My 600th Blog: Lat. 24 N./Long. 81 W.

[Ernest Hemingway’s typewriter. Located at the Hemingway House Museum, Key West, Florida. Photo is mine.]

Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be.

~~Ernest Hemingway

I am sitting in the air-conditioned Monroe Country Public Library (Key West Branch). It’s quiet, cool and has a WiFi that takes no prisoners. I chose this place to celebrate the posting of my 600th blog. (Confused? See Title.)

So I posted my first real blog on July 18, 2012. It was an excerpt from my first published novel Standing Stone (2012). I was totally unsure as to whether I had the energy and ability to write real content. In truth, only a year before I had very little idea what a “blog” was. I’m still learning. If my math is correct, that’s close to eleven years ago. I was sixty-four years old. When I’m sixty-four, I probably thought at the time, where will I be in eleven years from now? It wouldn’t be telling lies if I said that in my most dazzling dreams, I’d still be pounding on the keys of my laptop (actually, today I’m using my iPad) and trying hard to amuse and inform and entertain. Time will tell if I’ve succeeded.

What follows is a short list of the various places and topics I’ve written about in the years after 2012. They are scatter-shot…in no particular order. Just a quick look back:

I’ve told you stories of Adirondack Trolls, my frustration with snow, ice and sub-zero weather, thermometers that never run a battery down. You’ve heard of the joys and hardships of living in Big Bad New York City. I’ve reposted a true story of my father’s youth, “Coal for Christmas” every December (does that throw my count of posts off??).

I shared my joys of visiting my daughter, Erin and her husband and my only grandchild, Elias from Orting, WA. You’ve read numerous complaints about my bad back and the health issues I’ve had (including my diagnosis of leukemia).

I wrote of my love for the desert and our wandering in Death Valley and the Mojave. Numerous tales were written from England, Ireland, Portugal and Paris. I told you how I celebrated several birthdays in recent year (i.e., when I turned sixty-eight, Mariam and I walked sixty-eight steps along the nave of Wells Cathedral and paused to kiss).

Sadly, I wrote too many posts of sad farewells of my family…and my very best friend of over sixty years, Greg Stella who passed in July, 2022. Rereading those posts still make me cry.

I’ve concocted outrageously silly stories of the demise of or moral failure of our favorite cartoon characters like Popeye, Dennis the Menace and Mr. Peanut.

I’ve shared ghost stories and posted ghost photographs (leaving you to be the judge of the real and the fanciful).

I wrote numerous recollections of my childhood sweetheart, my family home in Owego and my time-warping walks down Front Street in my aforementioned home town.

I described how, on a beautiful autumn afternoon (or was it in the spring?) of helping a cemetery caretaker dig a grave for a woman I never met.

There are many posts that told you of my love of the poetry of Bob Dylan. I even wrote a pre-death eulogy for him.

I’ve tried to celebrate my love for my wife, my children and my grandson. I told you how sad I got in Bruges, Belgium, Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and along a footpath in England.

I have played with different writing styles like noir and meta fiction. I’ve written short short stories.

And I did it all for you, my readers. I never wrote anything cruel, hateful or boastful. I was honest with you. I respect those of you who took a few moments out of your busy lives to read my efforts. Scrolling this page, I see that there are too many “I’s” and not enough “you”. I apologize.

I will close this rambling post with a photo and a microscopic story:

[The famous Key West Kapok Tree. Photo is mine. Taken by Mariam Voutsis.]

Legends about about the Kapok (native to Indonesia) Tree. One belief: The Devil entrapped a unwary carpenter inside the tree because he had the temerity to carve out rooms in the ginormous trunk. Another: The Tree is said to grow into the heavens (it is known to grow up to ten feet a year).

The Tree has many uses. It is soft so artists use the wood for carvings. It is used for dugout canoes and…caskets.

Good-bye for now. The beach beckons.

