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Posts Tagged ‘Life’

Thoughts du Jour

Memorial

Part of my daily routine is a morning walk with my dog Jake. I need the exercise, and I know Jake approves because he dances in circles when I take his harness off the hook.

On weekends, our habit is to walk at one of the local schools; the campuses are spacious and well-maintained, no one is there, and Jake can go off-leash. Perfect.

When we walk at Jefferson Middle School, I like to visit a memorial to a former teacher that is tucked away in a grassy area behind the school.

This bench is the memorial:

And this is the plaque next to the bench:

Candace Simmons had a master’s degree in Education and spent 15 years teaching at Jefferson Middle School. She received numerous awards for being a crackerjack teacher.

Candace died of a brain aneurysm at age 40. She left behind a husband, a son, lots of relatives around North Georgia, and this memorial that I visit regularly because I find it quite moving.

Deploying the Pinky

In some circles, holding one’s little finger aloft while drinking from a glass or cup is looked upon as a polite gesture. In other circles, it’s considered snooty. Putting on airs.

Nobody knows when, where, or why the practice originated. Miss Manners said it might go back to people reacting to holding a hot tea cup.

Personally, I use my little finger in an entirely different way when holding a glass: I curve my pinky under the bottom of the glass to provide extra support. It’s a habit I acquired quickly and dramatically in college.

At lunch in the dining hall one day, I picked up a glass of iced tea and turned to place it on my tray. The glass was large, heavy, and wet, and it slipped from my grasp. It hit the tile floor and exploded in a spectacular fashion, for which the other diners gave me a hearty round of applause.

Since that day, I’ve been in the habit of placing my pinky underneath every smooth-sided, handle-less drink container I pick up. Not water bottles. Not soft drink bottles. Not beer cans. Just containers that I suspect might, just might, slip and fall.

A traumatic experience will do that to you.

Master Mule Skinner

I’ve gone on five mule trips at Grand Canyon — ridden the famous “long-eared taxis” five times. My first ride was in 1996. It was just a half-day trip to Plateau Point, not an overnighter. My mule’s name that day was Arluff.

My next four mule rides were down to Phantom Ranch, on the floor of the Canyon, where I stayed for a couple of nights. Specifically, my second ride (1997) was aboard Wags; the third (1999), Blackjack; the fourth (2005), Larry; and the fifth (2016), Twinky.

Those last four trips all took place in November and December, because in the winter months, you’re allowed to book more than one night at Phantom. In the busier months, the mule riders arrive at Phantom in the afternoon and depart at dawn the next morning. Booking in winter gives you an extra day for hiking and exploring.

FYI, being in the saddle for four or five hours is taxing. Not as strenuous as being on foot, but still not easy.

That’s because, on the downhill ride into the Canyon, you’re trying not to tumble forward over the mule’s handlebars, as it were. On the trip back uphill to the rim, you’re trying to remain in the saddle and not slide off the back of the mule. In both cases, your leg muscles get a good workout.

When a mule ride at Grand Canyon ends, the riders are presented with a certificate to mark the occasion. This certificate is from my second mule ride in 1997:

Arluff, Wags, Blackjack, Larry, and Twinky were all calm, good-tempered animals. They also were obedient, except for stopping to munch on trail-side vegetation now and then.

I’m sure the mules are not allowed to carry tourists until they can be trusted. The mules, not the tourists.

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This Just In

ANKARA, TURKEY — A Turkish man joined a party looking for a missing person, not realizing he was the subject of the search.

Beyhan Mutlu, 51, went drinking with a friend in a forest in northwest Turkey. When he did not return home, and his wife learned he had wandered drunk into the forest, she reported him missing.

The next morning, Mutlu came across the search party and volunteered to help. When the searchers began calling his name, he realized he was the missing person.

Mutlu identified himself, but the others didn’t believe him and continued the search. Half an hour later, the party encountered Mutlu’s drinking buddy, and the search was ended.

UNIDENTIFIED CITY, GERMANY — Since June, two men have been trading cryptocurrencies based on choices made by a hamster.

The hamster, Mr. Goxx, has a specially constructed enclosure adjacent to his living quarters. When he runs on a hamster wheel, his paws highlight certain cryptocurrencies.

Also inside the “Goxx Box” are two tunnels, one marked buy and one marked sell. After Mr. Goxx makes his selections and runs through one of the tunnels, his owners send his decisions over a real trading platform.

In its first month, Goxx Capital was down 7.3 percent. But by September, the hamster’s career performance was up 19.4 percent — which is better than the NASDAQ 100, the S&P 500, Bitcoin, and Berkshire Hathaway.

TORRANCE, CALIFORNIA — A lost pet parrot was reunited briefly with his British owner, but ultimately was returned to the family the bird lived with for the four years he was missing.

Nigel, an African gray parrot with a British accent, disappeared from the home of Darren Chick and at some point was purchased by a Torrance family at a yard sale for $400. Nigel, who was called Morgan by the family, learned to speak Spanish from the Guatemalan grandparents.

Morgan flew away again and showed up at the home of a woman in a nearby town, who traced Nigel’s microchip and found the original owner.

