Monday, February 23, 2015

Week Off


It's been about three months since I took a week off so I'll sign off till Monday, March 2.
{I'm about to run out of material.}
I may try to find those lovelies up in the picture and see if they will take me on as their 4th.
{Fat chance.  Having never skied in my life I doubt if I could even carry their swimsuits.}
Have a great week and if you think about it, return in March and we'll see what is happening here in BFE.
{I know this disrupts the morning routine of a couple loyal readers, and for that I am sorry.  Like you I like a routine, too, and when I don't get it, it seems to throw my universe into chaos.  Like Churchill once said, "If you are going through Hell, keep going."  I'm not equating a week without Existing In BFE to Hell, but then how else could I serve great Churchillian bon mots?}

Friday, February 20, 2015

Flashback Friday - My Cars Part 2

This beauty was my first car.  I forget how much I paid for her, I want to say $100 but it could have been more.  I have simply forgotten.  I got it from a guy in Aledo.  I think it was a Mr. Morehead.  

When the experiment with sharing the Nova failed, and unable to secure the 63 Chevy Impala my grandfather owned, I simply took matters in my own hands and bought this lovely old Volkswagen.  And when I say antique,  it was pretty old when I bought it.  It was a 1957 model, and is most evident when looking at the rear - it has a small oval window.  These early bugs all had the small rear window and, today, these are worth quite a lot of money.  The first generation Bugs sold in the US were split-window.  Mine was a second gen and of I'd held onto it the average retail is around $12, 500 and depending on condition can go as high as $24, 000.  But then I wasn't concerned about which generation it was, small window or not, I had my first wheels.  I had other things on my mind.      

I loved that VW, so much so that a few years later I would get another one.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  This Bug ran like a charm and looking back I can't understand why I would have ever gotten it because as you can imagine there are no import mechanics in Seaton, or Aledo or anywhere else close by.  But I don't remember any breakdowns or how I ever parted with her.  

As you can see by the pictures she was a beauty.  No rust, dents or anything to flaw its beauty.  Chrome was all good and while I couldn't keep up with the farmer kids who had the latest muscle cars, I'd get there eventually.  She had just received a new coat of paint that I had done by some place in Galesburg.  The reason, quite simply, is because I removed her previous coat.  

I got in a habit of washing and waxing her every weekend.  I'd pull her out behind the house where there was an outside spigot and hose.  I usually did this on Sunday afternoons.  After a while I began to buff off the paint and reveal the primer beneath.   Thus the new paint job.  

She provided me the wings I had dreamed of.  I don't know if kids today have the same feeling their first wheels provide.  Perhaps guys don't mind riding around in their friends cars - no gas costs, insurance, maintenance and all that.  But for me, this was my temple, my wings.  I believe cars provide more than simple transportation.  They are the impetus to independent thinking and while maybe a bit hyperbolic, they are the gateway to independence.  It's not as simple as just hopping in and going; it takes planning, organization, and an awareness of what it takes to undergo and navigate to successful completion.  

One other aspect that may have played an important role in my loving my first car so much was the fact I was a twin.  Twins share. Twins wear same clothes.  It may have been that when we developed our own persona's that individual belongings mean more.   No wonder Marj and Herb wanted us to share - it was a kind of buddy system that would allow each of us to "parent" in our parent's absence.  

Aledo, where we went to Junior High and High school was no longer a place we went to by bus, older brother, mother or twin.  Now it was done on our own terms and our own abilities.  And that is true freedom.  

The V-Dub was a basic machine.  All it had in the way of extras was a radio.  It had a speedometer, heater, and ash tray.   There was a glove box and stick shift between two front seats.  The back seat was minimal but could seat a couple small people, which it did on occasion.  It was a not a make-out car.  (That added to the planning and preparation of outings.)  I'm sure I don't have to tell you that the engine was in the rear, was air-cooled, and the front was trunk space.  

The best feature was something found on some motorcycles.  Because there was no gas gauge, when you ran out of gas you could reach down under the dash to the left and flip down a small lever that would provide another gasoline of gas to get you wherever you needed to go or to the next gas station.  Of course, failure to flip the lever back up at refill would mean you were out of luck next time.

For our time together we plied the roads from Seaton and Aledo primarily.  I still recall the late nights trips back home puttering along, rather slowly in my car.  With the window rolled down on summer nights and the hum of a small 1200 cc engine (my motorcycle has 1854 cc), no front end to speak of to obstruct your view,  it gave you a very different view of the road.   


