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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

According to several reports, Rush Limbaugh has been rushed to a hospitlal in Honolulu after complaining about heart problems or something.

The name of the hospital hasn’t been included in most of the newspapers, but one reported that it was the Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu.

That sounds right because Queen’s is the flagship hospital in the State of Hawai, if not in the Pacific region, and it has some of the best heart specialists in the nation on its staff. In that respect, Rush is fortunate.

On the otherhand, he may feel a wee mite uneasy. Queen’s staff consists primarily of Asians or Hawaii residents of Asian and Pacific Islands ancestry. There are a few staff who look like Rush, but not many. And I wonder, considering Rush’s well-known antipathy to anything non-white, how he is managing his daily interpersonal relationships.

The people of Hawaii are quite nice and pleasant and they tend to say nice things to others because the nature of the culture of Hawaii is, for the most part, non-confrontational.

On the other hand, they do not like what they refer to as “loud mouthed Haoles.” The word Haole in its original definition means simply “foreigner” or someone from a different place, although somewhere in my memory banks, I have this feeling that it may have referred to a white flower.

Be that as it may, Haole has become, in one sense, a derogatory term, as in, for example, “that damned Haole” or “that freakin’ Haole,” usually with a variation of the spelling of the word freakin’.

Rush Limbaugh’s radio personality is a perfect model of the Hawaii concept of a loud-mouthed Haole–verbal volume on extra high, opinionated,  critical of local ways and customs, superior in all respects, and condescending.

One would hope that Rush wouldn’t invoke his entertainer’s persona while a doctor or nurse from, for example, the Phillipines was busily engaged in ministering to his medical needs. These professionals would continue their treatment, but eventually, somehow, the word would get around. Lips flap even in professional circles.

Given Rush’s monetary situation, he may have called in his personal physician in an advisory role or he may have asked for a referral from his doctor.

Another possibility is that Rush in real life may be a decent human being and, consequenty, he may treat the local folks with the respect they deerve.

Sadly, I am in Texas at the moment and have no access to the ever-floating gossip that goes around below the radar in Hawaii. One of these days, though, the story of Rush’s stay in a Honolulu hospital will get around.

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Yesterday I received an e-mail from my cousin in Arkansas. She keeps me informed of goings on and I appreciate her messages. She wrote that her husband and brother (another cousin) had gone to “the farm” at three a.m. on a deer hunting foray. The farm she mentioned is owned by her husband and he drives about a hundred miles at least once a week, sometimes more often, to see how things are going and to consult with his manager.

This year, his crops are soy beans and rice. At least one of the rice fields has been harvested but the soy beans were largely destroyed under a deluge of rain that extended over several days and inundated the crop land. Such is the fate of farmers. It’s a risky business.

The farm is large and meanders in and out of stands of woods. The crops are ringed by dirt roads that form a boundary between the woods and the crop land. And running through the crops are a series of smaller roads, small dikes, and irrigation canals. Water for the crops is diverted from creeks and streams that run through the woods by a series of diversion dams between the woods and the crops.

The woods are a convenient home for deer and smaller wildlife, and the crop lands are prime sources of food for them. When my cousin’s husband gave me a tour of the farm a couple of months ago, we saw several herds of deer browsing along the edges of the soybeans, which were still thriving at that time. The deer were easily visible from our ground-level position on the perimeter road, and had anyone had the inclination and a deer rifle, he could easily have shot one maybe two deer before they bolted.

But the accepted method of deer hunting is from a deer stand. For lack of a better description, a deer stand is like a small tree-house constructed on the trunk of a tree about 30 feet from the ground. A stand is really nothing more than a platform anchored to the tree with two by fours as braces.

Hunters access the stand by climbing a wooden ladder. Then, they wait for the deer to appear in their view. If the deer are near enough for a clear shot, then the hunter is likely to kill his limit in short order. If there are two hunters, both may kill their limit before the day is over.

