The Last Post

Posted in Mixed Nuts on February 24th, 2013 by MadDog
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  The drivel continues . . .
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Among the hundreds of thousands who have visited Madang – Ples Bilong Mi since its creation in September of 2007 there are a few who have visited regularly and know the history. I won't recap that here, as it is revealed by the more than 1,000 posts, over 5,000 images and about a million words. Only the terminally bored will pursue this past.

I have a new wife, a new life, a new home, new interests, and regained happiness. I'm reborn. My new home is in The Village of Oak Creek, a few miles from Sedona, Arizona. It's about as far as one can get from the tropical paradise of Madang. I've traded one paradise for another. My new wife is an old friend of myself and my late wife, Eunice Messersmith. Grace Preval was Eunie's friend from the age of four. Despite considering carefully, we could find no reason not to marry. I have made a few very excellent choices in my life. The decision to court Grace was on the very short list.

At sixty-nine I can truthfully say that I have few regrets and unbounded gratitude for a truly splendid life. Recovery from tragedy is a mighty rough road. I sincerely hope I will not have to travel it again.

This little web site has meant much to me. It has provided an outlet for my modest talents while allowing me to amuse myself and, hopefully, a few others who appreciate my whimsical style. However, it's time to give it a rest. This will be my last post here. I invite the curious to visit High Desert Journal, my new site which will reflect the blessings of my new life and the "Splendor of Northern Arizona".

To all my past visitors I convey my gratitude for the encouragement, comments and superb Google ratings. These images are all over the web and I get new comments daily. Thanks for reading, my friends. I'll see you at the High Desert Journal.

 

 



Me at Red Rock Crossing

 

 

 

 

 


 

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One More Time

Posted in Mixed Nuts on April 9th, 2012 by MadDog
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Not being satisfied with marrying once in October, Gracie and I repeated the whole thing for a larger audience on Palm Sunday.  We originally planned for a wedding on April first, exercising our powerful mutual sense of humor, so that our children would be able to attend. However, last fall we decided to settle some practical matters having to do with marital status and married in a small outdoor ceremony at Beaver Creek near our home in The Village of Oak Creek. We realized at the time that the job was only half finished.

Our neighbor across the street, Laura Ridley and her friend Lynn Trombetta provided calming music to soothe the mild jitters associated with a wedding ceremony. Laura’s harp is a beautiful antique.

Loading it into her van using the special handling equipment she has constructed was a new experience for me. It reminded me of an adventure in Montana when my friends and I loaded an upright piano into a Volkswagen van for a long trip from Helena to Glendive.

Gracie ambled bravely up the aisle unaccompanied and stood while I awaited my marching orders. There was no rehearsal, so the ceremony was delightfully ad-lib.

When we finally got it sorted out where I should be we stood patiently waiting for the call to come forward.

And waited some more.

Meanwhile, kids were looking bored.

Finally, the serious business began in a very casual manner.

I tried unsucessfully to put Gracie’s tri-metal wedding bands on her wrong hand, causing twitters from the onlookers. Gracie muffed her lines during her vows, prompting us both to giggle. Most weddings are not so much fun.

Scott was in full voice for his pronouncements and admonitions which sounded strangely familiar.

Montezuma Chapel on Rusty Spurs Road in Rimrock, Arizona is about as exotic as it gets in these parts.

Unpretentious on the outside, the inside is impressive and inspiring, having the appearance of a wooden cathedral.

The official pronouncement having been pronounced, we beat a hasty retreat. Friends standing with us, Vearle and Dodie Franklin make way to avoid being trampled.

Happy that we won’t likely be doing this again for a few years, we make our way to the exit.

And make our escape.

We received our guests at Vintages Grille in Rimrock.

The staff there put on an excellent feed and provided for every need.

They also provided one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever tasted.

The decorations appeared on our first wedding cake, Micky Mouse riding a surf board and a plastic palm tree shading Minnie while she admires her boyfriend. I wonder if Gracie’s expression has more to do with chocolate than marriage?

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Home to Sedona

Posted in Mixed Nuts on January 21st, 2012 by MadDog
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While in Madang for the last six weeks I finished up thirty years of residency. Though everything went smoothly and I had some happy surprises, there were some very sad moments. I posted here only once while I was gone. I was scrambling to get everything done that I needed to do to make a more or less graceful exit, so it was difficult to think of anything interesting to write about. I also sold my Canon G10 and G11 cameras, so I had nothing with which to make images. I don’t seem to be able to write without them, even if they have little to do with the text.

