In Pursuit of Happiness

Florida needs significant emergency aid to begin recovering from Hurricane Ian. I am confident aid will come, soon, from the federal government. I wish there could be a way to ensure that DeSantis does not get credit for the assistance the feds will provide. Regardless, the assistance must be given right away. Recovery from a storm as monstrous and powerful as Ian will take a very long time and a very large infusion of financial aid. Even if DeSantis screws up and does not follow the bureaucratic process of requesting federal aid, Biden must order the aid to be deployed; he cannot allow the speed of assistance (or lack thereof) to be influenced by political grandstanding. I hate that I have to be concerned that our political leaders might be so despicable and grotesque as to play political football with people in crisis. But I am. More about DeSantis than Biden, but I am not so naïve as to think Democrats cannot be just as malevolent. I just hope both ends of the political spectrum surprise me by coming together to address a critical, common need.

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The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

~ William Shakespeare ~

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I have not made a habit of watching The Daily Show; I do not have cable, so it would have been impossible lately, even if I wanted to watch it. But when I was able to watch it when Jon Stewart hosted, I liked it. And when I watched it with Trevor Noah as host, I liked it.  Trevor Noah has announced his departure, which will come at an unannounced time in what I understand is the not-too-distant future, recently. I wonder whether the show will continue and, if so, who will host?

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Occam’s Razor. Or Ockham’s Razor. Or Ocham’s Razor. The principle of parsimony. The law of parsimony. Whatever one calls it, it is the principle that “entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.” Translated into less abstract form: the simplest explanation of a phenomenon is that, when presented with competing hypotheses about the same prediction, one should select the solution with the fewest assumptions. In the vulgar vernacular, “keep it simple, stupid.” KISS. I try to adhere to the principle, but it is so easy to drift into convoluted explanations whose very complexity distracts from the phenomenon one is attempting to explain. The same is true of my writing. While there is nothing wrong with my tendency to write long, elaborate, sometimes overly involved sentences, the longer the sentence, the more likely the receiver of the information presented in that sentence will fail to fully understand the message sent and may, in fact, completely misinterpret the message. It might be best to avoid such lengthy communications when involved in a heated argument with one’s enemy, the outcome of said argument which could lead to nuclear holocaust.

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass.

~ Dōgen Zenji,  Zen Buddhist Teacher/Master ~

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I am in the mood for seafood. Fresh-caught halibut, preferably. Fish that was swimming happily until hours before it was put on a plate in front of me. And then, as I consider this, I feel guilt; responsibility for causing the death of a living creature. But, micro-seconds later, I try to dismiss the guilt by envisioning the natural order in front of me, as a lion takes down a zebra and drags the corpse of the dead animal back to the lion’s den for a family feast. At what point on the food chain does killing and consuming the remains of dead animals become morally repugnant? Or, going in the other direction, at what point does the horror of living creatures killing other living creatures become an acceptable and fascinating fact of nature? One does not assign the label “immoral” to bears catching salmon in their teeth in the rapids of a river. One does not call the eagle that swoops down to catch a mouse in its claws a murderer. Does the fact that the bear and the eagle are killing for food absolve them of “sin?” And, so, if I were to catch the halibut, it’s okay for me to arrange for its demise? And, if I were to pay a grocery store for a chicken that I will eat, is that acceptable? Or, because my mind and body are both capable of surviving without killing of animals for food, does my consumption of the chicken or the halibut validate assigning a label of “morally repugnant” to me? The morality of survival, at one end of the spectrum, versus decadence at the other end, is a complex matter. One which tends to arouse emotions much more quickly than it sparks dispassionate debate. I do not attach derogatory labels to vegetarians or vegans, but some of them tend to attach extremely derogatory labels to human omnivores. I feel a hint of bias rising up in me, so I should back away from an argument I am having with myself. This topic merits serious discussion: not for the purpose of changing my behavior or for someone else changing theirs, but for the purpose of enhancing my understanding of the world in which I live. I would like to have a conversation about this very wide-ranging topic with people who may feel passionately about it but who can discuss it without letting that passion consume the conversation, burning it to embers and then ashes. Were that to happen, the value of the conversation would be no more than smoke.

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The wishes and dreams that feed on the soul are relentless, obdurately ravenous beasts that will stop at nothing until their hunger is sated; when the flesh is gone and all that remains is gristle and bone.

~ John Swinburn ~

It’s late. Time to engage with the day, with the objective of extracting from it every ounce of happiness it can provide. I wish good luck, to you and to me, in the pursuit of joy, today and every day.

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Compromise

When I woke up this morning, my body acted as if it was supposed to repeat my experience from yesterday. Almost all of my body was sore; elbows, wrists, neck, knees, ankles, lower back, hands, shoulders, clavicles, etc., etc. I suppose “joints” might have been the better word, but “body” feels more representative of the experience. My body felt angry and oppressed, as if I had been tortured while under anesthesia and awakened to relive the experience of anguish: severe bodily torment. It’s too early to say with certainty whether the same sensations will remain with me today, but based solely on how I feel at the moment, I think it would be safe to bet that, physically, today’s pains will mimic yesterday’s. That, I must say, is a drag. A drag multiplied exponentially and increased several-fold. That confident statement notwithstanding, I hope to be compelled to issue a retraction later in the day. I should make note that these aches and pains are, with very little doubt, simply manifestations of the degradation of my increasingly old body.

In less than a month, I will be eligible to celebrate the transition from one age marker to the next. The obligatory recognition of a milestone in one’s evolution: a birthday. I wonder whether all societies observe birthdays with such…anticipation and celebration…and dread…as does ours? Do the more “primitive” tribes hidden in the African jungles or Amazonian forests treat birthdays with such reverence? I checked, though I did not attempt to explore beyond a single country (neither in Africa nor South America): Bhutan. Bhutanese tradition does not celebrate birthdays, but younger people in today’s Bhutanese society (especially in larger towns and cities) are moving toward acknowledging birthdays. According to one article I read, the Bhutanese acknowledge that everyone turn 1 year older on 1st January every year, thus celebrating their birthdays on New Year’s Day! The same article calls Bhutan the “happiest country in the world.” It goes on to say  the country’s people believe “leading a happy life is much more important than how many years you’ve been alive on this planet.”  Before I get too wrapped up in that idea, I should consider another assertion I found online: “Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays.” Yes, that is true, as well. I cannot affirm nor dispute that Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the world’s happiest people; I won’t even try. Simple association is not sufficient to impute causation. I think I remember that statement, presented as fact, from a college sociology course. But the study of sociology has changed, I think, since that time long ago. I suspect the subject of cultural differences in recognizing and celebrating birthdays was addressed in a sociology class along the way; but I do not remember that discussion. I do remember, albeit vaguely, talking in sociology classes about various age-related events, such as the “sweet sixteen” parties for girls in the U.S. and Canada (and maybe other places) and the “quinceañeras.” Other cultures/religions celebrate the attainment of specific ages. The bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah in Jewish culture celebrates the thirteenth and twelfth or thirteenth birthdays, respectively, of boys and girls. In Japan, the Coming of Age Day is commonly celebrated when a person reaches his or her twentieth birthday. If I kept looking, I probably could find dozens of other unique traditions. And only a few that do not give some sort of special recognition to birthdays in general or attainment of specific ages in particular. Not that it matters…not in the grand scheme of human evolution. So I’ll leave it at that.

We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

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An acquaintance of mine wrote a book a few years ago (not published and, as far as I know, not intended for publication) based on the premise (among several others) that “the elderly” maintain powerful libidos, almost equivalent to the horniness of hormone-driven teenagers, well into their nineties and beyond. Well, that’s the premise of the book from my perspective/reading; I cannot say whether the author shares that perspective with me. Regardless of the presumption, the book was well-written and entertaining (the author let me borrow a copy). And, inasmuch as it was written by an almost seventy-something woman, I suspect it was written from at least some degree of personal experience (I say that, knowing the writer and her propensity to talk freely about what would cause many other people to blush and turn away). I found it interesting that the connections in the book always were between oldsters; never did an elderly person consort with someone younger (if my memory serves…).

We must dare to think ‘unthinkable’ thoughts. We must learn to explore all the options and possibilities that confront us in a complex and rapidly changing world.

~ J. William Fulbright ~

I hate the word “elderly.” It conveys physical feebleness and mental fragility. And it suggests an inability to take care of oneself. Admittedly, it is not uncommon for older people to need assistance in their day-to-day lives, but it is not universal. There should be another term to describe older people who are reasonably healthy, alert, and possessing of mental acuity. “Geezer” might be a term I would use, but I’ve heard so much negative feedback about that word that I would use it only in the presence of people who are progressive, fun-loving, and non-judgmental. I could come up with dozens of neologisms in response to the need for an appropriate word. Maybe. Or not.

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The day is doing its best to get away from me. I will not let it. I will grab it by the ****s and force it to comply with my wishes. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll sit down and work out an acceptable compromise.

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Burning Memories

Today, my mother’s birthday, I will think about a flower—a yellow rose—that was her favorite. And I will try to remember some of the cherished moments I spent with her before she died thirty-six years ago. Recollections of time spent with loved ones before death took them cannot, in my experience, be limited to memories of that one person who triggered them. One’s mind does not permit memories to be limited exclusively to one person or one moment. The mind is like an hungry animal with an insatiable appetite; always searching through a labyrinth in pursuit of food for thought.

Memories of one person’s death spark memories of others who died. In my case, remembering my mother on her birthday causes memories of my late wife to surface. Remembering my mother does not cause a drowning flood of grief to consume me. But it causes the grief of losing my wife—less than two years ago—to emerge from deep within me. It feels just as fresh and raw and unspeakably painful as it did the day she died. The pain will subside as the day wears on; whenever the pain erupts like a volcano, I know it will ebb over the next few hours or days. But I suspect it will never disappear. It is always there, like a clump of molten rock, in my chest. If I do not devote considerable energy to keeping it from bursting into open flames, it tends to consume me and scorch the earth all around me.  I am sure I am not alone with this perpetual burning ball of memory inside me. I know people survive it every day. I feel confident I will survive it, again, as I have so many days before. And, today, I will insist that it pause for at least a moment, so I can devote some mental energy to honor my mother’s memory.

