420: The Key to the Secrets of the Universe

[The house where I grew up. Owego, NY.]

In 1971, five students of San Rafael High School (CA) decided that they would smoke cannabis next to a statue of Louis Pasteur. They chose to wait until all the after-school activities were finished. It was 4:20 in the afternoon (PDT). The date? Why, April 20, of course. While they smoked, they would lean against a wall. They were dubbed The Waldos. When I made this astounding discovery, I assumed I had stumbled on something big…really big. I knew something the vast majority of people had no clue about. (In reality, I was almost the last person on the planet that did not know the hidden significance of 420.) It’s now an international day to light up. This was blog-worthy. This needed to be revealed to the general public. I would have to be careful, because this kind of knowledge had the potential of causing wide-spread mayhem, social disorder and was downright dangerous. Much like the Trump Years would be decades later.

The rest is history, or so I’m told.

Over the years, the significance of the number 420 would evolve. Well, now it’s up to me to help you through the sometimes contradictory maze of esoteric meanings (Numerology) of this unique number. I have never let my readers down and this post will prove that I’m still in full command of arcane knowledge of all sorts. All of what I’m about to reveal to you is important, vital and meaningful. If anyone thinks that I’ve bent the facts, stretched the truth, ignored opposing views, used only the things that support my point or that I’m beginning to show my age, then I challenge you to unplug your iPad and Google these things. It’s all there. Trust me.

I dug deep into the bowels of Google.com to find the following facts. Whatever dark things you see in these facts, know it isn’t just me. So don’t blame the messenger. Following me now as I lead you into a brave new world of interesting and ominous information.

–Look at the lead photo of this post. Do you see the address of the house where I grew up?

–Bob Dylan’s Rainy Day Woman 12 & 35. 12 times 35 = 420.

–Hitler’s birthday is April, 20.

–420 High Street is the address of the cannabis store in Palisades Park, NJ.

Now, if you’ve stayed with me this long, then allow me to move slightly to the side and take a step into some new territory, still keeping the general theme in laser focus.

In 1979, Douglas Adams published The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. In it, the protagonist asks a super computer named Deep Thought to come up with answer to the ultimate question: What is the truth about the meaning of existence. The computer took 7.5 million years to finally spit out the answer: 42. That’s the true and final word. 42

It didn’t take me long to find the opening to the Rabbit Hole and go down into it, head first. Here’s what I found:

–42 is the Atomic Number of Molybdenum. Which happens to be the 42nd most common element on earth.

–There are 42 Laws in the game of Cricket.

–There are 42 generations in the Genealogy of Jesus.

–In the End Times, according to the Bible, the Beast will reign over the earth for 42 months.

–There are 42 lines per page in the Gutenberg Bible.

–In Chinese, the number 4 is shi. In Japanese, the number 2 is ni. Together the word is shini, which means to die.

–In Sing a Song of Sixpence, there are 4 and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie.

So, that’s all I’ve had the energy to research. I’m sure you will buy into this. It’s all backed by rock-solid logic and facts! How can you argue?

Well, you might say, it’s all a coincidence. To that, I would say: Trust me and have some imagination.

And never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

[I’m not sure what Elon has to do with any of this, but I found this article in a newspaper. So it must be true.]

{Note: all photos are mine. The numerous facts were found using Google.}

Angel On My Wing

[American Airlines Gate Attendant. Caitlin. Photo is mine. The smile is hers.]

“Collect Moments, Not Things”

Gate #7 was nearly full at the Key West Airport. Mariam snagged two seats, probably using her charm. I would have picked a place to sit and made obnoxious remarks to anyone nearby until they moved. That’s what you do when you’re a seasoned traveler like me. Once she was settled I went looking for one more T-shirt. You know, something that whispers ‘Beach’ without yelling ‘Tourist’. Something subtle, no bikinis, no bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon and nothing with a message. (Actually, I did like the one that said: “Alcohol is the glue that holds this S**t Show together.” Mariam insists I have too many T-shirts already, but we men know one can never have enough T’s. So I avoided the shirt and settled on purchasing a 375 ml bottle of Havana BBQ Sauce. That won’t be around nearly as long as my collection of T-shirts. I mean some T’s can never be worn, not now, not ever. Like my Rolling Stones Steel Wheels Tour beauty or my priceless Bob Dylan Concert Shirts that will never be taken out in public. They’re enshrined.

I got back to my seat and popped a ginger lozenge in my mouth in case the flight got bumpy. It was then Mariam told me about our tickets. Actually, she tried to tell me the story back at our hotel in Key West but I was too busy trying to position myself in the late morning sun (so I wouldn’t return to New York looking as pale as when I left. Every last minute of UV was critical to get that ‘I’ve been to the beach look).

