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Pix o’ the Day

More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

Thoughts du Jour

Ethics

Museums are wonderful things, except for their ugly history of acquiring artifacts through illegal or disreputable means. Countless items in museum collections were obtained by theft, coercion, bribery, deceit, etc.

Colonialism had a lot to do with it. For centuries, the European powers felt free to help themselves to the treasures of the countries they occupied, and regularly did.

But now, hopeful signs are appearing. Museums here are there actually are returning purloined artifacts to the rightful owners.

A new policy adopted this year by the Smithsonian Institution, the largest museum complex in the world, is especially welcome. The Smithsonian now is actively working to identify and return objects that were wrongfully obtained.

First on the list is a group of Nigerian plaques and sculptures known as the Benin Bronzes. Hundreds were stolen by the British in the 1890s, and over time, some found their way to the Smithsonian. The museum has identified 29 items as among those looted by the British and plans to return them to Nigeria.

Refreshing.

Booze of Choice

In 1994, on my first raft trip down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon, I observed that four of the five river guides drank alcohol, and all four drank the same thing: Jim Beam Original white label bourbon.

Not Jim Beam Black, or Jim Beam rye, or the bonded or single barrel versions, or any of Beam’s (yuck) fruity liqueurs. The guides drank Jim Beam Original white label.

I’ve now rafted Grand Canyon four times with two different outfitters. On all four trips, the pattern was the same: the guides who drank alcohol drank Jim Beam white label.

Every evening, after the passengers were fed and the chores were done, the guides usually gathered somewhere to relax, chat, and have a nightcap or three. The nightcap was always Jim Beam white label.

Although I didn’t inquire while on the trips, I can imagine how Beam became a thing. Maybe the alpha male guides preferred Beam — relatively cheap, fairly smooth, a reasonable 80 proof. Peer pressure kicked in, and, voilà, a tradition was born. When new guides were hired, they naturally followed the tradition.

I should mention, too, that after my 1994 raft trip, I switched from Jack Daniels Old No. 7 black label to Jim Beam Original white label. Which remains my booze of choice to this day.

Being Real

In the early 1800s, most runaway slaves in the US famously went north to freedom, but many fled south to Mexico, where slavery was newly banned. Mexico readily offered asylum, and Mexican troops were quick to confront slave catchers who pursued the runaways.

Back then, the Mexican territory of Texas was mostly populated by Anglos, and its economy was deeply dependent on slavery. Slaves not only worked farms and plantations, but also served widely as tradesmen and household servants. The economic importance of slavery was a key reason why Texas declared its independence from Mexico in 1836.

Mexico’s opposition to slavery and willingness to protect runaways isn’t well known, but it had consequences. It prompted more slaves to escape, and it aggravated friction in the US between north and south. The Civil War probably came sooner as a result.

I didn’t learn all that in school, but I know it now because I’m curious and open to the facts.

As we all should be. Conservatives get apoplectic when anyone challenges the comforting myths about America’s exceptionalism, superiority, and glorious history. As usual, the conservatives are full of it.

Fairy tales are a waste of time. Better to view the past honestly and try to understand how and why things happened. If it hurts your feelings, that’s probably a sign you learned something.

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● Thomas Edison held a total of 2,332 patents worldwide. Today, the president of a semiconductor lab in Japan holds the world record — 5,843 patents and counting.

● English has more words than any other language.

● The average human sheds some 600,000 particles of dead skin per hour, or about 1.5 pounds per year.

● When viewed from the Earth, the Moon goes through eight phases as it progresses from new moon to full moon and back to new moon, as shown below. (The word gibbous refers to being more than half lighted, but less than full, which is the opposite of a crescent.)

● British author Agatha Christie (1890-1976) featured her famous detective Hercule Poirot in 33 novels, 50 short stories, and one play. Christie was honest about the character. She once described Poirot as “a detestable, bombastic, tiresome, egocentric little creep.”

● The word karaoke comes from the Japanese words karappo, which means empty, and oke, a shortened form of okesutura, which means orchestra.

● July 4 is the day in 1776 when the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence. However, the vote to do so took place on July 2. John Adams and several other founding fathers believed that we chose the wrong day to honor.

● The average adult bald eagle weighs 14 pounds and is about three feet long. Its wingspan, however, is a full seven feet.

Of Doubtful Repute

Kate Chopin (1850-1904) was a supremely gifted writer. A superb talent. I’ve featured three of her short stories on this blog, most recently this one. That post has information about her, plus links to the other stories.

