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Rumilluminations May and June, 2016
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Tue, May 03 2016 - 7:40 pm

June 28, 2016
Bemidji, MN

Gettysburg Inn and Suites did well by us but today we left our night's haven far behind. We drove from the countryside where pheasants are as common a sight by the side of the road as vultures are almost everywhere else; we drove from the flat landscape of horizon to horizon crop fields with rare windbreaker to the land of birches, pines and lakes.

We stopped in Aberdeen, South Dakota at a gas station called Horizon that had restrooms so clean and personnel so friendly and helpful with the half and half that we expanded our coffee break to include sausages with buns - two for three dollars!

By 1:30 p.m. we had reached West Fargo, North Dakota and another Indian restaurant - Passage to India. We chose this restaurant for its literary name, and it was a good choice. The chai was part of the buffet, and it was unsweetened - the way I like it. The restaurant served up several dishes we haven't seen in an Indian buffet before, including a green bean with coconut dish, steamed rice cake (not your usual packaged rice cake only steamed - this is completely different), a chutney which tasted like it contained umebashi plums, and several dessert dishes.

Today, obviously, was a day for driving and eating - but after setting up at a Super 8 Motel (and discovering that the night crew would do our laundry for two dollars a load overnight!!) we were hungry again.

So we walked across the parking lot to the Four Points Grill for a light meal - like maybe a salad.

Sure. We saw the menu and decided to share a Caesar's salad and an appetizer pizza. It was bound to be small, right? so we ordered a piece of caramel ribbon chocolate cake. After all, I can't be expected to remember I am now sixty-nine without birthday cake.

I'm happy to report that the salad we "shared" was huge and served on two plates, the pizza was medium rather than individual in size and will serve as a hearty lunch tomorrow, and one piece of cake with strawberry and caramel sauces served the two of us right to Nirvana. My presence here, writing this my "blahg", is merely Maya - your illusion.

If it weren't for the winters we would move here.

June 27, 2016
Gettysburg, SD

Today was a big day for sightseeing. We have spent the last three nights at Roubaix Lake Campground in the Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota. This is a pretty idyllic place - cold little lake that offers relief from the daytime heat, more bird life around than we have seen at any one location so far on the trip, including osprey and a pair of Western bluebirds determined to keep a diminutive red squirrel from climbing certain pine trees. They attacked! So much for the bluebird of happiness - another illusion bites the dust.

Our first night at Roubaix Lake we were awakened at one a.m. by a car horn blasting for what seemed like a solid minute. An hour later - howling coyotes! Pretty dramatic.

After setting up camp the hot first day we headed for the water - our first swim in the wild this vacation. The following days were a little cooler. We decided to follow the Native Americans' example and conquer Custer - Custer Peak, that is - from 1.2 miles below the observation tower. Soft, you think? Not at all, compared to the four-wheeling enthusiasts whose dust we ate on the dirt road.

Later that day a fellow camper told us about the beautiful Spearfish Canyon, so that was our next destination. We mostly drove but took the easy hike up to Roughlock Falls - a mere mile each way. This hike, like the Rocky Mountain excursions we took, was not a solitary experience. Tourists abound! We were happy with our Black Hills experience on the whole, but recommend a different camping location for those who want hiking without having to get into the car. There are several campgrounds in this huge national forest.

I used two sleeping bags the last night. It was cold! A few campers did have fires, but the risk of fires was very high and they should not have burned anything, the ranger at the top of Custer Peak informed us. In fact, a fire was set outside the town of Spearfish on Friday night but rumor has it that the arsonist was Mother Nature, via lightning bolt.

Today we saw Mount Rushmore quickly, refusing to pay $11.00 for concession parking. I'm sure there's a back way to hike in anyway. Someday... but today we were in a hurry. So much to see, so little time! We got onto the scenic loop through the Wonderlands er I mean Badlands free with our Golden Pass but spent the equivalent at the visitors' center. The Badlands invite superlatives and deserve them all.

We did take time for lunch at a fast food Indian place in Rapid City before descending into the Badlands. My partner thought the veggies a trifle overcooked in spite of being well-seasoned, but I loved my meal which was bountiful with a home-cooked appeal.

June 23, 2016
Lusk, WY

The day of laundry and travel from Rocky Mountain National Park is almost over.