Here is what she said: Pat, remember how we paid for extra leg room because of your Restless Leg Syndrome (very true!). Well, she continued, they changed us. I’m in the row behind you but you still have an aisle seat. She said that American would refund the extra fee for the extra leg room. I told her it didn’t seem fair. We paid. Who gets to override our seating? Why can’t we sit together? I don’t think anyone at AA was aware that I needed her arm to clutch during take-off. I looked over at the Gate attendant. She was standing in front of her computer. Behind her was the departure information for a Dallas/Fort Worth Flight that was leaving before us.

I turned back to get another ginger lozenge. Not fair, I said.

A voice over the PA speakers: “Paging a Mr. Mueller. Mr. Mueller. Mr. Mueller.” This was about the fifth time I heard the announcement. I wondered where this Mr. Mueller was.

I don’t believe that once we board, someone won’t be willing to switch with us so we can sit together, said Mariam. I said, it still isn’t fair. It’s the principle of the thing. Let me go talk to the young woman. She’s not busy.

But, she was. “Looking for a Mr. Mueller. Please report to Gate #7. Mr. Mueller. Mr. Muuueelller. Mr. Muueellllerrrr.” I glanced around. So many people were smiling. I had to smile too.

I’ll go ask her now. She’s handling the Dallas flight, but she has a computer. She’ll know everything, I said.

No, I’ll go. Your back is sore and we’re going to be in the air almost four hours, said Mariam.

Okay, I said.

I got up to stretch. Ninety seconds later, Mariam was back. It’s all taken care of, she said.

Thank you, I said.

I looked back to the gate attendant. She was petite and young. I began to search for another ginger lozenge but before I could unzip my backpack, the attendant was standing in front of us. I noticed her pretty smile and her energy. She must love her job, I thought.

Would you two like to be upgraded to First Class?

I chocked on my lozenge. Sure, we said. A minute later she handed us two upgraded boarding passes. I couldn’t help but think that this would never happen at LaGuardia. Never.

I decided I would like to take her picture for a possible post or even a blog. I wasn’t sure if such a thing was allowed because of all the security concerns. I walked up to her and kindly asked her permission. She already knew me, of course. I glanced at her badge at the end of a lanyard.

So, it’s Caitlin with a C? Yes, she said, and posed for a photo. I felt a real human connection that moment. Something so hard to find these days. Her smile was contagious. I liked her without even spending more than five minutes in conversation.

I wondered how she perceived me. How she saw me. Did I remind her of her grandfather? Her uncle Fred? Or did she see me (as I sometimes like to see myself) as a distinguished gentleman of travel. A Sean Connery with a beard? Julio Iglesias? Timothy Dalton? Joe Biden? Yul Brenner with hair? A convicted felon? I wonder what she was thinking when I (jokingly) put my thumb on my ear and my pinky on my lips and mouthed “Call Me”.

Caitlin? Well, I struggled with finding a title for this blog. I thought “Angel-Something” but almost passed on it until I went to my dictionary App and read the synonyms for ‘angel’.

It all feel into place:

~~A benevolent celestial being.

~~A kind and lovable person.

~~One who manifests goodness, purity, and selflessness.

That’s all I needed. We passed her as we walked out onto the tarmac to board AA4555. We smiled. She smiled.

[The Keys. Ten minutes after takeoff. Photo is mine.]

And, several hours later, when I sat on our sofa in our New York apartment, I checked my iPhone.

There was a Friend Request from Caitlin Ford on Facebook. Truly, honestly an angel in many ways.

[Author’s Note: Thank You Caitlin.]

It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

~~A.A.Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh

So, what brought you back to me, Moxie? I watched you wandering around the pool, and you looked intent. You found me back here among the palms, in the cool air. The sun was getting too intense for me. And I needed this quiet space…away from the chatter and the waterfall that makes a bit too much water music. Soothing, I know, but I need the quiet. But you know that already, don’t you? This is where you found me on that first day. Now you’re back. Are you here to say goodbye? Did you want a farewell kiss on your forehead? Did you want to brush my grey hair once more with your tanned fingers? A hug? Why did you seek me, Moxie?

You: I want to hear the rest of your story. I want to hear about how it all ends for you and your lovely wife.

Me: Well, come closer. My throat is a little rough today. But the story won’t be really over until we are seated on American Flight #AA4555 tomorrow afternoon. I suppose you could argue that the real end is when we deplane at LaGuardia and wait for the Uber in 41℉ weather. In case you’re curious Moxie, where we sit it’s 76℉. Sorry, my friend, I got sidetracked. I’m an old science teacher remember.

You: The story, Patrick. How does it end beneath these palms? LaGuardia will have to be your problem. I’m only here for you when you are here.

