Sunday, July 31, 2005

You meet the nicest iguanas in Mexico

YELAPA, Mexico - It was only six months ago that this shot was taken, but it seems like an eternity.

At that time, Sabbatical was still in Puerto Vallarta and we took a tour boat ride along with several friends - including Dan Olsen who shot this photo - to the village of Yelapa, about which I think I wrote at the time.

Now, Sabbatical is in San Diego with a big For Sale sign on it, son Dustin is living in Puerto Vallarta fulltime, and I'm sitting in Valois New York, looking out at Seneca Lake, trying to calculate exactly how much beer to carry on today's boating expedition (about three miles down the lake) and if we have enough gasoline to make it down and back to cousin Ruth's dock.

When I posed with the iguana, it was a good thing I had already consumed several bottles of Pacifico (my favorite Mexico beer) because those critters cling to your shoulder with their claws. The claws aren't sharp, but damn, there is power in them and it reminded me of having full-grown parrots on my shoulder. Having any animal with big teeth (or a sharp beak) really close to my ears and nose is not my idea of having a good time.

But I'm smiling in the photo... (Thanks, Pacifico.)

There are no iguanas in upstate New York, not even much in the reptile family, except for rattlesnakes about which I was warned about this past week. "Timber rattlers six feet long," I was told by the fellow of picks up our trash every Friday and who loves to jaw for a half-hour when he stops.

He's deathly afraid of snakes and carries a .357 magnum revolver in his truck in case he encounters any snakes in his daily routine.

I would love to walk out some Friday morning with a four-foot long iguana on my shoulder just to see his reaction. Well, as long as he couldn't reach his gun, anyway.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Maybe it's time to make a redneck hot tub...

A Redneck hot tub?
Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
MINOT, South Dakota - Hot hot can it be in South Dakota?

Hot enough, apparently, that Mike Blackburn and his son, Jim, filled up their pickup and popped a couple of cold ones, getting their photo posted all over the nation thanks to the Associated Press.

But what a fabulous idea. I've always wanted a mobile hot tub, but never realized it was as close as the bed of my Nissan pickup truck. True, I would have to figure out a way to keep the water from draining out as fast as I put it in, but it looks like Mike and Jim just used a tarp for a liner and away they went.

Or technically, away they filled, I guess.

In New York, the temperatures dropped dramatically in the last 24 hours with some thunderstorms blowing out the humidity, making it a very nice 80 degrees, just warm enough to take out the Bud Boat (more on that another time) for a spin to see how the tuned-up engine runs.

It runs fantastic and it means we can now zoom up and down the shoreline in search of wildlife and docks that sport real hot tubs, not the ones you see in South Dakota in the back of pickup trucks.

Still, for Sacramento, that pickup truck tub idea might be just the ticket, though I'm not sure my condominium association would approve.

But I'll be the four coeds who live across the driveway would probably consider jumping in, if for no other reason than to tick off the rulemakers in the association.

More on that later, too, if we put it to the test.

But for now, Mike and Jim, enjoy that beer and moment of fame.

Flying Jet Blue - with the Fox Nut Network

VALOIS, New York - One of the wonders of flying Jet Blue is the cable television right in the seatback in front of you.

There you can watch all those cable channels you never watch at home, and tons of infomercials on some channels I had never heard of until my recent red-eye sojourn, a 5.5 hour jaunt from Sacramento to JFK.

Now they offer two 'premium' movies, also, which cost an additional $5 each, but they make it easy by having a credit card slot right next to the screen for you to enter a card.

I didn't watch the TV at first, I sloshed down a glass of wine, had a chocolate biscotti for a snack and tried to sleep for the first couple of hours.

But damn, the seat I was in was uncomfortable, particularly the cushion area. After twisting and turning like a toddler - and getting some hard stares from the poor woman sitting next to me - I asked a very bored flight attendant for three of those little pillows they give you to rest your head on.

I rested my tired butt on the pillows instead and fell asleep again.

