Joyful Sadness

Joyful Sadness

I am sad. Memories half-remembered have filled my dreams; sometimes coalescing into brilliance. Fleeting though. The aftermath a sadness of recollection lost. Past loved ones slipping into the oblivion of eternal night. Intangible ghosts; tendrils of nothing. Daylight brings hope for remembrance. I shake at the acme of the day; the slope of night pulling me down. Dreaded delight at another journey of lost hope. A cold tear paid for a moment of sight.

And again.

England Swings

“England swings like a pendulum do. Bobbies on bicycles two by two…” – Roger Miller

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let’s face it. I’m a sucker for a big city. Perhaps I should hedge my bets on that statement though, since I’ve not been to them all. But cities such as New York, Paris, and now, London are all ticked off, and I am a happy boy to have had the pleasure to see them. Actually, even more to truly experience them. Not as a native though, I’m sure my exuberance would be tempered were I to have to commute by the Tube — or Metro, or Subway — to work every day. As a tourist, I try to avoid the Tube during rush hour. It’s a do unto others sort of thing.

London. Oh my, it’s all I can do to keep from using cliché British phrases whilst writing this (Oops). But back to London. A place I’ve known existed since I was a child. Being an avid reader — thanks mom and granny — I’ve had many an adventure in England, London, and a whole slew of other places. “The game is afoot”, Holmes said to a young Marvin, and in wide-eyed amazement I followed the great sleuth, even to his mysterious end. During this week, the legendary, and mysterious, city of London became much more real to me.

Me and the Tower Bridge

The places I’ve seen in my mind, or perhaps on the silver screen, came alive. Admiral Horatio Nelson in all his one-armed and one-eyed glory stood tall and proud in Trafalgar Square. Having read some of the Aubrey-Maturin series, by Patrick O’Brian, anything sea related from that period had such a romantic stir. You’ll know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen Master and Commander with Russell Crowe. Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hinde was another relic, though a replica, of another famous ship sailing out of my imagination. As a fellow who has himself been deemed worthy of the Order of Magellan, these figures loom large to me. Sadly you’ll have noticed that I digress much too often. Sorry. (Not sorry.)

On pomp and circumstance. The changing of the guard. When I was serving in the Navy, at first I actually liked all the marching and standing tall and such. But, when you get down to doing the job — a job sometimes entailing being up for thirty-six hours — and then having to pomp and circumstance, I grew weary of it. Looking back now I respect those things. There’s a stirring of the soul with much of this ceremony. And I felt it when I saw a couple of changing of the guard ceremonies. Wonderful. As a quick aside, much of this I saw whilst taking a walking tour arranged through AirBnB. Caroline’s Walking Tour of Central London. Alex was our guide, and what a guide he was. A Shakespearean actor, Alex spoke with directness and projected such an air of confidence and authenticity. It was lovely. During the changing of the horse guards, Alex told us the story of Charles I, Oliver Cromwell, and subsequently Charles II and the forming of this changing of the guard ceremony. The pomp and circumstance was alive and well, and wonderful. And the experience of London continues.

One of the Life Guard

As a quick aside, when I first met Alex, and the rest of the group, at Covent Garden, he started introducing us to a bit of English history. He showed us a picture of a rotund regal fellow, and asked, “do you know who this is?” I immediately sang a refrain from “Henry the VIII” by Herman’s Hermits. Everyone just looked at me, Alex saint, “uhhh, yes.”. Sigh. I’m old.

A “foolish consistency” may be a hobgoblin, but a routine is, to me, a calming ritual. I can’t speak for everyone — though I sometimes try to — but I seem to naturally seek and settle into routines. Especially morning routines. Keeps me from having to think too much… perhaps this is the hobgoblin of simple minds Emerson was speaking of, but it sure helps me ease into the day. My London trip routine was based on morning visits to Pret-A-Manger. A chain, yes. But the food offerings had a decidedly British bent. And in a recently watched Jame Acaster special on Netflix, which included a Pret-A-Manger theme, I felt no qualms heading here for my morning repast. And here serendipity struck again. The crew each morning were wonderful, helpful for the silly American (who just couldn’t quickly count the coins) they were patient, friendly, and so very helpful. On my last full day in London, after I mentioned I was flying back the next day, two of the baristas gave me my routine coffee free of charge. (Even after explaining on the offer of the second free coffee that I’d already had a free one, I got, “well, not from me.”) It’s simple acts like this that restore my respect for humanity.

My new “Pretty-A-Manger” friends.