Me: Well, I finally got to sail again. It’s one thing that I can say I truly love. Mariam and I sat at the stern. The winds blew strong. I heard the Captain say that we were doing 8 knots. Then I heard him mumble, ‘that’s fast for this ship.’ We watched a glorious sunset to the west and the Full Moon rising in the east. I was in my element, Moxie. The wind. The sun. The sea.

Let me tell you a story within my story. Do you have to be anywhere? No? Good. Move a little closer. Mariam and I made the required pilgrimage to the Hemingway House. (I stood behind the velvet rope holding the tourists from his writing studio.) There was his typewriter. His desk, books, cot, chairs and open windows. Our guide said that if you stood long enough you might channel Ernest’s spirit. I think he spoke quietly to me. He said something like ‘you’ve got a long way to go, friend, to catch up to me’. I’m sure he meant it with all respect. But, I dunno, Moxie. The man put a shotgun in his mouth when he was sixty-one. Curious. It was in 1961.

You: But that’s not the story is it? It’s kind of depressing.

Me: He was a depressed man, Mox, from a line of depressed family. But you’re right, it’s too sad to dwell on. So the rest of the story…He went abroad to cover the Spanish Civil War. His second wife stayed behind, here at his house in Key West. The guy was quite macho to say the least. Hunting. Fishing. Boxing. Yes, he had a small boxing ring built beside his house. His wife (the 2nd remember) got wind that he was traveling in the company of a certain female correspondent. The man was a lot like me. He fell in love quickly and often. So, his wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, had the boxing ring torn down and put a full size swimming pool in its place. Out of spite.

When he returned from Spain Pauline met him at the front gate. She had a surprise for him. She led him around the corner, through the palms, scattering the polydactyl cats and brought his to the poolside. He took one look.

“Where the hell is my boxing ring? How much did this…this pool cost anyway?

“$20,000, she said.” I’m sure there was not a great deal of love in her eyes.

The famous author reached into his pocket and pulled out a new, shiny penny.

“If you’re going to take $20,000 from me, you might as well take my last red cent. He threw it on the ground and stormed away, most likely to Sloppy Joe’s to drown his sorrows. Pauline had the penny embedded in a patch of cement.

[And here is the penny.]

Me: So that’s my story inside my story. There’s not much else to say. We bar hopped and listened to Wagon Wheel played well by a 3-piece band. We ate great seafood. We swam in our pool. Mariam sipped Chardonnay. We began packing this afternoon. I will pull out my fleece jacket and ready it for New York City.

I guess the time is approaching when we have to say our goodbyes. We may never meet again, Moxie. But we will stay close in each other’s memories. We’ll at least be in the same Time Zone. I will think of you when the summer wind blows. I’ll think of you when I walk barefoot on the beach of Coney Island. I’d send you a message in a bottle, tossing it into the Hudson River when the tide is going out. I would, you know that. But, alas, the ocean currents would take that bottle and deposit it on a lonely stretch of the Irish Coast. Whoever would read it would have no idea of who you are or who I am.

Maybe that’s all for the best.

If I see you standing in the moonlight tonight in the middle of Fleming Street. I may walk out and give your damp curls a brief innocent kiss. Maybe.

But maybe it’s all for the best if I didn’t. I will always remember how you were eager to hear my stories.

It’s about stories…

A few extra photographs for you.

[An olive oil jug. The rectangular tiled piece was once a men’s urinal. Now it’s a drinking trough for Hemingway’s cats.]

[A note to my readers: I used yet another quote of Bob Dylan for the title. All photos are mine.]

Paradise Lost

[Sculpture from the MET. Photo is mine. Sadly, I failed to record the sculptor.]

No matter where you’re going it’s the wrong place.

~ ~Tobe Hooper

[BEFORE YOU CONTINUE: This blog post is not, in any way, an attempt to denigrate any staff, employees or anyone else who made every effort to make our short vacation enjoyable. Further, from Big Mama (that’s what her name tag read), to the housekeepers and food servers, they were more than helpful, friendly and eager to please. Any negative comments that follow are directed at the physical facility and the misrepresentations by the Travel Agency that apparently ran the raffle, that I won, that got us to the Bahamas. Think of this post as a kind of Yelp review.]

It’s a good thing I wasn’t even thinking about marijuana when I passed through Customs upon our arrival at Freeport in the Bahamas. I would never had made it through. But I wasn’t so I did. Once we stepped outside and into the warmth, I was very tempted to cross the taxi lane and peruse the souvenir booths. I had my eye on a “Tropical Shirt” or “Hawaiian Shirt” that had a color that made my eyes water. Your gaze needed to rest on the coconut trees to get any relief. Without even a chance to haggle the woman dropped the price to $25.00. I was sorely tempted, trust me. But I already own a respectable collection of those ‘retro’ shirts back home in New York. So I kindly declined and went back to where Mariam was guarding our luggage. I looked out at a few rusting sailboats and fishing boats. But before I knew it our taxi was pulling up to the curb. The taxi was loaded to capacity and we were off to our Resort hotel.

