July 25, 2008

Fog and Other Frings

The theme of the last two days has been fog. Actually, it has been more than two days but I don’t want to count. Yesterday we drove down the Eastern Shore by the Marine Road. The picture above was typical of the ocean views. I took this around the town of Ecum Secum. That reminds me of a game that I used to play with my kids called “No Peekin’.”

The highlight of the day was the menu for Pace’s Place. I spotted a hand painted black on white sign in the trees that said, “Follow our menu to Pace’s Place.” I didn’t know what that meant but I soon would find out. For the next 10 km, at varying intervals, small white signs would appear, hanging in the trees. Most of them were normal fare: onion rings, then cheeseburger, then French fries. But there were some specialty items revealed as the kilometers clicked by: donairs, poutine, donair pogos and frings. Never had trees made me so hungry!

That night the local pizza store had donairs on the menu. I quizzed another customer about them.

“You’re not from Nova Scotia are you?”

Donairs are some type of meat (maybe beef) with special spices and a white sauce.

Poutine is French fries with gravy and topped with cheese. These people love to put gravy on fries. I think that the fries themselves have enough fat for me.

Frings? Her guess was an order of combined French fries and onion rings. I don’t like that answer because it is boring. I’m thinking fried telephone: fringgg. Get it?

She did not know what a pogo is. I think that a donair pogo is a shish kebab on a pole that you can hop around on after you eat. It would help with digestion.

After all that reading in the fog, it was a relief to visit a city: Halifax. Here it is in the fog. Is there any other way?

The next shot is of a famous Canadian landmark: the lighthouse in Peggy’s Cove. This may surprise you, but that is not smoke. It is fog.

It is time for us to go home and tomorrow we will take the high speed ferry from Yarmouth to Portland. Actually, they drag the motorhomes on little pontoons behind the ship. Here is a picture (in the fog.)

It will be nice to be home. Hopefully we will see the sun there.

July 21, 2008

Louisbourg Breakdown

I awoke yesterday, Sunday morning, in Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, in a weary state. All attempts and pep talks at self-revival failed. I was tired from two long days of hard driving and sightseeing. I needed a break. I needed some down time. We were scheduled to visit the Louisbourg Fortress, a wonderful reconstruction of an Eighteenth Century fort and town. I could not bear the thought of going to see it. So I negotiated a morning of golf – some nice relaxing down time.

This goes into the category of “be careful what you wish for.” We drove the motorhome about three hundred yards up the street and it just died. Died. Several hours later we were towed back to our campground with a problem in the fuel delivery system. No one works on vehicles on Sunday.

It turns out that no one works on big vehicles in the rain on Monday either. The only garage in town was very nice, but they were not big enough to bring the motorhome inside. They were unwilling to work on it outside in the pouring rain. Can’t blame them for that. They are scheduled to work on it tomorrow which is supposed to be sunny. I hope that I am sunny by then.

Tomorrow will be our third day in Louisbourg. I could tell you way more than you want to know about the town. It was once thriving port for the shipment of coal, until that business collapsed. It morphed into a fish processing town until the cod fishing grounds were closed down in 1992. The town shrunk from 3300 residents to 880. Of course today it is 882 since my wife and I are now official residents. Everyone in town already knows who we are – the folks who broke down on Main Street in the motorhome.

My wife says that I “overshot” when I asked the universe for down time. I think that it is perfect. Here we are in the rain in our little motor home – ALL DAY – just loving our time together. I am reading “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” an upbeat subject. My wife is fascinated by everything that is going on around us.

She peered out the motorhome window and said, “Look at the seagulls lined up.”

I shot back, “I’m not looking at seagulls.” I would have had to turn around in my chair to see them.

“It’s fascinating,” she said. Fascinating and seagulls are two words that are not often used in the same sentence.

I started to laugh, “That just shows how bored you are.” But I also turned to look at the seagulls and they were interesting. You can see the picture at the top of the page. Fascinating? I’m not sure about that.

We are so bored that we are going to turn on Canadian TV and watch soccer in French. Could it get any worse?

I am not asking the universe for anything anymore. I am keeping my wishes and desires to myself. Tomorrow will be day 3 in Louisbourg. I really want to get out of here. No, I didn’t say or think that. Ignore that.

I think I’ll go watch some seagulls.

July 20, 2008

Meat Cove

For the last two days we have been travelling on the Cabot Trail on Cape Bretton in Nova Scotia. The Cabot Trail, about 180 miles long, is known as one of the most scenic drives in the world and it did not disappoint.

At the end of the first day we were in a crafts store near the top of the trail. The woman in the shop asked if we were planning to take the road which went off the Trail and up to the tippity top of the Cape. We were not planning to do it, but at her urging we changed our route. She said there were a couple of campgrounds out there.

I was a little concerned because the map showed that one of the campgrounds was in Meat Cove and the map showed that it was on a dirt road. My motorhome does not like dirt roads. But there was always the other campground.

