Whalechaser's Musings

No Matter Where You Go...
There You Are
Make the Best of It

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What If...

On our way to Florida, we were driving through Alabama; lower Alabama actually. I commented on how really nice it was; rolling hills, green, trees idyllic really. Chuck said yes, Georgia is nice but it doesn't have any Gulf beachfront. This of course prompted some discussion. First was that we were not in Georgia, to which he said we would be soon.

We rode a bit more and then he casually commented if it weren't for the Florida Panhandle, Georgia could have beach on both the Atlantic and the Gulf. Hummnn, nothing like a long drive to get you to thinking. My little brain started percolating and before long I came up with a really novel approach to this situation. Georgia should merge with Alabama; this would achieve the goal of having beaches in both places and ALSO resulting in changing the state name to Geo-Bama. I think it is perfect for the 'times'. Yes, yes, I know we would then have to change old glory back to 49 states but I think it is worth every penny.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

IHOP in Florida for Breakfast

So we decided to skip the free continental breakfast that they offered at the LaQuinta hotel where we were staying in Florida; we opted for a full breakfast at IHOP. I don't know about you, but I kind of take exception to breakfast for 2 that runs $25 before the tip. I mean it's bacon and eggs for crying out loud.

But it has been a few days since we have been on the road and maybe we do need a full breakfast. So we walk over to the IHOP (the parking lots connect with the hotels')and when I saw the yellow danger cones in the vestibule and the entry area, my radar went up. I took a quick scan of the place and there were only three tables. Hey, it is 8:45 there should be more than that! After a short wait we were taken to a booth next to another couple who were almost finished. Good enough.

I am looking for a simple breakfast eggs, toast, taters and maybe some meat. The menu doesn't put it together quite that way. There's pancakes...grits...hashbrowns. There's a skillet with lots of stuff that I am not interested in. Hey, where's the simple eggs, bacon and home fries? When the waitress comes over she shows me a selection that is close to what I want for $6.99. Geez, I could buy a dozen eggs, 6 English muffins and 5 pounds of potatoes for that! OK, I know...we all have to live, yes get me that please, oh? You have sourdough toast? Great, I'll have that. Chuck ordered his special skillet and was promptly told that none of those were available...the delivery of potatoes has not arrived yet! Man, this is going down hill fast! So he talked her into using a different kind of potato and got the skillet anyway.

We waited only 10 minutes or so and the order was delivered. My hashbrowns were cold (I mean like from the refrigerator)so they brought me another order of them (10 minutes later) when I was about finished with my breakfast. The second order was so greasy I could not eat it. Chuck's breakfast looked great! I was starting to suspect that there might have been a secret vendetta out on me but quickly wiped that from my mind.

I looked up at Chuck and noticed something moving on the wall behind him. Oh...Great! I know this is Florida and it is home to the largest water bugs in creation, but I was not quite ready for this. A roach seemed to be doing its' morning exercises on the ledge above the booth just behind us....back and forth....back and forth. I told Chuck and he looked and was grateful that it wasn't by our table.

Minutes passed, I had finished my eggs and bacon (no potatoes too greasy, the sourdough toast was stale) and was wondering if it was enough to get me to lunch when Chuck started to say something...loud. He said No, not there, there's a ro...."

Ah, even I got it. They were going to seat some people at the booth behind us with the roach on the seat back. But for some reason or other, this new couple was placed exactly in the same booth next to us on the other side where the original couple was sitting. I was a bit flabbergasted. Was he going to yell out that there was a roach on the seat back? That would have upset just about everyone who heard it. Fortunately, he stopped mid sentence and only I knew what he was about to say.

Moments later our waitress came by and he told her about our frisky roach; well it is now dead, and that was that.

We waited another five minutes for the check and as we were leaving she asked again if everything was okay; If she wanted an honest answer we did not have enough time. I mumbled yes and we left. Without a doubt this was the worst breakfast I have had in years, but I SO ENJOYED the "NO NOT HERE THERE"S A RO....."

Ah.... life is good

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Train Ticket

Three women and three men are traveling by train to the football game. At the station, the three men each buy a ticket and watch as the three women buy just one ticket.

'How are the three of you going to travel on only one ticket?' asks one of the men. t
'Watch and learn,' answers one of the women.

They all board the train. The three men take their respective seats but all three women cram into a toilet together and close the door.

Shortly after the train has departed, the conductor comes around collecting tickets. He knocks on the toilet door and says, 'Ticket, please.' The door opens just a crack, and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor takes it and moves on.

The men see this happen and agree it was quite a clever idea; so, after the game, they decide to do the same thing on the return trip and save some money.

When they get to the station they buy a single ticket for the return trip but see, to their astonishment, that the three women don't buy any ticket at all!!

'How are you going to travel without a ticket?' asks one perplexed man.

'Watch and learn,' answer the women.

