twice as many people (14% versus 8%) would rather die before 79 years old than live to be over 100. For one thing, I doubt that those in that 14% are even close to being 79…

And speaking of the Ageless Body, Timeless Mind book, here’s the full list of Deepak Chopra‘s seven traits shared by us (or “we”) creative people:

  1. They are able to contact and enjoy silence.
  2. They connect with and enjoy nature.
  3. They trust their feelings.
  4. They can remain centered and function amid confusion and chaos.
  5. They are childlike – they enjoy fantasy and play.
  6. They self-refer: They place the highest trust in their own consciousness.
  7. They are not rigidly attached to any point of view: Although passionately committed to their creativity, they remain open to new possibilities.

The lower image is courtesy of Moses Eye Undimmed Vigor Unabated Image – Image Results. The image accompanied an article, “Special, Not So Special, Special” | Faith Lutheran Church.

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 69-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

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

Back to Camino 2021 – Pamplona to Logrono…

Encierro de San Fermín
One thing I’ve never done – and never plan on doing – is run with the bulls in Pamplona

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Last September I spent a month in France and Spain. Mostly to hike over the Pyrenees Mountain part of the Camino Frances. When I got back home I did posts on arriving in Paris, taking the train down to  Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and from there hiking some 177 miles in 17 days. I got the Faithful Reader as far as Pamplona, on September 4. (After arriving in Paris early on the morning of August 26.)

Incidentally, the image at right is from the BULLFIGHTING MUSEUM … Plaza de Toros in Pamplona. And speaking of which, in my last Camino-post I wrote that in the next post I’d discuss more about our day off in Pamplona, “including a touristy visit to the bullring that Hemingway made famous.”

Then I said I’d discuss the 14-day hike to Burgos – with a day off in Logrono – and eventually about making my way back home, via Madrid. (On September 24, 2021.) I added:

I’ll also talk more about the drudgery of hiking, mile after mile, hauling a 15-pound backpack. From my Facebook posts most people would think all I did was drink beer, have great meals and enjoy the sights. “Tra-la-tra-la-tra-la!” But there was real drudgery involved, which seems to be where the spiritual breakthroughs happen… In the meantime, Buen Camino!

But alas, I got side-tracked. By Donald Trump and Holden Caulfield.

And here’s another news flash. In this post I’m only able to get the Faithful Reader as far as Logrono. That’s still 75 miles worth of Camino-hiking to Burgos. And Burgos is where I left the party to head for home, via Madrid, while the other three kept on hiking to Santiago.*

But now I’m back home and “back on the Camino,” if only in spirit. And taking up where I left off, I’ll start back with our first day off, on September 5, after hiking over the Pyrenees. (Eventually I’ll get to the spiritual breakthrough part.) Not surprisingly, that Sunday in Pamplona we slept a bit late, after hiking ten-and-a-half, 13-and-a-half, and 13 miles the previous three days. (A mere five miles on the first day, but it was all uphill.)

Which meant we had a late lunch…

Which brings up how they make hamburgers in Spain. They call them hamburguesas, and they usually come with an egg on top. (A “huevo,” shown above left, along with lots of fatty bacon.) Back home I try to eat healthy, which normally means little or no beef. However, after four days on the Camino – hiking over steep mountains – I was ready for a change. As I wrote later:

I finally broke down and had an Hamburguesa. I told the waiter, “No huevo” – an egg, like they love in Spain on their burgers – but I got the (silly) huevo anyway. At the restaurant in the Plaza del Castillo, next door to the Cafe Iruna.

By the way, I also had two “grande cervezas,” Amstel draft beers. Aside from that we also checked out the route of the Running of the bulls. (Which happened in July. “Dang, we missed it!”) Starting with a pen on the outskirts where the bulls are first gathered and then let loose, to run up the sectioned-off streets to the Plaza del Toros. Two hiking companions and I – Tom’s wife Carol and her brother Ray – paid six euros each to do the tour of the famous bullring.