Below is another Chopin gem. My hat is off in admiration.

———

Dr. Chevalier’s Lie

By Kate Chopin
Published in Vogue Magazine, October 1893

The quick report of a pistol rang through the quiet autumn night. It was no unusual sound in the unsavory quarter where Dr. Chevalier had his office. Screams commonly went with it. This time there had been none.

Midnight had already rung in the old cathedral tower. The doctor closed the book over which he had lingered so late, and awaited the summons that was almost sure to come.

As he entered the house to which he had been called he could not but note the ghastly sameness of detail that accompanied these oft-recurring events. The same scurrying; the same groups of tawdry, frightened women bending over banisters — hysterical, some of them; morbidly curious, others; and not a few shedding womanly tears; with a dead girl stretched somewhere, as this one was.

And yet it was not the same. Certainly she was dead: there was the hole in the temple where she had sent the bullet through. Yet it was different. Other such faces had been unfamiliar to him, except so far as they bore the common stamp of death. This one was not.

Like a flash he saw it again amid other surroundings. The time was little more than a year ago. The place, a homely cabin down in Arkansas, in which he and a friend had found shelter and hospitality during a hunting expedition.

There were others beside. A little sister or two; a father and mother — coarse, and bent with toil, but proud as archangels of their handsome girl, who was too clever to stay in an Arkansas cabin, and who was going away to seek her fortune in the big city.

“The girl is dead,” said Doctor Chevalier. “I knew her well, and charge myself with her remains and decent burial.”

The following day he wrote a letter. One, doubtless, to carry sorrow, but no shame to the cabin down there in the forest.

It told that the girl had sickened and died. A lock of hair was sent and other trifles with it. Tender last words were even invented.

Of course it was noised about that Doctor Chevalier had cared for the remains of a woman of doubtful repute.

Shoulders were shrugged. Society thought of cutting him. Society did not, for some reason or other, so the affair blew over.

Did I mention that my road trip to the Southwest last month was excellent? I wore shorts and short sleeves every day. Never needed a jacket, rain gear, or umbrella.

Had zero trouble finding decent lodging. Had very few so-so meals. Never got tired from driving. Came home with souvenir t-shirts from Hatch, Gallup, Flagstaff, Sedona, and Grand Canyon.

Furthermore, thanks to the record so helpfully provided by Google Timeline, I can elaborate on how the trip went down…

After dropping off Jake at the kennel, I drove south to Atlanta, then west on I-20 across Alabama and into Mississippi. I spent the first night in Jackson. Supper was an insanely delicious brisket plate at the Pig & Pint. Rating: A+

On Day Two, I continued west on I-20, crossed the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, drove across Louisiana to Shreveport, and into Texas. There, being an intelligent person, I abandoned I-20 and picked up US 84, which goes through neither Dallas nor Houston. I stopped for the night in Waco and dined at La Fiesta Restaurant & Cantina. Rating: B.

On Day Three, I followed US 87 northwest from San Angelo back to I-20, then west through Midland and Odessa. I stopped for the night in Pecos, where I enjoyed a fine meal and beverage at Javelinas Draft House. Rating: A-.

On Day Four, I picked up I-10 to El Paso, then I-25 north through Las Cruces, New Mexico. I stopped for a few hours in Hatch, New Mexico, the famous “Chile Capital of the World.” Hatch is a fun place. The smell of roasting chiles is delightful, and the gift shops carry an amazing selection of chiles — fresh, dried, cooked, candied, and pickled — and Talavera pottery.

After Hatch, I continued north on I-25 and stayed the night in Los Lunas, following dinner and a brew at Buffalo Wild Wings. Rating: B.

On Day Five, I drove north to Albuquerque and west on I-40 past the pueblos, stopping for the night in Gallup — after making the rounds of the numerous shops and trading posts. Supper was at Anthony’s A Taste of the Southwest Mexican Restaurant. Rating: B-.

On Day Six, I continued west on I-40 into Arizona. After a stop at Petrified Forest National Park, I continued to Holbrook, then Winslow, where I visited the very cool gift shop at La Posada Hotel and the “Standin’ on the Corner” statue downtown.

That night, I stayed in Flagstaff and, as is my tradition, enjoyed a draft and a brewer’s platter at Beaver Street Brewery. Rating: sadly, a C. Usually a solid A, but that’s life.

On Day Seven, after a morning of strolling around downtown Flagstaff, I drove south on US 89A through fabulous Oak Creek Canyon to the ultra-touristy, but still enjoyable Sedona. Lunch was a massive cheeseburger and a cold one at the Cowboy Club. Rating: B+.

