I just found a snake in my basement. I’d gone downstairs to the basement to turn off the ceiling fan, when I heard a weird rattling sound coming from my water heater. The water heater is under the stairs, in a small area without much light, so I got up close to the heater and peered into the darkness to see if one of the pipes coming out of the top had sprung a leak. It was too dark to see much, so I got a flashlight from the kitchen upstairs, and went back down to the basement. I turned on the
I drove to the Old Stone Arch Trail this afternoon for a long walk and some IPhone photos. Much cooler weather than my walk earlier this week: 72 degrees vs. 92 degrees. It was like a walk in the park. Or the trail.
I began thinking about a couple of conversations I’ve had recently that I thought were unusual enough to write down for safekeeping. One happened in Walmart, back in the Electronics Dept. where I always check the $5 DVD bin for new movies. Up until recently, the DVDs were throw
Today I started to feel like a retired person, though I’m technically not retired until August 31st. No sense waitin’ til it’s official!
I was up at 6:00 AM, ran downstairs (I’m not sure if it was my bones creaking or the stairs), started the coffeemaker, tossed some birdseed on the ground outside, then sat down in my bentwood rocking chair and waited by an open window for the critters to show up for breakfast. I shot a squirrel (with my camera) and that’s about it. The other critters didn’
Lots of excitement around the lake today. I got a good photo of a mama turtle digging a hole in the ground to lay her eggs, and then I almost walked right into a skunk. When the skunk saw me, it went on high alert and raised its tail. I made an abrupt u-turn and let him carry on with his grub-hunting.
I startled a flock of vultures out of the trees as I quietly passed underneath them. I counted fifteen vultures, all circling above me, watching me like a little kid opening the oven door to s
I had my annual physical today. This may sound crazy, but I think of my health statistics in the same way that athletes think of their sports statistics: I try to show improvement in each category. Today was my best yet:
My weight was down 5 lbs. from last year.
Blood Pressure: 122/82 (lower than last year).
Triglycerides: This year: 185. Last year: Over 300!
Cholesterol levels: within the healthy range.
In my opinion, I deserve at least a Bronze medal.
And, I finally got t
I don’t know why, but nowadays, when I go for a walk, I feel an obligation to post photos on Facebook of the little distractions that catch my eye as I’m walking. I’ll be the first to admit that my photos aren’t Pulitzer Prize-worthy, especially using my antiquated iPhone 6s, but I normally walk for two hours and I think that having my good camera swinging back and forth around my neck would soon become an annoyance.
And yet, I feel badly when I encounter a wonderful photo op and I’m standi
Part 7: Revelation
We ate like kings in Vietnam. Mai’s mother and sisters cooked homemade meals outdoors over a wood fire beside a low, L-shaped wall that served as the kitchen and protected the food from wind and dust. After the daily early-morning trip to the farmer’s market to buy fresh produce and freshly-butchered meat, the food was prepared and put into large pots where it simmered for hours over the flames, carefully watched from midmorning until late afternoon.
Most of the
Vietnam Part 6: Emperor Gia Long and Napoleon Bonaparte
On our second morning after arriving at the family home, we went to the local Police station to officially present our paperwork. Mai handed our documents to a uniformed officer. He looked them over, and began questioning Mai in a not-too-friendly tone of voice. Then, to my dismay, Mai began arguing with him.
Barbara and I exchanged glances. We’d both known Mai for quite some time, and we knew she wasn’t one to back down from a f
Part 5: A Parade
I survived. I spoke quietly to the dogs, and they let me pass by unharmed. It wasn’t until later that I realized they may have stationed themselves by that particular door on purpose, to guard the family home against critters looking for a new den.
The following morning, we walked to the bottom of the hill where our driver was waiting for us. He drove us into town to what must have been a favorite breakfast place for the family: a tiny storefront cafe on a narrow, bus
Vietnam Part 4: A Night to Remember
Before the Communist invasion of South Vietnam in 1975, Mai’s family was affluent by Vietnamese standards, even having a car and a driver to escort them around the small city of Hue. After serving in the Vietnamese Army for several years, Mr. Nguyen became an entrepreneur, eventually owning three successful grocery stores. Being a loving but strict father, he taught his military martial arts skills to his children from the time they were toddlers. All of
Part 3: Arrival
Hue, the one-time Imperial City located in the center of the ’ox-bow’ country of Vietnam, is full of history. Established as the capital of Vietnam by the Nguyen Dynasty in the early 17th century, Hue remained the seat of the Imperial Palace until 1945 when political divisions led to Hanoi becoming the capital of North Vietnam, followed a few years later by Saigon becoming the capital of South Vietnam.
We arrived in Hue after sunset, around 8:30 at night. Mai’s pa
Part 2: The Road to Hue
Mai’s family lived in Hue, the former Imperial City of Vietnam 600 miles north of Ho Chi Minh City. Mai had made it clear that she wouldn't step foot on Vietnam Airlines, the country's flagship airline that consisted mostly of Russian-built Tupolev Tu-134s and French-built Airbuses. I don't know if the airline's safety reputation was as bad as the rumors said it was, but considering that the Russian airline, Aeroflot, once had the worst safety record in the world,
I wrote this for my Facebook friends about two years ago. It’s very long, so I’ve divided it into seven chapters that I’ll spread out over seven days. With so many people isolating during the C-19 event, I thought it might relieve some of the boredom. (Hopefully it doesn’t add to your boredom!)
