To see my latest addition to the Information on OLLI’s Information Technology go to my other website:
To see my latest addition to the Information on OLLI’s Information Technology go to my other website:
I have been writing an essay ‘On Prayer’ on and off for several years. It is not finished, so I am not ready to publish it. But, I am willing to share the current draft that is stored in DropBox. Here is the link by which you may download a current copy:
When I was very young, about ten years old, I spent the summer at Camp Ropioa near Harrison, Maine. One day I caught and was playing with a snake. It didn’t like being held by a big monster. So, it bit me. It left two small holes in my left center finger. It didn’t really hurt, but it startled me. I let it go. But, even though it slithered off to some rock, it didn’t let go. It held on to me for months, years. I developed a phobia for snakes. I would break out in a sweat even if I saw the picture of a snake. I still remember a field trip to the Museum of Natural History when I was in about eighth grade. I freaked out when I passed an exhibit (under glass) of a coiled snake. It bothered me to be afraid of something that posed no real threat. I thought I was being unreasonable. And I was.
After high school, after College, after being on my own in the world and with a wife and kid I was living out in the country. Wife and kid were away visiting family. I looked out the window to see a six foot long slithering monster crawling up the side of our house! I got an axe and separated the head from the rest of the snake without getting any closer than the length of the axe handle. To prove my bravery I skinned the carcass and pinned it to a board to dry.
Later I read a story about someone who had overcome their unreasonable fear of snakes by catching and holding and stroking one. The thought sent shivers up my spine. But, I thought it might be worth a try.
Some time after the family came home I came across a three or four foot Black Snake in a field near our home. I carefully caught it and picked it up. I carefully held it from behind its head and showed it to my wife and son. We all stroked its scaly sides and felt its strength as it wiggled in my hand. I either got careless or the snake got impatient. It twisted it neck and bit the upper knuckle of my left thumb. Many of its short, sharp teeth penetrated my skin.
Now, I knew that a Black Snake is not poisonous, so there was no need to panic. I almost panicked anyway! If I had, those short, sharp teeth would have slid along my finger and ripped it open. Oh, it hurt, not much, but it did hurt. I held still and looked at my hand and the snake. I explained to him that he could hold on or let me go and that if he would le t me go, I would let him go. He did. I did. And he slithered away taking my phobia of snakes with him.
Some weeks later I was at the door of one of the out buildings on the property where we lived when I heard a rustling in the leaves next to the door and between the step I was on and the chimney that was a few feet away. When I looked down I saw a Copper Head snake! With about two bounds I was off the step and on top of my car! Was my phobia back? No! There’s a difference between a respect for a poisonous snake and a silly reaction to a harmless one. I’m not about to handle a Copper Head or a Rattler but Garter Snakes and Black Snakes don’t scare me anymore.
I was reminded of this when I saw a TED Talk by astronaut, Chris Hadfield, who talked of a fear of spider webs. Here’s the link:
In 1981 I wrote a book which was a compilation of various classes and lectures. I have updated it and made it into a PDF file. I would appreciate any comments you may have.
You are welcome to download it from here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/86253860/Communicating_for_the_Results_You_Want_10-17-13.pdf
This I believe, I think!
The ground under me is flat and solid. I see the sun and moon rise and set and travel across the sky.
Astronomy and physics and chemistry tell us about the world. Tho their conclusions can always be challenged and revised and updated, their theorems must be proved to be widely accepted. Peer review includes experiment to challenge new ideas. I trust science. I believe that the moon revolves around the earth and the earth revolves around the sun and the sun revolves around the Milky Way Galaxy. I believe that the acceleration of a body falling to earth is 32 feet per second per second. I believe that wood is solid and water is wet. I find it hard to believe that glass is liquid. But I have seen the drips at the bottom of Victorian windows. It is easy to verify the science of Galileo and Newton.
I cannot verify atomic physics in my office. I can measure the voltage and current my computer and monitor use. I accept the explanation of electrons moving in conductors and not in insulators. Which leads me to believe in atoms that are composed of electrons and nuclei and space between them. Which leads me to question if solids really are solid.
So, I believe in contradictions: space in atoms and solids under my solid feet.
My belief in science depends on proof, verifiable proof, experiments that can be repeated with the same results. If a new explanation can be proved and repeated I’ll change my beliefs as the pre-Newtonians changed their belief about the heavens.
I don’t believe that science is finished. I expect a unified field theory that will better explain quantum physics. Maybe there will be a proof that there are more than three or four dimensions. Maybe time is not a one way street moving toward the future with no way back to the past.
My spiritual beliefs are different. I can’t weigh my soul. I have no spirit meter that measures spiritual energy. I can’t see or touch God. I have experiences that seem to be outside the realm of science. When my Auntie Kate said goodbye to me in January of 1963 I knew she meant it for the last time. She died a week before I was to visit her again in March. I sensed death in a trip across the country in November of 1971 and prepared my papers. A few days before the trip my sister died and I moved the trip up to attend her funeral. I felt compelled to get out of bed one Sunday morning in August, 1968, and walk across LaSalle Street in Chicago where I met a person I hadn’t seen since October, 1967, in Washington, DC. I wanted my wife to wait to call me one morning until after I made my plane reservations. (She was to call at about 9). I made my reservations and went to lunch at 11:30. She called at 11:35. All of these experiences could have been chance. I cannot repeat them or similar experiences, but they feel like some power beyond our current view of science.
I had 16 years of catholic school. I was brought up believing in God and an afterlife, heaven and hell. I was told that the bible was the word of God and was “true.” I was taught that other cultures had creation “myths” but we knew “the truth!” Science has pretty much debunked most creation myths including that the world is built on the back of a giant turtle who is on top of another turtle on top of another all the way down, or that the world was created in 7 days.
Ken Keyes said “You add suffering to the world as much when you take insult a when you give it.” I believe that you add suffering to the world when you don’t trust in the loving kindness of God. There should only be two prayers: “Thy will be done.” and “Thank You.”
I wouldn’t go to war over or be willing to die to defend the weight of the electron or the distance between the earth and the sun. My belief in God is like that. I hold it lightly. It is a map that works for me. It helps me navigate my life. I think it represents what is beyond my comprehension. And I might be wrong. I hope I am open to new information, new theories, new maps.
I trust the gurus of science, the wise men and women who have run the experiments, read the papers, repeated the experiments, refined the theories and have given us the science we have. When 90 or 98 percent of the experts in a field agree on something it is not unreasonable the believe them.
Forty years ago I saw a headline in the San Francisco Chronicle to the effect “Man will never travel to another solar system.” This was attributed to a “Scientist.” This guy joins the ranks of those who said “The earth is flat,” “The Sun revolves around the earth,” “Man will never fly.” True scientists know that you can’t prove a negative and that you may embarrass yourself if you try.
I do not have the same confidence in the religious leaders. There may be a high degree of agreement between Catholics and Catholics or between Shiites and Shiites or between Methodist and Methodists, but there is such wide disagreement about the nature of God, the afterlife, the scriptures, what constitutes sin and salvation they just don’t generate in me the same level of respect and confidence. If Jews and Christians and Hindus and Muslims, etc. have such great differences in belief some, maybe most, if not all, of them must be wrong. To the extent that each of them insists that they are right and the others are categorically wrong seriously damages my respect for them.
Recently I heard someone describe the difference between science and religion as this: Religious people try to prove themselves right and opposing opinions wrong. Scientists define experiments to prove themselves wrong. And if they can’t, they call it a theorem.
Both prophets and psychotics hear voices that they take as real. I don’t know how to tell them apart.
The Crazy Mud Caper
I’m seventy-three years old and should know better!
It was late in the season, late September. Kate and Lon were visiting for some R&R and theater. Saturday afternoon nothing was scheduled and the weather was warm and sunny. My wife, Michele, lent Kate a hat, but stayed home, herself. Lucy, our dog tagged along. I normally forgo taking the boat to the lake on weekends because I don’t like sharing the lake with so many other boats. But my friend of 36 years and her husband deserved an exception. We were surprised to see how few boats were at the lake. Heck, we were surprised at how small the lake had gotten. Most of the boat ramps were stranded way above the water line. The one near the overflow still had its dock in the water. (I confess being a little proud about backing the boat down the long ramp. ) We took a leisurely trip around the lake, the small lake, first the southeast leg then the southwest leg. We dropped anchor in about 9 feet of water at the end of the lake.