After wandering around Sedona for a bit, I returned to Flagstaff for the night, where I enjoyed a dinner of soup, salad, and a tall draft at Lumberyard Brewing Company. Rating: A, no question.

On Day Eight, I headed north on US 89 to Cameron Trading Post, detoured over to Desert View Watchtower at the east end of Grand Canyon National Park, then went north to Page. At Glen Canyon Dam, I took photos of sad, receding Lake Powell and found lodging in Page for the night. Dinner was pizza at Strombolli’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria. Rating: B.

On Day Nine, I left Page and proceeded to Marble Canyon Lodge and Lees Ferry, then back through Flagstaff and west to Williams. Back in good old Flagstaff for the night, I had fish tacos, homemade chicharróns, and a nice draft at Mother Road Brewing Company. Rating: A-.

On Day 10, I drove north to South Rim Village at Grand Canyon National Park, where I had booked a cabin for two nights at Bright Angel Lodge. That day, I wandered along the rim taking photos of the Big Ditch — the same photos I’ve taken again and again over the years — and paid the obligatory visits to the village gift shops.


My cabin at Bright Angel Lodge.

I planned to have dinner at the Arizona Steakhouse, my favorite GCNP eaterie, but alas, it was open for lunch only. The other main option, the dining room at El Tovar Hotel, requires reservations, and I’m not impressed by El Tovar anyway, so I went to the Maswik Lodge Pizza Pub for a beer and a slice. Rating: maybe a C.

An hour later, unsatisfied by the puny slice, I proceeded to the Bright Angel Tavern and ordered some hot wings and another beer. Rating: B+. I ended the evening happy.

But not for long; the weather, alas, finally turned on me. The forecast for the next few days was for rain at South Rim. The prospect of a day of taking photos in the rain had no appeal, so I went to the front desk and canceled my second night in the cabin. Let some other tourist score a last-minute cancellation.

Later, back at the rim, I was rewarded by my first-ever rainbow at Grand Canyon. This is when you trot out the word awesome, people.

Okay, it was time to head back east. On Day 11, I left the rain behind at Flagstaff and returned east on I-40, back through Winslow, Holbrook, and Gallup, and stopped for the night in Grants, New Mexico. Dinner was a sirloin steak smothered in mushrooms and onions at La Ventana Steaks and Spirits. Rating: A.

On Day 12, I rolled through Albuquerque on I-40 and continued east. The truck traffic soon became too much, so I exited I-40 at Clines Corners and drove south to US 60, which I followed through Encino, Vaughn, Fort Sumner (where I stopped at the Billy the Kid Museum), and Clovis.

I then crossed into Texas and proceeded to Lubbock for the night. Supper was tacos and a draft at the Copper Caboose Restaurant and Sports Grill. Rating: B+.

On Day 13, I continued east on US 82 through Wichita Falls, and on to Paris, Texas, for the night. Dinner was a chopped pork plate at Phat Phil’s BBQ. Rating: A.

On Day 14, I passed through Texarkana and continued east on US 82 across southern Arkansas, crossing the Mississippi River at Greenville. I stopped for the night in Winona, Mississippi, and for supper had a quesadilla at Tequila’s Restaurant. Rating: B+.

On Day 15, I followed US 82 east into Alabama and picked up I-20 in Tuscaloosa. I stayed on I-20 through Birmingham, back into Georgia, on to Atlanta, and north on I-85 to Jefferson. I was home by late afternoon. Supper was a bowl of Nongshim Bowl Noodle Soup, Spicy Shrimp flavor. Always an A.

That final day of the trip was a Saturday, which was nice because weekend traffic in Atlanta usually is less awful than on workdays.

But, no, a wreck on the northern perimeter, I-285, left me trapped in a monumental traffic jam. This was my view of things for, oh, 90 minutes.

Two points in closing:

First, my hat is off to Google for shadowing me 24-7 and documenting my every move so I could reconstruct the trip via the Timeline feature.

Second, Jefferson is a pleasant, peaceful little town. We have just five traffic signals, not counting the four at the loathsome I-85 interchange. Traffic jams around here are rare and brief.

I like Jefferson. Atlanta can go scratch.

A road trip, one could say, is like a box of chocolates.

I just got home from a two-week road trip to the Southwest, and it was supremely satisfying. All went well. I wandered far, experienced much, and dined lavishly.

