Thursday, November 26, 2009

Keets X Four

This is Ivy and Candy, the two parakeets we've had for a long time:

We bought them a new cage:

And realized that there is lots of room for a couple more!

So this is Baja (the yellow one) and Newfie (the blue one), named for the furthest reaches of our trips this year, Baja California, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Pecking orders have been determined and are strictly enforced, except when Baja and Newfie -- at the bottom of the list -- rebel and push their way to the feeder. Ivy often gets upset with the newbies and perches above them, glaring down just like a vulture patiently waiting for some chubby little cottontail to finally kick the Bunny Bucket. She tries to intimidate and push them around -- sometimes it works, but sometimes they just push right back. Baja is better at standing up to her, but sometimes the feathers literally fly as they flap and peck at each other.

As our four "girls" adjust to their new family situation, their squabbles just give us a bit of avian intrigue and scheming to watch!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Truth in Begging

Location: Rio Grande Valley, TX

I haven't posted recently because... well, not much has been happening! We've settled into our spot in the Rio Grande Valley, having run as fast as we could from Olde Man Winter who was fast on our heels. This time of year is catch up time -- time to clean out cupboards, sort email, beat John at a pool game every so often (and he beats me the rest of the time!) and read those books that have been gathering dust -- electronic dust as it turns out, because most of my reading these days is on a Kindle.

But I did happen to catch this guy panhandling near the highway the other day. They say truth is the best strategy -- guess it's working for him!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Would YOU Have Signed This?

Location: Waco North KOA, West, Texas

After a long day on the road, we pulled into the Waco North KOA (Kampgrounds Of America) in West, Texas. The check-in procedure was standard, and we gave them a credit card for the night's payment.

When the clerk handed us the signature slip, she showed us two lines where a signature was needed. The first was the regular signature authorizing the night's charge. She vaguely said that the second was our agreement that we'd pay for anything that we damaged.

But here is the full text of that second statement:

"I understand that I am responsible for damages to property and/or facilities at Waco North KOA caused by me or members of my party, and I authorize Waco North KOA to charge my credit card for the cost to repair or replace the damaged property or facility. I further agree that I will not dispute charges to my credit card made by Waco North KOA, and I will not initiate a chargeback for any reason whatsoever."

... EXCUSE ME??? They wanted us to sign a statement that authorized them to charge ANY amount for ANY perceived damage, and we would not dispute it? While I doubt this type of statement is even legal, I flatly said we would NOT sign it, and was ready to walk out.

They backed down and did not require the statement to be signed.

My guess is this is a local attempt to put that seminar on Management Through Intimidation and Quasi-Legal Procedures to good use, but if it is a new KOA policy they have seen the last of my money.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

April 19, 1995

Location: Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building
Oklahoma City, OK

I knew Michael George Thompson. Now his name is on one of 168 empty chairs that face a reflecting pool, a reflecting pool that once was a city road where a Ryder truck filled with explosives parked briefly on a lovely spring morning 14 years ago. The pool is flanked by The Gates of Time, two imposing stone monuments, one imprinted with "9:01" and one with "9:03." The Gates mark the last minute of our innocence, and the first minute of a nation forever changed. The pool between them marks the moment home-grown terrorist Timothy McVeigh detonated 4,800 pounds of explosives that he had concealed in the truck - April 19, 1995 at 9:02 a.m.

I met Michael when he reported for a short-term detail in Social Security's Headquarters in Baltimore. When his detail ended, he returned to his permanent duty station in Oklahoma City. While in Baltimore, he was so quiet and studious that people an aisle or two away could not recall his face when we found out he had been working at his desk in the Social Security office in the Murrah Building that morning and perished along with so many others.

The Field of Empty Chairs occupies the space where the Alfred P. Murrah building stood, each chair silently looking out over the reflecting pond. They are etched with the name of a person who died in the blast, and are placed in the row - 1 through 9 - that corresponds to the floor where that victim was when the bomb exploded. A 10th row contains 5 chairs representing those who died outside the building. Gaps can be seen in the pattern of the chairs where the blast's indiscriminate randomness claimed fewer lives.

The chairs representing the day-car children who were killed are smaller and indescribably heartbreaking.

The memorial is a significant, poignant, and powerful remembrance of the victims of home-grown terrorism. May we never need to have another.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


I have always enjoyed Meredith Willson's "The Music Man". You know
. If I could just memorize that "We got trouble right here in River City", I'd be the hit of every party. I'd probably get invited to parties JUST to do that bit! "The Music Man" is about Iowa, my home state. It's supposedly about its people. With this I disagree totally! He portrays Iowans as folks who keep to themselves, mind their own business and expect you to do the same, and only say as much as necessary. That couldn't be further from the truth! After graduating from college too many years ago, my son did Europe on the "hostel program". When he returned I asked him which city he liked best. The young man who grew up in Colorado and visited me in Iowa semi-annually, answered that he liked Prague best. Why? "Because everyone was so friendly, just like in Iowa!"

