Monthly Archives: June 2016

Americans in Szczecin update

cartoon bear carrying bucketsWithin the last few months NATO has doubled the military  force stationed in Szczecin . It’s part of the troop re-deployments in Poland and the Baltic states that has been referred to in places as  “poking the Russian bear “. The National Guard has been sent over here , too , for training with the Polish military .  In older times it might have been referred to , I think , as ” sabre rattling ” , but no one uses sabers much anymore , I suppose . Perhaps we need a whole new term for what seems to be the same age-old political / military mumbo-jumbo , macho  chest-thumping  , the flexing of national muscles and all that crap . Makes the generals feel needed , I suppose . russian ambassador

Mr. Putin , that Russian guy , is doing his own posturing crap , too , of course . His air force is bombing Syrians friendly to the U.S.  His aircraft have buzzed U.S ships , so close that the U.S.sailors can see the smiles on the faces of the  Russian airmen . And then there’s the Ukrainian invasion , of course . The NATO mobilization in Poland is said to be in response to that .

It’s always easier to get into a war than to get out . That’s a lesson evidently unlearned by world leaders . But , then again , no one has asked my opinion about it , so I’ll move on .

I’ve seen more Americans here in the city in the last week than I have seen in the twenty years  before this that I’ve been visiting Szczecin . The NATO base on the edge of town could be  overcrowded as it rushes to  expand . Groups of young soldiers are all over town now . I’ve seen them in restaurants , on the streets ,  and in the large shopping mall  here called ” Giant ” .  Two guys I spotted today were wearing “POLSKA” shirts and they looked pretty Polish , both Ada and I thought , but their American voices gave them away . dancing signal corps

I could tell these guys ( a few women , too ) where to get a good hamburger in town , and maybe give them a few pointers on local customs ,  but I’ll just let them be . In fact ,  I’m officially announcing the giving up of  my past policy of talking to any Americans I see in Szczecin . Yes ,  you heard it here . They’ll have to get by without my input  . Besides, my guess is , good hamburgers with all the trimmings are readily available at the NATO base . Now that I’m thinking of it , maybe I’ll go over there and ask .

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The rain started maybe an hour before the concert at Teatre Letni , an outdoor amphitheater in the park . Ada said that she thought it would stop before the performance , and she was right . It was pouring down , however , when we arrived , three hours before the event would start . We were there early because Ada and her friend were volunteering and they had to listen to their instructions .poland 5 2016 theater 023

I was hanging out backstage , a bit of a fish -out-of-water , trying to stay out of the way . At least I was out of the rain . The deal was that I’d get free admission because Ada was working the event ; but I’d have to wait until the box office opened , and the box office was in no hurry to open , as it happened .poland 5 2016 theater 020

There were to be eight tenors , each to sing a bit of operatic stuff . The audience would vote  their favorite . Each audience member would be  given a rose , and each rose represented the  person’s vote . Ada and the others in the black dresses and blue sashes would collect the roses and someone good at quick counting would talley the votes .poland 5 2016 theater 031

The philharmonic orchestra played . There were five  Polish singers  and three others , one from Greece , one from Chile , and one from  Mexico . I would’ve voted for the Chilean guy as being the best  , if I had voted . I left before the end of the whole thing , however . I’d hit my opera- tolerance threshold after the first half of the concert , although it had been an excellent performance and I’d enjoyed it .poland 5 2016 theater 044

The Chilean singer won the contest . He would have been my choice , too . Ada’s friend gave me a rose just before I left and I was told to take it home and put it in water . That’s how we get ourselves into trouble , keeping our votes to ourselves and letting others make the critical choices . It could have gone all wrong . poland 5 2016 theater 058

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Poland 3 2016 034Here we are in a harbor city in Poland . It was known as a shipbuilding town . sailboat 1893 Vigilant

When the Solidarity folks began their strikes in Gdansk , the shipyard workers here in Szczecin were doing the same . There is a fairly new Solidarity museum here that displays and explains the events which eventually led to the downfall of the Communist government in Poland . People were dying on the streets here in that time of protests , parades , strikes , and struggles . sailboat Carl 1880s

The huge shipyard in Szczecin , the Stocznia im Adolfa Warskiego , went bankrupt in later years .  Its rigs still stand high up into the sky as silent reminders of older times .  sailboat Hildegard 1900

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I decided to post some shots of more peaceful sailing . These pictures are from the 1880s to 1900 . There are plenty of pleasure boats sailing into Szczecin these days . I’ll take a few pictures of some of them and post them in the future . Maybe it will take your mind off of your troubles . sailboat Reaper 1892

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americans in szczecin

When I hear American or British voices in or around Szczecin , Poland, where Ada is from ,   I usually butt in and say something to the people . That seems to drive Ada crazy , but I think she’s learned to live with it .

