Sunday, December 26, 2010

Do Whop

Imagine this ...

- a large, imposing stone building on a secluded hilltop
- a set of ancient iron gates and a long, serpentine drive leading up a hillside
- barred, curtainless windows, one after another
- inside ... a narrow hallway ... mirror-image, pale green doorways ... paint peeling
- inside ... a furnitureless room and stark, white padded walls
- inside ... a solitary figure methodically defining the room in a seemingly prearranged pattern of trodden squares, rectangles, circles and figure-eights
- inside ... every so often, the figure pauses ... hands lifted in a slight, but graceful gesture
- inside ... from his lips ... an almost inaudible murmur
- do whop do whop

from across the hallway ... na, na na, na na ... na, na na, na na

from down the corridor ... ba rump a bum bum

from the adjoining room ...doobie doobie

and ... bop shoo bop

and ...sha na na

then silence

and then, it begins anew.

Do Whop Singer
Must be able to work in dim lighting ... outside the spotlight.
Work primarily in teams of three.
Pleasant , but unremarkable appearance a plus.
Demonstrated ability to sing single-syllable, nonsensical words or phrases.

Anne and I listened to xmas music all the way from Vermont to Virginia ... 13 hours. We were overflowing with the xmas spirit. I did, however, make a slight observation. Xmas carols are notorious for inane filler lyrics. Ba rump a bum bum so to speak. It made me think. What would make someone decide, "I want to be a background singer"? How bad could their life have been? What must their futures be like, just outside the spotlight rim? What's it like to work your way to the top of the do whop profession and how might you know that you actually are at the apex of your career? Self actualization become surreal. It's not like you are enshrined in the Backup Hall of Fame, or asked to join the Mormon Tabernacle Do Whop Choir.

I thought about how one might interview candidates for the job. What would you ask? "Mr. Smith, how do you feel about being a nobody?" Or ... "Ms. Doe, I noticed the logo on your unassuming, gray blazer. It said, 2nd Banana ... Love the Peeling. Can you speak to that ever so briefly?"

I've racked my brains to think of the names of the great back up singers. The back up singers for James Brown was all I could come up with. Maybe their name says it best ...

Bitter Sweet.

Monday, December 13, 2010


I've been thinking about retirement lately and when and how it should occur. I sat down with my boss yesterday to discuss it. Without question, I have been treated well in my position and made to feel wanted and appreciated. When need be, my boss has stepped in to situations on my behalf. Our personal and professional relationship has steadily grown stronger over the years. My decision relative to retirement was whatever works best for my boss is what I am prepared to do. It was decided that I would officially leave on July 1 with possible per diem days to help train my replacement. After we talked, I sat down and tried to write a letter of resignation and after a few attempts realized that I could not do it. The letter seemed so boring and I could not see me going out that way. I seemed cold and in no way conveyed my feelings. Instead, I wrote a poem ... even though I am not a poet. When I finished, good or bad, it felt like me! So here it is!

A Conversation With a Friend

I find myself in a full tilt boogie!
a boogie, so vast and all-encompassing
that it cannot be contained
by walls
by schedules
by responsibilities.

that said,
I must clear my calendar for a new adventure!

over ten years ago,
I came here for a visit
and found a family instead.
I cannot begin to express how much I have loved working here.

one thing I know about myself
I work best
and am happiest
in situations with strong, visionary leadership
… with a leader who can make hard decisions …
… but, with a leader who has a heart…
thank you, Ingrid, for being that person for me.

with mixed emotion,
it is my intention
to resign my position
as Confidential Secretary
effective July 1, 2011.

I want to express my thanks to you personally
for allowing me to share in the experience that is BAMS
for being my support
for tolerating the oddities that make me who I am.

thank you BAMS for filling my plate
for caring for me
for letting me be a part of something great

I have feasted
taste buds aquiver – bitter and sweet
I am nourished.
And I am full.

Respectfully and with love,

Bruce Marshall
Confidential Secretary

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tai Chi - Definition

Wolfe asked us to think about what tai chi is to each of us. The essense of tai chi for me can be described as "a circuitous path to know the unknowable".

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Parable of the Zoo

The last several weeks at work have been crazy. Everyone is showing the strain. It made me think about something I wrote quite a few years ago in a similar situation.

The Parable of the Zoo

once upon a time, there was a zoo with many cages,
but it wasn't always a happy zoo.
sometimes the animals would growl and fight.

the Zookeepers thought long and hard.
“here is the problem.
there is a snake in the monkey cage”.
“no, there is a snake in the zebra stall”.
“no, there is a snake in the rhino compound”.

the Zookeepers thought long and hard.
they found a special cage for the snake.
they put sand on the floor.
they released live mice on special occasions.
they hired a snake charmer named Sabu.

the monkeys were happy.
the zebras were happy.
the rhinos were happy.

every now and then a snake escaped
and the Crocodile Hunter was summoned.

one day, there was an urgent call from Sabu.
“come quick the snakes have gone berserk”.

the spitting cobra was spitting.
the boa constrictor was constricting
the black racer was racing.
the diamondback rattler was rattling.


there were many wounds to the snakes and to the keepers

the Zookeepers thought long and hard.
“it is a snake pit down there”.

“crimey” said the Crocodile Hunter.
“i am being amazed” said Sabu.
“holy crap” said the Zookeepers.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Every time I turn around these days, something else is giving out. My latest trial and tribulation is getting my new hearing aids. They fit nicely on the shelf beside the partial plate, the graduated lens, the prostate removal, and knee that continues to nag at me.

I feel like a 52 Ford in the breakdown lane. Every time I try to pull back into traffic for a ride, another part gives out. Much to my chagrin, the parts are now vintage and I either can find a part to replace them or they are so expensive that I can't afford a new one.

Republican Defined

I recently read a definiton of a Republican that I liked.

A Republican is someone who cannot enjoy eating unless he knows that someone else is hungry.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Who Am I?

At first, I thought “Why me”? But, I know it’s not just me. This is something that plays itself out over and over in every family. It should not be a huge surprise … but it is.

I call dad every week. Sometimes every two weeks. It is awful. His mind is going fast. It started with having a hard time with recent events and facts. It progressed to struggling, almost physically, to get something out … to the point of almost stuttering. Then came repeating himself. I don’t mean repeating the same story you told last week. I mean retelling a story 30 seconds after you finish telling it … over and over with no idea of what you said before. Twenty minutes on the phone with dad might mean hearing the same story up to ten times. This alternates with perseveration about things. For quite a while now it has been about Wayne not calling. He can’t figure it out … and it comes up numerous times every time I call him.