Be kind and never let anyone to be lonely or forgotten or be invisible.

Don’t Be Fooled By Trompe-l’oeil

[Illustration source: Google search. Artist Erik Johansson.]

Why did Van Gogh become a painter?

–Because he didn’t have ear for music.

~~

Whenever my artistic girlfriend is sad, I let her draw on my body…

–I gave her a shoulder to crayon.

~~

I used to do fine arts, until I decided I didn’t like arts.

–Now I’m doing just fine.

~~

When you’re colorblind in an art gallery, every thing is a pigment of your imagination.

~~~

So, as I was saying, I came close to being arrested by the Art Police (Security) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) about two weeks ago. What, you may very well ask, were you doing? Trying to find a cavity in Mary Magdalene’s molar in the Medieval Hall? Did you haggle over the $17.00 glass of wine in the Balcony Lounge? Unwrapping a mummy? Or did you try to slip a halter top on Andromeda in the Sculpture Hall?

Actually it was none of the above.

I had spent more time admiring the newly restored and painted statuary in the Greek and Roman Art Gallery. It was awesome to see the statues in living color. I felt like Marcus Aurelius in flannel-lined jeans. We lingered until Mariam pointed out that she thought there was another exhibition I had mentioned. Yes, I said. There is something about Cubism and something or other on the second floor. I checked my Apple Watch. We had forty-five minutes before we were due at the Balcony Lounge for S. Pellegrino, Chardonnay and Hummus with Pita. We had time. The walk would be good for me. I needed the exercise. We headed for the escalator.

On the way, Mariam pulled out the exhibition folder and said: Here, is this it? It’s called Cubism and the Tromp…I stopped on a dime. Wait, I said. Trump? I’m done here. Let’s go home…No, wait, she said. It’s called Cubism and the Trompe-l’oeil Tradition.

I told her the only French I knew was to say “Zwei bier, bitte”. I had so find a bench to sit. I was shaking. I thought it you said…C’mon, she said. It’s not anything political. I felt relieved. A few minutes later we entered Gallery 199. We walked slowly through the rooms, absorbing the ambience of artistic…art when I spotted something on the wall. I walked over. It was framed (!). But something wasn’t right. There was a nail sticking out. I stared. No, there are several nails sticking out. I glanced around for the Security to alert them to the danger of someone snagging a sweater or a Polo Golf Shirt on those dangerous nails.

[Notice the nails. Photo is mine.]

Upon closer inspection I was astonished to see that it was only a painting of a nail. My tension eased. Besides, the Security Guard, whose name tag read: Richard, was chatting up the red-head Security Guard from Gallery 201, (name tag read: Amber. He was making headway.) I stood back. This was something else indeed. I walked back the first room and read the writing on the wall. Whoa. This was Trompe l’Oeil. I scratched through my fanny pack for my French Phrase Book. It meant the eye deceives. Suddenly, a memory flashed before me. I remember a poster I had back in the early ’70’s. It was M. C. Escher, perhaps one of the most famous graphic artists in a long time. It was all coming back to me…

I returned to Gallery 199 and looked for more. I saw a painting from half-way across the room. I swear it looked like something was painted on wood. Wait, I thought. I assumed that artists used stretched canvas to paint on. Moving closer I was amazed to see that it was a painting of wood on canvas. I was feeling dizzy. This was awesome. This was really fun to look at.

[Indeed. Wood painted on canvas. Photo is mine.]

This was heady stuff. And there was more:

[I wanted to open the curtain a little more. Boy, was I fooled. Photo is mine.]

I felt Mariam pull on my sleeve. Look at that one, she said. I looked. Whoa. I’d better get over there and keep all that stuff from falling on the nicely polished hard-wood floor.

[Fooled again…Photo is mine.]