And speaking of humanity, even in the mass of humanity that is central London, sometimes individuals stand out. Take Yeu-ing for example. On my first full day in London, as I headed out for a recon mission in fixing my new surroundings into my hippocampus, I met a lovely woman walking her dog. Wolfgang. Well, Wolfgang is the dog, Yeu-ing is the woman. And a friendly woman she was. She talked with me, and walked with me. Showing me the way to Waterloo station, and all the cool things thereabouts. The Hole in the Wall pub (which I tried to go back to once, but it was packed), among so much more.

Yeu-ing & Wolfgang

When I mentioned to Yeu-ing that I wanted to try so much of the delicious British foods, like the must-have fish & chips, she recommended the Fishcoteque, a great and traditional fish place. Which I visited for lunch that day. And delicious it was.

Tasty fish & chips

Having a guide, especially an impromptu freelance one, was wonderful. Walking with Yeu-ing I learned much about London proper. That is to say modern London with all its glorious and grimy bits. Along the way we sam a great many cool things. Take the Leake Street Arches for instance. Graffiti is illegal in London, Yeu-ing saying that it is taken quite seriously. But there is one place (at least) where graffiti is allowed. And this opportunity is certainly taken advantage of by the local creatives.

Entryway to cool art
Expression of creativity
Absolutely stunning

I met with Yeu-ing one more time, at the Kings Arms pub, where she gave me a book of poetry and works, and we chatted about England. An enlightening discussion where I learned so much of the ups and downs of London life.

At the King’s Arms

To recap, my London trip was totally satisfying. The Anglophile in me was more than content. And, as with every cool place I visit, my mind immediately went to, “now how can I manage to move here?!” Sigh. I always do this. After the discussion with Yeu-ing (remember the ups and downs) I harkened back to a quote from the mini-series Lonesome Dove. When Diane Lane’s character is waxing poetic about how great life is going to be when she gets to San Francisco, Robert Duval’s character responds, “Lorie darlin’, life in San Francisco, you see, is still just life. If you want any one thing too badly, it’s likely to turn out to be a disappointment.” There are too many things I want to see and experience in life. The wanderlust in me is strong, but oddly when wandering, the desire to set down roots, no matter how temporary, emerges. Who knows. Maybe one day those roots will actually take hold. But no matter, I will try to focus on the remainder of Robert Duval’s character’s quote, “The only healthy way to live life is to learn to like all the little everyday things, like a sip of good whiskey in the evening, a soft bed, a glass of buttermilk, or a feisty gentleman like myself”.

Peace and love. (And a little wanderlust as well)


Tin Soldiers

“Live not as though there were a thousand years ahead of you. Fate is at your elbow; make yourself good while life and power are still yours.”

Marcus Aurelius

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.”

Robert Herrick

“Poetry begins with a lump in the throat.” Yet life, the reality, typically ends this way. And always alone.

Robert Frost (with an addition by me)

This week was a long week, and I had gotten up pretty early Friday morning. As with most days, I had all sorts of ideas of what I’d do in the moments between end of work and lights out. Yet by around eight-thirty or so the siren call of sleep overtook me and I went to bed. Sleep came quickly, but then so did the racket. A little after ten, I awoke to a loud crash. I think residual parental instincts kicked in, and clad only in my boxers, I hurried into the main room of the house, which was decidedly dark, to find a person lying on the floor. Sleep continued to befuddle me, and at first I thought it was my son. But as I approached the person, I realized it… he… was too much too large to be my son. I said, loudly, “who are you!” Simultaneously, my son came rushing in the front door and shouted, “who the f**k are you!” Now really confused, but clearer thoughts starting coalesce all instincts fled. Finally. I realized I had an intruder!

My son and I are continuing to ask who this person is, a mumbled response of something sounding like “I’m Thomas”. Finally I started to come alive and turned on an overhead light to find an elderly man, apparently stone cold drunk, lying on my floor.And looking around I realized what the crash was. I have two glass shelves on each side of a low entertainment center on which I have some memorabilia. One shelf was leaning precariously on the furniture piece, resting against my wall-mounted TV. The knick knacks scattered to hell and gone. A cantaloupe sized piece of antler coral was now about orange sized with the rather prickly shards scattered about.

