The Red Planet Diner – Sedona

Posted in On Tthe Road on July 17th, 2011 by MadDog
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Nobody, not even residents of Sedona, could deny that it is an eminently quirky community. In fact, that is its primary claim to fame. We have been exploring some of the local attractions. Grace has lived here for seventeen years, so she knows the lay of the land pretty well. One place which attracted my attention from the beginning is the Red Planet Diner on Route 89A, the main drag through Oak Creek Village.

It’s not all that impressive from the outside. It defies the sensibilities of the Sedona Color Police, who insist that desert tones are the only suitable shades for architecture. Sedona is the only place in the world where the golden arches of McDonalds are teal. Aside from the flashy neon sign in front, there is not much to attract the attention of passersby.

Oh, wait. There is one other little thing.  Just off the road in front of the parking lot is a captured flying saucer. As I have heard, the proper term is Unidentified Flying Object. This, however, does not seem to fit, as this object has been clearly identified. It is an Unreasonably Funny Object:

I won’t show you images of the food. I’ve had to many complaints about ugly food here at MPBM. I will, however, say that the menu is typically diner-style. There are plenty of choices and the meal we had was very tasty. They have a decent bar. The service is cheerful and amusing. All of the staff wear t-shirts bearing the greeting, “Welcome Earthlings.”:

It probably the only establishment on the planet featuring an alien restroom attendant:

Alas, there is no jukebox. The selection boxes at the tables have long been colonized by tiny aliens:

Other small aliens float ghostlike around the ceiling while their scout ship hovers silently:

A more robust alien serves as maître d’:

The usual “Please wait to be seated” placard is replace by a more amusing version.

I couldn’t resist posing Grace at the door. Really, someone should talk to these aliens about clothing:

Grace was visibly discomfited by the proximity of a naturalist alien.

I find myself in a place where being far out on the fringes of the bell curve is perfectly acceptable. The presence of many long-haired, freaky people is very comforting. It’s not unlike a warmer Hamilton, Ontario, except for the pervasive woo-woo factor. It will be interesting to see what happens to Sedona when the New Age becomes passé, as it surely will.

Nothing lasts forever.

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The Back Yard Birds

Posted in On Tthe Road on July 9th, 2011 by MadDog
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Whoa, it’s been a while since I posted anything. I’m getting lazy, I guess. I’m in Phoenix at the home of Grace’s son and his family. It is hotter than the hubs of Hades here today. Last week the temperature in the Phoenix area topped out at 118°F (48°C). If you’ve never experienced heat such as that, please let me inform you that if you do, you will wish you had not.

The only time I have ever been fricaseed by temperature as hot a that was on a motorcycle ride from Crouch, Idaho (who thought of that name?) to Eagle, near Boise. I was riding behind a friend on her big Honda Shadow. The expression “Billy blue blazes” kept running through my mind. My friend was still wearing her leathers. I was in a tank top and I was dying. It was not unlike riding into the mouth of a blast furnace. I remember looking up in the gullies on the nearby sides of the beautiful mountains and seeing snow. It occurred to me that it might be pleasant to crash into it. I distinctly remember seeing 114°F on a thermometer sign in front of a bank. She claims she saw one reading 118. I don’t dispute that. I was delirious, anyway.

It feels peculiar to be in a place which makes Madang seem frigid by comparison. It’s simply impossible to stay outside for long. We went today to look at new cars, a pleasure I have not enjoyed for decades. What caught my eye was a Nissan Juke, a cute little crossover between a hatchback and a SUV. It’s small and it gets very good mileage. It comes in a all-wheel-drive version which gives it good rough road capacity. It would be very cool to have one in Madang. Dream on, MadDog. I could stand to be out in that car lot for only about ten minutes before I began to think that I might possibly succumb to the heat. Keep in mind that I really wanted to fiddle with that car for a while. It was simply too hot.

I see that I have yet to get to the subject of today’s nonsense. Fortunately, at least in Sedona, nearly a mile high in the desert, it cools off dramatically at night. In fact, it sometimes gets downright cold. It would not be unusual for the daytime and nighttime temperatures to differ by more than 60°F (16°C).

Hmmm . . . I’m still digressing.