The painting above impressed me the most. Notice the comb interacting with the leather strap. This was not an exhibit I will easily forget. We walked through a few more rooms. I checked my Apple Watch. Time for hummus at the Balcony Lounge. After paying the bill (large enough to choke a horse) we made for the main exit doors and. There’s a yellow, Mariam said, let’s hurry and get it. I slowly descended the grey granite steps and walked to the cab, passing a saxophone playing the blues…in the rain…on glorious 5th Avenue…under a leaden sky…in the Greatest City in the World.

I was secretly hoping that cab was really there…and not just painted on the pavement.

~ ~ ~

I am sad to say that I lost my M. C. Escher book sometime in the last forty years. (I think it was a Tuesday). In the meantime, I’ve been busy trolling the Internet. Talented street artists have done some mind-blowing work with 3-D visual arts. Here are just a few examples: Enjoy…

[Park Bench. Artist: Julian Beever. Bored Panda.com]

[A common theme in this genre, fear of heights. Source: Google search. Bored Panda.com]

[Source: Google search.]

[Source: Google search. Artist: Erik Johansson]

[Source: Google search. Paste magazine]

[A living room rug to die from for. An advertisment from Tempu.]

[The shower is especially dangerous. Tempu]

A final word to my friends and readers: I apologize for not providing a full description of the artists at the MET. I don’t think I ever forgot my Moleskin notebook before that day in the Museum. The two ads were photos of iPad images. Tough to do. If you’ve enjoyed this post, ‘like’ it and move on with your life…which is, I’m sure, far more interesting than the musing of someone who can barely paint a brick with a brush from Ace Hardware. I never had an art class until I moved to NYC in the early ’90’s. Well, actually I took a six-week Screenprint and Etching course in Poole, England during my year in the UK. Full disclosure: My etching of Durdle Door in Dorset…I did it the way I saw it. But, it will print in the reverse.

Oops, I’ve done it again.

I will leave you with Escher’s most famous pieces. I believe it’s called Waterfall. Find a book about all this. You’ll love it.

[Artist: M. C. Escher. Source: Google search.]

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!

Friction Rubs Me The Wrong Way

fric-tion (frik’shen) n. 1.The rubbing of one surface or object against another. 2. Conflict, as between persons having dissimilar ideas or interests, clash. 3. Phys. A force that resists the relative motion or tendency to such motion of two bodies in contact.

[Source: Google Search]

Friction is really good for only one thing…okay, two…no three. One important use is the simple act of striking a match. This would come in handy whilst camping, setting the stage for a special dinner for that special someone, arson, lighting a fuse of an M80 on July 4th or offering a light to that special someone you are hoping will come back to your place for that special dinner. (Full Disclosure: I would never date a smoker! Lips that touch tobacco shall not touch mine.) Besides, the above would have to take place in the rain or snow outside a Smoke Free bar. There are many ways to strike a match but I will leave those details for you, dear reader, to research. I will simply say: Watch any Bogart film. Striking a match is not to be taken lightly. The person striking the match must consider the coefficient of friction (fr). That is a number that is the ratio of the resistive force of friction (Fr) divided by the normal or perpendicular force (N) pushing the objects together. This is easily shown in the equation: fr=Fr/N. If you’re having trouble following all this, I would say: Trust Me or Get The Cliffs Notes.

But I digress.

Another vital use of Friction is the idea that involves static cling. As someone who has washed more than a few loads of soiled clothes, there is nothing worse than static cling. My personal solution to this problem is bounce. The only issue I have with dryer sheets is that the sheet clings to the clothes. This can be a very serious issue if you have to get dressed quickly. It is common when that special someone has a special someone who comes home from a business trip to Toledo. That rascal dryer sheet can cling to the back of your shirt or pants. People will stare. But static cling isn’t all bad. At parties it can be great fun to rub an inflated balloon on your shirt. The static will allow the balloon to stick to you. All kinds of obscene situations can be arranged.