My partner and I spent the last three nights in Glacier Basin Campground amidst RVs and other tent campers and a ring of spectacular mountains, many of them snowcapped. (Ha, ha my electronic editor tried to change "snowcapped" to "snowballed."

Yep, those snowballed mountains are sure an inspiring sight!

I must say, the RMNP experience was one of the most bizarre of my life. My partner wants to add to this blog with a commentary of his own on our experience: "It Was the Best of Times; It Was the Worst of Times."

I would call it downright surreal.

Time is running out. Today is almost tomorrow, during which our present intention is to find a good campground in the Black Hills of South Dakota, probably as out of wi-fi (or as my editor would have it, "wine-finally") range as Glacier Basin was.

One hint about our recent past: we took rides in jam-packed standing-room-only shuttle buses.

Just what you are looking for in a wilderness experience, no?

But alas, my pumpkin awaits!

June 19, 2016
Denver, CO

Denver Botanical Garden, here we come!

Meanwhile, I'll reminisce a little more about La Junta.

We decided to try a difficult hike our first morning there. The sun was shining, the weather was bonny. The stonework and the big magenta-flowered plant at the trailhead of the 1.2 La Junta Trail made for an aesthetic send-off.

Maybe without the stairs and railings the descent would have been impossible unless hikers had rock-climbing equipment, but they are there. Yippee! Down the face of the promontory we went.

The way down was uneventful yet full of interest. There was a tall Douglas Fir along the way, but most of the vegetation was typically scrubby. Most noteworthy was a very healthy-looking young poison ivy plant stretching oily green leaves upward into a search for support. Beware.

After a short snack break near the bottom, we saw the actual juncture of the two rivers visible from 800 feet above. There reportedly used to be a bridge over the Red River to the Cebolla Trail on the other side, but no more, and both rivers are Spring-swift right now. The Red River looked fresh and green, the Rio Grande brown and muddy at their meeting-place.

We didn't hang around at the bottom for long. After all, the greatest challenge lay ahead - and up!

And challenge it was! Dizzy from a lack of oxygen himself, my partner distracted himself with the monumental task of inspiring and coaxing me up the trail. I knew I could make it (in between doubts and fantasies about dying in such beautiful surroundings.) I knew I could make it up: all I needed was time to catch my breath - every 10 seconds or so. Was that too much to ask?

My partner, however, having embarked upon what was supposed to be a morning's hike, had hopes of completing it before darkness descended in the evening.

Well, it all worked out. We both survived and reached the top before noon. It was no easy task. We do not recommend this trail as enjoyable unless you are acclimatized. Or in better shape. Or younger. Whatever. Sigh.

The sight of the stairs, railings, and stonework was a welcome one. At the top I looked wildly around for the colorburst of the wonderful plant. The plant was okay, but the flowers had closed up against the heat and undesirable visitors.

We crawled back to camp. Success! Mission accomplished!

And by the by, that distance is 1.2 miles each way.

The next day we took a relative easy stroll to the Chawaloma (misspelled?) Overlook. Also stunning views.

Battery low - farewell!

June 18, 2016
Denver, CO

If I had written

June 17

I would have written about leaving the La Junta Campground at the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument with some sadness. The incredible variety of grasses, the rock cliffs, the pinon (that's with an enya sound as if it were spelled pinion) pines which must be hundreds of years old to be so big - that is, for pinons - maybe ten feet. The juniper, too, are tall - gnarled and twisted by the wind. It is sad to leave so much beauty behind.

Or maybe I am sad to leave because I left so much blood behind. The "noseeums" are reputed to leave no itch behind with their little circular red bites, but that is not my experience. I did not see one mosquito, but heard their distinctive whine above the ringing in my ears which have also been bitten worse than ever before in my life. I repent not using that evil-smelling insect repellent.

We tore ourselves away, driving north past the Bear Crossing Overlook into Colorado. The sign that sent us out of wonderful New Mexico sends a gracious message - "Vaja con Dios" in seemingly handwritten script.

San Luis is the oldest continuously occupied town in Colorado, established in the 1830's, the welcome sign says. (Of course, the language of this claim is significant: the ruins to be found in Mesa Verde are ancient.) Too bad we couldn't quickly find an open eatery; we had to content ourselves with coffee and a light, fresh cinnamon roll (sans icing, thank you) - which is the way our hostess said they taste the best.

If you have time for a little pilgrimage there is a sanctuary up on a hill in San Luis. I look forward to taking time for that the next time we pass through.

