a Man Named Ed

It is not news that monstrous storms have hit the snow belt states and beyond hard, fast and furious. They bring severe cold, record snow falls, closed schools, disrupted daily routines, cabin fever and yearning for the spring thaw. Presently traveling in the deep south, heading toward summer-like weather in Arizona does not mean I lack empathy for my friends and families in the hard hit regions. But, I must say, it has jogged my memories of snow banks reaching over the top of windows and doorways, snow banks covering driveways and sidewalks and the trials of coping during and after a sundry of storms endured in my lifetime.

As a teenager, I held many all-season jobs beginning the day I obtained my work permit. One of the first was at Fromers a somewhat upscale 5 and 10 cent store, 2.5 miles from my house. It must have been the winter season of 1959-60, my senior year. Snow fell for what seemed like days. Six foot high snow banks lined the sides of the main street leading to Fromers and the shopping area. Everything was closed, or so we were told on the news. The phone rang, My boss Ed was on the other end, Ann Carol, I need you to come into work today. We are open.

No memories of my preparation linger, except the vivid memory of myself, bundled in winter gear to the hilt, bowing into the wind atop the 6′ hard-packed snow bank-cum sidewalk, plowing my way toward the store. It must have been safer to walk atop the “glacier” than in the street with the plows, or just the adventure loving teen ager huddling against the wind. Ed was at the doorway, grateful to see me, His left side glass eye was brilliant that day, looking truly glassy (as it was), larger and darker brown than his natural eye. I stood all day behind the cash register, occasionally stopping to arrange shelves or stock a shelf or case.  Ed and I ate our packed lunches together, served perhaps two brave customers, walking from their nearby homes, talked about the storms, my future plans, music, his young kids, store merchandise and managing a business and his living with an obvious “handicap.” In today’s world, it would not be so obvious). We had breached the subject before but never in depth.

I do not recall the cause of his lost eye, but he faced it in an upbeat, humorous manner. It was one of my first poignant opportunities learning about living with an in your face affliction, be it physical, a loss of a sense, race, mental illness and more that persons face often alone and lonely. He told about people avoiding looking him “in the eye,” even avoiding contact with him. or making a comment that always comes out wrong.  It is a different world now, but still full of angst for both the victim and the onlooker marked by action such as avoidance, a show of empathy-sincere or false, and all of the aberrations that are described by people with a difference.

My work days were valuable as a teaching agent to a teenager trying to make sense of the world. I believe I learned about tolerance, developed good work habits and flexibility and skills, strengthened my love for people and often think of the man named Ed and his brief influence on my life, probably unbeknownst to him.

To those enduring these stormy days, there is an upside; valuable family time together, learning to improvise and adapt and rise to the occasion as survivors of hardship do. Perhaps my hike on the high banks were the laugh in the face of mother nature. I remember smiling to myself and feeling 10 feet tall for a few moments in my life. My best to all of you.

Feb 2015 snow fall in Marfa, Tx after several days in Big Bend in sunshine and 80F. Snow on our Motor home happens every year someplace.

The Coveted Choice

The choice has been made (as reported in the NYT–Feb 13th). The 2016 Democratic National Convention will be held in Philadelphia. PA. After much discussion, visitation and debate. Phila is the choice, over Brooklyn, NY or Columbus, Ohio. The Republican party reacted with the usual vile comments.  The “Dems don’t want the Ohio vote” which was not a major factor in the choice process, just the opposition’s usual sour grapes and criticism..  And, of course, the contenders and leaders in  Brooklyn, NY and Columbus, OH. were disappointed.  That is understandable.  Vying for the spotlight is coveted, putting the chosen city in the limelight. But, at the same time the city must carry the burden of preparation, planning and could face great financial risk.

Of the three mentioned, I believe Phila is the best choice. We are fortunate to have a dear friend in Brooklyn who showed us the Barclays Center and surrounding area.  It is indeed, a busy and vibrant part of town,  but the congestion, lack of hotel space, dense population and other factors are bold and in your face. Columbus is a lovely city, but again lacking enough hotel, road surface and venue space to manage the crowds of a major convention. The long history of Philadelphia is of course rich and deeply embedded in the building of our nation.  The infrastructure in already pretty much in place, tried and true.

How many “winning” cities in the past have suffered huge debt, rushed projects to meet the impending deadlines, tough criticism from the population and jabes and jibes after being chosen to hold major conventions, games, musical extravaganzas and then almost buckled in preparation for the deadline looming over them?  The leaders have scrambled to finance, plan and build by the deadline, side stepping the needs of the citizenry and raising the ire and level of desperation of the those whose needs for special services are cut or ignored.

The event takes place and is over quickly, After the event, roads, venues and the huge facilities often go unused, facing decay and ridicule in the years following the few days of glory. The decaying sports stadium in Havana, Cuba comes to mind. For the week of July 25, 2016, the eyes and ears of the nation will be focused on Philadelphia. The good news–the sights and sounds of our country’s historic birth will be featured. Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and other sights may lure families to take an educational tour of Phila, enlightening a new generation of young people learning to love and respect history. In the week preceding the Phila convention, the Republican National Convention will be held in Cleveland, OH. Ready, set, go!!

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One fine day Birding along the Rio Grande

Birding in Southeast Texas is highly rated and indeed meets it all of its promises. The sky was shrouded with gray/white clouds and the temperature in the high 70’s. Not bad for the first day of February of 2015.  To the Jeep for a drive From Falcon State Park east toward Mission, TX and one of our favorite birding spots, the Great Texas Coastal Birding trail and wildlife center, in Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park.

 It was a 90 minute drive accompanied by an audible book; Vol 3 of Laurie King’s Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell Series. (Delightful and highly recommended–full of surprises, I promise.) After what turned out to be a delightful lunch at the highly rated and popular Taco Ole in Mission, we drove to the birding headquarters planned our walk that would last for several hours.

a fleeting glance at the Chachalacas

Stops included the well supplied feeding stations, a bird blind and a climb onto the Hawk Tower.  The birding headquarters is not huge nor overwhelming, having been transformed from a former RV campground.

Delightful encounters with Cardinals, Green Jays, Orioles, Kiskadees, doves, and the humorous Chachalacas, brought joy to us and folks we met along the trails. In the bird blind, the sighting of the flock of Chachalacas was brief. Soon after our taking stations inside the blind, the big birds flew away in panic, not because of us but from a hawk circling overhead. Disappointed but not discouraged we stayed our ground. After 10 or 15 minutes, two of those birds reappeared but stayed well hidden behind the brush, reluctant as yet to show themselves in the open space for food and water. They were determined to hide and we finally continued on our way, content at least to have spotted the birds, apparently only found in Southern Texas and Costa Rica.

The Hawk tower is not what I pictured, a typical 2 story structure with staircase. It is indeed 2 stories high but with a ramp to make the tower easily accessible. How thoughtfully planned. No hawks flew overhead, but we had a wonderful 360 degree panorama. Peering through my binoculars I spotted a deep reddish structure, a church dome. With bare eyes and off to the right I spotted what looked like a white square shape. When seen through the binocs, it turned out to be head in white with a hint of a bright yellow dress and one hand raised. We believe it is an add for a ice cream store. Both structures are in Mexico as shown through the Maps app on the cellphone. What an era of wonder.

I collect images of many things, tree trunks are sculptural indeed

As usual, it is almost closing time and we are among the last to leave. We had to tear ourselves away, such a great day it was. At least on the road we have lots to discuss and our book to keep us entertained and happy. It was a fulfilling day on the Birding trail. Happy trails to you too.