Home Again

Posted in Mixed Nuts on June 15th, 2009 by MadDog
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I came in at about eight this morning to the office with the firm intention to leave before ten. It’s now 13:30. It’s amazing how going to the office cuts into one’s valuable leisure time. There ought to be a law. No, wait. We have too many rules already. Let’s just wing it.

This morning I was greeted home by a familiar sight:

A ship on Astrolabe Bay - departing MadangA ship out in Astrolabe Bay. She appears to be departing Madang. I hope not to have to do that for a while.

Another welcoming sight was a giant floral cluster just blooming on one of my Fishtail Palms:

Flowering cluster on one of my Fishtail Palms
I have written several times about Fishtail Palms. They fascinate me. You can review here, here, here, and here. You may be thinking, “Big deal.” Remember, however, that what you are looking at is a cluster of flowers nearly three metres long! That’s a lot of flowers!

At this stage of the development of the fruit, thousands of bees gather around to collect nectar and pollen. You can see many in this close up shot:

Bees feeding on the flowers of the Fishtail PalmNear the top of the image (click to enlarge) you can see one be flying past.

Did you ever notice that when you have been away too long, that it’s the simplest images, smells, textures and sounds that deliver that magical comfort of being home again.

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Sedona’s Vortices – The World’s Most Popular Invisible Attractions

Posted in Humor on June 13th, 2009 by MadDog
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Brace yourself. This is going to be a long one.

Sedona is the only city in the world where McDonald’s golden arches are not yellow. They are teal – about the same colour as most of the vegetation. The notorious dispenser of bad food had to negotiate with the town fathers about their usual colour scheme, because it was noted that the normal chrome yellow of the famous icon of obesity would clash eerily with the natural palette, the only colour of which that has a recognisable  name is red.  So it goes, in the Disneyland of spirit groupies.

I hope that you’ll forgive me if nothing at all in this post makes any sense, not that that would be unusual. I was deposited in Brisbane at 08:00 after approximately one hundred hours on an aeroplane. I really did feel okay, in a sort of spacey way. I got a cab, pointed to my reservation so that the non-English speaking driver (gotta love big cities!) could eventually get me to my destination, and checked into my hotel. The nice little girl at the desk managed to decipher most of what I said to her. She  spoke perfect English, but with that strange Australian accent. She was, however, giving me funny looks. I found out why later, when I looked in the mirror.

I staggered two blocks to find breakfast, which tasted like dinner, bought three beers at a bottle shop, and managed to navigate my way back to the hotel making only two wrong turns along the way. All that time a little voice was encouraging, “Gee, you feel fine, don’t you? Yes, you do. Just dandy. You got away with this one without permanent brain damage.” This seemed ominous to me, as I don’t usually trust the little voices. Sometimes they try to fool me. I can never tell.

So, I pottered around the room a little, got myself connected to broadband, whistled tunelessly into the cosmos, checked my email, looked to see if anybody in the world that I know on Skype was awake, wished for the ten-millionth time that I wasn’t alone – I would have happily chatted with Adolph Hitler, “Say, Adolph. How is  Hell, anyway?” – and I watched a little TV.

I even went outside again to have a cigar and a beer and read a little. I couldn’t concentrate on the book, though it’s the best I’ve read in decades (more about that another time). The cigar seemed a little off, like it had been spiked with LSD. The beer smelled like a microphone. I had a giddy urge to sing into it, “I’m in a New York state of mind.”, which, by the way, I can perform quite credibly. I was teased by little creatures running around in my peripheral vision. They seemed frog-like, but they ran on four legs like a dog. They were talking to each other in a language which I could not decipher. They smiled a lot with amphibian grins.

As if scales fell from my eyes – now I know how Paul felt – suddenly I had an epiphany. A nap! Yes, by all means, that’s what I need: a nap. Yes, a little kip would fix me up nicely. And so, at about 11:30 I lay down on the bed exactly as I had gotten off the plane (sans fedora) in my tattered US$12 suit jacket (sleeve now coming off), t-shirt, underwear (presumably, unless I left it somewhere), jeans with a bulgy wallet and my new Merrell boots. I pulled the cover up over me, sighed a grateful sigh, offered a brief prayer of thanksgiving and departed the planet post-haste.