I found this video on YouTube of a kid driving his 57 Bug.  Mine was very similar to this: very spartan interior.  On the sides of the door were elastic pockets for storage.  Heat came in through two small vents on the floor.  You would simply open the vent and heat would come in that way.  There was no on-off switch, per se.  Just pull the vent open.  

And some point it gave out or needed an engine overhaul which signaled the end.  My memory is foggy.  Our Sunday afternoon wash and waxes ended and while everyone moves on from their first car,  this one was special.  But losses sometimes provide opportunity.  And we'll talk about my second car sometime fairly soon on Flashback Friday.   

Thursday, February 19, 2015


There are racquetball courts here at Bedlam.  They are half open to the elements and not used very much.  Norah and I took Bry in here often and tossed the tennis ball around so she could chase it and get some exercise.  This morning, while in a funk, I took the ball and was going to toss it around a little but discovered the place was already occupied.

This view is from the outside window looking in.  Clear in the far corner I saw a blanketed fellow or fellow-ess sleeping.  That sooty dirty stuff at the bottom is a kind of grunge on the window.  

This is a cropped version of the above picture.  

After I got over the OMG-ness of it all, my philosopher side kicked in and began to reflect on the haphazardness of life.  The first 25 years of my life began in the small town of Seaton with my folks.  The final 6 years were mostly just habitating bedspace during the summers because of college and grad school, but it was still home nevertheless.  And in that small town, village really, everyone was clothed, fed and had a place of their own.  Some houses were better than others, of course, but even the most unsightly were good enough. 

I bought a couple places in G-Burg through the years and they provided the comforts of home, even the boxcar ala abode.  There was always the fun of motels or hotels (what's the difference?) when traveling.  Spent a lot of time in them for work training and conferences, then a lot in Clarksville when Brendan was in the Army.  But mostly it was home and work.  

A couple trips out West in 2004 where I tried, I really tried to camp out every other night to save money and get the true "roughing" it experience.  Soon, after a fateful night in Deadwood at the local KOA, I swore as fervently as Scarlett O'Hara swore about hunger that I would never go bedless again.  

Days Inn or any place, really, as long as it had a mattress,  a toilet and shower became my imprimatur.  I must stop you here, if you didn't already, and tell you that I type these missives generally stream-of-consciousness and without much polish.  I have no idea where the word imprimatur came from and should apologize for its use: it seems so arrogant to use such a word, but my father doled out a lot of money for my education and I want to let you know that, at times,  it shows.  I think it also very important to note that I most likely will never ever use it again.  And finally, I think it works in this case, but I am not sure.  Perhaps I should have paid more attention in class. 

OK, so where was I?  Ah, yes.  I swore never to go bedless again.  Which brings us to the past few years after finding myself a reluctant passenger on the SS Florida.  I have availed myself often of places to lay my head while in Northlandia and I should once again thank those who have provided that luxury and service.  Beyond those friends and family I have foisted myself upon and for those friends who have offered, this is the time I give thanks once again.   Thanks.

One of the openings into the woods for the homeless right next door to Bedlam.

So what does this all have to do with the guy above?  "There but by the grace of God, go I."  Whether by financial calamity, madness, laziness, developmental slowness, or sheer bad luck, the line that separates the bedded and the unbedded can be thin.  I was lucky.  I had the support of family and friends, I worked hard, I endured my share of suffering and enjoyed the good times.  I married and had great kids.  I did what was necessary.  But there are those who have not nearly enough of the things I took for granted.  Today I am thankful and terribly, terribly aware of my good fortune.  That man in the pictures slept on a cold cement floor that night.  I suspect he stayed there because they have been flushing out the woods adjacent to Bedlam of an army of homeless.  I walk by the woods and you can see their camps, their trash, their homes.  Wooded area that hides them for a while until the authorities arrive to drive them to some other quiet secluded place.  

It is that perspective that I need to whisper to myself every so often about the unabashed luck of being me.  This morning I scream it to you.  


In what was supposed to be a short little post about luck and one's place in the world, this has expanded into a two-cup-of-coffee essay.  

The phrase "There but by the grace of God, go I" has been attributed to a few people through history, but the oldest reference is to a fellow by the name of John Bradford.  Mr. Bradford lived in the 16th century and was an educated man who was prominent in the protestant Church of England.  As people were led to the gallows he would often say, "There but for the grace of God goes John Bradford."  

As luck or cruelty would have it, he was jailed for inciting mob action, a thoroughly trumped up charge and sent to the Tower of London.  Hey folks, not much of an appeal process once you get there, and on July1st, 1555 he and three others were burned at the stake.  Before the fire took hold he glanced over at a young man  and said, "Be of good comfort brother, for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord tonight," which seems particularly in poor taste as they are about to become human shish kabob's.        