A third and perhaps the most important use of friction is starting a fire. Putting matches (and Bic BBQ starters) aside for the moment let’s shed some light on fires. It is a well known fact that friction produces heat and enough heat can cause a flame to appear. We’ve all heard that one can rub two sticks together and make a fire. In fact, that is usually done in movies (Westerns). But if you ever saw two boy scouts rubbing two sticks together you would observe an exercise in frustration. It isn’t that simple. However, variations on that idea do exist. Take a close look at the photo below:

[Source: Google Search]

This method actually works. Notice the smoke wafting near the guys foot. This, dear readers, is friction in action! Personally, I would not attempt this in the heart of New York City. One problem is finding appropriate sticks. That would entail visiting Central Park. And most of the sticks readily at hand there would be covered with dog germs. In extreme cases of darkness, i.e., a Blackout, one could use a flashlight. However, when the AAA batteries lose power there is always the torch. (Not a British ‘torch’…that’s a flashlight), but a real kerosene-soaked torch like the angry villagers in Frankenstein (1931 Dir. James Whale). That would, of course, bring the Law down on you. You would likely end up making candles in Dannemora.

I will follow up this enlightening blog post with something else that has annoyed me for years…Gravity.

Dorset of My Dreams

“Oh, to be in England…”

–Robert Browning

[The chalk coast of Dorset. Photo: Google Search]

It all started on a late winter morning of 1984. I was walking to my office at King & Low-Heywood Thomas School (KLHT) in Stamford, Connecticut. Walking with me was a teacher/administrator. She was going through her teacher-mail regarding microscope sales and Petri dish discounts. She held on to an envelope and after a few moments glanced at the contents, she turned to me and said: “Here, maybe you will find this interesting.” She handed me a letter. I took a quick look and put it on my desk. I had a first period class.

Later, after my ninth cup of Faculty Room Coffee I looked over the letter. It was from a business office in New York City. The company arranged Teacher Exchanges. I put it on my desk again and went off to meet with a student. As the Fates would have it, the British teacher who was seeking an exchange was right there in the office. We talked. He took the Amtrak to Stamford where I met him and took him to the school for a tour.

To make a long story short, this guy, Chris, really wanted to do the exchange. The Headmaster was not so enthusiastic. But, it all worked out in the end. Early August of 1984 found me on an late evening flight to Heathrow.

[Corfe Hills School, Corfe Mullen, Dorset. Photo: Source CHS webside]

A year is a long time to distill my experiences into a few paragraphs. Simply put, I had a few rocky days getting to know the ‘system’, meeting my colleagues, learning the names of my students and attempting to find my various classrooms. I was hired as a Geography teacher, a subject I love. I was happy. What was difficult was the number of courses they gave me to teach. I taught fifth and sixth form geography, General Studies and Religious Studies. They gave it all to me.

“Face it. You’re bloody irrelevant being here only a year,” some administrator told me on my second or third day.

[Last day of school. Two of my favorite students who helped me and gave me sage advice. Sally in the white blouse and Yzanne is to my right. Photo: Photo is mine]

I was never bored. When the weekends approached, I was faced with two choices (mostly): Take a hike on a Footpath in Thomas Hardy country or go to BritRail, buy a return and spend the weekend in a Cathedral city like Wells or Salisbury. I couldn’t get enough of the countryside, the dramatic coast of Dorset, the small villages that had little more than a pub. My ‘local’ pub was the Barley Mow. I can’t tell you how many pints and Steak & Kidney Pie I’ve eaten in that very old thatched building.

[A hillside with a copse of trees on the summit. Photo is mine]

I found some walks that went through some of the most picturesque locations. The sunken path below is near Shaftesbury. Madonna had a house nearby.

