Friday, January 30, 2015

Flashback Friday - My Cars Part 1

Mark and being wombies and all did most things pretty much together throughout the early years.  We went to the doctor together, shopping together, and even dressed alike until high school.  With high school we started to separate - we pretty much had our own friends, had our own activities and so forth.  That is why Herb was so wrong in the Nova timesharing experiment.  He procured a really really nice 1968 Nova for us.  The thought was that we would share it as wheels and from his point of view, it was workable.  We'd ride with each other to school (10 miles to Aledo), functions, and be with each other on weekends.  The buddy system had worked up to now, so what would be so tough about sharing wheels?  

I don't know if it exists today, but back in those younger years one's car was a ticket to freedom.  And while we were thrilled and thankful to have this fine set of wheels, the sharing thing just didn't work out.  Like a boy must have a dog, so too, must a boy have his own set of wheels.  Besides, the cumbersome arrangement of dropping off, picking up each other became too insurmountable.  

As a result of this arrangement, I was given the option of driving my grandfather's 1963 Chevy Impala sedan.  Cigar-stench, tobacco stained windows, it was a true "granny" car but it was, for all intents and purpose, my wheels.  

But this isn't about the old brown Chevy that I adopted occasionally, it is about Mark and I's first car, the Nova.  

There were few prettier cars in the school lot.  Sure, the farmer's kids had all the new wheels and muscle cars, but for sheer beauty there were few that could match the Nova.  It was so classy that Chevrolet didn't even mess with the basic styling for years .   

I remember it being real tight and solid, too.  Just like ourr boxer Magic's back legs, taught with muscle twitches.  It was a great car:  beauty mixed with great build quality.  It could run, too.  Mark came up with an idea to spruce it up a bit, too.  He had found two "SS" decals and put them just below the Nova chrome badge on the tail.  You can see it in this photo.  It wasn't an SS, of course, as it had a basic V-8 307.  But it didn't have the standard six-banger, either. But it could move and by no means was it a dog.  One time I skipped school because the Met's were in the World Series and as I was rounding Bertelson's corner I slid on new tarred rock and did a spin job that scared me a bit, but nothing was hurt, bruised or dented, but it could have been.    

It eventually, mostly through my stubbornness, became Mark's car because I rebelled (gee, I did that a lot in high school) against the notion of car sharing.  I decided to get my own car, my very own.  But that's another Flashback.      

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dolphins Herding and Jumping For Joy

If you didn't already know, the Vinoy Park is one of my favorite places to go.  Don't go as often now that I am in Bedlam,  but every chance I get I like to swing over and see what is going on.  It's a good place to catch dolphins and the day I was here was no exception.  

What's with that one fish?  Wow.   Fight or Flight I guess.  The dolphins are herding these fish (mullet?) into a bait ball close to the cement wall.  

Don't know if you can see very well but all those darker moving things are a fish herd, and the dolphins were rounding them up for lunch.  

I don't know if breaching applies to dolphins or not, but these guys were jumping out of the water for some reason.  Not sure why, but it was kind of nice to see.  

Now that's something you don't see very often in BFE.  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Paul Coventry-Brown

During my five years at Dick Blick I had the pleasure of being around art supplies and catalogs.  In fact, Blick puts out many fliers each year and one of my jobs as a Shipping Assistant was to Fed Ex boxes of catalogs and supplementals to retail stores and organizations around the country.  

In one of Blick's sales ads they featured artists who used Blick materials.    One of them really appealed to me, a certain Paul Coventry Brown, an Englishman living in France, who used Blick's hardboards as a painting surface.  Coventry-Brown is what is known as a hyper-realist style of painter; his works are photo real.  He uses ordinary items in his still lifes such as lemons, cups and the like.  If I could be any type of painter, I'd want to be a realist.  

I am on his mailing list so when he does a batch sometimes he lists them on Ebay.  Usually they are out of my price range, but recently I spotted one of his new ones that I almost could afford.  I put in a bid and fully expected to be out of the running quickly but the world must have been dozing and I was the winner.            

This was the write-up:   

Tangerines (oil on panel): 12 x 9 inches

The painting is unframed but I can have it framed if anyone is interested but I will need about 10 - 14 days extra

My name is Paul Coventry-Brown and I'm from Liverpool in the UK and I am a self taught artist.
I spent 17 years working in Japan before settling down in S. W. France 7 years ago to become a full time artist. I have always been more drawn to the old masters like Vermeer, Caravaggio and Velazquez as far as my painting style goes but I love art in all it's forms.

I have had some great opportunities with commissions from Winsor & Newton (UK), Blick Art Supplies (USA) and my work being bought by galleries in Las Vegas, Connecticut, Sacramento and Newcastle (UK).

Thank you for looking.

Huh?  Imagine an old Midwestern hick like me with a Coventry-Brown.  I'll find a nice place on the wall for it, and tell the kids not to throw it away when I'm gone.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits

1.  Architecture Outside the Box

There are a couple of blogs I follow which are photographic in nature and/or just interesting things.  I saw this old doorway which I thought was fantastic.  Of course you'd have to have a stone castle to install this particular door, but I really like the innovative thinking of the architect.  Talk about curb appeal.  

