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Another Claim to Fame

A few years ago, I wrote a series of blogs about Jefferson, Georgia, where I’ve lived for the last dozen years. They were stories about the history of the city, the county, and a few local people of varying degrees of celebrity.

Well, since I wrote all that, Jefferson has scored another claim to fame. Added another superlative to its history. Stuck another feather in its cap.

We are now the home of the world’s largest mattress.

Laugh if you must, but one Jefferson business took the matter seriously enough to actually construct the thing.

Here’s the story.

The world’s largest mattress is 38 feet wide and 80 feet long, which is about 3,000 square feet. That’s the size of 72 king-size mattresses. Or 96 queen-size, or 110 regular-size, or 156 twin-size.

The WLM was designed and built by a mattress company from Tennessee. It weighs 4,560 pounds. It consists of a frame, a boatload of foam padding, a giant mattress pad, and an equally huge cloth cover. The structure is supported by 46 roof trusses.

The WLM is located in the middle of the two-acre sales floor of Cotton Mill Interiors, a furniture and accessories store that occupies most of a former cotton mill near the center of town.

That enterprise, Jefferson Mills, is remembered fondly by the locals.

The mill opened in 1899 and for decades was the town’s largest employer and taxpayer. It was noted for its production of high-quality corduroy. The mill closed in 1995, and the structure was renovated for retail use.

The world’s largest mattress, you’ll be pleased to know, is open to the bouncing public. The owners invite kids and parents to take off their shoes, climb aboard, and go for a romp. A safety railing protects against falls.

As often happens, the PR people laid it on a little thick at the ribbon-cutting: “The reason for building the mattress is to promote the importance of sleep to an overall healthy lifestyle.” Uh, okay.

Still, as promotional schemes go, the WLM is benign and inoffensive. And it’s a lot classier than an inflatable gorilla in front of the building. Or the Chamber of Commerce throwing turkeys off the roof at Thanksgiving.

So far, I have not availed myself of a round of bouncing. But, hey — never say never.

WLM

 

Quotes o’ the Day

Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.

— Samuel Johnson

###

You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.

— C. S. Lewis

###

It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.

— Maurice Switzer

###

Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts.

— E. B. White

Johnson Samuel

Johnson

White EB

White

 

Headline Bloopers

More headlines botched by assorted newspapers over the years. Proofread and think, people!

 

Man Stabbed 37 Times, Police Rule Out Suicide

March Planned for Next August

Patient at Death’s Door, Doctors Pull Him Through

Teacher Strikes Idle Kids

Bloopers 3-1

Drunk Gets Nine Months in Violin Case

British Left Waffles on Falkland Islands

Safety Experts Say Bus Riders Should Be Belted

Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge

Bloopers 3-2

Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half

Include Your Children When Baking Cookies

One-Armed Man Applauds Kindness of Strangers

Stiff Opposition Expected to Casketless Funeral Plan

Bloopers 3-3

Man Accused of Killing Lawyer Gets New Attorney

Parents Keep Kids Home to Protest School Closure

Hooker Named Indoor Athlete of the Year

Two Sisters Reunite After 18 Years at Checkout Counter

Bloopers 3-4

 

Eloquence

Pete Gross, known to his peers as “Dirtbag” or “Dirt,” is a legendary Colorado River boatman who began his career in the 1970s rowing dories through Grand Canyon. He is now retired and living in Moab, Utah.

Karma handed Pete his nickname; he had a habit of calling everyone “dirtbag,” in the affectionate manner of addressing others as “dude” or “pal.” Eventually, the term ended up affixed to him.

In the boating world, Pete is respected for being not only a skilled professional, but also a sincere, practicing environmentalist. He is known for truly walking the walk.

To get around, Pete rides a bike or takes public transportation. To reach his energy-efficient home in a green community in Moab, you either walk or bike; no cars are allowed.