When I woke up, most of the people on the plane were watching the Fox Nut Network. (Oops, sorry. It is the esteemed Fox News Network, fair and balanced you know.) The nut network was running live copter shots of a car chase in Los Angeles, with the announcer breathlessly giving details like, "He's turning left, he's turning right. Now he's going straight."

What would viewers have done without this highbrow commentary?

The chase was definitely a real chase, because instead of a fiery crash at the end and a shootout, the fellow driving a white sedan (What kind of crook does a high speed chase in a white four-door sedan for Godsakes?), well, he just stopped his car, walked over the sidewalk and laid down, putting his hands behind his head - before the police even got out of their cruisers.

Of course, the announcer sounded like the police had just apprehended a member of the Bin Laden family, when I'll bet the poor guy had been drinking and didn't want yet another DUI. That or he had a bunch of parking tickets. It was Los Angeles after all.

It was a fitting end to the flight and great introduction to the JFK airport where uniformed police with guns seem to outnumber the travelers and the waitresses in the coffee shops chewed gum in 4/4 time, ignoring all customers, except for the cops.

But the upside was the vast variety of donuts on sale - four different sizes of maple bars alone.

Jumbo Maple Surprise anyone?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Tie-dye was the order of the day at funeral

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - When Daniel D. Allen died last week, (a shirt-tail relative of mine by marriage), his family immediately scrambled to find some of the proper attire for his funeral - in this case hippie outfits as befitting who he was, and how he had enjoyed a relatively short life. He was a surfer, too, and I suppose to really honor him, we should have strapped some boards on the tops of our cars during the funeral procession.

Uncle Danny (as he was called by my son-in-law Steve, my daughter Anne and granddaughter Samantha) died at 51 years old, after years of encroaching paralysis and the inability to communicate easily, the victim of a brain tumor discovered when he was just 18.

To see the family decked out in tie-dye was touching, even more so because the service included full military honors: a bugler playing taps and the carefully folded flag being presented to his mother who has taken care of Danny all these years.

Relatives came from all over the state for the service and some higher power was keeping an eye on things because temperatures at the graveside funeral barely topped 90 degrees after weeks of triple digits that would have fried everyone. As it was, it was cool under the trees at the Folsom cemetery, not far from the shores of Folsom Lake itself.

That's two memorial/funerals in two months in which I was more than just a casual bystander. I had real ties to real people. Danny I had seen one month before, at a Father's Day party at his brother Dave's house.

And months before that, I attended a campus service for a teaching colleague who died young last year.

If whoever controls such things is listening or reading (What, you think God doesn't read? What does She do? Watch Maury Povich for the news?) then please, a personal favor. No more memorial services for awhile. I don't ask for a complete holiday here, but I have enough trouble with dehydration without trying to calculate for water loss through tears.

R.I.P. Danny Allen. And I hope where you are, Surf's up, dude!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

We claim this island and name it Freedonia

FREEDONIA, American River, California - After a couple of cold saloon beers today, it seemed like just the right thing - go kayaking in 100-degree heat. A trip on a jet ski might have been more fun, but, well, I have a kayak and so it was off to an island that I can see from the deck of my condo right in the middle of the river.

The island, like all islands, can only be reached by boat, or swimming, I suppose. (Is this one of those NO DUH moments?) The current is way too swift for most swimmers so the island gets very little traffic even on busy weekends like today where the launch ramp was covered with people swimming and chattering in Spanish, and on the rocks the rednecks were throwing their girlfriends into the water fully clothed.

So I took a little detour out and away from the chattering, swimming, girlfriend-throwing groups to the far east end of the island from which I can actually see the deck of my condo, just to the right of kayak paddle in the photo.

There's a tiny, sandy/gravel beach and because few people head out, no trash or human debris at all. No even the dog droppings that seem to mark the beaches where foot access is easy and stepping in dog crap even easier.

I haven't kayaked much in the past two weeks - too damned hot on the water and too damned much writing - thought there might be one more expedition Sunday before I head back to New York Monday night on the Jet Blue red eye to JFK.