2.  Cruise Heading Home

In an upcoming post I will detail an early morning trip across the Skyway over to the Parrish area in a failed attempt to get a picture of Comet Lovejoy.  While going over the bridge I hurriedly snapped this poor picture of a cruise ship heading into Tampa.  I still have some money in an account on a failed attempt and I might just take a short trip on one of those floating petri dishes.     

3.  Something Wonderful In 2015 

Yes, the new Baby coming into the family is wonderful, but its not that.  The infant toward the tail end of this clip represents a new beginning.  By the way, 2010 is a great Sci-Fi movie.  If you haven't ever seen it, please give it a try.  It is a continuation of the vastly overrated 2001: A Space Odyssey.  I have it on DVD and is included in my If-I'm-Stranded-On-A-Desert Island entertainment bag.  And just about anything with underrated Roy Scheider in it is good.  

And sure, I am by sheer force of Will determining 2015 will be a great year.  Damnit!  Because I say so!

4.  Speaking of New Baby:

I am promoting the unfounded predictions that it will be a boy, and am offering suggestions on names:  Enoch, Ephraim, Ethan, or Michael.  Of course, true to form he will have red hair, so his nickname will be Orange Boy.   

5. The Secret  

The secret to Papa Thursday's babysitting service is to find an activity that wears that both out.  There is a series of racquetball courts close by that I lock all of the charges in and then toss a couple tennis balls around.  Perfect for wearing off that excess energy in both babe and hound. 

6.  Sure wish I was in New York the next couple of days with power, a fully stocked fridge, a big picture window, and no where to go. 

Monday, January 26, 2015


December 13-14 marked the annual Gemini meteor shower so there I was out looking for dark sky in a major metro area.  My first stop was an area right off Gandy Avenue in St. Petersburg that is known around here as the Redneck Riviera.  In the summer this is a place where people and families park right along the water's edge with their grills, picnic gear, dogs and inflatable rafts for the day.  

In the winter, I'm not so sure.  It was kind of creepy, but more on that later.  I thought this might be a good place to find darkness for some meteor shooting.  It is certainly dark over the Bay, and I thought there might be minimal light around here, but I was wrong.   There are street lights all along Gandy so that was that.  But, worse, was the light to the left (Tampa) and to the right (St. Petersburg).    

So I moved over to the Vinoy park, which is around 3 or 4 miles to the south on 4th Avenue.  The creepy part about the Redneck Riviera area was that there were cars interspersed here and there between the hillocks of bushes.  When I got out I could hear a couple guys talking.  And then as I was leaving a police cruiser was driving up and down the area like maybe it was a place where people go to do things best done in the privacy of home. 

There I experimented, again with my new Tokina.  I never got any shooting stars although I saw a few.  

I decided to play with the camera a bit. I sat down at one of the benches and shined my flashlight up into the palm tree.  This is called "light painting" and helps to illuminate pictures or provide a nice background if shooting the sky.  

No meteors tonight but there are several showers each year headed this way so I'll try to do better next time.  The December Geminid's are usually not very plentiful but there are some that are spectacular.  Wish I could have captured one for you.  I'll be out there trying again next time, but probably not at the Redneck Riviera spot.  Gee, I can't even use cold as an excuse.  

Friday, January 23, 2015

Flashback Friday

It is now the heart of winter up North.  It's been cold for awhile with yet much more yet to before it begins to abate and Spring comes filtering slowly in.  I present you with a picture from Summer many years ago.  Cold drink close by (and would someone please tell me what that is!) cigarette in hand and modern communications at the ready.    

This is your blogger in full summer hippiedom.  Matching my tank top with the wallpaper was no easy trick.  And shorts any shorter would have had to watch where I put the cigarette.   Long haired college kid - must have thought I was the smartest person in the room, and I would have been if I'd been alone with the dog - maybe.  

Looking at that picture I see how important that phone was in the daily lives of people.  It was the only form of instant communication short of a news alert on TV.  From this chair, Marj could talk to her neighborhood friends and catch up on the news of the hour.  The second most important thing is the dishwasher.  It was used extensively for a while, then it broke down, and then it became storage and a convenient table of sorts.  Actually I remember it not working more often than working.  I'm sitting in her seat and with her bad hips, the dishwasher/table became a convenient way to brace herself when getting up.  

The table was a neat, sleek looking thing: no legs, instead a center column.  Marj was always re-doing something, it seemed.  The flowered wallpaper screams Laugh-In and the bright colors were definitely 70's era.  The kitchen was the hub throughout the year with maybe the back porch a substitute during the summer months.  

The white handled item on the far left in the center of the table was, I think, a vinegar jar.  We had spinach a lot and I think that jar was in the center for a good portion of our lives.  Some things never changed and that white vinegar jar was one of them.  

I have no idea what was going on specifically on this day, but the tank top, shorts, cig and long hair place me firmly in a nice little bubble of no job, no worries, no money and no damn sense.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Playing Around Outside Bedlam

We've all seen the photographs of street scenes where the tail lights or headlight are a blur.  That's when the picture taker keeps the shutter open for a matter of seconds.  I was curious as to whether or not I could achieve that kind of picture and if it would be as dynamic as I have seen in books.  