When they board the train, the three men cram themselves into a toilet, and the three women cram into a toilet just down the way.

Shortly after the train is on its way, one of the women leaves her toilet and walks over to the toilet in which the men are hiding. She knocks on their door and says, 'Ticket please.'

I'm still trying to figure out why men think they are smarter than women.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Writing Technique - - Letters

According to the book "Writing for Self-Discovery" by Schneider and Killick, another way to ones' inner feelings is to write a letter to an individual, a company, a school or where ever it is that the venting needs to be directed. Generally, this letter approach is for the writer; the letter is not sent or given to the 'intended' recipient. It is a way to say all those things that must be said...a clearing of the air if you will, so life can go on a little better than before. It's a damned good technique for some really difficult issues.

This is actually something I have written a while ago, but fits the technique rather well (all this before I actually read a book on better writing; I guess when it has to come out, it comes out!)

Letter to my Foster Parents

You were there for my brother and I at a time when no one else could, or would, take care of us. On my first day with you I remember how grateful I was that there was someone who could fill that need. You were a stranger taking us in…well God said he would provide for our every need. Perhaps I took it for granted in my childish little eight-year old mind...poof! Then you were there.

I noticed early on that your family was different than mine. Mine, being the time I spent with my grandparents. How loving and nurturing they were. They did not have much, but they gave what they had so willingly, It was mostly just love and togetherness. Sure we had to do without, and farm life can really be demanding on a child who has real chores to do, but then everyday there were those family times...that melted the harshness away. The memory of church every Sunday and chicken and dumplings afterwards, the thank you God prayers and goodnight kisses and the early morning rituals of who gets the outhouse first, yes this was a very different lifestyle than yours.

I noticed that you didn’t have thank you God prayers. So I guess goodnight kisses for strangers would have been out of the question, but your own children didn’t get them either. I thought that strange.

I noticed that you always seemed angry, I couldn’t figure out why. I was still just grateful that you were there to fill that need. You gave us shelter and food and a pretend family, how fortunate we were. After all, there was no one else who could care for us, but you. Yes, I was learning that life was very different.

Then your own children broke all your rules and pointed the finger of guilt at me.
You were really angry that day!I explained that is wasn’t me. I pleaded that it wasn’t me.

I cried to tell you the truth. NO! Insolent Child! Full of evil, I will teach you not to lie!

The tumbler glass full of sudsy Tide detergent solution looked like a mountain that I would never get past. Drink it? Me? No, I can’t. You can’t make me. Your threats and bullying overwhelmed me…and I did drink it…all of it. How horrible your actions were.

God must have sent me to you so I could learn that not everyone was like my “grandma”. You certainly were not. I was so afraid of people after staying with you. I couldn’t trust adults and I couldn’t trust people my own age. Who could I trust…only me and God, those are two who will take care of me…always. Everyone else was suspect until proven otherwise.

It wasn’t until many years later I realized you were probably more needy than me.

The method the state uses to assign children to foster parents should have better screening methods so those who are already down and out are not further abused.I can only conclude you did it for the money…hope you did it for the money, for if you did it for the pure pleasure of seeing innocent children suffer…then you are truly sick individuals.

Now, I can add a happier ending to this letter. While I carried many years of hatred toward you; the distance that time has created makes it a very less painful memory. I did learn that in the world there are good people and causes to care for children in need of it. I can direct my efforts toward funding such organizations so your kind of treatment of needy children doesn't happen any more. Each time I help such organizations I inwardly feel I have delivered yet another blow to injustice

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Mental Health Day

It was a day trip. Destination: Atlantic City. Purpose: A little harmless fun, perhaps a special lunch and pick up a “mystery gift” offered by one of the casinos I visit occasionally. I like these little getaways because door to door it is roughly twelve hours. I don’t have to drive, it is safe and if all else fails I can enjoy a stroll on the boardwalk and savor the ocean views.

I never travel if the weather isn’t perfect. When things go well I come back with more than I started with. Not so well means: it’s the cost of having fun.

By now, my umpteenth trip, it was pretty routine. Arrive ten minutes before the bus comes, park the car, get the ticket and put the parking pass on the dashboard, then join the others waiting in a disorganized line. It is disorganized because no matter if I am there first or last, I always end up at the end of the line. It must show. I don’t go often enough to know the process.

At this early point of the route there are always plenty of empty seats and I, as a matter of course, grab a window seat on the drivers side three or four rows in. I do this so later if the bus is crowded I will not have to get up to let someone sit next to me. It is an old trick I learned from my commuting days. For the moment I use the empty seat for my backpack of stuff.

I use the three hours or so to daydream, sometimes it is about my job, but mostly it is about retirement, vacation fantasies or if I could do anything, I’d… Sometimes I have a seatmate. It’s only happened three times before. Always women. Twice they were pleasant companions, once stony silence. You never know what you’ll get. Today was such a day.

