Thursday, December 29, 2016

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Breaking News

Having stumbled onto the carnage, I saw fur and blood in the snow.  A couple of the reindeer were vaporized by the collision with the saucer but a couple were laying, one lifeless, on the ground.  A couple of Santa's elves were ministering to the poor beasts; unfortunately dying eventually to the wounds.  I wandered over to one of the officers monitoring the scene and said I knew a guy in North Henderson who could use the deer meat for his chili. By his expression I wasn't certain if he was appalled by my comment or wanted the recipe.  

Monday, December 26, 2016

"Out in the Woods I walked tonight,
A whiz in the snow my bladder stretched tight.
Off in the distance I heard such a rumble,
A silver saucer in full-blown tumble."  

A sad end to a great holiday weekend.  The unfortunate collision between Santa's sleigh and reindeer and an alien craft resulted in many packages not being delivered, four of Santa's reindeer succumbed and were unable to be saved.  Besides Rudolph the other casualties were Donner, Blitzen and Vixen.  Santa was unharmed but was given a breathalyzer and Field Sobriety test.  The aliens were unharmed as well and ticketed for failure to reduce speed.  Unable to produce a driver's license, registration or proof of insurance they were taken to a local police station awaiting a preliminary hearing. 

Services for the reindeer will be announced at a later time.   

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas

Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. 

"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. 

"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.' 

"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?



VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. 

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Merry Christmas to all who find the time to check in on this website from time to time.  From the staff of Existing in BFE, we wish you peace, joy, friendship and charity.  

We'll be back January 2nd. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Christmas Miracle

Let's face it.  Holiday miracles really only happen in children's books and Hallmark channel movies.  But I think I witnessed a true miracle last week. See that lady in the above picture?  She is a homeless person; one of an army of such people who regularly navigate the underbelly of this land of paradise.  Alfred and I take a walk every afternoon.  It isn't far down the road to one of the main thoroughfares of Largo.  Sometimes we go into Wal-Mart just to get a few extra steps in (for me) and something interesting to look at (for her).  Nestled within the parking lot is a Burger King.  McDonald's is the other way but Alfred doesn't like their synthetic ice cream as much as she likes Burger King's synthetic stuff.  Our usual routine is to get a cup of ice cream and three cookies:  one for us, one for our crossing guard and one for Norah when she gets off from school.  See that little foot in the picture?  That's Alfred's,  we were in line, right behind the homeless lady.  

After the lady ordered she then took that backpack/purse thing and started rummaging through it attempting to find the money to pay for it.  She would flip the bag this way and that and scour the bottom in search of pennies, dimes and whatever to make the transaction.  We waiting quite a while as she buffeted that bag every which way trying to find the coinage.  There was a sea of coins on the counter and the clerk was being patient as she searched.  I reached into my back pocket and extracted my billfold and was going to pay if she couldn't come up with it.  I didn't want to interfere because my impression of the homeless are they are sometimes proud and want simply to be left alone.  I also did not want to be seen as condescending or pushy.  

So we waited.  After an uncomfortably long time the put the final coins on the counter and with a brisk precision, the clerk counted them up and returned to her a couple pennies in change.  And you know what she did?  

She took those two pennies and placed them into the donation box sitting next to the cash register.  Think about that a second.  A lonely homeless woman, gave away perhaps her last 2 cents (it certainly looked like it the way she was scabbing around that bag) to help others.  

I was dumbfounded.  I wanted to tell the world about the selfless act of giving I had witnessed.  This will have to do. I wanted to find her after I got our order and give her something but when Alfred and I sat down with out treats she had vanished.  Her shopping cart of belongings were probably stashed somewhere nearby and she wanted to return to it for safekeeping. 

This Christmas I will be thinking of the lady we waited behind at  Burger King.  I will attempt to keep her in my thoughts throughout the year as a reminder that good deeds need not cost a lot; that kindness ripples like a rock tossed in a pond, and keep giving whenever we make the effort.  If a homeless woman who has nothing can do it, can I do less?  I think she was a messenger of sorts:  a gentle but unmistakable reminder that in an era of divisive politics, hard hearts and blindness to others travails, we ultimately are bound to each other. 

"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again.  "Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all, my business.  The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Pinellas Fall Festival

A few days before my trip up to Northlandia the Pinellas County Fair was in full swing.  One of my wordless posts will introduce you to this fun time for kids and expensive venture for grandparents.  