I had no sooner set the anchor than a gust of wind blew my wife, Michele’s, hat off Kate’s head. Now if I were a sensible man, a wiser man, hell, just not an idiot, I would have restarted the motor, disconnected the anchor line and driven after the hat. The anchor line had a buoy on it so there was no need to pull up the anchor. Oh, yes, and the anchor line floats so getting back would not have been a problem. But, no, Mr. Macho had to show off. I stripped off my hat, watch, shirt and shorts, down to my swim suit. I dove off the back of the boat to swim after the hat. As my head broke the water coming up from my dive I thought “Did I take off my glasses?” I felt my face and there were no glasses there. I swam for the hat and returned to the boat. I found my shirt, shorts, watch and hat, but no glasses.
A little background: Before I retired I had gotten a new set of glasses while I still had Vision Insurance. I had my glasses for two or three years, so I was eligible for a new pair. But, the new glasses didn’t fit right. I had them adjusted many times but they kept slipping down my nose or causing pain behind my ears. So the glasses in the lake were at least seven years old. Not a big loss, right? They were to me!
The water may only have been nine feet deep but this was Emigrant Lake, not Crater lake. Crater lake is 1900 feet deep and is so clear you can see a white disk lowered into the lake when it is 180 feet down. In Emigrant Lake you can’t see your feet unless you’re a midget. There was no need to even try to find my trusty old glasses.
Back in August I talked to a park person who was moving the dock down the boat ramp. He told me that the lake was going down at the rate of 18 inches a day. If that rate continued, where we had anchored the boat would be out of the water in 6 days. I made a mental note to go out to the lake in a week or two.
There was no measurable precipitation in Rogue Valley during the month of September. Everything is dry except what is irrigated. And the irrigation water comes from Emigrant Lake. I had good reason to believe that the lake would have gone down by over nine feet.
Two weeks later, Lucy, our Shepard mix 12 year old dog, and I went out to the lake and parked way below the high water line. I went in my sandals and shorts with the idea that I wouldn’t mind a little mud between my toes. I took a walking stick. (Well, it wasn’t a walking stick. It was a 1 inch dowel with a rubber foot on one end that I used as a walking stick.) Much to my surprise, between where we parked and the lake, there were two small creeks that were flowing into the lake. One we could jump over, the other, not so much. As I waded through it, mud and gravel oozed up around my sandals and feet and between my sandals and feet! There was no way to use the water to rinse my feet without stepping back into the gravel and mud. So we walked (limped) on.
Since my chemo for lymphoma several years ago I have had “Peripheral Neuropathy (PN).” When the doctor warned me of this possible side effect I passed it off as nothing. I’d rather have numb fingers and toes than to die of cancer. Who wouldn’t? What I didn’t know was that PN does not cause numbness but hypersensitivity. Walking on gravel is like walking on nails. And I was a hundred yards from the car and the lake. So I gritted my teeth and resolved to go to the lake and try to find my glasses. (Ooops! That is a mistake. My son, DJ, used to say “There are two kinds of people, those who do and those who try.”) We got fairly close but I was not about to step into any mud that would rise above my sandals. And the mud was sticky. Several times it grabbed the rubber tip of my walking stick and pulled it off. There was a high place that was close to where I dropped my specs but we had to wade through more mud than I was willing to so we stopped. I thought I could come back later when the lake would be drier and I’d be better equipped. On the way back to the car re-crossing the creek replenished the gravel I had shed from my sandals.
That night I soaked my feet in Epsom Salts.
Four days later I put some screws into the walking stick (dowel) to keep the tip from drowning in the mud. I put on a pair of boots that come almost to my knees and ventured back to the lake. I had thought of making a sort of snow-shoe set of attachments for my boots or to take some boards to help ford the mud but did not. (Big mistake, Hey, I’m getting really proficient at making mistakes, aren’t I?)
This time we drove a little further and parked in a lot above the water line and hiked to the lake. As we were descending the bank I noticed some strange plants that were glistening with water. The ground under them was wet! I thought I’d take a picture on our way back. We made it to the part of the lake where I had dropped my specs.
Back when we were anchored and I couldn’t find my glasses in the boat I made a note of getting some sitings so that if I could come back I’d know where we had been. I looked north and south and drew a mental line between Pilot Rock and the rowing sculls. I looked more or less east and west and drew a mental line between a house on the west and a house on the east.
I didn’t expect the precision of a surveyor. I expected that I was within a hundred yards. I also expected that the glasses would rise above the surrounding mud by at least a little bit. Sticks did, beer cans and soda bottles did. I hoped the glasses would, too. Although the lake bottom where we were was pretty flat there were places that were high and dry and others that were quite muddy. I wanted to get to one of the higher places and plotted a path to get there. Then I sank ankle-deep. It was not easy getting my feet out of the muck. If I could make it about five yards I’d be on drier ground. The next step went deeper into the mud and was harder to pull out. The next step wouldn’t budge. . . I was stuck!
Well, I tried. I tried this and I tried that. I tried using the “walking stick” to dig a hole around my boots. I tried wiggling them from side to side. I tried wiggling them front to back. The harder I pulled on one foot the deeper the other foot sank into the muck. I didn’t look at my watch when this ordeal started but I tried for quite a while. Lucy, meanwhile, was having a great time. She was running around, splashing in the little streams that feed the lake, splashing in the mud next to the little streams. After a while I guess she got tired and sat down on a dry spot about 15 yards away, right about where I wanted to get, right about where I think my glasses are! And I didn’t move!
I called Michele, my wife, thinking to ask her to bring me some pieces of plywood, not sure if that was a good idea or another stupid mistake. She suggested I call 911. I tried to get out a little more and gave in and called the nice lady at 911. She wanted to know if I was in a boat. I explained to her where I was and that I could be seen from highway 66, if anyone cared to look. She asked me if I was all right, if I was having trouble breathing or anything like that. “No, I’m fine. Just stuck and embarrassed and stuck.” She asked me how long I had been there. I didn’t know but figured it must have been close to a half hour. It was about 4:15 in the afternoon. I’d left home about 3:15. She told me to stay on the line while she tried to get me some help. A little while later she came back on the line and said that someone would be out to help.
Sometimes I ‘m not very bright but at least I had not left home without my cell phone and it was charged. I got a phone call from the Sheriff. He asked where I was and if I was in a boat. I told him was on land ( well, in land). I was 30 yards or so from the water in the lake. A boat wouldn’t help but a hovercraft might. He said they had one but they might not be able to get it out to me. He told me to hold tight and someone would help. I waited.
Lucy waited. At one point I spoke to her and she started to come bounding toward me. But when she started to sink up to her elbows I told her to back off. I didn’t want us both needing rescue.
The District 5 Fire Station is not far. It’s closer than the other end of the lake. So I watched the Highway for a big red truck. I thought “there is no easy way to get me out of here” Someone asked if it would help for someone to throw me a rope. That didn’t sound like a very good idea. If I ever decide I want to be dragged through the mud I’ll run for public office. I would not want to be dragged through the mud at the bottom of Emigrant Lake! But a helicopter, that might work. And I know a nice guy who owns helicopters. Well, I kind of know him. I haven’t seem him for 18 years. But his shop is not far from the lake. Maybe he’d like to try a rope rescue. As I was looking through my phone to see if I still had his number I heard the squawk of a portable radio. Two guys from District 5 were heading toward me with a stretcher of sorts. It looked like a blue plastic plank about five feet long and a foot and a half across.
Now, I had been standing in the same place for 45 minutes to an hour. It was not comfortable. I did not have my feet next to each other as one would if he knew he was going to be standing for a long time. No, I had one foot in front of the other. One of the firemen picked up a tire that had been laying in the mud. I directed them as best I could to how to reach me without getting in the same predicament. They got to within a few feet of me without sinking like I had. They put the tire behind me and the board on top of it and instructed me to sit on it. They tried to pull my left boot out of the mud. “Can you get your foot out of the boot?” one asked. I could and I did. I must have looked pretty funny half-reclining on the blue board with one stocking covered foot in the air and the other in a boot about a foot deep in mud. Without a foot inflating the boot it was extracted and put back on my foot. Somehow, with three of us pulling the other boot and foot they popped out. The guys helped me to my feet and we started to walk out. I tripped. The mud did not want me to leave. A lot of it came with me. On my pants, on my boots, on my walking stick, on my dog.
We walked back to our respective vehicles, noticing some of those weird wet plants along the way. I didn’t take the picture. They were kind enough to spray off my boots with the water they carried in their fire truck so I didn’t dirty my truck.
I got home a little after 5. And a little later the sheriff called and asked where I was. He was out at the end of the lake in a hover craft. He hadn’t been informed that District 5 had gotten me. I was apologetic. He was nice and not upset. My feet and back hurt. A couple of Naproxin and some Arnica and a few hours and the only pain left was the embarrassment.