A few days ago, in the cool of the morning, I decided to drag out my ancient Olympus SP-590UZ ultra-zoom camera for a little bird watching in Grace’s back yard. There are many species of dove here in Arizona. Some of them are very pretty. This is a White Winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica):

This shot was taken at about twenty feet (6 meters) on full zoom. The Olympus has a “bird watcher’s” setting in the Scenes mode which sets the camera up perfectly for snapping our feathered friends. The only down side is the slight softness of focus at the extreme zoom. I hope that later generations of super-zoom cameras have fixed this. Really though, it’s too much to expect super sharp focus from long zoom lenses on camera which cost less than $500. These are equivalents of 35mm lenses of 400mm or more. Those lenses can cost thousands of dollars. You get what you pay for.

For fun to watch, you can’t beat the homely little House Finches (Carpodacus mexicanus):

They are very fussy and spend most of their time chasing each other away from the food. Grace is very generous with her flighty little neighbors. She feeds them every day. I am amazed by how much food the birds in her back yard consume each day. I would estimate at least a couple of pounds of wild bird seed. Fortunately, large twenty pound bags of this feed can be bought at Ace Hardware for as little as five dollars.

Here is a close-up of two of the little House Finches:

They are not very flashy. They look a bit like a common sparrow, but the big, sturdy finch beak, made for cracking seeds, is a give-away.

I had a bit of trouble identifying this Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides):

I finally found it on the Cornel Laborotory of Ornithology site. This is a very good place to go if you want to identify North American birds.

I have heard several people say that the Mountain Bluebird is a feisty critter. I think this image demonstrates that pugnacious nature:

I have no idea how I insulted this bird. I did not speak a word or make any rude gestures.

Sometimes bird photography does not go as planned:

I was too slow.

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The Village of Oak Creek

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 30th, 2011 by MadDog
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I’m surprised that I have posted only four times this month. The change of environment has affected me strongly. Grace is supposed to be “retired”, but it seems a very busy house to me. That makes me happy, because I’m finding ways to feel useful instead of being a passive couch surfer. Yesterday and today I struggled to keep my cool while applying reflective window film to several large panes of glass. I can’t think of too many do-it-yourself projects which are more potentially frustrating. The results are spectacular in terms of energy savings, but the task of putting the cantankerous stuff on the windows could test the patience of Job. I’m going to revive my furniture refinishing project tomorrow. It’s been stalled for a few days. After stripping the old finish from a table I discovered that several different colors of wood were patched together and covered by a dark finish. Now I have to figure out how to make it all match. Grrrr . . .

To calm me down we sometimes stroll through the neighborhood. Grace lives in The Village of Oak Creek. I don’t know what to call it. It seems to orbit lazily around some spectacular golf courses which are are regularly trampled by the rich and famous. The Ace Hardware store has a huge picture of Jackie Gleason strutting across a green. I’m going to have to find out what that’s all about. Here’s a Google Earth view of VOC (as you may have guessed, the Village of Oak Creek):

You can’t walk around VOC without being impressed. It’s simply impossible to ignore the scenery. We waked down to the dry wash at the end of Catclaw Lane, where Grace lives, and I turned around. I nearly fell over. This is not your ordinary neighborhood street:

The dry wash itself is not boring. The famous Red Rock is everywhere. Grace says that the water gets deep enough here to be a danger. There are many small gullies around the town which sport warning signs shouting, “Do not attempt to cross when flooded.” In fact, the local police will fine you if they catch you trying it. Several cars are wrecked every year when drivers try to cross and are caught up in raging currents:

I’d be the first to admit that I’m taken aback by the contrast between Madang, a tropical paradise (well, sort of), and the apparent barrenness of the Arizona landscape. Frankly, I feel I’m surrounded by desert. However, my curious nature kicks in daily and I find interesting things to photograph. Have you ever seen a tumbleweed plant? Well, now you have:

Admittedly, they are not much to look at. The main interest to me falls into the category of western lore. Roy Rogers was my childhood hero. I wanted to be a cowboy. I’m still trying. Anyway, I have intense memories of The Sons of the Pioneers. They were featured in many of Roy Rogers movies. You can look here for a YouTube clip of the group singing Tumbling Tumbleweeds. Here are some tumbleweeds which have fallen into a dry wash and are taking a little rest:

Being observant pays off when fauna and flora are scarce. This is one of the more amusing of VOC’s cacti:

I had no idea that prickly pears came in such unlikely shades.

I occasionally have to get down on my knees. While praying at the side of the road (okay, okay, I wasn’t praying) I spied these industrious ants milking their herd of aphids:

Catching the sweaty runner in the background was a bonus.

