Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tuesday Tidbits

Friend Definition
1.  A person whom one knows, likes and trusts.
2.  A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
3.  A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.

I have been blessed with a few great friends in my time.   I've talked of Ed, my Uncle by marriage but a friend by choice.  And Mike Johnson, who died over 20 years ago.  Sometimes they fade away and, sadly, sometimes they die.  You don't rank friends, really.  I know who my "besties" are: the ones you call when you need help.  Yeah, you guys who read this daily are my besties.  You know who you are.  

Taken by Tim a couple days before the accident.

I almost lost one recently.  Remember the NOLA trip that was scheduled for this month?  I had to bail due to budgetary constraints.  Too many expenses on the house while I was up there in August.  Tim, Jeff and I were originally going to breeze into New Orleans but we couldn't get it put together.  

Tim already had the time off so he changed his itinerary to include Tennessee, the Smokies and the Dragon.  If you don't know what the Dragon is, well, it's like what Mecca is to a Muslim, or the Ganges to the Hindu.  

The Dragon is about 11 miles of about 318 curves that is the #1 spot for a biker to go.  In Deal's Gap, it is a place to test your cycling abilities and, if successful, you join a select number of riders to slay it.  

But sometimes knights get hurt in their battles.  Running in Scottville, Tennessee on his return leg of the trip, he lost control of his bike when an old woman stopped in the street for some unknown reason.  Tennessee is a helmet state so Tim had one on, and had a leather jacket that also helped him in the crash, but 5 ribs were broken, and after 2 days in the hospital, he was heading home in a car.    

Old Blue, Tim's bike, was totaled.  They make new bikes everyday, but dammit, we bikers love our rides and I'm sure Tim's ribs don't hurt half as much as losing Blue.  We also consider ourselves masters of riding our machines.  Me?  I've never been in an accident; never dropped a bike while riding.    Never run into a critter and never slid in the rain.  Tim's pride is hurt.  The ribs will heal but the only way to heal the pride is to get back on and ride.  

Tim is a friend, which he has exhibited on several occasions, most recently over a situation we had with my house in Henderson.  I won't go into it here, but he and Carrie made some selfless sacrifices to right a wrong, not of their making.   Tim is also a gentleman.  He has a thirst for life, for knowledge, and will move mountains to preserve friendships.  If I could ever show even half the friendship he has shown toward me I would be satisfied.  I need my friends, I cherish them.  Old introverted guys like me need them all because we don't like having to go out and start over.  I'm way too old and way too shy to go out and work at something I'm not very good at to start with.  I'm in maintenance mode with my friends, not accumulation.  I'm damn glad I didn't lose one last week.

Monday, September 29, 2014


Weather.  It's around us all the time.*  Usually you don't give a damn about it until it affects you personally.   It is the stuff of small-talk, patter between strangers.  We have smartphone apps that show us fronts rolling in, and, for some, the first thing to check in the morning, and the last at night.

Poets write sonnets about weather.  Writers use it to create moods.  My grandfather Dick Westlake said, 

"Cold winds may blow, 
snow may fall, 
how well we know,
 God loves us all."   

But that's not all!  He also said often, "Cold today, hot tamale!"  Dick was the cool grandfather.  

I have received an inordinate amount of ridicule from some folks about my hatred for the endless blue skies of Florida.  I think it is boring down here, weather-wise.**  I'm a mid-westerner; we see bags forming in the West and wonder if we'll get enough to settle dust  or flood the basement. 

I like rainy days.  I like rainy days on weekends when you can stay inside and "veg".  Grab a book, binge on TV, finish a project in the garage, or just sit in your chair and watch the loveliness of an all-day soaker.  Yeah, I guess we Midwestern types have a special kinship with weather.  Not always friendly, but usually congenial our alliance with it is kind of like the side of the family you never see; aware of its existence, and fascinated, but not altogether sad when they leave.       

Florida weather, like so much of the state, is kind of abrupt to a Midwestern guy like me.  The traffic is never-ending.  City people are forgettable and more often than not rude.  There is a hardness that grows on city folks,  a "me" kind of hardness that tries to get that parking space close to the front door, along with three other drivers.   It's a hardness that grows over time that helps you wage battle with the street scammers,  the inflated prices, the race for a destination along with a hundred other thousand.  Its the crowded stores and jostled carts, the ever-locked doors and the constant sounds of rubber on roads, planes, and helicopters.  Florida is a plastic state but it delivers in one area, sunshine.  Immutable, constant, and a daily reminder to a Midwesterner, that something is missing in their lives.  

Rain, if there is any, usually comes in late afternoon and lasts about 5 to 15 mines, then the sun comes back out to bake what has been spritzed.  It's a form of basting.  Complain all you want, you Northlanders, but spend just a little time in the Sunshine State and you'll be wanting to see that other side of the family again.  