[One of my favorite footpaths. The trail itself is sunken about ten feet. Photo is mine]

The places I travelled are all marked off in my dozens of hiking guides. My personal best is a nine-mile walk that began in the parking lot of a pub called A Brace of Pheasants. I was exhausted at the end of the day. The Ploughman’s Lunch and two pints of Guinness helped me start out but didn’t help me finish. I had a Steak & Kidney Pie. It was a Sunday so I went home, took a shower and turned on Radio 4 to listen to a drama. Later, when I was a bit too hyped-up to sleep, I would tune to the station that carried “Prime Minister’s Question Time”. You can image how interesting that show was.

[Footpath signage. Photo is mine]

I have been back to Dorset many times since the mid ’80’s. I made every effort to share what my past was like by going on footpaths with Mariam. My favorite hill to climb is the Glastonbury Tor.

[Mariam on top of the Glastonbury Tor. Beneath her feet, King Arthur is said to await a return to save England. Photo is mine]

Mariam and I spent one Christmas (just before Covid) at a ancient northern Dorset pub called the White Lion Inn. A cozy room. A friendly bar downstairs and a garden eating area.

[The White Lion Inn. Photo is mine]
[A typical narrow back lane in Cornwall. Photo is mine]

Each trip Mariam and I make, we try to explore a different region. Above is our trip to Cornwall. We’ve been to The Lake District, Cornwall, Yorkshire, Dartmoor, the east coast and London, of course.

[Our close friends. They live in north Dorset. Anna is destined to be a great ballerina. Photo is mine.]

I’ve only picked out a minute part of the things I did while in Dorset. But, like all good adventures, I got a book out of it.

[So go out and buy yourself this book. It contains all my adventures (mostly). And it has color illustrations. A great holiday gift. Photo is mine]

Christopher Robin Held in Custody For Alleged Trophy Kill

SPECIAL NEWS ALERT

[PICTURES AT 11:00.]

[The alleged perp poses with his trophy kill. Robin is on the left.]

The way I see it through my news-weary eyes is that Robin made the mistake of posting his kill on Facebook. A friend recognized him and using GPS coordinates pinpointed the exact location as somewhere in the region of Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia. The glacier in the background has been photoshopped in to make it look like the Himalayas. Another attempt at deception.

So, here I stand somewhere in the Hundred Acre Wood. Robin looking like a desperate man…and a depressed one at that. While the constables milled about, I approached the sad figure.

“You were always so kind and protective, Chris. Why this?”

“It was all for nothing, Mr…”

“You can call me Krebs.”

“Mr. Krebs, it was all a fantasy. How long can a paradise like the Wood last. Listen.”

I heard the roar of a dozen chainsaws in the distance. I knew what he meant. Moments earlier I’d seen a panel truck drive by, nearly getting stuck in the mud. On the side of the truck it read:

YOU PLANT ‘EM–WE CHOP ‘EM

YOU PLANT ‘EM AGAIN–WE CHOP ‘EM AGAIN!

IT’S CALLED RECYCLING!!!

I Lowered my head. Something caught my eye. Then I saw them. They were penned into a small space with little room to turn around. As our eyes met, I could name them all: Roo, Eeyore, Kanga,  Rabitt, Tigger, Piglet, Gopher, Lumpy and of course, Winnie (the Pooh Bear.)

“What’ll happen to them, Mr. Krebs?”

I knew but I held my tongue. One by one they would find a “home’ in a small circus, a fair, a poor farm or a down and out petting zoo that you often see in the parking lot of your local Waitrose Supermarket.

“Whatcha got, Matt?”

I turned to face Libby. We were the only two reporters who thought it was worth the trip.

Me? I’m just a washed-up news hack who gets a story where I can. Right now I have a regular column about Nature that runs in the National Inquirer…when they find the room. The last piece I wrote ran four months ago. Title: A Day in the Life of the Queen’s Corgis.

Libby? Now she get around. A very versatile journalist who snagged a gig when she got on the staff of Girls n’ Guns. Her last piece was Thirty Ways to Beautify Your AG-043.

She smashed out the butt of her cheroot on the fresh flat stump.

“Well, not much to do here. Wanna go anywhere?”