I thought, “Why me”? But, I knew it was coming. On my last call, dad had no earthly idea who I was, nor any of the other sons. He recognized my voice but was totally confused by it all. I don’t know yet if it was just a momentary lapse. I suspect instead that it is just a beginning. It is so sad! There is nothing I can do. I think is will only get worse.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Collections - More Books

Reading has always been difficult for me ( I feel there may be a touch of dyslexia )and I read incredibly slowly. Hence, I was a reluctant reader and worked hard to mask my poor reading skills. I finally decided that, since I was a teacher, I had to read. At first, I read all non-fiction. If I had to read, at least I would be learning something. Later, I branched out and learned to enjoy reading, but there is still an element of the need to learn from what I read.

My art books are both an attempt to educate myself about the great art of the world and a reflection of the galleries I have had the opportunity to visit on my travels.

Painting of the Louvre Art/Paris
The Great Masters of European Art Art
The Majesty of Spain Art/Travel
The Prado Art/Madrid

I love to hike or paddle. Like everything else I do, I tend to keep of log of when, where and how much I do. Seeking out new hikes always provides me with new adventures. I collect guides for such events, but honestly, I don't really use them much. The pleasure seems to be in the availability of them to use.

AMC River Guide Paddling
Animal Tracks New England Hiking
Audubon Guide for N.A. Mushrooms Hiking
Berry Finder Hiking
Green Mtn. VT Long Trail Hiking
Hiking S.C. Hiking
Hiking the Monadonock Region Hiking
N.C. Hiking Trails Hiking
The 2 0z. Backpacker Hiking
The Audubon Society Guide to N AM. Birds Hiking
Track Finder Hiking
Tree Finder Hiking
Winter Tree Finder Hiking
Peterson Guide- Rocks and Minerals Hiking

every time we take a trip, our first step is to gather 4 to five travel guides to read up on where to go and what to do. I stopped counting at about 50 of these.

Sometimes I feel pretty ignorant. How can I understand how I feel about a topic when I really don't know anything about the topic. These books reflect that need.

Freud For Beginners
Lenin For Beginners
Quotations For Chairman Mao Tsetung
Buddha For Beginners
Marx For Beginners
The Forgotten Art of Building a Stone Wall
Einstein For Beginners

Stone walls and Goldsworthy ... what can I say ... I love it.

In the Company of Stone - Snow
Wood - Goldsworthy

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Collections - Favorite Authors and Books

There is a difference between the books you read and authors that you love to read and the ones that you actually save. I love to read Kingsolver and Atwood , but rarely consider those books keepers. Same situation with female authors. The vast majority of what I read is by females authors. But, that is not necessarily reflected in my book collection. Not sure exactly why. Here are my keepers. I will let them speak for themselves.

Charles Bukowski - Absolutely my favorite. Kinda like chowing down on a mouthful of dirt. Gritty, but bursting with down to earth flavors. Chuck crams the gun in your face and lets you have it right between the eyes and then tells you that you asked for it.

Charles Bukowski - Slone (Biography)
Ham On Rye Bukowski Novel
Pulp Fiction Bukowski Novel
Betting on the Muse Bukowski Poetry
Bone Palace Ballet Bukowski Poetry
Tales of Ordinary Madness Bukowski Poetry
The Most Beautiful Girl in Town Bukowski Poetry

Jeanette Wintersen is my favorite female author. Who else would tell the love story of a web-toed, red-headed daughter of a Venetian boatman who falls in love with Napolean's chicken cook? Don't get me wrong. Just because you read someone doesn't always me you understand them. But, I try.

Art and Lies Wintersen
Art Objects Wintersen
Gut Symmetries Wintersen
Lighthousekeeping Wintersen
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Wintersen
Powerbook Wintersen
Sexing the Cherry Wintersen
The Passion Wintersen
The World and Other Places Wintersen

McCabe is so dark ... and surreal.

Breakfast on Pluto McCabe
Carn McCabe
The Butcher Boy McCabe
The Dead School McCabe

Marquez has an incredible range in his work. The 30 year love story in Love in the Time of Cholera is one of my favorite love stories.

Love in the Time of Cholera Marquez
News of a Kidnapping Marquez
One Hundred Years of Solitude Marquez

Doyle's Barrytown triology not only described the intricacy of the 13 year old boy's mind, but also gave us The Van and the Commitments.

A Star Called Henry Doyle
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha Doyle
The Woman Who Ran Into Doors Doyle

I read Gunter Grass for one reason - The Tin Drum and Oscar, the boy who willed hmself to stop growing.

Crabwalk Grass
The Gunter Grass Reader Grass
The Tin Drum Grass

Say You're One of Us Akpan
The Inquisitor's Handbook Antunes
Alias Grace Atwood
Moral Disorder Atwood
Girl Talk Baggott
The Secret Scripture Barry
Dinosaur Man Baur
Queer Bourroughs
Digesting the Child Within Callahan
Education of Little Tree Carter
Pig Tales Darrieusseeq
Geek Love Dunn
The Vagina Monologues Ensler
Before Women Had Wings Fowler
Ellen Foster Gibbons
The Prophet Gibran
The End of Alice Homes
The Blindfold Hurstvedt
A Prayer For Owen Meany Irving
The Underground Man Jackson
Eat Me Jaivin
The Wives' Tale Jerome
Sailor Song Kesey
Animal Dreams Kingslover
High Tide in Tucson Kingslover
Et Tu, Babe Leyner
My Cousin, My Gastrointerologist Leyner
Teeth Marks On My Corn Cob Leyner
Einstein's Dreams Lightman
There Are No Secrets Lowenthal
Becoming a Man Monette
Frieda Mujica
The Boy Murr
Martin and John Peck
The Shipping News Proux
The Dark Room Seiffert
Cock and Bull Self
Darkness Visable Styron
Last Orders Swift
The Ogre Tournier
After Hannibal Unsworth
The Hide Unsworth
Slaughterhouse Five Vonnegut

Monday, September 13, 2010


Been thinking a lot lately about collections. Probably due to the possibility of moving and the fact that I have been looking at what is in the house. Have come to the conclusion that what one collects may say something about him. Not sure what that really is. Brings up lots of questions. Do you collect for yourself or for the impact it has on others? How do you display what you collect? Is that for others as well? I have this idea in my head that when I die someone will scrutinize my collections to better understand who I really was, or who I wanted them to think I was. Secretly, I fanticize that some niece or nephew will want to read all of my book collection or view my favorite videos, etc. Like I said ... sometimes I fantacize.

Nevertheless, I am going to start with my cookbook collection. I love to read recipies, but I don't really cook that much. The need to travel also impacts my interest in collecting cookbooks. Here goes!

