2017 Reading Challenge update #3

A Wrinkle in Time

I chose A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle as my book to read from the 1960’s. Like some of the other books that I’ve read this year, it was aimed at the youth market. I didn’t know that when I bought it, but it became obvious early in my reading. I don’t have a problem with that since I had never read it before. Some day I’m going to figure out how I missed reading all of these good books for so many years. As I was reading this book I kept being reminded of the fictional books by C.S. Lewis. L’Engle wrote two or three subsequent books in this series, and I plan on reading them someday. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I have a bookcase full of books to be read, so it may take me some time to get back to this series. I am glad that I picked this one up.

Interpreter of Maladies

Next I finished reading a book of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri titled Interpreter of Dreams. As I was reading I kept asking myself two questions. 1) Why don’t I read more short stories; and 2) why hadn’t I heard of Lahiri before? I love this book. Each of the stories deals with people of Indian heritage, and most of them have migrated to the U.S. But that is just what is on the surface. These stories are pictures of the lives of ordinary people who are reacting to the world and the people around them. No one is extraordinary, and yet I was so taken with each character that I was drawn into their world. The cultural differences between me and the characters didn’t really matter. I could understand why they reacted the way the did. I shall be buying more books by Jhumpa Lahiri. Perhaps the next one will be a novel, but I do need to read more short stories.

My Song

The autobiography that I chose for this year was My Song by Harry Belafonte and Michael Shnayerson. It is the lucky thirteenth book of the challenge. I have been a fan of Mr. Belafonte since I first heard his music in fourth grade. My teacher brought in his Calypso album and would play it when we couldn’t have recess outdoors due to rain. The first album of his that I bought was his first Carnegie Hall double album.

In later years I became aware of his work in the Civil Rights movement, though he wasn’t as high-profile as Dr. King, James Farmer Jr, Roy Wilkins, Medgar Evers and others. According to this autobiography, Mr. Belafonte was a major behind-the-scenes mover.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Mr. Belafonte spends so much time writing about himself since it is an autobiography, but I was disappointed that he didn’t spend more time talking about his family. But it was a god read, and I enjoyed the book.

On Tyranny

When I finished Mr. Belafonte’s book I decided to take off a few days from reading. Those few days turned into three weeks.  But I snapped out of it and picked up On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder. This book was not on my radar until Cindy and I saw the author on Morning Joe talking about his book in connection with the recent presidential election and subsequent events.

I’ll state here that if you are a fan of President Trump, you will not enjoy this book. If you do not like the president you will enjoy the book. If you are still not sure, this book can give you a historical perspective to work from.

It is a short book with short chapters. The chapters are shorter than most of James Patterson’s books, if that helps you understand. The epilogue is longer than any of the twenty chapters.

I especially liked the chapters on professional ethics, being kind to our language, and learning from peers in other countries. As in all things, I liked the book but you may not.


I chose a mystery as the fifteenth book in my reading challenge. I had planned on reading a book first published in the 1940’s, but it would have taken more brainpower to read than I was willing to expend right now. So instead I picked up a mystery, Tatiana, by one of my favorite authors, Martin Cruz Smith..

This is the eighth novel with Arkady Renko as the protagonist. The first, of course, was Gorky Park which was published in 1981. In this novel Renko is searching for the murderer of a Russian Mafia chief and is also looking into the disappearance of the body of a journalist.

Russian gangsters, government corruption, investigative journalism are all part of the mix. I always seem to ask myself at some point in one of these novels if Renko is one step ahead of everyone, or if he just muddles through until it all comes clear to him. I’ll read the Renko mysteries as long as Mr. Smith keeps writing them.

In case you don’t know, or have forgotten the challenge that I set for myself you can find it here: https://classicalgasbag.wordpress.com/2016/12/28/2017-reading-challenge/. What have you been reading?


Where did this dream come from?

Rainy Main Street Lafayette

This is another photo that I took the morning of May 4th. It was dark, it was rainy, it was downtown Lafayette. There’s not anything else to say,


I had another strange dream last night. I’m glad I don’t have them very often. Let me tell you about it.