[Yet another stamp in my passport to brag about. Photo is mine.]

We stood for more time than I would have liked to get our room key. Then across the lobby to Big Mama’s desk. She was the concierge at the Taino Beach Resort & Club. I was handed the ferry schedule that would take us to Port Lucaya, where the shops and restaurants were located. We had a restaurant on the property but after being informed of the hours (11:00 am to 7:00 pm, with the last orders taken at 6:30. Lights were out at 7:00 pm.). I haven’t eaten dinner at 6:00 pm since the late ‘50’s, so it would mean stocking up on junk food from the hotel lobby to see me through the night. The hours the shop were somewhat unclear, because every time I went down to grab a bottle of fresh water, I was often met by darkness and locked doors.

But to return to Big Mama and our check-in and orientation: She keep telling us and everyone else about the necessity of having bottles of water. That was all I needed to hear. The red flags went up. I recalled a very good friend and former teaching colleague telling me about how he (even after many warnings) ordered a gin and tonic in Istanbul, Turkey with ice. He developed a case of Giardiasis. Let just say it was a nightmare for him and something that stuck in my mind.

So I mansplained to Mariam that it was only to be bottled water, even to wet a toothbrush while we stayed. It was only after a Google search to the World Health Organization that I learned that tap water in the Bahamas was safe.

Next, Big Mama snapped a wrist band on the two of us. Since there were only a relatively few people around, I wondered why the band? I thought of the following reasons:

—Glass Bottom Boat Excursion

—Deep-sea fishing

—Snorkeling

—Ocean swimming

—Capsizing

On that level it all made sense. But the band reminded me of the last overnight stay at a hospital. Wearing it around the Resort, I felt like an escapee from Bellevue.

[The infamous band. Photo is mine.]

I’m now looking at my watch. It’s 4:14 pm on Tuesday. We’re in a Marriott Courtyard in Fort Lauderdale and I so want to get to the roof-top pool and bask in the 82℉ and read.

So, I’ll speed things up a bit.

We arrived at Room 210. We opened the door. We saw what was essentially two single beds…not true singles, but not double. There were no beach/palm tree paintings on the wall. In fact, there was nothing on the wall. I went into the kitchen and flipped on the light. I opened the cabinet that contained one wine glass, one bowl, one coffee cup, two plates and zero utensils. I checked the bathroom. The water was loudly dripping into a tub with no stopper. I saw my soaking bath fly out of the Venetian blinds. I was momentarily conflicted. Should we accept this and tough it out or should we try to locate another room…or another hotel? I thought: We seasoned travelers and we are adaptable. The the housekeeper left. I flicked the switch on the wall. Nothing. There was no light in the living area. I even pulled the chain on the ceiling fan thinking there was a light up there. There was indeed a light, but the bulb was dead. I ran after the housekeeper who, after looking my panicked eyes, went to another room and returned with a table lamp. I hope the occupants of that room weren’t as needy as I was concerning light.

It wasn’t long before Mariam and I discovered that we were in WiFi Limbo.

Mariam: “I think I remember Big Mama saying that the WiFi was only available in the office, by the pool and in the restaurant. We did have a signal but it was so weak, a slight breeze would blow the WiFi signals out through the Venetian blinds.

We made two trips ($16.00 r/t) to Port Lucaya. The ride was a tediously unbearable six minutes long. On Sunday evening, we visited Port Lucaya for the last time…mostly for two reasons: To have dinner at a civilized late hour and to mail three postcards (one to a friend in the City and one to Brian and one to Erin). We’ll be back home planning our next trip before they get their cards.

So that’s about it. Our voyage back to Florida on the Margaritaville-at-Sea went uneventful save for last night howling nightmare I had. But that’s another story for another time.

I did love the beach at our Resort. Beautiful sand and that sea color I’ve never seen on any artist’s palette. I just wish the Travel Agency had been a little more honest about what we were getting into. Their descriptions were not outright lies. Rather they were grossly misleading and overstated.

We saw a young couple standing outside the office on our second day.

Me: “Enjoying things, so far?”

The Man: “We saw our room. We’ve booked another hotel.”

Me: “Really?”

The Man: “It’s a case of I worked too hard to settle for this.”

I took his point. But I lacked the energy to move out of a house that was very slowly burning down.

[Taken a few hours ago in the lobby of the Marriott Courtyard on N. Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale. I have no idea what it means but I’m sure it has to do with sex. Photo is mine.]

