Where Are The Castles In The Sky?

ADKclouds

When I was a young boy, my mother would walk with me down through our backyard and toward the river.  There was a decline on the property that, in very old times, was the bank of our river.  Now, it was simply a gentle slope down to a lawn that took my father decades to transform from a field of weeds to grass…that had to be mowed, of course.  I often wished he’d left that part of the yard alone and allowed it to grow into a forest of wildflowers and small birches.

My mother would usually stop and sit on the highest part of the slope and lay back…looking at the sky.  She pointed to the cumulus clouds that were usually present in the afternoon above Owego.

“Look,” she’d say.  “See that cloud?  It’s shaped like a whale.”

I’d look and wonder.  Then I began to see the shape she was still pointing to.

“Yes, mommy, I see the whale,” I said and I did indeed see the hump and the tail.

“The clouds can take on all sorts of shapes if you let your mind free to imagine.  Right now I see a ship…a ship that will one day come in for me,” she said wistfully.

I think this is what she said.  I don’t remember exactly because I was too young to remember her words.  But, from that day on, I used to keep my eyes aimed at the clouds and I began to see that what one minute was an amorphous shape, become a dragon, or a knight, or a horse…or an angel.

I did this through my teenage years when I would stretch back in the same place where my mother and I would sit and sit and think and begin to see the shape of castles and eagles and great ships and more knights.

In the late 1970’s, I would take my daughter, Erin, down to the slope in the backyard, to the same place my mother sat with me…when I was a little boy.

“What do you see?” I asked Erin.

She stared at the sky for a time and then said she thought one looked like a mountain…a volcano…with the sun edging over the peak.

“It’s a beautiful mountain,” she said.  “Daddy, do you see it?”

“I don’t see it now,” I said, “but maybe someday.  That cloud is only yours to imagine.”

Years later, I took my son, Brian, to the slope in the backyard, to the same place my mother sat with me…when I was a little boy.

“Daddy!” he said as soon as he looked up.  “I see a big building, a skyscraper like the one you showed me in a book.  It looks like the Empire State Building,” he said.  ” Do you think I’ll ever see it in real life?” he asked.

“Maybe someday,” was all I could say.

Many years later, I would  manage to look up…the trees were thinning out now…and find objects and shapes in the clouds while I mowed the lawn my father had created.  My children are both adults now.  I saw only shadows of happiness in the faces of the dragons and knights.  The castles I saw were dark and menacing.

Even later, after a heartbreaking divorce, I still continued to look up to the clouds and try to find fanciful and dreamy and mythical shapes.  I only saw only puffs of water vapor…simply clouds.

After my father passed away, I continued to mow the lawn and look up.  I saw only dark clouds and vague images of those I loved who had passed on.

I took one last walk to the river the day I handed the keys to 420 Front Street to a woman named Lauren.  It was overcast and nothing distinct appeared in the sky.  A vague shape of an hour-glass formed in the lower clouds that were building over the southern hills.

A year or two ago, I took the walk…perhaps for the last time…to the bank of the river.  I was with my wife.  The house had been empty for a few years and the lawn had suffered through two devastating floods.  When I had mowed it, it look like the 17th hold of Augusta National Golf Course.  This day, it was shoddy and overgrown and almost unrecognizable.  But, this time I saw visions of King Arthur, Roy Rogers and cowboys and indians and brave soldiers and angels that seemed to smile on me once again.

Mariam and I sat and looked at the sky.  She told me that when she was a child, she would lay back and make images of the cloud shapes.  I asked her what she remembered.

“I recall the image of an old man…with a crooked nose and a cane,” she said.

“Maybe someday,” I said.

Walking back to the house, I looked at my wife.  Then I looked at the very spot my mother would make me sit.

“Yes, mom,” I said.  I see it all.”

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Honky Tonks, Bordellos And Celery

soiled dove of Cripple Creek

[This soiled dove was from Cripple Creek, CO.]

We watched January turn into February in Silver City, New Mexico.  A former mining town from the 19th Century, was a place where miners, tired and in need of a drink and a little love to purchase, would come up from the valleys and down the mountains…and find paradise amidst the prickly pear cactus.

