Friday, June 16, 2017

Coffee and Cropdusting on a Bayou Morning

Welcome to a Cajun Country morning.

Our son's home just outside Patterson Louisiana (The Cypress Capital of the World) lies on three beautiful acres about a hundred feet from Bayou Teche, the meandering waterway made famous by James Lee Burke's novels.

As bayous go, it is rather long - 125 miles.  It begins in Port Barre, about 25 miles north of Lafayette. From there it flows southwest about 5 miles before making a looping turn east to snake its way toward Breaux Bridge.  If you want to take a scenic ride, LA31 tracks the bayou from halfway around that looping turn, almost to New Iberia.  At New Iberia The Teche turns east southeast, accompanied by LA182 - The Old Spanish Trail - until it empties into the Atchafalaya River about 5 miles from the house.

We spend mornings at the house sitting on the screened porch  in back with the view of the Teche you see above.

 Most of yesterday morning a crop duster worked the many acres of sugarcane across 182 in front of the house.  The plane made its turns over the Teche not many feet above the cypress at the edge of the bayou. Though I'm not in love with the thought of the toxic stuff that emanates from the many nozzles under its belly when it sprays the field, the maneuvers as it blanketed the cane field fascinated me.

I watched every time it flew over the roof dipped its wing for the hard turn above the Teche. Then I hurried to the corner of the house to watch the plane drop so close that its landing wheels nearly touched the tips of the cane as it turned on the spray.  At the end of its return pass, the plane accelerated and climbed sharply to clear the trees in the front yard then leveled off for its 180 over the Teche and began its descent for the next round.

The work was repetitive, much like mowing hay in a field, only with the extra parameters of altitude and wind.  One wonders if it's possible to zone out, to let body memory take over as in mowing hay, while the mind goes elsewhere. Perhaps the pilot imagines doing strafing runs against a sugarcane army.

I tried to get a picture of the plane as it passed overhead because it looked kind of old.  Here's the best one I could get -


Not good but it was clear enough for me to do a little research on the craft.  

Here's Grumman's photo - it's an  Ag-cat G-164B.

With it's maiden flight in 1957, it was the first plane developed specifically for agricultural use.  That made the machine flying overhead 60 years old.  

Time to get some breakfast.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Not Even Close


The past couple weeks have not been my best.  It all started when Carol and I bought a comfy old, heavy reclining chair from a neighbor.  He and his son moved it into my utility trailer, and I hauled it to our place and backed it into Carol’s garage (it’s the one attached to the house.)  I managed to wrestle it down the trailer ramp and, using a short board, got it up the single step into the hallway at the top of our basement stairs. 

One would be correct to say it went downhill from there.
First: Carol left for a meeting.
Second: I reasoned that if a ramp worked to get the recliner up one step, a longer ramp would work to get it down the basement stairs. 
Third: I actually had a plank long enough.
Fourth: I decided I could do it alone.
Fifth and probably most significant: It weighs nearly 100 pounds – I weigh 185.
Twenty-four or so hours after the event (the recliner is in place in the TV room downstairs) I was at my doctor in intense pain with a swollen left ankle.  X-rays (no breaks), pain meds, and finally an antibiotic to handle an infection that was spreading up my leg, and it seems that I’ll live to be stupid again. 
While in pain and before my visit to the doc, I tried for some sympathy from my elder daughter so I called and admitted the recliner saga.  “You are in great shape for a seventy-five year old but you have a fourteen year old brain!” was her response.  Next I tried my loving wife.  “Dumbest thing I ever did,” I moaned.  “No, it isn’t,” was her response.
When I related that last exchange to my doctor and friend, he laughed and added “It’s probably not in the top ten.”   
So as I get back to what passes for normal in my body, I can’t help but ponder former missteps.  I’m not able to come up with even as many as five, no chance for ten.  That’s probably a function of selective memory and that some of them were so … whatever, that I have self-prescribed amnesia. 
Here are a few that I remember:
-       Borrowing my brother’s customized ’51 Ford and flipping it down a hillside while tuning the radio.
-       Hunting for cobras one night in Pakistan while plotting the tiny orbit of Polaris to locate true north. My weapon was a five-foot copper grounding rod.
-       Overindulging one night and throwing up my removable bridge along with whatever else then flushing it down the toilet.  My dentist installed a permanent bridge, making that my most expensive drunk ever.

-->
There are more coming to mind so maybe I would be able to come up with ten, but it’s probably better to leave them buried.   
By the way, that expensive permanent bridge that I got forty-five years ago fell out last week.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Walk in the Woods

Thirty or so years ago Carol and I would venture out as soon as winter showed signs of lifting its blanket to let spring in. We called these our Cabin Fever Hikes. Most times we'd end up trekking through a foot of snow up on the Shawangunk Ridge. Once we drove out Route 55 near Pawling and hiked several miles around Nuclear Lake (look it up) in melting snow. Since our legs don't tolerate that kind of activity very well now, we fly to Florida for a week or two instead.