“Very comprehensive.” For one thing we learned that they pay great attention to the minutest detail, down to exactly the right kind, color and texture of the sand covering the inside of the bullring. (Along with having to have “good drainage.”) Like I said, very impressive.

But mostly we relaxed. In part because starting the next day – Monday, September 6 – we were set to hike six straight days. (59 miles.) But as long as we’re talking about Pamplona, I should say a word or two about the Café Iruña, of Hemingway fame. At least in September 2021, the place was “all crowded and touristy.” Partly because you weren’t allowed to sit inside, where all the “color” is. And our waiter was kind of rude. But the nap we all took later helped out a lot.

There was one other episode of note. We did laundry every night, since we carried only two sets of clothes in our “10 percent of body weight” backpacks. (One set for hiking in and one for relaxing in at night. With some variation, like my bathing suit that could serve as a second pair of shorts, or underwear if need be.) And on this Sunday in Pamplona we also did our wash, and hung our clothes on the lines just outside the windows looking out onto an “atrium” or central court. Then about 6:15 the doorbell rang, as we were relaxing. The guy from the apartment above explained that his wife dropped her bra while hanging it on the line outside their window. As it turned out, it landed on the line where our laundry was hanging.

Being ever the gentleman, I retrieved it. “Always glad to help out a lady in distress…

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Leaving Pamplona, we headed for the Hotel Jakue in Puente la Reina. (“Queen’s Bridge.”) On the way we hiked up to and over the Alto de Perdon (“Hill of Forgiveness”), some eight or nine miles out of Pamplona. (With its “remarkable steel sculpture of pilgrims on the road to Santiago” and panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.)

Google Maps says it’s a 14-mile hike from Pamplona to Puente la Reina, but Brierly* says it’s more like 16 miles. (On the Camino.) Either way, we only made it as far as Uterga, some 11 miles from Pamplona. We started late, about 9:00 a.m., a practice we changed as the hike went on. (From that point on we started getting up at 5:30 a.m., mostly because of that first and only time we took a taxi. And felt guilty about it.)

It turned out there were only two places to stop for a drink or whatever the whole 11 miles. One was in Zariquiegui, seven miles out of Pamplona. The other was in Uterga, and by the time we got there it was 6:30 p.m. Which meant five miles left for us to hike in the fading twilight. Thus the feeling guilty, and later getting up at 5:30 and starting the day’s hike in the dark.

But that didn’t happen until the following Thursday and Friday, September 9 and 10.

Tom’s original plan was to hike to Muruzabal, the next town after Uterga, that Monday. But he found out via Wi-Fi – always spotty on the Camino – that the place in Muruzabal cancelled on him. (That happened a lot this trip, which kept Tom constantly checking the reservations he’d made.) Then there was the taxi ride from Uterga to Pamplona. (Where Tom made an alternate reservation.) But as it turned out, that re-assignment to Pamplona cut out miles from Tuesday’s hike. (Back home I tried to figure out exactly how many, but for now I’ll let the Reader do the math, if “they” so choose. It’s enough to say it made a big difference on Tuesday’s hike.)

And now a word about those mileage calculations. The Brierly guidebook sets out distances in kilometers, with one page generally representing a hike of 15 miles per day. But being in a small, 4.5 x 7.5-inch format, the maps are far from being accurate in scale. Then there were side trips. As an alternative, Carol kept count of “steps walked,” on her fancy-schmancy wrist watch. (Which also had GPS, which quite often helped us better find the lodging on a given night, usually a rental apartment with no “outward and visible sign” of its location.)

For myself, I kept count of “minutes spent actually hiking.” (Via my own wrist watch, a ten-dollar much-less-fancy-schmancy Walmart special.) So for the 10.9 miles we spent hiking on Monday, I listed 230 minutes of actual hiking. That system worked well for the 2017 and 2019 Camino hikes, but for some reason this year we took a whole lot more “standing stops,” especially when we were hiking up to and over the Pyrenees. But for that system to accurately reflect a medium intensity aerobic workout, you have to go at it for at least ten minutes straight. So, to make up for the frequent standing stops this trip, I’d walk a certain number of paces – after each stop – before starting up the stop-watch again.