And, the first person many of these rough and dusty men sought was Madam Millie.  I’ll get back to Miss Millie in a minute.

By association with everything about the Southwest USA and our neighbors to the south, Mexico, our 51st state, the last thing we expected was a winter storm that would freeze our water line, render us helpless in the 13 F weather, keep our inexpensive (read ‘cheap’) Wal-Mart space heater churning full-time, unable to cook (dirty dishes, remember), flush the toilet or even wash our hands, instead we resorted to pouring a noxious (and according to California Law) carcinogenic liquid, RV antifreeze, made from glycol and a few dozen chemicals down into our fragile plastic gray tank (dish water) and black tank (icky-poo stuff from the toilet) to keep them from bursting.  We seemed to be stuck inside Silver City with the Palm Springs blues again.

[That was a long run-on sentence.  Not all my fault.  It’s my inner William Faulkner trying to get out.]

So, what did these American Nomads do to pass the time?  We went to the Silver City Museum.  It was a beautiful Victorian building that was once the home of a restless guy who wanted to make a fortune in Silver.  I naturally gravitated to the shop in search of yet another Ideal Tee Shirt, a coffee mug and a book(s).  The first book I spied was titled: “Madam Millie”.  It was the story of Nellie Clark, who worked her way up from the mattress to running the most successful brothel in town.  (She died as recently as the late ’90’s, I believe).   In another book I found in the local library, “Red Light Women of the Rocky Mountains”, by Jan Mackell, I had a chance to read about the history of the girls who followed the miners, plied their trade, were murdered, died of disease, wandered off to another boom town, married clients and lived in luxury, became school teachers…or simply lived as a widow or spinster in a town that eventually mined all the silver that the hills could produce.

Millie Clark had the proverbial heart of gold…her girls would hide Easter eggs for the poor children of Silver City and Nellie was known to give away lots of money to charity and food to the needy.  I was fascinated by the book because local history, however tawdry, is what I seek to learn about when I travel.  The brothels were, without question, an important aspect of the Old West.  The “Red Light” book was researched and written by a woman historian.  I’d be reading it right now, but the $25.00 ( + tax ) price tag put me off.  I walked out with a tee-shirt, a mug, a guide to the wildflowers of the Southwest, and a mental image of working girls (some slender and beautiful and some plump and plain) and sweaty cowboys and miners drinking whiskey and beer in the saloons and honky-tonks along Bullard Street.  (I should mention at this point that there was a madam in one of towns of the west who weighed over 300 pounds!  She was extremely popular, and to this day, the town celebrates her with a festival in her honor…her name escapes me.)

old-west-brothel-tokens-3

[Brothel tokens.  Source: Google search.]

Thoughts of tight corsets, buckled shoes, flowers in the raven-hair, ribbons, rouge and lipstick and thick perfume filled my mind as I sat in a distressed leather seat of the public library to get warm and to allow Mariam a chance to answer work-related emails using a strong WiFi signal…something that was a bit dicey at our RV park.

jennie-bauters-brothel-242x300

[A popular brothel in Cripple Creek, CO.  The madam stands at the far right with her hands on her hips. Source: Google search.]

The warmth of the library made me sleepy.  I put my head back and let my mind drift into a very delicate state of half-dreaming…

I was sitting in the Buckhorn Saloon.  Sitting on my knee was Ivy…the loveliest example of womanhood one was to find west of the Pecos.  I had a sack of silver nuggets in my pocket, so her affections were assured.  I had a tumbler of whiskey on the table in front of me alongside a glass of cool beer.  It tasted nothing like Bud Lite.  Outside, on Bullard Street, the dust of a hundred horses and half as many wagons rose in the air.  I heard gun shots.  Two miners had stood in the middle of the street and were arguing over the honor of a painted lady.  When the gun smoke cleared, one guy remained standing.  He turned to look for Irene, but she had gone off with the preacher’s son.