Yesterday, we ventured out on a very warm Easter Sunday, to Ferncliff Forest Preserve and Wildlife Refuge, just north of Rhinebeck. The mostly deciduous trees this early spring day were bare of leaves, with only tiny varicolored buds heralding the promise of change while the scattering of conifers watched.

A distinct advantage of this barrenness is the view of the Hudson River from the top of the trail. In summer one would likely have to climb the fire tower to see it.
Other signs of spring peek through the packed soil of the trail, only lightly used this early in the season. I suspect they will not survive the summer intact, but with deep and hearty roots they'll be back to greet spring hikers.
The two hundred acre preserve is open year round for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. even in the near ninety degree heat the walk was pleasant. The trail we took (the yellow loop trail to the tower) had some steep ascents and descents, the second could be a bit of an issue for someone with bad knees so a stout walking stick would be a great asset.

Along our way I spotted a few intriguing rock formations but declined to photograph them. I thought immediately of my talented friend Ruthie and how she could make a work of art out of those formations while my photos would somehow not have that perfect angle, perfect lighting ... so I didn't take any. Maybe when we go back for our next hike.

Anyway it's a great place to spend a couple hours and it's free! I recommend i
t.
http://www.ferncliffforest.org/History/index.php

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Accidental President - or a case of the DT's

Truth is he tossed his hat in the ring as an ego trip, something he takes on a daily basis, but because of the clown car of GOP candidates that vied with him, and because the die-hard republican voters were weary of bending over and getting screwed by their representatives, he won the primary.  Meanwhile, the democratic in-crowd  hoisted their chosen candidate to the top in spite of the warning signs they should have seen in the popularity of her primary opponent. 

So the final run for the roses was between the petulant child-man who incited anger, racism, and misogyny in his constituency, and the woman with more experience at the top levels of government than probably any candidate in history.  

Her experience was a mixed blessing because, through judicious spinning of events opponents could accuse her of everything from ineptness to treason.  She was also the woman who gave her philandering husband a pass rather than castrating him.  Even with those handicaps she garnered about three million more votes than her opponent, but candidates win by getting the most electoral votes. 

So she lost, probably because her campaign ignored a few states that were normally in her party's pocket, while the man-child did not, but whether or not that factored into the result is at this point irrelevant.  What matters is he now occupies the White House.

What matters even more is his party controls both houses of Congress.

What matters most perhaps is his puppet masters - The Steves, Bannon and Miller.  None of the three have even a nodding acquaintance with the truth.  Nor do they care.

It is an unfortunate fact (not and alt-fact) that a lie told repeatedly without being called out, soon becomes believed, becomes a truth.  It is imperative that anytime Tweety and his handlers make a public statement, it is refuted if untrue (almost a certainty.)

So fasten your seat belts journalists, columnists, tweeters, and don't let the lies stand.

Now the next chore:

How do we get back to a semblance of democracy in our country?  First by making the 2018 election count.  Every member of the House of Representatives is up for reelection.  Many will return to their seats due to gerrymandered districts that insure their party has the voting majority.

We must have those districts redrawn based solely on population - the intent of the constitutional directive establishing the legislature. Without that change, a fair election of our representation is not possible.  Push your state governments to undo that wrong.  In New York it apparently takes a constitutional amendment.  Right now the state legislature draws the congressional districts after the national census determines the portion of the 450 representatives the state is allotted based population.

Whatever party is in power in the state controls the redrawing of the congressional districts.  Can anyone guess how that works out?

Okay folks, while we endure and fight the DT's, Let's also think about that.

If I keep grumbling to myself about the latest lies and the need to resist, I'll never get this posted.  I'll be back sooner than a month next time.

Bye for now.  Resist the lies but with forethought not anger.  I know that's hard but anger they can fight, reason they can't.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Light Your Candle


All the rituals I know about that occur around the solstice involve light, chasing the darkness away for a time, celebrating being able to see again.

We are uncomfortable in the dark; our eyes, unlike the predators who hunt at night, were not built for it.  We are sun worshipers, reveling in the warmth of our star, in the visibility it affords us, so we celebrate light.  That the celebrations have been co-opted by religion is incidental to that fact.

Since my earliest memories I have loved this time of year.  People seem friendlier, more forgiving, happier somehow.  It has that special ambiance that comes with the light, the warmth, the comfort, the safety.

I've left you a couple of stories on my website - A gift of reading for the season.  May your world always be lit with love and peace.

http://www.gunkswriter.com

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Employees Must Wash Hands!

Whenever one uses a public facility this admonition can be found, in one form or another, over the sinks.  It seems like a pretty straightforward statement, simple and adequate to the task it is assigned.  But perhaps employees need a bit more explanation since one could interpret the simple statement above in a couple of ways.  It doesn't establish when this event is to occur - does one scrub before or after using the facilities?  Attempts to clarify timing of the wash added a little more detail, e.g. Employees must wash hands before returning to work.  The problem here is it still doesn't establish the timing of the wash in relation to the event that brought said employee into the room.  Hence some additional detail - Employees must wash hands before returning to work: after using the facilities, or whenever they are soiled.  That seems to cover it.