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Rough Seas

Going to the beach on nice calm sunny days is nice.  Going after a storm is just as plain exhilarating.  Last month after a particularly crisp blow around here we went down to Pass-A-Grille which is at the southernmost tip of the protusion some call home.  

Look clear down at the bottom and you'll see Cabbage Key.  Pass-A-Grille is right above.

Going early before the shell poachers is a requisite.  Churning seas often brings interesting sea shells onto he beach.  This first picture is not at night.  Frankly i have no idea, other than to say the camera was on Auto and the sensor focused on the foreground, thus blackening out everything else. 

It is a fail, but an interesting one.  

The rest of the pictures were better and I did some tweaking here and there, thus the differences.  Experimentation is fun but confusing.  How do you know what is the best setting until you actually get home?  Anyway, as the time went on I noticed that the pictures became fuzzier.  What was happening was the wind was blowing junk onto the lens.  Thank heavens, because I thought I was going blind. 

I'm going to sift through the rest and if I come up with any others I'll post them, but again, with the blurriness it was kind of a wasted shooting opportunity.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits

1.  They Are Here

Remember last week I mentioned I saw a UFO fly over Bedlam?   Well, I saw another one the other day, must have been last Friday morning.  

That is the complex right across from me and I was taking a picture of the jet heading into the sun, which you can just barely see if you look close enough.  By the way, the building on the right is the racquetball courts that Norah and I go and play "Fetch the Tennis Ball."  

I grabbed my iPhone and quickly snapped a picture because I liked the whole jet trail and sun thing.  Just as I did this craft came into view.  It seemed to have a particular coloring around it like some kind of energy propulsion field.   It was saucer shaped, with upper and lower structures.  It even had some kind of antenna protruding from the upper section.  It hovered briefly, quietly, then in a nanosecond sped off toward the Love Toys adult shop across Route 19 next to Bedlam.  Maybe some Valentine's day shopping for that special alien back home?   They are here.  And in Florida.  Imagine traveling billions of miles, not to mention light years and end up in this place.  It certainly explains some of the people I saw at the Wagon Wheel Flea Market last week.

2.  Plant City  

Plant City Florida is a squalid little place outside Tampa that grows strawberries and hosts a festival.  I had the pleasure to travel with the current Mrs. Blythe and son Brendan on Sunday to meet my current sister and brother in-law.  Parksdale Farm is a Tanner Orchard-like place that features jams, salsa, gifts and all things strawberry.  The line snaked all the way around here to there with people queuing up for this delicacy: a shortcake.

I have no idea how many calories this monstrosity contains.  I did my best, not wanting to be rude, but we first spooned off the mountain of whipped cream and then proceeded with steady determination.  

The way home was hairy.  Does anyone ever use the word hairy anymore to describe snarky or dangerous?  Tampa is a cesspool of traffic that even my Garmin can't handle with any efficiency.  We got lost because Greta went mute with fear.  

3.  The Equalizer

I'm not much of an action movie guy.  Fist fights that go on forever with really no purpose, cars going airborne and flipping to one side (because that's how they launch them) gets tiresome and boring.  I had the misfortune to see The Equalizer last weekend and hated it from about the 20 minute mark.  I laughed in all the wrong places like when Denzel does the slo-mo hero stud-walk out of the warehouse where he blew away 25 bad guys.  And where rain drops fell off his eyelids in those really close-up scenes where we  figure out this guy is a really aware person.  

Denzel Washington, now 60, wants to show everyone he's a real cool bad-ass.  An AARP bad-ass in the same vein as Liam and Sylvester, which doesn't say much for Denzel or his agent.  I'm sure he got paid a lot and I hear they are talking a sequel, but really, folks, it was a bad cliche with absolutely no new way of looking at the genre.  Not only that but it bordered on porn-death: corkscrews, tree trimmers, barbed wire and mallets, just a few of the methods this guy killed the villains.  I'm still shaking my head just thinking about how bad it was.  But there must be a lot of people into that sort of thing because it made a mint.  You've been warned.

4.  Something Wonderful Is Going To Happen

Yes, I have been toying with you.  Can't say yet what is going to happen, but whatever it is will be wonderful.  I tossed about four balls up in the air, one has come down in a disappointing fashion, but three remain.  They will start dropping soon and at that time I can tell you what is going to be so damn wonderful.  Maybe next week, maybe the week after.  Until then be patient.  

5.  Postcard Inn

The Wombie arrives with his entourage on the 23rd of this month and will be playing golf, maybe having a beer or many and according to this Google earth picture of the Postcard Inn on St. Pete Beach, maybe sunning on the beach.  