I’ve changed names and descriptions of some people to protect their identities.
Vietnam, 1993 - Part 1
A couple of Sundays ago I went with my sister’s fa
When I was very young, I was fascinated by the strange, archaic cultures depicted in National Geographic magazine. Wow. Halfway around the world there were primitive people living in the jungle! and Amazon tribes living in longhouses alongside that great, majestic river! One photo in particular has stayed with me over the years: a proud tribal warrior with a painted face, his teeth carved like shark’s teeth, looking fierce and exotic.
Halfway through my tooth procedure the
While social-distancing, with lots of time and few distractions, we have an opportunity for self-reflection, and for remembering those moments that changed how we see ourselves.
I’ve been remembering the time I got my tooth fixed.
It was early 1989, I’d just gotten a training date from Continental Airlines, and I decided that it was time to do something about my front tooth that pointed forward instead of down. I wasn’t particularly embarrassed about my tooth, but I thought it might b
A word of encouragement as we distance ourselves from one another:
I recently watched ‘Darkest Hour’ and ‘Dunkirk’, two movies that are inspirational to me. It struck me how this viral war that we’re in today is different than the World Wars: we’re unable to comfort our friends and neighbors, as did the people of London while huddled together in bomb shelters. We have no symbols of unity and strength like Rosie the Riveter, and no classrooms where children can stand together to recite the
There’s an old saying attributed to the Navy Seals:
“When you think you’ve reached your limit, you’re really only at 40%.”
Well, today I proved it to be true. I set a new personal record for walking: 18 miles!
I drove to the nearby state park, intending to walk 11 miles to reach my weekly goal of 25-miles-per-week, but a Forrest Gump-like feeling came over me and I just kept walking.
My previous record was 15 miles on the Withlacoochee State Trail near Floral City, Florida o
I woke up this morning with a dry cough: the Number One Symptom of the latest apocalyptic virus. I considered self-quarantining and staying in bed, but instead I went downstairs and drank a shot of apple cider vinegar and three cups of black coffee. Apple cider vinegar has been a faithful home remedy of mine for years. There should be a comic book superhero named Apple Cider Vinegar.
I felt good enough to go to the lake for a hike. I’ve been training for a backpacking trip for some time now
I miss the old days, when the news arrived with the morning paper or the 6:00 o’clock News. You had time to think before forming an opinion. The instant news of today almost demands an instant opinion, one that can be hurriedly typed into a comment section or a Facebook page without putting much thought into it. Our discussions now are more often fueled by emotions rather than thoughtfulness.
Our news media and our politicians, on both sides, have adopted that attitude. Like the Coronaviru
There’s a blizzard forecast for tonight and I was due for a grocery run, so around 5:00 this evening I left for town before the snow made driving too dangerous. I hadn’t eaten all day long and I was very hungry and when I’m hungry my mind goes straight to “double quarter-pounder with cheese.” To paraphrase the great John Muir: “McDonalds is calling, and I must go.”
The roads weren’t too bad as I drove the 20 miles into town. I got behind a slow-moving semi and followed behind him so that th
I recently gave up my apartment in Chicago and left the neighborhood that had become my home away from home. In the 23 years I was there I watched neighbor kids grow up, I enjoyed Chinese take-out from First Chop Suey and pizza from Villa Rosa. I went for many long walks in Minuteman Park, and bought dozens of Polish candy bars in the neighborhood store that catered to the Polish community surrounding our 3-flat apartment building.
One summer afternoon a few years ago, I was walking down Ar
The other day I was all cleaned up and ready for my weekly grocery run. I jumped in my pickup and turned the key, but the battery was disappointingly dead. I left it on the charger overnight and tried again in the morning and...nothing...dead as a doornail...
I called the auto parts store in the nearest town. The only employee working in the store that day drove to my house after his shift. He brought three different batteries with him, just to sure he had the right one. I offered him ten d
Yesterday I set a new personal record for hiking while on a working overnight in Burbank, CA. As soon as I arrived at the hotel, I packed my small REI backpack with two liters of water, some salted- and honey-roasted peanuts, and two flashlights (just in case I got hurt and had to signal for help after dark).
I set out hiking into the Verdugo Mountains, with my sights set on the Radio Towers at the peak: 6.5 miles up, and 6.5 miles down.
I stopped at the Nature Center in Stough Canyo
I was asked in an on-line discussion: “Why do people believe the Bible?” I gave it a lot of thought, and this was my response:
Did you ever see the movie, "5 Minutes of Heaven" with Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt? James Nesbitt's role as the brother of a murder victim during "The Troubles" in Ireland was the most stunning performance I've ever seen. Anyway, in the opening scene, Liam Neeson says, "For me to talk about the man I've become, you need to know about the man I was." (I'm tellin
Another beautiful morning here on the prairie, and not quite as cold. The -10F is much nicer than yesterday’s -21F (-23.3C and -29.4C).
Went out early to feed the birds and take a few photos: it’s not often that the full moon is still above the western horizon as the sun rises in the east! (I live on a hilltop near the Mississippi-Missouri Divide, with a wide open view of the sky, so I take lots of sunrise and sunset photos for my city-dwelling Facebook friends.)
I went for a walk a