On the day I visited, my cousin’s husband pointed out several strategically placed deer stands. Even from ground level, the crops spread out before me for well over a thousand yards. From the vantage point of one of the elevated stands, a hunter could see much further. A hunter with a high-powered deer rifle with a scope can score a hit easily from that distance.

As we drove around the farm and the woods, with my cousin’s husband explaining the intricacies of farming, I began to think about my own hunting days. I was young then, very young, and a part of the culture of the time and place. My favorite reading material was the Shooters Bible, at that time a flashy publication advertising every make of gun anyone could imagine.

I myself owned four guns, a .22 caliber plinking rifle, a .20 gauge shotgun for small birds and varmints, a .12 gauge shotgun once owned by my granddad for quail, pheasants, and rabbits, and a  bolt-action 7-millimeter Belgium Mauser. This latter gun is a mystery. I can’t remember how I came to have it in my possession. I just remember driving to a gravel pit with friends and shooting cans with it. This was one hell of a powerful rifle, literally blowing a can to smithereens.

Because of my background, I entered the military service quite familiar with guns. I was very accurate with the M-1 Carbine used then by the Air Force. I could easily hit the bull’s eye with regularity, and at one time I was asked to join the rifle team. I declined respectfully. Although I was a good shot, I didn’t want to spend my service time on a rifle range. Competition firing isn’t just a matter of picking up a gun and shooting it when your turn comes. Consistent accuracy takes a lot of practice to achieve. I was too undisciplined then.

After my service time ended, I never returned to the old home place except for brief visits and I never hunted again. It wasn’t that I suddenly became anti-gun. My life following my discharge from the service became filled with family, job, and various other sports, primarily baseball at first but eventually fast-pitch softball. I played in a city league for a few years and hung it up in favor of golf. That’s where my life stands at the present.

When I received my cousin’s e-mail, I wondered what I would do if her husband asked me to accompany him to the farm for deer hunting. I knew that I wouldn’t, so the only issue was how to say no gracefully. I finally settled on a straightforward and honest answer. “No, thanks, but I appreciate the invitation,” I would say simply without embellishment or excuse. If I were pressed further, I would add, “I don’t hunt anymore. It’s merely a matter of my personal preference, but I certainly don’t object to other people hunting,” I intend to avoid a never-ending series of excuses about guns and hunting. It’s counterproductive.

The truth of the matter is, a truth I will never tell my cousin, shooting a deer with a high-powered deer rifle is too easy. Where is the challenge? The process might be fair if the deer had a rifle, too. Besides, I am at a stage of economic independence that I don’t need to hunt to eat. Some people do, of course. Let them. Me, I just trot down to Safeway and browse the aisles, hunting for a can of SPAM.

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This is probably a meaningless post unless you know a little about San Francisco. But if you are somewhat familiar with the city, you may recall or have heard about the Jack Tar Hotel.

This relic of another era at the corner of Van Ness and Geary in San Francisco is going to be demolished and eventually replaced by a hospital.

Once upon a storied time, the hotel was one of many in a chain of Jack Tar Hotels. I’m working from memory here, but I believe there was also a Jack Tar in Dallas and several in the Caribbean. I don’t know what happened to any of the hotels in those locations, but the San Francisco Jack Tar somewhere along the line was sold and became the Cathedral Hills Hotel.

I mention all of this because the Jack Tar Hotel has occupied a central part of my life’s story. No, I didn’t attend any galas or other social events there. I didn’t hang out in the bar. I didn’t meet beautiful women in the hotel lobby who took my hand and whispered, “I love you so.” In my eyes, The Jack Tar was a 400-room monstrosity, a garish blot on San Francisco’s otherwise pristine landscape.

Why, then, and how has the hotel remained in my memory since I first became aware of its existence as a young, very young male, hovering in that twilight zone between adolescent stupidity and age-of-consent certainty?

I received a moving traffic violation in the hotel’s underground parking garage. It happened this way.

I was accustomed to driving in Oakland where a U-Turn was legal unless a sign specifically said “No U-Turn.”