* While I was in Northlandia I was witness to a couple really good thunder boomers.  The videos on this page were taken from Pat's front door in her place in Knoxville.  We just never get anything like this down here.  While true lovers of Florida will protest and say they get rain and storms and hey, what about hurricanes, the truth is that is seldom does any of those things, not like the Midwest. 

** Of course, there are exceptions.  For the past week or so we have received a great deal of moisture, and on Saturday evening we even experienced some flooding here at Bedlam.  Lightening strikes and cars pulled over on 19; the entrance gate rendered inoperable due to lightening.   See below.

OK, so I might be a little biased.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Flashback Friday

Kids just starting out.  We seldom think of our parents in that stage of their loves.  Too much memory buildup to objectively see them as somewhere between older kids and younger adults.  

Home from his stint in the Navy Herb returned to Seaton where his  parents lived.  His father, the irascible Vern, or V.G., owned the grain elevator in town.  It would be the place of Herb's employment in a shot while and, in a purchase in the 60's would be his business.  

But before that, he taught school for a year or two at the Seaton school.  By virtue of his graduation from college when he returned from service, his diploma granted him status as someone with enough smarts to teach, or at least teach kids from Seaton.   

I'm not sure what prompted the pictures of Marj and Herb posed in front of the elevator.  Was it when they arrived?  Was it when Herb began working there for his Dad?  Was it merely a visit when they were seeing each other in college?  As there are no dates attached to these pictures, any guesses are mere speculation.  And who's dog is that?  Their first dog was a cocker spaniel named Sandy.  That is not Sandy.  His folks, my grandparents, never had any pets that I was aware of other than a green parrot.  And who took the picture? 

The house to the right in the pictures belonged to Louise Smith who always had nice gladiolas on the bank of her place just across from the elevator.  She was friendly and lived a long life.  The office and scales were just across the main road where Marj and Herb posed.   The elevator still exists although nature is taking it down board by board.  It is an eyesore and dangerous, and should probably be professionally torn down.  The office is still there and what I wouldn't give to go through it.  Louise's house is still on the corner as well.  Unfortunately, my parents are no longer around.  And neither is that mystery hound. 


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Moonshadow And the Perseids

AUGUST 12-13.  This was the night when Perseid's was at it's most active.  Camera - Check.  Tripod - Check.  Memory card - Check.  Full batteries - Check.  Nice black sky?  Well, it just so happened that on this night we also had a full moon.  This is a lot like being invited over to a pool party and discover there's no water in the pool.  The ability to photograph streaking meteors is determined by how dark your sky is, and luck, of course.  

Moon Light

The above raw picture was taken just below the moon on the evening of the highest Perseid's meteor shower.  You can see the moon beams from the upper right hand corner.    So much light from the moon obscured the sky for the meteor show that it was almost pointless to try to observe anything with the naked eye.   

With Moon Light

But that didn't mean there wasn't any activity for the eye of the camera.  In this picture you can see, barely, a shooting star on the right side maybe 2/3's of the way down.  

Without Moon Light

Do some lightening of the same picture and you clearly see the meteor.  By the way they travel at approximately 140,000 miles per hour.  They make their streak by bouncing,  entering, and usually burning up in earth's atmosphere.

With Moon Light

Let's try this again.  With moon's light you are unable to see the falling star.

Without Moon Light

But do a a little lightening clearly shows a falling star on the left side of the picture about halfway down.

With Moon Light

Without Moon Light 

Note:  the stars in the next couple of pictures look like rectangles.  This is because the pictures were taken at a 30 second timed exposure, and that's how far the stars move in the sky at that length of time.  

With Moon Light

Without Moon Light

 With Moon Light

Without Moon Light

They call professionals who take pictures of the night sky and stuff that happens up there astrophotographers.  Guys like me are just lucky amateurs.  The fun is not just in heading inside to see what you have captured, but in sitting in the lawn chair with the greatest view on earth.  It's like you are the only one awake, and in your own spacecraft floating through space.  Next time you are up at 3 AM, try walking outside and spend some time gazing up.  It is an amazingly active show.  Besides the stars and occasional planets you will see satellites, the international space station (ISS),  maybe a UFO*, planes, and if you are lucky, a shooting star.  

*On one of my treks outside in August in Northlandia, I saw a light high above, like a high-flying jet or maybe more like the ISS.  I stared at it awhile, and noticed it didn't have the usual blinking light of an airplane.  It's trajectory was pretty routine but then it veered to the left and I soon lost it.  

A plane would have had blinking lights, a satellite would likely not have changed course, likewise the ISS.  What was it?  Well, I don't believe in alien UFO's so it must have been something else, but danged if I know.   