I returned to Mother Earth at 22:00 dishevelled, disoriented, unamused, and wondering where I had lost my hat. My first thought was, “I need  a beer.” My second, third and forth thoughts were, “Where am I? How did I get here? And, by the way, who am I, precisely?” Disregarding the existentialistic nature of issue number four for the moment, I went to the little fridge where I hid my beer stash and retrieved one. “Ah, yes. Brisbane. Sometime in the past on an aeroplane.”, answers to questions number two and three lit up like Christmas tree lights.

Well, okay. Now I have everything I need to write. I have a beer. I know more or less where I am. I’ve resynchronised temporally to the proper epoch. I’ve switched on my Toshiba and fired up my Windows 7 RC, logged onto my WordPress account and . . .

You know what? Now would be the perfect time to tell you about Sedona, the Mixed Nuts Capital of the World.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Sedona appeals to me. It appeals to me the same way that heroin does. I have a creepy feeling that if i tried it I would become addicted to it with the first rush, immediately discover that I liked it a lot,  and shortly realise that it was eating my soul. (Ah, possibly I should mention that all of the blather about heroin is purely hypothetical. Never tried it. Don’t want to, for the obvious reason. I have sufficient addictions already.)

As my dear friend Gracie said to me when I whined that Sedona seemed to me a place that was collectively and corporately out of its skull, “They’re here to find the answers outside of their selves.” How succinct! Crystals, vortices (or “vortexes” as they are laughably called locally), psychics, ufos, energy readings, aura readings (you can get an actual photograph of your aura), palm readings, pyramids (a little beyond its sell-by date), emf balancing technique, universal calibration lattice (or lattices – there may be more than one), soul empaths (actually, I may be one of those) . . . uh, I think you probably have the general idea.

The one that interested me most intensely, in a sort of  “Huh?” way was the vortex thing. I asked Gracie about it. Like most people – when you ask them about vortices (again, vortexes for the illiterate) – she seemed vaguely vague, “Magnetic, er . . . electric. Something like that.” Hmmm. Magnetic. “There’s much more iron in Minnesota than in Arizona.”, I ventured. “Don’t tell them.”, Gracie suggested. Gotta love Gracie, a practical soul if there ever was one. And funny,  oh for pity’s sake, she’s funny. Sadly, my wit is too lethargic to keep up. I usually smirk a few seconds too late. Gracie pretends not to notice.

There was also a UFO crash site:

UFO crash site in Sedona. Couldn't be bothered to check it out.Sadly, we were scurrying to an energy vortex at the airport (of all  places), so we didn’t have time to investigate or file a report. Stay tuned for late news at 11:00.

I was still looking for an appropriate gift for my friend Trevor Hattersley who always brings me some bit of esoteric navel lint back from whatever planet he has been visiting. “Crystals!”, I thought:

Imagine that! A whole palace made of crystals.Ah, but I know  in my heart that Trev must already have crystals. His mind is keenly attuned to the metaphysical. He hardly notices the real world.

It’s spiritually comforting to know that there is an actual, physical centre (with American spelling) for the New Age:

There is an actual centre for the New Age. Lucky that I discovered this.This makes much more sense that having it scattered willy-nilly about like Christianity or Buddhism or Islam (okay, maybe not Islam). You know where to go  for your answers to your hard questions like, “What does my aura look like? How’s its colour. Is it all splotchy?”

Here’s a picture of the Centre for the New Age. It’s rather humble, I think, considering its importance. It might look like a business, but these people don’t really want your money. They’ll take it, of course, if you actually want  anything, but mostly they are just there because they most sincerely want to help you:

Centre for the New Age. Don't confuse this with a business.Help you to what?  Precisely? That’s where it gets complicated.