One day, I had some business at the Jack Tar. As usual when I drove to San Francisco, I came off of the Bay Bridge and headed North on Van Ness. On this day, the traffic was heavy, and as I reached Geary, I had to wait in the left-turn lane for the light to change.

The traffic in the opposite direction was also heavy, and I knew if I didn’t make a quick U-Turn ahead of the oncoming traffic, I’d have a long delay. Since I saw no sign prohibiting a U-Turn, I decided to chance it.

So, the instant the light hit green, I immediately stepped on the gas and swung around, catching the right lane on Van Ness. From there, I immediately swung right again into the entrance to the outside parking area before the oncoming traffic had moved into the intersection. I had good reflexes in those days.

As I drove slowly into the parking area, I heard a deep-throated motor behind me. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw an SFPD motorcycle officer. Thinking nothing of it (I was also oblivious then), I continued through the outside parking lot into the underground area looking for a spot to pull into.

The parking garage was virtually full but I finally found a lonesome spot as far into the bowels of the garage as I could drive without bumping the back wall. All of this time, the motorcycle officer hung right with me.

By the time I had parked and stepped out, the officer had already placed his bike directly behind me and dismounted. He said, “You made an illegal U-Turn.”  He asked for my driver’s license and car registration, inspected them, and began writing me a ticket.

Like every idiot who has ever been surprised by a ticket, I tried to explain my way out of it. “I live in Oakland and we can make a U-Turn unless a sign says we can’t.”

This is the old out-of-towner excuse that might work in a tourist area, but I was no tourist and the officer knew it. He merely continued to write the ticket, all the while saying nothing.

I don’t remember now whether or not I signed the ticket. I probably did. But one thing sticks in my mind. The officer never said a word beyond his introductory remarks. He merely wrote the ticket, handed it to me, re-mounted his bike and cut out.

I probably would have argued a little more, but a couple of things gave me second thoughts: the officer’s silence and the knowledge that my company would pay the ticket.

Oh, and one other hint of my absolute stupidity in those days. While I waited for the light to change, the officer who followed me into the Jack Tar parking garage had been sitting on his idling bike in plain sight on Van Ness. I remember he looked very professional.

Little known fact: Jack Tar is a British Navy slang term for a sailor.

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Be honest now. If you were given a choice between an all expenses paid vacation to Chicago or Rio de Janeiro, which one would you choose.

Personally, I’d choose Rio. I’ve never been there so the town would offer a new experience. Just looking for the Girl from Ipanema would take a week or more.

Chicago is so, well, so American. America is a great country, but it’s pretty similar in most geographical areas. Sure, there are beautiful mountains, grand vistas, lakes, rivers, fields of amber waves of grain, ocean waves crashing against seashores, wild horse preserves where magnificent animals run free, and cypress swamps where old-growth timber still thrives.

The trouble is, none of this is in Chicago. Oh, sure, Chi has its wind from Lake Michigan and a beautiful lakeshore drive. And there’s the Sears Tower, a wonderful example of American architecture and engineering innovation.

You may even find a speakeasy or two if you’ve got the guts to wander off the beaten path. Only, the Windy City’s 21st Century speakeasies are speakeasies in name only, Hollywood’s concept of Chi in the Roaring Twenties.

Before the Roaring Twenties, Chicago had another history and another reputation. The American poet, Carl Sandburg, said this about the city in 1916 in his poem Chicago.

HOG Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
luring the farm boys.

And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it
is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to
kill again.

Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog
Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with
Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

In many ways, Chicago is still the brawling City of Big Shoulders. There is a bravado about its residents that speaks to its industrial past and reputation as Hog Butcher for the World.

But the stormy brawling today is reflected in its drugs, gangs, and the crime that inevitably accompanies these activities. Chicago can be and often is a city that elicits a degree of apprehension when potential tourists are planning their vacations.

Rio also has its share of crime, but few people in the world are aware of it, whereas most of the world’s inhabitants who have seen Hollywood movies and television shows about Chicago are convinced that a vacation there would be an unpleasant experience at best.