Which is relevant to me but boring to you, so let’s get back to “Camino 2021…”

Tuesday we left the Hotel Jakue* in Puente la Reina and hiked about 8.5 miles to the Casa Nahia in Lorca. (I had it as 130 minutes of actual hiking, with “lots of breaks.”) And for the first time on this trip we finally found a place in the morning for a place to stop and get a cafe con leche, in Maneru. Wednesday was a short day, a little over five miles hiking to Estella. We were able to check in a 3:00, so I took a nap and did some yoga. We had dinner at 6:30 in the Estella town plaza, packed and busy. “Lots of people promenading, kids playing soccer, cute girls roller skating.” Definitely a pleasant dinner, but “tomorrow, a long day, up at 5:30 a.m.”

And by the way, I realize this post is way longer than I like to do normally, but I’m trying to get at least to Logrono, on Saturday, September 11. Besides, I figure on using these posts for a new book I’ll start writing in 2022. On all three Camino hikes, 2017, 2019 and 2021, so bear with me…

Getting back to the Camino, on Thursday, September 9, we got up at 5:30 and left Estella while it was still dark. (And took some wrong turns getting out of the city.) We hiked from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. That nine hours on the trail I calculated as 220 minutes actual hiking. (Three hours and 40 minutes, which gives you an idea of the discrepancy.) That day there was a long stretch of nothing. After seven hours hiking, with no place to stop and get a drink, we ran across what seemed to be a mirage; too good to be true. Complete strangers handing out free water…

The Brierly guidebook shows a “Cafe movil” some seven hours out of Estella and about 3.8 miles short of Los Arcos, our goal for the day. The one place to stop came right at the start of the day’s hike, at the Irache Wine Fountain – the “Fuente de Irache” – a mere half-mile or so out of Estella. (The “owners of Bodegas Irache have kindly put a wine fountain, so that pilgrims can serve themselves a free glass of red wine to help them on their way.”) I added a smidge – or more precisely, a dram – of wine to my water bottle: 1) I didn’t want to get too tipsy on the long day’s hike ahead, and 2) in compliance with 1st Timothy 5:23.

Other than that there was no place to stop for seven long hours of hiking. (We went through some villages that had cafes open in 2017, but this year they were closed for the COVID.) Then too, when we got to where Brierly listed a “mobile cafe,” it wasn’t there. What was there was a group of three people, as noted, handing out free cold water. (See “The Camino provides.”) And one of them was “Sweet Katie from Alabama,” pictured at the bottom of the main text. Katie and her co-workers were from the “Pilgrim’s Oasis” in Viana, Spain. See Pilgrims’ Oasis – Home | Facebook. And Viana was a mere six miles shy of Logrono, where this post ends.

Katie and I had a nice long chat. (For one thing it was nice to talk to someone outside the group who also spoke English.) She was 33, had been married but no kids, and was now divorced. She was in Spain for three weeks or so, volunteering to help out at Pilgrim’s Oasis. I noticed a tiger on her ball cap so I said, “You’re an Auburn fan?” She answered, “Only somebody from the South would know that.” All things considered that free cold water and nice chat with a lady from Back Home definitely lifted my spirits – after that long seven hours of hiking, with “nary a place to stop for a cold drink.” I took a couple pictures of her – she could have been a model – with the one below showing her charming someone else. (One of the local Guardia Civil, stopping by to check out the situation. “Wait. You’re giving out free cold water?”)