This one reminds me very much of my favourite Grateful Dead t-shirt:

The Psychic Expo - This says it all about SedonaIt is so very comforting to know that there are people who can somehow transcend the mere universal laws of physics and, through expanded consciousness and a sound business model, answer any question, really, any question at all that may be on your mind. Wife cheating, you cheating, pickup truck repossessed, lost your job, lonely, broke (no, better skip that one), dog died . . . it’s a veritable country music song of the spirit. Who knows how they do it? It’s uncanny.

So, at this juncture, as it is 02:15 and it now feels like lunch time (and I’m out of beer), I surely must introduce you to Sunshine:

Meet SunshineSunshine can tell you:  (from her own web site)

  • What is wrong with a car? [assume it’s your  car]
  • Where did I leave my camera?
  • How will my new job interview go?
  • Etc.

Personally, I’m going for the Etc. I’ve got a manure spreader load of Etc. questions saved up and I need answers now.  I can get ten minutes of “reading” for fifty U. S. of A. bucks. Let’ see, that’s  . . .  hmm . . . ah, yes, that’s US$ 300 per hour. If I want to save money, I can get 300 minutes (including 60 ‘free’ minutes) for only US$1,020.

I’m not going to fool around making jokes about Sunshine. She says that she is also a lawyer and the only people that I sincerely wish to have less to do with than psychics are lawyers. Strange combination, eh? Psychic and lawyer. I wonder who her career councillor was.

I’m afraid to fall asleep now. I’m afraid that I will have nightmares about being sued by a psychic lawyer.

Man, what a bummer.

Oh, one last note:   It did NOT escape my notice that I lost a day of my life yesterday. And, it was not for any of the usual reasons. I went directly from the 12th to the 14th as I passed over the International Date Line. Who dreamed that one up? I don’t know who’s responsible for this, but I WANT IT BACK!

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Central Park in New York City – A Man Made Natural Wonder

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 11th, 2009 by MadDog
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New York City’s Central Park seems to me to be one of the wonders of the world. It reshapes nature to fit into the confines a a great city. I enjoyed a few hours yesterday exploring the northern half. I have to catch a plane shortly, so I’m going to forgo my usual drivel and show you the images.

This is probably one of the last things that you would expect to see in a giant metropolis:   a babbling brook:

Not what you would expect to see in the middle of ManhattanThe are miles of paths through dense forest in the park. Even so, I found it easy to navigate. If you can keep a sense of the general direction that you are walking, you can’t get lost. If you keep going long enough in the same direction, you are bound to come to a street soon. There are also may signs about to guide the wanderer:

Typical Central Park pathThere are several lovely ponds in the park:

One of the beautiful ponds in Central ParkHere is another pond:

Another Central Park pond
Tennis, anyone?

Central Park - Tennis, anyone?Playgrounds surround the park, making for quick and easy access:

Central Park - playgrounds all aroundThere are many quiet spots to get away from the noise of the city with a friend:

Central Park - heaven in the city for man and dog alikeFinally, because I know that Eunie will read this in Dallas, I’ll show you my dinner. I seem to be obsessed with showing you what I eat. It’s just as well. It reminds me to eat at least once a day:

After a long walk in Central Park - dinner

Otherwise, I might forget.

I found a great place that sells what tastes to me very much like home-cooked food for US$ 4.99 per pound. That’s cheap by any standards.

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La Maison d’Art – NYC – The Place To Stay

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 10th, 2009 by MadDog
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When I walk into a hotel to have a look around, poke around the place to see who else is there, check my room to see if it’s comfy, look out the window . . . you know the drill . . . what I want most is to feel my travellers’ anxiety dissolve and hear that little voice in my head whispering, “Yeah, man. You could live here.”

That little voice was crooning those exact words to me shortly after my arrival at La Maison d’Art  in Harlem, New York City. Harlem reminds me so much of my old neighbourhood that the taxi ride from JFK was like coming home. I arrived at the four story brownstone with only the number 259 to identify it thinking to myself, “This will be interesting.”