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GoDaddy and Jetpack each claim the problem with my accessing my blog (and subscribers being notified of new posts) rests with the other entity. After spending far too much money on getting a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate for my site, which GoDaddy assured me was the issue, Jetpack identified several additional concerns with the way GoDaddy is handling requests for Jetpack. It’s all far too involved and convoluted for my limited technical knowledge; I wish I could through senior engineers from both companies into a ring, where they would battle it out. The victor would take full responsibility and would be required to correct the problem within one hour or face stunningly horrific consequences. My praise two days ago for GoDaddy‘s responsiveness has been tempered by time and experience. That is, too often, the way of the world.

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I would not be surprised at news that Russia has deployed nuclear weapons in its effort to absorb and control Ukraine. Perhaps my expectations are fueled by media suggestions of Putin’s state of mind. Which, of course, must be fueled by manipulative governmental propaganda. Which serves the important purpose of helping to ensure adequate support for the regime that’s responsible for spreading the rumors.

It matters not whether Democrats or Republicans are in control; both parties are conniving, manipulative, and driven by the hunger for control. While I find the rationale the Democrats use to justify their lies and manipulative behavior far more acceptable, I do not excuse their actions. I wonder what U.S. policies would look like if the people crafting them were more committed to their constituents than to their hold on power.

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Propaganda is to a democracy what violence is to a dictatorship.

~ William Blum ~

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It is the season for pumpkins and leaves changing colors. It is the season for cooler days and crisp Fall nights. It is a time to begin thinking about winter soup recipes and sitting in front of a warm fire, toasting marshmallows. I prefer Fall to Summer, but I prefer Spring to Fall. And I prefer Spring and Fall to winter. I prefer all other seasons to Summer; Summer would not be so bad if it were cooler and more suitable to comfortable outdoor pursuits. I suppose winter would be better were it a bit warmer and if it were not accompanied by ice and snow.

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I am glad I am not hunkered down in the Tampa Bay area, waiting on the arrival of Hurricane Ian. Hurricane and their accompanying high tides can be massively ugly. I would be willing to tolerate the heat and humidity of living on the coast if I could find a nice, isolated, very private place; just so long as I could get reliable assurances that hurricanes and storm surge would not be permitted on that part of the coast.

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You’re on my mind this morning. Yes, you are.

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Reportage About My Thoughtage

The housing market seems to be not nearly as robust as it was just a few months ago, at least not in areas I have been following off and on. Hot Springs Village seems to be losing a little of the crazy levels of demand it was experiencing. But in other places, the housing market seems to changing, rather than slowing. From what I’ve read, housing demand in Fayetteville, Tulsa, and various smaller but in-demand markets in Wisconsin, Michigan, and a few other places I’ve watched from time to time is changing. Buyers are looking for smaller spaces, lawns that are smaller and/or require little upkeep, and—even more than in the past—excellent location. People want to be near amenities like restaurants, grocery stores, bike trails, walking trails, theater, etc., etc. Obviously, that is not true of every location, but the “ideal” location is coming into clearer focus as the market adjusts to changes in the society in which we live.

As for me, I want access to all those delightful amenities. And I have a high preference for the availability of those amenities within walking distance. But I have an equally strong preference for privacy and, to the extent possible within the context of my other desires, isolation. The privacy and isolation I want would be best served in a location where I own a few acres or more, along with a tractor (fully outfitted with all sorts of implements), outbuildings, and where I could easily secure help from young and strong people who respond well to instruction and direction. Of course, this is pure fantasy. If I ever expected to achieve my desired lifestyle, I should have acted on my dreams years ago. But when I could have been acting on my dreams, I was tethered to a desk and to the security that desk afforded. I took risks, but the risks I took were too small and too tentative to achieve anything of consequence. I could have taken greater risks. I think my late wife would have supported me in taking them. But I was lacking in courage.

How the hell did I drift from rambling about the housing market to rambling about my timidity? I know exactly how I did it; I allowed my stream-of-consciousness to steer me down a side channel, away from the main flow. I do that a lot. I recognize it. I permit it. I suppose it allows me to daydream while still anchored to the safety of knowing I am risk-averse and acting accordingly.

I wonder why the idea of taking risks is captivating to people? Why does seeing someone taking risks seem so appealing? Why does it seem that people who take risks are attractive?  There’s something machismo about it, I suppose. But as I think about it, it makes no sense to me; why would putting oneself in either physical or emotional danger be attractive? It’s madness, really. The running of the bulls in Pamplona is idiotic; I once admired people who did it and I wanted to do it myself. Insanity! Yet I have an understanding, somewhere deep inside, of the appeal of putting oneself in danger, with the objective of accomplishing something only a few others—or no one—have done.  I think there’s a short-circuit in our wiring that permits us to seek out the possibility that we will be consumed by the heat as the circuits melt, causing strands of metal to merge into thick bands of hot, congealed copper.

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As far as I know, I had never heard of Hilaree Nelson until this morning. I learned about her while reading a news story on BBC.com. The story reported that she is missing, after apparently skiing (by accident) into a 2,000-foot crevasse only fifteen minutes after she and her climbing partner, Jim Morrison, reached the summit of Mount Manaslu in Nepal. Out of curiosity (because I had not seen any reference to the incident in any U.S. media I had skimmed earlier), I searched for other reports about her apparent disappearance. The earliest report I found was from Men’s Journal, eighteen hours ago. Most other reports were from climbing-related publications: Climbing Magazine, The Himalayan Times, Out There Colorado, Adventure Journal, etc. However, the New York Times, Seattle Times, and The Guardian also had pieces that reported her missing. My point in searching for which media outlets first reported on the matter is difficult to explain; it involves both my skepticism about U.S. media and my vague sense that mainstream media sometimes gets some of the “meat” of its material from highly-focused specialty media. Not that it matters, really. But it sort of matters to me; because I am increasingly distrustful of the integrity of corporate-owned media that seems (to me) to be distancing itself from journalistic excellence, in favor of volume. In some cases, reporting on matters that are not especially relevant to the majority of media consumers is cheaper and easier than investigative reporting on matters of vital importance and urgency. I really am sorry to learn of Ms. Nelson’s apparent demise. Yet, with the exception of the climbing-related publications, I am not sure why her disappearance into a 2,000-foot crevasse is especially newsworthy.

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I think it’s a shame that people are so quick to put you in a box; sometimes it’s as if you do one thing, and that’s all you’re allowed to do.

~ Lewis Hamilton ~

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My road trips this year have taken me more than 8,600 miles so far. And there is more to come. But, for now, I will think about breakfast and what I might eat if I were having a morning meal of sea creatures freshly-caught off the coast of Maryland. Granted, it’s an odd thought but it is just so damned appealing!

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Back in Business, For Now

Well, the site is up…at least temporarily. Apparently, there is some kind of glitch with a “plugin” that I use to make the site easier for me to manage and for the visitor to comment, “like,” and otherwise engage with the site. For the time being, I will post short bits, at least, as I try to find out how to return the site to full functionality. I must say nice things about the GoDaddy (my site’s host) support team; my contact there this morning got the site back up and gave me access to the admin area very quickly. Now, I am communicating with Jetpack, the plugin folks, to see how I can correct the issue for the long term.

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Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.

~ Dorothea Lange ~

We are debating which direction we should head next in our wandering. I’m thinking about heading down to the town where I grew up, Corpus Christi, just to take a look. But I’m curious about the Arkansas delta area. And the tamale trail in eastern Arkansas and western Mississippi is intriguing, as well. Friends have told us interesting things about places to visit in Mississippi. And I would like to spend a little more time around Fayetteville, Arkansas and environs. So many places to go and see; so much money to make the dreams reach fruition. We shall see.

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There is nothing as sweet as a comeback, when you are down and out, about to lose, and out of time.

~ Anne Lamott ~

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My desire to be productive and creative is at odds with my interest in taking a long, leisurely, uninterrupted rest. But both of them compete with my wish to simultaneously be creative and slovenly. If I could will things to be done, I would do it. Today. But my will is not as strong as my lethargy.

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Pointless

I am too tired to think. Too tired to write anything of consequence. Not physically tired. Just worn out, mentally. Tired of trying to understand the world I have created. Too tired to attempt to make sense of chaos. Exhausted from thrashing about in a mire created and cultivated by boors and bigots and barbarians. Certain that I am one of them. Terrified there is nothing I can do about it. Everything I have said and written is tainted by ugly reality. Nothing can be done to recover from a lifetime laced with conscious mistakes. Absolution is out of reach. Eternal grief is the penalty for who I have been and who I am. I am beyond redemption; atonement is a fantasy. I am confident neither life nor death can bring resolution to endless regret. And so I write, in the pointless pursuit of forgiveness that cannot be given by anyone but God, yet knowing there is no God to give it.

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Moving Along

I woke several times last night and this morning, once around 2:00 a.m. when I heard an odd repetitive noise I thought was an alarm emanating from my computer. When I got up, I discovered it was a strange car alarm in the parking lot below the motel room. I heard voices coming from the parking lot, too, but could not see anyone when I peered out the window. After that, I woke at least half a dozen times. Suffice it to say I did not get a good night’s sleep. I finally got out of bed around 6.