It began when Cindy had to go to LARA, the Lafayette Adult Resource Academy, to meet someone. Cindy used to be a volunteer there, and I was a part-time employee. Evidently she was still volunteering in the dream, but I had the good sense to be retired as I am in real life. Anyway, Cindy asked me to go with her and I so I did.

In my dream LARA had moved their operation into a three-story Victorian house, and had joined forces with a Buddhist community center. I know. Strange. Cindy went off to her meeting, leaving me to look around. I came to a room where three people were sitting and talking. One of them looked at me and said that I looked tired and that they could help me.

I’m not sure why I thought that I needed help, but I turned myself over into their hands. They sat me in a chair and gave me a cup of tea. Then one of them approached me and stuck a small pin into my forehead. It stung a bit, but I immediately relaxed and dozed off.

When I awoke I found myself in a bed, dressed only in a grey Henley shirt and boxer shorts. There was no one in the room and my clothes were gone. So I set out wandering around in the house, searching for my clothes. Everyone I met was sympathetic to my plight but had no idea where my clothes might be. They said nothing about my lack of proper attire, but I didn’t find that odd.

Finally I came across a person who worked for LARA. She took me by the hand and led me to the Community Center thrift shop. She pointed to a woman behind the counter and said that I should ask her for my clothes. I did. She reached under the counter and handed me a bundle of clothes. I started putting them on but realized they were not my clothes when I saw that she had given me cowboy boots rather than my shoes.

That is when I woke up. Does anyone have a theory of what the dream means? Please.

Ed Asner on stage

A Man and his Prostate

I planned on writing a post about this show right after attending, but things happened and I got slowed down. I’ve posted about most of those things. Today I’ve taken the time to get this post completed.

When Cindy and I saw that Ed Asner was coming to Lafayette with his one-man show, A Man and his Prostate, we immediately decided to attend. We are both fans of Mr. Asner, and the topic is certainly important…especially to men of advanced years. I was pretty sure that Cindy would attend because I had gone with her to see Menopause The Musical during one of our trips to Las Vegas. Turnabout is fair play.

Another couple of our acquaintance wanted to attend, so I went online and purchased tickets for four adjoining seats. The Sunday afternoon of the performance we met at the theater doors and proceeded in to pick up our tickets and find our seats. We settled in and awaited the start of the show.

As we waited I looked around at the rest of the people who were coming into the theater. Two things surprised me. First, there were a number of younger people attending. Most of us who were there had grey hair, though a number of people were hiding it under dye. Still there were many younger (under the age of fifty) in the crowd. Let’s face it. a man’s prostate is more likely to interest older men than younger.

The second surprise was the number of women who were attending without men. Then Cindy surmised that perhaps the women were Ed Asner groupies; after all they were coming into the theater in groups of three and four at a time. To me that seemed like a reasonable guess. I just hoped that they wouldn’t disrupt the show by throwing their bloomers onto the stage. Luckily, they didn’t.

I have to tell you that for such a serious subject, the show was probably the funniest I have ever attended. I highly recommend it. I will say that as a movie it would not get a G or PG rating due to language. People who are easily offended by religious humor might also want to avoid the show, though I thought that humor was minimal.

If you get a chance to see this show, I hope that you’ll take the time to see it. No matter what your age or sex is.

2-2-1 revisited

While patiently waiting for vaayadipennu to finish publishing the most recent N-N-1, Anju and I decided to revisit our original concept, 2-2-1. We went so far as to try to take our pictures at exactly the same moment. Trying to determine the date and time for this momentous project turned into an “After you Alphonse” routine until I remembered that a gentleman should never argue with a woman. So I decided that we would take our pictures on Thursday, May 4th at 7 p.m. in Penang, Malaysia. Let’s start with Anju. I hope that you enjoy the result.

I came face to face with one of my many scary zombie dreams in real life, as part of my job. As someone who has a ‘cliché’ fear of crowds, I’ve never actually had to face this fear head-on. Living in highly populated cities just means you learn to manoeuvre out of stressful, overly crowded situations. Not this time. I had to attend an event in Penang (Malaysia) with over 20, 000 highly passionate people in one small arena for the duration of a week. For most of that time, I spent in a circle similar to the one in the photo. I now feel equipped to write a short story about zombies!

