Me and electronic devices

Early morning pollution
Early morning pollution

I have been trying to get this shot for months. The problem is that in order to get it I had to hope for a break in the traffic on this busy street. Finally, on an early Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago, I found myself alone on the street, and was able to pull over and get the picture. It pays to be an early riser.

***

I’ve been thinking about how our electronic devices keep us in touch with people in some cases, while alienating us from others. As usual, my thoughts are scattered, so I’m using this post to try to organize my thoughts and to unleash them on an unsuspecting handful of people. Shall we start?

I established a Facebook account a number of years ago because it was a way to keep up with all of the pictures of my grandchildren that were posted, and to keep in touch with people who no longer lived near me. That was fun. I started posting family pictures, old and new, to share with anyone who was interested. That was fun, though I wondered why people who “liked” those pictures didn’t check out my photos on Flickr. Then I gave in to (imagined) pressure to “friend” people who were not really friends, which implied (often incorrectly) that I wanted to know what they were doing and thinking. That wasn’t much fun. Too often those people would re-post items that I found to be stupid and bigoted. That was no fun at all. The worst part was that I found myself doing pretty much the same thing, but with a lefty point of view. I would occasionally get into a back and forth with individuals. That was silly; you never change anyone’s mind with a hasty, short message. I got off of Facebook and have improved my life.

That doesn’t mean that I have stopped using my electronic devices. When I wake up in the morning, sometimes with the aid of the alarm on my cell phone, I usually pick up the TV remote and turn on a morning news show. The I go into the kitchen and get my first cup of coffee that started brewing earlier because we had previously set the electronic timer. While I sip my coffee and watch the news, I pick up my cell phone and check on the emails that have come in through the night. Some need to be forwarded to one of Cindy’s email accounts, some need to be deleted without reading, and some I read with pleasure.

Before I forget to mention it, I also use my cell phone to send texts  to people, to answer robo-calls from my doctors and pharmacy, and to actually talk to people. An aside to people old enough to remember: Do you remember the days when telephone companies bragged about the clarity of voices on the other end of the line. At some point we gave up clarity for supposed convenience. Hmmm.

Later in the morning I will fire up our PC or our laptop to read the latest entries to blogs that I follow, to pay bills, to respond to some emails, to draft a letter that will go out by snail mail, or to work on a project that is momentarily near to my heart. I might even start drafting a post for this blog. You can never be sure what crazy whim I’ll give in to.

When I finish and publish this post, a link to it will automatically be posted to my Twitter account (which has even fewer followers that this blog). The only things that I put on Twitter other than those links are an occasional snide remark that I’m sending off to somebody on Morning Joe because the have said something from an ignorant point of view, or pictures that don’t appear here or on Flickr. I just started sending those photos from my new Instagram account.

It seems that I gave up Facebook and started a blog, started a Twitter account, and now there is Instagram. Did I mention that I just got a new smart phone?

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Finally something to say

Maurice
Maurice

This art project is titled Maurice, in honor of Maurice Sendak. The artist is Janet Ivas. I came across Maurice at the library in downtown Lafayette. It is part of an arts project sponsored by the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette. There are thirty-seven different bears in downtown Lafayette and West Lafayette. There are also two lions and one tiger. In addition, there is a veritable zoo on the grounds of the Art Museum. I’ll be out taking pictures of as many as I can over this summer.

***

Writing about our wedding and honeymoon took a lot out of my creative energy. Yes, I hear the laughter. Creative you say? Well, it took a lot of something out of me. I ended up writing more than I had planned, because as I was sitting at the keyboard, more memories came out.

But today I have something recent to write about. As most of my posts are, it is a simple mundane topic.

I had to take my lawn mower in for repair a little over a week ago. I’ve been taking my mowers to the same shop for a number of years. I do it for one simple reason. They are dependable. And they are reasonable. So, I guess there are two simple reasons. Make that three reasons, because I always feel good about myself when I walk into the shop. You see, their office is messier than my home office. By a factor of ten or so.

Almost every inch of desk and counter space is covered by paper or used parts. From the looks of the stacks of paper, some of it has been there for five or more years. I can only imagine that they would buy more filing cabinets if there was room. Did I mention that there is lot of stuff stacked on the floor. I have no idea how the woman who works behind the counter gets out. Perhaps she has a sleeping bag stashed back there and just stays. But she is a nice person.

When I brought my mower in she started filling out an invoice describing the problem, but she first needed to find desk space to put the form on in order to write. To do that she first picked up her can of Mountain Dew, and then she picked up her ashtray and set the can there. The ashtray went on top of a leaning stack of paperwork. The office is a fire waiting to ignite.