BullardSt

[Bullard Street in Silver City, NM]

The gun shot made me jump in the library chair.  Someone had dropped a book on a table nearby.  Mariam was busy  in a quiet cubicle so I told her I was going for a walk.  I needed to clear my head.  I was confused as to what time it was, what day it was, what year it was…and what century it was.  I walked over to Bullard Street.  SUV’s and sensible KIA’s lined the curbside.  I went into the Tiny Toad saloon.  Guys with beards and laptops sat around drinking craft beer.

I went and picked up Mariam and we drove back to the RV park and sat shivering until the space heater had the inside temperature up to the mid 50’s.  We decided we’d rest a bit and, because we had no water, we decided to go listen to some music at Diane’s restaurant and bar and have dinner.

The guitarist, who had a gray beard and wore a harmonica neck brace, was playing a Jefferson Airplane song.  It was followed by Wild Horses by the Stones.  I thought it was time for Dylan, and, like he could read my mind, he played Mr. Tambourine Man.  Our waitress was a young woman who wanted to be a jazz singer.  She wore no rouge on her cheeks.

“…play a song for me.  I’m not sleepy and I have no place I’m going to.”

But, I did have someplace I was going to…back to our camper…the one with no running water.

I was confused by the old and the new in this town that capitalized on the old and the new.

“See our old houses…see our ghosts…feel the sense of history” said the pamphlets.  But, all we found were pottery shops and jewelry counters.

We went back to the Tiny Toad to have a night-cap.  This wasn’t like the saloons in the faded pictures I saw at the museum.  Miners with their boots on the foot rail, the spittoons, the foamy mugs of beer, the pretty girls of the night at the edges of the photo, standing for a moment at the center of the attention, and then off to the fringes of the picture frame.  Like they were in life, on the edges of society, young and beautiful in their youth, but often forgotten when age or disease pushed them from the parlors of velvet to the shack on the hill.

I looked at a pair of celery stalks in a jar on the bar in front of me.  The veggies got me to thinking…

“What’ll it be today, Clem? The usual red-eye whiskey and beer?”

“Naw, Frank, I’m dusty from the trail.  Think I’ll have a Bloody Mary this morning.”

At the other end was a gum-ball machine (did I miss something by not going to Bartenders School?.)  I shrugged and ordered a real man’s drink.  I motioned for the barkeeper to approach.  I cleared my throat and boldly asked for a Hot Toddy.

CeleryOnBar

[In an old-time saloon?]

GumballMachine

[In an old-time saloon?]

As I was trying to sleep that night, I kept thinking of Nellie and her girls.  I read that Nellie was buried only about five miles from our RV park.  Were there flowers on her grave?  I thought about one of the girls who was murdered (details are unclear), but unlike the death of a prostitute (then and now) that usually went unnoticed, the girl’s sister came and claimed her body and took it home for a proper burial.  Most of the girls, I suspect, drifted away when the mines began to close in Silver City.  When they died in another boom and bust town, did anyone shed a tear for them?  I recalled reading about a madam in Cripple Creek, who, when she died, was given the largest funeral the town has ever seen.  But the thousands of others?  Those females who lived by their perfume and charm…?

Did anyone say a prayer for their poor souls?  I feel a deep sorrow for those broken-spirited, homeless, drifting, nomadic restless souls…they usually die alone.  That has to be the worst way to leave this beautiful life and this unique planet.

When we drove out of Silver City the next morning, we crossed the Continental Divide just a mile or so from town, from Nellie’s house, from the museum, from the Tiny Toad Saloon.

The Continental Divide is a geographical line.  But among the lives I had been reading about, there were divides of all kinds.  When it rains, the water flows either to one ocean or to another.  People live lives like that…anything that comes down on your soul, can make you flow one way or another.

ContinentalDivide

But, in the end, we all end up in the same ocean that contains all our collected dreams and all our collected sins and all our collected virtues.

Afterword

When the town decided that one of Nellie’s brothels was to be torn down and replaced by the new Post Office, one old-timer told Nellie: “I don’t need the mail as much as I need you.”

