Category Archives: Personal experience

On cracking a rib at Snowbasin…

Snowbasin – one word – scene of an infamous incident in 2020 that left me gasping for air...

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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:

It’s the start of a new year – 2023 – and at such times many people “look back in time.”

Usually people look back to the year just past, and normally that’s what I’d do too. But checking back on the posts from this past year – or this time last year – I didn’t see anything too interesting. So I looked back even further, to January 2020.

There I found an incident I’d forgotten about, until now. And that was even though I started drafting a post on it a month or so later. (In 2020.) The draft talked about cracking a rib (or so I thought), while trying to ski at Snowbasin.* That happened during my mid-winter road trip out to Utah, “in the bleak midwinter.” I’d left my home in the Atlanta area on December 27, 2019, and did a post on the drive out to Utah on January 20, 2020. (Just after I got back home, which turned out to be just before the COVID outbreak that started the following March.)

For whatever reason I forgot about the cracked-rib episode at Snowbasin in the years since. But it happened during a belated family Christmas get-together. My nephew got back from an Army deployment overseas, but he didn’t get home until a week or so after the “real” Christmas. And as part of the festivities, we all went to Snowbasin, and there – again – I tried snow skiing.

The road trip post talked about my long drive out to Utah. (Which included getting snowed in at Grand Isle Nebraska.) And about some fond memories of the post-Christmas family get-together, once I got there. But it also said: “In the next installment you’ll see how I cracked a rib while skiing at Snow Basin [sic]… And got a speeding ticket driving through *&^% Haysville Kansas!” For whatever reason that “next installment” never got posted, until now.

My notes describe a less-eventful drive home to Atlanta and led off: “I think I cracked a rib!” (Less eventful until I got the ticket driving through *&^% Haysville Kansas!”) The notes include thoughts on stopping for the night in Grand Junction Colorado. (Which brought back fond memories of my first wife Karen and I camping there for night in a travel van.) And how driving through Denver in heavy traffic was a real pain in the butt. There’s more detail in the notes, but for the sake of unity and coherence I’ll skip ahead to: “Now back to that cracked rib.”

We went skiing at Snowbasin twice, and I got “real practiced at the ‘bail-out.'” (That’s falling backwards to avoid running into crowds of people.) That was at the bottom of “Little Cat” ski run, and once you got there you went over and waited for the ski lift and another downhill run. In time I got better at staying up and not falling, much, “all the way up and all the way down.”

But before I tried skiing those two days, veteran family members taught me the “pizza and french fry” techniques beginners should learn. (Or kids, learning from their ski-moms). The idea is that to stop or slow down you turn your skis into a “pizza slice.” You turn in the narrow end of your skis up front and spread your heels – and the back end of your skis – out wide. Ideally, your skis should end up looking like a big slice of pizza.

For me – a Florida boy – the biggest problem was getting off the ski lift without falling, then getting out of the way of the people coming up on the next lift. In years before I’d had problems, but this time was different. I was amazed to get OFF the lift, then slide over out of the way, all without falling down. The trouble came on the last – 10th – run of the day. I wrote later, “Maybe I was getting a bit full of myself, but somehow I slipped off the ski lift as it was departing the bottom of Little Cat. I.e., I first slipped off the ski-lift chair itself, then slipped off concrete ‘runway,’ as it were, with a drop of about two feet, and then thumped down on my right side.”

At first, I thought the fall damaged my right kidney, given the pain in that area. But over the next few days it started to feel more like a SLIGHTLY cracked rib. I wrote later that it did start to get better, “but Saturday and Sunday night I couldn’t sleep on either side, as I like to do. I had to sleep on either my back or stomach, which is very strange to me.” I then added:

In closing, please note that I’m not complaining. I had a great time “out west,” including but not limited to snow-skiing again, for the third time in ten years. As for the “thorn in the side” caused by my own stupidity, I figure I have to “walk it off Nancy!”

For some reason I didn’t write anything in my journal about cracking a rib. On the plus side, I did use Facebook to memorialize this particular adventure. But to go back and retrieve those notes I had to learn how to better use the search techniques available to Facebook users. Which just goes to show, I’m still learning new things, even at the ripe old age of 71. (And counting, I hope.)  I’ve included some of those Facebook posts in the notes, but one point of this little essay is that for bloggers, it pays to look back over past posts. You just might find draft posts you’ve forgotten about. Then too, it pays to learn how to use that Search Engine on Facebook.