The other campground was closed so we set off for Meat Cove. The paved road soon turned to red dirt. And it was not as flat as it looked on the map. In fact the road went up and down over mountains as they plunged to the sea. It wasn't long before I knew we were in trouble. Remember, this was all at the end of a long day of driving. I was not pleased.

And then we saw the moose. He was eating by the side of the road and took off into the woods when we saw us. Maybe this would be a special place.

We arrived and I knew that we had made a good choice. This had to be the best view from any campground in North America:

In the next picture look at the house on the top of the hill. Just below it is the road. That will give you some idea about the road in. Again, this picture is from the campsite.

We were mesmerized by the view. We set up our chairs and sat there until dark. There was no need to read. We just absorbed all that we could see. Here is later that evening:

I could show you a lot more pictures as the day wore on. They all are spectacular.

I was awakened early the next morning by rain on the roof. The horizon was a brilliant pink and continued to change color as the sun rose. A few minutes later, two bald eagles drifted by.

What a twenty four hours!

July 18, 2008

Holy Rollers

This is one important piece of leftover business from PEI. In Charlottetown, the capital, sits St. Dunstan's Basilica, an imposing structure of Roman Catholicism. Inside the front door is a sign with warnings and prohibitions (a Catholic specialty:)

"Proper attire required.

"No food or drink"

"No Inline Skating"

What? No inline skating??? I am glad that I did not drag my rollerblades all the way up here. I would have been so disappointed. What about heely's? Heely's are those sneakers with wheels built into the heels. Would they be allowed?

I wonder who has been sneaking into the church and skating laps up and down the aisles. Would that be a venial or mortal sin? It would be a convenient venue because they could go to confession right after the workout.

I think that St. Dunstan's is being short sighted. This is a big church we are talking about and it is a long way from back to front. Think about how they could boost their line for the eucharist by allowing people to skate up from their pews! And it would make the mass go faster too!

Finally, I notice how only "inline" skating is prohibited. There is no similar ban for hockey skates. This is Canada after all. I wonder if you can bring your hockey stick to church too. Now church is starting to look like fun!

July 17, 2008

Goodbye PEI

Tomorrow we leave Prince Edward Island for Nova Scotia and we are sad about it. Our trip here has had magical qualities that only an island can provide.

PEI is defined by the wind, the sea, the land and the people. The wind blows sometimes harshly and sometimes delicately. It carries the sea on its breath. The land of red earth drew the French, the Irish and the English. They farm, they fish and they live close to the land and the water.

Many of our nights here we have spent in provincial or national parks right on the water. Nova Scotia is dimly on the horizon as I write. I have felt part of all of PEI while here. I have been out in the wind, in the ocean, in the red sand. I have driven through the cultivated fields, alongside the gathering of Irish moss and through the fishing villages. I have eaten the produce and spoken to some of the friendly folk. I have listened to their maritime music formed by their ethnic heritage. I purchased from its artisans.

The island is mostly open spaces. It is basically flat and the sea is never too far away. I am carrying away certain images:

Small, tidy homes with large front yards filled with flower gardens,

Music with fiddle, guitar, mouth harp, accordion and foot stomping,

Fields of potatoes with small white blossoms now in bloom,

The striking yellow of acres of canola,

The green of the hay fields rolling to the sea,

The blue, gray, brown, red and green of the water in different weather,

Lobster pots piled high in side yards,

The red sand of the beaches and cliffs,

The green of Anne of Green Gables which is celebrated throughout the island, and

The gulp of salt water taste of my first ever oyster.

They call PEI “the gentle island.” I have been “gentled” and I am thankful for it.

July 15, 2008

Mist and Found

Last week we were fogged in at St. Martins, New Brunswick. We planned to drive/hike/walk the 10 km Fundy Trail which runs right along the Bay of Fundy. It is supposed to be spectacular visit and I was disappointed that we had to skip it. Who knows if we will ever be back that way.

I thought at the time that maybe something else would show up because of the loss. This morning on the beach in Prince Edward Island National Park I was greeted by this sentinel staring out to see. I was on the beach yesterday afternoon and it was not there. Overnight someone created the tableau with a two foot rock and a few shells. It appears lonely and waiting for someone. Who knows who.

A message was also left in the sand:

Who knows for whom it was left. I choose to believe it was me.

Had I travelled the Fundy Trail last week, I would not have been on this beach at this moment on this day - mist and found.

July 14, 2008

Spuds, Bottles and Wind

Prince Edward Island has been our home for the last few days. We have been travelling the west side along the North Cape Coastal Route. The ride has been exciting along dramatic coasts, through small French villages and through potato fields. Spuds are a really big deal here since they are one of the major potato production areas of the world. The combination of potatoes and forest has caused the locals to look like The Logger Mr. Potato Head, as you can see from the picture.

The Island evens boasts of a potato museum, kind of a mish mash of things. Outside sits the biggest spud you have ever seen!

The inside has a Potato Hall of Fame. I think of it more as a French Frying Legion. And there is a whole room dedicated to the "enemies" of the potato - like blight and microorganisms (they may be the same thing, I don't know.) They placed their enemies inside little caskets! How charming.