My elderly ‘guest’ was slowly rolling around on the floor, but not making much noise. My son had had the wherewithal to call 911, and I heard the conversation. Confusing. I’ve always heard, via documentaries and such, that emergency call centers keep the caller on the line purposely. I think this is a way to keep some control over the situation. And probably try to assess the actual details of the situation. One-sided snippets of the conversation seemed to be leading nowhere, “no we don’t know him. No, he doesn’t live here. No, we don’t know who he is.” My eyes were on the fellow on the floor, but my ears perked up when my son said, “yes, he’s wearing a red polo shirt, how did you know that?” What the hell is going on I thought!

Finally a police officer showed up. A very professional fellow. Our ‘guest’ still hadn’t revealed much. The policeman started asking questions. Good questions. “Good evening sir. Do you know where you are? What is your name? Where do you live? What year is it? Do you know who the president is?” All I had been able to come up with was a repeated, “who are you.” Yet the man, without hesitation, reeled off the answers. Including his address. Not really a spoiler, but his home and current location sure didn’t match.

The police officer was handling things pretty well. Lots of communication, conversations with dispatch, question the person on the floor. All done expertly. At one point the policeman requested a “forty-seven”, which I came to understand was an ambulance, or paramedic request. Then he turned to us. Now I was hearing a bit more. With each revelation from my son, I recalled hearing it during his 911 call. My son had arrived home about ten minutes before the crash that woke me, but hadn’t come inside yet. Because he was outside trying to put together a puzzling collection of evidence. Firstly there was a Prius out front (across the street) brights on, windows rolled down but air conditioner running full blast, and the car was beeping to hell and gone. Then really puzzling items. One of the lights lining my short driveway was broken and in the yard. And there were some artifacts on our front step. A hat, and one shoe. “I heard a crash, and thought oh no, someone is in the house!” My son told the police officer. “I then added, and it was the crash that woke me and I came into the living room.” Putting the pieces together didn’t really begin to solve anything. A puzzling mess. But most puzzles finally reach a solution.

Come to find out the police had already gotten a 911 call from a person about ten minutes before my son came home. Someone had found this man lying in our front yard. The man told the person that he lived here. So the person, no fault to her own, helped him inside. Now here is where you, or any other sane person would stop me and say… “umm. Marv. Didn’t you lock the door?” To which I would sheepishly reply. “Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, yes. But apparently thinking my son would be home soon, and just being dog tired I neglected to lock the door.” So. Yeah.

There is a fire station less than a mile from my house, so the paramedics showed up rather quickly. The questions started again. Including the “have you been drinking” question. The man constantly replied that he did not drink. He reeled off his address, his name, his birthdate. But when asked recent things, like “how the hell did you get here!” (emphasis mine) he stammered and couldn’t reply. The man did state that he was eighty-five years old. And now I know exactly what you’re thinking. I was beginning to think this too. Stroke.

At this point, EMS arrived and started attending to him. This was officially the most people who’ve ever been in my house. The policeman kept asking him questions. Turns out, and now is where the story turns sad, he was eighty-five, and when asked if he lived with anyone he replied that his wife of sixty-one years had died just three weeks ago. His daughter had just gone back to her home out-of-state to return to school. This poor man was now, for the first time, alone.

A gurney was brought in, and one of the paramedics slowly, and letting the man know before each step, sat him up. One of the EMTs then said, “my god this man is burning up!” Hard to imagine but they all got even more serious at this point. They gently put him on the gurney, graciously putting his one shoe and hat underneath. With a farewell, “well you’ve had an exciting Friday night,” the paramedics and EMS took the man out.

A few minutes later, the policemen and another who had joined him, came back in to complete the story. First though, they said that the lead EMT reported that the man had a temperature of a hundred and three! For an adult, this is, as most know, life threatening.

Finally time for the damage report. My knick knacks on the toppled shelf were mostly sea shells, fossils and minerals. (“Jesus, Marie, they’re minerals!”) The antler coral, as I mentioned earlier was badly damaged, but the disheartening damage was to my beloved TV. I’m a movie junkie. I have a wonderful sixty-five inch LG TV. When the shelf fell over, it cracked the TV screen. Ruined.

But by this point I was more concerned by the gentleman who had been on my floor. See, I noticed something when he was there. A big fat gold ring on one of his fingers. I recognized that ring from a distance. A military academy ring. That stuck in my head.

After everyone was gone, as you can imagine, I couldn’t sleep.So I searched for our interloper on the internet, he had been kind enough to give us all three of his names. The first thing I found was the obituary of his late wife. She had died in late July. Her survivors included her husband. A retired Captain of the USN.

