Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Flutter by, Butterfly

Always rambling, always exploring, I am and I am not a creature of habit. If I do not work, and I have not worked much lately, I go for a long, early morning walk. That is the habitual part.

But walking the same trail, the same route each day, no, I like a constant variety and thankfully the good souls who have preserved our nature hereabouts have provided it.

Besides the several fine and handsome parks surrounding my neck of the woods, these parks are festooned with many trails. Not only do I take a different path each day, I look for ones I've missed before and go exploring. Sometimes they prove short or dead end and I can only turn around and go back as I came, but most present new scenery and often surprises. Sometimes the surprise is I don't know my way back to where I started and am lost for a bit. I don't mind, it is interesting being lost as long as you know ways of eventually de-losing yourself.

At any rate, I turned off on to a road less traveled yesterday. It was a totally random choice this time. I was searching for something. (I will probably make this search a Frank March Adventure if I ever find the object of my desire.)  I am looking for an elusive waterfall. I had a conversation with a bicyclist I met after I had climbed hills and forded streams and had returned to a main trail unsuccessful. I asked if he knew where the waterfall was. He didn't. He didn't know there was a waterfall and thought with our dry weather it might not exist at the moment. His assumption was this mysterious waterfall only appeared after heavy rains or only at some magical time like Brigadoon.

Perhaps, but I think not. There is on the Internet at the Woodlawn website a trail map, and it indicates a waterfall up in one corner of this acreage, right over the state border I suspect. I just don't think I've walked down the right route yet or far enough.

Once a month I get together with a group of poets and we share our poetry. The latest meeting was this past Thursday and a story that was told became my catalyst to once again search for the waterfall on Friday morning. My friend and fellow poet, Dallas (pictured left), had a motorcycle accident this past week. It left him with a broken hand and broken rib. He can't work (he drives a bus) and he can't do his daily bike ride or his martial arts exercises either. This forced inability led to a story mentioning the waterfall, although it was peripheral to the tale.

The story: Dallas had gone on his regular bike ride up into the Woodlawn forest, when he came to a waterfall. Here was a nice open space beside a pond. He parked his bike and spend some time doing his martial arts exercises. It was a very hot day and that pond looked more and more inviting as he finished up his forms. Yes, it looked very enticing and there was no one around, he had been quite alone all day, he striped off to skin and dove into the water. It was very refreshing and he splashed there enjoying this cooling bath when he heard voices. A group of children suddenly appeared marching toward the spot, so he sunk himself down into the pond up to his chin. Some waved, some spoke to him and he said "hi" back. As this group settled upon the bank their teacher came from behind and began pointing and explaining things surrounding (presumably this did not include the head bobbing in the pond). Finally, the lecture finished, they waved goodbye and were gone. He, with relief and wrinkled skin, climbed ashore, quickly dressed and got out of there.

So I thought, there is definitely a waterfall somewhere out there and the next morning I set off again to find it.

I also thought isn't this always the way. When you think you are alone and safe along comes someone to embarrass you. It was just like my telling about removing my shirt in this heat while on what was to me a very unused trail. I almost never met anyone on in that place, but this time along comes a lady and her dogs. At least I had only removed my shirt.

Thus it was I wandered in a whole lot of new territory yesterday morning without finding my waterfall. I came to a choice far up on a mount after walking long. Perhaps the path going to my right would have led me to my goal, but I had been hiking long and the day was heating up, so I went left.

This took me up a narrow path I had also never been on before. It ran along the very top of the ridge and there was a fence along one side, probably electrified, for it only had three well-spaced strands of thick cable on white plastic knobs.  There was a cornfield along where I first came, then later I could see a road across a meadow. Meanwhile, the path grew very narrow and all around were high brush, especially cockleburs.

This is where I saw them, a flutter of yellow here and there. There were butterflies in packs flitting from plant to plant and then around my head. It was a marvelous place to be. Cicada were singing in the nearby woods and these beautiful, colorful creatures leading me along. It was an enchanting moment of beauty and peace.

I pulled out my camera and began filming, following their flight, and at times they seemed to pose for their close-up.

Not just the yellow ones, but these darker flies of black and blue and silver.

I do not know butterfly types. When you encounter large yellow ones with black trim you always think Monarch, but I am not sure the markings were right and there are yellow butterflies that mimic the Monarch. The dark one on the left seems to be some kind of swallowtail. There was one that when sitting still spread its wings forming almost a star that looked metallic. You can see that one near the end of my little two minute film below.

By the way, did you know they tag butterflies out of the nature center in Brandywine Creek State Park. Imagine catching and tagging these delicate looking creatures. You do it gently, a tiny sticker on the wing that doesn't harm or hinder the butterfly. They catch them, take them to the center, feed them, tag them and led them loose. This way they can trace the migrations of the insect.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hot and Hazy: And other Rambles, The Series Ends

That heat wave that washed over us this July has ended, briefly anyway, a new one is moving in although with lesser temperatures. When you rise and say, "Thank you, it is only going to be 95 degrees today," then you know how bad the last one was. But since "the hot one" came in as I started this little series loosely connected to it, it is fitting now that we are expecting a balmy high of 88 to end it.

Over on Tamela's Place  she has posted advice on respect between married couples. The last line of the last paragraph is applicable to us all, married or not, in our relationships to all around us.

"Endeavor to be perfect yourselves, but expect not too much from each other. If any offense arises, forgive it; and think not that a human being can be exempt from faults."
From the book: The Royal Path of Life by T.L. Haines 1876

This is not bragging, because I have too many failures to brag, but honesty. I try to live my live to that admonition. It is a quality that seems to lack quantity anymore. People seem pretty quick to offense over even perceived slights and very unwilling to forgive. And who takes blame for their own actions when there are so many others around to point the finger at? To me this bromide should be the foundation of good character and for a Christian, as an essential item of their spirit as the heart is to their body.

Now having recognized we need to forgive because none of us are exempt of faults, we are going to talk about the faults of others. But it isn't wrong to do this either. We may try very hard to overcome our faults, but how do we know these faults if no one ever points them out? And sometimes people have faults that are dangerous or unfair to others. We may forgive them for this, but it doesn't mean we allow them to continue doing them willy-nilly without comment. Otherwise, why have jails?

A couple weeks ago I was doing my daily walk in a state park and across the creek saw a cross. I don't know who put it there or why. If it is a memorial to someone who died in the river it is a big one. I can't tell if there is I any writing on it.

Is it in violation of anything? I don't know. Far as I can determine it is not on the Brandywine Creek State Park property or any of the land under the Woodlawn Trustees purview. Where it has been erected appears to be private property. Was it erected by trespassers or with the permission of the landowners? Did the landowners' erect it? I have not a clue. 