(Note for anyone thinking of relocation: we met a female old-timer there who said she has lived there for decades with no heat! This in spite of cold winters with snow. Jes' sayin'! Of course, she also reports surviving by staying under the covers with her five cats and her dog.)

We joined up with I25 in Walsenburg and from there on, really the trip into Denver was the pits. I will never come into Denver from the south on I25 again.

June 13, 2016 
Albuquerque, NM

Friday night we went to Zoo Music, picnicked and wandered around the zoo. There was a carousel there as well as live music.  Altogether a mellow, fun family setting.

Saturday morning my partner and I walked through a farmers' market in a small park downtown with some truly gorgeous produce. It wasn't strictly a farmers' market. There were crafts on display also, and some games in progress.

We had breakfast at Brothers Cafe on 6th street off Central. They opened about a month ago and obliged us by giving us meals not listed on the menu. Watch out, though! You may get more than you expected. My huevos rancheros were served not only with beans and tortillas, but also bacon and sausage. Our ticket price for two big breakfasts was $11 something.

Later in the evening when my daughter and I were walking near a library we ran into a woman who was stranded as a consequence of a misconnection with her son. It was already dusk, so that encounter took care of the rest of the day.

Yesterday completely lost. Sick, sick, sick. Probably a twenty-four hour flu. I hope, I hope.

June 10, 2016 
Albuquerque, NM

I've been wanting to get grandson #1 to Tent Rocks National Monument, and today my son made that wish come true.

The last time I was there may have been the early nineties - decades before it became a National Monument (Obama made it so.) I had been there a few times before; we rarely saw another soul.

Now the place has primitive bathrooms and parking galore. I stop short of saying there were hoards of people, but there were tens. A visitor center just opened a month ago five miles or so from the entrance. In addition to regular visitor center fare, they had Cochiti storyteller pottery for sale. Boy, did that carry me back!

The main point of the trip, of course was the hike through incredible teepee rock formations and a writhing canyon that harbors the walker from the sun between cool narrow walls.

Reports that the obsidian "Apache tears" had been mined out were, thank goodness, inaccurate, but I won't tell you where you can find them! They're now protected by Federal law anyway.

I'm so relieved they are still present. They are the tiny sparkling finishing-touch charms of this large-scale rocky wonderland.

If you decide to treat yourself to this wonder of nature off I25 between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, TAKE WATER.

Admission is seven dollars per vehicle unless you have a Golden Pass. In that case it is zero, giving you the bucks to buy a little something at the Visitor Center.

Remember - TAKE WATER!

June 9, 2016
Albuquerque, NM

Catch-up time. I kind of laughed about the Deluxe Inn in Fort Stockton, Texas, but in ways it was deluxe: New bathroom fixtures, crisp light sheets, and a recommendation to the restaurant across the street called Mi Casita. Great Mexican food.

In Deming we felt very fortunate to stumble upon the Comfort Inn. We have never experienced such amenities for such a low price. Too bad we couldn't avail ourselves of the Jacuzzi, pool or workout room. We were bound for Silver City.

Silver City is like a mine. As in many (all?) American cities, the outskirts are a group of commercial strips. In the case of Silver City, they flow downhill from the city like a mine's tailings. The town itself, however, has its historical charms. Although we had been told it's a good one, we had no time to check out the libary.

We were bound for Albuquerque!

Not in such a hurry that we couldn't take the scenic route to I25 via Highway 152 through Hanover, Kingston, and Caballo. This is one of the most spectacular drives ever. Amazing how many of those are in New Mexico! 

Hunger hit us at the same time as the car needed feeding. We stopped at a Shell station in Williamsburg and were delighted to find a very clean little Mexican Grill in the station that served hamburgers and burritos. If you can only bring yourself to eat beef once a year, their steak jalapeno burritos are worth waiting for.

Then it was north to Albuquerque to see kids and grandkids. Busy times!

June 6, 2016 
Deming, NM

I tried to log in and report from Big Bend National Park in southern Texas, but the WiFi (only reachable at the lodge and visitor's center) was just too too slow.

The landscape of Big Bend, which is humongous, is spectacular and varied. We camped at the Chisos Basin Campground surrounded by assorted peaks. The campground itself was a little bizarre, having campsites that ranged from spacious to cramped and telephone poles, one of which seemed highly wired - as was the mockingbird that used it for his headquarters. It was odd to have such a familiar neighbor!