On the map below, the “X” marks the spot where I stood and near where my glasses are unless a stray goose has borrowed them. The red blotch is about where I parked my truck on our first expedition. The green box below the other marks is where the fire truck and my truck were parked during my rescue. The District 5 Fire station is located under the “66” in the circle next to the lake.
Post Script, literally. The morning after I wrote this story, as I was thinking how serious and stupid my situation had been, I remembered that I had not considered the possibility that I might get stuck in the mud – – – until I was stuck in the mud.
Day 28: Thursday: Geneseo, IL to Omaha, NE: First thing in the morning I checked the damage I had done to the Air-conditioner and the roof. It was bad! The A/C was totally destroyed and it had jammed a hole in the roof of the camper. We were very lucky we didn’t get any rain last night. I called an RV place in Davenport, 30 miles down the road in the direction we were heading. They said they could work on it today. Lucy sang all the way to Davenport, IL. We got there at about 11 and left a little after 2 but I was cautioned not to drive at freeway speed for at least another half hour because the goo they put on the roof needed to dry a little more. So I played with Lucy a bit, had lunch and drove slow until about 3:15. Most of this trip has been unscheduled. This afternoon and evening had been an exception. We were going to Omaha to see Michele’s cousin, Judy and her husband, Joe. We got on the road about three hours late. One of the guys in the RV place had said that the drive to Omaha would be boring. I didn’t think so. He reminded me of something Ken Keyes said: “There’s always something happening. You only get bored when you call it nothing.” We discovered that no two farms are alike. There were wind farms with huge blades lazily twisting in the wind. I noticed a hill side that looked like it had been terraced. I didn’t know we did that in America. Then I saw more and suspected that it was a geological fluke. Later, Joe told me that a federal mandate requires the farmers to do that to prevent silt from contaminating the streams and rivers. Then it rained! I mean it really rained. I was glad I had had the roof patched or I would have been able to take a shower next to the refrigerator in the camper. Lucy and I got to Judy and Joe’s at about 7:45. We had a nice visit and called it a night a little after 10.
Day 29: Friday: Omaha to Denver: This is another day that has a schedule. I’m to meet my old college buddy, Nik Nikkel, in Denver in time for dinner. I had coffee with Judy and Joe and reminisced and I didn’t get on the road until about an hour after I had planned. I used to run every morning before work. I thought, and still think, that the exercise was good for me. But I always refused to run for a bus. That’s not exercise, that’s stress. I was not going to let my schedule interfere with a good time hanging out with Judy and Joe. I’m glad I didn’t stress. I got to Denver just about at 6 which was a fine time to meet Nik’s wife and to have dinner with Nik. AND, some interesting things came up on the road between Omaha and Denver. One: I noticed that the rumble strips in Iowa, Nebraska and later in Colorado were different than the ones we have in California and Oregon. At home they are just roughed up sections of the road by the shoulder that make a loud, rough, steady noise when your tire hits them. In Iowa and Nebraska I noticed that there are blank sections between the roughed up sections. When you run over them the roar is interrupted and almost sounds like a gruff “Wake UP!” I’m not sure which are better. They all make loud starling noise. The other interesting thing that happened needs some background. As a devotee of science, if not a scientist, I try to hold all the things I know in a state of probability rather than certainty and I am sure one cannot prove a negative. I am pretty certain that the sun will rise tomorrow. We have successfully predicted sunrises for thousands of years. There is a high probability that our theory of astronomy is accurate. I am less sure about the existence of God. I haven’t seen any predictive tests of God’s existence. But neither have I seen any science that proves there is no God. So, I am an agnostic. The only people who hear voices are prophets and schizophrenics and I can’t tell the difference. Sometimes when I pray I hear a response. I can’t prove that what I am hearing is coming from God or from my imagination. Some of the responses I get are as confusing as the responses from the Delphic oracles. Sometime the response is funny or ironic, but never so specific as to prove that it is not my imagination. So, as I was driving long on this gray, cloudy morning, enjoying the scenery I said to my voice “Some sunshine would be nice, Lord.” Immediately I was being passed by a truck. The truck that passed me was from Sunshine Trucking! Coincidence? Or God’s sense of humor? I don’t know. But I believe that God has a weird sense of humor. But I hold my belief lightly. I wouldn’t bet a lot on it. Judy told me about the Sand Hill Cranes that hang out in the corn fields along the Platte River. I wouldn’t have known what they were if I had seen them at all if she hadn’t told me. They are huge and gray and blend into the corn fields very well. I saw hundreds of them mostly in groups of one to two dozen. On this trip I noticed that no two trees are alike but I also noticed that they seem to communicate with one another and have artful shapes, they don’t clash. What I mean is when they grow together, they grow together. They blend into a shape without sharp edges or individuals sticking out or up.
Nik told me he had heard that Pati Cockram, whom we had known in college, had died. If I’d had more time as I passed thru Arkansas I wanted to stop to see if I could find any of her family so I could re-connect with her. But I was too late.. NY Times Obituary, June 13, 2010, confirmed it.
Day 30: Saturday: Denver to Provo, UT: Breakfast with Nik: Radio Shack for an adapter to let me hook up the inverter to the spare battery: On the road in Sunshine: We stopped at the rest area and visitor center in Georgetown, CO, and played with Lucy.
Glenwood Canyon was “Oh!,” “Oh!,” “Oh!” Then the mesas of Utah were back to “Wow!” I stopped in the “No Name Rest Area” coming out of Price, UT.
Right by the side of the road we saw a half-dozen Big Horn Sheep! What a treat! After Green River, UT, we got onto Route 6 which took us into the mountains on less than Interstate quality roads. The sky got dark and then started to snow as we climbed into mountains that went on forever. For a while I was afraid that I had been caught in a three-dimensional M C Escher experiment on a road that went up and up forever. The windshield froze! I thought it was dirt and the windshield washer fluid didn’t spray up far enough to reach it. Then I thought to try the defroster and it cleared. The last part of the trip to the campground in Provo was to be on Interstate 15. I 15 is under construction before and after Provo! The exit for the campground was poorly marked for an outsider so I went the wrong way. Wrong! There was no way back. I ended back on the freeway for three miles. I was able to find the campground from back roads, which helped me in the morning.
Day 31: Sunday: Provo, UT to Lakeview, OR: George tried to put me back on the freeway to Salt Lake City but he does not know anything about construction-caused road closures. He wanted me to take Center Street to I15 and then turn left. But Center Street is closed under I15! Remember how I screwed up last night and had to use back roads to get to the campground. I just retraced my steps and was back on the road. The sun was out and there were partly cloudy skies. There were a string of confusing signs along the freeway into Salt Lake City. They spoke of a 25 cent toll. It looked like it was only for the left lanes. I suspect it is to meter traffic on the express lanes and is collected by a transponder like my FASTRACK or EZpass. It indicated that High Occupancy Vehicles didn’t have to pay. I never did figure out how the system could tell if the vehicle was HOV or not. Have I mentioned that I don’t like traffic? Even on a Sunday morning there was too much traffic into Salt Lake City for my comfort but before long we were on I80 heading out of the city and past the Great Salt Lake.
It is the remnants of a truly Great lake. You still can see the lines where the shore was on the mountains around the lake. It must have been 100 miles across and a thousand feet deep. I remember one time in the eighties that the water level rose so much they thought they would have to close route I80 because it would be under water.
There were more “Wow!” times across Utah and in Nevada. The mountains had fresh snow. Just out of Salt Lake City I think I saw ski tracks coming down mountain sides that had no ski lifts. Could it have been helicopter skiing? I’ll never know. I wanted to have dinner in Winnemucca after I got gas but never saw any restaurant I would like to eat in so we pushed on, hoping to find food in Denio. Fat chance! I think Denio is too small to have a name. The road to Denio is absolutely straight for 30 miles then turns and then is straight for 11 miles and turns again and is straight for 16 miles. It is all very flat prairie with mountains on both sides. Neither Lucy nor I found it boring. She sleeps some of the trip but sits up a lot of the time and looks out the window appearing to be very interested in the scenery. From Denio the road rises into the mountains then drops off again. There were two places that signs said had 8 and 7 percent grades for 3 miles. One looked down onto a flat plain that was laced with streams looking like a jig Saw puzzle. On one of the up slopes after we were in Oregon I looked over to the left and saw a beautiful waterfall. Then there was the sunset! I looked up and saw a peach sunset with a dark blue spot in it under a baby blue arching sky. It only lasted a few seconds but I don’t remember ever seeing anything like it before. Seeing the old shore line of the Salt Lake and wondering what it must have been like and what it must have been like when it burst its dam and drained and seeing the mesas with sheer cliffs and knowing that they are what’s left after the surrounding land has washed away made me feel very insignificant both in time and space. I am in awe of the majesty of the world in which I live. This has been a wonderful trip of discovery for me. I had hoped to find a Walmart in Lakeview but no such luck. We searched around for a nice restaurant and settled on a restaurant without the nice. The service was so slow I left and ate in the camper in an Elks parking lot. And here we spend the night.