And after a couple hours of feeding the ticket takers, navigating through the people and that ominous looking spot where someone barfed, it was time to coerce the wee one to accept that it was time to wander home.   County Fairs are similar pretty much wherever you go.  When I was a kid the one in Mercer County gave out cigarettes and live ducklings to kids of all ages.  Today with all the child rearing advances those days are long gone, and rightly so, but what remains is a sanitized remembrance of what once embodied a carney haven that enticed you to leave the dirt of the farm behind and walk into an enugmatic world of temptation.  Malone's Taffy is still made and sold at these places, but Freida the Frog Baby has been placed in the carnival closet, most likely never to see the blinking colorful lights of the Midway ever again. The rides are the same but the mystery is gone.   Then again maybe it's just my youth that has vanished. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits

These two guys came into Chipotle the day I came up to Northlandia.  One in the lower picture was wearing a silver medal of sorts and both in running garb.  Both were splattered by various pastel colors.  Daughter Kenze told me they now splash finishers with chalk.  They didn't do that when I ran the Rhubarb Festival 3K.


Teaching Alfred the joys and science of Popsicles.


Ever wonder why many of the plastic headlight covers are foggy?  Me too.  It is surely an embarrassment to the automobile manufacturers.  Probably one of those lowest bid resulting in poor quality things.


Nothing says "We Love Our Customers" quite like putting security bars on shopping carts so you scumbag thieves won't take them outside and rip us off.


As Alfred and I were saying goodbye to Candy, our crossing guard who we came to rely on, who is retiring this week, a car went zooming by.  A cop parked nearby pulled them over in the parking lot at Waterboard.  She told us he had been nearby only 7 minutes and caught 2 of them in a 20 minutes.  We really liked Candy and got in a habit of buying her a cookie from Burger King every so often. 


You know?  If I plunk down $5, or $20, or $40 for gas I should be able to get air for my tires free.  The fact that these places charge for air really sucks.  Cheap ass bastards. 


I couldn't figure out why Good Morning America, something I was forced to watch on antenna free TV in Northlandia, kept airing entertainment segments regarding a new movie coming out, called Rogue One, some kind of Star Wars flick.  So I checked to see who owns ABC and discovered it was Disney, distributor of Rogue One.  Mystery solved.  Speaking of schlocky shilling, I was also forced to watch Dr. Phil, a more refined veneer of a show but very much like Springer, and at the end of one of the episodes he began shilling a cosmetic facial cream made by his wife.  Lord, all dignity has vanished from the commercial broadcast networks.  That and their shows are sub-par compared to premium channels.  No wonder their viewership is dwindling.  I never watch it in Floriduh but have to in antenna-free form in Emerald City.  My advice when confronted with anything on ABC, NBC or CBS - grab a book.


Slightly sad confession:  I have 3 SD cards for my camera.  I brought back 2 from Northlandia after having taken some pictures of the snow, a sunrise and some in the country.  The card I used I forgot to bring back.  You will have to wait for Spring for those stunningly dazzling masterpieces. 


Imitating what she sees every morning Alfred packs her backpack and heads to school.  


Now that my mini-vacation is over all those wonderful, delicious Midwest foods are history.  If only I could bring them all back on the plane with me.

Deer Meat Chili
River Catfish
Johnsonville Brat Burgers (Grillers)
Jerry's pizza


The first morning of my return to Northlandia and the cabin in the Woods.  Woo Hoo!

And finally...

That'll do Floridian.  That'll do.


Alfred sneaking up on Santa.  Funny the way kids mind's work.


I wonder why toilet brushes and caddie are white.


This will be the final Tuesday Tidbits until next year.  

Monday, December 19, 2016

Santa Came A Little Early This Year

In 1996 I bought a new Ford Ranger pickup from Lakis Ford.  It was a basic model with no options.  The intermittent windshield wipers and radio were about the only luxury items.  I still have it and it still runs great.   It is in Northlandia at the Cabin in the Woods.  Twenty years later I got the itch to get another one.  I have been wanting to get something we could all go in on weekends instead of taking two cars.  I flirted with a Navigator up in Northlandia and an Expedition at a Mom & Pop used car place here but decided to check out a place in Holiday that sells Nissans.  

Meet my new (to me) used Nissan Pathfinder.  It is a 2007 model with a lot of miles but is in exceptional condition.  I'm giddy just thinking about it as I type this in Northlandia.  