My insomnia could have arisen from my unhappiness with the dump of a motel that SHOULD have been a nice place—a Hampton by Hilton in Frostburg, Maryland. From the moment we walked in, it was obvious that the property was old and tired, but had been given some superficial “upgrades” to make it more presentable. On the way to the room, I noticed wallpaper in a hallway barely clinging to the wall. Inside the room, we discovered the toilet tank was empty; I took the lid off the tank (revealing a nasty brown and dirty pressure tank) and succeeded in jiggling the apparatus so that water filled the tank. But, each time it flushed, the same process had to be followed to get the tank to fill. And, during the night, we discovered that the tank emptied, requiring more fussing. From there, more and more flaws became apparent. We complained. The offer to “compensate” for the problems was insulting and I told the front desk staff as much. Mi novia was more tactful. We shall see what the bill looks like this morning. But I realize, of course, such an experience is not the end of the world; so, we will chalk it up to road trip experience and move on.

Our trip from Schenectady yesterday took us through Pennsylvania and into Maryland. When we leave here today, we will wander into West Virginia and, perhaps, into Kentucky, as we make our way south and west. We may slide south into Virginia and into North Carolina. There is no plan, as yet. We’re just road-tripping. We drove more than seven hours and covered about 450 miles yesterday. We could have stopped along the way to see some interesting places, such as the Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania, but I was not in the proper frame of mind to be a tourist. Nor am I at the moment, for some reason. We shall see.

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The sky outside my window is ominous, dark clouds swirling at high speed. Though it is not raining, the ground is wet from last night, when Nature wrung water from the clouds like wet sponges. I hope the wind and the clouds do not present obstacles today—but, if they do, we shall confront them and deal with them appropriately. Road trips cannot be planned around weather guarantees, for no such assurances exist. One simply must adjust appropriately to experiences as they unfold. And we shall.

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By all these lovely tokens September days are here, With summer’s best of weather And autumn’s best of cheer.

~ Helen Hunt Jackson ~

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Whatever the day offers, I will take and turn it to my benefit. There’s no point in yielding to anything but the best every day has to offer.

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Wolves

Ever since I experienced problems with a WordPress “plugin” that prevented the distribution by emails of notifications of new posts, the number of readers of my blog has dropped dramatically. I think readers who rely on receiving notice about new posts assume I am not writing while on my journey. The same problem removed the “like” button from my blog, so readers cannot even signal that they saw what I wrote. I suspect I can correct the problem, but it will take considerable dedicated time; time I am unwilling to spend while “on the road.” Consequently, I suspect very few people read about my travels and my thoughts while I am away. Once I correct the problem (assuming I really can correct it without paying for help to do it), I may post a summary, with links to older posts that may have gone unnoticed and unread. Or I may not. The readership of this blog is small, to start, so the work involved in attempting to recover from the issue may not be worth the trouble. Sometimes, technology can be a pain in the ass. Maybe I should just rely on Word to record my thoughts and memories for myself. We’ll see. Indeed we will.

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Everybody needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door.

~ Saul Bellow ~

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Dan Rather’s persona as a journalist always has made me cringe a bit. Though I believe his reporting has toed the line of journalistic integrity, on more than one occasion the way he reported the facts seemed, to me, to border on the overly dramatic. I vaguely remember him reporting on the devastating power of a hurricane. Despite the intensity of the storm, the words he chose and the manner in which he held his body—as if the wind and waves were about to plunge him into a watery grave—seemed overly sensational. That not withstanding, the information he provided has been believable, reliable, and honest. In other words, he performed admirably as a journalist. This morning, I read a piece he and Elliot Kirchner published in the blog/newsletter, Steady, on the Substack platform. I wish everyone, especially Trump supporters, would find it and give it a fair reading. This piece is not overly dramatic; it is honest and quite sobering.

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Yesterday, we drove all over Schenectady and beyond. We saw locks of the Erie Canal. We spent time sitting in a wonderful coffee shop in the Stockade district of Schenectady. We drove by houses where mi novia’s family used to live. We stopped for lunch at a Caribbean diner/restaurant. The day before, we went to the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery—located in the village of Schuylerville in Saratoga County, New York—and found the headstone of her father’s grave. While in Schenectady, we wandered about the historic Vale Cemetery, where we found the headstone of her grandparents’ graves. And she showed me the house where she lived until she was ten years old. And, as has been our custom in recent months, we looked at houses for sale, trying to find that perfect house in that perfect location—the place that would be “perfect” for us, should we decide to uproot ourselves from our home in the hot, humid, maddeningly ultra-conservative South. Our time in Schenectady, though only a few days, has been delightful. Today, we depart for (as yet) places unknown.

Our route may take us through Pennsylvania, a corner of Maryland, across West Virginia, and into Kentucky as we make our way southwest toward home. Or we may opt for a different route, one that takes us across New York state, clips the edge of Pennsylvania, and crosses Ohio and Kentucky. In either case (or another, different, path), we’ll eventually slide across Tennessee into Arkansas and then home. Whichever route we take, we probably will arrive back home considerably earlier than we had planned; we thought we would be gone at least three weeks, maybe four or more. But we are considering the possibility of shortening this trip a little so we can embark on another fairly lengthy journey in the relative near-term. Perhaps we will pick just one or two destinations and go to it/them, with the idea that we will put down roots for several days so we can behave more like tourists than vagabond travelers. Time will tell.

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The massive bulk of the earth does indeed shrink to insignificance in comparison with the size of the heavens.

~ Nicolaus Copernicus ~

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Brad Pitt’s Got Nothing on Me

I read this morning that pieces of sculpture created by Brad Pitt are on display in Tampere, Finland until mid-January next year. Though I do not doubt that Pitt’s considerable artistic talent played a significant role in the decision by (someone…I know not who) to show his work, the skeptic in me attributes quite a bit of the decision to factors involving Pitt’s fame and wealth. No matter how much talent and artistic skill and creative vision I might develop, my artwork will never find a place in Tampere, Finland. Nor, for that matter, in any recognized gallery anywhere in the world. I’m too poor and too old for my art to merit public display anywhere of consequence. Of course, considerable time has passed since I attempted to create physical art. I abandoned those efforts when it became apparent to me that am lacking the requisite capacity. I do not have and probably never will have the abilities nor the considerable materials necessary to transform my mental visions of sculpture I would like to create into actual, physical forms. I have ideas for sculpture and large-scale pieces of art. Lacking, though, are the materials necessary for creating them and the technical skills required for translating creative visions into physical representations of those visions. I could offer the same excuses for my failure to be a wealthy and highly sought-after actor; I possess neither the talent management resources nor the training and innate acting skills necessary to be a wealthy actor. Much the same could be said about why I am not a neurosurgeon, an architect, nor a captain of industry. I do not regret my inability to do brain surgery or to be an actor or to guide the direction of important industries. But if I could rebuild my life from the ground up, I might devote much more attention to creative arts, including sculpture and architecture. That being an impossibility, I have no choice but to just move on; wading through retirement from service as a meaningless pawn in a useless series of unnecessary endeavors.

I once got as close as 112 miles from Tampere, Finland, though at the time I did not know that Tampere existed. In fact, I did not know about Tampere until this morning. But one day many years ago, I spent an entire day wandering the streets of Helsinki with my late wife. We both were quite happy to have had the opportunity to visit that city, in spite of the fact that neither of us were world-renowned sculptors and despite our ignorance of the existence of Tampere. The lesson, as I contemplate my life this morning, is that regret for unreached dreams is pointless; gratitude, instead, for actual experiences is far better. Even modest accomplishments serve as a better foundation for happiness than does the recollection of shattered dreams.

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I also read this morning that friends are enjoying a week of camping at Lake Ouachita. Though I have little experience camping, I know that sitting quietly in a wooded setting at water’s edge has the effect of melting stress and replacing it with happy serenity. There are at least two distinct types of “get-aways.” One is like the one I think my friends are enjoying; simple relaxation in a pleasant setting, with no pressure to “do” anything. The other is more like the one I am experiencing now: getting away from the normal day-to-day grind and replacing it with opportunities to see and experience new settings. The latter kind involves almost constant motion and a drive to move on to the next experience. Though the latter experience is quite enjoyable, it does not erase stress the way the former does. I think I want some of the kind of experience in which I am under no obligation to go anyplace or do anything. Just “be.” Just let the environment melt the stress away. Perhaps another “vacation” will involve renting a water-side cabin for a week, far away from any “attractions,” and simply soaking in the calm, comforting experience. I used to scoff at such experiences; no longer. I long for them. Even in the relative serenity of retirement, getting away from the daily demands that accompany living in the presence of masses of humanity (no matter how small and semi-rural) is deeply appealing.

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Our “home base” for the moment (for four days in total) is a very nice, modern suite in a nice, modern hotel property. I described it in an earlier post: it has a small kitchenette (stove, refrigerator, sink, microwave, coffee maker), a separate living area with a large screen TV, a separate bedroom (also with a TV), a separate room with toilet and shower, and plenty of closet space. When we leave here, it’s likely our “on the road” accommodations will not be quite as fancy, but they will be adequate. We have consciously decided to spend more than the bare minimum so we have far more than the bare minimum of accommodations. In fact, we try to find accommodations that might be considered luxurious by some standards, while limiting the financial damage to the extent we can. Motel 6 or Red Roof Inn or similar places are fine, but not for us. We want considerably thicker walls and somewhat more upscale accouterments. So we go for Hampton Inn or Homewood Suites, etc. I keep toying with the idea of buying a self-powered RV (i.e., a motorized vehicle with its own accommodations), but the cost of ownership and the cost of site rental quickly compares unfavorably to motel rooms. On the other hand, the experience is quite different. Renting an RV is obscenely expensive; otherwise, I might try it. I suppose I’ll keep bouncing back and forth, mentally, until either I make a firm decision or until I acknowledge that I won’t. We shall see.

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Sunday, we attended services at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady. I fell in love with the building. So, I’m hoping to post two photos I took. One is a shot of the front of the building and the other is the circular sanctuary (empty, after the service). Just for the record.