Certainly that big wooden sign board floating in the creek not far from the cross is a violation of something. It is litter of a large scale and a danger to those who raft, canoe and kayak this water. Again, though, I don't know if it is there by intensional design or accident.  I thought a week later it had been removed, but no, it had just floated further downstream.

Strangely, on the same walk I saw the cross, I did take note of several violations of park policy, some serious, some not so much.

The first violations were a mix of the messy and the menacing. 

As I came back up the path from where I had spotted this cross I saw a bag lying in the grass just off the path. As amazing as this may sound, this was unusual. I see very little in the way of trash along the many trails in these parks where I roam. When I do, it is usually a water bottle, which may have been tossed or accidentally dropped by a hiker or biker. I'm not saying I never find stray paper or plastic, just very rarely and hardly as blatant as this bright bag by this main trail.

Coming to the spot I discovered this miscreant wrapper wasn't alone. That little rise just beyond the brush was littered with more debris. 

Here were soda bottles, cracker boxes and candy wrappers strew about.

There was something even worse. The remains and ashes of an open fire.

It was pretty clear persons unknown had built a fire to make smores. This indicated that three violates of the parks' rules had occurred.

First, this most likely happened after dark, when the park is closed and no unauthorized person should be wandering about here. Second, there was much litter in a place that is a carry in-carry out nature preserve, Third, and totally irresponsible, an open fire had been build. We have been in a long dry spell and the fire conditions are moderate to high. A little breeze, a missed ember, and you could have easily had a wildfire here as they have had in some other states recently.

Is there any connection between this fire, litter and that cross and the bill board in the creek? I don't know, other than they all suddenly appeared in the same area simultaneously.

I didn't have to go much further or much longer to come across another violation of park policy. Unleashed dogs being walked. This may be the most common violation I see and I see it on almost every walk I take. It doesn't particularly bother me, although I understand the reasons for it. However, every time I have come upon such dogs they have been very well trained and behaved. 

Now, I admit, when I come around a corner or over a hill and am confronted by a dog I grow very wary if I see no master about. One never knows what a strange dog might do. I also know that even the gentlest dog can feel the same way upon meeting me. It doesn't know what I am up to either and a sudden move could make it feel threatened, and who knows where that leads.

Frankly, the only dogs that ever really scared me on walks were on leashes. I met two Pit Bulls on several occasions on the Northern Delaware Greenway, always restrained on leads, but every time, baring teeth,  they pulled and tugged on their ties trying to come at me. Each time I prayed their owners had a good grip on those leather straps and nothing broke. This did not seem a good place for these animals to be walked, on leashes or not. There are some walkers with children and children are fascinated with dogs and often run toward them without a care. But hey, I guess that is just me, an old worrywart. 

I'll tell you three recent encounters with unleashed dogs.

I was on this very same trail one morning and came to this bridge. Thinking I would set my Flip on the rocks to the one side and film myself walking across here, I was suddenly startled by a large dog leaping right in front of my face from where I was about to place the tripod.

He had seemed to come out of nowhere and was quite alone. He landed on the path and looked at me and I am him.

"Are you alone?" I asked.

He said nothing.

What do I do now. This appeared to be a stray dog. He had to belong to somebody for there was a bandana around his neck, but who and where were they. Moments went by and then I heard a voice from above.

"He's friendly."

I looked up and there was a lady and another dog high up on these rocks. As I watched she came walking down upon them. I had never noticed there was a path that went up this outcropping of stone.

A second dog encounter was actually an expected encounter, but non-appearance. It was when I dared remove my shirt thinking I was in a secluded place and then this other woman with two dogs came up the path. I met the same lady a second time further down the path, meaning she had circled around (probably fascinated by my manly physique and wanted another look). She was coming just up the steep hill, that I prefer to go down rather than up. One of her dog led the way, but I didn't see the second.

"Aren't you missing someone?" I asked. 

She stopped and looked back. Then she called a few times, but the other dog did not appear.

"She hasn't got lost yet," said the woman and went on her way and I on mine.

I went down the steep hill, but no sign of her other dog anywhere before me as I went. I presume it went down the creek side path in the opposite direction and knew its way home, at least I hope so. But I thought, neither dog was on a leash. She wasn't even carrying any leashes. Now one of her pooches was running free and alone through the paths, what kind of violation was that? What might the fine be if she's caught by a ranger?

My third story just happened the other day. I was hiking up the creek path, which is a narrow trail through the woods. At one spot I could hear sounds approaching from behind and in front of me. There was a little side path on the trail and I stepped upon it just as a large Bulldog bounded around a bush and came to me. At the same time, two bicyclists came from the other direction, then came a man with another Bulldog on a leash. 

The first Bulldog was nuzzling my hand as its owner came up and snapped a leash upon it. One of the biker's said to him, "That's what happens when you don't have them leashed. There's a big fine for that, you know?"

"Are you cops?" the Bulldog man asked.

"Yes, we are," said one of the bikers. (I was rolling my eyes at this.)

"Well, thank you for your service, sir," said Bulldog man and the bikers rode away.

Bulldog man and I exchanged glances, neither believing these bikers were cops. Bulldog man, now with both beasts leashed, walked on down the path.

I didn't need to hear any bikers lecturing anyone about trail violations. Next to unleashed dogs, they are the biggest offenders I run into. They speed up and down these trails often giving no warning they are coming up behind you. Not all, but it is becoming more the rule than the exception, sad to say. Use to be bikers would call out, "On your left" as they approached. Now too many just whizz right pass. You seldom hear them coming until they are upon you.

They also go where they shouldn't. Some trails are marked as off-limits to bikes, but they are there. The photo to the right shows fresh bike tracks up on Rocky Run, one of the trails they are not allowed. A couple weeks ago I was on a guided tour on Rocky Run when a forbidden biker came down the narrow trail up on the high ridge. Not only didn't he give warning, he didn't even slow down. We had some old people and some children in the group. There could have been a disaster; there could have been injuries.

Bicycles aren't the only conveyance people are not suppose to ride on trails like Rocky Run. There is something else banned, horses.

Be careful where you step, friend, for this was left not far from those tire tracks, and believe me, no bicycle left this.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hot and Hazy: I Sing the Body Elastic and other Rambles, The Series Continues

  "The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them..." wrote Walt Whitman as the beginning of his poem known as "I Sing the Body Electric", a title and line not included on the original, but added later.