But for now, I can report that the island of Freedonia is secure, free of enemy activity, virtually litter free (I picked up my beer bottles) and ready for the next kayak trip across the vast expanse of the rapidly flowing American River.

Unless, of course, I can grab a ride on a nice wet ride on a jet ski or a small sailboat out at Folsom Lake.

In case the name Freedonia rings a bell, I took it from the famous Marx Brothers movie, Duck Soup. There's also a Freedonia headquartered in Houston, Texas. Ugh...

Here's a link to the Marx Brothers movie:
  • Duck Soup

  • And here's a link to the non-California, non Marx Brothers' Freedonia:
  • Another Freedonia?

  • All Hail Freedonia! (The one in the photo...)

    Friday, July 22, 2005

    Might be time to watch 'The Net' again

    SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - Wells Fargo Bank just launched a new security service, which in one of those great marketing ploys, you automatically get, unless you tell them to cancel it.

    With all their customers, if even a small percentage throw away the letter - and get charged for a couple of months before they cancel - well, the bank will make a tidy profit and some vice president will get a bonus for thinking up the scheme.

    But the kicker is that the security service - which customers have to pay for as an extra spiff on accounts - was set up after the bank lost all kinds of data in a theft.

    Create a problem and then charge your customers for the problem. It sort of like Chevron dumping a load of crude oil on your lawn and then charging you for the cleanup.

    The full story from the San Francisco Chronicle is here:
  • Wells Fargo wild ride

  • In the 1990s, Sandra Bullock starred in a movie called "The Net," which because it was little early in the information-theft game, didn't get the play it probaby should have. But it immediately came to mind when I read the Wells Fargo story today, because the plot of the movie is so eerily similar to what the bank has done.

    Life imitating art? (If Sandra Bullock movies can be called art. The jury is still out on that issue.)

    I once banked with Wells Fargo and found their service to be so awful and generally rude that I cashed out with them and moved around, finally landing at a credit union run specifically for state employees in California.

    But today, I'm glad what little cash I have is not riding around in the Wells Fargo stagecoach, or in their computers. Or that I have to read all their come-ons carefully to avoid paying for services I don't want.

    Wednesday, July 20, 2005

    'Captain, I'm giving it all I can'

    NEUTRAL ZONE, Kligon Space - Scotty from the original TV series Star Trek has passed away at 85, a sure sign of mortality for those of us who remember the young James Doohan from this blog photo.

    And so much of that program has infused modern culture - in positive ways, not always in evidence in other science fiction programs that have become popular since then.

    The first inter-racial smooch was on Star Trek. Captain Kirk kissed Lt. Uhuru. True, he was forced by a alien who thought he was a Greek God (the alien, not Kirk, though William Shatner did have a pretty high opinion of himself). Maybe the alien was a Greek God, but he did a good thing by breaking that taboo.

    Star Trek's message was always that there are different people, different beings, , different customs, but we need to respect them and their differences as much as possible.

    George W. should have watched more Star Trek and fewer stag films in college.

    Scotty was one of my favorites on the show and his constant travails with the warp engines were mirrored in my own struggles with the diesel engine aboard Sabbatical. I would frequently adopt a brogue when talking about the engine, while sitting in the engine room. (I also spoke in tongues, on occasion, when thing weren't going well.)

    Scotty's gone as is series creator and the real genius of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, who died back in 1991.

    But we don't have to think hard about where Scotty beamed up to on this last voyage.

    For the best story on his passing, see:
  • Scotty Beams Up
  • Tuesday, July 19, 2005

    Just when you thought it was safe to fly...

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - For the two weeks I've been back on the ground here, not a single bad story about airline safety, pilots or crashes.

    Not a peep.

    Which is why I knew, I just knew it was going to happen right before I have to fly again - and lo it did.

    The U.S. Attorney's office just filed charges against 40 pilots who should absolutely not be flying. Only one, thank God, was a commercial airline pilot.