It is incredibly hot here. Being at 4700 feet certainly helps. It’s much hotter nearer sea level. The temperature forecast for the next week does not dip below 100°F (38°C). It is, as the saying goes, “a dry heat”. There is some truth to that. Although the wind feels as if it came from a blast furnace (and it is surprisingly windy here) the air is so dry that I don’t feel uncomfortable, even though the temperature is considerably higher than it is in Madang.

What I do notice is my huffing and puffing when I excercise. The altitude is high enough for me to notice a difference.

I need to get more exercise!

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Posted in On Tthe Road on June 23rd, 2011 by MadDog
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Today is Eunie’s birthday. She would have been sixty-seven. That is very young according to my way of thinking and today’s standards. The significance of this day was upon our minds as we went about our tasks in Grace’s office this morning. I was playing vintage Eagles songs on Eunie’s old Toshiba laptop computer as I answered emails. Grace was cleaning out a too-full closet, surrounded by memorabilia and nearly forgotten works of art. Yesterday and this morning we had talked of making this a day to bring back sweet memories of a woman we both loved. It was to be a time of celebration.

I wanted to make this a singular day in the short, choppy history of this, my online diary. As I sat there listening to the words of Peaceful Easy Feeling Grace came to me with a small packet of greeting cards. She told me that she had been saving them until she saw Eunie again. She had sent them to Madang for Eunie’s birthday last year, but they were, for reasons known only to God and the Papua New Guinea Royal Postal Service, returned to her noted as undeliverable. One card was marked with a sticky note, “For Eunie”. Another was marked “For Arny to give to Eunie”. I did not know that my day was about to be put on hold for a while.

Grace’s message to Eunie was, “When we take time to dream we discover the many windows to our soul.” The image on the card and the message were pure Grace:

What started as a playmate relationship at the age of four grew into a friendship which was not defeated even by death. On the day after Eunie died Grace wrote on Eunie’s Facebook wall nine messages. I saw them for the first time today. I am going to write them here, because it is fitting that a lifetime of friendship be acknowledged by witnesses:

I need to say this: It took me until just before she was married to realize she was “Beautiful”. But, her incredible blue eyes could command the world. I guess I took her for granted as kids. We laughed, cried, used our imaginations and explored the truths of childhood and adolescence.

We have been woven together in Divine Sequence – in and out of experiences – loss & success, ecstasy & tragedy. She was never surprised at my worst, but knew my capacity for excellence.

She is a “woman’s woman” – nurturing, observing, listening, shaping, kind and gentle – and strong, logical, intelligent, assertive and focused.

I have always admired her ability to set a course and empower those around her to move to the task ahead, Gentle and kind, but no nonsense, with genuine appreciation for help.

She sensed which things were good for this world and those things which are not. She had the courage to act accordingly in both behavior and speech.

I share, with many, the fact that my life was and is better for knowing Eunie. I do not believe our fabric is gone, there is still more weaving to do. Just her form.

But, I will soulfully miss that form. It is not easy NOT to hear that voice and laugh and direct council.

On this earth we have lived with “Seek yea the kingdom of God” and “Love one another” as absolutes. Not a bad way to live. Maybe the only joyful way.

Let all of us who appreciate and love Eunie join hands. We can encircle this earth and encase it with much needed love.

If there is such a thing as truly unconditional love, I believe that it existed between Grace and Eunie. Each of them experienced all of the good and bad which life offers. Each of them survived and was made stronger. Neither of them allowed their friendship to succumb to the handicap of separation. Through the years I heard of Grace so often that I sometimes felt that she was a next-door neighbor. When communication became slow Eunie would worry. “I have to call Grace. Something is wrong”, she would say. I was privileged to experience a similar depth of friendship with Grace for the better part of my life. Shortly after meeting Eunie and falling in love with her I met Grace and understood why Eunie always spoke of her with affection.

Yesterday it was hotter than the hubs of Hades in Sedona. “It’s a dry heat.”, they say. Well, it is dry and HOT. I can’t say that I’m bothered by it, having lived in Madang for so long. On most days I don’t really notice it. On the way back from Cottonwood we stopped at the Javelina Leap Vineyard so that I could sample some Arizona wines. I got this lovely shot of Grace under the unusually quirky signage:

The wine was rather ordinary. The company was exceptional.