He doesn’t have a TV set or an internet connection. He goes dumpster-diving at Moab grocery stores on the principle that too much perfectly good food is thrown out. That practice evolved into a local food redistribution program run by Pete’s friends and other volunteers.

Pete lives modestly, with a goal of leaving a responsible footprint on the planet. Yet, he insists he is comfortable and content, and life is good.

In 2009, he was interviewed at length as part of a program designed to preserve the memories and stories of the old-time river guides for posterity. When I came across the transcript, I was struck by his explanation of why he feels so strongly about treading lightly on the earth. He made his case with passion and eloquence.

Here is an excerpt.

————

I remember the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969. When I first read about that, my reaction was, “Okay, so it’s made a mess of the whole coastline, but we need the oil.”

But slowly, I came around to the notion that I was basically anti-people, anti-technology. I just chose environmentalism over economics. It was a pretty naive viewpoint, but that was the conscious choice. My attitude was, it was one versus the other.

I’d just chosen that the environment was more important to me, and people and the economy came second. It was a slow realization for me that — whether it was just my misperception, or the powers-that-be fueling the notion that it’s one or the other — it was a big epiphany for me to realize, no! Those are not two mutually exclusive options.

I think there are certain… like, the oil companies and certain powers-that-be have a vested interest in fueling a false… bifurcation? Is that the right word? You have one or the other, you can’t have both.

But really, you can’t have one without the other. Or, you can’t have a healthy economy if you’ve spoiled and ruined your foundation for that, which is the environment.

There’s a book by Amory Lovins — he and some others, Lovins was a co-author — a book called Natural Capitalism that talks about a post-industrial era. What makes the most sense, not just environmentally, but economically, is to realize that there are these natural services that are irreplaceable, yet we place no value on them.

Like our atmosphere, and the biosphere that cycles through nutrients… just the whole cycle of energy, the sun shining on the earth, plants taking the sun, converting through chlorophyll, taking CO2 and making glucose, and then enriching the soil with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which then makes it possible for the plants to grow that make our food, whatever.

There are all these natural services that we can’t replicate, and yet we don’t value them. And so we destroy them in the notion that we’re gonna make a buck. We’re profiting, but we’re destroying our real capital to create this income stream that isn’t sustainable.

That was when I finally had this realization, “Oh, I don’t need to choose that I’m an environmentalist, and therefore I oppose economic development.” I realized you can’t have a healthy economy without a robust, healthy environment.

You know, I look at a forest, and I don’t see board feet. I look at a river, and I don’t see kilowatt hours. But you look at a forest and realize, “Okay, yeah, there’s an economic value to the wood in that tree. Yeah, we could log that tree and mill it and sell it and stuff, and there’s a certain economic value.

But what we ignore is that that tree, standing in place there, is providing wildlife habitat and watershed. It’s helping give us a sustainable clean water source and protecting us from floods, and so on. We cut that tree down, we’re not very good at putting a price tag on how much value it has just in place.

The same thing comes up when you’re looking strictly at river issues, when you talk about dams versus irrigation and water rights.

Well, like we’ve learned with the salmon fisheries. There’s an incredible value to this food source. We have eliminated or almost decimated these salmon populations, which were natural services, provided for free. An incredible food source.

Instead, we put a lot of infrastructure in place, and a lot of irrigation and what-not, to raise cows. Takes a lot of effort, a lot of money, at the price of — we’ve decimated salmon fisheries, for which we didn’t have to do anything. They were there for the harvesting!

————

He had me at “bifurcation.”

Lachs / Wanderung / Kanada

 

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

————

— For the last 10 years of his life, Ludwig van Beethoven was completely deaf, yet he continued to compose music. To compensate for his loss of hearing, he worked seated on the floor in front of a legless piano, so he could feel the vibrations.

— Jimmy Carter was the first U.S. president born in a hospital.

— In 1958, international jewelry kingpin Harry Winston donated the fabled Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution. The 45.52-carat mega-diamond, which is worth $250 million, was packed in a plain brown wrapper and sent by first class mail at a cost of $145.29. The postage was $2.44, and the rest was for $1 million in insurance.