You may be wondering where these islanders live. How about in houses made from bottles?

A retired guy had so much time on his hand that he built three houses out of concrete and glass bottles, some 22,000 in all. Unfortunately he didn't think of putting them on foundations so they all had to be rebuilt after he died. Today the houses are amidst terrific gardens. I can tell you from first hand experience that mosquitoes love the bottle houses.

Our final stop yesterday was the North Cape Wind Test Site where the Canadian government is doing research about harnessing the wind. It is all very technical, but bear with me. Here is the technical part that I learned: The wind blows and turns the big arm things which in turn (and turning) do some magic stuff to produce electricity. I know. That's a lot to remember. But I brought home a reminder. I was so impressed that I had them retrofit my motorhome so that it now runs on wind power rather than gas. It's a little front heavy but it does great in the wind.

Prince Edward Island has been a joy. It is an island of simplicity with tidy small homes and much open space. I remember most the air and the sea. The two mesh and are always present. The campgrounds are mostly located at the water's edge. Beautiful sunsets adorn each evening.
We are off to more adventures!

July 10, 2008

Focus On My Buns

When we entered the province of New Brunswick and stopped at the information center, the gentleman, Wayne, was very helpful. He told us about all the highlights that would be on our route on the way to Prince Edward Island. And then he mentioned, “And Alma is the home of the sticky bun.” I thought that I heard him wrong and said, “What?” He repeated, “Alma is the home of the sticky bun.” Right then I knew that it might be the most important stop on our trip.

To get to Alma you have to drive through Fundy National Park. No need to stop. I’ve been to national parks before. And anyway, I had sticky buns on my mind.

Alma is pretty small but it had an information center. Every town has one. It appears to be the principal form of employment in this maritime province. And the young man (everyone seems young these days) knew the answer to my inquiry. “It’s right across the street.” I was so close to heaven without even knowing it: Kelly’s Bake Shop.

You have to understand that I have a love affair with all things that combine sugar and white flour. Bakery items were the survival tools of my childhood. And Kelly’s had it all: the sticky buns, muffins, cookies, jelly rolls (groan with pleasure,) yeast rolls (ohmygod,) pies, brown bread with raisins (pant, pant, pant) and more! I did not buy them all, but I got off to a pretty good start.

At the end I asked the cashier, “Why is it called the home of the sticky bun?” A sullen teen, she sort of looked at me and said, “I don’t know. I haven’t worked here long enough.” How long do you have to work there before such vital information is imparted!

I didn’t let this get me down. The sticky bun was perfect. “Get your hands off my sticky buns!” I have been waiting a long time to say that. And the yeast roll was great with the raspberry jam from a roadside stand.

What possibly could have been so great in the national park? There are 42 other ones in Canada so I will try to catch the next one, if a bakery doesn’t get in my way.

Fire and the Beyond

It has been a day of the elements here on the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick – fog, wind, water and now fire. I am in a campground in St. Martins where we visited caves bored by tidal waters. This area has huge tides. We walked in the caves at low tide and at high tide they are filled with water. It’s nature messing around with us.

The day was ruled by fog, an evocative element if there ever was one. I recalled days of my youth that I cannot even remember. The dim view and the cool mist took me back to places that are filled only with dim, diffuse light. But they were places of peace and rest. Fog is good.

I have built a fire at my campsite about 50 yards from the Bay of Fundy. I should give you the measurements in meters and in French but I know neither. All I can give you is the feeling.

The fog has drifted away at the end of the day revealing coastal views. I built the fire in daylight since it does not get dark here until after ten o’clock. It provides me warmth against the stiff breeze of the cool coast air.

I am always drawn to a campfire and I am not sure why. Something primal lives in there. I did not sit around campfires as a child, but perhaps my ancestors did. I sit alone for the moment and yet I recall the people who have joined me in the past: my wife at many campsites, my son in the White Mountains, my father who loved to burn anything and everything, my friend John on the coast of Maine, the men of Shalom Seacoast and all the people who have stopped by in the past to say hello, many never to be seen again. A campfire is never lonely.

The wind is carrying my breath to feed the flames and bellowing the flames and smoke out to the waves of the bay. The waves are carrying my breath beyond.

Beyond. Maybe fire is about “beyond.” Beyond me, beyond you, providing warmth and protection, destroying and transforming. It picks me up and carries me away to the Beyond.

July 8, 2008

Fine Dining

Today was spent visiting St. Andrews, New Brunswick, a lovely seaside town. One of the highlights is Kingsbrae, 27 acres of outstanding gardens. My eye is always drawn to the sculptures in gardens and here they were particularly whimsical.

I was not my usual antisocial self and I met at least half of the town while strolling down the main street of town. It helped to have my dog, Zoe, with me. Everyone stops to talk to Zoe and I am her official interpreter. In return for a few moments with Zoe I expect local info. I quizzed folks about where I could find a great restaurant in town. I received a strong recommendation for the Rossmount Inn.