We Dream In Colors Borrowed From The Sea

[The beach at Taino Beach Resort. Photo is mine.]

Like painted kites

Those days and nights, they went flyin’ by

The world was new

Beneath a bright blue umbrella sky…

~ ~The Summer Wind. Lyrics by Henry Mayer & Hans Bradtke

Slide your beach lounger closer, Mariposa, the white plastic is making my eyes water. There plenty of room for the two of us under the Palm Thatch Tiki Hut. If the onshore breeze get too cool for you, you can always rely on my warm arms. But don’t get too close. The Aloe Vera gel on my sunburn is still sticky. I have a few things to talk about. You do know, Mari, that I have two more nights here before I have to get back to Jimmy Buffet’s Cruise Boat. (Why it’s called Marguaritaville-at-Sea is beyond me.) I know you will miss me like the sun on a rainy day…but who knows…I may come back sometime, in the distant future, riding the summer wind.

But, I digress.

Yesterday we handed over $18.00 for a return trip to Port Lucaya. The trip lasted all of five minutes. That works out to $3.60/minute. If you calculated a similar trip from New York City to California…I don’t need my calculator to tell me that trip would run about $68,000.

Port Lucaya is where there are more restaurants and Gucci gift shops and bars (The Rum Runner looked inviting) than we have here. And it’s only five minutes away. Most of the shops were closed but we did manage to find a convenience store where I stocked up on my midnight snacks and a can of Coconut Water. That last purchase got me to thinking. How did water get inside a coconut? I’ve seen enough castaway movies to know that the person with that Island Survival Knowledge always chops the top of a coconut and gulps the liquid thereby avoiding dehydration and thereby saving all the others from a grisly death from drinking fetid seawater.

So I googled Coconut Water like a good blogger. The ‘water’ is really a clear liquid that serves as a suspension for the endosperm of the coconut during its nuclear phase of development. [Note: “Nuclear” in this case has nothing to do with Polonium 210 or any other of those fun elements at the bottom of the Periodic Table.]

Back to Port Lucaya. I managed to find a post box to dispatch two postcards to my daughter and son. Interestingly it was fire-engine red and had the E-R logo. As a former colony of Great Britain I get it. But I wondered if the changeover to a King Charles logo (it’s gonna be very expensive in England!) will apply to former colonies. I wonder. We (the USA) does have our own issues with former colonies. Texas and Florida come to mind. But I’ve found myself caught inside yet another digression.

As I write this, I’m keeping an eye on my iPad battery. I’m down to 60% and nowhere to plug in. Mariam’s iPad is at 51%. The sun is burning my shoulders while my fingers are slightly numb. Don’t ask. The beach is beckoning. I need reading time as does Mariam. We should also take a walk to burn off last night’s midnight snacks.

So it’s back to plug in at Room 210. Time for a walk. Time to think, read and dream.

Reading and dreaming is always best left to a chair and shade and sound of the never ending waves from a silver-green sea.

[Why do they need a pool when you have the ocean? Photo is mine.]

[Author’s Note: In no way am I attempting to make many of my friends and readers be jealous of me. Many of you have just finished shoveling several feet of snow. This trip was ‘won’ in a drawing. But I’ve paid my dues at the working end of a shovel. Enjoy these posts for what they are meant to be. Entertaining and enjoyable.]

My 75th New Year

[Source: Google search]

Some of you will be reading this post late on Sunday afternoon…after several Alka-Seltzer tablets. Some will be reading this tonight, before the Ball Drops in Times Square. Some of you will see who the blog is from and move on without a glance. “Oh, him again.” Some will see my name and say: “Patrick Egan, oooh he’s good. Another gem of unparalleled literary brillance.”

I’m thinking back on many December 31 nights. My brothers and I would have Dick Clark’s New Years Rocking Eve. My father, perhaps in his fifties or sixties would go to bed around 9:30 pm. Now, here I am at 75 and waiting for 11:30 or so to watch Anderson Cooper in the fog and rain. Hopefully Lady Ga Ga will perform. Maybe Bob Dylan will pop a few confetti-filled balloons after getting the thousands of people in Times Square all excited and elated by singing Desolation Row.

Yes. It’s finally over. 2022 was a, let’s say, interesting year. My best friend passed away and we moved to Manhattan. That’s a lot to deal with.

[Photo is mine.]

I love metaphors (and similes), even when I sometimes can’t tell the difference. I know the rule: Like vs Is, but I’m easily confused about a lot of things. So, I offer this simple metaphor to you, my wonderful readers:

This is a once-a-year event and a chance to reinvent yourself. But you have a rare gift in your lap right now. You have been given a crisp new map, neatly folded and sharply creased. When you open the map and spread it out on a table you will be alarmed for a second. This map has so many trails, paths and byways you’re confused. That’s the point. You can choose any path now. It’s all going to be new. It’s your choice how 2023 will go. But it takes a first step. There may be sadness in the months to come. Perhaps unlimited joy. You may cry but when the tears ebb, laugh your beautiful heart out.