A Man and His Meatballs - Ingredient
A New Way to Cook - Method ----- all about healthy eating
All About Braising - Method
Best-Ever Curry Cookbook - Indian
Brazil - A Cook's Tour - Brazilian
Brazilian Cooking - Brazilian
Café Brazil - Brazilian
Cajun Cooking - Cajun
Classic Palestinian Cookery - Palestinian
Contemporary Italian - Italian
Contemporary Japanese Cuisine - Japanes
Coucous- Indian
Eating Cuban - Cuban
Good Tempered Food
Indian Market - Native American
Jack Daniel Barbecue Cookbook ------ a favorite for bbq sauces
Justin Wilson Hometown Louisiana Cooking - Cajun
Latin Chic - Latin
Latin Cooking - Latin
Latin Ladles - Latin
Lemongrass and Limes - Thai
Korean Cooking - Korean
Makan-Lahl - Malasian
Meze Cooking - Greek
Morrocan Cooking - Mid Eastern
New Jewish Cooking - Jewish
New Soul Cooking - Southern
New Wave Asian - Asian
North African Cooking - African
North Carolina Barbecue Method
Nuevo Cubano Cooking- Cuban
Oranges and Lemons - Ingredient
Our Latin Table - Latin
Pacific Flavors- Asian
Portuguese Cookbook- Portuguese
Portuguese Cooking - Portuguese
Real Stew - Method
Sauces - Method
Scandinavian Cooking - Scandinavian
Simply Shellfish- Ingredient
Slow Cooker - Method
Soup - Method
Spanish Cooking - Spain
Steam it - Method
Tapas - Spain
Thai - Thai
Thai Cuisine - Thai
The Carribean Cookbook - Carribean
The Foods of Viet Nam - Vietnamese
The Lebanese Cookbook - Lebanese
The Ottoman Kitchen - Turkish
The Taste of Mexico - Mexican
Turkish Cooking - Turkish
Venetian Tastes - Italian
Vietnamese Cooking - Vietnamese
Viva Italia - Italian
Wok and Stir Fry - Method

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Green Machine - The Time That ... I called KP

I told myself that I was saving up unsatisfactory behavior for my last National Guard drill weekend. The truth is that my behavior was pretty consistent all along … unsatisfactory every drill weekend. It is just that they never seemed to do anything about it. So, my appearance when I showed up was no great shock. My uniform was soiled and wrinkled. It had been for months! My boots were a disgrace. Nothing new! However, the lack of pockets on my uniform was new. We had torn them off in the restaurant on the way down. The piece de resistance was the tear in my pant leg from the knee to the crotch. That happened in the restaurant and coincided with our need to leave at the owner's request.

Imagine how I felt when I was told that someone else had been given KP in place of me. Worse yet, I was told that I would be required to go to the field with the troops. Turned out into the wilderness to wander for forty years, so to speak. I would not take this lying down. I marched myself (marching was not my usual thing) to first formation and plopped myself down right in front of the TOP. Never mind that he was attempting to address the company at the time. I informed him of the affront and vowed that I would never go to the field. A debate ensued. He was hysterical and irrational and proved himself to be the bully that I had expected. I, on the other hand, countered his every argument with pure logic and common sense. My final point ended the discussion once and for all. I said, “TOP, there is a General in the field today. Look at me. Do you really want me in the field where I might be seen … or talked to?" He paused, ever so briefly, and sent me to the kitchen, not to do KP, but to hide myself.

Everyone in the mess hall seemed to be up tight. A special meal for the Company Brass was in the works and everything had to be just right. They were smoozing two young Privates to convince them to re-up for two more years in the Guard. The Privates were eating up the attention like a piece of chocolate cake and swallowing the bait … hook, line and sinker. Let me tell you something about me. I am not the kind of guy to sit on my butt, hiding in the back of the kitchen, when there was a crisis. Somebody had to do something!

That somebody turned out to be me. My plan was to create a diversion. I inserted myself into the serving line. Slopping food onto a tray can be a lot of fun, especially if the tray is held by an officer. Do you believe in divine providence? Neither do I. But, I am a faithful fan of dumb luck and, as luck had it, I looked into the vat of baked potatoes. Staring back at me was a huge baked potato, split open from the heat … foam and black gunk oozing forth. I had discovered the proverbial rotten apple of the potato barrel. I snatched it up with my tongs and waited patiently for the arrival of the first officer.

What happened next was a chain of events, replayed over and over for the next half hour. An officer walked down the serving line. I placed the rotten potato on his tray. He discovered the potato and complained to the mess sergeant. The potato was thrown in the trash and the sergeant apologized. I retrieved the potato. Next …

About ten serving later, even the mess sergeant knew something was up. Suspicion settled around me like dust on a dirt road. Needless to say, I was accused and was banned from the serving line altogether. Idle hands, they say, are the devil’s workshop. While sitting in the back of the kitchen, I had a thought. I grabbed the lids from two of the large kettles. No one paid any attention to me when I strolled past the special serving table where the Brass was laying it on thick for those unsuspecting Privates. When I was directly behind the TOP, I summoned all of my strength and smashed my make-shift cymbals together, mere inches behind his ear. Simultaneously, I shouted at the top of my lungs, “Hey TOP”.

I found out something that day… officers do not have a sense of humor. The pupil's of everyone’s eyes regained their normal shapes. The startled looks were put away and replaced with angry glares. I quickly realized that the lids that I had so innocently chosen were from the boiled potato kettles. I surmised this from the bits of potato scattered across the Company Commander’s face, glasses, and uniform. I did not say, “Gotcha”, for I reasoned this was not the time.

It is lonely in the storage room of a mess hall. And a storage room is no place to spend your last day in the National Guard.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Green Machine - The Time That ... we went dancing

When we weren’t defending our country, we liked to have a good time. Often this meant heading out to Richmond, Virginia to hit the bars and joints around town. On one such occasion, we decided to go dancing.

Now before you get all wound up … assumption making … let me set the record straight. No, we were not picking up chicks. We just wanted to have a few drinks and shake a leg. Like that Cindi Lauper song … Boys, they wanta have fun.

Furthermore, no one in their right mine would pick up a girl where we were. It was an ugly bar. I realize that we were no prizes either. No one was shouting, “There’s Fabio” when we strolled in the door. So, when I say that there was not an attractive girl in the place, it was like the pot calling the kettle black. It was an ugly bar … and that’s a fact. And that is what caused all the trouble.

We were reveling in our maleness … bolstered by demon rum. We taunted one another on the sheer ugliness of the other's dance partner with nary a glace in the mirror. The incident at the bar literally tipped the scales for me. I approached a girl sitting there and motioned my desire for a dance. I avoided asking her verbally in that the signaling technique was far less painful to my delicate ego when told no and less likely to trigger teenage memories of rejection.

She smiled and hopped down from the bar stool. The building shook. I searched for her in the semi-darkness and found her directly to my front, but well below the five foot line on my pocket altimeter. The optical illusion fostered by the bar stool setting revealed, I performed my obligatory dance ... resisting the temptation to rest my elbow on the top of her head. My buddies had seen it all and eagerly awaited my return.

