Friday, October 20, 2017

Flashback Friday

While back in Northlandia we take road trips.  Some are fun, some are surprising, some are just relaxing.  They are always time well spent.  They are like pizzas, some are better than others but they are always worth it. 

While in Monmouth we wanted to see where an old friend lived.  It wasn't where we thought it was after a Google check.  I thought they lived on another street, bigger houses, nicer homes, but there it said: Maplewood.  We found it and cruised along and there was the house number and over to the side a wooden marker that had his name on it.  In one of my bolder moments, I told the Wombie I wanted to stop, and he was more reticent.  

"Are you sure?", he said.  
"Yeah, I'm sure.  I want to do it."  

He pulled in the driveway and I got out and knocked on the door.  I pause at this time in the essay to repeat one of my favorite sayings, one that helps this old introvert when deciding whether to do something or not.  Sometimes success is simply showing up.

In the back room I could see feet hoisted in a recliner.  As soon as I knocked the feet came down and thus began an hour of a most incredible visit. 

When the Wombie and I were about 6 or 7 we were at the Seaton baseball diamond watching the big kids get ready to play.  Ballgames were a big deal back then in our little town and on game days we'd be up there checking out the players and see them play catch before playing.  We were just standing around when an errant throw hit the Wombie in the face.  I still remember the ride to some guy in Monmouth who was going to work on his bloody mouth.  It seemed like it took forever - my bro in the back seat with Marj comforting him.  I was in the front with Herb.  It was horrible.  

You see, the old friend was our retired dentist and he wasn't just any guy we found in the Yellow Pages.  Dr. Philip Sexton was the guy who rescued one of our family members one summer night many, many, years ago.

The good doctor was the only guy around - Monmouth or Galesburg - who would come to the office for an emergency on a Saturday night.   He had just graduated from dental school, had a small practice and, no doubt, happy to have the business.  The Wombie might not have been his first patient, but very near.

And thus, a long term relationship began between him and my family that lasted to his retirement about 8 years ago.  Now 84, he walked to the front door and as he opened the door I began to say, "You probably don't remember me, but..." and he immediately said, "Mike!"  

His wife came out, the Wombie's came up from the car and we stood on his front porch talking old times and then were ushered inside for another 45 minutes.  We talked of my parents, his family and his command of memory and particular dates was amazing.  

Christmas cards were exchanged between his office and our family for years.  He remembered she made her own.  He performed my first tooth extraction.  At one point with the Wombie, he sat back on that little dentist stool and said, "Well, Mark, we've done about everything we can do to your teeth."  Everyone in the family went to him and as we married and had kids, they, too, became patients.

We talked about many things.  We talked of my parents and he talked of his family and their annual get-togethers in Wisconsin.  We talked of office visits and his retirement activities.  We talked of his personal phone calls to a select number of customers to say goodbye when he retired (we were on that list).  And as the time passed it was then time to go.  Once back on the front porch it was painfully obvious he didn't want to let go.  But once the goodbyes and handshakes were given we piled back in the car, amazed by the time well spent with an old link from the past.  

When I think about the people who populate my life I tend to see how they fit into my particular life and why I love them.  There's the buddy who is my opposite:  imminently and endlessly thoughtful,  gift of gab, funny, fellow bike rider, epitome of "friend", smart in ways I'm not.  The other buddy who is wicked intellectual one moment,  yet can reach low depths of depraved humor the next (I love that), always available for help, always at my side whether in Northlandia or the South, and again, true friend.  And yet another who would do anything for me. not out of duty but because there wouldn't be any thought not to, who is a calm summer breeze to my soul.  And then there's the Wombie who is every bit like those two comets who dance around each other as they fly the galaxy.  I'm a lucky guy. 

And our family was lucky to have someone who came to our rescue many years ago on a warm summer Saturday night.  He was a part of our family and my family's health.  Dr. Sexton is, without reservation, the nicest, most gentle person I have ever met.  Yeah, I'm a lucky guy.    

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Single Picture #9 and #7

Our final installment of wordless pictures I took during my first summer tour in Northlandia this year.  

This was taken in the early morning hours southeast of Emerald City.

This picture was taken north of town on the way to the North Lagoon.