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Living Forward

It was not quite a whim, but neither was it a plan long in the making. Yesterday, we attended the Sunday service of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady. Coincidentally, yesterday was the UUSS in-gathering, also known to the members and friends of the church as the “water communion.” Their water ceremony was similar to, but somewhat different from, the same type of event the Unitarian Universalist Village Church held just two weeks before. Neither the differences nor the similarities are especially important; conceptually, they are essentially the same: events intended to acknowledge a “new year” of gathering together after a summer during which many members of the congregation have been apart. A striking difference between the UUVC service and the UUSS service was evident in the fact that, at the UUSS service, everyone wore masks during the service. And the UUSS service was led by two co-ministers, women who also are married to one another. Near the end of the service, the ministers led the congregation in an installation ceremony for the new board of trustees of the church.

UUSS services are held in a beautiful mid-century modern building, designed and constructed for the church in 1961. The sanctuary is a domed structure with seating at the perimeter beginning at street level; each successive circle of seating is lower than the one before it. In the center is an open, flat circle. The building is beautiful, but it is showing its age. It needs work, but because the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (listed in 2014), the work will be expensive and closely monitored to conform to rigid standards. After the service, we we invited to join the congregants for a pot-luck lunch. We sat with two board members, including the new president. Unlike UUVC, the congregation was of mixed ages, ranging from very young children to elderly, long-time members. And one of the board members was a Black woman. That diversity is possible due to the fact that Schenectady is a very diverse community in terms of age, race, ethnicity, gender, and socio-economic status. I am glad we decided to attend. However, I was highly disappointed that—because we attended the UUSS service—I was unable to view by Zoom yesterday’s UUVC service, “Religion for Atheists,” delivered by Reverend Mark Walz.

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Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

~ Soren Kierkegaard ~

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The topography and vegetation surrounding Saratoga Lake, New York is stunningly beautiful. Living on or near the lake today must require significant riches; far more than I could ever hope to have. But just seeing it and soaking in the splendor of the landscape is adequate; just keeping property in pristine condition would require more money than I would ever have; and more than I would be willing to spend.  That’s true of so many places, though. Such is life.

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After waking late (after 8:00 a.m.) this morning, I was a bit rattled, so did not write my usual early morning blog. Instead, we left the hotel in search of a country apple orchard store/cafe mi novia remembered from her childhood and subsequent visits to her home town. We found the country store, but discovered that it no longer served breakfast. And the “new” owners sold the apple orchard years earlier. So, after buying some apple donuts to go, we searched out another place; similar, but bigger and more exciting and inviting. We ate breakfast there and perused the extensive selection of beautiful vegetables. Then, we headed to the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery where her father is buried. After finding the place and getting some pictures, we wandered around Saratoga Lake, where we found the old house her grandparents had once owned. Too bad they sold it years ago; even in a state of disrepair, the tiny house directly on the lakeshore must be worth a small fortune today.

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The time is past 4:00 p.m. We are back at the hotel, resting after spending the morning seeing the sights. Mi novia is downstairs, washing clothes in the hotel’s guest laundry. I have no idea what we might do tomorrow. I know only that we will leave Schenectady on Wednesday morning; probably beginning the direction of our trek back home. We are in no hurry, though. We have a lot of available time yet blocked on our calendar, so we may creep along the eastern seaboard for a while, inching our way back to Arkansas a little at a time. Who knows? I don’t.

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New Places

Poetry can do a lot of things to people. I mean it can improve your imagination. It can take you to new places. It can give you this incredible form of verbal pleasure.

~ Billy Collins ~

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It’s odd, isn’t it, when troublesome and argumentative—but educational—philosophical quandaries invade one’s dreams? Just such a set of circumstances took place in my subconscious early this morning, just before I woke. Another vivid dream, for the second night in a row. The people involved in this dream included one of my brothers, members of my church, one of my nephews and his wife, my late wife’s sister, a friend who just celebrated his birthday, a friend from Hot Springs Village who is involved in her own long road trip at the moment, and various others. The situation revolved around the availability and/or release of telephone numbers.

My memory of the details of exactly how and why the phone numbers were released and the reasons for releasing them are sketchy. But I remember insisting that the phone numbers should have been readily available.  And I recall that a woman who is a “friend” of the church was upset because she believed the availability of phone numbers was being made as a tool to strong arm friends into becoming members. She claimed she and her husband were not members because they could not afford to make financial commitments (which is, by the way, not a requirement of membership), but the availability of their phone numbers was helping pressure them to join. She asked me whether a specific person was responsible for revealing their numbers.

My nephew was irate about making his wife’s phone number available to other members of the family (this, incidentally, never occurred in the real world, as far as I know). And my sister-in-law, not physically present in my dream but mentioned by me friend who just had a birthday, was a pawn in a disagreement in which an argument was made that the release of phone numbers could contribute to behaviors tantamount to sexual harassment. There was much more in this convoluted dream, but I do not quite understand or remember just how it all fit together. I do recall, though, that I finally insisted that the availability of phone numbers was a matter of easing emotional trauma and that, if a person felt strongly about the matter, he or she could block the numbers of certain people. And I recall, during the midst of the arguments, attempting to resolve the tensions surrounding the disagreements by washing an enormous sink-full of dishes. In the final bit of the dream I recall, I asked my camping friend something about her phone, but I do not recall just what. And, then, I woke up.

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Yesterday morning, we left Ashtabula, Ohio early after filling the tank with gas. After filling the tank with gas, I reset both trip odometers, including the one that recorded the mileage since departing on this road trip. Fortunately, mi novia recorded the starting mileage in writing, so we will have a record of the distance driven when we finally return home. We decided to forego a visit to Niagara Falls for the day, opting instead to drive directly to Schenectady, New York.

Along the way, we stopped at a remarkably attractive and well-appointed rest stop overlooking Chautauqua Lake, where we mused about the beauty of the area and how nice it would be to live in this area, nestled amid the natural beauty of this part of New York. Later, we attempted to find a place for lunch in Corning, New York, but the town seemed to eschew restaurants in favor of the Corning Museum of Glass.  As much as we would have liked to have visited the museum, street construction and blockage (coupled with hunger) argued against it. So, instead, we moved on to a gas station in Big Flats, New York, for a lunch of pizza. Then, we hit the road again, bound for Schenectady. We checked in to a very nice hotel, where we have a “room” that’s more like a nicely-appointed one-bedroom apartment, complete with kitchen (with a stove, full-sized refrigerator, dishwasher, living room (with big-screen TV), bedroom (with another big-screen TV), and bathroom. We’ll be here for a few days, using it as a base of operations while we visit the area where mi novia spent the first ten years of her life.

When we left Hot Springs Village, we thought we might visit Door County, Wisconsin and/or Traverse City, Michigan and various other places that we have, so far, missed. We did not really think we’d get to Schenectady, New York. Yet here we are, roughly 2500 miles (after taking an admittedly round-about route to get here) from where we started. Today, we will attend a service at the Unitarian Universalist church, just to see how our church compares. Then, we’ll see what we can see in and around Schenectady.

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Here, roughly (in two parts), is the route we have taken so far. Quite the trip.

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Knuckles on Old Boards on a Creek Embankment

Here I sit, in a motel in Ashtabula, Ohio, roughly sixty miles east of Cleveland. This motel room is tiny, in comparison to the apartment-sized place in South Bend. That apartment had separate living area, bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen; full-sized refrigerator, stove-top, microwave, etc. It was a little tired, but it was as roomy a motel room as I’ve ever had. I was almost sad to leave it, but I had to go in search for a place to buy a toll-tag. And I found a toll-tag. But, as I was initiating it online, I learned that it might not be recognized by the toll-tag readers in Indiana for several hours. And it might not be recognized by toll-tag readers in other states for up to 48 hours. So, instead of risking it, I stayed off toll roads yesterday, opting instead to take “back roads” through Indiana and Ohio. The back roads yielded experiences I probably would not have had on a toll-road: lots of road-side  veggie stands (and pumpkin sales yards), plus several Amish horses and wagons driven alongside the “back roads.” And there was more, of course. Except for the horrors of dealing with rush-hour Cleveland traffic and misdirection from the car’s GPS and from the smart-phone GPS (both of which lost their ways and, consequently, my way), the drive was not at all bad. Lunch in downtown Perrysburg, Ohio revealed a downtown area that suggested a very nice place to live for people who like both “small-town” atmospheres and the amenities of city life. Perrysburg is just outside Toledo, Ohio, where I had my first long-term hospital stay for unplanned out-of-town surgery; that was in 1990. I don’t recall what hospital I was in back then; it may be gone now, for all I know. It matters not that I do not recall the place.

Today, the target may be Niagara Falls, New York. And/or Schenectady, New York. We shall see.

Last night’s dreams included one in which I was involved in some sort of association in which a volunteer leader of the organization, a woman, stabbed at least one other volunteer, also a woman. The woman who was stabbed recognized the severity of her injuries, but she was in no pain. And she could walk. I walked with both of them along a steep creek embankment that was decked in old 2×6 boards. My arms were long enough that I could keep my balance by propping myself up with my hands pressing against the boards. I think we were headed to a house where others had been stabbed. And I think the purpose of our trek to that house was to inform the residents of the house that the violent leader who was so handy with a knife had done some very bad things. Odd, that dream.

Time to get ready for departure. Off we go.

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Luddite

I used to listen to a program on National Public Radio called “This I Believe.”  If it were still being produced, I might offer to write and read something for the program. It might go something like this.

Stress can change one’s personality. It can transform a reasonably decent person into a monster. For that reason, alone, I believe low-dose marijuana should be legal and its use encouraged before embarking on travel in areas in which heavy traffic and the resulting stress is likely. I believe marijuana—or Xanax, Librium, Valium, Ativan, or a similar alternative—might save lives and/or mental health if used judiciously before engaging in high-stress driving experiences. This I believe.

And there you are. That, among other things, is what is on my mind this morning.