The answer was yes, and no.  Yes in that it is an easy thing to do with a camera, but, sadly, no in the dynamic part.  

Sometime in December I escaped the Bedlam grounds and walked over to the Corridor of Chaos, Route 19 to see what I could achieve.  These pictures are the fruit of that adventure.     

Not awe inspiring, but I'm glad I did it, and perhaps if I can come up with a different setting or maybe with a sunset in the background It might be worth doing again.  

But I doubt it.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What It Feels Like To Have A Vasectomy - Part 2 Or How I Hated Losing My Balls But Fell In Love With Liquid Valium

After the pain wore off and I lost the sensation of feeling like I had a five gallon bucket of balls dragging me down, life resumed normalcy.  Back to work,  regaling others with my tale, and a very small scar to show off to anyone who was curious.  Funny,  no one was.  

I was told to provide a sample in about 3 months after the operation so we could confirm that I was shooting blanks.  Now, for the squeamish (or my daughter) this may prove to be too much information, so I'll hold up here till you guys go do something else for a moment while I get somewhat graphic.   OK, is everyone gone  who needs to be gone?  The "providing a sample" means jerking off in a small plastic container, placing said container under your armpit to keep it nice and warm, then hopping in a car and taking to Cottage Hospital lab for analysis.  Wait too long and the sample will die, I guess.  So a rush job is essential. After the analysis, the doctor would inform me that we were good to go.  

I decided that I only wanted to do this once, so I grabbed my plastic container and faithful mutt MINS and I went out to the garage.  This would allow for a quick getaway and it would also allow MINS to be penned safely while I left to deliver my prize.  Well, guys, I've never jerked off in a garage with my dog panting beside me.  I don't exactly know what you are supposed to think about in order to mine the ore, so to speak.  But, luckily, nature has a way of taking care of things and few pets for MINS and a few strokes for me and I was running off to Cottage with a plastic container in my pit.  Embarrassing?  Well, Hell yes, I'd just jerked off with my dog watching.  And now I'm going to hand something to a lab tech that, well, geez, shouldn't be handed to anyone, let alone a complete stranger.  Geeez.

With that little bit of unsightly business out of the way, and please don't make me do it again,  the only thing left was to wait for the phone call and the good news that I was never going to be featured in any future paternity suits.   That call a few days later.  In what was a kind of surprising thing, was that it was Dr. Currie himself on the phone not an office person, who I would have thought would do such a thing.  No, I had the good doctor on the phone and as what he was saying dawned on me a cold chill arose and swept over me like a quick fog.  The results came in, he said, and they were positive.  What did that mean, I asked.  He said they were positive for live sperm.  What did that mean, I asked .  He said I was still able to have kids and that somehow, some way, the operation had failed.  He said that it sometimes happens, that the tubes found each other somehow and fused back together,  and that I would not be charged for the procedure.  He recommended I see a urologist out at St. Mary's hospital, a Dr. Thomas Patterson.  Oh my Lord.  I had to do it again! 

Two doctors couldn't spay me, which in the locker room might garner me a nice audience,  but overall I would have preferred to have a nice clean, common, successful procedure and moved on.  So, I had to make an appointment with the next man to feel me up.  Which I did.  And he did, too.  He even commented of my scrotal thickness which somehow seemed like a compliment so I said "Thanks", like a doof.  Dr. Patterson seemed to be a little rougher with it, too.  Hey Tom, its not a stress ball.  Take it easy.   

The second big day arrived and I told them in the office I was quite nervous, reluctant to do it again and wondered if they had something to relax me.  They were very nice and quite sympathetic and thought I'd be just fine.  Once again into the chute, exposed, with a lady fiddling with the jewels and this time I had an IV.  Wow, now this is different.

The IV was liquid valium.  I need to say at this point that I have done a little weed in my time, mostly in college.  It's pretty good stuff and as a relaxant it pretty much excels - except for liquid valium.  LV (when you love something that much you can use its initials) is the greatest stuff I have ever had.  I'd buy it in fifty gallon barrels if I could.  They left me alone after the prep with my IV dripping liquid heaven into me.  A little bit of LV and I was practically singing Verdi's Messa da Requiem.  Not just the solo, but all four accompanying parts.  I have been searching my brain for what I said to the assistant but it was something like, "Bad day for both of us, huh?"  Good thing she had a sense of humor.  Otherwise she could have done the job herself while she did a little manscaping.  My feet were placed in the stirrups - showtime.

More LV please.  Dr. Patterson started with the light banter about what I like to do and what plans I had for the 4th which was coming right up.  He then said said I might feel a pinch and damn!  I did, but it hurt so good.  The valium eased the pain and they began fiddling with the technical aspects, kind of like straightening out cords hooked to a computer.  I recall them trying got engage in deeper subjects but by now I was finding it tough o concentrate.  I was in full enthrall with LV, it really didn't make any difference what was happening down South.  Why was I here again, and why am I falling off this saddle?  