Owing to the lavish dining, I returned home five pounds heavier. But I’ve since shed four of the pounds, so…

Looking back on the said box of chocolates, certain memories stand out.

The Coyote

On the morning of Day Eight, I drove north from Flagstaff on US 89 on my way to Page, Arizona. In the community of Bitter Springs on the Navajo Nation, I turned left onto US 89A, which leads north to Marble Canyon, where Navajo Bridge crosses the Colorado River.

As I made the turn, I noticed a large sheep pen beside the highway on the right. The pen was about the size of a tennis court, maybe larger. Inside were 50 to 75 sheep, grazing peacefully.

The enclosure was extra substantial. It was about six feet high, constructed of chain link, and rimmed with barbed wire. This was a serious sheep pen.

And next to the fence, stoically observing the sheep mere feet away, was a coyote.

I slowed down to get a good look. The sheep grazed peacefully, apparently unperturbed. Maybe they were accustomed to the presence of a coyote at the fence line. Or multiple coyotes.

The coyote watched the sheep quietly and never moved. How long he remained there, and whether this was a regular scenario, I can’t say.

But two hours later, when I passed through Bitter Springs again on my way to Page, the coyote had not moved one inch from his post.

Twilight Chat

Usually, when you see a uniformed ranger at a national park, he or she is surrounded by tourists and either answering questions or delivering a lecture.

But late in the evening of Day 10 of my trip, as I strolled along the rim of Grand Canyon at South Rim Village taking photos of a glorious sundown, I came upon a “lone” ranger seated on the retaining wall, quietly taking in the scenery.

She was young and either Hispanic or Native American. As I paused a few steps away to take photos, she said, “I have SO many photos of this place, and I keep taking more.”

“Me, too,” I said. “But I gave up fighting it long ago.”

“Oh, you’re a repeat visitor,” she said. “Are you familiar with some of the landforms out there — Brahma Temple, Zoroaster?”

And that started a 10-minute conversation in which we shared Grand Canyon stories.

I told her about the enlarged photo on my living room wall, taken on the Clear Creek Trail, looking up at Zoro between those massive arms. And about my hike with my sons Britt and Dustin up the “Banzai Route” to Utah Flats on top of Cheops Pyramid.

And about my raft trips and mule trips and backcountry hikes and trips to Phantom Ranch. I told her I’ve now been to Grand Canyon 29 times.

She had done all that and more. Even worked at Phantom for a time.

It’s so gratifying to meet someone who really knows Grand Canyon. Who gets it.

Zoroaster Temple as seen from the Clear Creek Trail.

Two of my favorite observations about life come from Buzz Holmstrom, a filling station attendant from Oregon who, in 1937, built his own boat and rowed it down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. He is thought to be the first person to run the river solo.

Buzz wrote in his journal that he gained nothing tangible from the trip. His reward was simply in “the doing of the thing.”

Buzz also praised traveling solo. “I know I have got more out of this trip by being alone than if a party was along, as I have more time — especially at nite — to listen & look & think & wonder about the natural wonders, rather than listen to talk of war, politics & football scores.”

A wise man, that Buzz.

This post I wrote some years ago tells more about Holmstrom and his grand adventure. And the journal of his trip is well worth reading.

In my next post, more details about my route and adventures.

Quotes o’ the Day

Rudeness is the weak person’s imitation of strength.

Eric Hoffer

###

The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.

Dante Alighieri

###

The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work, and then they get elected and prove it.

P. J. O’Rourke

###

The best revenge is to be unlike he who performed the injury.

Marcus Aurelius

Hoffer

Aurelius

Tune o’ the Day

In 1958, Ron Isley of the Isley Brothers spontaneously ended a live show by calling out, “You know you make me wanna…” and the audience answered “Shout!” It worked so well that the band ended all future live performances with a “shout” call-and-response.

The following year, they expanded the routine into a song. They gathered friends at the recording studio to create a party atmosphere, recorded the tune in two parts, and released them on the flip sides of a 45 rpm record.

Shout” has been covered numerous times, most notably by The Beatles, as featured in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and the version by the fictional band Otis Day and the Knights in “Animal House”

Both of those covers are excellent — as is the original by the Isley Brothers.

Shout, Parts 1 and 2

By the Isley Brothers, 1959
Written by O’Kelly Isley, Jr., Rudolph Isley, and Ronald Isley

[Part 1]

We-e-e-e-e-ellll…

You know you make me wanna (Shout!)
Kick my heels up and (Shout!)
Throw my hands up and (Shout!)
Throw my head back and (Shout!)
Come on now (Shout!)