 

Never Draw Straws On The N Train

JEAN_LOUIS_THÉODORE_GÉRICAULT_-_La_Balsa_de_la_Medusa_(Museo_del_Louvre,_1818-19)

[The Raft of the Medusa, painted by Theodore Gericault. (Source: Google search.)]

This afternoon, my wife and I actually left Manhattan and made a trip to one of the boroughs.  On purpose.  We rode out to Astoria, Queens (where my wife grew up) to visit my son, Brian and his girlfriend, Kristin.  We had a great visit–saw their apartment and ate a superb dinner at a place called Elias Corner for Fish at 24-02 31st St.  With the exception of my wife, I had the feeling that Brian, Kristin and myself were going to be the only three people who weren’t Greek once we arrived at the restaurant.  Before I go any further with this post, I need to explain a few things.

Yes, Mariam and I are still “on the road” to Florida.  But for several very good reasons, we have this lay-over in New York City.  Being away for four or five months is no small undertaking, so we scheduled a few doctor appointments and Mariam needs to attend a meeting or two in connection with her job.  Because of this, we’re leaving the r-Pod back in Jersey City and spending three nights in Manhattan–in a cozy hotel just a few steps from Herald Square (and Macy’s).

Just to prove that we are indeed “camping” in Jersey City, here is a photo of the pod:

RpodJerseyCity

It looked a little forlorn and lonely as we drove off to the Holland Tunnel.  I felt like we were leaving a puppy in a pound of Dobermans stricken with distemper, but silent while watching our tiny pod.

To kill a few hours today, I actually found a Barnes & Nobel that was still open for business.  It’s on Fifth Avenue, a few blocks north of the N.Y.Public Library Main Branch in case you’re interested.  I loaded up on books for our trip.  I do have and use a Kindle app on my iPad mini, but I can’t seem to forego the pleasure of a real paper book in my lap while I’m trying to stay warm in our camper.  On the way back down Sixth Avenue, I stopped at one of those souvenir shops that sell models of the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty in about twelve different sizes and NYPD tee shirts for $3.00.  In this particular shop, I located and purchased something that I couldn’t find at Macy’s or any other store–a back scratcher (it telescopes very nicely).  Do you know how hard it is to find a back scratcher?  Especially when your back is still red from the drug reaction you got from the antibiotics you took to get over the respiratory ailment you picked up at your 50th high school reunion over a month ago?

But I digress.

We were sitting in Brian and Kristin’s small but adorable apartment and snacking on crackers and hummus.  The Merlot being served had the label of ‘Help Me’.  I must say, it was full-bodied with a subtle nose and nice legs.  Mariam was having a conversation with my son about the unlikely event that the Mets would actually play the Cubs in the World Series playoffs, when I turned to Kristin and asked how Law School was working out.  She said that she was plugging away and learning a lot about Constitutional Law and is even enjoying a course on Criminal Law.  That last topic piqued my interest and naturally we fell into a discussion of important case studies pertaining to crime on the “high seas”.  I asked her opinion on a ruling that has long interested me.  That, of course, would be the outcome of The Queen vs Dudley & Stevens case.  I’m referring, as I’m sure you are aware, of The Queens Bench Division which handled the trial in 1884 [14Q.B.D.273].  Don’t be confused by the use of the term “Queens”.  We’re talking here of the United Kingdom, not a borough of New York City.

The legalities involved have been the topic of many of my researches.  The case involves the rather sticky question of when is murder justified for the purpose of cannibalism while adrift on the high seas after a maritime disaster.  I don’t want to give away any amusing surprises here, (I’m not a ‘spoiler’) but it seems that killing one’s mate(s) while attempting to stave off starvation and dehydration while drifting in a small life boat with little or no reason to believe another vessel will happen along to rescue you is okay (under specific circumstances, however).  But, and here’s the kicker.  You are more or less allowed to kill someone on board the small boat, for cannibalistic purposes only, as long as you draw straws.  If no straws are used, then the starving mariner who holds the knife and does the deed, can later be tried for murder (assuming a rescue ship comes along–otherwise it becomes a moot point, doesn’t it?).  In this situation, a passing ship did indeed pick up the emaciated survivors–two of whom were then charged with said murder.

