Stupid Man Tricks and Crystals – The ROM

Posted in Humor, On Tthe Road on May 23rd, 2011 by MadDog
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On Friday my intention was to go to Toronto, no matter what the weather was doing. The weather cooperated somewhat. The sun even peeked out cautiously a few times, giving me the opportunity to walk about in my lumberjack flannel shirt. I did go to Toronto, but I did not get to do what I had planned. You see, planning is the key. That is precisely what I forgot to do.

What I wanted to do was to visit the MZTV Museum of Television at 55o East Queen Street. Forget about the address. It’s not important to you unless you plan to walk all the way to the museum from the bus station as I did. You have to pass through a very interesting neighborhood. When I say interesting you can surmise that I really mean scary. Don’t get me wrong. I fit in there quite nicely with my pony tail, earring and multiple tattoos. My choice of clothing also blended in with the attire of huge, rough-looking men hanging around in front of bars and loans-until-payday joints. The word “joint” fits into this picture also, if you get my drift. No need to purchase. Just pick up a roach from the sidewalk. Anyway, I did make it to the museum, but it did me no good.

This is where the planning comes in. You see, what I had failed to do was to ascertain whether or not the museum was actually going to be open when I arrived. The answer is NO, unless you have called ahead to make an appointment. I truly did not know how to react when I saw the sign saying “by Appointment ONLY!!!!!” No, there were no exclamation marks nor upper case. My mind added those. Having no cell phone with me I had no way to call for an appointment, as if such a thing could be arranged on the spot anyway. So I just stood there and stared at it for a while as my mind ran back over the previous twenty-four hours to try to figure out what other blunders I had made which were still lying in wait for me.

I soon found out.

My son, Hans, had mentioned the Royal Ontario Museum. I thought to myself, “Oh, I’ve never been there.” So, I decided to figure out where to find it and how to get there. It seems faintly ridiculous for a seriously mature man to admit that getting around in a big, unfamiliar city alone is a challenge. It is, nevertheless, true. So, I set about to meet the obstacles and overcome them one after the other.

The first of which was to learn how I could get onto one of those cute little streetcars with the wire over the top so that I could bypass the harmless, but disconcerting neighborhood I had just passed through. I did the obvious. I asked a kindly looking woman on the street how I could travel by trolley. She directed me to a corner variety store where I could purchase a tiny token to get me on the vehicle. The clerk there asked where I was going and suggested that I purchase two tokens. She also cautioned me to get a transfer so that I could use the subway. It seemed to be getting complicated, but I reckoned that I could manage it.

The trolley took me in minutes back to the spot I had been an hour ago. It was a while before I located the entrance to the subway. The sign was too small, I think. Four stops later I was here:

At this moment I realized my second blunder. I had been here before with Eunie. Maybe someday happy memories will flood over me when I revisit places which we once enjoyed. However, I now try to avoid those places, if possible. However, I was already there. I decided to tough it out.

As it turned out, the trip was not a bust. Three years ago I remember seeing a small section of the museum which displayed some amazing mineral specimens, including splendid crystals the likes of which I had never seen. I’m glad I forked over the CA$21 to get into the museum, because the new display – a hundred times larger – was a mind-blowing experience.

I give no credence to theories of “crystal power”. They seem nonsense to me. For me they are objects which dramatically display the myriad ways by which the laws of physics and chemistry can be expressed as wondrous works of beauty.

I tried Googling to get some idea of where the great mineral displays of the world are located. No luck. I can’t imagine that there are many which can beat this one. I took a lot of pictures. As the lighting was not bright enough for easy photography, I had to set my ISO at 400, which makes for noisy images in my Canon G11. Nevertheless, they are good enough to get an idea of the beauty of the specimens.

Here is a gallery of some of the better shots. You can start the gallery by clicking on any of the images:

I’m happy with the way the day turned out. It was a bittersweet mixture of emotions. I feel as if I salvaged something from it. Now most of life feels that way to me. I’m getting better at it.

I’m synthesizing happiness. It’s almost as good as the real thing.

