Monthly Archives: January 2014

Storytime – A Walk in the Park

It soon became apparent that ‘life in the big city’ was not for everyone.  Many of the faces I saw on the streets were those of automatons, almost without expression except for vacant eyes and ingrained sadness.  Perhaps I’d change over time, but for now, it was a thrilling change from Louisville, Kentucky.  New York was indeed a melting pot, with every imaginable shade of skin and hair, every fashion of clothing and the sounds of a thousand languages.  I loved it, and loved being out in that mix.
I lived close enough to my job at Gray’s Papaya that I could walk to work.  Part of that walk included crossing Central Park, but that was ok.  I had my Mace, and I tried to stay constantly aware of my surroundings. Also, I was a good sprinter, so that could prove to be a valuable thing.
After work the other day I crossed Central Park West, right in front of the Dakota (you know, that’s where John Lennon lived), and I entered the park, heading home. I was tired after a long day of serving Famous Hot Dogs, trying to understand the dialects of a great variety of customers, and really wasn’t paying close enough attention to where I was going.  Soon, I found myself on an unfamiliar path, which led to a large grassy field. It was odd, though, that there were no people out there, no Frisbees, no chasing dogs, just a quiet spot in the middle of a bustling metropolis.
I stood there soaking up the silence, but then decided to retrace my steps to get back toward home.  I turned, about to embark on the path, but, strangely, the path had disappeared.  There was only forest, just trees and underbrush. Dizzy for a moment, I sat down abruptly on a rock outcrop.
It was then that the bowman walked up to me and said, “Do ye seek Robin Hood of the Glen? I can fairly guide thee, if it be your desire.” I stared, speechless, for at least a full minute.  He cocked his head at me, perhaps equally puzzled.
He spoke again, “Did ye not hear? What do ye seek? Be ye lost?”
I stammered, “This all seems so bizarre. One minute I’m in the middle of New York City, now I seem to be in Sherwood Forest. Surely there must be a Renaissance Fair going on, or something like that.  It wouldn’t explain the missing path or the empty field, but it’d be a start, I suppose.  Are you with a Fair?”
He screwed up his face as he thought.  Then he said, “I have not heard of this New York, I only know of the walled city of York far to the north.  Is that your goal?  I can only guide you out of the forest, but beyond that you’ll have to seek further help.”
I remained sitting, afraid to trust my legs at this point. I asked, “So, am I indeed in Sherwood?”
“Aye,” he said, “you are.  How is it that you don’t know where you are?”  He was now examining my strange mode of dress, probably agog at my colorful Nike shoes.
I scratched my head as I mumbled, “I can’t begin to explain it to you, since I don’t understand it myself. I am completely at a loss.”
“You may call me Will, “ he offered, “and what is your name?”
I decided not to explain that I was named after a character in Star Wars, but only said, “And I am called Han.”
Will studied me some more, then offered, “I wonder if you might be one of the Odd Wanderers I’ve heard of.  May I escort you to Nottingham Castle, where you may find others of your clan?”
My heart leapt, “Yes, yes, yes! Please take me there.  Should I find other garments before we go?”
Will nodded in assent, then said, “Yes, I was thinking the same thing.  I shall offer you some of my extra things, since we are of a like size.”
I won’t bore you with all the details of everything I saw and every strange thing I experienced on that journey, but suffice it to say that after the space of about three days I stood before the Sheriff of Nottingham.
The Sheriff stroked his beard and squinted his eyes as he questioned me, and started to become agitated when I could not supply satisfactory answers to his questions.
He roared, “Do you think me a fool, stranger? You speak in a way unknown to me, and unknown to my advisors.  Why should I trust you or help you?  I think perhaps it will be the gibbet for you.  Throw him in the dungeon with the others!”
Several of his helpers, whatever they were called, practically dragged me down the long stone stairway that led to the dungeon level.  They pried open a rusty cell door and literally threw me inside.  Clouds of rust came off the ancient door as they slammed it and drove home the bolt.
There were two other unfortunates there, but they would not be good company, since they had expired some time ago.  Their dried bodies lay against the far wall, fortunately not a source of foul odors any more.
For lack of anything else to do, I went over to take a closer look.  They were both men, and one of them appeared to be wearing a 3-piece suit from the thirties, with wide lapels, and wide pin stripes.  The other fellow wore Levi’s, a Grateful Dead t-shirt, and cowboy boots.  I wondered how long they had been here, and how long I’d be here, waiting for starvation or for the hangman.
I slept fitfully that night in the cold, uncomfortable cell.  There was no cot or bed, no blankets, only scurrying rodents and creeping roaches.  I shivered as I assumed the fetal position in a corner, to pass the long night. How many long nights lay ahead?
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It has been forty long years since that day in the park, and they have kept me alive in this dungeon, dribbling out water and thin gruel to me.  Periodically the Sheriff comes to peer through the bars, but he never speaks.
I am placing this epistle back in its place between the rocks.  I have lost hope of rescue, now I can only long for death.  I pity you who finds this, for you are likely a prisoner, as I was.