We have witnessed the mockingbird at home torment squirrels and black vultures. The Chisos Basin mockingbird chased birds from fruit-laden shrubs (small trees?) on our campsite, and flew within inches of my partner while he was at it! My partner witnessed him chasing a roadrunner across the driveway this morning before we left.

We had the energy to hike a 3.6 mile trail to the Window the day we set up camp - but just barely. It is truly a dramatic hike, the natural beauty of which the stonework created by the Civilian Conservation Corps heightens quite magically. We started at 3:15 in the afternoon, though, so we arrived back at camp sweaty and exhausted.

Another good hike was one to Mule Ears Spring which we advise taking in the morning hours. Desert country yielded to a teeny oasis with bright orange dragonflies and a frog which, like an ostrich, seemed to think that if we couldn't see his face he was invisible. That particular morning was enlivened by a meeting with a smartly-dressed (both for the climate hand sartorially) gentleman who gave us some wonderful inside information about the attractions and dangers of this strange place we were novices to.

Our third wonderful hike was up the Lost Mine Trail which was pretty much up two miles, then back down by the same path. We loved it! For some reason my partner felt the need to carry bear spray on this excursion. He had good instincts. Although we saw no bear, the day before our campground neighbors saw a mother bear and two cubs within ten feet of them. Needless to say, the mom was not happy with their proximity to her cubs. Since the young couple felt a similar antipathy to her company they proceeded as calmly as possible on their way.

Although I kind of envied them their wildlife sighting, I can't honestly say I want a similar one. I prefer the companionship of birds and flowers!

June 2, 2016
Fort Stockton, TX

Maybe for the first time today, driving from Georgetown to Fort Stockton, Texas, we actually followed the instructions provided by the GPS. Interstate 10, like many Interstates in the West, was not too stressful.

We stopped outside Sonora and I took a cavern tour. It was expensive but extensive. The formations were all calcite or gypsum, but what a variety of forms these underground rooms offered!

Back on the highway we drove between two dense dark storms visible in the distance, then through at least one intense rain. Somehow some dirty clothes got wet - I guess in some way related to the mounting of our overhead carriers. Luckily I was planning to wash them today, anyway.

Right now we are reposing at the Deluxe Inn (somewhat comically inflated name, but clean.) The inn-keeper recommended the restaurant across the street, Mi Casita, and it was really very good, although until the food arrived to distract us I found the Mexican version of muzak we were forced to listen to depressing and soporific.

Tomorrow we'll head south to Big Bend National Park for tent camping if the weather allows. 

June 1, 2016 
Georgetown, TX

Drove into town last night in white-knuckle rainstorm. My partner's knuckles were the white ones, following a truck with its hazard lights on. An hour later? Dinner at the Monument with our hostess. Great meal - I ate every bite.

We were kind of veering toward the idea of Big Bend National Park but rain is predicted for the next few days. The forecast for us? Always rainy where we are planning to go! Our best bet is to look where there is light, as the Buddhist sage would say.

Visiting in a retirement community in Georgetown, today we had a swim and a soak in pools and hot tub.

My friend and I shared the grounds with deer and mockingbird for a couple of good walks. The blossom fragrance of the air in this Texas community is mighty potent!

Another good eating experience tonight, this time at Tony and Luigi's Italian Restaurant. Georgetown definitely has some fine dining.

May 31, 2016
Homer, LA

3:15 a.m. (Waking up at 1:30 in the morning is what happens when you crash in fatigue at 7:30 p.m. This middle-of-the-night wakefulness is common for me, though. And now, after "suffering" from insomnia for decades, I read that my sleeping pattern is normal or at least traditional.

 Tell that to the sleeping world. I blame the railroads for the new sense of time and schedules which now consign me to reading and writing furtively in the dark solo instead of listening to a convivial group of singers and storytellers. Hmph.)

(Dig the paragraph break in the middle of a parenthetical aside. I love this kind of stuff and I do it intentionally in case you are wondering.)

After the movie the other night we got caught briefly in a hailstorm. We sat in the car on a side street on the way home from the cinema. After the storm we went back to our campsite. We should have been awash in mud but because the park cleverly punches holes in the clay soil to capture water it was really tolerable.