It is not inconceivable that I could have met this man when I was a young whippersnapper in the Navy. Unlikely, but the time frames could have matched. But no matter. He had been vibrant. He, and his late wife, were most like a force to have been reckoned with. And yet he wound up writhing on my living room floor.

Yeah, I’m sad for the loss of my really cool TV. But it was this fellow lying on the floor. Everyone thinking of him as a damn drunk at first. I think the proper word is perspective. It’s about life. And as someone who has intentionally tried to take the “local” train through life, avoiding the express, I am startled to see the culmination we all have in our futures. This man had a high-grade fever. This affects the brain. The brain is the kernel of who and what we are. Our perceptions of, and realization of… well, reality are seated in this lump of gray matter. I believe, in the end, it’s inside this windowless room which is our skull where we exit. And we do so alone.

We human beings are an enigma. We can stand strong for a season and then we wither.

Peace and Love

New York, New York…

“We got rats on the west side, bed bugs uptown.” “Go ahead, bite the big apple, don’t mind the maggots,” and yet Jagger sums it up: “Pile it up, pile it up/pile it high on the platter.”

Shattered, Mick Jagger

“I love New York. You can pop out of the Underworld in Central Park, hail a taxi, head down Fifth Avenue with a giant hellhound loping behind you, and nobody even looks at you funny.”

Rick Riordan

“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.”

Tom Wolfe

“What’s the use of a great city having temptations if fellows don’t yield to them?”

P.G. Wodehouse, Carry on, Jeeves

What’s that? You’ve never had a dirty dog? What sort of plebe are you? I suppose we all remember our first. I certainly do. And it was terrific. Sorry, sort of turned down a blind alleyway off memory lane. But New York was one of those fantastic places I had heard of; a place that existed in books. How could such a place exist. Surely it must be down the same ethereal street as Shangri-La, El Dorado, or gasp Camelot. These places have loomed large in my mind since childhood. Peter Maas’ Frank Serpico described living in Brooklyn in such glorious detail, I could taste the fresh mozzarella. It was a place of magic as well. I mean why else would a sea of humanity cram itself out in the freezing cold just to count down to an arbitrary division of time?

These fantasy cities are similar, as memories, they are often disjointed, discreet, pieces of wildly vivid, and familiar, sights, sounds, and importance. Lady Liberty facing the sea, welcoming all. What a wondrous thing to exist. “Can I sell you a bridge?” Ahh, the Brooklyn Bridge. Say no more. (Yet I will.) The first time you went to the top of the Empire State Building has to be a place fixed in multitudes of memories. Or, and this is one of my favorites, watching the face of a Times Square virgin as they come up out of the subway and see the extravagant splendor of a veritable day at night. I’m afraid this post would be much to long-winded if I were to name all these landmarks, but suffice it say, just as with all the mythical places. And indeed the landmarks are fixed places in space and time. Or so it seems. A somber visit to the World Trade Center memorial helps to bring reality home. Unlike true fantasy cities, this city is real. And what makes it real is the tendrils of reality interwoven between them. The seedy sides, the soft sides, the thriving humanity that truly makes this city.

By the glistening bicep of Thor! Yes, Thor’s bicep is indeed glorious, yet it’s nothing without the sinews and ligaments holding it in place, and allowing it to do its superheroing. And as such, how could anyone write about New York without mentioning the sinew that holds it together? The connecting ligaments which give it the strength to do its superheroing? The MTA. The Subway. Is it a blessing, or is it just something to put up with? “The ‘R’, or ‘Rarely’,” every New Yorker has a phrase to sum up his or her love/hate relationship with the subway. “What is this, a local?” Kenneth’s quip had meaning on that elevator, and this aspect of the city follows you everywhere. I have to admit, my visits to the city are infrequent enough that I tend to forget all the little lessons and shortcuts of subway travel. But then that sort of makes the refreshing of the layout even more fun. The subway may be packed, may be smelly (on occasion), and the hawkers can be quaint until they get a little too pushy. But I love it enough to wish this curse on my city. My god if there were a subway, or light-rail, in Nashville, I would definitely make a trip up there frequently. Who knows… it might even be magical.

I’d guess I should just say… it’s my kind of town.

