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Saturday, April 16, 2022

Desert Moon


"Those summer nights
When we were young
We bragged of things
We'd never done
We were dreamers, only dreamers
And in our haste
To grow up too soon
We left our innocence on Desert Moon
We were dreamers, only dreamers
On Desert Moon
On Desert Moon
On Desert Moon
Desert Moon"

(Dennis Deyoung, Desert Moon)

During a trip, last November to Maryland and West Virginia, Ms. Rivers and I made a detour on the road home.  That detour was to a town in Perry County (Pennsylvania) where I lived in the late '80s.  This is also where my oldest daughter was born and was the first time I had been in that corner of the universe since December 1988, although I may have driven by once in the 90's on the way home from a business trip.  Regardless, it was definitely the first time I actually spent the time to notice things.

What did I notice?  Well, the very small town has grown a bit, and the former home we (my first wife and I) rented has changed a bit.  See the photo, above.  

Back in those days, we rented the house from a very nice older woman named Mrs. Shull.  The decision to rent to us came down to one factor:  Her husband (Clarance) seemed to think that I reminded him of his younger self.  

"The waiter poured our memories in a tiny cup
We stumbled over words we longed to hear
We talked about the dreams we'd lost, or given up
When the whistle caught the night
And shook silence from my life
As the last train rolled toward the moon"

Looking back, things were a bit stressful (low paying job, constant car troubles, being a new father, etc.) but in retrospect, I think I actually enjoyed living in Perry County those 3 + decades ago.  I realize there is some element of nostalgia that time brings on to most situations, but there was also something kind of magical about having to figure out the world one's self.  There were daily struggles, but there were also seemingly endless possibilities.  The challenge then...and the benefit of that I can only clearly see that now.

Speaking of now, it's been said in songs, poems, and popular culture that you ultimately can't go back, defining "back" any way you choose.  What I love about the song Desert Moon is that it makes that very point, but in a way that makes me (at least) feel better about it all.  Not that I wouldn't want to necessarily go back, but it would be nice to experience those times once more, if even just for a fleeting moment.  Not because they were "better" but just because I was so very different.

These days I would say that I am smarter.  Maybe make that more "seasoned".  I also have more than 35 years of memories between then and now.  Some of those memories are priceless, including the birth of two more daughters, and watching all three become independent professional women; some of them are pretty damn terrible, including witnessing death and heartaches.  Maybe it's a testimony to perseverance...or maybe just being incredibly stubborn...that somehow the good and the bad seem to balance each other out most days, although I will readily confess that there have been times when that balance has been pretty precarious.  

In the end, I suspect that there is a reason why, outside of the world of science fiction, we can't really ever go back.  Maybe we're just not capable of processing such a thing if it were possible.  Then again, maybe we our memories...and possibly in some way after our mortal coil has been fully spent in this life.  In any event, we all get to find that out eventually.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Florider, Days 2 & 3

Yesterday's time in the town of St. Augustine did not disappoint, and for anyone with even a passing interest in architecture, this is quite a place.  I didn't bring my DSLR camera for this trip, mostly because I didn't want to end up dealing with it at the airport, but I was able to grab a few great photos using the Pixel 6 Pro.  Here's an example...

(Flagler College, St. Augustine)

The limits of transferring cellphone pictures to my laptop mean that it's just too impractical to share a ton of photos now, but I will include this...the most ornate Presbyterian church in the known galaxy, one that would give any Roman Catholic cathedral a run for its money:

Yesterday's walk-about included some time at the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, which is genuinely a treasure and a must-see for anyone visiting the part of Florida.

Yesterday ended with dinner at a small chain restaurant called "Willie Jewells Old School Bar-B-Q".  I'd have to go back to visits to Texas in the 1990s to remember brisket that was as good as what I had at this place.  As a kind of post-script, the brisket I had was actually too in I ended up visiting GERDland twice last night.  Not fun, but then again we are probably going back tomorrow.  I am nothing if not a glutton for punishment.