    What disqualified them? Well how about schizophrenia, drug addiction and heart problems.

    No in my cockpit, thank you very much.

    So while I take some comfort that the investigators didn't seem to find Jet Blue pilots out of shape schizophrenic, drug addicted and with heart problems, I really don't know how hard they looked at them either. I know I'll chat a little with the pilots next week before we take off and head for New York City from Sacramento.

    And I'll pack a few extra bottles of wine, too.

    For me, not the pilots!

    Here's the story from the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • Unsafe at any altitude
  • Sunday, July 17, 2005

    Lewis Libby, the fall guy for Karl Rove?

    Lewis Libby
    Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Internet has been flaming this guy for weeks, if not years, saying he's likely the person who leaked Valerie Plame's name - and helped usher Judith Wilson, indirectly, into a jail cell.

    He's Chief of Staff to Dick Cheney and might have been selected as the person to fall on the sword in this whole affair, since Karl Rove got caught with his pudgy fingers in the political cookie jar.

    Trouble is, Libby is a pretty bright fellow (despite his choice of employer). If you read his bio, you see he is in line for a lot of pretty high-powered government positions, should, say, Condi Rice decide to marry a Korean diplomat and move to Seoul.

    He might have been the leaker, but he's not the best candidate for being a goat to protect Dubya's brain (i.e. Karl Rove).

    These kind of stories frequently break on Sunday, part of the Sunday news talk show gabfests, but this one might be another triumph of the bloggers.

    Associated Press posted its story on Libby just this morning, but the internet chatter has been going on in the background for a long time. was speculating about Libby in 2003!

    And this website had the story weeks ago.:
  • Just One Minute

  • Maybe, of course, it's just a diversion to keep us from thinking about the 24 people who got blown up and killed in Iraq - today. And the 20 yesterday, and the 20 tomororw, and the next day, and the next day, until we pull out.

    Can we just start the impeachment proceedings, now. Please?

    Oh, and get rid of Karl Rove and Lewis Libby, too.

    Saturday, July 16, 2005

    From green to purple belt, a kick to watch

    Take that, stranger
    Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Arnold Schwarzenegger is lucky he was born before this generation of young women coming along.

    One grope and he would find his magazine muscles on the floor and his voice squeaking as a soprano.

    These girls might play with Barbie dolls and be entranced with Shrek videos (and Hilary Duff, don't forget Hilary Duff). But many of of them are also taking martial arts training, learning fantasic self-defense moves and perhaps as important, a whole set of values about self-control, taking care of yourself, being kind to the less fortunate and a code of ethics.

    Granddaughter Samantha moved from a green to purple belt last night in a ceremony/demonstration of about 30 kids who all were climbing the ladder to the black belt.

    The black belt itself, I learned, comes from the earliest days of such training when all belts started out white and after years of training, turned black from dirt. That's how you could tell the tough guys - their belts were black with grit.

    The schools that teach such things now don't let anybody get that dirty, but the belt hierarchy gives all the kids something to work towards.

    One demonstration about dealing with strangers was particularly compelling as the lead teacher approached a student and told the student to say when he got too close.

    Too close is defined as close enough to be grabbed and the young man being tested was a good 10 feet away when he said "Stop!" to the instructor/would-be assailant.

    The next move, of course, is 'run-away,' and after that, well, give'em a good kick.

    It reminds me of that old cheer from high school:

    Rah Rah Ree!
    Kick 'em in the knee!

    Rah Rah Rass!
    Kick 'em in the other knee!

    Thursday, July 14, 2005

    Dykes on Bikes fight with U.S. patent office

    SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - The story in the San Francisco Chronicle is written without irony - arguably the only newspaper in America that could get away with writing this as a straight news story, no pun intended there, though it's a pretty good one, eh?

    But only a short time after the raucous gay pride parade and with a city mayor who is still championing gay marriage in the face of bad court rulings, the women are feeling their strength and want the name of their motorcycle club to be a legal, registered trademark.