Spellcheck is saying that word "engirth" is incorrect and it is difficult finding a definition of it. You have to get back to Shakespearian times to find out it means "surround". Whitman, being a poet, couldn't make reading easy and just say, "The armies of those I love surround me."

Despite whatever archaic vocabulary Whitman choose to employ, some people understood certain lines of his poem well enough to feel uncomfortable, thus Leaves of Grass, the collection of poems that engirthed it, was often banned.

I hope my Blog doesn't suffer a similar state as I Sing the Body Elastic.

My piece isn't a poem. It is a paean and diatribe about this soma that has carried me about for more than seventy years. Yes, I know paean and diatribe are quite opposite things; this is a little bit of both, a tiny bit of bitter with the sweet.

I feel my body was created by a government committee, you know a bunch of rascals who make a compromise and come up with a convolution rather than a solution. You give a group of monkeys enough time and they will recreate the works of Shakespeare; you give a government committee any time and they'll screw it up. My own twisted up body may have thus resulted because my father was a Democrat and my mother was a Republican, proof positive that love conquers all.

I am told when I was born the doctor said I had a beautiful and most perfectly shaped head.  I don't know what that bought me. I never had a girl come on to me and say, "I must date you for you have such a perfectly shaped head!" Maybe by the time I was dating age it wasn't so perfect anymore, after all it had been knocked about a good bit by then, had a brick fall on it and been hit by a golf club (a driver specifically). Whatever, when I look at my baby pictures it looks like most other baby heads. (What's with that cap? Did I have a unicorn horn on the top of my beautiful, perfectly formed skull?)

I was tall for my age and tall for my times. There were a few contemporaries as tall or taller, but I was always in the top ten. In my kindergarden class photo (I am kneeling in the front row on the far left wearing the striped shirt and baggy shorts) you can see I was already above my peers vertically. (Note also the prejudice of the era as the only black child in the class is standing apart from the rest of us.)

I may actually be taller than my height. It sounds a ridiculous statement, but is probably true nonetheless. That government committee that designed my carcass packaged me with scoliosis and if you straightened out my spine I might be a couple inches higher.

My father was always yelling at me to stand up straight and threatening to put me in a brace, which he never did. He also made the idea of a brace sound a dire punishment, something that would hurt terribly, so a medical aid became an object I feared and had nightmares about. I would try to stand straight, but of course I really couldn't since I was born crooked. Now I say scoliosis, but I am not certain it was ever really diagnosed. My children were diagnosis with mild scoliosis, but it is barely noticeable. They don't have quite the same physique as I and I wonder if I don't have Scheuermann's disease. When I feel my backbone it doesn't seem to have any twist to it, just a rounding at the top, and my shoulders don't tilt to one side or the other. I certainly do have the typical traits of Scheuermann's, a humped back and a deep barrel chest. (Aren't barrel chests supposed to be manly? Ernest Hemingway had a barrel chest. Bob Hoffman had a barrel chest [more about Hoffman later]).

You can see this curvature very clearly in the photo on the right as I bend to stroke a cat. This certainly resemble illustrations I have seen of people with Scheuermann's and a hump does pop up upon me, although perhaps not as severe as the photo of the disease's victim on the left.

According to what I read neither of these conditions is easily changed, especially once past childhood. There isn't a lot that can be done, really, although surgery might be used on those with extreme cases. Surgery on the spine is always a delicate operation, and like my psoriasis, the risks aren't necessarily worth the cure.  (Yes, that was another nice add-on provided by the government committee on body implantation, psoriasis, which also came equipped with a side dish of psoriatic arthritis.)

Coming head-on, this little hiccup in design isn't very apparent, except my neck kind of disappears. In this photo, taken in days when I still had hair, and dark hair at that, you can just see the slight curve of my spine. You can also see how it has given me that barrel chest spoken of. (You can also see I really do have a neck.) Although I would hardly call my distortions extreme, it was enough for other kids to taunt me as a humpback, and worse, as Quasimodo.

Adding to my ridicule at the hands of some of my peers, my eyesight was deteriorating. I did not know this for who knows how long. I knew I couldn't see a lot of writing on the blackboard, but just attributed this to being seated too far back. You see, it was common practice then to seat pupils by height. I was among the tallest so usually I was sitting in or near the rear row. When I went to Junior High my nearsightedness was uncovered because they gave us eye exams in school.

Now I had to wear glasses; now I was "four-eyes".

There weren't a lot of kids wearing glasses in those days, so it made you stick out. I don't know if it is such a big deal anymore. At least today you can get contacts or thin wire frames that are almost invisible. No such things when I first got specs. Oh, no, they came with thick heavy plastic frames, tortoise shell or black. There was no hiding them.

Worst yet, I got glasses as I entered puberty. My body now became very elastic, very thin, very gangly. I was like some large insect, a Praying Mantis perhaps, long, thin, with too many appendages, but with a pumpkin for a head.

This picture of me in my Boy Scout Summer Uniform is one I dislike with a passion, but it does best represent the awkwardness my body adopted in my adolescent years.

Note in this picture my long arms. I have unusually long arms for my height. Or maybe my arms are perfectly matched to my "real" height, but appear too long because my twisted spine has lowered me by a couple inches. I do not know, but I know it is very hard to find shirt sleeves to fit. Generally if a shirt fits my chest and my neck, several inches of wrist still hang bare.

Overall, my body is very difficult to tailor. I have broad shoulders, a barrel chest, a curved spine, thinner hips, a narrower waist-to-chest ratio and these over-extended arms. Once when I had to have some new suits altered, the tailor, with his tape measure about his neck, pins in his mouth and chalk in his hand stopped in mid-mark to call to an associate.

"Hey, Matty, come over here and look at there arms!"

Somewhat humiliating.

I've mentioned there was another period when I did not like taking off my shirt in public. My teen years were the time. It was not because of my spine curvature nor the beginning spots of psoriasis. It was my skinniness.

Oh, I was thin. That is a picture of me in my junior year of high school on the left. Strip off my shirt and you could use me in biology to explain the human skelton. Every bone was prominent. My ribs stood out making me a human Glockenspiel. I didn't want anyone seeing that chest. I feared gym because teams were usually divided into shirts and skins. When we counted off, I always seemed to end up on the skins.

I followed the usual route of the skinny guy getting sand kicked in his face, I turned to exercise. I had a course, ordered from a magazine ad, called The Manly Art of Self-Defense or some such title. It was mostly devoted to boxing lessons, which I wasn't all that interested in, but it also came with various calisthenics and charts where you could record you progress, both in reps and in muscle gain. There was a little wheel you turned and it would tell you the best exercises for baseball or football or wrestling and so forth.