The hailstorm (ha, ha, first I typed halostorm arousing a very curious image) made tiny almost imperceptible dents in the car. I'm not much concerned (I'd rather rent once or twice a year than own a car) but the word is that if you choose a very hot day you can put a piece of ice in the depression and the dip may pop up into its original smoothness. Maybe at a short stop in a motel in the middle of nowhere we'll be bored enough to try this.

We are only spending one night in Homer and so far have seen little of the town. The very reasonably priced old Hillside Inn? Motel? where we are staying has a mirror on the wall facing the foot of the bed and another on the wall near my side of the bed. Good thing I don't believe mirrors in the bedroom steal your soul. I guess. I sure wouldn't have big mirrors like this in my bedroom at home. Kinda creepy.

Later this morning maybe we can walk out for breakfast and see a little of Homer, which appears to be a county seat.

 That is, after I have had my wee-hour nap.

May 30, 2016
Homer, Louisiana

Whew! Camped three nights at Gulpha Gulch National Park Campground - a forty-five minute woodland walk into Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Soaked in hot tubs, inspected fabulous crystals at Crystal Springs, walked through Garvan Botanical Gardens for HOURS. Ate well at Rolando's, got awakened by early-bird robins at 4:40 A.M. (loved it!) and dealt with a rainy evening by going to a movie: 

*Money Monsters  Thriller with compassion and the interest of watching how television programs are made. A few very weird lines but lively all through.

Lost my driver's license and dropped by the national park service's headquarters on the magnolia-lined main street to see if it had been turned in. It was! and was mailed to my home in Indiana yesterday. Major sigh of relief.

Hot Springs, Arkansas might just become one of our favorite destinations.

May 26, 2016 
Nashville, TN

This morning we went on a walk in the park, enjoying a lake with ducks, geese, turtles and a very engrossed great blue heron.

It was the park that contains the Parthenon, a building rebuilt in 1920 from a temporary one erected for Tennessee's State Centennial in the 1890s.

There's a 42-foot statue of Athena inside. Evidently the story runs that the Greeks chose Athena over Poseidon (the god of the ocean) to be their patron god.

Strange. I guess they weren't sexist when it came to the gods.

Later we ate lunch and walked around Cheekwood Gardens in warm sunny weather enjoying the blooms, playhouses and especially wonderful sculptures by Steve Tobin. The ones in the Japanese garden imparted the same kind of serenity offered by looking at a river. Another painted red projected a more playful energy. At first we thought it was one of the playhouses!

We had our first Uber rides ever going to and from Cheekwood. One driver was chatty, the other taciturn.

That's one more step we've taken into the twenty-first century!

May 25, 2016 
Madison, IN

Preparing for a trip west, so this is the last entry you will see from Madison, IN for quite a while. As usual in our experience, rain is predicted for where we plan to camp. I'm trying to think positive about this: "More campsites for us!"

We will see.

Usually we just change destinations. This time that might not be possible.

Still, the road beckons, and my posts will not be akin to Bill Bryson's (as he reports in the 1989 Lost Continent.) My comments will not be as funny, granted, but neither will they be as grumpy. (Have you ever noticed these qualities usually come together?)

Hmmm... come to think of it, my partner has been out in the parking lot wrestling with our overhead storage for quite a while now. That probably means he will soon be coming in very er... funny indeed.

*Frida  Very colorful film about the hard life of the Mexican painter with lots of creative touches.


*Room   Imprisonment following the kidnapping of a teenage girl: lifestyle and consequences.

May 23, 2016
Madison, IN

Life very strange lately. Illnesses, fatigue, night-time wakefulness and daytime dozing. Lively energy, enjoyable conversations and gorgeous weather intermittent with rainy drainy soul-slogging cloudy outdoor and mental obfuscation.

When I was young I could tell if what I had was contagious. Now I cannot tell what is ordinary internal dysfunction.

Anyone who says that age is just a number is not paying attention. Maybe that is the same kind of person as one who is surprised by the birth of a child out of her own body. "I didn't know I was pregnant."

I always knew and now I know age is not just a number.

At my age it is a series of questions and second thoughts and second guesses.

A real tightrope walk.

Balance. Balance. Balance.

*Shiralee  Old Australian film about a little girl and her wandering worker father. Gritty and naturalistic.

*The House on Telegraph Hill  Thriller set in a concentration camp, then post-war San Francisco. Typical Hollywood but entertaining.

May 21, 2016 
Madison, IN

We're going to watch the Preakness, but two horses have already died at Pimlico today. Strange.