The rest of the day was a little foggy but the good doctor told me they put metal clamps on the ends of my cords and that nothing,  absolutely nothing can get them back together this time.   He even said super sensitive metal detectors could get set off by the jewelry I had wrapped around my junk.  Yeah, but unless I have a third, how will I ever get ahold of that liquid valium again?  Can I get it in Canada?

Once again I was sent home with some pain killers and instructions to take it easy.  This was what I called the John Wayne phase of the operation.  Basking in the attention and taking the pain like a man.  Walking gently, lifting nothing more than a fork, and generally riding high in the saddle. 

This was one of the few times in my life I was heroic to both men and women, for different reasons.  Guys because they can't imagine doing it twice - women because they think I must be some kind of saint to to do it twice rather than my wife once.  But wounds heal, scars scab, and life goes on, although not for any of my subsequent efforts.  Would I do it again?  Probably, just for the valium.  But when I'm ever in a situation where guys start showing their war wounds and scars I'll have a couple unique ones to share.  Betcha that puts an end to show and tell.        

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits

1.  Norah's First Bike

I might be in Dutch with the parents, but Gramps bought Norah her first bike last week, and we inaugurated it on Thursday.  Steering seems to be a concept we need to work on, but it was explained to me that Princesses have no need for steering - they have other people take care of that.  

We had a brief training session before it started to mist.  Oh, and she did take a tumble.  She cut too hard on a turn and had quite a lot of speed built up.  Ah, welcome, Norah, to the physics of bikes.  Now get back on that thing and ride like the wind!

2.  Hand Me My Glasses

I have mentioned before how Bedlam is nestled in an area which seeks to provide gentlemen with adult entertainment.  There are 4 or 5 "clubs" close by. 

The closest is this place which is right next to bedlam.  Jump the fence and you are in their parking lot.  It is the one I am most intrigued with as well.  Selective hiring. I wonder if I am as selective as this place?  In the interest of bringing the most "selective" information to the readers of Existing in BFE, I feel it a duty to investigate.  If/When I do, I will give you a full report. 

3.  Mark your calendar.

I see some of you didn't mark your calendars for June like I admonished last Tuesday.  If not, do so now.   What, you may ask?

4.  Seen at the Largo Park

Turtle soup anyone?

5.  Playoff Lotto

The 2nd Playoff Lotto is over and the big winners were Mark,  Kenzie and Tim.   Once again, I didn't win a penny.  

6.  Wombie In Florida?

The Wombie spent most of last week in Florida at Marco Island.  He and some friends flew down for a couple days of golf.  He returns next month for more golf, and closer to Bedlam.  Actually it is just down the road a mile or so.  I will meet up with him and have a beer or two and maybe more of that machine game that sits on the bar.  

7.  Fighting Roomies

Right across from me at Bedlam are two girls who share an apartment. Last Sunday as I was having my morning coffee they came bounding out of their upper-story apartment.  One got behind the wheel of their Kansas-tagged teal Ford Taurus while the other leaped on top of the hood.  It appeared like fun and games.  The one on top of the car was laughing so I thought it was simply a couple young kids having some fun.  The one behind the wheel backed out and then raced to the lane to the main thoroughfare. Wheels were squeeling and the one on top of the car jumped off a ways down the lane, and while it was going at a good clip.  

I lost sight of the one who leaped   A white van traveling in the opposite direction stopped and a couple of guys got out to assist the leaper.  After a short while the leaper comes back in view holding her arm in obvious distress.  She spurns offer of help from bystanders and crawls back up to the apartment.  

Not long after the driver walks without the wheels to the apartment - knocks on the door after a short wait, and finally the door opens and the driver slips back in.  A while later both walk slowly back down the steps, leaper has arm bandaged and walk away, eventually returning later with the car.  It was a long cup of coffee, OK?  

Ah, Bedlam. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Santa Came Through With My Tokina

OK, here's the real truth about Santa:  He (or she depending on what circles you habitat) is real.  Go ahead make your list.  Make it as long or as short as you want.  Problem is, if you want some things on that list and don't have a spouse, child or friend that comes through for you, you have to subsidize Santa by about 100%.  

Remember I wanted the Tokina 11-16mm that takes in a whole lot more of the night sky for meteor, constellation and Milky Way shots?  Well, he came through for me.  All I had to do was find the cheapest one on Ebay, win it, and pay for it.  Voila!  Santa comes through.  

I'm not grousing.  I wouldn't nor couldn't have left it to anyone else since it was kind of specialized and expensive.  And I really wanted one, so I got it and wrapped it up for me.  Yes, Virginia, Santa does exist, if you have the sufficient funds for Ebay/PayPal.  North Pole connections ain't free.

I decided to try a late night, or was it early morning trip to Vinoy to try out my new lens.  I couldn't be more pleased with it (well, I could be more pleased if I was around darker skies, of course) as these pictures will attest to what it does. 

And what it does, it does very well.  The Tokina is one of the smallest millimeter lens for my camera.  What that means is it encompasses so much more land and/or sky space in a picture.  My other lens I use for these types of shots would be perhaps half of this shot.  And when you are looking upward for shooting stars that amount of space is valuable.  