Despite this I stayed skinny, so I got my mom to buy me a barbell set. I still have that set and I have used it over and over in the years between then and now. It came with little booklets on developing various body parts, all written by Bob Hoffman (remember him of the barrel chest), who was a bodybuilder and head of York Barbell Company.

I suppose my lifting helped build my muscle tone, but nature took care of my thinness automatically. Halfway through my senior year I suddenly, like over night, filled out somewhat. I jumped from 155 pounds to 180 pounds.

Despite my weight gain, my limbs still looked like pipes. They were just too long. The measurements weren't bad and there was some definition, but with the extra long wrists what muscles I had kind of got lost. It is still this way. In most pictures my arms seem to dangle about with not much meat to them, but they really aren't all that slight.

Okay, I may not resemble Hulk Hogan, except around the hairline, but my arms get the job done.

My problem with my chest these days isn't it is too thin. It is the opposite. Oh, it was never in such great shape that I would ever be mistaken for Mr. America, but it was okay for laying about the pool without being totally a shame that it was seen in daylight by anyone.

When I was a teenager heros and tough guys in novels were always described as being six foot tall and weighing 200 pounds. That was what I thought was ideal during those skinny years. I was six foot tall, just nowhere near 200 pounds.

About a year before the picture on the right was taken, I had reached my dream and it was a nightmare. I not only achieved 200 pounds, I went up to 215 (my best bowling score incidentally). It was uncomfortable and this picture was after I shed all that excess baggage and got back well below 200 to the 180 I weighted at graduation from high school.

My weight has fluctuated up and down over the last few years. At the beginning of summer I was at 180 again, but I seem to always bloat up during the hot months and when i weighted myself yesterday I was at 190.

It is amazing how much difference ten pounds and the pull of gravity over seventy years can make, and that is why I never, well hardly ever, take my shirt off in public these days. And my paunch and drooping chest should make Ron feel a whole lot better about his own slight slippage.

Gee, do you think my white beard will get as long as Walt Whitman's?

 Photo at top of post: Walt Whitman in Camden, New Jersey, 1887 by Thomas Eakins
 Photo of Scheuermann's Disease victim from Wikipedia.
All other photos taken by or owned by the author.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hot and Hazy: Man Boobs and other Rambles, The Series Continues

At this time in my life I do not appear in public shirtless, for basically the same reason that Arnold (pictured left) should consider the same policy. There was a time I hated to remove my top for another reason, but we'll get to that next post.

Even so, it has been a blast furnace out there for several days, and since the "out there" I have been in the most is backwoods, I made a couple concessions to the hot and broke my rule. Doing so was not without reluctance, but a week ago I was on a trail where over the many moments I have walked it, I have almost never met another hiker and it had been months since that last "almost never" occurred. It seemed safe to throw caution, and my shirt, to the wind and I must say the shade of the forest did feel good on my bare skin.

I was indeed enjoying this freedom when what to my wandering eyes should appear, but a lady and two tiny reind...I mean, two dogs, neither really tiny, coming up the path toward me.

Oh well, nothing to do but step aside, blush, and let the lady and her pooches pass. We spoke briefly as polite people do and went our separate ways.

And yesterday I was on the same trail and made the same reluctant decision, and wouldn't you know, here comes the same woman and the same dogs and we exchanges the same pleasantries and went our same separate ways. And still I met the same woman once again before I had finished the trail. This lady has now seen my bare chest more times in recent years than anyone except my wife. My doctor hasn't even seen my bare chest three times in the last two years.

Okay, why are we talking about bare chests today anyway. It is because in a recent Post on his Blog, "Retired in Delaware", my life-long friend Ron complained he was getting "man boobs" (sometimes called "moobs"). On the right is the photo he posted as proof of his getting this condition plus a paunch. But before we deal with how if he thinks this he has a very vivid imagination, we probably should take a look at the word "boob" and gain some insight into it and this thing called "man boobs".

The word was once considered somewhat vulgar, but it has grown to such common overuse you barely go a day without hearing or seeing it, especially on the boob tube. For some of a newer generation who may think boob tube is some sort of pornographic peep show on the Internet, the term came into being about fifty years ago to describe television. Therefore, we see the word was in the common vocabulary decades ago. It is a stupid sounding word — boob — and that was its meaning during the years of my youth. If you did something stupid, you were a "boob". Crazy people were put in a "booby hatch", because they had to be restrained from doing stupid things. These terms had a different origin and had nothing to do with chests.

Boob, meaning fool, is a corruption of the Spanish for stupid, "bobo". It actually traces to the Latin word "balbus". Balbus didn't mean stupid, it meant stammering, but since the Romans thought anyone who stammered was stupid, it is virtually the same thing. Anybody ever read I, Claudius or see the PBS series based on it? Claudius had a bad stammer so everyone thought he was a moron until he became emperor.

Boob, meaning breast, has a different etymology, not Spanish nor Latin. Actually, there are some varied opinions. Some think it came from the buboes, the swelling of lymph glads, during the bubonic plague. Others place the blame on a 1762 novel by Henry Fielding, where a woman named Lady Booby tried to seduce the hero by exposing her breasts.  Since the word boob or booby didn't really come into popular usage until the mid-1900s I rather discount this theory. Somehow I don't think a lot of people were reading,  Fielding s' The History of Joseph Andrews in the 1930s and '40s.

The word "bubby" came about in the 1930s and over the next couple decades turned into "booby" and "boob". "Bubby" came from the German word "Bubbi", and remember Germany was a country much watched in the 'thirties. "Bubbi" means "teat" and "teat" means basically a nipple or the part of a mammal where it's young can drink milk. Teat was a fairly common term in farm country when I was a boy.

Fine, students, history lesson is over, let's get to the heart of his matter of "man boobs".

This term probably became popular in our lexicon after a particular Seinfeld episode concerning a problem of George's father and the invention of the Manssiere or Bro. It is a condition many of we males experience with age as years of gravity, decline of exercise and possible overeating have their way with our bodies. (Remember when Arnold had six-pack abs instead of looking like there were too many six-packs inside the abs.) Yes, sad but true, for many of us our once defined hard pecs become round and soft and resemble women's breasts. It generally does go as a set with a growing paunch. Look at my friend's photo again and you'll see he has pretty much failed the test of true man boobs and paunch. But he is young yet, only 69, he still has time to grow that belly and droop that chest.

In truth, this condition my friend is concerned about isn't really man boobs. It is just some flab and weakening muscle tone. There is a medical condition of man boobs called "Gynecomastia" caused by possible hormonal imbalances or other health issues and sometimes by medications. Men suffering from Gynecomastia can develop quite impressive breasts.