A brief unpacking session and  a beer run to the corner store were followed by a visit with the owner, Stephanie Calla, a delightful young French woman who surprised me by accepting my offer of a beer as she sat with me for an hour or so to get acquainted. When is the last time you encountered such pleasantly surprising hospitality? In most hotels I feel more as if I’m checking into a hospital for a coronary bypass.

Here is Stephanie in the reception area of her delightful, art-filled establishment:

Stephanie - Owner of La Maison d'Art - New York City
She must have asked me ten times if there was anything else I needed. It wasn’t phoney baloney. When I suggested that I might want to go out for some night life, she went searching for brochures for me and told me the best places to go. She stopped by again this morning to check on me and chat a bit.

La Maison d’Art  is billed as ” . . . sophisticated lodging for the astute traveller” I don’t know how sophisticated and astute I am, but I dig this place. Whether you are straight off the farm in Iowa or freshly arrived from your townhouse in Vienna, I can’t imagine that you would not be comfortable here. This is another cute shot of Stephanie:

Stephanie in her reception area - La Maison d'Art - New York City
Later today I’m going to walk down to Central Park. I had plans to fill my two days with sightseeing. Now, I’m so comfortable and happy here that I think I’m going to slow down a little to rest and recuperate. It’s that kind of place. I won’t get to see all the things that I planned to see, but hey, that’s what pictures are for.

Blame it on Stephanie and her cool pad. Frank Sinatra could chill out here.

If you are going to NYC, do yourself a favour. Save a bundle of money, be close to all the action, and enjoy the hospitality of a delightful young woman who is quite literally pursuing the American Dream. She’s making it on her own, playing the game by the rules, and doing a great job of it.

Thanks to my clever and omniscient wife, Eunie, for once again booking the exact place that I wanted before I even knew what I wanted. It’s scary, man!

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Sedona to New York City – A Strange Passage

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 9th, 2009 by MadDog
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The eleven hours that I dithered away at the Phoenix airport were productive, in a sense. I mercilessly hounded my friends on Facebook. The free broadband connection made it easy. I took grim satisfaction in making ridiculous comments at every opportunity. Other than that, it was dead time. I truly hate airports. In fact, though I love being places, I despise travel by air. I’m holding out for teleportation. Step into a booth with your backpack, push the button that says Kathmandu, take a deep breath, and ping, you’re there! I can dig it.

Maybe I can amuse you with this 10 second exposure of the Arizona sky just after dusk taken from the designated smoking area – otherwise known as the pariah zone:

A miserable day at the Phoenix airport is nearly overThe red-eye flight to New York City left at about midnight. It was only a little over four hours, but it felt like days wandering in a frigid dessert of isolation, semi-consciousness and boredom. Too sleepy to read. Too uncomfortable to sleep. Nothing to see out the window but dead black. I don’t know about you, but my head goes all funny when I am in that zombie zone on a long flight. Coherent thought becomes impossible. I get giggly sometimes and want to ask the person next to me, “Are we there yet, mommy?” That kind of thing can get you into trouble on an aeroplane these days.

There was a double line of huge thunderbumpers blasting across the East coast. Our pilot managed to slip between them. It got unpleasantly bumpy, but I preferred that to another hour or so in the second torture chair in a week in which I’ve been trapped (read the latest tattoo post).

It was raining still when we landed. The second line of storms was lighting up the sky to the west. Here’s a shot out the window of my Jet Blue flight:Arrival in New York City on Jet Blue

Getting my baggage and a taxi was a ten minute affair. They really have their act together at JFK. The flat fare to Manhattan was US$45, not too bad, considering the distance.

It’s amazing how much flavour that you can taste of a new city by chewing a two hour taxi ride. My driver was not very talkative. It’s just as well. I was far too wasted and mind-numbed to converse.

The first order of business was to check into my room (delightful – more about that later) and get something to eat. I attracted far less attention that I’d imaged walking around in Harlem. It reminds me very much of the neighbourhood in which I lived as a child. I walked a few blocks and found Little Harlem Fried Chicken – “The Best Chicken in Town”. I bought far more than I could eat for four bucks – cheap. Then I stopped by a little store to pick up some beer.