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So anyway, that Thursday the 9th, we hiked from Los Arcos to Viana. 11.4 miles or 220 minutes of actual hiking time. The day was mostly overcast, with some sprinkles of rain. Once again we got up at 5:30, in the dark, and reached the apartment in Viana at 1:52 p.m. I won the draw and so got a room to myself. (The others shared a room or slept on the living room couch.) Then too there was a mini-bar, with four cold beers that cost only a euro apiece. “I’m in heaven!”

Which is almost a pretty good place to stop. Except to say that Saturday’s hike from Viana to Logrono was a mere six miles, which gave us time to stop by the Pilgrim’s Oasis in Viana and say hello to Katie one more time. (Before she left for Back Home in a week or so.) And we got to stay in Logrono for a well-deserved day off from hiking, after six days straight. In the next – and hopefully final – post on this year’s Camino adventure, I plan to get the Faithful Reader from Logrono to Burgos, and from there down to Madrid. At which point I’d have to take another COVID test within 72 hours of my flight home. And if I failed that test I would find out what it means to be quarantined in Spain for 14 days. In the meantime:

Buen Camino!

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Sweet Katie from Alabama,” handing out free water on the Camino..

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The upper image is courtesy of Pamplona – Wikipedia. The caption: “Encierro de San Fermín.” In Spanish “encierro” can mean confinement or prison, but as usually translated refers to a bull-run where “bulls are driven through streets to a bullring.” The running of the bulls in Pamplona happens during the San Fermín festival, “held annually from July 6 to July 14. This festival was brought to literary renown with the 1926 publication of Ernest Hemingway‘s novel The Sun Also Rises.”

For more on the four days in Paris, see A post-trip post mortem for “Paris – 2021.” About visiting the Picasso Museum, and the outer part of the being-rebuilt Notre Dame cathedral, and getting the Covid test – required to get on a train – at a sidewalk clinic just off the Pont Neuf on the Left Bank.

Re: “170 miles in 17 days for me,” and leaving for home in Burgos. I had already hiked the Camino from Pamplona to Santiago in 2017, as noted in previous posts. Thus I finished my portion of the hike, in Burgos, on Sunday, September 19, while the other three finished up in Santiago de Compostela on October 26.

Re: 10 percent of body weight. The link is to 10 Essential Tips for Hiking the Camino de Santiago, including “the weight of your backpack should not exceed 10 percent of your body weight. Keep in mind that the magic “10 percent” number includes your water for the day, so factor in a bit of wiggle room.” In my case, my backpack should not have weighed over 14.5 pounds, including water.

Re: “Brierly.” That’s the Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago: Camino Francés, by John Brierley. This “comprehensive guidebook to the Camino de Santiago and its offshoots contains all the information needed by modern-day pilgrims wishing to walk the sacred Way of St. James.” 

Re “Dram.” Defined in part as small amount of an alcoholic drink.

See also 8 Words for Small Amounts | Merriam-Webster.

Re: 1st Timothy 5:23. “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” And of course as a prophylactic precaution against snake bite…

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Here are some other notes from earlier posts I did on the trip:

I flew into Paris last August 25, 2021. I spent four days there, meeting up with three other family members on the 28th. After that the four of us took a train down to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, starting point for the Camino Frances. From there we started a long hike over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain. (170 miles in 17 days for me.*) On the second day’s hike “we got up fairly early for the remaining 10.5-mile hike to Roncesvalles. (A ‘small village and municipality in Navarre, northern Spain.’) On the Route de Napoleón it’s about five miles past the border with France. From Roncesvalles we hiked 13.6 miles to Zubiri on Friday, September 3, and on Saturday the 13 miles to Pamplona.”

That pilgrimage-by-hiking usually ends at Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Spain. But I stopped in Burgos, thus finishing the unfinished business of not hiking over the daunting Pyrenees back in 2017. I detailed that accomplishment in Hiking over the Pyrenees … finally, but in that October 16 post only got as far as Pamplona.

Donald Trump – the newest “Undead Revenant?”