This is the Maus Nissan sales guy who sold my current wife her Murano.  He got a hold of me and I was like a doomed fly in his web.  I kind of wanted a Navigator or Expedition type bigger SUV but they are more expensive and usually have a lot of miles on them.  Oh, by the way that guy is Honduran and his name is....wait for it....Otto.  Great guy.  

You won't find any rips or tears in the cabin.  Besides lifetime oil changes this baby also has a long list of cool stuff I didn't even know existed.  Lets see:  memory seats, individual comfort settings, built in Garmin, heated seats, Bose speakers, three row seating and other stuff I don't know what they are yet.   

Push a button and the ceiling folds back and then the sunroof/moonroof opens up.  Ha!

All kinds of room for people and if you need to haul something big just fold down the seats.

Getting bored?  Just fold down the monitor and put in one of their favorite movies.  Head phones are in the storage bin to allow the adults to chat.  And if I want to watch the movie someone else can drive and I'll snuggle back with the kids.  Hell the damn thing even tells me which direction I am going and what the temperature outside is.  

Now I know most of you have enjoyed most of these little pleasures for some time, but for me its all new.  Do I sound like a dork with a new pen holder?  Well, I have to tell you its kind of nice to have wheels down there and fun wheels at that.  Dork, always.  Cool Dork riding around with his new Pathfinder?  Yup.  

Ho Ho Ho.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Flashback Friday

I have combined two Christmas gatherings for today's Flashback Friday.  Years unknown.  The first set the tree is nestled in the corner where the organ usually resided.  I was usually the picture taker in the family.  Marj had a little camera but it was usually up to me to record the events.  

This old Poloroid has not withstood time very well and as you can see is degrading a bit.  Like me. 

Phil showing everyone his new John Wayne biography Santa brought him.  Is that Jason in the corner?  Or Courtney?  I can't tell.

This is Phil and Jeanne's kid, Courtney.  I don't think they sent away for him like it looks in this picture - I think they got him in the usual way.

The Wombie and Courtney having a mind-melding session.

Herb, Phil and Jeannie.  

Fast forward or back for another Christmas.  This year the squat little tree is in front of the picture window.  

The Wombie doing his happy dance sitting down.

Your blog writer looking sleepy with all the activity.  Too much celebratory adult libation, perhaps. 

I think all of the Christmas pictures have now been posted so you will be relieved to know you have survived them all.   Take lots of pictures at your events and even non-events.  They will give you comfort when you are old.   

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Time To Leave

Today I fly back to Southlandia.  It is cold and snowy up here.  But I'm a cheater.  I've had enough.  I'm the worst kind of Snowbird.  I catch a glimpse of the Dread, then high tail it back to warmth and sunshine.  These are the things I learned or confirmed this trip:

  • Not many things beats climbing into bed after being warmed-up by an electric blanket, especially when you tend to keep the thermostat low.
  • I must remember to wear my boxers in the summer but my boxer briefs in the winter.  
  • Doing nothing at all still counts as having fun up here.
  • Don't buy scratch tickets in Illinois.  They just had a review and many of their games don't pay out: the worst of any lotto state.  It is a private firm and apparently are more profit motivated than other states.
  • There is a reason the Midwest has a reputation for friendly people.
  • Beer is colder up here in the winter.
  • This will be a long stretch for me till I return.  Sigh. 
  • I had a nice white-knuckle driving experience.  Loved every fishtailing moment of it.  But still turned around halfway there and came home.  
  • Picture taking projects come to a screeching halt when it is cold.  Another sigh. 
  • Oquawka is the most interesting place around.  Home of the Illinois chapter of the Satan Bros Motorcycle Club and the most Confederate flags. 
  • Casey's flatbread pizzas are wonderful.  We don't have Casey's in Floriduh. 
  • Speaking of pizzas, Jerry of Jerry's Pizza in Mt. P. is not well, but he has passed his recipe on to others to continue the great tradition.
  • I went out to the garage and opened Miss Frump's doors and closed them just so I could hear them again.
  • Someone could make a mint in Emerald City by opening a nice bar and grille.
  • Antenna TV sucks.  Really really sucks.  
  • Snow is a godsend if you spend most of your time in warm, blue-skied climes.  "You can take the boy out of the country..."
  • I spent the morning before I came up here trying to find a bank to grind my coins for cash.  They all referred me to the local grocery monopoly Publix who has Coinstars that will do the job, for 9%.  Around here you can go to any bank and they will do it free and with a smile.
  • I have a couple great friends up here.  Its nice to confirm that with every trip.
  • The cold slowed up my slithering.  Still didn't touch base with people I wanted to.   And picture taking?  Not in this cold.
  • Roadtrips with Mr. and Mrs. Wombie, even in sub-zero wind chills  always hold out the hope of  adventure.
  • About the only good thing worth watching on free TV is All In the Family.  The next best thing is The Jack Benny Show.   I've got this figured out by the time I return this summer.  I don't mind roughing it in the Cabin in the Woods, but TV viewing is going to have to be stepped up a few notches. 
  • I can't tell the difference between 22 degree cold and 12.   
  • I've got the best gig going.  Floriduh with family, Northlandia for fun and friends. 
  • Before you throw your winter stuff on at 4:00 am, grab the camera, start the cold cold truck and head down to New Boston for thrilling picture taking of river ice floes and the Geminid meteor shower, remember to get that SD card you packed in your travel bag for tomorrow's trip back.  Wasted trip. I hate when that happens,
  • Don't let Facetime chats with Norah showing you her latest freckle slow you down from enjoying your stay up North.  And exclaiming with obvious joy there are only 2 more sleeps till Papa returns.
  • No matter the shops, entertainment, cultural opportunities or the thrill of bustle big cities offer - there is no place like small town America.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Keepsakes No More

No, this isn't Flashback Friday.  Remember I went to a bizarre oddities and antique shop a few weeks ago?  You mean you weren't paying attention?  Anyway while there I purchased these photos they had in a stack next to the cash register for a few pennies.  I wondered at the time how these family photos made it all the way to a strange little shop in Largo, Florida.   I don't know the answer to that but as we look at these little moments in time a certain sadness must surely creep into a viewing pleasure.  I'll explain a bit later.  Until then let's take a look at what I bought and why. 

The most obvious explanation for this picture is it represents heartland America.  What is more Midwest/Illinois/Seaton than a small herd of cows, a shed and corn?  Since I am firmly in the Northlandia nostalgia business these days stuck in Southlandia, these cows and that corn represent a different time - maybe even my days working for Uncle Ed.  Delving further, however, I wonder what motivated the picture taker to one day say I'm taking a picture of Ole Bessie and the gang?  Was it the owner?  A family member?  An insurance agent?  Sadly, we'll never know.   

"Pa and Laurence on the rocky coast of Maine 1949".  That was the only writing on any of my pictures.  So, Pa and Laurence took a trip to Maine.  One can only imagine all the circumstances around this picture.  Who are they?  Father - son?  Father-in-law, son-in-law?  Again, not to belabor the point, but almost any scenario begins and ends with questions.  The fascinating thing, too, is that you can apply anything you want to it.  Make up your own story - imagination fills in the empty blanks.   

The next three pictures, I believe, came from the same album.  This kid is featured in all three pictures - a proud parent taking a remembrance of their daughter with the family pooch.  Classic.  Universal.  These pictures aren't so cryptic.  

Once again out little girl is doting on the dog.  Did the dog get up on the box himself or was he placed there by Dad?  The next best thing besides a boy and his dog is a girl and her dog.  How did this picture that should be safe in a family album somewhere become antique store fodder?  What happened?  Isn't there usually someone who takes over custody of family treasures even if a distant relative?   


Is this the same girl?  I am assuming so.  It is the same stock as the others.  Is this Daddy?  Perhaps on the 4th of July?  She is wearing heavier clothes than one would expect on a mid-summer holiday.  Immigrants who just became citizens?  He certainly looks rather stern for a joyous occasion.  Who knows?

And finally a boat ride along a rocky coast.  Maine?  Pa and Laurence?  Probably not.  I liked the view of this and could picture myself enjoying the ride and the scenery.  The boat is gleaming and you can see the reflected shore in the chrome air intakes.  A British flag?  Perhaps Canadian?  The Royal Union flag still remains the official flag of Canada even though they adopted the Maple Leaf flag in 1965.  See, you even got educamated.  What a wonderful blog this is.   