I recently have become interested in fine dining. I define “fine dining” as dining that is not cheap (and I am) and has menu items that I do not recognize. This is another part of the new me. I tend to go to the same restaurants and order the same items. I certainly have never been fond of ordering things that are not part of the normal lexicon.

Here is one of the appetizers: “warm miso gratin beausoleil oyster, apple-versus mignonette.” I recognize “warm” and “oyster.” I definitely do not do oysters so I did not have to learn what the other stuff is.

Here’s what I ordered for an appetizer (which is a new thing for me because I never used to order appetizers): “candied baby beets + shaved fennel, figs, toasted pecans, warm chevre fritter, balsamic-vanilla reduction, bergamot essence.” I love beets from a can and I love candy. I could not resist this item. I am not sure what fennel is but I am glad that it is not hairy. I like apple fritters so how different could a chevre fritter be? A reduction must mean not much food. That’s okay. It’s only an appetizer. I still have no idea with a bergamot is and essence sounds like a shampoo.

Here are some of the other appetizers that I skipped: mousseline, homemade charcuterie, foie gras terrine + wild boar cretons (wouldn’t cretons by definition be boring) and pickled milkweed pods. I would probably still be picking those things out of my teeth.

For dinner I had the scallops. Of course that was not the entire description but I will spare you all the details. They are only for us “foodies” to know.

The dinner was fabulous. But tomorrow night we will be eating hamburgers back in the motorhome. I’ll ask my wife if she can whip up some citrus-brandy emulsion for the burgers. Or we can always substitute ketchup. That still is more my style.

July 7, 2008

Rules Not To Live By

I am with my wife on the first day of a three week motorhome trip to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. It started out as it usually does - with a dead battery. But I had my handy dandy portable generator and I was able to jump start it. Motorhomes and dead batteries go hand in hand, so I was prepared. In the past this could easily have destroyed my day, but this time the self flagellation lasted only fifteen minutes.

The goal today was to cross the border at Calais, Maine, and spend the night in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. We didn’t make it. I pooped out early and we fell about 60 miles short. We landed at a campground on Pleasant Lake in Alexaner, Maine.

It was a hot day so the lake was a bonus. I am always a bit skeptical about the water temperature in a New England lake. I asked the lady in the office if the water was warm. She said, “It’s so,so – refreshing.” That always means freezing.

I have not been in cold water for quite some time. The ocean is ridiculous and off limits to me. Sometimes I turn down my hot tub to 98 degrees and that feels pretty cool. Here’s the problem with cold water: it hurts. I hate to be cold. I work very hard to control my body temperature. I was the first one with the layered look. I learned early that I could use the layers to always be at the optimum temperature. Swimming in cold water is against my rules.

Today I broke my rule and went swimming in cold water. It hurt for awhile. I survived. In fact I felt “refreshed.” Who would have guessed?

I dove into the lake because I am a new guy. Just why and how I am new is a story for another day.

Today felt like a good day to start breaking my rules. I have a lot of them. They all involve control. I like to control everything and everyone around me. It makes me feel safe. I am no longer willing to pay the price of safety.

I was so excited about breaking a rule that I went and broke another one. After swimming I sat on the ground on my towel. I never sit on the ground. It hurts. I like chairs. But today I sat on the ground, watched my wife swim and enjoyed the breeze.

So today I broke two of my Rules to Live By. Two down and 8,464 to go. However, I have the feeling that if I dive a little deeper I may find a few more. It should be fun, but perhaps cold. Today cold is okay. I'll see what tomorrow brings.

February 13, 2008


First, I want to give you lots of reasons why I have not blogged for awhile. I have lots of them, but none of them are particularly valid. The truth is my Inner Blogger went on a two week vacation without prior notification. He is now back and has been spoken to. He is now sulking in the corner, so I write this without his help.

So I need your help. I need help with a really big question: If I get a tattoo, what should it be?

Please notice that my question is not, should I get a tattoo? I have not yet advanced to that final stage. There are many questions to be answered like, how badly will it hurt? What body part should I disfigure? Will my body part fall off afterward? Is gangrene a long term, chronic illness?

I found a tattoo parlor near my campground. (Why are only tattoos and ice cream linked to the word “parlor?) But I am not sure that this is the right place for me. You can see their sign up above. Don’t you think they have an inherent conflict of interest as a purveyor of tattoos and a remover of tattoos?

My son-in-law suggested that the tattoo removal guy practiced on the building next door. What do you think?

Do they not have confidence that their clients will enjoy their work? Are they to be trusted? My plan is to walk by the place about another hundred times and try to see if any happy customers emerge. I have not seen any customers at all yet.

Now back to the important question of the type of tattoo that I would get if I would theoretically get one. Some of my friends have wonderful tattoos: a dragon, a tiger, and a snake. I don’t want to mimic them and a snake is out anyway. There is nothing that I hate more than snakes.

Animal totems seem to be big. I’m thinking about a wolf: a totem of the teacher that I have always been drawn to. I would get a nice wolf and not a scary one.

Also under consideration is a black poodle in honor of my little dog, Zoe. She made this suggestion.