Boys will be boys and my buddies savaged me. I expected no less and vowed to myself 1) to get them back and 2) to redeem myself. Moments later, redemption walked through the door. She was obviously lost because she came in the joint we were in and she was gorgeous. Without hesitation, I slid, belly to the ground, through the tall grasses of the Serengeti and coiled myself to pounce. The instant that she turned away from the herd, I was on her … “Would you like to dance?” She answered with a glance and I took her hand and led her to the dance floor.

The dance floor was packed … shoulder to shoulder. My kind of dance floor … anonymity reigns. Innumerable bodies … a quivering mass of arms and legs … moved as one. Packed together like sardines in a can, we measured our moves in inches or less. I knew my buddies were watching … envious of my conquest. This fact alone emboldened me. I decided to perform the MOVE … my patented cool spin … never before seen beyond the confines of my bedroom mirror.

Suddenly, the mass of bodies parted, ever so slightly, providing me with at least a foot of maneuvering space. More than enough to effect the MOVE. I went for it. Arms tucked closely to my torso, fists clinched, I swirled in a modified boxer’s stance to my left. Simultaneously, my partner leaned forward … ever so slightly … more like an inebriated sway.

My fist connected to her chin with a resounding splat. Instantly, everything shifted to slow motion. I saw her knees buckle. I saw her eyes roll back. The crowd parted like the Red Sea and she hit the floor … out cold.

The Red Sea refilled the void around her with concerned dancers. They patted her wrists; they gently shook her; they asked if she was okay. I took another approach. I did the will-o-the-wisp. I was invisible. One second, I was knocking her out … the next, I was gone. I was standing at the bar with my buddies. They did not see the actual punch.

“What happened over there?” I asked. To myself, I thought, “Timmmmmber!”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Green Machine - The Time That ... they created a new squad

There had been a slight problem. It had been going on for quite a while. Basically, there were four of us and we did everything together. The problem seemed t o be that our concept of when it was okay to be together and the general plan for the company training appeared to be in conflict. At the time, the four of us were assigned to four different squads. So, every time the squad was called upon to do something, the squad leader had to search for one of us. And of course, they found us hanging out with one of the other three. I’m not sure what the big deal was, but the squad leaders acted like it irked them to no end. To this day, I believe this to be a negative reflection on their abilities to maintain a cool demeanor under fire and shutter to think how they would handle themselves under combat conditions. But, I am not trying to say that working with the four of us was like being in combat although we may have been slightly ahead of our time in terms of thinking outside the box in a military situation.

One of the LT’s had an idea and for once, I think it was a good one. He proposed to form a super squad. That is my term not his. He would the four of us in the same squad together. The rational was this. If we remained in different squads, we would just continue to disappear at just the wrong time and the sergeants would continually be searching for us. Everyone was in agreement that to keep us apart was a vigil and a constant irritant. They also agreed that even if they put us in the same squad, realistically, we would continue to disappear. In fact, the situation might even worsen. However, they concluded that when we were found, they would at least have squad integrity and they would have reduced the effort from four separate searches to a mere one. Done deal. Everyone was in agreement at last.

That’s when something strange happened. Without a word being said, the sergeants strolled to the LT’s desk, removed the stripes from their collars, and tossed them on the desk. To a man, they all stated that they would rather be demoted than take on the new squad. To say the least, the LT was taken aback. That’s when he had his second big idea. The win-win solution. As he explained, “Marshall is the key. I understand him. Subconsciously, he is craving leadership and responsibility. He can handle those other guys.

In first formation the next morning, the four of us waited patiently in line, wondering who our new squad leader would be. The LT emerged from his office and waved for me to come over. He put his arm around my shoulder and explained the situation to me. I was astounded to learn that a postal clerk like him, with no formal training in psych-therapy or analysis whatsoever, was able to read my subconscious thoughts and needs as if they were an open book. Once he revealed to me my desire to lead, the fires that hidden craving began to burn out of control in my gut. The taste of sergeant filled my mouth and oozed over my taste buds. “Marshall,” he said, “I’m gonna take a chance on you. Show me what you can do, and the squad leader position is yours.”. “You won’t regret this,” I replied. “I said this, not knowing the task before me.

The LT proceeded with the pre-exercise briefing for the company. A compass course had been lain out and each squad was to demonstrate their compass and maps proficiency by maneuvering undetected through the ten checkpoints and then reporting on the enemy strengths and deployment at each site upon their return to our base camp. I was to lead the super squad on the mission.

I gathered my squad together and headed out in the direction of our first map coordinates. A hundred paces later, I signaled for the squad to halt and had them take a seat in a small shady grove. A reached in my fatigue pocket and pulled out a deck of cards. From the sleeve of my coat, I produced a fifth of Jack Daniels. “Deal ‘em,” I said.

Eights hours and a fifth later, we heard the sounds of honking horns signaling the end of the exercise. We marched the 100 yards back to base camp where other squads, tired from their ten mile hikes, lay scattered helter skelter on the grass. I was summoned to the LT’s tent to make my report, but they soon gave up. I thought my report was quite inventive and entertaining, but there seemed to be some other opinions on the matter. Outside the tent, the LT gathered the company for his post-exercise critique and I want sent to join them.

A couple of facts about the LT. He is very short and kinda stocky with somewhat chubby cheeks. He mounted a nearby stump to elevate him above his audience and began his performance. Like a mother hen, I ushered my men right up front to hear it all. Standing beside the stump, I was exactly the same height as the LT. So as not to miss a word, I leaned in, placing my nose about an inch from his. He tried to ignore me. After each sentence, I would turn and make chucking noises and shake by jaws violently in the direction of my men. Finally, he could take no more and shouted at me, “What the hell are you doing”? I replied for all to hear, “My men do not understand chipmunk, sir. I am translating”. I was ordered to leave the group in a crude, unprofessional way. I stormed through the group, ripped the company radio from my back and threw it against a tree, shouted “I’m not going to play anymore”, and sat down on a log pouting. I thought this to be a theatrical performance worthy of praise, but the praise was not forthcoming.

First formation on the following day. I assumed the position of honor at the head of my squad for anther day of training. The LT emerged from the office and walked in a beeline toward me. He looked me straight in the eye and in a voice dripping with sarcasm said, “Git to the end of the line. You don’t deserve to be a sergeant”.

I think now that the LT has another squad in mind for me. Now I know how Chuck Connors must have felt in the TV show “Branded”.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Green Machine - The Time That ... we stormed the Normandy beaches

It was the perfect storm … the collision of multiple disturbances into a supernova of destruction. Not storms per se in this case, but ideas. Incredibly stupid ideas. Someone’s stroke of genius. Someone’s perfect plan. We would be given amphibious training. Should WWII break out again, we would be ready. Never mind that beach landings were obsolete. We would hit the beaches – John Wayne’s one and all. We would have our Longest Day. For some, this would prove to be incredibly true. To inspire us in this simulated glory, they sent the second storm … a shake & bake, 2nd Lieutenant to lead the charge. It would be his first command and I was assigned to be his radioman, his RTO. That meant that I would have to hang out with him the during the whole exercise.