But I like the people there, so I’ll continue to use them. Until they are burned out.

Norm’s Reading Challenge Update #3

Sun coming up Sunday morning
Sun coming up Sunday morning

There isn’t much to say about this picture, other than it is my favorite time of day. It looks to be a beautiful day.

***

You may have thought that I gave up on my personal reading challenge, but I haven’t. It is simply that I started a book in which, while I like it, I can’t seem to maintain sustained interest. I haven’t given up on it, but I decided to put it aside for a while. I spent more than a month with that book, and have only read about half of it. I’ll try it again in a few weeks, after doing some more light reading.

If you’ve forgotten, or never knew what I challenged myself to read this year, you can find it by clicking here. So, to bring you up to date, I previously read six books and now I can cross off another four.

Batman: Hush
Batman: Hush

The first of those four is Batman: Hush. This book fulfills my Graphic Novel category. I have to admit that I didn’t find this book satisfying. There were two main reasons, and they deal with my personal preferences. First, I prefer graphic novels that tell a story outside of the mainstream comic book mythos. One of the first graphic novels that I read was Detectives, Inc.: A Remembrance of Threatening Green by Don McGregor and Marshall Rogers. It is superior to this Batman novel which is only the reprint of a story arc from a comic book. Second, since I haven’t read a mainstream comic book in many years, I was pretty much lost in the story line and with some of the characters. I’ll probably give the book to my older grandson.

 

The Widows of Eastwick
The Widows of Eastwick

Next is a novel from the 2000’s, one of the decades in which I’ve been alive. It is The Widows of Eastwick by John Updike. It is a sequel to his The Witches of Eastwick which was published in 1987. I was in a book club back then, and it was one of the monthly selections that I bought. I’m glad that I read the first book back then, because it made this novel about the widows easier to understand. Every time I read one of Updike’s novels I ask myself why I haven’t read more, and more often. I need to get a few more of his books…after I finish this challenge.

 

 

The Holy Thief
The Holy Thief

I decide to next read an author whom I hadn’t read before. So I chose The Holy Thief by William Ryan. This is a mystery set in Russia in the time when Stalin was dictator. I’m not overly fond of mysteries set in other historical eras, but since this one is set in the relatively near past (I was alive in this period), and since I thought that it was well written, I enjoyed the book. It is the first in a series of books, and I will be looking for the next one.

 

 

The Ipcress File
The Ipcress File

Finally I went back to the 1960’s, another decade in my life, and I reread The Ipcress File by Len Deighton. I admit up front that this may well be my favorite Spy Thriller of all time. When I bought this book I had been reading the James Bond novels and other books written in the same style. This book, however, broke that mold by injecting humor and intelligence into the mix, as well as eliminating a lot of the violence. If you have never read this book, I recommend it highly.

Our Honeymoon – A Look Back

Another view of the canyon
Another view of the canyon

I’m sure that many of you are looking at the title of this post and are saying, “A look back? If this is a look back, what were the previous seven or eight posts?” Yeah, I get it. Calling this The Wrap-Up, or something similar would make more sense, but I think today’s picture goes better with A Look Back. Plus Cindy hadn’t appeared in any of the other photos that I used in this series of posts.

***

When we got back to Lafayette, and the house where we were going to live as a family, we found the grass had been recently cut by Lee, my new step-son. It was the first time he had cut it, and if memory serves me correctly, the last time he cut it while living with us. I hadn’t cut grass for many years since I had been renting apartments in Auburn and then Lafayette. I was kind of looking forward to getting back in the habit. I had been a bachelor for more than forty years; now I had a ready-made family. Maybe the honeymoon had served as a cushion to help us rest before jumping into a new lifestyle.

We came back with a load of memories. Many of them still come up in conversation with friends, especially stories about Dallas, Ciudad Juarez, and Paige. Cindy and I can laugh about them now. I’m sure that over the years some of the stories have become embellished. And it has been so long since the actual events that we believe some of the embellishments. Cindy had visited some of the same places with her previous husband, and would comment on those visits. I remember saying at one point, after hearing one of those stories, that this trip was for us to make our own memories, not go over old ones. Maybe the honeymoon was a method of giving us happy memories that we can share through the years.

But I think that the most valuable thing that we got from the honeymoon was the opportunity to learn about each other on a different level. Two weeks together in an automobile can either solidify a friendship or utterly destroy it. After that first night’s rocky start, we learned to adapt and our friendship and love just got stronger. In my mind, that’s what the honeymoon was for.