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Hamilton – Too Much Water

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 21st, 2011 by MadDog
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A curious combination of laziness and furious activity has once again kept me off the air for a few days. The brief stay in Janesville, Wisconsin did not produce any interesting images. Now that I’m in Hamilton, Ontario I have either been freezing in my room or venturing outside occasionally when the weather permitted. Nothing happening, nothing to take pictures of, nothing to report. I’ve decided to escape from Canada a week early for my journey to Sedona, Arizona. When there I will probably complain of being too hot. Never mind . . .

A couple of days ago I did go out in the bleak countryside with my friend, Ron Barrons, to try to grab some waterfall shots. The images are miserable. The sky was a uniform bright grey. Maybe some photographers can make pretty pictures with that light, but I am not in that club. On top of that there was way too much water coming over the falls. While it may seem that is a good thing, it is not. Too much water does not make a nice picture of a waterfall.

Ron got this shot of me in the woods on the Bruce Trail with his Nikon:

I’m not as unhappy as I appear to be.

Here is my shot of Webster’s Falls. After working with it for much more time than I usually spend on an image I finally gave up in disgust. I can’t think of anything to do with the flat lighting which makes it any better. The only good thing I can say about it is that it does look pretty much the way my eyes saw it – listless, desultory:

This is Tiffany Falls. It is no better:

The Niagara Escarpment gives rise to the huge number of waterfalls in the area, including Niagara Falls. In this shot you can see a tiny sample of the kind of cliffs which are characteristic of the area.:

The area is relatively undisturbed. Canada always seems so clean to me. Canadians are very reluctant to make a mess. I saw absolutely no litter:

Always on the lookout for the visually stimulating, I found several of these hairy infant plants sprouting up from the rocky soil:

For some strange reason they are bright red and covered by fuzz when they are youngsters. Later on they turn green and lose their fur. You can see a more mature specimen in the upper left corner.

In this shot I used the aperture priority mode and set the opening at ƒ8 to get the maximum depth of field. The scene is in focus from a few inches to nearly infinity. This allows the red footbridge in the distance to be seen clearly:

Here is a macro shot of a millipede:

This is a Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum):

It is a very common plant in the area. In this shot you can see the blurry image of the waterfall in the background.

These images were taken a couple of days ago. Yesterday I trekked into Toronto for a day-trip. I had a bit of an adventure. I’ll be telling about it later. Today the sun is out for the first time since I came to North America.

Today I’m going to Niagara Falls. I hope the sun continues to shine.

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Post Number 1000 – I Zooify Myself

Posted in Humor, On Tthe Road on May 16th, 2011 by MadDog
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I didn’t get a chance to post this one while I was still in Indianapolis. So as not to be wasteful I’ll get in my WayBack Machine and send it out into the void now. It’s still my moldy observations, wacky thoughts and strange images. However, like Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, it has come un-stuck in time.