In contrast, the vision of Rio is largely one of frivolity, symbolized by its annual Carnival, beautiful girls walking virtually nude along the beach at Ipanema, and the breathless magnificence of the city as seen from Mount Corcovado.

When I learned that the International Olympic Committee had eliminated Chicago as a contender for the 2016 Olympics on the first round of voting, followed in subsequent rounds by Madrid and Tokyo, leaving Rio as the winner, I wondered if the visions of Rio’s sugarplums in theit heads colored their votes.

Certainly, I do not know the answer to that question, and I doubt if even the judges themselves could explain their rationale. Oh, sure, they could provide reasons, such as “Rio’s presentation was the best of the lot.” But what is “best.” I have a hunch that the judges voted their preconceptions but we’ll never know. It’s a done deal. Why agonize over it?

Don’t get me wrong. Of course, I wanted Chicago to win. If Chicago won, I reasoned, America would win. I didn’t attach Barack Obama’s name to the matter in any sense. Even if Rush Limbaugh were president and supported the selection of Orange, Texas, I would still want the Olympics in the United States.

But if it came down to a vacation, I’d still opt for Rio.

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I’ll be moving on in a couple of days, leaving Maryland for Little Rock and from there to Oakland CA. I’ll miss MD and all of its tourist attractions, places like many Civil War battlefields, state and national wild horse preserves along the Atlantic, and, of course, Washington, D.C., a quick drive away with all of its past and present political signs and symbols that draw millions of visitors from around the world.

What will I do in Little Rock? Well, I won’t be staying in the city. I’ll land there on a Southwest Airlines flight out of Baltimore and immediately head for Hot Springs for a few days with a cousin. I expect to see a few sights, and I expect to tour a rice growing area on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River Delta where the rice harvest will be underway. Arkansas is one of the nation’s leading rice growing states, ranking right up there with Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and California.

I may also visit my cousin’s fifth-grade class. Kids at that age are still, as we used to say, bright eyed and bushy tailed. They are inquisitive creatures with eyes not yet worldly wise and jaded, eager for information and still somewhat respectful of their teachers and other adults. What will I tell those kids if they ask me questions? One thing I will not say is a negative word about anything. Some of them are probably the products of dysfunctional families and the last thing they will need is more negativity. I’ll probably restrict my classroom visit to covering topics about Maryland and Hawaii, accompanied by pictures, which illustrate the beauty of the Aloha State and the wild horses in Maryland. Such beautiful creatures! Every child ought to have an opportunity to see those magnificent animals up close.

My visit to AR will be short, and I’ll be off to Oakland in a few days. Once in the Bay Area, I’ll see my two sisters and a host of nieces and nephews. Will I set foot in San Francisco? I can’t say at this moment. True, I’d like to take a walk through City Hall and scope out the pols. I’d also like to prowl the area around Union Square, hoping to catch sight of a local celebrity or two. But my itinerary depends on my sisters. We will undoubtedly drive around some of the neighborhoods we lived in as kids and reminisce. There is a time for reminiscing and a time for politicians. I’ll think about the latter later.

From Oakland, I’ll return to Hawaii where I will settle some affairs remaining after the loss of my beloved. One of my major decisions will be the question of selling the house and living elsewhere. Should I or should I not? That is the question I’ve been thinking about on my trip. Texas? Maybe. Maryland? Maybe. Arkansas? No. California? Maybe. I know the state inside out and have relatives in both Northern and Southern Cal. Plus, I have a good buddy living in San Francisco who has invited me to share his pad. Tempting, but still, there’s an element of uncertainty in my mind, as if I’m missing something but can’t put my finger on it. I have a hunch I’ll resolve the issue soon. ‘Til then, as the Mills Brothers used to croon in perfect harmony, I’ll just hang around.

Ending with a pathetic imitation of author Alexandra Jones

The earth is old they say,
which no one denies.
They merely murder
one another
over the numbers.