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Loving It Here in Miami (yeah, right)

We’re still in the Deep Freeze here in southern Indiana. The temperature this morning was about ONE, Fahrenheit, and now that it’s about noon the mercury has rocketed up to EIGHT degrees.thermometer The weekend is coming up in a couple of days, when it’s supposed to be around 40 degrees or so, but there is the possibility of blizzard conditions sometime during that period.
So, are you ready for SPRING, too??
The ground is still covered in several inches of snow, and that’s JUST enough to make our long driveway pretty slippery, especially the HILL part right where it joins the main road.  Kate got stuck coming in the other day, just as she tried to navigate that hill and hardly made it onto our gravel driveway.  I was in the house, waiting on her arrival from work, and the first I knew of her difficulty was when I saw her trudging through the snow on her way to the porch.  A nice 100-yard stroll.  She was exhausted from having worked all night, then being frustrated by the conditions, and having her commute vehicle stuck in the snow, knowing that she’d have to have it later in the day to return to Louisville, and Jewish Hospital for another 12-hour (usually longer) night shift.  So, I fed her, threw her into bed (gently), and later I went out with the snow shovel and extricated the work-mobile.
TriviaNightJan2014A couple of days ago we made it into town for Tuesday Night Trivia at our local brewpub, Point Blank.  There were a lot of no-shows because of the frigid conditions and dicey roads, so there were only 4 teams playing trivia.  That was a TOUGH set of questions, but we managed to slide into THIRD place 🙂
I had to drive south to Brandenburg, KY yesterday evening while Kate headed back to Louisville.  I have the honor of managing/obfuscating/impeding/confusing a creative writing group there on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month.  By the way, have you ever thought about delving into creative writing?  Come join us, you might have a good time! IMG_3461-800 Anyway, since it was a work night for Kate, I had to drive the pickup down to Brandenburg, and I was kinda dreading the return trip because of the afore-mentioned driveway problems, but I made it in fine.  I was on the downhill roll as I approached the turn, and from that direction I don’t have to worry about driving over my mailbox, so it worked fine.  If necessary, my backup plan involved leaving Big Truck at one of the neighbor’s houses and hiking on in from there.  Whew!  Safe!  🙂
graderSo, here we are a couple of days later. We got a little more snow overnight, but Kate managed to make it up the driveway without difficulty, now that it’s been shoveled a bit.  If that all turns into a sheet of ice we could be in for more difficulties.  Hmmm, wonder what a road grader costs?
For you camera nuts, I’ll pass along that I received a new lens in the mail yesterday.  As I reported recently, I volunteered to ‘shoot a wedding’, and I learned some things in that effort. 1865camera The main thing I learned was that I didn’t have the right equipment to produce satisfactory images.  The shots I got were ok, but there were some things I wanted to do that just couldn’t happen.  I couldn’t say that I will be doing any more weddings (at this point I would dread the possibility), but I do enjoy photography, so we’ll see how this goes, with a new item in my tool pouch 🙂
Anyway, I’m staying indoors today, doing a little blogging (as you see), and doing a little ‘creative writing’ to share with my Brandenburg group.  Psst, the story might involve some time travel – interested yet? 🙂