If Ron is concerned, he need only compare himself to Arnold. He has a long way to go to boast of a paunch of such worthwhile note.

Oh, and what of myself? I've already confessed I never take my shirt off in public. I don't even walk about my house shirtless. So this is very difficult for me, but here I be shirtless on that trail yesterday. Ron can take more comfort now. I am three inches shorter than he and probably weight thirty pounds more right now.

I've always felt I had a body build by a government committee. More about that next time.

TO BE CONTINUED -- NEXT: I Sing the Body Elastic.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hot and Hazy: Great Blue Herons, Man Boobs and other Rambles, The Series Continues

The Little Wife and I were sitting in a booth at Barnabys. We've eaten out every day this week. She isn't cooking while we are baking; that is, with outside temperatures in the 100s, we're all about keeping cool.

So we are sitting there and I say, "I went looking for that heroin again this morning."

"Heron," she says.


"Heron, not heroin."

This is that slight hearing defect I have had all my mortal days. At least, I claim it is my malfunctioning cochlea and not some mutant synapse misfiring in my brain. Whichever, it has been a problem all my life and I often can't distinguish certain sounds or pronounce similar words. Choral,  Corral and Quarrel always came out the same, for instance. I can't get my tongue around Calvary and cavalry correctly. Thus the phrase Great Blue Heron that I can hear clearly in my head comes out of my mouth as the great blue heroin. I don't know if there is such a thing as blue heroin, I don't know what its street value may be and I certainly am not interested in tracking it down.

We wrote yesterday of writers using words some might find offensive. You can certainly see the misinterpretation, misunderstanding and mischief my little pronounciation misfires could cause.

Anyway, here is the thing, I was in Brandywine Creek State park walking along side the Creek when I saw a tall white thing sticking out of the water near the opposite side. I got a bit closer and saw it was a bird, a rather large one and knew it had to be about four foot tall. It was simply standing still, straight up.

I flicked on my Flip and began videoing, trying to get further up the trail and closer. I do not know if it heard me or simply decided to move, but it spread it's wings and flew across the creek toward my side. I hurried on, around some bushes, but when I got into the next clearing there was no sight of it.

I was telling my wife at dinner that I had walked that same trail again. This I seldom do. I like variety and generally will not repeat a route two mornings in a row. However, I really was hoping for a better film of the bird. This had been the third time I saw it in the last couple of weeks, but only the first time I was able to get my camera on it.

It is a beautiful bird, especially in flight. I saw it land one day and this time I saw it take off. It spread those wings and rose, seeming to defy physics given its size. It was very graceful, and actually very fast, even though it reminded me of watching those big military cargo planes takeoff at Dover.

I'm pretty sure it is a Great Blue Heron. They are native to these parts with a known rookery over at Ashland. They do indeed reach heights of over four feet and have wing spans on nearly six.

I wish I could have gotten a closer film of this creature, but I did the best with what I had. The photo at the top of this post is the bird standing in the creek. It appears as a long white streak at the center of the photo framed by some branches of leaves. Keep this location in mind if you play my video so you can pick up the bird. The video is short and the bird is quick once it moves. I did do a slow motion sequence and a couple instant replays to try and help pick out the Heron.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hot and Hazy: Words Writers Write and Bloggers Blab, Great Blue Herons, Man Boobs and other Rambles, The Series Continues

I was going to call this series "Hot and Bothered". It seemed a good enough theme. A heat wave of possibly deadly proportions settled over the area for the week. It is 82 degrees out as I key this at 6:30 AM. It is supposed to reach, according to The Weather Channel, 103 this afternoon with heat indexes up to 115. For Arizona this is a shrug; for here it is abnormally hot. Plus we have humidity.

Therefore Hot was certainly suitable to use in the title and theme.

Since it was a series containing several posts dealing with "bothers", some for me, some for others, it also seemed appropriate using Bothered.

However, putting these words together not so much. Given the slang connotation, one long in existence and in the mind of many, the combination of "Hot and Bothered" would conjure up images not so proper for a PG rated Blog.

It is one of my pet peeves that so many fine, upstanding words have been gutterized into sexual and drug-culture slang. But this is the mind of man and such vulgarizing has always occurred and always will I imagine. Still, it is something a writer must be aware of. Nothing can kill your piece more than having everybody giggling like adolescent 15 year-olds, beer and bong-infested Frat boys or those...well, jackasses from Jackass, just because you use some street code for a private body part or sexual act.

Actually using the wrong word in any context can destroy your effort. Not only can this change your meaning, it is a distraction to the reader.  It is akin to attempting to speak in an unfamiliar language. You try to impress a beautiful French lady by saying she has the face of a flower —  "Vous avez le visage d'une fleur!" Instead, you purr in her ear, "Vous avez le visage d'un furet!"

Comparing her face to that of a ferret will probably not get you the reaction you hoped for.

Believe me I have been guilty of the wrong word faux pas many times. It can be quite embarrassing, even harm your credibility or reputation.  I wrote a poem called "Exhibition", which became quite popular at readings, but only after I changed one line and eliminated one word. The first time I ever read it publicly I was totally humiliated because of that word. I was describing a painting of a nude woman, which was very much paramount to appreciating the humor in the poem. My original line read something like:

"With breasts unrobed and arms and legs akimbo".

I finished and immediately a fellow in the audience said, "She must have been quite the contortionist to have her legs akimbo." This stole all the meaning and craft from my effort and brought him a laugh at my expense. I had wanted to show the woman was quite exposed and thought the word akimbo meant "spread wide apart". The word actually means to have your hands on your hips and your elbows pushed out and forward. If the lady had also had her feet upon her hips with her kneecaps pushed out and forward she would have been a contortionist indeed.

I changed that line to read:

"With arms down, breasts disrobed and legs audacious."

This is using the wrong word, a technical malfunction either from vocabulary deficiency or spell-check deception. It can be corrected by carefully proofreading or having someone else look over your work. But should an author be concerned about the actual content of their writing?

The obvious answer is yes. A lot depends on your audience. If you are writing a story for a children's publication you certainly want to avoid the use of certain expletives and subject matter; whereas, If you are writing for "Hustler" you will not be telling the story of a cute, fluffy bunny-rabbit's adventures in the cabbage patch.

But that is marketing. Something you do if you are out there trying to sell your stories to whatever magazines are left buying work from freelancers. The old world of words has changed. It isn't the same in many ways since I was a young man. One great difference is there is no longer an editor or publisher standing between you and having what you write in the public forum.  The Blog is here and good, bad or indifferent, Bloggers are everywhere.