They loaded us on to buses for the trip to Virginia Beach from Altavista (about four hours) at 5:00 AM. The new LT (Lt. Farris) ceremoniously introduced himself with the "if you play nice, so will I" speech from the front of the bus. Someone close to me chimed in with “Did he say Sergeant Ferris like the Ferris wheel”? It could have been me. I don’t listen that well at 5:00AM. We discovered right away that he was sensitive about his name and rank something that we would not forget. [Tip #1 - NEVER LET THE ENEMY SEE YOUR WEAKNESSES.]

Once we understood exactly who we were dealing with, everyone settled down for the ride. For my crew, that meant cracking a beer and dealing a few hands of poker. The betting on the first hand was furious until five natural aces showed up and we realized that we were playing with a pinochle deck. Before long, nature beckoned and fate pulled up a chair … the LT needed to go to the bathroom ...which was in the back of the bus … where we resided! [Tip #2 - NEVER VENTURE INTO HOSTILE TERRITORY ALONE.] The door no sooner closed behind him than it was blocked with the beer cooler and a bevy of willing booted feet. [Tip #3 - IF THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY IN, THEN THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY OUT.]His requests to be let out were calmly delivered at first. The cat-calls and innuendos may have influenced his mood. “We know what you are doing in there”. “We saw the bar of soap”. “You should be ashamed”. [Tip #4 - NEVER GET CAUGHT WITH YOUR PANTS DOWN.] Less mature guys would never have let him out. We generously let him out in about one-half hour. Yet, we received no thanks. Instead, we were subjected to threats, accusations, and severe potty-mouth. [Tip #5 - DO NOT INITIATE AN ATTACK WHEN VASTLY OUTNUMBERED BY THE ENEMY.] We assured him that we were innocent and pointed out that there was no way that he could see through a door anyway. It appears that whatever he did to himself in the bathroom may have caused him to develop a speech impediment. I think the Top realized this as well. [Tip #6 - ALWAYS HAVE A COMRADE TO COVER YOUR BACK.] The Top appeared from nowhere and gently led the LT away. [Tip #7 - KNOW YOUR ENEMY.]

To his credit, the LT was able to regain his composure a couple of hours later thanks to some whispered advice from the Top. He approached me one-on-one with some fatherly advice about slowing down on the beer drinking since I would be called upon to keep up with him the next day on the beach landing since I would be his RTO. I thanked him profusely and told him that I would do my best.

We arrived in Virginia Beach late, but with just enough in time for an exercise designed to prepare us for hitting the beaches the next day. Failure training. My confidence waned a bit when confronted with a first training on what to do if your landing craft sinks. The company was driven to a secluded cove where we donned life preservers and loaded onto a large barge. Our training instructions were, “OK, gentlemen, line up facing the rear of the vessel. In turn, you will jump off the rear of the vessel. At that time, you will swim to the far shore, being careful not to be stung by the jellyfish (of which the bay was full). You will lie backward on your preserver with your face up. Do not lie with your face down since you will drown.” Into the water, we leaped ...lemmings one and all.I regained my confidence knowing that I was ready for any disaster. Plus, I would get to wear wet boots for the rest of the weekend. I did not see the LT jump from the barge, but I am sure he must have. This made it very difficult for me to follow him as I was supposed to do, what with my being his faithful RTO and all. When I saw him next, he was dry ... just like I saw him last. This led me to conclude that being an LT, he could walk on water.

The fact that we were awakened at 5:00 AM was proof enough got me that we were indeed to experience the Longest Day. We were trucked to the beach and loaded onto ancient WWII landing crafts. I admit it was kinda cool, at first, as we battered our way through the surf and into the Atlantic Ocean. We proceeded to a pre-determined location offshore where we began the phase known as “staging”.

Staging was simple enough. Groups of the landing crafts gathered and circled as they awaited further instructions. The circling continued for more than hour. The purpose, I believe, was to help us relieve ourselves of our meager breakfasts. Packed into the lower, airless levels of the crafts, it only took 15 minutes of bouncing around on the waves and inhaling diesel fumes before the retching began. Two twins from our company, barfed in unison like pistons, alternating the hanging over the rail "up piston" with the cringing on the floor "down piston" positions. They were a mechanical wonder to behold.

I wedged myself into a corner in hopes of maintaining what was left of my dignity. In a rare Good Samaritan moment, I grabbed the back pack straps of an old soldier who appeared to be in danger of throwing up his toenails and collapsing. No good deed goes unpunished, they say. For my efforts, he turned to face me and stuck a helmet full of puke under my nose, asking what he should do with it. I shoved past him and ran to the front rails, climbed to the top and gasped for fresh air. I wondered aloud if we had been transformed into a parallel universe and had landed in an ancient Roman vomitorium. My toga was well-soiled. The sight of the LT, standing in the fresh air on the upper level of the landing craft, grinning and nearly peeing his pants with glee, snapped me out of my trance. I called to him and suggested in a frank and direct manner that he should try it out down in the lower level with his men. [Tip #8 - REMEMBER, YOU GIVE THE ORDERS … NOT THE MEN.]

To my amazement, that is exactly what he did. He even brought that stupid grin with him. It only took ten minutes. In less time than it would take to get our crew to salute an officer, he was sitting flat on his butt in about six inches of filthy saltwater and vomit, retching non-stop. Meanwhile, while our leader surveyed the contents of his stomach, our landing craft raced toward the beach. D-Day at last! The LT staggered to his feet when the craft hit the shore and managed to shout to me to fall in behind him with the radio. The craft door swung down and the men poured out and headed inland at a run.

The moment had arrived. I would now be called upon to try to keep up with the LT in the simulated action. Two steps later, my fears were allayed. The LT sunk to his knees in the surf, too weak to go further. With a shaky voice and tears welling in his eyes, he turned his red smoke canister (used to signal the charge across the beach) over to a nearby sergeant. The LT loved those smoke grenades.

I had a decision to make. I left him there on the beach ... left him for the simulated buzzards … but I would see him again all too soon!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Green Machine - The Time That ... my boots weren't polished

I want to say right up front that I don’t blame the first sergeant . Things build up … mole hills transform into mountains. I’ll be the first to admit it. I was not good at polishing my boots. And, I had been busy. What brought it all to a head was the Company inspection. Sometimes you’re forced to made bad choices. I need some boots to go fishing and I wore my army boots. They did get caked with mud … and I didn’t have time to get the mud off. It was the loose mud on the boots that set him off.

It was just like him to bring up old stuff. I never denied that I had not polished my boots for four years. That should have been enough. The yelling was totally unnecessary. Had he not started yelling, I probably would have been remorseful. I don’t think it was just the boots though. He was using the boots as an excuse to yell at me because of my short-hair wig. The Top hated those wigs. He was old school.