It's about 13 miles away and a half hour or so to get there so it won't be any trouble to slip down and see him/them.  

The long range forecasts have predicted seasonal to above seasonal temps so I am optimistic the weather will be conducive for golf, sunning and partaking in adult beverages.   

6.  Did You Know?

Did you know that if we taxed religious institutions in the U.S. we would be 83 billion dollars richer, and that that would pay for every person on food stamps and house every homeless person, with some left over? 

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened On My Way To See Comet Lovejoy - Part 2

Today we revisit the morning picture taking attempt to capture Comet Lovejoy started last Monday.  By now I have left the lonely gravel road near Parrish, Florida and the Skyway rest, and travelled to the Gulfport pier.   

The sun was coming up and I had failed to capture Lovejoy.  But I was able to get some fairly decent pictures of a sunrise and felt that that helped soothe the pain of failure.  Thanks as always for coming along for the ride. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Flashback Friday

This is Jeanette Sizemore.  Everyone called her Jan.  I called her Sizeless. We met when I was a graduate student in Denver and it was a rather unlikely pairing.  She was quite proper, perhaps more uninitiated in more base subjects, and also quite shocked when I'd do or say something of a "untoward nature".  The school was aligned with a seminary, Iliff School of Theology, so we had some good old go-rounds about all that stuff.  Having just graduated with a degree in Philosophy I'm sure her conservative religiosity didn't always meld together with my thoughts on the subject.  She firmly believed, like many, that accepting Christ as your savior is your ticket to heaven while I thought it was a convenient trump card in order to do whatever you want here on earth.  I told her she was full of it, and she said I was going to Hell.  

But this isn't about our particular beliefs one way or the other.  It is about a friend who helped me succeed so far from home.  It is about opposites who find a way to enjoy each other and have some fun in the midst of pretty grueling academic challenges.  It is about discovering that difference can be a magnet and that to truly expand a horizon is to engage, listen and embrace.  It is about two people who created an oasis of fun and awakening in a big city far from home.  She was from Cockeysville, Maryland,  and I still recall it being Sandringham Road.    

It is also about losing a friend.  

There have been far too many times when I failed to take pictures of the things I was doing at certain periods of my life.  It is a regret but it only means the ones I do have are that much more valuable.  Jan and I were in different classes.  I had a roomie and she didn't so  I spent a lot of time at her place when classes weren't scheduled or we had days off.    

We often took to the road to explore Colorado.  We went to Evergreen, Pike's Peak, Cheyenne,Wyoming, Colorado Springs, and Estes Park.  One of our favorite pastimes was to head over to Stapleton International Airport and watch the planes land or take off.  That was when you could drive right next to a runway on a dirt road and sit for a couple hours.  

Denver was pretty imposing to this small-town kid but she did a pretty good job of making Denver and the surrounding area seem manageable.  Once in a while we'd take a buddy of mine, Eddie Valverde and his girlfriend, and we'd try Mexican or just hang out. 

Sometimes we went by map, but more often we'd just go.  If a road looked interesting we'd take it.  The above picture was one such place.  Snowbound roads while wearing shorts, the oddity of warm weather and wandering in the snow was pretty unique.  But Colorado was, and is still, a pretty unique state.  

One time, and I have relayed this on this blog before, we grabbed some champagne, sandwiches and cheese and took off for a quiet secluded spot.  There we found a creek meandering and we put the champagne in it to chill while we spread a blanket and enjoyed a lunch that remains in my memory still.     

But in town, Washington Park was our spot.  A gloriously green place in the middle of town and just 5 minutes from school, it was the place of leisurely walks, a place of quiet away from the hassles and drudgery of classes.  

Jan was a great conversationalist; unafraid of her opinions.  She also didn't shy away from letting me have it about mine.  But she did it so gently.  There are people you meet with easy laughs.  They make you feel like they are really really listening.  They make you feel like you are genuinely funny.  They make you feel smarter than you really are.  Jan had one off he easiaet laughs I've ever been around - full of joy.

After graduation she went back to Maryland, and I went back to Illinois.   We called each other occasionally, but then I went and got married and she decided to drift away into a memory; she couldn't intrude on that and couldn't find a way to be "just a friend."     

Old guys are sometimes, pathetically, given to ruminating and regret.  Are you happy, Jan?  Did you live as you wanted?  Did you ever have another lunch like we did in the pasture, in the mountains west of Denver?  Did you ever stop laughing when the sales lady approached us from behind as we hunched down at the glass counter, and she said, "May I help you ladies?"  Did you ever find another Washington Park with someone you were comfortable with?  And, yes, Jan, I remember.  I remember.       