But I cannot forget my prior dog, Kachina, so a brown poodle is also a possibility. Kachina never liked to be left out of any conversation.

I could always fall back on a standard: a Red Sox logo. Maybe I would add one every time they win the World Stories in the modern era. I would begin with two and leave room for another thirty-five.

Finally, since I am in Florida, some Florida animals should be considered. Alligators are too scary. How about an osprey, a bird of prey? Or one of the pelicans that frequent the campground? No, they are not quite right. The symbol of Florida for me is the Flamingo – so tall, graceful and so pink. Pink would go well with my ivory white skin, if I am ever in the north in the dead of winter again.

So help me choose my hypothetical tattoo by answering the poll to the right. Perhaps your enthusiam will soothe the conscience of my Inner Blogger.

January 29, 2008

To Beard or Not To Beard

To beard or not to beard: that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler to let my quarterback go out there alone, or whether I need to show my solidarity.

These questions began to itch me a few days ago. I was getting a little scruffy looking because in the tropical stupor that is Fort Myers Beach I had forgotten to shave for a few days. Then the story hit the papers about the injured ankle of Tom Brady, quarterback of the Super Bowl bound New England Patriots. He was spotted in New York with a protective boot on his right ankle when he was delivering flowers to his supermodel girlfriend. It just clicked for me. I have been wearing a supportive wrap on my right knee and I once gave flowers to my wife. Boy, Tom and I really are alike.

The picture above is Tom Brady. I know, you thought it was me. Many have made that mistake. I just can’t pass by a cologne counter without being mobbed by women who think I am the guy in the ads. They wanted me to do an ad, but I no longer possess a suit coat or a shirt with a collar and so I declined.

I am worried about the injured Tom. He needs my help. So in a show of solidarity I have changed from “forgetting to shave” to “growing a beard.” It was not such a great leap.

Notice Tom’s beard in the picture. The scruffy look is all the rage. It is not as big a rage in the campground as it is in Manhattan and in LA, but I know it will catch on soon. I am just an early adopter.

I want to show you how well my beard is coming along:

I know, most of you think that I am substituting a picture of Johnny Depp, but it really is me. Depp is the other guy that people get me confused with a lot – Brady/Depp, Depp/Brady. I am very careful about which pirate ships I board. Fort Myers Beach boasts a pirate ship for kids. I know where to go if I ever need a job.

Growing a beard is not as easy as it looks. I tried once before, about fifteen years ago, and I failed. Like Tom Brady on the field, I have a problem with gap coverage. A beard with gaps is not a good thing. And a defense that does not fill the gaps is in trouble.

I am hoping that in the last fifteen years I have become more macho. I certainly have been busy embracing my masculine. I am not sure that my fragile ego can take another failure or wait another fifteen years to try again.

So on Super Bowl Sunday Tom Brady will be on the field with his ankle heavily taped and I will be in my RV watching with my knee lightly wrapped. Our beards will be growing. If one of us loses, I can always say that I forgot to shave. I am not sure what Tom’s excuse will be. He may have “to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” as the Bard wrote.

Bard/beard, beard/Bard. Get it? It all is carefully tied together. Scary, isn’t it.

January 27, 2008

Just Do Nothing

Writing this blog has interrupted one of the most important things that I do all day. And sometimes I do it all day. I have sprung into action ruining all that I have worked so hard to attain. I have been trying to follow the advice of my newest guru, Arlo.

I recently heard an interview of Arlo Guthrie on XM Radio. If you came of age in the sixties, you have to love Arlo. He was one of the original smart and funny hippies and he wrote some great songs: Alice’s Restaurant, City of New Orleans and others. I even owned one of his albums. He had big hair – great hair. He still does, although now it is gray. Maybe that is why I like his so much. I have always envied good hair. And he chose to live in Massachusetts and still resides there. Most of the singer songwriters of that generation seem to have ended up in LA.

The interviewer asked Arlo a lot of the usual questions, and then he asked what I thought was a stupid question: “Do you have any hobbies?” What was this a job interview?

Anyway, Arlo answered quickly, “Yes,” and then was silent. We all waited for the answer but only silence followed. Silence on the radio is not good. The interviewer jumped back in and asked, “Would you like to share what they are?”

“Yes I would. I’m an expert at doing nothing. In fact, I have perfected the art of doing nothing. It’s not an easy thing to do. You won’t find anything on the internet about how to do it. But it is important because it sets the stage for doing something.”

So now I know what I have been doing all this time: I have been setting the stage. And all this time I thought that I was just doing nothing. This is good because it turns all my doing nothing into something important. My doing nothing is really getting ready. It has purpose. It has importance. It has been raised to an art form. I am feeling better about myself already.

By the way, Arlo was wrong about the internet. It has a lot of stuff about the art of doing nothing. Just google it. Zen Habits has a lengthy article about the art. But if you read it you will see that the author believes that it takes a lot of effort to do nothing. You have to do nothing just so.

I don’t agree. You don’t have to plan to do nothing. You can just fall into it. In fact, that may be the best way to access the art. Notice when you are wasting time: surfing the internet, staring out the window (my personal favorite,) reading a trashy novel, napping, watching Seinfeld episodes for the tenth time. All of this is doing nothing.