By the way, this is post number 1,000 for Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

~~~~~~~~~~~

In my American Adventure mere hours remain of this brief pause in Hoosier territory. I grew up in Indiana, downtown Indianapolis being my formative place. As I sit here, only a few minutes from my birthplace and the haunts of my childhood, I am transfixed by the wonders of circumstance which carried me on the kind of wild ride through life with which few are blessed.

Each pause in my adventure brings its own blessing. In Australia I benefited from sojourns to Gympie, Teewah and Toogoolawah. In these places I was cared for and entertained by people who love me not for what I do, but for who I am. In the USA my first refuge was Honolulu. There I enjoyed a stay with an old friend willing to share the nest. Also in Hawaii were long-time friends and co-workers who have, for over three decades, concerned themselves in many ways with my work. Now, here in the Midwest I have added family to the list of loved ones with whom I am renewing links.

Now I am possibly half-way through this journey. In many ways it is the most important in this season of my life. The shape of my future is being determined in a very compressed period of time as I stumble through the minefield.

That’s quite enough self-pity and introspection for the moment. Let me tell you about the bear attack.

Steve, my host in Brownsburg, and I were on our way to the Indianapolis Zoo via the Rocky Mountains. We took the scenic route. We paused for refreshment in some national park or other – I don’t remember which. As I scanned the horizon for likely camera fodder I saw this bear:

All was well until the bear noticed that I was taking its picture. This bear has a paparazzi issue. It became enraged and attacked me. I was forced to beat it senseless with my trusty Canon G11 camera. Ordinarily I take a picture of whatever creature I have knocked unconscious with my camera, but in this case Steve and I decided to beat a hasty retreat in case we might have been observed violating the right of the bear to consume annoying humans.

Of course all of the above balderdash is pure Walter Mitty daydreaming. There was a bear, but it was in a rather large cage at the zoo. It paced back and forth in a very desultory manner until I got tired of watching it. I felt its boredom. It did seem to look in my direction after a while and suddenly charged down the slope directly at me. As it approached and I felt an incipient flinch coming on it suddenly changed directions and dived into a hole in the fake rocks. Steve reckoned that it had heard its keeper opening the feeding door and was going for another kind of lunch. Along the way it was expending a little energy to give me a cheap thrill. You get your money’s worth when you go to the zoo.

This wart hog is not dead. At least I don’t think it was. I think it was sleeping, but I’m not sure. Can wart hogs hold their breath while sleeping? For how long? I tossed a couple of small pebbles at it, but it seemed not to notice:

Possibly it was waiting for popcorn, the most popular of foods which nobody is supposed to feed the animals, but everyone does.

I have several other shots of different angles of this rhino:

I’m using this one, because it’s really the most interesting. I don’t recall seeing a rhino’s posterior so clearly.

The front of the meerkat enclosure was glass. It was difficult to find a spot that was not smeared with child-residue, but I managed:

Ordinarily I would not give the time of day to a meerkat. I include them in the general classification of animals which I call “Way Too Cute”. This one, however, appeals to me. It’s a little snarly looking. That canine tooth sticking out seems to say, “I could give you such a bite, if I wanted to.”

I throw in this gratuitous orchid image only because they caught my eye in the White River Garden thingie which is next to the zoo:

I think it’s a hybrid. They had maybe a hundred different orchids in bloom in there. I can’t recall seeing that many in one place.

When we got back to Steve and Marta’s house I mowed Steve’s lawn. It was easy and made more slightly tolerable by a watered-down American “lite” beer. Pure swill:

That’s another tall tale. I most certainly did not mow Steve’s lawn or any other lawn since I was in Australia. The lawn mower gizmo was not even running as I sat for this shot. I just wanted to see myself as a typical American suburban home owner. Fantasy time . . .

This is more my speed. I haven’t relaxed this hard for some time:

It’s a shame that Steve was not quick enough to catch me falling out of the hammock.

I’ll wrap this up by telling you about my wild spending spree. I went to Goodwill Industries Store for Poor People to buy some clothes. I’m not really that poor, but I like to pretend that I am. Besides, if I’m cheap about some things it gives me more to blow on things that I genuinely want. I’m not much into fancy clothes, as any fool can see, but I have to put something on, especially in this climate:

 

I bought three perfectly good, if slightly too long pants and a nice pair of shorts for a little over nine dollars.

That’s what I call shopping!

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Disconnected in The Windy City

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 12th, 2011 by MadDog