Ada says the place is crawling with Americans , anyway . I’ve seen , with the three kids on the train who show up in one of the next paragraphs  counted ,  about eight around town . Well , add another five  . We’ll count our five friends who made it here  over the years to visit . No , six , when we consider our mechanic in Arcadia , who is a Polish guy . he came through last summer .  I’m talking about a period covering the last twenty or so  years . Well , add one more American , Herbie Hancock , who did a concert at the castle last summer . Now , what’s that total of Americans I’ve seen here ? Fifteen  ?  Sixteen .Poland 1 2016 June 006

I’m not saying that there are not more Americans around . There’s a big NATO base just outside of the city . The soldiers don’t seem to make it into the city much , though . We met the American wife of one of them a couple of years ago . Poland 1 2016 June 020

On the train from Berlin I heard the American voices of  three college-age kids sitting across from us . Turns out one of them is a student at USC . I’m a UCLA grad , but I still talked to her for a minute or two . Turns out we can just get along if we try .  They were doing some world travelling , soon to be on their way to London . They said they’d been in Berlin for a couple of days , had seen everything there was to see there , and  now were bored . Their plan was to visit Szczecin for two hours , a day trip ; then take the train  back to Berlin for a flight to London the next day .Poland 1 2016 June 035

Seemed a bit of an odd idea to me . The trip from Berlin to Szczecin takes at least two hours . As luck would have it , rain would accompany them for those two hours , and would soon after that  stop . Rain does that sometimes ; has a mind of its own .

Rain can be mischievous when it wants to . Several years ago a friend of mine and his girl friend planned a one-day trip over to Szczecin from Sweden . That morning it began to rain . I assured them that the rain would stop in an hour or two . I had an interesting and extensive  walking tour planned. Pelted with rain , however ,  they wanted to buy umbrellas , but I assured them that the rain would stop . Don’t worry , I said , it’ll soon stop  . I know these things .Poland 3 2016 007

It didn’t stop , of course . It hadn’t rained in Szczecin in several days before their visit . It didn’t rain again for several days afterward , but the day of their visit  rain harassed us  throughout the entire  day  without a minute’s break . What can you do !  Our walking trip had to be  modified a bit .Poland 3 2016 019

I don’t know what three strangers might do in a strange city for a mere two hours in the rain . Well , on the other hand , if these kids managed to see everything there is to see in Berlin in two days , then I suppose they’ll see Poland in the two hours allotted  and be ready to move on to other countries . Poland 3 2016 002

They told us that they were bored in  Berlin after two days  . Ada and I still can’t quite wrap our heads around that one . But , to each his own , and all power to them . At least they’re out there looking . Poland 3 2016 005


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the world ; a short summary

Last year we said : Things can’t go on like this , and they didn’t ; they got worse .—–Will Rogers

Will Rogers died in 1935 . Some things weren’t so great in 1935 , like the Great Depression , for one .  In 1859 Charlie Dickens published A Tale of Two Cities . It began something like : It was the best of times and it was the worst of times . It was a time of wisdom and a time of foolishness ……He was writing about some earlier time over across the pond . The 1860s didn’t turn out to be so easy in the USA , either , as I recall from history class .

Shootings and stabbings and ax murders have been going on in our land throughout our history . Lizzy Borden , for example , took an ax and gave her mother forty whacks , as you might have read , and when she’d  seen what she had done , she gave her father forty-one . In 1927 a man blew up a schoolhouse in  Denver with explosives . Luckily , it was done at night and no one was in the place at the time . And then , of course , there were the  labor troubles in this country , with the police shooting down strikers on the orders of company owners . Read your history again . It’s all in there somewhere , all the trouble and the strife . I just give a few random samples in hopes of making my point .poor man

A friend of mine used to say : Yeah , I see your point . It’s right on the top of your head . Very funny when we were kids , but if he says it again I’ll consider defriending him on Facebook , or unfriending him , or whatever it’s called .

I got defriended yesterday by a guy with whom I disagreed  . He commented on a post of mine and said that he’d lost all respect for me . I met the guy once , you understand , at a wedding of a mutual friend several years ago . We’ve been FB friends ever since , until he blocked me yesterday . Now I’m out . Shut out .  No longer are we mutual friends with the guy who got married , I suppose , or are we ? I’m not sure .  I don’t know Facebook so well .