Today’s menagerie of images has a peculiar genesis. Last night I gave myself five minutes to scan about three thousand images from Madang – Ples Bilong Mi (yes, a title change is coming soon). My choices have little to do with quality and more to do with knee jerk reactions. Since they are seemingly random choices, the text is likely to be disjointed. In some ways I’m still orienting myself in this new life. Everything is in transition. I’m also still wasted from the trip back to Sedona. I had nearly forty hours in the air from the 13th to the 15th and I don’t know how many sitting in a daze in airport lounges. I was amazed when I left Singapore to learn that we were heading for Houston via Moscow! I boarded in Singapore, sat there for eleven hours and thirty minutes, got off the plane in Moscow, went through security again and got back on the same plane in the same seat and rubbed my aching knees for another eleven hours and forty minutes while watching the path of the plan heading for Greenland on the great circle route to Houston.

Here’s the route which brought me home to Gracie:

According to Great Circle Mapper that’s 17,609 miles. The only break I got was a short overnight stay in Brisbane. My sleep schedule is even more disturbed than normal, even after five nights at home.

I’ll start with one of my favorite underwater images, Buddy, an Amphiprion clarkii anemonefish:

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this one. It has appeared in several publications and now adorns many web sites, probably many more than I know about.

We’ll come back to some more UW images after I digress to illustrate a few of the things I’ve sadly left behind. Forget about the house. Though I called it home, after the walls were stripped and the mementos were packed it was just a shell. Home was where Eunie was. It might seem harsh to say that what I may miss most is Sheba, my beautiful, smart and affectionate dog:

I say I’ll miss her most because she doesn’t understand why I’m not going to be there to love her. Maybe dogs don’t think that much about those things. Possibly it is just our anthropomorphization of them which makes us believe that they mourn for such a loss. I do have confidence that she will be well cared for. It is a blessing that she will not be relocated and the people who will be living in my house want her and will see that she lives a happy life.

In another more lingering way I will miss my friends, represented here by Trevor Hattersley and Tony Collins:

Many people come and go in Madang. It’s that kind of place. Tony has already gone. I’ve now left. Trevor will soon follow suit. Some of the dearest will remain. Some I will see again; some never.

I’m not sure why this image demanded to be included:

Maybe it’s because it is so inclusive of thoughts of Madang, the sea, the people, the exotic nature of the place. It’s appropriate that this image departs from photography in the direction of w watercolor painting. It needs to fade from reality into the landscape of dreams.

The sea, the sea . . . How it captured my body and my mind. Here a Blue-Spotted Stingray flees in a panic as I approach:

I reckon that I spent roughly 2,500 hours under water during my twenty five years of diving in Madang. Though I was generally a very careful diver I still had several brushes with the Grim Reaper. Except for the occasional sky-dive, I expect that life will be a mite safer here in the high desert.

Living with the ocean at my front doorstep provided constant opportunities for image making:

This shot of a ship in the early morning light now graces the cover of a catalog for a German marine equipment supply company.

And, in the end, diving was more about friends than anything else. This is one of my very favorites. Karen and her little blue friends.

The world of nature was my playground. I showed a local fellow how to press the button on the camera mounted on a tripod for this shot:

The image appeared in Paradise Magazine, the Airlines PNG in-flight publication as one of the images in Bush Tucker – PNG Style, an article about edibles which can be found in the rainforest. I lost both nails from my big toes within a few days after completing this trek. The “Land of Surprises” they call it. I was certainly surprised.

On any given day, in my garden, I could find gifts of beauty to photograph:

Here the evening rain drips from the underside of a banana leaf. I had about twenty banana trees in my garden. They remain the best tasting bananas I have ever eaten.

My life was blessed with travel around the world, thirteen times at my latest count. Here is the wonderful “Tunnel of Light” at Chicago’s O’Hare airport:

And I will never forget the severe vertigo I felt as I mounted the top of this astoundingly long escalator in Budapest:

I know there are longer ones, but I don’t want to ride them.

Domestic travels were less wearisome. Here I enjoy a ride on Honey near Boise, Idaho, captured in this image by my friend Carol Beth:

Honey was the same age as I, in horse years. We got along well. We were polite with each other. I seem to have a natural ability with horses and dogs. Maybe it’s because I’m sympathetic to their lowly place in life. It must take a lot of humility to be a good riding horse or a fine, well mannered dog. Humility is a good thing. It can take you places where pride is met by a burly bouncer.

Peculiar, unique images always catch my eye and I strive to create them. This is one that I really enjoy, partly because of the experience which led to its creation:

Special permission was required from the scary, suspicious guys in the gun shop to enter with a camera. I’m sure I was one of the stranger characters to visit that day. They didn’t know what to make of me as I set up my shot on a large piece of white paper on the counter top. It was a bit of an adventure for all of us.

I’ll wrap this up with what is, sadly, probably the only image I have of Eunie and Grace together:

I shot this during the only visit to Sedona which Eunie and I enjoyed together. How little I could imagine how much my life was to change in the course of a very few years.

This post will serve as a sort of whimpy farewell to Madang. I don’t want to dwell on it. It is but a passage in life – one of many.