In case you’re wondering what an Arizona vineyard might look like, here is a sample:

On the way back to Grace’s house we had to contend with the pesky Sedona landscape. It’s In Your Face all the time in Sedona:

In the evening the sky lit up. Grace said that she saw an “h” up there for “heaven”. I call it a stretch, but I give her an A for imagination:

I mentioned another card in the packet. It was the one which interrupted my day. On the card marked “For Arny to give to Eunie” are these words:

You are the rhythm
In my music
You are the drumbeat
Of my heart

I came unglued. I had the healthiest cry since Eunie died.

Happy birthday, Eunie. Thank you, Grace, for a lifetime of friendship.

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A Sentimental Journey

Posted in On Tthe Road, Tattoos on June 16th, 2011 by MadDog
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I think that somewhere between Buffalo, New York and Phoenix, Arizona I must have hit the bottom. The thing about the bottom is that only in retrospect can one tell if one has been there or not. It might not be recognized upon arrival. Asking one’s self, “Is this the bottom?” is of no use. One  never knows if it might be possible to slip lower still.

Indeed, I did not understand that I had hit the bottom and was on the way back up until I looked through the motley collage of images stored on my camera. I had forgotten about this one. If you have a few minutes, I’ll tell you the story.

When I left Canada, I had no rational excuses for complaining. I had worked some things out. My immediate future was assured, insofar as one’s future can ever be guaranteed. I had settled family obligations as well as a life-long black sheep absentee can ever do. I had visited, conversed with, made the right noises, put on the appropriate clothes and been effusively grateful for all of the kindnesses which seemed to spring from some bottomless well of good will. In short, I was ready for What Comes Next.

The problem was that I could not find reason for expectations. Hope is sometimes a cruel mistress. One becomes timid of the lashes meted out by life. To hope is to expose the stripped back once again to the vagaries of the universe. Where there is hope there is also the risk of pain and disappointment. It is feels safer to be seduced by feigned indifference and passivity, to allow oneself to be dragged along with the flow of happenstance. It is easier to sit there in a nameless airport lounge eating plastic food from a plastic bag and say that I don’t really care any more. If I just keep telling myself that, it will be true. To sit and wait, not knowing for what.

At some convenience store on the way to the airport, Hans and I stopped for a last chance for cheap sustenance. Frugality prevents me from purchasing anything non-essential at an airport. In line with my mood I decided to discover how inexpensively I could fill my growling belly with sufficient bulk to tide me over until the next watering hole. As I perused the offerings my eye was caught by a familiar label from my impoverished youth:

Yes, for $1.86 I could tank up on calories and pump enough sugar into my blood to keep me from getting dizzy. My plan was to eat it in the departure lounge. What I failed to consider was the Spanish Inquisition of our day, the universally dreaded TSA.

Nobody interfered with my right to consume degrading food in a public place until I came to the station where one’s most intimate body parts are displayed as if they were party favors on a giant x-ray screen. I dutifully removed my shoes, my $8.00 suit coat, my black fedora and unpacked my innocent Toshiba computer from its hidey-hole and placed them all in the plastic trays for their trip through the place of exposure.  My ravioli caught the attention of the protectors of our security.

You know the drill. The TSA man stepped in front of me and asked, rather too sternly, I think, “Is this your back pack?” I freely admitted so. He proceeded to tell me that my can of Chef Boyardee Ravioli was contraband and could not be allowed to accompany me to the departure lounge. I told him that I was planning to eat it before I boarded the plane, where it might be considered genuinely dangerous to something other than my digestive system. As he walked away with the potential weapon I dedcided to live very dangerously and spoke the hazardous words, “It’s sad when you’re forced to take away an old man’s breakfast.” He seemed to stumble a little. When he returned a minute or so later, he said, “You can keep it.”

At that point one of those crazy metaphors entered my head unannounced. I pictured a harmless forest animal cowering against a tree as a hunter pointed a gun at its head. When the trigger is pulled all that is heard is “CLICK”. Picture a cartoon of it. That’s what I saw in my head. Maybe that was the bottom. I don’t know. I said, “That’s very kind of you. Thank you.”

And then there was Sedona. Have you seen the beautiful performance of Peter Sellers playing out his best roll in the movie, Being There?  This kind of surreal unexpected turn is what I’m talking about. Things start getting replaced by other things willy-nilly. Fear gives way to confidence, puzzlement to certainty. Laughter pushes sadness aside and depression is savaged by a soaring spirit. Doom and gloom begone! In the movie simple-mindedness was suddenly seen as profound. But Chance could not be transformed until he was released from the prison of pity in which he lived. His transformation was one of appearances and interpretation. Mine is real.