Which is what I am today and probably what readership I have is also. So we are free to write what we please, put down what is in our mind, be it grand philosophic thoughts or the mundane deeds of our daily life. Some things don't change, though. What do we dare say or what should we not say in our Blog? We have no editor to put a check on whether we cross some line of good taste. We don't have some style booklet or subject framework of a newspaper or a magazine. We have nothing between what we key on the screen and the whole wide world except some form of a button saying, "Publish".

Do I have any rules for writing?

First, if you are overly concerned about what people will think of you, don't ever consider writing. It isn't going to matter how inconsequential or bland your post, chances are somebody, somewhere is not going to like it, not going to like you and is going to be highly insulted and offended for some reason over something you wrote. If this fact bothers you, then write in your journal and keep it locked up in a drawer. If everyone has to like you or agree with you or never utter a negative criticism, this is not the game for you.

I have been doing this a long time, long before the Blog, the Webpage, the World Wide Web or the Internet ever came along. I'm not a household name, hardly rich and famous and not in demand for interviews on the Today Show, but nonetheless, I am a professional writer. Why so? Because I have been published and paid for my work and that is what a professional is. I have been so in seven decades, my first published pieces in the 1950s and my last just this year. The only decade of my life in which I was not published was the 1940s, so I guess I wasn't a child prodigy. Actually, my first published-for-pay articles were when I was 11 years old. Yes, I have put my hide up on a fence post for public potshots for a long time indeed.

I've been peppered with some literary buckshot over the years. I had boxes of rejection slips. I've been praised and vilified. I had a handwritten rejection slip from a magazine editor some decades back. Now normally a handwritten rejection is a positive thing. If an editor takes the time to personally comment on your piece, even if they don't buy, it means you show promise or they want to see more of your work. Not in this case. This editor called me some very nasty, and I might add unprofessional, names and told me my story had insulted the intelligence of every person living in the Southern United States. I had the feeling if I had hand delivered my opus the good citizen's of that state would have tarred and feathered me at best.

So Rule Number One: grow a thick skin and a sense of humor.

Rule Number Two is be true to yourself and it is only second because if you don't adopt Rule Number One, you shouldn't be writing anyway. This is especially so if you are writing a Blog. When I was young and hungry to be a much-published and potentially rich writer, I wrote as a mercenary. I tried to write to the market and what I thought some editor wanted. Just like any job, sometimes you have to do it the boss' way even when you know your way is better. Not so anymore. I am an old man and I made the decision that what I write from now on will be what I want to write. In other words, I will be true to myself and write my way. I'm Blogging. No one has to read it. Besides, writing to please others eventually pleases no one.

This doesn't mean you never listen to criticism or stop trying to be a better writer. We all can learn to be better and we all make mistakes. It means, though, my content is going to be true to me and my style is going to be true to me and I'm not changing my voice because someone thinks it is not simple enough for today's reader.

However, in writing a Blog, one must be cognizant that it is out there for anyone who wishes to read. It may be someone on the other side of the world you will never meet. It may be many such strangers who pass through your domain, read your thoughts and never comment. It may also be you next door neighbor, the gang down at your favorite hangout, fellow employees where you work, your boss, your boss' wife, your best friend, your worst enemy, your parents, the people in your parent's church, or your church if you have one. It can be anyone and everyone.

This knowledge of who might be reading can become a stumbling block and keep us from good writing, true writing. I have three rules for dealing with this situation, unless, of course, you are the rare bird who truly doesn't care what anyone else thinks of you and isn't worried if everybody in your life comes to despise you.

My last rules:

Write nothing consciously or maliciously to hurt another person or betray a trust or reveal a confidentiality between you and another.

Write nothing that may harm you.  This means give it some thought before you push that publish button. For instance, did I say something that if my boss reads it I will lose my job? Or, did I say something my friends will find so insulting they will no longer be my friend? Maybe you don't need that job and don't care if you lose it and maybe you feel you don't need friends, but if you do, then maybe you want to hold off writing what you just did until another day, like publish posthumously.

This doesn't make you a sell-out or a coward. It just means you seriously consider the consequences of what you do. If you can live with the consequence, then go forth. If you will lose sleep even considering the consequences, 86 it.

My last rule is think hard and deep and long before jumping on a fellow Blogger because you disagree or feel offended by their Post. I have never known two people in my life that agreed 100% of the time on 100% of everything. There is also no right not to be offended. Part of the problem in this country anymore is everyone gets too easily offended. People get shot because someone felt they offended them somehow, perhaps they raised an eyebrow at the wrong time. Choose your battles  is what I am saying. Some are worth fighting and some are better ignored. Also remember, you want the freedom to write what you think and in your way. Give others the same freedom, even if sometimes it hurts, because most likely, you wrote something at some time that hurt someone else and they gave you a pass.

Besides I would bet that 80%, maybe even higher, of the things people get bend out of shape over and offended by are misinterpretations and not substance.

If you keep these simple rules in mind you can freely write in the way you wish about what you wish. But most important of all, be true to yourself.

Now just as a coda, I recently had a story criticized by a college professor no less. I will consider some of what was said, but whether I will change anything I don't know. I'm not impressed by the number of letters behind someone's name. One of the criticisms really bothered me though. It concerned my main character: "Is she black or white? American or Canadian? As a person, she is totally lost to me."

What the...!!!!!

This is how you determine a person? By the shade of their skin or their ethnicity? Perhaps I failed to shape this character as a living, breathing person, but the color of the characters skin or where they came from had absolutely nothing of pertinence to do with either the character or the plot or the theme of the story. This is something I have spend much of my life fighting against, this judgement of who a person is by such superficial things as race, sex, religion, etc. I made a determination several years ago not to identify my characters by race unless this had a true baring on the plot. This constance stereotyping, pigeonhole approach on film and in literature is part and parcel of continuing the suspicion and divide between we people. We need to show people as people first, not as some template of race, sex, etc.

I am surprised this professor did not assume the character was Jewish because her name was Goldie, a possible stereotypical Jewish name in some people's mind. Her name was Goldie because every female character in the story was purposely given a color as a name, Goldie, Rose and Amber. These names were part of the sub-theme of the story, beyond that they meant nothing as far as nationality, religion or whatever.

When I create a character I will give as much description as necessary for the tale. I gave Goldie's age, for that was an important detail, but I didn't give much else. I didn't say what color eyes or hair she had, how tall she was, even if she were pretty or plain, because these didn't matter. Let the reader fill in the blanks sometimes.  Give the reader the freedom to see themselves  as the character. What was the magic of radio? You couldn't see the characters, so their looks were seen in your head they way you imagined them.