Meanwhile, 11 time zones away.

Lafayette Courthouse Square

It was a dark rainy morning in Lafayette. It was so dark that I had to lighten the picture in order to make out the courthouse with the scaffolding around the dome. You can tell that it is still raining from the glistening streets and the rain drops that were on the lens.

There weren’t many people on the street even though it was a non-holiday weekday morning.I suppose they were avoiding the wet. The scaffolding is there so that the dome can be repaired and painted. It is evidently a long process because it was started in the autumn last year. I’m pretty sure no work was done to the exterior that day.

Another day in paradise

The water is going down

Yes, I am being facetious. This morning has been very bad. The last few days leading up to today haven’t been all that great either, but this morning was the topper. Let me fill you in from the beginning.

About a week ago I went to the basement and found a small pool of water on the floor. Cindy came down and determined that we had a small leak in a pipe above our washer. It didn’t look too bad, so I called a plumber whom I trusted, rather than use one of Cindy’s wounded birds (click here if you want to know more about wounded birds).

The plumber came, repaired the pipe, and he also fixed another small leak while he was at it. He did the job quickly and efficiently. He also charged less than I had expected. It was a good result.

A day later Cindy told me that the electricity had gone out in our guest bedroom. Upon closer inspection I determined that the problem only affected the wall sockets. The overhead light and ceiling fan worked fine. But the problem extended to the wall sockets in another spare bedroom, and to the lights in the garage. Strange wiring, no? I found the proper circuit in the box and reset the circuit breaker. All was well…for a few hours; then the circuit breaker shut down. I reset the breaker again, and again the electricity was back on. Until the next morning. This went on for a few more times until we gave up. I asked Cindy to call an electrician in the phone book rather than one of her oxpeckers (if you didn’t click on the ink above last time, you might want to do so now). She complied with my wish. The electrician was scheduled to come yesterday, Monday morning.

When the electrician arrived I explained the situation to him; I showed him the affected rooms; and I showed him the circuit box. He asked me questions about the things we had tried. I told him that I had reset the breaker a number of times. I told him that Cindy had replaced a power strip that she thought might be faulty. I told him that nothing had worked. He reset the circuit breaker and we waited to see if anything would happen. After a few minutes the breaker shut down.

He reset the breaker and then went around checking the connected wiring. Nothing seemed to be to have problems, and then the breaker shut down again. He asked me to unplug everything that was connected to the circuit, and then he reset the breaker. A few minutes later the breaker shut down again.

At that point he decided to replace the circuit breaker. He did so, We were talking about the problem when the breaker popped again. He told me to call him if we had any further problems. He left. An hour later I was calling the electrician to say that the circuit breaker had popped again. He came back to the house. He said the next thing he would do is check the wiring in the attic, but that he couldn’t do it until the next morning. I said that was fine because I would need time to clear things away from the access points.

I spent time that evening and again this morning moving things around. As the sun came up I looked out the window and saw that there had been a heavy rain during the night. Part of the back yard that I had mowed the previous afternoon was now under water. I decided to check if everything was OK in the basement and found that part of the floor was covered with water.

We have just been getting the basement back in order since the flooding that occurred last year when we were on vacation. Now this. Cindy went down to start cleaning it up as the electrician returned. I showed him the access points to the attic and told him that he was on his own while I worked in the basement.

Cindy and I were able to get up most of the water. She went to get cleaned up for a lunch meeting and I sat down at the laptop to start this post. I watched the electrician come downstairs and go to the circuit box in the garage a couple of times. After the second time he asked me about a wire he had found leading outside from the garage. Gosh! I hadn’t thought about that wire. I told him that I wasn’t sure, but it might have been connected to a yard light that we no longer had. The light hadn’t worked for years. Over time the lamp-post had been hit by children in battery operated cars, vandals, and an automobile or two. Finally Cindy’s favorite oxpecker (I told you that you should have checked the link) disconnected the remains of the post from the electrical wires and had buried the wires.

The electrician removed the remaining wiring from the circuit in a last ditch attempt to fix our problem. It has been about seven hours now, and the circuit breaker hasn’t shut down. I still have my fingers crossed.