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If yesterday’s traffic and toll-roads are indicative of modern technology, I want to spend the remainder of my days as a Luddite. I left Madison, Wisconsin behind yesterday morning, bypassing opportunities for the excitement and enjoyment of the very attractive city in favor of pursuing the objective seeking new adventures by heading south, then east. I tried to avoid the misery of Chicago traffic by swooping around west and south of Chicago to Kankakee, then sneaking back up I-57 to I-80, where I could zip eastward. Kankakee, as you might recall, was prominently featured in the lyrics of a song (City of New Orleans) written by Steve Goodman and made famous when sung by Arlo Guthrie (and others).  Before we got to Kankakee, a café in a small town, Streator, looked sufficiently “homey” to merit a stop for lunch; my assessment: meh. The back roads to Kankakee were fine. But I-57 was crowded, under the perpetual construction I remember from my time living in Chicago in the mid to late 1980s, and thoroughly unpleasant. And I-80 was beyond horrible—overwhelmingly bad to the twelfth power—from the moment I approached that evil toll road until maybe 15 miles after I merged onto it. The traffic crept along at 2-3 MPH (when it was moving at all), except when bastards darted in and out of traffic, and frequently slowed to a standstill.

I am of the opinion that the beasts who drive without consideration of the people around them deserve to be be euthanized—by drowning in gasoline heated to a point just shy of combustion. And then, unlike the Illinois turnpike (I-90 & I-39) which apparently will bill me for tolls, the Indiana turnpike (I-80 & I-94) requires travelers to stop and manually punch a button to get a ticket, then feed the ticket to a machine and pay with either cash or credit card…except the tickets and the payment machines are badly outdated and exceedingly difficult to use. After battling with the horrors of incredibly user-unfriendly road design, dealing with technology that was outdated by 2001 was almost too much for me. Yesterday, if I had been given access to a mid-level nuclear device, I might have reduced southern Illinois and most of Indiana to nuclear ash. Instead, I blew a few gaskets inside my brain and promised myself I would never travel by car in or around southern Illinois and any of Indiana ever again once I leave this part of the country.

After checking in to a motel and getting an early dinner, my mind went into overdrive, seeking routes for today and the days ahead that might keep me distant from interactions with humans and their technological mistakes. I doubt I was successful. But I vow never again, after this trip, to drive I-80 and I-94 and, if I can avoid it, I-90.

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This morning, I explored the process and cost of obtaining an E-Z Pass toll-tag. Not that I plan to travel on toll-roads in each of these states, but if I were to get an E-Z Pass I could use it in Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Islands, Virginia, and West Virginia. I may find a CVS pharmacy where I can buy one this morning before I get back on the toll-road; it could measurably improve my state of mind and my life. It’s early yet. CVS pharmacies probably do not open until 9 or later. I have time. I can wait, if it will help me retrieve my sanity. Alternatively, I could opt to add time to my drive and avoid toll-roads entirely. That might be an intelligent option. We shall see.

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When the mechanics of a journey become sufficiently troublesome as to cause angst to bubble up and spew like red-hot magma, perhaps it’s a signal to stop and smell the roses. Except South Bend, Indiana, where I am this morning, may not be suited to growing roses. Instead, I think kudzu and poison ivy probably thrive here. But that thought  may be based entirely on the level of stress I felt yesterday as I left the tollway in search of a place to stay for the night. So, taking a break, here, from the journey may not be only inappropriate, it might cause welts, blisters, and a nasty rash that could last anywhere from hours to weeks. A more suitable respite might be found in a cabin on the shores of a quiet little lake, where egrets and herons wade near the shore. A place where fishing would yield a fresh-water catch that would be the star of many lovely meals. Alas, I do not know of such a quiet, private lake where I would be permitted, much less encouraged, to stay to allow my anxieties to settle into serenity. But here I am  in South Bend, home to the University of Notre Dame. Perhaps I’ll just sit and contemplate the vagaries of life on the road and hope for a well-spring of gentle tranquility. There. That should do it.

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I will be slow to leap into this day. I will take my time and make the experience my friend.

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Someday

Yesterday was a surprise. Decorah, Iowa struck me as the “Mayberry” I’ve been looking for. A beautiful small town with a vibrant, appealing downtown. The town boasts a Unitarian Universalist congregation and a Democratic party headquarters (that share space). A Korean/sushi restaurant. Multiple coffee shops. And, to my knowledge, a downtown that has not a single “brand” retail outlet; everything is unique and owner-operated, it seems. Just a lovely place. Residential areas just blocks from downtown are filled with attractive, well-maintained houses. Many, many of those well-maintained houses have “yards” with little to no grass; instead, they are filled with lush, colorful gardens. The only downside, as far as I can tell, is the town’s paucity of available real estate. Ach! I could live there, easily, if only I could find the right house. We spoke to several people, including a gentleman (75-years-old) who was extremely friendly and obviously progressive in his world-view. He suggested that the town was split 60-40, progressive-conservative; people get along, though, regardless of their political perspectives, he said. Mostly. There are a few die-hard hyper-conservatives who trumpet their loathing of all things and people who adhere to a liberal attitude, but they are few and far between. Oh, what I would give to pick up and move there tomorrow!

But we picked up and left, after a delightful several hours there, heading in the direction of Madison, Wisconsin. Last night, we stayed on the western fringes of Madison. Today, I will steer the car south and east, intentionally bypassing the greater Chicago area. No need to fight the traffic when there’s nothing drawing me to the city and region where I once lived and that I once loved.

After breakfast and packing up the car, I’ll direct it generally eastward. I expect a motel somewhere in Indiana will be home tonight; or, if I push it hard, a motel in Ohio, near the shore of Lake Erie. The car’s odometer surpassed 100,000 miles during the drive yesterday (or was it the day before?), without notice; I saw that I had left that milestone in the dust only fifteen miles after it occurred. It’s well beyond that, now. And it will rack up quite a few more before this long, aimless trip is done. As I watch the miles drift by, I think to myself that it seems I am running away from something. Perhaps it is a clutch of memories I am trying to ease or a longing I am attempting to erase. Or, maybe, I am running toward something; something new and exciting and energizing. One of these days, I’ll look back and determine just what it was that prompted that sense of running away from or toward something.

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Road trips tend to require the consumption of junk food; pretzels, crackers, chips, etc. I have to slow down on that stuff if I hope to maintain the direction my weight is taking. That is, down. We shall see. We always do.

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I could spend the day writing, but I have roads to follow and distances to leave behind. Off we go. I will long remember and treasure this trip. But I know it is only one of many more to come. I enjoy the highway and all it offers. I’ve learned a lot about the beauty of corn fields and the designs they make in the earth. I’ve seen many things I want to explore more deeply. And I will. Perhaps not today. But someday.

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Another Day

Another day. Another precious day.

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We thought yesterday we might head to Door County, Wisconsin. Or Madison, Wisconsin or the Milwaukee area or Spring Green. Instead, we wandered along the border between Iowa and Illinois, taking the Great River Road through Muscatine, Davenport, Camanche, Bellevue (where we stopped for lunch), and finally Dubuque, where we veered westward about ninety miles. We spent the night last night in Waterloo, Iowa.

As we meandered along the Mississippi River, I became enamored with the look and feel of several towns along the river. First, Muscatine captured my imagination; I could imagine living in a house (or in a mid-rise condo) with a view of the Mississippi. Then, I fell in love with Davenport—small enough to retain the charm of a semi-rural setting, but large enough to offer the amenities of a city. We roamed streets near the riverfront, driving by many beautiful old houses that seem to have been meticulously cared for. Based on listings we found on Zillow.com, I decided I could pay cash for a house in Davenport, which could serve as a lovely non-winter getaway. I am not serious about such an idea, though. Yet.

Davenport has a population of roughly 100,000, but I saw no signs of the ugliness of city traffic or urban blight (though, admittedly, we did not take a comprehensive tour of the town). But the little city holds enough appeal to warrant serving as a port-of-call for Viking River Cruises. As we drove through town, we were surprised to see a docked Viking River Cruise vessel. A Viking motor coach arrived dockside just as we entered a parking area reserved for buses (no cars allowed when a ship is docked…but we drove in anyway, after which I got gun-shy and insisted we get out of the way of the bus). Though the ship seemed enormous to me, it is a tiny fraction of the size of an ocean-going vessel. On every level (three?) of the side of the ship visible to us were balconies; people were sitting on some of them. I can imagine feeling quite at ease on a river cruise. Mi novia and I mused about the passengers, assuming that many of them must be Europeans or other foreign visitors, for whom a cruise up the Mississippi would be just as exotic as a cruise on the Rhine or Danube would be to us. In fact, we decided a cruise on the Mississippi would be an exotic adventure to us. One day, perhaps…

Today, we are thinking about driving northeast to Decorah, Iowa (just because…), then perhaps further north to Rochester, Minnesota. Then, we might head back southeast toward Madison, Wisconsin. Of course, that could change. And probably will.

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We are only an hour (or less) from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where a former employee (from many, many years ago…like 37 years) lives with her husband. I have toyed with the idea of trying to connect with her, but have decided trying to set up another reunion with her might derail our meandering journey. I last saw her about twenty-two years ago, when I visited Cedar Rapids on business. We stay in touch, every year, by way of my annual birthday email greeting to her and her email response. That’s enough. A face-to-face meeting probably would be a bit awkward, in that we probably have very little in common after all these years and there would be little to talk about. So, we’ll use the time and energy that a visit might require for other experiences.

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I got good news last night, via an email from my nephew, that my brother has been released from the hospital. He may yet be able to make his move to Ohio without any delays, but he’ll need to see a GI doctor first to see about  what treatments, if any, he’ll need for his diverticulitis. Sudden illnesses are scary (a fact to which I can attest, from personal experience). When they resolve satisfactorily, one feels even more grateful for one’s health than beforehand.