The Torrance family saw a newspaper story about Nigel’s return and contacted Mr. Chick. When Chick saw how attached the parrot was to the family, he decided to let Nigel return to being Morgan.

Morgan can whistle the first bars of the theme from the movie The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and he likes to imitate the beeping sounds made by the garbage truck. He also knows the names of the family’s three dogs and barks like them.

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Not long ago, the Georgia DOT rebuilt a bridge across a creek on Georgia Highway 11 south of Jefferson, my fair city. Traffic was rerouted onto side roads for a few months, which was a pain, but the project finally was completed.

Soon after, a story appeared in the local newspaper about some unpleasantness between the DOT and a man who raises cattle on property near the bridge. The incident, I’m pleased to say, concluded in a most satisfying manner.

This is what went down…

To wrap up the project, DOT graded both banks of the creek, seeded the area, and planted several rows of saplings. The owner of the cattle immediately informed DOT that the trees they planted are poisonous to livestock, and his cattle had to be blocked from grazing — on his own property. He demanded that the trees be removed immediately.

DOT officials at the county level ignored the man, probably on grounds that no stupid farmer could tell them what to do. Whereupon, the man dug up the saplings himself and hired a lawyer.

The lawyer got an injunction that prevented DOT from replanting any trees known to be poisonous to animals, and he took DOT to court.

The court ruled that the man was lawfully protecting his animals, and DOT was blocked from filing any retaliatory charges. The court further ordered DOT to allow certified experts to choose the replacement trees to be planted in the area.

By then, state-level DOT officials had stepped in, and they complied fully. Life along Georgia Highway 11 has returned to normal.

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The Confluence

It’s June 1994, and I’m on my first-ever raft trip down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. On the morning of the second day of the trip, we arrive at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers. In contrast to the green water of the Colorado, the water of the Little C is a beautiful deep aquamarine, due to dissolved limestone and travertine.

The trip leaders take the passengers upstream along the north bank of the Little C to a point above a shallow set of rapids. Curiously, we are told to put on our life jackets upside down — to wear them like pants so the padding protects our butts. Just do it, the guides say.

We enter the river and form a chain, single file, 15 people long, each of us holding the legs of the person behind us. The guides steer the chain into the current, and we embark on an exhilarating 60-second ride back downstream to the confluence.

Over the next hour, we reform the chain and ride the Little C a dozen times, whooping and hollering like children. The experience is magical.

And I think to myself, this is the life.

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Pix o’ the Day

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This Just In

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK — A small floral bowl purchased for $35 at a yard sale was identified as a Chinese “lotus bowl” from the early 1400s and sold at auction for $721,800.

The person who hit the jackpot found the porcelain bowl at a Connecticut yard sale last year and sent photos to various experts to determine if it had value.

Officials at Sotheby’s auction division said the bowl dates back to the Ming Dynasty and is only the seventh located to date.

RATHDRUM, IDAHO — A border collie that went missing after being ejected from the family car in an auto crash later was found herding sheep at a nearby farm.

For hours after the collision, the Oswald family searched unsuccessfully for their border collie Tilly. Finally, they asked the sheriff’s office for help and posted an alert on social media.

Several days later, members of the Potter family noticed that an extra dog was herding sheep on their farm, which is located about a mile from the site of the car accident. They turned the dog over to the sheriff’s office, and Tilly was reunited with his family.

Tilly’s owner, who said the dog will “herd anything,” believed Tilly was just taking advantage of an opportunity.

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OHIO — A North Ridgeville police officer removed a raccoon from a local home after the animal ransacked the kitchen and fell asleep in the dishwasher.

Patrolman John Metzo responded when the residents returned home to find the damage and the sleeping raccoon, which apparently entered the house through a bathroom window. The raccoon was removed without injury and released.

Metzo is known as the department’s “absurd animal call officer” after previously encounters with a cow and a kangaroo.

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Adios

Just for kicks, I collected a sampling of headlines in which victims of COVID, largely vaccine deniers of the conservative persuasion, expressed “regrets” about not getting vaccinated. In some cases, the regrets were reported by family members after the victim croaked.

I know it would be charitable of me to feel sympathy and compassion for these folks. But, speaking as someone who is thrice vaccinated for COVID, and, as an intelligent adult, trusts science and medical authorities and other genuine experts, I feel sympathy and compassion only for the family members and other victims of the bonehead vaccine deniers.

To the multitudes of sick and deceased people represented by the headlines below, I simply say “adios, gente estupida.”

Here are the headlines I rounded up.