“Sweetheart, you’re in the middle of Ashdown Forest in East Sussex. Ain’t nothing open around yet. But I have a huge hollow log where I’ve been self-isolating. Care to join me?”

“Why not? We’re both in the same business, ain’t we?”

I had a pocket full of baby carrots. I went over to the pen and gave one to each of Robin’s friends. I shook hands with Christopher.

“Good luck, mate. You won’t get much time. Next thing you know, you’ll be back in these parts tending saplings.”

I heard the chainsaws…closer this time.

A tear welled in my eye. “I hope I meet you again…and your friends,”

“Krebs. I’m as near as the nearest shelf of good books.”

[The Hundred Acre Wood.]

[All images are from Google Search]

 

 

The Two Garbage Bins: A Winter’s Tale

[Iceberg Landscape. Photo source: Google search.]

In the U.K. they call it “Bin Day”. That’s when you put your rubbish and recycles out at curbside. I think that is a very cute way of putting things, but then the English are so cute anyway. On March 22, they will celebrate “Mothering Day” instead of “Mother’s Day”. The Brits have a quaint and charming (cute) way of putting names to things. In the USA, if a new mother is having difficulty nursing a newborn, we call in a “Lactation Specialist”. In England, the worried new-mother would summon a “Breast Expert”. (A fair percentage of men I know would qualify for that title).

It’s all very interesting, but all this has nothing to do with the following post (except the word bin.)

My wife and I live in the North Country. It’s not easy residing in an environment that pays little attention to the calendar. A few days ago the Northern Hemisphere celebrated the Vernal Equinox…the first day of spring. We celebrated a sub-zero nighttime low and a coming forecast of six or more inches of snow. Not many of my old friends from high school have to use a child’s plastic sled to bring our groceries from the car to our front door. Most of them are worried about which iron to use to make par in places like Hendersonville, North Carolina or Boca Raton.

But I digress.

The garbage pickup, here in the North Country, is handled by Casella, Inc. They provide you with two bins, one for garbage and the other for recycling. All we have to do is drag the bins to the roadside every two weeks (for us, this means the bins are put out on a Thursday night for a Friday morning pickup.) Very convenient. But we have been out of the country so we suspended service. So, now it’s time to get things rolling again.

[The garage in question. Photo is mine.]

However, here in the North Country, simple things sometimes aren’t so simple. You see, our garage has a leak, like a toilet has a leak. In the winter, this leak leads to a sheen of ice that is smoother than the rink at Rockefeller Center. Don’t think I haven’t thought about backing my car out, hooking up my iPad with Spotify and skating a pair of figure eights to Waiting For The Robert E. Lee with my wife. (The problem is that we don’t own ice skates.) The ugly reality is that to get from the back door to the bins, you have to have the skill and dexterity of Sonja Henie or Tanya Harding. So, by partly skating and partly clutching my car door handle I manage to get to the bins to prepare them for the move to the roadside.

Oh, how wrong I was. The bins were frozen in several inches of ice. I nearly threw my back out when the usual body slam to dislodge them (this happened several winters ago) did not work. The recycling big was already 75% filled. I opened the lid and peered inside. Where did all those wine bottles come from?

A little history. Ice is a powerful force. Look what happened to the Endurance, Shackleton’s ship when it got stuck in the ice off Antarctica. The ship was crushed and sank, stranding the entire crew. Could this be happening in my garage?

[Shackleton’s huskies watch as the Endurance sinks. Photo source: Google search.]

I thought about tying a rope on the handle of the recycling bin and securing it to the front towing hook of my Honda Fit and hitting Reverse and slamming the gas peddle. But the vision of my front axle being ripped off changed my strategy. Finally, after several days, I managed to free the garbage bin. Only yesterday did I succeed in breaking the icy grip that held the recycling bin. It took brutal strength and violence (and a few cups of that blue ice melting stuff you get when you enter a drug store) to finish the job. These are necessary skills one needs in the North Country.