[Photo is mine. Taken somewhere in England.]

Remember to close the gate behind you and keep your eye on the distant and beautiful hills.

The best of luck and Happy New Year!

Advertising Icon “Little Debbie” Held In Trafficking Charges

Have you tried cakes and pies…?

~~Little Debbie

[Little Debbie’s Original Head Shot Found in an Attic in Tulsa. Source: Google Search. Image copyrighted by McKee Foods, Inc]

I was sitting in the Operation Room Lounge of the Holiday Inn on Main Street when I first got the text message on my iPhone. It was Huntsville, Alabama and it was hotter than a stolen tamale. The barkeeper poured me my third draft of Pabst Blue Ribbon. The only chilly location in the room was the bar stool next to me. Her name was Sheila. Her hair was the color of polished copper. I kept wanting to call her Ginger. I was hoping she would agree to come back to my place, order in a Papa John’s Everything Pizza and stream something up lifting. I had Bergman’s The Seventh Seal in mind. My friend Sheila wrote a Miss Lonely Hearts column for the only other rag in town, The Huntsville Trumpet. I, on the other hand, had a corner office in the Huntsville Reporter. I’d like to say that I covered the waterfront, but it wouldn’t be true. I wrote obits. After taking an extra deep gulp of PBR, my iPhone broke into Dancing Queen by Abba. I nearly knocked Shiela’s Pink Lady over as I reached for the singing phone. I put my left forefinger in my ear and turned away from my colleague with a quick “scuse me”. I grabbed by notebook.

“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. What? Yeah. Who? Yeah. Okay.” I muted my phone and turned to Miss S.

“Girl, do I have a scoop on a big one.”

“I bet you say that to all the girls.”

“Do you like tasty snacks?” I asked.

“Excuse me?”

I cringed. I did it again. Now she’ll take me down with a MeToo and a #.

“No really. Remember that girl who’s face is all over the snack packages? Well, she really did it this time.”

“You mean…”

“Debbie. Little Debbie,” I said after looking over my notes.

“Sure, I remember her. She still alive after the Opioid thing?”

“You bet she is and she’s up to no good…as we speak.”

Sheila pulled an obscenely long cigarette out of a box that was buried deep in her macrame handbag. “I gotta have a smoke. Come on join me.”

“Outside?” I asked. “But it’s hotter than Dutch love.”

“Stop whining and start talking.” She headed for the door.

“She’s in big trouble now. The Feds are holding her in a Police Station in West Palm Beach. Seems there is a ton of evidence that she is the CEO of a massive eight continent human trafficking operation based in Hong Kong.”

“I loved the original better than the remake,” said Sheila. “Big lovable ape loves beautiful girl…I could cry…”

“Please don’t. And that was King Kong, don’t you remember?”

“Guess I was looking at you too much and not the screen. All those people sitting in front of me. It was really not a very nice evening,” she said.

“It was a Drive-In, sweetheart,” I said.

“Details.”

“Anyway, the old girl, this Debbie person is about sixty now. She was quite a big deal once upon a time. Her brand of snacks were sold in every gas station in the free world. There was even a Little Debbie song. You can Google it. Kind of catchy.”

Sheila crushed the butt of the spent Virginia Slims cig and turned to me. “There was always something a little odd about her.” We settled back onto our bar stools.

“I totally understand,” I said. “Want to hear something strange about her? I had her image on my iPhone. She was wearing a hat with a chin string. I pinched the photo and made the tiny clasp as large as a Susan B. Anthony dollar. Know what? Hidden in that image was a symbol that has been linked to Satanic Cults throughout Meso-America and the Pacific Rim. She was up to more than we can imagine. And none of it was good…or legal.

Sheila looked at me. “Can we talk about this later? I’m famished.”

On our way to Papa John’s Pizza Emporium, we stopped at a well-stocked 7-11 store. I bought a six-pack of Moosehead Ale and a quart of Maker’s Mark. Sheila pulled down a bottle of medium priced Tequila. I reached for a few snack cakes that would be our dessert. I nearly picked up a Little Debbie Raspberry Apple Plum Cake. I stopped. I looked down at the package. I would bet my uncle’s Studebaker on the fact that the image on the package on the shelf…Little Debbie eyes seemed to be following me. They were a dull shade of red. Was that a curl in her short cute hair? Or a horn?

I grabbed a Tasty Cake instead. Cherry flavored. Just like the eyes of Satan.