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bell's Palsy

Shortly after my arrival to Northlandia I began to feel a numbness around my mouth, much like the sensation of novacane after a dentist's visit.  It became apparent that something was wrong and I noticed I'd become paralyzed on the left side of my face.  I was staying with Mark and Holly and apparently I hid it well, because they never knew what had happened.  I wasn't real worried because I felt fine, but around the time I'd begun to feel the loss I'd also run around next door taking pictures, close pictures, of a plane crop dusting.  Had I been sprayed?  Was I going to become a mutant bug?  A half-man, half weevil?   The mind is a terrible thing to scare.

So far all the symptoms pointed to a stroke:  paralysis, droopy features, eyelids not blinking in sync, and the inability to drink out of a can of pop, without making modifications in the process.  It was also somewhat humorous.  In gargling my mouthwash before bed, my inability to control my left resulted sometimes in it squirting out toward the mirror.  and then spitting it out became a different kind of chore as well. 

Days passed and I met the challenge of a paralyzed face and social gatherings pretty well.  If anyone noticed they didn't say anything. I finally confessed to the current Mrs. Blythe as well as to Pat and that began to get the ball rolling to get a medical diagnosis.  In fact a sister-in-law was dispatched to the Galva Car Show on Saturday the 9th to confirm the symptoms.  And then someone came up with Bell's Palsy, and, it seemed, the mystery was solved.    But first a call to the Nurse Hotline from my insurance company in hopes of finding some loophole that would allow me to avoid the ER/prompt Care/official doctor visit that I would prefer to skip.  I knew it, everyone else knew it, but unless we spent untold hundreds to get it confirmed, no one but me would be satisfied.  And so the medical industry took me by the hand in its gentle yet forceful way and provided an examination and backed by a CT scan to conclude what I was already sure of.  

The Bell's Palsy diagnosis was confirmed along with a sinus infection.  There is no cure for it other than time.  Medication that has been found to improve the condition is a steroid pak that has a week's worth of tablets.  A prescription for sinusitis and a comment by the doctor to start taking an aspirin a day, and I was out in the parking lot in about 2 hours, minus the hefty ER co-pay from my insurance company, bless their little hearts. 

Seems everyone knows someone who had Bell's Palsy.  And it is a fairly common ailment - some 20,000 people get it every year in the U.S.  My sister-in-law had it a few years ago.  So I'll take my meds, pay off my credit card in a few months, and eventually I won't be fun to watch talking or smiling.  Till then, though, have fun, stare and enjoy the show.  But remember, it's a limited engagement.        

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tuesday Tidbits

While back in Northlandia we received news of the passing of Wendell Dillavou.  Wendell was 94 years old and a resident of Aledo.  So why is old Wendell being featured on EIB today?  I have talked before about Uncle Ed, my time on his farm and his side jobs of baling hay and shelling corn for a few area farmers.  

Wendell was one of the farmers we worked with, along with Bub Greer and his sons Tobe, Jim and Butch, Jim Orth, and Howard Shike.  Wendell is the last of old guard.  Only ones left besides me are Bub's kids Tobe and Butch. Nice guy, I saw Wendell at Antique Days car show last year and again when I attended church with Mark and Holly this past year.   

Outside the funeral home for visitation and funeral was one of his antique John Deere tractors with an American flag flying proudly.   

This is a picture of the breakfast hour at Doug's Town & Country restaurant.  I suspect it is like many all across the country where farmers, businessmen and friends gather to discuss everything.  While in Northlandia I used to go over to McDonald's to scab their Wi-Fi to get the morning news and work on my fantasy teams and people gather over there, too.  It is a time-honored ritual of small town.  They may do it in big cities, too, but the small town version is quainter.  

Doug's is also home to the best Biscuits and Gravy anywhere.  I don't know what he does, but the gravy I'm sure is the usual packaged or canned variety and the biscuits are frozen, not homemade, but together that are the best. 

Watching the pre-game NFL shows reminded me of the trend DOA which seems prevalent today.  DOA? Dumbing of America.  These adult men, some past Social Security age, sit around and giggle and grab-ass like 14 year olds junior high boys ogling breast bumps.   I have nothing against fun or breast bumps - it is their inanity I have a problem with.  At one point they even mentioned, amid great hilarity, some kind of support group for Michael Strahan's haircut.  Their blather is embarrassing; once you get to the games you get decent analysis, but its a long slog getting there if you are glued to the tube.

For those who can't go too long without a Norah Update: 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pat's Hummingbird

Right outside her new sunroom, Pat has a hummingbird feeder.  I noticed this lady-bird spending a few seconds sipping then moving on.  I'm no ornithologist, but if I were I'd say she had a circuit that she plied.  Sure enough in about 15 minutes she returned, and repeated her activity. 