Day 32: Monday: Lakeview, OR to Home: I didn’t see an inviting gas station before I left Lakeview so I checked the mileage and thought I could make it to Klamath Falls with no problem. There were 209 miles since the last fill up and I have made as much as 360 miles without running out and Lakeview to Klamath Falls is only about a hundred miles. Yada, yada, yada! When I noticed that the gauge was below a quarter tank I started to worry that I had once again done something really stupid. Route 140 is not heavily travelled and I doubt there is cell service on most of it. This has been such a blissful trip and here on the last morning of it I’m making myself anxious!. “Here and now, boys, here and now!” It was a beautiful ride even though it snowed on the way from Lakeview. And then there was Bly and a gas station that sold diesel. The station must have been the town’s hang out. There were people standing around inside buying food and eating and talking. The attendant did not seem to be too happy, particularly when I asked for only 10 gallons when I heard the price. She apparently was the cashier, gas jockey, manager and lackey. She was definitely overworked. Lucy and I stopped in a roadside park to throw the ball. It was a nice park for people, or it had been ‘til the geese decided it was nice for geese. I picked up after Lucy but no one picked up after the geese. Coming into the Rogue Valley we were pleased to see Immigrant Lake and to see that it is almost full. We stopped to empty our tanks but were dismayed to see that the dump station was closed. I decided to try the campground for a dump station but found none. I didn’t find the park host either but I did find a regular camper who suggested I pull into an unused campsite and dump there. It worked. Then I stopped to fill the gas tank. Was I surprised to see that Ashland’s price for diesel isn’t much better than the price in Bly! With a full tank I was able to determine that if I had not stopped In Bly I still would have 6 gallons left in the tank when I got to Ashland. Another example of useless worry!
To sum up the trip: It was wonderful! Driving was like a moving meditation. There were few rough spots. I was reminded that I’m not as bright as I sometimes think. I was awed by the beauty of the country. I was blessed with great, good or acceptable weather almost all the time and only stuck in bad weather a few hours. Lucy was a fine travel companion. She sang a lot but it mostly amused me except when I was trying to navigate strange intersections and she and George were giving me confusing or conflicting instructions.
At home, Ashland is in bloom!
My Sentimental Journey Part 4
Day 23: Saturday, Washington, DC: Not our best sight-seeing day: We started out for the post office and George (the GPS) wanted me to take a left onto New York Avenue. Normally that might be a good idea, but, during Cherry Blossom Season New York Ave is more like New York Parking lot. Coming back George didn’t warn me that the road we were on, and that he wanted me to turn right off of, went into a tunnel under and past the street onto which I was to turn. I don’t trust him as much as I did four weeks ago. So I caught his error and made the correct turn to get back on course. We thought today would be a good day to visit the National Arboretum. The weather was cloudy with some patches of sun. I ignored George’s suggestion to stay in the right lane because it was so bumpy. I missed the turn and had to turn around and join the inbound New York Ave cherry blossom enthusiasts. We finally got there and were enjoying it.
Michele went into the Bonsai building while Lucy and I stayed outside and watched some Koi in a pond next door. Then I heard a great wind and suspected that it did not bode well for us. Before you know it we were in a downpour. Lucy and I found shelter and waited for Michele and for the rain (and hail) to let up a little. That was the end of the Arboretum for us. On the way back to the hotel I stopped at the gas station (on New York Ave) that had a good price posted for diesel. I was all set to pump when I noticed that the pumps had “Condemned” signs on them. The next station I tried had a posted price of $3.959 but when I put in my credit card the price jumped to $4.049. I try not to do business with folks who bait and switch so we left without gas. We asked George for recommendations for a Mexican restaurant. He wanted me to take a left onto New York Ave. I knew the way by taking a right but George kept recalculating and trying to get me onto New York Ave. Does he get a commission? Michele asked if George and I would still be on speaking terms when we get back to Ashland. I’m not sure. His first restaurant suggestion was in a seedy neighborhood, so we tried his second. It was great, one of the best we have ever eaten in. When we got back to the hotel the parking lot was crowded. I had planned to put the camper on the truck after dinner. Michele said I’d never be able to do it, but, with a little maneuvering and blocking the driveway for a while the truck got under the camper and all is well.
Day 24: Sunday, Washington, DC – We decided to go to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s farm. I had more than a few disagreements with George. Partly, my fault. I got confused when we went over the Anacostia River and thought we had crossed the Potomac. My sense of direction was off and I missed a few of his queues. When we got there a guard motioned to us to go around the circle again and come to talk to him. I wondered what kind of trouble we were in but he was just helping us find a good parking place, behind locked gates, even. The place was crowded. It was a mob scene. We took a walk and decided not to go into the farm and farm house, etc. Someone suggested the Grist Mill which was interesting and not crammed with people. What a treat! It only cost $4 a head and that included a guided tour of the mill and the distillery. George Washington’s mill was looted and nothing was left but the foundation. There was sufficient documentation of how it worked that it has been completely restored. The mill is based on a patented system that was fully automated in the 18th century. The grain goes in at the top. Its chaff is blown away by agitation and a fan.
It then drops down a floor to the mill stones. The ground flour is then hoisted by an enclosed elevator to a rotating basket that sorts the fine, medium and coarse flours and drops them down into waiting barrels. The Mill wheel drives a shaft with wooden gears that drives all the other equipment.
There are various clutches that determine just which wheels turn. There is some metal, but it is mostly wood. We saw wheat flour being ground, The dust was too much for Michele. The distillery was also in operation but I didn’t hear the presentation because I had dallied looking at the Mill. Washington was not only a general and President but quite an entrepreneur. After Mount Vernon we picked up some desert and went to Bobby and Danine and Elise’s house for dinner. They are the family I met three years ago who were taking a year to travel the country in an Airstream trailer. I mentioned their blog in Part One of this story. It is “www.ayearabout.wordpress.com”. I had enjoyed meeting them at The Valley of the Rogue campground, but I enjoyed their company and hospitality even more. They have wonderful stories to tell of their trip and great pictures and Danine is making books of the blog. Bobby offered electricity for the camper and Danine offered the use of their washer and dryer. Elise remembered Lucy, but me? Not so much. They have been following what I have posted about our trip. Danine commented on my disillusionment with nostalgia. She said the risk in going back is that you pollute your memories with visions of how it is now which has to be very different from how it was then. Which reminds me of the misquote of Gertrude Stein. About Oakland she said “There is no there there.” People often think she was knocking Oakland. She was not. She was saying “You can’t go back because what was there is no more, it has changed. We had a great time and stayed up too late because we had to get Michele to the airport by 5:40 AM!
Day 25: Monday, Washington, DC to Hazelton, PA: Up at 4:30, on the road by 5, dark roads, construction, tolls, confusion with the GPS but we got Michele to the airport on time. (I’ll fill in her adventure later, or I’ll let her fill it in.) The GPS sometimes gets a little behind or a little confused. It says turn right but the arrow on the screen shows left, or vice versa. I wanted to get out of Washington before the rush hour traffic made it difficult. I guess rush hour starts at about 6! There was traffic. And tolls! We don’t have tolls in Oregon. I experience them in the Bay area when I visit there but I have a “Fastrack” device that pays the tolls for me. I don’t have to fish around for money and change. The East confuses me. I asked George to plot a course for Blue Bell, PA. I had worked there for Univac in 1965, 66. I hoped to find the Cross Roads Motel and restaurant. George took me on the blue highways I had wanted. It was great. The roads lead us through Amish country, though we saw no Amish. The homes were old, the roads narrow. We saw horse country. I asked an old-timer I met in a Walmart parking lot if he remembered the Cross Roads. He suggested a road I should take but did not remember the Univac plant or the Cross Roads. So I chose to move on to where I grew up, Port Chester, NY. I didn’t want to go up the Jersey Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway so I told George to take me to Suffern, NY. That would get me close to the Tappan Zee bridge. Then I changed the command to Tarrytown, NY which is just across the bridge. First thing I know I’m on a road that is signed as going to the George Washington Bridge. I changed the command to Nyack, NY and tuned around to face away from the GW Bridge. George turned me around and again sent me toward the bridge. I shouted and swore at George. I pulled off the road and checked a map. OH! George was taking me toward the GW Bridge but not necessarily over it. I let him have his way, planning to abort if he didn’t turn on route 17. He had a better idea and got me to the Tappan Zee Bridge. I took an interstate to Port Chester, got off at Westchester Avenue. When I was a boy White Plains’ tallest building was the Bonwit Teller store. Now it has high rises galore. So does Port Chester. Where Russ Shaw’s funeral parlor and the Elks Club were are now high rises. Rocky’s Hardware store is gone, Frits & Tom’s restaurant and bar is gone. The old barber shop is gone. The local banks are now Chase and Wells Fargo. The Embassy Theatre is gone. The building is there but there is no marquee. I stopped at a nice park to walk Lucy but they had big nasty signs saying dogs were not allowed in the park. I took a lot of pictures on the street where I grew up.
