flying

I flew Delta from LAX to Minneapolis to Hartford . Red eye special . Good arrival time for my friend to pick me up , except that I got confused on the day . The day I flew in he had a gig and had to pick me up a little later . I waited in an airport bar and had a couple of expensive airport beers ,  local Connecticut stuff .

Now I’m home again . Same flight in reverse , except that this time it wasn’t a red eye .

Three hours in Minneapolis . Coming in from L.A. , I saw snow covering the parking structures outside . On the return trip , two weeks later ,  no snow . The airport is stretched out along endless concourses . Concourses . When do you walk concourses  outside of airports ? Am I missing something ? There are moving sidewalks and a tram .  Endless concourses . Food courts . Shops .  WiFi access .

I had a few mini-bottles of Scotch in my carry-on bag . They’re allowed . My friend Willie told me that last year . He gave me a couple of them to test his statement . No problem .  I showed them to the snoops , thinking that they might confiscate them . No . Willie was right .scotch

To order the same shot of Scotch during the flight would have cost me seven dollars , I think . Drinking one of the bottles during the flight I felt as if I were now out of the red , outsmarting Delta , pushing the envelope . The little bottles cost only 99 cents in Connecticut .  If I had had a few more mini-bottles I’d be sitting pretty , ahead of the game , actually beginning to show a profit . Well , almost   .

I once went from Berlin to London on Ryan Airlines . Ryan , if I remember correctly ,was the airline that seriously considered charging a fee to use the restroom . Nice .I would have gone broke .  I got to the Berlin Airport , Freuninggulingen ……., no Shaeuftshaffen ……. no Sheinifeld ? , Shoenefeld ? , at six in the morning . I had come from Poland by taxi that morning . Got there overly early , as is my way .WWI air ambulance

I was second in line . We were the only two customers to have arrived so early for the flight .  I had one bag to check . There were two conveyor belts moving luggage along : to London  and to  Ankara . I didn’t see the clerk put my lonely bag on the Ankara belt . I should have been watching , I guess . When I got to London I had no clothes . 10 days in England and no  clothes other than what I was wearing . I won’t tell you the whole sad story . My bag met me in London on the 10th day , having , I assume , enjoyed its own vacation in Turkey . We flew back to Berlin together , but we didn’t talk to each other the entire flight .

Another Berlin to London flight on British Airways was exciting after the pilot announced  over the scratchy PA system that he thought the landing gear was stuck . We were going to have to go in on our shiney sleek aluminum belly . The pilot’s voice was almost inaudible and he had a heavy English accent . One of the many . Dorset , maybe . Rs everywhere . Like old movie pirates :  Aarrh , matey ! Wharr yer headin’ ? Shiver me timbers !  Emarrgency vehicles aarrh be preparrhin’ fer arrh landin’  . Aarh.sign el monte airport

The plane was full of Germans . I , a native English speaker , was barely getting what the pilot was saying . I didn’t think that many of the Germans got much of it . But , on the other hand , maybe they had learned English from the English . Good possibility that they understood a lot more than I did , now that I think of it .

When we approached Gatwick , or was it Heathrow ? , the emergency vehicles were lined up along the runway . There were plenty of them : fire trucks , ambulances , police , hearses . Well , maybe not hearses .   I had confidence in the pilot and the plane . I don’t think anyone else in the plane could say the same , judging by their panicked expressions . Those pilots , highly trained ,  could slide it in on its fusilage belly .

Buckle your seat belt ; it’s gonna be a bumpy ride . airplane seat belt

But the landing gear came down and we all rolled to a stop .  Anticlimatic . I’m not complaining .  Billy Bob Thornton said ,” I’m not afraid of flying . I’m afraid of crashing . ”   That about sums it up .

About these English accents :

Ada and I flew from LAX to London once and I had arranged , in advance ,a rental car from the airport . I never sleep on flights and by the time we reached the car rental desk in London I was exhausted . I couldn’t , for the life of me , understand what the English girl at the counter was telling me . It was a Friday . I thought that she was telling me that my car wouldn’t be available until Monday . She wasn’t , of course . She was trying to tell me that my car would be a Mondeo .  I was losing my temper .

” Not Monday !” I said . ” Now “england

Ada had to translate . Mediate . Ada grew up in Poland .

” Tell him…” the English girl would say .

” Tell her ….” I would say .