About Coffee

I was sharing some memories with Kate recently, and once again she said, “You need to  write about that!”  So, here we go again, wandering through the dark recesses of my memory corridors, peering into pigeonholes. The subject was coffee, and I was boring her with a story telling her about how I came to be a drinker of black coffee. I have related parts of this story before, but maybe it’ll be ok to re-visit the subject.
Way back in 1961, when I graduated from high school, we were living in Elkhart, Kansas, and shortly after graduation I jumped into my 1953 Ford and headed for Eagle Nest, New Mexico.  My mother knew a couple of ladies who owned cabins in that part of the world (The Moreno Valley), and these ladies were starting a curio/gift shop, and agreed to board me for awhile. Somehow, my mother had lined up a job for me, too, at the Laguna Vista Lodge in Eagle Nest. The building the ladies had rented was at oEagle Nest 2014ne time a gas station, but it looked ok for what they wanted to do with it.  Part of the building was a dusty old garage, and some of the time I slept in the garage, and some of the time I stayed at one of their cabins.  My work at the Lodge started out to be as a waiter, but after about one afternoon, the boss lady came to me and said, “You know, I think you’d be a great dishwasher!”  So, I re-located into the kitchen area.
I must apologize, but all my memories don’t come to me in perfect order, so I’ll have to relate them as they appear on my main memory screen, ok?
LagunaVista.Weiser.07-03So, I worked for awhile at the Lodge, meeting new people – some of those new people were young Hispanic men who were graduates of the New Mexico Boys School (read: reform school), and they knew more of life than I, a green kid from Kansas.  Often, if I happened to see them after hours they’d be carrying a quart-size (liter size?) bottle of Coors around with them.  I had been ‘straight arrow’ all through high school and had never even tasted beer.  Yes, it’s true!  One of the young men was trying to further my education in other areas, and he made mention of a pretty female he knew who lived in Cimarron, New Mexico, about 25 miles away, who had things to teach me.  I wasn’t clear on what those things might be, but I elected not to find out.  One of his little sayings, which he used when I again turned down his offer of female companionship, was, “If you change your mind, just say the word, Thunderbird!” I remained ignorant.
Not long after, another job offer came along, and I bid adieu to my stalwart companions at the Laguna Vista Lodge and went over to Horseshoe Camp.
Horseshoe Camp was a combination kind of place.  My duties would be to pump gas, fix flats (using two flat pieces of metal and a mallet), rent out cabins, sell groceries, and sell fishing tackle. The other folks there were the owner, Walter Dahl, and his wife.  And me.  I would be working 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, all summer, for the princely sum of $300.  Not a bad wage for those times.  84 hours a week seemed a bit much, but the rest of the time was mine!  🙂  Hey, I was 17, no problem!
So, when I changed jobs, I changed my living arrangements, too.  My work day at Horseshoe Camp was from 5AM until 5PM, and it often proved to be difficult to make it down the mountain from the cabin in time to open up at 5AM.  So, I found a place to live that was basically a stone’s throw from my work, and it only cost me $1 a day.  It was a small cabin which was part of a group of tourist cabins that no longer functioned as a motel.  There was power to the cabin, but no water.  The cabins were arranged in a semi-circle, and the shower room/restroom was in a building in the center of this arrangement.  I had a hotplate, at least, to warm up whatever food I wanted to bring in, but I don’t think there was a refrigerator.
The elevation of Eagle Nest, New Mexico is about 8400 feet, and it gets kinda nippy in the morning, even in the summertime, and I decided I’d follow the lead of all the other locals I observed, and I’d start drinking hot coffee.coffee_percolator_9_cup  I bought a little percolator and made coffee on my hotplate.  It took me a couple of weeks to get used to the taste of black coffee (I decided to just keep it simple, so I wouldn’t have to buy sugar and creamer), but before long I learned to like it.  And, yes, I still drink it black.