The trees are all different. The two lots that we played in on either side of our house now have houses on them. Mrs. Rigney’s house is painted a lighter color that I don’t think fits her style of house. I got a picture of the wall in front of Helen Davidson’s house. When I was about 5 or 6 I refused to march around the dining room table with the rest of the kids at a Halloween party there. Mrs. Davidson said that if I didn’t march around the table I would have to leave and go home. I left and sat on the ground on the other side of that wall and cried. It’s not as big as I remembered it.
But then, I’m bigger. At the other end of Betsy Brown Road was a mansion where my godmother’s father had been the caretaker. I have pictures of me as a little kid on the steps of the mansion. The property has been split up and developed so there is nothing to show of the old estate except the old house which looks out of place on its small lot.
Next it was up to Bowman Drive where we moved after I graduated from High school. I did a lot of work on that house, finished the library, installed a safe in a hidden place behind the book shelves, insulated the attic and planted a chestnut tree. The tree is gone.
I tried to call Billy Davidson but got his voice mail. He was Helen’s big brother and I think is still a lawyer in town. I had tried several times to call Patti, my niece in Boston, but I never got a response. So I gave up on the trip to Boston. It felt complete when I left to start home. We let George plot us a course to Chicago and went back across the Tappan Zee Bridge and off across New Jersey into Pennsylvania. I had a lasagna in a Hollywood Diner and Sports Bar and we parked in a Walmart parking lot.
Day 26: Tuesday, Hazelton, PA to Toledo, OH: My calendar says spring but my eyes say winter. It was cold today. I even saw snow falling and accumulating on the north slopes by the freeway. Last night it started to rain just as we went to bed. At times it really poured but the temperature didn’t go that low. I drained the camper battery by using an inverter to power the computer. In the middle of the night I had to turn the heater off because the battery was too low to power the blower. It didn’t get unbearably cold. I had trouble today remembering “here and now, boys, here and now.” My mind got out of the present and went into the past and future. I kept catching myself and pulling back to the now. The now was interesting by not spectacular. Although, crossing one bridge I looked down into a deep valley and saw the cutest little town. I wish I could have stopped and taken a picture but the bridge was narrow with no pedestrian access and it would have been my last picture. For quite a way in Pennsylvania I noticed that the woods were strewn with rocks, from the size of bricks to basketballs, no boulders. Trees grew up through them. The forest looked normal except for the floor, covered with rocks. They were irregular shaped, not like glacier rolled round ones. There were no flowering trees, no sign of spring. The skies were gray or raining or snowing. As soon as we crossed into Ohio things seemed to clear up. The wind that had blown the camper all over the road let up and there were patches of blue in the sky. But it was still cold. We registered in a KOA and I pulled apart the electric cable between the camper and the truck to see if I could make the turn signals work. They did before and after dinner. We’ll see if they keep working tomorrow. On one of my distractions I got thinking about all my best friends over the years. Jimmy Griffin who was my best friend in second grade died in third grade (leukemia). Walt McGuire died in a car accident when we were in our twenties. Gary Nielson died of leukemia when he was 48. Ted Chatterton died at age 79. I have lost touch with my high school and college pals. I was thinking of contacting some of them and remembered what Danine said the other night about the danger of going back and finding things just aren’t the same and the memories may be damaged by new experience. When I get home and am not so insistent on being in the here and now I may revisit the question and decide then.
Day 27: Hazelton, OH to Geneseo, IL: Truly a long day. We passed from Eastern Time to Central Time and gained an hour. I overslept this morning. I had not been able to log onto the internet the night before so I found out how after the office opened at 9AM. We finally got on the road at about 11:30! It was more “there and then” then “here and now.” My mind kept wandering off what I was seeing and thinking about other things. I got distracted by a tower for high tension wires. This one was a tall round pole or pipe anchored to the ground in a piece of concrete, I got thinking about how deep you would have to dig to make such a pole stable. I guess it would depend on the type of soil around the foundation. How wide would the foundation have to be? How would the engineer know, how would he communicate to the builder? Suddenly I thought of how much that makes this world work I do not know. I have been criticizing the rough roads but could I do a better job of building them? Not a chance. I wouldn’t know where to start. How do they chose the route? Where does the fill come from that raises up the valleys? Is it the same material that they carve out to level the hills? We passed the Lordstown GM plant. I remember when that was being built and how advanced it was, how modern. I thought of all the skills that went into building it and maintaining it and running it and how many of them I do not have. It was a very humbling day. We passed Gary Indiana. It doesn’t look like the town sung about in the musical “The Music Man.” Then into Chicago. Have I said that I don’t like traffic? George guided me pretty well to Burton Place where I had lived in 1968.
It used to run from Wells to LaSalle but it has been turned into a Cul De Sac by putting a mini park at the Wells Street end. I had turned into it before I realized there was no way out! I was able to turn around but had a confrontation with someone who came in behind me and didn’t want to give me the room to turn. Eventually she saw that she was not going to get anywhere until she backed up and let me out. I found a parking place big enough for the camper on LaSalle Street across for the end of Burton Place! I couldn’t believe my luck. Until I saw that it was 3:30 and the parking lane would turn into a No Parking, No Standing bus lane at 4. Lucy and I walked around the old neighborhood and took pictures. I had lived in an apartment that had been built during the depression. Someone had given some artists a credit card at the junk yard. They used recycled mosaics, marble, tiles and bricks to build a unique house. I couldn’t get inside where the true art was but the outside demonstrates the idea.
The drug store that had swastikas in its tile floor was gone. It had predated the Nazis usurpation of that ancient symbol. But it didn’t survive the yuppification of Old Town. Just before four we got out of there and were surprised first by the route George chose for us and second by the lack of traffic thru downtown Chicago on Lake Side Drive and onto the Interstate. We hit heavy traffic further out of town, but it wasn’t all that bad. George got me good at the end of the day. I had chosen a campground in Geneseo, IL. We were almost there when George took us on a road under a railroad. The bridge was ten feet off the ground. The air conditioner on top of the camper was ten feet off the ground. I realized this about two feet too late. When I backed out from under the bridge some of the air conditioner fell off the camper in many pieces. To add insult to injury after I had found a way to get over the tracks a police car pulled me over. I asked “What did I do?” He said “Did you hit that railroad bridge?” I said “Yeah, but I didn’t hurt it!” He took my license and went back to his car. He asked if I wanted to file an accident report for my insurance company. He said he didn’t have to file a report if the damage was under $500. I said it was and he said he’d check with his sergeant. Then he said to wait while he checked for damage to the bridge. I told him that if the damage had rust on it, I didn’t do it. (The bridge appeared to have been hit by larger and harder things than my air conditioner, many times, and on both sides.) He came back and gave me back my license and wished me a good day. I’ll investigate the damage in the light of tomorrow. It was too dark to climb on top of the camper when we registered for our campsite. To add more insult to injury, when I tried to turn on the light over the table in the camper, it wouldn’t go on! Maybe my luck is changing. The camp store was still open and they had replacement fluorescent bulbs that fit. Dinner was eggs and cheese and apple and beer. When I walked Lucy before her bedtime the stars and moon were out and lovely.