I won’t bore you with the outcome–you’ll have to look it up in your law library.

But, it got me thinking.

After dinner, we said our good-nights on the platform of the Manhattan bound stop on the N line.  Their apartment was only half a block away.  As we stood waiting, I felt myself rethinking the case study.  As the front lights of the train approached, I thought of the long run it would make from Ditmars Blvd Astoria to fabled Coney Island.  I knew that after a few stops, we would enter a tunnel under the East River.  I’m not especially claustrophobic unless it involves pre-mature burial (which I think about a lot), but the idea of being under the water for a few minutes had me wondering about criminal law below sea level.  What if the train was stalled or held up by the Command Center (it happened to me once in 1992)?  What if we were truly stuck beneath the East River–unable to move forward at all?  What if it came down to drawing straws to decide which one of the dozens of riders could legally be killed and then eaten?

I ran through a list of concerns.  Whose straw would we use?  Who would conduct the cutting of the straw lengths?  Who would actually take charge of the drawing?  And, most importantly, would anyone really have a straw?

As I was pondering these questions, I became aware that the train was actually slowing down!  Were we stopping?  Yes, we were coming to a full stop!  All this time, I had my eyes closed to better concentrate on the potential and bloody situation we may soon be facing.  After all, I was likely to be the passenger with the most sea-faring experience.  I had ridden the Staten Island Ferry more than four times and I own a kayak.  I had also been on at least two Whale Watches out of Bar Harbor.  In addition, I’ve seen the Queen Mary while it was docked at the Hudson Piers and I have ridden the NY Waterways ferry on at least four occasions.  I’ve been to the South Street Seaport and have visited Mystic Seaport more than once.  I also like to look at sailboats while I eat a Cobb Salad at the 79th Street Boat Basin Cafe.  So I guess that nails my point of being a maritime authority beyond any doubt.

I opened my eyes.  We were in Manhattan–we were approaching the Lexington Avenue/59th St. stop on the Upper East Side.  Five more stops would put us at Herald Square–and the relative safety of street level reality.  Painful decisions in matters of life and death were behind me.  We all know that now the rules of The Walking Dead superseded any maritime legalities.

I vowed, just then, to begin carrying a straw whenever I rode the subway and especially when it went through an underwater tunnel.

I also vowed to carry a small pair of pinking shears.  That way I could, perhaps, control the length of the straw that would be cut into various sizes.

Underwater or on the high seas, controlling the variables is very important.

SubwayMap

[Do not use this illustration for navigation!  It is included for entertainment purposes only. I assume the copyright belongs to the MTA.  For full disclosure and transparency purposes, I will proudly mention that the title of this post was suggested by my son, Brian.]

 

Do You Really Want To Go There?

Dark Lane 4 Blog

It’s early Autumn.  The air is crisp.  The broad leaves of the oaks and maples are sharp and bright in the sun.  Against the darker conifers, the reds and yellows are more muted–less distinct and less joyful.

There is a lane.  It seems to possess a faint voice calling for you to follow to wherever it leads.  The fair-haired, blue-eyed woman beside you urges you to take a few steps into the forest.  Her white hand suddenly is gripping your right forearm.  Without words she is telling you to not take another step.

“We don’t know where this path leads,” she says with her eyes.  You brush a red leaf from her soft hair.  You look down the lane again.  Something is urging you to explore–to follow the trail to its end.  On your left, a woman with dark eyes and pale flesh takes your hand.

“Come,” she whispers in your ear.  “We can’t keep them waiting.”

You look to your right.  The fair one has a distressed look as she stares down the lane.  Her hand trembles.

Turning your head, you see your car parked miles away.  How can this be?  You’ve only taken a few steps into the woods.  A breeze picks up a few leaves and stirs them at your feet.  The branches of the trees begin to weave and roll and shudder.

There is a tug at your right arm.

“Let’s go back,” the fair one says.  “I don’t like this.”