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Found Halloween Pics

Maybe not quite like Harper Lee's lost novel, Go Set A Watchman, but I happened to come across some Halloween pictures that I'd forgotten about.  For those who can't get enough of Miss Norah, then this is a treasure.  For those who couldn't a give a hoot then today is a lost day, maybe akin to finding out Jon Stewart is leaving.  

Princess Norah alternated between being shy and forward when she made stops for candy around the neighborhood.  It didn't really make sense, but she would be hung-ho, then retreat.  It is what one should expect of a young lady, I suppose, when doing something as weird as Halloween.   

She is still holding onto her realm.  She approaches you and asks your name.  I respond, "Papa."  I ask what her name is, and she responds, "Princess Norah of Arendale."   We will find out her ability to adjust to current events as she will have to step aside from the spotlight when the newest Princess or Prince arrives this summer.  

PSST - By the way, I have purchased Nell's long lost book and am giddy as Hell.  I hope to read it during my motorcycle trip East or West in August/September.  Are we still on Tim and Jeff or whoever wants to come along? 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sights Around Town

If I asked you if you ever heard of a 2-door station wagon you might look at me incredulously.  Or you may shrug your shoulders saying something along the lines of, "I don't give a shit."  The above beauty with antique plates is a 1977 Ford Pinto.  

Saw this guy walking by in an animated conversation with someone or something invisible tagging along.  He was talking and waving his arms like he was in a juicy argument.  That wasn't the only thing.  Apparently he left home without his shoes, too. 

For sign aficionados like Mr. Sutor this may be noteworthy.  If you weren't sure this was a laundry you will be when you read it twice.  

Came across an aunt hill that seemed pretty good sized.  I put one of my flip-flops next to it to give you some perspective.  Then I stirred them up a little.  It pissed them off.  I don't usually go around messing up wildlife, but one bit Norah a while back so it was payback time.  

We started out with a car and, coincidentally we end with a car as well.  This is a 1968 Plymouth Valiant gussied up as a muscle car that I saw rambling down 4th Avenue last week.   They made over 40,000 of these that year so there isn't anything particularly rare about it.  The striping, which was big on real muscle cars of the era, could be applied for $68 dollars at the factory.  Of course, the fact that it was a 225 CI 6-banger and a 4-door makes this a pretender at best, and ludicrous at worst.  But still, give it points for still chugging along.    

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits

1.  2015, So Far You Suck

I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this, it's just too painful.  Bry was unable to overcome her separation anxieties and went back to her rescue organization.  The final incident was the bloodied, eaten blinds.  She was a wonderful pooch and I will miss her, and that's all.  I'm shelving forever all future attempts to find my best furry friend.  Somewhere MINS and Missy weep.

2.  Things You Should Do More Gently When You Are My Age

In a weirdly bad pic, these are wounds I suffered whilst attempting the manly sport of tennis.  I used to play once in a while back in college and so I erroneously thought I could fly across the court like the olden days, only to discover my wings fell off a few years ago.  I went down like a shot hippo.  It stung for a day or two and I garnered much empathy from Norah, but as I write this on Sunday morning, I am preparing to go back out again, as my partner, Drew, is salivating at the chance to whip on me again this afternoon.

3.  Homemade Antenna

A neighbor here at Bedlam has fashioned a homemade antenna that he puts out of his window into a tree on evenings when he comes home from work.  Since cable and DISH costs continue to rise and people are trying to cut their cable this idea is intriguing.  

4. I'm not a TV commercial watcher; I make sure I can do something moderately constructive during them, but noise pollution is unavoidable.  Having said all that, I'm really sick of those Rob Lowe spots. 

5.  For All Those Norah Watcher's Out There

Norah is now a member of the Red Hat Society.  Found this beauty in a consignment shop and she looked great in it.  My mother liked wide brimmed classy hats and I couldn't resist.   

6.  US Mail, Checks, and Unsealed Envelopes  

I recently ran a playoff lotto and people sent me money to pay up if they lost.  This contestant sent their check last week.   

I turned the envelope over and noticed the back flap was open.  The check was in there...

but the envelope wasn't sealed. The little strip was still in place. Kudos to the USPS, and everyone who came in contact with it through the 1200 miles.  Granted, machines do a lot of sorting but there had to have been some human contact along the way. 

While I'm thinking of the US mail, I recall one holiday season back in high school or before, addressed "Marj and the Boys"  Sure, it was local, but still.  Lots of aspersions seem to be thrown toward small towns, but sometimes their quaintness is like a loving embrace.