Don’t forget to say you will.
Don’t forget to say
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
(Say you will.)
Say it right now, baby.
(Say you will.)
Come on, come on.
(Say you will.)
Say it, will you-ooooo!
(Say you will.)
You got it, now!

(Say) Say that you love me.
(Say) Say that you need me.
(Say) Say that you want me.
(Say) You wanna please me.
(Say) Come on now.
(Say) Come on now.
(Say) Come on now.
(Say) Come on now.

I still remember
(Shooby-doo-wop, do-wop, wop, wop, wop.)
When you used to be nine years old.
(Shooby-doo-wop, do-wop, wop, wop, wop.)
Yeah, yeah!
I was a fool for you from the bottom of my soul, yeah!
(Shooby-doo-wop, do-wop, wop, wop, wop.)
Now that you’ve grown up
(Shooby-doo-wop, do-wop, wop, wop, wop.)
Enough to know, yeah, yeah,
(Shooby-doo-wop, do-wop, wop, wop, wop.)
You wanna leave me. You wanna let me go.
(Shooby-doo-wop, do-wop.)

I want you to know.
I said I want you to know right now, yeah!
You been good to me baby.
Better than I been to myself. Hey! Hey!
And if you ever leave me,
I don’t want nobody else. Hey! Hey!
I said I want you to know. Hey!
I said I want you to know right now. Hey! Hey!

You know you make me wanna (Shout!)
(Wooo!) Hey. Yeah. (Shout!)
(Wooo!) Yeah, yeah, yeah. (Shout!)
(Wooo!) All right! (Shout!)
(Wooo!) All right! (Shout!)
(Wooo!) Come on now! (Shout!)
Come on now! (Shout!)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. (Shout!)
Yeah, yeah, yeah (Shout!)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. (Shout!)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. (Shout!)
(Shout!) All right.
(Shout!) It’s all right.
(Shout!) All right.
(Shout!) All right (Aah!)

Now waaaiittt a minute!

[Part 2]

I feel aaaaaaaallll right!
(Yeah-yeah! Yeah-yeah! Yeah-yeah!)
(Oooooooh!)
Now that I got my woman
I feel aaaaaaaallll right!
(Yeah-Yeah!)
Every time I think about you.
You been so good to me.

You know you make me wanna (Shout!)
(Wooo!) Lift my heels up and (Shout!)
(Wooo!) Throw my head back and (Shout!)
(Wooo!) Kick my heels up and (Shout!)
(Wooo!) Come on now. (Shout!)
(Wooo!) Take it easy. (Shout!)
(Wooo!) Take it easy. (Shout!)
(Wooo!) Take it easy. (Shout!)

A little bit softer now. (Shout!)
A little bit softer now. (Shout!)
A little bit softer now. (Shout!)
A little bit softer now. (Shout!)
A little bit softer now. (Shout!)
A little bit softer now. (Shout!)
A little bit softer now. (Shout!)
A little bit softer now. (Shout!)
A little bit softer now. (Shout!)
A little bit softer now. (Shout!)
A little bit softer now. (Shout!)
A little bit softer now. (Shout!)
A little bit softer now. (Shout!)
A little bit softer now. (Shout!)
A little bit softer now. (Shout!)
A little bit softer now. (Shout!)
A little bit softer now. (Shout!)
A little bit softer now. (Shout!)

A little bit louder now. (Shout!)
A little bit louder now. (Shout!)
A little bit louder now. (Shout!)
A little bit louder now. (Shout!)
A little bit louder now. (Shout!)
A little bit louder now. (Shout!)

(Wooo!) A little bit louder now. (Shout!)
(Wooo!) A little bit louder now. (Shout!)
(Wooo!) A little bit louder now. (Shout!)
(Wooo!) A little bit louder now. (Shout!)
(Wooo!) A little bit louder now. (Shout!)
(Wooo!) A little bit louder now. (Shout!)

Hey-ey-ey-ey!
(Hey-ey-ey-ey!)
Hey-ey-ey-ey!
(Hey-ey-ey-ey!)
Hey-ey-ey-ey-ey-ey!
(Hey-ey-ey-ey-ey-ey!)
Hey-ey-ey-ey-ey-ey!
(Hey-ey-ey-ey-ey-ey!)

Jump now.
Jump up and shout now. (Wooo!)
Jump up and shout now. (Wooo!)
Jump up and shout now. (Wooo!)
Jump up and shout now. (Wooo!)
Jump up and shout now. (Wooo!)