“Let’s move on,” your pale lover says.  “It’ll be good.  I’ll see to that.”

You are unable to move.  You stare into the distance and wonder where it will end and how far the walk will be.  Will there be a pool of clear water?  A bower of red and scarlet leaves?  An old farmhouse?  Does the backdoor–the screen door, bang in the wind?  Is the spring rusty?  Are the rooms empty?

Is there a house at all?  If not, why the road?  All roads lead to something in this forest.

You’re frozen with indecision.  You want to go forward and you want to run back to the car.

What about your lovers?  You look from left to right.  There is no one there.  Was anyone ever there?  Are you awake?  Is this a dream?

You look back at your car.  It is not in sight–there is no car.  Looking down, you see there is hardly a path.  It’s all overgrown.

A woman’s voice calls to you.  It’s a song–so very sad.  You’ve heard this lament before.  Nothing good can come of this, you’re thinking.  Nothing good.

It’s never good when you’re alone–in the woods when the sun begins to set.

The Migratory Habits of the Boomers

OwegoStuff

In this lecture we will explore the migratory habits of certain unusual groups of animals.  Let us begin by taking a glance at the Puffins of the North Atlantic.  They migrate to a big rugged and very isolated rock somewhere in the waters of the Atlantic.  There they breed.  Then they migrate somewhere.  It’s totally fascinating.

Now, let us consider the famous Swallows of Capistrano, California.  According to legend, they arrive at the mission on October 23, almost always on that date.  Pretty interesting, huh?  Then, on or about March 19, they circle the mission at San Juan and then depart.  Some say its a miracle.  Some say they just like the warm weather.  But you can bet that they will do a lot of breeding while they’re in California.  Isn’t that what California is for?

However, recent studies have uncovered a rather new group of migrating animals.  These would be the Owegoian alumni, which are rather new to the list of migrating groups.

It seems that each year that ends in a “0” or a “5”, this small population will make their way from far-a-way places, such as North Carolina, Georgia and the Adirondacks of New York State to gather in a ritual that has been termed a “reunion”.

The next such gathering is expected to occur very soon in the Southern Tier town of Owego, New York.

Experts who study such phenomena are wondering whether breeding is to be a part of this gathering that is soon to happen.  Some investigators say that the population is getting too elderly to partake in such risky behavior as breeding at this stage in their lives.

But, who knows?

Playing Scrabble On Facebook With Your Daughter: The Agony And The Ecstasy

ScrabbleScreenShot

There is on odious, evil and insistent karma that floats and follows me everywhere.  Like gnats on a hot afternoon in the Adirondacks, they follow me about in my own yard to plague my very soul.  Gnats (or is it the equally noxious black flies?) that have been known to drive a tundra dwelling musk ox to commit suicide.  I have lost sleep.  I dread the coming of nightfall because of the waiting nightmares that will make me wake up screaming and soaked with my own salty sweat.

And, it’s not the heat in the room because it’s -38 F outside our thin pane of glass.  The interior of our  house sometimes looks like a set from “Dr. Zhivago”.  But that’s okay, after all it’s only the end of April.

What am I paying for?  Why can’t I await the Final Judgement to pay for my moral laxity?  What is it that plagues me so deeply and causes me to see the whole world in different shades of gray?

I am about to confess for the first time the reason for my anxiety and self-doubt.  You see, several years ago, I made a dreadful mistake.  I am making this public, here on my very own Blog Platform on WordPress.

I challenged my daughter to play Scrabble on the computer.  The computer is necessary because she and her husband, and my grandson live 3,000+ miles away, in Orting, Washington.

Oh, you say, isn’t that grand.  A dad playing perhaps the most famous and popular word game in the English-speaking world with his daughter. (Please don’t ask about Candy Crush Saga!)  What a great bonding experience…you say.

In theory, you have a point.  But in practice, the naked facts speak for themselves.  She beats me far more than I beat her.  In fact, her current win percent, in late April, 2015 is 59%.  Mine on the other hand is 45%.