There's no good way to end this post other than to relish the glimpse of folks long gone doing their thing a long time ago.  I guess one should make arrangements for the precious family albums so they don't end up in stranger's hands and to document as best as one can with digital photography.  How does one do that?  I don't know.  Maybe a simple small notebook and a numbering system.  Your generations to follow in the family will be grateful.  I hope.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits

Here are a couple of innovations that didn't last in the car industry.  I have talked before about why they ever eliminated the small side window cars used to have.  and the rain vent/channel above the windows.  Here they are on my old Dodge.

The small vent window woulod let you direct some air in and you could control how much.  The rain channel would allow you to open the window without getting a lap full of water like today's cars. 

I was thinking of some more and came up with the side turn light.  It would allow you the ability to see where you were turning the car.  I wonder how many pedestrians were saved from getting hit.  

Maybe not as big of a loss as the other items above but definitely cool was this unique and innovative way to gas up your car.  No unsightly gas door on the side and certainly no gas stains running down the quarter panel.  All of these ideas are now gone from cars.  Too bad.  


If you think Global Warming is some kind of liberal ploy to make money for do-gooder companies or deny the science outright, you are an idiot.

If you think all the news you see on Facebook and other media is true and you fail to verify where it comes from, and you pass it on as true, you are an idiot.

If you can't wait to see the next episode of Springer, you are an idiot.

If you do a blog for almost 10 years and think it is in the least bit relevant or important, you are an idiot.


Ever wonder why barns are painted red?  It is because the color is the cheapest.  Why is it the cheapest?  Because what makes red paint is red ochre.  Red ochre is Fe2O3, iron and oxygen which absorbs green, yellow and blue which is red.  It is cheap because it is plentiful.  It is the really plentiful because of nuclear fusion in dying stars.  "The only thing holding the star up was the energy of the fusion reactions, so as power level goes down the star gets smaller.  It shrinks.  It then begins to get cooler which starts more reactions, and on and on and produces more heavy elements.  That is until it reaches 56.  At that point the reaction stops producing any energy at all, then the star shuts down and collapses totally."  As soon as the star hits 56, which is the number of neutrons and protons in an atom,  it produces iron.  Iron is the most readily available substance in the universe, including earth.


While walking the neighborhood taking pictures (a bust) I spotted this sports car at Wawa.  I wandered over and asked the lucky owner and he said it was a Jaguar.  Don't know much about them, but if I had one I wouldn't plaster wrap all over it like this jerk.  What is Mynt anyway?


This is how a kindergartner studies math these days.  Maybe if I'd had a computer to help me instead of an ever-increasingly exasperated math whiz like my Dad I would have done better.  To this day I can still hear the wheez in his throat when he realized his efforts were wasted.  


Babysitting during Thanksgiving break was wild.  I get 2 weeks of it when I return South.  Oh the humanity.


I hear we have another Cardinal fan reading BFE.  Good guy and friend to all of the Blythe boys. "All Are Welcome."


The Cabin in the Woods has been fairly tolerable for heat.  Once I get a fire going in the cookstove it warms things up nicely.  My bearskin coat helps when I have to go to town to trade and my boots keep my feet dry.  Sure gonna be a long winter if it stays this cold.  Better stock up on the hardtack and jerky.  


Cruised to Mount Pleasant, Iowa last week.  Home of Jerry's Pizza and what's that other place, hmmm, ah yes, Iowa Wesleyan University.  Thankfully old Mr. Harlan, early Professor, President and Lincoln crony, was dressed appropriately for the cold cold day.


Seen in Oquawka.  Yes, we have a divided country. And with all the Confederate flags flying in this village, perhaps never so divided since the Civil War.  I didn't vote for you Mr. Trump, but if you can fix this thing then I'll be at the head of the parade. 


Started having charging problems with my Kindle.  It kept losing juice. I got it years ago when they first came out and just figured their charging power diminishes with age.  So I got on line and ordered a new one with the lighted screen, the Paperwhite model.  Found out later I had the Wi-Fi on which depletes power a lot faster.  Hate spending money needlessly.  Oh well.  My little light that attaches to my old one is starting to dim so there you are.  Justification 101.


Finally, short videos of my takeoff and landing from Clearwater-St. Pete International to Moline last December 3rd.  I never tire of the rush a takeoff and landing instills in me.  Especially on Allegiant, statistically the most dangerous airline in America.  This time I had no one next to me.  Nice. That and an exit seat that means I could really stretch out.