    Well, I suppose. But do they really need a trademark? How many other groups are likely to jump in and try to steal that name? As I read the story, I wondered if Sonny Barger ever tried to get a copyright on the Hell's Angels. I think he just went and stomped anyone with the temerity to use their name when they weren't affiliated.

    Still, the Dykes maybe are looking for a little federal recognition of being gay, not something they are likely to get from this White House. And the bureaucracy that surrounds it takes its cues from administration, not the rest of the country, whether on motorcycles or not.

    In the meantime, for a full rendition of what the controversy is about, check out this link:
  • Dykes patent fight
  • Wednesday, July 13, 2005

    Hot time, summer in the City of Sacramento

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - It would be nice to stake Karl Rove out on the levee right behind my condo today and let him roast - it is supposed to top 104 degrees and there isn't a hint of a breeze.

    This is the first summer I've spent any time in Sacramento in, well, nearly 20 years and Jaysus it's hot.

    Predictions are for 105 tomorrow and waffling between 100-105 for at least a week.

    The heat is bad enough, though the air conditioner seems to work well enough. But going anywhere is problematic because when it gets this hot, and the wind stops, the thermal inversion turns Sacramento into a place even Los Angelenos would run from, the air gets so foul.

    It was bad yesterday and probably will be worse today. And tomorrow? Well, tomorrow I think I'll stock up on food and videos and stay hiding in the dark.

    If it's hotter than hell where you are, click on this link. It seems to help.
  • Glacier National Park webcams
  • Monday, July 11, 2005

    Liar, liar, pants on fire - that's you Karl

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - So the truth is now out that Karl Rove indeed did tell a reporter about Valerie Plame, the CIA agent. But he says he didn't because he didn't use her name.

    It seems he just referred to her as Joseph Wilson's wife. Hmmm... Seems like Bill Clinton got in a lot of trouble for trying to be that technical.

    In the news bizz, when a libel action gets filed, one of the big tests is will people reading the story know who you are talking about.

    For example, I don't have to say George W. Bush to identify him. I just say 'a goofy guy from Texas who didn't serve in the Vietnam War, bought two elections, and whose wife is named Laura.'

    Using the logic of Karl Rove, however perverted, I didn't say Dubya's name, therefore, I am not on the hook.

    What collossal crap! Did Joseph Wilson have a harem? How many Mrs. Wilsons were there and how many worked for the CIA?

    Some of the hounds of the media are slowly waking from their slumber, slapping down even White House spokesman Scott McClellan who finds himself in a waking public relations nightmare. (Though being be a PR spokesman for the Bush administration, he must be used to dreams that make visits from Freddy Krueger at night seem like a picnic.)

    In case you've missed some of current fun, here's two links to stories that will spell it out and maybe the beginning of great made for TV movie: Goodbye Karl, the Unraveling of Rove.
    White House Clams Up
    • Rove did talk to reporter

    Sunday, July 10, 2005

    Thunderstorms, three flights later - home!

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - I would never kiss the tarmac at any airport, but I was very glad to get off the airplane at Sacramento last night at 10:30 p.m., three planes and one thunderstorm after leaving Valois at noon.

    The storms were between Elmira and Philly, then two more flights, Philadelphia to Chicago and Chicago to Sacramento. And those second flights seemed waaay long, even with the movie on flight II - Miss Congeniality II.

    But the wonderful surprise was getting picked up by daughter Anne and grandaughter Samantha at the airport and then coming home to find they had decorated my condo in birthday mode!

    Takes the sting out of hitting 57 today. (Gawd, I remember my 17th birthday.)

    The entire house is decked out with decorations, streamers, balloons, birthday napkins, you name it. So cool and I'm trying to figure out where I can sit down without disturbing anything!

    Today is recover from travel day, and get organized for the next couple of weeks. At least four stories on the horizon for the next five days and I hope there are also a couple of swimming expeditions with Samantha and lunches with Anne.

    But first, time to make a list...or go back to bed and start over tomorrow.

