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Wicked Week

I just got back from a road trip to Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Most of it was new territory for me, so I went slow, took my time. I had a wicked good week.

The only downside to the trip was getting there from Georgia, which meant two long days of miserable Interstate driving. But, once I arrived, rural New England was peaceful, pleasant, clean, and green.

The residents probably would take offense at this, but I saw little difference between the three states. Basically, the terrain, the weather, the architecture, and the accents were all the same.

Everything there has a decided Yankee vibe. An interesting change from back home.

In New England, I noted, Dunkin’ Donuts is like McDonald’s in the rest of the country.

Firewood is for sale everywhere.

And I had the feeling that the locals were enjoying the pleasant summer weather only guardedly and temporarily. They were poised, I sensed, to switch back to winter mode at any time. After stocking up on firewood, of course.

 

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Typical green scene in Vermont. Or maybe New Hampshire.

Having no special agenda, I drove a number of off-the-beaten-path routes (as recommended by my copy of National Geographic’s Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways) and ended up in some interesting places.

In Burlington, Vermont, for example, frivolity reigned.

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Burlington, I discovered, is a major haven for hipsters, hippies, and other free spirits. Back in the 80s, Bernie Sanders was Burlington’s mayor.

The highest peak in the region, Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, is the “home of the world’s worst weather.” The summit is accessible via a harrowing eight-mile auto road, which was extra scary the day I drove it due to dense fog. I took these photos at the top in a chilly rain.

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One of the most magnificent places in the area is Acadia National Park, which takes up most of an island on the coast of Maine. It combines lush greenery with the rocky and majestic Atlantic coast.

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Probably not so serene and idyllic in January during a nor’easter.

Weather wise, this is the most pleasant time of year in New England, so Acadia was maxed out with tourists. Even finding a place to stop and get photos was a challenge. In another month, the crowds of leaf-peepers will triple the traffic.

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The tourist mecca of Bar Harbor is the gateway to Acadia. It’s a quaint harbor town and home to a sizable lobster fleet. Maine lobsters, they say, are more abundant today than ever before.

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Which brings me to another reason I made the trip: to enjoy an authentic New England lobster roll.

I succeeded. Three times.

FYI, lobster rolls come in two varieties: Connecticut style (served warm with melted butter) and Maine style (served chilled with mayo and a splash of lemon). Most locals prefer the Maine variety, and, in fact, I never came across a place that served them warm.

The first two times I had them, they were delicious, but somehow, a bit lacking. They were stingy on the meat, and the buns were lined with shredded lettuce, which diluted the taste.

Moreover, I had them in restaurant settings, which was all wrong. Too civilized. And the food was prepared out of sight and brought to my table like some ordinary meal.

I wanted genuine. I wanted rustic. I wanted the thing cooked where I could see it. I wanted it served outdoors, on a paper plate, as I assume all self-respecting Maineiacs prefer it.

And, fortunately, I stumbled upon a place that, in my mind, served lobster rolls in the proper manner.

It happened as I drove back to the mainland from Acadia. Up ahead was a small trailer in a gravel parking lot. A large, hand-lettered plywood sign out front read LOBSTERS.

The trailer was surrounded by tables and chairs under awnings, and a dozen people were queued up in a line that disappeared into the trailer. I pulled into the parking lot.

Behind the trailer, teams of people were carrying baskets of lobsters from several pickup trucks to a table behind a row of steaming pots.

Under a canopy, two men handled the cooking. Under another canopy, teams of pickers deftly collected the meat.

After a few minutes in line, I was inside the trailer. A stern, matronly woman with forearms like Popeye took my order: lobster roll, chips, a pickle, and a beer of my choice from the display case. The bill was $14. She took my money and sent me outside to find a table.

While I waited, I wandered around and observed the proceedings.

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Then, dinner was served.

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And wicked good it was. Ample meat, lightly seasoned, nicely chilled, no extraneous filling, and sublime taste.

My beverage, by the way, was from Sea Dog, a brewery in Bangor. I chose Wild Blueberry in honor of the small, sweet New England variety of blueberries currently in season.

I savored the meal slowly and deemed the trip a success.

———

Finally, what road trip would be complete without souvenir t-shirts?

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For the return to Georgia, I decided to follow the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway through Virginia and North Carolina. This would take longer, but it would spare me a lot of Interstate driving.

I was rewarded with an early-morning bear encounter on the Skyline Drive. That story in my next post.

 

Giraffes

Crazy voices

Honk if

Alcohol

 

The Questions…

1. How old was Louis Braille when he introduced his reading/writing system for the blind?

2. Slaughterville, Oklahoma, founded in 1889, is named for its founder, James Slaughter. In 2004, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) offered to give $20,000 worth of veggie burgers to the school system if the town would change its name to what?

3. The color puce is a sort of dark red or reddish brown with maybe a hint of purple. Think of a spot of dried blood on a white t-shirt. How did this rather yucky color get its name?