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Gympie Miscellanea

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 14th, 2011 by MadDog
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Today I’m off to a place called Teewah. I know there is beach there and a small village. I do not know if there is any wireless data connection. I’m guessing not. I’ll be there for four days unless natural disaster intervenes, so I may be off the air for a little while.

I have little idea what is in store for me, but I know it will be different from the normal routine. I filched this image of the area around Teewah from the web:Looks interesting, eh?

Time is running out this morning. I got up late. Now I have to rush a bit, so I’ll be mercifully brief. My last post contained an image of a Bromeliad similar to this one. This shows what the flowers look like when they come out:

Not long before I left Madang there were severe floods over wide areas of Queensland. Here are a few of Val’s images of the disaster:

Many businesses in Gympie were completely submerged. Even now some stores are still being repaired.

This is one of the more fortunate residents:

This is a Galah or Rose-breasted Cockatoo:

The word galah, in Australian usage means a person who is acting in a silly way.

This is a Morris Cowley, one of the most poorly named automobiles in history:

And, while on the subject of poorly named items, this is the Bellygood restaurant:

Okay, I’m out of time.

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Back to Gympie

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 11th, 2011 by MadDog
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I may as well say it and get it over with. My last visits to Gympie were during the worst days of my life. Regular readers will know about that. I’m not here today to revisit the past. I’ve done enough of that over the last few months.

I will say that upon entering dear friend Val’s home for the first time since August was a bittersweet experience. I had been wondering how I would handle it. The first couple of hours were very strange and disturbing. What happened was pretty much what I expected. Certain places in the house evoked memories which hit me like a truck. I was determined to control these reactions, because I did not want to live with them for the next few weeks. After a while it dawned on me that the experience was both necessary and healing. I’m going to have to continue to deal with place-connected memories for years to come. Some of them will be very pleasant. Some will not.

While I’m blabbing on with the story I’ll show you some of the amazing flora in Val’s garden. This is a bright red something. I don’t know what it is, but it is certainly impressive:

It is ridiculous how little I know about plants. It doesn’t bother me. I depend on others to tell me what they are. I’m sure I’ll get comments with helpful information. That’s if anybody is still reading. (Val now tells me that it is Antherium . . . whatever . . .)

These struck me as very pleasing. The colour is intense and the white outline seems purposeful:

It looks as if the flowers are coming from the tree, but the blossoms are on a bush behind the tree.

This is an unlikely looking contraption. The white flower extending from the side looks out of place:

I had the usual problems on the trip down to Brisbane where Val picked me up. I broke my sunglasses. There were a few moments when I wasn’t sure my credit cards were working (YIKES! That is a heart-stopper.) As nothing fatal seemed lurking on the horizon, I began to relax a little. It seem that I’ve made it this far unscathed. I know it seems unreasonable to be so satisfied that I made this short part of my journey without mishap, but my confidence level hasn’t been all that great recently. Now I’ll give myself a very small pat on the back and think so far, so good.

Here is another strange one. It looks to me as if it is related to the one above:

On Monday we will be going to Teewah on the Sunshine Coast. I’ve never been there before. Friend Ali Raynor says that there are beach houses there. I’m looking forward to seeing the Australian coast again. The beaches seem to go on forever. The water will probably be much too cold for me. That’s okay. I spend enough time already submerged in brine. I’m partially pickled.

Another stunning something-or-other:

It seems to me that Australia has even stranger plant life than Papua New Guinea. Possibly that’s because I’m so used to seeing the same plants every day at home.

This small tree next to Val’s back door is covered with these beautiful flowers:I have a wireless USB dongle left over from my last trip to Australia. I decided to bring it along to see if I could plug it in to get on the web. I knew that it would not have any credit left on it, but I remember recharging it with my credit card. That was the source of my credit card fright. When I tried to recharge the prepaid plan the web page came back saying that my credit card was “not accepted”. Great! Here in Australia with no money. As it turned out, the company does not accept credit cards issued by US banks. It would be nice if they told travelers that before scaring them out of their wits. They said that I could use my card at their office in Brisbane, which is only a four hour round trip from Gympie. Very helpful, eh? We ended up using Val’s credit card.

I’ll finish up with this outlandish thing. I believe it is a bromeliad of some kind:

I looked in Google Images to see if I could find anything like it – no luck. It appears to have grass growing in the middle at first sight, but closer inspection reveals that it is some kind of spiky stuff. Val says that small flowers grow from it.

So, I am settling in for some relaxation and distraction. I’m going to use the time for attitude adjustment. I can use a lot of that.

Thanks to all who wished me bon voyage.