Some back story is needed here:  My daughter wanted to attend a small private Liberal Arts college in the Northeast.  She did.  So, we both have undergraduate degrees.  I, on the other hand, came within four credits to completing my M.A.T. degree.  But, after I began teaching full-time, I took graduate level courses in many different locations, accumulating enough credits to equal a Ph.D. (Which I don’t have, but that’s another story.)

To further complicate the issue, I am 25 years older than my daughter.  I read a lot.  She reads a lot.  But if you do the math, I have 25 more years of books under my belt than she.  At my present reading rate, I have read approximately 576 more books than my daughter.  I don’t know how many books she reads per year but if you subtract her total from my total, I still have the advantage.

Not only that…I am a published author.  Doesn’t that count for something?  Apparently not.

Here is a “typical” game between the two of us:

I open with EYING which is worth 9 points.  She will come back with YTTERBIAS which, as we all know, is worth 14 points.  After studying the board for 20 minutes, I’ll put up SAD (4 points).  She will play BOBBEJAAN (22 points) before I can get back from the bathroom.  That’s probably a Bingo, so it’s really worth about 125 points.  Now, after 4 moves, the score is 139 for my daughter and 13 for me.  You don’t have to be a bookie from Hialeah to know where the odds are going.  And, speaking of Bingos, she has 76.  Is it worth mentioning that I have 30?

Can anyone out there feel my pain?

One time I jokingly made a mention about how can she beat her dad so bad after I spent years changing her diapers.  I even paced the Waiting Room like a good father does on TV while she was being born.  Her reply was that I should be proud of her education and brains.

Believe me, I am very proud of her in so many ways.  She’s very smart and very well-read, it’s well known.  But, does she have to be so morally correct and not “allow” me to win?  That would be nice once in a while, say on my birthday or Father’s Day.

When I recently mentioned this to her, she said something to the effect that it is part of the American Dream for the younger generation to become better Scrabble players than their forefathers.  Did I miss something in Civics Class in high school?

So, it must be something I did to get this karma-thing following me.  Did I not mash her peas enough when her little baby teeth had more gums than teeth?  Was it because I woke her up from a sound sleep to let her see Bob Dylan in a rare TV appearance on Letterman sometime about 35 years ago?

Then it hit me.  I remembered what it was I did that brought the negativity of the Universe upon my head.

I recall the night.  It was in 1983.  The place was Danbury, Connecticut.  I took her to see “Superman III”.  It happened there, right in front of her eyes that I did a despicable thing.  Something I have felt profound shame about for 32 years.

I am confessing this in public, right here on my Blog site.  Now the world can judge me for what I really am.  Now the blackness of my soul will be visible for all to see, like a goiter on my neck.

I looked into the ticket seller’s eyes and lied about my daughter’s age.  I shaved a year off her age to save $2.00.  Yes, she saw and heard the whole thing.  Yes, I did this thing.  Yes, I am sorry.

But, I can’t turn back the hands of time.  I must bear this smudge of sin, so awful and so wrong, that proper folk should turn away from me in horror, like I am some kind of vocabulary-challenged Quasimodo.

I must carry this until my walk on this earth is complete.  Then I will have to take the Ultimate Consequences at the Gate of St. Peter.

But, the problem is not completely solved.  None of the above explains why my daughter’s husband beats me almost every time we play.  The rare time when I do win (both times) I feel like having a tee-shirt made up with the message: “I BEAT MY SON-IN-LAW AT SCRABBLE”.  On the back, I’ll print his Social Security Number.

I will end this with another short confession.  My wife and I drove all the way to Orting, Washington to visit my new grandson and his parents.  But, I had a second motive.  I was determined to locate the Scrabble Dictionary they used.

I couldn’t find it, but I have my ideas.

The only place I failed to look was the bottom of the dirty diaper pail.