In closing, here’s my picture of skiers congregated near the bottom of Little Cat and the other slopes. They were the people I was trying not to run into, by way of the “pizza” technique. 

And yes, it was very cold that day…

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The upper image is courtesy of Snowbasin Utah – Image Results. Snowbasin is a “ski resort in the western United States, located in Weber County, Utah, 33 miles (53 km) northeast of Salt Lake City, on the back (east) side of the Wasatch Range:”

Snowbasin is one of the oldest continuously operating ski areas in the United States. Following the end of World War I and the Great Depression numerous small ski resorts were developed in Utah’s snow-packed mountains, and Weber County wanted one of their own. They decided to redevelop the area in and around Wheeler Basin, a deteriorated watershed area that had been overgrazed and subjected to aggressive timber-harvesting.

From Wikipedia. It’s 31 miles from Morgan Utah, where my brother and his wife used to live.

A word about looking back at the end of a year or beginning the next. I also found a draft post – from August 2020 – about the time my house in the woods got broken into. (By a man who turned out to be a mean-looking methhead with lots of tattoos.) I’ll finish that one later.

Unity and coherence. The link is to Unity and Coherence in Essays | Writing Center – PHSC:

Unity is the idea that all parts of the writing work to achieve the same goal: proving the thesis… Extraneous information in any part of the essay which is not related to the thesis is distracting and takes away from the strength of proving the thesis. [Also, an] essay must have coherence. The sentences must flow smoothly and logically from one to the next as they support the purpose of  each paragraph in proving the thesis. 

I note this because the family reaction is always the same when I hand out paperback versions of my eBooks at Christmas: “You’re writing goes all over the place!” In my defense I say that following all those “rabbit trails” I run across while writing is one of the best parts of the process. (For me anyway.) But in future writing I’ll try harder to achieve “unity and coherence.I’ll still follow those rabbit trails, but stick them back in the Notes, where they won’t bother my readers.

“First wife Karen.” She died in May 2006.

For more “rabbit trail” information, see How to “Pizza” and “French Fry” While Skiing – The-House. The pizza position helps you slow down or stop. (Which to me became very important.) The “french fry” position is when your skis are side by side, parallel to each other, and is used to gain speed. Also, “be sure you have the pizza position down before moving on to this one.”

“Thorn in the side.” See 2d Corinthians 12:7. The Bible passage is sometimes translated as the Apostle Paul talking about his “thorn in the flesh.”

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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 71-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.

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Here are some notes about the drive out to Morgan Utah, starting on December 28, 2019:

Last night – Saturday night, December 28 – I made it to North Kansas City MO, to the Motel 6 by KCI airport. I left south of Memphis in the morning (Olive Branch MS). All told I’ve driven 840 miles since leaving home Friday morning. Leaving some 1,028 miles to make it to Morgan.

I enjoyed the drive yesterday; Friday’s drive through the ATL and west Georgia was ‘same old same old.’ But it was interesting driving through northeast Arkansas, then on into south Missouri. I passed through Portia, Missouri, which brought back memories from the summer of 1987, when my parents paid for my flight out to Los Angeles and the Forest Home youth corps. (The Forest Home in the San Bernadino Mountains, not the one in Amador County.) See, the kitchen staff at Forest Home included a young lady named Portia, and the Youth Corps coaches (mentors) were fond of saying, ‘Ah, lovely Portia!’ But we digress…

But I wasn’t too fond of the drive last night. I’d just passed through Clinton MO and stopped at McDonald’s for a break. That’s when the rain hit. I got pretty drenched, then had to drive up through the rain, and strange surroundings, and the weird connection between Interstate 49 and I-29…”

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And here are some notes from a Facebook post I did on January 6, 2020 (for possible future reference):

“I think I cracked a rib!” There’s more on that later, but the good news is that today – Monday, 1/6 – I made it through the mountains west of and leading in to Denver from the west. (Which – Denver- was a pain in the butt driving through.) And made it to Goodland Kansas, some 1,230 miles from home. (Fayetteville GA, aka “God’s Country.”) I figure on getting home by Thursday night, after doing some touristy stuff on the way back home.