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

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

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

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

In the meantime:

In my last post I promised more posts on my September ’21 European adventure. (Including a 17-day hike over the Pyrenees section of the Camino de Santiago.) But I also noted that I’ve been working on another project, an E-book about turning 70 in 2021. (Adding that I have to finish soon, “because turning 70 is like losing your virginity: ‘You can only do it once!‘”)

On that point, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the book is almost ready to publish – in E-book and paperback formats. (Which I hope will happen this weekend; no later than November 21.*) The bad news is that I haven’t had a chance to do another post at all, since after last October 30. (Almost three weeks ago, and that was on Holden Caulfield.) So “What I’m gonna did” – as Justin Wilson would say – is review a relevant post from the past.

It didn’t take long to find one, and a troubling one at that. In a post from last January 10, 2021, I asked a rhetorical question, “You DO understand that Trump is temporary?” But after reviewing that post – and events of the last few months – I then had to add, Or maybe not?”

That’s “maybe not,” as in Trump seeming to rise from the political ashes, not unlike the proverbial Phoenix. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say rising again, like a &^%$ Zombie. (Which the Cambridge Dictionary defines as a frightening creature, a seemingly dead person “brought back to life, but without human qualities.*” And Zombies are said to be unable to think and are often shown “as attacking and eating human beings.”) But on to that last-January post…

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I posted “You DO understand” on January 10, 2021, just four days after the events of Wednesday, January 6, 2021. That day Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) called them the “‘Banana Republic Crap’ Capitol Riots,” and asked Donald Trump to stop the chaos. “You are the only person who can call this off. Call it off. The election is over. Call it off.”

I wrote that the following days – Thursday and Friday – things started looking up. That former Trump allies were saying “enough is enough,” that 52 rioters had been arrested, and that even some staunch Republican Senators were “open to impeachment or use of the Twenty-fifth Amendment.” I also noted, “Right now I wouldn’t want to be in Donald Trump’s shoes.”

Why? Because the metaphoric “noose” is tightening around his neck ever so slowly, but surely, in an agonizing foretaste of what’s in store once he leaves the protection of his office. (See “The rope has to tighten SLOWlY,” vis-a-vis what “Deep Throat” told reporter Bob Woodward about the 1974 conspiracy investigation against then-president Richard Nixon.)

But alas, I may have been premature.

For example, I wrote almost a year ago that there might be a positive note: That the reaction to Trump’s presidency might “provide the foundation for an era of democratic renewal and vindicate our long experiment in self-rule.” Which hasn’t happened yet.

I also noted that the number-crunching on the 2016 election showed “how fragile Trump’s hold on the public is.” To which I added, “I’ve been saying the best weapon against Trump is his own big mouth.” Not to mention his hubris. (“What? You mean I can’t tell supporters to storm the Capitol, and not be held responsible?”) But so far, he’s dodged the bullet on that one too.

As far as our “long national nightmare” being over, there’s the fact that Trump’s star seems to be rising once again. See for example, Trump trounces Biden in new Iowa poll. (From November 16, 2021. But here’s a note. In the 2020 election Trump won Iowa by eight points, so in fact over the past year he’s only gained three point. I’d hardly call that a “trouncing,” given all that’s gone wrong over the past few months. And three years is a long time in politics.)

All of which raises the possibility that Trump just might get elected to a second term. Which might also have happened if the attempted January 6 coup had been successful. But once again I tried to look on the bright side. That “freed from a need to pander to his wacko base,” Trump might develop a conscience and start thinking seriously about his legacy.

[W]ho knows?  If:  1) Trump did get re-elected in 2020, and 2) no longer had to worry about throwing raw meat at his wacko base, and 3) started seriously thinking about his legacy (or developed a conscience, or started appreciating that he’s “closer to the end than to the beginning”), he might actually evolve – as [P.T.] Barnum did – into a “humane, effective and ethical politician.”