(Guess it wasn't wordless after all.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The River - II

Yes, yet more river pics.  

This s looking northward.  The light to the right is Muscatine.  The whitish light to the left of Muscatine is a barge light.  This will be more evident in one of the following pictures.  

I turned the camera toward Keithsburg.  Usually nothing is going on.  Sometimes things are hopping like that night I had an encounter with a cop and something crawled out of the river bank.  You missed that post?  Its here somewhere.

This is looking southward toward Burlington.


I have moved my camera to New Boston.  

Still more pics from my early morning trips to K-Burg and New Boston.  They are a staple of my trips mostly because it is my chance to soak up the dark.  And why do we like the dark???


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tuesday Tidbits

"Some time ago I read a column on the schooling of blacks written by Walter Williams, the black economist at George Mason University, who grew up in the black housing projects of Philadelphia in the Thirties. I have read Williams for years. He is an absolutely reliable witness. He reports that all the kids could read, and that classrooms were orderly and teachers respected. Today, by all reports, in the urban black schools the kids can’t read and chaos reigns. Black kids have not gotten stupider since the Thirties. Something is wrong somewhere.
I read similar stories about chaotic, violent, illiterate Latino kids in American schools, these things being attributed to low intelligence. I live in Mexico, and see nothing even faintly resembling these stories. The statistics agree. (Mexican literacy, CIA FactBook: 95%. American literacy, US Department of Education: 86%) Something is wrong somewhere."

Fred Reed


When I was a child I would lie on my back and try to find clouds shaped like animals.  The grass would poke my neck and I could smell the grass whilst I took a respite from being a kid.  It seemed like the sky was mine and there was a hidden hand using the billowy white as a my own puppet show.  The quiet peaceful search by young eyes for galloping horses and maybe a giraffe.  The changing shapes amid the azure sky.  And when the show was over I'd get back up on those rested legs and run once again. 

Now that I'm older I look for dicks.


And speaking of dicks...


The permanent move is complete:  Having escaped the rising costs of apartment living (?) the current Mrs. Blythe has now settled in at Sinkhole Estates on Molester Road in Clearwater.   I still consider myself a free agent.   Kitschland vs. Northlandia.  But until a time comes when there will be a permanency in Northlandia I will share this modest abode.

These were taken a few week ago.  All this is the previous owner's furnishings.  

Of particular interest is the previous owners left everything here.  Just walked away.  The furniture is kind of a rattan wicker looking, and nice.  I mean nice.  We looked it up in a furniture store inventory and its an expensive set - couch, two end tables, entertainment center, dining room set, high standing table with four chairs and glass table top.  And that doesn't include the 4 huge padded chairs.  I wonder why they just left it.  What happened was actually four moves in one - getting some stuff to Kenzie, some to Brendan, rest out of the place and then our stuff in.  Weird. huh?

But the best was the 55"  Samsung Smart TV with Ultra HD they left.  They also left bikes, and TV.s in other rooms, too.  Anyone want one?  Apparently the owners decided they wanted to travel and you don't travel with all this stuff.  Sunday I watched Netflix all afternoon on their account.  Yes, I know football was on and baseball too.  But I didn't know how to turn it on to regular TV channels.  Remember when they had a dial with numbers and you'd adjust the rabbit ears for better reception?


Does anyone make money writing poetry anymore?


After going grocery shopping last week I noticed I had a visitor attached to the cart.  I figured he was along just to soak up some air conditioned coolness.  When I put the cart back in the cart drop-off area, an employee gathered it up and back inside again.  One smart lizard.


Hey makers of Trojan condoms:  you do know, don't you, that once inside the gates, the Trojans escaped the horse?


In one of the more idiotic remarks I've ever overheard, this douche at Burger King noticed another guy in line with a Cub's cap.  This guy is loud, too loud and starts up a convo with this guy who looks like he just wants to be left alone.  Anyway, the loud ass says, regarding the Cub's playoff games, "I'd rather not be in it than lose in it."   Like I said, one of the more idiotic comments I've heard.  Always, always, always go as far as you can.  Will your heart be broken, likely.  That's all part of the deal.  


My guess is Puerto Rico will vote for independence once its infrastructure is rebuilt and can find financial allies.  If I were Russia or China I'd be all over that island lending assistance. 