One of the trade-offs is a bit of distortion on things up close, like these palm trees.  

The clarity is phenomenal, and even this shot looking toward Tampa and all the air pollution still makes for a pretty good picture.    My mouth is watering at the chance to get up North for some nice long shooting trips. Or maybe even Tybee Island.  

Just for your information, the three vertical stars in upper center are called Orion's Belt.  It makes up the constellation Orion and is seen most of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.  I like the taking sky shots and all that but I'm not really a constellation person.  When I look at the sky I don't see hunters or snakes.  I don't go, "Oh look, there's Betelgeuse in Orion's left shoulder, and look!, there's Canis Major chasing Lepus the Hare."  I don't unless I've had a few beers too many, that is.  Nope, I'm strictly a Big Dipper guy.

The long light in lower left of sky is a plane.  I mean, if you were a UFO and travelled 300 billion miles to see what was going on in this little blue planet, would you really go to Florida?  

This isn't a very good shot:  too much "noise", but it gives you another idea of the kind of lens the Tokina is, almost but not quite a fish eye look due to the aspherical lens.  

Sure, Santa's new gadget is kind of specialized and one wouldn't use it at the next gathering at Wimpy's, but for sky picture taking and the annual meteor showers each year, this is a great worthwhile purchase.   

And finally, the last picture taken on this chilly night at the Vinoy in December.  That's the shore on the other side of the Bay, the moon rising and the old Inverted pyramid of the abandoned Pier on the right.  

My Kingdom for Dark Skies. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Flashback Friday

The inscription on the back of this photo reads: Mike Blythe, Dec. 6, 1:50 AM, Barnett took this picture. 

Now, there is no year but it looks like Hershey Hall, where the fraternities were placed having been forced back onto campus.  If so that would have been my senior year.  December 6th would have been a Saturday morning.  Lord knows what we were up to at that hour.  

Such a look of determination.  Was I studying?  Unlikely.  Up to some shenanigans?  Probably.  That is certainly my room.  The KEEP OUT sign followed me everywhere I stayed in college.  Hanging around in the room besides the inimitable Mr. Ross-Barnett was likely my roomie, Dan Kolbow.  

Nowadays 1:50 AM is usually a bathroom call after 4 hours of sleep, but thinking back, it wasn't so late in these college days.  Especially on a Friday or Saturday.  Late night, er, early morning activities was a requirement for college in general, and our fraternity in particular.  Due to decreasing enrollment all the fraternities were placed in campus housing ($).  The Sig Eps had the top floor, the Phi Taus the middle and the Phi Delts the bottom.  There was relative movement amongst us all - it was a small school and we were friends with many, regardless of affiliation.  

If I had to guess, and its a pretty educated guess (thanks Herb) I think they were keeping the door closed while I was pushing to get in.  Thus Tom was ready to take the picture when I finally made it.   And what was I after?  Could it be a swig of what is on the dresser?  Nah, not at 2 in the morning, surely! 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dr. George E. LaMore

College was not a dream in our family - it was a natural and expected progression.  There was never any discussion of "if", only "where".  Both my parents had graduated from Monmouth College and it was expected that we three boys would follow suit.  Funny, but I can't even imagine having sat around the kitchen table or out in the back porch and uttered these words, "Uhm, I'm not sure I want to go to college".  

So it was that when Phil, the elder, graduated from Aledo High he decided on Iowa Wesleyan in Mt. Pleasant.  It was a popular choice for kids in Seaton.  Several town kids went there and ironically, at Mark's Retirement party at the Country Club last month there were no fewer than 5 graduates from IWC. 

When it came time for Mark and I to decide three years later there wasn't much question - to IWC we would also go.   I still have in my possession the acceptance letter from the school.  Everyone had to declare a major so that they could begin to route the necessary courses and hours to that end.  I chose Political Science since I liked the machinations of politics and besides, I read Allen Drury novels.  

Wesleyan, being a Methodist enclave insisted on some mandatory theology courses such as Introduction to the New Testament.  Most students liked to get this out of the way as soon as possible so they could go on to their more pertinent courses.  Somewhere in that first year two things happened to change my thinking:  I took my first Political Science course and I took my first George LaMore course. 

My first Poly Sci course was an unmitigated disaster.  The teacher was a first-time instructor, having been hired to fill in for the tenured prof who had left.  This guy was horrible.  A mumbling stumbling fellow who was surprisingly part of a faculty who was in most regards top-notch.  About this same time I took my fist LaMore theology based class.  Theology was about the last thing I thought I'd be interested in.  But here he walked in, a dapper-clad little guy who I was aware of from Phil's stay at the school.  I had heard Marj talk about him before I entered IWC.  A veritable college god. 

He jauntily walked into the auditorium - this first class was mandatory so the number of entrants was high, necessitating an auditorium rather than a classroom.  As I would later learn many of his classes were in the auditorium because he was so popular.  

So in he walks, not so much as a walk as a float, commanding even in his small stature.  He wore a bright red tie and a matching red handkerchief - classy look.  And then he spoke.  