On that note, on last January 7 GOP Representative Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said Trump’s legacy was ‘wiped out’ by the Capitol riot. But again, that may not be true. “In light of the foregoing,” I had to go back and re-write the “You DO understand” post. I noted the sleepless nights I had before the election, which have since returned.

But all might not be lost. Like I said before, three years is a long time in politics. For example, in 2019 – just before the COVID hit – “Donald Trump was riding high, and looked a shoe-in for re-election.” Just like Joe Biden nearer the beginning of this year. In turn there is the specter of Conservatives taking control of both houses of Congress, and clogging things up even more. But that in turn could sour voters on the Republican party even more. (Here’s hoping.)

And here’s hoping the idea of Trump as “only temporary” doesn’t turn out to be a pipe dream...

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Pipe dream

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The upper image is courtesy of Undead Image – Image Results. See also The Undead (film) – Wikipedia, on the  1957 horror film directed by Roger Corman and starring Pamela DuncanAllison Hayes, and Richard Garland. The film was inspired “by an interest in reincarnation during the 1950s.”

Also a side note: There are some signs that Trump won’t run again, out of fear that he may become another “Adlai Stevenson.” See for example, The Complicated Truth About Trump 2024:

If Donald Trump tries to run for president again, one of his former campaign advisers has a plan to dissuade him. Anticipating that Trump may not know who Adlai Stevenson was or that he lost two straight presidential elections in the 1950s, this ex-adviser figures he or someone else might need to explain the man’s unhappy fate. They’ll remind Trump that if he were beaten in 2024, he would join Stevenson as one of history’s serial losers. “I think that would resonate,” said this person, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to talk more freely. “Trump hates losers.”

See also Stunning 58% of AZ Voters Say Trump Should Not Run in 2024, Majority of voters overall oppose Trump running for president (71% opposed), and – from the National Review – Trump 2024 Poll: 73 Percent Of Independents Don’t Want Trump To Run For President in 2024. (According to the same poll, that includes 40 % of Republican adults. And a reminder, the National Review is the semi-monthly conservative editorial magazine with many contributing writers “affiliated with think-tanks such as The Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute. Prominent guest authors have included Newt GingrichMitt RomneyPeter Thiel, and Ted Cruz.) Then there’s Trump says he may not run in 2024 for ‘health’ reasons. Then too there’s this from Adlai Stevenson – Slate:

Today we’re quick to banish presidential losers… Yet one White House loser—a serial loser, at that—still haunts the political landscape: Adlai Stevenson. Every political season the pundits find some reason to resurrect him, invariably in a flattering light… Stevenson not only lost nobly; he made losing seem noble in and of itself.

It’s hard to imagine Trump making a second presidential-run loss seem “noble in and of itself.”

Will I REALLY live to 120?: On Turning 70 in 2021 – and Still Thinking “The Best is Yet to Come” by [James B. Ford]

And a note about that book project. I published it on Saturday evening, November 21, 2021, and it became available the following day. Check it out by clicking on Will I REALLY live to 120?: On Turning 70 in 2021 – and Still Thinking “The Best is Yet to Come.” Under my Nom De Plume, “James B. Ford.”

Re: Zombies. Wikipedia: A “mythological undead corporeal revenant created through the reanimation of a corpse.” Which is where the title came from. Further, the undead “are beings in mythology, legend, or fiction that are deceased but behave as if they were alive.” In folklore, “a revenant is an animated corpse that is believed to have revived from death to haunt the living.” From the Old French, revenant, related to the French verb revenir, meaning ‘to come back.'”.

Re: My September 2021 adventure. In that last post, Holden Caulfield – Revisited Again, I wrote this about that: “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.)”

The lower image is courtesy of Pipe Dream – Image Results, which I borrowed from the “only temporary” post. The site Pipe dream – Idioms by The Free Dictionary defines the term as a “fantastic notion or vain hope.” The idiom is an allusion to the “fantasies induced by smoking an opium pipe …  used more loosely since the late 1800s.”

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 69-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

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

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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