4. What is cerumen?

5. When the British Army put the first tanks on the battlefield during World War I, they officially called them “landships.” So, where does the name “tank” come from?

The Answers…

1. 15. Braille lost his sight at age three and started working on the dot system at age 12.

2. PETA suggested Veggieville. The citizens of Slaughterville declined.

3. The word puce is French for “flea.” It was first used in the 1770s to describe the color of a flea as well as the blood upon which it feeds.

4. Earwax.

5. When the prototypes were under development, British Intelligence referred to them as a “water tanks” to mislead the Germans, and the name stuck.

Braille

Tank

 

I’ve been a news junkie for, essentially, my entire life. The habit surfaced early, when I got old enough to be curious about, and have opinions about, what was going on in the world.

For a long time, I got my news from a variety of media — certain newspapers, news magazines, and news shows on radio and TV. Not that the source really mattered. In the old days, after you discounted the gossip magazines and garbage like the National Enquirer, journalism was journalism.

And I know whereof I speak. I understand the profession better than most. My college degree is in journalism. I spent most of my working life in the business.

Journalism, like science, medicine, law enforcement, and other fields, can be done properly or poorly. For decades, most American news operations performed as intended: they presented the news honestly and truthfully.

Most news organizations took pride in being non-biased. They reported the facts and told the truth, and when they found BS, they called BS.

Those were the years of the Watergate reporting, Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley, and others. Those were years when my chosen profession made me proud.

Then, the game changed. With the rise of the 24-hour news channels came the need for a faster news flow. More and more airtime on the news channels was padded with whatever worked — frivolous stories, entertainment, celebrity news. Soon, this became the norm.

As competition in the business increased, stories were further sensationalized to attract viewers. News crawls and graphics took over the TV screen.

Then someone invented the concept of having two talking heads debate opposing views, which falsely implies that the views are of equal merit. This, too, became the norm.

While this was happening, the political right wing realized it could use a combination of advocacy journalism and propaganda to appeal to the frightened, gullible, easily-led conservative masses — and, not coincidentally, relieve them of money.

The result was Fox News. To the conservative base, Fox became, and still remains, the only source of information they trust.

Infromed

Personally, I don’t and won’t watch Fox News, which is the literal embodiment of fake news. Fox is an insult to the news profession. I deleted it from my cable lineup years ago.

Which leads me to another branch of journalistic evolution: MSNBC.

In the opinion of most people, MSNBC simply is the opposite of Fox, the voice of the lefties. And the network does, indeed, have a liberal/progressive viewpoint.

But the thing is, folks, nine times out of 10, the liberal position is factual and correct. That’s reality.

MSNBC has its faults and biases, but it practices what you learn in journalism school: report the facts, tell the truth.

Four examples easily come to mind.

(1) MSNBC reports the liberal view that human-caused global warming is a real and present threat to Planet Earth (or, more specifically, to life on Planet Earth) because 95-plus percent of scientists — scientists! — are screaming that it’s true.

Fox and the conservatives deny that global warming is real. They dismiss science and the scientists. Really? When you claim to know more than the experts, you’re either stupid, a fool, or a shill for a profitable industry that contributes to global warming.

(2) U.S. military spending is now about $600 billion annually. $600 billion is equal to the annual military spending of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, the U.K., Japan, and Germany, combined.

MSNBC and the lefties conclude, correctly, that the U.S. military budget is obscenely bloated; that we already are capable of stomping any conceivable enemy 10 times over; that those billions are largely enriching defense contractors; and that the money could be used to solve a boatload of the country’s real problems.

Fox and the conservatives claim that our military is weak and ineffective, and the need is critical to boost military spending even further. It came to them in a fever dream.

(3) Consistently, MSNBC has supported the Democratic/progressive position that Obamacare was a modest first step toward better, cheaper healthcare for everyone, and it can be made better with the proper modifications and fine-tuning.

Fox and the conservatives staked out the position that Obamacare is evil incarnate and must be summarily exorcised. It’s a convenient, knee-jerk rationale for the Republicans, some who don’t believe healthcare is a human right, some who don’t want government involved in providing healthcare, and some who oppose it because Democrats are the enemy.

(4) MSNBC reports the liberal view that the concept of “voter fraud” is a fabricated, virtually non-existent threat, because, like, you know, the actual evidence proves it.

Fox and the conservatives insist that voter fraud is real, because it gives them an excuse to suppress voter registration and voter turnout when and where it favors Democrats.

In fairness, I’ll put it this way: the progressive view isn’t correct all of the time; just most of the time. Conversely, the conservative view isn’t wrong all of the time; just most of the time.

Which leads me to CNN and the news divisions of ABC, CBS, and NBC.

For starters, I give CNN bonus points because Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs are gone. On the other hand, CNN and the networks are straining hard to be viewed as “fair and balanced,” and they aren’t.