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For a variety of reasons I’ve not written anything for a few days. That is not good for me, as it is so very easy to get out of the habit. I’ve been feeling that strange disconnect from reality which overwhelms me when I’ve been living out of my back-pack for too long, moving from place to place as necessity dictates. Here I am in Chicago, or nearly so, the grim finger of the Sears tower barely piercing the smoggy horizon. I just finished a pleasant conversation with a dear friend and adviser. As I ran out of words I excused myself by saying that I needed to sit down to write. Sensing my mood, she told me to “write something beautiful.”

Is that possible when darker thoughts prevail and the heart rests low and quiet, hardly venturing to whisper through the noise of confusion? I don’t know. We shall see.

You will note that I’ve visited the farmlands. I’ve seldom needed to imagine so much while searching for images. This part of the world can seem a visual wasteland. As I seek inspiration my eyes must listen very carefully for the tiny voices calling from unexpected places. My job is to try to make the mundane exceptional. I spot a corroding gas grill sitting beside a farm outbuilding. A few incongruous strands of straw hang limply from under the lid. When I see what is there I first laugh and then feel a little choke at the back of my throat as my mind frets over the absurdity:

Birds are not alone among the creatures which build nests in hazardous places. We are only aware of the hazards we can see and understand. We can see the future not at all.

Yet nature itself, which seems designed to kill us, provides that which we require, along with a little work on our part, to nurture us. Though this fallen world appears to favor weeds, the creator gave us wits enough to push them back a little so that we can squeeze out of the land what fills our bellies – most of us, that is:

Flood and drought, pestilence and disease, frost and storm all thwart our efforts, but somehow the farmer stays ahead. It amazes me how easily I forget those who feed me. It is good to get out on the land every few years to remind myself that those who are called to work the land bless us all by their efforts. The farmer leads a risky life, dealing constantly with forces beyond his control. He is an artist of the soil.

The soil itself can be beautiful, especially as it lends itself to be the canvas of the farmer. Here the corn-planting machine has tread, leaving its linear footprint on the land:

It awaits the first rain to fade it. The soil will warm and the days grow longer. The green shoots will rise cobra-like and grow astonishingly tall in a few brief weeks. Some say that the corn can be heard to grow. Maybe this is true. Does the farmer see his planted field as I do? Does he hear the same voice? Maybe he sees the same thorny path to an unknown horizon. Though we see it that way for entirely different reasons. He asks, “Will my crop be bountiful?” I ask, simply, “What lies ahead?”

John, husband of my niece, Pat, operates a grain storage facility. His job is to see that the farmers’ products are safely stored until it is time for them to be sold to those in need. This seems to require a lot of shifting of grain from one giant bin to another, for reasons which I do not completely understand. Here corn spills from one huge cylinder into a pit from whence it will be elevated to a dizzy height and spilled into another:

As I look at this image I cannot but note that all of the grains of corn, regardless of the wildness of their individually random paths, end up in the same place – the pit. The metaphor is inescapable. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. But what a ride! I admire the kernels which bounce crazily – the outliers – the mavericks. They too will end up in the pit, but they do not go easily nor without squeezing every last bit of value from the trip.

I do not like to believe that destiny rules us. In the broad sense we cannot escape the notion. Certain things will happen no matter how we wriggle to avoid them. Still, in between birth and death, we like to think that we have some choices. Exactly how much choice we have is debatable. I can never make up my mind about this. My beliefs require that I accept that my creator is involved in my life in substantial ways. Sometimes I am very happy about this and other times I am resentful, even angry. This seems to be the nature of the relationship, if you accept that there is one at all. So, in a sense, I do have a destiny:

As I saw the angled lines of the machinery intersecting at the apex under the high, hazy sun, the image shouted at me. At first I shuffled around to fix the orb directly above the point at which the seemingly random paths joined. And then I realised that this was not the message. I will not intersect perfectly with my destiny. This is the skill of saints, to yield willingly and unerringly to the direction of the Divine GPS. I tend to ramble about.

To get there, the intersection where all paths which lead to the destination finally meet, I must follow one of the prescribed paths. I might have chosen any of these paths and arrived safely. Wolves lurk in the parched bushland between the paths and other paths lead to unknown dangers as they depart from the course to the apex.