From this little guy came a booming voice that swept over the hall.  Absolutely every student was quiet and he started with a welcome and little joke and beamed the biggest grin.  This wasn't so much as an introduction as an invitation.  An invitation to have your mind smacked with ideas, to sweep away all of the myths, mis-taught errors and downright falsities of our previous learning.  It was an invitation to a new world of education and personal growth.  Yep, that little intro and joke was his way of reaching into the fold of our brains and giving a a light tweak as if to say, "Are you ready, can you handle this, will you join me?"             

I joined him.  I quickly, and without remorse or hesitation dropped that silly poly sci course and major and threw my lot in with Dr. George E. LaMore, Jr.  My intro to George and my "come-to-Jesus" meeting with Phil helped to reroute my course through IWC for the next three and half years.  From academic probation to graduating Cum Laude can be attributed to Phil and George directly.  Sure there was some major studying and hard work along the way but those two set the tone:  one proverbially kicked my ass, and the other pummelled my mind.  

As for George himself, he was a regional legend before I arrived.  A gifted orator,  he was chair of the Philosophy and Theology department.  He simply made the complex less so.    The stories of the Bible became clear historical events that were understandable given they were all created by writers of that time.  George made the parting of the Red Sea understandable (high and low tides),  Christ walking on water (time of day and an optical illusion), and that the fables of the Bible are truths with a capitol "T" rather than a small "t".  I never studied theology because I was entranced with theology.  I studied it because I was fascinated by how it worked.   I was less interested in the "what" and more the "why".  Philosophically speaking, he made Western Thought like a cool radio serial; a story you couldn't wait to rejoin in a day or two.  

He died last month.

He received his M.A. at Boston College, and his Doctorate at Harvard.  He also studied at Oxford College in England.  He received his Th.D. from Boston University.  He flew his own plane all over the U.S. for speaking engagements and was sought after as a commencement speaker.

A gifted musician, he was second violinist with the Southeast Symphony Orchestra.  He was a portrait artist and was fluent in French and Greek.  He was a bicyclist and always rode in the homecoming parades from which a motley crew of Phi Delts and other students would stumble out of the West Side Tap and watch the show.   He was married for 61 years to his wife Jane, and had three children.  

I went over to IWC last year with my friend from Knoxville, Pat, and we walked over to his house from the campus.  He had since retired in 2002 and I lucked out, as he was driving his car out of the garage.  I told him he wouldn't remember me as I was a quiet student but that he had a profound affect on my life.  He replied that he didn't, that he didn't remember too many students from the past, there were simply too many (and we learned later that he suffered from the onset of Alzheimer's).   He asked what I had done with my life and I told him I had a career counseling juvenile and youths at-risk.   He broke into that beaming smile - the same one that beamed at an 18 year-old decades ago, and he said, "Ah, yes, a life giving back.  If you learned nothing else from my classes you knew that we give back in so many ways."  I told him it was great to see him again and his wife said they had to get going to Ottumwa. 

As he pulled further out of the driveway, he yelled out "Stop again when you are back and we'll talk further."   

I never made it back, but like all great teachers, his voice continues to beckon a wide river of past students to explore, to research, to think.  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What It Feels Like To Have A Vasectomy

Working on Uncle Ed's farm gave me two distinct experiences that haunt me still.  The first only happened once as I recall, but it left a big impression.  We cut hogs.  Those who have never witnessed or heard the ritual of such an event will never quite get the visceral, or is it surreal, cognition of slicing a pig's nuts with a knife.  Mind you these things are done without anesthetic, compassion or recuperative healing.  Force them into a chute, clamp a bar over their heads so they can't escape, body block on either side so they can't move and then slice.   At least it is quick.  It was one of those group things Ed did with area farmers, so it was all day.  I don't know if I ever got immune to the screams.  This was the day one of the farmers hired man took the balls home for evening Mountain Oysters.  Bub Greer, a wise smiling man I liked, told the kid he'd better watch out, they'd make him potent, and the kid said, "It's alright, I've had them before and they haven't hurt me yet."

The other activity sered into my brain is shelling corn.   Corn cribs are riddled with rats.  They get shelter and food so its easy to see why.  When you get toward the end of the corn the rats have no place to hide so they start running willy-nilly to escape.   Shovels slamming onto cement to kill them was a common sound and many helpers took delight in the sport.   I was not one of them.  I never knowingly killed any.  Except maybe one.  I kept on shoveling because that was my job and because I detest violence, death and blood.  But by doing so I had to be on the lookout for a rat running  up my pant leg.  It happened a couple times, but once one made it up to my nether regions.  The thought of a teeth filled rat mouth munching on my future kids terrified me.  I was able to squeeze little Ratatouille into submission, and after I took off my pants, and a little check of my vitals, a catastrophe was averted.  No kids yet but already protecting them.  

I mention all this by way of professing that I am a bit of an expert on vasectomies.  You see, I've had two of them.  I'll repeat that: I've had two vasectomies.  I defy anyone to match that record.  Sure there are probably a few in the world who have had a couple, but we are a rare and admirable bunch who have defied convention, laughed at the odds, and marched right back into the arena again like heroic gladiators spoiling for the lion.