You may be asking how I know she is a female.  Easy enough, Pat told me she was.  Apparently the males are brighter and more colorful than the ladies.     

It was really pretty easy to get this guy.  I just put the camera on the tripod, edged it close to the sliding glass door in Pat's sunroom and just waited for her to make her circuit back to the feeder. 

I take no particular credit for these shots.   A really good photographer would have lowered the exposure time to the point where you would not have noticed the blurred wings.  But I am not a really good photographer so you get what you can and hope for improvement down the road. 

Hummingbirds are in that rare class of animal where everyone likes them, kind of like koalas and pandas. They are a unique and fun bird to watch and capture on film.  Pat is lucky to have a wonderful place to view and admire them.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Flashback Friday

Today's post concerns a tombstone found at Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah when we visited the Sutors last May.  This is posted on the same day Mr. Sutor has written about the same subject on his blog Bodine-DILLIGAF.  So, when done here wander over to his blog and read his.   Jeff is a far better writer than me, so I'm sure you will enjoy his entry immensely.  The link to his blog is listed on the right side of this page. 

Theodore Prendergast only lived seven years but he has made an impression on folks for generations.  Amongst the thousands (5,800 interments in the old section) of graves and stones at Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, most with ornate Victorian imagery,  sits a heartbreaking angel holding and pointing to a written stone which reads, "Papa's Sweetheart".  Underneath sits a carved rolled paper which says "Our Darling Boy."  And underneath it all the usual birth and death dates: February 25, 1992 - May 9, 1909. 

Unlike some of the famous and notable burials at Bonaventure, I wasn't able to find anything about Teddy and his life, family or unfortunate passing at a young age.   Perhaps that as it should be.  His life and time was linked with his parents and particularly, it would seem with his father.  His life was not linked to us, the strangers passing by who stop, stare, and then shuffle on to the next eye-catching stone edifice.  We will never know the story that played out when it came to making arrangements for the stone.  Why was Teddy special to Papa rather than Momma, or both?  Was Momma already gone?  If there were graves for his folks, I didn't see them.  How did Teddy die? 

The only thing readily evident to us is why Papa so loved him.  We all know how that happens, don't we.  The first smile, the first time he uttered "Papa", and the first time one of them grabbed for the other's hand.  The joking, the hugs, the puffed chest of a proud father exhibiting his boy in public.  Love isn't a cascade, it' a trickle of small happenings that grow on the heart until there is nothing else that heart can beat for.  It is an inexpressible longing when absent, and a security when they are together.

Teddy probably wasn't anything other than any other kid.  Thinking only of today, that's what he ended up with.  Very little tomorrows, just today.  And for those few days, he seemed to have spent them winning his father's heart, so much that Papa had it carved in stone for posterity, "Papa's Sweetheart."

I think Teddy serves as a kind of beacon, an  unknown son, if you will, for the bond between Spring and Offspring and the totally monumental shift in their lives when they lose each other.  Teddy and his parents' anguish has been silent and assuaged for over a hundred years, but that stone, that plea from Papa that this boy was special to him continues to point to some universal truths.

  • Love never dies.  The generals and idiots who would kill us, separate us and end our time together may win the day, but people's love for each other lasts for eternity.   
  • Love has a price.  When a child is born a parent doubles their happiness as well as their sorrow .If you are lucky enough to have more happiness than sorrow, then you are rich.
  • Love is the only real commodity worth hoarding.  Everything else is just glittery bauble.  
Teddy is my child and yours.  Papa is every father who felt the pangs of letting go.  The separation and the indestructible bond.  This place, this stone,  this grave marks for us all that we are and all that we have.  It's a memorial to ourselves and our ultimate fate.  
Teddy and Papa only had seven years, but you have a lifetime; tell your children and loved ones how you feel.  Don't be embarrassed, its OK, real men express their feelings freely and without reservation.  That lonely stone that sits atop Theodore Prendergast, age 7, is as timely today as it was when it was carved 105 years ago.  It doesn't whisper among the moss and stately oaks in this city of the dead, it shouts.  It screams to us all.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Second Barge

Remember the post of September 3rd?  It was a barge coming up the river and ended up being a twofer.  Right behind it was another barge.  I stuck around and took some more pictures before heading back to Aledo and to bed.     

This is the Joseph Patrick Eckstein, a towboat in the Marquette Transportation Company based out of Paducah.  The JP Eckstein was built in 1978 and is 140 feet long.  

Peeking into the wheelhouse we see the Captain or pilot conversing with another crew member.  To the captain's/pilot's immediate left is a computer aiding with the mapping and navigation.  If I were a younger fellow, I'd apply and do the river thing which is working 28 days with 28 days off.    

I knew a guy from Seaton who worked on the river barges.  You know?  The more I think about it, the more it sounds like a great job.  I think I will apply.  I'll let you know what I find out.