Fire power- less

Modern society is in dire need of survival training. Since the same power company’s failures resulted in wildfire, now the danger in California is mitigated by shutting off power to millions.

Last Sunday, five of us on an annual guys trip to Yosemite, found the region’s power shut down. In emergency- generator- fed light, we bought groceries (but the meat was gone) and luckily generator- supplied gasoline for our near- empty car. After entering the park and driving an hour farther on, the park halted all tent camping for safety concerns. We decided rooms in a darkened park lodge, for a “reasonable” rate, certainly beat sleeping in the car.

Monday morning, camping opened, we set about to sound what we came for. Roughing it. Hiking. Relaxing. Though the park was without power until Tuesday, we noted that the two most- visited lodgings, Curry Village, and the Ahwani hotel, with generators running, had hardly been affected. Our traditional camping game of Mexican Train carried on that evening in the back room.

Well, there were casualties during the great California wilderness blackout of 2019. A chipmunk got into the car Monday morning, smelling a leftover scone- and closed in for about an hour, tore around the formerly gently- used vehicle. However, no lives are lost in the process of getting it out.

Three men and a little trail mix coaxed the varmint out. And we coaxed the car’s owner off his varmint hunt with a long hike. However, the little beast is still an unwelcome breakfast guest.

When the snow does come to the valley, i am quite sure that the deer and bears will be hunkered down, employees will be snug in their quarters, the at least one fattened chipmunk may have a warm Honda- fiber lined den under a bear- box in the Upper Pines campground.

Bears are no match for these thieves

fourteen

What was your biggest accomplishment when you were a teenager?
When I was fourteen, I was responsible enough to arrive at my assigned work at 4:45 AM daily, load a hay wagon, and then feed 80 horses. And in the late afternoon, repeat it all again. I was determined to trade labor for horseback riding lessons. That was on a dude ranch in Arizona where I learned responsibility, animal psychology, ranch operations, and customer service. That was forty years ago. Every generation hears how their predecessors “walked uphill in the snow, both ways, to school and back”. In an age where many are fixated on social media, feel subject to hardship and discrimination without government mandates, and may be emotionally scarred because of others’ contrary views, it is not universal. It may only be a minority opinion.

Becoming an entrepreneur at the age of ten, Noa Mintz, at age sixteen founded a New York City childcare agency, (vetting nannies)and was among those entrepreneurs under age 18 featured in Fortune magazine (2016). Eugenie de Silva, starting at the University of Leicester (UK) in 2015, graduated age 16, from Harvard, through distance learning, with a Masters in Liberal Arts. A pilot, Mason Andrews, completed a circumnavigation of the globe in 2018, as the youngest to do so – at age 18.

And then there is the young Dutch woman, Laura Dekker, who at 14 set off in a sailboat to circumnavigate -solo- the world in 2011. She had been born to a sailing family, and had been dreaming of sailing the world since the age of ten. She had the support of her parents, but had to fight the Dutch authorities in court to be permitted to get underway. For more than five hundred days she navigated and explored the places along her route. A film produced by National Geographic presents her video record of her travels.

film trailer at http://www.maidentrip.com

And finally, there is Jordan Romero, who at age 13, with his father, reached the summit of Mount Everest, in 2009, and by the age of 15 years, 5 months , became the youngest person to climb the Seven Summits (the highest peaks in each of the seven continents).

From circumnavigating the globe, climbing mountain peaks, graduating from a most prestigious university, or becoming a successful entrepreneur, children who attempt the difficult, and refuse to have their dreams quashed, demonstrate that if you have a dream and are determined to succeed, you can. Leave the participation trophy to others.

bezpomoshten (stranded)!

Watching the movie “Castaway”,  I think anyone got a little emotional when “Wilson”, the soccer ball with the hand-stained face,  was adrift in the open ocean.  It might have been the character’s (loose) connection with sanity.   Now,  I’ve never really had that one thing that I held onto for dear life;  I’ve never been stranded either.    Yet,  I have been known to leave ballcaps,  bluejeans, and engraved Zippo lighters behind when leaving port.  Most of the time, it was a voluntary trade for something unusual such as a Soviet Navy belt buckle.  Or a Turkish lighter, an Ecuadorian fishnet hammock and even an Egyptian thobe (male one piece garment).

The USS PETERSON visited the Black Sea on the way back from a Red Sea deployment.  We  were unaccustomed to being welcomed as tourists; however, the Ukrainians were just as welcoming to American ships visiting Sevastopol.  And we had cameras openly, not the kind you see in spy movies set in Eastern Europe, but like tourists from Scotland to Burundi: Japanese models.   Like everything else marketed in the early 1990s.   DD969

Taking my new camera,  I went out to look for amber  .  I tried to order a Black Russian (vodka and coffee liqueur) in a  hotel bar that looked out upon the Black Sea; I had an equally impossible time finding an ice-cold Pepsi.  And there were other distractions.  Several of us ventured into a nightclub that was a bit of a circus.  It featured a woman doing an acrobatic dance floor show that might have been a strip show.  Who spoke or read Bulgarian to know from the marquee?  Later, I was looking at some Russian znachki,  these enameled badges or pins, that were collected in Russia like sports memorabilia or Hard Rock Cafe pins, back in the early 1990s.  And  walked away only to realize that I didn’t have my camera over my shoulder.

maxresdefaultAt the waterfront, I found a Port official to report my loss.  He spoke no English and I spoke no Bulgarian.  But nearly a dozen years after my last college class in Russian,  we could haltingly converse about my missing camera in a common language.   A few months later, the reply to my inquiry sent to the Canon marketing office in Sophia, Bulgaria was not promising.   How many regular people could possibly own a Canon SLR camera in a nation that only had capitalism (glasnost?)  for five or so years?

