Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Does This Shirt Make Me Look Fat?

Thousand Islands, New York

We've moved 300 miles North in New York to the Saint Laurence River. I'm looking for advice from my readers (if any).

I've always loved to read. When I was a little fat kid with smelly hair back in Tampa, I would ride my Schwinn five miles to downtown to the old library and fill my basket with science fiction. I had to ride past the old hobo camp on the river, which bothered my mother. Mary's used bookstore got a lot of my paper route money along with little Japanese junky toys..

So here's my problem. I have a number of authors I really like. I buy, beg or borrow everything they write. I need suggestions for other good authors. Please send suggestions by way of comment. Please help.

Here are some of the authors that I have completely  mined out:
  • Michael Connelly
  • John Barnes
  • Dean Koontz
  • John Steinbeck
  • John Lescroart
  • Tom Clancey
  • Vince Flynn
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Hunter S. Thompson
  • Larry Niven
  • Tony Hillerman
  • F Paul Wilson
  • Stephen Hunter
  • David Baldacci
  • John Grisham
  • Joseph Waumbaugh
  • Thomas Harris
  • Stephen King
  • Orson Scott Card
  • H.G. Wells
  • Isaac Asimov
  • Janet Evanovich
  • Greg Bear
  • Tim Dorsey
  • Carl Haaisen
  • John Barth
  • Tim O'Brien
  • Lee Child
  • Jared Diamond
  • James Michener
  • Herman Wouk
  • Tom Wolfe
  • Martin Cruz Smith
  • Ken Kesey
  • Greg Isles
  • Ken Follet
  • John D MacDonald

So please send suggestions for authors I should be reading. Right away.

I'm amazed at some of the pictures I've taken the last five months. I forgot we were there in some cases...early alzheimers rears its ugly head. More later

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Boss Hoss

Wretched Excess

We're camped at the southern end of Seneca Lake, one of the largest of the New York Finger Lakes.

Judging from the number of 40 foot cigarette boats that came in on trailers to launch this weekend, upstate New York still has some wealth or at least some conspicuous consumption.

My neighbor, Al, has a Boss Hoss motorcycle. It has a 350 cubic inch Corvette V-8 engine. If the 400 horsepower is not enough, there is a nitrous oxide canister just behind the rear spring that give it a 150 horsepower boost in short spurts. If that's not enough, the factory in Tennessee offers a Stud Hoss with a 504 cubic inch V-8. You can't make this stuff up.

We visit one of the 100 or so wineries on the lakes and have lunch and a fine bottle of Seyval Blanc.

The barns around here are fascinating. I've always wanted a barn to rehab.

Mrs. Phred enjoys some white wine.

There are some Amish farmers around the lake. They have big horses to pull the plows and an obvious lack of electrical wires leading into their farms.

This rig was heading down the highway at an amazing clip.I wonder how many MPG of oats they're clocking.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Gorgeous Gorges

Watkins Glen, New York

You have to take some of this geological stuff with a  small grain of salt.

The numerous deep and narrow gorges that empty into the biggest Finger Lakes (Senaca and Cayuga) are said to have been entirely formed within the last 10,000 years after the end of the last ice age.

The floods have moved a lot of rock into the big lakes. You can see big tree trunks jammed into the many narrow gorges. The Civilian Conservation Corps opened trails of 2 to 4 miles though many of the most dramatic gorges during the first depression.

We hiked though the Watkins Glen gorge yesterday with my cousin Everett and his wife Midge. Everett and I are part of a small band...the brotherhood of Certified Public Accountants... more trusted than attorneys or priests...sort of an honorable band of financial Samurais...What's that you say? Enron? Ronin trash...the exception that proves the rule...

There are definitely huge salt deposits a mile beneath the big lakes...they say that a sea existed here 300 million years ago...for sure they have cheap salt to throw on the roads when it gets icy...

In the evening we go to visit cousin Danny and his wife Doris for a great steak dinner and veggies from Danny's garden.