Everybody shout now. (Wooo!)
Everybody shout now. (Wooo!)
Everybody, shout, shout. (Wooo!)
Shout, shout, shout. (Wooo!)
Shout, shout, shout. (Wooo!)
Shout, shout, shout. (Wooo!)

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2022/07/shout-parts-1-and-2.mp3

Thoughts du Jour

Mummies

Humans have a habit of believing preposterous nonsense — embracing ideas that defy evidence and common sense. I could point to the behavior of today’s conservatives, but instead, consider the ancient Egyptians. They decided that the soul could not live on in the afterlife unless the body of the deceased was preserved. Seriously. Hence, their obsession with mummies.

The Egyptians traditionally buried the dead in the desert sand, which conveniently mummified the bodies. It was fine just to drop common folk in a hole, but it was inappropriate if you were important. So, for the rich and powerful, the Egyptians began building monument-style tombs.

The first such tomb was a mastaba, which in ancient Egyptian means “eternal house.” Mastabas were rectangular structures with inward-sloping sides and flat roofs, constructed of bricks made from mud. They protected the body from animals and grave robbers, but the absence of sand meant no mummification and — drat — no soul living on in the afterlife.

So they developed artificial mummification. For bigshots, of course. In time, the bigshots also concluded that mastabas weren’t elaborate enough, and pyramids became a thing.

In summary, the concept arose that your soul is doomed if your dead body decomposes as nature intended. Egyptian society seized on that idea and focused on it for several thousand years. You can’t make this stuff up.

The Island

For four years in the 1950s, my dad was stationed at Tyndall AFB, Florida, and we Smiths lived in nearby Panama City. In 1956, Dad got a one-year assignment as base commander at Thule AFB, Greenland. No dependents live at Thule, so Mom and us kids remained in Panama City.

Dad called, wrote, and sent photos regularly, which kept us up to date about life at Thule. One fact about the place that got a snicker from my 14-year-old self was the story of a small island within sight of the base named, in the Inuit language, Iganaq.

Due to its appearance in profile, people at Thule called the island the Witch’s Tit. Dad got a snicker, too, from telling us that.

In 1958, Greenland changed the name of the island from Iganaq to Dalrymple Rock. This was to honor Dr. Paul Dalrymple, a geographer and meteorologist who spent a good part of his career in Greenland.

Despite the name change, I’m sure the island remained Iganaq to the Inuit. And to the people stationed at Thule, it’s probably still the Witch’s Tit.

Unexpected Journey

When I stopped for lunch in Commerce recently, I had no way of knowing I was about to drive a mom and two preschoolers to the next county.

As I arrived at the Wendy’s parking lot, a female voice called out, “Sir! Sir! My car broke down, and my boys are with me, and my phone is dead! Can I borrow your phone to call my Nanna?”

The mom was in her late 20s and understandably stressed. I handed her my phone. She called Nanna, who didn’t answer, probably because it was from an unknown caller. So the mom sent a text. Still no reply. Nanna was MIA.

The mom thanked me and told me to proceed with my lunch. She said Nanna probably would respond soon. So I proceeded with lunch.

After lunch, I checked, and still no word from Nanna. I couldn’t just leave them stranded, so I told the mom I would drive them to Nanna’s house, which was about five minutes away. The mom protested feebly while transferring the boys and their car seats to my car.

She spent the drive trying to set me up with Nanna, who was described as healthy, active, attractive, and a widow. I was politely noncommittal.

Nanna was home, working in the garden. The mom wanted me to give Nanna my phone number, but Nanna (indeed a handsome woman) steered the mom away while waving a thank-you over her shoulder. I drove back to Commerce, where I bought some dog treats at Marshall’s.

The Questions…

1. What flower bulbs once were used as currency?

2. What is a fipple?

3. The best-selling novel of all time was written in Spain in the early 1600s. What is it?

4. In ancient Egypt, what served as pillows?

5. What is the largest known cave system in the world?

The Answers…

1. Tulip bulbs. In the Dutch Republic in 1634, tulips were a new thing, and a wave of “tulip mania” swept the country. Certain varieties of tulip became coveted luxury items that soon were accepted as currency. The speculative bubble burst in 1637, and the fad fizzled.

2. The mouthpiece of a wind instrument.

3. “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes. Over 500 million copies sold.

4. Chunks of wood or stone.

5. Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. People have explored 400 miles of it, and national park officials believe another 600 miles is out there. Also, scattered around the region are some 200 smaller caves not connected to the Mammoth system.