I’m always showing images that I can’t imagine that anybody would find amusing, but somehow you keep coming back for more. So, though I don’t know if you’ll care, here’s my lunch:First lunch in New York City

I can’t say if it’s the best chicken in town, but it was tasty with a very crunchy coating. The beer is a Yuengling Lager, supposedly from America’s oldest brewery. It was nice also. A good, but not great beer. Hey, we can’t all be great. There’s room for superior mediocrity.

Then my body refused to cooperate any longer. I feel into a five hour coma on the bed with all my clothes on.

Tomorrow, I’m going to take a giant bite of The Big Apple.

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The Ultimate Masochist – Videoing Your Own Tattoo

Posted in Humor, Tattoos on June 8th, 2009 by MadDog
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Sitting here in “The Friendliest Airport in the World” in Phoenix, Arizona with eleven hours to kill and a free broadband connection, It occurs to me that I have time enough to torture my readers, since I have nothing better to do at the moment than to eat potato chips and wish I could afford a beer.

As you may have noticed, I recently acquired a spanking new tattoo. Click the “Tattoos” category, in case you missed it.

To amuse myself while spending about fourteen hours in the torture chair, I took about a hundred photos and several short video clips. I’ll show you two of my favourite vids.

This one shows Chip beginning the outlining:

I like the pouty little lips he is doing on Nemo. Moody little Nemo; he has a dark side too.

By the way, Chip is not spitting on my arm. That is alcohol that he is squirting out of a little horror bottle. In fact, it is alcohol brewed in a special still in a very hot corner of Hell by Satan himself. Chip rubs it in nicely to achieve the proper effect. It feels a little like a thousand demon rattlesnakes earnestly desiring to gnaw on your soul. Ah, but first they have to get through your skin.

Hmmm . . . I’m thinking some of you might be musing, “What’s the big deal? So the idiot is now videoing himself being punctured.” Well, you are right in one respect. I am an idiot. However, I challenge you to hold the camera as steadily as I while squirming under the needle. Idiots can do amazing stuff. Just watch American TV.

It this short clip, Chip is cutting loose in wild abandon doing the shading. He’s beyond control. Just listen to the pathetic tone in my voice as I tell him how much I trust him.

There was little point in interfering; he was Locomotive Breath. You wouldn’t want to get in his way. Chip was a man on a mission. You don’t want to mess with a former Drill Sergeant.

Getting a tattoo is fun in a kinky sort of way. For one this size I don’t recommend trying it in one sitting. The pain gets steadily worse as the trauma to your precious skin mounts mercilessly. For the last couple of hours I was still putting on the brave face, but inside I was homogenised. Frankly, uncontrollable flatulence was the primary menace.

It must have been the Mexican lunch.


Goodbye to Sedona – For a While

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 8th, 2009 by MadDog
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I have to get on a plane to NYC in a couple of hours, but I wanted to do another post on Sedona’s scenery before I tear apart all my gear and put it in my backpack.

Yesterday evening we did one last swing around Sedona to get some images. The weather was perfect. I’ll have more to show later, including some panoramas, but for now there are a couple that I’m particularly happy with and I can’t wait.

I got a little crazy shooting through the open window of Grace’s car with the fill flash on. There are a whole series of them, but here is one that I like best. This is what it’s like riding around in a car in Sedona. Everywhere you look you see:
One of Sedona's masterpieces through the window of Grace's car

I get a little sentimental about this next one. I don’t know if I’ll ever see Grace again. She and Eunie have been buddies since they were four years old. I’ve known Grace for nearly 47 years. It’s always hard for me to part with friends, but this one is more so than usual.

Here are Grace and Eunie admiring one of Sedona’s masterpieces:

Eunie and Grace admiring the view in SedonaI won’t say goodby to Gracie or Sedona. Instead, I’ll say, “So long.”