Writing… winnowing out the packing peanuts

“Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing
“So many large words, as though syllables will hide the truth” Sharon Mock, She Walks in Shadows
“Vigorous writing is concise.” Walter Strunk Jr.
As a software person, I try to keep aware of the technologies available to me. Whether I choose to use them or not. Part of my awareness program is reading articles and white papers. One issue I find, more often than not, is superfluous and, often, hyperbolic text jammed around the meat of what I need to consume. For instance, I am reading more and more about something called NoSQL databases. I am aware of what they are, and generally enough of how they work. But I’m trying to make clear to myself when and where one would choose this form of database. Almost every article I read has so much fluff surrounding the core thesis, it makes it difficult to find the “bullet points” I need. Things such as, “in response to the voluminous rise of chaotic data”, or “the original design of relational databases do not meet the exponentially growing needs of scaling and agility of modern applications.” I have purposefully altered the text so no one source will stand out. It is often exasperating to try to find the information inside all this hyperbolic jargon. And yet, I am guilty of the same thing.
When I write for pleasure, mostly fiction, I find quite often my eyes straying to the word count. “Cool, almost a thousand words so far in my short story!” Yet after allowing my fevered brain to cool off a bit and re-read the story, I typically find no single thread of my original plot line, and so many tangental strays it’s hard to count them. My dilemma then is, do I just command-a and delete, or spend the time trying to sort the whole mess out. The former is usually the best choice. Hemingway said, “write drunk, and edit sober.” Sadly my sober writing self makes my editor self need a drink.
Writers write. Or so my lizard brain tends to think. Therefore if I want to be a writer, then by god I need to write. Words. Lots of them. That there is writing wouldn’t ya’ say? Hmmm. Maybe not. Think of when you get that couch-sized box delivered, and after tearing into it you find a single pen you’ve ordered… buried somewhere in millions of packing peanuts. And you think, *jeez, what a total waste.* That’s the fluff. That’s the purple prose. That’s the useless crap that gets in the way of what you really need. And if I can just sit back for a minute and sip a mint julep (well Ernest, I guess I won’t be editing now) and just remember what it is I love, and have so loved, about reading, I’ll most likely notice it is the “S” word. The story. Oh yeah, I’ve heard of those. Tolkien drew me into a wonderful fantasy world filled with darkness, but then pulled back a curtain to show the spark of joy and hope that can be gleaned from even the darkest of nights. Bradbury, Clark, Heinlein, and so many others blew my mind out of the stratosphere, and showed me the marvels of the universe. And the universe’s perils. Donaldson tripped my brain on other worlds where everything I thought I knew was turned on its head. And a protagonist who often acted as the converse. “Why?!” I’d shout in my head as Halfhand did some other horrible thing. The more words the better? No, not really. Yep, it’s the stories, not the words. Well, sort of. Words are the communication medium writers use to give us the story. But the greatest writers, the ones we want to read anyway, are the ones who tune these worded stories to a razor’s edge (another great story) to slip us into his or her vision. It’s like a radio signal to our brain, and no static at all. So all you writers (including tech writers), take note. Leave out the fluff, tune us in, and we’ll tap our foot to your tune with no static. At all.
Peace, love, and light.

Café Culture – The Reminiscence


Geneva 2013 Pub

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” – Ernest Hemingway

“Paris is always a good idea.” – Audrey Hepburn

“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life.” Thomas Jefferson

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller

It’s been five years since I’ve set foot on the European continent. And I miss it more and more every second of every day. My first trip to Europe, France in 2011, was momentous, mesmerizing, and eye-opening. When I came home to the states, a friend stopped me on the street and marveled at how I’d changed. And I had. The old country of Europe had left its mark on me.

French Farmers Market

I recall marveling at the daily (or at least frequent during my visit) fresh farmers’ markets on the streets of Paris, where folks would by today’s meal. I think it’s funny how in the past decade farmer’s markets have become the “thing” here in the states. But has been a regular thing in Europe. I recall eating something in the airport when I first returned to the states, and I felt ill afterwards. Probably psychosomatic, but I felt it nonetheless. France is known for its culinary prowess, but I feel that extends beyond the “haute cuisine” restaurants, and filters into everyday people’s lives. One of the reasons for my visit to France was to visit my son, who was studying at the Université d’Orléans as part of his French degree. Whilst there he stayed with a host family, and I was privileged enough to be able to stay with them. Meeting his host family was one of the greatest events in my life. I have since remained friends with them, and look forward to visiting them again someday. But during my initial visit, one thing which struck me was the common trend of fresh foods and the “event” of the meal. Several times, we had dinner events which included the quintessential multiple courses, with drink appropriate for each course, including German beer for the sausage and kraut course. This has stayed with me ever since. And though I don’t practice this, it remains such a prominent memory.