Everett tells me that they tracked down 100% of his 1961 Ithaca High School graduation class. 95 of them were dead which tells me a lot about actuarial losses of people, like me, born in 1943...I continue to be a smug survivor...

The gorges keep working on the rock which fractures a little in the icy winter...

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

New York Finger Lakes

Memory Lane?

We're camped just south of Ithaca on the south end of Cayuga Lake. Cayuga is 40 miles long and about a mile wide. It was gouged out by glaciers during a little ice age about 15,000 years ago..

A half mile under the lake is a salt deposit from an older sea about 400 million years ago. They mine the salt and use it on the highways to melt snow and ice. Sometimes they use the deep mines to look for evidence of proton decay.

We visited some of my ancestors yesterday. Mina and Arthur Robinson are my grandparents. They rest in the Catholic cemetery up on New York State road 13a. Arthur was a motorcycle cop who died about 13 years before I was born. Mina was my beloved grandmother. I used to ride my bike across town to sleep with her when I was five or six years old. You could do that back then before everyone got freaked about stranger danger.

Frankin was there too. he was born in 1857 and died in 1952. I remember him. He taught me how to cheat at a card game called Euchre. He was my great-grandfather. Aunt Bee and Uncle George were buried there too. They watched me during WWII when my Mom went off to do her quality control magic on proximity detonated artillery shell fuses.

Franklin, my great grandfather,  Lived with George and Bee and wore a sports coat on his trips down the block to buy a pint of whiskey. He had a spittoon  in the corner of the kitchen. He was a harness maker and left me his leather working tools when he died in 1952.  Somehow he would blatantly cheat me at Euchre by moving cards around with his elbow. I was only six  and unable to properly object.

Today we walked down the Taughannoch Gorge to see the 215 foot waterfall. I remember doing that with my grandmother, Mina, when I was 13 and she was 65. She was born in 1892 before airplanes or atomic bombs. When I was born they had payphones and party lines, but no jet planes, atomic bombs or twitter...

The kid around the corner back then was Tommy Rawski. He's a Harvard professor who specializes in China. His mom was my cub scout den mother...I get real freaky feeling whenever I come back here and play out my childhood memories of 60 years ago against what's left here in 2011. More traffic for one thing.

Mina had four children that raised during the depression as a cop's widow. She had three boys and my mother. During WWI Uncle Bruce  was a glider pilot in the 101st Airborne, Uncle Walt served in the Navy in the Pacific. Uncle Everett was a tough MP in Europe. My dad drove a half-track into Germany. All Mina's boys came home alive. They each left a 1943 war baby behind. Strangely each of us went to Viet Nam 20 or so years later. That didn't work quite as well.

Friday, 12 August 2011

In the Corn Field

 Milan, Michigan

We've been working our way down the East coast of Michigan. Each day is another day and another tennis court.

Today we pulled into a little RV park in the middle of a corn field. They're hosting a blue grass festival with some big names including The Little River Band.

The music is really good. It's all kind of like the "O Brother, Where Art Thou" stuff that George Clooney  and the Cohen brothers did a few years back.

Ulysses Everett McGill: What'd the devil give you for your soul, Tommy?
Tommy Johnson: Well, he taught me to play this here guitar real good.
Delmar O'Donnell: Oh son, for that you sold your everlasting soul?
Tommy Johnson: Well, I wasn't usin' it.

Meanwhile,  "flash mobs" are leaving the pages of science fiction, toppling Middle Eastern dictators, burning London and Paris and wreaking havoc in Philadelphia and other U.S. cities.

We got here late so they parked us here in the corn field with no water or electric. Mrs. Phred is very exited about all this and wants to spend the weekend.

We're between Detroit and Toledo. I'd like to go into Detroit and photographically document the American rust belt...maybe we'll spend a few days here before heading to Ithaca to enjoy the Fall grapes, peaches and apple cider. 

