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Posts Tagged ‘Family’

More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

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Several decades ago, I met a man in Buford, Georgia, born and raised there, who had never been to Atlanta. Atlanta is a mere 35 miles from Buford via Interstate 85.

In fairness, he avoided Atlanta because he considered it an evil place full of crime and villainy.

But in addition, he had never set foot out of Georgia. He was in his 40s, an auto mechanic, married with kids. He was content and saw nothing unusual about his situation.

I, on the other hand, found it mind-boggling. Having been to, and lived in, so many different places in my life, I simply was astounded.

When I was a kid, my dad was in the Air Force, and we moved often. Very often. Growing up, I lived in Macon, Jacksonville, Savannah, Japan, Virginia, Florida, France, and Germany, in that order.

During our two years in Japan, we traveled the islands regularly. During our three years in Europe, we visited Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, England, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

When we returned to the US in 1960, I spent the next four years at the University of Georgia in Athens. It was the longest I’d lived in one place in my life.

On the About Mr. Write page on this blog, I describe myself as a frequent road-tripper. I mean that literally.

Since 1992, when I finally began documenting my travels, I have taken 134 multiple-day trips somewhere around the country. That’s about four trips annually. In other words, for the last 30 years, I’ve hit the road every three months.

I have visited every state in the US except Alaska. Especially after my divorce, I made it a point to seek out new places, just to see, explore, and experience.

As you may know, I have a special affinity for the Southwest, and Grand Canyon is my go-to vacation spot. As I am quick to note, I’ve been to Grand Canyon 28 times in the last 28 years.

I’ve probably driven every paved road in Arizona, New Mexico, and the southern halves of Utah and Colorado.

At some point, I began taking trips to fill in the blanks, going to New England, the Great Lakes region, the Pacific Northwest, the Gulf coast, the Appalachians, Montana, and so on.

Lately, COVID has cramped my style a bit. Age and arthritis have slowed me down, too. I don’t think my traveling days are over quite yet, but when they are, I’ll be content because of the memories.

Stored in my head are decades of superlative memories, many of them documented by the thousands of transparencies, prints, and digital images I’ve amassed — and which, I assure you, are carefully preserved and organized.

Like all of us, I am a walking memory vault of my unique experiences.

I am blessed to be a son, brother, nephew, cousin, father, and grandfather. Family memories will mean the most, always. But the memories of my travels and adventures on the road are in a special category.

I thank God I’m not the Buford mechanic.

Recently, on a travel website, I read an article entitled, “The 16 Most Beautiful Places in the US.”

Listed were Acadia, Antelope Canyon, Badlands, Everglades, Florida Keys, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains, Horseshoe Bend, Mammoth Cave, Monument Valley, Niagara Falls, Shoshone Falls, White Sands, Yellowstone, and Zion.

A fine selection. But they should have made it 17 and included Yosemite. For the record, I’ve visited all 17.

Okay, that said, I am compelled to include some photos…


The trail to the top of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, Utah, follows that ridge.

A black bear and her cub, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.
In the village of Supai in Havasu Canyon, Arizona, few dogs are house pets. Most live free-range and are cared for informally by the community.

The French Quarter, New Orleans.

A boy swimming nose to nose with a manatee in the city of Crystal River, Florida. Up to 1,000 manatees winter there because the water in the bay is warmer than the Gulf.

A nice Monet in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
A row of seastacks on the Pacific coast.

Native Americans sell their art daily at the Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Hermit Rapid on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. When the sediment levels from upstream tributaries are low, the water is emerald green.

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More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

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My late Uncle Allan was mellow about most things, so I don’t think he would mind me sharing this bit of information about him.

Allan was an amiable, soft-spoken, non-judgmental person. He never married, and when I was a kid, the possibility that he was gay occurred to me. The evidence suggests, however, that he was quite a ladies’ man — for certain in his later years and, for all I know, his entire life.

Allan lived in Jacksonville for decades and moved back to Savannah after he retired. Rather than living in the Smith family home with Aunt Betty, he moved into a retirement home on the marsh east of Savannah.

On one of my visits to the home, a young male employee told me Allan was very popular — very popular — with the ladies.

Women residents of the home outnumbered the men five to one. Allan not only was single, but also was a fit, good-looking guy. The employee said Allan was in constant demand and was seen with a variety of ladies.

Over the years, Allan lived in three Savannah retirement homes. Apparently, he was the resident ladies’ man in all three. His mission, it appears, was to make all those lonely ladies happy. Performing a public service, you might say.

After Allan died and we were dealing with his belongings, I discovered a stash of condoms in a cigar box in the back of a dresser drawer. These were new, unexpired condoms, mind you, and plenty of them. I made the stash disappear before Aunt Betty could find them.

It pleased and amused me greatly to know that Allan was a Don Juan. But, discreet fellow that I am, I never mentioned it to anyone. Until now. The man deserves recognition.

It’s always the quiet ones.


James Allan Smith (1918-2008)

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More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

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I need to vent about an incident that’s been stuck in my craw for a while.

In 2017, I wrote about my granddaughter Maddie’s budding career in volleyball. Back then, she was about to enter 8th grade, the last year of middle school. She had been playing volleyball for several years and was so talented that she was about to be invited, as an 8th-grader, to play on the JV team at Jefferson High School.