I’m a weird cat, in more ways than one, but for each of my visits to France, I’ve focused more on the beers than the wines. Yeah, I know… a missed opportunity. Well, I look at it as a reason to return. But the beers. My beer of choice these days is Stella, and this could possibly stem from my France visits. Beer and coffee, two of my favorite drinks to enjoy as I enjoyed all the France had to offer. You may have thought I’d gotten off topic, and you’re actually right… I did digress a bit with French foods, but here we are. Sipping a nice drink outside a typical French brasserie as I watched life go by was wonderful. And knowing I had the options of delicious French foods waiting was the reason for my digression. And I will not apologize! As I’m typing this missive, I’ve had a gentle epiphany. I’m really a simple fella. I do like haute cuisine, but the basics are more than enough for me. Give me a beer and something like the common French café and brasserie treat of  “steak frites” and I’m happy.

Steak frites Paris

What is it I like about the café culture? Mostly what is missing here in the states. Though there are instances of sidewalk cafés here, they are the exception more than the rule. One exception is a cigar bar here in Murfreesboro, unbelievably they are allowed to have beer and cigars right there on the sidewalk! And I can sit there and watch the small world of Murfreesboro go by. Quite enjoyable. These exceptions here though, are the rule in France/Europe (the parts of Europe I’ve visited). And one of the main reasons I go there.

1664 in Paris

À votre santé!

Paix et aime mes amis !!

The Sun Also Rises

“You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch.”
It’s sort of what we have instead of God.”
“Some people have God,” I said. “Quite a lot.”
“He never worked very well with me.”
“Should we have another martini?” – Lady Ashley and Jake Barnes.

A novel by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s “roman à clef” of his post-war years in Paris. Where he mixed with his fellow members of the Lost Generation. I feel Hemingway was juxtaposing the romanticized lifestyle of himself and his fellow expatriates. A wafting energy against the immutable landscape of Europe. A Europe which seemed to be the very picture of the unchanging earth. The fiesta in Spain with its annual celebrants, risking, and sometimes realizing, death for sport in the running of the bulls. Immersed in everlasting tradition, this little group of lost souls, lost to the scene around them and lost to each other, with Jake Barnes being one who can see a bit of both.

The original working title for the story was Fiesta, but after consideration, Hemingway changed the title to The Sun Also Rises, based on a quotation from Ecclesiastes: “What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.”

For my part, there was a feeling of melancholy while reading this book. Many of the characters seemed to act out, but I felt they were doing so because they were indeed trying to find a path. Lost, but for a myriad of reasons. And when they came together there was almost this continual scraping of the veneer of social graces… revealing the true nature beneath.

I greatly enjoyed reading this book. Hemingway has a way of showing us real people; without all the trappings of normalcy, but rather who these people really are.


“Police work wouldn’t be possible without coffee,” Wallander said.
“No work would be possible without coffee.”
They pondered the importance of coffee in silence.”
– Henning Mankell, One Step Behind

“People always leave traces. No person is without a shadow.”
– Henning Mankell, The Troubled Man

“‎Not having time for a person, not being able to sit in silence together with somebody, that’s the same as rejecting them, as being scornful about them.”
– Henning Mankell, The White Lioness

“The stories I create are never as awful as reality.”
– Henning Mankell

I have been watching the Wallander series for several years now. I recall, whilst on a British crime drama bent, finding this series, and becoming so enraptured with Kenneth Branagh’s performance as a middle-aged (+) Swedish detective, with whom I could do easily relate. After the first couple of shows, I looked up the  writer, and started reading, voraciously I might add, all of his work. Well, the Wallander work. I was not disappointed by either the novels, nor the BBC’s depictions of the the novels.

One funny thing about the BBC production I noticed is that instead of trying to adapt the production to Sweden, or the setting of the stories to Britain, the production simply compromised: Set in Sweden, but totally in a British language and accent. Yet the signs, newspapers, and documents are in Swedish. I kind of like that.

When I first started the series, it was after I had watched Marvel’s Thor movies, and Tom Hiddleston, who plays Loki in the Thor movies, is in the first few series of this show. As a fan of Loki/Hiddleston, that did help to draw me in. Another thing is that since this is a BBC production, there are several British actors whom I see in this. Such as Nicholas Hoult, and more. Much fun to see them in this series.