As for Cindy, she would probably say that the biggest thing she got from the honeymoon was to never follow a man on a bicycle.

So to those of you who said that our marriage wouldn’t last…you might want to re-think that idea. It’s twenty-five and counting.

Our Honeymoon Part 7

In Colorado...I'm pretty sure
In Colorado…I’m pretty sure

We were headed back home after leaving The Grand Canyon. I must once more blame my faulty memory for forgetting much of the trip back to Indiana. A few things do come to mind when looking at pictures from the trip and also from talking to Cindy and friends we have verbally told about our honeymoon.

For instance, we made a stop at Four Corners, where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet. I know because we have a picture of me standing on the site. I didn’t choose to use that picture because it once again shows that I should never allow my picture to be taken when I’m wearing shorts and a T-shirt. I think that I still have the sandals that I’m wearing in the picture.

I remember that Cindy freaked out when we were driving down the mountain from Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado. Something similar happened in Nevada last year. I love the mountains, but I’m not sure that it is worth seeing them when they have such a traumatic effect on my wife.

Of course I remember Hannibal, Missouri, the site of our first major blowup as a married couple. I don’t remember the incident that started everything, but it had to do with my driving. Cindy was not liking the way I was driving, and was letting me know it. Finally I got very irritated with what I considered back-seat driving and said, “Face it! You’re just like my mother!” Friends, that was the wrong thing to say.

Cindy snapped, “Pull over and stop the car.” I did so, thinking that she wanted my full attention. In a way she did, because she got out of the car and started walking.

Now I had options. 1) I could park the car and walk to catch up to her and try to cajole her back to the car. Or 2) I could drive slowly along beside her, incurring the wrath of the people in the cars behind me, while I tried to get her back in the car. Or 3) I could take the bridge across the river to Illinois and wait for her on the other side. While option 3 had a strong appeal, I chose option 2. She settled down enough after a couple of blocks to get back in the car. I learned my lesson. I don’t believe that I have ever again compared her to my mother…at least when I’m driving.

Tomorrow: The last honeymoon post. I promise!

Our Honeymoon Part 6

At The Grand Canyon
At The Grand Canyon

We left Farmington, NM and headed west to The Grand Canyon in Arizona. We left fairly early, and with a stop for breakfast, made it to the canyon in around five hours. We travelled the south rim and drank in the gorgeous views. I love Yellowstone National Park and Niagara Falls among other places, but for sheer “knock you back on your heels” grandeur, nothing beats The Grand Canyon. It was the first time that I had been there, but it won’t be the last.

I wish that we had been able to spend more time there, but it was not to be. We knew that we couldn’t go any further west or spend more time at the canyon without running the risk of not getting back to Indiana before our honeymoon time was up. So after spending a few hours at the canyon we headed back east and then north in search of a place to spend the night. After around two hours on the road we came to Paige, Arizona. And now we enter a somewhat surrealistic portion of our trip.

Paige is on the border between Arizona and Utah, and it appeared to be our best chance of finding a place to stay before nightfall. We passed two or three motels, all of which had NO VACANCY neon signs lit. Then, on the eastern edge of town there was a motel without a NO VACANCY sign. Hurrah!

I went into the motel office and enquired about a room. The fellow behind the desk looked somewhat startled and said that they had no vacancies, and then realized that he had not turned on their neon sign. I told him that I was surprised that there were no vacancies in the entire town. He explained that a movie was being shot on location just across the State line and the movie crew had taken all of the rooms in town.

He then said that he had a friend who occasionally rented rooms in her house. Would he like me to call her to see if she was willing to take us in? She would only charge as much as the motel would charge us. I knew that Cindy was tired, and I didn’t want to drive strange roads for hours after dark, so I said I would be grateful if he would call his friend. So he called her and was told that the rooms she normally rented were filled, but that she would give up her master bedroom and bath to us. She could spend the night with her boyfriend. I told him that we would take it.

He told me to get in our car and that he would lead us to the house. When I got in the car and explained what was happening to Cindy, she was dubious, but agreed that we didn’t want to get back on the road. She almost changed her mind when the fellow came out of the office and climbed on his bicycle to lead us to the house. Shades of Ciudad Juarez!

The house was just a few blocks from the motel, in a nice section of town. It was a new, two-story house. Like all of the other houses in that area, there was no grass, but landscaped gravel and succulent plants. The motel/bicycle guy took me in to meet the owner and to see the room. She was a pleasant person. I looked at the room and bath on the second floor and was pleased. There was large, comfortable looking bed in the room, as well as a love seat and chair, and a largish television. The bathroom had both a shower and a tub. I paid for the room and in return was handed two keys, one for the front door of the house and one for the bedroom. She explained that the other two bedrooms were rented to a couple of construction workers who were in town for a few months. They would be coming in later. They were usually very tired and didn’t make much noise.