Mt Sentimental Journey Part 3
Day 18: Monday: Washington, DC: Today we delivered Lucy to the vet for a doggie cab ride to Shady Spring Kennels for four days of doggie camp. She will get a 15 minute walk (with ball throwing) and a private suite with a 20 foot run. Then we learned the Metro. When I lived here from 1957 to 1968 I don’t remember there even being any talk of a mass transit system. Now there is one. We missed our stop and had to back track but still we got to the Holocaust Museum with two hours to spare before our 1:30 ticket would let us into the main exhibit. One could take all day or maybe more seeing all the pictures, movies and reading all the captions and quotes. I could be glib and sum it all up as “We shellacked Germany in the First World War and left them with damaged pride and economy. They reacted with puffed up pride and decided to kill everyone who in their mind was inferior to them. They killed six million innocent people. We beat them. And it should never happen again.” But it is so much more profound than that. As long as there are “We” and “Them” it will happen again. It happened in the former Yugoslavia. It happened in the Congo. It might be happening in Libya. What is frightening to contemplate is that we all are capable of doing what the Germans did. The Germans of the thirties and forties were no different than we are now. We could demonize some group. Some of us have demonized Muslims. I fear the We-Them mentality. When I was very young we reduced the Germans and Japanese to “Krauts” and “Japs,” the North Koreans to “Gooks,” the soviets to “Commies.” I see the roots of the same hostility in ads for professional wrestling or in the talk of some sports fans. I see the same “we-them” in politics. One of the things I want to do in DC is visit the National Archives. There is a statue in front that has the inscription “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Too many of us believe that liberty means we can do what we want and make others not do what they want. Too often we don’t want to pay the price of free speech which is to let other people say things we don’t want to hear. I don’t want to see the flag desecrated or burned but I’ll begrudgingly defend your right to desecrate or burn it. I don’t want to see your naked body on Main Street but I’d rather look away than have you arrested. But many people who “Love Freedom” would disagree.
I was moved, disgusted, frightened by what I saw at the Holocaust Museum. We met a man who showed us his number tattooed on his arm. He survived 3 years in a concentration camp. We can only prevent a repeat by recognizing our common humanity in all people, by seeing “we” not “them.”
Day 19: Tuesday: Washington, DC: Today we did the tourist thing and rode a tour trolley all over the place. We got off at the National Cathedral where Michele took an audio tour and I took it easy for a half hour. A delicious lunch at a local brewery, Gordon Biersch, and off to the Smithsonian Sculpture Garden and the Hirshhorn Gallery by way of the National Archives Building where I got pictures of the statues with the aforementioned inscription. I used to take energy from the city. When I worked in San Francisco I picked up energy as I walked from the bus station to work, both at Western Union and at Wells Fargo. Now the city saps me of energy. This is only the third day in the city and I’m worn out. I long to get back behind the wheel and see the country.
Day 20: Wednesday: Washington, DC: Today was war memorial tour day for me. Michele and I went to the Korean War Memorial together. It is so different from the others. It is a group of statues war-weary soldiers. The one in back is looking over his shoulder like he sees something he didn’t want to see. In front of the soldiers is a fountain (well, a water feature) that lists the number of killed and wounded both of US and UN forces. Then Michele grabbed a cab and went to the Sackler Museum while I went to the Vietnam Memorial and the World War II Memorial. I wish I had the sense to take a picture of the book at the entrance to the Vietnam Memorial. It looked like a phone book for a large city. It had two columns of names on each page. Next to each name was Rank and address of the name on the memorial wall. There must have been five hundred pages. What could we have won that was worth that many lives? I have heard about and seen pictures of the Vietnam Memorial but seeing it is a whole new and moving experience. The same is true of the World War II Memorial. It is large. It has columns for each of the states and territories. It has a wall of Gold stars, 4048 of them, each one representing 100 Americans lost in the war. Flanking the Gold Star Wall are two water features of cascading water. The roar of the water blanks out other sounds. The stars and the water create a strong emotional experience.
In the center of the States pillars there is a large pool and fountain. It is all quite magnificent. At the east entrance to the WWII Memorial there are a number of Bas Relief depictions of war scenes. I saw some young people looking very closely at one and laughing. After my earlier rant about how important it is for us to see all humans as “we” and not “we” and “them” I am not proud of my anger at these Asian, and I presumed Japanese, young people showing disrespect at this memorial. If I am going to hold such a high standard for other people I must do better, myself.
I got better pictures at the Archives Building and rejoined Michele for lunch at the Smithsonian Castle from which we went to the Native American Museum before folding for the day. We were both exhausted.
Back in Greensboro, NC we stayed in a Ramada. I meant to mention a delightful note they had on the bathroom door. Instead of threatening legal mayhem on anyone caught stealing Ramada property they had this note that said something to the effect.”We know that many of our guests really like some of the amenities we provide, like irons, hair dryers and towels. We keep a stock of them at the front desk and would be happy to sell them to you. Our housekeepers keep careful records of what is in each room. If you would like to take any of the amenities in your room we will gladly add the cost to your credit card after you leave” There followed a price list of irons, towels, hair dryers, sheets, coffee pots, etc. I think it is an excellent way to convert thieves into customers without sounding in any way threatening or un-trusting of good, honest clients.
This being a journey of remembrance and acknowledgement of change I have been reminded several times of how my world has changed. One of the sculptures in the Smithsonian Sculpture garden is a large stainless steel and fiberglass representation of a typewriter eraser, you know, the round eraser wheel with a little brush attached. Michele explained it to a full grown woman who had never seen such a thing. Someone explained it to a kid who replied that if the typewriter had spell check it wouldn’t need an eraser. Another thing I noticed (or remembered) is that billboards used to be painted by men on ladders with paint cans and paint brushes. Now they are either electronic LEDs or are preprinted and rolled on like wallpaper.
Day 21: Thursday: Washington, DC: Today we went to the Newseum, seven floors of displays, artifacts, films and experiences related to the news. It is the most modern of the museums we’ve seen. It is the most technical. It opened in April, 2008. It has a page from the Guttenberg bible and the front pages of 700 daily papers every day. A ticket gives you two days of access and that could not be enough for a thorough inspection. I spent 6 ½ hours there and didn’t see it all, hardly scratched the surface. But I saw enough. One thing I learned that had always puzzled me. Where did the term
fourth estate come from?” There were two explanations at the Newseum: The press was the fourth estate and the other three were Clergy, nobility and the people, or, the press was the fourth and the other three were the three branches of government, Legislative, Executive and Judiciary. It took me back to an experience in high school. I was the editor of my school newspaper. I was very shy and deathly afraid to speak in public. One afternoon at a school assembly with the whole school in attendance the headmaster introduced me to speak to the assembly as “our representative of the fourth estate.” I had had no advance warning that he was going to do this. I was totally unprepared to deliver a speech. I was in shock. And I had no idea what the “Fourth estate” was. I could fall apart and run from the room and be teased for the rest of my high school career or I could get up and speak. So I got up and spoke. I made up some bull story about the other three estates being study, sports and religion or some such and sat down. I have never been afraid to speak in public since. Now that I have been to the Newseum I know the four estates. A long time coming! Michele will go back to the Newseum tomorrow and I will drive out to Woodbine to pick up Lucy from her spa.
Day 22: Friday: April Fool’s Day! Washington, DC: It’s been three full weeks since Lucy and I left Ashland. I may be getting homesick. This morning I left Michele off near the Metro Station and went out to the Maryland countryside to bail Lucy out of her “vacation” or “jail,” depending on who you ask. George (the GPS) tried to send me the wrong way on a one way street but eventually got me on the right road to Woodbine. Lucy was happy to get out of there and to chase the ball for her 10 minutes. She sang all the way back to DC. Part of the sentimental part of this journey was to visit my old homes which we did this morning. The house we bought in 1965 and sold in 1969 was in a new neighborhood that had few trees. I planted several saplings before we moved. The place we visited today is an established, tree-lined development. I rang the bell at the house next to ours to see if our old neighbor was still there. Roxanne had moved about 7 years ago. A guy came out of our old house to see why I was taking pictures. He was satisfied with my explanation and invited me in. He has air-conditioning, which we did not, but he says the fan I put in the attic still cools the house on hot days. The family room has an alcove which buts into where my shop used to be. Otherwise the house looks pretty much the same, except for the trees and bushes.
Next we tried to find where I lived before we bought the house. It had been a nursery with a green house, a main house and a small house for the help. We lived in the small house, with 26 acres of prime Montgomery property at our disposal for several years. Since 1965 the property has been developed. The house we lived in has been torn down and replaced by a house lived in all these years by Senator Inouye form Hawaii. I used to go to the big house to study when I was finishing college. The “big” house doesn’t look so big anymore.
Today, nostalgia was sweet.