All I can offer you Cubs fans is:



On Saturday, a couple hours before the move I turned the TV on for noise.  This is what I got.  And all things came to a screeching halt while I watched the last half hour of Shawshank Redemption.  Is it the greatest guys (and I don't like those guy and chick flick labels) movie of all time?  I'd offer Lawrence of Arabia as a close second, but yes, I think I would.  


I will be in Northlandia on November 3rd through the 13th.  It would be nice if maybe it was warm enough to get one more good ride in before winter.  Other plans include nighttime picture taking,  a cold beer at the North Henderson Community Center, if its open, and just soaking it all in.  My next trip after that is scheduled for February for 2 or 3 weeks.  


Alfred playing around.  Six gallons of fun, run and terror.


I'm rooting for the Cubs.  I don't like the Dodgers.  I'm also rooting for Houston.  I don't like the Yankees.  By the way, the Astros came into the National League in '62, same as the Mets.  Cubs - Astros?  Hmmm.  Gotta go National League, right?   

Monday, October 16, 2017

Head Out On The Highway, Looking For Adventure

It was time to savor another Jerry's pizza.  When it comes to Jerry's a straight line, like a damn crow, is usually how I navigate.  But Mr. and Mrs. like to draw it out, making me practically numb with anticipation and epicurean spasms.  

So finding sites on the back roads of southeast Iowa was the price of admission.  And I'm glad it was.  This route was so much fun I marked it down as a great cycle trip for anyone who'd like to tag along.  

The Bentonsport bridge in Van Buren county spans the Des Moines River.  Up until 1985 it was still used for vehicular traffic, but time doing what time does, it soon became a victim to it.  Now it is a pedestrian bridge at it is pretty neat to check out.  

This is looking south from the span.  

Northward view with a more modern bridge can be seen not too far away.

One of the interesting things is that they seem to have reinforced the walking area but left the side girders and roadway intact.  Thus we have fender bender stuff here and there and a look down you see the weathered wood that is decades old.

One can surmise that these bends and dents in the guardrails were lives saved.  Wouldn't that be scary as hell, a bit over served and swerving off the roadway.  Whew.

We seem to want to leave our mark wherever we are.  You can tell this is an Iowan who carved this message.  The old state motto that lasted a short time was "Iowa, A State of Minds."   Then they were told that was false advertising and they had to come up with something else.  They tried "Iowa, It's Eezy to Spell", "Iowa, Where You Lose Your Will to Live", "Iowa, Gateway to Illinois", but now I think they have settled on "Iowa, Fields of Opportunity."  

This scratcher must have come from Illinois - good sentence structure and everything spelled correctly.

Another shot of the old roadway on both sides of the walkway.  

Weathered remnant of old roadway.  

As we were heading out of town we saw this grand old Victorian .  It's better days appear over but she is still quite beautiful.  I will always have a  fondness for this architecture.  I loved my old one in G-Burg.  You don't own these old girls - you are mere caretaker.

On to Oakland Mills.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Flashback Friday

These two handsome people are posing together to celebrate their wedding.  This picture, actually a fairly early example of mass produced state-of-the-art for that time, is pretty interesting in its own right.  A black and white paper negative was transposed onto cardboard and then hand painted.  In an attempt to take off some of the dust also brought off the chalk-like color medium.  

These guys would have three handsome children.  They are my grandparents who lived in Seaton when we boys were growing up.

These two handsome people are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.  They had handsome children and their children's children were handsome.  And smart, too.

Orpha and Vern (VG) Blythe were the parents of three children, Granville, Gladys and Glen Blythe.  Glen was my father.  Gladys was the wife of my Uncle Ed.  Granville and his wife, Madge, had two kids, Jim and John.  Gladys and Ed had two kids, Janet and Eddie.  Herb and his wife Marj had three boys, Phil, Mike and Mark.  Orpha and VG lived in Seaton while our other grandparents, Marj's folks, lived in Quincy.     

Now that we have the formal introductions out of the way,  you may all have a seat.

The second photo was taken in 1961 on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary.  The Wombie and I are unsure where this was taken.  It doesn't look like their place but it would be understandable after all this time.  It was a time when such things were major events - before people married again - some many times.  Back when 50 years was achievable.  