And what is it, exactly, which lies where all safe paths meet? Heaven? What is that? We don’t have a lot of information to work with, eh? I can never decide whether I’ll really like it or not. There seems not a lot to do there. Perhaps I’m too attached to this world, to this life. It’s all shiny and sleek. It has a lot of bits and pieces with many knobs to twist and buttons to push. There is fun to be had, things to do, people to meet, plans to be made . . .

Plans to be made . . .

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The Search for the Perfect Tenderloin

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 8th, 2011 by MadDog
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I have but two days left here in the heartland of America. Three weeks of acclimation to the Hoosier culture has had little effect on me, except to remind me that I normally dwell in a place that might be taken to be on different planet. After living in Papua New Guinea for thirty years, I inevitably feel out of place in the USA – as if I am a foreigner. Of course, it’s natural that I still experience that same feeling while at home in Madang, since I am  a foreigner there. My conclusion is that I don’t really fit anywhere now. I am, in a sense, a man without a country. I won’t complain about that. I chose the life and it has been a great ride. I will have to live with the feeling of being a Stranger in a Strange Land for the rest of my life, no matter where I am. There are worse things . . .

I got only one decent sunrise shot while here in Hoosierland. The weather has been mostly miserable, causing huge floods south of here. In this shot the prevailing cloud structures are aircraft contrails, something never seen in Madang:

My search for the perfect tenderloin is being rudely interrupted by my departure for Illinois on Tuesday. I’ll be there for a few nights and then off to Wisconsin for the last of my meetings with supporters. Then I’ll be heading for Canada for three weeks of genuine R&R. I am very glad that my son, Hans, is picking me up  in Brownsburg and shepherding me through my last adventures in the Midwest.

I did manage to find an excellent candidate at Green Street Station in Brownsburg. They had a choice of “beer battered” or “crispy”. The waitress suggested that the crispy was less oily. As is the Hoosier tradition, the tenderloin was fairly thick and twice the diameter of the bun. There is plenty of protein there, kiddies. The fries were so-so:

As with most food in this genre, it’s best consumed with a rich, full-bodied brew, chock full of vitamin B. It this case it was a Killian’s Red Ale. The sandwich tasted just as I expected. Despite my shaky sense of smell, I could tell that it fit the tradition. It was a good feed. I could consume only half of it, so I had another good lunch the next day, thanks to a microwave oven.

Another candidate for a good sandwich feed can be found at Squealers with locations in Indianapolis and Mooresville. Though the meat in this sandwich can be found in other parts of the world, I don’t think that there is any place else where it is called pulled pork. That sounds vaguely disgusting to me. There are may different ways of serving it. In this case it was “sauce on the side”, which is my preference:

The pork at Squealers is excellent, very tasty and tender. The baked beans were also very good, but might be too sweet for some. As with the tenderloin I washed it down with a Killian’s. (Hey, I’m on holiday.)

That pretty well covers my culinary adventures in The Crossroads of America. I probably won’t be reporting what I eat until I hit Canada. I’m sure to make an appearance at Rebel’s Rock in Hamilton. Eunie and I have always gone there for a great evening of live music while in Canada. You’ll just have to wait. I’ll have pictures such as these and these. Oh, goody – available light shots.

Speaking of birds . . . uh . . . okay, now  speaking of birds, I had a very nice couple of hours at the Eagle Creek Park Ornithology Center a few days ago with my friend and host, Steve Hassfurder. I have enjoyed a wonderful time here with Steve and his very pleasant wife, Marta. Steve and I have some significant life experience in common. It has been very helpful to me to talk to him about this. Some of it has been stressful for him, I know. I see it as a mark of friendship that he was willing to give me the benefit of his experience and convey to me some of the wisdom he gained along the way.

Hmmm . . . was I talking about birds? It seems so:

That’s a shot of one of the observation stations. Both stations are indoors, so winter viewing should be reasonably comfy. The other one looks out over a special conservation area of Eagle Creek Reservoir. It’s my understanding that Eagle Creek Park is the second largest city operated park in the world.

I got this shot of a Common (or Northern) Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  from the window in the image above. In Indiana it is usually called, simply, a Redbird:

This is a male. The female is rather dingy in comparison. I was told that if I sat in that room for a year I would very likely see over 270 species of bird life, but I would starve in the process. I had no idea that Indiana hosted such a huge number of species. Some of those, of course, would be migratory and not permanent residents. You know – like me! I am very migratory these days.