I left Morgan UT yesterday about noon, and drove south and east through the snow, slush and a bit of black ice. From Provo down to Green River, where I hooked up with I-70, and from there made it to Grand Junction Colorado. (Where Karen and I stopped and camped in our big blue van in 1996 or so. After I smashed up our travel trailer in Colorado Springs, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

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And here are some notes from a Facebook post I did later on January 6, 2020:

[T]his past week I’ve gotten used to snow, high wind and temps hovering in the teens. Then too, driving east on I-70 this morning, along the Colorado River, was scenic and VERY picturesque, but I was SO glad to make it back to the “flatlands” of the Great Plains, eastern Colorado. And – gasp! – the sun even came out. (For a while.) Now back to that cracked rib…

And here are some notes from a Facebook post I did on January 8, 2020 (for possible future reference):

Dammit! I found out today that there’s a speed trap in Haysville Kansas.

I was heading south out of Wichita this morning, trying to avoid the beltway traffic, by heading down US 81, running parallel to the interstate heading down to Oklahoma. Approaching the intersection of Meridian and Grand Avenue, in Haysville – (ptui!) – I was driving at a speed slightly more appropriate to western Kansas. (As noted in yesterday’s posts. I.e., Western Kansas rocks, but east Kansas SUCKS!)

So anyway, I got stopped. Then a couple seconds later I saw that another Haysville cop had stopped another poor slob, about a half block behind me. Thus the conclusion: SPEED TRAP! So as I drove east and south to get the hell out of eastern Kansas, “the air was blue all around.” But other than that the day went well. (You know, besides the cracked rib from snow skiing last Saturday.) I made it to Conway Arkansas, 566 miles from home. Which is do-able. I did 550 miles on December 31st, from Big Springs Nebraska to Morgan Utah.It’s been a fun road trip, but “Dang it will be good to be home!”

So much for the rabbit trails.

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More on living a longer, healthier life…

Michael Conrad‘s “Hey, let’s be careful out there” still applies today – if not more so…

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I just started watching a new video course on Wondrium. The title is The Emerging Science of Longevity, and it’s offered by Mark Hyman (doctor). Lecture 2 of the series talked about the importance of diet – food – to living a longer healthier life. It sounded pretty good, but I’ve learned the importance of Lateral Reading when navigating today’s Digital media. (For example, to see what’s true and what’s not true on the Internet. “Bonjour!” Like the old State Farm TV Spot?)

For starters, I found a doctor who called Hyman the Dr. Oz” of Nutrition. (Which wasn’t that much of an insult before “Oz” ran a hugely unsuccessful run for Senator in Pennsylvania.) That was Alex Berezow, PhD, who made his comment on October 14, 2020.

Then there’s Nutrition & Health “Experts” You Shouldn’t Trust – Sheila Kealey, which offers this: “Misinterpreted science, cherry-picked studies, conspiracies, and alluring anecdotes are the tools that many use to sell their stories.” Aside from Mark Hyman, other dubious “experts” included Mehmet Oz (recent Pennsylvania candidate for Senator), and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Which brings up what Sgt. Esterhaus said pretty much at the start of every episode of Hill Street Blues. (The Chicago-based police TV series that ran from 1981 to 1987.) Which brings up another cautionary note. Michael Conrad, who played Esterhaus – and kept saying “be careful” – died at the ripe young age of 58. (Young that is to someone who just turned 71.) Which presents another good reason to check out ways to help you live that longer, healthier life.

On the other hand, lateral reading showed that some of what Hyman said is supported by solid evidence. One proposal: “Eat a third less, extend your life by a third.” See You May Live Longer By Severely Restricting Calories … – NPR, and Do Low Calorie Diets Help You Live Longer? – Healthline. Then there was Autophagy, a word Hyman used that I’d never heard of. It’s the “body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells.”

[A]utophagy is an evolutionary self-preservation mechanism through which the body can remove the dysfunctional cells and recycle parts of them toward cellular repair and cleaning, according to board-certified cardiologist, Dr. Luiza Petre… “It is recycling and cleaning at the same time, just like hitting a reset button to your body. Plus, it promotes survival and adaptation as a response to various stressors and toxins accumulated in our cells,” she adds.