At the last stop before the express part of the trip, 23 people boarded. I knew I would not be traveling alone. Several people pass my mid-bus location looking for a single seat, some are successful, but only for a short while. I was surprised when a heavy-set man indicated he would take the seat next to me. There were plenty of seats available (with men in the adjacent seat) that would have been more appropriate. (Haven’t you read the unwritten bus riders etiquette book?) Men sit next to men; women sit next to women, whenever possible. Then, and only then, do you sit with the opposite sex.

He is apparently a regular on this run…already greeted three people before he got to me and started a conversation with the lady across the aisle and back one row. His friend, a guy, takes a seat a few rows up, closer to the exit.

I now have my backpack on my lap, since the seat next to me is no longer ”mine”. He is telling me that he will not scrunch me, while he lifts the armrest on the aisle-side. I guess he needs lots of space, he is quite heavy. Not scrunching me is a good thing though and I am happy for this courtesy.

He’s telling the lady behind me and across the aisle that he is divorced and his girlfriend has passed away. Phew! I thought I had troubles.
It didn’t take long for him to start talking to me. He complained that his sister had kept him on the phone for almost two hours the night before. I mentally noted to keep any comments short as I nodded at him.

The rest of the trip was spent listening to his work history, his divorce, his girlfriends and what casinos are his favorites and why. He also went on at length about the “procedure” he had to have on Thursday. The fear of a cancer diagnosis was apparent. He interspersed the conversation with tidbits about his other illnesses: diabetes, high blood pressure and circulatory problems. He made it a point to tell me his age. Sixty-two. He wanted to know if I was somewhere near that number. Close I said, but several years younger. He nestled into the seat a little as if all was right with the world and rambled on. I shouldn’t have concerned myself about taking the floor in the conversation, there was little space for me there either.

After an hour or so he opened a bag containing a long Italian roll, sliced but not buttered. He offered me some. Thanking him, I said the omelet I had for breakfast was very satisfying. He seemed surprised that a single person would cook a meal. It was about this time that I noticed how really heavy this fellow was. Cheeks, neck and body became one. There was no defining line between one and the other. I could not tell how much of him was in the aisle, but some was for sure.

He said, as a matter of fact, you learn something from everyone you talk to. In a sense I suppose this is true, if you pay attention. Sensing I was gong to have no peace for my daydreaming, I decided a nap was the best escape. Closed my eyes, took a deep breath and hoped for quiet. The conversation continued without eye contact. He talked all the way. It was incredible, yet as we got off the bus he gave me his tickets for a drawing at one of the casinos and made sure as he got up to let me out in front of him. Courtesy unbounded.

He went his way. I was glad to wander off alone into the caverns of slot machines, tables and craps. Most people have a kind of ritual that they perform when the take a day trip to Atlantic City. Mine varies very little, the timing of my constitutional walk on the boardwalk depends on my success in the first hour. All else remains pretty much the same. Some playing, then a walk, lunch at Bill’s (the best gyros on the boardwalk, possibly in New Jersey) then a return walk, some more play, maybe some shopping or picking up a mystery gift and home again.

Friday, April 3, 2009

An Arkansas Treasure

Today we ventured south to visit and tour the Donald W. Reynolds Campus of the Arkansas Sheriff's Youth Ranch. We met with Susan Harrison the office manager of the campus. She gave us a detailed history of the organization, funding of this particular campus and then took us to visit the lodge, a boys home, the gym and the barn and arena area.

What I found most interesting is that this is a warm and loving place for youngsters who find themselves in a bad situation.There are many reasons a child could find themselves here...orphaned with no other family members able to care for them, parents in an untenable living situation with no hope of near term solution, a bad economic impact or court ordered placement in lieu of foster home placement.

They offer counseling three times a week (group and individual), a family atmosphere is provided during their entire stay on the ranch. The children attend public school and have available tutoring and individualized instruction where needed. They also have access music study, bible study and a plethora of outdoor sports which include horseback riding, hiking, fishing, and swimming.

The organization is totally run on private donations and is experiencing the negative effects of the current economic conditions across the country. They have a boys home that is suitable for eleven residents but due to lack of funding cannot place the children currently. I do hope this economy turns itself around soon.

Here are some pictures that I took during the tour today. My visit confirmed my belief that this is a great organization to support. Please do if you have the means.

This is a typical bedroom shared by two boys on the ranch

This is the family room where the boys can get together after dinner and talk, play games, watch tv or relax
The is a kitchen in a residents family section
This is the horse training arena. it is where the annual rodeo is held and training takes place. This particular campus has 282 acres of beautiful wooded rolling hills with several lakes...perfect for young children to use up all that excess energy

Once a child is taken in at the ranch, they stay there until they graduate college or tech school. All the while getting the moral and physical support needed along the way. This is pretty amazing!