All four are guilty of, first, blending news and entertainment in pursuit of ratings and, second, giving bogus, laughable opinions equal airtime with the facts — with no caveat to identify the actual truth.

Their specialty, using “analysts” to discuss the news, is a joke. Professional operatives don’t analyze the news. They dissemble and distort issues in their favor, based on their chosen politics.

The only way a normal person can derive value from the input of such people is to sift through their comments, assess and weigh their prejudices, and try to separate the truth from the baloney.

If I analyze the comments of a “strategist” thusly, I may be able to discern a kernel of truth. But why should I have to do that?

This is where the news networks — all of them — fall short of practicing genuine, honest journalism. MSNBC does a reasonable job here, but the rest of them lack the will, or fortitude, to report the news honestly and factually. Instead, they present opposing political views, claim to be presenting both sides of an issue, and walk away.

Every news operation employs people who can be, if permitted, objective and professional. People who are quite capable of presenting and explaining the news with clarity and accuracy. Most of them would relish having that freedom.

Finally, a thought about public broadcasting.

Although Fox News and the conservatives have always hated PBS and NPR, and Republican lawmakers constantly scheme to defund both, public television and public radio are still alive.

PBS and NPR are still places where real reporters present real news. There is no fluff, no entertainment, no political hackery. With minor exceptions, the only analysis is done by historians. God bless public broadcasting.

And I sure wish He would get American journalism back on track, too.

Not long ago online, I found the mission statement below, dated 1963. It may be old and quaint, but the sentiment is inspiring.

Mission statement

Ironically, Milner’s newspaper is the Prince George Citizen, based in British Columbia.

 

Tune o’ the Day

Pop music was never my thing, and for years, my practice has been to ignore it. I may have missed a few good songs that way, but I spared myself from enduring the huge mass of bad ones.

However, occasional exceptions get through and get my attention. Such was the case in 1979 with “Just When I Needed You Most” by Randy VanWarmer.

VanWarmer said he wrote the song six months after a painful breakup with his girlfriend. That’s probably why it rings so true.

He never became a major star, but he kept recording, and, during the 1980s, he began writing songs for a variety of country singers and groups (The Oak Ridge Boys, Alabama, Charley Pride). Sadly, he died in 2004 of leukemia at age 48.

If your legacy is a heartfelt love song, well, that’s pretty cool.

VanWarmer

Just When I Needed You Most

By Randy VanWarmer, 1979
Written by Randy VanWarmer

You packed in the morning, and I
Stared out the window, and I
Struggled for something to say.
You left in the rain
Without closing the door.
I didn’t stand in your way.

But I miss you more than I
Missed you before, and now,
Where I’ll find comfort, God knows.
‘Cause you left me
Just when I needed you most.

Now, most every morning, I
Stare out the window, and I
Think about where you might be.
I’ve written you letters
That I’d like to send,
If you would just send one to me.

‘Cause I need you more than I
Needed before, and now,
Where I’ll find comfort, God knows.
‘Cause you left me
Just when I needed you most.

You packed in the morning, and I
Stared out the window, and I
Struggled for something to say.
You left in the rain
Without closing the door.
I didn’t stand in your way.

Now, I love you more than I
Loved you before, and now,
Where I’ll find comfort, God knows.
‘Cause you left me
Just when I needed you most.
Oh, yeah, you left me
Just when I needed you most.

You left me
Just when I needed you most.

 

Life must be lived forwards, but can only be understood backwards.

— Søren Kierkegaard

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What we have done for ourselves alone, dies with us. What we have done for others and the world, remains and is immortal.

— Albert Pike

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When in doubt, tell the truth.

— Mark Twain

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Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes, courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”

— Mary Anne Radmacher

Kierkegaard

Kierkegaard

Radmacher MA

Radmacher

Help is On the Way

A few days ago, I stopped at the local Kroger for a few things, among them a bottle of Pinot Noir.

At the self-checkout, in order to get the pesky proof-of-age step out of the way (as if a graybeard like me isn’t over 21), I scanned the bottle of wine first.

I.D. check required!” barked the scanner in a female voice. “Help is on the way!”

Moments later, a young clerk in Kroger blue appeared, probably a high school senior or college freshman. I recognized him from previous visits. A pleasant kid.

I held out my driver’s license. He leaned forward, squinted, read my date of birth, and turned to inform the computer.

That’s a new recording,” I said. “The ‘help-is-on-the-way’ part. I don’t know why it strikes me as funny, but it does.”

Oh, thanks for reminding me,” he said. “I forgot to put on my name tag when I clocked in.”

He reached into a pants pocket and began fishing around.

With an aha, he located the tag, took it out, clipped it to his shirt, and turned so I could see it.

I made this after I heard the recording, like, a million times,” he said.

The badge:

Help