I heard about this old trunk and Grace’s hope for its future when we first pulled into her garage where it has lived for some years in the quiet company of garden tools and old school records:

Grace’s plan for the old trunk was to give it a purpose in life. She pictured it in a place where it could shine and be useful as an humble table for cool drinks in the toasty Arizona afternoons. I saw its beauty and its message under layers of rust and dust. As Grace insisted, paint was not the answer. It would only hide the story of the trunk. I began to formulate a title for my first Sedona art. It would be called Just Returned from a Sentimental Journey.  At this point is is only half finished. My plan is to find two pairs of boots, one pair of men’s boots and one pair for a lady. I will fill them full of concrete and place bolts in the tops. I will then bolt the boots underneath the trunk, the woman’s boots facing to the right on the right end of the trunk and the man’s boots following on the left side walking in the same direction. This will make an amusing table for the patio. Sedona is a place where artistic inclinations can be allowed to run rampant. Nothing is too outrageous.

All around me is beauty. An otherwise mundane trip to the grocery store is made magical by God’s Own Art:

Even ant hills pretend to be something they are not:

Lowly desert grasses speak of hidden resources of strength in the hard red soil that gives them life:

And I have not yet scratched the surface of the wealth of hard-living flora which speckle the deceptively barren landscape:

I have but a while to appreciate the austere beauty of this desert nearly a mile high in the thin atmosphere. No wonder I feel breathless most of the time.

Three years ago I was here visiting Grace with Eunie. I remember the holiday very well. We were consolidating our lives and planning for a sweet future of growing old together. We saw the Grand Canyon. I got my final tattoo, one I had been planning for a year. Many things have changed in my life since then. The loss of Eunie devastated me. I am still surprised that I survived it. It was a very close call. Along the worrisome way my new tattoo faded, the victim of my impatience to get it done quickly. I lost much ink when my arm swelled from the trauma of a too-quick job. I had in mind to return to the same shop to get it repaired:

The delightfully decorated young lady is a skin artist at Avatar Tat2 in Cottonwood, Arizona. Mery Bear is very skilled and has a deft touch. I would recommend her to anyone wishing to improve on God’s handiwork. Mery did an excellent job of renewing the colours on my arm. It is now bright and cheery.

I am, in total, being renewed. In the process I am happy to find that the best of the past is coming along with me. Eunie is as fresh in my mind as if I had had breakfast with her this morning.

Is this real or am I going to wake up? Time will tell.

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Kinky Friedman, Hoagy Carmaechel and Me

Posted in Humor, On Tthe Road on June 8th, 2011 by MadDog
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Before I wade into today’s post I want to tell you the sad tale of a man who is gradually losing his mind. Today I went for a haircut. It’s something I seem to have to do three or four times a year. I don’t know why hair has to grow. I guess it’s so that we can change it once in a while. I’d be just as happy if I could get a good haircut and then turn the grow switch off until I’m in the mood for a change. In the meantime my hair tasks would be reduced to washing and a little judicious combing followed by some careful tosseling to get that just-right semi-spiky look which identifies me as a moderately elderly man who is trying desperately to relive his misspent youth with slightly more flair than he managed the first time through.

Going for the haircut is not the funny part. Showing up at the barber shop with no shoes on my feet is the funny part. I was so distracted by my anxiety concerning my first solo trip in Grace’s car that I clean forgot to strap on my spanking new Wal*Mart sandals. There are mitigating circumstances. I have spent most of the last three decades barefoot. I wear no shoes at home, in the yard, on the boat, at the office or in anyone’s house (rude!). I think about where I’m going and decide if I need shoes. So, my mind being otherwise occupied by the horrible thought of wrecking Grace’s car the very first time I’m trusted with it, it is not surprising that I walked past my shoes on the way to the garage without so much as a howdy-doo. Because I had an appointment for a haircut, I did not have time to go back and retrieve my shoes for a dignified entrance to the shop. I stood barefoot in the parking lot and dithered for a moment. Finally I decided to be a man about it and fess up. I went into the Barber shop and was greeted by name, “Hello Arny”, Dennis, the barber said. Grace, as Eunie always did, calls me Arny, a cutified version of my middle name, Arnold. I explained lamely why a grown man would possibly show up at a barber shop unshod. He chuckled and told me that I did not need to go home to get my shoes. I quickly changed the subject.