[Shot from the hip. The package at the 7-11. Yet another mystery. Where is the hat string? My photo.]

Local Boy Does Good

“Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.”

–Anon. [Source: Pintrest]

[View of River Row from the Court Street Bridge. Owego, NY.]

It was mid-October. The forecast called for clouds and drizzle. The chilly air and the leaves along the sidewalks brought back memories of Halloweens past. I never saw so many pumpkins. I usually had to travel to Iron Kettle Farm to see that many. Some trees foliage was past peak. A good many still clung to their brilliant reds and yellows and scarlets, holding on to them like a protective mother with children. In the distance, up, up among the trees of West Beecher Hill, the monument to Sa Sa Na Loft was visible as a white column. It acted like a sentinel, keeping watch over the Village below.

But I digress.

I came back to Owego feeling like a conquering hero. I’ve had some modest success as a blogger. My fan base is predominantly Owegoans (I suspect). My reason for coming home was to gather some photographs for a future writing project and tend to my family’s gravesite. At St. Patrick’s Cemetery, I wiped the red granite clean and left three roses. I also left three roses at the grave of my life-long friend, Greg Stella, who passed away in early June.

I also was hoping to connect with some high school friends. Unfortunately, that failed to happen. Perhaps I didn’t get my publicity team in place early enough. It all turned out for the best, in a way. I got more than enough photos and I got a chance to smell the same scent in the chilled air that I recall as a youth.

Memories began to well up in my mind. I stood on the Court Street Bridge to take the picture shown above. Just behind me and to my left, down near the river where Route 17 (I-86) now exists, there was the old Lackawanna train station. I had my first kiss there (and it wasn’t from my mother). I paddled canoes in the waters below me. I lived Owego. I loved Owego.

The house on Front Street where I grew up still stands. I noticed as I stood on what was once my sidewalk, that the old place could use a coat of stain on the shingles.

[420 Front Street. Once the Egan Home.

+ + +

I have a fair number of pastimes to keep me occupied in my advancing years.

~~I’m making efforts to teach myself how to watercolor.

~~I’m trying to learn two chords on my Ukulele.

~~I write blogs. I write books.

~~I am a volunteer photographer for Find-A-Grave.com so I am drawn to cemeteries.

So, off I went to take care of business. I needed to place an ad in the Courier, but the office was closed. I left a message on their machine. I tried the same with The Pennysaver. I’m waiting for a call back. I couldn’t wait to sit down to a sumptuous dinner at The Cellar Restaurant but after Yelping it, found it was closed that night. I decided to go “graving”, i.e. photograph requested memorials. There were dozens of requests at Evergreen Cemetery. I couldn’t locate a single grave. The same thing happened at St. Patrick’s and the Steele Cemetery on the Montrose Turnpike. No success.

[View of Village of Owego from the Sa Sa Na Loft Monument in Evergreen Cemetery.]

In the end, I wasn’t much of a conquering hero. I was able to accomplish a few of the tasks I had intended for my visit. But it wasn’t a failed trip at all. I saw an important map at the Museum and I now have a bundle of photographs on file for future use. Maybe a blog? Maybe a book?

I got a chance to stand where I once stood those many years ago. I saw the same late 19th Century buildings that line the streets downtown. I stood on a grassy patch of lawn along Front Street near St. Patrick’s School (not a school anymore) and gazed out at the Susquehanna River. A memory: One winter day in the 1950’s, a build-up of ice had been broken apart upriver in Binghamton. The result was like something seen in the Arctic Ocean. A nun took us out of class and carefully crossed Front St. Our class stood and watched and listened to the churning ice floes. It was an awesome sight for a young boy.

It’s possible to go home again if you keep your special memories close to your heart.

[Susquehanna River from Front St.]
[Sunset. Owego, NY]

[Note: All photos are mine.]

Lost in a World of Cardboard

box noun A container.

–American Heritage Dictionary

[Our future Livingroom. Photo is mine.]

Call it propriety. Call it embarrassment. Whatever you wish to call it, I’m not going to reveal, through iPhone photos the extent of the cardboard that has found a place in our apartment. We used Westside Movers (the very same company that moved us away from the City in 2011) because the estimate was reasonable and they work fast. And the movers will pack anything that isn’t Epoxied to the floor. Don’t put a Sharpie down and turn away because it will disappear and end up six hours away and it will be weeks to uncover. If it ever surfaces again in this familiar universe. Yesterday I was unpacking something, at least I thought there was something, bound in the volumes of newsprint. I tore and ripped savagely with extreme prejudice only to find a scented votive candle, maybe an inch tall, in the palm of my dusty hand. Finding the TV was not a big problem: it surfaced on Day One. Great! The remotes were packed in another box. They were found on Day Five.

But I digress.