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Tripping

We spent last night in Burlington, Iowa. Had we known, we might have hurried to get here several days earlier to experience the Wake ‘n Bake Delicious Dolls’ Drag Brunch. But, no, we got here two days late. The next major event advertised on the Greater Burlington Partnership website, the Jefferson Street Farmers Market, occurs two days hence. We will be long gone by then. Had we been in the mood for gambling, we could have stepped out the front door of our motel and walked next door to the Catfish Bend Casino. But we were in the mood to rest our tired bones, instead, so we stayed in our room, treating it like a cocoon. That was after a trip to Walmart, though, where we bought a cell-phone charger to supplement the one we brought with us. I left another one at the hospital during my last trip to the ER, several weeks ago.  I think I could learn to like Burlington, Iowa if I were to stick around for awhile. The greater Burlington metropolitan area is home to roughly 48,000 people, though Burlington itself has a population of roughly 24,000 in 2020, a decline of about 3,000 from the official figures released in the 2000 census. I have learned this about myself in recent years: I seem to prefer the “vibe” of places that are losing population, rather than places that are growing. I think my affinity for such places relates to my belief that I see potential in those areas; “if I were in charge, I could and would make the changes necessary that would result in the ‘right kind’ of slow growth—expansion that would excise the ugliness and fertilize the beauty, as it were.” Apparently, I hold my fantasies about my capabilities in high regard.

This morning, we will decide where to go today. Perhaps we’ll go to Madison. Or maybe to the Milwaukee area. Or, perhaps, to Spring Green. Or any number of other places in Wisconsin. We’ll know once we’re in the car and well on our way to wherever we’re heading.

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Wherever you go, go with all your heart.

~ Confucious ~

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Odd Attractions

Last night, we stayed in another Hampton Inn, this one in the northeast corner of Kansas City, Missouri, near Worlds of Fun Village and Oceans of Fun Village. We did not explore either Village, which appear to be components of a single, monstrous amusement park. They simply are not our idea of “must-see” attractions, although I was drawn to the amusement rides visible from nearby streets. Roller coasters and other such rides intrigue me—rides that attempt to cause riders to lose lunch and dinner and a few snacks. I may not be able to hold my meals, but I would be willing to try. Or, I should say, I once would have been willing to try. These days, I am afraid my bones might be so brittle that the centrifugal force of the rides might shatter my skeleton into a thousand pieces. Perhaps riding those beasts should wait until my last hours on Earth are nigh; twenty years hence, perhaps. Yeah, right.

Today, we shall wander east and, possibly, north. We may look for odd attractions along the way. Things like the world’s largest pod of okra or the longest intact toenail in the universe or the happiest cantaloupe or the baby with the longest beard (none of which are real…just dreamed up to fill space). Whatever we do, we will plan on enjoying the experience.  We shall see what the day holds as it unfolds.

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The lack of a refrigerator in my car has proven to be a serious deficiency, one that could be rectified only by replacing the car with a properly outfitted van or mini-RV. The deficiency became obvious as we passed fruit and vegetable stands, not bothering to stop because we have no way to refrigerate any purchases we might make. For example, we could have bought watermelons, but they would quickly deteriorate in the hot car. And we have opted to stop and buy cold drinks as we’ve driven down long highways; with a refrigerator, we could have an ample supply of cold drinks without the trouble of wandering the aisles of convenience stores, looking for the refrigerated sections. A refrigerator (along with a stove, sink, and other conveniences one associates with a well-equipped home) could serve us well. Thus the idea of a properly outfitted van or mini-RV is appealing. I spent some time online last night, looking for RV shows we might visit on our travels. Unfortunately, our timing is off; we’ve either just missed some shows or we’re too early for the winter shows. It’s probably best; I might be tempted to buy something I cannot afford and I would have to arrange for my car to be shipped home (trading it in is not an option, as the title to the vehicle is tucked safely away in a safe deposit box, I think, in Hot Springs Village). Circumstances have a way of dictating one’s behavior.

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According to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s The World Factbook, “Canada gained legislative independence from Britain in 1931 and formalized its constitutional independence from the UK when it passed the Canada Act in 1982.” I did not realize the recency of the country’s dissolution of its constitutional independence from the UK. I knew it became effectively independent many year earlier (it “became a self-governing dominion in 1867,” according to the CIA…and I have no reason to dispute my home country’s clandestine services organization), but I was unaware (or had forgotten) the 1982 milestone. My interest in perusing the The World Factbook arose from my resurgent fascination with the idea of becoming Canadian. Alas, the process of becoming Canadian is more involved than I think reasonable, especially for a man only slightly more than a year away from becoming a septuagenarian.

I have spent far less time in Canada than I would like. But I have spent enough time in the country (though it has been quite a while since my last visit) to know how deeply appealing I find the country and its culture. I’ve spent a little time in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax, and a few other places in between; enough to know I should have been born in the country that is our neighbor to the north.

It’s possible, though unlikely, that our current travels will take us into Canada. But I would surely like to drive into Canada and, then, to travel the country from east to west and south to north…by automobile, by train, or by private motor coach. If Prime Minister Trudeau is reading these words, I hope he will recognize my post as a plea for him to grant me citizenship and free access to the country. And I hope he will respond in a way that I find both appropriate and humane. I know. I am approximately insane for even writing this odd plea.

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Time to go down for breakfast. Thence to the road, which will take us to places we want to see and experience and embrace.

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Tripping

Yesterday’s weather grew cooler and wetter as we made our way from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, heading toward and through the Flint Hills of Kansas. We got as far as Council Grove, on our way to Manhattan, Kansas, when we hit a detour. A major, lengthy, time-consuming detour. A detour that added considerable distance and time to our journey and that derailed our plans to get to Manhattan. Our detour took us to Junction City, where we decided to have a very late (roughly 3:00 p.m.) lunch. After lunch, when the time was well after 4:00 p.m., we opted to stay in Junction City for the night. We found a Hampton Inn and made a reservation. Compared to the previous night’s Hampton Inn (in Bartlesville), the place we stayed last night is a dump; much smaller room, badly outdated (compared to the Bartlesville property), a bit smelly, and considerably pricier than it should have been. Such is life in dealing with independently-owned properties. Some people—clothed in greed and wearing not even thread-bare robes of decency—price their “wares” at obscene rates.

Yet, while I bitch and moan about how the place is not the palace I think I deserve, I acknowledge I am awash in good fortune. I am lucky to be able to stay in a place as nice as this: clean sheets, comfortable bed, functioning HVAC, etc., etc. If I compare my circumstances to the guy we encountered when we filled up with gas along the way, I am rich. The guy, driving a ragged, road-worn pickup truck, had two arms full of tattoos, a nice smile, and a pleasant demeanor; not (in my opinion) the countenance of a beggar. He asked if I could spare a few bucks to help him make his way back home…to a town whose name I do not recall, only that it was south of Stillwater.  Initially, I rejected him, claiming I had only a credit card. He replied by saying something to the effect that “if you could put a few dollars on your card, that would help us get home.” An older man sat in the passenger’s seat. When I finished filling my tank, I gave the driver a $5 bill; he seemed genuinely appreciative. He went inside the convenience store where I believe he bought $5 worth of gas. He put some gas in the truck, then moved it away from the pumps and parked in front of the convenience store. As mi novia came out of the store, where she bought some drinks and snacks, she walked over to his truck and handed him a $5 bill. I believe the guys really needed help buying gas to get home. As I reflect on our interchanges with the guy, I wish I’d handed him a $20 bill. It might have made his day. It certainly would not have ruined mine.

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Today, we will make our way to Kansas City, where we will have lunch with mi novia’s friend and her husband. They are staying in Gladstone, a Missouri suburb of KC, helping the woman’s brother following his hospitalization; the couple live in mi novia’s old hometown of Stockton, California and have made their way east to assist the woman’s brother. After lunch, we plan to pay a short visit with a friend and former employee of mine who lives in the Kansas KC suburb of Lenexa. Then, we will find a place in the northeastern suburbs or exurbs of Kansas City in preparation for our departure tomorrow morning, possibly in the direction of Traverse City, Michigan. While we have no set destination, Traverse City intrigues me. On the way there, assuming that’s where we head, we may stop in Bloomington, Illinois. However, because that’s a college town, we may decide we’d rather no stay in a motel that could be a magnet to drunken college students (I may be a little judgmental, I know). We shall see.

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I learned last night that my brother, the one who’s preparing to move to Ohio, was admitted to a hospital in Houston, Texas yesterday with GI issues, possibly an ulcer. That is a disturbing situation that I hope is quickly and completely and satisfactorily resolved. I’ve lately been concerned about my sister-in-law, another brother’s wife, who is awaiting surgery for a heart valve replacement. And I’m concerned, as well, for my sister, who has been wrestling with pain in her hips; that is especially concerning because she must go up and down a steep set of stairs to go into and out of her condo. The effects of aging are all around—and in—me. Aging causes me to assign considerably greater value to lost youth and to what once was good (or, at least, acceptably decent, but deteriorating) health.

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Beyond Traverse City, assuming we actually decide to go there, we do not know where we might head. My thinking is driven by an interest in finding a place that might be appealing to me as a place to live, should I decide to vacate Hot Springs Village. I struggle with the idea of leaving Hot Springs Village because I have good friends there. But I struggle with staying because of weather and chiggers and its declining quality of intellectual health; that is, it is not just a conservative stronghold, it is a stronghold for conservative stupidity on steroids. But so is much of the country. I long for comfortable weather, interesting and intelligent people, and the possibility of an appealing lifestyle…whatever that means. Is there a place in the U.S. that’s both affordable and attractive in all the right ways? I do not know. And I am still not sure about leaving the country. I may be too old and set in my ways to try on a new language and a new perspective on life. We shall see. Maybe.

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I have been away from Hot Springs Village for only about three days. It seems like an eternity. Odd, that.