It's a muddy track and Nyquist, the favorite, has never run in the mud. Exaggerator, who acted as if he could have beat Nyquist given a little more time, might start his final push sooner.

We didn't want to buy the alcohol necessary to make a black-eyed Susan (which is the flower that will garland the winner this evening) this year. Maybe next year.

Where's my big floppy race hat?

Later - ha! What do you know? Exaggerator won. Too bad about the triple crown. No horse is getting it this year.

*Sugar Coated  The sugar industry is just as cynical as the tobacco companies. See this documentary if you think sugar is okay.

*Remember  This one blew us away. So well done!

May 20, 2016 
Madison, IN

I wonder why hospitals have become such dangerous places. Have our practitioners become complacent about sterilization procedures? The recent uncovering of a watering down of fluids meant for sterilization in an Eastern European country that resulted in thousands of deaths makes me tremble.

Are doctors to blame? Are they in the medical field for the wrong reasons?

If bacteria are evolving so quickly as to render ineffective our antibiotic cures, maybe they are surviving our sterilization techniques also. I have wondered lately how often the effectiveness of autoclaves is tested.

Years ago I read in a book by a doctor that you shouldn't have surgery unless it's a case of life and death.

That just isn't practical. Too bad it is turning out that just being in a hospital makes your health become a matter of life and death.

(Kept falling asleep while I was trying to write this. Pitiful.)

*Win Win  Loved this family film that I never heard of before reading it mentioned in The Week. Wrestling is featured but is not by any means the whole story.

*Paycheck  Thriller that was a heap of unlikely improbable fun. I loved it.

May 19, 2016 
Madison, IN

We were on a little walk today and we went through the will-be River Fest area along the riverwalk.

Passing a whole row of porto potties, Joseph gestured. "The original party pooper."

*The Grifters  I saw this in the theater when it came out and loved it with a guilty pleasure. So why oh why did I remember it in black and white and not remember a single specific thing that happened in the whole film? Jim Thompson at his mildest.

*Love Letters  This 1945 film I remembered scenes from, but could have sworn those scenes came from a movie with a different story line. No, I didn't see it in 1945. Please.

May 18, 2016
Madison, IN

*Creed  I sure don't like boxing but this was an okay film. PG? I'm not so sure.

May 17, 2016 
Madison, IN

No, but AAACK nor no no no either! Negative to nothing neither nada nor zero.

Minus vacuum imaginary umemi nothings space Space nano rooms opposite-of-infinite nonentity.

Unicorns pie and mansions in the sky nihilistic ribaldry dragons griffins centaurs fairies myths falsehoods anarchy dreamless nothing coma sleep.

Nada nothing zero zzz o zzz zzzzzz o o


*Glassland  Stark raving heroic protagonist saves everyone but maybe himself. Oh, two of those adjectives don't really describe him.

*Wonderful World   Well, I liked it.'s kind of interesting to imagine the lead men in these two movies transposed.

May 16, 2016 
Madison, IN

*Tom and Viv  Story of T. S. Eliot and his wife. Not a pretty one.

May 14, 2016 
Madison, IN

Here's one for you budding brain scientists:

Last night I woke up with some dead fingers and some problem using my hand - for only a minute or so. I suspected I might have had a nano stroke but everything seemed okay (i.e. when I stuck my tongue out it was straight and I could talk and my face wasn't sagging) so I went back to sleep.

Early this morning I saw a stranger putting a cardboard box into the dumpster and he didn't come into one of our buildings. Not only that, but he acted kind of self-conscious and guilty.

At ten o'clock I left for a hike up Hatcher Hill Road. I walked through town and along 421 under skies threatening rain and then as I approached the little old cemetery the sky turned blue and the sun came out. Perfect! Just in time for the good part of the hike - along an abandoned woodsy road with river, cliffs, and (after a rain) multiple little waterfalls.

Heading towards the part of the road that borders the cemetery, though, I saw two men standing in the middle. They made me feel a little nervous, but I was going to just plough on. But while the one watching me put on some gloves the other turned his back and adjusted something over his face.

That was too much for me. I did an about-face and marched in the other direction. Worse, when I looked back they had gotten into their car and were starting the engine. There was only one way out and that was by me.

I headed for the public area where unauthorized admission was forbidden. Dang! It's Saturday. Offices closed, so I struck out at an angle into people's overgrown back yards invisible from the street. Normally that is something I would not have done.