Don’t pick up an important piece of non-fiction. That would be much too active. Walking on the beach does not qualify. Floating in the pool does, but swimming in the pool does not. If you have to exert yourself, it’s out.

So get at it. Start doing nothing. And don’t put it off until you have time. If you need time for it, it will not qualify. Just say “Yes” and let the silence hang the air. Don’t rescue it. Just do nothing.

January 25, 2008

Right Time, Wrong Place

This picture is of San Carlos RV Park and Resort in Fort Myers, Beach, Florida, where I am currently residing. “What happened to Homosassa?” you ask. Ah, I will tell you.

Simply put, Homosassa was the wrong place for my wife and me to be. After many years spent in Fort Myers Beach, we decided to try a new area this year for many good reasons. However, our decision turned out to be wrong for us. So we cut our losses and moved on to what we new best – Fort Myers Beach.

We have been fortunate to find a place in the same campground we were in last year. Since we did not have a reservation, we are bouncing around a bit from site to site. But the air is warm and the beach is nearby from every site.

I have had a hard time getting ready to write this piece. My blogging was delayed by the move and I wanted to get started again, but every day I found an excuse not to write. Today I finally realized that I did not want to tell you that I made a mistake. I get a shame attack from mistakes of all sizes. And going public with the mistake only magnifies the shame.

By not admitting my mistake, I remained stuck. I could not write about all the other great stuff that I have been noticing: osprey, visions of Jesus, Rush Limbaugh, and tattoo’s. Can you imagine what you have been missing?

There. My confession is over. I will give myself three lashes with a wet noodle, when I am not using the noodle to float in the heated pool.

January 19, 2008

Northern Correction

I am becoming aware that the difference between the North and the South is more than the red state/blue state distinction. I am seeing things here in Florida that I just do not see at home.

Every other commercial vehicle on the road is a pest control truck. How can all these pest control businesses be supported? I guess that I do not want to know the answer. I also saw a truck for a company that traps wild animals. Again, I do not want to know the details.

One of the local shops is a Motorcycle Apparel Outlet. I didn’t know that there were stores devoted solely to motorcycle apparel. Apparently they are so plentiful that there are outlets to handle the overflow. I wonder if anyone would notice my motorcycle apparel when I am driving my motorhome.

On Route 301, which runs north and south in Central Florida, on Sundays you can watch mud bogging. I have not seen the actual races but my interest was raised by the name and by the big pits of mud. Apparently trucks race around and through the mud to some sort of dirty victory. Now that is real after-church entertainment.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the North and South hit me when I read the Ipswich Chronicle, my hometown newspaper. My mail is being forwarded so I get things a little late. Last week I had read an article about how successful the new Riverwalk has been in Ipswich. In fact, until the snow storm hit, the local Christmas parade was intended to have Santa sit and meet children on the Riverwalk. It was a nice local story.

The next week’s issue of the newspaper had a correction that read something like this: Correction: Last week’s article about the Riverwalk was intended to read Santa and not Satan.

Ah, except for the snow storm we would have had Satan listening to all those kids on the Riverwalk. Now that would have made for a story! I think that Ipswich, located in Northern climes, would have rolled with the story. Talking to Satan would have been mildly upsetting, but many Northern residents already equate the commercialization of Christmas with Satan.

I am not sure that Satan would have been so welled received in the South. This is a very conservative and highly religious area. Satan is taken seriously. I have a feeling he would not have been welcomed in their Christmas parade.

But maybe if Satan had dressed up in some motorcycle apparel outlet stuff and rode in his muddy truck, nobody would have noticed.

January 17, 2008

All Greek to Me

Yesterday I was in Greece. At least it felt like Greece. I really was in Tarpon Springs, Florida, which is home to a Greek sponge diving community. Beginning in 1905 experienced sponge divers were brought over from the Greek Islands to work the substantial sponge beds of the Gulf. They stayed, started families and built a strong Greek community. You will still hear a lot of Greek spoken in the restaurants and shops of the sponge dock area.

I might as well be in Greece because I am disoriented. After traveling for two weeks I have landed in my final winter destination: Homosassa, Florida. I am at a new campground in a part of Central Florida that I visited only briefly in the past. So everything is new.

When I am traveling I am not disoriented because no orientation is necessary. I am always on the move and everything is temporary. But now I am in a location for three months and I have to figure out how to do life here for three months.

Where is the grocery store? Where can I get propane for the motorhome? Is there a library and can I use it? How am I going to blog from here? Are there good restaurants near by? Where is the beach? Where is the golf course?

I like to know the local weather so I carry with me a small weather station that relays the local weather by satellite. Although I am near Tampa, the weather station thinks I am near Pensacola, Mobile or Birmingham. If the satellite can’t find me, how am I supposed to find me?

Maybe that’s what it’s all about: finding me. How do I find me when all the people, places and things around me are strange? Am I still me?

I think that I will grab a sponge and go looking.