If you are white, you can imagine Goldie as white; if you are black, you can see her as black. It does not matter, she is a human being facing a psychological crisis in her life. Actually, Goldie didn't even have to be a woman. It could have been a man, perhaps with a few adjustments. It could have been an Asian-American woman. Frankly, the main character could have been a Drag Queen, although I suppose if it had been about a Drag Queen people would have read more into the story than intended and taken it away from what was my subtext.

At any rate, write what is in your heart and head and don't lose sleep over what others think as long as you've been considerate to their secrets while bring true to yourself.

TO BE CONTINUED -- NEXT: The Great Blue Heron and Violations on the Trail.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hot and Hazy: Ramar Quicksand, Nightmares, Words Writers Write and Bloggers Blab, Great Blue Herons, Man Boobs and other Rambles, The Series Continues

My friend Ronald over on his Blog "Retired in Delaware" posted about having a nightmare during his afternoon nap. He woke in a sweat from images of sinking in quicksand in his neighbor's yard. Not that his neighbor has pools of quicksand laying in wait for the occasional trespasser, just that was his dilemma in this dream. There he sank like some hapless character in "Ramar of the Jungle," a show starring Jon Hall as the square-jawed jungle sawbones in both Africa and Indian. It was a show those of my generation from my portion of the land would not have missed watching each week on TV, hurrying in from our own childhood hide and seek games when he came on.

 "Be careful, guys, I think Quicksand is lurking around the corner!"

It seemed an unusual amount of times someone would fall into quicksand in Ramar's adventures. If it were a bad guy, they would sink readily until a final shot of their hand, fingers wiggling, disappearing beneath this terrible grave. If they were a good guy or the damsel in distress they would writhe about screaming for much of the half hour until Ramar would arrive. Generally he rescued them by holding a stick across the pit for them to grab. During the times of their imprisonment they would sink up to their neck, then a cut-away to Ramar racing down some trail. When we came back to the victim they would have somehow rose out to their waist only to sink to the neck again before our hero arrived.
Neither the well-educated research doctors or their intrepid, experienced guide ever seemed aware it is almost impossible to sink fully into quicksand due to its density. Nor were they aware that the easiest escape is to kick your feet and swim out.

When my friend had visited a week or so ago we had hiked back along a trail and had to jump over some mud holes (one such jump and mud hole pictured at the top of this post). He had made a comment about quicksand in Ramar and we had then discussed those scenes. This may be why the image popped up in his nightmare.

Speaking of nightmares, I awoke from one the other night. I remember almost nothing about it even though it seemed very clear while dreaming. I only know there was some kind of ghost and I felt very paranoid when I awoke, jumping at any sound and spooking at every shadow. 

By the aside, have you ever noticed ghosts always appear in films dressed in the garb of their time of death. Clothes are inanimate objects with no soul or spirit. Why would clothes remain in the spirit world? I don't believe in ghosts, but if I were ever to see one I would expect it to be naked.

Anyway, my little nightmare was startling, but harmless. The real nightmare for me came that morning after my morning walk. Now any regular reader of this Blog knows I am a fanatic walker. Any day I do not work, I set off early to hike four or five miles in our wonderful state parks. But I like variety, so am always looking for a new path to explore. Thus I decided on Monday to give Ashland Nature Center a try.
I had been there before with The Little Woman several years ago and also with the kids when they were still kids. I hadn't been there lately and I heard recently about their nice trails. I knew it could be tricky to find, so I consulted the world leading expert on finding places; that is, I looked on a Google map. Ah, looks easy, go up Rt. 52, turn left on Rt. 82, then on Barley Mill Road to their entrance. 

Yeah, sure, and okay, finding the turn off 52 on to 82 was easy. There was even a big sign with an arrow saying, "Ashland Nature Center is this way, fool!" So, I in my naivete felt assured there would be other such signs at each road juncture. I think you know the answer to that one.

Route 82 did a bit of twisting and turning and it came into what seemed an intersection, but no sign no how. I guessed left and entered more twists and turns and somehow ended up at Ashland by pure luck.  So far so good, I was there. I walked up the entrance path and went into the office. I didn't know if there was a fee or not. A lady, most likely a retiree who volunteered as receptionist, greeted me and said there was a $4.00 donation asked. I in return offered to take a senior membership for the year. This made her very happy, she took my credit card info and bid me have a good time for I was now free to walk their trails.

She did not give me a token or barge or anything, so I don't know how anyone would know if I had paid or not. I suspect I could have just bypassed the office and trod my merry way for free, but I'm not the type of guy to do such a thing. 

I went off and walked the Succession Trail. It was nice and I enjoyed my jaunt, but being warm I left after that one path, it had taken about an hour. I got in my car and drove out to the road I had come in on and disappeared into outer darkness.

I do not know where or how I turned the wrong way, but soon I realized the buildings I saw were different from any I had passed coming.  But never no mind, Delaware is a small state, I would come to something I knew, some crossroad whose name was familiar. But I didn't. I drove and drove and nothing was anything I knew. I soon realized I had turned enough I wouldn't find my way back. I had to keep going in hope I would pop out on I-95 or something. I mean, honestly, this was one of the few times I actually wished I would be popping out on I-95.

The landscape became more and more strange. I saw barn-like structures with no windows that I assumed were mushroom farms. But nowhere was there a route sign or a direction sign. Even the road I was on kept changing names. I had no idea which way was north, south, east or west.

Now I don't get nervous when I get lost in the woods. Been there and done that and stayed calm.  I knew where east was and I knew where the creeks flowed and if I kept one or the other to my side I would wander out somewhere. You know, Tuesday afternoon I watched The Blair Witch Project on TV. That I watched that whole movie tells you just how dreary the other selections were. But I was tired and didn't really want to do anything but lay on the couch and watch the tube. So I watched those stupid kids meander and whine through a Maryland woods.

Golly, what was with these guys. They were supposed to be highly intelligent college kids on a well-planned project. Yet they got lost in this woods next to a stream they had found by following a map. Okay, they lost the map, the one jerk threw it away, but they had used it to find the stream and they were at the stream and yet they kept going in circles. Follow the stream, you morons. The current flows one way. If it was flowing that way when you started off, then go the way it wasn't flowing for pete's sake. And if you follow the way it flows you'll eventually come to a river and people live by rivers. And for corn's sake, you had a compass. But so what? Even if you didn't, you could figure out which way was north. Just stick a stick in the ground and mark the shadow with a twig. Wait a few minutes and mark where the shadow is now. Put your left foot by the first mark and your right by the second and, by gosh, you're facing north!