But to the point, Wallander is a character I can relate to. He is at a point in his life where he has achieved some modicum of success. But he is keenly aware of his faults. His failures. He’s aging, and feeling it, yet he still has the intuition which has guided him in his life. He’s no spring chicken, but he’s certainly not out of the game. An interesting thing with the show is Wallander’s ring tone on his “flip phone”.  In the internet age, it’s a definite throwback. A man struggling to embrace the future, but hanging on the past. In one episode his daughter creates an online dating profile for him, but it seems the best he can do is check the email that comes in. Wallander is a force of nature, yet an anachronism. But, in true dramatic fashion, Wallander finds the way. Wallander solves the  crime. Often haltingly, and definitely not in an elegant fashion, but he does solve the crime. And that… I like.

Series one through three are amazing. I’ve just started series four, and the one episode I’ve seen was good, but I believe there is something missing. I’ll report back my later findings.

Peace and love.


Life is amazing.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” – Lao Tzu

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

And so it is with mine, Life that is. I have found myself experiencing quite a few “I never would have thought I would be…” moments in the past few years. Most, but not all, have been associated with travel; and what moments of travel I have experienced. During my younger years I had the opportunity to, quite literally, travel around the world. This early travel was all on Uncle Sam’s dime, hell I even got paid. This came with a trade off though: I went where the Navy took me, and sometimes I didn’t get much liberty — time off from work– whilst there. For instance, I was fortunate enough to visit Auckland New Zealand but I only had a day and a half of liberty… and this wasn’t contiguous. Having said all of this, I think the worst part of traveling when I was young, and I’m only speaking for myself here, not all young people, was that I was young and pretty much dumb. Not stupid, I think I’m a reasonably intelligent fellow, but boy was I dumb. With this dumbness was a generally diminished realization of just how awesome it was to be where I was. But I was still there, and I’m happy with that.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still kind of dumb. But I think I am much more aware of some of the awesomeness happening to me. Which leads me to this amazing travel I’ve had the pleasure to experience the past few years. In 2011 I visited Europe, France in particular, for the first time, and it was… dare I say it? Amazing. I made some good friends whilst there, and look forward to going back again. Then in 2013 I went back to Europe. This time I experienced Geneva Switzerland and got to visit CERN. Thank you Jim, and Terrah. What a breath taking experience. (Oh look, a different superlative!) Followed up with a visit to my French Friends and a fun-filled trip to their chalet in southeastern France. Thank you Claude, and Martine. And now, on to this year. In May of 2015 I visited my eldest son, Ethan, who is teaching English in Seoul Korea. One of the great things about visiting someone who lives in the location is that you get an even more in depth, and immersed, experience of the locality. This is what happened in Korea. I was able to stay in the “thick” of the action in Bucheon, near Seoul, and experience the local culture with some wonderful guides. Thank you to Ethan, Hana, and Hyesun. As if that were not enough, this trip also included a nice, though short, trip to Kyoto Japan. I honestly cannot think of a superlative that properly conveys the feeling of awe I have when I reminisce about this trip. Amazing just doesn’t even come close.

All of this rambling has led me to this point. In the past few years I have: mumbled, stammered, whispered (in awe), and otherwise exclaimed, “I never, ever, would have thought I would be here.” While staring off into the, relatively short, distance at the North Korean flag; hiking to the top of a hill (thank you Ethan for cajoling me onward and upward) to find a breathtaking vista at a temple overlooking Kyoto; riding the clean and speedy subway to the Seoul’s city center, and experiencing the juxtaposition of old and new Korea, with the looming mountains of Korea as a backdrop to the beautiful Gyeonbokgung palace adjacent to towering glass and steel buildings showcasing South Korea’s prosperity.

I never would have ever thought that I’d be the places I’ve been. And this leads me to wonder, “oh where oh where shall I go next?!” Where indeed.

Peace and Love to all.


The Rock Quarry

I have climbed Mount Everest. I have also climbed the Matterhorn. I have fought German Panzers advancing on Patton’s position. I have broken trail with Daniel Boone. And I have parlayed with the leaders of the Sioux nation whilst living amongst them as a mountain man. All within earshot of my mother calling me to dinner.

This place of magic and imagination was “the rock quarry”, a unique and wonderful throwback to a time of growth in the area. It was a place nestled in a juxtaposition of time, born in an era when life was much harder, and the fingerprints of pioneer technology were still evident. Yet this place existed in my modern childhood; a time of television, fast cars, and free-love — which I was too young for dammit.