Today's events included an earlier morning trip to the beach at Anastasia Island, which was wonderful.  There weren't a ton of people on the beach, but I don't think swimming was either allowed or advisable due to surf conditions.

(hanging with the locals at the beach)

After the beach, there was some time with an old friend of Ms. Rivers and her husband, followed by a last-minute visit to a place called Buc-ee's, which can best be described as the Jerry Springer of mega-gas stations.  Mega as in you could probably fit 3 or 4 Sheetz inside of it, with room to spare for additional beaver-themed merchandise.

Yes, the company logo is a cartoon beaver wearing a baseball cap.  And yes, I got a teeshirt of said cartoon beaver wearing a baseball cap.  Think of this place as being somewhere you probably want to visit at least once, if for no other reason than the sheer experience of it all.

And that was the day.  Tomorrow is our last full day in Florider, so there will be more hiking, more brisket and likely another GERD attack tomorrow night.  It's all for a good cause though.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Florider*, Day 1

(*) I love regional accents.  One of the most fascinating is that of people from Long Island, NY.  Sometimes these folks will pronounce an "a" as an "er" when it comes at the end of a noun.  For example, "Aruba" becomes "Aruber" and "Florida" becomes "Florider".  Don't get me started about how people from the Philadelphia area pronounce "water" as a word that rhymes with "udder".

* * * * * *

The next few days are what I consider my first real vacation since 2019, and my first time flying since August 2018.  Actually, and maybe to make up for a lost time, this is my first of two vacations this year, with the second being a week in Maine during July.  For this extended weekend, the place to go is St. Augustine, Florida, where a good friend of Ms. Rivers spends the winter months.  I've never been to this part of Florida, and I've always wanted to see the old Spanish architecture of St. Augustine, so I was all in for this trip from the very beginning.  I will note that this same trip had been rescheduled I think more than once due to various, sundry issues.  In any event, we're here.

(vultures...hopefully not an omen)

I'll confess right off the bat that Florida isn't necessarily my favorite place to be.  I've been here about a half-dozen or more times, going back decades.  For me, it's one of those places where the promise is always 1000% better sounding than the delivery.  That's not a reflection of the people here, who are almost always exceedingly friendly, but rather more about other things, including the weather.  Yes, for example, it's nice to not have to deal with 20 degree days in the winter, but then the trade-off is jungle-esque conditions in the summer when you don't want to go outside anyway.  As they say, life is about trade-offs.  

I also have this image that every other person down here is carrying a gun.  Not my thing.  If it's yours, well, that's good, and I hope it works for you.  As for me, well, seeing someone other than a police officer packing heat in a Cracker Barrell restaurant seems just oddly immature, and it makes me feel far less safe.  Just what is that person trying to prove by side-holstering a 9mm pistol while eating pancakes?  Is that some kind of warning to the kitchen staff, along the lines of "these pancakes better be good, or Mr. Glock might get upset..."?

Here's one other oddity about Florida:  I was reminded this morning that sometimes the water stinks.  As in smells.  As in it smells like what I expect of a salt marsh during a breeze-free 90-degree day in July.  It smells so bad that I feel like I need a shower after my shower.  Thank God for deodorant.

Not to be outdone, the actual trip down here was mostly uneventful, but I did learn something important:  I breathe differently when I am falling asleep.  I discovered this while almost dozing off on the flights yesterday (we got up a 4am to catch a 6:15 am flight out of Scranton) with a mask on my face.  I literally could not breathe, so much so that I ended up having to go to the restroom on the flights not to meet a biological imperative, but rather just to have a few minutes to catch a deep breath.  I'd be more bothered by the whole thing if it weren't for the fact that having everyone wear a mask while flying in a contained tube tightly packed with other humans actually does seem like the right thing to do during (hopefully) the waning days of a pandemic.

Anyway, I am here and it's about time to start the day.  I'll do my best to stay out of trouble.