I can’t leave Hoosierland without showing you this very peculiar image. No, kiddies, this is not an up-and-coming executive treating his precious V-Dub to a little pre-wash tickle. This is the “greeter” (and cashier) at Mike’s Car Wash, a very popular vehicle grooming establishment in central Indiana. I’m serious, folks:

The basic wash is five bucks, a reasonable price these days, I suppose. The nice fellow will, of course, attempt to sell you all of the optional waxes, shiners, protections, glazes and tire glosses that trick out your ride and make you feel as if you have moved up a couple of income brackets. These last until the next rain. Be frugal. Your car is simply dirty. It needs no pampering. Pamper a human. It’s much more rewarding and the results last longer.

As a public service I will now brave the possibility of a take-down notice to expose one of those obnoxious As Seen On TV rip-offs which poison our minds with false dreams of ease and comfort which will enrich our lives and allow us to achieve the true happiness guaranteed by our beloved Constitution.*

UPDATE: My son, a student of political science among other things, pointed out to me in a comment that it is the Declaration of Independence and not the US Constitution which hints that we are free to knock ourselves out in the pursuit of happiness. My embarrassment falls short of acute. Like many other bits of information, I used to know that, but it has long been displaced by data which is more crucial to my survival. Thanks, Hans.

I have been disgusted on numerous occasions by the stupid, frivolous and apparently misleading TV commercial for an utterly ridiculous product called EasyFeet. If you have not already been offended by viewing this you can torture yourself here. (I’d be interested to know if anyone else is shocked by the much-too-old boy and girl in a bathtub together.)

I admit to being suckered by this product for about ten seconds. I spend very little time thinking of my feet or tending to them and I have absolutely no problem reaching them. However, the idea of simply slipping my tootsie into such a cute scrubbing device . . . hey, wait! My feet are insanely ticklish. Want to reduce me to spasms of raw panic? Just tickle my feet. I bet you can’t wait to try it, eh? No, this thing is not for me.

There are two web sites which purport to report about “As Seen on TV” items. One, As Seen On TV On Sale, seems to be legitimate. You can see its page about EasyFeet here. When I looked at it there were 303 reviews. I could find few which were complementary. The other “As Seen On TV” site seems to be purely promotional. There are also many sites that seem bogus to me and may be part of a web campaign to flood the Google result pages with glowing reviews and opportunities to purchase EasyFeet.

Why did I waste so much of your precious time with that? Sorry, I have no amusing excuses. “The dog ate it” is not going to work on this occasion.

I’ll try to do better next time.

* I should add a disclaimer here. The US Constitution does not, by any stretch of the imagination, guarantee happiness. What it does seem to imply is that we have an inalienable right to pursue happiness, which is an altogether different thing. Any fool can see that we are, with supreme effort, pursuing happiness with the vigor of a pack of bloodhounds. We are absolutely relentless in our pursuit of earthly bliss. The glitter of terrestrial Nirvana (not the band) glows like a beacon in the distance. Alas, few of us actually get our fingers through the brass ring.

I’ve stopped praying for happiness. I’ve switched to praying for wisdom. I reckon that some happiness will come packed inside.

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Dumb Things I Saw at WalMart

Posted in Humor, On Tthe Road on May 4th, 2011 by MadDog
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I am presently sitting in my hosts’ . . . uh, I don’t know that to call it . . . sitting room (?) watching a TV commercial for Farmer’s Mutual Insurance telling me that there are 15,000 clothes dryer fires every year caused mostly by people not cleaning out the lint filter and urging me to check my policy Real Soon Now to assure myself  that I am covered against such a tragedy. The commercial features a dude in a suit torching a gigantic lint ball with a flame thrower. It’s all very amusing, but scary, as it is intended to be. I cannot help thinking of how many people are, as I write this, scurrying out to the garage or laundry room or wherever to inspect that potentially dangerous bit of equipment.

Well, kiddies, I’m here to tell you that I am not of the timid ilk. My bravado is assisted by the fact that it has been decades since I owned and operated any such so-called convenience as a clothes dryer. Oh, yes, I do have a clothes dryer of sorts. It consists of a number of wires hanging from a carousel-like contraption out in my back yard. On sunny days my clothes dry in a snap. On gloomy days it takes a little longer.

Well. Now, that was interesting, wasn’t it?

I have been moaning about the weather. I’m tired of moaning and you’re tired of hearing me moan on and on about it. The sun came out today and do you know what? I’ll tell you what. It got freezing cold,  that’s what. Now I have something else to moan about. Here’s the freezing cold sun:

I forgot that the whole sun thing works backwards in Indiana at this time of year.