The yelling turned to threats. My pay would be docked. I would be sent on active duty. I would be sent straight to Nam. Through it all … I was a perfect soldier … rock solid at attention! I did snicker a couple of times, but I couldn’t help it – my buddies kept saying things.

I am a man of my word if nothing else. I made a promise. I promised to have my boots polished by the next morning … spit-polished.

And I would have too. The next morning … 5:00 AM … I realized that I had no black boot polish. I looked everywhere. Finally, I found the cordovan polish. I smeared it on and hit a few licks with the brush. Should I have knocked off the mud first? Maybe … but it was 5:00AM!

The Company stood, like statues in a graveyard, at full attention. The Top worked his way up and down the lines of soldiers, one man at a time, inspecting as he went. His mass blocked out the sun when he stopped before be. He dissected me top to bottom. At my boots, he froze. The cordovan polished glistened red in the morning light.

It was my first time ever seeing someone truly speechless. Beads of sweat popped out on his forehead and trickled down toward his chin. He was quite the morning drinker. He surprised me next. He placed his foot on the toe of my boot and twisted and ground the red polish into the toe. Then, he looked straight into my eyes and in a calm voice said, “Marshall, you have exactly five minutes to get those boots polished, or you and I will have a little talk with the Company Commander”.

My image with the men prevented me from racing to the supply room, but I knew the Top meant it. I tore the supply room apart looking for a solution. And , then I saw it. I grabbed the can of high-gloss, black spray paint and let fly. I raced back to the formation with a minute to spare.

The Top made his way to me slowly. Everyone for primed for the event that had to be … they were watching. His stare settled on the shiny black boots. Had I to do it over again, I might have knocked the dried mud off this time. I don’t really recall when the cursing stopped, or how we ended up in the Company Commander’s office. The Captain demanded an explanation. I gave him the minute details. I didn’t leave out my feelings about how the effort I had made to comply didn’t seem to matter. My initiative using the cordovan and then the black paint were never commended. I pointed out how the behavior exhibited by the Top, not only destroyed initiative, but was a threat to the esprit de corps of the entire company.

I don’t think the Company Commander cared what I thought. In no uncertain terms, he laid down the law. I caved in. I promised never to do it again. His last words to me were, “Do you understand me soldier?”

“Yes Sir, Captain,” I shouted. Beyond any doubt … I understood all too well!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Green Machine - Introduction

Mr. Marshall, answer the question … and remember, you are still under oath. Admit it! You didn’t want to help your country, did you? You didn’t want to do your part, did you? It was ALL about you, wasn’t it? Admit it … admit it … admit it!

I confess. Okay, okay. I admit it! I didn’t want to go to Nam. My draft # was up. I was a draft-dodger. I joined the National Guard. But, I tried to do right. I was even gung ho in basic training. It was Big Bays, Bear and Trogden. I fell in with a bad crowd. When I got back to the home unit, I fell in with a bad crowd. It was big Bays … Bear … and especially Trogden. It was not my fault.

For example, there was the time that …

The Trail of Tears

Long since do I recognize the day or the time. It is enough to place one foot in front of another in an endless pursuit of the distant horizon. Rhythmically, the pains shoot across my buttocks and down alternating legs to ankles swollen and red and throbbing arches. Eyes, once glistening and alert, now arid deserts … lifeless and dull. My people call it the Trail of Tears, but the tears are no more. Only the story remains … and yes, the memory … yes, the memory … and the pain … yes, the pain. They remain.

Yet, again, I revert to old habits. I have begun at the end and proceed to the beginning. Although the real beginning may in actuality be some obtuse alignment of planets and stars and forgone conclusions of free will or destiny. Our plan was basically to drive to Richford, Vermont to spend the night with our friends, Pam and Rich. From there, we would cross into Canada and stop at a favorite bakery in Abercorn. We planned to work our way to Sherbrooke via several tourist stops along the way and then take in the sights of Sherbrooke for two nights. One more day of side trips would put us at North Hatley on the lake for rest and relaxation and some fishing for me. The last day was left open to accommodate more fishing before returning home.

The first day was going smoothly. We zigzagged our way the length of Vermont, stopping only for a quick picture of the bowling ball yard sculpture, and arrived in Richford late in the day. Incidentally, Rich works at a micro-brewery and also makes homemade beers and more recently wines. He couldn’t wait to break open several special beers for me to try and as many new wines. I thought that I said, “I don’t drink anymore”. However, from the look on Rich’s face, I must have said, “Santa Claus is dead” instead. I graciously agreed to taste each of the brews that he presented in the future when someone else opened them to drink. I will not forget that face … it was the Lindberg baby is missing face.

Lots to do that second day … an early start was essential to work it all in. Regardless of my need to be on the road, there were old stores to rehash and new ones to reveal. The 11:00 AM departure merely meant that a couple of stops might need to be eliminated from the itinerary. Even that would be soon forgotten as I stuffed the Abercorn shortbread cookies, one after another, into my gaping maw. We pulled into the parking lot of the bakery … not a care in the world of more consequence than what to eat first … shortbread cookies dipped in dark chocolate … sticky buns … the muffins … or a loaf of fresh-baked bread. The lot was uncharacteristically empty. It was Anne that I sent to the door. I did not allow myself to hear her message. Nevertheless, her mouth formed the words, “Closed on Wednesdays”. I was shameless in my grief.

We drove without speaking. On to the quartz crystal mine, Mine Cristal Quebec. The only one of its kind in Canada. My stomach and I took turns grumbling. The mine would snap me out of it. Of this, I was certain. The mine tour was in French. We had the English version on tape to follow along. The instructions for the tape player were in French. Anne and I had no difficulty understanding every 700th word. Maybe I am being nick-picky. Maybe it is just a matter of semantics. A mine is a hole deep in the ground where cool stuff is found – like gold, or silver , or quartz. This mine, however, was on top of the ground. I call that a “ditch”. On to UFO Land and the real world.

A little background might be helpful at this point. There is this guy in Saint-Adrien who claims to have been receiving messages frorm alien beings for years. He opened a tourist attraction called UFO Land. I say, “When things are going wacky … go wacky. It is the only sane thing to do”. We set our galactic GPS for Saint-Adrien and headed out. On the ride, we switched tours guides from the 2009 version to the 2010 version we had picked up at the tourist info building. UFO Land no longer exits. Apparently, the time for talking was over. On some dark and lonely night, the owner of UFO Land was sucked up on a beam of light into a glowing orb and whisked away … and for me, I too feel like I am receiving messages from an alien source. I flicked on the warp-drives and turned the car around.