— The world’s fastest land insect is the Australian tiger beetle, which can skitter at 5.6 MPH. Compare that to the speed of the average spider (1.1 MPH) and house mouse (8 MPH).

Australian Tiger Beetle - fastest running insect

— A “capitonym” is a word that has a different meaning, and sometimes a different pronunciation, depending on whether or not it is capitalized. Examples:

August (the month)
august (majestic)

Cancer (the constellation)
cancer (the disease)

March (the month)
march (as in forward, march)

Mercury (the planet)
mercury (the chemical element).

Polish (from Poland)
polish (furniture polish)

— When Bill Clinton won the 1992 presidential election, the first telephone call he took was from President Bush. The 2nd call was from Vice President Quayle. The 3rd call was from Whoopie Goldberg.

— Buckingham Palace in London, the home of the Queen and a symbol of the British monarchy, has 775 rooms. 78 are toilets.

— Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s, originally intended to open a bagel shop. When they discovered the high cost of bagel-making equipment, however, they went to Plan B, an ice cream parlor. The business opened in an old gas station in Burlington, Vermont, in 1978.

Ben and Jerry's

— Roy Sullivan (1912-1983), a ranger at Shenandoah National Park, survived being struck by lightning seven times, more than any person known. The strikes happened between 1942 and 1977, mostly while he was on duty in the park, a storm-prone area in a storm-prone state.

Naturally, Sullivan got spooked when bad weather threatened, and often he would leave the area. The lightning got him anyway. Several of the strikes set his hair on fire, so he carried a container of water with him at all times.

— Based on scientific research, the 10,000 laborers who built the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt subsisted on a diet of meat, bread, and beer to keep them healthy and productive. Massive bakeries and great herds of sheep, goats, and cattle were maintained near the work sites. The daily rations included the equivalent of about a dozen 12-ounce bottles or beer per man.

— In 1907, teenagers James Casey and Claude Ryan borrowed $100 to start the American Messenger Company in Seattle. They employed several other teens to make deliveries with bikes and on foot. Business was good, and by 1913, they purchased their first delivery vehicle, a Model T Ford.

In 1919, the company expanded to Oakland, California, changed its name to United Parcel Service, and hasn’t slowed down since.

— The full name of the Spanish artist Picasso (1881-1973) was Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. The names were in honor of assorted relatives and saints.

Picasso

 

More poetry that isn’t pretentious and a waste of time.

———

What the Living Do

By Marie Howe

Howe M

Marie Howe (B. 1950)

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there. And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of. It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off. For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it. Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss — we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass, say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless: I am living. I remember you.

———

The Eagle

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Tennyson A

Alfred Tennyson, 1st baron Tennyson (1809-1892)

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

———

I Remember

By Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton

Anne Gray Harvey Sexton (1928-1974)

By the first of August
the invisible beetles began
to snore and the grass was
as tough as hemp and was
no color — no more than
the sand was a color and
we had worn our bare feet
bare since the twentieth
of June and there were times
we forgot to wind up your
alarm clock and some nights
we took our gin warm and neat
from old jelly glasses while
the sun blew out of sight
like a red picture hat and
one day I tied my hair back
with a ribbon and you said
that I looked almost like
a puritan lady and what
I remember best is that
the door to your room was
the door to mine.

———

Cherries

By Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

Gibson WW

Wilfrid Wilson Gibson (1878-1962)

A handful of cherries
She gave me in passing,
The wizened old woman,
And wished me good luck —
And again I was dreaming,
A boy in the sunshine,
And life but an orchard
Of cherries to pluck.

———

On a Young Lady’s Sixth Anniversary

By Katherine Mansfield

Mansfield K

Katherine Mansfield Murry (1888-1923)

Baby Babbles — only one,
Now to sit up has begun.

Little Babbles quite turned two
Walks as well as I and you.

And Miss Babbles one, two, three,
Has a teaspoon at her tea.