    Saturday, July 09, 2005

    How I'm spending my summer vacation

    Michael on the ladder
    Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
    VALOIS, New York - Suddenly someone called and said 'Is that cute little cabin for rent?'

    Oh crap!

    So in less than 24 hours, I scrapped, sanded, prepped and primered two sides of the 'cute little cabin' leaving the insides to Admiral Fox to deal with while I make a quick trip back to California to get thing squared away and spend some fun time with daughter Anne and granddaughter Samantha.

    The exterior of the cabin, even in such a short time, looks great, and what we hope is that in summers future we rent it from June through August, using the money to keep the rest of the house afloat. We have enough projects - a new dock, a deck, and a hot tub (a very popular project with the family) to keep the money flowing out, so the cabin, we hope, will bring some money flowing in.

    The irony, I suppose, is that I really hate to paint. But, like last summer, when the boat's sinking, you bail. When the house paint is peeling off in sheets, you paint.


    So, what am I doing sitting while the cabin exterior calls?

    Waiting for the rain to stop, of course.

    It is upstate New York, after all.

    Thursday, July 07, 2005

    Judith Miller goes to jail - a bad thing

    VALOIS, NY - The jailing of Judith Miller for refusing to give up her source is, well, just a bad thing.

    It's bad because journalists (and their editors and publishers) are already so goddamn timid it's awful. They're timid because of threats of lawsuits (which are expensive to defend), their fear of losing advertisers (again, $$$$), and because the public doesn't understand how important a confidential source can be.

    I teach students every year that using confidential sources is important - to find out what they hell is going on. You use what they tell you to track down the facts in the matter and then publish. You don't need to say, a confidential source said, except in very extreme conditions. But if that confidential source won't speak at all - because they are afraid of losing their job, or maybe even fear for their life - then the journalist may not find out what's going on - and neither will you, the reader.

    But, in America, I'm beginning to believe many people don't want to know what's going on. The truth can be pretty uncomfortable.

    What is truly bizarre - or perhaps it's just so obvious we don't notice it - is that conservative columnist Robert Novak, who published the same information as Judith Miller, is sitting at home sipping a latte while she goes to a jail cell.

    No threats, no prosecution and we have to put up with his smug rodent face on several television talking-head programs.

    If it turns out that Karl Rove is indeed the person who outed the CIA agent, and Judith Miller is going to jail to protect the principle that she gave her word to keep her source confidential, well, of the two, who has a place reserved in heaven? And who should choke on undercooked ribs at a GOP fundraiser?

    Tuesday, July 05, 2005

    Could we hear less about Martha Stewart?

    VALOIS, New York - I was about to write one of those 500-word diatribes about how sick I am of hearing about Martha Stewart, Oprah and Brad Pitt, when I realized that I was in fact writing about Martha, feeding the information frenzy that we call the media.

    So, what should we do now, Tonto?

    Talk about Karl Rove, of course!

    There's a story circulating all over the Internet that when Time magazine gave up its notes in the famous CIA agent-outing story, that it was Karl Rove, the nasty fat guy featured here just a week or so ago, who deliberately let out the name of a CIA agent and put her in harm's way.

    So as I've scanned the major media websites today, I've been looking and looking and looking and what I keep finding is a piece about Martha Stewart's interview in Vanity Fair.

    Vanity Fair.

    I suppose that she finds the ankle bracelet - the one she has to wear as part of her house arrest - uncomfortable is real news. Or that in prison she had a nickname (I'll make you go to the story for that).

    But fer chrissakes what about Karl, what about GW and what about impeachment?

    The press needs to get back in the game and quit being distracted by Martha and her TV show makeover.

    But until it does, here's the Martha Stewart story I referred to. You'll have to catch up on Oprah and Brad somewhere else:
  • Martha becomes 'M. Diddy'
  • Monday, July 04, 2005

    A ceremony that Louise have appreciated

    Michael at ceremony
    Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
    VALOIS, New York - I ended up needing a crutch to speak at Louise Schwartz's memorial service. Not because I was nervous about speaking in front of the 50 to 60 friends and relatives who attended.