 

The Digital Indoor-Outdoor Thermometer From Area 51

Indoor:OutdoorThermometer

It’s common knowledge that various agencies under the umbrella of the “Federal Government” have been conducting TOP SECRET experiments in highly secure location inside an Air Force Base in California (or Nevada or some such forgotten region of the Great American Desert).  This place has been known by many “in the know” people as “Area 51.”  I’m sure you are aware that is where the remains of the aliens that crashed in Roswell, NM are kept in a large freezer unit made by Sears.  This crash occurred in 1947 (the same year I was born–but I swear to you on a stack of Bibles from the Westfield Baptist Church that I had nothing to do with the accident nor am I a product of it.

The fact that this is clearly a government conspiracy  is widely known to all rational thinkers.  Myself, I would blame Barack Obama for the cover-up, except for the fact that he wasn’t even born then.  These locked and guarded hangers also hold secrets to scientific evidence of the existence of Bigfoot, UFO’s, the government’s role in starting AIDS, social security, and the proven fact that Elvis is living outside Cincinnati.

Now I have proof that NASA, NSA and the CIA have been running a series of covert experiments in my very own kitchen.  I wrote a short post on FB about this about two years ago (before I discovered WordPress and other ways to annoy you).  No one took notice (except my niece in Maine) about my suspicions then…but with my wider audience, perhaps someone out there can respond to my discovery.

The facts of the case are simple: We bought this house in 2000.  A few months after we closed, I went to the local Radio Shack in Saranac Lake.  It looked like any other Radio Shake, lots of things with wires, mountains of batteries and only one salesassociate.  But I did find something on the rack that attracted me.  It was an Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer.  A guy knows when he needs certain things and this was one of those things I knew I needed.  My wife (being a woman) thought that maybe I didn’t need this thing.  Now, looking back on that day, perhaps she saw something I failed to see.  Women and intuition and all that.

So, I buy the thermometer and load two AA batteries in the unit.  I found a tiny shelf near the sink (see illustration) where it fit perfectly.  There was a nearby window where I could put the outdoor sensor.  So, now I had the best of two worlds: I could wash dishes and check the outside temperature at the same time! 

And, now the mystery (paranormal activity?  government experiment? ) has become serious enough that it is causing me problems sleeping and concentrating.

You see, I have absolutely no recollection of ever-changing the batteries!  None!

One doesn’t have to possess the mental abilities of Stephen Hawking to do the calculations.  This Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer has been giving accurate readings, on the same pair of AA batteries, for 14 1/2 years!  This is not physically possibly.  Now, as you know I taught science for 35 years.  I know a test tube from a flask.  I never totally ‘got’ physics but I do know that the drain on batteries for merely reading the temperature is low.  But, this…this is unreasonable.  Especially given the fact that a few C batteries in our holiday wreath lasted about 6 days.

I can also attest to the accuracy of the Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer.  It’s readings are to be trusted–just like those of Madam Zelda’s readings at the Franklin County Fair.  Ok, there was one fluke–only one error.  Back in the late ’90’s I checked the Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer one February night and the digital reading was -36 F.  Now, I know that not at all possible…not here in the Adirondacks in the middle of winter.  No way.

I’m tempted to open the back and check the brand of the batteries, but in truth, I’m afraid of what I might find inside the small white plastic box.  Something made of Thorium, Einsteinium, Praseodymium or Dysprosium maybe.  Anyone of those might prevent me from fathering a child when I’m 74 or maintaining my jet black (natural) hair.  I know at least two of them would cause parts of my body to glow in the dark–but that part is not for minors or gentle eyes.  Other side effects of some of these newer elements have been shown to cause adult listeners to hum along with Miley Cyrus or go out to old vinyl LP stores and find unopened copies of Captain and Tennille albums.

Or, even worse, there could be a micro treadmill inside the Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer operated by artificial cyber-ferrets.

Whatever!  I’m not going to open the back and look.  I’m hoping the batteries just rotted away and the electricity is being provided by some chemical interaction between Lithium oxidation and plastic polymers.

Me?  I’m just going to continue to wash the dishes and watch the digital numerals go up and down with the temperature.

Up here in the Adirondacks, they usually just go down.  So, I have a simple job to do.

[Note: If my blogs and FB posts suddenly stop, it probably means I got bored one night doing dishes and decided “I’m goin’ in there.”]