And now I’ll change the subject again.

The last week has been a revelation in more ways than one. The challenges I have faced since last September, reinforced by the complications of a new and poorly understood life and hurdles I needed to jump since I left Madang in March nearly overwhelmed my capacity to endure. Much of that is over now, one way or another. Issues have been resolved. Obligations have been discharged. Healing has begun in earnest.

The character of my grief has changed with time, as I prayed it would. Sweet memories, once blocked by fear of remembering and emotions which were unpredictable and uncontrollable, have begun to filter through the haze and restore my balance. How I have longed to remember. How I have longed to reminisce about a lifetime of love and fulfillment. I had little idea of what might facilitate this for me. As it turned out, the answers were simpler and more profound than I imagined. A peaceful, restful place where I am responsible only for being who I truly am. A place where I feel comfortable and settled with my own room, my own bathroom, for pity’s sake. An atmosphere that is conducive to quite thought and introspection or stimulating conversation, as the mood dictates. A haven separate from the too-familiar atmosphere of Madang. The most important thing, however, is a shared life experience of love and respect for Eunie and deep admiration and respect for each other. I have known Grace for as long as I knew Eunie. They were closest friends since age four. This has been the key which has unlocked the comfort and pleasure of bringing all of the best of a half century with Eunie back into my consciousness. She is now closer to me than she has been since she died.

I have been here only a little over a week, but I have laughed more than I have in the last nine months. Sharing sweet memories, exploring mutual interests, squeezing the fun from life, all these things have lifted my spirit and evaporated my fears. I have not experienced a single day of depression since I arrived. This alone is a tremendous relief. A couple of days ago, after I painted the porch swing (more about that later) I came inside and sat on the floor watching Grace go through cabinets which had been accumulating items for some years. There were some fascinating things stashed away there. The one I enjoyed most was a Kinky Friedman talking doll.

If you’re not familiar with Kinky, join the club. I won’t bother to tell much about him. You can follow the links if you’re interested. He ran for Governor of Texas in 2006 and captured nearly thirteen percent of the popular vote. What is fascinating about Kinky is that he is so in-your-face politically incorrect. His campaign slogan was, “Why the hell not?” On the front of the box he asks (referring to the Texas governorship), “How hard can it be?”

Kinky wanted to be the first Jewish governor of Texas. One has to respect his chutzpah for this. Even at his most incorrect politicality his remarks reflect sober reflection on the issues. For example, “I’m not pro-life; I’m not pro-choice. I’m pro-football.” One might be forgiven for wondering if he’s avoiding the question. It’s easy not to take him seriously until you remember that thirteen percent of Texas voters took him very seriously, indeed. Of those who voted for him he says, “I don’t know how many supporters I have, but they all have guns.” Okay, that makes me laugh. He passes on his best wishes to all with, “May the god of your choice bless you.”

Anyway, getting to the point, I told grace that she might have something collectible there. I said that I’d Google it later to see if it was worth anything, but, in the meantime, we should get the batteries out of it so that it would not be ruined by leakage. Unfortunately, this involved partially disrobing Kinky, a task which turned out to be strangely disturbing. Grace suggested that we should record the moment:

This may be your only chance today to view an image of a thoroughly mature man sitting on the floor in a semi-lotus position while undressing a talking doll of a former gubernatorial candidate for the state of Texas. Savor the moment, kiddies.

Oh, by the way, this is what my hair looked like before my visit to the barber today:

Those are baby robins at Hans’ house in Hamilton, Ontario.

This is how they looked only two weeks later:

While we’re dealing with critters, I’ll show you this squirrel which sat on the grass at the Indiana University campus in Bloomington, Indiana and mocked me. I don’t know what it is between me and some animals. They often attempt to stare me down. They often succeed. I tried paying no attention to this squirrel, but his stony glare kept drawing my eyes back. I felt like saying, “You. Yeah, YOU! You lookin’ at me? Then I thought, no, that would be silly.

As if that’s not enough, this tree then came at me from the other side and began to taunt me:

So, I retreated to a less sarcastic place and had a little conversation with Hoagy Carmichael, the man who wrote the song with the longest title in the history of music, I’m a Cranky Old Yank in a Clanky Old Tank on the Streets of Yokohama with my Honolulu Mama Doin’ Those Beat-o, Beat-o Flat-On-My-Seat-o, Hirohito Blues:

Hoagy wasn’t in a talkative mood. I just sat and listened to him play for a while.