In the early twentieth century the wave of westward expansion had swept over the area long ago. Knoxville’s river-city heyday had come and gone, and out in the country we were left with mostly just filling in the lines. The county I grew up in was ‘modernizing’ its infrastructure; building new roads, and improving some of the existing secondary roadways. A final gasp of its mule-powered muscles; mules and manpower in lieu of dump trucks and mechanical excavators, and without the means to haul the roadbed materials, the county dug quarries along the way. The use of local resources, both terrestrial and human, was necessary, and gave many of the locals a bit of profit. Sweat equity had a different meaning back then. The original purpose of these quarries was utilitarian, but by the time I came along that original purpose was gone, and for me it was a place of inspiration, challenge, and adventure.

Though my childhood was an amazing slice of time compared to the era when the rock quarry was born, it was pretty antiquated compared to life today. We had television, but could receive only two of Knoxville’s three stations. We received the third station, the station that broadcast Batman had just enough to barely make out Adam West as he pondered whatever superheroes ponder; this was a tease that bothered me to no end. I recall once during a futile attempt at adjusting the little flags of aluminum foil wrapped strategically around the rabbit ears I was able to make out “to the bat cave Robin”; which totally made my day. I believe I commanded my family *to the bat cave* for the next two weeks. Even with just two stations, there was still plenty of fodder for my imagination: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea; Lost in Space; Davy Crockett; and the updates to the Apollo missions amongst many. I did mention that regardless of my lack of television I did grow up in an amazing time didn’t I? Television and space exploration not withstanding, my solace and recreation was in comic books, and the  forest around my house.

My family lived in the ‘holler’. I have to be honest, it just sounds funny to call it the hollow even though geologically it is a hollow depression in the ridge, probably caused by the collapse of some ancient limestone cavern long ago. Still yet it was the holler to me, and to everyone I knew. At the time, our gravel driveway left the main roadway through a small meadow — beautiful, but prone to flooding — and across a homemade wooden bridge. This was the sort of bridge with broad braces on angled support poles with planks perpendicular to the braces creating runners for your tires. I can’t tell you how many people would take one look at that bridge and give a hearty “hell no.” (Most likely a “heck no”, we were in a good Baptist community after all.) Across the bridge, the driveway followed a brook, the “branch”, whose violent past had likely cut an easy path out of the holler and down into the valley. The driveway curved left and ascended up into the hollow… uh, I mean holler, and a couple dozen yards up, the quarry appeared on the left like a gaping cavity in the hillside. This cavity sloped slightly downward into a crescent-shaped cutout, and the floor of this cutout was carpeted with fine gravel – obviously these were the tailings of the quarrying operation. Though the quarry wasn’t actually very tall, maybe thirty feet at its zenith, still, the deeper you went into the cutout, the more you had to crane your neck to see the top of the quarry. Because of the topography of the hillside, the contours of the quarry’s height followed a sharp parabola. A wizened climber would have chosen one of the side routes to easily scamper up, but not the thrill-seeking adventurer such as I. No, for me it would be straight up the middle, with only the slightest meander around a protruding boulder and then latching onto the cedar tree that grew from a crack in a boulder face and up to the top of this escarpment I would spring. Sir Edmund Hillary himself could not have been more proud than I was on any of my many successful climbs. Standing at the top of the quarry my gaze was unhindered of the main road in the valley below. And it was here that I was indeed ‘King’ of my mountain. And it was here that my imagination would soar.

You may recall that the woods, and the quarry in the woods, were the place I could unleash my imagination, and the television shows I watched gave me inspiration, but so did comic books. I recall reading war comics like Sgt. Fury, and the Howling Commandos, I would devour these stories and then reenact them as soon as daylight came. A tobacco stick, or some other ‘mostly’ straight piece of wood served as my M1 carbine; or perhaps I’d break the stick a bit smaller and it would be my ‘Tommy gun’. For me it didn’t matter what story I was reliving, nor its source: comics, television shows, or even the encyclopedias I read with great enthusiasm, I could always find some place in the quarry to relive it. The large cracks in the rocks were my Crystal Cave, and I would either be the modern Floyd Collins (who met his death while exploring Mammoth Caves), or the fictional Merlin experiencing his historic visions in his Crystal Cave, or Sgt. Fury savoring his victory whilst chomping on a stogie. The rock quarry was everything and anything to my growing imagination.

Though my Everest was not so tall, and the Panzers and Germans were only in my mind, my imagination paved the way for many facets of my life; most of my successes, when thoughtfully analyzed, clearly show among their sources the spark of creativity that the rock quarry gave me. Erosion, encroaching development, and kudzu will slowly render my rock quarry into little more than a steeply sloped gravel pile, but it will remain a bastion of adventure for me. And for this I am eternally grateful.

Peace and Love.