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As a youngster, I thought nothing of moving from one place to another. In fact, I used to describe my itchiness as an overpowering desire “to be where I ain’t.” Any excuse was sufficient as a reason to head for new pastures, or to return to old ones, as the itch struck.

My wanderlust didn’t stop when we married. Not immediately anyway. Let me count the times I uprooted children from playmates and wife from a settled existence and her circle of friends: Oakland CA to San Rafael; San Rafael to Petaluma; Petaluma to Riverside; Riverside to Honolulu; Honolulu to Tracy CA; Tracy to Honolulu.

If my math is correct and my memory intact, that’s six times in about four years, not a large number, but those long-distance moves weren’t the whole story. Once we had settled in a new town, it wasn’t unusual for me to move from house to house on a whim.

But that still isn’t the whole story. I had a traveling job. It wasn’t unusual for me to spend 60 days at a whack in a single foreign country and then fly directly to another country for 30 days before returning home.

My life would have been wonderful for a single guy or gal, but when you’re married with children, complications can arise. Like the day I called home from the Philippines hoping for a nice chat with my wife only to be met by a breathless daughter who said without preamble, “Dad, I quit college.” She later finished, but that short sentence almost gave me a heart attack and forced me to reexamine my lifestyle.

I gave up traveling and moving around, but I failed miserably when it came to dreaming and talking. If I casually mentioned another location, my family would become agitated. They’d mill around, and one of the girls would say something like, “Mom, Dad wants to move!”

The fear in them was there for anyone to see, but I didn’t. I think the turning point came when, after one of my rambling monologue about “new pastures,” a daughter asked plaintively, “What about me,” obviously anxious about the possibility we would leave her behind.

Throughout this period, my wife tolerated my behavior, but she didn’t offer overt criticism. That wasn’t her way. Rather, she continued to work, smiling and pleasant as usual but with an unmistakable coolness until I shut up. She was always very effective when it came to guiding me in the “right” direction.

Over time, the girls left home to establish their own careers and families. My wife and I often talked about finding a nice retirement spot but that’s as far as it went. We were comfortable here and my desire “to be where I ain’t” had faded away.

Then, the unexpected unexpectedly happened. She passed away so suddenly that it absolutely stunned me. At first, I panicked. With the help of two of our daughters and a son in law, we packed up some stuff and headed for the airport, leaving the house under the watchful eye of a police officer friend who lived next door.

In these moments of panic, I had visions of moving permanently but that goal shifted and I decided to spend some time in Tejas, Annapolis, and the Bay Area, with side trips to garden spots like Reno, Lovelock (where my mother lived in another age), and Winnemucca.

But even that plan changed as I found myself wanting with all of my heart to return to the home where all of my memories of her resided. I’ll return, of course, but will I stay or will I once again want “to be where I ain’t?”

I have a hunch that her spirit in the family home is the power that will hold me there until I join her. When that happens, I’ll never again want to be where I ain’t. She planned it that way.

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Sometime next week, if all goes as planned, I’ll file my first dispatch from Texas. I am leaving this Friday with my daughter to spend some time sorting out my life and thinking about my time with my beloved.

I’ll be in the extreme Southeast corner of Texas where nothing moves except alligators and oil tankers sliding imperceptibly along an Inland Waterway canal to unload their cargo of Middle Eastern oil at Texas refineries in and around Port Arthur.

I’ve been to PA and Nederland (pronounced Neederland) several times and for someone who has lived in exciting places like Petaluma CA, Southeast Texas may prove a challenge. I’ll probably spend a lot of time in WalMart and IHop, counting the cans of black-eyed peas per square foot and gorging on pancakes and maple syrup.

Then, if life really slows down, I may sit on the back porch and watch the squirrels scamper through pecan trees (that’s pronounced pee can, as in two words).

This may or may not sound humorous, but it’s my best effort at the moment to take my mind away from reality. Once I achieve some sort of emotional balance, then I’ll take on the task of deciding where I want to be on a more permanent basis.

Until that time rolls around, my posts may be erratic and speak of an instability that would make the the Twilight Zone appear as sane as the Bush White House.

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