My first vasectomy occurred after both Mackenzie and Brendan  had been born and somehow the decision had been made to forgo a third.  When you are married to a feminist decisions sometimes germinate and come to fruition in a slightly different perspective.  It seemed I was the one to be run up the chute, get my head clamped in a steel bar and provide the Mountain Oysters to anyone who wanted them for supper.   

Dr. Currie assented to do the operation after asking if I was aware of the consequences.  It could be reversed if I had second thoughts afterward but it was a procedure of questionable results.  Full speed ahead, or as Brendan would later bring into my consciousness, Two To The Wind.  

The big day arrived and I was ushered into a small room and told to strip and put on one of those god-awful robes open in the back.  An assistant hen cam in and helped me onto a gurney with stirrups.  She then put each foot into the stirrups and then lifted my robe to do some prep work.  I looked at her eyes to try to get some idea of where i placed in the hierarchy of male genitalia she had seen in her career, but she revealed nothing.  A true professional.  Like a junior high kid I would have preferred some lewd remark validating my manhood, or at least a sigh of regret on what was about to take place.  I wanted a small tear perhaps on how the world was going to change, about how the gene pool was going weaken maybe just a little.   

My nervousness was obvious, and she did a nice job by asking mundane questions geared toward relaxing me.  It didn't help much.  She did a little shaving, talked about my soon to be only two kids in the family and after that I kind of clamped shut.  Alone with my thoughts and wondering about why I was here in the first place.  Too late for second thoughts this was going to happen today.  I was in the chute.

After a while in walked Dr. Currie AND Dr. Hill.  I never did know why it took two to do it, but I imagined myself special:  a priest needs an assistant to conduct a Mass,  it takes two workers at Wal-Mart to move a heavy box, Mormon missionaries always travel in pairs, an article for the American Medical Journal about this especially well-endowed fellow in the Midwest.  

A kindly quip, an introduction to the other good doctor, followed by the classic, "You'll feel a pinch" and we were off to the races.  Whatever they shot me with numbed the area and I was left to peer up at two guys fiddling with stuff no man should let other men fiddle with.  Doubt was creeping in.  I felt a tug here and there, not excruciating, but good enough to let me know we were still working.  You'd think two doctors would make it go twice as fast but it seemed to lag a bit.  
In a while it was over and I was alone in the room.  My feet were still hiked up when the nurse came in and did a little gauze work and gave some instructions for the rest of the day.  No heavy lifting, no calisthenics, no jogging.  My feminist wife took me home.  Was that a self-satisfied glint in her eye?  Score one for the good guys (or girls)?  I'm sure it was my imagination - I had done something for equality and it was a relief to have the damn thing over with.      

The rest of the day I lounged on the sofa feeling like I had a 20 pound tumor between my legs.  Then the pain killer started to fade away and the full effects of traumatic invasive surgery began to take its place.  As far as pain goes it wasn't as bad as stubbing your toe but more than bumping your head.  It wasn't as bad as getting kicked in the nuts, but more than a toothache.  

I had instructions to take Tylenol as needed (it was needed), and after two or three months I was to provide a sample to Cottage Hospital lab for analysis.  That's when it got wild.  You won't want to miss Part 2 of "What It Feels Like To Have A Vasectomy."  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits

1.  It wasn't one of my better weeks for tight, concise exposition.  In fact, it was a downright piss-poor few days for awareness.  Failure is no stranger so I boldly retract, retrace and make right those items I fumbled.   

  • Last time I was in Northlandia I stopped, unannounced at the BFE Civic Center, and discovered that the place was bereft of beer.  Neighbor Tim is usually well stocked and he suggested a trip to a bar, but I wasn't much interested in that.  First I much prefer free beer, and second, I wanted to converse, something you can't always do in that environment.  So, Tim being resourceful, grabbed what he had, vodka and a bottle of Jimmy Luv's Bloody Mary Mix.  Now, when I returned to Fucklorida I went surfing and discovered Jimmy's does ship their liquid gold.  One day in the rush of Christmas or maybe shortly after a boxx arrived with three bottles of their mix.  I wasn't expecting it but who else could have shipped it?  I erroneously assumed that i had ordered it but discovered a couple days ago that it was Tim and Carrie who had played Santa.  I told him that I was so embarrassed to take credit for their good deed that I was going to have a Bloody Mary in order to fix my fractured self-esteem.  I have sent a letter of appreciation for their good deed and as I look back on the Season discovered that I have very good friends and will do all I can to be as good a friend in return.  Like I said in a recent post, friends are the greatest gift. 

  • It also occurred to me that I failed to thank the references I used in my recent adoption of Bry aka Mudflap:  Tim and Pat who knew Missy, and Jeff who knew MINS.   Thank you.
  • And finally, in my groveling for forgiveness tour, I want to thank Madame X who is always a key reason my trips up North are always so successful.  Madame X wants no recognition but opens her house, family and generosity jar to accommodate my visits.  A great and old friend Madame X doesn't get the recognition she deserves, but know that it is deeply appreciated.  
  • I attempted to take a long exposure shot of the ISS as it drifted across the morning sky a couple days ago, but for whatever reasons, it did not work out.   Drat.  It takes so long for the dang thing to fly over again, but when it does I'll try to be there and finish the job.