You know something, most of the dialogue, such as it was, in The Blair Witch Project was ad-libbed by the actors. The producers made two mistakes. They hired actors who's vocabulary didn't extend much past four-letter words and who didn't know how to aim a camera. I mean, really, you let the actors do the filming? And they were supposed to be good students of the craft of making documentaries and they didn't have a clue on how to aim a camera? My shaky films of my trail walks, as stomach-churching as my cinematography can be, is academy award caliber next to the shots in Blair Witch. Come on, didn't you really root for the witch to get these annoying creatures sooner than later?

Anyway, I couldn't stick any sticks up on the car dash to get my bearings, so I drove on and speaking of being in weird territory, I had news on the radio.

The next thing my radio gave was a weather report. It talked about rain. When had rain been in any forecast? And then the weatherman said, "It might even rain of the Fourth of July." The Fourth of July? Wasn't this Monday, July 18? Why is the radio giving weather forecasts for the Fourth of July weekend? Had I went through a time warp? Was the next voice to be heard that of Rod Serling?

"Observe this man. He thought he was just going home from a walk. What Larry didn't know was he had just made a wrong turn into The Twilight Zone!"

This wasn't good. Where was I? I plowed ahead and came into the center of Kennett Square. I turned left onto State Street, the avenue where we had ambled during the Mushroom Festival last year. This didn't help. I kept going and was out of Kennett into more unknown territory. I had been driving quite awhile now, still not certain which direction I was going and still seeing no route or directional signs.

Maybe I was heading into Maryland. Man, all I had on were thin white running shorts and a tee shirt. One saving grace, I had a bit of money and a credit card. Usually I only carried my ID when hiking, but since I didn't know if Ashland charged a fee I had tucked the card and some bills into my little belt pouch.

Suddenly I saw a route sign and number I knew, Junction 41. I came out on Route 41 in Avondale, Pennsylvania. There was even a directional sign, Wilmington to the left. I still had a long ride through unfamiliar scenery, but I knew 41 got me somewhere around home. Soon I knew I was back in Delaware and my own stomping grounds, I ran into road construction delays.

Eventually I stumbled into my own living room. What should have been my twenty minute drive home had turned into an hour and twenty minute nightmare, which brings me to that fuel preservation I mentioned in my last post.

You see, originally I was scheduled to work three days this week, but last Sunday I got an email telling me my entire schedule had been cancelled, I was to take off the whole week. Okay, at least I'll save some gasoline. Then on Monday I get lost driving for over and hour and on Wednesday we have a power outage and we drive for an hour to keep cool. So much for saving any fuel. I just filled up again this morning.

TO BE CONTINUED - NEXT: What or what not should we writers write.

Hot and Hazy: Thoughts on The Sizzle, Ramar Quicksand, Nightmares, Words Writers Write and Bloggers Blab, Great Blue Herons, Man Boobs and other Rambles, The Series

Seems like forever and two weeks before creation since I sat in this cat-scratched chair and keyed out a post. Do the young-in's, who grew up in front of a keyboard, call it keying? Anyone not among we ancients still talk about typing? My kids, who range from 33 to almost 29, once waxed ecstatic over my old typewriter as if it was an exotic fossil, which I suppose it is. Do newspapers even use type anymore? I once worked for a Printing Company and it was all computerized.

Speaking of the dark ages, we had a power outage day before last, right in the heart of the heat. That sizzle that has been cooking the Midwest, and knocked Doc Halliday out of the Phillies game the other day, is burning it's way into the East. It was up around 94, 95 degrees when poof, everything went off to the shout of our collective , "Oh no," followed by the sounds of silence. Then three beats later it popped back on to relieved cheers, only to sputter right back off for the rest of the awful afternoon.

What do you do on a 95 degree afternoon with no air conditioning, no fans, no nothing electronic?

You sit there sagging in sweat, possibly swearing at the power company. Speaking of which, we called Delmarva and reported it. Those things are all automated these days. You are asked questions by some autotron voice and press buttons. He, It, The Voice gave out three pieces of information. "Crews were on their way. We have no idea what caused the outage. Estimated time of restoration is 4:00."

Pretty glib there, fellows, if you don't know what caused it, how do you have any idea when it will be fixed? They used to give these estimates in precise increments. "The estimated time of restoration is 2:43." It's a wonder the exact second wasn't predicted. It never came back when said either. I guess not knowing the cause made them more cautious so they threw out a general time instead of 3:59.

Four o'clock was still more than two hours away. The house was going to stay cooler than outside for a while, a short period, but it'd eventually even out. You weren't better off outside now either. There wasn't even a whisper of a breeze; if fact, it was sucking air in and would suck the breath right out of your lungs if you ventured foolishly forth seeking fresh air.

So we stayed put for about a half hour, when with a rush of roar and air, the power came back on...for the count of one fan blade turn...two fan blade turns...and nothing. Now I called Delmarva again, home of the Smart Meters and the automated reporting system. "Crews are working on the problem: Estimated time of restoration is 4:00"  Okay, 4:00 was their story and they were sticking with it. Meanwhile, we were beginning to stick to the furniture. The house was equalizing somewhere around the temperature of the equator. It was time for action and action isn't easy to muster when you're in the oppressive regime of the heat monster.

"Well, at least we know they're working on it," said The little Woman when they Fans spun.

When the fans sputter out again I figured the problem was bigger than they knew. "I don't think they're going to make it by four," I declared.

So The Little Woman and I hopped into the air conditioned car and fled into the cool of the countryside. We saw the outage was fairly extension because stoplights were out on the crossroads as well. My first thought was for the gallon of chocolate milk I had just bought that morning, would it survive. My second was on the gas gauge. Oh, we had more than a half tank left, but this was certainly not preserving fuel. More about that when we get to the nightmare part of this series, though. We drove about the lovely woods and meadows and cornfields of our county for an hour, then back to the house to see if Delmarva hit their mark.

We came back a different way and the stoplights were working on that road just before out development. When we finally stepped from our car, The Little Woman said, "Maybe the power's back."

"I don't think so. Too quiet. If it were back you'd hear a buzz of compressors."

It wasn't. Four o'clock came and went without it. We had already decided to go out to eat again, hopefully in a chilled-down restaurant. We were just about to leave early for dinner, just past 4:30, when it happened, "Power on, Scotty." We went out to dinner anyway, grateful we would not have to try and sleep under a hot, hazy and humid blanket of summer.

We were not near as grateful as our cats who had been laying in varied position of limp torpor.

TO BE CONTINUED - NEXT: Ramarian Nightmares of Quicksand and Unknown Roads