Before I get into the subject of today’s post I want to tell you about a very disturbing development in my life. I am becoming tragically absent-minded. A few mornings ago, about 09:00, I was getting my vitamin pills out of the big plastic bag of sundry medications and nutrient supplements which are keeping me upright and more or less mobile. As I was rummaging for C and Multi and B Complex and Magnesium and D3, I noticed that my little blister-pack of sleeping tablets was nearly exhausted. Well, that simply won’t do.  So, as I was thinking about how I might contrive a way to con a doctor into giving me a script for some Temazepam, my fingers took on a life of their own. Before I knew what was happening I found myself asking, “What did I just swallow?” It was at that point that I noticed the count of remaining pills had reduced by one.

I spent the rest of a very drowsy day wondering if I had just been introduced to yet another harbinger of the future.

Okay, on to one of my favourite activities, heaping scorn on Wal*Mart. I know that it is so very unfair of me to do so. It’s not only unfair, but hypocritical. I am, as are the vast majority of the poor and disadvantaged, forced by economic necessity to frequent the sterile and depressing aisles of the Big W when we would prefer to blow our meager disposable income at more trendy emporiums.

Yesterday, while I had an hour to kill as the Wal*Mart pharmacists slaved to produce a package of dream-time tabs for me, I decided to waltz about among the treasures of rampant consumerism to capture images of some of the dumber items I could find. I don’t present this as the definitive collection of The Dumb Stuff at Wal*Mart. I had nowhere near enough time. This is a mere sampler.

I’ll begin modestly enough by poking some fun at another of my favourite targets – those who lavish their pets unto death with every conceivable extravagance. I give you Beggin’ Chips:

Hey, aren’t dogs fat enough already? We need to give them calorie-laden treats to insure that their lives are free of unfulfilled longings? My dog, Sheba, eats no better than I do. I believe in shared suffering. What doesn’t kill me and my dog makes us stronger. And, while I’m at it, what’s with the missing g  on the end of begging?  I had nearly forgotten that Midwestern American English long ago economized the alphabet by making redundant the final g  from all of our precious verb forms employing it. Within days of returning to my indigenous roots I found myself talkin’ to people about workin’ in Madang and tellin’ them about divin’ and fishin’ from my boat and all about the books I’ve been readin’ and when they start askin’ me how I’m doin’ I’ve been sayin’ that I’m still livin’ but not enjoyin’ it very much.

I’m losing thirty years of progress developing my Man of Mystery accent. I’m most often asked if I’m a Canadian. Now I fear I’m suffering a relapse into my original Hoosier Twang. Alas, I’ll have to endure many snide remarks from my Australian friends back home who chastise me for not picking up Strine as my dialect of choice.

I’d best get on with my abuse of Wal*Mart. We have all experienced those distressing occasions in which an ordinary fan simply will not do. I distinctly remember those sultry summer afternoons in the trailer park when up and down the cul-de-sac could be heard the familiar complaint, “Hey, baby, this regular fan here just ain’t cuttin’ it. We oughta hop in the pickup and go git us one o’ them mistin’ fans.” Yeah, Clyde. A misting fan is just what you need and Wal*Mart’s got your number:

I can find plenty of sources of misting fans. It seems that many vendors wish to sell me one. However, I’m still a little puzzled as to exactly what a misting fan does. Presumably it will wet my face while blowing (or blowin’, as the case may be) air on it. Because of my intense frugality, I’m against the idea of tossing away sixty-nine bucks of my rapidly vanishing resources on a device that accomplishes nothing beyond the effect of a fan which I already possess combined with that of a wet towel.

I should probably mention that I’m writing this late in the evening and am slightly punchy from a long day of doing Very Important Stuff which I am now unable to remember. I went several places and did a number of things which were more or less crucial to my survival, but none of it registered in long-term memory. I’ll need to consult my notes. Hmmm . . . it seems I took no notes.

My final jab at our mom-and-pop-store destroying retail giant centers on the matter of absurdly large presentations of choices, namely forty-two flavours of vacuum cleaners:

Why, for pity’s sake, is it necessary or even sane to offer such a ridiculous and surreal number of vacuum cleaners from which to select? Personally, I would be struck dumb when shopping for a mundane household device if I were forced to evaluate so many possibilities. Thinking about it produces the same panicky feeling that I get when I’m purchasing bread at one of today’s colossal food mega-marts. At home I can get white bread, brown bread and bread with lots of unidentifiable seeds in it. The seedy bread also includes, at no extra charge, a range of little sticks and pebble-like objects which I reckon add to the fiber content. I buy the seedy bread. Here in America, The Consumers’ Paradise, I get giddy and nervous when confronted by 267 varieties of bread.