Yesterday had a worst case scenario lunch/dinner at Bennigan's right off I-35 in Clear Lake. Don't go there!! Drove out to crash site just to see if you could get to it through the mud and to see if the beans were in. Stopped to talk to a truck driver hauling grain somewhere. Ain't much being hauled anywhere this fall. "Did you come to see the Crash Site?" "Nope. Just wanted to see if you got your beans in. I was here in June and everything was real wet. This is your farm, isn't it?" "No, I just work for him. He owns this farm and the Surf Ballroom in town." Obviously had noticed the Texas plate on Mr. Towed. "15 to 20 cars come out here every day." I just couldn't keep it in. "You tell your boss I think he's a true American hero!" "How come?" "If he wanted to, he could turn this into a gold mine, but he doesn't. You gotta work to find this place. You gotta investigate, you gotta ask questions just to get within half a mile of the shrine. Then you gotta walk/slog through soft, clingy Iowa loam, detour around small ponds, and wonder if your body will ever be found. You REALLY ARE on a Pilgrimage. You are going to where The Music Died!!

Well, we had driven out there to kill a little time before meandering over to Mason City, just a few miles to the east. It was time to move from Where the Music Died to Where the Music Man Lived. We had made a day trip on Monday because I knew M
eredith Willson was from there and that River City in "The Music Man" was based on Mason City. I had no idea what we'd find, but that's the fun of it. What we did find was the beautifully restored home that Willson grew up in and a wonderful new $10.2 million building known as The Music Man Square. As Zoe was shooting pictures of the house, the square, and the statue of Meredith, a lady walked up and apologized that everything is closed on Mondays, but please come back tomorrow. That might have been the end of it, but she seemed to want to visit, beginning with the usual "Where're you from" and building to a crescendo introduction of "My name is Zoe".Pandemonium broke out! "Oh, my gosh, I'm Zoe, too." After trading a few Zoe stories, Mason City Zoe turned to me. "I'm just plain ol' John." "My husband's name is John!" Egads! Well, MC Zoe was on her way to a board meeting in the restoration where she was to take minutes, so she dragged us along. She wanted her friends to meet the "other" Zoe and John. As a result, we got to meet some very nice people and get a glimpse of the inside of the house. After we left we agreed to come back tomorrow and visit the house, museum and all.

Now, let's recap. We had just met one of these "keep to yourself" Iowans, visited briefly, found we had names in common, exchanged cards, and said good bye. End of story? I think not! Late that afternoon Zoe got an e-mail from Zoe, asking if we would like to come to their home
for supper the next evening. Next day we spent all afternoon at the restoration and the square. By the way, as we walked in the doors of the square a handsome young man (relative term, Dick) walked up and said "You're Zoe and John!" Talk about your basic celebrity status! Anyway, we spent 4 hours there and had a wonderful time. Then we drove to Zoe and John's home, had a wonderful supper of chicken soup, a great visit, and managed to leave before they wished we were gone.

Now, let's recap. When's the last time you met someone in a completely casual situation, found only one thing in common, and gotton invited to their home for supper next evening? Huh? Huh?

Monday, November 02, 2009


It's been a tough week and a half, but then it was "my bad" that put us here. After all, I beat up my house for no apparent reason other than it had been a little while since I had done something really stupid, and I wanted to get that ol' feelin' back!

We're retired, and
retirement, once you get the hang of it, means living a "spontaneous" life. You know. No alarm clocks, no meetings, no rush hour traffic, no Mondays, no Fridays, no weekends or holidays. Just fall out of bed when you're rested and go create some new photographs and memories. Sieze the carp. Be surprised.

So today is November 2, and we have been in beautiful Forest City, Iowa for 8 days with 3 to go. Now I love Iowa. After all, I was born and raised in Iowa. But my house has wheels! "I'm goin' where the sun keeps shinin' through the pourin' rain, goin' where the weather suits my clothes." Not only am I in northern Iowa, nearly into Minnesota, watching the weather forecasts for the "s" word, but I'm back on the old 7-3:30, 5 days a week schedule. Seems Ol' John got a little careless earlier this year and tried to turn his home into a bulldozer, moving boulders and repositioning street signs. Seems Ol' John modified the rear end of his home to the tune of over $20,000.

Seems Ol' John gets to enjoy the sche
dule of those who have not yet lived to a ripe old retirement age.

Forest City, Iowa is the home of Winnebago Industries. T
hey are the parents of my Itasca Suncruiser. When I had my little run-in with the terrain in Maine, I knew I was Forest City bound. They were the only folks I would trust with a repair job this big.

There are 2 ways
to get service at Winnebago. If you have time, you make an appointment at least 2 months ahead. This is best because they can sort of get ready for you, AND your extended warranty will apply where appropriate. But if you have an emergency, you show up and take your chances as a "walk-in". Most folks, scheduled or not, tend to show up in the Customer Service parking lot on Sunday. This sets up a phenomenon I call the "Monday Morning Mob", dozens of RVers hovering outside the Customer Service doors waiting to rush in when the locks get twisted at 7:00 sharp. From that morning until they bring your home out and pronounce it cured, you ARE on their schedule.

I can't say enough about the great attitude and competence of the employees here, but I wonder if they don't all have Sunday ulcers thinking about the "Monday Morning Mob".

Thanks, guys and gals, but I'm looking forward to going back into retirement in a few days.