Oh.  The car is called Mondeo. Nothing about Monday . It’s waiting for us . Oh . O.K. Why didn’t she say so ?mondeo

I don’t mind flying much . Once in awhile . It’s quick once you leave the ground .  Gets you places you might not otherwise go . Somewhat uncomfortable . Never enough leg room . And they always remind you how a seat belt works ; they show you ; give a demonstration . That comes in handy because sometimes , if you haven’t used one in a few hours , you might have forgotten .

Sometimes you should bring along an English-American dictionary , or , at least a phrase book . Several English speakers from various corners of the earth learned English English from the English . Beware .  And consider bringing  some little bottles of booze . If nothing else , it gives you a sense that you’re getting away with something .  Even if you’re not a drinker bring some  —– trade one  for a few more tiny bags of peanuts or pretzels . If you ride Ryan Air , bribe the stewardess to use the head without paying the fee . Endless possibilities . Endless.illustration 3

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In Remembrance : June Tabor – The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

The Immortal Jukebox

In 1914 they came from the hamlets and the villages and the towns and the cities.

They came from the hills and the mountains and the valleys.

Farmers and miners.

Teachers and doctors.

White, Brown and Black.

They  marched away from Home with smiles on their faces.

They knew they would be Home again soon.

Today it is exactly 100 years since the guns fell silent ending World War One.

The emotional, spiritual, pyschic and cultural cost of such a war is beyond all human calculation.

A cataclysm shattering hearts and minds.

Shattering philosophies and faiths.

Shattering nations and societies.

Shattering hopes and dreams.

Shattering comfortable certainties..

The toll in terms of deaths and casualties we can, in awe, to some extent number.

From Australia : Lieutenant Joseph Balfe from Brunswick aged 25 and more than 62, 000 of his comrades.

From Canada : Private Percy Bark aged 18 and…

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veterans day

WWI soldiersEveryday Life of Soldiers during WWII (22)

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WW II soldiers

us soldier mocks hitlerVietnam War (3)

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that’s not appropriate

A friend and colleague of mine died several years ago . He had a brain tumor when he was in his early twenties and doctors told him he had only a few months left to live , so he quit his job , put his race car on blocks , gave his guitar to his sister , and he journeyed around the world .guitar player 1934

I met him several years later . He and I were both teaching . He taught English, played guitar , looked in on his old race car in the garage once in awhile , probably with some deep wistfulness , and liked to have a beer after work once in awhile .

And then , I guess , the tumor finally caught up with him all those many years later , and he passed away quietly one day after work .

His sister held a wake for him at the house that he and she had shared . It was a sun-shiny day and people told tales of the guy at the gathering in his backyard. The garage door was open so that the race car he once had driven could share in the festivities . It was a celebration of a life , as they say .POLAND JUNE 2017 Willie,etc. 347

I wore a music-related T-shirt that had a band pictured on the front. My friend loved music and , although I don’t now remember what band it was pictured on my shirt , it was probably one of his favorites . He would have appreciated that .

The principal of my school showed up at the wake . She hadn’t really known my friend , but she took it upon herself to take me aside for a moment  to admonish me about the propriety of wearing a T-shirt like that on  such an occasion . ” That shirt is not appropriate , ” she said .

So I told her that my dead friend had loved music and that I’d known him well enough to know that he would have loved my shirt and that she hadn’t known him and so , therefore , she should keep her uninformed opinions to herself. To dish out such advice ” is inappropriate , ” I told her ” on such an occasion as this . “She huffed a little bit and puffed a little bit and walked away .

I was telling this story to a former school administrator friend of mine a few days ago . ” So that’s why you have a sour attitude toward administrators , ” he said . He’s heard several of my administrator stories . ” You’ve run into some bad ones , ” he said . Yeah.

I wonder what ever happened to that race car . I bet his sister kept it in the garage . It’s probably still there . People in the back yard that afternoon were amazed that he used to race cars . He didn’t seem like the type . Some people knew that he loved music ; some didn’t . I remember his stories about south sea islands that he had visited during a time when when he was sure that  he was soon on his way out of this world .

Most people , I think , knew him as the reserved and slightly odd English teacher in room 301. We all have our stories .

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my grave

I went out yesterday to look at my grave . It was a clear , beautiful day . I’m in the Liberty section at Forest Lawn in Glendale. What a peaceful place , really .

My grave is on a hill that overlooks what I guess is Eagle Rock , Glassell Park , and toward downtown L.A. The top of the downtown skyline is visible. It’s an impressive panorama . I suppose I could say that I’d be able to spend eternity gazing at such a spectacular view from my hilltop perch , but of course I’d be buried several feet underground .

If you came to visit me , though , you could enjoy the view .