My sentimental Journey Part 2
Day 10: Sunday, Savannah, GA: Michele took a tour of the city while I stayed with the camper and did maintenance work. I cut a larger hole for the new carbon monoxide detector. In a Siskiyou Woodcraft Guild Class on whittling and carving Will Sears said that anything that can be built with wood can be built with nothing more than a good knife. He inspired me to open the hole for the CO detector with my Swiss Army knife. I have all sorts of tools at home I might have used, but on the road, not so much. Well, the knife and a little elbow grease worked. I stretched my horizon and it felt good. Then I went online and posted the first part of the trip on my blog. That felt good, too, but I felt a little self conscious. I have never shared my journals with anyone, now with everyone! This trip is changing me. Not in a new direction but more in the same direction,. I am becoming more at peace. I feel very comfortable with the here and now. While driving down the highway I don’t see “trees.” I see that tree and that one and that one. Each tree is different and I see that now. And I love it. And hanging out in the camper, working on the CO monitor or writing this blog, I love that too. I am more comfortable than I can ever remember. We ate in a restaurant by the river called, of all things, “River House.” The food was OK but I thought it was overpriced. Michele got the view out the window but I got to see the seagulls in a reflection from the glass case housing a 1903 sailing ship replica. We both had very different days but both were very satisfying.
Day 11: Monday, Savannah, GA to Jacksonville, FL: On our trip to the Antarctic in December and January we ran into a couple Michele had met in Thailand two years ago. Lu and Ted were from Jacksonville and were on the cruise with their next door neighbors, Ann and Robert. We spent a lot of time with them on the cruise and enjoyed their company. When I called, Ted invited us to stay with them. When we arrived they had a wonderful layout of Hors D’oeuvres and they took us to dinner by the Jacksonville Harbor. The dinner and company were great, the view outstanding. Jacksonville has many bridges and we saw a lot of them, including a railroad draw bridge that we watched go up. Then Michele and Lu played Rumicubs while Ted and I shared Picture files from our Antarctic trip. Ted and Lu are active in the Tea Party. We have many different views on politics and economics but seem to share a mutual affection and respect for one another. I hope they enjoyed our company as much as we enjoyed theirs.
Day 12: Tuesday, Jacksonville, FL to Charleston, SC: On the way to Charleston we passed a billboard that simply read “Who is John Galt?” The phrase “Who is John Galt?” is repeated in “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. Rand was a rugged individualist. She was born in Russia and saw the damage Russian communism did. She was ardent about personal responsibility and despised weakness. She favored limited government and felt that government regulation interfered with the free flow of business. I imagine a lot of Tea Party people agree with Rand and that is probably who sponsored the billboard. Former FED Chair, Alan Greenspan, was a fan of Ayn Rand. Nicholas Johnson, a member of the Federal Communications Commission under President Johnson (no relation) said in one of his books something to the effect of “For a system to work it must be capable of being carried out by self-serving men of average intelligence. To dream of systems to be implemented by angels is futile.” (I am sure I am not as eloquent as Johnson but I hope you get the drift.) I don’t think free market fans like Ayn Rand have an answer for people like Bernie Madoff and the guys who put together the mortgage bundling fiasco that led to this last recession. Just like Karl Marx didn’t have an answer to Stalin or Pol Pot. “To each according to his needs and from each according to his ability” only works if everybody plays fair. Free market capitalism only works if everybody plays fair. Unfortunately, we can’t trust everyone to play fair without some oversight. Well, enough of my philosophical ramblings, back to the trip to Charleston.
We first went to the visitors’ center where I was not allowed to park in the regular parking lot and Michele collected info about Charleston and the available tours. They did not warn her of the tour we were about to take. The KOA was in Mt Pleasant. But the GPS did not recognize Mount Pleasant, so we entered the cross streets we found in the AAA directory, Rte 17 and I 526. Two choices came up that looked a lot the same to me. But there was no KOA 5 miles past I 526 on 17. A phone call got us on the right track. It’s “North 17,” not “South 17” and I 526 loops way out and around Charleston and intersects with 17 on both the north and south sides. Well, now it’s rush hour and on the way back into town we see the traffic we just missed on the way out. But, then, we get to the center of town and join the outgoing rush hour stop and go traffic jam! I didn’t time it but I suspect it cost us over an hour. On the plus side, it gave us extended views of the Cooper River Bridge. (By the way, in Charleston, “Cooper” is pronounced “cupper.”) The other plus wasn’t discovered until the next morning when I checked in the KOA office and found that they charged me $30 for the night. If I chose to stay another day the second day would cost $40! Late check-ins only pay $30. But, if you check in before the office closes at 6PM you pay $40. I checked out and said I might come back after their office closed that night. We did.
Day 13: Wednesday, Charleston, SC: Marvin was our tour guide. “Doin’ the Charleston” was the name of the tour. Marvin has been “doin’” it for 20 years. His tour company allows dogs on board. He doesn’t allow two year olds. He gave us a wonderful tour and explanation of old Charleston. At one point he leaned out the window to greet the mayor who called Marvin by name! The tour bus had a screen that showed the interiors of the mansions we passed and the historic pictures of places like Fort Sumter, which by the end of the “War” was a pile of rubble. Oh yeah, in Charleston, and, I guess, in the rest of the south “the War” refers to the Civil War, as if there were no other. After Marvin’s tour I put Lucy back in the truck and Michele and I had a delightful dinner at a French café called Rue de Jean. I thought the escargots were delicious. We’re told that in the south the three meals are breakfast, dinner and supper. Oh, I’m sorry, those last two are “dinah” and “suppa.” Well, our Dinah being French we had a very light suppa and did our laundry back at the camp ground.
Day 14: Thursday, Charleston, SC to Greensboro, NC: We started the day at Boone Hall Plantation. There was no mention of any relationship between this Boone family and the more popular one. At one point Boone Hall had 5000 acres tended by 900 slaves. It now has 700 acres and 40 employees. Many of the slave quarters still stand, a grim reminder of our less humane past. We stopped in Santee North Carolina for lunch at a Thai restaurant. I thought the food was good, Michele thought it was great. The proprietor spent the entire lunch talking to us. (We were the only customers there, the others left soon after we arrived,) He gave Michele some brochures about Thailand where he grew up. He told us of how he left Los Angeles to buy a restaurant in a town of 700 people!
Proof reading what I have written of this trip, I think I have been pretty positive. I saw the positive of getting lost in Charleston and wasn’t too upset when GPS, who I have named “Gorge Paul Snodgrass,” took me the slow way through Reno. When I saw a bunch of trash by a beautiful road I thought of the David Wilcox song which turned a spilled can of paint on the kitchen floor into a work of art. “Leave it as it is!” But I can’t leave the south without noticing the Kudzu! We saw it in Georgia, Florida, both Carolinas and in Virginia. It is dormant now. It looks like a brown blanket over fields, bushes and trees. I had heard of it and it is about as bad as I expected. And I don’t like it. It could be out of a poor Science Fiction movie, but it is real, not fiction.
Day 15: Friday: Greensboro, NC to Greenwood, VA: We stayed in a Ramada last night. It was a pleasant change from the camper. There was room to move about. We got to Monticello at about 2 PM. The house tour started at 2:40. I have always admired Thomas Jefferson, the Renaissance man, farmer, philosopher, politician, statesman, scientist and tinkerer. I had faulted him for his inconsistency on slavery and his poor money management that left him practically broke at the end of his life. At the end of our tour I had more respect and understanding of the man. Sure he wrote “all men are created equal” and he owned slaves. I suspect he didn’t free his slaves because the times being what they were his slaves might have fared worse if they had been freed into a slave state. His money lasted through his life even if he did have to sell off his library and other things to make ends meet. But he supported a lot of relatives and friends in a fine manner right until he died and even after.
Michele keeps asking me how I am. She knows of the peripheral neuropathy (PN) that has bothered my feet since my chemotherapy last year. It was January, 1973, when I coined the expression “I don’t let my pain interfere with my pleasure. “ I first said it when someone asked me if I was crazy to go skiing in such poor weather. Later in the day, after getting a bunch of stitches in my head after falling of my skis, I said it again as I headed out onto the slopes again. Several days into this trip my gout returned and I got an infection of some sort in my nose. Michele noticed the nose and suggested I treat it with an antibiotic. It hasn’t gotten worse, but it hasn’t gotten better. It doesn’t bother me much. The gout hurts like hell. Ibuprophen seems to help. The PN doesn’t respond to anything I have tried so far. Sometimes it is worse other times it is better, but it always is uncomfortable and frequently painful. I don’t let my pain interfere with my pleasure and my new aphorism is “Pain is God’s way of reminding us that we are still alive.”