———

Hospitalized right-wing radio host in ‘very serious
condition’ regrets not being ‘vehemently pro-vaccine’

Alpharetta police officer recovering from
COVID-19 regrets not getting vaccine

Texas anti-mask organizer dies from COVID-19

‘I feel foolish’ — Florida mom shares regret
about not getting COVID-19 vaccine sooner

Alabama mother who lost son to COVID says
not getting the vaccine is her biggest regret

Man regrets snubbing vaccine
after ‘staring death in the eyes’

Anti-vaccine activist and QAnon
supporter, 64, dies from COVID

North Dakota man regretted not getting
vaccine before dying of COVID: family

Alabama man and wife who posted anti-vaccine
videos on YouTube are both dead from COVID

EMT stricken with COVID-19 and
pneumonia regrets declining vaccine

Infected Texas doctor regrets not getting vaccinated

Conservative U.S. radio host and
vaccine skeptic dies of COVID-19

Mom regrets not getting family vaccinated
after 13-year-old daughter is put on ventilator

Man who spent four months in hospital with COVID-19 and had
double lung transplant said he regrets not getting the vaccine

California woman, 40, who said she was ‘unmasked,
unmuzzled, unvaccinated, unafraid’ dies from COVID

Talk radio host hospitalized with COVID
regrets vaccine hesitancy, brother says

Israeli anti-vax leader dies from COVID-19

4-year-old girl dies of COVID after
unvaccinated mom contracts virus

Florida dad regrets not getting vaccine
after daughter, 15, dies of COVID-19

Family pleads for people to get vaccinated
after 45-year-old father dies from COVID-19

Unvaccinated high school coach dies of COVID

Anti-vax radio host who mocked AIDS
victims dies of COVID-19 complications

Husband of GOP state representative
declines vaccine, dies of COVID-19

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Thoughts du Jour

Legacy

Savannah, Georgia, is a fairyland in the spring. The neighborhoods come alive with amazing flowering trees and shrubs — camellias, oleander, lantana, and most especially, azaleas. Countless azaleas in dozens of varieties and colors.

For nearly a century, the Smith family home was 201 Kinzie Avenue in Savannah’s Gordonston neighborhood. My dad and his siblings grew up there. My aunt lived there until she died a few years ago and the old place finally was sold.

When I think of that house, I think first of the beautiful, head-high azalea plants that encircle it. Those azaleas were so healthy and lush that every few years, they have to be pruned back to waist high.

But not until I was an adult did I learn their origin story. To the older generations, the details were well known and didn’t need repeating. When my aunt finally realized that we kids didn’t know the story, she explained.

My grandfather was a fairly well-known Savannah businessman, and when he died in the early 1950s, friends and neighbors remembered him by presenting potted azaleas to the Smith family. When planted, they completely encircled the house.

Within a few years, they had grown thick and massive, creating a multi-colored display each spring that was the envy of Gordonston.

The Smiths have moved on, but the old house is still ringed with those magnificent azaleas. A fitting legacy.

Guns and Religion

Back in 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama got in trouble for saying in a campaign speech that many white working-class Americans “cling to guns and religion” because they are bitter about the poor economy and the loss of jobs. He caught a lot of heat and eventually had to apologize, sort of, for the wording.

Actually, however, Obama was 100 percent correct, and he made an important point. Consider what he said in full:

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow, these communities are going to regenerate. And they have not.

So it’s not surprising, then, that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy to people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment, as a way to explain their frustrations.


Obama blamed the situation, not the victims, but people are responsible for their own actions. Few among us are saints. People who are frightened and desperate will react badly and lash out. They can become petty and cruel and, of course, easily manipulated by people in the manipulation business.

Obama probably didn’t realize he was warning us of what was to come: the rise of Trump and the off-the-rails, nutjob Republicans of today.

The Squash Police

About a year ago, Jake and I were walking along a quiet side street near downtown Jefferson when the door of a real estate office opened, and a portly woman angrily confronted me.

“How about if I took my dogs to your house and let them pee in YOUR yard? Would you like that?” She turned and stormed back into her office.

I didn’t understand why walking a dog along a public street was so offensive or called for such histrionics, so I went into the office to inquire further.

She said her grandkids often visit the office, and they play in the yard, where Jake has been seen relieving himself.

No problem. I told her I would keep Jake away from her lawn in the future. Further, being a shrewd judge of character, I pegged her as a whiny jerk, always poised to perceive a slight.

One morning recently, Jake and I again passed the woman’s office. We were on the opposite side of the street, where someone is growing a small patch of yellow squash. As Jake snuffled around the undergrowth, a voice behind me said, “Does the dog like squash?” I turned to see the portly woman watching us from her front porch.

“The dog is walking in that man’s squash patch,” she said. “Does the dog want some squash?”

“Jake is walking near the squash patch, but not in it,” I said. “I’d say he’s about a yard away.”

I wanted to ask if she worked for the Squash Police, but I knew she has a beefy, sour-looking male co-worker, so I refrained.

Besides, I’m a nice guy. Not a whiny jerk, always poised to perceive a slight.

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More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

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Me and the Shorebirds

It is August 2002, a few minutes after sunrise. I am at the tidal pool at the mouth of St. Andrews Bay in Panama City Beach, Florida. No one is there except me and the shorebirds.

I am 50 yards from shore, chest deep in the water, on my tiptoes, approaching the jetties. In my left hand is an older Nikon DSLR that I told myself was expendable, but which I am terrified of dropping. The camera survived.

The water is impossibly clear, impossibly aquamarine. Ten feet in front of me, pelicans line up along the jetty rocks. I shoot photos by the dozens, and I think to myself, this is the life.

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