I got the plot ( actually two plots ) for a fifteen dollar transfer fee . My ex-wife  gifted them to me when she was on the brink of moving to England . I guess she realized that they wouldn’t do her much good so far away. I don’t think she was thinking how valuable these little hilltop properties were . If she did she wouldn’t have let them go so easily . Not to me .

She was gifted them from a cranky old woman who’d purchased them in 1933 and who , later , decided that she’d rather be buried back in her hometown in Kansas . Her name was Dorothy . Dorothy called the mailman ” weasel balls ” . She seemed always to be stepping across the border of feisty into nasty . I think she was irritated that she had lived so long . She was no doubt quite a gal in her time , but the world had moved on . She lived near Melrose and she’d lived there when Melrose was a dirt road and there were open hot springs nearby . ” They’re under a doctor’s office now “, she said.” But they’re still there ” .

I had to have the cemetery workers point out my plots to me . These guys  were happy to do it . I suppose they spent a lot of time doing that for people . I had a map given to me by the professionally serious suited man in the information booth at the entrance , but the map was worthless to me . Cemeteries seem to have an enigmatic number code that marks graves . To me the numbering system is subtle and dignified and indecipherable .

I haven’t decided to use my grave . Maybe , instead , I’ll be cremated and have my ashes spread out over the ocean , or over the Grand Canyon .  Maybe I’ll have someone sprinkle them over my Forest Lawn gravesite . The workers might see them and wonder.

If I have any consciousness at that moment I’ll laugh . My little gray ash pile will wobble and laugh .  The neighbor skeletons will have something to gossip about : when is the new guy going to move in ?

Maybe I’ll just sit on top of my grave and enjoy the spectacular view . There below is the old Van DeCamp Bakery building . There in the distance is the top of the Arco building. There’s the 2 freeway .

You go about your business . I’d invite you up , but you’d never find my grave .

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Ireland(the western world)

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IRELAND trip Oct.2018 465

IRELAND trip Oct.2018 252

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waterproof boots

I made sure that I had a good raincoat when I visited Ireland recently . I made sure that I wore waterproof boots , too. Sure.IRELAND trip Oct.2018 027IRELAND trip Oct.2018 062

I landed in Dublin and immediately took a bus from the airport across the country to Galway . My buddies who I would meet in Galway were all flying into Shannon airport , which is much closer to Galway , but it would have cost me significantly more to fly to Shannon than to Dublin . Contrary to what it may seem to the casual observer , based on my fine clothes and exquisite tastes , I am not made of money . The three hour bus ride across the country cost me only twenty Euro , so I figured I’d save a few bucks by flying to Dublin , and I’d get to see some of the country from the bus as part of  the bargain . Actually , I slept during most of the bus  journey , but that’s neither here nor there.

It didn’t rain the first day in Galway , and I scouted the place out . Two of my friends would arrive the next day , and another one a day later . And then it began to rain . It rained straight for the next two days .

I intentionally avoided puddles as we walked around the city , but my boots took on water anyway . They took on water  like the Titanic , like New Orleans during Katrina , like a really efficiently absorbent kitchen sponge . IRELAND trip Oct.2018 167

I spent part of my evenings with a hair dryer trying to dry the soaking things out . At one point the dryer stopped working . I tried every combination of setting and switching of the wall switches , crossing my fingers and throwing salt over my shoulder and all of that , but the hair dryer wouldn’t re-start so I took it to the manager of the B&B , who was doing some paper work in the kitchen. I had the hair dryer in my hand ; I was indicating to him that it didn’t work . He looked up to the top of my hairless head and his mouth began a little uncontrollable smile , but he made no comment .  He found me another hair dryer as I calmly explained to him my soggy shoe problem .   I’m sure he’s encountered all sorts of situations in his business . He handed me the replacement dryer with an expanding smile but still without comment . IRELAND trip Oct.2018 118

The manager had handed the non-working hair dryer to a woman employee who had sauntered into the kitchen . She immediately plugged the thing into the wall and switched it on . It whirred instantly into life .  ” It works ,” she announced , unnecessarily. She looked from me to her boss with a look on her face that suggested that this American guy may have  recently escaped from the looney bin . The manager’s smile stretched just a tiny bit wider across his face , but he remained silent .

We were lucky , though . Over the next two weeks of our wandering around the west of Ireland , the rain came only briefly once or twice . My soggy boots slowly dried out  and all was well with the world . Well , that might be a slight exaggeration , but you know what I mean.