Trees: Trees keep coming up as a subject of this trip. Not only have I discovered that there are no two trees alike, I have also discovered that there are many colors to the trees. They are grey, brown, black, red, many hues of green, pink, white and I’m sure I’ve missed a few. There are Oaks that turn brown in autumn but save their leaves until spring. There are Oaks that keep their green leaves all year, others shed their leaves in fall. The blossoming trees are spherical, conical or oval, white, pink, yellow or red. By the side of the road we frequently see Daffodils. At Monticello we saw Tulips and violets and Vinca in bloom. We’ve seen Azaleas, Flowering Quince, Forsythia and camellias. It has been a wonderful colorful, exciting, informative and spiritual trip.
In a way, today is the first sentimental part of the trip for me. I first visited Monticello in February, 1973. I had been transferred to Middletown, VA in October, 1972. I went from a busy social environment to stark loneliness. I had been miserable for three and a half months. I took a trip to Monticello by myself. I decided that day that there would be no more lonely weekends. I went home to Winchester that night to a party and took up with a new girl friend and was not lonely again for a year. Some lessons need to be learned and learned and learned before they sink in. I hadn’t planned on going to Monticello on this trip, my sentimental journey, but it sure fit into the scheme of the trip.
Day 16: Saturday: Greenwood, VA to Washington, DC via Middletown and Winchester, VA: Our campsite was in the Misty Mountain Campground resort. It was a beautiful setting with a babbling brook next to us, a large field with horseshoes and volleyball and basketball, and a small pond. We left early to get to Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park. Skyline Drive is bumper to bumper during the fall color season. Today it was almost deserted. We pulled off the road many times to enjoy the spectacular views with different colors. We saw many deer, lucky for us, Lucy only saw one. We had dinner (Dinah) at the Wayside Inn in Middletown. The Wayside Inn has been an Inn continuously since the 1790’s. It would never meet today’s building codes, ceilings too low. Their specialty is Peanut Soup. I’ve never had it anywhere else. I worked in Middletown in 1972-73 for Western Union. The building I managed in now run by AT&T and it has two microwave towers instead of the one I managed. We got to the parking lot, but not inside. It looked pretty buttoned up. They no longer have the guard shack we used to have. From Middletown we went to Winchester where I had lived. I had bought a mobile home and parked it on Short Street. I didn’t recognize anything in Winchester. It has grown huge. The area where my mobile home had been looks pretty run down. I wouldn’t want to live there now! The Back Room where we used to hang out is gone. I wanted to find an old friend, Justus Russell. As we drove up from Middletown I noticed an Elks Lodge just off the freeway. We found our way back to it and went inside. It was pretty busy for a Saturday afternoon. I asked a few people if they knew Russ, or Junior, or JR. One guy said he thought he had died, but wasn’t sure. No one else even had a hint. They didn’t recognize Patty or Sissie or Janet Kline either. And so I gave up. I asked George, the GPS, to take us to our hotel on New York Avenue in Washington. I didn’t recognize any of the roads from when I lived here. They were wide and fast and crowded. New and big houses were all over the countryside. Then George took us on a toll road past Dulles Airport, didn’t even warn us that it would cost $5.65! When I lived in the DC area in the 60’s Dulles airport was way out in the country. There was nothing around it. When they built the Beltway it was considered too far out in the country. Not now! There are high rises by Dulles! We passed some construction that narrowed the road way too much for a wide camper. Driving was stressing. Soon after we crossed into DC we went into a tunnel and George squeaked and said he had lost satellite contact. When we came out of the tunnel he was confused. He told us to turn left, then right and finally I realized we were on New York Ave and headed for our hotel. Then George got his bearings and told us we had arrived at our destination. It was a thrill to drive past Georgetown and see how big it has gotten. I can’t wait to visit.
My sentimental journey to Middletown raised some questions. What was I thinking when I bought that trailer? I was only planning to be in Middletown 2 to 4 years. Buying real estate would have been foolish, but buying a mobile home was just plain stupid! And why has it taken me thirty eight years to see that? I could have, I should have, rented! I was lucky to find a fool to buy it from me for the payments. I didn’t lose as much as I could have.
Back to trees: I have noticed along the highways we have travelled a strange shrub, can’t call it a tree, can’t call it a bush. As I recall, in summer it has large green leaves. Late summer through winter it has what I guess is a fruit that is dark red, maroon maybe, shaped sort of like a small ear of corn, without the husk, on the end of its stalks. It never grows more than 15 feet high and doesn’t stand straight. I remember seeing them along the rail road tracks between New York and Port Chester when I was going to school. I’ve never seen them is anyone’s garden.
Day 17: Sunday: Washington, DC: There was a light dusting of snow on the ground, but not the roads, when we woke. It was gone by the time we had our breakfast. Yesterday I finally got to talk to a person at the kennel I wanted to send Lucy to. She was not cooperative. Lucy won’t be going there. Other dog hotels required letters from vets about vaccination and health. I didn’t get one from our vet before we left. A big oooppss! So I found on-line a vet/doggie day care on P Street who was open on Sunday. We asked George to show us the way. We found Sunday-only parking less than two blocks away! The vet doesn’t do the boarding but sends the dogs into the Maryland countryside to a doggie resort. Bur the resort wants proof of health and vaccinations. Lucy is due for vaccinations in June anyway so we asked if the vet could take care of it for us. A half hour later we had an appointment. After Lucy was given her shots and a thorough checkup and a clean bill of health and I was given a bill for about three times as much as it would have cost me at home we were on our way to Georgetown. The Traffic! The traffic was terrific. Fortunately I had left the camper at the hotel, so it could have been worse. (But, not much.) I didn’t even grit my teeth. I relaxed into enjoying the slow pace of sightseeing in a strange place. The street cars are gone, thought some of their tracks still abide. The “Old Europe” restaurant is still on Wisconsin Avenue but I didn’t see LOU-ROSE. Sugar’s drug store is now a café. Wooton’s is gone. The campus at Georgetown has grown! It is still recognizable but different. The old temporary buildings are gone. There are many new and big buildings. We went into Healy Hall and Lucy got her first and second ride on an elevator. She was shocked! The floor moved! When I went to Georgetown we used to meet at “The Tree.” Sometime after I left I remember a controversy about taking the tree down because it was old a diseased. To me, there should be a new small tree. But, no, it is big and looks old. It made me feel old. I asked some students if freshmen still get hazed. They asked “What’s that?” When I explained they said you could get arrested for that now. I showed Michele the stairs between Prospect and M Street that were featured in the movie, The Exorcist. Then we were off to see the Cherry Blossoms. I took a detour from George’s route to look at the street where I had lived in Arlington when I left college and got married. It was changed so I couldn’t recognize it. Lee Highway is four lanes. The railroad bridge that used to be there is gone. The green valley that made our apartment seem to be out in the country is filled with buildings. I think all the buildings where my friends and I had lived are gone. Then it was back on George’s route to the cherry trees. More traffic, more enjoyment of the slow pace. Then I saw a sign for disabled parking. I still have a disabled tag I got when I was so down from chemo. It expires next month. There were seven disabled parking places and only three were taken. The road they were on was blocked off for the construction of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. It was near the FDR memorial. What a pleasant surprise. The FDR memorial is large and has many of his quotes, many of which should inspire our leaders today. We got to walk right next to the Tidal Pool where the cherries bloom. The sun came out and the sky cleared and we both got pictures of a blue sky behind the Washington Monument reflected in the Tidal Pool.
Lucy was very nervous about approaching Fala.
It was a wonderful day. Earlier in the trip my aphorism had been “Here and now, boys,” from Huxley. Today I coined two new ones of my own. “Sentiment is highly overrated.” And “Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.” Middletown, Winchester, Georgetown, Arlington are not the same places I remember. I’m not sure if there is any value in trying to go back to places that aren’t there anymore. This trip has been great. I have gotten so much out of it that I didn’t plan for or expect. Maybe it is more a journey of discovery than a sentimental journey. Maybe I’m discovering that I’m an old man trying to recapture his youth! Do I really want to go to Blue Bell, PA, Loyola School, Port Chester, Candlewood, Boston or Chicago? Do I even want to go to Bethesda or Potomac? Is the lesson from this trip “here and now, boys, here and now!?” Is it time let go of the past? Forget about old successes and defeats, old friends? Are friends you haven’t seen in forty years still friends?
When I was a boy there was a television program called “The Naked City” (I think). Its tag line was “There are seven million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” Are all seven million stories worth remembering? Is mine? Tonight the existential questions just keep coming. The answers don’t.