Pete: Wait a minute. Who elected you leader of this outfit?
Ulysses Everett McGill: Well Pete, I figured it should be the one with the capacity for abstract thought. But if that ain't the consensus view, then hell, let's put it to a vote.
Pete: Suits me. I'm voting for yours truly.
Ulysses Everett McGill: Well I'm voting for yours truly too.
[Everett and Pete look at Delmar for the deciding vote]
Delmar O'Donnell: Okay... I'm with you fellas.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Marquette, Michigan

Marquette is a very nice little city on the upper Michigan peninsula. They have lots of public tennis courts. My scores are improving. Mostly 6-3. I am trying to carefully place my shots rather than knock them out of the park and losing less points by not hitting stuff out of bounds.

They have bicycle trails all over the place. We cruised around on our bikes for several hours after playing tennis. I got into one downhill deal where I was worried about hitting a tree with my head. Many bikers up here wear helmets. I'm tired of taking pictures after six years of traveling and 30,000 shots of America. I'm tired of blogging. I'm tired of traveling. Maybe I'll work on a Masters degree in Taxation or Astronomy. Maybe I'll buy a house or two and fix them up to rent out?

Marquette seems to be economically driven by the University of Northern Michigan during the school year and by tourism in the summer. I could live here in the summer.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Porcupine Mountains State Park, Michigan

The Shore of Lake Superior

Back about 1983 I took Kenny and four of his 13 year old friends to see a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

It was rated R which required persons under 18 to be accompanied by a parent. One of the kids was Dwight, a black teenager. The ticket lady asked if all five boys were mine. I said they that were with a glare and she looked at Dwight and said "what about that one?"

"He's mine, too" I responded. A Tampa policeman with more than a usual amount of good judgement waved us all through. There are places in the movie where everyone in the audience shouts out responses...One is where the guy with big lips falls into a pool and they all yell..HEY WAITER, THERE'S A TRANSVESTITE IN MY SOUP.... SHUT UP OR EVERYBODY WILL WANT ONE. ...

So when I first saw "Scarface" in 1983 and Tony Montana has the big shootout with the Colombians and gets killed and falls off the his balcony into the fountain, I just had to yell in the theatre...WAITER, THERE'S A DRUG DEALER IN MY SOUP.... SHUT UP OR EVERYBODY WILL WANT ONE...

Maybe I lacked good judgement back then...anyway..."Scarface" is playing again on the satellite. Al Pachino is back on "mob week" along with all his Godfather flix...Anyway, we're bouncing along the bottom of Lake Superior mashing our toes in the warm lake shore sand. We found a very strange tennis court surface in a remote area of rural Michigan.

It seemed to be metal covered with rubber...strange but very functional.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Cowboys and Aliens

Grand Forks, North Dakota

We've been here for five days. Tuesday morning, we'll continue East.

The "Cowboys and Aliens" movie was very campy. I enjoyed it and laughed a lot in spite of all the bad reviews by the movie snobs who cant appreciate fine art and humor when they see it. Keith Carradine and Harrison Ford. What could be bad? Attacked by the sheriff of the town of Absolution, ugly leaping aliens, bandit mobs and Chiracaua Apaches; bad man Jake Lonegan conquers all in spite of total amnesia with the aid of a mysterious bracelet with holographic sights that fires big energy bolts....this movie was 14 years in the making and was written by six groups of writers...that explains a lot...sometimes bad men do good things....and good men do bad things....

We also hit the University of North Dakota Art Museum yesterday. There we only two artists on display, but both were interesting.

In 1997,  Laura Letinsky began to photograph still life in her Chicago studio. Her photographs include cherry pits, orange peels, paper plates, plastic cups, squashed tin cans, and garbage littered on white surfaces in a white room. She had about 50 untitled large prints taking up the entire 1st floor.

Rena Effendi's photos of Azerbaijan pipeline scenes were on the second floor.

A wedding party reserved the art museum for later in the day.Hope springs eternal.