It worries me a bit that I’ve lost all the respect from a guy I never actually was friends with anywhere but in Facebookland . But , still . Is there such a thing as FB respect that I should be aware of ?  Maybe it’s something you trade , like a bit-coin ? There’s a lot for me to learn . Anyway , I’m getting off topic.dancer tamar

I think the world , overall , is just as good and just as bad as it’s ever been . We’re in a Great Psychological Depression , evidently , however , of course , in my opinion .  It’s a negative-focused  world , and I’m quite sure that most people nowadays could expound upon that notion and offer me tons of evidence and positively irrefutable proof of the negative stuff ; but that only proves my point . See ?

We could use a few leaders around these days  who tell us things like We have nothing to fear but fear itself . If we have them they must be waiting somewhere in the shadows . Wait for my next book : Fear Makes Money . It’ll tell you what you already knew you know but didn’t necessarily want to know .

To quote old Will Rogers again :

Everything is changing . People are taking their comedians seriously and their politicians as a joke . 

I think the societal message of recent years is : Live in Fear ; live in Fear ; live in Fear , and they’re gonna get you , anyhow , though , whomever ‘they’ are , and so  be on guard . It’s either them or us , so we better go out and get them before they get us  , just in case . Well , we won’t go , actually , because  it’ll interrupt our routines ; but we’ll send someone to do the job .

There . I’ve simplified the nature of the world and the history of this country  for you .I should throw in a few memes , I know , to make the message palatable for a wider audience , but I  don’t have any handy .  Nevertheless , in conclusion , I say :  Now go out there and , as Will Rogers would say :

Do the best you can , and don’t take life too serious .comedy cruickshank 1791


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I try to talk reason . Well , most of the time not .But , most of the time , being reasonable doesn’t seem reasonable . I mean , why be reasonable unless you have to . Right ? Well , I’m not saying that I’m right on this . It’s my personal approach to life , and maybe it’s not right for other people . I hope not , ’cause if everyone ran on the same cylinders and the world were all in tune — how boring . Right ?

Well , let me tell you what I’m talking about , in case you think I’m ( as my grandfather would have said ) talking through my hat . And , by the way , if you think that , then that’s okay , too . Think whatever you like . Just don’t expect me to think the same as you . I won’t expect the reverse from you . Deal ?

So , I had to cancel my interest in the Syria Assad -loving blogger I’ve been following . Not ’cause he’s pro-Assad . Just ’cause his reasonableness kinda got up and went . He doesn’t see it , of course . ” Let’s kill Amerikkkans ” that someone posted on his site means to him , I guess , something else . He writes to me : ” Am I missing something ? ”  I won’t go into the whole thing , except to say , as I wrote back to him politely , yeah , you are missing something .  Haven’t you ever used expressions like that , he asked . No , I ain’t never did such a thing   . It was a Russian who wrote that kill Amerikkkans  comment and the blogger explained to me that English wasn’t the commenter’s  first language , as if that bunk explanation explained away her hate speech .

Yeah , you’re missing something,pro-Assad  man . You slipped off the edge .100_2559

I cancelled others, too , recently , on Facebook , for their intolerance . It just gets so tiresome reading the continual crappola .  I guess I continue to be shocked that people I know and have known for a long time  have somehow  become  such bigots . I kind of admire their passion , dedication , and stubborn persistence . That’s a plus . But if you’ve turned completely in the wrong direction , it don’t fix nothin’ . I believe , I suppose , in reason . Maybe my father taught me that . He believed in reason .

Oh , no though ,  I don’t believe that the world runs on reason . It goes along sort of higgedly-piggedty , haphazardly  bouncing crazily from one incident to another . It’s not a very orderly process . But , still , we need to operate as best we can as individuals on a basis of reason . Maybe ?

I can’t throw a wrench into the thinking of these lost  internet pals of mine . Can’t be done . I try as long as I can to avoid making any comment on these blogs , but then , at some point ,  I feel a small intervention is necessary ; but  reason doesn’t stand a chance in the face of holy self-righteousness , whether it concerns religion , politics , or whatever .

This pro-Assad guy I’ve been mentioning suggested that maybe I am not ready to accept his belief system if I quibble about a few ( hate statements ) words . Damn right , buddy . I don’t even like the smell , much less the taste , of Kool-Aide , no matter what flavor . Call me intolerant .Cabin Dec. 2014 angelus oaks 059


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