January 13, 2008

The Anorexic Shopper

This is the view of St. Augustine from the Anastasia Light House. St. George Street in St Augustine is a pedestrian walkway that runs several blocks through old town. It is a delightful mixture of gift shops and historical buildings. Others would say that it is a history based tourist trap. I like the place because it has a great feel to it. St. Augustine claims to be America’s oldest continually occupied city. First were the Spanish, then the English, then the Spanish, then the English, and so on. It makes for great architecture.

We were visiting St. George Street with our little dog, Zoe, in tow. My wife wanted to visit the Spanish Quarter which I have seen before. The Spanish Quarter is like a mini version of Sturbridge Village with all the occupants working in period costume - doing old stuff while dressed in old stuff. So I waited with Zoe on the street and read a book for a couple of hours. It was a beautiful warm, sunny day.

It occurred to me later that I could have visited some of the gift shops. I could have just checked everything out. But shopping does not seem to be part of my nature. Let me clarify that. Shopping without a specific purpose is not part of my nature. If there is something that I really want, I am a great shopper.

Once I wanted to get a blue, zippered sweatshirt without a hood. They are hard to find because almost all zippered sweatshops have hoods. I am the only one who wears this particular combination. I could not find one and I returned from the mall without a new sweatshirt.

My wife said, “Did they have other colors?”

“They had green ones”

“Why didn’t you buy the green.”

“I went to buy a blue one.”

It was clear to me. I was on a mission to find the blue. I never deviate from my mission.

Someone once suggested to me that I needed to learn how to “graze” in a store. I should just go in, look around and notice stuff. I have only one question. Why? Is grazing fun? Doesn’t grazing lead to purchasing? Wouldn’t I end up with lots of stuff that I don’t need or want?

Craig Wilson writes a weekly essay in USA Today and this week he mentioned that he has been spending too much money. So for the next year he is going to buy only necessities: food, medicine, travel, etc. Apparently travel is a necessity to him. He did this once before and it was “cleansing” for him.

I would compare Mr. Wilson to an overeater. He is just doing too much of a good thing when he is shopping so he needs to cut back. I am not an overeater shopper. Maybe I am bulimic? No, a bulimic shopper would buy the stuff and then bring it back. I am an anorexic shopper. I just do not shop.

And I am okay with that. I'd rather be reading a book. And there is always my birthday or Christmas when a blue, zippered, non-hooded sweatshirt is bound to appear.

January 10, 2008

Mermaids, Cats and Alligators

I snapped this picture at the KOA campground in Point South, South Carolina. It’s called “The Swimming Mermaid.” The title seems redundant to me. Are there non-swimming mermaids? I have not seen one. Of course I have not seen “The Little Mermaid.” But it seems to me that water is always involved.

This mermaid sculpture seems destined to stay out of the water and I think I know why. The pool at the campground had the following sign: “This pool is equipped with a URINE DETECTOR.” I should have taken a picture of the sign too since you probably do not believe me. But I swear it’s true! Just ask the mermaid. Why do you think she stays out of the water? And so did I.

I am telling you all this so that you know what classy establishments I frequent on this trip. Just last night I went eat at the Saltwater Cowboy in St. Augustine Beach. Saltwater and cowboy – there are two words that you don’t often see together. I read some good reviews on the place at chowhound.com. Several reviews mentioned that feral cats roamed outside the restaurant. Again, how often do you see the words feral cats and restaurant used in the same sentence?

The Saltwater Cowboy was as advertised – good Florida cracker food with an entrance lined with cats. They are famous for their catfish, oysters and alligator tail. I had the St. Louis ribs. St. Louis seemed far enough to be safe.

I am staying in Anastasia State Park on the beach in St. Augustine. Right down the street is one of the big local attractions – Alligator Farm. You actually can pay to be scared by alligators. I have drawn a line in the sand. I am not paying to see them and I am not eating them.

I wish someone would introduce those alligators to some feral cats! Or vice versa!

January 7, 2008

Cherry Bombs

I am a fan of country music, especially when I am driving down the highway. There is nothing that makes the miles go faster than a good song about how a man or woman has been wronged by her man or woman, and only if he/she had known how he/she had been hurt by his/her treacherous behavior, he/she would have changed. You now know the secret formula for a country hit.

Country music provides all of my expertise on relationship building. A couple of cd’s is much cheaper than an hour of couples therapy. And they are usually so much more to the point. As a result, I have not done my wife wrong in a long time. I keep waiting to hear those magic words, “Baby, you’ve done me wrong,” in a low southern drawl, but I haven’t heard them yet. So I guess that I have been perfect in the relationship department.

Sometimes you can really learn something valuable from a country song. After hearing Kenny Chesney sing, “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy,” I went right out and bought a John Deere. I didn’t know you actually had to ride it and do work on it. I was excited about the song “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off.” That was the one song that I have found to be scientifically inaccurate.

Yesterday I heard a song by the Cherry Bombs that I cannot test out: “It’s Hard to Kiss the Lips at Night That Chew Your Ass Off All Day Long.” Although I have no experience with such events, somehow I know the lyric to be true.