Bulgaria became a hot destination for inexpensive vacations by young western Europeans staying in hotels and hostels. Beachgoers enjoying the Black Sea.  varna_beachPerhaps some young entrepreneur used my camera to start a business.  (Babes of the Black Sea?)  Marketing ads for amber jewelry.   Fashion images for the newest Yuppies.  And perhaps my old camera is living there still.  Twenty-three years ago I left my heart in Varna, Bulgaria.  Well, not really.  But I did leave my  camera there.

“Wilson!!!!”

 

Ja-merican

Usain Bolt and Harry Belafonte grew up in my parish – tour bus driver & guide

On a zip-line and rafting tour in Jamaica, the limes, bananas, coconuts, and sugar cane compete with mangroves, towering Hindu bamboo and brightly colored flowering plants for my attention. While zooming through trees up to 40 mph (there are big cushions at the downhill station if the brake and guide fail to stop me) fed my adrenaline-junkie, the afternoon spent on the river was a great way to take in the people and history of Jamaica. The rafting guide explained how various plants have health and medicinal properties – and though Americans sterotypically associated ‘ganja’ with Jamaica, nothing Reginald listed in the average diet included weed.

2017-11-08 15.54.13

Patois is the native Jamaican dialect, and after a brief intro, we were all “ai’-ree” (doing well) and affirming questions with “ya, man”. Jamaicans have a deep pride in their country, and while it is very evident that the poorest Americans are richer than most of the population, I think even the “CJs” -Crazy Jamaicans, (self-named) locals who walk in front of moving trucks and buses – would find much of my complaining young countrymen more than foolish. Though this is my first trip in the Caribbean as a civilian, and a first ever to Jamaica, I can see why people return again and again. For me, the food, grog and Cuban cigars are pleasant but bouncing up and down a rocky and muddy road with a group of laughing fellow travelers and guides on the way to rafting is a lasting adventure.

“Put da lime in de coconut, stir it all up” -Jamaican health tip for lowering blood pressure

heroes aren’t like in the movies

There are things that we remember from our youth ( or while I was still ‘under 30’) that should be left in those musty corners of our mental garage.  Just like the old cassette tape  I found during one ‘Spring Cleaning’ out there,  hearing the Split Endz again – or 38 Special  just doesn’t make me “feel” the same thirty years later.   Same thing tonight. A little casual dinner on the couch while watching the beginning of “Highlander” – the one with Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert.  (I recognized the villain, but I can’t remember his name.)   The effects are so rudimentary and the dialogue is rather lame – Sean Connery sounds a Scot but is supposed to be Spanish; however, Chris Lambert – he’s got one of those Kevin Costner-like non-accents due apparently to limited ability to speak English.

Even the swordplay and beheadings are cheesy.   I am trying to figure out why that movie spawned sequels and a television series.  Men in kilts?  Swords?  Perhaps it is the decades in the Navy that have colored my judgement.  I often let reality get in the way of plot on a lot of alien, superhero, or alien versus battleship dramas.   I should have read Mental Floss ‘s review here before I realized a few minutes in that watering the plants and picking up the dog poop was a better use of my time.

I offer a list of dropped must-have guy movies (or TV collections) of the last 30 years.    Some I don’t get why I liked them in the first place.  I don’t have either on DVD or nor recorded on the DVR:

  1. Top Gun (I still can watch Minority Report – for Max Von Sydow ) Cruise movies annoy me
  2. Die Hard (sequels)  ( the first was a classic, then they just kept coming)
  3. Highlander ( love Connery, but fast-forward 20 years to see how comic book-type movies are made WELL)
  4. Smokey and the Bandit ( Gleason’s last films, but such a dumb plot!)
  5. Battlestar Galactica (1978) (Lorne Greene still Cartwright for me !)
  6. Star Trek (only one of those movies I’ll watch again is Wrath of Khan with Monteban – I saw the original TV episode and loved the movie.)  However, the reboot movies with Chris Pine are great!
  7. Talledega Nights  ( now I wonder why I thought Ferrell was funny)
  8.  X-men after the first one.  I cannot keep up with the comic book plot jumps)
  9. Outlaw Josey Wales ( I prefer the Eastwood movies he’s made since 2000)
  10. Taken.  I liked Liam Neeson’s portrayals in Star Wars, the villain in Batman Begins, and Taken -even Love, Actually.  Then he just annoyed me with his Taken sequels   and his anti-gun off-screen preaching.

I think I need to watch Gladiator,  Lone Survivor,  and any of the movies that Sam Elliott was in. Testosterone, guts, courage and attitude.  What we need now more than ever are heroes: dads who want to raise their children responsibly,  people who recognize the effort and support the work of cops, volunteers to help our senior citizens  and young people who don’t want a hand out, or a “safe space”.