Dr. Petre added this would “remove debris and self-regulate back to optimal smooth function.” Which I figure is the functional equivalent of cleaning out all those junk computer cookies

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Getting back to my living a longer, healthier life: In March 2021 I posted An Updated ‘Geezer Guide to Supplements’ March 2021. The post – and links therein – was mostly about supplements – vitamins and minerals – but along with them I tried to eat healthy. Back then pretty much every morning I’d mix together a whole egg, along with kale, spinach, wheat germ, and flax seed. For extra flavor I’d add some bits of chopped-up pepperjack cheese. But since then I learned that my cholesterol was just a tad high. (And no, “I don’t know the numbers.”)

So these days, instead of a whole egg – with that cholesterol-high yoke – I switched to Simple Truth Organic™ Cage Free 100% Liquid Egg Whites. And did away with the cheese. But I still add in the kale, spinach, wheat germ, and flax seed. Which, with a dose of ketchup, tastes pretty good. (Kind of like a Spinach Omelet.) I’m also eating a lot more fruits and vegetables, but wondered about getting enough protein. So I ordered Orgain Organic Protein Powder, chocolate-flavored. It seemed pretty good, but I struggled with what to put it in.

I tried the suggested water mix, but the result wasn’t too appetizing. Too gritty. I went on to various other concoctions, but none worked out that well. One trick I tried – and still do – is getting a teaspoon of peanut butter and swishing it around in the powder. But the best way I’ve found so far is to buy get a chocolate protein shake, then mix in a couple extra teaspoons of the protein powder. The result is a creamy smooth drink – almost like a milkshake – that also stretches your consumer dollar. (You get more protein in smaller doses.)

But the “experts” also recommend variety, so for a change of pace I sometimes have oatmeal for breakfast. But not the regular, quickie, processed kind. I use Bob’s Red Mill Extra Thick Rolled Oats. It takes a bit longer but what the heck: No cholesterol and no sodium. I tried using a quarter cup of oats and a half cup of water, but that turned out to be too hefty a portion for me. So for a lighter version I came up with “fruitmeal.” You just put some frozen fruit in a microwave bowl – frozen fruit is cheaper these days – and add two tablespoons of oats and one tablespoon of water. (Frozen fruit adds enough extra water to make the mixture work.)

And you know all of this has got to be true because it’s now on the Internet. (Bonjour!”) But seriously, “Hey, let’s be careful out there. And don’t forget to do your lateral reading!

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The upper image is courtesy of Hill Street Blues Be Careful Out There Image – Image Results. See also Hill Street Blues – Wikipedia, and Michael Conrad, 58, Sgt. Esterhaus on ‘Hill Street Blues,’ Dies. The latter noted that Conrad died in 1983, at the age of 58, of urethral cancer. (Which offers another good reason to pay attention to a healthy diet and other life-prolonging protocols.)

Re: Lateral reading: “investigating who’s behind an unfamiliar online source by leaving the webpage and opening a new browser tab to see what trusted websites say about the unknown source.” On that note, and on eating a third less and living a third longer, see also Don’t Eat Less, Eat Less Often and Live Longer – drpompa.com, Eating Less to Live Longer – ABC News, and The Rule of Thirds – Healthy Gut Healthy Life – Kelsey Kinney.

Re: Clearing out cookies. See Should you delete cookies? 6 reasons you probably should, or The Importance of Clearing your Browsing History and Cookies.

Re: The 2021 Geezer Guide update. See also A Geezer’s guide to supplements, and A Geezer’s guide to supplements – Part II.

The full cite to the “Orgain” link is Orgain Protein Powder Review – Must Read This Before Buying. The rolled oats link is Organic Extra Thick Rolled Oats | Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods.

The lower image is courtesy of Bonjour State Farm – Image Results. For a live audio see State Farm® State of Disbelief French Model – YouTube.

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St. Francis, his birds and my Bucket List…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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One week away from a “Roman Holiday”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll see how those plans work out.

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

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

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

Stay tuned for updates!

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

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

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

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

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

The lower image is courtesy of Isola Tiberina – Wikipedia.

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My visit to The Big Apple – June 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On Mystic Christians – “The real ones?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Holden Caulfield – Revisited Again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Countdown to Paris – 2021!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But first comes Paris.

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

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

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

Some things ARE sacred, you know!

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Central pyrenees.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On “(Some of) the music of my life…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hunter S. Thompson, the prototypical gonzo Karaoke singer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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