Sherbrooke would be my refuse and my respite. We were booked at the Marco Polo B&B and I had selected the African-themed room. I am a suspicious person. It comes from having been a school principal. The last email from the B&B caused a slight rise in my eyebrow, I admit. “My English is not so good like my wife’s”. That said, we were graciously greeted at the door by a beaming, welcoming face. I believe the relevant phrase is “déjà vu”. “Welcome to the Marco Polo. There has been a slight problem with your reservation. You do not have the African-themed room. My English is not so good as my wife’s.” We did not head up the stairwell in front of us. Instead, we veered through the dog gate … though the dining room (lifting our bags over the table to get through the small opening) … though the owners’ den … though the kitchen … and up the narrow stairwell to the Indian-themed room. If nothing else, I am a flexible person. No problem. Life will go on! A mere seed tick in a world of parasites. A few more drops of my life-blood. Indeed, Sherbrooke proved to be a respite. So much so, that for the briefest moment, I thought that it was all over.

There is a natural order of things – chronological being one example. To understand what is next, you must understand what is not next, but was before … before it all began. My original idea was to go to a B&B around Parc Frontenac or Lac Megantic for a couple of nights on a lake. This would enable me to fish while Anne hung out on the beach. Rooms were scarce. I had one … but while I waited for responses from two other potential B&B’s, the room was booked. Instead , I found a place in North Hatley. There were ramifications. I had set my sights on a visit to a salvage artist. It was one of those events that you put the star by in your itinerary notes. Gone. The fishing was in jeopardy. The salvage artist was out of the question. Mentally, I drew a line through the star.

But, on a brighter note, the room I booked in North Hatley was at the Chocolatier B&B. Things were looking up! I put my disappointments aside and sped to North Hatley. Along the way, we did a short side trip to the Miellerie Lune de Miel, the honeybee farm. The brochures were beautiful and the tour sounded fascinating. Reality was slightly different … I never saw the first bee. The closest I came was the bee in my bonnet to leave. We still had a little more time before check-in at the B&B, so we stopped by Rose de Champs, the rose farm. I can only imagine how beautiful it must have been when the 200+ varieties of roses were still in bloom.

No more asides. To the Chocolatier B&B. It was gorgeous … we were greeted with chocolate. No we did not book a room with a private bath as we thought. We shared the bath down the hall. More chocolate si vous plait!

My memory fails me … did I mention the lavender farm, Bleu Lavande? I believe it to be the second largest in North America. No matter. I have seen the brochure and the farm is a sea of purple vistas and an ocean of old lady aromas. It was #2 on my must see list. I received the word from the Chocolatier B&B owner … in a casual aside. Like … “Oh, yeah! They mowed the lavender at Bleu Lavande. There are just rows of stalks now”. The message did not improve with a French accent.

So, there you have it … my Canadian vacation … one that Chevy Chase or John Candy would have been proud to have. There is more of course … like the five times Anne knocked herself silly by running in to my canoe hanging off the back of the car. On a positive note … it never rained … that being said, the canoe never got wet.

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Apologies to Roy Rogers

Fondue ismaking a comeback. That is one of the reasons that I chose Fondue Folie from the many restaurants in Sherbrooke , Canada to try. The other reason was the variety of menu choices. Here is how it works for the table de hote. First, you select a shared broth. Anne and I chose the beef and onion broth since we thought the other two choices might overpower some of our meat selections.

Step two is to select an entree for each of us. For Anne, it was escargot and brie. Snails ... great start to an eclectic meal. I had never tried tartare. Of the four kinds offered , I thought I would give wapiti a whirl. If you are wondering, that is elk. The taste was interesting, but I must admit I was not to enamoured of the texture.

On to the meats. There was about a dozen options. Anne decided on a seafood and fowl combination since each of us got to make two selections with our meal. She chose scallops and duck. I got to try two meats that I had never tasted before. Ostrich was my first choice ( thought it might taste like chicken ). My second choice was horse ( it did not taste like chicken). I was a little disappointed, however, since the guidebook we had read said they had alligator and kangaroo. But, I coped.

The sauces was step four. We each got to pick four. For Anne, the four included a Caesar sauce, a citrus mustard, Indian curry, and Italian tomato-based sauce. For me, it was a Montreal pepper sauce, a chipote sauce, kiwi and yogurt, and a Dijon mustard. I must admit, the sauces were the stars of the meal.

We were stuffed. Like Trigger. But, it was our job to eat dessert. Dark chocolate fondue for Anne and butterscotch for me with marshmallows and fruit.

My taste buds are exhausted! Roy and Dale ... sorry!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Rock River Artists Open Studio -The Barbie Center

I can’t explain the fascination, if fascination is the right word, with Barbie. I cannot help but poke fun at the concept and why this would be the example to present to children escapes me. It must be the “oh so perfect” rich girl image that I imagine. Good for me, because sarcasm is right up my alley. And at the end of that alley, tucked neatly away in the corner behind the trash can is my imagination. I strongly disagree with those who imply that imagination is bizarre. My imagination leads me down a serpentine path to be sure … but one based on pure logic. At least, that is how I imagine it.

Nevertheless, the net result is a special section of my open studio devoted to Barbie creations. I set it up like a shadowbox. You know how Barbie loves pink. The black background should be perfect for her pink accessories.
Finding enough Barbie’s to do the pieces justice was a difficult task and required a great deal of thought and flea market bargaining . In the end, I acquired a box of Barbie’s for a reasonable price. By that, I mean cheap. I started with a piece I call “the Barbie Bouquet”. The first version contrasted the deep greens of the evergreen boughs with the golden Barbie locks. For the open studio, I redid the piece using bare branches in order to make Barbie the centerpiece of the work … and the perfect centerpiece for any table.

Several weeks ago, my boss gave me a pink box with a see-through plastic window that she thought I might be able to use. I thought immediately of Barbie. The shape and window on the box reminded me of old footage of a Houdini trick in which he was place in a box with limited air, chained shut, and lowered into a river to drown, give out of air, or escape. Hence, Houdini Barbie. With a few minor adjustment to her legs (chop, chop) she fit the box perfectly. I tied her hands. Given the oxygen situation, I decided a blue face was most appropriate. The box was wired shut and locked. Houdini Barbie.

I had another box in the barn. I thought about for a Barbie project months ago. It was in the shape of a coffin and had been used at school to pass around a stuffed squirrel to scare new teachers. The squirrel deteriorated and I got the coffin. I envisioned Barbie peacefully in state in the coffin and I thought … Dracula Barbie. Dracula always rests in his natural earth from Transylvania. Natural soil for Barbie would have to be pink … an easy fix. A quick trip to JoAnn's Fabrics in Keene and I had black, glossy material for the cape. Paint the top of the coffin pink … add some fangs … and Dracula Barbie was ready for the show.