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Strangers

Doors in the motel hallway slam shut, announcing strangers’ departure and alerting me to strangers’ inconsiderate behavior. Those slamming doors do not awaken me, but they raise my hackles. But, what if those doors slammed by accident? Would I retain my loathing for the strangers who accidentally slammed them? Or would I dismiss the possibility that the slamming was accidental? Should I assume the strangers up and down the hallway intentionally slam doors as a means of notifying their unknown neighbors that strangers leaving early demand to be noticed? Where in the world of strangers does malice reside? Is it in them, the strangers, or is it in me, the stranger to the strangers?

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Soon

Five years ago, I began writing what I had hoped would become either a solid short story or, if my creativity and stamina would cooperate, a full-fledged novel. Needless to say, the story did not hold my interest long enough to see it to completion. In fact, after writing only enough to set the stage for a political and military confrontation between allied, I set the story aside. Only this morning, as I skimmed a list of documents in a “writing” subdirectory did I come across the meager framework of what could have become an interesting story. The two characters in the opening scene of the story are the prime minister of Canada and the president of Mexico. They have just agreed that the topics they were about to discuss would be held in strict confidence between the two of them; no one, not even their most trusted staff members nor their spouses or anyone else, could be privy to the information they would share.

The information they shared was this: both countries had secretly been developing nuclear weapons; not as offensive weapons, but only for their defense. Defense from their most powerful ally. The United States. Especially in light of the fact that an egotistical madman occupied the White House. The leaders of the two countries were concerned about the unpredictability of the U.S. president; they felt obligated to protect their citizens from his actions. During their brief meeting, they agreed to quickly craft and sign a mutual defense agreement and announce it publicly.

About the same time I was writing that piece of fiction, I was exploring the idea of writing a novel, also involving nuclear weapons as a source of dramatic tension. And part of that tension revolved around nuclear threats that could, eventually, lead to catastrophic destruction of a major U.S. city. But, before that city might be destroyed, another small city whose name suggested the larger target would be targeted. Just as proof of intent.

I convinced myself, at the time, that a road trip to gather information for my novel would be in order. So, my late wife and I drove to Manhattan, Kansas. The details of what I did there are dull and unexciting, but the seemed interesting at the time. So, this morning as I wonder where mi novia and I might go as we launch our road trip, Manhattan, Kansas is among the places I might consider as a target. But, the Texas coast, setting for another short story (actually published in an anthology), is another option. So are Oberlin, Ohio and Traverse City, Michigan and Savannah, Georgia. We’ll see where we are tomorrow morning at this time.

This trip, though, will not be a “writing trip.” It will be an opportunity for experiences and excitement and the thrill of travel. And off we go. Soon.

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More Fantasies

 

I expect my treadmill to arrive this afternoon or early evening. I ordered it online a number of weeks ago, but like so many other consumer products, it was a victim of bottlenecks of manufacturer or distribution or both. But, according to a couple of phone calls I received yesterday, I should receive it today. Some people pooh-pooh the idea of a treadmill, saying it quickly will become a clothes rack, used only for garment storage and not for exercise. Those same people say treadmills are poor stand-ins for actual walking. I agree with the latter statement, except that I consider time on a treadmill to be dedicated time for exercise, whereas I consider walking for pleasure to be something entirely different. And, unlike the world outside, beneath the sky, treadmills are available whether it’s hot, cold, rainy, snowy, or deeply dark.

With good fortune and plenty of discipline, I will be able to demonstrate to the doubters the effectiveness (potential) of treadmills.

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The journey is more important than the destination” So says the time-worn aphorism. In a very limited way, I will put that adage to the test, beginning tomorrow. I will climb inside my vehicle and take a journey. It may be 200 a mile journey or I may drive 500 miles. The drive may take me north, but it could just as easily take me south. Or east. Or west. Or variations thereof. Tomorrow’s journey will be just the first day of a weeks-long adventure. Every day, a new journey. Another 200 or 500, or just 75, miles. Every day, the destination will be irrelevant; the “getting-there” is the more important aspect of the journey; wherever “there” happens to be—I will not know until I get there.

The idea of this kind of journey—which involves no planning and no destination—is a bit stressful to mi novia. She is used to journeys in which the destination was primary and every aspect of carefully planning how to get there was almost as important. This journey, in which extemporaneous decisions about direction and distance, will shatter those experiences into dust. Well, maybe not quite dust. At some point each day, we will have to decide where we want to try to stay. And we will have to try to book a room. And we will have to reach that destination in order to stay in that place. So, being a wanderer—a gypsy, a vagabond—is not so easy; one strays back into elements of a planned life. Nothing ties us to the idea of eschewing planned destinations; if, after a time, we decide we prefer the structure of a known destination and a planned itinerary, we can make the appropriate adjustments. Mi novia and I will decide off the cuff.  I am not sure whether I agree with the assertions in the following quotation, but I like the way it slides off the tongue.

I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.

~ Hilaire Belloc ~

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93/59; pulse 49. I suspect that’s indicative of my über-relaxed state of mind. But that cannot be it; I am not that cool and calm and collected. Of course, I scurried over the Sister Google for some information (I’ve done that before, but I’ve forgotten what I learned). Sister Google allowed that a pressure under 90/60 is abnormally low (though not dangerous). I have this distinct feeling that I already wrote about this stuff…like just days ago. Either this feeling is déjà vu or it’s a close cousin to it. Perhaps I am light-headed, one of the possible symptoms of hypotension. Or perhaps I am like many/most others, who may sometimes be at or near the cut-off for hypotension diagnosis,  but who show no symptoms at all. And, then, my lower-than-normal blood pressure drifts up to the not-so-awfully-low range. All’s well in the land of make-believe

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My travel fantasy this morning includes a destination: an isolated private island on which is perched a magnificent little house; very modern in design but nestled into the topography as if it grew there. Once there, I would close the window between my private little island world and the universe beyond that window. When I open the window again, all I can see are grass prairies leading to the top edge of high cliffs. Two hundred feet below, waves crash into the vertical cliff walls and water splashes almost to the prairie grass above. The house is well-stocked with food. One room is essentially a library, with shelves all along the walls and in aisles in the center of the room, leaving little room between the stacks. Plenty of books. And a crafts-room, complete with pottery wheels, slab roller, clay, colored glass, lead solder, soldering gun, welding equipment, plasma cutter, grinders, kilns, table saws, radial arm saws, a drill press, and dozens of other tools and various supplies. Heaven on earth. And the place has unlimited power. And several freezers full of food…did I mention? Hey, this is a fantasy. I can have what I want.

+++

The clock tells me it’s time to begin getting ready for the day. I suppose I will comply.

 

 

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Mysteries of the Lesser Light

Dim, grey light filters through the trees. The dimness diminishes with each passing minute, replaced by a slightly brighter sky behind the branches. The distant glow above the horizon grows in intensity, offsetting the loss of darkness with a deepening supply of luminescence. Soon, darkness will be hidden, visible only under the leaves and forest debris on the ground. Pine and oak trees will continue to battle with the sky, shading the ground beneath from the sun’s pure white light. But darkness will lose the battle, as it does every day. Will darkness ever prevail? Will the sun ever abandon its effort to bathe the world in light? Deep grey and dark green colors still mix with the blackness of night as dawn claws its way out of the forest. But the forest will remain at the edge of darkness for as long as dense stands of oak and pine stay close to one another, holding development at bay for another little while. Eventually, though, the trees and underbrush will be dispatched to a place where only memory is permitted to thrive.

The image here is only an imaginary expression of something that does not exist. It is your eyes’ deceit; trickery that lures your mind into believing light and darkness have a place on the screen in front of you. You know better. The image burned into your brain is a figment of your imagination; a relic of a time when you had the eyes of an eagle and the resolve of a martyr. Today, of course, you sit in front of a screen, watching evidence of your gullibility put on display for all the world to see. Grey and dim, indeed. Shades of deep, dark green. Darkness giving way to light. It’s all a deception of the highest order. But, still, you stare into the abyss and watch flames consume a lost cargo ship as the water surrounding it boils and thrashes and screams for release.

+++

A final opportunity delivered to a desperate man standing on the raised railing of a cargo ship under assault by gale force winds and waves as tall as ten story buildings. Perhaps he jumped. Maybe he was pushed. Or, quite possibly, the sea wrapped its watery fingers around him and pulled him from the railing and toward the bottom of an impossibly deep ocean. No one else will ever know, for he may have been alone—or, at least, by himself—on that massive sea-going vessel. The ship subsequently drifted for weeks on calm waters. Finally, though, the corrosive air and water consumed the framework upon which safety had been built and then torn asunder. The ship sank beneath the mysterious waters of an endless body of water, where the boat’s secrets will remain locked in a vault until the vault and its contents are consumed by time.  The desperate man will then be gone forever, as will all evidence of him and the life he lived. Because when time and water erase memories, nothing remains; not even history.

+++

I successfully returned to bed at 3, after briefly considering abandoning it at that ungodly hour. Instead, though, I went back to sleep and slept until 5:30. Time moves far too fast in the early morning hours. It races by, as if driven by a frenzied witch running late for an appointment with infinity. A witch, incidentally, need not wear a pointy black hat; she can wear a stylish orange fedora to complement the warlock’s beige pork pie hat. His hat is woven from the dried skin of the enemy; “the enemy” is a catch-all term for everyone else who is not “us.” The warlock employs an army of milliners who craft pork pie hats, as well as stovepipe hats, the kind Abraham Lincoln wore. Lincoln was the only person I know of who wore tall, stovepipe hats; the presidential dress-code never caught on with the riff-raff among us. We always chose fedoras or newsboy caps. As well we should.

+++

And the morning continues to unfold. I will watch it. And I will take  my car in for an oil change and tire rotation, preparation for a long, long, long road trip. Now, in the interim, I will explore answers to the mysteries of the lesser light.