Sometimes country music is pure genius. Who needs Dr. Phil when you have the Cherry Bombs? And a tractor.

January 5, 2008

Scared in Suburbia

I saw this sign as I was driving down the exit ramp for a highway: “My Child’s Pack – Bullet Resistant Backpacks Sold Here.” It hung on a small sporting goods store in Danvers, Massachusetts. I went back a few days later to take a picture because the sign stunned me.

I live near Danvers and for many years worked in that middle class suburban town. It is a fine little town. Why would any child in this area need a bullet resistant backpack?

I recalled a conversation that I had several years ago with a relative in California. It was August and his small children were getting ready to go back to elementary school.

I innocently inquired, “Do your kids walk to school?”

“No,” he replied, looking at me in amazement. “No kids in California walk to school. We drive them.”

Apparently too many bad things have happened to little kids in California.

I wonder if that same attitude of fear has migrated across the country to the East Coast as most trends do. I hope not. I still see kids walking and riding their bikes to school in my town.

I am hoping that the sign is an aberration. It does not look too permanent, hanging up there with duct tape. Maybe it was a quick reaction to Columbine.

I choose to believe that the Apocalypse is not upon us.

January 3, 2008

New Year's Absolution

I have not made a New Year’s resolution in many years. It always seemed like a setup for failure. My church had a program in which you could write down your resolution and the minister would mail it to you a year later. It was soooo nice to be reminded that you were a shirker. It was almost like being Catholic again.

So this year instead of a resolution I am going to make an absolution. This is another throwback to my Catholic days. Absolution is part of the sacrament of Penance. I started doing this at age 7. Little Catholics are big sinners.

You go into the little wooden booth and confess your sins to the priest. He asks if you are sorry. You say yes (officially known as an act of contrition) and then he gives you absolution. He absolves you of your sins. You are forgiven officially by God’s emissary here on earth. You will no longer be going to hell or purgatory – at least until you get out of the confessional and commit your next sin.

In 2008 I am taking a priest-like stance and I am absolving myself for all of my errors. I can’t seem to use the word “sin” any more. I am forgiving myself – plain and simple. I don’t have to list my errors or mistakes. It is more of a general absolution.

I am not forgiving others, because no one else is to blame. Some time during 2007 I had an “Aha!” moment and realized that I was responsible for all of my problems. I had spent a lifetime blaming this person or that person when all of the time it was me.

I recently explained this newfound knowledge to my therapist. He told me that when he was in training his instructor said that when the client realizes that he is the problem then that is the end of the therapy. The client is ready to go do what needs to be done.

I’m not ready to end therapy, but it does feel like some sort of milestone. I don’t have to concentrate on changing everyone else’s behavior any more. I can just concentrate on me.

So my first step is absolution. May it make for a happy new year.

January 1, 2008

Stress and Grease Free

I have been hurtling down the highway in my motorhome heading for Florida, so I have had a lot of time to think about deep, serious questions.

I was asked recently what profession or job I would want to do if I had it all to do over again. This is the adult equivalent of the old question asked every child: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I still do not have a good answer to that question, but I am actively looking. Just recently I saw a real possibility. The sign on the side of the soda dispenser at the Subway in Tolland, CT, cried “Hiring, Hiring, Hiring.”

The pay was $8.65 an hour with medical benefits. Included was a large discount on food (a dubious value.) The real draw for me was the promoted “stress and grease free environment.”

I have been looking for a stress free work environment for some time, so this would work well. I have not thought a lot about “grease free.” I kind of like grease. I don’t want to worry about my cholesterol at work. But I had bacon on my sub so how grease free could they be?

Stress free work is hard to find. Until the other night the position of waitress was high on my list of possibilities. The Friday’s in Scranton, PA, provides an ESP button on every table. Push the button and it pages the waitress. I asked the waitress about it and she was lukewarm about it. She said a good waitress does not need it. And she has some trouble with tables of teenagers and people who just want to be funny. Clearly she was annoyed by the pages. Clearly it adds stress to her job. So I crossed waitress off my list.

At the Chick-Fil-A in Virginia I saw what appeared to be the perfect job: “Sampling Hostess – Part time, 3 days a week.” I know. You’re thinking that three days a week would be a lot for me, but maybe it is not a whole day. I’m thinking maybe three hours a day. The real plus is the sampling. I love sampling food. I could probably do that for more than three hours a day.

The rest of the ad read, “You must be very outgoing, friendly, energetic and like working with people.” I am not exactly the outgoing sort. I like going out – by myself. Would that do? I can be friendly if I have to be. Would I have to be friendly to people that I don’t know? Energetic? Not a chance. But you can’t be everything! Do I like working with people? Exactly what people do they mean? And what do they mean by “like?” And “working” is kind of a tough one for me.

You will notice that the ad said nothing about “grease free.” I’ve been thinking about that and I now think it is an important element of any future job for me.

So I have come up with the perfect ad for me. I want to work in a “stress, grease and work free” environment. I will keep looking until I find out. I will not settle for less.