So I went to the car to collect Cindy and our luggage. The motel guy came out, climbed on his bicycle and rode away. The owner got into her car and drove away before I could introduce Cindy to her. We went into the house and settled in. Cindy wanted to call home to check on how the kids were doing, and since this was a time before we had cell phones, we went out in search of a telephone booth.

We drove back to the west side of town where we had noticed a large supermarket and drug store. Sure enough, in front of the store was a phone booth. Cindy got out of the car to make the call, while I stayed in the car and read the local newspaper. After a few minutes Cindy came back to the car in an agitated state. It seems that while she was in the booth she had looked over at some men sitting at a nearby picnic table. One of them looked back at her and licked his lips, and made other suggestive gestures with his lips and tongue. Of course I should have been there to protect her honor, but instead I was reading a newspaper.

She calmed down a bit over dinner, but her calm evaporated after returning to our rented room. Cindy decided to open the French doors in our room and to step out onto the balcony. Luckily it wasn’t yet dark so she saw that when she opened the doors there was no balcony. Disaster averted. We tried the TV, but there was nothing on that either of us wanted to watch. We started talking about our trip so far, and that we would be getting home soon. We talked about how strange things had been in Paige. (Here’s the foreshadowing) The strangeness wasn’t over completely.

We were ready to go to bed when we heard the other renters enter the house and come upstairs to their rooms. That’s when Cindy decided that they weren’t construction workers, but were really drug dealers who would attack and kill us in our sleep. I don’t know; maybe she thought they had trailed us from Mexico and wanted the purse she had brought through customs. At any rate, we couldn’t go to bed. We must stay up and be vigilant in order to protect ourselves. She broke out a deck of cards and we played Rummy until early in the morning.

Around sunrise the next morning, while the construction workers were still sleeping soundly, I lugged our luggage to the car. When I stepped out of the front door I was greeted by the owner of the house. She was holding a hose and was watering the gravel. She said good morning and then explained that she was having sod laid in the  next week. I was pretty sure that the water would be evaporated by then, but what did I know? Besides, I didn’t have to pay her water bill. I returned the keys to her and thanked her for letting us rent to bedroom and bath.

Cindy came down, got into the car, and we drove away. We shall never forget that stop in Paige, AZ.

Our Honeymoon Part 5

Somewhere in New Mexico..I think
Somewhere in New Mexico..I think

We left Santa Fe fairly early by our standards. Cindy’s legs were aching from her sprint through the caverns, so we decided to make it a short driving day.

You’ll remember from my post about our wedding and reception, that I had made a few mixed tapes to be played. For the most part they were ignored by our DJ, but I made sure that I brought them with us on the trip. We played those tapes and many more that I had packed all through the trip. One of the songs that I particularly like is my favorite cover of a Beatles tune. It is by Blood, Sweat & tears. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fnNIvIQp58 It seemed appropriate for our wedding day, and just about every other day.

While we were driving in and around the Santa Fe national Forest and the Carson National Forest, another favorite of mine started playing. Frank Sinatra, of course. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XCVnV5CGh0. Why couldn’t they have played this at our reception? I just don’t get it.

Eventually we stopped driving north, and turned to the west. Cindy was curtailing most of her discomfort with pain pills, but I knew that we couldn’t keep driving indefinitely. I decided that we would stop at the next fair sized town, and that was Farmington, NM.

Since Cindy had stopped thinking about an annulment, and we had shared some good laughs, I decided that it was time to put in a tape that we hadn’t listened to before. I told Cindy that it had a song that I thought was perfect for our honeymoon. It was Lyle Lovett https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdLCFjPjr_k. Cindy has something of a feminist streak, so she was torn between laughter and outrage. Lucky for me, she had stood by me for 25 years so far. Maybe it was an omen.

We found a motel in Farmington, but I don’t remember if it was a Motel 6. Cindy was still in pain, but it wasn’t as bad. While she rested, I started reading a book that I had brought along. It was a Tony Hillerman mystery, the first that I read, and part of it was set in Farmington, New Mexico. I found that to be quite a coincidence.

Eventually we started getting hungry and went out to eat dinner. On the way back to the motel we stopped at a drug store and picked up a few needed items. As we checked out, the cashier said to us, “Have fun tonight.” Gosh, I hoped so too.

Tomorrow – The Grand Canyon and beyond.