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As Ready As I’ll Get

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 8th, 2011 by MadDog
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Tomorrow morning at 07:20 I’ll board a flight for one of the most important journeys of my life. That is, I’ll board the flight if Air Niugini is feeling like letting me do so. One never plans  a flight on Air Niugini. It is more like a gamble. You bet that the aeroplane will be there and it will leave reasonably close to the time you need to leave for your connection and nothing else mysterious will happen to prevent your arrival. It’s wise to have a backup plan or, more accurately, a backup hope. Anyway, I’ll be there at 06:00 to see if I’ll be arriving in Brisbane tomorrow afternoon or not.

In the meantime, while you are waiting anxiously for my next report, I’ll soothe you with some random images from recent forays into the heart of Paradise. Here is what I usually refer to as Purple Snow. It is, of course, not snow at all but the shed flowers of a lau lau  or Malay Apple tree:

Friend Anne-Marie told me at first that the genus is Eugenia.  Then she started Googling and came up with the genus name Sygygium,  which, by the way, I find impossible to pronounce.  For most plants, she pulls the fancy names out of some deep recess in her fertile mind. If she is unsure, she will not let it go until she has exhausted Google. Apparently, Sygygium  is the favoured name now. Taxonomist are an unruly lot. They are forever changing their minds and arguing, presumably in Latin. You can see more Purple Snow here.

This is some kind of bug. It’s pretty, but you have to watch out for these. Some of them stink so bad they will make your head spin. I stopped sniffing them a long time ago. Believe me, you don’t want to know:

I think this is a non-smelly variety, but I did not check it.

Here are some little yellow flowers at the Tourist Centre. The sun was shining through a picket fence, making an interesting pattern of light across the frame.

Enough said. Let it speak for itself.

A rather boring hibiscus:

The images will get better when I begin my journey.

At least this one is not something you see every day. These are ferocious ants on a Heliconia  flower.

Even if the ants aren’t very interesting, the flower is. It’s one of the stranger ones. The common name is Lobster Claw. I don’t have to explain why, eh?

This is a little baby goat up at Nob Nob. It was so cute that I wanted to take it home. I doubt that my dog, Sheba, would get along with it.

Anyway, it would eat all of my flowers.

It’s about time to wrap this up. I probably won’t be posting for a few days. It will take time to get set up in Gympie. I had to pack four times. I packed everything three days ago and then decided that I needed a bit more stuff. I removed everything from a smaller black bag and put it into the big red bag you see here.

Then the red bag wasn’t full. So, I decided to fit everything into the black bag (not the one you see here – that’s my backpack). Well, it was a tight fit, so I jumped up and down on it until it seemed ok. Then I broke the zipper while trying to get it closed. Scratch that bag; it is now junk. Okay, now I had to put everything back into the red bag, which was still not full. I rummaged through my clothing to see what else I might need. I found some more warm clothes and stuffed them in. It came up to 19.48 kilograms, just short of my 20 kilo limit.

I guess that I’m as ready as I’m going to get. I have probably forgotten a dozen important things, but I can’t imagine that there are fatal flaws in my planning and execution. If all goes well I will be motoring with Val from Brisbane to her home in Gympie by this time tomorrow.

I’ve done everything I can. From now on it’s up to the mercy of God and Air Niugini. I know that I can count on God. I’m not so sure about Air Niugini.

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Sunrise – Starfish – Insects

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on March 4th, 2011 by MadDog
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I’m going a little crazy getting ready for my trip. Regine, a long-time friend from Austria, is back visiting again in Madang. She brought three friends with her. I’ve been entertaining them for the last few days. Along with my feeble attempts to think of everything I need to do to get ready to travel, I feel rather more busy than I care for.

It’s been months since I have been in the mood to get out before light and catch sunrises. A few days ago, I could no longer resist. The sky across the harbour seemed to be on fire:

The colour, coming through a narrow slot between the horizon and low-hanging clouds, covered nearly a quarter of the sky. Here you can see nearly the entire eastern quadrant ablaze:

That was worth getting up for.

I got a couple of interesting starfish shots on my last dive. This is a nice image of a Cushion Star (Culcita novaeguineae) :

These are quite common in the waters around Madang. They are about the size of a football.

Here is another very common sight. This is the leg (arm?? which is it?) of a starfish. It was probably bitten off by a fish. You can clearly see that a whole new starfish is growing from the severed end of the limb. Given time, it will look like any other starfish:

I found this moth wearing a fancy coat out on my veranda one morning:

And this is a rather large grasshopper which I spotted only a metre away:

This got me thinking about large grasshoppers. I feel strangely calmed when I let my mind wander. Google is a fantasy land. I wish I could get a job Googling all day. Ask me anything. I’m the answer man. So, you want the world’s largest grasshopper. I deliver:

Of course, I make no claims of accuracy for the information which I supply.

Still not had enough of grasshoppers? What about this one (the grasshopper is the one on the right):

If you recognise that one you are probably a mature adult who watched a great deal of  TV in your youth.

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