These guys probably get a bit of a bum rap from us guys.  They seemed old when we were striplings and trips to see them were like a trip to the dentist.  A kid doesn't understand such things but it seemed like all we did was sit and stare at the TV while no one talked.  After a couple hours of unmerciful boredom, and thankfully allowed to go home, one of them would say "What's your hurry, stranger?"  I don't remember hugs, jokes, laughter or fun.  They did, however, teach me what not to do as a grandparent.  I hope Norah and Alfred will remember hugs, jokes, laughter and fun.  

It is easy to refer to folks as 'salt of the earth" when you have no other adjectives.  That phrase has really become a kind of anthem to people like Orpha and VG.  She, the prototypical Depression-era wife who kept a neat clean house and dutifully cooked the requisite meals at the requisite times.  I seldom saw her smile more than a Mona Lisa type grin - and certainly no belly laugh - like the one in the picture.  I don't recall insightful conversations, but then again, I may not have known what those were then. She was a real live sphinx who talked but said little.  

He, a cantankerous codger, who would pound a stuffed chair at the elevator in retirement railing against the "goddamn Democrats".  farmers would come in and push his buttons and the stuffing would fly from the two slits in the chair from his pounding.  

He'd pick us kids up and take us on car rides to some scrub acreage he had below the bluff.  He chewed Red Man and every so often he'd spit out the window.  Sometimes he forgot to roll down the window.  

On the occasion of the twins' 16th birthday he came, slowly, down the sidewalk before we were to leave for school.  He finally made it inside and had a seat at the dining room table and told us both, with the seriousness and gravity of something he had been holding in until this particular moment, to "find a good woman who can cook, and vote Republican."   After Sunday family meals when Gladys and Ed and their kids would join us, and occasionally Granville and Madge, he would walk to his recliner, unfasten his top pant's button and proceed to sleep.  Looking back, I recall thinking Uncle Ed looked as bored as we kids.  Fun times.

The best part of having to go down there was the chance to explore.  Our dad's room upstairs looked just it was when he left for college.  These weren't people who redecorated.  In the hallway there was a really cool air draw in the middle of the floor with a rather nice looking steel grate.  The best thing was you could hear and see things going on downstairs where all the adults were.  Pity nothing exciting was ever uttered.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What Is On My Nightstand

"Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrel shotgun, walked into the forest, out the gun to someone else's forehead, and pulled the trigger.

This is the story of how we got there."

So begins Bear Town by Fredrik Backman.  After reading A Gentleman In Moscow I kind of figured the next book would pale in comparison.  Bear Town, thus, was the sacrificial lamb to follow what was one of the best, if not the best book I'd read for shear entertainment in years.  Was I ever surprised when Bear Town held its own and provided a welcome two-in-a-row reading experience.  

Set in a non-specified Nordic village it is a tale of what happens to a town when its only focus is its high school hockey team.  A team that finally has a chance to win the national championship and the acclaim, glory and riches that come with it.  It's been a long time since Bear Town had anything to be proud of and they are on the precipice of fielding the best in the region.  If they win they may be able to persuade the powers-that-be to build a hockey academy in the dying village.  They may be able to get businesses and people to come in once again.  Bear Town may be viable again, if only it can win.  But something happens with the star player - the real juice behind the team - that throws an errant puck into the works and hopes for the future.    

Backman writes well and in a somewhat unorthodox fashion.  Instead of the usual multi-page chapter format, he may throw in a single paragraph here and there.  Sometimes several pages of single paragraphs with other peoples actions or thoughts to in a kind of real-time texture.  That not only keeps the action at breakneck speed but helps tie up loose threads on the spot rather than having to wait 40 pages away.

What you learn if you read this novel is the expectation others have on success.  You will also learn a bit about the obsessions we have on sports and its dynamic in our lives.  Also learned will be the age-old willingness to turn a blind eye to things we know that are right in front of us.  What I didn't learn is why hockey is so damn popular.  

If you read Gentleman In Moscow and not ready for the inevitable mediocrity then get Bear Town for a pretty decent ride on a couple novelists who know what they are doing.