Okay, I am getting very sleepy now, so I’ll let Wal*Mart off the hook. Before I pass out, however, I’ll pass along, as a public service, a link to this partially literate article which I found on AboveTopSecret.com which proves, with absolute certainty, that Wal*Mart is deeply involved in Satanic activities.

I had every intention of entertaining you with several hilarious paragraphs about the Royal Coat of Arms and this depiction of same which I photographed on the corner of the old courthouse in Gympie, Queensland, Australia. Alas, I am now too tired and I must leave you to puzzle it out on your own:

The unicorn appears to be very angry.

Before I nod off, I’ll alert any astrology fans out there that an event of major significance is impending. Get up tomorrow morning and look to the east before the sun comes up. You will, if you have the eyes of an eagle, see six planets lined up as pretty as you please. Having consulted the foremost astrological experts today living I can assure you that you must immediately convert all of your assets to cash and arrange an electronic transfer of the funds to my Chase Bank account. Contact me for detailed instructions. Ignore this announcement at your peril.

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Warp Speed in Indy

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 2nd, 2011 by MadDog
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Today the news is dominated by the execution of Osama bin Laden by a team of US Navy Seals. I’m trying to think of a time in history when so many people celebrated a death. I’m sure that some are grieving and many others are angry. I suspect that they are outnumbered by those who rejoice. This seems to be a pretty sad comment on the man’s life. Few will note my passing, but I’d like to think that fewer still will celebrate it.

I am desperate this morning to devise some trickery to make this post interesting. I feel flat and listless. The weather here has been miserable. Sad, grey days with no hint of the warm, cheerful light of the sun. It’s depressing weather and it’s not helping my mood one bit. At least there is no snow. I’ve seen one sunny day since I’ve been here in Indiana.

I’ll toss out a few random bits from my so-called adventures of the last few days and see if anything inspires me to vocalise.

My cousin, Jack Stephenson, hauled me around a few days ago for some sightseeing. While we were at lunch he showed me some images he had stored on his phone. Understand that this is still a new thing to me, a phone which takes pictures and stores them. What will they think of next? Anyway, he had two very nice images of a red fox. He got them at Yellowstone National Park. I asked if I could show them. Here they are:

They are both nicely composed.

Thanks, Jack.

We had lunch at an ancient tavern in Indianapolis, The Workingman’s Friend:

I remember the place from my childhood and high-school years, but I’d never been inside.

Much is made of the quality of the food at TWF. I chose unwisely. I was expecting a huge, hand-breaded Hoosier-style tenderloin sandwich when I ordered, smacking my lips. What I got was this:

A soggy, manufactured bit of unidentifiable meat covered by some kind of crumbly substance. Don’t order the tenderloin.

If you’re looking for a down-home American working class cultural experience, stop by here:

Try the smashed burger. It looks better than the tenderloin.

We also went to the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. I’d been there before with Eunie, so I once again got that weird feeling and found myself turning my head to see where she had gone. I took a few snaps of esoterica. This is Harry Jackson’s, The Marshall, a coloured bronze of John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn:

I snapped many interesting items, but the collection of images is too rambling, even for MPBM. Here is one more which I found fascinating – a 2,000 year old duck decoy:

The Eiteljorg is a place which inspires cultural introspection. The history of indigenous Americans is not full of joy. Hopefully, the long sad era of human history which was characterised by conquest is over. There is hardly any place left to invade and dominate, one would hope. There will be, of course, petty thieves who will hop borders to pillage and loot, but these will be mere fly-specks on the pages of history. No, we’ve simply run out of profitable targets.

I have but a week left here in gloomy Indiana. Maybe the weather will clear. My son, Hans, will drive from Canada to retrieve me from Brownsburg, haul me to Illinois for a few days visiting with Eunie’s family and thence to Wisconsin for a meeting with a supporting church. Then it is off to Canada, Hamilton, Ontario, to be exact. I’ll be there for two weeks. I’ll then fly away to Sedona, Arizona for a while. All of my meetings and stressful obligations will be finished when I arrive in Canada. I plan to allow myself to unwind and rediscover some joy.

Some have asked when I’ll return to Madang. I can’t answer that exactly at this time, because my time here is doing me a lot of good and it’s limited only by the number of couches I can crash on. I’ll spend not a dollar on a hotel, so I’m looking for hospitality. I’ve been given leave to take as much time as I need. I know my work is waiting for me when I return and I am more grateful for that than I can express.

Healing comes month-by-month. I’m infinitely grateful.

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