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Clutching Thunder

Distant thunder. The sound is far enough from me, and faint enough, that it may be my imagination rattling around in my head. But I think it’s thunder. Thunder, a thousand miles away, clutching at the clouds that bind it to a continent on which English is not the chosen language. That’s what creates distant thunder; clouds ramming into one another over foreign lands so far away they look like paintings. Wee-hour imaginings; that’s what’s responsible for these clutches of words, these syllables gathered together in random fashion, with just enough meaning to keep them from separating into noisy partial-word sounds.

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Sunlight will remain at bay for hours. Until then, I will sit in a room illuminated by an artificial sun, a sun misshapen into a tube with designs etched on its sides.

Light, to my way of thinking, is the visual manifestation of heat in a precisely defined and limited space. Light is an interesting phenomenon. It is neither a physical “thing” nor an imaginary spirit. Light bathes us in vision; without light, we would be blind. Yet light is not the same as our eyes; without our eyes, we would be blind, but eyes and light are radically different from one another.

Eyes are physical things, whereas light is more an event than a thing. More an occurrence than an item we can grasp in our hands. Darkness, like light, has no physical properties one can hold in our hands. Yet, when circumstances cooperate, we can feel darkness. We sometimes can differentiate between darkness and light without the aid of our eyes. When darkness replaces light, shining on our skin, we can feel heat dissipate. Or, maybe we feel light loosen its grip. Or, by contrast, perhaps we feel the grip of darkness tighten.

If light and darkness are phenomena, then greed and altruism, too, are phenomena. All phenomena are related to one another, in one form or another, if for no other reason than their manner of being. We can stretch that elastic relationship just enough to assert that darkness and altruism are related, just as are greed and light. Perhaps the relationships are inverse. Yet maybe they are not. Maybe, despite all we’ve been taught for all these long centuries, altruism and darkness are simply mirror images of one another. Maybe, in fact, altruism behaves as if it were light—simply to ensure its visibility in that mirror. And light acts like greed to force us to turn our eyes away from the negativity inherent in the inverse of giving.

I read yesterday, while skimming an article asserting the legitimacy of “woo-woo” thinking, that nothing exists until it is noticed. So, planet Earth did not exist until the first living cells were able to react to—that is, notice—their environment. But the article went further; it suggested that a tree in a forest or a pipe wrench sitting on a work bench do not exist until noticed by humans. I suppose a raccoon that climbs the tree or a monkey that picks up the pipe wrench are products of an overactive environmental imagination. Seriously, the assertions are absurd on one hand, but they are meritorious of deep, nonjudgmental thinking on the other. Looking at the world around us in ways utterly foreign to our experience is a valuable exercise. It awakens us from a stupor and thrusts us into a experience of enlightenment unlike anything we have ever before encountered. We must simply allow ourselves to be drawn into a prism, from which we can peer outward at the way it refracts life. That’s all it takes. But that transformation is equivalent to a butterfly emerging from a cocoon captured in amber one million years ago. The emergence is next to impossible, except when one allows one’s imagination total freedom, in which case the transition is supremely simple and flawless. Back to the “woo-woo” thinking, though: nothing exists until it interacts or engages in some way with entities around it. Maybe there’s something to it. Maybe I do not exist in your eyes, and vice versa, until we engage. Until we notice one another—with profound appreciation—we do not realize how fulfilling our interactions with one another might be. We may as well not exist until we devote the time and expend the energy to know one another. To. Notice. One. Another. I notice everyone. If I stare at you, it is because I want you to exist; more than simply in my imagination.

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Yesterday was lost. Lost to sleep for much of the day. Lost to a malaise; not one foretelling the onset of disease but, instead, a slowly-disappearing reaction to consuming too many almonds the night before. I know better. Yet I allow myself to over-indulge. And, when I do, I pay the price. The price, yesterday, was a general sense of discomfort and a desire to sleep my way through a painful, aching gut. It may take another day or two to fully resolve itself. In the meantime, my efforts to satisfy my hunger probably will gravitate toward jello and other soft foods. Maybe pasta, flavored with pizza sauce (because, to my knowledge, there is no canned/jarred pasta sauce in the house and I am not in the mood to create a sauce from scratch. Sauce intended for pizza—thicker and sweeter and richer than I’d like, but acceptable, anyway, as a stand-in—thinned with a little water and improved with some Italian spices and crushed red peppers may do the trick. For breakfast. Or lunch. Or whatever. I was sufficiently hungry last night to consume an entire can of Campbell’s tomato soup. Though not overwhelmingly hungry right now (at 2:23 a.m.), I could eat. I could eat quite a lot, if I did not have to prepare it. If I had a servant, I would be considerably heavier and more solid.

+++

I slept yesterday afternoon without noticing the rain and thunder. Only after I woke did I learn that the sky had opened, drenching the ground and producing growls and cracks and other fierce noises that would, under normal circumstances, wake me. My sleep must have been deeper than I thought, though. I heard nothing. I was deep in sleep while Mother Nature disturbed the peace of almost everyone in the Village but me. That is a rarity. Thunder tends to enter my body as if the sound belonged to me; and, normally, I react to the sound as if it were attempting to escape from me. I tend to cling to it the way I envision a drowning man clings to a life raft. But not yesterday. Not when I was fighting to recover from whatever it was that attempted to knock me down and out.

+++

The time is 3:24 a.m., nearly two hours later than it was when I awoke and climbed out of bed. The first cup of coffee is history and the second is disappearing fast. I think I’ll hard-boil some eggs. Deviled eggs for breakfast is beginning to sound alluring in the extreme. And so it came to pass that the man created deviled eggs. And they will be good. I will notice them. And they will return the favor, caressing my tongue and thus releasing flavors so rich and fulfilling that anyone reading these words will feel the experience.

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It’s Tuesday. One of roughly Tuesdays (more or less) so far. Others have experienced more Tuesdays or fewer. But I have experienced as many as I possibly could up until this point. If the universe is willing, I will experience many more Tuesdays. And there you are.

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Any Moment

Sadness—deep, intractable, incurable heartache or grief or overwhelming sorrow—provides an endless supply of content for writers. That reality gives rise to the question as to whether sadness propels people to become writers or whether writing is symptomatic of a profound, underlying sadness. Does the fact that even comedy, beneath its slick, laugh-stoked exterior, is soaked in sadness have any bearing on the discussion? Probably not. A thousand arguments can be made to refute the connection between writing and sadness. But a thousand more substantiate the link between the two; while no causal relationship can be verified, neither can it be discounted. No one can know with certainty, no matter how much knowledge one has stored in the recesses of one’s mind.

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Once again, I have been up for hours. This morning, I woke “for the duration” at 4. Earlier, I had forced myself back to bed around 12:30. But I could not do it again at 4. Even after being up for almost two and a half hours, I have been unable to write anything I am willing to show to the denizens of planet Earth who stumble upon this blog. Not that I would know they saw it. They would not leave comments to show that they saw what I wrote. They would simply look dismissively at my words and would then move on to more interesting places on the internet.

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I give up. There’s no point in continuing this charade. I cannot write this morning, no matter how much I might want to. I am unwilling to record most of this morning’s thoughts here because I might be asked to explain the source of my ennui; I have no explanation to give. Depression? Anxiety? Simple fatigue? Who knows? Enough for now. Perhaps I will tumble out of the doldrums at any moment.

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Talk About It

The computer claims the outside temperature is 66°F right now; that would be delightful, except that the humidity is 92%. A few moments ago, I went outside to experience 66°F at 92% humidity. I expected the experience to be somewhat disappointing; I thought the high humidity would mask the comfort of the temperature. I was wrong. It felt wonderful. Even though there was not even a hint of a breeze, the temperature felt wonderful. I barely even noticed the high humidity. Usually, when the air is dead still, as it is now, temperatures have to be considerably lower than “normal” to feel comfortable. But not so this morning. I encourage everyone who is able to experience 66°F at 92% humidity, when the air is absolutely still, to do just that. Experience it. And talk about it.

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As people age, they tend to repeat themselves. Their conversations sometimes seem to have been recorded on a loop; though the words may be slightly different, the content varies only slightly. These repetitions may occur over the course of a few days or, as time marches on, over the course of a few seconds. Between those extremes, repetitions take place with increasing frequency and with decreasing time between them.  To the mind whose ear is exposed to high-speed repetitions, the exposure can be maddening. But one’s frustration must be tempered with understanding of the reality of what is happening to the brain. Virtually all people go through various degrees of the phenomenon. Understanding and kindness should be one’s reaction, not unchecked frustration. How easy it is, though, to condemn a lack of understanding in others while demonstrating it in oneself.

As I contemplate my experiences listening to a story for the umpteenth time, I wonder whether repetitive telling is an indication of the importance of the story to the teller. Or does it, I wonder, illustrate a limitation on the number and/or depth of topics available in the teller’s brain? Or, maybe, both? These questions are based not only on curiosity born of observing others, but of curiosity and fear that arise from recalling my own behaviors. And, in answer to my own questions, based on my own experience as a story-teller, I think it’s a bit of both. The stories must be important to me and, therefore, telling them to others in my sphere must be important because I want others to understand who I am. Repetitive telling is a measure of their importance. Yet repetition must also be an sign of decay; mental decay reduces the number and depth of topics available for conversation.

This is all supposition, of course, though it may be based in part on past reading about the effects of aging and its impact on both the individual and people in the individual’s sphere. I often wonder whether my curiosity is fueled by my own intellect or by my exposure to others’ thinking? Who knows? I should be satisfied to know I can still think, whether my thoughts are spurred by my own intellect or by others’ thinking. I should be, but I’m not. I want to know more. I want to know so much more than I know. The human brain, I think, has capacities far exceeding any we have measured heretofore. We have not yet unlocked the doors to that vast empty space where knowledge can be kept at the ready. We may never unlock the doors; we may never even find the doors so we can attempt to break them down with brute force. Oh, to be able to live and observe, from a safe and comfortable distance, for the nex thousand years.

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Enough for now. This morning we will go to church.

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