[The bins in question. Photo is mine.]

Our next scheduled pick-up is April 3. Mostly likely the ground will still be frozen and it will be fairly easy to move the bins to the roadside. It not, I’ll have to drag them through the mud. In which case, I’m quite worried about the recycling bin. It’s very heavy.

I wonder where all those wine bottles came from.

[NOTE: This post was written while in self isolation. Good luck and be smart.]

 

 

My 500th Blog !

[The Wanderer Over The Sea of Fog. Casper David Friedrich. One of my favorite paintings. Source : Google search.]

Dear Followers,

Open your oldest and best cognac and celebrate with me.  This is my 500th blog post! Finding topics and putting them into (what I hope were) clever words was not an easy thing to do. And to do it 500 times is, for me, a true milestone.

I would like to use this opportunity to look back at some of the good times we’ve had together…places I’ve shared, people I’ve introduced to you and topics I have chosen to explore. I wrote some as fiction, some in the second-person and I experimented with different styles of writing.

I have a small pebble on my shelf in my office. It looks like a meteorite. Tiny craters and black as though it spent time in a furnace. This is a token I took from the floor of Death Valley. The little pebble had been baked in the 120 F of many Death Valley summers. I can’t let you feel this stone, but I can share with you how I sat on the salt flats of Bad Water, where I found it. I can share it through a blog post.

Some general statistics:

-My posts have been read in 60 countries. That’s 30.8% of the world’s recognized countries according to Google.

-My first blog was “A New Blogger on Board” [Not something written by me but a generic welcome to WordPress.] That was published on July 15, 2012. That’s roughly 7 1/2 years of blogs.

-I posted something every month since the above date. I’ve duplicated a few, i.e Coal for Christmas which I put out every year in December.

-The most number of clicks (likes) were under the category of Home Page/Archives. Apparently this is people just looking my stuff over. I racked up 10,111 ‘clicks’ on that.

-The most clicks, by far, were for A Short History of Chains and Chain Making. 1,551 people read it.

-The least number of clicks were for The Moth. Only 8 people seemed to like it.

My personal favorite is This Old House. In it I spoke of how heartbroken I was  when I handed the keys to 420 Front Street, Owego, NY to the new owner. It was the only home I knew.

[420 Front Street. Photo is mine.]

I have taken you on two cross country road trips in our R-Pod. I’ve followed my grandson, Elias as he grew up. We shared numerous trips to Europe and I’ve shared two trans-Atlantic crossings on the Queen Mary 2. You’ve met our friends, Tim and Jo Ovenden who live in North Dorset, England. They have graciously accommodated us on several trips, providing us with a place to stay.

[Jo, Anna, Thomas and Tim Ovenden. Photo is mine.]

I have shamelessly used Fluffy in several posts in a feeble effort to peddle my books.

[Fluffy. Photo is mind.]

My sincere hope is that you have found my posts thought-provoking, funny, sad, introspective and at the very least, interesting.

I posted my 400th blog from a rented house in Joshua Tree, California almost two years ago.

I hope I get to a 600th with all of you.

Thanks for reading.

Patrick

 

The Brown Lady Ghost

[Photo source: Google search.]

 

There are probably thousands of purported ‘ghost’ photographs available on the internet. Most of these images have been found to be faked. A classic example of an obvious double-exposure is the photo of a seated Mary Todd Lincoln. Standing behind her with his hand on her shoulder is her dead husband, Abraham. [Look this up on the internet.]

But, for my money, one the most well-regarded ghost photo is that of The Brown Lady.

The picture was taken by a Captain Provand and Indre Shira while on assignment to photograph Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England for Country Life magazine. It was published in 1936. It was reported that she was seen by King George IV in the early 1800s while visiting Raynham Hall. He said she was wearing a brown satin dress.