Playing Catch-Up

Time for New Year’s resolutions, they say.  So, I’ll try to lose some weight, try to achieve better harmony with my co-workers…. wait, i’m retired!  Should make that last one easier, yes?  One thing I’m going to try to do, without setting any specific goals, is to do more posting on this here blog.  I know, I know, I don’t have anything interesting to say, no amazing adventures to describe, but hey, why should you guys get off easy?  I’m gonna bombard you with my nonsense anyway!  Here goes…..IMG_7894
Turning back the clock a bit, let’s talk about the recent holiday season.  As you may know, I get to be the Santa Claus for our little community of Corydon, Indiana, and I really enjoy the ‘Santa Claus time of year’.  Our season starts on the weekend following Thanksgiving, and Ground Zero for that activity is Corydon’s Town Square – the event is called “Light Up Corydon”, and the name refers to the lighting of the thousands of lights that have been strung in the trees all over the square.  Work schedule permitting, wife Kate appears as Mrs. Claus, and she fills that role beautifully!  Incidentally, she made both our costumes, and, ask anyone, they turned out great!
There’s a certain amount of choreography involved in getting the two of us up on the stage of the bandstand to act as the ‘stars of the evening’.  We show up early, and one of the nice folks at the Convention and Visitors Bureau lets us into one of the adjacent buildings so we can get dressed for the event.  Then, at the appointed time, they will escort us over to the bandstand to get things started.  Of course, we have to work our way through a throng of kids and parents to make our way over there, and it’s lots of fun waving at everyone, doing the “Ho Ho Ho”, and trying to pay special attention to the little ones we encounter.
As Santa Claus, I get to do the actual countdown for the lighting, and I always try to get the crowd involved.  IMG_6350-1600I’ve got the microphone, and I start calling out the sequence, “Ten, Nine, Eight…”, and the kids are all going nuts, shouting, jumping, squealing, trying to help with the countdown.  At “Zero” I flip the Big Switch….. well, actually, there is no Big Switch – at “Zero” somebody plugs in an extension cord, I think.  Oh well, the kids always love it  🙂 IMG_3709
After the lighting is done, Mrs. Claus and I are escorted over to the Old Capitol Building (built in 1813) – it’s only about a 50-yard walk.  Again, we get to squeeze through the crowd, patting heads, waving, smiling, nothing like it!  Once in the Capitol, I’ll be ensconced in my big chair, right next to the Christmas tree, waiting to receive the kids who want to come tell me what they want for Christmas.  That’s the big payoff, for me and for the kids.  It’s a precious time, seeing the wonder and excitement on their little faces.  Some of them are of an age where they are pretty sure they know what it’s all about, but maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t hurt to whisper the Christmas list to Santa 🙂
So, that’s “Light Up Corydon”.  The rest of my ‘official’ duties as Santa Claus involve my appearance back at the Old Capitol for each of the first 3 Saturdays in December, from 1 – 5 PM for photos and kid visits.
One minor problem with using the Capitol as our venue is its status as a Historical Site, which means that it has to remain in its original condition, without electrical wiring, and without a heating system.  So, from time to time it gets kinda frosty in there. Thank goodness for long underwear 🙂
During December, Kate takes care of sending out invitations to nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities to see if they’d like to have a visit by Santa and Mrs Claus for their Christmas party to help pass out gifts or whatever they want.  Sometimes, Mrs. Claus will play Christmas carols on the piano.  Of course, there is no charge for any of this, we just like to help out with cheering up the folks who live in those facilities. Again, a very rewarding experience to see the shut-ins with smiling faces as we make the rounds shaking hands and chatting.
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Right after Christmas we got to drive down to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to attend the wedding of  one of Kate’s grand-daughters, Mercedes McVey.  She had her wedding scheduled for December 29th, which was the only window of opportunity for her sailor fiancé, Mark Stedman, due to Navy scheduling. I had volunteered to be their (unpaid) wedding photographer, as a wedding gift for them.  IMG_6737-1600That turned out to be a special time, and we got to enjoy a family reunion as family members came in from Denver and North Carolina. I hope they like my photographic efforts – I did my best with the photo equipment I had.
We took our Santa / Mrs Claus costumes to Tulsa with us so we could have some photo sessions with the little people in the family – Laurel Green and Eli McVey. Eli seemed ok with it, but Laurel cried and cried.  Oh well, these things happen 🙂
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Well, that kinda catches up on reporting our recent activities (nudge, nudge, you can wake up now).  I’ll try to do these posts a little more frequently in the future.