Finally, I’d like to show you a proud moment in my life. I call it The Day I Painted Grace’s Porch Swing. I’m a simple man with simple needs. It doesn’t take much to amuse me, as any regular reader will have noted. It took me most of the day to apply the stain to the swing. I made the nearly fatal mistake of not turning it over to stain the underside first. By the time I was half-way through with the visible part I began to wonder how I was going to turn the gooey thing over to get to the bottom. I solved the problem by crawling around on the ground for a couple of hours:

Hey, it kept me off the streets for a while. I was inordinately proud of myself for completing this simple task in a reasonable time and with appropriate attention to workmanship.

Next job – re-glue and refinish the coffee and end tables. Hey, this is fun!

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Goodbye Hamilton – Hello Sedona

Posted in Humor, On Tthe Road on June 3rd, 2011 by MadDog
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I believe that my wandering is over for a while. What a relief! I have been very blessed that every place I have gone I have had friends who opened their homes to me. I have had to spend only one night in a motel when Hans and I were traveling from Illinois to Hamilton in Ontario. The life of a moocher is not as glamorous as it might seem, but it is much more affordable.

I’ll first force you to listen to my lame excuse for being off the air for five days. As you might gather from the image below, Eunie’s old Toshiba notebook which has been my traveling office since the middle of March finally threw in the towel. When I was in Canada the screen began to jump. My first thought was “Oh-oh, there goes the budget!”. I prayed and laid hands on it, but to no avail. It got the the point at which I could still use it, but I had to let the screen warm up for an hour. When I got to Sedona and turned it on I got nothing but a blank gray screen. I dithered about what to do:

I can’t see much point in trying to replace the screen on a relatively cheap Toshiba which is probably six years old. It would probably cost more than half the price of a new one. The problem was how to get at all the data on it, which, of course, has not been backed up since I left Madang. Grace hauled my old carcass over to Cottonwood, Arizona today so that I could check out some prices. I decided to get an inexpensive LCD screen that I could hook up to the Toshiba so that I can continue to use it while I’m deciding what to buy. I’ll also be backing up, you can be sure. The Samsung monitor cost only US$146 including tax. It’s a very nice piece of gear and a vast improvement over the old Toshiba screen. Editing photos on it is a joy instead of a frustration. It looks as if I’ll be buying a new notebook computer before long.

I have a few images left over from Hamilton to show to you. Nothing to brag about. I went with my son, Hans, and a couple of friends of his up on top of the Niagara Escarpment to have a look around and take some pictures. Sheila has a new Canon G12 which caused me to drool. It seems to me to be a significant improvement over the G11. This line of cameras keeps getting better and better. Here is a shot from one of the many overlooks:

Hamilton is at the bottom a a huge valley. I’m on one side and you can see the other side over on the far right of the picture. The gray stuff that you see filling the valley in to the tops of the building is smog from the steel mills. It’s interesting that you can’t see any visible smoke coming out of the mills as you drive past. What does come out looks like steam, but it obviously has some other nasty stuff in it.

At nearby Tew’s Falls I got some snaps that are decent, even considering the failing light:

That’s the standard waterfall shot.

What I like is the Silky Water Technique, which is child’s play to get, if you have a steady hand and a solid object on which to brace your camera. All you have to do is set your camera so that the shutter speed is 1/8 of a second or slower.

It looks like this:

Having arrived in Sedona, I have a much changed menu of scenery from which to choose. For instance, if I stand in front of Grace’s house and look down her street to the left, I’m dazzled by a sheer cliff of the ridiculously red rocks which surround Sedona:

On the way into Sedona from the Village of Oak Creek where Grace lives, one has to contend with outlandish scenery such as this:

Couple this in-your-face visual stimulation with temperatures which keep you toasty warm, but not hot in the daytime and pleasantly cool in the evenings and you have specifications for a very nice place to live.

You get all this plus the general crazyness of the place. It’s the New Age Capital of Planet Earth. I’ve heard it referred to as Spaceship Sedona, sort of like a woo-woo Enterprise which consists entirely of one giant holo-deck. One the way to the hardware store to get some wood glue I asked Grace if we could stop to grab a shot of this flying saucer which was obviously in need of some roadside repairs:

Note the sign on the van in the background – “Alien Recovery Team”. I’d say that they arrived just in time.

Don’t laugh. They are serious.

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