I lost them whether I needed to or not, but my question to you students of the brain: can uncertainty and insecurity (in short, suspicion) about your own health make you more jumpy and untrusting in other situations? Can suspicion take over more and more of your brain the way pain can?

Well, duh. Obviously I have answered my own question.

Nevertheless, I think most women I know would think twice about walking Hatcher Hill Road alone. It's good to hear the Heritage Trail folks are planning an extension in just that location. That is, as long as they don't weed-whack it.

Oh, dear. There I go again.

*If You Don't, I Will  French romantic comedy that's not romantic and not comedy, but hell, what do I want out of film? Well, something that is at least interesting to watch and it wasn't. Oh, Film Movement, Film Movement. So inconsistent!

May 13, 2016 
Madison, IN

You all probably lying know what doggerel is. If not, read some of the poetry of Ogden Nash.

I shared a poster on Facebook a few days ago that had a very spiritual example of chickerel. Surprising - who would ever suspect that a chicken could have a deeply interior life? It was a splendid example of the poetic style, I guess. It's the only one I've seen. I would share it here but I can't remember who offered it up for public consumption. It's probably protected by copyright. I'm the one that named the form chickerel, so don't try to Google that word. The cartoon which includes the sample is titled "Chicken Poetry Reading."

What would catterel be like, I wonder?

*Secret in Their Eyes  Creepily gray morally. Definitely not sleep-inducing with some stunning acting. But is the film really worth all this acting expertise? Lucky film.

*Backtrack  Pretty good movie in a genre I normally wouldn't watch. You might like it.

*Trumbo  Film about a blacklisted screenwriter's fight for survival in the McCarthy era of Communist-busting. This is a really admirable film - I'm tempted to say fabulous. The hero is flawed, maybe, but pretty stunningly fabulous.

May 10, 2016 
Madison, IN

The human psyche is a very strange creature.

Take dreams, for instance.

Ever known a person who liked to tease? One who would give you a glimpse of something he knows you would want (like, say, a candy bar or some popcorn) and then hide it again? It's an experience many of us have probably had as children, but some adults indulge in it as well.

Adults who play this way with affection or sex are probably considered especially perverse by their victims.

Let's be honest: don't your dreams do that to you? You wake up with a little glimpse of some dream image that seems like a promising lead into, well, SOMETHING. Your feelings? The reality of a relationship? Your own behavior or your purpose in life? Or something equally portentous.

But when you try to recall the nocturnal drama, your psyche goes, "Well, but that wasn't meant for YOU!" What the fuck? I created that dream! If it wasn't meant for me, who was it meant for?

Or perhaps your psyche is in a different kind of mood. It has a message for you and it DELIVERS IT TO YOU the way a professional boxer delivers punches. The only trouble is, the message is transmitted in the wrong language or you don't know how to box. Perhaps because of the brutality of your inner self, you're a runner not a fighter.

One thing I do know. When my dreams get too fraught I am not paying attention to a matter to which I should be attending.

Either too subtle or too brutish, that's the producer of my nightly dramas.

Why, by comparison, all external critters (human and otherwise) are highly rational and easy to deal with.

Er, or not. Especially dogs. I don't get dogs. 

*Steve Jobs  Interestingly enough, this film might be more understanding of Jobs than the documentary. Not a man to doubt himself, for sure!

*Sounder  Life as a black family of sharecroppers experiences it. It has a lot of heart and good acting, too - especially Cecily Tyson as the mom.

May 9, 2016 
Madison, IN

My partner tells how a food cooperative he worked for took lessons from corporate America, and one business expectation was that profits should increase by 10% every year.

Ha, ha! It reminds me of pyramid schemes. Growth may be able to hold to that pattern for a while, but it's just not in the nature of things for such growth to continue indefinitely. Expectations like that lead to expectorations of employees.

Of course someone has to be blamed when the fantasy growth curve collapses.

Don't get the idea that I'm recounting this tale because my partner suffered this fate. He did not.

It doesn't matter, though, on whom the boom falls. It could have more to do with market saturation and external financial conditions than the current manager.

It's bad enough being a wage slave for the sake of production. How must it feel to be slave to a graph?

*Requiem for the American Dream Noam Chomsky telling-it-like-it-is interviews and cool money graphics. Required documentary viewing.

*Another Man's Poison  This one is a delight of emotional ugliness. Lots of grim fun.