However - Sometimes the attempt to be specific can lead to really bizarre instructional signs such as this one -

 One could ask if the employee is the one tasked with the operation or some person whose assignment is to wash the employee's hands.

Then there are the graphics that dictate the precise operation to be performed like these two -



Humanity has an innate ability to complicate even the simplest activities.  If you know how and when to wash your hands, none of this matters.  If you do not, none of this matters.

Here's a treat for those of us who revel in the silliness of signs.


Until next time.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Back After a Year; Musing about Love and Hate

I dropped off the edge of the flat world of blogging on November 15th last year.  I found that everything I was musing over had a political theme and I didn't want to blog in that climate.  On the upside of that decision, nothing I could have said would have changed the outcome on November 8th.  My half-dozen loyal readers couldn't swing the vote in any direction at all.  I wish they could.  So let's see where I go today:

Love and Hate are not feelings.  Let me explain.

A very wise person once said "Feelings aren't right or wrong, they just are.  You can't help having them.  What you can control is what you do with them."  If you have a question about whether whatever is going on in your psyche is a feeling test it by Putting the phrase 'I am' in front of the word e.g "I am sad."  If you try that with the two words above, the phrase makes no sense because to love or hate is a decision, conscious or not.

First let's look at hate.  Hate is a manifestation of two main feelings 'angry' and 'scared'. There is sometimes 'confused' or 'troubled' or others in the mix but the first two dominate and promote the decision to hate.  What that means is that if we are angry, scared, confused, troubled, or whatever, we do not have to turn that into hate.  Hate is what we decide to do about the feeling.

We can look at love in the same way. The decision to love is often a result of feeling happy, content, relaxed, and yes even sad.   Here are a few words I wrote some years back about love that may help.

Saying I Love You

A close friend and I spent much of a long car ride a while back talking about the phrase “I love you,” its uses and implications.  Since then I’ve been reflecting on people I say “I love you” to and what it means when I do. 
First, the recipients:  My wife, Carol, hears it every day, my children and grandchildren, often.  My siblings, with the exception of my youngest sister, I don’t think ever.  I said it to my mother when she was in a nursing home and unable to retain a memory for more than a few seconds.  I never said it to my father, though I did love him.  I have said it to a very few close friends.
Now what it means to me:  For Carol, my soul mate, it means everything, the full spectrum of honor, respect, nurture, touch, connection that two people who have grown from lovers into friends share as they do with no one else.  For my children, it is pride in their achievements and in the possible, just possible, hand I had in forming them into the awesome adults they have become.  It is memories of holding them in my arms, or them grasping my hand, or hugging me, needing me and therefore making me an important part of their lives.  For my grandchildren, the ‘Fab Five’, it is the joy in being called Pops, the hugs, the beard kisses, the visits without parents, the secrets we share without telling their folks.  It is the absolute treasure of watching them grow without having the responsibility of monitoring that growth.  With each of my people, it is knowing that their death would open an unfathomably deep hole in my heart.
I often use the nickname ‘Love’ when addressing wife, daughters, granddaughters and female friends.  It is a term of affection that I feel comfortable with in that context.  I sometimes sign emails and notes “Love,” but I’m less comfortable with that usage so I don’t just throw it around; though not nearly as potent as that three word mantra, it has a permanence, ala Omar Khayyam, which might imply more than I intend. 
“I love you” is a powerful phrase.   Of course there are the modified versions:  the verbal group hug “I love you guys.” the playful chide after a friend’s faux pas “That’s okay, I still love you,” or the variation “I love you anyway,” or the adverbially attenuated “I really/truly/actually love you.”  You get the idea. 
Then there is “I love you” as the key that unlocks the invisible chastity belt, as is so eloquently rendered in Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” while Phil Rizzuto calls a Yankee baseball game in the background.  When uttered by an aroused male seeking release to an aroused female seeking justification, the admission is transitory at best.
I recall watching hippies in the sixties put flowers in the barrels of weapons while saying “I love you, man.”  The gesture made good TV, but the words carried little meaning since they addressed the generic ‘man’ rather than Corporal Smith or Sergeant Jones. 
When we speak or write, “I love you,” the basic cake without the icing, we are committing ourselves to the other person.  We are assuring them that we can be trusted to be honest, to be available, and to share both happiness and pain.  We take on an enormous responsibility with that commitment.  That is the promise I make to my closest friends.
The ways we deliver the words carry different levels of intensity.  Probably the least intense, though most permanent and legally relevant, is the written word.  Penning (or keying) that sentence denotes the above assurance but at some emotional distance.  Mouthing the words in the course of some other activity may, or may not, depending on the situation (See Meatloaf, above), have any lasting significance.  If said, for example, looking up from a newspaper, making eye contact briefly if at all, one is more or less reinforcing previous iterations, building a kind of “I love you” staircase.  But, when facing your recipient, eyes locked, no distractions, you say, “I love you,” you have crossed a bridge.  You have presented yourself, warts and all, to this person and shown him or her, a part of you that few others will see.  You have made yourself vulnerable to great emotional pain and an equal or greater measure of happiness.   It’s a chance worth taking.
-END-
Talk to you soon.