A lot has happened since then, some of it good, some otherwise.

Maddie indeed played on the high school JV team while still in middle school. In fact, she was a starter, playing as a setter and the opening server. Maddie has a killer serve.

When she entered high school as a freshman, she advanced to the varsity team, again as a starter, a setter, and the opening server. Maddie was a genuine phenom. She was nominated for Freshman of the Year in the region, and she got an honorable mention for the All-Area Team.

In 2019, her sophomore year, she was elected team captain. Jefferson was loaded with talent that year and went on to become region champ. Maddie was named to the All-Area team, was a Player of the Week, and was nominated by her teammates as the season MVP.

In 2020, her junior year, she was team captain again, and the Jefferson Dragons were region champs for the second year in a row. Again, Maddie was named a Player of the Week, and she was nominated for Player of the Year.

Maddie was scary good, as a server, a defensive player, and a setter. Late in the season, she passed 1,000 assists in her career at JHS. She was the clear favorite to be named MVP and probably a member of the All-Area Team.

Then, at the close of the 2020 season, everything changed.

Maddie has mad skills, but not the classic physique of a volleyball player; she doesn’t have the height. Offense dominates, and volleyball players who advance to the college and pro levels almost always are tall — approaching six feet, preferably more. Maddie is a perfectly normal 5’6”.

Understanding that reality, Maddie told her coach at the end of the season that she would not seek a scholarship to play volleyball in college. Because the awards and accolades are closely tied to being recruited and getting scholarships, the coach turned her attention to girls who aspired to play volleyball in college.

That year, with Jefferson so talent-heavy, the awards took on even more importance. When the end-of-season awards were announced, all the honors and recognition, from team MVP to All-Area honors, went to the girls seeking scholarships. Maddie was shut out completely.

Although most of the winners were deserving, Maddie, the heart of the team, was far more so. But the importance of the awards to recruiting took precedence.

Now, I’m a realistic guy. I understand how the awards system is used. I understand all that.

But the JHS volleyball coach, the coaches at the other league schools, and the school administrators failed Maddie miserably. They coldly disregarded her talent, her contributions, and her feelings.

It would have been simple and painless to arrange some kind of special recognition to honor Maddie’s stellar 2020 performance, with her senior year still to come. It would have been so easy to do the decent thing. They did nothing.

Maddie has been in the gifted program since kindergarten. I like to say she has been an adult since age 4. She knows perfectly well when she has been insulted and disrespected.

So she quit volleyball. Walked away. Did not play for JHS her senior year. Nor did she play club volleyball again.

In the 2021 season, overflowing with talent, the Jefferson team won its 3rd straight region championship. Had Maddie remained on the team, she would have been a major part of it, no doubt as team captain — although aware that no achievement awards were likely to come her way. Instead, she is enjoying her new free time.

As steamed as I am at the adults who treated Maddie so callously, I don’t think they’re awful people. They just have tunnel vision and problems with empathy. Some people never fully mature.

But Maddie is a grounded and confident person, with a degree of integrity her coach and the other adults wouldn’t understand. Maddie was treated badly, and she reacted appropriately.

This winter, she served as an assistant coach for one of the club volleyball teams in Gainesville. She said teaching the younger girls was a delight.

At a tournament earlier this month, her team took second place.

That’s my girl.

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I always figured I inherited my abilities as a writer, and my enjoyment of writing, from my black sheep maternal grandfather, Bill Horne.

I say black sheep because Bill walked out on his family when my mom was a toddler, and worse, never again tried to contact her. Based on the evidence, he was a jerk.

With that information on the table, I will move on.

Bill worked as a railroad dispatcher, but he was a writer at heart. For years, he wrote, and occasionally sold, fiction and non-fiction in various markets. Mom had carbon copies of several of his unpublished works, all of which I later inherited. Some were science fiction stories, some were essays about the great outdoors.

One of his most memorable efforts was a science fiction novella entitled “The Germ-Beast of Insanity.”

In it, an Indiana Jones type hero goes to a museum where a hair from the head of Confucius is on display. The hero shrinks himself down to microscopic size, and, atop the hair, battles the germ-beast of insanity. I am not making this up.

I don’t recall much more about the story, except that the hero prevails and returns to normal size. I don’t remember how he discovered the germ-beast, how he shrunk himself, or if other germ-beasts existed.

Bill Horne with a slingshot, place and date unknown.

I haven’t read Bill’s stories in years. The carbon copies, I’m sad to say, are missing. Years ago, I searched for them without success. I assume they’re in the attic in a box my kids will find one day.

But I do remember Bill’s writing style. His prose stood out as overly elaborate. A bit on the purple side. The man wrote with passion and panache, as if it felt good, and, in his heart, he saw himself as a virtuoso.

I should point out, however, that enjoying something and being good at it are not the same. I love music, but I can’t sing or play a single instrument. And then there’s the case of Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

Sometimes, my own prose can adopt a fancier flourish and may lean toward the purple. But that’s on purpose, when I’m trying to be funny or dramatic. Most of the time, my output is relatively standard and straightforward. Journeyman level, I’d say.

In all honesty, I think I turned out to be a better writer than my grandfather.

No question, really.

None at all.

I need to find those carbon copies.

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More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

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More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

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Pix o’ the Day

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