A short trip…part 5

Today’s post combines our last three days on the road for a couple of reasons. The first shallow reason is that I took no pictures on Friday. The second and third reason is that very little of interest happened on Saturday and Sunday.  

Day 5, 4/14/2017

Our original plan was to leave for home on this day but (no surprise to me) Cindy decided to put off our departure for a day. We would spend one more day with Barbara, Michael and his family. Rather, we would spend about half a day because Cindy and Barbara both sleep later than I do.

I went out that morning searching unsuccessfully for something scenic to photograph. I must have driven in the wrong direction or I was being too picky in my choices. So I stopped and filled the car with gas so that we could make a quicker getaway on Sunday. Then I went back to the apartment to read some more of my reading challenge book.

We drove to Michael’s home in the afternoon. He was preparing a farewell dinner. We were having fresh from the boat fried shrimp, French fries, and home-made coleslaw. It was great!

After dining we played one game of Oh Hell. Since it was only one game I only had to give away a portion of my cash. Then it was back to Barbara’s apartment to get some sleep before leaving the following morning.

trip album page…the road home

Day 6, 4/15/17

We left early-ish on Saturday morning. We planned on driving to Memphis, Tennessee; which was around 460 miles. With breaks for lunch, gas, and bathroom breaks we expected to be on the road about eight or nine hours.

I drove until we were about two hours from Memphis, and Cindy took over. I settled into the passenger seat, and despite the lovely scenery, I dozed off. About 80 miles down the road Cindy told me that she couldn’t keep her eyes open and wanted to stop fr the night. So we did.

Day 7, 4/16/17

We were on the road early Sunday morning because we still had at least nine hours of driving ahead of us. I had been driving for around an hour when Cindy realized that she had left her earrings in the motel room. So while she called the motel and asked them to secure the earrings, I turned around started back to where we had stayed.

We arrived at the motel, where they had taken Cindy’s earrings to the office. She quickly collected them and then it was back on the road.

We got home between 8 and 9 p.m. We decided to leave unpacking the car until the next morning. It was time to collapse, so we did.

Things to remember before we go back to Louisiana. 1. Plan ahead for what we want to do. For instance, if we had gone a week earlier we could have gone to the Dave Robicheaux’s Hometown Literary Festival in New Iberia, or if we go back in November we can attend the Abbeville Giant Omlette Celebration. 2. Manage time better so that we can do all that we want to do. 3. Take more pictures. That’s my list. I don’t know what Cindy has on her list.

A short trip…part 4

Day 4, 4/13/2017

trip album page

Cindy had told Michael and Jenna that I liked visiting graveyards and taking pictures. She is correct; I do like visiting and taking pictures of graveyards. So on the fourth day of our trip Michael took us north to Lafayette, Louisiana to view the graveyard at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.

Before we left Abbeville however, we stopped at a gas station for breakfast. That’s right, a gas station. The eatery was actually in the same building as the station. The food was very good.

The pictures above are just a few that I took while we were at the cathedral. Michael told us that among the among the graves was one of a Confederate War veteran who was famous. Actually there were a number of Confederate veteran graves. Evidently they weren’t all famous.

I noticed that there were a lot of Landry and Broussard family members in the graveyard. At first I assumed that they were large contributors to the church, and perhaps they are, but a little research showed me that those names are very common in Louisiana. So much for my powers of deduction.

It was an enjoyable trip to a beautiful cathedral. I wouldn’t mind going back sometime to see more of the buildings.

That evening we took our hosts out to eat at a local restaurant.We chose a Mexican restaurant, and the food was wonderful, though Jenna’s meal failed to arrive with the others. Beyond the food, Cindy found the margaritas to be to her taste.

We returned to Michael and Jenna’s house where I was coerced into playing a couple of games of Oh Hell. It is a game of luck and a little skill. Cindy and the others love it. I see it as a way to give some of my money to other people. I guess it depends on your perspective.

Along with the cards, Cindy chose to consume some wine. It was good that I was driving.We repaired to Barbara’s apartment where she and Cindy quickly fell asleep and I got in some reading. It had been a pretty good day.