I confess the next two pieces were not my idea. I saw them in a store window in Quebec City. One was canned Barbie parts … like heads, or arms, or legs. I made my version using antique canning jars with the wire tops. I added dried hot peppers to each jar (because Barbie is so hot and spicy) and called my creation Pickled Barbie. The second piece I saw involved Barbie and an old meat grinder. Input Barbie heads to the grinder and outcome fur. I assumed the fur was fox since Barbie is so foxy. In my version, the output was golden thread. I called the piece “Meatgrinder Barbie.

Don’t blame me for the next two pieces. Blame Charlton Heston. You may or may not know that Charlton Heston has invaded my dreams and is intentionally trying to make my life miserable with his clinched-teeth maniacal grin. I thought I had seen the last of him until the other night … 3:00 AM to be exact. He slipped unseen through the backdoor of my dream world and secretly eased a thought into my head. I had been thinking about what one does with leftover Barbie parts. Pull off a head and then what. I want to give credit where credit is due … even to my nemesis CH. In the movie that CH did about a futuristic, over-populated world struggling to feed the hoards, two wafer-like soy cakes were developed and feed to the people. The protein cake was called soylent green. The snoopy policeman in the movie (CH) discovered the secret … soylent green was made from reprocessed body parts and fed to the people. The perfect solution was those leftover body parts … Soylent Green Barbie.
The last piece in the series is also a result of the extra parts I had on hand. Again, what so you use them for. I thought about how we use our DNA to clone man-make versions of ourselves. Well, sheep for now mostly. I created a new cloned version of Barbie. Done on a pure white background (hospital sanitary conditions for this procedure), I created the Cloned Barbie from those leftovers.

For now, I am done with Barbie creations … but you never know … I still have to sleep at night.

Friday, July 9, 2010

39th Anniversary - Festivals and Food

Let’s face it. Our vacations and celebrations are about traveling and food … mostly food! Our anniversary was no exception. In a nutshell, we went to Old Orchard Beach in Maine but spent the majority of our time in and around Portland. We kicked off the trip with the obligatory stop at Flo’s on Route 1 on the way to Ogunquit for their renowned hot dog. I have been there numerous times and though the dogs are good, they certainly are not great. It is, however, a cool place to check out. I set the stage for the entire trip by pulling out in front of a car when leaving the parking lot … I blame him for not anticipating my actions. There was no metal to metal and all is well.

Anne did a lot of research prior to the trip and discovered that no less than four festivals were happening in the area during our stay – the Greek Festival, the Balloon Festival, the Lobster Festival and the Strawberry Festival.

The first night, we drove to Portand for the Greek Festival and almost walked away from it. Parking is a nightmare in the area and when we finally arrived, there was a line at least 100 yards long and about 4 wide just to get into the festival tents. Anne talked me out of going and luckily servers kept coming down the line to appease those waiting in line with samples of Greek pastries. The festival was a fundraiser for the local Greek Orthodox Church and included food, music and dance. We had the works including lamb dishes, Greek sausages, meat and rice filled grape leaves, Greek coffee and more. Locals were demonstrating authentic dances to music provided by a three-man group. I particularly enjoyed watching the locals doing the dances and the music. Food was wonderful. Great start for an anniversary weekend.

The next day we looked into the Balloon Festival at OOB. They were offering tethered rides at dawn and dusk and I figured that would be a great memory for our event. Unfortunately, the balloonist could not do the tethered rides unless there was no wind. I wondered when, if ever, there would be a time when there was no wind at the beach? We consoled ourselves with a trip to Portland for dinner at an Eritrean restaurant. It was a mom and pop operation with mom cooking, dad taking orders and serving and the kids running the register. I love the communal plate concept in African restaurants and the injera bread used instead of eating utensils. The whole night was fun and delicious. Needless to say, we never got our tethered ride, but on the last night, they inflated about six balloons on the beach after dark. It was a beautiful sight in the dark with each burst of fire from the balloons' burners … quite the spectacle.

The Lobster Festival was going on in Portland at the docks. Pretty good deal for about $12. You got lobster, salad and corn-on-the-cob and could listen to the Jamaican band there. We passed on the food and headed out on the ferry to Peaks Island instead. We had found a cheese shop with some of the best blue cheese and olives that I have ever had. Made a great picnic lunch for our hike. The island was beautiful and we hiked around it. Constructed a cairn on the beach for our 39th anniversary (40 stones).

Never made it to the Strawberry Festival in Scarborough. Too much to do.

We culminated our trip with a search for the High Tide Restaurant. We had googled it and it had great reviews. Unfortunately, the maps and street signs were not as good as the food turned out to be and we had a difficult time finding the place. I had an incredible bouillabaisse there. I have never seen so much shellfish and fish in a bouillabaisse before … topped off with a half a lobster.

All in all, what a trip! And I only had to log in 39 years of marriage to do it. Can’t wait til next year.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

39th Anniversary - CH at the Amusement Park

Anne and I both noticed it. The amusement park was different. Not the people .. the tourists... they were the same. Roving packs of feral teenagers ... on the hunt ... circling ... cutting the weak from the herd ... a nose for easy prey. Rough-hewn couples ... swaying to the music and the cups that they clutched ... pitching quarters toward the plates in hopes of winning the giant teddy bear. Barely able to see the plates ... the last coin tossed being a 30-day sobriety chip. The super-sized family (literally and numerically) ... mom and dad ... six snotty-noses ... and one in the oven. Can you judge a book by it's cover? Those stuffed animals will make nice pillows for the car ... their cumulative value I judge to be about this month's rent.

I stray. My point is that the workers in the park are different. Different in that they are indifferent. The hawkers are gone! "Win a cupie doll for the little lady". " Step right up." Customers parade by. The workers' interactions are cardboard. It feels like a movie set at best. Except for one. He seems to be everywhere and nowhere. I'd know that clinched-teeth smirk anywhere. It has been a while, but his eyes tell me that he recognizes me as well. "Long time , no see Chuck".

That explains the hot air balloon festival just outside the park. With Charlton Heston here, there is an unlimited supply of hot air for all of the balloons. I am pretty sure I saw him at the ReMax balloon, huffing and puffing with Miles Davis cheeks. In fact, I have seen him almost everywhere I have gone.

He was at the bumper cars ... complaining that the little girl that ran into him did not have a valid drivers' license.

There was a tall spinning ride that I did not recognize. I did recognize Chuck however. He was the green one puking.

The park did not have much of a roller coaster. No matter, Chuck insisted on having the front seat. But, I saw him later, pale and crying at the first big dip.

The log flume looked like fun if you didn't mind getting wet. I noticed Chuck's pants had a wet spot before he ever sat down.

I love ferris wheels but this one was slower than a revolving restaurant. That didn't stop CH from screaming, "Get me down, get me down" for the entire ride.

The last straw ... Charlton Heston sitting in the milk-toast bear ride with his clinch-toothed smile, bouncing up and down and clapping with the heels of his hands like a three-year-old.

I have had it. My 99 cent hot dog is in extreme jeopardy. I gotta go.