May 8, 2016 
Madison, IN

One of my three Kentucky Derbyshire post numbers actually was on the winning Powerball number. Too funny. It was the only one, though, so our ticket is worth a big fat zero.

The Preakness is in two weeks. I wonder what the Preakness beverage is - if there is one. We might have to look up another recipe. Any excuse for a party!

Mph. I just looked it up and there are at least three different recipes for the Black-eyed Susan, the official Preakness drink (along with the Preakness Cocktail. We shall see.

Meanwhile, a chunk of Alberta, Canada as big as half of Rhode Island is burning. This must be the year of the refugee.

I always felt if I couldn't get work I would come up with something - some other way of making money. But how do you do that if you have no home base and nothing to work with? It boggles the mind.

*Things We Lost in the Fire  We were totally drawn in by the great performances in this film. Well, 99%. 

May 7, 2016 
Madison, IN

Today was a day of hard work for both of us starting early, then ease and celebration of the Kentucky Derbyshire with food from the Hong Kong Kitchen (two two blocks away) and home-made mint juleps. We made ours with spearmint, although my first foraging efforts yielded lemon balm. Lemon balm is a mint also - I kind of wondered how that would have tasted.

I had the bright idea of buying a Powerball lottery ticket using three numbers of favorite runners in the Derby. Nyquist was the favorite since he had won seven of the seven races he'd entered. His post position was thirteen. The other race-related numbers I chose were eleven and five. Well, if I had bet on the Derby I could have won the trifecta.

As it is, I took those three numbers figuring if those horses won the numbers might be lucky in themselves. Completely irrational, of course, but relatively innocent fun. The Powerball costs two dollars. We won't find out if the magic numbers won until later.

On Saturdays and Sundays we get up at four a.m. during the school year, so like a little kid, I am going to bed while it is still light.

*Beware, My Lovely  Creepy thriller with a less than resourceful heroine. My, how women have changed - in film, at least. 

May 6, 2016 
Madison, IN

*Lady in the Van  Actually, I was kind of disappointed. The previews made the film look like more fun than it was. And it was nasty! What kind of person would allow that kind of filth in their front yard? I am talking about the inanimate not the animate, although who knows, there might have been rats around.


*Begin Again  Very lively and inspiring. Thoughts outside the box!

May 4, 2016 
Madison, IN

The message we got from the sermon Sunday was about how hard it is to take the love and joy we experience in church out into the real world.

In reality, I'm thinking trouble is largely situational.

If people endure long-term financial hardship stress levels are high and sickness and/or ill-temper are inevitable.

If people are driving in a car for ten hours in one day, tempers will fray and fights will ensue. That's what we did the second day of May. The human animal is not designed for inactivity and confinement, any more than tigers are.

Happy people are not prone to quarreling. Why do our churches and society in general always want to try to control people's behavior rather than the conditions that lead to undesirable outcomes?

Do whatever innocent activities you need to make your life tolerable and better yet, enjoyable.

Magically, I think you'll become a person you can love!

Meanwhile I am giving myself a dose of my own medicine. I do not get much joy out of time in the gym, so I am giving myself equal time outdoors.


*The Beauty Within  South Korean film which gave a lot of actors jobs! Plus it is a cool movie. Very entertaining and fun to watch - if just a smidgen too long.


*Son of Saul  Concentration camp Antigone. Well done but hard to watch.

May 3, 2016 
Madison, IN

I meant to celebrate May Day at least verbally.

Flowers! There were plenty of blooms around suburban Pittsburgh. Balmy weather! (Er, but not exactly.)

Even a church service during which a relative sang beautifully and a minister talked about the significance of purple fabric in Biblical times did nothing to remind me that it was the first of May.

We left for home on May Day, and my realization that April had somehow dissolved into May did not translate into MAY DAY until the next day. We saw blooming trees in town and countryside, but no damsels garlanded in blossoms dancing around Maypoles.

That night, in a very inexpensive motel in New Philadelphia, Ohio, we were awakened by a hailstorm in the wee hours. Fortunately most of the hail was the size of marbles, maybe with a few shooters.

The notable event of our day had been the sighting of a green heron flying low in a state park. The same park offered up bevies of birdsong (sorry, I couldn't resist using alliteration in this season of excessive poetry!) but those songbirds hid themselves very well.

Ah well, it's springtime. "Sweet lovers love the Spring!"

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