2.  I usually think Breaking Bad is the best TV show I ever saw until I see Shameless.  Shameless is without doubt the raunchiest, funniest, saddest, most human show I have ever seen and in its own way the best thing I've ever seen.  I'm binging with Netflix and have 8 episodes left of the most recent season.  It positively drips with pathos, tears and yes, bodily fluids.  The Gallaghers of Chicago are one wild family.   

3.  It's winter in Florida.  The only time worth being here, even in Bedlam.

4.  Mark June on your calendar.  I don't know how it will play out yet, but just mark it.

5.   Norah Watcher's Weekly Fix:  

As to the apple, I don't have a clue. 

6.  Winners of the 2nd Playoff week include Mark (again), Kenzie and Drew.  Always looking for new suckas players.  If interested in getting in the last two weeks let me know.

Monday, January 12, 2015


I have always felt rather uneasy that I have abandoned my peeps up North to handle the snow and snarky weather by themselves.  When I was up there I loved the feeling of an impending blizzard.  Maybe it was the thrill of childhood school cancellations.  Maybe the knowledge that being "snowed" in wouldn't be all bad nestled next to a warm roaring fire in the fireplace we had on Chambers Street.  Maybe the linked kinship that we were all in the same boat kind of thing.  

I'd park my truck to the end of the long driveway, make sure the snowblower was gassed up and ready to go, and withstand the rugged Midwestern winter with the glee of a 9 year old.  And there was nothing quite like a darkened room, fire blazing with flakes blowing with varying degree of ferocity across the window panes.  

But now, in Florida, all I can do watch from afar.  Floridians get soft and addled from lack of weather.  Weather makes us stronger.  Frostbit fingers add stiffener to spines and numbed toes add heft to balls.     

So here I am, window open in Bedlam.  Bry (Mudflap) zonked out after a short walk snoring on the bed, with my usual winter cameras waiting and watching for weather.  I have a battery of cams stationed in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa and the Quad Cities looking at snow, ice, whatever nature throws at my peeps.   

All of the pictures here were taken on Friday (January 9th) morning.  The top two are 2 of 4 cams on the campus of Iowa Wesleyan College,  educational center of Southwestern Iowa and Jerry's pizza.  

This is the KWQC cam looking toward Davenport, Iowa.  There are a total of about 6 - 8 cams I can access at any time.  There used to be one in Macomb but it seems to have gone offline.  I'd rather have one surveying the everyday bustle in BFE but I doubt if that is happening very soon.  

I have also discovered this camera positioned around Tybee Island, home of the Sutors.  This is a cam from Spanky's looking out toward the Atlantic ocean.  

So while I may not be spinning tires on hardened ice up North, or trying to melt frozen snot out of my mustache, I am with you in spirit.  I feel your pain and wish I could spend a half hour or so scooping snow and wondering if I can make it back to the door for warmth.  Winter has just started and I am with you. 

And just to prove to you that I can also access cameras in my neck of the woods, here is a local shot, also taken on Friday to show you we are all bound by the rigors and Hell of Winter. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Flashback Friday

Neighbor Tim, my friend from BFE,  lost his father last week.  Gary was in his mid-70's as was my father when he passed away.  Guess that is a tough age to overcome.  Tim will have many memories to carry with him as he now moves to the front of the class, generationally speaking.  

It is almost incomprehensible to think of my father as a kid.  He was always big, towering over us and when we boys caught up with him in size, he still seemed to tower in other ways.  How fun it would be to slip into a time machine and go back to the late 20's early 30's and hunker down and chat with this kid.  

Where ya' goin' Herbie?  You are all dressed up.  Is it church?  I see you have newsboy hat and looks like you are going to be a tall lanky, kid. Your sport coat is just about too small.   Probably play basketball in school and college.

Who is your buddy?  This is Smithshire, right?  And who's dog is that?  You had a nice smile here; are ya a happy kid?  

You wearing glasses?  And is that the same cap you are holding in the top picture?  And I guess that is your dog.  What kind was it?  Looks like a mutt.  

School picture, right?  Hair combed back.  Top button buttoned.  Looks like a kind of vest you are wearing.  How old are you here? 

There are a thousand questions I'd ask this kid.  What were his dreams?  What did he want?  How did he spend his freetime?  Who were his friends?   

The kids growing up today are surrounded every minute by people with phones.  And those phones all have cameras.  This generation will be the most photoed, most videoed group of kids ever in the history of people.  But it wasn't too long ago if you had a dozen pictures of yourself at a certain age you were pretty well covered.  These are about the only ones I have of Dad as a kid.  I'm sure more may exist, but not sure where.  

I think there was a movie made quite a few years ago where someone goes back in time to when his parents were just kids dating.  What is the point of all this?  I don't know.  But I do know that we are born, are kids, become adults, raise families and hopefully after a long well-lived life, we pass away so that new people can take our place.  It is natural, it is right, and it serves to replenish.  

Winston Churchill said, "The longer you look back the farther you can look forward."  And Tim, as long as we breathe, we are our fathers.  They may pass away, but they live still in us.