    No, it was because I twisted my knee the night while before dancing, twisted it so soundly that without the help of Louise's last walking stick, there is no way I would have stood unaided for more than a few moments.

    I felt like a little old man standing up on the porch, offering my services and comments, but damned glad that Louise had used such a stout stick in her final year.

    The day was as perfect as could be - just warm enough, just enough breeze that the bugs - normally a collosal pain in the ass - backed off to let people offer their favorite stories about my late mother-in-law without having to swat mosquitos at the same time. Lots of tears, but more good belly laughs.

    At the party afterwards, all the stories that people didn't want to tell in front of the whole group came out, and then at nightfall, using a slide projector brought by Cousin Walt from Rochester (not for nothing has he worked for Kodak for years), we showed slides spanning about 30 years.

    We did the show outside, the evening temperatures as nice as any described in a James Lee Burke novel.

    But the bugs liked the slide show, too, and after about any hour (and applications of about a gallon of OFF), we retreated inside, the memorial over.

    R.I.P. Louise.

    Saturday, July 02, 2005

    The stone in the garden tells the story

    VALOIS, New York - With all the hubbub of getting the house ready for tomorrow's memorial service for my late mother-in-law, we had one really bright spot.

    The stone that is in the photo with today's blog was taken from the garden by Louise's nephew Brett Beardslee, a musician of some note, who also seems to be capable to doing damn near anything else.

    In this case, he took a stone from Louise's garden, a stone she hauled in herself years ago, and took it to a stone carver to put her name in it.

    I carefully set the stone yesterday in exactly the spot it was taken from, and tomorrow it will be a centerpiece of whatever happens, complete with some flowers and maybe memorabilia.

    Memorial services like this are tricky. It's definitely not religious, though we will have one legitimate clergyman speaking. It's no Irish wake, thought I bought enough wine and beer yesterday to make a credible run at it. No, it's more like a remembrance and a chance for several hundred people (Jaysus! That many people?)to hear a few kinds words about the late Louise Beardslee Schwartz, tell a few stories at her expense, laugh, cry and visit.

    This memorial/service/party/wake is just the kind of thing Louise loved to go to, to catch up on people and what was happening.

    Depending on your ecclesiatical outlook, she will either miss tomorrow's soiree, be in the waiting line for reincarnation as a daffodil or some more exotic plan - or be there in spirit.

    I'm betting on the last version, which is why I'll sweep the walk one more time and arrange the flowers again to get them just perfect before I step up as emcee.

    She would have wanted it that way.

    Friday, July 01, 2005

    36 hours until the ceremony - Arrggh!

    VALOIS, N. Y. - The memorial ceremony for my late mother-in-law Louise starts at 3 p.m. Sunday, not that long from now, and in the meantime, we have to:

    -- Get 100 chairs and set them up in front yard
    -- Fix enough food for probably 150 people
    -- Figure out where-the-hell the cars will park
    -- Draw up a program

    Oh, yeah. And I have to figure out what I am going to do as kind of a master of ceremonies.


    The photo today is of what the place looked like yesterday morning, when I wondered if the best strategy was to feign illness and take to my bed. Not that that would help much. Our inflatable bed has, well, de-flated and now we are sleeping on futon springs designed by former Japanese prisoners of war, getting their revenge by selling futons through Wal-Mart. (Yes, I am ashamed of myself buying the futon and inflatable bed from Wal-Mart. But you try shopping in Watkins Glen, New York!)

    No, I'll throw something together as emcee, if I ever get a break from cleaning out the front yard where the ceremony is going to be held.

    Maybe I should tell that story I sent out earlier in the week with the "Shall We Gather At the River" punchline.

    But supposed nobody laughed?

    New strategy called for. But that's after the rest of the !$#@$^&(%#$@^%#$&* crap is cleaned up and taken away to the dump.

    Manana, amigos, manana.