But her Highness at four
Learns to open the front door.

And her Majesty — now six,
Can her shoestrings neatly fix.

Babbles, Babbles, have a care,
You will soon put up your hair!

 

Clever Girl

More on my road trip earlier this month to Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine…

———

My final night in New England was in Bennington, Vermont, in the southwest corner of the state. The next morning, I sucked it up and headed south on a succession of interstate highways, down through New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia.

At the end of the day, I stopped in Winchester, Virginia, near the north entrance to Shenandoah National Park. I would have an early start on the Skyline Drive.

The next morning was clear and nicely brisk. No one was on duty at the Shenandoah entrance station. A sign read “Pay when you leave the Park.”

I had the road to myself. I turned off the radio, rolled down the windows, and headed out.

Two minutes later, a young adult black bear emerged from the greenery on the right side of the road about 20 yards ahead. I stopped immediately and grabbed my camera from the passenger seat.

The bear — which turned out to be a female, as you’ll understand directly — glanced at me, then ambled across the road.

Bear-1

When she reached the grassy strip on left shoulder, she stopped and looked toward me again.

I eased forward, camera at the ready, until I reached her. At that point, my car was paused in the right lane. The bear was 10 feet away on the left side of the road.

Although she showed no aggression, I was apprehensive. Could I romp on the gas and get away if she rushed me? I decided I could.

The bear stood stoically on the grass, looking at me. I took a burst of photos that I knew would be keepers.

Bear-2

Why she remained there instead of continuing on her way was puzzling. She seemed in no hurry to leave.

But I had my photos, and I figured it was best not to prolong the encounter. I tossed my camera onto the passenger seat and slowly drove on.

Mere seconds later, I watched in my rear-view mirror as a bear cub emerged from the woods and scampered across the road to join mom.

Clever girl. She had been waiting for me to leave, so it would be safe for the youngster to cross the road.

No cars were in sight in ether direction. In fact, I hadn’t seen another car since I entered the park. Undoubtedly, driving backward on the Skyline Drive is illegal, but I put the car in reverse anyway, and I began inching back toward the mama bear and her cub. The two of them sat quietly on the grass at the edge of the road, watching my approach.

This time, for reasons I still don’t understand, I grabbed my cell phone instead of my Nikon. I raised the phone and took three photos.

Two were hopeless blurs. This was the third.

Bear-3

Thinking back on the episode, it’s obvious why I could never be a professional photographer. Having taken several shots, I became concerned that I was hassling the poor bears, and I felt compelled to go away and leave them alone.

A real photographer would have continued shooting with both cameras, firing off hundreds of shots using a variety of angles and settings.

But, no, I drove away, leaving the bears posing perfectly for God-know-how-many-more awesome photos that I do not have.

What a jerk move.

A few miles south, I arrived at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center. It was 9:00 AM, and two female employees were just opening for the day.

I went inside, looked at a map, browsed around the gift shop, and purchased a Shenandoah refrigerator magnet featuring a bear cub.

Betty, I saw a mother bear and two cubs on the way here yesterday,” one employee said. “About a mile south.”

Oh, the cubs are so CUTE!” the other woman gushed. Apparently, everyone loves Shenandoah’s black bears.

When I told them I had bear photos taken 10 minutes earlier, they were thrilled. They fawned* at length over the mother-and-cub photo on my phone.

The bears, the ladies told me, are very mellow. They keep to themselves, but they’re acclimated to cars and people. The mother bears have learned how to deal with cars, and their cubs know to stay hidden until the mom gives the okay to come forward.

Bears, as you may know, are smart creatures, probably on a level with dogs and pigs. Some studies say they have longer memories and are more devoted and attentive as parents.

Judging from her size, the mother bear I encountered was young. The cub probably was her first.

But she already understands people and the park roads, and she knows how to care for her baby. That knowledge will stay with her every season she has cubs.

Clever, indeed.

* Fawned. That’s a pun.