I saw boots like mine on sale in a shop window  in Limerick . I decided to walk in there to discuss my problem . The kind and knowledgeable shopkeeper discussed the issue with me at length . He had some solid advice and gave me plenty of shoe information . It was a good brand , he said , but this model might just have been a lemon . It happens with cars and it happens with shoes , he said . He knew shoes , which in and of itself made it worthwhile for me to have gone into that shop . I’m sure that he’s encountered all kinds of situations in his business .

He had a good pair of boots on that he walked to and from work in . ” You’ve got to have waterproof shoes in Ireland ,” he said . I knew that already .

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irish connections

My friend Willie bought an Irish hat in Galway that blew off his head in any moderate wind . We spent several days on the west coast of Ireland and  winds there are often and usually more than moderate. The Irish wind  spares no one’s hat .IRELAND trip Oct.2018 290.JPG

So , Willie being an independent sort , and me being a loyal friend , the two of us set out to buy a needle and thread so that he could sew the hat band  a little tighter . What else are you going to do while in Ireland ? We found a package of needle and thread in a shop . It was priced at two Euros , which I thought was fair enough and we most likely wouldn’t find cheaper . It had a small scissors in the package , though , and Willie already had a scissors in his luggage , so he was poo-pooing the two Euro package . ” Too much ,” he said , ” I don’t need all of that ! ”

Well , it’s not my hat that needed fixing , and it’s not going to be me doing the sewing , and so I went along with Willie’s idea to hunt a little further around the town of Ennis for a needle and thread . One should always hold on to one’s dreams , I think , no matter how improbable they might seem to be at the moment . So we set out for another shop that would have exactly what he wanted and would , presumably , cost him less than two Euros . Hope springs eternal. IRELAND trip Oct.2018 051.JPG

We passed a small fabric shop with a brightly-colored front . See , I pay attention and actually have an idea or two pass through my skull from time to time and I told Willie that we should go in there and ask where we might buy a needle and thread . They would know . They might even be willing to give us some good advice and point us in the right direction , or maybe they’d tell Willie that he should just go back and buy the two- Euro needle and thread . He could donate the unneeded scissors to charity . So what , he might wind up with a year’s worth of thread . It’s not the end of the world . Maybe they’d talk sense into him , tell him what I considered telling him but didn’t .

Two ladies ran the shop . Willie explained his problem  . They suggested velcro . One of the women hurried upstairs and returned with a long band of velcro . They conferred with one another , cut a short length of velcro , and stuck it to the band of the hat .

Willie tried on the hat . The velcro idea was a bust . It didn’t hold the hat tighter on his head . I suggested that they stick a bit of velcro to the back of Willie’s head and another to the inside of the hat . “That would work “. With that one of them asked if Willie and I were brothers.

The other  woman said something lightly like , ” With friends like that ,” and , undeterred , the diligent duo immediately suggested another possible solution to the loose hat dilemma  . One of the women hurried upstairs again . She returned with a short length of stretchy material and she set about sewing each end of that to the back of the hat band.

That worked like a charm . Everyone smiled .

” You must have Irish connections ,” the older woman said to me . Willie told her , yeah , he does , and told her my last name . Oh , by coincidence she had the same last name . “Only by marriage , though” she said , almost as if her husband was probably not the apple in her eye . Well , you shouldn’t blame me for that , I thought . I’ve lost track of the multitude of the Irish cousins , what they’re doing these days ,  who they’re married too , and all of that . She seemed happy to have met me nevertheless .

Ten or fifteen minutes later we left the little fabric shop . The two Irish shopkeepers didn’t want to be paid for their efforts , but Willie gave them a couple of Euros as a tip . ” I’d feel guilty if I didn’t ” , he told them . Outside of the shop he told me that he thought that they’d surely understand guilt , living in a Catholic country . Maybe . Dan in Limerick (1).JPG

” I want a finder’s fee , ” I said , since I had found the shop and suggested that we go in there . He thought that I was kidding , I guess , and he gave me nothing . We had a good story to tell though , so it was all worth it .

Willie’s hat stayed on in a moderate wind after that .

Near the Irish coast , though , at least in the rugged west , the winds like to come across  stronger than merely moderate . The rain goes sideways in Ireland  , too , so umbrella use is  a useless notion. Years ago I tried wearing a rainproof poncho . Bad idea ! My poncho became a sail , flying high up around my shoulders and face  as the rain soaked the rest of me . This time on the old sod  I had a good raincoat , and I wore a wool cap that wouldn’t fly off  (unlike my friend’s cap) .

” We have to go back to Ennis to see those ladies,” Willie told me  . Too late . Too late . Life moves along .

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