By all accounts it is the spirit of Lady Dorothy Townshend. How she came to be dead is a matter of much debate, mostly salacious.

I will leave any backstory in your hands. Google away!

I don’t admit to believing in ghosts, but I’m never one to let the facts get in the way of a good story (or in this case, photograph.

The Two Faces of the Summer Solstice

[Summer Sunrise over the Heel Stone at Stonehenge. Photo source: Google Search]

A short time ago a friend posted this on Facebook:

Hooray! Only 59 Days Until The Summer Solstice!

Most of us know that the Solstice marks the first day of summer.  It’s a moment when the sun rays are directly overhead at 23.5° N. Lat.  Where I live, this will occur at 11:54 am (EDT) on June 21.

[Diagram of the relative position of the sun (R) and the earth (L). Source: Google Search]

People think of BBQ’s, swimming, hiking and kayaking over seventy foot waterfalls.  Kites will fill the air at beaches.  Pyrotechnics are being prepared for the 4th of July.  Pom-Pom girls are practicing the baton tosses in their backyards while toddlers splash in small plastic pools under the watchful eye of parents, sitting in camp chairs, sipping bottles of Coors Lite.  Cans of Deep Woods Off are flying off the shelves at Target.  Tubes of SPF 65 lotion are in every picnic basket.  Big drinks with little umbrellas are served at pool-side.  The quarterbacks of the Fall flirt with the cheerleader/lifeguards of the Summer.  Sandcastles, surfing, hang-gliding, rodeos, NASCAR races, deer-tick bites and human pyramid water-skiing are the activities on any given day south of Manitoba.  (Actually, most of these events happen in Canada as well, but no-one goes up there this time of year to see for themselves.)

[This is how I spent my summer days at the lake. Source: Google Search]

And, in sunny England, the Druids are allowed among the Sacred Stones of Stonehenge to welcome the arrival of the SUN.

[Druids at Stonehenge on June 21st. Source: Google Search]

The Glory Days!  The Endless Summer.  Autumn is months away.  The Farness.  The Freedom.  The Freshness…it’s the eternal now moment everyone wants to be in and stay in.

And, best of all…it’s the longest days of the year!

[Allow me to muddy the waters a bit here.  The longest day?  No, of course not.  The length of the ‘day’ is and will remain twenty-four hours.  Can’t change that.  First day of Summer?  That depends on how you think of summer.  There are really two “summers”.  One is the Meteorological Summer, which traditionally is from June 1 to August 31.  This is when the thermal load begins to build in the Northern Hemisphere.  Hence, one can go swimming on June 7 because it’ll likely be warm enough and you are willing to hold your breath for twenty-three minutes underwater to escape the black flies.  But this post is mostly concerned with Astronomical Summer as described in the diagram above.  None of this seasonal stuff would happen if the earth was not tilted 23.5 degrees off the vertical plane in our relationship with the sun.  The planet Mercury has no tilt and therefore no seasons.  If you lived on Mercury, SPF would be your least problem.  The daytime temperature is approximately 800 degrees Fahrenheit.  Hot enough to melt your nail polish.  Hot enough to even…well, you wouldn’t have an arm to apply anything on.  It’s very difficult to rub SPF on a gelatinous mass of bubbling protoplasm.  But in the few seconds you perhaps survived, you’d need an SPF of 2,500.  I haven’t seen anything like that at Walgreens lately.  And, forget about a beach book.  The temperature is twice that of the burning point of paper.  You’d need a Kindle for sure.]

Back to earth.

And, there’s the catch.  Just when you’ve reached the peak (the Summer Solstice) you have to begin thinking about going down.

After June 21, the days begin to get shorter.

You may say that after reading this that I’m a glass-is-half-empty kind of guy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I’m the eternal optimist.  After all, in a mere six months, the days will start to get longer!

And then you have the Holidays to look forward to.