We are now officially relocated in New York City after nearly eleven years in the Adirondack Mountains of Northern New York State. You’ve read my posts over the years about our experiences in the Lake Placid region. If you read the blogs closely you would have detected an arc in my narratives. It goes something like this:

~~Finding a Real Estate Agent

~~Elation

~~Reality

~~Fear

~~Loneliness

~~Depression

~~Finding a Real Estate Agent

But, make no mistakes. We enjoyed our time in the woods. But how many times can I shovel the never-ending snow?

We’ve enjoyed the company of awesome neighbors and we already miss them. We’ve shared many dinners and fireside chats on cool evenings. But, all good things must come to an end…and we came to a point that new adventures in Manhattan was something we wanted very much.

So, visit me often on WordPress and please click ‘like’ at the end of each blog. Pay your love forward, I work hard on these posts.

[Manhattan Sunset. Photo is mine.]

{Note: If you want my mailing address please ask me through Messenger.}

Farewell Marcel

[Volumn #1]

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

–Marcel Proust

As I strolled through the Parisian gardens of Luxembourg I paused and watched the people absorbing the sun’s warmth which was peeking, like a cat burglar, through the sweet gate in the sky made possible by the slowly drifting clouds that often looked dark and menacing at times and light, dazzling and adamantine at others. I opened a package of Madelines I was never without and dipped one in a small cup of tea I had purchased from a portly gentleman with a bushy mustache and a pocket that sagged with the spare francs he had earned that day. The scent of the tea on the little cookie entered into my every senses. I began to think of my youth, the girls I loved who had by now become stately women. I touched my beard, newly trimmed, and could feel the grayness of my hair. I was old. What happened to all those Lost Years, the years of my older youth, my early middle age and now my late middle age? I had yet to taste of the fruits of old age with its wrinkles, gray hair and painful legs. I had yet failed in my attempts to rediscover the Lost Time of my life. My memories were fading and I must learn ways to regain the imagery and sensations of the questionable choices I had made in the heat of my youth when my blood ran hot in my veins and laughter came easy. But along with the cheers and smiles I am beginning to recall how hard and fast my heart breaks. I have loved but my love was too dear for the women I most desired.

I brought the Madeline to my nose again. I drew in an olfactory sensation that brought back my most elusive memories. I closed my eyes and somewhere, behind my eyes and between my ears were the smells of burning leaves along Front Street of Owego in the state of New York, the town where my childhood was played out like a Shakespearian play, sometimes a tragedy sometimes a comedy. The leaves gave way to the sweet fragrance of a newly mown lawn along Main Street. The old river town has changed over the years, I am told, into a boutique village of cafes and antique shops selling the latest of the old town’s ephemera. One can sit in the sun and watch the slowly drifting Susquehanna River as it winds its way to the Chesapeake Bay. Up on Cemetery Hill, the moss grows over the lettering of the graves of young men and women I played with in sandy baseball fields and snowy hills that seem to exist only to provide gravity to an eight-year-old boy on a sled. How many languid afternoons has seen me at The Fair Grounds, eating sloppy cheesesteak sandwiches and watching the horses race the oval track. On the back row of seats in the grandstand is where I may have tasted my first Madeline.

I shall set a goal for myself. Some people are driven by their need for achieving certain goals. Driven to do such picaresque actions these goals are sometimes achievable and sometimes not. Some people have the ability to set recording devices in order to never miss an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians or the Hoarders. Some set themselves on arduous journeys to summit Everest or Denali or the Matterhorn. Others will bike their way across Iowa. Many jump out of airplanes (on purpose) to feel the rush of the wind as they free fall a thousand feet. I set my goal several years ago (I’m not saying when) to read what is arguably the longest novel ever written (not counting the Game of Thrones books). I was going to read Proust’s magnum opus: A La Recherche du Temps Perdu or otherwise referred to in English as In Search of Lost Time. It will be a daunting task. The book (depending on the edition) runs from 3,000 to 4,000 pages. My eyes must look at and understand 1,267,069 words. The books are six in number. I must search for and find the longest sentence ever written. That sentence clocks in at 847 words.

I am proud and somewhat amazed that I have only fifty pages left to complete this gargantuan task. At times the book can be like sucking fudge through a straw. The exquisite power of the language, the depth of the writing, the scope of the descriptions, the insights into love, death, grief, loneliness, lust, desire and dreams of men and women. I truly believe that if one calls him or herself a lover of books, then reading Proust is a must do action.

I have read many books in my life (so far) but none of them can stand up under the blazing light of Proust. If you like challenges…read these books. You’ll never see another book, your life and your dreams and memories the same way again…ever.

[Proust had little need for paragraph breaks, commas and pictures.]

[All photos are mine.]